July 2019 Column
Summertime is finally upon us.
Farm families across the state are busy with wheat harvest. Temperatures have reached triple digits, and fireworks stands are popping up around every corner.
Here’s hoping your first official summertime celebration will include friends, family, food, and fun. If you’re looking for a great new recipe to try for your Independence Day crowd, try one of my favorite healthy snacks made with fresh fruit. It’s perfect.
All you’ll need are some bamboo skewers, a serving tray, strawberries, blueberries, and bananas, and the directions are super easy. Add a few more skewers to make a bigger flag, or make two flags if your crowd is large enough.
Fruit Kabob Flags
- Slice 2-4 bananas (apx. 1/2″ thick).
- Hull and slice apx. 35 strawberries in half (either way – top to bottom, or side to side).
- Alternate bananas and strawberries on six or more skewers to make stripes of the flag.
- On another six or more skewers, alternate bananas and strawberries on only half of the skewer then fill the rest of the skewer with just blueberries (to make the blue portion of the flag).
- Display the skewers side by side on a serving tray to resemble the American flag (see photo).
- Chill before serving.
Grab a skewer of fresh fruit; it’s a banana split on a stick when you serve it with a freezer full of good old-fashioned homemade ice cream! Your guests will love it – especially the little ones.
It’s actually little ones who inspired this recipe, which is included in my recently published book, Celebrate Grandparenting: 101 Ideas to Intentionally Connect with your Grands.
This resource book for grandparents features ideas to enjoy with your grandchildren – crafts, recipes, activities, traditions, games, and so much more. You’ll never lack ideas with this book at your fingertips. Don’t let the moments slip away as your grandchildren grow up before your eyes. Build relationships, make memories, and celebrate life together. Become an intentional grandparent.
Join me at The Well
I’d love to invite you to The Well, 101 North Main on Saturday, July 27 between 9-11a.m. I’ll be there to meet people and sign my book for anyone who wants me to do so. I would really love to meet some of you – the readers of my column – so hope to see you there.
June 2019 Column
Summertime is upon us (as soon as the water recedes) and the Kansas heat will arrive soon. It’s time to prepare for fun with your grands, so let me share a couple easy, inexpensive outdoor activities for the hot days ahead.
You’ll need several cheap rectangular sponges, cotton string, scissors, and buckets full of water. That’s it! And, your grands can even help you make these sponge bombs. Here’s how it’s done:
Cut each sponge lengthwise into three strips. Depending upon the ages of your grandkids, that may be an “adult task” but helping assemble is easy even for little ones.
For each sponge bomb, gather six strips together. If your sponges are different colors, mix and match for more colorful bombs, or monochrome bombs are best every child or team wants their own color.
Find the mid-point of the strips, and tie (fairly tightly) with a piece of cotton string to make a ‘spiky’ sponge ball. The more participants, the more buckets and sponge bombs you’ll want.
Fill several buckets with sponges and water, then step aside and let the fun begin. The object, of course, is to get your opponent thoroughly soaked on a hot summer day.
I’d encourage a “from-the-neck-down” rule if your grands are young so no one gets hit in the face. And fill your buckets early so the sunshine can take the chill off the water before you start.
Care for a kinder, gentler option? Divide into teams and form lines. Toss the sponge bomb back and forth at a distance of about three feet. If it’s caught, players take a step backwards and try again. Dunk it. Toss it.
If it’s dropped, that person goes to the back of the line and play resumes with the next in line back at the beginning point.
This activity can, of course, be done with water balloons. Little ones for little ones, and bigger balloons (which are harder to catch without bursting) for older kids or adults.
Pass the Cup:
This is another great summertime water activity, and all you’ll need is two buckets (one full of water and one empty) and a plastic cup. Add some grandkids (and even grandparents) and enjoy the fun!
Form two teams, with each person sitting down, cross-legged, in a line facing the same direction. In front of the first person, place a bucket full of water and a plastic cup. The last person needs to turn around and face the opposite direction. Give that person an empty bucket on which a ‘fill line’ has been marked.
The object of this game is for the first person to fill a cup with water and pass it (head over head) down the line. Believe me, much water will be spilled and all will be wet!
The last person empties the cup of any remaining water into the empty bucket, then passes the empty cup back to the beginning of the line to do it all again. The first team to fill the bucket to the “fill line” wins.
If teens or adults (yes, grandparents, too) are involved add to the difficulty by being blindfolded as you pass the cup!
No matter what you do…enjoy the sunshine and cool off with refreshing water activities while you’re making summertime memories with your grandchildren.
