Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guest Blogger...Gina Conroy

Staying Close Even Though You’re Far Away
This is reprinted from a published article from 2001 copyright

It had been my mother’s dream for me to attend a Christian college. Yet she didn't realize her answered prayer would put 1500 miles between her and her grandchildren.

Like so many college graduates, my husband and I chose to make our home in a state other than where we grew up. For years we have struggled with moving closer to our roots, but always return to the reasons why we stay. It is a great place to raise children, the cost of living is very affordable, and we are involved in our church and community.

Having grown up in the same house as my grandmother, I know the importance of extended family. Although my children may never have that same experience, their grandparents don’t have to be strangers. Since we chose to live so far away, I feel it is our responsibility to do everything we can to keep our kids close to their grandparents.

Here are several ways we try to strengthen the ties that bind us together:

One of the best things we did was purchase a videophone for each of the grandparents. We chose the phone version (although there is also a camera for the computer) so it would be portable and able to travel to extended family gatherings. So far we have enjoyed Christmas, Thanksgiving and ordinary days with our relatives. Now the grandparents never miss the kids opening their birthday gifts or Christmas presents. They’re right there watching… it’s the next best thing to being there in person.

The next best thing to the videophone is sending videotapes or CDs. Once or twice a year I record a videotape of all the special and everyday events of the kids. The grandparents really appreciate watching the kids grow up and having a keepsake of their most precious moments.

Photographs are very important, especially when the kids are young and changing every couple of months. I used to send my family loose pictures. Then one holiday I gave each grandparent a scrapbook photo album with pictures of the kids. I chose a hinged album so I could send pages to them instead of pictures. Now when I send pictures all they have to do is put the finished pages in the albums. Needless to say the grandparents are very appreciative of this.

If you’re like me when we visit family I take several rolls of pictures. But how many pictures of the same pose do you really need in your albums? With the extra pictures we make family placemats. Just attach photos to a piece of paper and laminate it. You can have dad’s family on one side and mom’s on another. Writing the names of each family member also helps them remember who everyone is.

During the school year, my house becomes cluttered with school papers. I send several school papers and copies of their progress reports to their grandparents. At the end of the fall semester we make calendars for everyone with the papers and artwork I couldn’t bring myself to throw away.

We always send homemade cards and gifts for every holiday. We’ve even surprised grandma with an unexpected birthday fax to office.

We love to sit and look through pictures of the trips to the grandparents’ home. It helps the boys remember the fun times they had and not be so shy the next time we visit.

Let’s not forget all the cyber ways to keep in touch with families. There’s email, blogging, online videos and photo albums that allow access to whoever you invite to your site. It’s easier today to keep in touch than it was twelve years ago when I had my first child.

At least once a year we visit both grandparents try to come and visit us.Since my mom likes to travel, we’ve been meeting her in different states. It’s a fun surprise when we visit a place like Florida and grandma is there.

No matter how long we’ve been apart, when our children get together with their grandparents we all feel as if we had just had Sunday dinner together. It might take some effort, but with help from grandma and grandpa it is possible to stay close even when you’re far away.

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and a homeschooling mom to four. She writes about her experiences trying to balance it all at Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted.

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