Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three Resolutions for 2009

The last day of 2008 -- are you making New Year's resolutions?
Here are three resolutions you might want to consider:
* Resolve to stay in touch. Use snail mail for letters and post-cards, e-mail, Skype phone calls, a family blog -- just promise yourself you'll contact your children and grandchildren regularly to show your interest in them and express your love for them.
* Resolve to give them the gift of your own self. Share your family stories with them. Copy and pass on those family photographs tucked away in an album or drawer. Get those old family films transferred to a DVD and give a copy to your family. Be sure to add an explanation of what the stories and photographs are about and why they matter to you.
* Resolve to grow in understanding of how your children and grandchildren perceive the world. Listen as much as you talk. Learn more about how things are changing. Stay in touch with what's happening, and ask them about it.
Resolve to keep growing!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Making a List, Checking it Twice . . .

What's on your Christmas list this year? Have you thought yet about what you really want?
Making a List on the Hearts at Home website has some suggestions for things you might want to consider!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crazy at Christmas?

Has Christmas frenzy hit your family?
As a grandma, I remember all too well what it was like to have a houseful of excited children during the Christmas season -- they would get more and more wound up as my husband and I would get more and more tired.
Now I watch as those very children parent their own children, and wrestle with the same excitement and fatigue.
In Taming the Christmas Crazies on the Hearts at Home website, I've offered practical ideas for making the Christmas season a little more sane for everyone. Hope you'll check it out and find some new ways to enjoy the celebration!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank You!

Receiving a thank you note is always a pleasure, but sometimes you have to write them to get them!
Part of that equation is the power of setting a good example. When we write thank you notes regularly to our children and grandchildren, even for small things, we set a powerful example of everyday gratitude. It's important to say “thank you” in person, but a written note is tangible evidence of that gratitude. It allows us to express our thanks in a way that's usually more memorable, especially if we apply a little creativity to the way we write a thank-you note.
We can include a photograph or drawing, write a silly poem of thanks, or share a story of how much we appreciate the gift or kindness. A good thank you note is a model for our children and grandchildren to follow as they write their own thank you notes.
Which brings us to the second part of that thank-you note equation.
As a kid, I was a slacker about thank you notes. A cranky great aunt-by-marriage noticed this lack of etiquette on my part and complained loudly to my grandparents and parents. I felt terribly embarrassed until it occurred to me that she never ever wrote thank you notes herself for the gifts or kindnesses others extended to her. She only demanded thank you notes from others.
I never worried about thanking her in writing again.
This holiday season we'll have lots of opportunities to thank others for what they've given us, or what they've done for us. I want to remember to look for ways to say -- and write -- thank you in ways that are fun and creative. I want to let the people I love know I appreciate them and the effort they make.
I want to make them smile.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Three Opportunities

Are you alert for opportunity?
As grandparents we are influencers. We have the opportunity to influence our own children as they parent, and we have the opportunity to influence our grandchildren as they grow up. But it's easy to miss those opportunities if we aren't looking for them.
Here are three ways to maximize the opportunities that come our way:
* Listen to what's happening in the lives of your loved ones. What are they interested in or concerned about? There may not be anything tangible you can do, but you can always let them know you care about what they care about, and you can always pray for them.
* Invite them to your house, not in a “command performance” way or a “won't you come help me” way, but in a “I'd like to cook dinner for you” or “I just baked cookies, can you come for tea?” kind of way -- that is, not always for chores or obligation but sometimes just for fun!
* Invest in the relationship. Make time to let your loved ones know you love them by what you do, as well as by what you say.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beans and a Grateful Heart

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?
I'm not -- too much cleaning left to do, and once again I've overestimated either how quickly I clean or how much dust there is left over from the last time I dusted (which might have been longer than I thought . . . )
I've been thinking about how cleaning and shopping for turkey aren't all I need to do to get ready. I want to get my heart ready for Thanksgiving, too -- I want it to be filled with gratitude to God, because His blessings are abundant and because of His lovingkindness toward me and those I love.
So -- if you'd like to know more about Beans for Thanksgiving, and what they have to do with a grateful heart, please stop by the Hearts at Home website!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward, Singing It All

What an amazing time we live in! It's not as if that's anything you've not noticed, I'm sure, but sometimes when I think about my own grandparents, born in the very earliest 1900s, and my grandchildren, born in the last years of the 1900s and the earliest years of the 2000s -- I'm amazed at the changes, the advances, the differences in what my grandparents experienced as children and what my grandchildren experience.
But Scripture tells us that from age to age, God does not change. And because of that, as the hymn says, I Stand Amazed.

As grandparents, we have a unique opportunity to share the best of what's gone before with our grandchildren, including the hymnody of our faith. That doesn't mean we can't sing those hymns in a way that fits the specific time we live in. Bart Millard has done that with two hymn collections, Hymned No. 1 and Hymned Again. If you like blues, country, soul, Southern rock -- you'll find a little bit of all those styles in these collections.
As hymns do, these look back, but they also look forward to the time when Jesus comes again: What a Day That Will Be!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Card, A Note, A Gift from Grandma

I have a stack of Thanksgiving cards sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for me to sit down and get them ready to mail.
I used to think Thanksgiving cards were a ploy by the card companies to get us to spend money, but one day I realized that, really, they are an opportunity to tell my kids and grandkids how thankful I am to have them in my life.
We always make a point of telling them that when they come to share Thanksgiving dinner with us, but sometimes not all of them can be here. And a card is something a child can tuck under a pillow or into a box of keepsakes; it's there to remind him that he's loved when we're not there. Sometimes all of us experience a time of loneliness, a time when silence seems to overcome our sense of belonging somewhere.
A card with a hand-written note that says “I love you and thank God for you” is a gift that speaks into the silence.
So, I'll make myself a cup of tea, and get those cards signed and ready to mail, and while I do that, I'll be thinking about each one of those precious people, thanking God for them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Tips for Holiday Planning

We spent a little time yesterday with two of the grandkids. A museum trip and dinner out proved both fun and interesting -- what a privilege it is to watch a child come alive to history!
On our way home we drove through snow flurries. It reminded me that the holiday season is almost here, and it's time to get ready. You'll find what I think about that in my blog post Getting Ready for Company on Inspired Bliss. Please stop by!
And if you'd like to include the kids in your preparation, check out my column Thanksgiving Fun on the Hearts at Home website!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three Surprises

Some weeks are full of delightful surprises.
Last week I received a letter from one of my granddaughters. It was a project she'd done in pre-school, a finger-paint print of her hands. Pink, her favorite color, with a note telling me I was a great grandma. I think I'll frame it.
Not only that, but phone calls. Several of our kids called just to talk. They weren't phone calls I was expecting, which made them even more of a treat. It's easy to underestimate how much a phone call can mean.
And finally a Skype call from a 2 year old cowboy, sporting the new hat his very smart mom picked up at the Halloween clearance sales. He was in fine form, ready to herd cows and whatever else it is 2 year old cowboys do.
It makes me wonder what kind of delightful surprises I can plan for someone else.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Coffee and Conversation with our Father . . .

There's something about sharing conversation and a cup of coffee with a good friend.
In my case, and perhaps in yours as well, that conversation and cup of coffee might often involve prayer -- I get the coffee (and thank God for it!) and share the conversation with Him.
It's important for us as grandparents to pray for our kids and grandkids, and I wrote about that this week for Inspired Bliss in "A Gift Worth Giving."
I invite you to pour yourself a cup of coffee and check it out!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Standards of Cleanliness and Love

It's so easy to judge one another!
As a younger wife and mom I was a messy housekeeper. Despite my parents' best efforts, when I first married, I had not yet learned or mastered the organizational skills needed to keep house.
My mother-in-law was organized and orderly. I suspect it frustrated her a great deal to see the way I kept -- or didn't -- house.
From time to time she offered in different ways to help me learn what she knew, but I was too embarrassed to accept her help.
Over time -- through trial and mostly, error -- I learned how to do things more efficiently; to keep house more effectively, because I love my family very much and wanted to create a comfortable home. I recognized that orderliness and cleanliness were part of the comfort I wanted to provide for them.
Although I've never lived up to the example of my mother-in-law, I do OK now, most of the time.
What was interesting, though, was that as time went by my mother-in-law grew to value other things I was good at. She complimented my patience with her grandchildren, and told me how much she appreciated their creativity and good manners.
I think of her good sense and housekeeping skills, and I miss her.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Best Stories . . .

I love stories.
I love reading them. I love telling them. I especially love hearing them, and some of my favorites are old family stories. I don't get tired of hearing them, because they are like a window into the past, revealing how we got to be the way we are.
In Learning to Drive and Other Stories on the Inspired Bliss channel of Blissfully Domestic, I write about the importance of stories. Come check it out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Best News . . .

