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.
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:
Well, this activity reminded me of just how long it takes to develop plans for a week. It is now nearly 4:00 and I have been working on this all day. Now I did totally get into it, I have to admit but it’s not easy to pull together connected activities even for little ones.
I pushed myself to think in terms of multiple intelligences, laying out each day with little activities focused on each intelligence. The activities are intended to be short and flexible and fun. Seriously, if something turns out to be stressful, stop. It’s not worth it.
Now I’m going to test this blog for how well it will allow me to link my plan to you.
Make the kite by precutting a diamond from drawing paper. Let them see you cut it and divide it into 4 sections. Let them count the sections. Then give the free choice for how to color it. They could even choose from paint, markers, or crayons whatever you have available.
Make the tail but having colored construction paper cut into small squares with a hole punched in each color.
String the squares on a pipe cleaner that way each piece will stay instead of falling back to the bottom.
Glue the tail onto the finished kite when it is dry.
Add a string at the top of the kite to make it match a completed kite.
(This project may have to be done over the course of the day or even over two days. Little ones don’t have the attention span to to this all at once)
Other items needed for Thursday
Scarves or other items that could be pretend kites
Friday – Activities and Links
Nothing new today. Everything is an option for your child to choose to do again.
This is, hopefully, everything you need for a week of fun activities. As I stated earlier, be flexible. Use other books if you have them or other links if you’d like. The idea is really simply to organize thoughts so that there is a repetition of vocabulary and concepts while varying the activities to meet different learning styles. Little ones have likes and dislikes already. I’m seeing that every day. So if I have varied ideas planned then if one isn’t a hit maybe the next one will be. And always, when possible give choices within the activity.
Here I am, trying to come up with ideas of things to do with my grandchildren while their parents work from home and the preschool is closed. I want to help but I need to have a plan. Just sitting on the floor and playing with them works for a good deal of time but they enjoyed being out of the house with with other little friends too and now that’s not possible. So, this grandma works to bring something new and fun in my bag. I’ve been hitting up Pinterest hot and heavy these days. So, I decided that now might be a good time to try to share my ideas to help other people who might be looking for something different to fill the child’s day.
Believe it or not it’s spring!!!
Now that my grand babies are 2 and 3 years old, I don’t have to worry about things going into their mouth so much but activities can’t be too involved because they lose interest really fast. So this idea is a combination of art, literacy, and fresh air. It was great at spreading out our conversation about spring over most of the morning.
Water color paints (just yellow at first, then green added later) were set up at a covered table along with watercolor paper which is a bit heavier and paint brushes that were a bit wide.
This is a good time to go for a walk
Here where we live, there are no flowers blooming yet but we walked and looked and listened for signs of spring. We heard 1) birds singing, 2) a machine chopping up downed branches. There were few people (as expected right now). Then we saw 3) sprouts coming out of the grown that are sure to be flowers soon, 4) one bird up in the tree, 5) several squirrels busy running away from us.
And on this day, we also went by business doors and found the sign the said either “OPEN” or “CLOSED. The best part was that this is something we have never done and it allowed us to actually talk about the businesses more. For instance, there was an “OPEN” sign on a shoe store. My grand daughter asked, “What’s a shoe store?” I never would have thought to talk to her about this store. Another one that was “OPEN” was a Vet’s Clinic. We talked about how good it was that there was a place for sick pets to go.
Back Home And Ready For Part Two
Now the painting is dry and now is the perfect time to let them do part two.
Time for lunch and curling up with a good book
After they played as long as they wanted with the play dough, we washed up and had lunch. Then it was time to just quiet down and share a good book. I chose this one:
And just like that the morning was over and it was bedtime. So many things went well with this activity.
The activities were just as long as they wanted them to be, no longer