It’s Grand

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I saw her and fell hard. A take your breath away, knock your socks off, heart-melting kind of fall. All of that and more. The grandbaby. The anxiously awaited for tiny girl that is a part of me, but not of me arrived almost 2 months ago.

How to explain these feelings without sounding like a sappy goose has been a challenge, but to say that I was not prepared for their intensity would be an understatement. Being taken out at the knees by a small toddler has been my go-to visual. Sure, I expected to love this baby, but the WOW, I LOVE THIS BABY, not anticipated.

I have given birth twice, first to the mother of this new baby, and I love both of my children fiercely. A mother’s love, though, comes fraught with so much baggage. The pressures, the responsibilities, the helplessness that a new mother feels can permeate that intense love and rob a new mom (and dad) of the pure pleasure of their child. Those blood curdling screams that come from such a tiny thing worm their way into an exhausted parent’s whole being leaving them at wit’s end. Day after day, night after night; when will the screaming end?

But this grandmother love? This grandmother love is something different. Pure pleasure, maybe, without the baggage?

When I went home after Margot was born, I wallowed around in my empty nest, wanting desperately to be with the new little family, and share all my immense wisdom. Hah! The hard fact is her parents will have to figure out much of the care and feeding of this tiny human on their own. Living 600 miles apart is hard for me, but that can be accepted and worked around. When your kids grow up, you don’t get to make decisions like where to live anymore. If only.

I have just returned from a second visit to the sweet little miracle. This time felt different. Having adjusted to her existence, knowing that all was well with everyone, I settled in, wanting to help, but also simply observing. I did insist on a date night for the new mom and dad, but probably more for my own selfish “Mimi time with Margot” than for the good of their relationship. During my babysitting time, I contradicted my advice to my daughter to put the baby down every now and then and get some stuff done (sorry, attachment parenters), but my minutes with her were limited and I wanted to make the most of them.

On the last night of my short visit, I was in charge of bedtime. I rocked Margot in the semi-darkness as she wailed. No bouncing, no shushing, just listening to the instrumental Disney songs, and waiting out her distress, that “there’s no reason for it” distress that can drive parents crazy; and she calmed, going from wail to whimper to quiet. As I set her in her crib (apparently the wrong way around because her sweet little face could not be seen on the video streaming to mom and dad’s iPhones), it hit me.

Show, don’t tell. Not only useful writing advice, but a significant life lesson that I, of sometimes many, many words, need to practice often.

Grandmother’s love, wow! I see my own babies’ faces in this new baby, but without all that new parent baggage. I soak in the cries and smiles, the coos, burps and the hiccups; perhaps because I know how fast babies change and, before you know it, they have a baby of their own.

I’m looking forward to my next visit in a few short weeks, and I will soak in her newness all over again.

Painting Lessons on Craftsy

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Still no creative writing happening, but I am working on my painting. About that. My painting skills are mostly self taught. One avenue of learning is always now the internet and youtube, but have you heard of craftsy.com? I have taken several of the painting courses, and the best, by far, has been Acrylic Color Mixing Made Easy.

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Up until this course, my ability to get just the color I wanted was hit and miss. And I could never successfully duplicate a color if I didn’t want to finish a painting all in one day. Carol McIntyre teaches this course, and I learned so much about the primaries, secondaries, color bias, etc, and made charts that will be useful going forward.

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If you love to craft, there are all kinds of online classes that will let you get your creative on, and you can watch the videos over and over. What a deal!

And if you happen to paint, I would highly recommend this class. The pictures are projects painted for the class.

Book Commentary: Little Women

While my personal original writing creativity is at a low point, I haven’t neglected my movie watching or my reading from the book list. A note about the book list… like most of the “must read before you die” lists, this one is arbitrary. It includes books for children, young adults, and adults and span the centuries regarding publication dates. Are they relevant? Why should we read books that were written a hundred years ago? Why do we read fiction at all?

Admittedly, I don’t have answers other than to say that I love reading. I love immersing myself in other times and places and pulling out what is relevant to me today. Isn’t it all about the human condition and our common humanity?

LittleWomen7With that introduction, I recently finished Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is a book that I thought I might have read, but turns out I had not. I could, on trivia night, name the 4 March sisters, but that doesn’t really count. So, quickly, what’s it about?

Coming of age novel Little Women tells the story of 4 sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, beginning during the Civil War when they are 12-16 years old, until they are married young women. The sisters have very distinct personalities, and their lives embody the themes of work, ambition, obligation to family and love. As a writer herself, Miss Alcott presented these young women in a pro-feminist light, extolling the virtues of hard work and contributing to family and society. Still, marriage was the end game.

I enjoyed how each girl explored her identity as she grew older, and how self-aware they were, especially Jo. The girls were allowed and even encouraged to feel their feelings, and to share them.  Jo, the second to the oldest sister and a favorite character to women around the world, confesses how she struggles to control her anger, and Mrs. March gives an excellent and relevant anger management lesson.

You don’t know, you can’t guess how bad it is! It seems as if I could do anything when I’m in a passion. I get so savage I could hurt anyone and enjoy it. … [Jo]

You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it. [Mrs. March, p. 106, chapter 8]

This is a long novel but eminently readable with many (mostly) short chapters. I would challenge you to read it with an eye to both how different life is for women today, and also how similar.

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On a scale of 1 (the negative end) to 5 (it depends) to 10 (the positive end), my conclusion about Little Women:

Readable: 10

Enjoyable: 8

Does it deserve to be on “must read” reading lists: 10

Am I glad I read it: 10

Would I read it again: 5 (maybe)

Would I recommend it: 10

Score: 8.8

Book Bingo: Read a book featuring Strong Familial Relationships

The Sleeping Baby

Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping baby? Case in point:

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As new parents, sleeping is what you hear you will miss the most, that you will dream of your baby sleeping at night — ALL night. As a new grandmother, I am contractually obligated to offer up advice to the new parents which they can then ignore, because what do I know?!

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article in their Personal Journal section on Sleep Training. I’m sharing this with my daughter and son-in-law with the disclaimer that the opinions in the article and video may not be mine. Watch the video below for the gist of the article.

Parents have  wanted their infants to sleep through the night ever since the first cave tot middle of the night wake-ups revealed the family cave to the saber tooth tiger pack. In more recent history, Roland and I, too, wanted our precious babes to sleep through the night sooner rather than later, and grandmothers gave advice. Another disclaimer: I don’t remember if my mom or MIL gave us any specific sleep advice. At the time, though, I do remember talk around the playground about just how to accomplish this much desired goal.

They call it sleep training now (I guess along the lines of potty training). We didn’t call it that, but there was talk about letting your baby cry it out. Do you or don’t you. We didn’t. That’s my story. Laura, according to her baby book, slept through the night at 7 weeks! Woohoo! First kids do like to show off, don’t they?!

According to his baby book, Kyle slept through the night at 3 months. I must have written it down on the first night he did it, and then it didn’t happen again for 12 years. Well, maybe not 12 years, but Kyle was often sick with ear infections or bronchitus or asthma or something and I remember a lot of sleepless nights. I suspect we might have let him cry it out on a night or two.

Mostly, though, I remember trying the cry it out technique with naps. And 10 minutes was my limit, so I guess that “cry it out” is not entirely accurate. The idea was, after 10 minutes you check on the baby to let them know that you have not abandoned them. There is no picking up, just a rub on the back or the head, some soft assurances, and then you sneak back out, and start the 10 minute thing over again.

Parenthood is not very efficient.

There isn’t a right way, no one size fits all. There’s the way that you, as a parent, feel most comfortable with. At the end of the day, eventually, hopefully, everyone sleeps.