How did you announce to your parents that you were going to become a parent yourself?
I remember telling my husband's mother when we found out we were going to have our first child. She'd stopped by our apartment for a moment, and asked us something -- I don't remember now just what -- and we just casually mentioned there was a baby on the way.
What a missed opportunity -- we could have made that announcement with so much more of a sense of joy and fun!
How did you find out you were going to be a grandparent?
I talk about some of the ways our kids have shared their good news on the Inspired Bliss channel of Blissfully Domestic, in Four Ways to Share New Baby Joy.
No matter how we hear, a baby is always good news!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Old Tricks, New Kids

Sometimes old tricks work on new kids.
We were waiting for the school bus to come to pick up the 7-year old. He and the 4-year old were full of energy, which usually leads to things like skipping rocks into the neighbor's yard or other dangerous-but-fun activities.
“Let's play Mother May I,” I said.
“Huh?” they both said.
“You know -- Mother May I,” I said.
No. They didn't know.
So I showed them how to play, possibly tilting the advantage of the game ever so slightly to Mother, or in this case, Grandma.
Their attention fully captured, we played Mother May I til the bus came, then the 4-year old wanted to play it on the driveway so she could master things like the scissor-hop, and remembering to ask “Mother May I?”
By the time the 7-year old returned home, she was ready to compete, and so was he.
Who knew such a simple diversion would turn into tournament-quality competition?

Monday, October 6, 2008

In Training, part 2

The 4-year old has a bedtime routine: brushing hair. She likes to brush her mommy's short hair, then have her mommy brush her wildly curly hair. So when she said “Grandma, can I brush your hair?” I knew it was just part of getting her ready for bed.
“I'd like that,” I said, settling down on the floor in front of the brush wielding girl.
Gently she brushed. This is going well, I thought. Suddenly she delicately pulled one little hunk of hair out, just like a beautician would do, and said, “Hmmmmm.”
“What are you doing now, sweetheart?” I asked, turning my head.
“I”m just going to cut this off,” she said with a grin, holding up her rounded edge paper scissors.
I wonder if she thought I was going to leave a tip.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Comic In Training

Spending time with a 7-year old is like spending time with a comic in training.
Case in point: on our way home from soccer practice, the 7-year old in the back seat asks, “Grandma, is our refrigerator running?”
Suddenly concerned that I might have missed something important, I asked, “Why? Wasn't it OK when we left home?”
“Oh, it's fine, Grandma. I just thought if it was running you'd better try to catch it.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nothing Says Loving . . .


It's cookie season. Nothing says “welcome home” like the fragrance of cookies baking in the oven.
This is a good time to bake cookies, to send cookies in the mail, to share a recipe with a teen-aged grandchild so she can bake cookies herself.

One of our family favorites is Pumpkin Harvest Cookies.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Harvest Cookies

Combine 1/2 cup softened butter with
1 cup packed brown sugar and
3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Cream thoroughly.
To this mixture, add: 1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Beat together til light and fluffy.
Add 1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Mix thoroughly.
Stir in 3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped pecans or black walnuts
3/4 cup uncooked (quick cooking) oats.
Drop teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet;
bake at 375 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes. When cool, frost with Spicy Frosting.

Spicy Frosting

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1 Tablespoon hot coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat together til fluffy. Spread on Pumpkin Harvest Cookies.

Enjoy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Leaf Letters


If you live where the leaves are turning, gather up a few of the prettiest and send them to your grandchild. There's something fun about getting a letter with red, orange, and golden leaves tucked inside.
And if you're ambitious, press the leaves between two pieces of waxed paper. Seal them with an iron on low heat, trim them with pinking shears, and send them. Tidier, fun, and a good way to remind your grandkids you're thinking of them!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hat Tricks




There's something about hats.
Yesterday one of the two-year olds was here for the morning. She almost always plays contentedly if I'm in the room with her, and yesterday was no exception: she played with the dollhouse while I worked at my computer.
After awhile, she came over and stood by my chair. When I turned to look at her, she had on her “hat” -- an arm protector from the blue chair. She was quite delighted with her find, and modeled it for me with quite a sense of style.
I put down my work and said, “Would you like to try on some more hats?”

Her smile was my answer, so we went into my bedroom and got out some hats. First she tried on the black one.



Then the big brown one. It was so big she could hardly see!



Finally the fancy blue one -- but the arm protector is still in the running!



What's a girl to do with so many choices?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One More Way to Keep Your Grandkids Safe

Grandmas of a certain age will remember juggling infants and toddlers on their seats in the front seat of a car, or trying to convince pre-school passengers in the back seat to “SIT DOWN.”
We weren't required to buckle our kids into car seats. Even if we had been, the molded plastic car seats that were available were little protection in any emergency.
Those kids, now grown up with kids of their own, understand the importance of a car-safety seat. They're familiar with the intricacies of their use. And as grandmas who sometimes drive our grandkids, we need to be, too.
This morning NBC's Today Show featured a report on booster seats, with a warning by the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute that some booster seats currently on the market are unsafe.
One part of the report focused on the correct way to use booster seats. I found this information helpful for the times I'm driving a grandchild who is using a booster seat. During the interview, Anne McCartt, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, explained and demonstrated how to be sure the lap belt is correctly positioned (across the upper thigh) for safety, and how to check the shoulder belt to be sure it is across the child's mid-shoulder.
Next time I'm responsible for buckling one of the grandkids into a booster seat, I'll know a bit more about what I'm doing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The One-Note Concert

One of the nicest things a grandparent can do is pay attention.
Our own children, as well as our grandchildren, benefit from knowing that we notice what's going on in their lives, that we care about what they are doing.
The 10-year old just started playing the saxophone, and at dinner the other evening asked if grandpa would like to hear her play.
Because he is a well-trained grandpa, he said, “Of course.” And smiled.
The saxophone was retrieved, the new instrumentalist sat down and played.
One note. A “B.”
“How about an “E?” asked grandpa.
“Nope,” said the 10-year old. “I only know the “B.”
And with that, the concert was complete.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One Way to Make the Holidays Happier

A week-end trip to the mall reinforced the reality of changing seasons: Christmas trees, ornaments, and decorations compete with Halloween masks for shelf space.
If you're adjusting to new in-laws, and just thinking of the holiday season is stressful, make time to reflect on how you'd like things to go.
After I'd been a mother-in-law for awhile, I was thinking about some of those issues,and wrote “In-Law Manners” for the Hearts at Home Pantagraph column. I'd come to realize that grandma was right: good manners can get you through almost any situation.
It's just one more way to get ready for the holidays!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

3 Reasons to Reach Out and Connect . . .

Sunday evening is for phone calls.
We don't call all our kids on Sunday evenings, but we do try to call the kids we aren't able to connect with during the week.
We think it's important to stay connected for at least three reasons:
* Families are defined in part by their connection with one another.
* It's fun to talk and catch up, hear about their week, tell them about ours.
* Staying connected is one way to make ourselves available for help, friendship, and support.
Sunday evening phone calls are one of the everyday ways we try to stay connected.
The only thing better is when our kids call us!
Our latest phone adventure has been with Skype. At our kids urging we bought a little camera to use with our computer -- a lot of new computers come with an integrated camera -- and now we can talk with our kids and see them, see how the grandkids are growing and see for ourselves how our kids are doing.
It's been so much fun, I'm tempted to make all my calls with it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Getting Inspired!


We spent some time this afternoon sitting in the swing that hangs from our big sycamore tree, and all around us leaves drifted down like a gentle rain. The back-yard squirrels scurry to find and bury nuts while trying to avoid the young goshawk learning to hunt from the higher branches of the old hackberry.
The 7-year old was here this week, and found the rake. “You're going to need this pretty soon, Grandma,” he said, turning it over in his hands, inspecting it to make sure it's ready to go, giving a few practice rakes just to be sure.
Even though summer is turning into fall, there are new beginnings all around us, as there always are.
One of those new beginnings for me is a new weekly column on the Blissfully Domestic website, on the Inspired Bliss channel. You can find my first Grandma on Board column here, and a new column again each Thursday. You can also use the Inspired Bliss button on the side column to find the website and explore the other excellent posts on Inspired Bliss.
I'm excited for this new opportunity, and even more excited by the other excellent, inspiring writers and artists on this site.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ReRun: Rent A Grandma . . . ?

I've never done this before. Really. But this idea intrigues me, and evidently a lot of people; this post gets a lot of hits. So here, from last October, is "Rent a Grandma . . . "

I wonder why there isn't a “Rent A Grandma” franchise somewhere.

