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Important life lessons and how they are learned

NIAGARA, Wis. — Most of us have raised children and have many memories of what those years entailed. By now, most of the memories are good ones: birthday parties, graduations, sporting events, family picnics and camping trips, talks around the supper table, and happy times full of laughter. Even the challenging memories are good ones because now that those children are grown, many with kids of their own, we see that all of the discipline we imposed when they were young — but old enough to argue — was worth the struggle.

Any good parent knows that discipline is essential to raising the next generation of good adults; people who know the difference between right and wrong, who treat others with sensitivity and respect, who make solid life choices and who pass on those life lessons to their own children. Raising children is no easy undertaking, but it is one of the most important jobs we undertake when we decide to become parents in the first place. Our lives are no longer our own once we become parents. Priorities shift overnight. And we learn quickly that children do not come with instruction manuals. Nor are they all alike, requiring us to be flexible enough to help each one grow into adulthood in a manner that is meaningful to them.

My husband and I were very young parents; our first son arrived when I was 20 years old and my husband was 21. For those first few months of parenthood, we were zombies. We had never known such a level of sleep deprivation in our lives! He was a little preemie and woke up every three hours to drink 2 ounces of formula. And, of course, we rocked him to sleep all the time. There was this crucial moment when we laid him in his crib — still rocking him in our arms. If he woke up during the transfer from our arms to his crib, he would be awake for another hour at least. Four years later, number two son joined our family. By the time he came along, we had learned a few things. We were able to lay him down in his crib and actually vacuum under it, and he never woke up! This was just the beginning of the differences that would define our two sons and keep parenthood interesting.

One parenting rule that was clear to each of us from the start, and was applicable to both of our boys, was that temper tantrums were not to be rewarded and “no meant no.” I remember clearly how and when each of our sons tested that rule. The first revolt from our oldest happened in the local grocery store when he was all of 3 years old. We were a stickler when it came to sugary cereals; he could pick out his own cereal, but the choice had to be made from a group of about four or five with low sugar content. He was well aware of this rule and knew very well from past experience which cereals were good choices. But on this particular day, he decided he would exert his 3-year-old will into the cereal selection process. First it was Sugar Pops, then Cocoa Crispies, then Frosted Flakes. I took each one of his choices, placed it firmly back on the shelf, and finally told him that we would not be buying any cereal that day. He proceeded to follow me up and down every aisle of that grocery store howling at the top of his lungs, “My mom won’t buy me breakfast!”

By the time we got to the check-out lane, I was completely mortified. Then that little stinker grabbed a candy bar! I took it out of his hand, said no, and put it back on the shelf. The checkout process continued as he threw himself on the floor of the grocery store in full-tantrum mode. I completely ignored him, took my groceries and headed for the door. Suddenly, his behavior changed. We have laughed about this incident for years since that happened — that son is now 48 years old. He told me that in that moment, he realized I meant business. He thought, “My mom is going to leave without me. I had better stop this and catch up with her!”

Of course, I would have never actually left without him. But I was the parent who had made a rule that was for his own good and important to his health. He was the child who had to follow the rules or be prepared to pay the consequences. Today, it was just a box of sugar-filled cereal and a candy bar. In a few more years, what may it be? Talking back to a teacher? Breaking a law? Becoming the kind of person who thinks rules and laws do not apply to him? If he became that person, what kind of husband and father would he become or what kind of employee? Or what kind of neighbor or citizen?

Number two son had several run-ins with parental authority as well. Most of them, and certainly the ones with the most consequence, came when he was a teenager. The most memorable was when he felt too ill to accompany us to a family wedding in Appleton, Wis. He was old enough to stay home alone and was not running a temperature, so we left him home while we attended the wedding without him. Well, lo and behold, he recovered remarkably well the moment we were out the door and promptly hosted the biggest party the neighborhood had ever seen! Needless to say, we found out about it when we got home, and he learned a big lesson in the cost of breaking a trust. He remembers this incident as being a turning point in his teenage years.

When we are children, we dream of becoming an adult. We cannot wait to be rid of our parents’ rules and free to call our own shots — to do what we want to do. If we are lucky, we realize this is all an adolescent illusion. Life is necessarily full of rules imposed by colleges and universities, employers, and society in general. And probably the biggest surprise of all is that rules and laws are there for a reason and that they exist to keep society running in an orderly fashion. When followed by everyone, our neighborhoods, communities and, indeed, our country become safer and better places for everyone to live.

I think that you may have guessed by now where I am going with this analogy. Let’s extend the above reasoning to encompass our founding fathers and the set of rules they established to guide us all through the greatest societal experiment the world had ever seen — the establishment of a democracy called the United States of America. Our Constitution is a set of extremely important rules that has been established for the greater good; formulated with checks and balances aimed at fairness and devised so that life, if not perfect, will at least give us the freedom to make it the best possible life for the most people.

Recent events in our Capitol have shown us a glimpse of what life is like when we do not live up to the rules our founding fathers established for us. We all have a most important choice to make. Do we follow the laws to uphold our democracy or do we let the temper tantrum of a spoiled child rule the day? Do we put our foot down … or just give him the box of cereal he wants?

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NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities that residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers that are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed here.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Beef stroganoff, noodles, Brussel sprouts and carrot coins

Wednesday: Meat loaf, baked potato, California blend vegetables and lettuce salad.

Thursday: Chili, cheese, bean salad and corn muffins.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Liver or sausage, baked potatoes and vegetables.

Tuesday: Cheeseburger, potato wedges and baked beans.

Wednesday: Italian beef sandwich and vegetable soup.

Thursday: Eggs, bacon, pancakes and fried potatoes.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Smothered chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Tuesday: French toast, sausage and spiced pears.

Wednesday: Corn dogs, potato wedges and corn.

Thursday: Chicken stuffing sandwich, peas, cranberry sauce.

Friday: Beef stew, biscuit and side salad with dressing.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice or no beverage.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Ravioli, peas and garlic bread.

Tuesday: French toast bake, sausage and hard-boiled eggs.

Wednesday: Taco salad, tortillas and Mexican corn.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chef’s salad, whole wheat rolls, brownie hummus and grapes.

Tuesday: Broccoli cheese soup, ham sandwich with lettuce and tomato and fruit.

Wednesday: Swedish meatballs over noodles, mixed winter vegetables, salad and peaches.

Thursday: Cook’s choice – entrée, vegetable and fruit.

Friday: Stuffed pepper casserole, carrots, bread sticks and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week –

Monday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy and winter blend vegetables.

Tuesday: Fish, macaroni and cheese, peas and bread.

Wednesday: Chili and cornbread.

Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy and carrots.

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick-up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Philly steak on a hoagie bun, sour cream and onion potato wedges, green beans, fruit, juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Polish sausage, sauerkraut, red potatoes, stewed tomatoes, fruit, juice and dessert.

Wednesday: Barbecue ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed vegetables, fruit, juice and dessert.

Thursday: Sweet and sour chicken stir fry, rice, Oriental vegetables, fruit, juice and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Beef roast, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and bread.

Wednesday: Hamburger, roasted potatoes and baked beans.

Thursday: Chicken parmesan, noodles and broccoli.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.

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