Tag Archives: parenting

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!

 

 

Treats from Above

Hey Friends!

trick-or-treating candy haulHow did it go with your trick-or-treaters? There’s something magical about those eager faces showing up at your door once a year and gazing expectantly at you for a little treat, isn’t it? 

No matter what our age, receiving a “treat” makes us feel special and nudges out of our usual routine.

In a recent whirlwind of activities pushing me about in multiple directions, I’ve been trying to catch my breath to capture the “special” in these busy moments.

As adults, we typically refer to family milestones or significant events as “blessings” from the Lord because that sounds mature and “grown up.,” right?

I wonder if we’d recapture some of that childlike joy if we viewed these as “treats” instead?

I’ve been reflecting on some of the “treats” I’ve received recently in unexpected ways, unwrapping them slowly to savor them a little longer.

birthday girlI have a new friend who just turned 9 and I was honored to help celebrate her birthday. In a room filled with pink balloons and fun Bible QuiltingTM supplies scattered about, it was a treat to observe young girls engaging with each other in genuine excitement about crafting with scripture. Girlish squeals & endless chatter are not a norm for this Boymom! A peek into this little girl’s world was a delight.

joy - Bible QuiltWhat a joy it’s been to see the Lord unfold our Bible QuiltingTM business/ministry in unexpected ways. Having a front-seat view of mothers and daughters uniting over scripture has been a double-scoop treat for us! I’m grateful to be partnering in this journey with my sister-in-law. The Lord keeps revealing ways he’s knit our paths together for His purpose…a gift that keeps on giving, layer by colorful layer.

big leaf peekabooMy youngest has upped his game on giving me tight hugs at unexpected times. I absorb these squeezes fondly because they keep me connected to him in a special way when pre-adolescent words flop around between us awkwardly sometimes. His playful spirit is a treat amidst all the adulting stuff I have to do.

Eagle Scout project: father & sonsI was treated to a glimpse of how other teens view my 15-year-old son as a leader and friend by them showing up to put in some hard labor for his Eagle Scout project. As I shoveled and raked beside his friends, I was able to see how they valued his quiet ways and gentle spirit.the Rock Squad

I’m grateful for my tenacious husband who plotted over the plan and provided a constant reinforcement for all my son’s endeavors. After 2 Saturdays of our family putting in 12-hour work days, it was a well-deserved treat to see my son’s confident stance and satisfied smile as he overlooked this massive undertaking nearing completion. Eagle Scout project

senior picturesAnd, oh my heart, as I saw my oldest through a photographer’s eyes as she snapped away during his Senior Picture photo shoot last week! All parents of seniors know that our kids are maturing in many ways right before our eyes as they plan their college launch next fall, but it untethers a mother’s heart a bit to see this milestone inch tangibly closer with each shutter click of that professional camera. Click. Click. Click.

senior picsWhat an unexpected treat to view my son from a bystander’s perch as he engaged in witty conversation with a stranger about his future endeavors, allowing snippets of his dreams to fall out loosely between each camera pose. These brief flashes of my soon-to-be-adult-son were quickly scooped up to be cherished with other childhood memories of our firstborn who has carved such a steady path forward.


“Every good and perfect gift is from Above.”   James 1:17


red leaf and running shoe

As the leaves blush with color and begin to swirl around on our streets, I’m reminded of God’s artistry in nature…how He treats us to  something fresh each season. I’m grateful for these interludes of graceful transitions so we’re not thrust immediately into the throes of winter. I love the layering we get to do in the Fall, hopefully nestling warmth and peace into our spirits as well.

🍁🍁🍁Welcome to November, friends! 🍁🍁🍁

Join us as we celebrate #30daysofgratitude in our Ordinary Threads Facebook group. We’ve got friends from across the country that will be sharing a Gratitude each day. Hop on with an encouraging comment (some have admitted they are a little nervous about this venture) or feel free to post about something YOU are grateful for in this season. A treat shared is always sweeter! 😍

(as proven by the stash of Twix & Almond Joys my son setsaside for me from his trick-or-treat stash!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffering

How often do we get annoyed waiting for a download? As technology has advanced, we’ve gotten spoiled and increasingly more impatient with the few seconds this transformation occurs, forgetting that this process used to take minutes. (Not to mention our personal history with “dial-up” connections…we need not remind ourselves how old this makes us sound!)

. . . ___. . . Buffering . . . ___ . . .

