Back In The Saddle Again!

“Back In The Saddle Again”!  A New School Year Anthem!

Do you recall the Staples advertisement where a dad joyfully gathers school supplies,  “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” plays as background music, and his two forlorn children seem to be less than amused?  My father would wake us early on the first day of school to the smell of eggs, bacon and hash browns, as well as a rousing rendition of Herb Alpert’s “Spanish Flea”!  (Also known as the “Dating Game Show” theme song to my generation!)  In fairness, my dad didn’t do this because he was glad to see us gone and out of the house, (at least I never believed that was the case) he was simply a college professor with a penchant for higher learning, who loved to teach!

"Back In The Saddle Again"! Gene Autry

When our three children started school, a new anthem marked the dawning of another school year!  Have I mentioned before that my husband loves country music?  Come the first day of school, the cassette tape of Gene Autry’s “Back In The Saddle Again” was played loud enough on our old Marantz sound system, that our house seemed to shake a little!  At the time, our kids would bemoan this tradition, but now, they often remember it with fondness!  (“Back In The Saddle Again” is also song #6 on the “Sleepless in Seattle” soundtrack.)          

"Back In the Saddle Again!

Malia-6th grade, Jake-4th grade, Mandi-1st grade.  The last year all three would attend the same school together.    

Celebrate A New School Year With Fun Traditions…

  • Just like I did with my granddaughter, Makena, I had fun school shopping trips with my children.  The girls would come home and play “fashion show” and model their new clothes for their dad.  Good times!
  • Breakfast was usually “Mush Cake” made by my husband, while I helped the kids get ready.  Obviously, all this happened to the strains of “Back In The Saddle Again!”

Mush Cake! 

A Wilding Family Classic!

I was a little leery of this recipe when I was first introduced to it, since I didn’t like hot mush cereal growing up–but this warm, spicy cake served with fresh bottled peaches and milk is the perfect breakfast to send your kids out the door to a new school year!

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups dry Cream of Wheat Cereal

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 c. applesauce

Combine dry ingredients.  Cream together shortening, eggs, sugar and milk.  Add dry ingredients.  Stir until smooth then add applesauce.  Bake in 9×13 inch pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serve warm with milk and peaches on top.

Mush Cake!

You can add milk or have it with just the peaches.  It’s so good! 

  • We have a tradition of using a “You Are Special Today” red plate for fun days like birthdays, etc.  After school, I would have some of my kid’s favorite snacks waiting for them on this plate–then I’d just sit back and listen while they chatted about the events of their first big day at school!  (Usually, I went for more healthy snacks after school, but on the first day after school, I’d splurge.)

After school snacks!

  • For a long time now, we have had a neighborhood BBQ that we attend after the first day of school.  It’s sort of the last “Hoorah” where we all enjoy each other’s company one last time before homework projects, sports practices and cooler weather.
  • My kids usually ate school lunch, so I didn’t send any of the clever sack lunch notes that you hear so much about now–I’m not so sure they would have loved them anyway…I mean a note from mom, that’s a little embarrassing, right!  I did however, try to leave a few surprise reminders in their bedrooms during the school year to let them know I was impressed with their efforts in school!  (There are a lot of fancy ideas online now for these type of things too, either way, your kids just want to know you are thinking of them!)  

Doing good in school!

When I saw this new brand of gum at the store, I had to laugh–if my dad were to make me a candy poster today, this would probably be his message!

Candy bar poster

In his autobiography, my dad shares a story about how he and a few high school friends would skip class on occasion to go fishing in a nearby river.  My dad also relates that when his father became aware of what he was doing, he said to him, “Roy, I know you’ve been missing some of your classes.  It’s very important that you graduate from high school.  I didn’t graduate and I know what I’ve missed.  If you can’t see why you should attend class for your own sake, then do it for me.”  My dad then records that since his father was such a good man, he started attending class regularly for him, “…but as time went on, I got a clearer vision of things and started going for myself!”     

What I’m learning now is…

When I was young, I used to think it was kind of corny that my dad celebrated the first day of school almost like it was Christmas!  But like I’ve said so many times before, as I’ve gotten older and a little wiser, I now see the wisdom in the things my parents did!  I have come to know that like so many other days in our lives, the first day of school is very much worth celebrating!  What I’m learning now is that often the family traditions we celebrate can’t help but impress upon our children the importance of these special occasions to us.  Initially, our kids may go through the motions, so to speak, simply out of respect for us as their parents, but in watching my own children as they’ve excelled in school and other areas of their lives, I realize that before long, they develop their own strong convictions that motivate them to do well and succeed!

I’d love you to share how you celebrate starting a new school year, and what you do to help the enthusiasm last throughout the year?



A Family Motto…Of Sorts!

A Family Motto…Of Sorts!

Although it may not have been acknowledged in the formal sense of a typical family motto, if you were to ask me what one of my parent’s fundamental beliefs was that they impressed upon me at a young age, I would readily reply–

What is almost as important as breathing…

Family Motto!

Each of my children also learned at an early age how to quickly respond to their Grandpa Jorgensen when he asked them this very question, as well!  My parents always showed enthusiastic interest and offered willing support whenever educational opportunities presented themselves to each grandchild!

I particularly love the story that my father records in his autobiography that seemed to have had the biggest impact on his desire to do well in his school studies.

“Whenever I was with my father and we met his friends, he would introduce me to them by saying, ‘This is my son, Roy, he is a good student.’  I didn’t feel that I was all that good a student, but his comment made me feel accepted and loved, and encouraged my positive thinking about getting a good education.” 

My father gave me the same encouragement!  Sometimes it was the sole factor that helped me be more diligent in doing well in classes that didn’t come easy for me, like geometry and chemistry!  (Later on, when I was older, my dad admitted that geometry was not his strongest subject either–I  remember telling him that I could have used that bit of information sooner to help buoy my spirits up when I was enduring my math homework!) 

In his life story, my dad also shares that one of the most exciting times of each school year was the first day when his class came together after summer vacation.

“Supplies would be distributed–a new pencil, a notebook, an eraser, crayons, and sometimes water colors.  I still recall receiving these and wondering what adventures they would help me with during the coming year of my studies.”  

School supplies!

Although the school supply options seem limitless today, shopping for just the right folders and notebooks was something my children looked forward to each year!  I saw the same sense of anticipation and excitement in my granddaughter’s face as she picked out an assortment of items needed from a list provided for kindergarten students by the new school she’ll be attending.

Doctorate Degree.

My dad traveled extensively throughout his life, and often saw first-hand the countless number of children in far off places who never had the opportunity to go to school or learn to read and write and be prepared in other ways to meet life’s challenges.  After receiving his doctorate degree in education, my father became a popular speaker who often talked about the great strengths of the various school programs we enjoy in the United States.  He encouraged teachers and students alike, to appreciate all the opportunities available to them as a result of being involved in the educational system of this great nation!  When giving his speeches, my father would often take this approach:

  • “How many of you have parents who tell you to stay home, that going to school is a waste of time; that you should be caring for more important things?”
  • “How many of you enter your classrooms to find them dark and cold?”
  • “How often do you enter your classroom and find that it hasn’t been brought back to order for starting a new day?”
  • “How many of your teachers never come to class at all, or come unprepared?”

“Of course, seldom, if ever do any of these things happen.  So whose fault is it then, if you settle for a poor education?  Your own!

What I’m learning now is…

My father also recorded in his history that many of his relatives, as well as other townspeople who settled the small area where he grew up, did not receive much of a formal education.  Yet, he recalls that with the passing of years, many of these same folks were respected, hard working members of their community.  What I’m learning now is that a good education needs to be equally balanced with the development of good character traits and a deep sense of integrity and compassion to help guide our lifestyles! 

Perhaps a quote by Mark Twain could be another worthy family motto…

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education!”  

What impact has receiving a good education had on your life!  How do you encourage your children and grandchildren to be grateful for the “adventures” and opportunities that going to school and getting a good education can provide?  Do you have a family motto?



Dream Big…Then Work Hard To Make Your Dreams Come True!

Dream Big…Then Work Hard To Make Your Dreams Come True!

Dental SchoolHappy Graduation from the University at Buffalo Dental School, Jake!

Talk about dreaming big and working hard to make those dreams come true…Jake has done that and more!  As a family, we are proud of Jake and are in awe of the perseverance and tenacity he’s had to achieve his dream of doing well in school!  When I asked Jake to describe his dental school experience, he replied without hesitation that it was a roller coaster ride, extremely intense, but so interesting!  I’d say Jake is definitely well prepared for life in the “real” world and going after his piece of the “American Dream”!  I suppose it’s always an ongoing process to continue to dream big in our lives and then work hard to make our dreams come true!

A Grandfather’s Advice To Dream Big

My dad spent his professional career as an educator and felt strongly that getting a good education was key to making countless opportunities available to pursue our dreams.  He wrote the following statement in his history:

“In sorting out those things in my life I value most, I consider the fine education I have received to be one of my prized possessions.  This is not intended to compare my education with anyone else’s, but rather to consider what my life would have been without it.”

My children were always happy to have their grandfather show an interest in their school classes and activities.  My dad’s considerate encouragement and occasional rewards often seemed to have a bigger impact on my kids than most of my spirited “dream big” pep talks.

A favorite song of mine is “Dream Big” by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband.  Here are a few verses to that song:

When you dream, dream big

As big as the ocean blue

‘Cause when you dream it might come true

So when you dream, dream big!

And when you laugh be sure to laugh out loud

‘Cause it will carry all your cares away

And when you see, see the beauty all around

And in yourself and it will help you feel okay.

And when you pray, pray for strength

To help you carry on

When troubles come your way.

And when you dream, dream big

As big as the ocean blue

‘Cause when you dream it might come true

So when you dream, dream big!

Some of Jake’s dreams were fulfilled when he participated in service projects like Operation Smile in Ecuador and Hope Alliance in Peru.  Most recently, Jake went to Tennessee with some dental student volunteers and helped give care to over a thousand patients in just three days.  Through Jake’s example, I’ve learned a more meaningful definition of how to truly be in the service of others!

Dental aide in Peru

The keynote speaker at Jake’s graduation, Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin, Executive Director of the American Dental Association, encouraged the graduating class of students to “Do well by doing good!”

Dream Big And Keep A Good Sense Of Humor

Dental cartoonDespite long hours spent in class and studying for tests, as well as many clinical hours, I’ve been impressed that Jake has kept his sense of humor; I’ve always said that if anyone was able to make going to the dentist “fun”, Jake could do it…and without even having to administer laughing gas!

Dr. Michael Glick, the Dean of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo, made a powerful statement in his closing remarks at Jake’s graduation.  He said:

“In school you are given lessons and then you take tests.  In life you are given tests that help you learn lessons.  Learn to laugh at yourself and don’t take life too seriously.” 

What I’m learning now is…

As parents, we always hope that our examples will inspire amazing dreams and aspirations in our children’s lives.  However, what I’m learning now, more than ever before, is that I am also grateful for the influence of other mentors in my children’s lives; gifted teachers have the extraordinary ability to enhance the lives of their students by expanding the view of their future!

What advice would you give a graduating student today?  Do you remember any advice you were given that helped you “dream big” in your life?