Christmas Gifts – Don’t Get Crazy

It’s time to start talking Christmas.   We probably should have started talking about this a few months ago but here we are.  By now, I hope your Christmas shopping is well underway.

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(FYI:  This is NOT my tree or gift pile!) 

I’ve made good progress on everyone – everyone that is, but the littles.  On one hand, they are super easy to buy for but on the other hand, what on earth could a two and one year-old possibly need?  If there was a year where we could probably get away with very small gifts, this might be the one.

Nonetheless, buying Christmas gifts for grandchildren is different than for your own children.  It seems that there might be some sensitivities surrounding it.  For example, grandpa found a “kitchen” that he thought would be a great gift for the littles.  It was huge!  It was expensive.  I said absolutely not!

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… and these two cuties are NOT my littles

I feel like it’s not our responsibility or our place to outdo the parents – which is an easy thing to do when the parents are just starting out and have a mountain in student loans.

I just might have some backup on this philosophy.  Here’s what I read over at Grandparents.com:

From the moment Dorothea Hover-Kramer’s oldest grandson asked her for a bike, she dreamed of Christmas morning — and the look on the boy’s face when he’d find the shiny two-wheeler under the tree. Still, she says, “it was kind of a big present, so I thought I’d run it by my daughter [the boy’s mother].” Her daydream was quickly dashed. “My daughter said, ‘No, we’ll get him the bike.’ I said, ‘He asked me for it,'” says Hover-Kramer.

Hover-Kramer was disappointed, but she backed off. “As a grandparent, I’ve learned to be the peacemaker and accommodator,” she says. Her daughter and son-in-law bought the bike while she chipped in for the accessories, including a helmet and a lock.

I totally understand this scenario.  I would definitely be the one wanting to buy the new bike.  But really – is it my place?  I think it’s good to ask permission to buy such a gift.

Here are some other ways gift giving can go – again from Grandparents.com:

  • They ask you to buy a big gift, but you can’t afford it
  • They demand you run your gift ideas by them
  • They forbid you from buying certain toys
  • They ask you to go easy, but you had big plans

Do any of those sound familiar?  I haven’t experienced this yet but with 5 children, their spouses, and any number of grandchildren, I’m anticipating every one of those scenarios at some point!

So grandmas tread carefully.  It is Christmas but take it easy.  Let mom and dad be the hero – unless they ask you to step in.

We’ll be keeping it simple this year.  Maybe a few books and some Hot Wheels cars. I am working on a fun project for them but shhhhh… it’s a secret.  Something from my own children’s childhood that I think they might enjoy.  This might be the only year I can get away with a sentimental gift as opposed to a gift from Target.

Grandmas – tell me what you think.  Is it tricky for you?

 

 

Grandlittle #3 – It’s A …

Oh – I just can’t stand to keep a secret any longer.  It’s a …

GIRL!!

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Sherry and Lauri – you were right!  And so was Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots.  (check out her blog – it’s one of my favorites).

She’s arriving in APRIL.

As soon as my we found out, I was immediately told that I could NOT go shopping.  Too late, I already have a drawer full of of baby girl clothes that I’ve been collecting for quite some time.

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Pink Suckers for these cuties – they’re getting a SISTER

The boy streak has ended – it was 7 in a row for this family.  Ten if you count my husband and his two brothers (no sisters).

Needless to say we are over the moon excited.   Truth be known, boy or girl – we would still be excited.  Another little to love.

 

Sending Packages – PART II

Gosh, life gets so busy sometimes.  It’s a good kind of busy but it’s taking my time nonetheless.   I’m looking forward to the day when I can move from what has to be done to what I want to do.  Is there such a day?

Time to finish my thoughts on sending packages.  Mostly they center around gratitude. When we receive something in the mail, I’m sure our first thoughts are to thank the sender.  But life just somehow gets in the way despite our best intentions.

I mentioned in my last post that my littles used to get a lot of packages from their grandma.  They did outgrow the desire for candy-filled packages, but I also wonder if grandma got burned out from sending packages with no gratitude in return.  My fault – I got busy.  I had good intentions and I was grateful for her kind attention to my children.  It’s just that there were five of them and my husband was gone on business and it was … a lot.