Yep, we even have a fancy term for waiting on technology: buffering – -waiting with purpose and a heightened expectation of data coming our way. We’re paused as we  wait for data or images to load, so we can proceed with our next electronic interaction. The momentary lapse in electronic connection makes us feel restless.buffering symbol

Software programs have even designed creative ways to give us digital holding cues…a flashing line promising that progress is about to happen or a bright green line racing around a circle offering the illusion of “almost there.”

Last week when I was feeling the pressure of navigating a tight schedule while trying to accommodate the various speeds on which my children operate, it occurred to me how often I act as a buffering agent to those around me.
Like the mysterious data preloading that occurs, our buffering efforts go largely unseen but are constantly at work.
As moms, we’re often filling in the gaps between one family member to the next. We are frequently redirecting children, softening sharp edges of voice tones and harsh facial expressions. We’re constantly monitoring the goings-on in our families, serving as a hub in which each family member dives in for a brief connection then returns to their homework or computer screen.
We help modulate the buzz of activity in our households, buffering between family and houseguests or redirecting young sibling traffic to a neutral zone when teens are hanging out in another.

Even our pets use us as buffers. During yesterday’s thunderstorm, my golden retriever would not leave my side as she panted and anxiously tucked her tail, looking at me imploringly to “STOP MOVING ALREADY!” so she could settle.Katie hiding from storms

As women, we probably have more buffering systems in play than men, so it’s not unusual for me to hear stories about how a friend is  intervening between her husband and their realtor; or navigating details between her husband and service workers (and hoping to get the details about the roof leak, the hot water gadget, or the pool pump control panel interpreted correctly).

. . . ___ . . . We buffer between extremes. 

We lessen the impact of potential harsh consequences we see coming, but they may not. 

. . . ___ . . . We referee between siblings. 

We reframe feedback from challenging teachers and revved-up coaches  in ways our children can absorb it more constructively.

All this buffering can take a toll on us, leaving us feeling battered and weary. Sometimes on a day when we’ve spent so much energy putting out other people’s fires and not gotten our own agenda accomplished, we’re left feeling unproductive with an empty tank.
This past Sunday when I was feeling off-kilter after a busy week of solo parenting, I managed to stop for a few moments and go offline.offline mom break

Even though I’ve been trying to practice the art of Sabbath rest, the struggle to downshift is tricky. During waking hours my brain does not seem to have an “off” switch, so this striving to rest is a discipline I have to work at intentionally.

As I’ve recognized the draining pull of this nearly constant buffering, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances more and realize the hidden impact my unseen efforts have on those around me. Slowly, I’m giving myself permission to power down” so I can truly recharge and be more effective as a nurturing buffer rather than an automatic boomerang.
Like it or not, mommas, this buffering stuff is part of the gig. I’m grateful God wired us to multi-task and self-regulate so we can stay on track when needed. I’m also thankful for the grace He extends to us and through us, so we can upload a positive influence on our families.leaves fallen

Fall is our friendly buffer between the lingering mugginess of Summer and the harsh chill of Winter.

As we transition into muted days with a crispness in the air, may we slip away for some nature walks to rebuild our inner buffering system. We’ve got this, friends!

What is YOUR recharge going to be this season?

“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” – Charles Swindoll


 

Warning: This Post Will Make You Itch!

When you are young, everyday begins as an adventure. There is excitement raveled up with unknowns and interlaced with dependency on grown-ups. There are ecstatic highs and devastating lows almost every day in a young ones heart. 

After the past two weeks, I think the same can be said for an adult too!

Our family is soaking up as much summer as we can, but have thrown in a Move, an Emergency Surgery and a most unexpected Lice Epidemic in a few short days that quickly turned to long and challenging “opportunities”.

On our Blog, we love to share all the fun, warm fuzzy layers that we do, but it dawned on me after the past week that it is important to share how we do the unexpected, uncomfortable layers also.

The Move and the Surgery were manageable for our family; the realization that 5 out of 6 in our household had lice however, tried to take us down. We had never dealt with itchy heads before so the moment of crisis was a fork in the road for us. We could model hysteria to our children, or we could choose a calmer path. (Believe me when I say that I had inward panic happening, but with prayer and support was able to walk the prettier trail). 

We chose to laugh instead of cry at the situation presented to us.

We educated ourselves on what was happening and then took a stand as a family to eradicate it.

