December 6, 2013


Our great/grandchildren
Here are some quick thoughts about the upcoming holidays. In this spirit we present these ideas……
  • Family is the most important part of the holiday season!
  • Gifts and material things are for the moment, but caring is lasting.
  • Children are often the focus of our giving, but caring for ourselves, our children, our family and friends is the best gift we can give. 
  • Be aware of your energy, money and stamina and spread them out through the holidays so that you have some of each left.
  • Cook ahead of time and freeze.
  • Don’t shop when you are tired: this helps cut down on impulse buying.
  • Shop by phone, internet or catalog or make your own gifts at home.
  • Discuss the original meaning of the holiday with your great/grandchildren.
  • Let your great/grandchildren know what your values are so that their expectations are real.
  • Gift giving can be a bottomless pit.  Make a list and then cut that in half.
  • Emphasize the importance of people and not things.
  • Don’t equate material gifts with love.
  • Check your tree, lights and wiring
  • Practice extra precaution when cooking or making crafts
  • Understand that holidays are a stressful time because of the many unusual demands, especially if you are away from your family or if you have large family gatherings.
  • Eat properly and rest – the temptation is to eat fast foods and snacks.
  • Treat yourself well and your children will be well.  Accidents happen more easily when you are tired or frustrated.
  • Don’t try to be a super great/grandparent.  If you do half of what you planned, you’re probably doing too much.

  • If gifts are inappropriate, your great/grandchildren may get frustrated and you may get angry because h/she does not meet your expectations.
  • A rule of thumb is:  The younger the child, the bigger the toy parts
  • “Educational” toys may be “un-educational” if they are not enjoyable.
  • Buy and make things that can be used in various, imaginative ways 
  • Buy and make safe and sturdy toys
Have a very healthy, safe, fun and peaceful holiday!
Until next year, 

Laurie & June


November 14, 2013


This year, we’ve come up with a “giving” idea we want to share.  This involves our four great/grandchildren, ages 8 and 7 year old brothers, and 6 year old boy/girl twins.

In addition to the regular Thanksgiving holiday hoopla, we’re adding a new way for the children to think about the world around them, without judging how they view it.   We feel it is important for children to be aware of the needs of others and begin to see how they can help. 

Each child will be given a personalized box with $25.00, made up of $5.00 bills.  They will become the owners and bankers of their own “trust account”.  Along with the box, they will be given a balance sheet type form to fill out, and written material that explains the needs of many different groups (charities).   
Since they are all quite computer savvy, they will be encouraged to look for charities that are of interest to them.  It will be their job to decide: if they want to give some or all of their money to these or other charities of their choice, or if they want to keep it to buy something for themselves or save it for another occasion. The only requirement is that they keep track of their expenditures on the enclosed form.  They will also be told that this “trust account” will be replenished every year at Thanksgiving.  Their parents will have to help by sending the actual contribution, as the kids don’t have checkbooks or credit cards, yet.

The most important part of this “giving” is: the parents are asked in advance and approve of this, and that NO JUDGEMENT or SHAME be attached if the child decides to keep the money for themselves.  Although this idea implies giving to others, sometimes the child can feel a "personal need”, and we should acknowledge and accept it.

So, watch out: United Way, United Jewish Welfare, Catholic and Christian Charities, ASPCA, ACLU, etc., etc., etc….we are building your future donor and board member list. 

July 15, 2013


We’ve been astounded by the trial and verdict in the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman case.  We’ve been watching, listening and reading.  We suspect that many of you, your children and great-grandchildren have also been following or exposed to this case.  The children are probably sensing our outrage and discomfort, and are not sure how to process this all.

We don’t have the answers, but have found a couple of VERY POWERFUL responses that we want to share.  We would love to know how you, your friends, your children, are discussing this with the children in their lives. 

There are NO easy ways to tell children that racial bias and profiling still exist in this country.  What happened to “liberty and justice for all”?

June & Laurie


A year and a half ago I was one of the over two million people who signed a petition posted by two parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. "Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin" it read. Through my tears, I signed that petition and shared it with everyone I knew.

The very idea that an unarmed black teenager who was watching the NBA All Star Game with his family could decide to run over to the local 7-11 and be murdered on the way home by a neighborhood watch captain—and that the person who shot him, George Zimmerman, would not be arrested - enraged me.  After hearing the 911 call,  I was astounded that Zimmerman had the nerve to claim self defense and that the police went along with it and let Zimmerman go free.

Did not the black teenager have the liberty to walk where he saw fit without being accosted by a threatening stranger? Didn't that black teenager deserve the same justice that would surely have been served if he'd been a white 17-year-old carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea?

As damning as it was for it to take 44 days for Zimmerman to be arrested, there was a part of my heart that wasn't completely surprised. When you grow up black in America, you've been to this rodeo before.

Maybe you know about the Red Summer of 1919. Perhaps you heard Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" playing on your grandmother's record player or heard your mother speaking in sorrowful, hushed tones about Emmett Till, about the Little Rock Nine, the Birmingham church bombings--about all the stories of the civil rights movement. Or maybe you came home one night and saw a video of Rodney King being beaten on your evening news. You might've seen Los Angeles burn after the police officers who broke King's body with their nightsticks walked free. Maybe you lived in New York City when Amadou Diallo was murdered, or perhaps you frequented the Fruitvale Station where Oscar Grant was shot by a transit cop.

You know the local stories that never make the national news. Those are shared when your aunties come over, when you're at church, and when you're at the barber shop or beauty shop, getting your hair done. You see yourself in those stories. You see people you know in those stories. You see your own children in those stories.

I've seen my black male relatives and friends followed around stores, denied jobs, and told apartments are already rented when they're not. I've seen them have to learn the nuances of what to do when they're approached by law enforcement. I've been in the car with them when they get pulled over and questioned for having expired city stickers or license plates, which are not actually expired. Tail lights which are supposedly out when the cops pull you over but then they magically work after they've run your ID.

This past year in sixth grade, my 12-year-old was pegged as the scary black aggressor after he punched a white kid. The kid was always getting in trouble for misbehaving, had a history of harassing my son, calling him racial names and swearing at him, and then made the mistake of pulling my son's shorts down in gym class, which pushed my son over the edge. I sat in a school counselor's office boiling as the white child cried that my son had been intimidating him and that he was scared of him, and oh, my son pulled down this kid's shorts first. The white child's version of what happened was being given credence until I threatened to go to the LAPD and file a hate crime and sexual harassment complaint against the other kid.

"I am Trayvon Martin" isn't just a slogan on a t-shirt for us.

My son, Mr. O, is nearly 5' 2" and this summer I've had to tell him, I don't care if you're going to get bored shopping with me or if you feel better having Superman in your pocket, you can NOT take an action figure you already own into Target because it will probably be assumed that you shoplifted it.

Liberty and justice for all? Liberty and justice becomes at least you get to have an action figure at all. Like every other black person I know, I have no choice but to accept the reality of living in an America that has a dehumanized vision of blackness as part of its foundation. I do myself and my sons a disservice if I refuse to admit that this country is good at facilitating inequality which creates policies, laws, and cultural practices that lead to the subjugation, incarceration, and murder of black males.

I don't have to like the way things are. I can fight against the "system" and work to change it--I tell my sons that the reason they are getting an education is that they can learn to solve the problems in our society, so they're equipped to dismantle this system and replace it with true justice and equality. I tell them that they have to be unwavering advocates for racial unity, the people who are friends with people from all backgrounds--and I'm talking true friendships, not just casual acquaintances. But they also have to learn to function in a society that is sick with racism at its spiritual core, because the alternative is to lose your mind when the racism slaps you in the face with a not guilty verdict.

A dear friend asked me earlier today, "How do you talk to your boys about the verdict?" and yet another wondered, "What conversations can we have with our children about this?"

My son's were out watching Superman with their dad and with friends of theirs when the verdict came in. I texted my husband so he could tell them the verdict on the way home. They'd watched some of the trial with me, and we've had countless conversations about racism in America and what happened to Trayvon Martin.

When you're an adult, an unidentified adult male stalking you in the dark is scary. When you're a kid, it's absolutely terrifying. My sons knew that the adult, Zimmerman, was the aggressor from the very beginning, and so they had an unshakeable conviction that Zimmerman would be found guilty. My sons were easily able to put themselves in Trayvon's shoes.  A jury of six women, who have probably been followed by a scary, stalkerish man at some point in their lives, was not.

