June 30, 2016
After 17 years of marriage, we’ve learned that we don’t always need fancy dinners or extravagant gifts to celebrate. So over the weekend, as Chris and I celebrated our anniversary, we marked the occasion with some of our traditions, homemade cards and flowers. When Chris brought home several bouquets, I did what I typically do. I stuck them in as many vases and jars as I could in an effort to spread them throughout the house. Walking into a room with fresh flowers is one of my absolute favorite things.
Flowers are just one of those gifts that don’t lose their appeal. (Chocolate and jewelry are also timeless treasures, right?) I’m hoping that our next 17 will be filled with some more of the same.
I remember back to our early years of marriage, finding and then holding onto some recipes that became traditions. When we entertained or brought something to a meal, I seemed to return to some of the same recipes or dishes. Entrées often involved some type of canned crescent roll. Apple pie and lemon bars topped the go-to list when it came to desserts. I also remember coming across a potato salad recipe with some non-traditional ingredients. It became a summertime staple.
It’s still a classic and a perfect potluck pairing or cookout accompaniment.
Take it along to your July 4th celebration. It may become one of your new traditions.
Ranch Potato Salad
*I’m not including specific amounts for the ingredients. Make a small batch for a few or go ahead and use five pounds of potatoes if you’re preparing for a crew. Adjust bacon and ranch to suit the amount of potatoes used.
Red Potatoes (peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces)
*I always leave about half the skin on the potatoes for color and flavor.
Bacon, cooked and chopped
Ranch Dressing (Make your own or use bottled ranch as a timesaver.)
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add diced potatoes. Cook until fork tender.
Drain potatoes and cool.
Stir in ranch dressing until potatoes are covered. Mix in bacon and pepper generously.
Garnish with parsley.
**To save yourself some flipping and grease-splattering, try cooking the bacon in the oven. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. If you’re short on time, use pre-cooked bacon.
**Green onions add another level of flavor to the potato salad. I used to include them rather than the parsley. The boys aren’t crazy about onions so I swapped them out for the milder taste of parsley.
Whether you’re celebrating marriage, freedom, or everyday life, remember some of the best traditions are simple when made with love.
June 8, 2016
Okay moms, raise your hand if you go into the summer with plans and organizers to conquer the season. You know what I mean. You’ve mapped out your daily tasks and assigned each kid a list of chores to keep the house tidy and ready them to be responsible adults. You have pinterest boards dedicated to summer boredom busters and an equal number of ideas to keeping those kids’ math and reading skills sharp. A few summers ago, we had a chart for a weekly memory verse, recipe, and outing. We made it about 2 and a half weeks. And then there was last summer with my “Fruits of the Spirit” lesson plans that never came to be.
Honestly, I’m facing this summer with no ideas. No plans. No organization. Insane, I know. But we are three days deep into summer break and the boys and I are knocking this thing out of the park with our achievements and level of productivity.
To begin with, no one, I mean no one has gone to bed at an appropriate time. The whole family wins a prize for staying up too late. Hubby’s statement of, “Well, it is summer,” has been met with my reply of “I’m into my 15th hour today of summerness with these people.” At least one child understands the whole concept of sleeping in.
Next, the food situation. They all are expecting at least three meals a day, occasional snacks, and to top it off, some sort of dessert. All of this eating has pushed my creativity to new limits because we’re out of nearly everything. Going to the grocery store with three kids? Um, no thanks. Let the eat-what’s-been-hiding-at-the-back-of-the-freezer challenge continue. I even inadvertently baked my first soufflé the other night. Eggs, cream, the last of the cheese, 350 degrees, and you have dinner. Culinary success.
The boys have even been helping in the kitchen. They have managed to turn almost all of the liquids from the fridge into a popsicle or an ice cube. Lemonade ice cube for your tea? Yep, we have those. Giant freezy pop made from cranberry ginger ale? Sure, got those too. Never mind the trail of stickiness that winds from the fridge to the counter to the sink. We are refreshed.
While they aren’t busy freezing things, they are planning and goal-setting. For example, the other night, they all browsed the internet to choose which kind of Lamborghini they are going to buy. Goals, people, goals. They’ve developed charts and graphs to monitor the NBA finals. They’ve conducted contests, such as who can push everyone else off their bean bags.
