Monday, August 27, 2012

The ESP Cycle

Babysitting Beenie three days a week reminds me of a truth I used to know well but had kind of forgotten since the days when his daddy was five months old:  Babies have it pretty easy.

Our days have fallen into a pleasant, easy (Dare I say lazy?) rotation of three basic activities--eat, sleep, and play.  Always in the market for a good acronym, I think of this as our "ESP" cycle.

Eating is easy right now, consisting primarily of a four-ounce bottle of Enfamil formula every three hours or so.  Before long we will graduate to some baby food solids like sweet potatoes and bananas (I always loved both of these!).  Most likely, doing that will involve a high chair, an extra bib, and a little more intensive clean-up operation, but I am looking forward to it anyway.  Among other things, it means that Beenie and I might be able to eat lunch at the same time.

Sleeping usually follows eating (Is this a guy thing?).  Beenie's naps vary in length from fifteen to ninety minutes and in frequency between three and five on a typical day.  Once in a while I hold him while he sleeps, but lately I have been practicing putting him down either on our king-size bed or in the Pack 'n' Play.  This gives me the chance to do a few chores, think ahead a bit to the evening meal, or maybe catch a wink or two myself.

When Beenie gets to rolling around more, I will try the technique of putting a foam swimming noodle under our bed's fitted sheet on three sides, an idea I saw on Facebook.  If that doesn't work, I will just put him on our bed when I plan to lie there with him in order to keep him from rolling off.  Meanwhile, I will hone my skill at lowering him into the Pack 'n' Play, which gives me the option of putting him down on whichever level of our house might be quieter at the time.

Playing is the best part of our day.  One of my friends, recently gave me a walker, which enables him to sit up alone and play with an eclectic assortment of baby toys on the tray.  I should say "on the tray AND on the floor," as these toys have a way of moving back and forth frequently between the two places.  Other times, our "play" session involves reading; Beenie especially likes Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? 

Our last mode of play involves the timeless and more physical baby games like "Peekaboo" (with his blanket), "This Little Piggy Went to Market" (with his toes), and "Patty Cake."  Once or twice a week we deviate from our indoor play and take a field trip around the neighborhood in the stroller or into town to visit Beenie's great-grandma.

Put these all together and you have our typical day, which may rotate through the ESP cycle four times or so.  I guess, realistically, our acronym should include a "D" for "diaper," but I wouldn't know for sure where to put it because of the unpredictability (and sometimes urgency) that activity implies.

Beenies's cousins, my other grandkids, live so far away that we rarely get the pleasure of this lazy, day-to-day routine.  With their once-or-twice monthly visits, it is often a special occasion of some sort and a couple-day visit into which we try to cram as much fun as we all can stand.  One manner of grandkid contact is not necessarily better than the other, but I enjoy the variety and, of course, the chance to be with any of the kids any time I can.

If you are a regular rummager in "Googie's Attic," you know that all the kids and I have lots of fun, but right now I am also enjoying these more laid-back days with Beenie.  I think Beenie is pretty happy with the deal too; he doesn't seem to cry much.  With the ESP cycle in place, he has things pretty good, and so do I.            

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Boy Beenie

Beenie is five months old today.  At this stop-and-take-stock moment, he is a cuddly chunk of baby boy with fat little thighs, dark hair that sticks straight up (and that I have threatened to help along with a little gel), and a ready supply of the cutest little smiley faces you have ever seen.  Appearance-wise, he is a perfect cross of both his parents, and he is a joy to have around.

The best thing is, he is going to get to be around a lot.  His mama officially started her teaching year today, so Beenie was at my house for the first of three consecutive days we will spend together this week and every week of this new school year.  Beenie is the only grandkid I have who lives in the same town as I do.  I look forward to seeing him often and watching him reach the many milestones of this all-important first year.

He has already reached one of those, his first word--a sort of gurgling vocalization that sounds amazingly like "Googie."  Of course, I know this is probably just an accident, but I am doing all I can to reinforce it anyway.  He can almost sit up if I set him on the floor in front of my chair and support him with both legs.  He loves having little rattlers and teething toys on the floor around him.  His favorite is a little red, plastic, liquid-filled teether shaped like a purse, but don't tell his daddy about that.

Today I got an inkling of how our daily routine might develop.  He will get here early and finish out his night's sleep, maybe while I hold him and maybe in the playpen that will remain at the ready down in the family room.  This gives me a chance to eat breakfast and have a second cup of coffee.

Today, after he woke up and was fed and changed, we broke out the umbrella stroller, put on his sun hat, and took a gorgeous mile-and-a-half stroll through the impending-autumn beauty of our neighborhood.  Doing this regularly should help me take off the six or seven extra pounds that took up residence in my mid-section over the summer.

