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Archive for celebrate

celebrate . Thanksgiving Tree on the Farm [printable]

The Thanksgiving Tree has become a farm tradition. We have a branch, old and dry now, that stay’s standing in a crockery pitcher in the corner, waiting to be set at center stage on the table during our Thanksgiving holiday week. Held up by rocks collected from the road, the “tree” started as my effort to sow some seeds of gratitude when my children were young. That first year, we set up our tree at home using a branch we had found on the farm during October. Baby Girl was only a couple of months old — too young to offer her contributions, and the boys were at a stage when it wasn’t hard to get them to look for sticks! The idea was to add paper leaves or shapes to the tree each days with little “Today I’m thankful for…” messages written on them. We never did it every day. We weren’t that disciplined. But, it gave us a chance to talk about gratitude at the dinner table, and make note of our blessings.

Since then, we’ve spent every Thanksgiving at the farm, and the Thanksgiving Tree has become something we do during our week there. The first year we stayed at Busy Bee for the holiday, we found a branch, and we’ve kept it since. Some years, we’ve cut out our own leaf shapes. And, several years, I’ve created a printable for us to use and also share the tradition with others. I was looking back at a few “leaves” from the years, and it was such a blessing to see each of our hearts revealed in those few words. The treasured places, possessions, and people. It was sweet to see my loves’ handwriting change over time as they’ve grown. And, neat to see that some of our gratitude hasn’t changed. Through all the changes in our lives, what a blessing to count our blessings!

I’ve shared some of our memories here, and I’ve included another printable for 2017. You can download here or click the image below if you’re celebrating with your own Thanksgiving Tree. I’m looking forward to pulling that crockery to the forefront again next week, and adding these tags to it.

As I wrote about that very first Thanksgiving Tree…

I’m convinced that gratitude is an antidote to worry and complaint, and it’s the catalyst for kindness and generosity. In times of joy, in times of hardship, I need it. We need it.

celebrate . Autumn in our Corners

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It’s beginning to look like Fall! It’s even beginning to feel like Fall — especially in the mornings! This is probably my favorite time of year, and I love having small bits of autumn celebration tucked into various corners around the house. We make a production out of getting our “decorations” out of the attic, and I love that the kids know where things are “supposed” to go. They’re getting older, but I still see that gleam in their eye when they see little jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins they made in preschool, and scarecrows. We pull out some of our nature artifacts — feathers and “horse apples” from the farm, driftwood from the coast, cotton bolls from the pumpkin patch — and combine them with trinkets from past years, and hand-crafted items we’ve found in the Smoky Mountains. Dollar store finds from this year mix with dime store items from when I was a child and parts of costumes my mom made for me to wear. I guess those are “vintage” now — ha! We’ve been decked out for fall for a few weeks and will enjoy the warmth and inspiration through Thanksgiving. Here are a few glimpses of our autumn corners. Enjoy!

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celebrate . Double Digits

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This sweet guy turned 10 at the beginning of the month! My heart is still quite in shock that my first-born is now in double digits, but I’m so very proud of the smart, funny, courageous young man my Little Drummer Boy is becoming.

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We celebrated the big 10 with a small “friend party” at a local gym, and decided on a “magic” theme. I had a great time painting and designing some invitations and trappings for my favorite client 🙂 so I thought I would share a peek at some of the preparations.

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We used a magic hat and wand in the watercolor invitations, so I decided to go with that theme for some of the snacks. We made pretzel stick magic wands and chocolate-covered marshmallows sitting on oreos to create top hats. For the party centerpiece, I built a “magic hat” cake, complete with a bunny appearing out of it — fun times with black gel icing! We made mustache and bunny iced cookies, and I also had fun decorating some sheet cakes as playing cards for the card trick effect.

Now, I’m not a baker or a cake decorator, or even a great food crafter. I don’t really consider myself “good” at that kind of thing,  but I had a couple of crazy ideas to go along with the magic theme, and I had a really great time fleshing them out for us to enjoy. As moms, I think sometimes we try to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection in our pinterest-crazed world. During our prep time, I found myself thinking, “this looks so home-made,” as if the less-than-perfect icing was somehow a negative thing. The smiles on my kids’ faces were a good reminder that it really is the effort — the act of loving through doing and making — that counts most toward making memories. Not how smooth the icing is! So, with that disclaimer, here are a couple of peeks at our magic creations…

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October! My Favorite Month is Here! [printable calendar]

