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Connecting With Your Grandchildren

Air Date 04/27/2015

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Author Cheri Fuller offers grandparents practical suggestions from her book Connect With Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles.

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Episode Transcript



Child #1: What I like about my grandparents is that grandma makes me Little House on the Prairie dresses and helps me with my embroidery.

Child #2: We had a lot of fun at the farm and we had so many fun, like water gun fights.

Child #3: I like it when they come, because I get to eat lots of food that we usually don't get to eat.

Child #4: I love my grandparents.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: (Laughing) Some precious statements from those children about their grandparents. I like the "We have so many fun" comment.


Jim Daly: (Laughter) Yeah, I like that

Cheri Fuller: Uh-hm.

John: Well, they really did capture some of the best parts of grandparenting and we're actually gonna talk about that on today's "Focus on the Family" with focus president Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and even as they were speaking Jim, I was speaking about being on the farm with my grandparent and playing scrabble with my grandmother and shooting a 22 with my grandfather. There were some really rich memories that I'm just gonna hold on to all my life:

Jim: That is good and that's the relationship with grandparents isn't it? You have those memories, those fun things. I think the parents would say, "Yeah, that's because grandparents only do fun things".

John: Yeah, they spoil my kids.

Jim: Right, feed them lots of sugar, but we want to talk about that today. But I think for Trent and Troy, they'll have that memory of being with Jean's dad, their grandfather, gonna the donut shop, which they enjoyed doing and he always when we came to visit that they were stocked up with donuts. (Laughter) So that's what grandparents do, but they do so much more than that. And--

John: Hm.

Jim: --today we're gonna talk about how you as a grandparent can pull closer to your grandkids for all kinds of good reasons, spiritual development and emotional development--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --and how to manage that with your adult children, as well.

John: Yeah, well, so we have Cheri Fuller with us here in the studio. She is passionate about this. I won't say she's overbearing 'cause she's not, but she's really energetic about her grandchildren. (Laughter)

Jim: Who isn't?

John: Exactly and she's written a number of books. Let me say she's the executive director of Oklahoma Messages Project, which helps the children of prisoners, so she is all about children. And one of the books that Cheri has written of the 40 or so titles that she has, is called Connect with your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles and it's got just hundreds of ideas for grandparents to use.

Jim: Cheri, it's great to have you back at Focus.

Cheri: Thank you Jim and John. It's great to be here. It's really fun to be here.

Jim: Cheri, we've got to get to how many grandkids you have. I mean, that's where it's got to start.

Cheri: Sure, well, we had our first five grandchildren in five and a half years with three families. And so, we have six grandchildren, three boys and three girls. They are now 17, 14, 13, almost 13, 12, and 8.

Jim: Okay, now the biggest thing with grandparenting is typically the number and then geographically, how close are they?

Cheri: Well, all but two have lived away at some time in their life for an extended period and they call me Nandy. Katelyn thought of that, the oldest grandchild, the first grandchild. And so, as I share and Connect with Your Grandkids, when Josephine our 4th grandchild, she was born and three weeks later because our son was gonna serve his internship at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in the D.C. area, and so, as they got on that plane at the Oklahoma city airport, I prayed, "Oh God, help me to stay connected with little Josephine and all my grandchildren no matter where they live."

Jim: Yeah, well and that's one of the big struggles for grandparents. That often times with the mobility of our culture—

Cheri: Right.

Jim: --the grandkids aren't living nearby. How do you shorten that gap, I mean if you're livin' in Oklahoma and your grandkids are out there in Maryland?

Cheri: Or Hawaii, they also lived in Hawaii and Chicago--

John: Oh my goodness.

Jim: Well, that adds a little more complexity.

Cheri: --in Milwaukee and now they live in South Lake Texas, which is only three hours South. (Laughter)

Cheri: But …

Jim: So, how as a grandparent, how do you close that gap—

Cheri: Well—

Jim: --when there's that much distance?

Cheri: --I'll tell you. First of all, I didn't have a grid for grandparenting. I started at ground zero. I started with the prayer. I love my grandchildren. I was still working full time. I was still speaking about twice a month somewhere in the country or in another country. But I really, I mean, I have a great desire to have a connection with my grandchildren. And so, I had become collecting ideas when Katelyn was born. I just packed this book with every idea ever heard or came up with myself to do exactly that, whether they lived close, you know, three miles away, whether they lived down the street or whether they lived across the world or country.