So many thank you cards bought but not sent.  Cute notes made by the children that I never got around to mailing.  Phone calls that should have been placed but instead I put the kids to bed early so I could get those clothes washed or the dishwasher unloaded. ALISONHARDCASTLE105

I’ve heard mothers and mothers-in-law commenting that they “never get a thank-you” when they send gifts.  Well, grandmas, I don’t think those children are ungrateful – I just think they’re moms are darn busy and you’ve forgotten what that’s like.

It’s hard being a mom.  It’s exhausting.  You’re lucky to put a meal other than chicken nuggets on the table let alone pen another thank-you card.

Those daughters and daughters-in-law are not ungrateful but they kind of get a bad rap sometimes.  They’re trying hard.  Many of them have to work full-time and then come home and work full-time some more.  It's tough being a working mom

So let’s lay off the gratitude guilt.  Be grateful that they are spending the time reading bedtime stories to your littles and maybe even taking a little rejuvenation time for themselves.  They’re grateful.  They know you’ve spent time and money.  They appreciate it.  They’ll show you that gratitude as they lovingly care for your littles – for every waking moment of their day.

The Miracle of Love Runs Deep

I absolutely loved being a mom to bunch of little boys.  I didn’t work outside of the home when they were young so being a mom was My Job.  I read books about it and watched what other moms did.  We played a lot and we learned responsibility.   We did everything together.  lessons-from-ducks

Lately, I’ve found myself comparing mothering to grandmothering, and thinking about how they are different.  Being a mom has been a wonderful experience for me.  However I’ve even been known to (half)joke that I might just love my littles more than my own children.   I absolutely adore my children.  They are my life.  Still, I’ve been surprised at the depth of my love for my littles.

This week I asked Go Grandma followers what surprised them the most about becoming a grandma.  If you’re a grandma, then their answers probably won’t be a surprise to you.   Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Lorri S., CANADA:   Maybe I was surprised by how easy is was to be a granny….and to completely love that little human from the get go.

Pauline V., WI:  How easy it is to fall in love again – with every new little one.

Martha L., MN:  The incredible amount of love and joy you feel for each child–from the first and still continues. It is amazing.

Mary H., ID: It’s simply wonderful!

Mary H.: What a blessing each child is in their own special way.

Judy C., UT:  I’m 3 weeks into this new grandma life and I didn’t realize my heart was capable of loving my new grandson as much if not more than my own children. BEST CLUB EVER!!!!

I’m not sure why life was designed in such a way that at just about the time you’ve exhausted your parenting energy, you approach the grandmothering years.   It’s the best reward for years of worried late nights and parent teacher interviews.

Do you remember when you first held your newborn baby, you drew them close and smelled their sweet newborn smell?  Do you remember how you were instantly filled with complete love and compassion for that child – like you would absolutely lay down your life for that child — yet you’ve only known them for a moment?   Being a grandma is something like that only for me it’s more of a feeling of complete protection.  I don’t wish to parent the littles at all.  I just want to be in their presence and just watch.  I could watch All.Day.Long.  Literally, everything they do is a pleasure to observe.C715429B-9A63-494C-B7A2-3CFED0E53AEBI’ve learned that love changes and becomes deeper as our roles expand and change.  The love grows from one of depth and begins to include a love of breadth.  It’s an intangible thing.  It’s especially intangible when you add the love my child has for his own children now.  It’s really the best miracle of love.

What surprised YOU about becoming a grandma?

 

Mishaps at Grandma’s House

Whether it’s day care or just spending the day, grandmas like to have the littles over.  There is excitement in the air when the littles are on their way.   Anything can happen and it usually does.

It’s GRANDMA’S house which means it’s been a few years since there have been littles small enough to not only see the outlets that are near the floor but stick things in them.  The chemicals have now made it back to their original spot under the kitchen sink.  The gate that used to block the stairs is now being used to grown vines in the back garden.   Don’t even get me started on the random vitamins and medications laying around.  It’s a miracle our grandchildren survive their stay at our house.  But they do.

Yet things happen.  Nothing too serious, so far.  But sometimes … well things happen.

