Grandparents and Parents

Stories and information from two generations.

Picnic times are here

Finally the warm weather has arrived for part of the time. We are in a crazy weather time right now so warm weather activities have been put on hold for a while.

Here is a video by Deb at Perbain’s Channel on You Tube. She shows how to make a great potatoe salad and since my own have always just been mediocre I thought I would let you see how to make a good one. I have tried a lot of her food ideas and not one has failed me yet.

So enjoy her way of cooking and the final results.

Computers can be a grandparents best friend.

As you have read here I am a very long distance grandma. Dan lives in China with his wife and daughter Anqi.  My husband and I live in Northern Ontario Canada. It is a 14 hour flight from Toronto and then a train ride to get to Nanjing. It is 14 hour drive to get to Toronto. So I would call that long distance.

My other son Raymond lives with his family a 10 hour drive over the trans Canada highway which is good but very crowded during tourist season. During the winter it is not the safest of drives due to the wind and weather which can cause road closures.

Needless to say we do not visit a lot with either of them. That is why I say computers are our best friends.

Now I have always wanted to be a housewife and mother and then I guessed grandma would just follow along the same route. Boy was I wrong. The housewife and mother went well, I was a stay at home mom since my degree of “Mental Retardation Counselor” was not required in any form in the small town we moved to. So I got to stay home with my children keeping house and being mom. We liked being in a small town and Don has a great job working at the gold mine. The boys did not as they became teens like it. There really was not much to do except outdoors type things which we did a lot of but the other teens figured on just leaving town when they were able to do so.

Raymond moved to the city and went to college to become a welder like his dad. He likes the job but unfortunately for us he also found his wife there. It was great for him and they are happy with their 3 children living just outside the city in a small town. The mines here were not and still are not hiring in fact the one Don works at will be closing in 3 years. So needless to say with no jobs that means Raymond will not return. Except for visits. So that means long distance grandparenting.

Dan moved to a different city and went to university. It was closer and we got to see him more as we go there at least once a month in the spring summer and fall and stock up on groceries which are not available in our small town. Also it is a nice trip just to get out of town and see people and stores. 2 grocery stores, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and 1 small department store gets a bit boring after a while. He then found no jobs and so he decided to try teaching in another country and he chose China. Why he picked China I do not know since we knew virtually nothing about the country. I talk to people all over the world and have friends via the internet in Australia, England, Japan, Scotland and the States. But he chose China.

He is happy there but as a mom I was extremely worried about him. When Raymond moved it was to a city we knew and he had relatives there so he was not really alone plus he spoke the language. Dan didn’t even know how to say hello in Chinese. Guess he overcame the language barrier since he met his wife there and they now have their daughter.

I am happy for both my children but do I ever have a bad case of Empty Nest.

I have always loved being around children, even when I was considered a child myself. I liked the younger ones who I could baby, and teach things to. I was the most popular babysitter in the town and was turning down jobs each weekend. So now that I have no children of my own and my health is not the greatest I miss little ones.

I have RA and some days it is almost impossible to do much of anything. So trying to plan on going to the library to read to them would not be fair to the staff or the children.

I depend on my computer to keep in touch with my long distance family. I have even been able to sing lullabies to Anqi who I call my littlest angel. I talk to the older ones but they are busy with school so not as often. But it helps.

I can hardly wait for visits this summer and we plan things with both families by computer. Sean is 10 and he has his own web site. To me that is amazing since when I was 10 we had dial phones, and TV. antennae on every house in town. We walked if we wanted to talk to a friend a few blocks away, and parents went outside and hollered when it was time to come home for supper.

Now it is cell phones, ipods, books on E readers and hand held games that we used to play on boards. There am I making you feel old now?

Like I said computers can be a grandparent’s best friend with communicating with your family it is less expensive than the phone since Skype is free and you have the web cam so you can see who you are talking to at the time. But if you look terrible with uncombed hair still in your housecoat you can talk without being seen by not turning on the web cam. When I talk on skype I feel like Mrs. Jetson when her friend called looking wonderful with her hair and makeup perfect then she sneezes and the mask is blown off. Funny when I was 8 but not so funny when it happens to be me. So not perfect no camera. That is number 1 rule.

One day I was talking to Ray’s little ones and I got to see Mia dance. She is in dance classes and was getting ready for a concert so she showed me the dance she would be doing. It was wonderful to see and she said she wanted to show me so I would be able to picture her on stage just as if I was there. That was her way of saying she would love me to be there but she knew it wasn’t possible. I am still a part of her life.

