God Likes to Give Hugs

While the toddlers were eating breakfast one morning, I was in the next room getting their clothes ready for the day and overheard them having this conversation:

“I have two daddies and two mommies.”

“No, I have two daddies and two mommies.”

I’m sure this interpretation of their lives came from their teachers at daycare trying to explain the circumstances of Kaleb and Kenzie’s unconventional family as their classmates’ mommies and daddies arrived each day to pick them up.

So thinking this was a teachable moment I came in, sat down at the table with them, and attempted to enter into the conversation.

“Kaleb and Kenzie, you have a Daddy and Poppy is Daddy’s daddy. And you have a Mommy and Nanna was Daddy’s mommy. You two are sister and brother; so you have the same Daddy and Mommy and the same Poppy and Nanna.”

That explanation didn’t seem to register with them and the discussion on parenthood quickly took an unexpected turn.

“Is Nanna in heaven with Jesus? Did she go in the car?” (referring to Nanna’s minivan that she drove them around in)

Sometimes God speaks through 4-yr-olds!

Now let me tell you this before I describe the remainder of this conversation with the toddlers.

This is not the first time we have had a discussion about Nanna’s death.

It’s been a little over a year since Nanna died and I have tried to explain it to them on a number of occasions and in ways they can understand.

Most conversations have been with Kaleb since he’s a year-and-a-half older than Kenzie and remembers more about Nanna.

I’ve tried to have this discussion with them like the experts on death and grieving say to explain it. And I’ve also tried to explain it in a way that I think the Bible teaches.

But my explanations always seem to sound like a story out of one of their children’s books.

Now, I write another blog of daily Bible devotions and have even written a book on Christian living, but I just can’t seem to explain Nanna’s death in a way I think the toddlers can understand.

So, this day I told the toddlers that Nanna got very sick and went to live in heaven with Jesus. I was careful to distinguish between getting sick and getting very sick to assuage any fear they might develop about sickness leading to death.

But this day they didn’t seem to make the distinction and began to express some of their basic toddler fears.

“Do you go to heaven with Jesus when you get sick?” Kaleb asked.

“No, only when you get very, very sick.”

Is my Nanna in heaven?

“Nanna’s with Jesus?” Kenzie inquired.

“Will Nanna be back?” asked Kaleb.

“No, Nanna won’t be back. Jesus wants her to be with Him. She didn’t want to go and leave you, she just got very, very sick.”

And, I tried not to leave the impression that God took Nanna away from them, but again, my explanations weren’t appeasing them on this day.

“Will you go to heaven too, Poppy?” Kaleb asked.

“No, I’m not going away any time soon. Jesus wants Poppy to stay here and take care of you.”

“Jesus loves you very much and He wants to come and live in your heart. One day we will all go and live with Jesus and Nanna in heaven, but not right now.”

Kaleb seemed to ponder this for a moment.

And I’m sitting there all misty-eyed and thinking how Nanna was so much better with the toddlers than I ever will be.

And then it all all somehow made sense to Kaleb because he announced: “God likes to give hugs!”

Maybe, sometimes God speaks to grown-ups through four-year-olds!

The Toddler Bully

No. Stop. Don’t. Quit. Lately, these are the most often used words in my vocabulary! It seems like everything I say is a plea for the toddlers to cease and desist from some illicit behavior.

No you can’t! Stop doing that! Don’t do it again! Quit it!

“No, Kenzie, you can’t wear those shoes!” “No, Kaleb, you can’t have more candy.” No! No! No!

“Stop talking and go to sleep, Kaleb.” “Stop getting out of bed, Kenzie.” Stop! Stop! Stop!

“Don’t bite your brother, Kenzie.” “Don’t hit your sister, Kaleb.” Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!

“Quit picking your nose, Kaleb.” “Quit pulling the cat’s tail, Kenzie.” Quit! Quit! Quit!

These commands are immediately followed by threats and intimidation often using a loud, scary man-voice.

“Don’t bite your brother, Kenzie or I’m going to bite you back.”

“Kaleb, if you hit your sister again, then she can’t play with you any more, ever again, for the rest of your life.”

“Quit picking your nose, Kaleb, or your nose will come loose and fall off your face!”

“Quit pulling the cat’s tail or she will run away and never come back (I wish!).”

Then they have the nerve to question my resolve…

“Poppy, are you just kidding?”

“No, Kaleb, I really mean it. If you don’t stop talking and go to sleep, I’m going to come up there and take your Barney and Goggy away and close the door….and…and…and  I might even lock it!

“And if you don’t stop getting out of bed, Kenzie, I’m going to lock your door, too.”

“Will I be trapped, Poppy?”

“Yes, Kenzie you will be trapped in your room forever, maybe longer!”

And then they dare to challenge my authority…

“You have to mind me, Kenzie. Poppy is the boss of this family!”

