Who among us doesn't like decorating our homes at Christmas with our grandchildren in mind? It takes us back to our childhood!
This discussion came up recently with some fellow grandparents. We all agreed we love it, and we love this time of year. And to top off this discussion, I opened my Southern Living magazine, and Rick Bragg's column was devoted to this topic--grandparents and their over-the-top holiday decorating.
His original premise was that Christmas was for children, but that he had come to doubt that. He stated it was wasted on kids. His quote: "But the old...the miracle for them is in remembering a lifetime of Christmases past in every new season. Which, I guess, means the season is for children, after all." Love his turn-around and rethinking. (Insert smile here.)
And then this statement by Rick just has stayed with me. Wish I could write like this: "I love this time--every mile of country road and every aisle in every store picks the lock on one of those memories." Yes, "picks the lock on those memories." Love that.
I have a friend who decorates her house for Christmas in a big way--front yard, backyard, inside and out! We don't live in the same town, but I wish I could visit her street at Christmas.
I asked her to write a bit for this blog telling why she loves doing this so much, thinking she would say it was for the kids. And while it is, there is another poignant backstory to her decorating. Here, I'll let her tell you in her own words:
"I have always enjoyed decorating, especially at Christmas. Every year, when I would start, my oldest son, Wade, would say, 'Here comes all the Christmas crap.' Yes, that's what he called it--Christmas crap.
In 2000, he called me before Thanksgiving and said he and his family (wife and 9-month-old daughter) would be here for Thanksgiving, but would not be able to come back for Christmas. He asked if I could have all the Christmas decorations up for Thanksgiving, so he and his young family could enjoy it. This from the 'Christmas crap' kid! Of course I got it done. That started a tradition of decorating by Thanksgiving.
Wade was killed in 2006; now I decorate in his memory. And because I enjoy it, and so do my grandchildren and all the kids in the neighborhood. Makes the holiday cheery, and I'm pretty sure Wade is smiling from heaven."
So my message this week for all of us grandparents--go ahead! Decorate to your heart's content! I think we've earned all of our indulgences and eccentricities! Just go for it! And try not to pass judgment of those of us who go a little crazy this time of year. One never knows the back story.
Merry Christmas everybody! Let the family times begin!
A GRAND Thanksgiving Tradition~
How many of you do the turkey trot on Thanksgiving day?
My niece and her family participate every year! She's been doing it for several years. It began with her own kids, and now she and her husband are continuing it with their grands. What could be better.
By the way, she's the very very young looking grandmother...third from the left!
I asked her for her thoughts on this family tradition and here's what she said:
"The Turkey Trot has been one of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions for years. This tradition started with our kids, and now the custom is continuing with our kids and our grandkids! No matter if it is freezing or raining outside, our crew all gets up and goes! There is no better way to start the Thanksgiving weekend than walking with the ones you love and seeing lots of old friends!"
And on to December and the next holiday!
You may be wondering why I'm posting about the Turkey Trot now that Thanksgiving is over? Well, there are other 5Ks and Kids' 1Ks for families. I know the Jingle Bell Run is coming up in a lot of communities in December. I'll do it if you'll do it!
Seriously, getting outside and taking a walk is the best exercise! This is a blog for and about grandparents (and parents too!), and one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and our children and grandchildren is to TAKE CARE OF OUR HEALTH! I have a sweet childhood friend whose mother always told her that she was the one who had to take care of her health--nobody else can do it! Simple words and a no-brainer, but I think it really is a basic truth. During this holiday season, let's take care of ourselves! To your health!
Get out in nature after the feasting!
Are you and yours one of those families that take a walk after you finish stuffing yourselves? Isn't that a great way to make room for dessert!
And what kid doesn't like to explore and collect things in nature on that walk? Give the grands (and others too!) a sack for their treasured collection. It's fun to have something to collect your items in and a friendly competition can develop between cousins. Here are some beautiful items collected by my grandson years ago:
Nature Scavenger Hunt~
Another thing we've done is to have a nature scavenger hunt. This works well with the older kids. Last year we went camping over the Thanksgiving holiday. I prepared for this activity before we left. I ran off a list of things in nature that I was pretty sure the kids would be able to find in our area. Then I purchased some brown paper lunch bags (Remember those?) and got enough pencils for everyone. On one of our hikes, I gave everyone a paper bag for collections, a scavenger list and a pencil and we WERE OFF! I even awarded prizes. Fun day!
But wait! There's more!
Want to take that trip in nature BEFORE the big day? That works too. A couple of years ago, we had dinner with our son and daughter-in-law. She had taken the kids on a nature walk, and they collected natural items for table decorations. They were beautiful tables. Take a look:
Collected items from walk can be used to make a nature collage. Or here's a pin from Pinterest where the kids cut the middle out of a paper plate to make a wreath and glued their collected items on there (especially works well with just dried leaves):
Links friends have shared for this holiday. This one is about T-giving games for families:
And this one for kids' tables at the dinner:
Step out in nature sometime during the holidays and take those sweet grands with you. They will love it. And you'll be surprised what you can find in nature on a simple walk to the park.
