Friday, February 29, 2008

Easter Books to Share . . .

Despite the snow, Easter is coming!

Although we are still observing Lent, we look forward to the celebration that is coming. I've been checking out some of the new (at least, new to me) books for children about Easter. It's been fun to find old favorites as well as new treasures to share with the littlest ones in our lives.

Here are three I especially like; I'll write about several more books later:

* The Miracles of Jesus, by Tomie DePaola, is illustrated in DePaola's signature folk style, and covers 12 of the miracles Jesus performed, including the wedding at Cana, the loaves and fishes, and the centurion's daughter. The language is “retold from the Bible” -- straightforward and child-friendly. Although it's not strictly an “Easter” book, it is a good book to share with your child as you talk about Jesus during the Easter season. (paperback, Puffin Books, c. 1987;

* Benjamin's Box, story by Melody Carlson, illustrations by Jack Stockman. This book, designed to complement Resurrection Eggs from FamilyLife (, tells the story of Benjamin's treasure box. The items he puts inside – things like a bit of straw, a coin, a cup -- all have to do with the story of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, and help Benjamin understand the meaning of those events. You don't need a set of Resurrection Eggs to enjoy the story, but if you have them, your child will probably enjoy their connection to the story. (ZonderKidz, revised copyright 2008, Zondervan;

* Easter in The Garden, written by Pamela Kennedy, illustrated by David Wenzel. This book focuses on the events of Good Friday through Jesus's resurrection through the eyes of Micah, a little boy who wants to grow up to be a gardener like his father. When his friend Jesus is killed “by some bad men” he is sad, but an early morning visit to his favorite garden brings surprise and joy. The illustrations in this book are small-child charming, and the story is one of the best I've seen for small children; it deals with difficult things in a gentle way. I highly recommend it! (Ideals Children's Books, text c. 2008, Pamela Kennedy; art copyright 2008, David Wenzel)

It's always a good time to share a book with a child!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Snowy Fun

It's been snowy here in the Midwest this winter – one of the snowiest winters we've had in a long time. We've enjoyed hearing about all the snowy activities our grandkids have indulged in, especially how our one-and-a-half year old grandson has taken over snow shoveling duties at his house!

Distance and ice-packed roads usually keep us from getting in on the snow-fun with our grandkids, so I've been wondering how I can share in their wintry pleasure. Here are a few ideas I've come up with:

*snowy stationery: a few cotton balls and scraps from my scrapbox are easily turned into snowmen and snow-scenes on a piece of stationery. At the bottom of your snow-scene, add a note about some of your own snow-adventures as a child, and send! (You might want to use a larger-than-usual envelope.)

*snow cookies: frost - or "ice" - some cut-out sugar cookie snowmen; add shredded coconut for textural interest. Miniature chocolate chips work for buttons and eyes, and whip licorice makes a great snowman mouth.

*popcorn balls make a great indoor substitute for snowballs – just don't start throwing them! Instead, serve them with a wintry movie on a cold afternoon. If your grandkids aren't close enough to do this, pack a “Snowy Movie Box” and invite them to enjoy a movie afternoon, courtesy of grandma and the United States Mail.

With a little thought you'll come up with your own ideas for snowy fun with your grandkids, even if you can't be there in person. Feel free to share them with us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


How do you talk about your in-laws?

Mother-in-law jokes are a staple of comedy acts. Complaining about a son or daughter-in-law is considered normal in some circles. And as we joke and complain about our in-laws, our spouse, our children and our grandchildren are listening.

On the other hand, consider what happens when we treat our in-laws with respect and affection: we don't feel guilty. We reinforce the idea that being part of this family is a good thing. We build a good relationship, as far as we are able to do that.

I was in Henry, Illinois this morning to talk with the River Valley MOPS group – what a delightful group of young women! They were gracious and hospitable, and I so enjoyed meeting them!

