This is the fourth and last in this series of Grandma in Charge. For anyone following, I have been taking care of two grandchildren for the past several days while their mom and dad have taken a much needed vacation. They return home today, so I return home then too. I will be returning with a full heart and a brain bursting with memories.This post captures of the final days.
Do You Remember Where We Left Off?
I had so proudly described how I’d turned duty of Activity Director over to the 7 year old. I’d figured that I’d done quite enough training by this time. It was time for him to take the reigns.
And take the reigns he did!
“Let’s play soccer!”
Well, I deserved this. I’d told him to choose. So outside we went. Me in my slip ons and he in his agile body! Still the exercise would be good for me. And so we played soccer of 20 minutes. We played hard! Well, I thought we played hard! And his 5 year old sister came in after, holding her hand on her chest saying “My heart is still beating so fast!” She was the goalie! In the end, he was gracious, gave us double points every time we managed to get the ball in the net and then he allowed us to call the game when we were tied. It was time for Wheel of Fortune, you know!
Coming To The End of The “To Do List”
Remember back at the beginning, that file bursting with notes of everything including a list of scheduled “To Do’s”? Well, as things always go, I had come to the end of the list. I was crossing off the one last appointment that I couldn’t miss, the 5 year olds kindergarten assessment. By now, I almost can drive to the right place without my GPS but I keep it talking to me as a comfort, I think.
No matter, I got her there on time and in line. She says she did fine. I’m sure she did. As the adult who brought her, I was tasked with answering those questions that are supposed to reveal all those talents this child certainly has that you want to make sure the teacher knows before fall. As the proud grandma, I made sure I filled that survey up good! After all, this little girl is a power house. She’s ready to take on the world…well, as long as it doesn’t involve too much soccer. That makes her heart beat too fast.
After reaching this momentous occasion (completing our To Do List), I thought it only right that we celebrate so I took them to play Mini Golf (exercise my speed) and then capped the morning off with a Happy Meal! I mean nothing says Grandma’s In Charge more than that.
And then we went home. It was at this point that the realization of the past days hit me and I felt every bit of my age. I was ready for a nap. They were ready for their IPADs. Now, of course I didn’t sleep. After all, I am the Grandma In Charge. But I did let them linger longer with screen time. I just had nothing left in me to fight it.
One Last Burst
After probably way too much time letting them zone out so I could too, I said “Time to shut them down.” To which the 7 year old said, “Now what should we do?” And confident me said, “You decide.”
He decided that we needed to play a game of tag (here we go again!) He made up a list (excessively long) of rules for this game and he assured me that they were allowed to run in the house and they wouldn’t hurt themselves. No worry about me.
So off we went running room to room trying to get caught (or not get caught, I never quite knew) and then I got a text…and I had to stop and read that immediately, of course! It was from a friend of my daughter’s wondering if she could bring her son over to play with the kids. He was bored!
I couldn’t type fast enough, “OMG, YES! Come fast before I break a bone or something!”
And she came and the night ended with delight, no broken bones, sleepy kids, and a thankful Grandma!
Probably There’s A Better Title For This
You know, I write mostly from a stream of consciousness. I like to just go with what comes to mind and as I opened my computer this morning, and started this blog, “When The Bough Breaks” jumped to mind. Now I wonder why. Here’s what I think:
I have four grandchildren. They are all so close in age and I’m old enough to know that the years will fly by and they will have many interests. Grandma will take her place near the bottom of the list as it should be. These opportunities to play a part in their lives are precious. I mean, it was just yesterday that they were in those cradles.
Visits don’t happen as often as I’d like. Covid made them even fewer, so I have to hold on to the moments I get. Be present. Give them all of me.
But this time, I have felt that “all of me” wasn’t just about playing nonstop or letting them have everything they wanted. It was more about just being here, listening, talking, and sharing our thoughts. We talked alot! We shared our thoughts about so many things and I didn’t even get offended when one of those thoughts was this:
I’m sharing a moment with the 5 year old, telling her how her brother thought that when I come for long visits we should actually go to Target two times instead of just once (our traditional Grandma toy trip). The five year old agreed! But then I said, “Well, I wouldn’t want you to just want me to come because I buy you toys.” And her response “Pretty much that’s about it.”
