4th of July

Stashed away in Gail Martin’s boxes of memorabilia are tokens of affection from children and grandchildren and even from the great-grandchildren. This item deserved to be brought out for the holiday today.

nikki flag art

It probably was displayed on Gail and Clyde’s bookshelf in the living room for some weeks before being preserved in the folder with cards, letters, and other bits and pieces. Let’s see, this one is from 43 years ago. That little grandchild who wielded the crayons is now a nursing home administrator with almost gown-up children of her own.

Five Ways to Entertain Visiting Children

If you don’t have children in the home, then you are unlikely to have a stash of toys ready when a child visits. Here are some ways to keep a visiting child happy without investing in expensive toys and games.

  • Let Them Build Things

    Get out anything you have that lends itself to stacking. This could be the corks that you’re saving for a craft project or scraps of wood from the workbench. Children love arranging these into patterns and trying to build a tower.

    Gail Lee Martin with 2 granddaughters

    Gail Lee Martin with 2 granddaughters.

  • Make a Tent With Chairs and a Blanket

    Children love playing in hidey-holes. Let them arrange a sheet or blanket over some chairs and play inside the tent. Watch out with very young children that they don’t pull a chair over.

  • Bubble Blowing

    Get a bottle of this with the wand at the dollar store. It’s easy to store and will provide hours of fun for a child. Actually, adults enjoy these as well.
    You can also find recipes to make your own bubble blowing solution.

  • Start Them Drawing

    All you need is paper, even scrap paper, and a pencil. Colored pencils add to the fun, but aren’t absolutely necessary. Sit with the child and suggest things to draw and admire their creations.

  • Take a Nature Walk

    Make a list of things they might see on a walk in your area (mushroom, squirrel, a bug, a “y” shaped stick). As you walk along, they can search for the things on the list like a scavenger hunt. Give them a little reward for finding a certain number of things. It could be a gold star or a cookie, something simple.

    Gail Martin and granddaughters

    Gail Lee Martin with two granddaughters in their firemen hats.

 

Final Thoughts

Remember that children crave your time and attention. Don’t just park them in front of the television so the adults can talk. Spending time with you and their parents is important to the child’s development.

(post by Virginia Allain – previously published on List My Five)

How to Make a Grandmother Happy

Gail Lee Martin’s daughter, Virginia Allain wrote this article for the eHow website back in 2009.

Our lives are busy and it seems like there’s never time for Grandma or great-grandma anymore. If you want to keep your family connections strong, set aside some time for your grandmother. There are lots of ways to make your grandmother happy.

gail in pink in chair

Gail Lee Martin in her favorite spot for TV watching, newspaper clipping, and chatting.

  • Call now and then. Don’t wait just for her birthday or Mother’s Day. Just call and ask how things are. Tell her what you’ve been doing. If she’s housebound or in a nursing home, then that phone call may be the highlight of her day. She may want to talk and talk if she hasn’t had much chance lately.
  • When you call or visit, ask about the good-old-days. There are lots of things about your grandmother that you probably don’t know. Where did she meet grandpa? What was her childhood like? What was it like in the Great Depression or World War II or whatever era she lived through? Encourage her to write her memories down.
  • Ask about the family tree. If the family history is not written down, it’s important to get some names and dates before that information is lost to you. Ask her to tell you about pictures in the family album. Note down the names if the album is unlabeled. You’ll be glad later on that you did.
  • Talk about things you did together in the past and family events. It will trigger memories for her and get her talking.
  • Offer to take her places, particularly if she’s stopped driving or is in a care situation. She will enjoy a family dinner at your home or a trip to the library. Consider her interests to plan an outing that is within her physical capability. Be aware if her budget is limited and find activities that fit within a social security income or else treat her to tickets.
  • Make sure your children have time with their grandmother. Create situations where they can be together in enjoyable situations so it’s a pleasant time for all. Remember she may not have the stamina and patience to babysit over-energetic youngsters, so don’t expect that.

    Gail Lee Martin with her grandchild

    Gail with one of her grandchildren.

