Swiftly fly the years

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Our son with his newborn baby girl

Our son, our last born, celebrates a birthday this week. When I think of him, I smile and remember what a surprise he was when he emerged in that delivery room.  A boy! We had expected another girl and only had a girl’s name chosen.

But surprise! The doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” and we were actually shocked. The one thing I remember saying to Papa, who was right by my side through labor and delivery, after our son’s arrival was, “But he doesn’t have a name!”

We deliberated awhile and finally chose the name that my own father suggested.  It is a good, solid name. And I blinked and that baby boy grew up and turned out to be a good, solid man.

When I stop to think about the stage of life he’s in now (almost to his 30’s), the lyrics to the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof automatically come to my mind:

Is this the little girl I carried, 
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older, 
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty, 
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.

When did that little boy who played with Legos, cars, and Star Wars toys as well as every sport that came his way, the son who made his parents proud with all his accomplishments, grow to be so tall?

And now after all the sunrises and sunsets that have passed, he is a parent himself.

He and our lovely daughter-in-love just had their first baby – our precious second granddaughter – right before Christmas. How can it be that baby that I once held in my arms – my last one – is now all grown up and holding his own beloved little one?

Because the days, just like in that song, do flow by swiftly.  And the years follow in suit.

My dad used to tell me how quickly time flew by for him in his 90 years on earth. When I was a youngster, it seemed that time passed by slowly. 

A friend and I were just discussing this recently. How when we were girlhood friends, we couldn’t wait for school to be left out for summer recess or we couldn’t wait until Christmas.  Or when we couldn’t wait to become teenagers. Then we couldn’t wait to drive. Then we couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. And then we couldn’t wait until we graduated from college….got married…had a career…or a family….or….. 

We just couldn’t wait to grow up! 

Before we knew it, we were grown up, our children became adults, our parents passed away, and we found ourselves to be the older generation. And now we wish time would slow down.

Just like that. [snaps fingers] Time goes by. And continues to do so.  Which is why it’s so important to make the most of our time before it runs out.

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.”~ Marc Bolan

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Still being merry

blogimg_9214-2I know. Be merry?

The date on the calendar reads January 24th.  And the Christmas holiday is long over.  So why am I posting about Christmas when the month of February is looming right around the next corner?

Our family has been making merry for almost two months now. We are one of those families that start decorating for the holiday the day after Thanksgiving. Out come all of the Christmas totes and boxes of decorations, the tree goes up, and Christmas carols and songs ring through the house.

This year, Papa, middle daughter, and I outdid ourselves with lights and décor because Little One (our almost 2-year-old granddaughter) delighted in it all. Each morning upon awakening, the first thing she asked us to do was plug in all (and I do mean all) of the Christmas lights.

We celebrated Christmas with her and our daughter (her mommy) a few days before the actual holiday because of daughter’s job and other circumstances beyond our control. 

Christmas Eve found Papa and Mama at our church late night candlelight service and on Christmas Day, we celebrated yet again with my sister and brother-in-law at their home.

Then just a few days later, we hosted another Christmas celebration and dinner in our own home with our oldest daughter and son-in-law and their sweet, newly married Australian friends who had traveled to the United States for their honeymoon.

And the season of giving just kept on giving.

Just recently, we celebrated Christmas yet again at our son and daughter-in-law’s home in one of the states next door.  Because granddaughter number two (who will be known henceforth in this blog as Little Two) was making her arrival just a few days before the holiday, we had already planned to delay our family gathering until the new parents and baby could get a bit adjusted to their exhausting new lives.

So a weekend celebration in January was planned for all of us to converge on their home and provide all of the meals and fun and exchange Christmas gifts to celebrate not only the birth of our Savior but the dear new little life that has joined our family.

What better reason than that to be merry? Whether it be in December, January, or all year long, Christmas should stay in our hearts.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Our family Christmas present

blogimg_8922Just the other day Papa and I received a most wonderful early Christmas gift – one all wrapped up with love. 

We’ve actually been expecting this present for several months and knew the arrival of the gift would be sometime before Christmas.

The givers were also the receivers. And while they gave this lovely present to us, they in turn received the same miraculous gift from a gracious and loving God.

What was this wonderful present for both receivers and givers?

Our second grandbaby is that most precious gift.

