Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: make your own fun

Summer. Hot temperatures. Little rain. Humidity climbing up the ladder of mugginess.

Add covid-19 restrictions to that. No amusement parks. No summer baseball games. No fun at a playground. No public swimming pools.

No fun outings. No trips to a children’s museum. No trips to the zoo. No carnivals or county fairs. No festivals.

No trips to the library. No cooling off at the movie theater.

No Vacation Bible School at church.

Only drive-through trips to get an ice cream cone which you must eat in the car.

What’s a child to do on a hot, steamy day at Nana and Papa’s house when summer fun is restricted?

Make your own fun by engaging in a water blaster fight with Papa. And hope it helps water the dry, crunchy grass.

She makes us determined to make her childhood enjoyable no matter what!

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” ~ George R.R. Martin

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: revealed in light

It has occupied the same space on our office desk for over 20 years now.

Twenty years of knowing about its existence. Twenty years of noticing and using it just about every single day. Twenty years of acknowledging its presence but not realizing its importance.

Until just the other day.

Over 20 years ago, our family of five was unsettled. We had just moved from one side of our country to another – from the Pacific Northwest to our home state of Pennsylvania. Our household goods were in storage, we hadn’t found a home to call our own yet, my mother was in the throes of cancer treatments so we were temporarily living with my parents, and Papa diligently was searching for employment.

In the middle of it all, Papa’s mother, my dear mother-in-law, developed more life-threatening health issues and moved from her assisted living facility into a nursing home. Because she lived several hundred miles away from us, my husband’s uncle, a beloved brother of his mother’s who lived near her, cleared out her belongings and stored them for her in his garage.

Shortly afterwards, my mother-in-law passed away. After her memorial service, we sorted through the items, determining what could be given away and what items her sons wanted to take.

Papa’s mother had already downsized significantly from her apartment, where she moved following my father-in-law’s death, and again purged her belongings when she secured a room in the assisted living facility. So we accomplished the task of going through what was left in an afternoon.

Items we kept and brought home with us were not of great value, simply sentimental. One of those was a glass, rectangular-shaped paperweight with a sepia-toned picture pasted on the back of mothers, children, and a couple of cherubs.

It was a little odd but as long as Papa could remember, that paperweight sat on his mother’s secretary desk. Obviously old, we opted to keep it along with another circular glass paperweight sporting our nation’s Capitol building in Washington, DC.  

So for the last 20+ years, both have occupied different spots on our home office desk where our desktop computer is located. Both Papa and I have shuffled hundreds of pieces of papers around this desk. We’ve written notes and stuck them under that rectangular paperweight with the odd picture umpteen thousand times in the last 20 years.

But just the other day, something happened that stunned me and then caused me to additionally ponder. As usual when a visual presents itself to me, my mind searches for some kind of meaning from it.

The morning sun streamed through our office windows that day when I opened the blinds. As I often do in the early mornings, I imbibed in a cup of hot tea while logging onto the desktop computer, checking email, perusing social media, reading my fellow bloggers’ words, and attempting to conjure up my own blog posts for the week.

After so many dreary, overcast days, I welcomed the sunlight pouring in but its intensity almost blinded me while sitting at the desk. I didn’t want to close the blinds because well…sunshine makes me happy. So I shifted my chair over a tad in order to shield my eyes from the bright sunlight and that’s when I noticed it.

A brilliant ray of sunshine shone through that odd, old, glass paperweight. And as it did so, I noticed something I had never before seen – there was some kind of etching on the short end of the rectangular glass.

What??? I’d never seen that before! I picked up the paperweight and when I held it just so, I could see the etching included three upper case initials. Puzzled, I began to wonder whose initials they were because they did not match either my mother-in-law or my father-in-law’s names.

I called to my husband and asked him to come take a look. He too had no idea whose initials they could possibly be. All along we thought the paperweight had belonged to his mother or perhaps his dad, but what explained the different initials?

Turning the paperweight over in the sunlight, I then noticed more etching in the glass on the other short end of the rectangle shape. There a date was etched – 1900 –  plain as day or plain as could be seen when direct light hit it.