I am thinking about reading books with her as she gets older. Maybe I will introduce her to Anne of Green Gables and the Bobbsey Twins. I know I loved them both and maybe she will enjoy us reading them together by computer.

Cam likes to tell me about the toys and trucks he has and what he does with them. He especially likes the two we got for him that talk. It is so much fun to be part of that part of his life.

So yes computers are wonderful learning tools but they are a far cry from hands on grandparenting but it certainly helps fill in the gaps of love that distance makes.

It is almost here!!

Every parent dreads the summer holidays from school because of the dreaded “I am bored” days.

What do you do when you hear those words?  You know they have every electronic gadget ever  invented in their rooms. They have books galore and the weather is beautiful so they should be outside playing with their friends. But that whiney voice that says “I am bored” strikes fear in our hearts brains and ears.

This happens at grandparents houses while visiting for more than a week and what do we do when it happens.

My grandmothers solution as well as my mothers was to answer. “If you have nothing to do you can go weed the garden, or clean out the bedroom you are in. The dishes need to be put away and the laundry has to come in off the line and be folded.”

We always seemed to find something to do with those choices given as an option. You would be surprised the number of things we came up with to do and how fast we left the presence of our mother and grandmother.

I am not saying that was the right or wrong way to deal with the problem but it worked well for my family. We lived in a small town and times were different than they are now. We could watch the news and not hear about gun fights or children going missing.  In the town everyone knew who’s child you were.

I was a wanderer from a very early age and I would end up down at the Agriculural College looking at the gardens full of flowers. My mother would get a call at least once a week with someone saying  “Faye she is here again.”  My mother would get into the car and go and pick me up. I started this at age of 4.

My one set of grandparents lived in a small town and I would stay with them for 2 weeks every summer. There was a supervised swimming area in the river across the road so I spent a lot of time at the beach, but grandma always had things for me to do if I asked her for an idea. I was sent to the store for a loaf of bread or a quart of milk each day. There was a large baseball park next door and at night we would sit outside watching baseball games and watch the people lawn bowling in the next field.  Grandma would take me for walks around town looking at the flower gardens everyone had. These were things I didn’t do at home so they were like an adventure for a young child. I still love looking at gardens and flowers.

At my other grandparents who lived on a farm I learned how to snap beans, shell peas, and play with the calves and help do the chores. Still can’t milk a cow though. But being from a town I was always amazed at the things other children living in that area thought of as work could be so much fun.

Now when I hear other grandparents talking about visits from their grandchildren they all talk about how expensive it is to have them visit. When I ask why they say they have to buy a new toy or treat every day or the children get bored and cranky. Why is a visit about gadgets and money and treats?  Shouldn’t the visit be the treat?

I am not saying don’t buy them things I am saying keep it reasonable. One year my grandson came and I knew there were no children for him to play with so we bought him a bike so he could explore the town. He loved it and was gone for at least an hour every day. We sent him home with the bike since it probably would not fit him the next year. When they visit we let them have all the Canadian Tire money that we have saved over the year and they are allowed to spend it on what ever they want.  Usually out door toys since grandma and grandpa don’t keep up on what children like to play with. We also don’t know their interests so this way they get things they will play with and we don’t have a box of things that stay in the box.

We do keep leggos, mega building blocks, Barbie dolls and clothes, squirt guns, dinky cars, finger paints and beach toys and these are all big hits. Books are also a good collection. We have picture books, story books for all ages and our grandchildren love to sort through them and read to themselves or bring me a book at bedtime so I can read to them. They like the stories I write for them some of which are on this site in the stories section. I sometimes start a story and ask them to help me come up with things to add to them. Then they give the title and we can add to it every time they come for a visit.

Bad weather days are the days we go for groceries and they are allowed to pick out one thing they would really like. That is their treat but they have to share. It is amazing the things they pick. One time it was a pineapple because they liked the way it looked. The other one picked out a package of spare ribs which he told me how to cook. He was 8 and he loved spare ribs and wanted to show grandma how good they were the way his dad cooked them. Did not tell him that I had taught his dad how to cook so he was showing me my own recipe.

