Friday, September 11, 2020

Fly Eyes, "Candy Grab!" and More Crazy Fun!

Crazy times, crazy stuff!

It's been hard on everybody. In all my grandmotherly years I've never known disruption of this magnitude. But making the best of things is a talent that lies within each one of us, particularly those who answer to the name of "Grandma!" 

After several long months of pandemic distancing on all branches of our family tree, it was decided that limited in-person contact would be acceptable. What a joy to pack my big bulging "grandma bag" and head on over for quality time with two families of locals - six kids total - to tackle my version of the ABCs  - academics, baking, cooking, and crafting! 

Important: I relied heavily on Amazon purchases to create the experiences we enjoyed, but this is not a sponsored post. I earn no commission from products you might choose to buy at my suggestion. I do, however, have a favor to ask of you that's related to Amazon, and I've outlined it at the end of this post. Hint: 😺😺😺!

Now, let's get on with the fun!

Sessions with grandma begin with heartwarming, robust doorway greetings. Accompanying me are all the ingredients needed for what's ahead. That's important. Mommy deserves a break from her daily grind of playing fetch! If I need something too awkward or impractical to bring over - like a large mixing bowl - I ask her to have it out in advance. That's appreciated!

We begin in the kitchen....

Eager little bakers gather around, awaiting their turn to measure, pour, or mix. They carefully crack eggs and accurately use a measuring cup. The items we make are either for immediate consumption - such as English muffin pizzas or deviled eggs (bring them pre-boiled and peeled!) - or for later on - such as banana bread, ice cream (electric appliance), or slow cooker mac and cheese. 

We retire to the dining room next, the place of my biggest challenge. The oldest of three sibs in each family is a girl. At ages seven and ten, they're independent and academically focused. Younger brothers are eager new learners at five, and a final pair of squirmy little delights checks in at three. Interests, abilities, attention spans, academic levels - they're all over the map! What's a grandma to do? 

Well that's easy!

I sit the kiddies down for some academic pencil work on math facts and phonics from colorful, appealing Usborne workbooks. (See a favorite pictured below.) Dollar Tree offers a selection of early elementary topics that serve well, too. Kids get right down to business because they know that in "Grandma World" there's always a reward for diligence!.....


Don't ask me how I came up with this one, but it's an oft mentioned hit! At table center, I sprinkle a dozen wrapped chocolate mini-size goodies. Here's the rules: We go 'round the table, luxuriating in the fact that it's our choice alone when to break suspense with a lusty yell of "CANDY GRAB!" With squeals of joy, we reach for a piece, evenly divided so no one ever comes up short. Silent busyness is a requirement for participation, and the loot must be saved for post-quiet time enjoyment at mommy's discretion once grandma has departed. A welcomed side bonus has been the new absence of "tomfoolery"* during that daily respite! 

* "tomfoolery!" SUCH a grandma-era word! πŸ˜‚  

Now back to the books......

So, what's the buzz about those sporty "fly eyes" modeled above? Well, just a bit of hands-on fun for that little guy and his pizza-making cousin. Those two require one-on-one attention while older sibs complete workbook pages. This week, it's a session on bugs! Who they are, what they do, and how they see the world! It's all there in this little gem of a very attractively priced book** showing page after page of "normal" bugs (caterpillars, fireflies, grasshoppers, dragon flies) your kiddoes mostly already know and love. Full page color pictures draw us in, and the boys and I enjoy fun facts on each page about those critters. When we emerge, we know that spiders are not "insects"...they're eight-legged arachnids! We know that those "roly poly" bugs under backyard rocks are crustaceans! And finally, we see for ourselves why flies are so quick on their feet and hard to swat because the multi-lenses in their eyes watch us coming from every angle!*** 

**The Backyard Bug Book for Kids by Lauren Davidson   ***Fly Eyes by Play Visions 

But WAIT! There's MORE!

Beyond the bug info in Davidson's book, a handful of related activity pages allow a three year old to feel part of the schooling gang. Matching, counting, tracing....a spider web maze....we complete a few each time we meet. My little entomologists don't know it yet, but there's a fun reward waiting for them when they graduate this book!...

is a treasured name in puppetry. And it doesn't disappoint when it comes to being "cute as a bug!" Each firefly finger puppet is approximately 5" long. With slight pressure, tails light up in a comforting greenish glow. Perfect little companions to take to bed and communicate with while easing into slumber, dreamily recalling the day's fun with grandma! (Oh, had to have that roly poly, too! Just couldn't resist!) 

Winding up.....

Crafting and art projects are looked forward to the most at each visit, so we save the best for last. This time, we tear strips of green construction paper and glue a grassy habitat for the ladybugs we paint in bright tempera red. Black spots are the product of finger tip printing, and six legs (only six!) are carefully drawn in marker. Mixed media ventures employing multiple skills are my favorites, and the kids enjoy them, too.

Next time, we'll learn step-by-step dinosaur drawing, paint them in texture, then cut and glue them into a habitat that recalls Van Gogh's Starry Night masterpiece. Art history, too, is on the agenda! Please come join us! 

And finally....a favor!

If you're an Amazon customer without an "Amazon Smile" account, I'd like to invite you to create one to benefit a very worthy cat rescue, Crash's Landing and Big Sid's Sanctuary. This free roaming shelter and adoption center cares for cats plucked from the streets in all states of trauma, abuse, and neglect. An all-volunteer staff, including the beloved founder, a veterinarian, responds to each need with medical care and lifelong security. Here they are on Facebook! 

Signing on for "Amazon Smile" is a simple procedure from your account page. It costs you nothing but does so much! A 0.5% credit will benefit this charity every time you make a purchase. 


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Book Review: Grandparenting: Renew, Relive, Rejoice

Now there's a word I'd have brushed aside in irritable haste during the frenzied years three very active daughters lived at home. Even defining "mindfulness" would have been a head scratching puzzle amidst deep dives into self-set goals and challenges: birthday parties, science fairs, sports practices and games, homework help, prom dates, friend sleepovers, family vacations......Did I beat the deadlines? Hang those decorations? Take the pictures? Earn the accolades? Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. But how many of those hours were dedicated to mindful fulfillment (i.e. deliberate, kind awareness) of my parental duties?
Ummm......not so many......😞

Grandparenthood, they say, is a second chance. This stage of life, with significant lessening of caregiving responsibility, is an opportunity to get it right; it's a slowing down period of adjusting values and reworking what went wrong in the past. We can now be a mindful presence in the lives of a new, wide-eyed generation eager to hear what we have to say, anxious to imitate what we do. This, I tell myself, is not a time to goof things up again!

But how is this done? Where are the guidelines? The ideas? The real-life exercises? Where do we go for a step-by-step map of mindful living that will enrich relationships between grandparents and children? 

Well, HELLO! Right here!.....

Pam Siegel and Leslie Zinberg have collaborated to share a path to deeper communication with our grandchildren, no matter their ages. Grandparenting - Renew, Relive, Rejoice is a 127 page volume offering 52 Ways to Mindfully Connect and Grow with Your Grandkids. Within the pages of this book, you'll find mindfulness defined and developed for your personal imitation. Significantly, the authors don't just toss a breezy "talk to those kids!" your way (like many self-help books do). These ladies tell you what to say, where to go, and how to act once you get there! I like recognizing myself in some of the suggestions and sidebar quips from other grandparents. We've taken leisurely strolls, paper sacks in hand, gathering stuff of nature to take home to talk about, comparing textures and colors. But page 61 has additional ideas for me - activities that enhance "the journey (more) than the destination," and they are ones I'm going to put to immediate use!

We find a pointed absence of purchased fun in the mindful approach. Here is a place where our "presence," not "presents" are valued. Spontaneous, cost-free bonding experiences are true lasting gifts of love, not a shameful warehouse of redundant toys.....

Right under my nose (sorry! πŸ˜‰) is a fun game of "scent awareness" (page 69) that older kids will enjoy right along with younger sibs and cousins. They'll remember it for years, especially when a familiar smell (grandma's kitchen?) evokes peace and comfort. You'll find reasons and rules for modeling "do as I do" compassion for people and respect for our planet on page 55. And, I like the "glass-half-full" solution on page 47 because it's taken me decades to just stop and breeeeathe when things go wrong. I want to spare my grandkids the same needless anxiety. There's more in the Meditations chapter near the end of the book on tips and tools for calming oneself through the inevitable storms of life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, learned much from it, and highly recommend it. It has firmly nudged me to practice a mindful lifestyle with my grandchildren - one that I expect will strengthen our relationships and shape all of us into deliberate, kind, and aware human beings.

Read the easy going style of Grandparenting - Renew, Relive, Rejoice once. Then keep it at hand to savor week after week, point by point, for an entire year. That's what I'm in the process of doing!

Purchase the book here - at Amazon.

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated with a free product sample 
              in exchange for my honest review. Photograph and opinions are my own.