Monday, December 13, 2010

END OF YEAR “SALES” (Not the store kind!)

Open any newspaper, any blog or any mail in November & December, and all you see is “SALE”, “SALE”.”SALE”. Don’t worry…we’re not going to try to sell you something, ask for a donation or offer you some crazy deal on something you don’t want or need. However, you WILL hear from SALE & SALE (that’s us) yakking about what we think great/grandparenting is all about.

As 2010 comes to a close, here are some our resolutions for the New Year:

• Build and foster positive relationships between the great/grandparents, the children and their parents.

• Have “Fun” and “Rewarding” become part of our plans for ourselves and our family.

• Cherish and remember some of the many accomplishments our great/grandchildren have made this year: learning to walk and talk, becoming toilet trained, transitioning to school, learning to read, riding a bike, learning to play an instrument, sleeping through the night, exploring their own independence, making new friends, sleepovers, etc.

• Acknowledge some of the many accomplishments WE have made this year: learning to keep our mouth “zipped” when necessary, helping our family without burdening ourselves, learning to put in and take out a car seat, revisiting and reading some of our favorite children’s picture & chapter books, trying to relax when everything around us is tense, trying new activities with the children without stressing perfection (so what if the cookies are like rocks), etc.

• Setting realistic boundaries for ourselves and our great/grandchildren and their parents. As much as we’d like it to, everything doesn’t have to be a “WOW”.

• Explore creative ways to help bridge the long-distance relationships.

• Try something new: tai chi, yoga, ballroom dancing, knitting, ElderHostel (now called Road Scholar, join a gym, swimming, mahjong, take a trip to some local place we’ve never been, etc.
We know many of these sound easier said than done, but that’s not going to stop us from trying.

And for YOU, we only ask that you become a “follower” on our blog, and let us know what issues are of concern to you. We’ll keep going, if you keep reading!

June & Laurie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS…(to do with little or no prep time)

Thinking up things to do and play with your great-grandchildren, can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you think you’ve run out of creative ideas to WOW them. Here are some tried and true activities that you can do at your home, their home, or when they come to visit you on a trip. These are things you can do with one child or many, and are good family get-together activities, whether it’s for the holidays or the weekend. It’s nice to have an assortment of activities, that can be done with a bit of pre-planning, and that won’t take up too much space in a closet or room, and won’t put you over your credit card limit. AND…they’re fun.                                                                        

There are hundreds of movies (in DVD, VHS, and movie theater format) available for kids of all ages. Decide what movie you all want to see, and then, pop some pop-corn (except for the very young kids – you can give them a sippy cup with milk, instead), and sit down together to watch it. When you’re finished, have a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” review. If the kids are young, you may want to “pause” when their attention demands a break. Write, or have them dictate, a review, and perhaps draw a picture. This review can be saved in a “Movie Review” folder, to be shared with the parents and/or sent to the long-distance great-grandparent. Ask them to send their reviews to add to your folder.

Everyone likes to dress up, and be “somebody else”. Find some old fun and interesting clothes (hats, gloves, junk jewelry, vests, shoes, boas, non-prescription plastic sunglasses, wigs, tiaras, job uniforms, cocktail dresses, shawls, old military duds, etc.) You can also find great dress up items at used and thrift stores, if you need to augment your collection. Find a fun large card-board box, and let the kids decorate it. Keep it anywhere that is accessible. Don’t be afraid to dress up, yourself, and join the fun. Take some photos of each other, and you can create an album that will be fun to show other family members.

Picnics don’t necessarily have to be outdoors or during the summer. Indoor picnics can be really fun AND there are no ants or flies. Some fun picnic areas around the house might be: a playroom, the dining room, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the attic or basement, etc. All you need is a table cloth, and old sheet or a blanket, some picnic plates, cups and utensils, some yummy homemade finger foods, fruit and veggies, and of course, an appropriate drink. After EVERYONE has helped clean up, and recycled, how about a fun game of hide and seek?

Take a medium sized plastic container, with a top, and fill it full of all kinds of found objects and a couple of squeeze bottles of white glue (washable, of course). This treasure box will give your great-grandchildren hours of fun. The contents might include: feathers, colored pipe cleaners, old buttons, shells, small dried interestingly shaped colored pasta (macaroni, etc.), pieces of ribbon, twigs and leaves that have been collected around your home, stickers, plastic eyeballs, puffy colored balls, dried pods from trees, etc. Most of these items you can find at craft stores (Michael’s, JoAnn’s, etc.) or from collections around your home. Have some colored paper, sanded pieces of wood, mirrors, picture frames, etc. available to paste these items on and decorate. Kids of all ages love this kind of activity, and the more stuff in the box, the better!!!

