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 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.