Thursday, September 22, 2016

We're Four! We're Six! We're Eight!

There's a bundle-o-birthdays for us this time of year. The oldest twins were eight on the 29th of August. They share that date with six year old cousin, Brielle. Close behind, in mid September, are twins Ava and Angeline. They're four this year. Whew! That's five/ninths of the total number of grandkids all bunched up into a busy two week period. We've got ourselves some celebrating to do!

Summer birthdays allow the major part of entertaining to be done in the backyard pool, so nobody's surprised when the guests of honor show up dripping wet!

What's lured the boys inside is a promise of cake, two of them - individualized to reflect their current obsession - Minecraft!

Mommy had them custom made locally. She's a pretty amazing party planner - as you shall soon see! - but cake decorating at this skill level is not a family talent!

Now that I'm accustomed to the interests of boys, I know that blowing things up and setting off bursts of fire will always bring a smile to their faces. This "number 8" sparkler certainly did the trick!

Little sisters celebrated next with family and a pair of close friends at an event that acknowledged their own special interest - animals! Ones to admire and pet and cuddle and feed and share with everybody - in their own backyard! 

Just another of mommy's amazing feats! This group of delightful critters is available for hire to visit parties. Goats! Bunnies! Piglets! Ducks! Chicks! Oh, and how about a curious llama to top everything off? These animals are expertly cared for, humanely transported, and sheltered at a rescue farm that hosts occasional open houses for the purpose of acquainting children with the joy of interacting respectfully with living creatures. Prompt and efficient, the service provides portable fencing, food, water, and tips on gently handling the animals!

Ava is a fan of feeding goats!

And grooming them!

I love this cute little chick! Oh, and the one in the pink dress, too!

Okay, Brielle, you're up next! This crafty little kid chose an art party with school classmates for her celebration -
and mommy really delivered!

Outdoor tables greeted ten little ladies. Each place setting was graced with a blank canvas, a colorful apron, paint brush, and palette.

It was my job to fill those palettes with acrylic paint - all the primary and secondary colors. I've seen what happens when black is an option for kids, so that one's noticeably absent today!

Total concentrated silence prevailed as the girls painted! Canvases sang with shining suns, fuzzy cats, brilliant rainbows, and charming self portraits!

With a final flourish of cake and ice cream, a handful of games, and a gift opening ceremony, Brielle officially became six years old!

On the way out, guests helped themselves to little paint buckets stuffed with cute candy and party favors!

Now, I'm not going to say that creating dream birthdays is an effortless experience. Each one is a creative challenge. What I am saying, however, is that "some people" who barely lifted a paw in the process didn't mind plopping down for a mid-party nap right next to the pile of gifts we thought he was guarding!

Oldest daughter, Mary Jo, found the darling sundresses for her twins, so I had to hurry up and copy from her in time for Bree's sixth birthday! Check out Tee With Sugar (Facebook page) for the cutest in custom design and the best in customer service! (Not a sponsored post.)

And, see what Mary Jo is up to right here, in her own blog full of cute parties and activities that keep two sets of twins entertained and happy every day of the year!

Monday, September 5, 2016


"We made rain sticks at grandma's!"

Summer tumbles in and out of the maze of months that comprise a lifetime. It rolls along merrily in the sun, spreading carefree joy until the bite of autumn snaps it up and tosses it aside. Now, many moons will pass until I see it again: a time when grandma isn't required to compete with school days and soccer balls. I recall an impish riddle from my own days in the classroom: "What are a teacher's three favorite things?" "June, July, and August!!" Today, those months remain a trio of grandma's favorite things! Wide open hours present rested, happy little faces on my doorstep. "Well, tumble right in, you chirpy little cherubs! We have lots and lots to do together beneath these sunny skies!"

"Grandma Camp" is summer's top priority, so I carefully negotiate the week with my three daughters. Once you're three, you're in! I've got a cozy tent waiting for you, a stack of puzzle books to keep you busy during "quiet time," and an agenda of fun that goes on and on, back-to-back, from morning light til sleepy night!

This year, our Dino Egg Hunt and double feature Magic! and Puppets! shows stole the spotlight during that week. But in between, the time was filled with crafty things to make and do.....

