Grandma’s Noodles

My family alternated holidays between the grandparents when I was a kid. We had a Fat Grandma and a Skinny Grandma. Not that we called them that, but it was a noteworthy comparison.

I won’t say that we preferred one over the other, but Skinny Grandma served boiled okra as a Thanksgiving side dish.

Fat Grandma always had homemade noodles.

We entered her home through the kitchen; immediately greeted by the wonderful smells, and a kiss on the lips no matter how you tried to dodge it. While the men sat in the living room talking about the Army/Navy game, the women and children were put to small tasks to speed the meal. Not that Grandma needed much help. The turkey and stuffing (plus dressing on the side for those who preferred it that way) were baking, the pies and cranberry sauce already made, and the air humid from boiling pots of potatoes and broth. Grandma’s apron was already covered in flour as she began to roll out the noodles.

I loved watching this process. She rolled the dough almost paper thin and then rolled it up jelly-roll style to slice into long strips of noodles. I got to help unfurl each roll and hang it to air dry just slightly before she cooked them in the boiling broth.

Somehow, without aid of microwave, everything was served hot, crowded on the serving table, ready for Grandpa to say the blessing as we all gathered. We didn’t all agree that the noodles were our favorite thing, but with their melt-in-your-mouth perfection they were part of everyone’s Thanksgiving plate.

“Everyone” could be a sizable crowd. Various of Grandpa’s eight siblings, their children or grandchildren made appearances over the years, along with our family, aunts, uncles and cousins. Neighbors, friends, and strangers like a young missionary pair working in their town, joined our meal at times. We brought along last-minute friends one year, but feeding four unexpected teenaged mouths was no problem for Grandma. (I think they each got a kiss, too.) At her house, space would be made for all who came. There would always be enough food to share.

In many ways, it was always Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house.

I’m So Glad You Thought of That!

Little things make me happy. Like foaming soap. So I entertained myself thinking about some of my favorite inventions. Not necessities, but simple things I enjoy on an almost daily basis. Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order.

1) Foaming soap. (I wasn’t kidding.) Warm Vanilla Sugar is my favorite scent.
2) Fans. Electric fans. I love to sleep with one on as many months of the year as my husband will tolerate. Add blankets, but keep the fan. I also appreciate the fan that quickly blows heat into a chilly car these Fall mornings, then fills the car with a cool breeze in the heat of the day. I’m a fan of air conditioning, too. (Oops, inadvertent pun.)
3) Cup holders. Really, how did we drive back in the 70’s? With a can of pop between our knees and the wind blowing hot air through the open window, that’s how. Cup holders are such a wonderful invention that cup makers adapted their designs to fit.
4) Ziplock baggies. I use them for so much more than food storage. They are great for keeping papers neat, clean, and visible. Ditto for kids’ books. They come in all sizes and are great for craft pieces. I use them all the time. And, if someone is car sick? ZIP and PITCH!
5) Insulated bottles you can fill with ice to keep a drink cold all day. AND they fit in my cup holder!
6) The little pill sorters for days of the week/times of the day. Never gave them a thought until I started helping take care of my mom, who takes 18 pills a day. Now I love them. Genius.
7) Task specific adhesives. Post-its. Glue dots for scrapbooks/card making. Super glue. Etc.
8) Sunglasses. Love the sun; hate to squint. I wear them year round. My daughter once told me she could describe me to someone trying to pick me out in a crowd anytime, “My mom? She’s the short blonde with sunglasses and a giant travel mug.”
9) The DVR. I was going to stick with lo-tech, smaller inventions, but I can’t leave this off my list. We watch what we want, when we want, without having to remember to record it, and we can pause it when interrupted and not miss a thing. It still amazes me. This week it caught reruns of Firefly and several season premieres I would have forgotten. Finding time to watch – still a problem.
10) Here’s another I can’t ignore. All forms of instant, written communication: email, instant message, tweet, text, etc., etc., etc. Truly amazing.

