At the Women's march

At the Women's march
All Lives Matter

Never Again

Never Again
We Won't Go Back

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Although I (immodestly) think that every grandmother should have a copy of my book, SUPER GRANNY: GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS, I would also like to bring to your attention some of the other great books about grandparenting. Probably the most authoritative one for general readers is THE GRANDPARENT GUIDE: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO COPING WITH THE CHALLENGES OF MODERN GRANDPARENTING by Arthur Kornhaber, M.D. (Contemporary Books/McGraw-Hill, 2002)

Although this comprehensive book was published more than six years ago, it has managed to stay remarkably helpful and relevant. Written by a grandfather who is the leading authority about grandparenthood today, it covers more than fifty topics, including such contemporary issues as long-distance grandparenting, relationships with the grandchildren’s parents, divorce – of parents and of grandparents, stepgrandparents, legal issues around grandparent visitation rights, and gay and lesbian grandparents.

Despite the huge minute by minute changes in technology these days, Dr. Kornhaber covered most of the basics of becoming computer-literate -- to be able to email, take and send digital photos, and play computer games. And recognizing that no book can stay up-to-date in the fast evolving world of cyberspace, the author refers readers to several websites to find current information. (Even though SUPER GRANNY was as current as possible at the time of writing, I too send readers to websites to stay current.)

One website dear to Dr. Kornhaber’s heart is, which takes you to the Foundation for Grandparenting, which he founded more than thirty years ago, to promote the importance of grandparenting. It explores ways that elders can apply their wisdom and experience to help their own children and grandchildren, as well as the wider community. The foundation conducts and reports on research about the grandparent-parent-grandchild bond and its far-reaching effects. It also sponsors such national and international programs as grandparenting conferences, grandparent-grandchild summer camps, hospital programs for expectant grandparents, and Grandparent Days in schools.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Certain events and times of the year – school concerts, soccer games, piano recitals, and of course, the holidays – are the hardest for us grandmothers who would love to be near our grandchildren. We’ve learned by this stage of life that we can’t always get what we want. Fortunately there is email, and even if we can’t hug our grandchildren in person we can communicate and stay close through cyberspace. I love the email correspondence that I have with my own grandchildren, but I have to say that they all started sending messages quite a bit later than four-year-old Henry, who lives with his little sister, Molly, and his parents in Chicago. Henry and Molly have two faraway grandmothers, one in New York and the other even farther away in Auckland, New Zealand. Fortunately they love to get on the computer and send messages to each other. And sometimes deciphering the messages is part of the fun.

One recent email from Henry to Susan (the NZ granny) read: “hi susan im in belinhim henry.” Susan wrote back “Can you tell me something more about belinhim?” and got this reply: “no susan because just are friends house henry.” Susan explained the mystery: “It was really quite simple when Lizzie [Henry’s mother] explained it. They had driven to a nearby town called Bellingham and stayed the night with friends.”

After Susan sent recipes to Henry (who likes to cook), he wrote back: “hi susan here is a recipe for you okay 50 cups honey 12 cups eggs 1 cup eggs 49 tablespoons carrots.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? The sweetest part, of course, is the connection between Susan and Henry, and Susan’s ability to follow Henry’s developing thought processes and personality.

And a recent email to Fran (the NY granny) read: “hi mommy and meema [Fran] and emma and susan and emily when are you going to come over except my mom because that one is in my family-henry,” followed by “12345678910) (11) 1213141516171819) (20) 212223242526272829) (30) 3132) 33343536373839) 40 414243444546474849) (50) + 50 = 100 –henry.” It shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that both Henry’s parents are mathematicians.

But now Henry’s latest email to Fran (“MEMMA DO YOU KNOW THIS SONG SAUZAHALECHOOASAWNASZA”) makes me wonder if he’s a musician as well as a math whiz. Do any of you readers know this song??? It’s a mystery to Fran – and to me.

Happy Emailing – and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The last thing in the world any grandmother wants to give for Christmas is a toy that could harm a child. But some toys contain dangerous chemicals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and PVC. When the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization based in Michigan tested more than 1500 popular children's toys, they found that one in three of the toys they tested had either medium or high levels of chemicals "of concern."

So the organization Moms Rising ( put information on its database giving the chemical test results for many safe toys. To find out whether the toy you have in mind is safe, go to, and type in the name of the toy. Or if you're already in the store, search the database from your cell phone. Text "healthytoys[name of toy you're interested in], and send your message to 41411. The information about the toy will pop up – unless, like me, you have previously asked your mobile phone provider to block “Premium Messaging,” because I had been receiving spam texts. To be sure, it’s best to check the website before you leave home, to see that we grand-helpers to Santa will be sure that whatever toys we give the kids this year will be safe and healthy – and hopefully, something that they will love to play with!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Keeping up with her American counterparts in newsworthiness, Kenyan Sarah Obama, the President-elect’s stepgrandmother, “flagged” the 2008 World AIDS Marathon on December 1 in Kisumu, Kenya. By holding up the Kenyan flag and then waving it down, she officially launched the 26.2-mile race. Mama Sarah also cut the ribbon at the ceremony for the new park which the Kisumu World AIDS Marathon Group donated from funds received from last year’s marathon.

The third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Mama Sarah is not a blood relative of the President-Elect, but he calls her "Granny Sarah." Since she speaks Luo and only a few words of English, she communicates with her eminent grandson through an interpreter. Like any other granny, she is a fierce defender of her grandchild, and during his campaign she protested attempts to portray Barack as a foreigner or a Muslim, saying that while her husband, Obama's grandfather, had been a Muslim, "In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents."

At 86 Mama Sarah is still going strong, tending her own small farm and raising chickens. Mama Sarah was happy to leave her village, Kogelo, to go to Kisumu to take part in the marathon, saying, “I feel greatly privileged to be invited because my grandson is very concerned about the ravages of HIV.” One reason that the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation and its fellow sponsors have held the World Aids Marathon in Kenya for the past few years is that, aside from arguably being the unofficial world capital of running, Kenya is one of only two African countries that reduced the rate of new HIV cases between 2003 and 2005.