Air dry clay is lots of fun. One day our tray of curious critters stand pale as ghosts......

...and the next, they knock you out with personality plus!

Younger kiddoes enjoy a session of basic shape animal building. If you're a manic paper punch collector like I am, this project is a simple matter of punch, glue, and go!

For one Dollar Tree dollar - just one! - you can sink your elbows into the satisfying sensation of shaving cream! (No, this activity doesn't "make" anything - except a moment's well deserved rest for grandma in between adventures!)

We "tumbleweeders" nature-walked for palm sized rocks to paint. After dark, our "Ladybug Launch" secretly re-homed them into neighborhood flower beds and Press boxes!

I don't blame parents for not relishing the sport of "night hiking," but it's a must-do at grandma's sleepovers! We grab our lanterns and follow our noses into the dark, just to see whatever we see!

My recent discovery of step-by-step cooking lessons for kids at "Grandma Honey's House" blog has inspired me to add kitchen skills to the list of things I want my grandchildren to experience with me. Here, Angeline lines a tin in preparation for one of "Grandma Honey's" breakfast recipes.

I want to teach my grandchildren to sew, as well, but had no idea where to begin. Then I stumbled upon the same quality content and style of guidance that Grandma Honey provides in her area of expertise! How nice to have everything all laid out for those of us who are eager to instruct, but need lesson plans that organize skills into sessions that produce appealing, easy-to-make end products that entice kids to return for more. Check out Ana's complete and masterfully written tutorial for offering a (machine) sewing camp of your own: it's here, at "The Lost Apron" blog.

Thank you, Pamela and Ana, for adding muffin tins and spools of thread to this grandma's inventory of grandchild enrichment experience ingredients!

You people have six cats in there? SIX??!"
I drew the tumbleweed metaphor from personal observation and the cooperation of my six (6!) cats. A recent, pleasant wine-sipping evening found me enraptured with a busy, hard working little hairball that resembled every feature but size of the menacing monsters that roll the American west. All it needed was open space, the gentle twirl of an overhead fan, and a worthy supply of cat hair to keep it growing and growing and growing......I sipped and I pondered: "How large could this carefree little spirit actually get if left alone to thrive?" But then, as abruptly as the aforementioned "bite of autumn," came grandpa, trusty portable vac in tow. With his cry of, "What?! Not another one of these?!" both summer 2016, and the seed of my tumbleweed reverie faded to a nostalgic end.

I hope it was less traumatic for you!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Something GRAND For You!

I have a personal reason for enthusiastically promoting the current issue of online grandparent lifestyle magazine, GRAND. I'm included in its energetic pages - several times! Honored? Humbled? Grateful? Excited? Anxious to share?

YES! All of the above!

Each year, GRAND editorial director, Christine Crosby, acknowledges the success of this publication by selecting a number of "best websites/blogs for grandparents." This time around, in honor of one dozen years, there are twelve of us! I think you'll enjoy browsing the list and visiting those that capture your interest! Find them all on pages 10 - 11.

In addition, I've had the honor of being invited to write about the crafty fun I have with my own grandchildren. My feature, on page 28, joins informative articles of interest to grandparents that cover topics of health, technology, finance, travel, relationships, pet ownership, fashion, science, and FUN! Articles are succinct and accented with engaging pictures. No tedious droning here! I don't have time for that* - and neither do you!

*I only have time for making rain sticks with Kaylee and Brielle!

Want to take a look?

In honor of upcoming National Grandparents Day, September 11, 2016, I'm authorized to offer my readers a free, one year online subscription to GRAND Lifestyle Magazine. It's a $12 value that expires on October 31, 2016. Click on this link, type in your first name and email address, and watch your inbox for bimonthly issues (the current one will pop up immediately!). That's all! No credit cards, SSNs, passwords that never work, "username-already-takens" or other annoying stuff that most sites plague us with! I promise!

Welcome, GRAND grandparents!

This is not a sponsored post. I receive no compensation for promoting subscriptions to GRAND Lifestyle Magazine.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ladybug Camp!

