Friday, June 6, 2008

Camp Gigi


Yesterday was a perfect day. It was so full and satisfying. Of course there were things I didn’t get done, things I intended to do but just didn’t “get around to it.” Three loads of laundry are still piled high in the basket waiting patiently to be folded and put away and Mike’s contacts still need to be picked up at Vue Optique. But it was a perfect day, because I learned a secret.

I learned a lesson that I hope will stay with me for a very long time and continue to find new ways to express itself in my everyday, run-of-the-mill life. I’ve learned a secret for how to live in the present. There are treasures laying in wait in present moments and I want to find them. Here is my secret: Name an event. Name the activity. OK, I’m just trying it on for size but here’s how it worked yesterday.

I’m a grandmother. More accurately I’m a grandmommy and my two little granddaughters live right here in town, only ten minutes away. So, naturally I get to babysit a lot. At least two times a week these little punkins come over to play while their mom catches up on adult life.

When the kids come over, they usually just hang out. Once they burst through Grandmommy’s kitchen, they head straight for the stash of toys and settle in for the day. All the while, I’m busy doing my usual things, e-mailing, bill paying, laundry, dishes, phone calls, etc., etc. Periodically during the day, our worlds intersect. “Grandmommy, can you reach that box for me? Can you open this for me? Will you button this for me? Can you tie this ribbon? May I have a banana now? I’ll briefly stop whatever I was doing before the interruption and fulfill the little request. It works out well for all of us. We’re happy. We have a good time.

Well, yesterday was different. Yesterday babysitting went from Good to Wow. Yesterday we had Camp Gigi. (I’m trying to transition from Grandmommy to Gigi. Camp Grandmommy just doesn’t have the same ring as Camp Gigi.) Anyway, Camp Gigi. The day was named. So, what difference does naming an event make? All the difference in the world.

My whole approach to being present to the day, to being present to my grandkids was radically different. I also found, surprisingly, that I was more productive. I was more present to my tasks and even more present to myself.

Earlier in the week Mindy asked if I could babysit for her on Thursday while she had some appointments and ran several errands. I happily agreed. Without thinking, I announced to the girls, “When you come over on Thursday, we’ll have Camp Gigi.” “Hurray!” They both started jumping up and down. (Camp Gigi is inspired by my friend, Bobbie Wolgemuth’s invention of Camp Nanny held every summer, for her grandchildren, at her home in Orlando, Florida.)

When Thursday morning came I found myself regretting the announcement. I had had no time to prepare. There could be no pottery classes, water slides or campfire songs. I wanted to cancel until I could get it all together. But, I’ve lived long enough to know that you CAN NOT go back on your word to a 5 and a 3 year old. Not quite sure what to do, I had a hunch. Maybe their expectations for Camp Gigi were different than mine. After all, they had never even been to a real camp. So I called Mindy and asked her to find out what the girls expected out of today. She called me back, and much to my relief, told me that they couldn’t wait to paint with their watercolors and play in the hose in their underwear. That’s all. … I can do that.

In three hours the girls would arrive, so I had to kick into gear. I made a list of things I HAD to get done today, got dressed and started checking them off one at a time. Bed made, check. Dishes done, check. Grocery list made, check, etc. I started planning their lunch – a no-brainer – macaroni and watermelon. And I considered watercolor paints and back yard hose activities.

Soon, I was off to the grocery store and secured the macaroni and watermelon. But realized I also would need to have snacks. Camp = popsicles. Popsicles and Ice Cream Bars into the basket, check. As I pushed the cart toward my car, my eyes caught sight of the business next door. Hobby Lobby. I got the brilliant idea to run in there and find something to kick the painting activity up a notch. Sure enough I found a beginners Paint-By-Number kit. Perfect. These paints were in teeny-tiny, miniature, individual plastic paint buckets. The girls were expecting the rectangular watercolor pallets that we already knew and loved. These were new and different. One notch up. And the painting itself would be on a board, not just on left over computer paper. Two notches up. Check.

