Telling My Stories For My Grandchildren

During this Covid19 pandemic quarantine season, what have you been focused on to occupy your time? It’s been a crazy time for sure. I’ve been busy doing various projects but the one I’m most excited about is I’m writing a book dedicated to my grandchildren. This book has been on my heart for a very long time and it feels great to be writing it. It’s a memoir type book but mostly my story (the good, the bad and the ugly) sharing my heart, my fears, reflecting on God’s faithfulness, scriptures I’ve clung to, answers to prayer, etc. to encourage each one of my grandkids and their walk with Christ.
The Lord kept speaking to me to write this book from Deuteronomy 4:9 “…do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart…teach them to your children and their children after them.”
I would cherish a book like this from my grandparents. I would have loved to have their stories written down to share with my grandkids today. I would have loved to have known their hearts, their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses, their favorite scriptures and how God answered their prayers.
I belong to an online writing group called Write More Write Now. Kim Steadman is a dear sister in Christ and the founder of the group. I’m in the middle of a 10-day writing challenge she initiated. The commitment was only 10 minutes a day to write. The last few days I’ve had to pull myself away from my computer…I’ve had a blast.
Today I wrote down some past prayers I’ve prayed and how God answered them…not always the way I thought He should have or could have. I also wrote down funny stories that would come to mind. At one point I laughed so hard I almost cried with tears running down my cheeks. It felt so good to laugh!

I took down some boxes of old photos from our shelf in our closet. It’s been fun to recall the memories behind the photos. I’m still deciding what photos, if any, I will include in my book. And I’m thinking of mailing a few of these old gems to my cousins and friends. It’s better to share them than have them collecting dust, hidden away in our closet.
The world as we have known it, has unusually slowed down a bit. May I encourage you during this Quarantine Phase to take the time to reflect. Do you have old pictures someone else may cherish? Do you have stories on your heart you want to pass onto your children or grandchildren? What will your story be? It will be a treasure you will pass along…but only if you write it. God Bless!

A Summer to Remember

DSC_0425There is something magical about family reunions….especially when nine angelic-faced grandchildren come home for three weeks of getting reacquainted.  My oldest daughter, Katie, her husband Jason and five young kids live in Leesburg, Florida.  Our second daughter Jaymi, her husband Matt and their three children live twenty-minutes from us on Camano Island, Washington.  Our youngest, Michael, his wife Signe and their daughter live in Chandler, Arizona.

For over a year, I ached for this time together.  Every Christmas season, Karen loves to watch all the special holiday movies on the Hallmark channel, and this past season was no different.  The only difference this year was I found myself crying halfway through every sentimental show, while thinking about how much I wished we could all be together for the holidays.

You know how sometimes we look forward to something so much, that when it finally arrives, our expectations were built up so high the actual experience never had a chance to live up to all the hype….this was not one of those times.  This was three weeks of heaven on earth.

Of course bringing four families together, with nine grandchildren ten and under, is like throwing a lamb into the middle of nine playful tiger cubs. Playtime becomes competition time real fast.  Over the course of three weeks we went through three boxes of band aids, filled the ice bag numerous times, kissed many owies, massaged a few bruised egos and I almost resorted to wearing earplugs a few times.

The sweet times though far outnumbered the sour:

  • The Cheshire Cat’s grin was nothing compared to the joy on Jacob’s face as he smashed his first home run over our front yard fence.
  • I was so proud of Logan when he included his little sister Maya in a “boys only” game of basketball.
  • Singing my #1 hit single Papa Loves Hannah to my inconsolable youngest granddaughter and having her fall asleep in my arms.
  • Having my grandkids begging me every night to tell them a new Buster Story, which I had introduced to their Mom’s and Dad years earlier.
  • Making them Swedish pancakes and watching them gorge themselves while giving me the two thumbs up sign and telling me I should open a Papa’s Pancakes restaurant.
  • Pulling my ten-year-old Caleb and five-year-old Jonathan onto my lap and kissing them until tears rolled down their cheeks from laughing.
  • Watching three-year-old Brooklyn gently caress the tight curls of her cousin, Esther.
  • Granting the wish of two-year-old Joshua by letting him vacuum our living room.  (The highlight of his trip)

