Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday: second day at grandma's

This is the kind of day you look forward to. It's spring's best and in fact, you could argue that it's the year's best -- a promise of sunshine, not too cool but not too warm and, unlike summer or even fall -- without the irritating bugs that make outside play or work less enjoyable.

Snowdrop was a tad clingy in the last minutes of her first day here, but as is her habit, she put herself to sleep beautifully once tucked and swaddled (just after 10).

It was a quiet night -- so much so that again I had to wonder if the baby sound monitor was working. It was.

In the morning, I am up before she is. By many hours. Now is the time to get my house and my thoughts in order. And to take a morning flower photo: the common iris today. I call it "common," because it came with the farmhouse, though I have since divided it many times so that it has a spot in most of the farmette flower fields.


By 8:30, Ed and I are ready for breakfast. Snowdrop is stirring, but not quite awake. He finds it impossible to move with the stealth that I demand so that she doesn't fully wake before we eat our morning meal (shh! not so loud! shhhhh!) and so we go out to the porch, keeping the window cracked to listen for her in case she wakens. It is a cool 52F outside, but the prospect of a sunny day warms the soul and a sweater easily takes away the chill.


As we eat, we talk about the porch door project. Ed doesn't want to move ahead with the work of the person I identified for the job. Too expensive, he says. He'd rather do the job himself.

I protest. He has far more interesting things that command his attention right now. Too, it would take him a while to study up on the techniques and ways of putting in something into such an old house. He agrees, but says (and I believe this) -- at least it will be done right. I promise to look at his selected door on Sunday and we'll decide then who should do the installation.

In the meantime, Snowdrop is now stirring. As I clean up in the kitchen, she is cooing to herself in her crib, keeping an ear to the kitchen noises. This so reminds me of my childhood, when I had the room off the kitchen in the Polish village house where my grandparents lived! I would listen to the kitchen sounds as my grandma stoked the fire and started in on the meals for the day. These were my favorite moments and I luxuriated in them every single morning. I hope Snowdrop is luxuriating as well!

When I finally approach the crib at just after 9 (yep, the babe sleeps a solid 11 hours every night... knock on wood), she is radiantly happy (if somehow magically unswaddled)!


May she always be so full of smiles in life...

There is the bathroom sink morning bath again and now she is ready to eat.


...and after --  play.

(by Ed)

...and play some more.


...and read (about that boisterous grandma who uses all sorts off crazy ways of travel to get to her Snowdrop, I mean grandchild).

(by Ed)

...and take baby steps (looking more like she's ready to soar!).

(by Ed)

...and practice scooting, while the sloth applauds.


...and finally, she sits next to Ed, right on top of his porch door quotes, as he studies installation guides. Perhaps finally he has someone here who will take an interest in learning how to do home projects.


The morning flies. The energy in the farmhouse is palpable. How is it that a beautiful sky and a good night's rest can spark up the day this much?(Or maybe it's Snowdrop who sparks the day?)

We go out to take stock, she and I. The cheepers demand their bread and I try to feed them holding onto her as well as the water gun. Oreo crows incessantly and if there is one thing she learned today, it is that roosters crow.

Satisfied, the cheepers wander away and I spread out a play mat for the two of us. Except we don't play. We lie down and look up at the willow and the crab -- the branches, each different, swaying overhead against a blue sky.

(by Ed)

I think I could have stayed there for a long long time.

(by Ed)

(Though Snowdrop is always happy to return to her quilt and engage her surroundings -- in this instance, Ed.)


In the afternoon, I pack up the stroller and return with Snowdrop to the neighborhood we drove through yesterday. I want to do a quick exchange at Wild Child. After, we walk the neighborhood -- a change from our usual stroll around her own home.



We happen to be close to the zoo and so we poke in (it's free in Madison). Many would be tempted to see the new arctic exhibit which just opened yesterday, but I'm saving that for a trip with her mommy. Today, we just look at the giraffes.

And actually, what really gets her attention is the presence of many children. It strikes me that she doesn't see young ones in the course of her day. She is a winter baby and with school still in session, there aren't many kids out in the street when we take our walks. At the zoo, she gawks at them with the same curiosity that she has for the giraffes.


(She is particularly spellbound by these two boys with their grandmas.)


