Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wishing You Joy, Pride and a Spirit for Action

Dear Friends,

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year. This holiday letter is being posted both at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and The Grandma Chronicles.

The joy of grandparenting has been a major theme for me this year. Our grandson is now 18 months old and it is a total joy to watch him grow, discover and enjoy life. It really is quite inspirational. And so I enjoy writing about him at The Grandma Chronicles and “shouting out with joy” about all that is going on. It has been fun to watch him experience getting ready for Christmas from decorating to wrapping presents to watching the family room transformed with a Christmas tree and decorations everywhere. I was sort of surprised that the poinsettias by the fireplace went completely unnoticed.

Christmas is a time of reflection and of joy for me. It is a time to be thankful for all our blessings, for appreciating family and friends, and for sharing with others. I have turned down the lights in my office, lit candles in the window and am playing Christmas Chant. The soft light brings a still peace and I have left the hustle bustle of the day with grocery shopping and cooking for tomorrow and I am enjoying this quiet time to write this message.

This past year I have been so proud to be working in the nonprofit community. I’ve seen organizations make it through a rough time, look inside their soul and come out strong. I’ve seen Board and staff working hard and more thoughtfully to make a new path or stay steady on a firm one. Unfortunately layoffs and reduced pay have frequently been necessary at many of the places I worked with this year. The people impacted are in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas.

This year I continued to stay focused especially on smaller nonprofits but I did expand my reach attending two national conferences and presenting at one of them. It was totally wonderful to meet people in person that I have only known online and meeting in person has brought those relationships to a new level. Also, I have been asked to take on new kinds of projects for nonprofits and that has been a growth experience for me.

I look forward to the New Year and a recovering economy. This last couple of weeks our political leaders have shown a new ability to think independently and work together to compromise. None of us are entirely happy with everything, but it is uplifting to see action rather than inaction. It sets a good tone as we start a new year.

Last year I wished you all joy, pride and resilience. This year I wish you joy, pride and a spirit for action. I think that 2011 will be one where action will again be in vogue – a time for trying new ideas - taking new steps. I’m planning on it, and I hope you do too.
Here is the picture of my husband and me with our grandson, Zach that we sent with our Christmas cards.

May You Have a Blessed and Joyous Holiday,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Zach Christmas Picture

My husband took this picture of Zach and his parents used it for their Christmas card

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sid the Science Kid, Science and Grandma - Wow, Now That Is Perfect Together!

So do you still have Christmas shopping to do? Still looking for something for a young grandchild? Have you heard of Sid the Science Kid? Sid the Science Kid is a PBS TV show created by the Jim Henson company designed to develop children's natural wonder and build a foundation for early science exploration. Each episode begins with a “big question” to be answered. I love that there is a series that introduces science to preschoolers and I also love another thing about this series – one of my grandson’s favorite shows – Sid’s grandma is a key character. Like many grandparents, Sid’s Grandma is very involved in her grandson's life. She picks him up from school each day, but much more than that, she has a special relationship with Sid. Sid, science and grandma – perfect together – definitely the show for me.

There are many toys licensed with the Sid the Science Kid character. So many toys are intent on teaching colors, letters, shapes and numbers. There are soooo many more interesting things to introduce a young child too. Here are a few Sid the Science Kid science kits that will capture a preschooler’s nature to want to explore and learn about the world around him/her.

These three learning kits are very reasonable priced and designed for ages 3 and up.  They are great for a grandparent and child to work on together - just like Sid would. During each experiment, children can ask questions, try different ideas and draw their observations in the included journal, just like Sid the Science Kid and his friends do on the show!


Learn about how seeds sprout, what plants need to grow and what makes dirt dirty!

Learn about all aspects of weather—rain, wind, temperature, sun and more!

Learn about how the shape of wheels affects car movement and what happens if they race a car on different surfaces or at different

You can order these learning kits from right here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Looking for Something Special for a Newborn – See Bunnies by the Bay

 At I am the moderator for the New Grandparents group. Many of our members join the group as soon as they hear they will be grandparents and they ask all the questions that expectant grandparents have. One of the things frequently asked for are suggestions for “a something special” gift for the baby. Well, at the New York Toy Fair last year I saw just the thing – anything from Bunnies by the Bay.

Bunnies by the Bay was founded in 1986 and it is a small Washington based company focused on making the most precious, soft cuddly items for baby’s first year. But their bunny baby blankets often become that favorite friend that a child sleeps with for years to come. What is shown here is the super soft blanket/stuffed animal - a buddy blanket. These come in pink, blue and neutral colors. The pictures do not do these items  justice. In person, the Bunnies by the Bay products look and feel luxurious and soft. When I approached this booth at the Toy Fair and there were over a thousand booths - I was just drawn in by the beauty of the display.  And as I walked around I was smiling at each soft touch of one gorgeous item after another. The buddy blanket reminded me of the bunny blanket my daughter had as a baby and still has today.  It was a small bunny blanket  and there was a satin ribbing on the edge.  It was a gift from a friend and we put it over the edge of the bassinet when she was just a newborn.  She grabbed that satin edge and an instant love affair began.

Bunnies by the Bay has buddy blankets, clothing, plush animals and more. The Glad Dreams Coat with a hat and bunny muff will make any baby girl seem like a princess. The robes are the nicest I have seen by far. This dress is just precious.  There are special outfits for little boys too.

These items are a little pricey, but if you are looking for something special for a newborn, check out Bunnies by the Bay. Oh – they do personalization – that makes everything special, doesn’t it.

You can order these items from Bunnies by the Bay or in specialy stores - check their website for locations.  You can also order directly from Amazon below.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lennon Sister Rag Dolls - A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Kathy and Janet Rag Dolls
At the A Time to Play showcase in September, amidst all the electronic, battery powered, bright and “learning and development” toys was a different kind of table – one that was more likely to attract a grandmother than any other. And all of the grandmothers in the crowd made their way here. I had made an appointment but arrived early. Kathy and Janet Lennon – two of the four Lennon sisters – have a line of rag dolls and related items. Kathy and Janet Lennon were both there to show off their endearing dolls and I had the opportunity to talk with them and see their heartfelt thoughtfulness that went into developing these dolls. The dolls are exact replicas of the dolls that Kathy and Janet’s Mother and Nana first made in 1949 and later made for each of the girls. They took these with them “on the road” during the Lawrence Welk Show years. The dolls are dressed in vintage outfits and with their sewn on facial features and underwear they are perfect for any age. The line of dolls is multicultural and includes Isabelle, Lily and Sofia.

My grandson, Zach with Danny Boy
But here is my favorite. As readers of this blog know I have a grandson, and they also have a Danny boy doll named after their brother. I think that playing with dolls – boys or girls – is an important part of a child’s development but it is hard to find an appropriate doll for a boy. This one is perfect. It is soft but sturdy and unbreakable.  A little boy can play rough with this doll and do no harm.

The Best Pals line also has doll clothes, a nostalgic tin tea set, CDs, paper dolls (Yes – old fashioned paper dolls – you’ll have to explain how this works for sure), and a set of mini dolls in a travel carrying case. And for Christmas - rag dolls dressed in velvet dresses that each come with a beautiful old fashioned nightgown.

These dolls have received numerous awards including The National Parenting center seal of Approval, iParenting Media and the Toy of the Year award from Creative Child magazine.  These dolls make a perfect gift from a grandmother and provide a child with something from "a time gone by" to play with.

They dolls are not available in all the mass market stores but you can find a local specialy store near you at the Best pals website. You can also order them directly from Amazon by clicking on the links below.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mega Bloks – A Pre-School Must Have

My grandson, Zach is 18 months old, and one of his favorite toys at our house, is the Mega Bloks Fill and Dump wagon that was a first birthday present. At first he just like taking the blocks out and throwing them around. Then he became interested in building with them. And now he wheels that truck to where he wants to play with the blocks and he actually participates in putting them back in the truck when he is done.

His Mom, Fran, put the Mega Bloks Play 'n Go Table on his Christmas list and I have already ordered it from Amazon for him for Christmas. It folds up and has a handle so he can bring it to our house too. I think giving your grandchild a gift he can also bring to your house is something worth thinking about.

Mega Bloks are bright and large and easy for little fingers to work with. They snap together so they don’t fall over like basic wooden blocks and they are different shapes so that adds to the fun. I really like these Mega Blok toys because they are great for developing fine motor skills and learning about colors and shapes but that all happens naturally in the background as a child is using his or her imagination to build and create scenes with the play and go sets.
Fire Station

The Mega Blok line is very reasonably priced and you can buy a big bag of blocks for $9.99 or great multipiece play sets such as the Fire Station and the Play n' Go garage. The sets can be played with the basic blocks and a young child can use his or her imagination to create a whole scene. These products get numerous great reviews at for durability, educational value and fun. Lots of reviewers also talk about the fact that children enjoy this toy for YEARS…. Making it a much better investment than most toys.Not too many products score well in all three of these categories.

Play n Go Garage

I can recommend the Mega Bloks line of products highly and you can order them from by clicking on the product descriptions below.
P.S. ToyRUs is having a Mega Bloks promotion this Saturday. You get a large bag of mega Bloks free with any purchase of a mega Bloks set. Now that’s a bargain.

If you found this article helpful you may also be interested in these posts:
Thomas Train Set Wows Zach

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Thee I Sing - A Letter to my Daughters by Barack Obama

December 4th is the first annual "Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day."  This review is in honor of the event.

Books are wonderful holiday gifts and this year I recommend Barack Obama's of Thee I Sing - A Letter to my Daughters. President Obama wrote this book before being elected president but it has just been published in November. This short book features a brief profile of thirteen Americans that have had an impact on our lives. The brief prose and beautiful illustrations by Loren Long provide inspirational stories that children of all ages will listen to and learn from. The publisher suggests ages 3 and up.

The people represented are:
  • Georgia O'Keefe
  • Albert Einstein
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Sitting Bull
  • Billie Holiday
  • Helen Keller
  • Maya Lin
  • Jane Addams
  • Dr. Martin Luther King
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • George Washington 
Each story highlights attributes that President Obama feels are important for his daughters to develop including kindness, bravery, persistence, patriotism, honoring the sacrifices of others, and creativity.

The proceeds from of Thee I Sing will go to charity -- a scholarship fund for military children with a parent who was killed or disabled. This could easily become a classic read to children for years to come – a favorite fo parents, grandparents and children alike.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bit of Holiday Celebrating

Enjoying appetizers before dinner

This month I am concentrating on product reviews and at the end of this post I give you links for reviews but I just had to share these "Zach Pictures of the Season."  We were fortunate to have 13 of us for Thanskgiving dinner and Zach enjoyed the whole day.  He isn't used to seeing food in the living room, but he thought the crackers were a fine way to start the day.

He was seated in the center of the table in between his grandfather and his father.  My husband, Hugh, also known as Pop, wanted this seating arrangement.  And as you can see they both enjoyed dinner.
Zach and Pop agree dinner is finger lickin good

Today we started but didn't finish the quest for the perfect Christmas picture.  I know we have to have one of him with a big smile on his face for the Christmas cards.  But I love this one with a thoughtful face in front of the fireplace.

I am really looking forward to Christmas this year.  Having children around just makes such a big difference.

Lookinf for ideas for holiday gifts...Check out these posts

Thomas Train Set Wows Zach

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Playmobil Sets Make Holiday Gifts to Remember

11/22/17 Update - Thank you for visiting this 2010 post.  To see the latest Playmobil playset -The Camping Lodge - visit my 2017 Gifts That Grandparents Will Love to Give holiday guide.  Click here.

