Be the fun grandparents
FIRST PUBLISHED DEC. 24, 2014
It's the last day of Hanukkah 2014. Christmas this year follows on the heels of those sacred Jewish holy days. Our son and his family have flown in to celebrate the holidays with extended family. His wife and daughter are Jewish and we will honor their traditions by giving both of them a gift on this eighth day of light. Tomorrow morning they will be bestowed Christmas gifts when we join my dad, sister and brother-in-law. But today, we acknowledge the miracle that long ago allowed a menorah's candles to burn for eight days with merely a day's worth of oil.
We view it as a blessing when the two holidays coincide. What better way to learn about someone else's religion? As followers of the Baha'i Faith, Tom and I strive to be sensitive to others' religious practices and beliefs. We are aware of Jewish holy days on the calendar now more than ever and remember to send our daughter-in-law the appropriate greeting card to mark the occasion. When she met my extended family, Christmas and Hanukkah were at the same time, so we made sure we had a menorah for her. My parents even bought a book about Judaism so they could learn more about it.
Our youngest granddaughter is not yet 2 years old, but as she grows we will be more than happy to celebrate all her Jewish holidays, holy days and rites of passage. We were unable to attend her naming ceremony, but our sisters made the trip and graciously stood in for us.
One holiday tradition we have begun with our little granddaughter is giving her cute pajamas to wear on Christmas morning, primarily for picture-taking purposes. We are keenly aware, however, not to buy those wih Christmas designs all over them. Instead, we look for snowflakes, winter scenes and colors other than red and green, and her mother very much appreciates this.
Last year, our daughter-in-law asked whether we could create gingerbread houses together, a tradition she and our son started during the holidays. My sister's brand new kitchen island countertop was christened with that sugary holiday masterpiece! We had so much fun they've asked about making another this year. When we discovered our granddaughter has an affinity for trains, not only did we buy a gingerbread village with miniature houses, we found a gingerbread train! And Grampy, being Grampy, just had to get that train for his little granddaughter, too.
Family and faith are important. It is essential we all grow in faith and develop acceptance of all the world's religions. Thus, we come to understand one another on a deeper and more spiritual level, for ultimately the purpose of life, of our very existence, is to know and worship God and to help build community. We do that by living our lives the best we possibly can.
So I leave you with this, gentle readers, on this last day of Hanukkah. May God's light, from whatever source it shines, enable you to share your own bright light with your family and friends this sacred holiday season!
FIRST PUBLISHED DEC. 17, 2014
Now that we are celebrating Christmas season, I absolutely must share with you one of our greatest holiday memories. Before I tell it, though, keep in mind my dad owns an honest-to-goodness antique set of sleigh bells. The real deal ... that actually sound like the real deal.
Our two, Seth and Katie, were perhaps 8 and 4 years old and in love with the magic and wonder of Santa Claus. We always celebrated the holiday at my parents' house, and had just come home from Christmas Eve church service. As most children are on that special night, they were beyond excited. Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's was highly anticipated and always so much fun. Fragrances of bayberry candles and holiday baking greeted us when we arrived, favorite Christmas music played softly from the stereo, the tree stood tall and regal in the middle of the sunroom bedecked with twinkling lights and ornaments, mouthwatering cookies begged to be eaten, a crackling wood fire kept us all toasty, empty stockings waiting to be filled hung over the fireplace, and the kids were enveloped in their grandparents' arms for hugs and kisses. It was warm, it was welcoming, it was home! The memory of it puts me in the Christmas spirit still today. Is it any wonder our children were not sleepy at all? They knew Santa had not been there yet: although there were some presents displayed under the tree, not all of them were there. After trying everything to get Seth and Katie to go downstairs to bed, we reminded them that if they weren't asleep when Santa came he might not leave any presents. They both knew all too well the story of Santa, his reindeer pulling a sleigh with bells a-jingling, and how they land on the rooftop before Santa comes down the chimney. Yep. Knew all that. Had the book. Read it. Every year. Yet they begged to stay up just a little bit longer with the grownups.
And then ... Grandpa Guy's brilliant idea! While we distracted the kids, he slipped out into the garage, quietly picked up the sleigh bells, went outside and walked all around the house in the pitch dark stillness of the night.