As my 12-year-old walked in the house over an hour after the verdict had been read, I hugged him tight, and he whispered to me, "I'm so sorry for Trayvon, mom." I broke down sobbing on his shoulder because as much as I have tried to give him a childhood full of innocence, he has never had the luxury of innocence about race.

No, I don't shield these horrific incidences from my sons because they can't afford to think about the systematic impact of racism only when it's national news. Sure, some of us are busy patting ourselves on the back for electing a black President—in much the same way that some folks must've claimed America's race problem was "fixed" after Mississippi elected its first black Senator in 1870.  But in your post-racial America, part of the ritual of them learning to survive as a black male in America is getting real clear that but for the grace of God, you might be shot by someone like George Zimmerman. My sons have to understand what can happen to them because of other people seeing the world through their "black people are scary" glasses.

Indeed, Zimmerman told the police dispatcher, "These assholes always get away." I can burn all of my sons' hoodies, tell them to dress like they just walked out of an LL Bean catalog, and tell them to only play Vampire Weekend on their iPods, but in Zimmerman's world, and for too many other Americans, my sons are "those assholes" no matter what they do, and it's all because of the color of their skin.

I couldn't sleep last night and my sons couldn't sleep either. "Did that court really let that guy who killed Trayvon go free?" asked my 9-year-old several times. "Yep, it did," I replied. He seemed more shocked, and more deflated, every time I told him yes.

At 1:30 AM, my 12-year-old came out to where I was sitting on the couch and sat on my lap. "Why can't you sleep?" I asked him. "I don't know. Just bothered, I guess," he replied. He's big but I held him and rocked him like he was a little baby till he began to doze off. 

Yes, it makes me feel insane to have to have that conversation about action figures. It makes me feel insane that we've had the "should you run or stand up for yourself in this situation?" conversation. It makes me feel insane to have to explain that when the police are following you, keep your hands out of your pockets and don't dig around in your backpack. It makes me feel insane that I have to tell him the same things my parents told me--you will have to work twice as hard as your white peers because you will always be perceived as a problem, as lazy, as inarticulate, as not the right fit for our organizational culture. And now you need to be afraid of the average person, too. 

But nothing I feel right now can come close to what I know Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin must be feeling, and I know they need more than our collective anger. And so last night through my tears, I signed another petition. This one came from the NAACP asking the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman.Sign it, but know that there is more to be done. Sixteen months after Trayvon Martin was murdered, the man who shot him is out on the street again with his gun. There is more to be done. 

by Liz Dwyer

                                                         Trayvon Martin Verdict Illustrates Need to Speak Out About Racial Bias        

By Richard Cohen, President - The following  statement was issued by Richard Cohen, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, following the verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman:  
"They always get away." These were the words George Zimmerman uttered as he followed and later shot Trayvon Martin -- words that reflected his belief that Trayvon was one of "them," the kind of person about to get away with something.  How ironic these words sound now in light of the jury verdict acquitting Zimmerman. 

Trayvon is dead, and Zimmerman is free.  Who was the one who got away? Can we respect the jury verdict and still conclude that Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon?  I think so, even if we buy Zimmerman's story that Trayvon attacked him at some point.  After all, who was responsible for initiating the tragic chain of events?  Who was following whom?  Who was carrying a gun?  Who ignored the police urging that he stay in his car?  Who thought that the other was one of "them," someone about to get a away with something?

The jury has spoken, and we can respect its conclusion that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  But we cannot fail to speak out about the tragedy that occurred in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012.

Was race at the heart of it?  Ask yourself this question:  If Zimmerman had seen a white youth walking in the rain that evening, would he have seen him as one of "them," someone about to get away with something?  
We'll never really know, of course.  But we can seriously doubt it without assuming that Zimmerman is a racist in the conventional sense of the word.
Racial bias reverberates in our society like the primordial Big Bang.  Jesse Jackson made the point in a dramatic way when he acknowledged that he feels a sense of relief when the footsteps he hears behind him in the dead of night turn out to belong to white feet.  Social scientists who study our hidden biases make the same point in a more sober way with statistics that demonstrate that we are more likely to associate black people with negative words and imagery than we are white people. It's an association that devalues the humanity of black people, particularly black youth like Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman probably saw race the night of February 26, 2012,  just like so many of us probably would have. Had he not, Trayvon probably would be alive today.

