Staying in Focus: A Happy Beginning

Christmas truly arrived for us this year on January 1st. That’s when our grandkids arrived to celebrate with us.  They had just returned from a trip to Colorado, and had lots of exciting new experiences to share with us. Here are a few photos that captured the  fun!



Staying in Focus: Focus On: Just Add a Little Soap and Water

This past weekend was a shenanigan weekend at our house. In other words, the grandkids were coming to visit. We started calling them shenanigans when my son asked what shenanigans were planned for an upcoming weekend with them , and I replied, “The shenanigans will arrive about 1:00 on Saturday.”  So now they are our little shenanigans. Not so little, anymore though. We celebrated Evelyn’s 9th birthday this weekend. I truly do not know where the time has gone.

When they arrived, Evelyn opened her presents, and then wanted to spend some of her birthday money. We took her to Toys are Us. She is very careful with her money. She wanted to buy something, but didn’t want to use her money unless she found something she really liked. I spied these Skylander figures that I knew she and Gavin both liked. and to her delight, there was  a special sale – buy one, get one 40% off. So she bought one for herself and one for her brother, and spent only half her money. She said she couldn’t wait to see the look on Gavin’s face when she gave him his surprise. We stopped to pick up dinner at Noodles and Company and headed home. Gavin didn’t let her down. I wish I had thought to have the camera ready, but Evelyn made him close hie eyes, and the look of surprise and delight on his face when he opened them was award-winning.

Later we had ice cream for dessert, played outside for a while at Gavin’s suggestion because, as he said, it was  such a beautiful day,  and then it was bedtime. On Sunday, I made a big breakfast, and then we made terrariums. Part of Evelyn’s birthday gift was a week of learning about plants and gardening at the Arboretum, which she really enjoyed, so she was thrilled to make her own terrarium. It was another 90 degree day, so we had a plant-mister water fight, and that’s where the soap and water comes in. They love to put their bathing suits on and run through the “splashy ball”, with the bubble machine going full blast.

When we came inside, I guess she hadn’t had enough of soap and water, as she requested a bubble bath in my big garden tub. We ate lunch, we played a card game we gave her for her birthday called Spot it, which was great fun and wound up the festivities with the Game of Life.

Needless to say, both Bill and I collapsed on the couch and watched the end of the Braves game before putting things back in order, coiling up the hose and putting the bubble machine away, until those shenanigans return to add a little soap and water to their fun.

IMG_3832b IMG_3839 IMG_3842 IMG_3843 IMG_3832a IMG_3836 IMG_3835 IMG_3833 IMG_3844

Staying in Focus: Focus On: Family and Friends

What a pleasant weekend I had! On Saturday, I attended a birthday celebration for my friend, Linda. Although Linda’s birthday was in June, several of us were traveling during that time, and this was the first date that worked for most everybody.  Most of the gals in our group were workmates at Sylvan Learning Center at one time – Debra, Julie. Karen, Linda and me. Diane, a friend of Julie, joined the group early on, followed by Debbi and most recently Denise, two of my friends formerly of Poughkeepsie, NY. Two of our original members, Michele and Susan, have moved away.

The group began as a monthly book club in 1997 and over the years as some of us pursued new jobs, retired, faced illnesses, or became caretakers for aging parents, we became more of a support group for one another. Life becomes more complicated sometimes and getting everyone together each month was tough, but we continued to get together for coffee and catching up here and there,  kept in touch through emails, and  at a gathering at my house each Christmas.

We have seen one another through good times – new jobs, new homes, the arrival of grandchildren, and tough times – the loss of parents and spouses, and facing illness. We have had members move away and have welcomed newcomers. We have seen our children grow, begin their careers, leave the nest, get married, start families, and defend our country in military service.

It matters not how frequently we manage to get the group together, for when we do we have good times, filled with good conversation sprinkled with laughter. To quote Proust, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Our Selfie:


Following the party, I returned home to find my grandchildren had arrived to spend the night with us and their father, who celebrated his 37th birthday this weekend.  We took him out for pizza, and returned home for an ice cream treat.  On Sunday we had a scrambled egg and pancake breakfast and we went outside for a while to enjoy a non-humid, non-nineties day. Bill and I came in from helping their mother get the kids and their stuff in the car, around 4 PM and promptly fell asleep watching the ballgame!

