Saturday, December 27, 2008

GRANDPARENTING BOOK REVIEW #1

Although I (immodestly) think that every grandmother should have a copy of my book, SUPER GRANNY: GREAT STUFF TO DO WITH YOUR GRANDKIDS, I would also like to bring to your attention some of the other great books about grandparenting. Probably the most authoritative one for general readers is THE GRANDPARENT GUIDE: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO COPING WITH THE CHALLENGES OF MODERN GRANDPARENTING by Arthur Kornhaber, M.D. (Contemporary Books/McGraw-Hill, 2002)

Although this comprehensive book was published more than six years ago, it has managed to stay remarkably helpful and relevant. Written by a grandfather who is the leading authority about grandparenthood today, it covers more than fifty topics, including such contemporary issues as long-distance grandparenting, relationships with the grandchildren’s parents, divorce – of parents and of grandparents, stepgrandparents, legal issues around grandparent visitation rights, and gay and lesbian grandparents.

Despite the huge minute by minute changes in technology these days, Dr. Kornhaber covered most of the basics of becoming computer-literate -- to be able to email, take and send digital photos, and play computer games. And recognizing that no book can stay up-to-date in the fast evolving world of cyberspace, the author refers readers to several websites to find current information. (Even though SUPER GRANNY was as current as possible at the time of writing, I too send readers to websites to stay current.)

One website dear to Dr. Kornhaber’s heart is www.grandparenting.com, which takes you to the Foundation for Grandparenting, which he founded more than thirty years ago, to promote the importance of grandparenting. It explores ways that elders can apply their wisdom and experience to help their own children and grandchildren, as well as the wider community. The foundation conducts and reports on research about the grandparent-parent-grandchild bond and its far-reaching effects. It also sponsors such national and international programs as grandparenting conferences, grandparent-grandchild summer camps, hospital programs for expectant grandparents, and Grandparent Days in schools.

Friday, December 26, 2008

FOR LONG-DISTANCE GRANNIES

Certain events and times of the year – school concerts, soccer games, piano recitals, and of course, the holidays – are the hardest for us grandmothers who would love to be near our grandchildren. We’ve learned by this stage of life that we can’t always get what we want. Fortunately there is email, and even if we can’t hug our grandchildren in person we can communicate and stay close through cyberspace. I love the email correspondence that I have with my own grandchildren, but I have to say that they all started sending messages quite a bit later than four-year-old Henry, who lives with his little sister, Molly, and his parents in Chicago. Henry and Molly have two faraway grandmothers, one in New York and the other even farther away in Auckland, New Zealand. Fortunately they love to get on the computer and send messages to each other. And sometimes deciphering the messages is part of the fun.

One recent email from Henry to Susan (the NZ granny) read: “hi susan im in belinhim henry.” Susan wrote back “Can you tell me something more about belinhim?” and got this reply: “no susan because just are friends house henry.” Susan explained the mystery: “It was really quite simple when Lizzie [Henry’s mother] explained it. They had driven to a nearby town called Bellingham and stayed the night with friends.”

After Susan sent recipes to Henry (who likes to cook), he wrote back: “hi susan here is a recipe for you okay 50 cups honey 12 cups eggs 1 cup eggs 49 tablespoons carrots.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? The sweetest part, of course, is the connection between Susan and Henry, and Susan’s ability to follow Henry’s developing thought processes and personality.

And a recent email to Fran (the NY granny) read: “hi mommy and meema [Fran] and emma and susan and emily when are you going to come over except my mom because that one is in my family-henry,” followed by “12345678910) (11) 1213141516171819) (20) 212223242526272829) (30) 3132) 33343536373839) 40 414243444546474849) (50) + 50 = 100 –henry.” It shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that both Henry’s parents are mathematicians.

But now Henry’s latest email to Fran (“MEMMA DO YOU KNOW THIS SONG SAUZAHALECHOOASAWNASZA”) makes me wonder if he’s a musician as well as a math whiz. Do any of you readers know this song??? It’s a mystery to Fran – and to me.

Happy Emailing – and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SAFE TOYS

The last thing in the world any grandmother wants to give for Christmas is a toy that could harm a child. But some toys contain dangerous chemicals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and PVC. When the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization based in Michigan tested more than 1500 popular children's toys, they found that one in three of the toys they tested had either medium or high levels of chemicals "of concern."

So the organization Moms Rising (www.momsrising.org) put information on its database giving the chemical test results for many safe toys. To find out whether the toy you have in mind is safe, go to www.momsrising.org/healthytoys, and type in the name of the toy. Or if you're already in the store, search the database from your cell phone. Text "healthytoys[name of toy you're interested in], and send your message to 41411. The information about the toy will pop up – unless, like me, you have previously asked your mobile phone provider to block “Premium Messaging,” because I had been receiving spam texts. To be sure, it’s best to check the website before you leave home, to see that we grand-helpers to Santa will be sure that whatever toys we give the kids this year will be safe and healthy – and hopefully, something that they will love to play with!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

STILL ANOTHER OBAMA GRANDMOTHER IN THE NEWS

Keeping up with her American counterparts in newsworthiness, Kenyan Sarah Obama, the President-elect’s stepgrandmother, “flagged” the 2008 World AIDS Marathon on December 1 in Kisumu, Kenya. By holding up the Kenyan flag and then waving it down, she officially launched the 26.2-mile race. Mama Sarah also cut the ribbon at the ceremony for the new park which the Kisumu World AIDS Marathon Group donated from funds received from last year’s marathon.

The third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Mama Sarah is not a blood relative of the President-Elect, but he calls her "Granny Sarah." Since she speaks Luo and only a few words of English, she communicates with her eminent grandson through an interpreter. Like any other granny, she is a fierce defender of her grandchild, and during his campaign she protested attempts to portray Barack as a foreigner or a Muslim, saying that while her husband, Obama's grandfather, had been a Muslim, "In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents."

At 86 Mama Sarah is still going strong, tending her own small farm and raising chickens. Mama Sarah was happy to leave her village, Kogelo, to go to Kisumu to take part in the marathon, saying, “I feel greatly privileged to be invited because my grandson is very concerned about the ravages of HIV.” One reason that the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation and its fellow sponsors have held the World Aids Marathon in Kenya for the past few years is that, aside from arguably being the unofficial world capital of running, Kenya is one of only two African countries that reduced the rate of new HIV cases between 2003 and 2005.

Besides sponsoring the marathon, the foundation raises awareness about AIDS and offers many kinds of help, including giving medicine to and hosting dinners for AIDS orphans; providing meals, lodging, and entry fees for Kenyans unable to afford the marathon entry fee; funding orphanages, AIDS and cancer research, and help to people living with HIV. As Foundation president Richard Brodsky says, “We offer the orphans a window of hope.”

I met Richard at a local 5-kilometer run here on Long Island, read his moving book about his own life as a person living with HIV, and am greatly impressed by the efforts he has made to help vanquish this deadly epidemic. For more information about his foundation’s work and the World Aids Marathon and to donate, go to www.worldaidsmarathon.com.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS WITHOUT THE COMMERCIALS

Yes, Virginia, there are ways to have a good time with your grandchildren without spending their inheritance before the end of the year. In addition to the suggestions I made in my last post, you can find a host of new, original, inexpensive activities that can bring the kind of closeness we all want with our grandkids.

One terrific resource is the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. This national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents, and individuals who care about children is devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children, and has just produced the free, downloadable "CCFC Guide to Commercial-free Holidays."

Download it by going to:
http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pdf/CommercialFreeHolidayGuide.pdf. Here you’ll find such great ideas as:
• taking a grandchild to a grocery store to buy fixings for a complete holiday meal and then taking those fixings to a local food bank
• giving a toddler one of your old purses and filling it with comb, old wallet, fake jewelry, change purse with loose change, band-aids, and other items like the ones she’d find in your purse
• making little coupons that are good for, say, a day’s shopping with you (sure to be popular with teenage girls, and not too pricey if you set limits ahead of time), or a movie and lunch, a hike, a trip to see holiday decorations, or some other shared activity
• making your own play-dough and giving plastic knives and other small inexpensive implements to use with it.
• And more, enough to keep you busy all season long.

Monday, December 1, 2008

GIFTS FOR GRANDKIDS

This holiday season many grandparents are saddened by the fact that they can’t give the same lavish presents to the same number of grandchildren that they have given in years past. In flusher times some might have shelled out for a Wii to play games with their grandchildren or a camcorder to visit with them across the miles (both of which I write about in SUPER GRANNY). But in today’s economy more will be inspired by the gift-giving practice of another granny I interviewed for the book – taking her grandkids to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store and telling them to pick out “anything you want.”

You can show your love for your grandchildren in loads of ways without running up a huge credit card bill and buying into the high-priced “commercial clutter” advertised on TV. The best gift, of course, is your time. The things you do together are the memories that your grandchildren are most likely to cherish in years to come. You can take them on simple trips to local museums, performances, or skating rinks. You can do crafts activities together and then leave the finished products with the child. You can bake cookies together – just because it seems like a stereotyped “granny” activity doesn’t mean it isn’t fun even for modern grands and kids. Especially if you bake a grandchild's favorite kind and decorate them with pizazz.

And for long-distance grandmothers, there are other ways to show you care. You can send an addition to a collection – a special stamp, a postcard, newly minted state quarters. You can send seeds or bulbs, with the promise of working on them together the next time you visit. You can send funny cards or emails, tell jokes and riddles over the phone, and for the little ones, record yourself reading a book and send the cassette or CD along with a copy of the book. Many of the classic children’s books are available in low-priced paperback versions.

And always remember: We don’t stop playing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop playing.