Saturday, July 27, 2013

In the Interest of Science

When your particular field of science involves writing a grandparent blog, your summer affords abundant opportunity to conduct field research.  While some of these raw data are substantial enough to support blog entries, others remain simply random scribbles in a notebook, unrelated to one other and lacking the length or depth needed to stand as posts on their own.

Nevertheless, they capture poignant or humorous glimpses into a kid's unique, creative way of looking at and talking about the world.  Or, perhaps, they offer "snapshots" of a moment that, though it may be inconsequential in itself, begs to be preserved.  Following, then, is a sampling of such notes from Googie's research log dated "Summer 2013."
  • "If you shoot a man deer, you get ham."--Sooby on hunting, gathering, and the culinary arts
  • "To make lasagna, you need monsterella cheese."--Pooh, on Italian cuisine
  • "Here is a whole basket of 'gift tops.'"--Sooby, on discovering a stash of pre-made gift-wrapping bows (in a closet where she shouldn't have been looking).
And then, a few of my favorite anecdotes:

"What do you want to hear?" I ask Bootsie, who is wanting to sing at bedtime.
"Fecal, fecal," she answers, matter-of-factly.
My mind races.  What could she mean?  Then, suddenly, it dawns on me.  I smile to myself and begin the well-known children's favorite she has requested: 
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star . . . ."

Sooby is staying a few days with me and I am trying to get her to think about going to bed after an especially busy day.
"It's late," I say.  "Your little body needs to rest."
"No, it doesn't," she tells me.  "It's aching for action."

Another time, she is on Skype demonstrating how to drop a coin in her piggy bank.  She releases the coin with a dramatic flourish, then, in a tone of near reverence, remarks, "It sounds beautiful when it crashes."

Pooh has convinced me to let him sip chocolate milk out of a quart jug with a straw. 
"You spill that," I warn, "and I'm going to make you eat toenails for breakfast."
He considers this carefully. 
"That's too hard," he says, contemplating a compromise.  "Maybe I could just go without dessert."

Sometimes I picture these kids rummaging around in "Googie's Attic" in years to come--maybe when they are teens or college kids or even young parents.  I may or may not still be around then.  It makes me smile to imagine them reading about the things they did or said when they were little.
They are things that, otherwise, they might never know.  That is why I record them here.  That is why I practice this field of science. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Technology Junkies

My grandkids range in age from one to six and every one of them is a technology junkie.  So these days, scenes like the one below tend to be the norm rather than the exception.

Mostly, their parents and I have our iPhones to thank for this.  Even the two baby boys, Beenie and Zoomba, use their little forefingers to scroll expertly through my camera roll file.  Beenie will stop every time he sees the right arrow symbol that signals a video.  He loves watching the clips I have recorded of him and his cousins doing just about everything children do. 

The older kids are always insisting that I "take a movie" of them doing this or that.  And so, my camera roll is filled with documentation of such things as Bootsie singing the ABC song on the potty and Sooby and Pooh singing "Charlotte Town Is Burning Down" over pancakes at breakfast.

Other equally captivating footage preserves for posterity the fab five as they dance, read, tell jokes, build blocks, laugh, cough (fake), tell jokes, learn to crawl, learn to walk--and the list stretches on.

The other morning Sooby's mama just about spewed an ill-timed sip of coffee out into the living room when Sooby asked me if she could send a text message.  (I always hope that Sooby and Pooh won't tell all our secrets, but in the end I usually get caught.)  She and I had collaborated on a series of texts to Beenie's mama on an earlier visit.

The handful of games I have downloaded to my iPhone have opened a whole new can of techno-worms to the mix.  I once lost a close game of Word With Friends to my son Teebo when one of the kids hit the button that skipped my turn.

During his recent week-long visit at our house, Pooh, at age four, became quite proficient at the game "Temple Run," which the kids all call "Guy."  (It was two-year-old Bootsie who first called it this, because the game features a "guy" running through a hazardous obstacle course to escape a flock of demon monkeys.)

With practice, Pooh has gotten good enough to occasionally attain boosts that give "guy" extra speed or make him invincible (Pooh says "convincible") for a short time.  These different powers are designated with different colors, so, as he plays, it is not unusual to hear Pooh holler things like "Googie!  I got the blue guy stuff."

I try to watch pretty closely when the kids are even in the same room with my iPhone, but once in a while I pay dearly for the sin of slight inattention.  Twice now, Pooh has somehow managed to share his "Temple Run" score to my Facebook page.  At least his game skills have improved to the point that it doesn't embarrass me that much anymore.

The old Atari system that my own children first knew seems so antiquated now.  The later-generation Mario and Luigi could not, in their wildest dreams, have run with the speed and finesse of our beloved "guy." 

