A Gift of Art

My son, Jason, made this bird picture for me:


He used the iPad Procreate program to make the picture and then had it printed on canvas at Photobarn.

It all started with wanting something to fill that space. I had a very small plaque there on an existing nail, just for something, but it was way out of proportion to the area. I had collected some bird-related decorations, so I thought something with birds would be good. I started a Pinterest board called Nest and bird art. I liked several of the pieces there showing bird silhouettes on canvas or wood, so I thought I’d try to do something on canvas. I knew next to nothing about painting on canvas, but those designs looked pretty simple, and I figured I could look up what paints to use. But I just never got going on it.

Then one year Jason made his brother Jeremy this picture on the iPad and had it printed, because Jeremy likes foxes:

Jeremy fox art

And I thought it was really good.

And I thought, “Hey! Maybe he could do my bird picture!” He’s talented in art even without the iPad program. And a bird silhouette should be simple, right?

Little did we know. 🙂

So I asked him, and showed him some samples of the kinds I particularly liked. The family room is in blues and tans with a bit of brown, my concession to the boys’ complaining when they were younger that everything was “too flowery.” (Those who know me well can imagine that. 🙂 ) So I knew I wanted those colors.

Jason emailed me his first draft:

Bird 1 (2)

We both agreed that it looked almost Halloweenish. I decided I wanted different lettering plus a blue background with a brown border. So this was the next draft:

The blue was too blue. I decided maybe the border should be a darker blue and the background lighter. So this was next:

Better, but still not quite there yet. Plus we decided the bird on top looked a little precariously positioned. So next was:

I liked the addition of the leaves and the placement of the top bird but didn’t feel the blues were just right yet.

The next draft was pretty much the same except we increased the width of the border. Then we decided to shape the border around the tree rather than just having it as a rectangle:

I liked the border much better, and the blue was closer, but still not quite there. Plus Jason had experimented with the tree to make it a little more 3-D rather than a flat silhouette, and I really liked that effect.

I think it may have been at this point that Jason used credits he had at Photobarn to print it off so we could see how the color might change from his iPad to the printing stage. His reasoning was that if it still didn’t come out right, he could sell the printed one while he worked on revising the one on his iPad to his mom’s (hopefully not too) exacting tastes.

One issue with the blue was that this picture would be hanging between two curtains that were kind of a slate blue. It took me years to decide on and then finally make those curtains, along with some matching pillows, so I didn’t want to just toss them. Plus, that’s my favorite shade of blue anyway.

So while Jason was working on the blue, I suggested that maybe since the tree was not just a silhouette any more, maybe he could do something similar with the birds. I don’t think I have the picture of that one, but he tried some light and shadow on them. Then he tried making a couple of them look like actual birds and asked me what I thought. I loved them! So we talked about what birds we commonly saw at our feeders, and he came up with this:

Nice! Then I suggested that maybe the leaves should be green rather than brown, since we had moved from the silhouette to a more realistic looking picture. I can’t find the draft he sent me then, but I felt the green that was used was brighter than I liked, and, because of that, drew attention to the leaves. So I suggested darkening or toning them down a bit or maybe even adding some pink flowers. And then we were discussing that there were as many birds as there were members of our family minus one. I forget which one of us came up with adding a hummingbird to represent Timothy.

Up to the very last minute I toyed with the idea of changing the verse to a newer version, which says “Look at the birds…” rather than “Behold the fowls.” But, besides not wanting to introduce yet another change, I felt that people might recognize this as Biblical language, and if they were familiar with the rest of the passage, it would naturally come to mind. If they just saw “Look at the birds” and missed the reference, they might just look at the birds but miss the larger point.

So, with all the changes, this was the end result:

I can’t tell you how much I love it! It blends with the curtains well (although it might not look like it in this photo), it fills the space well, the colors and style are just what I like. And it was made by my very patient son. 🙂 And I got my pink flowers in that room after all. 🙂

I told him at one point that I would have gone through this same process even if I was doing it myself. It seems to take me getting into a project and starting it to think through and decide what I really want. I like to take my time with home decorating decisions because I don’t like changing them often: I want to think thoroughly about all the aspects and end up with an item that I am going to love and keep around for a long time to come.

I am not sure how long, in all, it took to complete this, from the first concept through the thinking, deciding, and changes, on top of his working full time and being a husband and dad. At least a year, maybe two or even more. But I think all the changes were worth it. I love the result, and I am so thankful to have this special piece. Thank you, Jason!

(All art work here is under copyright by Jason Harper.)


“Punkin Time!”

When Timothy saw my fall decorations out, after he had squeezed or thumped all the pumpkins, he asked if it was “punkin time.” I was surprised he remembered decorating pumpkins – he’s only 3. But we hadn’t made plans for it yet and had to explain for about a week or so that we didn’t have pumpkins. Finally last Saturday we did!

