Monday, November 29, 2021

Love Notes To Grandma!

Here we go again! Time for the annual pickle over "what do we get grandma for Christmas?" I've wrestled with that one through three generations, my own included. Usually, it's evident. We've cupboards crammed with cutesy kitchen towels, stinky hand lotion, funny-saying coffee mugs, and tchotchkes, tchotchkes, tchotchkes! What else is there to say but, "No, no, no, honey! Save your money! Grandma has everything she needs!" (grrrrr!) So, here we go again!.......

"What do we get grandma for Christmas?"

I've found my own little treasure, and my hope is that you might choose to make it yours, too! 

Let me explain!

My fellow Grandma-blogger-friend, Lisa Carpenter, has penned a gem of a thoughtful gift giving solution. And no, it's not the usual "shelf-sitter" that's perused once and carted off to the garage sale bin after a dusty year or two in apathetic residence. The pages of One Hundred Things I Love About Grandma assemble a living, breathing collection of love notes co-authored by the crown jewels of her heart: grandchildren! 

Here's how it works!

Grab a pen! Everybody grab a pen! See those questions on every page? Now open your memory to the enrichment your relationship with grandma has brought to your life. Recall the fun times, the tender moments, the goofy antics, the simple solitude of just being together. Follow the prompts and write the answers down here. Grandma wants to see them. She wants to remember them. She wants to pick up this book over and over and over again, to refill her heart with the unique joy that only YOU bring to her life. 

There! Now what do you think? 

another set of plastic spoons? or.......

this endearing expression of heartfelt affection and gratitude to the lady who took newborn you into her arms, declared you "the cutest, best, and brightest baby she's ever seen!" and welcomed you to join her on the most gratifying "grandma and me" adventure you could ever imagine!?

Anything else?

Well, of course! You need to know where to find your own copy(ies) of One Hundred Things I Love About Grandma. Amazon has them. Feast your eyes there on the generous "Look Inside!" feature.  Thriftily priced at $12.99. On pre-order status today, shipping soon on December 7, 2021. Plenty of time to fill and wrap. Does Grandma have her own stocking? Pop it in! - it's cutely sized at 6.5" square. 

Oh, and Lisa's no "bumbling along, hoping for the best" first time author, either! While you're there, check out her First Time Grandmother's Journal - the place for Grandma's own perspectives and love notes written just for you! 

Visit Lisa's blog, Grandma's Briefshere to enjoy a heartwarming fellowship of grand motherhood! 

What's that? 

You've already bought Grandma a crocheted potholder rack? 

Well, hey, that's okay! We all make mistakes! What about Valentine's Day? Mother's Day? Her birthday? There's a chance you'll need more time to do this one up right. Share with your siblings. Let them initial their own contribution. Grandma wants to hear those love notes from everybody!

I received early release copies of this book in exchange for my honest Amazon review. I wrote this post additionally to share my enthusiasm for a product that I believe will bring joy to the lives of my readers.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Spider Inspectors!

We've actually been Spider Inspectors since Halloween. That topic, along with banter about bats and the mystique of mummies particularly piques the interest of little boys during trick-or-treat season. But "pie-ders" are everywhere - never really out of sight or mind, so they're a popular year round repeat request, dutifully acknowledged by grandma with frequent crafty-learnin' visits! 

We start with a snuggle-up-and-read session to learn a science-y thing or two. We need to know what to look for just in case a bit of "grandma magic" incites the sudden skittering of a menacing Folkmanis tarantula puppet across the page we're viewing! 

Eeek! There he is! - startling and delighting his young audience!

Here's the age appropriate book we learned from, too. Beautiful clear photos that give just enough of an idea of what these curious critters are like! 

Next, a little bit of review......

We locate the cephalothorax, the front part of the body housing legs and a multitude of eyeballs! (eight of each to be exact!) Then, there's the abdomen. Spinnerets are stored here; those spin silk for the webs that snatch up lunch. 

