Minnesota Memories (and the reality of long distance kids)

My sweet friend Vicky emailed upon the arrival of her second grandson, hundreds of miles away from her home. She wanted to know how I manage emotionally with long distance kids and grandkids. Vicky knows I feel her pain. Brian and his family live in China, Jeff lives in the state of Washington, and Christy and her family reside in Minnesota.

Our Minnesota Family~ First Photo of 7 with Newborn, Calvin

Vicky’s email surfaced some nagging questions asked by many friends in the same boat.  How can we be “effective” grandparents when we don’t live in close proximity? How can we love and serve our far away families? 

The Grandparent Study, while dated but informative nevertheless, notes “the vital factor of grandparent presence has been shown to be positively correlated with a child’s emotional security” (Kornhaber, 1996,Hagestad, 1985). Data analysis of the concept of “being there” revealed grandparent and grandchild companionship related to well-being. 

So what’s a long distance grandparent to do? Well the good news is, those of us who live miles away can be equally impactful in the psychological wellness of our grandchildren. This proved true in the data analysis of ninety-four grandchildren. The defining factors included: good communication between grandparent and grandchild, forming an alliance of understanding with them, and becoming active partners in finding ways to be together (Kornhaber, 1996). In other words, fostering these three areas with our grandchildren can help us become the effective grandparents we all long to be. 

While we certainly don’t have this all figured out, Jim and I choose not to dwell negatively on the distance between us and our kids/grandkids.  We try to find creative ways for all of us to be together. An extended stay rental in Annandale, MN turned out to fit the bill.

The main purpose of our Fall 2016 Minnesota visit was to be present for the birth of my daughter’s FIFTH son. We wanted to spend both quality and quantity time during their transition to a family of six to seven. So with the help of Debbie, my sister-in-law who is savvy to vacation rentals, we found this great place 30 minutes from Christy and Isaac’s. An extended stay residence allowed us the opportunity to be available for a good stretch of time as well as enjoy an Autumn season vacation with our grandsons and their Mom and Dad.


I spent an amazing five weeks (Jim, two) in this cozy place on Clearwater Lake. Minnesotans call retreats like these “cabins.”  In Ohio, they would be marketed as lovely, lake homes! Actually it’s a converted garage, but you’d never know it from the inside. It boasted of tasteful decor, a fully equipped kitchen, comfortable beds, and was impeccably clean. Since we rented it during the “off season” I was able to negotiate the price. It still wasn’t cheap, but well worth the investment. Most importantly for us, we were only steps away from the lake.

Breathtaking at times.

Photo Credit: Isaac Gould

I knew our grandsons would have a blast playing around the lake area. Our rental hosts took us all for a pontoon ride and even let the boys steer. Sleeping at the cabin was a novelty and a bit of an adventure for the boys, as well. At their ages, simple pleasures bring much joy. 

Speaking of simple pleasures, I could be content just staring at the water.


 Morning, noon, and night, Clearwater Lake was stunning. We had many peaceful moments relaxing at the water’s edge. In this sixty-something season, corralling four loving, energetic, smart, and creative busy boys definitely necessitated some down time.


Not ducks, but coots. They’re prolific on Minnesota lakes. So fun to watch. 


Hands down, twilight was my favorite time to behold the beauty of Minnesota skies and water.

And obviously our greatest new blessing to behold, Calvin Isaac Gould.


Love, love, love, holding this little cuddle bug. Calvin is such an alert little guy, as you can see as he gazes into Mama’s eyes.


Grandpa and Calvin, five weeks old


Suffice to say, I downed a lot of caffeine to keep up with a super busy household. Thank you Caribou Coffee and Liquid Assets. Just look at this crew. Five weeks of go, go, go. (Silly Daddy.)


Besides great coffee, I frequented one of the best of the best restaurants and bakery ever. I DID NOT pass up those Minnesota specialties at the Nelson Bros. Restaurant and Bakery at the Clearwater Travel Plaza (conveniently located on the way from the cabin to Christy and Isaac’s home).  Jim and I lingered over coffee and gourmet breakfasts in the morning when we were sans kids.

This was no ordinary truck stop. A major part of the complex is the cozy restaurant with the friendliest of servers, a coffee station, sandwich deli bar, ice cream counter, pizza ovens, and take home section.
Nelson Bros. Yummy Morning Fare Fritter French Toast & a side of Wild Rice Sausage Links
The Bakery, OH MY

When in Rome . . .

stearns-history-museum-logo_mediumthumbWhat’s nice about hanging around for five weeks is the opportunity to do a variety of activities. The county history museum offers a children’s play area, busy boards on the museum hallways, and interactive displays to help the kids engage in the pioneer life of early Minnesotan settlers.


Image from Wikipedia


Much to our delight, our oldest grandson Levi loves to ice skate. Both Jim and I have skated since we were kids, and Jim is a hockey fanatic. So the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center is a favorite.



I also had the joy of facilitating the creation of Halloween costumes. I gathered the materials and the boys painted, blended colors, and painted some more until they achieved the look they wanted. Let me tell you, they knew exactly what they were going for. I think they were happy with the results.

Jupiter and Saturn boys

Near or far, grandparenting is exhilarating, exhausting, and life-giving. It’s a whole new identity. I think grandparent expert Arthur Kornhaber nails it when he declares:

“Every time a child is born, a grandparent is born, too.”


Kornhaber, Arthur. 1996. Contemporary Grandparenting. Thousand Oaks, California:
Sage Publications.





4 thoughts on “Minnesota Memories (and the reality of long distance kids)

  1. This post gives me hope. I’m not a grandma yet but it’s looking like I will be a long-distance grandma when I become one, which leaves me feeling sad. This post helps me imagine the positive possibilities!


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