We have an outdoor fire pit so on nice nights we get it going and take hot chocolate out along with wieners and roasting forks and marshmallows and we have a great time cooking and talking and laughing a lot. My husband tells great ghost stories and the little ones love to curl up on the swing and listen as the fire crackles and sparks.

One thing to keep in mind is what they like to eat. One week long visit for lunch we had grilled cheese sandwiches. That was all Sean would eat for lunch. Every other meal was different but lunch had to be grilled cheese sandwiches made with cheese slices not cheddar or cheeze whiz.  Mia would not eat vegetables but I had a small garden and had peas and carrots and I sent them out to get some for supper and she ate those because they were not carrots out of a bag. She called them orange things. I didn’t have any left when she went home. She learned to eat something she thought she hated. Now when she comes I buy those peeled carrots in a bag and she likes them. Must remember to plant a few carrots this year.

So visits can be expensive but they don’t have to be. Keep in mind they are only here for a short time so don’t buy so much it is expensive because by the next visit they will have lost interest in the gadgets. Just keep simple basic toys and a lot of imagination and everyone can enjoy the visit.

I Have a Job Again

Sorry for not posting for a while, I’ve been busy job hunting.

A few weeks ago my school told me they weren’t renewing my contract (about 2 days after starting this blog), so I have been busy trying to find a new job. Today I did a demo class at an English training center in Nanjing and they loved it. I also have another demo class at another school and a possible interview at a very good school coming up this week, so whichever one is best I’ll take.

So now that I’m not stressed out about keeping my family fed I’ll be posting more. Expect a couple of posts every 2 or 3 days now ranging from book and product reviews, recall information, child nutrition and daily life.

Cheers
Dan

Hurray! My Daddy can keep feeding me!

Grandparents being the in-laws

I will admit it,  I love being grandma.

I will also admit that I am not so keen on being the mother in law.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter in laws almost as much as I love my sons and their children.

I just do not always get along with them. Being so far away I never get the chance to sit down and get to know them. The same goes for them. How do you get to know someone with the short visits 2 or 3 times a year?

Short answer is you don’t.  You try to be on your best behaviour and you bite your tongue when you see them doing something for  the children that you totally disagree with, but the children seem to be doing well so you don’t say anything. But let’s face it you come away with a sore tongue and some hurt feelings.

What can we do to change this?

Honest answer to that is I don’t know.  I have ideas and I have hopes but since every situation is different I really can’t say what would work for everyone. Heck some of the ideas I have tried have been absolute failures. We all survived them but it sure makes for some uncomfortable times.

Here are a few examples of things I tried being the daughter in law.

One time we were called to visit on a Sunday afternoon. I had a fairly expensive roast thawed ready to cook for supper so I took it with us and told my mother in law that I would cook it for supper there. I had all the fixings so just had to spice the roast and put it in the oven. Simple right!! Wrong.

I was adding spices and mother in law told me that if I put salt on it the roast would be tough and way too salty for anyone to eat it.

So I left the salt off. Later when she was out of the kitchen I added the salt and she was none the wiser. Everyone loved the meal and she kept on about “see, you don’t need salt.”  I just smiled and said I was glad everyone liked the meal.

That attempt worked because I took her feelings into consideration and didn’t argue with her which saved her the embarrassment of either proving me wrong or proving herself right. I didn’t tell her she was wrong I just did what I knew worked without showing her up. 34 years later she can still think she taught me something she figured I should know.

One time the family had gotten together for Thanksgiving dinner. I do not like tense situations or downright fighting at any time and this day it was getting to the arguing about what salt shakers we should use. My husband saw it was getting to me so when mother in law said would someone pick up the turkey and put it in the sink and run water on it, Don looked at me and I nodded. He picked her up put her in the sink and ran water over her feet. Everyone laughed and the mood changed drastically. She was still telling the story years later when ever she had a turkey to cook. One problem was that Don’s youngest sister thought it was a horrible trick and now that she has her mother living with her we have not heard from mother in law for 6 years and have no idea how to get in touch with her. Youngest sister is married now and we were never told her married name.

So that attempt was a success for the time but it had bad effects for later in life.

I have only once gotten upset enough to tell my mother in law off and it was a doozy. She was visiting for a week and things were going well. It was as pleasant a visit as could be. But when she left my youngest son would not enter a room without the light being turned on and going down the hall he would turn on the light get to his room turn that light on then go back and turn off the hall light. He had never done this and at 4 years old I was getting concerned. I asked him why he needed the lights and he asked me “does god watch you even when you are in the bathroom” Now we are not a religious family so I was wondering where this was coming from and leading to. I said I was sure god had better things to do than to watch when he was in the bathroom. I asked him why he was wondering and he admitted that granny told him god watched him every minute of every day. It scared him.

