Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grandma Camping 2015 - Part 2 - Zombies!

Just before the kids arrived for Grandma Camp, I heard some unsavory rustling in the woods behind my house.

Zombies. :(

You can imagine my chagrin. Three young campers, aged six and under, would soon be exploring those woods, filling nature sketch pads and leaf collection folders, stooping to examine interesting insects by magnifying glass on the floor of that normally inviting expanse.

But now something had to be done! And soon!

I constructed a wall from the cardboard Kaylee's crib came in. It's quite wide - nearly 12 feet - and over 5 feet tall. There! That should keep those creepy intruders at bay I concluded, retreating to welcome my contingent of happy little campers........

But not so fast, grandma! In an unsettling development mere moments later, I found myself staring, horrified, at the peep holes those creatures had clawed and chewed into my wall!

They were watching us!!!

To the zombie gun locker I flew! I hastily handed weaponry to the kids and shouted, "GET 'EM!" The pending invasion was no match for my little sharpshooters. A blizzard of Nerf pellets rained down on those grasping, clutch-y fingered brain eaters! The kids picked off those vacant stares and toothless grins like there was no tomorrow. Last we saw, nearly two dozen unhinged un-dead were headed for the hills, shrieking in unearthly wails of terror.

And for that I am very grateful. I'll be able to sleep again tonight. At least for awhile.....

Friday, June 19, 2015

Current Family Favorite!

How would you like to be eighth in line? For anything? Well, this little newcomer doesn't seem to mind. He's the one everyone's pounding the door down to see!

Our current family favorite is Kaylee's little brother, Ryan Joseph. He was born June 10, 2015 at 5:15 PM., completing my "grandma sandwich!" Let's see, there's the two oldest boy cousins on the top layer, two little guys on the bottom one, and four lovely ladies tucked right in the middle! All of them cute enough to just gobble right up!

Welcome to the world, sweet baby Ryan! We love you!

Portrait by Michelle Starr

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grandma Camping 2015 - Part 1 - Pitched!

My lifetime's worth of camping experience can be condensed into one pithy paragraph. Here goes:

Daddy built us a small backyard play house. We loved it. One summer day, in the blazing afternoon heat, we filled it full, toting in pillows, blankets, dollies, bears, books and more. We three sisters were going to spend the night out there! Dusk arrived. Add another 20 minutes. The chirp of a cricket. The hoot of an owl. Back into the house we fled. Camping was never mentioned again.
The end.

Until now. After a 55+ year hiatus, camping is back  It's back and it's BIG!

WHOA pardners!!!!! First, let's just hold onto those horsies and define some terms. What I'm yappin' about here is Grandma Camping! Grandma-in-charge-camping. Grandma-in-charge-of-everything camping! Good bye heat stroke, hello central air. Good bye marauding bears, hello hovering-helicopter-grandma-on-all-night-police-grade-flashlight-patrol. Good bye mosquitoes, hello ladybugs. Good bye broken legs, hello Lego sets. Good bye mommy and daddy (and bedtime curfew and secret snack stash search and seizure), hello late night, lantern-lit cousin camaraderie, star gazing and waaay past bedtime adventure seeking. Good bye everything but tummies groaning with S'mores* and a cozy lil tent of your own!

*he he he! just kidding, mommies!

There are a few of us out here who really know what we're doing, Grandma Camp-wise. I'm not one of them. Yet. Grandma Shelley at "Grandma's Little Pearls" is. What an inspiration! This year, my camp agenda is a hodge podge of kid activities with no centralized theme. Some day I'll give my best shot at duplicating her "Top Secret Grandma Camp." Impressive, right? And did you see those other ideas, including the "kick off to Christmas" weekend? Wow. I'll take that one too!

No, I'm not Grandma Shelley. Just a wanna-be. I'll learn by trial and error, starting later this month with three oldest grandkids - twin brothers, six; one granddaughter cousin, four. So far, the only thing I have in common with Queen Shelley is a place to stash the kids at night for sleeping. My version is an indoor camp ground. Talented son-in-law, Keenon (Bree's daddy), whipped up three wooden tent frames for me in a matter of minutes after a quick spin through Pinterest. I'm delighted that they're set up, ready to go, days in advance of opening day. The strongest admonition any experienced Grandma Camp operator will offer is to plan and prepare. So far, I'm ahead of the game. And willing to share everything I learn from my first attempt at what I hope will become an annual event. I'll save a fireside seat for you right here, dear friends, and together we'll enjoy - or rue! - it all!

Here's to hoping for Happy Grandma Camping Days ahead!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Little Family Library

We like our librarians bunned and bespectacled!

"Richer than I you can never be -
I have a grandmother who built an entire library for me!"*

If you bring 'em to a library, they will read! If they work at a library, they will read even more!

And from where, you may ask, have I gleaned that fancy little fact?

Well, back in the day, when daddy was annoyed with us, he often scolded, "Why don't you kids go read something?" At that preliminary warning, my sisters and I frolicked away - to do nothing of the kind!

But mother? Well, very often, she took us to the library. And within that solemn sanctuary we read and read and read and filled our youthful hearts to far beyond contentment with printed word in prose and poetry.

Our homemade family library has not yet made its debut. We're still training staff and stocking shelves, anticipating an early summer launch. Its goal is to attract grandchildren as patrons, employees and most importantly - readers! A week or so ago, this colorful oasis was nothing more than a random stack of cardboard boxes, upholstery tubes and lively sheets of scrapbook paper. Today its promise is a gathering place, one sporting all the amenities of a "real" library. Those include story times, puppet shows and a reading club with prizes (grandma style prizes, though! - not just coupons for a greasy slice of pizza!).

Patrons will usually be greeted by a friendly cousin taking a turn as librarian, not this grumpy, fuzzy-faced substitute whose penetrating glare demands some sort of valid ID!

But not to worry! We'll have everything we need! Here are personalized library cards ready to sign, reading club folders and crazy-cute stickers to decorate them - one for each book completed.

No fancy electronic checkout system here! We're using the "old school" method that suited grandma just fine! Books are pocketed with cards to sign and present for stamping and tucking into proper place. It will be that librarian's job to match and shelve every volume that's brought back, too.

We'll offer books for borrowing from a collection I've purchased over the past few years. But reading material can also be pooled for sharing from every family member, or gathered from a trip to the public library. I think we'll eventually add a clothesline to clip story inspired drawings and illustrated book reports. Maybe we'll have a reading poster contest, too. Lots of fun things go on at the library, you know!

The three major craft stores, along with Dollar Tree, supplied everything needed for this grandma-made effort. Boxes I love to hoard were covered in bright, fade-less bulletin board paper. JoAnn's has old-fashioned book pockets, although I needed to go here (on page 12) for circulation cards. Dollar Tree sells pockets too, but the quality isn't as sturdy. Their plastic tubs, though, are perfect for displaying early readers and other skinny volumes. Our book drop - a square laundry basket - and the rocking chair where the wise "old-ish" owl (grandma!) will perch at story time were household things we had in stock!

*The original, much loved poem, The Reading Mother, by Strickland Gillian (1869-1954) includes the oft quoted,

"Richer than I you can never be -
I had a Mother who read to me" 


This original design, like all blog material, is intended for personal use only. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The News - whether you want it or not!

Iggy has a nose for the news - not just catnip! 

I still cringe when I think of it - the single issue, hand printed neighborhood newspaper published by me and my sisters. It headlined, "Meen People Who Woodn't Buy From Us!!" Fund raising merchandise was foisted upon us by the good sisters of our elementary school with a frequency that made neighbors audibly groan at the glimpse of a pleated plaid skirt on the front porches of their homes. Our edition painstakingly carbon copied addresses of the latest round of non-buying offenders. Mother read our "news" with a bemused expression; she would have been mortified to know that carefully folded copies were left on the doorsteps of every house in our territory. Beneath the fold was my crayoned illustration of "Spooky," Mrs. Shold's new kitten. The accompanying story welcomed him warmly into the neighborhood. And so there it was - in one tidy issue - "all the news...fit to print!"

Today, our family newspaper doesn't call out "meen people." Its main function is to serve as a "time's-running-out" educational experience for grandchildren, mainly because printed versions of daily news will probably be something that my great grandchildren view only behind glass museum cases. "Poor great grandma," they'll likely sigh, "she had to turn those clumsy, big and inky pages all by hand!"

We're starting out slowly - one or two-pagers on a sporadic schedule. Brielle's masthead was voted the best, so we'll use it for now. Each issue has dedicated space for the latest flashes from each of our four individual families. The kids brainstorm ideas and dictate stories to fill it and are encouraged to be alert for report-able breaking news. For now, it's grandma who cobbles everything together, adding photos as needed. I'm also setting the layout, printing final editions and handling distribution. The long term goal, of course, is to hand these tasks over to the kids. My vision is that of an enthusiastic team of cousins honing a multitude of  journalistic skills: observing, interviewing, composing, editing, designing, illustrating, photographing, typesetting, printing and distributing. Most of the latter will probably be done electronically, but I'm an old fashioned, traditional soul. I want to find my copies outside, on my doorstep, the same way I delivered my first effort to a chagrined audience some 55-ish years ago!

Monday, April 6, 2015


Family Easter action begins with a Saturday evening egg dying party at Aunt Christy's!

Egg-hausted! But still hoppin' around happy! Easter was a blast again this year and that's owed to seven lively little grand-bunnies. We adults wouldn't have any fun if left unbothered to leisurely savor our flutes of Raspberry Royale before seating to an introductory course of steaming vichyssoise and crisp arugula! The near silence of serene sipping and nibbling would be deafening!

Our kids' table is clustered with munchkins - efficient ones! They graze off the top of plated luncheon croissants, sample a sip or two of  "bunny milk" and report fueled for egg huntin' action. They know baskets are hiding and family games await. Eating is for every day. Today is Easter and they're here for egg-citement!

"YOU get a bunny! YOU get a bunny! EVERY-BUNNY gets a pet bunny!" 

But hold on a sec, you cuddly lil chickaroos! It's traditional to start with a game for mommies and daddies. I've printed 50 corny-cute Easter Bunny jokes at Lisa's "Grandma's Briefs" blog, dividing them between six adults, cutting questions from answers.

Lots of intense concentration on both sides of the table as competitors vie to match candidates such as "How do you catch the Easter bunny?" with "Hide in a bush and make a noise like a carrot!" I just love the way these "big kids" are such great sports about playing any old crazy game I come up with - and how serious they are about winning them!

The idea, of course, is to be the first to unscramble each joke to win a prize. I throw a few extra answers into each envelope too, just to make it interesting. (And if honoring April Fool's Day at the same time appeals to you, supply a "fun set" to a "well deserving" player that has no matching answers.) Hilarious!

A game like the next is often referred to as an "ice-breaker." Ha! We're all bouncing off the walls by now. No pouting party poopers here! Everybunny gets a puzzle piece and a mad scramble ensues to find the two matching peeps who will make the cracked egg whole again. First team reporting in wins candy! But when no one's looking, grandma sneaks some over to the kids on the other three teams too!

Cut eggs from scrapbook paper and back up with lightweight cardboard. Use the same weight cardboard for racing rabbits, described below.

We move outside next. There's a relay waiting for us! Twelve adults and kids will be participating, so we'll field three teams. Names are pulled to form each one; two adults, one kid from the 4-6 year range and one "mascot" from the three little ladies in the 2 year group. Four tasks await. Each team strategically nominates its best bunny for each of them.

Rabbit Race! Run, bunny, run! Long lengths of yarn tied to tree trunks make perfect race paths for cardboard critters. There's a whole lotta wiggling going on!

