Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The weather precludes a lot of travel these days.  I've had my first Iowa ice storm and blizzard. I did have the opportunity to turn a short trip into a long trip getting caught in white out conditions last weekend.  My oldest son's driving got us home safely; unfortunately many cars went off the road.  We could see their lights.  We couldn't even stop to help them, the worst part of all.

Manners have been on my mind, with some experiences I have had lately. Please and thank you are the first manners we teach our children. No singing at the table during meals, no elbows on the table, etc.  My husband and I met during a time when my husband automatically opened doors for me and taught my sons to do the same as they grew up.   My grandson, age 7, refuses to go through a door before me and smiles so proud each time he is able to hold the door for me.

We've all seen the ill-mannered child and I am not going to elaborate.

Taking grandchildren to school the other day, I stopped at a four-way stop with a car stopping a few seconds before me on the left.  He was leaving the middle school, heading to the high school.  He had a young man in the front passenger seat hunched over acting very cold.  He had on a sweatshirt with his head buried.  Nothing unusual in any of this.  I motioned for him to go forward.  As the car went past, the young man raised his head, looked at me, smiled and waved his thank you.  My entire day brightened.  I smiled each time I remembered the manners of this young man which appeared automatic for him. 

A couple of days later I'm in another town taking a couple of other grandchildren to school and I was again stopped at another stop sign.  This was a two-way stop and the through street had a long line of cars driving past. As I was waiting patiently wondering if I should turn around and try to find another route, a woman in a pickup truck stopped to let me go through. As I waved my thank you and received her wave in return, another quick act had brightened my entire day.  The temperature was -2 degrees, roads were snow-packed and our travel was very slow.  She made a split second decision that probably took less than a minute for me to pull out into traffic. 

Yesterday I was in another town at a store full of long lines waiting to check out.  I saw what I thought was a clerk opening up a new line, so I scooted out of my spot to get in the new line. I had taken a friend shopping and was in a hurry to get her home so I could pick up grandchildren from school.   It turns out the clerk was just standing at the register, not opening the line.  I sighed knowing I had lost my place in line. The woman behind me, motioned me back into my old space.  I said, "No, that's all right I got out of line."  She said "No, what type of person would I be if I did'nt let you back in the line."  I thanked her and told her that was very nice of her.  She said, "No I've just been well trained in manners."  

As I finish up my holiday shopping, with my mind on a hundred things and not being as focused as I should, I've been reminded by others how my actions can make the day brighter for a total stranger. 
I'm going to strive to being more conscious of those around me.  An act of kindness can take just a few extra seconds and can make many minutes worth of blessing for someone else. 

Thank you for reading my blog, have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your holiday festivities. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday

I was planning on skipping my birthday this year and as well behaved as my sons are, they complied with my wishes to ignore my birthday.  Blogging as the grandmother of 6, if you are a regular reader, you will notice I only mention my 4 youngest grandchildren.  I do not live close to my two oldest grandchildren and great grandson.  My sons and daughter-in-law arranged for them to spend the weekend with me as a birthday surprise. 

My sons were running in the Living History Farms Cross Country Race and we were all invited to "carb up" before the race.  One son had to work unexpectedly the night before the race and would have to miss the carb dinner my daughter-in-law was cooking (her delicious homemade spaghetti).  With the table set, we all felt bad when she accidentally included a plate for him, I was led to believe.  Just then the doorbell rang.  I went to get the door, and there was my granddaughter and my great grandson. I was so surprised, I took a double take after greeting her with a simple "Hi", before the hugs and tears came.

After the race, we were getting ready to go the the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa, and I was told to go into the living room.  Not realizing until I finally started walking, there sat my other granddaughter and her boyfriend.  Double take again and then the tears and hugs.

The weekend was an incredible gift to have my entire family together.  (My son was able to get back in time for the race and to spend the entire day with us before he headed back to work the following day.) 

We all enjoyed the DaVinci exhibit from the oldest (me) to the youngest (great grandson age 11 months).  If you are looking for something to do as the weather turns cold, don't hesitate to visit those special exhibits at local museums, science centers and art centers.  I wouldn't have thought the younger children would have found as much fascination and enjoyment in the exhibit as they did.  I learned several fascinating facts from the exhibit and a little bit more about what my grandchildren really enjoy.  If you live in the Des Moines area, the DaVinci exhibit will be on display through January 16 and is well worth the visit.

If you are looking for a gift for grandma as you celebrate the holidays, don't forget the most special gift of all, a personal visit or phone call.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, I'm sitting on my laptop this Thanksgiving, but I'm not taking away from family time.  With granddaughters age 6 and 8 away visiting their other grandparents, they won't be spending this holiday with us.  I will be with granddaughter age 10 and grandson age 7 at their home.  Their father is out of town due to work.  This morning I asked them whether we should fix the turkey today with just the three of us or wait until tomorrow when their daddy would be home to enjoy Thanksgiving with us.  "Tomorrow with daddy" they both yelled at the same time.  Today, we are having "Thanksgiving Lasagne."  We are enjoying Christmas DVD's while the children have a day off to just play. 

I can imagine many families are doing the same thing with so many working today to take care of the rest of us:  doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, etc. to name just a few.  Unfortunately, too many stores are open to get that jump on Black Friday shopping and their employees are forced to work as well.  Our hearts go out the military families, spending their Thanksgiving with family members too far away to wait an additional day for a Thanksgiving celebration. 