One summer, we sent two of our children on an airplane, alone, at ages 6 and 8 to visit their grandparents. One ended up with stitches from a playground incident and the other with major scrapping all over his little face from attempting to ride a bike much too big.  Still, there was no doubt they had a fantastic time with their grandparents and still talk about it to this day.

Grandparents like to have fun and we forget that those littles need to be watched.  Every. Single.  Second.  They are sneaky little things that can disappear from your sight in an instant.

It’s because we get distracted. We’re not used to being on child alert.  It’s been a while.  We’ve had a taste of freedom. We can now watch an ENTIRE show uninterrupted.  We get to use the bathroom without a single knock on the door or someone wanting in.  We can eat pudding, in the living room, and leave the container right there.  RIGHT THERE on the coffee table and it will still be there next week and NO ONE CARES!

So when they come, we have to flash back to parenting mode and try to remember how we once managed to keep our littles safe (which we did – just fine, by the way).  It gets tricky.  Mostly because we just want to play with them.  But the distractions …

This summer the littles were over.  There were 5 grown up adults in the house and two littles – a walker and a crawler.  The adults were visiting and chatting as adults do.  It’s grandma’s house so no one is in charge – except grandma.  Grandpa is definitely not in charge.  The parents are at their parents house so they’re not in charge.  The uncles are oblivious to being in charge of anything. Grandma is at work.  Do you see the problem??

As I drive up our street in a rush to get home to see the littles, I notice a little little coming from the side of our neighbors house.  Alone.  Happy as can be.  He’s TWO. Did I mention he’s next door in the neighbor’s side yard?   I slam on the brakes in the middle of the street and jump out of the car and run to the little.  What the?!?  Why?!? How?!?  Then I see them all running.  Those five grown up adults.  Mom is crying.  Dad is angry at the uncles.  Grandpa is blaming the mishap on everyone but himself.  Everyone’s upset … except the little.  He’s happy.  He’s free.

Grandma just scoops him up, straps him in the car seat and takes him for an extra long drive home.  It’s all good.  No harm, no foul, no stitches!  IMG_8724

Mishaps happen at grandmas house.  They happen a lot. Here’s proof from our Go Grandmas followers:

Sherry K., Canada:  A “sleeping” toddler, pajamas, hair, carpet, wall covered head to toe in Vicks Vaporub from his Mom’s suitcase…

Jane G., Canada:  Our little ended in emerge with a small toy up is nose and a second time in his ear. Then he took two stool softeners. The health nurse by phone described exactly how messy it was going to get at 2am. She was spot on!! Still can’t figure out how he got the cap off!!

Allison A., CA: The ‘sleeping’ ones are the dangerous ones. We put our grand baby down for a nap in our little office… a little too close to the table where Gma carelessly left markers… well she reached them and created her own art!

See … the medications.  I talked about this!

Cindy A.,: Got a call from our daycare one day, she put our toddler and another child down for a nap. She thought they were sleeping. She went to check on them and our child was completely painted with a new bottle of lotion. Those two were never again placed in the same space for naps and received extra supervision at all times as they were just trouble together.

Now that Cindy brought it up, sometimes moms get caught in mishaps too. Well … they probably get caught in mishaps a lot but they don’t seem to get the same publicity as when grandma gets caught.

For instance, I do recall one little painting his baby brother with an entire tube of diaper rash cream while their mom was in the shower.

And this happened:

I think the difference is that when (innocent) mishaps happen on grandmas watch, we stop, take pictures, and laugh.  We’ve got time for that.  It’s not a big deal.  We think it’s adorable when they cover themselves in marker or paint their little brother.   It’s stressful for moms because it’s just one more mess to clean up, in their already hectic and exhausting day.

Grandmas welcome the mess because.  Except for that empty pudding cup on the coffee table, the house is too clean.  It’s too quiet.  Please come and make a mess, my littles.

What mishaps have happened on YOUR watch?

 

 

 

The Day Care Dilemma

I’ve seen this story going around about how “babysitting grandkids may help prevent Alzheimer’s”.   Well who doesn’t want to PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S??  Seriously.  Sign me up today because THIS:

You don’t have time to think about anything else,” said Mary. “It’s a wonderful exercise in love — it really is.”

