A Bag of Peaches

When the kids are out of control, and the house is a mess, I like to look ahead 30 years. I imagine my 60-something-year-old self with my children and their spouses gathered around the kitchen table, laughing while we reminisce.

Hannah Grace, do you remember the time Chloe and you made a ‘cake’ with dirt and eggs all over the kitchen floor?” Caleb would ask.

Yes, Mom made us scrub that whole floor on our hands and knees. We never made that mistake again!

Except they did make that mistake again two days later. Clearly, my punishment didn’t carry the desired effect.

My dad’s dad, however, taught my father a lesson with one simple action, and my dad has never forgotten it.

When my father was a child, fruit didn’t sit out on the counter or in a forgotten refrigerator bin waiting to spoil. Fruit was a luxury, and my father remembers fighting over who would get the last banana.

His mother didn’t walk to the local grocery store but instead to the street corner where the vendor set up his cart. One side displayed fresh vegetables, the other the fruit that was in season.

My dad remembers one summer afternoon when he was spending his time with a neighbor boy who Dad since describes as ‘no good.’ I guess, much like nowadays, adolescents get bored easily and find ways to get into trouble. This boy found trouble in the fruit stand. He told my father that when the vendor walked to the other side to help the customer pick out her vegetables, they would each grab a peach.

Dad wasn’t excited about the plan, but he didn’t protest. As the vendor walked around the other side, each boy snagged a piece of forbidden fruit–unbeknownst to them, right under the watchful eye of my grandfather.

Get inside.

I’ve never met my grandfather, but I’m told he was calm and even-tempered. I can almost feel the dread my father must have felt enter his stomach when he heard his own father utter those stern words.

Dad ran inside, peach in hand, and waited in his room.

A few minutes later, my grandfather entered with a bag of peaches and set them down by my father.

The next time you need something so badly that you have to steal, you tell me, and I’ll get it for you.

There was no screaming, no beating that followed, just those words. Sixty years later, those words cause my dad’s eyes to water as he remembers his father and this story.

That story always stuck with my father and shaped him in ways that a beating probably couldn’t. My dad describes how he could never steal after that moment, how that moment even affected the way he carried out business as an adult.

And that moment affected me, as well. I wish I had gotten the chance to meet my grandfather–all I know of him are the stories that my father shares–but they have helped me form a picture. In my mind’s eye, I see a wise man. I see a man who didn’t have the money to spend on a whole bag of peaches, but he knew that honesty and integrity are worth far more than all the riches in the world.

My grandfather didn’t know at the time the effect of his actions. He didn’t know that that one action would reach out to later generations as I try to raise my own children in a way pleasing to God.

I wish I could’ve met him, and I pray for his wisdom. While no parent wants their children to do wrong, we know they will. And on that day, I hope for my own bag of peaches to pass on to my children, to teach them and remind them as they carry the weight in their hands.

What is a punishment that you will never forget?


Top Ten Statements You Don’t Want to Hear During a Haircut

It’s been a while since I’ve done a top ten list, but after yesterday, I knew it was time to start creating again.

My sister started training at a well-respected hair design school, but, before she finished her coursework, she decided cosmetology was not for her. As a result, she doesn’t have her license to cut hair. However, I took a gamble yesterday. I didn’t want to pay for an expensive haircut this month, so asked Lisa if she felt comfortable doing my hair. After all, she dyes it for me frequently, and besides the one hair disaster, she does a great job. Lisa agreed, said she felt confident with the picture I showed her, and, therefore, I felt confident–that is, until I heard the following ten statements during the process of my haircut:

10. It’s really hard to cut hair without a swivel chair.

9. Shh! I can’t have any noise.

8. I need to stop for a minute and breathe in a paper bag. It’s not your hair; I’m just feeling really panicky.

7. *Expletive*

6. Argh. Your hair is so hard to cut–it shows every mistake.

5. Well, I don’t think this is the worst haircut you’ve ever gotten….

The picture I gave my sister was of Carey Mulligan in the movie Drive. Enter brother-in-law to offer his two cents:

4. I don’t know if you look like Carey Mulligan. You look more like Keanu Reeves in Point Break. 3. Mason: “Where’s the picture you were using?”

Lisa: “I don’t know…I don’t even remember what it looks like anymore.”

2. I give up

1. Mason: No, Lisa, cut here. It’ll look like you are trying to do what you did on that side.

Despite the terror I felt during the process, I’m pretty pleased with the end result. Thanks, Lisa!

What’s the craziest thing you heard during a haircut?


I still think about one month ago. For the first time, my youngest got to meet my family for a weekend, only to turn around and come back to Georgia once again. A wedding was the excuse for Matt to drive an insane amount of miles in such a short time, but I would ask him to do it again; for during that brief stay, my heart never felt more at home.

When we crossed over the state line into New Jersey, I shared the same excitement as my kids in the back of the van, and not merely because the 15 hour ride was coming to an end. I was coming home. And from the first hugs and kisses, I felt like we had never left.


We celebrated the union of my cousin to his new wife, and Caleb found a hero in T.J. It’s not uncommon now for the kids to put on their dress-up clothes and pretend they’re T.J. and Sara, marrying once again.


And we laughed. I don’t laugh with anyone like I laugh with my family, and it’s refreshing to sit in the company of those who can let go and truly enjoy each other. I tend to sit more quietly than the rest–I’ve never been as extroverted as the bunch (although, even I have opened up more in recent years)–but hearing the jokes and the loud laughs while the smell of sauce and my uncle’s pizza travel from the kitchen to the table filled spaces in me that I didn’t realize were empty. After a night around his table, I was full.

Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” I hesitate to write something so cliche, but sometimes the cliches are too true to dismiss. I’ve always had a horrible memory, but as we drove through my old neighborhood, I immediately recognized the pond that froze over in the winter and the time my baby sister got pegged with snowballs from big kids on the other side. I knew exactly how to get to the playground, the playground where I watched planes wondering if my dad was in one of them (he told me he saw me from the sky. I was wearing a red jacket). I saw the old diner where I learned how to sound out ‘ham-bur-ger,’ and I remembered the coin shop where my dad worked, and the upstairs window from where we all watched the parade below.

And our old house. My first memories were formed here. Running around in the back yard. The cookout where I waited next to the volleyball net patiently for a turn to throw the ball. Making birthday cakes for my dad every week with my ‘Easy Bake’ oven. Learning how to color in the lines. Sharing a room with my sister. Jumping off the radiator while singing “Wake me up, before you go-go!” with my mom. All these memories from when I was four and five resurfaced as we stopped in front of our little dollhouse.


I have many homes now. Home is with the people who hold my heart. Home is with the town that holds my memories. Home is the place that I can leave only to come back and find myself once again.

I don’t want to move back to New Jersey. My life is with my husband and children in Georgia. We have our church, our friends–we have planted roots at our own home. Yet the wife and mother that they love, part of her is because of all of them.




Where is home for you?

Rethinking Valentine’s Day

As a young girl in high school, I looked on Valentine’s Day with disdain — mostly because for three out of the four holidays, I didn’t have a boyfriend. However, that special senior year when I received a cheap carnation along with the other girls who had boys willing to pay a dollar, I embraced Valentine’s Day with open arms!

I grew older though, and my fondness for the holiday began to wane again. Spending exorbitant amounts of money on over-priced flowers and chocolate for a day with little spiritual or historical significance just seemed dumb. After all, if I loved a person, I should show him love all the time, not just on Valentine’s Day, right?

Right. Except nine years into a marriage and three small children later, I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I find myself in bed sleeping in between two pillows as three children wormed their way into our bed in the middle of the night. I sleep to the tune of one child grinding her teeth in my ear and another sticking her toe up my nose and a third pushing his elbow in my back. Of course, I could move to sleep in one of their beds if I didn’t find myself pinned in a cocoon of sheets and bedspread by the dog lying on my feet.

Sometimes this tiredness competes with the desire to show love. Sometimes when my husband comes home from work, I greet him with the kid I am no longer going to deal with instead of a passionate kiss and a moment of space for him to breathe. I don’t care about romance; I want a shower by myself in a bed by myself with a book by myself.

And, sometimes, while I don’t like to admit it, I need a reminder.

Honestly, I should have a soft spot in my heart for Valentine’s Day. Twelve years ago when we were poor, college students, Matt and I met over a burrito in Athens as friends, not even realizing the significance of the day at the time. Twelve years later, our friendship has grown as we have weathered many storms and celebrated many joys.

Now, Valentine’s Day for me isn’t about flowers or chocolate. It’s about the moment to pause and remember how blessed I am to have this man who loves me and whom I love. It’s a time to remember that the children we have are a product of our love and a gift from God.

