Ivory Soap + microwave + kids = unexpected fun

More than six months ago, I pinned this interesting pin on Pinterest, figuring I'd one day try it with my grandsons—crafting with Ivory soap that had been heated in the microwave. It may sound odd, but it looked like good, clean (plus cheap and easy) fun.

I decided we'd finally give it a shot during my recent stay with Bubby and Mac, so I packed several bars of Ivory Soap for the trip. I was right about it being good, cheap, easy fun. The clean? Well, surprising as it may seem, this was one of the messier projects I'd done with the boys. More on that later, though, after you see how much fun we had, regardless of the mess.

What you need:

• One bar of Ivory Soap

• A microwave

• A smidgen of water

• Cookie cutters (optional)

What you do:

Unwrap the bar of soap and place on as large a microwavable platter or paper plate as will fit in your microwave.

Put the plate with soap in the microwave, turn the timer to about 5 minutes (knowing you'll likely stop it before time's up), hit Start, then watch the magic!

The bar of soap will expand and puff up into a nearly basketball-sized chunk of fun. As it gets bigger and bigger, stop the microwave as the soap becomes large enough to soon touch the walls or top of the microwave interior. (This is about 3-5 minutes, depending on your microwave.)

Using hot pads, remove the soap from the microwave. It will be hot but cools quickly.

Allow the kids to marvel at it.

Once the soap has cooled completely (beware the center as unpuffed remains of the bar of soap will be hot), have the kids tear it into pieces and place in a large bowl.

Add a small amount of water—about 1/8 cup, a little at a time—then mix and mix and mix with a wooden spoon until the chunks are relatively smooth and about the consistency of Play-Doh.

Divide the mixture between the kids (I put it on paper plates in hopes of containing the mess). Let them have at it, enjoying the texture and shaping as desired.

Bubby loved the soapy surprise:

Mac loved it, too (though I did have to make sure he didn't taste it):

Pressing the mixture into cookie cutters is an option, too, one we opted for the second time we did this, when we just had to show Mommy and Daddy how cool it was.

Whether made free form or pressed into cookie cutters, let the shapes dry and harden for about a day. Once hard and dry, they provide another round of fun at bath time.

As I mentioned at the outset, you may think this would be a clean project, considering it's just soap. It is...until you start breaking the chunk of soap apart and it flakes and creates white soap specks everywhere.


The first time I did this with my grandsons, it was a pretty big mess. Washing up the soap flakes turned them into lathery streaks that took several washings. Plus, spots the boys touched were marked with hard chunks of soap—chair backs, their clothes, even Mac's ear that he had scratched mid-molding.

The second time we did this, though, I was more determined to contain the flakes and powder from the soap. It made for a cheap, easy, relatively clean, and unexpectedly good time.

This post linked to Grandparents Say It Saturday.

Today's question:

What did you most recently use your microwave for?

Friday field trip: IT'Z Family Food & Fun

Bubby is a big fan of the pizza and game room restaurants, the kind featuring food and fun geared to the younger set. One such center Bubby doesn't have in his home state is IT'Z Family Food & Fun. So while he and Mac visited Gramma and PawDad earlier this summer, we chose to visit IT'Z rather than the local location of the chain he frequents at home.

It's unfortunate there isn't an IT'Z location in Bubby's state as it is now his very most favorite of the pizza/gaming centers. In fact, Bubby loved IT'Z so much that when he received a child's digital camera from Aunt B days after our afternoon at IT'Z, we had to make a special stop at the center just so Bubby could capture a picture of the awesome spot on his camera, to remind him of the fun place he loved when he returned home.

And there's plenty to love at IT'Z. First off was the food. Pan after pan of varied pizzas—Bubby's favorite food in the world. Plus, there was an extensive salad bar, a pasta bar with mac & cheese for Mac, and a dessert bar featuring not the usual soft-serve ice cream but three different kinds of slushies (which Bubby had), crispy bars (which Mac had), and other goodies more likely to please an adult palate (like the cherry cobbler I had).

