Archive for August, 2011

What was I thinking of?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I like to crow about the great finds and the wonderful retro toys in the playroom.  But there are also some duds – items I have bought thinking they were going to be so great or so much fun.  They turned out not to be either.

Two years ago when I had weekly Grandma School, I was looking for toys that could be used with my 3 year old grandson to help him learn to recognize and identify letters.  I puzzled over several choices and came up with a set of foam alphabet stamps.

I thought these would be perfect.  I could envision the pages that we would stamp with his name and his sister’s name etc.

This little boy was so in love with trains that I was a pushover for another set of stamps in the same catalog.

There were an engine and caboose plus many boxcars with various designs on them.  We could make great freight trains.

The cars were over-sized and the letters were large.  This meant that ordinary stamp pads wouldn’t be large enough so I had to find some over-sized stamp pads.  I found a set of 6 X 5 inch stamp pads with washable ink.  They were pricey, but I bought them.

When the stamps and pads arrived, I wisely decided to try them out myself before I took them for my grandson to use.  I found that you had to press very hard to get a complete image with the letters.  It was almost impossible to get a print from a train stamp with all the details showing.

The pads were so large that I found it was easy to get the heel or side of my hand on the pad when I was working with the stamps. I knew that my grandson’s hands would be covered with ink if he tried to use those pads.  You should have seen my hands after I stamped this sample page above.  I headed to the sink to clean up.

Someone told me that the pads are really useful for handprint activities.  The child presses his hand on the pad and then on a piece of paper.   That would be a good use for the pads and I have seen many creative pictures that started with an ink hand print.

But my plan for stamping letters and trains was not going to work.  Alas, the stamps and the stamp pads did not make it to Grandma School.

Thanks for visiting.  Next trip I’ll tell you all about Grandma School.

Sleepover Grandma Camp

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Summer is winding down.  Time for school to begin.  It is also time for the last Grandma Camp of the summer.  My grandchildren who live 20 minutes away asked if the last camp could be a sleepover camp.

Certainly.  No problem.

We started camp as usual with a trip to the library.  But this trip was, as requested, on the city bus.  Luckily the bus line that serves the library runs about a half a block from my house.  The  purpose of our trip to the library was to pick up the movie that we were going to watch during the evening – “Ice Age.”

Since we had some time to wait for the return bus to pick us up, we walked to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone.  Oh, my, the choices – so many.  After some study of the flavors and some questions, both my grandson and granddaughter settled upon chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in cones.

They had requested another science experiment at camp.  This time we were going to build volcanoes and have them erupt.

Wearing their “work shirt” hand-me-downs from Grandpa, they built volcanoes of damp white sand.  The volcanoes were landscaped with sticks and flowers.  Then we set the volcanoes in the garage to harden overnight.

The next morning we worked on “loading” the volcanoes.  There were plastic cups in the center of the volcanoes.  First, we put in some warm water, then a couple of drops of dish detergent, a few drops of food coloring and a tablespoon of baking soda.  The children gently stirred the crater.  Then they added 1/3 cup of vinegar.  And voila!  Eruption fun.

My grandson had wanted orange lava; my granddaughter, purple.  Since we were using liquid food coloring, the colors didn’t turn out exactly as they thought they would, but it was exciting.

It was so much fun that they wanted to do it again.  After our lava had settled down, we put all the ingredients back into the volcano and had another eruption.

There are many websites on the internet that offer instructions on building soda/vinegar volcanoes.  I used the instructions from:  You can find instructions by searching on clay volcano.

We ended the day by eating pizza and watching the movie “Ice Age.”  I had seen it with my grandchildren who live 3 hours away and really liked it.  These grandchildren enjoyed the adventures of the  wooly mammoth and the sloth.  When it was over, my grandson said, “Grandma, do you know what my new favorite movie is?”  It had been Cars 2.  I told him that I didn’t have a clue.  He yelled, “Ice Age.”  And then he quickly followed up by asking, “When can we watch “Ice Age 2?”

The next morning bright and early we headed to the doughnut shop to pick our breakfast treats.

