Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's in a Name?

A nickname seems like such a simple, innocent thing.  I am no expert when it comes to the larger sociological factors in nicknaming trends, but in our family such names are most often bestowed for one of the following reasons:
  • as a term of endearment.
  • as a way of abbreviating the whole given name.
  • as a marker of individuality.
"Googie," for instance, falls into the latter category.  As you may know from previous explanations offered in this blog, I did not want to be another "Nana" or "Mimi," and "Grandma"--well, that just sounds so old.  So when Sooby was born four and a half years ago, I became "Goo Goo" (from a joke suggested by my own mother), which morphed over time into simply "Googie."  I like that nickname.  It makes me unique.  I am the only "Googie" most people have ever heard of.  People holler "Googie" across the aisles of Wal-Mart, and it makes me smile.

Recently, Sooby became distressed when she realized that she alone among her siblings had no nickname.  (I am talking about their real, given names here rather than their blog names.)  Both the other nicknames are shortened forms of the longer given names their mama, Cookie, bestowed mostly for convenience, I imagine, when yelling repeatedly at the kid.  When you have three children and the oldest is four and a half, I can see how this would be desirable, even necessary.

So when Sooby became aware that she was the only one without a nickname, her mama began offering the obvious suggestions, none of which met Sooby's standards, whatever those were.  Finally, in desperation, Cookie threw out one of those totally-off-the-wall things she is so good at:  "Well, how about 'Shalakatron'"?

Ironically, but probably not so unexpectedly to those of us who know the child, Sooby took an immediate fancy to that name.  Hence, she is Shalakatron--pronounced something like "Shuh-LOCK-uh-tron."  As you might imagine, this made for some interesting dialogue during the events of this Christmas just past.  Sooby walks in the door:  "Oh, I'm so glad to see you, Shalakatron!"  Pa-pa hands out presents:  "This one is for Shalakatron."  We eat dinner:  "Do you want some more noodles, Shalakatron?"  She requires discipline:  "Now, Shalakatron, you need to share that with your brother."  You get the idea.

Never mind that nicknames are generally used to shorten a longer name for purposes of convenience.  That concept is pretty well lost on Sooby.  It would appear that, like her googie, she has opted for individuality and uniqueness.  I love that about her.

However, given the name's relative awkwardness and the way it tends not to roll off the tongue or remain easily in the memory, I imagine it will give way to many other nicknames before Sooby is grown.  I just hope all of them will be this much fun.

Meanwhile, those people curled up in the glider rocker reading The Clown Said No or acting out scenes from The Nutcracker?  Those people singing The Twelve Days of Christmas until everyone around them wished fervently for the speedy arrival of Day 13? 

That was Googie and Shalakatron, and the two of them are one of a kind.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Ice Cream Fantasy

When Sooby and I set out on the three-hour drive from my house to hers, we always look forward to stopping at a Dairy Queen about two-thirds of the way there.  She looks forward to the chocolate ice cream cone, but it is the look on the face of the girl behind the counter that I live for.

This is because Sooby always marches right up, looks the girl in the eye, and demands to know, "Is the queen here?"

She is serious.  Somehow, she has it in her head that, because this is "Dairy Queen," a queen must certainly inhabit the place.  You must remember that, in the world of a four-year-old, there are queens and princesses everywhere.  So if a place is called "Dairy Queen," well, that is a no-brainer.

We have never encountered the same girl twice, so each visit is a new opportunity for me to enjoy this wonderful treat:  the blank look, the knitted eyebrows, the shrug of the shoulders, the helpless glance in my direction.  This is my cue to step in.

"Well," I say, "we know that this is Dairy Queen and that a queen lives here.  Is she back there at the moment, or is she busy doing something else right now?"

Slowly, the light bulb goes on, and the counter girl says something like, "Uh, she's not here right now."

Last time we made the trip, I added a little holiday-related dialogue to our script.  "I'll bet she is out delivering Christmas presents, isn't she?"

"Uh, yeah," the girl said.  Then she suddenly brightened and added, "There are a lot of Christmas parties that need ice cream cakes right now."  I could have kissed her for caring enough to humor a little girl's fantasy.  However, I managed to restrain myself and ordered two chocolate cones instead.

As Sooby and I execute the licking and lapping required to demolish two ice cream cones in fairly short order, we lament the fact that, once again, we have experienced incredibly bad luck and missed our elusive monarch.  But we always leave on a hopeful note.  "Maybe the queen will be here next time," we say as we go out, and we usually get confirmation of this and a big smile from behind the counter.

We get back in the van and prepare to negotiate our final hour of driving.  I know that one of these days Sooby will realize that "Dairy Queen" is just a business name and she will no longer expect to find a queen there.   I will find that a little bit sad.

But then again, maybe Sooby will walk in and once again ask for the queen.  Then, when she is sure I am occupied with counting out money or reading the menu, she will give the counter girl a knowing wink and whisper to her, "Work with me.  My googie thinks a queen lives here."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Queen for a Second

There I sat on the front pew at church last Sunday morning, waiting patiently for my cue to sashay around the Christmas tree and wend my way up the steps to play piano for the song service.  How could I have known that a cursory glance at the morning bulletin would change my self-concept forever?

Right there in front of me, in big, bold letters, was the three-line quotation from Proverbs 17:6.  To ease the shock--and to calm my still-thumpety-thumping heart, I will give them to you a line at a time.

Grandchildren . . .   I smiled without reading further.  Undoubtedly, the bulletin was about to reveal a whippy, Pollyanna comment about the blessing of grandkids.  I licked my lips and prepared to eat it up.  After all, how could any comment about grandkids be anything other than delicious, especially here at church, where the kids occasionally visit with me so that everyone can see how cute and smart they all are.  I eagerly read on.

 . . . are the crown . . .  Still smiling.  What a neat metaphor, I was thinking, the idea that grandkids bring a crown to googies like me, elevating them to nothing short of royalty.  No doubt I feel regal when the three of them sit around me and cast their eyes upward in adoration as I sing or read a story from atop my dais.  Little crowns, most certainly, everyone of them.  Let me just lean down so that a few more jewels may be put in place.  Indeed, this simple church bulletin seemed to demonstrate the impeccable insight and wisdom of the Lord Himself.  With that reverent thought, my eyes continue downward to catch the final line.

 . . . of the elderly.  Excuse me?  The ELDERLY?  Is this a misprint?  Some renegade proverb posing as the real thing when it is really an imposter?  I refuse to think of myself as "elderly."  I have not even hit 60 yet, which every women's magazine in print will hasten to tell you is the "New 40."  Elderly, indeed.  I guess King James didn't read many women's magazines.

Wait a minute.  Let me just calm down.  Let's see what the dictionary lists as the official definition of elderly.  Maybe I am overreacting, and things are not as bad as I fear.

Hmm.  It says "rather old." That is not what I was wanting to read.  Frankly, I'd rather go with the definitions of elderberry right above or El Dorado right below.  Yep, right there between a delicious edible red fruit and a place of vast riches is "rather old, " and I guess Proverbs 17:6 is suggesting that is me.  How rude.

To add insult to injury, I do not find the photograph under this troublesome caption very inspiring either.  In it, a really old lady in a whippy pastel-striped apron (with no holes or stains, I might add) holds her right hand around her granddaughter (perhaps this is an imposter too--they are both smiling; the grandma obviously wears dentures) as the child bastes a turkey under Granny's careful tutelage and obvious approval.

There are several things wrong with this picture.  The turkey is brown and obviously done, so why is any basting going on at this point?  Also, if the turkey has just been removed from the oven, as the photo implies, then the granddaughter's arm is entirely too close to the hot pan.  An inch closer and I'll bet she won't be smiling anymore as she and Granny both make a mad dash for the aloe vera.

Furthermore, the child's hair is tied back and not hanging down into the stuffing.  This is unrealistic.  The grandmother is holding the dish of melted butter, when any self-respecting granddaughter would nag appropriately until she could hold this herself.  Finally, I find it odd that neither person is wearing an oven mitt.  Nope, this picture is just not ringing true with me.

Therefore, I must extend a vigorous thumbs-down to the Lifeway Press, thoughtless publisher of this bulletin cover travesty.  If they were trying to start my day with a scripture and photo imbued with pleasantry and inspiration, well, that didn't happen.  Someone there had better bring this up at their next committee meeting.

Instead, my heart is racing, my hands are shaking, and I am unsteady on my feet.  How am I ever going to make it around this dratted tree in this condition to play something that sounds even remotely like a Christmas carol?

 Speaking of Christmas Carol, let me just end with a Dickensian take on this whole experience:  Elderly!  Bah Humbug!   

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Red Jacket

I let myself into the back door of the kids' house the other night only to have Pooh meet me in the hallway with great excitement.

"Googie!" he said.  "We got you a jacket!"  It took me just a minute to process this and to supply the missing context.

"Oh," I said.  "You mean you guys got me a jacket for Christmas?" 

"Yes!" he said.  I was catching on fast now, enough so to suspect that Pooh had let a major cat out of a major bag.  But he was looking at me with those irresistible blue eyes virtually sparkling with pleasure, and I couldn't help taking the matter further.

"Oh, that makes me so happy!" I told him.  But this was my chance to learn more, so I asked, "What color is it?"

