Friday, June 10, 2016

Grandpa's Hair

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."  From The Velveteen Rabbit

My husband Jim regrets that he cannot spend as much time with our 5-year-old granddaughter as he would like, so he has developed ways to keep the connection alive. First, when they greet each other and leave, they beep each other’s noses. It is a special ritual between just the two of them.
He is constantly looking for new ways to connect. One day, she asked him what happened to his hair (my husband has the typical loss of hair on the top for a man his age). He told her he didn’t know where it was; he lost it.
He thought she had forgotten that conversation, but the next time she saw him, she told him, “Grandpa, I looked for your hair at school but it wasn’t there. Don’t worry; I’ll find it”

From then on, wherever she goes, she makes sure to tell him she looked. He knows that even though he’s not able to be with her, she still thinks about him as much as he does her. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Death of Harembe: A Lesson to be Learned

I will admit that I am not a fan of zoos. This is an opinion I am ashamed to say I came to late in life. My personal view is that we have no right to take animals out of their natural environment for our amusement. But when we do, we need to provide protection for these animals, and that protection needs to include safeguards from those who visit them.
Over the years, many people have entered the enclosures these animals live in and endanger themselves and the animals. An Australian tourist, wanting to get a better photo, scaled two fences to get to a 1,200 pound polar bear. A zoo worker came to her rescue, and she only suffered a broken leg and lacerations. The polar bear was uninjured. Somehow this was seen as the bear’s fault.
In 2012, a 2-year-old boy was perched on a railing in the Pittsburgh Zoo above the African Wild Dogs enclosure. He fell, bounced off the protective netting and fell into the enclosure. Three of the dogs attacked and bit him on the head and torso. The police opened fire, but one of the dogs refused to leave the child and he died of his injuries…a terrible tragedy.
In 1996, at the Brookfield Zoo, a 3-year-old climbed over the gorilla enclosure and fell 20 feet.  A female gorilla with her baby on her back cradled the boy and carried him to safety. The gorilla was not injured and the boy made a full recovery.
It would be good to say that was the case every time, but it is not, as witnessed by the tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo this past week. A three-year-old boy also fell into a gorilla’s enclosure. The various videos taken show this male gorilla, Harambe, holding the boy’s hand and shielding him from the screams of the onlookers. Those videos also show him quickly dragging the child by the foot from one area of the enclosure to the other. With the decision made that it would take too long to sedate the animal, the conclusion was made to shoot. With Harembe dead, the child could be retrieved. His injuries were not life-threatening, and none was caused by the gorilla. In the aftermath, many claimed that all the gorilla was doing was protecting the child while others saw a potential for injury due to the gorilla’s size.
This is a sad story. Many are lambasting the mother for not watching her son; others are taking the zoo to task for killing this majestic animal. There are two groups of people who need to learn a lesson so another animal does not have to die for our mistakes. The first group is those who are in charge of these animal enclosures. They have to look at all enclosures with an eye toward protecting both the public and the animals. The second group is the parents and grandparents who choose to take their children and grandchildren to zoos around the country.
The mother in the recent incident in Cincinnati said she was distracted by the other children she had with her. The lesson here is that there should be one adult for every child. Think of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends to enlist for the trip to the zoo. Not only will each child have a protector and companion, but the trip will be enhanced by the presence of family.
Often these tragedies happen because parents are lifting the child up over the railing or perching them on the railing to get a better look. The simple answer is for the adults to not do this, but we all know that many people convince themselves they have a good hold on the child and he/she could never fall. But, we all have held a squirmy toddler in our arms and know how hard it is to hold on to them. If zoos post signs by all these enclosures to remind people to not sit on the rail, we might be able to save the children and the animals from these kinds of accident.
I know this next suggestion may not be as popular, but if you are a visitor at a zoo and see what you believe to be dangerous behavior, say something, either to the parent or find a zoo worker to approach the parents. There is a very good chance, if you approach the parents, that you will be told to mind your own business, but there is also the chance you could save the life of a child or an animal. Let’s not let Harembe have died in vain.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Helping Children Understand Memorial Day

Helping Children Understand Memorial Day
Children, depending on their ages, understand war in different ways, but this upcoming Memorial Day is our chance to teach our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews what the weekend means and how they can participate.

·       Put flags or flowers on the graves of men and women who served in wars (check with VFW or American Legion posts to find date and times)
·       Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.
·       Participate in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. Or stop before dinner for a moment of silence.
·       For teens, they can collect photos of their relatives who have served and post them on their Facebook pages.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Taking the Kids to the Stars

With Spring Break coming up in the next few weeks, it’s time to start thinking of ways to keep the children busy and stimulated during their break from school. How about a trip to the stars?
Most areas have a planetarium; here on Long Island, we have the Vanderbilt Planetarium, located on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion and Museum in Centerport at 180 Little Neck Road.
My husband visited the planetarium recently with our granddaughter, Tally to celebrate her 5th birthday (we believe it’s better to share experiences with her instead of adding toys to her growing collection!). We took her to see One World, One Sky, a great introduction to the sky and the stars with Big Bird, Elmo, and Hu Hu Zhu, a friend from China. The focus of the show was that no matter where you are, we are all under the same sky and see the same stars.

There are other shows that are kid friendly: Earth, Moon, and Sun, which shows the relationship between the three; Stars: Powerhouses of the Universe; Night Sky, Live; and A Starry Tale.

The shows that are family friendly are under an hour, leaving the kids plenty of time to explore the exhibits. Some of the exhibits may be a little over the kids’ heads, but my daughter found a great way to
keep my granddaughter engaged; she gave her the iPhone and let her take photos. The two of them strolled through the exhibits taking pictures and reading the labels on the photos.

Probably the biggest hit was the large scale Moon. On the moon were numbers, draw attention to the times that man went to the moon. Tally was quick to point out to the guide that the # 2 was missing. Allowing her to take photos that she could see instantly got Tally fully engaged. She even impressed us with the names of the plants she already knew.

