“Mommy, be my safe”

IMG-1434When my eldest was around 3 years old, she began to express her fears or concerns with her own original phrase that I thought was just precious.

When we found ourselves in situations where there appeared to be a cause for concern, she would nestle her tiny little body up close to mine and quietly say, “Mommy, be my safe.”  She meant, protect me and shelter me until the threat has passed.  It could be stormy weather or a creepy noise, or that stranger in the grocery store who got a little too close for comfort.

Whatever the peril, she trusted that I would save her from it.  Wrapped around mommy’s legs, with one sticky little hand in mine, she could be at peace.

Yesterday afternoon as the sky darkened, it started to thunder and the wind was bending the tree branches and lightning cracked across the sky.  We went from sunshine to eerie skies, with the promise of a good storm.  My youngest granddaughter came over to me and buried her little head in my lap and then looked up with her big blue eyes and said, “Nana, what noise?”  She’s always said that when she hears a noise that upsets her.  We have always speculated that all the time spent in the NICU and the strange noises might have affected her in some way, so we are always quick to reassure her that all is well.

Her cuteness reminded me of my daughter’s cuteness years before and I smiled thinking of the all the times that we have cried out for help from our Father.   What do our cries for help sound like to Him?  Are there times He thinks we are “cute”?  Do our petitions ever bring a smile to His face because of the way we phrase them?  I think so.

The storms of life roll through without warning, we are exposed to traumatic things all day on whatever type of media we choose, there is so much noise.  Noise, by definition,  is “a sound that is loud or unpleasant that causes a disturbance”.  Yes, there is much noise in our world.

Thankfully, like my daughter and granddaughter, I have a safe haven, a place where I can run to find peace and comfort.  I can cry out to God, “What noise?!?!”  As He stills and comforts my spirit with His still small voice, I can lean in and say, “Be my safe.”  And, He will, every time.

Thoughts on a summer day

Feet planted in a little green pool painted to resemble a watermelon, I’m thankful for the cool water while sitting on a scorching hot back deck.  I silently wonder how long my feet will be safe from toddler pee or if they have already been contaminated.  Considering I just polished off a blackberry after she licked it and offered it to me, I suppose I will live.IMG-1718

The cardinal showing off his vivid red coat on the fence post looks as if he would love to join Cali in the little pool for a midday bath, but he is staying out of reach.  Smart guy because I am positive he would get more than he bargained for.

Cali, sitting in the shade of her umbrella, is oblivious to the cardinal and seemingly to the heat as well as she munches on blackberries and strawberries and repeatedly dumps water from one bucket to another while singing bits and pieces of “head, shoulders knees and toes”.

I am thankful for my day out shopping, the mani-pedi and a long lunch with two of my favorite people.  I was anxious to get home and babysit this little rascal though tonight after my errands were complete.  With Cali and her mommy living back at home, that means I am the primary baby sitter when Morgan works.  Sometimes, Nana gets a little tired.

We were empty-nesters for a couple of years and I got quite used to my free time.  Time to read or write for hours without interruption.  Time to take a long nap on a Saturday without a little munchkin banging on my door.   Yes, there are times I long for more solitude.

At these times, however, God always reminds me of my prayers to Him when we didn’t know if Cali would make it.  Those long drives to and from Miami filled with fears and tears and prayer.  The months in ICU, the surgery days, the ups and downs.

I’m reminded once again that life is a journey.  We travel through seasons with all kinds of weather.  The seasons will never cease, but we can learn to face them with His strength and grace.  He is our great Help and Comforter.

It is how we handle the journey, it’s our attitude while we walk it out, it’s our abiding in His sweet vine.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the next big milestone is the destination, that once that “thing” happens you will forever by happy or you will have finally made it.  There is always something (good and bad) around the corner as long as we walk this earth.  If you acknowledge this, it makes the unknowns a little less intimidating.

Take joy in moments, learn to find the lessons in the trails, look for God’s plan in the middle of your messes, be grateful and find your peace and rest in Him.

