Thursday, July 28, 2011


PRIZES! That's the reason we're all here, right? Once a game was won, (or lost! "whatever!") we gave the child a ticket to cash in at the Prize Booth. Baby rubber duckies, bubble wands, crazy sunglasses, whistles, alien toys, play dough, cotton candy....the usual carnival fare!


If you invite need to feed them! And not just popcorn! - although this little stand was a popular site to visit. It was the first booth I made, down in my basement during the cold month of March. In my enthusiasm, I pieced it all together permanently - never thinking ahead about moving it upstairs, into a truck, and over to Mary Jo's! I got smart really fast after that! Everything else now comes apart for easy moving and reassembly. Nonetheless, the popcorn stand made it to the carnival and will live to see future ones!

My son-in-law was in charge of the grill. We served hot dogs and a few side dishes. The food was offered in those cute red plastic diner baskets with red checkered wax liners.The dessert table was made into a game. I found this terrific tabletop spinner at Oriental Trading. The girls worked together to provide cute desserts like "dirt cups," brownies, hamburger-shaped cookies, and ice cream cone cupcakes to place on the numbers.

A few other games rounded out the evening. We had an "estimating jar" stuffed with candy. Each family was invited to make a guess at the total amount of items inside. The family who won the jar was just one number away from the correct total! We also had a "Cookie Walk" - playing for giant chocolate chip cookies, awarded to whomever was standing on the correct number when the music stopped.       


The final game was an "egg and spoon" race. I love the game I found with plastic eggs that break open when they drop - with a little bean bag "yolk" inside! When the winners crossed the finish line, they were generously sprinkled with confetti and cheered for by the whole crowd. Many kids came back to play over and over just so they could be re-showered with confetti (and win another circus-striped lollipop!)

Egg and spoon race competitors include my youngest daughter, Karen, at right, with Bree.

How could we possibly end the hot summer evening without a wild and crazy water balloon fight orchestrated by the dads? I had no idea this was about to happen. The guys just put it all together, had a wonderful time with their kids, and demonstrated once again the lasting joy and happy memories that come from gatherings such as this!

And there you have it! Our first annual family carnival in only 4 installments! Maybe next year we'll have it at my house, probably in the spring - that will give us some space for our first annual  

Halloween Carnival!

This event is already on the drawing board and on the calendar! And in the meantime,"WOW!" you should see my basement!
Don't you dare go down in my basement!

Family friend and super-fun daddy, Rich, was right in the middle of all the wet fun!

July 14, 2012 note: As I reread this Family Carnival 2011 series I am struck by how much the kids have matured in the past year. That reinforces the idea that grandchildren really do grow up fast, just as their parents did. I am beginning to plan for this year's second family carnival to be held on August 18, 2012. Grandmothers will be the guests of honor this time. I will invite my own grandma friends and my daughters will include the grandparents of their own guests. Adult children are welcome too, but if they come, they must don a striped apron and work a booth! Grandmothers alone will take the kids by the hand and play the games together! I admit that the thought of all the work involved to pull this fete off successfully has caused me to hesitate more than once. Maybe I should host the affair just once every two years? But then I look back at last year's pictures and recall the number of times my grandsons have asked if grandma will have another carnival for them. This reignites the enthusiasm I thought I was losing! Yes, kiddoes! Of course grandma is going to have another family carnival this year! And the next, and the next and the next! Because right now is the time you warm my heart with your cute little squeals of joy when it's your turn to step up and toss plastic rings over the heads of dollar store duckies!

Read about our 2012 event here.
And our 2014 event here. Lots of new games and prizes!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Every carnival has to have a Fishing Game, so of course, we did too! I made poles out of wooden dowels and decorated them with all kinds of junk - ribbons, streamers, "good luck" charms....the crazier the better! The green pole was for boys and the yellow for girls. This was so the "Old Man in the Sea" behind the screen (grandpa!) would know if he should attach a pink striped inflated fish or a blue one to the pole. We also had a squirmy little bucket of "bait".....rubbery worms that looked real, and, as you can imagine, the boys loved them.


GOLDFISH SPLASH.......this idea was born when I found these adorable little plastic fish - and the mini bowls to toss them into! Nick tried the game unsuccessfully a few times and then decided to just throw big handfuls of fish at the bowls - to see if anything would "stick" I guess!
We used bubble machines to add to the sea world ambiance, too!

Here is Christy with Bree and Nick. Bree helped herself to a pink goldfish and clutched it tightly in her fist for most of the day!


We weren't quite done with the "aquatic" theme yet! What is a carnival without a Duck Pond? The idea was to toss rings around the necks of rubber duckies....including ones that were battery operated. I don't know how much of a hit that was......but the pool itself was the highlight of the day for most of the little boys! By the end of the day, anything that floated ended up in the pool - including poor Bozo! Note the Fishing Game worms that were given their freedom!

A pool of water, a hot day, and some very, very cute little boys!

Christy gives out prize tickets to Duck Pond players.

And.......I'm still not done! Part 4 is right here!


Little ladies were guests at our carnival, too. Each was invited to visit our "You Are So Pretty" booth. There, the girls found a personalized pink feather boa, feathery ring, and a jeweled tiara/wand set that screamed "Dollar Store!"

