Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Zach!

I have a mental treasure chest stuffed full of memories, but among the most dear and precious to me is one that happened at 10:52 am on December 31st, 1982. The memory consists of two simple words repeated to me three times. The words were ‘thank-you’. They were spoken by my husband, John, with tears of joy running down his cheeks the moment the doctor presented us with our first child and only son, John Zachery Noble.

John’s words of thanks for our beautiful, healthy son (and tax deduction) were his own, but they were also an echo from my heart. The echo was equally thankful for a beautiful, healthy baby (and the fact that being ten days late didn’t make my labor very long or hard). J
While the focus of December 31st in our family is on the fact that it is Zach’s birthday, for most people, the day is traditionally a time of making promises and resolutions to do all sorts of things—or to stop doing all sorts of things. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’m asking…even pleading with you to make the same New Year’s resolution I made for the first time that New Year’s Eve morning in 1982.

The resolution I’m asking you to make? To be thankful every single day for the privilege and blessing of being a parent. You heard me. We should be thankful every single day we can be called Mom or Dad.
Being a parent isn’t easy and it’s not always pleasant, but it is always a privilege to be thankful for.

That being said, I’m thankful Zach was such a happy, pleasant baby. I’m thankful Zach was a little boy who refused to entertain the thought of training wheels (at age 3), a little boy who lovingly cared for his little sisters, who worked side by side with his daddy from the time he could carry a hammer and I’m thankful for the times I was the one he looked for when he crossed the finish line in a track meet or cross-country race. I’m thankful for the dogwood blooms and for the help in the barn when we couldn’t save a ewe in distress of lambing. I’m thankful for the daughter in-law and two precious little girls he has given us.
And yes, I am even thankful for the difficult times—the times most parents experience to some degree or another. I’m thankful for these times because in working through them, we learn what we are made of and what it really means to be thankful for the bond of family now and forever no matter what.

So as you make your resolutions (or not) for this year, live each and every day of 2015 with an attitude of thankfulness that you are a parent.

 Love,
Momma D
                                                                    

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Doesn't Play Favorites


The other day I read a letter from a mom to parents everywhere. The letter requested that parents not give their children expensive gifts in the name of Santa Claus. She asked that if parents felt the need to give their children expensive gifts at Christmas time that they let their children know these things are from them; letting Santa give them the smaller, less expensive gifts. The reason for her request was simple—she wanted her children (and millions of others like them) to feel just as loved and valued by Santa as those children who received bigger and better gifts ‘from him’.
You see, this mother’s little girl came home from school the other day feeling less valued and loved than some of the other children in her class. It seems they had been discussing what Santa was going to be bringing and several of the little girl’s classmates were getting a (whole) lot more than she was.
This momma’s heart was breaking when the little girl said, “Does Santa like some kids more than he does others? Does he like _____ more than he likes me?”
When I read this, two things happened.
1)      My heart became heavy. It became heavy for this momma who was faced with repairing her little girl’s belief that she was as precious and valuable as anyone in Santa’s sight. My heart was heavy for the little girl who was made to question her self-worth and who is already aware that to some (many), your value is measured in dollars and cents. My heart was heavy for everyone who is missing what this season is all about.

2)      I could relate. I remember putting a play kitchen on layaway and needing the entire three months to pay that sixty dollars. I remember putting gifts under the tree every Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed while John asked, “Were we able to do it? Are they going to happy when they wake up and see what they got?”
 
As I write this, I find myself recalling many memories of Christmas' past and I realize few of them are about the actual gifts I've received. They are about the people and places I have experienced Christmas with. I am blessed to have a lifetime of Christmas memories and family and friends who understand what Christmas is really all about and it doesn’t have a thing to do with money.
What message are you sending to your children this Christmas? Is it a message that says bunches of presents equals bunches of joy? Or is it a message that says the only present that really matters is one wrapped and given with love?

Merry Christmas,
Momma D
                                                                 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Real Santa Knows What He's Doing


For the past several years I have had the esteemed honor of taking Mackenzie and Macy to see Santa…the real Santa. Seriously—this guy is the real deal right down to the long white beard and a kind, gentle smile and personality.
This year, though, while we were waiting in line to see him, Mackenzie said, “Nanna, he’s going to ask Macy and I if we’ve been good, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” I said, “he is. And when he does, you can both tell him you are very good girls because you are two of the best girls in the whole entire world.”
She listened to what I said, smiled and her sweet smile with a look of relief in her eyes, hugged my leg and turned back to the displays next to us meant to keep the kids occupied while they waited to meet Santa.
Mackenzie’s question wasn’t asked with a great deal of anxiety or dread, but it bothers me that we (we, meaning society in general) have placed the thought in our children’s minds that Santa’s goodness and generosity is performance based. We’ve demoted Santa from the giver of love and good cheer to one who rewards only the ‘good’.
How sad is that! What’s more, if a little child is worried about what a stranger in a red suit and beard thinks of them, what do you think goes through their heads and hearts when you make them feel like they’ve disappointed you and let you down? What impression are you leaving in their tender little hearts and impressionable little minds when you give the impression that your love and respect have to be earned?
Our children don’t ask to be born. We make that decision for them. So the very least we can do is to let them know they don’t have to earn our love any more than they should have to be good in order to have a present or two under the tree on Christmas morning.
Our wait to see Santa was relatively short and both girls climbed up in his lap ready to tell him what they wanted. And you know what? Santa didn’t ask if they’d been good. Instead, he smiled at the girls and said, “I can see you are both very sweet (not good) little girls, so tell me what you’d like for Christmas.”
See, I told you he was the real deal.
 