And even if your grandkids live near you right now, which by the way you're very blessed and you're very fortunate, you may have a time because jobs, they have to move away or they go to college and they grow up. So one of those is, this will sound silly, but "Granny's Magic Bag."

When I was speaking in Thailand one time, a grandmother there had a granddaughter who was four and lived in Kansas City. And so, I was I was speaking there and I met her and she was precious. And she said, "I want to give you an idea for something that I've done with my granddaughter that she loves." And I said, "I'm all ears." And she said, "It's Granny's Magic Bag."

And so, she found me one in the night market and she explained that whenever she's with her granddaughter, she always finds little things throughout the year whether it's at the Dollar Tree, whether it's at Target in the one dollar, you know, whatever it is, little things that would interest her, fascinate her.

And so, when she was with her little granddaughter, she'd have that Granny's Magic Bag with her and she'd say, "Audrey, would you like to pick something out of Granny's Magic Bag?" So, it builds up this sense of surprise and expectation. She always knows, although grandmother lives across the world and she sees her maybe two times a year and it keeps her busy in restaurants. It's a fun thing. So, I had Nandy's Magic Bag for years--

Jim: And that worked.

Cheri: --until the kids weren't interested. And another thing is I've always sent packages and letters to my grandchildren. Now I text them, because they all have iPhones.

Jim: Let me ask this though. The difficulty in making and again that is the sweet spot for grandparenting is you're able to do these fun things with your grandkids. That can create some friction with your adult kids who are the parents.

Jim: A lot of parents, with some grandparents, they might feel that when they show up, they do over indulge a bit and they have to work hard after grandma leaves--

Cheri: Sure

Jim: --to kind of bring that child back into orbit. And lots of different nouns can go in there. It can be a lot of sugar. It could be—

Cheri: Sure.

Jim: --a lot of stimulus, a lot of trips. So, how do you how do you manage that? Do you talk to your adult children and say, "Will this be okay?" Do you ask permission? How do you decide how the grandparenting will work? You said you didn't have a framework.

Cheri: I didn't. My grandparents were very, very old and they were precious. They were very old and they, I mean, they just couldn't do that much with us. And two of 'em were in very poor health. And they all died by the time I was in high school and then the last one died when I just started college.

But I would address that in saying, first of all there's a balance. And this is much more about relationship than it's about things or sugar or trips. Now they also set boundaries. I mean, if they don't want you to give them a lot of sugar. I am not gonna do that and make those parents mad.

Jim: So you--

Cheri: 'Cause that's their child.

Jim: --respect the boundaries.

Cheri: Is respect the boundaries and then, some of the things, so many of the ideas in this book and that I did with my grandchildren are such doable, down-home ideas. So when they had time and, you know, I'd take them to the zoo for an outing. We'd have a picnic. When they'd come to my house or I went to their house, I would always have a treasure hunt. And I made up clues with little pieces of paper like this. And it would lead and it was good for their reading skills, by the way. They had to decode the message and I used little pictures and words if they were 3. And they would look all over the house and outside for this treasure hunt to find the treasure.

John: Uh-hm.

Cheri: I just had to be creative, 'cause I wanted to connect with my grandchildren. And I've read to them so many books. I have a little book that I tell about in Connect with Your Grandkids, on the whole building, helping to build their faith, just contributing to their spiritual development--

Jim: Hm.

Cheri: --which I feel like is a wonderful role grandparents can have, not by being overbearing, but by sharing Jesus.

John: You know, Jim, I love that idea of making a written connection with your grandchild through that book. Just as you're saying that, Cheri, I'm thinking, I still have a book from my grandmother--

Cheri: Hm.

Jim: Do you really?

John: --on my dad's side, yeah, my dad's mom. She gave that to me when I was about 5-years-old. I still have that. So that there's a real deep connection--

Cheri: Yes

John: --that can happen there.

Cheri: And the book always means more if it's signed, if its autographed. Not necessarily by the author, but by the giver.

John: Well, this is "Focus on the Family" and our guest today is Cheri Fuller and she's written the book, Connect with Your Grandkids: fun ways to bridge the miles. Your host is Jim Daly and you can find out more about the book and ways to encourage your grandchildren when you stop by

Jim: Cheri, I want to play an audio clip. It's a funny little capture that we were able to get. It's a humorous story from one grandmother who's talking about sharing a special time with her granddaughter.


Woman: When I arrived, I found here positioned in the living room, seated at her personal table and chair set waiting for grandma. We sipped and laughed, sipped and laughed for about a half an hour. And finally, the teapot was empty finally, I thought. I thanked her and commented how much fun that was and we should do it again sometime. She replied, I'll fill the pot now grandma and we'll do it all over again." I swallowed hard and with a reluctant smile, agreed. She picked up the pot and headed out to fill it again. I said, "Micaleena, how are you filling the pot? You're not tall enough to reach the kitchen sink. She said, "Out of the toilet bowl." I promised myself never to attend another tea party with Micaleena. She's in college now and we've laughed many times about her famous tea party. (Laughter)

End of Clip

Cheri: Oh--

Jim: Yikes.

Cheri: --that's great.

Jim: That's trouble right there.

John: Oh, that is one committed grandmother right there.

Cheri: And that is one resourceful granddaughter, I would say. (Laughter)

Jim: I think in that case you say run, right?

Cheri: Right. Well and it reminds me that I've always with my granddaughters and even the grandsons when they were young and enjoyed it, I would have what's called Muffy Bear tea parties. And the Muffy bears were these bears that Holmes' mom, the grandma, had given the kids and they're little bears, but whatever stuffed animals or if they wanted to get Buzz Lightyear, whatever. We'd make a circle. We'd put a tablecloth on the floor and we would not use toilet bowl water. (Laughter)

We would use apple juice or you know, something. Chamomile tea and we'd have a tea party. And oh we have so many memories. And the boys, actually, the boys kinda liked it to, but not as much as the girls. And we still have tea parties. Lucy's 8, and she loves these tea parties and she gets to invite all her stuffed animals.

Jim: And that is so sweet. I mean, I love that clip. That's hilarious.

John: It really is.

Cheri: And we do kind of you know--

Jim: Yeah, the dainty, sure.

Cheri: --manners and the dainty--

Jim: Gotta do that.

Cheri: --finger

Jim: Cheri, let me ask you, it seems easier as a grandparent to connect with younger kids. I mean, probably after they're about 3 or 4 or 5, you start to, you know, see their little personalities develop. And it's a lot more fun than changing diapers and those things, but talk about the difference between those years and then the teen years, because in the teen years like many parents, we know, they get a little strange.

Cheri: (Laughing)

Jim: As Dr. Kevin Leman would say, they just get weird. And grandparents struggle I think too, trying to connect with the 13-, 14-, 15-year-old, but talk about the different seasons of grandparenting with the different ages of your grandkids.

Cheri: Well, it is seasons. You know, our life, my life, as a woman, my life as a mother and grandmother is about seasons. And so, yes, we have to adjust and change and one way is, if I really want to connect with them and like say, "Good job on your track meet" or you know, "Have a great time at your band concert," I text it and I put little emoticons, because Nandy likes those and …

Jim: You know, you think about that what's so good about it and we tried to do that with our kids--

Cheri: Uh-hm.

Jim: --just to encourage them, 'cause it's rough.

Cheri: yes.

Jim: I mean, this world's rough a lot of people are--

Cheri: Very rough

Jim: --are tearing you down. Come back to the tougher teen--

Cheri: Yes

Jim: --and maybe this hasn't happened in your case, but talk to the grandparent where you've got a little more attitude for whatever reason.

Cheri: Uh-hm, uh-hm.

Jim: What can that grandparent do to connect when you are getting a lot of, "Uuf, whatever" or however they're communicating or not communicating--

Cheri: Right.

Jim: --with you as a grandparent? They don't seem very excited to hanging out with you anymore.

Cheri: That can actually happen, yes, because they're teenagers and they would really love to be with their friends. That's who they….

Jim: But what can you do?

