Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Parenting Tip - How to Shrink your World

Have you noticed how small the world is becoming?  With technology constantly upgrading, updating and up-smarting, we can communicate easily and immediately with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.  This is GREAT NEWS if your family is spread out like mine is, and chances are that your family is spread out.  My siblings plus my own children live in 8 different states and 3 different time zones: AZ,CA,UT,TX,MN,IL,PA,VA.

So what is the GREAT NEWS about having your family spread out all over the entire United States?  The GREAT part is that we can still stay in touch with them through technology and creativity.

Let's brainstorm some ideas of things families can do to stay in touch with each other:

Birthdays. Of course, this is an easy way to stay in touch.  Birthday cards can be sent as well as gifts.  You should see me at Walmart lifting up toys and guessing what their weight is and how much postage it will cost.  My daughter-in-law recently told me her children are saving up money to purchase a big item they want.  She told me money would be more welcome than an actual toy.  Thank you.  Goodbye Walmart.

Buying and sending gifts online is another great alternative to buying and mailing birthday presents.  You can even email Amazon gift cards.  No postage or shipping!

My mother likes to make her own birthday cards on the computer using past pictures or baby pictures of the birthday person.  Wow, she is 85 years old and knows how to make cute computer birthday cards.  Technology sure has not passed her by!
What?  It's my birthday?  Come, on then, bring out the cake!
Last week my Dad had a birthday; he turned 91 years old.  One of his favorite songs is The Strawberry Roan.  Each of my siblings wrote a verse to the melody of this song that told about a specific time in his life.  Then when they called on the phone or skyped to tell him "happy birthday", their families sang their part of the song with their verse and chorus.  My Dad loved it.  He felt cherished and special.  And just as important, my brothers and sister and I felt a bond between us as we worked on this surprise for him.

How about writing a song for your Mom or Dad, or your daughter or husband or married son?  Find a cute melody like, "This is the Song that Never Ends" or "Frere Jacques"  and write new words to the melody.

Holidays.  My youngest daughter decided she would send her nieces and nephews something for every holiday this year.   I was babysitting my grandsons the other day and sure enough there was a package that contained hearts galore that she had "heart attacked" them with.

I do something different for Mother's Day.  I've never really liked this day and feel like everyone is "staring" at me all day. When my children got married and started having their own children, I, like all grandmothers, wanted to give them lots of unasked for advice. As one Mother's Day was approaching I had the inspiration come to me, that I could give them unsolicited advice every year on this day, because I was a mother and this was my gift to them.  I gave them notebooks to keep my advice in, and I've had so much fun giving advice each year!! I've given advice on "what to do instead of watching TV", marital tips, things to teach your children, funny things my kids said when they were children, and much more.  Each year I try to present my advice in a fun way, using grandchildren's faces, or Disney prince and princesses...whatever.
          They love the years when I write memories of them when they were children and the joy they brought me.

School Projects.  I've had grandchildren send me Flat Stanley and asked me to take him with me and and then send him back with photos of him in the places I've been (exotic places like the grocery store, hiking, you know....).  Cousins have also sent them to each other.
My grandson is holding Flat Stanley
 Babysitting.  I love to go out of town to help out when families have a new baby coming. Or one year my son and his wife went with the youth in their church on a 3 day hike and I went and stayed with my grandchildren.  What fun!  This is an opportunity for 24 hours of bonding that you normally don't get to have.  You can also take photographs while you're visiting, and put them together to make a little memory book.
The letter "A" for a memory alphabet book

Special Events. With children around, there are always special events you can invite family members to, if time and transportation allow it.  Things like baby blessings, baptisms, plays, or sporting tournaments are fun things to attend and bond with cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents.My son and his family went to PA from their home in VA to attend the blessing of new niece.  The cousins had fun playing while the adults had fun talking and eating (of course). Be sure and send lots of pictures to the family members who can't come.

Skyping. This is a super good way to stay in contact with family members.  I even know of a grandma who gives her grandchildren piano lessons by skyping them (no, it's not me).  You can skype on birthdays and special occasions.  You can skype to share news, or even play games.  I've played card games with my grandchildren once or twice.

All my children skype with me on my husband's birthday so we can remember "grandpa" and make it special. It's really hard to skype and find a day and time when your family is in 3 different time zones like mine is.  We've discovered that the Sunday when our church has "General Conference" is a good time for us to all get together for a group skype.

My son-in-law has a program where you add things to the callers while you're skyping, such as a mustache on someone, or funny hair, glasses, or a spider.  It's hilarious!

Videos. It's so easy to take videos of your children playing the piano or singing or playing soccor.  What a great way to keep grandparents in the loop of what their grandchildren are doing.

It's also fun to take videos of cousins/grandchildren teaching you how to do something--"This is how you do a cartwheel", or "This is how you make a peanut butter sandwich".  How about, "This is how you make a rainbow bracelet"--they're so popular right now!

Photographs. It goes without saying that everyone loves to see pictures of distant cousins, grandparents or new babies.  You can even have fun with photos in a creative way.  One day my 3 year old grandson was taking pictures with my camera.  Needless to say there were lots of photos with close ups of something or other.  So I sent a batch of these pictures to his cousins and said to guess what the pictures were of.  I told them I would send a prize to the families with the answers.  Sure enough, soon the emails came with the guesses, and I mailed out a pack of gum to all the families.

Do you have a photo program where you can distort the faces?  I used a free one I found on the internet and have never laughed so hard as when I was distorting my grown kids faces for some project I was sending them. (I can't find that program now.  Anyone know of a good one?) Be sensitive in distorting faces, though. One of my granddaughters was not so happy with her face and it made her cry. 

One time my daughter sent "Where's Waldo?"photos to all the cousins.  She told what object was hidden in each of the pictures, then the cousins had to look at the photos and find the object.  Fun!
Can you find the red flashlight?

Phone Calling. Whoops, I almost forgot this one--it's so easy to do! My son used to call me every Sunday to catch up on things we were both doing.  I love talking with my daughters (they're in 3 different states). Sometimes we talk once a week, and other times 3 times a day!

After my husband passed away, my brother called me from Texas every month for a year.  This meant so much to me and reminded me of how close we were when we were growing up together.

Texting. What would we do without texting?  My children and I who live in the same town text each other with "sunset alerts".  We LOVE to see AZ sunsets.  My out-of-state children have recently texted me with their weather alerts (-30 today and no school).  It's so easy to text:  "I love you!" or "Thinking of you!" or "what's up?".  I especially love getting a text from a grandchild.
Sunset alert!
Did I forget cards/letters?  Duh?! One of my favorite letters I received was from my grandson a few months ago.  It said, "Der grama, Just to let you no I have ben singing a lot of songs!  Love Kimball
do you like the dexrrashin? [decorations-there were music notes around the edges]" 

 Ahhh! I keep that letter on my freezer.  (I had visited Kimball a few months before the letter came and we had enjoyed singing lots of songs together.  Did my heart good!)

 Okay, so this has been a really long post.  Sorry.  It takes a lot of work sometimes, to keep your family close to you.  But it's some of the most important work you can do--and so fun and rewarding!  Send your ideas of what your family does to stay close, so we can all get more good ideas.

Thanks for reading,



  1. We do thankful emails to stay in touch. Myself, my mom and some aunts and cousins have an email group. We send an email to everyone of things we are thankful for. The goal is five thankfuls day, none of us are very good about doing it daily, but we try. It is amazing how much you can keep in touch and learn about what is going on in someone's world with just 5 sentences or even simple phrases of things they are thankful for that day.

    1. What a great idea! It reminds me of an idea I just read about in Gretchen Rubin's Happiness book called a one sentence journal, where you only write one sentence a day for 5 years. Then she said it's so interesting to go back and read what's happened in your life. Even through one sentence. It sounded hard until I learned you focus on one subject or aspect of your life with the one sentence.

      I like your 5 thankful idea!




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