Archive for July, 2011

Take me out to the ball game

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I am an ardent baseball fan even though my team has not won the World Series since 1908.  Yes, I am a Chicago Cub fan.

Recently when the grandchildren who live 20 minutes away were at my house,  they dressed the cat (not the real one) in Chicago Cub attire and added various bits of Cub memorabilia to the scene.  Being an eternal optimist, I made a W flag (for victory) for them to add.  If you look carefully, you will see a package of 1989 Topps baseball cards – unopened.

When my two grandsons were born, I bought each 20 packages of baseball  cards from 1988,  1989, and 1990.  I suggested that they keep them unopened until they were 10 years old.  (That will be 2015.)  Then they can open them to see if they have any valuable rookie cards.  Of course, the message was meant for the parents since newborns and infants and baseball cards don’t mix.  I did add the caveat that they shouldn’t chew the bubble gum enclosed in the packages.

When I asked my grandchildren if they could bring in some Cub items for our display,  my grandson brought in a number of his unopened baseball cards.

Yes, I know baseball cards.  The daddies were collectors, and I am still the custodian for 4 very large boxes of cards from their 70′s collections.

Back to “Take me out to the ball game.”   I am going to a Chicago Cub game with each family – two different days/two different games. 

This will be the first Cub game for each of the 5 year old grandsons so we will use the 5 inning rule and plan to stay for at least 5 innings.  Then based upon the score, the weather, and the interest of the children, we’ll decide if we stay longer.

We took my 8 year old granddaughter to her first Cub game when she was 9 months old.  She brought the Cubs luck, and we defeated the Cardinals that day. 

We took my 7 year old granddaughter to Wrigley Field when she was 3 months old.  We sat and sat  and sat watching the rain fall upon the tarp that covered the field.  After sitting for an hour and 45 minutes, we decided we would leave.  As we walked down the street to the car, we heard a cheer go up from the crowd.  The tarp was coming off the field.  We listened to the game in the car on the way home.  Cubs won.

It is a 3 hour ride in the car to the ball park.  I wanted to find something to help the time to pass for the children.  Doing some internet research, I came upon  Everything Baseball is a great site for sports fans.  They offer “The Chicago Cubs Coloring and Fun Book.” 

This is a 46 page book of connect the dots, coloring pages, mazes, secret message codes, word scrambles, word searches, and a hidden picture.  There is a variety of activities to keep small travelers busy and to help the city get closer.  I bought 4 of these so each grandchild will have a book to work on in the car on our way to the Friendly Confines.

My grandchildren who live 3 hours away enjoy finding license plates from various states when they are in the car with their daddy.  I found at a license plate game.  It lists all 50 states with a check box next to each state.  I printed one of these for each child so that they can keep track of how many state license plates they see on our trip to the baseball game. 

July in Chicago can be really hot.  Luckily our seats are in the shade.  A friend suggested that I freeze bottles of water and put them in a cooler for the trip.  Then in the ball park we will each have a frozen bottle of water that will melt and help to keep us cool for about 4 innings.

Hot dogs, peanuts in the shell, singing the National Athem, home runs, foul balls – all parts of a summer holiday at the ball park.

Thanks for stopping by.  Each summer the grandchildren put something into our time capsule.  Stop by to read all about it.

Grandma Camp II

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

A few days ago my grandchildren who live 20 minutes away came in to my house for a day of Grandma Camp.  If you have heard about my grandson’s bucket list, I’ll tell you right off.  YES, we did.  We did everything that he patiently listed at the last camp citing these were things that Grandma never let’s us do. 

Played with Play Dough.  He specialized in the production of noodles of various colors.  His sister made a little girl and her dog out of Play Dough.

Played in the sandbox.

Played with water balloons.  I had filled the balloons the afternoon before camp, and I ended up really wet with balloons that broke or spurted off the hose attachment.  It was a hot day so that felt good.

Last item on his list – the game with a 1000 pieces.  Not really.  It is a construction set of gears called Goofy Grins and the box says that it has 118 pieces.  That is more than enough on the playroom floor.  The three of us sat down on the rug and put together a series of gears and got them all running.  Then comes the pick up/clean up.

