Tag Archives: memory makers

Simple & Sweet

How’s your holiday wind-up going? OR, are you more of a holiday wind-down person?

poinsettiaSome days it feels as if we’re productive little elves tackling our lists and everything is falling into place.

Other days we’re sluggish and want to binge-watch all the familiar holiday shows with predictable endings.

It’s dizzying to be cast us into these extremes, yet it’s probably familiar territory to most of us.

Family Christmas card albumYesterday as I was shifting from a morning full of appointments to an afternoon at home facing a lengthy to-do list, I caught myself pausing to browse our family album of Christmas photo cards.

I smiled as I remembered the angst of assembling  outfits for professional photos at my son’s preschool. I  reflected on the fun trips that wedged their way into the Christmas card highlight for the many years we didn’t do portraits.

Snapshots in time…18 years of family life flipped through in a few quick minutes.

Christmas card Blessing Ring

None of our own Christmas cards have been addressed yet this year, but we’re enjoying the trickle of cards arriving from family and friends. As we read each one, we hole-punch it and add it to our Holiday Blessing Ring.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a trick to manage the influx of holiday cards, and it’s become a tradition of sorts. We keep a small collection of cards from previous years in a cheery red box. As the current year’s batch of cards goes in, a previous year goes out. (I think we’re saying farewell to our 2011 bunch this year.) It’s an intentional way to honor the sentiment yet manage the clutter. 

Simple activities strung together year after year build some family cohesiveness during the busy season.

Our advent countdown certainly has varied throughout the years as the boys have gotten older. We keep using the same scraps of folded paper that we did a decade ago, notes scrawled quickly then yet  holding treasured memories now.

The unique clanky notes of a musical snow globe call us together…another “tradition” that just sort of happened, but has become a sweet way to remember the grandmother who gave it to us years ago.Advent box This year another grandma is living with us and is part of our cobbled-together advent time.

When we engage in silly games we played with the boys when they were little, we’re drawn closer to one another through those collective memories etched into our hearts.Christmas bingo

The other night’s advent box prompt was “find Christmas bingo and play it.” We joked about the age of the macaroni we continue to use as bingo markers, a throwback to elementary art projects.

Some evenings we double up for previous nights we’ve missed. We share memories of past Christmas shenanigans: the Christmas Eve when our oven shorted out and shot sparks across the kitchen, torching our special dinner inside as it went out in a blaze of glory ...last year’s Christmas tree falling over and crushing ornaments in its wake …the year 9 out of 10 family members got the stomach flu. Each memory is strengthened as it’s shared again with a slightly enhanced perspective.childhood Christmas books

Simply reading a childhood Christmas book together slows us down and lures us into family snuggle time.

Some of the books are traditional, a couple are written by childhood friends, and others reflect the quirky sense of humor of our extended family.a child's letter to Santa

Occasionally we’ll find a sweet surprise tucked into one of the books.

Recently we discovered our son’s 2007 letter to Santa. This simple wide-lined page of his careful 1st-grade handwriting sparked a host of memories and launched a discussion about other wish-filled magical letters.

As Decembers pile up on one another, we’re often left with a beautifully  compressed memory of home and family. When the hustle feels like it’s too much, I turn to these small reminders of treasured ordinary moments that are Simple and Sweet.

handmade snowflake


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17


Our Colorful Home

A Rainbow of colors is always what my heart has adored. When I was a little girl I spent many hours coloring and creating with the whole box of crayons. I’m looking at the color spectrum today through the lens of the home…here is what I saw.  (I hope you try this exercise in your own home; you can’t help but smile!

Let’s start with RED! It’s my very favorite, and always has been! I carry or wear something RED every day if I can.  My little RED pirate is a bit older now, but this is intuitive of his lively spirit! This other small sleeper reminds me that his RED winter blanket is out year round because he loves it so.

A garden is a dear piece of my heart reminding me of my grandparents and then my mom always digging in the soil. RED tomatoes grown by my own kids also reminds me of tasty summer dinners!

And when finishing an ocean adventure one summer, these treasures with the RED heart leaf were handed to me by a son to “keep safe” while he ran back into the calling waves.

ORANGE is another favorite of mine! The warmth that comes from this color, along with the liveliness it evokes, makes my heart happy. These ORANGE pumpkins are a snapshot I take every Fall after the boys have picked their carving pumpkins and thrown them all together in a wagon; I always love to see the collection! All the shades of ORANGE from bright to burnt are so beautiful mixed together. One of our family’s favorite Fall activities is nature walks and collecting colorful leaves to press. (It’s such a feast for the eyes.)

Oh! The orneriness that comes out of the color YELLOW!! It makes one feel bold and giggly! I walked in one evening after dinner was over and found this cutie playing on the counter in his footy jammies! We just exchanged smiles and kept going.  

There was a season when all our babies were small and self-preservation kicked in for us; this inflatable YELLOW bounce house was one of the best purchases ever!! It stayed up in our living room for 4 months!

And after a Cinqo de Mayo many moons ago, we instituted the GREEN cactus chip and dip as the only acceptable thing to accompany salsa in the month of May! We crack ourselves up every time we set this up! There’s no need to ever deflate it.

There is no doubt in any of our minds who the firecracker is in our family. This little squirt is a bundle of energy always; and these GREEN pjs were paired with Santa hats, elf ears, gingerbread handbands…you name it, he danced with it on top of his head!

BLUE is an important color in all my boys lives. Many afternoons have been spent on a playground since children became a part of my heart. Their eyes always look up into the BLUE sky at some point of play and share what they see in the clouds…I love the imagination that comes from  BLUE!

PURPLE  is not a color that appears regularly in our home; no particular reason. It does show up in accents though. There are a few snippets that highlight other colors from time-to-time.

And as we come full circle from the rainbow, it’s very clear to my eye that any combo of these colors is what makes our seasons come to life! Take a look at the colors in your home and enjoy the memories that they help you make with one another. It’s a really fun exercise.

Wishing you a very COLORFUL Season!

The Tale of a Table

My Table was a housewarming gift from my sis-in-law when my family moved a year ago. My Table was painted by all the boys in my life. My Table was intended for the front yard…but My Table filled with life in my backyard. This is a 1 year glance with My Table:

Prep and Painting took several days in short bursts,  but was done by both our families so that we would each have a Table. Turquoise was our color; modeled after the great Kristin Schell, who has a beautiful following with her #theturquoisetable phenomena. We both love all that she is doing with community across our country. 

My heart knew that this Table needed to be in our backyard. We had moved based on the hunger my family had to have a backyard to play in, dream in, run and be still in. The previous 2 years we had hardly set foot in our yard because it was a large hill with mud slides. This new yard, this new table…it beckoned us to come outside.

One day I snuck outside and set up snacks on the Table while boys were playing. It wasn’t even 5 minutes before the table was covered in hungry boys and conversations.

I looked outside one morning and found my 9-year-old sitting at the Table whittling a stick. This was carried over from time spent with PawPaw.

We hosted our first pumpkin carving in the new house and set it all around the Table.

Even snowflakes enticed us out as the boys had fun “drawing” in them on the Table.

When Spring burst forth, we gathered all the chickadees and had egg hunts around the Table.

And with warm weather, came opportunities to invite friends and family over and do life outside. Coloring sessions, card games, checkers and eating took place regularly on the table. Kids lingered until dusk and generations linked in games at the Table.


On several occasions throughout the Summer there have been strategy meetings at the Table. Neighbor friends hashing out plans for attack in the latest battle in boys’ imaginations.

Our family raises turtles, and when we received a baby one from cousins, it happened to be at the Table.

My mom had a miraculous recovery from a horrendous incident this year, and this picture of her with my youngest son at the Table  is more beautiful to my eyes than I can express.

3 generations of men in our family sit at the Tables during a Father’s Day brunch. (We pulled both families tables together for one long sitting for all)

Many Bible Quilt sessions have seen the Tables with friends, family, neighbors and guests. The table gave way for opening up our hearts to others and sharing our sacred space.

As all the seasons come full circle, quiet retreats call my boys to the Table one-by-one. 

The last of Summer bubbles were danced through the yard while the Table held the treasured content.

This Table of mine is quite special. We celebrate a year with it, and our lives are richer for it. What a heartfelt gift given to me; what a priceless piece to store up memories on. I can hardly wait to take it for a spin this second year! I can see the Autumn leaves falling on it now!

Enjoy your spaces. Soak up your family. Invite your friends. Share it with guests. Rest and refresh at your Tables.

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

What Do You Do When A Unicorn Arrives In The Pool?

As a certified “Boymom”, I have expertise in many things: preparing large quantities of food, all the top jokes on belching and farting, the technique of spitting and all the ways Nerf darts can get wedged in things.

I have lost touch with “cute and dainty” and colors like pink and purple faded out of my color palette long ago. Boymom’s know about Nerf Guns, Lego’s, Cars and games like Battleship, Risk, Monopoly, (with LOTS of Uno in-between). So when I had an opportunity to host a pool party for my cousin’s two girls, I of course said, “YES!” The theme was Unicorns, the colors were pink and turquoise…sounds simple, but then I remembered I live in a world of camo colors!!

So we put a Unicorn Float in the pool and I hunted, (to no avail), for pink decor in my home; why I don’t know, just ever hopeful. I imagine that girls would probably “float” on a Unicorn Float.  Boys “ride” a Unicorn Float. And by “ride”, I definitely mean “grab it by its rainbow wings and yell”. So hence, this is how our first Unicorn Float lost its “float”, all before the girl’s themed party.

My sons, ever resourceful, spent two hours and half a roll of duct tape trying to find the leak. The bigger problem arose when they realized it was not just a one leak issue.

Let it be noted that when you leap with wild abandon onto a Unicorn Float all afternoon and scream at the top of your lungs,”giddy-up go, go, go!”, this is the end result.

By the time I saw all the tape around the Unicorns wing and neck, I said “enough”. This meant I had to get another Unicorn. And this is how the original float became just a Unicorn Head. The boys salvaged the head that had its own air supply. My first thought was, “well, alrighty we have the makings of a Halloween costume”, but my boys first thought was not even on the same level. I did not discover their grand plan until the night before the girl’s party…

Once we had another Unicorn Float in our possession that we deemed “Unicorn Island” because of its massive dominance over the pool, it was well-known to the boys that it was off-limits! They were told to not even walk near it. It must stay intact for the party.

The day of the party arrived and as I walked outside to survey our Unicorn,  I gasped as I looked up in the tree fort and saw the Unicorn Head tied on a rope hanging off the decking! The boys thought this was hilarious; I imagined the horror that girls would have on sight. And so another difference in boys and girls!!

The Unicorn Party was a huge success in the end, and I must say the memories made in the process are priceless to me. I love the vast differences in boys and girls; and I now have a fun connection with Unicorns! (Ours is going to be spoiled, I can see it now…)

Happy Summering!

Squished In: Family Vacations for the Long Haul

Who remembers those long summer road trips when you were a kid, squished in beside your siblings and marking out your territory with imaginary lines? What memories are sharpest for you? What senses were most heightened?

flower marketWe rattled around in the backseat without seatbelts (gasp!) & looked forward to an ice cold Orange Crush from a pop machine at a gas station somewhere along the way. We often had to stop to clarify directions to supplement our well-worn, wrinkled state map that never seemed to fold back into its original shape. If we missed a turn, we could drive for miles completely unaware of our error because we didn’t have a computerized voice perkily “re-calculating” for us.

Recently, we logged hundreds of miles on a family vacation.  At the end of a busy day of touristing, we squished in tight into our hotel room each evening. Our boys had their nightly discussion re: who was sharing the foldout couch and who was bunking on the floor.

family selfie

Somewhere in the midst of traveling, we are reminded about our nucleus as a family. We make frequent eye contact as we’re plotting our course for the day. We track one another through noisy crowds. We squish in closely together in various modes of public transportation. During all these bumps and nudges, we’re reminded of our belongingness in this rugged little family of ours.

brothersWe amuse ourselves waiting in lines by messing with each other, cracking jokes that don’t make any sense to those around us.

We smooth out each other’s rough edges and finish each other’s sentences.

Although we’re out exploring new territory and mingling among strangers, we’re drawn back to one another to circle up for the next transition.

We move on together as a pack.

My husband and I are not big fans of selfies…and certainly don’t have “the knack” for taking them, especially if we’re trying to capture some scenic background, too. Something happens, though, when we huddle in together, squishing in to fit all of our faces into that little square. We claim each other. fam picWe recognize ourselves in each other’s expressions and features.

We identify as a unit, a lifelong team. famWe validate our sense of belonging to one another. We catch a glimpse of who we are together in this snap of time. This is Family.

In this moment, this is Us. familyWe reconnect in ways on trips that we don’t in our everyday routine. We aren’t distracted by our daily chores and pressing schedules. We focus in on one another.

coffee in the parkAs parents trailing along behind our children, we see with fresh eyes the ways they have grown since our last vacation. We observe how they assert themselves in new situations.

Independence lurks at this one’s fingertips and we feel a click of confirmation that he is ready to launch. I’m reminded that we have to hold him loosely, allowing him to stretch forward toward his new adventures.

treeSummer vacations are full of potential and opportunity. It’s a time to explore and be curious, lingering over new discoveries.

We can be carefree and silly with one another as we share new experiences. frisbee fun

We play frisbee in different parks and walk miles on unfamiliar streets, soaking in the sights and sounds.

We cultivate as many family memories as we can into these precious summer moments, unifying together for the long haul of our family story. . . SQUISHING IN for all we’re worth!



“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1