All these wonderful moments paled in comparison to having the time to strengthen long distance relationships with our grandchildren.  Phone calls work great to stay in touch with our children but not so much with the grandchildren.  Their attention spans are as short as Jonathan’s lizards he catches in Florida.  Skype is better but Katie’s four boys spend all their time jockeying for position to show us their latest toys or reptiles caught that morning.  Esther on the other hand loves to Skype and is a prolific talker.  Her mother, Signe speaks Danish to her which is fantastic but we can never tell if some of her words are in Danish or typical twenty-month-old  jibberish.  (We’re slowly learning some Danish words though)

Let me describe for you, in a sentence or two, some insight into each of our Grandchildren from oldest to youngest:

  • Logan – Papa’s boy.  Always a hug, always a smile, always sports, DSC_0188 (4)always a conversation starting with, “What did you and Ama do yesterday?”
  • Caleb – Our freckle faced leader.  A ferocious competitor, passionate DSC_0188 (3)debater, little sister’s protector, speedy soccer player and Buster Story lover.
  • Jacob – This gentle spirit drifts silently among his cousins.  Never DSC_0628demanding, but demands justice and peace.  Papa’s pancake eating champion.
  • Maya – Compassionate and selfless.  Her smile can light up a room, DSC_0182melt your heart and make you laugh.  Will make some lucky man a great wife someday.
  • Jonathan – The pint sized whirling dervish of constant motion.  Part DSC_0394snake charmer, part magician, part gladiator and 100% little boy.
  • Brooklyn – The little princess (and has a wardrobe to prove it).  Dainty DSC_0205 (2)in size but strong in spirit.  Her beautiful blue eyes are as deep and mysterious as her personality.  Ama’s girl.
  • Joshua – Golden haired little helper.  Loves to vacuum, loves to sit on DSC_0389 (2)Ama’s lap, loves to vacuum, loves to play, loves to vacuum, loves to fetch the baseballs hit by his brothers and cousins.  Oh….did I mention that he loves to vacuum.
  • Esther – Our bi-lingual beauty.  Her many words flow as effortlessly DSC_0212 (2)from her lips as her ebony locks flow around her sweet face.  Loves, loves, loves Molly our Golden Retriever.
  • Hannah – Sweetness in diapers.  Loves to be sung to.  Will be as tough DSC_0744 (2)as her brothers but as gentle as her mother.

 

I miss them already and hope to bring them all together again in two years.

Can you describe your loved ones in a few sentences?  Try it and share your descriptions with us on our Desire to Inspire website: https://desiretoinspire.life/

The first person to share on our website will receive a copy of Karen’s book, Trust Me My Child.  Through the simplicity of our daughter playing in a mud puddle, Karen was able to recognize the love of God and His peace that passes all understanding.

 

 

 

SUMMER TIME BLUES….Part 2

DSC_0057DSC08863In my last post, https://desiretoinspire.life/avoiding-summer-vacation-blues/, I promised to share some ideas on how to build a legacy of stress free summer fun with your kids while still enjoying some time for yourself.  My mother had the right idea.  She loved to spend time with me, my sister and brother.  She also wanted to instill in each of us the value of learning how to work and save money.

We lived in the country on five acres.  She enjoyed taking care of her many flowerbeds and her vegetable garden.  After breakfast and an hour of watching cartoons on T.V., we would all go outside with her and help weed and pick out rocks (which seemed to magically grow faster than the weeds).  When the weeding was finally under control, the lawn needed mowing, sapling Alder trees needed to be chopped down, cows needed to be fed and manure needed to be shoveled into a  wheelbarrow and spread in the field (my least favorite job).