Now, I told you I didn’t get offended and this is why. She then went upstairs to get dressed and came down in a tie-dye shirt. One that we had made together on a previous visit. She said, “I know this is your last day and this is our favorite shirt, right?”
This flower sits out their back door with a fragrance that will knock you over.
This trip, like many things now as I have gotten older, came with it’s share of stress and anxiety. Those two emotions that can stop people in their tracks, keep some from saying “Yes” to opportunities. I could have said “No” to this past week. I could have used any excuse that would have been completely understandable. But I didn’t. I packed up my nerves and headed off to an adventure. When I arrived, one of these flowers was in a glass cup on the table. Nothing special was made of it. It was just there. It’s now that I step outside, take a picture of one of it’s relatives and look up the message. And the message is – RELAX!
And, I did. And I found my way from day to day without getting lost, losing anything or breaking a bone. Amazing!
We did it, Grandma! We made another memory together. And this Grandma leaves with a grateful heart. There are so many moments in their lives that I see only from a photo. This week, I was the one taking the pictures. I got to take one of their last day of school, the 5 year old’s graduation from Pre-school, of our adventures with so much pizza, their fun swimming in their pool, and even one or two of them peacefully sleeping in their beds. This was a blessed week and I am one happy grandma.
Thank you, Mom and Dad for trusting me with your babies.
Entry #3 of Grandma In Charge. It is now Monday (Memorial Day), the beginning of our third All Home All Day stint. As I have shared in the first two posts regarding this visit with my 7 and 5 year old grandchildren, I have moved through anxiety…on to organization…and now I’m ready to submit. Let me share the adventures of the last two days.
Planning is Great Until…
I’m a planner. I like to know what we’re going to do with our time. That way I can organize and step through the day with a sense of focus. So we started by working together, the kids and I, to develop a list of all things fun to do while Grandma was here. The list included places to go (restaurants mostly) and activities that sounded like fun.
We’ve made it to three of the five restaurants in two days. That speaks to how much I don’t like to cook and how much we really needed to get out of the house! Two of the restaurants were free meals for the kids from places that had a great marketing technique: Give the kids a free meal. Make the deal good for only three days. Believe that the adult(s) who bring them will feel obligated to buy a meal and a drink (probably alcohol). This is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits – Win Win.
So, first place was a pizza place and second place a pasta place. Both times the kids ordered pizza. I scrapped some vegetables off my salad so I could say they had vegetables with their meal and at one place they got a little teeny tiny cup of cut up melon and pineapple which they put on their pizza for that tropical effect. So I can say they also had fruit with a vacation theme.
Who Says Screen Time Is Bad?
We shot through the first day’s activities in less than an hour so that meant I needed to improvise or steal activities from day two. At a certain point, I just gave up and said, “Please just get your IPAD!
Still, feeling a bit like I’d lost the Limit Screen Time battle, I decided we just needed more supplies. We marched through Michael’s on a mission to find just the right paints, paint brushes, and paper. We even added some STEM activity kits that were on sale. This ought to inspire creativity and get their minds buzzing!
When we got home, I located a giant drop cloth and got everything ready for the next day. I was impressing myself with my renewed planning and organization. The kids finished their baths and came down to see the “art table” and wanted to get started right away…that night. I thought I had hit a homerun. Look at this! This is amazing! They are going to love this tomorrow.
Well, the next day, the “art table” sat unused…like a “been there, done that” station. It sat abandoned most of the day. I had to think quick. Oh, wait! Those cardboard boxes! We need to make a clubhouse or something out of those!
I’m sure mom and dad will be super impressed with how we took over the front entrance.
This lasted a solid 30 minutes, I think! We didn’t make it to lunch time with good quality creativity. I was defeated…but then…
“If You Build It, They Will Come”
Remember that line from the movie Field of Dreams? I just needed to believe. I just needed to step back and let boredom set in. It was then that they rediscovered the “Art Table”. And tah-dah!
All Well Laid Plans Need To Flex!
I have learned or relearned a simple thing. I can put a ton of time and effort into coming up with great plans. I have to learn to not be disappointed when the plans don’t go as I’d thought. Instead, I need step back, relax, and let things just happen. I’ve laid out the options. Now I need to just watch as they exercise their brains.