"Red!" he answered, pleased with himself for making his Googie so happy.   Assuring him that I loved red and that it was my favorite color in the world for a jacket, I whisked him up to eye level for a much-deserved hug. 

"Thank you so much!  I can't wait to see it," I said, setting him down and making my way on into the house with a chuckle and a smirk.  A great moral debate was already taking sides in my head.  Should I tell anyone that he had let me in on the secret of my Christmas present?

Most certainly, his mama would not be happy that he had spoiled the surprise, so maybe I shouldn't rat him out.  I weighed the pros and cons for an hour or so.  Then, when Cookie and I were alone in the living room, I could resist no longer.  At the perfect moment, when I had her undivided attention, I went in for the kill.

"I am so excited about my new red jacket,"  I said very slowly and very deliberately, without ever taking my eyes off her face.  I wanted to see the reaction of every facial muscle.  I wanted to watch her eyeballs bulge and her jaw drop. Yes, it is true:  I have a sadistic streak.

There were three or four seconds of delicious confused silence as she came to a gradual grasp of the situation.  I felt a little mean for setting her up like this, but not mean enough to exclude what I have to admit was utter jubilation.  I had not experienced this much enjoyment at her expense in a long time.  Ultimately we laughed, and another funny, sweet chapter went down in our book of family Christmas stories.

Later, as I was getting ready to leave for home, Cookie gathered up a boxful of wrapped presents for me to take so that they wouldn't have quite so much to bring to my house on Christmas Day.  Shoving one particular gift at me, she said, "Here's your red jacket."  We laughed again.

And so the red jacket sits under my Christmas tree, tempting me with each new day to unstick just one end of giftwrap and steal the tiniest of peeks.  What could it hurt?  After all, I already know what it is.  What's more, today was quite brisk, and a new jacket would have felt pretty good.

But no--I think I will wait until Pooh is here to watch me unwrap it.  I want him to see me try it on for the first time.  It is our secret, after all.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lost and Found

It is bad enough that Sooby has gone home from her two-day visit and the house is unnaturally quiet and boring.  However, that sad fact is nothing compared to the devastating discovery I happen upon shortly after her departure: Baby Jesus has gone missing.

Yes, the little stable I set up for the kids to play with down by the Christmas tree is minus its star player.  The three kings stand there holding out their gifts in vain.  After all, even a sage known for his wisdom is lost at the prospect of a full jar of frankincense and no one to give it to.  Mary holds up her hands in wonder at the empty space between her and Joseph where the object of their mutual admiration so recently lay.  Only the cow and the donkey seem relatively unaffected as they occupy their spots on either side of the little creche.

I look everywhere I can think of to find the missing baby.  I carefully study the spaces between the branches of the Christmas tree lest he be lodged somewhere next to a candy cane.  I shine a flashlight underneath the living room couch and chair to discover only three Lite-Brite pegs and a handful of Hi-Ho crumbs.  I empty the plastic tub of stuffed Dalmatian puppies to find only two objects out of place among them: a Miss Piggy doll and the Golden Book story of The Nutcracker.  I am distressed to say the least.

The day wears on, however, and I more or less forget that Baby Jesus has gone AWOL.  I do some shopping and wrap a present or two.   Later, walking by my bathroom, I notice a fragment of color on the floor just behind the door.  Thinking that a washcloth has dropped from the rack above, I stoop down to retrieve it--only to find Baby Jesus himself, complete with swaddling clothes and manger, nestled there instead.  I smile as I pick him up and return him to his rightful place between Mary and Joseph.  Cancel the Amber Alert.  The baby has been found safe.  The nativity set is whole again.

I later learned that Baby Jesus' relocation to the upstairs bathroom had been aided and abetted by Sooby.  Apparently, she had carried him upstairs with her and placed him on the floor, only to become distracted and forget she had done that.

I find a lesson in this for myself and perhaps for you as well:  Should any of us misplace Baby Jesus amid the distractions of the season, He will wait patiently to be re-discovered.  Just don't be surprised if you encounter Him in some unusual place where you might never have thought to look.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Have Yourself an Interactive Little Christmas

Over the years I have tried to streamline the Christmas decorating process with a variety of themes and approaches.  During several of those time-challenged teaching-school-while-raising-kids years, I decorated the tree with only plastic apples and candy canes.  Last year, spurred on by the luxury of retirement, I went for nostalgia, getting out many of the old family ornaments we hadn't seen for a while along with the stocking used to present Baby Teebo to me on Christmas morning 1985.  (This settled the issue once and for all: storks do not bring babies; nurses do.)

After the kids were older, I mustered the courage to display tradition-rich, elegant (read: breakable) items like a glass nativity and a musical ceramic St. Nicholas.  But with Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie scheduled to arrive on Christmas Day, I will need to play down the elegance and probably the nostalgia.  One look at my house this year and you can easily figure out that my theme is "interactive."

"Interactive" means that the kids--a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler--will be able to experience my decorations up close and personal.  They can touch and rearrange however they wish.  This year, my decorations look a lot like toys.  Here are some of the things they can look forward to:
  • a homemade felt board on which they can place felt cutouts of Santa, his reindeer, his sleigh, his bag, and a number of toys.
  • a "stable" (garage sale--25 cents) that is just the right size for positioning plastic figures of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the three wise men, a donkey and a cow.  This particular stable has two levels, so if Baby Jesus gets cold, he can be moved upstairs (heat rises?).  Or, if the donkey and cow need to come in and warm up, they can claim a spot by intimidating the three wise men.
  • two Beanie Kid dolls (Chip and Boomer) dressed as Santa Claus and an elf.  These elaborate costumes (garage sale--$1 each) include hats, a beard for Santa, full suit, shoes or boots, and a bag of toys that attaches to Santa's wrist with a rubber band.  Chip and Boomer can practice a little role reversal here while the kids hone their fine motor skills by dressing and undressing them numerous times.  And what fun it might be to mix up the costumes?  Santa wearing elf shoes!  An elf with a beard!  The combinations are endless.
  • a set of red and green painted wooden blocks with letters much like the ones we all played with as kids ourselves.  Except, this set consists of seven blocks, with which you can spell "Noel" or "Joy."  I am seeing the potential for a spelling explosion here, as we mix up these blocks to make words like loon, loo (maybe not), and lyeOne, on, and no.  I imagine I will use that last word a lot.
Besides these, there are musical ornaments (Sooby has done much dancing to "Up on the Housetop" in past years.); shelves of Christmas storybooks; and the usual holiday movies starring the likes of Charlie Brown, Garfield, and the Muppets.  However, I am really looking forward to those less usual hands-on activities made possible by my new decorating scheme. 

Christmas calls for a more or less immersion in the symbols, stories, and traditions of this most wonderful time of the year.  This year, I am expecting the kids to revel in it up to their elbows, and, if these ideas run their course--well--there are always all those possibilities afforded by a good batch of homemade sugar cookie dough, a bowl of icing, and a shaker of sprinkles.  Capitalizing as it does on all five senses, that is about as interactive as you can get.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Googie Goes Skyperactive

When it comes to being Googie, there are a thousand good things to every one that may not be so good.  Of those, the worst for me have to be those rare occasions when the time between grandkid visits stretches past three and a half weeks.  Luckily, in the nearly four and a half years since Sooby was born and made me Googie, this has happened only twice.

However, this last seemingly interminable span, relieved only by the long-awaited Thanksgiving visit, nearly did me in.  That is when I threw my arms into the air and, tearing my hair and rending my garments in ultimate desperation, invoked the mercy of the technology gods.  In other words, I bought a web cam and downloaded Skype.

Nothing rivals the joy I felt when I executed the download successfully.  There they were--Sooby, Pooh, Bootsie, and their mother--looking back at me from my computer screen as though they were perched right there atop my desk.  Their little voices were as clear as bells, and I think they were almost as excited as I was to be a part of this technological miracle.

Their first inclination was to entertain me.  "Watch this, Googie," Sooby said, waving her arms frantically as I oohed and aahed appropriately.  "Watch this, Googie," Pooh chimed in as his little fingers stretched his mouth as far sideways as it would go.  Then, Sooby had to try the same thing, varying the effect sightly by sticking out her tongue.  Bootsie just watched, amazed by it all.

Next, Pooh wanted to show me his Dalmatian suit.  So I looked on patiently as he stripped down to his diaper and stepped into a furry white get-up with black spots.  "Well, hello there, Pongo," I said, "but let's just talk to each other for a while, want to?"

"OK," said Sooby, but she didn't quite catch my drift.  "Can you read I Love You, Stinky Face?"

First let me say that I love You, Stinky Face is a children's book wonderfully written by Lisa McCourt and exquisitely illustrated by Cyd Moore.  It is about a little boy who wonders if his mother would still love him in the event he were a dinosaur whose sharp claws shredded the bed sheets; an ugly one-eyed Cyclops; or, as the title suggests, a smelly skunk.

As only a mother can, she assures him that she would love him no matter what and would make any accommodation within her power to be near him and take care of him at any cost.  For example, at one point in the story, the child asks, "But, Mama, but, Mama, what if I were an alligator with big, sharp teeth that could bite your head off?"