And then it's crafty time!.....

Here's a popular Pinterest paper plate web activity that suited us just fine. Cut plate centers out, leaving rims only. Spray paint, then punch holes around the edge, about 1"- 2" apart. Offer a choice of yarn color, making sure the weight is suitable - thin enough to thread easily, thick enough for little fingers to firmly grasp. (Wrap a piece of tape to secure yarn end so it doesn't ravel.) 

We're weaving away!

Enough eye-hand coordination and concentration exercise experience to send any pre-K teacher into ecstasy! 

Okay! We've got the web......

But who's gonna live here?

Show your little crafter how to wrap yarn around four side-by-side fingers of your hand - the perfect portable loom. When suitably plump, slide the bundle carefully off and tie tightly at center. Cut loops open to make a fluffy spider body. 

From here on, a pair of big buggy wiggle eyes, eight pipe cleaner legs, and a bottle of glue are all that stand between you and your.......

voracious web dweller awaiting further scientific inspection!

I envisioned a return to more pages of snuggle-up arachnid themed book learning for that purpose, but it was not to be! Grandsons usually have surprises for grandma, and I was not denied that day either!.......

See this yarn?

There's a use for it!

Complete fascination with slicing teeny-weeny-tiny little pieces with a concentrated seriousness not often seen in crafty-spider-land! 

Meanwhile, back at cousin's house.....

I found no further interest in arachnid based academics here either! 

(Don't you just love little boys?)


(They crawl right into your heart, string themselves a little nest, and just hang there, making you as happy as a sassy spinning spider enjoying a bit of scrumptious snacking!)

This is not a sponsored post. My purchase and recommendation of the puppet and book were independently made without compensation. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Book Review: The First - Time Grandmother's Journal

Considering the title: The First - Time Grandmother's Journal - you'd think a seasoned grandma of ten (me!) might not relate to this newly published volume. Nope! Not true! - despite being sooo into the business of grandma-hood that common well meaning advice to "be present" finds me rolling my eyes and exclaiming, "DUH!" In fact, I'm sooo into "the business" that the question of whether or not to spoil has me shaking my head, wondering if any such non-participant has a right to exist! 

"Okay," you ask, "If you're such a smartie-pants-know-it-all, why even tout this book as if it's the best thing you've picked up since that pair of twin boys who made you a grandma some 12 years ago?" Great question!......

And here's my answer!

There are things I vividly recall about those earliest days, and some I do not. Most of them, the in -betweeners, coupled with their special sounds, sights, and feelings resurfaced as I paged this book. So did the urgent desire to record them, not only for myself, but for sharing at some later date. But how many of us panic and freeze when handed a pen and told to "Describe what it was like. How were you given the news? How did you react? Do you give advice? How is it welcomed? Do you enjoy 'just-grandma-and-me' bonding moments? Are you able to contribute anything unique? Where do you go from here? Any goals for the future?" 

Well, not to worry!

Author Lisa Carpenter takes you gently by the hand in her 144 page volume, guiding you through the initial stages of grandma-hood to the dreams you hold for days ahead. Her thought-provoking prompts make it easy to answer all the questions listed above, as well as dozens more, defining your role as a significant and valued person in the lives of your grandchildren. Here is where you'll build a road through your personal journey, savoring plentiful tips and meaningful quotes along the way. And when your effort is complete? Lisa does advise, "This is your record for your eyes only," as a way to dismiss grammatical anxiety and resistance to vulnerability. But you may feel differently. Like me. Because......

I'm going to share!

When the time is right, I'll gather my little cherubs to let them see for themselves the excitement and love with which they were anticipated, welcomed, and cherished. They've made the years I've known them the best ones of my life, and they deserve to know that! Thank you, Lisa, for making my path to that goal a smooth, happy, memorable one! 

Highly recommended!