1900? So this paperweight had to be at least 120 years old. Wow. Again the wheels started spinning in my mind. 1900 – my father-in-law was then two years old (yes, you read that correctly; he was born in 1898).

My father-in-law was the oldest child in his family so he was, in 1900, the only child. The photo in the glass paperweight depicted mothers with children….mothers….and that’s when the proverbial light bulb illuminated in my brain!

The initials! I hurriedly looked up information on Papa’s family. There it was – the initials matched Papa’s grandmother’s name. My father-in-law’s mother. The grandma my husband never knew because she died when he was very young. Perhaps this paperweight was given to her on Mother’s Day in 1900.

We owned a sentimental piece of family history and didn’t even know it until now. A bit of a revelation!

And then my mind took a detour. That paperweight sat in the dark, so to speak, for over 20 years before its real ownership was revealed to us, until just the right angle of light presented it for my eyes to see.

That reminded me of God’s Word where much is written about light. Until I became a believer in Christ, I once was in darkness but as I came to know my personal Savior, I was brought out of that darkness into light, “His marvelous light” as 1 Peter 2:9 tells me.

I recalled that Jesus said, “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in” as written in John 8:12 of The Message.

He also proclaimed in John 9:39, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

And then Jesus revealed Truth when he exclaimed, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.” (John 12:44-46 The Message)

Pondering those words also reminded me that truth is revealed in light. We go about in the dark, perhaps being fed lies after lies and believing them, and then bam! The light exposes the truth! The truth comes to light. What’s hidden in darkness and subterfuge becomes known and displayed in the light.

What was concealed is now revealed. What was covered is laid bare. What was hidden is now shown.  I’ve always cautioned my own children that what you do in secret will be revealed in the light of day. That is truth.

It took sunlight reflecting through a 120-year-old glass paperweight to allow my eyes to see and my mind to be reminded of truth. A little revelation thanks to God and thanks to my husband’s grandmother.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” ~ Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 6:22-23 of The Message

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just different, that’s all

blogIMG_1583It wasn’t a typical Mother’s Day. But then again what’s typical in this ever-changing world we live in?

A typical Mother’s Day for me consists of attending worship service at our church with some or all of my family, then enjoying a home-cooked lunch prepared by Papa and my grown-up kids, and spending the remainder of the day with my family in the same house as me until it is time for them to journey to their own homes.

If our three with spouses and grandchildren in tow can’t be here to celebrate this special day, at least one of them would make an appearance in person – our daughter and grandchild who live close to us – and I would receive phone calls from the others.

But Mother’s Day was different this year. Not terrible, just different, due to the continued sheltering in place or lockdown we’re enduring because of this virus which holds us hostage in our own homes.

Instead of worshipping my God in our church, Papa and I gathered around the computer to listen online to our pastor’s message for the day while Little One watched Journeys for Jesus. We scarfed down some left-over pizza for lunch since it was just the three of us around the kitchen table.

After lunch, we drove Little One to Daughter’s house so Little One could deliver her Mother’s Day gift to her mommy – a basket of pretty pansies and a homemade card, which is so much more of a keepsake than a purchased card anyway.

We visited with our daughter/her mommy from her front porch. She was quarantined behind her glass front storm door. We sat on the opposite side. No hugs, no kisses on the cheek. Just talk between glass. Different? Certainly.

blogIMG_1567The wind kicked up, the sun disappeared behind clouds (again!), and the temperature chilled, so it was time to bid farewell. Being weary of staying home for so many dreary, sun-deprived days, we opted for a Sunday drive around our area’s country roads.

Little One fell asleep in her car seat in the back of our vehicle and the lull of the car’s motion enticed me to take a little nap in the front as well. Papa drove in silence – a bit of peace and quiet for him.

Different Mother’s Day? It sure was.

But one thing wasn’t different. Words of love and appreciation from all of my grown children, photos of my other two little grandchildren, and a special gift delivered by UPS.

My oldest daughter knows I can’t stand the taste of coffee and am a devoted tea drinker. So what did she and my son-in-law send me? What could be more perfect on these unseasonably chilly May days than a hot cup of tea?

