A Costco experience

My granddaughter Cameron and did the Costco experience yesterday. I call it an “experience” because we both were captivated by the sights and sounds of this warehouse store.

How could you not be? Within seconds of walking in, row after row of enormous TVs with amazing pictures caught our eye. Then we walked by a cooler full of NY strip steaks for $7.99 per pound. It was hard to ignore the giant fans slowly turning on the ceiling. Until we rounded the corner and saw the Christmas trees! We were both mesmerized by the 10 foot lighted trees that alternated from white to colored lights. Until we saw the baby Jesus in the middle of a giant nativity smack dab in the center of Costco.

I lost count of how many times I said, “Whoa!” as we rounded a corner and saw yet another bigger than life offering:

  • Like a bin containing hundreds of pumpkins, all bigger than my granddaughter.
  • Containers of cheese balls larger than my granddaughter.
  • A display of roses in every color of the rainbow.
  • A package of refills for an Oral-B electric toothbrush that would last me the rest of my life.
  • Trays of pomegranets, which reminded me of my trip to Israel, where mountains of pomegranets were everywhere. There were much more expensive, though, far away from their home.
  • Bags and bags and bags of chips made from all kinds of root veggies, everything but potatoes. We got a couple for Gigi! But we passed on the tub of Beetroot powder, which may be good for you, but will never find a place in our shopping cart!
  • And people. So many people. We got there at 10 am when the store opened. Fifteen minutes later, the store was packed. At least half a dozen people came up to Cameron and commented on how cute she was. And she ate it up. She is a people- and a Costco- person!

What a great box!

When I arrived at my daughter’s house the other day to watch her boys for a few hours, there was a box at the front door that must have just been delivered. I brought it inside with me and there were puzzled looks because no one remembered ordering anything. Inside was some swag my son-in-law had won at work, a nice perk. Plus – a nice box.

As soon as he unpacked the content of the box, one of my grandsons climbed in and curled up. He almost fit in the box! He then turned it over and hid underneath the box, as if he were some kind of turtle. Then both boys climbed in the box and rocked around like they were in a boat of some sort. It was as if someone had flipped the creativity switch in their little minds and turned an ordinary, reused box into the toy of the year!

And then I had a flashback. Suddenly it was 1990, I was living in Connecticut, and I was taping together all kinds of larges cardboard boxes to form a fort or spaceship or castle for my two older children when they were of preschool age. We fashioned doors from the ends, cut windows in the sides, colored pictures and furniture inside and created a playscape that entertained them for days. I don’t know if they remember that time, but in my mind it’s like yesterday.

Why is it that the container is more fun than the contents? This is a profound question for parents and grandparents who invest a lot in toys for our kids and grandkids. Is it because of the creative possibilities? A single box can be any number of different vehicles, structures or projectiles. Is it because you can go for broke? In other words, if you destroy the boxes, who cares? It was destined for recycling anyway! Is it because they are bigger than you and you can get in them? You can step into an alternate reality if you’ve got a box to play in!

The best box we ever had delivered to our house was about 5 ft. x 4 ft. x 2 ft. It was filled with packing peanuts and…wait for it…a tuba. My son was going to music school, needed a decent tuba and we bought one from the Baltimore Brass Works. They delivered the instrument to our home and dropped it off in front of the garage. I don’t remember what we did with that box or all those packing peanuts. But I’d like to buy another tuba just to take delivery and see the look on my grandchildren’s faces when they see that box and imagine the possibilities!

A dream come true? The Crayola Experience

It’s cold. It’s a little rainy. We need something indoors to do with our grandchildren. My daughter-in-law suggests, “You could go to the Crayola Experience in Plano.” Really? I think I was more excited than anyone.

It’s only twenty minutes away. We got our tickets online at a discount. Loaded up the van and we were off. Pretty easy to find. Whoa – when we stepped out of the van we remembered just how cold it was, especially for us FL folks. But it was only a short walk and we were in.

If you like to color, like I still do, you are a fan of Crayola. RoseArt? No thank you. I need the real thing. I remember opening up that new pack of twenty-four at the beginning of each school year. The thrill was quickly eclipsed by the kid in class with a box of 48. But the real oohs and aahs were reserved for those who brought a box of sixty-four with the built-in sharpener.

When we walked in, we stopped at a kiosk where you could personalize a wrapper for a red, blue or green crayon. For a token, of course. Uh-oh. Tokens? Each of us got two with the price of admission. We might need to get more. We’ll see. I made a blue one for my grandson and I think my granddaughter made a red one.

No time to waste. Off to a coloring center. Here you sit at a counter and there are bins and bins of brand new crayons right there in front of you. Classic colors. Metallic colors. Pastels and browns and blues. Niche colors, like Mac-n-Cheese. It was amazing. Off to the side, you could stand in front of a camera and have a line drawing of yourself printed to color. Very cool. I made sure I scanned the pic on my phone so we could make more later.

We didn’t stay there long. There’s a spin art station. You put a crayon in a slot, the paper spins, and melted crayon makes a sunburst design. A second crayon adds an additional color. It quickly dries, we carefully take it from the spinner, and put it in our plastic bag keeper.

Just to the right was another station. A melting station, Here, you put a crayon in the melter and watched as it dripped into a mold. A blower cooled it before your eyes and just like that, you had a ring formed from a crayon. My granddaughter commented, “I never had a crayon ring before!”

I was always fascinated by melting and melted crayons. Growing up I had a high intensity desk lamp which generated more than enough heat to melt a crayon. I remember spending a lot of time creating mountains from melted crayons. I would melt the metallic colors first – gold, silver and copper. I would cover them with other colors, and then go mining for precious metals. On a sunny day, a ray of light and a magnifying glass melted deep holes into melted crayon hills.

What makes a crayon so appealing, so special, so unique? The smell, the assortment of colors, no drying time, the ease of making a shape and filling it with color. An art supply that appeals to both young and old.

Crayola has it’s own formula of a Play Doh-like substance called Model Magic. It’s a tad more elastic, but harder to separate than Play Doh. We had about an hour’s fun with that, too.

They had a show to watch, a live-video hybrid demo of how crayons are made. I was rapt. We got a free crayon on the way out, too.

On the way out, you go through the gift shop. One wall is completely covered with crayon towers in every color they produce. You can mix and match your own box, just like picking an assortment of craft beers for a six pack. You just can’t walk out without some crayons!

I would go back or to another location at the drop of a hat. What a great way to spend a morning!

A smile!

I did it. I coaxed a smile out of my youngest grandchild Daniel today. I wasn’t the first to do that, but it was the first time for me.

As I reflect on that, I think it’s pretty amazing. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think smiling is an acquired skill. While we’re born with the muscles to smile, we have to learn how to get the corners of our mouths to turn upwards. And we do! At some point our eyes begin to focus on the face in front of us, a face that is smiling at us, and we imitate them as best we can and just like that, we’re smiling!

I enjoy making people smile. Sometimes it’s easy. All I have to do is look at my youngest daughter and she not only smiles but breaks into laughter. Other folks are harder. Some who hear my sermons, which usually include at least one humorous line or story, will not crack a smile.

What is it that makes me smile? There’s the usual — a funny story, certain bodily sounds, a silly face, puppies, finishing up a task, a package at the door, a check in the mail, a clever idea that pops into my head, finding some money in a pants pocket. When someone smiles at me, it’s hard to not smile back.

me and danielAnd of course, a baby. Even before they learn to smile, they make us smile. And then they learn how to smile from us. Isn’t that amazing.

Just thinking about that makes me smile.

 

Soda explosion? No thanks.

7114275_f520I had a bonus day with my grandson Elijah yesterday. His mom wasn’t feeling well, so he spent the day and night at our house while she got some rest.

The first thing on our agenda: pick up a prescription for mom, along something for her to drink. That doesn’t sound too hard. When we arrived at CVS, we first grabbed some soda and some Gatorade, then made our way back to the pharmacy counter. Determined to be the world’s best two-and-a-half-year-old helper, Elijah insisted on carrying one of the drinks. First the Gatorade. Then the soda. Then the Gatorade. Then the soda. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

There was only one person ahead of us in line at the pickup, but they certainly weren’t in any hurry. My assistant waited with me as patiently as he could, which meant bouncing in place until it was our turn. As I spoke to the tech at the cash register, I heard a man chuckling as he sat and waited off to the side. He enjoyed watching Elijah shake the bottle of soda up and down, occasionally dropping it and chasing it across the floor before picking it up again.

Well, the prescription wasn’t even ready. So first things first. We’re definitely not taking  that soda back home to mom. Back into the cooler it goes. Is that bad? Not for me. No soda explosions on my to-do list.

The store wasn’t big enough to contain Elijah’s energy, so we touched every candy bar in from of the checkout, bought our drink, and got out of there to grab some lunch. We had a lot more fun stuffing fries into our mouths at McDonald’s than we would have had galloping through the aisles in CVS. When we were done, we opted for the drive-through prescription pickup, and we were on our way home.

Yeah, pretty much anywhere we go together is an adventure!

Toddlers, tortellini, and toys

The other night, I go to hang out with all three of my grandkids for a few hours. Their parents headed out to see the lights in St. Augustine, my wife had a meeting, and they wondered, “Can you watch them for a few hours?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Yes!” I don’t get that kind of opportunity very often.

At ages one, two, and three, they really don’t play together. For the first half-an-hour or so, each wanted to play with what another had, but eventually they settled down with their own. After a bit, time for some music. I got out my guitar to sing songs, but no one really wanted to sing with me. Instead, they wanted to run laps around the living room, chasing or running from me as I played. Then it’s time for food.

IMG_8147Tortellini (with “dip”), strawberries and green beans were a hit, everyone wanting seconds. Once supper is over, a few episodes of Paw Patrol kept them quiet for a moment as I cleaned up supper.

My wife was the first adult human to return home, amused and perhaps a bit dismayed at the number of toys strewn around the house. Cars, pretend food, zoo animals, farm animals, action figures, balls, flashlights, a doll house, trains, pretend ice cream cones, kid-friendly power tools, books, lab coats and medical equipment, dinosaurs and a pretend Keurig are all needed to keep everyone busy for a while. Yep, we used them all! (Side note: it doesn’t take three to get and leave out all the toys. One can do the job just as well!)

As a grandparent, I relish these moments not only because they are fun and fill me with joy, but because I know they are rare. As a parent, you feel like you’ve got a lot of time to spend with your kids as eighteen-plus years stretches out in front of you. But as a grandparent, you know those years will fly, so you savor those moments when you have them.