Picture a smiling grandmother with her visiting granddaughters.

Picture a smiling grandmother with her visiting granddaughters.

I've seen them in grocery stores purchasing cookie-making ingredients and at farmers markets deciding which flowers to select. There were several at the local pottery-painting place this week, the shop where you're given a few brushes, a sponge, some brilliantly colored paints and an opportunity to create just about anything,

If you see a grandma happily escorting two girls, ages 6 and 9 — one who's goldilocks-blonde and the other with big, brown eyes and hair to match — that would be me.

If we do encounter one another, I'm hoping I appear able to handle anything the world might offer up. Although "slightly frazzled" is probably the better descriptor. I'm only just beginning my 10 days of "grand" mothering — and I'm exhausted.

We had anticipated our granddaughters' arrival would be later in the summer. But things change, and we readily merged the need for altered plans into a committed workweek. The problem is that my husband had a pre-ordained week. He is away at a conference — out of the country, no less. I can still remember the moment he told me that. "Incredulous" doesn't even come close to describing my reaction.

But, ever onward, I'm trying to balance high-quality time with the girls and my own work obligations — something I know young moms and dads do every day. I pause to offer a heartfelt salute to them. I have renewed respect for the complexities of parenting — especially single parenting.

We are keeping busy. So far my grand girls have passed out educational materials at a class I was teaching and spent more than a couple hours playing games on the floor of my office. They are resilient little souls, but I sense they think I'm too busy. We did have a tea party in the yard, and all the neighbors came. Although, when it was over, Sarah said, "I think that meeting went well," echoing a phrase I'd used the day before.

The best moment, to date, was over a veggie pizza. They were munching away as I was sending my fifth text message of the day to their parents (who were in separate locations) and my traveling hubby, updating them all about the events of the moment.

I commented, "What did we ever do without cellphones." Nine-year-old Isabella responded with, "We used regular phones and mailed letters at the post office." Then she added reflectively, "I wonder what we did before that?"

I was ready to pipe in with a comment that would have probably been about the Pony Express, when 6-year-old Sarah said, "They talked."

Her matter-of-fact remark stayed with me all through the night, embedded itself in my thinking. Today I plan to do only that with them — talk. And listen well. We shall talk while we sort those two big tubs of loaned-to-us Barbie clothes, walk to the park and, side by side, endlessly swing, gazing at the sunny sky. We shall talk while we bake those cookies — knowing we have all the ingredients.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 541-776-7371, ext. 210.