Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Starting School Meant a New Cigar Box

My two grands start a new school year tomorrow, one heading into the 2nd grade, one starting Pre-K. I've noticed several popular blogs comparing what it was like to get ready for back-to-school in the 1970s and 80s. But I want to let my two know what it was like waaaaaay back in the 1950s. (True confessions: I started 2nd grade in 1958; there was no such thing as Pre-K, at least not in Chattanooga, Tennessee.)

The first thing you have to understand is timing. We did not start school until the day after Labor Day. Not the end of July or the first week in August.  And August back then was a long month. Splashing in the wading pool, playing croquet and badminton, fussing and fighting with siblings and neighbors, and sheer idleness were getting boring by that time. And if that was true for us kids, I cannot imagine how our mothers felt. However, all of us could see a little light at the end of the tunnel (begrudgingly by the kids, joyfully by the moms).

August meant a trip to the fabric store to pick out a couple of patterns and several yards of a variety of cloth. The cloth (and the pattern) had distinct little-girl-school-dress looks about them. Once all that was purchased, Mother set to work spreading out the fabric, pinning on the pattern, cutting, and sewing. After a couple of weeks - voila! - new back-to-school clothes! I'm guessing the boys got their jeans, slacks, and short-sleeved shirts/t-shirts at Sears or J.C. Penney, but that held no interest for me - must've happened because my brothers went to school dressed. Meh, boy-clothes.

Then off to Robert Hall or Penney or a trip to Atlanta for shoes (one pair for school, one for Sunday, and maybe some rubber boots), a couple of sweaters and a light jacket (too early to get a heavy coat), and a raincoat of some kind. Done.

Toward the end of August it was time to get serious about this school-thing. Most years, the lunchbox decision was major and took time to sort out - you know, watching TV or talking to friends to winnow out the has-been or babyish options. Fortunately, my trusty first grade Howdy Doody metal lunchbox was still in fine working order, so that was one decision I didn't have to make in 1958. Alas, I'd busted the real Thermos that came with it at some point, so it was 3-cent 1/2 pint of cafeteria milk for me for the foreseeable future.

Next, supplies. As far as I know, there was never a list. Daddy picked up empty cigar boxes to hold the supplies, usually pencils - big fat ones for a second-grader - erasers, paste, and whatever else we deemed necessary. While I hate the smell of cigars, I love the smell of an empty cigar box. It's a good early-childhood memory-trigger. Older kids selected 3-ring binders, notebook paper, reinforcements (for the paper holes), dividers, and maybe a ruler. And really, anything we needed -  except for the cigar box - could be bought at the school's bookstore/supply store, so there was no need for supply-angst.

New school dress and shoes, lunchbox, fresh cigar box, and a pencil or two. Bam! Done!

Labor Day fun, a good night's sleep (maybe a little bit of wondering about which teacher I'd get and if any friends would be in the class), a hot breakfast, then walking about a half-block to my elementary school - and there I was. Second grade.

In second grade we were no longer the babies of the school; our school was 1st-6th grade. Second grade meant business: time to settle down and learn to read and write better, hone those adding and subtracting skills, perfect artistic techniques (at least, learn how to draw a recognizable horse). 

Liam starts second grade tomorrow. He's in his third year of a German immersion program. He's already way ahead of where I was in 2nd grade math and science (more like 5th-6th grade). And Pre-K Charlotte? She was introduced to some basic German in pre-school, knows numbers, letters, colors, maps, and some basic science. And could hold a conversation with an Oxbridge tutor. So as the song says: "I hear babies cry, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know. And I say to myself, What a wonderful world!" What a wonderful world, indeed. 

But ah, the smell of that fresh cigar box in 1958!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Magical #4

She is a whirlwind, a dancer, a comedian, a vaudevillian, a serious questioner. She can get philosophical about Trolls and Peppa Pig, posing existential questions that I'm sure their creators never stopped to think about. She's brave and can often stomach scary things better than her older brother. And today our Miss Charlotte turns 4 years old.

She loves to cuddle and kiss and snuggle. She has a great belly-laugh but can just a quickly flounce off in a huff if something's not going her way. She has a way with words, using very grown-up turns of phrases that - along with animated facial expressions - keep us always entertained. She's a natural actress and attention-getter. She was born with "It."

Charlotte is our extra-extravert, spotting strangers a block away and asking to be introduced. "What her name is? Will he play with me? Let's go find out!" She'll talk to anybody and everybody (and if she doesn't or won't, then there must be a good reason).

