A Four Year Old Begins School – A Big Step

A morning just a few months ago at exactly 7:35 AM, I stood at the end of our driveway at our New York house, waiting for our daughter-in-law, Amy, to pick me up. It was just like I was back to being a young kid, waiting for the bus to school. But I am not the student; our grandson Ryan is the Preschool student. Amy drives Ryan to Four year old Preschool each morning and then after school the bus drops him off at the end of his driveway at precisely 10:35. I am so excited and happy that Ryan is in a Preschool program. Of course, I am a great cheerleader for Preschool and all it can offer children and parents. I retired a year ago after living the joyful life of a Preschool teacher for thirty of my thirty-five years of teaching.

Pulling in the reins and stopping my inquisitive mind is difficult as I, Amy (Momma) Daddy, Papa Paul, baby brother Callum and even once, Great Grandma Anne, greet Ryan as he steps off the bus. I just want to hear ALL about the morning – his morning and how he has perceived the experiences his teacher presented. Ryan hasn’t had many social times with other children during his first four years. He is a farm boy growing up in an environment rich with adult conversations with Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunt Rachael, and of course, Mommy and Daddy. So the classroom is a new land he is discovering.

One of the soothing and comforting things that Amy did for Ryan, to ease his transition from home to school, was to put into his backpack a page of family photographs. While at school whenever he experienced the feelings of sadness and the thoughts that tears might be coming soon, Ryan could go to his backpack and look at those photos of all those people who love him so much.

The great turning point for Ryan came a few weeks ago when he told his Momma that he didn’t need that family photograph page in his backpack. He hadn’t had tears at school for quite awhile he said. What a wonderful feeling for him, and of course his family, that tremendous growth had taken place in this little guy of only four years old. He felt secure and more  confident in the school environment.

Ryan has taken his first big step into Preschool and he is doing well. His confidence and self assurance are growing. I will be excited to see his next big step.

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Selfless Living or “It’s Not About Me”

My husband and I were having supper with Jim and Lynn, some very good friends. They are the type people who even though they have moved from our town, whenever we get together, the conversation just flows – like we haven’t been apart. If you have friends like this, you know it is one of God’s blessings. Their son had recently been married at a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. Of course much planning had gone into this event, including Lynn’s shopping for just the perfect island dress. I recall she had mentioned her efforts in emails to me and I can recall the exciting email of the picture of the dress after she finally found the right one.

The story that follows about their son’s wedding day is a true depiction of selfless living or “It’s not about me!” Jim and Lynn were getting ready for the wedding in their hotel room. Lynn slipped on her dress and turned to Jim to have him zip up the back. The zipper broke! Nothing could be done to fix it. What to do? A destination wedding on an island away from home. No extra dresses to go to in the closet back at home. Lynn talked to their son and asked about any of the other women attending –  maybe they had something she could wear. Their was one hopeful situation of a young lady who wore a size 2 (Lynn wears a 4). Lynn hurried to the girl’s room and tried on a halter dress the girl had. It just wouldn’t work though. What to do, what to do??

Lynn pulled herself together and put on a pair of white capris and a fancier type top she had brought. She did get to wear the very fancy sandals that went beautifully with her dress. Lynn made a decision that the day wasn’t about her and the dress malfunction. The day was for their son and his bride. Any more mention of the dress disaster would shift the focus and take away from the bridal couple’s special island wedding day.  The wedding happened and Lynn was just fine in those casual white capris and top. The photos prove she looked great as the Mom of the groom.

As I mentioned before, Lynn embraced selfless living that day. She was able to put herself and her feelings aside and let all who were in attendance at that wedding that the day was totally for their son and his bride. Way to go Lynn – you are an inspiration to me.

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Thoughts While at my Kitchen Sink Window

It seems a shame to waste any of the allotted time given to me each day as I wash dishes at my New York farm house kitchen sink and gaze out the window directly above it . I do have the luxury of a dishwasher, but I still tend to keep the sink full of soapy water as I bake or prepare a meal. I’m kind of a “clean up as I go” type gal.

With my hands busy in the soapy water, my mind is free to wander back in time to my Mom, a farm wife, who also spent lots of time looking out her kitchen window that was also above her sink. She spent endless hours there, washing dishes, washing and peeling fruits and vegetables for freezing and canning and even shampooing my Dad’s hair. We didn’t have a shower in the bath tub so hair washing was done at the kitchen sink. Seems kind of strange now but wasn’t at the time.