Until next time, Celebrate Grandparenting!
May 2019 Column
With another school year coming to an end, it seems those same little ones who were on kindergarten floats ‘yesterday’ are now walking across stages in caps and gowns. Time flies, especially once the calendar changes to May. Summer is just around the corner, so let me share some ideas for turning summer SUN days into summer FUN days with your grands!
Visit your local discount store and buy pool noodles, glow sticks, an inflatable kiddie pool, balloons, and sidewalk chalk. Save a few empty water bottles, check your attic for clear Christmas lights, then search your tool box for hammers, zip-ties, and duct tape. You’ll be all set for these great summertime activities!
Oodles of Noodle Fun:
Bend each pool noodle to make a circle (shorter noodles make smaller circles but be sure the ends will fit together). Wrap the two ends together with duct tape to secure each ring. Your grands can toss a pool ring over a stake in the ground, or use the circle as a target through which they can toss a ball or water balloon.
Use sidewalk chalk to create trees, stores, homes, bridges, intersections, and more. Older grands can be the artists as your driveway becomes an extravagant journey for littler matchbox-car enthusiasts, traveling through city streets, and around curves on imaginary highways.
Grab a large plastic bowl for each grandkid and fill it part way with water. Submerge small plastic toys (balls, cars, animals, trinkets, bracelets, etc.) and freeze it. Add more water and more toys before freezing again (so they won’t all sink to the bottom). In the heat of the summer, bring the giant ice cube outside, pop it out of the bowl, and let your grandchild chip away at it with a hammer until they ‘free’ each item – a great way to stay cool in the summer heat.
Blow up a bunch of balloons, and fill others with water before putting them all inside the net of a trampoline. As your grands jump, the air-filled balloons will be all over the place, and the water balloons will explode, cooling off your grands on a hot day. Keep a small trash can handy for all the balloon pieces when the fun is done.
Save six (or more) individual water bottles. Activate glow sticks and stick one inside each empty bottle, then fill part way with water (so they will stay upright) and put the lid on. Enjoy some glow-in-the-dark bowling fun.
Late Night Jumping:
String Christmas lights at the top of a trampoline net (using zip-ties) for late night fun. Afterward, relax on the trampoline and enjoy stargazing together. You might have to turn off the Christmas lights to see better.
Kiddie Pool Campout:
Inflate a rectangular swimming pool, add a few pillows and fleece blankets, then have your little ones pile in. If you have a trampoline, set up the pool inside to keep the critters away. Read books while they’re relaxing, look at stars together, tell ghost stories, or whatever. Great for an evening or all-nighter if your Grands are old and brave enough to sleep under the stars.
Enjoy your summer! Find me on Facebook (Elaine McAllister Word Crafter) and share a picture of your grands doing one of these activities – I’d love to see it! Find even more grandparenting ideas in my soon-to-be-published book, Celebrate Grandparenting. Watch for the cover design reveal, and pre-order your copy (very soon) at https://elainemcallister.com.
April 2019 Column
Do you miss meaningful conversations with your family while they sit next to you interacting online? Grasp the reality – social media is somewhat detrimental to face-to-face connectedness. And, yes! I’m guilty, so in this era of instant information it’s sometimes important to take a break and chat with those we love.
In February and April of 2018, I shared ideas in my column for retelling family stories in conversation. Those stories will die with you. If you’d like some great family story-starters, simply email me at BFFGramma@gmail.com. But, remember – not all conversations must be about family; some can just be fun.
In my soon-to-be published resource – Celebrate Grandparenting – I devoted an entire section to conversations including hundreds of trivia, hypotheticals, choices, challenges, and thought-provoking questions, as well as some creative ways to implement them. Enjoy this snippet of what’s in that section of my book:
What can a praying mantis do that no other insect can do? (Turn its head)
Which grows faster – fingernails or toenails? (Fingernails grow 5X faster)
Did you know there are 119 grooves on the edge of a quarter; 118 on a dime.
How many steps are there to the top of the Eiffel Tower? (1,792)
Do tigers have stripes on their skin as well as their fur? (Yes)
Name three things you’d like to change about yourself, if you could.
Recite a quote from a movie, tell me who said it, and what movie it is from.
Name two things you hope to accomplish in the next month.
Pretend you’re invisible for a day and tell me three things you would do.
Create a personal mantra – something positive you can say to yourself every day – then say it.
If you had one super-hero power, what would you like it to be?
If you could travel to another country, where would you like to go?
If you got to meet any historical character, who would you choose?
If you could live on the space station for a year, would you?
If all your clothes were the same color, what color would you choose?
