In our own backyard... What's in a name, anyway?

When Ken and I agreed to take care of our grandkids for the day last Saturday, never did I think I'd find myself up on stage doing the Y.M.C.A. with a group of 4-year-olds......

When Ken and I agreed to take care of our grandkids for the day last Saturday, never did I think I'd find myself up on stage doing the Y.M.C.A. with a group of 4-year-olds......

We had no problem agreeing to the babysitting junket when daughter Kara informed us she had a day long workshop to attend and needed someone to take care of the kids. In fact, we fairly jumped at the chance to have the two entirely to ourselves.

Five-year-old Ethan just started kindergarten this fall, and his little sister, Evelyn, is about to turn three. Since they live in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan, we only get the chance to see them every couple of months, and at this stage of the game, it seems they grow by leaps and bounds between every visit.

We weren't even daunted by the fact the day started at 6:45 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. Hey, we're adults. We can weather the storm with the best of them.

And so it was we arrived at the door of their apartment building before dawn last Saturday, manned with two giant color books, a pan full of cinnamon rolls and a bag full of kid snacks and juice boxes. The early morning temperature was well below freezing and snowflakes were spinning in the reflected glow of the street lights.


"Gosh, do you suppose the kids are even up yet?" I uttered to Ken with a yawn as we walked down the hallway.

Not only were they up, but they were camped out in front of the television, eating bowls full of Fruit Loops and watching Scooby Doo. They squealed as we greeted them with welcoming hugs and settled down on the floor next to them to finish watching Scooby.

Though they always know us when we get together, it sometimes takes a little time before the youngest manages to get our names just right since the two of them have three sets of grandparents.

"Grandma Susan!" she cried excitedly to me. "Can I have a cinnamon roll?"

Patiently, I informed her I was Grandma Wendy and she never missed a beat. "Grandma Wendy! Can I have a cinnamon roll?"

That was 7 a.m. By 7:25 a.m., Scooby was over and the kids were dressed and raring to go somewhere. Just where we could go at that time of morning, we weren't quite sure, so we talked them into trying out their new color books and building forts for an hour.

By 8:30 a.m., we packed up all their gear and headed out for the Minnesota Children's Museum in St. Paul, an exciting, multi-story exhibit of all sorts of fun and educational things for youngsters to see, do and experience (big kids, too!). It was wonderful. In one room, there were water exhibits where children could experience buoyancy, hydraulics and surface tension by sailing golf balls through an enclosed tube filled with air and water and racing boats on a water-filled sluice way.

In another room, they learned about the manufacturing process by helping to pile foam blocks on conveyor belts. Together, we tried on uniforms of various professionals (Ethan was a fireman, Evie was a veterinarian, and I was a naturalist).


The children shopped for plastic food in a simulated marketplace and then strapped on aprons and served us "dinner" in the make-believe restaurant.

"Grandma Susan!" cried Evie excitedly. "What do you want to order for dinner?"

"It's Grandma Wendy," I reminded her, "and I'd like egg rolls and fried rice!"

In the naturalist area, Ethan got up his courage to touch the skin of a live snake, and the two moved clouds around the "sky" with remote control levers to make it rain.

While Ethan and Ken tried their hand at steering a simulated city bus, Evie and I sat in the back seat and pretended to be passengers. While Ken watched Ethan maneuver a giant crane to load logs onto a truck, Evie cried, "Grandma Susan! Let's go into the Rainbow Room!"

"I'm Grandma Wendy, remember?" I said and followed her into a room where you could change colors on a screen to make shadows into every shade of the rainbow.

When we got to the closed circuit television station, Ethan turned shy and refused to go up on stage, but Evie grabbed my hand and hauled me up with a handful of other young children as we all watched ourselves on the overhead television station. Suddenly, "YMCA" by The Village People began to blare over the sound system, and there I was on center stage, leading the charge of a group of timid 3- and 4-year-olds!

It proved to be a wonderful morning, and we could tell the two little ones were having a great time. By the time we took them to the park that afternoon, they were flying high. Evie grabbed my hand wherever we went and jabbered away in sometimes indecipherable lingo while I smiled and nodded. Ken and Ethan rode bikes and hiked in the woods, while Evie and I flew her "Hello Kitty" kite and I pushed her on the swingset.


Whenever the little girl got tired, she beseechingly lifted up her arms to me, wanting to be picked up and carried, and my heart swelled with love.

As we arrived back at the apartment building, Ethan was busy instructing Ken on how to unlock the front door when I felt Evie throw her arms around one of my legs in a big hug.

I gazed down at her and smiled. She beamed back at me with what I was sure was a look of pure adoration and murmured, "Wha'd you say your name was?"

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