I got on the phone and told granny that if she ever talked to my children about her god without Don or I there and I found out I would pack her bags and put her on the bus and she would never be allowed to see her grandchildren again. She told me that since the devil was around she wanted them to know that there was a good guy there to protect them. I explained that their father and I were their protectors and adding something else just confused them and scared the youngest one.

Maybe I was wrong in my approach but it worked and I was protecting my children. So I am not proud of my method but I am proud of the fact that I did what I had to do. My son remembers that talk with his granny and thanked me for never having to deal with another on that subject.

Granny however still thinks I am a horrible person for not being religious and following the bible and raising our children in the church.  Not sure if that is a keeper or a failure it is a just had to do it.

Here is a definite do not do example.

My husband has a bad reaction whenever he eats pork roasts or pork chops or ground pork. It isn’t processed so it really affects his system. My mother knew this but never believed me about it. One time we were invited out for dinner and she had a ground meat pie. It had bear, venison, beef and pork all mixed together in gravy and a crust. No mention of the pork. It was really good but within 1/2 an hour Don was getting white and sweating and had a killer headache. I asked mom for some aspirin and she got all concerned. She mentioned the pork in the pie. I asked her why she didn’t tell us about it and she said she didn’t believe anyone could be allergic to pork. Don was sick for 2 days but mom learned her lesson.

So please do not try to sneak something through just because you don’t believe in something it could have disastrous side effects.

One final point on this segment.

Do not try to solve the problems while you are still upset. Let a bit of time and distance put a different light on the subject. If you think about what led up to the problem you may find that it is not as serious as you thought it was. Telling you husband or wife while you are upset will just make them as upset and then you have to deal with other people in the mix. So think and then talk works well in many cases.

More in the next post. Takes some time because some situations are embarrassingly funny and some are just embarrassing.

Grandma

Do Grandparents Make Good Babysitters?

Before I came to China I knew a little bit about the culture, but since moving here, listening to my students and then marrying a wonderful Chinese woman I’ve learned a lot about family life in China. One big aspect of raising children revolves around the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Many families, especially more traditional ones revolve around the grandparents raising the children as parents work, often in other cities. This isn’t just grandparents acting as babysitters, but actually taking care of the child 24/7.

Grandparents and babysitting

A great aunt, great grandmother, and grandmother look at a beautiful baby girl.

With the birth of my daughter, my Chinese in-laws who in some ways are very traditional wanted to help. A lot.

Fortunately, while they’re very traditional in some ways they aren’t as traditional as some other grandparents. So my Mother-in-law did not quit her job as a doctor to live with us. However my wifes’ father, who works from home, has permanently moved into the guest room.

This has given me firsthand experience with the question, can grandparents make good babysitters.

The answer is ‘maybe’.

Since the financial crisis of 2009 there have been several articles related to using grandparents for childcare. Some have looked at it favourably, such as the Wall Street Journal, others have not.

My father-in-law is usually around to help babysit his granddaughter.

As a Canadian raised a 1000km away from his grandparents, I’m used to the thought that parents raise the child and grandparents help out occasionally on holidays. Having a grandparent live in the home and providing child care for much of the time is definitely a strange experience for me.

At first there were some arguments, and I was biting my tongue a lot out of respect for my wife. But once things got settled and my in-laws and I learned what was expected and what wasn’t, it started to come together.

From reading various forums, talking with other parents online and my own personal experience here are some things that I would recommend when asking grandparents to babysit.

Compromise With Grandparents, Up to a Point

The biggest complaint from parents about using grandparents has to do with rules, schedules and instructions. Parents want one thing, grandparents often want another.

Since our parents did raise us, or our spouses, we should realize that they have a clue on how to take care of a baby. They may not do everything we like, but as long as it won’t screw up the childs schedule too badly, make a hash out of potty training or hurt the child, its ok. While routine is good, too much of it can be bad. If you feel the need to be this specific, maybe you need to reconsider having your parents babysit.

But there are times when you as a parent should put your foot down, especially if the babysitting is only occasional. There are stories on the net of grandparents ignoring medication, giving children potentially harmful toys, not changing dirty diapers and other things. My own in-laws sometimes forget to change Anqi’s diapers in a timely manner, because she doesn’t cry much unless her diaper is very wet. I’ve told them off for it, and after a few times they’ve really improved.

As long as you explain why you want something done, most reasonable grandparents should be willing to meet you halfway. If they completely ignore you, then its time to find a new babysitter. But you also have to show some leeway yourself, as they’re providing a daycare service that is either free, or much less expensive then the alternatives.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

From reading various forums the largest problem between parents and grandparents isn’t that they’re not willing to compromise, but they’re unwilling to talk. Both sides take it as a given that they’re right and it should be obvious to everyone that they’re right.

I have a serious problem with this one, as my in-laws speak Chinese and very limited English, while I speak English and very limited Chinese. But when there are problems or concerns we still communicate as best we can.

I’m from a cold region, I’m hairy, big and have anti-freeze for blood, so the cold doesn’t affect me. When Anqi was first born I knew she had to stay warm, but didn’t know how warm she should be so I tended to be on the cool side. My in-laws didn’t agree, because Nanjing winters are not very cold but are very damp, and Chinese houses tend to be drafty with no central heating. So they kept bundling her up. By gestures, basic yes and no’s, and by putting on and taking off blankets we managed to get our points across. Anqi would be bundled up, but the blankets or clothes would be kept a little loose, at least in winter.

When asking grandparents for help with babysitting, make sure that everyone is on the same page, or at least the same chapter. And listen to them as well, they may have a good reason for doing what they’re doing.

Show Some Gratitude

Most, not all, but most grandparents are happy to help take care of grandchildren. And many children like it when Grandma and Grandpa come over. However it is still taking time from their lives, and if they’re fairly old, sick or busy it can wear them out. Make sure to let them know how much you appreciate them.

A simple heartfelt thank you is often enough if the babysitting is an occasional thing. If they babysit more frequently and especially if its a regular thing more is required. Consider helping them with chores around the house, buying them groceries for the week, taking them out for a nice dinner, giving them a really nice gift, or paying them money. Even if your mom or dad don’t ask for anything, doing this will help make them feel appreciated. It may also make them more willing to listen to your instructions on dealing with the children.

Use, Don’t Abuse Your Parents

My wife and I went on a day trip Monday (a national holiday in China), leaving Anqi with her mother and father for the day. It was a great trip for us, and we both came back recharged and ready for action. But before we left we made sure that her parents were completely free that day.

Last Friday my wife and I had wanted to go on a trip, but her father wanted to go and meet some of his friends that day. We didn’t beg him to look after Anqi, instead we stayed home and told him to have a relaxing day with his friends.

Your parents have lives of their own, they may be willing to change their plans but forcing them to do it frequently is definitely not a nice thing to do. If its an emergency its understandable and you must do what you have to do, even if it interferes with other people. But remember, if you were constantly having your plans altered with little or no warning, how would you feel?

Now, if there is a planned routine that you have both agreed on, that’s different. If the grandparents look after their grandchild a few days every week, keep doing it. Just remember to ask what their plans are and if they need a break once in a while to recuperate. It will let them know you care.

Come June, my main teaching job will be over, allowing me to spend most of the week at home. Once that happens, I’ll let my father-in-law know that he can do anything he wants, and only call on him occasionally for help. Of course if he wants to help I’m not going to stop him, he and Anqi get along quite well, but I’ll make sure he knows there is an option for him.

Letting grandparents provide childcare can be great, as it lets them interact with the grandchildren, lets parents have a day off, and is cheaper than hiring a babysitter or daycare. Just make sure to compromise, keep the lines of communication open, let them know their helps appreciated and don’t abuse the help. If this is done by everyone, not just parents but grandparents as well, then it will lead to a healthy relationship. If its too one sided, than no one will be very happy and could lead to broken hearts and family feuds.

You know how life sort of catches up with you. That happened this week.

Hello everyone.

Sorry for not posting for a while, my life has been a little busy.

3 weeks ago my doctor decided to try a new drug to help with the pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Well, new to me anyways.

Nothing else he had tried worked and gave weird side effects. So I started getting shots once a week. This week I learned to give them to myself.

This isn’t as good as it sounds, I’m terrified of needles. Since I always managed to not look as the needle went in I was ok with the shots. Now I have to watch the stupid thing go in and next week I will do it at home. Not fun.

I figured why should I go to the clinic where there are sick people sitting breathing all over everything. I would probably get what ever it was they had. So will do it myself at home. Heck what can go wrong, stick myself too deep and have a bruise for a while, or stick myself too shallow, and have the stuff run down my leg. Well I hope that is all that can go wrong.

Got up the day after the shot and went outside after an ice storm and tried to feed the birds. Its April and we have ice, you have to love living in Northern Ontario. Right then the neighbours cat ran out from under the utility trailer, hit my feet and down I went. Knocked myself senseless for a few minutes and could not get back up, so there I sat wondering what to do. My neighbour came home and I managed to get her attention, she got me on my feet and into the house.

Thank heavens for neighbours, since my husband had worked a night shift and was sleeping. He is also deaf, so even if he was awake he wouldn’t know I was hurt and would continue to work at his computer. Remember in Anne of Green Gables when Miss Cordelia kept saying ‘Just like a man’, well that is how I felt that day. Just like a man to not be handy when he is really needed. Oh well I survived it and was stiff the next day, but able to move and do a few things.

Fortunately for me, the shots are working and now I’m knitting for my grandchildren again. I started a month before Christmas making Barbie Doll clothes for my granddaughter. She is 5 and has decided to be a girl again. She didn’t want to be a girl because boys got to play with better toys. Glad she changed her mind because she let her hair grow back after cutting it herself, and she has beautiful hair.

Like I said I started knitting barbie clothes, so my granddaughter has quite a nice wardrobe for her 3 barbies. Her other grandmother bought her a new barbie, and we had sent 2 plus a Ken doll. With so many barbies, I asked her if she needed more outfits. She said not really, unless I really really wanted to make more, in the tone of voice that means they Really, Really want it, but are trying not to be greedy.

I told her I wanted to do it, and she promptly informed me that Barbie”s favourite colour was pink. After making a few more pink things for her birthday in February, I was addicted to knitting little things. And I do mean little. I made panties, socks, hats dresses skirts and tops of all sorts in all different colours and yarns. Little girls can only use so many of these so I have been knitting lots of extras and will donate them to the toy drive next Christmas.

One dress takes a golf ball size ball, now every knitter I know saves me the ends of the yarn once they’re done with their big projects. If I don’t keep up with the knitting I am going to have to move to a bigger house. Luckily for me the site I found the patterns on has lots of different ways to make similar things different or it could get  boring.
If anyone is interested in knitting or crocheting for barbie here is the site.

The reason I mention the knitting I am doing is because it is one way I try to stay in the lives of my grandchildren. Being a long distance grandma is not easy for me. I would much rather have them close enough to bake them cookies and hear their tales every day, or at least every week. But the 2 boys and one girl live 10 hours away, and the little girl you see featured in my  son’s part of the blog is in China. We’re in Northern Ontario Canada.

I see the youngest one on the computer a lot, since each of us have skype. I sing songs to her and talk with her a lot and it helps most of the time. Sometimes though I think it is that much harder than not seeing her, but I would not enjoy not seeing her at least once a week. She now recognizes my voice and it is fun to see her sweet smile as she tries to find me on the computer screen.

My eldest grandson Sean has his own web site. It amazes me the things he does, because he is only 10 and I keep thinking in terms of when his father was 10. He knew how to use computers, but I don’t think making web sites was around or at least as easy as it is now only 25 years later. Technology is wonderful and becoming more so.

My youngest grandson is 4 and into trucks. Well trucks that talk are his favourites right now. One year we bought him a talking dump truck, and last year we got him the talking garbage truck called Stinky. Finding these new toys is kind of an adventure in itself. We live in a small mining town, so have to go to the city for toy shopping. We hit a store and asked if they carried a talking dump truck. No luck with 6 different  stores that time. For Stinky we lucked out at the first one.

Then it was on to finding Barbie stuff. What an assortment they had, but no clothes. That is when I decided to knit them. finding patterns was so hard until I thought of online things and found that great site which has the added benefit of being free. So its a nice hobby, a great present and cheap. What more can you ask for?

The eldest likes to read and enjoys books on mythology. This years Christmas buying has already started at a great used book store. I found an adventure story with mythological figures. I read it and I think he will enjoy it a lot. I hope so anyways, since next week when we go back I will buy a couple more by the same author. Books I understand since my husband and I read constantly and brought up both boys with a love for books. Used to have to kick them out of the house because they would rather read than go play with their friends more often than not.

If anyone has more ideas on how to stay present in the lives of your grandchildren I would love to hear them. As you can read here I love mine and miss staying in touch with them on a regular basis.

What do you do when they come for visits or when you visit with them?

How do you interact with your childrens wives or husbands and not step on toes or feelings?

How do you deal with political correctness when you are around the younger generation?

These are questions we have to face and I will try to answer some of them with my experience which sometimes is not correct.

As I said life sometimes catches up and sometimes passes us but I will try to keep writing here on a regular basis and make some new friends with doing this.

Have a great day and talk with your grandchildren maybe even their parents.

Playing and Bonding With a Baby

In my last post I talked about how Anqi loved playing with a helium balloon.

She played with the balloon for over a week.

Well I was starting to get jealous of all the attention the balloon was getting. I’d be reading to her, dancing with her or tickling her feet and if the balloon was in the room her eyes would inevitably be drawn to it.

Since I’ve spent the last week looking for a new job as my old one is coming to an end soon, I haven’t been able to spend that much time with her. Having her so focused on the balloon was rather discouraging.

It’s not a nice feeling knowing I was getting upstaged by a balloon.

However all of that changed yesterday. I came home from work and I was tired. Instead of taking a well deserved rest Anqi needed some attention, and I hadn’t seen her all day. So I put Anqi on the bed, put the balloon on her foot and laid down beside her to relax.

At this point the balloon had barely enough helium left to float, so when Anqi kicked her feet, it went in some really weird patterns. She loved it.

I joined in occasionally by pulling the string really hard, making it come down to brush against her face. That made her giggle in delight. This was very encouraging as she only started giggling in the last day or two and I’d never heard her do it.

After about 10 minutes of playing like that I stopped and just watched her. But than something interesting happened. Anqi jerked the balloon a few times and then stop to look at me. She just watched me, ignoring the balloon completely.

So I gave her a kiss on the forehead.

She jerked the balloon a few more times and stopped, looking at me again. I kissed her again.

She repeated this pattern for about 2 minutes. I then realized that while the balloon was an extremely fun toy for her, she really wanted me to be there and play with her.

So to all the other daddy’s out there who want to bond with their baby, even if a new toy seems to be upstaging you, don’t get discouraged. Play with your baby on the floor, bed or wherever and join in the fun. They may not be able to say they want you there, but if you give them the chance they’ll let you know. Even if they’re only three months old.

P.S. I will try to get into a regular posting schedule, but I recently found out that come July I’ll be leaving my school. So I’ve been busy trying to find a new job. However I will post at least once a week.

Let’s admit it even if only to ourselves we are getting older.

This in itself is not a bad thing. We do not have to have the busy days we used to while our children were young and we had to chase and watch them and chauffeur them to all the activities we felt they needed to belong in. We can take things slower and relax more with friends our own age and friends who enjoy the slower pace as well.

But oh how we love to see our little ones especially if they live too far away for daily visits. We invite the family for a weekend or longer and then we go into cleaning, shopping, planning mode.

You know the one! we clean out closets and make beds and bake goodies dig out and buy toys that we just know the little ones will absolutely love. We plan a day at the stores, a day at the beach or park, a day or two to do exactly what the little ones want to do.

Grandpa is brought into the mix to make sure the outdoor toys are in working order and to clean the outside furniture so everyone can sit around and relax and the bbq has to be cleaned up and filled so it is ready to do the steaks and chicken and don’t forget hot dogs and burgers.

Everything is in welcome attire except grandpa and grandma.

We are so tired after all the work that we need a day or two to recover so we can enjoy our little ones visit.

Then the family arrives and you get hugs and kisses and think to ourselves what a wonderful time we are going to have. Just one thing complications arise.

The little ones are older and not too interested in the toys of last visits.

The weather is lousy so your days at the beach or outside activities are not going to happen.

You think of the box with the Barbie dolls and clothes that you have been collecting and when you bring them out you find that the little girl who loved Barbie dress up last time no longer wants to play with them.

The  little boy who loved to read has taken up hand held video games which you don’t understand and all he wants to do is play with those.

Your desire to maybe teach them to cook while you make meals is a total washout because all they want to eat is hot dogs or grilled cheese sandwiches.

So you leave them with their parents and grandpa and head to the bathroom to think of a plan B. I say the bathroom because it is a place with no interruptions usually. But with little ones around the door is knocked on with a small voice sounding desperate calling that they need to get in right away. So you leave with out a plan B yet.

Well it isn’t raining yet just kind of cold so you suggest going shopping. Everyone climbs into the cars and off you go. But trying to take adults and children of different ages to shop as a group just does not work. The boys want to look at boy things and get bored looking at girls clothes or toys and the adults keep saying no they wouldn’t play with that and how would they get it packed into the car when the visit is over.

My advice for that situation is parents go off by themselves. They will enjoy the freedom of looking without having children to supervise. Grandpa can take the boys to their idea of a fun store and grandma can take the girls. Just make sure that grandpa and grandma are on the same budget page.

Meet up later at the car and when you are eating at home there is a conversation ready to be explored.

Avoid restaurants they are not a good idea as children tend to order too much or tell you rather loudly that the food is gross. Stick to home meals where nobody can see or hear you. Stock up on kid friendly meals. Pizza, hot dogs, kraft dinner, chicken nuggets, and french fries are usually good choices.

Now you have entertained and fed your visitors and it is time for bed. Remember that fun ritual. I want a drink, I am too hot, I want to read in bed, I want a story, I can’t sleep in the same bed as him, he kicks.

Well it really hasn’t changed that much.

Finally they are asleep and day one is over. You fall into bed and tell each other that it is only another day or two. You fall asleep to dream of the hassle free day tomorrow.

The next day the weather is beautiful so off to the beach. The children use up a lot of energy and are nicely tired when it is over and go to bed nicely just like you dreamed they would and the visit is a huge success. But you are still tired and starting to hurt from all the activity. One more day to go.

The little ones have decided that the old toys and games are fun so they are sort of entertaining themselves while you and the parents pack up the things to get ready to leave. Finally the hour to leave is here and it is trips to the bathroom, lunch and drinks and snacks are in the cooler for the trip home and everyone climbs into the car as you stand on the porch and wave sadly good bye.

You love your children with all your heart and you loved the visit and wouldn’t want to miss it for anything but oh the peace and quiet you hear and feel is such a welcome change from the 2 days of noise confusion and fun you almost feel guilty that you could want to have your house to yourself again.

Don’t!!! It is normal to feel that way. As I said we are all getting older and just don’t have the energy to keep up with little ones 24/7 for an extended time.

Enjoy the visits but also enjoy your time with the slower pace. You will enjoy the visits that much more when they do happen.

Write your grandchildren to keep in touch and call them often but don’t think you have to enjoy every minute you are around them. It is a grand parent thing to feel badly when you can’t keep up but it is a human thing to admit to yourself that you are older and just don’t have the energy.

Stay at Home Parents and Babies

Working as an English teacher in China lets me spend a lot of time at home with my daughter, Anqi, which is really nice for helping me bond with her. Unfortunately, as a part time writer I’m often busy trying to write an article while my daughter is awake and wants to play, and my wife is not available.

In an attempt to balance being a father and writer I’ve tried to come up with different things to keep Anqi happy and distracted while I work. At three months old this can be difficult as she doesn’t pick anything up and will drop baby toys after a few seconds or minutes. Fortunately I have found a  solution.

Balloons.

WEntertaining baby

A colourful balloon, loosely tied to a baby's foot will keep her entertained for hours.

My wife and I bought Anqi two colourful balloons earlier this week and when she’s awake we simply put one of them around her ankle. She will give a powerful kick to watch it move and smile as it bounces. Since the balloon moves in different ways and will move if there is a light breeze its fascinating  for the baby to watch.

This improvised baby toy will keep Anqi playing by herself for several hours, working out her legs and even her arms as she tries to get the balloon moving in different ways. My wife and I can then get some work done, in the same room, in peace and quiet. Once we’re done working we can sit down beside her and give the balloon a big tug, which invariably brings a smile to Anqi’s face.

Helium balloons are best as there is almost no chance it will become a choking hazard, as it floats in the air the baby can’t reach it. A regular air filled balloon could fall on the baby’s face and she could possibly swallow the string, or pop the balloon. But it is still important to be in the same room when a balloon is being played with, as things could go wrong.

Once Anqi starts grabbing things and moving around more, we’ll have to be more careful with the balloon as she could wrap the string around her neck or pop it by grabbing it. But for now its an awesome baby toy for her and a time saver for us.

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