Grandma Camp was served up in two parts this year. I was delighted that a trio of little girl cousins, all age three, were anxious to take a turn with me. Ava, one of the twins involved, took special care to emphasize to her brothers that they would not be present during "Ladybug Camp." Only girls this time! Only Ava, sister Angeline, and cousin Kaylee! "No boyz allowed!"

And so it happened! Ladybugs enjoyed a two day, overnight camp that specialized in things little girls like to do. We baked and we crafted, but our biggest excitement was preparing for the puppet show that would follow a display of magic demonstrated by the "big kids" - older twin brothers and cousin Brielle. That entertainment package wrapped up a solid week of Grandma Camping for two groups of three each!

Puppet Making Workshop ingredients: a generous supply of yarn and pom poms and wiggle eyes and glue - and a colorful sock for everybody! At this age, the girls chose colors and I attached yarn hair with a few hand stitches. But gluing was a job for the ladies - one they relish!

We practiced a little skit once each sock developed a personality of its own. Accompanied by a pre-school song, our show was stage-ready!

While I flipped the header on our home made stage during a brief intermission that followed the magic show, parents, aunties and uncles, cousins, and siblings engaged in the energetic sale of tickets that precedes all of our talent productions!

Introductions before stepping behind the stage for a vigorous performance......

Tee hee hee! Giggles galore accompanied a charming showcase of three year old talent; an adoring audience rewarded the effort with wild applause!

And grandma's review? So proud! Just very, very, very proud of them all!

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's Magic!

Oh, the magic! It's everywhere when home is a haven for grandchildren! Here, kids sparkle and shine - they're the center of the universe, and boy, do they know it! It's where they come to be shamelessly hovered over, doted upon, mindlessly spoiled, showered with kisses and compliments, and adored and indulged to excess! And I'm not apologizing either! Loving parents have taken care of the good behavior building that makes it possible for me to sweep them all away into a space of unlimited, unconditional magic that every child deserves to experience - grandma's house!

Annual Grandma Camp week is the most magical one on my calendar. And planning for it extends the fun well before and beyond the actual experience. I am challenged to arrange a mix of activities that will keep the kids engaged for the entire string of days they'll spend with me. This year, I ventured into "real" magic! Would the kids enjoy learning tricks? Would they want to practice them until they performed flawlessly? Would they want to showcase their new skills at a show for parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles? I was surprised and delighted with their response. Yes! Yes! and Yes! To all of the above!

Ideally, we'd use "organic" tricks - those that amaze with manipulation of ordinary household items or ones that we construct by ourselves. That day is coming, I'm certain, but for now we learned from a purchased kit* that adequately served our elementary needs.

I gave a demo to the kids. I made items disappear, reappear, and multiply! I expertly guessed a secret number they chose from a set of cards! They were impressed and very eager to duplicate each trick. We divided them up evenly and the mini-magicians were on their own to practice until perfect! Just wait until that audience shows up! We're gonna "wow 'em outta their seats!"

Finally! Show Time! There's always a wrap-up extravaganza at the conclusion of Grandma Camp. Maybe an art show - or a bake sale. We like to share what we accomplished during our camp time. This year called for a two-part display of talent; "big kids" presented first on the magic stage!

I constructed a frame from pvc tubes. It's seven feet tall, lightweight, and portable. Silky red fabric was a bargain purchase at $2 per yard - seven required. The best part is how interchangeable headers accommodate different productions. When the magic was over, a quick intermission gave me a moment to morph the venue into a puppet theater for the little girls' show that followed.

We opened with introductions - and an amazing feat of "now you see it, now you don't!" The kids flourished their top hats, demonstrating that they contained nothing but empty space. Or so we thought! But the wave of a wand, a shout of "abracadabra!" and a deeper dig into the depths produced a trio of cute stuffed rabbits!** These were distributed to three little girl cousins sitting front row center - and they were delighted!

Kids performing in front of an adoring audience gain confidence in themselves.

Here's Sae, proving that the two silk scarves he put inside a velvet bag are no longer there!

