Monthly Archives: February 2014

Library story time for Grandma

One of the great things about being a grandmother is that you get to go back in time and do things with your grandchildren that you used to do with your kids. Ostensibly, these activities and excursions are for the benefit of the child, but grandparents seek them out and take them in as eagerly as you would an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

This week I took my three-year-old grandson to Story Time at the library. We have a wonderful library in our town, a sprawling, two-story brick building that takes up nearly a whole block. From the back parking lot, we climbed over some snow piles and walked around the block to the front of the building where parents and grandparents with kids in tow were entering.

Abraham was excited to see all the toys, stuffed animals, puzzles and the Thomas the Train railroad set waiting outside the story room in the children’s section of the library, where there are pint-size chairs, low-slung shelves and big picture books. He quietly and carefully took in the scene as boys and girls about his size took off their coats and darted for the toys they liked best. Abraham decided he’d play with the trains too. He politely took his place at the play table and began escorting his engine down and around the tracks. The play had a rhythm of its own as children came and went from the table and the little wooden cars changed hands.

As Story Time approached and the adults gently pried the children away from the toys, I noticed that at least half of the older set were about my age, probably grandparents. These folks seemed to have a happy calm about them, perhaps because they didn’t have a gazillion chores waiting for them at home, family schedules to juggle, other kids that had to be picked up from school, or calls from work to answer that young parents had to worry about. Many of the adults were veterans of Story Time. For me, it was my first in a long time.

The Story Lady sat cross-legged on a stiff chair as the children found spots on the geometric shapes of the carpet, on a chair or on a lap in the circular shaped room. Nodding her head and looking at the children’s faces, she introduced herself clearly and tempted their imaginations with the day’s story topic: pets or, more specifically, turtles.

The Story Lady held up a picture book and began turning the pages for her wide-eyed audience. It was about a little boy who wanted a turtle for a pet – the perfect pet – but his family had other ideas. “What do you think he will get? A horse? I think it will be horse,” the Story Lady speculated. Abraham listened intently, as did a number of the children, while others were in a constant state of wigglyness.

It was soon apparent that being a Story Lady requires a lot more than being able to read stories aloud in a clear, animated and kindly voice. It also involves theatrics for “finger play” – can you make a turtle out of your fist? – a singing voice that little ones will easily sing along with, and the patient teaching skills to direct little fingers to cut, paste, color and put away all the things you need to make a paper turtle.

As I helped Abraham get his coat on, holding his paper turtle, I thought how lucky I was to be able to take him on this little adventure to the library. Story Time is just one of many fun times we’ve had, and will have. I hope he’ll cherish every one. I know I will.




The Beatles. They held our hands and won our hearts.

Beatles records

Beatles records

I remember quite clearly, on a particular day in December 1963, hearing the muffled, unmistakable giggling coming from behind the postulants’ closed door. Something was going on, something new and exciting, perhaps forbidden, definitely appealing to these old girls who at 18 or 19 had already dedicated their lives to Christ.

But this day, the Beatles had won their hearts.

Behind that door, seemingly in secret, the postulants were listening to the Beatles’ new sensation, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” just as giddy and excited as millions of other girls across the nation. But this was Caroline Academy, and thoughts of boys and holding hands were off limits in lyrics as well as in daily life. Here, exposure to the latest contemporary music consisted of instrumentals like “Baby Elephant Walk” played while we roller-skated in the gym.

Closed doors couldn’t contain the new sound. The Beatles burst into our lives that day and their songs marked our journey for decades to come.

When I left the convent school to attend North High in Sheboygan, I used “Nowhere Man” as the hook for an editorial I wrote on school spirit. (Yes, I was a believer. Go Raiders!) I imagined myself a “Paperback Writer” in 1966. In 1968, Marquette University wasn’t immune to anti-war and open housing protests. Anthems like “Revolution” and 1969’s “Give Peace of Chance” had meaning. I remember walking down Wisconsin Avenue on Dec.1, 1969, hearing a recording of “You Say It’s Your Birthday” blaring from a window in McCormick Hall, mocking the first draft lottery held that day to determine which fellow students would be going off to fight in Vietnam.

The next year, when I was working in Indiana and my boyfriend John was in Milwaukee, “The Long and Winding Road” would be part of the soundtrack of our long-distance dating. “Instant Karma” was going to get us.

“I knew something had changed when I first heard the Beatles,” John says. On Sept, 4, 1964, he paid a reasonable $4.75 to hear them at the Milwaukee Arena. A year later, on Aug. 21, he saw them again at Comisky Park in Chicago. He bought a sleek Stratocaster® guitar, his hair grew past the required collar-length code of his high school, and he started a band whose members sang with British accents. He’s still writing and playing songs in that distinctive style.

Whether or not we knew something had changed when the Beatles came on the scene, our lives were changing in the ‘60s and ‘70s and we couldn’t “Help” it. You could hear the lyrics of their songs, you could immerse yourself in the beat, the fresh melody and harmony, and anticipate the bridge. The songs were new, some would become classic. And some would hold our hands and our hearts through our lives. I think you’ll understand.

More on this topic: Will we still need them in 2064?

New (beautiful) baby in the house

Fifteen days into the new year, we welcomed our second grandson into our family. The day of his birth was a cold day, and the next days would get even colder, temperatures falling well below zero. But this winter baby, all six pounds and one once of him, would be nice and warm inside at home at last with Mom, Dad and big brother.

A new baby brings many changes. Your first baby is a real eye-opener, a high maintenance, noisy addition to the romantic twosome-ness you enjoyed only briefly. Then, a few years later, the second child brings a whole new set of changes. And you thought it would get easier? Well, you do know more now, Mom and Dad. You know which end to diaper, that babies sometimes cry for seemingly no reason at all, that their peaceful sleeping faces are as a close to an angel’s as you can get on earth. You’d think you knew it all.

But along comes that second child and rules change, again. This time, baby arrives to a not-so-quiet house. There is no tip-toeing around for this baby, for Number One Son has the floor and it is loud. There are cartoons to watch, a drum set to pound, toy trucks to roar across the floor, and funny storybooks to laugh at. There are places to go, like preschool and the store and “outside” if the weather is nice. Amidst all this, new baby is left  to catch some sleep whenever and wherever he can. He’s joined an already in progress household. He has to go with the flow, and he’ll master it in time.

I was happy and privileged to be able to spend several days with Abraham while his Mom and Dad were at the hospital. It was a special time playing with him, reading and talking and painting “welcome home” pictures, all the while anticipating the moment when EVERYONE would be home. 

Friday afternoon, at long last,  the sound of familiar voices on the stairs preceded the opening of the door and there they were. Mom looking straight at Abraham, his arms waving excitedly and a big smile on his face. On Mom’s arm, a blanket-covered baby carrier. Right behind them, Dad with a big smile too. Pulling off their shoes, Mom and Dad stepped inside inside the living room and Mom gently pulled the blanket aside to reveal, fast asleep, little baby Francis, all of two days old. He was beautiful,  in his own distinctive way, his fuzzy hair a little darker, weighing about five ounces more than Abraham when he was born on a hot summer day more than three years ago. Abraham took a good look—so this is what all the fuss is about—but his eyes continued to follow Mom, making sure she was home to stay now.

In the future, Francis’ parents will tell him how very cold it was when he was born, how the wind and snow and cold kept them all inside and close, how his big brother was so excited to see him, and how small miracles really do make a world of difference.