Merry Christmas,
Momma D
                                                                    

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Freckles and Stars

Last week I was browsing through a popular shopping website checking to see if there were any bargains I couldn’t live without. There weren’t, but I did see something that is forever imprinted in my mind and on my heart—a little girl’s necklace that said,

A little girl without freckles is like a night without stars.
It took all of about a half a heartbeat for images of three year-old Macy to start flashing through my mind. Not only does she have freckles on her little nose and cheeks, but her smile lights up a room (and your heart) at least as much as a sky full of stars lights up the night.

And then I thought of my children, children in-law and Mackenzie, Reuben, Laney and Essie. Each of them has their own unique way(s) of lighting up my heart. None of them is more special than the other or makes my heart any warmer, but each is different and works its ‘magic’ on this mom’s heart in a special way.
As parents we sometimes work so diligently to keep things fair and even between our children that we see them as one instead of the unique and precious individuals they are. We are so careful to ‘prove’ that we don’t have a favorite that we cheat our children out of knowing that each one is the favorite in their own special way.

So go ahead—take the time to let each one of your children know why they are the stars that light up your heart and sky. Let each of them know what your favorite thing(s) about them are. Go ahead…I dare you to make each of your children feel special and let them know they have their own special place in your heart that no one or nothing on earth can replace.

Love,
Momma D
                                                  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Caution: Christmas Carolers Not Welcome

Now that the Christmas season is here, I naturally think back on special memories of things I’ve done with my family and those kids I call mine from the many years spent as a youth director at church. There are literally enough memories to fill a book (or two), but one that is particularly special because it still makes me laugh is one that involves caroling and a nursing home…

It was Saturday morning and the other youth director and I were taking a fairly good-sized group of elementary and middle-school kids caroling at the nursing homes in our community. The first stop we made was to the home where a couple of our elderly church members were living, so we planned to make their rooms our first stop. But when we walked into the building we found the lobby full of residents so we decided to brighten their morning with our cheery voices. And so we sang. We sang Up on the Housetop, Joy to the World, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Silent Night and of course, we finished with a hearty rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
As soon as we finished the last note of our final song, one of women in the room who was sitting in front of the television, turned to the woman sitting next to her and said (in a loud voice), “I’m glad those *$*# kids stopped singing. I couldn’t hear the television.”

I am laughing as I write because I can still see the looks of shock on their faces. This was immediately followed by one-syllable comments of “Wha?”, “Huh?” “Uhhhh” which was then followed by pursed lips trying to hold in giggles. It didn’t work. But that was probably because I was laughing, too.
We quickly regained our composure and left the room to sing for those we felt sure would be more appreciative. As we walked, down the hallway, the kids started talking about what had happened…

“Did she really mean that?”
“No, I don’t think so. Old people are just like that sometimes.”

“Why didn’t she like our singing?”
“Who knows? Maybe she has bad memories of Christmas or maybe she’s sad because no one comes to see her.”

“Or maybe she’s just a grouch.”
“Maybe...probably.”

“You think?”
“Oh, well, we didn’t mean to make her mad. Besides, it’s the thought that counts.”

“That’s right. We meant well.”
They meant well. Their intentions were as pure as pure could be—to bring joy to elderly people at Christmas time—and no matter how it was perceived by some (or one), that really was what mattered. After making sure they understood they had done nothing wrong and that one person’s response should not keep them from trying to make people smile, we continued caroling and had a great time doing so.

But as I think about that day now, I also think about how many times as parents we take our children’s actions at face value rather than looking to the heart of the matter and their intentions.
When they cook breakfast and set the toaster on fire do we only see burned toast or do we see an act of service out of love?

When we have to corral a run-away llama do we see a hassle or do we see a child who was trying to do extra chores because she wanted to help out more? (My kids know what I’m talking about.)
When the orange towels fade onto white t-shirts, do we see a child that is trying to do more than they are capable of or do we see a child trying to help out while you are sick in bed with the flu?

Are you getting the message here?
Our children are not perfect. Sometimes they make messes and mistakes in the process of doing something with the purest and best of intentions to help…serve…love.

The question is this: Do we see past the mess and into their heart or do we leave the impression that we are just waiting for our children to ‘stop singing so we can hear the television’?

Love,
Momma D
 
                                                                  

 

 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from Momma D and the rest of the Noble family. I hope you are taking this time to make some sweet and lasting memories with the ones you call your own. I know I am.


Love,
Momma D

                                                             

Friday, November 21, 2014

Is Your Family An Organism Or an Organization


When Elizabeth was a teenager, one of the jobs she had was that of a checker at a local grocery store. Naturally she met all kinds of people as they came through her line. Some were nice, some were not so nice.
Shortly before Thanksgiving one year, she had the displeasure of having to deal with one of the not-so-nice customers; a grouchy middle-aged man who not-so-gently dropped a frozen turkey onto Elizabeth’s hand; breaking her finger.

By the time she got home her finger was swollen and every shade of blue and purple you can imagine and was causing her a great deal of pain.
Naturally John and I were concerned and upset that someone had purposefully hurt Elizabeth, but it was big brother Zach who was ready to come to his sister’s defense. When Elizabeth revealed the man was a regular customer at the store (and always grouchy), Zach suggested that he and John have a little talk with him about how to treat people—especially Elizabeth. John quickly closed that idea down for obvious reasons, even though it was sweet to see his concern for his sister.

