Posts Tagged ‘grandchildren’

Nineteen at Nana’s: Lessons Learned from My Grandchildren

Those lazy, hazy days of summer. Where did we get that phrase anyway? All I knew was that whoever coined it was definitely not a mom. But a quick Google inquiry tells me the words are from a Nat King Cole song title. So definitely not a mom. But the title also includes one more word. Key for moms: “Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.” So the one word is right: crazy. Who knew?

Moms, of course. And, I might add, Nanas. After a fabulous four weeks of three-generational fun, one in Virginia, where four of our grandkids live, and three in our own home, with various family groups coming and going, I am more certain than ever. Lazy, no way! Crazy? Absolutely! For four wonderful days, we were all together: nineteen at Nana’s. Just for the record, Nana and Farfar (as the kids call Woody; it’s Swedish for “Father’s Father) have a small condo. Fortunately, its three levels do stretch a bit when needed. But still, nineteen, with 11 kids age 11 and under (including one baby and two toddlers) is, well, nineteen. Here are a few lessons I learned from my grandkids. Perhaps one or two will come in handy in your summer.

  • Having fun times 19 can be chaotic . . .  but it is well worth it!Collage-1Andersons2017
  • Whatever you do, always remember to eat. And eat. And eat. Collage-2
  • Sometimes you even need to sneak an extra snack. Collage-3
  • Siblings care for each other—or even borrow a cousin or two. Collage-4
  • Be sure you travel with friends . . . or find some. Collage-5a
  • Play outside as much as you can. Find water whenever possible. Collage-6
  • But sometimes, when it rains, you have to make your own inside fun.  Collage-7
  • Dress for fun. A little pizzazz never hurts!  Collage-8
  • If you are a Nana, you need to play on the floor. . . But don’t forget short breaks on the couch.  Collage-9
  • No matter how creative and flexible and fun you try to be, some days are just . . . well, you know.  Collage-10

So it’s all over now. Families have gone home to face the re-entry process (“So what are we going to do today? Are we going anywhere? Why is it always raining where we live?) You know the drill.

And Nana? She’s sitting in a ridiculously neat house that is way too quiet and lonely. But now there are even more memories in the walls. And in many hearts. Nineteen, I hope.

And in the quiet, a friend just sent me a link which reminded me of a long-favorite song, Stuart Townend’s “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” Maybe you need to play it at this point in the summer too, whether you have an empty house or a way-too-full house eagerly awaiting . . . Well, you know “Even so, come quickly school. Come quickly.”

Happy last few days of summer!       

   

What Song Shall We Sing This Thanksgiving?

“O sing unto the Lord a new song . . .”  In our family, we’re singing a new song this Thanksgiving. Woody and I have just welcomed into the world our 11th grandchild, Bjorn and Abby their third son. Now we are nineteen!  I’d like to introduce Lars Wheeler Anderson and his very grateful little family:

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God gives great gifts, and we are overflowing with gratitude.  It’s easy to sing a song of Thanksgiving just now.

But thanksgiving doesn’t always come so easily.  Especially if we see the giving of thanks as dependent on particular circumstances in our lives. The interesting thing is that God calls us to more: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV) In everything . . .  How in the world do we do that? How in this world do we do that?

At this time in America when our country is election-weary and future-wary and fractured down the middle in so many places, how do we do that? It’s hard for Thanksgiving songs to be heard amidst the chaos. It is, after all, an American holiday. And yes, more than a few people are finding their thanks-giving voices more than a little bit strained.

But the question becomes much more personal for so many people I know and love—and pray for every day. How do we give thanks amidst deep personal loss, terribly sick children, scary financial stresses . . . you know the list goes on and on.  But still, we are called to give thanks.

Maybe sometimes it’s easier to sing it. I always think of Martin Luther’s friend’s advice to Luther amidst struggles with depression: “Let’s sing the Psalms, Martin.  Let’s sing the Psalms.” 

So what song shall we sing this Thanksgiving? I offer you my favorite. A favorite because it is so very real. It reflects the good times of life as well as the bad and the sad. But I love it mostly because it reminds us of the true basis of our gratitude. And above all, the One we should thank every day of our lives. It’s an old Swedish hymn, one we sang at the Fall funerals of both of Woody’s parents. One that sings in my heart often.