"Enjoy yourself--it's later than you think!" Chinese Proverb
By the way, if you need a list of items for the nature walk, you can write me using my contact page, and I'll send you one. Or, like anything else these days, you can find one on Google or Pinterest! Have fun!
More Crafts for Older Grandkids~
My last blog was about an idea for older-age grands and a craft that was appropriate for their age. When we got together to make Navajo talking sticks, we also did some water color. I printed out "We Give Thanks" lists for place settings at our holiday table wherein each guest could record their list of blessings.
I printed them out before the grands got to my house--two per 8x10 printer paper. Then the girls did a crayon-resist water color to embellish the sheets. They drew their own twig shape with colorful autumn leaves down the side. Then they gave each guest room to record their items of gratitude. I'm thinking this is also a good art activity for preschoolers as well. They could draw their leaves, turkeys, whatever holiday motif they wanted. Or they could keep with the same design and dip their fingertips in finger paint for finger-print leaves making them a great keepsake for parents, grandparents and others!
You get the idea~
They are placed at each setting for guests to write their list of things for which they are grateful. Once again I would like to repeat. Besides creating something to donate to the Thanksgiving traditions, they are spending some quality time with YOU, the grandparent. It's such a quiet, relaxing time...a great bonding time, and besides sharing ideas and traditions with your grandchildren, this blog is also about carving out some enriching time to spend with your grandchildren. As we hear time and again, seize the day!
Now on to the little guys!
If your grands are even younger and you're searching for a craft they can make to decorate your table, there are a wealth of ideas online. You have only to do a search for "children Thanksgiving crafts" on Google or Pinterest. I found these charming Pilgrims at bellagreydesigns.com.
You can also use these cute pilgrims and Indians for puppets. They are perfect! Just add a rolled construction paper stick to the back and viola! You've got a great puppet. You can even drag out that puppet show curtain I blogged about on October 8, and have the grands put on a puppet show after the feast.
I've heard it said and I'm sure you have too--the Thanksgiving holiday is really the BEST! No presents to buy, no tree to put up, no rushing around. Just a wonderful meal and time spent with family and grandchildren.
"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." William Arthur Ward
The website for these charming pilgrims:
And another~ (This one actually has a pattern.)
I'm not good at giving step by step instructions for art activities, mostly because I'm a "by-the-seat-of-my-pants" girl. I just throw all the art supplies in the middle of the table with a sample of what we're trying to create, and we have at it!
I was able to buy a package of 12-inch wooden dowels at the craft store--perfect size. Then I bought leather, feathers, leather strips, colored bands of yarn/string and washi tape in what I considered a Native American motif. I did hot-glue a piece of leather around each dowel before my grands got there as the glue gun can get so hot, and I didn't want any burned fingers. But the girls did the rest. We did tape the feathers on with just regular scotch tape, and then covered it all with the washi tape. I think they look really good. And my girls learned something about a Native American custom.
And you don't have to bring them out just for Thanksgiving. Talking sticks can be used for family meetings as well.....anytime of the year. Use them for saying grace at your house throughout the year--maybe for Sunday dinner at gramma's!
A bit of history about Talking Sticks~
A talking stick is a tool used by many Native American tribes when a council meeting is called. It is passed around from person to person. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak. Members in attendance are asked to bow their heads and close their eyes when someone is speaking so they can truly focus on the speaker's words. Many Native American children are taught to listen from age 3 and on, and that they must respect other's view point. According to the website, First People~the Legends, "The Talking Stick is the tool that teaches each of us to honor the Sacred Point of View of every living creature."
I've listed some websites you might find informative so that, in addition to sharing the creation of a talking stick, you can share with your grands the history as well. For example, it is symbolic what wood you use in the stick as well as the colors chosen. Animal skins are also an important choice right down to the horse hair you can see in my stick. (Curious about the use of horse hair? I was too--it represents perseverance.)
One last note~
I love doing crafts with my grands and I'm sure you do too. It's a relaxing time, and often a time when they feel comfortable to share their own thoughts and feelings with a grandparent. It's important to share customs and traditions. . . your own. . . as well as customs from other peoples with whom we share this world. Love this season. . . a time of thanksgiving and family!
"Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart." Seneca
Tomorrow's blog? Thanksgiving crafts for the little guys--for parents, grandparents and GREAT grandparents with preschoolers! Watch for it!
How about a family Thanksgiving book that you add to every year? A book wherein you record everyone's blessings and photos of the feast?
We do it in our family with "Our Book of Thanksgiving" scrapbook. I was inspired by Gray and Wales book, "Grandmother, Another Name for Love." The authors describe giving each grandchild a small scrapbook, and each grandchild does their own Thanksgiving book with an essay of what they are grateful for as well as photos of the event. I opted for ONE book that stays at my house, and that we add to year after year.
We place it on the table at the Thanksgiving meal, and Poppa reads everyone's blessings from the previous year. Then we go around the table and everyone names their recent acknowledgements of gratitude, and someone records responses for our big book.
