Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Double-Header

When I woke up this morning, I was still hoarse from cheering, and still had on my game face from yesterday's double-header.  And what a pair of games they were!  From my vantage point on the front row--and at times in the middle of the action--the coaching strategy could not have worked much better.

The morning game was a baby shower for Beenie, due to enter as a starter in less than two months now.  At this point his locker is pretty well filled with equipment, and his uniforms are in place.  He will be known as our team's "Little Man," which was the perfectly executed shower theme.   Little Man's mama certainly went home with a good catch, but if I had to pick a game highlight, it would be a toss-up between the chocolate mustaches and the cake pops.

The afternoon game was an early birthday party for Pooh, who completed all nine innings in great style.  Following a pre-game show involving pizza, he fielded a chocolate cake complete with candles--one, two, three, and they were OUT!  His presents made a hit too, with the foam dart gun scoring a home run, although it did at times create a certain amount of suspense among the spectators.  Put this boy in, Coach.  He is ready to play.  But just to be safe, watch your backside.

I am convinced that nothing could have pumped life into a January day like yesterday's double-header.  A delicious anticipation permeated the air, creating an occasional whiff of chocolate.  The excitement was tangible enough to slice into triangles and devour like pizza. 

Let the games go on.  My grandsons are the stars, and I am their biggest fan.


Friday, January 20, 2012

What Ceilings Can Teach Us

Pa-pa and I thought Sooby would love riding in the convertible with the top down.  We thought she would delight in the rush of the wind through her hair as we sailed through a landscape of red and yellow leaves kissed by the gentle autumn sunlight.  With the back seat all to herself, we reasoned, how could she not embrace the sheer sensory adventure of this Indian summer day?

However, less than a mile from home and at a speed not even fast enough to activate the sensory delight mechanism standard to all convertibles, a little voice barely makes itself audible above the harmonious duet created when a perfect engine purrs and four tires lick rhythmically at the pavement.

"Pa-pa?" she says.  "Would you put the ceiling back on this room?"

"What?" Pa-pa asks, giving me a quizzical glance.

"She wants you to put the top back up," I say, doubly amazed.  First, the word-lover in me marvels at the pure creativity of her language: the idea that the car's back seat is a "room" and the retractable top is its "ceiling."  Second, I cannot believe that she isn't all over the experience of riding in the open air.

I remember when my Uncle Butch and Aunt Sue would load us kids in their 1960 Chevy convertible and haul us all the way to their home near Kansas City, nearly eighty miles away.  For a bunch of small-town kids, this experience took us as close to heaven as I could imagine, partly because Uncle Butch drove pretty fast but mostly because there was no feeling to rival that of the cool night air pushing at my face in a steady, massaging motion that would leave me nearly breathless.  It is easy to understand why dogs love to ride with their heads hanging out car windows facing against a wind that glues their eyes shut and makes their tongues drip.  I think in a former life, I may have been a dog.

I ponder Sooby's very different response, but only for a moment.  At only four years old, she is probably much younger than I was at those times when, with the carefree abandon of middle childhood, I careened with Uncle Butch down Highway 50 toward the city.  At four, Sooby feels a little more secure if the ceiling stays on her room, and I can understand that.  I chalk this up as yet another lesson learned at the sweet, pudgy hands of my first grandchild.

This hits home to me as a good reminder that I need to be careful.  I need to not rush these things with the kids.  The truth is, sometimes I get so anxious to recreate the wonderful, blissful experiences of my own childhood with them that I don't stop to think that they may not be quite ready.  I did this with Pooh, when I took him to his first movie and the loudness of the theater speakers frightened him.  I even did this with Pooh's mama, Cookie, when my Fourth of July firework display the year she was two resulted in more apprehension on her part than patriotism.  She went running in the house to her daddy, and I felt pretty sheepish setting off the rest of the Roman candles by myself.

Back off, Googie.  All in good time.  They are little.  For now, stick to birthday cakes and balloons, and, for gosh sakes, leave the ceilings on all the rooms.  



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beenie's Room

As nurseries go, it had the basic things you would expect:  a crib, a changing table with drawers, a rocking chair--all in a luscious chocolate brown.  The window sported a green floor-length curtain fashioned by the baby's mama and secured at the sides by gold tie-back holders mounted by his daddy.  In the closet hung a few tiny sleepers and other articles of clothing, waiting for the avalanche of like items that will spill out into the room after the shower in a couple weeks.

His name was there on the wall in wooden letters stenciled with a kaleidoscope of blue, green, and brown designs.  I stood alone in the middle of the room and took it all in.  My new grandson will take up residence here in just two more months.  His blog name will be Beenie.

