Friday, July 8, 2011

We have Skyped, and it didn't hurt a bit

I don't like talking on the telephone; it takes a lot of energy and doesn't give enough back. That's probably because I like to take in information through my eyes, not my ears.

At ages three and four, our grandkids will talk by phone for a little while, until suddenly they are gone and you find yourself talking with their mom, who is laughing at how abruptly they were distracted by something shiny.

All that was before Skype.

With the kids planning a three-week trip to Montana, we decided to join the Skype generation. Our computers have no working built-in cameras, so we bought a $30 combination camera-microphone at Target, installed the software that runs it, and downloaded the free version of Skype.

Our first couple of conversations were notable for their awkwardness.

Them: "Hello, are you there? We can't see you."

Us: "Hello, we see you but now we can't hear you."

Them: Mouths moving.

Us: "We're going to hang up and call again."

Once we re-established the connection, we could see and hear one another. But our camera periodically wandered so only one of us was visible. Easily fixed; I had set it to "follow my head," which does not work when two heads are involved. Occasionally our sound cut out...I would recommend not buying the cheapest equipment if you are going to use it often. The software controlling the camera and microphone popped up on our screen periodically, and Peter would frantically search for the right command while the rest of us kept a running commentary. "We can't see you any more!" "What did you do?" "Get the picture back!" "Hurry!"

As with any electronic equipment, once you get familiar with it, the technical aspects become almost invisible. The computers at each end of the conversation link up, happy people bound into view, and everyone starts talking.

We had extended, animated conversations about their trip - playing with their cousins, going to Yellowstone, visiting a museum. We saw ViMae's new gold sparkly shoes, admired whatever they were wearing, and laughed at their jokes. Augie has begun making up jokes of his own. Q: Why did the hippopotamus go to the watering hole? A: Because it was in Africa! Hahahahaha.

On their Daddy's birthday, we held up cards we had made. Peter went traditional, using stickers, stampers, markers, and crayons. I used virtual markers and paint, via a drawing program on my iPad.

Eventually the conversation dwindles, and it's time to say goodbye. The children lean in and kiss our images on the computer screen. I kiss the camera lens, and then make a funny face. The last thing we hear is Mommy saying, "Augie, you can turn it off now, Just click h...." Click.

And for the next couple of hours, we walk around with big smiles on our faces. I still don't like telephones, but I love Skype.


DJan said...

Ever since I visited my sister in Florida, we use iChat several times a week, the same way. And what a difference it makes to be able to see somebody as you talk to them! :-)

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

Aww! So awesome you're now a Skype veteran. We've not done it in a while because of scheduling conflicts, with my daughter being busy with the newborn grandson #2. I miss it ... and the big hours-long grins that followed the sessions. Such fun!

Grandmother Mary said...

With a daughter and 2 grands in Trinidad, we're Skype veterans and can't imagine long distance without it. And it's FREE!

Jeanie said...

What a great way to stay in touch. I know my grandkids use it with their grandparents who live out of town.

Elizabeth said...

It's time this grandma get on board with this skype stuff. Maybe Santa will set me up this year, LOL!

Linda Hoye said...

Skype is a grandma's best friend. I Slype regularly with my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter. I don't know how long-distance grandparents survived without it.

Linda Myers said...

Isn't technology grand?

Ms Sparrow said...

Isn't it amazing? When I was a kid, you were lucky if you could hear the party on the other end of the phone line!

Anonymous said...

I guess we will have to try this soon.

Unknown said...

I'm not a phone fan either, but I'm pretty sure once I have grandchildren, my phone world will change. Video makes it worth it.

Sally Wessely said...

I know what you mean. I love Skype too. When my kids where in Bangladesh, I could not have made it without an occasional visit on Skype. The connections were always iffy, but at least I could see them and know that they look healthy even if the picture was fuzzy.

Far Side of Fifty said...

My Laptop has a built in camera..but I have never used it...maybe someday. The most unique way I saw it used was at a Funeral Home. One of the Granddaughters could not make it there for the made her feel connected ..people stopped by and greeted her.
I don't like phones either. If it keeps you connected with the grands on vacation that is a fun thing! I am sure they look forward to telling you all about their adventures:)

Leah Rubin said...

Skype's a lifesaver! With three of our four kids scattered hither and yon, and all three grandkids (let's talk about what really matters here...) we live by it! It is SO wonderful, and so nice that it's free!

Bet you're counting the days till the kids are back!

Deb Shucka said...

You've made me want to try Skype! I'm not a big fan of the phone either, and before reading this it never occurred to me it might be because I'm so visual.

Jenny said...

I love Skype for loved ones far away! The image of them kissing the computer screen was just so darned sweet. Really lovely post.

Jeanie said...

This makes me smile -- I've never skyped, either but I keepthinking with so many friends so far away, it would be a good thing! Glad it didn't hurt!

Pearl said...

That's so sweet!

Lucky children, to be able to both see and talk to their Grandma. :-)


Ally said...

So Skype is saving my life this deployment. This is the first time we've had it and although their Internet will be cut off in the next couple weeks, we have enjoyed it immensely. So crystal clear, it's like Neal is just on the other side of my computer screen...and not thousands of miles away. And we always make kissy faces at each other when it's time for him to head to chow. I'm sure the other Soldiers in the office think he's nuts. And I always hang up first because I feel this ridiculous sense of loss and abandonment if he hangs up first. How amazing the 21st century is and how wonderful technology can be in bringing us all together. Welcome to Skype. It will rock your world. And make your heart all gooey inside. ;)


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