Tot Travels

Having recently made a cross-country trip with a three-year-old, I feel qualified to offer a few tips.

When travelling with a preschooler:

Pack as many toys in the carry-on luggage as you can manage. A toy computer, books, favourite videos, stuffed toys and play doh work well. (Security may have a conniption over the play doh if you don’t include it in your liquid and gels baggy. You can get it in small containers- less than 90ml –  that will work out.) If your child has a favourite sleeping toy or blanket, make sure it goes onto the plane with you. Trust me….you will want it!

Let your child help you pack before leaving. Pick out clothes together. It will make the child feel part of the process and you won’t end up packing an outfit the child has decided is just not what s/he wants to wear anymore.

Talk about the trip in the week before departure. Describe the airport, the plane, security. The fewer surprises the child faces, the fewer melt-downs you will experience.

Give yourself lots of time so you aren’t rushing from gate to gate or stewing because of the line-ups. If you are calm and relaxed, your child will likely  follow your lead.

Most airlines  offer only drinks and snacks during  the flight. It’s a good idea to take some munchies that are more nutritious than pretzels and cookies. Mini muffins, granola bars, cheese and crackers, or trail mix are all easy to put in a purse or backpack to carry on.

Plan  for playtime at your destination(s). Try to find a playground where the child can run off energy and stress. Limit the amount of site-seeing you do so you aren’t dragging the child through too many new experiences in a day. An over-tired and over-stimulated child is not a pleasant travel companion.

Get as much rest as you can whenever you can. If you are over-tired, you won’t be a pleasant travel companion either.

Keep the child hydrated. Offer water or juice often. This helps keep his/her energy levels up and may prevent constipation.

When you get home, don’t plan too many extra activities for a day or two. You will all be jet-lagged and will need time to readjust.

Good luck!! 😉


Having a head cold is never fun, let’s face it. The stuffed up nose, the sore throat, the headache – a bummer.

But having a cold when caring for a preschooler is challenging. My GD (granddaughter) doesn’t understand that I am slower than usual because I feel like crap. Why don’t I want to play hide-and-seek or chase or go jump in puddles in the rain?

I am fortunate that she likes to do things like read stories together and paint and colour. So at least I can sit down with her for part of the day. Even though what I really want to do is curl up in bed with a hot drink and then doze off.

The saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comes to mind. And then I think of a friend who has battled diabetes his whole life and his comeback to that: “I must be freaking Superman, then!”

Here’s to Super GrannyMom! Upward and onward!

Sleepless Nights

I don’t bounce back from long nights of consoling a sick preschooler. I guess I never found it easy, let’s face it, but it sure is a lot harder at 60 than it was at 30.

When my kids were little, I often was up at night tending them through the flu, colds and other childhood diseases. And then I  would go to work the next day and survive. Now, I don’t have to get myself off to work in the mornings, and I am still dragging my butt around.

Menopause is a factor. I have many nights of interrupted sleep these days, due to night sweats and creepy-crawly arms and legs. So I guess when I have care-giving to do throughout the night, I am already in the red, so to speak. I am working on a deficit, REM cycle wise.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I am not the dynamo I was 30 years ago.

But I manage. What choice do I have, really?

It’s nearly 9:00. Past my bedtime. Good night!

Spelling Bee

My GD (granddaughter) and I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my 87 year old mother today. And by the way, my mother cooked the lunch after she played the organ at her church service in the morning. She’s a amazing lady.

But I digress.

GD was kind of picking at her lunch; she had eaten a late breakfast and wasn’t terribly hungry. After we adults had finished our hodge-podge, my mother looked at me and said, “Would anyone like to have some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m?”, spelling so if I didn’t want GD to have dessert, it wouldn’t become an issue. However, GD looked up at her great-grandmother and said, “Oh, yes! I do!”

I asked, “What do you think ‘i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m’ is?”

“Ice cream,” GD replied confidently.

GD is 3 and a half years old. You could have knocked my mother and I over with a feather. Our mouths dropped open, and then we both burst out laughing.

And of course, GD got her ice cream.

The smell of roses makes my nose feel very, very, very….cute.