Decisions, decisions.  With our donuts we settled down at the table in the sunporch to enjoy our treats.  I read “Arnie the Doughnut” to them while they ate and I tried to get a bite in between pages.

I wrote about “Arnie” by Lauie Keller in my last blog entry.

Of course, we can’t have a Grandma Camp without a treasure hunt.  The team, and I stress they are a team and not competitors, ran from the sunporch to the playroom to the clue hidden outside before finding the treasure hidden in the tub of Barbie clothes.

A clue by the bird bath.

It was time to head to the park to play and to have lunch.  We went to a park that is located near the elementary school that the children’s daddy and uncle attended.  Of course, we had to drive by the “old” house where daddy grew up, and I showed them his bedroom window and their uncle’s bedroom window.

At the park I was drafted into their Navy.  We had two ships that traveled the seas – rather rapidly.  It took but a short time to sail from Florida to Australia and then back to Michigan.  Michigan?  Well, they were in charge.

After our lunch of pbj sandwiches and fruit, we headed back to my house to play until Mommy and Daddy came to pick them up.

No better way to spend the last minutes of Grandma Camp than to get out the PlayMobile people and the Hot Wheel cars and settle down on the playroom rug.

Grandma Camp was really fun this summer especially since we added the new features like science experiments and treasure hunts.  I am putting together a photo album for the children of our activities this summer.

When the children heard their parents coming in the house, my grandson asked, “Grandma, can we have camp during Christmas vacation?”

Thanks for stopping by.  I have mentioned the great finds that are in the playroom.  Well, I also bought some “oops” that never made it to the playroom.  I’ll tell you about these soon.

Have you met Arnie the Doughnut?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Arnie was a doughnut, not your average doughnut.  True, he was round, cakey, and with a hole in the middle, icing, and 135 sprinkles.

Arnie lived in Downtown Bakery with his friends UNTIL Mr. Bing entered the shop one morning and bought him.  Life changed for Arnie and also for Mr. Bing.

“Arnie the Doughnut” is a book “cooked up” by Laurie Keller. It is a clever account of Arnie’s life.  Side cartoons entertain an adult reading the book aloud.  The humor appeals to kids of all ages.  Everyone will cheer the happy ending to this book.

My grandchildren LOVE doughnuts.  When they spend the night at my house, we always walk to a neighborhood doughnut shop two blocks away to get doughnuts for breakfast.  We bring our doughnuts home, get milk and juice, and while they munch, Grandma reads to them “Arnie the Doughnut.”

I liked this book by Laurie Keller so much that I searched our library for others that she had written.

My older granddaughter loves to play school and quizzes me on states and capitals.  “The Scrambled States of America” was a perfect find.  She and her brother and I read it together.

In the book Kansas woke up feeling grumpy.  He said to Nebraska that they never DO anything; they don’t GO anywhere.  All the states got together and decided to switch places.  Kansas traded places with Hawaii.  Nevada met Mississippi, and they fell in love.  Minnesota switched with Florida.  But all was not perfect.  Minnesota got a sunburn; Kansas was lonely out in the ocean.  Other states decided that there was no  place like home so they all went back to their original places.

This is a witty and quirky story that acquaints children with the various states and their locations.  Plus there is a section listing all the states, the state mottoes, the capitals, square miles, and population.  My granddaughter used the information from the book to make a chart of the states in the United States.

Oops, I didn’t mention the illustrations in both books   Bright colors and goofy characters fill the pages.  They are so original, amusing and entertaining.  I love it; I love it.

An additional treat awaits if you visit the author’s website:  The opening page will make you smile.  Click on Books.  Click on Arnie.  At the bottom of the page click on the sketch of a pencil.  There you will find Arnie activities.  You can make an Arnie necklace, answer quiz questions about Arnie, do an Arnie word search, or a page to color and count Arnie’s sprinkles. 

You can also find activities for  “The Scrambled States of America” and all of Laurie Keller’s other books.

“Arnie the Doughnut” is also presented as one of five classic children’s picture books on a DVD in the Schlastic Video Collection.  I checked this DVD out from our library so we could watch Arnie come to life.

