Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A child’s perspective on face masks with notes from Grandma May 28, 2020

Some of our face masks, crafted by a friend in Texas.

 

“I like your face mask, Grandma.”

Her words nearly broke my heart. But I didn’t let on to 4-year-old Isabelle who sat behind me, buckled in her car seat, waiting for Grandpa to exit the convenience store with a gallon of milk.

My cotton print mask, dangling from the cup holder, was in her favorite color, pink. I grabbed the mask and pointed to the colored circles thereon—yellow, green, white, pink, blue, orange.

“Mine has lady bugs,” Izzy said. “And the other is brown.”

I knew about the masks, which had just arrived in the mail from my granddaughter’s great aunt in New Jersey. I was grateful for that gift. But, still, the thought of a preschooler aware of face coverings made me profoundly sad. Her parents had already talked to Izzy about COVID-19 in terms she could understand—that people are sick. She accepts that as the reason she can’t see her friends, go to the library, visit Como Park or the Minnesota Zoo and much more.

 

Izzy rides her scooter along the trail in North Alexander Park in Faribault.

 

I followed that same simple explanation when we were at a Faribault park with Izzy. I kept a watchful eye as she zoomed ahead of Randy and me on her scooter. When I saw others approaching on the trail, I called for her to stop. She listened. We moved to the side and I formed a barrier between myself and passersby. I feel an overwhelming need to protect my sweet granddaughter.

Isabelle never once asked to play on the playground. She understands that, for now, for her safety, she can’t.

 

Baby ducks are so so cute.

 

Mama duck watches her babies.

 

The drake swims nearby.

 

We tried to make our park visit as ordinary as possible, pausing to watch a family of ducks along the shoreline. It was a moment of grace, observing downy ducklings guarded by their mother. Not unlike me with Izzy. We listened to their incessant cheeping and I wondered what they were communicating to one another. Warnings perhaps.

 

A long row of lilacs in various shades grows in North Alexander Park.

 

We stopped also so Grandpa could clip a spray of lilacs.

 

There are plenty of picnic tables alongside the Cannon River.

 

And we picnicked beside the Cannon River, listening to the noisy chirp of birds. Izzy nibbled at her turkey sandwich, ate too many grapes, tried a few of Grandpa’s chips and enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie we’d baked the day prior. When she was done, I wet a napkin with an ice cube pulled from the cooler and wiped away the melting chocolate circling her lips. I love that sweet little face.

On our way home, we stopped at the convenience store. And had that conversation about face masks. When Grandpa pulled open the van door to set the jug of milk and bananas inside, Izzy watched as I squirted hand sanitizer into his open palm. “I don’t like your face mask, Grandpa,” she said. His is black-and-white checkered like a racing flag. No pink anywhere on the fabric.

Preschoolers are, if anything, honest.

And they need us to protect them and those they love. Like their parents. Their siblings. Their grandparents. Their aunts and uncles and cousins. Their friends. They need us to wear face masks.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: The art of youth March 6, 2020

A streetscape by Brooklyn, Faribault Lutheran School. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2017.

 

SEVERAL DAYS AGO, I tore a sheet from a coloring book, sat down and colored a picture of a butterfly and flowers for my nearly four-year-old granddaughter. Isabelle asked for art, something she can look at when she misses me. She remembered my comment about thinking of her whenever I see her art displayed on my fridge.

As I colored, including Izzy’s favorite purple and pink, I thought of this sweet little girl and how much I love her. And now this art would visually connect us in our absence from one another.

Art is powerful. In this instance, it shows Izzy that I love her, that I am always here for her, even when I’m not.

 

Viewing student art inside the second floor gallery at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This evening marks the opening reception for a favorite annual local art show, Area Student Exhibition, at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault from 5-7 pm. Art created by students from elementary to high school age and from 10 area schools will line hallways and gallery space on the second floor.

The show runs through April 10.

Every single year the work of these young artists impresses me. Part of the credit goes to teachers and parents who guide them. But most of the kudos go to the youth. They are the ones who do the work, although I hope they don’t consider creating art to be work or just some assignment they need to finish. I hope they find joy in the thinking, in the doing, in the creative process.

 

Henry Johnson of Nerstrand Charter School created this vivid work of art. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For those of us who are artists—and I consider myself one as a writer and a photographer—making art is a passion. I love words and writing, whether a blog post, an essay, a feature story, a poem, a short story or a piece of creative nonfiction. I love using my camera to photograph the world around me. I love telling stories via my images and my words. Creating brings me joy.

Will Izzy create like me some day? Who knows? For now she primarily embraces the performing arts, dancing her way into my heart with her sweetness, her hugs, her “I love you, Grandma,” and the occasional ballet performance.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The joys of being a grandma September 5, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Grandkids, when they are preschoolers, are in constant motion. Here my granddaughter, Isabelle, runs toward her mama.

 

PREPARING APPLE CRISP would have been quicker, easier, had I completed the task solo. But I didn’t. I pulled a chair up to the kitchen counter so my 3 ½-year-old granddaughter could help. A sink away, Izzy’s mama, my eldest, peeled and sliced the apples.

 

Izzy playing on the North Alexander Park playground in Faribault.

 

As Izzy and I scooped, measured, dumped and stirred together ingredients, I considered the joy of being a grandma. There’s nothing like it—a love so overpowering and intense and strong that I still marvel at the delight of it all.

 

Isaac’s mama pushes him in a swing and big sister helps while attending a family reunion in Sauk Rapids.

 

In Isabelle I often see Amber at the same age. Perhaps in a certain look or expression. Memories resurface. Yet, these are new memories I am building through the time spent with Izzy and her 8-month-old brother, Isaac. I treasure every single moment with them. They live an hour away, close, yet not always close enough.

 

Izzy and Grandpa fly a kite together.

 

This past weekend they stayed overnight with us. Their mama, too, while our son-in-law was out of town. We played at the park, went to the library (where Izzy and I picked green beans from the community garden and both kids played in the kids’ indoor play area), read books, rocked, attended church services together, flew kites.

 

There’s something about a baby’s hand (Isaac’s here) that I love to hold and to photograph.

 

I wiped sticky hands and faces, made faces at Isaac until he giggled, poured milk, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and did all those things grandmas do without thinking, slipping back into mom mode. Minus the 24/7 responsibility.

 

 

 

 

Grandpa untangles Izzy’s foot from the kite string.

 

I observed, too, my husband interacting with Izzy and Isaac. I love watching them. Grandpa chalking Charlie Brown onto the driveway along with an over-sized hopscotch game. Grandpa and Izzy holding onto the handle of a kite. Izzy leaning into her grandpa as she gazes skyward. Grandpa untangling Izzy’s foot from the kite string for the second, maybe third, time.

 

Isaac is always on the move.

 

And Isaac, not to be left out, lounging in his stroller, gripping the kite handle. Grandma hanging on, too. He’s a happy boy, always on the go, crawling already for a month. Keeping up with Isaac and Izzy requires lots of energy.

By day’s end, I felt my age. Weary. But in a good way. There’s a reason we raise children at a much younger age. Come bedtime, Isaac quickly fell asleep upstairs in his mama’s old bedroom. Izzy, though, required lots of cajoling to stay in my office, her temporary bedroom. Tiredness finally kept her there until a 3:20 a.m. bathroom break. I didn’t hear her call for her mama at 5-something. Grandpa did. It was his turn anyway to get up with her.

We would do anything for our grandchildren. They are precious beyond words. So sweet. So loved.

 

To all you grandparents out there, Happy National Grandparents Day on Sunday, September 8.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On being a mom & a grandma April 23, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

 

WHEN I WATCH my granddaughter, I glimpse her mama. In a profile. In a smile. In the way her hair curls.

 

 

When I watch my grandson, I see my son. In chunky body. In his sweet face. And I flash back 25 years.

In those moments I yearn for the days of children at home. To hug. To greet every morning and kiss every night. To know they are safe and happy and within the reach of my arms.

 

 

But years pass and life changes and kids fly away from home. Some literally, some not. They grow their independence, move on, start their own lives. Even though distance separates, a mother’s love knows no geographical boundaries. And the missing them never goes away.

Then grandchildren arrive. Not replacing anyone or any memories. Rather, they add a new kind of love to life. Beautiful and wonderful and lovely and reminders of the children I raised. The daughters and the son, whom I love beyond measure. No matter the space that separates us.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The excitement of turning three April 11, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

 

THE EVENING BEFORE HER third birthday, she couldn’t sleep. Up and out of bed multiple times while the California grandparents babysat. Finally Izzy told them she was too excited to sleep.

