When I was 40, I had the great blessing of becoming Grandma Debbie. At the time I was still raising my own kids. My daughters Jae and Robyn were only seven and four when Kirstie, my first granddaughter, was born. But having almost overlapping families added to the fun! As of October 2012, Dave and I have been blessed with 14 grandkids. They are ~ Kirstie(1994) ~ Nic(1994) ~ Kyle(1996) ~ Christopher(1999) ~ Josh(1999) ~ Ethan(2005) ~ Owen(2007) ~ Shelby(2009) ~ Jaxon(2009) ~ Ezekiel(2010) ~ Braden(2010)~ MacKenzie(2012)~ Quinn(2012)~ Cannon(2012) We’re pretty sure there will be a few more. Jae & Sean are just getting started and Robyn & Andrew are biding their time. Another blessing ~ I get to spend a lot of time with my grandkids. Most live in my hometown and the others are just a few hours away. I’d like to share my adventures as Grandma Debbie here and maybe you can share your adventures, too. I’m always up for learning new ways to have fun with the kids!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can You Have it All?

It has to be hard being a mommy in this Pinterest generation. There are so many good ideas posted on the social network site that a gal can get overwhelmed seeing what everyone else is doing for their kids and homes and neighbors. And the pricey dresses and baubles that we see there. Oy! A mommy might have to get a second …or third… job so she can get some, too! And be like the other mommies who have it all.
Well, I’m here to tell you that having it all is a sham. We can’t do every activity, make dinner for every sick neighbor, call our mother every day, and still have time to carve a path through the toys in the living room and brush our teeth.
Relax! Whether you feel like it or not, you’re a good mom. Each of your kids is a perfect match for you as a guide through life. What your kids need from you is eye contact, affection, and to know that you’ll be back when you leave them. {That one they have to learn from experience.} They also need a mommy who respects herself as much as she respects them (and her husband.) So when you plan their play-dates, arrange them with like-minded, inspiring moms. You’ll see you’re not alone.
Sometimes you’re going to lose your cool. You’re even going to yell. Forgive yourself, apologize to the kids, and move on.
Have confidence in your mothering abilities and realize that no one does all of the great activities she posts on Pinterest. If she’s trying, then something is going undone…maybe her mind.
An ah-ha quote you've seen tells it all….Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to other people’s highlight  reel. (Pastor Steven Furtick)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teaching Kids Independence

      {It’s important to note ~ before they can learn independence our kids need to know they can totally depend on us for everything. I don’t believe that you spoil babies by picking them up when they cry. How else is Baby to ask, “Hey, can we hang out for a while?” or tell you, “I feel crummy and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Independence comes after dependence has been fulfilled.}

The number one job in parenting is to put yourself out of a job. To do that, we have to teach our kids to be independent. It comes naturally when it’s a part of daily life.
Before they can even point, you can start offering choices. At first, you’ll be guiding the decisions. An infant can’t tell you whether a blue or white Onesie would be better today. But it’s fun to ask. Around seven months, you can ask, “Do you want to play with the ball or the blocks?” Wait a moment. Baby might look at the ball. “Okay! Let’s play with the ball!” As they grow, we can offer so many choices in the course of the day. Red cup or blue cup? Sandwich or pasta for lunch? Nap now, or in five minutes? {Sometimes the choice—even for adults— isn't if, but when.}

My preschoolers and I went to our local library for weekly story and craft times. There I saw mommies suspended over youngsters, telling them how to make a pretty picture. “Put the cotton ball right here.” She guides the little hand into position. “Nice. Isn't that beautiful?” Those mommies went home with far prettier cards and pictures than I ever did. But when kids make their own art, they feel good about their creations, and themselves. At times, they asked for help and got it. {It took a while to master the scissors.} They were making choices while pasting sequins on the wrong side of the paper.

As early as three, when eating at a fast food place, if our kids wanted more catsup, they had to go ask for it. I shadowed each new adventurer to the counter. If the cashier looked at me, I pointed down to the kid. “May I have more catsup, please?” taught them that it’s okay to ask. {I taught them “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Careful, though. That one can bite you in the foot when they become debating teens.}
When it was time to start a chore chart, I used a cork-board and thumb tacks. {I knew I’d never get around to making new copies of the charts and there’d go the system.} Each time they did all of their chores without reminders, they got a happy tack—a bonus tack with a cute design on the tack head. We also awarded happy tacks for good attitudes, helpfulness, and positive messages from their teachers. For each happy tack, they chose a treat or small toy from the Happy Tack Drawer. Or they saved them up to earn special treats, like a trip (alone) with Mom or Dad to get an ice cream cone.

