Monday, December 24, 2012

My Wish for You this Year - Merge Strong Traditions with New Vision

Our New - First - Artificial Tree
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.

Every year, I take some quiet time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close and the one that is ahead.   I am so lucky to have my grown children live nearby and to be able to see my grandson several times a week. We made it
through Hurricane Sandy unscathed.   I have been busier that ever with strategic planning and board retreat clients
this year.  With family, nonprofit clients and summer community responsibilities I have had a very full year. 

Traditions are important to me but adapting to change has to merge with traditions.  Since my daughter and
son both spend Christmas Eve with their other families, I had my family traditional Christmas Eve dinner last Sunday  featuring an extensive antipasto, favorite fish dishes and special desserts. For the first time this year our tree is a small artificial tree (I love the prelit lights) instead of a large real
one.  Adapting tradition and giving it a makeover is working out just fine.

For the nonprofits I work with this has been a year of adapting to the new normal.  This has meant adapting programs to new funding realities, new forms of fundraising, getting serious
about social media, and new staff finding their sea legs and bringing new perspectives
to organizations which -  like me –  are steeped in tradition.  There has been an increased serious interest in strategic planning and desire to discuss vision for the future.  It has been a privilege to work with nonprofits as they navigate through these changes. I have been in awe of the leaders of so many organizations I’ve worked with.  I have seen difficult situations dealt with and stronger organizations emerge – even if they don’t recognize that yet
themselves.  It has been inspiring.

I definitely have to get the piano tuned.
On a personal level, it has been a year of change for me too.  My son has become engaged and we are
welcoming a new family member.  She brings a new culture to our home and this morning my son called and wished us Feliz Navidad. My daughter and her family live just a mile away. My grandson is now 3 ½ and change is constant for a child this age.  He is independent, curious and full of life.  It is rejuvenating and exhausting
at the same time.  It is such a joy to
still be a big part of his life.

For nonprofits 2013 will beckon more change and adaptation.  Nonprofits are becoming more nimble and
finding their own voice.  There is less of this “you should run more like a business” and more of “we need to establish priorities and focus on what we do best.” I see a new energy among Boards and readiness to try new
approaches.  Like me, many Boards have
strong ties to traditions but we both must realize that traditions must find new ways to manifest themselves.

Each year I offer a wish for you in the new year.  This year my wish is for merging strong traditions with new vision.  Let’s use our imagination to make it happen. Imagination is on my agenda for forging a Happy New Year with joy and courage to face what the world brings us. And this is my wish for you.

May You Have a Blessed and Joyous Holiday,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Shopping at ToysRus – What Was on My List

We have completed our Christmas shopping for Zach.  Last year I had one big item which was a big hit – a Little Tikes Workbench.  It is in our family room and still gets a lot of use.  It’s very rugged and even after all that hammering and sawing it looks like new.

Zach is now 3 ½ and in pre-school.  He knows all about popular characters and he is very interested in collections.  So this year the shopping is focused on “Things he wants” and “Things we think he would enjoy” rather than just the latter.

So off we went to ToysRUs with our list in hand – it had both what we knew he wanted and what we wanted him to have.

Zach loves to hide under the covers – and calls it a cave – when his Mom comes to pick him up if we are babysitting.  We know he needs a bed tent.  Our son loved his and enjoyed hours inside his bed tent and my husband had that on top of his list.  Check one – in the cart.

One of my favorite things to do with Zach is play with PlayDoh and there is a new line called “Diggin Rigs” featuring building vehicles and building material colored Play Doh. I first saw this last February before its release at Toy Fair 2012 and I knew then it would be on my Christmas list. I got the steamroller and extra “asphalt and sand” colored Play Doh.  I can’t wait to play with it myself.
My picture of Diggin Rigs Play Doh line at Toy fair 2012

Zach will be a fireman in the pre-school holiday show this week and my husband couldn’t resist this small Duplo Fire Chief set.  It even has a fire piece.  We have lots of basic Duplos and so I know this will be a great imaginative play addition.

Now for what’s on Zach’s list. Oh yes – we got to that too.  As I said he loves collections and plays with them all in groups. His parents and others have transformers covered.  I introduced him to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and he loves it. So, it is only fair to add to the collection with none other than MichaelAngelo.
Zach got his first Ninja Turtle for cooperating with this haircut last summer

Another collection that I started with Zach is The Trash Pack.  We love to play with them together and he watches all the commercials on youtube intently.  He loves to see the ones he has and points to the ones he wants.  Unfortunately, each trashie is hidden in its own trash can and you have to wait until you open the package to see which ones you got.  I know he will be happy to add to his Trash Pack collection – Series 3 in the blue cans of course.