Bubby and Mac enjoyed their pre-gaming lunch in the brightly colored dining area, which had one big-screen TV plus a couple smaller ones, all playing the Cartoon Network. I'm not sure if it was the eating in front of a humongous TV or a testament to the quality of the pizza, but Bubby ate three whole pieces of pizza—quite a feat for a finicky kid who typically announces "My belly's full" after just a few bites of anything, including his fave food pizza. Good stuff, for sure.

The good stuff continued with what took place in the game room, where we took our time spending the $15 worth of tokens on the game card we purchased with the meals. There were plenty of rides for little ones on up to big ones (a few rides Bubby wasn't tall enough to ride), games for little ones on up to big ones, plus a soft play area with slides and a bouncy house and more, there was no shortage of fun for Bubby and Mac to choose from.


IT'Z was a fantastic deal, costing around $30 total for the unlimited food and drinks and fun for Bubby, Mac, PawDad and me. We spent nearly three hours at IT'Z, making the cost per hour of fun one of the best bargains I've come across.

Turns out IT'Z can be an even better bargain on Tuesdays, when they offer $2.99 all-you-can-eat buffets and $.99 drinks. Considering how great the pizza was—and that you can choose to enter only the dining room and forego the gaming room—I have a feeling PawDad and I will be visiting there without grandkids on a Tuesday sometime in the near future.

In addition to the fun and value IT'Z offers, they seem to be a caring company that makes a positive difference in the community. When the Waldo Canyon Fire displaced thousands of Colorado Springs residents and burned nearly 350 homes, IT'Z offered a completely free evening of fun for all those affected by the fire. I have no doubt those kiddos and their parents appreciated the diversion and enjoyed IT'Z just as much as Bubby and Mac did.

Interested in visiting IT'Z Family Food & Fun? Find details on locations—in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado—on the IT'Z website.

Today's question:

Which would you be most happy to fill your plate from—a pizza bar, a salad bar, or a dessert bar?

Friday field trip: Play Area at Focus on the Family Welcome Center

I'm not a follower or affiliate of Focus on the Family. Fortunately, you need not be either of those to enjoy the free kid's play area in the ministry's Welcome Center in Colorado Springs. Everyone is welcome, regardless of one's religious or spiritual beliefs—and there's no proselytizing of even the slightest degree. Here, the focus really is on fun, and it's a great way for kids to burn off some energy in a clean, cool environment.

On Bubby and Mac's most recent stay with Gramma, they got to visit the play area not just once, but twice, thanks to a playdate there with Megan's long-time friend Amy just a couple days after they spent an afternoon there with Gramma, PawDad and Aunt B.

The list of things to do at the Welcome Center's play area is long (see below). For Bubby, though, the fun typically begins with a climb aboard the airplane.  

Mac likes to stay busy crawling through the numerous tunnels throughout the place. 

There's a Narnia Adventure room to explore—with the entrance being, naturally, through a wardrobe.

Refreshment from the Whit's End Soda Shoppe capped off our recent afternoon adventure.

In between the airplane and the ice cream, there was no shortage of fun for Bubby and Mac.

At ages one and four, my grandsons most enjoy the colorful Camp-What-A-Nut room, designed with safety in mind and specifically for kids through age four. There are plenty of options, though, for kids of all ages, including:

• Kid's Korner climbing structure featuring the A-Bend-A-Go three-story corkscrew slide. Riders must be at least 43 ½ inches tall and no taller than 5'9" so Bubby has yet to try this one. We begged but the ride operator stood firm in adhering to the policy.

• The Discovery Emporium, featuring a puppet stage and reading area.

• Two birthday party rooms with bright murals painted on the walls. The room with the firetruck and more on the walls was empty when we visited, so Mac and Bubby enjoyed some free roaming and dancing in the festive space.

• The KYDS Radio room where kids can record their own voices on an Adventures in Odyssey episode and take home the complimentary CD.

