Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My granddaughter turns one: A celebration in images & words April 18, 2017

 

TO WATCH MY GRANDDAUGHTER gives me such joy. To hold her and hug her and kiss her swells my heart with such love. To watch my eldest care for and love her baby girl along with her husband swells my heart with even more love.

I’ve only been a grandma for a year. But it’s long enough to know just how much I love this new role.

 

 

 

 

This past weekend family and friends celebrated the first birthday of our darling Isabelle with a The Very Hungry Caterpillar themed party. It was a perfect theme for a baby girl who loves books, who just weeks earlier sat on my lap flipping through the pages of this timeless story by Eric Carle.

 

 

 

 

Her mama, my daughter Amber, confessed that she felt a bit pressured to pull off the birthday celebration given my history of throwing detailed themed birthday parties. Amber needn’t have worried. She did great and impressed me with everything from decorations down to the caterpillar cupcake birthday cake.

 

 

 

 

It was the birthday girl, though, who spotlighted the attention of those gathered to celebrate her first birthday. Izzy did great, going to everyone and, as expected, finding tissue paper, gift receipts and a water bottle sometimes more interesting then the gifts she was supposed to be opening. Give her another year.

 

 

But for now, we all delighted in Izzy’s smile and cheered her on as she walked across the living room. We declared that Isabelle is now officially walking.

 

 

I was reminded again of how much joy a baby can find in the simple things. A textured ball released from a gift bag brought the widest smile to Izzy’s face as she shoved it across the floor. The sighting of a dog and later a squirrel through windows sent my granddaughter nearly leaping from my arms in excitement. In the craziness of life today, it is good to witness such exuberance from the perspective of a one-year-old.

 

 

 

 

Life is good when you’re one. And good, too, when you are the grandmother of a baby girl whom you love and adore.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy first birthday, Isabelle! April 6, 2017

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WHEN I BECAME A MOM 31 years ago, I was amazed at the depth of love I felt for my newborn girl. That repeated itself with a second daughter 21 months later and then a son six years thereafter. The love a mother holds for her children is unmatched, almost indescribable.

 

My new granddaughter, Isabelle (“Izzy” for short), photographed when she was about 17 hours old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

But then along came my first grandchild, Isabelle, born one year ago today. Izzy, as we call her, brought a new kind of love. Those of you who are grandparents “get it.” There’s something about a grandchild that weaves incredible joy into your heart.

 

My eldest daughter, Amber, and her husband, Marc, and their daughter, Isabelle. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2016.

 

That we are not the parents frees us to love and care for a grandchild in a different and exuberant way. Sure, we still change diapers, cradle crying babies and more. But the primary responsibility of this little one lies with the parents. I delight in watching Amber and Marc care for Izzy with such tenderness, patience and love. It is obvious this baby girl is adored by her parents and by family on both coasts and many states in between.

 

One of my favorite photos of my husband and his granddaughter, taken when Isabelle was 10 days old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2016.

 

I cannot get enough of Izzy. Occasionally the words, “You and Marc need to go on a date,” slip from my fingers into a text message. I cherish my Izzy time.

 

I snapped this photo of Izzy snuggling against her mom shortly after she awakened from a nap in her mama’s arms.

 

Several days ago I got lots of time with my granddaughter when she and her mom stayed overnight. Since they live only an hour away, these sleep-overs are rare. It’s just easier when a baby can sleep in her own bed in familiar surroundings.

 

Izzy reads a new book, a birthday gift from my friend Kathleen, former children’s librarian in Faribault. Izzy is also wearing the horse pajamas I gave her awhile ago. Photo by Amber.

 

Izzy and I settled on the couch, her tiny left index finger turning the cardboard pages of books I once read to her mother. From the stack of a half dozen or so books, Izzy repeatedly chose the same two, Ducky’s Seasons by Dick McCue and Baby Animals (photographs by Gerry Swart). Words tumbled in rote memory from my lips, from all those years earlier. Like her mama and grandma, Isabelle loves books.

 

Encouraging Izzy to try walking on her own.

 

She’s not walking yet, but she’s close. I witnessed several steps taken. It won’t be long.

 

Izzy pushed her baby around in the empty laundry basket.

 

Isabelle “helped” me with the laundry—a task she also does with her mom—by handing dried clothes for me to put away. Once done, she pushed her beloved baby doll around in the clothes basket. Izzy loves her baby, giving her hugs and reminding me of how Amber dragged her baby doll, Sal, around by the hair.