While you may have cards for more adult games, a simple deck of cards can provide hours of interactive fun for kids of all ages. We’re not going to give you directions on how to play these games…that’s what Google is for, but we will give you some games, for you to play with your great-grandchildren. You may have to adapt some of these games, especially for the very young children. The names of some of these games are quite horrible, but the games are fun.
  • Concentration (Memory)
  • Go Fish
  • Crazy Eights
  • War
  • Old Maid
  • Snap, etc.
If you’re extra industrious, you and your great-grandchildren can MAKE a deck of cards (colors, numbers, family member photos, reptiles, etc.) that you can use to play concentration. .

Have fun!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Whether we realize it or not, our lives are full of routines and rituals. Some of these enrich our lives and others are, frankly, a pain in the neck! We often complain about how “routine” our lives are, but those routines help keep us and our families grounded. And the rituals we have, many passed down from generation to generation, can be pretty wonderful, if you think about it. So what does this have to do with our great/grandchildren? PLENTY!!!

Routines (defined as: the usual sequence for a set of activities) and rituals (defined as: established formal behaviors or the performance of formal acts) give children a sense of belonging: to their family, to their peers, their schools, their holidays, their country, their religion, etc. Having predictable routines and rituals is reassuring to young children and affirming for older kids. They help kids connect to the world around them. Children find comfort and joy in following the “way it has always been done” when to eat trick-or-treat candy, what time each week you’re going to talk to each other on the computer, etc. It’s akin to children asking to hear the same story read over and over and over or mixing certain ingredients in a specific order when making cookies. There’s a feeling of accomplishment and certainty, because they know what to expect. And we do too. Children take pride in “their” rituals and routines, and no one should “mess with them”.

Keeping Things in Perspective - Routines That Work
Time constraints can make following routines with your great/grandchildren challenging. When you care for the children, some schedules, like bedtime, bath-time, play-time, homework time, eating, etc. can become overwhelming, especially if the child is adamant about following “their” routine…no matter what! The best way to alter routines and expectations is to give as much advance notice to the great/grandchild as possible, allowing them to process the upcoming change…and make the transition from one thing to another smoother. “I know you were counting on spending the night Friday, but we have to go out of town to see a friend. Even though we’ll miss this week’s sleepover, we’ll see you next week, at the regular time.” With younger children, when you’re tired, you can say, “I know you usually choose three books before you go take your nap, but today we only have time to read one…because I need to take a nap also. Let’s pick out the one book now, so we’ll have plenty of time to read it before nap time”. Remember, if you’re the caregiver, for whatever amount of time, it’s important to take care of yourself. If you live far away, and have a usually scheduled time to talk on the phone, let the great/grandchild know in advance, that Saturday isn’t going to be possible, and that you will reschedule the call for Sunday afternoon. All of this helps our great/grandchildren learn about compromise.

Holiday Rituals
Many families are of mixed race/religion/culture. How can traditional rituals be maintained without having someone insulted or hurt? What is our role with our “mixed” families? Do we celebrate Christmas and/or Chanukah, or do we fast for Ramadan or eat too much for Rosh Hashanah? When and how do we celebrate the New Year: the Kwanzaa way, the Chinese way, the Vietnamese way, the Jewish way, the traditional American way? These are all important holidays with their unique rituals, for different groups, and are not necessarily conflicting. If the parents are open to sharing different cultural rituals, then our job is to sit back and enjoy with them. Although this may be extremely difficult for some, it really has to be the parent’s decision on how they decide to raise their children. If there’s a disagreement between the parents, and we’re asked for advice, our job is to reflect on all sides of the problem, and help to try to find a compromise. The bottom line is that the rituals and routines can be a time for families to come together. It’s also a way to demonstrate to children that it’s ok to live with differences.

Be Open to Change
Families inherit some rituals and create others. It’s amazing how quickly children “own” these rituals and routines and make them their own. In our family, for example, cupcakes have become the celebratory birthday dessert, much preferred over cake and the great/grandchildren now request cupcakes any time they think we should celebrate something. We, as caregivers, living near or far, have to learn to participate in those routines and rituals that are part of our great/grandchildren’s lives, and make them “ours”.

Routines and rituals help children feel a part of their families and community, and recognizing this will help make life a lot less “routine”.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We wanted to share an important and very thought provoking article that came to us via BANANAS, one of the preeminent Child Care Resource & Referral organizations in the country. They are located in Oakland, and have been doing exemplary and extraordinary work for children and their families for over 35 years. This article was part of their Fall, 2010 newsletter, BANANAS, and is reprinted with their permission, and although it focuses on Child Care programs, we believe it extends to all children. As parents, teachers, child care centers, great/grandparents, etc...we are ALL child care providers. Since we are entrusted with the oh, so important task, of raising and nurturing the children in our lives, we have to look at ourselves, our families and our environments to figure out what’s best for these kids, whether they be in pre-school or school age settings. With all the hoopla being raised now about teachers and testing, by the Los Angeles Times, and others, we felt that this article may help put some of these issues into perspective. And so, with much appreciation to BANANAS, for all the thought they put into this article, we’d like to share this with you and hope you can see why we felt this was so important.

June & Laurie

Thinking about child care is a necessary, crucial part of our job. We are passionate about keeping the family's point of view in the forefront of any debate. For over 37 years we have gathered powerful evidence of parents' strong instincts to nurture their children and to want the best for them. Just so, we have come to trust the inborn developmental processes of children. Compelling scientific evidence supports the notion that children are natural learners. They are born programmed to interact with their world and the people they meet each day so that they can develop the skills they need to grow into healthy adults. We don't teach children how to do this. Rather, our job as parents and providers is to surround them with the nurturing adults and environments they need to become healthy, happy and whole.

What do parents want for their children?
Most parents talk about two wishes: they want their children to be happy and to be good, contributing members of a community. How does that happen? What are the qualities that make up the "good life"? These are qualities that cannot be quantified or bureaucratized in any meaningful way. Our staff came up with the following responses:

We should try to help our children be
• responsible
• forgiving
• thoughtful
• empathetic
• helpful
• reliable
• giving and generous
• open-minded, non-judgmental
• and, "to do no harm."

What we want for our children
• success in whatever they choose to do in life, taking advantage of opportunities and following their interests.
• relationships with trusting and loving people as part of a community of family and friends
• life long learning, not just in the formal academic way, but through experiences in life that expand their minds
• respect for diversity and the knowledge that the world is made up of people of different cultures, life-styles, economic realities and perspectives
• safety, not sheltered, but the ability to judge risks and make good choices
• contentment, to have self respect and find inner peace
• independence, autonomy and self-reliance
• ability to communicate well with others
• acceptance by their peers
• respect and acceptance in American society (specifically mentioned by staff who are people of color and/or first or second generation immigrants,)

It was revealing that no one talked about achievement in the sense of earning a lot of money or credentials or status. All spoke of the attributes of being a person and a quality of life that cannot be quantified.

How do we help children get there?
As child care providers, parents and advocates, rather than being side-tracked by test scores and other artificial markings of "achievement," we need to keep what we know about children and what we know about parents in the forefront. Children will be successful in life not because they went to a child care program with a certain rating but because the adults who cared for them had the commitment and resources to give them the love and support necessary to help them become happy, caring adults.

Can a rating system really encompass these qualities, these issues? If we support parents and providers in their efforts to nurture children, then the quality of life for all children will most likely improve.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Starting the new “school” year impacts all kids…kids going to child care, pre-school, elementary, middle, high school and college. It also can affect us, as any kind of change in our family’s life can.

If your family lives locally, you’ll most likely see some of the behavioral manifestations up close. If you live far away, you may hear from the parents and/or the great/grandchildren about the transition. What, if anything should be our role in this potentially highly-charged family growth period?

With new expectations, there can be all kinds of emotions: elation, irritability, concern, etc. We need to be supportive of the parents and kids, and opine only when asked. The parents are probably a bit overwhelmed themselves, especially if they both work. With all the possible effects of change, think about the most helpful ways to keep things balanced. Try to remember that our expectations may not be theirs.

There can certainly be the urge to go out and buy new clothes, uniforms, school supplies, etc. but this is another chance for us to use your best communication skills, and buy ONLY what the parents have given us permission to buy. If the parents ask you to help with the shopping, ask them for guidelines about what to buy. For example, your great/grandchild may want to look like Beyonce or Justin Bieber, but the parents want a more conservative look. The time to make these decisions is not at the mall, when a “dream outfit” is seen on a mannequin. Talk about the items to be bought (pants, shoes, blouses, uniforms, etc.) - first with the parents and then with the great/grandchild in advance of the shopping trip. Some compromises can be ironed out ahead of time. With young children, it’s probably best to do the shopping on your own…who needs to drag a young child through the confusion or the congestion in a mall?

You can also offer to take care of the great/grandchildren, while the parents go to “school preparedness” meetings or shopping. They may take the older kids with them and leave the younger ones with you, or leave them all in your care. Either way, it’s a “gift” the parents will surely appreciate.

If you are not financially able to help, explain this to the parents, and perhaps you can “give” of your time…or just plain ole’ moral support. If you are lucky enough to be crafty (knitting, sewing, building a new desk or chair, etc.), perhaps you can make something that would be welcomed by the family.

If you are a “distance” great/grandparent, you could start a journal, send it off in a self-addressed stamped envelope, and ask the child to write or draw something about their experience, and send it back to you. This can be an ongoing “story” that can last a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


One of the best perks of being a great/grandparent, is being able to share the “brilliance” and humor that comes out of the mouths of the children. This can, however, be a double edged sword. What we consider being funny and precocious, or what a makes a good story for us to tell, can also be an embarrassing and potentially hurtful situation for your great/grandchildren.

We all want to share those incredible moments when our great/grandchildren say or do things that crack us up and/or make us proud. Sometimes, we wish we had written all these things down, because they are so endearing and clever, and really make us happy. There are also those very sad and touching moments that break our hearts. Both the sweet and the bitter are cause for us to want to share with our dear friends and family…for a mutual chuckle and for our own emotional support.

For example, when your 4 year old great/grandchild asks, “Who pays your celery?” you might go blog about it (see our blog from January, 2010). When your 10 year old great/granddaughter whispers that she just got her first “training” bra, you smile, feel proud, but decide NOT to talk about it for fear of embarrassing her and breaking the fragile trust. You find out that your 8 year old great/grandchild is a bully at school. You seek some sensitive support and openly discuss your concerns with your dear friend, but opt to not reveal this to your book club.

It’s really important to try to see things from child’s point of view…would what you’re saying make them laugh, cause them humiliation, and/or give them pause to distrust you? Although you won’t hit a home run every time, you can improve your average by thinking before talking.

Some things can be shared, but others should remain private. It’s another lesson in learning when to open your mouth, and when to keep it zipped.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dawdling: How to Live With It

Every great/grandparent has proclaimed, at one time or another: “hurry up, we’ll be late” or “this is the last time I’m going to ask you”. Families always have one or more: slow eaters, slow walkers, slow dressers, and/or slow workers (completing homework and other tasks).

Dawdling can easily become a source of aggravation and frustration. It’s especially hard when timeliness is of the essence and patience is decreasing by the minute (or second).

Dawdling 101
Children aren’t the only ones who dawdle…we’re all guilty of this at some point. Try to think back as to why you may have or still tend to dawdle. If you begin to understand some of the reasons for this behavior, it will make it easier for you to deal with the dawdling child. For example, June was a third child, and at family meals wasn’t fully engaged in the lively conversation of her siblings. So, she dawdled: she pushed the food around her plate, ate very little, and took her time. This attracted the attention of her parents and changed the focus from family interaction to attention to June and her slow eating.

This issue of “control” and getting attention are two of the many reasons that explain why children dawdle. Also, many kids are easily distracted and spend a lot of time daydreaming. They focus on what’s in front of them, only, and have a hard time “thinking ahead”. Others know what’s ahead, and don’t want to do it, and so they dawdle. Some kids are just slower moving through their lives.

Do’s and Don’ts with Dawdlers
Dawdling can certainly test your patience and ability to not “lose it”. If you can remember to use some of these suggestions, you may be able to deal with your great/grandchildren in a more calm and satisfying way.

• Try to figure out the situations that cause the most tension: eating, getting dressed, changing diapers, getting into the car-seat, etc. Prepare the children ahead of time, giving them as much notice and as many details as possible, and tell them what your expectations are.
-- For example: “We’re going to Aunt Nancy’s house today for her birthday party. After lunch, and playtime, we’ll change your shoes and get ready to leave by 4:00. I’ll let you know when you have to stop playing so that you can get dressed. If you want to bring something along in the car/bus, maybe you can go get it now and we’ll put it by the door.” Don't wait until the last minute. Talk about the outing during the day as a reminder. Tie it to something that’s part of their routine (playtime). Give as many cues as you can leading up to the time you leave. “We’re going to leave in 10 minutes. You’ll have to stop playing in 5 minutes, so that we have time for you to change your shoes and put your jacket on”. Then point to the clock/watch, so that they know the time is getting closer.
--If you have to help with homework, you can set up a visual schedule that provides time for work, and time for play, etc. And again, give as many cues as possible to make the transition from one thing to another.

• Explain to the child that you and she/he have certain things that need to be done. You don’t want to nag them, but you do need to have their cooperation so that neither one of you gets stressed.
-- “We’re meeting Mommy at her office tonight. We want to be on time and since there is a lot of traffic, let’s leave a little bit earlier so that we don’t have to rush. How about bringing a favorite book to look at while we’re on our way to see her”. In some cases, you may need to leave much earlier in order to not have added anxiety.

• Hurrying a dawdler doesn’t work. It can cause additional stress and the child may “dig in” and slow everything down even more, especially if control is the issue. Try to anticipate the situation, and provide some alternatives so that you can respect the child but also redirect the focus.
-- Dressing is often difficult for children. It can be about not wanting to do something or go somewhere or it can be about wanting to have the control to make their own choices. If this is a dawdling issue for your great/grandchild, you can offer them a limited choice of 2 things to wear (“the blue pants or the red pants”) ahead of time to avoid last minute temper-tantrums, or allow them to make their own choice (again with limits), even if it’s a fashion faux pas.

Dawdling can be frustrating, especially if you’re a fast paced person. Consider whether your great/grandchild is just naturally a slow paced person, or is unconsciously trying to manipulate or control the situation. Knowing this will help you reduce conflict. Put yourself in their shoes, and take one step at a time.

Monday, June 14, 2010


(With apologies to Nancy Sinatra and her boots)

We recently read a terrific blog about walking for good health and exercise while using a pedometer . A pedometer is a device you wear on your belt or waist and it counts your steps.

Basically, you are encouraged to walk 10,000 steps daily. “Getting 10,000 steps in a day requires you to be creative in how you spend your day. Most people average 3,000-5,000 steps per day just in normal daily activities. So let's assume you are on the low end of that range, you need to find another 7,000 steps to meet your goal”.

When you are with or taking care of young great-grandchildren, the probability of reaching that goal can be greatly improved, and you won’t have to use the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise with the kids around”. Whether you push a stroller, go for a walk with the kids, or do other energetic things with them, you can increase your “stepage”. Not only is this important for adults, it’s equally important for the children AND you are modeling a positive lifestyle.

Here are some things you can think about doing…just remember to know your own limits, so you don’t “over-do it”: walking and counting the squares on the sidewalk; musical “movement” games* (see below from some recommendations); hopscotch (just be careful); jumping rope; walking up and down stairs instead of using an elevator; hide & seek, walking the dog, pushing a cart in the market or store (with older kids walking – NOT in the cart), etc.

In our culture, children spend a great deal of time sitting: at their desks, their computers, TV, playing with their hand-held game devices, etc. Pre-schools and elementary schools provide limited physical activity, and few use a thought-out fitness program. The emphasis is on academics with little regard for the power of physical activity and exercise, even though the research says it’s an important way for children to focus and learn. Combine this lack of physical exercise with poor eating habits, and we have the national health problem of obesity.

So, when you get yourself a pedometer **, why not buy one for your great-grandchildren? You can turn your time with them into a counting challenge as well as a way to stay healthy…and you all will be winners!

**BABYSONGS by Hap Palmer – Great song called “Walking” which is perfect to do with young toddlers, and lots more.

GO WAGGALOO – Sara Lee Guthrie & Family – This is our new favorite recording…from the Guthrie Family (Woody’s granddaughter/ Arlo’s daughter), you can sing “Big Square Walkin’” as you go on those sidewalk strolls.

KIDS IN ACTION by Greg & Steve – Several wonderful movement/action songs including: “The Way We Do It” and “Goin’ on a Bear Hunt”, etc.

And don’t forget these other “Walking” sing-along songs:
I Walk the Line -- Johnny Cash
I'm Walkin'-- by Fats Domino (yes indeed, I'm talkin'...)
Footloose -- Kenny Loggins
These Boots Were Made for Walking -- Nancy Sinatra
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
On the Road Again -- Willie Nelson
You'll Never Walk Alone-- from "Carousel"
…and many, many more!!!

**PEDOMETERS (at sporting goods stores or online)--from very cheap to very expensive!
Less Expensive Style:

More Expensive Style:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


We’ve all opened our email to find lists of things we should be doing, or not doing, and we open the paper to read about all the negative things that are occurring in the world today.

It’s time for us to turn these “should/shouldn’t” lists and negative things into something positive! So, as the older and wiser generation, maybe we can have an impact on our families and friends by putting this pretty darn good list to work!

It’s a simple recipe to follow. The ingredients are listed, and there’s no need to go to the market to prepare this. Serving instructions follow.


1. Alright!
2. Amazing effort!
3. Awesome!
4. Beautiful!
5. Bravo!
6. Clever!
7. Congratulations!
8. Cool!
9. Couldn’t have done it better myself!
10. Excellent!
11. Exceptional!
12. Extraordinary!
13. Fantastic!
14. Far out!
15. Fine!
16. First rate!
17. Good for you!
18. Good job!
19. Good remembering!
20. Good thinking!
21. Good try!
22. Good work!
23. Great answer!
24. Great!
25. Hooray for you!
26. I call that a fine job!
27. I knew you could do it!
28. I think you’ve got it now!
29. I’m proud of you!
30. Incredible!
31. Job well done!
32. Keep it up!
33. Keep up the good work!
34. Keep working on it, you’re getting better!
35. Look at you go!
36. Magnificent!
37. Marvelous!
38. My hat’s off to you!
39. Nice Going!
40. Niiiice!
41. Now you’ve got the hang of it!
42. Out of sight!
43. Outstanding!
44. Perfect!
45. Phenomenal!
46. Radical!
47. Remarkable!
48. Right on!
49. Sensational!
50. Stupendous!
51. Super job!
52. Superb!
53. Sweeeeet!
54. Take a bow!
55. Terrific!
56. Thanks for helping!
57. That’s better!
58. That’s coming along nicely!
59. That’s it!
60. That’s quite an improvement!
61. That’s really nice!
62. That’s RIGHT!
63. That’s the best you’ve ever done!
64. That’s the way to do it!
65. Tremendous!
66. Two thumbs up!
67. Unbelievable work!
68. Very courageous!
69. Way to go!
70. What a great idea!
71. Wonderful!
72. WOW!
73. You are very good at that!
74. You did that very well!
75. You figured that out!
76. You made it happen!
77. You made the difference!
78. You make it look easy!
79. You make me smile!
80. You outdid yourself!
81. You really make this fun!
82. You remembered!
83. You rock!
84. You should be proud!
85. You’re a good sport!
86. You’re a great example for others!
87. You’re a great kid! (person!)
88. You’re doing fine!
89. You’re doing much better today!
90. You’re learning a lot!
91. You’re on the right track!
92. You’re really going to town!
93. You’re really improving!
94. You’re really working hard today!
95. You’ve been practicing!
96. You’ve got it made!
97. You’ve just about got it!
98. Your help counts!

To make the most of this recipe, use these ingredients all the time, and be sure to sprinkle lovingly and liberally with that special verbal exclamation mark (!) …it’ll make a difference! There's enough here for you to serve to your great/grandchildren, kids, their partners and/or spouses, friends and still have leftovers! Feel free to pass it on!

And one more thought....
“All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them.” Ervin “Magic” Johnson

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Let’s Have Some HOMEMADE FUN

Now that the weather is being cooperative and mild (we hope), we’ve been thinking about things we can do with our great/grandchildren, around, inside and outside of the house…things that are fun and provide creative recreation. All of these activities can be adjusted according to age and attention span….you be the judge! If your great/grandchildren don’t live close enough to do these things together, you can make a “kit”, with all of the things they’ll need, and send it to them as a surprise.

Plastic cookie/water jar with lid and/or plastic food container with lid
Wooden mixing spoon or chop sticks or other utensils that can be used as drum sticks
Cotton balls or bunched up tissue that you attach to the “sticks” with tape (if using chop sticks, cover the pointed ends)

Close the jar or container and beat away. Using different sized containers will give different sounds. You can also add varying amounts of water to the containers to get different sounds. Attach an old dog leash, soft rope or heavy string to make the drum “wearable” for a marching band.

Round cardboard oatmeal container and/or water bottle with lid and/or
plastic cylindrical container with lid, etc.
Dry beans and/or rice and/or course salt
Tape to seal the containers

Different sounds will be created by adding varying amounts of ingredients to the container. Shake It Up Baby!!!

Cardboard toilet paper roll or paper towel roll
Waxed paper
Rubber bands or tape

Cover one end of the “kazoo” with waxed paper, and affix with tape or a rubber band. Use a hole punch to make a small hole about ¼ in from the open end of the kazoo. Remember, blowing won’t work with kazoo’s…humming will! Hmmmmmmm!!!

Once you have the band assembled you can march around or sit and play along with your favorite song…one of ours is “76 Trombones” from The Music Man. We’ve listed a few of our favorite “rhythm band” recordings made especially for kids. NOW, let the music begin!!!*

We don’t all have those wonderful wooden unit blocks, Legos or Lincoln Logs around the house, but that shouldn’t deter you from building things. Gather up:
Cereal boxes, round oatmeal boxes with lids, gift boxes with lids, toilet and paper towel rolls, plastic food containers, shoe boxes, etc. They can be used as is, or YOU can cut them down to the shape and size desired…just be sure to close off ragged edges with tape. Violá…you have your own Home Depot. These “blocks” can be colored, painted or left au natural. Let the children design and build their own structures…and feel free to add things like people (dolls/action figures), landscaping (trees made from twigs with leaves or colored paper glued on, finely cut colored paper as grass, colored cotton ball bushes, etc.), an airport landing strip or train tracks (from construction paper), etc. Encourage the kids to look at the shapes of the “blocks” and decide which ones are best for sideways, or upright building, etc.

Nature is a wonderful thing, and there are ways to grow things inside and outside of your home. The simplest indoor plantings use a ripe avocado pit and/or black/pinto/lima beans.

Avocado: Take a clean avocado pit, from a ripe avocado, and soak it for at least 24 hours in warm water. Then stick 3 equidistance toothpicks around the thinner (or top) part of the pit. Put the pit with the picks into a jar or glass, so that the picks support the pit. (Then say this sentence three times very fast). Fill the jar or glass up to the point where the fattest (bottom) part of the pit is just touching the water. Place in a bright window and eventually the pit will produce roots and split so leaves will emerge. Then it can be planted in soil, either in a container or the ground. Be sure the water level stays correct. You may never see an avocado come from the planted tree, but your grandchildren’s children might!

Beans: Soak 4 lima beans or 4 pinto beans in warm water for several hours. Using a very well cleaned out jam/mayo or similar sized jar, add some warm water and swirl around to get the jar wet. Depending on the size of the jar, moisten multiple cotton balls and add them to the jar, so they lie as smooth as possible against the inside walls of the jar. Use as many cotton balls as you need to line the jar. Now, peel back the cotton just enough to insert one of the soaked beans, and press them (don’t crush them), a little more than halfway down the jar, between the cotton and the wall. You may need to add more cotton if the beans slip. Repeat with the other 3 beans. Fill the jar with water, and then pour out the excess. Put into a sunny window, and water to keep the cotton wet. The beans will swell, then split, and roots and stalk will grow. Try using different types of beans. The plants can eventually be put into the ground or a container outside.
Don’t be afraid to start tomato or flower seeds/small plants indoors and then transfer them to the garden or outdoor container. You can help your great/grandchildren grow things for themselves, or to give as gifts. Kids of all ages LOVE to see things grow.

Our great/grandchildren love to make lemonade from fresh lemons. Lemons seem readily available during the year, but making lemonade to sell, only works when the sun in out. There are millions of lemonade recipes available online, but we like to use the ones with the least amount of sugar. You can also make “orangeade” by squeezing fresh oranges and adding some club soda to make it fizzy. Anyhow, having a lemonade/orangeade stand is classic! BUT, it’s something to do ONLY if you have the time to sit and supervise. You can’t have young kids selling things, unsupervised. So, if you have the time and the space, go for it. You’ll need: lemon/orangeade with ice, in a pleasant, clean pouring container, small paper cups, a small table and chairs, a container or purse for the money, a decorated sign, a camera and some customers. It’s nice to turn this into a charitable event, with the proceeds going to a charity of the children’s choice. Help the kids find a comfortable selling price, and sell away. Take photos that can be shared with the charity. When the money, probably in the form of your check, is sent, ask the kids to draw or write something to that charity to bring the project full circle.

Here are some wonderful CD’s that you can use with your great/grandchildren when making a Homemade Family Band. We love these!

Rhythms on Parade(Ages 2-8) by Hap Palmer

Shake Rattle & Rock (Ages 2-8) by Greg & Steve

Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers (Ages 2-8) by José Luis Orozco

All For Freedom (Ages 3-10) Sweet Honey In The Rock

Music For Little People: 15th Anniversary Collection (Ages 2-8) by Various Artists

Thursday, March 25, 2010

BE PREPARED: Safety First

Just because we’ve had children, doesn’t mean we remember what to do in emergencies...of many kinds. So, if you’re going to take care of your great/grandchildren, at any time, you’ll probably need to refresh your skills, either by taking a class and/or reading up on current emergency procedures, such as CPR and first aid. Check your local community resources for classes…stay up to date on this…for your great/grandchildren and the rest of your family.

This may all sound boring and useless, UNTIL it’s NOT! When emergencies occur, adrenaline kicks in, and sometimes our brains forget the obvious. So, as the Girl/BoyScouts, Bluebirds, Campfire Girls and Tom Leher say: “BE PREPARED”!!!

We always advocate for balance and communication with your
great/grandchildren. Without being preachy, when it comes to safety, might we suggest that you establish routines that maintain your sanity while modeling safe behavior for them. This includes: crossing the streets, getting out of cars, slamming/closing car doors, playground protocol and safety, kitchen and bathroom hazards, etc. This all sounds daunting, but in fact, it’s part of daily living. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

We’ve listed some of the most common emergencies that can affect you and your charges. Since we’re not doctors or EMT’s, we’ve given the basics, but it’s best to visit these or other websites that can give you more detailed information. It might be good to print and post these on your already overcrowded refrigerator or bulletin board, along with the emergency phone numbers you already have hanging there. Also, be sure to have a filled out EMERGENCY FORM from your children, in case you are the person who needs to make a medical emergency decision.

Aside from the normal emergency contact information page showing the pediatrician, dentist, etc. here is an example of a medical release form you should keep around. Printable at:

Consent for Medical and/or Emergency Treatment**

I, ______________, hereby voluntarily consent to the rendering of such care, including diagnostic procedures, surgical & medical treatment & blood transfusions, by medical doctors, hospitals or their authorized designees, as may in their professional judgement be necessary to provide for the medical, surgical or emergency care of my
(hereafter “dependent”) – Full Name

I further give my consent to ________________________________________
(hereafter “caregiver”) – Full Name

who will be caring for my dependent for the period ________________ through _________________, to arrange for routine or emergency medical and/or dental care and treatment necessary to preserve the health of my dependent. In the event that my dependent is injured or ill while under the care of the caregiver, I hereby give permission to the caregiver to provide first aid for said dependent and to take the appropriate measures, including contacting the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) system and arranging for transportation to the nearest emergency medical facility.

In making medical decisions on my behalf for the benefit of my dependent, I direct that the caregiver attempt to contact me. However, if medical care becomes essential, I give permission to the caregiver to make such decisions regarding such treatment as deemed appropriate by the medical doctor, hospital or their authorized designee. In furtherance of any treatment decisions to be made by the caregiver on my behalf for the benefit of my dependent, I authorize the caregiver to request, obtain, review and inspect any and all information bearing upon my dependent’s health and relevant to any such decisions to be made respecting such treatment.

I acknowledge that no guarantees have been made to me as to the effect of such examinations or treatment on the condition of my dependent and that I am responsible for all reasonable charges in connection with the care and treatment rendered to my dependent during this period.
Signature of Legal Guardian ____________________
Witness ____________________________
Name ________________________________
Address __________________Phone______________
Name of dependent __________________________
Phone _________________________________
Allergies ______________________________
Health Insurance Carrier __________________________
Health Insurance Policy # and Group # _______________
Personal Care Physician _________________
Address _________________Phone __________________
Medications dependent is taking _________________
Date of last tetanus booster __________________
Dentist ____________________________________
Address ________________Phone __________________
**This is only an example of a consent form. You should consult an attorney if you think such a legal document might be right for you. Family HealthSource(March, 1999)

We have all either experienced or read about these devastating occurrences. Check with your local city/county governments for safety and disaster procedures and discuss them with your family. Although these kinds of disasters will vary by where you live, here’s something you can take control of and do yourself, ahead of any type of emergency. When these disasters happen, families are desperate to know that everyone is safe. Creating a “communication tree” is an essential way to keep family members informed.

Identify one or two people, OUTSIDE of your immediate area, that will act as “command central”. It may be easier to call long distance, than to call your neighbor when these things happen. In our personal experience, with earthquakes in Los Angeles, the phones, land and cell, worked for at least a few moments after the event, and then either broke-down or got jammed by too many callers. In the first moments, we called a relative in Northern California who was our pre-planned contact person. Some of us lost phone connections shortly after we advised her that we were ok, but at least she was able to tell others that we were safe. This “communication tree” is simple, effective and can help your family stay in the know. For more information on Earthquakes, Fires, Floods, Hurricanes, etc. visit:

Keep this number handy. It operates 24/7/365 and they can tell you how to take action immediately 1-800-222-1222 and/or call 911
Below, we’ve listed the basic information supplied by the American Association of Poison Control. Be sure to visit their website and download the information they make available.
Poison Prevention Tips from the American Assoc. of Poison Control
Store Poisons Safely

• Store medicines and household products locked up, where children cannot see or reach them.
• Store poisons in their original containers.
• Use child-resistant packaging. But remember —nothing is child-proof!
Use Poisons Safely
• Read the label. Follow the directions on medicines and products.
• Are children around? Take the product or medicine with you to answer the door or the phone.
• Lock products and medicines up after using them.
• Is it medicine? Call it medicine, not candy.
• Children learn by imitation. Take your medicines where children can’t watch.
Teach Children to Ask First
• Poisons can look like food or drink. Teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
First Aid for Poisoning - Call 1-800-222-1222 AND/OR 911

With all of the toys and toy recalls, mostly from products made outside of the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission site offers ongoing, updated information about toy safety. It’s a great site to bookmark!

It also has a great list of how to choose suitable toys for kids, called
“Which Toys For Which Child Ages 0-5”
“Which Toys For Which Child Ages 6-12

Last, but certainly not least, everyone NEEDS to wash hands!!! This is the easiest and most essential way to prevent spreading illness, especially among children and their caregivers. Model it and insist and expect the children to do the same!!!

So, now that we’re all prepared, take a break and relax! Being PREPARED takes a lot of energy!