Don't forget to say 'I love you'

"There are many ways to say I love you, there are many ways to say I care about you.”

That was the beginning of one of the songs my children and I learned from Mister Rogers. He was referring to behavior — understanding, cooking and eating, singing a special song, cleaning up a room, hanging up a coat, and drawing special pictures for the holidays.

Just as different behaviors say I love you, there also are other words that carry the same message.

When my granddaughter, Jessica, was young, I would listen as my daughter nuzzled her while saying in a funny accent, "Are you my little peach cobbler? Are you my little Wiener schnitzel? Are you my little lemon cream pie?” and I would listen as Jessica giggled with glee.

When her second daughter, Sarah, was born two years later, I watched this happen again. I will never forget on one visit, when Sarah was almost 5 years old, I watched as Jayna tickled her and nibbled on the bottom of her feet. Sarah began to laugh and then said, "Mommy, I’m not a piece of chicken!”

Now that they are in their teens, she still has special words for them.

Jayna’s husband, Mike, a loving 6-foot-5 guy, also has special names for his children, Ryan and Erin — "honey bunny,” "my sweet boy,” "my beautiful girl.” Mike says while growing up, his parents called him "my sweet boy” — and at age 45, they still do. His sister, Leigh, was known as "my beautiful girl.” Now, Aunt Leigh often calls her niece, Erin, "my snuggle bunny.”

With Valentine’s Day near, we are reminded to find ways to express our affection for people important to us — a romantic relationship, a family member or a special friend.

Say it with loving behavior or those three little words, or flowers, chocolates, gifts or cards, but don’t forget to say it.

As you plan gifts for others, put a few on the list for yourself — enjoy a massage, buy fresh flowers for your home, invite friends to join you for a meal. I have learned over the years if I do not care for and nurture myself, I am limited in caring for and nurturing others.

Whatever our age, it boosts our spirits to know we are loved, cared about and special to someone.

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