That is today? I thought to myself while passing by the Shenandoah County Fair Grounds on my way to Harrisonburg, VA. How did I ever loose track of that? I promised my grandson, William, we would go see them when they came this summer! Now what was I going todo?
I had plans for the day, and it sure did not include this activity I had promised to William. Pulling off to the side of the highway, I checked out the Fair website. Sure enough, the races were today, starting at noon. I knew then I had been given this reminder, graciously by God. I must not let my grandson down. We had read together, with great joy and interest Born To Trot, by Marguerite Henry. I knew the Shenandoah County Fair had harness racing during the fair week. So earlier this year I promised William he and I would go see them. Such exciting anticipation for both of us!
My plans for the day must be re-arranged. Quickly I changed the entire plan for the day, and made a hopeful, last-minute call to my son.
“Is it possible I could pick up William and Evan (his older brother, if he’d like to come) to go to the fair to see the harness races?” I asked. Last minute is not the best time to make plans with a busy young family, but I was hoping, and praying it would work for them. He said he would call me back. Great. By then I was in Harrisonburg. I finished up in a hurry the errands I was on, counting the minutes.
The return call from Austin was a happy “Yes!”
It was a ‘day made to order’, as an old neighbor used to say to me many years ago. We arrived at the fair grounds in good time to find a seat down near the track. Being that close to those trotting horses was thrilling! William even picked the winner! In between races we found the Ruritan building for a yummy hamburger and ff’s, and ate lunch while watching more racing.
I have not ever seen harness racing in person. It is truly thrilling. Those horses are trotting the air! It seems as if they float over the track!
We ended this most grand afternoon in the only way one should when at a fair—Ice Cream Cones!
I am so grateful The Lord gave us this grand day. For left to me, it would have been missed.
And, by-the-way, Austin told me after we got home that, “William had been waiting and was sure excited to see the races.” By God’s good grace this promise was kept. How wonderful!
I owe a lot to my husband. It is because of his willingness to carry the heavy load of sole provider that enabled me to stay home, raise, home school and enjoy the fast years of childhood with our five children.
We had a grand time together (mostly). It makes my husband and me smile when we hear our grown children say, “I had a great childhood, and want my kids to have the same.”
I am grateful he was willing to carry that heavy load. We worked hard together and now we are in our older years enjoying our time together and our grandchildren. Though he has not yet retired, we are now working together towards that goal.
That was the question Shirley asked Snoot when they got home from the hospital over thirty-nine years ago with their newborn baby.
She set that bundle of baby down on the couch, looked at Snoot and asked him, “Now what do we do?”
It seemed so odd having another human in their lives. Having been married a little over two years they had gotten used to just the two of them. To make it all the more confusing, this human could not do anything! Just lie there and make funny little noises. How was she supposed to manage that?
Shirley recalls that huge moment well in her life so long ago. She says Snoot held her closely while she cried a bit, she wiped her tears, picked up that bundle of baby, and life began in earnest for that little family. That little family that grew to become five wonderful children altogether over the next ten years.
The subsequent children were far easier for Shirley. She was in her groove. Life was truly in full swing for her busy family, and she was with it every step of the way. The house was full and very busy. “Is this house ever quiet?” someone once asked Shirley. It made her laugh. “Yes! At 2 a.m. in the morning it is nice and quiet!”, she would reply.
“Are all these yours?”
“Don’t you know what causes this?”
“You do not have TV?? No wonder you have so many!”
Shirley grew used to the unsolicited remarks she would get from folks. It did not matter to her. It was her’s and Snoot’s family, not theirs. Her momma used to tell her to not mind what folks say. “Opinions are like noses, everybody has one,” she would say.
Once a lady from another country told Shirley she was a “blessed woman to have five children.” Shirley smiled and thanked her.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and years into decades. This past August Shirley and Snoot gave hugs and good-byes to their just married daughter. Their last child, all grown up and now married to a fine young man.
Coming into their empty, quiet house recently, Shirley looked at Snoot. “We have come full circle. It is just you and me—
Now what do we do?”
Snoot held his teary-eyed Shirley a bit and said,”We will spend time together and have fun.”
It is the same old song and dance from over thirty-five years ago. Talk about beating a dead horse. These ‘educated folks’ are tiresome with their old rhetoric of the ‘dangers’ of homeschooling.
It appears they are worried, that with this shut-down, more and more parents may realize they could teach their children at home, and indeed shall. I know of one family that is planning to do just that. Do you know of any?
This particular family sends their children to a pricey private school. Yet, I recently heard them say that even some of the things taught there did not line up with their viewpoints. This shut-down has brought to light to them the joys, simplicity and freedoms associated with homeschooling. This young family is excited about the free time they will have to travel and visit family.
It is not as hard as one may think. In fact, for the most part, it is fun. The biggest issue is to not fret. I should know. I started homeschooling our five children in the 1980’s when hardly anyone knew anything about it. In those early days, when we had only two children, we would not go out in public until after 3 p.m. because of the barrage of questions I would get. I was young and not fully prepared to answer all those questions.
It did not take long to find my voice in the matter. I read excellent materials on the subject, i.e. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s books. They put into words what I felt on my heart in regards to the education of our children. They gave me courage and a guiding light on that poorly lit path.
(1) Home Grown Kids–A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home; (2) Home-spun Schools–Teaching Children at Home-What Parents Are Doing and How They Are Doing It; and (3)Home Style Teaching–AHandbook for Parents and Teachers.
These folks knew what they were talking about. Sound reasoning may be out of style, but not relevancy. I also found other families that were on the same track as we were. Some of us, to this day, are still close friends with wonderful memories.
I had good practice in finding supporting folks. You see, dear reader, I also had most of my children at home. The most important thing I remember my lay-midwife tell me was to surround myself with positive folks that supported our decisions. Seek and ye shall find.
That is why I can say with certainty the lame excuses these ‘educated folks’ are using against homeschooling are empty, and have been soundly refuted. Behind those old arguments is an intense desire to shape and mold the minds of our children. Cookie cutter minds are far easier to teach and manage over independent thinkers.
For those of us that want to homeschool, kindly leave us alone to exercise our freedoms. For those of you that prefer government or private schools, please, stay on top of what is being taught to YOUR children. They are the hope of the future.
She is the only girl, and the last child of Snoot and Shirley’s. Clyde, Ot, Bubba and Tanner were thrilled when they had their sisters’ dolls they could shoot, hang and give a general hard time to. It was quite an effort civilizing those boys. After all these years Shirley would say she and Tina did a right fine job of it. .
It would get Shirley all riled up though to hear folks telling her how she just had to keep on a tryin’ for a baby girl till she got one. Oh that would get to her. She’d tell them to mind their own business then they wouldn’t be minding hers. Did they have any idea the economic cost of having a girl after all those boys? There was not one pink thing in that household. In fact, what Shirley really wanted to tell them cannot be printed here, dear reader.
It isn’t like she had anything against girls. It truly was a matter of economics. Snoot made a fine income, still money was tight and had to be carefully managed. How was this little girl to look like all those adorable little girls Shirley knew? All she had was a batch of dirty, worn out boy cloths and toys. She used to say that when those boys were done with something it was only fit for the dump, certainly not for give-away or passing down.
Then Shirley’s own momma came to mind. Her momma never did have a ton of cloths in her closet. What she did have though was real pretty, and classic in style. She would tell Shirley that one nice, pretty dress went a lot longer and farther than a bunch of cheap ones. That must’ve been so, ‘cuz Shirley’s momma always looked pretty and very stylish.
After all that thinking Shirley realized the importance of liking oneself better than what is hanging in the closet. Most especially for girls. It seems girls have a harder time with this than boys. Anyways, boys have their own set of worries. Girls are the topic today. Shirley’s momma had a real good opinion of herself. That kind of opinion that helps one along throughout their life. Does that make sense, dear reader? Her momma was confident in herself and her abilities. She was what country people call ‘gamey’. This means she was always wanting to try new things, and was not scared one bit of failing. She just knew she would not fail. In her young days it was not fitting for girls to play baseball, wear jeans, get all suntanned from hours outside, play with dogs, or ride horses like a wild little Indian. It seemed she knew her worth was who she was, not what she wore. Do you think it might do girls a lot of good to start looking at their own selves in a similar sort of light?
All that thinking lead Shirley to the idea that she would teach Tina the same notions about herself that her momma had. She stopped fretting about how her baby girl was going to look and hauled her outside instead of the clothing stores. They spent time walking in the woods, through the tall grasses in fields, and got wet looking for fish in lakes and ponds. They visited farms where, surrounded by sheep, lambs, cattle and calves, Tina learned not to be afraid. She learned how to “read” the animals, and how to handle herself safely around them. She has always been around horses, longer than she can remember.
Four older brothers have a big way of helping teach a little sister also. They took her everywhere with them. They taught her how to fish, shoot guns, ride a motorcycle , work on cars, and how to gut a deer. About the only thing Shirley had to intervene in on was caring for her dolls. Those rotten boys would carry them by their feet! Golly, is there any hope for civilizing boys? This is how you carry your baby dolls, Tina, real sweet andgentle like, Shirley would show her. Do you have any idea, dear reader, how hard it is to teach a little girl proper ways with four older brothers?
Those brothers were such good teachers. They made her strong, brave, and ‘gamey’. Shirley used to tell folks, “Having one man is going to be easy for Tina when she grows up and marries. Shoot, she has managed four of them all her life!” It makes her laugh too when she remembers how those sons just knew how awfully spoiled Tina would get being the only girl. They gave her her first cell phone, and her first pink shotgun!
As for all those cloths Shirley worried herself over, it came to naught. Time and tide came and went. Tina grew up in spite of not having loads of pink frillies in her closet. She grew up well too. She can do all those things her brothers taught her, and more. She is an accomplished pianist, and vocalist. She knows and loves The Lord. She is a fine young woman.
Shirley did do just as her momma too. Every season of the year she went to a nice dress shop in town and purchase one real pretty dress for Tina. It cost more in the beginning, but paid out big in the end. The styles were classic, the colors rich. She may not have a lot, but what she has is good.
It seems Shirley did alright following her mommas’ advice. For one, she had less laundry. Best though was, she had more time. Time to spend with her boys and her one wonderful little girl. That alone makes Shirley…
She was also the very first Daughter-in-law for Snoot and Shirley. When she and Clyde (their oldest boy) first met she was active in theatre. She was just the cutest little thing dancing and singing around on that big ‘ole stage. She enjoyed the theatre all during her teenage years, and into her twenties. Snoot and Shirley saw her perform the leading role in Guys and Dolls. They couldn’t stop smiling.
All that was a few years back. Dot and Clyde have been married now for fifteen years. Wow! Shirley says time flies when folks are having fun. Dot has sure brought a lot of fun into the family during all the time they have been hitched. And even before getting hitched.
Shirley tells the funniest stories about those boys of hers and how they would take full advantage of the “Helping Others” chart that used to be taped on their kitchen wall. Shirley worked hard trying to get those rowdy, wild boys to think of others on occasion. So, as they did nice things for others, they would list them on the chart. Once the chart was full Shirley and Snoot treated those ‘good’ boys to pizza. Right or wrong, it seemed like a good way to get those boys thinking of others. Their sister, Tina, did not need near as much bribery.
It worked for a good while. That is until Dot came along. Then they just downright took advantage of it. Shirley says those smarty boys would write things like:
~Washed car windows on Dot’s car.
~Helped Dot carry in a box .
~Took Dot on a bike ride.
~Talked to Dot ’til Clyde got home.
~Dot, Dot, Dot, the whole list had her name on it.
The sun didn’t rise on Shirley just yesterday, dear reader. She was onto those fellas. She put a stop to those shenanigans in short order. They had to do real things for folks besides just Dot. They got by with it once and got their pizza. Shirley says, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
Dot and Clyde are the oldest child in each of the big families they grew up in. Like a good herding dog, they know how to get themselves in order, and how to corral the rest as well. Shirley used to tell Clyde he was a ‘good dog’ because he was so thoughtful about keeping an eye on everyone and everything. She has noticed Dot is a ‘good dog’ too! This is a term of endearment, dear reader, kindly take no offense.
Because all these boys have the same last name, Shirley calls each family by the first name of her boy. Such as; the Clydes include his whole family; the Ot’s, his whole family, and the Tanners are his. Does that make sense? Well, the Clydes live the farthest away from Snoot and Shirley. They see them the least. The best part though is those two adorable children visit and stay a good bit with Snoot and Shirley. And even better? Shirley says the parents do not come!
She has good reason for that too. Before their first grandbaby was ever born, Shirley told all her boys and girl that when she became a granny, she was going to be a ‘Yes’ granny. She said she had spent twenty years saying ‘No!”, and now she intended to spent the next twenty with her grandbabies saying nothing but ‘YES!’. That is why it is far more fun when the parents are not around, as there is no contention with all those yeses! Not to worry, Shirley keeps it all within reason. They do not get too spoiled.
Anyway, back to Dot. It is a wonderful thing that she lets those babies stay with Snoot and Shirley. It is just such fun for them all. They laugh, play outside, ride bikes, walk dogs, play in the pond, shoot the bb gun and simply enjoy each others company. Mostly they all get tired, hungry, and have to use the bathroom at the same time too. This makes for easy planning.
Dot is in demand with those fine photography skills of hers. She travels a good bit. She has been in many fine magazines on account of her artistic ability. She has even taught classes. This keeps her right busy in addition to being a momma. Clyde runs his own business. So when life gets a little tight for them those grandbabies get lots fresh air and fresh thoughts with Snoot and Shirley.
Being the oldest in a family must be a tough job Shirley thinks often to herself. She would not know as she was the youngest in her childhood home. Ask her older siblings though and they would say she was spoiled rotten and did not ever have to do one thing. Shirley would not agree, of course, but she does recognize the heavier responsibilities that are often laid upon the oldest child in a family. She knows she did with Clyde, and her dear Dot has mentioned on occasion the load she carried with all her younger siblings.
Seems to Shirley in many ways they have already been parents of sorts. They have a fine family with one boy and one girl, and it is wonderful. Not everyone is meant to have a passel of kids. There is no need for apologies either. If we were all the exact same way, why, one of us wouldn’t be needed.
Socrates got it right way back in 400 BC when he said “Know Thyself.” Shirley believes a thoughtful person spends time figuring out just who they are, and how they are to conduct their own lives. She has heard it described as living in their ‘zone.’ That sounds a little hippie to her, but it is ok. After all, she is a product of the 60’s. She also believes Dot (and Clyde) have a good notion of just who they are. They are thriving. So are those two delightful grandbabies. The only worry Shirley has is that she does not look fat when her talented DIL
Snoot, Wanda’s father-in-law, does not give it a second thought. He thinks he is the easiest person in the world to get along with. Is there a greater father-in-law than he? Not in Snoot’s mind.
Now Shirley, Wanda’s mother-in-law ain’t quite so confident. She’s been know to say that being a MIL (mother-in-law for short) can be like walking on thin ice sometimes—-really thin ice.
Before being too hard on Shirley, dear reader, know that she don’t mean too much bad about it, per se. What she is trying to get at is that the ‘letting go’ thing mothers have to do when their sons marry can be trying at times. Really though, it is more like a ‘keep your mouth shut’ sort of thing. This is an ongoing practice for Shirley. She has often said, “I can’t get that gate shut on my mouth fast enough!”
Makes sense if you would think about it a bit. After-all, Shirley has been a momma telling her boys stuff longer than she has been a MIL. Now she has to learn to be quiet so her daughter-in-laws (DIL) can tell their husbands what to do. It is all a little amusing in Shirley’s mind. Woman have always told men what to do since the beginning of time. So now she can sit back and enjoy the change in power. Though sometimes, she admits, it is hard to let go.
The biggest worry for Shirley is the hope that her DIL’s would like her. All the MIL jokes used to be funny to her before she became one. Odd how things change isn’t it? It is wise not tell any around her, she tends to get a bit testy.
Shirley’s own MIL just recently passed away. It was a fine 42-year-long relationship. They did not do too much together, but the general feeling was friendly and easy. There were times she got a bit too pushy with Shirley and said more than she probably should have. But the sum is more important than the parts, and Shirley knew her own day was coming to walk in those slippery shoes.
And now, she is in those shoes. Man! These roles in life can sure get the best of her. So many of them: daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, wife, teacher, neighbor, aunt, grandmother, and now mother-in-law. If Shirley only had Snoot’s opinion of herself. “Well”, she reasons to herself, “There are no Father-in-law jokes to fret him”. “Are women just more difficult to get along with then men?” Shirley wonders. She recalls the comment a fellow once made about not understanding women and how we spat and such at one another. He said, “When my brothers and I got mad at each other, we’d beat each other up, then we’d be friends again”. Hmmm.
Wanda, Tanner, and their cute, little boys live close to Shirley and Snoot as previously mentioned. And this is what causes the angst. You see, Shirley wants to be a good MIL. So she must believe the lovely thank you notes Wanda sends to her about the fun they have had visiting and enjoying supper together. She has to believe it—
Because Wanda said so.
Shirley has also learned that being a good MIL takes time and practice. She knows the important role all three of her beautiful DIL’s play in forming a family unit. Dot is her very first lovely DIL, and Hazel is her second. These three, wonderful gals have worked together beautifully to create a greater family unit with everyone. It has taken time, effort, and sometimes tears, but it is beautiful.
Shirley would be remiss if she did not mention, Tina, the only daughter. That was an entirely new path too, i.e. being a sister-in-law. Tina was the only girl in the household. She had to learn to step aside also, and make room for these fine gals. “Tina,” Shirley would tell her, “it seems like life is a constant shift and wiggle, most especially when folks are involved.”
“For instance,” she continued, “if the dog was buggin’ you, you could just throw him outside for awhile. But we cannot do that with these new gals that have now become part of our family.” Tina is smart, she gets it, and she’s getting better and better.
Time is a good thing for folks. So is age. So is having children. So is taxes, thinks Shirley. After all what would Snoot have to complain about if it wasn’t for taxes? But the best thing of all is a growing family. Hard as it is to shift around to settle into another comfortable place. When the heart is in it, everyone knows. Love can be felt. Shirley always said one of the best things her good MIL taught her boy Snoot was to always think of the other person and their feelings. She did a good job of it too. Snoot has grown his own family up into an ever-larger loving group of folks.
Fact is all of these folks have worked to build their family unit. It is important to each and every one of them. When they all get together they have a fine time laughing, joking, cooking and eating together. They may not agree on everything, but they let those differences go. They focus on the fact they are family, and there is joy and pride in that. It has taken time to get to this place. Shirley thinks it was worth every bit of work, hardship and effort. She is quite sure everyone would agree with her, because she can see it, and hear it in their voices. She can also see it in their faces. They have each made it their job to build their family unit.
Shirley would say it has been worth the growing pains. She is sure everyone else would agree. She bets $10 (she is a betting sort of gal at times when she knows she will win), that her three, best-any-momma-would-ever-want DIL’s would surely say so too…