The Best and the Worst about being a Grand-Mom

The Best is watching my GD (granddaughter) grow, develop and discover her world and herself every day. I marvel at each milestone and moment of revelation. She has such interesting insights and she has returned my sense of wonder in the world. I laugh at her funny ways of expressing herself, like the smell of roses makes her nose feel cute. She makes my world a more joyous place.

The worst is the worry. I am concerned about my own ability to keep up. Can I really be all that I need to be for her for the next 15-20 years? Will I be healthy enough, stronger enough, flexible enough to support her as she goes through her early school years, her adolescence, her teens? It is a daunting prospect. I will be in my late 70s before she graduates high school.

I hope and pray each day that I will be able to carry on.

And bask in the glory of her young self in the here and now.

Smelling Roses, Watching Slugs

I never know what the day will bring with my GD (granddaughter).

One day this summer, we stopped and watched a slug crawl across our driveway. For twenty minutes. That is something I would never “have time for” in other circumstances. The fascination for such little things is quite amazing in preschoolers.  My GD has really made me slow down and pay attention to exceptional, but often dismissed, things.

We do a lot of role playing too. On any given day, we might be birds, cats, Dora and Boots, or butterflies. It takes some mental gymnastics to keep up with her imagination.

The other evening at bath-time she announced that she was a bouncy cantaloupe. Where did that come from?

Every day is an adventure.

My doctor recently told me that I don’t fit any demographic and I guess she’s right. It seems pretty bizarre to be dealing with menopause and toilet training at the same time. Thinking about RIFFs and RESPs. Coping with daycare placement and arthritis.

It wasn’t in the retirement plan. But here we are – ready for retirement and raising a three year old.

I admit that I went through some self doubt and “why me?” moments, but this situation is my choice and the only one I can really live with. I am doing this for love and most of the time it is sweet.

Sometimes, though, I would like to have the chance to talk to someone who is dealing with a similar situation. There must be other grandmas out there who are also acting as moms.

So I am going to share some of my ups and downs here and would welcome others who are living these sorts of moments to share theirs.


Feb. 28

I am learning – or I should say relearning – a lot of things. Like how to prepare supper with a baby sitting on one hip.(BTW, grating cheese is virtually impossible to do one-handed!)  Like how to keep a toddler occupied while making a bed, vacuuming the floor, trying to engage in a phone conversation. Even though I haven’t used these skills in 24 years, they are coming back to me. Survival-mode kicks in I guess.

I am reminded how youngsters love playing with pots and pans, boxes, and brooms far more than any store-bought toy. How peek-a-boo is the most fun a toddler can imagine. How they soak up experiences like a sponge.

And I am savouring the sweet joy of holding a baby as she nods off to sleep, her milky breath on my neck, her soft cheek against mine.

These are the good things.

The uncertainty of our futures and the worry about my stamina are not so good things. How can I keep up this demanding, taxing, amazing job?

How can I not?

Feb. 25

Things don’t always work out as planned. When I retired after 33 years of teaching, I envisioned my life being full with travel, writing, gardening, riding horses, some charity work. My own personal Eden.

Life isn’t like that though. The Fates have stepped in and said, “You aren’t finished with your life’s tasks yet.”

This started less than a year after I retired. My dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and although the initial prognosis was good, things went badly. He and my mom needed a great deal of support and I was very happy to have the time to provide them with it. Dad passed away in Sept. 2013.

Coincidentially (and really, I have come to believe there are no real coincidences!) my daughter became pregnant at about that time.

I found myslef rammed into the “Squeeze” – being support for both my mom and my daughter.

Long story short, my granddaughter was born in April, 2014 and she is healthy and a delight. Unfortunately, her home situation was far from ideal, and now my husband and I are the primary care-givers of a toddler.

This we do with love and gratitude, but going from empty-nesters to full-time parenting has its challenges. We are into diapers, teething, bottles and baby-proofing the house. We laughingly call our daily scheduling “tag team baby care.” We pass our granddaughter back and forth between us as we try to cope with chores, errands and community commitments.

It is indeed a learning experience.

Has anyone else found themselves in this situation? How do you cope?

Official Blog of author Joyce Grant-Smith