Head out on the highway…

I will remember 2019 as the year of the road trip. I have logged many hours and miles across Pennsylvania and Ohio and down to Washington D.C. I spent time with my sister and my mother-in-law, I connected with an old friend, and spent an almost dangerous amount of time alone with my own thoughts as I drove along I-80. My favorite road trips are definitely ones that include time with my grandchildren and happily our most recent trip was all about the grandkids.

Grandkid palooza started out with a visit with our youngest grandchild, Eleanor. One of the advantages of being the youngest grandchild is inheriting the toys your cousins have outgrown. She was more than happy to be the recipient of a plethora of duplos! Thanks guys.

The other big news in Eleanor’s life is there is now a piano in the home. Grandpa Bud’s piano has arrived at its new home where it will be well loved. I have a strong suspicion that Eleanor and her father will spend many happy hours here.

Then it was on to Maryland to visit our grandsons and celebrate their parents’ 14th wedding anniversary. Life has been beyond busy for all the adults involved so we decided to keep it simple and order pizza for dinner. I did want a way to involve my grandsons in the celebration of their parents anniversary so I decided to bake a cake and teach them how to make a heart shape out of a square and a circle. I arrived in Maryland with my cakes ready to roll. I asked the boys what the official symbol of love is and they replied it was a heart. Since I had baked a square and a circle ,I asked them how were we going to get a heart. They were all set to do some “cake carving” but as soon as I cut the circle in half they knew what to do to make the square into a heart. They then got busy making some banners and cards to decorate our masterpiece.

Sam in creative mode.

I was a little surprised when the nine-year old twins started talking to me about doing a crumb coat on the cake! Kids Baking Championship has given them the lingo but they may still need to fine tune their technique. Nonetheless, their parents were delighted with the heartfelt, finished project. And yes, I too believe their parents were meant for each other.

We ended the evening with a fire in the new fire pit. The night was clear and cool with the smell of wood smoke in the air. The perfect end to a fine day.

Before we knew it we were off to the land of girls. Elliot and Becky headed out for 24 hours of R&R and Mr. Smith and I settled in with Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth. First on the agenda was taking the girls to dance class. While we spent many years hauling boys to karate, taking girls to dance class is a new adventure for Mr. Smith and me. Elizabeth may not have all the moves down pat, but she’s full of enthusiasm and cute as a button.

After lunch at Pizza Hut, it was back home for an afternoon of crafting. We made cinnamon applesauce cut outs that are making the house smell cozy and festive.

Is it Emily or R2 D2???
Crafting is messy work!

While our cutouts were in the oven, the girls moved on the creating some adorable masterpieces from a Cheerful Chipmunks Kit. They’re pretty sure their parents will be impressed with their creativity.

Tomorrow Mr.Smith and I will head back to Pennsylvania and settle back into our daily routines, all the while cognizant that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Wilkes Barre has already started decorating for the holidays, taking advantage of a mild day last week to put up festive wreaths. Soon the tree in the town square will be up and the holiday fairs and celebrations will be in full swing. My goal is to embrace the season and savor the moments and not get caught up in my to-do list. I will play my favorite Christmas music while I wrap gifts and bake Christmas treats. I will light candles, add some Christmas greens and sip a glass of wine. I’m 64 years old and know that “perfection” is highly overrated. What’s not overrated is holiday fun with friends and family and I plan to have some fun.

C’est la vie.

Bingo!

George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” If he’s right, I’m gonna live forever! 

Starting with pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo, I have been playing games with my grandchildren for the past nine years and don’t see that ending any time soon.  Who doesn’t love hearing an infant’s delightful little giggles when you “peek” with them!  Cuddling a grandchild on your lap for a round or two of pat-a-cake is fine way to spend some time together.

As much as I revel in cuddling un petit bebe, they certainly don’t stay little for long and quicker than grandma can figure out her iPhone, they become toddlers. As toddlers, unstructured free play presents little ones with endless opportunities to explore and interact with their world. I’ve spent many a morning and afternoon at the playground watching my little ones collect sticks, rocks and an occasional piece of trash into a treasured pile.  We played some simple hide and seek, rolled balls back and forth and had an occasional tea party.

Then even before the twins started kindergarten, we were playing board games like Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land and Count Your Chickens.  Isn’t it marvelous that an afternoon of fun is also teaching them to think strategically, follow rules and develop social skills?  

Playing board games is still high on our list of activities to do together. Currently in my traveling grandma bag I have a Michigan Rummy board, deck of cards and a whole lot of nickels.  I cannot begin to count the number of hands of Michigan Rummy we’ve played in hotel rooms, at Camp Grandma 2018, anywhere we get together.

I brought Michigan Rummy when we gathered for Mr. Smith’s 65th, but I also wanted to have some special games. I started by having a recent photo of him blown up into a poster so we could play Pin the Hat on Grandpa!  

When I couldn’t find quite the hats I wanted, I made my own.  Adapting patterns I found online (what did we ever do before the Internet???), I crafted a mighty fine beret, pirate hat and crown.  I used mounting putty to adhere the poster to the wall and to “pin” the hats on Grandpa.

Our other game was Grandpa Nick Bingo.  There are several online sites where you can create your own customized bingo cards for free! I entered a list of Grandpa Nick centric words and the program created some festive bingo sheets.  I used spray adhesive to mount these onto cardboard to give them a little more substance. Using my Michigan Rummy nickels as bingo chips, we played several rounds before the grand finale of “blackout” bingo.  All my grandchildren excel at yelling “Bingo!”

After pinning a hat on Grandpa or winning a round of bingo, the grandchildren were rewarded with some Grandpa Nick Greenbacks! Like accumulating “tickets” at Chuck E. Cheese, they accumulated these custom-made dollars. When the games were over, they took their Grandpa Nick Bucks to Grandpa to redeem a special prize just for them.

So, if George Bernard Shaw’s quote is true, my grandchildren are keeping me young.  One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my beloved Aunt Ruby’s lap while she and Uncle Ike played pinochle with my parents on Saturday nights.  She’d let me throw her cards for her and never seemed annoyed with me (although she may have been.)  Perhaps that’s where my love of playing games with family began, ensconced on the lap of the woman who taught me unconditional love.  I hope I leave my grandchildren with memories as treasured as mine.

C’est la vie.

Letters of love…

Happy Wednesday. The week is certainly rolling along. I’ve been working on the correspondence kits for my grandchildren. I’m collecting note cards, stickers, stationary and other fun items for each of them, hoping to inspire some letter writing on their behalf. As is everything in my life, it’s a work in progress. The “box” I had originally envisioned has become a zippered folio envelope that I will emblazon with their names.

I’m excited to get these kits finished and in the mail to my darlings. I’m taking it a bit easy on myself (and them) the first time and sending them “fill in” letters – favorite color, favorite sport, I wish I could … I’ll provide them with a grandma-addressed, stamped envelope and wait for their responses to start filling my mailbox.

I used something similar for Camp Grandma 2018. A couple of weeks before Camp Grandma, I wrote them all letters asking some questions like a meal they’d like to have at Camp Grandma, their favorite snack or a craft they would like to do when we were together. Mr. Smith printed me some Camp Grandma postcards addressed to Camp Grandma Headquarters for the grandkids to respond with. It was always a good day when I found one of their responses in the mail.

I find this type of keeping in touch with my grandchildren priceless. I’m not giving up email or texting, but nothing will every fill my heart like finding a handwritten letter from one of my beloved grandchildren in my mailbox.

C’est la vie.