After we were done in the planetarium, we wandered the grounds a bit, promising we would come back when the weather was nicer for a longer visit.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Adventure! Downsizing

In the next few weeks, I will document our journey from 5 bedrooms, a den, basement, attic, 2 baths, lovely large backyard, and pool to a small 2 bedroom apartment. 

My husband Jim and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, and so we thought we would call "plot twist" and sell our 5 bedroom house and move to an apartment. Our reasons are many and varied, but the process is the same: sell old house, find a new place, get rid of all the stuff that we accumulated in the last 10 years at the house.

One of the most obvious first steps is to get rid of all the "stuff" that has accumulated in all the nooks and crannies of our home.

My first suggestion is to ask your children if there is anything they might want. People often keep this kind of information to themselves and then find themselves disappointed when Mom and Dad sell their favorite chair from the living room that they remember watching Rudolph in every Christmas.

Making your children and grandchildren part of the process can make it easier for them to see what you have had stored for so long and then let you know they are interested. You will be amazed at what they see as important.

But you also need to be prepared for them to want nothing. Don't take this as a personal assault. They are watching you try to get rid of things that perhaps you should never have brought in the house in the first place.

Every time I start a conversation with my older daughter that begins, "Would ou like...?" She doesn't even let me get to name the item. I guess, she has more self-control than her mother.

Next week.... what to do with all the rest

Friday, October 9, 2015


Halloween is just around the corner, so it is the right time to remind ourselves and the kids in our lives to be safe because there is nothing fun about a trip to the Emergency Room.


· Swords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
· Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation

· Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.

· Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls. If the hem is too long, cut it.
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories, look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.


· Make sure that children under 12 have an adult with them at all times. If your children are trick or treating with another adult, don’t feel funny about talking about your requirements for your child (see below)

· Provide your child with a flashlight if he/she will be going after dark. Perhaps also place some reflective tape on their costume and bag.

· Remind kids to look both ways when crossing the street and walk, don’t run, from house to house. Older neighborhoods often have concrete sidewalks that are cracked and broken.

· They should always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, as close to the edge of the street as possible.

· No eating candy while trick or treating.

· Children should never enter anyone’s home unless the person at the door is someone you have already approved for your child to visit. If not, just tell them to say, “No thank you.” And then leave.

· Never walk near lit candles or luminaries.
For chaperones: Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and keep your eye on the children every minute.

· Think about giving your child a cell phone; show them how to call home and 911.
Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
Consider purchasing stickers and other ways to decorate the pumpkins without needing knife.
Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Halloween should be fun, but some rules can help if from going from fun to disaster.

See more at:

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Set Your Child Up for Success: Step 1—Homework Center

In order to make sure your child has everything he/she needs to succeed in school, you have to think about many things, but one is where will my child do his/her homework. I suggest that at the beginning of the school year, you create a homework center. Here are a few ideas to help you get started, but, as with anything, each family needs to proceed based on the needs of their own family.

My first suggestion is to involve your child/children is setting up this area. You would be surprised how willing they are to give suggestions and ideas when they see you want and need their help. For example, they may suggest an area for the homework center that you would not have even thought of. Make sure to respect their suggestions. Perhaps a family meeting would be in order where the entire family brainstorms ideas.

Suggestions to Consider

Where will this center be? The most logical answer to that is wherever is comfortable, has little distractions, has good lighting, and where you can be close by to aid when needed and to keep an eye on progress. Another important thing to consider is comfort. Comfort not only includes physical comfort, but emotional comfort, too. Make sure the area you choose for homework is free of clutter. If the children will be using the dining room or kitchen table, make sure it is free of all clutter.

“Clutter drains your energy – and you don’t realize it till it’s gone. Every item in your home has an energy to it. When items go a long time unused, unloved and uncared for, they become stuck, stagnant energy that actually physically drains you of your energy.”
– Ariane Benefit

In addition, make sure you stock up on all the supplies you need such as note books, notebook paper, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, dictionary, erasers, calculator, glue, scissors, crayons, stapler and staples, markers, ruler, colored pencils, tape, highlighters, and thesaurus.

Another thing to consider is whether your child will need to use a computer for his/her homework. Consider having one close by the homework center so she/he has easy access. For older children who have their own computers in their room, you may have to consider allowing them to do their homework there. If so, the same things apply… make sure they have ready access to supplies and make sure the area they will be working in is free from clutter and distractions.

I hope the information is helpful…next post: how to “help” without interfering.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Family Command Center

For teachers and families with school-age children, the new year begins in September, not January. So it's time to set some resolutions for the new school year to help keep the fmily organized and less stressed. The first thing to do is set up a Family Command Center. This is were everything that your family needs on a daily basis is located: calendars, files, school menus, chore lists, weekly dinner menus, call lists for children's after-school activities, information for babysitter, in-boxes for all family members, bills, backpacks, and anything and everything your family needs.

STEP ONE: Where will you put your command center?

Most families put theirs in the kitchen, but you should ask yourself where members of your family come to when they walk through the door...put it there!

STEP TWO: What kind of calendar would work best for your family?

Do you want a month by month paper calendar (see link to the left)?

Do you want a dry erase calendar that only gives you one month at a time (you will need another calendar to keep track of upcoming events)?

STEP THREE: Will each member of your family have his/her own file on the wall or on the

Each person in the family should have an in/out box/folder where all paper such as school flyers, notices, and homework goes each day. Make it a habit for the children to empty their backpacks each day in this area and make sure all paper that needs Mom and Dad's attention goes in this file. You can then check it every night, sign what needs to be signed or add events to the family calendar. You can then return whatever needs to be sent back to school to the children's backpacks. If there is an area near the command center for the backpacks to be left, then it will be easy to return all items back there. It also keeps children from running around the house in the morning looking for his/her backpack.

STEP THREE: What kind of filing system will you use?

Will you have a separate file cabinet? One that sits on the desk/table at you command center? Will the files be covered or open? For items that need to be kept and filed, having a well labelled set of files is essential. You can have a file for each person or have files labelled "phone lists" and "sports calendars."

STEP FOUR: Do you need a bulletin board?

If you decide to use one, decide how it will be used. Will it be used to house emergency contact numbers, flyers for upcoming events, family photos? This decision early on will keep your bulletin board from being so crowded that nothing on it can be seen.

Next Week: Setting up a homework center

Monday, June 29, 2015

Gay Marriage and Children

First, let me make clear what my opinion is of gay marriage.  I believe there isn't enough love in the world, and if two people fall in love and want to commit themselves for life, let them, no matter if they are the same sex or different sexes. Marriage is a personal thing, and it's a shame that we had to get the government involved, but we did; they spoke; and now it's the law.

This is the perfect time to bring up the subject in front of the children. The transgender issue has been in the news lately and now gay marriage, so it is a fine time to have this as a dinner conversation topic. Depending on the child and the child's age, you might start with a general question such as "What do you think about the ruling approving gay marriage?" It is important to make sure that the child feels he/she is part of the conversation and that it doesn't turn into a lecture from Mom, Dad, or Grandma or Grandpa.

Having the child air his/her views first also makes sure that they don't just agree with your view because they feel bullied or they think you will be angry if they disagree with you. Listen to them and even mirror back what they said to make sure you understand what they are saying: "So, you think gay marriage is weird?" The next question is the most important: "Why?" It is fine for children to have opinions that are different from ours, but it is important they know that an opinion should be based on correct information and not just what the majority of his/her friends say. We want to raise independent thinkers.

If the two of you disagree, the next part of the conversation should be about respect and tolerance. No matter what your views, it is not OK to belittle and shame those who feel differently or do differently. If they hear someone else do it, it is the right thing to do to help the person being bullied and ridiculed.  This kind of conversation can have long reaching effects and might even help your child deal with bullying situations at school.

The important message to get across is to remember that the adults in a child's life have a great impact on a child, even if we don't think so, and we can help them navigate these issues with intelligence and compassion.

I hope I can get a dialogue started here. Please feel free to post your views here and other suggestion on how to deal with these sensitive issues with the children in our lives.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Guest Blogger Nana Pat (Pat Pauli Dreyer)

The Tattooed Grandma asked me, Nana Pat, to write something for her blog about some of the things I do with my two grandsons. I am helping to raise them; I like the sound of that rather than babysitter. I have them two to three times a week for 10-11 hours a day. We play outside at the water table and sandbox, we play inside with toys I saved from my children and some new yard sale finds, we ride bikes up and down the driveway, we play school to learn reading, writing and numbers and we try to make crafty things. The boys don't care too much for artsy crafty things so I have to be creative. Finger painting was good, gifts for mom and dad were ok, but food crafts were a big hit.

We have made banana bread, cookies, slime, Play-Doh and ice cream. Slime was really simple. We used 1 box of corn starch and a pitcher of water, and food coloring. Start with about a 1/4 cup of the corn starch and slowly add a 1/2 cup of the water. Slowly add more corn starch and water, mixing thoroughly until you have the amount you want and the mixture is as thick as honey. About a box of cornstarch and 1-2 cups of water should make enough slime for 2-3 kids. You can add food coloring or split the mixture up and make each batch a different color. Once the desired color has been reached, dip you hands in and feel the slime. As you play with it, notice how it acts like a solid, then a liquid. It should not splash if it is made correctly. The kids will love it!

Edible Play-Doh was also a big hit! We had used real Play-Doh with some of the kits that it comes in. But edible Play-Doh was more fun because you got to eat it when you were done. We used Peeps from Easter (but regular marshmallows would probably work as well) coconut oil (it’s really a solid) and powdered sugar. In a large microwaveable bowl place three Peeps and one big tablespoon of the coconut oil. Set the microwave for 20-30 seconds. The Peeps will grow puffy and big. Stop the microwave when the oil melts and the Peeps grow puffy. Take the bowl out and start stirring. It will be very sticky, so add 1-2 teaspoons of powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar as needed. If you use marshmallows you could add food coloring for color, not necessary for Peeps because they are colored already, but you could add some for a deeper color. Put the powdered sugar on your hands to make it easier to handle. It's oiler than Play Doh, but much more yummy! After playing with the mixture, it can be stored (fresh Peeps store for 2-3 days, stale Peeps harden quickly) or eaten!

We also made ice cream from snow. This winter we put bowls outside to collect freshly fallen snow. You need about 8 cups of snow, 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk, 3/4 cups of sugar or to taste, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (for vanilla ice cream.) You could also add chocolate chips, chocolate milk, cocoa, strawberry Quick or any flavor you want. Thin plastic bowls reduce melting (I found out the hard way not to use metal bowls) and some people use chocolate syrup, but I used Hershey's unsweetened cocoa because of the sugar and sweetened milk already there. You need to stir, stir, and stir. (No hand mixers, they will make it thin.) Put it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes and stir, stir, stir again. We took turns stirring. They loved it! I thought the vanilla was good, but the boys prefer chocolate ice cream. So I added the cocoa powder and that was a winner!

Enjoy the kids and the fun!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Getting the Kids to Read over Summer Break

Teachers will tell you that it is important for children of all ages to read over the summer, but, for many kids, that is the last thing they want to do. Many children take a few steps backwards in their reading ability over the summer break, and it often takes weeks in the fall for them to catch up.

Reading is the single most criteria for academic success. The acquired knowledge children get from reading can actually make them smarter. They will have a vast wealth of information to draw from in their academic lives. In addition, reading helps develop critical thinking skills. As a college professor, I can assure you that the ability to think critically is the key to academic success in later years. So, it is up to parents and grandparents to help kids find opportunities to read over the summer so we can keep them sharp!

