Make your journeys more enjoyable by bringing facsimiles of your grandchildren along on the trip.
By Dave Block, F312358
Grandchildren are truly a gift. Just being with these little people, so large with love, vitalizes our lives. Leaving them behind to hit the open road is difficult. So, don’t leave them “” flatten ’em and take them with you.
Like most RVers who are out enjoying the highways and byways, our nest is empty. My wife, Pat, and I raised two fine sons who are well into their careers, own lawn mowers, and have wives to make sure the mowers are used. So, we headed out to see what there was to see. First we cruised the waterways on a sailboat; now we cruise the roadways aboard a motorhome.
But, the road isn’t as open as it used to be. As it turns out, our sons don’t spend all their time mowing the lawn and we now have four grandchildren: Hannah, Dane, Rhett, and Kai. Now when we hit the road, we are faced with leaving behind the cutest and smartest “grand” children in the whole wide world.
Leaving the grandkids, especially for Gramma Pat, has become a bit easier thanks to a great idea from our niece, Holly Yehlik, a third-grade teacher at Oak Park Elementary School in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Holly’s class read the book Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown. Flat Stanley is a story about the adventures of a little boy who was smashed flat by a bulletin board and traveled through the mail to visit friends and see interesting places. Holly’s class decided to study geography by “flattening” and mailing themselves, and recording all the places they visited on a map.
We received “Flat Tanner,” one of Holly’s students, who was joined by flat likenesses of our first two grandchildren, Flat Hannah and Flat Dane. Together, the five of us sailed to sandy beaches, went snorkeling, shared brilliant sunsets, and even visited a class in a one-room schoolhouse on Staniel Cay in the Bahamas. Eventually, Flat Tanner was mailed back to Oak Park Elementary, and we traded our sails for a set of steel-belted radials to cruise the terra firma. But Flat Hannah and Flat Dane have remained with us during our land travels, along with our two new grandsons, Rhett and Kai. Yes, we flattened them too.
Traveling with our flat grandkids has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of our journeys. The grandchildren delight in seeing their flat selves photographed with us in pictures with us in new and interesting places, doing fun and silly things.
You, too, can enjoy the experience of traveling with your very own flat grandchildren, and you don’t even need a bulletin board to flatten them. Your flattening options range from cut-and-paste basics to high-tech computer layouts, and you can use digital or film cameras.
We started with the cut-and-paste method. Pat drew caricatures of our grandchildren, which she colored and cut out to make paper doll flat kids. We carried them with us and held them in the pictures, which were taken with a regular point-and-shoot film camera. Often we asked bystanders to take our photo with the flat kids. If you do this, be prepared for lots of sideways glances and muffled comments.
Our good friend and mega-grandma, Ronnie, improved upon the paper doll approach by enlarging actual photographs of her grandchildren, which she cut out and held in photos taken of her. If you have young grandchildren who have a hard time identifying with a paper doll, this is a very good way to flatten them, because they can easily recognize a picture of themselves in the photo. Whether you choose paper dolls or enlarged photo cutouts, make sure you have them laminated for protection. This can be done at a copy shop.
We have now gone high tech and have taken the flattening process to a new level. Our original paper doll flat kids are still with us, but most of our travel pictures today are taken with a digital camera. Pat uses a Kodak EasyShare digital camera with a docking station that connects to the computer. The docking station has software that loads the pictures into the computer with a push of a button and also recharges the camera. Once the images are in the computer, Pat rivals Stephen Spielberg as she makes pictures, postcards, and scrapbook pages, using Microsoft’s Picture It! computer software program to layer the photos.
Choosing from a collection of the grandchildren’s pictures that are stored in the computer, Pat inserts their images into the digital photos we take during our travels. (If you don’t have a digital camera, an alternative is to scan regular pictures so they can be manipulated in the computer.) She uses an Epson color printer and photo-quality paper to print the pictures. For those special shots, we copy the images to a CD and take the disc to a professional developer to have regular photographs made. To be certain, with a computer on board you are limited only by your megabytes and imagination.
Many RVers travel with digital cameras and computers; you techies already have the tools necessary to flatten your grandkids. For those of you who aren’t high-tech, but want to be, a wide variety of cameras, computers, and printers “” ranging from basic to extravagant, from inexpensive to mortgage-the-farm types “” are available. Don’t be afraid. Jump in and be confused like the rest of us. Just start pushing those buttons. Something good is bound to happen. And for those of you who aren’t high-tech and don’t want to be “” don’t worry. Your scissors and regular camera are all you need.
So, get started. Flatten those kids and take ’em with you. It really doesn’t matter whether you use scissors or a computer. Just have fun and watch your “grand” relationship strengthen and grow.