Sunday, August 3, 2014

Family Carnival 2014 Part 1

Spin! Ring! Reel 'em in! Those are my simple expectations of a family carnival. But little girl guests often have others. And they are not afraid to express them!

A few years back, Tava was fully confident that she'd be bringing home a "live rabbit" from our inaugural event. This year, one of Bree's little posse from pre-school asked if a Ferris wheel would be among the attractions on grandma's front lawn! Bree herself had a much simpler vision. She declared she'd share her popcorn with Nana, her paternal grandma. "We are going to eat from the same bag!" she told me, eyes popping bright and blue with excitement. Now that expectation was a cinch to fulfill. And Tava did hop away happy with a cute stuffed bunny. But still wondering how to sneak a Ferris wheel into a residential neighborhood so that my goal of "everyone's a winner!" stays alive!

I do think we kept everybody spinning, ringing, smiling and happy this year, and I invite you now to join me as 26 lively little guests, their parents and a handful of grandparents enjoy 19 attractions at our third Family Carnival held July 26, 2014 at 5 PM at my home. Welcome along!

First stop. Ticket Booth. Party bags are collected here, tagged brightly with names of each guest. Tied to the handle are long strips of game tickets. One-page programs describe each attraction and include an invitation to pop inside the house any old time to grab a hot dog and chips snack.

Many of the games are repeats; favorites from the past. But they are new to the very youngest grandkids and to their friends who attended for the first time this year.

Little ladies again discover something fancy to wear at the "You Are So Pretty" booth. This year we offer butterfly visors and little pink jelly purses stuffed with neon bracelets, rings and nail polish for older girls.

The youngest princesses find fancy gossamer fairy wings. These Dollar Tree delights are embellished with silk flowers and a flourish of shiny tulle ribbon. So pretty! - and so are the little ladies who flutter about in them all evening long!

"Alien Invasion" is back for a third time. Popularity of the theme begged for an added game of skill, making it necessary to designate an "Area 51" to accommodate both of them.

Clear plastic eggs, home to creepy little glow-in-the-dark aliens floating in out-of-this-world slime are this year's prizes.

"Knock 'em Out!" Little boys lined up to bowl down silvery alien pins that not only light up, but emit weird outer space noises when they are struck with a purple plastic ball. Inflated mini aliens go home with every winner.

One of my personal favorites, also a repeat, is the Hamster Wheel - a carnival toy I covered and decorated to suit the theme. Kids take a spin and match their numbers. A box of "hamster food" in the form of cute candy accompanies their new little pocket pet!

When the darts you use are the sticky variety, even the youngest guests get a bang out of "bursting balloons" - and winning a brightly colored slinky for their efforts!

Ava and Angeline weren't born yet when "Goldfish Splash" made its debut, but the twins have no trouble putting their cute little heads together to figure out that flipping plastic fish into bowls is the way to earn a bubble wand.

Lots of ambiance from an endless stream of bubbles pumped from a hidden battery operated machine!

Our lovely youngest daughter, Karen, welcomes you to "Monkey Smackdown" during the early family preview hour. Full attention is given to grandkids during this time, freeing parents to become workers after everyone else arrives.

This game is one of the first I constructed three years ago when a family carnival was nothing more than a sketchbook full of ideas. Paper mache trees tower seven feet tall and sparkle brilliantly in the sun. Kids smack a pyramid of cans with plastic bananas to win monkey shaped squirt guns and crazy little neon stuffed gorillas. Two strings of these spunky characters, pinned up and frolicking on the trees, watch the action and wait to see who will choose them!

My attempt to fit a panoramic view of the entire carnival site into one photo frame was unsuccessful. And so was fitting the entire story into one blog post. Here's where you'll find the rest of this scene and lots, lots more of Family Carnival 2014!

Family Carnival 2014 Part 2

There's a parrot-perching pirate cave at our family carnival too. It's deep and dark inside, full of shelves and crevices that groan with grimacing, glowing skulls. Only the bravest of little boys dare crawl inside to grope about in dimmest light, seeking hidden hoard. Here's my grandson, Nick, himself a treasure, emerging victorious with an inflated sword and his own little chest of prizes - an ample sack of chocolate doubloons, a fearsome pirate ring, stickers and a spooky, shakin' skeleton that proved mighty useful for scaring away curious little girls!

Aunt Christy, today's tattoo artist-in-residence, reports heavy demand for butterflies and "Hello Kitty" from the ladies. Young gentlemen opt for colorful frogs and triple-eyed, multi-legged monsters.

Tattoos are popular with everybody, so it makes perfect sense to enjoy the inevitable wait in line with a help-yourself snack from the popcorn stand!

A carnival without a duck pond? Why, you might as well not believe in Santa Claus! The idea, of course, is to toss rings about the necks of floating yellow ducks. But a refreshingly cool pool of sparkling water on a steamy hot day attracts a random ring of friendly kids who create and play by their own rules. In the end, ducks, rings, nets and sometimes even little boys all dive in together for a nice swim!

Several new attractions appear each time my carnival comes to town. This year, "Cute Little Chicks" makes its debut in response to the burgeoning number of granddaughters (3!) we've welcomed over the past two years. Colorful nests await matching stuffed chicks, and little girls flutter away as winners in a flourish of bright yellow feather boa. They discover, too, that their choice of plastic Easter egg houses a sweet pink candy bracelet.

Poles, pirates and prizes. Spinners, snakes and sunglasses! Kids work to reel in rewards at the carnival staple, "Go Fishing," but our prize booth only requires a turning in of tickets and a choosing of their favorites.

And there's more! The fun continues right here in part three! Party on over!

Family Carnival 2014 Part 3

I really did think that the "urping" of "hairballs" would entertain kids the most when they visited "Mister Purr-sonality," my giant (six foot tall) paper mache carnival cat. I was wrong!

Aunt Karen does a purr-fect job of meowing a friendly "Hello!" to kids who approach. Sometimes their faces wear cautious concern. "What on earth is this?" But that doesn't last long. Kitty gains their confidence, chatting them up by name before asking for tickets on an extended paw. The goofy "noodley," rubbery "hairball" that pops out of kitty's mouth is just an added bonus for our audience of surprised and delighted kids who most enjoy exchanging pleasantries with the biggest cat they'll probably ever see!

Daddy takes Kaylee to visit Kitty and she can't believe her little ears when she hears a familiar voice. "Mommy? You in there? And you've got a hair ball to burp out at lil ole me?"

We're playing "Tic Tac Toad!" today, too. A grid of lily pads awaits the toss of a handful of plastic frogs. Kids aim to sink three in a row - any direction, but even a sincere effort is rewarded with a prize....and it's a good one!

Bree is delighted to demonstrate the froggie pop she won at Tic Tac Toad. It whistles, pops a pair of buggy eyeballs, whips out a long crazy tongue, hides a stick of candy and comes in three different colors, including her current favorite - purple!

Whoa! Looks like I've run outta room again! And just when things are starting to wind up! Please join me here for the grand finale of Family Carnival 2014.

Family Carnival 2014 Part 4

The "Sweeties!" stop - it's new this year - summer's version of Halloween's tummy-churning-goody-gobbling-sugar-stuffing-unhinged-parent-cringing binge all in one convenient location! Only when everything came together did I realize the scope of what I'd done! Nope! Didn't miss a thing!

Here goes!

Cotton candy! - (tubs - not stingy cupfuls!)
Sour rainbow strips! - (extra large size!)
Gumballs! - (tubes of them! all colors!)
Lollipops! - ("smallish" - BOOOO!)
Taffy! - ("stick around!" sink your teeth in!)
Gummy drops! - (scoop 'em up! the one I provided is huge!)
Circus peanuts! - (grab what's left! - grandma ate the first two bags!)
Ice cream cones! - (ha ha! fooled ya! those are just bubbles! - BOOOO again!)

The station is self-serve. Kids find their own party bags and load up! (Nothing to see here, mommy!)

Hope nobody's got a peanut allergy! These treats come in my favorite size for candy: JUMBO!

I constructed "Happy Hairdo Harry" to serve as a lollipop dispenser just for today. Here's more detail on how to make him for your own party.

Love sugar?

Well there's more!

Guests are invited inside to help themselves to a hot dog snack. "Popcorn," "hamburgers" and "sundaes" are served as sides!

Paper baking cups are a joy to work with, and five dozen cupcakes are a breeze to prepare using packaged cake mix. Top off mini-marshmallow "popcorn" with a sprinkling of yellow "buttered" pieces hand picked from a bag of flavored ones.

I especially love the way our cute little hamburgers turned out. Use packaged brownie mix and tinted frosting to achieve the same results by following these instructions at Bakerella's wonderfully creative site.

And speaking of sweet things going on at our carnival......

Youngest granddaughter, sweet little Kaylee, tests her fairy wings, hoping for a smooth take off......

This beautiful young lady guest enjoyed every game, earned plenty of prizes, packed herself up and is ready to call it a day!

And this little cutie pie has the exact same thing in mind!

We had a wonderful, wonderful day, but when it was over, it was over! An evening of spinning and ringing and tossing - of tattoos and toads, of pirates and popcorn, and monkeys and more.......

And a weary little carnival-goer, Brielle, appears to agree with grandma - as she usually does!

Besides grandpa, my own three daughters and their husbands, I had significant help from family friends who worked the games. I am so grateful to Jim, Judy, Rich, Dave, Sandro and Vonda whose infectious sense of humor and enthusiastic love for kids made this such a special day. THANK YOU my friends!

"Where's Sae? He was here a minute ago!"

Like to see even more?
Here's links to carnivals past and other related posts:

"Mister Purr-sonality" Carnival Cat
Happy Hairdo Harry
Cute Little Chicks Carnival Game
Tic Tac Toad! Carnival Game

Family Carnival 2012

Part 1 of Family Carnival 2011
Part 2 of Family Carnival 2011
Part 3 of Family Carnival 2011
Part 4 of Family Carnival 2011

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Lookit The Cat!"

"Lookit the cat! LOOKIT THE CAT!"

I suppose I'd shriek the same thing if I came upon this sizable critter while walking my dog in an otherwise normal neighborhood. He's an inch or two over six feet tall and that glossy orange coat is a knock out traffic stopper. If I were totally adverse to the attention of gawkers I probably would have confined him indoors while I applied finishes touches. But that's not the way I roll.

Paper mache construction began on the back deck several weeks ago. But alas! By the time a pair of extra-chubby cheeks blossomed on this cute little face, my buddy was too wide and too bulky to fit back through the door. Grandpa helped me lower him over the railing and into the garage. I've parked outside for a month and kitty has lived contentedly inside, enjoying his journey from a pair of cardboard appliance boxes to the "Mister Purr-sonality" figure you see here.

And now what? Well, kitty is actually the last of my new attractions for our upcoming family carnival, so he's not just gonna sit here all day dreaming about pet treats. He's a working cat! One whose job it is to burp out "hairballs" for the purpose of (hopefully!) delighting children who approach him with a ticket to place in his generous paw. Once he purrs a sweet "Thank you!" he'll ease into a coughing spasm - the universally recognized warning to cat owners that something's on its way up - and its going to be slimy and gelatinous!


I'm sure there's a code of secrecy respected by carnies that keeps tricks of the trade under wraps. I probably shouldn't blab about how this game functions. So I'll just say that "maybe" it has something to do with a secret door in back, a daughter willing to sit inside with a portable mike and a sense of humor, and a box of colorful "hairballs" to toss out of Mister Purr-sonality's mouth at just the right moment!

We'll be at these link parties.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"What's Going On Over There?"

Angeline looks a little concerned. But Ava thinks it's hilarious that grandma hasn't had much to say lately. The family carnival is coming to town in a few weeks and I'm buzzing about like a crazy bee, putting it all together. There's 23 little guests confirmed and I want it all to run perfectly. That's been my excuse. At least it's the one I offer to concerned people who've been asking lately, "What's going on over there?"

Interesting that grandma blog posts I enjoy reading most are ones that describe everyday, ordinary things done together. So heartwarming to see grandkids beaming away while they bake, craft or ride a bike alongside the person whose primary mission in life to is to protect, spoil and enjoy them. We've done those things too, in the fleeting months that come before Kindergarten begins and grandchildren move into a world where more time is spent with classmates and teachers than family. I think kids remember simple moments best. And if they don't, well grandma's got plenty of photos stored as reminders!

I always get excited when I see an article entitled "Ten Great New Adventures to Enjoy With Your Grandchildren." I'm always eventually disappointed though. "Take them to the zoo!" is always tops on the list. Well, who doesn't do that already?

Nick couldn't wait to show me his favorite skeleton. A year ago it would have been a fire truck.

At twenty-two months, little girls don't mind splashing in six inches of water under the hovering shadow of a sun screen, bug spray, emergency flotation device bearing, finger-on-911-button grandmother.

But a soon-to-be four year old has mastered the skill of politely informing grandma that her dream of riding a fleet footed cheetah is being hampered by unnecessary death grips about her waist and shoulders!

