Category Archives: spending time with kids

BREAD, SALT AND WINE

Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

Dear Mom,

A Christmas tradition in our family is to watch the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.  There are many memorable lines, but one of my favorites is the blessing Mary Bailey gives to a family as they move into their little house .

The couple stands at the threshold of their new home, and she presents them with three things: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. Wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

Three genuine, inexpensive and heartfelt gifts ~ perfect blessings to be incorporated in a Christmas movie.

Bread, salt and wine…and in our family, after a big  Christmas dinner with special dishes we all love, we also have a specific dessert: Birthday cake with white icing and candles. We sing “Happy Birthday” to the Baby Jesus, and the kids make the wishes and blow out the candles.

We don’t have an abundance of commercial decorations or give extravagant gifts. In addition to lights, a tree is decorated with homemade and collectible ornaments, a poinsettia plant or two adorn tables, and maybe a fresh wreath with a red velvet ribbon hangs at the front door. The Hummel figurine of the Christ Child and little animals sits on the mantel. Each family still has a handmade wall hanging you stitched for us almost thirty years ago: “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.”

The gifts are often practical, personal, and memorable. This year, Mom, your ten-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, gave you flannel pajamas that match hers, so you can be slumber party buddies even though you live two hundred miles apart. I let you open this one present early. The night was cold and dreary, and you snuggled under the blankets wearing your rose-bud jammies while Grace wore hers and snuggled under the blankets on her own bed.

And–spoiler alert, so we won’t let Grace see this post until after Christmas–she’ll be receiving a pink pillow made from one of her favorite T-shirts. Zoey was the kids’ little pug dog who died several years ago, and Grace’s T-shirt was her favorite because it looked just like Zoey. Now the memories will sweeten Grace’s dreams as this pillow joins the others she’s received as presents. Brother Gannon’s favorite sports sweatshirts will be his new pillows.

Maybe Christmas, the Grench thought, doesn’t come from a store.  ~ Dr. Seuss

In our family, Mom, we would say that the Grench is absolutely right.

Grace's pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Grace’s pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.

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Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, special quotations, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for

4,000 GARDEN LADIES

Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Lady Bugs IMG_2817

 

Dear Mom,

When I was growing up, there were many times when I came into the kitchen for a drink of water on a summer day, and you would say, “Oh, you brought along a friend.”  You taught me to gently cup my hand over the Lady Bug on my arm or my neck or my shirt, walk back outside and free it near a rose bush or on the branch of a tree.  “Lady Bug, Lady Bug, fly away home…”

Last week, Jim and I hired a tree service to do some major work around our house in Colorado. They removed infected trees, trimmed others, planted a slow-growing pine in place of a diseased tree they’d removed. The arborist pointed out aphids in our two huge maple trees in front of the house. You would like him, Mom; instead of spraying the trees to treat the problem, he sent us to a nursery for two bags of Lady Bugs.  4,000 hungry little red friends who were starving for aphids.

That night after sunset, Jim and I opened the mesh bags in the cross sections of the maples. They swarmed out and immediately trailed up the branches like soldiers marching into battle. Some fell on us, crawling on our arms, flying around our faces.  I loved it, and just as you taught me, I carefully released each one on the tree branch. It was a magical evening, reminding me of my childhood, and I  decided I could be very happy being a part-time Lady Bug releaser!

In Dostoevsky’s novel, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, the main character says this in the final chapter: “There is nothing nobler, stronger, healthier and more helpful in life than a good remembrance, particularly a remembrance from childhood. A beautiful, holy memory preserved from childhood can be the single most important thing in our development.”

Dostoevsky never knew Lady Bugs in Kansas, never saw you smile as you helped me carefully transport them back outside, and he never knew of the hundreds of good memories I have of growing up with you and Dad as my parents. But I remember, and yes, those memories have made a profound difference in my life.   Thank you, Mom.

Love, Marylin

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they'll know about her life.

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they’ll know about her life.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, spending time with kids

100th Post on “Things I Want To Tell My Mother”

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

1978 ~ Mary reading to two of her grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

2007 ~ Mary reading to her great-grandchildren

Dear Mom,

Wow, May 4th is ONE HUNDRED posts on our blog!  Amazing.

Our first post was on September 1st of  2011. Since then we’ve shared stories about your life growing up on the farm in Missouri, raising your own family in Kansas, helping children through teaching, volunteering with CASA, and stepping in to help anyone who needed help.  We’ve held writing contests with cash prizes in your name—Mother’s Day Greeting Card Writing, Christmas Memories, and Poetry Writing—and we’ve shared some of your poems, essays and illustrated stories.  We’ve reminded readers of many unusual days on the calendar and posted inspiring quotes, favorite recipes and titles of books we’ve enjoyed.  We’ve featured friends and your great-grandchildren as guest bloggers, and we’ve shared information about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We never missed a week, and some weeks we posted twice!

In the process, we greeted visitors and made new friends from all over the United States, from the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Israel and sixty-four other countries. These are readers who’ve laughed with us, cried at some of our stories, and cheered us on by sharing their stories. We are very grateful for all of them.

Today, for our 100th post we’re going to share some interesting details about May, the month of our celebration.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for “elders.”  In 1963, President John F. Kennedy established May as Older Americans Month. This is a month to respect seniors and celebrate longevity, which includes you, Mom, at the respectful age of almost 95!

When I was in elementary school, on the last day of April you and I made little holders of rolled construction paper and braided yarn for the handles. On May 1st we picked crocus, daffodils and tulips, or if spring didn’t cooperate we filled the holders with small cookies and candy. I’d hang the little May Day baskets from the front door knobs of older neighbors’ houses, ring the bell, call out “Happy May Day!” and hurry away.

Next week, May 8th is No Socks Day for all ages.  The idea is to set your toes free and give your feet a breath of fresh air. Go barefoot and smile at the comfort of cool grass, warm sand or swishing water.

The next day, May 9th, follow up with Lost Sock Memorial Day. Search through drawers or behind the dryer, but if you can’t find the missing sock, take its lonely mate and give it a solitary use: as a dust cloth, a holder for buttons or coins, or make a hand puppet for a child or a chew toy for a pet. Or just dispose of it (gently, of course).

Next Sunday is the well known and widely celebrated Mothers Day, May 12.

A lesser known day is Saturday, May 11—Birth Mothers Day—which is more private. This day was originally set up for mothers to spend quiet moments thinking about or praying for the children they gave up for adoption…or for adopted children to do the same for their birth mothers.  It is intended as an anonymous tribute, and some houses of worship have special candles or flower vases set up for Birth Mothers to give prayers and thanks for the love and care given by Adoptive Mothers.

And finally, the last week of May is National Simultaneous Storytime, which we wish American parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians would vote to implement for our nation’s children.  In Australia, children’s libraries hold a special event where all public and school librarians read aloud the same book on the agreed upon day, at 11AM EST, to the children everywhere in Australia!

Well, Mom, this has been our 100th post. Let’s thank our reading friends and give them cyber hugs for sharing in our adventure…and then it’s nap time.  Next week is post #101, and we’ll need our rest.

2010 ~ Mary's great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

2010 ~ Mary’s great-grandchildren on farmer-type playground toys in Kansas (all photos by Marylin Warner)

1983 ~ Alien children on Mary's front porch

1983 ~ Alien grandchildren on Mary’s front porch

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for, writing

DO YOU KNOW WHAT MONTH THIS IS?

Mary holding first great-grandchild, Grace

SEPTEMBER, you might say. Or, back-to-school month.

If you’re a writer, did you realize that September is–drum roll, please–“Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month”?

I kid you not; I just don’t know who exactly has the power to designate these special days. But for the sake of celebration, and this post, we’ll accept it. The entire month we’ll be kind to editors and writers. Especially one.

Yesterday, Sept. 1, was Emma M. Nutt Day (she was the first woman telephone operator). And today, Sept. 2, is (brace yourself)  National Beheading Day (In this country? Really?–again, who thinks up these things?)

Sept. 6 is Read A Book Day, which fits our theme better.

Today I’m going to offend whoever decided on making this National Beheading Day. This is my blog, after all, so I’m declaring today “Appreciate Writer Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd Day,” and the illustrated story we’re going to appreciate is “Stubby the Missouri Mule.”

In the state of Missouri, where summers can be dreadfully hot and the winters are beastly cold, all the farmers called him Stubby because he was the most stubborn little mule anyone had ever seen. (I’m going to paraphrase the story and include two of my mother’s hand-drawn illustrations. The story was written in 1961 when Mom was 43, and it most recently appeared in 1991 in “The Writers Bloc” of THE FT. SCOTT TRIBUNE.)

One day, a blizzard moved in quickly. Farmer Jim opened the barn and began moving his animals to safety. But not Stubby; he kicked up his heels and ran farther into the pasture. When his momma called, he pretended not to hear, and when the farmer looked for him, Stubby hid. At first he had great fun. Then it got dark, and cold. And scary. No one came looking for him, and he was lost. He startled a skunk and got sprayed; he was hungry–and smelly–but where was the barn? (Lots of misadventures happen.) Then, after Stubby’s dark, lonely night, by morning light he saw the barn in the distance. Instead of being angry, Farmer Jim welcomed the little mule, and Stubby happily jumped in a snowdrift and rolled and rolled to get clean. That night, when the farmer opened the barn to shelter the animals, Stubby didn’t even have to be called. For once, he’d forgotten to be stubborn.

I apologize for my CLIFF’S NOTES summary of a charming story for children, but I also honor the author, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, by declaring today, September 2, as her day on this blog.

September is “Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month.” When a writer is 94 and doesn’t remember her story of a darling stubborn Missouri mule, or any of her other stories, articles and poems, a little kindness and appreciation by those of us who do remember for her is the least we can do.

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, writing

Coffee, tooth paste and apples…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mom,

When Dad was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you wished we knew what could have been done to prevent it. Now that you have dementia, I wish the same thing. Many of my generation are wondering about their parents’ Alzheimer’s and dementia… and what it suggests about their own futures. One good friend, Helen Armstrong, recently sent me information about some new findings.

Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging, says, “The idea that Alzheimer’s is entirely genetic and unpreventable is perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease. He compares Alzheimer’s to heart disease and cancer, which can be developed over decades and influenced by cholesterol, blood pressure, depression, education, nutrition and sleep, etc.

There are simple things we all can do to reduce our chances of Alzheimer’s. The big one that you and Dad did NOT do, Mom, was drink 3-5 cups of coffee each day. You  both loved the smell of coffee brewing, but your stomachs didn’t like the effects of drinking coffee. Even now, when I visit you each month and sneak in my own big mugs of coffee to heat in the microwave early the next morning, you sniff and smile at the smell but don’t want even a sip.

A second preventative suggestion is to floss and brush your teeth daily to discourage the inflammation in a  diseased mouth from traveling to the brain. (Teeth brushing was always big at our house, though I remember arguing about the flossing.)

A third suggestion is to nurture the thousands of new brain cells we have each day with aerobic exercise, brisk walks, eating salmon and other fatty fish, and treating vitamin B deficiency. Oh-oh, in Kansas we didn’t eat much salmon—certainly not fresh—but we did take our vitamins, and you walked Fritz (or rather, he walked you).

This next suggestion you’ll like, Mom: drink apple juice to push production of the “memory chemical” acetylcholine. That’s the way the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept works, according to Thomas Shea, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts. A suggested dose for humans is 16 ounces of real juice (not apple-flavored drink) or 2-3 apples per day.

A final example I chose supports your rule when we were growing up: “Cokes and other soft drinks are only for very special occasions.”  Studies now confirm that sodas, especially those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, make lab animals dumb and aren’t good for humans either. But adult women who drink one glass of red wine each day are helping their brains with the antioxidants.

Hmm. Wish we’d known some of this a decade ago, Mom. But as Dad often said, “Hindsight is always 20/20 vision.” We did the best we could then, and even though you and Dad didn’t drink coffee or wine, our family ate meals together, talking and laughing and serving seconds of garden-grown vegetables and beef  purchased from 4-H carefully-raised cattle. And every Sunday night we watched TV together, eating a meal of fresh-popped pop corn and mounds of sliced apples. You did the best you could with what you knew about good health, and you and Dad stirred in huge quantities of love and common sense. Thanks to you both, Mom.   Love, Marylin

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Jean Carper’s book, 100 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S AND AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS (Little, Brown), contains helpful and specific suggestions for adults, children, families.