"Then I would buy you a bigger toothbrush for your big teeth and make sure that you brushed them every night so they'd stay healthy and strong," the mother replies.  "And if you had a sore throat, I would stick my head right inside your enormous jaws to make sure you were okay, and I would say, 'I love you, my ferocious alligator.'" 

The kids love this story and its imaginative drawings, so sharing it with them on Skype involves a back-and-forth process of reading a page and then trying to maneuver its picture so that the web cam can focus on it and relay it to the kids waiting on the other side of this marvelous process.  It takes a little practice on my part and a little patience on theirs, but the result is wholly satisfactory, as I experience the joy of reading a book to my grandchildren from some 180 miles away.

"Can you watch them for about four hours?" Cookie jokes.  "You can just call me if something goes wrong."  I chuckle at this possibility before we say our goodbyes for this session.

They ring off and I smile to myself.  I can see that it will be easy for me to develop a skyperactivity disorder of the most serious kind.  I will have trouble focusing on housework until we skype.  I will have trouble sitting still.  I will leave the salt out of the meatloaf.  My mind will wander who knows where.  For instance, it might conjure a conversation such as this:

"But, Googie, but, Googie, what if we grow computers for hands and light up so bright at night that you can't sleep?"

"Then I will get a new pair of sunglasses so your shining lights won't hurt my eyes, and I will knit you some huge mittens so your computer hands won't get cold in the winter."

Our conversation would end much as McCourt's book itself does:

"We love you, Googie."

"And I love you, my wonderful children."

Yep, I am officially skyperactive.  I prefer to think of it as my own personal Stinky Face miracle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

437 Questions a Day

I read somewhere recently that an average four-year-old child asks 437 questions a day.  That statistic in itself does not surprise me--after all, Sooby is four, and I frequently find myself on the answering end of what seems like an endless barrage of questions.  But what I did not realize until just a few days ago is that all 437 questions can occur during a seemingly innocent bedtime reading of Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas."  Here are some highlights.

Googie:  Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Sooby:  What were they stirring?  Why didn't the mouse get to stir?
Googie:  They weren't stirring anything in a bowl.  Here, stirring means "moving around."
Sooby:  Why weren't they moving?  Were they playing freeze tag?
Googie:  It just means everybody was asleep.  Let's turn the page.

Googie:  While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
Sooby:  Did the kids wake up when the sugar plums danced?  Did they tap dance?  Did it hurt their heads?  Does a sugar plum have legs?
Googie:  It just means the kids were dreaming something good.  There wasn't any actual dancing.  We call this personification.
Sooby:  What?
Googie:  Never mind.  Let's go on.

Googie:  Away to the window I flew like a flash/Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
Sooby:  Did the daddy have wings? 
Googie:  No, he didn't really fly.  He just got up and went to the window in a very big hurry.
Sooby:  Did he get in trouble for tearing the shutters?  Was that lady with a handkerchief on her head mad? 
Googie:  No.  Luckily, she didn't wake up.
Sooby:  Did the daddy THROW UP?  What color was the sash?
Googie:  On we go.

Googie:  . . . a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
Sooby:  What does miniature mean?
Googie:  Very small.
Sooby:  Why is the sleigh small?  Why are the reindeer tiny?  Why doesn't Santa have big reindeer?  How can little reindeer pull a big fat man?  [She looks at the picture]  Where is Rudolph?
Googie:  [Sighing and crossing her eyes] He comes into the story later.

Googie:  The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth . . . .
Sooby:  Why is Santa SMOKING?  Doesn't he know that is bad for you?  Will it make him sick?  Is he going to smoke in OUR house?
Googie:  I don't think he smokes anymore.  This story about Santa was written a long time ago.  Come on, we're almost to the end.

Googie:  . . . and a round little belly/That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
Sooby:  What is Santa laughing at?
Googie:  It doesn't say.  I guess people that are jolly just laugh a lot.
Sooby:  Why is the jelly in a bowl instead of a jar?
Googie:  Well, jelly couldn't wiggle if it was in a jar.  This is a simile.  Don't ask--never mind.

Googie:  And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
Sooby:  How can Santa go UP the chimney?
Googie:  Very.  Carefully. 

Googie:  . . . and to all a good night.  This means it's time to say good night to you too, Miss Sooby.
Sooby:  [Question 436] Can I ask just one more question?
Googie:  What?
Sooby:  [Question 437] Can we read it again?
Googie:  Not now.  It's time for me to settle down for one of those long winter's naps.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow.  A new day. A new chance to read with Sooby.  A new set of questions. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Over the River and Down the Road"

Chances are, you don't recognize the name Lydia Maria Child.  I know I didn't before I consulted the about.com website for the author of the words to "Over the River and Through the Wood," a song that has played in my head every Thanksgiving season since I was a child myself.

In my book, there is no more cheerful and carefree portrayal of the way a winter holiday feels to a kid than the one the lyrics of this little song afford.  In its precious few lines Child is able to capture the joyful anticipation of a festive family gathering at her grandparents' home just a sleigh ride away.  Though set in New England in the early 1800s, Child's verse has a universal, nostalgic appeal to grandparents and grandchildren of all places and times.

I have taken the liberty of modifying Child's masterpiece to fit the situation that will begin to unfold at our house tomorrow, when Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie traverse the countryside to bring me and Pa-pa the most special of Thanksgiving blessings.  It will take a little imagination, but see if you can make my words fit into the framework of the familiar melody we all know and love. 

Over the River and Down the Road

Verse 1, sung by Googie: 

Over the river and down the road
To Googie's house they'll ride.
Their mom and dad can steer the family van
With the babies safe insi--ide.
Over the river and down the road--
Oh, how can Googie wait?
With gravy stirred she cooks the bird
Preparing for Thursday's date.

Verse 2, sung by Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie: 

Over the river and down the road,
Drive fast, our Daddy dear.
We don't want to miss bringing Googie a kiss
And a lot of Thanksgiving che--er.
Over the river and down the road,
Now Googie's house we see.
Hurray for today!  We can play and play!
How happy we all will be! 

Happy Thanksgiving from Googie to all you grandmas, grannies, grammies, nannies, nanas, and mimis out there.  I wish you a joyful celebration like that first captured in writing by Lydia Maria Child.  It may not be snowing where you are and you probably will not be traveling via sleigh, but I wish you the rich blessing of generations gathered together to celebrate the wonder of family and friendship during this Thanksgiving week. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a Boy!

Imagine this: it is a cool, windy November day and you are standing in a mob of people waiting to get into the saloon for a 2 o'clock matinee.  The saloon, more a show venue than an actual house of hops, is an attraction in a popular amusement park in the Missouri Ozarks.  The park features a "good old days" theme and, this time of year, is decked out in its Christmas finery.

Also in the crowd are four suspicious-looking women who turn out to be one grandma, two nanas, and one googie.  I am the googie, and my cell phone rings.  My son Teebo is on the line or in cyberspace, or wherever phone callers are in this world of cybercommunication.

I have been expecting this call, so I answer the phone rather quickly in a strained and slightly agitated manner: "What is it?"  In my haste I virtually spit the words out.

"Hi, Mom.  How are you guys doing?"

"Fine, Teebo.  What is it?"

"Are you having fun?"


Long pause as my only son engages in this most cruel form of parental torture.  Then finally, "It's a boy."  And when Teebo said those three little words, I could actually hear him grinning from ear to ear.  When he was little, we called this his "possum grin."

At the news my arms shot vertically in the air, cell phone and all, and I proclaimed to the crowd, "IT'S A BOY!"  Immediately I was tackle-hugged by the two nanas and the grandma, and a huge cheer engulfed the entire area outside the saloon as the announcement proclaiming the gender of my fourth grandchild reverberated through the Ozark hills.

As it turns out, the line was too long for us to make it into the saloon for the show, so we meandered on down to a little country store where park guests could frost and decorate their own sugar cookie for $1.  I used my little cup of green icing and the plastic knife that came with it to write "BOY" on the cookie in big green capital letters.  (Good thing the baby will not be a girl--I was barely able to get three letters on the cookie.)  One of the nanas snapped my picture as I was taking the first bite.  It was a delicious cookie celebrating an equally delicious moment.

My new grandson is due to arrive on March 27.  He will be taking Pooh's side to even the score between them and the two girls.  I will try to explain to him, in my most tactful manner, that I had incorrectly predicted his gender as female, but will hasten to add that I am certainly not at all disappointed in his manhood.  Once he arrives, I am sure it will take him all of three seconds, maybe less, to completely own Googie's heart.  So about four months from now, this old blog should be lighting up and buzzing like a slot machine.  Meanwhile, I will be scouting yard sales for baby BOY bargains and contemplating that perfect blog name so that you can get to know him too. 

Nope, it is no secret that my fourth grandchild will be a boy.  Just ask anyone who stood in the saloon line at Silver Dollar City just before 2 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2011.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dear Googie: Advice to the Kidlorn

Dear Readers:
Thank you so much for your support of my new advice column.  I simply cannot believe the volume of mail I have received since launching "Dear Googie" only a short time ago.  The letters you write to me in the throes of desperation serve to remind me that, although googiness is a very rewarding stage of life, it is not without its challenges, especially for those of you who are new to grandparenting.  I can only hope that sharing my experience and insight will help you in ways nothing else can.  With that hope fairly flowing from my fingertips onto my computer keyboard, let us take a look at some of the most provocative of those questions that virtually scream for help from among my most recent batch of letters.  Read on, my dear readers.  Help is yours for the taking.--Googie

Dear Googie:
When my grandchildren stay overnight with me, they always want to get in bed with me in the middle of the night.  I have tried the obvious solutions like blocking their bedroom door with a couch and sleeping out of sight under my bed.  Nothing seems to work.  How can I keep them from crawling into bed with me?--Puffy Morningeyes

Dear Puffy:
You can't.  Grandchildren have radar.  They will find you.  Open your mind to the probability that these are some of the sweetest, snuggliest times you and your grandkids will ever share.  However, try to break them of the habit before they marry and have children of their own.  Left unchecked, this has the potential to become an awkward situation.

Dear Googie:
When the kids spend the night at my house, how can I get them to brush their teeth without nagging?--Cavity Conscious

Dear Cavity:
Tell them either that (1) toothpaste is magical or (2) if they don't brush, their teeth will turn into cockroaches at the stroke of midnight.  They will understand this, because they have seen Cinderella, and most of them don't like bugs.  If all efforts fail, don't make them brush.  Cavities can't progress too much in just one night, and their parents are paying the dental bills now anyway.

Dear Googie:
I have bought every Baby Einstein educational toy for my grandchildren, but they just don't seem interested.  Not only are they bored at my house, but I am afraid they will flunk kindergarten.  I am in a panic, not to mention out a lot of money.  What can I do?--Wanta Smartkid

Dear Wanta:
For the most part, stick with the old stuff, for instance, hopscotch. Take a piece of sidewalk chalk and draw a hopscotch board on the driveway (art).  This teaches them their numbers from 1 to 10 (arithmetic) and shows them what squares are (geometry) while developing gross motor skills (health).  Have them examine the rock before they toss it and identify it as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary (geology).  Few of today's educators are aware of the fact that multidisciplinary education began with the simple game of hopscotch.

Dear Googie:
It seems that when my grandkids are at my house, they don't want to mind their parents.  What should I do about this?--Dee Linquents

Dear Dee:
Smirk.  Revel in the knowledge that there is justice in the world, and delight in the truth that paybacks are delicious.

Dear Googie:
My grandkids always throw a fit when it is time  to go home.  This makes everyone feel bad.  What's the solution here?--Hurtsma Eardrums

Dear Hurtsma:
You have two choices: (1) Force the parent to tear the screaming child out of your arms or (2) Follow them to their house in your own car and bring the kids right back.  Both of these have their drawbacks.  But if you are finally able to be separated from the children by any method short of surgery and if you are too pooped to consider Choice 2, just give them a kiss and tell them you'll see them soon.  As you lock the door behind them, be glad that they love you enough to want to stay.  Then, sit down with a glass of wine, put your feet up, and think how lucky you are to have at last the best of both worlds.     

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Time Before Kidness

'Twas the time before kidness, when all through my house
My stuff stayed in place like a starched, ruffled blouse.
My stockings stayed put in their place in my drawer,
And no slick, sticky substances covered my floor.

My children had grown and struck out on their own:
I could now have a bathroom and now use the phone!
My nest, it was empty, and so was my lap,
And whenever I wanted, I just took a nap.

The house was serene, with no noise and no clatter,
No drama, no trauma, and nothing the matter;
No schedules to juggle like Bozo the Clown,
No car pools to haul children all over town.

So I got accustomed to living in peace:
No stinky, wet gym shoes or bluejeans with grease;
No fundraiser pizzas to sell door-to-door;
No talks with the teachers at school anymore.

Then college and weddings went by in a flash;
In came the in-laws, and out went the cash.
But soon the dust settled, and so did my nerves,
So I started to line dance and worked out at Curves.

Things perked along just this way for while
'Til some news came my way that would cause me to smile:
"We're having a baby, and 'Googie' you'll be"--
Then four years flew by and the kids numbered three.

First Sooby, then Pooh, and then Bootsie we had,
With our family tree sprouting branches like mad!
And now that their ages are four, two, and one,
Well, I never expected to have this much fun.

When they come for a visit, I jump and I cheer
When the sound of the car doors announces they're here.
They bounce in like Tiggers, and Googie well knows
That they'll have the effect of a whirlwind that blows.

They'll drag out the toys and demolish their room.
The picturesque fruit bowl will suffer its doom.
They'll all through the house leave a cookie-crumb trail,
And chaos and clutter and noise will prevail.

But then in a twinkling bedtime will come.
They'll get their toothbrushes and spit out their gum.
They'll put on their jammies and pick out a book,
And we'll read about Peter and cruel Captain Hook.

They'll ask me to sing every song that I know:
Maybe "Sweet Baby James" or perhaps "Old Black Joe";
Perhaps "This Old Man" or "My Grandfather's Clock";
And when I try to leave, they will still want to talk.

I'll tell them "Sleep well," and "To all a good night,"
Then I'll pull their door shut and I'll turn out the light.
I'll collapse on the couch and consider my fate:
The time before kidness was--not all that great.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News and Bad News

There is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that this will be the first Halloween I don't get to spend with my grandkids in the four-plus years since Sooby was born.  On the brighter side, we have already racked up some serious pre-Halloween fun.  We have stuffed a scarecrow with straw and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows at the farm.  Twice now they have terrorized the house and yard in the costumes I bought last November at Wal-Mart for 75% off.

Speaking of which, there is good news and bad news on that front as well.  Sooby's candy corn witch outfit, though adorable, was not without its drawbacks.  Once the spring-hoop skirt emerged from the package where it had been restrained against its will for Lord-knows-how-long, it refused to go back in like a good little article of clothing.  For the two weeks that followed, it took up so much room that it practically required its own closet.

Then, there was the problem with the hat, an ingeniously designed little headpiece shaped like the traditional witch hat but colored yellow, orange, and white like a piece of candy corn.  In his or her preoccupation with aesthetics, the designer failed to take into account the centrifugal force that comes into play when a child reaches mach speed and negotiates a 180-degree turn.  Translation: the hat won't stay on.  But good news prevails once more when Googie whips out her trusty needle and thread, slices a shoestring in half, and fashions a clever, makeshift tie that fastens right beneath the chin of the whirlwind.  Once again, all is right with the world.

That is, until we get to Pooh, whom I had envisioned in the requisite headband and a little black Ninja jumpsuit whose bright blue apron is emblazoned with a very mean-looking golden bird of some sort.  The bad news is that the Ninja costume has never hai-karated itself out of the package.  Instead, Pooh has been obsessed with an old skeleton costume that I picked up at a garage sale a couple years ago for a quarter.  It seems that he rather likes being a "'keleton."

The good news here is manifold.  He is absolutely the cutest 'keleton I have ever seen, and the Ninja suit will more than likely still fit him next year.  As an added advantage, his little bones will glow in the dark while he trick-or-treats, duly terrorizing his baby sister while enhancing his safety.  OK, so no foul here.

Here is what is foul.  I absolutely could not wait to see Baby Bootsie as a wooly little white lamb, and the suit did not disappoint.  It was soft and cuddly and couldn't have fit her better, from the fleecy bodice to the little pink satiny hooves.  Indeed, Googie was patting herself on the back from the utter perfection of this picture--that is, until we looked around for the hat.

We looked everywhere.  The fluffy tie-on hat with the little pink ears was nowhere to be found.  It had either been omitted by the manufacturer or lost somehow in the giant Wal-Mart bin as greedy customers like Googie churned and pawed the contents in search of the perfect deal.  Clearly, it was a situation where the emptor did not caveat quite enough, and, let me tell you, I was one disappointed emptor.  However, the good news is that Bootsie's mama thinks it will not be too hard to fashion substitute ears for our little lamb, and she will not have to take to the streets as the sheep-like equivalent of a centaur.

And so, as Halloween arrives a few nights from now, I will miss the jack-o-lantern carving and cookie decorating of the past several years, and that might be construed as bad news.  But I understand that, although I am and will always be the only true Googie, we are not the only grandparents, and this year it is our turn to share.

On Monday night I will watch out the door as hordes of costume-clad children revel in the excitement of their annual candy-gathering odyssey.  And in my mind's eye, I will see a candy corn witch, a 'keleton, and maybe a little earless lamb doing the same, and that, any way you look at it, is good news.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New Take on Sweet Dreams

The family pitch game that ensues when the kids have finally gone to bed at Googie's was well underway.  Engrossed in tricks and trumps, no one paid much attention to the first tiny sounds of shuffling and bumping coming from upstairs.

Eventually, my daughter Cookie imagined she heard a small voice.  Then another, this time louder.  Two voices.  More shuffling and bumping.  Finally, between hands, Cookie headed up the steps to investigate.  After all, Sooby and Pooh had gone to bed over an hour ago.

The look on Cookie's face when she returned to the pitch circle was beyond incredulous.  "Do you know what they were doing?" she asked, and I thought maybe she was directing this at me.  "They were eating PEZ!"

I looked away, cleared my throat, and tried to think how I was going to get out of this one.  Truth is, I had found two PEZ dispensers among the kids' stash of "tiny toys" that I keep in a tall kitchen waste basket that doubles as a toy box up in their room.  Spiderman and Tow-Mater, the tow truck from Cars.