"Hey, everyone! Listen. What's that noise? Kids! Do you hear that? Ohhhh, we think Santa's verrrrry close by!
Sleigh bells! Softly at first, then very LOUD sleigh bells! Then quietly again as he rounded the corner of the house. You never saw such saucer-eyed expressions in your life! You never saw two children bound down the basement stairs and into bed so quickly, either! And lo and behold, you wouldn't believe how fast they fell asleep. It. Was. Priceless! And thanks to my dad for making it all happen. He WAS Santa that year! In fact, he continued in this role for a couple more years until the youngest children in the family were older, creating what my kids tell me are some of their fondest childhood memories. As Katie recalls, "In that brief moment every year, the whole world was created just for us. And it truly was just pure magic."
What are some of YOUR favorite grandparent holiday memories? I invite you, dear readers, to share them with us! Have a very merry and memorable holiday.
And above all, as Grampy says, HAVE FUN!
FIRST PUBLISHED DEC. 10, 2014
What are your family's must-have holiday cookies? Undoubtedly, some of them have been passed down through the generations. This post is about my grandmothers, all the baking they did during Christmas, and the traditions borne of those recipes.
My maternal grandma made the best sugar cookies we've ever tasted. No matter how many seasonal cookbooks I scour when they come out each year, I never find a recipe similar to hers. Most sugar cookies are made with vanilla extract, but she created hers with lemon extract and lemon zest. Likewise, she put lemon extract in the icing. Oh, my, what a delectable treat! And so much fun to make! For hours, we would roll out the dough, punch out holiday-themed shapes with cookie cutters, bake them, ice them and decorate every single one. I inherited many of her recipes before she passed away, but her sugar cookies are, by far, my favorite. Our daughter happily joins her children in baking these sugary confections and it is now one of their favorite Christmas traditions. Painting and decorating each and every cookie allows their artistic talents to shine. My grandma lives on so long as these cookies are made and shared with others! And in our daughter's youngest's love for cooking and baking, for sure.
My paternal grandma, whose family was from Germany, used recipes for anise cookies that had been brought over from the old country. She made two kinds, actually. One recipe calls for rolling out dough with a springerle rolling pin (carvings in the wood leave impressions as it's rolled across the dough), but I always found this way too complicated. Her other recipe was for anise drop cookies. Much easier and actually tastier in my opinion. These anise cookies are my other favorite Christmas cookie. And my dad's. They have to be made a month ahead to give their flavor time to enhance, and only the two of us will eat them. Funny thing about anise — or licorice. You either love it or hate it. "More for us!" I always tell him. And it's the perfect coffee-dunking cookie. It just wouldn't be Christmas without them!
I have never believed in secret family recipes. A lot of love goes into food preparation and baking for your family. Food is meant to be shared! Sure, if you're a famous chef or corporate franchise restaurant owner and must have secret recipes, fine by me. I get that. But the holidays are all about family, and we should share food — and recipes — willingly. So, in the spirit of holiday giving, I am sharing my favorite cookie recipes with all of you. I think my grandmothers would be smiling to know these sweet memories of them live on!
Grandma Lorena Stenger's Sugar Cookies
Mix together and set aside 2 1/2 c. flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt.
1/2 c. butter (melted), 1 tbsp. milk, 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. lemon extract (lemon zest from one lemon can also be added)
Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter with milk, add sugar and cream well. Add eggs and mix again. Stir in lemon zest, if desired. Add the mixed dry ingredients. Add lemon extract and mix well. Chill for 1-2 hours.
Roll out dough on surface covered with flour and sugar. Set aside 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. sugar for this purpose and add as needed. I also dust my rolling pin and cookie cutters with the flour/sugar mixture to keep the dough from sticking to them. Cut out individual cookies and place on non-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Keep checking for doneness. (If your oven gets hotter the longer it is on, your baking time might lessen by a few minutes. You might need the full 15 minutes in the beginning and less time toward the end for the cookies to be done. This is why it's important to keep checking them.)
Immediately transfer from cookie sheet to cooling racks. Once cooled, put cookies in air tight containers.
1 c. confectioner sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. lemon extract, 1 tbsp or more water. Set aside desired food coloring.
