When we were little, my parents ran a home business. Geary Associates was a mail-order quilt pattern company. They made and mailed quilt pattern template kits, and also sold their wares at quilt shows around the country. One of the biggest shows was in Houston, TX around the end of October. Every year around that time they would load up the van with all their booth gear and inventory and drive to Texas for the big show, being gone about 7 to 10 days in total.
We had several babysitters for this gig. Sometimes it was a neighborhood teenager, or a college student from church. I don't remember much about who watched us. What I do remember was the beginning of a family tradition called Surprise Bags.
You can probably guess what Surprise Bags is all about. Mom would line up a row of numbered brown paper grocery bags along the top of the piano, with tops stapled shut. Each night they were gone we got to open one bag. It was a way of counting down the days as well as getting something for our trouble - something to look forward to and distract us from the strangeness of having our parents gone. Since they were always gone over Halloween, one bag always contained glow sticks for each of us to hang around our necks while trick-or-treating. It is not surprising that I also remember one bag always contained a box of Twinkies, a treat we never had any other time of year.
As with so many things, I only understand now that I'm THE MOM how much work these were for my Mom to put together, while raising four children and getting ready for a major trip. But they were worth it - we loved them so much, and I have loved carrying on the tradition the few times I have been away from my kids. In 2006 Ed and I went on a cruise and my parents watched Hazel. In 2007 I left surprise bags for Hazel when I went into the hospital with Ginger. And last year when Ed took me away for a weekend for our anniversary, I put a few little things together as well.
Planning Surprise Bags for this upcoming birth has been pretty fun. Without going overboard, I wanted to get them things that would not only be fun the day they opened it, but also offer a little entertainment mileage in the months to come. So while I'm in the hospital this weekend, and the girls are enjoying an extended sleepover stay at Grandma's, I thought I'd just make a note of this round of Surprise Bags.
New pajamas and a box of doughnuts - what's not to like?
Melissa & Doug Happy Handles stamps and pads of paper
Tinkertoys - I never would have thought to get them this, but a few months ago Ginger's Peewee group learned about construction. When I picked her up the kids were playing with Tinkertoys and she was having a blast building. And I don't think Hazel has ever even seen Tinkertoys before, they are so classic. I cringe slightly at the multiple-pieces factor, but it's not as bad as Legos! The creativity factor seems worth it; we'll see if I regret it.
Sleepy Princess and the Pea Game by HABA
(And stay tuned - whenever I get home and get around to downloading photos and sitting at the computer, Spanky Bum Bum will be revealed!)