Grilled Grandma: Shelley

How many grandchildren do you have? What are their ages? This past week we celebrated my oldest granddaughter's tenth birthday. Yes that's right....I have been a grandma for a full decade. I currently have ten amazing grandchildren that I love spending time with. Seven boys and three girls. They are ten, almost nine, three who are six, five, four, almost three, two, and 2 months old.

What do your grandchildren call you? My grandchildren call me Grandma Shelley.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? I am able to see my grandchildren very often. Seven of them live just down the street with their families and the other three live just ten minutes away. If I don't get to see them during the week I am always delighted to see them on Sunday at church. I am in the leadership in the children's organization at church where seven of my ten grandchildren are old enough to attend the children's services with me.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? Hearing my grandchildren's squeals of delight when they see me is probably the best thing about being a grandma. The race to see who gets to share a church pew with grandma is something that is also a very warm hug to my heart.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? I haven't had any real challenges as a grandma other than having to remember all of their birthdays now that we are up to ten and I am ten years older. I have created a fun and helpful birthday chart (one per family) that I update as our family's birthday list grows. Keeping a current pulse on what they are all interested in can also be a challenge.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. The birth of a new baby brother prompted a discussion with one of my six-year-old grandsons about him growing up and being a daddy someday. We were very proud to hear that he plans to grow up and get married to someone he loves and then have a family of his own. The next statement took us all by surprise.  "I'm going to marry a 'grandma'!"  This very sincere comment was enormously flattering, innocently precious, and somewhat troubling all wrapped into one unforgettable moment!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Each of my grandchildren have their favorite things to do when they visit me. Most of them include play time with Papa and I. My oldest granddaughter loves helping me in the kitchen and setting a nice candlelight table when she is having dinner with Papa and I. My stemware glasses are filled with ice water and toasts and cheers abound throughout the meal. Two of my grandsons love doing invention crafts with me using items that I have saved for them in my pantry in what is known as the invention box. My younger granddaughters love to play restaurant with Papa and I using my collection of play food, serving pieces, aprons, and ordering pads. The other grandchildren have their favorites too. They  include a collection of jungle animals, a train set, and I have one little guy that goes straight to a truck that pulls a trailer. He loves anything with a hitch!

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house?
Although I live nearby my visits to their homes are always an exciting time for them. There is always something that grandma must see and I am always thrilled to share in their excitement. 

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? For the most part I don't have much time to have to worry about maintaining bonds between visits. I did however have an experience this past year where my husbands work took us about  three  hours away for six months. I learned real quick what a spoiled grandma I am. From my emotional state while away you would have thought I had moved across the world from them. The really silly part was that I had their visits to look forward to almost every weekend. My heart would break when it was time for them to go home. My aching heart brought boatloads of tears but my mind brought laughter because I did know just how silly my tears were. I gained great empathy for long distance grandparents through this experience. My gratitude also increased for the blessing I enjoy of having my children and grandchildren so close to me.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? As a grandma it is important to me to have strong family traditions, to constantly work on building bonds between generations, and to create lasting memories for my children and grandchildren. Most of the traditions we have as a family throughout the year are for the entire family to participate in. My grandchildren have three events a year that are just for them to share with Papa and I. In early August I host a back to school party for all grandchildren who will be going to preschool and on up. Four months later I host the Grandkid's Christmas Day Camp. It is a twelve hour day with meals, crafts, and a variety of Christmas activities. In the early Summer we have our Grandkid's Camp Out where we sleep outdoors in a tent. Our time together is filled with fun and learning activities.  These activities allow Papa and I to spend quality time with our grandchildren. They also help to build bonds between the cousins which is very important to me as well. Most importantly, the events are traditions that the children can look forward to all year long.  They also provide special times that they can look back on as what we hope to be childhood memories of time spent with Papa and I. If I am able to pass along the importance of family traditions to my grandchildren I will be one very happy event planning grandma! I was recently interviewed by the LA Times about the grandma camps I do. The published story was on the growing trend of grandparent camps. I was honored and very happy to be a part of the  article.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you?
I have heard the words bestest, funnest, and coolest as single word descriptions about me from my grandchildren. More than anything I hope that they one day realize that every fun, cool, and bestest memory they have of me as a grandma was all because of the "Love" I have for them.

Do you have a website or blog? At the urging of several of my adult children's friends to share the things I do as a grandma with other grandparents I began blogging two and a half years ago. My website, Grandma's Little Pearls, is filled with ideas for family traditions, kid tested and grandma approved crafts, activities, games,  recipes, and more. I blog mostly about being a grandma but I also share little pearls of wisdom that I have gained in my fifty some years as a daughter, wife, mother, grandma, shopper, event planner, volunteer, and friend. Blogging about my grandma style and the things I do to help strengthen our family has been very rewarding. Many grandparents tell me that they are not creative while my mind tends to be overflowing with creative ideas. Sharing my ideas through a blog is a perfect outlet for me. I was recently interviewed by the LA Times after they came across my blog for an article on grandma camps. I was more than happy to share with them. The most rewarding part of my blog Grandma's Little Pearls is when I learn of grandparents who have used my ideas to create special memories with with their own grandchildren.