Category Archives: Grandchildren

A Letter to Penelope

Jessica, John and Penny at her baptism, July 2016

Dear Penelope,

I can’t believe you are already a year old!¬†Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday I was at the hospital, holding you for the first time. I was filled with such love and emotion that day. You were absolutely beautiful then and you have grown even more beautiful with each passing day.

Watching your personality develop has been a joy. You smile and laugh at other babies, even when they are not as enthusiastic. ūüôā When we walk into a room, you scan and take it all in. New people are given the once over (as it should be) but you never cry (yet!) over meeting someone you don’t know.

I see other parts of who I think you will be. Forward, assertive, a leader. I took you into a restaurant once and while we were waiting for our guest, I sat you on the table. You opened your arms and began to babble. It was as if you were addressing the crowd. The same thing happens when we go to church. You love to look around and take it all in. I feel like you are absorbing, maybe memorizing it all so that you will always know that church is your home.

Your parents love you deeply and have made many changes to place you first in their lives. They have the entire living room buffered for your safety. Your bedroom overflows with books, stuffed animals and clothes. The toys you have are great for learning. You love to explore, punch musical buttons, and play with your favorite toys all day long.

Seeing the advantages and love you have gives me much to pray for. For all the other babies in the world, I wish that they would be as loved and cared for as you are. When I am not with you, I am never concerned for your safety for I know that your parents are on it. They keep an eye out for you always.

Watching you grow so fast in the first year has been a remarkable experience for all of us. I look forward to the next year and all the joy you will continue to bring to us!!

Love, Nana

My son John, with Penelope Katherine

Mom and Baby

I’m one month old!

My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.

Helping to serve the cake.

Probably my favorite picture

With Godmother Kristina. Penny still looks at Father E this way.

The only selfie you’ll ever see me do is with Penny.

Fashionable already!

Playing is hard work.

A special birthday with Nana.

‚ÄúI don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

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Life in Pennyopolis

Penny discovers napkins

Penny discovers napkins with Grandpa Jim

‚ÄúEverything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Pablo Neruda

I stood next to Penny while she played with her new toy- a small plastic basketball hoop. As she plunked the ball through the net, the crowd cheered. When she put it through a different hole behind the hoop, numbers would count down on the screen.

throwing-hoopsThis was fascinating to Penny. I sat behind her, not wanting her to fall backwards, while she stood and put the balls through the holes over and over. Every now and then she would turn around, look at me and smile. It was like she was saying “This is so cool isn’t it!”. I was right there with her, discovering new stuff all over again.

My granddaughter Penny was born on January 24, 2016. If you do the quick math, she is now almost nine months old.¬†I raised my own two children, Michelene and John, plus I helped with my grandson Gavin (now 15 years old- wow!). I’m blessed to spend consistent time with Penny these days.

Life in Pennyopolis (as I like to call it) is like looking under rocks all day long. What we take for granted on a daily basis is brand new to her. Every day is an opportunity for discovery, exploration, and learning.

The day starts out with a good breakfast. Scrambled eggs and the comfort of nursing with her mom. Then maybe a short (or long) nap and¬†it’s playtime. There’s at least an hour or two of solid play before the big afternoon nap.

Lots to do in this fancy toy!

Lots to do in this fancy toy!

I know we all have things to do in our adult life but I think we could take a lesson from children. What if our day was made up of learning, relaxation, exercise, and play? We do have work and grown up responsibilities but what if we allowed ourselves the chance to learn something new or really relax? And, connect with others. Penny is a very outgoing child. She loves to meet new people and usually offers them a big smile. People feel drawn to her, just by virtue of her warm and happy personality.

Every time I spend the day with Penny I am reminded of how simple childhood (and life) can really be. Do we need fancy things or lots of money? No. Even with a basket of napkins to amuse us, life can be enjoyable. ūüôā

How about elaborate entertainment? No need for it as there is always music. Penny loves music and will often move herself easily to rhythm. Since she was born, her dad has played his guitar and she has listened.

Penny’s mom Jess has a second degree black belt¬†and they do simple exercises together. Penny giggled and laughed the one day when I was witness to this. It was heart warming.

What if we played simply, laughed more, and lived with less? Getting down to basics has it advantages. More down time, less clutter, more happiness. Reaching out to love, connect, and socialize (without substances or social media) allows us to connect on a fundamental, spiritual basis. This is truly the way to live.