 

Mama Amber pushes her beautiful baby in the laundry basket just days before Izzy’s first birthday.

 

Izzy still has only minimal hair. But it’s filling in, growing thicker. She has beautiful hazel eyes from parents with brown and green eyes.

 

Izzy eats toast for breakfast.

 

She eats nearly anything put on her plate with an affinity for meat. Her parents enjoy cooking and eat healthy and that shows in Isabelle’s wide palate. I wish I held their interest in cooking; my two youngest likely would have been less picky eaters.

 

There’s a reason this image is blurry. Izzy was crawling as fast as she could toward the stairway.

 

Now that she’s one, Izzy’s personality is beginning to show. I am amazed at how smart these little ones, how imitating of adult actions. When I pet a kitty in a book, Izzy soon did the same. Efforts to keep her from the stairway, though, failed. She kept returning to climb the two stairs that could not be blocked by a gate. She is a determined girl. That will take her far in life.

 

Izzy plays with the same Fisher Price bus her mama played with as a child.

 

While it’s bittersweet to see my granddaughter turn one already, it’s also exciting. I wonder how she will develop, what her interests will be, where life will take her some day.

 

Mother and daughter.

 

To my sweet baby Isabelle, I wish the happiest of first birthdays! I love you and I love being your grandma.

 
© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On being a grandma November 9, 2016

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amber-izzy-6-months

 

JUST OVER SEVEN MONTHS AGO, I became a grandma to sweet baby Isabelle. Izzy for short.

She’s stolen my heart in a way only a grandbaby can. Everything she does is new and beautiful and joyful and wonderful. This coming from a woman who raised three kids. Still, it’s different with Izzy.

Those of you who have been grandparents for awhile get it. Those of us who are novices are learning. Although we will protect and care for our grandchildren, they are not our sole responsibilities. That, I think, makes all the difference. It really is true that we can spoil them and then send them home, although my granddaughter is just a little too young to spoil.

I take great joy in watching my eldest daughter care for her daughter. I see the tenderness, the love, the delight Amber finds in being a full-time mom. Her voice soothes and encourages and even prompts her baby girl to giggle at her mama.

In half a year of life, Isabelle has grown and changed so much. She’s sprouted two teeth, is rolling over, sitting up and eating solid food. She laughs and “talks” and gives this grandma more love than I ever imagined a baby could give.

I am truly, totally, head-over-heels in love with my granddaughter.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The joys of grandparenting August 10, 2016

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The MY GRANDMA LOVES ME onesie I gave to my granddaughter at her birth four months ago now fits her.

Isabelle, dressed in the “My Grandma LOVES me!” onesie I gave her at birth, swings a favorite toy.

I’VE BEEN A GRANDMA for four months now. And I have loved every single minute. It’s as if I can’t get enough of sweet baby Isabelle.

By my own admittance, I’ve never been a baby person, deferring holding a newborn until several months after birth. I’m talking other newborns, not my own three babies. And certainly not my darling granddaughter.

Every time I see Izzy, I do a photo shoot. Here's my favorite, shot in the golden hour of evening light on a screened porch.

Every time I see Izzy, I do a photo shoot. Here’s my favorite, shot in the golden hour of evening light on a screened porch.

This past weekend my husband and I had time alone with our sweet baby girl while her parents went on a date. They live an hour away, so we stayed overnight.

Grandpa pushes his little girl during an evening walk.

Grandpa pushes his little girl during an evening walk.

Sunday morning I swooped Izzy up before her mommy or daddy realized she was awake. I carried her to the living room and settled onto the sofa, cradling her in my arms. To my left, Grandpa greeted his granddaughter and coaxed her in to smiling. I love watching my husband interact with Isabelle with such tenderness and love. He is smitten. The day prior, on a stroller walk through the neighborhood to a road construction site, Randy humored us. “Look, Izzy,” he said, “a big sandbox.” I laughed. And although Isabelle couldn’t comprehend, I hope she develops a sense of humor like her grandpa.

Isabelle rolled onto her side once during our stay.

Isabelle rolled onto her side once during our stay.

As the three of us bonded on Sunday morning, I considered the blessing of this baby girl who has brought us such joy. Every little developmental accomplishment calls for celebration. Smiling. Cooing. Rolling over. Standing (with support) on two strong chubby legs. Batting at toys. As the parents of three, Randy and I have witnessed all of this in our own children. But there’s something endearing and remarkable when it’s your grandchild.

