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What Children Believe

I read an article in Reader’s Digest about silly things people believed when they were kids and I knew my friends had such stories. Things they thought were true, but weren’t.

Mary Jo showed her three-year-old son a picture of her mother and explained that his grandmother was dead. Mary Jo asked if he knew what that meant. Her son responded, “Yes, it means the batteries ran down.”

Brenda believed the sun and the moon were the same because she never saw them in the sky together.

Amy was sure there really was a man in the moon. She was so afraid of him she wouldn’t look out a big living room window when the moon was full.

Elaine made sure her bedroom window blinds were down at night because she believed UFOs would get in her room if she didn’t.

Anita thought when it rained God was crying and storms meant that God was angry with folks who didn’t behave.

Jan believed that the only thing people did in Heaven was float on big clouds. She didn’t think that was interesting and couldn’t understand the hype she heard in Sunday school classes.

Dana believed a baby’s first clothes were made from threads the mother accidentally swallowed while sewing.   Babies were born wearing pretty rompers. She also thought all women were good seamstresses because those in her family were.

My son thought everyone’s mom had summers off work. “You, Aunt Brenda, Jan and Marilyn (neighbors) were off. I thought that’s just the way it was.” We were all public school teachers.

 

Seeing pictures of penguins in books and on television, Andrea thought penguins were huge, six feet tall. She was surprised when she saw a live one.

Julie was young when she found a cicada wing, a big see-through wing with black veins. She was sure it was a fairy wing and saved it, wrapped in cotton and inside a tiny box, for a long time.

Kae’s older sister, by 8 years, told her the police dropped her off for her family to take care of and if she ever told a lie, or even fibbed a little, the family was to call the police to come back and take her away. For several years, Kae believed her.

Sara’s dad, a doctor, delivered one of her male classmates on exactly the same day she was born. Sara’s older brother said the babies were switched so her family would have a girl. As elementary students, Sara and the boy had the same eye and hair color and the boy’s name was her father’s middle name. Sara believed.

Janna thought people in jail were in charge of changing the traffic lights.

Hearing a song on the radio, I thought the singer stood in the radio station building and sang into a microphone. My big brother laughed hard when I wondered how the singers travelled to different towns so fast.

These beliefs make me smile. Being naïve, the innocence of children.

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Freeze these Minutes

imagesWhen I give my Grand a block, he makes it a car, rolls it on the floor, and says, “Vrooooomm.” I watch Jess, two years old. He lays flat, stomach and head on the floor, and rolls the pretend car just inches from his nose.

After a few minutes, Jess throws the block onto the floor and gets two Hot Wheels cars from our toy shelf. Then back to prone position. Clutching a car in his right hand under his stomach, he rolls the other car with his left hand. Back and forth. “Vroom. Vroom. Vrooooomm,” he says.  I want to freeze these minutes when my Grand is totally engaged in a simple game.

Jess, the youngest of five, visits Husband and me and we relish that we can play with just him. And our Grand seems happy to play alone and have Pop and Gran all to himself.   When I say it’s time for a snack, he runs to the kitchen table, holding a Hot Wheels in each hand, climbs into a booster seat on a kitchen chair, and shouts, “Fruit!” His one-word sentences sometimes sound like demands. He swipes his hand across his chest, an attempt to move his hand in a circle, which signifies please in sign language.

Jess helps me peel a tangerine, remove the stringy white pith, and divide it into segments. His small fingers pick off every tiny white string before he plops a segment into his mouth. “More!” he says and swipes his chest.

Outside, Jess runs toward a rubber playground ball. He accidentally kicks it and it rolls away. He runs again. Picks up the ball and throws it and runs toward it. When I pick up the ball and suggest we roll it back and forth to each other, he grabs the ball and runs. “Mine!” he shouts. Yes, it’s all his and it’s his game until he’s tired and lays his head against my legs.

I give him a plastic spray bottle of water. He squirts the grass and then discovers water changes the color of our gray wooden fence. He giggles and then laughs out loud as water drips down the fence. Soon the bottle is empty and he runs back to me. “More. More. Now.”

Much too soon, it’s time to take Jess home. My fingers don’t manage the belt on his car seat well and my Grand sits patiently. He’s tired and I sing a silly song, “I’m fastening your seat belt, seat belt, seat belt.” Finally, he’s buckled in and Jess claps his hands, kicks his feet, and laughs.

When I tell him good-bye at his house, Jess responds, “Book. Read.” He grabs a book from his family’s children’s book basket and holds it toward me. Daughter, his mother, says, “It’s one of his favorites right now.” Jess and I settled on the couch and two of his older siblings sit close by. Jess makes the sounds to go with the pictures in the book. “Vroooooomm!”