‚ÄúPlay is the highest form of research.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Albert Einstein

penny-with-apples

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When Our Children Become Parents

My son John, with Penelope Katherine

My son John with his daughter, Penelope Katherine

‚ÄúI don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

My granddaughter Penelope is now one month old.¬†She no longer has that mini newborn look. Her features are becoming more pronounced and her personality is taking shape. Nursing is her favorite pastime along with snuggling. Resting in someone’s arms (especially mommy’s), nice and warm, is her favorite place to be.

It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of Penny’s first month. The excitement of the birth, the few weeks afterwards, and the love I feel¬†towards my granddaughter reminds me of my grandson’s birth fourteen years ago. It feels good to embrace¬†these moments all over again.

Watching my son’s newly acquired fatherhood¬†has been a true gift. Penelope’s mom Jess told me the day after the¬†birth that John said, “I can’t believe how beautiful she is.” I never doubted that he would look into his baby’s eyes and be in love.

When John and Jess found out they were expecting, John was a nervous father to be. I tried to talk to him on a number of occasions but I was too wordy and he, too wound up. Like an organized person on hyper drive, he saw everything that needed to be done- the nursery painted and complete, plenty of frozen meals in the fridge, lots of clean baby onesies ready for action.

It turned out Penelope was on her own schedule. She arrived two weeks after her due date, giving both Jess and John lots of extra time. I called one day to invite them to dinner and Jess told me John was cleaning out closets. By the time Penny arrived, they were both ready.

John and Penny

John and Penny

To watch my son with his daughter is simultaneously¬†a spiritual and hilarious experience. He looks at her like she is the stars and the sky. Then he kisses her hands and nose. Penny stares at him like he is her favorite boyfriend. If she makes funny noises or faces, we all¬†laugh. Baby, Mom, and Dad¬†have a bond of love. If she is crying, John will pick her up and talk to her. Most of the time (unless she wants mommy’s milk) Penny¬†stops crying.

John and Jess are a team. It is reassuring for me to see them in action. They will frequently give each other breaks, taking naps to recharge themselves. John tidies up the house nightly, prepares a nice dinner, then cleans up the kitchen. Jess will nurse Penelope, a full time job at the moment.

A few days ago I spent the afternoon with them. While I held Penny, John cooked dinner. Funky 80’s music played in the background. A great song came on and the four of us danced. It was the best.

I’m a calmer grandmother this time around. Fourteen years of grand wisdom have given me a perspective of when to worry and when to let it go. God has granted us a huge blessing. Her name is Penelope Katherine.

I'm one month old!

I’m one month old!

 

 

 

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Welcome Penelope Katherine!

Penelope Katherine- Welcome to the World!

Penelope Katherine in Grandma Jean’s blanket- Welcome to the World!

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?¬†Stevie Wonder

She kept us all waiting but finally on January 24, shortly after midnight, Penelope Katherine made her entrance!

We are all so excited for Jess and John. Penelope is absolutely beautiful. In her little pink cap and wrapped in Grandma Jean’s blanket, she is the prettiest sight.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink!

She's Precious

She’s Precious

It’s been fourteen years (almost fifteen!) that my grandson Gavin was born. In that time he has grown so fast and provided us with so much joy. I am looking forward to many wonderful times ahead with both of my grandchildren.¬†Michelene is already promising walks in the woods. I’m sure Jim will teach Penelope¬†how to fix things. I will share some Greek recipes. It takes a village and we are all¬†excited about spending time with Penelope.

We can’t wait until her¬†other grandparents arrive to meet her. I’m sure Jess and John have been talking to them and sending pictures. We wish them safe travels as they come to share in our joy.

Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers. We truly appreciate them!

Dad and Baby

Dad and Baby

Mom and Baby

Mom and Baby

One more thing! As if life isn’t exciting enough, after 8am CST this morning (9am EST & Pittsburgh time), I have a guest post on a blog called Lipstick and Laundry! It’s one of my favorite posts from Katherine’s Daughter. Click HERE to check it out. ūüôā

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The Next Princess

Penelope

Penelope

“Weaver” in Greek. In The Odyssey, Penelope is the wife of Odysseus who faithfully awaits his return for 20 years. (source)

My daughter Michelene was the only granddaughter on my husband’s side of the family for a long time. She is the oldest, followed by many grandsons- John, Brian, Colin, Jerra, Daniel, Josh, and Jake.¬†(this picture is probably¬†fifteen¬†years old!)