Aw, isn’t that sweet! Isn’t it nice to see a family being so loving and protective of each other?
I have a confession to make. My family is NOT perfect. We don’t always treat each other with that kind of love and concern. Sometimes we argue, hurt each other’s feelings, say or do things we would never say or do to our friends and take each other for granted. But when all is said and done we are still family.

We are a family who loves one another and who is there for one another in good times and bad. We laugh at and with each other, we cry together, play together, work together, pray together, eat together, raise children together and know that nothing can ever change the fact that we are forever bound together by blood and love…whether we like it or not. J
So while we are far from perfect, we are what could easily be described as an organism; a bunch of ‘cell’s’ interdependent on one another. Without any one of us we would not be complete. For this I am thankful—especially since so many families today seem more like organizations—groups of people working separately toward the same goal of health, wealth and happiness.

I’d rather be an intricate part of an organism instead of a member of an organization any day. How about you?

Love,
Momma D
                                                              

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Way to Finish!!!


If you spend any time at all around children, you know they can be incredibly sweet and incredibly mean in the time it takes for the heart to beat another beat. They don’t always mean to be mean. Sometimes it just happens. You know what I’m talking about—one toddler takes another toddler’s toy and within seconds you have an all-out toy room brawl on your hands. Or when someone makes fun of your second-grader’s haircut they strike back out of the need to mask their hurt and humiliation.
There comes a time, however, when these outbursts of meanness are no longer reflexes or ‘innocent’ acts of self-preservation. There comes a time when children mistreat others because they want to…because it gives them a sense of power…because they think it is okay to make fun of someone else…because they can. But parents, hear me loud and clear when I say it is NEVER EVER okay for your child to make fun of someone and it is your job as a parent to teach and reinforce this essential life-lesson.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’m far from being the perfect parent, but this is one of the things I know I got right. All four of my children demonstrated this on numerous occasions, but one of the most vivid recollections of this comes from my son, Zach.
Zach was a runner—both track and cross country. No, Zach was a really good runner. He broke school records and was awarded numerous gold, silver and bronze medals to ‘prove’ his skill. Had they awarded medals for good sportsmanship and teamwork, too, Zach would have earned gold in those ‘events’, too. You see, there was a boy on Zach’s track and cross country teams who was looked at as strange…odd…nerdy…or whatever similar word you would like to insert there. He was the kid no one sat with at lunch, the one who got his books knocked out of his hands and all those ridiculous, mean-spirited high school shows of immaturity. On top of that, this boy consistently finished last. Dead last. But each and every time this boy came across the finish line, he did so with Zach cheering him on; clapping, encouraging and saying, “Way to finish, “Forrest””. 
Zach and I never really talked about why he did it, but I knew. He did it because he knew it was the right thing to do. He knew this young man deserved to feel valued and respected for finishing. Yes, he may have always finished last, but he always finished and Zach knew what it took to do so.
Teaching your children to see life through the eyes of others—especially those they see as fodder for ridicule, humiliation, pranks and bullying—is a gift to everyone and a valuable lesson in compassion, honor and integrity.
I’m sure Zach wasn’t always a gold medalist in the way he treated others. In fact, I’m sure his sisters would vouch for thatJ. Hey, no one is perfect. But I am sure he knows it is never okay to be a bully and that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with kindness.
With all the pressure put on kids today to be the best…at the top of the heap…number one…to look ‘just so’ and all the other junk society throws at them, it can be difficult for them to understand that it is NOT okay to mistreat others and that winning at all costs is NOT okay. As a parent, you MUST teach and model behavior that says just the opposite—that treating others the way you want to be treated is what life is really all about.

Love,
Momma D
                                                                 
 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Picking Up Walnuts...Part Two

If you remember from last week’s post, picking up walnuts each fall was NOT one of my kids’ favorite chores. And that’s putting it mildly. Except for this one time…

Elizabeth’s chickens laid lots of eggs; eggs she sold to a good number of people in our county. Among her egg customers was an old man who lived well below the poverty level and had serious heart disease issues.
I am sad to say that I don’t remember his name—I don’t even know for sure that I ever knew his name. What I do know, however, is that every other week he would knock on our door and politely ask to purchase a dozen eggs; handing me a crumpled dollar and the empty egg carton from his previous visit.
One fall day, however, after asking for his eggs, he asked if I thought we could spare a few walnuts. He quickly went on to say he’d be happy to pick them up himself, but that he’d sure like a few.
Without hesitation I told him he could have all the walnuts he wanted. I told them he could have the sack full I’d picked up earlier in the day leaning against the shed and that if he needed something to put them in I would get him some feed sacks. He thanked me, but said he’d brought a few buckets just in case I said yes. Then after putting his eggs in his car, he went over to the walnut tree nearest the road and started picking them up and putting them into his bucket a few at a time.
A few minutes later the school bus dropped Elizabeth and Olivia off in front of the house and they came running in asking what ‘the egg guy’ was doing out by the walnut tree. When I told them I’d said he could take what he wanted, they both made comments about him being too old and too sick to be doing that and went to put their things away.
A couple of minutes later I looked out the window to find both the girls silently helping ‘the egg guy’ pick up walnuts. With their high-level energy they could pick up several to his one and in no time his buckets were full.
The girls didn’t have to help. They hated picking up walnuts (and still do). But it makes this mom’s heart happy to know that even ‘way back then’ helping someone in need took priority over their own dislikes and displeasures.
My children didn’t learn to put their feelings aside for the sake of others at school or from a cartoon on television or a book on their shelf. They learned to have a servant’s heart from seeing others (their dad and I, Granny and the adults at church who took the time to love them and pay attention to them).
I don’t say that out of pride. I say this because the truth of the matter is that children really do learn what they live. They take their cues from you. So the question is, what are you teaching your children?
Thanks, kids, for being such eager and good students!

