An Old Dog and New Tricks


A photo, of sorts, at Lindale Mall. It's a bit blurry. I am trying to learn to focus.

A photo, of sorts, at Lindale Mall. It’s a bit blurry. I am trying to learn to focus.

Now  can focus. But how did I turn both cameras on so image includes me taking other image? And why is that even an option? Granddaughter looks like she's thinking, "You're doomed, old man."

Now I can focus. But how did I turn both cameras on so image includes me taking other image? And why is that even an option? Granddaughter looks like she’s thinking, “You’re doomed, old man.”

I’m having an educational interlude this summer. One of my daughters, who has four young children, is off on a vacation trip with her husband. Recalling our own experience of how rare and treasured our own breaks from parenthood with our six kids were, my wife and I readily agreed to watch said kids for a “baker’s week,” basically 8 ½ days.

It’s been fun. It’s been tiring. I’m writing this quickly at 10:25 p.m. because it’s the only time I have to myself, although in truth I’m usually a night owl—although most days, when I do crawl into bed, it’s with my wife. This week, there’s usually been a 4-year-old who has adopted me as her reluctant “sleep buddy,” although my wife has often had two or three bed companions.

All in all, a night with the wife is way more restful. She doesn’t lay crossways in the bed and occasionally kick me, nor celebrate the coming of a new day by jumping on me and then pretending to eat my face.

Oh well. I should not complain. The good nights have been with the 4-year-old. A few other nights have included her 2-year-old sister, who is a much, much wigglier sleeper, and who joyfully joins in the morning “let’s kill grandpa and eat his flesh” game. Being jumped on by one hungry morning hunter is one thing—two of them is a bit more challenging.

Anyway, would I ever do it again? Indeed I would—time with these youngsters is precious—but I also confess I’m glad that they’ll have another home to return to at vacation’s end.

I’ve learned several things this week:

How to take pictures with a my new cell phone. I’m a dumb old person with a smart new phone. I’ve installed Instagram on it and have not figured out how to use it. I forgot my usually carry-along camera for one of our outings today, and had to resort to phone photos. It felt odd, and needlessly complex, but the phone can take photos. Eventually.

What my cute 2-year-old granddaughter’s favorite word is. Dialogue from a van ride today—my wife is talking to my granddaughter: “Relena, do you see the bird?” “No.” “Do you see the truck?” “No.” “Do you see cars?” “No.” “Can you see the sky?” “No.” You get the idea. After Relena tired of the game, she started shouting, in a surprisingly loud, grating voice for a 2-year-old: “Stop talking, you guys!”

I’m glad we’ve had this chance to spend a few days with these kids. It’s a reminder of what our lives were like years ago—and of how much energy and planning everyday tasks required. It hasn’t been a perfect visit—there have been a few fights and scrapes and slightly ridiculous testing of rules. But these are pretty good kids, and the experience overall has been quite good.

Except for the cell phone photos. I’m still working on that.

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