Posts Tagged ‘toddlers’

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!       


Then Came February


So it’s February. Actually, February 9 as I write this. And—you guessed it!—it’s a Snow Day. All the schools in the area are closed. In fact, nearly everything is closed today due to “heavy bands of snow” and potential blizzard condition whiteouts in some (unpredictable) spots and very cold temperatures combined with the 8-14” forecast.

I’m sitting here by my fire reflecting on all the mixed emotions I’ve always felt about snow days. First of all, I wish they didn’t happen on Mom to Mom days; I hate missing Mom to Mom. But then, there is the excitement and beauty of a good old-fashioned New England Nor’easter. I remember the glorious excitement of kids jumping up and down with joy when they see their school on the TV cancellation list. We’d celebrate with pancakes or French toast and hot chocolate. Followed by layers and layers of snow apparel to prepare for a day of sledding and

snowmen and snow forts and gigantic snowball fights and general snow bliss.

And then—seemingly only 5 minutes later—someone (or several someones) tromping in with half the snowfall attached and trailing through the house to get a drink/go to the bathroom/need a snack/have to warm up/complain about sibling injustice . . . You know the drill. Let me just tell you: A mother never forgets what it takes to undress a snowsuit-clad toddler for the bathroom break that seems to occur every few minutes. And then get them dressed for the Arctic all over again. Or what the whole house smells like at the end of the day with wet mittens and scarves and snow jackets and pants and boots draped absolutely everywhere. Unless you happen to have (sigh) a mudroom the size of a gym. Still, I miss those days.

At this point I’m guessing some of you are nodding in recognition of all I’m describing. Others are probably gloating and thanking God you don’t live in The Land of Snowsuits. And others may be a bit envious. Your kids would love to play in the snow.

Somehow this snow day feels like a microcosm of the mixed feelings February generates. For those of us who love the snow (or at least love looking at it out the window if we don’t have to go anywhere or have kids with very large bladders who love being cold and playing out in the snow all day without needing breaks at 15-minute intervals), let me say it: It IS beautiful. And February seems to be the month that brings the most snow drama—at least here in New England.

February also brings Valentine’s Day. I for one have always loved Valentine’s Day. I liked making Valentine boxes and exchanging valentines in school. Especially if there was candy involved. Years later I loved the great “excuse” for romantic dinners. And more candy. I especially loved making Valentine cookies (I did do that some years—right, kids?) and having special Family Valentine’s Dinners. And now I love sending Valentine boxes to our 11 distant grandchildren.

But not everyone loves Valentine’s Day. For some it is most dreaded or best ignored. Maybe it’s long ago hurt and scarring associated with this day or it could be recent loss and pain—or maybe a lifetime of feeling alone more than ever at this time. This is a hard time—and February is a hard month—for many.

So it is that as I sit here looking out at the beautiful snow and feeling a strange mixture of delight and melancholy in the memories of many years of February, I find myself praying for all the moms I know. For joyful fun in the snow (or joyful gloating in the sand). For patience and endurance when the Snow Days (or any days) get long and lonely. And for healing of many hurting hearts in this February. Psalm 34:18 keeps coming to mind: “The Lord is very close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

For all of us, a reminder that both snow and hearts bring to mind our loving God. The One Who inhabits “the storehouses of the snow” (Job 38:22). The One Who loved us enough to die for us, that our sins, as bright and deep as scarlet, might be “as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). And The One Who also “loves us with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

An old hymn comes to mind: “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.” Quiet rest? Are you kidding? For moms? In the heart of God, yes. Yes. Yes.

Feel loved this February, in the snow or not. Because you are.

Life as a Real Mom: How Do You Do It?

A couple of weeks ago my husband Woody and I had the great joy of taking care of our two grandsons, Soren (4 ½) and Nils (14 mos) for a week while their parents were taking kids to Young Life camp.  It was a great refresher course in parenting.  We had a blast.  Really—it was so much fun!

I wish I could tell you more, but I have to be honest here: I had anticipated coming home with a notebook full (or at least a head full) of hilarious comments and antics and incidents with which I could entertain blog readers.  I thought this to be a realistic expectation.  Soren frequently says absolutely hilarious things.  He has a vivid imagination, a memory that is positively scary, and he is very verbal.  Nils is a clown.  He loves to get you laughing, and he mimics everything he sees his big brother do, which leads to some pretty funny entertainment.

But here’s the glitch.  Life moved too fast for me that entire week.  I never got to write anything down.  Not even a list for each day (my usual practice)—and certainly not witty sayings or doings in the small journal I had (how hilarious!) brought.  Both my daytimer and my journal are completely blank for that week.  Most of the time I think my mind was, too!

We did all kinds of fun things: we went to playgrounds; visited a children’s museum;  played pirates in the basement (Woody and Soren did, anyway—I was a little worried about Nils around the pirate sword); went out to lunch one day and out on another day for ice cream; even had a visit from a friend who surprised the boys with a new scooter for Soren and a push-trike for Nils.  And yes—we made a visit or two to the pediatrician.  I told you this was a refresher course on real-life parenting.  How could it not involve middle-of-the-night fevers and unexplained crying?

