Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Post at Moments That Take My Breath Away

I'm guest-posting today at my daughter's blog, Moments That Take My Breath Away.  I wrote about six things you should never say to a grandma.  Check it out, and check out Stephanie's blog for lots of great money-saving tips, and cute pictures of my youngest granddaughter!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Wrapping (and Unwrapping) of the Gifts

Hello, my name is Beth, and I have a problem with buying too many Christmas presents.  As noted in the picture at left, way too many.  The dog crate, however, is not a Christmas present, so disregard it.

Every year, I tell myself I'll start wrapping earlier, and as usual, this year I'm up to my eyeballs in gifts that need wrapped.  I'll probably spend the next couple of evenings pretty much dedicated to wrapping, wrapping, wrapping, and by the end, I'll be resorting to the dreaded gift bags.  Oh, you know I wrapped your stuff last if you get a gift bag.

As I've been wrapping, I've been thinking about the grandkids' experience with unwrapping and playing with their new toys.  There are a couple of things we've learned, and I want to pass along to anyone giving gifts to little ones.

1. Make sure the toy is easy to get out of the package.  I love Amazon's frustration-free packaging for this, but it's not available for everything.  I like to get a toy out of its package, cut loose as many of the wires and other attachments as possible, and then reposition the toy in the original package.  This lets the kid see the box, which is sometimes pretty neat, and also get the toy out easily.

2. Make sure there's going to be time to play with some of these toys.  This is a little harder than my first idea, because it involves scheduling.  One of the things grandparents hate is to give a gift to a child and then not be able to see them enjoy it.  We want to see them take the toy out, and give it a try.  This idea leads to my next suggestion, which is kind of crazy, but has worked for us the past couple of years:

3. Consider having Christmas with the grandkids on some other day besides Christmas.  If your kids are like ours, they've got other family members to spend time with on Christmas Day, and it's difficult to get more than a couple of hours together.  Last year, we all went to Kansas City to our daughter and son-in-law's the weekend before Christmas, and spent all weekend celebrating.  The very best part was our present-opening day, which involved staying in pajamas all day, making waffles, watching movies, eating Pizza Hut delivery for supper, and playing all day with the grandkids with their new toys.  We're doing something similar again this year, with our Christmas occurring on New Year's Eve at our son's house, and we're planning another relaxing day of present opening and fun.

I hope your Christmas is as fun and relaxing as ours, and that you get lots of time with your grandkids!  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm a Grilled Grandma

Welcome Grandma's Briefs readers!  I'm the Grilled Grandma of the week, and if you've arrived after reading my article, I'd like to welcome you to  Please look around, read some articles, and comment - I love new readers and would love your feedback!  I love to write about being a grandma.  One of my special interests is saving money while still giving great grandkid gifts.  It's a great time to be a grandma!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pictures With My Eyes Closed

In looking for pictures of myself for an upcoming blog article on another site, I have come to the sad but obviously true statement that, in the vast majority of photographs, my eyes are closed.  I really don't remember blinking when the camera flashes, and sometimes, like the photo here, I'm not even looking at the camera. 

Now, I'm not ready to go yet, but just thinking ahead.  For those who have to prepare one of those lovely funeral Powerpoints with pictures of the beloved one, I want to apologize now.  It's gonna be a challenge to find a picture of me where my eyes aren't closed.  Sorry.  Just sayin'.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Gates Foundation, The New Orleans Saints, and the Influence of Grandmas

I read an article today from about Melinda Gates, talking about the Gates Foundation's efforts to promote world health.  An interesting story she tells is about trying to get moms in India to quit using mustard seed oil on their babies, which can cause infection, and instead to use sunflower seed oil, which actually helps prevent infection.  Rather than just printing pamphlets, putting up signs at health clinics, or other traditional methods of persuasion, instead they made up a little song about it, and taught it to the...wait for it...grandmothers.  Yep, the grandmas were the most influential members of the community, so they were the most likely to spread the word. 
The foundation worked with mothers in the Indian community to write a song, a jingle set to a catchy Indian tune, that explains what oil to use, where to put it, and where not to. They taught it to grandmothers, because they have the influence to spread messages in the community. “We hope it will spread to many, many villages, so it works in a culturally appropriate way, so it actually saves the lives of newborns,” Gates says.
I love it!  Grandmas have a huge influence here in the US too, and we shouldn't forget it.  Our little ones are watching us and learning from us every time we're with them. 

