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And why haven't I deleted it yet?

And why did I take a photo of zucchini corn cakes? And why haven’t I deleted it yet? 


Scrapbooking does not come naturally to me. My family scrapbook growing up was a big drawer under the TV where we dumped the occasional photos we felt were worth keeping. A couple of moves and the photos were duly placed into a new drawer somewhere else. Perhaps a photo would be removed from time to time at a milestone birthday or graduation. But usually not. Not to paint too dim a picture, our best photos were tastefully framed and placed somewhere in the house to enjoy. I suppose if you put them all in a row, we would have a timeline.

So, not surprisingly, when I had my own family, I started out with a large drawer in my coffee table where I placed any photos I remembered to print. I finally did organize quite a few into various scrapbooks when there was a wildfire near our house and it seemed easier to haul a couple of books than 1000 loose pictures. But soon after, the drawer filled up again.

Then we got a new coffee table. And there were no empty drawers in our house. Another round of shoving photos into some photo albums came to pass. And then things got really ugly. My husband and I each got iPhones, our 8-year old took possession of an old digital camera, we got a new digital camera, and my husband and I each got new computers, one Mac and one PC. Within 3 months, I had 1000s of photos on 6 different devices, nothing was getting printed, every memory card was full, and about 1% of all the photos were worth looking at again.

The solution? No idea. But for now the digital cameras are off limits, since we aren’t completely sure where the download cables are, and we have reactivated an account at an online photo-printer to encourage us to print and ‘scrapbook’ more. Facebook and its timeline are beyond my skill set. Of course we are using DoubleScoop with the grandparents and uncle so at least their photos are all in one place, rather than in separate emails. If you have any great ideas to help with organizing photos, please share them.

Exactly how grandmother made me feel!

In honor of Grandparents Day, I made a list of the things that made my grandmother wonderful, loving, unforgettable, fun, thoughtful, fantastic and fully awesome. Obviously not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start:
1. Never forgot my birthday
2. Always sent me something on my brother’s birthday, even if it was flowered underwear
3. Let me win every game of Crazy 8s we ever played, and I didn’t suspect a thing.
4. Paid attention to every word I said, and remembered it later on
5. Told me stories about her childhood, back in the day.
6. Cut out and sent crossword puzzles to me for the entire 2 years I lived in South America
7. Shared her opinions and insights freely, with her unique perspective
8. Went back to college to finally earn her degree around age 50
9. Found friends for us in her neighborhood when we visited
10. Was always there for me.Happy Grandparents Day!

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My daughter used to love writing. She would happily create endless stories and illustrate them at her little table. In fact, we could no longer keep each creation and had to divert several to the recycling bin. A year ago, though, she lost momentum. We tried to encourage her to write more and prompted her with topics, but she resisted. Then, we ran across an American Girl-branded letter writing set and she perked up. ‘I want to write letters,’ she announced.
Letter-writing is great for kids. It’s fun because it’s short, you get to use a sticker (a stamp), and you can keep in touch with friends and family over summer. I think letter-writing between a child and grandparent is especially exciting. Grandparents always read and praise the letter lavishly, often insert comic strips or jokes, and quickly respond. I ran across an iVillage article today that had some great tips I have highlighted below to start the pen pal relationship:
From The iVillage PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge

Pre-Readers:

  • Ask your child to think of five questions for his new pen pal to answer, about your family history. These questions might arise as you build the tree together – write them down!
  • Help your child write out his letter, and encourage him to accompany it with a copy of the tree and his own signature.

 Early Readers:

  • Help your child set up an interview with his new pen pal, with the aim of learning more about his family history.
  • When your child receives his first response in the mail, help him fill in any new information on the family tree and of course, read it together!

For grandparents, here are a few ideas to keep the conversation and excitement going:

  • Include stories about your childhood at about the same age as your pen pal. Point out what is different and what is similar.
  • Consider adding some humor with comic strips cut out from a newspaper or sharing a knock-knock joke.
  • If you have a picture from your childhood that relates to your letter, make a copy and send that along. Kids love to see what their grandparents looked like at the same age!
  • Use postcards when traveling or visiting special places like museums or attractions.
  • Ask specific questions! This helps continue the conversation.
  • Send a stamp! (This is written by a busy mom. If you really want a quick reply, toss a stamp in the envelope.)

Happy writing!

We love summer in our house. Trips to the pool, fun camps, late, lazy nights followed by even lazier mornings, and the occasional camping trip or visit to grandparents sprinkled in. But, as a parent, I am hearing a lot more about the ‘summer slide,’ where a kid actually loses a portion of his or her learning over the course of the summer. This puts me in a tough spot. I want summer to be fun and relaxing, but I also don’t want my daughter to be shedding what she learned during the school year.

This is where a grandparent can really step in and make a difference. I got the idea watching how a neighbor of ours is using our app, DoubleScoop, with his grandfather. He is going into second grade and learning simple math. His grandfather is sending one math problem over the app, and the boy answers it and sends it back. And there are lots of fun ways to draw smiley faces, stars, whatever, to make it more fun. And the boy says it’s like getting mail!