Still later, we come back to the farmhouse in time for me to water the flower pots. I do this holding her and the hose, too, is a source of wonder. Water? For something other than the bathroom sink at bath-time? Really??

And now the afternoon is running away from us. I pause to feed the little one and then pack her in the car again. Our local farmers market is a must -- for the cheese curds and these days, the asparagus. It's a small market and most of the vendors recognize us by now. My toting Snowdrop comes as a delightful surprise especially to those who themselves are grandmas. Like this flower vendor. And another, older grandma who just makes Snowdrop smile and smile!


Evening. This is, I think, the toughest time for most infants and most parents of infants. But Snowdrop is that much older and that much easier to soothe and entertain. There will come a time when all those saved books will come off the shelf and we will spend the hours going from one story to the next. For now, there is music and the gentle sway of a grandma's shoulder. In the alternative, Sophie the giraffe will sooth sore gums.


On come the jammies, the swaddle.
'night, Snowdrop. Sleep well, okay?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wednesday: first day at grandma's

[Please take note: my next four days will be full of Snowdrop and Ocean posts will surely reflect this. Apologies to those who are not enchanted with an overabundance of grandmotherly notations. Second point: if I write words here that I impute to Snowdrop, do remember that it's just a guess. No, I cannot read her thoughts!]

Well, it was not to be a fitful sleep. Hoping to wake up this morning fresh and full of vim and vigor, I woke up instead in the way you do after an overseas flight -- feeling grateful for what little sleep you got, wishing it had been more.

I blame the cheepers.

Ed had zonked out before putting the brood away (who can blame him -- they aren't ready to turn in until it's pitch black out there and each day, that moment comes later and later) and I spent a good many hours nudging him to get out and lock the coop (I'm incapable of putting Oreo away -- you have to pick the rooster up. I wont do it -- it's hard to carry a water gun and reach for him, even if Ed swears he is in a dozy state then, oblivious to the world).

I settled in to get much needed sleep once Ed left, but out of the blue, the fire alarm started its beeping noises -- the irregular kind you get when the battery is about to die. Climbing up on a high stool in the stairwell to disconnect the darn thing took the last strands of sleepiness out of me. This, then, was my night.

We are up early. We're always up early. We're incapable of really sleeping in. But this time, I am up and hurrying. My goal is to get the chili started -- chop the onions, garlic, sausages, tomatoes -- those time consuming tasks that I think would be better completed before Snowdrop's arrival. And so at a cool and gray early hour, the house is filled with the aroma of onions.

Finally, breakfast. I tell Ed this will be the last time for a while that I am willing to fuss with his morning meal and so he chooses pancakes. Good. We need some relaxed moments in the sun room, even if there is really no sun today.


Time for one photo of a blooming perennial: we're entering the period of irises -- a flower I once snubbed but now adore. With age, I've grown to like delicate flower heads and pastel tones. And of course, I'm thrilled that they start blooming so early in the season! (Most of the ones I put in are repeat bloomers, coming back with a few buds in the fall. It's a heavenly show of subtle color.)


And finally at about 10:30, Snowdrop arrives, still woozy from her night of sleep. I'm to wake her, bathe her, feed her, dress her. Yes! I've done it before. I curse Amazon Prime for messing with my delivery of the cool baby tub, forcing me to make do with the bathroom sink a few more times. Ed hears my cooing and comes up with the camera (where the pics are taken -- if not edited -- by him these next few days, I'll include proper credits.)

(by Ed)

Bathed, dressed, fed. Ready to go!

(by Ed)

But go where? It's so cool and uninviting outdoors! I had made a mental list of places to take Snowdrop and here I am ignoring the whole thing, opting instead to stay indoors. And she's happy to engage her toys (and me)!

...while the sloth watches

After a solid late morning of play, I put her in her crib, where she will chat to the musical mobile (and here comes the funny red elephant! and the yellow zebra! coo, coo!)...


...until her vocalization sounds more like a child winding down, getting ready to drift off into sleep.

While she naps, I finish off the chili and now the house smells of simmering onion, garlic and tomato. Not unpleasant for a cold May day.

A commenter noted that the last time I minded babies round the clock, I was also attending law school. Yes, I smile at the recollection of those days. Law school, dinners to shop for and prepare and, too, my babes never slept through the night until (it seemed to me) they were in high school! And what do I have now, in these four special days? All my time given over exclusively and unilaterally to Snowdrop. Oh, there'll be chili to reheat and a salad to toss -- small things that I can do blindfolded.

And Ocean: there is the post writing that I must fit in.  But writing here is so ingrained into the fabric of my day, that I no longer worry about it.

I am set.

In the afternoon we begin to cycle through the same activities as in the morning. Eating, playing, some dancing thrown in too. And the weather remains cool, cloudy, with a threat of rain. I'm  thinking -- is the weather really going to stand in the way of my adventuring with Snowdrop?

Snowdrop, let's go!

I consider my options: winter babies are often walked at the mall. Am I ready to stoop that low? Take Snowdrop to the largest of our malls?

I am not. I take her, instead to Trader Joe's.

This isn't her first trip to a grocery store -- she has been to one with her parents -- but it is the first time with me and at Trader Joe's and she is both alert and fascinated by it. I don't need anything really -- well, maybe some bananas and a bar of their truffle chocolate. (The piggie is her own.)


I remind Snowdrop that I once dropped a mushy banana on her head, but she doesn't remember. Instead, she chooses to make friends with one of the clerks here.


Liking our stop at Trader Joe's, I push on to explore other stores along the same block. "Wild Child" is an obvious choice. It's a funky children's clothing store -- it opened just as my girls were born and I loved it then because it seemed to be the only place within spittin' distance that actually sold all cotton clothing. Oh, they leaned toward tie dye styles, but nonetheless, they were a spectacular alternative to stuff you'd find on the mall racks -- shirts and dresses sporting messages like "mommy's little princess." I mean, you could argue that my girls were my princesses, but I preferred to be a bit more modest about it.

One of the owner's was working the register at Wild Child and I told her I was an ancient customer. And then Snowdrop and I looked around. Of course, it being grandma's day with the little girl, there would be a purchase. Or two.

which one, grandma?

which one??

And I grasp how very special it is to do this without great regard to one's future, or more importantly, to her future (in the past, every unnecessary purchase had to be weighed against depleting the college fund). Oh, you could argue that I could -- I should -- still worry about college funds, to say nothing of ancient people care for myself, but grandmas are freer to choose indulgence over reason. I know my own grandma did that with me, sending me ten dollars "for a treat" every time she painstakingly scrawled a letter to me. For an ice cream, she'd write sometimes, even though as an adult, I could probably afford that ice cream cone more than she could afford to send me the $10 for it.

As Snowdrop issues her millionth smile, the Wild Child owner has to comment -- how is it that she is so happy?! 


Well yes, she is that. It's true that she sometimes will sport a pouty, teary face, but you'll rarely see here. I'd like to think she prefers it this way - a record of her truest moments which are full of the grins she so generously and trustingly bestows to those who take the time to smile at her.

The evening comes quickly. I reheat the chili, Ed goes off to bike his Wednesday evening bike ride. Snowdrop, who never sees the TV screen at home, is mesmerized by Modern Family. Just the two of us. Snowdrop and me. I take out some grandma books...

Grandma, do you have a babushka kerchief? I do, Snowdrop, I do.

She squirms. Motion, she wants to lose herself in motion. I rock her a little to take her mind off the fact that she is not at home. I watch her. Her face relaxes. Bedtime. For both of us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


My first thoughts run, as always these days, to the weather: still cool, still crisp today, with that occasional blast of sunshine that makes it all okay.

I have a mountain of things to take care of, as I expect to be completely without free time starting tomorrow, all the way through Saturday. Snowdrop, my four and a half month old granddaughter, will be visiting me at the farmhouse during those days. It's a visit I've anticipated with huge excitement, though I know I've changed since the years when I parented babies her age. I'm older. I'm less likely to be spontaneous, less willing to take risks. I'm the grandma who has to plan in advance -- cooking a pot of chili that can stand in for dinner for many days if I absolutely cannot do something more clever when she is here. When my youngest girl was about Snowdrop's age, she was immensely clingy all evening long and I remember stirring spaghetti sauce with her slung on my hip, barely keeping herself upright. In retrospect, I'm glad she didn't wiggle out and make an uncomfortable landing in the spaghetti sauce.  When she was old enough to be put in a walker (about five or six months), I stuck a bagel in her hand and said -- here, chew! I need to cook dinner! Indeed, I have a photo of her munching away on a corn on the cob at an age when I'm sure it wasn't altogether fine for her to be chomping on corn kernels. Of course, there were many more meals to cook then. My challenge this week is merely to come up with a handful.

It's only approaching 50F this morning -- too cool for a porch breakfast. We eat in the sun room.


The flower fields will be fine without my attention for a few days, nonetheless, I do some spot weeding and spot admiring!

A different columbine

...and I plant some more annuals in tubs -- stuff we picked up at a bargain yesterday. Done. Laundry -- done. Farmhouse tidy, garden in as good an order as I could possibly hope for. Oh, and let me show you how much I like that moment just before bloom, when the buds are all but open...


Alright. In the afternoon, I go to Snowdrop's home ...

Snowdrop and mommy

I pack up a few essential articles of clothing for her forthcoming farmhouse visit. And of course, she and I play...


... not a small amount...


And we go for a walk, though not too long -- it is so cool, that I stay away from the lake breezes. Neighborhood strolls are equally pleasant.



In the evening, Ed and I have a quiet spell alone, perhaps anticipating a somewhat more tumultuous set of days ahead. Am I up for playing the role of a round-the-clock grandma? Sure! Snowdrop will do just fine. She's resilient, plus she has that cheerful disposition that makes you smile and smile.


Monday, May 18, 2015

change of plans

The stormy, humid weather moved elsewhere and we woke to crisp blue skies. A cool day for sure, so that the porch breakfast is perhaps based more on optimism than our comfort level.


We talk about the day before us: it's unusual, as Snowdrop will be coming to the farmhouse today rather than tomorrow (remember: if it's Tuesday, it must be Snowdrop at the farmhouse day). But that's not until later. In the meantime, wouldn't this be a good morning to put in the watermelon flats and the melon seeds?

First, though, let's see what's blooming in the flower fields today: penstemon (common name: beardtongue)!


Ed makes his way to the young orchard and out of habit, gives the suspended killer willow branch a swing. Perhaps you don't remember: a year ago, several tornadoes passed through this way and one of the more violent storms took down a significant limb from the ancient willow. It's perhaps ten times the size of Ed in length (Ed is 6'4") and not too much smaller than him in girth and it hangs suspended from a perch so high, that even the tree service could not think of a way to bring it down (without deploying equipment not typically used for such purposes). Only time could release that huge thing and bring it to the ground. How much time? Oh, it could be an hour, it could be a decade. So frightening was the prospect of it coming down and crushing the wedding party last June, that we moved everyone from underneath the willow, just in case. Even Ed, whose middle name is not "cautious," insisted on it.

Well now, today, a big swing on his part brought the monster down, enough to rest on the ground at the tip.

Change of plans! -- He shouts as he takes out his power saw, making educated guesses as to which way the monster limb will eventually fall.


I stand by and watch and wonder how long it would take an ambulance to get here, should we need one. But, fortunately, Ed survives and I go on to busy myself moving ferns and fighting off the rooster.



At noon, Snowdrop arrives. We play a little inside  and she works on her sitting and scooting and story reading...




But I am itching to be outside (despite the winds and cool temps). I'm thinking this may be a good day to introduce her to dandelions, as Ed has still to finish mowing and so we have plenty of them in all stages of formation. Indeed, in some places, the grass is even taller than Snowdrop, sitting up.


I am especially tickled to sit her down in a field of grass and dandelions and creeping charlie, because obnoxious as all these are to a person who likes manicured lawns (not Ed and not me either, though I prefer things to be less crazily overgrown out there), it's a safe place to place a baby. Nothing around Snowdrop is toxic.

And she is thrilled to be down there, studying the green stuff and listening to Oreo crow from a safe place, somewhere in the garage. (The cheepers hide when the wind gusts are strong.)

she can almost sit unassisted

almost -- until she topples and chuckles at the feel of the soft grass..

Later, we go for a stroller walk along the rural roads. Not too long -- the wind is really strong. Still, she does not complain and spends a good chunk of time flapping her foot against the gusts. It's grand to be outside!


Inside again, we play and she gives me that agreeable smile that would melt the heart of any grandmother.


When she leaves, I consider working outside. We've come up with two more planters that I could fill with local annuals. Or, I could pluck at weeds and dig out spreading perennials. All good tasks, but I do none of them. I go inside and take out my computer and address the issue of my Great Writing Project again.