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When Children Help

move_cartoon-florida-movingThere are have been some unexpected cherished times during this move to Husband’s and my new house. Although sorting, packing, hauling, unpacking, and ‘setting up’ house has almost done me a few times, I treasure some conversations with our children and Grands.

When Daughter-in-Law asked if we’d have room for all our furniture, I said, “We’ll probably sell a few things. Like the antique oak washstand. It’s not a family piece and it won’t go in our new kitchen.” Son muted the televised football game he was watching, and he tuned into our conversation. “Wait a minute,” he said. “What are you talking about? What’s a washstand?” I explained that it had always set in the kitchen by the bay window. “You mean the table where you put the little Christmas tree decorated with seashells?” Son asked. Yes, that’s a washstand.

He wrinkled his forward. “What do you mean it’s not a family piece?”

“It didn’t come down through your dad’s or my family,” I said. “We bought it a long time ago. Probably in the late 70s.”

Son leaned back in his reclining chair and tilted his head. “But it’s always been in your kitchen. It’s a family piece to me.” The washstand now has a place in a guest bedroom until Son wants to move it to his house.

Both Son and Daughter offered to help. Son said he’d fly across country to set up electronics and carry heavy boxes. We took a rain check on that. Daughter said, “Just tell me when to be there, Mom.” I thought she had enough to do homeschooling her children and her daily responsibilities as wife and mother. “I’ll come late afternoon or after supper,” she said. “And what about moving day? You’ll need your bed made and towels out and ready for a shower. I can do that.”

The tables have turned. Husband helped Son organize the garage in his new house last year. When Daughter was a college student, Husband and I helped her move into several dorm rooms and apartments and never left until the bed was made and the towels hung.

I recruited my 9 year-old Grand to help pack our playroom, a former bedroom filled with blocks, cars, dress-up clothes, Fisher-Price play sets, books, art supplies, and more. All saved from our children’s childhood and things I’ve bought because the Grands needed more toys. What to keep? What to cull? “Gran, keep the multi-colored, funny wig,” Lou said as she threw it in a packing box. “Get rid of this straw hat and these caps – nobody ever wears them. Keep these purses. The little girls (her younger sisters) like them.” Lou sorted quickly and she packed, placing things tightly, with no empty spaces. We finished an all-day task by lunchtime.

David, age 11, sat on the floor in the middle of our new garage. Papers with printed directions, metal shelves, screws, and bolts for Husband new workbench were scattered around my Grand. “Pop had some other things to do so I told him I’d do it,” David said. Two hours later he told me, “Some of pieces looked the same, but the directions were good, and I took my time.” Project completed.

One day only David and I were riding in my van and we’d talked about the official moving day. He asked, “Gran, are you happy about this move?” Yes, of course. “Aren’t you sad, too?” I nodded. “So are you more happy or more sad?”

I’m thankful for our children’s and Grands’ help. It’s made for a happy move.

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Special Delivery

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-15-56-pmAs Husband and I drove 1295 miles west, we wondered how much it would’ve cost to ship everything in our van. Son’s stuff that been stored at our house all his life and a few of his and Daughter-in-Law’s things. Now we were spending two and a half days travelling in a van packed to the hilt. Picture albums, quilts, treasures from grandparents, Daughter-in-Law’s great-grandmother’s desk, a Civil War rifle, a handmade cedar chest, and so much more.

For days, Husband and I gathered and wrapped and packed. We prayed for travelling mercies: good weather, safety, a sense of humor and all went as planned. We arrived at Son’s home in time to greet our five-year-old Grand as he stepped off the school bus. Dean’s eyes grew big when he saw his parents and us. He jumped down the bus steps, almost fell, and ran to my open arms. “Gran!” he shouted and threw his arms around my neck.

“What’s in your van?” Dean asked when saw it in the driveway. Things that belong to your daddy and mommy. “Any toys?”

The next day after breakfast, Husband opened the van’s doors and Son and Daughter-in-Law were surprised to see how much we’d brought. The best way I could help was to take the two younger Grands for a walk. Neil, age 3, rode his balance bike, and I pushed sixteen-month-old Annie in her stroller.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-16-38-pmWhen we returned, the van was empty and Son’s office was piled with treasures. Sitting on the floor, Dean plucked the strings on a guitar that lay across his legs. Son tightened the strings, showed Dean how to hold a guitar, and admitted he never learned to play when he got it as a young teenager.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-15-02-pmNeil grabbed a stuffed Benji, Son’s sleeping buddy when he was a toddler. Then he found two other Benjis and hugged all three. “These are mine!” Neil announced.

Chests that my dad had made were carried downstairs. The toy chest was filled with dress up clothes in the playroom; the cedar chest set at the end of a bed for guests. “It’s perfect here and I want to store quilts we aren’t using in it,” Daughter-in-Law said.

Dean discovered an orange and tan quilt that my grandmother had made and dragged it to his room. He yanked a quilt off his bed, threw it on his brother’s bed, and pulled the orange quilt onto his. “Here, Neil, you can have my old quilt,” he said.

Annie rocked in the toddler-size rocking chair that my dad made for Son almost 40 years ago. It fit her perfectly. Several times during the four days Husband and I visited, Son ‘went missing.’ He unpacked and unwrapped and reminisced, and he didn’t try to send anything back with us although I predict some things might be donated or tossed.

After we left Son’s house, he texted a picture of a 1940’s porcelain white chicken candy dish that was his grandmother’s. “Just found the little white chicken. It’s great! Some things old are new again.” I wiped sentimental tears.

When we got home, Husband found a box we forgot to take and two weeks later, I found a box in our storage closet labeled with Son’s name and “School stuff and more.” He’ll be surprised when UPS delivers a box on his doorstep. I hope he reads the autobiography he wrote when he was in the 8th grade and I wish I could be there when he opens that box.

Driving 1295 miles wasn’t just about delivering stuff. Hugs and kisses and playing can’t be measured in dollars.

From Our House to Son’s

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-6-17-54-amWhen Son said, “This is the house our children will grow up in,” it was time to take him all his stuff. Son moved away from home more that twenty years ago. Went off to college and then moved into a 900 square foot house when he took his first real job. He married, he and Daughter-in-Law had three children, and they moved three times. And everything collected and saved from Son’s birth through college years has been safely stored at Husband’s and my house.

Now, Son’s family has settled into their forever home. So Husband and I started gathering stuff and making plans to drive 1295 miles to deliver treasures. We’d take the back seats out of my van and fill it full.

Would Son want everything that has been saved? Some things were going for sure: a cedar chest and a toy chest and toddler-size rocking chair that my dad made for him many years ago. High school yearbooks and a letter jacket. College fraternity scrapbooks. All the picture albums with his name on the spine. A purple and gold basketball from Tennessee Tech basketball camp. Quilts that he and his family had chosen from those my granny made.

I was surprised when we opened Son’s cedar chest. Forgotten treasures lay inside. A never used quilt, pillowcases cross-stitched by another great-grandmother, three stuffed Benjis – one so loved that its fur was flattened and matted. A cookbook, including Husband’s grandmother’s recipes, published by her Home Demonstration Club. Small treasures from his grandparents’ homes. Things that Son chose when he was young. A vintage white chicken candy dish. A small wooden black bear with a note tied to it. My mom had written, “Papa and I got this when we went to the Smokies for our honeymoon in 1939.” Would these things mean anything to Son at this stage of his life?

Then there was a pile of questionable stuff. Should we take a leather belt with a big western buckle? A guitar that Son strummed for a few weeks when he was 14 and bored and snow storms closed school for a month? Cassette tapes? A blanket he bought at a flea market when he went to camp one summer? A collection of twenty-year-old Sports Illustrated magazines? Rifles – the 22 he learned to shoot as his grandfather stood over his shoulder? A Civil War rifle passed down through generations? His first B B gun? A Santa Claus cookie jar? And so much more.

Son and I talked using Face Time. I held my phone camera in front of items. Yes, the belt. Yes, the guitar. “Does it still play?” he asked. No, cassette tapes. Yes, to everything else, including all three Benjis. “Unless you don’t have room and I’ll get some stuff another time.” There’d be room. Husband and I were determined.

Daughter-in-Law’s parents brought treasures. Her great-grandmother’s desk with fragile curved legs and a mirror and jars of her grandmother’s homemade blackberry jelly.

Loading the van was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that didn’t fit. Husband measured and wrapped and taped. We wedged and padded and filled every possible space. After three hours, we declared that everything would travel securely and not rattle during our journey. Husband drove around the block just to make sure.

How would Son and Daughter-in-Law and their three young children react when they see all this stuff? Stuff that’s theirs. Mostly stuff that has been in the house where Son grew up.

Red Dirt and White Shorts

imagesLast week when I wrote suggestions for how parents can partner with their children’s teachers, I alluded to letting children suffer natural consequences. Ramifications of behavior and choices.

Mom and Dad parented by allowing my poor choices, my mistakes, to be followed by natural consequences. Like the Saturday I spent all my money on comic books and then wanted to see a movie, probably a Gene Autry western. Because I didn’t have money, I didn’t see the movie.

One time, when I was about 6 years old and Mom and I visited her parents, I wore a new pair of white shorts and a red and white stripe top that Mom had made. After greeting Papa and Grandma and playing a few notes on their pump organ, I went outside to play. The dirt bank between my grandparent’s house and the road was red clay. On that hot summer day, the dirt was dry and hard. Papa and Grandma’s yard was several feet higher, maybe about eight feet, than the road and although I knew to stay away from the road, I drew pictures with sticks on the hard-packed dirt.

Rain had washed gullies in the red clay because there wasn’t any vegetation –none, no grass, no weeds. I walked barefoot on the soft dirt down the gullies; the slope was steep and I crawled up to the yard.

Then I discovered I could sit on the dirt bank, push myself, and slide. I’m sure the more I scooted down the slope, the slicker it became. By the time Mom discovered how much fun I was having, my white shorts matched the red in my top. I had wiped my dirty hands on my clothes, my hair, my whole body.

I wonder what I would have done if I’d been the mother. I can see myself, a little kid, covered with red dirt, wearing a new outfit, and as the mother I would have been angry – really mad! And probably Mom was, but I don’t remember that. I do remember sitting in our white enamel bathtub for a long time and Mom scrubbed my skin so hard it hurt – especially my feet and knees. She scrubbed with a washcloth and a small brush, probably the one she used to scrub the bathtub. And she must have dug into my head with her fingernails. It wasn’t a gentle hair washing like most times.

Mom’s scrubbing on my body was something I never wanted to endure again. And it was a natural consequence that the new shorts I had really liked, I could only wear at home. The red dirt became pink stains that never came out, and I didn’t get a new pair of white shorts. I don’t remember, but I bet Mom made me scrub those dirty shorts, with an old toothbrush.

I wasn’t forbidden from Grandma and Papa’s bank. In fact, after that day I slid down the slope many times, but I’d wear my oldest clothes, sometimes sitting on a piece of cardboard, and I didn’t rub dirt in my hair or on my body. Then I’d wash myself using Papa and Grandma’s outside water faucet.

At my elementary school, Byrdstown Elementary, there was also a red bank – much longer and steeper than Papa and Grandma’s, and many kids played on it, but I didn’t, not while wearing my good school clothes. Being scrubbed hard and not having a favorite pair of shorts to wear taught me a lesson.

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Dear Parents of School Age Children

searchIt’s back to school time. During my 25 years as a teacher, I was thankful for parents who were partners. Parents who worked with me to help their children learn and be successful and happy. Now, as a retired teacher and a grandmother, I remember how those parents helped and I’m 99% sure your children’s teachers would appreciate your help in these same ways.

  1. Get children to school on time. School begins at 8:00. Those students who walk into their classrooms by 7:55 have a few minutes to greet their friends and teacher, empty their backpacks, and get ready for the day. Students who walk into the school building at 8:00 are late. Their day begins with them trying to catch up.
  2. Read and respond to communication from school. Especially school work and field trip notices. Teachers send home student work for parents to see. Take five minutes, sit with your children, and listen as they explain the math problems that were easy and the spelling words that were difficult. If you have concerns, notify the teacher, before you call the school principal or your best friend. Return field trip notices ASAP. I always felt sorry for the children who hung their heads and said, “Mom saw the note, but she didn’t sign it.”
  3. Tell teachers what’s happening at your house. Any event that changes the home routine affects children’s feelings and attitudes and they bring those to school. Did Mom start a new job and she leaves home before everyone else gets out of bed? Is Grandma coming to stay while the parents take a vacation? Did a pet – a goldfish, a dog – die? Is there going to be a new baby in the family? Send a brief email or note. Help teachers understand why students are upset or sad or excited.
  4. Let your children fail and make mistakes. Yes, fail. Not a major failure, like 3rd grade. Small failures. If children hide homework and don’t do it, let them suffer the consequences: a bad grade or missing a fun activity to complete the assignment. Let them learn how failure feels. If they forget to take lunches to school and eat a school lunch that isn’t their favorite pizza, they’ll learn to be responsible and carry their lunch bags. (Yes, I’ve taken the first forgotten lunch to school. Second time, no.)

It’s okay to not master a task immediately. Long division isn’t easy. Neither is borrowing to subtract. Nor latitude and longitude. Let children learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and to fail and try again.

Don’t we learn perseverance from failures and mistakes? Isn’t determination built on failure and eventual success?

  1. Ask questions at the end of a school day. Questions that begin with what or who. What did you learn in Math? What did you do in music or physical education class? What book or story did you hear or read? What was the best thing that happened today? What did you bring home for me to see? Who sat beside you during lunchtime?

Don’t ask, “How was your day?” You’ll hear, “Fine.” End. Of. Conversation.

6 -10.    Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. To your children and listen to them read. School work, books, poems, comics, sport pages, backs of cereal boxes. Anything. Everything. There’s no need to expound on reading. Just read.

Both you and your children’s teachers want your children to learn and be happy. May this be the best school year ever!