Vacation to welcome Henry

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. And that’s exactly what this grandma did the week our fourth grandson made his appearance. I had plenty of ways to occupy the five-year-old granddaughter and two-year-old grandson with the guarantee of no parents around.

For one thing, I really wanted to try a dish for dinner that someone had posted on Facebook. Little brother and I cut up a hot dog, opened a box of spaghetti and poked the dried spaghetti sticks through the disks of dog. As he poked at his meaty chunk, the fragile stick broke, “That’s okay,” he assured me and picked up another wand of spaghetti.

Once we had 10 or 12 strands sprouting out like whiskers from the bites of hot dog, I dropped them into boiling water. In about five minutes it looked more like a squid, but the child relished his meal of pasta and hot dogs. Later, big sister and grandpa found it just as fun to make and eat their own squid dogs at the counter.

The day the sky dropped its clouds around us, I snapped shots of Grandpa on his hands and knees cleaning the floor while first one then the other of the grandchildren grabbed his belt, stood on his legs and straddled his back for a free horsey ride. He put his head down so that they slid off and onto the floor. He stood up and they landed on their feet. He rocked back and forth to buck them off but the two little cowboys insisted on snatching a ride the minute he bent over again.

The counter served as our meeting place the day we found a bag of Play-doh with an assortment of plastic molds and machines. Grandpa spent an hour or more helping the children extrude the globs of dough and cut out cookie shapes. Big sister importantly announced to her little brother, “I know how to make a snake. Watch me,” as she began rolling the dough back and forth, spreading it out into a long rope.

We read books from the library, watched Beginner’s Bible stories on YouTube, explored the backyard, had tea parties for our afternoon snack and, when the weather dried the streets, we pulled out the little electric cars I had found at a yard sale and took them for a spin.

At first the oldest said, “stay with me” as she nervously worked at steering the little car in a circle. But soon, she broke free and repeatedly tried to drive up and over the bit of snow forming a tiny hill. She understood how the steering wheel worked. Her brother did not. He yanked it back and forth without regard for where it took him. Keeping him safe, I grabbed the wheel, the car, the bumper, the windshield – whatever was handy – and re-directed him back to the path.

In between times of play, we all paid homage to the tiny little person with golden hair that my son and his wife brought home from the hospital. The little feller stretched and yawned, stared at us with bleary eyes, grimacing at our looming faces. We wedged his brother and sister into the corner of the couch and sat close by while they held this fragile little person who ignored the fuss and snuggled cozily in anyone’s arms to sleep away the morning or the afternoon, but not the night.

As I held this tiny person, I watched the older children play, eat, shed their coats and shoes like unwanted skin. And I realized how quickly he too would be joining them. Children grow so quickly. Now is the time to sit down and simply enjoy them and discover their personalities. Which I did. And sometimes while I was there I also washed and folded a few baskets of clothes, made a few meals, picked up toys and did dishes, but believe me, compared to my usual routine, helping the family with the 17th grandchild was a great vacation.