Wow! Look at those  Amazon reviews for The First-Time Grandmother's Journal! Fellow grandmothers heartily applaud this beautifully illustrated memory keeper - a worthy gift for yourself. Think, too, of what a thoughtful baby shower favor for new grandmothers this book would make. Hmm, think you might need several copies? Here is where you'll place your order!

About the Author

Grandma blogging has yielded unexpected perks for me. Among them are coast-to-coast friendships with other sharers of the grandparent experience. My first post published here in 2011. By then, I'd been an avid reader of Lisa Carpenter at her own Grandma's Briefs blog for several years. I was attracted by her gentle, doting style - the way her devotion sweeps aside all of the world's craziness, leaving but one fact standing: no matter what, her grandsons will always have her. Her attention, her support, her praise, her admiration. My blogging goal has been to imitate those same warming vibes. Lisa's long distance friendship and engaging writing style have nurtured and encouraged me and I am very proud to offer this review of her first published effort - one that showcases and shares the loving vibrancy of her personal grandmother-hood!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Fall-ing All Over The Place!

Tribute to the bounty of falling leaves offers a nice break after the saturation of Halloween! I like these crafts because they are usually preceded by a leisurely neighborhood stroll to collect what we need, exclaiming over contrasts in beauty, size, shape, texture, and color of our specimens. It's an art and nature learning experience all in one!

Night falls early now, and the ethereal glow of a flickering tea light within the confines of a leaf strewn lantern is a comforting delight - especially when you're three years young and have built it yourself!  

This technique is ages old. I've also seen balloon-based lanterns constructed with orange tissue paper, jack-o-lantern faces painted on, shining soft and light. Those, next year, for sure! 

Here's how you'll make this pretty lantern alongside your little crafty person!

1. Blow up a 9" balloon and tape it into a small bowl. If bowl is lightweight, put something heavy inside first, to stabilize it. Rocks, for example.

2. Recruit your cutest artsy munchkin to turn over his/her recently gathered leaf collection. (Pressed inside a heavy book overnight before if possible.) Sort for size.

3. Cut 3" squares of white (or ivory) tissue paper.

Dip first layer of squares in water and cover balloon with them.

5. Add craft glue (Elmer's, for example) to 1/4 cup of water, about 50% ratio.

Lay leaves, face up, on balloon surface as you work, and cover all over with tissue paper squares dipped in water-glue solution. 

7. Cover with third layer of tissue dipped in glue solution.

Now! for the THE HARD PART! (ohhhh nooooo! you told us to only do projects that offer immediate satisfaction for little kids!) 😞

Well, yes, I did say that! but this one's an exception! 

(kinda like how bedtime sloooooowly creeps forward when grandma's babysitting and kids are having waaaay too much fun and thank goodness they're too young to tell time and besides who would tattle on good ol' grandma anyway?!)😉 

8. Allow lantern to dry for several days in a cool, dry place. Then.......

9. FUN TIMES ARE BACK! Separate balloon from bowl and supervise a needle pop to break it. Carefully extract balloon, then place tea light inside with your choice of opening up or down.

"Thank you, grandma, but really can't wait for all this "several days to dry" nonsense! 

Well okay then! Go here, try this! It's a different, easier, one-day version that will work for you, too! 

There! That's better! Happy now? 



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tissue Paper Pumpkin-ing!

I've no doubt it's genetic. We're big on Halloween here! Most others contract the fever 'round the first of October, but for us, early September prompts initial symptoms. Older grandkids place costume orders with anxious-to-beat-the-crowd grandma (the only one also known to spring for second change-of-mind choices as needed!). The littles plop eagerly into my lap toting "spooky story" books for sharing. And all of them demand crafts that address this beloved season-to-be-scary......

And so I comply!

This version of a vibrant suncatcher is much less involved than the usual ones requiring clear sticky-surface paper or a pre-cut frame, making it suitable for a very young child. Pictured here is all you'll need for an activity that satisfies in terms of "do-it-myself!" simplicity. 

Prepare two 12" x 15" wax paper sheets, a strip of green paper, and jack-o-lantern features cut from black paper. Glue stem and features to one wax sheet as shown. Your little artist will apply glue to the surface around them, cut squares from orange tissue, and adhere them directly. When complete, you'll match and iron the second wax sheet on top, then cut the pumpkin out.

And the best part? Why, hanging it yourself! - at age-three level! - and summoning the family to show off how well you went Tissue Paper Pumpkin-ing with grandma! 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

I have a new job! And I love it! 

For the next few weeks at least, all of my school age grandchildren are at home, learning virtually. That process involves classmate Zoom meetings, something they've adjusted to well after a bit of initial glitching. In our two local families, however, two testy little "bugs" remain in the system. Checking in at about three feet tall, self-liberated from nap-taking, the pair is alert and impish, equipped with acute sensing that detects mommy's Zoom time busyness. And then....

Let the shenanigans begin!......

Or so they thought! 

Because that's when GRANDMA reports to work! Yep, that's my new job! I've taken on those two little just-three year olds with the task of keepin' 'em occupied so older siblings can Zoom in peace while mommy supervises them and not the little tornados who previously found high hilarity in antics like video-bombing family cats! (Now, just between us, do I secretly find that adorably cute? Oh heck YEAH! Shhhh!)

From previous experience, (since these little tykes are #9 and #10 in my batch of ten) I know that this age can be a challenging one to keep fruitfully occupied. Working on my side, though, is their motivation to be included - to be one of "the big kids" - and to "do it by myself!" They also enjoy the direct one-on-one attention from a devoted adult. I've concluded that successful experiences result when a few points are kept in mind:

  • projects are age appropriate and safe 
  • more than enough planned for anticipated time together
  • prep work in place, complete ingredients at hand
  • immediate, satisfying results
  • respect for the process

Pretty much anything that involves a puddle of paint is a winner. Brushes optional, since the multi-eyed monster shown above required only a blob of green, a straw for blowing it around, glue stick, paper scraps, and a crayon for adding menacing, spidery arms and legs!

A splash of orange and half a small potato transforms a paper sheet into an endearing patch of pumpkins. This activity is great for practicing patterning and scissors skill. 

Healthy snacks - like veggie pizza - allow pint sized bakers to deliver treats with genuine "I made it myself" swagger. Cut veggies and make cream cheese topping at home so assembling is all that remains to be done once cooled crust is out of the oven. (Kitty in background agrees with me that our interpretation of "spread carrots out evenly" differs from that of a three year old!) 

Sneak in some learning fun wherever you can. An Amazon shopping spree supplied each of my little guys their own counting scale. I call out a digit to place on one plate; an equivalent amount of froggies must be carefully added to the other side to achieve a successful balance. Lots of laughs, especially when a stray Lego guy shows up to throw things off when grandma isn't looking! (froggin' around again!)

And, of course, we supplement the artsy-craftsy stuff with floor puzzles, book reading, and board game playing. Those standard grandma fallbacks fill inevitable attention span gaps that lead to "What'll we do now?!!" panic. Kids are full of surprises. A finger painting session you thought might last an hour (HA!) might keep 'em busy for a fourth of that time. Then, you'll discover that leaf printing captivates enough fascination to go on and on, covering sheet after sheet of the pristine pack of paper you've carefully piled inside your bulging grandma bag! Let's steal from the Boy Scouts here...."Always be prepared!" 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Diggin' Dinosaurs!

We've all entertained the perspective of those who believe toys and interests should be "gender-nonconforming" - i.e. traditional role reversal that introduces little ladies to the mechanics of fire trucks, their brothers to doll house keeping. Nope. I've tried. Doesn't work for me here. When offered a choice, grandsons grab for snakes and granddaughters glom onto butterflies - 100% of the time! And since social-psychological analysis is well above my grandma pay grade, that's all okay with me! 

I'm not surprised, then, when eyes that ignite like fireworks belong to the boys when dinosaur activities tumble from the mysterious confines of my grandma bag. Sisters enjoy the artsy aspects of each project, but brothers are the ones who linger for follow up research in picture books and ask the most questions. They're the ones who can identify an Apatosaurus. They're the ones diggin' dinosaurs! 

We tested our skill and explored the species on recent drop in visits!...

A stack of appealing books whets the appetite for what's ahead. Pop-ups are always a favorite, especially when fun facts accompany each reptile. This is where we discuss herbivores and carnivores, noting size, speed, habitat, and defense capability. It's where we choose the beast we'll learn to draw and paint!

The giant Brachiosaurus was our unanimous choice to immortalize in tempera and collage. We sketched in basic shape building technique: large horizontal body oval first, smaller vertical leg ovals next, etc. I used an out of print Usborne title as a guide, but Art Projects for Kids is an excellent resource for teaching kids this method. Use that blog link to see a curvy Diplodocus come alive before your very eyes, and then let art teacher/author Kathy Barbro lead you to other prehistoric era friends, plus many, many more subjects to successfully draw and paint! You'll love this site!

Now back to the studio!....

Completed critters needed spotted texture and a careful cutting out. At age just-three, little guys need grandma's aid for the latter. That skill is developmental, so we're working on the proper way to manipulate scissors. It helps when I hold paper in place while he chomps away until two-handed competence is achieved. 

Deep blue background paper was selected with a purpose in mind. Why not let our family of Brachios dwell in the swirling, twirling world of Van Gogh's Starry Night? Why not let the kids begin a learning journey into art history as well, combining that adventure with science facts and crafting skill? 

For that purpose, I employ a nice deck of Usborne cards, available at Amazon. The sturdy set of 30 depicts a significant number of fun-to-know famous paintings. We talk about this artist and the way his technique brings the canvas alive. Then, we reach for construction paper in yellow and orange, tearing orbs that mimic his turbulent night scene......


Doesn't this finished work just dance with the same energy as the original starlit sky?  

I like the tearing technique. Kids know results aren't supposed to be perfect, thus eliminating the anxiety of precise cutting on the lines. 

One more thing!

Can't get enough of being busy on Planet Dinosaur? Here's an easy way to keep a three year old anchored to a chair, enjoying an activity that's 100% done by him/herself. Offer a bright background sheet, scraps of contrasting paper for tearing, a glue stick, and a sheet of dino stickers. 

What a world of possibility lies within this deck of fine art! 

Munch's The Scream is dying to inspire a vivid Halloween painting! I see a little study in perspective there, too!

We might have to go wild outside with brushes and buckets of paint to capture the feel of Pollack's Number 6, (although I never could figure out the accolades afforded that guy and his mess of gloomy drippings!) 

When it's time to draw portraits the right way, (no eyeballs in the middle of the forehead!) we'll take a look at Picasso and da Vinci for comparing and contrasting. 

We'll employ soft pastels in study of Degas ethereal ballerinas, and "paint with scissors" the way Matisse described his work in collage......

Lots of learning fun ahead! Promise you'll come join us?


If you seek "go big or go home!" dinosaur activities, you might enjoy past posts of mine. "Hunters and Gatherers" details the dino egg hunting experience I hosted for my two oldest grandsons when they were four years old. Star of that show was a 9' home made paper mache T-Rex! This one brings us back to a more recent time when eight hunters stormed the woods, following clues to giant personalized eggs crammed with goodies! 

The pop-up book I've pictured above is the Dinosaurs title from a series of Sounds of the Wild volumes by Maurice Pledger. It is out of print, but National Geographic sells one I'm tempted to buy. The Dinosaur Museum features a huge T-Rex face that bursts out at book center! Great reviews, too! 

This is not a sponsored post. I share my purchases with readers only because I've been personally pleased with them.