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


Be still…as time goes on

blogIMG_7808Over 30 years ago, I held my last born baby in my arms. That boy gave us such joy. And in the years to come, that joy increased and grew as surely as our son did.

And now, that baby is a grown-up man. Our son is husband to a lovely (inside and out) wife and father to two precious little girls, one just newly introduced into this world.

While I just was still on my blogging/writing sabbatical, Papa and I took the opportunity to travel to meet our newest granddaughter. Welcome hugs greeted Nana and Papa when the new baby’s big sister met us at the door and then…as my arms filled with that new little life, so perfect and beautiful, my eyes welled up with tears, my nose caught her sweet newborn baby aroma, and my heart exploded with love.

Over 30 years ago, a friend gave me a gift upon the birth of my last born baby – that boy become man who is now father to this new child.  The picture, a framed print with two little baby feet on it and a quote from Carl Sandburg, hung on the nursery room wall until that baby boy became a toddler. 

As our boy grew out of babyhood, the picture was relegated to the box of no longer used items, stored away, but those words not forgotten.

And as I held my newest grandchild and photographed her tiny, adorable toes (photo above), that quote came back to my mind.

“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” —Carl Sandburg

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©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Here we go again


action activity balls day

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

It was a bit of a déjà vu or, at the very least, that feeling of coming around full circle.

On a sunny but cool Saturday morning this past weekend, Papa and I were settled in our folding camp-style chairs on the sidelines cheering a youngster on the soccer field just like we’ve done countless times before in the past.

But this time, Mama and Papa were gray-haired and years older. This time, we weren’t cheering our own youngsters running up and down the length of the playing field.  This time we were encouraging our four-year-old granddaughter during her very first ever soccer game.

Incredulously, our Little One began her first soccer season this spring, learning the sport that her own mommy loved and played continuously through her school years and into college.

Incredulously, our Little One looked so big with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and clad in her YMCA soccer shirt, shorts, shin guards, knee-high socks, and cleats, carrying her water bottle.  Where did the time go???

Wasn’t it just yesterday, she was a newborn baby and those feet now sporting soccer cleats were tiny little barefoot ones? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was learning to say “ba, ba, ball” instead of kicking around a bright pink soccer ball of her own?

And wasn’t it just yesterday this Mama was the one hauling her own children to sports practices, games, and meets? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a “soccer Mom”?  And a baseball Mom, a cross country Mom, a track Mom, a volleyball Mom, and a basketball Mom?

And now I’m a “soccer Nana”.  You blink and no longer are you parents of young athletes playing their favorite sports. Now you are doting grandparents reliving those days gone by as you watch the grands growing up.

Now in these empty nest years as grandparents, we’re smiling, cheering, clapping, and laughing while trying to capture moments with our cell phone cameras at the antics of four and five year olds as they attempt to maneuver the ball into the net. 

We have always jokingly called soccer at this level “bunch ball” as the players bunch around the ball trying to kick it. And bunch they did even if our Little One was a little hesitant to immerse herself into the fray.

She did make her mommy, Nana and PaPa proud as she managed to kick the ball (in the right direction too!) and jump back up without crying when she got knocked down.

As this empty nest Nana recalls sweet memories from years past of all of those activities of our own children when they were young, I’ll be eagerly making new ones with the grandchildren.

So for the next few weeks if you need me on a Saturday morning, you can find me on the sidelines of the soccer field. Here we go again!

“As I grew older I thought the best part of my life was over…then I was handed my first grandchild and realized the best part of my life had just begun.” ~ unknown

(Note: Neither my grandchild nor her teammates are depicted in the photo above. In order to protect their identities, I chose not to publish a photo of them, but use a stock photo from the WordPress free photo library instead.)

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Slumbering thoughts

girl sleeping with her brown plush toy

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I held something incredibly precious in my arms today.

A sleeping child. But not just any child, my first-born grandchild who is three and a half and seldom naps any more.

Her Mommy left for her early morning hospital shift, so Papa and Nana were on child care duty for the day. A busy day mapped out ahead of us. 

After breakfast, Little One got her face and hands washed, teeth brushed, dressed in her outfit for the day, put on her backpack that seems almost as big as her, and we headed out the door for preschool.