I don't even know where they originally came from, but it occurred to me how much fun it might be to fill them up and wait for the kids to discover them.  I just hadn't counted on the discovery occurring some night at midnight.  More importantly, I hadn't realized I might get caught plying my grandchildren with tiny pink bricks of compressed sugar when their mama had plans for them that did not mix well with a sugar high.

It takes 3,000 pounds of pressure to make one of these cute, yummy little candy pieces.  I ingested this, along with a bunch of other equally intellectual bites of trivia, from the official PEZ website.  Introduced in 1927 as a breath mint and smoking substitute for grown-ups, PEZ expanded its appeal to include children with the fruity flavors the company introduced in the 1950s.  This is also when the popular character-head dispensers replaced the "regulars," those original  (read "boring") dispensers designed to mimic cigarette lighters.

The website touts PEZ as "the pioneer of 'interactive candy.'"  (This is a fun notion.  Before now, I had never thought about any type of food being "interactive," except maybe beans.)  It takes its name from an abbreviated version of the German word pfefferminz, meaning "peppermint."

The popularity of PEZ is nothing short of phenomenal.  Americans consume over 3 billion pieces annually, and the candy is sold in over eighty countries worldwide.  Collectors of PEZ dispensers now have their own yearly convention. The best-selling dispenser of all time is Santa Claus.

Of those 3 billion PEZ consumed this year in the U.S., I am proud to say that my grandchildren, on the aforementioned night, are already responsible for twenty-four of those.  They will enhance their contribution this weekend, when they test-drive their brand new jack-o-lantern dispensers fueled with rolls of lemon and cherry candy.

I will be more careful with the timing, though.  No more midnight dispensing. This time, I am thinking maybe we might embellish our Saturday morning breakfast with, well, a little PEZ-azz.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Halloween Mode

Maybe I was homesick for the old journalism days.  Maybe I was missing the grandkids.  Maybe I was just looking for a way to indulge myself in the substance of my favorite holiday. 

Whatever the case, the result was a hankering to once again conduct a phone interview.  With Sooby and Pooh.  On the subject of Halloween.  Following is the closest thing to a transcript of that event I can muster.  It began much as you would expect, with Googie on speakerphone.

Q:  What is your favorite thing about Halloween?
A:  (Sooby) Going trick-or-treating.  (OK, scrap that.  Unnecessary question, obvious answer.  Duh.)

Q:  What is your favorite kind of candy to get when you go trick-or-treating?
A:  (Sooby) Candy bars, lollipops, candy kisses, Nerds . . . . (List continues, but voice trails away.)
A:  (Pooh)  Chocolate.  (A child after my own heart.  Succinct answer.  Recognition that, when you say the word "chocolate," nothing more needs to be said.  Or eatenOr invented.)

Q:  What is your favorite costume?
A:  (Pooh)  A 'keleton.
A:  (Sooby) A candy corn witch.  (Note: Both are costumes from Googie's house.  The 'keleton: a quarter at a garage sale; the witch: 75% off sale at Walmart last November.  Good job, Googie.)

(Long silence.  Interviewer falters.  Interviewer struggles to recall TV interview style and content, then resumes.) 

Q:  Many people seem to denounce Halloween as a dark holiday that celebrates wickedness and evil.  Do you perceive evil forces at work on Halloween?
A: (Pooh) Huh?
A: (Sooby) Just my brother.

Q:  What do you consider the sociological ramifications of Halloween in a society where such a pronounced dichotomy seems to exist between the ideologies of good and evil?
A:  (Pooh) ZZZZzzzzz . . . .
A:  (Sooby)  (After a long silence and two verses of "Old MacDonald") Halloween is fun.

Bingo.  I couldn't have said it better.  For me, Halloween has always represented pure, carefree fun.  You get to dress up.  You get to be outside in what is usually gorgeous Indian summer weather.  You have parties and bonfires.  You get free candy.  You collect a stash of sweets that, if you are judicious, will last until Christmas. 

Halloween has never required that I thaw a rock-hard turkey in my refrigerator for four days and then cook it for hours.  It has never asked me to drag a tree out of the attic and stick stuff all over it.  I don't have to send dozens of cards against a deadline or negotiate a shopping list as long as my arm.

Halloween asks me only to think like a kid and have some serious fun.  I love doing both, and I think that people who read all kinds of sinister things into the holiday should maybe buy their underwear a size bigger.

That said, I have a confession to make.  It may surprise you to learn that not all of the phone interview went exactly as recorded above.  I  allowed myself a tiny bit of poetic license toward the end there.  Forgive me.  It is the season of Halloween, and the kids and I are in full fun mode.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Googie Reflects

"Googie" is starting to stick.  The grandkids have always called me that, but more recently I have caught myself answering to the name when I hear it used by other family members, people at church, and people I run into when simply out and about.  Often, it takes me by surprise. 

I became the "Googie" of "Googie's Attic" seven months ago today.  I was here at home nursing Pa-pa back from shoulder surgery when it occurred to me that I might enjoy blogging. I have always considered my writing a huge part of who I am, yet, since retiring from teaching, I found myself writing very little other than the occasional poem.  That bothered me.

When I started the blog, it was my goal to produce 100 pieces in a year.  I am a little behind this self-imposed schedule, as this writing is only the fiftieth treasure to occupy the old attic.  However, the goal may still be reachable, and this seven-month, 50-piece mark affords me good opportunity to reflect on how the project has gone to date.

First, I have to say that I love having this creative outlet.  Non-writers may find this difficult to understand, but writing can be addictive.  Now that I am in the habit again, I am a junkie who simply must sit down at this computer every so often and shoot myself up with words and ideas and turns of phrase.  When circumstances prevent or delay that, I get restless and fidgety.  I have been known to experience symptoms of withdrawal in the middle of the night, and when that happens, there is no choice but to stumble to this keyboard and get myself a fix.

Also, I feel good to know I am creating this unique legacy for Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie.  When they are teenagers, they will probably be embarrassed if their friends find out that, years ago, they were the stars of a blog.  Most likely, they will not be calling me "Googie" anymore; that may be too juvenile and undignified.  But at some point, I can't help thinking, they may cherish these vignettes of their childhood much as they would an old photo album.  It is a legacy of word pictures that I hope will some day make them laugh and cry and know how much they were treasured.

Finally, I have enjoyed a response from a reading audience that far surpasses anything I expected.  Often, my readers--or, in blog language, followers--weigh in to let me know that they had a similar experience, that I made them laugh, that I struck a universal chord that reverberates with some kind of meaning for them.  This is every writer's wish: to touch others with their words in a way that somehow makes a difference.

I am so glad I chose to focus on the grandparenting experience in "Googie's Attic."  It insures a constantly renewable source of material.  Every visit, every phone call is ripe with potential blog material.  And, because I know I will soon want to write about the kids, I am more attentive and more watchful of the things they say and do when we are together.  This makes me less likely to miss those precious little moments that, when captured and preserved in words, become immortal.

In this way, writing the blog further enriches an experience that is already a life pinnacle.  "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild."  I believe that statement, and, as Googie, I welcome the opportunity blogging gives me to examine its truth for myself, for the kids, and for you.   

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Naming of the Two

Sorry, Mr. Shakespeare, but I couldn't resist this play on words.  I'm sure you understand, having reached the pinnacle of punship in those masterful comedies you penned all those years ago.  Bear with me here.  I have a story of my own to tell.

"The Two" refers to a pair of newly acquired donkeys in dire need of appropriate monikers.  When said beasts, one white and one gray, took up residence on our farm a couple weeks ago, Pa-pa announced that the official dubbing was to be done by Sooby and Pooh.  My initial reaction was relief.  I had already begun to worry that their names would be something like "Whitey" and "Silver."

It is probably a good thing that Pa-pa and I were not Adam and Eve.  It is the sad truth that, in our thirty-five years together, Pa-pa and I have never seen eye to eye on the fine art of naming our various critters.  It would seem that the old saying about opposites attracting is certainly true in our case.  Pa-pa lives in a literal world, while I tend to inhabit the figurative.  He is "Hee-Haw" and I am "Saturday Night Live."  He is a belly laugh and I am a Mona Lisa smile.

Nothing makes this difference more pronounced than when a new animal joins our menagerie.  For instance, during our years together we have had occasion to name a number of dogs.  I once named our black lab/cocker spaniel mix "Pavlov," which I considered extremely clever and Pa-pa considered ridiculous.  His choice for another dog?  "Red."  (Red, you see, was a red heeler.  You get the idea.)

I once named an orphan calf born on a drizzly spring morning "April Rain."  Beautiful, I thought, even poetic.  Pa-pa's bovine name choices, to mention a few, have included the likes of "Goldie," "Spotty," "Blackie," and "Ring Nose." (The one exception was a bull he named "Dinger," which I considered mildly humorous--but as I say, that was the exception and not the rule.)

When the donkeys first arrived, I will admit, my mind was instantly awash in possibilities.  Because they are females with sweet, friendly dispositions, I went immediately to the "girlfriends" genre of name pairs.  I thought of "Lucy" and "Ethel," but the image of the red hair was troublesome.  I thought of "Laverne" and "Shirley," but I couldn't imagine a hee-haw with a Milwaukee accent.  What I absolutely adored, however, was "Thelma" and "Louise."  (If you saw her, I'm sure you would agree that the white one even looks like a Thelma.)

