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First Birthdays

Grandkids, Toddlers By March 20, 2016 Tags: , 16 Comments

First birthdays are interesting.  The birthday child has no idea what’s going on.  They are dressed up, hauled around and positioned with props, as LOTS of pictures are taken.  My youngest granddaughter just had her First birthday party.  Yes, I did take a ton of pictures.  But, one of the perks of a digital camera is that you can take a hundred and then delete all but five.Birthday-monnie

The party brought back the memory of my oldest son (her dad) and his First birthday party.  The guests were mostly adults, like most First birthdays are.  I was young and not comfortable with entertaining A LOT of extended family in my living room.  I wanted everything to be perfect because obviously that would prove I was a really good wife and mom. No insecurity issues there.  I baked a sheet cake, not the day before but the morning of the party.  I am not sure what I was thinking. Someone should have intervened!

My mom was helping me with the party food.  She was happily prepping something at the kitchen counter. The oven buzzer went off, the cake was done.  I asked her to move an empty pot that was sitting on a burner, so I could sit the cake on the stove top to cool.  I didn’t give it any more thought.  I left the cake innocently sitting there while I worked on the other party preparations.

Then I smelled it.  Something was burning…but what?  I checked the oven, it was off.  Nothing was cooking on the stove. Well, except…my cake!  Yes, my mom was getting ready to make something in the empty pan sitting on the stove and had turned the electric burner on.  I didn’t notice it because I had a big cake in my face and she was in a rush to help me and I guess she just forgot it was on.  Anyway, I pulled the very hot cake pan off the top of the stove, let it cool (someplace else) and then flipped it over to survey the damage.  In the bottom of my cake (now the top) was the black, crispy outline of the electric burner!  I could have cried.  Remember, I said that I DID NOT make it the day before but right before the party?  So, making it again is not an option.

I did the only thing I could do at the time.  I carefully cut out the burner marks and filled the large hole with icing.  Then I iced the rest of the cake and decorated it.  When it was time, I started serving it from the non-burnt side.  I was nervous and a little embarrassed but I didn’t hear any complaints.  I fessed up later, after the party was over.

I couldn’t laugh about it then (I was horrified) and I probably gave my mom a hard time, but now it is one of my favorite stories.

My granddaughter had store bought cupcakes. That would have been birthday3-monniemuch easier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dora Doll Debacle

Grandkids, Toddlers By March 6, 2016 Tags: , 13 Comments

What is a grandma to do?

The gift. My youngest granddaughter was about to have her first birthday and I was wondering what to get her. I decided to ask my daughter-in-law if getting her a doll was a good idea. Her older sister has a special doll named “baby” that has been hers for several years, thus “baby” isn’t shareable. I was given a green light to buy her doll.

One month before the birthday party. I raised two boys, buying a baby doll is not part of my skill set but I was up for the challenge. I spent some time scouring Amazon for the perfect doll. I looked at bald babies, talking babies, princess dolls, dolls that eat and pee.  I didn’t want a doll too small. I was looking for one that was soft-ish and hopefully washable. Along with “baby”, I knew my oldest granddaughter likes Elmo and Mini Mouse, so I stayed away from those. I settled on a Dora the Explorer doll. I studied the description, it matched what I was looking for and the reviews were good, I was sold. It arrived quickly (Amazon Prime), it was a little big but that shouldn’t be a problem, she can drag it around or lay on it. I was happy.  However, my husband did ask me to put it back in the box. I guess having the Dora doll sit in a chair in the living room was “creeping him out”…horror movie flashbacks.resized-Dora2-chair

One week before the birthday party. The older sister proudly shows me her new lunch box…Dora the Explorer. Huh….I didn’t know she even knew who Dora was. I am rationalizing that the selection of lunch boxes at the store must have been small or she liked the monkey on the front (evidently Dora’s sidekick). Honestly, it just didn’t click. Looking back, I should have known something was up when she knew the name of the monkey!

