Natural Perspectives: Grandson added to already amazing brood

Vic and I are pleased to announce a new addition to our family — a baby grandson. After five precious granddaughters, we're thrilled to have a grandson, especially since we are pretty sure that he will be our last grandchild.

Robert Michael Murray (call him "Mike") weighed in at seven pounds and came with a full head of nearly black hair. Mike is an alert little guy. He was looking around and his eyes were following movement when he was only a few hours old. Mother Nicole and baby Mike are healthy and doing well.

His three sisters think he's adorable, and we agree. Three-year-old Megan really, really wants to touch baby Mike. She has practiced diapering and dressing her baby doll, taking its temperature and turning on the electric mobile over the changing table. I think she expects to be taking care of the real baby.

I will be in San Diego quite a bit over the next few weeks to help take care of the little ones. Nana Maria, Nicole's mother, has come up from her home in Antigua, Guatemala, to provide assistance as well.

Papa Vic drives down whenever he can to help with cooking and cleanup. It really takes a lot of us to do what Nicole does in a normal day, including running her own business.

The girls have known for months now that they were getting a little brother. The 5-year-old twins, Allison and Lauren, haven't had any questions about the process, but Megan has had plenty. She asked her nanny how the baby got into her mommy's tummy.

The nanny wisely sidestepped the question. When Megan asked her other grandmother about it, Nana Maria told her that there is a special space in mommies' tummies for babies to grow. That seemed to satisfy Megan for a time.

But the day after Megan saw the new baby for the first time in the hospital, she became curious again about the process. I called Scott at the hospital after Megan's music class to let him know that we were going shopping. Megan wanted to talk to him, so I turned my cell phone over to her.

The first thing out of her mouth was, "But Daddy, how did the baby get into space?"

Megan has an amazing vocabulary for a 3-year-old, but she's still working on pronunciation. The word came out "thpath" and no one understood her.

She kept repeating it, and we kept making incorrect guesses as to what she meant. Exasperated, she finally said, "Thpath, where the planets are."

Scott told her that the baby wasn't in space; only astronauts went into space. She gave up on getting the answer from her daddy.

She tried asking me in a different way. "But, Nana Woo, what I really want to know is how did the baby get to our city?"

I guess that makes sense. First the baby is in her mommy's tummy and then it magically appears in a bassinet. How did that happen?

I told her that her Mommy went to the hospital, the doctor helped the baby come out, and that's how they're born. I didn't go into the complexities of Caesarean sections, because that wasn't really what she wanted or needed to know about. That seems to have satisfied her for now.

We picked up some banana bread mix at Trader Joe's. Megan loves to cook and can make quick breads almost by herself. I measure; she pours and mixes with a spoon.

She washed her hands before starting and then said, "Wait. I have to get some paper and a pencil to write things down so I'll remember them."

I figured that she would just scribble on the paper, since she's can't read or write yet. But what she did was draw pictures of an egg, a stick of butter, a cup of water and the box of mix. She was able to read the recipe back to Vic when he asked. Pretty amazing.

At bedtime, she announced that she was going to write a book. Again, I figured that she was going to scribble, but she took a notebook and wrote a string of letters in it. She can write many of the letters, but not all of them yet.

The next morning, she read her "story" to Scott, her dad: "Barbie can't drive a car because she's just fantasy."

It's not the world's most complex plot and there is not much character development, but it's a proper sentence. I thought it was a pretty good story for a 3-year-old.

I figured that if she knows her letters, she could do email. So I helped her send emails to her parents from my Blackberry. She tells me what she wants to say and I tell her what letters to type. She can find most of the letters herself, and it's good preparation for reading readiness.

The twins come home every day from kindergarten so excited by what they have learned that they practice reading, writing and doing math problems for fun. They make up their own addition and subtraction problems and work them out on their blackboard.

I remember when kindergarten was just singing, dancing, and crafts, but times have changed. Now they learn to read, write and do math when they're only 5.

They'll need these skills in the competitive world they are entering. Little Mike, Megan, Allison and Lauren are entering a world of seven billion people. By the time they're in their 30s, the world population will have grown to nine billion. People will be competing for jobs and for natural resources.

Our grandchildren will most likely be living in a world where there is even greater demand than now for water, food, and energy. It will be a world with unpredictable climate, with probably even more weather extremes than today.

We will need a lot of smart and motivated people to cope with these coming crises. I hope the kids are up to the challenge.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. They can be reached at LMurrayPhD@gmail.com.

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