Why I didn’t get my grandkids anything for Christmas

Yes, you read that right. I didn’t get the grands anything for Christmas. Not even a candy cane. First year ever. Lack of funds was only one of the reasons — I mean, seriously — there’s nine of ’em and at $20 a piece, that’s a good chunk out of a tight budget.

I worked the numbers every which way I could, $20 for those eight years-old and over, $10 for the younger ones. But then the younger ones’ options were slim at $10 or under. I considered going to the dollar store or the one-step up, Five and Under store, but then thought…why am I throwing even a dollar away for something that’s going to break, tear up, get lost before the end of the day?

Then I started hearing bits and pieces of what the kids were getting from their parents, other grandparents, and that jolly ol’ elf. After spending a chunk of back-breaking time every week day picking up pieces of play castles, toy cars, microscopic swords and tea cups, Barbie shoes and dresses, stuffed animals ranging in size from the hand held to the giant furry things…I decided there wasn’t a darn thing they needed coming from me that would come from a store.

So I decided to give each one, individually, my time.

I know — being with them sometimes 12-hours a day seems they have enough of my time. But honestly, they don’t. They don’t have me. They have grandma the waitress — which I’m quite good at if I do say so myself — I can balance six plates filled with PBJs on both arms and only drop the occasional chip. They have grandma the disciplinarian — which I’m also very good at. I get tickled at people who say they could never spank their precious little grand. Spend the amount of everyday, regular ol’ time with them that I do and see if you change your mind.  They get grandma the diaper changer or bottom wiper or nose wiper or pick me up from school taxi cab.Shaw Photography Group

But they don’t get grandma.

So my gift to them is my uninterrupted time and my full attention. One at a time. One on one. Emma’s looking forward to a mani/pedi, Landon, a movie, Ava, maybe one of those painting dates…whatever they want to do (within reason — yes, I’m still the grandma that puts limits on things). Even the little ones. A picnic at the park sounds good to me. It may take half the year to get these Christmas presents delivered, but I’m looking forward to each one of them.

 

Memories snob

Avasled
Ava making snow angels, and memories

We had a decent snow a few weeks ago. The kind where you can actually bring out the sleds. It was a magical time for the kids.

It brought out a lot of comments on Facebook about “when I was a kid, we used to…fill in the blank.” Was the snow better back then or what?

I’m finding that as I (clears throat) get a little older, my friends around the same age and I talk about our childhoods a lot. We did have great childhoods. We grew up in the 60s and 70s with 3 channels on black and white tvs, vinyl records played on something called a record player, and the ice cream man wasn’t on a national registry.

snowman
The Willis kids’ snowman

I must confess it irritates me a little when I hear people my own age compare the magic of our childhoods to the childhoods’ of  kids these days. Who died and made us the ‘my childhood was better’ gods?

My grandkids play Minecraft. A lot. They play on ipads, Kindles, and the Playstation. I don’t even pretend to understand the game. But it’s okay—it’s their memories. We played Life, and Clue, and Masterpiece. Our games weren’t better. They were different.

We danced and acted silly and made up dance routines to the music of The Beatles and The Monkees. My grandkids do the same to the music of someone named Lorde and a group named One Republic. Thirty years from now their kids will be doing the same thing to music of an artist not even born yet. And it’s not wrong. It will be their childhood memories. Not wrong. Just different than mine and yours.

Aidenpug
Aiden and Jeana’s pup, Wrigsley

They have Nickelodeon on demand. We had Bonanza on Sunday nights. Technology doesn’t make their childhood any less significant or wondrous. It just makes it different.

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was broiled hamburger patties, fat steak fries, and field peas. I still fix it sometimes and think of my mother fondly every time I do. Ava’s favorite meal is kielbasa, dirty rice, and green beans. One day she’ll fix it for her own kids and think of Nina when she does. Her childhood memory of her favorite meal will be just as sweet as mine, though it’s two different meals separated by several generations.

Emmasnow
Emma making her own snow angel

Looking at the pictures of the grands playing in the snow made me laugh. I couldn’t help but to think of comments from my age group about the depth of snow when we were kids. “When we were kids, it snowed up to our knees!” Well, yeah…the knee-to-ground ratio of a six year-old probably hasn’t changed much over the years so don’t slight the grandkids’ snow memories because you think your snow was deeper.