It was a busy weekend but one filled with family and friends. Who could ask for more?IMG_3807

Staying in Focus: Fun and Fitness at Gram’s

I never know what my granddaughter has in mind to do when she comes to visit. Recently, she decided to transform my kitchen into “ a  Fun and Fitness Center’’.  She gathered various kinds of weight lifting and work out equipment, created a “Hydration Station”, with cups of cold water and red grapes for her customers to enjoy after their work-out. Of course, her customers were her brother, her dad and Bill and I.

I printed pictures for her and she made a book about her new business. She read it to each of us, then we each had to join her book club,write a book and read it to the group. Hands down, grandpa’s was the funniest.

We played with Legos, sent our pirates on a mission to find treasure and watched a movie.  Lots of laughs,giggles and being silly – a perfect grandkids weekend!

IMG_4777IMG_4770 IMG_4767 IMG_4766 IMG_4765 IMG_4764 IMG_4763 IMG_4778 IMG_4780 IMG_4784 IMG_4781 IMG_4782

Being Silly:

IMG_4787 IMG_4786

Staying in Focus: Dollar Store Fun

I love the dollar store. Yesterday my two most favorite people, my grandchildren, Evelyn and Gavin, came over to play. I had picked up a bag of goodies at the dollar store and with a little creative thinking, we made a lot of fun.

We started with an iron man action figure and a paper doll, with clothes to decorate and little plastic hangers and a rack to hang them on. We taped two pieces of cardboard together to be a backdrop, one set for the doll and one for iron man. We covered the cardboard with colored cardstock and cut out pictures to hang on the walls. We made Evelyn’s a super fashion closet, with an aluminum foil mirror and a couch with a lamp beside it, all cut from old magazines Dollar Store Fun!. Gavin’s we made into a workshop for iron man, so we made  a bench and cut out shelves and cabinets and  drew some partially completed iron man suits. Gavin wanted a table and a bed, so we used leftover cardstock to fashion those.  This activity kept them occupied for some time, total cost for the fun $2.13.

Next we needed to move a little so we went outside on a bug hunt. The dollar store had these little bug containers, with pincers to use to pick the bugs up.  Breathing holes were supplied and a built-in magnifying glass made it easy to see small bugs. I, however, have had encounters with fire ants, so I picked up 2 bags of friendly plastic bugs, of generous size. Before the kids arrived, I hid the bugs on the patio, using the camouflage of plants and other objects to make it challenging. Before we started I asked if they knew what camouflage was. Evelyn, who is about to turn 8, thinks she knows everything and the scary part is, I think she does. She sure knew about camouflage. I told them to find eight bugs each and off they went. They had so much fun, they wanted to hide them and have me find them. They were pretty clever, and used camouflage to make it difficult for me, too.

Total cost for this much fun (and learning – we identified all the bugs by name) $2.13 each.

Next on the agenda was  a marble race. My house is long front to back and the rooms sort of flow one into the other. We took one of those “noodles” the children use to float on in a pool and leaned it against the back of the sofa in the family room. Inn the center of the noodle there is a hole large enough for a marble to pass through. We took turns dropping the marbles into the noodle and counting how many made it on to the rug behind the front door. More fun  for $2.13

We retreated from the hot sun to the porch, enjoyed an ice pop and Evelyn challenged me to a game of stack the chairs and tables, also a dollar store item, while Gavin relaxed on the lounge chair and iron man sat on the frog’s lap. The total cost per child for all this fun:?$4.79  Like I said, I love the dollar store!

Evelyn and her winning tower of chairs and tables


Gavin , iron man and the frog

Staying In Focus: Their Future is In our Hands

Young Archeologists at Work.

My sister hit a home run when she gave my granddaughter a Smithsonian Archeology Kit for Christmas. It consists of a rectangular sunblock, goggles, a hammer and chisel, a paint brush and a magnifying glass. The aspiring archeologists “excavate” gem stones by gently tapping the chisel with the hammer and when one is discovered, carefully brush away the sand as the gem is removed from the sand block.

Both my seven-year old granddaughter and her five-year old brother had a blast searching for the gems. They unearthed 5 of the 11 gems buried in the block so far. Evelyn declared that science was the most fun and that she was going to be an archeologist/geologist/biologist because she wanted to go tomb hunting, find more hematite like the stone she had at home and work with germs. If anyone could achieve this trifecta, it would be Evelyn’

She is currently writing a “non-fiction” article about hookworms and other parasites, after reading about them in a book on the slimy side of science which Santa brought her for Christmas.  We gave her a laptop computer for Christmas, and she is already learning how to use windows 8, and drew her hook worm using a Paint program, and then inserted it into her Word file.