Between now and Christmas I plan to write a bunch of product reviews – all from a grandmother’s perspective. This year I attended three major Toy exhibition events – the huge New York Toy Fair and two A Time to Play showcases. I saw so many toys my head was spinning and now I have a backlog of things to write about. I’ll be featuring toys from large and small companies – classics and new favorites, so check back often to see the latest. Most reviews will be focused on younger children but not all. Here’s my first “holiday review.”

I can remember the Playmobil sets that my children had – high quality, colorful plastic pieces that featured themes with people figures and background set that encouraged “sustained” imaginative play. They are the same wonderful products today and even better. The sets are more elaborate but they have the same trademark appearance and “mobile” pieces and the pieces have been upgraded. The only problem I had in writing this article was choosing which ones to feature. Here are two of my favorites.

This set is about taking care of safari animals in a wildlife care station. There are two figures, leopard and cubs, baby rhinoceros, giraffe, and zebra, the wildlife station and lots of accessories. There are other individual small sets you can buy to supplement this set including lions, hyenas, monkey, ranger vehicle and more..

This set was named one of the top 20 toys of the year by Good Housekeeping magazine.

This is one of Playmobil’s most extensive sets and includes a whole school building with functioning bell, furnished classroom, science room, art and music room, nine people figures, and many other accessories. You can even write on the chalkboard. There are also small complementary sets with this theme that you can add on including a cafeteria, gym, workshop and crossing guard. 

Even if a child has been in pre-school this is a great toy to play with and prepare for the large school experience.

These high quality toys can seem pricey but they are a good value when you consider the quality, durability, educational and play value. The parts of various sets are also interchangeable and children can use their imagination to combine the sets in creative play. There are actually over 650 Playmobil figures! This is the kind of toy that goes to the attic to be passed onto future generations rather than into the garbage. Hmmm…maybe you should look up there…you may have some vintage pieces. And if you are concerned about toys made in China or parts of the world with questionable quality control – here is an important fact for you. They are produced in Germany in a huge state of the art manufacturing facility.

Playmobil products are the recipients of many awards and Top 10 features including from Toy R Us and The Today Show. One of the awards that impresses me the most is The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval. The National Parenting Center is one of the industry’s most trusted sources of expert parenting advice and product evaluation. Both of these sets have received their prestigious Seal of Approval.

You can order both of these sets and the complementary ones from Amazon by clicking the links below:

Check back soon for reviews all week long.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How "A Pile of Leaves" Had a Happy Halloween and Reminds Me of a "Fairy Godmother"

This was Zach’s second Halloween but last year he was just an infant and now he is a toddler. My daughter Fran is enamored with the Fall season and so last year he was a scarecrow and this year he was a “pile of leaves.” This suited Zach well as he loves being outside and he loves nature. He likes to carry something in each hand and they are usually matching objects. So when he goes outside he goes right away to get two leaves, acorns, sticks or stones and then he is on his way.

When Fran decided that Zach would be a pile of leaves she enlisted her Dad to help. She bought a brown sweat suit and some artificial leaves and “Pop” sewed the leaves on the sweat suit. What a creative idea! We didn’t know how Zach would feel about wearing the costume but he always responds to when people smile and clap and as soon as he tried it on, we were all ohs and ahs. He gave us a big grin and we knew we had a deal.

On Halloween he Trick or Treated at neighbors in his condo complex and then at both of his grandparent neighbors. The real fun of the evening came when greeting Trick or Treaters at our house. Our neighborhood is a prime Trick or Treating one and people drive to come Trick or Treating here. The houses are not that far apart, the streets are quiet, and we have sidewalks . This year we had nice weather and we used 12 bags of candy and 40 small containers of play doh. The play doh is a hit, by the way, with kids even as old as 8 and the parents of little ones are very grateful for something other than candy. I also had Halloween pencils and they disappeared with boys and girls in the 8-11 age bracket.

Anyway, back to Zach. Zach would run to the door when Trick or Treaters came and was fascinated by this whole process of holding out baskets for kids to choose from. And all the kids big and small said thank you. Before we knew it Zack was running around saying “Thank You” as clear as a bell. I think he thinks it has something to do with saying Trick or Treat and choosing among candy, play doh and pencils but he would come back inside after children had left and walk around saying thank you. I love it! Not what we expected from Halloween - but certainly a welcome part of it.

Zach was the most adorable pile of leaves I ever saw. He, as always, rolled with the punches and enjoyed the day. It was the best Halloween that I can remember since Fran was the fairy godmother in the costume with the puffy sleeves that Maria Gyuere made for her when she was 4. Now that was a special Halloween too….not a princess but a fairy godmother. I should have known then that my daughter would grow up to be creative and come up with a perfect idea like a pile of leaves for her 17 month old son’s Halloween costume. But then none of us are good at predicting the future – right?

Please share your Halloween experience in the comments for all of my readers to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Skyball – A Basic Toy with a New Twist