Besides sponsoring the marathon, the foundation raises awareness about AIDS and offers many kinds of help, including giving medicine to and hosting dinners for AIDS orphans; providing meals, lodging, and entry fees for Kenyans unable to afford the marathon entry fee; funding orphanages, AIDS and cancer research, and help to people living with HIV. As Foundation president Richard Brodsky says, “We offer the orphans a window of hope.”

I met Richard at a local 5-kilometer run here on Long Island, read his moving book about his own life as a person living with HIV, and am greatly impressed by the efforts he has made to help vanquish this deadly epidemic. For more information about his foundation’s work and the World Aids Marathon and to donate, go to

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Yes, Virginia, there are ways to have a good time with your grandchildren without spending their inheritance before the end of the year. In addition to the suggestions I made in my last post, you can find a host of new, original, inexpensive activities that can bring the kind of closeness we all want with our grandkids.

One terrific resource is the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. This national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents, and individuals who care about children is devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children, and has just produced the free, downloadable "CCFC Guide to Commercial-free Holidays."

Download it by going to: Here you’ll find such great ideas as:
• taking a grandchild to a grocery store to buy fixings for a complete holiday meal and then taking those fixings to a local food bank
• giving a toddler one of your old purses and filling it with comb, old wallet, fake jewelry, change purse with loose change, band-aids, and other items like the ones she’d find in your purse
• making little coupons that are good for, say, a day’s shopping with you (sure to be popular with teenage girls, and not too pricey if you set limits ahead of time), or a movie and lunch, a hike, a trip to see holiday decorations, or some other shared activity
• making your own play-dough and giving plastic knives and other small inexpensive implements to use with it.
• And more, enough to keep you busy all season long.

Monday, December 1, 2008


This holiday season many grandparents are saddened by the fact that they can’t give the same lavish presents to the same number of grandchildren that they have given in years past. In flusher times some might have shelled out for a Wii to play games with their grandchildren or a camcorder to visit with them across the miles (both of which I write about in SUPER GRANNY). But in today’s economy more will be inspired by the gift-giving practice of another granny I interviewed for the book – taking her grandkids to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store and telling them to pick out “anything you want.”

You can show your love for your grandchildren in loads of ways without running up a huge credit card bill and buying into the high-priced “commercial clutter” advertised on TV. The best gift, of course, is your time. The things you do together are the memories that your grandchildren are most likely to cherish in years to come. You can take them on simple trips to local museums, performances, or skating rinks. You can do crafts activities together and then leave the finished products with the child. You can bake cookies together – just because it seems like a stereotyped “granny” activity doesn’t mean it isn’t fun even for modern grands and kids. Especially if you bake a grandchild's favorite kind and decorate them with pizazz.

And for long-distance grandmothers, there are other ways to show you care. You can send an addition to a collection – a special stamp, a postcard, newly minted state quarters. You can send seeds or bulbs, with the promise of working on them together the next time you visit. You can send funny cards or emails, tell jokes and riddles over the phone, and for the little ones, record yourself reading a book and send the cassette or CD along with a copy of the book. Many of the classic children’s books are available in low-priced paperback versions.

And always remember: We don’t stop playing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop playing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It's a familiar refrain to many of us grannies who take care of our grandchildren from time to time -- or even most of the time. "Careful! Do it this way! Are you sure you'll be all right? Here's the [3-page, single-spaced] list of what to do. Mom!" And so on and so on.

Have they forgotten that we've raised at least one child to adulthood? Do they think that just because we became grandmothers we've lost every drop of smarts? Do they think we're hopelessly mired in the past and that we can't cope with today's children? That we don't read newspapers and learn new tricks of the child-caring trade? Plenty of times the answer is an emphatic YES.

Grandparenting workshops make the same assumption when they tell us how to put babies to sleep (on the back, not the tummy), how to strap them into car seats (very securely -- duh!), what temperature to make the bath water (not too hot, not too cold -- just right). Even academics have voiced the concern that older relatives like us are too incompetent to take care of kids. As one put it: "Recent growth in the number of grandparents providing childcare has some observers concerned they don't adhere to modern safety practices."

And yet -- and yet – these same academics have now told us that we do a great job! Children are safest when Granny watches them. Yes, safer than daycare, safer than other relatives, even safer than Mommy. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed more than 5500 newborns in 15 U.S. cities until the children were 30 to 33 months old. They kept track of who took care of the children and of all the doctor and emergency room visits for causes ranging from "cut face," to "drank paint thinner," to "fall from shopping cart." Scary stuff -- especially since injury is the leading cause of childhood deaths in the U.S. After adding up all the data, grandmothers came out way ahead: children cared for by a granny have half the risk of injury than kids in those other situations.

Check it out. The article is in the November issue of "Pediatrics," the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author of the study is Professor David Bishai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. of Johns Hopkins, and you can access a summary of the study findings at:

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Another grandmother in the next First Family is now in the news. When the Obamas move to Washington in January, they’ll be taking Michelle Obama’s mother with them. Marian Robinson, 71, described as “the most important addition to the new White House team,” has taken care of Malia, ten, and Sasha, seven, while their parents campaigned, and she’ll continue to give grandmotherly care after President-elect Obama takes office. This will be the first time in living memory that three generations of a new presidential family will have moved together to the capital.

Like other caregiving grannies, Mrs. Robinson has been driving the girls to school, gymnastics, ballet and soccer practice; and supervising their homework. She has also prepared many meals, which sometimes have consisted of fried chicken, cooked by her own recipe. One of the casualties of her sudden ascension to the limelight is the secrecy of her recipe. Journalists have pried loose some of her closely held secrets, including using crumbled Ritz crackers in the batter, bathing the chicken pieces in ice water before frying to make it crispier, adding salt literally, and using “lots of oil.” Now, I wonder whether the Presidential chef will be able to make it as well, or will Granny have to go into the White House kitchen herself?

And although Grandma mostly pays attention to their mom’s strictures, she doesn’t always limit the girls to only one hour of TV a day or make sure they go to bed by 8:30. She has said, “I have candy, they stay up late – come to my house, they watch TV as long as they want to, we’ll play games until the wee hours. I do everything that grandmothers do that they’re not supposed to.” There is something about granny privilege.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


He called her “Toot” – short for “Tutu,” the Hawaiian word for grandmother. He often acknowledged Madelyn Dunham as the woman who helped to raise him in Hawaii while his single mother worked abroad. “Toot’s” last acknowledgment of him before her death this month at 88 was the absentee ballot she mailed in to add her vote to the millions that elected her grandson to become the 44th President of the United States. She died before the election, but she probably knew in her heart that he would prevail.