For the time being, we're done looking for teeth to make their appearance. Instead, we're watching them move on out, creating an extra stop here for the Tooth Fairy.

I was present the day Mary Jo organized a cousins' dog biscuit making party. The kids love their pets and those of their grandparents and friends. For that reason, they chose to cut their treats in the shape of big hearts.

They love me too, and all the fun we have together. When interests change though, I know I need to do the same. Before this summer, the boys always piled into my lap during each and every cartoon watching break we took, sometimes to the point of near suffocation! They still join me on the couch, but sit a foot away. I can't help but notice that, at almost six, they regard themselves as young men, not little boys.

"I'm a big girl now, grandma," Bree tells me frequently, and I am so glad that I have not missed a thing. I was there while she was a "little girl," enjoying many giggling moments when I could have been honing gourmet cooking skills or quilting a bounty of heirloom fabric pieces. I put those pursuits on temporary hold and have absolutely no regrets!

This post is dedicated to fellow grandma friends Carol, Connie, Darcie, Debra, Diana, JoAnn, Judy, Kc, Lisa, Nancy, Pat, Sandy, Sharon and Sheila who know who they are because they'd agree with every word I've written here. They also know you don't have to construct a six foot paper mache carnival cat in your garage in order to be a super-grandma. Yikes. Who'd be crazy enough to do that? Me? Well, maybe! Purr-haps that character will be the topic of my next post. We'll see you then!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cousins Forever!

Grandma's House - Where cousins go to become friends......

A year or so ago, one of my grandma friends directed me to a blog post written by an ultra refined grandmother. Her manicured vintage English garden was the setting for a story book child's cottage - the place grandchildren frequented to practice becoming young ladies and men. Cousins, attired in Sunday best, peeked about coyly - ladies from beneath graciously adorned, brimmed sunhats; gentlemen from above crisp bow ties. The pretty primrose path they followed led to their destination - a place to sip tea from Peter Rabbit china cups, nibble tiny morsels and converse in hushed tones. Regal Queen Grandmother beamed with rightful pride and took photographs galore.

"There!" my friend declared. "You could so do that too!"

Hmmm. I pictured us at that time. What if we had been invited for a visit? That enchanted dollhouse would have been immediately commandeered by the boys as a "police station," stuffed full of "bad guys" - Bree's dolls, handcuffed with jump ropes. She would be screaming her head off. Every flower around us would wilt in terror. Not one of our party would be caught dead wearing prissy heirloom pearl necklaces, ones "the regulars" wove about their slender necks. Not a chance. Ours would have been pressed into service as leashes for the "police dog." That lovely grandmother hostess, recoiling in horror, would spray us all with a hose, ordering us back to the barbarian quarters from which we emerged. Each fanciful curlicue on the ornate iron gate would shudder its disgust as it slammed firmly behind us.

But that was sooo last year!

Perhaps it has been me who has grown up in that time, acquiring skills that make for a pleasant and fulfilling experience each time grandchildren cousins convene for a weekend sleepover at grandma's - the place, hopefully, where they will gather for many years and become fast friends.

Children enjoy traditions. Do something fun once, and they'll ask for it again and again. For us, it's ice cream making - incentive to eat healthy at dinner because 20 minutes from the punch of the "start" button only kids with clean plates will be invited to dip in!

I probably should cringe when Sae proudly announces that, "Grandma lets us stay up as late as we want!" But what the heck - it's the truth! We love the dark and have lots of fun in it. During summer, we enjoy our Night Hikes. Until it's warm enough for those, we move our adventures inside. For starters, there's hide-and-seek with dollar store glow sticks. Sweet little kids. They hide in obvious places and call out, "Grandma! Over here! And Nick's over there!" Bless their little hearts. Far too considerate to let a ditzy old lady stumble and bumble around in the dark all night minus a clue to where she is!

And then we wind up the evening with a Night Picnic. Ever heard of those? Perhaps not. I've initiated them to tide us over the winter. There are platters of snacks: cheese, crackers, fruit and veggie sticks. We line up our sleeping bags and crawl into them. Every kiddo gets a flashlight and the lights go off. We read books in the dark, nibble away and drift off toward toothbrush time, unwinding after a day of fun and togetherness. This is where and how cousins become lifelong friends. And it all begins during the years when one of the best parts of life is having a grandma who "lets us do whatever we want!"

Yep, I've been busted for that too!
By this little guy! -->

Find the terrific little electric ice cream maker we use here on page 3.