Check back soon for my article on the books and videos we got.  So are we spoiling our grandson or us?  A little of each – but really each item was inexpensive and the whole bill was not too bad.  Here are links at Amazon for some of my favorites.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hallmark – One Part Traditional and a One Part New

Hall mark has some new recordable Christmas products designed for the whole Christmas season – not just Christmas Day.  Until this year we have had a “real” tree but this year we are adapting to the wonder of new technology with a pre-lit artificial tree.  We are getting a little old for the rigors of buying and carrying home a real tree.  Before my son moved out there were three of us working on the Christmas tree project.  Yes, it was always beautiful.  But frankly, my new small pre-lit tree looks pretty good to me.
Perhaps because of this change in Christmas tree this year I am more conscious about the blending of old traditions and new ideas as the season is actually steeped in both.  Especially when it comes to technology.  I just bought a new laptop computer on Black Friday and the Windows 8 touch technology is yet another leap into the future.

You would think that Hallmark cards would be on the traditional side of the ledger but they are always updating their product line and taking advantage of technology. Recordable cards that allow personalization not just in writing but in sound have been around awhile and are very popular.  They are a perfect way for grandparents to share some smiles with a grandchild.  And a super plus if you are grandparenting from a distance.  Whether it is a young child who may be mesmerized by the whole season or a teenager who will smile and get a kick out of it if you send one of these cards, they are a fun way to share the joy of the season.

Here a  couple of the cards:

Countdown Cards: There are two versions of this card - Mickey Mouse and one of Santa's friendly elves. You program – very easily – the number of days until Christmas and it becomes a countdown clock. You grandchild can put this card on his dresser and always know how many days there are until Christmas.

Recordable Wish List: You can record your wish lists directly into this card to let Santa know what is on your Christmas wish list. This card is fun for all ages. It is also a great keepsake to capture a child's voice and keep the list.

Check out these cards at any Hallmark Crown store.  This video has a Hallmark representative talking about this product.  Click here.  
Check out Hallmark’s website forthe interactive storybooks – perfect for grandparents who live afar from their grandchildren.

Full Disclosure:  I was not paid for this product review.  I did receive a sample which I am able to keep. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Melissa and Doug Cyber Monday Special Offer

Are you a big Melissa and Doug fan?  If so, visit the Melissa and Doug facebook page and fill out your wish list.  Three people will win a $100 reward each to use toward their wishlist.  Here are some items on my wishlist for my three year old grandson..

Press and Spin games priced at just $5.99....

Sticker Rolls of sports, knights and vehicles.... $16.99

I had a great time last night completing the 24 piece Fire Truck Floor puzzle and I think we are ready to take on the ...

Land of Dinosaurs Floor Puzzle...

and the

48 piece Shot on Goal Soccer Floor Puzzle...  $12.99

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyball Football - Old Fashion Fun with a New Twist

I love basic good old fashioned toys like balls.  However, as a modern grandma I also love old fashioned toys with a new twist and I like to write about them. Two years ago I wrote about Skyball.  Skyball is filled with helium which makes it bounce really high.  It gives the ball an extra punch for extra fun.  Read my review which includes a picture of me playing a game that was easier to play…   lets just say a long time ago.  Read it here.

Now, Maui Toys has introduced the Sky Football.  It is a winner too.  Also filled with helium it has an extra bouce and flys through the air with extra power.  Instead of raking leaves on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was out in the yard with my grandson and family playing football with the skyball.

The package says ages 6 and up but really any age can enjoy the sky football.  My grandson is three and I was impressed watching Zach and his Dad, Josh, play with it.  Here a few of my favorite pics.

Look at this form

And a great pass
And Way Up in the Air....

Grandma Had to Get in the Action Too
Playing Sky Football is a great way to experience old fashioned fun with a new spin.  Give it a try.

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.” The Sky Football is a "souped up" version of a good old fashioned football and I highly recommend it. There are several varieties of Skyballs – all reasonably priced – and they are available at all the major stores that sell toys. You can also order directly from Amazon below.

So...go outside and play ball with the grandkids.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halloween with The Trash Pack and Play Doh

What a Halloween we had - even if it was on November 5th. I live in NJ and the governor declared that Halloween be moved to Monday, November 5th because of Hurricane Sandy. Good decision. I wasn't sure if interest would have waned and there were be fewer Trick or Treaters, but that was definitely NOT the case.

We live in a good neighborhood for trick or treating. There are sidewalks and the houses are not set that far back. People drive to our neighborhood to Trick or Treat. So I am always prepared. I also like to have alternatives to candy.  For young children I get small Play-Doh containers.Younger children - and their parents - always are happy to get one of these.

This year, thanks to Litzky Public Relations I also had 50 individual Trash Pack Trashies to distribute. Wow were they popular!  Some kids didn't know what I meant when I asked if they wanted a Trash Pack Trashie or candy but if they did they did not hesitate with what their choice was.

Trash Pack Trashies are popular with girls too - they are not just for the boys!