Thinking back to Mom and all the work she did in the kitchen is one of my sweet spots in my memory. Life happened in the farm kitchen – not only the obvious like cooking, baking, washing dishes, washing clothes, sweeping farm “this and that” from the kitchen floor, answering and talking on the only phone in our home and eating the family meals but also visiting with anyone who happened to stop in – friends, family or neighbors, having long conversations with Mom while drying dishes and  connecting in conversation with everyone who entered and departed our house. Everything and everyone came in and went out through the kitchen – it was command central.

I miss Mom a lot. She died back in 1992. I wish she were here today to share with me what she was thinking about during all those hours she spent at her farm kitchen sink. I’m sure everyone has those sweet spots in their memory that can be visited whenever some comfort is needed during the day or night. For me, all I need to do is wash some dishes at my sink, gaze out my window as I do and I’m right back there with Mom, in my memory at least.

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Our Annual Mother/Daughter Banquet at church

Last Friday night was the annual Mother/Daughter Banquet at our Methodist Church. This dinner and program has been a tradition for more years than this Grandma can remember. I served on the committee this year to plan the banquet and cook the meal for over a hundred daughters, mothers and grandmothers. The part of the evening that tugs at my heart the most is the  item on the program entitled”Blessings of being a Grandma, Mom and Daughter”. The blessings shared were written by our daughter, our granddaughter and myself. I want to share a few words written by our daughter as well as the words that I shared about grandparenting with the banquet attendees.

Our daughter shared that Moms are the  ones who soothe their babies when they cry,comfort their children when they are fearful, and give peace and reassurance to their older children when they are struggling. MOM stands for: Moments of madness; Master of Multi-tasking; Manager of Messes and Made of Money.


Now for what I shared with all the females in attendance that evening:

Blessings of being a Grandma

Grandparenting is all about the opportunity God gives many of us to see our granddaughters and grandsons through a specially created lens made only for grandparents. This lens magnifies and intensifies, even miraclizes (that’s a new word coined just for tonight) each image, or action or sentence spoken by each grandchild. Just everything about each grandchild is a miracle, an event, something that just hasn’t been said or done before. While of course, in our grandparent hearts, we know for a fact that this special lens we’ve been given by God is common and available to all grandparents. That takes nothing away though from how utterly magnificent it is to me.

 I am called Grandma Diane and believe me it is a title of honor. When I hear Maggie, our only granddaughter call me “Grandma Diane”, I spring into action. Maggie and I love clothes – especially putting outfits together, trying different things. In fact her Daddy, Steve, sometimes rolls his eyes at me when he sees Maggie and I start putting outfits together or talking fashion. He says, “Thanks Grandma Diane for influencing Maggie to become a fashionista.”  Last summer Papa Paul and I bought Maggie a pair of short, short jean shorts (that would be for most of us the style we only wear now in our dreams). Maggie loved these shorts, looked cuter than any 6 or 7 yr. old girl could look (forgive me but the Grandma lens is kicking in) and wanted to wear them every day. She wore them when it was too cold for shorts but instead put a pair of tights on under them. She wore them even when they were in the dirty clothes basket and she had to retrieve them. I thought, WOW!, Maggie and I are the same. I had a favorite pair of shorts as a child that I wore just about every day. I wore them under my dresses to give me a more secure feeling on the playground when I did those handstands or jumped rope.

 Maggie and I also share a love of the written word – we love reading words and playing with them, putting them together just like those clothes outfits. We feel lost if we don’t have a book to read. I love that Maggie loves reading! And I love listening to Maggie read.

I have been and continue to be blessed by my grandparents – especially my grandmas. Even after they have been gone many years now, the warm, loving, secure feelings the memories  stir within me are priceless and have helped make me who I am. Every day I pray for Maggie and our grandsons Grant, Ryan and Callum. In my prayers I ask God to please provide for me many opportunities with them so those warm, loving, secure memories such as I have can be a priceless part of their lives also.