I guess you would be preventing Alzheimer’s … in a way… because you can’t actually think about anything else except baby so …

This is the VERY LAST paragraph of the story:

The Australian study focuses on caring for grandchildren one day per week. Research showed grandparents that spend five days a week or more caring for little ones may have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders.

Sorry kids – but grandma’s only babysitting once per week!  We can’t risk developing neurodegenerative disorders – AKA Alzheimer’s!!

Anyhow, I do know plenty of grandmas that do provide day care for their littles – and so far so good for them – mentally!  However, it’s not without some consequences.

Andrea G., MN:  I have done daycare with my grandkids so a pro for me is the extra time I get to see them, the con is that while they are at my childcare they have to follow the schedule/rules. And my 4 yo grandson thinks my house is daycare, so that’s kind of a bummer. But I do have a strong bond with my grandkids, so that’s the trade-off.

Claudia J., MN: I physically couldn’t do day care for an extended period of time. A day, here or there. However, I’m so grateful to be able to give care when I can. It’s a special way to be able to bond with my grand blessings.

I wonder though, do grandparents sometimes feel obligated or guilted in to providing this often FREE service?  I mean childcare is really, really expensive.  To have your grandchildren go to a “cheap” day care or a day home that seems … well … sketchy – you just might feel like you should step in and offer your services.   After all, if you’re not working at least part-time, what else could you possibly have to do with all of that FREE time, right?

Here’s what Susan Adcox had to say at The Spruce:

… grandparents should carefully consider the impact that providing child care may have on their personal finances.  Extra expenses can mount up, and a child care commitment may keep grandparents from accepting other employment or from performing home and property maintenance, which they may end up paying for.

She makes some great points about the longterm effects on personal finances associated with quitting your job and providing FREE day care.

What about if you indeed do insist on payment:

Accepting Payment

Even if grandparents don’t have to quit a job, taking on regular child care responsibilities will require major changes in their lives. For that reason, some grandparents are willing to accept payment for child care. Usually, they charge their children less than other providers would charge. Some grandparents refuse any pay. It is vital to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all parties before accepting child care responsibilities. If you decide to accept payment, you need to consider your children’s financial habits. Do they pay their bills regularly and on time? Will they consider your bill for child care something they can skip if their budget becomes strained? A very important question is will you feel guilty taking payment from your children?

Some children who do not pay their parents for child care instead buy extra gifts for the grandparents or pay for occasional restaurant meals or even vacations for the whole family. Some grandparents who do accept payment put a portion of their earnings back for similar treats. In both of these cases, any extra treats or gifts must be considered as just that, gifts. Neither side is entitled to feel slighted if the gifts aren’t lavish enough or the outings don’t occur frequently enough. They should not enter into any type of financial accounting that takes place.

Here’s another great point from this article:

Working Overtime

Most child care facilities have definite hours and penalties for parents who don’t pick up children promptly. These should be spelled out between parents and grandparents as well. Although most grandparents won’t mind an occasional half hour of overtime, parents who constantly run late are abusing the grandparents’ good will. Also problematical is the parent who comes to pick up the kids, starts “visiting” and ends up staying for dinner. Some grandparents will welcome this extended day, and others will be fuming, inwardly at least.

Oh boy – I’ve heard this story on more than one occasion from a number of grandmas!  I’d definitely be fuming.   I really have a lot of opinions on this but I’m hesitant to share them because honestly, I’m not sure what I’d do if I was in the situation where my kids really needed the help.  So for now, only you can decide what’s best in your situation.  What do you think?  Have YOU provided child care for your littles?

By the way, we haven’t even talked about all the things that can go WRONG when grandma is in charge all day.  That I do know about!  That’s my next post!

 

 

 

Back to School and the Last First Day

80 First Days of schools for 5 children. That’s a lot. This Tuesday will be my last. My baby is grown. There will be no fancy signs. No celebration. I’ll get up early and make him breakfast – which he probably won’t eat. We’ll take a quick, (forced) photo as he gets into his car at 6:15 AM. Then I’ll get ready for work. And it’s over. That’s 25 years of Back to School – over. Just like that.IMG_6551.jpg

Don’t even blink, young mommas. It goes by fast. You don’t think it will but it does. Just like I was told it would – back when I thought I knew better.