But here’s the thing: I had expected a break in the action now and then.  A time to reflect a bit.  Take a deep breath.  Write down a few of the wonderful things my grandsons did—and there were many!  But all I did was take a nap when they napped—and collapse on the couch after they went to bed.  Even though we were two-on-two (two adults there full-time, two kids), Woody and I pretty much just sat side by side and stared into space every evening.

So here’s my question for the week.  How do you keep your life balanced during these busy busy years?  Do you find time to do anything—anything at all—beyond the absolute necessities of each day?  If so, what’s your secret?

Don’t get me wrong: What you’re doing each day for and with your kids is huge—the best job in the world.  Feeding, rocking, changing, bathing, and playing with your kids is a huge accomplishment in itself.  In fact, if you wrote it all down on a “To Do” list, you’d be pretty impressed. (As recommended on my friend Jill Savage’s blog post the other day—great idea!)  I loved getting to do all that again.

But I seem to remember that when I had three pre-schoolers, I did manage—at least now and then—to read a book, complete my Bible Study lesson (some weeks), and find a few words left for my husband (on a good day) when he came home late at night.  I’m trying to remember: How did I do it?

Can you remind me?  I know many of your days feel like sheer survival.  But I also know some of you actually do read books, find time for personal devotions, blog, facebook with friends—at least now and then.  I even know some of you who are crafty and actually make things after your kids go to bed (quite beyond me even now, I must admit)!

So I’d love to hear from you.  What tips can you share about how you find time to create balance even in the midst of your mom-life?  Or maybe how you come to peace about not doing that right now!

Don’t forget: We’ll have a giveaway for two tickets to the .MOM conference in September from all of those who comment here by Thursday noon, July 28.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Memo from Monitor Land

Recently I had the gift of taking care of Gabriella, my 2 ½-year-old granddaughter, for four wonderful days.  “Gigi” (her nickname) and her mommy (our daughter Erika) were visiting us from Ireland for several weeks, and Erika had gone off to enjoy a girlfriend weekend with college friends.

Gigi and I had a ball.  We put puzzles together, built with blocks, played “taking care of baby brother”  (due to arrive in her house late summer), danced in crazy hats to silly kids’ songs, had teddy bear tea parties, went to the library and the beach and the playground—and savored ice cream treats.  It was “Nana heaven.”

It was a fresh look at  “life in monitor land.”  Believe it or not, our own kids were raised without monitors.  They just weren’t much in use at the time.  But in this Nana-season of my life, I have to say I love monitors!

Admittedly they have a downside.  I don’t sleep as well with a monitor on my dresser. There may actually be times when moms on duty 24/7 with young children would do well to turn them off.  When a child is settling into naptime, Mom might need a quiet break more then she needs to listen to every bit of jabbering and singing that goes on before sleep comes.

But it’s different with nanas.  Nanas love “listening in.”  It’s amazing how much you can learn about what goes on in a two-year-old’s mind.  Here are a few random things I learned from listening to the monitor:

  • Kids often review their day as they go to sleep—or even in the middle of the night!  “Go in car with Nana….Run run run in water….Play in sand at beach….Have tea party with Teddy Bear.”  Then at 4 am, a brief reprise: “Chips [what they call french fries in Ireland] . . . choo choo . . . come home with NanaFarfar” [her word for her grandfather is the Swedish “farfar,” and Gigi runs our names together—kind of a nice reminder of two-become-one].  And then at 5 am: “Gigi taking good long nap!”

  • Kids love to interact with stuffed animal friends: “Hi-ya, dolphin!”  Hi-ya, Penguin!  Hi-ya, Teddy!”  She even “read” several complete books to her bed-buddies.
  • Kids work out issues as they talk them through.  “I take good nap . . . Bye bye, people . . . Mommy right back.”   Another time: “Mommy Daddy gone . . . Gigi play with NanaFarfar.”

  • Kids cement their learning through review.  I remember hearing (via the monitor) our grandson Bengt practicing his counting.  Gigi would sing through her ABC song.  And one night I heard her reviewing—in rhythmic chant—the main characters in a book about the Lion King: “Simba, Nala, Scar, Zazu, Mufasa . . .” She especially loved the sound of that last one!
  • Kids memorize easily and even internalize what you sing to them.  Several times I heard Gigi singing through the words of a song Erika often sings to her as she puts her to bed.  It’s a song I used to sing to Erika: “Peace” from The Music Machine.  I love the refrain: “Peace, peace, I think I understand/Peace, peace is holding Jesus’ hand.”  Not a bad way to drift off to sleep—for children or adults!

If you ever wonder what your kids are taking in during the day, try listening in to the monitor.  They may be absorbing a lot more than you think!

Lessons Learned from Little Ones

Do you learn a lot from your kids?  I know I did.  And now I’m learning just as much—or more!—from my grandchildren.   Here are two of the latest examples:

“You’re Mrs. Beaver.  You make the decisions.” That’s what my 4-year-old grandson told me when we were “playing Narnia” last week.  Soren’s parents had been reading him one chapter each night from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.  The child was completely entranced by the story.  While I was visiting them, his favorite game was “Let’s play Narnia,” and we each had assigned character parts.   We were to call each other by our Narnia names—even his little 1-year-old brother whom he had named, interestingly, Aslan.

One morning when Soren (Peter) and I were playing in the basement, his “Kangaroo Climber” was serving as the beaver den.  Trying to figure out what toys (plastic food, etc) we could use to serve “breakfast,” I asked him, “Peter, what do you think we should have for breakfast?”  That’s when I got his response: “Well, you’re Mrs. Beaver. You make the decisions.”

Hmmm…food for thought (no pun intended!).  I wonder if that’s not what a lot of kids are thinking when struggling parents may be being having difficulty “being the parent.”  Kids need to know who’s in charge, don’t they?  Actually, they instinctively know who’s supposed to be in charge.   All the more reason to step up and, as we say at Mom to Mom, “be the parent”!

“Time out!  Time out!  Time out!” This story came to me from “Gigi,” the grandmother with whom I share grandchildren Bengt (5) and Hannah (21 months).   Once when she was visiting and watching the kids, Hannah ventured over to grab a lamp cord she wasn’t supposed to touch.  “No, Hannah, you can’t touch that,” reminded her big brother.  Looking him straight in the eye, she turned around and grabbed hold of the cord, exclaiming in her powerful (I’m not kidding!) voice: “MINE!!!!”  Enter Gigi.  As her grandmother approached the scene of the crime, Hannah immediately began shouting “Time out, time out, time out,” and took herself right over to the time-out chair.   Her mom tells me she doesn’t always do that, but it was an instructive moment.

And sometimes we wonder if they really “get it” when we tell them no, or follow through with discipline.   Think again!  As I was often reminded as a mom, our kids are always smarter than we are!

A Look at Life from a 19-month-old’s Perspective

For the past month, Woody and I have had the great joy of having a house full of family.  Since our kids and grandkids all live far from us, this is a gift beyond words.  It’s also been a great refresher course on life with kids—and life through the eyes of a toddler.

For a few brief days—wonderful, joyfully chaotic days—we had all five grandkids here, ages four months to four-and-a half years.  But for a whole month (yay!) we’ve had Gabriella (aka Gigi) and her mom, our daughter Erika, with us from Dublin, Ireland, with Richie (Erika’s husband and Gigi’s dad) here for two weeks.

Erika and I would like to share a few “hot tips” I’ve picked up along the way from life with Gigi.  We moms can learn a lot from a 19-month-old!

Gigi eating cheerios in her high chair

#1 It’s important to start your day with a good breakfast—two spoons speed things along for a girl on the go.

Gig pushing a child-size shopping cart.

#2 Get used to the supermarket—you’ll spend a lot of time here!

Gigi standing in the washing machine!

#3 Wash should be sorted in 3’s—whites, darks—and kids!

Gigi driving a toddler car.

#4 Amazing how much time you spend driving—it’s always easier when you go solo.

Gigi at the piano.

#5 Always make time for music.

Gigi in her ballet outfit.

#6 And dancing—is anyone watching?

Gigi watches her grandfather ("Farfar") vacuum the house.

#7 Enlisting help with chores is a must!

Gigi waters a planter in front of the house.

#8 Don’t forget to water those plants—or, um, the sidewalk!

Gigi, Erika, and Linda fill the kiddie pool.

#9 A cool dip in the pool can seriously improve your attitude!

Gigi grins as she sits on a poolside chair.

#10 And don’t forget to chill out and dry off in a comfy chair.

Gigi wearing her mom's sunglasses.

#11 Go glam or go home. Paris Hilton has nothing on me!

Richie showing Gigi various outfits for her to choose from.

#12 Before you go out, wardrobe selection is vital—“I don’t know, Dad—maybe something in red?”

Richie lifting Gigi high up in the air at the playground.

#13 Clearly Mom’s not along at the playground for this one—Dads can be so much fun!

Linda and grandkids eating lunch together poolside.

#14 Must haves for discriminating guests: A pair of crocks and a tube of sunscreen.

Gigi on a jet ski nestled in her dad's lap.

#15 Try something scary every day—you might like it!

Gigi at the petting zoo.

#16 Take time out to feed a furry friend.

Erika and Gigi sitting on the dock.

#17 Wait a minute—how come my feet don’t touch the water?

Linda and Woody and kids and grandkids posing in the park.

#18 There’s nothing like a family picnic!

Gigi sitting with her cousin Bengt.

#19 If you don’t have an older brother, try a big cousin to look up to!

Gigi with her cousin Hannah.

#20 The guys are great, but there’s nothing like a girl cousin to hang out with.

Gigi and her parents in front of house, flying an American flag.

#21 You can celebrate the fourth of July even if you’re half Irish!

Gigi with Linda and Woody.

#22 Boy, have I ever got Nana and Farfar wrapped around my little finger!

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