My own father made Valentine’s Day his holiday. Unlike Christmas and birthdays when we knew our mom did all the present shopping and wrapping, Valentine’s Day was all his. Today it still is. Every February 14th, I always receive a card and something special from my dad.

Last year, my husband and I followed his lead. I had a handsome date accompany me for the dinner of his choice at Zaxby’s while my husband took two cute little girls to Shane’s Rib Shack. And while my husband didn’t sweep me away for a romantic dinner for two, on that night, I found him holding those cheap carnations for his family quite sexy.

So I’ve come around to this over-commercialized, insignificant holiday. And while I need to work on greeting my husband at the door daily with a big kiss instead of a disobedient child, I’ll welcome the reminder on February 14th, too.

I took an unintentional blogging break last week, and I’m definitely itching to get out some new blog posts. This post was featured in the ‘Local Voices’ section of the Dacula Patch a couple of weeks ago. During my hiatus, I learned some more differences between my kids and me, and I also developed a list of when it’s okay for my spouse to lie to me. I hope you’ll come back and join me this week as I share!

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Christmas Lesson 3: The Christmas Video


photo via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

One Friday night about 15 years ago, my friend subjected me to the torture of watching old family videos. Christmas was near, and the spirit caught her mom who gathered us all to the den where colored lights from the tree illuminated the pizza she set before us. She was in a very chipper mood and promised us all cookies for dessert if we watched a family video with her.

“I thought it would be fun to look back on Christmas past before Christmas future becomes our Christmas present.”

I stared at her and gave a weak smile. When she spoke, I had no trouble understanding why my friend Kristen was in the drama club.

Kristen’s dad sighed as he sat in his armchair and did his best to remove the slightly aggravated look from his face. He had no desire to watch an old home video, but the promise of pizza and cookies was too much for this large, Italian man to refuse.

Kristen rolled her eyes when he sat down. As is the case many times between teenaged daughters and their fathers, the two of them annoyed each other. Kristen’s sour attitude annoyed her father, and anything her father did annoyed Kristen.

I was beginning to wish I had said ‘no’ when Kristen asked me to spend the night.

Mrs. Carlucci pulled out a blue tub of VHS tapes, all adorned with perfect, white labels.

“Christmas 1988. That should be fun!”

“What would that make you, Kristen–about nine?” her dad asked.

“I guess” was Kristen’s elaborate reply.

“Michelle, I thought you’d like to see what your friend looked and acted like as a little girl. She was so cute with her brown curls!”

Yes, Mrs. Carlucci. How did you know this was EXACTLY how I wanted to spend my Friday night!

For the next 15 minutes, we all watched with our eyes glued to the television. Clearly, Mrs. Carlucci did not remember what was on this video before she put it in the VCR. For the next 15 minutes, we watched as Mrs. Carlucci frantically picked up every piece of wrapping paper that hit the floor. We watched ‘chipper’ Mrs. Carlucci make her way through Christmas with a scowl on her face.

“Mom, what was your deal? Kristen asked as her mom on the video waved her away with a Get out of the way, Kristen.

Mrs. Carlucci looked away with embarrassment. “I, I don’t know. I guess I was just having a bad day.”

“On Christmas?!”

But before Kristen could cause her mother any more grief, our eyes were once again drawn to the TV screen.

Come here sweetie, we heard the normally gruff man say to his daughter as he pulled her close. Merry Christmas!

I love you, Daddy! the little voice said back to the gruff man.

I scrunched up my face as I watched a scene that looked like it was from Little House on the Prairie. This father and daughter oozed so much love and sweetness I thought I might be sick.

Aww, come here Bailey! the man called to the family dog. He scratched her ears and laughed as she licked his face.

Kristen and I looked at each other in disbelief–all this love coming from the man who normally complained that he had a Cocker Spaniel instead of a German Shepherd.

“Who’s the bad guy now, huh?!” Mr. Carlucci shouted out with a laugh. “Here’s the proof! Here’s the proof!”

Kristen and I tried to roll our eyes, but we couldn’t help but laugh. We did have proof–her father was full of love while her mother was a psycho!

We watched more minutes of opening presents and hugs between father and daughter while Mrs. Carlucci would occasionally look up from stuffing crumpled wrapping paper in the tall, black trash bag. Her weak smiles were not convincing, a far contrast from the chipper woman baking cookies in the kitchen 20 minutes before.

