Category Archives: Family Ties

My Warriors With Pool Noodles

 

A Back-pack, a Bull Whip, A Pool Noodle and a Sword is what I saw traveling down the street along with my boys each holding their “weapon” of choice… my Motley Crew has found contentment in a neighborhood strewn with boys to have outdoor adventures with.

Being a girl, my” outdoor adventures” at that age, consisted of laying on a blanket under a weeping willow tree and drawing and dreaming while sipping on lemonade; maybe a cart-wheel or two. However, with boys, I can assure you there are no parallels to be seen!

I love my current view and am soaking it up for the memory banks. I hear warrior cries, I see charging “knights”, I watch “battles and duels” unfold in the yard. I have lost many things in the kitchen for the cause of bartering and trading at their various posts that resemble an odd little village across the back yard.

It is a sweet spot for a boy to be carefree and able to let his imagination soar. And a band of brothers is that much richer for the opportunity to absorb all boyhood. I feel like a spectator, getting rare glimpses into this foreign territory to a girl. I recognize that I am only privy to it because I am “Mom”.  I have watched a few neighbor girls approach our lawn timidly, taking in the sights and then retreating home; can’t say I blame them, it is a lot to take in when boys are in adventure mode.

When Summer comes, I will have to buy new pool noodles because I have watched them slowly be grabbed one at a time and transformed into dueling sticks. We have no more duct-tape in the house because that is “boy glue” for everything! And with  Pinterest, they have figured out how to braid duct-tape and create bull-whips…

They have decided it is manly to down hot cocoa packets( dry!)  while they are in survival mode and traveling from camp to camp in the yard. Our printer is out of color toner but there are these amazing tribal flags waving on large sticks at the top of the tree fort. And the backdoor has a loud creak to it now because it has become a revolving door as they run in for bandanas, snacks, drinks, scissors(?!!), and such oddities. I had to ask them to return the PVC pipes from the garage that are actually part of the pool equipment!!

They are now saving allowance for PVC pipes…

This is a rich season for them in childhood, and also for me in parenthood. With them gaining more independence daily, I will still grab my laptop or project or book and sink in somewhere close where I can take in the sights of this wonderful childhood unfolding. If you are in this stretch of life too, you can relate. If this chunk of time has passed in your life, I would encourage you to journal your memories of it… there is so much that time will fade. But there are beautiful smiles in remembering;  and the details are the gems in your story.

The JOY of the Lord is your Strength!  Nehemiah 8:10

Shine on

Sometimes our days unfold in unexpected ways and we wander aimlessly around, trying to get our bearings.

Today my youngest stayed home with the crud. Again. Those pesky symptoms have lingered long  and we’re both tired of this nagging crud that we’re both battling. We’re both off-kilter and perhaps a little cranky.

Like a determined cold front moving in, this ominous cloud of sickness hovered over us and threatened to dampen our spirits. When my “mommy mind” finally acquiesed to the imposing reality, we succumbed to a slower pace for the day.

The grocery list sat on the counter.

Emails built up on my laptop.

Texts chimed on my phone.

We tuned out and continued with our mindless meanderings. One of us embraced the day with his robe gallantly flowing behind him and sporting his bedhead with pride. One of us got restless, seeking to uncover a little productivity amidst all the nurturing efforts. It was so hard to surrender to the imposed slowdown.

My son won the “Lounging Around” award with ease. He did it with gusto (well, after the meds kicked in) and fully hunkered down into a day of recovery rest. It was a reprieve from his usual expectations. He seemed to enjoy plopping down on the couch with minimal purpose, absorbing some quiet activities despite the constant companion of a kleenex box.

front moving inBy the end of the afternoon, his eyes showed more sparkle and his body posture transformed gradually from a drowsy sloth to a muted version of his typical spunky self. He was steadily regaining his energy level.

As he rebooted, I cratered. The lack of sleep from the night before (peppered by his coughs, snorts and some unmentionable things) finally downshifted me into neutral. Since he had improved, I was able to give myself permission to go offline. (This built-in Mom radar is a tricky one to power down.)

Taking notes from my son’s approach, I gave in to reading a novel I received at Christmas. Somewhere along the way I dozed off and later was awakened by my other boys returning home from school. Since I’m not a natural nap-taker, this caught them both by surprise…and was an acute reminder that they often don’t see me actually Rest.
We rallied through a simple dinner and I pushed through the evening’s activities – – which also unfolded in unexpected ways. (Adulting is hard and apparently nonstop…especially if your husband is away doing army work and you can’t tag team out.)"feel better soon" toast

Therein lies the crux of parenting. We ebb and flow with our kids’ needs, sometimes with cheerful encouragement and other times with begrudging grunts as we’re pulled away from our own agendas.

grilled cheese


These overcast days that are mired with grumpy challenges can provide grist for the mill.

Getting nudged off of our usual path can help provide a broader perspective.

Sometimes it takes a “shutdown” of a typical day to remind us about all the ways that we can shine a little brighter the next time a front of disappointment or illness rolls in.

It’s okay to give in  to the perks of a sick day — to take a respite from daily chores, to allow some nonessential responsibilities to slide, to nestle in beside your tousled child and indulge in some personal reading.
Wallow a bit together. 
Take a nap.
Savor the restorative power of grilled cheese …

When the clouds break and the sickness fades away, that sunshine will seem all the brighter and your own light will shine a little stronger because you’ve weathered the darkness together.

Shine on, friends…Shine pg in Bible Quilt®

 

 “Let your light shine.” Matthew 5:16

 

 

 

Waiting For The Fog To Lift

 

January always feels like a “do-over”  month to me.

New Years Resolutions run rampant and exercise plans loom everywhere! It can be a pressure-filled month to get things squared away. All the while, Christmas is being packed away and school times are resuming.  Just when our family had found a great rhythm of sleeping-in and perfecting how to chill… that alarm clock had to get involved again.
I tend to crave simplicity in January, too, as I clean up from the holidays. The impulse to organize and sort things begins stirring within me…(I’m trying to hold off till Spring!)
Ordinary Threads is about the many ways we layer a home, so I wanted to share a few of our January layers…  These help lift the fog that hovers over January,  while keeping the gems that linger from last month.
All the “togetherness” that happens during the holiday season spills into January for us. We grew accustomed to being with each other A LOT, and so we soak up the hush of winter with books and blankets intertwined on couches in coziness. I love love love this layer…this is how I get books read with my train of thought still intact. All of us in one space;  in quiet. hunkered down, (With 4 boys this is a big deal!)
For some reason, the whole family cooks together more this month too. I don’t have a reason for this, but I love it. Again, I think we just stay near to whatever activity is happening in the house. I’ll take the company and clean-up!!
We linger longer and laugh out loud more often. We snuggle and wrestle and give bear hugs at a whim; all that holiday love living on; Makes a Mom Heart so Happy. We aren’t feeling the tug of being outside yet that Spring will lure us to soon enough. Relishing the quiet and coziness all the while we can. The January layers are calm and reflective. They can seem foggy, but they are still rich in content if you let them be. Enjoy January!

 

He fashions our hearts individually; He considers all our works. Psalm 33:15

 

 

 

Lessons in the Mess of Life

In this brief lull of the Holiday Hustle, I’m catching my breath after a delightful Christmas before we gear up for another round of family gatherings coming up this weekend.

My heart is full, my house has been well used,  and my sweet tooth has been revved up on high. (Is it better just to get all the delectable goodies eaten up so they aren’t taunting me???)Christmas cookies

Our family pace has slowed a bit yet our rhythms are a little wonky due to clumsy shifting from  sluggish relaxation to the next flurry of holiday activity.
I savor our togetherness however it occurs. 
family walk in the snow
Holidays are often an eclectic mix of excited anticipation and a pinch of disappointment when things don’t go as expected, aren’t they? 
Christmas trees sometimes fall over and treasured ornaments go flying…fallen Christmas tree
Beloved coffee cakes may overflow and drip all over the oven, creating a burnt stench wafting through the house instead of filling it with the usual sweet aroma….coffee cake overflow
In these moments, frustration rises quickly and it’s so easy to feel defeated in our attempts to cultivate holiday traditions.
Moving past the initial grumbling, we tackle the messes and clean up the spills. (We are still the adults after all, right?)
coffee cake delivery
Christmas coffee cakes ready for delivery…
Sometimes we have to go back to the very beginning and try again to get the end result we’re hoping to achieve. We often learn something deeper about ourselves in this unwinding process.
Messes and mishaps remind us to keep things in perspective. Others are struggling with deeper trials and faced with tougher challenges.
None of us can do it on our own. We are small in the grand scheme of things.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,

the First and the Last,

the Beginning and the End.”

Revelation 22:12


I’m grateful we have a God that provides GRACE in all of our vulnerable mess. He is with us in our humble beginnings. He is with us in the messy middle. He is with us in the aftermath.
It’s comforting to feel His presence always available to us.  We just have to push through our distractions to realize He is the First and is the Last in all of it. 
Alpha and Omega page in Bible Quilt®
Alpha and Omega page in my Bible Quilt®
As this year draws to a close and we’re scurrying around to tie up loose ends, hopefully we’re carrying with us a little more wisdom from what we have learned about ourselves this past year. 
May we lean into the New Year with deeper insight, brighter hope, and more realistic expectations. 

– – – Here’s to a strong finish and a fresh start, friends! snow on pine tree

 

 

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!