FIRST PUBLISHED OCT. 4, 2015
We have a grandson! No longer would we have to wonder whether this Mennillo line will end with our son. After three granddaughters arrived on the scene, we had begun to think it might never happen. But in early June of this year, my son called me with the happy news, "Say hello to your new grandson!" I was at work and, fortunately, was in the break room when I screamed, "Yay, I knew it! I knew you'd have a boy!" So, just as we did when we met big sister Olivia at the age of three weeks, we traveled to Massachusetts when little Lucas Emerson Mennillo was the same age.
This time our daughter and two granddaughters, Jain and Sofia, made the trip with us. It was so, so wonderful to see the joy spread across their faces as Katie held her nephew and the girls their cousin. Not to mention our own happiness! I marveled at how sweet our son is with his own little boy. I swear to you, when he held him Lucas smiled! He has such an endearingly gentle way with babies. No wonder they smile! Happiness all around!
I worried a bit how the age difference between granddaughters would affect their interaction, but I had no reason for any such concern. Sofia, nearly 9, and Olivia, 2 and a half, became shadows of one another. Where Sofia went, Olivia followed. They played together very well, Olivia delighting in a never-ending game of hide-and-seek. Several times over the few days we were there, we could hear Olivia pipe up in her toddler voice, "So-FEE-uh! Where ARE you?" and then run off to find her, squealing in delight when Sofia popped out at her. And when they weren't actively playing, we would find Olivia curled up next to Sofia listening as her cousin read to her. And not just listening, but asking questions about what was happening in the story. I have never seen a young child take reading to the next level like Sofia did! It was heartwarming to watch the two of them. They truly had a connection!
I found out prior to our visit that Olivia's favorite animal is the beluga whale, so I ordered some plastic whale beads for easy stringing on an elastic necklace. Those belugas were a hit, and the girls sat and strung beads for hours on end. Olivia was very proud of her creation.
If they weren't stringing beads, all three girls were in the backyard playing in the sandbox or going down the slide. I brought along some plastic frogs to hide in the grass, then asked Olivia to find them and put them in a pail. But she took much more delight in dumping the bucketful of frogs over her head and giggling when they landed on her. Which made us laugh. Which made her do it over and over and over. Too cute!
Craft time was also a concern for me. With a new baby in the house, I wanted to be sure I had enough activities to keep Olivia busy. Some worked, some didn't. The "mess-terpiece" we did with Jain and Sofia several years ago was not ideal for a 2-year-old. This art activity involves dipping squish balls of varying textures in tempera paints and rolling them across a long piece of paper taped to the ground to create a mess-terpiece. Great fun for older kids, way too messy for a toddler. Lesson learned.
We found success, though, with marble painting and glitter glue. Oh, my, did she love her glitter glue creations! She didn't want to leave the table to do anything else! This was a great art project for all of us. No matter the age difference, everyone is curious to see what their glitter glue designs would look like.
Auntie Lynn and Poppa Ben drove up for a visit, bearing gifts for Olivia and Lucas. Olivia's favorite gift from Lynn was a doll that could be bottle fed and then emitted a loud burp. Hilarious to Olivia. She cracked up every time! It was another joyous moment to see more smiling faces as the two of them met Lucas for the first time. Poppa is 92 years old, so these opportunities to get four generations together are precious to us.
The hottest day there were spent playing with bubbles or in her kiddie pool tossing squish balls to each other. Jain loved the hammock, and Olivia would climb up to lie down and swing back and forth with her. But only for a little bit. Otherwise, she was up and running, every fiber of her being involved in play and exploration of her world. And what mimics 2-year-olds are! I was watching from an upstairs window as the girls played in the pool. Seth tossed a ball to them and no one caught it. I yelled out teasingly, "C'mon, Pops!" indicating he should have better aim so the girls could actually catch the ball. Olivia immediately echoed, "C'mon, Pops!" Naturally, that generated laughter from the rest of us, which further prompted her to keep saying it — much to the chagrin of my son who prefers to be called "Daddy."
We wrapped up our vacation with a puppet show Jain and Sofia had co-written. We ducked down behind one section of their sofa and used plush toy sea animals and one hedgehog to act out the story. Olivia loved it, especially at the end when someone decided to start a play-fight with all the animals. Over the back of the couch they went, Olivia and Seth catching them and throwing them back. Much screeching and giggling! I guess an interactive puppet show is better than one where the audience just sits back and watches!
Sadly, our time with our New England families was over much too soon. We left on the Fourth of July to head back to North Carolina and the remainder of our summer together. More next week, dear readers, on our summer fun in the South. Until then, as Grampy says ...