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Blessings

So, What Are We Going To Do Today?

Grandchildren bring joy into my life-a kind of joy I can’t really explain. I just know that when they are around, I feel energized and happy.

As empty-nesters, this Nana and Pop live in a home that is at times, deafeningly quiet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the peace that the quietness generates, but when those grandkids come bounding through the door, their youthful spirits bring  a contagious enthusiasm for life. My tranquil world is temporarily interrupted, but, somehow, I don’t mind at all.

I have come to expect what the first words out of their mouths will be:

“Nana, what are we doing today?”

To which I answer:

“I haven’t really thought too much about it yet.”

These days, kid’s summers are filled with a lot of “going and doing”- usually in the form of some sort of “screens” or going somewhere “cool” to eat or attending camps (football, golf, soccer, robotics, music….)

My old enemy, doubt, begins to nag at me again.

“How do I compete with all of that stuff?”

Electronics are forbidden (with parent’s blessings) at the grandparent’s house, with the exception of an occasional quick game of Hangman (educational, of course) on Nana’s ipad.

Plagued by doubt again, I wonder:

“What in the world were we thinking when we banned devices?”

The 100 degree day isn’t exactly conducive to outdoor play. So, off to the library we go.

I feel the Spirit’s leading today as I immediately spot an old familiar movie from the hundreds of DVDs crammed onto the crowded shelves. “Sounder,” a 2003 release-an uplifting story of one boy’s faith, strength and dogged determination. San Diego Union Tribune hailed it as “Simple, Yet Enormously Grand.” Yes, this is the one!

The boys, having discovered the Star Wars books, are busy leafing through their pages. Across the aisle from where they squat, I spy the craft book section.

 “Hmm…how do I choose one that will retain the interest of both a ten and eleven-year-old who hold very different interests?”

I pick up a few books, but quickly return them to the shelf. Then a book entitled “Recycled Science”  catches my eye. I eagerly pick it up and read the front cover:

“Bring out your science genius with soda bottles, Pringles cans, and more unexpected stuff.”

As the boys scan the book, their eyes begin to dance as they discover a few fun projects that pique their interest. Looking at the list of supplies for three of the projects, I realize I have everything but tongue depressors and chip cans.

      “HEB, here we come!”

I never cease to be amazed. How could getting to have their own can of chips be so exciting? And for the special price of $1.25 per can! I’m sure these chips are full of good nutrition. Right! But hey, we are the grandparents, after all! We even find a bag of tongue depressors in the craft section for $2.50.

Back home, the boys are anxious to watch the movie. They are immediately drawn in, captivated by the story for one and a half hours.

Next on the agenda is to make a solar hot dog cooker  and ice cream maker using the now empty chips cans and a cork launcher requiring a clothes pin, tongue depressors, wine bottle corks, glue gun, and a rubber band. The projects, very simple, keep them busy for quite some time.

Following lunch, it’s reading time. If you have grandsons, you must have on hand a copy of “The Action Bible,” illustrated by Sergio Cariello. Its pages read like a graphic comic book. Most visits after they leave I find this book laying open in the middle of the floor, a good indicator that it has been read.

      “One day down, two more to go!”

The dreaded question pops up again as I tuck them in for the night.

      “Nana, what are we going to do tomorrow?”

Fumbling for words, I reply:

“Uh… oh… well…It’s a surprise!”

Oh boy! I guess I have the rest of the evening to figure out what the surprise will be!

The next morning I utter a little prayer of thanks for kids who are now of the age to actually want to sleep past eight o’clock.

A favorite breakfast of the grands at our house is ABC, 123 waffles (my mom found the coolest waffle iron at a garage sale that has letters on one side and numbers on the other.) This morning, a bit of a surprise math lesson, as Pop shouts:

“Look, I only have a 7 left. What kind of a number is that?”

This sparks a spirited mini-math question and answer session on prime numbers.

Before the worst heat of the day sets in, with football in tow, we drive to a nearby park. This is the ball of choice for today, since one of the boys has just begun playing on a football team.

We make a quick stop at the Sweets Shop for a treat to take along to the park. Feeling generous this morning, we allow each boy to have their own huge piece of ‘moist and succulent’ chocolate cake.

      “Drool… drool….!”

Only requirement will be a Pop & Nana tax, which they readily agree to.