So, this morning, the 7 year old says, “Grandma, what should we do today?” And now I say, “I don’t know. You tell me.”
This is the second in a series of Grandma In Charge Posts. For ten days I will be taking care of a 7 and 5 year old in their home while mom and dad take a break. It’s been a long COVID year. I have missed them so much and am excited to have this opportunity to get reacquainted again. They live states away so the pandemic made anything other that FaceTime visits impossible. But here I am now, for 10 days. I made it through the first three days pretty well but they were both in school. So my job was just to get them up, ready, and dropped off on time. Then picked up, fed, played with, and to bed on time. Now, what will happen with the next stretch of days? Schools out for summer!
I’m Going To Need A Plan!
This is the first full day with the kids home with me and by 9:00 I knew we needed to hash out a plan. So first we listed everything that they wanted to do while Grandma’s here. It included 5 restaurants! Two because the oldest came home with gift certificates for a free meal because he “Rocked It Through The Year Of Covid”. We have to visit these two places by the end of this weekend. The other three are because they know that Grandma would rather not cook.
List of Activities – Grandma Style
Rearrange the playroom while we play and decide which toys can be donated.
Make a structure out of several cardboard boxes (saved by mama because she thought it looked like a good Grandma activity). I think it’s going to be a clubhouse…or a secret place to hide and eat snacks!
The youngest wants to try to write her own comicbook but she can’t write words and thinks she’ll need help with drawing the characters. She does know that the 1st one is going to be named “Toot”! This ought to be good!
We also need to hang a bulletin board in her bedroom because she came home from Pre-School with one of those “Person of the Week” posters and she really wants to hang it up along with her graduation achievement award for “Best Class Participation”. Two things to admire while she tries to fall asleep each night.
We bought some water balloons because even though Grandma is not a fan of the pool, I don’t mind getting wet on a hot day and this state sure has plenty of hot days!
Last, and I hope I can get this to happen, I want the oldest to teach me how he draws birds. He decorated my bedroom door with his drawings and they are incredible. I have to find out if he really did draw them “from memory” like he claims or if he has a secret tracing mechanism. At any rate, my door is very special.
Ok, We’ve Got A Plan
So now, our plan is in place. We’ve already accomplished two or three big items plus they did their chores (folding and putting away their clothes and putting away their dishes from the dishwasher).
It’s now 12:30 and quiet time…we’ll see how long that lasts.
I just have to say, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve been with them, some things never change. They’ve gotten bigger, yes and their interests have changed but…They still want me to play with them. They love to create new things with my help. AND they still let me give them hugs and I’ve even gotten one or two back in return.
I’m an actively participating Grandma, taking care of a 4 and 3 year old three days a week. We have a routine. I know them so well that I can anticipate when the 3 year old is tired, when the 4 year old is hungry. I know what they like to eat and what they won’t touch and I rest when they watch Paw Patrol.
But, this week, I headed to the home of my two older grandchildren who are 7 and 5. They moved to a new home during the pandemic so I haven’t traveled to them very often. Now, though, I am fully vaccinated and so are their parents. Plus, it’s their 10 year wedding anniversary and they really want a vacation!
So, this is the first of, maybe, a few blogs where I chronicle my week of Grandma In Charge
The parents left before sunrise, headed to the airport for a much deserved vacation. Grandma (that’s me) is in charge of their two kids for the next 10 days. I was given a folder of important information: hospitals, urgent care, neighbor’s phone numbers, addresses to the kids schools, and the really important places – Target and Red Robin! Then there was a page of all the things that were to occur along with when and where I needed to be to make sure it all happened.
I woke up at 5:30. The folder had erupted with more post-it notes on the top; several more things that had been forgotten. I was a little anxious before but now I woke up thinking “Can I do this?” I’d taken care of them before but this time…well they are older and this is now a new city, a new house, new everything!
I headed downstairs, unearthed my coffee pot, filters, and ground beans. No matter what I would have coffee!
The five year old was downstairs at 6:00, looking around a little sad to see just me but then there came that smile! “Grandma, can I do my IPAD now?”
Well, so that was easy!
The seven year old joined her around 6:30. He just simply headed to his sister with his own IPAD. But then…
“Grandma, I’m hungry!”