The jury has spoken.  Now, we must speak out against the racial bias that still infects our society and distorts our perception of the world.  And we must do something about it.

May 31, 2013


Way back in the day, before wi-fi, tablets and smart phones, kids spent most of their free time playing outdoors, collecting worms, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, batman, princess, baseball, etc. It is a whole new world now. Kids still do these things, but now there’s the added dimension of electronic devices to fill their spare time. In fact, it is said, that if you want help with your computer, go ask a 9 year old.

As the digital age is upon us, it requires that we respectfully learn from the children: not only how to operate these devices, but (respectfully) understand that these digital gadgets are very important in their daily lives. It is also important for the great-grandchildren to respectfully teach us how to use the devices the way they use them, so that we’re all on the same page. Now is the time that they can be our teachers.

When we care for our great-grandchildren, we find ways to keep the children occupied, but also often need some time for ourselves, just to re-group. We plan age appropriate activities based on the number of children in our care (one is very different than more than one).When the child are busy playing and satisfied, it can seem like Nirvana. But, when they get bored and in the case of more than one, start to argue, other plans are needed. How many times do we reach for the smart phone or the tablet so they can play Angry Birds, turn on the TV, etc. just so that we can catch our breath?

Should we feel guilty about this? We don’t think so, after all, life is about moderation. So, as in life, boundaries need to be set and followed, and supervision is imperative.

We often see adults using digital devices to pacify children while waiting for service at a restaurant, in line for a movie, or just sitting at the park. While we sympathize with using a digital device to keep the children occupied, there may be other ways to engage children while they wait: books, crayons, hangman, tic-tac-toe, hidden word search, etc.

In Order to Make Life Easier, Plan Ahead- At Home and Away

• Have some age appropriate programs saved on your TV for the children to watch. Monitor the amount of time in front of the TV. If it’s a long movie, break it up into smaller time increments.

• Be prepared to watch TV with your great-grandchild, especially if they are young.

• Ask the parents to suggest 4-5 computer games that they allow their children to use. Also ask them to suggest 4-5 “game apps” that they feel are ok, and not violent.

• Negotiate with the children, the amount of time they should be able to use these devices in your home and your car. Remember this is your space, and you are the final decision maker for these rules. The allotted time can be spaced out over the afternoon, the weekend or the time the children will be with you.

• If you leave the house, have a “survival kit” ready to go, with crayons, paper, books to read and/or to be read to, deck of cards (for “go fish”, “crazy eights”, “war”, etc.) or other things that will keep the children occupied.

• Brush up on “rock, paper, scissors”, tic-tac-toe, and other children’s games.

• Keep age appropriate books, magazines, maps, binoculars, a compass and other fun things in your car for travel time.

Enjoy your time with your great-grandchildren, prepare ahead and make time for yourself. And when you need to, get out that handy-dandy Smartphone.

April 7, 2013


Spring has finally sprung, in most of the country. Now is a great time to share some “growing fun” with your great-grandchildren.

Children are always fascinated with watching how one thing can turn into something else. Here are a few spring growing ideas, which you can do indoors and or outdoors with your family. And if you grow enough, perhaps there’s a healthy meal or two at the end of the experience.***

The most basic way to watch plants grow is to get a few dried: lima beans, black beans, pinto beans, etc. Use a large mouthed, shallow (not too deep or tall) clear glass jar (jam, small mayonnaise jar, baby food, etc.). Have a bag of small cotton balls or paper towels handy. With your great-grandchild, choose 2 or 3 beans for each jar. Roll the paper towel or bunch up the cotton balls. Wet them and stuff tightly into the jar. Wedge the bean seeds between the side of the jar and the paper. Then add enough water to cover the bottom of the jar, and viola, you have an instant bean garden. Children can watch the water being absorbed, the root system develop and finally leaves being produced. You can also document the growth with a camera/phone, tape measure, or a stick, and keep track of how long it takes.

