Tuesday, October 2, 2012


My parents have 17 grandchildren, aged 14 to 8 months, and when everyone gets together, the house always stays clean. 

Toys are put away. Beds made. Floors vacuumed, garbage emptied, furniture dusted, and there is never, ever, a dirty dish in the sink. (If you’re holding your breath for a confession of sarcasm, grab an oxygen mask my friends! I am being completely serious.)

Is there hired help involved, you wonder? (Don't be silly! I don't even help. The kids do all the work.) Well then, are the children behaving under duress? Are these gatherings held in a home, or a penitentiary??

I can assure you that everyone acts under their own volition, and that the time spent together is heavenly - There is laughter and Legos, dress up, dance parties and marshmallow roasting.  But in between, there is also a lot of pitching in, picking up, and putting away.

The secret to the success, is GrandmaMall.  

A couple years ago, my mom started collecting treasures for the grandkids wherever a good deal was to be found - the Target dollar bins, holiday clearance sales, etc. When the kids came to visit, she would set up the finds at her kitchen table as "Grandma's Store," where the items could be purchased using tickets earned by being helpful and pitching in around the house.


The idea was a success, and a new tradition born. Every year the inventory expanded until this year Grandma's Store finally closed its doors, giving way to the launch of GRANDMAMALL.  

Jack says that next year he is hoping for the launch of Grandma Mills. And by 2014, GrandmaMallofAmerica.

To call the venture a success would be an understatement. It was capitalist greed at its finest. The kids were constantly asking what they could do to help. Once the toys were all put away, beds made and every surface of the house had been dusted and sanitized, we had to start getting creative (Who knew cereal could be alphabetized?) Once or twice I may have been caught offering tickets to the first kid who would surrender their Skittles, or fetch me a Dr. Pepper.

After three days of initial earning and saving, it was time for the Grand Opening.

Don't let those adorable smiles fool you. It was like Black Friday out there.

To ensure inventory control, Jack & Eddie were enlisted as mall cops. It was the fourth time in my life I kicked myself for never purchasing a Segway.

Finally, at 9:00am, all the scrubbing and sweeping finally paid off. 

The doors opened, the crowds entered, and dreams came true.

On the last day of our visit, amid the tearful goodbyes, Grandma Susan cheered everyone up by offering a clearance sale,

where all remaining inventory could be purchased at the rock bottom price of a hug and a kiss.

Customer service had better prepare itself. I have a feeling that as the years go by, every little shopper is going to find their way back to Grandma Susan's, with all the love they've collected over the years, and they're going to want to return it.

A Brother Like No Other

(Written by my mother Susan Foutz, who would like to clarify that she actually has two brothers like no other ) If you lived in Arizona in t...