Michelene the Princess Among the Boys

Michelene, the Princess Among the Boys

So we were all very excited when my nephew Jerra had a girl. Michelene declared Ms. Deanna¬†the “Princess, Heir to the Throne.” This was a title most fitting since she would be the next in line to inherit the¬†role of Princess Cain.

Deanna, Heir to the Throne

Deanna, Heir to the Throne

Now we are expecting a new princess. My son John and his sweetheart¬†Jessica are expecting a baby girl! And she is due on January 9 which is John’s birthday of all coincidences. A girl!¬†How wonderful!¬†So now, we have another princess in line to the throne. ūüôā¬†The name John and Jess are considering for her is PENELOPE.

I have to tell you, I was almost certain that John and Jess would be having a girl. Let me tell you why.

When my grandmother passed away years ago she left a pearl necklace. I asked my Aunt KC if I could have it and she said yes. I wore it on and off and soon the string began to stretch. More than one person encouraged me to have the pearls re-strung.

I took the necklace to the jeweler. They asked what size I wanted it. I decided to convert it from a long strand to a shorter one so it would be closer to my neckline.

When I picked up my new necklace, the jeweler offered me a small bag of the unused pearls. I took a look at those pearls and had only one thought. If someday John would give me a little girl, I would have those pearls made into a bracelet for her.

So here we are. Fast forward probably five years at least.¬†I will have a pearl bracelet made and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Penelope's Pearls

Penelope’s Pearls

 

 

 

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The Year the Tree Fell Over

Christmas Tree 2014

My Christmas Tree – 2014

I spent a quiet evening last night¬†setting up my Christmas tree. As I drank my hot cocoa and sifted through boxes of ornaments, I couldn’t help but think of a few memorable tree stories from my past. Here’s¬†a couple¬†that¬†really stick out in my mind.

Twenty or so¬†years ago, Jim bought a live tree (probably pre-wrapped) and it was so big on the bottom he had to trim it back. Unfortunately it was still slightly¬†lopsided and wouldn’t stand up without tipping over. In order to get it straight, Jim wired it to the radiator¬†in the living room.

A few days later¬†I was out and my pager went off. I found a pay phone (remember those days?) and called home. My son John said “Mom, the tree fell over and¬†it’s on the living room floor.” First thing I said was “Did you get hurt?” (Answer, No) Then I said “John, is it unplugged?” He said yes. I said with a smile, “Just leave it alone.”¬†I’m sure we stood it up later but that tree sticks out in my mind as a real winner.

Almost ten years ago my asthma was so bad I decided to get an artificial tree to see if that would help. I love a real tree but I have to tell you- an artificial one is just too easy. I bought a pre-lit tree from KMart, a nice Martha Stewart one, and set it up. It was great.

Except that two years later those pre -lit lights were toast. Big splotches of them were burned out and changing the bulbs didn’t work. I was ticked. It was a tight year financially and I couldn’t afford¬†a whole new artificial tree. So I sat, night after night, for about a week and pried those lights off (wrapped very tightly I tell you!) from around those tree limbs. I had huge conversations in my head about the whole racket that these pre- lit trees created. You know- get a tree, you only have it for a couple of years, you then need a new one, how convenient!….on and on!

In the end, it was worth it because I still use that tree. It’s fine and actually quite beautiful. You have to look close to see that it’s not real.

My Charlie Brown Tree

My Charlie Brown Tree

This year, I mentioned to Jim that I was thinking about putting a live tree somewhere. Either inside or outside of my mudroom and lo and behold, during the high winds last week a pine tree fell in the adjacent woods. Jim cut the top off and Viola! I have my live tree! I had some old light strands and I wrapped them around it. It’s a bit of a Charlie Brown tree (that’s probably why it fell) but it works and lights up my backyard very nicely. Thank you God, for this beautiful little tree.

When my grandson Gavin was little, maybe 5-7 years old, he would often play in the living room where the¬†Christmas tree was. I would notice the ornaments were sometimes shifted around.¬†He loved to do this and most of the time, I didn’t mind. This is a very good memory.

