Friday, March 26, 2010

Colds, Coughs, Tea Parties

When I picked him up from preschool, Aiden had a cold and  a runny nose with a red chapped upper lip. His friend Ella came over to stare up at me the way she does like a puppy at the pound. We said our goodbyes and left.

He didn’t feel so good when we got home so we had mostly a laid back day. We watched the Bears story about going to the doctor for a checkup. Aiden went into his bedroom, got his doctor kit and we did all the things they did in the cartoon. He checked my blood pressure and listened to my heart. I showed him the scab on my elbow and he sympathized. He poured pretend medicine on my boo boo. He poked around in my mouth with a Q-tip. I put some Vaseline on his upper lip.

Then he got his second wind. We unloaded the dishwasher, rinsed all the dirty dishes, loaded them, washed my clothes and dried them; dry mopped and vacuumed the living room. I sat down to rest and Aiden got so mad. He scratched me and yelled at me, “Get up!”  I had to put his hand on my forehead to show him I was sweating and tired.

Randy came home and Aiden started in on him. Then Aiden started to poop in his pants. I took him in and changed him. He seems so angry and frustrated. He probably needs to start receiving some discipline. I just went in and changed his pants and told him not to cry and that no one was mad at him.

The next day it was a pleasant surprise to wake up to find the sun shining. It was still cold, under 60, but sunny and clear.I was working on my computer all morning not realizing that the clock on my computer didn’t change with Daylight Savings Time. I would have been one hour late to pick up Aiden to the tune of ($10 per minute) $600. My God.

Anyway I was on time, peeking through the glass window to look for him, and he was still sound asleep on his little cot as were most of the kids in the room. I wasn’t the only one messed up by the time change. The teacher woke him up and changed his pull-ups, which were soaked.

He seemed happy and in a good mood. We watched the Bears. I had a cup of tea and Aiden wanted one too. I used a drop of tea, lots of milk and sugar.

As soon as the Bears were over, Aiden was up saying that we needed to clean. I told him, “Look, let’s just play today, okay? “ He argued a bit, and then relented when I offered to get his Play dough out. We had a great time making cakes and pies and small red apples.

Aiden went in his room and pulled out his 3 small plates and a tiny teapot. We poured the tea into the pot, and then Aiden poured two cups of tea for us. Then I remembered he had these tiny round cookies so I got them and put them on our plates. They were the perfect size. Then Aiden took the little red apples and started to put them in my little cup. I’d take them out; he’d put them back in. He is such a funny boy. He took the red apples out of my tea one more time, we clinked teacups and said “cheers.”

We took a walk outside to get some fresh air. I sat down on the bench in the courtyard and Aiden layed down with his head on my lap. Above us I heard a hawk cry so we both looked up to see a Red Tail soaring above us.

Aiden sat up,  put his head on my shoulder, and said, “I love you, Gramma.”

After Randy came home, Aiden started his, “Don’t Talk” to Randy. I told Aiden every time he said that I’d have to tickle his belly button. It made him stop. By then, he said, “Go home now.” He walked over to me and tried to bite me on the arm. I told him to never ever do that again and to say he was sorry. He did.

He opened the door for me. Randy said he’s been trying to go outside without asking. He got out in the hall last week while Randy was in the bathroom. Aiden was outside screaming to come in. I have to watch him more closely.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ants, Buddha, and Day of the Week Underwear

I picked up Rebecca at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I only slept from 11-12:30. I was awake until 4:30 a.m. because of this horrible cough. Feeling kind of airy, floating around. When we got in the car, Rebecca plucked a purple trumpet flower from the fence in front of her duplex. When she was in her car seat, she began to tell me how there was an ant on it, but  she would never kill it, she never killed anything. She loves all animals. We talked about spiders and their beautiful webs. For a 4 year old person, she can handle philosophical conversations really well.

"This is so curious", she said. "What,? I said. "This little ant."

I told her about Buddha, never killing any animal.

We talked about the days of the week. I told her how they used to have girls’ underwear that had the days of the week on it. She was very fascinated and wished she had some.

We were lost for a while driving around in circles and talking some more. When we finally found the fabric store we picked out a pattern, measured her doll Elizabeth (who used to belong to her mother), found some purple colored fabric with Easter eggs on it, white lace, and purple ribbon for the straps of the blouse. I also bought her a new pincushion and a box of pins with different colored balls on top. Our total was $38.00 for a doll dress. God have mercy. While we waited for our turn at the cutting table, Rebecca did leaps and pirouettes, and pointed her toes and jumped and spun around.

I told her how I used to play with my mother’s pincushion while she sewed at her machine. I would lay on her bed and push the pins in and out to hear the scrunchy straw noise the cushion makes and talk to my mother.

Somehow the whole project took almost 3 hours. Rebecca’s ears were hurting and we were hungry by the time we got home. I haven't actually sewn anything from a pattern, but I didn't tell her that.  Next week we'll cut out the material and pin the whole dress.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sacred Space: Rebecca in Nature

When spring finally came that year, it came with an extravagance of color. The wisteria on the lattice work covering the sky over my small backyard seemed to grow and bloom overnight. Thousands of perfumed flowers appeared, but not only that. Bees adored the lavendar buds. With hundreds of bees living right above my head, sometimes the buzzing was so loud I would stop what I was doing, close my eyes just to listen. and breathe in the air.  Somehow I got on the hummingbird flight pathway, one little hyper Anna's hummer after another, with its telltale flourescent green back and ruby throat, flew by to sip nectar from my copper feeder. It felt magical, in techicolor even.  My bright pink and salmon-colored geraniums  grew to the size of an adult's head and I swear that year I never used Miracle Gro. I didn't need to. My 20'x 10' backyard was a wonderland.

It began when my granddaughter was just three and 1/2  years old. We began to sit outside, very still, and watch what happened in my small yard.

Her blond curly hair hung almost to her waist. Pink cheeks.  Everything I said to her she believed. Not so much now at the age of 5, but back, then I was the authority on all matters. Rebecca looked at me with her navy blue eyes and saw a tall person, the keeper of life's mysteries. The question , "Why, Grandma? " hung on her lips. Lots of times I didn't have the answers so I tried to be completely honest with her. I did know some stuff, like why lizards do push ups or why hummingbirds rarely rested. Over the short few weeks of spring I began to make a mental list of all the insects, birds, reptiles, and other animals that Rebecca and I saw in this sacred space.

Dozens of yellow and brown caterpillars appeared underneath the dead winter leaves composting on the cement. 

I picked up crickets who found their way under my screen door. They would  hop across my carpet eventually disappearing under my couch or the TV in my living room. Carefully showing no fear, I would pick one up and hold it for Rebecca to examine. We looked at its sweet eyes, delicate antennae, and its crazy looking, impossible legs.

We found ladybugs, rows of ants, lizards big and little, and even a lazy old raccoon with a torn up tail. Neighborhood cats perched on the lattice, then finding some shade, curled up for a nap. Hummingbirds zipped by so often I had to fill the feeder up a couple of times a week.

Then one morning when Rebecca was visiting I looked out at the fence and thought I saw a slug on my plants. I try hard not to kill anything. I would usually just pluck the offender off the plant and throw it over the fence. But this was different. It was huge, yellow, ugly as hell, slimy looking. The first bug I'd seen in a long time that I really didn't want to touch. It was over 5" long and icky. I tried not to show my disgust in front of Rebecca who was thrilled by it. Her awe stopped me in my tracks. She looked at it. She put her little finger on its wet body. She giggled. We went onto Google Images to identify it. A banana slug. UC Santa Cruz's own mascot. I let it continue on its journey unbothered.

Blue jays, tiny brown wrens, Red Tailed and Cooper's Hawks floated hundreds of feet above us in lazy circles. Also those little birds with the black pointy heads, titmice, came to visit when I thought to spread out some sunflower seeds. If I wasn't out when they arrived, I'd heard them calling to wake me up. A squirrel that usually stayed in the tree in the utility easement crossed the boundry of my  fence raiding the food.

