Category Archives: traditions

Thankful in Our Hearts

This fall. Well, it’s been good and really hard and full of transitions. My brother said that his grief over losing his wife has not been linear at all. Those five stages are all over the place. It hits at strange times; the first time I saw a mum for sale at the grocery store I almost burst into tears. I couldn’t tell you why.

This week we had a guest who told us of an experiment: for two weeks, instead of asking God for anything, the only thing he did was thank God for all the things he had. I looked around the family and thought we had a splendid idea!

Many things have gone by the wayside this fall. I can’t keep up. When I forgot to make a Halloween breakfast, Paige thought the world had ended. When we didn’t go apple picking even ONE TIME this fall, Brynne was appalled. Even our lame tooth fairy has been extra lame. Boo.

But – hark! I did find the Thanksgiving tree. We made our leaves, wrote down what we were grateful for, and burned our fingers with the glue gun while gluing them on.

unnamed-1Do you pray? We don’t talk much about praying, it seems, but I pray all the time. And it usually begins and ends with please…(ie: me asking.)

Being thankful instead of asking seemed especially appropriate as my inbox has been inundated with BLACK FRIDAY SALES! GET IT NOW OR YOU’RE A BIG LOSER! I have to admit, when I see those emails pop up in my inbox my heart does a little pitter patter and I simply MUST HAVE. No, no, no. Be patient, young one. This is the season of gratitude! Should we not be thankful before we start asking??? Can’t we at least wait until Friday?

So, the experiment began. While praying, we would only thank and not ask. It’s only been a few days, but an interesting change has occurred in my heart: I’m sincerely grateful.

Even with challenges, when it was really hard not to ask, I found myself grasping for reasons to be grateful, and also thinking, maybe if I word this just right God will know what I’m really trying to ask. Am I warped?

For instance, Paige was really sick. She’s got these humongous tonsils that trap all the germs from all the places. She constantly gets strep and is constantly on antibiotics. So when Paige was crying and her throat was burning, I said, “Let’s say a prayer together.”

But I was a bit stumped. If I wasn’t going to ask, what could I say? After a long pause, I began, “We’re thankful for…our health, and good medicine, and…our warm beds, and prayer…and faith.” I wondered if I wasn’t asking, would she get better anyway?

She’s better. She ate a Thanksgiving feast tonight and smiled. And we gave our thanks.

I found myself saying “thank you” in my mind over many things that went wrong.

We are cleaning out my father-in-laws house and it’s a monster job, with multiple trips to the transfer station. Instead of asking for strength, which I’m always asking for, I said, “I’m thankful for this strong, healthy body, that I can move these heavy bags and that we are almost done…”

It became almost a  game to turn every situation into a Thankful Moment.

I became calmer when I might have been impatient, like when Nelson was painting the bathroom with a roller for the first time, and driving me down the road for the first time, and both were a little terrifying. “We are thankful we didn’t crash and made it home safely and I have a boy who can paint the bathroom! Hallelujah.”

The challenge was on tonight, when I sat down to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner after a long day of working and cooking, and a child who shall not be named, spilled a full glass of water right in front of my plate and I ate the entire meal with water dripping down on my lap. All I could think was…”I’m thankful we have water.”

The holidays are hard without the ones you love. But because I’ve lost, I was especially grateful this evening to be surrounded by the ones I still have. Like many of you, I know things I didn’t know before. It’s given me more empathy for those who have lost more than I have. I’m thankful for that, even though it makes me sad.

As we ate our turkey and mashed potatoes and this strange delicacy canned by my one and only mother-in-law, Heather, we laughed and cried a little, too. “We’re so thankful for our family, for the ones here at this table, for those who have come before us, and for those who are far away and no longer with us. We are grateful for eternal families.”

Thankful. Even when it’s not perfect. Even with cold water dripping on your lap 🙂

Tonight, I did not ask for anything. I only said thank you. And it felt just right.  unnamed

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we remember the many blessings you’ve asked for and received. xoxo.


Can You Help Our Minimalist Easter Bunny?


I made this Easter Bread once. It was yummy.

Naturally-Dyed Eggs

Want to dye eggs with tumeric, beet juice, and cabbage?

Keep it simple, keep it simple. This is our Easter mantra, right?