When son and daughter-in-love texted us from the hospital to say our newest granddaughter was arriving into this world that evening, exhilaration and joy overflowed in this empty nest.

Since they live several hours away from us, we had to experience this exciting news and the impending arrival via cell phone texts and photos.

A lot of text messages flew rapidly through cyberspace between the hospital in the state next door, a state down south, and our home right here. Aunties and uncle were anxiously awaiting the news as well.

Technology is something to be very thankful for in situations like this! We could see that mommy and baby made it through the birth process well and that son is one proud daddy.

This new fresh from God baby girl is beautiful.  She has been given a beautiful name to match.  And her parents are over the moon with love for her. 

And so is this Nana even though I haven’t yet held her in my arms to whisper in her ear how very much she is loved.

Years ago shortly after the birth of our son, a friend gave us a picture to hang on his nursery wall which included a quote by poet Carl Sandburg. I’ve never forgotten that inscription and you can read that line Sandburg wrote below.

It’s just as poignant to me today on the occasion of our granddaughter’s birth as it was when her daddy became a baby blessing to us in this thing we call life.   

Our family’s Christmas blessing arrived just in time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Welcome, little one!  And thank you, Lord, for this blessing of life.

“A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” ~ Carl Sandburg

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Birthday blessing

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Uncle T delighting his niece

He met our daughter on a bus.

He was on his annual short-term mission trip to Honduras with his church.  She was on her first ever trip with her church.

They sat together on a school bus traveling to the next site where they would be the hands and feet of Jesus. And a friendship bloomed. 

After they returned to their separate states, their long-distance friendship kindled over the next couple of years until the sparks of romance became a flame.  

We met this funny, endearing, and godly young man not long after that. And it’s safe to say he not only won over our daughter’s heart but our family’s as well.

What can I write about this wonderful young man? Not nearly enough.

He has a kind heart and compassion for others. He lovingly supports and encourages our daughter in all things. He treats her like she is the most special gift and makes her coffee every morning – even when they are visiting us here in our empty nest. 

He tickles her funny bone and makes her laugh. He comforts her when she cries. He prays with her each day. And he’s willing and excited to travel the world with her, experiencing new adventures along the way.

He treats us – her parents and family – with love and respect and genuine affection. And I know we have his parents to thank for that. They raised a most wonderful son who is the perfect complement to our daughter.

He has stepped up to the plate by being a godly influence and general all around crazy fun uncle to our little grand-daughter who giggles with delight at his antics and cries ‘more, more’ when he chases her around the house.  She loves her Uncle Tay-Tay for his funny faces and the smiles and shrieks of glee he produces in her. (see photo above)

He is my son-in-love.  And today – amidst the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season – is his birthday.

I don’t want it to be forgotten or glossed over because this man is so very special.  I want the world to know he is the best son-in-law any parents of a daughter could ask for. 

Our daughter waited a long time for a strong man of faith to come into her life. God blessed her with this young man as her husband four years ago.  And God blessed us by making him a cherished part of our family.

Happy Birthday, T!

May God continue to guide and direct your path. Thank you for all the ways you lovingly participate in our family in both joyous and difficult times. We love you!

“You may not have been born into our family, but you seem to have been born to be a part of it.” ~ unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tradition

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Our family Christmas Eve tradition

Tradition.

That word reminds me of a scene from Fiddler on the Roof when the character Tevye says, “And how do we keep our balance? I can tell you in one word. Tradition.”

He continues by saying, “Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…You may ask, how did this tradition get started. I’ll tell you. I don’t know but it’s a tradition.”

Traditions. We all have them and they pop to the surface and call attention to themselves at Christmas time. If your family is anything like mine, there are just certain Christmas traditions you don’t change or mess with.

Some of those traditions were passed down through our family from one generation to another. Some are traditions Papa and I started ourselves and our grown children say it’s just not Christmas without them. You know, keeping the season balanced, I guess.

I’d like to share just a few of our Christmas traditions with you. Like Tevye though, I don’t know how some of them started.

Bird ornament. When I was a little girl, I remember that my mom always had some kind of bird ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  I don’t know why, but I recently discovered that such an ornament represents happiness and joy.  I do know that if you look near the top of our tree, you will see a tiny little white bird trimmed in red with wings outstretched. 

