Since Clara Anne and I have been spending lots of focused time together recently (see previous posts) I have hit upon a great trick to keep her attention, and that is to tell her a "story." In moments where I just need to occupy her for a bit, I will ask her, "Clara Anne, should Mama tell you a story?" She usually says "Story!" then sticks her thumb in her mouth (oh dear, I guess that will be the next habit to deal with!) and settles down to listen.
Now, I am not a good storyteller if it requires any imagination. I can retell things that happen in everyday life, and enjoy that (hence the blog), but John is the one with the imagination in our family. If he gets in a story telling mood, he can spin a yarn that could keep anyone listening. But I do my best. I usually try to have the story involve someone that Clara Anne knows and loves, like Chloe, or Emma, or her latest favorite, Grandpa and Grandma.
Grandpa and Grandma (my parents) are fairly new concepts in Clara Anne's life. She has met them before, but it was here in Asia only three weeks after she was born so of course she doesn't remember them. But lately we've been doing internet chats through a webcam with Grandpa and Grandma, and now Clara Anne has more of an idea who they are. She recognizes their pictures and sometimes, when the screen saver on our computer pops up with their faces, she will shout hello to them, as if we were talking online, not realizing that there is a difference between their picture coming through on the webcam and their picture stored on our computer.
In March our whole family is going to get on a plane (well, several planes, actually) and make the long journey across the Pacific to spend some time in the US. For John and I, this is going back to places we know and love, in a culture where we feel at home. For Clara Anne (and Chloe to a lesser degree) it means traveling to a new place that they've never been, to see people they don't know, and being away from their familiar and comfortable routines at our home in Asia. It's going to be quite the time. But one way that I've been preparing Clara Anne is to tell her these "stories" about Grandpa and Grandma. We talk about what we will do when we get to Grandpa and Grandma's house, how we can play in their big backyard, pet the neighborhood cats, listen to Grandma play the piano, and give Grandpa neck rubs after his long days at work. We'll sit on Grandma's kitchen counter and help wash the dishes, help Grandpa measure the ingredients for a fresh loaf of bread, and sing some songs with Grandma.
I'm really excited for Clara Anne to have this opportunity to spend several months living with Grandpa and Grandma. I think my parents are pretty brave to let us stay there--having two young children around doesn't always make for much peace and quiet! But it will be wonderful for Clara Anne and Chloe to get to know their Grandpa and Grandma, and vice versa!
When I was young, I had a fun tradition of going each summer to spend several days or a week at my Grandpa and Grandma Roelofs' house in Minnesota. They lived out in the country, across the road from a pretty lake, and one of my favorite parts of staying there was to get up early in the morning, tiptoe downstairs where Grandma would be fixing something yummy for breakfast as Grandpa relaxed for a few more moments in bed. I would sneak in and crawl under the covers with Grandpa, and he would tell me stories of adventures up on the Gunflint trail in northern Minnesota. I was never sure how much of those stories were real and how much were his own embellishment! But it made for lots of happy, snuggly childhood memories. My Grandpa has gone to be with the Lord now and my Grandma has moved out of that house, but I will never forget those times of listening to my Grandpa's stories.
So, now I'm happy to oblige when Clara Anne says, "Mama, more stories? More stories?"