At the park we choose an out-of-the-way table under a nice shaded gazebo. The boys quickly snap open the boxes and wolf down their special snack. Then they take the ball and disappear. I, writing journal in hand, sit dreamily, far away from the screaming kids, and breathe in the quiet. Then, I see two moms with their eight little “ducklings” following in a perfect row behind them walking my way. Surely, they are just taking a little hike around the park and my perfect little place is not their final destination. Wrong! They all squash onto two benches of the adjoining table.

      “Mommy, is this going to be a snack or lunch?

      ”How long will we be at this park?”

      “I need to go potty!”    

      “Do I have to share with Sofia again? I want my own drink!”

The incessant chatter shatters my train of thought.

The boys, drenched in sweat, return to the table with a new friend. He loves football! Of course, he does! As they awkwardly straddle the bench, their conversation goes something like this:

      “How about that JJ Watts?”

      “Which team is your favorite, the Texans or the Patriots?”

      “If I were to choose I’d say the Texans.”

      “Did you hear about Rob Gronkowski?”

      “Is he in?”

      “Yep, but the Browns still suck. They have a decent running back and a somewhat good defense.”

Then they’re off again to practice their game.

One of the moms and four of the little ducklings take off toward the slides. The wind gusts and blows my drink can off the table in the direction of the remaining mom. This sparks an interesting conversation about her life as a missionary wife in Venezuela. I sense she is a little down and try my best to share a few encouraging words with her.

The moms and their “melting down” little ducklings decide it is time to go.

Now I know why I brought my journal. I would have never remembered all those sports figure’s names and teams!

Once again, I sit alone in peace and despite the pandemonium of the last thirty minutes, a calm washes over my spirit.

Life is good!

Grandchildren are a joy and blessing!

And, nope, I have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow!

On Turning 60

Welcome, brother, to the 60s club! I am proud to be your sister, but mostly, I am proud of the amazing man of God you have become.

Congratulations! You now qualify for senior citizen discounts. Not trying to make you feel old! Really!

As I recall memories of our childhood, certain snapshots are still vivid in my mind.

I was 5 1/2 years old when you were born, but clearly remember the excitement that cute, little red-headed baby boy brought to our family. You turned one-year old the month before I began first grade in Natalia.sherry, ken, me as kids

Daddy fenced in a giant play yard (palm leaves spread over the chicken wire roof to provide shade) in the front yard. You rode your little trike and played with toys, as Mom cleaned the house, periodically checking on you. How times have changed! I doubt that in this day and age a toddler would be left unattended outside, even briefly.

One day I came home from school to discover you had caused a little excitement in the neighborhood. Convulsions, brought on by a high fever, had given Mom (along with a few neighbors she summoned for help) quite a scare. Needless to say, you were pretty lethargic the remainder of the day.

I believe apologies are in order for the times your big sisters were less than kind to you. I’m not sure what possessed us to come up with the wicked idea to convince you that the eggs in the henhouse were in jeopardy of not hatching unless you sat on them in the absence of the mother hen. Shame on us! But, it did provide a few chuckles. I sincerely hope you find it in your heart to forgive us!

The year we moved to Devine, you entered 1st grade. Sherry was in 3rd and I began junior high as a 5th grader. With the birth of Brian the previous year, our little house in Natalia was busting at the seams. The new house on Transportation Drive in Devine seemed like a mansion. The acre of land, complete with an old barn, offered ample space for hours of outdoor exploration.

Strangely, I don’t have as many specific memories of you after we moved to Devine. I recently read some old letters I sent Greg during my times home from college where I wrote about taking and picking you up from school and activities.young ken I believe you were just entering high school when I was in my freshman year of college. Greg and I married in-between semesters of our sophomore year. By the time you were in college we already had two kids and Greg had accepted his first employment position in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

A special memory of mine is that of you and Brian walking arm-in-arm ken & brian down the path at his wedding and the picture I have of you, Brian, and me. brian, ken, me

So, now here we are, in our 60s, with much to be thankful for-solid marriages, amazing kids who have given  us beautiful grands.

Richly blessed in so many areas of our lives!

I thank God for you and pray that our relationship continues to grow stronger  in this “Autumn stage” of our lives.

Oh, yes, and don’t forget that the 60s are the new 40s! We still have a lot of life to live!

Happy 60th Birthday, Ken!

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln