Favorite #174: Mother’s Day Everyday

My grandson, Garrett, having a conversation with his great-grandma, my mom.

My grandson, Garrett, sharing a conversation and a treat with his great-grandma Smith, my mom.

Time Together

It’s fun to see the different ways mothers are surprised or pampered on Mother’s Day.  Even though  flowers, candy and presents are great, most mothers are happy just to spend time with their families.

Now that my mom lives with me, technically every day at my house is mother’s day. At ninety-five, she has enjoyed a long life with the blessings of good health and friends and family who love her. Last October we knew the time had come for her to move in with me.

I’m not going to say this has been an easy transition, but we’re learning to manage. It’s hard seeing someone you love in decline, especially if they’ve always been active and a vital part of their community. Mom longs for that time and hopes her health will improve so she can go back home again someday. While we both would love for that to happen, deep down we know that’s not a reality.

One of her favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is watch  Joel Osteen.  This past week he had a message that hit home for both of us. He said oftentimes we hurry through one stage of life looking to the next while misssing the blessings of the season we’re in. He went on to say with blessings come burdens. For example, it may be hard for parents to think of a baby as a blessing when they’re tired or frustrated from losing sleep.  

While it’s true this season of life as a care giver has its own unique burdens, there are unique blessings as well. I see those blessings every time Mom laughs or has a twinkle in her eye from some secret joke.  That happened recently when we were out eating at a local pizza parlor. A teenage girl walked by wearing short-shorts. Mom took one look at her, laughed and said, “Those aren’t nothing but bloomers.” Yes, there was a twinkle in her eye.  

One of my favorite blessings in this journey has been watching Mom interact with her great-grandchildren. The love exchanged speaks volumes as can be seen in the photo above.

 I don’t know how long Mom and I have together or what the future holds, but one thing I know is who holds the future and that’s all that matters.

Special thanks to the staff of Community Home Care and Hospice of Statesville, NC for the loving care and attention they give Mom each week. You lift us up every day.

What experience(s) can you share in caring for a loved one? Where did you find your strength? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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Favorite #173: Touch a Truck

There's nothing more fun than driving a truck.

There’s nothing more fun than driving a truck.

A Boy and his Toys

When my oldest daughter, Kristin, recently invited me to the Touch a Truck event in Salisbury, NC, I said, “What’s that?” She laughed and said, “It’s where children get to touch and climb on big trucks.” I thought that sounded like fun, so one Saturday morning in April, my two grandsons, my daughter and I set out for the 10th Annual Touch a Truck event in Salisbury.

Sponsored by the City of Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department, the free event was held in several parking lots in front of the Rowan Public Library. We parked on a side street and as soon as we started walking heard horns and sirens. Kids love climbing and loud noises, so it didn’t take long for my grandsons to realize how much fun this was going to be. Some of the trucks included a bulldozer, a transfer truck, a garbage truck, firetrucks, a lawnmower, a power boat and a bus. My grandsons loved the firetrucks and especially loved ringing the bell on the older trucks.

One of the most anticipated events of the day was the landing of the helicopter. Even though the wind blew up dust and dirt, no one seemed to mind. Everyone was amazed that such a large machine could land in such a tiny spot. Since it was a medical helicopter, almost as soon as it landed, it was on its way again. This gave parents the opportunity to talk to their children about how this helicopter helps people and saves lives.

The event was not only enjoyable for kids, but grown-ups, too. I had a wonderful time watching my grandkids climb and explore as well as a wonderful time reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Many came with their grandkids like I did. By 12:00 we were hungry and finished our day with lunch at Go Burrito across the street from the event. 

Linda M. McElroy, the Communications Director for the City of Salisbury said Touch a Truck is just one of the many activities sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Dept.  A good way to keep up with scheduled events is to check out the city’s website and Facebook page.

With all the fun my grandsons and I had at Touch a Truck, I’m excited about next year’s event, but will be sure to bring ear plugs next time just in case they get carried away with ringing the bell.

What special event(s) does your hometown sponsor? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





 I had a great time sharing my books recently at China Grove Elementary School. Thanks Media Coordinator, Beverly Litke for the invite. China Grove rocks. To view photos of that visit, check out the media twitter page @CGESMedia (April 25, 2016).

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Favorite #172: Camping at Dan Nicholas Park

There's nothing more fun than camping with friends and family.

There’s nothing more fun than camping with friends and family.

Time Together

I experienced my first and only camping trip in my early twenties, spending a night under the stars on a blanket with nothing to cover my head but the night sky. Uncomfortable on the hard ground with the dew falling in my face, I couldn’t wait until sunrise.

My oldest daughter’s first camping trip was a little different than mine. Kristin had that experience during a church youth retreat when she and a friend (Laura) spent the night in a tent on the back of a pick-up truck. The pick-up truck belonged to Laura’s dad. About half way through it started raining. As tents began falling, kids started running.

Ten years passed before Kristin went camping again. This time it was with her new husband, Brian. Brian grew up camping and couldn’t wait to share this love with Kristin, so not long after they were married, plans were made to go on a two-week-camping trip out west with his parents in the family RV.

Loving it, Kristin called me daily to share their adventures. We talked about that trip, recently. She said, “I especially loved Wyoming. Coyotes and mule deer were everywhere and the scenery was breathtaking. It was almost like a painting, especially in the lower falls of Yellowstone National Park. I also enjoyed the rodeos. They truly had a western feel.”

Since that first trip, Brian and Kristin have taken many other trips to the beach and the mountains. Now with two sons of their own, Carson and Garrett, five and three, one of their favorite places to go camping is Dan Nicholas Park, about an hour away. Set in a rural community east of Salisbury, NC, Dan Nicholas Park offers a variety of activities including, fishing, paddle boats, miniature golf, a petting zoo, a carousel, a train and a big playground.

Kristin said, “The nights are especially fun as we sit around the campfire sharing stories with friends and family.” When asked what they liked best about camping, Carson said, “Making s’mores.” Garrett said, “Riding my bike.”

Now that I see all the fun my grandsons have camping, who knows maybe one day I’ll give it another try. There’s no doubt it’s a great way to connect with friends and family. Just ask Kristin. She’ll tell you. And, if you ask them, so will the boys.

What’s your favorite place to go camping? What’s your favorite memory? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.




Don’t forget to check out my “Tired Books” on the website home page. They each have a moral lesson appropriate for teaching children in a non-threatening way.




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Favorite #171: Easter

Having a great time finding eggs and making memories.

Having a great time finding eggs.

Friends, Family and Time for Worship

If you were to ask five different people what Easter means to them, you would probably get five different answers. Children often think Easter means bunny rabbits and baskets full of candy. Moms view it as the perfect opportunity to dress everyone up for pictures. Christians believe Easter was when Jesus rose from the dead. The women at the empty tomb were sad, until the angel said, “He’s not here, but risen.” Even nature seems to notice there’s something different about Easter with signs of “new” life everywhere.

Because as Christians we have hope Easter is a great time for a celebration. This year on Facebook I saw tons of pictures of families in their Easter best. There were also lots of photos of activities such as egg hunts. One of the most popular in our area was the Easter Eggstravaganza at Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, NC. This event included all kinds of activities such as dropping eggs from a helicopter. Both of my grandsons went and had a blast. In the photo to the right, my grandson, Carson, is at his church (Cornerstone Baptist) running as fast as he can to find Easter eggs. It looks like one of his friends might have found one first.

Tremayne Smith, one of my past students at Cleveland Elementary School in Cleveland, NC, recently shared a memory on Facebook of an Easter egg hunt that happened when he was in kindergarten over twenty years ago. I was his music teacher and can remember when Tremayne and his twin brother, Dewayne, competed against each other, in a friendly way of course. Used with permission, here’s how Tremayne remembers that egg hunt.

A belated and true story for your amusement:

Spring 1993 when my brother Dewayne Smith and I were in Ms. Everhart’s and Mrs. Annette Gurley’s kindergarten class, we had an Easter egg hunt on the playground of Cleveland Elementary School.

The HOLY GRAIL was a hidden silver egg, which contained a coupon for a free ice cream cup in the cafeteria. I WANTED THAT EGG! After a great hunt, of all people, my twin brother found the egg. Like a ‘good little brother’, he came and reported it to me immediately. Now I had no interest in that ice cream because I am lactose intolerant but I did want the sweet glory of having been the one to find the egg. My brother could care less about the glory of finding that egg. He really just wanted the ice cream.

So I suggested the following: “Dewayne, give me the egg. I will claim credit for finding it and at lunch I will give you the ice cream.” Dewayne agreed.

I, with shrieks of joy and cartwheels exclaimed I had found the egg. I was lauded a hero, finder of the egg. Dewayne enjoyed the fruits of his labor later at lunch.

Although this happened more than twenty years ago, Tremayne remembers it like it was yesterday. I bet Dewayne does, too. What about you? How do you celebrate Easter?  Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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Favorite #170: Rowan Rotary Club

Enjoyed sharing my journey as a writer at the Rotary Club in Salisbury, NC.

Enjoyed the day sharing my journey as a writer at the Rowan Rotary Club in Salisbury, NC. Thanks, Tim Coffey for the photo.

Service Above Self

Several weeks ago I was invited to share my journey as a writer at the Rowan Rotary Club in Salisbury, NC. The meetings are held each Thursday morning at the Salisbury Country Club. One of the first members I met the day of my speech was Philip Kepley.

After our initial introduction, I learned I had taught three of his grandchildren at Cleveland Elementary School. I was their music teacher at the time. His wife, Mary Sue, often sent notes of appreciation to their teachers on special occasions. The cards were handmade and so beautiful I still have a few of them from over a decade ago.

While sitting together during breakfast Mr. Kepley shared with me a little of the history of the Rotary Club. He said it all started when several business men from Chicago met for breakfast one morning in 1905 to discuss how they could better serve their community. Soon other business men began to join them. The idea was so well received Rotary Clubs became not only a national organization, but international as well with the motto, “service above self”.

In striving to achieve that goal, Mr. Kepley said one of the highlights of his life was when he was team leader on a trip to Brazil. Members of his team worked in communities where needed, including schools, businesses, hospitals and churches, with each member working in areas they felt comfortable. Mr. Kepley said on that trip he shadowed a missionary planting churches.

Mr. Kepley went on to explain that local clubs often take on projects such as planting trees and saving the Monarch Butterfly. One of the greatest achievements internationally has been to eradicate polio. This accomplishment was achieved with the help of different agencies from all over the world working together with International Rotary Clubs. As a result of combined efforts only two countries still report having new cases. 

After spending a delightful morning with the members of the Rowan Rotary Club and talking with Mr. Kepley, when it came time for me to speak, I felt comfortable knowing I was in a room full of people who care about others. That gave me the confidence to share the twists and turns in my life that eventually led me to becoming a writer and later an author.

I was touched when President-elect Wesley Thompson closed the meeting with a thought for the day which he said was inspired by my speech. He concluded by saying that although we have unforeseen events in our lives that we have no control of, we do have control of how we react and in turn can use the lessons we learn to help others.

Thank-you, Rowan Rotary Club for your service in the community and thank-you for inviting me to share my books and story.  

Has there been a community organization that has touched your life in some way? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

If you would like for me to speak at your church, school or organization, email me at dicysm@yahoo.com., or call 704-278-4377.










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Favorite #169: Moving Sale

Appreciate all the excellent help at my yard sale.

A great day with lots of excellent help from my grandsons at the moving sale.

Moving Into the Future 

Moving from a larger house to a smaller house is quite a feat physically, mentally and emotionally. The real task is deciding what to keep and what not to keep.

During the last six weeks I separated and organized household goods, clothes and personal items preparing for a moving day sale. Once that was complete friends from church helped me move everything outside to the garage for storage. I was happy when they took an item home because that was one less thing I had to sell. 

As the day approached I received advice from friends and family about what to expect. That advice included things like having lots of change on hand, plastic bags for customers, grouping like items together and pricing everything. I was advised if the sale begins at 8:00 be prepared to start at 7:00 because people will be waiting at the door. Now that I have experienced a moving day sale for myself, my advice would be to have lots of help. Not only do you have to answer questions, but you need to take up money and keep things organized. And, you also need someone there to give you a break so you can go to the bathroom or eat.

Although I was lucky to have lots of help, including support from my daughters, Kristin and Kelly,  I’m especially grateful to Bobby and Betsy Safrit. They are “yard sale” experts and knew exactly what to do to keep things running smoothly. Betsy knew how to organize and price while Bobby knew how to talk to customers to get a sale. He also did a lot of lifting and moving of heavier items. I can’t thank them enough.

While this was a lot of work, it was also fun. My sale lasted two days and in that two days I saw friends and neighbors I hadn’t seen in years. The reconnection, if only for a little while seemed to soften the event of having to let go of the past. By the end of the second day when I was asked prices, especially if a child asked the price of a toy, I didn’t have a hard time saying, “How about free?”

If you plan to have a moving sale, do have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff. I realized that even more during a conversation with a lady who stopped to shop and shared she had cancer. She said through her journey she’s come to realize we’re only here for a little while. What’s most important are the memories we make and the people we share those memories with along the way. In her words, “Stuff is just stuff.”

I didn’t realize how emotionally draining a moving sale could be, but I understand now this event wasn’t just about letting go of things, it was about moving into the future. That doesn’t mean forgetting the past, it just means keeping the memories in perspective.

I haven’t been this tired in a long time and I’m definitely glad this process is over. Oh wait, it’s not over. Now I’ve got to get my old house ready to sale. Oh yeah, that means painting and cleaning. If I don’t move for another thirty-two years, that will suit me just fine.

What has been your experience in moving? Did you have a sale? Leave a message below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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Favorite #167: Carolina Panthers

Kristin with her dad making memories at a Panther's game.

Making memories at a Carolina Panthers football game.

Memories That Last a Lifetime

Loving the Carolina Panthers is not just about the game of football, but it’s also about memories and relationships. My deceased husband, Michael McCullough, loved the Carolina Panthers even before they played their first home game (the stadium in Charlotte wasn’t ready yet) at Clemson University in 1995.

When Michael bought the tickets,  our oldest daughter, Kristin, couldn’t wait to go. It turned out that game set the tone for what was to come over the next decade, with Kristin growing to love the Panthers as much as her dad. Even after getting married in 2005, Kristin didn’t stop going to the games with him.  She said riding to and from the games (about 30 miles) they didn’t talk a lot, but didn’t have to because of the mutual bond they shared. With all the media coverage and excitement of the Super Bowl this year, the memories of those special times came flooding back.

Kristin said, The best memories I have of my dad besides the time he spent with my boys (his grandsons) are the Carolina Panther football games.  He always bought tickets he thought were the “best of the season” either being a Monday night game or a team we could beat. He made sure we were at the gates when they opened, with the “plan” to get to our special spot before anyone else so we could see the players running in and out from the locker room. 

During one of those times when Jake Delhomme threw me an autographed hat, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, or dad’s! I’ll cherish forever our last game together almost six-years-ago when I was pregnant with Carson. Dad told me to sit at the table while he went to get us lunch. We ate and talked. When watching the Panther’s play today, I always think of him. He would be proud to know I’m passing on not only a love of football, but a love for the Carolina Panthers to his grandsons, Carson and Garrett.

For our family and for many other families, the Carolina Panthers are much more than a football team playing a game once a week.  This team brings families together in a wholesome atmosphere with players that are approachable and visible in their community, not only volunteering in hospitals and schools, but serving through different organizations. That kind of attitude starts at the top with owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, and the vision he had years ago. Sure, we’re sad we lost the Super Bowl, but there’s always hope for next year and isn’t hope what it’s all about? Besides, the Super Bowl lasts for one night. Memories last a lifetime.

What special memories do you have of the Carolina Panthers both off and on the field? Leave a message below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com







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Favorite #166: Single Mom, Patricia Watkins

Dewayne, Patricia, and Tremayne sharing a moment at Christmas.

Dewayne, Patricia, and Tremayne sharing a moment at Christmas.

Tough Love at its Finest 

In this day and age of instant gratification with social media enticing both young and old, it’s becoming harder and harder to teach children values. As a single parent, Patricia Watkins found a way.

Patricia knew when her twin boys, Tremayne and Dewayne Smith were born she wanted to raise them the same way her mother, Libby, had raised her.  Although Patricia and her siblings always had chores, before the chores they were expected to work on homework for an hour followed by Bible reading. Patricia said reading the Bible out loud not only helped with vocabulary and language, but also helped her build confidence for public speaking.

As a child growing up on a farm, some of Patricia’s chores included milking the cows, feeding the chickens and working the garden. She believes a structure of chores, homework and Bible reading taught her manners, respect, responsibility and a love for God. Little did Patricia know one day she would pass these same values on to her sons, helping them develop strong morals and character.

Even though things weren’t always easy as a single parent, Patricia said the twins somehow always had their needs met. If they wanted a quarter for candy, they earned the quarter by doing a chore. At the time Tremayne felt delayed gratification was old-fashioned, but later understood that lesson helped him reach his goals.

Now young men in their twenties, Tremayne and Dewayne have goals and ambitions most only dream about. They give credit to their mom for setting boundaries during their formative years, providing opportunities for growth and development. They’re also appreciative of the support she had from their maternal and paternal grandmothers and the local church. Each helped in different ways when needed most.

Tremayne graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in music and political science. He is now attending George Washington University on a music scholarship with his sights set on serving others as a politician someday. He’s getting plenty of experience as a Special Assistant to Congressman G.K. Butterfield, NC 1st District. Congressman Butterfield is Democratic Chief Deputy Whip in the US House and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Dewayne graduated from Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC, with a Health and PE degree. He now travels the world inspiring young people as a member of Team Rock Ministries. This ministry travels mostly the United States and Puerto Rico spreading the gospel through acrobatics, gymnastics and martial arts. If you visit their website you’ll see Dewayne in action.

It’s no surprise Patricia’s philosophy for raising well-adjusted, motivated young men comes from the Bible. After all she spent many hours reading and memorizing as a child.  The verse she uses as a guide is Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way of the Lord and when they are old they won’t depart from it.” Patricia explains, “That doesn’t mean they will be perfect. It just means they will have the seed of knowledge, and hopefully, if they do stray, they will return one day.”  Patricia’s mother, Libby, said, “Even if the seeds don’t take, it’s still our responsibility to plant the seeds anyway.”

As a single mom with obstacles to overcome, by providing boundaries and sharing a strong faith in God, Patricia taught her sons that true happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come from material things, but from within. Every child should be so lucky.

What are your thoughts about parenting children in this age of instant gratification? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.







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Favorite #165: Making a Difference

A day in the life of a future politician in Washington, DC.

A day in the life of a future politician in Washington, DC.

Dreams and Aspirations

As a retired elementary school music teacher, I’ve had students I won’t ever forget. One of those is Tremayne Smith. A well-mannered, outgoing student, Tremayne developed a love for music in elementary school, dreaming of being a high school band director one day.

As a freshman entering East Carolina University, Tremayne declared his major as music, but during his sophomore year it looked like his career might take a detour when he became interested in politics. That interest became stronger after working for the Obama presidential campaign and is when Tremayne decided to earn a double major in political science and music.

His hard work didn’t go unnoticed because after graduation, he was offered a position in North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan’s office in Washington, DC. During that year, he met many dignitaries, including President Barack Obama, even sharing a private conversation with the President on Father’s Day at the famous Thomas Sweet Ice Cream Shop in historic Georgetown.

The glitz, glamour and lights of Washington, however, could not subdue Tremayne’s desire to return to his first love of music. His three years as a teacher at Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina made a difference with students working hard to achieve the degree of excellence their teacher and mentor expected. Loving both music and politics, when the opportunity came to go back to Washington, DC, Tremayne struggled with leaving the classroom, but knew destiny was knocking on his door.

The following is what Tremayne posted on my Facebook page, December 29th, 2015. Mrs. McCullough I have been awarded a George Washington University music scholarship for Wind Ensemble and Orchestra as I pursue my Masters in Political Management. I wanted to thank you, my first music teacher at Cleveland Elementary School for introducing me to organized music. Your influence continues on.

Vicki Williams and Tammy Reyes must have been excited when they saw that same message on their Facebook page. Tremayne was a band student of Ms. Williams at West Rowan Middle School, and Ms. Reyes at West Rowan High School.

The love of music and all it has to offer including a scholarship has been the stepping stone to broaden Tremayne’s view of the world, giving  him the confidence through performance to achieve other goals. His desire now is to make a difference, not only in the classroom, but on the national scene in the political realm, with hopes of someday being President.

Thinking about his career as a teacher and a politician, Tremayne said, Being a public-school educator was one of the high points of my life. Having a one-on-one daily interaction, with a hand in shaping and molding the next generation has been my motivation. And, much like then to now, working in Congress and as a student Senator at the George Washington University, I am in it for the outcome, not the income.

A young man with motivation to succeed in everything he does, Tremayne has all the attributes to be President. Not only is he smart, but he cares about others and has a heart to serve. I can’t wait to see where life takes him and I can’t wait to say I taught the President of the United States of America. By the way, when Tremayne was in third grade, he sang in a school-wide performance the song, You Can Grow Up to Be President.

Congratulations, Tremayne on your success. God bless.

In two weeks I plan to write a follow-up blog about Tremayne and his twin brother, Dewayne, and how they honor their mother ( a single-parent) through their life choices.

Do you know someone who is making a difference in the lives of others? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook, or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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Favorite #164: Salem Lutheran Preschool

Salem Lutheran Preschool teachers enjoying a Christmas moment.

Salem Lutheran Preschool teachers enjoy a laugh with Santa.

A Place to Learn and Grow

Although there are many milestones in a child’s life, one of the hardest and yet one of the sweetest for a parent could be the day their child starts preschool. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since my grandson, Carson, started at Salem Lutheran Preschool in Salisbury, NC.

I had the opportunity recently to talk with the school’s director, Dana Robertson. In our conversation she shared some of the goals the faculty and staff have for the children in their care. Along with those goals is the philosophy that each preschooler is a child of God, unique and special. Using that philosophy as their standard, they give children opportunities to explore, experiment and ask questions. The hope is that children will develop a new independence in the world both inside and outside the home, developing friendships with others along the way.

Dana said, “Under the leadership of caring and qualified teachers, classes provide a balance of age-appropriate creative art, music, devotions, outdoor play, story time, dramatic play and group activities.” I saw this exemplified a few weeks ago during a Christmas program where approximately fifty children ranging in ages from two to five proudly performed through singing and playing instruments. One of the favorite songs of both the audience and the children was Jingle Bells. As cameras and cell phones flashed all over the room the children sang and played their bells, smiling ear to ear.

Everyone was invited after the performance to see firsthand the learning taking place through planned activities based around the Christmas theme. The children listened to and discussed a Christmas story, painted a candy cane with finger prints and made reindeer food. Just as Dana had said the teachers were careful to incorporate age-appropriate activities that enhanced learning through hands-on experiences.  

After the children finished their projects, excitement grew when they realized Santa had arrived. They couldn’t wait to sit on his lap sharing the secret desires of their heart. As you can see in the photo, the teachers had as much fun as the children. The morning ended with everyone joining together in a blessing for a delicious snack. It was sweet hearing the children’s conversation with friends and loved ones as they sat together at the tables.

Carson’s mother, Kristin Saine, said she has especially enjoyed the events where parents were invited to participate such as the Christmas program and October fall fun. She said, “It was during those times that I saw preschool through Carson’s eyes. It’s been amazing to watch him grow. He loves his school and teachers and as a parent that means the most.” Kristin was also appreciative of caring teachers who taught lessons preparing the children for school while incorporating Christian values. 

Many thanks to Salem Lutheran Preschool teachers, faculty and staff for providing children a safe place to learn and grow. God bless you and all teachers everywhere as you start the New Year.

How has preschool made a difference in your child’s life?  Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.







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