Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vacation Week Hiatus

I'm taking a blog break this week as we travel to Ohio for Susie to celebrate with her birthday buddy Sawyer and to South Carolina for my cousin Caitlin's wedding. We're so excited to spend so much time with family.

In the mean time, please read these posts, that I've been re-reading and weeping over. What a good God we have!

The post I wrote when Susie was born.

The post I wrote asking for prayer for poor fragile Sawyer when he was born.

The post I wrote when Sawyer finally came home from the hospital!

We sang the song "Through the Precious Blood" this morning in church and I was reminded of God's faithfulness! Josh told me that in Hawaii, a 1st birthday is a really special celebration, carried over from years ago when the infant morality rate was so high. Reaching age one was remarkable and call for a big celebration. I want to use Susie's and Sawyer's one year birthday as a reminder of how precious life is and how good God is to give us another day and another year!

**** Update: the winners of my Andrew Case book giveaway were Kristie and Amanda. Amanda, I can find you at your blog, but Kristie, I don't know your last name or anything else! Come on back and leave me a comment with an e-mail address I can contact you at to get your address. Congrats, you guys!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

She'll have her cake and feed them, too

I've debated about this post. I've prayed about it. And I decided to go ahead and write it. It's 2 parts: the first is Susie's birthday cake recipe, and the second is Susie's birthday letter and present.

Part 1: "She'll have her cake"

Sue Benzing's Whipped Cream Frosting

4 T. Flour, 1 c. milk, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. margarine or butter, 1 t. vanilla

Whisk flour and milk and cook together until very thick. Cool in fridge till chilled. Whip sugar and butter together for 15 minutes scraping sides of bowl often. (Sugar mixture will be nearly white) Add flour mixture and vanilla to sugar mixture and mix well. Note: use this frosting while it is still fluffy, and then serve immediately or refrigerate your cake.

This note is from my mom, written in her own handwriting in my sister-in-law's cookbook:
~I got this recipe when I was in Jr. High at Woodward High School in Cincinnati. It became the traditional birthday frosting at our house. For Nate's first birthday I used this frosting tinted yellow to frost a little bear cake. He licked the beaters for the first time!!

And tonight I let Susie lick the beater. Her whole arm was sticky, and she kept saying "mmmm".

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Hummingbird Cake

Nonstick vegetable spray
All-purpose flour, for pans
3 cups self-rising flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, beaten


- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.
- Prepare the cake batter; in a large bowl, stir to combine self-rising flour, sugar, oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs.
- Divide batter between prepared pans, filling about halfway up. There will be leftover batter, which I used to make 9 cupcakes. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips, 26 to 28 minutes.
- Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Part 2: "And feed them, too." Here is the letter I wrote for Susie's birthday gift:

To my beloved daughter Susan Faye on her first birthday:

For your birthday, I searched and searched and thought and thought about what to give you for your present. I wanted to get you a Teddy Bear, but you don’t like fur too much right now! I thought about getting you some toy blocks, or pretty hair bows, but that didn’t seem special enough. But I knew what God wanted me to give you for your birthday when I got a letter in the mail about the children in Africa who don’t have enough food. You saw the pictures of the babies in on the letter and said “Baby! Baby!” You love babies. I wanted to give you something for the poor babies for your birthday, so we gave money to help feed them. I chose to do this because I know that toys are fun, but really not important – and people are important. You are very blessed – you get to have yummy birthday cake for your tummy, and those poor babies do not have any food for their tummies. You have a special new birthday dress to wear, and those poor children have scarcely any clothing.

My prayer for you is that you will grow up to be a girl with a heart full of compassion for the poor and weak, and hands that reach out far and wide to bring grace and peace and healing to those who are hurting.

“Great God, May my Susie be inclined to pour herself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.

Make her count the garments of salvation as sufficient clothing valued by her as more precious and worthy of care than the adornments of kings and queens.”

I cannot believe it has been a whole year since I first saw your face. Time has gone so fast and Daddy and I have been so very happy to watch you grow. We have enjoyed you -- this precious gift God has lent us. We know that you are not ours to keep – we joyfully give you back to God.

Love, Mama and Daddy

I saved the pictures that came in the letter of the hungry babies so Susie can see them again as she gets older. The organization I sent money to was World Vision. Click here to read about how you can help with the food crisis in Africa, where right now your donation is multiplied times 7!!

I hope the title of this post doesn't sound trite, but this is the approach I took to her birthday -- enjoying and celebrating the blessing of my daughter, while also taking thought to what truly counts. . . in the long run.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Susie's Birthday Book

When I read a biography of Elizabeth Prentiss (author and hymn-writer in the 19th century), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she wrote not only books for adults, but also for children. Even more pleasing, in my mind, was that her first popular children's work was a book called Little Susy's Six Birthdays. Oh! I thought, I'd certainly like to read that!!

Well, good news for me, I found it free online! Now, you won't get the pleasing cloth bound cover, which is precious indeed, but the online version does contain many of the original illustrations. I printed off the online book and spiral bound it to give to MY Susie to keep as a birthday memory book! My thinking was that I would put in pictures from her birthday each year and have her party guests sign their names by the chapter that corresponds with that year's birthday. And then, each year, we can read the chapters leading up to the birthday she is having, and read a NEW chapter ON her birthday.

This book is just so sweet and cute! I was nearly giggling aloud when I read how she portrayed the children -- it really was a delight. Here is the introduction:



This book was written on purpose for you. While I was writing it, I often said to myself, I hope this will please Mally and Willie! I wonder how Sarah and Louisa will like it? Then I thought that I would read what I had written, to a few children, to see what they would say. Because if it failed to interest them, I should be ashamed to have it printed and sent to other children. So I read it to several. Some of them were quite large children, larger than any of you; and other others were small. One of them was nine years old, and one seven, and one six, and one five; and when I saw them smile, as if they were pleased, I was very glad, indeed. And when one of them said she hoped I would print as many as two, one for her and one for her cousin, I felt still more delighted, and thought I would have one for everybody's cousin. A great many little Johnnies and Geordies; many little Nellies and Hatties, will read about Susy's birthdays. Wherein she was good, I hope you will all be like her; and then your birthdays will be happy ones. Sometimes little children don't live to spend six birthdays in this world. They go to heaven and spend them there; and they are better and happier days that any little Susy ever knew. But now I must bid you good-bye. Perhaps I shall write another story for you one of these days.


I'm so excited to have found this book to use as a special birthday book!! I'm wondering if any of you have birthday book traditions in your family? And in honor of Susie's birthday, don't forget to go here to enter my giveaway of Andrew Case's excellent book of prayers for parents. I'm also linking up to Feed Me Books Friday, so check out more book recommendations there!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Susie's birthday bib and more

I've been working on a couple of projects for my little birthday girl, and here are some pictures. I'm linking up to Get Your Craft On at "Today's Creative Blog".

Bib and #1 onesie. The background is a vintage strawberry tablecloth someone gave me as a wedding gift. I thought it would be perfect to use for a springy first birthday party. I accidentally bought the "no-sew" iron on stuff, and at first I was bummed, because I couldn't sew the 1 on the bib. It's been handy, though. . . made the onesie very quick. Just hope it holds up in wash (it said it would!).

Here is the most recent (and incomplete) project. It started out to be a high-chair banner (going to make one for my nephew, too, and I thought it'd be cute for them to have banners with their names on them on their little side-by-side high chairs when they eat cake. HowEVER, I lazily made my triangle pattern as long as the 1/3 yard fabric I had so I wouldn't have to cut one side of it. So the triangles are huge. Perhaps they can be wall banners. . . like behind their high chairs. Here's a few photos of how I did (am doing) it.

#1 -- choose your fabrics. These chose me. I had leftover gingham from the bib and that fruit fabric I fell in love with in Susie's first "Mod Bonnet".

#2 -- make your triangle pattern. This was very easy. Just make a right angle triangle with printer paper and a ruler -- whatever size you think works. Then use the pattern on the fold of the fabric. I SAY it is easy. . . but I would not have thought of it if I had not found something similar on a blog. I just do not think creatively like that. . . on my own.

#3 -- print off letters and cut them out. I made these bold and 500 size font. Again, I'd do it smaller if I did it over again.

#4 -- let the birthday baby play with the paper scraps. After all, she does not eat paper too much anymore.

#5 -- trace the letters onto the fabric w/iron on stuff. TRACE THEM FACE DOWN. . . or you get this:
The letters were pretty big, so I found it helpful to draw a straight side, and then tape down the stencil while I traced the rest, as shown with the "E":#6 -- cut out the letters and iron them onto the triangles. This was probably the fastest part. I was glad for the grid the gingham gave me for some of the letters, because I really wanted them to be straight.

#7 -- sew onto backs, trim with pinking shears, and attach bias tape. . . still to do. . . OR, if I decide to call it, I'll just attach them with clothespins. Which would be ok, just temporary, which is a bummer. Votes on what I should do? Any ideas for what is quickest?

Don't forget to enter my drawing for Andrew Case's book Setting Their Hope in God! Drawing ends Sunday, Susie's first birthday!

Dinner Time Reading

Do you have a time of devotions with your family? I am so grateful that my husband leads us in this way at dinner time. Now for us, dinner time is not every evening (because of work conflicts), so we sometimes have lunch time devotions or even breakfast devotions. When I was working full time, and racing home to spend 20 minutes with Josh at dinner before he raced out to work, we still tried to have a few evenings where we ate together and read and prayed. Sometimes we would simply read Scripture, but lately we've worked through reading books together. Here is what we have read, and I hope these are helpful suggestions to you:

1. Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware.
I wrote about this book when it first came out, and since then have had a child, and was blessed to have Dr. Ware sign and give a copy to Susie (see photo -- this is an older picture of Susie at the book signing). I thought we'd probably keep it on the shelf for a few more years, but Josh suggested we use it for our family devotion time, and I'm so glad he did! We've really enjoyed these short chapters -- it certainly isn't just for children! I know a family that used this book in their family devotion time, and their youngest child is in 7th grade, the oldest are in college. Dr. Ware has written it in a simple and pleasing style that a child can follow, with some really great examples to make "big truths" make sense to "young hearts", but this systematic theology is encouraging and instructive to parents as well.

2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
We went through this book in our small group at church, and it just made sense to read it together in small segments. The book is broken down into reasonably small sections making a longer book like this work well for dinner time reading. The listeners were all adults (Susie did not listen much), but I think you could read this to a family with older children, as well. Certainly you might not expect them to understand everything, but it's good for them to see Mom and Dad listening and understanding. Or if you are empty-nesters or married without children, you might enjoy reading this book as a couple.

3. Setting Their Hope in God by Andrew Case
I don't think you'll find a better resource for praying for your children. Here is the beautiful prayer I read today (reworded for my own daughter):
"Heavenly Father,
As for me, my prayer is to You.
At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in Your saving faithfulness. And my prayer is this:
Deliver my daughter from sinking in the mire of sin;
Let her be delivered from the deep waters of vanity.
Let not the flood sweep over her, or the deep swallow her up, or the pit of despair close its mouth over her.
Answer me, Oh LORD, or Your steadfast love is good;
According to Your abundant mercy turn to her.
Draw near to her soul, redeem her;
Ransom her because of her frailty."

Wow. I paused after each statement and considered the weight of what I was praying. There is nothing more important than this sort of prayer for our children. I am giving away this book -- go here to enter my drawing if you have not yet.

I wanted to finish with some tips for dinner time reading. This will look to your family unique to your children and their personalities, but this is how it goes down with the Neislers. We have chosen to have this time with Susie at the table with us. Obviously, she does not understand what we are reading, and cannot be counted on to stay quiet. :) But I want her to grow up never being able to remember the time "before" she started joining us for our devotions, so we have her there, loudness and all. We do not have dinner time reading every single day, but usually several times a week at least. Often, we serve ourselves food, and then Josh reads as I feed Susie. Sometimes he reads while Susie and I both eat. Sometimes I read so he can shovel down his food and run out the door and I feed Susie with the other hand (this is not too hard). There have been a few times when he has read after we are finished eating, and I just give Susie Cheerios and a cup of water to keep herself happy -- and fairly quiet. There is something incredibly special about being together as a family like this, and I encourage your family to try to have these times whenever your busy schedule allows!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Emily's Summer Reading List

My sister Emily has asked me for a summer reading list for about 5 years in a row now (does that sound right, Emma?), and I am happy to oblige. She is taking summer classes at the community college, so we're keeping this list pretty short, so she can have time to get in her required reading. I'm inviting you all to have a look at the list I'm making her, but this post is to Emily. Here is her 2010 list:

1. Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger
Plowman. When I read this, Emily, I thought of you right away, which might sound weird since you don't have children. Well, you do sort of have a child, Mercedes, and you work with kids at church. Also, you are planning to be a counselor, and this would be a great resource for you! It's really short and easy to read, and while I don't think I'll be 100% following all that she suggests, I think she does have some really good advice. Her stories are pretty funny, and the examples are really helpful. If you order it from Blue Kangaroo Books, I'll pay you back for it, because I want that book anyway!

2. Elizabeth Prentiss; More Love to Thee by Sharon James. Fantastic bi
ography! I would recommend reading Stepping Heavenward first, but I think I assigned that for you last summer (or the one before), so I'm sure you've already read it. If you remember that story at all, it will be interesting to you to see how much of her own life Elizabeth Prentiss put into her fiction. I have this book if you want to borrow it.

3. Twic
e Freed by Patricia St. John. This is a fictional book about the slave Onesimus from the book of Philemon, and it is REALLY GOOD (so far. . . it's on my summer reading list, too!). Patricia St. John is an older, but really popular author for children -- she wrote mostly during the 1950's and '60's. So this book is smaller, and probably geared toward teenagers (Onesimus is 15 in the story), but I think you will really like it. Looks like it's gearing up to have a bit of a love story, but not in the cheesy "Dusty the cowboy swept the perfect Christian girl Lacy off her feet" like typical Christian fiction (sorry for those of you who like that genre. . . I just don't).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Totey's Monster Birthday Bib

So, I have never before written a crafting post on my blog. But I really enjoyed making this bib for my nephew's first birthday, so I'm putting pictures up here, and linking up with Today's Creative Blog Get Your Craft on Tuesday!

I got the pattern for the bib here and made a couple of bibs with the pattern just as it was. Then I decided to make it bigger for my nephew (more space for the appliques).

I chose green gingham for the bib background (originally I'd picked
orange with spots -- it seemed monster-y, but it was really dark, and the monster and cupcake didn't stand out). I LOVE gingham, and it was more babyish, I think. The monster, hat and cupcake I cut out of felt and scrap fabric (free hand . . . believe me, I'm no artist, but I looked for pictures of monsters for EVER before I started), and then sewed them on by hand using a small embroidery hoop (lots of blogs with tutorials on doing felt applique out there).

Next I sewed the green bib front to the terry cloth backing (using a machine
I borrowed from a friend) and then turned it inside out. Final step -- sewing a little border around the edge to make it look more finished. I still don't have a fastener for it, but I might do a snap if I can borrow my friend's snap press again. Otherwise, I'll probably do velcro, but I've gotta wait for a new coupon to Jo Ann's. . . I'm all for making a project last a long time as long as I can keep getting my supplies for dirt cheap.

Possible next projects? Finishing the bib for my daughter's birthday (she and my nephew are having a joint party) and maybe making a flag banner with my leftover material! You never know!

Setting Their Hope in God -- and book giveaway

My friend Andrew Case has written several books, but his latest has really captured my heart. This book is called Setting Their Hope in God, and it is a book of prayers for your children. Specifically, it is a book praying scripture for your children, pleading on behalf of your child's soul, and focusing your own heart on a big and GREAT God.

Do you, like me, find yourself praying almost the same things over and over for your child? You may pray for their health, safety, happiness, obedience and security. You may even pray for their salvation, but you still find yourself praying (as Dr. Donald Whitney says) "The same old things about the same old things." When I would put Susie to bed at night, I would TRY to find the words to pray for her salvation, to pray for her future, or just to pray for her to get a good night sleep! But inevitably, I mostly found myself repeating the same thing. I didn't want to do that! I want to be a prayer warrior for my daughter, to bring her soul before the throne of grace.

So I was delighted when Andrew gave his book away to the families in our church. Just reading the introduction and recommendations, I was nearly in tears! How could I neglect the life and soul of my precious daughter by failing to pray for her earnestly? This book has become a part of my quiet time -- each page has a new passage of scripture written into a prayer. Here are some key things I appreciate about this book of prayers:

1. This book is God-centered. When reading the prayer, your heart is focused on God, causing you to delight in Him in a fresh way. It may sound funny, but it is completely possible to be child-centered in your prayers. My love for my daughter is so deep, that I can just set my heart on her, rather than setting my heart on the good God who gave her to me.

2. Each new prayer varies widely from the one before, not just in the wording, but also in the concept, making this book applicable for parents with children of all ages. But the aim is the same throughout.

3. This book enables me to meditate on God's precious Word, often throughout the day. Several times when I have read a prayer in the morning, I can "re-pray" that prayer in my own words when I put Susie to be that night. That means at least part of that passage has remained in my mind all day!

4. The author's desire and intent to bless families is crystal clear. I know Andrew Case, and he is not writing these books to make money (demonstrated by his willingness to give a copy to each family in our church!). I'm putting up a link to Andrew's website where you can download the PDF of this book for free or purchase the book for under $5 (you can also buy it on Amazon, but it costs $9.99). Additionally, I am giving away two free copies to anyone who is interested in enriching their prayers for their children. Just leave me a comment, letting me know you want to enter the drawing, and put the names of your kiddos (or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or a friend you'd like to give this to!). I will put your comments in a hat and randomly draw 2 on Sunday, May 30th. . . which happens to be Susie's first birthday!

I am linking this post to Feed Me Books Friday over at The Adventure of Motherhood, because it is something I am reading and I could see reading some of these prayers out loud to your children when you pray for them at bedtime. So, though it's not a children's book, I think it more than applies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moo, Baa, La La La . . . and book storage for Baby

I chose Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton to share for Feed Me Books Friday, because it is a board book that Susie has suddenly decided she loves. A friend gave me this book at a baby shower, saying it was a fave for her kiddos, and I expected Susie to be into it, too. It took her a while to warm up, I must say. I guess the illustrations weren't super appealing for a very young baby (she seemed to be more into the really bright, colorful ones, and things with real pictures). Now she LOVES it! It's the perfect length for her, and it rhymes and is funny. I do the animal sounds nice and loud. I remember Sandra Boynton being a big favorite at Blue Kangaroo Books, a children's bookstore in Illinois (where I had the VERY fun privilege of working!). I see how catchy she is when you are reading her out loud, over and over. I'd really rather read this book 4 times straight than just a book naming the animals on each page (we read those, too). If you aren't already a Sandra Boynton fan, check her out!

Here is a picture of Susie looking at this book outside the other day. I had this stroke of genius to take a cardboard box and throw some "outside stuff" in it for her to explore. I mostly put in board books. We don't have a real yard or any sort of garage or driveway. We live in an apartment, which has a nice sliding door and bit of grassiness for us to explore outside it. I like to take Sus out to get a bit of outdoor time every day, and unless I haul out a blanket, I'm just putting the books right on the ground. Empty box -- PERFECT for keeping stuff off the grass, and adds to the fun for her dumping it out. I love the way she imitates me pointing at the pictures. Stepping stones to reading!

I also came up with a way to store her board books so they are always available to her! I got these CHEAP
little baskets with liners and filled them up. Now, in the picture, I've got them all tidy, but the cool thing is that I can just seriously toss the books in and they look fine. And since it was a set of 2, I can put them in different rooms. I was thinking that as she gets older, and I start getting out more of her paper page books, I can rotate them out of the baskets so there are "new" books for her to look at! This has been a big improvement over the bottom shelf I had initially given her. It was just way too confusing to keep the books she CAN have right underneath Daddy's textbooks, which are "no touch". It's pretty funny when she crawls under her jumpy and looks at her books. It's like a little house to read in!


Can't believe it's been almost a week since I posted. We've had LOTS going on with traveling! Just wanted to put up a couple pictures.

This is my mom, Susie, as a baby. She's a cutie!

And here is my Susie!!

They look quite alike!! This is the best match I could find, picture-wise, since Sus doesn't stand on her own yet. She actually looks more like the Susie in the first picture in real life.

That's it for now! Off and running and getting ready for Abby's graduation! I've got lots of books to write about, but those will have to wait until later, I guess.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Books My Mother Read

If there ever was a read-aloud queen, it was my mom. She was the poster mother for reading to your children, beginning young, and continuing far past the years when they could read for themselves. Hundreds of golden days were spent with her voice reading stories out loud to her children. I chose a few to share today for Feed Me Books Friday.

The Poky Little Puppy -- who doesn't know this classic? But it is one of the very earliest books I remember. To this day, the sight of a strawberry growing in the grass jars my thoughts to the Poky Puppy's discovery of the strawberry. Last night Susie and I found strawb
erries growing out our back door, which prompted me to try again with a paper-page book. She was pretty distracted and grabby on the pages, but I tried again while feeding her breakfast this morning. It went GREAT! She was attentive most of the time while I held the book in my left hand, and fed her yogurt with my right. She munched on some Cheerios with her eyes glued to the illustrations. I was so excited to see her progress! This may need to be a morning ritual. Anyway, the Poky Little Puppy is a great mother's day choice, of course, because the Mama dog (who is never pictured in the book), is the moral guiding force. . . that is to say, she teaches her puppies right from wrong -- and they learn their lessons! I remember being EVER so disappointed for Poky Puppy having to go to bed without strawberry shortcake. My mom did a great job emphasizing what a tragedy that was and how Poky Puppy should have just obeyed in the first place!

2. Chicken Soup with Rice -- this is a family fave! Mom must have read this to us a zillion times, because as a toddler, my brother could recite the rhymes "paddle once, paddle twice, paddle chicken soup with rice". If you aren't familiar with this old book, I'll just tell you that it is a book of months, with each month telling you that chicken soup with rice was just the thing to eat! We begged Mom to get this kind of soup at the store (even though I remember not really loving the soup. . . I just wanted it because of the book). Maurice Sendak does the extraordinary illustrations. Here I have January, one side the words, one side the picture. Warning -- this book is addictive! I could read it a million times and recite the rhymes over and over. It's GREAT for preschoolers learning the months of the year, for early readers (because of the repetitive language) and just for fun! Grab a can of Campbells and break out this book for a special lunch time!

3. Poinsettia and Her Family -- written by Felicia Bond, of "If you give a Mouse/Moose/Pig" fame, this out of print book is a gold mine of ADORABLE pictures. I can only say I am too sad Amazon doesn't have the cover image available. I gave this book to my mom for Christmas about 4 years ago, because I'd found a used copy and I knew she's be thrilled. We used to get the Poinsettia books from the library as kids, and Mom could relate to poor Poinsettia who was just looking for a quiet place to read her book, but her house was fu
ll of siblings lying around "like seals". I've been searching for a link to show you some illustrations from the book, but you'll just have to take me on blind faith. Look for this oldie-but-goodie at the library!!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

My Mother's Eyes

Abby with Mom on her last mother's day on earth
Mom had green eyes. When she wore contacts, she sometimes ordered the tinted ones to make them more green. She wore those hard contact lenses that almost no-one wears anymore. She had to buy special cleaning solution that was not cheap.

Mom's eyesight was always poor. She got glasses as a little girl, so all her childhood yearbook photos were just a little bit geeky. She had those really cool cat-eye glasses in junior high, but when she'd look back at those pictures she said those glasses were awful (I like them).

When I was in 4th grade, the eye doctor said "Oh, mom, she has eyes like yours." He had finished examining my siblings, but when he came to me, he discovered I needed glasses. I remember his words so clearly "she has eyes like yours" -- I actually felt flattered about that. It meant something special, in my 9-year-old mind. So I went off to pick my first pair of glasses (and if you think 1950's lenses for children were bad, then please take a look at what the 1980's had to offer us!); they were blue/clear plastic frames. It was great to be able to see clearly.

I remember Mom mentioning that she'd like to have corrective surgery so that she could just jump up in the morning and see ri
ght away (years later I totally understand this). One time when Anna and I had a sleepover, we were being a bit loud in the basement, and Mom jumped out of bed, grabbed her glasses and came down to let us know. But we all had a hard time taking her seriously because she'd grabbed her sunglasses. She burst out laughing along with us.

Mom wore contacts the majority of my life, and her in glasses was equivalent to her being sick or having just woke up. Then in 2006, she had a big scare with her eyes when one of the retinas detached and that eye went blind. She had corrective surgery and had to spend days with her head parallel with the floor. Then she had the surgery on the other eye, because it was about to detach. Then the same eye detached again, and she had the surgery again. That last time she had to keep her head down for something like 2 weeks. She could only get up momentarily to go to the bathroom. I remember how her poor sore eye looked when my dad put the medicine in it when she got up. I felt so bad for her during these times. She was such a trooper, watching tv with a mirror on the floor, or listening to audio books or even reading with her one good eye!

The sad thing was that Mom had to w
ear glasses all the time during this time, and I know she disliked it. She did look different, not her usual contact-Mom self. And when she was able to go back to contacts, her eyes suffered a bit from the surgeries and one of them was rather squintier than the other.
But when she would look at you with an excited face, her eyes lit up just the same. I can still picture her sitting on the love seat in the living room, talking to me with eyes lit up.

Mom had a beautiful smile. People often commented about her infectious smile, but I think it really was her eyes smiling that was so infectious. It's sweet to me to think that God gave her those eyes, with all their defects and they were used to bring so much joy to others.

Those eyes laughed at thousands of childish antics. They poured over millions of pages of books and magazines.
Those eyes looked right into the eyes of a toddler, issuing instructions for obedience. They closely examined stitches in quilts, samplers and her own sewing. They conveyed love to her family. They poured out tears at the drop of a hat -- in joy or sorrow or pity or empathy.

When Mom died, we found that she had wanted to be a donor. Most of her body we weren't able to donate because of a small spot of skin cancer from years ago, but we were able to donate her eyes. Those eyes. Oh, they gave her such trouble, but what tools they were for helping others. And selflessly she gave them away, helping others after she no longer had use for them herself.

Now when I think of the optometrist saying my eyes were like Mom's, I can only think "I hope so!"

Monday, May 03, 2010

Instructing the next generation

Dear readers,

One of the greatest gifts to your children is to teach them to show love and respect to the elderly. One of the greatest ways to honor the aged is to bring children to love on them. Here is a picture of my niece Cede visiting my grandmother in the nursing home last weekend.

Now, Cede does not know Gram. She has only met her a few times (and in a 4-year-old's life, that is not many). But Cede has spent plenty of time in the nursing home, visiting the elderly, and has been shown how to give her affection freely.

My mother used to regularly take us to visit her aunts and uncles (or maybe they were her GREAT-aunts) in the nursing home when we were really little. Many children develop a fear of these people or places because they just don't have the opportunities to develop familiarity with the residents living there.

Here's a Mother's day idea: take your child to visit a nursing home this week! If you don't have any relatives you can visit, then go visit strangers. I promise, the residents won't be sorry to see some child-like faces!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Honoring Gram

This week I hope to post several times in honor of Mother's Day. Last year I had a difficult time dealing with this holiday because I had just lost my mom, Sue Benzing, and was waiting for my daughter to be born. There were too many emotions for me to struggle with at that time, and I could hardly look at the Mother's day card section in the store. I wanted to honor my mom, but I couldn't think of a single thing to do. I was at a loss, and was still hurting so much from my recent loss, that the holiday came and went without doing much special.

This year I'm choosing to honor my mom by celebrating Mother's day. I have a daughter this year, and get to celebrate for the first time!! I'm also focusing on helping others love and honor and remember their moms (or other precious person who is gone). Yesterday I saw my sisters and had a gift for each of them for Mother's Day. I'd gotten these beautiful picture frames at Target that said:

"Mother. . . All that I am, and hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
~ Abraham Lincoln"

I put a picture of each of them with Mom in the frame. They turned out really pretty, and I was so happy with them.

I also was able to visit
my grandmother, Helen Wilkinson yesterday. She has Alzheimer's and lives in a very nice home for the elderly with dementia. The staff are just wonderful, and we were able to sit and talk with Gram for a little while. Of course she does not know us at all, and when we talk, it very rarely makes any sense, but she is entirely pleasant, and you can at least feel like she's pleased to be having the conversation with you. Here is a picture of my sisters, my niece and me with Gram. I want to tell you a little bit of what I remember about having Gram as an active part of my life as a little girl:

  • Gram always painted her nails beige. She'd paint ours, too, but hers looked better because they were long.
  • Gram sewed a lot. She taught us to piece quilts by hand. For a long time, Anna and I had a hand in part of every quilt she was putting together. It was such a warm, relaxing pastime to enjoy together, and I remember absolutely loving it.
  • Gram loved sports, especially baseball (the Reds) and football (the Bengals). She often told us about going to Red's games at Crosley Field (she'd say "Crosley Feel") when she was a young lady. We'd watch the games with her at her house, unless Grandad didn't want to watch sports (so funny that she liked them and he didn't!). Then we'd listen to it on the radio. Gram went to the All-Star game in 1976 with my dad (who is her son-in-law) and his brother. I bet they had a ball.
  • You could always get Gram to laugh at your story. She gave you just the response you wanted. Probably ever since, I have found some of the best people to be around are the ones who easily laugh at what is funny. It's a gift -- a way to love others.
  • Gram baked for special occasions. She'd ALWAYS make Cherry Delight (pronounce that by emphasizing the DE-light), and we'd rave and rave. She made several special occasion cakes as well, but often said pies were not her thing.
  • Every morning Gram ate half of a bagel with cream cheese and strawberry preserves. For the longest time, she'd get her bagels at this amazing authentic place in Cincinnati that had sold bagels forever (as in, before they were popular and available everywhere -- Cincy had/has a large Jewish population). We LOOOooooooved going to the bagel store with her, because you could taste samples and choose your own kind. Gram also drank coffee with cream and sugar. The color of it kind of matched her nail polish.
  • Gram came to stay with us in all the houses and states we lived in. Sometimes it was when Mom and Dad were out of town. You could count on lots of board games being played (and quilts pieced).
  • Gram hooked us on the TV show Matlock. It was a fave (we didn't watch much tv).
  • We begged Gram to retell old stories. As we got older, and her Alzheimer's began to show up, that was mostly what she told. Right now I'd love to rehear one. Here are some amazing stories: Gram killed a copperhead snake when she was a little girl with a hoe. Gram eloped with Grandad when she was 15.
I wanted to write about this woman, who now lives a simple little unnoticed life. I want to show her honor, even though she cannot know I am doing so. Helen Wilkinson was my mom's Mother, and my heart weeps to think that her name not receive a little bit of fame that it deserves. If you knew Helen Wilkinson, and have a memory to add, please post a comment and share it.

What are you planning to do to honor your mother this week? Do you do anything in someone's memory? I'll be posting more about motherhood and my own Mom as the week goes on. In the meantime, if you are new to my blog, you can click the label "My Mom" to read a few posts about Sue Benzing. Thank you for showing her honor by doing so.