As if all of these activities weren’t enough to keep us on our toes, we may have acquired a pet. A cat has decided to take up residence in the back yard. And my I-don’t-touch-animals, pick-me-up-immediately-if-one-comes-into-my-presence child has fallen in love! So now, “The Cat” tops our to-do list. And we are checking off lots of productivity boxes with her. First thing in the morning, we must find the cat. Is she in the barn? Is she in the tree? Is she on the playground? Next, we have to feed the cat. Pour her milk. Scramble some eggs. Get the leftover fish from the fridge. Shake the cat food bag. And then there’s the comforting and entertaining. Make the cat a bed. Gather materials to design a toy. But mostly, there’s the watching. “Mommy, come outside while I play with Maddie.” (Yes, we named the cat.)
So I sit and watch them watch her.
And the laughs happen. And the talks commence. And the memories form.
No planning or organizing needed.
Yes, I raise my right hand and do promise to read to my kids this summer. We will practice math problems and other educational stuff. Our emphasis on spiritual growth goes beyond my uttered prayers of “Lord, help me with these children.” We may even open a page or two from other summer’s plans and get organized about some things.
But in the meantime, we may just be out in the back yard watching Maddie and eating our homemade popsicles. This feels a lot like freedom. A lot like childhood.
After all, it is summer.
What's ahead for your summer? Any exciting plans? Share with the rest of us....we could all use a little inspiration!
June 1, 2016
“Are you ready for summer?” Seemingly everyone who comes in contact with us these days has that question for my boys. They, like 99.9% of all other kids, wholeheartedly answer in the affirmative.
Uh, me? I’m answering on the other end of the spectrum.
At this point in the school year, I’m typically slapping the peanut buttered piece of bread to the jellied one and tossing it in the lunchbox. I’ve given up on smoothing out any wrinkles in the school polo shirts.
Most years, when the calendar flips to June, I am done. Finished with school and routines and lunchboxes and homework and above all else, projects. Done.
Typically at this point, I’ve moved on mentally to summer and sleeping in. The season when bedtimes become lax and so do the limits on popsicles.
This year must not be typical because I am not ready. I’ll gladly pack another lunch or sign another form. I’m even willing to buy another piece of poster board required for a project. Sign me up on the stay put list. I’m not ready to move on. Use some tacky glue to hold us in this school year a little longer.
It’s been a good year. Back that up. It’s been a fantastic year.
My oldest ventured into middle school without a hitch. A seemingly drama-free year highlighted with a study hall to complete homework and teachers that balanced responsibility and childhood made for an awesome year in sixth grade.
As for my third grader, wow. Can we please develop a Teacher Hall of Fame and induct his teacher? This woman has a heart of gold, a love for learning, a zeal for her kids, and a set of tear ducts to back up it all up. If the hall of fame doesn’t work, how about a campaign to move her to fourth grade?
To top it off, my baby somehow managed to graduate from preschool last week. He was surrounded by teachers who loved and laughed with him. My little tag-along partner will be off to kindergarten in the fall.
Seriously, this is all a little too much for a mama’s heart.
So am I ready for summer? No. Absolutely not. I’m perfectly content to continue with the wonderful teachers and third grade multiplication tables and World History reports and giggles of preschool.
But ready or not, here it comes. Summer’s right around the corner.
And as much as I want to hold a tight grip on this year, I won’t. Okay, I tried, but the calendar won.
Eventually, I’ll muster the courage to look ahead to what’s next. Maybe even peek beyond the sweat and freedom of summer to know that God has some good stuff all lined up for other school years too. This year may go in the books as one of the best, but we still have plenty to look forward to.
Until then, I’m just going to do one last check to make sure we don’t have any of those snow days to make up.
How about you? Are you striving to stay in a particular season of life? Or are you beyond
ready to move on? Maybe you’ve finally conquered a particular stage of parenting and want
to stay and enjoy it for a while? You’re perfectly content to keep your schedule as is without
any hiccups? Or maybe you’re struggling in your marriage or other relationship and you are
ready to get over the hurdle and see brighter days? Wherever you are, know that the LORD
has gone ahead of you. He has set your path. Follow where He leads. (Even when you get
all teary-eyed over PB&J.)