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids

AMAZING BIRTHDAY with Grace and Gannon

Hi, Mom,

Your granddaughter Molly and your great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon came to celebrate an early 94th birthday with you. They had a great time, and now they are the guest bloggers with their story. Here it is:

                                                                   

                                         

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Filed under art projects, birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids

AMAZING GRACE

Dear Mom,  Your 8 1/2-year-old great-granddaughter wrote you a letter today.  Grace is the catcher for her girls’ softball team, and I included a picture of her in her catcher’s gear, which is so complicated that you have to take my word for it: yes, that’s Grace.  Here are the pictures from her walk, and the letter she wrote to you, Mom.  You are a lucky great-grandmother to have such a fine girl!

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Filed under memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids, writing

MOTHERS AND PHONE SEX. REALLY?

Dear Blog Friends,

I had just kissed my mom goodbye this morning, and as I was driving away I decided to again avoid the highways and toll road. As I’ve said before, on sunny, bright-sky days I find something compelling and interesting about back roads and blue highways, even when I have to follow slow-moving old trucks and occasional tractors. I had a long drive ahead of me, so on impulse today, instead of playing my favorite music CDs, I scanned the talk radio stations in search of an unusual topic to inspire and enlighten the hours ahead. Boy, did I find a zinger. And indirectly, it also tied in with another memory about my mom.

Here’s the background of today’s  topic. With the economic downturn and high unemployment rate, one of the growing job possibilities for women who want to “work from home” is to offer phone sex. Based on this introduction, the program began by covering various aspects of this lucrative opportunity: start-up steps, average salary, anonymity and safety, etc. (It did not answer the question about how, during an economic downturn with high unemployment, how were so many “clients” able to pay for this service?)

The host interviewed–over the telephone, of course (and by then, we all knew where that phone had been!)–a lusty-voiced, experienced specialist. She was college educated–in fact, she said she held two master’s degrees–but in addition to performing a service and making a lot of money, here was her main reason for staying with the job: “It’s important to be home with my kids.”

Okay, if you believe that is her main reason, jump ahead to the comment box right now and write, “I’m a believer!”–(and, in answer to your question, no, you cannot access this sultry-voiced vixen mommie’s phone number via this blog.)

Here’s the reason I doubt the interviewee’s honesty.

If there’s one thing my mother always said, and I verified when I became a mother, and my daughter can vouch for as well now that she has children, it is this: It doesn’t matter what time of day or how interesting a television program is or if the Wii has kids hopping around, the very best way to get your children’s full attention is to start a phone conversation.

It doesn’t matter if you’re ordering a lawn mower from Sears or panting and gasping sexy nothings, if you are a mom you’re going to be interrupted by a small child climbing into your lap or the shrill voice of a tattle tale or a screamer: “Oh no, somebody didn’t flush the toilet, Mom,” and “The dog is doing that thing to the furniture again,” and “Wow, Mom, you really need to shave your legs,” or the ever popular, “Is that Daddy on the phone? Hi, Daddy, can you hear me? Let me talk to Daddy.” (You can substitute “my teacher” or “Grandpa” or the minister’s name here if you want.)

Fill in the blanks for interrupted phone conversations with your own true life examples. Unless the phone sex specialist takes calls only while the kids are at school–yeah, those are probably the most erotic daylight hours for the majority of her clients–mothering is not her #1 reason for this career choice.

That’s my thought for today’s blog. I’d call my mom and double check to make sure she agrees with my conclusion, except she doesn’t hear well over the phone, at this point in her life she sometimes isn’t sure who I am, or sometimes even who she is, and she takes a lot of naps. But even now, when she’s nearing 94 and has advanced dementia, I remember what a good mother she’s always been, even when she was on the phone and fixing meals and cleaning up pet messes, kissing boo-boos and putting on bandaids. And staying actively involved in the lives of her children.

Moms who work at home, outside the home or both, accomplish many tasks while they’re talking on the phone AND being there for their kids. Somehow, I just don’t see how charging by the minute to breathe heavy is time well spent for either the kids…or the caller on the other end of the phone.

What do you think?

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, spending time with kids