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.