Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Time with the grandkids on a winter weekend in Minnesota January 19, 2023

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A year ago, the grandkids were into “PJ Masks.” This is Owlette. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2022)

KEEPING UP WITH THE GRANDKIDS’ evolving interests can prove challenging. I’m not up on the newest kids’ shows and trends. And just when I think I’ve learned all the latest from first grader Isabelle, especially, and 4-year-old Isaac, they are on to something new. But right now they are focused on dinosaurs and the solar system, both timeless topics.

The pair stayed overnight with us recently as much for Grandma and Grandpa solo time as for their parents having time together without kids. It’s a win-win all around.

At least I know something about space. Here the moon rises. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2020)

The sleep-over was a last-minute decision, meaning we mostly winged it for the weekend. I did, however, stop at the library for a pile of dinosaur and solar system books and a few videos for those moments when the exhausted grandparents needed to rest.

Grandpa and Isaac inside their backyard snow fort. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

When the kids asked to play outside in the snow, we obliged. I forgot, though, how much work it is to get a 4-year-old into winter gear for outdoor play. Grandma and Grandpa bundled up, too, for the backyard adventure. When Randy pulled the scoop shovel and two 5-gallon buckets from the garage and started building a snow fort, I was surprised. Hadn’t he already scooped enough snow this winter? What grandpas won’t do for their grandchildren.

Occasionally we helpers helped the master mason by locating chunks of frozen snow to layer onto the fort walls. It was a process, impeded once by Isaac who scrambled over the wall, partially deconstructing it in the process.

At one point, Isabelle decided we should play snow tag. That would be regular tag played in the snow, doncha know, Grandma? Ah, of course. Easy for the little ones who don’t break through the snow. Not so easy for the heavier elders whose boots plunge through the snow surface.

Grandpa and grandkids climb the hill in our backyard. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Thankfully I managed to avoid the mountain-climbing aspect of our time in the backyard. But Grandpa, Isabelle and Isaac headed up the hill behind our house with Izzy intending to hike all the way to the park at the very top. Grandpa put a halt to that, recognizing that thorns, branches and assorted dangers threatened as the wooded hill steepened. We did not want to risk an emergency room visit.

Fortunately, distraction still works with our grandkids. Oversized rabbits loping across the snowy hillside proved entertaining. A hole in the snow near the fort invited guesses as to what animal dug into the snow. A squirrel was suspect and I noted the following day that was a correct assumption upon watching a squirrel dive head first into the snow and emerge a bit later with a walnut. When I shared my observation in a text to my eldest daughter, Izzy expressed her concern that the bushy tail rodent might destroy the fort. “Grandpa worked hard on that!” she told her mom. She’s right. He did.

Time with my grandkids invigorates me. I view the world from their perspective. They are inquisitive, adventuresome, approaching life with wonderment. They teach me to pause, to be in the moment. When Isaac drew a spaceship on his sort of modern day version of the Etch-a-Sketch (except with a “pen” and button to erase his art), I learned that the two of us were blasting off into space. His sister? Nope. She was staying behind because she is a paleontologist. Ah, yes, that’s right. Across the room Isabelle played with a herd of dinosaurs, or whatever a mixed group of dinosaurs is termed.

Isaac chose oranges over ice cream. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2011)

I don’t pretend to know everything. I didn’t know Isabelle attends first grade in a building built for 600 students, not the 900 it houses. I didn’t know Isaac would choose an orange over ice cream for a bedtime snack and then three days later ask to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for ice cream. But I do know these things: I love these two little people beyond measure. I love any time with them. Simply put, I love being a grandma.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling