Time to Garden

April 30, 2012

Cake from my GardenI can barely move. I just spent the afternoon embarking on my latest adventure in gardening. Today, I dug holes and planted some beautiful species to liven up my front yard. But, if history is my guide, the $400 worth of interesting foliage, appealing color, etc., will wither in about 2-3 months. And I just wish and wish that I had inherited my grandmother’s vivid green thumb.

My mother’s mother was an extraordinary gardener. She made use of every bit of her tiny garden. She tended wildly prolific raspberry bushes and an abundant peach tree. She deftly turned her harvest into jams and pies. She grew tomatoes, which she didn’t eat since they gave her hives, but I think she gave those to neighbors for fun. She also grew rhubarb, which she gave to my other grandmother who lived 8 blocks away. And she loved her silver dollars that she dried into bouquets alongside bunches of lavender on a clothes lines in her basement.

Her approach to gardening seemed, to me, casual, but passionate. She kept a dedicated set of shelves with violets in her family room that she grew out of cuttings from other plants. She looked forward to preserving her fruit, and would send us back home with a labeled jar of peach jam sealed with wax. She is probably the only reason I enthusiastically harvest the pears from our pear tree, and take the time to peel, roast and puree them each year. The other reason is the Roasted Pear Cake with Chocolate frosting I make from time to time, pictured above.

So now, I am lying down, recovering from planting a golden flame something or other that I had to pay someone to pick out for me. If I remember to water my new plants, it will be a step in the right direction.

It has been a year since I started working on DoubleScoop. Now, it’s finally ready to roll. We are all very excited about what we ultimately created. But the big question is whether people outside our little office on top of the beauty shop will be excited, too.
Over the last 12 months, we have spent hours discussing and debating the best way for our app to connect kids with their grandparents. While our small team has plenty of differences of opinion, we clearly have a shared passion for our goal of connecting kids with grandparents. I think one of our team’s strengths is that each of us feels very strongly that the role of a grandparent in the life of a child is extremely important, and that helping to build this relationship through technology is worthwhile.
So one year later, this is DoubleScoop: DoubleScoop is an app that connects grandkids and grandparents. Interestingly, I had thought that apps only worked on iPhones, but it turns out they can work on pretty much anything. Our app currently works on normal computers (laptop or desktop), as well as iPhones, iPads and iPods. Android will come later. After setting up an account, a grandparent and kid can use whichever device is available, and send each other photos, stories, drawings and voice recorded messages. My kids have loved ‘testing’ this, and both girls highly recommend it. I like it, not just because I work for DoubleScoop, but also because it is extremely safe to use, and my kids are doing something meaningful with technology.
If you have a chance to give it a try, you can set up an account for free at http://www.doublescoop.net. Let me know what you think. And now, back to work.
My daughter's drawing of Sparkle Fairy
I love visiting my hometown, Los Angeles, a few times a year. It’s great to visit my parents, check in with some of my old friends, and visit my favorite Mexican food restaurant, El Gringo. Clearly, it’s a perfect time for my kids to connect with their grandparents; but it’s also an opportunity for me to talk to other grandparents, meaning my parent’s friends.
There’s one grandma we usually seek out for a little chat, and she always gives me a new idea or insight into how grandparents connect with grandkids. She is a decidedly exuberant and dedicated granny. Her light-heartedness and patience for all things silly is addictive to my own kids. A great example is her invitation to my girls to visit and watch her cat do tricks. Not being a cat-person, I was skeptical. But, somehow, she figured out that if she cut a small hole in the corner of a brown paper grocery bag, lured her cat in the bag, then dangled a peacock feather over it, the cat would try to grab the feather through the hole. The result is a little kitty paw popping out erratically from a brown paper bag. It’s so funny. My kids could have watched the cat all morning.
Her latest activity is pure gold. She invented a special character, Sparkle Fairy, that she and her granddaughter go on adventures with over the phone while her parents take a break. To make the long-distance experience even better, she decorated a piece of fabric and sent it to her granddaughter, so she has an image of Sparkle Fairy in her room. She said she used pieces of fabric, a hot glue gun, and lots and lots of ‘stuff kids love,’ like ribbons, buttons, etc.

This is how it works. The parents put the phone on speaker and leave the room, maybe to sit down and have dinner, pay some bills, whatever. Then, the grand-daughter and grandma start a new adventure. The grand-daughter sometimes gets to decide what Sparkle Fairy does next, and grandma makes it happen. And here’s my favorite part. Grandma uses sound effects on her computer to enhance her story. So if Sparkle Fairy stumbles upon a farm, grandma plays a little clip of a squealing pig. And, if grandma goofs and plays a tiger growling, that’s ok too! Here’s one of the sites she uses: http://www.grsites.com/archive/sounds/category/25/?offset=0

I love Sparkle Fairy. I just asked our team of developers if we can include sound effects in our app, DoubleScoop. Wouldn’t it be fun to include noises in stories grandparents and kids are creating for each other? And if I ever have grandkids, I will definitely be inventing a unique character for each one of them. I have no doubt they will never forget it.

Behaving Badly

April 9, 2012

Ugh. Everything went smoothly for most of our trip to visit our grandparents over spring break. There was a minor hiccup when I realized that my 4-yr old wasn’t just trying to get attention by whining about pain in her foot. It turns out I had mistakenly dressed her in a shoe two sizes too small for her that she had bravely worn through two major airports. A quick trip to the shoe store fixed that problem.

However, on the drive back from the resort we went to with the grandparents, the little angels began to bicker in the back of the car. The 4-yr old kept humming, and big sister asked her to stop. She hummed more, a little softer. On one hand, it brought back a lot of memories of traveling with my brother. We fought a lot, and he taught me the concept of ‘international air space’, essentially meaning that while back seat was divided, he could still hit or pinch me. On the other hand, this was not the experience I was hoping to share with the grandparents.

It is completely unrealistic to think your kids will always be perfectly behaved around grandparents. But you can hope. And try. I brought out every snack I had. I made a major concession and let them play Angry Birds on my mom’s iPad. Then, of course, they fought about who had spent more time flinging birds around. Desperate, I sunk lower. Cupcakes, donuts and frosted cookies were promised. The humming continued.

At last, we made it home. The rascals cooled down and went to bed. ‘They were clearly tired,’ I said, trying to explain their behavior. And the grandparents, being very good grandparents indeed, chose not to give me any parenting advice, but simply agreed.

In my recent post (ok, fine, they are all recent) about spending spring break with my grandparents, Flying South to Grandmother’s House , it was still up in the air whether we would make it to a resort during our vacation. Meaning, no cooking, no cleaning, multiple pools, cocktails while playing Uno. Happily, Los Angeles was cold again this spring, and we headed to the desert for some warmth. And, it was fantastic. Thanks, grandparents, for a terrific treat and some real vacation! Oh, and the grandkids love it, too.

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