Nurse Loves Farmer


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Sunday, 09 June 2013 07:00

Parental Boundaries

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I attended a piano recital recently of a friend of mine, where I witnessed something that I have never encountered before.

As a piano teacher, I have seen students come and go who have either too little or too much involvement from their parents. The problems usually happen when there is too much involvement. I had one student who sat on my piano bench every week at her lesson, but she might as well not have been there for the amount of presence she had over her parents.

If I asked her a question, they would answer. If I asked her to do something for me, they would jump up and explain it for her again just to make sure there was no confusion. If she seemed at all hesitating about anything, they did not allow her a moment to think - they jumped in and solved the problem for her.

When I looked at her face, I saw a little girl who didn't believe she was capable of doing anything on her own - because her parents were constantly telling her that she needed them to do things for her.  She had a lethargic and unassuming presence, and I completely believe that it was because she felt unable to assert herself, or to be her own person, against her parents. She did not continue taking piano lessons after one year because, as her parents said, 'she just wasn't into it'. 

I wasn't surprised.

It was frustrating for me as her teacher, because I wasn't really able to teach her. So much of my teaching involves figuring out each individual students' style, and learning how to communicate with them on their level - I think my ability to do this makes me a better teacher. In her case, I was not able to communicate with her directly, which made me unable to adapt my teaching for her. 

At the piano recital I mentioned earlier, I witnessed what I suspect was this sort of parent-child relationship. 

An approximately 12-year-old girl had approached the piano with no written music. She sat down, and began playing her song before stalling only a few bars in. She stared at the piano for a few moments, and then turned to face the audience. It was clear what she was doing when a woman - likely her Mom - quickly stood and brought a piano book to her and placed it on the music stand of the piano. Her mother was clearly heard saying, "You can start over from the beginning - it's ok".

I was absolutely shocked.

I wanted to ask my friend if she had made this arrangement, because it seemed highly unlikely that she - the teacher - would have approved this kind of parental involvement. It was presumptious, bordering on rude. It undermined the teacher.

I agree that it was entirely ok that this girl was given the belief that it was ok if she messed up, and that it was ok for her to fall back on her sheet music. However, any arrangements such as this should have been made with the teacher - not the parent. That is why the parent pays the teacher to teach... 

I have sat at that piano and stumbled across a song I was supposed to have memorized. I have stared at the piano in fear for a few moments, and had no parent jump up and 'fix' the problem. I was learning how to handle life, and how to take responsibility for the fact that I had not practiced enough. I would have to either stumble through to the end, or act as though the song was over right there. A 12-year-old girl should be capable of making this decision on her own. 

That's my perspective. I know parenting is changing, and children are being told repeatedly that they are not capable of handling what they once were. I think we are stepping backwards, not forwards here, as 18-year-old adults enter university unable to hand in assignments on time because they have always had their parents do everything for them. 

We as parents need to know when it is ok - and appropriate - to step in to help our children, and when it is not. I completely believe that there will be times when I want to bail my child out of a potentially difficult or embarrassing situation, but a situation that I will know my child created for themselves, and I will know that the best thing for my child will be to let them struggle through it until the end - because it is only then when they will start to feel like competent people who are able to take on the world without  my help. They need that from me. 

Just sayin'. 

Saturday, 08 June 2013 07:00

Epic Toddler Tantrum

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I love this photo because it hardly looks like my Clara, and makes her look a little bit insane, which is just so perfect. I also love it, because it was sent to me via text when I was away for two days a few weeks ago, and Brian asked Clara to 'Smile for Mommy'.  It's precious.

This precious little girl showed me a side of herself yesterday that I had not yet seen before in the shape of a colossal temper tantrum.

She was sitting at her seat at the table - as she is in this photo - eating a snack after her afternoon nap. It began simply enough - she yelled "I'm done!" at me, expecting to me immediately released from her chair so she could go and play.

I have to confess that too often, we have responded to this sort of demand unknowingly - or only half-ways knowingly - and therefore strengthened her belief that demanding will get her what she wants. Sometimes it would happen that she would almost politely request something, and we would be in the process of filling her request when the demands came - which we would ignore, because we were already at work - and again it would be proved that demanding is a successful way to get her way in life.


We didn't even realize this was happening, but yesterday, as I looked across the table at her and she began insistently yelling "I'm done, I'm done, I'm done!!!".  I realized that she had been doing this for too long.  This was behavior I did not want to see in her in another year's time, and so I must stop indulging it now. 

We had been trying to teach her some level of manners by insisting on the word 'Please' when she requests something, and when we began to instruct her to 'ask nicely', we would get an insistent and somewhat whiney 'PLEEEEAAAASE!' which actually sounds more like 'Cheese' when she says it, but anyway... It was also time to correct her belief that 'asking nicely' simply means saying the word 'please'. 

So I looked her in the eye and said "Clara, I know that you want to get down, but you need to talk nicely to Mommy. When you yell 'I'm done' at Mommy, that is very rude behavior and you need to tell Mommy you're sorry for yelling. Then you need to say 'Mommy, can I please be excused?'". 

Some people might say that this is a bit much to expect from a two year old. Those people do not know my daughter. She always - always - knows more than even I give her credit for, and is constantly surprising me. I will not undercut her intelligence or perception because she is absolutely capable of being held responsible for her behavior. 

She said. "No! I don't want to be nice to Mommy!"

And I said "Ok, then, you can stay there until you're ready to be nice."

She started screaming again. "No! I need to get DOWN!!!'

For awhile I tried to reason with her, explaining again and again what she needed to do. 1: Say sorry, 2: Ask 'nicely' - which now requires a full sentence as well as the word 'please'.  Again and again she refused, and became more and more difficult. She worked herself up full tilt and full on screamed in my face. 

She screamed. Loudest noise I have ever heard her make. I pulled out my deep and serious Mom voice and said "Clara, that is not appropriate behavior. It is not ok to scream like that." 

She looked me in the eye and continued to scream. Every so often she would break to demand to get off the chair again, at which I would try again to explain to her what she needed to do. Then she would tell me again that she didn't want to be nice to me and continue to scream.

After about five minutes I realized that this was one of those times when ignoring her might be the best option. I chose to ignore her, because I didn't want her to think that tantrums were a way to get attention, and I ignored her because I didn't want her to in any way be 'calling the shots' at that moment. I stayed close to her because she was flailing herself wildly on the chair, and I wanted to make sure that she wouldn't tip her chair over and hurt herself, but I stayed behind her so that it wouldn't appear to hear as though I was concerned with her situation. I did some dishes.

Occasionally I would walk to the living room and - still in view of Clara - I would talk to and praise Audrey for being such a happy girl, and tell her that I liked to spend time with girls who were so nice to Mommy. I don't know what child psychology would say about this - but my intent was to show Clara that I was MORE likely to pay attention to her if she acted calm and was nice, than if she was tantruming. 

The screaming continued, although Clara did stop for a moment to listen to what I said to Audrey.  It was a warm day, and all of our windows and doors were open. I was a little bit afraid that someone would think I was torturing my child and call the police... seriously, her screams were that awful.

After about 20 minutes of ignoring her (yup - it was at least a 25 minute screaming tantrum), I finally sat down in front of her again and reiterated what I had told her before. She must have worn herself down enough that she was willing to concede defeat and said, through her tears, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

Then, after a few more sniffles, she said "Can I be excused... please?"

I said yes. I gave her a hug. And she was all smiles and giggles and happy playtime for at least an hour. 

Looking back, I have to say that battling with her like this could have made me tired of mommyhood right then, but it seemed to have exactly the opposite effect. It was work. It was challenging. And it was invigorating. I had put some sweat and tears into raising my daughter - and I suddenly felt even more connected to her. She is my job right now - my purpose in a lot of ways - and putting some real exertion into the task and seeing small, but positive, results has refocused me for the time being. Like a small voice in my ear is saying "See, that wasn't THAT hard... and it was worth it!"

And it will be worth it. 

Have any of you ever dealt with massive and dramatic tantrums that changed your life or thought process as a parent? How did you handle them? 

Thursday, 06 June 2013 07:00

Planning the Week Ahead Thursday

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From my list of activities last week, we...

Made Clara's party invitations, which included colouring and stickers... is it cheating to put three activities together into one?

