Posted in family, grandparenting, Life

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

Posted in grandparenting, Life

Words for Wednesday: closer look

Sometimes the teacher is really the student.

Papa and I spend a lot of time with our oldest grandchild since we provide childcare for our daughter while she works.

When our grandchild is with us, we do a lot of game playing, enacting the roles she provides with her active imagination, and doing outside activities as well like gardening, vegetable picking, flower tending.

So much of the time we do educate her. Papa shows her how to fix something; Nana helps her practice writing her letters and numbers, doing simple math, talking about shapes, sizes, and patterns, learning how to sound out words in the books we read together.

She learns how to make certain crafts from us, how much water it takes to keep her fairy garden growing, and so much more.

I believe we also teach her about faith in God, about the world around us, and about life in general.  But you know what? She teaches us a lot too.

She shows us how vivid an imagination can be and she demonstrates how we should view this world we live in, how to see wonder in the smallest aspects of life from a child’s perspective.

During one of our country drives, Little One gave us a commentary from her back seat car seat each time we came upon a new scene out the vehicle windows.

“Oh, Nana!” she exclaimed as we drove along a long, winding road finally reaching the pinnacle where the view around was pretty amazing, “It’s SO beautiful!”

And you know what? It truly was a beautiful view which may not have even registered as so for us. She notices small things that wouldn’t even cross Nana and Papa’s radar screen like the day she found a praying mantis slowly walking along in the mulch around our shrubs.

We had walked right past it and never saw it. But not Little One. She spied it right away, caused us to stop when she asked what kind of bug it was, and she spent a good bit of time watching it as it made its way up onto the boxwood shrub.  

All of it delighted her. And when she’s delighted, so are we. Grandchildren teach us to slow down, notice what might have been unseen, and take a closer look so we don’t miss a wonderful moment in life.

And that’s a lesson we all need to learn no matter what our age.

“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” ~ A.R. Ammons, American poet

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in family, grandparenting

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

Posted in birthday, family, grandparenting

Words for Wednesday: Party!

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

Posted in family, grandparenting

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

Posted in Christmas, family, grandparenting, Home, photography

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

Posted in Christmas, family, grandparenting, photography, Uncategorized

Words for Wednesday: dear Santa

blogIMG_0023.jpgA trip to a nearby farm to choose a real Christmas tree for daughter and granddaughter also provided a fun visit to see Santa Claus. And an opportunity to write him a Christmas letter. blogIMG_0053

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blogIMG_0061Our little one truly has been very good this year so I imagine those special wishes she whispered to Santa just might be fulfilled.

“Dear Santa, I hope you and your elves been very busy, because I’ve been very good.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in family, grandparenting

Child-like joy

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Jumping for joy in the rain

When did we start to lose that joy we felt as a child over the simplest things?

You know, that joy that comes from swirling your tongue around an icy cold ice cream cone on a sweltering summer day?

That joy that bubbles up inside of you when you watch a butterfly land on a bright yellow flower and you just have to smile with happiness?

That squeal of delight that bursts forth from your mouth when you spin round and round until you’re dizzy and fall on the ground laughing?

When did it stop? Because for a lot of us, somewhere along the way to adulthood, it did. It ceased.

Was it when we entered the teen years because we wanted to look cool instead of expressing delight in the things that we now considered ‘childish?’ Was it even earlier than that when adults told us to grow up, and stop acting like children even though we still were that very thing?

Or was it in adulthood when the realities of living in the world, taking care of yourself, and facing responsibility outweighed those joy-filled moments?  

I thought of this the other day while watching our three-year-old grandchild. We were outside enjoying a sunny summer day and she was “helping” Nana and Papa with some yard work.  As the afternoon progressed, the sun slipped behind some gray-tinged clouds that moved in when we weren’t looking.

Suddenly, it started to sprinkle rain drops. Here. There. Drip. Drop.  Then the raindrops fell quickly, leaving little splashes of water on the sidewalk and on us. Just a light and soft rain but enough that Papa started putting garden tools away in the garage and Nana escaped to sit on the front porch.