When Barack Obama heard how very ill his beloved grandmother was, he interrupted his presidential campaign to go to her side. Another, lesser man might have said, “The campaign has only a few more days to go – I’ll wait and go to see her then. She’ll understand.” But in a sign of smart and compassionate decision making, he knew that the time to go was now, he flew to her side, and he was able to see her one last time.

Like many other grandparents raising grandchildren, Madelyn Dunham exerted an important influence on the young Barack. He has acknowledged her as having had an impact that “was meaningful and enduring.” According to the blog “Hawaii Insider,” a relationship like theirs is described by the Hawaiian word “‘ohana,” which means “family,” and comes from “‘oha,” which means the offshoot of the taro root, the staple food of Hawaii. Family, then, is a place to feed each other and to be fed. As one Hawaiian proverb has it, “Ike aku, ‘ike mai, kokua aku, kokua mai; pela iho la ka nohana ‘ohana,” or “Recognize others, be recognized, help others, be helped; such is a family relationship.” I couldn’t think of a better explanation for the meaning of family.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


When my friend and colleague Ruth Duskin Feldman of Highland Park, Illinois took two small grandsons and one granddaughter to “Moms and Tots” classes starting some nineteen years ago, she was the only grandmother in the class. At the time she didn’t realize what a trend-setter she was. This year, after finding nine out of ten children in one class accompanied by their grandmothers, the owner of one children’s gym on Long Island (New York) renamed its “Mommy and Me” classes “Anyone and Me.” Who are the “anyones”? Mostly grandmothers.

Grandma Ruth took over the care of Daniel, and then his younger brother, Emmett, two days a week so that her daughter, Laurie, could work part-time. From the time each of the boys was six months old, Ruth regularly picked them up and brought them to her home, an arrangement that worked out well for everyone. Mom and Dad went to work with an easy mind, knowing their children were being well cared for; Grandma built a close relationship with the children, while not sacrificing her own writing career; the children had loving, caring family around them all the time; and Grandpa got quality grandkid time too.

Even after Laurie’s daughter, Rita, was born and Laurie was home full-time, Ruth picked up the children at least one day a week and took them to classes. (When Ruth’s other five grandchildren were infants, they all lived too far away for Ruth to share parenting in the same way.)

Ruth expressed the value of shared parenting in an article she wrote for New Choices Magazine: “I’m not Daniel’s mother, but I am a partner in guiding his development. Because I’m his grandmother, what I do with him goes beyond babysitting – beyond keeping him fed, dry and out of danger. I wonder how many babysitters are willing to shop for just the right toy or seek out neighborhood playmates and compare notes with their parents. Daniel and I are not merely passing time together a few times a week: we’re building a relationship that’s important for both of us.”

This super granny says, “Grandparent care is an old idea whose time has come again.” She agrees with the observation by Amy Goyer, national coordinator for the AARP Grandparent Program, that as more grandparents these days assume this role, “they are becoming guiding forces in their grandchildren’s lives.”

Grandparents who care for grandchildren either part- or full-time can find a wealth of resources, including the Foundation for Grandparenting,, and Generations United, Also, you can find more help by searching the Internet for “grandparents raising grandchildren.”

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Minimum Wage for Grandparents

Whenever I’m visiting another city, or another country, I pick up a local newspaper to see what’s on people’s minds there. Last month when Mark and I were in Greece with our daughter and grandson, I found an English edition of Kathimerini, published in Athens.

The October 4-5 issue ran a little story that gladdened my heart, headlined “Bulgarian government to pay pensioners to babysit grandchildren as of January 1.” The story went on to relate how, starting January 2009, pensioners (retired people) will be paid the minimum wage for looking after their grandchildren when they take over child care when the parents return to work.

The Bulgarian Parliament just passed this amendment to the country’s Employment Encouragement law “to help young parents better combine their professional and family engagements.” The amendment allows grandparents to look after a child during its first three years in return for a 240-leva (123 euros, or 156 dollars at current exchange rates) bonus to their pensions, which equals Bulgaria’s minimum wage.

In 2006, in an effort to raise the country’s falling birth rate, Bulgaria introduced measures allowing parents to take 315 days’ leave, the longest in Europe, while continuing to earn 90 percent of their salaries. Wouldn’t both these laws be a godsend here for parents and grandparents!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Traveling with a Grandchild

I have traveled several times with my grandchildren, ranging in age from 10 months through 19 years, most of the time with the children’s mothers as well. Last month my husband, Mark, and I traveled with Stefan, our firstborn grandchild, now 25 years old – and yes, also with his mother, our daughter, Jenny.

This latest trip was quite different from the others, consisting, as it did, of four adults traveling together. Although Mark and I had made the basic plans for our week’s trip to Greece – where we would go and where we would stay, once we were traveling our decisions were joint ones among the four of us. We all had a say in where to eat, what to do, which sights to visit, and how to get to them. And it was a delight to see how much Stefan’s presence added to our enjoyment of the trip. For one thing, we appreciated his strong young muscles as he helped us wrestle our suitcase up and down stairs, on and off the Metro, and into and out of tiny old-fashioned hotel elevators. But probably his biggest asset was his winning personality. He made a lovely new friend at a museum in Athens who was good company as she spent the evening with us. Then he found us the perfect guide to take us around the Greek island of Naxos for an unusual tour of the natural world on this lovely island. And throughout the week whenever we needed to make a telephone call for information, Stefan handled the job.

Another contribution from Stefan was a game he brought with him, which livened conversation around tables and on bus and ferry trips. Called "Black Stories," this German-language game has cards that posit a situation and give a few facts about it -- and then everyone except the person who has read the back of the card guesses what could have led to the outcome. I have looked for this game in English but haven't been successful. If anyone knows about anything similar, I'd love to hear about it.

Years before, we had been thrilled the first times each of our daughters outgrew the constant need to be cared for and supervised, and showed us how much they could contribute to our lives. Now it’s exciting to see the same kind of development and giving back occurring with our grandchildren.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When Grandchildren Help Plan a Trip

Since several of the super grannies I interviewed for my book SUPER GRANNY (due out in March and now in page proofs) told me about trips they had taken with their grandchildren, I was delighted to talk with Heather Larson as she was researching her article on involving children in planning a trip.