Love,
Momma D
                                                                              

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What's A Walnut Worth

Being from Mid-Missouri, there are two things you know you can count on in the month of October-beautiful fall leaves and black walnuts dropping from their trees like it's nobody's business. And we were blessed (sarcasm implied) with an abundance of walnut trees in and around our yard.

We moved onto the farm in mid-October, but with everything else to do that year, the walnuts weren't high on our list of priorities. The next year, however, we decided helping to pick up walnuts would be a great way for the kids to learn a lesson in a) sticking with a job until it's done b) working together as a family and c) money earned is better than money given.

Seven year-old Zach and four year-old Elizabeth were eager and excited when John and I told them what we would be doing and that once the walnuts were gathered, we would sell them to the hullers; splitting the money earned between the two of them. Two year-old Olivia helped too (sort of), but we all know what the help of a two year-old is like and she had no concept of money, so...

If you've ever picked up walnuts, I don't have to tell you why the kids quickly tired of the job. It's messy work, a bit dangerous (have you ever been hit on the head by walnuts dropping to the ground?)and even kids get tired of repeatedly bending and standing. Not to mention the fact that just when you have them all gathered, a big gust of wind (or even a little one) comes along and knocks a bunch more to the ground; meaning you have to start all over again!

With a lot of coaxing and prodding, bending over, crawling on our knees and stained fingers (even through gloves), the ground and trees were finally walnut-free and the bed of our full-sized pickup was filled to over-flowing with feed sacks and buckets of walnuts. Zach was just sure he and his sister were going to be rich and started talking about what he might want to do with some of the money he earned.

Much to Zach and Elizabeth's grave disappointment, though, the entire truckload of walnuts brought a measly $13 after they were hulled. Hardly the windfall they were expecting, to say the least. Even John and I were somewhat surprised at how little they received for all their hard work and dedication.
After a little family meeting, it was decided the $13 would be just enough to fund a family pizza night; something the kids readily agreed to.

The original lessons we hoped to teach our children in the gathering of all those walnuts were taught, but they were somewhat overshadowed by another equally important lesson--the lesson that says life isn't always fair and we don't always get what we deserve, but in the end, the best reward is always that of being able to know you did you best no matter what.

For the next twenty years, every fall found us picking up walnuts. It had to be done. But never again did we take them to the hullers. No, we decided to save some gas and do our part for our forest friends and dump them into the woods for the squirrels and other critters to enjoy.

And just in case you are wondering, the kids loved just about everything about growing up on a farm, but they never did learn to love picking up walnuts-except for that one time, but more on that next week....


Love,
Momma D

                                                        


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Moms Are People Too


Warning: This week’s post gives moms permission to need to be taken care of, too.
When Granny’s health started to fail she repeatedly said she was ready for God to take her home. But come each November, she would tell me she was praying God would wait ‘til spring to take her so I wouldn’t catch cold at the cemetery. And even in her last days—when she did not have a firm grasp on reality— she was watching out for me; telling me to be careful doing this or that and to telling me how proud she was of me for being me.

There hasn’t been a day go by in the past two years that I have not missed Granny. I miss her encouragement, her smile, her unconditional love, her presence and her selflessness. I miss the ways she was always looking out for me; making sure I knew she understood I still needed taking care of.

I will never forget how blessed I was to have that kind of support in my life, but this week I was especially reminded of how important it is for moms to have the ‘luxury’ of knowing it is okay to take care of themselves and to know other moms are on their side.
I was reminded of this when a friend of mine, who is a young stay at home mom of two precious children, was given a very special gift from her husband; a dream vacation with her best girlfriend. Yes, a few days away from all the responsibilities she dearly loves, but that don’t have to be her sole source of oxygen.

Little did they know, however, that this gift would illicit comments of a negative and accusatory nature. These comments suggested this sweet wife and momma was neglecting her family, that she was being selfish and that she didn’t have the right to take such a trip.

Now I’m not sure why anyone felt the need to do this, but what I do know is that this young family is on the right track. They understand that a momma needs to be looked after, too. They understand a momma (especially a stay at home momma) needs a break now and then to remind herself that a significant part of her value as a mom comes from the fact that she has knowledge, passion and talent in other areas besides those that come with being a mom.
So here are my challenges to each of you this week…
1.      Tell the young moms in your life how much you respect and admire them. Compliment them on their accomplishments as a wife and mom AND on their God-given talents that make them the wonderful, amazing women they are.
2.      Moms, don’t be afraid to take a little time for yourself now and then to recharge your heart and mind and to remind yourself that while being a parent is THE most important job you will ever do, it isn’t the only thing you are capable of.
So thanks, Granny, for never letting me forget and I hope and pray I will do the same for all the young moms in my life.

Love,
Momma D
                                                       

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One Fish, Two Fish says I'm Just so Mad that Olivia is in London to Visit the Queen while the Berenstein Bears have a House in Bear Country

For Zach it was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and his Children’s Bible (particularly Daniel and the Lion’s Den and Balaam’s Donkey).

Elizabeth’s favorites were Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever and Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books.

Olivia never tired of A House is a House for Me and Mother Goose Rhymes—especially “Pussycat, Pussycat…” because I always exchanged the word ‘pussycat’ for Olivia.

Reading Hattie and the Fox was a multiple-times-a-day event for Emma, along with any and all of the Berenstein Bears books.

The repetition of reading the same books over and over and over and over and (take a deep breath) over again was not always my favorite thing to do, but I did it because it made them happy and I wanted my kids to be happy. But more than that, the repetition of hearing their favorite stories multiple times a day gave them a sense of security and belonging.

That’s what repetition does, you know. It gives children a sense of belonging and assurance that things are just as they should be. And that is why, as a parent, you need to make sure you consistently and repeatedly:

Tell your children you love them-- every single day.
Make sure your actions are affirmations of what you say –kids are smart. They know the difference between empty words and words giving voice to acts of love.
Keep the promises you make – if you can’t keep them don’t make them.
Pick them up on time –be where you say you will be when you say you will be there. Children are frightened and humiliated when you are late or miss something altogether.
Practice what you preach –Again, kids are better at spotting a phony than they are at addition or subtraction. They need to see you consistently and repeatedly being the person you tell them to be.

I’ve not been a perfect parent, but I’ve been consistent and repetitive in loving, protecting, nurturing, teaching and caring for my children. I hope and pray you will do the same.

Love,
Momma D


PS I can still quote most of these books by heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 



                                                     

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Perfectly Good Imperfect Life


As I write this, I am watching “Mom’s Night Out”. If you have seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about when I say God love ‘em. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.
As I watched I was reminded of a time that seems like only yesterday when Granny was always putting Olivia’s shoes on the right feet when we got to church because I couldn’t seem to get it done. But hey, we were always on time and all four kids were always dressed appropriately.

As I watched I was reminded of the time I asked five year-old Zach to check to see if baby Olivia was still sleeping and he returned with her in his arms…after changing a cloth diaper because she was wet. He was smiling from ear to ear and said, “Don’t worry, mommy, I did not poke her.”
As I watched I was reminded of the gazillion toys I picked up off the floor, the spelling lists practiced, the stories read, the school parties and field trips chaperoned, the Halloween costumes made, the Easter eggs dyed and hidden  and all the other things moms do.

As I watched I was reminded of the hand-made cards, the fact that I still use the pin cushion Elizabeth made from fabric in Granny’s scrap basket, the spaghetti dinner the girls made and served to John and I one year on our anniversary, the picture and note of apology hand-crafted by Emma when she accidently let the llama out of the field Yes, we had a llama. Doesn’t everyone?
Our refrigerator was always covered in drawings and notes from school. There was always at least six pair of shoes at the back door. I rarely went to ladies meeting at church without the kids in tow (John worked a lot of night shifts) and for several years our tax returns were our yearly contributions to the orthodontist.

Our life was loud and busy. The house was always clean, but often messy. I wore out three washing machines in twenty years and we didn’t bother keeping the wood floors waxed because they were needed for tap dancing and gymnastic stunts. And I wouldn’t change a thing!
Being a parent is the most important job in the world. No exceptions. As a parent you are giving the world an extension of yourself. To be a parent is to shape the future of society. No small task, I think you’ll agree. So the next time you find yourself at your wit’s end; craving five minutes of peace, questioning your sanity, wondering if it will ever be your ‘turn’ to do something for yourself or feeling like a complete failure, stop. Stop and realize that the hand the rocks the cradle really does rule the world.

Love,
Momma D

                                                    

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why Does Granny Have a Screensaver?


Emma was in kindergarten the year Granny had surgery to replace one of her heart valves. I understand these two events wouldn’t normally be linked together, but in this case, I think you will agree with me that they do…

The evening before the surgery was spent with Granny in her hospital room talking, reassuring one another and even cracking several jokes about the fact that the valve she would receive would either be courtesy of a cow or a pig.
I noticed Emma didn’t say much, but didn’t think too much about it because a) I knew she was worried about her Granny and b) Emma wasn’t a chatty little girl. She was my quiet, contemplative one.
Of course she was quiet. There was a lot to take in and try to process. So I made a mental note to myself to give her a little extra reassurance before tucking her into bed that night. But as it turns out, Emma was making sense of things the way kids growing up in this day and age would.
As we were walking to our car after telling Granny goodnight, Emma looked up at me and asked, “Momma, why does Granny have a screensaver?”
“What,” I asked?

“Why does Granny have a screensaver?”

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was talking about, but then it hit me—Emma thought Granny’s heart monitor was a computer! Thankfully I was smart enough not to laugh at her. Instead I agreed that the monitor looked like a computer (as she understood a computer to be), but that it was really a machine that was watching over Granny’s heart.
We’ve laughed about this several times since then, but today I want to use this little incident to remind you to not deprive your children of the fun that can be had and the simple joys of life not associated with a computer in any of its various forms. Or as Miranda Lambert sings…

Hey, whatever happened to waitin' your turn
Doing it all by hand,
'Cause when everything is handed to you
It's only worth as much as the time put in
It all just seemed so good the way we had it
Back before everything became automatic.
So here is my challenge to you:
Don’t allow phones or other devices at the dinner table

Make it clear that texting one another while in the same house is never acceptable

Write messages to your children using paper and pen

Help your little ones write cards and letters to their grandparents and encourage your older children to do the same

Play BOARD or CARD games as a family—not video games

Cook together…from scratch.
 
Have a sixties or seventies weekend at home--doing things the way they did back then
 
Spend one Saturday a month working together or learning a skill that requires you to do things by hand (woodworking, gardening, embroidery, crochet, baking, etc.)

