Humming a little Kenny Rogers…taking a few deep breaths and lightening the load

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Jay was “in the dirt,” recovering from hand surgery. He’s been home for about a month with increasingly good medical reports…back to work in early May. Our daily rhythms have been further stretched a bit again this week. We had our agenda of responsibilities all in order to support a week-long change in Aimee’s nursing schedule…It does take a village to care for two preschoolers when Mom’s employment requires one extraordinary week of classes complete with travel to multiple sites all over the southland!

Let me just add an aside right here! To those of you who write and maintain a regular blogging schedule—especially those of you with young families and to some with  menageries requiring as much oversight as children—you have my admiration! I have NOT found it possible to keep up. Instead I have been humming Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler! “You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away and know when to run…”

I’m not running, but I folded! Clearly I do have limits…and clearly we are intended to have our children when we are young! Part of maintaining my personal well-being and not risking accident or illness is respecting the fact that I’m not endowed with unlimited energy. When the children are going to run ahead and potentially get into danger we loudly call, “Stop your body!” Me, too!

Of course when we’re stretched a little thin there is also some inevitable law of the universe that additional urgent matters will poke up like weeds. We received the always lovely phone call that fraudulent credit card activity was detected. So close out one account and cancel any automatic payments…you know the drill. Then the mail came and another credit card was also compromised. Oh goody! More time on the phone with forensic bookkeeping. Didn’t we just finish taxes last week? Even Kramer, the cockatiel, ate a rebate check.

I declared on my last birthday that I was going to forego multitasking. I would rather give it up voluntarily than admit I don’t do it very well any more.

So when I’m caring for my precious granddaughters, they do get my full attention. I would like to say that my supremely attentive presence is because I’m such a fabulous caregiver, but at least a part of it is that if I don’t pay a lot of attention, I can’t keep up! They are smart little cookies, and they ask a lot of questions encouraging in-depth and inquisitive dialogue.

An example…

We were on a walk leaving Starbucks and headed to the park. As we neared the park Sophia suddenly blurted in a clearly disgusted tone, “How RUDE!” I didn’t react too quickly so she repeated the declaration and by then Karina was in on it, too. We stopped as they both showed me the evidence of someone’s “rudeness”—Starbucks cups and other trash littering a narrow ravine just off the main street. They explained to me how littering is someone being lazy and inconsiderate –not polite– to other people. We then, of course, also talked about the storm drains that were right next to where we were walking. One of their favorite destinations is the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, so these girls already understand the ecological implications of litter in storm drains.

How hard is it to throw away a cup and straw? Even preschoolers know better! How RUDE!

I hope the offending litter-bug learned something about styrofoam and its offending properties with Earth Day awareness, don't you?

So here was just one of many conversations with Nan pulling out the best of her ocean ecology expertise, discussion concerning the impact of marine debris on fish and mammals, and in preschool terms, what it means to be a good citizen, which includes using a trash receptacle. That’s quite a conversation as you walk with an almost three-year old and her four-year-old-going-on-eight sister.

Then the conversation veered to the dead skunk they spied in the ravine. Naturally they noticed that!  Now I must admit I was a little fascinated here, too…repulsed, but fascinated. You don’t often see one just “asleep” and not on the side of the road! As a former early childhood educator I do like to seize upon these moments for a little vocabulary building and a bit of animal science. However, this also reminded me of the time a four-year-old child brought a shoe box with a dead bird into my classroom for share time–his mother thought this was a good “teaching moment” and I nearly lost it!

This skunk was clearly dead, but did actually look just like a sleeping pet!   I deny them little, but I do have limits, and the answer was a resounding, “No, we’re not going to get close to it.” We could look from a bit of distance.  So for the next few minutes I fielded the usual questions. “How did it die?”  I don’t know. “Are we sure it’s dead?”  Yes, a live skunk wouldn’t be taking a nap in the hot sun. “Isn’t a skunk nocturnal?” Yes, it is, that’s why we know this one isn’t sleeping in the sun. And then the best question of all, “Does a skunk die when it sprays like a honey bee dies when it stings?” What a good question!

I’m telling you! I have to stay alert to keep up! And to those of you who keep up every day? I don’t know how you do it. I’m tired. Delighted and happy and content and grateful…but tired!

It’s midweek. How ARE you doing? If you’re feeling a little stretched, maybe a little ragged around the edges, you may also need to recalculate your needs, realign efforts and see what duties–sometimes perceived responsibilities more than urgencies–might be jettisoned! By all means, do lighten your load!

And you can thank me for not including a picture of the skunk. It occurred to me, but then I remembered how I felt with that dead bird! Really! Who does that?

Just trying to keep up, Debra

39 thoughts on “Humming a little Kenny Rogers…taking a few deep breaths and lightening the load

  1. What smart girls, I love their question about the skunk being like a bee. :) And I must wholeheartedly agree, rude indeed! I can’t stand people who throw litter around like that!

    • I think sometimes grandmothers get away with bragging a little bit more than moms do, Eve…I think my little gals are delightfully inquisitive, and I love to share stories about them. Thank you for responding! I have a hard time with the questions about “why” people throw trash on the ground. I have to be a little careful about how I really feel! :-) Debra

  2. Did you all pick up the litter? To be honest, I used to when I was younger…and there was less of it. I still do occasionally. But not all the time like I used to. Getting old and stiff. Those girls are precious! I love conversations with kids who think and ask questions. When I was a kid I would have been right down there looking at the dead skunk. ;)

    • I think the girls would have enjoyed a closer view of the skunk, Rita, but I’m the squeamish one :-) I don’t like to have them picking up litter, just because you never know what else might be around it…people can be so completely thoughtless. But there are some beach clean-up days I’ve thought they are almost old enough to participate in, and that might be good for us all. I think we’re mostly working on awareness! Getting old and stiff is no fun, is it!! Debra

    • Thank you, Sharyn. They are so deightful, and even at their very “worst” behavior they make me chuckle! They are very sensitive about what is right and wrong right now, and they really do seem to care about taking care of things, not wasting and being responsible not to leave a mess somewhere else! I hope we can build on this enthusiasm and not lose it as they get older! Debra

  3. those wee ones are so smart! Excellent post Debra. I am feeling a bit ragged at this point too. My mom is going through a health crisis back in OH. I may have to send my son to help her as I cannot hang on to my job and go there. even if i could take time off work, i cannot lift and carry her. don’t know if my son and his Lupus are up to the challenge. but she adamantly refuses to go to the rehab facility. the hospital thinks that is where she needs to go for wound care and PT. sigh. prayers needed!

    • I am so sorry to hear about your mom and the challenge of being with her in a health crisis! That must indeed truly tug on your heart, Kate. Ohio is a long way from you, isn’t it! And then I do understand the concerns you’d have about your son going, and perhaps compromising his own health! Prayers indeed! These are those times when we know we just don’t have a way to figure it out on our own…we need a pathway to open. Thank you for sharing this need with me…I will remember your concerns in my prayers! Debra

  4. Good to hear that, at so young an age, your girls feel so strongly about littering. There’s sill hope for Mother Earth! And what a great question about the causes of death for the skunk and honey bee. These two will keep you on your toes, Debra! :)

    • You know, John, I think the little ones are getting a really early start in education about the need to be conscientious and careful with Mother Earth! There are messages in their little shows, definitely in their preschool classroom, books, and then mom and dad and grandparents are all attempting to build on their natural concern for animals and living things. I sure do hope to reinforce the idea that we don’t need to use everything up–I hope they’ll be resourceful and connected to conservation at all levels. I can hope! :-) Debra

  5. Nothing so FUN
    As a walk in the SUN
    Escorted by a couple of WEE ONES!

    Loved it, Debra.

    When I’m with my nieces and nephews . . . they get my undivided attention as well. That way you don’t miss all the magical moments!

    • Thanks so much, Nancy. I think that giving the little ones our undivided attention is relaxing to adults, too…focus on them crowds out so many other matters that drain energy! It’s also quite a gift to them, since parents really can’t possibly focus ALL their attention on the children. Parents have the hard job…grandparents, aunt and uncles can lift them up and just support. I like that position at this stage of my life :-) Debra

  6. Debra, here’s a little zap of extra energy in the form of a hug. Glad to hear Jay’s hand is on the mend. And, I LOVE the wacky questions kids come up with. They are so, so funny.

  7. I can’t believe someone let a child bring a dead bird to school. That would seriously freak my kids out. Not that they aren’t aware of death, but still….that’s a little creepy. And I could use a little of your advice to slow down. It’s been a bit wild lately and definitely a time I need to take a step back a bit. Like you said, the kids require full attention (and deserve it). :) And you are such a fun Grandma! You totally remind me of my mom – a former early childhood educator too. :)

    • It’s hard to believe about the bird, isn’t it, Kristy? We were talking about it tonight and beyond the fact that it would have been so upsetting to the children (and it was to me) there are germs and perhaps little mites that could have been present! This mom was highly educated and simply didn’t say no to her son very often! I had to stand my ground, and then, of course, mom turned to her child and explained that it was my decision, leaving me with a disappointed four-year old. I’m sure your mom has lots of “odd” stories collected from working with preschool parents :-) I hope you can find a way to slow down even if it’s just in tiny patches, Kristy. Your little ones are growing up so fast, and I’m sure they help you spend lots of energy every day! You need to replenish it, even if it’s just letting go of one or two small expectations. I usually find the hardest part of slowing down is just deciding that I need to do it. Rest is good!! Debra

  8. Yes, littering is not good, especially when it’s so easy for us to put it in a bin. You are a wonderful grandmother and your grandchildren are blessed to have you. So many children have no contact with their grandparents which I believe, it tragic. It’s busy, but enjoy the time you have with them xx

    • Thank you, Charlie. I was very, very close to both of my grandmothers, and I just can’t imagine the loss to either the child or the grandparent if there isn’t some good quality time spent together. I know they are my gift…they give me a good reason to take good care of myself :-) Debra

  9. Three cheers for the little ones, their precious hearts and their inquisitive minds! Debra, you are a GOOD grandmother for taking the time to teach and enjoy your young tator tots. My grandma invested heavily in me, and I’m such an amazing person because of her love. :-)

    • I love “tater tots,” Natalie. That’s cute! I think the word you use about your own grandmother, “invested,” is perfect. It is an investment. No matter how stretched things get for us we are very aware that we won’t always be here, so we take full advantage of however long we do have. I’ve set a very high bar for myself…I plan to be here a long time :-) Debra

  10. Concentrating on the granddaughters and not getting caught up in the multi-tasking world is more than commendable – it’s the right thing to do. .. .and I love the line about the universe of urgent matters poking up like weeds. Outstanding.

    Glad to hear Jay’s recovery is progressing!

    By the way, show this to your granddaughters: http://tinyurl.com/6q832j6

  11. Every walk, however humble, provides so many teaching opportunities, doesn’t it, Debra!

    I’m sitting here with Al, mustering energy to walk out of the door for a walk. And all I really want to do is sleep. But the rewards, once we get out, will be out of this world :-)

    • I think Al and Sophia would be great friends! They are both so curious! And you’re right about the energies…once we get going it’s okay. It’s before the caffeine kicks in that I falter :-) Debra

  12. Debra, I know exactly how you feel about the trash! I too feel the same way! I recently moved out to the boonies as yo may know and there is so much trash out here, the city doesn’t have an active “trash pick up” organization. I’m looking into starting one out here. It’s said that people don’t care about the earth they live on…

    • Jen, it’s just everywhere, I think! I don’t understand why littering is ever an option! I suppose that I’m a little naive when I say that don’t we all want to have a clean environment…just like we want our homes to ultimately reflect order and good hygiene. Apparently not, but we can only do our part. Maybe you can get something started as a real grassroots effort. It’s a good way to meet with others and combine your workload! I think it’s Thailand where people are “caned” for littering. I’m not sure that’s a good thing either, but I admit that when I first heard it I thought we could be a little more punitive! :-) Debra

  13. You got me on a morning after a day that I truly felt I needed to lighten my load, Debra. What cute and inquisitive darlings Sophia and Karina are. I can’t wait, then think, yes I can, for Kezzie to get into the “why” stage. In reading this, an endearing picture of Queen Elizabeth came to mind. It was one of the princes’ weddings. Prince Andrew, I think. As the carriage was pulling away, one of the toddlers started to run toward it, in harm’s way, and there was the queen, all decked out in wedding finery, running after him, grabbing his hand, like any good granny would do.

    Now, about all that rude stuff . . .

    • Busy people, even with happy, rewarding activity, occasionally need to reassess. I get so busy sometimes I can’t seem to do even a good check on how well I think I’m doing! But when I feel exhausted, that is my early warning signal! We are up against the weekend…maybe we can both recharge our batteries, Penny. What a darling story about the Queen! I can just picture that occasion. From the biography that I recently finished I really did walk away with the idea that she is a caring mother and grandmother…I wish I could have seen that moment! Debra

  14. I love kids and the way they think! They really DO say the darndest things! I have several friends who tell me stories of their kids and things they say, how innocent and funny they are! They are such a blessing and a joy. I’m so glad you get to spend such wonderful times with them, they will never forget their time with you. :)

  15. I don’t know who does that?? I’m just glad it wasn’t you posting a dead skunk! It is the greatest challenge of my day finding time to read everyone’s blogs.. I don’t always get each and every one.. but I do my best, I really enjoy reading what people are up to. When I’m stretched thin, I tend to blog less often.. it allows me a little moment of calm in all of this:) I hope you feel better soon!! xoxo Smidge

  16. Thank you for keeping photos of dead skunks off your blog :) I love questions from kids they are so literal and direct, but they definietly keep you on your toes!
    as you know we came back home last week, and this week has been all about juggling. So it’s nice to take a few moments to pop in on friends and catch up with their weeks too :)

  17. I can sort of imagine how exhausted you must be from the constant inquisitive little one’s questions and needs because I just had my grown up daughter and her dear one staying with us for a week and I’m exhausted from their visit! I had lots of fun mind you – I can’t remember the last time I went to Malibu three times in one week (plus on Monday we saw sea lions and whales on the beach opposite Malibu SeaFood!) – but ….

    I cannot imagine what kind of parent would think sending a dead bird to school is educational! Oh man!

    • Yes, if you’ve enjoyed a full week of family..you DO know! It’s wonderful, and we wouldn’t change a thing, would we? But I think being on the go for days at a time is very tiring! Fun, but tiring! How great that you had a whale sighting! That must have been exciting. I’d say have a good weekend, Rosie, but maybe I need to wish you a quiet and restful time, huh? :-) Debra

  18. Been there, done that and still have the scars, Debra. :-) My three grandsons are a bit older, so not quite such hard work, but I still have to be alert and ready to answer some interesting questions which lead to even more interesting conversations. The older two will be with us for a week for their half-term break in early June and then we ‘ll have the youngest for a week in the summer while we’re in France. It all helps to keep me active….

    • I am glad to learn just a little bit more about your family, Perpetua. I’m sure you will really enjoy having grandson time! I always say that the girls give me a good reason to take good care of myself. Grandchildren are a wonderful gift, aren’t they? Debra

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