She loves her Mama and Daddy and big brother, though she can hold her own in a sibling-battle. She is our sweet, funny Charlotte, and we can't imagine our lives without her. Her GrandMary loves her beyond all reason. Happy Birthday, dear girl!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lucky #7

He loves ice hockey and the Atlanta Falcons. Pokemon and Star Wars. Any science experiment that fizzes, foams, and turns colors. He's a good swimmer and mathmetician. When he's working with Lego or sorting Pokemon cards, he sings to himself, usually something he's learned in choir. He likes Geronimo Stilton chapter books but still enjoys the occasional Tomie DePaola picture book.

He loves his mama and daddy and little sister, though he's pretty good at whining "Charrrrlotte!" when she frustrates him. He's sturdy and strong and has a good eye for hitting baseballs or throwing footballs. (But ice hockey's his passion.)

He has freckles and a ready smile. He's full of questions and ideas. Today he turns 7 years old. I love him as only a GrandMary can love. Happy Birthday, our beautiful boy!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pillow Talk

Conversations with a child are always enlightening, whatever the time of day. But those that spring up in the middle of the night from the mind of a small child, one minute dead to the world in deep sleep and the next fully awake, can test the reasoning ability of most any adult, especially one not quite awake. Topics ranging from Victorian playhouses to the attributes of various trolls are expected to be seriously and knowledgably discussed.

Three-almost-four-year-old Charlotte spent the weekend with me since her brother and mama were down with flu. I'd taken Friday off from work, and the two of us spent a beautiful day at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both of us were looking forard for what we might do on Saturday and discussed it throughout the day and evening. After such a busy day, my little charge fell asleep early out of happy exhaustion and anticipation of the next day's adventures.

About 1:30 the next morning, Charlotte woke with a start and the need to discuss plans for Saturday:
  • Let's talk about what we're going to do tomorrow (or, "tomonnow," in Charlotte-speak).
  • Can we talk about tomonnow?
  • Can we go to the new playhouse? (She's only seen the 1930's playhouse at Atlanta History Center, not the lovely Victorian one on the other side of the Swan House.)
  • What color is the new playhouse?
  • Is the playhouse pink? (*yawn* No, I don't remember it being pink.)
  • Is the playhouse purple? (*yawn*yawn* No I don't remember the playhouse being purple. I have a picture of it we can look at tomorrow morning.)
  • Charlotte, it's almost 2 o'clock. Let's go back to sleep and talk about it tomorrow.
  • OK. Is the playhouse blue? (stops abruptly and falls asleep)
Sometime in the night I felt a hot, dry little hand touch my face, and I realized that our pillow-talk-planned adventure for "tomonnow" would not happen, as our sweet girl would be down for the count with a fever. So instead of discovering a Victorian playhouse, the day was spent in feverish sleep. And, yet, even then our little girl would wake, ready to talk about her favorite subject: Trolls.
  • Why does Guy Diamond shoot glitter out his butt? (This is the question most on her mind these days.)
  • Which trolls do you like the best?
  • What if we could shoot glitter out our butts?
  • Do you like the Cloud? Can we high-five?
  • Why does Guy Diamond shoot glitter out his butt?
  • What if we cried glitter?
  • How is glitter made? I think you have to stir it up, but it can't get too hot or it melts.
  • Do you like Branch? Poppy? Creek? Satin and Chenille? (proceeds to name all the trolls).
  • Why does Guy Diamond shoot glitter out his butt?
Off and on from Satrday 8:30am through Sunday 7:30am, questions and solutions poured out of her as she came in and out of sleep, Now, you could say it was the fever, but these conversations are the norm for Charlotte. The daytime musings I can handle, but the middle of the night pillow talk stretches this GrandMary's cognitive abilities.

If anyone knows why Guy Diamond shoots glitter out his butt, I'd appreciate the answer. Thanks.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Three Little Boys

Little Boy #1:  Charleston's Old Slave Mart Museum is a hard place to visit. The story of humans being bought and sold is tough to take in, especially when told through the narratives of former slaves. But what reduced me to tears was one picture. A little boy, 3 maybe 4 years old, staring out at me. Confused? Brave? Scared to pieces as only a little child can be? This child was sold. Was he separated from his mama, his daddy? A doting big sister? A baby brother? A loving grandmother? He was just a little boy. One little boy. Sold. Lord, have mercy.

