Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goodbye Jan Berenstain

Berenstain books were Jamie's favorites when she was little, and the grandkids love them too. I think we still have some of the old ones from when Jame was young.

Thank you Jan Berenstain for all the joy your writing and illustrating brought. What fun it must have been to spend a lifetime with her husband creating such iconic books.

Getting Goosebumps

Eli and I have a new tradition of watching RL Stine's "Goosebumps" stories on TV when he gets home from karate in the afternoon.That is, if he's been good and Mom gives the OK. For the uninitiated, Goosebumps was a popular series of scary books for kids back when my daughter was young. It's like Twilight Zone for the middle-school crowd.

We both have the sense that we're doing something naughty because really he's a bit young to watch the televised versions of the stories. Some are just goofy, like yesterday's episode where the big brother accidentally made his little sister disappear by way of a magic clock. But a couple of them have been intense for a six-year old, and he has to hide his face to watch. Yet -- he's riveted, and if I suggest the show's too much and maybe we should turn it off he wails "Nooooo MooooonMa. It's not too scary for me!"

Then he opens one of the big fans we got for the kids in San Francisco and watches the TV through the black material. The fabric is sheer, fake silk, and you can still see the action through it. I checked.

I LOVED being scared as a kid -- ghost stories, scary movies, all of it. I still do, but not gory, slasher movies. Films like "Shutter Island" are what raise my goosebumps these days. And Poltergeist, yeah, Poltergeist still does it too. I watched Poltergeist at my grandparents house by myself and had to go wake up my grandma to talk to me for a while after it was over. And I was 15 years old!

I've learned that not everyone shares my and Eli's love of a good scare -- just read a report that said approximately one-third of us avoid scary movies and thrill-seeking behaviors at all costs, another one-third (mostly men) enjoy the adrenaline rush of fear enough to try extreme adventures like bungee jumping and take pride in facing their fears and surviving.

The last third, like me, probably enjoys a good scary movie now and then because it gives us the opportunity to explore dark images that we otherwise avoid thinking about; the same reason kids love Halloween.

And Goosebumps.

Friday, February 24, 2012


The other day I was working out a recipe for an aromatherapy "Calm Down" blend for the book and it got me thinking about how grandkids aren't always perfect or even fun to be around. This is a hard thing to admit. I've rarely heard a grandparent say "I love 'em, but those kids were wild monsters the last time they were here and I couldn't wait for their parents to come home."

Of course, grandparents aren't always that fun to hang out with either. Sometimes we're tired and grouchy or secretly resentful that we cancelled our kayaking weekend to babysit. Sometimes we snap, raise our voices, have moments of impatience that make us feel immediately ashamed.

You don't see those pictures in the brag book, the ones with Grandma's hair all disheveled and the house torn up -- Grandpa on his hands and knees cleaning some sort of hazardous waste from the carpet that everyone knows is going to leave a stain that will NEVER EVER come out of there.

Grandma with her mouth screwed wide open screaming "Get down from there!" for the millionth time or Grandpa with his clamped shut just trying not blast a string of obsenities out the back door.

No, those are the pictures we Grandparents lock up in our minds' eyes because they remind us too much of parenting. Too real and tired and too this is why I can't have nice things in the house.

Maybe we don't talk about the bad parts because we understand how quickly it all passes -- the unpleasantness as well as the pleasures. We know that in about five minutes our grandchildren will be teenagers and might not want to come to our house for a weekend anymore. Won't ask us to howl at the moon or play Candyland. So we suck it up, snuggle on the couch and watch their favorite video with them for the tenth time and invest in the best carpet cleaner money can buy.

They're worth it. Little angels.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More than Just a Pretty Face

I recently read a study by the University of Southern California that concluded that children who have an affectionate relationship with at least one of their grandparents scored higher on self-esteem tests than those who didn't. In fact, the positive affects of good grandparental relationships can even counterbalance the negative affects of divorce on a child's self-esteem.

In other words -- it's an important job.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Eli and The Elephant

I keep a small personal altar behind my writing desk. It displays a few special items that encourage and inspire me to write. A Ganesh incense holder is the centerpiece, and when I work on creative writing projects I light some Ganesh incense and read a mantra dedicated to the Lord of Removing Obstacles.

I was lighting a lot of incense when the kids first moved in -- determined to stick with a writing schedule that included the work that feeds my soul, not just that which feeds my creditors. Because they love fire of all kinds, the kids would come around and ask to blow out the incense or smell the smoke -- especially Eli. He wanted to light incense constantly and in my effort to show that it was meant to be a meaningful gesture I made him repeat the mantra with me each time:

Oh Lord Ganesh of large body, curved trunk, with the brilliance of a million suns, please make all of my work free of obstacles, always.