Next week I’ll be attending the Fall Time to Play Showcase which will feature new toys coming out in time for the holiday season. But before I start to write about toys that make good Christmas and Hanukkah presents from grandparents, here is a great toy for right now – the Fall. It is an old fashioned ball but with a new twist. It is filled with helium and pressurized air which makes it bounce really high.
I received a free sample at the Spring Time to Play event and frankly it had been sitting in a bag in my office. My grandson is 15 months old and last week, my husband said, “I wish we had a ball to play with.” And presto, Grandma produced a ball. The Skyball has become one of Zach’s favorite toys to play with at our house. It has a snappy look and nice feel and he can grab it in one hand and walk around with it.
My husband, son and I are engineers and we have been examining it with an eye loop and speculating about how it is made, how thick the wall is, what it is really filled with, etc. My grown son loves it. I have been having fun demonstrating for Zach how his Grandma bounces and counts and raises her leg and passes it under her leg. This brings a smile to Zach’s face and everyone else watching as I play and sing a childhood song with the Skyball.
When I first brought this home, I thought it would be best be appreciated by an elementary school age child, but now I know it is a toy for all ages – toddler to grandparent age.
Skyball is made by Maui Toys, a company founded in the 80’s so it is not a company known to those of us of “grandparent age.” However, it is really an improved version of a good old fashioned ball and I highly recommend it. There are several varieties of Skyballs – all reasonably priced – and they are available at ToyRUs, WalMart, Target, Kmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can also order directly from Amazon below.
It is great weather for getting outside and playing ball with the grandkids. Enjoy – I know I am. Oh, and how about leaving a comment on one of your favorite playing with a ball experience.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Visit the New Aquarium at the Turtle Back Zoo

If you live in northern NJ here is a great place the visit with a young child – the Turtle Back Zoo! The zoo has been dramatically updated since I visited with my children 20 years ago and is well worth a visit. New features which will delight all ages include the prairie dog habitat and the brand new aquarium which just opened on September 15th.
This is such great weather for visiting the zoo – so don’t delay your visit. And even if you’ve been there not that long ago, you’ll want to see the new aquarium. It is small and intimate - sized perfectly for a pre-schooler. It is also sophisticated enough in its layout and “inhabitants” for adults to enjoy too. This picture was actually taken before the fish were installed.

In August I was invited to an event for bloggers to have a sneak preview and tour by the Zoo Director, Dr. Jeremy Goodman. The exotic sea species who will have a new home at the aquarium were still at the “Zoo hospital” where all new animals stay before they are placed in an exhibit. Dr. Goodman took us to the zoo hospital which was a very interesting tour in itself and so I can report that the tropical species in the new exhibit will definitely delight.

The exhibit is very nicely laid out so that an adult can sit and enjoy the exhibit while a young child stands right next to the window on this exotic world and both of you can let your imaginations wander to the deep blue sea.

The new aquarium exhibit is a gift from the Zoological Society of New Jersey in celebration of their 35th anniversary – the coral anniversary. It seems to be a well kept secret since it isn’t even on the website yet but I did verify that it opened as scheduled.

Oh, and don't forget to see the prairie dogs - it is sooo much fun to watch them from a bunch of angles scurry around.

Definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Zach and Grandma - Perfect Together

Sunday was Grandparents Day – our second. We celebrated with a family dinner and just being together as a family. What more can any grandparents ask for. It was a rainy day so we weren’t able to play outside but Zach found the umbrella and wanted to go out anyway. He is walking around firmly these days and he knows his way around our place very well. We have toys all around but he has his favorites and of course he isn’t limited to toys. As I said in an earlier post, when you are walking there is a lot more in your reach and now easily getting into any cabinets he wants and reaching onto tables is a cinch for Zach.

I wanted a picture of Zach and I together for this Grandparents Day post and this is my favorite. I call it – Zach and Grandma – perfect together.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exploring on Foot - Zach Reaches New Heights

When Zach was turning one year old – in early June – we all were hoping anxiously that he would begin to walk. This wasn’t because we thought he should walk once he was one, it was because he was 23-24 pounds and he was getting awfully hard for some of us to carry. He was an expert crawler and he could make it up the stairs like lightning, so I never carried him up stairs anymore. We all were ready for him to walk – but as is frequently is the case, he just wasn’t interested since crawling was such an efficient mode of transportation.

He was cruising – walking with holding on to something - and he would let go before he took a step and then hold onto something again. His mother, Fran, tried moving the furniture a bit so he’d have to let go, but Zach would get down and crawl to the next place he could cruise. We would just have to wait.

In August, Zach decided he was ready. He took a few steps and down he went. When he walked we would clap and smile and he would give us a big smile back. He knew he was doing something that we all enjoyed. Before we knew it, he had this walking thing down pat and now it is a favorite activity.

Fran and I would walk in the park and he was happy to have a ride in the stroller and then go to the swings. Now he wants to walk quite a ways before he’ll hitch a ride in the stroller. And in the playground he heads for the climbing play gym rather than the swings.

There is a whole new “reachable world” when you are walking rather than crawling. Those cabinet doors open so easily when you don't have to reach up and pull them out. You can find a new favorite rather than be told by grandparents which is your favorite. “Don’t you just love these plastic containers, Zach?” “Well these pots and pans and soda bottles I love to shake around are much more fun” …..You get the idea. You can reach tables and some counter surfaces and explore those things that had been put out of your reach. Life is grand!

You can’t keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Paree!

We love each new phase and somehow are still conjuring up the energy to deal with each one. Zach brings us new energy and joy and we are grateful that he is in our lives each and every day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thomas Train Set Wows Zach!

I’ve been reviewing toys for young children for the last year but except for one small item my grandson, Zach (14 months old), has not been ready to play with any of them. That changed last week. I received a sample of the Thomas Wooden Railway Early Engineers line from Learning Curve Brands. The Roundabout Station Set is absolutely perfect for toddlers! It has nice size pieces that a toddler can hold and explore the details. The set includes train track connector links for easily connecting to additional tracks that can be bought separately. There were big pieces including a station and moveable crossing gate that fit around the tracks like 3-d puzzle pieces. The highlight is the Thomas train engine – a favorite of Zach’s. The set is very well made and reminds me of LEGO products - you can build on themed sets that you will want to keep to pass on to future generations. The Early Engineers line is like the DUPLO line of LEGOs. They are designed for younger children but then can connect to the Thomas Wooden Railway line for older children.

This is my first review where I can report on how my grandson enjoyed the toy. Zach was immediately interested in it and enjoyed examining the pieces in detail. He enjoys watching the train go around the track and seeing how the various moving parts work. He especially likes the Thomas engine piece – big surprise! Zach doesn’t play attentively with many toys yet, but he does with this Thomas train set. Zach visits us often and we are set up with toys around the house. The Thomas set is his favorite and the one he goes to first all the time. I think the only thing he likes better is when the neighbor’s cat, Bella, visits. Nothing can compete with that. I always appreciate toys that encourage imaginative play and the Early Engineers line of Thomas Trains does just that. I also like toys like this that you can add to incrementally either in a small inexpensive way with individual pieces or in a grander style with a comprehensive set. After all, grandparents are known for providing both the bigger gifts and the occasional “just because I love you” smaller ones. And as this picture shows, grandma enjoys playing with this set too.

I always like to have some information about the companies that make the toys I write about. Learning Curve brands is not one I was familiar with. But they are well established and you’ll recognize the name of other quality products they make including The First Years and Lamaze brands. Their website also has a parents section you can join. You’ll find the Thomas sets everywhere from ToyRUs to small educational oriented specialty shops. You can also order directly from Amazon. See the link below.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Zach’s First Haircut

Well the time had come. Although Zach is only 13 months old he had the most gorgeous long curls. Well, that fact finally collided with the 100 degree heat in New Jersey and the fact that with his big blue eyes people thought he was a beautiful little girl. And so his parents declared that it was time for his FIRST HAIRCUT.

We had been talking about this for awhile but as these things always do, it seemed to happen upon us all at once. My husband, Hugh, had always cut our children’s hair and so he had been the “designated barber” for when the time came. But he was concerned that Zach was too young to sit still and that he might not be able to do a good job or even worse stick Zack with the scissors.

But now the time had come. It cooled down to 95, Salon de Pop was readied for business on our patio. We left the comfort of our air conditioned kitchen, each with the tools for our prescribed roles in hand and Salon de Pop was set up. Zach sat on a small table, his Mom, Fran was nearby to help encourage him to sit still. She had several items of distraction at the ready. Barber Pop had his scissors and combs. I was the event recorder and had my husband’s camera. I needed a few last minutes instructions before I was ready to click away.

So the entourage was ready. Would Zach cooperate? Would it be a good haircut? Would his mother cry when his beautiful curls were gone? was all a huge success!!!!!!! The pictures tell the story. Zach was very cooperative as his Pop moved around to accommodate his moves. Fran did a good job of keeping Zach content to sit while Pop did his magic. I clicked away like crazy.

And here is Zach with his proud Mom and his first haircut history. Zach look so ....handsome.....that’s the right word. He looks so “all boy.” He doesn’t look like a baby or a little girl anymore.

Proud of our work, Fran gathered his cut curls in an envelope and we all went back into the air-conditioned kitchen and had – what else – ice cream!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ready to Play with Toy Story 3 Toys

Check out my newest post with highlights from Toy Fair 15 just held in New York:  Click here.     

Well grandparents, just in case you don’t know Toy Story is the big character theme of the times. On Friday, June 18th, the movie, Toy Story 3 was released. Tom Hanks is the voice of Woody in all three of these Disney-Pixar films. Toy Story 3 was the #1 movie this weekend and it is getting rave reviews from adults and kids as well.

Pixar knows how to make great animated films and Disney knows how to market their characters. In February at the Toy Fair and in April at the
A Time to Play Showcase I got to see many Toy Story items - some not yet available in stores and we weren’t even allowed to take pictures because Disney did not release the rights to use “Toy Story 3” yet.
I’ve been saving my “Toy Story reviews” for the movie release so here it is.
The Toy Story character has been licensed to many companies so there is a huge variety of products with this theme on it. In addition to toys, you can of course buy sheets, towels, clothing and god knows what else. I am just going to feature a few of the more interesting toys I saw in person – out of the box and so I could see how they work and feel. Keeping with my preference for connecting grandparents and their grandchildren with updated versions of toys we remember, my favorites were Mr. Potato Head, Monopoly and LEGO/DUPLO playsets.

Mr and Mrs. Potato head are characters in the Toy Story movies and Hasbro/Playskool has released Toy Story versions of the traditional Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. They are not expensive like so many toys these days are, and they can provide hours of imaginative fun. I like this also because it is a toy that you can play with or watch a grandchild play and it doesn’t take a lot of room so you can easily keep it at your home for when a grandchild visits. There are both the Mr. and Mrs. versions so it works for boys and girls.I remember playing Mr. Potato Head myself and enjoyed introducing him to my kids. Zach should be ready for Mr. Potato Head about when Toy Story 4 hits the movies.

LEGO has a great new playset – Woody’s Roundup featuring Sherrif Woody and Bullseye saving Jesse at the gold mine and Stinky Pete is in jail.

For the under age 5 group there is a Toy Story 3 DUPLO set with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Jessie figures in The Great Train Chase theme set with a locomotive and a caboose. Both sets have other pieces - I've just listed the main ones.

You don't have to be a kid to have fun playing with either of these sets. When I saw them at the LEGO event at the Toy Fair in February I couldn't keep myself from moving the pieces - especially the train. If there are children in your life who enjoy LEGO and DUPLO toys, they will love these sets.

We loved playing board games with our kids – especially at our summer cabin which still does not have a TV. There is a big push to revive interest in board games with "family game night" being promoted by Hasbro. Many of our old favorites are being updated with a Toy Story theme including Memory, Yahtzee, checkers, Tic Tac Toe and more. Monopoly was always a favorite in our family. Now there is Toy Story Monopoly. The player pieces are Toy Story characters and the properties are Toy Story places such as the Parr's family home, Gll's Pirate Skull, Edna Mode's Mansion and more.