Little Boy #2: A little boy, fleeing with his family from the horrors of Syria, face down on a beach in Turkey. He was just a little boy. One little boy.

Little Boy #3: Grandson and I spent last night putting together a Luke Skywalker costume to wear to this morning's DragonCon parade. Today, we lined the parade route with thousands of others, watching fantasy/science fiction characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, and anything else wild and crazy that entertains us. Liam did battle with Klingons, knights, and a host of others, all in good fun, thanks to his trusty toy light sabre. He had the time of his life. One little boy.

Liam may face many tough battles in his life, but I pray those battles never involve disease or danger. But at 5 years old, he hasn't faced the trials of little boys 1 and 2, thanks to where, when, and to whom he was born. Pure damn luck.

To be clear, Liam has nothing to feel guilty about for the luck of the draw. This is not about guilt. None of the three little boys had control over their birth situations. None of us had any control over ours, either. But I do pray that those of us who won the birth-lottery will make the lives of all little boys and girls safer, healthier, and more joyous so that the scariest thing they ever face is pretend light sabre battles with make-believe characters. Please, God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Oh, The Places You'll Build (and Hissing Spiders You'll Destroy)

Grandson is patiently introducing me to a world of diamond pickaxes, hissing spiders, nether reactor cores, and polished andesite. This world is wide open and left to me to put together with a variety of tools, the power of each I still have to learn. I have fallen into Minecraft.

So far I'm pretty hopeless. I've chopped down a lot of trees, I've gone underground and managed - with lots of help from a 5-year-old - to create a sweet little underground bunker, complete with bed and bookcase (you knew there'd be a bookcase, right?), a table with food enough to feed a couple of villagers who appear from nowhere. Just trying to keep away from the spiders and zombies that show up at night takes a lot of energy. But I keep at it, because my ultimate goal is to build a fantastic above-ground city for my retirement years, complete with a diamond-encrusted ferris wheel.

Moving around and chopping through stuff requires hand/eye/button manipulation that I'm still working out. I run into a lot of things and have to figure out the best tool to get out of the situation (always opt for the diamond tools - sword, shovel, pickax, whatever - if you can). Sometimes I end up underwater (don't ask). I try to stay out of the lava. Minecraft-life is hard.

Liam is light-years ahead of me on this. He and his dad team up and play together, but I'm not ready for that, as I'd destroy everything in sight in a matter of moments. Being a Minecraft expert makes guiding a newbie through the intricacies of designing a variety of worlds a frustrating task for the teacher. Occasionally Liam just grabs my phone to get me out of trouble or add to my stock of necessities.

As his fingers fly over the screen, he explains very complex instructions and strategies. I stop paying attention to the game (game? is this a game?) and marvel at his brain-power and vocabulary. Who knew mining required so much mental agility? The poor boy's working with someone who never mastered spider solitaire. Still, if he's willing to stick by me, I'm willing to semi-master this thing.

Besides, all I really want to do is to create a zombie-less world, complete with a diamond ferris wheel. Can you think of a sweeter place to retire?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kindergarten Wishes

Liam heads to kindergarten tomorrow. No more preschool. Nope, this is school-school. He's as ready as he could ever be, raring to read, write, tackle German, figure out how this formal education thing works, find his way around a new building and new relationships.

I've watched him go from Yo-Gabba-Gabba to Ninjago and anything having to do with Star Wars. He's progressed from eating crayons to being a darn good little artist (especially for space aliens). He knows his letters and numbers and can write his full name. He loves science and experimenting with anything messy that turns out cool. He's a wiz with Lego, often singing one of the songs he learned in choir last year as he works. He can throw and catch a ball, or pine cone, or whatever's being used in a pick-up game.