We looked at it as an opportunity to grow stronger in family teamwork as we poured hours into vacuuming, cleaning, laundry and so much laundry.

After we quarantined the majority of the house, we banded together and called several evenings a “huge family campout” as we piled all the boys in our room with borrowed bedding. 

We all know there are two sides to every story,  but as adults, we are constantly given chances to figure out the better option. Lots of little eyes watch how we deduct and choose. We couldn’t do it on our own attempts every time;  God’s mercy shows up for us when we ask Him. Thankfully He got us through the last week!! 

There were honestly Highs and Lows running the gamut, but the perspective on our situation stayed focused. We hopefully taught our kids how to weather some set-backs without being swept under. And the silver lining was new Hairbrushes for All!!!

All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.  Isaiah 54:13

Landing zones & Launch pads

In the fast shuffle of summer activities and quick transitions from one camp to the next, our landing zones tend to attract odd bits and pieces of our lives, gaining depth and dimension at warp speed.  messy desk

Graduation announcements from last month mingle with lingering Christmas cards, awaiting that elusive moment of “getting around to it” for mailing a congrats card or transferring a friend’s address from the cute family photocard into our phone contact list. Our good intentions taunt us from these leaning stacks of paper and unprocessed mail each time we pass by on our way out the door.

That workbench out in the garage for “projects?” Yep, it gets piled high with everything from replacement toilet seats and seed packets of spring flowers that didn’t get planted to athletic shoes that have to be returned because feet have grown too big for them. One season of detritus gloms on to the next and soon you have a mishmash of holiday decor and unrelated sports gear teasing you as you park your car each evening.garage workbench

These landing zones of our lives naively begin as “planned” triage centers (assess urgency, prioritize level of importance and divert onward) but sneakily become perpetual messes that overwhelm us, nudging us toward stagnation rather than action.

As moms, we often become the landing zone for our family members, too. We gather stories from our kids about their latest interactions with friends, reactions to something Coach said at practice, or quirky things that happened at youth group. We get inundated by requests for new shoes, spending money for lunch with friends, or last-minute items needed for a camp that starts tomorrow.cubbies

Requests, logistics, multiple schedules, deadlines, menu planning, and household responsibilities land on us repetitively throughout the day. Demands of family life pile up on us, little by little, until we feel bogged down.

Inertia starts to feel familiar and perhaps even a little cozy. It might be easy to succumb to frustration and exhaustion because we constantly feel like the target zone for problem-solving and distribution central.

Another way to view the chaotic landing zone in our home is to see that it also serves as a launch pad. From this dumping ground of nitty-gritty details of busy family life also springs the data resources to point our crew in the right direction. The schedules, sports agendas, camp registrations, invitations, announcements, and endless stream of college brochures are landmarks for our kids’ journey through childhood. WE are their navigators. 

As we absorb the impact of our children bouncing off of us as they hurl themselves into a variety of childhood experiences, we can empower them to launch from us in a healthy way. If we are able to provide some rallying encouragement and emotional steadiness while they are refueling in our safety zone, they will gain confidence in their own trajectory.cloud art

Sometimes it isn’t easy being the staging ground for these multi-faceted, difficult-but-necessary tasks to be completed before an impending countdown. Although you feel the pressure tangibly building for launch and feel a little clumsy with all the delicate maneuvers, the outcome can be intensely rewarding for each successful takeoff.

So, hold steady, my friend. Reinforce those buffering systems. Let that striving child take flight in his own way. Breathe. Pray. Repeat. While awaiting his sweet return, clear your landing zone and prepare yourself for the next liftoff phase. Provide that foundation of a strong legacy of faith. Solidify his base now so as he launches farther and more independently, he is clear and focused on his ultimate flight plan. Remain steadfast in this training period so you’re both ready to launch well.

Legacy page of Bible Quilt
Legacy page in my #BibleQuit

 



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Fathering Footholds

Last week while dropping my son off at camp, I was directed to park in my “place” amidst the caravan of cars parading in to deposit youngsters for the week. Unfortunately, my “place” was in 6+ inches of meddlesome mud. My son & I rallied to embrace this unexpected mire. We changed our shoes and soldiered onward. The mud slowed our pace as we took methodical steps to release the suction clinging to the bottom of our soles.
Ssschhhhmucckkkk!”  “Ssschhhhmucckk!” hissed each shoe, flinging droplets of mud up the back of our legs. As we plowed our way through the sloshy mud, we grinned at each other and aligned ourselves shoulder to shoulder as we arrived at the check-in corral.  My son’s eyes sparkled as if to say, “I’ve got this.”toe to toe in the mud

Ok, so there was a little grumbling involved on my part as I had to McGyver my way back to the car & magically transform my mud-encrusted feet back into drivable footwear, but I sensed we had made a memory…and something more.

