Hearts Meshed Together

lucy napYou’ve told your daughter, and yourself how this time her new little daughter should be happy in her comfy crib, unlike her older sister who never, ever was. You’ve bought a portable crib for your home and you’ve outfitted it with soft blankets and a stuffie for cuddling. You promise your daughter that you’ll assist with this crib-sleeping project and both of you – well all three of you are successful, and there is proud back patting – until one of you – the tiniest – starts to object. We have to use our resolve, you tell your grown daughter. And really it will be good for her to self-settle and grow to love her nice warm crib. Be strong you tell your daughter, who you know is a good mama.
So one afternoon your daughter is out with the three year-old, who does still have some wee problems with that darn self-settling at bedtime, and you are caring for the ten month-old sister and she’s fussy and nodding over her lunch . Instinctively your grandma/mother sensibilities tell you that she needs to be held tight and shush shush shushed with soft comforting little pats on the back, that universal baby-soothing rhythmic comfort motion, with her head tucked against your heart. In no time you feel her troubles fade and she’s asleep warm and safe against your chest.
       That’s when you could lay her in that new crib, but you know of late she wakes and looks at you with shock and sorrow and her eyes fill with dread, and her body contours with the first desperate wails, and the self- soothing idea becomes ridiculous. You decide there in your own soft chair, that your daughter can and should deal with all that, but really you could also use a tiny nap, and how special these moments of peace are, how comforting it is for both of you to have your hearts meshed together this way.

Four Generation Photo Shoot Mother’s Day Madness

Mother’s Day 2013 and I realized I could repent for past sins – after a few years of living away from my almost three-year-old granddaughter our big family feels so, so fortunate to have her and her baby sister (and their mom and dad) move ‘home’.  And with one set of grandparents and one of great-grandparents back from winter escapes, suddenly we find ourselves all living in one city with three four-generation family groups. my fave four gen

Now that begs for four generation photos.  True we could have set up a few calm afternoons with the parties involved at separate locations according to which side of the family we were calling into dress-up (but not to up) and smile action.  But a windy warm Mother’s Day afternoon was picked for a massive ‘let’s get this done’ opportunity.  grandmasteeple

My youngest daughter stepped up to the plate as patient photographer extraordinaire, and I took up the job of production coordinator – a few days before the Mother’s Day event I realized I was so mentally excited that I’d only imagined my official invite to several key players.  lucy in yellowCould have been due to my distraction over shopping for teeny white shoes for new baby or finding the right shade of yellow hair bows to twist onto the three-year -olds pony tails, while directing the other guests to organize their groups into comfortable clothes that go together and trying to settle on a menu for a brunch that would go cold on the stove while we bossed people around.

 

Mother’s Day arrived – perfect overcast clouds for great photographic light –the lot of us looked exuberant – every generation, while we waited an hour for babies that needed to nurse and kids that needed to be polished up, and chairs to be transferred from suddenly too sunny spots and a very special 60th anniversary photo of my parents.  And then from the minute we shouted out the first, “Cheese” until two hours later we posed and jiggled a baby, blew bubbles at the too energetic toddler, sucked in and grinned while she zipped into the shot on a ride ’em caterpillar, called senior folks from this end of the yard to that, helped the six-year-old hold the baby who was losing it, smiled and smiled, and suddenly the window closed, the baby cried, the three-year-old collapsed and myself, the production coordinated – tried to push on, ever conscious of the photos we didn’t get at the wedding – the ones I was trying to make up for, until finally I called out, “Enough. Stop me.  I’ve gone insane.” And it was over.  I could collapse with the little ones – or maybe even relax and feed the guests, while waiting to view the wonderful joyful shots of what we’d just pulled off.   alice and adina tired

Oh Baby – Let’s Swing

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! ”

The Swing –   Robert Louis Stevenson

Up at our cottage there is a small clearing in the trees, with a view toward the lake.  It is a place some of us (probably the girls) always looked at as if it was where you would slip off to with a new boyfriend when it seemed you had been inundated with aunts and uncles, and cousins or other lakeside visitors –  to get away and whisper, or steal a kiss without being observed by dad.

