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.