Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Week With Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Monsters

Every morning for the past eight days while their parents vacationed in Mexico, I made breakfast for 3 of my grandkids. On mornings when no clouds filled the sky, the Sun greeted me in their kitchen, not in a soft, “hello – good morning” kind of way, but in a “GOOD MORNING! HERE’S A HEADACHE” way. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Sun, but not when its rays penetrate my eyes so deeply they blind me to the point where I can see nothing else. Here is what the kitchen looked like as I felt my way to the sink, counter, and stove.

Sun Through Window

You might be asking, “Why didn’t you close the blinds or the drapes?” Good question. The problem is that my daughter and son-in-law have no window coverings in their kitchen, so I had to walk around the kitchen backwards and cover my eyes as I walked around. Sitting at the snack bar didn’t help, either, because the sun reflected off the gleaming silver refrigerator. And in the evenings, when I made dinner, the sun shone through the western window and reflected off the refrigerator, so standing at the snack bar counter was just as blinding. I went through more Advil Migraine this week than I have – ever – and not because of my grandkids, but because of the blinding sun.

Refrigerator Reflection

Five of those days involved getting the kids ready for school, washing dishes, washing clothes, drying clothes, and folding laundry all day, making meals, and then helping the two older ones with homework when they returned home from school. One of them had so much homework that long after Nolan completed his homework, Audrey spent THE ENTIRE AFTERNOON AND EVENING completing hers. What kind of teacher sends kids home with so much homework that all they can do is work work work work work? 

Audrey doing homework (as always) while Nolan and Avery play electronics.

I once had a teacher in fourth grade who sent me home with so much homework that I spent every afternoon and evening until bedtime doing it. My mother hated how time-consuming it was, but I don’t think she ever complained to Mother Superior about it. With my flashback to that time in my own life, I found myself getting angry at Audrey’s teacher for being so ignorant of the fact that a fifth grader shouldn’t have to spend 6 hours a night doing homework.

Avery's Drawing of Monsters and Bad Guys

Anyway, during the day I spent time with Avery, playing with stuffed animals, coloring, playing hide ’n seek, etc. I found this drawing behind her door and asked her what it was. One day she told me it was monsters. When I asked her if she named her monsters, because I saw letters above them, she said, “No, Grandma, those are just letters.” OK. A couple of days later, though, when I mentioned the monsters, she said they weren’t monsters – they were bad guys, so now I know who the monsters are!

And the good guys? My grandkids, of course! They seriously were so good, the week went by almost too quickly! It was so much fun, but it was also exhausting. I slept for 10 hours last night.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Hat and the iPad

Avery sitting with most of the Christmas presents I made.

A couple of days before one of my family Christmas get-togethers, I grabbed any available box I could find so I could wrap my handmade crocheted items and jewelry gifts. I was running out of options, though, so I grabbed my old iPad box for Avery’s gift, forgetting about the story I’d heard only days before:

10-year-old Audrey, Avery’s sister, had a broken iPad and she asked Buddy, the family’s Elf-on-the-Shelf, if he could fix it. Miraculously the next morning, the iPad was fixed!

4-year-old Avery, upon learning about how Buddy had fixed her sister’s iPad wondered out loud, “How come Buddy didn’t fix my iPad?” Mom and Dad exchanged glances. Avery’s iPad was graveyard material – waaaaaaay beyond the repair stage. 

Soooo, when Avery opened her gift from me, she exuberantly exclaimed, “I got an iPad?!” She was practically dancing in her seat.

She ripped open her present and found – a hat, a hand-crocheted hat. Biggest letdown ever, but trooper that she is, she didn’t complain. From other family members, however, I heard, “Way to go, Grandma, break a little girl’s heart!”

Oh, yeah, uh oh, I forgot.


That event occurred on December 19th. A couple of days later, a little girl approached Avery’s dad when he was working a couple of towns away, and asked him if he wanted to purchase a raffle ticket for – some organization – I can’t remember what (there goes that memory again). He did, and then he forgot about it. (I’m not the only one who forgets.)

A couple of days later somebody knocked on the door to my grandkids’ home and when my son-in-law opened it, he found a stranger standing on his front step, holding a package for him. 

“You won the raffle!” 

So on Christmas morning, when Avery opened her presents and found another iPad box (I laugh just thinking about it), I wonder what through her head. Would she ever again be able to trust that what she was about to open was a fair representation of what was depicted on the outside of the box, or was this another form of deception? I wonder if she asked herself, “Am I getting another hat?”

Afterword: When I met with a few more grandchildren a couple of days later, I made sure to write a message on the outside of their boxes: “Don’t be deceived by the packaging.” Good thing, because not knowing that one of my grandsons had broken his phone, I had folded his scarf inside an old Walmart phone box.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Logic of a 4-Year-Old

Three days a week, I care for my 4-year-old granddaughter, Avery, and we sometimes play games. Yesterday we played BINGO. She loves to spin the wheel, and getting her to look at the little balls teaches her how to recognize numbers and match them to numbers on her card.

The last time we played, I won. Yesterday, as Avery’s card filled up and mine sat nearly empty, I laughed when I looked at my 3 numbers and compared my card to Avery’s, whose card was filled with so many numbers, she was one number away from winning two BINGOs. 

Knowing how games go sometimes, I laughed, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I won after all, even though your card is nearly full?” She looked at me with one of those looks that told me she very clearly knew she was going to win and that what I had just said was preposterous. Responding with an emphatic, “No!” I realized that my winning at that point would not have been funny to her – at all. Fortunately she won. 

We ate lunch and Avery went to the bathroom. We usually have a quiet (not nap) time after lunch when we grab pillows and blankets, recline on the couch, and watch an afternoon movie, but I soon learned that Avery had other plans. 

“I think I peed my pants,” she said. I told her that she probably didn’t because she had just gone potty. She insisted that she had peed her pants and that she had to take a bath. So I set up a bubble bath for her and neatly folded her clothes, so they wouldn’t wrinkle. 

As I grabbed her underpants, so I could wash them, I noticed something. Her underpants weren’t even a little bit wet, so I immediately realized I had been roped into giving her a bath that she didn’t need (I learned later that she had had a bath just before she came over). As she sat in the tub, surrounded by bubbles, happily playing with bath toys, I held up her panties and said, “Avery, your pants aren’t even a little bit wet.” 

“I know.”

“So why did you tell me they were wet?”

No answer.

She didn’t need to answer. I knew why she lied about them being wet, so I told her that the next time she wanted to take a bath, she just had to tell me. She didn’t have to lie about having wet pants. “OK?”


And, good grandma that I am, I wrapped her up in a towel and took out my blow dryer to warm her up. Maybe I make bath time too comfortable for her.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Back in Time


From 1969, when my first child was born, to 2002, when my youngest child graduated high school, I cared for children, mostly alone, because I married two men who contributed virtually nothing to caring for a family (I know I sound bitter, but I’m not – I just made stupid decisions, which actually turned out to be OK, because four beautiful children and lots of amazing grandchildren resulted from those decisions).

I spent several more years providing care not only for my own kids and grandkids, but also for other children. I usually had a job or two in addition to providing day care, and when I got cancer in 2009, I went on disability and, thanks to the cancer, was able to retire.

Retirement – whatever it is you think that word means, know this, it’s not at all what you might envision. I saw myself sitting in a lakehouse overlooking the lake from my screened-in porch as I penned my books and drank coffee or iced water with lemon. Ahh, serenity. 

Retirement, like my home on the lake, turned out to be a fantasy.

The reality is that I’m just as busy now as I ever was during those 32 years caring for children (actually busier since I give myself tons of projects to complete), and I’m remembering that busy with kids is an entirely different experience than busy without kids. About two to three times a year I get to experience being both Mom and Dad – again – but those two to three times a year these days allow me to replay that role with three of my grandchildren. 

How soon Grandma forgets what is entailed from the moment my grandkids awaken in the morning, as I scurry to prepare breakfasts, make sure they brush teeth and hair, pick out clothes for them to wear, pack lunches and backpacks, send the two oldest ones off to school and spend the entire morning and afternoon entertaining the youngest child until they return.

Then it’s homework – and WOW has homework changed – did every educator out there have a meeting and decide, “Let’s complicate math to the point where it drives everyone crazy! No more simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division – uh uh – let’s add a thousand more steps to each problem!” No wonder homework takes so long these days. Here’s how I see the way math was taught when I was growing up compared to the way math is taught today:

The Old Days
Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree to get to the top.

Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree halfway, jump to a branch on a different tree, follow the branches until they reach almost to the next tree, jump on that tree, climb that tree to the top, hop around the forest several times until you return to the original tree, jump on one of the lower branches, hop up to one of the higher branches, flip over to a different tree, climb that tree to the top, then return to the original tree and go to the top of that tree.

Well, that’s how math seems to be to me today anyway. After homework, we have dinner (or not, because one of the kids might be practicing some sport that night), attend after-school activities, take showers or baths, if possible (homework for the oldest takes nearly the entire night, due mostly to math problems), and if we have time, we squeeze in some fun (by that time, I’m so exhausted, though, fun time means movie time), then we make sure everyone brushes his or her teeth, puts on pajamas, and then we all go to bed, where I will attempt, but will fail miserably, at getting alone time, because I will fall asleep.

I usually think I’m doing fairly well until some “crisis” occurs, and all four of us might spend an hour looking for somebody’s tablet or try to calm down whoever is arguing after a quarrel. Or Grandma might forget something – one time I sent the two oldest kids to school with yogurt and no spoons. No problem, I later discovered – schools today provide spoons! Crisis averted! Success for Grandma!