Be sure to keep the cotton/paper damp, and the jar in a sunny window. After it has grown too large for the jar, you can transfer the bean plant to a pot with soil, and put it outside with adequate sun and water.
If you’re a long distance great-grandparent, you can share this simple activity. Mail dried beans with written instructions enclosed, to your great-grandchildren. Engage the help of the parents to replicate this project, and then share the steady growth via photos. You both can commit to taking photos, each day, at approximately the same time, and either post them online, or email them to each other.

Vegetables such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for outdoor container gardens. Depending onthe amount of space available, the size of the containers, and what your family enjoys eating, you can make some choices on what to plant. Containers can be made of: terra cotta, pressed fiber, plastic, galvanized steel, wood, etc., or something that you’ve made yourself with your grandchildren. Many decorative ceramic pots are pretty, but have no drainage holes, and the holes are necessary for success. You’ll also need a container that is at least 12” deep, and at least 12” wide. Basically, the bigger the container, and the more room you give the plants, the better the outcome.

Those of you who more purist gardeners may want to start from seed, but others, may buy small plants from the local nursery, or you can do both. Either way, you need a good potting soil, preferably one for veggies.

Start with: 1 or 2 cherry tomato plants, some small lettuces, and some basil and chives in a large container (about 30” diameter). They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements. By late summer they might not be very pretty, but they'll keep producing into the fall. In another container of about the same size, plant a row of carrot seeds and radish seeds. Follow the directions on the seed packages, and water as needed. Be sure all containers get enough sunlight, drainage and water. You should be able to start picking some of the lettuces and basil soon, and eventually the rest will be on your table.
Watching nature at work, is very fulfilling, just as it is to watch your great-grandchildren develop and mature. Enjoy the spring weather, the planting and the yummy salad.

*** Just an FYI.  We are IDEA people, NOT master gardeners, so if you need more helpful information, please check with your local nursery, bookstore or online.

February 24, 2013


young boys,fotolia,happy,tshirts,smiling,thumbs up,confidentWhile we often don’t know how OUR children handle conflicts with their children, when we’re with our great-grandchildren, challenges require the delicate art of finding the middle ground. Everyone has a different ways of finding solutions to contentious issues. As the adults, it is important to remember that we are always in charge of the children’s safety, however, in many situations there is some room for negotiation. Life would certainly be a bit less stressful and more peaceful if we all learned to give up something in order to get something else.

In order to accomplish this, adults and children must: Listen to each other and respect what the other is saying. Often, disagreements about what time to go to bed, what to wear, what outing to go on, etc. can turn into loud yelling matches, where nothing positive gets accomplished, and the aftermath can leave everyone with bad feelings.

There are some things that absolutely CANNOT be debated or challenged: car safety, behavior in public places, going to school, etc. (You can make your own list).

Children need to feel that they have some options over their actions and lives. By giving them choices they may feel that they are “respected” and have some control.

For example:
Sarah wants to choose what to wear to the family gathering. You suggest two warm outfits with matching leggings. She says, “NO, Mom always let’s me choose what I want to wear and I want to wear the sundress”. You might explain that she’ll be cold without the leggings. She’s insistent on her choices. You respect the parent’s guidelines, but tell her that if she chooses to wear what she wants, she must wear a warm jacket or sweater.
You are being responsible and respectful.

Here’s another example of a mutually agreeable outcome to a common problem.
Anthony has come for a sleep-over at your house. You know that his normal bedtime is 8:30pm. It’s after dinner, and he starts asking if he can stay up late and watch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” which will keep him up past his bedtime. You suggest that he watch it in the morning, but he’s not buying that. So you ask him to think about another way of solving the problem. He says, “Can I watch half tonight and half tomorrow?”
This is the perfect compromise – it’s not breaking any family rules and is showing that you respect his suggestion.

We realize that things aren’t always this easy, but it does illustrate ways to make our lives easier. We can not go through life always having our way. We can enhance our lives by negotiating with those we love. Negotiation and compromise doesn’t mean losing the battle: It means that constructive bargaining replaces yelling, temper tantrums and not resolving the issue. When children are allowed to negotiate, sometimes they will make choices that work, and other times they will learn from their mistakes. This is called growing up.