Saturday, February 14, 2015

Grandparents Making a Difference – Chris Kelly

The average age of a first-time grandparent today is 45 and the life expectancy in America is almost 80. The relationship that you build with your grandchildren will have time to blossom and to be passed to a fourth generation during your lifetime.
--  Roma Hanks, Ph.D.
Mobile Alabama Harbinger

I put a question to my friend Chris Kelly, a practiced and devoted grandma for over a quarter century.  I asked her how she learned such loving grandparenting.  I had seen her many years ago at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa with Ari, her toddler granddaughter.  And over time, she has proudly shared stories and pictures of her growing brood of granddaughters. Now Ari, a former Homecoming Queen and graduate of Rancho Cotati High School, is a flourishing young woman of 18 years and she and Chris still have a great relationship.  How did she become that grandmother?

Young and Healthy
Chris is young and healthy as a retiree and grandmother, but how does she account for the harmony in her multigenerational household for these many years?   “My grandma Amy Mae was my Native American elder and she taught me about the dangers of judging others and also about the Circle of Life.  My first grandbaby was stillborn and it was such a shock. My grandma’s caring and wisdom pulled us all through.  Also, she taught mostly by just being a loving sweet grandma to me.”

Babies Teach, too.
Since that first sad experience, Chris has been present for the healthy births of four more granddaughters.  “It’s a joy for me, and they say I calm them.”  The babies were also an influence on Chris.  Babies just home from the hospital nestled in her arms have been powerful teachers.  And being an extra set of willing and helpful hands also meant a lot to young parents.

Keeping Calm and Making a Difference

Growing up with a longing for more family, Chris feels fulfilled in that she now shares the connected, cohesive home with her big loving family.  Her girls and their girls welcome Chris to all their big moments and of course, she shows up when her calm is needed.  “Sure, I have helped when needed, but they all help me, too.” 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Even Grandmas Get Writers' Block

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. “  --  Margaret Atwood

It’s raining and I’ve already walked Ferris in his adorable yellow slicker.  Made the best cup of coffee – yum.  Fussed in the kitchen a bit.  Texted a couple of friends about really important things (NOT).  And now here I am, peeking over the top of this invisible obstruction called Writers’ Block.   Yes, even Grandmas get writers’ block.

My blogging coach  (this new job title entered my awareness in 2014) made me agree to post each and every week – and I started out very compliant. My postings went to FaceBook and I was pretty pleased.  My children and grandchildren and close friends said “FINALLY!” 

Then, what happened?! 

I’m still in love with my grandchildren, their sunny songs and the idea (read that IDEA) of sharing my enthusiasm with other Grandparents to sing with their little ones and enjoy their music. I still desire to get “Nana’s Greatest Hits” into a form where they can be enjoyed by more than my dear familiars.   I’ve been working with my music maven, Melissa Phillippe, and have two songs to share with you and I DO really love them.  So, why have I put them “under a bushel”?

My writers’ block has a technological alias – it’s really YouTube Block.  In order for me to post the songs that Melissa and I have been working on, they have to be YouTube videos.  (Ask my blogging coach why….)

 Mr. Peanut Butter Face was made when I was visiting my granddaughter Taylor and her family.  They are all serious computer whizzes; Taylor makes art, Maura produces ads with an agency, and Tom has written, produced and created many films, videos, TV spots.  He was good enough to walk me through the production of  Mr. PB Face for YouTube so I could post it here.  I’m sure the “how to” of video production is somewhere available to me without Tom, but again…

So now that I have conquered Writers’ Block (Yay!!) by writing these very words, it’s time for me to get back on my technology horse and ride.  I know:  it’s really easy once you begin, and I’m adopting Margaret Atwood’s tolerance for imperfection.  See?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nana’s Helpful Hints for Summer Fun with Grandchildren

“Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health.”  Jessica Lahey The Atlantic 6/20/14

OK.  I know the kids got out of school for summer vacation in May, for gosh sakes! And, most of the schools start up again next week.  At least that’s true in my little part of northern California.  So, you may have been asking -- Where are the Helpful Hints for Summer Fun that you may have been anticipating from this, your grandparent blogsite?  (True, maybe no one was holding their breath for the list and that is a good thing.)

In my tenure as Nana to Ethan and Taylor, I have had lists many pages long for stuff I wanted to do with them when I got the chance. But, I hesitate to share all that in the light of Jessica Lahey’s statement quoted above.  She points out that few children get the opportunity for any unstructured playtime and I agree with her that “doing whatever” or nothing at all is essential for all of us at ANY age. 

When Ethan was born, I lived in Bob and Tracey’s little apartment behind their house on Carrillo Street.  I got to see him every day.  He kick started my song-writing career,  (See "Nana’s Greatest Hits" blog, June 13 and "Hits Keep on Coming", July 4) and I got to spend lots of unstructured time with him. (Remember my favorite early childhood sport – baby watching?)

My time with Taylor was not quite as lavish nor unstructured, but my wish was always for the same kind of time that I got to have with Ethan.  I wrote this song when she was  2 or 3 years old (video to come) and it contains all the advice and helpful hints that I can offer in these waning days of summer vacation.  Mostly, have fun with your darling grandchildren!

