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Source: Pixabay

Grounded By Girls

Or: How to shop for a nine-year-old


Because of work related issues I missed my oldest granddaughter’s birthday. Having worked 38 days in a row without a day off, I was unable to even have a play date with the girls during that time and it had been a few weeks before the 38 days began when I had last seen my granddaughters.

I very rarely go that long without getting that powerful dose of granddaughter mojo that brings me such joy. Oh, and it is so grounding! Granddaughter mojo is so uplifting and energizing and mind expanding. For me, it provides an essential vibe much like an avocado provides essential potassium.

Although I can eat avocados every single day, I’ve found that the perfect dose of granddaughter mojo, for me anyway, is 3 to 4 play dates a month. So I felt terrible for going around two months without a play date. I began feeling the effects of granddaughter mojo deficiency. I really needed a fix. And I also felt really bad about missing her birthday. After all, she just turned 9 and it was her very, very last single-digit birthday.


I must confess that I am not very fond of birthday shopping. It’s so hard! But I’ve found that it is a little easier to shop for single-digit humans. It can even be a little fun.

With kids, instead of buying them one big present, give them 7 or 8 or 9 little presents then see which one of them they like best. The next birthday buy a bigger version of what they liked the best.

That’s one way to go. Spontaneity works, too. Perhaps my most successful birthday present I ever gave my granddaughter was the stuffed giraffe I gave her for her second birthday. Her younger sister had not been born yet.

The stuffed giraffe was a little over four feet tall. It was easily three times as large as my granddaughter. When I spotted the giraffe in a hardware store, of all places, I instantly knew I had to get it — even though it cost $112. I guess I had a pocket full of cash that day or something.

Giving her the giant giraffe, I told her, “Keep this giraffe close to your bed so that she can watch you sleep and grow. The day will come when you wake up one morning and you’ll suddenly be taller than the giraffe.”

Source: Pixabay

In the ensuing seven years of her life, my granddaughter has always kept the giraffe right next to her bed. She truly cherishes it. It was last year when the day finally came. I was visiting for a play date and before we could start playing she pulled me to her bedroom. Standing next to the giraffe she smiled and said, “Look Grandpa! I’m taller than the giraffe now!”

She remembered what I had told her on her second birthday!

Sometimes that girl just freaks me out.


This year I decided on the many small presents route. The first present I bought for her was not exactly small, though. It was a large floppy straw hat. All girls need at least one floppy hat, right? It was a summer hat so it was not a seasonally appropriate gift but my granddaughter didn’t know that.

I also got her a book (duh) and a movie DVD. But I needed more so I decided to go shopping at the local Catholic thrift store that is just a couple blocks from where I live. I shop there every so often, mostly to check out their books. I’ve found some fabulous gems there which I paid a quarter for.

But this time I was there shopping for my beloved nine-year-old granddaughter. I quickly learned that the thrift store had a whole lot of other things besides books.

I came across a surprisingly large selection of metal decorative tins. Going through them, I found two that were in near-pristine condition and were cute. One was a small rectangular tin adorned with images of the four seasons. The other was a round tin, about eight inches across and two inches deep, that was covered with images of flowers. Each tin was fifty cents.

In another part of the store I came across some zip-lock bags containing seashells. I picked up a bag and examined the contents. The seashells were in surprisingly good condition; no broken pieces. And there was a wide variety of shells.

So I put the bag of seashells in my hand-held shopping basket along with the two tins. I figured I would dump all the seashells into the round decorative tin and that tin full of shells would be one present. Seriously? How many little girls get decorative tins filled with seashells from their grandpa on their birthday? Am I a cool grandpa, or what?

I then looked for other tiny objects that I could fill the other tin with. I came up with a deck of cards, six dice, two small rubber frogs, and one or two other things. Later, at home, I added a white chocolate Kit-Kat bar (she loves white chocolate) and a small wad of five one dollar bills with a note attached with a pink paper clip. The note read: “Spend this money as fast as you can!”

That really made me laugh. The note may have been more addressed to her mother than to her. I could just imagine her mother say, “Now go put that in your piggy bank.”

Seriously? Is spending money as fast as you can not way, way, way more fun than sticking the bills into the stupid piggy bank? Kids need to learn that money can be fun and powerful. Am I the cool grandpa, or what?

Source: Pixabay

At home I wrapped all the many little presents and then put all the wrapped gifts into a delightfully cute wicker basket with a handle that I bought for fifty cents at the Catholic thrift store. The basket was not quite full enough so I threw in a little unwrapped plastic collie dog (she’s a dog lover) and a four inch tall rubber tyrannosaurus rex. I also put in an apple.

So I went to my granddaughters’ house carrying a wicker basket full of presents in one hand and a big floppy hat in the other. The big floppy hat was not wrapped so it was the first one to be received by the birthday angel. She absolutely loved it! She put it on and refused to take it off. What nine-year-old girl does not get excited by a big floppy hat?

Eventually she was sitting on the couch with a wicker basket full of birthday presents in her lap. The first thing she did was pull the tyrannosaurus rex out of the basket and hand it to her younger sister — who proceeded to jump up and down with excitement. Cocking her head to one side, she said, “Grandpa, I’m nine! I’m too old for dinosaurs!”

Mental note: The older granddaughter is too old for dinosaurs but the younger granddaughter is not — at least not yet.

She then pulled the apple out of the basket and handed it to her younger sister who immediately took a bite of it. “Grandpa, I don’t like apples.”

Strike two! I wasn’t doing so well. But as she unwrapped the other little gifts she was happy again.

Mental note: No apples for the older one. Maybe next time go with a banana or a tangerine or maybe a kiwi. After all, it is a grandfather’s duty to provide fruit for granddaughters. My own maternal grandfather was constantly pushing fruit on me when I was a kid. I thought it was what grandfathers were meant to do.

After unwrapping and enjoying all the other gifts my granddaughter finally opened the gift containing the tin of seashells. Surprisingly, she utterly freaked out. It was like the ultimate gift she had ever received in her life. Who the hell would have thunk that?

It was like she had received a gift of a tin of exquisite gemstones worth millions. She would not let go of that tin for the rest of the evening. She was so outrageously excited by the seashells!

Who would have thought that a dollar bag of seashells and a fifty-cent decorative tin could turn into a gift that made me the coolest grandpa of all times? I’m not smart enough to come up with something like this. It was strictly by accident. It is just what happens when one goes into a thrift store with an empty and receptive mind.

With my jacket on at the end of the evening I knelt down on the floor to hug my wonderful granddaughters and say good-bye. My oldest granddaughter whispered in my ear, “I love you, Grandpa. Thanks for the shells and the hat.”

Thanks for the shells and the hat.

There was no mention of the other gifts. I immediately knew my granddaughter better than I did before.

Mental note: For Christmas for my oldest granddaughter maybe I should consider a cute polka-dotted umbrella or something…

… and, of course, a really, really, really big seashell.