Nick carefully demonstrates how only he can make part of a wand disappear inside a wooden box! Bree effortlessly made a red rubber ball disappear and reappear. She turned a single quarter into a handful of change! Ten illusions completed our repertoire, all to the wild applause of an enthusiastic and delighted audience!

"That's all folks!"

The kids clamored to keep their props; they've since entertained other grandparents and cousins with such enthusiasm that I know my "grandma bag of tricks" is going to continue to fill with more and more of them - and they won't disappear with the flick of a wand, either!

*The magic set we used is made of quality wood, packed inside a box suitable for stage use. This is not a sponsored post, but the Melissa and Doug toy is here, on page 13, of my Amazon shop.

**Do you think those hats might have been hiding rabbits beneath a piece of black foam cut to match the shape of the opening?'s possible!

Here's another resource for magical entertainment for kids. Ken Kelly hosts a delightful website that offers free tutorials and YouTube links for cool tricks and instructions for the home made props you'll need. We'll use his ideas next summer, when the kids are a bit older.

My next post will show what happened when our stage magically became a theater for.........

But now, with a final flourish.....

POOF! I've vanished!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Saint Anne

Although not mentioned in the bible, Catholic tradition holds that Saint Anne and Saint Joachim were parents of the Blessed Mother, the pure and holy vessel that brought Jesus, their grandson, into a sinful world. Further stated is that they were a source of love and comfort to the family during his childhood. Were they there when he took his first steps? Did he race to dive into their arms when they visited? Did they tell him stories of prophets and kings from his rich Jewish culture? Did Joachim conspire with Joseph to surprise him with toys crafted of wood? I like to think they did all of those things. Jesus loved his grandparents!

The parish of my childhood honors Saint Anne with an annual nine day novena that concludes on her feast day, July 26th. The parishioner sponsored Society of Saint Anne welcomes all, as it has since 1940, collectively honoring the grandmother of Jesus and praying for members both living and deceased. An elegant gold and white satin banner bears the signature of each devotee. It is ceremoniously unfurled and carried in procession during a closing ritual that I have often attended.....

It is dusk, and candles in white paper cups flicker like wings of tiny angels. I stand silently with others; expectant. A murmur of prayer from the altar. The sanctifying rite of incense. Elevation of the ornately encased Saint Anne relic. A sweep of heraldry as the banner cascades into place. My maternal grandmother once placed her name upon that field, as did my mother and I. We will be included in petitions for God's mercy upon souls long after I, too, am gone.

I take my place in the procession as we exit, row by row. My voice is one of dozens, accompanied by haunting, timeless strains....

To kneel at thine altar in faith we draw near
Led onward by Mary, thine daughter so dear
Oh Good Saint Anne
We call on thine name,
Thy praises loud thine pilgrims proclaim

I pass row upon row of pews. The memorable fifth one, my place on the morning I accepted first communion as a child of seven years. The ones that held me when we buried dad and mom. Ahead is the holy water font where my sisters and I baptized our dolls, slipping into the comforting Saturday afternoon silence of this place during an era of innocence from my long ago past. And here stands the familiar bank of petition candles. I came home to light these in desperation, hoping for final exam week help when God temporally ceased to be important in my life during self-absorbed college years.

Miserere mei, Deus

We move outside now, into a neighborhood once solidly working class, but distinctively less so today. Along this same side walkway I hurried home from parish school, pleated plaid skirt flying. In season, jacket pockets full of chestnuts from the sheltering row of trees my own grandfather helped plant as a Lithuanian immigrant founding member of this congregation. If I dallied late to help Sister clean the chalkboards, I'd sometimes cross paths with furniture factory workers headed home on foot. Before massive wooden doors of the church, they'd pause, lunch pails in hand, to reverently remove a hat and offer a respectful bow. "Within these walls, my Lord dwells." My father and grandfather would have done the same thing. Perhaps that is why I am always happiest here. This is my home. My heritage.