When our first three kids were going to public school, I’d remind them to load their backpacks, but after about third or fourth grade if they forgot lunch or homework, they had to explain to the teacher. One forgotten lunch was enough to make them remember to double check. Homework usually made it, too. (The only exception to this rule was medication. Sometimes the morning got chaotic and Steve forgot his insulin. That I’d take to the school for him.)

In 7th grade, Steve (#1 child) came home from school one Friday with a special homework assignment. Do a load of laundry. I thought ~ if he can do one load, he can do his own laundry from now on. I taught him the machines and doses of detergent, and he ran with it. He liked being in charge of his own clothes because frankly, I wasn't good at getting the laundry from the baskets to the drawers. This homework assignment started the family tradition of becoming responsible for your own laundry when you turn twelve. Now, if you’re out of underwear, you have only yourself to blame. And there’s no excuse to bring dirty clothes from college or your apartment for Mom to do. They could use my machine, but not my labor.

My kids have always been part of my kitchen so moving up to planning meals wasn't a big step, though they still had a lot to learn. By age eight, they could read labels. {“Mom, can we get this cereal?” “Read the label.”} By fifteen, they could plan a menu and grocery list, shop for the ingredients, and make a family meal.

Our last two kids had something different from the first three. I got tired of hearing, “Mom, I need new pants.” Or movie tickets. Or…fill in the blank. Every parent knows the drill. It’s exhausting. A friend loaned me “Debt Proof Your Kids” and, with a little personalization, we found peace. When she was sixteen, Jae and I tallied the cost of her clothing (compromising between her designer-wear taste and my Target specials), certain outings, gifts to buy (that we would usually provide), and personal items needed for a year, divided the total by twelve, and I gave her that much cash every month. These were the items we considered our parental responsibilities. She had a job to pay for her car insurance {no license if you can’t pay the insurance}, and her “wants.” There were only a few months she didn't have enough to cover an expense. For that, she looked elsewhere. There were no advances on the next month’s stipend. She learned fast, as did Robyn when her time came. {AND, we didn't pay their traffic fines. Just sayin'.}

By 18, when they can legally step out into the world, they should already have many important mistakes under their belts and a little wisdom in their heads.

 But, there’s an irony of putting yourself out of a job. When our kids became independent, they also became friends. We didn't push them away with these skills—we drew their hearts closer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

One simple trick to getting there on time…

Habitual tardiness is discourteous and a terrible time waster (yours and other people’s).
I should know. As a young mom, I wasn't on time...ever. Over-tired, over-stressed, and under organized, I had no idea how long it took to get ready and then to actually get to where I was going—there were too many components to getting to…well, anywhere.
I’m going out on a limb here to guess that I’m not alone. Oh, not that I think it’s a very big club, but I know there are a few of us. See, I home schooled my kids (and a few grand kids) for seventeen years. It drove me nuts every time the workshop leader said, “Let’s give the stragglers another five minutes before we begin.” She rewarded the latecomers (the same ones every time), giving them no incentive for punctuality.
Long before my home school days, I learned that if I broke the getting-there into its component parts and then counted down from the arrival time, maybe I could save myself some embarrassment and some time. {A late arrival to some appointments often meant a longer wait, or a reschedule.}
When I learned to count backward, my scrap paper looked something like this:

Appointment at 10:00
Drive time…15 min (9:45)
Extra traffic? Better add a five-minute cushion (9:40)
Get from the door to out of driveway…10 min (9:30)
Shower, dress myself… 15 min (9:15)
Get Steve’s clothes out…5 min (9:10)
Dress Amy…10 mins (9:00)
Bathe, dress, nurse Nick …30 mins (8:30)

I knew I’d better start getting ready no later than 8:30, and knowing me, starting at 8:20 was wise.
What most folks take as natural logic, I had to develop a system for. Oh, I was still late sometimes. Still am on occasion, but I’m usually on time, if not a little bit early.

That said, even after 35 years, my best friend, Jane, still arrives for our tea dates before me.

What gets you there on time?

Monday, December 24, 2012

My 3 Favorite Cold & Flu Remedies

As a big family, “the bug” can knock us over like lined up dominoes. If one of us is coming down with {whatever’s going around} on Tuesday {Stamp Night} or Sunday {family dinner night}, a few days later someone else is catching it, too.

At the Haasienda, I keep a few Go-To home remedies to help combat the bugs. Sometimes my remedies help lighten the virus’s effects, sometimes they help us avoid the bug altogether. Sometimes, they don’t do diddly.

My first choice remedy is the homeopathic aconitum napellus (aconite). It’s the best defense in the first few days of an illness—four tablets under the tongue at least four times a day. ~Try not to eat or drink anything for at least fifteen minutes before and after each dose. That lessens its punch.~ Aconite is one among hundreds of homeopathic remedies. Whatever's bothering you, there’s a homeopathic to help. Before using the remedies, do some research on Google and get a reference book or two (like Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines.) These aren’t one-size-fits-all magic pills, so please do your due diligence. They are worth investigating.

Next...I put my face over a pan of steam and drape a towel over my head. The steam (usually with a few drops of White Flower Oil) opens up my sinuses and might even kill some germs on its way to my lungs. Steam can also relieve a sinus headache.
Last, but not least…Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE), recommended by my D.O. (Dr. K) at least a decade ago. I use 20 drops in half a glass of orange juice {to mask its bitterness} a few times a day.

These remedies {found at natural foods stores and online} lessen my symptoms and shorten my healing time. Often they thwart the bug completely. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it.

What are your favorite home remedies?

  GSE, Aconite, White Flower Oil


Friday, December 14, 2012

Today’s events in Connecticut are heartbreaking. To have the lives of at least twenty-six people—most of them young children—abruptly, violently, purposefully taken is incomprehensible. I can't understand how someone, no matter how mentally ill, can see this as a solution. Through our human nature, we may want this person to suffer a slow and tortuous death, and then design a special place of torture for him to live. Forever.

But that won’t bring the babies back. It won’t mend our {global} grief, or the personal pain that we {even those of us who have lost a child to disease} can ever understand.

Even the satisfaction of the criminal’s slow and painful death couldn’t come close to mending the evil done.

Will gun control prevent this from happening again? Not as long as there is a black market for the black-hearted.

Will mandatory psychological evaluation prevent it? Not as long as much of the human mind remains a mystery.

Will outlawing violent video games, music, and movies save the future? Probably not. There will always be darkness in a few hearts who seek to inflict their pain on others.

Today, I pray for those shuddering under this heavy net of pain cast wide and far over families and communities. And I ask you to put a recurring note on your calendars to lift-up to God those left behind. In a few months, this event will be tucked into the back of our minds. I hadn’t thought of the Amish school attack, Columbine, or the 1979 shooting here in San Diego, in a long time. A reminder to pray for the continuing healing of these families {might} go a long way.

God bless you all…


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grandma and Papa Do Disneyland

When our kids were small, Dave came home from the hardware store one day with a fat six-foot length of sprinkler pipe. Later that afternoon, he brought it to our room—a cap on each end and a slot near one of the caps. {Our change jug never seemed to get very full so Dave, suspecting foul play, switched tactics for saving his loose change every day.} Big treats were a rarity, but every two to three years, we cashed in our silver for a trip to Disneyland. (The pennies went to Papa Don -Dave’s dad- for the Shriner’s burn hospital.)

Even the kids put money into the tube. As the sprinkler pipe neared full, dinner conversation centered on the upcoming trip to Anaheim. These trips were in the autumn or the early spring, and always on a mid-weekday.

Two days before the excursion, Dave cut the bottom cap from the pipe and ceremoniously dumped the change onto the living room floor. And I DO mean ceremoniously. I can still see him dragging the heavy tube in from the garage. “Oh, no! Somebody better come help me! This thing is so heavy…there it goes…I…think I’m…going…to drop it!” By then he had all the help he could manage. Groaning, they helped Dad lift the tube upside down. “Look at that mountain of money!” Yep. He should have been in theater, not the geek Chess Club in high school. With the pile on the floor, we started guessing the total. The closest got bragging rights.

We had our jobs—Dad fished out the dollar bills (sometimes waving a twenty in their faces), Steve-quarters, Amy-dimes, Nick-nickels, and I watched over the flying arms. Dave and I helped the kids fill and secure their coin rolls.

The day before our trip, the kids and I went to the bank, exchanging our heavy load for paper money. Home again; I called Disneyland to find out tomorrow’s hours {sometimes they opened an hour earlier than scheduled} and which rides were closed. That night at dinner, we planned our attack—listing our favorite rides. When we got to Disneyland, we were pinballs shooting around the park until we completed our list.

Our Spring 1987 trip looked something like this…
Arrive forty-five minutes before the park opens
Wait with the crowd for Main Street’s velvet rope to drop
Speed walk to Space Mountain (less than a five-minute line)
Star Tours
Pirates of the Caribbean
Tea Cups
Haunted Mansion
Small World (for Baby-JaeJae *wink*)
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (for Dad)
…then we slowed down a little. We’d finished our list within an hour and a half. The next hour, we spent waiting in short lines for a few more rides (Pinocchio, People Movers, and the train around the park) before heading to Tomorrowland Terrace for lunch.

We stayed until they closed—after the parade (a great time to hop on the popular rides) and a little shopping. The drive home was quiet—the kids asleep and Mom halfway there. We have DONE Disneyland again.

Amy went with some friends once, expecting them to bounce enthusiastically around the park like we do. Not so. That night she told us, “When we got there, they bought some coffee and sat in the Plaza—sipping, looking at the map, and talking to each other about what they want to see today. By the time we got on our first ride, our family would have been getting off of our sixth!”

After looking forward to this trip for more than two years, our family didn’t want to waste a moment at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Today, things are different. This year, Dave’s company held their annual employee appreciation day at Disneyland. We were able to buy California Select passes at a deep discount by applying that day’s tickets {and two Disney gift cards from a few years ago} to new passes. Since last July, we’ve been six times.

Now we arrive a little after the park opens, hit a few rides and then amble through the different “Lands” searching for hidden Mickeys. We’ve learned to love California Adventure almost as much as Disneyland. And we love the slow pace we set for ourselves.

Although we still enjoy Disneyland, by going so often it’s lost some of its excitement….unless we bring a grandbaby with us. Then we get to see it through fresh eyes again.

              Even after they grew up...we still DO D'land! Nick and Steve in 1996

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One Idea to Preserve Family Traditions

Thanksgiving…my favorite day. From autumn’s first flirty nip in the August twilight, I look forward to the cooking, the fun, and a house full of family in late November. It’s been a few years since Papa Dave and I have spent the holiday with our entire family. This year we’ll have a nearly complete set of offspring. (Tho we’re bummed grandson Nic can’t make it.) That’s 26 of us, plus another 15 extended family. I’m praying it doesn’t rain. But Dave and I love filling the Haasienda* with family and friends. {*We call our vaguely Spanish style home “the Haasienda”, replacing first part of the Spanish word for estate (hacienda) with our last name.}

As per our tradition, the day before Thanksgiving, my girls and the kids are coming to cook. We’ll make rolls, pies {chocolate, pumpkin, my mom’s secret-recipe cherry pie}, and fudge. Lots and lots of fudge. We’ll get a jump-start on the next day's meal by chopping and cooking some of the veggies, setting out bowls and platters, and rearranging furniture.

Last November our family lived in three different states. But, Amy and Jae were able to make our traditional dinner without Mom. Five years ago, I made Thanksgiving cookbooks—with recipes, pictures from Thanksgivings past, the menu, shopping list, a time line, and family quotes.

Making the nine copies took about a week. I already had most of the supplies and I found the 8x8-inch photo albums on clearance at Target. Each page of the book came together as I approached it with stamps, stickers, printed recipes, and not a clue how to put it together.

My girls turn to these books often {not only on Thanksgiving} for recipes and hints. Each of them has told me that this idea, that came unexpectedly, is one of their favorite gifts from me. Long after I’m gone, {maybe I’ll retire in Fiji. You never know…} my daughters and granddaughters will have Thanksgiving at their fingertips, complete with memories and a grocery list.

If you want to know more about the cookbook, or have ideas to share, I’d love to hear them!
Pssst…Mom’s secret recipe is on the far right of the page….

In 1979, my son Steve could really put away the pie…

…so could his little sister and brother (Amy and Nick).

A Thanksgiving cookbook wouldn't be complete without a few ideas for the leftovers.

My mom with her feet up after a long-ago, long Thanksgiving day. Miss her...

 No matter how you spend the day, I hope you feel the blessings of the past year, and stay open to many more in the coming year.