I was especially happy to tell Heather the story about Dee Poujade of Oregon, whose seven-year-old granddaughter, Michaela, did so much of the planning for their glorious week in London. Some of the other ideas in Heather’s article involved going to a place where a child has written a school report, involving children in your own hobbies, and capitalizing on their interest in favorite books.

To read Heather’s lively article, which was posted earlier this month on the really helpful site,, go to:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The gift of being a grandmother

Earlier this month I came across a beautiful paean to grandmothering. It was posted on the online site of Mothering Magazine and written by author and grandmother Angela Rossmanith. To access the entire article, go to: Meanwhile, though, here’s a little taste of a discovery that so many grandparents can relate to:
“I loved my children, and of course I still do and always will, but this love I have for my grandchild is a source of enormous wonder to me. From the moment I saw her, very new and tiny, this little girl has revealed to me a fresh dimension of life, a deepening and broadening of perspective. She has been a great and gracious gift.”
Then Rossmanith goes on to tell several lyrical stories about the gifts that grandmothers give to their grandchildren. Reading them makes me realize that some of the memories our grandchildren have of us are not the ones we would have thought made an impression, but here as in so much else in life we can’t predict what becomes important to someone else.
I plan to ask my grandchildren about some of their memories of me. I’m very curious to find out what they say. Fortunately, I’m still around to keep making memories. In my next posting I’ll talk about some of the most recent memories that I hope will stay with the grandchildren.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Celebrating Birthdays

This is a big birthday month in our family. Last week I had a big birthday and was thrilled to be celebrating it with my family, at least the ones who live in the United States. Mark and I went out for dinner with daughters Nancy and Dorri, granddaughters Anna and Nina, Dorri’s boyfriend, Steve, my dear cherished friend of many years, Mickey, and her daughter, Rifka (whom I first met when she was 18 months old and my oldest was 12 months). I loved the poems that Anna and Nina wrote for me and the photo montage of family and friends that Dorri created. It was a casual get-together where we went to a little restaurant, ordered loads of hors d’oeuvres and light entrees and passed everything around the table, so we all had tastes of everything. And I got to talk a little bit with everyone – good tastes there too. Which is how I like to live life – enjoying little tastes of lots of experiences.

Now next week Mark and I will be celebrating with our daughter Jenny, who’s having a big birthday herself, and this time we’ll be enjoying eating experiences (along with other experiences -- but eating certainly is a big part of most celebrations!) with Jenny and her three children. Aside from family meals and a special dinner out, by tradition in the little town where she lives (and maybe throughout Germany), birthdays are celebrated with kaffeetrinken – wonderful home baked cakes and coffee in the mid- to late- afternoon, enjoyed with family and close friends. Maybe we’ll even eat the brownies I baked after special requests from Maika and Lisa (no nuts) and Jenny (yes, nuts). So I made both kinds, and again we’ll have choices – and tastes.

It’s hard to live so far away from children and grandchildren, especially around special occasions, but we’re very lucky that we can stay in touch in so many ways – free or cheap ways to phone, along with email, of course, and even an occasional postcard or letter – which usually takes only two or three days to travel between New York and Germany. My birthday card from grandson Stefan came in the form of a note in a bottle – only the bottle was designed to carry postage and to be mailed – a little more reliable than dropping the bottle in the Atlantic. Of course, we’re even luckier that we can make occasional visits there and that they can come here – not as often as we all would like, but precious when they do occur.

So I won’t be writing in these pages for a few weeks, and meanwhile I send good wishes and happy celebrating to all grannies and grandkids – and to the generation in between.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Women Need to Vote

I am very excited about a recent family development. My eldest granddaughter, Maika, has just registered to vote in her first presidential election. I remember the first presidential election I voted in, in 1956 – my candidate didn’t win, but that didn’t discourage me from future voting – and I haven’t missed an election yet.

My mother was a witness to history. In 1920, the first year that women in the United States were allowed to vote, she was 20 years old and too young to cast a ballot, but she still told me that she celebrated that day. She knew how much other women had worked and dared and had suffered for that right for more than 70 years.

On November 15, 1917, which became known as the “Night of Terror, the warden at the Occoquan workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they had dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. Forty prison guards went on a rampage, using their clubs to beat the 33 women wrongly convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic. (All the convictions were eventually overturned.) Lucy Burns was chained by her hands to the cell bars above her head, left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. Dora Lewis was knocked unconscious. When Alice Cosu, her cellmate, thought Dora was dead, she suffered a heart attack.

Their food was full of worms, which often floated to the surface of the thin soup they were given; their only water came from an open pail. The open toilets could be flushed only by a guard, who decided when to flush. When Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat, and poured liquids into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this three times a day for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press, and newspapers around the country reported what was happening. All the suffragists were released on November 27 and 28, 1917. Alice served five weeks.

Two grannies, a friend and a cousin, sent me an email with photos of these women. I appreciated the reminder. This story and more are told on the Women in History website,, and in the HBO movie, now out on DVD, “Iron Jawed Angels.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I plan to. After learning all of this, can any of us, and our daughters and granddaughters, fail to exercise our hard-won right to vote??? And to vote responsibly -- not because a candidate is good-looking or a woman or can tell a good story -- but because we honestly believe that this person will govern responsibly and well on the vitally important issues of the day.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


One of the joys of writing this book(“Super Granny”) in this technological age is the number of super grannies I have connected with, some of whom have been so helpful to me. One granny whose blog I admired gave me practical help in setting up my own blog. Another gave me a recipe that my granddaughter loved making – and that we all enjoyed eating. And another helped to put me in touch with a woman I had known and admired years ago but had fallen out of touch with.

And now I had the chance to connect two of the grannies I interviewed for Super Granny. I was interviewed myself last week about how grandparents can involve their grandchildren in planning a trip. I immediately told the interviewer about Dee (whose story I tell in the book), who used some great ways to involve seven-year-old Michaela in planning their trip to London. When I then contacted Dee to tell her I had given her name to the interviewer, she told me she was now thinking about taking Michaela on an intergenerational Elderhostel trip, maybe to Costa Rica. I immediately thought of another interviewee, Shirley Bee, who had told me about taking her granddaughter, Kelsie Lee, on an Elderhostel trip to Costa Rica, and how much both generations enjoyed it. (Kelsie Lee told me so herself.) So I put Dee and Shirley Bee in touch with each other, Dee was able to ask questions, and Shirley Bee able to answer them and to share her enthusiasm for the trip.

