We are very fortunate that Our Little Princesses live only two hours away and visit often. We love having them any time. We especially enjoy having them come to stay while their mom and dad take a much deserved break from parenting.
I starting calling it Grams Camp so the girls would think it was something special. At first it was just something cute. But as they get older, I am putting more planning into it to make it more of an outing for the girls. I want it to be something they anticipate with excitement every year and I want to make memories for them that will last a lifetime. I think next year I'm going to actually mail them invitations to Grams Camp.
With every visit from them I've learned a few things I want to share with you.
1. Make sure your house is ready for the grands, whatever their age. Since it's just been Grandad and me in our house we've gotten lax about keeping a lot of things secure. When it's just the two of us, we don't have to worry about keeping medicine out of reach of small children or making sure the cleaning supplies are locked away. When our kids were little we had safety latches on all the cabinets, but we thought they were a pain in the butt, so we eventually took them out. I'm embarrassed to tell you that we have had two very close calls where one of the girls put things in their mouths that we should not have left within their reach. We were very lucky that both items turned out to be harmless. You do not want to make a similar mistake.
I have a step-stool that I keep in the bathroom the girls use so they can reach the sink when they need to wash their hands or brush their teeth. After they left this time, I discovered that they had pulled the stool up to the cabinet where I keep my daily medicines. Fortunately, they were on a shelf that was still just out of their reach, but I was still very disturbed that apparently they had tried.
Before the Princesses visit again we will be installing safety latches on our cabinets. Installing safety latches is a little bit troublesome for us, because Granddad has arthritis which sometimes makes small latches difficult and painful. So we'll be installing latches that can be disengaged when the girls are not here. I looked around on the internet and found these.
2. Consider sleeping arrangements. Our Little Princesses share a bedroom at home, but they have separate beds. Neither of our rooms have twin beds. We have two spare bedrooms, one has a futon which makes a double bed and the other has an old double bed which is too high off of the floor to be safe for a toddler. I was afraid she would fall out of bed and get hurt. Up until recently, Princess J was still sleeping in our Pack 'n Play so this has not been a problem. We would just put Princess E on the futon and Princess J right next to her in the Pack 'n Play. This time we moved Our Littlest Princess to the futon and Princess E into the other room on the "big bed."
I went to our local Dollar Tree and bought two pool noodles. When we made the bed the pool noodles were placed along the sides of the bed, under the sheet to form a "bumper" around the bed. It worked like a charm. You can see how it's done here.
3. Establish your own bedtime routine. Find out what their bedtime routine is and incorporate something similar at your house. Our routine is something like this. Dinner is a 7, after dinner, the girls get their baths. They're still little enough to bathe together, so we take our time and let them play. Once both the girls are bathed, shampooed, and in their pajamas, we let them watch television or play for a little while. Then give everyone goodnight kisses, read a book, and put them to bed. Alternatively, sometimes after bath time, we buckle them into their car seats and take a drive over "the rainbow bridge." We don't do this very often now, because it doesn't get dark until almost 9 o'clock. That means the girls usually fall asleep before we actually get to the bridge which is about a 15 minute drive.
|Buckled in and ready for a bedtime drive|
5. Stock up on snacks. As a general rule, I don't keep many snacks in the house because I don't want to eat them. But when the Princesses are coming, I stock up on cookies, goldfish, fruit snacks, cheese crackers, graham crackers and other snacks I know they will eat. I also put snacks out of sight because when they see it, they want it. There is always a bowl of fresh fruit in my dining room window. I do have to be careful not to leave it where they can reach it because they have been known to take one bite out of every apple in the bowl. I also learned this time that it's a good idea to limit their sugar intake. By the end of the day one day, they were running through the house like wild things. Along with that they were bickering and pulling hair. The next day, I made sure they were busier and had less sugar. It worked miraculously.
6. Plan menus around the grands. My kids never really stayed at their grandparents for extended visits, so our rule was when you're at grandma's house you can eat anything you want. At my mother-in-law's house, that always meant sugary cereal instead of meals. But, since the girls often stay for several days, I try to plan meals I know they will eat. Macaroni and cheese and spaghetti with meatballs are always a hit. They always ask Granddad to make his special pancakes for breakfast at least once while they're here.
|Lunch at their own table|
6. Include the grands in your regular activities as much as possible. During our recent Grams Camp the Princesses helped make breakfast muffins one morning. At two, our littlest princess is big enough to help set the table with supervision and instruction. She loves doing it and it makes her feel like such a big girl. And Princess E has helped me make the beds since she was little. Okay, maybe helped is a bit of an exaggeration, but she is enthusiastic and it's a lot of fun. And both of the girls tried their hand at sweeping my kitchen.
7. Check your toy stash for safety. If, like us, you have a toy box or basket for your grands, you need to go through them between visits and check to make sure nothing is broken. Remove anything they've outgrown. And, if necessary, add a couple of new items.
8. Give them a place to play and make sure they have some unstructured play time. We've made one of the spare rooms into the girls' room. Their toys are stored there and there is a table with crayons, coloring books, paper, and story books. When they visit, I move their table and stools into the living room so they can play where I can keep an eye on them. I let them have plenty of time just to play and I like to play with them when I have time. We color together, we read books, and I try to let them take the lead on what we will do.
9. Plan some activities they will enjoy. If your weather permits, take them on an outing to a park. When they're here in the summer, it's just too hot in South Texas for outdoor play in the daytime. So, we plan our outdoor outings for late afternoon and early evenings. We also discovered that our local mall has an indoor play area. Sometimes we go just to play instead of shop. We've also found some excellent deals on outings for children on our local Groupon and Living Social sites. Our girls really love the Texas State Aquarium. The Aquarium participates in the AZA Reciprocal Admissions Program and since they have a family membership at the San Antonio Zoo, they get half off admission to the Aquarium. Many zoos and aquariums participate in the reciprocal programs, so you should always call ahead and ask for details.
10. Be prepared to deal with separation anxiety. We've had some problems with Our Littlest Princess crying for her daddy in the past. This time we decided to be honest with them and deal with it up-front. Mommy and daddy came in and said goodbye while the girls were in the bathtub. The girls were so pleasantly distracted that they just gave them kisses and waved bye-bye. There was no more mention of where they were until the little one asked for her daddy two days later. We told her where he was and when he would be back and she was fine.
|Distracted while Mom and Dad leave|
11. Divide and conquer. On the day when they were wild and crazy, as soon as Granddad got home from work I had him blow up the wading pool and take them outside while I made dinner. Once dinner was under control, I poured us both a glass of wine and we sat outside while they splashed for a while. Then we came inside, had dinner, got them ready for bed, and took them for a drive. They were out for the night within about five minutes.
12. Be sure you enjoy them . Let them crawl into your bed early in the morning for cuddles. Hold them in your lap and rock them to your heart's content. Read to them. Pass on your family traditions to them. Show them your own wedding pictures and show them their parents' wedding pictures. Our Princess E wanted to know what my mother's hair looked like so I dug out my photos and showed her what her great grandmother looked like as a young woman.
|Happy to be going home|
Tell them how special they are to you. Make memories together. Then kiss them goodbye and send them home with their parents. Be thankful you had a great visit with your beautiful grands. Then pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up ... you will have earned the rest.