In all honesty I haven’t seen a Toy Story movie yet. But I have seen a massive number of Toy Story theme toys. Chances are your grandchild will love a Toy Story theme toy and these were my favorites. Enjoy.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Butterfly Bungalow Winner Announced

The winner of the Insect Lore Butterfly Bungalow is SueEllen. Congratulations SueEllen! Please contact me privately at by Sunday June 13th so that we can arrange delivery.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Zach’s First Birthday – What a Celebration!

Yesterday was our grandson Zach's first birthday and we hosted the first birthday party. This is a picture of Zach with his parents, Fran and Josh, as we all sang Happy Birthday. Wow! What a day! Zach is our “lucky weather charm” so although the weather forecast was for showers it was sunny and warm. Well, perhaps hot is a better description than warm. We set the food up inside and the tables outside so that people came in and out.

The pretty little girls ages 2 and 3 in the most darling party dresses along with Zach were the children’s contingent and we were about 15 adults. Zach is a party boy and doesn’t mind a crowd at all. One of his birthday presents was a pool we gave him – for our backyard - and the kids had fun playing in and around the pool. The Little Tikes swing was another big hit and the Little Tikes teeter totter hand me down from my niece (Its like new - Could it really have been used for 3 kids?) was a big favorite with the two little girls.

For entertainment the adults talked about the weather, our vacation plans, the kids and enjoyed the food. Zach’s other grandmother made her signature deviled eggs and cole slaw. I think I could eat enough of the deviled eggs to die of a heat attack right on the spot – they are the best I’ve ever had. Whenever we are having a family party and Doris asks what she could bring I always say deviled eggs. I made some of my favorite dishes too but here were the big hits – sliders, deviled eggs, ice cream bar. In the future for any children’s party or summer barbecue, I will definitely have sliders on the menu. They are just fun to eat.

For dessert we moved inside and Zach changed into his birthday boy outfit – how cute! The ice cream bar with 3 choices of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and berries, banana and mini M&M toppings made everyone feel like a kid. Zach enjoyed his first piece of cake and shared the chocolate icing from his hands on several of us.

Zach had fun opening his gifts and the Fisher Price Racin Ramps Garage from Aunt Sonny provided a challenge for Josh to put together as Zach didn’t wait to explore its possibilities. The Mega Bloks Fill and Dump Wagon is going to get a workout too. But somehow I think there will be more "dumping" and "filling" for awhile. Here’s one observation – the toys get BIGGER when you turn one. Zach is not a “baby” anymore. He really is a toddler. And we are all more likely to refer to him as a “boy” than as a “baby.” When did that happen? It seems like a warm June day yesterday when he was born.

A year ago I titled my blog post “And So Grandmothering Begins.” What a wonderful journey it has been! Today I can say “And So Grandmothering Is a Total Joy.”

Fisher-Price Little People Racin' Ramps Garage

MEGA Bloks Fill & Dump Wagon

Monday, May 24, 2010

Butterfly Bungalow – A Review and Giveaway!

In April I attended the A Time to Play Spring Showcase and was able to meet with toy companies and see their new products for Spring and Summer. Even though it was a cool day, it made me feel like having lemonade! I really enjoy attending these events and being able to see and touch the toys and talk with the company representatives. I learned so much. In the next couple of months I will be writing about some of the toys that I liked the best and what I liked about them from a grandmother’s point of view.
I am kicking this series off today with a Review and Giveaway of the
Butterfly Garden by Insect Lore. This simple, affordable product is perfect for a spring-summer activity that a grandparent can do with a child. It doesn’t require extensive set-up and easily collapses so that you can store it over the winter and use it again summer after summer with all your grandchildren – including those yet to arrive. You can make this simple but magical nature activity a tradition. It has lots of the qualities that I look for in things grandparents should provide: It’s fun, provides an easy to do together activity with your grandchild, doesn’t make loud noise or have batteries and its educational without being pushy about it. The Butterfly Garden is recommended for Ages 4 and up. I am looking forward to setting up one of these with my grandson in a few years.

When you buy the Butterfly Garden, there is a coupon inside to mail away for 5 painted lady butterfly larvae with special food, and complete instructions. So you set up the attractive habitat, add the butterfly larvae with food and watch each caterpillar's transition as it matures, changes into a chrysalid, and finally emerges as a Painted Lady butterfly! Then experience the joy of releasing them into nature. You can order additional caterpillars every year from Insect Lore.

Insect Lore was founded in 1969 and a butterfly garden was their first product. In the last 31 years they have shipped over 11 million caterpillars! And there not just for kids – there’s a Wedding celebration butterfly release kit and Insect Lore catepillars were launched into space by NASA on the Columbia Space Shuttle.

This award winning product was also a favorite at the Time to Play showcase. I think the Butterfly Garden provides a great opportunity to participate in a fun, educational, nature activity with your grandchild and I highly recommend it. You can learn more about Insect Lore at their website which also provides educational page information that you can use when working with a child.

Giveaway Information – Important Details –Easy to Enter
Insect Lore is providing a Butterfly Garden as a giveaway right here at The Grandma Chronicles. I hope you will participate. All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this blog by June 6th, 2010. If you tweet about this post, leave a comment for an extra entry. If you win, I need to have your email address in order to contact you. Check back on June 7th to see if you won and you can email it to me privately at . Your address information will not be publicly posted. will be used to select the winner randomly. Good Luck and please participate. The deadline to enter to win June 6th - so enter today!

Insect Lore will send the Butterfly Garden directly to the winner. I have not received compensation for this review and I do not have a personal relationship with this company. Any product review I do on this blog is an honest evaluation of my personal opinion. I do not review products favorably for compensation.

Deadline to enter extended to Tuesday, June 8th. Check back on Wednesday to see who won.