It is a place to go when you are feeling like a moment, or being contemplative, or are in love, or out of love – a place away from the other places, a place to steal a kiss, or tell a secret. IMG_4581

 

 

 

And then our eldest had a baby who has a love of swinging, and we’d drive for twenty minutes to the park beside the local baseball diamond.  At last I knew what the spot in the trees needed – a swing – a swing for a toddler, but a swing for a long-legged kid or a grown up, too.

Lucky for all of us my son-in-law, the toddler’s daddy, is a recently graduated architect with a passion for building – no pre-packaged swing set kit for us.  On three of the hottest days of last summer he happily constructed the perfect, simple baby swing and a ‘big’ swing, and a place to climb and slide – with awe struck assistants from those of us eager for the finished product.

It was a hot summer with the lake temperature invitingly warm, so swimming and boating and floating we’re so much of what we did – not much swinging at all.IMG_4641

But it’s British Columbia, Canada and there are long crisp seasons where the lake is the backdrop for more quiet pursuits, times when there will be a fussy baby that needs to be soothed or too many folks will be crowded inside, and two others will have to slip out to that spot in the trees and take turns simply swinging.nest painting-2

It’s January now, the ground is icy white, the still air promises more snow and cold.  But hey, it’s time to dream of  spring and going “up into the air and down”….

Bridesmaids, Popcorn and Babies

Now here is something that didn’t exist when I was home with babies –  Stars and Strollers, the afternoon matinees just for parents ( and grandmas, and eager aunties, and friends) and – get this – babies.  My daughter,  Zoe, and my oh so adorable one-year-old granddaughter came to visit and we decided we had to give this a try.   We picked a movie that we really wanted to see (maybe that was a mistake), which unfortunately was only playing way, way across the city (perhaps our second boo-boo) and headed off to meet a friend of Zoe’s and her one-year-old little guy, and to observe the darling chaos of it all.

The movie was Bridesmaids and for a Wednesday afternoon there appeared to be a pretty big turn out of mostly new mommies and teeny weeny babies. I noticed a few grandmothers in the crowd, amongst the stroller pushers.  My youngest daughter, Lily, wanted to see the movie, but not as much as she wanted to hang with her out-of-town tiny niece at the theater, so she was with our group, as well.

The lobby was a stroller-a-thon though the  two women purchasing tickets ahead of me were being charged regular price for not having a under two-year-old with them (which is what the fine print on the Cineplex web site says would happen), but they successfully argued they should be entitled to the same discount the rest of us were getting for the inconvenience of being surrounded by all those babies.  Now I have to say right off, if they really came to enjoy the movie, the constant interruption wasn’t worth the discount, but if they came to take in the sight of forty plus moms trying to take pleasure in a movie while nursing and changing and soothing and bouncing forty plus babies – now that was worth the price of admission.

Our driving across town had given grand-baby the chance for a solid nap so after a short period of calmly taking in the dimly lit room full of her baby peers, and then staring at the larger than life characters of Annie and Lillian on screen,  she was ready to sit on mommy’s head, or travel from mommy’s lap to grandma’s lap to auntie’s lap and back again, while experiencing the new sensation of being fed little iddy bits of popcorn. None of the babies cried for very long, rather they all took turns at crying for short periods of time.  Zoe and her friend were critical of the character development in the zany comedy, but who the hec knows how they could have possibly have followed the plot lines while keeping their babies entertained – though they and their movie going peers were all learning to be the mothers-of-all multi-taskers.

I figured twenty-one-year-old Lily would say that sitting amongst a roomful of wah-wah-wah-ing babies was a stupid way to watch a flick, but she loved her niece’s visiting her seat-side to press crumbs of sticky popcorn into her mouth, and insisted she was able to tune out the babies bawling over top of  clever lines such as the bride, Lillian, asking her messed-up bridesmaid, Annie, “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?”

At the  front of the theater was a changing table, a slightly lit-up spot where you would not miss a second of the soundtrack, but the audience had a clear view of you tending to your infants soiled diaper needs.  We noticed only one man in the entire theatre, and when he was the one to come stand in that light and expertly change his baby, I know most the moms were watching this macho figure in his baseball cap rather than Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and wondering if their own baby-daddy would be so bold?

Stars and Strollers was an event, a gathering, shared camaraderie amongst a group of pretty new moms, allowing themselves – despite the squawking and wiggling of their infants – a  bit of entertainment on a weekday afternoon.  But I think I’ll go see Bridesmaids again – because I don’t feel like I’ve seen it yet.

Grandma’s don’t use the f-bomb – searching for the illusive portable crib

Okay, first off – I’m all about the ‘family bed‘.  I loved, loved, loved waking up in the morning with a teeny baby stretching their soft bare feet into my stomach.  And for years we had kids in our bed in the wee hours – because they had wet theirs or got scared in the night.

Now our sweet grand-baby is coming for a weeks visit, and despite my comfort with family bed it has been me that has been encouraging my daughter to try – just try- to get our nine month old granddaughter  to  spend at least some part of the night sleeping in her own little crib.  I didn’t mind my babies in my bed, but at some point in the early evening I put them to sleep in their own cribs and had some hours to myself – well, not always to myself, but with two, then three, then four kids I had some time when I wasn’t taking care of the needs of the tiniest.  My daughter has decided she would like that, as well.  Her and the baby’s daddy have spent the better part of two weeks with that goal in mind – they’ve been frustrated, they’ve been exhausted, they’ve been pleased – as they struggle through this stage that I promise her almost daily will pass so quickly that they will forget what it was like to not have a few blessed hours in the evenings to themselves again.  Which brings me to the search for the illusive, mysterious, just out-of- reach portable crib.

I’ve got four kids and one granddaughter.  I’m a grandma (one of those young-ish, hip grandma’s as I’ve pointed out before).  Grandma’s house should have a crib in it.  My mom’s did for almost a two decades of grandchildren – my grandmother’s had one forever – until she went into a nursing home at age ninety-four.  We’ve recently renovated making bigger spare bedrooms and replaced all the kids’ (now adults living away) single beds with brand new queens – and have NO room for a full size crib.  What to do?  Buy a portable crib – a mini crib – a apartment size crib.  Simple item to find in a city of  a million people and how many grandma’s?  I started off at Ikea.  The Swedes wouldn’t let me down, would they?  You bet they would.

From there I rolled into several large baby needs supply stores.  “I’m looking for your apartment size cribs,” I said, adding that I was the grandma, in case they thought I was one of those fifty year old moms you read about in the papers.  I was met with a whole lot of blank stares and then usually the suggestion of a play pen.  I don’t want sweet baby in the bottom of a playpen all night with their rigid folding pads.  I’m trying to replicate what I’ve encouraged my daughter to do for ten exhausting nights – so she can have some fun with us in the evenings (we’re fun) and not go backwards with baby sleeping with mommy from bedtime to sunup.

I went on-line.  Wow – everyone sells them on-line – Costco and Wal-Mart and Sears, so the next day I rolled out to those stores to learn they don’t stock any such item in Canadian stores.  What’s with that?  Is it something about the great white north having more space – grandparents that spent a stupid amount of money renovating up here in the Colonies would have thought about the extra 70 cm. by 130 cm. (28 by 52 inches)  needed for a crib?  Do they think we have big hulking babies here in the North who need big cribs only?  Granddaughter is lean with delicate fine features.

Finally a saleswomen in a second hand baby store went above and beyond, and told me, given a few minutes on her computer, she would indeed find the illusive portable crib.  And to my dazed amazement she did – through, of course, a company that supplies to local daycares.  Perfect.  Grand-baby can sleep in the sweetest little crib, on wheels that slide through a bedroom door AND it folds up – if she is here in six to eight weeks.   Darn.  (Grandma’s don’t use language stronger than darn – never the f-bomb in absolute frustration over how difficult the search has become.)  Okay, stay calm.  Short term solution –  I would rent.  I quickly discovered three companies run by lovely women that rent out baby equipment only – mostly to grandma’s suppressing the f-bomb after trying to buy the darling little portable crib.