We also tried this milk painting thing. I had initially found it (I think) on Play Create Explore, but then I couldn't track it down on this site and used the information from this post on Modern Parents Messy Kids. I wasn't really sure what the draw here was, and we only tried it with 2% milk (the post I read suggested that whole milk would work a lot better), but the best moment was the first moment the toothpick first hits the milk. Something in the milk reacts to the soap and the surface of the liquid shoots out in all directions from the soapy toothpick. 

After that, Clara just squiggled the toothpick around in the milk for a bit, but lost interest pretty quickly. It probably entertained her for a total of five or ten minutes. I refilled the dish twice so she could start over, which gained me an extra five minutes. I only had blue, green, and yellow food colouring. :)

For Audrey, we did some playing with nesting cups - or, measuring cups, because I discovered we don't actually have nesting cups designed for play.

Which leaves me with most of the activities that I had named last week still un-done. They included finger painting (with both girls), playing with a sensory rice or noodle bin, matching tops and bottoms of plastic easter eggs, and building towers and playing with blocks of some kind (this also for both girls). For Audrey specifically, I also had 'playing with tissue paper' on the list. 

I'm not disappointed though, because what we DID do were things (above) that I wouldn't have done otherwise, so I was still doing a bit more than I would have without a plan.  Also, what we did when I was not doing the things I missed from last week's list included going on two picnics - one with friends to a playground, and one with the Grandparents, stopping by the Children's Festival in town, going for a walk to the park, and I encouraging Clara's pretend play by sitting on the kitchen floor with her for awhile while she pretended to paint my nails with an old make-up set of mine. 

So anyway, I think it was successful to have a list - even if we don't hit everything on it, at least I have things to try if I need an idea. I also like having some 'back-up plans' in case the weather ends up being too cold (or hot) or rainy to be outdoors. 

So for next week, I will make another list! 

For Clara:

  • I just discovered the 'Color of the Week' series on 'Play, Create, Explore' and since Clara is pretty solid on her colours, but not completely, I think this would be fun to go through over the summer. So, starting with Week 1 (Yellow), I'd like to do at least one or two of the 'Yellow' themed activities - maybe a sensory sink, finger paint, or yellow bath. 
  • Painting with water on the deck if the weather is warm enough
  • Fingerpainting, or some other cool painting activity, like this 'Monoprinting' idea 
  • Plant flowers!
  • If the weather is nice enough to get wet - this 'Outdoor Play Cooking' idea sounds awesome! 
  • Because I'd like to find ways to be more active with my kids, and encourage their activity as well, I came across this 'Walking the Hose' idea while I was on Pinterest. 
  • Make some kind of obstacle course

For Audrey

  • Fingerpainting!!! 
  • Play with tissue paper (I liked this idea)
  • Give her at least 3 random 'sensory' items that seem out of the ordinary to me (like the measuring cups did...)

Ok, that's my task list - hopefully I'll accomplish at least some of them! 

Tuesday, 04 June 2013 21:38

The Best Frozen Pizza

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Last year I discovered that I loved pizza after years of thinking I hated it. Actually, I discovered homemade pizza - a vast improvement over the grease-filled delivery kind. Not to bash pizza delivery - I do enjoy my share of greasy foods, and we certainly rely on the occasional convenience of take-out, but I'm just not personally a fan of store-bought pizza - especially when compared to a homemade version.

Previous to discovering this particular recipe, I would never have thought the idea of mustard and pickles on pizza was appetizing - particularly considering I avoid mustard and pickles on my cheeseburgers - but this Cheeseburger Pizza had me hooked! 


  • Pizza Crust (I make the one on the Fleischmann's Pizza Yeast jar) 
  • Pizza Sauce (I use a variation of 'Exquisite Pizza Sauce' on
  • 1/2 lb cooked ground beef
  • sliced red onion
  • 4-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Tomato and dill pickle slices
  • Ketchup & Mustard
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheeses, grated


Lay, or roll out, unbaked pizza crust dough on greased pizza pan.  Spread dough with pizza sauce, leaving about 1/4 inch along the edge. Layer beef, onion, crumbled bacon, tomato and dill pickle slices in desired amount (hence no measurements) on crust, top with a criss-cross of ketchup and mustard.  Scatter some fresh spinach leaves on top, and top that with grated mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. 