Blessings,

Lisa

Simmering pots and changing views

food-pot-kitchen-cooking.jpg“Up, up”, cried the curly blonde headed toddler as I stirred the big simmering pot of lima beans.  The scent of supper hung in the air, tempting me to perform yet another taste test.  My pallet satisfied, I turned to put away the remains of the ham I has used to season my savory soup.

I felt a tug on the leg of my blue jeans, prompting a downward glance at a vision resembling my youngest 20 years ago.

The practical, get-things-done side of me almost said, “Go play, sweetie”, but the Nana in me bursting with love for this little angel, took one look in those blue eyes filled with curiosity and I picked her up and positioned her on my hip instead.

She was fascinated by the steam coming off the pot and pointed toward it, exclaiming “Hot, hot!”.  Right on the heels of “hot, hot”, was “eat, eat”.  I guess she repeats things to make sure she gets her point across.  God does that with me.

As I held her, allowing her to touch the cool, granite counter, hold a round, ripe grapefruit and smell it’s clean citrus scent she smiled.  I gave her a taste from a small spoon, after she and I “blew it” to cool it off, and I was reminded of something.

While she stood on the kitchen floor, hearing the sounds of lids banging, water boiling, the chopping of onions, she couldn’t see any of it.  She could smell something that awakened her hunger, but she couldn’t dig in, she heard noises but she couldn’t identify their source.  From her line of vision, her viewpoint, her perspective, things were unclear, possibly a bit confusing, maybe even a little scary or unsettling at times.  Only when Nana picked her up and began explaining things, did it start to make sense.  At her age, and with her limited knowledge, things still aren’t 100% clear, but at least she got a glimpse.

Another spiritual lesson or reminder for me in the everyday things!  We can’t see the whole picture yet, the goodness God has prepared for us continues to unfold, but often from our perspective we can’t understand.  At times, our lines of vision is obstructed or clouded by unbelief.  Since His ways are not our ways, we can’t fathom His plan.

As we lean into the Father, tug on Him and say “up, up”, we begin to get a least a glimpse.  And because of His unconditional, passionate love toward us, even if we don’t understand 100%, we have peace in knowing we are in good hands.  The more we seek Him, the more we find Him.  The more we eat, the hungrier we become.

Let His word and His love change your perspective today.

The love in the No-nos

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As Nana instead of mama, I can get tickled when my almost two year old granddaughter is testing my daughter.  I have earned that right but I am wise enough to hide my laughter.  My cousin’s wife has termed it being “rascally” when she starts acting like a little stinker.  This usually happens when she is fighting sleep, but lately with the two’s looming in the near future, it happens more often.

She will go up to something she knows she isn’t allowed to touch and get her finger as close to it as she possibly can and look at you, studying your response.   There is a snowman dish that captivates her, but she knows she can only look at the “no-man”, not touch.   The other day, she touched it and took off running.

She is trying to see how far she can push before it’s too far.  What can I really get away with?  Will this really hurt me, or is mom just saying that?  What happens if I touch the forbidden?  She runs full speed ahead trying to taste, touch and see everything as fast as her little legs will carry her.  When she knows she has committed a “no-no”, she will swing those golden curls back, look at you and swat her own little behind, all with a smile on her face.

She knows exactly what she is doing, yet there is something in her that rebels.  She doesn’t always just listen and obey.  At times, she has to learn the hard way.

This morning, I was contemplating sin and temptations and how long suffering God is with us.  I am a firm believer that Jesus died for my sins, but I also believe when I committ them, I need to repent.  Daily I pray that God will search my heart and help me to live a holy, committed life for His glory.

I thought about my granddaughter’s behavior and it reminded me so much of us as God’s children.  Oh, how He loves us!

How often do we run through life anxious to see it all and do it all, and we wander too close to the things that God knows might cause us harm?  He warns us, yet sometimes we fail to heed the Father’s voice.  That seemingly harmless conversation we are being lured into might cause us pain later.  A still small voice whispers, “no-no” but we ignore the plea and carry on, like a toddler running with scissors.

Thankfully, when we fall, He is there to pick us up.  He willingly forgives the offense and loves the hurt away if we let Him.  If we are smart, for our part, we will repent and learn something and we don’t have to repeat that lesson over again. We aren’t toddlers trying to figure out who is in charge.  We do already know that God wants the best for us, and that His plan for us is perfect!  Why do we question that?  If He keeps something from us, it will always be for our benefit.  If He changes our direction, it’s to keep us on the best path.

His banner over me is love.  Maybe we can remember that the next time the spirit of God is dealing with us about something.  His no is always shrouded in love, just like ours are with our children.   It always means, I know a better way or I want a better outcome for you.  It means, I love you.  Trust that love.

 

New Orleans Facts and Monkey-business

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“Nana, she wants my grits!”

As I relax for a while this afternoon and relive events from the past 24 hours, I am reminded of how quickly time passes and how seasons change when we aren’t looking.  We are continually depositing memories into our life account.  When we are older and have more time to ourselves, may we all have a vast sum to draw from.

Last night this nana decided there would be a sleepover with both of my granddaughters.  My 7 yr old Ayda, who is on spring break from NC and my little local Cali, who celebrated her 1st last week.  Ayda was staying with Nana anyway and Cali’s mommy was at the point of sleep deprivation where I thought it best to intervene and give her a break.

As I knew it would be, the night was long, yet too short and both glorious and exhausting and that’s okay.  Such is life.

Our little one was nicknamed monkey-butt while still serving her time in the NICU.  This was due to her inclination towards wrapping her tiny little toes around the hospital bed bars and hanging on.  Last night, her antics were better described as monkey-business.  First she doggedly pursued her elder cousin determined to share her bowl of cheese grits.  Ayda was very patient and kind and actually enjoyed her “big cousin” role as Cali crawled after her like the energizer bunny and repeatedly stuck her fingers in the bowl.  Yes, I could have made Ayda go to the table, but what would be the fun in that?   It was an after dinner snack.

Next they played with a stiff, stuffed cat with a leash that meowed incessantly.  I honesty tried to let it go on, but the noise unfortunately wasn’t falling on deaf ears and I could only suffer for so long.  That kind of toy is supposed to be what I buy to send home with them, not the other way around.  Following my interruption of the cat game, they began to play with plastic eggs.  Ayda would roll one and Cali would chase after it only to have it slip from her slobbery little fingers so she could chase it again.  We got a few laughs out of that.

Later, Miss Cali persevered and achieved a record for her latest night ever.  She managed to keep Nana and Papa awake until after 10 pm, a first for her.  Her mommy usually has her in bed well before 7 so we aren’t sure what provoked the late night.  The way she kept eyeballing the front door, I suspect she was waiting for mommy and daddy.  Ayda snuggled up with a blanket on the couch and gave up around 9, probably tired of the tiny ones shenanigans.

Since Papa had to work bright and early, he headed off for the guest room as I had pulled the pack and play into ours.  We both knew the long night was likely just beginning and he needed to sleep.  Sure enough, she was up around midnight to polish off a bottle which Nana couldn’t heat fast enough and then up again from 4 to 5 just because.  Ayda came through right before five for a potty break and made frantic motions indicating that she needed the bathroom light on.  I did the only thing I could do.  Rocking back and forth (back aching) with a sleepy infant on my chest, I grabbed my kindle and turned it on and threw it to the end of the bed.  I whispered, “Use that for a light”.  She went in there, kindle in hand and did her business like a trooper.  I recall wondering if I would hear the kindle splash and realizing if it meant the baby stayed asleep, I didn’t care.  I would deal with that tomorrow.

When Cali sat up and made her “laughing with my binky in my mouth” sound around 6:15, I knew she was ready to roll and I was certainly ready for coffee and wondering again why I had offered to do this.

Ayda was up shortly thereafter and starving, so she needed breakfast.  Cali was hungry too so I attempted to please both of them, but not before pouring myself a nice, large, piping hot, cup of coffee.  Papa took Cali as he knew this wasn’t a job for the non-caffeinated nana.   Cali started making poop noises about this time, so I figured I better wait to feed her when she was finished making room.

As soon as Ayda was finished eating, she picked up her “new” notebook, which in reality had been MY new cute notebook, but not anymore.  She began to recite aloud all of the words she had written down to teach Cali.  I had to listen carefully to each one, or they would be repeated.  Clean diapered Cali was on my lap, trying to get to my phone and the remote controls, whichever one required more pain for Nana’s miscellaneous body parts.

About this time, Ayda decided she needed the laptop to look up facts about New Orleans and she was still hungry.  Cali was cranky due to lack of sleep and Nana was barely awake herself.  I put Cali down, which made her mad, ran to the other room and googled “facts about New Orleans”, hit submit and ran back to the living room to change Cali’s diaper again.  Ayda said, “Nana, its saying no internet found” so I picked up Cali like a football and ran the other direction to assist.

A few moments later, Ayda writing down “facts” and Cali slurping drowsily on a warm bottle, her little eyes rolling back in her head from exhaustion and Papa comes in, closing the front door A LITTLE TOO LOUDLY for Nana’s liking.  Cali bolted straight up and looked around smiling and Ayda came in and said, “Nana, did you know that New Orleans was F-O-U-N-D-E-D”, “I said, “founded, honey” and she said, “Yes, founded in 1718”.  I said in my most sincere Nana voice, “Wow, what a cool fact!  That was over 200 years ago”.  She replied, “Nana, you weren’t even born yet, huh?”

I looked down and noticed that monkey butt was fast asleep.  Ayda snuggled up to me on the other side and lovingly looked up at me and said, “Nana I am still hungry, but I’m not going to eat again until you can”, thereby melting my heart for about the hundredth time since she arrived.

About that time Cali’s mommy texted and was ready to see her baby.  Nana was ready for her to see her baby too.

Oddly enough, a couple of hours later when Ayda and her Mommy and Cali and her Mommy all left on the golf cart for a ride, Nana missed them and found herself looking forward to their return so the chaos could ensue once again.  I know Ayda will be gone on Thursday and it will be a while before I see her again and of course, we are still just so thankful that Cali is with us and healthy.  I cherish the moments, good and bad, fun and frenzied because I know from experience how quickly this life is passing us by and how we never know what will happen from one moment to the next.

We have to enjoy this crazy, wonderful life and enjoy those the good Lord has blessed us with.  I can promise you it’s not always sunshine and rainbows but when there is love and appreciation, you can find the joy in the midst of the mayhem and in the stinkiest of jobs.

The other side of the fog

Sunday morning Word

This morning I was studying the story of Joseph from his coat of many colors and the telling of his prophetic dreams, to the jealous brothers casting him into a pit, and then selling him into slavery.  But all along God had a plan and He positioned Joseph to save Egypt and Canaan from famine.  A good outcome didn’t look possible to the human eye, guided by the flesh.

I was reminded of one of my recent trips to Miami to be supportive to my youngest daughter and visit my almost 8 month old granddaughter, struggling with an infection in her lungs.  Since her diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, she has fought and won many battles in the short time she has been around to bless us.  I attribute this to many prayers.

On the particular morning, the fog was thick and blanketed everything for miles.  My travelling progress was impeded as I slowly navigated my way through the unknown.  Visibility was limited, and I found myself a little nervous because I couldn’t see the cars coming toward me from miles away and I was unsure of what was creeping up behind me until the headlights broke through the fog.  I found myself focusing on the fog and its dangers, ready for the sun to break through and begin to burn it all away.

I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit as I realized that once again, God was trying to teach me something.  You know, if we slow down and pay attention long enough, we can hear that still small voice.

