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Hokmemade Granola Bars Dressed in my “Gram-glam,” which consists of fitted sweatpants with pockets, a soft t-shirt worn under a flannel shirt, and sheepskin boots, I grab a homemade granola bar in one hand while carrying my granddaughter in the other. Life is grab-and-go for me these days, but with a little planning I can still eat wholesome and tasty foods.

Homemade Granola Bars
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

4. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

YIELD: 12 to 16 bars

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Ingredients in this recipe can be easily substituted. For example, I substituted ground flax seed for the wheat germ and figs for the dates, because that is what I had on hand.

2. Despite packing the granola into the pan, these bars tend to fall apart. I recommend cutting them into smaller squares. Save any crumbs to sprinkle on yogurt.

3. I like how the edges are crunchy, so next time I will bake the whole pan a little bit longer.

4. I imagine if you didn’t press the granola into a pan and baked it as is, it would make a fabulous granola cereal.

Enjoy!

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Charlotte While watching my infant granddaughter suck on her little jacket, I think about all of the fun we will share in the coming days and years. I dream of blowing giant bubbles with her, of making pies out of Play-Doh together, and of sharing favorite books. Very, very soon it will be the Charlotte and “Yin Yin” Show, as that is what it will be when I take on full days of caring for her. With much excitement and a little trepidation, I consider all that I need to have on hand and all that I need to do to prepare for her visits.

As far as equipment goes, I am well-prepared. Thanks to my thoughtful son and daughter-in-law, I have a Pack n’ Play, a space-saving highchair, a baby bathtub, a super-duper baby monitor, and an array of other helpful items. I purchased a car seat and a stroller on my own, because I wanted specific features. If you are a first-time grandparent planning to care for an infant or young grandchild in your home, here is a list of items to consider having on hand and some additional helpful information:

Equipment
I am fortunate to have been given many of these costly items. Many grandparents look for used items. There is nothing wrong with that, but before you look for second-hand items, I urge you to use caution. Because safety standards in the baby industry change constantly, you need to do some product-safety homework prior to buying or borrowing certain used items. Be smart and research current safety regulations and check out product recalls.

Crib and mattress, portable crib and mattress, or Pack n’ Play
Car seat
Stroller
Highchair of some sort
Baby carrier for hands-free movement
Baby monitor, optional
Baby bathtub, optional

Basics
Keep in mind that babies are messy little things. You’ll want to have more than one set of bedding and a couple of sets of baby’s clothing on hand.

Crib sheets, minimum of 2
Waterproof mattress pads
Waterproof multi-use pads (I use these for change pads at home and on the go)
Free and clear laundry detergent
Diapers
Wipes
Extra changes of clothes
Changing pad, optional
Baby bath towels and washcloths, optional (I like using baby wash cloths, because they are thinner and can more easily get into baby’s nooks and crannies)

Health Care, Safety, And Emergency
Safety measures have changed since my children were young. Infants now sleep on their backs in cribs with no bumpers or blankets. Syrup of Ipecac is no longer recommended for your home emergency kit.

Pediatrician’s contact information
Health insurance information
Copy of child’s health history, including allergies, immunizations, and significant health conditions
Poison Control contact number 1-800-222-1222 on or near every phone
Consent for treatment signed by parents
Digital thermometer and extra batteries for it
Baby acetaminophen and Acetaminophen Dosage Chart
Diaper rash ointment
Safety gates
Cabinet and drawer latches
Door knob covers
Outlet covers
Toilet latches
Swimming pool fence, alarm or pool cover
Corner guards
Take a CPR class that includes infant resuscitation and CPR. At the very least, watch an instructional video, such as the one below:

Feeding
Ask baby’s parents what supplies and brands you need to have on hand.

Baby bottles, nipples, and rings of the type the parents use at home
Breast milk or baby formula
Bottle brush
Infant-safe spoons, cups and bowls
For an older baby: baby food that baby’s parents recommend
Two types of bibs: some for catching food and some for absorbing drool

Entertainment
I’ve been known to entertain my granddaughter with just about anything: soda bottles, empty mylar candy bags, metal tins, and red party cups. All things can create sounds and movement. However, never leave a baby unattended with any of these things! Charlotte loves music, so I downloaded lullabies and other baby songs onto my smart phone. I can play music for her wherever we are and especially when she is in her crib trying to fall asleep.