We did so many more activities.  It was a very busy day.

We stopped at the library and picked up a book to read during snacks and a video to watch during snacks.  Unfortunately the video had problems so that was a short view.  AND we picked up a CD of Pixar songs to listen to in the car and while we were doing camp activities.

With the picnic lunch I had packed, we headed to a neighborhood park where the children enjoyed running, playing, and climbing on the playground equipment.  Then we settled down at a table for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit kabobs before heading back to my house.

The children like to put together ingredients for a snack mix. They call it Mix.  We mix it together and use it for a snack.  A bonus for them is that a container of Mix goes home with them.

The ingredients vary each time we make Mix.  The children enjoy measuring and dumping everything into a big mixing bowl.  We used 2 1/2 cups of Cheerios, 1 cup of chocolate Goldfish, 1 cup of pretzels the children broke into smaller pieces, 1 cup of peanut butter/milk chocolate chips, 1 cup of lightly salted dry roasted peanuts.  The children took turns mixing.  I asked my grandson how old he is.  He said 5.   I told him to stir 5 times.  My 7 year old granddaughter asked if she should then stir 7 times.  Right.  Then we sampled.  I asked for suggestions from the chefs.  We put in a couple more Goldfish and a few more peanuts, and it was completed and ready for snack time.

Something new at camp was a science experiment.  I found this at a website just full of ideas for activities with children:

Will it float or sink?  First, I asked the children if they knew what float means.  They had just finished a week of swimming lessons so that was easy.  Then we looked at the 12 items on the list.  Taking turns (so many fewer arguments that way) I asked before we ran the experiment, if they thought the items would float or sink  A comb, a rock, a leaf etc. – you can see the list.  It was rather interesting.  My granddaughter picked up the small sea shell.  She said that sea shells are found under the water in the sand so they do not float.  She also pointed out that anything with air inside will float -like the plastic Easter egg.

We ran the experiment in the kitchen sink full of water.

Good work.  The children had guessed correctly float or sink on all but one item.  That was a small rubber ball that did float.  As they were drying their hands, they asked if we can have another science experiment at the next Grandma Camp.

We heard a knock at the door.  It was a grandma and grandpa coming to see if they could check books out of Grandma’s Library.  The children were so happy to see patrons coming in.  They had processed some new books for the library earlier in the afternoon.

Grandma and Grandpa each checked out two books and were given bookmarks made by one of the librarians.

After the library patrons departed, we decided it was time to rest a bit and sample the Mix.  I read the children the book we had checked out of the library “The Night Before Summer Camp” by Natasha Wing. 

This had been such a busy day. It fairly flew by.  We did fit in another treasure hunt with 6 clues sending them to various rooms in my house and out in the garden before they discovered their hidden treasures which were small notebooks and pens.  (I love those $1 bins at Michaels and at Target.  You can find inexpensive treats for the grandchildren there.)

We had a few minutes for free time before Mommy came for pick up so we sat on the floor and played Barbies.  Even my grandson.  Ken was his doll.  As he played, he dictated a list of  “what we really need to do at the next camp, Grandma. ”  I listened; I remember; we shall do it.

Thanks for the visit.  We will be heading north to the Windy City to see a baseball game in a few days.  I love baseball so I am probably more excited than the children.

Painting the driveway

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Artists at work.

All children love to paint.  Painting can be a messy business – a very messy business.

I have the best painting “smocks” for my grandchildren to use when they paint.  One of their grandfathers gave me several black tee shirts that he no longer wears.  They are in great condition and perfect for the artists to wear.  They have all had fittings.  I put the tee shirts on them and then mark where it comes to their knees.  I then cut the excess off the tee shirt and make a simple belt to snug up the smock on them.  Their clothing is totally covered and protected while they paint.

I found this recipe for sidewalk chalk paint a few years ago at  It is inexpensive and quick to mix up.  All you need is cornstarch, water, food coloring, containers, and brushes.  I use styrofoam bowls.  (Somehow years ago someone gave me dozens of these bowls so I always have a supply for crafts.)  For brushes I use one inch foam brushes – one for each color.  Frequently Michaels has these on sale for 12 for $1.00.  