I'm always thankful for family, but this year I'm especially thankful for my family.  Since this is the first Thanksgiving since my husband went home to be with the Lord, I'm really preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.  He was the one who got up early to put the turkey in the oven, preparing the perfect bird.  When it was finished he would prepare the gravy.  Then he would carve the turkey and prepare the leftovers.  I was responsible for the rest.  The easy part. 

This year my son, grandchildren, and I will start new traditions.  Don and I always bought sweet rolls and donuts the day before to have for breakfast Thanksgiving morning.  The first new tradition is Monkey Bread (or pull a part bred) for breakfast.  Granddaughter age 8 and grandson age 7 and I searched the grocery store for the frozen Monkey Bread from Bridgford Foods yesterday.  I bought two just in case my son would not be able to get back; we wouldn't know for sure until this morning.  The children and I had one this morning and will have the second one ready when he wakes up tomorrow.  He is due to arrive sometime during the middle of the night.  Since they are prepared in the microwave, the oven will be free for the turkey.

Another new tradition this year will be that the children will help me cook.  Everything may take longer,  but no matter.  We will not starve and we will be making some great memories and new traditions.  I'll make a list (typically my charge when a large dinner is planned) of what needs to be done to include which items the children can help me with.  Instead of dreading tomorrow, I'm looking forward to it now.  Thank you, Lord, for families. 

Any ideas for new traditions we should try?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekend Fun

Our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes are filled and my granddaughters age 6 and age 8 are coloring pictures to add to their boxes before we drop them off at the church tomorrow.  Completing the letter telling about themselves gives me new insight into how well they understand the concept of giving and how blessed I am to be able to share this with them.  

The question I keep hearing in the stores this week is whether we will actually get snow on Saturday or not.  Talking with a friend from Colorado, I understand the snow has started and she is looking for an inch or two tomorrow.  I'm not a big fan of driving in the winter, so the warning I keep getting about Iowa winters has not made me feel any better. 

There is one aspect of winter I will look forward to this year and that is watching my grandchildren sledding.  I understand there is a decent hill in our neighborhood (yes I'm still in Iowa).  If you live in the area, check out the 18 Sledding Hills in the Des Moines Area article from the Des Moines Register in 2009.  The map pointing out each hill is an added bonus.  For the more adventuresome try Sleepy Hollow Sports Park or Seven Oaks Recreation Area.  Looks like I'll have to change my tune to Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow. 

Monday, November 8, 2010


Another Halloween is just a memory.  This is the first year in over ten years I have gone Trick or Treating with grandchildren.  I wanted to just stand and take pictures, but the children were in hurry, on a mission. Beggar's Night in Iowa opens up the Trick or Treating to a night other than Sunday night. With the hours set from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, by 6:15 the neighborhoods were filled with children in as many different costumes as there were children.  While the children ran from house to house, I marveled in the talent of the parents in putting together the costumes. 

I enjoyed the walk and sharing in their excitement.  The decorations on the outside of the homes were as varied as the costumes.  One in  particular, the big hairy monster that sat perfectly still until the children were on the porch, was everyone's favorite, as he waited until the porch was filled with children before moving to handout candy.  After screaming and getting their candy, they were excited to share with us how he had frightened them, but only for a minute before it was off to the wonders of the next house. My grandchildren's reaction to the costumed adults gave me the charge to dress next year.  Better start planning now. 

Fall is such a busy time of the year.  Just when we feel we have the organization of homework figured out, it is time to plan that Halloween costume. My oldest son's birthday follows shortly after that and I loved celebrating with him in person this year. Unfortunately, I did not make his birthday pumpkin pie. I have it all ready to take to bake next time I am with him. Fortunately, the timing does not ruin the taste.

Now, we look forward to Thanksgiving. I have many pictures over the years of children spooning the stuffing into the turkey.  Now the suggestion is being made that it is healthier to bake the stuffing separately.  I try to change as we learn safer ways of doing things.  I'm afraid stuffing the turkey is not going to be one of those changes. 

My late husband did the majority of the cooking for Thanksgiving, the turkey and the gravy.  As difficult as each first has been this year, I will attempt to cook the turkey and make the gravy as we move through one more first without Don. We will start a new tradition this year, although I'm not sure what it will be.  Granddaughters age 6 and 8 will be with their other grandparents.  Wonderful cooks, delicious food will be plentiful for them.  Granddaughter age 10 and grandson age 7 will be with me this year.  What part do your children and grandchildren play that we can carry over to a new tradition for us?  Don and I worked together, whether we were cooking for two or twenty.  This year my grandchildren will be important participants in my kitchen.  I'll just have to wait for your suggestions for my ideas on how they can help.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Evenings

As I look out my windows at the wind blowing the bright red leaves from the trees, the sunlight beckons me outside to sit on the deck.  I remember how many enjoyable afternoons I had with the grandchildren this summer while they were playing at the playground nearby.  Warm summer breezes heightened my pleasure, reminding me that I really was outside and not in the office looking out.  My eyes closed, sun in my face, slight breeze blowing my hair, sure pleasure.