Last year Jim arranged the pumpkins out in the bushes in a little “pumpkin patch” for Timothy to find, and then they put them in the wagon to bring to the house, so he did that again this year. We were eating pizza and forgot about it getting dark earlier this time of year, so it was right at dusk when we went out. But Timothy enjoyed using his little flashlight to find the “punkins.”

So we brought them inside and got to work:

The yucky part!

Timothy painted his, because of course he’s too young to handle a blade. Mittu has painted hers the last couple of years so Timothy wasn’t the only one painting. I like the designs of the carved pumpkins and the light shining through them – but I am not very good at it. The last couple I’ve done didn’t come out as I had planned and had to be fixed in some way – last year Jim held it together with toothpicks for me. So I decided to paint this year, too. It’s much easier and faster! And the painted pumpkins last longer than the carved ones. But I do still miss the carved design. I was going to paint one based on an emoji, but discovered my yellow paint was too dried up to use, so I opted for another design I’d seen that is supposed to look like Nemo.

Mittu painted one side of hers like this…

…and the other like this.

Jim chose Trump (in previous years he has done Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton). He didn’t like how it turned out, but the rest of us thought it was a good resemblance. Jason made his own template from a photo he had taken of Timothy. I thought it turned out really well!

We had an extra pumpkin because Jesse didn’t want to do one, so when I had a chance to get some more yellow paint, I tried my original idea:

I’m thankful my daughter-in-law suggested starting this tradition a few years ago. Neither my husband nor I grew up with it, so we never even thought about doing it when our kids were little. Plus I was concerned about all the evil origins of everything then, but decided in more recent years that these kinds of things aren’t generally associated with anything evil in this time and in this country.

It made for a fun evening! Best of all was when Timothy cuddled up to me later in the evening and said, “I like punkin time!”


Honoring the moms in my life

May always makes me think of my mom, because Mother’s Day and her birthday are both this month. She passed away eleven years ago at the age of 68, much sooner than either of us wanted to say good-bye. That first spring I couldn’t go near a card shop because all of the items out for Mother’s Day were just too painful. Now, though the grief of missing her is still there, it is tempered with good memories.

One of the things I most appreciated about my mom was that she could be a friend to us without sacrificing her authority. I could talk to her about anything.


My mom and I when I was a baby.

My mom and I before my wedding.

In my college years God brought a new family to our church. They noticed that I came to church alone and invited me home with them often. Mrs. C. became like a second mother to me. I’ve often referred to her as my spiritual mom. Her gentle example as a wife, mother, and homemaker taught me much, though I don’t think she was deliberately trying to teach me anything. We’ve corresponded for years, though her notes have become less frequent as she has gotten older and developed several health issues. I’ll always be thankful for her influence on me.

My third mom came into my life when I got married. My mother-in-law and I have had a very amiable relationship with no in-law horror stories. She had several problems in her life that would have made some people angry and bitter, but instead she sought God’s grace to surround the irritants like an oyster making a pearl. It has been sad to see her decline over the last few years, but we’ve been blessed to move her near us and to be able to include her in our family life.



The newest mom in my life is my sweet daughter-in-law, who is a loving wife to my son and mother to the cutest grandson in the world. 🙂


There have been other women as well who had a word of encouragement for me along the way.

I am thankful for “Aunt Sylvia,” my mom’s best friend, who never married or had children of her own but brought us Christmas presents, was always kind to us, and who bravely battled cancer. She once stepped in to pick me up from camp to explain that my parents were with my sister who had been hurt in an accident while I was away, and I am sure her calmness affected me.

I remember spending many nights with my grandmother when she lived near us and accompanying her on road trips in the summer. She was always crocheting any time she was sitting down and her hands were free.

I remember working on a church bulletin board with a lady whose oldest was a teenager while mine was still a toddler. She encouraged me not to dread either the “terrible twos” or the teen years or any stage in between but to believe that even those stages can be good, and I am happy to report they were.

I am thankful for Aunt Bobbye, my mother’s sister, for her being available to us any time we needed her, for her zany sense of humor, her care and support at my mom’s viewing and funeral, and for her love and care and continued interest throughout my life.

I remember and am thankful for walks and breakfasts and lunches and “play dates” with friends in the same season of life as we encouraged each other in our mothering.

I am thankful for godly pastor’s wives I’ve had and their sweet spirit and godly counsel.

In every season of life there have been a few ladies just ahead of me that I could watch and learn from, though they may not have known they were being observed. Even now, on the cusp of an empty nest, I’m inspired by a couple of older ladies who have been shining and cheerful examples in their “upper middle age” years.

