Category Archives: Gatherings

Family Fusion

Traditions sometimes sneak up on you. A thrown-together event one year can evoke strong reactions that develop into expectations for a repeat the following year.
That’s how our annual Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza emerged…Easter eggs

Someone asked me last week “when are we getting together to dye Easter eggs?” 

Oops! I hadn’t cracked out of our spring break recovery mode yet.

I quickly sent out some FB invites for  our “2nd annual” Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza and later realized it was actually our 3rd. April Fools!

(How can it already be our 3rd one?)

Each year it’s been a different mix of family and friends. Everyone wanders around loosely from one activity to another. dyeing Easter eggs
Egg-dyeing was interspersed with kids taking turns climbing up the rope as adults cheered them on.

We paused our egg decorating when the fire reached its prime for roasting hot dogs. The crowd meandered toward the food…

Dinner was interrupted when large raindrops beckoned the abrupt beginning of the Easter egg hunt as kids scrambled for buckets and I corralled the dog so she wouldn’t steal our hot dogs.

Cousins did a version of “hot and cold” egg hunting at the Turquoise Table

The ebb and flow of a family gathering takes on a life of its own.

Cool Whip egg-dyeing

March Madness lured some to stay inside and chat over the games.

Egg dyeing experiments continued outside. Have you tried it with Cool Whip? Messy Fun!

Pockets of conversation occurred in passing as people came and went.

Local family fused with family visiting from out of town.

Family lines blurred as a grandma from one side of the family connected with a granddaughter from another side, 

roasting smoresMemories of loved ones were discussed as we lingered in front of the fire, acknowledging those that weren’t with us this year but would have added their own personal spark to the occasion.

s'mores

 

 

As I watched this eclectic mix of family gather around to do their own special version of s’mores, I observed the  sweet fusion of family blending into their own unique flavor, too.

Simple hospitality…charred hot dogs, sticky marshmallows, plastic eggs strewn about the yard, and the love of Christ ebbing through our various interactions.

That’s how simple moments become shared traditions, intended or not!


“We love because HE first loved us.” I John 4:9


egg hunt dash

Have A Favorite Things Party!!!

Happy Valentines Day!!!

I hope you’re eating dark chocolate and have a view of flowers today! And I hope you have opportunity to hug loved ones in your life and shower smiles wherever you are. Love is contagious.

But if your glum for some reason, then I have a great idea for you!! (Even if you’re not glum at all, this is a good idea!)

Plan a Favorite Things Party!

This is such a fun girl party to put together. It’s not complicated, and it’s really sweet to grab a friend and collaborate on the cuteness! I have hosted three so far… my dear friend, Shelley, has teamed up with me twice and we combined our friends list,  and my cousin Kate and I put one together for all the women in our family.

Okay, so the guest list can be any size of your choosing. You asked each guest to bring 5 of something that they love and use a lot! Put a cap on the price tag: we have told friends to spend no more than $30 total. It can be less if their favorite thing is cheaper. The idea is to share with each other the little things that we each love and use frequently. 

The part that makes this party so easy peasy is that you also ask each guest to bring either one of their fave appetizers OR desserts!! The hosts provide a salad to balance it all out, plus drinks! Not much kitchen involvement but all the benefits of yummy treats! It really is financially easy to host a Favorite Things Party, and your guests will come and go with 5 new Favorite Things at the end of the evening! Win-Win!!

When your guests arrive, have them write their name 5 times on slips of paper for the drawing. Then ask them to place their Favorite Things in a brown bag until the “reveal”.   It was fun to prep brown grocery bags with a cute saying on the front of each. Just staple a cute  paper to it.  (This doubles as their take-home bag for all the loot they will end up with!)

As the anticipation builds and the meal is winding down…a fun icebreaker intro into the “reveal” is to play a quick round of “favorite things”questions. The guests all receive a small tablet and pen to write with, and the hostess asks the questions: Fave color, fave  season, fave  hobby, fave superpower to have …  Everyone receives a piece of chocolate as we answer them together. 

The moment all have been waiting for has come! Each gal picks 5 names out of the bowl; making sure she doesn’t have her own or duplicates. One at a time, each guest will stand and share what her favorite thing is that she brought. A quick descriptive and where you can buy it and why she loves it so. The 5 names she drew are the proud recipients of the item. After all have had their turn, then trades are totally open depending on the friendliness of the crowd! 

Shelley put together an awesome playlist for our party by using the song, “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things” and finding it in every possible genre of music you can imagine! It played as our background ambience. 

Kate and I put ribbons around all different shades of pink nail polish and set them on a silver platter for guests to pick from as a parting gift. 

Women brought everything from lotions and hand towels, to cozy socks and bath salts, to car fresheners and hot cocoa sets…oh the possibilities! 

 

Oh Happy Sweet Day To You!!!

 

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

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!