Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skyping with Grandkids

Our youngest granddaughter loves to talk to us on Skype.  She's 10 months old, and thinks that a computer conversation is a great way to spend time with her grandparents.  Apparently her mom tried to call us on Skype the other day while we were out and about, and the baby crawled over to the computer to talk to us, after apparently recognizing the familiar Skype sound.  She was disappointed we weren't there, but we got to talk a little later that day. 

A lot of times, our daughter will set the laptop down on the floor, or on the couch, or wherever the baby is, so that we can see what she's doing.  She seems to think that we're right there, and will crawl around and show us stuff on the floor, read us a book, or just check to make sure we're watching. 

It's a strange feeling of being "almost somewhere else" that I just don't get with a phone.  Maybe when people first started using telephones, they got that odd sensation of being two places at once, but I'm pretty used to phones, and don't think of them that way.  The computer conversation, though, definitely feels more connected.  I really feel in many ways like I'm sitting down with the baby, watching her play with her favorite toys, and letting her show us her books.  It's a wonderful feeling of connection, and if you aren't Skyping now, I'd highly recommend it. 

We discussed afterwards that the baby is going to grow up completely used to computer conversations (or as we used to call them, TV Phones!) 

We're thinking she'll be Skyping on her own by the time she's three, calling us up when her mama's in the shower.  "Hi, Grandma and Papa, I just wanted to tell you what I've been doing!"  I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Update Your Parents' Browser Day

Warning Grandparents - Friday is officially not Black Friday, but Update Your Parents' Browser Day.   Yes, it's that holiday when we spend time with our kids and grandkids, and the kids yell about keeping our computers up to date!  Well, I say, Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 4.0 are good enough for me, by cracky!  Teasing, teasing.  If you're a grandparent blogger, like me, you're probably pretty tech savvy, have figured out all this newfangled blogging software, and so you're probably fine as far as keeping your computer updated.

But, let me put on my computer security hat for a few minutes and remind you: Update your antivirus (check on it today, even if you're sure automatic updates are turned on), keep your Windows Updates up to date (your computer should be doing this for you, but just in case, go here using Internet Explorer and make sure you're up to date, and please, please, please, update your browser to the latest version.  You can do this by choosing Help and then going to the getting help with this browser area (it's worded slightly differently depending on the browser, but it should take you to a site that will allow you to update).

Another word of note as you're out cruising the Internet for great grandkid gifts:  If you don't know the site really well (and by this, I mean, not Amazon or, please consider using a single-use credit card number for the transaction.  Not all credit cards offer this feature, but if yours does, this will save a world of hurt if a site gets hacked.  Word of note #2: Do not, repeat, do not use the same password for multiple different Web sites.  This is probably the easiest way for hackers to get ahold of your credit card info, by hacking one site, getting your password, and then using it to access another Web site that has your credit card info.  Can't keep track of passwords?  Try Password Safe - it's a free app and very helpful for storing your passwords on your computer.

And now, back to being a grandma.  Aren't they adorable?

P.S.  The black furry one is not a grandkid.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Great Example of a Gift That Lasts

One of my goals for supergrandkids is to give you some ideas for grandkid gifts that will last a long time.  To me, a great toy should be something that gets played with for quite a while.

I recently came across some info about Fisher-Price making some "retro" toys, and had to look at them.  To my surprise, I found a little wind-up record player that my folks have had for years in their toy room, is now available again.  The great thing about this little record player is that it's basically indestructible, and so fun, for everyone from a baby to a 10-year-old.

A little history behind the one that's in my folks' house. One of my younger brothers got the record player for Christmas the year my dad made me a dollhouse.  Check out the 70's-era grainy photo of our Christmas morning!

Really, this is a very fun toy that, as you can see, will really last!

P.S.  Please don't tell the baby that she's getting one for Christmas!

Here's a link to buy the Basic Fun Fisher Price Record Player

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making a Thanksgiving Menu

Last year's menu
One of our favorite activities with our now 6-year-old granddaughter is making menus.  She loves to plan ahead for special occasions, and last year she made a great Thanksgiving menu, which she gave out to everyone who came to dinner.  This year, we've made a new one, and printed up copies again.  There was some discussion this year about whether brisket (or brisket-chicken, as it's called around our house) and tacos were appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner.  They're tasty, of course, but I think adding on a brisket-chicken to this dinner might be a bit much.

Letting grandkids plan things like menus is so good for them.  Making a plan, writing it down, and then following it, are all helpful for giving kids the tools they need to learn self-control.  It's so nice for a young one who doesn't have a lot of control of most of their life to be able to make a plan for something important, like a holiday meal. 

Mostly, though, it's just fun.  When we've got some more time and the girls are a bit older, we'll probably encourage them to play "restaurant" and make the whole meal for us, menu and all.  We still have an old menu from when our kids did this.  The menus were always interesting and varied, although I don't think we ever had turkey, brisket, and tacos at the same meal.

I'd encourage you to try letting your grandkids in on the planning of holiday meals.  It's so much fun for them, and for you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Puppet Fun

That great Melissa and Doug discount offer got me looking around their site for a fun grandkid gift from them.  We've bought tons of Melissa and Doug items over the years, and they never fail to be favorites.

Melissa and Doug Puppet Theatre
Here's what I'm considering (don't tell their dad, because he'll say it's too big!)  It's a puppet theatre!

When our kids were growing up, they would often move a piece of furniture and put on a puppet show for us.  They had a variety of stuffed animal-type puppets, but if they didn't have a puppet to fill the role, they'd just use a regular stuffed animal.  Puppets are so much fun for imaginary play. 

Here's a good article from (where, I understand, one of the columnists is actually a founder of Melissa and Doug!) about the Power of Puppets.  The author mentions that putting on a puppet show is like telling a story, so maybe puppetry promotes fiction writing.

At any rate, I'll let you know if we get the puppet theatre, and try to get some good pictures of the kids putting on a puppet show.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Musical Instruments for Little Ones

We're a pretty musical family here at, so we're always looking for new ways for little ones to help make music.  Today, I saw a link for a little piano on sale.  I've been teaching the older two some piano techniques, and they have a little keyboard they use, so here's my two cents on buying keyboards for kids:  Make sure it has at least 61 keys!  Those little keyboards, like the one in the link above, are just not going to give a kid anything in terms of learning to play.  If you really want to get something entry level for them to begin to learn, try something like the Yamaha Personal Keyboard shown at left.

Now, our older two girls got these Concert Master Violins for Christmas last year, and they're surprisingly fun and educational.  Their great-grandma got them, I think because her dad was a fiddler player.  The girls have picked these up throughout the year (they're toys that have stayed at our house) and played in the various modes.  You can play along with a classical piece, including several different Mozart pieces, or you can simply play by yourself.  Moving the bow across the strings actually causes tones, and the play-along mode is especially fun for young classical music lovers. Here are my grandparent grades for this toy:

Durability: Good - they've been tossed in drawers, dragged around on the floor, and played quite a bit.  Batteries are still going strong, and the toys still work great.

Fun Factor:  Great if they're music lovers.  Still being played with after almost a year!

Wow Factor:  Well, they took a while for the girls to figure out, so wow factor may not have been as good as other toys.

Support Me In My Old Age Factor:  Well, Great-Grandma actually bought them, and she would admit that she's well into her old age now (sorry, Great-Grandma!).  Yeah, I think this was a good buy for her, and a good gift.  The girls have an interest in the violin now, or maybe the fiddle, and she gets to watch them playing.

Read My Post on

Susan Adcox at posted an article I sent her about why I blog and advice for other grandparent blogs.  Check it out!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Grandparents and Technology

Susan at, has an interesting article today about the little "digital natives" that are our grandkids.  It makes me wonder about the grandparents today, and the soon-to-be grandparents of tomorrow.  I've got a number of friends who, ten years ago, were definitely not computer users, struggled with e-mail, and could not attach a photo to an e-mail if they had to.  The advent of Facebook has brought a lot of them around in that area, but many are still pretty uncomfortable with anything beyond a picture upload or text message.

We actually run a computer networking company, and were extreme early adopters of technology (somewhere there's a video of our now 25-year-old son playing an online game while still in diapers).  Now, I'm a Web programmer, and actually have been working in the last couple of years on a Web site specifically created for older users (hunter education instructors).  It's fun to explore how to set up a site for users who aren't too comfortable with the Internet in general, and challenging as well.  I can guarantee that if it's not user-friendly, they won't use it!

I do think we're going to see lots more technology-savvy grandparents in the next ten years, and they'll start shopping online, reviewing products online, and even communicating online lots more.  I really can't imagine a technology better suited to grandkids and their grandparents right now than Skype, and I would expect to see more easy-to-use communication tools like this for grandparents springing up in the next decade.

One of the reasons I created was to provide some grandparent-specific reviews for online purchasing.  I love to read reviews of products before I buy them, but as a grandparent, I'm looking for different info than a parent.  I hope to provide more of these reviews as time goes along, and will be asking grandparent friends to help out with some reviews as well.

I think the online future for grandparents is only going to grow, and I'd encourage everyone to push themselves a bit in their knowledge level, or just give something new a try.  Might even help the old brain cells to stay active a while longer!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sponsoring a Child

I've got a new banner ad running on the right side of this page, and wanted to let you all know about one of the best ways we've found to teach our grandkids about compassion, giving, and the rest of the world.  We're sponsors to Arif, a fifth-grader from India, through Compassion International.  The girls have really enjoyed writing to him, and reading the letters he writes back.  I think it was a bit of a shock when he said he lived in a cinder-block house, and he was very, very appreciative of clothes for Christmas (!).  They know that the money we give helps to feed him and provides for his schooling, but I don't think they know yet what a difference those things can make for a child.

As Christians, we particularly appreciate Compassion's emphasis on Jesus.

If you've ever thought about sponsoring a child, I would highly recommend Compassion. 

Sponsor a Child

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Moving Into Big Kid Territory

We spent the weekend with our daughter, son-in-law, and all three of the granddaughters, while we were celebrating our daughter's birthday.  Some of the big girls (me, my daughter, and the 6-year-old) went shopping at the big mall on Saturday, and really had a great time.

This was really the first time that our oldest granddaughter had enjoyed shopping, at least with us.  She's 6-1/2 now, but I sure didn't think she was going to be interested in shopping for clothes with her aunt and grandma.  However, she surprised us both, and ended up getting a pair of boots that are just amazing.   Something about them just struck her as cool, and she ended up dancing around for us the rest of the day, just showing off her grown-up shoes. 

I really love buying toys for the grandkids, but find myself wondering, is it too soon to think about clothes for a little girl for a gift?  I remember thinking clothes and shoes were duds as gifts, but she mentioned several times how much she would love a red wool coat for Christmas. 

You can bet it wouldn't be her only present, but I'm still back and forth on this one.  I'll keep you posted on what I decide.