In the minutes before exiting the dry refuge of the car, we rallied to problem-solve and put our heads together on how to get ourselves and his belongings to his cabin relatively dry (aka: not dropping anything into the mud along the way). These little moments are ways we teach boys how to remain calm, to access resources, and to think quickly about their next choice. It’s an opportunity to establish a confidence foothold…a tiny nudge to show this excited 11-year-old boy a glimpse into being a resourceful adult in a sticky situation.

mini me
mini-me

Each time  we are able to model confidence and grace in a stressful moment, we reflect those abilities back to our children so they can see themselves as confident and capable.

As Father’s day approaches, I’ve been thinking about experiences that have been fathering footholds for my boys. 

We want our boys to mature into capable adults, faithful  husbands, and loving fathers. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but in the minutia of daily life with an added layer of thoughtfulness woven in. If we don’t nudge, cajole, and shape these boys in social courtesy and “gentlemanly” prowess, how do they develop these skills so they’re finely honed and naturally expressed when these young men are adulting out there on their own?

boy in tieI appreciate the “expectations” certain extracurricular groups set to reinforce these niceties. Learning to tolerate the discomfort of formal concert attire for orchestra performances or wearing business clothes all day for a key club convention is a good life lesson. Learning how to present themselves, make eye contact, and endure public speaking contributes to that young boy “trying on” the weight of adult responsibility in a supportive environment.

teen drivingAs parents we also have snippets of training time throughout our daily activities:

– mentioning a few pointers re:  driving  etiquette as our teens chauffeur us around on errands

– encouraging them to hold open doors or to return grocery carts for the elderly or frazzled mothers with toddlers

– sitting patiently in the passenger seat, awaiting one of the guys to open your door (and being gracious when it’s clear that you can do it yourself yet patiently allowing your young man to demonstrate this gesture of kindness)

Family vacations that broaden children’s perspectives and enhance an appreciation for things outside their “normal” have long-lasting impact.

yellowstone

I’m thankful for the encouragement and support that my boys have gotten along the way to offer them some fatherly footholds. Each of these positive contacts contributes to these young boys developing a foundation of manly self-confidence.

mentorteachers that have gone beyond the classroom to challenge and mentor them in positive ways

a father that lets them lead, but is available with the backup map when needed

passing on a legacy pin

the grandfather that passed along his National Honor Society legacy pin to his grandson being inducted 60 years later

 aunts that have repeatedly purchased popcorn and household gadgets through a variety of  fundraisers

outgrowing unclesuncles that have teased and talked sports with the boys, making a big deal of the ones gradually outgrowing them

the kind elementary school principal that greeted each student by name at the door  each day

a youth group pastor that meets them for donuts and reinforces their brotherly bonds

work crews that enthusiastically help on Eagle Scout projectseagle scout work crew

father's day a Grandpa that drives long distances to join in Father’s Day activities and tease them about girls…and the whole nine yards

grandmas that have cheered for them on the sidelines of their chosen sports or clapped enthusiastically after a musical performance

Each time someone SHOWS UP and demonstrates interest in what a young boy is striving toward, that boy gains confidence about the young man he is becoming. It fuels his drive and motivates him along his path.  It strengthens his armor, readying him in unseen ways for his future role of husband, worker, or father.
Baylor familySo, we wade through the mud with our children. We engage them in face-to-face conversation. We cultivate a love of our own alma mater, yet also release them to choose their own school that fits them best. We celebrate their wins and comfort them in their losses.

 

"Father" Bible Quilt page
Bible Quilt: Father page

Each day in small, ordinary ways, we offer our boys little fathering footholds and entrust them to their ultimate Father figure, praying for guidance and growth.

As we celebrate the Dads around us this weekend, let us also be mindful of the young boys observing the fatherly traits all around them. Each interaction matters.

Grandpa and me
Grandpa and me

 

In honor of Father’s day, here’s to my grandfather who was a “gentle man and a gentleman.”

You shepherded us well, Grandpa. We love you!