“No, I’m the boss!”

“No, Kenzie, you’re not the boss. I’m the grown-up and  that makes me the boss! Grown-ups are the boss and you’re just…just….just a little 3-year-old squirt. So you have to do what I say!”

Listen to me. Am I actually saying all that?


What Women Do That Men Don’t Even Know About

One thing I’ve discovered on this new adventure as a single grandparent is a greater appreciation for the role of women in the home and family.

Since my wife has been gone, I have found out there are a large number of tasks and duties to managing a home and family that she did that I never participated in or even recognized were being done.

Apparently there are many details she must have taken care of without my knowledge or involvement because I know I NEVER DID THEM!

Yes, these things all somehow got done unbeknownst to me–details that were essential to keeping our home and family functioning properly.

Now, having had the opportunity to perform many of these tasks myself, let me attempt to list some of the things that women do for a home and family that men don’t even know about:

  • Buy groceries and household items. It’s not just about the food. While it’s difficult enough to figure out what food to buy, there’s a slew of other household items to purchase for your household to function. For example (and listed in order of importance), toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, detergent, cleansers, trash bags, etc. etc.–and what brand or quantity or size of each. I work up a sweat just thinking about going to the grocery store!
  • Plan and prepare meals. It’s more difficult–at least for me–to decide what food to prepare for a meal than it is to prepare it. I have learned that you actually have to plan your meals so you know what to buy at the grocery store!
  • Wash and dry clothes and sheets and towels and other miscellaneous items. And the stream of dirty clothes coming at you never ends! Do you ever get “caught up” on the washing?
  • Sort and fold clean clothes and sheets and towels and other miscellaneous items and hang them up or put them away. It doesn’t end after you wash and dry the clothes. Then they have to be put away someplace where you can easily find them so they can be used again.
  • Take kids to school. Pick up kids from school. And on time! This seems to require some planning and organizational skills that presume you can somehow get the kids out of bed and dressed in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Pick out clothes and shoes for the children to wear daily and for special occasions. I bet some of you guys don’t even pick out what clothes you wear each day!
  • Purchase children’s clothes and shoes. I bet some of you guys don’t even purchase your own clothes either!
  • Potty train the children and teach the boys accuracy and the girls cleanliness, and then wipe the dirty bottoms of both until you can depend on them to do it right. And then clean the toilet and anything else adjacent to it when things don’t go exactly as has been taught!
  • Clean and groom the children. In other words, give the children baths. For some reason, this is one of the most grueling tasks for me to do, but one my wife loved to do. I think one reason that bathing the toddlers is so disagreeable to me is because for some reason the toddlers resist all efforts to improve their personal hygiene!
  • Brush children’s teeth or make sure they brush them. All they really want to do is eat the bubble-gum flavored toothpaste while all the time giving you the impression that they are actually brushing their teeth.
  • Get the children haircuts and decide what hairstyle they will wear. I actually look at those fashion magazines in the salon waiting area now to see what the hairstyles are. And if the truth be known, I may occasionally glance at the women’s magazines while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  • Fix little girls’ hair in tails and braids. I’m not going to even comment on this except to say that it requires some fine motor skills that guys do not have!
  • Pick out jewelry for little girls to wear. You can’t take the little girls out of the house without proper wardrobe enhancements. No, you can’t do it! You’ve got to accessorize!
  • Discipline the children without getting mad and yelling at them. Mommas are especially equipped with low soft voices that can be soothing and encouraging even while scolding. Guys are not! They get angry when the kids don’t act perfectly and then they yell at them for not being perfect.
  • Attend all the children’s school parties and take refreshments and gifts as needed. Is it really necessary to have a party for every holiday on the calendar? Can we get by without having a school party for St. Patrick’s Day? I mean we just did Valentine’s Day and soon it will be Easter. And it wasn’t long before that when we had the Christmas party and program!
  • Purchase birthday and Christmas gifts for children, family, and friends. I used to have responsibility for purchasing one gift at Christmas–my wife’s. And I usually purchased that one gift according to her specifications! As you can see from this list, I now have a lot of things on my mind that I didn’t before, so don’t expect me to put a lot of thought into your Christmas present. You’re getting cash!

And I haven’t even begun to mention many other mundane tasks such as house cleaning, ironing, and picking up after everyone.

And what about decorating the house? Have any of you guys ever purchased towels? Sheets? Comforters? How about window dressings? Have you ever had to purchase a piece of furniture on your own?

I could go on and on, ad nauseum! There is just no end to what women do and men don’t even know about!

And many women do all these things while working a full-time job! It’s amazing! No, it’s mind boggling! It exceeds the comprehension of us guys!

So if you are a guy, rejoice! And especially if you are married! Because there are just a lot less details in life for guys to have to think about!

