Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ask A Silly Question

If curiosity killed the cat, it surprises me that there are so many children alive still echoing the age-old question “why?” You will lose the challenge by answering them. Your answer will simply lead to the next why, and undoubtedly, the next. Why? I don’t know.

My father’s response to our questions was “Look it up.” In those days, the encyclopedia was the information highway. Today, of course, the web is the blazing fast way to get information. My parents’ attitude was to teach us to be independent thinkers by reading to get the answers. Children today are pretty savvy at navigating their way through the maze of web based resources creating new and improved independent thinkers.

Questions Children Ask by Edith and Ernest Bonhivert compiled a series of questions on a variety of subjects. Children submitted all of the questions. Why don’t fish drown? Do I breathe when I sleep? Can a bird fly backward? And despite the age of the 1974 publication, there are relevant questions about why there are different kinds of families and who belongs to a family.

Between the swimming and the camping this summer, plan a Game Show Mania day. Have books and computers at the ready along with a list of questions and see how quickly your grandchildren can come up with the answers. Prizes can range from cookies for each correct answer (of course if the answer is wrong, they must forfeit a cookie) to higher stakes for the grand prize – a banana split!

Trivial Pursuit is available in a children’s edition and the Cranium series offers great ways to make questions and answers a less painful way to increase your grandchild’s knowledge and retain your sanity. Play a game of "when you chauffeur them to their summer activities.

You don’t need a teaching degree to mentor your grandchildren. You not only know things, you have lived in places and times in history that make you a living resource. One of the questions that our generation can certainly answer is “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” One that readily comes to mind is “Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon?"

Offering our grandchildren fun and simple ways to explore learning, supports and develops their natural curiosity and intelligence. Summer vacation may be a time for slipping out of a desk and into a swimsuit but it doesn’t mean we should stop teaching them. Why? Because that’s what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Battle is Over, But The War May Have Just Begun

Technology - friend or foe? For years we have been under the delusion that technology will make our life easier. And yet research does not bear this out with the increase of stress disorders. Instead of working less, we work harder at accomplishing more. Why? Because technology makes it easier to do more in less time. 

For some of us the learning curve for the continual upgrading of computers, software, cell phones and even our appliances has either left us in the technological dust or swept us into a tsunami of wanting more. Now the ultimate technology battle has been won.

Since the debut in 1956  of the wireless TV remote, the same argument has been playing out in homes all over the country. Who is in charge of the remote? The truth is 91% of American households with televisions fight over the remote. And 12% of these arguments become physical. We now have remotes for just about everything in our technological world, from our music to our temperature controls. In the palm of our hand lies the control of our world.

Well, from the vision of two engineers from Australia, we will now be able to control these devices with the wave of a hand. We've been seeing this technology on the big screen as futuristic cops and crime investigators wave their hand in front of a screen to bring up information or pictures. With a few hand signals, you too, will be determining the channel, the temperature, the volume, even the lighting in the room. 

The new gadget incorporates a camera that can recognize hand signals and converts them into commands for the television. A clenched fist means start, a wave of the hand changes channels, pointing a finger selects and clapping hands turn it off.  No more looking for the remote as long as you know where your hands are. But I have to wonder if despite the winning of this battle, we have begun an even bigger war. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome seems likely to be the next major statistic or perhaps atrophy of the buttocks or legs, since we will no longer have to get up to turn on anything. Once we sit down, we can stay in one place and control everything around us. I do wonder what will happen to the 12% statistic of physical confrontation for the remote. With all that arm waving and clenched fisting, is it a far stretch to accidentally take a swing at your partner or sibling to regain control? Apparently this remote camera will be able to recognize its owner and is set for a dominant user. 

Technology - friend, foe or instigator? My siblings and I used to race to the TV and the first to get to the dial was the winner. Saturday morning cartoons were a mix of aerobics and sibling rivalry. More challenges in this technological warfare. I say let's give the remote the heave ho and return to fewer channels with more substance, more board games, reading a good book and taking a long walk after dinner. Then let's check the statistics again in a year. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Moving On

In the blink of an eye, children become young adults and as if that were not difficult enough to comprehend, we have to accept the fact that means we have also moved on. My grandsons graduating from 8th grade this week, was not nearly as difficult to understand as the fact that they will be entering high school come Fall! How did that happen?

The interesting thing about these milestones is that although we pass that mile marker, another looms ahead. We find ourselves once again at the top of our game and ready to plunge to the bottom of the next. From 8th grader, to parent and now grandparent, I have been there, I have done it three times with my own children and now have a t-shirt with my grandkids names on it! Seriously, how did that happen?

My granddaughter informed me that she is having a kindergarten graduation....what? Now I will have to draw the line here. These age defying moments are piling up. My 40th high school reunion, my 4th grandchild, yes, even my parents' 80th birthdays. It is tough to grow old gracefully when these milestones keep telling us how far down the road we are.

So to all of us whose children and grandchildren are hell bent on making us feel our age, remember that candlelight is your friend. Meanwhile, enjoy the road trip between the milestones!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lawn Mowing is Not Rocket Science

I have come to the conclusion that I am reaching a time when technology can go on without me. My children and grandchildren know more about cell phones, social media like Twitter and Facebook. Why should they listen to anything I have to say when it comes to learning something as mundane as mowing the lawn or cleaning their room?

The rocket science involved in mowing a lawn is beyond the younger generation. They will mow around anything in their path, rather than pick it up. The lawn will look more like a bad hair day than a pristine baseball field.

Weeding is another extreme sport where they have no athletic ability. A neighbor boy was weeding a flowerbed and pulled out everything that bloomed. When I asked him about his weed vs flower choices, he explained he figured if it bloomed it was a weed. Being the consummate gardener for decades, I must admit there is a thin line.

The house cleaning chores are just as challenging. If my son can get his dirty dishes from his room to the kitchen, they stop at the dishwasher. It is like a road block. I have introduced him to the trash can, his closet, and even the washing machine. He recognizes them but that is the extent of their relationship.

Perhaps if mowing the lawn or cleaning up could be done with a video game controller on the Wii, these skills would be well honed by age twelve. And yet, in this day of working parents and seniors staying in their homes longer, it seems that yard work or housecleaning would be a profitable business for some enterprising young person.

Gone are the days of the backyard carnivals and lemonade stands that we remember. Kids today need to make some serious cash. Have you seen the price of anything with an “i” in front of it? Babysitters are charging $5 an hour. That is a far cry from the going rate of 50 cents an hour forty years ago.

Helping our grandchildren understand the value of a dollar may be a more daunting task than helping them find a job. Tom Sawyer tricked his friend into painting a fence by making it sound more like fun than work. Go into business with your grandchild. They can be the bookkeeper and you will be the front man. Invest in a summer business that will not only help them buy that jumbo box of popcorn ($4.75!) at the movie but they might learn a little business savvy along the way.

Be imaginative with the name of the business, like Yard Hogs or Green Giants. Teach them how to mow, edge, trim and weed. Call your family, neighbors and friends and ask them to recommend this lawn and yard service. Help your grandchild to set up a schedule and provide transportation to the jobs. Once the business is going, you can suggest the need for more employees, creating more jobs for their friends. And what is your interest on the initial investment? Your lawn will be mowed once a week and spending time watching your grandchild taking steps toward independence.

If you are not into capital investments, check the web site It is an excellent resource for young people ages 8 to 18 years old to dip their fingers into the entrepreneurial pool. The free site is easy to navigate and encourages parents to be involved. home page links kids to games, programs, a variety of resources and products to get kids doing business related activities. A very innovative and educational website for parents, grandparents and especially kids.

There are many books and web sites on kids in business you can share with your grandchildren. Remember - give a child a video game and you entertain him for a few hours. Teach him the value of work and he can buy his own video games and not spend as many hours playing them. That’s what a wise grandma would do.