The completely quiet house lent itself nicely to my meditations.  Although I was there solely for utilitarian purposes--namely, to let the dog out for a spell while the owners were away for the day--I welcomed the opportunity to wax a little more romantic and imagine the room alive with Beenie.  I thought about how those skinny little legs would unfold and kick in the air, the red face, the tight little fists, the temporarily misshapen head, the soft bleating cries.  Suddenly, he became more to me than the  wiggly lump now resting under his mama's maternity sweater and causing her considerable discomfort.  In those moments, he became real, this first child of my son, and his will be the fourth little voice to call me "Googie."

Unlike Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie, Beenie will live in the same town I do.  This will make him readily accessible when I need a googie-fix.  Although I see the other children regularly, this will be different.  I hope I will stop myself short of knocking on their door in the middle of the night, but I have to say I find the idea of having a grandkid I can see and hold and squeeze just about anytime very appealing.  And, now that I have seen the completely furnished room, very exciting as well.

The dog scratches on the back door, bursting the bubble of my reverie.  I turn off the light, but not before I take a minute to sit in the rocker where I sang Bootsie to sleep on Christmas Day.  At the time, the chair was the only piece of furniture in this room.  My, how it has changed since then.  It has taken on a personality that will soon be made complete with the addition of a special little person.

This is Beenie's room.  I am ready for you, baby boy, and I love you already.       

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Attack of the Rapacious Rodent

I have marveled before at the theatrical prowess of Pooh.  Many times, in play situations I have been privy to, I have seen him assume characters, even adopt accents unbelievable for a two-year-old.  Therefore, this past Christmas season, I was sorry to miss his actual stage debut in his hometown production of The Nutcracker.  But from the pictures and the videos I have seen, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: despite his obvious potential for a future in serious acting, Pooh may be headed instead for a career in comedy.

Cast as a mouse, Pooh welcomed the part with every fiber of his being.  He practiced his "mean mouse" demeanor repeatedly, furrowing his eyebrows perfectly, narrowing his big blue eyes to slits, and firmly setting his little jaw.  Dress him in a gray sweatsuit, prop a pair of ears atop his head, and stick a cardboard sword in his hand, and he is ready to take on the fiercest army of soldiers.  On opening night he waits in place behind the curtain, until the adult in charge gives him the go-ahead to run out on stage where rampant and unmitigated slaughter is the name of the game.

However, when said adult, obviously (and understandably) distracted by the horde of little mice scurrying  around backstage, misses a crucial cue, Pooh escapes to find himself on stage early.  The soldiers he is to fight are still lined up neatly on the stage's other side.  In a rare scene even Tchaikovsky could not have imaged music for, Pooh and the Nutcracker himself survey one another for a long moment, and the action that ensues will not be forgotten anytime soon by any member of this particular audience.

What is a mean mouse with a sword supposed to do in such a situation?  The answer is obvious, at least to Pooh.  He should attack the Nutcracker.  Never mind that a dead Nutcracker would seriously impair the plot of Act II and significantly shorten the ballet.  When you have a sword in your hand and the soldiers don't seem to want to play, then any sitting-duck Nutcracker is fair game.  Makes sense to me.  Apparently, it made sense to Pooh as well.

I can only imagine how funny it must have been: Pooh in slashing mode and a demoralized Nutcracker, no more than eight years old himself, running and stage-whispering, "No!  No!  Not yet!  Not me!"  His protests would have served only to encourage Pooh.  I know this little boy.  He would have been one totally engrossed little mouse.  He would have been further fueled by the whooping and laughter and clapping of the audience.  I would give anything to have been there and seen such theatrical novelty transpire firsthand.

Undoubtedly, this story will go down in our family annals as "The Time Pooh Tried To Kill the Nutcracker."  For now and for purposes of this blog, I will give it the Perry Mason-esque title--"Attack of the Rapacious Rodent."  But, Mr. Tchaikovsky, if you're not too busy, could you compose a tune to accompany a new little chase scene for just the Nutcracker and one special little mouse?  Knowing Pooh as I do, there just might be an encore next time The Nutcracker comes to town.  


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bootsie's Top Ten

I am tempted to rename Bootsie "Boo-Boo" after Yogi Bear's furry little sidekick that I remember so well from the Hanna-Barbera cartoons years ago.  At fifteen months, she is a roly-poly, cuddly little teddy-bear-like chunk that I love to rock and squeeze and wrestle around.  As much as I enjoy doing those things, however, I have to say that my favorite activity these days is listening to her as she learns to talk.