It’s a whole new world for us grannies!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The magic of modern technology

In case you're wondering who the people are in the photo on the rock -- there's my husband, Mark; my three daughters, Nancy, Jenny, and Dorri; and my five grandchildren, Stefan, Maika, Anna, Lisa, and Nina. And of course, granddog Buddy. All the grandchildren are always in my heart, but on this particular day last month, only four of them were with me in the flesh.

However, since Stefan wasn't there in person, he was there in my heart. And so I asked my daughter, Dorri, a whiz with PhotoShop, to make the picture complete. And so even though he was thousands of miles away at the time, here he is. Just shows that we can't accept photos as evidence of true events any more. I thought of this when I saw the photo published by the National Enquirer supposedly of Senator John Edwards holding a baby on his lap. Was he really doing this? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes the camera does lie.

To go to the days before technology, it's nice to note where Stefan was when this photo was taken. He had gone to a temporary job found through his university, by which he worked part-time in Tuscany, Italy, for room and board. Fortunately, he was able to go to Florence when he finished his assignment, where he met my friend, Vinicia Russo Masi, who drove him around to show him the sights in this glorious city. Vinicia and I became friends over 50 years ago when we were students and would meet weekly, Vinicia to practice her English and I to practice my Italian. We stayed in touch, dropped out of touch, were brought together again when Dorri went to Italy, once again stayed close through the mail, and have been able to see each other occasionally in recent years. This is the first time she has met any of my grandchildren. It was a thrill to me to bring them together. Vinicia and I usually communicate the old-fashioned way, by mail and telephone. Happily, there's still a place for that in modern lives.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Volksmarching with grandchildren

First of all, I have to tell everyone that if you tried to access my blog over the weekend and couldn't do it -- it wasn't MY fault or YOUR fault -- it was Blogger's. They had some computer glitches that knocked out a number of blogs, claiming they were "spam" blogs. Now here I am, a nice peaceful granny, accused of being a spammer! Fortunately, Blogger resolved the problem and restored my good name.

Today I received a note from Dena Nisenfeld Forster, a fellow alumna from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, and also a fellow grandmother. She sent some wonderful information about a great activity to do with your grandkids. I'm copying her note here with hopes that some of you will be inspired to take up volksmarching (a word derived from the German term for "people's walking").

>>My husband Stan and I have been actively involved with the American Volkssport Association for seventeen years. Volksmarching is for the most part a planned 5 kilometer (3.1 miles) or 10 km (6.2 miles) walk. Local clubs all over the world organize these walks and advertise them, giving the level of difficulty, the type of terrain, location, dates and times the walks are offered and other pertinent information. There are approximately 400 clubs in the United States hosting these walks. Many special programs have been developed in conjunction with the walks such as walking all fifty states (which my husband and I have done), walking all state capitals (which we have also done), walking all of the counties in a particular state (Maryland is ours.), and programs such as walking in all of the original colonies.

>>When we became active in the organization, we began to involve our children and grandchildren. At first we and/or their parents would walk pushing the kids in strollers. Later the grandkids would proudly walk the 6.2 miles on their own two feet. Our five oldest grandchildren walked with us in each of the original thirteen colonies. This feat not only exercised their bodies, but their minds as well. Each of them now knows with a certainty the names of the original colonies. In addition, as we motored with them from place to place we would teach them the names of all fifty states and their capitals. They were very proud at our oldest son's 40th birthday party to quiz the adults on the colonies and state capitals and show that they knew this information, especially when an adult did not.

>>Thanksgiving weekends are especially memorable for them because a Pennsylvania volksmarch club hosted walks in Hershey, Pennsylvania every year. The walks would begin on Friday afternoon and continue through Sunday noon. There were specific times during which one could walk, i.e. 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday afternoon, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sunday. For many years we traveled as a family, our three children, their spouses and our grandchildren, and spent Friday night and Saturday in Hershey walking and the kids' enjoying the park and, of course, the chocolate.

>>These walks are remembered with enthusiasm and fondness by every one of the grandchildren--we have nine. It is also gratifying that when their parents ask who they would like to invite on a trip that will include hiking, our names immediately surface as the only grandparents able to do so.

Anyone interested in this activity should refer to the very informative website <>

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reading and the Internet

I have been away from these pages this last month because I was so busy being a grandmother that I didn't have time to write about grandmothering. Our middle daughter, Jenny, who lives in Germany, was visiting here with her two daughters, and the time flew by. We honored two family traditions -- took a house on the New Jersey shore with them, plus our eldest daughter, Nancy, and her two daughters for a week; took the whole gang plus our youngest daughter, Dorri, with boyfriend and dog, for a few days to a friend's house in the country; and then enjoyed a little bit of what there is to enjoy in New York City and here in Port Washington.

In between the various activities and events, one of the granddaughters' favorite pastimes was reading. Lisa and Maika, who both read German and English, alternated between books in one language or the other. Anna read a fantasy novel ("I don't know what I would do if I couldn't read," she told me), and Nina laughed over Katie Davis's new chapter book. Nancy and Jenny were reading "Water for Elephants," one with a library copy, one with a battered paperback. And all of this gladdened me, as a former English major. (Maybe being an English major alters the DNA of your children?)

So I didn't personally identify with the issues raised in an article in yesterday's New York Times, about a falling off of reading for fun among today's young people. Still, while bemoaning the loss of this time-honored and valuable ability, it was interesting to realize the different skills sharpened by surfing the Net and how these skills may actually complement their reading. So far reading books seems to lead to higher reading achievement than reading on the Internet, but this may change. As the article says, "Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book."

