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 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.