1. Join a the local library’s Summer Reading Club: there are often rewards for the children at the end of the summer for reading a certain number of books

2. For older kids, purchase an e-reader. Libraries provide opportunities to download books for free, so the e-reader actually pays for itself. There are also websites, like Book Perks, that show books available on Amazon for free or between .99 to $2.99.

3. Make sure your student sees you reading for pleasure. You are still the greatest influence they have.

4. Read the same books that they are reading and talk about the book with them.

5. On the Parenting website, an article by Melissa Taylor suggests

a. Let the child pick his/her own books

b. Use audio books while in the car (they can also be borrowed from the library)

c. Remember, comic books count!

6. Have a regular day of the week when you go to the library

7. Sign up for programs the library has to assure you a regular trip to library

8. Along with sunscreen, make it a habit for the whole family to pack at least one book on all road trips.

To find the entire article by Melissa Taylor, see

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Teaching Children About Random Acts of Kindness

Many adults have created a mindset for themselves of looking for opportunities to be kind to others. Many of us regularly let other drivers ahead of us at a merge, hold doors for others and even pay the toll for the car behind us.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all had begun that mindset when we were young children?At the dinner table, brainstorm some acts of kindness the children (and you!) can do that week. It might be hard for the children to think of what they can do, but the point is to make it a mindset. To encourage the children, you can all put your act of kindnesses on a piece of paper or a heart and make a collage. Here are some suggestions to help you and your children and grandchildren to create this mentality:

  • Volunteer to help distribute food at the food bank.
  • Have the child go through toys/clothes and bring him/her along when you donate
  • Make cards and pictures for out of town relatives
  • When you make cookies or brownie, have them take some to an elderly neighbor, stay and share some with them.
  •  Encourage children to give their seats to pregnant women and those older than them on the bus, waiting for a table at a restaurant, etc.
  •  Sign up to put the flags on gravestones on Memorial Day
  • Teach them to always say thank you
  • Rake leaves of an elderly or overwhelmed neighbor (shovel snow, too)...obviously this is a suggestion for an older child
  • When getting a pet, adopt.
  • Show by example to hold doors for the people behind you
  •  Go to the dollar store and get some of the items that an organization like Operation Gratitude sends to the troops…don’t forget to have the children send with it a thank you card
  • Make sure children always write their own thanks you notes for gifts they receive ( I have realized lately that sometimes people appreciate these handwritten notes more than a phone call)
  • Have the kids take the Sunday paper and clip coupons and leave them on the shelves in the grocery store when you go shopping.
  • Pick up litter (and obviously, don’t litter yourself)
  • Invite a lonely child to play
  • Talk to the new kid at school
  • If you see a homeless person, bring them some food. It may be uncomfortable for you at first, but it is important that the children see that everyone matters.
  • Smile and say hi to strangers
  • They should say good morning to their teacher, principal, school officials and classmates.  
  • They can offer to take their neighbor’s dog for a walk. 
  • Volunteer to be a tutor or mentor in a school, especially if there is an area in which you can help another student (this is great one for teens) 
  • Give someone a compliment at least once every day. 
  • Encourage them to be extra kind to the school bus driver. Say hello when they get on the bus and say thank you when they get off the bus. 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

War and The Disney Princesses

Recently, when I was driving my granddaughter home from pre-school, we passed a memorial for those who died in WWII. She asked me what it was, and I told her. Her next question threw me for a loop: “What is war, Grandma?” I told her it was when two countries have a fight. She seemed fine with that answer, for now. But she is a curious child, and I know it will come up again, and I want to be ready. So, I went to see what was on the Internet about how to discuss war with a toddler. It seems the consensus was that there is no easy way to explain it to children, toddlers and up.

It seems, though, that it is not a quick conversation. It is one where the concept of freedom needs to be explained. For toddlers, you can just say that freedom is when people can be able to do what they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt other people, without be afraid of being punished. For example, the Evil step-mother in Cinderella would not let Cinderella go to the ball, but the Fairy Godmother stepped in and helped Cinderella go to the ball. Using examples they can understand will help small children understand better an abstract concept.

That can give you a good transition to talking about war. You can continue with the Cinderella example. Explain how if Cinderella was one country and the Step-mother was the ruler, sometimes other countries (the Godmother, the mice) have to go and help Cinderella..

One website I went to said you need to discuss with your children that not everyone is good; there are evil people in the world. They know this already; they have seen Maleficent, Japhar, the Evil Queen, and numerous other Disney villains in action. They already know the world is filled with bad people. What we have to do is to assure them that the good guys will protect us from these people.

You can also use this opportunity to show the troops to your child as the heroes of the story and explain how much we all owe those people for stepping up and fighting the villains of the world so we can have a safe life here. It is important to reassure the child that he/she is in no danger, so they can go back to being a kid.

Now, you may be saying that this is deceiving the child; that I can’t keep the bad guys from her door ( try to stop me!), and I know that, but at four she doesn’t need to go to bed at night and worry about the Big Bad Wolf coming to knock down her door. She has an answer for her question for now; this is not the last time this issue will come up, and as she grows so will the conversation.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Let’s Get Organized

We look on ourselves, whether we are parents or grandparents, as our child’s first teacher. We teach them to say “please” and “thank you” and to tie their shoes, tell time and ride their bike, but how many of us teach our child to be organized? For me, organization is one of the great comforts of life and don’t we all want the children in our lives to feel that comfort?

Here are some suggestions that might help you and your child get on the road to organization:

1. We can all take a lesson from Mary Poppins and make the job of picking up into a game, seeing who can pick up the most red blocks, etc.

2. Have open storage. Having a closed lid toy box gets the toys out of the way, but it does not make for a quick clean up. Being able to just toss stuff animals into an open bin is far easier and more fun than having to open the lid.

