Category Archives: Family Ties

Christmas Threads of JOY

Her five men:  four cute and little sons,  and one cute and big husband.  And some of them much messier than others,  but she won’t name names.  A God assigned daughter that has enriched the home as well. And an extended family full of love and laughter.  Her life is full,  rich, and happy.  Just looking at them is a warm holiday greeting.

The Christmas season is my very favorite time of the year.  I know I share this passion with many! Our family has traditions that we look forward to each December. I’d like to share with you where my Joy takes flight…

 The boxes of ornaments come out and we dive in with enthusiasm as we each find our own individual ones to hang on the tree. The past two years I have relinquished rights to the tree and just let the boys set the pace! (It is easier for me to do this when I have another tree in the front hall!) The ornament placement has made me smile each time I glance at the tree…Two competitive brothers placing their ornament “higher” than the other. ALL of my 5 yr old’s treasures bunched in one over saturated spot. And not one beauty is hung past the first couple needles at the tips. In the evening, I find myself loving this tree so much more than my “fancy” one. This tree sparkles with Joy of my children’s hands.

Since I am an artsy gal,  I take full  opportunity to make Christmas crafts with my sons!  We have the best times with glue and glitter!! My memory bank gets tanked up during these creative sessions as we laugh and make a huge, beautiful mess.

  They have loved this impromptu felt snowman-building kit that we cut together. It just stays out on the counter for whomever needs a snow fix.

Gingerbread Houses are a pretty big deal to us. We have an annual Gingerbread Day with cousins, aunts/uncles and grandparents. The time together in each families home over the years has woven a wonderful memory of this event.  We broke out of our shell this year and added sugar cube castles to our repertoire. (I highly recommend it!)

As so many others, we have an advent countdown that has family time and chocolate as a way to wind down our day and remember where our focus should remain.  And we read Christmas stories from a big box that gets pulled off the top shelf just for the month of December. I will never get tired of hearing, “Oh! I remember this one!!”

We set up a hot cocoa station in the kitchen, and snack time becomes more magical. There are lots more helping hands when holiday baking happens too! We play Christmas music ALL the time…and I absolutely adore it. 

As wonderful as all the traditions can be, I have found that what satisfies my heart and brings me the most joy is when I make sure to step out of the holiday bustle a part of each day. Creating the memories with your children and loved ones doesn’t mean you have to accomplish ALL of what I just shared and beyond… pick one or more of your favorite traditions and just soak up the time with someone. I also recently learned that it’s okay to release a few favorites for the next year if the current year is feeling full; they can be revisited the next go around. But NEVER set aside the fact that this season is the perfect time to let your children indulge in dreams!

Merry Christmas and God Bless You!

Blending

Crater Lake picToday was one of those mornings that I found myself hunting for cold-weather running layers for my son’s first winter cross country practice, rounding up loose change for a fundraiser this evening, and helping my youngest print out last-minute pictures of Crater Lake for a poster project. During the typical breakfast hustle, I found myself searching for this random mix of items reminiscent of a junior high scavenger hunt, trying to beat the clock before the bus came.
Next, in a clean-up pass through the house, I dropped a water bottle which rolled under my son’s bed. On my knees peering warily underneath his bed, I discovered some books, a camping chair, several balled-up socks, pages of sheet music, lego bits, a broken pencil, a soccer ball, multiple candy wrappers from a Halloween stash, a sleeping bag, a couple charger cords, and two dimes amidst all the dust jackrabbits (mysterious fluff too big to be labeled mere dust bunnies). Between a sigh of exasperation and a sudden gouge in my knee from a sharp Lego, I tried to remind myself that this was just the hodgepodge of boyhood.
Our lives are a blend of things, experiences and people, intersecting all the time in a tangle of unique ways. Sometimes we get a glimpse of how these daily artifacts blend together by facing what’s under the bed, clearing out a closet, or sorting through what’s landed in our garage.
Blending traditions can be tricky. As young married couples put up their first Christmas trees, they may find themselves negotiating all-white lights  vs. colored lights, opening presents Christmas Eve vs. Christmas morning, turkey vs. ham, etc. None of this is in the wedding vows, folks. Tread lightly and listen wisely.

mixing coffee cake batterAs I start my holiday baking season, I add ingredients into my mixer and watch it all blend together into golden batter. I pour it into pans and sprinkle it with a sugared pecan mix, remembering how my mother-in-law’s hands did this for so many years. Her handwritten recipe is the one I follow now, a tradition I treasure. My husband’s memories of Christmas coffee cake now blend into my children’s taste of Christmas morning.

Holidays are a time of blending…families from her side and his; families from in-town and out-of-state; recipes from generations past and new ones beckoning from Pinterest; traditions old and spontaneously new. Each year the blending may have a different flavor depending on who is gathered around your table or who may no longer be in  pictures with you Christmas morning. A natural blending over time allows things to settle in gradually, highlighting what experiences are important to the family storyline and are carving deeply into tradition.

coffee cake overflowingSome holiday activities we’ve  incorporated over time in an intentional way, such as an evening family advent activity.

Other traditions have erupted from spontaneous fun, like marshmallow tag that leaves us all giggling and breathless, overflowing with a sense of family connectedness.

Blending all of our usual family activities in with those of the holiday can be a challenge. I have to remind myself of a few things to navigate this season well:

Proceed at a moderate pace. (maintain own pace, not others’)

Enjoy the distinct parts of the season.

Cherish the beautiful outcomes; laugh at the jumbled messes that also come along naturally.

Treasure the history that has gotten us to this point.

Allow dreams of the future to unfold under the golden lights of the Christmas tree.

Savor slowness.

Loosen grudges; tighten hugs.

Encourage others in their way of celebrating; leave competition on the sports field.

Reach out.  (Repeat often.)

Hum with the Christmas music; sparkle with the lights.

Take a brisk walk to re-energize and re-focus.

Surprise someone with an act of kindness.

Make more eye contact in the hustle.

Let the to-do list marinate overnight.

And, always, always save room for coffee cake.

coffee cake

 

 

 

Simply Gratitude

Sometimes family traditions can be simple and not take much time, yet still foster a strong connection between family members.

starting gratitude pumpkinThe Gratitude Pumpkin is super easy. All you do is select one of your pumpkins that wasn’t sacrificed into a jack-o-lantern and grab a sharpie marker.

Then simply take turns writing a word or phrase of gratitude.

I love the unfolding of different colors and handwriting scrawls as the words of gratitude wind themselves around and around the pumpkin. As the pumpkin fills with gratitude messages, we realize that our gratitude is wide, ranging from Legos to forgiveness. We see a mutual appreciation for family, friends, and a safe country.

gratitude pumpkin signingLast year we did this activity on our front porch, adding a gratitude in the morning while we waited for the bus …or in the evening as we enjoyed impromptu frisbee or football out in our front yard.

It’s very casual, not structured at all.

gratitude pumpkin signing

We didn’t realize until later that our little pumpkin was blessing whoever came to our door. In a season of frequent deliveries from Amazon or having family over for holiday events, it became a special welcome moment as people paused to read about our thankfulness.

gratitude pumpkin (cont)
Gratitude pumpkin

 

Simply Gratitude.

Now that’s a tradition that we can get behind.

Join us?

 

 

 

My Family Cookbook

 

 

 

img_4294

When I cook, I think of the women in my family. My grandmother never measured anything and rarely had a recipe in front of her. She was a phenominal cook and I listened as my mom called her frequently throughout my childhood asking “cooking questions”.  img_4290My mom is also a great cook; her gift of combining herbs and spices has excelled restaurant meals.  As a girl, I was a baker. My sweet tooth ruled and I made cookies and cakes for everyone in my path.  img_0820

During the holidays, my mom and aunts made candy together. The cousins would play and bid time till we were called to taste-test!  My other grandmother would have a feast laid out each time we visited Texas.  She made EVERYONES favorites!!

Such exuberant love. img_4293

As I cook for my family now, I think about my menu.  I find myself cooking as each of these treasured women before me.  My heart loves cooking. img_4288 One of my most cherished gifts given to me is a family cookbook with recipes from all my family, and also my husband’s family. They are intertwined with pictures scattered through them. img_4289Such a gift of time and love; priceless to me. When I was first learning to cook as a young wife, I used those recipes from our youth.  When I am missing my grandmothers and mother-in-law, I cling to their recipes; their handwritten script of bundt cakes and stews. I bake their dishes during the holidays and weave in some of our new favorites.

In my family cookbook, I have added my part of the story too.img_0162 I have pages of my children’s favorite dishes. I have birthday pages for each family member with all their individual favorites to celebrate them.img_4291 When my kids come in and help prepare a meal, they see this book with pictures, recipes, and such a rich heritage for us. We cook and talk together. Stories are told, GOOD food is made and this legacy is passed on.img_4292

If you are looking for a gift to give that is from your heart, this one is hands-down a keeper. Collect your cherished recipes and pictures and share the stories attached to them. Bless and add to someones meal.img_3436

Closing the Gap

When generations come together, beautiful connections are made.

In the small Kansas town we moved from last year, we left a web of connections in our wake. During our 16 years in that community, we started our own little family and also “grew” an extended family. Although we still didn’t have relatives within 200 miles, we felt like we were severing family ties when we pulled out of town with Uhaul trailers dangling behind us.

soccer sidelineThese bonds didn’t occur overnight. We wove them over time through snatches of conversation on soccer sidelines, volunteering at school events, working in the community, visiting with neighbors, and serving alongside others at church. Since our children didn’t have grandparents nearby, we crafted some of our own through repeat connections with people in our community.

A dear lady in our church always greeted us with a warm smile and thoughtful questions about our family’s activities. Typically I’d have one child on my hip and another boy tugging on my arm, but slowing down to visit with this generous lady gave me an internal boost. We exchanged notes in the mail occasionally and she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner one year — a special treat for all of us without our “other” family around.

Thanksgiving guest

Another year we incorporated Acts of Kindness into our advent activities and serenaded a neighbor lady down the street. She reciprocated with holiday goodies and a beaming smile.

Christmas carol

She added a watchful gaze and a friendly wave as my boys trudged  by her house to school day after day, year after busy year. My youngest son developed a special connection with her, becoming her handy helper for various little tasks she needed from time to time. She got to share her stories with an enthusiastic listener who wore curiosity on his sleeve like a badge of honor.

These interactions unfolded naturally over time; they weren’t forced or felt like an obligation. Typically they occurred through seasonal shifts or holiday overflow of family activities. Somehow these brief interludes closed a gap for us. They weren’t quite a substitution for our “Family Tree” people, but offered a soft tether of connection in our chosen community.

Often I was the one behind the camera, orchestrating the logistics, yet I got to observe the faces of the young and old. I witnessed an echo of mutual admiration pass between them. Simple gestures –young hands carrying small treasures for elderly neighbors or weathered hands offering treats to eager boys — bridged the generational gap, pulling each closer. Something quietly slipped into place during these encounters; a sense of belonging and purpose emerged that wasn’t present before.

Now we’re on the lookout for potential opportunities in our new neighborhood, trying to be open to possibilities around us. Meanwhile we’re enjoying increased contact with our own extended family once again, knitting ourselves into deeper family grooves.
two generations' hands

We dabbled a bit recently by participating in a craft activity with a small group of seniors. Hands of different generations joined together in common purpose reflects such a beautiful collaboration, closing the gap of all the years in between.


“Live in harmony with one another…” Romans 12:16


A brief visit here or a quick craft there…you never know where you’ll discover a new “family member” to add to your nest.

Saying Yes

As parents, we set limits and boundaries for our children every day and throughout the day. Saying “no” can be tough on both sides. Redirecting and reframing takes more effort, especially on sticky summer days.purple flowersToday I said “yes” to boys asking for a donut stop in between morning activities. I observed how each of them made their unique choice of  glazed gooeyness. Amidst their boy chatter I heard about a high school teacher who likes maple bacon donuts. I learned that two of my sons pass this particular shop every day on their way to school, casting a yearning peek out the schoolbus window yet never mentioning it. As crumbs fell during a flurry of eating, they also dropped little tidbits of experiences they’ve had at their new schools this past year. They showed me a new videogame as they teased each other about milk mustaches and amateur frisbee skills. I soaked up these bonus glimpses into boyworld as they gobbled up their donuts.donuts

Later in the day I got to say “yes” to a request for a movie night. I wasn’t thrilled about the specific movie, so I dabbled in new territory…the kids going to their movie while my hubby and I went to another. [Win-win, people. If you still have preschoolers, hang on. Your time will come!] Since our movie finished early, we slipped into their show to catch its flavor. I watched the boys’ faces as they reacted to the movie, their expressions more animated than the movie itself. Slumped down in their seats and leaning in toward each other unaware, they were mesmerized by the colorful characters on the big screen while we were captivated by their shared brotherhood.

twinkle lightsMy last “yes” of the day was to rootbeer floats when we got home from the movie. I propelled my tired momself out on the dark patio and sat with them under the twinkly lights, listening to their happy slurping. A contented sigh escaped from my blue-eyed boy as he cradled his sticky cup, savoring the last drop of this hot summer day.

All these little moments crept into my heart, softening the grumpy interactions about delayed chores earlier in the day and pushing the agenda of tomorrow a little further out of mind, all because I took the chance to say “yes.”
sun peeking through tree

What can YOUR “yes” be tomorrow?


“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” –Ecclesiastes 11:8