Wednesday, March 30, 2011

“Grand” Ways for Kids to Connect with Grandparents

My husband and I beamed as we listened to our five-year-old granddaughter read her storybook to us. I know--we aren’t the only grandparents who have experienced such a proud moment. But our sharing was rather unique, for it was via a web-camera. That was a view years back, now there is Skype. Technology just keeps moving forward. I'll have to say, it's the next best thing to being there.

Phone calls are always appreciated, and younger children feel important to dial up their “Grands.” But to avoid playing phone tag, a grandchild and grandparent may want to set a specific time and day to connect. Grandkids learn early the importance of connecting with family and habits are set for life. If grandparents don’t have cell phones, or if they are on a budget, phone cards are affordable and thoughtful gifts for grandchildren to give. If the effort to connect isn't made in the beginning, it's doubtful that it will just start happening. We have to plan and we have to do.

The age of technology is upon us and if grandparents are onboard, encourage connecting by email or Instant Messenger. If the grandparents aren’t the techie type, remember snail mail (postal service) is always in style. Stock-up on fun postcards, and encourage the kids to write. Postcards are small and grandkids can manage to fill one by jotting down the happenings of the day.

An easy, but important thing for younger children to do is mail coloring sheets and drawings to grandpa and grandma. Grandparents will love posting them on the fridge and showing the latest art gallery to all their friends.

Parents can share their child’s daily life with grandparents by selecting pictures for a photo calendar. Pictures snapped at dance recitals, sports events, and special moments make great pictures for the month-by-month project. If a family has the technical resources, these calendars can easily be made at home, otherwise, have them printed at a photo store. Either way, it will be a treasure for the long distance grandparent. Doing this project year after year allows the grandparent at a distance to be a part of their grandchild’s life.

Moms and dads can further enhance the grandkid connection by sending current snapshots and photos of their children. Grandparents always want to show the latest photo of their grandchild. Talking picture frames add a zing to the gift when sending these photos. One year our daughter snapped a pix of her children and recorded them singing Happy Birthday to grandpa—how fun! Seasonal novelty frames are another clever way to give snapshots.

Opportunities for connecting across the miles are abundant—the web-cam, Skype, Internet, cell phones, snail mail, photo projects, and videos are some of the easiest and most endearing. Parents--make a grandparent proud, foster life-long habits of love—encourage your child to connect.

1. Skype or Web-Cameras
2. Phone—cell, camera, phone cards
3. Internet—email/Instant Messenger
4. Videotapes
5. Snail Mail Postcards (postal service)
6. Refrigerator Art
7. Photo Calendars
8. Photos—talking picture frames
9. Novelty Picture Frames

Monday, March 28, 2011

When Grandchildren Go Marching Off To WAR. . .

I never wanted a grandchild in the military, especially with the war in Iraq looming over us. I understand the need to protect our freedom, and why the war must be fought. But, please, not my grandchild! The thought of my precious grandbaby going through the ravages of war is almost more then I can bear. Then there are the fears we don’t talk about—what if they are severely wounded, their life changed forever, or what if they don’t come back?

But now two deployments later, I have some tips on how a grandparent can cope. After all, we don’t really have any say in their decision to join the military. We can add our two cents, but the choice is theirs. One day they were a toddler, putting their darling handprints on our windows and mirrors, and the next they’re marching off to war. Coping lies in trusting a sovereign God who is in control of all of creation. Coping lies in believing that God knows best. He has the perfect plan for all of our lives and nothing happens to us without His knowledge.

When we surrender our grandchild to God’s watchcare, then we can concentrate on supplying blessings of encouragement. We can become the legs, arms, and mouthpiece of Jesus in their lives. Here are some helpful tips for being a supportive military grandparent from day one.

BASIC TRAINING is different depending on which branch of the service they are in. But one thing remains true for all. They need lots of love and support in this early stage. Basic training is a time when they are pulled from the comforts of home and plunged into the reality of military life. Phone calls, packages, newspapers and magazines are prohibited during these weeks, but you can still be a part of your grandchild’s life.

--Pray daily for them to be strong physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Pray for God to give them safety and success.

--Honor and respect your grandchild for their decision to serve our country. Tell them often that you are proud of them.

--Start writing daily notes about what you are doing. But don’t mail one every day. Some branches of the service make their recruits do huge numbers of push-ups for each letter received. They’re trying to build muscle. Be kind to your grandchild by mailing about three days of chit-chat together. They’ll appreciate your letters, but be thankful you combined them.

--Always close your notes and letters with a word of encouragement and a Scripture. Cheer them on!

--Most branches of the service have websites for the family filled with pertinent information. They may even post a daily schedule of what their recruits are doing. It’s a comfort to have some idea of what is going on in your grandchild’s life.

--Do not break the “No send” rule and mail cookies or candies during basic training. Sometimes grandparents think they are above these rule and that no one will really care. But in most cases they will be confiscated and will result in the entire group being disciplined. Grandparents, you don’t want to be responsible for that.

--By all means, attend their graduation ceremony from basic. They’ve been through some rough weeks and deserve some recognition. Be proud of your military grandchild and give them the respect they deserve!

MONTHS IN TRAINING will follow basic. Join with the family in seeing them settled, and visit them if possible. Write to them, call them, and continue to pray daily for their safety and success. They will be learning the skills that will save their life in battle.

--Encourage them always.

--Mail them cookies. Be sure to send enough for them to share with their friends. Pack them between layers of paper towels to keep them from breaking.

--Encourage yourself by claiming Scripture for your family such as Psalm 103:17-18, Psalm 91, and Isaiah 43:1-3.

DEPLOYMENT looms on the horizon and soon they have departed. If your grandchild has been deployed to the battlefield, here are some things you can do to encourage them.

--Enlist everyone you know to pray for your grandchild and all the troops daily.

-Before deployment, check with your grandchild to see if they need additional supplies. Most of them do, and not all of it is supplied by the military. Many things have to be purchased from their personal income. Family and friends can shower them with needed items. Brigade Quartermaster at is a good place to check for items that will make their deployment a little more comfortable. NOTE: At this website, you can purchase a PSALM 91 (The protection prayer for soldiers) Camo Bandana for $3.99. What a wonderful item of encouragement to send to your military grandchild.

--Run address labels with your grandchild’s address and post on a church or work bulletin board. Most people will be happy to drop a card if the address is handy and available. Be sure to post a note stating that one US Postal Stamp is sufficient for all American military even if stationed overseas.

--Ask church youth leaders, scout leaders, or schoolteachers to have their groups write letters to those in the service.

--After deployment, find out specific needs of your grandchild’s unit. Sometimes it may be hygiene items, flea collars, or supplies for the Iraqi school children. Then, enlist the help of your church, friends, or co-workers to supply these needs. You bless them so they may bless others.

--A great gift for Christmas or a birthday is a talking photo album. Take snapshots of the family when you are all together, then insert the photo in the album. They can make a recording on the strip under the picture. This will be a welcome touch from home.

--Check the Internet for additional support and tips. Just type in “Family Military Websites” on your search engine. You will be amazed at how much support is out there. You’ll be encouraged to know that you are not alone.

Before you know it, your grandchild will return home. Whether they make a career of the service or return to civilian life, you can be certain that the discipline they received in the military will benefit their entire life. They will know and value freedom in a way that most of us can’t comprehend. Grandparent, salute your grandchild! Because of them, freedom rings!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Birth of The Cookie Grandma

The 4-H judge who awarded my chocolate cookies a Red Ribbon would never have believed that someday I would grow-up and become known as, “The Cookie Grandma. Of course, I was only a ten-year-old at the time of the 4-H judging, and since then I’ve learned the secret ingredient. In fact, my own children were the teachers, and I learned quickly. As the years have passed, my grandchildren have been known to manipulate and out-maneuver each other for a batch of my cookies, especially their favorite kind. I now reign as “The Cookie Grandma” and my key ingredient is spelled

I’m not sure how traditions begin, but one gradually evolved for our family on Thursday night. During the years our children were in elementary school and hubby worked the second shift, it was just the kids and me. After early baths, the children would get in their pjs, then we’d watch our favorite TV show, the Waltons. Being a multi-tasked person, I’d also iron, and you guessed it—bake cookies. That was when I first started adding the key ingredient of love to my chocolate chip recipe—their favorite. Unlike the judge, the kids awarded the cookies a Grand-Champion Ribbon. Love always brings rave reviews!

They grew up, as children do, and reminisced about our Thursday night ritual. Now, they’ve blessed my husband and me with grandchildren who also like cookies. I became aware of a grandchild’s fondness for the sweet delicacy when I was baby-sitting with our first grandson, a bouncing baby boy whose smile could melt this grandma’s heart. I think he was nine-months-old at the time—some say six—but I don’t think so. I know he had some teeth. I broke apart an Oreo and gave him a tiny piece. Of course he loved it and rewarded me with an even bigger smile! Not so, his mother. Her response was anything but rewarding. I think it was something like “You gave a six-month-old chocolate? Mom, how could you?”

How could I? Well, that’s what grandmas do—give cookies, not necessarily chocolate, but cookies. If the Oreo was to chocolatey, then I’d just have to bake him some sugar cookies. Out came the recipe box and the cookie baking began!

The years passed swiftly and that little grandson grew to become a soldier who served two tours of duty in the Iraq war. It’s because of him that I officially bear the tag, “The Cookie Grandma.” During his first tour of duty I made cookies and mailed them every month. I always included extra for I thought maybe his buddies would appreciate a few, too. He told me from time to time, when we talked on the phone, that they liked them.

But it wasn’t until we went to our grandson’s welcome home ceremony that I found out how much. He introduced me to some of the guys as the “grandma who made the cookies.” I received many grateful comments. I could see that they had truly appreciated me doing what I do. In the midst of a huge crowd of families and soldiers, more and more of his buddies came up and inquired of my grandson, “Is this the cookie grandma?” and the tag stuck.

I proudly wear the tag. It was during those long months my grandson has been gone that the cookies gave me comfort. Whenever I thought of him in that seemingly forsaken place, surrounded by enemies and the horrors of war, I would picture him receiving the cookies and feeling connected to home. I prayed for him daily and did the only thing I could do—bake his favorite cookies.

When he began his second tour of duty in Iraq, I pulled out the cookie sheets and went to work. Monthly, I mailed about eighteen dozen cookies, always wanting to be sure his buddies were able to share the treat. Repeatedly, they would pass on their appreciation through my grandson phone calls. It gave me great joy to know that in their long, long tours of duty, I was adding just a little happiness from home. What a thrill it was to bake his next batch of cookies when we were preparing to welcome him home. This batch would be delivered and eaten on American soil.