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Life Lessons from Mom and Dad

I imagine that my childhood was fairly typical of most young girls growing up in the fifties and sixties. Our mother stayed at home with us kids while our father was at work. Dad worked every day except Sundays. He had Wednesday afternoons off, but worked late on Friday nights. Mom was burdened with mundane housework and playing referee to frequent arguments between my older sister and me. Mom was a member of the PTA and signed on as an assistant with the local Brownie troop. She was also our chief chauffeur ushering us to and from school and church youth events. Whenever dad was at home, he was there for Mom and us kids one hundred percent. I have many cherished childhood memories and the lessons my parents impressed upon me by their words and actions are unforgettable and worth sharing.

Mom taught me how to:

1. Eat My Vegetables

Mom made sure we had three square meals everyday. She understood about the food pyramid and made sure we ate everything in balance. Vegetables were not my favorite food group and I especially didn't much care for cooked spinach. But, if I wanted dessert after supper (there was always dessert) I was required to empty my plate, including I didn't like.

2. Say Please And Thank You

Mom made sure I never took anything for granted. Any small gesture was to be responded to promptly with a thank you. Politeness and good manners were expected always. Grace was said before each mealtime and bedtime prayers were a nightly ritual.

3. Clean Behind My Ears

What mom isn't concerned about proper hygeine? My mom was one of those mothers who would wipe off a speck of dried on food from your face with a bit of spat-upon-tissue just before dropping you off at school. (Mom, if you're reading this, YES, you did!) It was important to her that her daughters were clean and looked presentable. After my evening bath I would be given her inspection, often tugging gently at my ears she made sure I had scrubbed myself spotless. I could never get away with just wetting the toothbrush, she always knew if I tried to take a shortcut.

4. Make My Bed

I shared a room with my sister. We had twin beds. Each morning our beds were supposed to be made before leaving the house for school. It was a rule that I seldom abided. I figured by evening I'd be messing up my covers all over again. What was the point? Each day my bed would get made, but not by me. Both my sister and Mom were neat-freaks, my unmade bed was a bother to them. If my sister had time in the morning she would grumpily make my bed for me. Otherwise, after school I would discover a nicely made up bed in my shared bedroom by my mother.

5. Darn Socks

Mom kept a small sewing basket filled with her darning supplies at the side of the davenport. When I was very little she would let me sit near her and watch her as she wove the threaded needle back and forth, repairing the socks. When I got a little older she let me try my hand at darning a sock. It was fun then, but neither her nor I darn socks any longer.

6. Bake A Cake

I'm not sure, but I think the reason my mother taught me how to bake a cake from scratch was to earn a Girl Scout badge. We measured out all the ingredients required before mixing everything together, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs... etc. Whenever we realized we didn't have enough ingredients mom would send running over to the neighbor's house asking to borrow an egg or cup of flour. Dessert would be extra sweet that night for supper.

7. Comparison Shopping

Our household survived on a frugal budget. Mom often expressed to me that my father worked hard for the money he earned. She was determined not to spend it foolishly. My mother pinched and saved as much as she could. She knew how to stretch a dollar. I suspect her own mother had instilled this principle into her mind-set. My grandmother lived through the depression and knew difficult times. Mom took me to the grocery market and gave me a math lesson on the value of large or small eggs depended on the retail price. We compared the price of different brands of peanut butter by calculating the price per ounce to see what was the best value. She didn't always buy the cheapest items, she understood quality and would buy the best if it what was at all affordable. My mom helped me to become a savvy shopper.

8. Enjoy Outdoors

The backyard was our favorite playground. Mom would encourage my older sister and me to play outdoors. She taught us how to do cart wheels and somersaults. Other times she would give us glass jars to collect grasshoppers and beetles inside. We would use a hammer and a nail to puncture air holes into the lid so our crawly bug captures could breathe while we got a closer look at them through the glass. Afterwards, we would release them back to the yard grasses.

9. Change A Diaper

When I was ten years old my mom gave me a brand new baby sister. My role in the family was swiftly elevated from baby of the family to big sister. I never really embraced the middle kid label. There had been some concern by the family for awhile because my mother had been feeling ill. I remember her vomiting and spending mornings and evenings shut up in her bedroom. When my older sister and I were informed of our mother's pregnancy I was emotionally filled with a mixture of both relief and joy. The birth of the new baby was much anticipated. How to change a diaper was one of many things I learned about caring for babies and early preparation for my future as a parent.

Thanks for being a fabulous role model MOM!

Mom and Me

Dad taught me how to:

1. Tie My Shoes

Untied shoelaces won't do. Dad taught me how to lace my shoes and tie them firmly in place. The laces need to be tied properly to give your shoe a proper fit and to make sure straggler laces don't trip you and cause a skinned knee from a fall.

2. Ride A Bike

My mom likes to tell me the story about what good little bike riders my sister and I were when we took turns riding on our shared bicycle. My older sister and I are Irish twins, I am ten months younger. Dad taught us both to ride without the help of training wheels on the sidewalk out in front of our home. Later, he taught us about bike safety when we became first graders and given new bicycles to ride to school.

3. Jump Rope

I was in tears one day after school because the other girls at recess would no longer let me play jump rope with them. I was a terrible rope jumper and was teased on the playground. Dad backed our family car off the carport making room for me to practice jumping. He coached me on what I was doing wrong and helped give me the confidence to jump better.

4. Grow A Garden

In the summertime my parents had a large vegetable garden growing in our backyard. Dad toiled with the hoe, carving out the rows. My sister and I got down on our knees and pushed in the seeds with our "green thumbs." With my father's strong hands cupped over our smaller hands we covered seeded rows of radishes, carrots, beans, and corn with the freshly tilled soil. In the weeks to follow we helped to water and weed the garden.

5. Fly A Kite

My first kite cost 15 cents! It was yellow and I loved it. It came with a ball of string. Mom gave me a few strips of fabric to tie on its tail. Dad marched my sister and me across the street from our home to an open field where we could fly our new kites. He tested the direction of the wind and gave us a few instructions. After a few failed tries, my kite was soon soaring high in the sky.

6. Play Fair

Every child wants to be a winner. I was no different. My dad made sure that I didn't cheat or take short cuts to secure the winning prize. My family and I played lots of indoor and outdoor games together. It didn't matter what the game being played was (croquet, ping-pong, badminton, monopoly, or rummy), cheating was not allowed.

7. Play Chess

My father taught me how to play many games. Chess is one that I never learned how to play very well, not for the lack of trying. But the lessons I learned from playing it have served me well.

8. Shoot Hoops

Both my parents played basketball on their highschool teams. To this day they are huge basketball fans, regularly attending the Hawkeyes games in Iowa City. I fondly remember shooting hoops out on the back patio before supper time. Dad patiently taught me how to hold the ball and aim for the basket.

9. Hunt For Morel Mushrooms

Each springtime we would go trampling through the wooded areas looking for morel mushrooms. Dad would give my sister and me a few tips where to look for them. I loved these nature outings and often times picked more wild flowers than mushrooms. However, I fondly remember the afternoon I discovered a mother-load of shrooms growing under a lush patch of mayapples.

10. Save My Allowance

I credit my father, both parents really, about learning the value of having money. I was given a weekly allowance but was not allowed to spend it freely. I was cautioned to save half of it each week so that it would accumulate into a larger sum. I was raised in a Christian home and was also taught about tithing.

Thanks Daddy!

Mom and Dad

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