You can purchase a Butterfly Garden at many stores including ToysRUs and on Just click below to purchase via Amazon.
This product is recommended for Ages 4 and up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mother's Day from a Grandmother’s Perspective

I was never one that got too excited about Mother’s Day. My husband usually barbecued and I always received gifts but we really didn’t fuss over it like I was Queen for a Day. As my children got older actually we started a great tradition that we still do today. My son turns over my garden for me and my daughter buys flower plants and we plant the garden together. Then I can enjoy my Mother’s Day gift with them all summer and into the fall.

This year is my daughter’s first Mother’s Day and my first as a grandmother. I asked grandmothers at to share their thoughts with me about Mother’s Day and I was surprised that they are so similar to mine. Adult children reading this – take note: IT IS NOT ABOUT EXPENSIVE GIFTS, FANCY DINNERS, OR GUSHY GREETING CARDS.

Grandmothers are pretty much in agreement that our “parenting” days are over we are not expecting a big fuss over Mother’s Day. We are not interested in fancy dinners and overpriced greeting cards. We’d love to hear your voice, see our grandchildren and hope our daughters have a great day. Some grandmothers expressed concern about the over commercialization and waste associated with Mother’s Day and all said they’d prefer a simple celebration. I was glad to see that another grandmother sent her daughter an eCard as I did. My eCard – yes, it was a Hallmark – was personalized with a picture of my daughter and her son that my husband took. One grandmother who works in a department store said it was a pleasure seeing children enjoy choosing a special piece of jewelry for their mother on Mother’s Day. I identified with this because of my own experience. When my daughter was three year old, my husband took her shopping and together they chose a beautiful sapphire ring for me that is still my favorite. I wore it on Fran’s wedding day.

I don’t remember my first Mother’s Day as a mother but I am sure it was special at the time. I asked my daughter to provide some thoughts on her first Mother’s Day and she detailed every moment of the day. Josh pampered her for most of the day with breakfast and lunch, she visited her Mother-in-Law in the morning and came to our house for a dinner cooked by my husband. But the highlight of her day was this: Her husband took Zach (Now 11 months old) shopping and together they chose a necklace for her. It is quite beautiful and I know it will probably be a favorite for the rest of her life. Zach is quite a communicator and Josh tells how Zach let him know which one he liked. I can picture it because Zach sends his hands and feet flying in the cutest way when he is interested in something. Fran also noted that she had a day when she didn’t have to change a single diaper. That is really a big gift when you have an active 11 month old baby.

Interestingly enough, my daughter enjoyed the simple things of being with family and exempt from normal work chores. But...she also appreciated that special gift of a necklace that her son participated in choosing.

Celebrating Mother’s Day is different for Mothers and Grandmothers but there are a lot of similarities. Mothers who labor in the trenches as active parents everyday appreciate special attention and a thoughtful gift. Grandmothers – especially if they don’t see or hear from you often – would love some extra contact with their children and grandchildren. A telephone call is more appreciated than a Hallmark card. A visit is a Wow. In my case – that bit of garden labor is a gift that keeps giving and means more to me than my kids know.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Important Children's Book about Dealing with Alzheimer's and the Giveaway Details to Win a Copy

I am just back from vacation and I’m ready to blog! My husband, Hugh and I have vacationed at the same resort several times and one of the things we enjoy is having a drink at the Piano Bar after dinner. In a light conversation when I mentioned The Grandma Chronicles the piano player said that I had to meet Grandma Joyce who had written a book to help children understand Alzheimer’s Disease. Later – at 3 a.m. - he emailed me the url for Grandma Joyce’s website.

I did a little research and realized that Joyce Simard is an internationally renowned Alzheimer’s expert. I sent her an email hoping we could meet while I was there on vacation and she responded that she was in Hawaii giving presentations on Alzheimer’s and would be home on the last night of our vacation. We met at the Piano Bar and with both of our husbands began a wonderful new friendship. Tom, the piano player was pleased.

Grandma Joyce brought me two signed copies of her book, The Magic Tape Recorder and I am giving one away. The details of the giveaway are at the end of this post – so stay with me.

The Magic Tape Recorder is a beautifully illustrated book which will help a child understand any older person in their life – a grandparent, great grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor or friend. It begins by chronicling (I could not resist using this word) the types of things we can do when we grow up and then the changes that can happen when you begin to “grow down” – needing glasses and a cane, poor hearing and how you might help to make it easier. The book then moves on to discuss Alzheimer’s and the loss of memory. Joyce describes memory as a “magic tape recorder in your head” and how it is almost turned off when you have Alzheimer’s. She discusses how a child can still enjoy the company of a grandparent and how you might help them by saying your name and reminding them about other things. Most of all, you can still have fun with them even if they don’t remember everything.

My mother’s long time friend and second husband was blind. This book reminded me so much of how even when my children were very young we encouraged them to show Michael their toys and explain things so that he could enjoy them too. They were always proud of themselves when they could see he understood how things worked when they showed them to him and helped him touch whatever they were talking about. I believe this was a very enriching experience for my children – to be comfortable with someone with a disability and be helpful and respectful at the same time. Children take great pride in their accomplishments and this book will guide a child in how they can help an older person have a more enjoyable visit with them – and they will feel good about it too.

Joyce’s book really struck me as a must have book for children who know older people with Alzheimer’s. It both colorfully and eloquently explains a difficult to understand situation and can equip children with ideas for working with it. You can purchase this book at Grandma Joyce’s website or at See the direct link below for Amazon.

Giveaway Information – Important Details –Easy to Enter
All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this blog. Post your email address or if you prefer, send me your email address and let me know the name you posted as. If you post anonymously I have no way of knowing who you are so make sure you check back on May 13th to see the announcement of the winner. My email address is: You will get an additional entry if you tweet on Twitter about this giveaway and then leave a comment on the blog letting me know the Twitter link for the tweet. I will contact you via email if you win to get your mailing address. Your address information will not be publicly posted. will be used to select the winner randomly. Good Luck and please participate.

The deadline to enter to win a copy of The Magic Tape Recorder is May 12th - so enter today! Remember this is an autographed copy!