Such is life.  In this journey through the vast unknowns with Cali, I know that on the other side of it, there is clarity.  I cannot begin to figure it all out now, to predict what is coming or to visualize the hidden hazards along the way.  I can apply this to so many situations in life; those where I can barely navigate on a daily basis, much less discern the outcome.

But, this I do know; on the other side of the fog, there is a Son and He always burns for me.  His will may not be understandable at times, the outcome may not always make sense to me, but I will continue to live in the knowledge that He wants the best for me.  In the midst of a broken, fallen world, He is my hope, my strength and my refuge.

Remember, it was never God’s intention that we live in a broken, fallen world that is filled with sin and hurt and hate.  And, He loved us enough to send His Son, to give us a chance at redemption, restoration and an eternal life, a life much more important than the short one we will live out on this earth.

Just give me my binky


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We sat there in the dark watching her fight sleep, contorting her little face every which way trying to hold on to her binky when it threatens to fall.  A binky is otherwise known as a pacifier for those of you who may not have heard it referred to that way.  She loves that thing.  I’ve heard folks voice their opinions on them both pro and con and have probably stated my own in the past and likely in a negative way to some poor new parent.  This is something else I have learned; don’t judge the child still sucking a binky or maybe still wearing diapers.  I don’t know their journey.

13912343_280314879008026_5289825603233603215_nCali will be 5 months old on the 13th of this month and all she knows up until now is the inside of a room without outside windows.  It is mostly white and very sterile.  Thankfully, we can dress up the crib a bit and bring some toys in, but it’s just not home.  We can’t roll around in the floor or fall asleep with her nestled on our chest.  We have to wear yellow gowns to hold her and she is still attached to several lines or tubes.

I try to imagine her discharge day and the way her little eyes will behold so much newness in one day.  She will leave the room she has grown up in thus far, see sunlight, ride in a car, see her own home and sleep in a new bed.  As anxious as I am for all of this to occur, my heart goes out to these little ones making these big adjustments.   They are used to the whiteness, the machines, the beeping and blinking and the cries of other little ones.  Maybe I’m just emotional because this is my little granddaughter, but it’s something I have never once thought about until now.

I am determined to learn from this experience, resolved to be a better person because of it, and adamant about increasing in compassion and empathy for others.  This brings to mind the verse in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

We should be able to empathize with the weaknesses of others and consider their voyage through this life and the ups and downs and tests and turmoil.  Maybe I’m being too transparent when I admit how blind to the predicaments of others I have been in the past.  Perhaps some of you will think less of me because of it.  But, when I decided to have a blog, I always intended to openly share experiences, always hoping my stories would help shed light on someone else’s path.

I am sincerely grateful to God for every opportunity I get to show love and compassion to someone else, even though I still often fail Him.  I still fail in recognizing needs or simply stay too busy to do all that I would like to.  You know, part of loving others starts with really listening, taking time enough to know a need exists.  We are a busy people and we have to make a point to slow down and be attentive, even in our own families.

PS – Cali is doing much better.  They removed her PICC line this week.  Her bottle feeding has increased greatly as tube feeding has decreased.  She is up to 8 lbs 1 oz and if she continues to do well on feeds and continues to gain weight, our discharge date will be closer 🙂

Related articles:  When life throws a curve ball and Cali; the gift that keeps on giving

 

Fiddler crabs and tomato gravy

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Good afternoon, friends.  I would like your help with something.  The following is an excerpt from what I hope might possibly become my first novel.  Can you take a peek and share your thoughts, please?  If you read below, would you want to read more?

Susie’s bare feet sunk into the soft, cool mud, as she chased the fiddler crab back into the hole she had watched it emerge from.   Her footprints made her think of the plaque on Granny’s wall.  Granny said the plaque reminded her that when things got tough, Jesus carried her.  Susie smiled as she thought of Jesus carrying Granny.

Granny was standing in the mud a few feet away from her, the hem of her pleated skirt damp from their adventure.  Her silver hair was still tucked neatly in a bun and she was patiently watching Susie chase the crabs, as she dabbed at her face with her hanky.  That’s what granny called her embroidered handkerchiefs and she always had one in her pocket or her bible.

