Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kissing the Helmet

Beenie arrives at Googie's these days with his game face on--or maybe I should say his game head.  That is because for a few months now he will be sporting a piece of headgear that greatly resembles a football helmet.

Beenie wears this apparatus, called a "cranial helmet," because he has a mild case of plagiocephaly, meaning the back of his head is a little bit flat.  The helmet, basically a foam shell encased in plastic, will enable his noggin to attain a more symmetrical shape during this crucial, formative phase of cranial growth. 

Last week was our transitional period, during which we had to leave the helmet on a little longer each day as the baby became accustomed to it.  Now, he wears it twenty-three hours a day, which means he also sleeps in it overnight.  He is doing pretty well with the whole thing, as are those of us who act as his coaches.  All in all, it hasn't turned out to be the ordeal I was afraid it might.

And now, mark this down as a red-letter day for "Googie's Attic."  New ground is about to be broken.  Drum roll, please.

I am about to post a picture of Beenie in his helmet, breaking my own rule against pix in the blog.  (This is because I have always challenged myself to make the words alone responsible for creating the pictures in the minds of my readers.)  But this time, I am willing to compromise my self-imposed blogger code of ethics to show you what the helmet actually looks like.  That way, you will be better able to envision what I have to say following the picture.

There.  I did it.  (My heart rate has accelerated only slightly, and I am only mildly dizzy.)  You can see why I likened the helmet to football gear, and I am thinking a numbered jersey and a pair of plastic cleats ought to complete this year's Halloween costume quite nicely.

In the course of our days together, the conversation between Beenie and me is pretty well ongoing.  Of course, I am the one who does most of the actual talking, but the thing is, I talk to him almost constantly.  I did this with my own kids too, so I am not really surprised at hearing the sound of my own voice pretty much all day long.

But I am surprised to learn how often I apparently (and without really noticing it) lean down or over and kiss my babies on the head.  This has been brought to my attention rather abruptly of late because, at least a hundred times a day, I find myself kissing a helmet.

No matter how many times I do this, it always takes me by surprise.  Instead of warm, soft, fuzzy baby hair, I am greeted by a shell of unrelenting plastic that sticks its tongue out at me, thumbs its nose, and says something like, "You idiot.  You did it again!"  Once again, there is a flag on the play and I grudgingly accept the penalty.

As for Beenie, he will come through football season just fine, and by Superbowl Sunday he should be bobbing his newly rounded little head in front of the TV with the rest of us.  My helmet-kissing days should be over, and we will be looking forward to that all-important first birthday party for one of our star players.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Pinky

For better or worse, I am the product of a father whose motto was "well, figure it out" and a mother who elevated "making do" to a science.  Thus inspired, I often find myself striving to attain new heights of resourcefulness.  Babysitting Beenie this past month has given me ample opportunity to practice those valuable philosophies my parents preached.

With four other grandkids who visit often, I like to think my house is fairly kid-friendly and kid-ready.  However, keeping an almost-six-month-old all day long for three consecutive days every week has acted as a harbinger of its inadequacies.

For example, one thing I had never used for the grandkids was a walker.  This means Beenie had to  pretty well either sit on my lap (or beside me in my big, armless recliner) or he had to lie down, either on a blanket on the floor, in the playpen, or on our king-size bed.

Realizing what a nice option the walker would afford us, I looked to my good friend Facebook to spread the word: Googie was looking for a walker to borrow or buy at a bargain.  To keep a short story short, I typed in the SOS about 8:30 one morning, and at 10 I was loading into my van a very nice walker, donated generously by a good friend I had made previous plans to walk with that day.  Beenie and I have found the walker to be a great asset ever since.

About a week later, on my way to see my mom, my car, on its own, braked for a garage sale I happened to pass enroute.  From the end of the driveway, a small pack-and-play was reaching out to beckon me with its crooked forefinger.  "Come here," wafted its siren song through the fall air.  "You have two baby grandsons, and I need a new home."

Only five bucks poorer, I left the sale with my new treasure.  Now, Zoomba has a place to sleep when he and the other kids come to visit; meanwhile, Beenie has a safe place to enjoy these fall afternoons on our screened deck.

But wait--he can't quite sit up alone for very long yet.  Even with the playpen's soft sides to cushion him, it was no fun for him to topple over again and again or for me to keep returning him to a sitting position.  Let's see, WWMD?  What would Mom do?