I never cease to be amazed at the way these kids today seem to embrace and adapt so naturally to the new state-of-the-art technologies.  I admire that ability and encourage it because, like it or not, they are the way of the future to which these children belong.

I don't think it is too bad a deal that the kids are technology junkies on a limited basis.  After all, we still have our songs and our books and our hugs.  There are plenty of other times during the day when we rely on those old stand-bys.  Even "guy," in all his high-tech glory, is not always convincible.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Missouri Compromise

Anyone who grows up in Missouri or Kansas knows that a rivalry runs deep between these two states.  Some speculation attributes this rift to the fact that, during the Civil War, Kansas was a free state while Missouri was a slave state.  Others translate this deep-lying chasm in terms of collegiate sports that pit the Jayhawks of Kansas against the Missouri Tigers. 

Whatever the case, we on the Missouri side mutter comments about "Kansas drivers" under our breath, while Kansans, I'm sure, have the same or worse to say about those of us who dare to crawl behind the steering wheel of a vehicle and venture westward across the state line.  Likewise, we Missourians are quite sure that the only reason anyone would drive through Kansas is because that is the only direct route to the ski slopes of Colorado.

Since four of my grandchildren live in a little Kansas town three hours away from my Missouri home, I find myself crossing frequently into "enemy" territory.  But I was never so aware of how far these differences reached until recently when Pooh came to spend a week with me here in Missouri.

He came during a week our local community college was hosting a "Kids' College" course for preschoolers called "Adventures in Science."  Thus, he spent a great week learning about dinosaurs, volcanoes, plants, planets, and the like every morning from 9 until noon. For this occasion, his mama packed his travel bag with five clean, nicely matched sets of shirts and shorts.

On the first morning of Kids' College, Pooh and I both woke up excited.  We basked in the anticipation of the activities ahead amid a flurry of cereal and fruit and yogurt.  We were going along great with our preparations for school when, suddenly, Pooh balked.  "But I am in Missouri, Googie," he lamented.  "I can't wear Kansas clothes."

Just like that, the boy took on a problem that I thought belonged solely to the teenage girl.  He had nothing to wear.  The clock was ticking, and I had to think fast.

Luckily, all the grandkids have a little size- and season-appropriate "stash" of extra clothes, mostly from yard sales, that I keep on hand for just such emergencies.  Usually, we can scrounge up the likes of underwear, a swimsuit, a pair of jammies, or an extra shirt. 

However, there has been a lot going on lately, and I haven't had a chance to restock the stashes.  Although there are ample hand-me-downs for the younger kids, my on-hand supplies for the biggest boy and girl are a little slim.  To make a long story a little bit shorter, I had plenty of Missouri shirts, but was sadly lacking in the pants/shorts department.

With the situation escalating to crisis proportions (meaning we were about to be late for the first day of school), I had to do some fast talking in my most convincing tone.  "Nobody notices your shorts," I told Pooh with my fingers crossed.  "They just look at your shirt." 

I don't think Pooh bought into this explanation completely, but I didn't really give him a chance.  We zipped up his Kansas shorts, threw his Missouri shirt over his head, stepped into his clogs on the run, and ended up in the van, where he was easily distracted by a SpongeBob movie.

It was our version of The Missouri Compromise.  It would work, I figured, as long as I remembered to do a laundry load of Missouri shirts about mid-week. 

Here, you see Pooh, on the right, instructing his cousin Beenie on the logistics of a shape sorter.  Obviously, his Missouri shirt shows up quite well, while the Kansas shorts are barely noticeable.  A crisis was averted, and I am now, more than ever, a believer in the value of compromise. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

News Flash!

Been waiting for the call since one
O'clock, and now the waiting's done.
Didn't know what next would be
A-hanging on our family tree.
Ultrasound: today's the day
The sex is for the doc to say.

Babies one and three are girls
Who tie bright ribbons in their curls.
Two and four and five are boys
That we love loads despite the noise.
So will we balance three and three,
Or will the girls outnumbered be?

Will there be playing house and dolls
Or teams with boys and basketballs?
Will we have closets filled with pink,
Or blue stuff soaking in the sink?
Will playtime proffer pirate kings
Or pixie dust and fairy wings?

We've wondered ever since we knew
That Teebo's kids would number two;
That Beenie's sib was on the way
To meet us one November day.
If you have read this far, you too
Are just about to know what's new.

I'll tell you this, and be quite blunt:
We'll have to teach him how to punt
And how to catch the ball and then
Run for the goalpost at the end.
No girl has ever gone so far
As being a great football star!

So now you know: there'll be a boy
Who'll bring more special grandkid joy;
Who'll be a little Beenie clone
And wear the clothes that he's outgrown.
So thanks for reading; now adieu;
It's great to share this news with you!