After helping her, she would fix us lunch and we were free to play.  She was a good basketball player and took great pleasure at beating me in  games of h-o-r-s-e (she was the master of the, back to the basket, toss the ball behind you and over your head, shot).  On rainy days, she would teach us card games and play Monopoly with us.  After dinner, we helped her with the dishes and then the evening was her time to relax (Dad was often available for a card game after dinner).

Once a week, we were paid an allowance for our services.  We put 1/2 into our savings and we could keep 1/2 to spend on whatever we wanted.

As each of us grew older we picked strawberries for farmers within bicycle riding distance.  Sometimes my mother would wrap a bandana around her head, drive to the strawberry field in the early afternoon, and help us fill our flats until it was time to go.  Our bicycles were shoved in the trunk and she would drive us home.  One time, she brought our dog, Fluffy, to the strawberry field and left him in the car while she helped us.  Unfortunately, Fluffy wasn’t too keen on being locked up in the car and proceeded to show his displeasure by ripping both the front and back seats to shreds.

Okay….Let’s transition from my visit down memory lane and jump ahead fifty-years.  My how things have changed:

  • 49% of mothers didn’t have a job outside the home in 1967.  Stay-at-home mothers hit an all time low at 29% in 1999 but has steadily risen to 39% in 2015.
  • Another fun fact:  From six men who identified themselves as truly stay-at-home fathers during the 1970’s http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/08/stay-at-home-dads_n_7234214.html   rose to 1.9 million in 2015.  Many of these men became stay-at-home fathers due to unemployment, sickness of a spouse, retirement, etc. but 20% made the choice to give up their careers to raise their children.
  • Interestingly even though most mothers had more time at home fifty-plus years ago statistics say that the modern mother and father spend more time with their children.

I believe because of the vast quantity of parenting material made readily available on the internet and social media over the past 35 years, parents are much more in tune with the needs of their children’s and their own needs.  All this information has created its own problem….FALSE GUILT.

Many working mothers still feel guilty about having to leave their children with others.  Some try to make up for it by spending their way out of guilt. They smother their children with every kind of indulgence hoping gifts and entertainment will quiet the self-condemnation they feel.  Others will pour every spare minute they have into their children, while neglecting their own needs and the needs of their husband.  This often leads to either burnout or resentment.

Stay-at-home mothers may also suffer from feelings of guilt.  They naturally have more time on their hands.  They often use this time with friends, for community service, hobbies and with their spouse.  Even though they spend time with their children, they wonder if the time spent was enough or if it was regarded as “quality time”.

Even fathers can fall into this trap.  How do I know?  Because the sharp teeth of this trap had clamped onto my leg one too many times as a young father.  You see…. my father drove a milk truck for a living.  Cows are notorious for not taking days off from giving milk.  That meant my father didn’t take many days off when I was young.

He tried his best to spend time with his kids, but he was often too tired to spend as much time as we all wanted from him.   When I became a father, I made an inner vow.  No matter what job I had, I would always make myself available to my children….no matter how tired I was.

My first mistake was making a noble but silly vow like that.  The second was actually trying to keep it.  I often failed and then felt guilty.  It’s crazy to feel bad about something you didn’t do.

So all of this is a lead up to how you can avoid the summer time blues.  Here are 10 things you can do to make this summer memorable for you and your kids.

  1. STOP FEELING GUILTY!  Enough said.
  2. No matter what age they are, teach them how to help you with the daily household chores.  No one is going to call the CPS on you for developing in them a good work ethic.  I know….I know; It’s easier just to do it yourself.  Well it is at first, for sure.  But don’t underestimate them. Start out with one task and when they master that, give them another.  Like my Mother did, offer them an incentive they will value more than the work.
  3. Organize your week ahead of time.  Include your kids in this and not only will they learn valuable planning skills but they will take ownership in the activities (including daily chores).  Unplanned things are bound to throw a monkey wrench into your detailed plans from time to time but again, use these as teachable moments to instill in them flexibility and to come up with creative solutions.
  4. Plan a special summer vacation with your children.  Planning a vacation often times is just as much fun as the vacation itself.  Young children don’t need much extra prodding to get excited….including your teenagers in the process is critical.  I have video footage of us packing our mini-van for a much-needed vacation; well, at least to my wife and I it was much-needed.  My two daughters were not too thrilled about hijacking them to a place they never heard of and were not shy about sharing their feelings at the crack of dawn.
  5. If you can’t afford a big summer vacation, give your kids day-trip options they can choose from.  Make sure they leave their cell phones at home, bring a picnic lunch or find a restaurant you have never eaten at and make memories at a local park or beach.
  6. Arrange time for your kids to play with their school friends.  Many children really miss their schoolmates.  Have a sleepover.  Put up a tent in the back yard, barbecue some hot dogs, make some smors, tell a ghost story and take pictures for show and tell once school starts back up.
  7. Be creative.  Make a movie.  Let your kids write a script, pull out your Halloween garb, help them build a simple set and record their epic adventure.
  8. Encourage them to read. Offer an incentive for reading a set amount of books throughout the summer.
  9. Encourage them to learn a new sport.  Give them swimming, tennis, golf, or martial arts lessons.  Teach them favorite sport or hobby.
  10. And finally….fill the kid’s pool, put on some sun screen, pour yourself some ice tea, grab that neglected novel and relax.  You deserve it.

You might also enjoy reading Cheryl Butler’s article on enjoying your summer vacation with your kids at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/parenting/school-age/how-to-enjoy-summer-vacation-without-losing-your-mind-part-1

Grandparents Most Valuable Gift….

Out of all the memories I have of my grandparents, what do I recall with the most fondness?

Roller Coaster Santa

As a child, each year could be described as a roller coaster with many ups and downs.  The anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve was like the slow climb up the final, steep incline on that roller coaster.  Just thinking about spending the next few days at both sets of grandparents playing with long-distance cousins, eating all the cookies, pie and candy I wanted, hoping for snow, and opening presents was almost more than I could handle.

The reality was that my siblings and I would end up fighting with our cousins, I always ended up with a stomach ache from eating too many sweets, it never snowed, and a few days after Christmas I was bored with my new presents. I know my grandparents put a lot of energy (and money) into making the holidays great but looking back I don’t remember spending any alone time with them.  They were too busy being good hosts, while taking care of everyone’s needs, to play with me.

The same could be said about my grandparents organizing trips to the zoo, family reunions and birthday parties.  While all these things were fun times with my grandparents, family photos are the only way I remember any details regarding those events; so what do I remember about my grandparents in which don’t need old photographs to flood my mind with vivid details of emotions.

I remember my grandfather giving me his Swiss Army knife, pouring me a glass of Pepsi, and showing me how to whittle a car out of a block of wood so I could compete in the local Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby race.  I remember taking my grandmother by the hand and leading her down into the basement I was too afraid to go to by myself.  She would open up the mysterious closet door and pull out musty smelling books and games, which had belonged to my father and his brothers, and play with me for hours.  I remember the smell of salt water and the sound of my grandparent’s laughter as my grandfather had to hold onto my pant’s belt so I wouldn’t fall overboard as I struggled to reel in my first salmon.

On Thursday mornings, Karen and I watch three of our grandkids for an hour until their mother gets off work.  Yesterday, Karen asked me if we could give our daughter a break and watch the kids all afternoon.  In my mind I rattled off a list of things I needed (desired) to accomplish that day like:

  • Assemble our new barbeque which came with a million parts.
  • Go to the dentist for my broken filling.
  • Call Costco’s concierge service over a computer glitz because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to computer problems.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • And figure out what I would write for my next blog post.

Instead of accomplishing anything on that list, except for a glorious trip to the dentist, we decided to invest the best gift you can give to your grandkids (or kids); the gift of our undivided attention.  We played basketball, jumped rope, threw water balloons, built a fort, hurled magnetic darts at a felt baseball diamond, and engaged in a games of checkers and Blokus.  And while I didn’t get my afternoon nap, the youngest granddaughter did.

What are your favorite memories with your parents or grandparents?  What can you do to make unforgettable memories with your loved ones?

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