Granny never rushed Susie the way some grown ups did.  Most of the time, when Granny wasn’t “carrying a burden”, she acted just like one of the kids.  She was always willing to play games, dance, draw, sing or go on treasure hunts and she always made it fun and encouraged imagination.  Granny could turn her rocking chair into a pirate ship and Susie and her brother and sister would walk the plank on books with throw pillows masquerading as sharks waiting in the deep, murky water.

When it was nearly 5:00pm, it was time to get dinner ready.  Papa like to eat early, go to bed early and rise early.  Tonight, Granny was cooking pork chops and tomato gravy.  She had made a fruit salad earlier and left it in the fridge to chill.  Susie liked the sound of pork chops and fruit salad, but she would have to make sure she didn’t get a very big serving of the rice and tomato gravy.  She liked the taste, but the big chunks of the tomato were just too much.  She wished granny had made brown gravy instead.

Granny and Papa didn’t mind what you ate, but they sure didn’t like wasting.  Susie thought that in their book, a wasteful person must be as bad as a thief.  Mom said it was because they had lived during the Great Depression.  That was when banks closed and no one had much money, so they were very careful.  Mom and Dad didn’t like waste either, but it didn’t seem to bother them as much as it did Gran and Papa.

Susie didn’t care though; she just tried very hard not to waste.  She loved to be at Granny’s more than anywhere else in the world, although she felt a little guilty about that sometimes and would never have told her mom and dad.  There was a peacefulness at Granny’s that she just didn’t always feel anywhere else.

Chocolate Queen Elsa and a missing balloon

If you are a Florida native, like me, you have been to Disney too many times to count. It started with your family; then there were church youth group trips, and field trips and birthday parties and even Grad night.  As they add parks and rides and exhibits, you return to catch up with an old friend.  You have kids and take them and the cycle continues.  However, taking your grandchildren is the best (sorry girls).  By now, you know so much more than you knew then.  You have patience, you don’t care what they look like by 10:00am, you don’t mind giving them junk and you can send all the Disney memorabilia right back home with them.  You get the pleasure of seeing their eyes light up as they take it all in, which is priceless!

This week I had the pleasure of taking my five year old granddaughter who was visiting from New Orleans for her 2nd time.  Although she says she remembers the first time, I think what she may actually remember are the photos from a book that I made for her.

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Her first trip to Disney

On the way up there, she asked a few questions.  What are reservations?  What did I mean by Disney grounds?  Why would we take a shuttle to Magic Kingdom if we were staying at Disney?  Wouldn’t we already be there?  Are any of the rides scary?  Soon enough, we were there, and checked in at the Disney Swan.  As my friend and I discussed how best to carry the least amount of stuff in and still have what we needed, our grandchildren inspected the room.

The first afternoon was spent at Epcot on a search for all the character topiaries, which was enjoyed by all.  I think FL broke records that day (and the next) for hot temperatures, and I’m certain that Disney was at mass capacity both days as well.  We kept our cool with our pricey Mickey decorated fans (displayed in tubs filled with ice) that mist cool water on wilting guests.  I am pretty sure that many guests enjoyed the mist from the fans of our grandchildren.  They weren’t at all selfish with their mist!

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Day two we began the day by paying way too much for cereal and fruit, but the little minions were happy.  My friend watched the kiddos once we entered the park so that I could scramble for hair ties that actually kept my granddaughters curls somewhat subdued.  I also happened upon a crown and she was dressed in her Elsa costume, so I had to.  Minutes later….well about 30 minutes later, we were visiting with Tinkerbell and her assistant was telling Queen Elsa to please just “let it go” (if you have never watched Frozen, this will not make sense).

As we trod slowly up Main Street, there was a nice young lady selling balloons.  Thanks!  We had to have one of course.  What Nana could say no to those brown eyes?  My friend bought two and gave one to another little girl on the street and this made me tear up.  So sweet!!

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The balloon love lasted for perhaps 5 minutes and then I heard the familiar, “Nana, can you hold this for me?”  Sure, no problem.  I will just tie it to the stroller.  I won’t complain about the March winds we were having in April and am forever grateful for the brief respite from the heat they afforded; however, the balloon took on a life of its own and pelted me in the face many times.  I tied differently, I held, and I apologized when it hit someone near me.  My friend had one also and she had the same problem.  We were forever trying to keep them from wrapping around things or from hitting all the people around us.  The only thing there were good for, was making it easier to find our strollers after the ever so organized people at Disney moved them for us time and time again to keep their lines straight in the stroller parking areas.

We continued meeting characters and watching our little characters enjoy themselves, went on our Fast pass rides and found ourselves stuck in a honey pot on “Winnie the Pooh”.  The kind maintenance folks led us out of the ride on foot and gave us a fast pass for another ride.

We met a nice lady (my friend’s friend) named Jen and her beautiful children and they introduced us to the “kitchen sink” ice cream at Main Street Ice Cream Parlor.   After Queen Elsa sat on the sidewalk (not really behavior befitting a queen) and enjoyed hers immensely, she was a chocolate coated mess.  Queen Elsa had to disrobe and change into a cute little owl dress for the rest of the day.

We stayed for the fireworks which began at 9pm and as I held the queen, she put her little arms around me and said, “I love you nana” and gave me the longest kiss on the cheek ever.  My back was screaming, “Put the little 38.9 pounder down!” and I did, but not until I kissed her back and reassured her that she could see it all from the stroller.

A while later we were on the shuttle on our way back to our hotel (Yes, finally!!) she fell asleep in my arms.  My eyes welled up because I knew the following day I would deliver her back to her mommy.

I’m not going to lie; I was beyond exhausted as we made our way up to the room.  Nana was glad the queen was asleep and I was ready to tuck her right into bed with no dinner, no brushed teeth.  We got everyone and everything into the room and I got her all tucked in.  She rose up out of the bed like Snow White after the kiss and said “Where is my balloon?”  My friend and I looked at each other and laughed.  Somehow, I had finally been able to untangle myself from that thing and let it soar into the darkened sky without even noticing.  Of course, she would notice!  Thankfully she was too sleepy to get too upset and since she was awake, I shuttled her off to brush the teeth and changed the subject.

That bed felt so good as I lay there after showering off the cotton candy, sweat and glitter.  I was tired, sunburned, with an aching back and sore feet.  I was glad the day had come to a close.  I knew though, if the little dark haired beauty snoring quietly beside me asked me to do it again, I would…in a heartbeat.

Adventures with Ayda

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I needed desperately to squeeze those chunky legs, to hear that melodic laugh and to hold that tiny hand in mine.  It was time.  Nana had to see Ayda.  I made the arrangements with my eldest and drove through rain most of the day to arrive at the pre-determined meeting place.

After a late lunch, we transferred her belongings to my car and headed north.  She is only four so I was a tiny bit nervous that she would get upset when we pulled out of the parking lot, but she just said, “I’ll miss mommy and daddy” and that was that.  We chatted about pre-school and recent birthday parties and Christmas.  “Ayda, do you see the leaves?  Do you know about the fall season?” I asked.  She answered in what I thought was somewhat condescending tone and said, “Nana, are you talking about autumn, when the leaves turn beautiful colors like yellow and orange and brown and fall from the trees?”   Yes, my dear.  Yes, I was.

In a couple of hours, we were pulling into a hotel driveway, ready to stop for the night as our destination was Pigeon Forge, TN.  We were going to visit relatives and she was excited to get to spend time with some of her younger cousins.  She wasn’t sure about this whole idea of staying in a “cabin” though.  For some reason she thought all cabins were inferior dwellings.  As we passed barns and falling down sheds, she would ask, “Nana, is it a cabin like that?”  I assured her that it certainly was not and that she would be pleasantly surprised.