Chunky board books
Age appropriate toys
Music
Infant stimulation cards (I downloaded these for free and printed them up)

Note: This list is a work in progress. As I learn and adjust to caring for Charlotte, I’m sure this list will grow too. And of course, the needs of each grandparent and grandchild are different. Let me know if you have any suggestions of items that should be included and please share with me your child-caring experiences with your grandchildren.

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December 12, 2014 Edition With a pretty red bow tied around its neck, a ukelele sits under my Christmas tree waiting for nimble fingers to strum it and voices to sing along with it. My husband rarely asks for anything for Christmas, but this year he wants a ukelele. He wants to be able to sing songs to our new granddaughter. On Christmas morning, wrapping paper and ribbons will be strewn all over and there will be food aplenty. More memorably, though, music, love, and laughter will fill the air.

#1 – Sing Along!
Sing Along “Singing is not about being a star or knowing how to do it well. It’s about enjoying the gift of our voices and sharing them with others,” says Tania De Jong, an Australian singer and global speaker. In her article, 10 Reasons to Make Singing Your Happiness Drug and her TEDx Talk, she presents compelling reasons why singing is good for our brains and for our happiness. She also adds, “And it’s free, because we all have a voice!”

#2 – Christmas Decorating Ideas
Stylish and Easy DIY Holiday Home Decor ideascor Candle holders made from wine glasses and snow made from salt are just two of the clever ideas found in 23 Stylish and Easy DIY Home Decor Ideas. Just more examples of creative people letting their voices be heard.

#3 – Creatively Wired
Chicken Wire Art Chicken wire is not your average art medium, but some creative people around the world use it to make incredible three-dimensional artwork. Click the link to check out amazing examples of chicken wire sculptures.

#4 – Life Lessons From Children’s Books
Life Lessons from Children's Books Don’t underestimate what kids can learn from reading children’s books, or adults for that matter. Some phrases from favorite children’s book characters continue to teach us life lessons. Interesting Life Lessons, Adults Can Learn From Children’s Books contains a nice collection of quotes to revisit.

#5 – Be Part of the Choir
“A choir is made up of many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one all go silent then all that will be left are the soloists. Don’t let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Now go and spread joy!

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A Grandmother's Oath The bundle of miracles cradled in my arms stretches and yawns. I gaze down at my granddaughter and think about this new life, this blank slate. I have a new role to uphold and to fulfill – that of a grandmother. As such, I write this oath to my dear Charlotte (and all my future grandchildren).

I promise I will:

Always, always love you unconditionally

Foster the creative spark that lives within you 

Ask you to remain true to yourself, no matter what

Nurture your individuality and not compare you to others

Live the rest of my days in such a way as to make you proud

Persuade you to be open-minded, to be fair, and to be cognizant that there are always two sides to a coin

Remind you that the quality of what’s in one’s heart far outweighs what’s in one’s wallet

Encourage you to be kind, to show gratitude, and to be respectful

Help you to understand the connection between man and earth

Share with you your family history, so you value your roots

Teach you the importance of giving back to others

 Show you the possibilities in the impossibilities

Inspire you to look for the joy in life

This I will do for you,

Your loving Yin-Yin

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Some things can never be forgotten. The Lamaze breathing techniques that I learned more than 30 years ago came out of retirement today as I led my daughter-in-law through series after series of patterned-breathing. While my son applied pressure to his wife’s back, I held up my fingers and breathed randomly-chosen breathing sequences with her. It has been a long night and day and still no baby yet. Because I am still at the hospital awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, there will be no regular Friday’s Fresh Five! today.