After her morning there, we picked Little One up at preschool and whisked her off to a lunch out where she got an extra treat – a special cookie. Then we stopped at one of her favorite places – a nearby town’s library where there is an amazing and huge children’s section room complete with two play areas in addition to books galore.  There she not only played and chose some books to check out, but she got to touch newly-hatched chicks as well.

After another couple of stops for errands, it was time to travel back home. Little One was so tuckered out by this time she fell asleep in the car. Still in slumber-land when we arrived home, Papa gently dislodged her from her car seat, carried her inside, and laid her on the family room couch.  Mama sat down on the love seat with a new library book to keep watch.

About 20 minutes later, Little One opened her eyes, gave a little moan, and looked at me. I attended to her by walking over to the couch, holding out my arms, and she willingly let me pick her up, nuzzling against me as I did so.

I carried her, her limp little legs dangling in front of me, to the love seat, sat down, and she was already back to sleep.

As that dear little sleeping one nestled against my chest, her silky tendrils of hair curled around my fingers. With her little arms wrapped around my neck and her downy head so close to mine, I could smell her sweet breath (still as sweet as when she was a baby) each time she inhaled in and out in peaceful slumber.  

When I tipped my head to gently kiss her forehead, my love for this child swelled and filled my heart until I thought it might burst.  I could feel her little heart beat soundly against mine and I wondered if our hearts will always be connected, no matter what.

While I watched her sleep so serenely, it occurred to me that she must feel safe and secure in Nana’s arms. What a good feeling that must be. Not too long ago it seems, I cradled her as a tiny baby, totally dependent on her mommy, her Papa, and me, her Nana.

Now she is so big and seemed even more so as she slept in my arms. So tall, so bright and articulate, so eager to learn new things, so happy to run into Nana’s arms again after she’s been away from me.

And before I know it, she will be bigger yet. Older. More independent. Off to school all day instead of just a couple of hours a couple of days a week.

As I held my dearest grandchild, I thought of my other grandbaby, who is also not a baby any more as she will turn two all too soon. Before I know it, she too will be almost too big to sleep in Nana’s arms.

The thought of it made me melancholy. Surprising tears brimmed over in my eyes when I imagined my sweet grandbabies all grown up as adults and living lives after Nana and Papa are long gone.  

I thought of my own grandmothers, the ones who never had the opportunity to see me grow up.  One I never knew since she died when I was a baby and the other taken away from me too soon when she passed in my ninth year of life. My memories of her are special but few.

Will my grandchildren remember me with as much love in their hearts that it almost hurts? The kind of love I possess for them? Will I have enough time left in my life to spend precious moments with them, watch them grow up, make memories that they hopefully will remember for the rest of their own lives?

There is no way of knowing for certain as the answer to that lies in God’s hands.

So I treasure the moments I have to spend with these adorable grandchildren of mine. Moments to make memories hopefully to last a lifetime. Moments for this Nana to remember the sweetness of these little ones before they grow up.

“No one can possess an afternoon of rain beating against the window, or the serenity of a sleeping child, or the magical moment when the waves break on the rocks. No one can possess the beautiful things of this Earth, but we can know them and love them. It is through such moments that God reveals himself to mankind.” ~ Paulo Coelho

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Million dollar concert

blogIMG_5548 (3)It’s back to school time in our area. Summer vacations are officially over with the passing of Labor Day yesterday. School buses ventured by our house early this morning.

Even though the temperature is deceiving with sultry weather in the 90’s and humidity to match, back to school days always make me think it’s the beginning of the fall season.

And believe it or not, I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that our oldest little grandchild is old enough now to attend preschool. Today is her very first day of three-year-old classes two days a week.

How did that happen? How did she get to be a preschooler already? Wasn’t it just the other day she was a tiny little babe in our arms?

She’s grown in so many ways. Physically getting taller with long curly hair. But oh, that vocabulary has progressed so much. Just the other day she informed me that a certain smell she discovered was “disgusting.”

And the things she knows and can talk about? Amazing.

Life with a three-year-old in the house proves never dull, that’s for certain. She always finds something to do or say that amuses us. Her thirst to understand how things happen or work is insatiable and we are constantly answering “why” questions.

