Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Traditions: GIFTS!

How does your family do gifts?

Growing up, we always traveled cross-country to my grandparents house - - trunk FILLED with Christmas gifts. The grandparents always had a glorious tree, every square inch packed with ornaments. There were so many presents under the tree, we could hardly see the floor. On Christmas Eve, we opened presents from one another with our grandparents, prior to their party festivities. Then on Christmas morning, the children awoke to gifts from Santa and stockings filled with goodies.

In my own nuclear family, gift giving looks different. On Christmas eve, we attend a candlelight worship service (whether at home or traveling), and all our gifts are given Christmas morning. We give the children a handful of presents, and my husband prepares the best stockings ever. We leisurely spend the morning in our jammies, enjoying daddy's traditional breakfast feast of bacon/egg/cheese biscuits and pancakes.

Now that the children are getting older, gift giving is easier because gifts are much smaller than they were when the kids were little. We try to keep it simple, and focus on quality time rather than on +getting stuff+.

I will never forget the time I stood up after opening my presents, in a moment of self-importance with my hands on my hips and exclaimed, "Is that it!!??" It took my dad about 4 seconds to snatch me up and take me to the back room for a glorious whoopin. Never again did I appear remotely ungrateful for my Christmas gifts!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Traditions: Parties!

Do you host or attend a Christmas party each year?

Growing up, my grandparents hosted a huge Christmas Eve party every year with friends and extended family. Nothing can touch the memories I have of their extravagant parties. Pie after pie after pie donned the dessert table. All the adults were dressed to the 9s, and always very jubilant, funny and interactive (it's only in my adulthood that I understand it was because all wine that was served!).

The cousins would open presents around the tree around 5pm, then spend the rest of the evening playing with our new toys, eating fudge and divinity, and watching Christmas movies. Every year, we swore we would stay up late enough to catch Santa. Somehow, he always timed it just right.

Christmas morning was always just as fun. After dumping out stockings and opening our gifts from Santa, all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at Uncle Buck and Aunt Jean's house for eggnog and a game of pool. Uncle Buck was such a jovial character - and everyone always raved about his eggnog. The children, of course, had their own "special recipe - just for kids".

Thinking of these parties brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Traditions: The Tree

When I was young, my family lived in Colorado and New Mexico. I remember getting on the snow mobile or the horse-drawn sled (true-story) and venturing out to find a Christmas tree. My dad would chop it down with an axe, and we would shake off the snow, load it into the house, and spend time together decorating our tree. I remember that mom had ornaments that were special to her. I remember the crackle of the fire warmth of family time. I remember the scent of the tree filling the house and the sound of children's laughter.
The Christmas tree tradition for my own family looks a bit different, but the elements of simplicity, warmth and family remain a priority. We usually try to find a living tree which we can re-plant after the season is over (some years are more successful than others). We decorate with white lights and the occasional popcorn & cranberry garland. The children assist in preparing the perfect location for the tree. As we decorate, we pause to experience the texture and aroma of this coniferous beauty.

I enjoy seeing the gorgeous tree photos my friends' share during Christmas. And I would love hearing the stories of your own tree traditions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mighty Girls Literature Circle

In September, my daughter and I started a book circle for girls (age 9-11ish) here in Tuscaloosa. Our intention is to explore the lives and experiences of girls throughout history, both at home and abroad. Each book we read features a brave, strong overcomer who challenges us to stretch ourselves beyond what we know as people who live in Alabama, America. The fall semester was fantastic! Here is our structure:

1. We choose 6 books that the girls read and discuss during the semester. I suspected that the mamas weren't going to want to purchase many more than this!

2. The girls take two weeks to read the book, and we discuss the first half one week, and the second half the next week. This is a great system because some girls read very fast and others not so fast. Two weeks gives the not-so-fast readers enough time to get the book finished. And it is a short enough time span, so that the rapid readers don't forget what they read!

3. We meet for 2 hours. Discussion lasts for 1 hour, and then the girls explore and play for the 2nd hour. It is such a great time frame, because they work hard the first hour to sit still and stay engaged. The 2nd hour, they are free to run, climb and imagine. Mamas pick them up around noon.

4. Each semester carries a particular theme. For our first semester, we focused on girls around the world, all who faced great odds, danger and some sense of loss. We read The Breadwinner, Number the Stars, Wild Girl, Inside Out and Back Again, Esperanza Rising, and The Island of Blue Dolphins. These books opened our eyes to life around the globe - Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Afghanistan and the Pacific Islands. Our spring semester will bring us back to the US, focusing on the historical biographies of young heroines in America.

5. The moms are welcome to either drop-off their daughters, or stay and listen and participate.

During fall and spring, our participants are homeschool girls. But during the summer, we will add public school friends, and will incorporate the 2014 summer reading list provided by our ISD. The girls can utilize our literature circle for anything from a social interaction and discussion, to a reading portfolio for school! If you have any suggestions on how we could make our circle even better - please let me know!

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


My kids and I watch Ted Talk vids together fairly often. I like to push them to think creatively and find mentors and heroes out there beyond Alabama, USA. We loved listening to this guy. He inspired my kids to explore how we do education. He inspired them to think about how they can take control of their own education. Take 10 minutes to watch it. You'll be inspired too!

Click here to watch the YouTube video!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

A single moment, capturing God's amazing creation. Found this photo the children and I took during the end of the summer. These armored beauties were coming out of every crevice! This week, I have been feeling like this guy. Sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball and silently wait for the angst to clear. Can I get a witness? Isn't it beautiful how God speaks to us? Even the smallest creature can communicate the empathy and understanding of our Creator. Child, I know how you feel. When you are ready, just unwind and keep on moving.

If we don't slow down, we will miss opportunities to connect with the wildlife around us.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My friend wears an apron.

Literally, she prepares dinner each night in an apron.

I might don a holiday apron during Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings, or for our neighborhood 4th of July BBQ - but who actually takes advantage of this everyday utility? Meredith does, that's who.
Tonight, I was making dinner with a glass of wine. I took a bite of my spaghetti with vodka sauce, and schlepped a splash of sauce onto my new top from The Buckle.
After washing the spot out, I took a sip of vino and I kid you not, I got a splash of wine on my top! Expletives abound.

It was tonight, that I got on to look for a utility apron. Thanks for the inspiration MER!!

Tell me, do you wear an apron?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday!

A single moment, capturing God's amazing creation. Visiting a friend for evening wine. She chirped, "Watch out! Behind you!" Had I flicked this spider off the wall, I would have interrupted this Charlottes Web miracle. This lady has a batch o babies on her back. If we don't slow down, we will miss opportunities to connect with the wildlife around us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Party

We have two parties a year. One in the Fall and one in the Spring.

This fall, our October 12th party was a benefit to raise awareness and support for 8 foster-youth in Alabama. These guys applied for and received a full scholarship to the University of Alabama. I had folks bring a gift card of any amount to share with these young men. What an encouragement it was for them!

Plus, all the children had a heck of a time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Free Stuff!

This has been a week of FREE STUFF! My husband called yesterday and announced that he got word back from a local building materials supply co, that yes - they agreed to give us 150 cinder block bricks. 150 bricks! That saves us HUNDREDS of dollars. I quoted James 4:2b "You have not because you ask not." We laughed because we have recently gotten really good at asking!
Our previous gift: Plants. Rosmary bushes, ground cover, flowers - all from a construction site down the road who was about to doze over all the plants. We asked if we could have them. Sure! Just get them out by the end of the day because tomorrow this area will be leveled.
We were able to landscape a large area in the backyard with these beauties.

From another construction site, I procured 4 loads of topsoil. Just because I asked!

We landscaped the front beds with lirope, azaleas and yucca from around our property - transplanted them in.

Check out the adorable little potato bin my friend gave me yesterday!
And the cute hipster outfit I got from some hand-me-downs of a 14 year old boy. It works.
And Last but certainly not least: Creighton got 5 free tickets to the Bama game. We were able to take Cosmo Seth to the game for his 8th Birthday - FOR FREE! Woohoo.

Wouldn't Katy, the Non-consumer Advocate be so proud of me?
We have saved so much money this week. Perhaps I should go shopping.....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This guy is 8! If you need me, I will be under the covers sucking my thumb in fetal position

Please someone! Stop the clock! Halt time.

Cosmo Seth is such a fun, delightful, imaginative child - I just don't want him to grow up!

Happy Birthday to my awesome little guy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

A single moment, capturing God's amazing creation. A Wednesday ritual. If you don't slow down, you will miss an opportunity to connect with the wildlife around you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dirt bath in the sun

Did you know that chickens bathe themselves in dirt? They dig little potholes and cover themselves in dry dirt or sand to clean out any mites or sitcky debris they may have on their body. It's hilarious. I like to imagine what they talk about while sun-bathing. Do they gossip? Perhaps they complain about the crappy food served here. Do they daydream of rooster-right who would one day swoop them off their feet?
When they are done, they stand up and shimmy and shake off all the dirt. They fluff up and prance off like the bell of the ball.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Mighty Girls" book circle started today

Whitby set her alarm for 7:30 this morning to make sure that we would get everything done in preparation for our Mighty Girls book circle. Our first meeting was today and it went so well! We had 8 girls in attendance and there are others joining in next week.

The purpose of our group is essentially to reach outside of South, USA to explore the lives of other mighty girls around the country, and around the globe. To be inspired by GREAT people who risked family, reputation, and even life in order to make this world a better place. We will interact with different cultures and characters from various eras. With adolescence right around the corner, I want these girls to have strong role models, strong values, strong goals to shoot for. I want to help them SHINE!

For the first 8 weeks, our emphasis is cross cultural. Wow! You would be amazed at how many resources are out there if you just do a little digging.

We spread out blankets and pillows on the deck overlooking the creek. The temperature on this early fall morning, could not have been more perfect. The ducks quacked over to the pond to listen in.

I lined out expectations for the group.
1. Safe place to express questions, observations and dreams.
2. Approach this group as a learner, an explorer.
3. Start on time and end on time - - then stay and play and have fun.
4. The views of our literary choices do not necessarily reflect the views of the circle leader - Me (disclaimer for the mamas out there).

We are starting with The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. It is the first book of 3 in a trilogy about a brave young girl in Afghanistan who made a difference in the world. While she did not choose her circumstances, she chose what she would do with the time and resources she has been given.

I would love for you to read along with us. All the 9,10,11 year olds - and me. I have great hopes of becoming a better woman, mom, and human through this group. I mean hey, I already feel like my daughter is more mature than me, so it should work out great.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

A single moment, capturing God's amazing creation. I met this fungi in the woods while walking the dogs this morning. It's a path I take every single day - only just noticed him today. Friends, if we don't slow down, we will miss opportunities to connect with the wildlife around us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Grandma Sayings, MASHUP

"Mommy, Nana says that if you stare at the microwave, it will catch on fire."

So we all went in the kitchen to try it.

After nothing happened, I assured Whitby that what Nana probably said was, "If you put metal in the microwave, it will catch on fire." And also, "If you stare at the microwave, it will hurt your eyes."

This led to a hilarious rant for the children and I about Grandma sayings and how we might get confused if we are not really careful.

I made up a few:

If you swim 30 minutes after eating, children will starve in Africa.
If you step on a crack, you will break a mirror.
If you cross your fingers behind your back, they will stay that way.

And how about this doozie:

If you let your baby crawl under a ladder with wet hair before opening an umbrella, will you tell if it's a boy or girl, or stutter, or be struck by lightening twice? And if at first you don't succeed eating an apple a day while planting your garden on Good Friday, will you catch a cold or will it stunt your growth?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Club, anyone?

IF, perchance you are located in the Tuscaloosa area.....

My daughter and I are starting a book club. We want to encourage girls, age 9-11 to join us on our deck overlooking the creek. The book club is called "Mighty Girls". We will explore the lives of Mighty Girls throughout history, both non-fiction and fiction, both in America and abroad. We will focus on values such as: Leadership, Overcoming, Creativity, Justice, Exploration, Adventure, Freedom, Culture, and Becoming the mighty girl/woman that God created you to be!

After we gather interest, we wil pick a time that works for everyone and get to reading! Moms are welcome to drop off, or stay with your daughter and observe.

Message me if you and your daughter are interested. We look forward to hearing from you. We are both super-exicted to get started!

Below are a few options we are considering for our first book:

If you are not in Tuscaloosa, but would like to give your input on each of these books, I would greatly appreciate it! I have not read them all, but have scoured the internet for book reviews.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Taming the tongue: Gotta start young.

Go up to the lifeguard and say, "Boobies!"
I don't like the game Truth or Dare because it never ends well.