Back within shelter, I reclaim my pew -  my favorite. The one I occupied the year a guest priest, a vivacious young Nigerian, delivered a homily that changed my life. "Jesus is your brother, no?" he challenged. "Well then, Saint Anne is your grandmother too!" Hmmm. I had never thought of her that way. "Who," he continued, with a distinct twinkle in his eye, "has ever been turned away by a grandmother for anything they've asked for?" I liked that. It was true! "A novena is a petition," Father energetically concluded, "Go ahead! Ask your grandmother for whatever you want!" And so I did. "You are a grandmother, Saint Anne," I reasoned, "I want to be one too!" Well and good. But, I am not sure, even today, what prompted me to bolster my request with an addendum. Perhaps it was the urgency of Father's robust words that invigorated my plea. "Twins, please, Saint Anne! I want to be a grandmother of twins."

One year later, in late August, I greeted the first of my grandchildren. Twin boys. Additional babies followed, a total of eight today - a ninth on the way. Enough for everybody! That number includes twin sisters for the boys. Two sets! I'd only requested one! When the irreverently-crazy part of my brain is active and I contemplate the mounting number of Easter baskets and Christmas stockings I am now obliged to fill, I'm tempted to send a playful message to Saint Anne: "All right! Thank you! But you can stop now!" But of course, I won't. This is my grandmother we're talking about. She knows what I need. And, with approval from her divine grandson, she will always intercede for me. That, with all my heart, is what I believe.

To all who invoke thee, now lend us an ear
Thou soothest the sorrows of all who draw near

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dino Egg Diggers!

See that little blue one up in front? We had to pay him to sit there!
And that little red one? Him, too. To not snatch Ava's shovel! 

The dinosaur couple who live in my backyard woods are a curious twosome. Like most normal reptiles, they lay their eggs here and there, and then frolic away, leaving them to fend for themselves. But family legend asserts that this grandma has conversed with that parental pair, and is now the keeper of an extraordinary secret: These are not, by any means, common, garden variety dino eggs!

But how was that to be confirmed? The only way to solve this nagging mystery, it seemed, was to invite the grandchildren to helmet up, shovel up, team up, and follow a twisting and turning trail of clues to discover for themselves what lies within those ovate forms!

And they're off!

Plenty of parents to go around, serving as assistants who read initial clues, such as.....

Jump up and down, yell "DINOSAUR!"
Hop into the woods, 10 steps more
Flags in a row wait up ahead
Dig for a clue by the one that's red!  

Locating proper places proved productive! Unearthed eggs yielded additional clues!

Close your eyes and count to ten
Stop to think, then do it again
Look for a flag up ahead that's blue
Tied to the tree is a clue for you!

The choice was yours - mommy or daddy could read your clue - or you could give it a go by yourself!

Stay on the path that's long and narrow
Dig where you see a big yellow arrow!

Arrows and flags dotted the trail, and each happy hunter was assigned a dino symbol. The sight of that familiar shape assured that your feet were stomping in the right direction!

Look for your dino symbols up ahead
That's where you need to dig instead!

One by one, the search paid off! We started findin' and haulin' em in! Some were almost bigger than we were!

This picture of Kaylee reminds me of a wee fairy tale forest gnome who lives inside a mushroom and forages for berries during the day!

If you were just a little guy on your first expedition, it was nice to have daddy along. Ryan's egg was laid up in a tree by a pterodactyl! No way could he reach it by himself!

Nick had no trouble haulin' home the goods, but it was nice to have daddy admire his accomplishments!

Just don't think girls can't keep up with boys!
oh yes we can!

One might think that an egg camouflaged in foliage green would be tricky to find, but Brielle wasn't defeated by that tactic!

We gathered back at camp and took a head-and-egg count. Eight of each! Good! Our entire crew was anxious to dig in and shovel out!

Ava tore a little peep hole for herself. After all, it's good to be cautious. No Easter bunny has ever left eggs this big for us!

Piles of wrapped goodies spilled from each egg.

Bubble wands! Stickers! Lego sets! Star Wars key chains! Craft kits! Bath tub toys! Books! Art supplies! Fairy play sets! Candy!.......

And smiles all around, because these dino egg diggers delivered dynamite sized success!

This wasn't our first foray into the woods seeking fun-filled eggs! We did the same three years ago, posting it all, full of details on how to host your own dig at an event no grandchild will ever forget! Here's where you'll find it all!