We will come home to some vintage TV shows that I will enjoy seeing or seeing again.  Today we saw snippets of Andy and Barney, Lucy and Ethel, Rob and Laura, and the Cartwright brothers down on the Ponderosa.  By winter, Beenie should take an interest in Sesame Street, which will probably replace our walks during the colder weather.

For the rest of the day, in no particular order, we will play with toys, read board books, eat, and nap.  At least one day a week we may venture to the grocery store or to town to visit my mom.  There, Beenie will find a loving great-grandma and a whole new set of toys to investigate.  By late next spring, maybe we can go to the park. 

If I should accidentally be able to get something done around the house during one of Beenie's longer naps, that will be nice.  But I'm not counting on it.  I love the lazy, carefree nature of these days with the baby.  He is a perfect excuse for me to kick back, relax, and not worry about what's clean and what isn't.  I figure, if I really want to, I can always get something done on the days he's not here.

Here's to a Happy New School Year to everyone.  As for me, I am entering my ninth year of retirement from teaching.  With Beenie around, this is the first new school year I have looked forward to for a long time. 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Suspected Robot Speaks Out

Let me examine myself carefully:  My arms bend at the wrists and elbows, and my legs at the knees and ankles.  True, my overall gait may have slowed and stiffened a bit, expecially when I first get out of bed in the morning, but I don't believe I would call what I do "mechanical," at least, once I get past the part where I crank up the coffeepot.

Now, let me assess my vocal qualities:  La-la-la-LAH.  Nope, that is not what I would call robotic either.  No monotonous drone, despite what some of my former students may have said (They wouldn't know anyway--they were asleep.).  Certainly,  there remains a modicum of modulation as I skip my way up the musical scale, although I will admit that I may have once choked when I fell into some kind of hole between "la" and "ti."

Finally, the scary part.  I will look in the mirror, where I fully expect to see the likes of the Jetsons' maid Rosie.  Well, this early in the morning the color is similar, and then there is that thing about Rosie's behind that we won't go into.  But, basically, I see just my old familiar self staring back and watch my chest deflate (another thing we won't go into right now) as I breathe a sigh of relief.  Conclusion:  I am still me (I know I am supposed to use the nominative case "I" here--predicate nominative, you know, but that WOULD sound like a robot), and I am clearly NOT a robot.

Why, then, do I keep having to prove that I am not?  Time after time, I go to post a comment on someone's web page, only to be required to type in two ridiculous bits of wavy, smushed-together garbled-letter nonsense.

"Please type these words to prove you're not a robot," says the prompt. (And just for the record, I am NOT impressed by this facade of politeness.)   Sometimes I have to try three or four times while Big Internet Brother, lurking somewhere inside my monitor, smirks and watches me sweat. 

On about the third try, I begin to wonder myself if I may actually BE a robot.  The only thing I can figure is, robots must have even worse eyes than mine as they try to decipher those impossibly intertwined travesties of the alphabet.  Thus, apparently, a robot, no matter how much he or she wants to, cannot comment on someone's blog.

Now what, I ask you, would be so bad about this?  I personally would welcome a comment on my blog from a robot or two who found the time to take a break from their space-age housecleaning and contemplate the adventures of me and my five grandkids.  It would be insightful to see how their totally logical algorhythmic minds would process these experiences.

Most likely, however, the human element would be something their circuitboards just could not compute.  I don't think I ever saw Rosie pick up little Elroy Jetson and give him a hug.  If Rosie were to read "Googie's Attic," she would probably just type something like, "SCAN COMPLETE; ATTEMPTING TO PROCESS."

If you are a robot attempting to read this blog post, go ahead and try to post a comment if you want to.  I won't mind.  But try to keep your mechanical buddies off those sites that, for whatever reason, don't want your input.  That will make it a lot easier for us humans to comment freely without having to strain our tired old eyes, endure the frustrations of trial-and-error typing, and worry that we may be becoming more like you.



Friday, August 10, 2012

Snow Cones and Amphibians

At some point in the middle of the green lemon-lime snow cone we were sharing, Pooh became Frog and I became Toad.  These, of course, are that lovable amphibious "odd couple" from the Arnold Lobel children's books of the 1970s.

The aforementioned transformation occurred yesterday at a picnic table situated in the middle of the carnival midway at the Missouri State Fair.  Sooby, sitting near us with her own cherry snow cone, seemed unaware that the change had occurred, as did the throngs of fairgoers parading past.

It was pretty well requiring all of Sooby's concentration and acrobatic skills to balance her own
mound of syrup-saturated crushed ice perching precariously atop the paper cone.  She did pretty well unassisted, but Pooh and I were sharing partly because he is only three and partly because I like lemon-lime better.