Mix together (to a consistency that easily can be "painted" onto the cookie), divide into separate containers and add food coloring of your choice. (I usually double or triple this icing recipe, as we make LOTS of sugar cookies and use several colors with which to decorate them.) Paint icing onto cookies and let dry completely before decorating with tube icing, sprinkles, etc. NOTE: Be sure to invest in high-quality paint brushes so they don't shed when icing the cookies.
Once the icing has dried, put the cookies back in plastic, airtight containers so they won't dry out. (These cookies have a tendency to dry out quickly, so I make them just a few days before Christmas.) Put waxed paper between layers, so the icing and decorations won't stick to other cookies. I make sure our cookies that look like artistic masterpieces are placed on top before the lid is sealed!
Grandma Marie Hamilton's Anise Cookies
This is a precise recipe. It must be followed to the letter for the cookies to come out right.
3 eggs (room temp), 1 c. + 2 tbsp. sugar, 1 3/4 c. pre-sifted flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. anise extract
Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar gradually and beat for 20 minutes (yes, you read that correctly — 20 minutes). Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat an additional 3 minutes. Add anise extract and continue to mix for a few seconds. Drop by teaspoon on greased and floured cookie sheets. Let stand overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes until cookies are golden, not brown. Transfer immediately to cooling racks. Store in airtight cookie tin a month prior to eating them. To help cookies strengthen in flavor, loosely wrap an orange or tangerine in waxed paper and nestle in the middle of the cookies. Keep checking to be sure cookies do not get too moist. If they do, remove the orange.
When it's time to eat them, try dunking them in a cup of hot coffee or tea. Yummy!
FIRST PUBLISHED DEC. 3, 2014
My husband and I are truly blessed to still have our fathers living. My dad and father-in-law both celebrated birthdays in November, so I am sharing memories of their times with our children and grandchildren in this post.
My father-in-law is Ben and his grandpa name is Poppa. Dad is Gerald, or Jerry, and his grandpa name is Guy. We often kidded the two of them that they should open their own ice cream store and call it Poppa and Guy's. Alas, no one would get the joke except those who knew their given names.
Dad obtained his grandpa name in a "what goes around comes around" kind of way. Our son called him Grandpa and still does, but our daughter and niece call him Guy. This came about when my niece was born and Dad greeted her with "Hi, guy!" because she had very little hair and evidently looked like a little boy to him. When she started talking, she turned it around and greeted him with "Hi, guy!" and it stuck. So he is affectionately called Guy by my niece and daughter, and Grandpa Guy by his great-grandchildren.
Lots of kids like to roughhouse with their parents and grandparents, but my dad preferred gentler methods of having fun. A favorite tradition was "walking on the ceiling." When the kids were little and light enough to pick up, they loved that he would hold them upside down at the waist, put their feet on the ceiling and "walk" them across the room. Much giggling would ensue, along with "Do it again! Do it again!"
Poppa Benny is also a gentle soul. He relishes time spent with our children and grandchildren in quiet ways as well. Favorite traditions with him are playing UNO!, Battleship, Monopoly and other games. Family vacations were spent in Wildwood, NJ, at one of the best and safest beaches for children. And now that he has great-granchildren, he yearns for them to have the Wildwood experience, too.
My dad was an electrician and our son spent many hours in Guy's basement workshop, absorbing everything his grandfather did. Years later, as a teenager, our son installed a dimmer switch in his bedroom. When I asked how he knew to do that, he simply replied he'd watched Guy do it once. ONCE! And after all that time he remembered how it was done. Amazing!
Our daughter has always been fascinated by history and her ancestry. Poppa is able to satisfy her desire to know about life in the '40s, one of Ben's favorite eras. He introduced her to Big Band music and they talk incessantly about sports. When Ben and his daughter upgraded the interior of the house he's lived in since the '50s, our daughter mourned the loss of the way it used to look — that's how she remembered it and wanted it to stay.
We are scattered now and it's not easy to get together with family as much as we used to. Yet, when we do, it's easy to fall into the same rhythm, the same conversations. The kids and their grandfathers find common ground and continue to make new memories. When our granddaughters visit here in NC, we carve out special time with Grandpa Guy and find activities we can do together. Last summer's peace pole was the highlight of their time with him. The year before, we took the grands to New England where they fell in love with the Connecticut countryside and seashore and spent hours playing UNO! and looking through family photos with Poppa. And we are making more memories still with our son's daughter, who is almost 2, as she grows up.