Thank you for visiting.  My grandchildren who live 20 minutes away are coming in for a Sleepover Grandma Camp.  Many activities are planned.  I’ll tell you all about it in a few days.

Back to school postcards

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Summer is winding down.  You can hear the cicadas at night.  Soon the wooly worms will start crossing the road.

My grandchildren are picking out back packs and lunch kits as they look forward to the start of school in a few weeks.

I decided this was a great time to send some postcards with riddles to my grandchildren.

One granddaughter will be in 3rd grade; the other will be in second grade.  Both grandsons will be entering kindergarten.

These postcards are from my favorite source of postcards

I searched the internet for riddles or jokes to put on the cards I was sending.  I decided to use elephants jokes from

Why did Ellen the elephant wear pink tennis shoes to school?  The white ones get dirty too fast.

How do you tell an elephant from a grape?  A grape is purple.

Why are elephants colored gray?  So you can tell them from cardinals.

What did the banana say to the elephant?  Nothing.  Bananas can’t talk, silly.

Why do elephants float down the river on their backs?  So they don’t get their tennis shoes wet.

How can you tell if an elephant’s been in the refrigerator?  By the footprints in the pizza.

I love elephant jokes.  I hope my grandchildren do also.

I’ll write a joke or two on each card along with a greeting, and the postcards will be ready to go into the mailbox so my grandchildren can receive them before the first day of school.

Thanks for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.  My grandchildren and I have found an author that we just love.  I’ll tell you about the books in a few days.

Time Capsule

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Last summer when all my grandchildren were at my house for a cousin play date, during snack time I asked if they knew what a time capsule was.  The two granddaughters did since new buildings had been constructed in their home towns, and time capsules were buried on those occasions.  I explained to the boys what a time capsule was.

Then I suggested that we make a time capsule.   They could each contribute a drawing or a book and some information about themselves.  My plan was for us to dig up the capsule each summer at a play date so we could add new items and could see what changes had taken place since the last summer play date.

I made a questionnaire for each child to complete.  It asked for their favorites – color, food, animal, movie, book, subject in school.  I asked what they want to be when they grow up, what they wanted for their birthday, and what they wished their name was.  The girls were able to complete this alone.  I helped the grandsons who were 4 at the time.  It was fun and interesting to hear and read the answers – especially what they wished their name was.

I asked each grandchild to draw a picture or write a little book to include in the time capsule.  We didn’t do it that day because this was a play date so they wanted to play.  Within a few weeks I had a contribution from each grandchild for the time capsule.

Originally I had planned to actually bury our time capsule, but finding an appropriate water proof container and finding a space in my garden were not easy problems to solve.  Instead I put everything into an accordian file folder and took it to the basement.  I don’t know about your basement, but taking something to my basement can be equal to “burying” it.

A few weeks ago again all the grandchildren were at my house for a summer cousin play date.  I brought out the time capsule.  I gave each child the same questionnaire they had completed the previous year. 

After they completed the questions, I passed out what they had said the previous year.  They were amazed.  There was much laughing and comments like “why did I say that?” and “weird.”

A grandson who last year wanted to be a Hiawatha driver (a particular type of train engine) now wants to be a tee ball instructor.  A granddaughter last year wanted to be a school teacher; now a farmer with a goat.  Last year a granddaughter wished her name were Zinnia; this year, Lauren.  The grandson who chose Batman as his favorite name last year chose Nick this year.

Each child will soon give me a picture or a story to include in the time capsule.

Later in the day when I saw the parents, I showed them the last year and this year answers for their children.  I wonder how they will change next summer.  So much fun.

I have mentioned that when the grandchildren get together, they get out the box of Melissa and Doug musical instruments and parade through my house as a band.  One of my grandsons suggested that we should name the band “The Time Capsule.”

Presenting “The Time Capsule” in a recent concert in grandma’s living room.

Thanks for stopping by.  It doesn’t seem possible, but soon school will be starting.  It will be time to send back-to-school postcards to the mailboxes of my grandchildren.  Off I go to search for riddles.