Grilled Grandma: Sue

Making gingersnaps with Teddy.How many children do you have? Three of our own and over the years we had 8 exchange students – we love kids!

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? We are blessed with six. Ages: Nick is 16. Charlie is 12. Elyse and Will are 6, Teddy is 2 and Ingrid is 1.

Any great grandchildren? No, not yet but it’ll be wonderful when they do arrive!

What do your grandchildren call you? Oma

How often do you get to see your grandchildren?
We try to see one of them almost every month – they all live a full days drive away but that doesn’t stop us from seeing them as frequently as possible.

Blowing bubbles with four grandsons.What is the best thing about being a grandma? Having more time to enjoy them.  As a grandma I realize how fast the stages go and therefore appreciate and enjoy each more than I probably did as a mom.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? Being a long-distance grandma…

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud.
When our six-year old granddaughter dressed our six-year old grandson up in a long blond wig and a long red velvet dress and high heels!  Or when our two-year old grandson pronounced “Big Mess” when we visited a neighbor’s buffalo farm that was in need of some serious cleaning up! I love the honesty of kids!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Making cookies, happy face pancakes, or muffins together, lying in the grass and picking out shapes in the clouds, putting them to bed at night with stories in the rocking chair, collecting eggs from the chicken coop, teaching them to row and sail a boat – it’s the simple everyday things that are the most meaningful.

Oma with Ingrid and Elyse.What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house?
Getting down on the floor and really playing with them. Getting to know their world…meeting their teacher, going to the playground, attending their concerts and games, and getting to know their friends. We also love it when the parents leave us in charge – it’s a break for them and special for us to be alone with the kids.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? We do everything we can to communicate frequently when we can’t be with them – we phone, fax, email and Skype on the computer. Skyping is our favorite, as it’s real time.  The older ones take to it readily, the six-year olds love to dance and perform for us, and it’s a bit bittersweet with the two-year old, as he always tries to kiss and hug us through the screen.  We’ve loved watching our one-year old grow, pull herself up and learn to walk on Skype.  We keep books, puppets and things of interest to the kids near the computer so they are handy to pull out when we’re Skyping.

I’ve purchased personalized address labels for each grandchild and keep them in my top desk drawer so they’re handy when I pop something in the mail each week.  It doesn’t have to be expensive but can be as simple as a note in or on a balloon, or a photo of the two of us that I’ve cut into puzzle pieces and popped in an envelope with the note, “Put this together and see who loves and misses you!”  It’s the fact that we’ve touched base and that we’ve turned their mailbox into a treasure chest.

Sue with co-authors daughter-in-law Julie Carlson and daughter Elizabeth Bower.That’s actually one reason we wrote the book Grandloving: Making Memories with Your Grandchildren, now in a just released, new 5th edition. We were looking for fun ways to be part of our grandchildren’s lives despite the distance, and responses from the 350 families who answered our questionnaire with what has worked for them has become the cornerstone of the book.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? The feeling that they are loved unconditionally, family history and the value of family, and that they can do anything they set their minds to.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? Love – I’ve given each of them a special name that they’ve heard me call them since they were infants, and each name has the word love in it – I have a “Honey Love”, a “Love Bear”, an “Angel Love”, a “Snuggle Love”, a “Huggy Love” and a “Happy Love”.  I have a special bear for each child and have made a heart button with the individual names that I sewed onto each child’s special bear.  The bears always greet the grandkids on their beds with a welcome note in the bear’s hands when the kids come to visit. 

Take a few moments to learn more about Sue -- and some wonderful grandparenting tips -- at Grandloving.