“Well, Michelle didn’t come over today to watch old videos.” Mrs. Carlucci began to stand up and make her way to the TV.

“No, no, leave it on! I want to see more,” the gruff man called from the chair. “Heh, you see that, Kristen! Your mean, old dad–ha! Look at that!”

“Oh, please, John,” Mrs. Carlucci said as she turned off the TV.

“What? I thought it was nice–a father and daughter showing so much love on Christmas…and now we have the proof!” he laughed again as he got up to hug his wife.

She pushed him away and went to the kitchen.

“John, sometimes you are so annoying.”

Kristen and I laughed as Mr. Carlucci made his way to Kristen with a sly smile.

“We have proof!” he yelled as he pulled her in roughly to his chest.

Now at this point in the story you may think that you know the lesson–we create our own realities; or people are complex, dynamic creatures, not defined by the labels we give; or never show a family video that you haven’t first pre-screened. However, there is more….

Watching that video 15 years ago, I thought Mrs. Carlucci was psycho, but then I got married and had my own children. I experienced Christmas from the perspective of a mother, and, somehow, it didn’t have all the magic of Christmas as a child. Perhaps that’s because the mother creates most of the magic.

Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci was simply exhausted after preparing meals for three different family Christmas get-togethers back-to-back. Perhaps after each get-together, she came home late at night to a sink full of dishes and laundry that needed to be moved from the washer to the dryer. She just wanted to go to bed each night, but she needed to get ready for the next day. She needed to set out her casserole dishes and grate cheese and organize the presents for each respective family Christmas.

Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci was tired from baking cookies. In an attempt to spread the love of Christmas, she spread herself thin for an entire week baking cookies with her daughter–cookies for teachers, cookies for neighbors, cookies for the mailman, and, of course, cookies for Santa. Maybe, on that Christmas morning, she was just sick of cookies!

And let’s not forget the cleaning. Perhaps, Mrs. Carlucci, after that final family get-together, came home late but was not able to go to the bed that called her name. No, now she had to worry about her own family Christmas.

Perhaps she cleaned the dishes in the sink so that she could prepare the ingredients for her own family breakfast in the morning. Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci saw the mess on the den floor and didn’t want Santa to break his neck when he came down the chimney. Perhaps, like the ‘psycho’ she is, Mrs. Carlucci vacuumed at two in the morning so that the family would be sitting on a clean floor when they opened presents by the tree. Perhaps, when Mrs. Carlucci finally went to bed at three a.m., after cooking and vacuuming and positioning presents under the tree and setting out cookies for Santa, she was satisfied with how she had prepared this day for her family…satisfied and dead-tired.

Mrs. Carlucci may have felt like a zombie that morning, and, perhaps, she was a little annoyed when she saw crumpled piece after crumpled piece of wrapping paper hit the floor that she had just vacuumed four hours ago. Perhaps, Mrs. Carlucci saw the crumbs Santa left after he ate his cookies, and she decided that next year she was going to serve the slob cookies laced with arsenic.

Mrs. Carlucci didn’t need to see the presents Kristen opened–she knew what they were–she’s the one who bought the darned things. She loved her daughter–maybe she told her to get out of the way because her own head was spinning from sleep deprivation and didn’t need three Kristen heads confusing her even more. And, perhaps, when Mrs. Carlucci saw Mr. Carlucci sitting on that floor that she vacuumed, eating the cookies that she baked, laughing with his daughter over the presents she bought, and scratching the ears of the dog she consistently fed and bathed–perhaps she just wanted to slap him.

It’s okay, Mrs. Carlucci. I get it now.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Thank you, Dad, for your ‘Christmas Lessons’ idea. I had some great ideas from others for more ‘Christmas Lessons’ about Santa, but due to the rush of Christmas and the inability to get out of bed after Christmas, not much has happened with my blog as of late! I look forward to getting back in a regular schedule…maybe next week.

If you missed it, here’s Christmas Lesson 1 and 2.



I Had a Dream

I’m sure it started after my mom said, “I wish we lived closer.” In fact, we do live relatively close to one another. We’re only about a half an hour away, but with Atlanta traffic, that half an hour can stretch anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. In any event, we don’t live close enough to just drop over for a chat any time the idea strikes our fancy.

Thus birthed the idea for our plot of land. At first, it started as a joke; we’d have a home for all the women to live in and a separate home for all the grumpy men. The women could get together every night after the kids went to bed and play the board games we so love while the men stayed home and scratched their rears and fell asleep on the couch.

