How will you spend them?

Every year I try to think of a way to keep myself and family focused on the excitement of Christmas. This year’s entry was the “Twelve Days Before Christmas”. Each day was a tease aimed at one or more of my family members. Example; 2. “Adela with two pairs of aviators”, a tease of my two year old granddaughter’s insatiable urge to try on sunglasses, often to the chagrin of the person who was supposed to be watching her in the store. For your consideration, I wanted to share with you the final, twelfth day.

On the twelfth day of the twelve days before Christmas , I will give to you ……………………………

12. Twelve hours before midnight and Christmas Day.
What will you do with those final 12 hours? It’s possible that you still have some last-minute preparations like, wrapping the last few gifts, or maybe even getting that one last gift on your list. Maybe it will be preparing your children for the arrival of Santa, putting out the cookies and milk or just hanging the stockings. Maybe you’ll watch a favorite Christmas movie. Some might even have a tradition of trimming the Christmas tree in those last few hours.
Whatever your tradition might be, do it with Christmas in your heart. We celebrate Christmas morning, but we often forget to appreciate the days and eventually the hours leading up to Christmas day and then it’s gone. Celebrate family and traditions. Depending on your beliefs, celebrate the birth of Christ or simply celebrate the season. Somewhere, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, think of those who have so much less and then appreciate how much you have. Yes, I know how old fashioned that sounds, especially the bustle part, but it is at the heart of this season and so easy to miss. Find a way to give from your resources, even if it is just to be a little more accepting, a little more generous or maybe just a little more thankful for the things you have. Hug your loved ones, hug your children, greet a neighbor or reach out to friends with whom you may have lost touch.
No matter how you spend these last twelve hours before Christmas, slow down, be with the ones who count and enjoy the moments.
Merry Christmas

Adventures in Grand Sitting

This particular Saturday started off pretty average but that was just temporary. My younger daughter, recently engaged, was going dress shopping and she was taking with her my wife and older daughter, my older daughter with the two children. It was decided, though I do not recall being part of the decision making process, that Opa, aka me, would take care of the babysitting while they shopped. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Jackson and Adela arrived bright and early, ready for an adventure day with Opa.

It started well, well sort of. Twenty minutes after they left and after I had asked, I swear several times, Adela announced that she had wet her only pair of pants. Quick lesson in how to comfort a two year old and do laundry ensued. We all settled back down and things looked better. That is until both Jackson and Adela decided they couldn’t decide on a common movie or a separate toy. With war and bloodshed imminent I decided it was time to take action.

Road Trip! I strapped Jackson and Adela into my Jeep along with all the necessities a bag could hold and that I might need should this trip go south. “Where are we going” asked Jackson. Having not really thought about that, Cabelas some how flew into my head. I figured fish aquarium, stuffed animals, tents, yeah that one doesn’t seem to make sense now that I say it out loud, why wouldn’t this be a great place to kill a few hours.

We arrived with Jackson still asking me why not McDonald’s instead but once we walked through the doors, the wonder of Cabelas at Christmas took over. Right there at the front door was a massive Christmas tree littered with gifts around its base. Adela struck first. She figured they were there for her and pounced, ready to unwrap. I managed to wedge her free and then distracted her with a game of I spy various animals foraging about in the store. Jackson of course wanted to know why they had all these dead animals on display, displays that clearly said DON’T TOUCH. Guess I should have remembered that Adela doesn’t read and animals are to be petted. As I turned around to check on her, she was of course making friends with a small black bear. This of course alerted the store staff to our presence. I spotted him out of the corner of my eye heading our way and he didn’t look like he was about to ask if I needed help finding the perfect outdoors man gift. I snatched up Adela and headed to another department leaving the staff person relieved.

Next stop, the aquarium. I suppose tapping on the glass broke yet another store rule but as Jackson pointed out the fish seemed to like it. Adela decided to go one better and decided to kiss the fish through the glass. Enter yet another staffer. We peeled off yet again and headed toward the front. I swear I saw the staff person speaking into her wrist like they do on those FBI shows. I can only assume she was saying something like “They’re on the move. We need eyes on a lack of control grandpa with two kids in the guns and ammo department.”

We had indeed wound up in guns and ammo and I knew in an instant not a place for a two and five year old let alone how their mother might view this shameful disregard for appropriate care and handling of young impressionable minds. We kept moving. This brought us somehow to the toys aisle. Yes there are toys in Cabelas and no I have no idea why it is next to guns and ammo. But to Jackson and Adela’s shear delight, we were there. To his credit, Jackson began having me make a list of the toys he would like me to recommend to his parents. Adela, being a little more deliberate, was piling them up at the end of the aisle. I am sure you are asking yourself how she could keep getting away from my jurisdiction. Have you ever spent time with a five year old asking questions? They can distract the best of us and meanwhile a two year moves a lot faster and stealthier than you think. And of course, we had a new staff person standing guard near by. We got all the toys put back and I gave a subtle nod to the staffer as we passed by.