My special Mother’s Day gift was a package of “Novel Teas” from Bag Ladies Tea. Each of the 25 English Breakfast tea bags boasts literary tags with humorous or insightful quotes from well-known authors printed upon them.

Quotes like this one from Henry Ward Beecher: “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?”

I could bemoan the fact that I didn’t get to spend Mother’s Day with my beloved offspring and all of my grandchildren. But I won’t because life is just a bit different right now – not terrible, just different and I must keep that in perspective.

“I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.” ~ Martha Washington

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Party!

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The birthday celebration was grand. The My Little Pony theme proved to be a big hit with the younger set and the adults enjoyed a great time of friendship and fellowship as well.

Little One (our first grandchild) turned five. (How can that be???) The children played pin the tail on the pony (Nana made the pony tails and Mommy made the pony), had pony races, got pony cutie marks (washable tattoos), designed their own bookmarks,  made rainbow edible jewelry with Froot Loops cereal,  and smacked the head off a My Little Pony pinata to gather up candy.

Keeping with the My Little Pony theme by using some of the characters’ names, food served included Twilight Sparkle hay bales (Rice Krispie treats), Spike’s spikes (Bugles snacks), Rarity’s crystals (rock candy), Apple Jack’s applesauce, Rainbow Dash’s fruit salad, and Fluttershy’s bunny food (raw veggies and dip).

And now that Little One is five, she now says she wants to be six! Don’t grow up too fast, my sweet grandchild. Remember that F I V E is Fantastic, Incredible, Vivid, and Energetic and enjoy every moment as you grow and learn this year. 

“Grandkids bring you into a sweeter, slower present. They show you the future at a time when a lot of your friends are thinking about the past. And they take you back to childhood–theirs, the parents’, your own: a three-time admittance to wonderland.” ~ Adair Lara

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Experience: a lasting gift

blogIMG_0836Somewhere along the way, I’ve read that the best gift you can give someone is not a material one but the gift of an experience.

I wholeheartedly agree. Especially when it comes to children.  Too often when we think of gift-giving to children, we think about what tangible items we can purchase – new clothes, toys, games, electronics, or books.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with those gifts. Children need clothes and shoes. They enjoy playing with toys. Books and games stimulate their minds. But eventually children grow out of the clothes, toys break, games are relegated to the back shelf, electronics become obsolete, and even books become too simple for them to read.

Those gifts may not last,  but giving a child an opportunity to experience something new, adventurous, or educational will make memories that endure for a lifetime.

Recently, we celebrated our first grandchild’s fifth birthday with her. She enjoyed a fun party with her friends, their parents, and nearby family. Little One’s mommy has a wonderful group of friends from her college days who all get together regularly with their young ones in tow to celebrate special occasions and get-togethers and they were in attendance at the party.   

Little One, as any child would be, was excited to open her presents. But one gift truly made an impression on me and eventually on Little One. One of her mommy’s friends gave her a gift card for admission to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

blogIMG_0769So on her birthday, Mommy, Nana, and Papa took Little One to this place of learning and fun. She had actually been there before when she was around two because a Daniel Tiger exhibit was there at the time and she loved Daniel Tiger. But she only remembers that visit because we have photos to show her.

Now at age five, the experience would make a longer lasting memory. We spent the better part of a day watching Little One explore the many hands-on exhibits, including one about the game of baseball and correlating math and science into the game.

There was so much to see and learn about light, mechanics, building, and even circuitry where Nana and she tried our hand at connecting lights and switches to batteries.  Hands-on exhibits with sand and water fascinated her. An entire floor is devoted to water play where children can pump, channel, and dam the flow of water and even experience rain showers and ice molding.

blogIMG_0793She loved the physical activities of climbing in and out of a two-story tall vertical maze, crossing a “gravity” room (a room tilted at a 25° angle to get to twisty sliding boards, and spinning on large sculptures called “Los Trompos” which resembled spinning tops.

Not only did Little One enjoy herself, but her Mommy, Papa, and Nana did as well. Nana and Papa even joined in creating a virtual puppet show where the puppets on a screen mimicked us as we moved, danced, and jumped.

blogIMG_0826A day to remember. A day to leave the mundaneness of winter and cabin fever behind. An experience that hopefully Little One will always remember.

