Tag Archives: family

The spirit of Christmas glides home on a Flexible Flyer

flex flyerTwo young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their rubber snow boots.

Mother stands over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, passed the mint and white Chrysler with its push-button start, into the snow drifts. These children are on a mission!

They trudged a couple hundred yards – past the monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then round the back to the dumpsters.

The Christmas tree adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary School. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.flex close up

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue the tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past the weed-choked fence where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit into the rec room.

They set the tree in a teeny, dented tree stand.  They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Delicate, paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.

early christmas - Copy

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The spirit of Christmas glides home on a Flexible Flyer

early christmasTwo young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their rubber snow boots.

Mother stands over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, passed the mint and white Chrysler with its push button start, into the snow drifts.

They trudged a few hundred yards – past the monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then round the back to the dumpsters.

The Christmas tree had adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary School. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue the tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past the weed-choked fence where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit into the rec room.

They set the tree in a teeny, dented tree stand.  They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Delicate, paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.

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Filed under Prose & Poetry, Special Events

Holidays and kids are picture perfect

Stacy Van Dyck 1Stacy VanDyck is an Air Force wife, mom, and photographer (husband Geoffrey was featured yesterday) and works out of her home at the Minot Air Force Base.

Stacy Van Dyck 2

Stacy VanDyck Photography is a member of the Pictures of Hope Foundation. The Pictures of Hope Foundation is a charitable organization of professional photographers who provide complimentary photography sessions to babies in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who are not quite ready to come home.

Stacy Van Dyck 3

Connect with Stacy at her website or on Facebook.

Stacy Van Dyck 4

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A Thanksgiving Tradition – Family, By Jessica Messinger

My brother and sister-in-law live minutes from the Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, Ben and Jerry’s factory, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, and The Cabot Cheese Factory.

In our home, the anticipation of Thanksgiving can be felt as early as July 5th, when our children begin to ask, “Are we going to Vermont this year?” I should mention here that part of the fun visiting my brother is his house is too small for our family of six (and with my parents, we’re a family of eight).

My brother uses his business contacts to get us a suite at the local Windjammer Hotel. Though the novelty of staying in the hotel every year has sort of worn off, the Windjammer has a pool, a gazillion TV channels (some of them are French), a fabulous restaurant, and warm chocolate chip cookies when we come back at night – as if we could eat anything more after our Thanksgiving feast.

My brother and sister-in-law’s house is a place of magical wonder. My brother is a professional photographer, and he has his own photos lining the hallways. The living room has indoor potted ferns, a pocket door, and comfy places to sit. The kitchen is thoroughly modern, with every attention to detail focused on storage, ease of food preparation, and flexibility of working space. The pots and pans hang from the ceiling on a hooked rack. The vintage breadbox from our grandparents’ house gives it the final panache.

I think last year was the first year I had ever been through the front door. Part of the magic of the house is that we usually park in back and come in through the door to the kitchen. Though their house is not large like some houses in our family (in fact, it is pretty much a two-floor apartment), the first thing you notice when you come in the back door at Thanksgiving is the smell of delicious food cooking.

I don’t think our feet touch the kitchen floor as we float through, wafted along by the odors of baking ham, turkey, and roast beef. The feast meats are juicy and herbed to perfection. I don’t know what my sister-in-law’s secrets are, but she creates amazing culinary masterpieces. Of course our Thanksgiving dinner also has a green salad, potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and rolls.

My brother has a man cave downstairs with a big television, lots of movies, and a computer with a large screen, so there are places for everyone to go depending on their preferences. Some converse in the living room, others watch football or movies in the man cave and others “help out” in the kitchen and keep the cook company.

Son Calvin

We will miss our yearly trip to my brother and sister-in-law’s house this year. They are coming here to New York to spend Thanksgiving with us. It will be different because we’re not in Vermont, our son is currently serving a church mission in Canada, and my sisters can’t make it with their families. But family time is precious no matter where, or how, you spend it.

***

P.S. Here’s my favorite recipe for Cranberry Sauce:

Chunky Apple & Cranberry Sauce

(Dec. 2000, Good Housekeeping)

Prep:  15 minutes plus chilling

Cook:  about 20 minutes

Makes: about 5 cups

2 Tbsp. margarine or butter

2 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 4 large), peeled, cored, and cut into

1/2-inch dice

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom or allspice

1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries (3 cups)

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/4 cup water

1.  In nonstick 12-inch skillet (I used a large saucepan), melt margarine over medium heat.  Add apples and cardamom, and cook 10 minutes or until apples are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.

2.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Stir in cranberries, sugar, and 1-1/4 cups water; heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, about 6 to 8 minutes or until most cranberries pop and mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.  Spoon sauce into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

*Each 1/4 cup: About 70 calories, 0 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 1 g total fat (0 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium.

***

Jessica Messinger has a BA in English with a minor in French from Brigham Young University. She lives with her husband Todd and their four children in upstate New York. They live in a teeny house with a yellow lab, Bailey, and a black cat, Midnight. Stinky Feet is Jessica’s first children’s book. She has a lot of ideas for more children’s books and hopes to have enough time to write them all.

Check out Jessica’s children’s book Stinky Feet via CreateSpace, on Facebook, or on her blog. You can buy Stinky Feet on Amazon here.

***

Calvin’s photo by Shirin Cannon

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What keeps you awake at night?

Your parents, the kids, the grandkids?

Leaving town, finding your way in a new town?

Not enough money, what to do with too much money?

Quitting an old job, looking for a new job?

Writing the first chapter, writing the last chapter?

Sending submissions, waiting for a reply, the rejection letters?

Too few clients, too many clients?

Finding your way, losing your way, getting back on track?

***

Photo by tdoggogage, Photobucket

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Filed under Blogging, Personal Articles

Obligations, sincere apologies, no excuses

The dog ate my homework.

OMG! I’m so sorry!

I’d much rather say it myself – “I’m so sorry. I screwed up.” – in a phone call, in an email, in a Facebook message – than have someone come back to me and say, “You screwed up.”

We’re way past, “The dog ate my homework.” Note: do not make this excuse if you have no dog.

Promises

You make a promise. You keep a promise.

Simple, isn’t it?

When I hear excuses

You may be uttering remarks that are quite different, but I hear, “I messed up but I’m making excuses because I can’t admit I made a mistake.”

Keep a calendar

I keep one calendar for all things. I tell everybody, “Let me check my calendar,” so I don’t over-extend myself.

Family first

I think I have made it fairly clear that my family comes first – before all things. When I make an agreement with a new client, I consider my family obligations, t-ball games, birthdays, special events, and my own personal relax time (yes, I take time to veg out).

Friends, clients, blogging

If I tell a friend, “I will meet you at The Bagel Stop on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.,” then damn straight I’m gonna be there by (probably before) 10:00 a.m.!

If I tell a client, “I will have a full MS edit and an Editor Letter to you by Saturday,” then you can take that to the bank.

If I tell you your guest blog will go live on Monday, I will have your guest blog up that Monday morning.

Fire, blood, hurricane, flood

These are truly the only excuses that work for me. If you are not on fire, bleeding, or in the midst of a hurricane or flood, then lame excuses feel icky. I actually got to use the flood excuse last year, and it still felt like I was letting people down.

Apology

I’ve screwed up mucho. When I realize it, I apologize immediately. I keep it simple and honest.

What lame excuses have you heard? Have you been tempted to make excuses to get out of some event or obligation? What do you do when you realize you are over-extended?

***

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.

Opening photo by Jink Willis. You can find and link to Jink via her website here.

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Filed under Branding & Platform, Editing & Proofreading, Personal Articles, Social Networking

Grandparents’ Camp, by Esther Miller

Carefree days of summer

Remember those long, carefree days of summer filled with trips to the river or lake or ocean? The picnics (complete with ants), roller skating, bike rides, and all the things we did when we were growing up? If you’re a grandparent and retired, consider bringing back the old days for your grandchildren.

Community

Several years ago a few couples in our community decided to invite their grandchildren to come stay with them for a week and planned activities to fill that week with old time fun. Over the years, the group has grown and shrunk, the children have all grown, and some of them are now too old to spend a week doing “kid stuff.”  “Grandparents’ Camp” has gradually become “Grandkids’ Camp.”

Planning meetings

The grandparents have all become good friends and “planning meetings,” several in spring and early summer, usually include dinner and wine and are mere excuses to get together. Our kids have some favorite activities but we try to have at least a couple of new ones each year…thus the necessity for “planning meetings.”

Tubing, fossil hunting, pool party?

We usually hold our camp the week that includes the Fourth of July, so of course a big picnic in the park wherever the fireworks are being held is de rigueur. Other favorite activities include tubing down our lazy river, fossil hunting on a nearby mountain, and at least one pool party, sometimes two. We have visited nearby caverns, a couple of museums, a small zoo, a trout pond, and always have roller skating as a rainy-day fall-back. One night is always pizza night. As older children drop out and younger children finally are old enough to participate, our activities change to accommodate the age range for that year. We have found that having completed kindergarten usually gives the children the social skills and independence needed to enjoy the group.

Oh, the drama!

For several years, there was a lady who ran a drama program for the kids each morning. On Friday the grandchildren would present their musical production for all of us before heading off to the wrap-up pool party and gutter sundae extravaganza. One year one of the grandfathers bought a length of vinyl rain gutter, cut it into short lengths, put caps on both ends of each piece, and let the kids use them to see who could build the most outrageous ice cream sundae. Pictures are taken of each masterpiece before it is devoured.

T-shirts, CDs, DVDs

Each year we have t-shirts made for all of the participants and one of the grandmothers compiles all of our pictures onto a CD (now a DVD) with music. By now, we have a closet full of t-shirts and a fist-full of video memories of summers past. One rainy day last summer, we watched all the CDs in sequence and loved the squeals of laughter as children saw themselves in years past. They decided that they are all cousins now, regardless of blood relationships.

A preview

Before planning an entire week, you may want to try a day over Christmas vacation or spring break with two or three other couples and their grandchildren. You could visit the local zoo or a kids’ museum or skating rink, then have pizza afterwards. Chances are you will find, as we have, that several adults watching a dozen children enjoying an activity is much easier than one adult having to keep track of two or three energetic siblings or cousins.

Benefits

A benefit of our camp that we would never have foreseen is our knowledge of each other’s families. We barely knew each other when we began. Our friendships have developed into year-round relationships and shared interests. Several of us now volunteer at the library, others of us are in Red Hat groups together. When the inevitable grandchildren pictures are passed around, we can do more than make polite comments. These are kids we know!

Nine years

This summer was our ninth year for Grandkids’ Camp. It has taken on the trappings of a family reunion with inside jokes and great memories. For one wonderful week each summer, we’re all family.

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What great activities or events do you plan for your summer-time fun? Camps? Reunions? Block parties?

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Esther Miller

I’m a mother of two and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married almost 40 years. I spent my childhood in the Midwest, and lived in California from high school through retirement. We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.

I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do, but they allowed me to develop skills I never would have gained in the workplace.

Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.

Connect with Esther Miller on Facebook.

Photos from Esther Miller, printed with permission.

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