As luck would have it, the kids were excited about naming the donkeys and took the responsibility very seriously.  To make a long story short, Sooby named the white one "Maisie" and Pooh named the gray one "Rosie."  Not bad names, I suppose, and much more interesting than "Whitey" and "Silver."

As we prepared to leave the farm, I gave a quick departing scratch to the huge, furry ears of Thel--er--Maisie.  I tried not to let my disappointment show.  After all, the kids got such a kick out of picking the names themselves.

But, I couldn't help thinking to myself, if, down the road, Maisie and Rosie try to jump a 1966 Thunderbird convertible over the ravine that runs through the south forty, I won't be able to keep from smirking.  And I won't be able to avoid the superior air that will certainly dominate my demeanor when I say to Pa-pa, "See?  I told you so."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scarecrow Man: The Sequel

This year my grandkids are old enough to make a scarecrow man, and I am so excited.  Next weekend can't some soon enough to suit me.

This will take some thinking and remembering on my part.  It has been about fifteen years, I think, since I built my last such creation.  When Cookie and Teebo were still at home, the building of Scarecrow Man was as much a part of our October ritual as painting pumpkins, carving jack-o'lanterns, roasting hot dogs, and riding around town in our minivan with a huge inflatable skeleton strapped safely in the back seat.

I have been biding my time these last four Octobers waiting for the perfect year to reinstitute Scarecrow Man as an October tradition, and I have the unmistakeable feeling that this is it.  I can feel it in the gentle chill of these gorgeous late September mornings, and I can see it in the autumnal slant of the sunshine.  I can hear that raspy whisper calling to me:  "If they come, you will build it."  Yep.  Kevin Costner and I have a little something in common here.

Tucked away on a shelf in the basement are the flannel shirt and bib overalls that I rescued from the garage sale box just for this purpose.  They have been waiting patiently for Scarecrow Man's return.  I will need only to confiscate from Pa-pa an old pair of gloves, an old pair of boots, and a straw hat. Then, I will need to talk him into bringing me two bales of straw from the farm, one to use for stuffing and the other for the finished Scarecrow Man to perch on as he assumes his place of honor  against the retaining wall out front.  Oh, and I can't forget to buy a pumpkin:  Scarecrow man will most certainly need a head.

Next Saturday or so Sooby, Pooh, and I will stuff the shirt and bibs with straw and tie the legs and sleeves and waist with binder twine or big rubber bands.  We will tuck his legs into the boots, stick the gloves at the ends of his sleeves, balance his head atop the shirt (Scarecrow Man does not have a neck--he is an anatomic anomaly in this regard.), and top him with the hat.  Then, we will prop our life-size new friend on his straw bale, magic-marker him a face, and stand back to admire our work.  I imagine there will be a photo shoot in which Scarecrow Man will captivate everyone with his crooked-toothy jack-o-lantern smile.

A couple days ago I was talking to Sooby on the phone and telling her about our plans to build Scarecrow Man next time she comes to visit.  The phone line went quiet, and I knew she was thinking.  "Scarecrow Man?" she mused.  "What about the tin man?"

Hmmm.  The tin man.  Well . . . .

There are some big boxes in the garage and a can of gray spray paint in the basement.  I am thinking this New Millennium Scarecrow Man just might need a companion.  My little Dorothy from Kansas has spoken, and her words are more powerful than those of the Great Oz himself.  The last couple nights, I have drifted off to sleep with Tin Man blueprints running through my head as I contemplate what we might fashion into a makeshift oil can.

My small plastic watering pitcher is showing real possibilities.  " Hurry up, next weekend," I think as I become lost somewhere along the road of yellow bricks running through the field of my own dreams. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Horse, the Bull, and the Bump

While ago I was flipping--no, scrolling--through an album of pictures from my son Teebo's wedding, a momentous occasion in our family life that took place nearly fourteen months ago.  Granted, the bride was beautiful, and the groom was dashing--but, as might be the case with any self-respecting Googie, I was most struck by the pictures of Sooby and Pooh.  I am pretty sure there has never been a flower girl/ring bearer combo quite like them.

For one thing, I can't recall another wedding where the child attendants were quite this young.  At barely three, Sooby had her own ideas about the flower girl's job, and it did not involve an elegant, ladylike negotiation of the aisle while daintily sprinkling flower petals at her feet.  Oh, no. 

The flower girl, you see, is more like a horse who gallops down the aisle, splashing petals in sporadic bunches until she reaches the bridal party.  At that point she suddenly reins herself in, allowing inertia to dispense the remaining flora in a clump that would make any horse proud. 

When this elicits laughter from the spectators, Sooby turns around quickly, surprised that the church pews are suddenly full when they were practically empty at the rehearsal.  Her eyes grow large with disbelief as she mouths the word "Wow!" before her mother emerges from the line of bridesmaids to grab her halter and look for the nearest hitching post.

All eyes return to the back of the sanctuary, where Pooh makes his appearance in the doorway with the ring pillow.  (Luckily, these are fake rings that are sewn to the pillow--someone was thinking ahead here.)  At not quite eighteen months old, Pooh is definitely the wild card in this wedding processional.  Nevertheless, Pooh's daddy sets him down, hands him the pillow, and prompts, "Go give this to Uncle Teebo."  At this point, I perceive a collective holding of breath, including my own.  After all, just how much can you expect from a ring bearer wearing a diaper?

Pooh lowers his head like a bull preparing to charge the matador.  Then, those tiny little legs scamper down the aisle straight toward the groom, who reaches out to grab the pillow just as Pooh wheels around and runs right back toward the back door.  Pass complete.  First down.  However, apparently worn out by the play, Pooh decides to lie down across the aisle near the back of the sanctuary, effectively blocking any gain of yardage the bride and her father are hoping for.  Thankfully, a watchful spectator emerges from the sidelines to remove the object of interference, and the ceremony continues downfield.

Baby Bootsie also attended this wedding (in a somewhat more clandestine fashion) as a bump protruding beneath the empire waistline of her mother's navy blue bridesmaid dress.  As her mother sang a solo, Bootsie helped out by rendering her diaphragm unusable.  So much for the correct breathing techniques Cookie learned in her voice lessons; the name of this game was survival.

I am glad to report that everyone involved did indeed survive, and that, come spring, the newlyweds of that day are expecting a little horse, bull, or bump of their own.  Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie have prepared them well.  

As for me, I look forward to celebrating Bootsie's first birthday in a few weeks and Pooh's third later this winter.  Then about the time the last snow is melting and the dogwoods are thinking about blooming, I will depend on them all to show their new cousin how the ropes work here at Googie's.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"One Star"

Recently, as my brother was taking his turn keeping vigil at our dad's bedside, the two of them relived many a coon hunt of his boyhood nights gone by.  That's when he thought of a question he had always wanted to ask.

"It was so dark out there in the woods," he mused.  "How did you always know exactly where we were?"

The faintest smile flickered across Dad's face as he held up a weak forefinger and answered, barely above a whisper,  "One star."

Later, my brother shared this story with me over breakfast.  I have not been able to stop thinking about it since.  One star.  My dad, the consummate hunter, looked to the sky to get his bearings.  To keep his perspective.  To find his way.  How beautifully profound I find that idea.  How powerful that image is--a single star somehow separating itself from the others to say "Fix your eyes on me.  I will help you see through the night.  I will show you where you have been.  I will lead you to the next place you want to go."

The idea of a guiding star is certainly not new.  The Bible tells us that the magi followed a star to Bethlehem to find the Christ Child.  Poet Robert Frost bids us "Choose Something Like a Star" to use, in a figurative sense, as a moral and ethical compass that can somehow grace a faltering human resolve with certainty and steadfastness.  What is new to me is the surprising revelation that my dad, no less so than Frost and the eastern kings, understood, in his own way, the power of one star.

At this writing it has been less than a week since that early-morning conversation between my brother and me and less than twenty-four hours since Dad died.  As I sat with him in the early hours this morning, as his breathing was growing shallower and his heartbeat became barely audible, I knew what I wanted to tell him.

Look up, Daddy.  Find that one star.  It will show you the way through this darkness.  It will lead you home.    


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Turn, Turn, Turn"

On a morning not so long ago Baby Bootsie reaches high above her head to grasp my forefingers in her own tight little fists and tries her hardest to put one foot in front of the other.  Nearly eleven months old now, she is thinking seriously about walking.  She has watched her brother and sister do it, and she can see that it opens countless new possibilities, all of which appear to be great fun.

However, her legs won't quite cooperate.  The balance is just not there, and gravity apparently tugs too hard on her diaper.  Over and over, she lands on her bottom before pulling herself up to try once more.  After all, Sooby and Pooh make walking look so easy.

Later that same day, my brother and I each take an arm and walk our dad the short circle around 2SW.  This is code for the southwest wing of the second floor of the hospital where we were both born over half a century ago. Sporting blue PJs, Dad takes small, slow steps and pushes his IV pole along in front of him.  He is dying of lung cancer.  The cigarettes he and all the dads smoked with such carefree abandon in the '60s have come back to exact their vengeance on the unlucky ones.  He has not smoked for 36 years, but he didn't quit soon enough.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1, which I first learned not in Sunday School but in a song recorded by a rock band.  "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven."  The next verse mentions "a time to be born" and "a time to die."  Presently, our family is experiencing both of those seasons as, simultaneously, we rejoice in each new birth and witness the decline of our parents.

