Grilled Grandma: Judy

How many children do you have? I have one exceptional daughter who is a great wife and mother, gourmet chef, writer, and animal tender and gardener. She was a child to be proud of and is now an adult that I respect immensely.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? I have two grandchildren. My granddaughter is a beautiful eleven-year old young lady who loves animals especially horses, science, history and books of all kinds, likes to draw and paint, and is a good big sister. My grandson is a handsome six and loves to play basketball, is a math and video game wiz, has a unique curiosity that enables him to be an exceptional problem solver, and he loves his big sister.

Any great grandchildren? No

What do your grandchildren call you? Mam—Grandma just kind of came out as Mam when my granddaughter was little, and it stuck.

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandmother? When I was a child, I spent every school vacation and entire summers with my grandparents in Landaff, New Hampshire on their farm—Brookside Farm. In my mother's absence on these extended stays, my grandparents freely gave their time and love to me. I wondered if my grandchildren would look back on their childhood with such fond memories of me. My grandparents were great role models, and I think of them every time I'm asked to stop what I'm doing and play something, push a swing, or change batteries in their Power Wheels.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? With very few exceptions, I see them almost every day. We have a small farm with three generations working to produce food from our large vegetable gardens, eggs from our chicken flock, milk from the Dwarf Nigerian Goats, and fiber for spinning from the French Angora Rabbit. We also have six large perennial cottage flower gardens to maintain. So, with all this farm activity going on, we normally are all out doing chores or projects together.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? The very best thing about being a grandma is getting a nice, warm hug from one of them and enjoying good laughs as we have adventures together. Money is a requirement of society, but it can't buy two little warm arms wrapped around your neck telling you s/he loves you.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? Hands down the job of being a grandma is the best job in the world. There are issues in the world though that affect your grandchildren and create challenges for them, which in turn affect you. For instance, we deal with a couple of chronic medical issues that don't affect what they can do but it affects how they go about their day. My granddaughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was in first grade. Type 1 Diabetes is when your pancreas stops producing insulin. Currently there is no ‘cure’ for Type 1 Diabetes so injections of insulin, either through shots or insulin pump, are needed throughout the day to balance your food intake. My grandson was diagnosed around the same time with food allergies (peanut, tree nut and shellfish). If I could take that on for them so they would not have to deal with it, I certainly would. Since I can't do that, I try to be knowledgeable and supportive and help them have a happy but safe time when we are together. A couple of years ago, we purchased a Travel Trailer so we could go camping. Camping allows us to provide all the things needed to count carbohydrates, weigh food, and check all ingredient lists to have a wonderful adventure but keep everyone safe and healthy.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. I have to say I laugh out loud several times every day with one of them. My grandson loves to talk trash when he is playing basketball. It is pretty funny to see this little six-year old playing in-your-face basketball and verbally challenging his older sister or an adult to bring it on. My granddaughter is always dreaming up things to do when they are outside. Once we took an old baby sled and attached it to a garden seat with wheels I didn’t use any more, and she made a vehicle to zoom down the driveway.

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Outside we do a lot of gardening together which may include many stops for play time like creating something, doing a scientific project, swinging on their tree swing, building an insect hotel or fairy house, or just walking around checking our many fruit trees and bushes in the yard. Living on a small farm, you come to appreciate some of the simpler things in life like taking your lunch outside to eat at a picnic table under a shade tree while listening to the birds sing, chickens cluck, goats bleat, and kids laugh. Inside, we play games, watch a show together, do a craft, or bake cookies.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? When we visit them at their house, we usually play board games and look at things they have done or gotten since the last time we visited their house. My granddaughter is always willing to share her beloved American Girl dolls, current book she is reading or music she is enjoying. My grandson has games of all types to play.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? I'm one of the luckiest grandmas in the world because I get to see my grandchildren almost every day. I know several grandmas who live long distances from their grandchildren and have to work through that challenge. My grandchildren love to get mail—cards, letters or magazines. I pay for magazine subscriptions to World Wildlife for them, and they love getting those magazines in the mail and then telling me all about the content.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? Because my grandchildren deal with medical challenges, they have learned early in life what is important to be concerned about and what is not so important. If they remember that, they will continue to be the strong, confident, intelligent, kind-hearted people that they are currently. Because of dealing with the realities of life so early, they are wise beyond their years and that will serve them well as they mature and grow. I learn as much from them as they do from me.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? Love. I love them with all my heart and would do anything for them. They both know that all they have to do is ask, and I will be there. As we all age, I'm sure they won't be needing their grandparents as much as they do now but they will know I'll be there for them—always.

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? That is a tough question. I've given it a lot of thought and don't have an answer. I do remember a friend who years ago talked about her children going off to college, and when she stood in the driveway and waved goodbye she didn't have any regrets. I kept that in mind raising my daughter, and I still think about it with my grandchildren. That is why it is so easy to stop what I'm doing and concentrate on what they want or need.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? Enjoy the role of grandma—nurturing and loving them. But remember, you are not their mother. The parents should be allowed to make parenting decisions just like you did with your children. It's hard sometimes to keep your opinion to your self, but it is a skill that can be developed—I work at it every day. Unless the grandchild is being put in an unsafe position, the parents need to parent them and you need to love and support them. You've already done the parenting job. The loving and supporting job is the best job anyway so relax and enjoy it.

Do you have a website or blog? What is it about? Yes, I started a blog this year, I wanted to write about our gardening, traveling and camping adventures. We have such great times together whether it is pulling weeds, growing vegetables and flowers, touring Monticello or Cooperstown, reviewing products, or camping at the beach that I wanted to share our fun. I hope some of you will stop by and leave us a comment.