There were tears last week when I watched from afar at my baby’s senior photo shoot. Not really tears of sadness, but tears of pride. It’s been so many years of hard, hard work.  Every hour spent on science projects and car pools. Every penny spent on field trips and school supplies and athletic fees and parking passes and just everything. Every, single worried late night.  Worth. It.IMG_0053

I’ve loved every choir concert, every theater production, every soccer game, every swim meet, every ski meet.   The product, so far, has been 4 high school graduates, 3 college graduates, 1 masters degree, and 1 MD.   We have a radiation oncology resident, a civil engineer, a navy flight officer in training, a lawyer to be and the sky is still the limit for that baby of the family.

As one era is coming to an end, another is beginning.  We’re not going back to school yet, with the littles, but it’s coming.  And it’ll come fast.IMG_9949

I’m not sure how involved I’ll be in my little’s Back to School experience. Grandparents seem to be much more involved in this process now than ever. I’d like to be there for every First Day. If I can peak from a distance, I will. I’m sure I’ll feel the same pride, and try to hold back the same tears. Or maybe I’ll need to accept that I’ve had my First Days and I’ll wait to hear about their First Days by photo or text message.   Time will tell.

I asked Go Grandmas what they were doing with or for their grandchildren for Back to School. Here’s what they had to say:

Mindy,  CO: I take them shopping for a back to school outfit.”

Andrea, MN: I let my grandchildren choose two outfits each, shoes, and a backpack.  It’s not stressful to me and it takes some pressure off my son and daughter-in-law.  I always appreciated it when my mother-in-law sent money for back to school clothes for my kids.  This time of year can be stressful for parents and finances can be tight

I remember my in-laws buying new shoes for my boys when they went back to school . That was a huge help – not just the shoes but the fact that they physically TOOK them and did it for me.

Anonymous:  Nothing!  Maybe I’ll do something next year but this year we have too many other issues to deal with.

Truth! Sometimes life just gets in the way of being a grandma and there’s not anything we can do about it.

Here’s a fun list I found of ways to be involved in Back to School with the littles:

School supply shopping

Working parents often find it difficult to find time to take their kids shopping for school supplies. Not only will taking your grandkids to buy everything on their school supply list make their parents’ lives easier, but it’s a fun outing for you to share with your grandkids. Spend some time after you get home from the store helping them organize everything so that it’s ready to go for the first day.

Walk the route

When kids are old enough to start taking the bus to school by themselves for the first time, it can be intimidating! Help your grandchild overcome first day jitters by walking the route to the school bus with them a couple of times before the first day. You could even drive to the school and walk the route they will take throughout the day, from bus to locker to classrooms and lunch and back again. Familiarity will give your grandkids confidence on the big day.

Get a copy of the academic calendar

To stay involved throughout the school year, get a copy of your grandkids’ yearly events and academic calendar. Mark all important events like recitals, conferences, and “no school” days on your personal calendar so you can be sure to avoid scheduling a conflict. Don’t forget to mark Grandparents’ Day!

Create a reference of school info

If you’re going to be helping out with school logistics throughout the year, such as carpooling or after school babysitting, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all the relevant info in one easily accessible place. We recommend making a cheat sheet of all important school information.

This includes:

  • Teachers names
  • School day start and end time
  • Bus number and driver’s name
  • Bus pick-up time
  • Locker combo
  • Lunch time
  • Days of special subjects (P.E., art, music)
  • Field trips

Even if you won’t be helping with driving, it’s good to know what your grandkids’ daily schedules will be.

Volunteer

Another way to stay involved with your grandchildren’s school lives is to volunteer in their classroom or around the school. Sign up for the volunteer roster at the start of the year to get your name on the list for openings. There are many different tasks that schools rely on for volunteers throughout the year, such as classroom aids, media center support, field trip chaperone, lunchroom supervision, and PTA. Don’t forget to remind your grandchild when you’ll be volunteering so that they know to keep an eye out for you!

Whether you’re watching from afar or you’re there on the doorstep, grandmas love to be involved. Back to School will always be one of my favorite memories. It meant starting fresh. It meant freedom. It meant pride. I hope to experience that again. Someday. Through someone else’s eyes.  Please invite me because I’ll be there. I’ll just watch. I’ll be quiet and silently cry my pride tears.IMG_0110