Professional Grandmother To The Kids Who Need Her Most

December 13, 1990|By Jill L. Zarend | Jill L. Zarend,Staff writer

Her children grew up and left home years ago, but Hattie Kisner isn't sitting around sipping tea and reminiscing over old photographs.

The 83-year-old grandmother has her hands full with another group of pre-schoolers.

On a typical day as a foster grandparent, Kisner gets up early to go to school. She arrives by bus at Marley Glen Special School in Glen Burnie at 10 a.m., just in time for "free play" with four pre-schoolers in Cari Beuerle's class.

This is Kisner's home five days a week, four hours each day, as a volunteer with the county Department of Aging's Foster Grandparent Program.

"Grandma" Hattie takes her seat on a bed with 5-year-old Gregory Hannigan, who is lying in a car seat. She takes a small cymbal and helps him to clank it with his hand.

* 10:30 a.m. -- circle time.

Circle time is lessons the children are taught, such as sharing or identifying objects. Today, they learn to differentiate between Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer by playing with toys and hearing songs.

Beuerle sings, "All my friends are here with me," to the children and attempts to get them to move to the song. Grandma Hattie rests her hand on Eric Bordack, 4, and pats his shoulders gently as he throws a round plastic ornament to the ground.

She turns next to 5-year-old Angel Darling and holds her hands, which move rapidly through the air. Angel reaches out for the small ceramic Santa held by her teacher and gives it a kiss.

Next, the children look at a book about Santa. "Ba ba ba book," encourages Beuerle, as she flips through the pages. "Ba ba ba book."

But she gets no reply.

The children begin to get restless, and their teacher can sense it.

"Fifteen minutes is as long as they can handle," she says.

Grandma Hattie takes Eric to the sink and begins to wash his hands. He tried to avoid the scrubbing, but finally agreed and rinsed his hands under the running water.

"He's stronger than I am," Grandma Hattie says as she rubs his hands with soap.

* 10:45 a.m. -- snack time.

Eric makes a deep throaty growl as he sits in his chair. Grandma Hattie growls back at him and then gives him a little smile.

"Good pudding. Open up. That's a good boy," she coos to him.

Eric's arms begin to move at his side and up through the air. He claps his hands, then makes his grunting noise.

"Stop those piggy noises," laughs Grandma Hattie. Finally he sits back and enjoys his chocolate and vanilla pudding.

"You're a funny bunny, she tells him. "Open up. There, that's a good boy."

She wipes the pudding from his cherubic face. His bright blue eyes look at her, then quickly dart away.

* 11:05 a.m. -- art time The four children sit at a small table with Grandma Hattie, Ana Claypool, a volunteer teacher's aide, and Thelma Bensavage, a teaching assistant. The children sit with 8 - by 11-inch pieces of construction paper in front of them. Kevin Rzepkowski, 3, pushes his paper across the table at Angel.

Grandma Hattie places Angel's hands on her project. "Pat, pat, pat," she tells her as they stick a glued piece onto the construction paper.

"That's a good angel," she says to Angel, a thin 5-year-old with long brown hair and large round eyes.

* 11:30 a.m. -- outside.

Grandma Hattie bundles up Angel and takes her outside for a walk. The child stops flailing her arms and suddenly quiets down as she takes her daily ride around the playground.

* 11:45 a.m. -- the children leave.

While Gregory is being bundled up and readied for home, Beuerle notices his hands are becoming infected from making a tight fist for so long.

Grandma Hattie offers her advice. "Give him a wash cloth to hold. Then it won't hurt his hand," she tells the school nurse. Suggestion noted, the nurse wraps his hand in sterile gauze to prevent the infection from spreading.

Grandma Hattie wheels Angel out to her bus and waves good bye. She smiles and walks with her cane in hand back into the school.

* Noon -- lunchtime.

Grandma Hattie meets with the six other foster grandparents for lunch.

They chat about "their children," then ready themselves for afternoon classes.

One more time Grandma Hattie goes through the same routine, only this time with different children.

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