Would you rather have a high IQ or be famous for inventing something?
If you went to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, would you rather hike or ride a burro?
Would you rather be known for being kind or beautiful/handsome?
On ice cream, would you prefer sprinkles, nuts, syrup, whipped cream, or all?
Do you prefer to be with a friend who talks non-stop or one who asks you questions?
Who is going through a tough time right now, and how can you help?
Of which of your own accomplishments are you most proud?
What do you do to regain composure when you’re about to lose it?
Who is the kindest person you know (and how so)?
How are you similar to your best friends and how are you most different?
So, become intentional, Grandma and Grandpa! Plan some old-fashioned face time with your grandchildren. Let these ideas lead as you and your grands Celebrate in Conversations! Watch my website for news about Celebrate Grandparenting – the book cover reveal, then the release date.
March 2019 Column
Excuse my enthusiasm, but I just returned from an exciting conference about intentional grandparenting. The weather in Southern California was worth celebrating but it was the conference itself which led to my enthusiasm. Everything was well-planned and executed by teams from the Legacy Coalition (the sponsoring organization) and Fullerton Evangelical Free Church (our host). Many partnering ministries, organizations, and individuals presented great breakout sessions and provided much-needed resources. It was truly a great experience and I wish all grandparents could have been there.
I drove 3,000+ miles, escaped back-to-back winter storms that crippled northern New Mexico and Arizona, and returned to our still-winter-in-Kansas temps, yet I’m still basking in what I gained at the National Legacy Grandparenting Summit ’19. We heard from nationally-known speakers like Josh McDowell, Alistair Begg, Crawford Loritts, and John Rosemond who – along with presenters of nearly 50 breakout sessions – challenged and inspired us to become more intentional in impacting the lives of our grandchildren.
We live in an age of instant information – just ask Siri. In the 1960s, the information ‘turnover’ was every 13 years; now it’s every 1½ hours. Today’s grands need wisdom, not information, and wisdom is gained by observation, reflection, and experience – things most grandparents possess. Our grandchildren need our wisdom. They need us.
In today’s world the number of grandparents who find themselves raising their own grandchildren is staggering. Many grandchildren live in blended families which also impacts family dynamics. Long-distance grandparenting is a necessity for families separated by thousands of miles, and broken relationships lead to generational barriers which adversely affect grandparents and grandchildren, too. These are just some of the issues tackled during the conference and because Kansas families aren’t immune to such difficulties, I want to share some valuable resources which might be helpful.
Audio recordings of most of the sessions are already available online at www.legacycoalition.com. It’s a great organization, and worth checking out their website. When you’re ready to look for the audio recordings, simply scroll down to RESOURCES then SUMMIT MEDIA RESOURCES for a list with descriptions. I believe video recordings of general sessions will be available soon, as well. Larry Fowler is the Founder & Chief Catalyst of the Legacy Coalition, and I’m pleased to call him my friend.
Other organizations represented at the conference included the Christian Grandparenting Network (Cavin Harper; www.christiangrandparenting.net) and the National Association for Grandparenting (Ken Canfield; www.grandsmatter.org). Check out their websites for resources, too.
As Baby Boomers become grandparents, we do so with intentionality, and this movement is gaining momentum across the nation, as was evidenced at this conference. The growth in resources available for grandparents in just the last couple of years is remarkable. And, that’s good news for families everywhere.
February 2019 Column
Celebrating a “Grand” Love
If you’ve ventured into any stores recently, you’ve been inundated by giant stuffed animals, and an overabundance of red or pink heart-shaped pillows. Before the Christmas clearance was off the shelves the Valentine’s Day merchandise appeared. Typical consumer-targeted marketing!
Years ago on Valentine’s Day, I’d often get a card from my grandparents, sometimes with a stick of gum or a dollar bill tucked inside. If I was lucky, I’d get some conversation hearts. And, have you heard? There’s a real shortage of those chalky delicacies this year. The decades-old company is closed, but don’t worry – a new company promises to have ample supply for February 14, 2020.
Seriously, though, times have changed and today’s grandparents are unlike our own. According to the Legacy Coalition (www.legacycoalition.com) we are healthier and more vital than any other generation of grandparents in history. “21st Century grandparents,” they suggest, “are just as likely to be rocking to their favorite tunes as they are to be rocking in their favorite chairs.” That’s encouraging, and I believe it’s also true. I don’t feel nearly as old as I thought my grandparents – or even my parents – were, at this age. How about you?
Perhaps that truth should show in the gifts we give our grands to convey our love as we think outside the box in 2019. Consider these ways to say “I love you!”