Before long, Baby Bootsie and her siblings will welcome a new cousin, and I will be Googie for the fourth time.  Although that birth will bring unmitigated joy, I am saddened to realize that Dad will not be able to meet his sixth great-grandchild, at least on this earth.  But as the Byrds sang so memorably in 1965, "Turn, turn, turn."  The world turns; the seasons come and go.  This life is not forever.  New life replaces the old in a cycle set into motion ages ago by someone much wiser than I.

"Turn, turn, turn," sang the Byrds.  Winter succumbs to spring.  In the midst of all the turning, a sick old man struggles with his final steps even as a baby girl strives to take her first.  I am here between them, holding on as tight as I can for as long as I am able.          


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fuzzy Wuzzy Lost His . . . What?

Today's CD's seem to spin around under a closed door at warp speed.  I am sorry for modern kids who will never get to watch the mesmerizing revolutions of those little yellow grooved 78-rpm records or their close relatives, the 45's, into which we either had to insert a plastic adapter to fit the spindles of our little suitcase-style record players or twist up an apparatus on the player itself to accommodate the 45s' larger center hole.  Fellow Boomers, you will know exactly what I am talking about.  Youngsters, you won't, but please keep reading anyway.  This is really not a piece about record players.

Rather, it is about little kids and singing and the fun things we can do with words to make songs our own.  Of late, Sooby and Pooh have done much to remind me of these simple joys.  What, for instance, might Old MacDonald have on his farm instead of the usual animals?  He could have a cactus, with a stick-stick here and a stick-stick there and, well, you get the idea.  Does Little Bo Peep have trouble losing only her sheep, or might she also lose, say, her flip-flop?  Sorry if I am disturbing those well-established and deeply implanted childhood images you have carried around in your head all your life, but I am trying to prepare you for what is coming here.

Call me demented, but one of my favorite childhood songs, which I listened to again and again as it spun around in front of me at 45 rpm, was "Fuzzy Wuzzy."  Maybe you have heard it.  It goes something like this:

          Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?
          Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his mop
          In a North Pole barber shop.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

Sooby and Pooh love this song.  But I had sung it to each of them only a few times before they insisted on changing the lyrics to reflect their unique little worldview.

Sooby, who heard the song first, simply could not stand the idea of a world in which a bear would be without hair.  Thus, her variation of the song had to correct this obvious deficiency:

          Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy had some hair.
          Fuzzy Wuzzy was fuzzy, wasn't he?

As for the original song's details on how Fuzzy had purportedly lost his mop, she simply chose to ignore them.  We had to skip that part when we sang.  If a bear was not going to be hairy like he was supposed to be, she didn't want to hear about it.

The last time I sang this song with Pooh, however, it took on some new dimensions that the original songwriter could never have imagined.  It was Pooh's job to decide what new body part Fuzzy Wuzzy would lose next; it was my mission to find a silly rhyme that would make the new lyrics work within the established meter of the song.  Here are some of our variations of Lines 4 and 5 of the original song:
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his nose./Sprayed it with a garden hose.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his lip/On a big black pirate ship.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his mouth./He went north and it went south.         
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his knee/Climbing up an apple tree.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his leg./Found it in an Easter egg.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his arm/In the woods on Pa-pa's farm.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his chin./Found it, then it left again.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his ear./After that, he couldn't hear.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his head./Found it underneath the bed.
  • Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his eye./Baked it in a cherry pie.  (I know--gross!) 
I will stop while I'm ahead.  My point is that Pooh absolutely loved this silly game.  He loved thinking up new body parts for the song, and, as for some of those he suggested, I will leave them to your imagination.  Keep in mind that he is a boy, and even at age 2 1/2 this seems to influence his worldview.

I loved it too--the one-on-one time with him, the wordplay, the idea of our creating something unique together.  We began with a silly song and gained a rich and beautiful bonding experience.  As far as I can tell, the only one who lost was Fuzzy Wuzzy himself--and by the time we were finished, I have to admit, he had lost just about everything.     


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Pooh-cabulary Lesson

The little toy barn with the carry handle on top becomes a briefcase.  The door to the playroom becomes the front door of a house where a little boy lives, and I quickly realize I am that little boy.  Pooh is my daddy.

"I have to go to work now," he says in the most businesslike tone of voice a two-and-a-half-year-old can muster.  "Good-bye, Sweetheart."  He pulls the door closed and takes off down the hall.

Sweetheart?  We replay this scene umpteen times, and each time I rollick inside at that particular word choice issuing from that tiny person and directed at me.  Let's face it: it is hilarious when a toddler heads off to work and calls his Googie "Sweetheart."

"Who calls him 'Sweetheart'"? I ask Pooh's mama later. "Where did he get that?"  I don't recall reading it in any of the bedtime stories or hearing it in any of the Disney movies.  I am stumped, and so is his mama.

Fast forward to some point later in the day.  Pooh is thirsty, and I hear myself say, "Here's your lemonade, Sweetheart."  A fluke, I think, until later yet, I hear myself call him that again.  Guilty.  Busted.  Pooh calls people "Sweetheart" because he has heard me do it, and I didn't even realize the word was a staple of my vocabulary.

Fast forward again.  It is dusk and we are outside chasing fireflies.  A particularly playful bug gives Pooh the wink-blink and hovers just enough ahead of him that, between the ever-flitting light and the gathering darkness, he can never really complete the catch.  Chalk up one for insect insight.  This bug is no dummy; he perceives danger lurking in those little hands.  And well he should.

Nevertheless, Pooh pursues intently and relentlessly, at last resorting to sweet talk:  "Come here, little fellow," he entices in a soft, high voice.  "Come on, little guy."  I chuckle to myself at the idea of my grandson using such terms of endearment to address a creature with compound eyes and six legs.  Again, I wonder at these things he says.  Where does he get this stuff?

Fast forward one last time.  Pooh has fallen asleep on my lap in the rocker.  I carry him to his bed and tuck the blanket around his shoulders.  I kiss his cheek and run my fingers across the stubble of his new buzz-cut.  The haircut makes him look older, and he is growing up so fast.

"Good night, little guy," I hear myself whisper.  Another day done.  Another mystery solved.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bootsie's Initiation

Up until now, it doesn't seem like Baby Bootsie, who is closing in on ten months, has had her fair share of the blogspace heretofore monopolized by Sooby and Pooh.  Although at times I have experienced the nagging fear of shortchanging her,  I have to be truthful and say there just hadn't been much inspiration.  She sat, she grinned, she slept, she ate, she went through diapers--that was about it.

The transition over the past month began subtly: she ate a Cheerio, she laid her head on my shoulder when I told her to, she patted a baby doll, she began to roll and pull herself around on the floor.  Then, suddenly, she was crawling up steps.  She was eating catfood.  Her social interaction quadrupled.  Bootsie was coming into her own. Hallelujah!  It was only a matter of time before she, too, would generate "story material."

I will call this Bootsie's "initiation" story--her first distinguishing act with blog potential.  It is a doozy.  She did something her brother and sister had never done, at least to anyone's knowledge.  I am so proud of her.  She has crossed that elusive line into true blogworthiness.

I will warn you that the story has a rather ominous beginning.  Several days ago, to her mother's alarm, Bootsie appeared to be choking on something--not the blue-faced, stopped-breathing kind of choking, I hasten to add.   Nevertheless, she had clearly put something in her mouth that didn't belong there and was experiencing some major discomfort as it lodged at the back of her throat.  She was unable to get the object out through the normal channels of coughing and hacking, and she wasn't very cooperative as her mom (my daughter Cookie) and dad, understandably concerned, tried to open her mouth to assess the situation.

In first telling this story to me, I believe Cookie used the phrase "freaking out" to describe the parental behavior at hand.  Finally, Cookie was able to run a forefinger across the back of Bootsie's throat and extract what looked like a twig or large piece of brown grass.  Upon said extraction, situation normal resumed in the household, accompanied, as always, by those silent vows we have all made after such perceived "close calls" to watch more vigilantly, examine the environment more thoroughly, and so forth.

As the evening wore on, the event took a backseat to those more immediate concerns of the family routine: eating dinner, cleaning the kitchen, bathing, getting ready for bed.  Bootsie was apparently suffering no ill after-effects of the earlier scare, and life had returned to the sane, mundane comfort zone of familiarity and the sense of complacency that ensues when nothing much is going on.

Indeed, it was a typical night in Bootsie's household.  Nothing new.  Same-old same-old.  That is, until, in the process of closing the house down for the night,  Cookie made a telling discovery:  a five-legged grasshopper.

Way to go, Bootsie.  You have earned your place in the annals of family lore.  Your story ranks right up there with the time Sooby put a bead in her ear and the time, much longer ago, that Cookie herself stuck a piece of cooked macaroni up her nose as I innocently mixed together a pot of goulash.

Lest I leave any loose ends here, let me just say that the doctor was able to retrieve the bead with a pair of tiny tweezers, and Cookie conveniently sneezed as I was on the phone seeking medical advice from her own doctor.