I am thankful for so many women who were examples to me and made me a better woman, wife, and mother. I hope I can encourage others as these ladies did me.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day and feel renewed in your roles this morning.



Family Happenings

We’ve just finished up a happy but very busy time with family, and I’ve been catching up on sleep and laundry the last couple of days.

First of all, my oldest son, Jeremy, came for a visit. He’s not usually here this time of year, but, if I remember correctly, I think he or Jim had some free airline miles, so he was able to come for Easter and some of the week’s other events.

His first day here, we went over to Jason and Mittu’s for lunch. Over the last several months they’ve painted all their rooms, their kitchen cabinets, made headboards for their beds, a kitchen table, and a coffee table. So it was fun not only to visit but to see what was new, especially for Jeremy, who hadn’t seen their house in a while. They came over to our house that evening for dinner and more visiting.

Then, it was my grandson Timothy’s 3rd birthday! We went to the Little Ponderosa Zoo, as we did last year. I wasn’t quite as impressed with it as I was last year, but it’s still a good size for young children, and the animals are more accessible for petting and feeding than the big downtown zoo. It was fun to see him more into it this year, feeding the goats and even riding a pony for the first time.


Riding in style. 🙂 He’s big into construction vehicles just now, and Mittu found him a birthday shirt with an excavator on it that says, “I’m digging being 3.”


Timothy riding

We had a picnic lunch there, and Timothy enjoyed the small playground. He even went down the big slide by himself!

Then we went home for naps. They came to our house again in the evening for Timothy’s birthday dinner (nachos, or, as he calls them, cheesy chips), cake, and presents.


A lot of his presents had to do with construction vehicles, but one of his favorites was this blender set.


Mittu decorated his cake herself and found this really cute cake topper:


The next day we went to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN, or, as we call it, the Upside Down House (Timothy couldn’t quite master that and called it the “Up down up down house.”) Ever since we passed by it the first time not long after we moved here, I wanted to see it some time, and Jim found a deal on tickets that expired before Jeremy was due to come back in the summer.


Though we did have fun, it was a disappointment in many ways, starting with the person at the ticket counter. We hadn’t known that our tickets included the magic show, and Jim asked him what the magic show was like. With a barely perceptible shrug, the guy said, “It’s a magic show.” Duh. So Jim asked more specific questions, like was it in a separate room with seating, etc., or was it like one of the exhibits. The former, it turned out, which might have been fun except the only shows were in the evening and we were only there for the morning. The rest of the building was very dark and very loud. There were a few hands-on exhibits, which is what we mainly wanted to see, but a good part of it was arcade-style games. But even the exhibits were hard to get much out of because everything was crowded, frenetic, and noisy. But Jesse got to ride the gyroscope, he and Jeremy rode a roller coaster simulator, everyone enjoyed the big bubble stations, and everyone found several things they enjoyed doing. One of my favorite moments was watching Timothy walk up and down the giant piano keys.





I always wondered what it was like – and now I know. 🙂

We stopped for lunch at Mellow Mushroom on the way back, which has become almost a tradition when we’re in the Pigeon Forge area. I appreciated that Great-Grandma’s caregiver was able to stay a little extra these two days.

Home for naps again (I love toddler schedules. 🙂 ). Then we got together again that evening for more visiting and a bit of game playing (or the game playing may have been another night…). I made some gluten free sugar cookies to snack on and Timothy helped a bit.


Then Sunday was Easter. We had a nice service commemorating our Lord’s Resurrection with some special music and communion. We got in some family photos before everyone changed out of their dress clothes.



Then we had a scrumptious dinner, then an Easter egg hunt, which the big kids like, too. 🙂 Some of the eggs are filled with candy, but most with change, and a few with paper money.


Then Jeremy’s flight left and everyone went home and we crashed. 🙂 Our church didn’t have evening services on Easter, so it was nice to just rest, catch up on computer stuff, nap, eat leftovers, and read off and on the rest of the evening.

I was planning to give myself the day “off” more or less on Monday, reasoning that during holidays all the men can take some vacation days and set aside their regular work whereas the wives and moms usually have a bit more at those times (not complaining – that’s just how it is). It didn’t work out to a total day off as there were some errands needing tending to in the morning, but it was a fairly light day. I don’t usually do freezer meals, but Jesse reminded me I had one in there from a time when our leftovers were more than we’d likely take care of, so I pulled that out for an easy dinner.

Usually Jeremy is here for a week or so, so we have some down time in-between outings. But even though this was a busy few days, it was enjoyable and memorable. I’m planning to take down the Easter decorations this week and get a wedding gift ready for the weekend, but otherwise I need to sort through things that need to be done to decide what’s next.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend as well.