3. You can also label these bids for an even more organized storage system. For children who cannot read yet, put photos of the items for that bin on the front. Such as a picture of one of the child’s Barbies for the bin for the fashion dolls.

4. If you will be helping, put on some old rock ‘n roll and you and the kids can dance while you tidy up.

5. You can set rules that they have to put away any toy they are playing with before they go on to the next toy.

6. There are also lots of negative ways that you can approach this, such as taking away any toy left out overnight, but the point of teaching children to be organized is to have it be a lifetime skill that can grow as they do, so having a negative connotation to the process might defeat the purpose.

7. Once children go to school, organization becomes the road to success. Have a place where all book bags and homework go after school and after homework. Have a place for permission slips and make sure to look in it every day. Teaching children the theory of “a place for everything and everything in its place” makes mornings so much calmer.

8. Develop a daily schedule (with input from the child). Children a get a real sense of comfort from consistency.

9. At the appropriate age, teach the child about the benefits of a to-do list. Children work well with a to-do list since it gives them the confidence of knowing they won’t forget anything that needs to be done and they can run out to play knowing all their chores and homework are done and Mom and Dad will appreciate their responsibility.

10. Before bedtime, you can review the next day with the child. Include planning what to wear (check weather) and what is on the calendar for the next day.

Here is a list from to see if your school age child could benefit from some organization:


Below is a list of situations that may be a sign that your child is having problems with organization and planning.

· Fails to bring home homework assignments

· Does not know the exact homework assignment

· Fails to return completed homework

· Does not know when the teacher gives homework (e.g., days of the week)

· Does not know how the teacher typically informs them of the homework assignments

· Does not know to bring home books or needed materials

· Does not know when assignments are due

· Does not have papers and study guides to study for test

· Does not know when tests are

· Does not have a regular study space

· Does not have needed supplies for homework

· Waits until the last minute to start homework/studying

· Runs out of time when studying for tests

Looking at this list, there are many things we could do to help this child. The first might be to contact the teacher and inform his/her of the problems and see if you can be informed of the homework each week, perhaps through emails. Provide a comfortable and well stocked area where the child can study with all the materials he/she might need. This area does not have to be away from all disruptions. Children often feel isolated when they are forced to do their homework all alone in their rooms. Help the child prepare a homework schedule. Help the child create a homework schedule. It could be that the amount of work overwhelms the child and he/she doesn’t know how to break it down into steps.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Complexion of a Family

Patrice Tomasetti Newman
Image result for diverse family clipart

The cacophony of different voices ranging from 4 years old through 11 years old is drifting up to my sitting room. I smile. I hear laughter, shouts, and an occasional whine as my four grandchildren are playing whatever their imaginary game is at the moment. Their voices are a hodgepodge that reflects what our family is all about.

They bring to mind a recent conversation that I had with my second oldest granddaughter, who is 9 years old. She is the one that is reflective. She is the one that expresses how she feels about different topics that impact their lives. She seems to hash over in her own mind something that has been said or something that she has seen before she brings them up for discussion.

Recently, she asks, “Is it true that I have no sisters or brother?” I respond with, “Why would you ask that?” “Well, we have different fathers. So, we don’t have the same blood”, she replies. “Can you elaborate more?” I query. She proceeds to say that a ‘friend’ has brought this to her attention. According to her ‘friend’, if you don’t share the same exact bloodline, you are not family. My next question is, “Is sharing blood the only thing that makes one a family?” She thinks that over but seems unsure with this new information her ‘friend’ has given her.

I ask her about her daddy (not her biological father). She gives me true answers to the questions: He was adopted from Korea as a baby. No, he doesn’t have our blood. No, he doesn’t look like any of us. Yes, he is our son even though we don’t share the ‘blood connection’. So, I inquire, “Aren’t he, your grandpa and I a family?” She doesn’t even think about it for a minute before she responds, “Yes!”

We then talk about the first time I met her and her sister. They were going on 3 and 5 years old respectively. We speak not only about how we met but about how our families merged together when her daddy and mommy decided to be together. We talk about how from that moment on she and her sister became our granddaughters. “Do we share the same blood”, I probe. Again, her response is a quick, “No!” “Do you see us as your grandparents?” I ask. “Yes”, she replies. My next question, “Why?” gives her some pause.

Her answer reflects her feelings and thoughts on the topic. She states that like her daddy and mommy, we are always there for her; that we always care enough to teach her what is right and wrong; that we are always involved in her successes wherever she experiences them; that we are always there when she is not successful to make her understand that giving something a try is what is important so that she keeps learning new things; that we take her places and like to spend time with her. Most of all, she says, we always “have her back” and she feels loved.

“Well”, I ask, “What about your sisters and brother? How is your life experience the same or different with them?” She laughs. “Well, we go to school together. We play together. Sometimes, we argue over toys, the T.V., or the rules of a game. But I know that deep down inside they love me and I love them!” “Isn’t that what is most important? Isn’t that what family is all about?” I question. She thinks about it for a minute, smiles, and gives a resounding, “Yes it is!” Following a quick kiss, she is off to play with her sisters and brother. Her voice is added again to the racket created by my four grandchildren’s laughs, shouts, and yes, the occasional whines. And how I love those sounds! I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

I am sure that this topic will resurface again whether by her or one of her siblings. I will be prepared to help them think it through; to help them understand that the complexion of a family varies; to help them realize that the importance is in the bonds we form and the love we share. That is what makes a family!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sharing Music With Grandchildren

“Music is a wonderful way to connect with grandchildren because it provides an avenue that you can both travel,” 

says Lillian Carson,
 author of The Essential Grandparent.

One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to a record of Harry Lauder (Scottish singer) with my grandfather. I loved a song called “Donald, where’s your trousers?” Sharing music with our grandchildren shares the things we love with the little ones we love. In addition, we can let our grandchildren share their music with us. You will score huge brownie points, especially with teen grandchildren, if you seriously listen to their favorite music.

