Fare thee well

Last evening, PawDad and I had a farewell chit-chat on the trampoline with Bubby and Mac.

This morning, we're on our way home.

Farewell to thee, farewell to thee
Thou charming one who dwells in shaded bowers
One fond embrace ere I depart
Until we meet again.

      ~Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Lili’uokalani

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

I recently bid farewell to _________.

Feast or famine: The plight of the long-distance grandma

My grandsons and I had a week-long visit the end of June, at my place. When they left for home, there were no plans in place for visiting again. No plans to visit before Halloween, nor for Thanksgiving, nor for Christmas. Even my annual week of care giving each January when Megan and Preston head off to one of Preston's conferences was off the books.

That is one long stretch—the longest yet in my four years of grandparenting—of having no contact with Bubby, no contact with Mac. Which broke my heart.

Well, my heart is now repaired. And full. And looking forward to not just one trip to see Bubby and Mac in the next couple months, but three. That's right, three!

You see, after being pretty darn bummed about having no plans in place for visiting and the famine we faced, Jim and I decided to just go for it. We booked tickets to visit the desert the first part of October.

Then, lo and behold, just days later I was offered an awesome opportunity with a popular maker of electronic toys, games, and learning gadgets for kiddos. I'd be given great products to share with my grandsons and their friends. I, of course, jumped at the chance. Thing is, my grandsons and their friends live more than 800 miles away. And the introduction of the products had to be done by the end of August.

So guess what? I booked another trip to see my grandsons. For the end of August. (And I'll share details of the affair soon after.)

And trip No. 3?

Well, as many of you know, Megan has gone back to work, back to teaching. Full time. Which can be a challenge at times. Turns out that works to my benefit. Her most pressing challenge is that near the end of October, Megan has school conferences. Which means Bubby, who attends the school at which Megan teaches, has no school that week. Which also means he'd have to join Mac at the daycare center each and every day of that conference week. Which, as you may have guessed, would cost a heck of a lot of money. More money, in fact, than flying Gramma—that'd be me, a freelancer who can take my work with me wherever I go!—down to the desert to care for the boys during conference week.

Megan asked if I'd be up to it. I answered yes. Preston booked tickets—for my third visit to see my grandsons in a two-month period.

A far different scenerio than what I'd imagined as Bubby and Mac and their parents flew away from the mountains and back to the desert at the end of June.

A feast or famine affair, for sure, when it comes to seeing my beloved boys.

Thing is, any time I'm with my grandsons, it's not only a feast of hugs, kisses, silliness, and fun, it's a feast of photos. I stock up on as many photos as I can, to get me through until the next visit. Photos to look at myself, photos to share with friends and family, photos to share here.

Now, as I anticipate another visit—another week-long photo shoot, as Megan says—in mere weeks, I realize I have literally thousands of photos left from our time together in June that I've not yet shared. So today I'm sharing some of my favorites. Okay, I'm sharing lots of my favorites, served up collage-style.

Enjoy this feast of photos! Leave room for seconds, though, as I'll surely be dishing out more soon, to ensure all leftovers are gone before the next round is ready.

Today's question:

What's the longest you've gone without seeing one of your grandchildren or children?

Black feet, black bears, and getting back to normal

Last week was a week I will never forget. A week so surreal, a week so not my normal.

My normal is as quiet as I want it to be, with time to do what I want, what I need, with all of that time punctuated with varying degrees of missing my grandsons.

Not last week, though. Last week my grandsons were at my house, and I was their primary caretaker. The house was blissfully loud—interspersed with occasional loud moments not so blissful, too, I must admit. I had little time to do what I needed for myself, but also no time to miss my grandsons, for they were by my side while their mom and dad attended a conference nearby. Time with Bubby and Mac was the very best part of my not-normal week.

My normal is relatively mild in terms of temperatures. Not so last week. Triple-digit heat, record heat, historically high heat literally never before felt in Colorado Springs marked the temperature gauge in unprecedented fashion. Day after day after day. It’s just heat, some might say. Stay in the house and turn on the air. It's no big deal. In a house—in my house—that has no air conditioning, though, it is a big deal. It’s hot. It’s hell. A hell I didn't want to deal with myself, much less impose upon my grandsons.

And then, well, then there was the Waldo Canyon Fire. The horrific part of the week. The heartbreaking part. The surreal part.

Tuesday evening rush hour, driving with my grandsonsSurreal in that on the west side of my city, hillsides, landmarks, homes were burning. People—families—were evacuated from their homes. Smoke and ash filled the sky, reaching as far as the city’s east side, my side.

Surreal in that every local television station went to 24/7 coverage of the disaster, the devastation. While my grandsons played nearby, I tried to watch. When they slept at night, Jim and I did watch, far into the night, especially on the most horrific day, on Tuesday.

Surreal in that I continually, obsessively checked Facebook, Twitter, email for news on friends and family, their safety and their homes. That I regularly received reports and texts from Megan and Preston as they tried—yet often failed—to enjoy their mountaintop conference and festivities while homes and Megan’s hometown burned within clear and heartbreaking view.

Surreal in that our health department warned residents to stay indoors, with windows shut and air-conditioning on, so as to not breathe in the ash and the soot. Having no air conditioning, we opted for taking the boys to various indoor play areas. We did our best each day to have a good time with them while the west side of our city burned. At night we wrestled with choosing between opening windows to let in cooler air to lower the hellish temps in the boys’ upstairs rooms or keeping the windows closed to avoid the soot and ash we were warned to keep out of our homes, our respiratory systems. Especially respiratory systems with itsy bitsy lungs the likes of Baby Mac’s…or even Bubby’s.

Wednesday afternoon, heading to an indoor play placeSurreal in that access to my mom, my sister, attractions we’d planned to visit with the boys was shut down, impassable for the entire week, as fire raged and firefighters needed to protect the highway, use the highway. That shelters, like refugee camps, were set up around the city for evacuees. That the state governor, the United States president visited to view my city’s disaster and devastation firsthand, to offer support.

We watched each day and each night—as often as we could while still attending to and enjoying our grandsons—as not only local news but national broadcasts revealed burned areas that looked like war zones, yet were neighborhoods I had visited, places friends lived. We and the rest of the city anxiously watched news conferences at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day for updates on the status of the fire and evacuees, the successes of the firefighters.

All this while I and every other resident not in the line of the fire worried about, prayed about, cried about those who were.

All this while my grandsons visited and the hellish hot temperatures continued.

Even after the initial shock and awe of the fire and its horrific trail and toll, strange things, things so very not normal, continued. Expected things like subconsciously searching the sky for new plumes of smoke and endlessly tossing about with others the figures related to homes burned, evacuees remaining, fire containment percentages.

Bubby's soot-covered feetUnexpected things, too. Such as realizing that going barefoot around my house—which my grandsons and I usually do—resulted in black soles thanks to the soot and the ash coating my home despite the miles between the fire and us. Black soles that required me to scrub my grandsons’ little piggies at bath time and scrub my own big piggies before bedtime to remove the grime. And the unexpected sound of packs of coyotes howling as they roamed my neighborhood, of having a black bear amble down my street. The coyotes and the bear, along with elk spotted in the center of town and countless other wild and displaced animals searched for a home that, like the 350 homes of local human residents, burned, is gone.

So strange. So sad.

This week I’m still sad about the displaced animals, the displaced people, the burned homes and trails and landmarks. Yet, this week, I feel a little closer to normal. The air and sky are clear of smoke, the ash and soot have been cleaned from my house. My grandsons have gone home, television coverage of the fires has been reduced to a crawl at the bottom of the screen. The pass to my mom has re-opened. The fire moves ever closer to containment.

I do still scan the sky for new smoke and for rain that would lower the still-hot temps and dampen the still-burning fire. And I make sure to watch the evening news and check #WaldoCanyonFire on Twitter throughout the day. I also continue to be on the lookout for lost and frightened animals in my neighborhood. Overall, though, it’s been relatively easy for me to get back to normal.

I’m fortunate, blessed, and thankful. For many others in my city, getting back to normal hasn’t been so easy. My heart, my thoughts, my prayers go out to them—to those who are still reeling, who must build new homes and new lives, who have yet to create a new normal.

Today's question:

The Waldo Canyon Fire evacuees had mere hours, sometimes less, to gather personal belongings from their homes. What would you grab first—other than people and pets—in the event of evacuation?

Yesterday at Gramma's: Morning adventure

When you're just 1 and 4, adventure can often be found simply by walking out Gramma's front door.

Full disclosure: This photo is actually from Tuesday, not yesterday, as yesterday was punctuated with warnings to stay indoors to avoid breathing smoke and ash from the wildfire.

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

I most recently found adventure ________________.

Yesterday at Gramma's: Up, up and away

Mac and Bubby, ready for take-off in the Squeak Soda Shop balloon—though clearly a bit anxious about what will take place once the coins are dropped in the slot.

Note: While my grandsons are in town, posts will be short on text and long on photos, with the exception of Monday's GRAND Social linky and Wednesday's Grilled Grandma, which will be featured as always.

Today's question:

Hot air balloon ride, bungee jump, or sky dive—which have you done and which would you like to do?