Just the other day, Papa and I took our little one to the supermarket with us while her mama was at work. She couldn’t wait to go and on our way driving to the store, she proclaimed what she thought we needed to purchase. “Blueberries, strawberries, milk…” The list went on.

Once we arrived, she was happy to discover children-sized shopping carts. “I love this store!” she enthused while she pushed her cart around and proceeded to load it up with fruit and vegetables. When we got to the snack aisle, she picked up a bag of Cheetos and put them in her pint-sized cart.

“I want these,” she told us. “I couldn’t find them last weekend.”

She sounded so big. So adult-like. And it boggled my mind.

While shopping, we ran into an acquaintance that I rarely see. She asked if our little one was my grandchild. After affirming she was, I asked this lady if she had grandchildren yet. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when she said, “Oh yes!”

“Isn’t being a grandparent the greatest thing ever?” I asked. “Oh, it is!!” she exclaimed back.

It truly is joy magnified. You might say my two grandchildren are the apples of my eye.  They are!  We don’t get to see our youngest one because our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter live several hours away in another state so we truly treasure time with her.

But we are blessed to have our oldest grandchild in our lives almost daily and doubly blessed to be able to spend so much time with her, watching her grow and change and develop.

One day, she gathered her Mama, Papa, and her Nana all together and instructed us to sit on the living room couch and hold hands. We complied, wondering what in the world we were in for.

She climbed up onto the piano bench and proceeded to serenade us with her own brand of piano music. Once her concert was over, she hopped off the bench, told us to clap, and took a bow.

What do you think? Were we a rapt audience or were we wrapped around her little finger? Either way, I wouldn’t trade it for a million bucks.

“What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.” ~ Gene Perret

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


A little blessing

blogIMG_3918.jpgIt was like a little Easter blessing.

How often does a little one initiate a conversation about Jesus through a totally off-topic discussion?

A few days before Easter, my daughter was telling me about someone who had gotten married. My three-year-old granddaughter, playing in the room at the time, evidently was listening to our conversation.

She turned to her mommy and pronounced, “I got married!”

We smiled at Little One and her mommy asked her, “Oh, you did? Well, who did you marry?”

Little One paused for only a second or two and promptly answered, “Jesus!”

“You married Jesus?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” she replied, “cause I love him and he loves me.”

The sweetness of her statement just melted our hearts.

But there was more.

She then asked where he was and why he wasn’t here in the house.

We tried to explain in terms a three-year-old would understand that Jesus lives in heaven, but that his spirit is right here with us, all the time, always there to help and care for us.

“But I want to see him!” she exclaimed. “He needs to come to our house!”

We attempted to explain that when you love Jesus, he takes a place in your heart, even though you can’t see him. Hard theology to understand for such a little one maybe.

But then she seemed to grasp that. “Jesus is in my heart!” she joyfully proclaimed.  “And he’s in Mommy’s heart and Nana’s heart!”

Then she ran to her Papa and tried to tell him that Jesus was in his heart too, although we had to clarify to Papa what she was saying because he had missed out on the entire conversation since he was in another room at the time.

The simple unhindered faith of a child. Isn’t that what the Lord asks us to have?

It seemed to satisfy her for a bit, but then a few moments later, she announced, “But I still want to see Jesus.”

Well, she does see him. She sees him in those who believe in him. She sees him in those of us who love her so very much, enough to tell her Jesus loves her more than we do. She sees him in our pastor when she hears him tell the children in our church about Jesus. She sees him working in our lives when we pray with her.

Later in the week, Daughter and I took Little One to a garden center that has fun Easter displays for children and those young in heart. We saw the displays of Easter bunnies, chicks, and other decorations. Little One was even brave enough to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and get her picture taken.

But more importantly, she saw the reason why we celebrate this holiday in the final display. The real reason for Easter. The sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and the hope of resurrection he gave us that Easter Sunday morning when the tomb his body was laid in proved empty.

And Little One got to ‘see’ Jesus – granted it was only a pretend facsimile of him but it gave her a concrete idea. And it gave us more opportunity to tell our Little One about the love of a Savior.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little Ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. 

Childlike faith. I’m reminded through the eyes of my little grandchild that my faith must consist of completely trusting, without a doubt, the One who loves me and her and you so much he went to the cross for us.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~ Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Three years later

Three years ago this month, I had no idea.

I had no idea what the future held and what was in store for me.

I had no idea that I could love another with such fierceness and intensity.

I had no idea that becoming a grandmother would fill my heart with such amazing joy.

Three years ago this month, Papa’s and my first grandchild was born on a bitterly cold, dark, middle-of the night, wee hours of the morning day.

She was tiny, but the love that swelled inside my heart for this itty-bitty darling the first time I held her in my arms was mammoth.

After waiting hours upon hours in the hospital for her arrival, we got our first glimpse of her and held her. And even though we had been up all day and night waiting for her entry into this world, I found myself so excited and thrilled that I couldn’t sleep afterwards.

For months prior to her birth, I wondered how I would take to grandparenthood. I confess that I wasn’t always the best mother, sometimes so impatient with my own children. And I feared I’d be the same with a grandchild.

On top of that, I’ve never really been a ‘baby person.’ What I mean by that is that if given a choice between sitting in a church nursery with babies and teaching a wild group of teens, I’d take the teens any day.

Babies just weren’t ‘my thing.’ Don’t get me wrong, I loved my own three babies and being their mother, but parenting infants and toddlers was a challenge for me.

But that all changed the day my first grandchild gripped her tiny hand around my finger. That all changed when I gazed into her eyes. And when I photographed her teeny feet.

That all changed as I cradled her in my arms. And rocked her to sleep. And felt her warm fuzzy head against my shoulder.

That all changed as I welcomed her into my heart and it swelled to gargantuan proportions with perfect love.

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” ~ Welsh Proverb

And now that newborn baby is a child. A child turning three years old. A child with a mind of her own. A child who cracks me up with the things she says. And does.

A child who melts my heart every time she crawls into my lap, wraps her arms around my neck, and tells me, “I love you, Nana!”

So this month, I will not only celebrate the third birthday of my first grandchild, but will celebrate the day I became a Nana. What a wonderful day it was and is.

“If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I’d have had them first.” ~ Lois Wyse

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A year of firsts

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First birthday!

It’s the first day of March, so it seems appropriate to proclaim another kind of first. Actually here at Mama’s Empty Nest, it’s been a year of firsts.

Last month, we celebrated one of those firsts – our grandbaby’s first birthday. I know it sounds trite, but truly it is hard to believe a year has come and gone since that amazing day when Papa and I became grandparents (PaPa and Nana) to our very first grandchild.

And what a year of firsts it has been ever since!

First of all, I never realized how much unconditional love can swell up inside your heart until it feels like it might just explode when you lay eyes on that first grandchild of yours.  Friends who were already grandparents tried to explain it to me but I just didn’t get it…not until I held that little bundle of pure joy in my own arms.

And then there’s the firsts of watching that tiny baby becoming her own person. Every milestone a grandbaby achieves, every first from the first smile to the first step fills your heart with so much love, joy, delight, wonder, the list goes on…it’s pretty indescribable.

And being a special Nana to our little darling has exceeded my wildest expectations. When she reaches for me with her tiny little arms, I melt.

When she gives me that adorable toothy grin, I melt.

When she curls up in my lap to read a book together, I melt.

When she giggles and squeals, I melt.

When her eyes light up with excitement, I melt.

When she learns something new and we clap our hands right along with her to celebrate her achievement, I melt.

When she toddles all over the house with those cute little baby steps, I melt.

Often I just gaze at her in wonder…and I melt.  And sometimes tears come to my eyes when I realize how overwhelmed I am with love for this adorable little human being.

With so many firsts crammed into this first year of baby’s life, her mama just had to celebrate by holding a first birthday party for her. 

Family and friends gathered together for her ‘Winter One-derland’ celebration one Sunday afternoon in February, the month our little snowflake turned one year old.  Her aunties and uncles on her mama’s side traveled from miles away just to celebrate this first birthday with the baby niece (their first) who has captivated their hearts as well.   

And even though it was one frigidly cold winter day, our hearts were made warm watching baby girl dressed in her frilly pink, lavender, pale blue, and white tutu (made by her mama) enjoy her first big party in her honor.  

You might say this Nana’s heart was one big melted puddle. And that wasn’t the first time. 

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” ~Welsh Proverb

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com