Except my brother-in-law said he didn’t want to be stuck in a house with the grumpy men, either.

Then the idea morphed into something more realistic. Instead of two houses divided by gender, we’d have three homes divided by family units all sharing a large plot of land. There would be a communal garden. There would be Hilda the cow. There would be game night. Many nights.

Sometimes when I would get discouraged with the condition of my home or tired thinking about putting the kids to bed after a visit with my parents, I would envision my dream home on that large plot of land. I would see the tall trees surrounding us, hear the stream running through the woods. I could taste the tomatoes I’d pick from our garden, and I was never overwhelmed at its upkeep–the three families worked together.

photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

And there was Hilda. Oh, she was such a good cow. She ate her grass and gave us the finest milk. No longer did I have to debate whether or not (not, most often) to purchase organic milk for $5.99 a gallon–our organic milk was right in our yard.

photo by JHayne

But like most dreams, this one was squashed by those whom I love.

“Do you think I’m made out of money?!”

No, Dad, I think you’re made out of blood and muscles and bones.

“Dad, you’re just buying the land first since you’re ready to move now. You’re reserving our spot. Then, we’ll come and buy our section of the land from you and build our house. This plan made sense to me.

“What happens when Matt and you decide to move and sell your home? Now I have this piece of land that I have to share with someone I don’t know.”

“Well, we’re not going to move.”

And then a few days later my husband joined in:

“Do you know how much a cow costs? It would cost thousands of dollars. It would take years before you even reaped the benefits of having your own cow to milk.”

I don’t trust your math.

“Jennifer, you don’t live on Little House on the Prairie.”

You’re right; Caroline’s husband was warm and kind, and he played the fiddle.

This move doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective. What happens if we want to move? We now have a house that’s connected to two other families.”

Are we planning to move? Did you and my dad have a talk that I don’t know about. Are you being transferred to Canada or something?!

After that moment, I told myself, “Forget it.” Forget the big plot of land. Forget the communal garden. Forget Hilda. And definitely forget game night many nights during the week.

At least I have ‘Word With Friends.’

Has your family ever squashed your dream before it had time to come to fruition? Have you ever wanted to own a cow? It’s the middle of the week, folks. Let’s take a minute to smile and get through it!


Thanksgiving Presents


When I was a child, no holiday could top Christmas. While I loved stuffing and mashed potatoes, I’d happily skip over Thanksgiving to get to the present-opening holiday faster. However, nothing could make that last month before Christmas go any quicker.

Now that I’m a little bit older than eight, I find that, much as my tastebuds changed as I became an adult, so did my taste for the different holidays. I still find Christmas a beautiful holiday to celebrate, yet I would never skip Thanksgiving. In fact, I would venture to say that Thanksgiving is my new favorite.

With a few exceptions, I don’t remember the presents I opened beneath the tree, those presents that I’m sure my parents budgeted for and fought their way through crazy mobs at the mall. I don’t remember what Santa snuck down the chimney.

But I do remember family. Little stories will sneak up and pinch me when I least expect it. These memories are the presents that have far outlasted those wrapped in shiny paper and topped with big bows.

My grandmother much preferred the company of children and seemed to relate better to them than adults. That characteristic worked out well for all of her grandchildren. Every time we had a family get-together, Grandma Ann would gather the grandkids to her while the adults talked in another room. While they laughed and scraped the last bit of food off their plates, the kids worked in another room on a retelling of Cinderella. We rushed around looking for Cinderella’s broom and a costume to do the magical fairy godmother justice, and when we were ready, Grandma would silence the adults and command their attention for the show we had prepared.

The parents would roll their eyes and silently endure the production. This tradition has lived on….

For my father’s birthday, I was in a silly mood and wanted to help control the chaos of four kids five and under while we waited for my husband to get home. I gathered all the children in the playroom, and everyone was assigned a role.

Caleb, you will dance first. Max, you’re next. You will come out after Aunt Jennie introduces you.

And so began my first attempt at organizing a show with all of the grandkids. A few weekends later, the kids requested we put on another performance for Uncle Mason’s birthday, and the other day, an ordinary-non-birthday-nothing-special day, my nephew requested we put on a show.

“Well, hello, Grandma,” my mom said to me.

She was right–I had had the realization before–Grandma’s present was still going strong long after she was gone. I’m currently drafting a Christmas performance.