Although I am a proud grandmother who thinks her grandchildren  are the smartest and cutest on the planet, I know there are millions of other bright minds out there. Children who will grow up in a world where technology has exploded in its ability to transfer information, cure diseases, entertain us with the unimagined  ability to cross the boundaries between reality and the virtual world.

But I fear we are falling behind in preparing our children for this brave new world.  Our teachers are undervalued and underpaid, held to strict curriculum that allow for little in the way of creativity. This is boring for the students, and unpalatable for the best teachers. So they are leaving the profession in droves. Latest statistics show that 40% of those with advanced degrees never enter the classroom at all. Finland is reported to have the best school system in the world. Why are we not studying this model? Are we too arrogant to admit we can learn from someone else? If so, where does that leave my two future archeologists?

IMG_2549 IMG_2550 IMG_2551 IMG_2552 IMG_2553 IMG_2554 IMG_2555 IMG_2556

Staying in Focus: An Autumn Wedding, Autumn Colors and a Look Back

Well, we are back from our next to last trip of 2013, and what a summer of travel and fun with family and friends we have had! We visited Atlanta in late May with our friends, Kathi and Don.We were exploring the Gone With the Wind Trail and highlights there were a bus tour of historic Jonesboro and  a tour of the Margaret Mitchell house where she wrote GWTW. We also took in a Braves game, where once we had hope for an exciting postseason. But that is a subject for my other blog, Focus on the Atlanta Braves. We also celebrated Mom’s 90th birthday on May 20, with a party at my sister’s house. She had a rough time this summer battling back a second attack of breast cancer, but her strength and positive outlook is getting her through.

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

Later in June we drove to Washington, DC to attend the wedding of our niece, Jeanette and Jarred Tafaro.  A week later found us flying to Heathrow airport in England to board the Caribbean Princess for a cruise around the British Isles. IMG_1375We toured St. Peter Port on the Isle of Guernsey and made ports of call in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, France and England. We covered everything from Stonehenge to The Beatles, sampled the local cuisine and searched for Nessie on a boat ride across Loch Ness. Bill saw the church in which his great grandparents married, and we visited The Cavern, a launching pad pub for the Beatles. We learned much about each place we visited, and the people in each country were delightful!

We returned home and attended a Monkees concert with our boys (what fun!) and then enjoyed a week with our house guests, Denise and Geoff, and dogs  Buddy and Bailey. Although there were some stressful moments as Denise and Geoff negotiated the closing on their house and the delivery of appliances and furniture (quite a nightmare at times) we really enjoyed having them stay with us. They moved out into their new home just before our family from NJ arrived. We enjoyed the usual shopping forays and looking at new houses, not to mention the traditional goodbye at Goodberry’s.  A few weeks later and we drove up to NJ to see our other niece, Becky, marry her new husband, Ally Randazzo.  As they took off for a honeymoon in Fiji, Bill and I headed to our haven in the Poconos for a few days of rest and relaxation. Here is a look back:

IMG_1050IMG_1053IMG_0901IMG_0936IMG_0899_edited-1 IMG_1165IMG_1180.ajpgIMG_1311IMG_1638IMG_1759IMG_2318IMG_159120130828_185750IMG_2162a995701_10201236703892389_905295430_n093106IMG

And now we look ahead to the holidays, my favorite time of year. I love the fall, the changing leaves and that glorious blue sky free of the heavy, humid air of summer. That first nip in the air speaks to me of warm sweaters,  long nights, firelight, the crackle of leaves under my feet, hot apple cider and bowls of chili.  With all the holiday festivities and preparations, it will be time to pack those suitcases again for our annual Christmas visit to New Jersey before we know it!

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are a bit ahead of us in the autumn color display, so here is a sneak peek:

IMG_2273IMG_2257 - CopyIMG_2269IMG_2260blue skyIMG_2302IMG_2274IMG_2279IMG_2310 IMG_2256 - Copy - CopyIMG_2315

Focus On: How To Spend a Sunday Afternoon

Today was grandkids day and did we have fun! We planted flowers in pots, played with bubbles, went to the neighborhood park and finished up at their dad’s house for a spaghetti supper!

Here is a photo journal of our day:                                      058054 063 064              Planting008001



016 017 021 037 038