I've already been outside once today.  Picked up a few groceries, dropped off some recycling and hurried home.  I about blew away a couple of times.  With a long sleeve shirt, covered by a sweatshirt, covered by a lined jacket, this was no gentle breeze I felt.  I won't venture outside again until it's time to pick up the girls from school.  I'm chilled just thinking out it.

Although I recently heard we had snow last year in Iowa in October, I'm going to think positive that these 40 mph winds are not blowing in snow.  We still have a few pleasant evenings before it gets dark too fast to enjoy an evening outside.  Last Friday night was one of those pleasant evenings.  When my granddaughter age 6 and granddaughter age 8 got home from school, they went to the playground with a neighborhood friend.  I moved out to the deck to watch and enjoyed a quiet afternoon/evening relaxing outside.  When my son and his wife returned home from work, they made supper while I sat glued to my chair.  They brought supper to the deck and the girls reluctantly joined us.  We had such a pleasant evening, talking and enjoying being outside together.

My charge to you if this wind ever quits, or if you are where the wind is calm, try to spend one more evening outside with your family.  Even if you have to wear a sweater or jacket, pack a picnic supper, find a picnic table, and enjoy.  It will be well worth it.  Enjoy a sunset together and brace yourself for winter.  It's coming.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lunch or Supper On The Move

I mentioned in an earlier post I was looking for suggestions for lunch during the summer when we were on the road.  With after school activities, we are now not always able to have a sit down supper and are still looking for ideas.  Especially for you parents who work outside the home, it's not always easy to prepare supper and still enjoy your child's activity. 

On busy nights bringing out the favorite picnic food is not only appropriate it can also become a favorite meal and fun sharing time for your children.  We all know the importance of sitting down together for a meal.  One reason this is so important is because you are all able to spend time together.  Eating supper in the car can also allow for that time to be together and talk. 

With just a little preparation, the meal can be just as healthy as the one you serve at home.  Granddaughter age 10 would eat tuna fish sandwiches every day if given the opportunity.  He special supper is tuna fish sandwiches.  The rest of us have a sandwich made with sliced ham, turkey, and swiss cheese.  Microwaved for 15 to 20 minutes to soften the cheese and a healthy sandwich is the result.  Making the sandwiches on wheat bread makes them even healthier.  Chips, potato sticks, or pretzels, along with carrot sticks rounds out the main part of the meal.  Desert is fruit snacks or a banana.  Water is typically the drink of choice just in case it is spilled. 

I usually fix supper before picking up the children from school.  Putting their supper in a special lunch bag helps them with the fun.  Sometimes I put all the lunches in one bag and take turns letting the children pass out the lunch.  Usually they each eat two sandwiches when it is an evening meal.  We still have that time together and the opportunity to talk about the day as we sit in the parking lot of the next activity.  Don't forget the trash bag and the children will be happy to clean up after their meal. 

The children look forward to their special meal when they know we have a busy night.  Instead of reading outloud now that school has begun, we usually work on spelling words as we travel. 

Do you take the time each day to ask, "What is the most special thing that happened to you today that you can share with me?"  Isn't that so much better than, "How was school?"  It doesn't matter where you ask the question, just as long as they know you care about them and their day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


What do you remember when you were in elementary school? I remember playing with friends, Barbies, riding bikes, and reading.  My first memory of homework is in junior high.  The other night my 10-year-old granddaughter had a particularly difficult night of homework.   I understand from the parents of a 10-year-old in another school system that her daughter's homework is just as heavy.  My granddaughter had several pages of homework and all needed to be completed that day.  One page was a word search.  Word search can be fun, unless it is part of several other pages of homework and searching for those words then become time consuming and frustrating.  In the meantime, there are spelling words to memorize, pages to read, and questions to complete.

The silver lining...She is very proud of her accomplishment when she completes each page of homework, particularly the most time consuming one.  She is learning as she works through each page. By using flash cards I create each week, the spelling words are being memorized.  She is learning to focus on the task at hand.  She is also learning that homework is a priority and is learning the importance we put on her education.

The first thing out of her mouth when we picked her up from school the next night was, "I only have to read tonight!" She did have a babysitting class to attend, so was able to finish her reading after the class.  Her reward for only spelling and reading homework, her choice of activity after.  The choice that won out, basketball with her father and little brother.  The perfect evening in her eyes. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homework, Activities, Halloween

Remember those lazy days of summer when we got up when we wanted, or when the children or grandchildren woke us up.  Oh, for the good old days!  Now the alarm wakes us to make sure baths, showers, breakfast, checking off that list of what needs to make it to school, and then off to school on time.

By mid October we are in the middle of school schedules, fall activities, and the excitement of Halloween.  Have you opened that bag of candy yet.  Oh, maybe just one.  Is there time to replace that bag before Halloween?  How did it empty so fast?

Last weekend we were able to spend some time at Iowa Arboretum.  Granddaughter age 10, grandson age 7, and I enjoyed all the costumes, ate some snacks and had fun with the scavenger hunt trying to find the different scarecrows and answering questions.  We started out slow with them playing a few games, but by time their hayride was over they were excited to look for the next scarecrow.  Each finding a friend, grandson from school, and granddaughter someone new leaving for grandson's soccer practice was not high on their list.

Tonight is a busy night with gymnastics for both and the last soccer game for grandson age 7.  Homework does get finished in between.  Supper is their favorite picnic lunch food. 

So my food for thought for you -- take a few minutes to find a Halloween activity, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather and abundant pumpkins.  Don't put off the homework, children need to know that comes first.  Find a sporting activity they love.  Get creative with supper.  Enjoy the time in the car together going from one activity to the next.  Leave the TV off and remember, time spent with children is making memories you both will cherish. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Nights

It's Friday!  It's Friday!  Friday night has been my favorite night as long as I can remember.  As a teenager, I could only date on weekends, so Friday night was date night.  As a young working mom, Friday night was the beginnig of two uninterrupted nights with my husband and sons.  Friday night supper was typically pizza,  the night I knew I wouldn't have to cook.  Once my sons left home, Friday night became date night again with my husband, Don.  Friday nights was divided between grilled steaks or homemade pizza.  Don was the cook, so I was always guaranteed the night off from cooking.  The boys knew not to call home on Friday nights unless it was an emergency.  As a working woman, Friday night began two uninterrupted days with Don.  My favorite part of the week. 

Now living near my grandchildren, my son has re-invented the special Friday night.  They call it movie night.  The movie tonight is How to Train Your Dragon, which was just released today on DVD.  Dinner spread out on the coffee table includes sliced cheese, sliced meat, and various crackers.    When we are too stuffed to eat anything else, the pop and popcorn are brought out.  Yup there is still room, we find.  The best part is not the movie, the dinner, or the popcorn.  The best part is the fact we are all siting on the couch enjoying uninterrupted time together. 

I found a web site this week, I believe you will enjoy.  While looking at my friend Kay's blog Fiction Lessons Found in My Reading she directed us to Penguin Group.  Like Kay, I had to look around the site for a while and listened to one of the books.  Although my grandchildren and I enjoy reading to each other, it will be fun to share this site with them.  Listening to someone else read for a change will be a treat.

Do you have a special night you share with your family?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

School Days

Yesterday morning was one of those days when my grandchildren ask whether it's winter or summer.  The day starts out early with the weather so chilly a jacket it necessary to get to school.  By time school is over, flip flops are the perfect foot wear when you are 6 or 8.  This morning started out the same, although this afternoon with the temperature expected at 72 degrees flip flops were not appropriate.  I still had one head for school in shorts, although she wore a sweater for her top.  As long as the snow is not blowing, children will not learn until they make their own decisions.  She will be fine and probably quite comfortable at school today. 

Each granddaughter, age 6 or 8 likes to be charged with something to do as we head for school in the morning.  They are excited at the end of the day to give me the results of their charge.  For granddaughter age 6, her charge this morning was to give her teacher the empty paper towel rolls that have been in the bottom of her school bag all week.  Granddaughter age 8 is to think about that one last item she would like to put in the secret pal bag for her Brownie secret pal.  She is also thinking about what she is going to put on the note she will put in the bag. 

This morning while they were eating breakfast I looked over the time tests they completed while I was getting ready for church on Sunday.  Each page had 6 clocks and they were either to put in the time using o'clock or half past, or put the hands on the clock.  Getting a red heart at the top of the page meant when they get home from school they can add on a sticker and put it in the desk for mommy and daddy to ooh and aah over with them later.  Both sets of eyes were glued to the paper as I corrected each one.  Choosing and placing her own sticker at the top of the page is a major part of the fun of completion. 

Yesterday after school, the 6 year old read to me for 28 minutes and then read to her mom while she was making supper.  Now that she can read, she loves to read and would go on all night if we let her.  I enjoy these days when school work is so much fun and the children are not even conscious of how much they are actually retaining.  Coming up with enough to do is the hard part.  Giving them 1/2 hour TV time while eating snack gives them that mental break that I feel they need after getting out of school.

Enjoy these beautiful fall days and the changing colors.  What do you charge your children with each day as you send them off to school?

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm Back

Unfortunately, the easiest part of writing is quitting.  The hardest part is starting up again as the days pass by one by one by one.  I apologize to my readers, a few days off to reguvinate turned into a couple of months as the days flew by.

This did not stop the fun days with grandchildren as we continued with our adventures every day.  We continued to find new parks.  Our most recent new park just two days ago.  We spent several evenings at the pool with parents and so many days at Living History Farms that the volunteers could call granddaughter age 8 and 6 by name when we would visit. 

We did take some time off for swimming lessons and they helped me find and buy a new home.  Several trips with the realtor and then taking care of business took some of our days, but time spent reading in the car on the way made up for the adventure that was house hunting.  The children were able to read aloud and spell out to me the words they were having trouble with.  That dedicated time in the car was fun for everyone.  Summer reading program rewards helped encourage them as well. 

We worked on summer workbooks to continue skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.  We worked on telling time.  Coloring velvet pictures continues to be a favorite passtime.  Granddaughter age 8 has made that second trip to the craft store to get a new supply.  The first batch are hanging in her room.  A ritual after each print is complete.

Stickers continue to be the favorite reward and I've obtained quite the supply.  For worksbooks its a sticker for every two pages.  For reading I would photocopy the front of the book.  The 6 year old and 7 year old continue to get a sticker for each page read.  The 8 year old and 10 year old continue to get a sticker for each chapter read.  Showing off the stickers to Mom and Dad are fun at the end of the day.

Don't think now that school is back in session we have stopped our adventures.  Our adventures continue on the weekend and the best part is Mom and Dad are involved.  Grandma still gets invited.