I grew up in Henry, so after the meeting I was able to take The Nostalgia Tour, driving by the house we lived in, the place where my dad managed a Kroger store, past Perdew's Hill where we spent thrill-filled hours sledding in the winter. Driving past Waterworks Park, my husband and I noticed how high the Illinois River is after recent snows.

Henry was – and still is, I'm sure – a wonderful place to grow up, and it was good to be there for a few hours.

Our grandparents all used to come visit us there, and I remember my mom and dad welcoming them warmly whenever they would come. I knew sometimes it wasn't convenient to entertain company even if they were family, but mom and dad went out of their way to make them feel welcome.

As a result, all my brothers and my sister and I were glad they were there too. We had good relationships with our grandparents, in large part because my parents nurtured those relationships. Their respect for their parents translated itself into opportunities for us to know and love our grandparents.

What a different outcome if mom or dad had complained about those frequent visits! If they had made jokes at their expense, those jokes would surely have invited us to regard our grandparents with a measure of ridicule. Instead, their respect and regard for them made a positive impression on us, and we considered respect for our grandparents to be a normal response.

Sadly, when we replace respect with complaints or disrespect, we tear down our family. We imply that, because there is something funny or just plain wrong about our spouse or our in-laws, there might be something wrong with our kids – after all, those people are their family!

Respect is an important component of healthy family life. The respect we have for our spouse, as well as for our in-laws, becomes part of the foundation of our family's self-image. How we talk about one another is one measure of respect.

A wise person builds her house and her family carefully. A generous measure of respect is a good thing to add to the foundation!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Try a Little Kindness . . .

Kindness is a virtue we sometimes overlook.

As Washington Irving observed, though, kindness is the kind of thing that freshens things up. Kindness acts like a fresh breeze, resetting the emotional temperature, sweeping out all the old, stale irritations and hurts.

As grandmas, we have the opportunity to extend kindness to our own children as they parent, and to our grandchildren as they grow up. A kind word, a kind act – our children and grandchildren, trying to manage constant change and growth – our kindness can make all the difference in the world to them.

Here are some ideas for kind acts toward your children as they parent:

  • an encouraging, affirming note – be specific about the good things you see in their parenting

  • if you live close enough, practical help when the flu strikes (you have had your flu shot, right?)

  • an invitation for dinner – or lunch, or breakfast

  • offer to have the kids over for dinner so your children can have a quiet evening together

  • extend hospitality to your in-law's family – include them in a family dinner sometime, or invite them to share a holiday with you

Here are some ways you can offer kindness to your grandchildren:

  • Offer forgiveness when they fail, and help them clean up the mess without recrimination

  • pay attention to the things they are interested in, and ask about them

  • include your grandchildren in the conversation when it's appropriate; when it's not, gently and politely excuse them

  • stay in touch with phone calls, text messages, and notes; share your life with your grandchildren by letting them know about things you're doing

  • when your grandchild is talking, listen attentively

If things in your family seem a bit stale, freshen things up with kindness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Celebrating Valentine's Day With Your Family

Besides being a wife, mom, and grandma, I freelance as a writer. I like playing with words and ideas, and I like the discipline of deadlines. Unlike the dishes or the laundry, when an article is done, it's done!

This month, I have two different Valentine's Day articles in print, with different perspectives and ideas for celebrating with your family. The first is available online as part of an excellent regional newsletter, This newsletter is local, but the parenting and family ideas are excellent and universal. I recommend it! To read my article, go to, click on “newsletter” then look for “Grandma's House: Valentine's Day Family Fun.”

You can also check out my article “Valentine Whimsy” in the January-February 2008 issue of Midwestern Family for more of my ideas for making your own Valentines. Midwestern Family is available at newstands and at Barnes & Noble bookstores in the central Illinois area. Although the website doesn't carry articles, subscription information is available at This magazine covers central Illinois and beyond with family-centered information and ideas.

What are your favorite ways to celebrate Valentine's Day with your family?