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.

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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

Focus on the big L – Lifelong Learning

In addition to exercise for the body, we must not forget to exercise our minds.  Now this is the kind of exercise I can get excited about!   No matter what our age or how much education we’ve had, we must continue to challenge our minds if we are to retain a sharp, focused intellect into our golden years.  Just as our bodies are faced with changes as we age, so too is the mind..  And just as forms of physical exercise can keep the aging body agile and fit, so too can exercises for the mind.  Keeping the mind alert and active can help us avoid too many “senior moments” from creeping up on us and  help us retain our independence longer. Keeping our minds challenged can stave off depression and the feeling that life has passed us by. And the best news is, you don’t have to get sweaty and hot and bothered to do it!

There are so man ways to exercise our minds.  Lifelong learning is now easier than ever  before.   From taking continuing education courses at a local community college to solving crossword puzzles, to playing games online, there is a virtual buffet of ways to stay focused  as we age..

One of the best ways to keep the old bean challenged is to learn something new.  If you’ve never gardened before, sign up for a class in that.  How about trying to learn a new language?  Or learn to sew, play chess, play a musical instrument,  make jewelry?  There are limitless possibilities.  By choosing to learn something completely new to us, we challenge our brains to create new pathways and connections, to keep those neurons firing away instead of fading away.

Spending some time each day working on crossword puzzles, word search or suduku puzzles are important in keeping problem solving and logic abilities sharp.  I never felt that I had truly grasped algebra in high school.  Being a word person, I took as little math as I needed to get into college  So I am working on that now.  Practice with both words and numbers is important.

.Games on the computer, like Gardens of Time or Mystery Manor, where you search for hidden objects are fun, and can be a great exercise in focus and concentration.  Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy..  The more you play these games, the better you get at them and the healthier your brain becomes.  Games like Bejeweled  Blitz or Tetris Battle are great for eye/hand coordination, challenging you to think and respond quickly.  One of my favorite games is that old standby, Scrabble, which you play with friends across the Internet.

Speaking of the Internet, it is a marvelous source of learning, right at your finger tips.  From  taking courses for college credit, to free online access to college classes, such as at, to those offered by community colleges and public school systems, the possibilities are  endless, With the open Yale courses, you “virtually” sit in on an actual class being conducted at the university.   Never thought you’d get into Yale?  Well now you can — for free!

It can be overwhelming, the amount of information and learning available to us these days, so focus in on a few topics at a time and you’ll be surprised how much you cn learn –  if you put your mind to it!

the bell has rung
the time has come
for us to heed the call
this must be the day
we cast fear away
and climb over that limiting wall
where we will find
freedom of mind
and a wide open road that twists and winds
its way to a future we cannot see
do we stay where it’s safe
where we know our place
or forge with our hands our own destiny?
—   pc 2012