While each generation makes both positive and negative contributions to society, we’ve allowed most of the positives from the past to become nearly extinct. Let’s bring a few of them back, okay, because children need to know that not everything revolves around hard drives, apps and the cloud.


Love,

Momma D
                                                                               
 
                                               

  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just You and Me

A few weeks ago our entire family spent a few days with my in-laws and some of our extended family. The days were spent swimming, boating, eating, talking...I guess you could sum it up by saying that a good time was had by all.

At one point several of us—including my six year-old granddaughter, Mackenzie—were sitting outside on the deck talking. Then for a variety of reasons, everyone but Mackenzie and I went back inside. As soon as we were alone, she jumped up from her chair, climbed up on my lap, gave a big sigh and said, “Finally, Nanna, it’s just you and me.” This of course was followed by some snuggle time and conversation about Two-socks the horse, Bonnie the dog and first-grade learning experiences.
Mackenzie’s ‘relief’ at it being just the two of us wasn’t rude or unkind. She loves her Grandpa, her aunts and uncles, great-grandparents and cousins. She also thoroughly enjoys spending time with older second-cousins who aren’t so old that they think a six year-old is completely annoying. No, Mackenzie just needed some one-on-one time with her nanna—the very same kind of personal time your kids and/or grandkids need from you.
You may be thinking it’s hard enough to get everyone where they’re supposed to be on time while trying to get everyone’s laundry washed and put away, keep the house picked up, meals cooked and all the other necessary things that are required of you to keep everyone’s lives up and running. But think about this…your family won’t be a family if its members aren’t loved and cherished and made to feel special. Instead, you’ll be nothing more than a group of people surviving together under the same roof.
That’s why it is important to spend time with each child; talking just to them, praying just with them, playing a game just with them, doing chores and fun projects just with them, going on a ‘date’ just with them. To do so will give each child the validation they need and deserve and allows you to really know your child as a person.
It’s like a jigsaw puzzle—even when the pieces are in the box or scattered on the table, it’s still a puzzle. But when you take the time to carefully look at each piece enough to know exactly how and where it fits those pieces become part of something everyone can enjoy.
Trust me, it’s soooooooo worth the time you don’t think you have—both for you and your children. I know this to be true, because a few weeks ago my daughter, Olivia, left Matt and Reuben at home overnight to spend the night and help me with a project the next day. As we sat in the restaurant enjoying dinner (just the two of us), she said, “I love it when we’re all together, but I really miss not having it be just you and me like we used to.”
I guess I'm going to have to do something about that, aren't I.
 
Love,
Momma D

                                                                   

 

 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm an Inside Girl!

Like most preschoolers, Macy doesn’t have an external volume control. Okay, let’s just tell it like it is…unless she decides to do so, she has no volume control. That was especially true one rainy day we were stuck inside and getting bored.

Macy and Mackenzie were pretending to be horses and cowgirls. That was great, but the noise level just kept getting louder and louder. When I told them to quiet down, Macy didn’t get the message (or couldn’t hear it), so I said, “Macy, use your inside voice.”
“I’m not an inside boy, Nanna, I’m an inside girl,” she shot back with a confused and hurt look on her face. How dare I call her a boy!

Me: “No, honey, I said use your inside voice.”
Macy: (getting perturbed) “Nanna, I am not an inside boy! I’m an inside girl!

Me: (laughing) “Macy, I know you’re a girl. I was telling you to talk in a quiet voice.”
Macy:  (smiling) “Oh, okay.”

And she did…for a little while, at least.
Macy Scout isn’t the only child to misunderstand what was said to her; to hear something completely different than what was actually said or intended. But often times these misunderstandings aren’t nearly as simple to fix…or funny.

When you say “No, not that way”, your child hears “You can’t do anything right”.
When you say “Why can’t you be like…”, your child hears “You aren’t good enough.”

When you say “I don’t have time”, your children hear “You are not a priority”.
When you say…well, hopefully you get the picture.

I know first-hand that sometimes our children don’t get the right message even when we say everything in the right way—as was the case with Macy Scout. But more often than not, as parents, we need to be more mindful of both what we say and how we say it.


Love,
Momma D

                                                                 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's Back!!!!!!!!!!!


When John and I purchased the farm which had previously been in my family for several generations, the only animals residing there were a few mice and a HUGE black snake. Not a big snake, a HUGE snake, well over five feet long.
My first meeting with this over-sized reptile took place when the kids and I were looking around one of the outbuildings. I was carrying Olivia, who was barely a year old, but Elizabeth (3) and Zach (6) were walking beside me when we saw the snake go underneath the building we were about to enter.