Cheri: So, what I found is what I did with my child, my sons, and my daughter, when they were teenagers and preteens, I found a way to get on their turf and do what they enjoy. If it's throwing the football, I will go out there and I will throw the football and I throw a mean spiral. (Laughter)

Jim: Oh good, you know the word; that's impressive.

Cheri: That's right. And if its play tennis, I got out and play tennis with them. I love to be outdoors. So, I say get on their turf, connect with them of something they like to do, not so much what you like to do. It could be gonna a movie. It could be taking them to their very favorite restaurant. I mean, you can reach their hearts through their stomach. You still can, even when they're teenagers.

Jim: So, find something that they're interested in so you connect.

Cheri: Yeah. So you can connect and if you want to talk to them, well like Noah was really interested. Noah's 13 ½ and one of our grandsons and he's really into March Madness and NCAA basketball. And so, when I could, I'd watch a game or two, some games with him. And then I knew if I asked him about statistics of the teams and who he thought was gonna win, he knows exactly--

Jim: Could you tell--

Cheri: --what he wants to talk about?

Jim: --could you tell that he liked that. that you were interested?

Cheri: Oh yeah. Well he'll talk to me.

Jim: Yeah.

Cheri: I mean, there's a lot of other things he wouldn't want to talk about, I mean, I'm not like the center of their universe. (Laughter) Let's face it. We have to be realistic.

Jim: You know but whoa, that's really powerful what you're saying there, 'cause I think a lot of grandparents feel like you should be.

Cheri: Yea, well you feel, you are a little more when they're young, but then you're kind of, you know, like there's other things [sic] more important, but that's okay. And I also think through prayer we can continue to connect with their hearts. If my grandkids are sick, they know I am praying for them--

Jim: Hm.

Cheri: --every day. And if they have something coming up, they know I'm praying for them. I don't knock 'em on the head with it, but I might send them a note. I might send them a text. Because prayer connects our hearts with the child, whether it's a child or grandparent, I mean a grandchild, and with God. And so, God can build the relationship, and I just, as they're teenagers, I mean, this is my … Jim, this is my real prayer often. Last week, two days ago, "God, please help me stay connected with these teenagers—

Jim: Yeah.

Cheri: --because they are so busy." It's not just that they're weird. I mean, 'cause I don't think my grandchildren are weird, I think they're awesome, but, it's because they're so busy.

Jim: Yeah.

Cheri: I mean, Noah plays on a club soccer team and he's on the track team for school. Katelyn takes, I mean, they take dance. They're involved in so many things. They have school. They have parents. Well, first of all, I mean, the parents don't want us to step on their toes and take their time with their kids. But I will say this season-wise. If as a grandparent, you can just remember those grandkids are gonna grow up so fast. In fact, probably faster than you experienced with your own children--

Jim: Huh.

Cheri: --because life is going so fast now. And if you can remember it and take just take, savor the moments you get to be together. Be an encourager. Connect with them on their turf. Because see, my father died when he was 47 and I was 11. My kids never got to know my father. My mother, they're be…, that she loved those grandchildren. She died when I was 34 and they were young. And so, I know this is just for a season. God says life is like a vapor. I just want to build a relationship with these precious people that God's put in my life while I can.

Jim: Yeah, and it it's a good thing to know that life is brief and take advantage of every moment and that's important. Have you found that there's some particular things [sic]? You mentioned reading in your book, the importance of a grandparent to read with their grandchildren. I like that one, 'cause there's a level of intimacy to that one.

Cheri: There is.

Jim: It's different than just texting.

Cheri: And in fact, I have a whole chapter in here about reading with your grandchildren, some wonderful resources. And if anybody wants to email me or .go to my website. I'll put a list of can't-miss treasures that every child ought to get someone to read to them. And even if they're reading, it's still important to read aloud with children. Parents may be too busy too. And their teachers are not reading the classic children's books. You'd be surprised.

So a grandparent and so they can, you know, go to my website or they can e-mail at Cheri and I will for free send them this list of can't miss treasures. And they can begin to build that into their kids' lives and read together. Take trips to the library. It doesn't mean you have to buy all those books, although I think it's great to build their own little library and find them.

John: You know, Cher … Cheri, the subtitle Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles from your book Connect with Your Grandkids, I'm thinking technology can be a great tool if you're distant from your grandchildren because--

Cheri: Oh, of course and also to bridge the generations

John: --you can do the eBook version and share that often through various services.

Cheri: Yes, you can.

John: So, you can actually read the same classic books together--

Cheri: Yes--

John: --even though you're distant.

Cheri: --aloud by Skype or by FaceTime. I love to FaceTime with my granddaughters who live in South Lake when I get to, 'cause I can just see their face. They show me their dog. I show them my dog, Happy. And then they walk around show me new things in their room. I mean, now the digital ways of connecting through those visual technology, is so great for grandparents who their grandchildren are in Libya or they're in, you know, China or Japan, because the parents are missionaries. And I mean literally, they can read stories; they can play games together. I share all the ways of how to do that in here and it's marvelous, because the truth is the kids can feel like you're right there.

Jim: Cheri, we have talked about grandmothering quite a bit of course there's grandfathering, as well. What are some things that grandfathers can do? And one thing is not to be grumpy. (Laughter)

Cheri: Exactly, kids just, you know, kids do not like to be around grumpy grandparents. And I will also say and they also don't like to be around people who discourage them and are critical. Not that grandparents, not that grandfathers do that, but it's an important principle that children move towards those who encourage them. They move away from those who discourage them.

Jim: Right and that, your ability to teach them--

Cheri: Exactly

Jim: --is gonna be directly related to how much they're coming toward you.

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: If they're running from you they're not gonna be talking--

Cheri: No, you—

Jim: --very much.

Cheri: --can't be an influence in their life or a blessing. But you know, I know so many grandpas who do great things like my husbands does. [He] goes and cheers for his grandkids at soccer games and goes to dance recitals and sits with us at Starbucks if that's what the 12-year-old granddaughter wants to do. He's even gone on one of the double-digit trips with us and may also do that again. And grandparents who like, when you have a sleepover for you grandkids, that the grandfather thinks of something he could do.

Jim: Yeah, something fun.

Cheri: Like go out and play croquet with them. Set up a little croquet thing. Set up a, you know some kind of sports thing. Ride a bike, Grandfathers can do things that grandmothers never thought of, like Holmes has helped Luke and Noah and Caleb build things.--

Jim: Right.

Cheri: --because he's good at woodworking and making things and doing mechanical things. That is not in my wheel house. So, God bless all the grandfathers out there. They can, too. They can also make a tremendous impact, be a tremendous blessing to their grandchildren. It's so hard growing up today and the kids need all the help they can get, all the prayer, all the encouragement.

Jim: Yeah, Cheri, let me ask you this as well because in this day and age because unfortunately and we get many letters and e-mails here at Focus, where marriages are falling apart. Christian marriages are falling apart and that's a unique situation in grandparenting--

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: --where you either have a new step grandchild whose coming into that relationships. You have a new perhaps daughter-in-law or son-in-law.

Cheri: Right

Jim: Any advice on how to manage that relationship in a way that brings wisdom and peace, 'cause there is a lot of chaos that can happen—

Cheri: There can be--

Jim: --in a blended family

Cheri: --and its can be confusing in uncertain time for children, for that step-grandchild that you want to welcome or adopted grandchild that you want to welcome into your life and family. And sometimes even if that situation is kind of dicey, you know, that got them together, but that's still a precious child.

And one of the things I've seen grandparents do that I actually share about is the son was getting married again and so, all of a sudden she had like this 5-year-old granddaughter and so, at the wedding she presented, I mean, she had only met with this little granddaughter a few times. She'd only met her and so, at the wedding, she had typed a letter on pretty paper of just, "I am so grateful that I am gonna get to be your grandma. And I wanna welcome you into the family and anytime we can be together, I would love that." I mean, what an impact that made.

And besides that, that reminds me that one of the things I things I've always done, because, I mean I really feel this in my heart, is I say sometimes to my grandchildren, "I'm so grateful to God that I get to be your grandma. He could have given you a lot of other grandmas and I get to be your grandma." And I think it's important for us to let them know that and I've said to them, "You know, Caleb, if all the 10-year-olds in the whole world were lined up, I'd pick you to be my grandson," because that is something they remember.

Jim: Hm.