You know activities are a hit when the children can't stop talking about what they did on their vacations. Our son and daughter had many, many such times with their grandparents; likewise our grandchildren with their great-grandparents, and it is impossible to relay all those wondrous moments in this post. Suffice it to say, Tom and I are doing our best to emulate our own parents and provide the magnificent grandparenting experience our own parents did and still do. We can only hope that when we are in our 80s and 90s, as our fathers are now, that we are still as involved and fun.
FIRST PUBLISHED NOV. 27, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This is Tom, thanking Kim for all she does by giving her a week’s respite from blogging duties.
Family. It’s what we celebrate most on this holiday. And connecting our grandchildren with their family heritage is part of what we try to do each summer.
In previous posts Kim has mentioned trips we’ve made. Last summer it was to Ohio to show the girls where she grew up and where we and their mother later lived. The summer before it was to Connecticut to visit my dad and sister and to learn about an area of the state my mom’s family settled in the 1630s.
Through books, music, dolls and — in the case of a Japanese tea set, literally — we’ve given the girls a taste of their cultural roots.
Another layer was added to this experience this past summer. We went out and bought huge maps of the world and the United States that showed the borders but not names of present-day countries and states.
Then we dove into the genealogy I had done for our families and made a list. From what countries did our ancestors emigrate? In what states have members of our families lived?
With that information in hand, we proceeded to color those countries and states. It was interesting to see what countries and states the girls could identify on their own. It was interesting to see what countries and states Kim and I could identify on our own! For the rest we turned to the trusty Internet.
There’s more, of course, to genealogy than where our ancestors lived. So many stories await discovery. The girls’ dad is half Japanese and half Okinawan and his parents were born and raised in Hawaii. What can we learn about those places and their people and culture? Kim is descended from kings and queens of just about every European country going. Why have royal families so often intermarried and what impact has that had on the course of those nations? My mother’s family counts at least three Mayflower passengers and a Jewish heritage we knew nothing about. What brought those ancestors to these shores and what lives did they build here?
As you can see, there’s fodder for many more summer adventures. Perhaps for you, too. Enjoy!
FIRST PUBLISHED NOV. 19, 2014
As promised, the antique shopping story continues, only this time it was in Orange, California, and I take this opportunity to plug our favorite two stores there: Antique Station and Orange Circle Antique Mall. Fabulous finds and extremely friendly staff — and customers — who helped us a lot. We loved our experiences there.
I mentioned in my last post that my oldest granddaughter has always wanted an old-fashioned Victorian-era porcelain doll and that last summer's search was unsuccessful. Never sure if we'd find what she wanted, I went on a quest of my own and found three gorgeous dolls at a mom and pop thrift store here in North Carolina. I shipped them to my daughter and prior to my visit had her choose the ones she thought the girls would like. Once I arrived for my visit, and before we went picking the next day, I surprised them with their dolls. We were both spot on knowing which doll each one of them would choose. Do we know our girls or what?! I suggested, and they agreed, the doll neither of them chose be donated to a child who might not otherwise have anything for Christmas. They all thought that was a great idea!
We drove to Orange the next morning and, having obtained the elusive porcelain dolls, pursued our interests in all other things old. We tried on hats, oohed and ahhed over beautiful jewelry, checked out Civil War-era swords, admired paintings, donned fur collared coats several sizes too big, imagined making wedding dresses, and checked out holiday decor. Our eldest granddaughter found more skeleton keys for her collection, the younger one selected two ceramic owls and their mama came away quite happy with a delicate old hankie and a couple of cute Christmas mouse ornaments. At another store, we purchased a rhinestone rose necklace and a Hello Kitty watch for the girls. (You can see these items in the slide show above.)
At one point, while looking at old phones, my daughter came away chuckling, remarking that as her youngest put her finger in the holes of the phone, she looked up at her mom and said, "I don't get it. How do you call someone?" Ah, yes, no one dials anymore. It's all push button or touch screen technology now. How times have changed. Yet, therein lies the history lesson, right? And now she knows things others her own age probably don't.