The day of the birthday party. I am pretty excited about the gift. I think it is going to be a big hit. The birthday girl is sitting on mommies lap opening presents. Dora is pulled from the gift bag. My son exclaims, “Oh! This could be a problem”. “What do you mean?” I ask surprised. Well…the answer was that Dora is now the new favorite character of my oldest granddaughter (aka older sister). This timely information is given to me along with a concerned look. Not a problem I thought, my oldest granddaughter is a rational, almost three year old, I will just explain the situation. She wasn’t in the room at the unveiling so I went to get her. I carefully tried to explain that I had purchased a Dora doll for her little sister.   This resulted in her jumping up and making a bee-line for the party, scooping up the doll, hugging it and tucking it under her arm. Meanwhile her parents are explaining to her that this is her sister’s doll, not hers. Without releasing the death grip on the doll, she replies, as confident three year olds do, ‘I am just going to hold it for her’. Oh my! The one year old doesn’t understand what is going on and is having more fun playing with the screaming elephant that her other grandmother got her. Never the less, I told my son that I would fix it.

The fix. So, what is a grandma to do? The peace in the family and my sons confidence in me as a grandmother may depend it. I don’t see another option and my husband is behind me 100% (although he is laughing at the situation I got myself into), I get on-line to order another Dora the Explorer doll! I decide to attach a cute little butterfly patch to her shirt so they can tell them apart. Big sigh.

Lessons learned. Next time get a complete list of each granddaughter’s current, favorite characters, in writing from the parents, before purchasing anything!

 

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Where Are the Bath Toys?

Grandkids, Toddlers By February 3, 2016 Tags: , 10 Comments

My oldest granddaughter (who was two and a half at the time) was spending the weekend with us. I decided to give her a nice, warm bubble bath before bedtime. She patiently stood next to me, supervising my work, as I filled the tub. I added extra bubble liquid, probably over the top, but I like bubbles. When the bath was ready I said, “Ok, you can get in now”. With both hands resting on the edge of the tub, she peered in and asked, “Where are the bath toys”? Surprised, I stopped in my tracks.  Bath toys had never even crossed my mind. We both stood for a moment looking at the fluffy bubbles, I looked at her, she looked at me, then I said, “Come on, let’s find some”. We hurried to the other room where I had put away all her teething rings and baby toys. Once I had found them, we headed to the kitchen where I picked up a small plastic cup, a funnel and some old measuring cups. With our hands full, we both hurried back to the tub. Satisfied, she tossed in all the ‘bath toys’ we had managed to find. I had picked up a pink rubber duck along the way and I tossed that in as well. She seemed very happy with her makeshift bath toys.  With a small sigh of relief, for a possible disaster avoided, I sat down on the toilet lid and watched her happily play in the mountain of bubbles.

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A few weeks later, the bath toys ended up doubling as pool toys. I just changed their name. I wasn’t going to get caught being unprepared twice!

 

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Confessions of a Reformed Play Dough Maker

Grandkids, Toddlers By January 10, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , 7 Comments

Another Grandma Lesson

I admit it.  I don’t “do” play dough. As a grandmother, you might have thought I had a wonderful recipe to create this colorful, mushy stuff.  Obviously, after years of lovingly making it for my children and now my grandchildren, the recipe would be perfect. Wrong!  I never let my kids play with it (yes, I feel a little guilty…now).   But, in my defense, when my kids were kids, there wasn’t Pinterest, Google or even the internet. I didn’t  know play dough could be made from scratch. I always thought it had to be purchased from the store.

I felt, at the time, like I had good reasons for not letting them play with it. Of course, stunting their fun or creativity was not among them. Although, in today’s language, I would not be participating in an activity that could help develop their fine motor skills and tactile perception. Which sounds much worse. Honestly, I simply didn’t want to scrape it off the floor and table, pick it out of the carpet (we had shaggier carpet then) or scrub it off the couch.  Plus, my youngest put everything in his mouth.  He used to carry small Legos between his lower lip and teeth, like a kangaroo pouch. Yikes.  Much to my dismay, he didn’t break this habit until he was 4 or 5 years old.

