Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Tic Tac Bug Attack!

Red bugs, yellow bugs, super duper busy bugs!

Five year old cousins and every day besties, Tyler and Channing, demanded their day at grandma camp this week. Sometimes it’s a scramble to think of effective ways to keep boys of this age engaged in sit-down-and-concentrate activities. This pair prefers to free lance instructions. Example: The red yarn I supplied for decorative use quickly morphed into a mission to trail a length of it around and about the house: upstairs, downstairs, inside and out. Curious cats, enticed from hiding, put an abrupt end to that quest, but I had to admire the creativity of cousin teamwork for as long as it lasted!

Now for the project!….

My artsy sense that every stray bottle cap, spool, and pill bottle has crafting potential yielded thrifty raw material for several satisfying summer successes. This one’s a tic tac toe game, super-starring bugs we carefully studied first, just to get a hang of how they “hang on” with six legs, not eight! We looked at wing sets, too, and the complexity of those big “buggy” eyes. And then we were ready to buzz on over to begin!….

Prep work first, though!

I don’t mind trusting a seven year old with a spray can, especially while I hover at his elbow as he works. But a five year old? With a mischievous sparkle in his eye? Nah! I sprayed bug tokens in advance, five each of red and yellow for each crafter - then hid the cans! 

After that, I sorted a color coded selection of feathers, pipe cleaners, wiggle eyes, paper scraps, pom poms, scissors, and glue….

And then we got to work!….

Some feather fluff atop the head, foam sticker wings, and pipe cleaner appendages are Tyler’s wise choices.

Dripping with glue, these little guys acquire their means of vision thanks to Channing’s artsy diligence.

Once the last pom pom was plopped atop, these brave little soldiers were ready for battle on a grandma-made playing board. The best fun didn’t occur here, though! Nope. Those moments arrived back home when both boys, puffing with pride, challenged mom, dad, and siblings to fiercely competitive games with red and yellow tokens that “may or may not” resemble bugs, but satisfied the souls of those who dug deeply into a box of throw away scrap and emerged winners! 

Intrigued by the thrifty fun you can enjoy with a pile of junk, a spray paint can, and a stream of glue that never quits? Here’s Austin, age seven, proudly displaying the nifty* robot he constructed from reclaimed goodies when it was his turn at Grandma Camp. 

* “nifty” 🤣 a word that’s sooo “grandma vocab” it draws curious expressions around the table every time it’s heard! “Groovy,” too! Now there’s an even better one! 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

“A Lizard Walks Into Grandma Camp…….”

If you know us at all, you know we’re pet-crazy people. Cat-and-dog-rescuing, wildlife-feeding, unusual-critter-adopting crazy people!…..

Ergo, not a single one of us registered a bit of surprise when a lizard walked into Grandma Camp last week! 

Meet Lizzy. She’s Channing’s pet shop purchased pint size leopard gecko. These little critters are friendly, curious, and love to explore. In addition, they enjoy posing for paintings and being studied for sketching. Experiment all you want with creative color combos and a palette of appealing patterns, they won’t mind one bit!….. 

So that’s exactly what we did!

Lizzy is a living, breathing canvas of artistic principles and elements of design. I guided my four-kid-cousin-crew to observe a strong light-dark contrast in repetitive spots of varying size. Lizzy’s flexible, tapering body shape is linear; grippy little toes offer more variety in size. 

Armed with those observations, we established her position on paper with a penciled swirl. That curved line will serve as an axis for her symmetrical body. Viewing from above, it was quick work to sketch head shape and limbs, maintaining balance as we drew. 

And now the fun part! 

Lizzy may, indeed, be cute as a button, but a colorful specimen she’s not. (Her modus operandi, I understand, is to peek from beneath an equally drab pile of sand and rocks, smirking in observation of your frantic search for her little ole camouflaged self!). Our artsy instincts can fix that, though, at least on paper! 

Lizzy says: “Here I am at home in my fancy aquarium. See me? Not even part of my pointy lil tail under that leaf? Ha! No ya don’t!”

Sketched patterns feature repetitive shapes that vary in size, complementing the areas they decorate.

Strongest color schemes are limited to just a few choices, both light and dark, warm and cool. Mix colors for variety and add black or white to introduce tints, tones, and shades. 

Completed work of this quality demands decorative framing! A busy lizard asks for a simple geometric pattern, the opposite for a more languid design. 

So!….now you know what happens when “a lizard walks into Grandma Camp!” 

Insider grandma tip: 😉 Don’t skimp on quality of materials for kids, especially paint brushes. They will influence outcomes. Nobody’s inspired by a trail of shed hairs in every colorful stroke, or a blob of a brush when fine tuned detailing is desired. Teach your protégées to wash brushes carefully in cold water! Hot water softens glue and releases hair from the ferrule of even the most expensive brush.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Grandma’s Summer Culture Club

One Love is the original art work of Edie Pijpers. Used with permission. Prints available at

Put on your summer thinking capsgrandkiddoes

The arrival of summer break produces an initial burst of exuberant joy and relief. A week or so later, boredom’s creepy little head pokes itself into the crevices of carefree lives. Understandable. School kids are creatures of structure, tuned to the intake of new and exciting facts, ideas, and experiences. Clearly, there’s a mid-June, grandma-with-a-computer gap to be filled here!….

And I’ve got the solution!….

Grandma’s Summer Culture Club is my invention. Its goal is to supply enrichment in language, fine art, and classical music in a relaxed, noncompetitive, inclusive way. Invitations extended to ten grandchildren were enthusiastically accepted. Six of them live within a few miles of me, four are states away. Ages range from nearly five to thirteen. Usually it’s a challenging task to keep such a diverse crew engaged, but I’ve enjoyed full participation with them all. 

Here’s how it works:

Every Monday, I group message two “vocabulary words of the week” with definitions. Included are sentences I wrote using those words. (Grandkids and pets are often the topics, heavy on inside jokes!). Club members discuss the words with mom and submit their own sentences for others to read. A cumulative spelling test is an added option. 

Up next are pictures of two well known works of art, paintings or sculpture. It’s nice to recognize art when it appears in popular culture, so kids are encouraged to research the pieces and learn more about them. They might also decide to make their own copies of a painting. 

Finally, I supply the title of a classical musical work by a significant composer with instructions to “ask Alexa to play it.” That one, I’m sure, is greeted with pre-teen eye rolls and groans, but this grandma marches onward, knowing that the future holds rewards when a familiar glimpse, note, or word pops up and a smug little smile of recognition crosses the face of a Grandma’s Summer Culture Club member! 

Getting started….

Here’s a few vocabulary words I suggest: mandatory, superfluous, threshold, rudimentary, sedentary, legible, heritage, impetus, velocity, verbatim, truculent, innocuous, lament, gullible, quench, proposition, prominent, perpetual, patriot, optimistic, obsolete, nebulous, mollify, restitution, reprimand, quest, legible, threshold, sumptuous, stamina, zenith, vindicate, verbatim, vacillate, unilateral, prudent, augment, feasible, pretentious fiasco, malign, nemesis, obsolete, opaque, accumulate

Art work: The Scream, American Gothic, Nike of Samothrace, Starry Night, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Persistence of Memory, Dancers in Blue, Nighthawks, The Thinker, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Soup Cans, La Grande Vitesse, The Last Supper, Self Portrait - daVinci

Music: Fifth Symphony - Beethoven, Second Waltz - Shostakovich, Daphnis and Chloe Suite no. 2 - Ravel, Morning - Grieg, Water Music - Handel, Hall of the Mountain King - Grieg, Canon in D - Pachelbel, William Tell Overture - Rossini

First day results brought me a sentence from soon-to-be five year old Tyler: “When you drive, it is mandatory to keep the doors closed.” I foresee a lucrative career for this little genius as a writer of consumer caution labels. The infamous “Do not drive with windshield screen in place” comes to mind!