I remember when her mother was this age and saying so many new words every day that I couldn't keep track of them enough to make a list.  Although Boo-Boo is more reserved in the variety her vocabulary demonstrates, she is no less prolific in the amount of chatter she generates.  Having just spent three days with her, I will attempt to rank what I remember as her top ten most frequent words.  Here they are in descending order of frequency:

10. "peez" (used fairly rarely, but most often when the situation involves the potential for food).
 9.  "baby" (usually said in the context of play involving a doll house).
 8.  "nie-nie" (which she says either when laying her head on a pillow during play or when actually     heading for a nap or bedtime.)
 7.   "uh-oh" (This was one of her first two or three words, appropriate in a number of situations Boo-Boo seems to encounter in the course of a day.)
 6.   "mama" (another of the early words; self-explanatory.)
 5.   "hi" (I can see that we are going to have to give her the "Don't talk to strangers" lecture.)
 4.   "bye-bye" (We have a tri-level house.  Boo-Boo tells us all this every time she--or anyone else for that matter--goes up the stairs, down the stairs, or out of a room.  You can see what I mean by  "frequency" here.)
 3.   "me/mine" (Ah, the first-person pronouns.  Boo-Boo is not shy about asserting herself.  With an older brother and sister, she shows good survival instincts even at this tender age.)
 2.   "no!"  (Ditto above.)
 1.   "Elmo"  (Jim Henson's lovable red muppet.)  Read on.

It is true: the word I heard Boo-Boo say most often during the past three days was "Elmo."  This is in reference to an animated Elmo doll that I got at a garage sale last summer for $2.  But this is not just any Elmo.  It is not the kind of Elmo a kid cuddles up with for a long winter's nap.  Oh, no.

This is Pizza Elmo.  With two AA alkaline batteries imbedded in each foot, Pizza Elmo, in his shrill but distinctive little voice sways vigorously from side to side while he and the pizza he balances in his right hand sing a duet to the tune of "Funiculi, Funicula." 

Yes, the pizza sings.  When you press Elmo's innocent-looking left hand, the pizza's pepperonis turn to eyes and nose, and his mushroom mouth opens in the richest baritone you've ever heard.  Sporting a chef's hat and apron, Elmo croons his way through the various steps of the art of pizza-making as Mr. Pizza himself adds his own cheesy interpretation.  It is great fun, and, of all the kids, Boo-Boo loves Elmo the most.

Even when I had her in her high chair in the kitchen, she would get this wistful look on her face and ask "Elmo?"  I would say, "He's upstairs."  If I said this once during the past three days, I said it a hundred times.  Or more.

This leads to my favorite conversation of the weekend, which began like all the others.  "Elmo?" she asked.  Then, without waiting for me to answer, she said, as clearly as a bell,  "Uptez?"

Happily, I made a mental note of this new word.  She said it only once, so it didn't make the Top Ten.  But however you slice your pizza, "upstairs," for a fifteen-month old, is a pretty delicious new word. 


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Googie's New Year's Resolutions

I have rarely thought much about plans and resolutions on January 1, probably because I spent thirty years teaching school.  For me, the year always began in September and ended in May.  Most of January, on the other hand, was that brief mid-year respite after the madness of giving finals, figuring grades, and wrapping up another set of classes.

This was always harder in December than in May because, at that time of year, the demands of school coincided with the craziness of the holiday season.  When Cookie and Teebo were still at home, this meant juggling school responsibilities with school programs, church programs, parties, and the usual flurry of Christmas activities.  Add the duties of shopping, wrapping, card-sending, baking, decorating and the like, and I had more balls in the air than I could keep going.

Although the Christmas season is still a little more hectic than I would prefer, retirement has definitely improved the situation.  Adding Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie to the family mix has brought a new kind of joy to my world.  It is because of them that I am thinking, on this New Year's Day, what 2012 might have in store for us and what resolutions I might make as we toss the old calendars in the trash and start afresh.

First, there are some things the kids and I didn't get done in 2011 that are a must for the coming year.  We need to actually get down and dirty and dye some Easter eggs.  We need to get icky and sticky and carve a jack-o-lantern (and toast the seeds).  We need to make pretzel candy sticks with the kit I got at Wal-Mart after Halloween for $1.  We have a ceramic picture frame to decorate for Cookie for Mother's Day, but don't tell her.

Next, we need to repeat all the things we had so much fun with during the year just past.  The birthday parties, the valentine boxes, the State Fair, the pool, water balloons, Scarecrow Man, and the wiener roast--all these need a spot on our new calendar.  We'll keep singing at bedtime, reading books, watching movies, and play-acting.  Sometime this year, Bootsie should be old enough to join in the frivolity.

In 2012 Bootsie will be two, Pooh will turn three, and Sooby's fifth birthday will earn her a spot in kindergarten.  In March, they expect to welcome a new little boy cousin.  In July, although they may not know it yet, they should welcome a sibling.  This time next year, Lord willing, I will be making my resolutions based on a grandkid pool of five.  That's why I need to make a good practice run at the process this year. 

Meanwhile, I should probably invest in a few more sippy cups and bibs, and stock up on diapers.  I may need a second high chair and another car seat.  Come to think of it, maybe I should buy some stock in companies like Gerber and Graco.

2012 promises to be packed with excitement for this Googie.  That's why, on this first day of the year, I resolve to enjoy every minute.