Hanging mistletoe.  Again as a small child, I remember mistletoe, which is not native to our area, hanging in a doorway of our family home.  I always giggled when someone kissed beneath it and as a teenage girl, I longed for someone to kiss under that greenery.  You just might receive a little peck on the cheek at our house when you stand beneath the mistletoe in the hallway by our front door. 

Candlelight service. One of my most favorite traditions is attending our church service at 11 p.m. Christmas Eve welcoming in the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child at midnight by candlelight while singing Silent Night.

Opening one gift.  Our children actually started this tradition of choosing and opening one gift only on Christmas Eve. When we lived in other areas of the country away from our families, packages would arrive by mail and rest under the tree.  Our kids had a hard time waiting until Christmas Day to open them, so we acquiesced to their pleading and allowed them to open just one the night before.

Christmas dinner menu.  Certain foods must be served or my kids are disappointed. In addition to the baked, glazed ham and twice-baked potatoes, there must be one of two salads – either their favorite frog eye salad or a special molded, multi-layered rainbow colored jello salad that takes forever to make. Growing up, Christmas dinner just wasn’t complete without my mom’s 24-hour salad – a tart fruit salad with homemade mayonnaise. And I believe I was the only member of the family who didn’t like it. So that’s why our traditional salad is different.

Cookies. There must be cookies – lots of Christmas cookies.  They can include old favorites like my mom’s tea cakes, peanut butter blossoms (Papa’s favorites), and M&M cookies, or new recipes but the tray must be full.  And there MUST be sugar cookies in the shapes of stars, trees, Santa, snowmen, and bells, and they must be iced and decorated.  This is a tradition that my kids loved growing up because they got to help cut out the shapes and decorate with scads of sugars and candies.

Candles in the windows. Even Papa inquires whether we’re placing candles in our windows for the Christmas season and we do, every year. Each window in the front of our home is lit up by one solitary electric candle.  This tradition came from my family. When I was young, my mother placed red wreaths, made out of some cellophane type of material, in each of our windows. In the center of those wreaths was an electric candle. I’ve heard that a candle in the window in colonial times meant you were welcome in that place. For us, it also represents welcoming the Christ Child into our lives.

Advent calendar.  Not just any old advent calendar marking the days until Christmas, but one that when you open each day’s door, you find a chocolate candy goodie waiting for you. There’s one in the kitchen right now that little one (our nearly two-year-old granddaughter) is enjoying.  A tradition she’s learning about already.

Chocolate oranges. Somewhere along the line, we started the tradition of having dark chocolate oranges – a chocolate candy flavored and shaped like an orange that you break apart into ‘slices’ for the holiday. As a child, there was always an orange in my stocking and I think it stemmed from that.  Just the other day, our middle daughter arrived home and said, “guess what I bought?” Yep, a chocolate orange to savor on Christmas. Another tradition we will probably be passing down to our granddaughter.

Christmas Eve sundaes. This one is an absolute must and our grown kids always ask to make sure I have all the ingredients for the special sundaes we eat only on Christmas Eve. Unlike some of our traditions, I know exactly where this one came from and how it started.

Back when Papa and Mama were young married folk with only one child, we lived in Oklahoma. Papa’s parents came to visit us for the holiday and we took them to Tulsa for a sight-seeing trip. 

We visited a quaint little ice cream shop – I can’t remember the name of it but do remember the sundaes we ate there. And those sundaes were recreated into our family Christmas Eve sundaes which we serve every single year after dinner.

Our sundaes consist of scoops of green chocolate mint chip ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in between the scoops. Whipped cream tops them off garnished by a red maraschino cherry, red and green sugar sprinkles, and either a mini candy cane or peppermint stick.  All served in a fancy glass as shown in my photo above.

Traditions. Good things with good memories.What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

“At the heart of every family tradition is a meaningful experience.” ~ unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Board not bored

blogimg_8870-2At our house when the family all gathers for a holiday dinner, there’s no cause for boredom. Even if the turkey makes you over-stuffed and sleepy, there will be no naps taken.

That’s because when we all congregate around the table for good food, good fellowship, and good times, you can be sure a few good board games will follow. 

Not bored games. Oh, no! Not at our house. Our family really gets into games; it’s just how we roll (pun intended).

This past Thanksgiving, we hurriedly cleaned up the dishes, put away the leftovers, and plunked ourselves down at the dining room table for some serious game playing. First, we HAD to try playing middle daughter’s new Oregon Trail card game.

All of Mama and Papa’s children spent many hours playing that computer game back when they were young’uns. They especially liked it because we had followed the Oregon Trail ourselves by moving from the Kansas City area to Oregon. 

And years later, we actually visited some sites along the trail in Oregon and Nebraska during our trek cross country as we relocated from Oregon to our home here in Pennsylvania.

So over Thanksgiving, we tried….and we tried…and we tried….to make our way successfully on the game trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  

We used our supply cards of medicine, food, clothing, spare wagon parts, laid down our trail cards, forded many rivers, but along the way, we succumbed to the usual – snake bites, cholera, dysentery, drowning. Yep, one calamity after another.

Some of us ‘died’ early in the game, some unfairly just as the end of the trail was in sight. We laughed and we groaned and we worked together as a family team to try to beat the trail game’s hardships.  

And the Oregon Trail kicked our butts. Out of several games played, we only arrived at trail’s end one time and, if truth be told, we only did so because we didn’t quite stick to the rules of the game.

Along the way, we chose some 19th century names like Jedidiah, Hortense, Zeke, Eliza, and the like.  As each of us surrendered to the lethal skull card of death, we had to write epitaphs on the grave markers provided with the game.  We tried to be as silly and clever as we could be.

I’ll share a few examples with you: 

“Cholera called, he answered.”

“She got the cold shoulder.” (froze to death)

“Dysentery – now she’s in dys-cemetery.”

“Fangs for the memories.” (snake bite)

“She was dys close to Oregon.” (dysentery)

“This bites!” (snake bite)

“She went for broke.” (broken wagon axle)

“It kicked her grass.” (no grass for oxen, everyone died)

From that crazy game, we moved on to one of our favorites – Settlers of Catan.  Our oldest daughter and son-in-law introduced this game to us a couple of years ago and we’ve been hooked ever since.  And a ‘newbie’ at the game – my neice – won this time!

Games aren’t for everyone. I think whether or not you enjoy playing games depends on your background.

When I was growing up, one of the ways my family had fun together was playing games whether it was a board game, a card game, an outdoor game, or even just putting a massive jigsaw puzzle together.

Life is difficult enough – just read about the original Oregon Trail trekkers and your life might seem like a piece of cake – so why not spend a few hours playing?

What better way to spend time together as a family than gathered around the table focusing on one enjoyable activity? None, if you ask our family.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” ~ Michael Jordan

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Of butterflies and raspberries

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playing with an inchworm

Grandparenting. It is so much more than I ever expected.

Recently, our daughter (and Little One’s mommy) resumed her career as a hospital nurse and this Nana was transported back into the world of providing care for a toddler full-time on the days daughter works.

I find it interesting that the everyday occurrences that drove me crazy when my own children were this age– spilt milk messes, toys strewn willy nilly across the floor making it an obstacle course, constant activity except during nap times, sticky finger smudges everywhere  – don’t bother me.

Is it that grandparents are wiser than we were as parents?  Is it that we recognize that we only have so much time with our sweet grandchildren so we don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ anymore? Or have we finally reached the age where we just don’t care as much about appearances but relish time spent together with our child’s child?

The former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani once said, “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”

This statement rings true for me and not just the cookie part. Pure unconditional love that just about makes my heart explode is what I’ve felt for this grandchild since I cradled her in my arms shortly after her birth. I find humor in things she does that I never would have laughed at as a young mom. I recognize that I’m much more patient with Little One than I ever was with my children.

No longer do I worry about whether the bathroom gets cleaned or the laundry is finished like I did when my kids were small. Instead I willingly spend all day just playing and exploring the world with my granddaughter.

And she is one busy bee. So inquisitive and so full of wanting to learn and do and examine and discover. Sometimes I feel guilty thinking that perhaps I didn’t spend enough time doing the same things with my children. And I wonder if that’s the thing – grandparents are given a second chance to ‘get it right’ with our grandchildren.

Since her mama leaves for work before the crack of dawn, Little One wakes up to find Nana lifting her from her crib. She definitely misses her mommy because she inquires about her upon awakening in the mornings, after naps, and often during the day by asking ‘mum?’ I tell her mommy’s at work, Little One nods her head and says yes, and I reassure her that mama will be home later.