Give a gift of time
Make plans for a special together time with your grandchildren. What do they enjoy? Sporting events or concerts? Do they have a favorite restaurant? Would they enjoy attending a musical at a nearby theater or would they rather have a sleepover at your house? Plan a night filled with PJs, books, and hot chocolate for your little bookworm? Choose something meaningful for each grandchild, and spend some time together celebrating your love for one another.
Give a gift of shared service
Our grandchildren are watching us – every day. They learn from us, even if we don’t know we’re ‘teaching’ anything at the moment. Think of a way to involve them in serving others. Perhaps you are scheduled to deliver Meals on Wheels on Valentine’s Day. If possible, bring your grandchild along. Or buy a few inexpensive ready-made bouquets of carnations along with a roll of ribbon. Add a handmade card saying “Happy Valentine’s Day” to individual flowers, tied with a ribbon, and deliver one to each resident at a nearby nursing home. Teach your grands to enjoy serving others.
Give a gift of something handmade
You know your own grandkids, and you know your own capabilities. Match them up. Choose something especially for each one. Ideas? Cook their favorite meal. Crochet a scarf in their team colors. Do you sew? Do you do leatherwork? There’s surely something unique to both of you. Maybe your grand is a crafter, and you could ‘learn’ that craft together. Origami? Scrapbooking? Woodworking? Get creative and give a gift of handmade love.
Whatever you choose to do for or with your grandkids, Celebrate Love this Valentine’s Day!
January 2019 Column
Welcome, 2019! We’re glad to see you! But are we ready? Are you a resolution-maker with a list of things you’ve resolved to do (or NOT do) during 2019 or do you adopt a word-of-the-year to focus on throughout the year? Whatever you do, I challenge you to join me in making a difference in 2019 – in your own family. If we make it to the stroke of midnight on December 31st of 2019, we will have had 525,600 minutes in which to do so.
Society tells us to make a difference by leaving a legacy of ‘stuff,’ like education funds or trust funds. I’m not discounting making financial arrangements, but would encourage you to leave a legacy of ‘memories.’ I want my grands to remember our time spent together – FUN, not FUNDS – when I’m gone, so let me share three simple ideas you, too, can incorporate into the 8,760 hours of 2019.
Author and financial trendsetter Neale Godfrey (www.nealegodfrey.com) suggests in her article “Ethics Can Be Fun?” (www.kiplinger.com) making an Ethical Decision Bag filled with slips of paper listing situations. Children read one and answer the question “What would YOU do?” which leads to teachable moments and opportunities to share everyday ethics and values with the next generation. You can add from the plethora of ideas around us on a daily basis, but here are some of Godfrey’s suggestions:
- If your sister or brother gets blamed for something you’d done.
- If you saw a wallet lying in the bushes.
- If someone gave you too much change.
- If your best friend told you a secret and made you promise not to tell.
- If something you really wanted was lying on the counter of the store, and there was no one around.
Create memories by gathering the grands together often. Spend time individually with each one to know their current likes and dislikes, their struggles and successes at school, their fears, failures, and frustrations. Be present. Go to games and performances. Volunteer at their schools. Do all you can do to encourage this generation. If distance is a factor, improvise with technology which has – thankfully – made distance less of a detriment for long-distance grandparents. As you’re sharing life with your family, record memorable moments.
Encourage your kids and grandkids to do the same, recording their own memorable moments at work, at home, at school, with friends, or with family members. Ask them to share those moments with you by text, email, phone call, or note throughout the year, whenever something memorable happens. Tell them it’s for a surprise project. Your job is to collect and compile these memories either as a list or as individual slips of paper stored in a memory jar. Always cite the date and the person who shared the memory. At the end of 2019, retell those memorable moments when you’re together for Christmas.
Family stories are great, but you can’t tell them if you don’t make them. The simple act of acknowledging and archiving memorable moments trains us all to watch for the good things in life, and cultivates a culture of celebration. No better legacy exists.
My daughter shared an idea with me recently about a grandma who writes a fictionalized family story, every year, just for fun. Her grandchildren are the characters in this ongoing saga, and they gather around her each Christmas to hear her read of their escapades.
This idea is definitely on my ‘to-do’ list for next Christmas. My mind is already racing at the fun I could have with this. I think I’ll call it The McGrand Adventures. You can bet it’ll be full of frivolity and fun, bringing grins and giggles to my littles (who are not so little anymore) next Christmas! But, it’s always fun to be “that” Grandma!
Cultivate a culture of celebration in your life. No better legacy exists! Happy New Year!