  • Ask her to teach you things like cooking. Ask for her advice on raising a child. You don’t necessarily have to follow it, but it’s good to know alternate ways of doing something.
  • Ask her to bake your favorite cookies or knit you some slippers if she still does those activities. It gives her an opportunity to be the giver sometimes.
  • Stop by for a visit. Ask about things that she might need help with. Does her lawn need mowing? Ask if she needs any light bulbs changed or the trash bin taken to the curb. Before the visit, give her a quick call to see if there’s anything she needs to be picked up at the store.
  • Send cards for holidays and birthdays. Everyone loves to get mail. Write letters to update her on your life and include photos.

PS – These tips will work great for a grandfather as well.

Remembering the Old Wood Stove

Guest Post by Gail’s daughter, Karen.

“I remember using these to shovel out the ashes from our wood stove. They haven’t changed at all in 60 (yikes!) years. That part of heating with a wood stove was fun. You shoveled the ashes out of a little door at the bottom.

karen's photo of ash shovel

We had a 2-story late-19th-century farmhouse. The wood stove in the living room didn’t help much with the upstairs bedrooms!

We moved there when I was 7 and lived there until we moved to town when I was in junior high. We all had electric blankets, but we only went upstairs when it was time for bed during the winter. I remember there being ice on the inside of the windows. Good times.

I remember huddling around that stove as we hastily put on our clothes in the morning. Brrr!”

That memory triggered her sister, Ginger, to add, “in the evening, we’d sit around the stove and prop our feet as close as we could to get warm. If you smelled singed leather, you were too close.”

Karen wrote, “and thanks to Mom saving papers for each of us kids, here’s a drawing I did of OUR actual stove from the Greene farm (proving early on that I wasn’t going to be an artist!) But the teacher did give me an A on it. ”

old stove

A drawing by Karen Martin showing the black wood stove similar that we had.

Sister, Cindy added her memories, “I remember the year we got the little red wagon for Christmas and thinking at the time; weren’t we all a little old for such a gift, except for Shannon. That idea sounded good, and we thought, cool! we can take turns pulling her around in it. We quickly found out what the little red wagon was for…., hauling frozen rabbit water bowl and firewood up to the house. As an adult, I understand that loading it on the wagon was a lot better than carrying a stack in my arms.”

 

Country School Memories

Memories of Attending a Country School – by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain

I attended a two-room school for three years. That sounds quaint and old-fashioned, but Kansas in the 1950s and early 1960s hadn’t yet consolidated the rural schools. West Branch School, east of El Dorado, Kansas was a square brick building with a spacious basement and on the main floor, the two classrooms.

 

west branch school from real estate listing.png

West Branch School – rural Butler County, Kansas

 

Mrs. West taught the first four grades, where my younger sisters, Cindy and Karen attended. I was in the upper grades, taught by Mrs. Mildred Waltman. While I was in 6th grade, my sister Susan was in the 7th grade, and my brother, Owen was in 8th grade, all in the same room. Mrs. Waltman taught all three grades plus the 5th graders.

Those four grades shared one good-sized room. The blackboard covered one wall with some large maps on a roller above it. Classes took turns being instructed at the sturdy table placed in front of the blackboard. The teacher divided her time four ways, switching from math to English to geography and from one grade level to another.

When it wasn’t our grade’s turn at the front of the room, we worked at our desks on assigned work. If we finished our assignment, we could always listen in on the class being taught at the table or we could choose a book to read. The bookshelves ran all across the longest wall under the windows. Being an avid reader, I’d hasten to finish my class work so I’d have time to read.

At the end of the school year reading awards were given. Gold embossed seals, each representing five books read, almost completely covered the inside of my reading certificate in its royal blue fake-velvet cover.

pencil-pixabay

It’s hard to imagine the workload for a teacher handling four grades at once, but Mrs. Waltman rose to the challenge. Each grade consisted of only two to four students, so essentially she customized the curriculum and we received individualized attention.

When West Branch students graduated from 8th grade, they took the bus into El Dorado Junior High to merge in with 400 students for 9th grade. The students from the country schools took placement tests and were assigned to math and English classes based on the results. I noticed that most of us ended up in the honors level classes.

The social adjustment of going from a small school to one so large was tough. Most of the town kids had attended grade schools together and had a two-year head start on Junior High when we arrived. The cliques and friendships formed over the years were not receptive to country kids. We felt like outsiders and I never overcame that feeling all through high school.