But not Little One! Oh no, she tilted her face upwards to the gently falling rain, held her arms upward, and exclaimed, “It’s raining! It’s raining! Nana, I love rain!!”

blogimg_4303.jpgShe danced up and down the sidewalk, twirled in circles with outstretched arms, and leaped into the air repeating how much she adored rain and she thoroughly enjoyed getting wet.

She didn’t scurry to get in out of the rain shower, she embraced it. She didn’t dash to obtain an umbrella, she ran with joy and abandonment through the rain soaking up every delicious drop of joy.

Because to her, it was something of joy. Something delightful to behold. Something to savor and revel in and yes, seize the moment to totally relish it.

I observed her briefly and suddenly began laughing myself as her joy became contagious. This little one was teaching her grandmother an important lesson. Joy comes from within. 

I ran inside the house to grab my camera to capture those moments of child-like joy on the face of my grandchild.

I wanted to freeze this moment in time because someday she will be a teenager, and all too soon she will be a grown-up.  Will she still feel the same way about a sudden little rain shower? Probably not.

She’ll view it as an inconvenience preventing her from whatever she wanted to accomplish. She’ll bemoan the fact that it is ruining her plans for the day. Or it’s messing up her hairstyle. Or some other reason not to find joy in the rain.

As I watched her that afternoon, a wish for her entered my thoughts that she never lose her joy or her enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of life. That she embraces life, come what may, just like she embraced the rain that day. With utter and complete joy. 

And this Nana will try diligently to model that for her and teach her to consider all things in this life with joy. 

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.” ~ Richard Wagner, German composer

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in grandparenting, Spring

Spring’s bubbling up all over

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“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (English poet, 1792-1822)

It’s finally here. My second favorite season. Spring.

I fling wide open the door and grass so green it personifies the Crayola crayon that bears its name greets me. Happy sunshine-faced yellow dandelions (I know, they’re weeds, but to me they are a welcome sign of spring) profusely dot our 2.25 acre yard.

It’s spring! Perennials push their way up to the surface preparing to explode into colorful blooms.  I step outside and breathe in deeply the welcoming aroma of freshly cut grass and clean, pure spring breezes. Before I know it, the tantalizing scent of blossoming peonies will permeate the air as well.

It’s spring! And I suddenly emerge from my self-induced cocoon of winter hibernation with a burst of energy like a newborn foal. Okay, maybe I’m not as limber and frisky as one, but I do experience a surge of get-up-and-go.

I believe when the Almighty created this world He knew we would need a season of rest and dormancy like winter and following it, a season of vitality and a fresh new start to life once more. And I’m so grateful for it.

Last weekend, my spring really kicked into high gear. Even though the temperature was still a mite chilly, armed with a kneeling pad, trowels, shovel, and rake, I eagerly donned a sweatshirt and some gardening gloves and jaunted outside to attack some chores that desperately needed attention. 

It turned out to be perfect weather for digging up the overgrown perennial flower bed, thinning out some plants, clipping away the old and hauling it to the compost pile in order to welcome in the new. 

The sun warmed my back as our daughter and Little One, our granddaughter, ventured out to help me accomplish my goal.

Spring! Little One can’t wait to play outside every day. And spring is ever joyful when sharing it with Little One.

Even though there is much on the outside to-do list and projects galore around the empty nest, as the days grow longer and the sunshine becomes more abundant, there’s plenty of time to channel my new-found energy into play time with her too.

To watch bubbles soar and float through the air as she blows them. To cheer her on as she races her ride-on toys up and down the sidewalk. To watch her let sand sift through her tiny fingers in the sandbox.

To listen to her squeal of delight over touching an earthworm Nana just found in the dirt. To help her pick the tiny wild violets, known to us as johnny-jump-ups, springing up amidst the blades of grass.

Each moment creates a fresh, new experience to remember and that bubbles over in my heart. Just like spring.

“I am so fresh in soul and spirit that life gushes and bubbles around me in a thousand springs.” ~ Robert Schumann

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com