In any case, the article emphasizes one more major way in which our grandchildren's lives are not only different from our lives, but different from their parents' too. You can access the article at I'll be interested in other opinions about this societal shift.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When Grandparents Get Sick

Two days ago I had a really upsetting experience. As I left a memorial service for a friend, which was held at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan, I was just outside the hospital when I saw two children, about 10 and 11, with an elderly man who looked as if he was about to keel over – he was lurching sideways. As I stopped to help, the younger child, a boy, asked me if I had a phone. I took out the phone with one hand and gave it to him. Meanwhile I reached out and held up the man to keep him from falling. The girl dialed a number but it didn’t go through. Neither of the children seemed to speak good English, and the man wasn’t speaking at all.

With the help of another passerby and an attendant we got the man, who turned out to be the children's grandfather, into a wheelchair, and the attendants said they would take him to the Emergency Room. The three had been visiting the grandmother, a patient in the hospital, and when they came out the grandfather got sick. The hospital attendant who eventually came over thought that he had had a stroke, which seemed likely. The man behind the desk spoke Spanish and was able to communicate with the children and to tell them they could go up to tell the grandmother what was happening. I offered to go up with them – I hated just leaving them there, but they waved me off and went on their way. I tried telling the grandfather where the children were going, but he didn’t seem to understand me, so I asked the wheelchair attendant to tell him in Spanish, which he did. It wasn’t clear whether he understood him either or whether the stroke, or whatever was happening with him, left him unable to grasp what was happening. I felt really bad for this family, wondering how the children would get home, who would be there to take care of them, and how they would deal with the trauma of seeing their grandfather get so sick while he was supposed to be taking care of them.

Then I thought about the implications for all of us who take care of our grandchildren. Although when we do this we're usually healthy and don't anticipate a problem like this, trouble can come from nowhere. I have been trying to figure out what we can do to be sure that if we are suddenly taken ill or are injured, our grandchildren will be cared for. One thing is that we should always have a phone with us at these times, and for children who are old enough to use one, we should teach him or her how to call for help. One precaution is to have 911 programmed into our phones at the top of the list. But what else? I would welcome any suggestions from other grandparents.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Super Granny in the Computer Age

So -- my frustrating tale of woe. On June 17 I posted here. On June 18 I had a computer guru come to fix various glitches on my computer. On June 19 when I went to log into this blog the guru's email address was on the sign-in spot and I was unable to sign in. I entered my own email address -- and still was unable to sign in. Many tries, doing all sorts of things, including going to blogger help, which didn't help. So here I am logging in on my husband's computer. It's a big help to have a backup computer in the house!!! Right now I'm waiting to hear from my computer guru, about to try some other machinations to try to sign in, and about to surrender this screen to my roommate. So if you don't hear from me for a few days you'll know why. And I think I'm so computer-savvy! Not. If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear from you at This includes the powers-that-be at

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Katie Davis's books

One of my greatest joys as a grandmother has been to introduce my grandchildren to the joys of reading. I have given them books as gifts from the time they could barely hold board books in their hands or enjoy the tactile fun of "Pat the Bunny." I have developed a little Oma's Library at my house by buying books that I knew I would enjoy reading over and over and over to them, and never get bored. These reading-together times are special moments I have shared with all the grandchildren.

And one of my deep pleasures as a friend has been to see my friends' children growing up to do wonderful things -- like writing books. I first met my friend Sue in a New York City playground with our two-year-olds, my Jenny and her Katie. After Sue's family, and then ours, moved away from New York we didn't see much of each other for many years, until we both moved back to the New York area. My next connection with Katie came when she wrote and illustrated the wonderful picture book "Who Hops?" Of course I had to buy it for the grandchildren. We read it over and over again. Even before the grandkids could read they were able to memorize its hypnotic rhythms and enjoy its vivid colors. And I could keep enjoying the jokes that may have gone over the children's heads.

Then I discovered another book of Katie's, which became another family favorite. "I Hate to Go to Bed" so exactly mirrors the feelings of little people who are convinced that if they go to bed while others are awake, they'll be missing all kinds of wonderful events. Again, a hypnotic refrain and marvelous pictures.

And "Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job" gave us lots of laughs and lots of good conversations about teeth, and when Nina lost her tooth last week, who else but Mabel came and visited with tooth money and even signed her name.

There were more delightful books. But now my grandchildren are growing up. They want to read to me -- or by themselves. And just in time, Katie has written a wonderful "chapter book" for 9-to-14's about a sixth grader with problems with math, her best friend, the death of her father, and her mom's new boyfriend. Thanks, Katie, for bringing "The Curse of Addy McMahon" into Lisa's and Nina's lives.

Next time Lisa (12) and Nina (8) come to visit, one of our activities will be going to Katie's wonderful website: We'll all have fun.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just Granny and Me

I have a hard time understanding those grandmothers who say "I don't babysit." Don't they know how much more fun it is being with a grandchild when the parents aren't around? After all, when you have her all to yourself (most of my grandchildren are "hers"), you're the one she comes to with her interesting questions (like "How does the tooth fairy know where to find me when I'm at your house?"); you're the one she snuggles up to when she wants to read -- or have you read -- a favorite book; you're the one she shows off her special tricks in the swimming pool to; you're the one she beats at Checkers (thanks to the two "imaginary" checkers her day camp counselor told her she could play with); you're The One. As much as I love my grandchildren's mothers (my daughters) and want to spend time with them, there's a special joy in the times when you're a twosome, just Grandchild and You.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grandmothers and breastfeeding

I have fallen behind in my Super Granny posting because I have been wearing my other hat, as the author of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING, which I am now revising for its fourth edition. The first edition, for which I consulted with New York pediatrician Marvin S. Eiger,M.D., was published in 1972, the third edition came out in 1999, and I'm thrilled that the book has become a classic in the field and has sold about two million copies (!). I'm now revising again, in consultation with a wonderful young Connecticut pediatrician, Laura M. Marks, M.D.

I'm finding the revision process still interesting, since I'm dealing with some new topics that I hadn't written about before or that I'm expanding in this edition. One is the role of the grandmother. When I was nursing my first baby, 51 years ago in 1957! and didn't know anyone else who was doing this, my mother was my staunchest supporter even though she had not had much luck nursing her own children. But sometimes women who have not nursed themselves don't understand what it's like for a breastfeeding mom. I recently read about one grandmother whose feelings were deeply hurt because she had apparently broken the bank to equip a nursery in her home with crib, baby bathtub, the works, and was hurt when her daughters-in-law gave her “excuses” for not letting their 2-month-old and 5-month-old breastfed babies spend the night at Grandma’s.