My granddaughter is allowed to play with play dough at her house (great big sigh). Yes, the colorful kind that comes in cute, small tubs.  I suspiciously watch her play with it, time after time, when I visit their home.  I look around, noticing if any is smeared on the walls or permanently stuck to the floor and furniture.  It wasn’t.  Her worst offense was not putting the lid back on the canister. Pinterest taunts me with Pins on the “the best play dough recipe – EVER” or “I made scented play dough for my kids”.  All good moms and yes, grandmom’s, make their own play dough, don’t you know. Ugh.

The pressure was on and I finally caved.  The next time my granddaughter was over for the weekend, I made my very first batch of play dough.  It did result in a wonderful neon green and a beautiful color blue thanks to Wilton.

 

Here is the recipe I used (adapted from several I looked at):

Play dough

  • 2 ½ cups of flourresized-playdough6
  • ½ cup salt
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. cream of tartar
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Food coloring

Combine flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large bowl.  Make a well or dent in the center. Pour in boiling water. Mix. Put on the cutting board and knead until smooth.  Put the dough in a gallon zip lock bag and add food coloring.  Knead in the food coloring while it is in the bag (this will keep your hands from getting stained). Open bag and let it cool.  Store in the refrigerator.playdough3

I also purchased a bag of cookie cutters from the dollar store and gave her some plastic knives and forks to use.resized-playdough2

Come to find out, my granddaughter is very good at keeping the play dough on the table, nothing much hits the floor.

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I laugh and poke fun at myself for being so concerned about cleaning up play dough.  There is a different perceptive that you gain with grandchildren.  I think it may be a type of calm that is acquired though years of living life. I am now less concerned about a messy hand grabbing my shirt, a runny nose, wiped on my shoulder at lightning speed (before I can grab a tissue) and hearing cheerios crunch under my feet, as I walk through the room.  All things I would have been annoyed about a couple of decades earlier.

The grandma lesson I learned though play dough: Relax! Most things can be washed, wiped or vacuumed – it is just not that big of a deal. They will remember the time spent with you, not how neat and tidy the house is.  Sit down, have some fun, get creative and squish that dough.

I am now a reformed play dough maker. And, yes, I WILL make it again – possibly even scented!

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3 Inexpensive Toddler Activities

Grandkids, Toddlers By January 3, 2016 Tags: , , , 5 Comments

My husband and I watched our two granddaughters over the weekend. The youngest is ten months old, the oldest is an energetic 2 ½ year old. I was looking for some activities for the older one, to keep her engaged for short periods of time. My goal was to acquire a tiny bit of “down time” – for me!

These are the three activities I decided to try:

  1. Water color paints. I taped a couple of sheets of wax paper to my table using painters tape. On top of that I taped a sheet of art paper. The “art” paper is from a cheap roll (probably recycled newspaper) I picked up at IKEA.   Any paper will do, including brown bags from the grocery store or paper from the recycle bin. I put the wax paper down to help with clean up.resized-activity1
  2. Gluing paper strips. I cut up pieces of construction paper into smaller pieces, then handed her a brand new glue stick (using the same art paper as a canvas). She liked having control of the glue stick, as she created her collage. The challenge was keeping her from using it as lip stick! I also bought her a pair of beginner scissors, with the thought of teaching her how to cut paper. However, she couldn’t quite get the hang of it and frustrating her would have defeated the purpose of what I was trying to do!resized-activity2
  3. Putting pipe cleaners into a colander. I purchased some multi-colored pipe cleaners and pulled out a plastic colander from my cabinet. I saw this activity on Pinterest and wanted to give it a try. resized-activity4The idea is to cultivate fine motor skills by having them insert the pipe cleaners into the holes of the colander. She worked at it for a little while, which was all I was asking. Actually, she enjoyed sorting and organizing all the pipe cleaners by color, a bit more than the activity. Oh well. I will probably try this one again in a month or so.resized-activity3

These activities kept her happy and busy for short periods of time, which met my goal.  I spent less than $5 on new materials, all of which can be used again for the next adventure.

This post is linked to Grand Social at grandmasbriefs.com

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Cookie Decorating with Kids

Grandkids, Toddlers By December 20, 2015 Tags: , , , , 3 Comments

Here is the scenario. You are trying to decorate dozens of sugar and gingerbread cookies. At your elbow is an enthusiastic toddler-baker that desperately wants to participate. She has the desire, but not the skills. What do you do?