Bake in 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and crust is browning.

The best looking frozen pizza ever!

If we use 1 lb of ground beef, this recipe makes two medium-cookie-sheet sized pizzas. The last time I made this, we ate one right away, and froze the other. We pulled the frozen one out of the oven a few days later when we were pressed for time, and baked it for about 30 minutes from frozen, testing occasionally until it was hot all the way through.

I got this recipe from a dear friend, who graciously allowed me to post this recipe for y'all. It's truly too great not to share.

Monday, 03 June 2013 15:39

Looking Like an Idiot on TV

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I'm waiting for a call from my Grandma excitedly telling me she saw me on the news... it's coming, I know it is... 

This morning I made a last-minute plan to meet a friend downtown at our city's Children's Festival for the morning.  I was a little bit (actually a lot) rushed, and we got there about 45 minutes later than planned. I hadn't been to the Children's Festival since I was in preschool myself, so I had no idea what to expect or what to look for. 

We wandered in and stopped for a moment to get our bearings and see what was going on.  We had stopped next to an agriculture tent where volunteers were helping children plant sunflower seeds in small paper cups. Clara was the only one of our children who seemed interested in trying this out, and she stepped up on the stool and let a volunteer help her fill her cup with dirt and poke two little holes into it for her sunflower seeds. 

Shortly after Clara had stepped up, my friend noticed a woman with a tv camera over her shoulder zoom in on my daughter and record this entire process. My friend quickly ducked away, but after Clara was finished with her flower planting, the woman with the camera stopped me to ask me some questions. 

I do not think well on the spot. Despite the fact that I'm actually a fairly intelligent person - I don't really come across that way on short notice. I was asked a couple of questions - actually, I think she kept re-wording her question hoping for a better answer, but I  became increasingly flustered as I spoke. 

For someone who spends a lot of time thinking about what I might say if I were being interviewed, you'd think I would be better at this! 

I spent the next half hour at least with a flushed face, thinking of all of the things I wish I had said to her instead. She had asked me what I thought of having something like the Children's Festival available to bring my children to. I said something really lame about it being a good opportunity... 

What I SHOULD have said (If I'd been there longer, and had thought about what I might say) was something more like this:

"Having the Children's Festival here in our city is a great opportunity for us to get outdoors and experience some things we and our children either wouldn't think of on our own, or wouldn't have the resources to experience ourselves. There are a lot of great learning activities for children, including a fossil dig and the opportunity to plant sunflowers, as well as a lot of activities that are just plain fun! It's great for Mom's to involve our children in events that are a break from our typical routine, and give us the opportunity to get out and try new things!"

Ok, that's still pretty bad... but it's better than what I said on tv.

Clara and her friend hunting for fossils.

Saturday, 01 June 2013 07:00

Explaining Death to a Toddler

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Two weeks ago one of my Grandma's died. Brian had to work the day of the funeral, so I hired a babysitter to join me for the four hour each way drive and to take the girls to a playground during the funeral service itself. I debated leaving the girls behind at home with a babysitter, but I knew my family would want to see them so I brought them along. 

The babysitter kept the girls occupied during the service, but joined us at the churchyard for the burial.  This was mostly because the burial was delayed, and not because I intended for Clara to be a part of this, but as it turned out she was witness to the casket-lowering process. 

She asked a lot of questions, and because I'm a fan of 'telling it like it is' I tried to be as honest - but simple - as I could. 

I told her that her Great Grandma had died, and that she was in the box, and that we were going to say goodbye.  She stood with me as flowers were handed out for us to throw on top of the casket after it was lowered. Clara was given a flower, and I explained that we were going to give it to Great Grandma 'to say goodbye'. 

"What is she doing, Mom?" 

"She died, Clara, she is in the box."

"What is she doing, Mom?"

"I don't know Clara, she died - remember, just like Grandpa died, so we won't see her again."

I did mention something about my Grandma going to be with Jesus, and maybe she's living in a big castle now - just like a princess - mostly just to try to curb the questions, but Clara could not be distracted. I'm normally not really comfortable stating anything about the afterlife, because although I firmly believe in heaven and hell, I don't feel like it's my place, or appropriate, for me to state where a person has gone.  

"Where did she go?"

"She's in the box, Clara."