Nana forgot how time consuming it was to unfasten a car set, put shoes back on and wait for little slowpoke to crawl out of the back of my Mustang.  After we checked in, I realized that with my bag, her bag, her toy bag, her snack bag, her electronic game and dinner we had picked up, I was going to need a cart.  I grabbed one, loaded it and sat her on top of my bag before realizing I had to do something with my car.  After arranging the cart inside and loading her back into the car seat, I found a parking place and we were ready to go upstairs.

Pushing the cart was akin to maneuvering a side-ways driving Walmart shopping cart filled with groceries.  I finally managed to get it to the elevator without taking some drywall with me.  Ayda spotted the “fire sign” and wanted me to tell her what it said.  I read, “In case of fire do not use the elevator”.  Way to go, Nana.  Little did I know that every time we used an elevator for the rest of our journey she would ask quite anxiously if I was sure there wasn’t a fire and explain that maybe we shouldn’t ride the elevator.    Thankfully, a nice young man helped me get the cart onto the elevator and even got off at our floor and pulled it out for us.  I think he discerned that Nana was exhausted and I was sincerely grateful for his kindness.

Finally, it was bedtime and Ayda and I lay in the darkness, the only light emanating from her Nabi which is NOT a computer, Nana.  It’s an electronic game that also has episodes of some of her favorite shows.  I wasn’t going to argue with her about watching one on our first night together, far from home.  We talked about our plans and said prayers and she was out like a light.

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I decided the next morning to let her sleep in; partly because she needed it and partly because I love to watch her sleep, with her little brown tendrils floating across the pillow.  Before long her eyes opened wide and the first words out of her mouth were, “Why is that light on?”  You waked me in the dark and you are supposed to wake me in the light?”  I quickly rose from the chair I was perched on and opened the light blocking curtains.  She grinned when she saw that it really was daytime and then she snuggled in my lap while her little body finished waking up.

I dressed her and brushed her long curls carefully and reacquainted myself with pig tails and bows.  We went down to the continental breakfast in the hotel lobby where Ayda picked a muffin.  I looked up to see her with a horrible expression, somewhere between tears and disgust and discovered that said muffin had hidden berries.  I assured her she could spit them out and I got up to make a waffle for her instead.  The waffle was acceptable and I sat there and enjoyed my coffee, the grinning recipient of the “She is so precious” and like compliments, like grandma’s do.

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We arrived at the cabin later in the day and she was thoroughly impressed, as was I.  There were stuffed bears and toys and snacks and a bunk-bed and the promise of soon-to-arrive children.  We enjoyed the time with family and I enjoyed time with her out and about in Pigeon Forge and through the Great Smokey Mountains.  She loved being with family and was not happy on Saturday, when it was time to go.

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We travelled home towards South FL, because Papa had been unable to join us due to work and he was dying to see her, as were others in the family. We took a little longer route to go through the Smokies and stopped several times to pick up leaves and get pictures.  We stopped for ice cream in Cherokee and picked up taffy, pecan logs and a coloring book near the GA/FL line.  I have never seen a 4 year old travel so well.  She never complained; she sang, made me tell her stories about Jesus and played.  Every once in a while she would ask, “How much longer til Papa?”  Every once in a while, I would reach back to squeeze her leg and she would grab my hand and hold it for a few minutes.  Oh, the feeling of that little hand securely snug in my own!

After a week with Nana and Papa, assisted by Aunt Dee, since Nana had to work, we made the journey back to meet her mommy.  We stayed in another hotel and the next morning we found a pumpkin patch with a maze and then met mommy at a beautiful state park.

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As my daughter strapped her in the car seat, she said, “I’ll miss you Nana”.  I told her not to cry and that it wasn’t goodbye just see you later.  I got in my quiet car, tears welling up in my eyes and my heart aching with missing her already.  With a song of praise and a prayer I encouraged myself and headed south alone, thankful for the precious time with her.

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