Little One had a memorable experience thanks to the gift from a friend. And the best part of all was watching her excitement, seeing her eyes light up in wonder, and hearing her laugh. Good medicine for my cabin fever.

“A grandchild’s laughter is the greatest medicine.”  Unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Getting my craft on

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Back in 2012, our dining room table looked like this!

Eight years ago this month, the dining room in our empty nest home was full – not full of people but full of crafty items.

Back in 2012, this mama was up to her eyeballs in preparing for three weddings, three bridal showers, and a rehearsal dinner all in the same year. Believe it or not, all three of our offspring were engaged and all chose to be married in 2012. In order to cushion the expenses of it all, I resorted to hand making items for the events.

It was a whirlwind of a year and I felt like my new occupation became “party planner and creative designer.” The dining room table, covered with various items to be designed, assembled, and readied for the big days to come,  looked like a craft shop exploded.

Ribbon, flowers, lace, hot glue gun, scissors, fancy papers, glue sticks, candles, storage crates, and all kinds of accoutrements to craft special items for church and reception decorations, favors, ceremony programs, invitations, etc. sprawled all over our large dining room table taking up what felt like permanent residence from February through November of that year.

Just this week, it kind of felt like déjà vu.

Our dining room table once again sported spools of ribbon, tape, scissors, ruler, and stapler.  This Mama/Nana was getting her craft on once more.

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Making “pony tails” for Little One’s birthday party

This month marks a special day – not a wedding or bridal shower, but a birthday. Our oldest grandchild, also known in this blog as Little One, is turning five…FIVE! She’s been telling us she wanted to be five for almost a year now and when asked why, her response was, “I just like the number five!”

Much to my amazement, I truly find it incredulous that five years have come and gone since the birth of our sweet first grandchild.

Her mama, our middle daughter, is planning Little One’s birthday party and Nana has been asked to assist a bit with party planning. The special day’s party is “My Little Pony” themed. If you’re not familiar with these little characters, click here.

All things shiny, rainbow-colored, and pony-like are being planned. One of the children’s games will be pin the tail on the pony. Daughter drew one of the ponies on poster board with markers and Nana’s job has been to make “pony tails” for the party goers to tape to the pony while blindfolded (with a pink or purple kerchief, of course!). 

We could have purchased ribbon bows pre-made with curly spirals, but our daughter is on a budget and wanted to keep costs for the party down. So Nana spent the better part of a day constructing pony tails from various colors of curling ribbon that I already had stashed away with gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift bags.

To make the pony tails, I cut eight or nine segments of different ribbons into 24-inch lengths, stacked them on top of one another, then stapled them together in the middle.

Luckily while searching for all the colored ribbon to use, I cleaned out my overly full container of pre-assembled bows and ribbon. I found some old Christmas bows that were smashed and weren’t fit to adorn packages in their condition. But those bows had never been used, so the sticky tab on the backs of them were still good.

blogIMG_0613I carefully pried off the staple that held the tab onto those dilapidated bows and voila, I had a new stick-on tab for the pony tails. I then stapled a tab on each pony tail and covered the sharp ends of the staple with scotch tape on the non-sticky side. 

To curl the ribbon, I pulled one blade of the scissors across each strand on both sides of the sticky tab. I made 16 pony tails in this fashion.

blogIMG_0614I think they turned out pretty cute.  They were simple to make, and this Nana made them with her own hands so lots of love poured into them. And the best part is they didn’t cost a cent.

“When life gives you hands, make handmade.” ~ unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The one we hardly knew

blogScan_knickersWe received the call one day last week. And even though we knew eventually it would come, we still were a bit surprised.

Papa’s oldest brother had passed away. The brother who was so much older than Papa by about 17 years. The brother who joined the navy as soon as he was old enough and was pretty much absent for most of his baby brother’s life.

The brother who, after facing disappointments and difficult circumstances, removed himself from the family for years with little to no contact.

The brother who finally reunited with his elderly parents and his two younger brothers. The brother who attended Papa’s and my wedding and not long afterwards found his own bride.

The brother who with his new wife had a child just a few months before Papa and I had our first little one.

The brother who would take time to see us when we came back to our home state from living far away to visit family, but who never had much to say.

The brother who never talked about his past or about things of importance with us.

The brother, who along with his new family, joined us for funerals when both his and Papa’s parents died. But afterwards, we didn’t have much contact other than annual Christmas cards sent by his wife.

The brother, who, after over a decade of not seeing one another, agreed to meet us for lunch a couple of years ago as we were passing through the area where he lived.

This brother, this man who shared the same parents as Papa, was very different than my husband and even his other brother. And even though they were never close as brothers and didn’t really share the same life experiences, Papa still cared about his oldest brother.

A few short months ago, we learned this brother, who we never really knew very well, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer. Too far advanced for any treatment, this brother spent his last months in a nursing home.

There, after a several hours drive, we visited him a couple of times. We asked him if he needed anything. His answer was no. We asked what we could do for him. His answer was nothing.

We attempted to cheer him with stories. We brought old photographs of him with his parents to help him recall fond memories he might have had with them. He simply looked at them without a word and set them aside.

We hugged him. We told him how much we cared. And we asked him if we could pray for him. He silently nodded, bowed his head, folded his hands, and waited for his younger brother to say the words. To ask God for strength and comfort and peace, for God’s will to be done.

Just before Christmas, we sent this brother a greeting card and told him we would come again to visit him after the holiday was over. But we didn’t make it. He passed away before we arranged to make another trip eastward.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” ~ Anthony Brandt

Even though I certainly did not know this brother of my husband’s very well at all, I do know this.  He was a veteran, proud of having served his country. He was a hard worker who provided for his wife and child. He also served his community for many years as a volunteer fireman and rescue worker. And he lived for over 80 years.

Those are the aspects I know about my brother-in-law.  I don’t know if he loved us, but he seemed to like us at least. I don’t know if he had regrets in life or what made him happy because he never shared those stories or the experiences he had that seemed to cause him emotional pain. I don’t know for certain if he had faith in the same Savior we do.

But I know this – my heart is sad. My heart is sad because I don’t know the answer to that last statement, but I know God does.

My heart is sad for my husband because he had this brother that he really didn’t have a bond or connection with. I am very close to my two older sisters and have always been. So it’s foreign to me to have a sibling that you don’t really know.

And it saddens me that my husband didn’t experience a close relationship with this brother and never really had that opportunity as his brother seemed to close off deep, personal relationships.

What does this sorrowful experience tell me? It tells me to hold your loved ones close to you. Talk with them, share your life with them. Don’t ever let circumstances or difficult experiences keep you from reaching out to your family.

We only have one life to live on this earth. Choose to be present with those who care about you. Choose to open your heart to others. Choose to love and be loved in return.

“Think of your family today and every day thereafter, don’t let the busy world of today keep you from showing how much you love and appreciate your family.” ~ Josiah

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

And so this is Christmas

blogIMG_0169.jpgAnd so this is Christmas. Another holiday over. Another year almost at its end.

Christmas has come and has gone. There’s leftover food in the fridge. Garbage bags full of ripped wrapping paper and ribbons. Cookie crumbs all over the floor. Not to mention the containers of cookies and other treats not eaten taking up space on the kitchen counter.

The Christmas tree which once had gaily wrapped gifts gracing the floor underneath now stands bare and alone. But laundry baskets of towels and sheets are full to the brim.

Christmas is over and this place Papa and I call home is quiet and empty once more. Just a few days ago, the house was noisy and full of joy and laughter.

All the “kids” were home for the holiday this year along with Nana and Papa’s three apples of our eye, our grandchildren. Even the grand-dog, Barley, joined us to celebrate this year.

We enjoyed five days of celebrating together, filling our bellies with good food, our hands with thoughtful gifts, our ears with conversations, our spirits with merry-making and fun, but more importantly, our hearts with much love.

We worshiped our Lord together as a family at church. We listened to time-honored Christmas carols played on the piano by our oldest daughter.

We watched those Christmas movies that make us guffaw every single time and some old VHS tapes (remember those?) from our kids’ childhood that they want to watch every Christmas.

As we gathered around the dining room table for Christmas Day dinner, we continued our tradition of Christmas hopes, writing down our wishes, hopes, or goals to take place by next Christmas. First we take turns reading what we wrote for this year, then we write our wishes for the year to come.  

And we played game after game – some competitive like the candy cane (spoons) card game and Christmas movies team trivia; some just plain silly like charades and marshmallow tower building, and some ridiculous like Beard Ball (we don’t recommend it).

blogIMG_0197Nana fashioned fun times for the little ones as well. The two oldest (almost five and just turned three) searched the house for clues to a hidden treasure (a box of Christmas novelties under the tree) and played round after round of “find Santa.”

And we squeezed in two December birthday celebrations and managed to serve our family tradition of Christmas sundaes.  

All in all, it was a wonderful family Christmas celebration with a crazy white elephant gift exchange thrown in for good measure.

But I find myself wondering did we truly take time to honor the reason we celebrate this holiday in the first place? Were we so busy doing and preparing and gathering and eating and trying to get little ones down for naps and moving on to the next activity that we forgot to focus on Jesus? Did we truly honor our Savior?

blogIMG_1528Our Christmas was definitely family-oriented but I have to wonder was it Christ-centered? Did we really take time to remember the reason for the season? I think we did, but I also think we could have, should have done much better.

That needs to be my Christmas wish for next year and every year thereafter.

“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” ~ Bill Crowder

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Nutcracker memories

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Little One’s fascinated by them too.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved the classical music of The Nutcracker, written by Tchaikovsky. I mean who doesn’t love the idea of a sugar plum fairy dancing in your head while you listen to that beautiful music?

A long time ago, I started a small collection of different nutcrackers and they almost always adorn someplace in our home at Christmas time. I don’t really recall which one I acquired first, but over the years, I’ve added more. But before the collection became too large, I decided to stop and just keep it small.

Of course, The Nutcracker is a famous ballet, usually performed during the Christmas season and I do have a vague recall of having seen it televised when I was a child in the early 1960’s.

Later, as a married adult I attended a live performance of The Nutcracker danced by a ballet company in the city where we lived at the time.  And as our children came along, I decided that one day we would take them to see the ballet as a holiday treat.

We managed to accomplish that, although our son, who was pretty young at the time, fell asleep and missed more than half of the performance. Still it’s a lovely memory in my mind: the five of us all dressed up in Christmas finery traveling into the city to enjoy a live ballet with a Christmas story line.

Our oldest granddaughter seems to share my fascination with nutcrackers. We’ve read the story to her and she remembered that Nana has a set of nutcrackers that decorate the top of the piano at Christmas time.

While Papa and I were hauling out the holly to set our house ablaze with lights and decorations, Little One was here as it was a baby-sitting day.

“Nana, can I help you get the nutcrackers out?” she asked. Well, I’m a grandmother, a doting one, and even though I probably never allowed my own children at her age to help with the nutcrackers in fear that they would break one, of course, I said, “Sure!”

I found the plastic storage bin where the nutcrackers were located, opened it, and one by one, Little One helped me release them from their protective layers of tissue and bubble wrap. Something needed my attention in the kitchen, so I left our granddaughter in the dining room with the decorations.

Re-entering later, I found myself amused that she had lined them all up mostly by height and was enjoying them. So I left again to do something else.

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“Okay, all of you nutcrackers, line up!”

Soon, I heard a little bit of thumping. I called to her and asked if she was alright. She assured me she was. A few minutes afterward, she sought me and asked me to come into the living room. I was shocked at what I found.

My four-year-old grandchild has an eye for decorating! She had crawled up onto the piano bench and placed the nutcrackers, one by one, in a very nice fashion. She was so proud of her accomplishment that she dragged her mama, when she got back from working, in to see her display.

We all chuckled when she announced that she did it all by herself and “I didn’t even get distracted.”

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Little One’s display — just as good as Nana can do!

Those nutcrackers gave me yet another Christmas memory to cherish. And some day, when she’s just a tad older so she won’t fall asleep, this Nana and Papa will take our granddaughter, dressed in her Christmas finery, to see The Nutcracker ballet in person.

And that will be yet another Christmas memory for her and me, I hope.

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale.” ~ Vera Nazarian

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com