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When Grands Visit

One of the greatest joys of being a grandparent is when Grands visit, especially without their parents.  That’s when we grandparents can spoil, and our children can’t tell us that they never got to do the things the grandchildren are doing. 

            Husband and I invited five Grands, ages 5-14, to spend a few days with us while Daughter and Son 2 took a mini-vacation.  We see these Grands often and one spends the night with us each week so we know their likes, dislikes, and personalities.  We also know their energy levels and melt-down points.

            Our Grands took over the second floor.  Beds and blow-up mattresses were claimed or assigned.  Honestly, when one Grand spends the night, everything is packed in a small backpack. For four nights, they brought backpacks, duffle bags, armloads of stuffed animals, books, iPads, reading lights, four scooters, a basketball, and a bicycle.  

            Husband and I had a plan: divide and enjoy.  (Yes, divide and conquer came to mind, but joy was our goal.)  Husband took three to the gym to play basketball; I took two shopping at a store where $1 buys a treat.  Some played UNO and Qwirkle.  Three made flour and salt play dough and one spent thirty minutes adding food coloring to get the perfect purple, which eventually became the perfect chocolate brown.  And each had a thirty-minute Wii (video games) playing time. Day 1 was a success.

            Day 2 we took a field trip to the Chattanooga Creative Discovery Museum. Early morning, I packed breakfasts and snacks while older Grands helped the youngers dress and get out the door into the van.  As we traveled all were quiet, listening to an audio book and munching on biscuits and grapes and drinking juice.

            The museum was packed with activities for all ages and people of all ages.  Again, Husband’s and my plan to divide and enjoy worked.  Across the way I held up two fingers; he’d held up three.  Everyone within sight.  Another good day ended when we arrived home and our Grands piled out of the van and grabbed scooters to ride and balls to throw for outside burn off energy time.

            I planned Day 3 to relax:  play games, read, make peanut butter play dough, and maybe cookies.  I realized it’d be a long day when our Grands energy levels registered at the top of the chart and mine was barely above 0.  The Grands chose candy as Bingo prizes; that was fine with me.  The day ended with pizza and a movie. I was the first one asleep.

            By 9:00 a.m. on Day 4, one Grand had her belongings packed and asked, “When will Mom and Dad be home?”  This last day passed quickly.  After suppertime we loaded my van to take our Grands and all their stuff home to their parents.  As I backed out of our driveway, Micah, the youngest yelled, “Gran!”  and then in the sweetest voice he said, “Gran, I love you.” 

            Suddenly, I wasn’t so tired.  So harried.  Like I said, it’s a joy to have Grands visit.

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Micah Spends the Night

“Is it my turn to spend the night?” Micah, age four, asked as I arrived at his family’s house. He’s the youngest of five Grands who take turns weekly spending the night with Husband and me. Micah wrapped his arms around my knees and looked up, “Gran, can I go home with you and stay tonight?”

His turn would be the next week. We counted the days. Seven. The next day Micah asked, “Is it my turn tonight?” When you’re four years old, seven days is an eternity.

On the morning of Micah’s overnight visit, Daughter sent a text, “Thought you’d want to know that Micah packed his bag before breakfast to go to your house. It’s beside the back door.”

That afternoon when I picked up Micah, he jumped down his back porch steps and said, “Let’s go!” His bulging black backpack was strapped over his shoulders. He carried a Lightning McQueen stuffed red car and a stuffed monkey and declined my offer to carry anything for him.

“Micah,” his mom called from the back door, “did you pack pajamas?” He did. “Underwear?” Yes. “Clothes for tomorrow?” Yes. “How about a good-bye hug?” Micah, already buckled by a seat belt in my van, held out his arms toward her and she came to him.

At our house, Micah dumped his backpack and “stuffies” beside the twin bed that he’s claimed as his and headed to the playroom. His mother’s and uncle’s plastic Fisher Price playhouse and garage are favorites. My Grand lay on his stomach and parked small cars on the top level of the garage and turned a handle to rotate the cars.

These toys entertained for a while, then Micah asked, “Can I play on the iPad?” A racecar game is his favorite and he shouted as his red car passed others, “Vroom! Faster! I won!”

After supper, Micah asked, “Can I take a play bath?” I agreed and said he could wash too, but he explained, “It’s just a play bath. No washing.” By the time my Grand decided he was finished playing, the bath water was cold, and all his body had been under soapy water he’d created by scrubbing rubber ducks so his play bath turned into a soaking clean bath.

Micah threw many books onto his bed and climbed on it. “Sit here, Gran. Let’s read,” he said and he scooted to one side. We agreed on three books and I read them as we sat together.

My Grand clutched his sleeping friends, monkey and Lightening McQueen, and snuggled under the covers. We named good things that had happened that day and said goodnight prayers. “Will you scratch my back?” Micah asked.

Fifteen minutes later, I stopped moving my fingers across his back, and Micah half-opened one eye just to let me know he wasn’t asleep. Soon he was.

If I hadn’t spent nights alone with my grandmother, I might not understand Micah’s eagerness to stay with Husband and me when we don’t do anything special. But I did and I do.

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Not a Typical Quiet Morning

My early morning routine was disrupted last week. Most mornings I awake early, drink a cup of coffee alone, and gather thoughts of inspiration. An hour that’s all mine. And I need it.

But Tuesday morning at 6:05 a.m. as I shuffled from my bedroom to the kitchen past the upstairs stairwell, I hear a soft voice say, “Hi, Gran.” Two Grands, who live an airplane ride away, held hands and stood halfway down the steps. Neil, age 5, wore his Super Hero pajamas and grinned from ear to ear. Three-year-old Ann sucked hard on her pacey (big girl pacifier) and rubbed her eyes. Their big brother and parents were still asleep.

“Good morning, Neil. Good morning, Ann. Come on down,” I whispered.

Neil let go of his sister’s hand and said, “Ann, be careful. Hold the rail.”

My Grands walked slowly. I held my arms wide and they nuzzled their heads on my shoulders. Those few moments froze in my mind, my heart. I hugged until my Grands wiggled from my arms. “Go potty and then we’ll sit on the front porch and drink juice,” I said. Both raced toward the bathroom and it amused me that being first is important.
“I’ll go first Ann. I’m bigger,” Neil said just before he closed bathroom door.

These two Grands didn’t know about my pass-through kitchen window that I wrote a column about a few weeks ago. “Come to the kitchen. I have something to show you,” I said. Two small plastic glasses, 1970s vintage Snoopy and Strawberry Shortcake, and my coffee cup were on a tray.

“Can we take juice outside?” Neil asked looking out the window at the table on the front porch.

I raised the window that didn’t have a screen. “How about we set the tray on the porch stool and not carry anything outside?” My Grands clapped their hands.

Ann started toward the front door. Neil grabbed her arm. “Wait. How about we climb out the window?” he asked and looked up at me with his eyes open wide. I nodded and Neil ducked his head under the window. “Watch me, Ann. You’re next.”

Sitting together on the front porch, Ann, Neil, and I talked about sounds. Trucks on a big highway. Birds chirping. We saw dog shapes and circles in white fluffy clouds. Neil told about the big ugly monster that was in his bad dream. Ann said she just slept.

Son joined us at the table. “Daddy, guess what? Me and Ann didn’t walk out here,” Neil said.

“We climbed!” Ann said. And, my Grands raced into the house, their daddy followed to raise the window, and Ann and Neil climbed out again.

So upon rising that day, I immediately kicked into second gear to pour juice and enjoy two young Grands. Later, I hit high gear and stirred pancake batter. I’d trade my normal quiet morning of solitude for a morning with Grands anytime. Any day.

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Two Day Gift

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 8.03.09 AMNot all gifts are wrapped in shiny red paper. Not stuffed inside a gift bag. In September, I called Son and offered that he and Daughter 2 (some say daughter-in-law) take a mini-vacation while Husband and I stayed at his house. An offer of two nights away from home, from their three children, ages six, four, and two, and their dog, Baxter. A time to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

So in November on a Saturday afternoon, Son and Daughter 2 kissed and hugged Dean, Neil, and Ann and said, “Bye and be good. Do what Pop and Gran tell you and we’ll see you Monday.”

As Son and Daughter 2 drove out of their driveway, two-year-old Ann wailed for thirty seconds and said repeatedly, “Bye, bye, Mommy.” Husband, Dean, and Neil were having a snowball fight, throwing baseball size white balls of yarn at each other. I hugged Ann. She wiped her arm across her wet nose, and then said, “Let’s play, Gran!”

These three Grands were all ours. Time to play and read and take walks and build wooden cars. To giggle and sing silly songs and tell Purple Cow bedtime stories. To wrap small clean, wet bodies in towels and help wiggle into pajamas. To rub backs at bedtime and cuddle in bed early mornings. To bend the house rules a bit and bribe with Skittles.