Zach asked why we let the snake go instead of trying to get it to come out so we could kill it. My first thought was to tell him it was because the snake was big enough to swallow children whole, but don’t worry, I didn’t say that. Instead, I said something to the effect that the snake wasn’t really hurting anything, but that he (Zach) needed to stay away from the building.
Fast-forward several weeks. Zach decided he was going to take his tractors and dump truck out to play in the yard. So with his toys in his arms, he opened the door and started to step onto the porch when in a panic he slammed the door shut, dropped his toys, plastered himself against the door and said, “It’s back!”
“It” was the snake—sunning himself on the front stoop (from which he hung over both sides). Apparently this snake thought his territory extended to the house…OUR house! But did I have news for him.
Telling the kids to stay inside, I went outside via another door, got the hoe and made sure that snake never found his way to our porch again (or anywhere else, for that matter).
I can still see Zach plastered against the door; eyes as big as dinner plates from the shock of nearly stepping on the snake as he headed out to play.  But that’s not the only thing I think about when I think about that day.
I think about the fact that, all too often, parents ignore their child’s problems hoping that if they don’t acknowledge them they will stay hidden like a snake underneath a deserted outbuilding. After all, if you don’t talk about it or can’t see it, it’s not there, right? WRONG! Just like the snake left the shed to absorb the warmth of the sun, a problem will always surface to the 'light' sooner or later.
If you don’t acknowledge the problems in your child’s life and help them deal with them appropriately, they will fester and grow and eventually invade your child’s life; robbing them of feeling safe, secure and confident.
 I'm not talking about getting involved in spats between friends, or taking on the system because your child didn't make first string on the team, or blaming someone...anyone for the mistakes your child makes. The problems I’m talking about are genuine difficulties at school, being bullied or even being the bully, physical limitations, difficulties with learning, behavioral problems, emotional anxiety and self-esteem.
In order for Zach and his little sisters to feel (and actually be) safe when going outside to play, the snake had to go. Likewise, threats to your child’s safety, security and well-being need to be dealt with appropriately so that your child doesn’t have to be afraid to step out their front door and live life to the fullest.

Love,
Momma D

NOTE: Olivia killed this snake in her front yard a couple of months ago. It was almost as big as 'our' snake.
 
                                                                                       
                                                             

Thursday, September 4, 2014

T-shirts Don't Look Good on Me


By the time Elizabeth was three she knew quite a bit; how to write and recognize the letters in the alphabet, the words to countless songs, how to count, her colors, shapes and opposites. She also ‘knew’ she didn’t look good in a t-shirt…
It was Halloween night and John took Zach (6), Elizabeth (3) and Olivia (1) to the downtown merchants in our community to go trick-or-treating. Zach was excited when they arrived at the local screen printing shop and discovered they were giving out free t-shirts instead of candy. Elizabeth, on the other hand, smiled politely and said, “No, thank you. T-shirts don’t look good on me.” John also smiled at the now-dumbfounded hander-out-of-t-shirts and accepted the t-shirt on Elizabeth’s behalf.
While most of you probably don’t have a child who happily turns down a free t-shirt, you all have a child who, like Elizabeth, has a mind of his/her own. They have definite likes and dislikes and things that interest them vs. things that bore them to tears. Your job, as their parent is to:
1.      Allow your children to express these thoughts and feelings. So Elizabeth didn’t like t-shirts. No big deal. I don’t like the color blue and no one has a problem with that.

2.      Teach your children to express these thoughts and feelings appropriately. Phrases like, ‘no thank you’, ‘I’d rather have…’ and ‘I don’t want any, thank you’ are appropriate. Phrases like ‘I hate that’, ‘No!’, and ‘Yuk’ or ‘Gross’ are not.

3.      Encourage your children to grow and mature using these thoughts and feelings. Developing a sense of style or personality is not a bad thing. Enjoying books and music instead of soccer or baseball has its merits. Preferring art to math is not the end of the world.

4.      Give your children the freedom to embrace and change these thoughts and feelings. Elizabeth decided to become a nurse before she was 10 and she’s a compassionate, gifted nurse, at that. As for the t-shirt ‘thing’, she outgrew it a few years later. These days you can find her sporting one just about any day of the week. And she looks just fine.
So remember, the opinionated little person sitting across from you at the dinner table isn’t trying to make your life difficult. He or she is just letting you know who they are and what they’re all about.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth,
Momma D
                                                  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Investment with the Highest Returns


My Granny taught me so many things; how to garden, how to can fruits and vegetables, make jellies, wilted lettuce, and cottage cheese, churn butter, and the list goes on and on and on. I’m able to do many things most people these days don’t even realize can be done outside of a factory all because of Granny. But it’s not so much what she taught me as how she taught me.

Granny was never in too much of a hurry to let me do things with her.  From the time I was about 5 years old, we worked side by side. She patiently showed me what to do and how to do it right. I can’t count the times she’s say, “I’ll tell you like my mom always told me…if you don’t do it right the first time, you’ll get the privilege of doing it again.”

It would have been so much easier (and quicker) for her to do things herself, but she didn’t. She could have used the ‘watch me so you’ll know what to do when you get older’ approach, but she didn’t. No, instead, Granny used the hands-on approach to teaching me to be a woman who knew how to provide for her home and her family.

As mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and teachers, we need to take a lesson from Granny. Each time we pass up the opportunity to walk a little slower to allow little feet to keep up with us, or deny ourselves the privilege of sweeping up an extra cup of flour off the floor after baking a batch of cookies, or opt for flower beds with flowers perfectly color coordinated and spaced instead of one with a more whimsical look, we have passed up a golden opportunity to make special memories with the children we love. These moments-I call them ‘teachable moments’-are lost forever once they pass, so see them for the treasures they are and make the most of them whenever you get the chance.

The memories we have of the special people in our lives are the result of their ability to see these teachable moments for what they are. In other words, these people took the time to investment in us-in our lives. And in turn, we need to make a similar investment into the lives of the young people we love. Think of it as the emotional circle of life.

I couldn’t possibly talk this emotional circle of life and investing yourself into someone’s life without talking about Carol Bennett. She touched hundreds of lives and invested a part of herself in each and every one of them…

Carol Bennett was my daughter, Elizabeth’s, kindergarten teacher. She had been teaching for many years when Elizabeth had her and was nearing the end of her career. But Carol was a good teacher and it was obvious she truly cared about her students. But never in a million years would I have imagined she would continue to care so many years later.