What are you doing to make fall as much fun as summer for your grandchildren?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Running Errands

I mentioned earlier that I would give you suggestions for running errands with children.  Going in and out of stores and completing a list of errands does not necessarily fit into a child's idea of a fun day.  With a little bit of thought and effort, children can enjoy the day as well.  Today we had a perfect day of running errands. 

My original plan was to run errands until noon and then quit for the day.  Unfortunately, things have begun to back up so I had to regroup and change my focus.  Yesterday I spent the day on paperwork with a sick child resting and watching movies.  This also allowed me to make a list of errands so I was ready this morning.

When traveling with two granddaughters ages 8 and 6, the 8 year old brings a book.  She reads aloud to us as we are traveling from store to store.  This has become a ritual that all three of us look forward to.   Today she began the Little House on the Prairie series. 

Our first stop was Staples.  They were able to each get a book to review the skills they learned last year in school, while I picked up the supplies I needed.  Granddaughter, age 8, is reviewing 2nd grade math, while her sister, age 6, is reviewing writing some words and letters she learned in kindergarten.  We picked up some stickers I can add to pages when they complete them.  We couldn't find stars, but flowers for the girls and paw prints for my grandson will work as well when those pages are completed 100%.

From there to the library to return some books and pick up some more books.  I'll be reviewing the books we read under Moments with Lexie M.  A couple of children's movies and a children's CD for the car completed our library choices.

This is where the secret to running errands with children comes in.  It was lunchtime, so instead of getting that one more errand in, we went home and took a lunch break.  A leisurely lunch with a little play time mixed in refreshed us enough to continue on our way.

From there we stopped at the laundromat to wash a pillow in one of their large washers.   The laundromat we chose had an ice cream store next to it, so desert after lunch and afternoon snack were rolled into a small cone for each of us. 

I wouldn't recommend this every time you have a day of errands, but before grocery shopping we stopped off for a pedicure.  Not because there is anything wrong with a pedicure, it's just that it can be a little pricey when 30 toes are involved.  We felt pretty special, though,  and the girls will be talking about it for days. 

I didn't detail every errand we had.  The main point is to mix some fun for the children in with the errands.  Don't forget to take time for lunch and snacks and the day will be fun for all.  The adults get errands completed and the children are able to say, "Today was a fun day." 

What do you do to mix the fun in with the errands?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pirate Castaways

Johnston Library had their Pirate Castaways for children age 6-11 and all four children were able to go.  They had a wonderful time.  One of my sons found some pirate costumes at Nobbies, regularly $20 for $5 each.  Add an eye patch and earring, hat for grandson, age 6, and we were on our way.  The girls had scarves so did not need a hat.  The children were divided into groups of  5 with a leader for each group.  Most of the children were dressed in various versions of pirates.  The games they played were easy to create and could be used for a neighborhood party or birthday party.  A warm sunny day is a must as the games are more fun outside then inside.  Although they could be recreated in a garage where water and a mess would be easy to clean up. 

Walking the plank started the activities for my grandchildren.  As granddaughter, age 10, began walking between two chalk lines while blindfolded, the other children helped keep her in line.  "How?" you ask.  By squirting her with water pistols.  If she strayed to the left, the person on the left shot her with a water pistol until she got back in line.  If she strayed to the right, the person on the right shot her with a water pistol until she got back in line.  This one should be well surpervised to make sure the shooting stopped as the participant gets back in line. 

Another game included rescuing a mermaid or merman.  A small kiddie pool had a couple of inches of water in it with Barbie dolls, Ken dolls, and plastic boats thrown in.  While my grandson, age 6,  was trying to grab a mermaid or merman, the adult threw a hula hoop over him.  He got pretty sneaky and grabbed one while she wasn't looking which added to the fun for everyone.  

Granddaughter, age 8, enjoyed (sort off) searching for eyeballs.  This meant digging through a bowl of jello to dig out an eyeball.  She pulled out the eyeball pretty quickly which made it extra fun for her.  There were also marbles in the jello so the eyeball wasn't chosen immediately.

Granddaughter, age 6, enjoyed digging up buried treasure.  A couple of bins of sand with buried jewels was another successful activity.  Each child knew the number of jewels they were looking for which added to the fun.  When one child finished,  he or she would help the others until all the jewels were found.  Helping each other made grandma proud.

There were a few more activities, although these seemed to be the most fun and easiest to duplicate.  Every time an activity was completed the children received a puzzle piece.  Putting together the puzzle pieces at the end of the morning, the map for buried treasure emerged and a search using the map sent them to a small bag filled with candy.  

While the children ate snacks provided by the library, we looked through the pirate books they had set out.

What was your favorite party as a child?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tornado Warning

This morning started differently then I expected.  Dark clouds began rolling in so I decided to stay home with the girls until the weather cleared up.  My son called to say he was in the middle of a tornado warning and by time the girls got their blankets to sit on in the basement, we were under the sirens as well.  We spent some time in the basement and were thankful that the clouds passed over and soon the sun came out.  We decided the time would pass easier for the girls and help them to keep their mind off what was going on if we would have a  book.  I'm going to choose a book to put in our safe area, add a flashlight, and we will be ready should we have to go into the basement again.

We took a trip to the library to return books and picked up some movies.  We are stopping at the library almost every day, it seems.  That is because there is so much to entertain children at the library.  There is a limit of five movies, so we picked up five and looked forward to a more relaxing afternoon.

The children said they had a fun day, even though the start was a little frightening for them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Electricity

The day started with the power going off due to one of the many Iowa spring storms.  Granddaughter age 8 and granddaughter age 6 and I watched a movie on my laptop.  Breakfast choice was limited to cereal and a piece of fruit. No poptarts, no toaster waffles.  One of our regular choices, the cereal tasted just fine.  After the movie, we sat near a large window to get what light we could and read until the power came on.  We decided although our choices were limited, we did just fine without electricity and still had a fun day learning what we can and cannot do without electricity.

Getting back to the details from the Blank Park Zoo mentioned in yesterday's post.  I highly recommend getting a membership to the zoo.  With a Blank Park Zoo membership you also have access to over 160 other zoos and aquariums throughout the United States through a reciprocity agreement.  With a zoo membership, we never have to worry about how much time we have to spend while making sure that we see everything.  Each child was able to pick one animal they wanted to see and that was going to be our limit for this trip.  Granddaughter age 10 had brought money from her father to feed the animals, so we started there.

The children were each able to get a cup of food to feed the goats and zebu for $1.00 per child.  There were several kids (baby goats) that the children were able to feed.  Although the goats (adults) were more aggressive by pushing the kids out of the way, attempting to feed the kids kept my grandchildren occupied for quite some time.  One of the staff was carrying a kid for them to pet and by time we were all finished each grandchild had named their favorite kid.  Are you confused yet?  The zebu was a little more intimidating, although everyone eventually shared a little of their food with him.  Another $1.00 to each child for a cup to feed the fish.   After that we went through the Australian section and a quick trip past the big cats and then our day at the zoo ended.  Exhausted, another fun day had passed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blank Park Zoo

A trip to Blank Park Zoo was our fun on this day.  I had a few errands to run first.  When my husband, Don, and I ran errands on a weekday evening or Saturday, we would make a list, he would schedule the quickest route, and off we'd go.  We never had any problems getting it done.  He always carried a book and would read as I ran in and out of those stores that I didn't need him with me.

Running errands with four children is a whole new world.  It took me this day to learn that valuable lesson.  We had a few books to get rid of so I was excited to find Half Price Books.  I needed to stop at the bank, pick up lunch for granddaughter age 10 and grandson age 6.  This shouldn't take too long.

You all know that you can't leave children in the car reading books, so......All four went into the bank with me.  That took a little longer then I had hoped, but we were finally able to complete our business and exit back into the car.  We parked outside the bank so no parking lot to walk through. I think next time we need to take a book to read while standing in line.  Lines can be very boring for four children age 6 to 10.

Then to Half Price Books. This time, we all carefully walked through the parking lot while I carried a box of books.  Then carefully back through the parking lot to get another box of books and carefully back through the parking lot to the store.  Once in the store, the 15 minutes to review the books (they buy used books) took at least 1/2 hour.  The children were each able to pick a book to purchase and a bookmark, which made the delay easier for all.  This trip would not have been a problem at all had we not been on the way to the zoo.

Then a quick trip to the grocery store to get granddaughter age 10 and grandson age 6 a Lunchables.  Of course this included walking carefully across the parking lot with four children and  back again to the car.  Did I say quick trip?  It was the quickest trip of the day, not necessarily a quick trip.   

Finally the zoo.  By this time we had passed the lunch hour and were anxious to see the animals.  As we were walking in with each child carrying his or her lunch in his or her bag, we were met with the sign "No outside food or drink in the zoo".  Since I was used to the Denver Zoo where outside lunches were OK, I was not prepared for this.  We had even chosen where we would eat as we were driving toward the zoo.  We turned around to eat in the car.  I did ask at the entrance where Blank Park was, the place suggested by the zoo that we eat our outside lunch.  I was directed across the parking lot behind the fence.  Not another walk through a parking lot....The car was much more appropriate at this point. 

We had a fun afternoon at the zoo, which I will share with you tomorrow.  Watch future posts to see how we have solved the "running errands on the way to our fun thing to do today" dilemma.  Do you have any ideas for delicious and easy travel lunches for children?

Monday, June 21, 2010

School Playgrounds

One day last week our fun day choice was to visit a park in North  Des Moines.  We were stopped by construction and not knowing the neighborhood  or the roads, I decided to head home and try another park another day. 

Not willing to give up our fun for the day, passing an elementary school on our way home, we stopped to check out the playground.

Granddaughter's age 6 and granddaughter age 8,  tried everything out at least twice and I was able to take pictures to share with their parents.  Even if the equipment is the same as what the girls were used to, the sizes were a little different and the set up a little different.  The girls enjoyed running from one piece of equipment to another while sharing with me what was different about this one and the one they have at their school.

We were able to spend about 1/2 hour there before it was time to head home to begin supper.  The fun for the day had been salvaged.   The girls were able to say they had a fun day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Than Books at the Library

Monday we took another trip to the library.  This time we visited the Franklin Avenue Library in Des Moines.  The Franklin Avenue Library is in the process of building a new facility.  After stopping a mailman walking his route nearby, he directed us to the library currently housed in the Merle Hay Mall.