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October is here! It’s my favorite month of the year — probably because it hosts my birthday along with all the other fun Fall traditions we love to enjoy! Around the first of October each year, we traipse up the attic ladder to retrieve the boxes of fall decorations. They are filled with various pumpkin-themed artwork from my kids, vintage Halloween happies and jack-o-lanterns from when I was young and things we’ve bought along the way. We don’t go in for spooky around here, but we all look forward to filling our house with ways to celebrate the changing season. We’re saving the front porch scarecrows for this weekend, but I thought I would share a few glimpses of our October happiness. Plus, I’m excited to share a little scarecrow smile in this month’s printable calendar. Download it here or click the image below, and print yours! As usual, it includes a little painted sentiment at the bottom to share when the month is done. Happy Fall, Y’all!

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celebrate . Happy Fall, Y’all!

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The temps may get over 80 today in Mississippi, but on this first official day of fall, God has treated us to a very nice, cool autumn morning! I’ll take it with a smile and a “thank you!” It inspired me to say “Happy Fall, Y’all” with my morning watercolor and some glimpses of autumn of a year ago. We may have a few more weeks before it’s fully pumpkin weather, but a girl can still dream.

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collect . Merry and Bright

The holidays are full of traditions. It’s one of my favorite parts of celebrating. On my mom’s Christmas tree, we have a combination of ornaments from my childhood and from hers. Now, we’re adding my own kids’ memories. Every year I enjoy looking at the older glass ornaments with their discolored spots and chips — the evidence of many years of Christmas joy. They remind me of home. Here’s a look, and merry Christmas to you and yours!

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Motherhood and the Art of Celebration

“You have in store an outpouring of one of God’s greatest blessings on Earth–the joys of the gift of a child.”

My mother wrote that prediction in a book she gave me for my first Mother’s Day as a mother. I was blessed enough to be able to spend the holiday this year with both my mother and my children. And, as it so often happens, the day played out with Mama spending most of it serving me. Mothers are remarkable creatures, indeed. As you may have surmised from last week’s posts, that first Mother’s Day holiday for me came just a few days after Little Drummer Boy was born. I was still reeling from the sheer joy and wonder of actually being able to see and touch him. Mama was right. Being a mother to LDB, Squiggle and Baby Girl has been the most soul-changing, incredible, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, amazing, exhausting and joyful experience of my life. All at the same time. I’m sure most mothers would say the same thing. It’s the nature of the job. When Little Drummer Boy was born, I remember feeling so unprepared, but I sort of fell into the role led by my love for this incredible little human before me. And my mother helped.

Mama stayed with me for several weeks after Little Drummer Boy was born, as she did with each of my gifts. She was on-hand to offer support and to help with the requisite diaper-changing, bathing, answering of questions, sleeplessness and general cooking and cleaning. That practical service was much needed, of course, but she helped me in ways she probably never realized. And, it started long before Little Drummer Boy’s birth.

As a child, I remember my mother talking to me. I remember her reading books like Are You My Mother? and admonishing me to put my own book away at bedtime as I grew older. I remember her asking me every afternoon about what I did that day and listening to the answers. I remember her giving me time. I remember her baking cookies and decorating them. I remember her putting money in a small envelope in the cabinet for our vacation. I remember her planting violets and marigolds and looking at wallpaper and sewing patterns. I remember creamed tuna on toast with English peas. I don’t ever remember sharing a negative word about Mama with anyone else, not even during those teenage years. There was just something wrong about it, something of a betrayal of her endless effort on my behalf that kept me from falling into that all-too-common mindset of growing up. Perhaps it was because I grew up as an only child. As such, I spent a lot of time around grown-ups, mainly my mother and father. The enjoyment, conversation, togetherness and anticipation of family time was ingrained in me at a very young age. Somehow Mama instilled in me a love of spending time together.

In all these mundane and daily experiences, I remember Mama’s ability to elevate the commonplace to the level of celebration. I’m not sure that was really her conscious and well-conceived intention, but I’ve always felt that the art of celebration was–and is–her gift. I grew up and came of age knowing that paying attention to the joy of life’s daily experience was important to her. Knowing that celebration itself is important. Knowing that it can be a way of life, if you’re just willing to make it so. Beyond her cooking ability, her penchant for gardening, her prowess as a seamstress, and all the other womanly and motherly traits she possesses, that skill of celebration–that discipline–is the one that rises to the surface this Mother’s Day. It has colored a thousand other experiences for me. It is the chief lesson I have sought to incorporate into my own home. It is the mother I want to be.

