Monday, September 28, 2009

Behind The Wheel

My Mom and Dad must be gloating and my kids, especially my daughter with two teens, are now looking at us with a little more respect. 

The Today show aired a feature about the influence of parents on the driving habits of their teen drivers. It seems simple enough to me, since my parents kept close watch on everything we did and getting behind the wheel was no exception. 

Realizing that my first experience behind the wheel alone involved much of the same rules, I set down for my teenagers, made watching this Today Show feature even more satifsying. Guess Mom and Dad do know best. Here are a few of the rules we had in the 60's, we laid down for our teens in the 80's and 90's and apparently are still going strong in the 21st century.

#1  No one else rides in the car with you.

#2  No radio, CD or other distractions.

#3  Use the family car. No car of your own.

New rules for today's teens include no talking on the phone, no texting and no taking phone calls while driving.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg is an adolescent specialist, studying more than 6,000 teen drivers, found that teens with strict rules set by the parents were half as likely to be in a crash, twice as likely to wear seat belts and 70% less likely to drink and drive. The study found simple rules are the most effective at keeping teens safe on the road. Since car accidents are the number one killer of young people, it makes sense to lay down a few rules to save a few lives. The study reveals two important messages. One, that parents can have a huge influence on teenagers driving and they should think twice when deciding to give teens their own car.

Although hard to imagine that your child (or grandchild) will grow into a teenager with keys in their hands - it happens all too fast. My advice, keep in mind that teenagers are craving independence. Rules are the best and safest way to drive them there. That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guess What I Got For My Birthday

Months in the making and hours in the delivery, my birthday gift came with all the drama and excitement one would expect from a miracle. 

The stork dropped Miss Emilia in my arms on my birthday. Wrapped in a swaddling blanket and baby bonnet, I quickly unwrapped my gift to be sure that all parts were assembled. I had to stand in a long line of expectant siblings, grand parents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles to pass the bundle of wiggly parts around the room. First glimpses, smiles and flashing cameras all gave rave reviews to a tired mother and beaming father.

I hugged my daughter, who told me this was all she had time to get me for my birthday. Interestingly enough, I felt that my daughter was the real gift. One way or the other, we all knew a baby was coming. But my daughter was the most beautiful face in that room. I was so anxious to see her, to hold her, to make sure she was all right. The hours of waiting wore deeply in both our faces and the joyous crowd made it difficult to be heard. I hope she knows that she will always be my baby, no matter how many babies she puts into my arms. 

In our heart, in our arms, in our lives, in our thoughts, from the cradle to the crib, to school, down the aisle, to the delivery room and beyond, our children are engraved, sculpted from our very beings. And like any work of art, are priceless and enduring. Today, I celebrate my mother, and her mother, myself and my daughter as we again lay claim to the title "mother and child".

That's what a wise grandma would do.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Labor - Before and After

I have yet to determine which is more difficult - the labor of a natural birth, the labor of an adopted baby or the labor of your own child.

Each of my two natural births were long from 26 to 32 hours. The labor of adopting my oldest daughter was an arduous year long process. But watching one of my daughters going through labor, is an even more difficult ordeal.

Ask any mother, and she will tell you in a heartbeat that she would gladly take the pain to spare her child. Truth is, most of the time you are helpless to do little more than watch.

Today I watch as my daughter brings my 4th grandchild into the world. Interestingly, it is no easier than the first time. As a bonus, this precious spirit will make her arrival on my birthday. This begins another cycle of labor - my mother spent this day decades ago laboring to bring me into the world. I wonder how difficult this is for her. Does she know how grateful I am for my life, for my daughter's life and for the life of this new grandchild?

From daughter to daughter, we share a bond. This new grandbaby will be welcomed by mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers. That is a birthday gift that is truly priceless.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going Bananas

My middle daughter is allergic to bananas. Just the thought of one, well, makes her go bananas! Her children, my grandchildren, come over to my house and like monkeys eat bananas as if they will never see one again...they literally will eat several bananas each.

So although there is no need to disguise this delectable fruit from them, I do have a wonderful, delicious recipe that I have passed on to other moms who are looking for ways to get the yellow fruit into their kids bellies. My granddaughter and I call it "Banana Pudding".

Already you are sneering, thinking this is some old grandma recipe with vanilla wafers, but oh ye of little faith. This healthy recipe contains no added sugar, cookies, or otherwise junk food. The big surprise is that kids love it despite its wholesome ingredients. Give it a try and then let this wise grandma know if she steered you wrong.

Banana Pudding

2 ripe bananas (the riper the sweeter the pudding)
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 c quick oatmeal (as opposed to regular oatmeal)

Blend the bananas and yogurt in a blender until smooth. Add the oatmeal to mix. Depending on how thick you like it, you can blend until smooth or just until mixed. My granddaughter likes it on the thick side. Pour into serving cups. Makes two 8 oz servings or 4 smaller servings.