We weren't there searching for books.  Keith West was putting on his Splashtacular Magic Show.  He was quite a success.  All four grandchildren attended: granddaughter age 10, granddaughter age 8, grandson age 6 and granddaughter age 6.  All four had great time.

Keith started by blowing up a big inflated box which everyone batted back and forth like a giant ball.  The children were laughing so hard I couldn't help laughing right along with them.  His illusions were impressive and he had the whole crowd laughing for most of the hour that he performed.  He brought children up from the audience to help him and his assistant.  I enjoyed watching the children as much as I enjoyed watching Keith.  The youngest child was 3 and the oldest 10.  Keith knew how to entertain the crowd  After the show he gave each person a signed photograph.  He sold  magic wands for $2 and a magic kit for $10.  Kieth told the children he got his start by reading as many books as he could on magic tricks.  Remember to check your local library for entertainment other than books.

What are you finding at your local library along with the books?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Iowa Rainy Days

Thursday and Friday were Iowa rainy days.  The brief rains I was used to in Colorado wouldn't have stopped us from going out.  Iowa severe thunderstorms were better watched from the windows looking out.  We were still going to make Thursday a fun day.  The girls were able to color on their velvet pictures and work in their summer skills books.  We took a movie break after lunch. 

The rain quit long enough for a trip to the library.  The local library had a craft project prepared so they were able to work on crafts for a while.  Although the girls are beginning to tire of going to the library every day, they had fun and were able to get out of the house.  As I was preparing supper, the girls told me the day had been a fun day even with the rain. 

Friday has been labled "quiet day."  We scheduled a day to stay home and get ready for a fun weekend with parents.  For the girls that meant cleaning their rooms and for grandma, that meant finishing up the laundry.  We did take some time to read books.  All three of us had the opportunity to read; granddaughter age 8 and I a chapter and for granddaughter age 6 an entire book. 

Once the rooms were clean, we tried origami.  The box said age 5 and above.  We started with a jellyfish.  That looked easy enough. I couldn't get past step # 5 which was only about 1/3 of the way through.  Was it because I was too far away from age 5?  I'll use that as my excuse.  I told the girls that sometimes when a person has difficulty with a project, the best thing to do is leave the project overnight and try again the next day.  Our other option is to ask mommy and daddy to take a look.  If they don't have a chance over the weekend, I'll try again on Monday. Since Monday is library day, I told them we could also try to find a book on origami to see if that would help us.  We haven't given up.

Friday night I left to spend the weekend with granddaughter age 10 and grandson age 6.   Shopping it is.

What have you done for fun on a rainy day?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Vacation

The much awaited summer vacation has finally arrived.  My granddaughters age 8 and 6 woke up with the question that will become a part of the summer ritual.  "What fun thing will we do today, grandma?"

The first day began with a trip to the library.  Finding out we were 30 minutes early, we went down the street to Hobby Lobby.  What possibilities we found there.  We found a package of four velvet pictures to color with markers.  My 6-year-old granddaughter thought that would be fun because it would be difficult to color outside of the lines with the velvet dividing the parts of the picture.  Looking at all the small areas I believed it could take her several weeks to complete the four pictures in the set.  Granddaughter age 8 chose a picture with the outlines of several horses and her job was to take a pencil and learn to shade the horses.  I believed this could take several days to complete so agreed on their choices. 

A lengthy stop in the sticker aisles gave them numerous sticker letters to make the choice very difficult for them.  They were finally able to each pick a sheet of letters and another sheet of sticker designs for their craft box (or brief case) we still haven't set on the exact name of the case they were each given.   I told them once they put their names on their boxes they could decorate the rest however they wanted.

To make sure we didn't miss anything we continued checking out the store and found books on drawing:  "Things Girls Love" for the 6-year-old and "Sea Creatures" for the 8-year-old.  A "Giant Detect-A-Word" book for finding words in puzzles can be shared by both.   

A couple of wooden girls to color and cloth purses to paint completed our purchases.  Hobby Lobby had so many things on sale, the cost was not very high especially when divided over several weeks that we could use the items. 

Back to the library the girls signed up for the summer reading program.  I was unable to get them library cards as a parent is needed.  I was able to get my own library card, signed up for the adult reading program, and we were even able to get a couple of movies.   I checked out the books and movies and home to review all of our treasures.

By time lunch was ready the girls were already well into one of their movies.  We finished the day with the girls reading from their books, coloring their large pictures, finishing up both of their moves and they even played outside for a while.  That evening they put the stickers on their cases.  We all agreed the first day of summer was a very fun beginning.  How was your first day of summer vacation?

Day two was another trip to the library.  We took back two of the books read by the 8-year-old and the two movies.  We decided the 6-year-old needed beginning readers, which we had not originally chosen.  The 8-year-old needed chapter books which we also had not chosen.  With this extra knowledge we were on track for getting the right books. 

Our next stop was the grocery store to get some lunches for a picnic.  Then on to Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines.  They have a play area inside the mall for smaller children which gave the girls some playtime in air conditioning.  We stopped at Barnes and Noble and picked up a book for each girl to keep her skills up over the summer.  One for a child going into the third grade and one for a child going into the first grade.  The girls enjoyed the opportunity to do some reading, writing and arithmetic.  

We set out a picnic in the grass near the lake at the Jordan Creek Town Center and watched the ducks and their ducklings for a while before heading home.   With the library and stores not opening until 10, that doesn't give us much time before lunch; we will be finding more picnic spots as the summer progresses.

