Monday, November 22, 2010

Counting Cranberries . . .

Family traditions are one way of knitting a family together. There is something sweet and satisfying about shared anticipation, shared experiences, shared memories. Some of those traditions are handed on to us, and we are responsible for carrying them on, or reinterpreting and updating them; sometimes we create a new holiday tradition without meaning to.
Several years ago, I was trying to think of something that would be fun for the pre-schoolers in the family to do. I filled a mason jar with cranberries, set out some cards that asked “how many cranberries?” and promised a prize for the closest guess.
That simple game was an instant hit, and a new family Thanksgiving tradition.
I was surprised that the pre-schoolers remembered the cranberry game -- and requested that we do it again. So, the next Thanksgiving we did it again, substituting candy corn for the cranberries. Some of the older kids and grown-ups in the family joined in the game, and the “big reveal” was fun for everyone.
A holiday tradition that creates anticipation, offers fun for everyone, and leaves good memories is a winner all around. Sometimes we stumble into such traditions, but other times, we can be deliberate about trying something new that we hope will continue on: a special recipe, or a unique way of decorating, or a special way of expressing our thanks to God.
What new holiday tradition could you create this year?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The preacher loves the movie Fiddler on the Roof, and one of his favorite songs from that movie is “Tradition.”
There is something satisfying -- reassuring -- about doing certain things the same way, over and over and over again. And messing around with family traditions has a price, as one of our daughters found out. (You can read her story about that, here.)
As grandparents, we have multiple opportunities to create, refine, and sustain family traditions. Those traditions help hold a family together, give the family a unique identity, and inject a sense of meaning and fun into our family life. While family traditions can become burdensome, that just means we need to take a look at how they are working, and perhaps update them.
And in truth, as our families grow up, those family traditions will change. The trick is to allow the shape of them to adapt to changing realities (children growing up, moving away, having children of their own) while retaining the inward meaning and pleasures of the tradition.
Like Advent calendars: it would be foolish to expect our grown children to come home every morning to open up an Advent calendar with us, wouldn't it? So how do we adapt that sweet family tradition to the new reality of grown-up children?
Maybe we provide Advent calendars for the grandkids, now, instead. Or perhaps we find a fresh Advent devotional booklet to share with our grown-up children.
In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye teaches us that tradition is important because “it helps us keep our balance.” He's right, I think, but keeping our balance can be tricky, sometimes. Giving our families traditions that help them “keep their balance” is worthwhile.
Tradition -- how do you keep it fresh, but meaningful?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holiday Baking

I like to cook, and that's a problem.
It's also one of the most fun aspects of the holiday season.
The preacher and I have become true empty-nesters -- and connoisseurs of left-over cuisine. One pot of chili is good for a week of non-stop soup suppers, and a roast chicken can last at least that long, although at least the chicken can be disguised in casseroles and sandwiches.
I'm fortunate the preacher is a good sport, and not given to complaining.
But the holiday season is a different story -- we'll have family dinners, and drop-in company. And grandkids like cookies, lots and lots of cookies.
I'll be able to bake without loading up the freezer, safe in the knowledge that nothing will get stale.
How about you? What are you planning to cook up for the holidays?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Mural Project

If you're looking for a project to keep younger grandchildren busy on Thanksgiving while grown-ups are busy getting dinner on the table -- or cleaning up the table -- here's a simple project your grandkids are likely to enjoy.
Spend a few minutes re-telling the story of the first Thanksgiving. Explain what a difficult time the Pilgrims had after they arrived on the Mayflower, and how the Indians helped them survive. Describe some of the difficulties in detail: building shelter; finding and growing food; illness, bad weather, and the need for resourcefulness in problem-solving. Tell them about how the Pilgrims hosted a feast to thank God for their blessings after the harvest.
Then give them a roll of paper, some crayons, pencils, and basic craft supplies, and a place to work. Ask them to create a Thanksgiving mural for you. If necessary, get them started by suggesting a part of the story for each one to illustrate, then let them get busy.
By the time they've finished, you'll have a unique Thanksgiving decoration, and your grandkids will have a whole new perspective on the Thanksgiving story.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can You Make a Cherry Pie?

My grandma McG made the best cherry pies I've ever tasted. Her crusts were always flaky, and the cherry filling was just the right balance of tart-sweet. Her pies were pretty, too, with perfect lattice tops, shiny with egg white and delicately crusted with sugar.
Her chocolate pies -- and her lemon pies -- were good, too, piled high with meringue.
She'd learned to turn out perfect pies quickly when she and grandpa lived out on the farm when they were first married. Grandma cooked for the crews of threshers who'd come by each year, and she told me once it was better than a cooking class. “Those men were hungry, and they wanted lunch, not excuses,” she told me.
While I sometimes watched as grandma baked, I never thought to ask her to teach me what she was doing. I guess I just assumed she would always be around. And she never presumed to teach me.
She wasn't always around, of course. She died suddenly, leaving behind a grief-stricken family -- and a cherry pie on the counter.
I've thought often about that missed opportunity, and I'm pretty sure that if grandma had known how much I'd wish I could bake pies like she did, she would have shown me all her pie-making techniques and tricks. I just didn't think to ask, and she didn't think to tell me.
If you are blessed to still have a grandma who can show you how to do things, ask her to teach you. And if you are a grandma who might be able to share a skill with a grandchild, why not ask if she might like to learn?
Passing on skills is a gift that lasts.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Over the River . . .

Remember that song from grade school? The one about “over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go . . . “
If you have grandkids coming to your house for Thanksgiving or any of the other holidays coming up these next few weeks, you are probably thinking about getting ready.
And if you have babies or toddlers coming, you might want to add “baby-proofing” to your list of things to do.
If it's been a while since you baby-proofed a house, you can find help by checking with your grandchild's parents, or online at Safe Beginnings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time for a Good Book

Don't you love reading? Don't you love books? Sharing the magic between the covers of a book with our kids and grandkids is one of the pleasures of being a parent.
But books are more than just fun. Books can encourage, educate and elevate the character of their readers. And when we share a favorite book with a friend (or one of our kids or grandkids), we share a part of what makes us who we are.
I like to introduce my friends and family to the characters I've known (in the pages of books) and loved. Some of my favorites include Amelia Bedelia, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Mary Poppins.
The Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parrish reminds young readers that everyone gets things mixed up. As a child, that was reassuring information! Amelia Bedelia is a maid who does exactly what she is told, to great comic effect! This series now includes some “I Can Read” picture books for early readers, but they are also great fun to read together.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who lives in an unusual house, understands everything she needs to know about children. Do you know an Answer-Backer or a Never-Want-to-go-to Bedder? Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knows just what to do! Betty MacDonald's books will keep you all laughing even while you begin to recognize the benefits of good behavior.
If all you know of Mary Poppins is the movie, perhaps it's time to check out P. Travers' books about the practically-perfect nanny who has surprising ways of making children mind their manners as well as their parents. This is another good book to read together, and offers an easy way into a conversation about why manners and minding matter.
It's always a good time to share a good book with a child you love!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hurry Up!

The four-year old was helping pass the offering basket in church last Sunday. When she got to a row where the dad was taking a little too long to get his wallet out of his pocket, she put her hands on her hips and whispered emphatically, “Hurry up! We need that money!”
Kids -- you've got to love them!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Three More Ways . . .

How do we let the children in our lives know we love them? Here are three more ways we can demonstrate our feelings to them:
Pray for them. Praying for our grandchildren (and for our own children as they parent our grandchildren) allows us to bring them before our heavenly Father regularly. What greater love could we demonstrate?
As we pray, we can ask for God's protection over them; for His blessing on them; and for Him to shape their character, their opportunities, and their faith in Him. We can pray that their relationships with their parents, their siblings, their friends, and their teachers will be healthy and holy. We can pray that they will meet challenges and adversities with grace, strength, and courage, and that they will be a blessing to those around them. We can pray that they will come to faith in God through Jesus Christ, and that they will experience the joy of the Lord in every area of their lives.
Share your skills, hobbies and interests with your grandchildren. If you like to fish, show them how to bait a hook or set up a tackle box. If you like to bake, share your favorite cookie recipes with them. If you like to hike, take them hiking, or at least on a walk around the neighborhood! Sharing the things that mean something to you is another way of demonstrating love to a child.
Show interest in what interests them. Ask him to tell you about the things he is doing, the books he is reading, the hobbies he participates in. Listen to his answers, then ask more questions. What sports does he participate in? Become a fan: go to a game or a meet. Go to a performance or a contest. Keep up with what he is doing, and talk with him about it.
Demonstrating your love for a child can be fun for both of you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Ways to Demonstrate Love . . .

