What Weather?

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My Mommy Said It's SNOWING

My Mommy Said It’s SNOWING

“Oh dear, it looks like it’s raining again, Jet. No walk for us.”

“It’s not raining Grandma, it’s snowing!”

“No snow today, just rain.”

“Snow!”

“Jet, I can see the rain. I’m looking right at it. Rain is coming down from the sky.”

“My mommy said it’s snowing!”

It’s never wise to contradict the pronouncements of a parent. I tried to remember whether it was snowing when Jet’s mother dropped her off. Maybe it was snowing. Then, again, maybe it was snowing the last time she had a discussion about the weather. Pre-school children are masters of conditionally true statements. For example, “I had a bath.” A true statement as far as it goes because it does not include the day on which said bath occurred.

“Okay. Maybe it was snowing when you were with your mommy this morning, but it is raining now, so we can’t take our walk. What do you want to do instead?”

“I want to be a cat. I’ll be a cat and you can pet me, okay?”

Cat Ears

Cat Ears

Jet made mewling noises and rubbed up against my shoulder. “Shall I scratch you behind your ears?” A new idea glimmered in Jet’s eyes.

“I need some cat ears! Make some, make some… can you make some?”

“Let me try.” I combed Jet’s hair to the top of her head into two ponytails with the ends folded under the rubber band.

Jet shook her head from side to side and bobbed it up and down. Her hair wobbled. She grinned and ran to the mirror. “I’m a CAT!”

Variations On A Theme

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An Airplane Flying Over the Zoo

An Airplane Flying Over the Zoo

Why do you have to go potty Grandma?”

“Because I do.”

“But WHY?”

“For the same reason you do Jet. Why do you have to go potty?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, maybe you’d better think about that for awhile….”

“Why?”

[A Few Minutes Later]

“Jet? Are feeling you okay? Does your stomach hurt?”

“No, my stomach doesn’t hurt.”

“Why are you making that sound like your tummy hurts?”

“There’s an airplane coming to the zoo. It’s flying.”

“Oh, I see. Well, it’s time for your bath now. Let’s go get your teeth brushed first.”

“I don’t want to take a bath. I get too cold when I take a bath.”

“You wouldn’t be too cold if you would let me put warm water in the bathtub. You always tell me it’s too hot.”

“It is too hot.”

“I don’t think so. I’m very careful to make sure it isn’t too hot for you.”

“I can’t breathe when I’m too warm. I try but I just can’t breathe when it’s too hot. That’s why I like to have the fan on at night ‘cause I just can’t breath when it’s too warm.”

“Well, I guarantee that if you let me put a little warmer water in the bathtub you will like it better and you’ll want to stay in it a long time.”

I gave Jet some cups to play with in the tub. “Soon you’ll smell fresh as a daisy.”

Fresh As A Daisy

Fresh As A Daisy

“But I don’t want to smell like a daisy!”

“Well, you’ll smell clean. And good. You don’t want to smell like a skunk!”

“There’s no such thing as skunk juice.”

“Skunks have a spray that smells pretty bad.”

“I’m ready to get out now.”

“Okay, let’s try wrapping your hair up in a little towel today. Maybe that will make you feel a little bit warmer.”

“Hey! What are you doing to my hair?!”

“Putting a towel on it.”

“Why!?”

“What do you think? What did I just tell you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I thought maybe it would keep you a little warmer if your wet hair didn’t touch your neck.”

Why!?”

It’s just something I wanted to try. Is it working?”

“Yes.”

“Now look in the mirror. Don’t you look adorable? You’re my little babushka!”

“No I’m not! I’m Jet!”

Big Red Cat

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Racing for Puzzle Pieces

Racing for Puzzle Pieces

The best bet to get Jet moving is an opportunity to race. This motivator was discovered by chance after a pre-nap story. Jet didn’t feel like visiting the potty as required before starting her nap. “Let’s get going, I said. Papa will be done in his bathroom before you even get started!”

Jet jumped up as if goosed by a jolt of electricity. “I’m going to WIN!” She raced to the bathroom and then to the bedroom. “Lift me up, lift me up!” I put her in the bed and covered her with her blanket. Soon, Papa arrived. “I beat you Papa! I beat you!”

“Yes, you certainly did,” her Papa assured her.

As we blew the required 4 kisses from our fingertips, Jet smiled broadly, “I like to win.”

Jet does indeed like to win and she has discovered that grandparents can be easy targets. When we work on a puzzle together, Jet tries to find the most pieces. She wants to race Papa to the corner on our walks and always, always she wants to beat him to the bedroom for her nap. “Do you think maybe I might win sometime?” Papa wondered.

Jet appeared to ponder this for a moment. “No! No, I want to win!”

An Elsa Braid

An Elsa Braid

The development of a competitive spirit is just one of the many small changes that remind me every day that Jet is growing up too quickly. When she pretends that she is a Disney Princess from the movie Frozen, she must be the blonde ice queen Elsa. Brown-haired Anna is no longer good enough. When did she develop this affinity for glamor? She begs me to fashion the single, Elsa braid in her hair instead of the double Anna braids that are perfectly suited to an adorable little girl.

“What’s wrong with Anna?”

“I want to be Elsa! Now don’t touch my hands – you can only touch my wrists because my hands are too cold!”

“But, I like Anna. She’s very brave! I like her hair too.”

“Well, I like Elsa.”

Drawing People

Drawing People

Jet is also learning to color inside the lines, an accomplishment that has always made me a little sad because it marks the beginning of the end of freewheeling artistic expression. Her pictures of people are more than colorful blobs: they have legs, heads, eyes, arms and bodies.

The most remarkable new developments however are reading and writing. Although I remain firmly convinced that pre-school children have no need of either, the rest of America seems determined to move children into these activities at an early age. So, we play with crayons and flashcards and I try my best to make it fun — which is easier said than done. Writing requires an adherence to form. An upside down “M” just won’t do unless one is trying to make a “W.” A lower-case “A” with the stick on the left side isn’t really an “A.” Jet wants to make her letters her own way. Helping her to understand that everyone needs to make letters the same way is a slow process. I let Jet choose the words she’d like to learn to write. Her first request was “cat.” Soon she wrote cat on every piece of paper she could find. As her mother’s birthday approached she wanted to make a card and write “mom.” With only two letters to learn, I thought it would be relatively easy, but I didn’t factor in Jet’s need to do her own thing. She didn’t enjoy making straight lines, so her letter “M” looked more like a double “D.” If children are still learning cursive when she gets to grade school, I predict Jet will write with a great deal of flourish.

Jet Writes Mom

Jet Writes Mom

I tried to inspire her to follow my moving finger, to trace over my letters, to connect the dots. I tried to get her to stop midway through the hump and lift the crayon before making the straight line. “That’s not how I like to do it.”

“I know you like to do it your way, but unless the letters are always the same it is hard for someone else to read them.” So we went back to reading our flashcards, one of which is “mom.” “What does this say?”

“Mom!”

“That’s right! How do you know it says mom?”

“Because it is!”

“Yes, you know it says mom because it looks like the word mom. That’s because mom always looks the same. You can’t tell that it says “mom” unless it looks like “mom!” I saw the light dawn in her eyes. We went back to the crayons. Jet’s “M” was much improved. She wrote “mom” until her hand grew tired.

Jet’s flashcard vocabulary continued to grow and although she could read a number of individual words she balked when they were laid out in a straight line. Eventually she broke through her mental block and read “big red cat.” I added another word and she read “a big red cat.” Next, “stop a big red cat.” When we had added two more words, Jet understood that she was reading.

“I read that! I can read that!”

“Yes you can! Shall I make a video to send to Mommy and Daddy?”

“Yes!”

I Can Stop A Big Red Cat

I Can Stop A Big Red Cat

I laid the cards on the couch and Jet, appropriately attired in her Belle (Beauty and the Beast) ball gown leaned over and placed her finger on each word as she read, “I can stop a big red cat!”

Christmas Time

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Jet Decorates the Big Tree

Jet Decorates the Big Tree

Jet and I filled the Christmas season with decorating, crafts, shopping, wrapping, parties and family gatherings. We enjoyed every minute of it because, as it turns out, Jet loves Christmas just as much as her Grandma! “I think you finally got the kid you always wanted,” Jet’s mother said. We had so much fun that any thought of blogging simply evaporated.

Jet had not forgotten about her own little tree from they year before and couldn’t wait to decorate it again. She strung red beads to make a garland. She hung more than three-dozen ornaments. She cut strips of green, blue and white paper and used her glue stick to make a paper chain (taller than Papa!) She even helped add ornaments to the big tree in the living room.

Paper Chain

Paper Chain

Throughout the month she worked diligently on homemade Christmas gifts for her parents and grandparents and Aunt. I glued Popsicle sticks in the shape of a star and Jet wrapped it with embroidery floss (a skill that is harder than it seems). When they were finished, she wrapped them with minimal help and placed them carefully under the tree. On Christmas Eve, she put on the traditional Santa Hat and cheerfully distributed presents to everyone. The first to be opened were, of course, the ones she had made herself!

For weeks Jet had eagerly anticipated the family party when Santa would make an appearance. “I’m gonna see Santa! I’m gonna sit on his lap!” When he walked in the room, however, she moved to stand behind me with lightening speed. In the end, Grandma stood next to Santa holding Jet at a safe distance. In contrast, at her first ballet recital earlier in the same day, she seemed fearless and walked out to an unplanned solo appearance on stage before being joined by the rest of the class.

First Recital Costume

First Recital Costume

While shopping at the mall, Jet saw Santa again, walking towards us. “It’s SANTA! It’s SANTA! What is he doing here?” Santa was on his way to the photography booth, but he stopped to say hello to the little girl bouncing up and down and pointing at him. Jet froze. She looked up at him but couldn’t speak. Santa went on. Later, we passed the booth and she wanted to see him again. “I don’t want to touch him Grandma, just look, okay?” We stood outside the fenced area and I held her up.

Santa recognized her. “You can come in here if you want.” Jet shook her head. “It’s okay, you don’t have to talk to me, but you can pick out a present.” Jet approached cautiously and Santa pointed to the basket of small stuffed toys. She grabbed one and headed for the exit as fast as her legs could carry her.

When we were safely away Jet looked at her toy. “I like Santa.”

“That’s nice.”

“Next time I might sit on his lap.”

Grocery Shopping

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Jet in the Vegetable Aisle

Jet in the Vegetable Aisle

Our weekend was so busy we simply didn’t have time to go to the grocery. Monday morning found us with just enough milk for Jet’s breakfast.   After she got her bath and we had some discussion about the merits of leaving toys at home, we set off for the store. As we pulled the parking spot, I saw a miniature basket in the cart corral and made a quick decision: Jet was in for a treat.

Papa helped her get it up the curb and inside. I grabbed a larger cart and we headed to produce. I walked slowly while Jet followed. Papa took up the rear to keep watch and herd as needed. Jet helped select bananas and put them in her basket. Then Papa added some bread (no squeezing!) and lunchmeat. Papa had to go back to the bread aisle for some English muffins and Jet moved quickly to follow. After that, I kept the eyes in the back of my head on high alert.

As we wound through the store, Jet stayed on task. She pushed her basket carefully and avoided running into my heels. She was alert and serious in keeping with her grown-up responsibilities. As we reached the last aisle, I made the mistake of taking a detour to the frozen vegetables and told Papa to meet me in the cheese section. Jet didn’t want to wait and took off at a fierce pace to find me: down the rear aisle, past the milk and meat all the way to bread on the other side of the store with Papa trotting along behind.

When we reached the checkout Jet wanted to assume even more responsibility and empty the basket herself. “I can do it! Let me do it!” she insisted as she grabbed a loaf of bread.

But something had spilled on the conveyor belt. “Don’t put it in the yucky stuff, Jet!”

“What is it?” She pulled herself up on her tiptoes and peered over the side of the belt.

“It’s just some water,” said the clerk.

Papa dried the spot with a paper towel. Jet followed my directions to move her empty basket to the end of the line. “Don’t move!” Jet didn’t. She gripped the handle firmly and looked straight ahead until I had the receipt in hand.

In the parking lot, Jet wanted to put the bags in the trunk by herself, but soon learned just how heavy a bag of groceries can be. We walked her empty basket back to the corral for some other lucky child to find. Jet moved it carefully into place and we returned to the car. “Jet, you did a wonderful job in the store! I’m so proud of you! You behaved better than any three year old I ever took to the grocery! You behaved better than your mama, better than Aunt Mary better than anyone! “

Jet looked at me and grinned. “Tell me more about those children who weren’t as good as me!”

Christmas Shopping

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img_2931The tag I plucked from the “Giving Tree” at church read “Abbey, age 3, girl, doll/clothes.” Jet listened to my explanation about the reason for our shopping trip, but all she heard was “store” and she was ready. Jet loves shopping.

“Okay! Let’s go, Grandma!”

We started in the clothing section. “Go to the dolls! Go to the dolls!”

“We’ll get the clothes first. Then we’ll look for the doll.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

“Why doesn’t this little girl have any clothes, Grandma?”

“Some mommies and daddies don’t have enough money to get things for their children.”

“Why?”

“Well, it just happens that way sometimes. That’s why we are going to help them by getting some presents.”

“I want her to have clothes just like mine!”

“Well, let’s see what we can find.” We didn’t find a matching outfit, but Jet did find something she liked really well.

“Let’s get one for me, too so we can match!”

“We aren’t shopping for you today, Jet. Besides, they don’t have your size.”

Next stop baby dolls. The choices were more limited than I expected which was just as well since Jet pondered the options at length. Should she get the one with a carrier, the one with the bed, the one with a stuffed animal, or the one with 2 extra outfits? Eventually, she decided that the extra outfits were best. We still had some money left to spend, so we decided to look for less expensive items. We found some hair clips and socks. Then Jet saw a small stuffed dog.

“That’s it! Let’s get that little dog, okay?” I handed her the dog. “It’s so soft! I love it!” As we moved away from the stuffed animal section, Jet had much more to say: “I don’t have a dog like that. I have an old dog that used to be Mommy’s, but I don’t have a dog like that. Could we get one for me too?”

“No, we aren’t shopping for you today.”

“Why?”

“Because we are trying to help Abbey’s mother get her some presents for Christmas, remember?”

“We aren’t going to give her any of your toys are we?”

“No, we’re going to get her new presents. You can help me wrap them.”

“I want to see Abbey and play with her.”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t do that. We will never see Abbey, but we will see her presents and we can imagine how happy she will be to get them. I’m so proud of you for helping to do this for her!” I was also very proud of the way she accepted that nothing was for her.

“She’s going to be really happy, isn’t she?”

“Yes, I think she is!”

We wrapped everything the next day. Jet wanted to handle the tape, but she didn’t seem to understand how it worked. “You can’t just put the tape wherever you want, Jet. You have to put it on so it holds the paper together.”

“I’m just going to put it over here.”

“See how the paper didn’t stick together? That’s because you didn’t put the tape in the right place.”

“Why?”

Eventually I persuaded her to follow my directions. She did so well that I said she could do the last package by herself. Jet folded the paper together and I handed her a piece of tape. As she took the tape from my fingers, the corners of her mouth twitched and she looked hard into my eyes. Then she placed the tape in a useless spot and looked at me again.

“Did you put the tape there because I didn’t want you to?”

Jet nodded.

“Wow. What did you think would happen? Did you think I’d be mad at you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I know you like to do things your own way, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. The tape won’t hold the paper together unless you put it in the right place. Do you understand?”

“Why?”

Foot and Hand

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Holding Grandma's Hand

Holding Grandma’s Hand

Jet ran out of her ballet class waving a page to color. “I got Cinderella Grandma!”

“Great! Let’s put it down while we put on your shoes.”

“You do it. You put on my shoes…. Please!”

I plopped Jet on a nearby chair and slipped on her left shoe. She began to wail almost immediately. “It hurts! Something is wrong! Fix my sock!” I took off the offending shoe and straightened her tights. “It hurts! It hurts! Take it OFF!”

“What in the world is wrong with it? Where does it hurt?” She pointed at her toe. I tried adding a sock on over the tights to soften any discomfort from the sock seam.

“NO! It’s not good.” Jet began to cry in earnest.

“Sweetie, I have absolutely no idea what could be wrong. Maybe you should try to put it on yourself!” Jet began to wail even more loudly. “Now, where did I put your other sock? Oh for pity’s sake! It’s in your shoe! Silly Grandma! Jet agreed. They don’t come any sillier.

With both feet comfortably shod, we proceeded home in time to take a walk before lunch. Jet announced her plan to hold Papa’s hand, but after awhile, she decided to let me have a turn. A dog began to bark and I turned to look, tripping on an uneven piece of sidewalk. “Wow, it’s a good thing I was holding your hand!”

“No, Grandma, I’m holding YOUR hand.”

“Well, if you weren’t, I might have fallen down!”

Jet mulled this over, but looked skeptical. I could almost see the wheels turning. What advantages might the hand-holder have over the holdee? By the time we came to another bump in the concrete, Jet had decided the matter. She reached out and took my hand again. “Here’s another bump, be careful!”

“Why thank you so much!”

Jet grinned. “Here comes another one! Watch out!” She grabbed my arm. “I see a big one coming up! You’d better hold onto me!”

By the time we reached the end of the walk, I felt very well loved indeed.

Three Sisters

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Three Sisters

Three Sisters

In Jet’s mind, a “park” is a place with swings and slides, so I wasn’t really surprised that she was disappointed the first time I took her to a park with hiking paths and trees. I didn’t have any idea, however that she would panic at the sight of the looming trunks under a canopy of leaves. She was certain that one would fall on her at any moment. I resolved to 1) take her into this sort of park more often and 2) refer to some parks only as “woods.”

Touching a 550 Year Old Tree

Touching a 550 Year Old Tree

Happily, our latest trip to a wooded area went very well. Jet’s grandpa and I took her to one of our favorite places and a favorite of my family as well. “Mommy and Aunt Mary used to come here with their grandpa when they were little, and he took me here when I was little too!” Jet likes family stories and I, of course am more than happy to share them with her.

I told her how I would walk to the site of the “Three Sisters,” a group of very old white oaks with my dad and siblings. “Just like you three girls,” he’d always say. “This one is the oldest, there’s the middle sister and over there is the baby sister!” The trees were only about 500 years old in my youth and sadly the marks of the intervening 50 years are very evident today. The oldest sister has a circumference of 226 inches and still reaches 141 feet to the sky but her leaves and those of the youngest sister seem sparse.   They don’t look good. The middle sister succumbed to a fire and eventually fell where she still lies. I made sure not to share this factoid with Jet, however.

The clearest evidence of the sister’s decline is that members of the park staff have removed the fencing meant to protect them from sightseers. They are completely accessible, just like when I was young. “Jet, look! You can touch one of these trees!”

Jet gives me the “think again, Grandma” face. “I don’t want to.”

“This is very important to Grandma. I don’t know how much longer these trees will be here and I want you to have the chance to touch one!” Eventually, Jet agreed to let Papa take her to see the tree while I snapped photos of the event.

In the Osage Orange Tunnel

In the Osage Orange Tunnel

We also visited another family favorite, the Osage Orange Tunnel. Jet needed no encouragement to walk beneath the arch made by the branches of these smaller trees. We told her about the large green fruit balls that come from the trees (also known as hedge apples). “Can I touch one?”

Her Papa and I answered in one voice, “No! They are really sticky!” Someday, when I have a wad of wipes in my pocket I’ll let her check them out.

Somehow, as always happens when I visit these woods, we took a longer trail than we intended. I was tired and Jet wanted to be carried back to the car. We all had a good nap after lunch. Jet must have lay in the bed listening for a while when she woke. “Grandma, this house is really, really quiet at nap time! Where were you?”

“Did you think we left you?” Jet looked up with big solemn eyes and nodded.

“Oh no, sweetie! Papa and I were just sleeping too!” Jet grinned and held up her arms.

“Get my snack and we can snuggle!”

Princess in the Mirror

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Jet Checks Her Crown in the Mirror

Jet Checks Her Crown in the Mirror

More than 100 years ago, my great-grandparents, May and Edgar bought a marble-topped lowboy dresser with an ornately framed mirror. The craftsmanship wasn’t first notch, but somehow the dresser endured and has graced my entryway for more than 25 of those years. At one time or another six generations of the women in my family have gazed at their reflection in this mirror. The glass may be old and a little scratched, but it the image it reflects always seems to improve upon the view from other mirrors.

In her Belle costume from Beauty and the Beast Jet suddenly seems much older. She has outgrown the Anna costume from Frozen that she loved so much last Halloween — but I can see that this dress will quickly replace it in her affections. I think of her mother and aunt in their prom dresses and suddenly I imagine Jet dressing for her first dance. She loves the bright yellow color and hoop skirt that moves as she does. Jet twirls and prances. “My crown, Grandma where is my crown?”

“I have it!” I place it on her head and she runs to the dresser to see how it looks.

“I look like a Princess, don’t I Grandma?”

“You always look like a princess to me, Jet, but this is definitely a princess dress! You look beautiful!”

Flounces

Flounces

“I look gor-ge-ous!” She turns to see more of the dress. The flounces catch her eye next. “This is the most beautiful dress in the world!”

“I’m so, so glad you like it!”

“Let’s dance, Grandma!”

We danced.

Second String

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Jet Gives Papa a Pinecone

Jet Gives Papa a Pinecone

Since her Papa retired at the beginning of October, I find myself relegated to Jet’s second string. I understand how this happened, because I love Papa too (and I really am excited to have him at home) but sometimes my hand feels very empty on our morning walks! Not only does Papa get first dibs to hold her hand, she gives him all the newly found sticks, leaves and pinecones he can carry. Jet, bless her heart (a phrase which I seldom use but which somehow feels appropriate in this instance) has been remarkably sensitive to the possibility that I may feel abandoned. From time to time she drops back and holds both our hands, and yesterday she asked me to tell her a story right in the middle of our walk.  That’s my girl!

Fortunately (from my perspective), Papa’s retirement plans did not include monopolizing every minute of Jet’s playtime and thus, we conceived his “quiet room.” Jet adapted quickly to the idea that Papa did not retire for the soul purpose of providing her with entertainment. She understands that when he goes into the office for quiet time, he is not available for play and must not be bothered with invitations and questions. I’m actually quite impressed with her thought process on the matter. “Grandma, Papa didn’t retire so he could have another job taking care of me, did he?”

“No, Jet, Papa has some other things he’d like to do too.”

“But you don’t have anything else to do, right, Grandma?”

It sounds rather lame when she puts it like that, but okay. “Pretty much.”

Papa Shows Jet the Caterpillar He Found

Papa Shows Jet the Catetpillar He Found

When Papa emerges from the office, Jet sticks to him like glue. She is fascinated to discover the limits of what she can convince him to do. Wear bunny ears? Check. Hop like a bunny? Check. Share some of his snack? Check. Give her a bath? Nope, that’s Grandma’s job.

While Grandma was outside one morning (making faces at Jet’s brothers in the back of Mama’s van), Jet auditioned Papa as a replacement for breakfast duties.   After he failed to arrange things to her specifications, Papa was banned from bib application and food preparation.   “That’s Grandma’s job,” Jet declared, “’cause Papa is just silly!”

Jet has also been exploring the potential to divide and conquer. Could she use Papa to delay naptime? No. Grandma was wise to that trick. “Jet, if you keep talking to Papa instead of getting ready for your nap, I’m going to have to send him away.”

“No!”

“Okay, then. Get down to business.” She did.

To date, I remain the go-to grandparent for meals, toileting, bathing, ballet class, naptime, stories, clothing changes and most cleanup activities, but Papa is now the MVP of playtime…. at least until he goes into that office of his!