One of our granddaughters, while helping decorate the tree the other day, put up an ornament with the New Orleans Saints symbol on it.  She asked what it was, and I explained that it was from my brother who lives there.  She asked, "Do you like New Orleans?"  I replied, "Well, yes, I guess I do."  (No offense to my beloved Chiefs.)  Then, she said, "Well, since you like them, I like them too."  Yes, grandmas, that's the kind of influence we have, and someday, when our grandkids are rooting for a favorite NFL team, or teaching their grandkids about the best kind of oil to use on babies, words will pop out of their mouths, and they'll wonder, "Now, where did that come from?"  Yes, grandmas, it came from us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

School Programs

Don't you love school Christmas programs?  I really do.  I love the songs they sing, the rhythm instruments they play (first-graders do a great job with triangles and maracas), and the excitement for Christmas.  Our 6-year-old's group sang a song about snow days, and how they can't wait for one.  They also sang "Love Came Down at Christmas" and afterward, she couldn't believe it when I told her I knew that song.  One of my favorites.  There's just something about a school assembly, too, that makes you remember what it was like to be in elementary school, walking in single-file after your teacher, raising your hand if you needed something, sitting "criss-cross, applesauce" style, or as we used to call it, Indian-style.  So much fun. Well, actually, it makes me happy to go back to work. 

It also reminds me of how much fun it was to get out for Christmas vacation, with the excitement of the holidays coming up.  I wouldn't want to go back to elementary school, but it might almost be worth it to feel that joy again. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Baking

I imagine most of us are planning to do a little baking with the grandkids when we see them this Christmas season.  I'm hoping to take a day off during the week after Christmas and do some baking with our two older girls.  We're actually celebrating with the whole family on the New Years weekend, so this works out pretty nicely, schedule-wise.

Baking Christmas cookies is one of those things kids seem to want to do year after year, and of course, even though it's chaotic, it can be a ton of fun.  I read a great article today at parentingsquad about tips for baking with kids that's got some good ideas, especially filling the sink with warm water before you start!

Here are my two cents on how to bake with kids without losing your mind:

  • Make up most of the dough beforehand.  Mixing dough is pretty boring for little ones, and pre-refrigerated cookie dough is easier to roll and cut.
  • Get all the decorations out ahead of time, and, if you can, consider moving to the dining table to do the work.  Multiple stepstools in the kitchen can be hazardous (at least in mine), so working at the table, where everyone gets a chair, can be much more fun.
  • Consider letting the little ones pick out a cookie cutter in advance.  We've got a great little cake shop next to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, and the girls enjoyed picking out cookie cutters from there a couple of years ago.  I think we'll go in and pick out a couple for this year too.
  • Consider something besides cookies.  One of our favorites to make is homemade caramel corn.  There was a little candy store we used to go in when I was growing up that made homemade caramel corn, and the smell is just heavenly.  I think that's what I love best about making this treat - it smells wonderful!  I'll try to post the recipe soon - it's very simple, and the girls really enjoy helping to make the popcorn and coat it with the caramel sauce.

Hope your baking is wonderful this year, and you make some great memories with your grandkids this Christmas season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Great Price For a Really Fun Toy

Here's the best deal I've seen on the Internet this week for a grandchild gift, the Marble Deluxe Race Set from JCPenney.  We've got a similar set that we got from Discovery Toys when our kids were little, and we play with a lot with the grandkids.  Truthfully, I've played with it when there weren't any kids around - it's that fun.  Price is marked down to $11.99 from $39 so this is a bargain and a half.  Shipping is probably going to run around $7 to the store, but it's still a toy that any grandkid would love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Going to the Library Bookstore

In the last year or so, we've been taking the big girls to our local library branch pretty regularly, and letting them check out books.  That's our branch at the left, isn't it pretty? 

When we first started going, they were kind of confused, because they'd been to bookstores, and knew that you kept the books you got from there.  When we'd get books, and then bring them back, they'd end up kind of sad because they didn't get to keep the books. 

Our real breakthrough in getting them to understand how great a library was came when we started looking up books in the catalog that they might enjoy.  They'd think of a particular story they'd enjoyed, and ask if there were more like them.  "Hey, could we get another Lyle, Crocodile book?" or "how about Clifford the Big Red Dog?"  We'd end up with a pile of books, sometimes 15 or 20, and they suddenly realized that you do have to take the books back to the library, but, and here's the can get as many as you want!

They'll pick out a pile of books, and put them into their library book bag.  This is just a tote bag that we designated for library books. They usually take them home to mama or daddy's, and then when it's time for them to go back, either they'll bring them with them on Sunday, or their mom or dad will run them by the library.  We had a misplaced book once, but it was found pretty quickly, and returned.

For some reason, they call it the library-bookstore.  I think there's still some idea that we're buying the books, or at least renting them for a while.  The funny thing is that this has changed their ideas about Redbox - they really can't understand why you have to pay to rent some things, like DVDs from Redbox, but not others, like books from the library.  Hmm, I guess a book on capitalism is in order.