My grandchildren aren't this little anymore. Those days were such a joy - and significantly more simple. These days are complicated and a bit overloaded for all of us. But in the midst of it, my grandchildren are persevering and growing into amazing young adults - excited to learn and to launch!
Here's the gist of my daily prayers for them:
Lord, the world has been way off kilter for almost a year now, Our lives have been altered. Please comfort my grandchildren as they endure enormous changes in school, in friendships, in church, in families.
Give them eyes to see and to be the good that can still happen.
Give them strength and courage to face each day.
Calm their fears and uncertainties. Help them remember You are always with them.
May Your peace settle deep within their souls.
Actually, it's also an app on your phone! The makers of Marco Polo call the app a "video walkie-talkie". Whether you are a grandparent or not, you'll want to check out this handy app.
Some information straight from their website.
Marco Polo simply gives you a way to send and get videos. Then you respond whenever...it's easy and fun.
Two ways I use this app. They are simple and quick to learn.
#1 If we're on a trip, I carry my phone and reverse the lens so it records the view as I walk & talk through a park or drive past something interesting.
#2 I read picture books aloud. I turn the lens toward the page and read. Turn the pages and keep reading.
Just remember to press the blue video camera to Start and the red circle with a white square to Stop. Record on your phone and then kids listen on a computer, tablet, or phone when they have time.
Check it out for yourself at marcopolo.me.
The Pandemic is still among us; life is so different.
Find ways to encourage those grandkids.
Brighten their days with fun hellos.
I don't have to convince grandparents that grandkids are adorable, fascinating, lovable, and tons of fun to be with. From the birth of each one, grandchildren rise to the top of our priority list and stay there. Permanently. But how can we show they are a BIG deal to us? How do we plug into the lives of these precious gifts?
Have you considered how you're going to connect with your grandkids in 2021?
If you live near your grandchildren, connections may simply happen on the spur of the moment. If you live far apart, connections may depend on health, weather, travel, etc. Either way, it's obvious that planning makes connections happen.
May I offer a few goals to consider as our calendars change to 2021? Jot down what resonates with you and then schedule them into your new 2021 calendar. Be intentional. Just do it.
Intentionality makes connections happen!
Look what you can do with solo cups! Build a Christmas tree!
Use 6 cups with preschoolers. 10 or 14 cups with elementary age. 18 or more with teens. Red or Green.
Start with a stack of cups and see how many times you can stack and unstack them to make a tree in a minute. It's a great competition and not too hard. Grandma and Grandpa might even want to try!
..that you can make a gingerbread house out of a box of Pop Tarts? ha. I didn't. But then I've been out of the classroom for 10 years and my last experience making gingerbread houses was using frosting to stick graham crackers to a milk carton and adding candies for decoration. Try doing that with 25 kids! Lest you be too impressed, the secret is to you do 4 children at a time while the rest have other activities.
We make gingerbread houses from scratch, or we can make them using a gingerbread house cookie mold, or we can simply buy kits with parts and decorations read to assemble.
My daughter-in-law sent me a link using Pop Tarts. Yes. It's true. Finally! A practical use for Pop Tarts. Pop Tart Gingerbread House.
My far away grandkids have been Zoom meeting with Grandpa and me on Saturdays. We've made simple ornaments, played goofy games, and connected. This Saturday was our last Project Party and we decorated gingerbread houses.
Meanwhile, there's still time for you to get in on the fun. Grocery stores, dollar stores, drugstores all have stuff to make your own Pop Tart Gingerbread House. Click to get details!
compliments of Gluesticksblog.com
Some of our grandchildren (actually, teens) live 3 hours away. Some live 3 days away. Amidst Covid concerns, we're not going to be together this Christmas. Sigh. So...how to celebrate? For starters, we connected on Zoom last Saturday for a Project Party!
A month ago, I searched for silly ornaments to make. Then I mailed them across the state and across the country. I coordinated schedules and we found an hour to meet on Saturdays. These precious people are busy!