See the words below.  If you’d like to hear it, here’s a link.

1. Thanks to God for my Redeemer,

Thanks for all Thou dost provide.

Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,

Thanks for Jesus by my side.

Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,

Thanks for dark and dreary fall.

Thanks for tears by now forgotten,

Thanks for peace within my soul.

2. Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,

Thanks for what Thou dost deny

Thanks for storms that I have weathered,

Thanks for all Thou dost supply.

Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,

Thanks for comfort in despair.

Thanks for grace that none can measure,

Thanks for love beyond compare.

3. Thanks for roses by the wayside,

Thanks for thorns their stems contain.

Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,

Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain.

Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,

Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee.

Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,

Thanks through all eternity.

So there you have it: 24 reasons to give thanks.  In the good times and the bad. In a word: Our Eternal God . . . with His Everlasting arms underneath. Always. Forever.

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I’d like to leave you with a picture. It’s a picture that embodies much of my heart this Thanksgiving. It includes so much that I am thanking God for at this time of year. The pilgrims on the table were Woody’s mom’s. They joined our every Thanksgiving celebrated with her. The chairs in the background were my mom’s. I sat in them and admired them each time I visited with her in her little Florida condo; and when she moved to hospice, they were still there . . ., and now here. I love the view out our window. And how I cherish the family God has so graciously given us! Us . . . the ones who once wondered whether we would ever have children!

A thanksgiving challenge for you: Take a picture of things for which you are thankful. Make a list. Sing a song. Maybe sing a new song . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!    

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

And now they’ve all gone home. As I write this, I shiver with remembrance of that unforgettable sentence about Hannah after her annual visits to the temple to see the son she had dedicated to God: “Then they would go home.” (1 Samuel 2:20b) Not quite the same, for sure. But still, the going home.

Our recycling and trash tell the story. Well, part of it anyway. Yes, the party’s over and they’ve all gone home. But I am left with so much more than the after-the-party remnants. I am a different person. More exhausted, to be sure. But so much more. I am a grateful Nana filled with new memories made over the past 5 weeks.

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Games of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and Sorry and Animal Bingo. Stories read, some by me and some by the children, who range in age from 10 years to ten months. Pirate stories told by “Farfar” (their name for Woody—“father’s father” in Swedish). Trips to splash parks and playgrounds and petting farms and the gorgeous York Beach in Maine—and the Lego Store and Build-a-Bear and the much-loved Superstore of Used Books. Diapers (“nappies” to my Irish crew) changed and tears wiped and grievous wounds cured(!) by Dory or Star Wars bandaids and nights of protest (“But it’s not bedtime yet!”) and disputes of nearly international scope about who got the most wiffle-ball pitches from Farfar. What seems like hundreds of hot dogs and PB&J sandwiches and pizzas and birthday cakes and ginormous ice cream cones consumed. 

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Ah, summer with grandchildren. I really didn’t want it to end.

Yet as I write this, I am reminded of summers long ago when I felt a bit more ambivalent about summer’s end.  The start of school looked pretty good then!   So as I ponder (the end of the annual summer visit) and miss (all of them!) and cherish (such precious memories), I also think of all of you moms out there. Some of you also missing grandkids who’ve gone home. Some counting the days ’til school begins (please Lord, soon!)—or wishing your kids were old enough for school! Others celebrating because school has already begun in your world. And then those moms who’ve made that first long journey (long whether an hour away—or thousands of miles) to college. For all of us, those mixed emotions that come with being a mom/grandmom.

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May we always be grateful. May we always savor the memories. And may we always have the necessary strength that comes only from the Father of us all (and the joy as well). Summer, we salute you . . . it’s been oh, so lovely.      

  

Planet Nana . . . and Back

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Oh, the joys of “Planet Nana.”  We had all our family under one roof for a few fleeting hours (actually, it was a couple of days, but they flew like hours).  All 18 (!) of us crammed in our little condo.  Ten grandkids aged 3 months through 10 years, four of them in diapers.  Four in Pack’n Plays, six sleeping on our bedroom floor in sleeping bags.  Glorious chaos.

Overlapping visits with various family combinations spanned a period of 2 ½ weeks.  We celebrated Jesus’ birthday with Bengt reading The Story, and we had a birthday cake for Jesus.  Olaf the Swedish Surprise Bear mysteriously dropped off presents.  Once again nobody saw him, but there were those footprints in the snow.  We wished for more snow, but the kids made noble attempts to build snowmen out of mostly ice.    

Snowman

We read stories and played Sorry and Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and Christmas Bingo.  Amazing Lego sets were constructed, admired, and deconstructed for travel home.  We ate and laughed and sang and changed countless diapers. The washer and dryer and dishwasher provided constant white noise.  We played trucks and trains and dinosaurs and store and told spooky flashlight stories in the dark closet. 

Dinosaurs

We found children in all kinds of places. 

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Two of them go home with a new game: “Hey Evey, you wanna sneak?” was a prelude to finding children in remote spots with guilty little smiles eating marshmallows or cookies or unwrapping candy wrappers.  I still find candy kiss wrappers under the bed, and I smile.

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Gabriella summed it up: “Nana, this was the best Christmas ever.”  Yes, Gabriella, it was.

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And now it is January.  They’ve all gone home—to their homes in Ireland and Virginia and New Hampshire.  The house is cleaner.  And way too quiet.

Yet there is a quiet joy.  A January kind of joy.  I have precious memories.  More than ever.  Many moments stored up to keep and ponder in my heart.  Mary was on to something there (Luke 2:19)  I feel blessed.  Very very blessed.

But there’s more.  I come back from “Planet Nana” to my Real Life, my real January life, with something more.  December was a refresher course on what it takes to be a mom with four kids.  What it takes to be a mom no matter how many kids you have . . . even one will do it.  It’s exhausting.  Completely exhausting.   Also exasperating and hilarious and rewarding (there is the occasional “I love you so much, mommy” or the huge unexpected hug) and lonely and completely chaotic. 

So I come back from Planet Nana with renewed resolve to love and encourage moms.  Any moms.  Especially Mom to Mom moms.  As heroic and amazing the moms I know are, they need our love, support, encouragement and, above all, our prayers.

My January challenge to you:  Love on a mom in your life. Whether you’re in Mom to Mom or not, there is a mom in your life you can reach out to.  Do it.  She’s waiting.

That Time of Year

It’s that time of year again. Malls are full of back-to-school shoppers. TV ads blare back-to-school sales. (I’m reminded of my favorite ad from years gone by: a woman waltzing through a store gathering school supplies for her kids and belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” ) A daughter-in-law prepares, with a full heart, to send both her kids off to school for the first time.  And mom Facebook friends have been posting since early August: “It should be time for them to go back to school by now, right?  Right?”

Then there are the conversations. “We just took our first child off to college . . .”  “I’m so proud of her . . . but how do you do this?”  It’s not the going: The excitement and trepidation and drama of getting ready. Lists checked off. Bedding and supplies gathered.  Goodbyes to friends. The iconic packing of the car. The trip down there, with lots of silence in the backseat. The butterflies in the stomach (all stomachs in the car, that is).  The trepidations about The Roommate. And then the excitement: New places. New friends. New vistas. Courageous smiles. No, it’s not the going.

It’s the coming home. Without them. Just you and him (if you are fortunate enough to have him). When we took our first son to college, I had just—ironically—finished the lesson on Hannah for our Mom to Mom curriculum.  Hannah’s words had been our verse when we dedicated this boy so many years ago: “For this child I prayed . . .”  (Read, if you have the courage, the rest in 1 Samuel 1:27-28.) Through the driving rainstorm between here and Williamsburg, Virginia, God gently reminded me: “Did you mean it, Linda?  You know, the part about “as long as he lives, he will be lent to the Lord”? Do you think you can trust me with him across state lines?”

Little did I know that was just the beginning.  There were two more taking-kids-to-college trips.  Then three long (and joyful) aisles to walk down.  Deployments and ministry careers and a mission trip that became a life across an ocean.  Countless exciting trips to and many long flights from.  And there’s Hannah again:  Each year she made a special little robe and went to visit her beloved Samuel at the temple where she had committed him to God’s service.  “Then they would go home.”  (1 Samuel 2:20b)  It still gives me chills every time I read it.

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I’ve just done it again. Except in reverse. All our kids were here this summer for varying and overlapping visits. Sheer joy. Nana Heaven. Ecstasy, really. We read books together (Nana’s fav) and played games and went to the beach and the pool and ate lots of pizza and ice cream and had cousin sleepovers and celebrated a BIG birthday for the much-beloved Farfar (the grandkids’ name for Woody—it means father’s father in Swedish).  

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Then they went home.  Home to New Hampshire and Virginia—and Ireland.  All of them.  Home to busy, God-directed (thank you every single minute, Jesus), meaningful lives which give us joy. Great joy. But still, they went home.

So you can imagine how these words hit me from the August 23 reading in Jesus Calling:

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one—as well as yourself . . .When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. . . . My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.” 

Oh yes, and there’s more:

“This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in ME.  Watch to see what I will do.”

I’m watching.        

Seven Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Your Shared Birthday with a 5-year-old

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Reason #1: You get to have a Lego Star Wars Cake with Tom Brady defeating Darth Vader on it.

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Reason #2: The 5-year-old is better at blowing out candles (and besides, there aren’t so many!)

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Reason #3: You can have a sleepover, with squirrely little boys playing in your bathtub in the morning.

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Reason #4: You get to read really good books.

Games

Reason #5: You can make up all kinds of games.

Reason #6: You get to go see the Paddington Bear Movie, which is great—but watch out for that mean Nicole Kidman character!

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Reason #7: You can have a second (monkey bread) birthday cake for breakfast.

I’m lucky to have an almost-shared birthday with my grandson Nils.  If you don’t have a shared birthday like that, I recommend borrowing a 5-year-old from one of your friends or extended family.  They really make birthdays fun! 

Random Tips on Summer Fun (thanks to my grandkids!)

Playdough_0377#1 Playdough in PJ’s is a super way to start the day.

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#2  A closet makes a great craft and coloring room.

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#3  Even Chuck E. Cheese can be a bonding experience.

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#4  Kids of all ages love stories.

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#5  Everyone needs a little glam in their life.

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#6  Touching the nose is a good way to get acquainted.

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#7  There’s nothing like Oreo cream-filled donuts to cheer you up.

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#8  Cousins play hard and stick together.

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#9 Ice cream is essential.

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#10  Silly families are the best.

Thankful for a July of “glorious chaos” at our house.  Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Summer!

A Lenten Lesson from a Four-Year-Old

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It’s a dark and stormy Friday night.  We’re driving through thunderstorms and heavy traffic to visit The Boston Children’s Museum with our two grandsons, Soren (7) and Nils (4).  It’s taking a lo-o-ong time, and the boys remind us of this regularly.  We make conversation about all manner of things, some of it focusing on the recent Olympics and how amazing some of those athletes are.

Out of the blue (as is the way of children), Nils pipes up: “But when I grow up, I want to be Jesus!”  There is silence in the car as we ponder this stunning statement.  Four adults—two parents and two grandparents—process the theology.  We are at a temporary loss for words.

But not Soren.  Soren, you see, is never at a loss for words.  He feels a sense of responsibility, as the older, very grounded-in-reality big brother, to help Nils stay better connected with reality. Nils has a wonderfully wild imagination, complete with “camo-friends” who attend the University of New Hampshire, live underground, and camouflage themselves when adults approach but reveal themselves only to Nils.   You see the situation.

“But Nils,” Soren corrects emphatically, “ you can’t actually BE Jesus.  You know that, right?  You can’t really BE Jesus!”

I’m still processing the conversation.  (Nana minds are slower than 7-year-old minds.}   An interesting theological dilemma.  Of course we know the uniqueness of Jesus, the One and Only Son of God. But aren’t we supposed to be in the process of becoming more and more like Him?  What is that verse about being more and more “conformed to the likeness of His Son”? (Romans 8:29 NIV) There seems to be an “already in process” and a “not yet” aspect here.  I’m grateful for the future promise: “But we know that.when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)

In the meantime, we are called, are we not, to become more and more like Him. How does this happen? A question far beyond this humble blog post. But a question I think it’s good to ask during this Lenten season.

As I ponder the challenge, two observations:

  1. We become like the people we hang out with.  Becoming more and more like Jesus is, at least for me, a lifetime challenge.  But odds are that more progress is made as I spend more time with Him.
  2. Becoming more like Jesus seems to have a lot to do with seeing Him—actually seeing Him.  I think of  Mary’s dazzling cry on Easter morning: “I’ve seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

My prayer for us all as Holy week approaches is that we may we see Him with new eyes, bask in the reality of His presence in our everyday ordinary lives, and live with this future hope:

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.  (Psalm 17:15 NKJV)

 

What Do Your Kids Hear Mommy Say This Thanksgiving?

A little girl was helping her mother as she bustled around in a frenzy getting ready to serve dinner to a large group of guests.  When they finally sat down to eat, the mother asked the little girl to say grace.

“But I don’t know what to say,” the child protested.

“Oh, honey, just say what you hear Mommy say.”

“OK. Mommy: Dear God, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Sounds like me—or you, perhaps?—in that moment of total exhaustion when we drop into our seats after preparing a big meal.  And all the more so if you’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner!

At this super-busy time of year, it’s all too easy for November to pass us by on the way to December.  Even our kids pick up on the November-December craziness (read my recent guest post at “Pass the Bread, Mom”).  Yet November offers us an opportunity we don’t want to miss: to cultivate gratitude—in ourselves and in our kids.

Thankful hearts do not come naturally in this “all about me” culture.  An “attitude of gratitude” needs to be both taught—and caught.  Of course that’s true all year round,  but making November your “thankful month” is a great way to start.

How often do your kids hear you express thanks throughout the day?  In one of our kids’ homes, they set a timer on their phones several times a day.  When the timer goes off, everyone stops a moment to name one thing they’re thankful for.

Two of our grandkids have a “thankful tree,” (described in my guest post at “Pass the Bread”).   Last weekend when Woody and I were with them, we got to add some of our own leaves.  And I noticed that just walking by the tree throughout the day became a constant reminder to me: Give thanks, Linda!

What am I most thankful for this Thanksgiving?  First: Our Great God, Who in His mercy, love, and grace has given us all the reason in the world to give thanks.  What did G.K. Chesterton say?   “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

And second: The gift of watching parents cultivate in their kids (especially when they’re our grandkids!) a thankful heart.

Happy Giving-of-Thanks to all of you!

The Gift of Time

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about time.  For one thing, where has the summer gone?  Can it really be August?

And then there’s the Olympics.  Are you as fascinated by the incredible feats of those marvelous athletes as I am?  Think of the time—hours and days, months and years—these men and women have put in prior to that one race in the pool, that one gymnastics routine.  And then it is all decided in moments—seconds, actually.  How many medals have been lost to another competitor by one hundredth of a second?

But most of all this summer I’ve been thinking of the gift of time.  Specifically, the gift of more time with two of my grandchildren than I’ve ever had before.  Erika and Richie and their 3 ½-year-old Gabriella and 11-month-old Judah lived with us for 6 ½ weeks from mid-June through July.  What a gift that was!

It gave me opportunity to enjoy everyday moments with them.   Not just family outings, carnival rides, exploratory walks, or a dip in the lake.  Not just summer fun riding horseback at the Children’s Museum, splashing in the little backyard pool, and making 4th of July Little Cheesecakes.  But also just watching.  Watching Judah learn to crawl, build with with blocks, or play who-gets-the-spoon over breakfast.  Watching Gabriella feed her mom’s old Teddy Ruxpin, goof around over breakfast—or just wake up in the morning with all her friends.   Moments in time.  Memories made.

I savored every one of these memories.  Nanas get to do that.  There’s not so much time the first time around, when you’re raising your own little ones.  But it did make  me think of all of you.  Every one of you moms for whom summer may be flying by—or feeling like forever.  Every one of you Nanas who may be enjoying similar moments with your grandchildren.

Wherever this summer may find you—savoring or maybe just merely “surviving” (there are all these different moments in a mom’s life, aren’t there?)—I pray that you may take just a few moments to look at the faces before you.  Like Emily in the play Our Town, look at them like you really see them.   And now and then in your busy life, pause and take a snapshot—with a camera, or even with just your memory.  A moment in time.  A gift.  Thank you, God, for the gift of time.

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