Thank you, thank you, inventors, whoever you are. Your idea brightens my days!

If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear what would be on your list.

I Don’t Count Sheep

P1010499We did a small remodel of one of the preschool rooms at our child care center over the Labor Day weekend: ripping out carpet, building a loft corner, and changing storage and activity centers. The kids love the loft. The adults love the hardwood floor, original to our old building, that was in fair shape underneath the old carpet. Many expressed admiration that we got it all arranged and ready for the kids in just three days. I explained that the physical work may have taken place in a weekend, but the “new room” had existed in my head for months now.

I don’t count sheep when I’m trying to fall asleep, but I often rearrange or redecorate rooms.

Some of the rooms I plan as I fall asleep end up as real rooms in our life, like our garage-turned-family room and living room-turned-bedroom suite. Others will never come to pass. It interests me to think about living in other homes and buildings, or in our own home in a new way. Since there is no urgency, it relaxes me – unlike thinking about things I really need to get done tomorrow – and I can sleep.

What would I take if we moved to one of these new little houses? A cabin? An apartment? How could a barn be turned into a home? What do I need to move/store/rearrange to create a guest bedroom upstairs? A craft room?

Let me count the ways!

Meeting the Flowers

White Peony

White Peony

“Peony” was one of the first flowers I remember meeting, the peony bush taller than me as I toddled behind my parents through the flowerbeds. They both loved to garden and talk about the plants, flowers, trees. Everything had a name. That was fascinating to me. Snapdragons, Honeysuckle, Four-O’clock’s, and Hollyhocks were my childhood favorites, fun to say, with flowers suited for play.

I met “Bachelor Buttons” at Grandma M’s house, a field of blue, purple, and pink growing wild atop her root cellar hill. We were allowed to pick as many as we’d like, a rare extravagance in childhood.

Of course, kids can always pick all the wild violets and dandelions they want...

Of course, kids can always pick all the wild violets and dandelions they want…

My mother-in-law introduced me to local wild flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and others not common where I grew up. I’ve toured gardens with many relatives and friends over the years. Those memories flood back today at the sight of particular flowers enjoyed together. My yard has become a memory garden.
Japanese Iris.  Iris were often called "Flags" when I was a child.  People were proud of their many varieties.

Japanese Iris. Iris were often called “Flags” when I was a child. People were proud of their many varieties.

I never got to go on a “meet the flowers” walk with my husband’s Grandma Ruth, but we still enjoy some of her flowers planted on our property more than forty years ago. The Narcissus-faced Daffodils and Grape Hyacinth greet us each Spring, her lilacs still perfuming the air.
Narcissus-faced Daffodils

Narcissus-faced Daffodils

Patch of Grape Hyacinth

Patch of Grape Hyacinth

Grandma Ruth planted the four peony bushes that line our drive, too. I would love to hang a sign on our mailbox, announcing “Peony Lane”, but perhaps need more than four bushes to justify it. Two pink and two white bushes, the white ones bloom first. We always have peonies for Memorial Day.

Peony Lane?

Peony Lane?

Hooked on Child Care

(Also see “The Business of Caring”; our challenges in owning a child care center.)IMG_3496

Between the sad little girl looking out the window and the little boy sitting on a time-out chair (who’s name I would learn very quickly that day!) I was hooked. 

It was my first day as a preschool teacher at a day care center.  I had been privileged to stay home with my own children during their preschool years, then taught at a preschool-only facility for a few years before coming to interview at a day care center.  I didn’t know what to expect, but my education about caring for other people’s children in a child care facility began as I interacted with those two children my first day.  More than twenty years later, as an administrator, I’m still learning.

In a few weeks time, a “goodby routine” helped Rainie and her mother get the day off to a more pleasant start.  Austin was the first of several who could have had their names engraved on a plaque above the time-out chair commemorating their frequent visits.  Slowly we encouraged Austin and his cohorts to redirect their energies to avoid “the chair”, while at the same time training staff to stop overusing time-outs. (With better behavior management techniques, the chair sat empty and could finally be re-purposed into more productive space.)  Since some of the children spent more hours at the center daily than I did, this job provided new challenges as a preschool teacher, but also more time to spend with the children.

Preschool aged children learn and change so quickly from age three to five, and show great joy in learning – almost as much joy as I had teaching them. Unlike older kids, they are easily impressed. They often told me I was a good singer/dancer/painter/juggler or whatever we were doing at the time. Alas, I barely do these things at a preschool level. I assured them they were also wonderful. When we exercised and stretched our arms “up to the ceiling”, they would tell me I was so tall. “Yes, yes I am,” I would agree, “but you will probably be taller than me some day.” (A safe bet if there ever was one.)

It is hard to narrow down favorite moments from my memories of teaching preschool. A top one would have to be three year old Ben, who paid unusually close attention while I demonstrated the properties of magnets. Before setting the kids loose to explore with them, I ended my demonstration by lifting up a plastic ball magnet with a string of ten other plastic balls suspended in air below it. “So,what do you think is making these plastic balls stick together?”, I asked. Wide-eyed, Ben solemnly replied, “Magic!”. Yes, I had failed to get my lesson on magnets through to him, but at least I got to add magician to my list of talents.

Preschool children exploring as we add tree stumps to our outdoor classroom

Preschool children exploring as we add tree stumps to our outdoor classroom

Working in a child care center gives me the opportunity to stay connected with children and their families for many years beyond preschool. Some enter the center as infants or toddlers. Others stay up to age twelve in our after-school or summer programs. Families with more than one child have been a part of our center for over a dozen years before the youngest outgrows us. Some families keep in touch years after leaving, and a few former students have come to work for me in the years I’ve been an administrator. We take great pride in our former students during their successes at local high schools, and beyond, whether they were with us just a few years or most of their childhood.

Handprint and footprint art is a favorite with our quickly growing Infants and Toddlers.

Handprint and footprint art is a favorite with our quickly growing Infants and Toddlers.

Shifting to the administrator’s job thirteen years ago was an adjustment for me. Now instead of knowing my classroom full of children well, I get to know over a hundred children, from babies to preteen, a little bit. I still miss the classroom connection at times, but this role allows for more interaction with the parents and staff and that has been rewarding to me in surprising ways. As Administrator, I’m still hooked on child care, and love being able to influence the kind of care our children receive.
A great staff of loving care-teachers makes my job so much easier! (If anyone is shorter than me in this picture, I must have worn heels that day!)

A great staff of loving care-teachers makes my job so much easier! (If anyone is shorter than me in this picture, I must have worn heels that day!)

Reflections on Easter Weekend

Two weekends before Easter, I stood with 500 others at a funeral for my friend’s husband. The death had been sudden. Totally unexpected. We gathered to mourn with his widow, children, and grandchildren, while celebrating his life and his Lord. So many lives had been touched during the last third of his life he had lived following Jesus.

The weekend before Easter, my family celebrated together at the marriage of my niece and her groom. Love beamed from the couple, surrounded by their friends and family with much good food, laughter, dancing, and reminiscing. The joy of that day will long be in our memories.

Sadness. Grief. Tears. Laughter. Celebration. Hope for the future. I was exhausted from this range of emotions as Holy Week began. Slowly I began to see how Easter had been mirrored in these recent events, helping to prepare my heart to worship.

Our church offered a new service to observe Good Friday this year. Songs and scripture focused on Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, followed by an opportunity to take communion, creating a meaningful, but sober, time of personal reflection.

Easter Sunday we sang loudly with a crowd of other believers of our resurrected Christ, many bursting into spontaneous applause for God as His plan of salvation, His plan to defeat death and provide life eternal were praised in the lyrics. Such love! Such grace! Such joy! Someday our Groom will return for His Bride, the Church, and that celebration will be beyond our imagination.