The "dare" always ends up being something inappropriate, and the "truth" is inevitably used as fodder for ridicule.
On this particular day, the game ended as my daughter came to me crying because her brother embarrassed her in front of the other kids. During her turn, someone asked the question, "What is one thing you can't live without?" My son blurted out, "I know this one! Daddy Panda!" Daddy Panda is her favorite stuffed animal. As the kids laughed, my daughter came running to me at the other end of the pool, and my son knew immediately what he had done.

After he contritely apologized for betraying her confidence, the two proceeded to tell me all the kid-gossip. That girl is scared of the deep-end. So-and-so likes So-and-so, and one boy said "boobies" to Miss Britney.

We got home I called a meeting to further discuss the days' events. I thought of James chapter 3 and explained the idea of "taming the tongue".
James 3:7,8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.

We talked about how the bible has lots to say about our words and how we can use them for building up or for tearing down. We discussed definitions of words and phrases. What is gossip? What is a rumor and how is it different or the same as a lie? What is meant by "betraying confidence"? What does it mean to tell secrets?

We brainstormed a few tongue-taming rules:

If something is discouraging rather than encouraging, or you think it might hurt someone's feelings, don't say it.
If it's not your news to share, don't share it.
If you don't know that a story is true, don't spread it.
If it is inappropriate or potentially embarrassing, don't let it come out of your mouth!

Finally, we looked up some verses in Psalms and Proverbs.

"Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."
(Psalms 34:12-13, NIV)

"Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit."
(Psalms 52:2, NIV)

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."
(Proverbs 11:13, NIV)

"A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends."
(Proverbs 16:28, NIV)

"The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts."
(Proverbs 18:8, NIV)

"A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much."
(Proverbs 20:19, NIV)

How true it is, that taming the tongue is a lifelong journey. Reading these verses aloud reminds me that NOW is the time to bust out those bridles. While current content of kid-gossip seems mostly harmless, that beast will only get stronger and the stakes will only get higher, and the word *boobies* will be the least of my worries.

Friday, August 16, 2013

This Moment

We had a Roo for only 3 weeks. He is a black jersey giant - gorgeous. Wonder what these little tykes will end up looking like....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The language of our virtues

The sidekicks and I were strolling the Black Worrior River after the farmers market, and my daughter said, "Mom - you're the best mom a girl could ever have." Blushing, I replied, "Well I don't know about that, but thank you very much." She immediately called me out about that. "Don't invalidate my feelings, mom (I kid you not, the 9 year old said that). If I say you are then you are - - in my opinion, you are. I mean. You are such a fun mom. You are energetic and creative. You are a self-starter and a problem-solver. You're never lazy and you never gossip. And you always treat us with respect."

Wow. Totally blown away by this girl. She rattled off 8 or 9 virtues in the blink of an eye.

I did not mean for this post to rabbit trail on my qualities as "the best mom ever". I certainly have more blind-spots than I can count. But I love how the language of our virtues seeps into their everyday vocabulary.

My point is: Our children learn what they hear and see. I talk to them and (try to) model particular virtues in everyday life. They listen and practice and experiment with the virtues we present to them.

What are the virtues that are close to your heart and soul?
What virtues did you learn either directly or indirectly growing up?


Everything yes - unless of course, harm.
Yes, only when and as long as.
No hinders, haults creativity.
No stifles, sabotages confidence.
So, yes.
The answer is yes.
Examine all angles, exhaust all possibilities with wild imagination.
Now, how?

One of my goals in coaching my children is helping them problem solve. Push through to the next level to find solutions. How can we help our children be problem-solvers if we are always taking the easy route of saying (or barking with furrowed brow) NO!
Rather, the higher road, as exemplified by my friend/mentor Vicki, is to word our correction in a way that encourages free thought and exploration of ideas. Does this take more work? Yes. Do we still provide consistent boundaries for children?
The answer is yes. Now, how?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My summer with beverages.

Looking back at all my moments captured in Summer 2013, I notice a trend weaving in and out of the photos. That trend: Me enjoying tasty bevs with some of my favorite people. Obviously I had a super summer.

Beach beverages
Gulf Shores, AL
My Chelsea's birthday

Blue Moon while operating a 2-wheeled vehicle.
Watercolor, FL
Cold draw Blue Moon, con mi esposo, y naranja
Watercolor, FL

Followed by more margaritas...

Starbucks date with my man in June.FaceTime with Sarah the week before her wedding in July.
Girls night coffee in August.

And last but not least, Wine.
Wine and home improvement.
Wine with a view.
Wine in a cougar-town-rivaling GIANT glass.