Decisions, Decisions

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Olivia and Ethan have been dancing together. Carrie’s kids have been hiding toys in the freezer, and the older ones have been experimenting with cooking. I miss them so much and have been counting the days until I see them again next week. All seven of them will be in Myrtle Beach at the same time for a few short days, and for the first time in months, they’ll all be at the same church together.

So what’s the problem? Anyone who’s read very much of this blog knows how I feel about the sweetness of being in church with one’s family. And to hear Brooke sing? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake. She pours her heart into it, and her enthusiasm in “making a joyful noise” gives the people around her the courage to sing a little louder.

The problem is that I’m having one of those approach-approach conflicts, the kind in which the person is trying to make a decision between two equally desirable and attractive options. It’s sort of like a no lose situation, and yet in this situation, if I opt to do one thing, then I’ll miss out on some holy experiences in the other.

On that same day, June 30th, the women’s organization, Relief Society, in my home ward is having a two-hour conference. It’s going to be a spectacular event, and the women who have been planning it have many uplifting, inspiring, and faith building experiences in store for us. It’s so important that both the Sunday school and Primary organizations are going to be led by the men that day so that all the women will be free to attend. We/I have been looking forward to this for several weeks.

What to do? What to do? I love my sistas, and I love learning and being inspired, but I love Brooke’s singing more. When talking to one of my sisters-in-law about it, she reminded me that there are some experiences you just can’t get back if you miss them. “Thanks,” I told her. “You’ve reminded me of what’s more important.”

“Yes,” she said. “You can see your grandchildren anytime, but it sounds like this is a once-in-a-lifetime conference.”

“Oh my gosh,” I said, laughing a little. “I thought you were saying to stay in Conway with the fam.”

“Not really. You can see them later that day and the next one too.”

She’s right. And yet, I can’t see them in church with each other, their parents, and their aunts and uncles. And then there’s the luncheon we’re planning at Elizabeth’s afterward. Breaking bread with loved ones is a peak experience too, made even more special by its rarity in this case.

I’ve made up my mind. Can you guess where I’ll be on the 30th?

I Can Do This

I have little Brooke on my mind this morning. It’s amazing what you can learn from a 6-year-old.

In need of a grandchildren “fix,” I recently drove to Rincon, GA to see one of my daughters and her family. Since their parents couldn’t seem to get much house and yard work done with the four older children around, I volunteered to take them to Dairy Queen for lunch and to the local park for fun. Energetically, they ran from one end of the park to the other and from one piece of equipment to the next before congregating around the monkey bars.

Brooke stood on the platform, poised and ready to reach out for the monkey bars. Her little face was a portrait of concentration. Twice already, she had attempted to cross over from the small platform to the one on the other side, and twice she had struggled right in the middle.

Then a little girl, a stranger, came along. Without appearing to even think about it, Vanessa reached out her right arm, grabbed the first bar, and continued all the way across until she landed safely on the other side. Brooke and I both watched her and noticed that she had a certain swing in her maneuvers. Rather than just reaching for one bar and then the next, Vanessa turned her little body from side to side, motions that seemed to propel her forward. She made it appear effortless.

Soon tiring of the monkey bars, Vanessa scampered away to find other equipment to play on, and Brooke once again ascended to the platform.  Standing at the ready, she said, “I can do this.” I couldn’t help but smile, loving her determination and confidence. Again, “I can do this,” this time a little more assured. “That’s my girl,” I said. “You can do it.”

After reciting “I can do this, “ once more, Brooke grabbed the first bar, and imitating Vanessa’s swing approach, she quickly reached the other side. Almost giddy with the sense of accomplishment, she tried it again. After watching her older sister have several successful attempts, Emma clamored up on the platform. I got a little tickled as I heard her say, “I can do this.” Her face scrunched up with determination, she repeated the phrase another two times just like her older sister had done. Since Emma is  younger, shorter, and not quite as coordinated as Brooke, I wasn’t quite as certain of her success. Truthfully, her little arms couldn’t even reach the first bar. She was so resolute, however, that I knew I had to help her to succeed.

