Uncertain Future

A few years ago my husband and I decided we were going to make a change. After years of having children and grown children living under our roof we decided we had earned the right to concentrate on us for awhile. We wanted to visit our one daughter and her family who doesn’t live close by. We wanted to be able to visit our mothers and our siblings more often. We wanted to spend time traveling and just enjoying each other once more.

In preparation for doing this we started cutting back and paring down on our expenses. We evaluated everything and made adjustments to not only our spending but our way of life. For example we traded our fancier phones for more basic models and turned to a month to month phone plan. It saved us 50% off our phone bill at the time and it has served us well, at least to this point.

Along with the phone, we cancelled our cable and opted to keep only our internet. We now watch Netflix and Hulu and again we slashed our bill by 50%. We started paying very close attention our electricity usage. We were careful to unplug appliances while not in use. We checked over our current plan and changed to one that more suited our needs. This brought about move savings.

We made a list and shopped for groceries once a week. We avoided the stores at all other times. This provided huge saving for us. We also learned to shop sales and stock up. My freezer and pantry stayed very well stocked during that time.

Thrift store shopping became the norm for us. We always searched out used before making any new purchase. That included clothing. That is something I had never done before but I quickly became hooked.

At the time we had a Dodge Ram dual cab pick up truck that we were putting quiet a few miles on every day picking up and dropping off children from school. We bought a new Honda Fit. Although buying a new vehicle is not necessarily a wise financial move, it proved to be cost effective for us. The new car payment, insurance and gas amounted to considerably less than what we were spending for gas alone on the truck. We choose to be a single car family so we gave the truck to our son.

We even considered selling our three bedroom home and moving into an apartment or smaller home. We considered it but couldn’t make ourselves make that move.  Even buying the smaller car was difficult for me because I was afraid it was not going to big enough in the future.

Here we are in the future. We still adhere to many of the changes we made before. We may have to upgrade our phones soon. The basic phones that have served us so well up to this point are unable to handle all the apps the kid’s school want us to have just to keep up with what is going on there. Who knew we would need all that.  Still we have been wondering if we need to make other changes. Do we need a bigger car or an additional car? Do we need a different home in a better school district?

For right now we are uncertain of what the future holds. We have no definite answers on how long our grandchildren will be with us. It is still the plan that they be reunited with their parents. If that happens our phones are plenty good enough for the two of us. Our car is more than adequate for us as a couple and we do not need more than one vehicle.  If we do not have children living here there is no need to worry about what school we are zoned in.

So for now we wait. We pray and wait and try to make tentative plans for the future. The not knowing and waiting is harder on me emotionally than my husband. He is much more of a go with the flow type of guy. I wish I could be more like him at times.

No Work Involved With Raising Your Grandchildren

The other day a friend called to catch up. She is an older lady from church.  She calls out of genuine concern and I have never heard her gossip about anyone.  Still I dread those conversations. She asks question after question and many of them feel quite invasive. She asked, as she always does, what most would consider a seemingly innocent question. She asked if I work anywhere.

For years I worked in retail management. While I have nothing against the retail industry, I had just become burned out. Years of working every holiday and almost every weekend had gotten old. Frequently schedules are not very regular and it can be difficult to plan a life of any kind around that uncertainty. I never had the same days off from one week to the next, and because I was the manager, days off and vacation days were often forfeited for the sake of business.

When it became obvious that there would be issues with one of our grandchildren, my husband and I made the decision for me to come home and be available to help care for this child. Little did we know what this would lead to. Not only did I care for this child until things settled down, I became daycare for my daughter’s little boy.  Then shortly there after we had two other grandchildren come to live with us for the first time without their parents. I was a very busy grandmother.

Fast forward five and a half years to present day. I still do daycare for my daughter’s  now seven year old  son and eleven month old baby boy.  I still have the older child that I originally quit work for here frequently on weekends. The two little boys that came to live with us then are back with us along with their little sister. I also have five other grandchildren living close by who occasionally spend the night. I am with kids all the time.

The day before the conversation with the lady from church I had my daughter’s two boys, my older grandchild and the three that are living here. All day I cleaned up messes and spills. I swept my hardwood floors at least a dozen times trying to keep all of the little stuff off the floor that the eleven month old could and would put into his mouth. I cooked two meals and baked muffins for snacks. I filled drinks, changed diapers, accompanied children to the bathroom, settled disputes and kissed boo boos. I searched out the perfect shows on Netflix,  found the age appropriate Youtube videos, and fixed the XBox. During all this I washed, folded and put away three loads of laundry and washed dishes. (I don’t have a dishwasher. I am the dishwasher.)

By the time my son-in-law arrived for his boys it was nearly bedtime. I still had to get the four remaining children bathed and ready for bed. Of course they needed one last snack and drink before brushing their teeth and heading off to sleep. When the last child had finally fallen asleep I looked around my house. I needed to sweep my floors. I had a few dishes to be washed. There was a sticky spill in the kitchen and the bathroom floor was wet. On top of that the clothes hamper was now full of dirty clothes again. I was completely exhausted and I knew I would get to complete the whole process the next day.

When my friend asked if I worked anywhere, I took a deep breath and sighed. I plastered a smile on my face and said as nicely as I could, “No I don’t work outside my home. I have the three kids here and I watch my daughter’s boys while she works.” My friend replied, “Oh well that is good that you get to stay home and don’t have to work.” Yep no work involved with what I do every day at all.

Entertaining Your (Younger) Grandchildren on a Budget

Because we are on a budget, I am always looking for ways to do things less expensively. What I really mean is free or cheap! This includes entertainment. Listed below are a few ideas to help you keep yourselves and your grandchildren occupied without breaking the bank.

Reacquaint yourself with your community. There are probably several opportunities for fun and learning within a few miles of your home that you may be overlooking. Check out your local library. Our library offers reading programs, story times for little ones, craft classes, lego clubs and more all free. The city offers various classes for different ages at very reasonable prices through the parks and recreation department. We have taken advantage of gymnastics and swimming lessons in the past.

Speaking of parks, we love parks. Dotted throughout the neighborhoods of our city are little playgrounds, and there are several larger city parks. The kids love going to the park and it’s free! To make it even more fun we sometimes take a picnic along. You can also take balls, frisbees, or kites. Some of our parks have basketball goals. One has a disc golf range. There are open fields for kite flying or soccer playing. There are even miles and miles of walking or biking trails.

Along with parks, we have several areas in town where people can fish. Kids really like to fish, or at least they like the idea of fishing. Be aware that you may be required to purchase a fishing license. Take note of any posted regulations about number and type of fish you can keep and what size they must be. Fines can be hefty if you are caught breaking these rules.

If there are museums or zoos in the area, check to see if they have free or reduced admission days. Some places will even be free after a certain time each day. If it happens to be someplace you are close to and can visit frequently, this can be a great way to save some money.

We have two movie theaters in our hometown. During the summer one of them offered an animated movie showing each week for $1.00 per person. I took the kids several times. Beware of the popcorn and soda prices though. Theaters make their money from concessions. All year around both theaters offer one day a week where all movie admissions are just $5.00. This can be a huge savings off of regular admission prices.

Many restaurants offer days or times during the day when kids under a certain age eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. Others offer family meal deals. Drinking water with your food cuts the price of a meal considerably.

There are always seasonal events going on. Free concerts in the parks, fireworks displays, trick or treating in the mall, Christmas light displays are just a few that can be found in our community. All of the events mentioned are free.

Of course opportunities will vary from community to community. Check with the local library. Check out your city’s website. Look over those community bulletin boards posted at supermarkets and other retail stores. Ask around. You will be surprised at what you may find.

When is Bad Behavior Something More

Last year my seven year old grandson pulled a fire alarm at his school. Firetrucks were dispatched and minor panic followed. As a result the school was fined for a false alarm and my grandson was suspended from school for three days.

So what happens when your child is misbehaving at school or at home? How do you know what is normal and what is not? Where do you turn for help?

I am not a counselor or therapist. I urge you to always seek the help of appropriate professionals. I am merely offering my advice gleaned from my own experiences and research.

I would advise you to do a little research of your own on child development. It may be that the behavior that is driving you up the wall is perfectly normal for your child at their current age. For example it is normal for a two year old to try to assert her independence and be somewhat defiant, to a point, no matter how exasperating it may be.

Trust yourself though. This isn’t your first rodeo. If you feel something may be wrong, it probably is. Speak with others who interact with your grandchild, teachers, day care providers, Sunday School teachers etc.. If they confirm your feelings, or even if they don’t, it may be time to consult your pediatrician. He or she can then refer your grandchild for further evaluation. Your grandchild’s school may also be able to evaluate the child for any extra help they may need in school.  A 504 or Individualized Educational Program (IEP) may be necessary.

There can be any number of underlying conditions that hinder your child’s ability to control their behavior.  Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) affects about 5% of the population. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) can certainly make life difficult for you child. Children on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) experience a wide array of difficulties. These are just a few of the issues your grandchild could be dealing with.

There is one other area that is often overlooked in children that have come from dysfunctional backgrounds. Early Childhood Trauma can actual affect the neurological development of the brain of a child. Many of the symptoms of Early Childhood Trauma can mimic the symptoms of other disorders so that children may be misdiagnosed.

At first I wondered if it mattered what the source of the symptom was as long as it was being treated, but I do believe it matters. If you go to the doctor for an upper respiratory infection it makes a difference it is a bacterial or viral infection. The course of treatment would be different for each type of infection. If you expect to get well you would have to treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. I believe the same to be true with our children.

Once you have received a diagnosis, read about it, research it, learn all you can. It will be up to you to advocate for your grandchild with the school, medical professionals, case workers and any one else that comes into contact with your grandchild. The internet is an excellent source of information as can be the local library.

Remember the grandson that pulled the fire alarm? Well being suspended was not much of a deterrent for him. However the very unexpected loud bell that rang when he pulled the lever was. You see he wasn’t trying to be mischievous.  He is on the autism spectrum and like others on the spectrum he can be very literal. It said pull, so he did. He wasn’t looking for firetrucks. He was hoping for candy.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b NIV

In growing numbers around the globe you will find us. Grandparents from every walk of life, every race, every religion bound together by one common thread. We are raising, or helping to raise, our grandchildren. We agree to do it without hesitation or regret, but rarely without hardships or pain. We do it out of love.

The reasons children find their way  into our homes are many and varied. Military deployment of parents or financial issues sometimes necessitate the involvement of grandparents.  Illness, either physical or mental,  or death of a parent can be to blame.  I have even talked with grandparents who have one of their grandchildren because that child just did not fit in well with the rest of their biological family.

All too often grandparents end up raising their grandchildren because of alcohol or drug abuse. This can lead to neglect or abuse of the children and at times, incarceration of the parents. With substance abuse on the rise, the number of grandparents and other kinship providers are also rising.

Sometimes grandparents have some sort of legal custody of their grandchildren so that they can enroll them in school, or get proper medical care for them. Frequently that is not the case. Many grandparents care for their kids without having any legal rights to them or any legal protection. I once met a delightful two year old who called her great-grandparents Mommy and Daddy. They had cared for her since infancy when their granddaughter had left her for an overnight stay and never returned for her. Unfortunately they had not sought any legal advice. Mom could come and get her child at any time and they would not be able to stop her.

You would think that raising our grandchildren would be easy. After all we are seasoned parents. How hard can it be? In reality it can be quiet difficult. As much as we love these children with our whole being, these are not our children. Most of us have not had them since day one. We did not bring them home from the hospital, although that does happen. Our grandchildren have been parented by other people with a different set of rules and expectations and sometimes few rules or expectations. Many of these kids come to us with a certain amount of brokenness.

But let’s be really honest with ourselves here. It wasn’t easy the first time around either.  Being a parent at any age to any child is not an easy undertaking. It is hard work if you do it correctly. Now we are older, maybe less energetic,  with perhaps  a few more health issues. Times have changed. Technology has changed. We have changed. Lest you think you are not capable or not qualified, you are. With age comes wisdom and stability and love covers a lot of deficiencies. You will make mistakes. You may feel overwhelmed but you probably did before too. You can do this!