May 10, 2016
1. You find random sports equipment in odd places around the house. A football has to be removed from your pillow at night. Shin guards are beside the toothpaste on the bathroom counter.
2. A majority of statements directed to you begin with the phrase, “Hey, Mommy, watch this.”
3. Understanding that buffets are meant to be conquered. “I’m getting our money’s worth” has been declared by your child.
4. Collections abound: Pokemon cards, football cards, rocks, small toys redeemed with tickets at arcades, etc.
5. Your children are bilingual. Native language and potty talk are fluently spoken..
6. You provide answers/explanations for things like: Why do we always have to take a bath? Are you making us clean up because someone’s coming over?
7. You know that socks do not like to be held captive by the hamper. They prefer to hang out on the floor, under couch cushions, or best of all, directly in front of the hamper.
8. Browsing the make-up aisle or fingernail polish section causes your people to whine, moan, and/or sit on the floor in protest.
9. The lesson has been learned: trying on clothes equals torture for both mother and child.
10. One of the best lines to your ears: “Mommy, when I grow up, I’m going to live with you forever.” (*Disclaimer: the child must be under 10 years of age for this statement to remain adorable. Anything over and a lesson on responsibility and maturity ensues.)
Need more evidence about your crew?
May 3, 2016
“Don’t let me forget to go to kindergarten tomorrow,” I exclaimed as I shot up from my reclined position on the couch.
The next day, I needed to take my youngest for his kindergarten assessment. Although I’m trying to deny it with my whole being, he’ll be headed to big school in the fall. Perhaps my denial allowed the appointment to temporarily slip my mind.
It’s not that we weren’t excited. We had covered some of the wonderful things that big school offered. We had used our fingers to count the remaining months. We had implored big brothers to convey the fun bus stories they had experienced.
It’s just that the preparation starkly differed from the regimented practice that went into the two older boys’ assessment day. I hadn’t sat Walker down asking him to repeat his address and phone number twenty times a day. We hadn’t studied shapes in workbooks or practiced writing his name a skillion times.
He was ready. He had been loved on, smiled at, and reassured a ton. (He did great, by the way.) Maybe he didn’t have his phone number or address down pat just yet. He will. We’re working on it. But you know what I’m trying not to do? Stress about it. Because he’ll go to kindergarten and most likely do awesome.
As a mama, it’s tough to sometimes live in the moment. It’s difficult to not get stressed over milestones and accomplishments. Quite frankly, it’s even tough to enjoy the everyday moments, especially when they often consist of mud and messes. It’s easy to long for the next stage.
Hoping they’ll sleep through the night.
Moaning through another pack of diapers.
Trudging to get a cup of water at bedtime.
Praying they’ll start using a napkin and not their sleeve.
Wishing for calm and quiet and neat.
Trying to skip over the tough phase to make it to an “easier” one.
We’ll get there. To the next stage that is. Certainly we’ll arrive sooner than we had once hoped. We’ll look back and wish we had listened more to the little old ladies who told us it’d go by in a flash.
But in the meantime, I’m making a valiant effort to do more snuggling than studying. I’m trying to read more to him than recite. I’m longing to count more memories than numbers right now. Because what I’m learning is that he’ll get it. And I’ll help him. But time (that thing that my oldest could tell you all about at age five) passes so quickly.
After a big test, donuts are appropriate!
Yes, the beds need to be made and the underwear washed, but somehow, we’ve gotta slow down and savor some moments. Stay in the now. Stop looking back and begrudging the past or daydreaming about the future.
Appreciate the toothless grins instead of stressing over the braces to come.
Find contentment in the house we’re living in, not the one we’re dreaming of.
Be generous with the stretched budget rather than giving when we’re comfy.
Jump in the pool with our muffin tops because waiting until they're gone leaves us sidelined.
Excel in the workplace and stop counting the days to Friday or vacation or retirement.
Serve in a place where we’re called even if it’s not a glamorous duty.
Thank God that He’s given us today. And that His grace is sufficient to get us through all our days.
What do you need to stop and savor today?
Is there a stage of life you’re longing to complete?
Let’s encourage each other to find joy in the present. In the comments, share a little life smile you’ve had from living for today.
“This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118: 24
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