Grilled Grandma wisdom: Leaving a legacy

Grandmothers strive to be a positive force in their families, make a difference in the lives of their loved ones in the (relatively little) time we have to spend with them here on earth.

Grandmothers also, perhaps even more so, hope to make a difference in the loved ones themselves — their character, personality, person — a legacy that lives on long after Grandma's gone.

I always ask Grilled Grandmas What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? Following are some of their answers.

grandma legacy 

Respect for all things, creatures and people, a love of learning, and a sense of adventure. Gail

I want most to teach them that life is change; that change is not...

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Saturday movie review: A Family Affair

The documentary A FAMILY AFFAIR is one of those films I'm glad I watched but certainly wouldn't say I enjoyed it. Or liked it. In fact, I didn't like the subject — a grandmother, no less — one single bit.

A Family Affair movie

Yet I couldn't stop watching this film by Danish documentarian Tom Fassaert, who filmed a fascinating attempt to figure out his grandmother, a famous model in the '50s. Primarily, Fassaert hoped to...

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Leap Day lore! Plus GRAND Social No. 196 link party for grandparents

Leap Day lore

Cheers to Leap Day and the extra hours we've been granted!

Most of us know why Leap Day exists, but how many of us can spout bits o' trivia about Leap Day happenings throughout the years? I certainly couldn't... til I Googled the day and found this:

Cheers to Leap Day and whatever...

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Final prep for our Disney Grand Adventure

Our Disney Grand Adventure officially begins today! Early this morning, Bubby, Mac, Megan and I boarded the plane for Orlando and will be at Walt Disney World this afternoon.

In addition to packing our bags yesterday, a priority for the prep was making a wish list on the My Disney Experience site of all the must-do activities. So Bubby, Mac, and I sat down to peruse the offerings and mark those on the list the boys had already started with Megan — then added a few more.

disney grand adventure prep 

disney grand adventure prep

The boys checked their height...

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5 ways to be a unique grandparent

How often have you thought, "Now that's a great idea! I should do that!" when a grandchild tells you about a fun experience or activity with his "other" grandparents? I admit I have a time or two.

how to be a unique grandparent

Yet our grandchildren are enriched by the varied gifts, talents and experiences each grandparent...

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30 grandchild firsts that only grandparents celebrate

There are numerous firsts in a child's life worth celebrating. The milestones Mom and Dad celebrate, though, may be a wee bit different than those Grandma and Grandpa celebrate.

Here are 30 firsts in the life of a grandchild that warm a grandparent's heart and warrant a happy dance:

30 grandchild firsts that only grandparents celebrate

• First time being...

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40 Things to do when visiting your grandchild's house

Jim and I chatted with our grandsons via FaceTime the other night, and one thing I mentioned to Bubby and Mac was that they should come up with some ideas for fun things to do when PawDad and I visit them next month.

 40 things to do when visiting grandchildren


As I don’t want to leave the boys fully in charge of the agenda for our visit, I set out to make a list of options myself. I first considered perusing...
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The best things about being a grandma

Giving thanks for our blessings tops the Thanksgiving to-do list of many — right along with the grocery shopping, turkey stuffing, pie filling and more.

Naming those blessings can sometimes be a challenge, though, especially when our What I Want list far outweighs our What I Have list. Yet as grandmas, it's no chore at all to list and be ever thankful for our grandma gig, especially those parts we consider the best.

Here, straight from some of the Grilled Grandmas, are the very best things about being a grandma. They're by no means exclusive to grandmas, of course, as grandpas likely feel the same, equally believe these are among the best of the best blessings for which we grandparents give thanks.

best things about being a grandma

The best thing about being a grandma is, in their eyes, I am sooooo cool. —Jules

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The 10 commandments for grandmothers

Commandments for Grandmas.JPG

ONE

Thou shall not put one grandchild above any other grandchild, in favor, gifts, deeds, or attention.

TWO

Thou shall not make for yourself a collection of images taken from the Facebook account, online photo-sharing service, or—heaven forbid—a physical photo album belonging to the parents of the grandchild without asking first.