Back home satisfied that we had another fun day.  Since we are beginning to feel the summer heat, the girls spent the afternoon coloring and working in their summer skills book.  Unfortunately, the horse shading didn't take as long as we thought, so another trip to Hobby Lobby and a velvet picture for the 8-year-old to color.  Last trip to Hobby Lobby for this month, I told the girls. 

How is your summer progressing?  Any ideas to keep the children occupied while exploring your hometown?  What are some of your favorite summertime memories?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school. I remember the excitement of no more homework or school. It was a scary time as well. Will I be able to keep in touch with my friends? Will they want to play with me? Who lives close enough for me to play with? What am I going to do all summer? When children have a plan and know where all the neighborhood children live, the scary goes away and the excitement returns.

My grandchildren are excited for the summer adventure to begin. Granddaughter age 7 said tonight, “We are having so much fun since grandma came here.” I felt pretty good after she said that. Especially since our adventure has not even begun.

We bought some bags for them to carry their craft boxes in. They have been able to get into their cases and have had fun coloring in their new books with both the colored pencils and the crayons.

We will be heading to the library tomorrow to sign up for the summer reading program. We already have books chosen to check out. We’ll see what else the library has to offer.

They’ve been anxiously awaiting our shopping spree tomorrow. They’ve wanted to put the stickers on their cases, but I’ve asked them to hold off until we bought letters so they can put their names on their cases. Mostly to make it easier for me to sort whose case belongs to which grandchild.

One of the mothers in the neighborhood had a great idea. She invited all the neighborhood children and their moms over after school for ice cream. All the children enjoyed playing together and the moms had a chance to talk. This is a great idea to generate play dates and babysitter trading for the summer. For you working moms, a pizza party, bar-b-que or make your own sundae for desert in the evening could work the same. Just pick that first Friday or Saturday night after school gets out and be the one to start a new neighborhood tradition.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Neighborhood Parks

After two busy weeks of packing, throwing, unpacking, throwing I'm  finally settled (as much as can be expected) at my new home in Iowa. 

As we drove up to my son's home with two UHaul's, each with a car in tow and me driving another car in the middle, a sense of relief came over all three of us.  We were greeted by my daughter-in-law.   "Welcome Home" she called from the front lawn.  I'm sure we all breathed a sigh of relief.  I'm now confident she is ok with me moving in until I purchase my own home.

A couple of days of unpacking and throwing I am situated and ready to explore with my four excited grandchildren.  With a handful of days left of school, I'll have some time to settle in, work the division wide rummage sale, and prepare our itinerary. 

I'm reminded of the famous quote from the Wizard of Oz, "There's no place like home".  Neighborhood Parks are the first place to explore when thinking of summer in Iowa.  Checking out the City of Des Moines . web site you will notice that the City of Des Moines is responsible for the management of 72 parks, 3,225 acres of parkland, 40 miles of trails and numerous municipal facilities. 

Exploring does not have to be expensive.  This gives us 72 places where we can begin our exploration of Des Moines.  My grandchildren are old enough that they don't necessarily want me to play with them, they would prefer to play with each other.  So with my laptop or reading material in tow, we begin our first day of relaxing by visiting one of the parks.  Check out your city's web site under parks and recreation and begin your summer adventure by mapping out and exploring your city parks.  Don't forget the sunscreen!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Planning is Half the Fun

Five more days left at my corporate job. Planning for retirement, I was so excited when the years left to work were down to single digit. When I finished that tenth year, only nine years left to go, I couldn’t believe I’d finally made it that close. The years went by and now I’m looking at single digits for the number of days left.
While we are waiting for the traveling to begin, I’ve been doing some shopping. I’m not very good at waiting. Sterilite has come out with some cases that snap shut and have handles built in, 13 ½” X 12 1/8” X 1 7/8. The four cases I purchased are the perfect size to carry colors, a coloring book, and a diary for recording the day’s travel. When school starts in the fall, my grandchildren won’t have any trouble remembering the adventures they had over the summer.

I’ve included some stickers to decorate the outside of the cases, princesses for my granddaughters and dinosaurs and robots for my grandson. Tomorrow I’ll pick up some letter stickers so they can put their names on the outside. I picked up some little coloring books, horses for my oldest granddaughters and animal letters for my youngest granddaughter and grandson. I’ll need to add colors to that shopping list and some No. 2 pencils. I’ll take them shopping when I get to Iowa to pick out the color they want for their writing/drawing diary. My mother always said planning is half the fun of any adventure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grandma Mitch Travel Begins

Welcome to my initial post of Grandma Mitch Travel. My journey through Iowa begins in Colorado. People ask why I want to leave the beauty of Colorado to move to Iowa. I believe there is beauty in Iowa yet to be explored. I've given my notice to the corporate world. I've sold my home. I've ordered the moving van. I’m counting down the days.

The beauty isn’t all that is waiting for me. My sons and their families await. Iowa is filled with experiences to share with children. I’m just as excited as my grandchildren to begin exploring.

I looked on line earlier this week to find some small backpacks for my grandchildren to carry their own snacks, drinks, and a small toy. We will be having so much fun! But for now, they are finishing up the school year and I’m finishing my last days at my corporate job.