So I look forward to tomorrow, a day without the stress of Christmas, a day when we enjoy the delicious food with which we have been so abundantly blessed and count the numerous ways God has provided. I look forward to receiving the presents that time with family always gives, and I look forward to remembering.

I’m thankful that we each live on long after we’re gone, in the fried okra recipe that’s used every holiday or the sound of snoring from the recliner in the den or the after-dinner performance that the adults are forced to endure.

These are the presents that I will celebrate. For these, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. For what presents are you thankful this year?




As I ironed the sleeves of my shirt, the uncertainty I felt the days before gave way to excitement, and when I secured the buttons on my coat I looked with satisfaction at myself in the mirror. I missed wearing this uniform. But today I was allowed to remember those days I counted as some of my happiest and show my children for the first time how I used to dress for work every day.

Hannah Grace couldn’t stop rubbing my legs, as she was not used to seeing her mother wearing panty hose, and Caleb beamed when he saw my attire. I couldn’t find my flight cap in the attic the night before, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to wear my uniform to the ceremony. However, Caleb knew that a fully dressed mommy meant all was well.

I dropped Caleb off in front of the flagpole and told him I would see him in a few minutes, and as he bounced off to his class wearing his book bag that took up half the size of his body, I looked for a parking space. I parked, and the girls and I walked through the cold toward the gym where the ceremony would take place.

All of my family was already there–my mom and dad, sister and nephew, and Matt’s mom and grandfather and his grandfather’s wife. We took our seats on the gym floor and listed as a retired Army major played the bagpipes.


Matt's Granddaddy, me, and my mom

The children came in and we all joined together in singing the National Anthem, and then they sang songs of tribute for all who had served. We stood as we heard the song representing our branch of service, and they all clapped. Our names were read out loud and the branch in which we served, and a fifth grader came with a rose and a handmade card expressing thanks.

I remember looking at my mom as she stood and sang the Army song, and she smiled a smile that I don’t see often–she was proud. I understood her emotion, and I was proud with her.

At the end of the ceremony, all the veterans formed a receiving line, and the students walked through and shook our hands. I was impressed at this group of little boys and girls, shaking hands and offering their thanks with a smile.

Before we left, the school asked for a picture with all the veterans–men who had served in Korea and Vietnam, some who completed their 2-year tour, others who made a career and retired after 20, brand new lieutenants and airmen, and seasoned sergeants and majors. But there were only three women–a woman who taught at the high school and my mom and me.


My sister Lisa joined us, representing her husband who served in the Army for six years


My dad’s birthday was a few weeks ago, and we celebrated in our family’s typical style of singing and cake. After the traditional ‘Happy Birthday,’ my mom gave her usual attempt at ‘May the good Lord bless you’ (sung to the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune), to which we all ignored her. I’m not sure why the antipathy for that song–perhaps it’s my mother’s insistence at singing it every birthday that causes us to refuse.

Two songs not being enough, my dad in jest tried to rouse us into singing, ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow…,’ and feeling bad for him and the lack of participation, I sang along. And now I had to be the smart-aleck. “God Bless America” broke from my lips, and to my surprise, my mom and dad joined in during the middle line. I looked around as my sister added her voice to the chorus, and my brother-in-law, who, like my husband, normally looks bored and sleepy, was singing loudly while swinging his arm in a show of support. As we sang the words, ‘my home, sweet home,’ all the adults were belting out their best, while the kids tried to sing along to a song they didn’t know. We actually sounded good and laughed at this spontaneous show of support for this patriotic song at a birthday party.

We then rounded out the evening with a talent show for my dad featuring bizarre dance moves from the kids and Bette Midler and Mariah Carey songs sung horribly by my sister and me. I have a feeling that my dad left that night feeling a little confused.

November 11th, we celebrated Mason’s birthday. He had just started a new job, so he missed the school’s Veterans Day celebration, but his new co-workers showed him their appreciation when their work-day ended. And that night, we showed him ours, as well.

Once again, we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and followed with our new tradition that started as a joke but seemed somewhat appropriate that night. The kids should know the words to ‘God Bless America’ by Max’s birthday.

And I, no longer in my uniform, was able to clap and move to the music while I watched a stunning dance party, complete with superheroes and pirates and policemen.

All Veterans Days should end so well.

How does your community celebrate Veterans Day? What other traditions do you celebrate that are unique to your family?



