family, grandchildren, Travel

Teary Goodbyes Part II

Do you remember Teary Goodbyes from just over a year ago?  When I blogged about the littles moving away to their new home?  That was such a hard day for me.  I sobbed.  I knew they would be coming back in a year but a year seemed like a lifetime.

Well, it wasn’t a lifetime and they did come back.

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Deja vu – here we are at the airport one year later

All is well in the world once again.

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#blessed

 

empty nest, family, parenting, retirement

Seriously. Who Sped Up Time?

Since we’ve been married, we’ve lived about a decade in three cities.  My husband’s job has not taken us to exotic locations but across one country and into another.

The first decade – the baby decade – was spent in Edmonton, Canada.  Four of our boys were born there all at the same hospital.  I learned to be a mom there – from some amazing women.  It was home to West Edmonton Mall.  What’s not to like?  new-google-image-edmonton

The second decade – the young children decade was spent in London, Canada.  Yes indeed. There is a city in Canada called London.  I took my mothering job seriously and was so good at it.  I was the ultimate soccer mom.  Our youngest was born there – at home with a midwife.  Global_Twitter_Template_LondonOntario

The third decade – the teenage children decade – was spent in a small suburb of St. Paul Minnesota.  That is as exotic as we got.  I took everything I’d learned from Edmonton and London and tried to apply it to “St. Paul mom of teenagers” life.  It was hard.  It was busy. Still, I didn’t hate it.  My teenagers were busy and energetic and crazy.  I was crazy.  minnesota

I used that decade to not only take care of them but take care of me.  I went back to school.  Finished up my degree I’d put off for years.  Went from stay-at-home mom to working mom.  It was hard.

Slowly the kids started to graduate and move on to college.  Then weddings,  Then graduate school.  Some are still in college in some form.  I’m a navy mom now too. You already know I’m a grandma.

Our youngest graduated from high school a few weeks ago.  No fanfare.  No celebration. He graduated a semester early.  I’m going to be honest, he’s the least scholarly of our children (sorry honey – it’s no secret).  Still his brothers are baffled as to how he (of all of them) graduated early.   Apparently, it can be done.  When you really don’t like school – you can make it happen. You find ways.

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Yet another picture of the “young prince”.  #sorrynotsorry I paid a lot of money for this photo shoot and he’s not even having a graduation party or anything where I can show them off. 

That baby is leaving in a few weeks to go away to work in Wyoming.  He’s going to college out of state in the fall.  He’s hoping he’ll be able to stand school again by then.

So here we are.  All of sudden the nest is empty.  What in the world?  10 seconds ago it was chaos with five children.

I’m kind of excited about it.  I know, I should be crying in a puddle of tears.  I’m not.  I’ve worked hard for this empty nest.  Am I a bad mom because I’m not sad they’re all grown and gone?  I miss them.  Oh, how I miss them.  But I’ve done a good job.  We’ve done a good job.  What’s there to be sad about?

I’m looking forward to the next decade.  We’ve got some exciting plans in the works.  I’ll blog about that.

Tell me about your empty nest.  How’s it going?  What do I need to know?

education, family

Children’s Books

Last week, we talked about all of the grandma stuff we’ve collected over the past few years since we became grandmas.   After Round 1 of parenting, we purged everything – only to find out we would need it all back when we became grandmas. The books, however, they made the cut for Round 2.  I saved ALL of them.  I’ve always loved children’s books and have had a pretty healthy children’s book library since the time my own littles were little.

Reading to children is important.  It’s made a difference in my children’s lives.  Here’s a list I found that confirms what I’ve always thought:

  • Reading to young children sets them up to succeed
  • Reading develops language skills
  • Exposure to reading exercises your child’s brain
  • Reading enhances a child’s concentration
  • Reading together encourages a thirst for knowledge
  • A range of books teaches children about different topics
  • Reading develops a child’s imagination and creativity
  • Reading books with children helps to develop empathy
  • Books are a form of entertainment
  • Reading together helps to create a bond

We didn’t have much money to do a lot of “fun things” with our littles, so we spent a lot of time at free places like the local library or the museum on Mondays.  We’d check out stacks of books from the library and then sit and read book after book after book.

As our children grew a bit older and our finances changed, we began to grow our own library of books.

I miss the local children’s book stores.  Sadly, they’re becoming a thing of the past.  A few good ones are still around but not many.  I loved to visit them with my littles.   Not only did they have great books, they were usually quite entertaining as well.  We rarely left without a few good books – usually those recommended by a very knowledgeable shop owner.

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Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis. Tell me your favorite Book Stores in the comments below.

I try really hard to read books to my littles over FaceTime.  Trust me, it’s not easy.  It’s hard to book “bond” with them when a screen and hundreds of miles are separating us.  I just want to get cozy on the couch with them.  Unfortunately, that’s not possible so we do what we can and I’m thankful to at least have FaceTime.

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I asked Go Grandma followers about their book collections.  They shared some of their favorites:

Kristy B:

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a also a favorite of MacKenzie H.  The bear at the end … so sad … he just wanted to play.

Pauline V: 

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Ahhhh …. Jan Brett!

Kate T: 

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Andrea G.

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Allison R.
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Brooke S.

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“Anything by Sandra Boynton” — Barnyard Dance – LOVE IT

Martha L.

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Classic Sesame Street.  I remember reading this to my little brothers.

Christie S.

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Zhenya D.

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This is/was my grandson’s favorite too.  Such a cute story.

Stephanie H.

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Those sheep – so much mischief.  I think The Sheep in a Jeep are going to be Sheep Out to Eat next!

Jenny O.

Here are a few of my favorite books and authors.  It was really had to pick just a few.  Last time I visited the littles I was reading them “Love you Forever” by Robert Munsch (their very own copy that I bought them).  I dare you to read that to your littles without crying.  I dare you.

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Thank you to everyone that sent me their favorite titles!  Now I have a few more I can add to my grandma library.  What are your favorite children’s books?

family

Baby Stuff Round Two

Grandmas, do you remember when your youngest child no longer needed the high chair, booster seat, crib, car seat, baby monitor, change table, baby gate, high chair, sippee cups, swing, etc., etc., etc?   If you’re like me, it had been taking up space in your house for years and years.  In fact, by my calculations, we had an assortment of furniture and toys necessary for keeping young children safe AND entertained for perhaps 15 years of our 30 years of marriage.  29b6569ae31d8c5d9a799ad806d0b52b.jpg

When it came to time to get rid of it, did you have the discussion with your spouse like I did that went something like “do you think we should keep some of this stuff?  What about grandchildren?”   To which he just laughed and loaded it off to Goodwill (you could back then – they’d take all of it!).  I mean – our oldest 15 years ago was 14 so HEAVEN FORBID there would be a grandchild anytime soon.

Off it all went to make room for teenage type stuff – trophies, medals, report cards, sports equipment, bicycles, skate boards, back packs, video game systems, ping pong tables, etc., etc., etc.

No one told me that I’d need all of that baby stuff again.  Why didn’t someone tell me that?  Here were are.   Littles need to be entertained and kept safe in my house again.

CONFESSION:  I have accumulated a RIDICULOUS amount of baby stuff in round two!  What in the world happened?  I bought it once.  I happily got rid of it all. Then I bought it all back again.

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This is not even 1/4 of the stuff I’ve accumulated – AGAIN

We are getting our house ready to sell – “downsizing”.  Except that I’ve upsized with so much baby stuff, I have no idea where to put it all now.  And who knows when I’ll ever get rid of it again?  I could be packing this stuff around for another 20 years.  I think I might have even more than the first time around.

Dear Target and Wal-Mart – you are missing a huge population of shoppers.  It’s the grandmas you should be talking to.  We’re the ones buying all of YOUR stuff AGAIN.  This time we hardly even care about the price – because nothing’s too good for our littles.

Grandmas – I’ve seen the set-up some of you have.  It’s a lot – and I admire that.  You are my role models.  I’m trying to be like you and my husband is not happy about it.  But still – the littles need to be happy when they’re visiting.  If they’re not happy, their momma’s not happy,  and then they won’t visit.  It’s that simple.

I love to FaceTime with my littles and show them the new stuff grandma bought so that they tell their parents they want to “go to grandma’s house”.   It’s ingenious.

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How much baby stuff have you accumulated in ROUND TWO?

 

family

The Gift NO Grandma Wants

We had a wonderful visit with our littles last week.  We brought them lots of gifts and got lots of cuddles.  Then they sent us home with a very special gift … the flu.  Not just any flu.  They gave me full blow MAN FLU

I knew when we got there and saw their cute, little, runny noses that they were likely to make us all sick.  We haven’t had littles full-time in our house for going on 16 years now so our immunity to childhood virus’ has weakened.  A lot.

Then there were the sleepless nights.  I had forgotten how little sleep you get when the littles are sick.  In case you’ve forgotten – you get none.  Zero.  Grandpa, of course, slept through it all.  But not grandma.  I woke up to babies crying and coughing and momma walking back and forth between rooms.  I worried about them and I worried about their momma and I did not sleep – for three days.  IMG_1114

We did all of the right things – propped up the bed to help them sleep, gave them lots of good drugs, a little Vicks VapoRub.  We even employed the services of NoseFrida (my fellow blogger friend wrote a hilarious post about NoseFrida here). 51037242_Alt01

Even NoseFrida couldn’t clear their stuffy noses.

So finally – Grandma took over the care of the baby and sent momma to bed for some much needed rest.  We stayed up most of the night, cuddling, talking, and rocking and mostly just sitting upright.  In the wee hours of the morning I wrapped that baby up like a burrito, propped him up into the corner of the couch, wrapped my legs around him, and we fell asleep.  Finally.

There’s a price to be paid for the combination of close contact with sick littles and very little sleep.  It was a price I would gladly pay over and over.  Cuddling that sweet baby most of the night was a pleasure.  We bonded in a special way and now I miss him and his stuffy, sniffly nose oh so much.

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HOWEVER – if you have any tips for staying healthy when you’re around the littles, I’d love to hear them.  I can’t stay away every time they have the sniffles, I’d never see them. And I need to save my work PTO for grandma visits not sick days.

I did find some great tips at Grandparents.com.  Check out 5 Tricks to Staying Healthy When Your Grandkids are Sick

I really liked these tricks:

If they’re older than 2, give them their own tissue box.

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Wear a bathrobe when you’re holding your sick littles – remove it when you put them down.

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De-Germ frequently.  Cannot emphasize this enough.  I will be taking my own bottle of hand sanitizer and some really good lotion next time

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Stay healthy, grandmas.

 

family

Traditiooooon ….. TRADITION!!

I can hardly, rarely, ever say or think the word “TRADITION” without a few bars of Fiddler on Roof’s Tevye singing “Tradition” running through my head.  It’s practically impossible for me.  Because tradition is a big deal.  It’s the thing of family solidarity.  It’s what brings us together.  It’s what helps us keep our “balance“.

And so, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the link to TRADITION

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… “and because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do“.  I love this.

Traditions become a topic of conversation at Christmas time.  At the company “Holiday Party” we are often asked, “Do you have any family traditions?”  To which I can readily answer “Why yes we do”.

Our traditions and have changed over time.  The traditions we kept with young children like putting out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve are no longer recognized.

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Some traditions are diehards – must do – can’t miss type of traditions like reading the Christmas Story from the Bible on Christmas Eve.

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Also White Christmas.  That’s a must.  At least it is for me.

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One of our favorite traditions has always been The Annual Gingerbread House building night.  Every year I would buy the little kit and everyone would gather around to make it.508a354e-2bcb-48c0-844f-039c4d9e94c2.jpeg55F6B280-22C2-4F0E-9040-757115B4A6AB

Such innocence.

Sometimes we’d keep it for display and sometimes we’d give it away to a family that needed a little extra Christmas spirit.  BUT we ALWAYS, ALWAYS made one.  It’s TRADITIOOOOON.

Over the years, however, it’s gotten a little more elaborate – often involving a competition with our best friends down the street.

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The Burrow versus Stable Scene

How do you judge which Gingerbread house is better when you have the teeny tiny stable scene versus the home of the Weasley family – AKA The Burrow from Harry Potter?

The Gingerbread creations began to take on whole new meaning … and mess!

These creations were often (thankfully) undertaken while I was at work – once the big boys got home from college.  This particular creation was pretty much an EPIC FAIL – but fun was had by all during the creation.

But it got crazier.

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There was no sleep the night this one was made.

That year the judging between the two families was done by the Grinch himself!

This was last year’s Gingerbread House.  For some strange reason, I had the mistaken thought that adding daughters in law to the mix would perhaps tame the TRADITION somehow.  And it did … sort of.

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Gingerbread House 2016

Look at the beautiful little Gingerbread Village.  So peaceful and calm – that is until the REBELS rolled in and the battle ensued:

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… oh boy …

…. and turned the place into a bloody war zone.  I mean SERIOUSLY?!?  Is nothing sacred anymore?

Well, take heart my friends.  The tradition has now extended to my children’s children.  It’s sweet and tender.25289572_10154920682901555_4661012489584801745_n

I had a gingerbread kit all ready to go to send to this cute family but they beat me to it.  This TRADITION is important to them and it does a grandma’s heart good to see it continuing with the next generation.  All is well.

As for this year’s Gingerbread House – apparently construction begins on Friday when our #4 gets home from college.  He has already spoken with his brothers about it and plans are being drawn up.  Who knows what they’ll come up with this year.

Are you seeing any traditions continue with YOUR next generation?

family

Sending Packages – Part I

I’m a self-declared expert at sending packages in the mail.  Four boys, four, 2-year missions for our church equates to 8 years of packages sent at least three times per year (Christmas, birthday, and just because).  Plus, they’ve all gone to college out of state which means they got a package or two then as well …. at least the first couple of kids did.  Anyhow,  that’s a bunch of packages.

My expert package preparation skills were put to work recently when I sent a package to my son at OCS.  

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(**follow the asterisk below for some how-to tips I learned decorating these boxes)

Truthfully, that might have been a bit over the top – at least on the decor part.  The contents were admittedly so-so.

Since I am so well-versed in package prep (ha ha!), I even made a spare just in case there was a soldier who wasn’t going to get a package from home: DC6F3113-C91B-4F3C-AEC1-234EBB15C153

That soldier did indeed get more than a flag from me, however the package itself is IMPRESSIVE!

Since packages are kind of “my thing”, I decided it was time to start sending packages to my littles.  They live far away now so they must NEED packages.  I sent my first “official” package a few weeks ago.  It was a Hallowe’en package with costumes and candy and pj’s.  I think I threw a few new little toys in there two.  The decor was BORING …  I could have done better.

My mom used to send packages to my children.  They were usually full of Canadian candy bars – which truly are so much better than their American counterparts.  Trust me on this.

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seriously … I’m drooling over this

I can foresee a number of packages in my future so I’m polling the grandmas on what goodies I should put in them.  I got a few ideas on this:

Martha L, MN:  There are books you can record yourself reading it to them. The kids love to hear your voice read to them.

It looks like Hallmark makes a whole series of these.  They look adorable:

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Another grandma had books on her mind too:

Pauline V., WI: Books and always a package of animal crackers or Mini Nilla wafers.

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I thought the Nilla Wafer and animal cracker idea was a great one – as an alternative to candy.

Andrea G., MN:  I have a drawer in my kitchen and it has crayons, silly putty, paper, card games and fun snacks.  Grandma essentials!

Oh Andrea, I am jealous!  It would be so nice to have the littles close enough to raid my snack drawer.  Those are great ideas to put in a package as well.

Still, I need more package ideas.   I consulted Pinterest which generally has the answer to any question.  I was not disappointed.  I can see now that my packages are lame.  I commit to doing better.

Grandmas – what are you putting in your packages to your littles.  Mommas – what kind of packages are your littles getting?

** I used the free flat-rate shipping boxes from USPS.  The large box is basically 12X12 so it works well with those 12X12 sheets of scrapbooking paper.  That and a little spray-glue makes life easy!  Also, I opened the box on one of the sides so I could lie it flat to decorate.  SOOOO much easier than trying to reach inside.   Then, when the decor was all done, I just taped it back together again.”