Egg Hunt! As soon as bunny hits the goal, a second team member scurries into the woods to find three plastic eggs - one of each color. They are handed to teammate #3 for the next leg.

Egg Toss! Stand behind the line and toss each egg into a matching color basket! Quick, like a bunny! You're almost done!

Bunny Hop! Grab your team's little finisher and plant a pair of bunny ears on her head. Hand her a basket and cheer her on while she hops over to grandma to declare her team WINNERS!

Lots of congratulatory high-fiving ensues, but we're still not done! We turn the kids loose in the woods for our annual egg hunt, an event that we enjoy more than the kids do, I think. It "cracks us up" to watch the littlest ones find one egg and delightedly call it a day. We are touched to observe how considerate "the big kids" are of their younger siblings and cousins. They help them hunt, or else they share their own finds. Heartwarming!

Ladylike Angeline filled her bucket with eggs that were only pink or violet...........!

........Twin sissy was pleased with any color she found!

Kindness doesn't end there, though. The bright colored yarn we used in our relay is cut up into manageable strips and divided between the children. Grandma gets some too! We'll leave these out for birds who've begun to shop for nesting material, hoping that a feathered mother will find something to her liking. Then we'll watch treetops later on this spring for a glimpse of our contribution.

We return inside to open gifts from grandma and grandpa. This year, it's kites all around! Menacing black sharks for the boys and fluttering butterflies for the girls. Those look inviting, but we're too egg-hunted out and stuffed full of chocolate to even think of giving them a whirl right now - something grandma's secretly grateful for!

Air walker pet bunny balloons are found here on page 11.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spangled Bangles

"Great Expectations" - not just the title of a Dickens novel! Sometimes they are what grandma entertains while assembling an afternoon of springtime crafting fun. Last year, I reason, we made an Easter basket for each member of the family. This year we'll employ the same method - paper mache - to make gifts of bangle bracelets for each of the ladies. The boys won't really be left out, either. They love painting and decorating and making things for mommy and their two year old twin sisters. Grandma will set the completed bangles aside and the kids will enjoy handing them out before Easter dinner. I smile in delight at that vision. Everybunny's gonna love this one!

So grandma lays out an inviting table of pretty pastel paint, yards and yards of coordinating ribbon, bunny stickers galore, fuzzy little chicks and a dozen or more unpainted bracelets, dry from the week before and ready to go.

Brielle makes her choice. A striking vivid blue sets the background tone and tiny twinkling jewels dance between a flutter of butterfly decals. She is delighted with it. Slaps it on her wrist and declares that she's wearing it home. That day. I sink in my chair and ask if she'd rather save it for Easter. "No, I'm taking it home. Today!" she insists.

I turn my attention to the boys. Sae is elbow deep in green and brown paint. "Camo!" he gleefully shouts, holding high his choice and basking deeply in brother's unabashed admiration. This time I'm the one who insists it goes home with him today!

Nothing prepares me for what I see next. Nick's engrossed in a bracelet covered solid black. Black. Pairs of peering wiggle eyes drip with glue and encircle the surface. "I'm wearing this one on Halloween!" he proclaims with gusto. Bree and Sae smile their heartfelt approval.

So. Great expectations. Sometimes that's as far as grandma's visions go! I realize then that it'll be me who does the painting, sticking and bejeweling if my basket-of-spangled-bangles-for-springtime is ever to be filled to brimming. But that's okay......

Would I really want grandsons who sit here like prissy princesses, painting pastel posies to perfection? (yes) Well, no! of course not!!!

Make a paper mache bangle by cutting a strip of thin cardboard (1" - 2.5" wide) to size, allowing an inch extra for overlap and padding. Tape ends together. Wrap bracelet in strips of paper towel to give shape. Tear strips of newspaper, dip in flour and water mixture the consistency of craft glue and wrap 3 layers around to cover. Allow bracelet to dry, then paint with gesso so pastel colors will show up brightly. Decorate with cute Easter goodies.