The Holy Week coincides with me reading the advance copy of Joshua Becker’s book, The More of Less. Becker is the author of the wildly popular blog, Becoming Minimalist . This book is good!

I’m underlining EVERYTHING, folding down pages, making stars, and nodding YES the whole way through…and I’m only half-way through.

More on the book later, but it’s forcing me to look at all our STUFF, giddily purging closets and drawers and gasp – hair products (this shall be a great trial and you will need to hold my hand.)

And…in comes the Easter basket. This Saturday, the Easter Bunny is going to come hopping through the house. Bunny needs some help.

It seems quite incongruous to preach the evils of sugar and more stuff and then promptly hand it over in honor of a holy holiday, oh, but it’s Easter! This, my friends, is what Gretchen Rubin would call a “loophole:” justification for our behavior because it’s a “special occasion” or we’re on vacation or because “it’s just this once.” Ha! It’s never just once! Tell me, who can eat just one Cadbury egg???

Feeling the pressure of tradition, marketing, and childhood nostalgia…I bought sugar. The Professor made me. But just a wee bit. Like Cadbury eggs and the Trader Joe’s jelly beans.

I did not buy Twinkies even though I wanted them and it’s totally tradition to have a Twinkie in the Easter basket. sniff.

So. In the spirit of minimalism, what’s a minimalist Easter bunny to do?

Some ideas:

  • Colored pens and markers (we could live happily in Staples)
  • Underwear (yep, I’m fun)
  • Hamilton musical tickets (hey, a girl can dream, right??!!)
  • An orange
  • A can of V-8 juice
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles
  • Lip gloss
  • Hair elastics
  • Fingernail polish
  • Gum
  • Raspberries
  • Beef jerky
  • A picnic gift certificate?
  • A bike ride with dad?

Geez, this is such a first-world problem isn’t it?

I don’t need to put ALL of these things in the basket, but I’d like a basket that contains a few meaningful, frugal, and tasty delights.


Ideas? What are you doing for a healthier, less sugary, less “stuff,” Easter?

Thank you in advance. Love, the minimalist Easter Bunny

Post script: Here are some great ideas from Facebook commenters!

Way back when, I was known to give my kids toothbrushes at Easter.  smile emoticon Another idea if your kids like to plant things: packets of seeds. (Tickets for “Hamilton”, what every “big” girl wants!) -Connie

We used to get socks and new Keds-type sneakers. We also used to get updated rain gear. Kind of a preparing for spring type of theme. – Robin

Our Easter bunny brings bathing suits! Both necessary and fun!! – Michelle

Love it! I’m so over the sugar… (But I did give in for a little ). Will is getting a glove for baseball, Hannah a swimsuit, Crosby a ball cap, Ella some socks smile emoticon. Always toothbrushes too- Those should fill the baskets right up! -Katelyn

My mom started getting us journals every Easter and I loved it. -Abbie

Thanks for starting this conversation. Chris and I were just about to give our kids two baskets of cavities. Now I have some awesome ideas to give instead! -Kat

 Last year for my nephews, we got them stuff to start their garden. Seeds and seed starters. A little watering can could be cute. They weren’t super excited but once they were able to start planting and eventually see their veggies growing, I think they loved it! They were proud of what they grew. -Paige

We give them water bottles and this year they are also getting zen tangling coloring books for a little zen time…. -Annie

My mother used to hide peanuts in the shell instead of eggs filled with candy, although we didn’t love that as kids… :o) -Becky

I was one of 5 kids growing up and we received a community basket each year. There were always 5 identical chocolate bunnies but then there were other things like jump ropes, bubbles, the jungle book movie, etc depending on the year. It was never a lot, usually simple and usually geared toward something we could do together. -Jillian

We bought our children Nerf guns. They rediscovered an old gun of Ammons and they have been shooting it with the 2 remaining bullets. We figure this will make for a fun morning and a great lesson on physical vs spiritual death and the resurrection, lol. -Kate

I love swimsuits and flip flops, or something similar spring related, something you need to buy anyway. This year I’m going to put a a big bottle of Sadie’s favorite shampoo and conditioner. You know, the nice stuff that I never want to buy. I’ll probably do something relative to that for my younger ones, like bubble bath, or something. -Annaca

 Every year I buy a lego set, open the box and fill plastic eggs with all the pieces. After all the eggs are found they work on building the project together. -Jackie

