Category Archives: Memory Makers

accidental turtle farmers

Recently  I uncovered a copy of the Sycamore,* a neighborhood newsletter (vol. 1, issue 1) dated June 10, 2011. This was the first of only two limited editions of this beloved paper because the young amateur publishers – ages 10, 8, & 5 – quickly moved on to other things that summer.boys' newsletter

As I reviewed this childhood treasure, I was reminded of the importance of sharing our kids’ passions, whatever they may be. Each of my boys had a designated role in publishing this 2-page newsletter and took their responsibilities very seriously. Among their memory stash was a thank-you email, a handwritten note and, surprisingly, still tucked between a reporter’s interview notes was a fresh $1 bill “to help with expenses.” Our young boys were eager to try something new and this tired/busy momma was likely pretty motivated to keep them busy during those long summer days! The bonus was our neighbors embracing the boys’ ambitious efforts, and the unity feeling stronger around our little cul-de-sac.

Within that original newsletter was my son’s story about how our family became accidental “turtle farmers.” (We never could quite agree on what term we should use for ourselves, but this one stuck.)

Our turtles are awakening now from their winter slumber and sleepily searching out food scraps like voracious teenagers. With their shells encrusted with dirt and bits of crunchy leaves, their eyes blink slowly in the bright spring sun.

Every March when they come out of hibernation, I’m impressed that they’ve survived the winter in self-made shallow dugouts and equally amazed that our family is still “hosting” them 7 years later.

3 amigosSo… here’s our story about becoming accidental turtle farmers according to our 8-year-old son:

Our Turtles: A Quick History

Our family found Zippy, Zee, and Rocky on an empty gravel road surrounded by forest in Missouri. The turtles got their names from what they did while they were trying to get away.

Zippy was so named because he was zippy in getting off the road. Zee was named Zee because we found him on Highway Z. Running headfirst into a rock was how Rocky got his name.

On the way home, we went to Texas to visit our aunt. Now the turtles had been to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri; where we found them. When we came back to Kansas, the turtles were living in a large tub, instead of a tackle box and two boxes. Also on the way back, our turtles were in the Bixby, Oklahoma Turtle races (they didn’t win).

We have had the turtles for about a year. After we had built a nice pen for the turtles, Zippy got away (and we never found him). We got another turtle with almost identical markings at the Harvey County State Fair Turtle Races. We named him Zippy Jr.

The turtles are still living in their area and not one of them have gotten out since, even after hibernation and a year in the same nice big pen (a turtles paradise!!!).

Turtles Favorite Foods: Bread,  Strawberries,  Blueberries,  Snails,  Ham,  Apples,  Mangoes,  Broccoli Stems, Worms

baby turtles
Turtle hatchlings

Ironically, we now live only a few miles from where our turtles competed in their first Turtle Race.  Our turtles have had babies that have grown into sturdy “adolescent” turtles. A few years ago on St. Patrick’s Day we were fortunate to discover them during their hatching process, witnessing these delicate miniature turtles crack through their shells and emerge into the world. A lucky day, indeed!

When we moved to another state, the turtle contingent came with us. They got a new habitat and change of scenery out of the deal.turtle parade

My hubby and I never had big dreams of growing up to be turtle farmers some day, but here we are. Our boys have observed the life cycle of one of God’s “lowly” creatures and have learned some responsibility along the way. We have enjoyed watching the process unfold.

As pets go, turtles are extremely quiet and low maintenance. We even get a caretaking break during the winter. 😊

turtle inspectionLast year a wandering turtle actually crawled through our fence and joined our little turtle family, so I guess we’re officially kid-tested and turtle-approved!

turtle artworkThese little turtles have interwoven themselves into the fabric of our family. They have been featured in our children’s artwork and have served as a great ice-breaker at backyard parties because of their novelty. Smiles appear as our visitors connect with their own memories of encountering turtles in unlikely places.

turtle at 4th of July swim partyTurtle farming and boys…all in all a pretty good combination.

And to think this began simply by me stopping the car on a gravel road and letting one of the boys rescue a box turtle from getting run over. We had no idea how that one small gesture would blossom into a long-term family adventure.

UPDATE JUNE 2017: Check out this time-lapse video of Mama Turtle burying her eggs! 

little guyFollowing a child’s passion can lead to a wonderfully unexpected family storyline.

 — What might your family adventure be?

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?

 

 

 

Bible Quilt™

Every day is a giftI have dabbled with different daily quiet time “routines” throughout the years.  As with most things, my success ebbs and flows in different seasons of my life.

Last January I felt like I needed something that would capture my “New Year” motivation yet also survive my typical summer slump and then build steadily through the Fall so that I could enter the busy holidays with a lighter spirit. Lofty resolution? Perhaps. A girl can dream. That’s what “fresh starts” are all about, right?Quietness

One of the ways I’ve navigated my personal Quiet Time this year is by journaling in my Bible Quilt.™ It is a simple concept, yet one that has blessed my time in God’s Word, prolonging my Quietness a little longer. I’d like to share this idea with you because we can all use a bit more quiet in our noisy-busy lives.

As I read devotionals, listen to podcasts, or take notes in church, certain Bible verses resonate with me.  I tend to jot them down on random slips of paper in my car, the back of receipts,  church bulletins, or scribble them on post-its and put them on my mirror. I’ve got favorite verses on plaques and rocks throughout my house.

Refuge rockAfter a while these tidbits of Godly wisdom felt scattered.

In the midst of decluttering after the holidays, I had an urge to collect all of these verses into a single place and categorize them in a way that was meaningful to me. I did a little scavenger hunt to gather them. As I glanced through my collection, I began to see themes emerging.

(lightbulb moment 💡💡)
Bible Quilt journalI searched our craft supplies and found a gently-used blank journal that one of my sons had abandoned. I used some decorative duct tape to cover up the blemishes on the front.  I divided my journal into sections, adding colorful tabs to use as topic dividers.

Some of my categories included:Tab dividers in Bible Quilt

Fruits of the Spirit

Grace, Truth, Light

Quiet & Still

Blessings, Praise

I also created sections for my regular prayer requests:Bible Quilt divider tabs

Health

Parenting

Each of my children

Family members

Marriage (plus individual tabs for my husband and me)

Next I began entering  verses in the sections that were meaningful to me. I  simply wrote down the verses, drew an outline box around them and doodled a fringe box around each one with hash marks.

Family page in Bible QuiltSometimes I experimented with lettering styles or doodling. On a few pages I’ve included a picture. I discovered that washi tape covers up mistakes/scribbles while adding a pop of color. You can personalize your journal as much as you want with whatever supplies you have on hand.

Bible verse quiltAs I added more verse boxes with a variety of colorful pens and shaded the background with colored pencils, the combination began to resemble a patchwork quilt– different shapes and colors weaving together into a beautiful pattern resembling a quilt.

Bible Quilt - prayer

I liked this image of a quilt – made by hand, stitching verses together in a meaningful way which transformed my collection of paper scraps into something purposeful.

Love page in Bible Quilt

Sometimes I stand my journal upright on my counter as a reminder of what verses God is stitching into my heart that week or as an added layer for the current season (ex: Love for month of Feb)



A Bible Quilt™ can be used to cover ourselves in focused prayer– layering words of truth in our hearts –and quieting our spirits as we start our frenzied days.



My Bible Quilt™ become an ongoing project that keeps me motivated to pursue my devotions. (psst…it’s October AND I’m still going = it works!) I’ve discovered I’m reading my devotional or Bible more actively as I consider what verses to highlight in my Bible Quilt.™ I hope this Bible Quilt™ blesses you as much as it has me. It’s never too late to get started…think of it as getting a headstart before the rush of the holidays! 🌲

**Want more ideas for incorporating more Quiet into your daily rhythms? Come visit our Pinterest board: Chasing Quiet (di_mills) or join our Facebook Group: Ordinary Threads

Update:  Bible Quilt™ kits are now available in our etsy shop, aFrayedKnotStudio. Come browse for yourself or as a gift for someone the Lord places on your heart.

only girl

Recently we had some friends over for an impromptu pizza dinner after soccer games were finished for the day. Our combo of kids resulted in an 8 boys:1 girl ratio. The solo girl told her mother on the way home, “the mom is the only girl in their house.” Oh, so very true! During her visit I enjoyed digging out some “girl stuff” from my play therapy toy stash. I invited her to play with my collection of Lego Friends I’ve received from my boys during their Legos-for-every-occasion phase that lasted persistently for years. I listened to her little girl chatter, noting the lack of crash-bang-argh sound effects that typically accompany boy play at our house. I watched as she fidgeted with her long, tousled hair as she told me stories with vibrant animation. She was enamored with our baby turtle, Pipsqueak. She had so many words and was so willing to share.Salsa

Just as our young visitor had the realization that I was the only girl in my house, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve become accustomed to how my sons dole out their words at a slowly measured rate as if they need to conserve their syllables to last the remainder of the day. I’ve noticed how they interact playfully with me and show affection in boyish ways that don’t require stringing all those nouns and verbs together. Much of their communication is through touch and sound.

I’ve got one boy who is my Leaner. As he’s grown taller than me, he’s developed a lean-in stance when he drapes over me for a hug. He stands very still but is so fully present that it seeps into my heart like a soft rain soaks deeply into the ground. Often he will hum softly as his breathing slows and I feel the man-child weight of him pressing onto my shoulders. He releases with a big sigh and we’re both a little more centered somehow.

morning hugAnother son has developed his technique of the hold-and-squeeze. He comes in for a “typical” hug then holds me tight, waiting for an off-beat amount of precious seconds to do a double-squeeze that sometimes takes my breath away. Occasionally I’ll get a few mini-squeezes in before he loosens his hold on me. I can sense the melody of his mood in how he prolongs the hug or stays only for a brief skirmish. Sometimes we’ll finalize with a rhythmic tap-tap of our fingers, drumming onto each other’s backs without saying a word–yet also saying so much. This seems like a foreshadowing of the letting-go process we face when he leaves for college in a heartbeat.

contented boy

My last one I can still tuck under my chin when he dives all-in, often leading with his head and wrapping around me with all of his limbs. I often wonder how many limbs he has because they are EVERYwhere! A lot of swaying and giggles accompany this hugfest, especially if he gets a firm headrub or backscratch out of the deal. He lingers longer if a variety of wiggly movement is sustained in this light-hearted encounter, reminding me that his primary Love Language is Physical Touch. Squirmy love is his forte; I have adapted my reflexes accordingly.

mandevilla bloomSo, yes, I am the only girl in this house, but I’ve learned to communicate “boyspeak” as I’ve grown along with them. They can out-talk me about sports, outrun me in 5k races, and definitely out-eat me at any given meal…yet they can’t outgrow the mommy-son bonds weaved ever so tightly during all these leaning, squeezing, squirmy moments.


“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord… His reward.” Psalm 127:3


“Mother’s day” has passed yet each of us mommas can harvest these little snatches of our child’s affection however they may come. It may be braiding your daughter’s hair for the umpteenth time or gritting your teeth through those first driving lessons. A wink, a nudge, a crayon drawing, a morning grunt or an after-school story…cherish these tokens of your child’s unique interaction with you. We’ve got 50 weeks until the next round of “direct” appreciation the card-makers will remind everyone about. In the meantime, soak up the ordinary love today, my friends.