I am pretty sure these were the kids' first snow cones, and they added a dose of cold, sweet delight to a wonderful but very warm day.  I am thinking I was pretty brave to face the midway alone with two preschoolers, but we had survived the predictable crises:  Pooh, at barely thirty-six inches tall didn't measure up to the height requirements of some of the rides he wanted to go on, so there were times when I had a kid on each of two nearby rides, running back and forth to fetch one before another got off.  So by the time I morphed into Toad, I was ready for a break in the shade and the chance to take a load off my clammy webbed feet.

Pooh and I probably did a little too much poking at our cone in an attempt to get the ice to melt so he could sip the gooey green liquid from his straw.  Before we were quite ready to abandon the project entirely, Frog's paper cone developed a hole in the bottom, requiring some innovative thinking.  This is when I began to hold the dripping cone above Pooh's open mouth, a technique he referred to as "drinking the leaks."

In Lobel's stories, which usually reinforce the themes of friendship and problem-solving, Frog is Tony Randall to Toad's Jack Klugman.  Frog is lively and green, while Toad is warty and brown; Frog is always upbeat, while Toad at times borders on the curmudgeonly.  So, what I am saying is that, in these new roles Pooh assigned to us in the middle of his first snow cone, we were pretty appropriately cast.

When we finished, we stashed our soaked, disintegrating cones in a nearby trash can, shaped like a clown whose mouth gaped open to receive our offerings.  Rested and refreshed, we made our way back through the whirly mechanical wonderland of kiddie rides--through dragons and circus trains, through race cars, boats, and planes.  We took one last ride together on the carousel, its painted ponies pumping up and down to "It's a Small World After All."

A small world indeed.  A world where Frog and Toad are fast, forever friends who aren't above the less than ideal but sometimes necessary process of drinking leaks.  A world where magical spells are cast by something as simple as a lemon-lime snow cone.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dad's Poem

I almost missed it. 

In the tossing and purging frenzy that has become a way of life for Mom and me since my dad's death nearly a year ago, it is nothing short of miraculous that the small yellow newspaper clipping survived.  For years--who knows how many?--it had lain obscurely in an out-of-the-way desk drawer along with a myriad other various and sundry documents.  Many of these still rested in their original envelopes, expertly sliced open across the top and often bearing an 8-cent Eisenhower postage stamp.

There were statements and cancelled checks from now-defunct banks, insurance EOBs from accidents and surgeries long past, even receipts from funeral home payments made in the early '60s when my grandparents died.  And then, nestled unassumingly among these long-outdated papers, was the poem.  Titled "My Creed," it ended its three eight-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter in a predictable aabbccdd rhyme scheme with "Author Unknown."

I would guess that Dad used his pocket knife long ago to extract it from some old paper or newsletter, perhaps something like Capper's Weekly.  It is of that ilk--a regularly rhymed and metered piece that tips the scale heavily toward sentiment.  It is the kind of poem that I usually don't appreciate much, but this one was somehow different. 

It was different because it surprised me.  It blew me away that my father, a lifetime farmer and self-taught garage mechanic to whom I never would have attributed a penchant for the literary, had made the effort to clip out and save, of all things, a poem.  This coon hunter and squirrel hunter and quail hunter and turkey hunter had saved a poem.  But I read it, and I can see why.  The poet's "creed" was Dad's creed as well. 

Here are the poem's first eight lines:  "To live as gently as I can;/To be, no matter where, a man;/To take what comes of good or ill/And cling to faith and honor still;/To do my best, and let that stand/The record of my brain and hand;/And then, should failure come to me,/Still work and hope for victory."  I leave you to look up the other stanzas if you so desire. 

A quick Google search of the first line led me to author Edgar Albert Guest.  Known as "Eddie," Guest went to work as a schoolboy for the Detroit Free Press at the turn of the Twentieth Century and remained there for sixty years.  During that time, he wrote some 15,000 poems, which when syndicated became wildly popular, earning him the reputation of "The People's Poet" and creating a nationwide public demand for collections of his verse.

According to the website, Eddie worked nights with his brother to typeset and publish his first poetry.  They could do only eight pages at a time before they had to recycle the e's.   Eddie Guest was a hard-working, self-made man.  It is no wonder Dad found something in his words that explained how he aspired to live his life.  Clearly, the two of them were shaped by the same mold.

Chances are, if you google Guest and look at his poems, you will soon grow weary of their predictable sameness.  I did.

But I am going to tuck away the clipping anyway.  It is a poem that spoke to my father, and his was a life that spoke volumes to me with a steady, consistent reliability that I will never find outdated or trite.