Archive | July 2013

Summer Nostalgia

I don’t remember having only one dress, or walking 10 miles in the snow to get to school…but I do recall:

The last day of school picnics…which meant summer!! We’d take off our shoes on the way home, spend several days getting our feet tough enough to run bases through the stickery pasture grasses, or take long walks down country roads (it was safe way back then), and washing our feet at the end of the day under the ice cold water from the pump by the house.

We had no ‘organized’ clubs or teams, but we made our own…baseball games in the sheep pasture until it was too dark to see the ball. Hide and seek in the dark (and having the bajeebies scared out of us). And, of all things…just sitting under–or IN–a shade tree.

We lived 15 miles from a swimming pool—but we had wash tubs and garden hoses and the horse tank.

We worked in the garden in the morning, ate fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob at noon, and chased fireflies in the evening. Often we’d sprawl on blankets in the yard, waiting for it to cool down enough to sleep in the house.

Then came the one wonderful summer when we could afford a deep freezer, and a fan–all at the same time. Mama put aluminum foil on the windows, shiny side out to reflect the heat, pulled the drapes and we thought it was pure bliss to sit in the darkened living room, in front of the fan, fudge bars dripping down our arms. We were rich…and cool. What more could we ever want.

Saturday nights were the best. Everyone was in town on Saturday night. We’d take the eggs to the produce, then buy groceries with the egg money, and sometimes there was even enough we could all have a hamburger and Coke in a bottle from the one restaurant in town. On special occasions we ate ice cream at the drug store, on round tables with wire-backed chairs, under huge ceiling fans…Oh!! it was the time and place to be.

I remember only one vacation, all the way to Colorado with the car windows down because we didn’t have a vehicle with air conditioning. But our mama was a fun lady, and when we drove through big towns we’d roll up the windows so the rich people (who NEVER had their windows down) would think we were just like them. By the time we were on the open road again we’d all be gasping for air, and we’d laugh for miles at the funny noises we could make by humming and changing the shape of our mouth against the welcome wind blowing against our faces.

Only in later years did I realize how poor we really were. Monetarily poor…

But oh, so rich in memories.

Memories and Summer Camp

outer spaceFor some, summer camp programs are a huge part of childhood memories. I know people who forged lifelong friendships during those weeks that seemed to be remembered so fondly. I wanted to give my boys a chance to have such wonderful experiences.

I tried putting my oldest in a two-week program and he didn’t last the first week. He’s such a homebody. Then, I thought I’d try registering my youngest in a recreational program since he’s not really an active kid. It was met with moderate success the first two years. Last year, he went but wasn’t happy. Sports are not his thing; science and languages are.

So this year we found a “Mad Science” camp and enrolled him in the Aerodynamics and Space Exploration week. A brilliant success! It just started yesterday, but he couldn’t fall asleep at night because he couldn’t wait to go back to science camp.

The best part is that he is meeting children who, like him, would rather be studying constellations instead of tossing a basketball. He found other kids with whom he could discuss the creation of a hybrid dinosaur that would be half carnivore and half herbivore. The other campers were just as eager as he to sit in the “circle of science” and discuss the wonders of space. He was with “his people”.

As regular readers of this blog know, Nathan has Autism. It is a wonderful thing to see him fit in and enjoy interacting with other kids.

There are many years left before Nathan ages out of the program and has many summers to enjoy experimenting with science. I hope he looks back on “Mad Science” as one of the highlights of summer.

Cherie GagnonCherie

Did you go to a summer camp as a kid?

Back to school (sigh)

You know those cartoon cats where their claws are extended as they are drug across the floor unwillingly, leaving gouges in the floor?

That’s how I feel right now because our summer break is almost over. Where did the weeks go? Those endless days of summer? We are all groaning and whining at the Meisinger home because we just aren’t ready to be back on a schedule.

This year is going to be different for us. When Caleb was born I quit teaching first grade to stay home with him. Now, sixteen years later, I’ve been hired by the administration at the school the boys attend to teach Family and Consumer Science (Home Ec.) and four classes of elementary art. I will also be a para in the elementary classrooms during the other hours. I am thrilled with this opportunity and feel very blessed that this package was put together for me. I get to be on the same schedule as my boys, work with students and be a part of an education program I really believe in. Even though I don’t want to see the end of summer vacation, I am pretty excited about this new adventure.

When I quit teaching, I was in first grade. Now, one of my classes will be teaching senior boys how to survive on their own! When I started telling people what I was going to do, I figured they’d think Home Ec. was rather antiquated. Instead, every single person has said something they think I MUST teach–from sewing a button on to sorting laundry.

Between planning for another year of art and putting together a couple of classes of FACS, my mind is constantly going. I’d love your opinions, though. What do you think is important to teach in Home Ec.?

Thanks for sharing,


Grandma’s Aprons

I remember Grandma’s aprons
‘specially the one she wore on Sunday
It was different than the one
She put on first thing Monday.

Grandma’s weekday aprons were
Usually checkered, or maybe plaid
But her Sunday apron was snowy white
With ruffles on the shoulders.
It was the very best one she had.

P.S. It made her look just like an angel with ruffly wings.
P.P.S. I wonder, do grandma angels have real wings or do they just wear their Sunday aprons?

What do you remember about your Grandmother? Do you wear aprons? Did she?
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The Simple Life

kateYesterday, it seems as though the whole world held its breath while waiting to hear that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, had safely delivered her baby.

A couple of weeks ago I checked the BBC website to see if the Duchess had given birth to a boy or a girl. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The website showed pictures of the hundreds of step ladders in the press area so photographers could get the best shot of the expectant mother rushing into the hospital. There were also royal watchers who literally camped out in the streets and park benches to be near the blessed event.

A pit formed in my stomach when I thought of the tremendous pressure and scrutiny Kate must be facing during an intensely personal time. As mother myself, I know how nervous I was heading into my first labour and not knowing really what to expect. What could that possibly feel like to have the world watching?

While eating breakfast yesterday, I glanced through the online news and discovered that Kate had gone into labour. I sent up a quick prayer for a safe delivery and then got back to my family.

beachI had promised my youngest son that we would go to the beach in the morning. The temperature was warm, but it was slightly overcast and drizzly. Since there were no signs of thunder or lightning, I agreed we could go. I also brought my oldest with his personal attendant who could take him around the paved walkways since sand and wheelchairs don’t mix well.

The park was almost empty and a lone seagull walked the beach area. But our little party had a fantastic time hanging out by the water’s edge, listening to the waves lap along the shore with a beautiful view of the lake stretching to the horizon. The flowers in the park seemed to perk up with moisture while the grass turned a vibrant green. And, when the drizzle became rain we played under the pavilion accompanied by a gentle patter on the metal roof.

The thought then struck me on how beautiful the simple life was. There were no photographers badgering us. I wouldn’t worry about my picture showing up on the front page of a magazine with nasty comments about my thighs. My children’s privacy had not been invaded. We were making memories and no one else in the world seemed to care, and it was fine by me.

I’d go home to make dinner with the groceries I had picked up with my husband. Later, I would paint my front door and no fashion commentator would remark if I’m setting or violating a trend. My husband and I would put our kids to bed and not worry about a nanny’s tell-all book. Then I’d kiss my sweetheart goodnight.

The simple life is good.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” – Phil. 4:11-13 (The Message)

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Would you trade the simple life for the jet-setting life of a royal?

Old Tractors

There’s just something about old tractors. My niece Emily drove my dad’s H Farmall in the Nodaway County Fair Parade on Saturday.

dad and em1

Emily with her grandpa. She made the sign for the parade. My dad started farming with a tractor similar to this one.

My cousin Stanley and Dad talking tractors before the parade starts.

My cousin Stanley and Dad talking tractors before the parade starts.

Stanley and Emily take their seats and start the route.

Stanley and Emily take their seats and start the route.

Emily did a great job driving and said she had a lot of fun. Except for that one break down in the middle of the street before the parade started.

Susie head shot

Old tractors are like farmers – they may slow down, but they just keep going.

~ Susan

Fences & Fears

photoThis week I’ve been doing something I’ve never done before: building pasture fence. All week, every day. To be honest, I haven’t minded the actual work. My job is to use these wire clips and twist them around the post and the five rows of Five rows of wire clipped to EVERY post. Around the entire pasture. Hundreds of posts.

This job has allowed me plenty of time to think and I’ve found myself thinking about three certain things that I can’t stand– A LOT.

1.) Poison Ivy – As a mother of three boys who love to hunt and fish, I have seen my share of the result of poison ivy. I have a healthy respect for this plant and try to avoid it. I never quite remember what it actually looks like so generally just stay away from weedy areas. Until now. Now I know exactly what it looks like. I will be seeing it in my dreams. The fence was stretched through a lovely patch of the stuff and without a thought I waded in to do my job. I looked down and had this terrible feeling. Yes, I was assured by the high school boy helping us, that is what poison ivy looks like. Fortunately, when I turned forty, I wised-up a bit and started wearing jeans anytime I’m doing farm work. Believe me, I’m praying those jeans will protect me!

2.) Snakes. Need I say more? With tall grass all around me, don’t you think there might be a snake or two? Then you add in the holes in the ground I keep seeing and my mind goes crazy. As I was carefully pushing down grass (and poison ivy) with one foot, the other carefully balancing me just far enough away from a hole, I twisted another wire and thought about all the books I’ve read where the heroine is threatened by a rattle snake. Just before it strikes, the hero shoots the snake into pieces from where he sits on his white horse. That brought me a small measure of comfort–until I looked around for my hero (just in case I needed him) and he was half a mile down the fence in his white Ford pick up. So much for that thought.

3.) Ticks. I hate ticks. I can’t think of any reason why God put them on the earth. My first encounter with a tick was at the age of six or seven. I was standing on my head while my family watched TV. Mom suddenly grabbed my leg and said, “What’s that black spot?” I was terrified. I begged for them to leave it alone and just let me die. I screamed a little and cried a whole lot. Years later in college I worked at a summer camp. As part of our training we had to go on an overnight trip in the forest. After hiking all day, we unrolled our sleeping bags on the ground and under the trees. The next day we had to share what our biggest obstacle was. While some struggled with all the walking, others not knowing where we were going, I was the only one to admit I’d laid awake all night with my head inside my sleeping bag, praying God would protect me from all the ticks I knew were dropping out of the trees and marching all over my bed. So here I am, working all week in a pasture with tall grass and weeds. There are ticks everywhere. My boys decided tonight we all get paid a $10 bonus fee for every tick we find on our body. GROSS!

photoThere you have it–my list of fears. While a certain country singer croons his song about ‘checking for ticks’, I can’t think of anything much less romantic and disgusting. The song could only be worse if he added in a line about poison ivy and snakes!

Have a great weekend!


Five things not to say to someone who is grieving.

1. Call me if you need anything.

And I am thinking    “I have no idea what I need”

Or    “ I need so many things I know you wouldn’t ever be able to do them all”

Or    “I need my husband back, can you give me that?”

The reality is there are a lot of things, but rarely will I ask.  Right now, I’d just love it if you would take charge and say “I’ll be over tomorrow evening and we’ll tackle that thank you list together, ok?

2. Give it time, it will get better.

And I am thinking:  “How can you know that, you’ve never lost a husband.”

Or     “But it’s NOW and I am hurting. I don’t care about later.”

The reality is it probably will get easier in time.  The loss becomes less acute.  Time fills the space with other things, but the hole in your heart doesn’t go away. Better to say.  “This is hard. And I can’t know because I haven’t been through this yet, but I care about you and its ok with me if you cry.”

3.   God always takes home the ones he loves the most

And I’m thinking:  “Really! and where does it say THAT in the Bible”

Better to say: “I am glad to know that your husband was saved and that the Bible tells us he is in heaven with God right now. I know that doesn’t make you miss him less, though, and it’s ok if you are kind of mad at God right now for taking him. I think I would be too.

4. . I’m praying for you

Although this isn’t a bad thing to say, it may be much more comforting if you can focus on a specific thing that you will pray about and express that.  An example would be:  When I go to bed tonight I am going to pray and ask God to give you the ability to relax and sleep also.  In fact, I’ll just do that every night for a while.

5. Nothing

Most people say nothing because they either don’t know what to say or they are afraid that they will upset the person.  (They seem to be doing ok so let’s not upset them by mentioning it)

The reality is:        I never forget.  It hurts when I think you have.

Even if I cry, you will help me to heal if you acknowledge my loss.

Later, it will make me feel great when you remember my loved one and say so.

And the best thing to say that I have ever heard:  “I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what you need to hear.  But I am here.”

Has someone said something to you when you were hurting that really helped?  What was it? Will you share?



Grandma Tips, in No Particular Order.

1.  Remember–you are NOT the parent.

While we have rules in our home, they are not always the same rules they have in their own home.  We try very hard never to go against the rules of their parents. However, popcorn and a movie late at night are not considered rule-breaking.

2.  Don’t try too hard to make memories

Think about your own childhood.  The things I remember most were just the normal, everyday events that included me. This week our two youngest grands, ages 10 and 12, are here. They found toys still packed from our move in 2010, and it was like Christmas.  You know the best find?  The silly foam toys they played with while bathing, just shapes–trees, houses, flowers, that they would stick to the side of the tub. Now they take showers–but finding those toys, and others, brought shrieks of delight:   Remember when we….

3.  Keep meals simple

I love cute paper products, plates, napkins, etc. And all you ‘green’ folks, please don’t use this blog as a platform. It’s me. My kids know it, my grands know it, and my friends know it. It’s part of the ‘memories’ of grandma that they have. But I also realize that ‘cute’ doesn’t change the food, and food is eaten just as readily no matter how it is served. We have a wee cottage and not enough room to spread a huge table.  But blankets on the floor work just fine, and it seems like a picnic. Foods that can be eaten without utensils work best most of the time…however spaghetti is always a winner.

4.  Cherish the time you have…and don’t lament their growing-up.

I’m more aware than ever of my need to pray without ceasing. As they grow, I am no longer able to kiss their hurts and make them feel better.  They no longer care if I have Barbie or Spider Man bandaids on hand, because their ‘ouchies’ are no longer superficial. I can tell them ‘this will pass’, but what they need more than words of my extreme wisdom, is my faithfulness to pray for God’s wisdom.

5.  Don’t fret the small stuff

Now that there are only the two of us at home, my house stays reasonably presentable.   Dusting and vacuuming, and occasionally cleaning closets and drawers, and we are fine. But right now, on my wee living room floor, are two wooden TV tables lying flat so the two grands can sit on the floor and use them as hard surface for their play-doh creations. Two blankets are strewn beside them–brought in from their overnight sleep in the tents in the yard. Marbles in an ice-cream pail are sorted into different colors and a swim-noodle cut in half to make a race track is ready for them to shoot the same marbles into a cardboard box at the other end. They are watching a movie, still have on the T-shirts they painted on yesterday (used them as sleeping shirts), each has a bottle of water and a small package of chocolate donuts (special at Wal Mart yesterday). The shades to the windows are pulled down to ward off the hot morning sun and one of them is crooked. Grandpa just cut them each a large walking stick that they plan to paint later this afternoon.  It’s not neat and orderly. I’m tempted to adjust the blinds, but it doesn’t really matter. They should be dressed, they just had breakfast so don’t need the donuts…but they are going home tomorrow. The play-doh will be put away, the donuts gone, and the window blinds will be straight. I will miss the mess.  I will miss them.

6.  Redeem the time!



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Getting a Handle on Clutter

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to de-clutter more. Happy to say, I’m making some progress. Not as much as I’d like, but one step forward is better than two back.

So here are some tips that I’ve come across from friends, family, blogs and magazines.

1. Adopt the mantra “Don’t put down, put away.”

Does this scenario sound familiar? You enter the house with a couple bags from your Target run and drop them on the kitchen table when suddenly the blinking voice-mail light grabs your attention. You walk away from your purchases and listen to the message to discover it’s Doris from church wanting to know what you’re bringing to the next potluck. You grab the church directory and toss it on the table as you dial Doris’ number. While chatting about slow cooker beans, you grab the mail and mindlessly toss it on the table….

Essentially, it’s a good idea to put things away in their proper place instead of a temporary place where you’re only going to have to clean up later. It may take only a few seconds longer in the moment, but it will save you the heartache of a cluttered kitchen table when dinnertime rolls around.

2. Master the Mail

When I grab the mail now, I ‘don’t put down, I put away.’ I immediately make three piles. One goes in the “to be shredded box” (shredder is pile of mailkept in the basement away from a mischievous boy). The second pile goes directly to recycling. The third pile goes in a yellow folder with all the other bills or correspondence that needs attention.

3. Magazine Clearance

When a new magazine comes in, I flip through it and tear out the recipes I like and file them in a recipe binder or file folder. I also keep a binder for exercise articles. I read the rest, then recycle. This way I’m not keeping scores of magazines around the house just because I liked one article or recipe.

junk drawer4. Junk Drawer, No More

If you have junk in your junk drawer, then put it in the trash and organize the rest. I had three of such drawers on the go. One is now printer and craft paper, the other is stationary and office supplies neatly organized in cute little trays. And the third…well, it’s still a junk drawer.

5. The 15-Minute Review

Make it a part of your nightly routine to spend just 15 minutes doing a quick walk through of the house. Left over dishes are collected and put in the dishwasher, toys are tossed in a basket, papers are put into neat piles, and any other obvious out-of-place objects are put back. This is not a time for a deep clean, but a quick tidy. By the time Saturday arrives for that weekend clean, you’re already ahead of the game but keeping on top of the mess a little at a time.

6. Do I Really Need it?

Before you bring something home, really decide if you really need it. I have a hard time passing up a good deal and I have to discipline myself to walk away if it’s not really needed (Still working on this one).

Cherie Gagnon – Cherie

What are some of your best de-cluttering tips?