Grilled Grandma: Cheri

How many children do you have? 3, two grown sons and a grown daughter, all married, all with 2 kids. They are 38, 35, and 33.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? We have 6 grandkids, ages: 3, 7, 8, 8, 9, and 12, three girls and three boys: (youngest to oldest) Lucy, Luke, Josephine, Noah, Caleb, and Caitlin

Any great grandchildren? No, not for a long time!

What do your grandchildren call you? Nandy (Caitlin, the oldest, came up with that name before she was two--she would not hear of grandma, granny, or anything else). The others followed suit. It's on my back license plate on the car, a gift from my husband.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? The four in-town grandkids, about once a week. They are both busy families and have a lot going on--the grandkids' schools during the school year, soccer, music lessons, you know the drill! During the summer it’s a bit easier to work into their schedules.

The two granddaughters, Lucy and Josephine, who live in Milwaukee I get to see every few months or so.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? It's a real gift to have these precious, creative, lively, unique individuals in my life and family.  I love building an individual relationship with my grandchildren, connecting with each one through something they are interested in.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? I think once they reach school age and begin to have a number of activities that kids can get overscheduled with (they're all good--just so many of them!), it's a challenge for them to find time for us grandmas--we almost need an appointment.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud.
Friday night we had a "Cousin Campout" in our big woodsy backyard, complete with a camp fire grandpa built with the grandkids' help, a big tent we set up, cooking out hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores.
Just when we had their tummies full and thought they were about to go to sleep in the tent, a foul smell emerged. Everyone was sure it was our resident little grey fox (or one of the cousins) emitting an odor. We finally figured out Luke (7) had stepped in dog poop and tracked it around the campsite. Many chuckles over that; it took me over an hour the next day to clean the new shoes!

Second try on their settling down seemed the charm. My husband, son Justin and I went inside and got comfy and had just started watching a movie when the four grandkids ran in the house, screaming and laughing. Caitlin (12) had told them scary ghost stories and they were sure they were in danger outside. They piled in with their sleeping bags and pillows in the family room, we snuggled up, changed our movie to "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and everyone settled in for the night by 10:30.

When I was up in Milwaukee last taking care of Lucy & Josephine while parents out of town for five days, the girls and I were at Walgreen’s and asked if they could get a toy and I said yes. Josephine chose a squeezy light-up creature but red-haired Lucy (3) found a Whoopie pad. She sat on it and thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. The three of us dissolved into giggles which continued on the walk home and every time one of them sat on it.

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? If it’s nice weather, we love to be outdoors. Today I took Noah (8) and Luke (7) to the Oklahoma City Zoo. We play board games like "Scrabble" or "Candyland," card games like "War," "Black Jack," "Go Fish," and just hang out. I also love to take them to the park, or ride bikes with them. If they are spending the night, we pop popcorn and settle in with a movie or a pile of books before lights out.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? Have special time with them doing a craft (I usually bring a craft when I go visit Josephine and Lucy in Wisconsin. We've made sock puppets, made and decorated a Christmas gingerbread house, done Shrinky Dinks, for example), However, THEIR favorite thing when I visit is the Treasure Hunts. I tell all about the treasure hunts in my book, Connect With Your Grandkids. Before making the trip, I save little surprises: like a package of Gummy Worms, new book or Slinky, yo-yo, some little toys in a basket and pack those in my suitcase. When I get there I make clues--and hide them around the house. They love the element of surprise and "the hunt" and always ask for another treasure hunt.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? I write Lucy and Josephine (my out of town grandgirls) cute postcards that say "I miss you" or "You're Special!")

We also Skype or talk on the phone once a week. I send them a package once a month or two. I take lots of photos when we’re together, and have made them a number of albums of our adventures and time together.

The in-town grandkids I try to keep in touch with by stopping by, taking them for ice cream, planning an outing or sleepover, or calling. When they're sick, I send a get-well card. When they do something commendable, I send a "Congratulations!" card.

A special thing I do during the grandkids’ 10th year is take them on a trip, just the two of us. When the first one, granddaughter Caitlin, turned 10, she picked Washington, D.C. We planned the trip together and went during her fall break during 5th grade. I bought her books ahead of time, a biography of George Washington and Clara Barton, she read on the way, and we went to both of their homes (Mt. Vernon and Clara Barton’s home & the 1st headquarters of the Red Cross). We rode the subway, walked to all the monuments, Smithsonian, had tea at the Ritz, took lots of photos, and a wonderful time. When we got home, I helped her create a scrapbook about the trip. Each of the other kids are already thinking about where they want to go. I have to save up ahead of time! Caleb turns 10 in October.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren?
A sense of adventure, faith, and a realization that I believe in them and their potential 100%.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you?
Fun--because I like to have fun and hope we can do that when we're together. And "Listening" because I want to be a grandma who listens to them.

Do you have a website or blog? Yes, and I have a blog on that website. This new website just launched a few weeks ago. Sometimes my blog will be for grandmas with fresh and fun ideas on ways to connect with their grandkids.