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Hair Balls & Shark Attacks . . .

By Helene Thomas

Tonya, Chloe, and Helene

I received a desperate phone call from my daughter Tonya, who needed a babysitter for a few days.

Unsuspecting of the hilarious situation I would find myself in, I watched Tonya and my 3-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, arrive from Seattle the next morning. Chloe’s pink suitcase had suddenly become stuck on one stair leading up to the deck. Short on patience, she swung around and started to wrestle her luggage.

Chuckling, I hurried and helped pull her suitcase up to the deck. Right away she spotted the toys in the living room, and the magnetic pull of playthings left only a quick hug for me as she said, “Toys for me, Grandma Honey?”

Tonya gave me a few instructions after she had set up the car seat in my car.

“Mom, she sleeps in a big bed now, and you have to lie down with her when she goes to bed at night, okay? Once she’s asleep you can sneak out. You two are going to have so much fun, Mom.”

“Huh? Four months ago when you came for the weekend she slept by herself!”

“She’s going through a stage, Mom.”

We walked Tonya to the car. When she opened the door, she mumbled something about Chloe likes to hold ears before she falls asleep.

Back in the house Chloe decided to hold a tea party. She loved to pour. I was getting waterlogged, and to distract her I mentioned picking berries.

She let out a squeal, dashed out of her little chair and raced to the back door.

One look at the overgrown berry patch and I immediately regretted mentioning berry picking. I pointed at a few raspberries that were easy for her to reach. After she picked two berries, she pointed to the raspberries for me to pick. I discovered she didn’t like to pick, just eat them. After my second handful of ripe raspberries I told her the rest of the berries had to ripen.

“But Grandma Honey, I see lots and lots of red berries — see?” she said pointing deep inside the thorny twigs.

“I see — go pick them.”

“No, Grandma Honey, it’s still your turn to pick.”

The heat was beating down on us and I said, “Tomorrow we’ll pick them.”

“Why tomorrow?”

“Cause they’ll taste better tomorrow.”

Helen Thomas

She raced toward the wading pool, stripped down to her diaper and quickly sat down and splashed away for two minutes. When she tried to get up, she looked at me, as if I was holding her down. I saw a tantrum coming on and quickly lifted her up. Her diaper had sucked up most of the water, which I concluded weighed more than she did.

We went back in the house, changed her and turned on a favorite DVD. After the third Sippy cup of apple juice the show ended, and she disappeared into the den. Within seconds, she was back in the living room with a folded diaper in her hand. Cute, I thought. She’s going to play mommy and put a diaper on the Cabbage Patch doll, so I continued on what I was doing.

Suddenly, she stomped her foot with incoherent words coming out of her mouth.

I smiled and walked to the kitchen. She followed me, now clearly articulating, “Change my diaper — I said change my diaper!”

I couldn’t stop laughing, ran around the kitchen island and said, “You have to catch Grandma first,” hoping to get her out of her angry mood.

With a full day behind us and past Chloe’s bedtime, I realized nighttime was also the catch-me-if-you-can time.

Tired and worn, we went to bed and straight away I pretended to sleep. She was singing a song and within minutes, I felt tiny fingers on my ear as she probed them with little pinches. Then she grasped my ear, and with each release she squeezed harder.

“Ouch! Leave Grandma’s ear alone.”

“Okay, Grandma Honey.”

She twisted and turned and presently I found a foot on my head. I turned around to protect my face. Then her little head squirmed close to the back of my neck, pushing as hard as she could, “I love you, Grandma Honey,” and those tiny fingers started to twist my ear, and stretched my poor ear like a rubber band.

I found this bedtime ritual hilariously funny and pressed my lips against the mattress. Now glued to my back, a little busy hand started to tousle my hair, and suddenly I felt strands of hair leaving my head. “You’re hurting Grandma’s head,” I said, still with a nice voice.

She stopped pulling my hair, and little finger found my ear again.  This time though, it felt more like a shark attack.

“Ouch!” I yelled and jackknifed out of bed. “Grandma has to go potty. I’ll be right back.”

“Okay, Grandma Honey.”

I switched on the light and quickly checked my ear, making sure my ear hadn’t morphed into boxers’ ear.

Now I knew what happened to beloved teddies that turned ragged, or blankets that become tattered for comfort at nights. This little one liked ears for security.

Ten minutes later I tiptoed to my own room.

The next night my attempt to sneak out of bed didn’t work; like a magnet she was right behind me, asking, “Is it morning time, Grandma Honey?”

No such luck, so I sank back into bed, and those strong little muscled fingers found my ear again.

Chloe haircut

Over the next few days we held many tea parties, baked cake in her little oven, played hide-and-go-seek, finger-painted, blew bubbles, styled and cut snarled hair balls off the heads of a couple of Tonya’s old Barbie dolls, and splashed away in the wading pool.

A week later my daughter returned to Yakima, and after lunch we said our goodbyes. The house seemed so hauntingly empty, and I wished I lived closer to my grandkids.

Two weeks went by. I received a call from Tonya, who was driving Chloe to the beauty parlor. Chloe had somehow gotten hold of a pair of scissors and beautified herself. Oops! — I wondered if Chloe had seen hair balls in her own hair.

Helene Thomas is a reader who submitted her essay and won our hearts — and a gift from GRAND.

GRAND fans: Email us YOUR grandparenting story! If we publish it in an issue of GRAND Magazine, we’ll send you a complimentary gift.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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