Happy Birthday to the Two Grandbabies — now they are 11

As anyone who’s read my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, will know,  Woody and I postponed our application process for sixteen months while we awaited the births of my two sons’ first babies.  (Amazon link is here)


As I say in the book, my sons were always competitive, but this was ridiculous.  The wives’ due dates were just two days apart — September 25 and 27.


The babies arrived only ten days late, but still two days apart. Elijah Walker was born October 5, 2003 as I was driving to Ohio.  We estimate he entered the world as I was crossing the Bay Bridge near Annapolis, MD from our then-home on Chincoteague Island.


When Isabella Louise came two days later, I was the one to tell her brother, Mikah, the news when we woke up to an empty house.


My sons lived in Cincinnati in those days and they used the same hospital for the deliveries.  So, the day Bella was born was the day Elijah went home.  As a result, Gramma Janet got to hold both of them together for a few minutes.  I’ll be forever grateful to Elijah’s dad, David, that we have this picture. Bella, on the left in the photo, was only a few hours old here.  My, times have changed since my kids were born and everyone was masked and gowned and sterilized!


A very proud new Grandma.
A very proud new Grandma.


Exciting times.  This week, they are turning 11.


Here’s a photo of them with those hats I wrote about in the  memoir.  Remember?  I mailed them from the post office and sent them off assuming they’d never arrive.




Here’s another, aged about three, shortly after I returned from Peace Corps.


Elijah and Isabella, first cousins aged two-ish.


The following few paragraphs (broken into even more paragraphs for this post) seem apropos. Some were taken originally from my journal or from various emails home.

I miss my grandchildren very much. I miss hearing the phone ring and picking it up to find my son David has just called to chat. I miss my old way of life and don’t feel I have a new one yet.

How long does it take to feel settled when so much is so new? I guess I’ll find out eventually.

I can say “enough” at any time, quit, and go home. They told us during training we could be home in three days.

What keeps me here? I focus on what Mikah, Bella, and Elijah can get from my time here: stories of the immenseness of our world, that it’s more than just the familiar.

I came for Woody in the beginning. This was his idea, despite what we say about Lillian Carter; but that’s in the past. I’m here for me, now. I’m learning each day to be more comfortable in the unknown and I’m sure I’ll have many more opportunities to practice.

I’ve taken a risk; that’s the important part. I’ve jumped off the high dive for Woody, for my grandchildren, and now for me. I just hope I hit the water soon.


Mikah was five when we left and was a very important part of my life at this time. Here’s the first mention of him in my book.


With Jon’s marriage, I’d inherit my first grandchild, two-year-old Mikah whom I already adored. Surely, we couldn’t leave before the wedding.


Here’s Mikah three years later, during our 2005 vacation in Copenhagen that is in the book.  He and his dad (my son Jon) are dueling with swords, the kind that grow in nearby shallow streams.


Copenhagen 2 002


And one of the first things I attended as Grandma when I returned was Mikah’s Grandparents Day in Ohio. Here we are in 2007.


Mikah and me at his school's Grandparents' Day in 2007
Mikah and me at his school’s Grandparents’ Day in 2007


Mikah and Bella and Elijah, each have a younger sibling now.  I can’t leave out Raleigh (Elijah’s brother, born in 2005) or Kendall (Mikah and Bella’s sister, born in 2006).  Here they are.


Raleigh, always the good sport. His dad’s got his eye on older brother Elijah.
Kendall, the future vet
Kendall, the future vet









Here are a few scenes of them in various  poses.  Can you match the pictures with the captions?














A. Jenna was offered the honor of introducing President Obama on his swing through Akron during the 2012 campaign.  So, of course the family got a chance to meet him.

B.  Raleigh and Elijah

C. Raleigh and Elijah

D. Bella and Kendall

E. Family photo of Dave, Tara, Elijah, and Raleigh


And finally, those “first day of school” photos that are a family tradition.


Kendall, Mikah, and Isabella, 2012
Kendall, Mikah, and Isabella, 2012, Cuyahoga Falls, OH



The Blues Brothers hit Cincinnati
The Blues Brothers hit Cincinnati


I hope you’ve enjoyed this short glimpse into my life as Grandma Janet. I know I’ve enjoyed putting it together.  How about you?  I’d love to hear your tales of Grandmahood.

15 Responses

  1. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    You have the right to be a proud grandma and should enjoy it. I can’t do grandma, but I’m delighted to be a grandad with two little girls, ten months apart, from our two daughters. The eldest is just two ans talking nineteen to the dozen.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I remember you mentioning one of your granddaughters recently in a post somewhere, Ian. And how proud I thought you sounded. Have you seen the bumper sticker: If I’d known grandkids were this much fun, I’d have had them first. One of my joys is that my kids are such great parents that their kids can afford to get a bit spoiled by Grandma when she visits. Always glad to have you swing by.

  2. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Delightful tales, lovely pictures of amazing grands. I thought I’d never be a grandmother, almost reaching the ripe old age of fifty before the first finally arrived. Yeah, THAT old! Now we have six that arrived in two batches from our three children. The oldest two are in college, the third a senior in high school. The little girls are no longer so little, first – fourth grades. Ours are scattered all over. Until this fall, two each were in Oregon, California and Texas. Now one has escaped to Washington. Since we live in Pennsylvania, we obviously don’t see them often. I miss that! And that makes time together especially sweet.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh how I know that bittersweet place — adoring them and also missing them. Funny, I never really thought about grandkids until I had them. Hadn’t really pined for them. What’s hard for me is that I must share them. I was not only an only child, I was an only grandchild. And I had only one grandparent. She was my model. This sharing of their vacation time was not part of my plan!

  3. Yvonne Hertzberger
    | Reply

    There is nothing that brings me more joy than being a grandma. Our first grandchild is only 17 months but I am so grateful we live close enough that we can see them at least once a month. Our daughter, who just got married is halfway across the country. I fear that when she becomes a mother I will see her children only rarely.

    Your grandchildren, and indeed their parents, are beautiful. You are lucky to have such a wonderful family.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Yvonne. I’m a tad envious. And now, suddenly curious what she’ll call you. Do you want to be Grandma? I am and I love it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Yvonne Hertzberger
        | Reply

        Yes, I am Grandma to Nathaniel and will have my future grandbabies call me that, as well. Nathaniel is just beginning to develop quite a vocabulary but hasn’t mastered Grandma just yet. 😀

  4. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Wondering now what your grandchildren call you. With my grandmother, used her last name: Grandma Stone for many years; then Grandma Lowe when she remarried when I was in junior high.

    But mine call me Grandma Janet. Now, even my license plate shouts the proud title: GrammaJ

    They’ve also got a Nana, and a Mimi, and a few other names I’ve now forgotten. But except for some great-grandmothers (on both sides), I’m the only Grandma.

  5. Frank Moore
    | Reply

    Isn’t grandparenthood great! Mine are now all grown up — the youngest 18, the oldest granddaughter 26 and getting married Nov. 1 (had to be when there’s no Alabama football game!)

    Enjoyed the pics of your grandchildren and family.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Frank. Well, I hope you still give them hugs whenever you see them. They can never be too old for hugs from Grandpa. Is that what they call you?

  6. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    So this was what was happening when you were writing/editing/marketing your memoir! Your story of Elijah and Bella sort of mirrors my story of Patrick and Ian, who arrived 7 weeks apart, our first grandchildren after a decade of dogs and cats, I presume “practice” parenthood. (Of course I like dogs; cats, not so much!)

    Yes, I have written many a Grandma tale on blog. In fact, today’s recalls Ian’s marvelous birth at 26-weeks gestation. He is now 7 and thriving.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Marian, I love how life tosses us these little serendipitous mysteries now and again. We both felt pulled to feature our grandchildren in text and photos this week. And I very much appreciated your sharing those stark early pictures when Ian was so fragile, and the “today” picture of such a hearty boy. I imagine his story is one that can give much hope to many. Thanks, as always, for stopping in.

  7. Bella
    | Reply

    I loved your blog about Mikah, Kendall, Elijah,Raleigh, and I.
    I am just about to leave for dinner. (Today is my 11th B-day!!)

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Bella. Happy Birthday. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. That is so cool.

  8. […] been two years since I first wrote about them here.  You can find that story, Now They are 11,  here.  It’s got photos of them at various ages, including the one with those hats I wrote […]

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