Yes, he's ready. And as much as it pains me to admit, I'm ready to watch him take off. As he heads to new teachers, new classmates, and new challengers, I have a few GrandMary wishes for him:
  • I wish for him one or two lifelong friends. I'm lucky to still have friends I first got to know in kindergarten and first grade. Friends help you be your best real self, and you help them the same way. So I hope Liam finds a couple of soulmates early on to teach him how to be a good friend.
  • I wish for him curiosity and enthusiasm for learning new things, even things that might be hard for him. May he have the courage to ask questions and the energy and determination to keep working on something until he's figured it out.
  • I wish for him skilled, understanding teachers who love watching the magic of learning blossom in little kids. May those teachers spark an interest or talent that Liam doesn't know he has. He's a smart, quick, funny little boy. I hope his teachers channel his gifts in a way that will serve him throughout his life. 
  • I wish him to know that respect for teachers and friends will usually return to him. Really listen. Reach out to help or reach out for help if needed. Speak the truth and hear the truth that others try to speak. Be kind and helpful. Take a little breather if he feels frustrated or hurt. In short, earn respect by giving respect.
  • I wish for him to enjoy being a 5-year-old. This isn't university. Learning isn't just an assignment on a board or practice pages in a workbook. All of that will come in time. Play, sing, color, run around (when appropriate), find the rhythm band instrument that speaks to you. Play. Play. Play. Be 5 years old. 
I wish him luck with cafeteria lunches, standardized tests, withstanding the smell of the boys' bathroom, and figuring out hallway chaos. If it all proves too much, I hope he remembers how much he is loved and supported by his family, and that remembering the love will help him punch through any kindergarten challenge.

So, off you go, my darling boy. It's time to fly!

Friday, January 17, 2014

They'll Remember
Last week, I was having breakfast at a hotel in New Orleans to the strains of 1960s rock and roll. Of course, most of the songs carried with them some kind of childhood memory, but one song in particular took me back to a specific time and place.

I was 10 years old and spending the night with my friend Debbie. We both loved "Hey, Baby," and decided, as 10-year-old girls do, to make up a dance to the song. Standing in front of the mirror in, I think, her parents' bedroom, we spent the evening working out just the right choreography to the Bruce Channel hit. To this day - you do the math - Debbie and I remember nailing that song with our fine 10-year-old-girl dance moves (and, no, we don't remember most of those moves).

The point is that memories made as a 10-year-old, or a 3- 6- or 7-year-old, last. Even 52 years later. Even sitting in a hotel in New Orleans, far away from the original scene of the crime. Even after years of other memories have been piled upon it. Debbie and I break into "Hey, Baby" those all-to-few times we see each other these days. Always have. Ever since that Friday night in 1961.

I try to remember that when I'm with Liam and Charlotte. Moments - usually wonderful, funny moments - stick in the brain, burrow deep, and float up over the years and into the future. My particular moment with my friend is tied to a popular song, but it could just as well have been tied to an event or phrase or experience. You can't predict with childhood memories.

Who knows? Someday many, many years from now when I'm long gone, Liam may remember some silly GrandMary-ism or dance or game that will bridge time and loss, binding us forever. As Charlotte grows, more memories will be made.

But you can't let it cramp your style. I mean, if you think too hard about making these memories, I suspect you won't make very good ones. No, it's the spontaneous or repetitive that might pop into 60-something Liam's mind years from now. Charlotte in her dotage may remember a slice of a moment that keeps us close through time.

Maybe we'll make up a new dance to "Hey, Baby," though more likely we'll use a Justin Timberlake tune. And whenever they hear it years from now, they'll smile. They'll remember.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gifts of 2013

Charlotte. Liam. Time. Love. That about sums up the wonderful gifts of 2013 for this GrandMary.

Charlotte was born May 21st, healthy, happy, bright-eyed, and chubby-cheeked. She delights us all and wins the prize for easiest baby in the world.

Liam has found his calling as a good big brother. He takes the role very seriously. He is healthy and funny and smart as a whip. And ever the charmer.

Time spent with Liam and Charlotte is so precious. Everything from just sitting and smiling into the baby's face to swimming, bouncing, coloring, and adventuring with her big brother. Every moment is a valuable gift.

Love for these two knows no bounds. Just when I think I can't love them any more than I already do - bam! - I love 'em even more.

May 2014 give us more time, more moments, more love. Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013

A few photo memories of Halloween 2013. While Charlotte wore the infamous monkey suit, Liam had graduated to Optimus Prime (whoever/whatever that/he is).

Halloween Monkeys

Ah, the monkey suit. I love it! I think it is downright adorable. However, I'm not so sure the kiddos have such a high opinion of it. Poor Liam wore it for his first Halloween. Lots of photos were taken, with nary a one showing a happy little camper. This is my absolute favorite picture of Liam in his monkey suit, Halloween 2010. The jack o'lanterns are grinning, but not our Liam, bless him.

His only consolation is that all subsequent siblings must also don the little monkey suit so that he's not the only baby humiliated at Halloween. And so, this year was Miss Charlotte's turn to wear the wooly cap and over-sized feet, Halloween 2013. A pink bow was added, giving it just the right touch, don't you think?

