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Making memories from afar

Lynne and Stu Cojac loved the hugs and kisses they gave and received from their two grandchildren.

The Cojacs, who live in the Ballantyne area, saw their grandchildren - Ayla, 6, and Ethan, 3 - almost every day from the moment they were born.

Then, a few months ago, their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren relocated from Charlotte to London for two years. The Cojacs' son-in-law, Marc Andrews, had a business opportunity he couldn't refuse.

So Andrews and his wife, Amy, packed their bags, and - with the two children - gave Lynne and Stu enough hugs to last a long time.

The Cojacs had joined the ranks of long-distance grandparents.

Initially for Lynne, 60, and Stu, 63, the thought of not seeing their grandchildren for a long time was upsetting. The Cojacs knew the relationship they have with their grandchildren had to be maintained, but that it would be different. The special moments now are memories.

"I've come to a peace with it now," said Lynne. "I've adjusted to the change."

Lynne still wants her grandchildren to experience her love, so she regularly does a series of things to keep in touch.

If you are a long-distance grandparent, here are some ideas from Lynne to use with your grandchildren:

Communicate with using free services on the Internet. Skype is a free service that allows people to make free video and voice calls - just download the software from www.skype.com. For video, you need a camera to attach to your computer or a computer with an internal camera. When using Skype, you can read stories, show new clothes, share photos and talk. The Cojacs use Skype to chat with their grandchildren once a week.

Create and send messages using social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Take photos of daily activities and use them to make a book to send to the grandchildren. Use photos of the grandchildren to create a book for them.

Mail silly little things like stickers, toys and stuffed animals.

Buy two books, mail one and keep one. Read the book together over the phone or on Skype.

Send a letter once a week. Address a letter to each grandchild. Write in cursive or printed letters depending on what style they are learning.

Celebrate holidays and birthdays by phone, with photos, stories or Skype.

Write a book about your life or your grandchildren. Tell family stories.

Ellen Wysmuller, another south Charlotte long-distance grandmother, has a list of things she does with her two grandchildren, age 4 and 2.

Wysmuller sends "little packages with crazy little stuff. It doesn't have to be expensive. This year we sent Peeps, Crazy Bands, children's magazines and cars from the 'Cars' movie."

Another set of south Charlotte long-distance grandparents, Susan and Roger Stiefel, travel to visit their grandchildren.

"In between visits, we speak all the time with our children, although the grandchildren are not always 'in the mood' to speak with us," said Susan.

Lynne Cojac often reflects on the time spent with her grandchildren before their move to London.

"I realize I was lucky to have (the time with the grandchildren) when I had it," she said.

Now she's making long-distance memories.

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