Traditions

I write this post through tears today as I realize the impact our traditions can have on those around us. This realization has made me quite introspective about our legacies and making our days count, but I will leave that for another day’s posting.

I had just read an email from my son’s family. They wanted to let us know that they had just celebrated Aiya’s (their nanny) birthday. After serving cake (an uncommon, special treat in her culture) they went around the table and shared a thought or two about why they liked the birthday guest. It was a memorable, bonding experience for everyone. They said it also made them miss us very much! What mother and grandmother doesn’t enjoy hearing those words if distance has to separate your lives?

I honestly can’t remember when we started the birthday tradition of taking turns around the table to share what we like about the birthday person and finishing the tradition with the celebrant sharing why they like themselves. I know it has been long enough that no one can remember when we first uttered our birthday kindnesses. What I do know is it is a special and time-honored tradition. My family looks forward to it. I also think birthday guests celebrating their day in our home appreciate the opportunity to be showered with words of affirmation and love.

I realize that my children may not carry on all the traditions we have in our family, but it made me realize it is important to have some they can choose to carry on for their own families. This helps ensure the verbal legacy of our family. Traditions give us the opportunity that three generations from now a family member will be explaining the importance and the history and details of how the tradition got started.

Traditions, whether they are vacations, holiday events, celebrations, religious observations, or a favorite food, they have the ability to bring us together. It makes us feel a part of something larger than ourselves. In some strange way, participating in a tradition can give us stability, a consistency, something we can count on in a world that is ever changing.

My mom’s mother, my Gram, made a delicious roast with homemade noodles. My mom also makes the dish and now I also prepare it on occasion for my family. The dough is prepared, later rolled out on the table, noodle strips cut from the dough and then placed in the gravy to cook and later ladled on top of mashed potatoes beside the succulent roast. Even my children who find noodles not their favorite dish, get excited and look forward to the meal of noodles. It’s an unspoken knowledge of the bonding, the history, the underlying understanding of the importance of family, the tradition they represent. And while the smell of dinner turns us in the direction of the table, it is the tradition that marks our steps.

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Make It Special

My daughter Lilly recently turned 18 and this past week my husband took her out for her birthday present. After I shared the evening’s events with a friend, she encouraged me to write a post about special dates with our children. I should first tell you I am both a tour guide and an event planner at heart. It doesn’t even have to be a day or an event I am participating in – I am more than happy to plot out how a friend or family member should spend their money for a fabulous day. I should also tell you I am a big believer in no matter how large or small the size of the family, it is imperative for children to have quality one-on one-time with their parents. It doesn’t have to be weekly or even monthly, but it does need to be regular and it does need to happen. I also believe that sacrifice and careful financial planning should occur so plans are executed and memories are made.

Her birthday celebration night they travelled to Columbus, Ohio about two hours away. Lilly is going to a culinary school next year, so I searched for a restaurant that would offer a dining experience within blocks of the theater. I chose an upscale, open-air Italian grill. I made sure the food would be eclectic and exciting and the meal would be leisurely. I wanted to help create an atmosphere for them with good food and great conversation starters. Palates satisfied, they then ventured on to The Ohio Theatre to see the musical, Les Miserables. They sang and chatted the whole way home and arrived in the wee hours of the morning to exclaim “it was a night they would never forget!”

In our large family, with financial resources being a consideration, we have special milestones our children can look forward to, and we also have the “let’s go do something just because you are special” dates. These special dates don’t have to break the bank. One of my son James’ favorite dates was when he and I took homemade muffins and fruit with cocoa in a canister and spread out a blanket near the fence of a farm and chatted as we watched the sun rise higher and the horses gallop to and fro. Picnics in scenic locations have always been a favorite of all our children. Ice cream and a walk- times are hard? Make your cone at home and walk the neighborhood. A visit to the local playground to watch your special date’s unique tricks of the playground trade. A browsing trip to their favorite comic book, Lego or clothing store. Sometimes one of us takes the rest of the children out for a walk or to the playground so the other can build a model or bake a special treat with our special date at home. Occasionally the special date is a can’t-wait movie, cheap theater or orchestra tickets (cheap being the operative word), a trip to the free art museum, an exhibit at a local museum or $5 baseball seats to see The Big Red Machine.

Our milestone dates occur at age 13, 18 and after graduation. At age 13, the same-sex spouse takes the birthday child away for a night and two full days to go through Family Life’s Passport to Purity. For one child, the date was Great Wolf Lodge, another a special hotel with amenities and pottery painting. We try to cater to their interests and the idea is for fun, fun, fun in between session times. After all, we are talking about S-E-X with them, YUCK! :-). We end the getaway by meeting the other spouse at The Melting Pot for an evening of hours of conversation and the presentation of the birthday gift.
It takes five more years to save 🙂 so at 18 we try to make the gift a special day or event. After they graduate, we take the graduate away before college for a weekend, whether they are really leaving home or not. For the first four, it was trips with the same-sex parent. For the three boys, one went camping, one went camping and canoeing down the river, and one went to Washington D.C. for tours of all the museums. For Grace, girl weekend at the beach, need I say more! ;-). This year we have changed the rules for the next five and we are both going to go. Sometime in June, the three of us will head to the beach in Michigan to celebrate Lilly’s accomplishments and entry into formal adulthood.

When planning these events I always try to think of each child’s unique personality. If I am planning for my husband and one of our children, I try to make it as stress-free as possible. After all this isn’t a test to see if he is a party planner; it’s a chance for quality time. So for example on the birthday trip, I called ahead about parking for the restaurant and theater, printed parking garage maps, and spoke with restaurant personnel for the timing of their arrival to guarantee good service and a non-rushed dinner. I tried to be a helper to David and think of things in advance that could cause the normal frustrations for a person in an unfamiliar city. Part of the good-time guarantee is the thoughtful planning ahead.
I would love to hear (and I am sure other readers would also) your date ideas and special occasion ideas with your children.

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David and I celebrating with Phoebe her 13th birthday dinner at The Melting Pot

75 Years

Wow, 75 years. That’s seven and a half decades, three full quarters, a half a century plus twenty-five. It is a whole lot of living one day at a time, one year at a time.

Today is my dad’s birthday and yep, you guessed it from the introduction, he is 75 years old.

My dad spent his life serving his country. He was stationed in New Jersey, Panama, Korea and Virginia. He taught me to be proud to be an American. He wanted me to understand our country’s flag was a symbol of our freedom and it should be respected. Even today, I love standing next to him at a sporting event or other activity where the National Anthem plays. He stands taller, his hand slaps over his heart and his deep baritone resonates into the crowd around him. In that moment, any discontent or disagreements I may have with various issues in our government,melt away and I am reminded of the many who have sacrificed for our country and how truly blessed I am to live here. Even if it is only for the length of a song, it is a reminder to have a deep appreciation that I am an American.

My dad retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant. He went on to serve our country in the civil service as the Chief of the WRM ( War Reserve Material) branch. He travelled the world in his profession. I never really knew exactly what he did for a living. The family joke was he would have to kill us if he told us. Altogether he spent 43 years of his life in faithful service to his country for people like you and me.

Hard working would be an understatement to describe John Greene; for years he worked in the grocery industry in addition to his military service. He is loyal and faithful. His bark is worse than his bite. He is generous. He has a laugh that is so contagious, I have watched grown men cry as they laugh with him. He is a captivating storyteller. He has a compassionate heart. He is a fighter. He is a lover. He is a champion to the underdog. He is one of my biggest cheerleaders. He is an avid Nascar fan. He loves his Pittsburgh Steelers. He is Dad to my sister, Diane and I. He is a loving husband of soon to be 55 years to my mother, Phyllis. He is Pap to grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is one of the smartest men I have ever known.

When I was a little girl, my dad would call home on his CB radio sometimes to let us know he was on the way from his second job and to put the pizza in the oven. I loved hearing the crackle of the airwaves and his booming voice fill our living room. So Dad, this is the KGC 1785 the Little Beaver calling for the White Rabbit, how bout it White Rabbit, you on the air? The Little Beaver wants to thank you for being my dad. I want to tell you I praise God I have been a part of your 75 years for 45. I am proud you are my dad and I love you so very much!

Happy 75th Birthday, Dad!

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