Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Spooky Spotlight

Here! Have a cracker!
I'm on a diet!

For most folks, it's something lurking right around the corner. For us, its been in full bloom for several weeks! Packed back to back with cookie baking, book browsing, costume creating, and hearty partying, our Halloween season is a cherished friend, one whose return we embrace with the unbridled vigor of a headless horseman!

Family joins me for a mid-month Friday evening gathering each year, where crafting and cookie baking typically top the agenda. At other times we just play games after dinner - like the Spooky Picture Bingo we enjoyed this time around. "Mummies" and daddies win cash, and kids win small Halloween toys - every "ghoul" and boy goes home happy!

By the way, if seating all those spooky little spirits for food and festivity confounds you, solve that problem with a 29" x 60" folding table - the kind sold at every household store. Top it with a 2.5 yard length of 45" fabric - a time and money saving shortcut. My own choice - a black and white clearance length - was a $9 bargain. And, I spotted a cute turkey print on my way out the door, so I'll be trotting back for that one, too!

Table settings respect the fact that some guests come to eat, and other come to play! I'm ready for both. Each place presents with a cute skellie English cracker - one needing mom or dad to firmly grasp the opposite end, briskly pulling in tandem to yield a loud "SNAP!" and a tumble of toys. This time we found Halloween tattoos, paper party crowns, and cute jokes that regaled the crowd. (Why did the skeleton cross the road? To get to the body shop!)

Weird little wind-up Halloween characters kept the kids' table lively, too, toddling about mindlessly while guests were "goblin" up home made mac and cheese and Jello (orange, of course! with a generous dollop of ghostly white whipping cream!).

See those cute cardboard houses? Dollar Tree finds served as suitable places to stash bingo prizes for the trip home. And...if you dared reach inside, you may or may not
(👵grandma humor!) have pulled out a super squishy, slimy toy rat and a fancy light up necklace tucked inside!

Oh, these too! Dancing skellie straws - another Dollar Tree goodie that made sipping chilled apple cider an even tastier experience!

To commemorate an evening of good eating, fun playing, and great gathering, a cousin round up photo was in order. It's unnecessary for any grandma of more than - say, three? - to comment that there will always be a group comedian (see below, far right, front!) and at least one attempted escape! I had both. But this capture, all clad in grandma's gift of matching ghostly pjs, is the best of over 50 shots. It will serve as my personal "Happy Halloween" greeting to all of you because this grandma thinks they're so cute it's scary!

The skinny guy at extreme right, back, finds it bone rattlin' hilarious that I even try getting this little six pack to look up and smile at the same time!

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Grandma Who Used Her Wits!

If I were to author a dictionary, my entry for "grandmother" would avoid the term "academics" like the plague. I'd stick to describing that lady solely as a treasured source of carefree joy and comfort - a complete disconnect from classroom rigor. "Grandma" = "fun" and nothing more than that!

But sometimes traditional book learnin' encroaches on playtime despite our best efforts. Grandmas have an innate knack for introducing "the fun of learning" with hardly an effort or barely a penny expended! I had such an opportunity recently, and I'm still basking in the afterglow!

Let me explain!

Granddaughter Brielle's eighth birthday occurred on the second day of third grade this year. Her wise and lovely teacher eschewed the celebratory tradition of cupcakes and candy in favor of an appealing option: invite a special person in your life to come read to the classroom! My participation was requested and I was "in" with enthusiasm!

But what to read to those eager little learners? What type of story would entertain, hold interest, and, perhaps, even venture to teach a thing or two? I'm personally not a fan of pop culture characters. Too slick, too shallow, too commercially driven. Sorry, Elsa and Anna! Today I'm looking elsewhere for a poignant tale!

Childhood nostalgia for me is best represented in a 12 volume set of My Book House books. Anyone else out there familiar with this treasure of the 50s? Our well worn set belongs to me now, and I've often reached for its pages, seeking folk and fairy tales for fireside grandma camp reading. The age of my rapt audience was always considered because the rich heritage of such stories, told generation to generation in every country of the world, does not always respect the absence of triumphing evil, racism, or frightening characters who pose danger to children. When selected with age-level care, folk and fairy tales add a spirit of adventure to a child's life: kings, giants, princesses, trolls, and talking animals entertain, cultural history is acknowledged, and, most commonly, lessons are taught.

I chose a Chinese folk tale, The Girl Who Used Her Wits, for my presentation. This charming telling challenges two young wives to bring home "fire wrapped in a paper" and "wind in a paper" in exchange for a favor granted by their mother-in-law. Entertaining? Yes! I used my repertoire of story voices: crotchety, whimpering, and wise! A glimpse into family life described the culture of multi-generational living, while the wits of an intervening character redeemed the folly of reckless promise making. Success! Every box checked!

I didn't just leave it there, though. No way. Not this grandma! At story's conclusion, Brielle handed out paper fans to her classmates. Those, of course, were "wind in a paper" - not only a meaningful favor to memorialize the folk tale, but a much appreciated classroom cooler in the late August humidity we were experiencing!

But the best part? Brielle's report to me that my visit earned the day's "best moment" by student acclamation!

So....invited to go in and read, grandma? Do it! They'll love you!

My Book House vintage volumes can be found on ebay
Paper fans were purchased at Party City
See You Tube for a telling of The Girl Who Used Her Wits as well as the following:

Here's a list of other folk and fairy tales that are suitable for young children, checking all the boxes for entertainment, cultural learning, and lessons taught:

The Little Snow Maiden (Russian)
The Boy Hero of Harlem (Dutch)
The Cap That Mother Made (Swedish)
The Shoemaker and the Elves (German)