“What do you want?”
You know even I can open a packet of instant oatmeal and have it ready in 1.5 microwave minutes. But then he said,
“It’s too hot!”
Well no kidding! “It will cool”.
“But we put an ice cube in it and swish it around.”
Well, that’s a novel idea. So I followed his direction. One ice cube coming up. But then, he thought that one wasn’t enough and he said that he usually had two packets of oatmeal not just one. So off I went for a couple more ice cubes and another packet of delicious ready in no time breakfast in a bowl. I put both together in one bowl, added more ice cubes to cool it off quickly and then went to refill my coffee cup.
It’s nearly time to test my second challenge; getting them dressed and out the door in 15 minutes.
“Are you done with your oatmeal?”
“It’s too wet!”
“Well, it’s time to get your sister to school.”
“But my oatmeal is too wet!”
It was too late to fix that so I handed him a cheese stick and said,
“Here, eat this, then go brush your teeth.”
On to the third challenge: Get the 5 year old to school. So, manned with my sheets of paper with addresses and my phone, we headed to the door.
“Got your face mask? Got your sunscreen on? Seat belts fastened?” We were ready to fire up the engine. GPS, take me to our first stop of the day. Anybody nervous? The kids didn’t give my shaking hands one second worth of notice. They trusted me! That was all I needed. Let’s do this!
It used to be that you could drive up to a school, walk to the door, and be buzzed in. Now, someone meets us outside, takes our temperature, then opens the door. “You can take her to her classroom but do not go inside.” Okay. Got it.
This was the 5 year olds graduation day from preschool so her brother and I were in charge of helping her celebrate her big day. So, GPS, take us home. We have a banner to make and balloons to blow up. By 10:00 the Congratulations Banner was complete, we located some tape and we headed back to decorate a Parking Stall. The ceremony would take place outside.
I saw some cars come with balloon bouquets and bubble machines. We were going to have to blow up a lot of balloons!
After a very quick, six child pomp and circumstance and ceremony (because of the heat), I had taken pictures of the graduate; alone, with her friends, her teacher, her brother, and me. We delivered her back to her classroom with congratulations, hugs and kisses and then returned to the car.
GPS, take us to brother’s school. He was hoping to make it back in time for morning recess. We made it in time for lunch. Protocol at his school involved scanning a barcode onto my phone, putting in his ID number, answering four Covid questions and being ready to show the “Approved” checkmark on my phone so he could proceed through the door but… not until someone took our temperatures again. Then he was escorted from there. Sorry Grandma, you can’t come in.
It’s Not Noon Yet!
And because I was so overwhelmed with how well I had navigated all of this first morning’s itinerary, I thought I’d wonder around the parking lot looking for the car. Now what kind of car does my daughter have? Where did I park it?
It wasn’t even noon yet on my first day of Grandma in Charge.
Inside of you, there is an inner child. Someone who is innocent, curious, energetic, creative, spontaneous, and free with emotions.
Children! I’ve been drawn to them my whole life.
Surrounded by them in my work life and now into retirement. And I thank God every day for the gift of their laughter, their free spirit, their endless joy, and their unconditional love. But why is this so important to me?
I’ve spent several years, also, reflecting on my past, in particular my childhood. At some points, I grow tired of how it crops up in my memory. It’s like I want to solve something that is done and gone so why am I constantly trying to figure it out?
Well, here is my aha moment. Just today, as I’m reading a chapter in Louise Hay’s “You can heal your life”, it occurred to me. Each of the children, I have spent time with, represent me; the inner me, the child me, the one who always wanted acceptance, encouragement, guidance, praise, and unconditional love. As a child, I didn’t get much of that. As an adult, I still have that inner child yearning. Well, maybe my constant reflections on my past had me wanting to change the messages of my childhood, my inner child.
Now, I see what I have managed to do with my life. I have been raising my inner child the way I wanted to be raised. Does that make sense? I think that maybe if a parent is raising a child with anger, they might be yelling at their own inner child for not being good enough. If they become frustrated with their child perhaps that too is inner child memories. Memories of not being able to compete with other children successfully, not being able to learn as fast, jump as high. Perhaps my mother was dealing with inner child conflicts that I could never have known. I wanted something different.
I have a new take on things, now.
Whenever I work through a project with a child demonstrating care and patience, I realize that I am demonstrating this to my inner child as well. When I read books and talk with my grand daughter about how she can be anything she wants to be, I am empowering me as well as her. When I take time to get down on the floor and play whatever it is they want to play, that’s me down there wanting someone to enjoy spending time with me. When we make up stories or draw silly pictures we are together in growing our creativity. And when we sit together on the couch just snuggling, I am holding that little girl in me who longed so much for unconditional love.
So now, I think, I am living in a constant state of creating me and that, for some reason, makes so much sense and makes me very happy. Not only does it make sense, it will help guide my activities with them now with more patience, understanding and joy.
My youngest grandchild, just this week, saw two tulips that had finally reached a bloom; a cheerful glorious red just at that budding stage. She was drawn to their color and with toddler haste and focus, she went directly to them.
Before anyone could stop her, she plucked those bright beautiful blooms right off their stems!
Holding the dismembered petals in her little hands, she cried “Oh no! Doctor!”
I mean, how can you not laugh? How can you not be filled with joy just for having the opportunity to be present for this moment to witness a baby child experience cause and effect right before your eyes?
I could have chose anger or frustration. I could have reprimanded. Instead, I let her feel her own remorse. No doctor could put those flowers back together. Her mama picked her up and hugged her and together we were filled with overflowing joy. Joy for just being given that moment.
In this time of quarantine, thank God for Pinterest! This Grandma is determined to make a preschool like environment for her two grand-babies while they can’t attend their own. And Pinterest has come to save the day. But I have to tell you that sometimes things on Pinterest look so easy and reality plays out a different way. So I thought I’d start sharing what reality produces.
First of all, the process is easy:
I type in a word like “Toddler”. Then add another “Projects”
and up pops so many ideas that I have to stop and think! What do I really want to do with them. There’s so many ideas! Well, it’s springtime so why not add the word
So I freehanded the flowers (not too difficult) using a black marker on printer paper.
Watercolor paint was portioned out in a little paint container.
The end product was enough for this day. They were left to dry. The next day, I cut them out because they are too little yet to cut a shape like this.
Almost too pretty to do the next step but I told myself that we could always do this activity again.
So here’s the blooming part!
From here, things deteriorated to such a degree that I had to stop taking pictures. The two year old turned all of her flowers into pulp. The three year old tried to gently pull the flowers out only to rip them all. She then just enjoyed pouring water from the tub to the table. With a great deal of haste, I retrieved a sieve to drain the tubs and not clog the drains. So, while this was a picture perfect idea, I was not completely prepared.
My 3 year old grand-daughter stepped into my home on Friday and said “Grandma, do you have a project for us today?”
Claire, Age 3
Last week was a week of learning. Learning how to navigate life under social isolation, learning how to not watch too much news, and learning to be thankful for those little things. For me, it’s that I live next door to my daughter and her family. While they try to work from home, I am right here to take care of the 3 and 2 year old. And it’s because of this moment that I decided to change things up with them. I have been watching two grandchildren three days a week before this happened but now I am changing how I do things for two reasons:
One of them had participated in a preschool program 2 out of my 3 days so I felt that she was being challenged there. While she attended that, her younger sister attended a Child Drop program at the YMCA which gave her socialization time and me a reason to exercise. Now both of these services are closed and it’s up to me to provide a different stimulation for their young quickly developing brains.
I also feel as though they have reached an age where if my time with them was typical daycare, it really gave the kids full control over what we did. I was just there to play along. I have to tell you, those days sound simple but they can be exhausting. Now, after writing up plans and using coordinated play, I feel a sense of control and a renewed excitement. It is all still play based time and they still direct when and how long each planned event lasts but now I feel I have control of some of the time and I have the choice of what books are read/watched, what vocabulary is highlighted, what the fine/gross motor emphasis will be.
I’ve Made Some Changes This Week
After trying to follow my own plans this past week, I realized that I had way too many things planned for each day which put me behind immediately on day one. Then, one day, my daughter tried to follow the day’s plans and she didn’t understand it at all so I had to send her directions in an easier to follow format. And lastly, when I went to open up some of my linked documents, they didn’t save well in a pdf format, so this week, I have developed a format in Goggle Docs: one for each day of the week.
