Herald Journal Columns
May 2, 2005, Herald Journal

Traditions connect family, impact children


Some time ago, I wrote an article about the wonderful experiences I had growing up on a farm.

A reader wrote to me concurring that life on a farm is a great way to grow up. He, too, had many wonderful times and memories growing up, exploring, working, and playing on a farm; and he expressed how glad he was that his child was also being raised “in the country.”

As part of the article, I also wrote about mealtimes. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be 10 people sitting at the table eating a three-course meal in our home on the farm.

My mom was a wonderful cook and prepared most recipes from the “cookbook” in her mind – a little bit of this and a little bit of that (no wonder I can’t reproduce the same-tasting dish).

The reader wrote that he, too, recalls having three square meals a day, always at the same time, and always delicious. But, he asked, what happened to the three meals being breakfast, dinner, and supper?

I, too, have wondered about that.

Growing up on farm (and maybe elsewhere, for that matter), breakfast was the meal in the morning, dinner was at noon, and supper was the evening meal, usually at 6 p.m. Lunch was something we had in school, or squeezed in between breakfast and dinner (brunch).

I, now, tend to interchange lunch and dinner, and dinner and supper, depending on where we are dining (at home, on a picnic, etc.) and what the meal consists of, and I think my children know which meal I am talking about. It is funny how language really affects how we view things.

Needless to say, I can’t mention mealtimes without discussing another “meal” we always had at my grandparents’ house, years ago. When we visited them, which was usually on a Saturday, in the late afternoon or early evening, it was a tradition that we would have a sit-down “meal” before we departed for the night, which was about 8 or 10 p.m.

I am not sure what we called the meal. It was just always “time to eat.” We always had it, and I always expected it. That’s why it was so great.

My grandma would expand the table and drape it with one of her hand-stitched tablecloths, and we all would head into the kitchen for some wonderful home-made “treats” and great conversation (well, now, I think it was great).

My grandparents always asked about school, and we would share our experiences.

The meal would usually consist of homemade bread and homemade jam (which was usually chokecherry, because my grandparents grew chokecherries), homemade sausage, and some type of dessert. Be it sponge cake with strawberries, cookies, or pie – it was always delicious.

When I reminisce about those times, I feel very lucky, and I now realize how those wonderful family traditions and family ties really connect a family and impact children. My parents and grandparents knew what they were doing.

I can still “see” Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa (even when Grandpa died, Grandma still kept up the meal tradition), my twin brother, usually a niece or nephew, and myself sitting around the table eating and chatting.

I cannot mention Grandma’s house and traditions, without mentioning Grandma’s candy dishes and the “best” candy in the world. She would always have the candy dish stocked full of our favorites.

The treats consisted of pink and white peppermint candies that you would suck and they would melt in your mouth, ribbon candy, lemon drops, angel food (sponge) candy (my all-time favorite), crème drops, butter mints, and Boston Baked Beans candy, always served in a beautiful crystal candy dish with a cover.

The candy dish sat in the same spot all of the time, so we knew right where to go to partake in the awaited treat.

My mother, too, always has the cookie jars full of favorite cookies, and a candy dish on her table, brimming with candy. Of course, my kids know where to go, as well. Even though my mom lives with our family, the cookies and candy always taste better on “her side of the house”– because they are from Grandma.

I am sure that when I have grandchildren, I will do the same. I sure hope to, anyway.

Let’s all continue creating many cherished memories with our children, so they, too, can travel down memory lane and enjoy the “travel,” smiling from ear-to-ear.

Candy, cookies, and conversation with family aren’t so bad after all! In fact, sometimes, they are just what we all need – with a glass of milk, too.

Kids need caring adults

Grandparents, extended family, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and other adults in our children’s lives are extremely important, and can help create many wonderful memories for our children, as well. Research tells us that a caring adult, in addition to parents, is a significant factor in influencing the well-being of our children.

Kids need caring people around them. They need to know they matter to “someone”– just as we all do.

Each positive adult in our children’s lives is a role model for them. We all know that, at times, children will “listen better” to some other adult than their parents, and each positive adult role model has something different to offer our children.

It is also beneficial, even crucial, for our children to have various people reinforcing the important values and beliefs that we, as parents, are trying to instill and teach.

Mother’s Day is almost here

With the all important Mother’s Day fast approaching, it would be a great time for our children to express their appreciation to those significant females in their lives, whether it be the doting grandma, the watchful neighbor, or the caring aunt.

Here are some ideas for creating a homemade Mother’s Day gift for Mom and any of those wonderful females in our children’s lives – so take note, all you dads out there!

• Hand-designed oven mitts

Create hand-colored oven mitts with plain oven mitts or pot holders, pencil, paper, and colored fabric paints. Trace the oven mitt or pot holder onto a sheet of paper and experiment with different designs. Next, resketch the design on the mitt or pot holder and color it with fabric markers, for originally designed oven mitts for “mom.”

• Recycle a jar into a pretty vase, pencil jar, or candy dish. You will need a clean, empty jar, acrylic tempera paints, paintbrushes or cotton swabs, white glue and clear glaze.

Mix the paint colors with glue to make it stick to the jar. Keep the paint thick, and use brushes or swabs to paint a design on the jar. To erase a mistake, use a paper towel before it hardens. Let the paint dry, then seal the finished design with a coat of glaze.

These ideas are from the website, www.familyfun.com, – a great website.

• Creating a flipbook filled with notes, drawings, and messages for Mom is a wonderful idea also.

Fill some colored 3x5-inch index cards with drawings, messages, or pictures, personalized for Mom, Grandma, or whoever the special female is. Make a cover for the special book, and use a hole punch to make two holes at the top of each card, making sure the holes in the cards match up.

Stack all of the cards, and bind them together using two small metal binder rings or ribbon. That special “Mom” will have a very personalized inspirational book.

This idea is from FamilyFun magazine, May 2005.

• Another task worth completing for Mom and one that I think moms across the world would love to have done (at least, I know I would), at least for a day, is for children to clean their rooms and even the house, with maybe even some help from Dad.