We wore Ugly/Pretty Christmas sweaters and my patient grandchildren humored me as we made two of these quick cuties. I suggested they keep one ornament and give one away. Mine went to our new neighbor.
We're doing it again this Saturday. Back on Zoom. New theme. New ornament. Singing a carol. Adding a game.
It's an early gift just to see their smiling faces and to listen to their voices.
Amazon. Costco. Walmart. Kohls. Facebook. Instagram. Newspaper ads. TV.
It's that time of year. Retailers are pulling out all the stops to attract our attention and give us ideas on how to spend our money.
Grandparents (and even parents) can be particularly vulnerable this time of year...especially if one of our love languages is giving gifts. The year of Coronavirus may make us a bit more susceptible to indulging children because they've had a rough year too. But maybe - just maybe - our gifts can be more memorable because we're giving with guidelines.
Did you know Pinterest is filled with Rules for Gift Giving?
Rules? Wait. Rules at Christmas? Sounds like the Grinch is stealing Christmas!? But WAIT!
There are intriguing ideas in these lists. The concept behind rules about gifts is to simplify giving. Simply pick 3-4 categories to focus shopping this year and stick with those categories for each grandchild.
Personally, I picked 3 categories this year, but I can't tell you which ones right now because my grandkids read my blog! Maybe after Christmas...
Spend wisely. Spend well. Happy shopping. Happy kids.
Do something with your grandchildren that brings joy just because you're doing it together - again and again. Being a grandparent gives us the opportunity to pass down wise sayings, family stories, favorite things to do, and core beliefs from our generation to the next.
Susan Lieberman says, "Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world."
Now is the time to grandparent with this in mind. 2020 has been overloaded with life-altering issues that are far from over. Let's make the coming weeks and month memorable for our grandkids as we reach out with love and support. Let's dig deep in our minds and hearts to create traditions for Camp Grandma and for all the days in between.
What can you do again and again? Discern what works well for your family and make time to do it. Again. Join in with your grandchildren and remind them that family is a great gift. Enjoy.
Plan Camp Grandma traditions: Go fishing in the pond. Hike in a state park. Watch a baseball game. Light a roaring bonfire. Roast marshmallows. Catch floating bubbles. Fly a kite in the wind. Decorate cut-out cookies with sprinkles. Sing a favorite song. Read the same book again. Push a swing. Play dress up. Make root beer floats. Play catch. Have a tea party. Look at scrapbooks. Build a birdhouse. Visit the zoo. Go on a scavenger hunt. Pray at mealtime.
Create Covid-19 traditions: Set up a family Zoom meeting. Mail a funny postcard. Read a story outloud on Marco Polo. Surprise with a new book delivered to their front door. Mail a batch of Rice Krispie squares. Buy a pair of fun socks. Send a dot-to-dot book. Tuck a $5 bill in an envelope. Type a joke in a text. Knit a pair of slippers. Deliver or mail a box of goodies. Text a picture of what you're doing today. Say I love you. Blow a kiss. Repeat.
"Family traditions help life make sense to our children.
They provide predictability and a sense of security and safety."
~Dr. Justin Coulson
Go for it! Make traditions happen.
I remember Friday night sleepovers at Grandma Martha's house. I slept in her spare room in a big double bed. She would sit on the edge of the bed and tell me stories of growing up as the oldest of eight children. She taught me the 23rd Psalm and prayed with me. She was patient and kind. I adored her.
What do you remember about your grandparents? Do you remember their house? Do you remember something you always did? Can you remember something they always said? a proverb or silly saying? like... Don't let the bedbugs bite tonight!! Seriously. Anyone remember that one?
How does a grandparent make memories - during Camp Grandma days and in the in-between times? My grandma made time for me to stay at her house. I was her priority. We lived several miles from her house so I saw her often. Proximity makes it easier to be present, for sure; however, I have learned ways to make memories - even at a distance! Here are four ways to start your thinking:
1. Create traditions. Do something that brings your grandchildren joy just because you're doing it with them - again and again. Go fishing. Read the same book. Blow bubbles. Hike in a park. Bake cookies. Light a bonfire.
2. Listen. Let your grandkids talk. Individually. Look in their eyes. Offer a comment here and there. No judgments. Ask, what is your favorite toy, food, color, book, etc.? What do you like about your best friend?
3. Tell stories. Let them hear about fun times and crazy times when their parents were kids. Tell them stories about when you were a kid. Share how God has cared for you in the good and the bad of life.
4. Encourage. Add a bright spot to your grandchildren's day. Make a phone call to talk to just them. Send a text. Mail a care package. Write a note and tuck in a $5 bill.
I'll expand on these in my next few blogs. Meanwhile, let's give extra thought as to how we can intentionally create memories in the lives of our precious grands.
Make time to give the gift of time.
What does one do when grandkids are many miles away and travel is iffy and an ominous virus lurks!?
I had accepted the fact that we couldn't have Camp Grandma this summer, realistically knowing it wasn’t going to happen. But - after my own experience in numerous Zoom gatherings for church, WeightWatchers, a retreat, and even a conference, a “lightbulb” moment happened! Maybe – just maybe - we could try a virtual Camp Grandma on Zoom! I texted our grandkids to see if they were on board to find a common time. All were excited and Camp ZoomMaPa took on a life of its own!
To show you how to think this through, I followed the steps laid out in DIY Camp Grandma (available here on Amazon, btw, :-)
First, we renamed our traditional Camp GrandMaPa to Camp ZoomMaPa. Then we texted all the grandkids (3 in high school and 2 in college) until we found a common hour/3 days in a row – without running practice, job obligations, appointments – and translated that into 3 time zones!
The theme was built in, thanks to Zoom meetings: Camp ZoomMaPa!
I trolled through Pinterest looking for fun Zoom games as I brainstormed a list of possible activities:
Sidenote: Our teenage grandchildren enjoy explaining what’s on their minds. So in the past few years, we’ve been selecting a story, a Scripture, or a topic to mull over together. For Camp ZoomMaPa this summer, we chose a small booklet called Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles Hummel (IVP Books) as our topic. It explains a classic approach about how to make important choices when life is urgent. We mailed copies of Tyranny of the Urgent in snail mail to keep and read on their own.
Surprises were challenging since we’re not together physically; however, when I remembered Amazon Prime delivers and pays the postage…no problem! I ordered five intriguing masks that were in stock. A second surprise was chosen to use in our virtual games - individual whiteboards. Again, Amazon to the rescue. (I tried to keep the surprises a secret by mailing to the mommies of each household. I think it worked!)
The only craft this year was drawing or writing answers on the whiteboard. It was enough.
We made a simple agenda based a sequence of surprises, icebreakers, snacks, games, discussion, and wrap up.
The easiest camp food ever. We each nibbled whenever we felt like it.
I used Punch Bowl to send an invitation on each grandchild's I-Phones. It also reminded them each day until camp started.
Setting Up Camp:
I wrote our own version for most of the games. (FREE copies are available on here)
Meanwhile, Grandpa planned how to explain and discuss Tyranny of the Urgent each day. He planned shorter times for explanation; longer for discussion. And used a marker and 4x6 card to show a grid.
Important last step:
We arranged to use a Zoom account and communicated the number and password through a group text.
And the fun began:
First thing, after we logged onto Zoom, was to have campers position their electronic devices with no windows in the background. FYI: Light behind a head makes for shaded faces in a picture. Solid backgrounds work best.
Time to Smile!
Taking pictures of Camp ZoomMaPa was simple. We wore our masks. Smile with your eyes, please! Ha. We held up treasures found in a house hunt. We showed trivia answers on the whiteboards. We shared goofy pictures on our phones. You can take screenshots with your computer, tablet, or phone.
That’s it. Not a tremendous amount of flash or polish. Pretty basic computer stuff. Really. We are not technology experts. We simply got our grandkids to help us set it up and gave it a shot!
Through face to face meetings in a virtual space named Zoom, we found precious moments to interact with our grandchildren. It felt so good we decided to do it again in a month! Bonus Blessing!
Download some of the activities we used:
I confess. I’m addicted to puzzles. Puzzles are frequently laid out in my home. Puzzles were always tucked in a corner in my classroom. I love to tackle a puzzle. You know, there are amazing benefits from putting a puzzle together.
Based on what I understand about learning, here are my “educated guesses” on how puzzles are good for our brains:
IF you aren’t already into puzzles, please consider joining in and encourage your grandchildren to do them. They are a great stay-at-home project during the pandemic. For sure, fit a puzzle in with your Camp Grandma theme! From farms to animals to ABCs – there are many options. Money well spent.
Hint: the trick to success with children and puzzles is to do them together. Show them how to find edge pieces, how shapes fit together, how to look for matching colors, and how to persevere to completion!
I recommend you count the pieces before you start:
Err on the easy side with your puzzle choice.
Success breeds success.
I disappeared from my blog in November 2019 due to the failing health of my 94 year old mother. My sister and I worked diligently to keep in her home with the help of a small army of caregivers. It was a learning process for sure, as we alternated our feeble efforts with those of more skilled folks. We learned to try and fail, laugh and start over, ask and listen to those wiser than us.
As mom's frail body weakened, we discovered the helpful world of hospice care-giving. This wonderful organization effectively helped us turn her house into a one-bed nursing home. For their wisdom, guidance, and gentle attention, we are thankful.
In early February, we found ourselves forced to watch the world unravel with the threat of COVID-19. We began screening caregivers with thermometers and soap. We prayed for health and protection. We battled medicine issues, bed sores, woozy walking, and sleepless nights. And then. Mom breathed her last breath in this world and moved into eternity with the Lord. We were totally relieved but utterly spent. Her graveside service with only 6 of us was lovely. More to come sometime...
Now, nearly 2 weeks later, as I hide in my home from the unseen foe we call Coronavirus, I want to use some of this time to pay tribute to my mother as I recall who she was before her illness. What gifts she gave us.
Thank you, Mom, for being an amazing mother and a quintessential homemaker. For creating a happy life with an ambitious, hard-working farmer. For being strong and determined to enjoy each day. For being your daughters' own personal cheerleader. For dearly loving sons-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. For saying more with your life than with your lectures. For patiently enduring health challenges. For being gracious. Always. For believing God is bigger than anything in our path. For praying for any and all. Again and again. Faithfully.
Thank you, Mom. You are dearly missed.
Several years ago, our mighty group of 5 grandchildren, came to my husband and me with a notebook paper filled with precious thank you notes from each one. Camp Grandma was on its last day and they came to us with thankful hearts. The first time initiated by them - not their mommies. Ahh. They were getting it. It was sinking in. We loved and valued them.
Thank you is an expression used to express appreciation. Whether we tell our grandparents, our parents, our siblings, our friends, or especially to God - thank you hands a present to the receiver. Expressing gratitude is a valuable life skill.
How can we help children learn to be thankful?
Here is an easy, fun way to spend time with your grandchildren and focus on being thankful. Use this mini-project during the Thanksgiving holiday or anytime you can capture their attention.
Make a Thankful Hearts from A to Z photo book
with your grandkids.
I am attaching a FREE alphabet list below to speed your picture hunt. Grab a clipboard. Attach the list and mark off each picture as you take it.
Have fun! This project is a real keeper.
Forgive my bias. This has been up close and personal. I can't help myself. After working in the classroom for over 25 years, I'm more convinced than ever.
The joy of reading is the best gift
you can give your grandchildren.
Reading is the basis for learning. All other disciplines depend on this fundamental tool. Learning the alphabet and how letter sounds turn into words, paragraphs, pages, and books is the primary focus of preschool and primary grades. That's because reading is SO VERY IMPORTANT.
And when Grandma and Grandpa help lead the way to the world of books, you are giving the gift of a lifetime.
"Reading aloud and sharing a book demonstrates that stories are fun, that books are friends." says Gladys Hunt in her classic book Honey for a Child's Heart.
Ten of my favorite picture books to read out loud are listed in this free download. Track them down at the library or in a bookstore. Then sit in a comfy chair with grandchildren on your lap and READ. Show them that books are friends!
It is easier to build up a child than repair an adult.
Choose your words wisely. - Matthew Jackson
Let's talk about how to speak to children. Sounds like a no-brainer, hmm? If you're a grandparent, you've spoken to your own children, your friend's children, the neighbor's children, kids at church...everybody talks to kids.
Perhaps you are gifted with endless amounts of patience and children have never irritated you. Perhaps you are careful with every word that comes out of your mouth. Perhaps you are one of those folks who always speak words that are kind and helpful. But. Maybe not.
When I reflect on my time as a mom, I remember times when I wish my words had never left my mouth. It would have been helpful to delete and start over. I could tell the minute I let harsh or unkind words escape. Hurt showed in the eyes of my children. It showed in their countenance as mouths lost their smiles. It showed as tears began to trickle down cheeks.
Mother Teresa reminds us,
"Kind words are short to speak,
but their echoes are endless."
Speaking kindly to my grandchildren is a second chance. I keep thinking, maybe I'll get it right this time. I've learned it is so important to consider the words that flow from my mouth.
Join me in this prayer from Psalm 141:3:
Lord, help me control my tongue;
help me be careful about what I say.
Let's choose our words wisely.
Please use the free download below for words to use in your conversations.
Flip-flops are an easy theme to start with if your grandkids are at least 3 years old. Kids love to wear flip-flops and it's a fun word to say. We created this shortened camp in a few days time due to a last minute move by one of our families.
Here are some of our activities:
One of the handiest tools in my teacher bag of tricks is BRAINSTORMING. This tool will help you gain an enormous amount of ideas to pick from as you plan your camp.
Put aside your preconceived ideas about how to brainstorm and let me show you the way I taught it to kids. It's simple, but may be different than you think.
First, read through the guidelines slowly.
1. Think of lots of ideas...as many as possible.
2. No judging. Don't stop to evaluate each idea.
3. Wild and crazy ideas are great.
4. Piggyback on ideas. Let one idea lead to another.
The hardest guideline to remember is No Judging because you'll want to try to decide if each idea is going to work or not. BUT refrain from doing that. Your brain will stop storming if you let yourself get distracted.
Now, indulge me for 2 minutes as you practice. Take a piece of paper and write the word RED at the top. Get a timer and set it for 2 minutes. You are going to write as many things as you can that are RED, or related to RED, before the timer goes off. Ready. Set. Go!
How'd it go? Did you come up with lots of ideas? Hint: get someone to help you add to the list, or better yet, ask them to join you as you try this with your theme. That's what's next.
Take a new piece of paper and write your theme at the top. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Write as many ideas as you can.
You'll want to let your list hibernate for a few weeks, but do add to it as something crosses your mind. Also, if you are tech-literate...do a google or Pinterest search on your theme, The ideas there are endless!
Free brainstorm page! go too...
Teachers capture the attention of children by tempting them with "themes". Use this trick! A theme is your key to organizing activities for your camp days. Make the effort to pick a theme and expand it! I keep our theme a BIG secret until invitations go out. Let the hype develop...
First, consider the age and season of your grandchildren. Are they preschoolers with short attention spans? Are they elementary age with more attention and interests? Are they teenage with independence and opinions?
Think about their sweet spot. What spells FUN to them? Is there something you like to do that might capture their interest? Is there someplace to explore that would make for a short road trip?
You might use a movie theme like Frozen or Winnie the Pooh.
Perhaps a book theme like Narnia or Harry Potter would be appealing. Walk through a party store and look at their themed decorations. Think about tea parties and picnics. Consider fairies or pirates.
Fun on the Farm is one of our first themes because we live on a family farm and have plenty of resources: tractor rides, animals, songs, and books galore. Decorations are easy with denim, straw hats, and red bandanas.
Watch for my next blog to see how to develop a theme! It's easy. We'll peek into my bag of teacher tricks . . .
It's been almost 20 years since I've answered that question
as my son and his wife introduced us to our first grandchild.
I checked out the beautiful creation in my arms.
From the fuzzy hair to the tiny toenails,
I was spellbound. I could have held her for hours.
"I guess Grandma is good. That's what I called my grandmas."
and thus began my path in grandparenting.
Think about a newborn:
needy, dependent, innocent, trusting, loving.
I appreciate the way Carl Sandburg says
"A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."
We were thankful to meet each of these awesome "wee ones" as we traveled miles and miles to be part of
four more birth celebrations.
Each new child as precious and special
as the first. Each child expanding and filling our hearts.
Finding a date for Camp Grandma is a process of coordinating the when, where, and who is invited. Get ready for multiple phone calls and texts with your adult children to sort out what works best for everybody. As you listen and process, it eventually becomes clear what works best.
Our Camp Grandma tradition happens each year because our son, daughter, and spouses make it work. They are the KEY to time with grandchildren. Be gracious and grateful to the parents.
WHEN? Summer is easiest for most, but a school break, holiday, or long weekend might work. Find a block of 3-5 days.
WHERE? Grandma & Grandpa's house is the easiest and cheapest. Create space for sleeping, turn the basement into a playroom, and hang swings in the trees. Hook up sprinklers, light a bonfire, and make a Secret Garden. Other options can e a hotel, a local park, or an amusement park. Hint: if you venture out of your home, it often helps to invite parents for a free family vacation!
WHO? Yes, you'll need a minimum age guideline - for your survival as well as theirs. It depends on the number of grandkids, their temperaments, and your stamina. Include babies only if Mommy stays too. Think benchmarks like: potty trained, kindergarten, sleeping away from home.
Start early with this process; you'll be glad you did. Vacation days and summer plans fill the family calendar quickly. Be the first one in line!
Have you heard of Camp Grandma? Cousin Camp? Granny Camp? It is an intentional time to love, encourage, and surprise these precious humans we call grandchildren. It's a unique opportunity to have their attention and presence for a short period of life together.
Here is your opportunity to pass on encouraging words, lifelong skills, and family traditions. And relationships grow stronger year after year.
I am convinced grandparent's have the privilege to speak love into these young hearts. Camp Grandma is an intentional time block with creative activities and adventures. Gift your grandkids with memories to last a lifetime. Do you think you might like to build an extraordinary event to gather grandchildren? whether they live a few blocks, a few hours, or a few days away. My blogs will offer tips to design fun with a plan and a purpose.
Sign up to receive my blogs and visit my site often. You might just end up creating your very own Camp Grandma!
There is a push-pull tension as parents raise children. We push them to grow and spread their wings to fly while trying to keep them safe and sound. No small process. Yet, when they finally soar away on their own, we discover too late they no longer circle the nest. The world is waiting for the next generation. We watch as our children venture far and wide for adventure, schooling, jobs, and even marriage.
Staying connected takes intentionality! Snail mail. Email. Phone calls. Facetime. Texts. Instagram. Facebook. Marco Polo. Airplane flights. Car drives. Vacations. Holidays. Birthdays. Family looks for ways to stay in touch.
If your grandchildren live nearby and you have frequent opportunities to connect, you face the challenge of balancing time with the grands and with your personal lives. If you live a distance part and have infrequent opportunities together, it is vital to initiate time with your grandchildren.
Enter Camp Grandma....or Cousin Camp....or Nana Camp...or something similar. Here is your chance to love, encourage, treat, teach, and bond with these precious humans we call grandchildren. Here is an intentional block of time with creative yet controlled planning. The rewards are priceless!
My kids mentioned the idea after we were blessed with 5 grandchildren in 6 years.. Since we lived several hours apart and it seemed like there was never quite enough time with them all, I enthusiastically latched onto the idea. What treasured memories we have!! It was just the beginning . . .