Some of the comments to a Q & A that appeared in the local newspaper that this grandma wrote into were so hostile to this grandmother, accusing her of meddling, controlling, you-name-it. But I saw a woman who wanted to be involved with her grandchildren and felt shut out -- and just didn't understand what life is like for a nursing mom and baby. A similar letter from another grandmother (another mother-in-law) appeared on the Huffington Post just last week, May 22, and received a wonderful reply from psychologist Mona Ackerman. You can access this at It's a really understanding response that empathizes with the grandmother's feelings -- and still emphasizes the fact that every mother is entitled to discover the joys of parenting on her own. Or as I am putting it in the draft of my new edition: "Bite your tongue when you disagree with such parenting issues as bed-sharing, feeding on demand, and the like. You had your turn bringing up babies; now your job is to support, not to question."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Healthy Grannies

Yes, many of us are on the job -- and weathering the storm! A new study of 13,000 grandparents between the ages of 50 and 80 found that 29 percent of the grandmothers and 22 percent of grandfathers provided at least 50 hours of care per year for grandkids who don't live with them. And they're faring well. Apparently grandchildren agree with us. This study debunked earlier findings that had showed that the health of grandmothers who cared for their grandchildren was a casualty of the arrangement.

Only a small percentage of grandparents (fewer than 3 percent) give primary care, that is, they're taking care of children whose parents are not in the home. And for these grands, health often has declined when they were just starting to take care of grandkids. This could be because usually when grandparents take over the parenting role, it's unexpected and often for a stressful reason. So the adjustment takes a toll -- but even these arrangements don't bring lasting negative results for health. Once grandmothers continue skipped-generation care, they get healthier again. So overall, the news is good.

And for the majority of us, whose care for our grandkids consists of babysitting -- aside from those viruses that the kids bring home starting in preschool, we stay healthy. Must be all those smiles from the little guys and even the bigger ones!

The study, by Waite, LaPierre, and Luo, appeared in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Science.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Not THAT Super Granny

So I thought that since my publisher and I finally agreed on the title for my book to be published early in 2009 (SUPER GRANNY: COOL PROJECTS, ACTIVITIES, AND OTHER GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS), I should rename the URL for my blog to Super Granny. Couldn't figure out how to do that. Okay, I thought, I'll create a new blog by that name. Couldn't do that either because is already taken. And then came my adventures in cyberspace. had one post and one comment, both in a language totally unfamiliar to me. Nothing was posted after August 2005. and both led me to a site advertising a "home business opportunity." Both sites are now inactive.

(N) led me to the site of a granny in Sweden who has a "cattery," from which she sells Himalayan cats. is a site that sells an energy drink.

And then there are loads of Super Granny video games, which sound like lots of fun.

And so I conclude my latest trekking in cyberspace by deciding to keep, and hope my friends will continue to find me here.

And speaking of cyberspace, those of us with tech-savvy children and grandchildren are truly lucky. My grandson found me what might be a good notebook computer on eBay, my granddaughter showed me how to set up a PowerPoint presentation, and my daughter the web designer ( fixed the photo on this page so that my face is back to its normal proportions instead of being widened as if I were looking in a funhouse mirror!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Granny's Cinnamon Buns

Granny's cinnamon buns

When I took Nina for lunch at the American Girl Cafe in New York, she especially enjoyed the cinnamon buns they served with the meal. So I promised her that the next time she visited me we would make our own. Which we did, following my mother’s (Nina’s great-grandmother’s) recipe, which my daughter, Dorri Olds (Nina's aunt), wrote up for the delightful book AT GRANDMOTHER'S TABLE: WOMEN WRITE ABOUT FOOD, LIFE, AND THE ENDURING BOND BETWEEN GRANDMOTHERS AND GRANDDAUGHTERS. Edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley, the book is published by Fairview Press and is now out in paperback.

Here's the recipe for Granny's Cinnamon Buns:


3 cups flour
scant ½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 envelope (1 Tblsp) dry active yeast, dissolved in 2 Tblsps warm (not hot) water with ½ tsp sugar. Yeast should bubble up in 5 mins, showing that it is active.
¼ pound + 4 Tblsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup milk, scalded
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup mashed potatoes (fresh or instant)
3 Tblsp brown sugar and/or maple syrup
24 walnut or pecan halves
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins

1)Combine flour, ½ cup sugar & salt. Mix in yeast water and set aside.
2)Melt ¼ lb. butter in the scalded milk. Add to the flour, then add eggs & mashed potatoes.
3)Mix well, stirring, until mixture comes away from the bowl. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).
4)Butter muffin pans generously. Pour a little brown sugar or maple syrup (Granny used both) into the bottom of each muffin cup. Then put in an upside-down walnut half.
5)Roll out half the dough on a lightly floured board. Spread 2 Tblsp soft butter over the dough. Then spread 1 Tblsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, & ¼ cup raisins over the dough.
6)Roll the dough up tight & slice it into one-inch thick pieces. Repeat this process for the other half of the dough.
7)Place the one-inch thick pieces in the muffin cups, set them on top of the stove (with the oven turned on the lowest temperature you can make it), and cover them with a towel. Let the dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
8)Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
9)Bake buns for 25 to 30 minutes. Take the pans out of the oven & let them stand for 1 to 2 minutes before turning them out onto brown paper.
10)This recipe makes 24 delicious cinnamon buns.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New title, same Oma Sally!

I have just changed the title of my blog, to reflect the title of my book, SUPER GRANNY: COOL PROJECTS, ACTIVITIES, AND OTHER GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS, which will be published by Sterling Publishing Company early in 2009. It will still be a communication from me about grandmothers and grandchildren, and I still eagerly welcome any and all messages from other modern grannies and grandkids.

This reminds me of a sign I saw a few years ago in a grocery store that had just computerized its operations. The sign read: PLEASE BE PATIENT. NEW COMPUTERS, SAME OLD LADIES.

Looking forward to hearing from young, old, and inbetween,

Oma Sally

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

grandmother names

As I have been interviewing grandmothers for my book, SUPER GRANNY, I have loved hearing all the different names that their grandchildren call them by. There’s Granny, of course, and Grandma, and Nana. And then a host of others.