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Brotherly Love

A couple of weeks ago,  my granddaughter and I were in Wal-Mart, shopping for some new clothes for her. In the middle of her looking and trying on outfits, she needed to use the bathroom. We left our cart close to the check-out counters and found the restroom at the front of the store. As we entered the women’s restroom, it seemed unusual to see a 10 or 11 year old boy, standing and apparently waiting for someone who was in a stall. This young man wasn’t able to make eye contact with me; I’m sure he felt embarrassed being in a women’s washroom in the first place. He most likely had wished that no one would come in while he was there. As I waited for our granddaughter and consciously tried not to look at the young man who was standing a few feet from me, I thought about possible scenarios as to why he was there. He must have accompanied a younger sister, otherwise why would he be in the women’s washroom. Maybe his Dad or Mom told him to take his sister to the bathroom and stay with her while she went. He would have rather taken her to the men’s restroom I am sure but maybe she didn’t want to go in there. Whatever the reason he was in the restroom, when his little sister of about 4 or 5 years old came out of the stall, he lovingly reminded her to wash her hands. Then they were off. But before they left, I felt I just had to give a comment of praise to him. I said, “You are a very good big brother.” He just nodded.

This small scene I witnessed has stayed with me for several days. I’ve revisited it many times in my mind. It has always rang true to me that the small acts of kindness and just “doing what you are asked to do” make the most difference in everyday life. This young man of 10 or 11  did what he was asked to do – he displayed brotherly love.

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A Day in the Vet Truck or Cows Up Close and Personal

One of life’s greatest blessings must be spending a day with one’s adult child as he performs his job. This humble, sincere, thirty-six year old son of ours is a large animal veterinarian in the rolling, dairy farm country of upstate New York. He puts many miles on each day in the Vet truck, tending to mostly cows, but horses as well and conversing with the farmers as they tend to their animals and farm fields.

Dr. Jim, ready for his day

Dr. Jim, ready for his day

Whenever my husband Paul and I are here at the New York farm house, I try to take the opportunity to ride in the Vet truck with our son, Dr. Jim,  experiencing whatever makes for an ordinary workday for him. Now I want to clarify before I officially begin the day’s events, that I know I cannot get all the medical terminology correct. Thus the descriptions I write are definitely from my laywoman’s but daughter of a dairy farmer perspective.

The back of the Vet truck - a doctor's office on wheels

The back of the Vet truck – a doctor’s office on wheels

Our son’s day begins either checking in at the practice and picking up the Vet truck or else starting off from home already in  the Vet truck. Possibly he was on call the night before or else just kept the truck (plugged in, of course) overnight. After getting appointments from the practice’s scheduler (I think it is Judy), the schedule for the day’s farm visits are written on a yellow legal pad and our first stop is a big, did I say big? dairy farm that milks cows 21 of the 24 hours of the day. The milking is done in a parlor where the cows file in and out as directed and the cows’ udders are just at the perfect height and reach for the attendant.

Dr. Jim doing pregnancy checks on the cows

Dr. Jim doing pregnancy checks on the cows

The purpose of the visit today is a herd check. No, I don’t mean to check if the herd is there, but instead to verify through a mildly intrusive whole arm into the back end of the cow exam to feel if the cow or heifer (young cow) is pregnant. Dairy farmers usually have a weekly or bi-weekly standing appointment with the vet to check cows for pregnancy. It is a vital piece of the whole process of milk production. For close to three hours I followed Dr. Jim and assistant herdsman of the farm through the land of manure-filled free stall barns and I believe checked between forty and fifty cows. I recorded the results – “OK” was the desired outcome and “Open” was not. The fantastic item to note in the pregnancy checks is that it is all done by feeling inside the cow – being sensitive enough to notice something as small as an M&M to show pregnancy. This mother felt very proud watching the “Doc” verifying all that new cow life to be. As a side note … some farms have bathrooms in the milk house/farm office area. This one did and I used it. I will leave the ambiance of the facility to your imagination. After each farm visit comes the washing of the “Mucker” boots with a special solution in water. There can be no transfer of one farm’s germs, so to speak, to another by way of the boots.

Our next stop, believe it or not, is the home farm where our daughter-in-law, Amy, and son live. Amy, along with her family (including dad Dee, sister Rachael, and mom Pat) run the dairy farm along with hired employees. Another herd check is in order here and you already know the drill. I must add there were a few times that I stepped back from the action. Cows can get a bit frisky when in heat and I could feel the uneasiness creep in as I was in the midst of them in the free stall area. Free stall means the cows aren’t in stanchions but instead free to roam in the enclosed barn.

Another stop in our day was to an even bigger farm; I believe 800 milking cows. As there wasn’t the farmer or herdsman or farmworker available for information, a note was left about what cow to check. Dr. Jim looked up the sick cow’s stats on the farm computer in the barn office to see what might have precipitated the call. The cow had dropped in milk production. After catching and securing the cow in a stanchion, Dr. Jim checked all vitals but could not initially find the reason for the drop in production. Thus, a note from Dr. Jim was left for the farmer at the computer station. A phone call about the cow from the farmer came later in the afternoon as we were putting more miles on the Vet truck.

We finished this “shorter than normal” day at a Mennonite farm. I’d been there previously when Paul and I went there to see one of this farmer’s son’s maple syrup operation. When we pulled into the driveway in the Vet truck, it was evident it was wash day. The family’s clothes flapped in the cold, March wind as they hung on the clothesline that stretched over the driveway. This call was a follow-up on tests that Dr. Jim had done the week before on some of the cows and calves.

As I reflect on the day, I didn’t get to see any surgeries. I do enjoy watching our son perform surgeries, like for twisted stomachs. (You know cows have four stomachs.) And I didn’t get to see any calvings unless you count the dead calf that was pulled by the herdsman at the first farm we visited. I do enjoy watching our son aid a cow in her delivery. But what I did see is the very respectful and caring way our son, Dr. Jim, relates to and converses with the farmers, the children of the farmers and the employees of all these dairy farms, up, down and in between the many hills in Jefferson and Oswego counties in upstate New York.

Our son mentioned to me during one of our many conversations in the Vet truck on this ride-with day, that many people think being a Veterinarian is a glamorous job. He said it isn’t glamorous and I agree that it isn’t. There’s the hard, physical work of it, especially when animals don’t want to cooperate with the position you need them to be in to treat them; there’s the dealing with farmers and their frustrations especially since you are treating the animals that support them and their families; there’s the long hours, often 12 or more hours a day and that’s not mentioning all the on-call nights and weekends; and then there’s the driving, maybe a hundred miles a day just to get to the farms. Our son shared that one day last week he drove 350 miles in the Vet truck in a 24 hour period.

My girlfriends (the cows) on my day with our son, Dr. Jim

My girlfriends (the cows) on my day with our son, Dr. Jim

But we all know that it is best to focus on the positive and that is what Dr. Jim does. He cares for animals and their caretakers – the farmers. He treats all with respect and love and I can attest to this for I have heard him in action. What is such a joy though to me as a parent is to witness the respect and caring reflected in the words spoken by the farmers to our son, Dr. Jim. Priceless!

It was a good day in the Vet truck and also a good one with all of my hundreds of girlfriends – the cows.

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Tents and Nests here at the New York House

Right now I am sitting at my cozy, newly created, counter desk, looking at the stenciled letters on the wall before me – “Family, where life begins; Love never ends”. When I ended my last blog, we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of grandchild #4. Believe it or not, that very night or I should say 12:10 that next morning Callum Charles was born. He is now two weeks old and life is good. Another life has begun and the love of family continues.

Because of Callum’s birth, Papa Paul and I have the opportunity to spend lots of time with Callum’s big brother, Ryan, who is four.  Many adults and children, for sure, feel purchased toys are what makes kids the happiest. I disagree! Ryan and I have been busy creating tents and nests all over the house.

The coffee table or I should say tent, is the perfect camping area in the living room. The little campfire lantern inside the tent adds a nice touch when the flaps of the tent (the bedsheet) are down. Ryan loves the secret place that is created and chatters to himself as he pretends he is a train engine in his little station.

When the tent no longer captures Ryan’s attention, we move on to making a nest on the top of Grandma and Papa’s bed. Ryan arranges all the pillows and any extra that he can find to protect any nest creature from falling out or off the “nest”. We have had various household items reside in the nest: my stuffed Easter bunny decorations; Thomas the train engine coloring pages; my kitchen table placemats and napkin rings; most anything can and does become a nest creature. By far, the best part of the nest is that we both get into it and then have conversations. Heartwarmed is the word that comes to mind to describe how I feel when I have the privilege of sharing these little talks with Ryan.

So there you have it, tents and nests. No money involved and lots of guaranteed fun for a four year old.




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