Dean, a first grader, repeated my plan to his younger siblings. “Gran said she’d put Skittles in a jar when we did what we’re ‘posed to and we can eat ‘em after supper. I’ll count ‘em and give ‘em out.”

Co-commander Dean asked, “So how many Skittles is that?” after all 60 of the yarn snowballs had been picked up. And he followed me to the kitchen to be sure I put five in the jar.

The Skittle jar sat beside the list of suggestions and advice Son and Daughter 2 had written. Schedules. Neighbors’ phone numbers. Bedtimes. Meal menus. Favorite play activities. TV cable channels. Baxter’s feeding directions. How to cook a hot dog so Dean would eat it. Snacks Ann likes, but Neil hates. What to pack in Dean’s school lunch bag.

Every moment with our Grands wasn’t perfect. When Ann and Neil had breakdowns, Husband and I fumbled for reassuring words, but we knew hugs smooth toddlers. And we struggled through Monday morning to get Neil to preschool and Dean to the school bus stop.

After her brothers had left for school, Ann held a play phone to her ear and said, “Hi Mommy. Uh, huh. Yes. Yes. No. Pop and Gran. Yes. Bye, Mommy.” She ran to me, threw her arms around my neck, and said, “Love you Gran.”

I cherish the time that Husband and I had with Dean, Neil, and Ann. That’s the gift. Our Grands’ parents gave us their children for two days and nights. They trusted us. And they left another gift: detailed lists so we didn’t have to call them, not even once.

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You Let Them Do What?

Who serves ice cream for breakfast? Who lets children jump on furniture? Who watches the same movie fifteen times? Who pays children for jobs that don’t even need doing?

We grandparents plead guilty. Not all grandparents to all charges, but some.

I asked Facebook friends what do grandparents let grandchildren do that they as children weren’t allowed to do. And friends responded.

So many breakfast choices. Caroline’s grandfather served ice cream topped with Fruit Loops and told her mother that they ate cereal.   Nell’s grandchildren eat fudge for dessert after breakfast and her own children never heard of breakfast dessert. Karen’s mother made chocolate pie and chocolate pudding for her grandchildren’s breakfasts. Grandparents offer sugar-coated cereal to grandchildren and parents say it wasn’t even in the house when they were young.

Milkshakes with sprinkles are a meal and one grandmother even serves ice cream to her grandchildren for any meal – not as dessert, as the meal. Sara’s mother keeps mini ice cream sandwiches and brown cow ice cream bars, just for the grandchildren. And if grandchildren don’t like what is served for supper, they can refuse and choose something else.

Laura’s parents give her middle-school age children chocolate candy every afternoon when they pick them up after school. Laura said, “They create nothing jobs and overpay the kids for the made-up jobs.” Looking back, Laura should’ve known what to expect. When her firstborn was two, he colored on her parents’ white bookshelf and television screen, and her parents said, “It’s okay. If it doesn’t come off, we’ll buy new ones.”

Grandchildren jump on beds and if they jump onto a CD player, it’s okay.   One grandmother admits that she protected an antique coffee table and her daughters weren’t allowed to put their feet on it. But her grandchildren sit in small chairs and eat at that table, with placemats, of course.

Brenda admitted that her grandson eats what he wants, when he wants, goes to bed when he wants, chooses television programs and movies, and has her undivided attention. And grandparents are shoppers. When they shopped, Deloris’s grandmother always bought her a new outfit and any toy she wanted. Grandparents take gifts to grandchildren every time they visit.

To go one generation further, one great-grandmother didn’t allow her children in the fancy living room. And when grandchildren opened their Christmas gifts in that room, no food or drinks were allowed. But that room is the great-grandchildren’s gymnastics room where they turn somersaults and pretend to be airplanes. And it’s okay to eat cookies and drink juice in the living room.

So what do parents think of grandparents relaxing the rules? Here are my two favorite comments: I didn’t get to eat ice cream for breakfast, but I’m happy Mom lets my kids! Let it be said, I fully intend to do the same when my tribe grows up and brings me some grandbabies!

All parents may not agree, but I hope my Grands’ parents do.

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Eclipse Connects Generations

 “What’s that book about?” I asked my 10-year-old Grand who held a book in her lap as I drove her home from my house.

            “The big extraordinary event,” Lou said.

I frowned. “What big extraordinary event?”

“Gran, the one we’ve been talking about.”

“The solar eclipse?” Lou nodded. “May I read your book when you finish?” I asked.