Cheri: And they realize, I mean, that's not laying it on so thick, you know, blowing their ego up; it means I am so grateful.

Jim: Well it's an attitude of thanksgiving--

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: --rather than an irritation.

Cheri: Yes. (Laughter)

Jim: And so, in a self-centered culture, all of us having to give time to other people and doing things other people want to do can really grind against what it is we want to do and as we get older we get really comfortable with their routine.

Cheri: That's right and…

Jim: So, you got to come out of yourself a little bit.

Cheri: But talking about teenagers, I mean, I still say that to my teenagers. I said it recently to Katelyn. And I would say to, I don't want to put any pressure on grandparents today. Many grandparents like my husband and I are still working and we're not retired. We don't have all the time and the money in the world to lavish on our grandkids. In some ways I wish (Laughter), you know. And we had 5 and then 6. But if we can do what we can, I mean, if you can think of things that you enjoy doing, like reading, why not share it with your grandchildren? If it's watching movies and you love old movies, you could share that with a grandchild.

Jim: Goin' fishing.

Cheri: Goin' fishin', goin' roller skating. I've taken my grandkids bowling. I'm not great at it, but it's fun.

Jim: Roller skating could be a little dangerous. (Laughter)

Cheri: Yes it could. It could.

Jim: That's bold. (Laughter)

Cheri: It landed me one time in the emergency room.

Jim: There you have it, but that made you cool grandma.

Cheri: Maybe so. Riding bicycles, there's so many things we can do with kids. We can't do everything. I can't do everything that the other grandkids, I mean, that other friends I know who have grandchildren. I can't do everything they're doing, but this isn't a comparison thing.

Jim: Sure.

Cheri: This is about love. This is about relationship.

Jim: Well it is and you're hitting on it now. That's the spiritual side of the whole thing. And again, we talked about kids needing encouragement. In so many families, it's either just one parent and hopefully two parents, but to have four additional people, your grandparents telling you--

Cheri: Exactly.

Jim: --you're gonna be okay. You're doing alright.

Cheri: Right.

Jim: That means the world to kids growing up today where there's so much eating away at their confidence, to have somebody in their corner feels good.

Cheri: Yes. I love what Alex Haley said once about grandparents. He said nobody can do for little children what grandparents can do. Grandparents sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. And we can sprinkle blessing and encouragement of the lives of our little grandchildren and our bigger grandchildren and be their encouragers. Pray for 'em in whatever stage they go through--

Jim: Ah.

Cheri: --and build a relationship that will last a lifetime--

John: Hm.

Jim: That's exactly the right thing

Cheri: --because that's really what matters.

Jim: Cheri Fuller the author of the book Connect with your Grandkids, I think you wrapped it up beautifully right there. The subtitle is Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles and the book is again, filled with great ideas to connect with your grandkids of all ages and I really had been blessed today, Cheri, thank you.

Cheri: Thank you, Jim. Thank you, John.


John: And we're always glad to have you here, because you bring such great heart and enthusiasm for families. Again, the title of Cheri's book, published by Focus on the Family and Tyndale is Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles. And she has over 100 ideas about building relationships with your grandchildren. Learn more about it at or when you call 800-232-6459.

And by the way, we'll send that book to you as our thank you when you make a generous donation to Focus on the Family or any amount today. Thanks for considering the needs that we have, as we help families around the world. We rely on your financial donations, especially as we near summertime and people get busy with travels and all sorts of activities and we'll just say thanks in advance for helping to lift up and strengthen those family connections with your financial gift.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We're going to be talking about a very sensitive topic. We'll be addressing how you can help your wife overcome childhood abuse. That's tomorrow, as we offer trusted advice to help your family thrive.

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Cheri Fuller

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Cheri Fuller is an award-winning author, a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest on many national TV and radio programs. She is also the executive director of the Oklahoma Messages Project, a nonprofit organization that serves children of incarcerated parents. Cheri has written more than 45 books including What a Girl Needs From Her Mom, What a Son Needs From His Mom, When Mothers Pray and The One Year Women's Friendship Devotional. Cheri and her husband, Holmes, reside in Oklahoma. They have three grown children and six grandchildren. Learn more about Cheri by visiting her website: