Category Archives: Family Ties

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


 

A Picture Worth A Thousand Memories

As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.

I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood.  It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.

And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary,  look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.

As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them.  Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived.  He lingered there for an hour! (A  looong time for a 5-year-old).  I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.

So many Saturdays are on the Soccer Fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact.  It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.

And so I have these:

Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,

A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,

A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!

Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me.  My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day!  You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord! For He is good, for His steadfast Love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

How to Paint a Turquoise Table in 60 days

Some projects are worth the wait. Our ideas have to germinate and our baby steps of action often take longer than expected, but the end result allows all the effort and perseverance to slide into a happy place.

So it was with our turquoise table.

I first read about  #theturquoisetable concept a couple years ago: to have a friendly painted picnic table in the front yard to draw neighbors closer together.  I loved the simplicity of Kristin’s idea and how the beauty of this gesture blossomed into a hospitality movement across the country.
My brain hatched a plan: “I can do this,too.”

turquoise benchLater that spring when we had some landscaping done, I incorporated an area large enough to accommodate a picnic table. I settled for spray-painting a garden bench for my splash of “welcome” turquoise. We had other things going on at the time and a picnic table project was not one of them.

Turquoise Table Painting Party inviteFast forward two summers. My sister-in-law called to tell me they were moving —into our neighborhood, about a half-mile away.

My brain cranked up the plan another notch: we could paint TWO tables at the same time, involving all our boys, and we could gift one to them as a housewarming present. An action plan was finally taking shape!

In late June, we sprang into action by getting the tables and buying the paint. They moved and then we went on vacation. Our tables kept each other company in our garage for a month.
Busy summer schedules eventually slowed a bit and we drug the tables out for an initial priming session:

Boys ready to start painting picnic tables

These boys tackled the painting project with gusto!boy painting under tableboy painting under table

While the primer dried, the boys went off to have a nerf dart war in the front yard, complete with trashcans & moving blankets for impromptu barricades.

At least one boy was still scampering around in only his underwear.

hmmm…Do you think this is what Kristin meant by #frontyardpeople?

We ran out of time that day, so the primed tables returned to the garage. The majority of our boys were “spotted” at back-to-school events with splotches of white paint in their hair. boys with primed tables
Another week went by before we could wrangle all the boys in for another painting session. This time the excitement cranked up a notch because the fun color, Nifty Turquoise, was revealed.

(Moms were encouraging the use of hats and gloves this time…some boys heeded the warning; some didn’t.)

boy concentrating on paintingThe magic of the Turquoise Table took effect immediately before the tables were even fully painted.

A neighbor lady walking by gushed about the fun color…and quizzed us about the number of boys involved. “Yep, they’re ALL ours!”😉

As we were painting, the air pressure changed and storm clouds rolled in. We hustled the almost-but-not-quite painted tables back into the garage just in time to beat the large raindrops threatening our progress.painting picnic tables upside down

Another 10 days or so elapsed before we got  a second coat of paint on the tables…and it took another week to spray them down with polyurethane, but at last they were finished!

Boy moms love turquoise tables

Katie photo bombs the partyWe celebrated with oreo ice cream sundaes prepared by my youngest son way back in June when we first started the project.
Yep, they were worth the wait, too!

As fall approaches, we’re eager to move family life to these cheerful tables out front and embrace the community around us.

If YOU haven’t started one yet, go for it!

It’s a fun family project . . . and almost as easy as 1, 2, 3!! 😜

Boys ready to start painting picnic tables

boys with primed tables

Boys and turquoise tables

However long it takes and the messes it makes, take joy in the process.
Memories are etched in the layers of these everyday colorful moments.  kid photographer

(aaand…if you’ve had a kid photographer involved, then you’ve got plenty of evidence to show for it!)

In between the hustle and bustle with this crew, I’m looking forward to  some quiet moments out there with my Bible Quiltjournal, too.
Bible Quilt™ at Turquoise Table
I just happened to be Bible Quilting™ about “love your neighbor” during my first Quiet Time out here!

5 Go-To Meals We Love

Ordinary Threads is about to meet with a great group of women to help them set up Menu Planning Boards for their homes next month. As the preparation for that swirls in our heads, our thoughts are focused on FOOD! I have a few Go-To meals that I’ve been making for years now. When a week turns crazy, these are my steadies. They are easy, fast and yummy. Add a salad, veggie, bread or fruit and you’re ready to eat! Try one or all!

SPAGHETTI PIE

1 Kraft Italian Dinner Box

2 Eggs

1  16oz. can Tomato Sauce

1  6oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese, grated

Boil spaghetti from dinner box and drain and rinse. Beat eggs in large bowl and add parmesan from dinner box. Add spaghetti and mix well. Put half of spaghetti mixture in bottom of greased 9 inch pie plate and then layer half  of the grated cheese and then repeat layers one more time. Bake 10 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Do sauce per package directions. Cut pie in wedges and serve with sauce.

 

SPEEDY SAUSAGE SUPPER

1  lb. smoked sausage, sliced

2 TBS Butter

1 small Onion, chopped

half cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced

1  8oz. can Baked Beans

1  8oz. can Kidney Beans

1  8oz. can Tomato Sauce

1 envelope Chili Seasoning

Cheddar Cheese, grated

Melt butter in large skillet and add onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add beans and tomato sauce. Stir in Chili Seasoning and add Sausage. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until heated through. Garnish with grated cheese.

QUICHE (HAM, VEGGIE OR BACON)

1 Half-baked Pie Shell

4 Slices Bacon, crumbled

Ham Cubes

Veggies of choice, diced

Blend of Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, 1 1/2 cups together

3 Eggs

1 cup of Milk

Dash of Nutmeg

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Mix all together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

ONE-POT PASTA

1 lb. spaghetti

1 pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced

1 large Onion, thinly sliced

3 cups Grape Tomatoes, halved

3 cups fresh Basil

Sea Salt and Pepper

1 cup Parmesan, grated

In a large pot over medium heat, combine EVERYTHING, but cheese and add 4 1/2 cups of Water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer till Pasta is cooked through and water reduced. Stir in Parmesan and Serve.

RANCH CHICKEN

1 small package of Ranch Dressing Mix

6 Chicken Breasts

1 sleeve of crushed Ritz Crackers

1 cup of Parmesan Cheese

Melted Butter

Coat Chicken in Melted Butter, then in a bowl filled with mixture of crushed crackers and Ranch mix. Place in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Pour remaining Butter over the top. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

These Recipes are a culmination of Family, Friends and my own Finds that have proved Faithful time and time again for our Family. I enjoy cooking for my family, but time doesn’t always allow for it. The focus for me in a season of young children and after school activities is to share as many meals around a table as possible in the week. When a meal can be made fast and in one skillet, pot or pie crust, it’s a winner in our books! Makes clean-up a breeze too. Make a list of these meals and more that will give you quick sustenance but also rich time with your loved ones.

Here We Go, Girls, Get Your Momstations Ready!

God is Faithful; in the Sunshine and the Storm.

Aren’t Summers with children in the home a “hurry up and get to relaxing!’ And then, “hurry up and get ready for the school year!” We try to cram as much fun and spontaneity into every steamy day of our break. We have sipped lemonade, lounged by a pool, admired our cute pedis and laughed with our kids…we have unplugged for the glorious summer. But this week we have been recharged and it’s “Go Time!” All moms are prepping for the new school year. 

“Hustle and bustle” is again reinstated into the vocabulary; it cannot be denied. However, with a few tricks up our sleeve, it can still be fun! 

Let’s talk Momstations!!

Sometimes we make it home before school pickup, and sometimes not. Usually we are traveling to the next destination of sports practice, music lesson, karate, Scouts, etc.  Last year I grew weary of the frazzled feelings every afternoon evoked, so I applied a few thoughts to action and they worked!! 

So here you go; sure hope they lighten your load as they have mine:

I have a thermos for everyone in my car that gets filled with ice at breakfast time. They are labeled with names and set in cup holders in our car. By afternoon pickup we have cold water for all; and no sticky drinks are sloshing in my car. 

Along that line, There is a snack bag placed in an insulated bag each morning too. Inside are individual “mystery snacks” for all riders. (My kids just like the term “mystery”, and each day I put some sort of trail mix combo that varies each day so it feels different). This trick has saved me many Quik Trip runs!!

I love to encourage readers, so I stash magazines, comics, crosswords with pen attached, Mad Libs, joke books, maps, you name it…in all nooks and crannies of the car to be found. (Kids love to discover maps of their town to navigate).

There are always 2 decks of cards in the glove box, because many a time I have been waiting for one child and sitting with the other. Card games are a great filler of time, and more importantly, a fantastic way to engage in conversation and hear more of your child’s heart. (They are also used in a restaurant for the kids if the adults are trying to talk for a few minutes).

I keep a Bible Quilting Bag in the front seat with me all year-long. It is decked out with flair pens, washi tape, devotional material and my journal to quilt in...let me know if you’d like me to set one up for you too!!  It’s my favorite “go-to” thing in the car! (the kids have one too; nothing blesses my heart more than taking a few moments to write a scripture alongside my child).

 

As we cross paths all over town throughout the school year, we can still engage in meaningful times and quiet respites if a little planning goes in to it. Hope this spurs you on to begin thinking of ways to set up your Momstations and enjoy the ride!