Saturday, November 17, 2012

How we stay in touch

How do you stay in touch with family members who live very, very far away? Well, we're not exceptionally good at it, but here are the ways we help our kids remember who their grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles are.

1. Blogs. The girls each have a blog. Most of their cousins have blogs. It is so nice to be able to log in and see pictures from our family members in the US whenever we want.

2. Videochat. That's what we call it in our house - maybe there's a better name for it? Technically, we use Google Hangout, via our Gmail accounts. We don't do this as often as I would like to. Our kids (and some of the cousins) are still at the age where it holds their attention, but after a while they just start typing crazily on the keyboard and making faces at the camera and running around the room. Still, it's good to see each other, even if not much meaningful conversation goes on.

My favorite recent videochat experience was on Wednesday morning when we videochatted with Grandma Walker (my mom) as well as my brother and his wife and three kids (maybe only two were present, though - I couldn't really tell through the chaos of excited kids) and beloved dog. I had the videochat going on my laptop so when Miriam's bus came, I followed her out the door and all the cousins got to see her get on the bus. Priceless.

3. Spying on us at church. I think it's mostly only my family who does this. The services we attend in Sharjah are broadcast over the web to isolated pockets of Mormons who don't have access to a regular congregation. My parents know the URL and watch the beginning of our meetings sometimes - they can see us walk in and greet friends and play the piano or whatever.

4. Cards/packages in the mail. This doesn't happen that often, since mail from the US to the UAE is both expensive and slow. But every once in a while, we get an envelope "package" with stickers or small, lightweight, thin crafts for the girls to do. Jeremy's mom and sister Sarah are the ones who usually put these together. It's always a happy day when we get a letter from the US.

5. Weekly emails. My family recently started this one - each week my parents start a general mass email to me and my siblings (and a few of the older grandchildren) talking about anything, everything, or nothing - just whatever. Then everyone pitches in over the week until a new one starts. For me, it's all nicely stacked up in one conversation in Gmail. It's a nice way to hear news from my siblings without anyone feeling like they have to start their own email just to share a small piece of news or a good experience from the week.

My friend Anna (an American living in Germany) posted a great keep-in-touch strategy on her blog that I would love to try: videos of grandparents reading a story. What a great idea!

Even though we don't see each other in person every year, the above strategies keep us from feeling like strangers when we do see each other.


Jennifer said...

We do a lot of video chatting as well. (We call it "talking on the computer".) We use Skype and I just got a new phone and for the first time last week, we Skyped on my phone. The girls were in the bathtub at the time and my mom got to watch my girls play and they got to talk to her while doing the bath thing. That was fun. Otherwise when we sit in front of the computer, their interest wanes pretty quickly. I know our grandparents are not as far away as yours, but they are far enough to not be a part of daily life and we only see them a few times a year.

Oh, and my mom reads books to my girls over Skype. It holds their attention during the video chat a lot longer than just conversation. I love the idea of recorded stories though like your friend does. Isn't all this technology amazing?!

And spying on your family at church is hilarious! Are you going to share that URL with all of us? :)

Ariana said...

My mom likes to do flashcards or read stories over Skype (or google hangout, depending on which is working better that day). It's fun. We are in Utah, my parents are in Portland.

Susanne said...

How fun! I wish some of these options had been available when I was younger so I could better know some of my extended family. I love that your family in the US could watch Miriam get on the bus...and that your parents watch you play the piano in church. :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

We couldn't live without the blogs!

And video-chats. I would like them to happen more often. It's a little awkward with us being 12 hours different; your kids are either leaving for school or going to bed when we're available. How about this Sunday evening? Should we borrow the idea of reading a story to the girls?

Katie Lewis said...

Man, those Lewises. So ahead of the game. :)

Andrew said...

Bahahaha on church spying! :)

Nancy said...

We love the church spying. I kinda sorta want to try it sometime...but don't have the URL. *sigh* ;)

We blog, but you knew that, and we Skype and occasionally will use the telephone (but that confuses my girls; they hardly know how to use one (though they managed to Skype my father-in-law while he was at a bishopric meeting this morning)).

We had/have weekly skype dates with our families. We did it on Sunday for FHE when we lived in Egypt (that way our parents would be home). I love Skype so much! My sister Josie did a bit of babysitting for me via Skype when we lived in Egypt (she entertained Rachel while I made dinner a few times; it was bliss).

We still skype (I just did a post about skyping into a wedding reception, actually).

I love skype.

I would die without it.

Probably I wouldn't...but you get my point. :)


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