Hugs are good for demonstrating love. And they offer an opportunity to check out how tall a grandchild is growing, which often leads to giggling.
Cookies are good for demonstrating love, especially if the grandchild is allowed to help bake them. If that's not possible, it's fun to receive them in the mail -- wrap each cookie individually to give it the best chance for crumb-free delivery -- or a tea party with freshly baked cookies says “I love you,” especially if you dress up for the occasion -- even if the costumes come from your dress-up box.
Letters and notes are good for demonstrating love, because who doesn't like to get mail? Enclosing a photograph of something you did together is an added bonus. Or you might include a poem, and invite your grandchild to memorize it, too, so that you can say it together when you see one another the next time.
It's not so much what we do to demonstrate our love, it's that we do something. Grandkids respond to love like sponges respond to water: they soak it up.
It's a mutual blessing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ways and Means . . .

How do you show your grandchildren that you love them?
Hugs? Cookies? Letters?
And how do your grandkids respond?
Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Toad Cottages? Shooting Stars? Yes!

I love good surprises, especially when they come in the mail.
Yesterday's delivery brought a delightful surprise: a book by Sharon Lovejoy, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars. It's subtitled Grandma's Bag of Tricks, so you can imagine how excited I was to sit down and explore its pages.
This is a wonderful book for everyone, full of projects, information, and stories.
You can learn to make firefly lanterns, underwater viewers, critter cakes, and rain sticks, as well as over 125 other projects. All of them look fun -- the hard part will be choosing which ones to try first.
What makes it even better is that this book is child friendly. Projects are explained in enough detail for a novice, but offer challenges to kids and grandparents who know a little more about what they are doing.
If you're looking for projects to do with your kids or grandkids, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars looks like a good place to start.
I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Dish of Treasures

We keep a dish of treasures on the sideboard in the dining room.
There's a buckeye from the timber on the farm where my husband grew up. There are acorns from the big oak down the street from our house.
And there's a flat, grey rock from the creek by our house, courtesy of the four year old who went exploring there with his dad this week.
The creek is dry right now, but it's still exciting, especially if you're four years old. There are all kinds of treasures, including an expired possum hidden away behind a rock; the possum won't make it into the dish of treasures, of course, but it was interesting nonetheless.
The curiosity of a child can complicate the lives of everyone around him, but it is also enriching. It makes us look again at the things that we've grown accustomed to; it makes us pay attention to what is going on all around us.
The four year old has gone home today, but I'll be watching what is going on in the creekbed more carefully, and I'll spend a little time appreciating the flat, grey rock in my dish of treasures.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tell Me a Story . . .

One gift we can give our children and grandchildren is a good story.
Whether it's a fairy tale or a family story, learning how to tell a story is a skill any grandparent can learn and use to encourage, affirm, and entertain.
Check out this column, Once Upon a Time, from Hearts at Home, for tips about telling stories.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ArtsInk -- Fun For All

I had a chance to attend the grand opening of The Children's Discovery Museum's innovative new exhibit, ARTSINK!, and was it ever fun!
This exhibit focuses on the arts, particularly music (and music's relationship to math), puppets and performance, and storytelling. The design is fresh, the activities intriguing, and the experience delightful for everyone who visits.
If you get a chance, be sure to take a small person and visit ARTSINK!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Learning Tips from Grandma's House

A new school year is well underway, and our grandchildren are busy with school assignments, projects, and activities. It's good to remember, though, that children are always learning, and that as grandparents, we are some of the people they are learning from.
This article, Grandma's House: Learning Tips, from the SpringfieldMoms website talks about some of the ways grandparents make good teachers for children of all ages.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Worth Saying Again . . .

Some things are worth saying more than once. Reminding ourselves about why moms matter is worth repeating, and sharing with the moms in our lives. Please check out this post on the Hearts at Home website, Why Moms Matter, and let me know what you think!
And then, think about some ways you can remind the moms you know of all the ways they matter.