Monday, April 28, 2014

"For Me? Really?"

Ahh,  Mother's Day!

One year, my sisters and I accompanied daddy to the store to help him carefully select a plastic bread box. I was as puzzled as he was when, after a gracious display of gratitude in the presence of her children, mother firmly informed him, behind closed kitchen doors, that a bread box was an unsuitable Mother's Day gift and it was promptly going back to the store. I could never figure that one out. When I became a mommy, I was going to love everything my family gave me. Unconditionally. Utilitarian or not. Things were going to be different!

Despite protests of, "No, no! Save your money! I don't need anything!" from our grandmothers - both the "nice" one and the "unfriendly" one - we dutifully visited each, toting the obligatory rose bush on those annual, special days in May. The "nice one" invited us to the planting ceremony and never failed to point out thereafter how much joy our gift, thriving beneath her talented hand, gave her every day. That part was okay, but still, I wondered. Who on earth would ever say, "Don't buy me any gifts! I don't need anything!" When I became a grandma, things were going to be different! "Gimme, gimme, gimme! See here? - in this catalog? - I want this one, that one and two or three of those!" Yep, when I grew up I was going to "for sure" fix what was wrong with this family of mine!

I live a double bonus now. I'm a mother. And a grandmother. In my recent memory are gifts of cold toast and warm juice on a breakfast-in-bed tray, construction paper cards and a happy little trio of bright purple pansies peeking prettily from - oh no! please! not another! - ceramic mug. I loved it all. Unconditionally. Things were different - at least in that category.

But the "Please don't buy me anything" request? That one, I'm afraid, remains alive. I have all that I need today - hugs and snuggles from grandchildren and gratitude and love from their parents. I'm not going to refuse your bread box or (deliberately, at least) murder your rose bush, but I do revisit with fondness the grand-ladies who clearly made their wishes known so long ago. "Thank you anyway my dears, but I really don't need anything this year!"

Yet, despite my protests, I know that you will buy me something. And so this time I will make things easier for you by telling you exactly what I want.

I want to be remembered. Warmly. Intimately. Respectfully. Of course I want you to relive the fun we had together, but mostly I want you to know who I am. Where I grew up. What things I liked. What things I didn't like. And I want all of that written down in a book. This book.

Stories From My Grandparent flows from page to page in journal format, just waiting for the pen of its own author. Thoughtful prompts make the self-writing of one's personal history an enjoyable, not formidable, task. From early memories at home, ("This is what I've been told about myself as a baby:") through school years, ("These hairstyles and clothing styles were popular with girls:") and beyond, ("As a young family, we struggled with these problems and issues:") this hard cover, spiral bound volume unfolds as the life journey of one very special person. And that person is likely to be someone who "really doesn't need anything" for Mother's Day this year. Except, perhaps, a place like this to come to and relive experiences of the past, knowing that someday those who adore her will relish the words and photos she chose to share from the first page to the last. On that one, number 109, just beyond an entry for "Here is one last bit of advice:" they will find a final message, one tender and touching and so very, very grandmotherly in its perfection - one well worth circling and "smiley-facing"......

"And always remember: I love you!"

Susan Adcox, the author of Stories From My Grandparent is a former English and journalism teacher with a degree in literature from the University of Houston - Clear Lake. For more than five years she has been the Guide to Grandparents on, where she writes about topics ranging from grandparents' rights to board games for kids. She and her husband have three children and seven grandchildren.

Find further details and Amazon ordering information here.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Kids' Table

I have heard horror stories about "the kids' table".....that rickety, wobble-legged "card table" set up in a dark, drafty corner of the kitchen, clunky upended plastic milk crates for seating, paper plated lunch meat sandwiches with a skimpy side of nasty vegetables, scowling and squirming cousins crammed across who sullenly eye their own cold potatoes and warm milk - all topped off with a super-duper-sour-puss of a frowning grandma whisking past to hiss, "Don't you kids dare spill any of that gravy on my nice clean floor! Or else! No dessert for you! And the Easter bunny won't come either!" Then away she goes, around the corner, just beyond the whoosh of double dining doors to immerse herself in candle lit warmth, intimate laughter, the gentle clink of company china, a twinkling sparkle of alcohol in crystal stemware, steaming platters of well seasoned delicacies, more premium alcohol and the preferred company of......adults!


