Grilled Grandma: Grandma Terry

How many children do you have?  I have two grown children – Sara (42) and Tom (46)

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? My daughter, Sara has one child, Sophia age 14 and Tom has 3 children, Lorenzo (14), Lily (11) and Elias (3 ½)

Any great grandchildren? No

What do your grandchildren call you? I actually decided on what I wanted to be called when I found out I was going to be a Grandmother so I selected Gramma. They all call me that.

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandmother? My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t get to spend as much time with my grandchildren as I want. I was still working full time when the first was born but now I am retired and the only thing keeping us apart is either their hectic schedule or miles (3 live in Seattle).

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? My granddaughter, Sophia, lives in the next town over. I see her and my daughter several times each week. We help out our daughter, who has been a single parent for about 8 years. I visit the Seattle grandkids about 4 times a year, but we Skype almost every week.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? You get to have all the fun and none of the responsibility! It’s so great to spoil the grandkids and not have to worry about teaching them the serious stuff. Also, because we have worked hard all our life, we are able to spoil the grandchildren with trips we may not have been able to do when we were in the workforce.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? Staying current. I struggle with technology and constantly look to my grandkids to learn to use the latest phones, apps and social media. Just when I think I have it figured out, something new comes on the scene.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. I drive a red VW beetle convertible and often pick my granddaughter up from school. One time we were in the car and I took several of her friend’s home – we had the top down and the radio turned up, and Sophia turned around and said to her friends, “You know, this is gonna be my car!” We both had a good laugh about that. She’s 14 and already planning to drive! And my car, no less!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? When I was growing up my Grandfather made a board game that we all played every time we got together. It’s similar to the game “Sorry” but with marbles and dice.  Many years ago, my father made everyone in the family a replica of the “marble game” as we called it, and I taught my children how to play. It’s fiercely competitive and loud and fun. Now that I have grandchildren, we break out the marble board and play. We even take it on vacation with us and have taught lots of friends how to play.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? When I visit my Seattle grandkids we usually go shopping or to a movie. They like to feel they are on vacation too when I visit, so we even do sightseeing and other things that people do when they vacation in Seattle. We usually go out to dinner one night to their favorite restaurant. For my local granddaughter, Sophia, I’m her biggest fan. She plays year round volleyball and I try to never miss a game. I bring cookies for the team and help plan team parties. It’s so fun to be part of her activities and get to know her friends.
What/where has been your favorite family vacation? I have not had a vacation with my entire family yet, but it’s still early.  I would love to plan a family trip once the littlest one is old enough. I did take my daughter and granddaughter on an Alaska cruise a few years ago and that was amazing. I can’t wait till we can travel with all the grandkids.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? Technology has been a great connector between generations. We use Skype almost weekly to catch up with what’s going on with the Seattle family and regularly use texts, emails and facetime throughout the week. We also have several traditions throughout the year that we try to keep going such as trips to the beach in the summer and supporting our local theater arts. As the grandkids get older, though, it is much harder to keep these going.
What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? I hope that they can find balance in their life. Right now, life as they know it include school, sports, socializing and family. But, as they get older, I hope they still make time to fit in the fun with the serious stuff. My husband and I were lucky enough to work at jobs we loved. I hope that seeing the example that we set will show them that you can work hard and play hard, have life long friends, and stay close to your family always – even when you don’t live close by.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? Love

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? I’m not sure how to answer this because I’m still learning how to be the world’s best Gramma.  It’s a process. I think each of my grandchildren see me in a different way because I try to be the grandparent they need at the age they are in their life. I hope to continue to be a close part of their lives.

What is one thing (or more) you're proud to say you do right as a grandma? Several years ago, I decided to stop buying Christmas and Birthday gifts for my grandchildren. I didn’t really know what to get for the ones in Seattle, and often it seemed that the money was wasted on a fad gift or something that broke shortly after.  Instead, I enrolled each of my grandchildren in an automatic stock purchase program. I selected companies based on what my grandchildren like (Sophia loves Starbucks!) and have invested $25 each month for each grandchild. Last year I added one more stock for each grandchild so now I’m contributing $50 each month for each grandchild. I discuss the stock portfolios with the older ones and explain that, although they may not understand it now, when they want to go to college, or buy house or get married, this portfolio will have grown over the years and will help them long after I’m gone.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? Pick a day of the week before they are born and claim it as Grandma day. That means you have your grandson or granddaughter every week on that day. Mine was Thursday when Sophia was born, and I had her all day, every Thursday. Even after she started school, Thursday was the day I picked her up from school. We did all sorts of things on Thursdays and even now, that she is older, I still try to get her every Thursday, even if it's just to take her to volleyball practice. I think it’s very important to make a connection and keep it going.
Is there anything else you would you like to add about being a grandmother? I used to think that I would love it if my grandchildren could stay little. I loved it when they were first learning to walk or talk and I wished I could put a brick on their head to keep them from growing up. But I have come to realize that every age is the perfect age. Now as they grow up I am thinking about all the great adventures we’ll have when they are old enough to travel with me, or when I see them graduate from high school or college, or when they find that perfect someone and get married and have kids. I hope to be around for all those great times and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Do you have a website, blog, or business to promote? What is the URL and what is it about? For years I have been packaging up cookies, frosting and sprinkles and mailing them to my Seattle grandkids each holiday to do together when we Skype. This was the seed for the subscription box business I created this year called Gramma in a Box. It is a monthly subscription box that includes home baked sugar cookies, assorted frostings, sprinkles and two easy candy crafts to make delivered each month all over the United States. My website is and I have a Facebook and Instagram account as well. I love getting pictures from my subscribers and hearing the stories of the fun they have making this monthly box of treats. (See my review of Gramma in a Box here! ~Lisa)
About me: Terry Chamberlin lives in San Diego has been married to her husband, George, for 45 years. She worked for many years as an Administrative Assistant and then became a serial entrepreneur with her daughter owning a coffee shop for 7 years and a hair salon for 10. She is now retired but is the founder of a monthly subscription box service called Gramma in a Box.

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