But, you may be wondering, did the little girls have to actually do anything to retrieve these items? Well of course not! Are you forgetting that they are  PRINCESSES?!

There's just something about a goofy flock of plastic flamingos that I cannot resist! But where else besides a front lawn carnival can you get away with planting a dozen of them?

It was my job to be the "Tattoo Lady." I was busy all day. Too busy to take pictures of myself applying monkeys, butterflies, monsters and "Hello Kitty" to my eager clients!


The kids could choose as many tattoos as they liked from this board.
Our  middle daughter, Christy, with Brielle -
 a satisfied  "Hello Kitty" tattoo customer!

If you decide to use play tattoos for a family event, be sure to practice ahead of time. The ones I bought from a local store worked great....peel off clear sheet of plastic, place design face down on skin, press firmly with damp cloth for 30 seconds and then carefully remove paper backing.

                   Kids LOVE them!


Cute little boys, happy with the prizes....and.......

Cute little girls happy with the food!

Just monkeyin' around until the food comes out!

Our first family carnival was such a success that we plan to host one every year. In the initial years, grandpa and I will do the bulk of the work with help from the adult kids. Eventually, I hope to involve the grandkids in the planning and operating of the affair, with parents and aunts and uncles attending as paying customers!

We will probably have year round monthly work sessions to make prizes, decorations and food. When they are old enough, the kids will advance to planning attractions, calculating traffic flow, constructing game booths, determining staffing requirements and shopping for supplies. They will deftly manage a budget and become familiar with profit margins. Cooperating side by side with cousins - and perhaps a few best friends - they will experience the value of successful team work. In effect, the children will be "owning and operating" their own small business and reaping all the rewards that come with such a fun adventure!

If there was ever any doubt that kids would want to participate in the routine operations of a family carnival, the little blond you see here in the foreground eased my anxiety! Tava loved helping me sprinkle the relay contestants with confetti after they crossed the finish line! What a great job she did from her own little supply!

Part 3  of our story is right here!

Monday, July 25, 2011


I was going to title this post with something trite, like "everybody loves a carnival," but then I remembered how I used to hate those affairs. I thought the workers were nasty and I was scared to death of the rides - even the ones that stayed close to the ground. And never did I see anybody actually win one of those tantalizingly huge stuffed animals that lure people to unwinnable games.

How my attitude changes when I get to be in charge of it all! No creepy people among us, game booths safely made of cardboard, and best of all, lots of prizes for everybody, even if you somehow, some way, still manage to find a way to be a "loser!" 

I had the best time planning and constructing the games, allowing about four months lead time to work everything out with my oldest daughter, Mary Jo, the mother of my twin grandsons. 

We negotiated a date of Saturday, July 9. 2011 for our event, hosting it on the spacious front lawn of her home. 

A total of nine families were involved with a "kid-count" of 17 - plus a handful of sibling babies.

Lots of work? Oh my, yes! But sooooo worth it! Everyone had lots of fun, mostly, I think, because it was so kid-friendly. I am not a fan of early age competitions that clearly identify "winners" and, by default, "losers." My grandchildren are not "losers" and neither are yours! Dollar stores are full of enough cute prizes for everybody and I say buy them! Send every child home happily tattooed, clutching fistfuls of candy, a tote bag brimming with prizes and fond memories to revisit many, many times!

I chose not to open this introduction with a cliche, but I am going to conclude with one. "A picture is worth a thousand words!" Here's the story of our first annual family carnival!

As children arrived, they were handed a welcoming program  describing games, a handful of tickets, and a cute paper bag to stash prizes in.

Our staff included both aunts and faithful family friends, Elise, Beth, and Judy. All of them cheerfully wore aprons, each adorned with a crazy squirting flower!

The aprons were simple to make with iron-on letters and bias tape edging. I found the fun flowers at the dollar store. Those were for squirting husbands - not the kiddies!

I admit to copying the "welcome" sign design from the Oriental Trading catalog.....hope they don't mind! (I spent hundreds with them!)

MONKEY SMACKDOWN is my favorite of the game booths. The idea was born after I "went bananas" over these cute inflatable monkeys at Wiley and Company - a great local store where I found lots of wonderful things for this event! 

Kids were invited to knock down the decorated oatmeal cans by tossing plastic bananas at them. We were surprised at how well they did! Staff was kept very busy restacking the cans!                                                                  
One of the best things about having grandsons after a family of all girls is shopping for toys. Oh, the enchanting world of dinosaurs, pirates, firetrucks and...ALIENS!

We invited "boys only" to our ALIEN INVASION booth. They were to choose an alien, either by number or favorite character. Everyone paused expectantly while Beth cautiously lifted it up to see if a "little green man" was hiding beneath! If he was, the player was a WINNER!  (um, I think you may have already guessed that a little green dude lurked beneath every number!)

When the grand kids are older, they'll be helping grandma make things for the annual family carnival,
such as these paper cup characters!

Initially, Nick and Sae approached this booth with caution!
I think it was their first encounter with alien life!

And this is only the beginning! See Family Carnival, Part 2  Part 3 and Part 4 !

