Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dressing Up . . .

Is there anything prettier than a little girl with a new dress? Or more encouraging than a little boy wearing a nice shirt?

At a family wedding last week-end we had the pleasure of seeing all our grandchildren dressed in their best, having fun together. They took to the dance floor exuberantly, twirling their skirts, rolling up their sleeves, laughing and smiling.

When I was a little girl I was sometimes frustrated when one of my grandmothers would give me fancy clothes for Christmas or a birthday. They were always pretty, and I wasn't ungrateful; I just didn't understand why she didn't choose gifts like roller skates or comic books.

I understand a little more now. There is something delightful about seeing children dressed up in their best for a celebration, hair combed or curled. You can see a little shift in attitude, a little self-consciousness, a little glimpse of the future, when dressing up will be a regular part of their lives.

I love the everyday ease of jeans and tennis shoes, and I wouldn't impose “good clothes” on them every day.

But it's sure nice once in awhile . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today has been house cleaning, and tomorrow the cooking begins. The pies, the cranberry sauce, and peppernuts can all be done a day before; Thanksgiving is almost here!

As I go about all the pre-holiday chores and rituals, I wonder:

How will my children shape their celebration of this day as they grow older? What kinds of things will be most important to them? Do they realize how much their dad and I love them, and how thankful we are that we get to be their parents?

What will my grandchildren remember about their growing up years when they are my age? Will they recall holidays like Thanksgiving at our house? Cousins, aunts and uncles, a kitchen filled with good food, a house filled with love?

Will they feel they are part of something – a family – that has worth and significance? Will they understand their place in that family?

Will they know how much they are loved, and how thankful their grandpa and I are for them?

I've been thinking about my own attitude a lot this week. There is a lot to get done, and I want to be mindful of the blessing in it. God has blessed me with the resources I need to put a bountiful meal on a pretty table in a safe, warm home. I have people I love around the table. I'm able to take pleasure in the celebration.

When I think about that, I'm overwhelmed with a desire to go about my preparations with a grateful heart. I want to express my gratitude with my attitude. Instead of complaining or playing the martyr, pretending to be overwhelmed with all there is to do, I want to focus on everything I'm privileged to have at my disposal with a right attitude.

I want my children and grandchildren to remember and be glad we shared these celebrations together.

I hope it's that way for you, as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grateful Hearts . . .

The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to reflect, not just about the things we are thankful for, but as parents and grandparents, about how to help our children and grandchildren to have thankful hearts.

When children learn to be thankful, that thankfulness chips away at their natural self-centeredness and selfishness. By its nature, thanksgiving encourages an awareness of what we've been given already, and puts our wants into perspective.

And awareness of our own blessings allows us to consider how we might share those blessings with others. We become more other-centered, more generous.

When we make thanksgiving a part of our everyday lives, it doesn't just mean responding joyfully to good things. It also means we reframe those not-so-good daily events so we can see what's good in them.

How can we do this?

  • Be aware of Who it is you are thanking, and His presence in your life.

  • Thanksgiving means a shift of perspective. What is good in your life, in this particular situation?

  • How can you express your thanks? Prayer? A different attitude? Verbal recognition that something is a gift in your life?

As we practice these things ourselves, we encourage others around us to recognize the gifts in their own lives.

Beyond that, we can gently help our children and grandchildren realize it is God who has blessed their lives, and that thanksgiving is a good response to those blessings.

We may not choose our circumstances, but we have choices about how we respond to them. When we look for whatever good there might be and respond to that good with thanksgiving, we model a grateful heart for our children and grandchildren.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Books for Thanksgiving Readers . . .

Having a few good books on hand to read together offers an opportunity for everyone to relax together and make memories during the Thanksgiving celebration. If some of your guests are younger, consider these Thanksgiving books:

  • For toddlers, try My First Thanksgiving, a board book by Tomie dePaola. His signature illustrations complement the simple text perfectly as he explains that we give thanks to God “for our being together.”

  • For grade-schoolers in the crowd, try Turkey Riddles, by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg. You may groan but your young guests will be delighted, especially if you can't answer the riddles.

  • Older children will enjoy two Scholastic books, “. . . If You Sailed On The Mayflower in 1620” by Ann McGovern, and “If You Were At The First Thanksgiving” by Anne Kamma. These two books describe what happened, why it happened, and how the children involved experienced it. Interesting details will keep children intrigued.

  • N. C. Wyeth's Pilgrims, with text by Robert San Souci, is the kind of book the whole family can read together and enjoy. The illustrations by Wyeth are beautiful and evocative; the text gives enough details to interest readers without overwhelming them.

These books are available or can be ordered at a local bookstore or online, and while you're shopping, you may find others you would enjoy.

If you can't be there yourself, but want to share the holiday in some way, send one of these books to your grandchild. Tuck in a letter with some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories, or a list of things you are thankful for.

Grandchildren and books are sure to be at the top of the list!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Toy Recalls . . .

This afternoon I visited a local toy store – one of those home-town stores, located in an older house, where each room is crammed and jammed with toys, books, and games for children. Even the staircase has toys hanging along the wall as you go up the stairs. It's the kind of place you can happily get lost in.

I was looking for a set of wooden beads a child can string. I wanted something substantial and colorful.

There were four sets on the shelf of the toy store. Two of them were from Melissa and Doug – a toy company that, as far as I know, manufactures completely in the United States. The other two sets were manufactured in China.

The two Melissa and Doug sets were sturdy, substantial and colorful. The two sets manufactured in China were smaller, and looked somewhat flimsier.

I picked one of the Melissa and Doug sets.

When I got home, there was another recall of toys made in China being reported on nightly news.

I know my daughters and daughters-in-law are paying attention to things like toy safety and product recalls – but what if they weren't? What if I wasn't?

Just one more reason for a grandma to stay reasonably informed about what's going on in the world of baby and child care . . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Little Vicks . . .

Our granddaughter Leah had croup this week, and her mommy called to ask about the best home remedy to use.

I had to tell her I wasn't sure! Although both John and I are veterans of our kids' croup attacks, I read recently that some doctors no longer recommend steam as a home treatment.

We used to take the kids into the bathroom, turn on the shower to the hottest setting, and let steam fill up the room while we sat there holding our stuffy, coughing little one. Sometimes we'd rub their chest and nose with a thin film of Vicks VapoRub. They hated it, but it helped. Usually within a few minutes they were breathing easier and feeling better, ready to go back to sleep.

Now, evidently steam is out and cold air is in.

I'm not too sure about that, but it points up the importance of staying current with what's going on in the field of children's health and safety.

As a grandma, I'm not charged with the day-to-day care of my grandchildren. I'm not responsible for figuring out what to treat, how to treat, or when to treat those childhood illnesses.

I need to stay current, though, for at least two reasons: my own children call to see what I think or recommend, and if I happen to be caring for a child when she gets sick, I don't want to do something her doctor doesn't recommend or her parent approves.

So I read parenting magazines now and then, or check out parenting websites. I pay attention to new children's health recommendations reported in the news. I ask my own children what their doctors are recommending, and I try to stay current with each grandchild's health situation.

And I keep a jar of Vicks VapoRub on hand for emergencies.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Meg . . .

This has been a hard week at our house; our beloved golden retriever Meg died.

Last Monday evening she curled up for a before-bedtime nap in the living room. After settling in, she had what looked like a small seizure, and before my husband could cross the room to help her, she was gone, unresponsive.

We were both devastated. Meg had come into our family just when we needed her, and just when she needed us. Our kids and grandchildren loved her, our friends and neighbors loved her – even our postman brought her treats. She was a gentle, loving, lovable dog, and we miss her terribly.

It's easy to overlook how much our pets might mean to our grandchildren. When Carrie came to visit last week after Meg had died, she ran over and put her arms around my neck and said, “Grandma I'm so sorry Meg is gone.”

Later she peeked at me out of the corner of her eye and whispered, “I know what I'm going to give you for Christmas, Grandma – a dog!”

The rest of the grandkids have responded in much the same way. Because Meg was a fairly large dog, she sometimes intimidated the littlest kids til they got to know her. Once they got big enough to sit on her, pet her, play with her, they realized she was a dog they could trust, a dog they could have fun with.

She liked to curl herself up near the blankets of babies on the floor; she liked to grab sticks out of the hands of toddlers in the yard, and she loved to sit under the high chairs of dribblers.

But mostly, whenever one of the littlest ones would come in, her tail would wag, her face would look as if it were smiling, and she would run to find something – anything – to offer that child as they came into the house.

We'll all miss her so.