“Want me to hold you up?” I asked.

“No. Just put me close enough to the first one so I can grab it,” she said. “But don’t hold on to me.”

“Want me to stay close?” I asked, knowing that if I weren’t right there, she’d likely fall to the ground below.

“Uh-huh. And put your hands beside me, but not on me until I tell you to,” she demanded.

I followed Emma’s instructions, and although I pretty much participated 50/50 in the short distance between the two platforms, she did it!

Hands down, my favorite psychological term is elf-efficacy, the belief a person has in her ability to accomplish something. This belief is reportedly more important than a person’s actual ability. If Brooke had had low perceived self-efficacy, she wouldn’t have made it across from one platform to the next despite her physical ability. While I’m on the subject of lessons, Brooke also demonstrated the power of a good example. Because of her determination and success, little Emma gave it a shot. Hmmm. And Emma taught a lesson too: people need support. People need others close enough to catch them if they fall but not too close.

 The more I think about that afternoon in the park, a half a dozen situations and their inherent lessons spring to mind. I’ll save them for another day, however. Today, thanks to my granddaughters, I’m working on my self-efficacy.

Hey Grandmama!

After eating our kids’ meals, we all got Dilly Bars, and at the children’s request, we toasted each other with them. “Here’s to summertime!” everyone exclaimed. Then, “Here’s to families!” Indeed. Here’s to families! Whether departed, separated, present, or distant, they’re awesome.

Nothing deep or ponderous today. Just a few recollections of the days I spent with Carrie and her family last week. As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter gave birth to Seth Michael a couple of weeks ago, and I went down to help her out with her other four children.  They range in age from 2 to 8, and they’re pretty typical children. By that, I mean that they’re active, inquisitive, busy, noisy, demanding (when’s lunch???), demonstrative (I got lots of hugs and kisses), entertaining, and distracting.

When I look back over the days and nights there, everything sort of melds together into one long day. So what I’m going to do is hit the highlights. Since Rich, my son-in-law, was off on Saturday, I seized that opportunity to go to the library to do some work. Anyone who’s ever tried to do any serious reading and grading knows it can’t be done (at least not well) in a noisy environment, especially if little people are crawling on you and trying to play with your computer.

Hence, off to the library I went. Two hours quickly passed, and I gathered up my “stuff” and headed to the car. It was so hot!!!  While hustling to the car trying to get out of the heat, I heard a precious voice say, “Hey Grandmother!” I looked up and there was blond haired Emma running towards me from the park. She and her dad were on a daddy/daughter date, and her request had been to have lunch in the park. Though he was HOT and miserable, Rich had agreed to her plan, and when I drove off, the two of them were sitting side by side, Rich listening away as she prattled on about something.

Sunday was an interesting day, nice and memorable but kind of slow. It rained, and that kept us all inside. The girls dressed up in my Sunday clothes, experimented with lip gloss, and posed for pictures. Braden drew and colored, and Colton, well Colton basically was his usual adorable little self. I love to hear him say, “I take nap.” Yes yes yes yes yes.  Later in the day, I put on my Susie Homemaker apron and made some snicker doodles, and they were a big hit. For dinner that night, we had bagel bites and cookies. Sounds good to me!

Every single night I was there, Emma would burst through the door at some point in the early morning hours and join me in the single bed in Seth’s room. It was a tight squeeze, but I couldn’t refuse the little imp.  On the last night of my visit, Brooke joined us. That was the evening/early morning when I gave up on the idea of sleep. I sat in the rocking chair and read my Kindle while watching the little princesses sleep.

Speaking of nighttime, I love the fact that 8-year-old Braden likes to read before going to sleep. Anytime to read is fine, of course, but there’s just something special about losing yourself in a good book before dozing off. Braden uses a flashlight; I use a book light.

Carrie’s birthday was Tuesday the 2nd, and one of her friends made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. As a birthday gift to Carrie, Cindy offered to keep the four older children so that Carrie, Seth, and I could go to Savannah for lunch and a tiny bit of shopping. We dined at the Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant, and although the air conditioning was on the fritz that day, we enjoyed our Italian cuisine and mother/daughter conversation. Seth is an angel baby so far and allowed his mother to eat without so much as a whimper. Our shopping consisted of Carrie going to Publix while I sat in the car with the sleeping baby. 