Paisleysnow
Paisley. Making memories.

It’s their childhood. It will be their memories. And they will be just as wondrous and magical as ours.

Number Nine is a horder

Granddaughter Ireland (number nine, the baby, the last one – thank God!) has some…strange habits. One being she likes to carry stuff. I’m not talking about the way babies insist on having a cookie for each hand. This goes beyond that.

Ireland1
Note the wallet and bear in her right hand…

Ireland not only wants a cookie for each hand, she’ll also try and carry a necklace, a bracelet, a shoe, a doll, a toy car, her blanket, Casey’s blanket, a pack of fruit snacks, and her or Ivy’s juice cup (depending on which one actually has juice). Sometimes she’ll add the remote and perhaps a book to the collection.

Of course the simple solution would be to help her put everything in her neat little Dora the Explorer backpack. Not. Either one of two things will happen. 1) she gets this wide-eyed look of sheer horror on her face because you’re taking her stuff, or 2) she carries the backpack in her hand rather than on her back and continues to gather stuff in the other hand like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.

IrelandBW
Sweet little horder Ireland

Every once in a while Casey will toddle over and take a peek at what all she has in her hands. Again with the look of sheer horror. She can’t defend herself against an oncoming attempt at thievery —both hands are full. Why she’d have to put something down to protect her stuff and she sure as shootin’ ain’t going to do that!

And don’t even try to take the remote from her if it’s her remote holding day. Just suck it up and try to find enjoyment in Team Umizommi or Max & Rudy. Or get up and manually change the channel.  She won’t mind. She has no interest in the function of the remote. She just wants to carry it around.

Single Mom Guilt

Went to Landon’s baseball game yesterday then swung by Walmart to pick up a few things. Nina and Landon were stalking me so every time I turned around in the store, I ran into them. Somehow we ended up in the Sporting Goods section and Landon was looking at the bats. He test swung a couple and told Nina he liked this one or that one. Nina told him to put them all back, that he needed to wait until his dad was with him to help him choose.

GareyAiden
My son Garey getting his son Aiden ready for T-ball.

I honestly don’t know why – maybe it was the over exposure of watching horrible things unfold on the news this week – but I found myself unusually emotional. At that moment, when Nina told him his dad would help him, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. I really did not want to cry in Walmart surrounded by youth-sized jock straps and the cooler of redworms (yeah, we live in Randleman). All I could think of was my son’s dad never helped him pick out a bat.

Garey played t-ball and youth baseball and basketball and even soccer. His dad and I divorced before Garey was six and for whatever reason, his dad sort of took a leave of absence and decided to pursue other interests (like his own, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). So it was pretty much up to me to raise a son and his little sister alone.

I didn’t know what size bat he needed. Or what type of glove or how to condition a new glove. But I learned. I learned by asking his coaches and the dads of his teammates. I made sure he never missed a practice even if it meant leaving work a few minutes early and eating a bowl of cereal for supper afterward. I learned the rules of the game so I wouldn’t be the mom screaming at the umpire on a fair call.

I took him fishing and had to learn how to bait a hook myself so I could teach him. Ask Nina how well he can bait a hook. He was maybe seven, she was three, and I took the both of them down to the community lake. Garey put an entire nightcrawler worm (about three inches worth) on his hook, rared back to cast and hooked Nina’s cute little yellow and pink sunsuit right at the top button. Nina is hysterical. There’s a three-inch worm attached to her outfit, writhing right under her nose. The hook was firmly embedded in the fabric so the only way to safely remove it and not risk impaling Nina was to take off the  outfit. She’s still hysterical, I’m trying to get her clothes off, Garey’s trying to control the fishing rod still attached to his screaming little sister…okay…I’m over my own guilt trip now. That memory has me laughing so hard I can hardly see to type.

I don’t know why I carry any guilt in the first place. It was my ex who chose to not be part of our kids’ lives until they were adults. My kids turned out just fine. They’re both kindhearted, super decent adults who turned into super great parents themselves. Garey’s even brave enough to take his little ones fishing. Of course there is the story from last summer when the giant fish jerked little Paisley’s Barbie rod and reel right out of her hands and daddy had to jump in the water to get it back. I think it involved some hand to hand combat with the man-eating fish. This according to Emma and Paisley. Their daddy. My son. Our hero. Yeah. I have nothing to feel guilty about.

