Read all about it!I know, I know. You've read it all before. These Newsworthy events are my obsession! But they make me feel like a valuable link in a chain and I can't help getting repetitive about it. Other grandmas bake pies, take hikes or make quilts. I write stories.
The grands are far-flung in five states, and we don't see each other often enough, so one of the roles I've assigned myself as Oma is to help them feel part of a large, loving, supportive family. My Cousin's Club Newsletter has several objectives tucked into just a few pages. I'm hoping the kids sub-consciously soak in much more than just words.
For instance: The title helps the kids remember they're part of a unique group; the repetition of the word Hero is to remind them of a high family standard. The pledge was contributed by a grandson: I hope he feels validated when he sees it even if he doesn't recall why. I include a story about Oma and Opa, our childhood, or a mention of traditions passed from generations before. Sometimes I tell embarrassing stories about their parents, or our parents. How else will they get these nuggets if I don't pass them on? (That's the link part.)
Since the kids don't see each other regularly, and because they are all changing so quickly, I always scan in current photos of each one. Then I write some little detail so they'll stay familiar with their cousins, and see that they have interests in common. I think they probably like seeing themselves in print, too. The last newsletter had a questionnaire that asked questions like "What's your favorite book?" so this time I used their answers.
I give them a reason to contact Dee and I. I want them to feel a personal connection with us, not just a relationship that's handled by their parents. In this case I'm offering money. (Whatever it takes . . .)
There's always a small contribution to the moms—my long-distance version of baby-sitting. I suggest a craft or activity that can be done without too much assistance, and the pages can all be colored. Hopefully the reading chart will be incentive to sit quietly with a book for 30 minutes and allow mom a blissful, leisurely afternoon. (Moms: have you noticed all the free time you have lately?)
Sometimes I've printed the newsletters in color but they're expensive that way and it limits me to one per family. When I print them in black and white it's cheap enough to send one to each kid which I hope eliminates arguments. And I include treats in the package to add an extra kick to the grand event.
A newsletter template from Pages should make the first page simple for me, but I have to re-learn how to use it each time, so it still takes me all day. No matter. The other pages start out blank and I just drag the images on and type in a text box. Publishing this little tabloid has taught me a lot about the computer. Grade-school kids are the perfect group to practice my skills on because they haven't learned to judge, although I'm sure several of them could do a better job than I do.
Whatever we're good at, we can be a link in the long vertical chain from one generation to another, as well as a horizontal link between siblings and cousins. Our talents and interests can all be used to strengthen family ties.
So, collect recipes; travel to family historic sites; celebrate an ancestor's birthday; teach your kids a traditional skill; record your mom singing; watch a movie about your ancestral homeland; ask your dad what he wanted to be; present a nephew with your old baseball cards; share your stories, blog . . . link up.