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Reflections on Then and Now Then and now. One moment a baby and now soon to be a father. Where do the days go? Have you noticed how precious moments string together to create days that bundle into months that lump into years that stretch into decades. That’s where the days go. They grow and they flow and they circle ’round and ’round. Quick! Grab this moment and hang onto it for as long as you can. It will be gone soon. Sure, there are more moments headed your way, but how many of these will you appreciate and cherish? All of them, I hope.

#1 – Baby Clothes
Mementos From Baby Clothes Because I’m the sentimental type, I saved some of my children’s baby clothes. Not all of them, only the special pieces that were either made or embellished for them or that bring back special memories. I gave my son some of his baby clothes as a gift at a baby shower and it will be fun to see his children wearing them. If you have baby clothes that are sentimental to you, but not in good enough condition to be passed down, you may want to read 10 Ways To Make a Memento Out of Old Baby Clothing.

#2 – A Moment to Remember
Watching 15-month-old Kayden experience the feel of rain and listening to her say “Wow!” is a cute reminder of how there can be joy in simple things and how to truly savor a moment.

#3 – 100 Happy Days
!00 Happy Days The 100 Happy Days Foundation challenges you to identify, photograph, and share something that makes you happy each day for 100 days in a row. Whether you choose to participate in the program or do it on your own, it is a great way to train yourself to look for happiness.

#4 – Catching the Wave
PWave Photography by Clark Little Surfer and photographer Clark Little photographs waves, shorebreaks, and backwashes. His work is spectacular and his philosophy, “I just went out and did what I did; did what I loved and it just kind of happened,” is what more of us should strive to do. Watch how he got started in this creative endeavour:

#5 – Moments
“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”
Ashley Montagu

“The way a book smells when you thumb through it. The way quiet winter air makes you feel like no one else exists. The smell of the woods after a thunderstorm. That split second before your chair tips back. The feeling right before you cry. The euphoria before the heartbreak. That moment when you wonder if they think of you the way you think of them. These things, I live for.”
— Katie Humphreys

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
William Feather

Go now and spread joy!

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Dads Dads come in all shapes and sizes, so here’s a Father’s Day wish I penned for all fathers that’s short on words, long in sentiment, and big in heart: Thanks for blowing air in our sails and anchoring us during storms. Thanks for dreaming the big dreams and making us believers. Thanks for loving us like no one else could and for sacrificing as only you would. Thanks for loving our mothers and respecting them, too. But mostly, thanks for just being you. On this Father’s Day, may the love and devotion you give come back to you a thousand times over. Happy Father’s Day!

#1 – My Dad
Remember watching the Donna Reed Show? Well, at the risk of revealing my age, I remember it. I also remember listening to Paul Peterson’s song My Dad. As a Father’s Day tribute, here’s a blast from the past.

#2 – Dadvice
Dadvice One of my sons is going to be a new dad this summer and I’m thrilled. I’m sure he’s going to be in need of some parenting advice at some time or another, so this is for him, as well as all new dads and dads-to-be: Dadvice is a collection of “90 tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts, try-this’s and skip-that’s, for every stage of fatherhood. It’s the most complete, most comprehensive list available anywhere. Print it. Bookmark it. Share it. Tweet it.”

Here are some examples:

Imagine being hired as a pilot with no training. “Here’s the cockpit. Good luck getting to Houston.” That’s what it’s like coming home with a newborn. And it’s like that for everyone.

Cargo shorts are a diaper bag you can wear.

Travel with an extra set of clothes. Both for you and the kid.

If you let your kid play with the iPhone, put it on “airplane mode.”

Tell your partner “thank you.” A lot. And let your children hear you say it.

#3 – Unusual Gifts For Dad
Father's Day Gift Ideas Still thinking about that special gift for dad? What about a laser pizza cutter? Or what about an espresso maker made from an actual race car engine? To see these and more, check out 13 Food & Drink Father’s Day Gifts That Will Guarantee You’re His Favorite Child.

#4 – Miles O’Brien
Miles O'Brien TV reporter Miles O’Brien lost an arm while on assignment. Read his story Life, After and learn what he’s gained from his loss.

#5 – What Matters
“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
Anne Sexton

Now go and spread joy!

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