Don’t Make Your Spouse Feel Like an Outsider


I don’t usually offer unsolicited parenting advice, because a lot of moms are sensitive to it. I am not sure what brought this to mind today, but as I found myself thinking about it, I decided to try to write those thoughts down – perhaps they may be of help to someone.

It’s natural when Mom is home with little kids that certain routines arise. It’s good to involve your child in your day, and they enjoy the togetherness as much as the “helping.” Maybe Little One always closes the dishwasher door for you after you’ve loaded the dishes, or always puts the canned goods in the pantry after coming home from the grocery store, or always cuddles with a drink and a blanket and book before nap time, or whatever. Then when Dad is home during the evenings or on weekends, he has no idea about such routines and can’t understand why Little One is crying while he’s putting the canned goods away or why shutting the dishwasher door caused a major meltdown.

If Mom scolds impatiently because Dad has done it “wrong,” Little One is going to pick up on the resentment, and Dad is going to feel like an outsider in his own family.

In the immediate moment, a gentle explanation is in order, and maybe Baby can be given a can to put away or the door can be opened so he/ she can shut it. I’m not for a little one calling the shots or ruling the roost, but I don’t think this is a case of “giving in” to his or her wants. I think this is not so much a case of selfishness or wilfulness as it is just disappointment. At some point Baby needs to learn not to melt down over every disappointment, but that is easier to deal with when you can talk and reason more later on. Perhaps early training can begin that way by saying, “It’s ok. As soon as you stop crying, you can put this can away,” etc.

In the bigger picture, Mom can welcome Dad into their routines. Perhaps Mom can talk about their routines in the ordinary course of life. “It’s so cute that she likes to help me put the cans away.” That way Dad is familiar with them. Or let him know ahead of time, while bringing the groceries in, that you usually let Baby put away the cans.

In addition, let Dad and Baby establish their own routines. Maybe Dad can do bath time or bed time, at least some times. Once when I walked by as my husband was helping one of our little guys with a bath, I heard him say, “It’s pancake time!” And I thought, “Pancake time? In the bath tub?” I backtracked and peeked in. What he was referring to was pouring the shampoo on the little one’s head like syrup on a pancake. My first thought was, “You know, it uses less shampoo if you pour a little bit in your hands and rub them together.” But I didn’t say it. I figured in the long run the amount of shampoo wasn’t that big a deal, and it was cute that that was a part of their ritual. And they never asked me for “pancake time” during baths, accepting that that was a dad thing. One of their other routines, when the boys were older, involved going to an indoor swimming pool on certain evenings (Tuesdays, I think) and getting donuts afterward. Not only was that a fun routine for them, it gave me a little bit of solitude, and they brought me a donut afterward. 🙂

Dads can help by understanding that a certain amount of this is going to be inevitable when Mom and the kids spend all day together and avoid getting feelings hurt over it. Participate, ask to help, let Mom know if you’re feeling left out.

Something else we have to watch out for is that we can get so wrapped up in our kids and their needs that we neglect our husband and his. That need weighs on us with our children because they’re so helpless, and we feel our husbands can take care of themselves. But that’s not how we felt when we married them! It can be difficult, especially with young babies, but this is another way in which it’s important to let dads in, to let him handle the baby’s care sometimes – both so you’re not overloaded, and so he can increase his time and interaction with the baby. He may not do everything just like you would, but that’s okay.

And, of course, this can involve other scenarios than little ones’ routines: a spouse can feel left out if one is on top of the family schedule and the other misses a memo, or if mom and the kids always get ice cream on Mondays after school (one of our routines the last several years of school), and dad didn’t know or forgot when he picked them up. As kids get older, they can be taught to be gracious, to respect others’ feelings, not to whine when something doesn’t go their way, to ask respectfully rather than throw a tantrum or sulk, etc. Not making someone feel left out of the loop becomes a family issue and not just a marital issue.

And, also, it’s not only dads who sometimes feel left out. Sometimes he is the one who is at home more, or who has fun routines with the kids, or who has regular activities with them that don’t include mom (hunting, sports, etc.).

The point is to remember that you’re a family unit. That doesn’t mean everyone has to do everything together all the time. We used to go camping as a family, but when I got transverse myelitis, that became more difficult for me. So sometimes my husband and sons went either by themselves or with a men-and-boys church activity. Once they were close enough that I drove over to eat the dinner that my husband prepared at the campsite, and we sat around the campfire and roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Then before it got dark I drove to my climate-controlled home and comfortable bed while they enjoyed the rest of their camping experience. 🙂 And I still felt included because I heard all about the rest of the adventures when they got home. When my husband traveled a lot, we looked for ways to keep him from feeling out of the loop.

Keep the lines of communication open, keep each other informed, be gracious when a slip-up happens, find ways to include each other, share conversation and possibly photos about experiences even if the experiences themselves can’t be shared.

What ways have you found to help your spouse feel included in your day to day rituals and activities?

(Silhouettes courtesy of clipartfest.com)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)





Valentine’s Cards

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. We’ve always made it a family day. We’ve tried once or twice going out for dinner, but the restaurants are so crowded it took a long time and wasn’t enjoyable. A few years ago for Valentine’s Day I used the recipe for Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves but shaped the loaves into hearts, and that has become a tradition. (Note on the recipe: I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, only about 1 1/2 Tbs of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and I omit the mustard because it gave it more of a BBQ flavor).

It’s also become a tradition to make heart-shaped cupcakes…


..and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s heart candies on top.

img_0083I received flowers and candy from my dear husband and cards from him and Timothy.

img_0084Jason and Mittu and Timothy also gave us these cute magnets from Photo Barn.


I’ve also been making my own cards the last few years, and I know some of you like to do the same, so I thought I’d show them to you. I collect card ideas on Pinterest – I have one board for cards and one for Valentine’s Day. So when I have occasion to make a card, I’ll scroll through those for ideas plus the Cricut Design Studio. My generous husband gave me a Cricut Explore a few years ago, which can be hooked up to my laptop. They have “make it and take it” designs, which will allow you to cut the needed elements piece by piece and tell you how to layer them (the computer sends the design straight to the Cricut). Or, if you have an idea of your own, you can search for particular things, like “mug,” and it will show you several designs to choose from and then you can cut them out with the Cricut. So I peruse a lot of these ideas beforehand and see which one seems to “fit” the ones I am making a card for. I seldom copy a design exactly. Some times, like last Christmas, I don’t use the Cricut at all; this time I used it for every card. Of course, many things, like a mug, can be cut out without a machine like this. I can wing it with some things, but not so much with others. 🙂

So here’s what I came up with for this year:

For my husband:


For my oldest son, who lives out of state:


I had planned to put something like “Sending love your way…” on the front, maybe on one of the clouds. But I thought this looked balanced as is, so I put that on the inside.

For Jason, a coffee aficionado:


For Mittu (it’s nice to be able to do one girly one. 🙂 ):


I was particularly excited about this one for Timothy. He likes anything on wheels right now, and I had seen one design with a dump truck with hearts in it that I was planning on using. But when I saw the design for an excavator, I had to use it. He’s very much into excavators right now (and it is so cute to hear him say it) thanks to this guy, and can even name all the parts.


I was thankful to find stick-on letters (for sale half price!) for that one and the next one at Hobby Lobby.

This was Jesse’s. From the time he was very little, he’s always had a bright, happy spirit, so this seemed perfect for him.


And this was for Jim’s mom. My machine had some trouble with the small cuttings – I think maybe I need a new blade, but I didn’t have time to run out for one. There were four hearts layered for this one.


I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. 🙂

Ornaments for Timothy

I mentioned a few weeks that my son and daughter-in-law were going to put a mini Christmas tree in my little grandson’s room and asked if I would make some ornaments for it. I decided to go with felt because it’s obviously not breakable and hopefully will hold up to being handled by a little one. I wanted something he could be free to be “hands-on” with. That was part of the idea behind his own tree.

So I researched Pinterest (love that place) and got several ideas. One included free patterns; some I cut out freehand; for others I googled things like “gingerbread man template,” “candy cane template,” etc., and found basic designs.

I thought I could machine-stitch most of them, which would have made the construction go much faster. But it was a little hard to control, especially for the small ones.  So I looked up how to do a blanket stitch (if I had ever learned it before, I had forgotten it). By the last few I was pleased that my stitches were getting more uniform and even. I think the blanket stitch overall makes them look cuter though it did take a bit longer.

I’m learning in my (ahem) middle age that I have to have good lighting to see to stitch well. My craft room doesn’t have the best lighting except in the afternoons, so I’d go in there for a couple of hours a day and open the blinds, and that worked best. Sometimes I was motivated to do more, but my neatness fell off after a while, so it ended up being a good thing to work on it only a limited time each day. Sometimes my lack of dexterity in my left hand, leftover from transverse myelitis, was a bit of a problem. Even though I’m right-handed, holding the ornament in my left hand just right to be stitched was sometimes problematic, especially when trying to hold those tiny buttons in place. But overall I was pleased that even with “issues,” I could still do something like this.

I used Wonder Under on some of them (like the fox and deer ornaments) to fuse a design on, both to make it more sturdy and to use less stitching. 🙂 I also used it to fuse a basic woven fabric to the back of some of the designs that had a lot of buttons, because the newer felt is kind of thin, and I didn’t want the buttons to be pulled off due to the weakness of the felt.

There is an old-fashioned kind of felt that is thicker but also pliable (I am thinking it might be made of wool, but I’m not sure). Then there is a newer synthetic version that’s very thin and worked well for fusing on top. There is an even newer synthetic version that is very thick and not very pliable. I tried to cut the gingerbread people out in a double layer and nearly gave up because it was hard to get more than a blob: the finer details, cutting around the neck, etc., were hard to do. I came back the next day and cut the layers separately, and that worked much better. I was glad I persevered because they turned out to be some of my favorites.

This first one I did not make: I bought it. I saw it on Pinterest, clicked through, and found it was from an Etsy shop, and, unfortunately, got a notice that the item was sold out. I messaged the seller and told her my little grandson loved Batman, and would there be any possibility she would be making any more. She said she happened to have one left, and she sold it to me. Yay! I had given some thought to trying to make it on my own – but she did such a great job, I was glad she had one left to sell.


Here are the ones I made:


Free patterns for the deer and fox ornaments are here.



They’re Starbucks aficionados, thus the Starbucks-type coffee cup. 🙂 They always ask for a small empty cup for Timothy so he can have “coffee” with them.


I think the gingerbread family are my favorites. 🙂 They’re supposed to roughly correspond to my son’s family, thus the blue eyes for the Daddy. etc.

I stuffed some of them, others I left flat, just depending on what I thought looked best for each one. The first one I completed was the little house, and got it kind of over-stuffed, but that taught me that they just needed a little. I had thought about using one type of hanger for them all so they’d look more like a set, but it seemed better to vary them with what I thought would look good for each one.

I found a sturdy gift box from W-Mart which had a lid that just lifted off, so Timothy would have a box to keep them in and also so it would be easier for him to open rather than unwrapping something.


We took the box over to him on Saturday. He enjoyed checking out the ornaments and putting them on his tree.




Sorry that’s a little blurry – it looked clear on my camera. 😀

I hope they hold up well – I hope he can use them over and over again for years to come. It’s been a long while since I’ve crafted anything besides an occasional card, and I enjoyed doing something creative, especially something to contribute to Timothy’s Christmas. 🙂


The Introvert in Assisted Living

img_1894One of the things that stood out to me in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain was just how much society is set up for the extrovert, from schools to businesses. I don’t know if she mentioned assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but I found that they, too, were developed primarily with extroverts in mind.

Most activities at the facilities my mother-in-law has been in involved  trying to get everyone together in the common room for some event or performer. We’d get a calendar of events every month, filled with exercise classes, bingo, craft times, magicians, movie nights, and various groups coming to sing. I’m sure many of the residents loved a lot of those opportunities.

My mother-in-law was always content with a small circle of friends. She never drove. Her husband got groceries and ran most errands. She enjoyed going to church and helping with Awanas there until she couldn’t hear well enough to continue. A big portion of her dislike of getting together in large groups had to do with her hearing. She has worn hearing aids in all the nearly 40 years I have known her, and she told me once that in crowds, the aids magnified everything, so it was not only hard to pick out the voice of the person you were talking to, but it was unnerving that everything was so loud (they may have improved on that aspect now – I’m not sure). But even besides the hearing issues, she preferred home to just about anywhere else. They loved to go visit family or a handful of close friends, or go and get wood in the hills for their wood stove. She didn’t have many hobbies besides reading, her favorite activity when her work was done. She and her husband loved to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball games together and tinker in their garden or around the house.

One of our reasons (not the main one) for having her in assisted living rather than in our home was so that her world wouldn’t be reduced to just us. But when any of the aides asked if she’d like to come for whatever was going on down in the common room, she’d politely say no, she’d like to just stay in her room and read her book. Occasionally they could get her to if they didn’t ask, “Would you like to…” but rather just said, “It’s time for…” If they started helping her out the door for something that she seemed to be expected to do, she wouldn’t protest, though she didn’t like it (you do have to be careful of that kind of thing, though, so that you’re not running roughshod over their wishes). But once when I walked in and she was out with the others listening to a church group, she couldn’t understand what they said when they were talking, but she could get enough of the melody of old familiar hymns that she could sing along.

Once when I was trying to encourage her to participate more and telling her it would be good to get out of her room sometimes, she said, ” I DO get out of my room three times a day for meals!” Residents had to go to the common room for meals and sit at a table with two or three others (unless they were sick, and then a tray was taken to their room). And I thought, that’s true, and that’s quite a lot of social interaction compared to her life before assisted living. So I didn’t urge her that way any more.

She enjoyed coming with us to my son’s basketball games and to our home and church. We would take her out to eat with us sometimes, and I could tell she was tense and not entirely comfortable, but as long as we ordered for her (so she wouldn’t have to) and stayed close, she was fine.

Now, of course, with her decline over the years, her lack of mobility and speaking, about the only place she goes is outside occasionally in her wheelchair.

I know it was more cost effective and needed fewer workers to do things as a group rather than have one-on-one activities. There were just a few individual activities they did that worked well. A couple of the places would bring in therapy dogs and take them to individual rooms for residents to pet and interact with for a short time. She always had pets until assisted living, so I think she enjoyed that. One activity director would come to her room and paint her fingernails. I don’t think she ever painted her fingernails in her life before that, so I never knew quite what she thought about that one. But at least it was one-on-one.

My husband and I often thought that someone could make a business out of being a personal trainer in those kinds of facilities. My mother-in-law was under a physical therapist’s care at different times, but eventually their time with a patient comes to an end, and they leave them with a list of exercises. My mother-in-law never did the exercises on her own and didn’t want to go down to the group exercise classes, but she would work with the physical therapist (as she declined, she needed my husband to be there for the first few sessions so they could learn to communicate with each other. He was from Croatia, and she couldn’t understand him, so he thought she was just being uncooperative, and she didn’t really care if he came back or not. :-/ But after just a few visits with my husband there to interpret for her and urge her on, and showing the therapist how to communicate with her, they got along quite well.) We didn’t want our own visits with her to be all about exercising, so it would have been nice if there was someone on staff, or even someone who worked with different facilities, to come in and help people with their exercises.

One lady who used to visit my mother-in-law used to read and discuss with her parts of the Reader’s Digest, her favorite magazine. Nowadays, visitors often read a part of the Bible to her, valuable since she can’t read for herself any more (it’s important to remember if you are reading to someone with hearing problems that you stand or sit where they can see you clearly and speak loudly). Other one-on-one activities that we’ve done and others could do are taking her outside (one facility had a lovely screened in porch) for a change of venue, looking through pictures or photo albums with her (people love to talk about their families), or show her things on the computer. Sometimes when we had her over for a meal, my husband would show her some of the family members’ Facebook pages, or use Google Earth to see some of the places where they used to live. We talked some about her life before I knew her (I discovered she had been the editor of her high school newspaper!), but I wish I had done that more and then written it down. I also wish I had come up with some bit of interesting news or information to share with her. Often our conversations would start out with, “Well, what’s new?” And I’d reply, “Well, not much.” When you visit someone almost every day there is really not much new every visit. I did share family and church news and sometimes current events, but I wish on those days when I didn’t have anything new to share that I had taken the time to look up or come up with something she’d find interesting. I also wish I had put some of her old photos in a scrapbook with her, not just for the activity, but to hear more about the people in them.

Although my mother-in-law would not have had the dexterity or interest in these, some might enjoy games or puzzles (although she did enjoy Scrabble sometimes at our home. We had to take it very slowly and she’d argue with us about words like “qi” and “xi.” 🙂 ). Some might even enjoy some of the group activities if they have a companion they know to go with them, at least the first few times.

The biggest help, though, both in any facility or in our home now, is just visiting with her personally. At different times over the years different individuals from our church would take it upon themselves to just go see her. Sometimes different groups within the church or community would make something for residents and bring it to their rooms, and that was nice, but really, the main help was just a short time of personal conversation and interaction.

When I was in college, one of the ministry groups I participated in for a couple of years was a “foster grandparent” program. There were other groups from college who would do Sunday morning and week night services at a nursing home, but our group would ask for names of residents who didn’t get as many visitors, and we would each choose two and then spend Friday nights visiting those two, just to talk and get to know them. I still have fond memories of “my ladies.”

Of course, staff members do not have time to do all of these things, and some are best done by family. But for those like the activities director who only painted fingernails, ministry groups, and individual visitors, these are a few ideas of things to do with one older person rather than a group activity.

Social interaction is important to every person, but introverts prize it on a smaller and more infrequent scale, with one or two people and quieter activities. That may be a little more time- and labor-intensive than group activities, but it can be highly valuable for both sides.

For more in the Adventure in Eldercare series, click the graphic below.


(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays)




Pumpkin Decorating 2016

We haven’t always carved/decorated pumpkins. When my kids were little I was overly concerned about the evil origins of everything. But when Mittu and Jason wanted to try it a few years ago, I decided that decorated pumpkins were far removed from any evil origins, and it has been an annual activity ever since. We got together to do so last Saturday.

Jim bought the pumpkins ahead of time and then arranged them in a little pumpkin patch at the back of the yard for Timothy to “find” and gather.



After Mittu made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, we got to work.




Timothy, of course, can’t carve yet, so he painted his. Mittu joined him so he wouldn’t feel like the odd one out.


I used a heart design, but it fell apart right at the end because I had gotten a couple of places a little too thin. But Jim mended my broken heart. With toothpicks. 😀


Jim usually does a political design. Can you guess who this is?


Most of us used designs we found online, but Jason created his own.


Mittu’s painted Batman pumpkin.


Jesse went a little more spooky that we usually do. One of the lights I picked up changed colors, making this seem even more ghoulish.


Timothy checking out the finished products. He was quite intrigued.



But of course the best thing to do with pumpkins is to eat them in a pie. 🙂


Mittu had made a pumpkin pie with chocolate chips and I made gluten-free sugar cookies in leaf shapes and pumpkin spice cookies (both from mixes from Wal-mart) – forgot to take a picture, and they’re all gone now. We each didn’t know the other was making dessert, so we had kind of a sugar overload for a few days, but it was good!

It was a fun night!

What’s been going on around here lately

I have some thoughts for a couple of posts I haven’t had time to develop yet, and a couple of books just about ready for review. I thought about making some headway on one of those posts, but then decided to just have a chat. 🙂

One focus of our life right now is a row of trees in our back yard. 52 trees, to be exact, that caught something called “blight” and are in the process of dying. You can see them when they were healthy in a couple of photos I shared when we had spiffed up our patio a few years ago.

This is looking to the left from the patio.

This was the view from the right:

These photos were from a Memorial Day picnic, and Jim was defending us from bugs with his electric flyswatter. 🙂 As you can tell, we don’t have much of a back yard, which bothered me a bit when we first looked at the house. But, we decided in our stage of life that we didn’t really need a big back yard, and there was less to mow that way.

These are the trees now:



A few years ago we noted a few brown patches in the trees, wondered if it might be a problem, decided it was just a part of the trees shedding their old foliage. But we were wrong.

Now, of course, the problem is how to get them cut down. We’ve had guys coming by dropping off business cards offering to do it for months now. Jim called one of them, but in three weeks he has only cut down 15 trees – keeps asking us for money and then disappearing for days after we give him some. (Grrr!) So we’re trying to deal with that situation.

We’re planning on putting up a fence when all the trees are down. One unexpected bright side of removing the trees is that it’s creating much more room in the yard. We didn’t realize just how much space they took up. Plus when we get a fence up, it will still provide privacy, but it won’t be as tall as the trees, so we’ll get more sunlight and our plants back there should grow better.

So, though I’ll miss our lovely green bower back there, I think everything will work out well in the end. Once we can get someone to cut them down. 🙂

Oh, and that swing in the first photo, that I had just gotten as a Mother’s Day present just before that photo four years ago….now it looks like this:


I was SO disappointed that it didn’t hold up well in the weather. I had wanted to have it taken to the dump, but Jim said he thought he could refurbish it – make a wooden seat and back and treat for rust and paint it. I think that’s the best idea: I’ve looked at new ones, and just don’t like any as well as I liked this (except for high-end ones that were too many $$$).

You can see behind it a few of the trees that have been cut down. The guy is supposed to take care of the stumps, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

By the way, the rubber snake on the swing is to help keep birds from using the patio furniture for their restrooms. 🙂 We keep a few on the patio chairs. It seems to work except when they’ve gotten used to them, so it helps to rearrange them or add a new one every now and then. They’re only $1 at Wal-Mart, so not a bad investment.

In other news…Great-Grandma has been a little sick lately. She had a cough and was having trouble eating because she couldn’t coordinate breathing with swallowing. You don’t think about needing muscles to cough, but with her losing muscular ability over the years, she coughs but can’t really bring anything up. Now she’s pretty much only coughing when she’s lying flat, when we change her, but it sounds worse. She’s had a low grade fever off and on. The hospice nurse was out yesterday and has called in some cough medicine and an antibiotic, so hopefully she’ll be on the mend soon.

And, finally…my husband peruses various “deal of the day” types sites, and recently came across a little battery-powered vehicle for Timothy. We thought about giving it to him before his birthday, then for his birthday, then decided to wait on it. We just gave it to him last week. He was so excited – he loves anything on wheels and figured out how to use it right away. He calls it his “mower” because it’s shaped like Granddad’s riding lawn mower. I was trying to get him to look up and smile when I was taking this picture, but he was distracted by a neighbor on his riding mower. 🙂


Such fun! I wish I could upload a little video Jason made of his driving it the first time and giggling, but my WordPress account only allows YouTube or Vimeo videos unless I want to pay extra. :-/

He keeps amazing us with words and activities we didn’t know he knew.

For his birthday, Jason asked Jesse to blow up some balloons and put them in the pack-and-play. He played in there for ages – and they’re still there, two weeks later, and he plays in them every time he comes over. I’m amazed they’re still holding air.


Well, I guess I’d better get back at the responsibilities of the day. Nice visiting with you!