Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surviving the Suburban Wilderness!

Until now, our quarter acre of backyard woods was just something beautiful to enjoy through rear windows. I rarely ventured into that tangle of vegetation during the 27 years we have lived here. But that was before a certain pair of three year old twins entered my life, giving me many good reasons to explore that suburban wilderness with new and curious eyes!

On a recent hiking trip through those trails, one of the boys made the comment, "I hope we don't get lost back here!" Well don't worry, little guys! Grandma (and Roxie) are here to guide us all back least for today! That thought comforted for mere seconds. Terror and panic replaced it. What about days when grandma isn't right here? A disquieting picture flashed through my mind.....lost little boys huddled together in darkness for warmth and comfort beneath a tree, shivering in fear lest the gruesome occupant of the gingerbread house tucked into the woods ahead approaches them with a cackling....."nibble, nibble little mouse...." What are they going to do then????? It was obvious. A suburban wilderness survival skills workshop was in order. And who but grandma was best equipped to teach it?

I've never been a fan of pop culture stories that are becoming staples in kids' home and school libraries today. I owe that attitude to my wise mother, who years and years ago introduced me to the enchanted world of fables and folk and fairy tales from around the world. While it is true that many, if not most, of those quaint stories entertain violent characters.....child-eating witches, beanstalk-dwelling roaring giants ......they also describe worthy messages and transport young readers into fanciful arenas unlike any that exist today. I simply prefer the imaginative depth of those evil ogres to currently popular talking cars and perky little bug-eyed clown fish!

My suburban wilderness survival skills workshop began with a reading of the fiery old German folk tale, Hansel and Gretel. I carefully prefaced it, telling the twins that this was only a story and that it involved a pair of siblings who resolved their fear of becoming lost in the woods with the use of a practical tactic. I hoped the story wouldn't plant an idea in those cute little heads that a scary witch also resided in grandma's backyard. Well, never mind that! All the boys wanted to do was repeatedly examine the picture of the witch! Once satisfied, we brainstormed our own ideas for marking a path through the woods that wouldn't get eaten by birds like the breadcrumb trail that Hansel and Gretel unwisely experimented with. How convenient that grandma came up with the idea we used, having all the supplies readily available! The plan was to mark a trail with bright color paper squares, cut out by the boys. Sae chose green, and Nick, orange. Then we would return home by following the same trail back! Brilliant!

This is how we marked our trail so we could find our way back to the safety of grandmother's house!

Before long, our supply of trail markers was exhausted and it was time to turn back, following the true path that would take us home. Thank goodness for wise foresight! We encountered many forks in the road that could have mistakenly been taken had there been no markers to follow! And who knows what could have lurked at the end of those unhappy trails? (An ugly witch with a hungry wall oven perhaps? YIKES!)

HOME AT LAST! With the clearing in sight, we triumphantly waved the last two markers - symbols that validate the day we learned how to fearlessly conquer the suburban wilderness!

So, again I pore over volumes, now a half-century-old, of the My Book House collection that I last enjoyed when I was a beginning reader. I am seeking similar fairy tale based experiences to enjoy with grandchildren. My intention is to pass on to the next generation my own fascination with ages old "goings-on" in countries and cultures far and wide. Anthropomorphism was, apparently, a popular storytelling device in those eras, too. Talking nutcrackers, frog princes, and the half-frozen bear who chanced by the humble cottage of Snow White and Rose Red......I'd like my grandchildren to park their chattering cars in the garage once in awhile and get to know all of these characters too!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Of Easter Sunday, 2012

A Blessed, Happy Easter, everyone!

Isn't it wonderful that we can fully comprehend the true solemnity of the holy day of Easter Sunday and its profound message of love and salvation, yet still gather at tables graced with stately rabbits and decorated eggs? These universal symbols of renewed life and inspiring hope were created for our admiration and enjoyment by the loving hands of our heavenly father. Children hunting for candy eggs a secular observance? I think not! "God looked at everything He had made and He found it very good."
(Genesis 1:31)

Blessed by Him with the gift of one another, we celebrated this day with joy, fun, and much, much laughter!

As promised, our Bunny Village was on display in all its collective charm! It was so cute to see how much the twins enjoyed identifying their little homemade bunny houses and pointing them out to all of us.