Fail number one: Don’t give them a full bag of icing expecting positive results. Since most young children do not have a good understanding of “don’t squeeze it too hard”, you will end up with a mess. She squeezed the icing bag (too hard), it exploded out of the top and went resized-cookie-dec4everywhere. This picture was taken after we cleaned her up.

 

Fail number two: Don’t let her take control of a full sprinkle bottle. The first cookie she decorated came out 3-D. The innocent gingerbread angel was buried under 2 inches of blue sprinkles. However, we decided to do what Taylor Swift suggests and just “shake it off!”

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The solutions:

Her mom came up with a brilliant idea. Let her paint her cookies. I dug around in my catch-all drawer and found a suitable paint brush. The icing was squeezed into a bowl and she happily went about her work.

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Next we provided her with a sprinkle container that had chunkier sprinkles in it. It was the kind that has 6 compartments. She liked opening and closing the different lids and the sprinkles didn’t flow quite as freely. Another way to keep the sprinkles under control is to plug some of the holes in the top of a regular sprinkle container. Tape should work. I suggest hiding the tape underneath the cap, so they can’t see it. We didn’t get a chance to try this one, but I will next time around.

I labeled an empty cardboard box with her name.  When she finished one of her masterpieces, she set it in the box to dry.  Later, she proudly packed them all up to take home.

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Our cookie decorating started off a little rocky due to our inexperience. But, with a few adjustments, it ended with a happy, satisfied child, who felt included in the day’s activities. Hopefully, our fails and solutions will help a little in your cookie decorating adventures.

Happy decorating!

This post is linked to The Grand Social over at grandmasbriefs.com and the blog hop at nanahood.com

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Grandma Lessons-The Christmas Tree

Grandkids, Toddlers By December 13, 2015 Tags: , , , , 8 Comments

I’ve changed.  I am not sure exactly when it happened, but it happened.  As a younger mom, raising children, I used to be a bit more uptight about stuff and less patient.  I used to get embarrassed about things much easier.  I was more no nonsense and not always quick to understand.  What happened to me?

I became a grandparent!

People joke about playing with the grandkids and then sending them home.  However, we do have a marvelous opportunity to provide special and memorable experiences to those unique people we call Grandchildren.

Last weekend I put up our Christmas tree.  I was satisfied with just adding twinkle lights and several strings of beads.  But my husband thought I should put on a few ornaments.  I ignored his suggestion, until I found out my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter was coming over for the evening. I thought she might like to help me put on a few decorations.

I pulled out the kid durable Christmas ornaments (no breakable bulbs).  I left the hooks in the box, because I didn’t want her sister, who just started crawling, to try to eat any that we might drop.  We sat in front of the tree with the box of ornaments; she wanted to discuss each one as they were unwrapped.  She then took each ornament by its string, went to show grandpa, came back and added it to the tree.  She was delighted when she actually got it to stay on a branch.  I let her put them where she wanted – they ended up on three heavy laden branches.  It was fun.  I enjoyed it and I think she enjoyed it.  The next day, I brought out the hooks and rearranged all the ornaments, so the tree looked more even.

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Twenty plus years ago, I did this same thing with my youngest son, when he was three or four.  However, at that time I was dismayed that he wouldn’t listen to me, as he insisted on putting all the ornaments on the same branch. We ended up fussing about it quite a bit.  I was trying to “teach” him the proper way to add the decorations to the tree! After all, it is an important life lesson, he can’t grow up and not know how to properly balance out all the ornaments on his Christmas tree!  Oh, my gosh…how silly is that?  To my embarrassment, he still remembers that event.

The grandma lesson I learned last weekend – Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoying the moment is more important than getting it perfect.

Happy Holidays!