But the last thing we want to do is announce to them, “Now we are going to listen to some music grandma loves.” There are plenty of ways to integrate music (ours and there’s) into our day to day lives:

· Make sure there is a cd player/iPod® in every place/room were you and the child spend time.

· Have a collection of music available. The library is a great place to find a variety of music. Take the child to the library with you and have each of you to choose a few cds.

· The car is an excellent place to share music. You can connect your iPod® or cell phone to your car radio. I connect my cell phone to the radio and then listen to Pandora Internet Radio, an app that lets you personalize radio. I have a Disney Channel for Tally, my 4 year old granddaughter, but we also listen to my Garth Brooks Channel and music from the 60s and 70s.

When my children were little, my husband would sing Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World to them
before they went to bed. Recently, when he had the opportunity to spend some time by himself with our granddaughter, I heard him singing it to her. She told him that her Mommy sang that song to her at night before bed. That song from my husband’s past has become part of the heritage of this family. In fact, at my daughter’s wedding, when it was time for my husband and daughter to have their Father/Daughter Dance, the DJ played…

“Jeremiah was a bull frog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls, now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me”

Check out the following websites that severed as the basis of this post:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Twins: On the Job Training

Guest Blogger, Tara Sheehan, Mother of Twins

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore but let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of heaven dance between you -- Kahlil Gibran

This morning as I was watching the Today Show, I had to smile when I saw the parents of the newborn quintuplets, born in Texas, getting their 15 minutes of fame in with Matt Lauer. They seemed bright-eyed and eager and so excited and I thought to myself, you’re in for it. And you don’t even know it. Now having twins (my boy/girl twins are 4) pales in comparison to having five (!) babies but I can certainly understand not knowing what you don’t know. That’s the best way to enter into something as profoundly life changing as having 2 kids at once. Or 5. You figure it out along the way.

There are so many things that people tell you about having twins – before they’re even born, well-meaning people are peppering you with expectations. Some of them were true (or at least true for me) and some were not. The special twin language? I never saw evidence of it. The scary grasp of basic biology that strangers at the grocery store show when they ask if your boy/girl twins are identical? Heard it more times than I could count. From friends, even. Some expectations took longer to make themselves known. I remember my son’s speech therapist telling me when the twins were 18 months old that we/they were so lucky to have built in playmates. At the time, I didn’t feel so lucky (I don’t care what they say about the terrible 2’s or 3’s, I did not like 18 months…. At all.).

But now I count on that fact every single day. My twins love each other and rely on one another so much; in fact, I worry about it a little bit. Nate was sick earlier in the week and I kept him home from pre-school. Grace went off solo to school. We had a nice day together (despite the sickness) but Nate said he missed Grace more than once. It was probably about 5 times. By about the 4th time, I did say, “what about me? I’m here!” But then, I stopped being a baby and thought, I love that they love each other. In fact, I hope they’re always like they are now – thick as thieves. But it brings up another concern: are they too attached?

What’s going to happen when they are separated in school? Are they going to have a hard time adjusting? I suppose like everything else with parenting, even twin parenting, it will work itself out. I remember spending great periods of time worrying about my infant children sharing a room and one crying and waking the other one up. It never happened. In fact, to this day, one can be making a racket and the other will sleep right through it. They shared a womb for almost a year; I guess they worked out the noise thing long before they burst on the scene. I hope this fear is the same, it amounts to nothing.

For those new parents of the quintuplet girls (can you imagine having 5 girls at once?), they will be experts at this before they know it. And all the books they read and advice they were given might have made them feel prepared but it probably didn’t. You don’t know anything at all; and that’s good. They’ll muddle through, like every set of new parents before them, until they don’t remember a time they didn’t have 5 little girls to care for. I wish them well in their journey. And I hope they have lots and lots of diapers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I want patience and I want it now!

Patience is a two way street. Although it is a good thing to help our grandchildren develop patience, it is also a good thing for us, especially when we are dealing with toddlers. Here are some great suggestions to help us move toward patience.

Toddlers have no concept of time, so this is a good time to help them learn patience. One way to do that is to anticipate when their might be waiting and have something on hand to help them pass the time. For example, if you know you will be waiting in line at the grocery store, the following might be helpful:

· Play I SPY: you can have toddlers find shapes, colors, or letter/numbers

· Thumb wrestling

· Color/ shape hunt

· Alphabet hunt

· “I’m going on a trip”: say “I’m going on a trip; what would I pack?”

· Paper and crayons with a small clip board: it is always a great idea to be prepared; you can purchase small clip boards at the dollar store with small note pads.

· Small toys that only come out in line: I like to collect the small toys from McDonalds

· Small snacks

· Pipe cleaners…make into alphabet and shapes

The key to helping your toddler develop patience is dependent on your being prepared. Do you like waiting on lines? Can you get impatient? So do our toddlers, but it is easy for us to help them (and us) be more a patient waiter by thinking beforehand how we can solve the problem. And, don’t forget to praise them when they have acted patiently.

Now for us… we too have to learn to develop patience when dealing with toddlers. They learn how to behave from watching those around them… be a good example.

· Stop thinking like an adult: we will be better able to have patience with our toddlers if we try to think like a toddler. We need to remember that they are often acting out of frustration. If we can find out what they are frustrated about, we can help.

When my children were young, I often got frustrated with them when they would not do exactly what I wanted. For example, I would pick out clothes for them to wear to school and they would rebel. That dress was too tight, those leggings itched, etc. Now I knew better than to say, “Well, pick out your own clothes.” What I came up with was the simple concept of choices. I would pick out two outfits and give then a choice. The decision was theirs what to wear and they felt in control. Our frustration with them and their frustration with us often stems from their wanting to have more control over themselves.