So now we have a matching set: Monkey One and Monkey Two. I'm sure these pictures will cause embarrassment for years to come. Tee-hee. Such sweet little primates!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Magic of Halloween

For one night a year, on All Hallows' Eve,
You can be someone else if you choose.
It doesn't take much to transform yourself
And walk in another creature's shoes.

A few yards of cloth, a mask, and a hat
What more could could you possibly need?
To pretend for a night to be something you're not
Is a powerful feeling, indeed.

A hobo, a gypsy, a clown or a witch,
A ghost or a cowboy or bear
The options are many, the time is so short.
It's hard to decide what to wear.

You can be what you want.
You can be what you dream.
You can be what you fear.
You can be what you scheme.

So live out your dream on this Halloween night,
Whether monkey or Optimus Prime.
You're still you inside, whatever you wear.
Enjoy trick or treating, and have a great time!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why Children's Books Matter

Do I really need to defend children's books? I think not. And neither does the New York Public Library. But its current exhibition, The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter, goes a long way in reminding us of how dear the books of our childhood are to us and how they shape our love of language, rhyme, storytelling, and pictures.

The exhibition path leads from early primers through classics, bright picture books, intricate pop-ups, mass series like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, comic books - mostly English and American, but many international examples are on display, as well.

When I was there most of the visitors were adults, not children, and to be honest, the set-up is more museumesque than Disneyfied, though many of the displays are darn clever. Delightful discovery, or rather rediscovery, seemed to be the dominant vibration. I was certainly like a kid in a candy store as I found old friends, some long-forgotten. And it was wonderful to see bits of original manuscripts or illustrations-in-progress.

The exhibition certainly gave me ideas of books that Liam and Charlotte simply must have. Some were favorites of mine when I was little. Some were favorites of their mama's. And some were new to me. Oh, yes. I took notes.

Watching all the (mostly) adults' reactions to finding childhood favorites, remembering when and where they were when they read them, it was easy to understand why children's books matter. Those books have such an emotional appeal. Kinda made me want to check out a stack of kids' books and reclaim them.

But as enjoyable as that might be, children's books are meant to be shared with a child, read aloud, with heartfelt discussions about the story and pictures. And don't we all add little twists to those cherished stories - funny voices, maybe an extra line or two that makes it our own?

Why do children's books matter? Because sharing stories and building memories matter. Because silly, outrageous, creative, scary, funny, sad, delightful stuff matters. Because common truths matter. Because Alice, Pooh, Max, Madeline, Harry, Charlotte, and Hungry Caterpillar matter. Because storytelling, story-reading, story-remembering, and story-passing-on-to-future-generations matter.

I rest my case.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Grandparent Legacy

Happy Grandparents Day! Yes, I get it. It's another made-up Hallmark card holiday. But it comes as a reminder to me about my own grandparents and how different their lives were than mine as a grandparent.

I'm in the middle of putting together a family album for my own grandchildren, so I've been immersed in pictures and stories of my grandparents, as well as of my parents as grandparents to my daughter. It was my experience that even that one generational change from people born in the late 19th century to those born in the early 20th century altered the way grandparents relate to their children's children.

Now, maybe this is just the way my family played it, since I know many people my age who had very touchy-feely grandparents. I, however, did not. Yes, there was a greeting - a kiss, a hug - though most of the time I was the one urged on to hug/kiss. The child had to make the first dutiful move. It was always perfunctory. I was never grabbed up, swung around, and smothered with kisses. And to be honest, I think that would've freaked me out.

That is not to say that my grandparents didn't love me. I never doubted that. They just showed love in different ways than I do with Liam and Charlotte or that Mother and Daddy did with Kate. I do think it's telling that I don't have any photos of me with any of my grandparents. There may be some somewhere, but I don't have them or remember seeing them. But, here is what I remember, without the aid of pictures.

I got to watch Grandmother (Frazier) wring a chicken's neck, prepare the bird, and serve up some of the best fried chicken ever - which probably took away any fear I might've had of eating dead animals (long live carnivores!) at an early age. She was a hard-working farm woman who never sat with us at the table, but on a stool away from us near the stove so that she could jump up and replenish any little bite we'd eaten. She was out of bed before I was and went to bed after me. I'm not convinced she ever slept. She always looked old. And I always gave her Jergens Lotion for Christmas. She made the quilt that's on my bed right now. She lived to the ripe old age of 93 (1900-1993).

Daddy Rob (Frazier) kept us giggling with his side comments (usually about Grandmother) and always had some little something on hand that he knew we loved, like a kitten for my sister Cindy. He was a hard-working farmer. I remember lots of times sitting on the front porch of the farmhouse with him - sometimes talking, sometimes not. He was a quiet man with a wicked sense of humor. He had a hacking smoker's cough and rolled his own cigarettes. He, too, was out of bed before the rest of us. He let us ride his old horse Dan, and we loved every minute of it. He always looked old. And I remember when we were driving from his funeral to the cemetery, farmers along the way stopped their tractors and took off their hats as we passed.

Mama, which is what we called Mother's mother, probably because that's what our mother and aunts called her, took time to sit with me to sound out words in a little reader. Thanks to her, I knew at a very early age the difference between "our" and "hour." To be honest, I was too far down her grandchild-list to have been one of her favorites. She had four daughters who gave her eight grandchildren. I was number 5, plus a girl, so by the time I came on the scene she just wasn't that into it. (That said, she did highly favor my cousin Steve, who was born a few months after me.) I remember being a little afraid of her. She was strong, strong, strong and people rarely crossed her. She died around the time of my 16th birthday.

I'd love to tell you about my grandfather, George Warren Bartow, but I don't have much to offer. He was out of Mama's house by the time I was born. It came as a shock to me when I was 7 or 8 years old and some man turned up at a family gathering at Aunt Peggy's house who was introduced as my grandfather. It never occurred to me that I had a grandfather on that side of the family. I guess little me assumed that Mama had created and raised those girls alone. Anyway, I do know that he was - what? - 1/2 Cherokee. He was a quiet, loving man (as told by my Aunt Nell), but he coped with his life with my strong grandmother by drinking. I remember going to his graveside service when he died, but I'm not sure how old I was - early teens, maybe.

Mother and Daddy were totally different grandparents. They were hands-on, huggy-kissy, spoil-'em-rotten grandparents. They unabashedly loved every minute of being with their five grandchildren. We have lots of happy, active pictures of the children with Mother and Daddy. Pictures like Daddy reading to a lapful of little children to Mother and little Kate at a Braves baseball game. They were present. And I know that Kate will have many more stories to tell about them than I have to tell of my own grandparents.

So, yes, Happy Grandparents Day. Especially to my own grandparents and to my parents who showed me how it should be done. I hope you all are celebrating the lives of your children, grand- , great-grand, and great-great-grandchildren as you look down from your heavenly homes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kid Know-How

So much has been written about over-scheduling our children and the pressure on time and talent we put on them by constantly running them to soccer or piano lessons. These pressures seem to start younger and younger. But I do think that there are three essential skills we should be teaching as early as possible.

In order to survive in the world (and I do mean survive), a child needs to:
  • Learn how to swim. I believe that this is the most important skill you can teach a young child. As soon as the little one is old enough to hit the water, start getting him used to putting his face and head into the wet stuff without causing panic. I know that there are techniques that teach infants how to rise to the top and stay afloat. Not sure how well those methods work, but don't leave it too late to hit the YMCA or local swimming class.
  • Learn his/her name, address, phone number. Children are great at learning their first and last names (usually with the middle one thrown in) early. Toddler ego demands it. But once children have a basic knowledge of numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - not algebra or trig), they can learn to string them together correctly for addresses and phone numbers. Little kids are wizards at rote memorization, so while they're learning "Twinkle, twinkle little star," toss in "324 Oak Street" and "555-231-9876."
  • Learn how to use 911 properly. After they've mastered name/address/phone number, it might be time for 911 training, though a child needs some maturity to understand when dialing 911 is appropriate (and the dire repercussions involved if they dial it as a joke). There are too many stories of 4- and 5-year-olds who have saved the lives of a parent or sibling because they knew when and how to call 911. 
So before you sign your precious darling up for ballet or football, make sure s/he can swim. Really. If the child is old enough to point and flex or kick a ball, it's old enough to hit the pool. And be aware of when little honey boo-boo is mature enough to use 911. The life she saves may be yours.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Household of God

The first year of life is full of milestones - reaching various heights/weights, smiling, rolling over, first words, first steps - but to this GrandMary one of the most important of these is receiving a precious baby into the household of God through baptism. Surrounded by her parents and big brother, grandparents and godparents, friends and her church family, Charlotte was baptized August 4 at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Atlanta. August seems to be a baptism tradition in the family now, since her mother and big brother Liam were baptized in August of their birth years.