Now back home I popped the popsicles in the freezer. Then I set up the painting station at the kitchen counter complete with Pyrex custard dishes for the water and paper towels for the messes. Thirty minutes until they arrived so I had time to answer a few more e-mails and put a load of laundry in the dryer. To my surprise, it was now almost 10:00 and most of what I HAD to get done was done. Check.

The girls arrived full of excitement and anticipation. The Paint-By-Number activity was a big hit – despite my oldest daughter’s opinion that painting and “staying in the lines” were mutually exclusive.

The backyard hose-play lasted for hours. We played catch-me (with the water) if-you-can, had a “car wash” for the little red wagon, washed “laundry” in my giant-sized stainless steel mixing bowl, washed dolls in the “bathtub,” watered the sad, “crying” flowers, and brought water to the desert – the brown patches of grass. On and on. I absolutely LOVE to see kid’s imaginations in full bloom. Talk about inspiration …

All too soon, I was waving good-bye to the campers. The wagon was safely parked in it’s open-aired “garage,” toys and bowls were returned to their proper places and the kitchen counter was wiped clean ready for the return of the head of the house. I was exhausted but so satisfied.

I had been able to accomplish all of the crucial/urgent things on my agenda while also having a string of perfect moments with my two little punkins. I was present for these girls. That feels good. I was able to give them a day that exceeded their expectations and left them wanting more. Next time they want to come to the overnight Camp Gigi. My own expectations were exceeded. My chores were done, the house was put in order before my husband got home and I was already looking forward to another day of Camp Gigi. I can do this. Even without a Leather Workshop and Canoe Trips. Mostly kids just want to pretend, make something, eat watermelon and play with their Grandmommy. I can do that.

Oh, the laundry still is waiting to be folded. Maybe I’ll have to think of a name for doing the laundry.

8 comments:

Colleen Coble said...

Ah, such a perfect picture you've created of that day, Gail. I'm going to be a grandmommy (love that term!) the end of September. A baby girl is coming, a lifelong dream of mine after the perfect grandma I had. I want to be that kind of grandma. Fully present in every moment like you said.

Thanks for this post. It was perfect inspiration for me!

Anne Jackson said...

You are SUCH a great writer!!!

Karla Akins said...

PLEASE let me know if you find a fun name for doing laundry! With teenage boys and a husband in the house, laundry mountain is a daily dragon around here! :-)

I want to come to Camp Gigi, too!

I love being a grandma. There's just nothing like it. Thanks for being an example to all us grannies out there! You are very brave to do the painting. LOL. Have you seen the new Crayola sidewalk chalk product that comes with 3-d glasses? I think I might give that a try at "Camp Mah-Maw!"

What an enjoyable post. I was smiling all the way through. Everyone should have a grandma like you!

Cheryl said...

Names have such power. It seems you've figured that out and given life to many future Camp Gigi's with your granddaughters.

Re: Laundry, we play "the sock game" when that small basket of white socks gets filled to the top. Of course, the novelty has worn off after a couple of rounds so if you think of anything more creative, feel free to pass it along! With two adults and four kids, the laundry never stops.

Blessings to you!

Marina Berryman said...

I am really enjoying reading your blog...from your first re-post to Camp Gigi, I could totally relate to your struggles. Thanks for writing, thanks for being real. I love your style and your heart!

Marina

Alispy said...

Thank you so much Gail for reminding me to stop and smell the flowers....I mean children!! I was encouraged that you still were productive and even more so, because of the "expectations" of creating some fun! for your grandbabies :o)

Vicki said...

Hi Gail,

I found your blog via Tweeter and so glad I did. Camp Gigi is a wonderful idea, and being a grandmother to two adorable girls who also call me Gigi, I hope to incorporate some of your excellent ideas when they visit this summer. Mount Laundry can wait:-)

Blessings to you and yours,
Vicki

Amy Beth @ Ministry So Fabulous! said...

I am so very impressed with you, the fabulous Gigi.