Think of it – a grandma you could rent, who would come in bearing cookies and smiles to give you a little relief on a stressful day – no advice (unless you asked specifically), no complaints, no criticisms.

She'd wear a sweater, carry a pocketbook, and ask if you wanted to take a nap for a few minutes while she washes up a bit.

She'd love your kids, spoil your husband, and go home to grandpa at the end of the day, leaving your house clean, cookies on the counter, and you, smiling.

I think there might be a possibility, here . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Privilege . . . And Opportunity

I had the privilege of going with a daughter-in-law to a sonogram this week when her husband (my son) wasn't able to be with her.
We watched together, thrilled, as the sonogram began and the tiny little person within her seemed to wave at us. The sonographer looked, measured, and snapped photographs for us to take home.
I sat in awe.

********

Before we went back for the sonography, we waited a bit in the doctor's waiting room. This particular office offers free magazines, and I found one specifically for grandparents, published by Fisher-Price -- the toy people.
When I got home I checked out the Fisher-Price website, and was impressed with what they offer for grandparents. There are activity guides, developmental charts, and e-cards you can send or download and print off for your grandchildren, among other things.
There is a lot there for parents, too, and of course, you can find information about Fisher-Price toys.
I encourage you to check it out!

Three Things About Puzzles and Repetition . . . Repetition . . . Repetition . . .



One of the 2-year olds was here this morning, so we got out one of her favorite toys -- the stack of puzzles.
Puzzles are more fun when there's more than one person playing.
“Grandma,” she lisps, “come play with the puzzles with me.”
Who can resist such an invitation?
So down on the floor I went, watching, occasionally helping. Here's what I observed:
* Working on puzzles is a lesson in spatial relationships for the 2-year old and for me. If I'd worked more puzzles, I might have done better in math!
* One thing that helps in working a puzzle is to look at the frame of the puzzle, and match the pieces to what is on the frame. to wit: if Ernie's hair is visible along the edge of the frame, the 2-year old found it helpful to find the piece with Ernie's head and hair, then match the hair to Ernie's hair on the frame of the puzzle. We also matched what was on one piece of the puzzle to what belonged on the next piece: Bert's arm on this piece would link up to Bert's arm on the next piece. Once she figured this out, she was able to put the puzzle together much more quickly, with much less frustration.
* If doing a puzzle once is fun, doing it 18 times must be better. And each time, proficiency increases. Repetition might reinforce memorization, but it also allows experimenting to see if the “right” piece will work upside down, or if it might fit in better backwards -- more lessons in spatial relationships.
I'm sure there are life lessons here, but the most immediate, practical lesson is this: playing with your grandchild and a stack of puzzles is fun!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town . . . Eventually, and Mrs. Claus, Too

Friday night dates used to mean at least dinner out, maybe a movie or a drive in the country.
Now Friday night dates mean dinner with whichever members of the extended family can get together, at one house or another.
Tonight it was the home of the Princess and the Ballerina, one of whom was very very tired and just a little pouty.
The pizza was tasty, the homemade chocolate chip cookies (made this afternoon with the Ballerina's help) delicious, and the company was entertaining. Lively conversation made dinner go by quickly,and included a discussion about Santa Claus. (It is, after all, September.)
“I'm really Santa Claus,” confided the grandpa in the group.
“No, you're not,” said the Ballerina.
“Oh yes I am,” said the grandpa with a twinkle in his eye.
After that brief exchange, the conversation shifted; but then as we left, the Ballerina took me aside and said confidentially, “Grandma, I know Grandpa isn't Santa Claus, because then there would have to be a Mrs. Claus with him.”
I nodded thoughtfully, and said, “And I don't look anything like Mrs. Claus, do I?”
The Ballerina nodded quite seriously and said, “No, Grandma, you don't. You just look like your own self.”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reasons to Rest

One of the tools in our grandparenting bag is modeling.
This is a tool parents use, too, but with age we gain impact when we model good behavior.
Oh, sure, our kids might sigh, even roll their eyes as they mutter something like “what's mom up to now?”
But our grandkids -- they're watching and listening more closely than we realize.
That's why it's important to be intentional about how we live.
If we keep going at a breakneck pace just because we can, we're teaching our kids and grandkids that it's a good way to live.
And maybe it's not.
What about rest?
I wrote about resting in yesterday's Hearts at Home column in the Bloomington Pantagraph. (It's my last column in that space, coincidentally.)
If you're feeling rushed, tired, over-extended, you might want to make time to read it. It could be all the excuse you need to relax.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Birthday Week

We had a family birthday party this week. It's easy to forget how exciting a party is when you're turning 5 years old, and the party is just for you.
The days leading up to the big event were trying for the birthday girl's mom. All the excitement made good behavior a little harder for the birthday girl to come by. It's easy to forget how tantrums and drama can wear out a mom, too!
This time I didn't do a very good job of helping out. Caught up with my own responsibilities, I failed to see the little ways I might have eased my daughter's stress.
It's difficult these days, when all of us have so many things to do, so many legitimate demands on our time, to notice -- or have the energy to carry out -- the small kindnesses that might encourage or make a difference to the people around us. It's not an excuse or an accusation; just an observation.
The birthday party was a huge success, including the surprise blowing out of birthday candles by a 2 year old sibling, which meant the whole cake-and-candle part of the evening had to be re-enacted, with much laughter. The cake and ice cream were delicious and much appreciated, the gifts were greeted with joy, and the birthday girl -- and all the rest of us -- had a very good time, thank you very much.
But next time, I'll try to pay more attention so that the days leading up to the big party are fun for everyone, too.

Toddlers, Food, and Memories

Grandmas are supposed to be all about food, but if it's been awhile since you've fed a toddler, may I offer a refresher course? I wrote about Toddler Nutrition in the Bloomington Pantagraph for Hearts at Home recently. You might find it interesting -- and it will probably bring back memories!

Keeping Up

Being a grandma is no excuse for falling behind culturally.
I don't mean you have to be aware of every celebrity twitch. What I mean is it's not good to use your own advancing age to ignore what's happening in our culture. And in our culture, technology is a big deal.
Even if you don't use technology, it's a good idea to know something about it. Otherwise, sooner or later you'll find yourself speaking a different language from your grandchildren.
Traditionally grandparents hang on to technology that was cutting edge when they were younger, and shy away from what is newest. That isn't true of all grandparents, of course; some of us can't wait to show off how cool we are -- we Twitter, and we don't care who knows it!
Part of understanding and using technology is awareness of its risks and dangers. The NetSmartz website has easy-to-understand explanations of those risks and dangers, with special sections for parents and guardians, as well as for children of every age.
I encourage you to check it out, educate yourself, then share what you've learned with the grandkids you love.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Lessons from a Visit

One of the 4-year olds spent the night this week. We had a good time checking out the spider webs in the back yard, watching two (two!) movies together (short ones -- the Focus on the Family McGee and Me series,) and carefully examining family photographs.
It's hard for a 4-year old to spend the night away from family. “I never did this before,” she told me. “Always before I had somebody else here with me.”
She was brave despite a little bit of homesickness (having Jasmine the golden lab to play with helped a lot,) and we did have fun together. After our backyard spider expedition we sat down in the swing on the big sycamore tree, only to discover that yet another spider was busy building a web from the swing to the nearest sycamore branch! (We politely encouraged that spider to build somewhere else.)
The raspberry chocolate chip ice cream was a disappointment (too much raspberry, not enough chocolate chip) so we substituted popcorn for our after dinner treat.
We visited a local used-book store as well as the local library. We brought home some books that we enjoyed, curled up together on the love seat in the living room. Now when I write her a letter and say I've just come from the bookstore or the library, she'll have an idea of where I'm talking about.
And looking at the family photographs gave her a glimpse into her mommy and daddy's lives before she was a part of them. “She's so pretty,” she said, gazing at a photograph of her mom a few years ago. I had to agree!
Our overnight together accomplished at least three good things: we got to know one another better. We had fun together. And next time, I'll be sure the ice cream is chocolate!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making Introductions, Strengthening Connections

Staying current with what's happening in the world of parenting is easier than ever for grandparents. There's a wealth of information about new products, new ideas, and new information about child development that even grandparents will benefit from available in books, magazines, online. We set a good example for both our grandchildren and our children when we keep learning new information and stay interested in what's happening.
In the September 2008 issue of one of the relatively new parenting magazines, Wonder Time, there's a great article, Lost in Translation by Sarah Trillin, about how to introduce your child to her grandparents, even those who are deceased. In a sidebar, Trillin offers sugggestions for “Keeping Memories Alive” that will touch your heart, inspire you, even make you think about your own grandparents.
As a grandparent, these suggestions may give you some ideas, too, for sharing your life with your grandchildren, help them know -- and remember -- you better.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trading Lunches

With the new school year beginning, many families are looking for new lunchboxes. They have a lot of choices.
One option is recyclable bags, thermoses, and wrappers. The Reusable Bags website offers all these, including stainless steel drink containers and sandwich wraps that take the place of plastic sandwich bags.
The products they offer are appealing, but as I looked through the website, I was concerned to learn that many of them are manufactured in China. I'm glad China has developed a thriving economy, but I'd like to have a choice. The website makes a point of reporting that while they'd like to buy American-made product, they can't do it in a cost-effective way.
The website also emphasizes that they check in on the factories where product is made to be sure they adhere to safety and personnel policies.
I'm not familiar enough with the intricacies of trade policy to comment much. I understand there are issues of life safety, product safety, labor practices, material costs, trade balances and fair trade practices that affect our ability to keep manufacturing plants open and running efficiently.
I just know I'd like to buy safe, well-made products made in the United States at a price I can afford. And surely there are answers to these concerns that will allow our grandchildren to find good jobs in this country when they grow up.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Framing Your Grandchildren

Marge Kennedy's book 100 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Family Together has hundreds of ideas for family fun.
This is one of my favorites:
“One mom reports within earshot of her kindergartner: 'It's the most amazing thing. But every year, Santa somehow finds my daughter's best work, frames it, and leaves it under the tree for me. And every year, it's my favorite gift.'”
What a good way to spotlight work that might otherwise be tucked into the back of a drawer!
Framed artwork created by your child as a gift for a grandparent is a great way to share your child's progress.
Or a grandparent could “commission” a picture from a grandchild as a gift for a parent!
Either way, everyone wins, and the child feels as if she has contributed something of value to family celebrations.
Ms. Kennedy doesn't stop there, though -- she suggests other ideas like:
“* Photograph a terrific block tower before getting to the necessary task of dismantling it to reclaim the living room floor.
* Tape record piano recitals, new songs learned, poetry readings.
* Create collages of special events -- hair ribbons, a pressed flower, photo, program from a child's ballet recital, or ticket stubs from the season's final peewee soccer match.”
These ideas are creative ways to encourage and affirm a child's accomplishments.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Four Ways to Influence Arts Education

This morning one of my daughters e-mailed a YouTube video about “Raisin Brahms.”
It's a short commercial from the Americans for the Arts campaign, and it was so cute I checked out their website, where I found a lot of helpful, interesting information.
For instance, did you know that (according to the website's Quick Facts) “Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement . . . 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools . . . 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair . . . 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance . . . 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.
As a grandparent I believe these opportunities are important for children. And as a grandparent I have several opportunities to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren, as well as all the children in our community -- and that's important for many reasons, not least because those children are my grandchildren's peer group.
Here are four ways grandparents can influence the arts opportunities our grandchildren have:
* Act as advocates for the arts in our community, including working with local school boards to be sure there is adequate funding, resources and equipment for arts programs.
* Patronize exhibits, concerts, shows, and art sales in the local community. A thriving arts community will demonstrate opportunities for artists.
* If you've ever played an instrument, drawn or painted a picture, or written a short story or poem, keep at it! When your grandchildren see you working at these things, it legitimizes them. When they see you having fun with them, it encourages your grandchild to try them, too!
* If you're an artist, volunteer your skill and talent to your local school, church, or community group. The more art there is around your grandchildren, the more artists they know, the more they'll be inspired to find the artist within themselves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Invitation

I'd like to invite you to stop by and visit my other blog, Notes from Home. It's a daybook of sorts, reflections about everyday life. You can find it here.

3 Ways a Grandparent Matters

Grandparents are important in a child's life. Whether they live next door or across the country, grandparents can provide at least three important benefits to their grandchildren.
* Grandparents provide a sense of connection. Kids like to know where they belong, and they like to feel they are part of something significant. When they know how they fit into a family, kids gain a sense of belonging and significance.
* Grandparents provide back-up to a parent. Even if they don't quite agree on every detail, a grandparent can affirm a parent's authority and confirm a parent's love. Kids need to see a united front when it comes to things that are important, and grandparents can offer important support to the things a parent is trying to instill in a child.
* Grandparents provide love. From the hugs and kisses at the end of a visit (or a letter!) to the caring concern about everything from scraped knees to grades on tests to a child's interests and enthusiasms, a grandparent's interest in a grandchild says one thing: you matter greatly to me, and I love you. Kids need that from someone besides a parent.
If you are a grandparent, you have the opportunity to bless your grandchild significantly!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Grandkids and Nature

One of the things we can nurture in our grandchildren is a love of nature. The psalmist tells us that “the majesty of God's name fills the earth.” (Psalm 8:9) When we encourage close observation and pleasure in nature, we are really directing attention to the Creator.
My daughter Julie Kaiser wrote about encouraging children to enjoy nature from for a Hearts at Home column in the Bloomington Pantagraph. You can read her observations here.
While Julie was talking specifically about some of the ways parents can encourage a child to explore the natural world around him, her ideas are simple enough for a grandparent to utilize.
We can encourage our grandchildren's natural interest in the world around them. Simply giving them an opportunity to explore is a good beginning. For a grandparent, that might mean making a walk together a regular ritual during the time we spend with our grandchildren.
We can point out things our grandkids might miss, but we can also listen to their observations and questions about what they see and hear and smell.
Here are some other ideas you might find helpful in nurturing your grandchild's love of nature:
* Share your own interest and enthusiasm. When our kids were small, my own father's interest in constellations sparked their interest. What an exciting evening it was when grandpa came to our house to share telescope time!
* Make the natural world part of your conversation with your grandchildren, whether that conversation takes place in person or on the phone, through letters and notes, or by e-mail.
* Make field guides or other educational resources available to your grandchild. The National Wildlife Federation publishes several nature magazines for children, including Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick.
* Visit local parks, wildlife refuges, and gardens together.
* Encourage your grandchild to sketch, journal, photograph or make an audio recording of what she sees and hears in nature.
No matter how you go about it, sharing a love for God's creation with your grandchildren is a good thing.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Illuminating Faith

In his foreword to the book A Sacrifice of Praise, Larry Woiwode describes what happens to many young people who go off to college or university: their “faint faith” fades. In his case, it took about a decade before he found faith illuminating his life again.
Most of us have observed this same thing happening to young people we know; some of us have experienced it first-hand. It's a common enough experience, and sadly, not everyone returns to a life of faith.
If you have grandchildren who are going off to college or university, or beginning a career, don't underestimate the good influence you can have on them as they begin to make independent choices.
Specifically you can:
* Stay in touch. Of-the-moment communication like e-mail and texting is valuable, but so is a loving, old fashioned hand-written letter. It's a tangible reminder that you are thinking of your grandchild.
* Stay interested but not intrusive. Ask questions about what your grandchild thinks about what he is studying, or the people he is meeting. Keep up with what is happening on his campus.
* Supply her need. Think about what small gift might encourage her: homemade cookies in the mail? Something practical like a gift card to an office supply store? A coffee mug with her university's logo? If you can afford it, supply it.
* Pray specifically for him as he goes to class. Pray he will be discerning when he hears other world views. Pray he will be wise in dealing with non-believers. Pray for his safety, his studies, the choices and decisions he will make.

Monday, August 4, 2008

House Beauty

There's a new school of fish “swimming” on our kitchen bulletin board today.
Some of our granddaughters got home from a lengthy vacation, and on the way home they stopped with their parents at a restaurant where the back of the children's menu was a picture of fish to color.
Those colored fish were the first things they gave us when they got home; I know the girls will be looking for them the next time they come over.
Sometimes when I see photographs of perfectly decorated rooms, I sigh, and think about how lovely it would be to live in a room like that. I look around at our kid-art decorated, toy-strewn home, weigh the family against perfection, and the family wins every time.
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Friday, August 1, 2008

E-mail Exchange

I had a nice surprise yesterday -- e-mails from two of my grandchildren. Their mom had them dictate their messages as she typed, and I got to hear about frog-catching, a special new book, and scary movies. Hugs and kisses -- lots of xxxs and ooos -- adorned each e-mail. What a day brightener!
Mindful of e-mail etiquette, I responded right away. I can only hope they are as cheered by my response as I was thinking of them sitting on my daughter's lap, dictating their messge.
If you are wishing you could talk with a grandchild, ask her parent if exchanging e-mail might be a possibility.

Getting Together

If you are thinking about planning a family reunion, may I suggest an article I wrote for the current issue of Midwestern Family magazine? You'll find tips for planning a fun time for your extended family, and ways to make the most of your time together, as well as suggestions for nurturing relationships. Although the article is not available online, the website will give you information about where to find the magazine locally or by mail.