At this point I was rethinking my entire modus operandi. I was looking for the straightest path to the front doors. I spied my break but one more department stood in our path, sunglasses. These were the expensive kind of sunglasses. The kind movie stars apparently wear when hunting wild animals. But we were moving and I was optimistic for success when Jackson found a compass and wanted an in store demonstration of how this “watch” worked. I swear it could not have been more than thirty seconds and I heard “hey Opa” from behind me. Turning around, there was Adela modeling a pair of $200 plus aviators, the price tag still hanging from the frames, and I have to say, killin it! Just over her shoulder, moving at a fair clip came the sunglasses clerk, wrist already up to her mouth calling in reinforcements. “Adela”, I declared. “We can look but we can’t touch.” Probably should have thought of that earlier. To my sweet and innocent granddaughter’s credit, she removed the glasses, folded them up and politely returned them to their little cubicle. I, with my hands in the air, greeted the clerk and said “see, no harm, no foul.” Adela batted her eyes, twisted her hair and the clerk relented. What else she could do faced with all that charm. She gave me one last stern look and asked if we were nearly done shopping. I took that as the warning it was meant to be, hung my head and rounded up my charges.

At this point, we had amassed a lot of staff time, though I believe it was good training and maybe for a couple of them, birth control, but no merchandise. I looked at Jackson and told him we probably should buy something out of consideration. Jackson choose a bag of $1.99 licorice, we paid the cashier, and to the relief of many, we took our leave.

Now I am a former teacher and well aware that there should be a lesson learned from all of this, so here it is. Though a hunting and camping store may not be the best grandchild environment, it does make for a great story.

Thanks for reading.

Lost and Found

We all lose things. Some big, some small. And of course it’s never complete without someone asking the classic question, “where did you lose it?” Would it actually be lost if I knew the answer to that question? That said, our family seems to own the record on losing things, phones, wallets, coins, rings and yes, keys. In the midst of this, it has usually been me that finds them. Even though my family members didn’t know where they lost them, I seemed to have known where they did. My secret, think like I’m the item lost and then ask myself where would I have tried to make my escape.

Yesterday, it was my turn to lose something. While traipsing through fields of Christmas trees, searching for the perfect one, I managed to lose my car keys. Of course that hadn’t become apparent until we headed to the car, ready to load our trees. It was a family outing and all three families had cut trees. There I stood, all eyes on me as I frantically searched every pocket of my pants, sweatshirt and coat for what I immediately knew wasn’t there. Now this isn’t the first time I have lost my keys, If you read my blogs you will remember an episode on a trip to Seattle; see “Angels Among Us”.

It was my wife who issued the obvious question, “where did you lose them?” And at that moment I definitely was wishing I knew. Time to begin retracing my steps. There was that point where I pulled my gloves out of my coat, but no. Then it was probably when I laid down to cut the tree. That meant finding the right spot and the exact stump, but even when I did, still no. So how about when I trudged back out to the field to find my grandchildren. Could I have dropped them when I picked up Adela. Yeah, no. Well, I carried her what seemed like a mile, so lets back track through that trek. No luck. Maybe when we climbed on board the hay wagon for our ride back, no help. At this point things were looking bleak but at least I was getting my steps in.

Now you would have thought I’d have started with lost and found. Of course I didn’t, so we headed to the cute and cozy gift shop next. You maybe thought this is where the story would end. And for that moment, I had you. Gift shop, no luck either. Time to split up. Eli takes our path out to the field. Kathryn heads for the play area, Adela and I had visited there earlier. John heads for the tree bundling area. Bailey takes the high ground and watches the kids in the warm environs of the gift shop. Her claim later was that she had total faith in my finding them, the logic of a math teacher. And me, I had one last ditch place to check.

I saw her there in her bright yellow jacket and thought why not. As I walked by her work station at the tree shaker, I asked, with desperation in my voice, “any chance you found some keys?” And to my amazement and relief she replied, “oh, I did but I haven’t turned them in yet.” As she reached in her pocket, I just knew they were going to be mine. And they were.

If there is a message in this story, and there are many, the one that sticks out is never stop looking, even when you think you looked everywhere. Patience IS a virtue. Of course asking the girl in the yellow coat before walking a couple of miles might have been a good one too.