To make the paint, put 1/4 cup of corn starch into a container.  Add 1/4 cup of  water and stir until the mixture starts to clear.  Add 5-10 drops of food coloring.  Stir and presto, you have paint.  Be sure to put the corn starch into the container FIRST.  If you put the water in first, it will be more difficult to mix up. 

I usually mix a bowl of red, which turns out to be pink, a bowl of yellow, blue, and green.  Typically only two children are painting so they are able to share  the bowls of paint.

I cannot recall what my granddaughter was painting with the pink paint.  A many legged sea monster?

My grandson told me that he was painting Michigan Lake.  The family had just vacationed in Michigan and to him it was Michigan Lake rather than Lake Michigan.  Yellow?  Yes, his favorite color is yellow so many of his pictures feature yellow.

The day that the grandchildren painted with sidewalk chalk paint it was raining on the driveway.  They were actually painting on the front porch.  The paintings they did that morning remained for about a week until we had a really hard rain that washed them off.

Thanks for stopping by.  Grandma Camp II will take place in a few days.  I hope you stop back to see what fun we had.

Oldies, But Goodies in the Playroom

Friday, July 8th, 2011

In March I wrote about toys I had selected for the playroom.  Today I want to tell you about some other toys - toys that my sons and even I played with years ago.  My grandchildren like them, too.  I think they are even more special because they know that “daddy played with this.”

A few are the original toys that the daddies played with; others are retro toys that I have added to the playroom.

Here is the Fisher Price school bus that years ago was a pull toy.  Now it  sometimes carries a bevy of Barbies to a ball.  Other times it is a school bus to deliver children to houses that have been constructed out of blocks.   I have tried to retire the Fisher Price Tick Tock Teaching Clock to the storage chest of outgrown toys.  Each attempt is met with resistance.  Immediately the clock gets wound up by some child – usually more than once.

The Hot Wheels chest is the original one that the daddies received for Christmas many years ago.  There are even a few of their cars from days of old in it.  New cars have been added.  My grandson who lives 20 minutes away often brings in a Hot Wheels race track for the boys to play with when we have a cousin play date.

I bought a can of the authentic wooden Tinker Toys for the grandchildren.  The daddies played and played with the set they had.  Of course, there was frustration when they didn’t have enough pieces to build an item shown in the enclosed instructions.  I have gotten around that problem with the grandchildren.  The enclosure with the suggested projects has “disappeared.”  I suggest to the children that they design their own  tower or vehicle using the pieces they have.  That usually works.

Have you ever played Gnip Gnop?  I have played many a game over the years.  A few years ago I saw this game in a toy catalog and knew I had to buy it.  The daddies spent hours playing Gnip Gnop against each other.  Shouts of victory and tears of defeat and screams of anger used to fill the room when a Gnip Gnop competition was going on.  In case you don’t know this game.  There are three balls on each side.  You attempt to shoot, by pressing the keys,  your ping pong balls through the holes and into the other side before your opponent does.  My grandsons love this game.  They often beat their sisters and even their grandmother.  Shouts of victory again are heard.  I don’t cry when I lose. 

Here is my family of Barbie and Ken dolls.  Notice Ken is wearing his white disco duds and Barbie is in her wedding gown.  I was so lucky to get these dolls and dozens of dresses and accessories from the daughter of a friend.  The dolls and clothes are over 20 years old.  These are clothes with Barbie by Mattel and Skipper by Mattel labels in them.

Since I am a boy-mom, my 8 year old granddaughter taught me how to play with Barbies when she was 5.  She would give me some Barbies and say, “Grandma, these are your girls.  We are going to the beach so dress your girls for the beach.”  I would dutifully sort through the clothes and find appropriate apparel and sun visors for my girls.  Then she would say, “OK, now, Grandma, we are going to the ball.”  Gee, I had just finished getting everyone ready for the beach, but obediently I would search for ball gowns.  Often there was a request that I look for shoes for her girls to wear to the ball.  I smile as I write remembering those fun times sitting on the floor of the playroom together playing Barbies.  The granddaughters play Barbies together when we have a cousin play date.  And once in a while I am summoned to play also or to help get Barbie’s arms into a frock.