Fast forward from kindergarten to Elizabeth’s senior year in high school; graduation was approaching and Elizabeth was receiving gifts and cards from family and friends. One evening as she was opening up the mail she had received, I heard her say, “Oh, isn’t that so sweet!” I was just about to ask her what she thought was ‘so sweet’, when she sat a card and picture down in my lap. The card was from her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bennett. It read, “I’m proud to have been a part of your education. Good luck in the future.” The picture was one Elizabeth had drawn in kindergarten!

Each year Carol Bennett kept one picture from each of her students. And 13 years later she took the time to send it-along with a card of congratulations to each student who was still in the area.  Carol had retired two or three years after Elizabeth had been in her class, so the fact that she wasn’t even involved in the school system anymore and had a plethora of other things she could have been doing with her time, made it even more special. I know I don’t need to tell you this, but Carol Bennett is someone who cares!

Remember…at the heart of some of our most treasured memories is the fact that someone like Granny or Carol let us know how much we meant to them. Whose memories are you helping to make?  
 
 
Love,
 
Momma D
 
                                                          
 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My kids Grew Up Without Cable and haven't Been to Disney World...Should I be Worried?


A few weeks ago I shared with you my memories of presenting Zach with his swing set in an effort to remind you that giving your child presents should never be a replacement for your presence. I want to take that ‘lesson’ a little farther this week by reminding parents that things don’t make the home any more than clothes make the man…

John and I raised our kids in house that was less than 2,000 square feet in size. All three girls shared a bedroom for several years, no one had their own bathroom (not even John and I), we didn’t have cable television until Emma was fourteen and the only one left at home, family vacations consisted of camping trips and county fairs for showing livestock and our kids actually had chores they were expected to do and do correctly. And guess what…they all lived to tell about it!

Don’t get me wrong—when one of their friends asked why they lived in such a little house or told them they were sorry they didn’t have cable, my heart would skip a beat in fear it would embarrass my kids. Or when they talked about how so-and-so was going to Disney World or on a cruise over spring break, I can’t deny I sometimes wished we could do something like that for them.
I’m thankful and proud, however, that none of that seemed to bother our children. They had fields and outbuildings to play in, bikes to ride, pets to play with, a swimming pool to cool off in, a swing set and tree swing to enjoy and toys which allowed them to be creative and imaginative. They were loved, well-fed, ‘stuck’ with me all day (they were my career) and provided a life that was about a lot more than stuff.
What’s the point, you ask? The point is this: your children don’t need half the things you think they do. They don’t need video games and television to stimulate their minds. They need an empty box and an old blanket to do that. They don’t need expensive vacations in order to make family memories. They need board games and popcorn, fishing and camping trips, or games of hide-n-seek and lightening bugs in jars to do that. And finally, they don’t need big houses because houses don’t make homes—people do.

So in answer to the question I asked, “Should I be worried?”, the answer is NO! And you shouldn’t be either.
I can say this will complete confidence because Zach, Elizabeth, Olivia and Emma will readily admit to having great memories of growing up on a farm, in a little house, taking family camping trips and watching Darkwing Duck and reruns of 7th Heaven instead of whatever the newest shows were at the time.  Not only that, all four are happy, loving and intelligent. They are loving and supportive spouses and parents and have good people skills. What's more, they did it all without a ride down Space Mountain or having fifty-two channels to choose from. However did that happen!?

Love,
Momma D

                                                             



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Once Upon a Time...

Last Sunday afternoon John and I returned our two oldest granddaughters, six year-old Mackenzie and three year-old Macy, to their parents after having them with us for a week. Minutes into the hour-long drive, Mackenzie asked, “Nanna will you tell us a story?”

She wasn’t asking for the traditional “Little Red Riding Hood” or “Princess and the Pea”. The kind of story Mackenzie and Macy were asking for was the kind only very few people besides me can tell them. They wanted a story--or several stories about our family. Some of these stories aren’t really stories at all—not by definition, anyway. But that doesn’t matter to Mack and Macy.

To them, the stories I tell them about their daddy coming face to face with an enormous black snake or going up against an angry llama so I wouldn’t get hurt are as exciting as it gets. They laugh when I tell them about Great-great chasing a baby pig around a parking lot or when I tell them about the time Aunt Olivia and I chased goats along the highway. They love to hear about all the pets their daddy and aunts had growing up and about the many ‘adventures’ we had living on the farm.
As I was telling them (for the ??? time) about our dog, CD—who Mack sometimes accidentally refers to as disc—J she asked me, “Nanna, the next time we come to your house, can we make a book to put the stories in?” My answer, in case you have any doubt, was YES!

And wouldn’t you know it…just minutes after Mack’s request, Miranda Lambert’s The House that Built Me started playing on the radio. Coincidence? Most likely, but nevertheless, it tugged at my heart; reminding me of how important it is to share my life’s story with my children and grandchildren.

I want to remind you to do the same, because when we share our life’s stories with our children and grandchildren, we:

·         Give them a sense of belonging
·         Give them a piece of history…their history
·         Build a sense of trust between us and them—when we share our life with them they are more apt to share their life with us
·         Allow them to have a more realistic view of who we are
·         Allow them to be able to laugh at and learn from the past as well as their own bobbles and mishaps
So go ahead—gather your children and even your grandchildren around you and start talking. It’s as simple as saying, “Once upon a time…”


Love,
Momma D