One Red Tail landed on my fence for a brief stay. Regrettably Rebecca missed that one, but I told her all about it. Another early evening visit brought a huge owl landing in the pine next door. It was the size of an adult cat with a profile that showed little pointy feathers above its ears. When it flew away at dusk, it's wingspread was breathtaking, huge and ominous. Another afternoon we surprised a baby deer who had jumped the fence behind my yard. It flew out the gate like its tail was on fire.
Over the course of the season, we found rolly pollies, pincher bugs, snails, scary looking black spiders with beautiful intricate webs, a wayward rat. I once found a brown tarantula in the middle of my living room floor. It had climbed under a gap in my door.
When it got warm enough to swim, Rebecca and I discovered a teeny lizard, barely an inch long, that had drowned in the pool water. Rather than be put off, Rebecca touched it, sniffed it, and asked if she could take it home. A request which I complied with to my daughter's horror. I put it in a small jewelry box from Macy's snug in the cotton batting and I tucked it into Rebecca's backpack, but neglected to tell her mother what was inside.

I've forgotten lots of the creatures that came our way that year, but not how I felt. If you have a small child in your life, I highly recommend spending some time every day outside. Just watching and being still.

"You don't need to do anything. Just watch and be still.  Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. Nature will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
Franz Kafka

Friday, March 5, 2010

Recognizing Grace in Ordinary Things

She's coming to spend Friday night with me. We've made our plans. I bought new watercolor paper and over the phone we've discussed menus. I've been to the grocery store and swung by the post office to pick up a copy of Mary Poppins from Netflix. My four-year-old granddaughter, Rebecca, is so excited she's completely packed her things, dolls, books, bright green sleeping bag, purple sleepy suit, and extra toothbrush, and other necessities. It's only Tuesday.

I pick up Aiden from his preschool every weekday at 3 p.m. sharp. They charge $10 per minute if you are late so I always get there on time. Yesterday, Aiden had a hard day. He didn’t nap and he wet his sleeping bag at school. I brought them home to wash.

Today we watched the Berenstain Bears for a while, had a snack of pears and an energy bar, then I took him outside to play. It’s been raining so much we are feeling cooped up. The sun finally came out.

We went out by the pool and the fountain. For some reason, he loves to run around in a circle around the fountain. He sings, “Ring around the Rosie” and falls down and laughs so hard, then does it again and again.

Aiden found a stick that looked like a fishing rod and he would bring it over for me to take the pretend fish (leaf)  off the hook. Then he took the stick and poked it in some dog poop. I took it from him and threw it over the fence.

He said, “Why you do that, Gramma?” I said, “It’s dirty, sweetie. Don’t touch,” But he adored the idea of dog poop so he made a song up about it." I told him about pooper scoopers which he found hilarious and he added that to the song.

Then he took my keys and threw them into the fountain so we had to get the pool skimmer to fish them out.

When I put the skimmer back, he kept saying, “Again? Again? Come on, Gramma. "  Because he wanted to throw them in again, I finally put him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and brought him upstairs, laughing and laughing.

When he’s over tired he gets punch drunk, laughing, crying, throwing things, trying to bite clothing. I was hoping if he ran around for an hour he’d have gotten all his excess energy out of the way-somehow get his yayas out.

Yesterday we found out that my son and his wife, Hollis and Randy, are having a baby girl. I’m so happy they are going to have a boy and a girl. I'm really glad Aiden will have a sibling.

We were all very excited and Rebecca, Aiden's cousin, is especially happy. She said,  "I knew it."

When Rebecca found out Hollis was pregnant, she came outside with me, looked up into the heavens and  said with all her heart, “ Wish I may, wish I might, first star I see tonight, I wish for the new cousin to be a girl.”

Later we went over to play at my daughter's house. Aiden and Rebecca, the little cousins, played hard, dancing in circles, Rebecca in crown and butterfly wings, holding out her pink boa to Aiden dancing to "The Best of Sesame Street."

The kids and I made sweet potato fries and turkey burgers while Beth went to look at a house.

Driving home, Aiden in his car seat, said, "Ya know, Gramma, today was a a good day.”