This tech-savvy grandma can tell you all about AutoRap and JibJab.
For Lisa Carpenter, the day her daughter announced her pregnancy was both amazing and heartbreaking.
Lisa was thrilled to become a grandmother and wanted to be in her grandson's life — but her daughter lived more than 800 miles away.
"They had our first grandson [Brayden] in 2008," Lisa says, "which was fabulous news when they announced the pregnancy but horribly hard on my heart as I simply could not comprehend how I would survive as a long-distance grandma."
Lisa and her husband, Jim, settled in Colorado Springs after their wedding 35 years ago.
They raised their three daughters — Brianna, Megan, and Andrea — with the majestic beauty of Pikes Peak as the backdrop to their lives. While two daughters settled close to home, one moved to Arizona and started her own family there.
As their kids got older, Lisa and Jim faced what so many others have: a family that’s spread out and grandkids who are too far away to see often.
Refusing to let distance prevent her from building a relationship with her grandkids, Lisa turned to tech to bridge the gap.
As part of her coping mechanism, she started blogging about her experience. Eight years later, she's built a community and inspires other grandparents to find inventive ways to connect with their long-distance grandkids.
First, she started with Skype. But when baby #2 was born, the joy of Skype was quickly overshadowed by a basic challenge: How do you get two kids to sit in front of a screen for any significant period of time?
"FaceTime is much easier," Lisa says. "Now all three boys can take turns with the phone with Gramma and PawDad [the name one grandson gave his grandad when he got a bit mixed up trying to say grandpa]. Sometimes we see a lot of ceilings as they walk around the house talking, or they don't quite get their faces on the screen and it's an arm or belly we're viewing."
She gets to pitch in and take some pressure off her daughter, too. "We typically FaceTime while mom's making dinner so it keeps them busy while she's prepping," Lisa explains.
The phone gave Lisa a lifeline to remain involved as a long-distance grandparent.
She receives texts often, with photos of the boys around the house. And it’s not a one-way street: Lisa and Jim use apps like JibJab to make little videos and show the kids that grandparents can be silly, too. She even persuaded 9-year-old James, her oldest daughter’s stepson, to remix "Old MacDonald" with her using AutoRap.
Still, there have been challenges.
"I would like to Skype, FaceTime, just plain talk on the phone more often than works for my daughter's schedule," Lisa shares. "I was first offended by that and it took me a bit to realize I need to be considerate of the time it takes to interact from afar."
Now, instead of being frustrated, Lisa appreciates the time that her daughter puts in to keep her connected with the little ones in between visits.
Hiccups aside, maintaining a digital connection has been incredibly rewarding.
When her youngest grandson was causing mild mayhem during his brother’s baseball game, it was grandma to the rescue. Her daughter let him FaceTime with Lisa, and from 800 miles away, she gave her daughter the break she needed to watch her other son play.
But her favorite memory is of a little message her middle grandson shared. He left her a ToyMail message — they call them "snorts" — that said "Hey, Gramma! I hope you're having a good day! Love ya!"
"That was it. And that made my day," says Lisa.
Lisa — and the many grandparents like her — are proof that the stereotype of the tech-illiterate grandparent is more than a little outdated.
"Being able to stay in touch from afar is the only way I survive as a long-distance grandmother," says Lisa. "I know some grandparents who move to be near their grandkids, and that's something my husband and I simply won't do for a variety of reasons."
"Having the ability to FaceTime and text and share this and that via various apps and such keeps me from regretting that decision, keeps me feeling like a relevant — and remembered — force in the lives of my beloved grandsons."
Correction 5/25/2017: Daughter Brianna's name has been corrected.