I am Oma to all my grandchildren. This started because Jennifer, the mother of Stefan, my first grandchild, was married to a German man, and Oma is the German name for Grandma. There’s also Grossmutter – but that’s a bit more formal. When Stefan and his sisters visit us here in the U.S., I am just Oma. But when we visit them in Germany, I am Oma Sally, to distinguish me from Oma Mitzi, their other grandmother. When our two U.S.-based grandchildren came along, it seemed easier for all of them to call me by the same name. I don’t know how my mother remembered who she was to all her grandchildren! My children called her Granny, my brother Buddy’s children (who had lived in Italy) called her Nonna, and my brother Carl’s children called her Bubby, the Yiddish word for grandmother. They called my grandmother, who was their great-grandmother, Bubby-Bubby. She had always been Grandmom to me.

Some grandmother names reflect a child’s first learning to talk – like Bam and Gamma and GamGam. Pally reflects one grandmother’s habitual greeting, “Hey, Pal!” There’s Ammamma (Indian), Savta (Israeli), Meema (I think this means Mom in Hebrew), and Babu (Nepali). Some grandmothers go by their first names, easy for little ones to say and special to the grandchildren, not the grown children, who still say “Mom.”

I’d love to hear more grandmother names!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Say it in email

For those of us who have not studied a foreign language in lo these many years, there's a really easy one to learn: Emoticon! "Emoticons" are little pictures that your email program may come with, allowing you to express an emotion without words. Or, as my 11-year-old granddaughter, Lisa, taught me, you can make some yourself just by striking the right keys on your computer.

Here are some emoticons that Lisa sent to me:

:-) Smile
:-( Frown
;-) Wink
:-P Tongue-out (Lisa’s favorite)
:-D Laughing
:-[ Embarrassed
:-\ Undecided
=-O Surprise
:-* Kiss
>:o Yell
8-) Cool (Lisa’s other favorite)
:-! Foot-in-Mouth
O:-) Innocent
:'( Cry
:-X Lips-are-Sealed

So -- enjoy! :-)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hot Granny!

My wonderful Hollywood-writer niece, Gina Wendkos, sent me Mel Walsh's great little book, "Hot Granny: Fabulous at 50, 60, and Beyond!" It's full of telling-it-like-it-is and how-to-make-it-better for those of us who have reached a certain age, and it's very funny, as in : "You can look like a horse, walk like a chicken, have wrinkles like the side fissures of the Grand Canyon, and still be a Hot Granny." And speaking of grannies, she says "any older woman who helps the youngest generation turn out right is a very Hot Granny indeed" even if you don't have any grandchildren yourself.

I like her advice when you have a "bone to pick": deliver an "insult sandwich," which is a compliment followed by a layer of criticism and finished off with a top layer of compliment. I once suggested that editors could make their authors fall in love with them forever if they offered their criticism like that. Works with most others also.

And I like her rules for visiting and hosting grandchildren. The list for the first starts out "This is not your house, and these are not your rules." And when they visit you: "Deal with any stale smells. Kids remember how the houses of grandparents smell."

Gina's present to me turned out to be a present for her too, since I pointed out that Hot Granny's movie recommendations to watch with grandkids include both Gina's "Princess Diary" flicks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Walking the High Beam

When we made plans to visit the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey with our daughter, Nancy, and her two daughters, I never expected to be walking along a steel girder 18 feet in the air as part of the "Skyscraper!" exhibit. Nina, age 7, didn't quite make the height guidelines' minimum of four feet tall. (Maximum height is 6'8" and maximum weight 300 pounds -- not a problem for any of us.) But the rest of us did, and with the encouragement and inspiration of Anna, 15, Opa (i.e., Grandpa) and I lined up along with her, got strapped into our safety harnesses (just like the kind real construction workers wear), and walked the narrow beam. Even though I knew we couldn't fall because of the harness and the rope we were holding, it was a little scary looking down and realizing we were walking along a very narrow walkway, very high up.

When I expressed some hesitation to Anna, she said, "Well, you went bungy jumping!" And so we did, a year ago in Queenstown, New Zealand, the bungy capital of the world. But that moment of terror just lasted a couple of seconds at the jumping-off moment, until I was caught by the bungy cord. This time it lasted for the several minutes it took to walk the beam, get the rope unstuck from the corners, and finally find solid ground again. Anna scooted right along on the beam -- I was glad she went first, so even though I was slower, with a more measured walk, I knew I could do it -- and knew I had to, for my granddaughters' sake!

It was an educational experience, too, since much about the exhibit gave some fascinating facts -- like the fact that Mohawk Indians still are among the largest ethnic group of workers who labor high above New York and other big, skyscraper-rich cities. It was educational for the museum workers too. One of the young men who helped us harness up said, "I like to see older couples like you do this -- gives me hope for my future!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

soap carving for grandchildren

After my husband told me of his long-ago memories of his mother sitting by his bed and helping him to make carvings out of soap when he was sick as a child, I thought, "What a great activity to do with my grandchildren!" And they wouldn't even have to be sick! So I packed a couple of enormous bath-size cakes of Ivory Soap in my suitcase (wondering what airport security guards would make of them), along with directions I found on the Internet, and soon after my arrival at my granddaughters' home, sat down with two of them to proceed to carve.

It certainly seemed much easier on paper than it did on the actual soap! One of us (not me) had done it before, and managed to produce a beautiful little bunny rabbit, but for the other two of us there was much frustration. Somehow the knife would either not cut out enough to make the desired shape, or would cut too much so that we lost first one rabbit's ear and then the other, and finally gave up, ending with a snowy hill of soap shavings, which my frugal daughter plans to reshape into usable soap. The good news, though, was that nobody drew blood -- as a loving grandmother how would I have explained that?

I felt a little better about the less-than-100%-successful activity when I read a hilarious online article by former elementary school art teacher Linda Godfrey called "Whatever Happened to Soap Carving?" in which she writes of this popular school activity in the 1950s: "How many children sacrificed fingers on the altar of Soap Sculpture will never be known, but it's a safe bet the company making Band-aids raked in as many bucks as the soap manufacturers." And I can attest to her observation that "soap is not really that easy to carve... and most finished 'sculptures' end up about one inch in diameter and resembling a lakebed pebble." Too true! You can read the article for yourself at and consider it a challenge to prove her wrong.