“Sure, but there are three kids telling their stories. Think you can keep up with three different stories?” Lou asked and said that the kids end up at the same place to watch the eclipse.

While reading Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass, a fictitious novel for students in grades 5-9 and written in 2008, I met Ally, Bree, and Jack, all young teens. Ally’s parents bought Moon Shadow campground because they knew the two-mile campground would be the only patch of land in the United States that would be smack dab in the path of the Great Eclipse. Bree, who was sure she was switched at birth because the rest of her family was science nerds and she pondered ‘If I’m beautiful and no one sees me, am I still beautiful?’ After failing science in school, Jack chose an adventure at Moon Shadow camp over summer school to earn a passing grade.

Ally explained Nature’s Greatest Coincidence. So called because the moon and sun look the same exact size, but the sun is 400 times bigger and 400 times farther away from earth so they appear the same to us. When the moon covers the sun, the air is like dusk, but with an unfamiliar greenish-yellowish cast.

Baily’s Beads were described as tiny balls forming a glowing circle around the black sun like a necklace of pearls and as the last bit of sunshine passes through the deepest valley of the moon, a huge diamond ring formed. The moon’s shadow passed quickly.

In the book, Ally was amazed by the solar eclipse at totality: the pearly white corona suddenly streams out from behind the dark moon in all directions, pulsing, looping, swirling, glowing, a halo of unearthly light. Bree screamed as the moon’s shadow zoomed like a wall of ghosts, and she saw streams of light fanning out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly. Jack was shocked by the fact that a fiery circle was the only thing that proved the sun still existed, like a big eye beaming down.

“I finished your book,” I told my Grand. “I learned a lot about the eclipse we’ll see next week.”

“Really?” she said. “I never read the fact stuff. Not the introduction or author’s notes. I just read the story.”

“You don’t remember how the characters described the eclipse?”

Elise giggled before saying, “I remember how one threw up all the time! That was funny. Gran, you should read other books that Wendy woman wrote. Some of the same characters are in them.” She told me about two other books.

It’s good when books and events, like Nature’s Greatest Coincidence, connect generations.

 

Freeze these Minutes

imagesWhen I give my Grand a block, he makes it a car, rolls it on the floor, and says, “Vrooooomm.” I watch Jess, two years old. He lays flat, stomach and head on the floor, and rolls the pretend car just inches from his nose.

After a few minutes, Jess throws the block onto the floor and gets two Hot Wheels cars from our toy shelf. Then back to prone position. Clutching a car in his right hand under his stomach, he rolls the other car with his left hand. Back and forth. “Vroom. Vroom. Vrooooomm,” he says.  I want to freeze these minutes when my Grand is totally engaged in a simple game.

Jess, the youngest of five, visits Husband and me and we relish that we can play with just him. And our Grand seems happy to play alone and have Pop and Gran all to himself.   When I say it’s time for a snack, he runs to the kitchen table, holding a Hot Wheels in each hand, climbs into a booster seat on a kitchen chair, and shouts, “Fruit!” His one-word sentences sometimes sound like demands. He swipes his hand across his chest, an attempt to move his hand in a circle, which signifies please in sign language.

Jess helps me peel a tangerine, remove the stringy white pith, and divide it into segments. His small fingers pick off every tiny white string before he plops a segment into his mouth. “More!” he says and swipes his chest.

Outside, Jess runs toward a rubber playground ball. He accidentally kicks it and it rolls away. He runs again. Picks up the ball and throws it and runs toward it. When I pick up the ball and suggest we roll it back and forth to each other, he grabs the ball and runs. “Mine!” he shouts. Yes, it’s all his and it’s his game until he’s tired and lays his head against my legs.

I give him a plastic spray bottle of water. He squirts the grass and then discovers water changes the color of our gray wooden fence. He giggles and then laughs out loud as water drips down the fence. Soon the bottle is empty and he runs back to me. “More. More. Now.”

Much too soon, it’s time to take Jess home. My fingers don’t manage the belt on his car seat well and my Grand sits patiently. He’s tired and I sing a silly song, “I’m fastening your seat belt, seat belt, seat belt.” Finally, he’s buckled in and Jess claps his hands, kicks his feet, and laughs.

When I tell him good-bye at his house, Jess responds, “Book. Read.” He grabs a book from his family’s children’s book basket and holds it toward me. Daughter, his mother, says, “It’s one of his favorites right now.” Jess and I settled on the couch and two of his older siblings sit close by. Jess makes the sounds to go with the pictures in the book. “Vroooooomm!”

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