Yes, I salute all you wives and moms of the world. I especially admire you single moms! I don’t know how you do it! I just don’t seem to have the mind and strength and disposition to keep track of, much less perform, all these domestic details. And do it orderly and right!

But there can be only one explanation why you do what you do without notice and recognition. So, I’m one guy that now knows how devoted you are to your home and family. I now see how much you must really love us to do all these things without us even knowing about it!

My Child Is A Genius!

We like to think all our children–or at least some of our children–are geniuses. Mensa material. Admittedly, I’m the same way about mine. But I plan to show you how I know so that you will believe it, too.

So for those of you who are thinking he is just a proud, overindulgent grandparent, I have obtained photographic evidence to prove it to you.

In the mornings Kenzie usually wakes up earlier than Kaleb. She comes down to the master bedroom and plays and gets into things while I am trying to complete my morning routine of getting ready for work.

One particular morning Kenzie had been playing in the walk-in closet in my bedroom. When I finished my routine and was about to leave the bedroom to go to the kitchen to fix our breakfast, I noticed she had been playing with some clothes hangers. She had pulled several extras down from the the lower clothes rack and had spread them all over the floor of the closet.

Since I’m always in a hurry in the morning trying to get myself and the toddlers ready to leave the house, I started quickly gathering the hangers up (so I wouldn’t have to pick them up when we got home in the evening).

Then, thinking this was a teachable moment and that sooner or later she needed to learn to pick up after herself, I said: “Kenzie, pick up all those hangers and hang them back up. You have to do it yourself because you pulled them down. It’s not my job to pick them up. I’m not your slave!”

We all know, of course, that from her perspective I am, in fact, her slave! But teachable moments don’t arrive that often, especially when you are always in a hurry.

So after a short time I went back in the closet and I was surprised to see that she had minded and had actually picked up the clothes hangers and hung them back up.

But they were not hung up exactly the way that you or I would hang them up. The photo on the left shows her approach to the task.

I was amazed! No, not just because she minded me, but that she did it with such creativity and ingenuity.

Certainly my child is an artist! No, my child is a genius!

She had created a sculpture from the hangers–suspended in midair with delicately balanced parts–a hanger mobile!

I asked her to pick up hangers and put them away and she created a work of art!

Now that’s clever, inventive, resourceful–that’s brilliant! That’s thinking out of the box!

But really, if the truth be known, toddlers commonly think out of the box. That’s because they are not in the box yet. They don’t even know there is a box!

But it’s the grown-up’s job to get them into the box–to get them to think and behave like we want them to–like we do. We don’t want them standing out. We want them blending in. After all, it’s a grown-up’s world and so we get to build the box.

So maybe this hanger mobile doesn’t prove she’s a genius. But maybe it demonstrates that I need to build a little bigger box that will allow her toddler creativity to thrive.

Once Upon a Time

At our house the toddlers have lots of books. Nanna always bought books and constantly read to them, even when they were infants. So they love books and I try to read to them often, but don’t do as good a job as Nanna did.

One thing that hinders me from reading to them as much as I should is technology. (Sure, Poppy, blame it on technology!)

But you can download children’s books to the iPad that are animated and read themselves! iPad books do a much better job than I ever could. In fact, the toddlers would rather watch We’re Going on a Bear Hunt from the iPad because it animates the artwork on the pages of the book. No matter how enthusiastically I may read the book to them, I can’t make the pictures start moving around!

When I ask the toddlers to pick a book for me to read to them, they almost always pick the same books. Over and over, it seems we read the same books! And their top picks are the classic children’s stories: Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Now here’s something I’ve observed about toddlers and storybooks. The toddlers don’t make distinctions between real life and the stories in the books.

Here’s what I mean. Down the road from our house are some new homes under construction. All the leftover construction materials are placed to the side of the new home in a big pile to be hauled off to the landfill. Every time they see the pile of used materials beside the new homes being constructed the toddlers ask, “Did the big bad wolf blow the house down?”

So that their young, fertile minds won’t be overburdened with complicated explanations about the home construction industry, I just answer, “Yes, the big bad wolf blew the house down.”

Please don’t think bad of me for not telling them that it’s just a pile of trash, as I always earnestly reassure them, “But the big bad wolf can’t blow our house down because it’s made of bricks!”

Now after I tell them that, I don’t know if the brief silence that follows is a mental sigh of relief or a cognitive attempt to make sense out of all this new reality they are discovering.

Since we live in a rural area, there is a good amount of undeveloped property surrounding our house. Just as any large pile of trash must be the  residual effects from the huffing and puffing of the big bad wolf, any clump of trees is considered to be “the deep, dark woods,” the place where bears and big bad wolves reside.

Kenzie (or Kaleb) pointing at some trees: “Is that the deep dark woods?”

Me: “No that’s just a clump of trees by the road.”

Kenzie (or Kaleb): “Do bears live in the woods?”

Me: “Yes but no bears live around here.”

Kenzie (or Kaleb): “Does the big, bad wolf live in the woods?”

Me: “Yes, but Poppy won’t let the bears and big bad wolf come near our house!”

But I think the following conversation we had one cloudy day proves my point about the thin line between reality and fairytales for the toddlers:

Kenzie: “We don’t eat clouds?”

Me: “No, we don’t eat clouds.”

Kenzie: “They’re yukky?”

Me: “Well, it’s not that they’re yukky, they’re just too high for us to reach.”

Kaleb, who had been listening thought for a moment and then interjected: “We need a beanstalk!”

Once upon a time life was full of bears and wolves living in forests, trolls living under bridges, and clouds that you could climb up to on a beanstalk, and a superhero Poppy that could protect them from any threats to their toddler world.

But soon they will grow up and their belief in their storybook world will pass away and they will find out that their Poppy is no superhero.

Meanwhile, I wish they could remain a little longer in their imaginary world where I could remain as their hero and take care of them and chuckle at their naiveté. But life moves on so quickly and they grow up so fast.

I suppose it is with some reluctance that I must lead them into the reality of the grown-up world. In so doing, I hope I can inspire them to reserve a little bit of their childhood imagination to help them confront some of the tough realities that they will surely encounter along the way to adulthood.

How Did This Happen?

This new sandbox is awesome!

Last week I built a new sandbox for the toddlers. It’s not really that big from a two-dimensional perspective–five feet by five feet. I guess I should have been thinking three dimensionally when I constructed it because it took 25 bags of sand to fill it up.

That’s 25-fifty pound bags of sand. 1,250 pounds of sand!

But it was worth the effort. The toddlers love it and spend hours playing in it.

For several weeks before I constructed the sandbox my left elbow was hurting. It became so painful that it kept me awake at night.

I figured that I’m getting to that age when I’m starting to suffer from grandpa aches and pains! So I made an appointment to go to see the doctor. I went in for my appointment, they took some x-rays, and then the doctor entered the room and gave me his diagnosis. I’m expecting him to say arthritis or bursitis or some other grandpa ailment and he says it’s tennis elbow!

Tennis elbow?

I don’t play tennis. The nearest thing I do to swinging a tennis racket is occasionally swatting Sissy with a wooden spoon when she endeavors to wreak havoc on our household!

The good news is that the doctor said he can cure me. But I had to have a shot in the elbow and I have to wear an arm brace for three weeks, 24/7. Three weeks? 24/7?

How did this happen?

As you can see from the photo, I’m just a little irritated about it because it’s my left arm…and I’m left-handed!

If I had gone to the doctor before building the sandbox, I never would have been able to complete it before summer.

The doctor said he can cure me. Unfortunately, he can’t tell me what caused it so I can prevent it from happening again

But I’ve got to figure out how I developed tennis elbow! How am I going to keep up with the toddlers with one less arm?

So, how did this happen to me?

I’ve got some possible explanations, but as you might expect, they all place the blame with the toddlers (either directly or indirectly). Here’s four possibilities:

1. Building a new sandbox for the toddlers and then filling it with 25 – 50 lb. bags of sand. (But wasn’t it hurting before this?)

2. Lifting toddlers in and out of car seats, bath tubs, and grocery carts and/or scooping up toddlers from frequent stumbles, tumbles, falls, and other missteps (usually includes holding, comforting, and kissing of the wound).

3. Swatting Sissy with a wooden spoon.

4. Spending too much time on the computer typing this blog.

Which one do you think is the most plausible explanation for my incapacitation? (Use the Comments button below this post  to express your opinion and to see other Comments.)

If there’s a consensus then maybe I’ll alter my lifestyle accordingly. If not then I may have to change the by-line of this blog to: Single, One-Armed Grandparent, Two Toddlers, and One Painful Adventure!

Toddler Terminology – Bedtime

Toddlers have a unique and often humorous way of describing certain things. So this post introduces a new feature to this website I am calling Toddler Terminology. Occasionally, I will post a column on Toddler Terminology that identifies some of the interesting and funny terms I hear the toddlers say.

In this post I want to share some terms the toddlers use related to bedtime.

Bedtime (or naptime) is a big deal for toddlers because it requires them to cease talking and/or moving. Although toddlers need lots of sleep, they do everything they can to avoid it!

The following terms will give you a little indication of what the bedtime routine is like around our house.

“Goggy”Noun, refers to a small, brown, silky blanket that is carried everywhere. The toddler can’t possibly take a nap or go to sleep at night without it even though he doesn’t know where it is because it has been carried around everywhere and dropped somewhere. However, it must be found prior to laying down in bed because it is impossible to go to sleep without it. It is usually accompanied by a stuffed Barney toy, hence the question: “Where is my Goggy and Barney?”

Continue reading “Toddler Terminology – Bedtime”