"What is she doing in the box, Mom?"

Maybe trying to include a toddler in this wasn't such a good idea...  And then it occured to me that Clara has a number of Great Grandma's, and this particular Great Grandma she hadn't seen in nearly a year so when I said that 'Great Grandma is in the box' she may have been picturing any one of her Great Grandmas. 

Later in the week, I was talking to another of my Grandmas and Clara had a short conversation with her on the phone as well. As I was telling Clara to 'say goodbye to Great Grandma', a shocked look crossed her face and she suddenly asked my Grandma "Are you in a box?". My Grandma laughed and said "No, not just yet!"

Someday she will be. Like we all will be. Not to be depressing, but maybe I don't need to worry so much about how well, or how poorly, I explained this to her. Maybe it's not really a big deal. 

Hopefully this summer the cemetary in my parents' city will be finished (up until now there hasn't been one), and we will be able to give my Dad's ashes a burial.  I will again have to explain to Clara that Grandpa has died, and that we are there to say goodbye. 

How have you handled this particular issue? Have you come across it yet, and what did you explain to your kids? 

Thursday, 30 May 2013 07:00

Week Ahead Thursday

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A few weeks ago, this statement crossed my mind:

No one stays at home after maternity leave to keep a cleaner house.

I'm a 'Stay at Home Mom', not a 'Stay at Home Housekeeper' or 'Stay at Home Meal Planner' or even a 'Stay at Home Part-time Piano Teacher'. Because of this, I've been convicted lately to become a better mother to my daughters. I have been guilty of giving them only their basic needs - food, clothes, and safety - and ignoring another huge need - my undivided attention for even a short period of time. 

Lately I feel as though I have been seeing my life only ten minutes ahead, which has made everything except housekeeping difficult. I can wash dishes on ten minutes notice, but planning supper is much more difficult. And doing anything with my daughters OTHER than just colouring requires a bit more notice as well.  I confess that life events - like family deaths - shake me up quite a bit. Not in a way that makes me depressed or sad for days, but I become scattered and 'fuzzy' for a time while I mentally process what has happened and try to regroup. 

I need a game plan. 

So, starting now, I plan to make a weekly plan for spending time with my daughters. I will post my 'Bucket List' each Thursday (hold me accountable, will you?) for the following week, and then check in with photos on the following Thursday. 

I found the website Play, Create, Explore which has a ton of great ideas for toddler play. For this week (and probably a few more), my plans for Clara will come from this site.  For Audrey, I found a site called Hands On As We Grow that has some great play ideas for babies in her age group. 

I would also like to make a point of going outside each day when the weather is nice, and reading at least one book each day that isn't at bedtime!

For the week of Thursday, May 30th to Wednesday, June 5th, here is our 'Bucket List':

For Clara:

  • Colouring together (gotta have some easy ones!)
  • Play with stickers
  • Make Party invitations for Clara's upcoming celebration
  • Finger painting
  • Sensory Rice & Noodle bin
  • Milk painting
  • Plastic Easter Egg Matching
  • Build a tower out of blocks
  • Play with Mega Blocks

For Audrey (either to do along with Clara's similar activity, or to do while Clara is napping):

  • Play with measuring (nesting) cups
  • Finger paint with yogurt
  • Play with blocks
  • Play with tissue paper 

There we are - our list for the week! By Next Thursday I hopefully will have checked off all of these items, and will have pictures to show for it! 

Monday, 27 May 2013 07:00

I'm A Guest at Terrell Family Fun!

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Lately I've been thinking a lot about starting to introduce Clara to doing some chores around the house, and began compiling a list of things that she could help out with.

When Heather from Terrell Family Fun said she was going on vacation and needed some guest posters, I jumped at the opportunity and am so thrilled that she agreed to use my post! Since she also has a toddler daughter, I hoped my recent musings about toddler chores would be interesting to her and to her readers also.

If you are interested, please join me over at Terrell Family Fun today to read my post on 'Introducing Chores to Your Toddler.

Sunday, 26 May 2013 07:00

Audrey at 7 Months Old!

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My Dear Audrey,

We have had another crazy stretch of time this past week, and you - as usual - adapt to every event and change without seeming to notice.

Earlier this week your Great Grandma died, and we made the 4-hour-each-way journey on Wednesday to attend the funeral.  We made it a day trip, driving a total of 8 hours only to spend about 3 1/2 hours with family.  You started complaining when we were about 20 minutes away from home on our return trip. 

Today I returned from the longest stretch I have ever been away from you - about 32 hours, and overnight! You spent yesterday and most of today with your Daddy and Clara, and you survived beautifully without me.  This was a hard realization for me, but although part of me wanted you to have obviously noticed that I was gone - and maybe even have been a little bit distressed - I'm so glad at how content and adaptable you are.  You were breastfed yesterday morning before I left, and then you were given formula until suppertime today when I got home again.  You didn't seem to notice the difference at all, and guzzled it down. Daddy also recruited your big sister to feed you some baby cereal...

Since last month you have started enjoying 'solid' foods again, and are even starting to really need it. After a few nights of having you get hungry much earlier after each feeding than usual, we started to realize that you were starting to need more than just breast milk. 

You are starting to successfully share a room with your sister, beginning from about 9 or 9:30 pm each night. We will tuck Clara in to bed for night, let you 'say' goodnight to her, and then give her an hour or two to settle down before we bring you into your bassinet, which now spends most of its time sitting inside your crib. Since you sleep much more comfortably in your bassinet (still!), we decided to try to change only one thing at a time, and are allowing you to get used to sleeping in the room with Clara while still enjoying the security of your regular bed. The bassinet also creates a visual barrier between you and Clara also, so you both fall asleep much more easily.  You are getting increasingly more consistent with sleeping at least 6 hours every night, sometimes longer, but almost never shorter. 

You are finally sitting up on your own - pretty much all the time, although after a few minutes you do still occasionally topple over. Today your Daddy even said you were starting to move yourself around on the floor while playing, so you're getting closer to crawling also!

You still seem to have a really long attention span, and today you played with an empty tissue box for about half an hour while Clara played. Your favourite thing is still to watch your sister run around and play, and you will laugh and do your 'bobble-head dance' while watching her.  Any chance to play with her also makes you insanely happy. 

We get comment after comment from people who say what a 'good', 'happy', 'content' and 'quiet' baby you are. And we can't argue, because it's really true.  You are such a blessing, and you still seem to hate nothing.  

You are beautiful, cuddly, happy and in all ways wonderful. I was so happy to come home to you today, and I'm so glad to be your Mommy!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 09:41

Losing Another Loved One...

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For those of you who don't know my story, here is a short summary. 

I was the third child of my biological mother, and first child for my Dad. Both my mother and Dad grew up in somewhat old-fashioned religious families who didn't approve of this child conceived out of wedlock. When my mother left me and my Dad a few months after I was born, her parents - my Grandparents - made a very deliberate decision to not lose me as a grandchild. 

They invited me and Dad over for Christmas gatherings, came to my house for my Birthdays, and made sure they connected with me at every possible holiday. For the first half of my life, they lived nearby and I was able to see them quite frequently. 

When my Dad remarried when I was 8 years old, they 'adopted' his new wife as their family also, and my step-brother became another one of their grandchildren. I recognize this as being a special circumstance, and that very few ex-in-laws would have made this decision, but for me - it was the greatest thing they could have done. 

I never felt as though I was unwanted (which I'm sure I was at first), or a burden in any way. I was a family member for whom my Grandparents would have done anything for - just like any of their other grandchildren. 

Then they moved back to the small town they had originated from, and where most of their children now lived. I was no longer able to see them as often as I had before, but they still traveled out to see me at least twice a year and often more. I was able to grow up knowing my siblings and cousins because of them. 

Tomorrow morning I will be making the three hour trip to the small town church my Grandparents attended to meet with my mother, sister and brother, aunts and uncles, and cousins for our second family funeral in just over a year.  Last year my Grandpa died - just a few months before my Dad died.

Last Monday morning, my Grandma walked into the hospital, her speech garbled as is common after a stroke. By that evening, she was in a coma and was unable to be awakened by hospital staff or family. Friday morning, she left this world for the next. 

I believe there is life after this one - and I am glad for Grandma that she can now be with Grandpa again, and I know that I will see both of them again someday.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.   Philippians 3:20-21

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