First company is fresh out of cribs – portable and full size.  Second and third company turn out to be one and the same (?).  On-line I learn that from this company I can pick up the perfect folding bright and shiny crib at the airport for $35 extra, or have it delivered to my house for $40 above the rental cost of $82 which is similar to that of buying a very inexpensive full size crib (that doesn’t fit.)  Or I can choose to save the $40 and pick it up from the home office of the company, which is what I opt for in my effort to not spend as much as I have already spent on ordering the crib from the on-line catalog that will arrive after baby goes home.   No where on-line does it tell me that the rental company is located forty minutes outside the opposite end of the city.  Ah well, if was a lovely country drive with a good friend.

My daughter and our grand-baby arrive this evening.  The clean, fresh portable crib will be all set up with just-laundered bedding and a little stuffed lamb tucked inside.  The lamb will likely sleep alone as my soft-hearted well intentioned daughter will decide baby’s routine has been interrupted too much already and she can sit up with us and then go to sleep wrapped up in mommy’s arms in the big queen bed.

Oh Baby, I Can’t Get Enough

You know how people say, the best part of being a grandparent is that when they cry you can hand them back.  I poo-poo that.  (Well, I might hand her back when the poo-poo happens.)  But the best part of being my granddaughter’s grandma is I never want to hand her back.  I can’t get enough of little baby ‘Tessa’.*

I want to hold her little squirming body, and squeeze her plump cheeks, and pat her tiny back, and make squirty sounds against her belly, and stroke her silky hair, and have her teeny fingers squeeze mine, and smooch that hidden skin under her wobbly neck, and butterfly kiss her round face, and when she cries hold her whole little self firm and shush, shush, shush against her forehead, rocking her tired, or frustrated little being until I can be still with her, watching her breath  softly in my arms until she  sighs  and falls asleep…

Oh, baby  –  I don’t want to hand her back at all.

*  grand-baby’s name has been changed to protect the very, completely, oh so innocent.

Frozen Toothpaste Spit

Mornings for our family of six were hugely chaotic when we were all younger.  I don’t miss the chaos, but rather all that energy.  My husband and I, and our daughter, Lily, developed a routine when the three older kids moved out.  Will left the house just before I had to haul Lily’s skinny butt out of bed, and Lily ate her cereal in the car while I drove her to school. After her Cheerio’s she brushed her teeth, and spat her toothpaste out the car window, ready (late) to do algebra with a fresh smile.

It was less organized when they were little kids, though there was a predictable rhythm to our chaos.  Will and I would lie in our warm bed, allowing the alarm to go into snooze mode.  “We’ve got to get up.  We’ve got to get up,” he always grumbled.   Motionless and on cue, there would be our little Hudson at the bedroom door.

“Is it a school day?” he would ask, wiping away the water rolling down his forehead from his saturated cow lick.  Back then Hudson was our morning child.   I would assure him that it was a school day, swinging on my bathrobe and plodding downstairs, without even splashing water over my squinched up face.  Cole would have hauled his quilt off the top bunk and hunkered down in front of the T.V.  I would go into automatic pilot – new day, same words.  “Cole TV off.  Clothes on, please.”  He’d roll off the couch and stagger into his room while I rushed off to  Zoë’s room.

“Come on, sweetie,” I’d urge, lifting the covers, and just as I would be about to give Zoë’s shoulders a gentle rocking, the veil of sleep would lift and she would get ready to join the din that was fast enveloping the house.  Cole, the son created in his father’s image, would be calling for me to find him socks, while his dad, who denies he’s ever made such a request, would be banging the dryer door and stomping about trying to locate the laundry basket.  My bladder would demand that I pay attention to it but there were not enough wheels rolling.  Everything had to be in motion before I could afford to pause.