The next thing I’ve done is plan one concept for Monday, a different one for Tuesday, then a review/catch up/ or have fun repeating on Wednesday. Then Thursday, I expanded on the concepts from Monday, Tuesday, and even the previous weeks. This allows the needed repetition of words with just a slight twist. It also makes everything easier for this Grandma.
Friday, I want a blank template. Read your favorite books, bake cookies. Anything goes.
So Friday’s template is blank. Use this to make up your own themes and plans if you want. It’s fun. And it might be fun to share them back with me.
Plans for Week Three
Plans are set up one day at a time. There is no designated time limit and no intended sequence of activities. What I learned this week is that the kids need free play first when they get to my house. And, they seem to need to check out the whole house just to make sure everything is still in the same place or something. When I think the time is right, I guide them to one of the day’s activities.
Monday – this day is all about birds. Someone shared a link to 50 bird sounds. Wait till you hear that! And, I’m excited to let them make a nest out of blankets, build a bird from play dough, and (weather permitting) get outside to gather leaves and twigs and try to make a real bird nest. My other daughter also clued me in on a great little Children’s yoga video series called Cosmic Kids. We tried one last week, and the oldest could do about 15 minutes. Not bad!
This weekend, I got excited about writing a couple of blogs that brought me back to my teaching days. In fact, I was feeling darn good about the fact that I pulled together ideas from many places to produce a Monday through Friday list of plans all broken down, loosely, by Multiple Intelligences. I was thinking “Wow! You still have it, girlfriend.” And so then, I took yesterday off. It was Sunday after all – the day to rest.
Monday morning, I leisurely opened up my previous blog post so that I could simply download the little worksheets, check the art project link from Pinterest and enjoy a cup of coffee before they arrived.
I opened the first document. Selected “Print” and then looked at the sample. It was all wrong! Luckily I have the original so I quickly opened that one and printed it successfully. But my heart was racing. I didn’t save a lot of time for prep! I opened the next document and it too was showing up wrong. That one was supposed to be a sheet filled with raindrops that just needed to be cut out. Unfortunately, I had to simply freehand those. Thank god, they were just raindrops. They were, however, looking a little like teardrops by the time I cut out 24 of them! Then I went to the Pinterest link to just look at the umbrella project..Wait, more to prepare? Sure enough, I had to draw up two umbrellas and two handles – both freehand because I didn’t have time to see if they had included a free template.
Ok, ok, I had everything cut out and ready with just a little time to spare. I had forgotten that the written plan is just step one. Step two is prep! Don’t forget the prep! And prep is no joke, especially with little ones. Luckily, my basement has an art table already covered with a drop cloth and the paints were on the table from a project last week.
And Then They Arrived
In came two precious little ones but the mama already looked exhausted. The oldest one didn’t want to get dressed so she was in her pajamas but then at the last minute she wanted to add one of her princess costumes complete with a cape, tutu, a crown, and her magic wand.
And her little sister apparently completely lost it because she did not want to take of her fireman pajamas. Unfortunately, they were wet so she didn’t have the option to keep her’s on.
Then, the umbrellas both came as I’d asked but one was broken and they wanted to immediately open them up and play with them even though my “plan” was to have that as a great activity for later.
So Be Flexible Went Into Place
And then seconds later, they simply wanted to play with the toys at grandma’s house. Time to just take a breath and let them just be.
After some time of free play, I called them over to see the book/video that I wanted them to watch. Anything that has to do with technology has them stop whatever they’re doing and run. So that was a grandma win.
Finally ready for the art project
By this time, they were ready to go to the basement where I had all the things ready to do a “fun” project.
They, however, had other ideas when they saw the downstairs toys. So, relax grandma. It’s all good.
Finally, I got them over to the table and was quickly reminded of the rule of keeping everything out of reach until they were ready to do the first task. And, of course, I was the one to dump some paint.
We actually got through one project, kind of successfully, and that was it! They just wanted to play then and grandma was done!!!
So, we completed about 2.5 things on the overall plan for the day
Yup, that’s it. We played a little bean bag toss, watched the video about rain, and did one project. But the best part is, we can just continue the activities tomorrow and I followed my rules of: