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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: Visiting the Nieces in January 
25th-Jan-2009 02:51 pm
Nieces 2
I've been scooting so much from one thing to another that I haven't jotted down some good times worth remembering. On the 8th, I headed down to Leslie and Jim's for an extended weekend, which included some babysitting duties, which I'm always happy to provide – both so Leslie and Jim can get some time to themselves as well as so I can just enjoy the company of my nieces. This was also my "make-up Christmas," since I had gotten the flu right before Christmas Eve, and therefore ended up missing all my family festivities.

I had to smile that first afternoon, after Grace had gotten home from school and neighbourhood friend Lisa was over, playing with Grace and Haley. After a while Grace kind of checked out into a book, and contented herself reading a story while Lisa and Haley continued to tear around the house. Leslie hinted to Grace that she might want to put the book down and play with Lisa while she was over, and that she was being rude, which, quite frankly, she was. But I remembered doing the same thing at some point when I was a kid, and I was just so tickled with how much Grace was loving reading that I was likely too quick to excuse her. So I complimented her on that, and at a few points then through the stay, I'd just find myself crashed out on the couch with her. She occasionally read aloud some especially funny part of Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying to me, and I told her some of why I was especially liking Follow the Ecstasy: The Hermitage Years of Thomas Merton, which I'm sure she found less interesting.

Friday, when Haley was home from preschool that afternoon, she and I headed out to play in the snow some, and to try to build a fort with which to ambush Grace when she got home. That turned into a staggering failure as the snow wasn't packing well enough to hold together anything larger than a snowball. This, however, was actually perfect for the little girls: they could have all the fun of snowball fights without any of the accidents caused by a too-hard snowball hitting you. The snow packed just enough for a ball to stay together and to (mostly) make a flight through the air to its target. So Haley and I went at it for a bit, although I couldn't convince her that her "snowball maker" was a liability. This thing was a plastic mould that seemed made for just that purpose, like a larger version of a bullet mould for making musket balls in the Revolutionary War. I tried to convince her that the fact that I could make five snowballs by hand – and throw them at her – in the time it took her to make one perfect snowball in her mould meant that she should learn to make snowballs by hand. "This makes snowballs." she explained matter-of-factly, and that ended whatever discussion we might have been having. Haley is often adamant in defending her ideas, regardless of the facts, which boggles my mind as to how that tendency will play out in her classroom learning.

Saturday we went out again, this time with Grace as part of the game, and with snow falling down heavily, in what was, if I remember correctly, a six-inch snowstorm. Leslie took all these outdoor pictures then, watching us through the family room window. Grace was quickly willing to learn how to make a good snowball by hand when I showed her how much faster I could do it, though she clearly liked the perfection of the moulded snowball as well. So I took a little time to show her how to cup her hands correctly in order to pull off the art of the snowball, and then ran around while the two of them ganged up on me in good sisterly fashion.

I occasionally used size to advantage to charge them or drag them around a bit, and there were occasional pauses for activities like snow angel making. Haley capped her snow angel off with a smiley face drawn on it, and then added a halo after I explained what a halo was and why angels usually have them in pictures. They also very much sliding down the slide of the fort and plowing into the snow below, as well as plowing off the snow on the slide itself. The attempt to bombard me from the safety of the fort didn't work out as well, given that I had most of the ammunition down on the ground with me.

Perhaps the funniest thing to me was Haley's habit of crying out "Oh, man!" every time she was hit or her snowball fell uselessly out of her hand or mould and disintegrated on the ground. It was so earnest and so cute at the same time that I couldn't get enough of it, as she was so throwing herself into the game. I loved that she wasn't getting frustrated with the process but only the error of the moment, letting it go and diving straight back into the fun without another thought.

Sophie was super-cute, too, throughout the visit, although on Saturday when Jim and Leslie were out she gave me a meltdown that was unlike anything I'd ever seen – from any of the girls, ever – when I tried to put her to bed. I've had the girls cry, throw fits, all the usual little kid stuff. And I know that, since I'm not a parent, I'm a little more naive about what to take seriously or not, but Sophie's reaction this particular night was as though I were doing something so awful to her that it was the equivalent of every human betrayal possible. Unable to get her to calm down enough for me to do the normal pre-bed routine, I tried putting her straight into the crib and calming her down enough to leave. Instead she clung to me, sobbing so strongly that my left shoulder became wet, and gasping for air in-between sobs, making me feel like I had just dropped her off at a concentration camp. Utter, utter ruin. When I finally caved and decided just to let her stay up a bit longer, she was soon collected and once again happily playing with the picture Memory cards with me and telling me that "Doggie says 'arf! arf!'" After a while, even Grace gave me a disapproving comment that Sophie was up too late, and I once again tried to put her down with similar results. Finally, remembering a tactic Mom had tried the day before when Sophie was fussing with her nap, I put her down in Mommy and Daddy's bed for about ten minutes, by which she had almost dropped off when I moved her back to her crib with only a minimum of protest on her part. By the time I got out the door, I felt like I'd been through the proverbial wringer; my stomach still knots up just remembering how awful she sounded. Mike got played.

Otherwise, things were normal and low-key. I got to visit with Mom quite a bit, too, as part of making up for my Christmas absence, although Dad's travel got snowed out by the Saturday storm, and so that was a disappointment. The girls reacted as well as I had hoped with the children's encyclopedia One Million Things that I gave them, and I had a few sessions of page-turning, picture-looking and explaining with them. Haley was particularly interested in finding out what the Earth looked like underneath the surface and about volcanoes, although the sheer existence of those latter especially seemed to worry the easily-concerned Grace. Both Haley and Grace seemed quite interested in other planets, and so I think they might find some astronomy or space-travel material as interesting as I thought it when I was a kid. Haley cracked me up when she shouted out "All Star!" when the Smash Mouth music video for that song came on the television, which Jim had left on to MTV. The song was one I'd included on the Grace Fun Mix. Later on, Brittney Spears came on – after which the TV went right off – and the girls further cracked me up by making comments among themselves that they found the girl rather strange and disturbing. Here's hoping they stay independent throughout their school years!
Comments 
26th-Jan-2009 12:48 am (UTC)
Yay for the nieces! I like your stories about them. They're lucky to be building such great memories with you!

And I'm sorry for your pain, truly, but the story about Sophie vs. bedtime made me laugh. And laugh. Just think, you'll be that much better prepared for parenthood.
26th-Jan-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Laugh away. :-) No, I know it's par for the course, but really: it was the most horrific toddler-scream ever.
26th-Jan-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I ordered a used copy of Follow the Ecstacy today as per the comment in your journal. I had the wonderful experience of spending some time in
Merton's Hermitage a couple of years ago.
28th-Jan-2009 01:33 am (UTC)
It's particularly of interest, I think, in being by someone who was a reasonable close friend of Merton's.

Huh. That sounds like an interesting opportunity. I've never been inside the Hermitage. I've walked around outside, after Fr. Chrysogonus gave us such detailed instructions on where not to go walking – because he couldn't show us the place since there was a monk on retreat there – that it was virtually an obligation to go look around.
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