A quite serendipitous occurrence was yet to happen. Although the girls now owned a porcelain doll each, we hit the jackpot later in the week at the Salvation Army Family Store. As soon as we walked into the store, like bears to honey, the girls spied and rushed over to two beautiful Victorian-era dolls sitting on a shelf. They were affordable AND perfect — one in a lavender gown caught the eye of our oldest granddaughter, the other in blue was our younger's choice. These are the girls' favorite colors, and it was just so obviously meant to be. You never saw two happier little faces in your life! And now they are the owners of two porcelain dolls each.
We all recommend these real life history lessons you can give your children and grandchildren. Learning about the past, who people were, how things worked, and what life was like will give them a greater appreciation for their lives in the present and instill in them a desire to protect the future. Even if you never buy a thing at an antique store, the history lessons are there waiting to be learned. They are truly remarkable museums for everyone!
FIRST PUBLISHED NOV. 4, 2014
I’m going to divert from the binder for this post and share with you the marvels of a child’s mind. Summer before last I introduced our oldest granddaughter to the wonders of picking—antique shopping—as she has a fascination with old things, what they were used for and the stories of the people who owned them. Most of all she desired an antique porcelain doll.
I had never been picking until a friend introduced me to it two years ago when we were both looking for wooden boxes with which to create fairy gardens. As we walked (and walked and walked!) through 88,000 square feet and 625 booths at The Depot at Gibson Mill in Concord, NC, I just knew our oldest would enjoy it immensely. Needless to say, she was mesmerized and found the experience totally enjoyable. Around every corner and down every aisle I would hear, “Dandy, look at this!” or “Dandy, I wonder what this was used for?” I could see the gears turning in her head, wondering what life was like for the people who used old sewing machines, phonographs, or cast iron kitchen utensils; what kinds of functions they attended in the costumes of the period; or how in the world a hand-cranked ice cream maker was used. Many times I had to slow down and take her journey through The Depot, not mine. Often I had to warn her that certain items were indeed not antiques, but most of the time she figured that out on her own.
Her passion is fashion design and all the period costumes totally engaged her. She lovingly and tenderly fingered old, lacy wedding dresses, her eyes lighting up at the thought of trying them on but there were so many it would have taken all day. The hats, however, were just begging to be perched upon her head. Out came my camera to capture all the posing and modeling!
Eager to make a smart purchase, she bought an inexpensive antique ring that year as the memento of her first picking experience. No affordable porcelain doll was found, but she made me promise to take her again the following summer.
Which we did. With her little sister. At THREE antique malls! Our first jaunt was in Belmont, NC, at the Catawba River Antique Mall. More oohing and aahing and “Will you buy me this?” and “Can I have one, too?” How can a grandma resist? We found beautiful kidskin gloves, a couple of very nice music boxes, skeleton keys, and old wooden boxes for the keys (and other keepsakes). Our eldest finally got to try on some clothes at that antique mall and found a stunning Asian-style dress that flattered her. The younger one discovered a tiny antique doll dressed in an Italian costume that she just had to give a new home. These purchases were very meaningful since they have both Japanese and Italian heritage
And, yes, we went back to The Depot at Gibson Mill this past summer to fulfill my promise to bring the elder granddaughter back and to introduce our younger granddaughter to the immensity of the place. Wide-eyed with wonder, they both went in search of antique skeleton keys, found what they wanted and looked at all the treasures that facility holds. Right at the end of our trip, lo and behold, before them was the best beloved of all antiques two little girls could want. He immediately captured their hearts with his well-worn fur, one button eye and charming charisma. His imperfections made him perfect and they named him Geronimo and promised to give the old gentleman a loving home with a brand new family. On the drive home, the three of us imagined where this teddy bear had lived and how many people he once belonged to. They promised to write his story and title it “Geronimo’s Journey.”
I will be indulging them and their mama in more antique mall magic in California when I visit next week. Who knows what treasures they’ll find? Geronimo's picture is featured in today's post and next week's blog will show more pics of our picking adventures!
FIRST PUBLISHED OCT. 29, 2014
I want to share with all of you in the next few blog posts the summer binder I use. Previously, I listed all the categories that help organize my ideas of things to do with our grands. For each of these categories I do a ton of research first. I gather information from various Internet sites, YouTube videos, library books and my favorite magazine for this purpose, “Family Fun.” I have probably given our local library more revenue from materials purchased in their book sale section than at any other place in preparation for their visit.
Please don’t let the word research scare you. Looking things up can be a lot of fun. Just be careful the Internet doesn’t sap your time and attention. Pinterest, especially, can be addictive! I got caught up one night looking at fairy gardening ideas there and got sidetracked on pictures of painted rocks. Lots and lots of painted rocks. Forgot why I’d even logged on to Pinterest in the first place, but got some great ideas for creating stone houses and cars for our fairy gardens!
As I find activities on the Internet I think the girls would enjoy, I will copy and paste the entire article into a Word document, or at least the URL. (Some sites I bookmark for future reference, especially if the girls don’t yet meet the activity’s suggested age range but will for future visits.) Once I have several pages saved, I print them out and start putting those articles into categories: Activities, Arts & Crafts, etc. Make tabbed indexes so you can find your desired activity easier, too.
Here is how this past summer’s Activities and Arts & Crafts table of contents page looked:
Beach Fairy Garden
Glow in the Dark Fan Blades
Ivory Soap Trick
Pipe Cleaner Creatures
Solar Powered Prints
Bubble Wrap Painting
Famous Artist Art
Mixed Media Lines
Mixed Media Placemat
Norman Rockwell Art Detective
Paint in a Container
Rainbow Fish Collage
Seeing Art in Everyday Objects
Willow Tree Mixed Media
Silk Dyed Scarves
Fake Fur Handbag
Flat Marble Magnets
Glow in the Dark Containers
New Fall Fashion
Did we get all of these accomplished? Not at all. The idea is to overplan so you have plenty of activities from which to choose. And you’ll be surprised which are the hits and which don’t work at all. No worries. That’s why you have gathered a LOT of ideas.
You will inevitably build traditions from doing some activities together. Painting t-shirts has been a tradition from our girls’ very first visit. They absolutely love this craft, so we make new ones each summer. We paint, iron on appliques, glue on rhinestones, whatever they want. Sometimes, Grampy and I will render our creativity on t-shirts, too. Their favorite of mine is the one on which I put three dragonflies — the larger dragonfly being me, and the two smaller ones the girls.
Our girls really enjoyed making Fairy Lights, Glow in the Dark Containers and Masks (crafts) this year. Both of them are very much into glow-in-the-dark items and activities. One year I put a black light in the guest bathroom, covered an entire wall with white newsprint and let them go to town with fluorescent paint. I wanted them to have the experience my sister, brother and I had in our childhood home. Our dad hung several black lights in one area of the basement and let us express our creativity all over the walls. Our blacklight parties were a huge hit among our friends in high school. We had a blast!
Fairy Lights were made the night we picked up Grampy at the airport. We activated glow sticks, dumped the contents into a jar, added a small piece of tulle and some ultra fine glitter, screwed on the lid and shook the jars well. Turned off all the lights and voila — fairy lights! The girls happily waved the lights inside the car as we drove to the airport, and greeted Grampy with them, too.
Our other glowing project involved glow-in-the-dark fabric paint and several glass bowls. The girls dotted the insides of the bowls with paint of one color, waited for it to dry, then added more dots of another color twice more. These were quite stunning when the lights went off. They begged to do more of them as gifts for their parents and friends back home! We were so proud of them for thinking of others.
The masks were inspired by a collection our friends on the lake have all over their guest bathroom walls. I thought the girls might enjoy making their own, so I gathered feathers, rhinestones, pompons and fabric paint for this endeavor. Our youngest decided to be a butterfly for Halloween and wear the mask she created as part of her costume. Success!
What didn’t work? Dyed silk scarves. I thought they’d be all over it, but they wanted to go to their favorite ceramic painting store instead. “Painting ceramics is a tradition,” they cried, so making silk scarves will have to wait another year.
And you will all have to wait another week for my next post of activities and ideas!
As Grampy says,
FIRST PUBLISHED OCT. 22, 2014
It’s funny how things work out in ways you never dreamed they would.
The summer before last we had planned a vacation with the girls in New England, primarily to meet their baby cousin in Massachusetts. We did the Boston touristy things with their aunt and uncle, but the most fun the girls had was making their little cousin laugh. We also visited Grampy’s family in Connecticut and drove to the shore to see Gillette Castle and eat at the famous Mystic Pizza. Lots of fun!
Back in North Carolina toward the end of their summer with us, we took them to Asheville and stopped at Tom’s Creek Falls on the way home. BY FAR, this FREE hike on a very short nature trail was one of the highlights of their summer, discovering mica (this magical, shiny mineral apparently doesn’t exist in southern California) and splashing in the water where it pooled at the bottom of the falls. Who knew? All that traveling and touring and their favorite things that year — playing with the baby and going on a magical hike — were free. Just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money and effort to have fun with your grands.
This past summer, two events topped their favorite activity list. Avid Buckeye fans (yes, we have effectively brainwashed them!), we promised them a trip to Ohio for a two-fold purpose: 1) to see the places their mama and grandma grew up and 2) to visit THE Ohio State University campus with their cousin, which, by their admission, was AWESOME, and has them both yearning to attend that college!
The second, month-long activity they absolutely loved was born of my sister’s idea to paint a peace pole for her yard, and it quickly became a family endeavor. A peace pole is a four-sided, decorated pole that people erect in the yards of their homes or businesses. Traditionally, it has a message stating “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in a different language on each side. We decided to use that message, as well as a saying with which each grandchild identified. Jain chose a one-line poem she created four years ago at the age of eight with my poetry magnets: “I Am the Dawn of Possible.” Sofia, our free-spirited grandchild, chose “Let Your Spirit Be Free” and Great-Grandpa wrote his favorite, “Just Be.” We then proceeded to paint birds, butterflies, hearts, and pussy willows on the pole and topped it with a cap painted with the words LOVE, FAITH, HOPE and PEACE. This project took time, as one side had to be finished before working on another side. But in the end, it was a gorgeous, handmade, from-the-heart piece of art that will live on in their memories forever. It stands proudly in my sister’s backyard where we can all see it as we gaze out the windows of their porch.
You might want to try painting a peace pole with your own grandchildren one day. Here are some photos of ours for you to enjoy.
And as always,
FIRST PUBLISHED OCT. 15, 2014
Every late winter/early spring, the gathering begins — ideas of what to do with the grandchildren when they arrive the following summer! Let me emphasize that nothing is written in stone. Our summers together often unfold organically and we just let the days become what they will. Never have we accomplished every single activity or idea in the binder. Never. So please don’t create it with that goal in mind because it’s just not going to happen. Be very, very flexible when it comes to spending time with young children. They will often invent/create stuff that’s better than anything you could have put in the binder. That said, the categories I try to cover in mine include the following:
Each of these categories includes endless ideas gleaned from parenting magazines, library books, Internet research, family traditions and other parents/grandparents. I have listed a few activities beneath the main categories to give a general idea of where I’m going with my plans each summer.
Messterpiece (a messy, painted masterpiece we affectionately termed messterpiece)
Famous Art Work Reproduction
Be an Art Detective
Mixed Media projects
Glow-in-the-Dark Fairy Lights
Flat Marble Magnets
Discussing the Future
Round Robin stories
Learn a new instrument
Introduce different musical genres
Walks/hikes on greenways, parks, trails
Pontoon boat rides on the lake
Visit beaches, forests, waterfalls
Plan a special trip (we’ve done D.C.; Wildwood, NJ; East Coast; Ohio) for an extended period of time.
Birthday Parties (both grandchildren were born in the summer, so we sometimes have a joint birthday party for the two of them)
My three-ring binder makes it so much easier for me to plan their visit. As I choose activities, I am also able to put together a list of materials and supplies we'll have to have on hand for them. For the old Girl Scout in me, it's all about being organized and prepared. I hope you find this idea helpful and encourage you to have a plan of your own making before your spend time with your grandchildren. It will make your time together less stressful when you're fully ready for their visit. I look forward to sharing details from time to time on some of the activities we've enjoyed together, so watch for those in future posts!
Grampy (my hubby) always encourages everyone to "Have fun!" instead of saying, "Goodbye," so because this is a blog about how to be fun grandparents, we will close with