On the evening before I left to come home, Carrie and Rich went out to celebrate her birthday and left me with all five children! We all survived. Later we had cake and ice cream, and Carrie opened her gifts. I can’t wait to see her wearing the beautiful jewelry from Braden and Colton. I know that Germ-X from the girls will come in handy too.

If you’re still reading this account, you’re either a family member or a true friend. Interestingly, the more I write the more I remember. I won’t go into it all, however. I’ll just briefly describe our visit to Dairy Queen on my last day with the Masedas. It was wild and crazy and wonderful. After eating our kids’ meals, we all got Dilly Bars, and at the children’s request, we toasted each other with them. “Here’s to summertime!” everyone exclaimed. Then, “Here’s to families!”

Indeed. Here’s to families! Whether departed, separated, present, or distant, they’re awesome.

Laughter, Stars, and Other Specifics

What makes Thanksgiving different from any other holiday if you don’t take a few moments to reflect upon and share some of the things you’re thankful for?

 

The moment had arrived for the Thanksgiving feast.  Everyone stood around waiting, knowing that I’d be making a little speech. It was undoubtedly the least profound of my life. I think it went something like, “Well, welcome to Thanksgiving 2010.  We sure hope everyone has a great time, and now I think Otis wants to say something.” He looked surprised and said, “Amen to that” before asking Paul to say a blessing on the food.  

I wish I’d said more. I wish I’d said something deep and moving, something memorable that my children and grandchildren could ponder later. I wish I’d said something like, “As we celebrate this special season of the year, let us be ever mindful of our multitudinous blessings, things like our health, these beautiful children, our great country, our ancestry, our family, laughter, music, the gospel of Jesus Christ, love, stars, the sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers, the power of prayer,….” By that time, one of my children would have probably said, “Mom, we know. We know what you’re saying.”

As it was, I finished my pitiful speech, and we proceeded to heap turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other delectable goodies on our plates. Using the alphabet as a guide, we sat around our bounteous table and took turns stating things we were grateful for. It’s a corny tradition, but one I still insist upon.  One year Paul tried to take a shortcut by saying, “Everything,” and Thursday I gently chided him about it and told him he’d have to do a little better than that. “What’s better than the truth?” he asked.

What’s better than the truth is specific truth. Specifically speaking, I’m grateful for Braden’s more grown up demeanor. He’s a second grader now and has become quieter and more cooperative. He told me that he wasn’t too good at math, but I’m sure he’ll improve. I probably had a challenge with subtraction too! I’m grateful for Brooke’s sweet little spirit and her motherly attitude with the little ones like Colton and Olivia. And Emma, crazy Emma. I love everything about that little blond tyke, and I enjoyed painting her fingernails and toenails a sparkly pink color.  I painted Brooke’s nails too, but Paul said NO to my offer to paint Olivia’s tiny nails. I’m grateful for Colton’s energy and determination. And Olivia…I’m thankful for her beautiful blue eyes and her serene essence.

I’m grateful that these five children are surrounded by love and that they receive guidance and encouragement every day of their young lives. When we went around the Thanksgiving table recounting our blessings, Rich said darling daughters when he was hit with D and kids when he ended up with K on his next turn. His children know how much their father loves them.  I overheard Paul say, “You’re awesome” to his six-month-old daughter, and she grabbed his face with both of her chubby dimpled hands and squeezed his cheeks.

As I enjoyed the days with my children and grandchildren, I couldn’t help but think of my parents and grandparents and days of yesteryear. My paternal grandfather worked for the railroad, and as luck (?) would have it, there was a train track on a hillside near the villa where we stayed in Asheville. It was the first thing I noticed as I looked out the window Wednesday afternoon, and as we listened to the trains ride by during our stay, I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather. Who knows? Perhaps he rode those very tracks where decades later his granddaughter and her family spent Thanksgiving, 2010.