This does not surprise me. Tell Isabelle something and she thinks it will happen now or soon. The week-long countdown to her birthday party upped the excitement level.

 

A birthday card handmade by one of Izzy’s friends.

 

Randy and I arrived at Izzy’s home shortly after lunch the next day with extra time to visit before heading out to a destination party at an indoor playland. I was not at all surprised to see our granddaughter in her favorite clothes, a white outfit flared with a tutu.

 

 

Ballet themed her party. Isabelle loves ballet. She’s observed professionals at the Landmark Center in St. Paul and at the Mall of America. And she dances ballet at home, at our house…leaping and twirling.

 

Izzy shows her birthday ballerina to Grandpa.

 

Now, thanks to Opa and Oma, she owns a pretty pink ballet dress, matching slippers and a beautiful ballerina doll. I added to the ballet costuming with a layered tutu skirt to wear over leggings or tights.

When the adoring grandparents aren’t around to watch, Izzy holds the attention of her adoring baby brother, Isaac. At three months, he’s watchful of big sister, entertained by her movement.

 

 

At her birthday party, friends and family circled Izzy in love with song and gifts and wishes. Too witness such love for Isabelle, her parents and brother swells my heart with happiness.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Baby & big sister time February 12, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

 

My newborn grandson snuggles against his mama.

 

I NEEDED TO SEE HIM again. The newborn grandson. I’d seen him briefly at the hospital on the day of his January 6 birth and for awhile on the afternoon he arrived home.

But that minimal time wasn’t enough for Grandma. I had yet to see Isaac with his eyes open. And I needed some cuddling time with him and time, too, with his big sister, Izzy.

The solution: Offer to babysit so his sleep-deprived, exhausted parents could take a break from caring for a new baby and an active nearly three-year-old. My daughter snapped up the offer.

 

 

So on a recent Saturday Grandpa and I headed the hour north to get our grandparenting fix, uh, I mean give Amber and Marc time for a lunch date. We arrived later than we wanted because of a 5-inch snowfall the previous evening. A failed snowblower required shoveling our sidewalk and driveway and that of an elderly neighbor before we left town.

Eventually we arrived at our destination and I asked for details on diaper changing supplies and feeding if Isaac got hungry before his mama returned. Then off the parents went.

We lunched in the sun-drenched dining room while Isaac slept nearby. Everything was going great until I said how much I liked the bright sunshine. Big mistake. Izzy said she didn’t like the sun, eased off her chair and yanked at the patio curtains. “But we like the sun,” I protested. She gave me a defiant look. Don’t challenge an assertive preschooler. The curtains remained closed. You have to choose your battles and this wasn’t important enough to pursue.

 

 

Eventually Isaac awakened and I had my Grandma cuddling time and a diaper changing opportunity, for which I should have been prepared but wasn’t. I called for Grandpa back-up. Hey, I haven’t changed a newborn’s diaper in nearly three years.

Izzy also got plenty of my attention with the two of us playing on the floor with Daniel Tiger figurines and then snuggling on my lap as I read a pile of books. She and Grandpa also rolled and shaped Play Doh while I held Isaac. Oh, and between everything, I pulled out my Canon DSLR to shoot some photos. I wish I could show you all those sweet images, but they are reserved for family.

By late afternoon, Grandpa and I were driving back home with memories of the day imprinted upon our hearts. There’s nothing like time with the grandkids…

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When the granddaughter stays over February 4, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

 

IN THE LIVING ROOM, a ballerina guides a train along tracks…

 

 

then dances across the carpet, tulle flaring as applause roar.

 

 

In the kitchen, an elephant stomps. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Then asks for a cookie.

 

 

Along the river bank, snowboots slap on wet pavement edging the river and the ice-boxed rushing waterfall. The need to walk, to run, to just be outdoors prevails following days of near record-breaking brutal cold.

 

 

Then, beneath the bridge along the recreational trail, vehicles thump overhead while three walk, one trailing.

 

 

Back inside the house, two snuggle under a fleece and blue jeans blanket and read of baby robins and bunnies and warm days of spring.

Then preschool arms reach, wrap around neck and speak the sweetest of words. “I love you, Grandma!”

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling