Category Archives: Memory Makers

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!

The Leaves Are Turning Into Turkeys!

Oh good gravy!! I just love everything about the Fall season. Even when I was young, I have always been captivated by the trees changing colors. And I have forever been picking up fallen leaves and pressing them for projects. Even in college I was home on break and scavenging for these treasures with aspirations of creating wonderful things with them.

And I did! My sweet family members were the recipients of many leaf-pressed bookmarks and animals created with leaves. The whole process was enjoyable to me. Now that I have children, it has been passed down to them too. I asked them to make me some turkeys with leaves, and look what cuteness I got!!   

As you go through this season, and are looking up into the trees with all their glory, make sure to take time to look down too.  A friend dear to my heart once said that if you slow down and really look, you will see that even God’s “litter” is so beautiful. 

When I pause to take a closer look at things in nature, it brings my focus back to God; a really great place to be!

Slow down with me, and enjoy all there is to see!


  

As our society begins its annual press-in of stress during our holidays, stay connected to the wonder and awe that is found everywhere, even in God’s “scraps”

Inside Out

With the shift of seasons comes the inevitable wrestling with our fall wardrobes: what fits? what doesn’t? We cull out items that have lost their elastic or faded. We try  to figure out if our favorite sweater is a “classic” or just plain old and out-of-date. Anybody else feel like they need to “phone a friend” just to get a more objective view of their clothing mess?

hanging clothesCleaning out closets is not for the faint of heart. It  requires firm decision-making and perseverance. Although we always feel better once we’ve conquered it, the process can be painful.

Each new season reminds us that we’ve changed. Sometimes our physical alteration is readily apparent while other times it’s subtle.

– – – From season to season, we shift.  We settle. – – –

Many times we make it too hard. Our closets are filled with too many choices. We’re overwhelmed by all the micro-decisions we have to make about what goes together or we struggle to predict what’s the “right” dress code for a certain event.

What if we put just as much effort on our inner beauty, dressing from the INSIDE OUT? 

strength & dignityWe’ve probably all heard reference to the Proverbs 31 woman, an ideal multi-tasker and graciously competent in so  many ways. She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

In the aftermath of my closet cleanout, I did a little more digging in the Word to pull out some inspiration for this Fall season:

“clothe yourself with humility.” I Peter 1:5

clothe yourself with humility

To me, this is simply keeping it real.

…being genuine in our daily interactions, ponytail and all.

“clothe yourself with strength”  Isaiah 52:1

working out with Katie

Whatever workouts we’re doing to keep ourselves in healthy physical shape spills over into our emotional and spiritual health, too. Just as we strengthen our core by doing certain ab exercises, we strengthen our inner core through prayer and scripture reading, getting stronger with more and more reps.

“clothe yourself with compassion” Colossians 3:12

favorite jeansI love this one because it is for ALL seasons and looks good on everyone!

Compassion pairs nicely with everything and is suitable for all occasions. It can become as comfy as your favorite pair of jeans.

“clothe yourself with splendor” Psalm 45:3

Wedding dress - 25th anniv

Ok, so I played around a bit in my wedding dress this summer when one of my bridesmaids was in town.

In honor of our 25th anniversary, I thought it was time to pull my wedding gown out of the box and see if it still fit.

The memories rolled out amidst all the satin and beading….whoosh!

Slipping into this 25-year-old dress made me feel special even though I was still in my closet with ordinary,  low-key makeup and messy out-of-the-pool hair.

I wonder if this is how God views us – IN SPLENDOR – while we tend to focus on our faults?  Imagine if we could feel that splendor bubbling up from within us each day as we leave the house?
splendor

 

This last one is my favorite:

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus.”  Romans 13:14

No accessories needed. Just Jesus…from the INSIDE OUT.
Bible Quilt™ page: Clothe yourself with strength & dignity
Bible Quilt™ page – Clothe yourself with strength & dignity
Be bold as you walk into your day, friends, showing the sweet confidence you have in Christ.

 

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

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