I think this is a brilliant idea. When I ask my daughter to do something like a math problem, or write a story, I am met with a scowl and a whine. But if Grandma or Grandpa do math or writing using technology, it’s the greatest thing ever for her. So here’s my plan. My dad is going to send her some math every couple of days. She’ll figure it out. I won’t have to worry about it.

My other plan is to have Lydia write and illustrate a story with her grandmother. They can each write a short section, send it off, then the other person will illustrate it. I think this will be a great way to help my daughter write more and be excited about it. I’ll let you know how we do, and share some ideas for types of math problems and story lines.

Wild Cherry Life Savers

June 12, 2012

I went to my older daughter’s end-of-school party the other day. I was a little sad that she was getting old so quickly, but had fun anyway. Right after an all-grade Bollywood dance – pretty awesome, I should add, to watch 100 second-graders dance on a sunny morning to Indian rhythms – she slipped a red Starburst in my hand. ‘I won it and I know how much you like red candy.’ I smiled.I love red candy (refer to my post about Red Vines), and I blame my great Aunt Marie for my vice and the currents of red dye flowing through my veins. My great-aunt Marie never married. Instead, she chose to help her younger sister, my nana, raise her three boys. Then, she assumed the role of grandparent to all of the boys’ grandchildren. She lived just a few minutes from her sister her whole life, so a visit to my grandmother was always a visit with my great-aunt, too.

Great-aunt Marie took grandparenting to another level of indulgence. As several of her nieces and nephews have commented, we don’t believe she ever won a game of CandyLand, go-fish or crazy eights. She always let us add the half&half and sugar to her coffee. When my grandmother and great-aunt took us to an amusement park in Chicago when we were older, they had a problem. They couldn’t possibly let my brother go on the triple loopty-loop roller coaster by himself, but of course he had to go. So Marie, at somewhere near 70 years old, gamely rode the most insane ride I have ever seen. She truly looked like she would pass out when she tottered off the ride.

But one of the most clear memories I have is the Life Savers candy. Whenever we first saw her during our visit, we would run toward her and start rummaging through her large purse. Tucked away between tissues and a change purse were always 2 packs of LifeSavers – usually Butter Rum, Rainbow or, when I was lucky, Wild Cherry. And it was the most exciting thing for a kid from a low-sugar home to find these treasures, and eat them all to myself. I truly do love cherry candy, but I think more than that it takes me back to my time with my exceptional great-aunt Marie.

Birthday Wishes

May 29, 2012

“So, what do you like most when grandma comes to visit?” “Presents,” my four-year old replied quietly. “And what do you like most about grampy?” “Tickles,” she giggled. Of course, presents are on her little mind. It’s her birthday tomorrow, and my parents are flying in to celebrate it with her.

Grandparents make birthdays special. My husband and I barely remember each others’ birthdays, let alone buy gifts for each other. We struggle through the kids’ birthdays, which are unfortunately just two weeks apart during the last month of school. Neither of us are great at hosting kids’ parties, but both our girls are relentless in wanting home parties. We scrambled this year, setting up scavenger hunts, having a movie, making our own pinata (the birthday girl loved it. We were embarrassed), and leading, yet another, birthday parade down our street. Yes, it all worked out, but we were exhausted.

Maybe because they are not planning and hosting the party, but their grandparents are better at really celebrating a birthday. GIfts were discussed, purchased and wrapped in advance. And a friend of the grandparents sent an electronic card with singing animals. My daughter also received a silly card with a ballerina kitty (Best Card Ever) and a frivolous little tank top that screamed fun.

So tomorrow, we will have a special dinner out, and open some gifts. I can’t help get into the spirit of things, so I am going to spray whipped cream on her AM pancakes. I feel a little sorry for her, since she wanted to go to a hot dog stand for her birthday dinner. We nixed that but promised her dessert. It should be great.

MMMMMM. Delicious

Maybe it’s the cough from last week’s cold that keeps hanging on, the lousy preschool drop off this morning that made me wonder if kindergarten really is in my daughter’s future, or the prospect of balancing kids and job when school lets out in just two weeks. But something set me off at Target yesterday in the nut and candy aisle, and the next thing I knew, I had eaten an entire pack of Red Vines licorice before we even got to the checkout. My daughter was in mild shock.

This reaction comes directly from a gene from my mother. As a kid, I remember her regularly sneaking a caramel from the open bins at the supermarket. I was always a little surprised. Not only did she not pay for it – I did pay for my Red Vines- but it was so contrary to our seventies, low-sugar, carob-laced diet. Was she undermining all of the lessons about health she had taught us, the years of wheat bread, unpeeled apples, and zucchini pizza?

As a mom, I now know she taught me instead that there are times to break the rules. When the lights get too bright at Target, it’s a little hot, your kid has asked for gum way too many times, an organic rice cake isn’t going to cut it. So you have a little treat to help you make it to the cash register. And your kid realizes that you don’t collapse immediately when you ingest a glug of red dye mixed in with corn syrup, even though I vaguely remember telling her a few years back that this type of candy makes you sick and unhealthy.

So that’s what happened. And I have a fantastic mom. She showed me all the right things to do and how to do them. But then she let me in on the secret that the world won’t stop spinning when you mess up. I hope to send the same message to my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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