Wearing her mother's christening gown and sweet little cap, she took all the excitement in stride. Liam and godfather Mikey brought her banner down the aisle during the procession. Both looked so handsome. Parents and godparents called out "We present Charlotte Currin to receive the sacrament of baptism!" loud and proud. Charlotte managed to hold down the coos and other baby noises during the sermon, hymns, and GrandMary's reading of the Prayers of the People.

She kept her cool throughout the water on her head and oil on her forehead and as her parents, godparents, and church family promised to guide her spiritual growth. (We will, with God's help!) And, of course, she was adorable as Godmother Lindsey walked her up and down the aisles so that the congregation could get a good look at its newest member.

After the service, the Wilkes family hosted a lovely, lively reception brunch, where Miss Charlotte held court. Adults and children were in a celebratory mood, welcoming this new little life into God's family. It was a day of memories and plans for the future, sweet generous gifts, and a reminder that we're all part of something bigger.

So, Charlotte, we receive you into the household of God. Welcome!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Catching Up on Memories

I've spent the weekend building a memory book of my time with Liam in May and June. We were joined at the hip in the last couple of weeks before Baby Charlotte was born and for several weeks afterward. Oh, the adventures we had! Swimming, exploring, coloring, creating - never a dull moment.

Since I left my Liam-duties behind over a month ago, I find I've missed him like crazy. Those 3-year-olds find a way to burrow deep into your heart, even when you're plain tuckered out trying to keep up with them.

It seemed a good weekend to collect photos of that sweet time and put them in a book for posterity. Or for Liam, if he chooses to keep the book after I'm long gone. I got to relive our trips to the Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta Botanical Garden, various parks and indoor activity spots, his swim lessons, and, of course, that sweet day he got to meet his baby sister.

I made this particular book via Snapfish, but I also use Shutterfly and Picaboo (whichever one is giving the best online discount at the time). I find I have to be in the right mood to create my books because it does take time to organize the pictures on the pages and remember the events and places for the text. I will say that it's so much easier to fashion lovely memory books with these online programs. Gone are the days of sticking photos into scrapbooks with those little gummed corners.

Reliving my weeks with Liam made the whole exercise of uploading photos, choosing which ones to use, and sorting them in a sensible manner worthwhile. Now, to start a book for Charlotte!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wild Blue Yonder Travelin'

Everybody needs a good travelin' song. Seems Liam and I have hit upon ours.

Who knows why, but every time we'd climb into the car, buckle up, and pull out of the driveway or a parking lot, I'd start singing "Off we go into the wild blue yonder!" No reason, really. The song just popped into my head as a sort of "on to the next adventure" theme.

It caught on. Liam picked up on it right away, even though I only know the first and last lines of the thing. Mostly, I just loudly la-di-da'd my way through it, showing my age by singing the final "nothing can stop the Army Air Corps." (Now it's "nothing can stop the US Air Force," by the way.) I freely admitted to GrandBoy that I didn't know the words, since he wasn't fooled by all the la-di-da stuff after such a great first line.

"You don't know all the words, right, GrandMary?"

"No, Liam, I don't. Let's look them up on the computer when we get home."

But for lots of reasons (not the least of which is that I'm beyond learning all those fightin' words at this late stage), even after watching several YouTube renditions, neither of us could get beyond "Off we go into the wild blue yonder, flying high into the sun, la-di-da-da-etc., nothing can beat the Army Air Corps!" Still, it suits us just as it is.

We needed a good traveling song for the adventures we had, none of which involved the wild blue yonder, I might add. The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Legoland, The Center for Puppetry Arts, the neighborhood swimming pool and park, more parks, trips to Target to buy new coloring books, to the YMCA for swimming lessons. Well, we were busy, so in a sense, we were into the wild blue yonder, and our travelin' song captured our enthusiasm whenever we hit the road.

The wild blue yonder. Make of it what you will, it's a heck of a way to travel. Even with the la-di-da parts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy First Month, Miss Charlotte

We no longer have a newborn. She's a full-fledged baby now, growing and thriving. We can't imagine our lives without you, sweet girl. And I think your big brother has done a loving job of making you welcome. Happy One Month Birthday!