Interested in visiting the Play Area at Focus on the Family? Find details here:

Focus on the Family Welcome Center • 8685 Explorer Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Today's question:

What fun do you have planned for the weekend?

Yesterday at Gramma's: First things first

Hunting for treasure—aka coins PawDad buries in the sand—has always been one of Bubby's favorite things to do at Gramma and PawDad's house. So when I picked up Megan and the boys at the airport yesterday, Bubby's first request was to hunt for treasure when we got home.

Which is exactly what Bubby and Mac did.

Today's question:

When did you last play in sand, whether in a sandbox, at the beach or elsewhere?

Story time: Good Day, Bad Day

Open communication with your grandkids matters immensely and is always worth encouraging any way you can. Here is a brief story I wrote, for you to share with the little ones in your life to initiate conversations about their days.


Good Day, Bad Day


Watching the clouds, imagining shapes,
Visiting the zoo and acting like apes.
Bad day?
Good day!


Falling at school, getting scratched up and bruised,
Having mud splashed on your favorite new shoes.
Good day?
Bad day!


Being picked leader for the day in your class,
Finding a ladybug deep in the grass.
Bad day?
Good day!


Riding your bike when the tire goes flat,
Then the wind blows away your favorite hat.
Good day?
Bad day!


Presents from Grandma that came in the mail,
Watching the boat you made take off and sail.
Bad day?
Good day!


Losing a fight with your older brother,
Tearing the picture you colored for Mother.
Good day?
Bad day!


Getting a shot and feeling no pain,
Seeing a rainbow after the rain.
Bad day?
Good day!

Days can be happy and days can be sad.
Good day or bad day—which have you had?


©Lisa Carpenter/art: Microsoft images

Today's question:

Good days or bad? Which have you most recently had?

Friday field trip: Children's Museum of Phoenix

On the final day of my recent stay with Bubby and Baby Mac, we went to the Children's Museum of Phoenix. The museum is located less than 10 minutes from the airport, so it was a great way to end the visit—and gave us a spot to play in case my flight was delayed.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix is three floors of fun and one of Bubby's favorite places to play. It was Baby Mac's first time there, and he found plenty of fun himself.

We started on the top floor, with the plan to work our way down. The "Noodle Forest" is the highlight there and something Bubby couldn't wait to show Gramma. Right outside the forest is a paint-with-water activity that proved Baby Mac to be a passionate artist.

It was just the beginning of my last few delight-filled hours with my grandsons:


Other exhibits on the third floor include a shopping market, ice cream cart, a "Texture Cafe" for making meals with various materials, a "Grand Ballroom" where you can see the chain reaction from beginning to end, make-believe pickle and pencil cars, and much, much more. It's easy to see why the third floor is Bubby's floor of choice.

The second floor features a "Building Big" room for making forts of all shapes and sizes, a trike wash, and an art studio with ongoing projects (Bubby made a pretty butterfly and helped paint a purple rocket).

On the first (atrium) floor, the main attraction is the Schuff-Perini Climber, a climbing gym like you've never seen before. It's visible from all floors, and I climbed with Bubby all the way to the top...in a dress and thankful it was a rather slow day so Gramma could take her time. The first floor also has a Whoosh! machine of connected tubes where kids can feed nylon scarves through and watch them fly—one of Baby Mac's favorite exhibits, along with the many "Baby Zone" play areas throughout the museum.

The atrium wall is lined with a stunning display of CDs hanging from top to bottom. A museum worker told me children from around the area, including a school for homeless children, wrote wishes on the CDs to be hung on the wall at the museum's opening about four years ago. She said the wishes are touching and sometimes heartbreaking to read, everything from "I want an iPod" to "I want my daddy to come home."