THREE

Thou shall not take the name of the grandchild’s parents in vain for the manner in which they’re feeding, disciplining, spoiling, raising your grandchild(ren). At least not in front of the children.

FOUR

Remember the Sabbath Day or whatever day may immediately follow a visit with the grandkids. Use it wisely to rest up, for you will surely need to recover from the energy depletion resulting from the constant attention, crafting, joking, cooking, and uncommon physical activity required—and fully enjoyed—while in the presence of a grandson or granddaughter.

FIVE

Honor the father and mother of your grandchildren for in most cases, they really are trying their hardest to do right by the children.

SIX

Thou shall not murder the dietary and bedtime guidelines set forth by the grandchild’s parents. At least not often. And only when chocolate or a request for just one more bedtime story is involved.

SEVEN

Thou shall not commit adult-like expressions that demean the grandchild, no matter how challenging the child may be. Especially at an overdue bedtime—for the child or the grandma. Or during shopping excursions. Or when the little one won’t eat a special something you cooked up just for him or her, snarling and refusing to take even one single nibble because it’s too brown or too red or touching the food next to it.

EIGHT

Thou shall not steal all the time with the grandchild—especially a newborn—from other family members simply because you want to continue loving, touching and squeezing the little one, for others do, too. Volunteer, instead, to change the most stinkily soiled of diapers—something others refuse to do—then take your time doing it. 

NINE

Thou shall not bear false witness against the dog to keep a grandchild from getting in trouble for attempting to dig to China in the front yard or eating the last of the cookies from Mom’s cookie jar.

TEN

Thou shall not covet the time the other grandma has with your grandchildren, even if it’s far more than the time you are allotted. For regarding the moments grandmas and grandchildren share, the quality of the time not the quantity will be most memorably held in the hearts of the grandchildren—and the grandmother.

Today's question:

Which commandment are you most guilty of breaking? (Of the commandments above!)

Grandma-shaped impressions

As grandmothers, we influence and inspire our grandchildren in myriad ways, leaving grandma-shaped impressions on our grandchildren that may last a lifetime. Sometimes our influence is intentional. More often, though, it's not.

My maternal grandmother inspired me to communicate through the written word, though I doubt she consciously planned the impact she had on me. Especially as her greatest influence came once I was an adult, not when I was a child. During the first decade or so of my adulthood, my grandma and I regularly exchanged letters. I was honored she took the time despite her failing eyesight to share the this and that of her days and express concern about mine. Her handwriting—so tiny, tight, and perfectly aligned, thanks to placing a sheet of paper beneath each line then going back to add the tails to any Y, P, J, or G requiring such—illustrated the power of words to connect, affirm relationships, express love across miles. To this day, I'm far better at expressing myself in writing than in person. I attribute a fair amount of that to those letters from Gramma.

My paternal grandmother also unintentionally influenced my character. The grandma-shaped spot she left, though, was imprinted on me as a child. I loved my grandma on my dad's side, yet she and I weren't close by any means. She had oodles of children who had oodles of children of their own, and I'm pretty sure that to her I was just another one of the many kids who showed up at her place on weekends and holidays. I always remember that grandma as being sick or out of sorts much of the time. Not frail and bedridden, just impaired to some degree—and being quite vocal about the real or imagined injustice of her infirmity. From having often seen my grandma in such a disgruntled state, I learned to be quite strong—and usually silent—in the face of most illnesses or ailments. That's a good thing, I think, and I attribute it to wanting to do the very opposite of what I saw in my grandma.

MY GIRLS WITH GRANNY (LEFT) AND GRANDMA CARPENTER.

When I consider the ways my daughters were influenced by their grandmothers—my mom, my mother-in-law, my step-mother-in-law—I imagine the ways those women affected my girls, when they were little and now that they're grown. I've not asked my daughters about it, but I can see smidgens of the grandma shapes on them, attributable to each of their grandmothers.

The girls have seen their step-grandma, Jim's step mom, only a handful of times. Each time, though, involved doing a craft project, resulting in, at least partially, the girls' artistic streaks and BRIANNA AND ANDREA WITH GRANDMA (MY MOM).enjoyment of crafts. I see impressions of my own mom—a lover of animals, dancing, and offering far more food than necessary—on each of my daughters in their attention to animals, enjoyment of goofy dancing, and desire to gift food upon those they love. And I attribute much of my daughters' commitment to their faith to my mother-in-law, who was the most joyfully faithful example in all of our lives.

My grandmas and the grandmas of my daughters likely didn't consider how their daily actions and interactions would influence, possibly even inspire, the children birthed by their own children. Kids they weren't around every day, yet whom they affected in unexpected and unintentional ways. Ways that even as adults, continue to affect us, move us, guide us.

Which leads me, naturally, to consider how I might be affecting my grandsons in unexpected, unintentional ways. What grandma-shaped impressions am I leaving on them?

Like my own maternal grandma, I live far away from my grandchildren. Yet influence and inspiration knows no boundaries, and I have no doubt I impact them through even the limited interactions we have. The idea warms my heart. It also, though, gives pause to my heart as I think of which negative traits of mine might be ever so obvious, unattractive, undesireable to my grandsons. Now or eventually.

I hope that with any and all unseemly attributes of mine, my grandsons do as I did with my paternal grandma—the very opposite, improving themselves by seeing in me and my failings exactly what not to do.

As I continually strive to intentionally make a positive difference in the lives of my grandsons, I think it's also worth considering all the unintentional ways I might be making a difference in their lives. I hope that when they're adults, they can pinpoint specific acts and traits of mine that made an impression on them, shaped the characters they'd become.

And I hope they look fondly upon those impressions, for better or for worse. That they consider the grandma shape imprinted upon them as having inspired them to be stronger, more productive, more compassionate, more faithful, more loving—of others, of themselves, of life.

Regardless of whether such inspiration was intentional on my part or not.

Today's question:

What unintentional impression did your grandmothers leave on you?

Oh, how they grow

When I visited my grandsons last weekend, it had been only two months since I'd last seen them. We all know, though, how quickly kiddos change and grow, so in those two short months Bubby and Mac changed and grew in myriad ways.

Here are just a few:

Mac no longer sits in a high chair or needs help going up and down the (carpeted) stairs.

Bubby says things such as, "Gramma, you don't need to worry about me because I know how to use scissors now" when doing crafts and, "I'm going to build a contraption" when explaining how he plans to proceed with his play.

Mac says big words, too, at least for a 14-month-old. Words such as bubble and book, uh-oh and down, Mama and more.

Bubby no longer calls out from the bathroom, "I'm done...!" and can now wipe himself.

Mac no longer eats crayons—most of the time—and can now color with his brother.

Bubby has figured out how to do cartwheels on the trampoline.

Mac has figured out how to lie on his tummy in the bathtub—something he refused to even attempt until this past Saturday night.

Bubby has also figured out how to flatter the ladies—especially Mommy—recently delivering this perfect line after she kissed him goodnight: "Mommy, sometimes your kisses are better than snacks."

Oh, how they grow.

One thing Mac and Bubby haven't outrown, though, is loving on and posing for pictures with Gramma.

Oh, how I hope they never do.

Today's question:

In what ways have you recently noticed that your grandkids or kids have grown?

How the news I'd be a grandma broke my heart

BubbyI’m continually enthralled by the videos on Facebook and YouTube of moms and dads getting the news from their adult children they will soon be grandparents. They’re always thrilled beyond words, often whooping and hollering for lack of any other way of expressing their joy.

For me, the experience was different. In fact, my heart unexpectedly broke into a thousand pieces when my daughter and son-in-law announced they were pregnant, that I would soon become a grandmother.

Megan and Preston chose to share the good news during a Thanksgiving visit. On their first night in town for the holiday, as our family gathered at a local restaurant, my daughter handed my husband a small, wrapped gift then handed a similar one to me.

“How sweet,” I thought, figuring they’d given us new pictures to hang in the house we’d just moved into a week before.

It was pictures, all right—ultrasound pictures in photo frames personalized for each: “Grandpa’s pride and joy” for my husband; “Grandma’s pride and joy” for me.

The unexpected gift threw me off for a minute, then it sunk in. And I began to cry, right there, in public, with dozens of restaurant patrons watching the scene as my husband and I passed our photo frames to our two other daughters as an explanation for the tears, whoops, hollers, and hugs.

Preston and BubbyI was overjoyed. And heartbroken. At the same time. Two feelings I never knew could co-exist—just the first of many “firsts” in my transition from mother to grandmother.

I was overjoyed for obvious reasons. I’M A GRANDMA! I wanted to shout to the room. The heartbreak, though? My heart was broken in a million pieces amidst the joy because nowhere was there mention that my daughter and son-in-law, who lived 819 miles away, would be relocating to be near me—Grandma.

Throughout the holiday weekend, the news was shared with extended family, always with a bittersweet tinge to my tune of happy tidings. Yes! Hallelujah! I was to be a grandma! But how very, very sad that I’d be a long-distance grandma.

I couldn’t be the only long-distance grandma, I consoled myself again and again that holiday weekend and beyond. But how do they survive? How can they function with huge chunks of their hearts living miles upon miles away?

MacI imagined my daughter, upon giving birth, would change her mind and want to move closer to Mom, to Grandma. I figured she’d convince her husband relocation was required and that idea tided me over for the many months of heartache and worry and yearning.

Then came the birth of my grandson. Labor wasn’t scheduled—though I now understand the advantages of doing so…for Grandma’s sake, of course—so booking a flight that would perfectly coincide with the big day was a gamble. A gamble I lost. My daughter and son-in-law managed to get through the delivery of my sweet grandson, though, and I arrived a week later.

The thrill upon meeting my grandson gives me goose bumps and throat lumps to this day. I cried the moment I saw him and took him in my arms. For a week, his little bundle of a body took turns being passed from Mommy to me. Every once in a while we’d share with others—reluctantly, for sure.

Then came time for me to return home. My husband and I headed to the airport with tear-filled eyes and empty arms. Oh, how the longing overtook my being. I didn’t recall ever feeling so lonesome for someone I’d known for such a short time. For someone I’d known ever, for I’d never before had to be apart from those I love the very most.

The word lonesome didn’t come even close to capturing the desolation I felt for weeks after. I thought again and again that there must be something wrong with other long-distance grandmas because they seemed so normal, so functioning, so accepting of the situation.

Megan and MacI railed against the distance far more than my daughter wanted to hear. She and her husband made their home far away, that was where they would stay, and I would just have to deal. Her words, her sentiments. My challenge.

I accepted the challenge as well as possible, with my mouth shut and my feelings to myself as much as I could bear. My daughter and I agreed to visiting, at a minimum, every other month. Either she and the baby would fly to the mountains, or I would fly to the desert. I was fortunate, I told myself; it’s better than some long-distance grandmas get.

After each visit, each extended period of hugging, touching, squeezing, and loving on my grandson, my arms would physically ache to hold him again. At such times I understood the phantom pains of amputees who had lost important, essential parts of their being.

I couldn’t imagine years of such yearning and hoped my daughter and son-in-law would eventually realize what was best for their son—meaning a grandma who lived locally. I was selfish in wanting that, expecting that, justifying my selfishness by pretending my grandson wanted me as much as I wanted him.

I was crazy. I now know that. Crazy in love—an unrequited love—with my grandson. I needed to get a grip.

Slowly I did.

Little by little the distance became easier. Okay, the distance didn’t become any easier, but my acceptance of the circumstances made the distance easier to bear. I stopped focusing on the times we spent apart and looked forward to the times we’d have together. I learned to keep a strong connection with my grandson—and now my second grandson, brother to the first, too—by whatever means I can find: telephone, Internet, postal service.

And I give thanks for the good fortune of being able to visit with my grandsons often, at either my place or theirs.

When you have no other choice, you do your best with what you've been given. Doing your best heals your broken heart.

Today's question:

How did you get the news you'd be a grandparent? If not a grandparent, how did you share the news with your parents?