Category Archives: Bringing up kids

What Can You Do When Your Grandkids Visit?

Before Amélie and Sophie came to visit for the month of July, a lady from their church asked what they liked best about visiting their grandmother. Amélie said her favorite thing to do was go for a boat ride with Nana, and Sophie said her favorite thing was eating Nana’s fudge!

Of course, I made sure we did both once I knew, but it also got me to thinking about all the things that seem to make vacations special for little ones, and a lot of the activities are very simple! In no particular order, here is my list:

Picnics in the backyardToasting marshmallows and eating smoresColoring, drawing, and writing love letters Hanging out and talking together Playing in the grass  Picking wildflowers and hunting for frogs Finding tiny grasshoppers by day and chasing tiny fire flies by nightPlaying at the local parks Renewing friendships with the cousins… and meeting new members of the family! Having tea parties Listening to story books  Picking wild berriesHelping Nana cook and set the table Eating lots of yummy food, and helping shop for more when the supplies run low. Having friends over to playPlaying games together and feeling the love! All of those things are part of the richest fabric of life and pretty much free, although there are also some special things available in our area,
such as digging in the sand and swimming in Lake Michigan.If you’re lucky enough to have an Aunt Brianna, that might include cookies!Snuggling with Grandma is free,
and it’s a very special way to get warmed up after a big swim! Snuggling with Grandpa is another winning activity, especially on a windy day!Watching the local fireworks shows is usually free around July 4th. Picking cherries, blueberries, or whatever is ripe at the local orchard is a big hit. And if you have access to a little lake, catching fish is the cat’s meow! Our kids and grand kids all love swimming, so I’m especially thankful that we live on a little lake! Another thing we all love is going to our local zoo, where there’re always something new and exciting happening! Finally, when Nana is all worn out, a special dinner out can be a huge treat! So, these are a few favorite things you can do without feeling pick-pocketed! If you’ve got other bright ideas, please share them, will you?

But whatever we do with our little ones, I think the most important thing is to make sure they feel loved, and for me, that includes making sure they know that God loves them too… more than any of us can ever even imagine!

The grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19).

Making Homemade Berry and Maple Syrups

What’s your very favorite breakfast? My all-time favorite breakfast out is the Cracker Barrel’s Sunrise Special with blackberry syrup. Actually, I like making my own pancake breakfast at home even better, because I put blueberries in the pancakes and make enough for one person, not one giant. Nevertheless, eating breakfast out on a rare occasion is a memorable experience, and if we’re anywhere near a Cracker Barrel, that’s where I want to eat!One morning while our grand children were visiting, my daughter-in-law Carleen taught the kids how to make baskets out of leaves pinned together with tiny twigs, and they walked down the lane collecting black raspberries and mulberries. Instead of eating them as hors d’oeuvres, they brought almost all of them home and asked me to make some syrup for their pancakes. How could I resist??

Syrup can be made with any type of berries, but here’s what we did:

Yummy Blackberry Syrup

1 quart washed blackberries (I supplemented what the children picked with some from the freezer)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
(or, the sugar and water can be replaced by 1/2 cup honey and 1 tablespoon water)

Heat in a saucepan until it starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then turn it down to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until it’s the consistency of syrup. If the berries are really juicy, and the syrup seems too thin, you can add 2 tablespoons of corn starch to help thicken it. (Whisk to help the corn starch dissolve, and then continue to whisk it until the starch thickens a bit.) Taste test it. If it lacks flavor, you can also add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, but really just the first three ingredients above should be all you need. This can also work with any other type of berries, or even cherries. If you want a “compote” rather than a syrup, just add more corn starch until you get the consistency you want. Serve it up with coffee, bacon, and eggs, and top it with some whipped cream, and you’ll have a breakfast so memorable that no one will beg to go out!  🙂

Imitation Maple Syrup

By the way, we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, and we always made our syrup from scratch: 1 cup sugar in the bottom of a pan, cover with just enough water to leave a thin layer of water over the top, boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, and add 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring. Serve immediately while it’s hot!  Some of my kids still prefer this to genuine maple syrup. It will crystalize within hours, so only make as much as you’re planning to use for that particular occasion.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103)

 

The Beauty of Little Flower Girls

One of the things I love about country living is there are always wildflowers free for the picking pretty much spring through fall, and I have two little grand daughters who have been keeping me in flowers!Almost every day they bring me flowers…even enough to adorn such things as cupcakes that we baked to take to our new neighbors! A couple of days ago the baby slept so poorly that we sent Mama back to bed for a tiny rest while the baby had her morning nap, and while she was sleeping, the girls and I decided to make some bouquets for Mama! We walked up and down the lane, and even past our garden down to the lake, and picked some of all the different flowers we could find, and then the girls took turns choosing flowers to put in the vases. I think it was one of the happiest morning activities we did all month, and after we finished arranging the flowers, the girls worked very hard at writing cards just to tell their mother how much they loved her! (No prompting; this was all their own idea!)Parenting is such hard work, but it’s also one of the world’s most rewarding occupations! After all, where else can you get a zillion enthusiastic hugs and “I love you!”s  every day? Praise God for children…and flowers!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God
‘” (Luke 18:16).

 

Chicago Baby

“We’ve left our house in Spokane and are moving to a department (apartment) in Chicago,”  Amélie confided soberly. Moving is NO FUN! I was just Amélie’s age (5) when our family moved from Indiana to Michigan, and I was heart broken, particularly because I wasn’t sure how I’d find my way back home so I could marry my boyfriend (also 5) when we grew up. It was the summer of 1956, and “Que Sera, Sera” was playing on radios everywhere! “Whatever will be will be.”  Somehow, I found the words comforting and remember singing them to myself as I explored our new home in East Lansing. Little people feel things with every bit as much passion as adults! In an effort to soothe the kids, Jon gave us all a little slide show of their home and friends from Spokane, and I think it might have helped Amélie in her efforts to process everything, but poor little Sophie (3) burst into gales of inconsolable tears. Jon and Linda have been doing everything they can to ease the way, but there’s no doubt about it: Moving is tremendously unsettling! Yes, it’s fun to spend some time with Nana and Grandpa, and yes, it will be fun to spend some time in Germany and visit with Gerlinde’s family, but leaving all their friends and moving from their lovely home out west into Chicago—one of America’s biggest (and scariest) cities—is paramount to panic!  Are you facing a move? I think it’s good to get in touch with our feelings during transitions, but I also think it’s important to track our thoughts. We shouldn’t just listen to ourselves, we should talk to ourselves too…speaking truths into our lives to give us courage, such as Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God loves us. He is doing a good work in us to make us more like Himself! Rather than being fearful about the future, let’s ask God for the grace to claim Isaiah 26:3,  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  P.S.—I am so thankful for my courageous daughter-in-law, who is a beautiful example of Sarah from the Bible (and her mother Sarah, who left her homeland and followed her husband to the mission field in Tanzania). “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (I Peter 3:6).

“When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera, Sera.” (—Composed by Jay Livingston)

Overcoming the Green-Eyed Monster

“Nana, I just overcame the Green-eyed Monster!” Amélie announced with bright-eyed pleasure. “Sophie’s present is bigger than mine, but I don’t mind.”  Since the girls have been with us, I’ve probably read through all the Berenstain Bear books multiple times (as has Uncle Joel and other doting adults).  The books date back to the  years my kids were growing up, and they tell stories about children grappling with all the common challenges kids face, such as the importance of telling the truth and learning good manners, dealing with friends (and not so friendly kids), going to school, the dentist, church, etc.  The authors (and those of us caregivers who read them) are definitely trying to instill good habits and moral values into our kids, but you never really know seriously kids are taking the lessons.  The Green-eyed Monster is about learning to overcome envy, and what a joy to see Amélie’s excitement over understanding the problem and implementing the solution in her own life!  Weary caregivers, take heart! Little ones do hear. I think most people hear. May we be faithful to keep planting seeds of Truth into the lives of those we love!

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).                                          “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness”

“Show a little bit of love and kindness,
Never go around with hatred’s blindness,
Take a little time to reach for joy, and wear a happy face!
Sing a little bit when the days are dreary!
Give a little help to a friend that’s weary!
That’s the way to make the world a happy place!

“Sing a song! Spread some cheer!
There are sad and lonely people everywhere!
Be a friend. Show some love.
It will lift them from the dungeons of despair.

“Offer help! Bring some hope!
Through the fainting and discourage on life’s road!
See a need! Lend a hand!
There are many who are crushed beneath life’s load!”
(—I don’t know who composed this children’s chorus; do  you?)

Out of Joint

There’s no end of excitement when you have little ones running about, and this week has been no exception…except it was unique in that poor Sophie (age three) ended up with a dislocated elbow! My first experience was forty-one years ago when Alan was playing with our first-born son and made the mistake of trying to lift him off the floor by his hands. Aaron screamed in pain, and we had no idea what was wrong, but we quickly learned (at the emergency room) that children (probably of all ages) should be lifted under their arms with a firm hold on their chests, since all their joints are weak and shouldn’t be stressed by pulling.

Gerlinde and I guessed what was wrong, but even though Alan talked us through what to do (he was at work) and we watched a youtube video on how to pop the joint back into place, we couldn’t seem to do the trick. After two unsuccessful attempts, we flew off to the closest emergency room. There an understanding pediatrician deftly popped it back into place in about five seconds, leaving Sophie all smiles again through her tears. WHEW!!

Scary times! Even as adults, sometimes something happens—and it can be an accidental injury—yet we’re so out of joint that we’re debilitated by the pain. Even if we know what we’re “supposed” to do, there are times when we can’t seem to fix the problem. Ever happen to you? I’m thankful for a merciful heavenly Father, to whom I can run with my pain. He can straighten things out (at least in my attitudes, if not in my circumstances) and pop me back into shape in the twinkling of an eye if I’ll let him. It’s all in the know-how, and He knows how!

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
(Psalm 25:17-18)

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting on Top

I think sweet teeth are genetically transmitted…or at least our grand daughters seem to have inherited the Armstrong family’s love of all things chocolate.  I used to make chocolate cake from scratch, but I can’t compete with the moist, tender, lightness of commercial cake mixes, and so I have given up trying.  However, my family still likes homemade chocolate frosting better than what you can buy at the store, and it’s simple. Here’s how:

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (can melt 12 oz chocolate chips, but that costs more and isn’t necessary)
1 stick softened butter (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons of milk (depending on how soft you like it; experiment)

Start on the slowest setting, but whip all the ingredients together in a blender until they form a creamy, smooth frosting with a sheen. Frost immediately, and if you have any little helpers, let them lick the spatula when they’re done!For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward” (1 Timothy 5:18).