An added plus~
An additional benefit is the book stays out the month of November. On the day of the feast, oftentimes my grandkids peruse the book while we're getting dinner on the table. You can hear the laughs and giggles from the kitchen as the kids look at the pictures from when they were younger.
My thoughts on scrapbooking~
I love going to the craft store and perusing the scrapbook aisle. I love the pretty papers, stickers and season-themed decals. I've always wanted to do scrapbooks, but I know enough about my personality that my interest would wane. Besides, where would one store all those scrapbooks?!! I've opted to do just this ONE BOOK. It satisfies my need to create, and I'm able to keep up with it every year--"Our Book of Thanksgiving."
Let's stir the pot!
If you do scrapbooks about family times, please share. If you decide to do that suggestion about every kid keeping their own book, I would love to see pictures of that. If you try something like this for the first time, please write me. We all love new ideas, and finding out what works and what doesn't! Just go to my contact page and write me. As I said, I would love to hear.
Happy Thanksgiving Season to you and yours!
"Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home." Wilbur D. Nesbit
Two days ago my blog was about my mother-in-law being an English war bride from World War II, and how I documented my in-laws courtship in a photo book. I felt it was important that my grandkids know the story (and ALL the stories) of their great-grandparents' tale of love from a world war.
But I need to add this, as it's very important. Four years ago, my sister-in-law took her mother back to England. She documented that sweet trip in another photo book...again for our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. I can't stress enough the importance of telling these stories.
But there's an added blessing in doing so. Several years ago, I attended a writing institute, and they had a saying in that workshop, "How can I know what I think until I see what I've written." As my sister-in-law created the book to document their trip, she gained new insights as to the trip's real meaning. Here...I'll let her tell you in her own words:
Four years ago I took a trip that changed my life. I took my mother to England to meet and visit with family. I met sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, aunts, and so many others. But the person I truly enjoyed meeting the most was my mother. Yes, my mother. As she used to be. I saw her in a whole new light; I understood her more than I ever thought possible, and I loved her so much more deeply and honestly. I walked the paths she walked as a child, I visited childhood homes and cemeteries where most of her family is now. I saw the places my dad rode on his bike everyday as he was stationed there during the war. On a beautiful Sunday morning, I stood by my mother in the church where she and dad were married so long ago.Through her eyes I saw that sixteen-year-old English lass about to embark on a great adventure. Coming to America and eventually home to Texas.
Two months after that trip, my dad passed away. I understood my mother's deep loneliness because I had been there in that little English village...in that beautiful country church. I had seen where their love came from, and I understood.
I saw all the sights of London, and some beautiful English countryside, and I made a lot of memories, but seeing my mom's memories through her eyes completely made the trip.
Tell those family stories!
You'll be so glad you did. And it's not just a matter of documenting family trips, reunions, and celebrations, you'll gain new insights about yourself. That's an added plus.
Since this is a blog for grandparents, I know most of my readers are around my age. The time to tell those family stories (and YOUR STORY) is NOW!
Sharing your Family's History~
This Thanksgiving season is a time when we give thanks for our family and all our many blessings. Wouldn't it be a perfect time to share the story of your family's history?
My husband has been going through boxes and boxes of his family's photos and mementos. His father was stationed in England during World War II. There he met his bride, a young English girl whose father's farm backed up to the air base where he served. My husband discovered all his dad's photos of their courtship and his time in England in one of those boxes. What a treasure! I decided I HAD to put those photos in a book and tell the story of their love's beginning for their children, grand children and great-grandchildren. It's important to tell our children their family history.
According to an article in Parade magazine by Bruce Feiler ("The Secrets to a Happy Family," February 17, 2013): "The more children know about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem."
Bruce continues with the reason for this--"These children have a strong sense of 'intergenerational self'--they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves and that families naturally experience both high and lows."
After reading that article, I knew I had to share this history and love story from World War II!
The instructions are like all my books I've blogged about so far--gather all the old photos you have, appropriate for a book, and scan them, saving them to a file on your computer. Then go to your favorite bookmaking site and follow their directions for downloading those photos and adding text. I've listed various sites at the end of this blog. Since I have a Mac, I used the bookmaking app contained in "Projects" within IPhoto.
I actually gave this book to my grands for Valentine's Day several years ago. They were quite young so I kept the text very simple, And actually the pictures tell the story.
Since the time is approaching Thanksgiving, I've read, and I'm sure you have too, that the Thanksgiving feast is a great time to interview family members that you don't often see. Another way to get more of your family's story.
Sure hoping that you'll take the opportunity to somehow record your family's story for future generations--either in a scrapbook, a book, or video format. The ideas are endless. I happen to agree with Bruce Feiler--it can make a big difference in your grandchildren's self esteem. Everyone should know their history! Just do it!
Books for adults:
The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
Books for children:
"The Blessing Cup" by Patricia Polacco
"Keeping Quilt" by Patricia Polacco
"Knots on a Counting Rope" by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Websites for bookmaking:
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!