· Lower your expectations: We often lose patience with toddlers (and all children... husbands, too) when we place too much importance on something. Does the bed have to be made with strict precisions and perfect corners? Does the fork have to be on the left? Does your toddler’s pants have to match the top? When we set impossibly high goals for our children, we get impatient when they don’t meet those expectations. Teaching them confidence is more important than where the fork goes.

“There's no advantage to hurrying through life." -Shikamaru Nara” 

Slow down: our impatience stems from the go, go life we have created. But when we are dealing with toddlers, we can’t rush past the world. They have only been here a short while and everything is interesting. Their curiosity about the world is limitless, so don’t rush them. Leave time in your schedule for looking at rocks and into store windows. My granddaughter is curious about everything. So when we are going out, I always leave much earlier than I have to. The other day we were going to lunch and a movie. On the way out of lunch, Tally spotted a vacant field with lots of rocks strewn about. Tally loves to collect rocks, so of course she wanted to explore. If I had not given myself extra time, I would have rushed her away from there to get to the movie on time. So slow down, make time for diversions, smell the follows and collect those rocks.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. 
We shall get there some day.” 

Check out these websites for more information:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

To the Moon and Back

I had the honor of going to the moon with my 4 year old granddaughter Tally yesterday. We spent two hours building a bed out of leaves with grass pillows. We lay on our backs and looked at the clouds; each one of them was a different spaceship from a different planet. We had to fight off moon bears and tigers. Luckily, we were back on Earth by the time her mother arrived.

At 62, I never thought I would get down on the ground and lay in the leaves again... never thought I could get up either! But I wouldn't miss that experience for the world, so if you think you're too old, Grandma, to get down on the floor with your grandchildren...THINK AGAIN!

Monday, March 30, 2015

To Dance or Not to Dance

Who doesn’t love the sight of little girls all dressed in tutus dancing across a stage? We grandparents who sit in the audiences oohing and ahhing at our precious little girls may not know what it took to get them there, but I do. I have been in charge of taking my 4 year old granddaughter to dance class for the last year.

At first, she loved it. All the aunts and grandparents came to stand at the window and watch her. It was exciting. Then the it dwindled down to being just me at the window. I noticed right away that the only thing she really liked was that she could watch herself in the giant mirror on the wall. My Tally is a free spirit and there is nothing more frustrating for a free spirit that not being able to go with the flow of the music and learn a routine that she would perform with nine other little girls. They did the same thing over and over in preparation for that big night…Tally continued to do her own thing. She was often in tune with the other, but not always.

Then, it began to get even harder and harder to get her to go. First, she did not want to wear any kind of dance clothes. Then it was a down-right revolt every time I mentioned it was time for dance. Finally, her parents decided to “let it go” as Elsa would say. Tally and I rejoiced.

I remember when Tally’s mother was the same age, her father and I signed her up for dance, and she seemed to love it, but when it came time to go out on stage, she refused. It was not, I’ll admit, my finest hour. I urged, I threatened, and I bribed; she stood firm, she was NOT going out on that stage. I did not take it well; let us just say it was not my finest parenting hour and I cringe to this day, wishing I had taken her in my arms and calmed her fears.

How many other children right now are being forced to take lessons and do sports that they really don’t want to do? How many of you have said “My parents forced me to take piano lesson as a kid, and I hated it”?

So the question becomes, should these little ones be scheduled for these activities such as dance, gymnastics, soccer, piano lessons, etc. ‘"The more time kids had in less structured activities, the more self-directed they were and, also, the reverse was true: The more time they spent in structured activities, the less able they were to use executive function," said study author Yuko Munakata, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder.”

This is not to say that children should not take dance and kick the soccer ball around, but perhaps parents and grandparents need to listen and watch and see if that activity is right for that child at that time. My daughter who refused to go onstage at 4 spent most of her junior high and high school years performing in one play and musical after the other, enjoying herself the whole time. At 4 the time wasn’t right, but she is proof it might just be a matter of timing. Luckily, Tally has parents who did listen to her and now on Monday afternoon, instead of my having to beg and plead with Tally to go to dance, she can do whatever her imagination dictates. Today she and I are going to have a tea party!

As always, I am not an expert, so please check out these sites for information and both viewpoints:

I would love to hear from other parents and parents who have a different opinion. Please comment.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scrapbooking with Grandkids: Part 1

Recently, my 4 years old granddaughter Tally asked if she could scrapbook with me. Well, of course, I said yes, and we put together a small scrapbook with spare pictures of her, her parents, the rest of the family and the pets. She especially loved searching through my huge stash of sticker and using my stamps and punches. I thought that would be her last interest in scrapbooking. But, I was wrong. She spoke about and showed her little scrapbook to everyone she saw and immediately asked me the next time she came over, “Can we scrapbook again?”

Displaying IMG_1063.JPGI was ready for her, since her Mom had given me a heads up. I had already found a larger scrapbook for her that she could use and prepared her own little desk area in my office so we can work side by side. She has her own supplies, stickers and punches (her favorite!).

Part I:


Scrapbooking with a child can be more than just a fun activity. Today, Tally and I were playing with alphabet stickers, and I decided I could use them to enhance what she learns in school.

1. I had her locate the letter on the sticker page..

2. I picked up a sticker and asked her what the letter or number was.

3. As we put sticker letters down, I started to have us spell out basic words.

4. She loved spelling out her name, along with other people in the family.

Displaying IMG_1068.JPG

More to follow on scrapbooking with children……

Monday, March 23, 2015

Reading Aloud: Fun for All

"Grandma, read me a story," Nothing's better to hear. We love to cuddle with them in a chair and read them book after book. But did you know that reading aloud is good for your grandchildren at all ages?

1. Reading to preschool-age children can enlarge their vocabulary thus encouraging greater success when they start school.

