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?

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?

 

Christmas, family

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?

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

family

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?

 

family

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?