Nana and Little One have settled into a nice routine. Last week we had beautiful fall weather – warm, sunny days when we could be outside playing and exploring in the mornings after the temperature warmed up and the dew on the grass dried. 

After a bit of time playing in the sand box, we went for walks around our 2.25 acre yard and made visits to the garden where Roma tomatoes, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, and sunflowers were still producing.

She enjoyed picking tomatoes and wanted me to lift her up high so she could gaze into the sunflowers’ cheery faces. From there we ventured to the raspberry bushes to pick this last crop for the year.  Little One loves raspberries and eats them faster than I can pick them.

One day on our way back to the house with our bounty, we spied a butterfly which had lit upon the grass.  She pointed to it and as I told her to be gentle, she crouched down and touched the delicate creature.

I couldn’t believe it didn’t fly away immediately but it stayed in place while she touched it yet again. When it took off soaring into the air, floating and flitting around us, Little One laughed happily and clapped her hands. Such a simple thing that brought such merriment. 

Another day we examined the leaves on our maple trees and saw that they are starting to turn from green to red and also that some leaves had already fallen on the ground. As she picked up some of the fallen leaves, I noticed a tiny green inchworm.  She giggled with delight when the little critter crawled on her hand.

It’s a full and, to be honest, tiring day taking care of our Little One but watching her eyes light up over a new discovery gives me so much joy.  She doesn’t miss a thing whether it’s spotting an airplane soaring overhead, watching birds chow down at the bird feeder after we fill it, or an ant crawling across the sidewalk.

I’m just so blessed and grateful to be able to spend this time with her and nothing compares to the hugs and kisses our sweet girl bestows on me.

I wouldn’t trade being a Nana for anything in the world and come December, I’ll have two sweet grandbabies to love. Double perfection. 

“Truth be told, being a grandma is as close as we ever get to perfection. The ultimate warm sticky bun with plump raisins and nuts. Clouds nine, ten, and eleven.” – Bryna Nelson Paston

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A pair and a spare

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Then and now – he’s still surprised to be the spare!

Spare time has been a little difficult to find lately in Mama’s Empty Nest, and the nest surely looks a tad disheveled because of it. 

Busy with end-of-the-school-year substitute teaching, numerous activities at church, social outings, appointments, and personal life occurrences requiring attention, I feel like my house is a bit in chaos.  And when my home is in disarray, I feel disordered as well. I need some spare time to get things back under control. 

One of my sisters was in a fairly serious car accident several weeks ago. She is on the mend and doing reasonably well, but I want to spend as much time with her as I possibly can while she recovers.  Then there is an ongoing family situation that we are trying to hurdle over and on top of that, yet another crisis came to visit.

So spare time, what is that?  We are all given only so much time on this earth and I believe what we should do with it is make the most of it, but I also think it’s imperative that we take some time just to be spare.

I shock myself by saying I’m ready for summer and perhaps some spare time during it.  I usually dread the season with its heat and humidity, but this year I’m greeting it full force. 

Slowing down the pace.  Relaxing not rushing.  Having time – yes, spare time – to accomplish some things around the house, in the garden, or just spending unhurried moments with our grandbaby watching her chase bubbles in the air or enjoying play time outside.  Picking blueberries ripe from the bushes. And taking opportunities to just sit on the front porch swing and inhale the wonderful aroma of freshly cut grass.

Time to just enjoy.  That’s what I’m looking forward to with the arrival of summer.  Some bits of spare time.

And “spare” is the subject of this week’s photo challenge.  As soon as I saw the topic, I immediately thought back to over 28 years ago when I gave birth to our son.  We already had two sweet little girls and welcoming another male to join Papa in the family was exciting and surprising as we were certain we would have three of a kind – all girls.

That’s why a comment one of my obstetrics nurses made has stayed in my mind for all of these years.  When I told her that newborn son’s two big sisters were coming to the hospital to visit him for the first time, she commented, “Oh, now you have a pair and a spare.”

A pair and a spare.  My photo depiction for this week’s challenge is actually two pictures of my pair and a spare – my three treasures as children and all grown up.

That pair and a spare made our family complete – a full house – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Just as right now, summer and hopefully, some spare time  are arriving and I wouldn’t have that any other way either. 

“There’s time enough, but none to spare.” ~ Charles W. Chesnutt

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com