Little crises occur every now and then too, like the time (then) 10-year old Audrey spent the night at a friend’s house. Nolan, who was 7 at the time, and Avery, who was 3, decided to sleep together in Nolan’s bunk bed. However, Avery couldn't figure out how to get her mammoth stuffed animal to fit on Nolan's twin mattress. Because she used that big-as-a-child stuffed animal as her pillow, she HAD to have her pillow! And because it was a late night for them, Avery sobbed when she discovered she couldn’t position the animal in a way that was comfortable for her without knocking her brother off the bed. Fortunately, minutes later she was sound asleep.

Beginning on Halloween, I will again play Mom and Dad. Once again, every organizational ability I have will be put to the test, though my daughter has assured me that she has made every effort to streamline my work, going so far as to bribe the kids with money to keep their rooms clean (insert smiley face) and set up clothes for the school week. 

Will everybody get to where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there? Will clothes and sports uniforms be freshly washed? Will meals be prepared on time? Will I know how to help with homework? Has common core math taken on an even newer dimension? I mean, will I need to know how beings from other solar systems teach math? Martian Math, anyone?

So I’ll deal with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, sibling rivalry, rushing to get ready in the morning, rushing to finish homework in the evening, and watch the kids try to trick Grandma into staying up late every night. 

But then I’ll also have moments like the last time I cared for them, when Avery ran up to me while I was folding towels and hugged me tightly. I dropped the towel and hugged her back, saying, "How much do I love you?" And Avery responded, "Free." 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mom's Favorite Flower

What you are about to read is something I wrote several years ago. I published it first on one website, which disappeared into cybermist and then on another that, for reasons not necessary to explain, I vacated. Because this post brings back special memories and because my son is now home, I wanted to post it again – for me and for anyone else who receives these precious gifts.

One of My Favorite Memories
originally written May 10, 2009

Gentle breezes and a warm sun play across my face as I monitor my children from our front step.

Though he is not allowed to wander far, my son rounds the corner and hands me a beautiful red rose, obviously from a neighbor's garden.

Not to be outdone, his older sister hands me another beautiful flower, probably from the same neighbor's garden.

My 3-year old, unaware of where her older siblings found these treasures, searches and searches until, beaming with pride, she emerges from the corner of the house to drop remnants of dead dandelions in my hand.

I fawn over them as I did over the other gifts bestowed upon me by my babies.

Years later, I sit in a Dairy Queen parking lot with my youngest daughter, when a little girl approaches my window. Her father smiles bashfully as he watches his daughter hand a perfect stranger a precious gift, a memory. The dandelion sits in my palm, a lovely reminder of that warm sunny day when my children placed their gifts in my hand.

Today my grandchildren - their parents the givers of more than a dozen bouquets of dandelions - carry on the tradition. I gratefully place each droopy dandelion in a glass, careful not to drown the bugs flitting around the yellow flowered weed.

My children are grown now. I miss our daily contacts, especially those with my Marine son who is often stationed overseas or living across the country. I long for the day he comes home.

And if he brings me nothing else, I would welcome with laughter and tears another red rose, or even a handful of bug-infested dandelions, my favorite "flower."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Introducing Breast Cancer Survivor's New Business During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What better time 
for a 
Breast Cancer Survivor 
to begin a new business than during 
Breast Cancer 
Awareness Month!

Yes, I’m playing the Cancer card! Why not?

Choose any of our messages or
Write one of your own!
We also invite you to send your
or our already-written

Birth Announcements
Birthday Greetings
New Businesses Invites
Old Businesses Reminders
Pregnancy Announcements
Shower Invitations
Wedding Invitations

Or anything else you can imagine

to your family
to your friends
to your customers.

A Crystal Butterfly Creations Bottle!
Check out Crystal Butterfly Creations! to see sample messages!

For everyone who is currently undergoing treatment for breast and other cancers, 10% of all profits during the month of October will go to the American Cancer Society for research, not only during the month of October, but also every other month all year round (because I was not the only one in my family affected by cancer – one of my grandsons just finished his last round of in-patient chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcoma. (The American Lung Association will receive 10% of profits from Crystal Butterfly Creations during the other months due to lifelong respiratory issues.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

UPDATE on Request for a Stuffed Spider and Snake

As promised in my previous blog, Funny, Funny, Four-Year-Old, I am posting an update because, applause-applause, I figured out how to knit a snake and crochet a spider for my 4-year-old granddaughter who wanted them for her birthday. Here they are!

If any of you crochet or know somebody who crochets, I posted instructions for the spider (and explained how I knitted the snake) in this blog, Crocheted Spider Halloween Project  FREE INSTRUCTIONS.

As always, thank you for visiting!