Far from being a formula, as I think about those memories of childhood and the approach my mother took to homekeeping and mothering and celebration, some themes emerge–lessons I’ve noticed that characterize her way of living, her way of raising me and even her way of being a grandmother now. It’s these lessons my Mama taught me about being a mom, about keeping a home and living a life that I strive to put into practice, just as she did.

Effort is worth making.
It is. I grew up knowing that if something needed to be done, my Mama could do it. And, she would do it. She wouldn’t let anything get in her way. No setback, no empty jar of something or another, no shortage of fabric or icing or whatever requirement for the latest task would deter her from making a project be what we wanted it to be. At age 40 with my own mothering experiences, I now understand that in all actuality, Mama couldn’t do everything. But, there remains a common sense of ingenuity and creativity that was fueled by her insistence that something be special. It was her necessity. Something she wasn’t willing to give up. And she made it happen. Through her own demonstration, Mama taught me that common experiences are worth the extra effort. I don’t mean that things were always perfect or that our home was an issue of Martha Stewart Living. No, we lived a real life. But, Mama put equal effort into making both Beef Wellington and Cheesy Dogs seem special. It was a gift to the people around the table, whether they recognized it or not. Whether it meant staying up late until the turkey was done, chasing down red hots for snowman cookie eyes and buttons, or taking the seam out three times to be sure it would lie flat, I grew up knowing my mother would put in whatever effort was required. I want my babies to know that too.

Little things are important.
They are. My parents were both public school educators. Mama taught third grade. With those professions in Mississippi (or anywhere, really) I’m sure their budgets were on the meager side of adequate. But, I never wanted for anything. Anything. I’m sure there were things and experiences that I missed out on, but I never knew it. I never knew of a time when I didn’t have an abundance. I attribute that overflow to my mother’s ability to make little things important. I didn’t need big things. The small details were given greater significance because of Mama’s attention to them. And because we experienced them together, while giggling and talking and sharing. I came to appreciate the unfinished doll house at Christmas rather than the fully-outfitted one–because I had the fun of Mama helping me choose our own wallpaper for the tiny rooms, sewing the tiny curtains for the plastic windows and painting the front door before hanging the tiny wreath on it. I came to appreciate that we rarely had a meal without placemats–because they just changed creamed tuna on toast and cheesy dogs somehow. I came to appreciate the extra ruffle sewn on a pillow case or the seat cushion covered in coordinating fabric or the bow added to the standard lampshade. These were the little things that made a house a home, and a home our home. I hope I can give my babies that same abundance.

Memories matter.
They do. Mama kept things. Whether small trinket gifts from her third-grade students, the churn top that belonged to her grandmother, the last remaining (albeit chipped) cup and saucer from her wedding “everyday” tableware or some framed “artwork” I made in preschool, these artifacts adorned our home in some fashion or another. One thing I learned from my mom through her tendency toward not throwing “stuff” away is that things are things, but they also often hold the memories and impressions of experiences. They are tangible evidence of joy and struggle and the full gamut of the life we partake. The value of “things” doesn’t necessarily rest merely in their shape or the material of which they are constructed, but in the memories they hold of significant times and places and people. Through Mama’s celebration bent, I learned that traditions and keepsakes are how we bring experiences forward to the next ones. They are how we string experiences together. Telling stories, keeping reminders, and displaying the artifacts of our experiences can teach us the context from which we come and offer a framework for the places we’re going. I hope I can move those memories forward with my children.

Above all the lessons in the art of celebration imparted by my mother, perhaps the one most poignantly seen even today is that motherhood is serving. And, it’s a lifelong endeavor. Mama never fails to fold laundry while at my home or to read a book to a grandchild. She has taught me as much in my adult life as any other time that mothering is giving. Time, money, energy, effort, wisdom. Motherhood is giving–even when it hurts. Giving when it’s frustrating, when it’s painful. Giving. When it’s hard. And as I watch her example and strive to put that particular lesson into practice, I’m finding that motherhood has a unique ability to pull from a deep well of love-fueled resources. It finds the ability to give when it seems there is nothing to give.

For me, these are profound lessons for motherhood gleaned from my life’s best demonstration. And, oddly enough, they happen to be pretty good lessons for life beyond motherhood as well.

Thank you, Mama.


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