Our visit to the museum was exhilerating—and exhausting. Bubby and Baby Mac were sound asleep in their car seats by the time we made it to the airport, just minutes after leaving the museum. When Megan dropped me off at the departure curb, I opened Bubby's door to give him a farewell kiss; with eyes still closed, he mumbled, "I love you...send me mail." Totally zonked-out Baby Mac got a kiss, Megan got a hug, and Gramma headed for home.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix was a great way to end my visit to the desert. We just might have to make pre-flight visits there a farewell tradition.

Interested in taking a similar field trip? Find details here:

Children's Museum of Phoenix • 215 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034 • (602) 253-0501

(If you want to see the full pictures from our visit or see them more slowly, feel free to take a look in my Brag Book.)

Today's question:

If you were asked to write a wish on a CD like those in the stunning display at the Children's Museum of Phoenix, what would today's wish be?

Missing the ordinary everydayness

Now that my kids are long grown and long gone, I occasionally miss the little things about having kids in our midst. Like watching them fully engaged in and enjoying ordinary, everyday activities. No posing or posturing, just playing.

Fortunately I have Megan to text me photos of ordinary everyday moments that, to a grandmother, are not that ordinary at all anymore and are truly something special to see.

To wit, scenes from a recent playdate—an afternoon hosted by Bubby and Baby Mac, featuring a car wash, snack time, and play pals:

So cool to see Baby Mac hanging with the big kids. And Bubby, too, obviously relishing his role as king of festivities.

Today's question:

What ordinary everydayness do you miss from your childrearing years?

Please read

Please read. Not just this post, but in general: Please read.

I'm a site coordinator for the local children's literacy center. I've spent the last two weeks struggling to match far too few—yet much appreciated—volunteer reading tutors with far too many students in overwhelming, unbelievable need.

Perhaps there wouldn't be such a need, may not be so many children lagging behind in the very most basic, very most important of skills, if more people would please be a model...if more people would please take the lead...if more people would please read.

Please read with your grandchildren, children, nieces, nephews, with any child in need.

Please read to youngsters and with youngsters, no matter their age.

Please read story books, chapter books, comics, graphic novels. Please read novels, poems, riddles, jokes.

Please read road signs and maps and plaques on the places you go.

Please read recipes, cereal boxes, soda cans, milk cartons. Please read chip bags, price tags and labels throughout the grocery store, throughout any store.

Please read television shows—turn the closed-captioning on then read. Together.

Please read movies, too—subtitled movies!

Please read calendars, and websites, and text messages. Please read gift cards, bulletin boards, ads, and restaurant menus.

Please read game directions, game boards, game controllers. Please read instructions for building, instructions for creating, instructions for taking apart.

Please read newspapers, magazines, e-mail, real mail, junk mail, mailboxes.

Please read programs...from school, from plays, from church, from sporting events.

Please read rosters, billboards, scoreboards.

Please read. Anything. Everything. Together.

Please read.

Today's question:

Other than this post, what have you most recently read, by yourself or with another?

Imagine that

Life in the desert—where Bubby and Baby Mac live—is a wee bit different from life in the mountains—where I live and where Bubby and Baby Mac's mommy grew up. For one thing, it's often too hot in the desert in the summer time for kiddos to play outside. Seriously too hot. As in Extreme Heat Warnings from the National Weather Service hot.

That certainly doesn't mean, though, that there's no fun to be had.

When temps get too hot and high in the desert, folks simply take the fun indoors. They forego sizzling playgrounds and descend upon indoor play areas instead. Air-conditioned play areas.

One of Bubby's favorite indoor play centers is called Imagination Avenue. We visited last week, and he certainly exercised his imagination while there.

He imagined himself as a policeman, a fireman, a doctor, a grocery shopper.  

He also baked cookies and cupcakes, worked puzzles, played school. And he built houses and boxes and a tunnel for taking a break from the workout.

With so much to do and the myriad imaginative options to explore, the fact we couldn't play outside no longer mattered one single bit. Not to Bubby, not to Megan, not to me.

Not even to Baby Mac.

Imagine that!

Today's question:

What is your favorite indoor activity on hot summer days?