Place in refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to set. Delicious, nutritious, satisfying for breakfast or snack. I also add granola on top for a crunchy treat or raspberries for a bit of color!

My daughter won't come within a mile of the stuff but my grandchildren will look for it in the fridge before they hit the cookie jar. True story! Eat healthy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happiest Place on Earth

Where is the Heart of Your Home? When posed this question by Megan Calhoun at TwitterMoms as part of a Samsung Appliances contest I had to admit my answer was probably unexpected. Seems like no matter what is going on in the house or how many people are over, they congregate in the kitchen. You are trying to cook and they are standing with fingers poised to dip, lick or sip your culinary work. What's that old saying? Too many cooks spoil the broth?

That is probably why the best meeting place in my house is the music studio. What cooks in there requires cooperation, collaboration and imagination. Sweet sounds, tasty melodies and tempting rhythms percolate from the hands of many cooks. The music studio is where my grandchildren run to when they arrive (that is after they hit the cookie jar) and parents flock to hear budding musicians marvel at their own concoctions.

The room is filled with musical instruments from the mundane to absurd. From piano to water bottle drums, there are a variety of ways that the non-musician (though I don't believe there is such a thing) can add a bit of spice to the mix. It is fun to watch their faces as they discover some new thing I found at a garage sale or junk shop that can be used to make savory sounds. We play, sing, dance and most of all laugh at the cacophony of youngster and oldster and in-betweener in a room cooking up a recipe for fun.

The recipe is simple. Create a space where people can at once feel compelled to join together and contribute. Whether it be your kitchen, your family room or in my case a place that speaks the language of music, the best room in the house is where family comes together to laugh, love and communicate. That is the happiest place on earth. 

So where is the heart of your home? That is what a Wise Grandma wants to know!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Technology Friend or Foe

I just finished a wonderful read - The Black Berry Diaries, Adventures in Modern Motherhood by Kathy Buckworth. Being a grandmother of three and one who tends to resist the tether of technology (try saying that three times fast), I found myself being drawn to the BBSP (abbreviated moniker BlackBerry Smartphone) if only for the comedic value.

With style and humor, Kathy explores the challenges of being a working two jobs mom - motherhood putting her on the front lines and the Blackberry Diaries are the journalling of how she incorporates tantrums and technology in order to keep her writing career on track. Between diapers, teen angst, hockey practice and games, Kathy takes us through the challenges, realities and humor of the 21st century mom.

As she journals her fast paced life with BlackBerry in and out of it's holster, she chronicles her first year with Seamus, her personal tech assistant and main character in this funny, well written look into her life. Mother of four, Kathy infers that Seamus, her BBSP, has become her fifth child, demanding her attention every bit as much as the other four. But Seamus somehow has her best interests at heart, making sure she has the critical information to continue her writing career at her fingertips.

But can she truly be saved from the foibles of children, husband, (yes, not even he is safe from her crafty wit) and those with Berry-envy, by this little technological wizard? Read more to find out.

As for me, I am trying to avoid the thorns from the Oregon Blackberries that have taken over my backyard...maybe a BBSP is a less thorny challenge. That's What A Wise Grandma Should Do!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hungry Minds Need Full Bellies

Lately, we have little respect for corporate America. Between the banking and auto industry, it seems promises are not worth keeping and the days of a handshake was a man's word have been replaced with bailouts and corporate bonuses. 

Well, here is one that should reflect the winds of change. Oscar Mayer is launching a campaign we can all get behind. First of all, it doesn't cost us a dime, except to get the word out and to make a promise. A simple promise to put a note in your child's (or grandchild's) lunchbox that offers a slice of encouragement to go along with that sandwich. What is Oscar Mayer's stand on that promise?

For each promise, a Lunchable meal will be donated to Feeding America. Oscar Mayer is shooting for 100,000 promises to make 100,000 Lunchable donations for hungry kids. Feeding America is our nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. It serves an estimated nine million children each year. To add to that number, all you have to do is tell your kid how great they are or how much you love them or have a super day! I can't think of a better win/win. 

So get out your pen and paper, find a cute card or sticker and let's fill a few hungry minds and bellies. That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do...and she would also tweet the heck out of this! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eye Catching

I can sit in my backyard each night, warming myself by the fire and marvel at the beautiful stars that grace the night sky. Or I can walk out on my front porch to pick up the newspaper in the morning and see colorful stars of different shapes and sizes dangling on the fence across the street in the school yard.

No, this is not a midsummers night dream. There they are, in all their splendor - 350 magnificent stars! The project was born from the imaginative, Eileen Nittler, a neighbor on the other side of the school. Her children have been attending the community school, River Road/El Camino de Rio in Eugene, OR, for many years. She had seen a school in Portland, OR where they had put salmon on an old ugly Cyclone Fence and thought it would be a great idea for our neighborhood to see stars in the sky day and night.

Why stars? She says the students are known as the Shining Stars and she along with an artist in residence, Alex, helped the children design their own stars to put along the fence. Each student made two stars that would be attached through the fence for both sides of the neighborhood to see.

Working feverishly the last few weeks of school, they managed to get 350 children to create these works of stellar art. At first, Eileen thought she could cut the stars from plywood with a jigsaw. When this became an overwhelming project, she turned to the internet and found stars in Vermont. Ash stars to be precise. She picked two sizes, 3.5 inch diameter for students K through grade 2 and 5 inch diameter for grades 3 to 5. Her son Henry felt this was a bit unfair, since little kids always get little stuff. But this project was already two years from concept to completion and Eileen was determined the stars would come out this summer.

So all through the summer, she and her husband Greg, have been hanging the stars along the fence, one of them on each side of the fence working in tandem to connect each matching pair of stars. Locking their ladders up each night along the fence, I found that neighbors walking by began the conversation around the ladders. Were the stars going up or coming down? As the length of the starry trail, grew, the question soon became, whose putting up the stars?

A small neighborhood community drawn together in conversation and thought over stars that appeared in daylight. Who would have thought that these shining stars would rise to such heights? That's something a wise grandma should have thought of!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Raising kids, from any generation, is challenging. From the moment they poke their little heads out, you worry about them and more importantly you worry if you are up to the challenge of being a parent to this helpless creature. My oldest daughter is about to embark on this journey and was sharing her concerns about her qualifications for being a good parent.

I tried to reassure her that most of those jitters come from the unknown. And more than one parent has lamented the fact that babies do not come with directions or manuals. But I think I have found a book that puts it all into the right perspective - from that of the child.

Always Kiss Me Good Night by 147 Kids Who Know, is, for all intents and purposes, an instruction manual on raising the perfect parent. Compiled by J.S. Salt this little book tackles the big subjects of Caring, Guidance & Independence and Family & Friends. Written in the children's own handwriting, we find such sound advice as "Keep your promises better" from Jeanette 10 years old. And Stuart age 8 writes, "Don't leave me in the car when you go to do stuff."

"Think when you were a kid and not yell so much" writes Joe and from Suzanne we have the wise words, "If you get mad at me remember to forgive me." At age 11 1/2, Julie writes, "Don't laugh at me when I need to ask ?'s." And Britney speaks with the voice of experience as she writes, "Please don't kiss me in front of school." Aaron, age 9, strikes me as an attorney in the making as he pleads, "Don't punish me for doing things by accident."

"We were embarking on the most important job of our lives and we didn't have instructions" said J.S.Salt who had the privilege of compiling these profound thoughts. "But I discovered the advice I'd been looking for: kids with greater wisdom that I'd ever imagined."

Yes, out of the mouths of babes often comes the most sound and often dismissed advice. But if we listen carefully, we will find kernels of truth and keen observation. This one in particular, from Christine age 10, I found to be most profound. "More free time! Don't fill my life up every minute of the day." Yes, Christine, that is precisely what a wise grandma thinks, too.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The New Face of Society

Brother, can you spare a dime was the cry of the thirties from a society depressed by the economy. Skid Row became a place to seek shelter for a night and stand in line for hours for soup and bread.

Today we find an economy with a new cry. Families are sleeping in their cars and motorhomes are standing in the parking lots of Wal-mart. Food banks are filling orders beyond their capacity and free clinics have lines around the block for health care. And the cry for help shouts out from Twitter.

From Google News comes a story about Brianna Karp, a young woman who had a great job one day and found herself unemployed and scrambling for a place to live. Not an unusual story these days, except that she found a way to shed light in her very dark tunnel.

Brianna turned her nightmare into a 21st century fairytale when she began blogging about her homeless experience. She bought $5 coffee cards from Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi to send out resumes and blog. She was surprised by the number of people that were using social media to change their situation.

Her tweet promoting her writing read "Tips for surviving homelessness. You may be homeless, but you do not need to be a bum!" Her blog at was a way to reach out and hang on. Then she ran across a casting call for a reality show but nerves resulted in a dismal audition.

On a lark, she emailed hoping to get another shot. The question "how does one get another shot when one screws up a job interview?" went on and in the August edition of Elle magazine. The response "Miss Homeless, my dear: You don't 'get' another shot. You take it."

Brianna took the shot and was offered a telecommuting internship for four months with Elle magazine. Carroll, from the magazine, explained "You knocked me out with your courage and spirit."

Social media is changing the face of society for the better. Texting and tweeting for change is what a wise grandma would do.