Writing in the Margins

I slept through my alarm every day last week. A couple of times, I didn’t even hear my alarm until it had been going off for at least a half an hour. I was immediately frightened by the realization–I had become my husband.

In the midst of the exhaustion and frazzled days of the last two weeks, I look fondly on the kindness God showed me. I had already had the conversation with my husband–I’ve taken on too much; I need to figure out what I’m going to let go–when I saw a trend I didn’t like. Each night I hit the sack a little later trying to finish that ‘just one more’ task, and each morning I woke with the need for an IV drip of coffee–and I’m not even a coffee drinker. I hadn’t spent any time in serious prayer or reading my Bible because I kept waking up late, and I was yearning for that time to focus my mind on the spiritual and not just the earthly tasks.

It all started innocently, with the best of intentions. I so looked forward to Chloe starting preschool, giving me two days a week with a few hours child-free. I made plans to volunteer in the kids’ schools, something that proved difficult previously with a baby in tow; to work out more consistently, to improve my writing with regular practice; to keep a cleaner house. As I looked at my cluttered countertops, a blog with the last entry almost a week ago, and a gym bag that hasn’t left it’s spot in a few days, I found out that by pursuing one of those items on the list, the rest quickly deteriorated.

I was so excited to co-chair the missions committee at Caleb’s school, but as 10:00 rolled around each night, it was just one more thing I hadn’t finished. I remember telling Matt, “The other chair seems to have taken over, but, honestly, that’s okay with me right now.” He laughed, and I laughed at the words coming out of my mouth. My had I changed if I was okay relinquishing control!

And that is how God showed His kindness. As I was coming to my own realization as to what I could handle, the co-chair of the missions organization called me: I don’t want you to think I’ve taken over; I just remember how hard it was for me when I had little kids. Mine are older now, and it’s really not a problem to get some of these things done.

The timing of her phone call, not even 12 hours after Matt and I spoke, was confirmation for me. I unburdened my heart, telling this lady how much I want to help, but, at the same time, I appreciate her understanding. I do need to watch to what I commit and maybe let her take a greater amount of the tasks for now. She laughed a knowing laugh and reminded me that my ministry right now, especially during this season of life, is my family. And she went on to warn that, in her own life, she saw Satan use busyness, busyness in good things, to distract her from better things.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this topic before. I want my family to be my priority, my ministry, yet I find that line can get fuzzy. After all, I volunteer in the kids’ schools for them, I volunteer at church for God and as an example to my children. I’m the secretary of our homeowner’s association for…well…that’s not a good example. And writing is for me, and working out is for me, and quiet time in the morning is for me–and I find it easier to push aside those ‘me’ activities instead of those for others. However, I’m also learning that if I don’t find those moments for me, most importantly those moments between God and me, I won’t have anything to give to them.

I’m not complaining about being busy. I’m blessed to feel busy doing things I love. But I also know that just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s good for me now, especially if I’ve used up all my margin to do those good things.

One of the hardest struggles for me as a wife and a mother has been to figure out this whole margin thing, to figure out my priorities and how those priorities translate. I want my children to know I love them and the Lord and that I want to serve the Lord with my life. And it’s going to take me a while, but I think God may be showing me that one of the best ways to start serving Him is to play a game of ‘Toy Story Connect 4″ with the kids, get in bed early, read a book, and then wake up rested.

There are too many beautiful moments, fleeting moments, and I don’t want to need caffeine in order to enjoy them.

Do you struggle with busyness and saying ‘no’ to good things? How do you achieve the proper balance in your life?

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!

Little Blessings

Sometimes it’s just too much–my heart feels like it could explode. I wake up and decide to be thankful because, yes, some days it is a decision. But once I make that decision, it becomes easier and easier to fulfill.

The little girl who answers everything in complete sentences…Yes, Rebecca is my friend in preschool,

the little girl who has a fashion sense all her own, reminiscent of Punky Brewster,

the little boy who looks so darned cute in his policeman uniform that cost 50 cents,

the husband who made a Thursday night a true date night at home, perfect in every way,

the quick-witted sister who kept me laughing all morning,

and the father and mother who gave me life and have shown me how to live it.

They make up all of the little blessings in my day. And when I add them up, I see there’s nothing little about it.

I’m doing my own version of the Gypsy Mama’s ‘Five Minute Friday.’ To be exact, today was a ‘four minute and twenty three second’ Friday. I hope you all have a great weekend counting your own blessings! Feel free to encourage us with some of them below.