With Big Boys,

And Little Boys,

And Bunches of Boys,

My grandson, Zach helped

And then showed off his own Trahsies

Here is what The Trash Pack trashies looked like before the kids arrived at my door. By night's end they were all gone.

Series 3 is now available at Amazon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Personal Update on Sandy from NJ


We live in northern New Jersey and by some miracle we did not lose power at all during Hurricane Sandy. We endured hours of unbelieveable howling wind and were prepared with extra food and batteries. We did not lose power although 80% of the people in our town did. It seems like almost everyone we know except our immediate neighbors lost power including ALL of my family. My daughter, her husband and my three year old grandson stayed with us until this morning - Monday. Their power finally came back on last night but it was still cold in the condo.  Thursday night when it began to get very cold, my niece came to stay with us too. We also have been a place to take a hot shower and recharge your cell phone.

I do sorely miss my neighbors' huge tree which I can see from my office. I watched it sway and sway and then filled their yard and hit their house but thankfully did no damage. Here is a picture of my daughter and grandson with the tree before it was removed.

And then Zach posed in front of the truck that would remove the tree and leave a big empy space fo us to get use to.

On Sunday my son-in-law spent five hours on a line to get gas for his car. My niece had power restored on Satyrday and returned home.  Tonight - Monday (11/5) is officially Halloween in New Jersey and I am all set with Play Doh and Trash Pack single packs along with candy.  We usually get a big crowd in our neighberohood but we will see what happens tonight.
Check back and I'll have a Halloween post on Tuesday or Wednesday.
If you'd like to contribute to the disaster relief in NJ here are two of the best ways:
American Red Cross – The Red Cross is the premier organization for dealing with disasters. They have the infrastructure and know how to be efficient and do the most important things first.
Community Food Bank of NJ – The Food Bank is part of the Feeding America network and is a huge operation with locations in North and South Jersey. They have been working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to distribute 100,000 pounds of food a day. The Community Food Bank is volunteer powered who are usually stocking shelves and filling bags. But this week they are cooking up a storm (No pun intended) to be distributed throughout the state to those affected, and the workers and volunteers who are working around the clock to bring some sanity to the lives of millions.
I hope all of you have safely made it through the storm, have power restored and can get back to leading a normal life as soon as possible.
If you work for a nonprofit that is involved in disaster relief I invite you to post a comment here about what they do and how readers can contribute.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Am I a Little Boy Or a Big Boy?

My grandson, Zach, has learned that sometimes there are advantages to being a Big Boy and sometimes to being a Little Boy.  I’ve heard him say he is each of these in the last few days.  On Saturday, we were babysitting and before we got to the planned activity to decorate a pumpkin he wanted to go to the park.  We are just a block and a half away from a county park and it is the equivalent of about four blocks to the playground.  He walks much further than this on most days as his mother is a regular walker.  But it was late in the day – about 5 PM.   I said to my husband,  "Zach and I will walk and we won't be that long.". But Zach said , “No, I am a little boy not a big boy.  I want to go in the stroller.”  I have a wonderful The First Years Ignite Stroller which folds up easily and is lightweight but we haven’t used it in a long time except for on the Boardwalk in the summer.  “The stroller,” I said surprised, "You’re a big boy.  You don’t want the stroller.”  Back came the answer, “I am a little boy.  I want to go to the park in the stroller.  C’mom Grandma.”  And so the stroller it was.  He strapped himself in and off we went to the park and had a great time.

When we came back, Pop, Zach and I decorated this pumpkin.  I took my old craft box that I had for my kids down from the attic and we fould felt and ribbon in excellent condtion.  Zach chose the colors he wanted, Pop cut out the pieces and I helped with the glue stick and positioning a little.  We are all proud of our work.  I was so happy that Zach was willing to pose with his pumpkin.  Isn’t he soooo cute!!!
Well today Zach is here because of hurricane Sandy.  We are one of the lucky 15% in our town in NJ that have power and he like most people we know does not have power at his house.  While my husband and son-in-law were trying – and eventually succeeded – at removing a very high, obstinate, big branch hanging over our driveway I was putting Zach down for a nap.  First I sang Hush-a-Bye – a favorite that I always sang to both of my kids.  His eyes were wide open.  I asked him if he’d like me to sing a song I sang to his Uncle Hugh when he was a little boy – and the answer – drumrollll – “I’m a Big Boy.  I’m not a little boy.”  So I said I sang it when he was a big boy too and then he was interested.

This is a song that I made up and it ends with “I love to hold my little boy, I love to hold my little boy, I love to hold my little boy close to me.  I changed the words to ““I love to hold my little boy, I love to hold my little boy, I love to hold my big boy close to me.”  Zach still had his eyes wide open.  He smiled and said “Again.”  After two more times…each softer… he was asleep.

And so here I am writing this post literally right after it happened. 

Here's a link to the stroller..It works for little boys and big boys.