Upstairs Hudson would already have a bowl of Cheerio’s.  My legs would circle like the Roadrunner’s as I located the socks for Will, who would be ready to make his exit, barefoot in his suit and tie.  (He’s not a breakfast eater or brown bagger.  Thank God.)  I’d lay Cole’s socks on the table and grab a cereal bowl just as Cole asked for a grapefruit.   My morning aerobic routine would move into full swing. Slice the grapefruit, spin and deliver.  Bend to the refrigerator for the ham and mustard. Long stretch to the top of the stairs, “Zoë, are you coming up?  You should be up here.”  Do the ham sandwich for Cole.  Count – one lunch down, two breakfasts, no kindergarten snack.  Zoë would come up, and I’d shove the Rice Krispees box in front of her.  With everyone in motion I’d race upstairs to use the bathroom, consider my disheveled state in the mirror for a split second, and run back down to the short order station to slap together a peanut butter and jam sandwich for Zoë’s lunch.

Ready before all of us, Hudson would suddenly be missing a school library book that he’d urgently tell me the teacher said he would have to pay for.  “What’s on the cover?” I’d ask and looking uncomfortably warm in his jacket, toque and mittens, waiting for the others at the door, he’d say, “A green pig maybe.”

“It’s under Lily’s bed,” Zoë would tell us.

“Don’t wake, Lily,” I’d warn Hudson, but of course he would and she would be down making some unreasonable demand on me, like a bit of food tossed her way for breakfast.

Hudson would request an apple for his kindergarten snack, instead of the orange I was about to pop into the pack he was already wearing on his back.  I’d take the stairs to the basement two at a time and find the apples were wrinkled, but would decide if I approached from the back I could get one into Hudson’s pack unseen, and throw in some cookies to compensate.

One of Cole’s friends often phoned to offer him a ride with his mother. Theirs was a two kid family – I’d attempt to hustle all of mine out together so they could stuff themselves into that neighbor’s compact car.  But then Cole would have lost a glove and someone else wouldn’t be able to locate her vinyl lunch bag, and on cue I’d say in an exasperated but determined voice, “I’ve had it.  This is crazy.  From now on you find all these things at night.”  Cole loved this particular pair of gloves so he would wear the one he had and put his other hand in his pocket.

“I hate taking paper.  It’s so wasteful.” Zoe would protest, long before paper became taboo.

“Bring it back and I promise to use it over and over and over again.”

By then Lily, would have joined our merry clan, asking for toast and jelly.  “Not now,” I’d tell her too abruptly, and she’d start to wail.

The neighbor would beep a friendly sort of ‘we’re here’ beep.  Zoë was usually last out, and always just about to pull her hat over a coiffure that looked like small animals had burrowed in it during the night, before I noticed and raced for the kitchen comb (once there were even kitchen toothpaste and toothbrushes in my endless attempts to do this better).  Keeping the door open with one foot and hoping I wasn’t exposing myself with my sloppy bathrobe, I’d tug the comb through her hair, one eye on the fully clothed and carefully groomed neighbor behind the wheel of the car she probably had time to heat up, before she loaded the dishes from her boy’s omelets into the dishwasher.

If the perfect neighbor weren’t picking them up they would all make it out to the steps and ask, “Can we walk?” – meaning do we have time? And I would say in a determined voice, “No, we have to change our ways,” and then urge them on with, “Now, run, run, run,” following up, in as calm a tone as I could muster, “Bye, have a good day,” because I felt strongly that something should be calm about their send off.   Still I’d have to direct them, “Go, go, you three,” like a shepherd, blocking off the stairways into the nether regions of the house, shooing them along.

I’d see that poor Lily had again been forced into self reliance and had made herself toast, dripping with blueberry jam, so I’d collapse on the couch, bundling her onto my lap for a bit of the one-on-one attention that we both craved, while I allowed her to feed me.

I did miss all that action years later – alone in the house, home from driving Lily to high school, lecturing her on being late and telling her that her toothpaste spit would still be frozen on the corner of Elbow Drive when she walked by on her way back home.  Weird – but I did miss it.