I’d love to hear your favorite¬†Christmas tree story if you’d be willing¬†to share. Comment on my Facebook post or right here, on this blog. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Adventures in Sled Riding

My grandson Gavin and nephew Colin

My grandson Gavin and nephew Colin

When I was a young girl, I lived in a neighborhood that had lots of kids to play with. I had two younger sisters and we were always outside. In the winter my friends, sisters and I loved to sled ride. We had those beautiful old wooden sleds with the steering mechanisms in front that you moved with your feet. We would bundle up in many layers and continued to sled even when our feet and fingers were stone cold. 

Once we were at Suzi’s house and she had a steep drop off at the edge of her lawn. I was always careful but Suzi was a bit of a daredevil. One day she was flying down her hill and launched right off that edge and disappeared. It was a tense moment. I don’t remember fire engines or anything like that; I think everything was ok but whew, that was a scary moment.

Jim and I have a great hill next to our house that is a beauty for sled riding. When my kids were little they loved to grab their saucer shaped plastic riding gear and start at the top. Once, I went outside to check on them and see how it was going. They were flying down the hill as my husband and brother in law watched close by. I think my jaw dropped when I saw the sheer speed with which they flew by. I began to object and here is what Jim said: Honey, go back in the house.

Gavin in the big snow a few years ago!

Gavin in the big snow a few years ago!

So now my grandson, his cousins and my niece are the next generation of sled riders. The equipment is alittle faster and quite fabulous. Great big plastic sleds with handles on the sides, snow boards, and still those brightly colored saucers. It’s all great fun for them.

At my age, I’m into the hot chocolate. When I can tell the kids are getting tired, I will whip them up a batch of hot milk and Hershey’s syrup with mini marshmallows. I have it simmering on the stove when they walk in. There is just something special about a mug of cocoa after a cold bout of sled riding.

Any snowy sled riding memories you want to share?

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What Is It About Mothers?

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children. Jessica Lange

Mom and the Three of Us!

Mom and the Three of Us!

Whether she was wiping noses, cooking dinner or teaching us life lessons, my mother dedicated herself to her family. When I look back in time, she was tireless. Ever cleaning, ever cooking, ever managing the household- that was Mom.

I have many friends like me who have aging parents with issues. Some have parents who have passed. As I feel my own age more and more, I grow in awe of what Mom did for us, despite some serious obstacles. I can wipe away a tear just thinking about moments in time and how Mom managed and survived major stresses. At the time those events happened, I had very little awareness of the gravity of situations. Now I know better.

Mom was a real stunner!

Mom was a real stunner!

As I take care of my mom now, I realize how she took care of my dad all those years ago. He had some of the same issues she is having right now, yet I do not remember ever worrying about him (or her) or offering to assist much. This bothers me a bit today but I know deep inside, mom shouldered this all because she just had to. And likely she would have not wanted it any other way.

My own stint with motherhood has taught me many things. One is that I am not always right. Second, I have a lot of power. These two things can sometimes get the best of us moms into trouble. When we tell our kids they don’t do this right or that right, they are listening. I used to think my kids did not listen to me. Then I realized that they were very much listening, watching and learning.

As parents, I believe we have a tremendous responsibility not to use our kids to fulfill our own unsatisfied life dreams. Rather, they are here to be their own individuals, embrace their gifts and qualities, and contribute to society as a whole. I have learned the hard way to love and accept my children (and grandchild) for who they are, rather than to try and force them into what I think they should be.

John and Michelene

John and Michelene

As I have said in previous posts, I have really realized the power of unconditional love. My daughter was a single parent at age 18. She finished her GED ages ago and attained a Bachelor’s Degree just a few years ago. She is working hard and getting ready to buy her first house. I am very proud of her.

My son is following his instincts and doing what brings him satisfaction and happiness. Though I sometimes wish for other things, I want him to come to his own conclusions about life’s journey. What I try to do is encourage, support and love him just for who he is…a wonderful human being.

My vocation as a Mother will never be over. I try and remember every day that I will leave a lasting legacy for my children and grandchild. As I remember the gifts my mother and grandmother gave to me, I can only hope to leave behind some fond memories of myself… and a great recipe for baklava. ūüôā

This post is in honor of my mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to you! What is your favorite part of Motherhood?

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Abundance…In True Anne Lamott Style

One of my favorite writers is Anne Lamott. You’ve probably heard of her or might be a fan of hers already. She has written a number of faith based books (Traveling Mercies) and some fiction novels as well. Her latest book is entitled “Some Assembly Required” and it is a beautiful journal of her grandson’s first year of life.

The first thing I loved about this book was Anne’s decision to be called “Nana” by her grandson. (My grandson calls me Nana too!) She “journals” her way through her fears about everything from her son and his girlfriend’s relationship, to the baby’s birth and early development. She calls close friends when she is losing it and always comes back to faith and humility by letting everyone live their own life. She is such an inspiration.

Here’s one of my favorite stories from the book:

(Anne says) “I have a new perspective on spiritual abundance, thanks to my friend Michelle, who told me about going to Starbucks the other day for a pecan sticky bun. She normally doesn’t order pastry at Starbucks, because it’s fattening, but the other day she decided to treat herself to a pecan sticky bun. She spent quite a lot of time picking out the exact one she wanted, which meant the one with the most pecans. She pointed it out to the counter person. He had to move a few others that were in the way, so she took her coffee and sat down.

He brought the sticky bun over, all wrapped up and on a plate. She started taking it out of the paper, and instantly saw that it was the wrong bun, not the one she had chosen. This one had only three pecans on top. She wrapped it back up and walked to the counter, where she pointed this out to the young man, with crisp annoyance. He looked at her incredulously. “Lady,” he said, “turn it over”.

And on the other side, the bun was tiled with candied pecans.”

I just loved this story. How many times have I had an attitude about something which turns out to be abundance in disguise? If we’d all remember to count our blessings, what a pecan studded world this would be!

So, if you’re looking to read¬†with abundance¬†this weekend, pick up a copy of ¬†Some Assembly Required!

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Happy Birthday to “The Gavinator”!

My grandson Gavin is one of the biggest blessings in my life. As I write this, he is on the eve of his eleventh birthday, growing out of all of his clothes at record speed. He teeters on the border between being a little kid and becoming an¬†adolescent. He wants to be a grown up but he’s just not there yet. Sometimes he’s so good at arguing his point I think he’d make a great lawyer.

The fact that he is here at all is quite a miracle. My daughter is 29 years old as of this moment. If you do the math that would make her, yep, 18 years old at the time of his birth.

It was a big trauma initially when my daughter told me she was pregnant. I am the oldest of my sisters and female cousins and I was worried about the effect this would have on the family. I said something to my cousin Angie one time about it and she said “You showed us how to handle it”. I don’t know what I was worried about. Everyone was supportive. Thank goodness for open and loving families.

Gavin has taught us many lessons. When he was two or so, he stopped calling my husband ‚ÄúPAP‚ÄĚ and started calling him Jim. He still calls him Jim. (He calls me Nana) When he was three, he overheard Jim being impatient and short with me. Gavin stopped him and said, ‚ÄúJim you were not talking to Nana very nice. I think you need to say you’re sorry.‚ÄĚ So in front of Gavin, Jim came to me and said he was sorry.

Jim calls Gavin ‚Äúthe Gavinator‚ÄĚ I think because he is a powerhouse. He’s all boy. He likes to ride motorbikes, zoom on a skateboard, catch a fish. Jim loves to show Gavin how to fix mechanical things, take care of the chickens, tell a good joke. The men on my husband’s side of the family have a weird sense of humor and thankfully Gavin knows how to play along.

Gavin told me one day that Jim told him how we came to be together. In a stern voice I said to Gavin, “Tell me what Jim told you.” He said (with a grin) “Nana, you were washing your face by the side of the road one day. Jim was driving by. He stopped and said Come with me and you’ll never have to wash your face in cold water again. So you went with him and he bought you an ax to chop wood.”

I said GAVIN, DO NOT LISTEN TO JIM!!

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says: Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your children. I laugh when I read this but truly, Gavin is a big reward for hanging in there through some tough times. He is for us, I believe, the opportunity to try again, to do better, to be given another chance. And my daughter? Last year she¬†received her bachelor’s degree. When God gives us a chance to swell up our heart, we should take it. Who knows what it will bring?

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