Emma and her giant catch. Bet daddy baited her hook.
Emma and her giant catch. Bet daddy baited her hook.

 

Your creepy picture is my treasure

Awhile back I was cleaning out stuff and came across an old picture. It was large, probably equivalent to a 16×20, in a wooden oval frame. The picture was old, I mean old, and had begun to crack. There was no glass protecting it. I couldn’t tell if it was on canvas or paper. The picture was of two people, a man and a woman. The setting looked like it was perhaps an early form of a portrait studio.

I was mesmerized by this picture. I had no idea who these people were. Or better yet, how it turned up in my possession. I showed it to my sister and kids and they all had the same reaction. Scrunched up noses while whispering “creepy.”

GrandparentsHall
The picture of the picture

Obviously they didn’t see what I saw in this picture. They saw two creepy people we didn’t know in an old creepy picture. I saw a story.

Who were they? Were they husband and wife? Brother and sister? Lovers? How did they earn their living? Was he a man of God? A drinker? Maybe both? Was she warm and loving or cold and distant? Did she pine for a secret love? Did they have children? Were they born here or cross the sea on a ship? The possibilities were endless. They were no longer two creepy people. They had a story.

I kept that picture and swore I’d hang it one day near my writing desk. Still not knowing who these two people were. Then the darnedest thing happened.

Christmas Eve, I was going through one of several totes of old photos I have, picking out pictures of my mother’s side of the family. I was going to my cousin’s house for a get-together later in the day and thought it would be fun to look at some of the old photos.  Then what to my wandering eyes should appear?  A picture of the picture! And written on the back, in my paternal grandmother’s handwriting, were the words “Grandpa and Grandma Hall.” The man and woman in that picture were no longer just two random people, they were my dad’s great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents.

Although finding the picture of the old creepy picture solved a family puzzle (who were these people and what am I doing with the picture?), it kind of put the story to rest. I couldn’t make up a backstory for my two random people anymore. They had their own story. I am interested, though, in discovering what that story was.

Casey’s Big Adventure

CaseyIrelandChristmas
Casey and Ireland, off to see Santa

We don’t get out much. Well, let me rephrase that. Nina’s family doesn’t get out much. With one-year old twins plus a two-year old, not to mention the other two under ten, transporting (3 car seats and a booster needed) can be an issue. There’s also the need for the double stroller and an additional person (at least) with stout arms to carry Ivy (the 2-year old). Moving a platoon of soldiers may be easier.

Don’t get me wrong. The twins have been to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, grandparents’ houses, Nana’s, Uncle Garey and Aunt Ellen’s house, the park, and…(insert drumroll)…the mall. Not only the mall, but they’ve been to the mall to see Santa!

LandonAvaChristmas
Landon, Ava, and Ivy’s picture with Santa. If you look close, you can see Santa to the right, with some random kid on his lap.

Yeah, well, that didn’t go over so well. No pictures allowed. Unless you bought the nifty package. And for two dollars more, you can get two 5x7s! Either the hefty price tag that went along with the picture package or the pain in the patootie of getting the twins out of the stroller was enough to make daddy (Allen) say no thanks. So Landon, Ava, and Ivy sat on Santa’s knee and told him what they wanted. Ivy looked like a cat about to be dunked in water. Ava read her wishes from a list. Landon was too cool to act like he enjoyed it. And the twins watched from a few feet away. Their first visit to Santa and they were sentenced to the stroller. Judging from the look on Ireland’s face, that was fine with her. Only child I’ve ever seen that can arch an eyebrow.

So after we visit with Santa, we decide to brave the masses and actually walk around the mall. Wasn’t really crowded (it’s not a very big mall) so it was a nice experience seeing the babies’ excitement over seeing new things. Like a drink machine. While the caravan was stopped to window shop, from his stroller seat, Casey was checking out a drink machine the stroller was parked beside. I mean he was checking it out. Like it was the strangest thing he had ever seen! He even put his tiny little hand up to it and gently touched it. Then touched it again. Then slowly moved in to lick it and Allen jerked the stroller away. Allen’s a germ-a-phob and Casey has developed this habit of licking stuff. I think in his one-year old mind he’s trying to “give kisses” but hasn’t mastered the physical motions yet. He’s got a couple years to master that skill. If they ever let him out of the house.