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Weekend at the Baby Spa

Babies, Grandkids By November 23, 2015 Tags: , , , , 2 Comments

My husband and I watched our nine month old granddaughter last weekend.  Her mom and dad were heading to a marathon, in another state and took big sister with them.  Our youngest granddaughter is crawling now,  so I have to make sure NOTHING is on the floor and all the doors are closed.  She woke us up twice during the night (taking groggy grandparents about 45  minutes to get her back to sleep) but that is just how teething babies are.  She is good natured and smiling – we had a great time.

This morning I was reflecting on the weekend. Inspired, giggling and with tongue in cheek, this was the email I sent to my son and daughter-in-law:

Your Receipt

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your recent visit to the Grandma and Grandpa Weekend Spa.  I hope our guest enjoyed her visit.  At her request, she was sang to and rocked to sleep at night, as well as for naps during the day. This service was fulfilled at no additional charge to you.  She was hand carried to destinations though out the facility and was only left to get there under her own power when she felt the desire. Furniture was placed at convenient locations so she could practice pulling herself up and moving around, allowing her to exercise at her leisure.  The chef carefully prepared foods to her liking and she was hand fed all of these delicious culinary delights. Her sleeping quarters were temperature controlled and any uncomfortableness was attended to promptly. Tickling was occasionally performed for entertainment purposes. We hope our guest enjoyed her experience and felt loved, pampered and generally well cared for.

Payment for the spa facilities has been made.  We collected kisses, hugs and smiles at the time services were rendered.

We hope you visit us again soon.

Sincerely,

The Grandma and Grandpa Weekend Spa

 

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4 Places to Find Cheap Kids Books

Babies, Elementary, Grandkids, Toddlers By November 18, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , 5 Comments

My granddaughter loves books.  This is something I am very happy to encourage. However, most of the children’s books in my house didn’t make it to my kids adulthood.  They were either a favorite, which meant the cover fell off and the pages fell out or they were torn and tattered by less than careful offspring.  So, I needed to restock my house with children’s books.  Being the dutiful, but frugal grandma that I am, I set out to find some bargain books for my granddaughter.

These are my top stops when looking for inexpensive children’s books.

  • Tag sales (also known as Garage Sales) – you can find some good buys, but it can be time consuming. Unless of course, you are a tag sale junkie, in which case you will love the hunt!
  • Thrift stores – places like Goodwill and Savers usually have a stock of kids’ books at very reasonable prices.
  • Dollar stores – this is especially good for baby cardboard books which usually come packaged 2 or 3 for a dollar
  • The local library – this is my absolute favorite and my ‘go to’ place for used children’s books.  Many town libraries have an annual book sale and you can pick up a large stack of children’s books for a couple of dollars.  My library has a permanent sale. You choose books from the shelves set up in the corner and then deposit your quarters or dollars into the can hanging on the wall. It’s fun to sort through their assortment every few weeks to see if you can find a gem or two.resize-books

I have acquired a nice selection, from books on dump trucks and airplanes to Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.  Occasionally my granddaughter is allowed to “check out” books from grandma’s house and take them home. But she has to remember to bring them back.  Her mom helps with that.

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Do you keep a stash of children’s books at your house?

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Fun with a Coffee Cup Sleeve

Grandkids, Toddlers By November 9, 2015 Tags: , , , No Comments

I purchased a large package of To Go cups to stash on the shelf, under my Keurig. I wanted to provide an insulated, disposable cup to those running out the door with morning coffee.  Honesty, I did this because my kitchen cups kept disappearing out of the cabinet and they never seemed to make their way back into the house!   Enclosed in the package were a huge number of brown coffee cup sleeves. However, no one used them.  Once the carryout coffee cups were gone, I was left with this pile of sleeves.  Now what? Garbage?  Recycle?

I ended up tossing them into my granddaughters treasure box.  I figured she might enjoy playing with them.  They were ignored for a while, but then one afternoon she discovered them. The first thing my little designer did was to add a little color.

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Then she decided they would make great bracelets.

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Then she customized our bracelets while we were wearing them.

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This was a fun activity and something that could easily be pulled out at a restaurant or doctors office, while you are waiting. Just keep one or two in your handbag (recycle them from your next coffee order), along with a couple of crayons and you are good to go.  Then, you too can be the hippest grandma, as you sport a fashionable bangle designed by your favorite toddler.

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