Spending Time with a Twelve Year Old Boy

I’m in the Quad Cities, an area that straddles the Mississippi River on both sides of the Illinois-Iowa state lines, visiting my daughter and her family this week. On this trip I thought it would be fun to spend a day one on one with each of the two older grandchildren. Garrett, my oldest grandson, had his day today.

Garrett is 12 and for his day he chose to see the movie Ant-Man, eat a cheeseburger at Red Robin, and shop for Legos. Then I gently persuaded him to let me buy him some jeans. Ok, I bribed him with the promise of an ice cream on our way home, but it worked.

The kid has hit a huge growth spurt this summer, and all of his pants look more like ladies’ capris. It’s not a good look on a 12-year-old boy whose voice is deeper than most grown men’s, but he’s fairly oblivious to style do’s and dont’s.

Over lunch it occurred to me that this funny, handsome, geeky kid probably will have no interest in a date with his Nana next summer. I’ll lose him to his guy friends soon, and he’ll be swooning over some girl before long.

But on this trip he told me about the video games he’s into and his plans to design games himself some day. We giggled over Antman’s antics and pecan praline ice cream. We argued over the virtues of Star Wars  versus Minecraft Legos. On this trip he was still a little boy.

A Special Gift

  For a combination Mother’s/Father’s Day gift our daughter had this made for Studly and me. It’s a beautiful reminder of all we’ve been through and of just how far we’ve come.

The border lists all the places we’ve lived in our marriage. In the lower right hand corner the names of our children and grandchildren are written. All around our names are our interests and Studly’s famous sayings, “Don’t say whoa in a mud hole,” “Second Sucks,” and “Can’t never could.” 

The “Really, Really” is how Studly signs his cards to me. He’s been doing so since before we married. The one time he forgot I thought he wanted to leave me. 

Notice the cow in the upper right hand corner. That represents Salem Sue, the huge Holstein that adorns a hill outside New Salem, North Dakota, where we lived for 18 months. The town, not the hill; although, I always told people we lived behind the left udder.

The remainder of the picture contains little bits of our lives, our hobbies and activities. Studly golfs. I drink wine. We both follow the Dallas Cowboys and ride motorcycles. Oh, and we both look like idiots trying to climb out of our kayak.

When I get old, this will be my touchstone, my connection to our past. What a wonderful gift!

Nana’s Visit

I wrote this piece for my grandchildren Garrett and McKayla several years ago. Parts of it are even true. 

Nana’s Visit

“Nana’s coming, Nana’s coming!” sang Garrett as he ran in circles around the room.”
“Nana’s coming, Nana’s coming!” echoed Little Mac following closely behind her brother.

Mama covered her ears with her hands.

“Enough, you two!” she exclaimed. “You are making me crazy!”

Garrett giggled. So did Little Mac.

“When will she be here?” Garrett asked, jumping up and down.
“Yeah, when will Nana be here?”asked Little Mac, hopping on one foot.

“Soon,” smiled Mama.

“Are we going to the airport to pick her up?” asked Garrett.

“No, not the airport,” Mama said.

“Are we going to the train station to pick her up?” asked Little Mac.

“No,” Mama shook her head. “Not the train station.”

“Hmmm,” said Garrett.
“Hmmm,” repeated Little Mac.

“Is she riding a bus?” Garrett wondered.
“Yeah, a bus!” shouted Little Mac. “A school bus!”

Mama laughed, “Nope. Keep guessing!”

“Then she must be driving her car!” whooped Garrett. “We can ride around with the top down!”

“Wheeeee!” squealed Little Mac.

“Still wrong,” Mama said. “She isn’t driving her car either.”

Garrett frowned for a moment. “I hate to tell you this, Mama,” he said. “We are all out of guesses.”

“Yeah,” said Little Mac, crossing her arms and frowning, too. “All out of guesses.”

Just then, Mama put a finger to her lips. “Shhh,” she said. “I think I hear something outside our house.”

Garrett and Little Mac raced to the front door and into the yard just in time to see a shiny red motorcycle pull into their driveway. The rider turned off the motor, pulled off her helmet and smiled.

“Nana?” asked Garrett.
“Nana!” squealed Little Mac.

Sure enough, it was Nana.


A Stocking for Mom

My beautiful daughter and I were visiting on the phone earlier this week about our impending family Christmas rendezvous in NashvilleπŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„.

My level of excitement is over the moon!!! In less than a week Studly and I will have our two kids, our in-loves, and our five grand babies all in one house to celebrate the holidays.

Because we are all traveling by car from our respective homes, luggage space is at a premium, so we’ve all agreed to buy gifts only for the kids. Of course I have bought stocking stuffers for the grown ups–and have told everyone to BYOS (bring your own stocking).

No one demands that stocking stuffers be bought, but you see, my Mom was the Queen of Stockings. Anyone who spent the night under her roof on Christmas Eve awoke to find a beautiful stocking filled to overflowing with carefully shopped for goodies–things that one would never think to buy for oneself, but that immediately became something one had always wanted.

My grandmother (Nannie Grace) was so enamored of the whole stocking thing that she engineered being at Mom and Dad’s house for Christmas Eve many Christmases in a row.

I’ve tried to continue Mom’s tradition; although, she left some awfully big stockings to fill. My son-in-love thinks I do a pretty good job of it, though, since he’s pretty sure whatever I buy for my daughter’s stocking will trump anything he buys for her. Hey, it’s not a competition….

What I really wish is that I could give a stocking to my Mom. I’m not certain that anyone ever created one for her. And that makes me incredibly sad. So, I’m going to get a little sentimental and “fill” a stocking for my Mom:

Pictures of her grandchildren
She’d be so very proud of the
Amazing people they’ve become
And the lives they’ve made.

Photos and audio of her great grands
She never had the chance to know
These precious reminders that
Life and love carry on.

Love letters from her children
We’d each have much to say
Things we left unspoken;
We always thought we had more time.

Other things I’d place inside:
Licorice jelly beans
Crossword puzzles
A cellphone (she’d be amazed!)

My never ending gratitude,
For teaching me and mine
The importance of filling
Stockings for those we love.

Miss you and love you Mom.

Below is my very first stocking along with the Santa Claus Mom bought when I was five.


And if a stocking-less traveler spends the night in our home on Christmas Eve, we’ve got him/her covered:


A Family Was Born


December 20, 2014, marks the 4th Anniversary of the birth of the Stephen and Ashley Houzenga family, the day when Stephen formally adopted Garrett and McKayla and forever changed all of our lives for the better. We love Stephen like a son for many reasons–the way he cares for and respects our daughter and the love he has for our grandchildren top the list.

Happy Family Day to Stephen, Ashley, Garrett, and McKayla. (And to Harper who joined the fray some time later)!