And then there’s the joy in seeing your own child as a parent. When Amber walked into the living room Sunday morning to greet her daughter, she sang a short made-up song about sunshine and birds and morning. Isabelle smiled at her mommy. And we all smiled back.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Family love for the Fourth July 4, 2016

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My oldest daughter, Amber, with her three-month-old daughter, Isabelle.

My oldest daughter, Amber, with her three-month-old daughter, Isabelle, at an extended family Fourth of July gathering. I love watching my daughter and son-in-law as parents.

THERE ARE MOMENTS of love that can’t be measured. A look. A touch. A voice.

I captured the moment Isabelle looked up with such sweetness at her 83-year-old great grandmother, my mom Arlene.

I captured the moment Isabelle looked up with such sweetness at her 83-year-old great grandmother, my mom Arlene.

Those moments happen in a fleeting and you wonder if you’ve really seen or felt or heard what your senses have experienced.

At the exact moment Marc and Amber kissed their daughter, Isabelle closed her eyes in contentment. This photo was not staged; it's a moment of sweet family love I managed to capture.

At the exact moment Marc and Amber kissed their daughter, Isabelle closed her eyes in contentment. I managed to capture this spontaneous reaction at a family Fourth of July celebration on Saturday in southwestern Minnesota.

But your mind tells you that, yes, you saw that sweet baby girl close her eyes in contentment when her parents kissed her.

The hand of an 83-year-old and a three-month old.

The hand of an 83-year-old and a three-month old.

Yes, you felt love in the grip of tiny fingers wrapping yours.

My sweet husband, Randy, cuddles Izzy.

My sweet husband, Randy, cuddles Izzy who is adorably outfitted in a patriotic dress from her Opa and Oma in California.

Yes, you heard love in the coo of your granddaughter’s soft voice.

Four generations: Great Grandma Arlene, Grandma Audrey, Mother Amber and baby Isabelle, all together for the first time.

Four generations: Great Grandma Arlene, Grandma Audrey, Mother Amber and baby Isabelle, all together for the first time on July 2. Photo by Randy Helbling.

I love being a grandma to sweet baby Isabelle, now three months old.

I love this sweet baby girl, my first grandchild, Isabelle.

I love this sweet baby girl, my first grandchild, Isabelle. At three months old, she’s now smiling and cooing.

Today, no matter where or how you celebrate the Fourth, I hope you can spend part of the holiday with those you love most.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A grandfather’s love April 20, 2016

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My granddaughter at 10 days old.

My granddaughter at 10 days old.

THERE IS A SIDE TO GRANDPARENTING I never considered. And that is the joy of watching my husband in the role of grandpa. Randy holds his little Isabelle with such gentleness, cradling her in his arms like the precious baby girl she is to all of us.

Grandfather and granddaughter.

Grandfather and granddaughter.

He is a man who works with his hands—pounding, fixing, drilling—as an automotive machinist. Oil and grease stain his skin and rim his fingernails. He works hard. But those same strong, rough hands wrap a swaddle cloth around Izzy and tuck in her bare feet as he gazes at her with such tenderness that my heart aches.

Two generations connecting.

Two generations connecting.

And then at one point, this 10-day-old baby reflexively wraps her tiny hand around her grandpa’s right thumb. A kiss before she can kiss him. Love so sweet, so beautiful, between a grandfather and his newborn granddaughter.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Meet my beautiful granddaughter April 8, 2016

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My new granddaughter, Isabelle ("Izzy" for short) Karis. Photographed when she was about 17 hours old.

My new granddaughter, Isabelle (“Izzy” for short) Karis, photographed when she was about 17 hours old.

SHE’S HERE. She’s beautiful. And she’s my first grandbaby, Isabelle Karis.

Born 19 days early late Wednesday afternoon, Isabelle weighed 6 lbs., 15 oz., and measured 20.5 inches. It is a joy to finally meet this little girl I’ve been loving since I learned in September of her forthcoming birth. I am thrilled to be part of what numerous well-wishers term The Grandparent Club.

Isabelle is named after her paternal great great grandmother, also her Oma’s middle name. Her middle name, Karis, is the Greek word for “grace.” So fitting. So lovely.

I felt that grace Thursday morning as my husband and I stood with our son-in-law at Amber’s bedside, baby Isabelle cradled in her arms, the hospital spiritual advisor also there. As Marc prayed a blessing upon his daughter, our hands hovering over her, tears leaked down my cheeks. It was a profound moment for me as I was overwhelmed by emotion. Relief. Thankfulness. Awed by the miracle of life. So in love with this little girl.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling