Category Archives: Family Ties

Gingerbread all the Way!

baking gingerbread
Some years we’ve made Gingerbread aprons…this guy has now outgrown two!

Last weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.

This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.

Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.

Jenks Gingerbread house
Jenks Trojan mascot, overlooking the fusion of campus life

The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.

Di & Audra with 1st gingerbread house
The Lone Star House – 2001 Gingerbread

We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen  kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.

We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.

Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.

the Flour KingMany versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings  just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.

gingerbread team

We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.

We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor. gingerbread in production

Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying  their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.cousins

Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.

candy-eating decorating
Eating candy is ALWAYS part of the process

As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.

Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.hospital gingerbread

Batman gingerbreadAs the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in  creating and constructing.

The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.

Sugar Cube Castle
Sugar Cube Castle 2016

generational gingerbreadseniorsGrandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.

Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true  joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.

As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles,  we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.

Superhero City
Superhero City – 2015 Gingerbread

Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.

Here’s to family and GINGERBREAD all the way!

Yay!

 

 

A Touch and Feel Christmas

When I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a week putting up Christmas in our home. It is a highlight in my childhood. We removed everything from table tops and hearth and brought in boxes of nativities, lights and garlands. We played carols and sipped on hot cocoa and apple cider the whole week. We reminisced about ornaments and even decked out the ceiling fan!! It was magical in every sense of the word for me. In the evenings, I would curl up with a blanket in the far corner of the room and bask in the glow of the lights from the tree; I dreamed grand dreams there. It still is one of my dearest places tucked within my heart.

Lean in, Linger, Listen to God’s voice. Let your Loved Ones Touch and Feel Christmas…it Touches Their Lives Forever.

 

We have these 5 Senses… and the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to play up every single one of those beautiful gifts! It is vital to all of us; young and old, to engage with one another. There are traditions, memories, and new starts all tangled together. There are candle smells, crackling fire sounds, warmth of familiar blankets, and tastes of yummy baking all swirled together in our memory banks. There are joys and sorrows interspersed too… they’re captured in the promise of Redemptive Peace during this month! 

So let the children decorate the tree.  Give them a step stool so they can stretch on tippy toes to hang their ornament high.  Pile books near so that you have the fun of catching them sprawled out by the tree reading in the glow of the twinkle lights.  Set up an Advent Box and let the finishing touch of each evening end with something nourishing for the soul and a sweet treat for the taste buds!

Leave space on a table for a puzzle or crafts to be dreamed up. Decorate a Gingerbread House or Cookies and make a HUGE mess!! (And don’t stress about it in the process; let your loved ones AND you enjoy and play.)

As I grew up surrounded by cousins, we annually created a play to perform on Christmas Eve together.  We dreamed up the story, wrote out the lines, created scenery even!  When the big night arrived, we passed out programs and felt the excitement mount… All our senses were engaged.  It was equally as fun preparing those plays  to opening the presents. We lingered longer with one another and had so much fun. 

As I write and reflect.  I feel very blessed to have had so many Touch and Feel Christmases in my life so far. It’s become such a part of me, that I pass that on to my kids from my heart. Whether you share the same experiences or not, it is never ever too late to engage those around you in the same feelings.  You can go whole hog, or simply linger in more intentional time with someone; both result from the same desire. 

Joy to the World!

PEACE, not pieces

give thanks: pie for dinnerOur family has done Thanksgiving in many different ways over the years. We’ve hosted the dinners yet also driven the miles to do the rounds between all the families. We’ve squished in family projects in lieu of big family gatherings. Some years we’ve taken off for a family getaway instead of sticking with tradition.

small hands making pie crustOne of the ways we’ve reclaimed our own family connections going into the holiday season  is to share a few hours together baking pies. Several  years ago I said yes to one of my boys who asked if we could cut into one of the pies  to have a taste.  pies for dinner

So, we began having “pie for dinner” on Thanksgiving Eve, letting go of the expectation of showing up to our family gig the next day with fully intact pies. We feel a little giddy with the power of “eating dessert first” and having pie as the only thing on the dinner menu.

As we were winding down our Pie for Dinner night this year, a candle was enthusiastically blown out which splattered wax all over our white tablecloth. Although a little chagrined, we tried not to let it overshadow the scrumptious fun we had just had together. We walked away from it, piecrust crumbs and all.

waxy tableclothThe next day after returning from a festive and full family dinner, I gathered up the tablecloth and stuck it in the freezer to deal with later. (I read about this handy trick somewhere, so I gave it a whirl.) Yesterday morning I attempted to get the wax to flake off.  No luck! I threw it in the washer with mild hopes that some laundering magic might make the wax disappear. Nope! It morphed into a smooth patch of muted blue splotches…and is on the verge of being downgraded to a craft tablecloth. Oh well!

As I’ve gone round and round with this silly thing, I’ve realized I can get worked up about it or come to peace with it and move on…because we know the next season’s messes will be upon us before we know it, right?

Christmas tree pine needles

Along with the jingly bells of the season, we hear the buzzing of pressure all around us.

Sometimes our calendars fill up rather than our hearts.

We can easily get pulled into holiday stress, feeling the fractures sneaking in. Or we can remain steadfast in seeking out the joys and peace of the season, one choice at a time.Bible Quilt™ - heart at peace

When we’re tugged to get our shopping done early or to be among the first wave of holiday cards arriving in busy mailboxes, we need to intentionally slow down to pull together rather than apart.

We know we need to choose relationship over finding just the “right” gift…one heart decision at a time.


“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…” Luke 2:19


It’s okay to take a break to ponder…and perhaps reflect on the bigger picture.

People all around us are hurting. Families are facing loss. Friends are financially squeezed. We can all use a dose of PEACE rather than fall to pieces when we get overwhelmed with holiday stress or encounter another flavor of brokenness.

give thanks at #theturquoisetable
Giving Thanks at the Turquoise Table

We can strive to give thanks for the overflow of one season blurring into the next, preparing our hearts one day at a time.



PEACE, not pieces.



 

Treats from Above

Hey Friends!

trick-or-treating candy haulHow did it go with your trick-or-treaters? There’s something magical about those eager faces showing up at your door once a year and gazing expectantly at you for a little treat, isn’t it? 

No matter what our age, receiving a “treat” makes us feel special and nudges out of our usual routine.

In a recent whirlwind of activities pushing me about in multiple directions, I’ve been trying to catch my breath to capture the “special” in these busy moments.

As adults, we typically refer to family milestones or significant events as “blessings” from the Lord because that sounds mature and “grown up.,” right?

I wonder if we’d recapture some of that childlike joy if we viewed these as “treats” instead?

I’ve been reflecting on some of the “treats” I’ve received recently in unexpected ways, unwrapping them slowly to savor them a little longer.

birthday girlI have a new friend who just turned 9 and I was honored to help celebrate her birthday. In a room filled with pink balloons and fun Bible QuiltingTM supplies scattered about, it was a treat to observe young girls engaging with each other in genuine excitement about crafting with scripture. Girlish squeals & endless chatter are not a norm for this Boymom! A peek into this little girl’s world was a delight.

joy - Bible QuiltWhat a joy it’s been to see the Lord unfold our Bible QuiltingTM business/ministry in unexpected ways. Having a front-seat view of mothers and daughters uniting over scripture has been a double-scoop treat for us! I’m grateful to be partnering in this journey with my sister-in-law. The Lord keeps revealing ways he’s knit our paths together for His purpose…a gift that keeps on giving, layer by colorful layer.

big leaf peekabooMy youngest has upped his game on giving me tight hugs at unexpected times. I absorb these squeezes fondly because they keep me connected to him in a special way when pre-adolescent words flop around between us awkwardly sometimes. His playful spirit is a treat amidst all the adulting stuff I have to do.

Eagle Scout project: father & sonsI was treated to a glimpse of how other teens view my 15-year-old son as a leader and friend by them showing up to put in some hard labor for his Eagle Scout project. As I shoveled and raked beside his friends, I was able to see how they valued his quiet ways and gentle spirit.the Rock Squad

I’m grateful for my tenacious husband who plotted over the plan and provided a constant reinforcement for all my son’s endeavors. After 2 Saturdays of our family putting in 12-hour work days, it was a well-deserved treat to see my son’s confident stance and satisfied smile as he overlooked this massive undertaking nearing completion. Eagle Scout project

senior picturesAnd, oh my heart, as I saw my oldest through a photographer’s eyes as she snapped away during his Senior Picture photo shoot last week! All parents of seniors know that our kids are maturing in many ways right before our eyes as they plan their college launch next fall, but it untethers a mother’s heart a bit to see this milestone inch tangibly closer with each shutter click of that professional camera. Click. Click. Click.

senior picsWhat an unexpected treat to view my son from a bystander’s perch as he engaged in witty conversation with a stranger about his future endeavors, allowing snippets of his dreams to fall out loosely between each camera pose. These brief flashes of my soon-to-be-adult-son were quickly scooped up to be cherished with other childhood memories of our firstborn who has carved such a steady path forward.


“Every good and perfect gift is from Above.”   James 1:17


red leaf and running shoe

As the leaves blush with color and begin to swirl around on our streets, I’m reminded of God’s artistry in nature…how He treats us to  something fresh each season. I’m grateful for these interludes of graceful transitions so we’re not thrust immediately into the throes of winter. I love the layering we get to do in the Fall, hopefully nestling warmth and peace into our spirits as well.

🍁🍁🍁Welcome to November, friends! 🍁🍁🍁

Join us as we celebrate #30daysofgratitude in our Ordinary Threads Facebook group. We’ve got friends from across the country that will be sharing a Gratitude each day. Hop on with an encouraging comment (some have admitted they are a little nervous about this venture) or feel free to post about something YOU are grateful for in this season. A treat shared is always sweeter! 😍

(as proven by the stash of Twix & Almond Joys my son setsaside for me from his trick-or-treat stash!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harvest Is Plentiful

 

Do you see them all over town? They are not shy nor will they go unnoticed. Bright oranges and creamy whites, smooth and bumpy perched on hay bales.  Oh! The pumpkins have arrived! Fall is such a fun and flavorful season to incorporate some great Memory Makers with family and friends. So many to choose from…

This is my mom holding my first son a few Octobers ago. Going to the Pumpkin Patch is part of our family tradition. We pick carving pumpkins and dream up ideas for funny faces for them. We pet all the farm animals and walk the corn mazes; we leave itchy from crawling over hay bales, and we always feel the need for apple cider after our exploration. These are sweet memories made.

 

 

Sometimes we have been known to paint the pumpkins we bring home! What a colorful mess we make! But it’s worth it; the joy and laughter is completely contagious. We add feathers and glitter and the whole nine yards!

 

The week of Halloween, we make a pot of soup, invite grandparents over, and carve pumpkins together. The seeds get washed, seasoned, and cooked for snacking during the process. We fill our tummies and our hearts in the crisp air that usually has just begun to chill our evenings. We bust out carving knives and power drills for our pumpkins! The imaginations take flight as we all carve.

 

Ever since I have any memory, my extended family has gotten together for a Halloween supper and trick or treating together. We always have chili and fritos, and EVERYone must show up in costume; no exceptions. We have years and years of pictures of children, grandparents, friends,( pets even!) dressed in silliness. We are all in, and it is so much fun!It is always pure joy to just play for the evening. A Tradition that’s in its third generation currently.

Let the kids spread out their loot at the end of the evening. Give them permission to wallow in it for the moment…when else is it ever appropriate? Pure Bliss is in those memories. Treasures that go WAY beyond their sweet tooth.

 

One of my sons is a collector of nature. I am forever being gifted dandelions, and rocks, sticks and walnut shells that have hearts carved in them by our Magnificent God. I cherish the pictures I have taken of these perishable treasures. It is a glimpse through the eyes of a child; pure and unencumbered. And the Nature Walks!! These are requested as early as August by my crew. We make them wait till the leaves start falling. But the anticipation wraps our beautiful memories made in the Scavenger Hunts we take out on each Fall with walking sticks, paper bags, snacks and all!

We have friends that always pass through during this season and spend some nights with our family.  It is fun to set up a Blessing  Box for their room while they visit. There is something so inviting about all the rich layers of colors in the Fall. A book, magazine,  candle, flowers, bottled water and pumpkin with some hand-written greetings is simple but sweet.The boys and I love watching the foliage change and the wind stir the leaves across the yards. The ambition of raking the leaves is usually tossed quickly as we jump into them! We sometimes lay on hammocks and look up into the colorful tree tops. There are so many simple moments to be found in this season that overflow with Thankfulness. Read a book out-loud as a family, make a big pot of Apple Cider to sip on all Sunday afternoon. Bake pumpkin bread with your kids and then share it with your neighbors. Begin a Gratitude Pumpkin and take turns writing all there is to be thankful for. Snap lots of pictures, and jot down memories while they are fresh in your mind. Absorb all that Fall has waiting for you.  The Harvest is Plentiful

Buffering

How often do we get annoyed waiting for a download? As technology has advanced, we’ve gotten spoiled and increasingly more impatient with the few seconds this transformation occurs, forgetting that this process used to take minutes. (Not to mention our personal history with “dial-up” connections…we need not remind ourselves how old this makes us sound!)

. . . ___. . . Buffering . . . ___ . . .

Yep, we even have a fancy term for waiting on technology: buffering – -waiting with purpose and a heightened expectation of data coming our way. We’re paused as we  wait for data or images to load, so we can proceed with our next electronic interaction. The momentary lapse in electronic connection makes us feel restless.buffering symbol

Software programs have even designed creative ways to give us digital holding cues…a flashing line promising that progress is about to happen or a bright green line racing around a circle offering the illusion of “almost there.”

Last week when I was feeling the pressure of navigating a tight schedule while trying to accommodate the various speeds on which my children operate, it occurred to me how often I act as a buffering agent to those around me.
Like the mysterious data preloading that occurs, our buffering efforts go largely unseen but are constantly at work.
As moms, we’re often filling in the gaps between one family member to the next. We are frequently redirecting children, softening sharp edges of voice tones and harsh facial expressions. We’re constantly monitoring the goings-on in our families, serving as a hub in which each family member dives in for a brief connection then returns to their homework or computer screen.
We help modulate the buzz of activity in our households, buffering between family and houseguests or redirecting young sibling traffic to a neutral zone when teens are hanging out in another.

Even our pets use us as buffers. During yesterday’s thunderstorm, my golden retriever would not leave my side as she panted and anxiously tucked her tail, looking at me imploringly to “STOP MOVING ALREADY!” so she could settle.Katie hiding from storms

As women, we probably have more buffering systems in play than men, so it’s not unusual for me to hear stories about how a friend is  intervening between her husband and their realtor; or navigating details between her husband and service workers (and hoping to get the details about the roof leak, the hot water gadget, or the pool pump control panel interpreted correctly).

. . . ___ . . . We buffer between extremes. 

We lessen the impact of potential harsh consequences we see coming, but they may not. 

. . . ___ . . . We referee between siblings. 

We reframe feedback from challenging teachers and revved-up coaches  in ways our children can absorb it more constructively.

All this buffering can take a toll on us, leaving us feeling battered and weary. Sometimes on a day when we’ve spent so much energy putting out other people’s fires and not gotten our own agenda accomplished, we’re left feeling unproductive with an empty tank.
This past Sunday when I was feeling off-kilter after a busy week of solo parenting, I managed to stop for a few moments and go offline.offline mom break

Even though I’ve been trying to practice the art of Sabbath rest, the struggle to downshift is tricky. During waking hours my brain does not seem to have an “off” switch, so this striving to rest is a discipline I have to work at intentionally.

As I’ve recognized the draining pull of this nearly constant buffering, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances more and realize the hidden impact my unseen efforts have on those around me. Slowly, I’m giving myself permission to power down” so I can truly recharge and be more effective as a nurturing buffer rather than an automatic boomerang.
Like it or not, mommas, this buffering stuff is part of the gig. I’m grateful God wired us to multi-task and self-regulate so we can stay on track when needed. I’m also thankful for the grace He extends to us and through us, so we can upload a positive influence on our families.leaves fallen

Fall is our friendly buffer between the lingering mugginess of Summer and the harsh chill of Winter.

As we transition into muted days with a crispness in the air, may we slip away for some nature walks to rebuild our inner buffering system. We’ve got this, friends!

What is YOUR recharge going to be this season?

“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” – Charles Swindoll