Today Eli asked to light some incense. I was busy looking for assignments. "Alright," I answered half-heartedly. "Do you want to blow it out?" I waved the burning incense in front of his mouth trying to hurry the ritual along. "Say the thing first," he said. "We have to say the Ganesh."

So we said the Ganesh, and instead of writing an article about how to find the best deals on Christmas decorations I wrote this poem.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Fallish Craft to do with the Kids

I can't take full credit for this project, I found something like it while researching an article for fall decorations. But I adapted it and made it work with the supplies we had on hand and realized it was really a great project to do with kids because there's a job everyone can handle -- big or little. The whole family could make it together and enjoy the chance to bond as they discuss a few of the things they’re thankful for. 

My favorite thankful thing came from our granddaugther. She was thankful that "the monsters under the bed didn't color her fingers while she was sleeping." Aren't we all!

Because they are so inexpensive to make these weaths are also a good project for the class room, a day care, scout troop or other organizations that involve young children.

If you make one, send me a photo and I'll post it with your grandkid's names!
Supplies for 1 Wreath:

     1 paper plate
        6 sheets of paper -- plain white or recycled from other projects

     Crayons and colored pencils in fall hues

     Children’s safety scissors

     Glue stick

Start the youngest children on covering a sheet of paper with fall color. Any combination of crayons and pencils can be used, and in fact the end result is best if several colors are used. Cover the paper with an even layer of color. If recycling paper from other projects use the backside or color over any designs that already exist.

An adult or older child can trace three of four leaf designs onto one of the blank pieces of paper. Make a variety of shapes such as a maple leaf, oak leaf and basic oval leaf.  Each leaf should be approximately 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Cut them out to use as templates.

Instruct an older child to trace the leaf designs onto the back of a colored piece of paper. Give the job of cutting out the leaves to children between the ages of five and eight – it’s great practice for their scissor skills.

Ask older children to trace around the edge of the cut leaf with a dark brown of russet felt marker. Include center and lateral veins on approximately half of the leaves for extra detail.

Cut the center out of a paper plate. Use a bowl or saucer to draw an even circle. Leave 1 ½ to 3 inches around the edge of the plate. Color or paint the paper plate in dark brown or dark green to provide a neutral background for your leaves.

Glue the leaves with veins around the wreath shape in a random design. On the remaining leaves, ask each family member to name one or two things they’re grateful for, and write it on the leaf with a bold marker. Condense their sentiments into one or two words to make it easier to read. Attach the remaining leaves to the form.  Use a removable, adhesive-backed hook to display your wreath on any door.

To help preserve your wreath year after year, wrap it in acid-free tissue paper before storing.

Starting Over -- Again

Alright, I'll do it. I'll have a Granny blog! Instead of trying to squeeze it in somewhere else I'll give the grandmothers a place of their own, as they deserve.

Funny how my dreams of beekeeping went kaput, and yet I now find myself "queen" of a busy little hive. Co-queen really. I happily share the title with my daughter and want very much for her to feel that she's in her "own" home and not just a guest in ours.

Here's the story:
Three years ago L and I were trying to figure out how to move ourselves to a part of the world we never wanted to live in again just so we could be close to our grandkids. We only have one child so we can play favorites like that. I was literally heartsick to miss out on all the big events in their little lives. My dream of grandmothering was to be a cookie-baking, car-pooling, soccer-game-attending kind of grandma who let you stay up late and eat pizza in the living room when you slept over. Not the kind you talk to on the phone a couple of times a month and get Christmas presents in the mail from.
Today we’re hands-on grandparents in our own cozy California home where we get to bake cookies, build impossibly complicated wooden models of dragons, (Ages 5 and up, really? C’mon, that thing has about 200 pieces!) car-pool, attend karate and tumbling classes and let the kids stay up late and eat pizza on the weekend.

But it's not ideal -- imagine that. We're exhausted, and just as we were getting our old-married-couple mojo back there's a houseful of people to contend with. The other day I heard Eli say to his grandpa 'You guys sure do have a small house." To which Pop-Pop replied, "Well it sure does seem a lot smaller than it used to."

We're figuring out how to live in a multi-generational home, to make room for toys and messes and naps and dinners that are hours earlier than we've grown used to and to a lack of privacy and having our possessions lost or stained or "accidental broken" every other day.

Adjusting, adjusting, adjusting. That's our motto. Pop-Pop and I help eachother to remember that whatever adjustments we're making our daughter and her children are making more and more difficult ones as they learn how to be a new kind of family without all the toys and space and people they were used to having.

Which brings me to this blog -- a place to write about the adjustments, share some laughs, some Granny projects and celebrate my new life living with grandchildren.

So, welcome to the Grandmother's Club. Membership is open!