Grandy guru

How to master — and, above all, enjoy — the art of modern-day grandparenting with help from a fellow ‘gramma’ from St. Paul

Photo by Tracy Walsh Photography
Photo by Tracy Walsh Photography

Have you played a board game with your grandchild lately?

The new ones don’t have winners or losers, they have “cooperative” goals, designed to help kids learn colors and numbers, and the art of taking turns.

Jack (2.75) and I played Hoot Owl Hoot! today in the magic minutes between his getting up from a nap and Grace (1) awakening. Players use color matching to get around the board with a goal of getting all your owls into a nest before the sun comes up. At one point during the third round, Jack put his head on my hand and said, “I love you, Gramma.”

Gramma for the win!

The new GrandyCamp blog features kid-friendly recipes, local outings and home activity ideas for Twin Cities grandparents and their grandchildren.

Four days a week with a wild 1-year-old and a 2.75-year-old is often exhausting when you’re 60.

But I wouldn’t trade this morning for anything.

We called a duck across a pond with a Mallard recording on my iPhone. How the kids giggled to have a real live bird quacking answers just a few feet away!

Grace was falling asleep in her stroller on the way home, so I pulled her out and alternated between her toddling and my carrying, not to throw off the all-important nap schedule. I tried a new recipe for an after-nap treat, but lunch was regular boxed mac and cheese.

What do we do all day?

Luckily, Jack will work on projects, but Grace, not so much. They love going to the library and we read a lot of books. One day we counted six turkeys in the backyard. Potty training is as difficult as it was in Motherhood round one.

Jack is at the age when he says “Gramma, gram, gramma” a hundred times a day.

My other three days of the week are jammed with writing, illustrating, graphic design and everything that comes with launching a new blog — tackling (you guessed it) the art of modern-day grandparenting!

Yes, despite being still quite active in my career as an author illustrator as well as concierge blogger (, I’m going all in on this grandparenting thing — and I’m taking you along with me:  I’m taking you to GrandyCamp. is my newly created online community featuring ideas, activities, crafts, recipes, plus destinations and fun events curated just for Twin Cities grandparents.

You’ll find short, personal stories and tons of engaging visuals on the blog as well as on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

Yes! Social media. It’s not just for the kids anymore. (More on that below.)

The Grandycamp blog shares ideas for crafts such as adding googly eyes to everything, dinosaur-themed projects, cute potty-training squares and pipe-cleaner/colander art.

Why do we need this?

Our career-driven children are leaving home later, marrying later and having children later still. And we “seniors” are still in the thick of things, hitting our stride with experience, learning new platforms, retiring later and creating encore careers.

We’re still healthy, active and busy. Really busy! But then one day you find yourself at a hospital, holding a tiny, red-faced pause button.

We become instantly passionate about becoming really good at this: What books teach a toddler to love reading? How would I make a video reading of a bedtime story for a distant grandbaby? What app would entertain kids in a restaurant? Where can I take a child to a $2 movie with real buttered popcorn? How do you impress a dino fan? (A dinosaur garden!) When was the last time you made banana bread or M&M cookies? You need a new, fab recipe! What gift should you give your college-age grandson? Is there a creative way to give gift cards?

A new era for grandmothers

Busy grandparents need help.

Despite prestigious degrees and impressive careers, nearly three-quarters of grandparents say that being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.

Less than half of today’s grandparents are senior citizens, and those that are might be working until age 70.

Lesley Stahl, in her new book Becoming Grandma, list our ranks (women between 50 and 70) at some 40 million. She points out ways that the girls raised with Title IX and women’s rights are developing and defining a new way of grandmothering. Seventy-five percent are online, and make up the single fastest growing demographic on Facebook and other forms of social media.

We don’t all have white hair (at least that we admit to), and we know grandchildren aren’t always sweet.

We might see these kids for a few hours, a day, a week, once a year. The time is important, challenging and has the potential to provide lasting memories.

Be a rock star

With GrandyCamp, I hope we can all learn the art of grandparenting together!

Our catchphrase is: The grandkids are coming! We can help!

Already, we’ve found some no-fail tricks. But if we do fail at something, we’ll share that, too!

Finally, I know you’re going to like our curated Twin Cities Event Calendar and destinations with details about discounts, parking, stroller logistics and where to feed the kids on the go.

No, we won’t have every blessed thing listed. Instead we’ll include events and destinations that appeal to you — trains, firehouses, festivals, museums, drive-in restaurants, even Minnesota’s largest candy store.

Grace and Jack, grandchildren of GrandyCamp founder Karen Ritz of St. Paul, love to play, read and (sometimes) nap.

We want you to be a Rockstar Grandparent, and enjoy the time too! The stuff we share works for Grandpas, Steps, Aunties and Uncles, practice grandmas, and loving caregivers as well: Please share.

We’re scouring the web for the best ideas and deals, so you don’t have to, and, of course, we have some great ideas and deals of our own. (I was just contacted by a guy who designed a course to teach magic tricks to grandpas: How fun is that?!)

We want to hear about your experiences on Facebook and see those grandkids on Instagram.

A big part of our mission is listening to what you need help with and finding answers. We’ll even help with the online and tech aspects of grandparenting, like reading bedtime stories over Skype, upping your digital photography game or managing your frustrating Facebook newsfeed so it works for you.

Let’s do this!

Karen Ritz has illustrated more than 46 books, including Ellis Island, a 1995 Minnesota Book Award winner and Sadie Braves the Wilderness, a new children’s book about the wonders of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. She lives and paints — and grandparents — in St. Paul.

Learn more

Click here to see a list of GrandyCamp-compiled holiday events.