But, even as we speak, somewhere in Kansas, a confused and undoubtedly troubled grasshopper must be dizzy from hopping around in circles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Berry Patch Wisdom

The Strawberryland  game is not supposed to be complicated.  In it, Strawberry Shortcake and her friends--Ginger Snap, Angel Cake, and Orange Blossom--march a designated number of spaces around a board, hoping to land on a round cardboard circle with the picture of a particular goodie (basket of oranges, gingerbread man, ice cream cone, etc.) on the underside.  Each player tries to be the first to match these circles to their likenesses on her card. 

Each card is different; thus, this is essentially a memory game.  You have to watch when other players land on a circle and reveal the underside, because you might need that one.  Then, you have to remember where it was, maneuver yourself around to that spot on the board, and claim it for yourself.  The idea is to find your four goodies before your opponent does.

During Sooby's recent week-long visit to Googie's, we played this game until I could close my eyes at night and see strawberries.  In my utter lack of foresight, I thought it might afford a fun opportunity to teach Sooby about rules--you know, taking turns, not peeking, not taking the cardboard circle that someone else turns over, and so forth.

As it turns out, I was wrong.  Sooby, it seems, had very different ideas about how the game should be played.  Here is her modified version:
  1. Sooby spins; she moves Strawberry Shortcake the designated number of spaces, but some spaces are skipped in the process.
  2. If Sooby doesn't land on a circle she needs, she spins again.
  3. When she finds a match, it is Googie's turn.
  4. Googie's turn is over very quickly.
  5. Sooby repeats Steps 1-3.
  6. Sooby acquires her four matches first.
  7. Sooby insists that Googie play until she also finds her matches.
  8. Sooby is delighted with the outcome of the game and wants to play it over and over.
As you can see, in Sooby's variation of the game there is no drama, no competition to speak of, no nail-biting race to the finish, no stress.  You might think this would be boring (I had even entertained that notion myself, however briefly), but that is not the case.  Sooby's excitement at each new discovery was genuine.  The fact that she was having so much fun caused me to stop and re-evaluate the place of rules in the life of a four-year-old who sees them as arbitrary and unnecessary and can have quite a good time without them, thank you.

I am reminded of all those rules Robert Fulghum supposedly learned in kindergarten.  Should you re-read that list, you will find that they basically fall under several broad categories, none of which are violated by Sooby's revised Strawberryland rules:
  1. Don't hurt yourself.
  2. Don't hurt others.
  3. Don't destroy things of value.
A fourth category could include Fulghum's suggestions to look, appreciate, and "be aware of wonder."  Those may be a little abstract for a four-year-old.  A googie, however, should be able to handle them just fine.  Especially when looking across the game board at a little girl whose eyes sparkle with excitement when she sees that Custard the pink kitty is just the match she wanted.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


The only grandmother I knew died when I was ten.  Sadly, there is not much I remember about her before that nebulous period of time she lay under a pink chenille bedspread dying of a disease I couldn't really fathom.  I can count on one hand those specific incidents I recall involving just her and me.  Usually, I ran my grandparents' yard and hay lot in a pack of some thirteen other grandchildren and occupied a spot, agewise, in about the middle.  It was a rare occasion indeed when I got my grandma or grandpa to myself.

For some reason, the event I think about most often was the time I went with Grandma to the chicken house to gather eggs.  One of her tools for this task was a gray metal bucket pockmarked with a lot of little dents and a skinny wire handle that allowed the bucket to squeak and sway when she carried it empty.  The other was her right hand, which consisted of long slim fingers with smooth, pale, slick-looking skin.  I watched, partly frightened and partly fascinated, as she slid this hand deftly beneath one setting hen after another as we crept along the row of nests occupying the chicken house's west wall.

When she gathered these eggs, as she had likely done every day for at least half a century, the hens would squawk indignantly and flap their wings with a fury that launched clouds of dust into the air around our heads.  To her this was among the most mundane of daily routines in a setting utterly comfortable and familiar; to me it was new and uncertain territory.

Despite her bidding, I rigidly refused to stick my nailbitten fingers anywhere near a hen who considered herself a robbery victim.  Although it was a couple years before Alfred Hitchcock would terrify me with The Birds, I could see that those beaks were sharp, and the looks I was getting from those wiggling, jiggling eyes did not convey what I interpreted as approval.  I was certain some of them tried to slap me with wings powered by sheer agitation. Needless to say, I was more than relieved when the egg-gathering was done, Grandma was carrying the full bucket, and we squinted our way out of that dark little outbuilding into the light of day.

Some of my friends talk of extravagant, memorable times with their grandmothers: a car trip to the Grand Canyon, a shopping spree in the City, a ball game between the Kansas City A's and the Chicago White Sox.  In stark contrast, the images I associate with my own grandmother are so precious few in number and so ordinary in nature: a dime scotch-taped inside a birthday card; a platter of fried fish; a mountain of warm, brown eggs stacked in a metal bucket.

Few?  Certainly.  Ordinary?  Definitely.  Insignificant?  Never.  They are all I have, and I will treasure them for what they are.  They are my only link to a woman I barely knew but who nevertheless raised my dad and his six siblings on a self-sufficient farm irrigated by a lazy little creek during the lean times of the Great Depression.

I think of Grandma and Grandpa sometimes when I catch myself trying to wow Sooby and Pooh.  I am always wanting to take them here or there, show them this or that, impress them with experiences that I can be sure they will recall long after I am gone.  Years from now, I want them to smile and say, "Remember when Googie did this?  Remember when Googie did that?"

But deep inside I know that what they may most likely remember are the reading of a favorite storybook, a neighborhood walk where we find a box turtle, a firefly caught and released at dusk.  These are things imbued with what I want to call "every-dayness," the simple, sweet substance of ordinary lives shared.  Such events, I have come to realize, are paradoxical in that they cause remembering without being especially memorable.   

Why else, all these years later, would I be thinking about a bucket of eggs?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Googie Meets Tow-Mater

If you had told me a week ago that I would ever like anything even remotely associated with Larry the Cable Guy, I would have raised my eyebrows and felt your forehead.  But that was B.C.--before Cars. 

When Pooh came to stay with me a few days last week, I thought it would be fun to expose him to his first movie theater experience.  I will be the first to admit that things didn't look good starting out.  Pooh was startled by the sheer size of the screen and the loudness blaring from the speakers.  Further, he was too light to hold the fold-up theater seat open, so he was convinced it was trying to eat him.  The last straw involved previews of other shows which did not deliver on the "talking cars" I had promised him.  The room was weird and dark and unfamiliar, and Pooh let me know in no uncertain terms that he was ready to go "back to Googie's house."

I, however, had just spent $5.50 for my own ticket (two-year-olds get in free), $3.25 for popcorn, and another $3.25 for a Pepsi (outrageous--but I won't go there right now).  Since I had made what amounted to a sizable investment, I was determined to find a way to make this work.  We moved to a secluded spot three rows from the back of the theater, and I hoisted Pooh onto my lap (I have no trouble holding the seat down).  With our popcorn perched in the cup holder to our left and our Pepsi occupying an equidistant position on our right,  Pooh began to relax.  It helped that some of the previews featured Smurfs, the Toy Story gang, and Winnie-the-Pooh.  By the time Cars 2 came on, we were pretty happily settled in.

I had not seen the original Cars movie, so I was introduced to the vehicular cast right along with Pooh.  The buck-toothed tow truck that spoke with a backwoods Southern drawl quickly became his favorite.  To my surprise, it soon became obvious that "Tow-Mater" or just "Mater" for short features the vocal, uh, talents of Larry the Cable Guy. Surprisingly, it seems that Larry, in dropping the plaid shirt along with his other more obnoxious physical attributes and raunchy subject matter, becomes a bit more bearable when he is just a voice in a kids' cartoon.

I'm sure that the subplot was entirely lost on Pooh, who has no context for things like love triangles (really!), fuel wars, and international espionage.  But he dearly loved the frequent intermittent scenes involving racing and chasing, engine revving and tire screeching.  The noise and loudness were no longer issues as he cheered Mater's buddy, Lightning McQueen, to the finish line of the Grand Prix.

I won't say our movie adventure was without repercussions.  For the next couple days two toy school buses careened neck-and-neck down my upstairs hallway, one Weeble-driven and the other belting out the melody of "Skip to My Lou" on batteries that must have been on their last ounce of acid.  A bucket of micro-machines got dumped out dangerously close to the air conditioner vent.  To my surprise, a replica of the ever-lovable Mater himself even emerged from the plastic tub where our Happy Meal-type toys live. 

When I tried taking Sooby to the show at the same age, A Christmas Carol was just a little too scary with ghosts and clanking chains and all.  So we switched rooms and took in The Blind Side, featuring lots of football action that she was OK with.  But that Winnie-the-Pooh movie should be playing next week when she comes to visit for a few days, so I think we'll try again.  At four, she knows what to do with popcorn and a Pepsi, and at her size I don't think the seat will try to "eat" her. 

However, if Larry the Cable Guy turns out to be the voice of Eeyore, we may have to go down the hall and check out those Smurfs.  I can handle him as a tow truck, but a donkey may be too close to what he really is during those times he wears the plaid shirt.