A quick trip upstairs, and I am back from my closet with one of those big upright, armed pillows that you put on a bed for the purpose of sitting up to read or watch TV.  It turned out to be the same width as the playpen, so instead of falling Beenie either leans straight back or onto one of the arms. Between the walker and this new rig, Beenie is much better able to enjoy Googie's seemingless endless stash of baby toys.

Perhaps our biggest crisis of the past several weeks occurred when Beenie's mama and daddy forgot to pack his pacifier.  Now this was serious, as we depend on the binky to transition from the bottle to the nap.  We had our system pretty well down, but without the binky, well, you know that line about the best-laid plans of mice, men, and Googies.  We found ourselves in crisis situation #NBNN--no binky, no nap--and this was unacceptable.

"Well, figure it out," my dad would have said.  So I thought hard.  Then, I sealed off the bottom of an extra bottle nipple with duct tape and--voila!--a makeshift binky was born.  Unfortunately, however, the only duct tape I could find was a bright, fluorescent pink.  This is why we call it "The Pinky," and I am glad to report that, though it may not be much on looks, it did the trick.  The nap was saved.

So far, we have only had to use The Pinky that one day.  But I take great comfort in knowing that it is there in the drawer in the event of another crisis.  Whatever the new week brings, I am ready.

I am strong; I am invincible; I am Googie; and my mama and daddy taught me well.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Grandparents' Day Letter

Dear Sooby, Pooh, Bootsie, Beenie, and Zoomba:

It will be a year next Thursday since your great-grandpa T died.  I have found some interesting things this past year while helping your great-grandma go through mountains of drawers and files.  The other day, I found a copy of something your mama (your aunt, Beenie) wrote about him in 1992 when she was in the fifth grade.  I vaguely remember her doing this as a school assignment to interview and write about a special person.

Because only Sooby and Pooh may really remember Grandpa T, I decided to copy most of what she wrote and give it a place here in Googie's Attic for you to read when you are older.  This way, all of you can know a little bit about the man your great-grandpa was.  Here is what she wrote:

                                                                A Simple Hero

[My grandpa] was born on a farm near Florence, Missouri on November 11, 1924. . . .  He was the middle child of six brothers and sisters. . . .

He didn't like school; sometimes he played hooky and went fishing.  He was raised during the Depression.  "Times was hard," he says.  During that time, his family raised everything that they ate, such as chickens, pigs, and cows.  They also grew many vegetables.

He and [my grandma] were high school sweethearts.  One time [she] threw a spitball and [he] took her whipping for her.  He graduated ("Thank goodness!" he says.) from Otterville High in 1943.  He married [Grandma] on March 3, 1945.

With no college education, he and his brother started an auto shop.  [Grandpa] worked by his own terms.  He wouldn't work on foreign cars because he didn't want to learn the metric system.  He didn't believe in advertising.  His garage blew away in the 1977 tornado.  He rented another building, and business continued.  He was a mechanic for 42 years, and in 1990, at age 65, retired and sold the garage.

In 1990, he began to have heart trouble.  His heart was beating too fast, and he ended up having triple bypass surgery at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.  However, with proper medication and exercise he can still lead an active life.

He and his brother bought their home place when their parents died in the early 1960s.  Now he raises Hereford cattle and sells hay and calves in the fall.  He used to belong to the Rod and Gun Club, the Saddle Club, and the Coon Hunters Association.  For a while, he raised Palomino horses.  Now his hobbies are riding horses, hunting, and fishing.  His favorite TV show is Gunsmoke.

In June, 1952 he had a daughter [Hey guys, that's me--your Googie!].  In April, 1959 he had a son.  He now has four grandchildren . . . .

[Grandpa] is 68 years old.  He has white hair (if any) and wears glasses.  He is 6' 4" and weighs around 190 pounds.  He has a wonderful and eccentric sense of humor.  His philosophy is life is, always has been, and always will be written in the form of a poem:

     When the Great Scorer comes at last
     To write against your name,
     He'll write not if you won or lost
     But how you played the game.

[An aside by Googie:  Kids, I have to say this used to make me SO MAD when he would start reciting this.  It doesn't make me mad anymore.  While I have the floor here and before I type Cookie's conclusion, let me just say how much I appreciate what she wrote and how grateful I was to find it at this particular time.  This Grandparents' Day, it can serve to remind us how the simple life of an ordinary grandparent can touch a child.  And now, her ending:]

[Grandpa's] ideas have always been simple, but smart.  I'm very proud to call him Grandpa.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The "Lucy" Coincidence

At the tender age of only five and a half months old, Beenie is into animals.  He likes the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  Although I haven't heard it yet, his mama says he has one particular scream that shows his desire to imitate a pterodactyl.  So it stands to reason that he would like the song "Old MacDonald's Farm."

I first noticed this last week when I was singing "Old MacDonald" to him.  He would look up at me with his eyes riveted on my face, sucking away noisily on his pacifier.  But when I would get to the place where it was time to make the various animal sounds, he would stop sucking and listen.  Of course, this encouraged me to really ham it up on the quack-quacking here and the moo-mooing there.

The funniest thing happened today.  We had just finished an episode of singing while, across the room, the black-and-white genius of "The Lucy Show" emanated from the TV.  True to her penchant for getting herself into a jam, Lucy was in a jail cell, with Ricky, Ethel, and Fred on the outside brainstorming the best way to get her out. 

Add to this cast of characters Lucy's hillbilly cousin Ernie, played by none other than the great Tennessee Ernie Ford, arriving on the scene with guitar in hand.  Together, this resourceful little group decided to sing a song in an attempt to mask the sound of the files they were using to saw through the bars of the cell door.

You guessed it: the song they sang was "Old MacDonald's Farm."  The way it happened, it fell right on the heels of my version of the same song.  Beenie's attention focused instantly on the TV, and he got the funniest look on his face.  I couldn't help laughing out loud at the impeccable timing of this (and at the prospect of Desi Arnaz oink-oinking here and there with a Cuban accent).

As it turns out, the sheriff liked the singing so much that he decided to release Lucy from her imprisonment.  Of course, when he unlocked the door and swung it open, the rectangular segment of door they had sawed free remained in Lucy's ever-guilty hands.  So, as usual, Lucy had some serious "splainin'" to do.

I don't think I will ever sing "Old MacDonald" again without remembering this incident.  What are the chances this would happen?  But then, what are the chances of getting to be "Googie" to a little guy as neat as Beenie? 

I am lucky indeed, and, maybe one of these days, the screech of a pterodactyl will make me laugh again. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Snax

McDonald's may have cornered the market on the Happy Meal, but I lay claim to Happy Snax.  These are delightful little bags of goodies you take along when you go to visit your grandkids.  I made my first Happy Snax delivery this weekend, and I have to say (in all modesty, of course) that they were a huge hit with Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie.

To assemble Happy Snax, begin with a brown or white lunch-bag-size paper sack.  Decorate it with colored cut-outs from the Sunday comic strips.  For my kids, I used mainly the Garfield and Peanuts characters.  Try to match the characters to the age and personality of each particular child.  For instance, I used Lucy for Sooby, a spongy drawing resembling SpongeBob for Pooh, and Linus with his blanket for Bootsie.

Next, choose from your stash of garage sale bargains an unopened, unwanted toy that some other kid got in a Happy Meal or Kid's Meal from one of the fast-food chains.  Again, make appropriate choices for each kid.  This weekend, Pooh got the "Gulliver" character in a wheeled boat, and the girls got Pet World toys.  Gulliver, especially, afforded much entertainment for the quarter I spent a couple months ago for him and the other packaged Happy Snax toys.

The food items I put into the bags were the same for each child, except for the flavor of the Dum-Dums suckers.  (I thought making them all identical might help to keep the peace, if you know what I mean.)  They included a 10-ounce orange juice, a six-pack of Keebler peanut butter crackers, a NutriGrain apple-cinnamon bar, a Quaker chocolate chip granola bar, and a 1.5-ounce pack of Goldfish snack crackers.

Here, you would have many choices depending on what you have around or what you want your kids to eat--for instance, you might like Little Debbie cakes, small boxes of raisins, or a plum.  This time, many of my items were leftovers I already had on hand, and this was a good way to make some extra space in the cupboard. To myself, I rationalized that these particular snacks represented an appropriate cross between healthy and junk food.

For the finishing touch, I folded the sack top over, punched two holes, and tied a ribbon on to secure the bag and make it seem more like a gift to open.  The fact that the ribbon, another leftover, was imprinted with the words "Pool Party" didn't seem to matter.  If I'd thought about it, I might've color-markered each kid's name on his or her bag to personalize it even more.  But in my case, this was kind of a last-minute brainstorm, so I will have to wait until next time to do that.

I loved watching Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie open and enjoy their Happy Snax.  They turned out to be even better than I had hoped.  If you are looking for a simple little something to take along next time you visit your grandkids, Happy Snax may be just the thing.