The boys are back in town

I haven't worked a full-time job in more than four years. It's not because I'm retired, as I'm still far, far away from retirement age. No, I don't have a full-time job simply because, well, that's just the way things have worked out since my department and my job at the local newspaper were axed in late 2008.

Sometimes it really stinks that I don't have a full-time job. Like when I gaze into the dark and echoing chambers of my barren bank account.

Other times, though, it's pretty awesome that I don't have a full-time job. Like when Preston—my son-in-law—has a work conference he wants Megan to attend with him, and they need someone to care for Bubby and Mac while they're away. As someone who doesn't work full time and can carry the work I do any place I can carry my computer, I am fortunate to most often be the go-to grandma for the job.

Which, like I said, is pretty awesome.

That exact sort of awesomeness begins today, as I will once again be on grandma duty for my faraway grandsons. Only this time, it just so happens that Preston's conference is in my very own city, so instead of me flying to their house to take care of them while Mommy and Daddy go away, Bubby and Mac will fly to Gramma's house—to my house—for me to take care of them while Mommy and Daddy play conference just a few miles away.

Awesome indeed. Especially because this time, since we'll be at home in the mountains, not away in the desert, PawDad gets to join in the fun. Same goes for Aunt Brianna and Aunt Andie, when their schedules allow.

Usually when I'm on grandma duty, I stay on blogging duty, too. I write up posts and I publish something new for the Grandma's Briefs readers each day.

This time I'm not doing that.

This time, I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging while playing full-time grandma. Just a bit of a break, though, as I will still publish something each day on Grandma's Briefs, only it won't be a written post. It will be a photo post, a picture of the goings-on at Gramma's while the boys are back in town. I'll include a daily question, too, because that's just what I do...and because I like to read your answers to those daily questions. Daily. Just like I hope you like to visit me. Daily.

So, I will be posting daily, checking comments daily, thinking of my online friends daily. Just in smaller doses, as the majority of my time over the next ten days will be dedicated to showing my grandsons a good time. To be honest and accurate, though, I'll actually be doing those online things nightly rather than daily, as I'll have to wait until the boys are tucked into bed.

I'm sure you understand.

And I'm doubly sure I'll have lots to fill you in on once I return to blogging full force.

One quick note before I go, though: I will still host the GRAND Social on Monday and post a new Grilled Grandma feature on Wednesday. I do hope you'll visit for both, enjoy both.

So there you have it. Wish me luck!

My ten days of Grandma Duty begins ...

right ...


Today's question:

What's the longest period of time you've been off the grid (off line) in the past few years?

Photographs and memories

You surely can tell from this blog that I love to take photos of my grandsons. As a long-distance grandma, I take advantage of the times we have together in many ways, but a priority always involves stocking up on lots of shots of memorable moments during our visits.

Often, though, I don't have my camera on hand for some of the most memorable moments of all. For example, when bedraggled Mommy Megan and the boys first came into view at the airport, Bubby beelined it for Gramma. As I picked him up, he held me tight and said, "I missed you so much." It was and likely always will be one of my all-time favorite moments with him, yet not one accompanied by a photo.

Another memorable-but-not-recorded moment was when Bubby and I sat in the hot tub together. Although I did take pictures of the experience—and had Megan take a few, too—the funniest, surely most memorable moment of all was when I was putting the camera down. I stood up out of the hot tub and leaned over the edge to put my camera in a safe, dry place. When I turned back around to sit once again next to Bubby, he wore a huge grin from ear to ear and looked guilty as all get-out. For what, I didn't know. Until I began to sit. Bubby giggled and told me, "I said 'that's Gramma's big booty patooty'!" Apparently Bubby got a giggle-worthy shot of his own as Gramma leaned over the edge.

I've mentioned before that Bubby and I like to have dance parties of a sort when we're together. During the most recent visit he and Baby Mac made to our house, the dance party was larger than usual, made especially memorable with the addition of Baby Mac in my arms. I bopped with Baby Mac as Bubby rolled with Rock Dog. Another moment not caught on film.

The day before our house guests were scheduled to leave, I mentioned to Bubby that he'd be heading home the next day. "But I want to stay here," he said. I told him that he couldn't do that because his friends were all at home, and he had to go to school. "But I can go to school here," he said. My heart melted at the idea that Bubby was willing to give up his beloved friends and great times at school in favor of staying at Gramma's.

Similarly, the day Bubby and Mommy were packing up the luggage, Bubby passed me in the hallway and woefully told me, "I will miss you so much." A second mention to match the first when he arrived, sweet sentiments to bookend the visit.

Those sentiments and other equally memorable moments may not have been captured in photos, but they're definitely imprinted on my heart. Which makes them longer lasting and not likely to ever fade.

Today's question:

What recent moment(s) for you were not caught on film but imprinted on your heart?