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Look What We Made Daddy for Father's Day!

One function of a beloved grandma is to be there, quietly in the background, ready to make things easier for mom and dad when things get crazy. And usually things get crazy just before a holiday. That's the perfect time to babysit for a few hours so parents can get some things done for themselves. Use the time to help your grand kids hand make (and wrap) gifts to give mom and dad on the special occasion ahead. 

Last year, the twins were not even two years old on Father's Day, so I guided their affection with plain white t-shirts decorated with iron-on "I (heart) my daddy" decals (from JoAnn Fabrics). When mommy brought breakfast in bed to daddy, his little cherubs accompanied her, attired in their new shirts....Daddy loved it!

This year the boys can do a bit more for themselves. They are starting to draw and paint and I wanted to address a problem faced by parents who have a prolific new artist in the house. (This issue is personal to me because, years ago, we paid for a service call on our refrigerator, only to have the nice man deftly pull a stray fingerpainted masterpiece from the fan and call it good!) Hmmmm......what project could give the drawings of a two year old the respect they deserve, keep them from being lost in the scatter of everyday living (and out of the innards of a fridge!), and also serve as an archive for the progress of talent?

"Artwork for Daddy" binders of course! And here's how to make them!
  1. Purchase inexpensive cardboard cover 1"  binders from an office supply store. 
  2. Press hands on stamp pads and print covers.
  3. Stamp (or print from computer) title on white paper, cut it out, glue to a background color, then trim and glue to cover. Make labels with names in the same manner and glue them to spines.
  4. Print "Father's Day 2011" alongside the hands and glue on a tiny paper heart.
  5. Cut drawing paper to 8" x 10" and punch to fit binders.
  6. Cut divider pages from heavier paper in bright colors and punch.
  7. Cut 2" circles from contrasting colors and apply stickers for age numbers. In our case, we will use the binders for artwork until the boys are 5 years old. If they fill up too fast, we'll just move into a second one for later ages.
  8. Place divider pages in the binder and position the numbered tabs so they don't overlap. Glue the tabs to divider pages.
  9. Now it's time for the kids to get busy! Hand out the punched paper whenever they want to draw, then date and snap the completed work into the binder at the correct age tab.
  10. Take a picture of each grandchild, busy at work drawing for daddy, and glue it to the first divider page. Add a current picture each year.
As the year goes on, your grandkids can give daddy pages for his book at every holiday. Drawings of pumpkins, Santa, Valentine and birthday greetings...each one a valued treasure with a safe place waiting for it - one more part of a growing collection to revisit, admire, and reflect upon, year after year!

Here's Nick, loving his blue ink!

The boys seem to like their completed projects....
but not as much as daddy did!

Yes, I know this post is far too late for Father's Day, but art folders can be made for birthdays and Christmas, too. Don't forget grandparents and aunts and uncles! Your grandchildren will enjoy the positive attention they get from relatives who admire their success in the wholesome pursuit of expressing themselves through drawing, coloring and painting.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meet the characters!

I like to do things in multiples of three. We have three lovely daughters who brought home three handsome sons-in-law who presented us with three beautiful grandchildren..... I also have six (yes! 6!) crazy cats, but only one husband. More about them later on, but for now, here are my twin grandsons, Nick and Sae, who were born on August 29, 2008.

And, can you believe that on the very same day, two years later, my third grandchild was born? Her name is Brielle and here she is! 

These three make it official: I am a grandmother! Let the fun begin!

2017 Update! Lots of wonderful things have happened since I posted this intro in July of 2011. Seven additional grandchildren have joined the pack, bringing my total to ten. To the three featured above, a pair of twin sisters for the boys, Ava and Angeline, arrived in 2012. Cousin Kaylee, came along in 2013, and her little brother, Ryan, joined the party in 2014. They'll be joined by a third sibling in July of this year.* In the meantime, things got much livelier at Brielle's house, too, with the addition of little brothers Austin (2014) and Channing (2017).    
*Grandkiddo #10, Tyler, came in with a bang for us on the Fourth of July!   

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hi Grandma!

I hope you're like me. I hope you hoard cardboard boxes, art supplies, stickers, and yarn and spend more money on your grandkids than you do on yourself! I hope your desk drawers are bursting with magazine clippings about games, cooking, gardening, and crafts for kids. I hope you love backyard dinosaur egg hunts, family carnivals, paper mache animal safaris, glitter, haunted houses, talent shows, clothesline art displays, and making mini-scarecrows to guard the giant pumpkins you grow and harvest with your grandkids every year.

I hope you're not one of those prune-faced-sour-pickle-no-fun "don't-you-kids-dare-mess-up-my-house" grandmas who would die before they agreed to turn a guestroom into a life size aquarium! But then, who cares about them? Kids don't want to go over there anyway!

If, however, you are like me, we are really going to get along well. In my case, "what happens at grandma's" is something I LOVE to tell, and you can read about it all right here! Invite your imaginative friends too. Grandmothers are very, very special people, and the ones who unselfishly enrich the lives of their grandchildren with creative attention and crazy fun are priceless treasures. This world needs lots more of us!