Thank you Grandma Joyce for writing this book and sharing it with us. Thank you Tom for connecting us. I have not received compensation for this review. Any product review I do on this blog is an honest evaluation of my personal opinion. I do not review products favorably for compensation.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day with Your Grandchildren

April 22nd is Earth Day – the 40th anniversary of this annual celebration. There wasn’t any Earth Day when I was a kid and it was still something new when my kids were in school. It usually fell during their Spring vacation and there wasn’t really any big deal at school. One year we were on vacation in Arizona and I think I remember there being some local events there.

Much has changed in 40 years – including how big a deal Earth Day is. There will be many a tree planted and especially designed learning programs at schools. Every museum and zoo will have special programs. Our nearby Turtle Back Zoo is having a “Party for the Planet” on Saturday. Indeed the celebrations will extend throughout the weekend.

This is a good time for us to consider doing some Earth Day activity with our grandchildren. Go ahead show them that us old folks care about the planet too. You can do something simple or elaborate – depending on what you are up to. Here are some ideas:

-Plant something together - vegetables, flowers, a tree

-Make a list taking turns of the things you do to “help save the planet.” (I am particularly proud of the 8 green bags I take to the grocery store.)

-Check out the local Earth Day celebrations in your town and at museums and zoos and take you grandchild to one of them.

-Take you grandchild to a local farmer’s market and discuss the value of buying locally grown food.

-Do an art project together using recycled materials.

-If you are really into it discuss how you and your child might participate in an advocacy project or a park or river cleanup day.

This is just a short list to get your creative juices going. You can visit and find out whatever you would like to know about Earth Day. You can even put in your zipcode and get a list of local events.

I hope you’ll leave a comment and share your Earth Day ideas and activities with us.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Some Musings While on Vacation

I haven’t posted here in a while since I have been away for most of April. In early April my husband and I drove to Atlanta from New Jersey so that I could attend the National Nonprofit Technology Conference. I had a great time and learned a lot that will be helpful in my work as a consultant to nonprofits – something I do when I’m not “grandmothering.” We also visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum – visiting presidential museums is something we are doing – at the rate of one a year. From Atlanta we drove to Florida where we still are on vacation.

That is why I haven’t posted in a while. I don’t have any current pictures of Zach on my laptop but I couldn't resist using this one that is about two months old. Isn’t he sooooo cute!

We really miss our grandson, Zach – and our children too, of course. But we don’t expect that our kids have changed much since we’ve been gone. We will be home in time for Sunday family dinner. My daughter offered to cook but I think we may just barbecue if the weather is nice. And we will be playing with Zach. I can’t wait for that – otherwise this time in the sun has been relaxing and wonderful.

Here on vacation I mentioned to the Piano Bar piano player The Grandma Chronicles and he told me about “Grandma Joyce” who has written a book for children about dealing with grandparents who have Alzheimer’s disease. To my surprise he emailed me Grandma Joyce’s website and I learned that she is a notable authority on this subject. I sent her an email and she is on her way back from Hawaii as I write this where she spoke at an Alzheimer’s conference. We hope to meet briefly before I leave to return to NJ and she plans to give me a copy of her book. Hopefully my review will be up next week. Some of you may be interested in this so check back next week.

Next week is a busy one as I will be attending the Spring Time to Play showcase in NY where I will be meeting with toy companies and get a hands-on look at their new toys. Look for my reviews in the next couple of months. They will all be from a grandparent perspective.

One more vacation day and then we hit the road.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If You Love Legos, You’ll Love the New Lego Games

I usually write about baby through preschool topics on this blog. But every once in a while there is something worth stretching this niche for and this is one of those times. It fits in with my theme for product reviews that they should be from a grandparent perspective and often are about a new twist on a product that we remember well. We all remember Legos and many of us – including me – have kept Duplos and some favorite Lego sets in the attic just sitting and waiting for grandchildren. I have some of those and will be writing about new Lego sets in the Fall.

Today I want to introduce a new product line by LegoLego games. There is a move back to families spending more time together and away from having kids overprogrammed in organized activities. Our town even has a monthly family night – the fourth Wednesday of every month when there is no homework, no sports or other organized activities scheduled and families are encouraged to eat a family meal together and spend the night in family activity. I know, I know many of us think of family dinner as a nightly event but for many families today this is a once a week or once a month activity.

At the New York Toy Fair that I attended in February, bloggers (That’s mommy bloggers and one grandma blogger to be exact) were invited to a special after hours party sponsored by Lego to introduce their new game line. Besides being able to stroll through their entire exhibit without the crowds, they had a sit down time where we got to play a couple of new games. Lego is introducing 10 games – some will be introduced in the Fall and some were just introduced in March. The games are pretty sophisticated and featured a Lego building construction pad with a template that you build yourself.

The game we played is called Minotaurs. You each have three micro Lego characters and start at the edge of the board and work your way to the middle to win. The dice has colors and numbers. You move toward your goal when you roll a number, and when you roll a color you may get to jump a hedge, block the path of another, free up your path or swoop in and send another player’s piece back to start. There’s strategy, logic, guessing and good old luck at work to become the winner.

I enjoyed playing the Minotaurs game and in fact I won at my table. Did that contribute to the fun? Well, perhaps. It reminded me of playing with Legos with my kids and it doesn’t have any music or flashing lights – my favorite features to be absent in toys. If you know a child who likes games such as checkers and chess this may be a perfect gift for them. This is the kind of game that you get better at the more you play and develop a winning strategy. It is a good game to play across generations also as children as young as five and as old as – whatever – will enjoy playing. So I give it an A+ for “family engagement.”

This new set of Lego games should be available everywhere. They were recently featured in a Toysrus email I received. This game retails for $24.99 and it is also available at a discount at – click on the ad below for more information.