No way! Not over here! Not at this grandkid-crazy grandma's house!

I've actually waited "years" for the chance to hostess a kids' table. Special little guests of honor do have to be old enough to sit unassisted and hold their own forks, of course! But most of all, an awakening spirit of independence must be present. Sitting on mommy's lap is no longer the preferred way to dine in style!

And "big kids" don't drink out of baby bottles anymore either!
They use straws!

I placed three "big kids" at a round table mere steps from the formal one that seated eight adults plus three youngest children. Soft springlike yellow linens on the big table indicated that this color be continued on the smaller one, but "store-bought" would just not do! The 72" round covering is a nine patch quilt I embarked upon during the first week of March. I frantically reached for my deadline, hand stitching up a frenzy while envying grandma blogger friends (Hello, Debra and Judy!) who spent those last cold winter weeks enjoying their own projects at a leisurely pace!

And what's a grandma to do about food? Asparagus soup? Arugula salad? Beef tenderloin with Pinot Noir sauce? My adult guests raved, but the kids aren't buying that kind of stuff. The solution was to offer a variety of finger foods, allowing them to graze and own some choice. They love to bop around while they eat, visiting parents and tempting cats with grape tomatoes!

Perfect menu!
Ham and cheese mini croissants
Veggie cups: baby carrots, cuke slices, grape tomatoes
Organic whole milk with Peep-on-a-paper-straw
Whole wheat mini muffins
Deviled eggs
Herb cheese in mini phyllo cups
Grapes, pear spears, watermelon chunks


simply the chirpiest mini cheese balls I have ever seen! These little pipsqueaks are original with super-talented Beth at Hungry Happenings. I searched far and wide for cute Easter food but found mostly sweet items. This recipe is delightful - easy to make and store in advance, great as an appetizer and healthy for kids to snack on. Beth also shows a mini monster version of this recipe - I'll be making those for Halloween! Perfect site, grandmas, for all of us who like to "wow" our kids with clever little treats that aren't commonly seen anywhere else!

I had a lot to be thankful for on Easter Sunday. The most heartwarming moment allowed me to reflect on the significant holiness of this day. Our kids' table guests are students at Lutheran pre-schools. They have been taught well. Grandpa was allowed a break from leading prayer when Nick, Sae and Brielle offered to say it for him. "God is great, God is good...." What a beautiful ecumenical moment. Our family had participated as members in Holy Week services at both Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, and now the little ones among us led a classic Protestant prayer for children. God is, indeed, good!

"Reverend" Nick: "Let us thank Him for our food."

And there's more!

The kids filled the Easter baskets they made and handed them out. Everybody, including Bree's mommy, Christy, loved them!

Baby Kaylee celebrated her first Easter by finding her first egg. We were very impressed with her color coordination skill!

And finally, Sae is very "hoppy" that you stopped by today. He is glad to see you! And so I am!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Somebunny Special

The grandkiddoes start crafting at an early age around here. That includes every glue stick snacker, crayon eater, pipe cleaner poker, and paint water drinker among us. No bunny likes being left out! 


Soon-to-be one year old Kaylee joined us this week to make a suitable gift for mommy and daddy. This will be her first Easter and she'll want to participate when her older cousins present their parents with hand painted Snuggle Bunny Pillows. With a little help, I managed to paint Kaylee's palm, ring and forefingers with white acrylic and press her hand onto patterned paper. She was fascinated by the process, curling her little digits and squirming about in curiosity. The framed bunny face was the best of the series, the last before she was whisked away to the sink for clean up while grandma retreated to add finishing touches.

No, this procedure won't be the easiest or "funnest" thing you'll ever do with a child of this "wiggle bug" age, but the results, I think, are worth the trouble. I was surprised at how small Kaylee's hand appeared inside a 4" x 6" matted opening. It won't be like that for long. I'm so glad I hopped to the challenge this year!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Basket Making 101

We need 14 baskets for Easter Sunday. I suppose we could have brought some home from the dollar store, or hooked pipe cleaners to the sides of margarine tubs. That would have worked. But those methods would not have satisfied a goal of guiding my three oldest grandchildren toward creating together as a team of cousins to build something nice from the ground up. They are ready to work side by side, enjoying the process, patiently waiting to complete the next step, anticipating the excitement of delivery day. On Easter morning, my little crew of eager bunnies will assemble to fill the baskets they made with paper grass, candy and small gifts. Once dinner is complete, they will distribute their own works of art, surprising and delighting everyone ranging from good old patriarch grandpa down to one-year-plus-one-day old Kaylee. I can't wait either!

We built our baskets in a familiar way, relying on paper mache to deliver the basic forms we needed: Turn generous sized soup bowls upside down, cover with aluminum foil and then three layers of newspaper strips dipped into a hand mixed flour and water paste. Allow them to dry for a day or two, then separate baskets from bowls.

Next, we paint. Each child chose family members and selected appropriate colors for inside and outside surfaces. Mixing white with any color makes a "tint," the pastel version of any primary or secondary choice - there's always a way to sneak in some art vocab learnin' when grandma's in charge of the show!

My favorite part was decorating. I cleaned out the aisles of three craft stores to present a dizzying array of cute self-adhesive goodies, and the kids were on their own, carefully matching their choices to the personalities of the recipients.

After decorations have been applied, punch two holes on each basket side near the top and thread 18" narrow ribbon lengths. These will knot around and hold ends of wide wired ribbon handles. Tie the narrow ribbon into bows to complete.

You are correct. The "less is more" trend has not caught on yet at grandma's crafty table!

Bree carefully made and decorated this one for her smallest cousin. Kaylee will find a bunny finger puppet, a toy duckie and a cute little pair of socks inside - along with some baby crackers that Grandma Bunny hasn't hopped out to purchase yet!

Nick, at left, puts finishing touches on mommy's basket. Sae is finishing up his own.

From the chatter I overheard at the crafting table, I know the cousins are more excited about giving, rather than receiving baskets. It was so sweet to watch the boys tenderly decorate for mommy and baby sisters, making sure each sported plenty of jewels, flowers, and pink paint!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Fire in the Hole!"

Please add us to the list of satisfied customers who have constructed the marshmallow catapult originally seen in the May 2010 issue of Family Fun magazine! This popular project delighted the boys last week when we sat down to make them for the purpose of flinging marshmallows to intercept by mouth. Okay...that particular part was not a success! But we were amazed at how far and how fast those projectiles flew, learning that the amount of rubber band tension determined velocity.

Adequate instructions are provided at the above link, but there are a few things I would do differently. The "family size" tissue box was a little flimsy even though the width and depth worked perfectly. I think I'd reinforce the long sides with cardboard next time, or possibly substitute a shoe box.

My grandsons are five years old and quite experienced with crafty and scientific enrichment projects provided at home by their parents, yet I did much of the work on our catapults. Rubber bands must be twisted and tied tightly and holes punched accurately - best done by an adult. The kids enjoyed measuring and observing though, picking up a few related terms as they watched and waited.

As always, grandma learned some new things too. The device made wonderful entertainment for the boys' cats, "Marshall" and "Baby." I probably should have anticipated that one! But then there were the sound effects - loud and lusty shouts of "Fire in the hole!" as ammunition was positioned for launch. I suspect that has something to do with the fascination little boys have with historic weaponry, anything set up to shoot far and fast, controlled, aimed and fired by a pair of youthful engineers whose curiosity and enthusiasm keep this grandma coming back again and again to enjoy more and more of the same!