2. Reading out load will also increase the child's attention span. This is a good skill to encourage in any child. So many children who are being diagnosed with ADD could just be children who were never encouraged to develop their attention span.

3. If you read to them, they will see reading as an enjoyable activity, and they will then read on their own as they get older. Attitude is everything! It creatives a positive image of reading, especially if he/she sees you reading on your own also. This can develop in the child a lifelong interest in reading.

4. Childen have a disconnect between their listening vocabulary and their reading one.  They can often understand far more words than they can read.  Reading to them helps to close that gap.

5. Teachers say that reading to children is the most important way to language development.

6. It also builds curiosity and memory.

7. Reading also enhances the child's creativity and imagination.

8. Reading different kinds of books as the child grows older (such as poetry, short stories, biographies) creates a more thorough background knowledge. This knowledge is an asset when the child starts school.

But reading is not just for the little ones, older children also benefit from this activity, even into their teens. If you think it would be hard to get the older children to sit down and listen, try tying it to something like a long road trip or clearing the table at night. When my children were in their teens, one person would read out loud and the others would clear the table. Look for these opportunities.

Suggested Reading List


To Kill a Mockingbird

The Graveyard Book

All Alone int the Universe

Ender's Game


The Hunger Games

The Maze Runner

Ronia: The Robber's Daughter

Number the Stars

A Wrinkle in Time

Island of the Blue Dolphin

Island of the Blue Dolpin

TEENS & SCHOOL AGE (possible pre-school)

The Chronicles of Narnia

Harry Potter series


Stuart Little

The Litlte Prince


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The Giving Tree

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Half Magic


Good Night i-Pad

From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler

The Best Christmas Pageant Eve

The Polar Express

The Secret Garden

Little House on the Prairie

Peter Pan

Alices Adventures in Wonderland

Strawberry Girl

Please share any other books or ideas for encouraging out loud reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Helicopter (Grand)Parents

In 1969, Dr. Haim Ginott penned the term “helicopter parents” in his book Parents and Teenagers, but in 2015 that term can be applied to any parent figure: parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles who are overly involved in a child’s life, someone who is over controlling and over perfecting. The desire for having the world see our child or grandchild as perfect in the eyes of the world tends to leave us with children who can’t take care of themselves and who never can appreciate their own accomplishments because they are not really their own.

When we hover over these children, we lead them to have decreased confidence and self-esteem. I often take my granddaughter to programs at the local library. The programs usually consist of reading books on a specific topic and then making a craft. My daughter related a story of a recent library event where the children were asked to line up three paper carrots with numbers on them and then put the appropriate number of carrots stems on each. So the carrot with the three on it got three stems…I’m sure you get the idea. My granddaughter is only four and tends to want to do things her own way, so her carrots were not very well lined up and the stems were a little askew, but she got the main idea, which was the point of the craft. When my daughter looked up, the other children’s carrots were perfectly lined up and there were even some parents redoing their child’s craft while the child played nearby. The children whose crafts were really done by the parent didn’t seem very enthusiastic about them, but my granddaughter ran up to everyone to show her carrots…she was very proud. I myself have seen this happen time and again with both parents and grandparents, and have always felt for the children. They never learn a sense of pride in their own work. We really do want to foster independent children, not ones who sit back and let us do everything for them or direct them to do everything “our way.” The results of that can be long reaching.

As a college professor for 35 years, I have taught the young people who are a result of this “over parenting.” Without parents there to give the teacher excuses or to do the work for them, they flounder and often have no idea of what they are capable of. They often continually ask when assignments are due because they have never had to keep track of them on their own. They also expect that their minimal effort will garner them and “A.” These students struggle not only with the material they are learning in each class, but also struggle with how to be a student: manage their time, organize themselves, set goals, and make priorities. These are skills they weren’t given the chance to learn.

In addition to having to deal with these students, I still have to deal with “helicopter” parents, even in college. Legally, if their child is 18 or over, I cannot discuss any aspect of their child’s work or grades. I can’t tell them about attendance or behavior. This comes as a great shock to these parents. They are just beginning to realize that without their constant attention and hovering, they child will crash and burn. And I suggest that is not the worst thing that can happen. Often students begin to realize that not only do they have to step up and take care of themselves, but they are capable of doing so. Those students succeed and for the first time in their lives feel a real sense of accomplishment. Those who are still so addicted to their parents taking care of everything are the ones who just disappear in the middle of the semester.

The time to assure that the child will have the ability and desire to succeed on their own starts when they are little. Our job as caregiver, whether it is as a parent or grandparent, is to not raise children, but to raise adults.

According to Deborah Gilboa, M.D., founder of, “Remembering to look for opportunities to take one step back from solving our child's problems will help us build the reliant, self-confident kids we need."

(Check out the article on

Friday, March 6, 2015

On Vacation and Still in Touch

This week I am on vacation down in Florida, and my granddaughter and I miss each other very much. But that has been a little bit alleviated by the few Facetime chats we have had.

I see now, how important technology has become for long distance grandparents. Both Skype and Facetime let those grandparents who do not get to see their grandchild all the time, to still become a familiar face..

Even if you say you are not "good with the computer" it is to your very distinct advantage to become, if not good, at least passably good.

Many public libraries have classes on using the computer, and some of those classes are on specific subjects like Skype or how to make the most of your cell phone.

So, let prove to our grandchildren that we can be the "cool" grandparents and can meet them where they live, on their cellphones... next week, on to  Facebook.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This Party's for the Birds (and animals)

Today my granddaughter and I went outside to make a "cake" for the many animals and birds that struggle in this snow-filled cold weather.

We had some vegetables that we purchased from the grocery store's day-old sections and added some birdseed and stray carrots from my refrigerator. We found a mound of snow that we could see from the window and Tally and I placed all the vegetables and seeds surrounding the mound of snow.

She had to go home before we had any guests arrive at our party, but I promised her that I would try to film any who arrived!