I Wanna Spend Time with You
We can go in the car
We can take a walk
Sit right down and have a little talk
It doesn’t much matter what we do
I wanna spend time with you.
We can play in front
We can go out back
Sit right here and have a little snack
Whatever we decide to do
You're with me and I'm with you.
Running, jumping and playing with the ball
What we do doesn’t matter all
We can’t help laughing and when we’re done
What we are doing is having fun.
OR…we can crawl around
We can read a book
Sit in the garden and quietly look
When I see your face, I can see
You like spending time with me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Grandma by any other name…

“It should be noted, however, that veto power ultimately goes to the baby, who may eventually ignore even unanimous decisions and call you what he or she likes.” 
n  Miss Manners, Press Democrat, May 23, 2014 responding to a readers query about appropriate names for grandparents.

Was this even a conversation in the past?  Did the generation who were our grandparents ever question the elegance or appropriateness of a time honored title like Grandma and Grandpa?

Alice Catherine Sheehan Carey could only have been Grandma.  We kids knew her title before we knew her and there would be no fancying that.  This was a grandparent very different from Christine Telleson, our Danish and deaf maternal grandmother who lived with us and who we had known from birth. When we met this Irish force of nature, come to take care of us soon after our mother died, (I was seven, Tom and Ed, were five and a half and three, and little Sheila was two) we called her Grandma.   I cannot imagine the conversation in which Alice Catherine would suggest a cuter name.

My grandson, Ethan, has four grandmothers – only three grandfathers.  But, even though most of us live close to each other, the question never came up – how does the poor little guy differentiate?  And as the query to Miss Manners addresses, with multiples in the picture and step grandmas, what is the protocol?  Ethan worked it out by loving everyone of us, so who cared what we were called. 

Like so many aspects of today’s living, consciousness and new social circumstances demand that we consider so many things that we took for granted. 

Say, for instance, you’re in your 40’s and the title just doesn’t fit who you are and how you live. My friend Michele told me that “grandma” was too generic and just didn’t resonate.  She asked her friend, Juliana, who said her grandmother’s name was Precious.  That’s it!” So, Michele became Precious and as Miss Manners points out, eventually shortened by the grandchildren to “Presh.” You don’t meet that every day.

My choice was Nana.  I liked it and figured it would be easy to say.  Like Dada & Mama, it would come out easily and early.  I wanted to hear my darling boy call me.  (The extent to which some will go to satisfy their grand egos is sometimes astonishing, isn’t it?)

I recently took a survey among friends and family regarding names for grandparents – Grandma/Grandpa are still winning.  But we have a beloved Pops in my son-in-law’s family.  Vivian and Jim are called Grammy and Papi.  Some dears whom I met recently were called Poppi and Granna.

Maggie and her granddaughter Hannah have turned their names into an age old call and response in thirds (like playground songs around the world). Hannah might be in another room, she might be waking from a nap and she calls Mi-mi -- Maggie answers, Han-nah  --  Mi-mi – Han-nah”  Repetition and comfort in that.  She is Grandma by any other name.

Friday, July 4, 2014

And the Hits just kept on comin’

"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing." - William James

During my years teaching young children, every day included music.  Peter and his guitar; Doug with Orff instruments and sing alongs; my a capella circles closing each day at Curiosity Workshop.  I don’t recall having a didactic (teaching) reason for this.  I think teachers and children just loved to sing together.  Good enough reason.

So, it’s not surprising that singing with my grandchildren happened so easily.  The songs that eventually emerged as Nana’s Greatest Hits are a chronicle of the lives of young children. Though inspired by my grandchildren, friends and family have told me the songs are universally appealing. I hope parents and grandparents everywhere have fun with them.

It all started with a musical mobile over Ethan’s changing table.  We wound it up during diaper changes.  The tune was not even vaguely familiar.  No clue to what the words might be.  So I started singing “Kicking around without your diaper, kicking around without your clothes.”  That was the entire lyric, with variations as the melody changed keys and as it wound down.  Sometimes in a silly operatic voice, then slower and slower till it stopped. Was that one of E’s first smiles?

Then, the Hits just kept on comin’.  As I’ve described elsewhere in this blog, the songs came organically, easily.  Tunes and lyrics intact, most without any editing at all.  The lives of children in songs funny, frivolous and sometimes serious.

Eventually, I’ll produce an MP3 of each song like the one of “Mr. Peanut Butter Face” previously posted on this blog.  What follows could be the “liner notes” of the CD that I always imagined the Hits could turn into.  Hey, maybe that’s what’s happening!

Rice is Nice – a three part round to be sung around the high chair.

I’m Getting Bigger – the Good News/Bad News about growing up.

The Nose Song – grew out of the game of naming body parts that we played.

I Love to Look Up – babies love to point especially when they find cool things on the ceiling.

I’m So Curious --  the great “WHY” game.

The Bubble Bath Song – good, clean fun in the tub.

I Wanna Spend Time With You – some fun things to do and what’s truly important.

You Might Be Far Away – no matter how far away, the heart connection is always & forever.