If you want comments or ideas, here’s mine.—-Some of my favorite memories with my N&Ns are from making presents for their parents. That way, they get to “surprise” the parents. From tree ornaments to movies, aprons to art, we make a huge mess and have a great time. —-One of my favorite activities is making plaster casts of the children’s faces and hands. They loved casting funny faces and contorted hand positions. It works for a wide variety of ages over about 5 and even adults have fun taking part. Basically, you cut plastered gauze into short pieces and set them aside. (That is the same stuff you make an arm or leg cast out of and comes from a medical supply store — which is pretty darn cool to the kids in and of itself!) You then tie their hair back and completely smear the face with Vaseline, carefully avoiding eyes, nostrils and lips. Dip the pieces of plaster gauze in water, shake off the excess, and begin sticking them on the face, again carefully avoiding eyes, nostrils, lips and hair. Get a few layers on and keep shaping it to the face. Don’t worry about rough edges. The child must sit perfectly still and quiet until it dries. (I might have fibbed a little about how long that plaster took to dry, but the break does give you a chance to clean up before the white blobs become permanent on your furniture.) Then gently pull the mask off and let it completely dry while they scrub the Vaseline and plaster dust off their faces. From there, you can paint, trim with scissors, make more, have fun. Use it as a mask at Halloween or display it as a piece of art. You can do the same with hands, but remember to cover only the top half so the cast can be lifted off. Older children can cast a top half and then a bottom half and put them together. You can put a rubber glove on them and scare your friends at Halloween! —We take our N&Ns rafting when we decide they are big enough and mature enough. More important than the actual boat and water is the right of passage that we have created. We get to look forward to it for a long time and then we get to remember it and talk about it for even longer. —My mother always kept a drawer of stuff for kids to play with, mostly to keep the kids occupied while the adults did whatever needed to be done. When Mama died, I gathered her stuff into a big basket, adding some of her old colorful scarves and trinkets that I pick up at conventions. Now when young N&Ns come over, we dress up, build “forts” with sofa cushions, and play with puzzles and games. As we play, I soak up my mother’s energy, recreating the best of my childhood.

Lynn Sadler

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