We missed the camaraderie of our cozy classroom and the freedom of the playground. In our country school, we knew everyone and they knew us. At recess, all ages from first grade through eighth grade played softball together or jumped rope or played running games. The school ground included a vintage merry-go-round that spun at dizzying speeds when the older boys pulled it round and round. You could sit on the splintery seat and grip the handrail or if you felt daring, you could stand on the seat and hold the upright pole. Sometimes centrifugal force took hold and your feet left the seat while you clung to the pole flying through the air.

When the weather was too bad, we could play in the basement of the school. I remember the 8th graders bringing a record player and we tried to learn the latest dances. This was just a few years before the Beatles took rock music by storm.

We rode the school bus to West Branch and brought our lunches in square metal lunch boxes. At our house fixing five lunches required an assembly line in the morning as we made sandwiches and packaged up homemade cookies. The school provided the square cartons of milk to go with our lunches. I think we had to bring “milk money” to pay for it, but I don’t remember how much it was.

Thank you, Mrs. Waltman, for making my years at a country school, ones that I remember so fondly.

(this has also been posted on the Our Echo website where people can share family stories)

Mom Called Me Ginger

Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain

 All Things Ginger

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, wanted to name me after Ginger Rogers but finally went with a more conservative name, Virginia. They had a family friend named Virginia.

Then they called me Ginger all my life anyway. It’s a fun nickname to have, but I found out it means different things to different people. When I lived in Australia, I found that Ginger was usually a nickname for a red-headed man.

When I first meet people now when they hear the name “Ginger,” they often say “I used to have a cat named Ginger.” Sometimes it’s a dog, or a horse, but it seems to be a common pet name.

Here are all the things that Ginger brings to mind. When I asked my friends, 42% said it makes them think of someone with red hair. 38% said it made them think of Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire. In the younger crowd, 19% associated it with Ginger on Gilligan’s Island television series.

Reasons to love being a GINGER

Ginger sounds perky and youthful and spicy. One lady couldn’t remember my name on our second meeting. “It’s something spicy, isn’t it? Like nutmeg.” Close, but not quite.

When I was a library director, I used my given name, Virginia, as “Ginger” just sounded more like a fan dancer than a librarian. As a writer, I use my official name also, but my friends still call me Ginger.

Ginger Is a Flower

ginger flower

Photo by Ginger Allain

Ginger Is a Popular Pet Name

Ginger is a color description for cats, meaning one with reddish-gold fur. The name is also popular as a pet name to mean energetic and peppy. On a list of popular dog names in the U.S., Ginger ranked #24. For cats, the name Ginger ranked #28 on the Australian list. People name their horses Ginger too.

There’s a Ginger Beer

It’s not alcoholic, it is more an offbeat soft drink like root beer is. Anyway, we discovered it last summer when a friend showed us how to make a Moscow Mule. It requires ginger beer, lime juice, and vodka.

You drink it in special copper cups with lots of ice.

Moscow Mule Copper Mug Low Poly Geometric Art
Moscow Mule Copper Mug Art

Even More Ginger Things

ginger tea

ginger ale

gingerbread men

gingerbread architectural details on Victorian houses

candied ginger root

ginger, the cooking spice

 

The Middle Martin Kid

Last year, our cousin in California rummaged out some vintage family photos, scanned them, and shared them with our cousin group on Facebook. What a treat it was to see some that were totally new to me.

martin kids from Lori

In trying to set a date for this photos, I started with the youngest in the photo. That’s Karen, born in mid-1952 so this might be Christmas of that year.  Clyde is holding Cindy, who’s next to the youngest.

I’m the middle kid (Ginger) and sitting in the middle of the sofa, next to mom (Gail). Older sister Susan sits between me and Dad. Owen is the oldest and brought his BB gun for the photo. I wonder if that was his Christmas present that year.

#NationalMiddleChildDay just happens to be today, August 12. The purpose of the day is to honor children born between the oldest and youngest siblings. At the time of this photo, Karen is the youngest but a few years later, Shannon came along. That relegated Karen to middle child status too.

I’m having fun noticing details like the shoes and clothing. What is the design on Susan’s sweater? Mom is wearing nice-looking high heels.

Owen, Mom, and Dad seem to be looking at the photographer. Karen, Cindy, and I are looking off in another direction. Maybe Aunt Marge is over there making faces to get us to smile. Susan has her eyes on the baby.