Back in the day when I was a young one, my favorite  pasttimes were playing pick up sticks and jacks.  I would sit for hours on the living room floor or the sidewalk in front of my house playing pick up sticks.  My mother made a little draw string bag for me to carry my jacks in.  All the girls had them.  We would take our jacks to school and play outside at recess.  Last winter I saw these new versions of pick up sticks and jacks in a shop and had to buy them. 

Quite a surprise when I opened the pick up sticks.  The old ones were wooden and pointed at each end.  This point helped you to flip sticks up and out of the way to score points.  These, made by Slinky, are plastic and have knobs at each end.  On the can it says that they are safety tested and meet or exceed ASTM F-963.  This is the American Society for Testing and Materials.  One of the requirements of approved toys is that there are no sharp edges.  I assume that is why the knobs replaced the points.  I did sit down on the floor and gave them a try.  It  just wasn’t the same. 

A Google search showed that several manufacturers still make the wooden ones with points.  I definitely am going to look for those.  I’ll brush up on my skills and show the grandchildren how to play.

The jacks that I bought are plastic ones that are oversized.  I have tried them and found that they don’t work as well or perhaps it is I that do not work as well. They are too big to easily scoop up.  I gave the girls sets of jacks.  They looked at them and then at me with a questioning look.  Girls don’t play jacks any more?  I’m going to buy a set of small metal jacks.  I’ll show the girls how much fun it is doing the onesies and twosies.  

I could always start a senior citizen pick up sticks or jacks league.   Yes, I am kidding. 

Thanks for visiting.   In the summer the grandchildren like to “paint” my driveway with chalk paint that I mix up for them.   Check back.  In a few days I’ll give you the recipe.

Parade Score Card

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

The 4th of July is just a few days away.  You might be making plans to go with your family or your grandchildren to watch the floats and bands and clowns while you celebrate the birthday of the United States.

Last year my grandchildren who live 3 hours away spent the 4th of July holiday with me.  I am a great fan of parades and always go every year.  It was going to be so much fun to have my grandchildren with me.  Being acquainted with our particular parade, I knew that there might be some gaps while some slower entries caught up with the flow of the parade.

I was prepared with chairs, bottles of water, and snacks.  I also brought along Parade Score Cards for the children so that they could keep track of how many bands, fire engines, old fashioned cars, motorcycles, American flags, tow trucks, clowns, roller skaters, horses, and floats were passing them.

I made a Parade Score Card using the table function in Word and decorated each one with holiday stickers.

I have some 6 X 9 inch clip boards covered with scrapbook paper that the children like to use for activities such as this.

Each child had a clipboard and a score card.  Ready to go.

In the instructions I said to put a mark in the box each time they saw a particular item such as a band, etc.  My granddaughter who at that time was 7 looked at me and said, “Oh, Grandma, you want us to tally the number we see, right?”  She proceeded to demonstrate by making 4 vertical marks and putting the 5th line in a diagonal across the 4.  Then she showed me and said, “Like this?”  Wow, I was amazed.  I certainly didn’t know the word tally or how to tally a score when I was 7 years old.

I assured her that she was indeed correct.  Her younger brother was content to put marks in the box, and we counted them after the parade.  We did run out of space on his sheet for American flags, but that is good.

This score card helped to keep the children involved and interested. They were continually looking down the street to see what would come next.  And naturally there was a bit of a contest to see which of them could find the next band or clown.

Before the parade ended, I realized that we should have had a space to count rain drops and umbrellas because it started to sprinkle and then to rain steadily.  We hurried to the car and left before the final float came down the street.

The children came back to my house and dried off and then put on swim suits because their cousins were coming in to toss water balloons.  These drops of water brought smiles and squeals of glee to their faces.

Enjoy your parade.

Thanks for visiting.  I’ll be back in a few days to talk about the retro toys that I have in the playroom.