We moved to South Korea when Clarissa was eighteen months old. I felt bad taking the only grandbaby on both sides to the other side of the world. But I also knew that there were things that I could do to help Clarissa keep in touch with her extended family.
- Care Packages
I hang up Clarissa’s artwork in our house when she creates it. A few times per year, I take it down and mail it to the grandparents. We try to send care packages with art (and now that she is older, samples of her school work) at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and Christmas. This way, I don’t have to throw Clarissa’s work away and the grandmothers appreciate samples of her work.
We often create special cards or paintings specifically for the packages. Especially when Clarissa was younger, we would create something with her handprint or footprint so that the grandmothers could see how much she had grown. We have made footprint butterflies and mermaids, and handprint flowers among other things.
- Photo gifts
I use Shutterfly a lot for gifts. It is easy to make calendars and photo books. For a while I was sending photo books at different times and everyone was on a different schedule. Now I have switched to making one for the year and everyone gets the same one. I can also send mugs, notebooks, bags, and calendars with Clarissa’s pictures.
How often you visit depends on how far away you are. A flight from Korea to America is expensive (and the thirteen/fourteen hour time difference is brutal) so we’ve only been home once in four years. At about our halfway mark in Korea, Clarissa and I did a solo trip to visit both sets of grandparents. She was so young when we left that she didn’t really have memories of them in person, just over Skype. I assumed that if we could go to America and make some memories, she would interact with the family members better when we did Skype. I was correct.
We have a special facebook group for our extended families. I try to regularly post pictures, videos, and funny things that Clarissa says so that they can see her often. Sometimes they post videos with messages for her as well or pictures of the animals in Omi’s yard. I also make videos whenever someone sends Clarissa a package in the mail. This way they get to “watch” her open her gifts and see her reaction.
Skype is free and we use it regularly. The grandparents can talk to Clarissa (and Tim and I) in real time. There are also copies of books that Clarissa owns that each of the grandparents have so that they can read her a book over Skype and she can follow along. And they often request that she opens her presents over Skype so they can interact with her while she opens them.
I had a blog before we moved anyway but it was mostly a recipe blog. Once we moved, it morphed into a what we’re doing in Korea and travel blog. I don’t have a big following, but my family enjoys reading about our adventures. I also like that one day Clarissa will be able to look back and see our adventures in picture and story form.
We’re planning to move back to the United States in the spring. Clarissa is excited that she will get to see her grandparents and new baby cousin in person. She is hoping that we will live close so that she can see them “whenever I want!”