I was a little worried that we wouldn't get what was needed - a warm, sunny day,  perfect for the outside Easter game I planned for after dinner - a scavenger hunt for eggs and prizes! But the weather was ideal and our wooded backyard a wonderful place to hide things to look for. I had to define the hunting area though, using crepe paper streamers so no one would wander off like Hansel and Gretel, into oblivion!

"If you go out in the woods today, you can be sure of a big surprise......!"

First, teams were organized from among our three daughters and their husbands. The first three names pulled became captains. The second three served as assistants. Finally, each captain pulled the name of a "little kid" who would become the third team member.

Each team captain was given a set of 4 clues, specific things to look for out in the woods. In addition, there were plastic candy filled eggs for the little kids to gather. Finally, each adult was advised to look for his/her own Easter basket - while also in pursuit of clues, eggs and supervision of the little kiddo assigned to them! See why each captain needed an assistant? This grandma knows how to anticipate!

Seriously, what would a grandma do without a dollar store? I found everything I needed for the scavenger hunt in one greedy sweep of a nearby Dollar Tree. "Find a purple bunny in a basket with 2 carrots." That was one clue.  Others were: "Find something a bunny likes to eat- Find a blue bunny swinging from a tree - Find an empty Easter basket- Find a pink bunny in a pink basket - Find something pink that quacks!"

With a blast of the whistle we were off to happy hunting grounds to seek prizes and adventure!
A battery operated bubble-making machine filled the air with crazy ambiance and some players chose to hunt bubbles rather than clues! That often left the "big kids" in charge of finding things!

Two teams collide in competition! At left, Karen, from the "green team"  tapes a bunny tail to Sae. Every team had these two same clues-  "Find a pair of bunny ears and put them on," and "Find a bunny tail and tape it on." The result was three cute little bunnies hopping through the woods toting baskets full of eggs and prizes!
At center, Nick, representing the "blue team" waits for Aunt Christy to name the next thing to search for.
It was so heartwarming to see our sweet Roxie, a rescue from abuse, join us as a beloved member of the family for her first of many Easter hunts. That lab/shepherd nose didn't miss a thing!

Here's Roxie supervising the "pink team." Mary Jo and Joe were sharp and aggressive, making sure that their little partner, Brielle, would be first to fill her basket to the top with eggs and the scavenger items on her list!

Ever heard of a shoplifter at an Easter egg hunt? Well we had one!
Neither of these items were on Brielle's shopping list of clues to look for! (But who among us was willing to pry them loose? Not I!) It was reported the next morning that she clutched them all the way home and slept with them all night!

We put grandpa in charge of security and "trouble-shooting." Since he filled and hid all the eggs, it was his job to account for all of them so undiscovered candy wouldn't invite a hungry ant feeding frenzy over the months to come.

My wonderful "little sister," Jackie, and her husband, Rick (Karen's in-laws), always stop by for coffee and dessert on the way home from their own family dinner. Jackie and I are real partners-in-crime when it comes to planning crazy fun for the kids. I put her in charge of handing prizes to the teams after checking their baskets for accurate scavengering. Let her deal with the guys when they insist that a green bunny should count because it is "kinda blue-ish!"
The "pink team" and "green team" both line up to have Aunt Jackie check baskets for accurate hunting

All six adult kids found a can of Silly String inside their baskets with a tag that read "for immediate use." In this family, that note really isn't necessary!

Wish I had a few pictures of the wild action, but I was too busy hiding behind the garage while everything was happening. I did make an interesting observation, though! After much investment in, and preparation for, the proper settings for these three couples to promise to "love and honor" each other, I note that whenever Silly String appears, they still go after their own partners with a vicious and playful vengeance!

Don't be fooled by the dollar store price tag. One can seems capable of covering an acre with colorful, foamy string! And secretly, I think everybody loves being drenched in it!

After that, it was time to go back in, unload baskets, and nibble on contents of all the eggs collected. And even if you weren't a believer in the Easter bunny, you had to admit that today was a pretty magical one whether you were one of the "big kids," "little kids," or a tired, but very, very happy grandparent!

Next time, the twins are getting their own cans of Silly String! Grandma "goofed" when she thought they'd be too young to enjoy it!