Creativity

Creativity is one of the best parts of education; learning is an onerous chore without it.
I'm not talking about the kind of creativity that is caricatured as something woo-hooey, something kind of spacey, kind of not-of-this-world.
I like what Miriam Huffman Rockness says, “The creative person is an artist in living, taking all the raw materials of life and shaping them imaginatively.” I think her point is pertinent: a creative person is rooted in real life.
It can be tempting, once we reach a certain age, to quit learning, to stop being excited about life. Creativity dies when we hold that attitude. Worse, we set a bad example for those who come after us.
The psalmist, in “A Song for the Sabbath” (Psalm 92) writes, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD, they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green, to show that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Psalm 92:12-15.)
Reading this makes me giggle. It seems to say that even in old age it's good to be sappy, full of life and green. Creative. Still bringing forth fruit.
That's what I hope for. That's what I want to share with my children, and with my grandchildren.

Back to School

Kids everywhere -- or at least their parents -- are getting ready to go back to school.
Grandparents have a role to play in the education of their grandchildren. I just wrote about this for the SpringfieldMoms On-line Newsletter. You can read the article Grandma’s House: Help Your Grandkids Love Learning at Every Age here.
Here are some other tips for playing a role in your grandchild's education:
Model an attitude of excitement about learning – your enthusiasm is contagious.
* Let him know you're still interested in learning new things. Let him in on your learning projects and keep him up on your progress.
* If you collect something, share that collection with him. Explain why you find it fascinating in a way that will interest him.
* Express your own curiosity. Ask questions and show interest in the why and how of things, and seek answers.
Find a way to share what you're interested in with your grandchild in an age-appropriate way.
* Share what you're learning with him at a level he can understand and be interested in.
* Don't overwhelm him with facts and figures, or opportunities he's not ready for or interested in.
* Having fun is appropriate at every age. If you enjoy something, just share your pleasure in it. Your grandchild will catch on!
Create a relationship that encourages interest and allows exploration.
* Listen to her questions. Respond in a way that communicates that you take her seriously.
* Show her where to find answers, whether that's in books, reference materials, or online. Introduce her to people you know who have expertise in what she wants to learn about.
Affirm your grandchild's curiosity.
* Respect her interests, even if you don't share them. Don't laugh at her for having questions, or for not knowing something.
* Encourage her to learn more about the things she's most interested in.
* Ask her questions of your own. Often you can direct her curiosity by the questions you ask.
Express confidence in your grandchild's ability to learn.
* Take his efforts to learn seriously.
* Let him know you believe his interests are worthwhile. If you aren't sure that they are, express your doubt respectfully, and offer an alternative.
* Help him locate the tools he needs to learn, whether it's a good dictionary or some kind of tool he needs to carry out his projects.
If you love learning, if you have things to share with your grandchildren -- make the time, take the opportunities to encourage them to love learning, too.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tradition!

Do you have seasonal traditions with your grandchildren?
I've been checking with my kids to see when the grandkids go back to school. The past few years I've tried to bake “back-to-school cookies” for each grandchild who's going to school, even if it's just pre-school.
I learned the hard way, though, that I have to begin planning in time. If I want to have cookies to the kids on that first day of school I can't wait too long -- some of our kids go back to school in three weeks!
For the grandkids who live farther away, I mail the cookies, and of course, that also takes time. The United States Postal Service offers flat rate boxes that are just the right size for a good supply of cookies. I wrap each cookie individually in wax paper or plastic wrap to keep them from crumbling, and add a kid-friendly magazine or coloring book in the box as padding.
For the grandkids who live close enough for a personal delivery I try to make the cookie presentation fun, wrapping them up in a special bowl.
Sometimes I add some cocoa packets, and always an encouraging letter.
Baking in the summer isn't as cozy as baking on a snowy day, but the end result is the same: happy kids and grandkids!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stories and Stuff

I noticed the other night that it's getting dark just a little earlier each night. It made me remember summer nights when I was a girl -- bike rides at dusk, walking home from the local swimming pool after dark, ice cream with mom and dad on the front porch -- even an occasional summer thunderstorm echoing over the river that ran a block away from our house.
Each of us has stories to share with our children and grandchildren about what our growing up years were like. Have you told those stories to your children and grandchildren? Have you preserved any of the photographs or other mementoes that call those stories to mind?
We have an entire small room, about the size of a walk-in closet, with nothing but family artifacts and photographs. They are semi-organized, and every now and then my husband says “We need to get those photographs in some kind of usable form.”
He's right, and the best use I can think of is to let our kids and grandkids know their family history, using the photographs we've collected and the stories we remember.
Hallmark Magazine has a special publication out right now called Memory Keeping; I picked up a copy today at our local Hallmark shop. It's full of scrapbooking ideas, free clip art, and encouragement. Some of these ideas might be helpful as we set about sharing these family treasures.
The trick is to connect the stories with the stuff so that our family understands why the stuff has value to us. What good is a bowling trophy without the story about your high school bowling team? Why keep those old cookbooks unless you know the story of how your mom learned to cook from them?
It may seem as if our kids don't want to keep the stuff or hear the stories, but these things are like vegetables: they're good for you, even if you don't realize it now. Having things organized and written down is a good way to be sure our kids get the benefit of what we've experienced and learned, even if they aren't willing to listen right now. Chances are good that someday they'll want to know what we're trying to tell them!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Celebrating a New Baby

We received the gift of a new grandchild last week, our tenth. You might think it gets to be familiar but it doesn't -- each time, each grandchild is a thrill, and watching our kids become parents is an incredible blessing.
It's a privilege to celebrate with our kids as they add to their family. How do you celebrate a new baby?
Here are some ideas:
* Be there if you are welcome. Don't underestimate the value of your presence. On the other hand if your kids make it clear that they would like privacy, give them that, too.
* When it comes to gifts, think about what will bring joy to your kids. Do they enjoy fresh flowers or a planter from the florist? Flowers from your garden? Or maybe a freshly baked pie?
* If you bring something for the new baby, try to make it something they need, or something that will make them smile. We try to bring something the baby needs -- clothes, blankets, diapers, but we've also taken the dresses our daughters wore home from the hospital to our daughters when they've given birth to their first daughters, and we've taken the photograph of our new-born son taken in the hospital as a gift when he celebrated the birth of his son.
* Consider the gift of a book for the baby -- a book is always a good gift.
* Another good gift is a CD of music for the baby -- lullabies, or quiet classical music, or a mix of your favorite kid songs.
* Celebrate with a special meal with the new family. Fix it yourself, carry it in from your favorite restaurant (not fast food!) or give the new parents a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
* Let the new parents see your joy and affirmation.
* If you go to help when a new baby is born, do the dishes, the laundry, and the sweeping up -- let the new parents take care of the baby!
* Thank God together for the blessing of new life.
How do you celebrate?

Friday, July 25, 2008

4-H Fun -- Learning with a Purpose

All over the country, kids and their families are celebrating the end of another year of 4-H with a fair. And there's reason to celebrate! 4-H is an organization that helps kids acquire proficiency in life skills of all kinds, with the help of caring adults intent on passing on their own skills.

I wrote about passing on skills in a column for Hearts at Home which is currently running on their website; you can read it here.

If you know a child who'd like to learn a new skill -- and what child wouldn't? -- offer to teach her. You'll both have fun!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Books to Share . . .

If you're looking for a good book for a grandchild, Violet Comes to Stay might be just what you're looking for. Published by Viking's Penguin Group in 2006, the story is written by Melanie Cecka, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, and presented by Jan Karon, the author of The Mitford Series of books. In those books, her character Cynthia Coppersmith, a popular author of the Violet series of books about Violet, a little white cat, marries Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest with sturdy faith and a loving heart.
Did you follow all that?
The book itself isn't that complicated – it's a delightful story about how Violet finds a home, and is suitable for reading to a pre-schooler, while an older child will enjoy reading it for herself. The illustrations invite inspection; you'll have fun looking at them, noticing details. Be sure to keep an eye out for the mouse!

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Another book we've enjoyed around here lately is one of the Sterling Publishing Company's Poetry for Young People series, The Seasons. This series of books includes collections like American Poetry or Animal Poems, as well as books for individual poets like Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson.
The Seasons, a lovely book edited by John N. Serio, includes poems for summer, autumn, winter, and spring, including poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nikki Giovanni, and Elinor Wylie, among others. Robert Crockett's illustrations are as evocative as the poems they illustrate.
Reading poetry to grandkids is fun; they have fun with language, and are able to make the imaginative leaps that bring a poem to life. Memorizing a favorite poem together creates a special bond between you! Choose something age appropriate, something you both enjoy, and work together to commit it to memory. You'll be sharing something special with your grandchild!
A poem is a good gift!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Fun

Some of my best memories are of spending time with my grandma in her kitchen. It was the place she was most at home. Not only was she a wonderful cook -- she liked to just sit and visit at the kitchen table, sometimes doing little chores like snapping beans or shelling peas. (Who shells peas any more?)
I work as a volunteer with Hearts at Home, a Christ-centered organization designed to encourage, educate and equip moms. Currently a column I wrote several years ago about summer fun in the kitchen is on the home page of the website. You can read the full article here.
If you have grandchildren visiting this summer, check out these ideas for breakfast pizza, summer smoothies, and summer refrigerator art!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ways to Pray

I've been thinking about the importance of praying regularly for our grandkids. Is there anything else we can do that has such long-lasting, far-reaching results?
Here are some of the things we can pray about:
* for their health and safety
* that they will have good friends, and that they will learn to be a good friend to others
* that they will have enough of what they need
* that their character will develop in godly ways
* that they will have fun learning new things
* that their parents will enjoy them
*that they will have a desire to know, love, and obey God
And that's just for starters!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Baby Gift Ideas

Whether it's a new grandchild in our family, or a new baby or grandchild in a friend's family, I love to go shopping for baby things – and there are so many new wonderful products out there! Here are two of my favorites:
Peas and Carrots – my friend Megan tipped me off to this wonderful company, which offers things for baby – burp rags, blankets, and other necessities – in fresh, colorful fabrics, as well as cute purses and bags for mom! A great place to shop!
And Susan Branch is one of my favorite artists – very sweet but with a twist. I love her use of color and quotation! She has a line of things for grandmas that include the practical as well as the whimsical.
If you're shopping for a little one – or for a little one's mom – both of these sites are worth checking out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Sandwich Generation . . .

As grandparents we are sometimes caught in the middle between being involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren, and caring for our own aging parents or other elderly relatives. Some of us still have children at home as well.
I wrote about this dilemma recently in the Springfield State Journal-Register's Heartland article Caught in the Middle which you can read here.
You may be experiencing a similar situation. What's most difficult about it for you and your family?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something Fun . . .

I found something fun at our local Target store recently in the stationery aisle.
Marianne Richmond Studios has published a book of postcards for grandparents to send grandchildren, as well as a “Grandma & Me Activity Book.”
The 21-count postcard book includes brightly colored postcards that will appeal to kids of all ages, and even includes riddle and puzzle postcards to delight older kids.
The 32-page activity book is designed to provide a “grand” time together, and includes quizzes, recipes, games, and simple crafts to do together.
If you are looking for something to jump-start your own creativity, I recommend the activity book. If you like to send postcards to your grandkids, I think you'll be pleased with the postcards Marianne Richmond Studios offer. They may not be obviously available on her website, but watch for her at Target.
And if you visit Marianne's website, check out her blog – it's fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Libraries and Learning Moments

Yesterday I went with one of my daughters to The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It wasn't our first time there, but we found ourselves moved again by the story of President Lincoln's life, his losses and triumphs, his death.
“It made me cry,” I said as we left.
“Me, too,” said my daughter. “That's why I didn't stay right with you!”
This museum in Springfield, Illinois tells the story of President Lincoln's life in a way that evokes emotion as well as educates. Some areas are exceptionally intense. The Whispering Gallery, with editorial cartoons that vilify not just President Lincoln but also his wife, is hard to walk through – but also familiar; we still make mean fun of our President, no matter who he is.
Another part of the exhibit includes a White House bedroom where Willie Lincoln lies dying even as a Presidential ball takes place “downstairs” -- the exhibit is set up so that we hear the music from the ball, see the President leaning into the room, having left the ball just for a moment to check on his boy; see Mrs. Lincoln leaning over Willie in bed.
As we walked my daughter wondered if it would be appropriate to bring her 7-year old son to the museum. He's asked to come, but she is having a hard time deciding if it would be something he would understand, be able to put in perspective, or if it would be too much too soon.
Besides the personal stories the museum tells, there is a great deal about the Civil War. The museum doesn't sugar-coat the death and dying.
How much is appropriate for a child to see? At what age?
How does a parent or a grandparent decide?

*******

Which brings up some of those “I wish I'd been more careful” grandparenting moments.
Two of our grandkids spent a week-end with us recently. After a busy afternoon they were both tired – not quite tired enough for naps, but too tired for much of anything else.
“Would you like to watch a video?” I asked, and of course, they would.
Shuffling through our collection of old videos, they came across The Wizard of Oz. “This one,” they said.
“I don't know,” I said. “Maybe your mom wouldn't like for you to see this. It can be kind of scary.”
“Oh, mom won't mind,” said the older.
“Yeah, grandma. You can sit with us and watch it so we won't be scared,” said the younger.
So I relented, put the video in, and when the scary tornado came I sat with them, and the scary witch, and the scary monkeys. Everyone was deliciously scared – I thought – and then the movie was over with everyone happy, back in Kansas.
When the grandkids went home, they were excited to tell their mom about the scary movie they'd seen. She called right away.
At first I thought her concern was that I'd let them watch a scary movie, so I explained I'd been right there with them, we'd talked about the scary parts later, and I thought they were doing OK.
“But we wanted to watch that movie with them ourselves. It's a classic and we were saving it to watch together when they are a little older,” she explained patiently.
My heart sank as I realized I'd messed up. I should have checked with my daughter before I let the kids watch the movie.
Later, accepting my apology, she said, “How could you possibly have known we wanted to watch that movie with them?”
But the principle is checking with the parents before doing anything you aren't sure about – and I didn't.
It's like coaxing my daughter-in-law to let her 2-year old stay up “just a little longer” to do one more thing, then watching as, just as she said, he had a melt-down because he was too tired.
As a grandma it's important to listen to our children tell us about our grandchildren, and to ask when we don't know. It's important to recognize their parental insight, as well as to respect their right to parent the way they think best.
I think I need to remember that!

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So, when it comes to deciding what a child is ready to do or see, a parent's gut feeling is important. A mom or a dad probably have a good sense about what a particular child is ready for, what they can handle.
My daughter was doing something smart: she went to see for herself, again, just what her child might see and experience at the museum. Although she's been there before, this time she went and walked through, trying to see the exhibits from the perspective of a curious 7-year old. That's wise.
She also noticed some parts of the museum were more appropriate for her son at this age than other areas. Areas that tell the story of President Lincoln's early life – the log cabin, the store at New Salem, the law office where his two sons are making a big mess – these parts of the exhibit might be fine for a 7-year old. Other sections of this part of the exhibit – particularly the slave market section – might not be easily explained. If she lets him see that part, she'll at least have time to prepare to talk about it with him.
It's important to encourage a child's curiosity, but you don't want to overwhelm a child with information or emotions they aren't ready to process, either.
It's a good thing to think about when we consider vacation plans.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Are You There, Grandma???

It's easy to forget how difficult it is to accomplish anything easily measured when there are toddlers and pre-schoolers around.
As a young mom I remember feeling like a failure most of the time because our house was hardly ever neat and tidy. It was a constant challenge just to keep toys picked up, laundry done and meals on the table – and I hardly ever seemed to catch up.
This summer we've tried to make lots of time to spend with grandchildren, and I'm remembering just why it's difficult to accomplish anything easily measured while the kids are around: because they like to talk.
Specifically they like to talk to any adult within listening distance. And they like you to listen, and maybe talk back.
These conversations are interesting and important, but they don't lend themselves so well to efficiency. It's hard to watch a bug on the sidewalk and fold laundry at the same time!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kit Kittredge, American Girl movie

The 5-year old and her mom invited me to go with them to the new American Girl movie, Kit Kittredge, this afternoon. While the 5-year old eventually got wiggly, her mom and I enjoyed the movie a lot.
Kit Kittredge is one of the American Girl character dolls; her story is set during the Great Depression, and the movie is faithful to that setting. The sets, costumes, and story all reflected that time-period realistically, and for a young girl (maybe a little older than 5 years old!) who has a Kit doll, or who is interested in history, or whose heart can be captured by a good story, this is a great movie.

Shopping Notes . . .

One of my daughters and one of my daughters-in-law both told me a neat shopping secret: Stride Rite shoe stores carry a great line of toys, at least in our area.
I love Melissa and Doug toys, for their quality, for their variety, for their – play-ability. I observe that my grandkids love them, too – they are often the first toys the kids go for. Our play kitchen is well stocked with Melissa and Doug play food and kitchen utensils. We have their wooden puzzles, and I'm sure as time goes by we'll acquire more of their toys for our play stash, as well as give them as birthday and Christmas gifts.
Our local Stride Rite shoe store carries great shoes, as well as a good selection of Melissa and Doug toys. If you haven't checked out these products, you can get an idea of what they offer or find a store near you at the Stride Rite website or the Melissa and Doug website.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Week-end Fun

Two of our grandchildren came for a sleep-over this past week-end. They slept in the upstairs bedroom where the morning light comes in full, strong, and early.
“They wake up early,” said their mom when she brought them to stay, forgetting that, when she was their age, she, too woke up with first light and the birds.
They did wake up early, giggling their way down the stairs and into our bedroom where grandpa gruffly told them it wasn't time to get up yet. They didn't see his grin as he rolled over, tucking his pillow under his head.
The 7-year old has learned to tell time this past year, so the next morning we told him they had to stay in the bedroom reading or looking out the window til 6:45 – and they did. There is something about showing off a new skill one has mastered that kept them upstairs until precisely 6:45 a.m.
Good times . . .

********

While they were visiting we visited Lakeview Museum to see the Discovery Center, the Grossology exhibit, and the Planetarium.
One of the best things about having kids around is that they give us an excuse to do kid things, too. The Discovery Center is full of fun things to do – create a cloud, put your hand into a tornado, gaze into the funhouse mirror. Of course there is science and technology behind each aspect of the Discovery Center but it's so much fun that no one minds the learning.
The Grossology exhibit was, well, gross. The 7-year old liked the snot exhibit, particularly the faucet-nose part. But the real hit of the day was the Planetarium. Even the 4-year old enjoyed sitting in the darkened room and looking up at the stars.
“Mommy and Daddy don't let me stay up this late,” she whispered as the lights went down.
We saw a show that detailed the race for space that is geared to older kids, but even the 7-year old was excited to see the rockets, the moon walk, and the deep-space sky. We were impressed with the experience, too – the Planetarium, featuring something called Powerdome, is much more like an IMAX theater than we remembered, and it was thrilling to sit there and feel as if we were headed out to space, too.
It's fun to be a kid again!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Encouragement

Randy Pausch's book The Last Lecture is about how he is handling his own impending death from pancreatic cancer.
One of the things he talks about is how blessed he has been in his family. His relationship with his dad has helped make him the man he's grown to be.
Randy Pausch's dad helped him dream, helped him believe he could achieve his dreams. He didn't withhold honest evaluations of Randy's efforts, but he was able to season those evaluations with enough encouragement to keep his son believing his dreams were within reach.
What a gift that is! And parents aren't the only ones who can offer a gift like that – grandparents can, friends can, teachers can.
Randy Pausch makes the point that when we've received encouragement, it's good for us to pass it on to others. It's one of many good things Randy shares in this book. I encourage you to read it, and be encouraged yourself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Too Young To Be a Grandma?

Yesterday I was talking with friends when one of them, whose son is getting married soon, said, “It's too early for me to be a grandma – I'm not ready for that yet!”
I laughed, remembering a time when I felt the same way.
In fact, I'm often surprised to realize I'm a grandma now.
I think that's because often, we don't feel our age. Oh, we might feel a little stiff when we kneel out in the garden too long, or when we stay up too late the night before but when I stop to think of it, I've always felt stiff when I knelt too long in the garden, and I've never been good at staying up too late.
What does it mean to be a grandmother?
For me, it's opportunities.
As a grandma, I have the opportunity to serve my family. Some of my children seek my advice or ask about my experience. Some of my children ask for help in practical ways, with child care or help with a sick child. Some of my children just want someone to share their joy.
I can do those things.
I also have the opportunity to pass on to my grandchildren some of the things I think are important: faith. Family history. Family artifacts (yes – stuff!)
How to bake a pie, or sew on a button, or plant a flower bed.
Being a grandma is really a continuation of being a mom – many of the tasks are similar, but not as constant or intense. There are exceptions, of course, but many of the skills I honed as a mom are the same ones I call on as a grandma. And many of the pleasures I enjoyed as a mom are the ones I enjoy as a grandma – cuddling a child on my lap. Reading together. Sharing a laugh over something silly.
We may think we aren't ready to be grandmas, but the truth is, we've been getting ready for the job since we first became moms.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Day In The Life . . .

Do you have a young grandchild who lives a long way away? Here's an idea for staying in touch: create a “Grandma's House” photo album. Include photographs of your kitchen, dining room, living room, yard, and a bedroom or two – enough to make your home seem familiar when she does come to visit.
Include some photographs of yourself, your spouse, any pets, perhaps some of your friends or people you might see every day – the postman, or the lady who checks your groceries when you shop. Be sure you add a photograph of yourself talking on the telephone or sitting at your desk. Then when you talk or write to your grandchild, remind them of that photograph.
The idea is to give your grandchild a sense of who you are in context. You can turn it into a photo essay -- “A Day in Grandma's Life” -- if you feel especially creative.
You can do this online if your family is more used to using computers to keep in touch, but a hard copy is nice for your grandchild; she can carry it around and look at it whenever she wants.
And if you're a mom with small children, consider turning this idea around: make a “Baby's Day” photo album for your parents or in-laws.
I can just about promise they'll love it!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Summer Adventures

Yesterday's mail brought two letters from grandkids – one with illustrations of a recent zoo trip, the other with a real letter written by our almost second-grader grandson, complete with a fine description of the rhinosceros.
It didn't take much effort to prepare the envelopes I gave them, and the reward has been delightful!
To keep things going, I'm planning a letter writing session of my own – it's my turn!
In the Summer 2008 issue of a relatively new magazine, Life: Beautiful (you can find them online at www:lifebeautifulmagazine.com) there is an article about making stationery. I'm intrigued! I don't know if I'll get up the nerve to try it (I'm a craft-challenged grandma!) but who knows – summer is a time for adventures of all kinds!
I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sharing Books , Sharing Music

If you are looking for a good book to share with your kids or grandkids about music, may I suggest two?
The first, by Leo and Diane Dillon, is called Jazz on a Saturday Night, and includes a bonus CD inside. Published by The Blue Sky Press (an imprint of Scholastic Inc.) in 2007, this book introduces kids to jazz, a uniquely American art form.
Imagining a “Dream Team” of musicians including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Thelonius Monk playing together, (an event the authors are careful in the foreword to explain never actually took place) the text describes what happens on a Saturday night when jazz musicians “smile with a meeting of eyes. A cool night, a cool note – they all improvise.”
The illustrations in this book add to the fun, showcasing instruments and musicians while lending a sense of actually being there, enjoying the cool music.
A different kind of music is suggested in Nancy White Carlstrom's book Glory. Illustrated by Debra Reid Jenkins, this brightly colored book, published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, is a song of praise for the things a child might appreciate about God's creation.
Although no melody is indicated, this is a book you might read – or make up your own melody and sing – to a child who, perhaps might want to add his own verse or song of praise to God.
The language here is simple, referring to things a small child might be familiar with, or have imagined. There are references to how things sound, which can help you initiate conversation about their various musical qualities.
And – it's just a fun read, full of playful references like “Glory Glory Glory be to God for winging, swimming, singing ones of sky and sea and earth. All creatures large, all creatures small, that dance and leap and curl and crawl. . .”
It's always a good day to share a song – or a book – with someone you love!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

All Together, Now . . .

Music is a good gift from God.
One good way to have fun with kids is to sing to them, and to sing with them. Music is a universal language, one that communicates well across any generation gap.
Reach back into your memory for songs from your own childhood – songs like “I Know a Little Pussy” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and sing them with your grandkids.
Most kids like music, and they'll like sharing it with you. Whether it's a lullaby sung to soothe a cranky infant, a silly song like “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or a song you remember from your own growing up years, sharing it with your child or grandchild is just fun.
Music is also a great teaching tool. Scripture songs and hymns help a child hide Scripture in her heart, and help her feel at home in church, when those songs are sung by the congregation. In this case, familiarity breeds comfort, not to mention a measure of attentiveness!
And who hasn't tried to teach the alphabet or times tables with a catchy song?
Music appreciation is a great thing to give your child, and what better way to pass it on than to sing to and with your kids?
Here are three ways you can share a gift of music with your child or grandchild:
* Sing in the car, sing while you do chores together, sing together around the table after a meal – just look for the chance to sing, then do it! Don't be shy; be enthusiastic. If you're having fun, chances are your kids will, too.
* If you aren't together, sing over the phone. Find a signature song you always sing to one another.
* Sing along to the radio, or to your Ipod, or to the commercials on television. Help your kids appreciate music wherever they find it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Staying in Touch . . .

Here's a simple, quick idea for staying in touch with your grandkids over the summer: take five or ten business sized envelopes, address them to yourself, stamp them, then tie them with a pretty ribbon. Enclose them in a personal letter to your grandchild with a request for letters back over the summer.
You can enclose stationery with your stamped, self-addressed envelopes, or you can invite your grandchild to use her own stationery – whether that's on the back of a picture she's drawn or painted, or a note on the back of a program she's been to – encourage her to be creative in what she sends. If your grandchild can't quite write yet, ask for pictures she's drawn that tell what she's been doing over the summer.
By preparing and stamping the envelopes, you've taken a lot of the difficult work out of corresponding for your grandchild. To make envelope preparation even easier, use up some of those interesting return address stickers you get from various charities with your name and address on them.
One other thing you'll find helpful is to write letters to your grandchild, yourself. Our grandkids like to get mail, too! Be creative in the stationery you use, and generous in the things you write about. By setting that example (and by sharing your daily life with her in a letter) you'll encourage her to establish a letter-writing habit.
Enjoy a summer of mail with your grandkids!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cleaning with Kids

We had four of our granddaughters stay with us recently, and I put them to work.
They range in age from 6 years to 15 years, and didn't seem to mind at all.
It was a cold, grey, drippy spring day – the kind of day that lends itself to whining and boredom. I didn't want to act that way in front of my grandkids, so I planned a day of chores.
When I told them I had chores for them, they cheered. Probably because most kids don't mind working if – a big if – an adult is working alongside them.
Kids learn a lot when they work with us – new skills, attitudes, jokes, family history, ways of being. Conversations go a lot easier when our hands are busy with work.
So we cleaned the refrigerator – almost a biology lesson based on green stuff, which made for a lot of laughter and teasing – and one closet full of games and winter coats. Then we tackled the kitchen cabinets, and when one of the girls put the spice cabinet back together she was so pleased with herself! Who cares if I still can't find the oregano???
Sometimes we think we need to entertain our children and grandchildren with fun games and other special activities. There's nothing wrong with those things, but most of the time they will enjoy working with us as long as we are right there with them.
Who knew?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May Day Fun . . .

April is very nearly over, and tomorrow is May Day.
My mom worked for a wallpaper and paint store, and each season she would bring home the outdated wallpaper pattern books. We felt rich – so much pretty paper to use for doll houses, or letters, or May Day baskets.
Our favorite was the cone shaped basket, with a pipe-cleaner handle. We'd fill it with penny candy, popcorn, and top it off with flowers from the yard, whatever was fresh and fragrant.
We'd tiptoe to the neighbors early in the morning – or sometimes very late in the afternoon – and leave the basket hanging on their door. We'd hide and watch the fun as they opened the door and found their gift.
If you're close enough, leave a May Day basket for someone you love – a grandchild, or a close neighbor. You can use almost anything – an empty juice can, construction paper, left-over wallpaper – you're limited only by your imagination.
Fill it up with goodies, then leave it where it will be found. Ring the bell, and run!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eyes to See


I talked with a MOPS group last week about “Kindling a Sense of Wonder in Your Child.” I came away feeling as if I had missed the mark, but that happens sometimes.
One of the things I discussed was introducing your child to nature. This is something a grandparent can do, too. Just today I was out walking in our yard, trying to open my eyes to spring unfolding. Here are some of the things I noticed:
* a constellation of violets in the grass – they look like tiny stars, studding the yard.
* the tips of every branch on the pine trees are loaded with tiny pine cones.
* cardinals were calling to each other, and tiny finches were singing.
* the bark on our big mulberry tree is rough, multi-colored, and good for squirrels to gain footing on.
* the bluebells are beginning to bloom.
* tiny grape hyacinth surprise a careful observer.
* ducks paddle in the creek without making a sound.
* the lilac is leafing out so quickly it's as if an invisible hand is painting it green.
Having eyes to see makes the world a much richer place.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turn Off the What???

April 21 is the first day of Turn-Off-the-Television week according to a column written by Julie Kaiser, for the Bloomington Pantagraph – you can read it for yourself at The Pantagraph website, www.Pantagraph.com.

Julie writes about how hard it is to avoid using television as a child care helper. How well I remember! And as a grandma, it can still be a temptation.

I think it's harder for young moms; it's hard for them to carve out time to do things that are necessary, not to mention finding quiet time to gather themselves together. As Julie explains, sometimes television provides just the thing to keep the kids entertained while she gets a few things done.

As a grandma I have the luxury of time to get ready with alternative activities. I have “down time” to prepare things to do in the limited time I have with my grandchildren, so television isn't quite the resource it used to be.

Julie is my daughter, and experienced first-hand having Captain Kangaroo and Big Bird as babysitters. She grew up to be a remarkable young woman, creative, bright, engaged.

It's not that television can't be used wisely – it's just that there is so much more we can do.

What's your favorite non-television activity for your kids/grandkids to do?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back from Vacation . . .


There is something about a vacation that re-sets schedules.

We took a vacation right after Easter, and it's taken me this long to get caught up. Either life is speeding up or I'm slowing down – or both!

We spent most of a week at the beach with our daughter, her family, and some friends, wading, building sand castles, looking for shells and other beach treasures. We played games, read books, and ate wonderful meals. We celebrated the 7 year old's birthday, went on the Glorious Gardens tour in Charleston, South Carolina, and generally had a relaxing time together.

Vacationing with grandchildren can be a great way to bond with them, and make memories that will last for several lifetimes – your own, and theirs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Poem is a Good Guest

The bookshelf in my bedroom holds some amazing treasures. One of my favorites is The Golden Treasury of Poetry, Selected and with a commentary by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund. Inside there is an inscription: To Holly, our granddaughter, from Grandma and Grandpa.

Both grandparents could – and often did, to our delight – recite poetry they had learned as schoolchildren. Grandma especially enjoyed sitting with us right beside her as she read to us. She favored story poems like those James Whitcomb Riley wrote, and often added dramatic flair as she read.

Those poems were, as Ted Kooser says, Grandma's invited guests, desired for their ability to entertain, to educate, to delight. She shared them with us as if they were great treasures – which they have proven, over time, to be.

The rhythm and cadence, the rhyme and sound of poetry add important elements to a child's language development, not to mention fun. As a child gets older there is a sense of play, a sense of story, a sense of a widening world in poems like “Little Orphan Annie,” “The Highwaymen,” “The Tyger,” and others.

As moms and grandmas we can introduce our children and grandchildren to different kinds of poetry, different authors, different word pictures. As we do that, we share a treasure with them, a guest to enrich their lives.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Words of Our Mouth . . .

Based on conversations I've overheard lately, family relationships can be a blessing or a curse.

To be honest, I've been blessed both by my family and by my in-laws. My husband's family was welcoming even when they might have been skeptical about his choice of a bride! And our children are a joy to us, our sons and daughters-in-law, without exception, have blessed us and enriched our family; our grandchildren are a delight. Even our in-laws' extended families have been a blessing!

But recently I was in a situation where I couldn't avoid overhearing a young woman talking with friends about her family life, especially about a minor disagreement she'd had with her in-laws. Her attitude toward them was careless and rude. I don't know if she would speak directly to them that way, but with her friends she was dismissive of them, mistrusting their motives and their methods. And she wasn't alone!

Her friends joined in, recounting their in-laws' mis-steps and mistakes. Equally rude and dismissive, they seemed to try to top one another's stories about their clueless in-laws.

Not only that, they included a running commentary about their own children's shortcomings.

I wondered to myself if they had any idea how ungrateful and self-centered they sounded.

I know mothers-in-law can be equally tactless when they discuss their sons- and/or daughters-in-law or grandchildren, and I'm always sad to hear that, too.

This conversation was quite different from one I actually took part in several days later. These young moms were talking about their in-laws, specifically gifts their mothers-in-law had given them.

These moms recognized that, while some gifts had missed the mark widely, the thought and intent behind those gifts was loving. Their stories were funny, their attitudes gracious. Instead of being insulted or bitterly resenting some odd gift choices, they focused on the deeper message, the effort their in-laws had put into pleasing them. And these young women were much more fun to be with than the first group!

We are called to live together in love, so that we might build healthy, strong families. How much better to live that way, than to tear one another down carelessly over things that are better addressed with direct, honest, kind communication.

Family relationships, even good ones, require effort and maturity. How we talk about each other both reveals and shapes our hearts.

The words we use about our in-laws and other family members reveals our hearts; bitter words spring from a bitter heart. Careless words bubble up from a careless heart, and on it goes – our words merely give expression to our inner attitudes.

Our conversation shapes our hearts because the more we allow ourselves to complain about a situation (without trying first to remedy it) the more we invite bitterness and dissatisfaction in.

As wives and moms we have a choice: we can build our families in love, or we can tear them down carelessly. A lot depends on what we have to say about one another.