We do coupons fr things they don’t get daily. Like iPad time or tv time get of time out free things like that -Jessica

New bike helmets, sandals and each a Lego set. Baseballs and softballs too and bubbles! -Jill

I have to admit – I love Easter baskets! And candy! But we asked the Easter Bunny to come on Saturday, and he usually brought more “toys” than candy, and when the kids were little, we decided to focus less on the baskets and more on our new Easter tradition, which we still do today. We try to go fishing Easter weekend, if we can. If we can’t, we just buy a nice, big salmon from Costco. Then, for Easter dinner, we have our loaves and fishes meal. Served in baskets with butter and honey. Oh, and homemade grape juice, which we usually get from our neighbors. As the years have progressed, we have added other items to the menu, which may or may not go with the theme. But we ALWAYS have the loaves and fishes! And talk about our favorite stories from the Old Testament. That’s one tradition I’m really glad we started! -Naomi

You guys rock!


Beware of Being Nice?

My brother-in-law has a theory:  “For every nice thing you do for your child, they will punish you for it.”

At the time he said it, I was confused.  What do you mean?  That’s a little cynical, don’t you think?  But as time went by, I started paying attention to all the “wonderful and nice” things I do for my children.

When I pack their lunches they often say, “I hate that!”  When we take them on a fun trip they fight in the car.  When I buy them one thing at the store, they often get upset that they can’t have TWO things.  I seem to vacillate between being the recipient of two statments…”Oh, thank you Mommy, you’re the BEST Mommy in the world!” and “You’re so mean!”

It is often baffling to me how I can be a witch and Glenda the Good Fairy within the same ten minutes.

I’m really into chore charts, making kids weed, having children vacuum their own rooms because I believe this makes me less of a doormat and them more capable and thus, more confident.  And clean.  

Lately though, I decided that I wanted to work on having more “fun” with my kids.  My head swirled with wonderful activities we could do together.  I downloaded Kelle Hampton’s Petco Scavenger Hunt (FUN idea!).  For everything I’m trying to teach, I also want my children to remember their mother smiling and having fun with them.

This month on the author call-out theme is, “How Do You Have Fun With Your Kids?”  Perfect, I thought.  I’d do something fun and submit my story.

I picked Sunday, not traditionally a “fun” day in our house, more of a collapse after church day.  Every Sunday afternoon Gregor and I take a long afternoon nap.  When I’m not yelling down the stairs to “Be Quiet!” or “Paige, do not open my door to ask me about licorice,” Sunday naptime has to happen for us all to coexist.  

I also decided, that Sunday dinners would become more special.  “Yes!” Nelson shouted, “Does that mean no more spaghetti?”  I guess we have too much spaghetti.  So, with “fun” on my mind, I woke up from my Sunday nap and hopped downstairs.  Inspired by Shawni’s International Nights of food, I chose Chinese to cook for dinner.  The kids were super duper double dog decker excited about that one –  they love all things Chinese food.  Even the bad buffet lines.  They love it all.

Now, waking up from my Sunday naps is usually not a fun experience.  Leaving four children downstairs for two hours is a dangerous proposition, but there you have it.  I need the nap more than I need the house clean.

But instead of wallowing in the overwhelming sea of oh my gosh what have you done to this house…I swallowed and smiled.  Today was going to be fun.  Taking pictures always helps me see the lighter side.
This is only the kitchen.  The entire living room was a very impressive-looking fort.  The other side of the kitchen was a ship made out of the table and chairs.  Cope also decided she would make her first skirt with her brand new sewing machine.  She’s never made clothing of any sort before.  I did appreciate her go-getter attitude.

It didn’t quite turn out.  She didn’t know that the fabric was supposed to be doubled.  “I’m so bad at this domesticity!” she wailed.  I hear ya’ girl, I hear ya.  It takes a lifetime to master, honey.  And I never did master the sewing and that’s why I stay far, far away from sewing projects.  That is why I have my sister-in-law Kimmy.  The skirt barely fit Paige, but still, way to try, Cope.

Quick, quick, I said, clean up time so we can have Chinese! They actually hustled with excitement.

Time to move on to our very easy Chinese dinner. Yum.
I found this idea on Pinterest, I think.  Fortunes cooked in rolls!  I put Nelson in charge of writing the fortunes which he whole-heartedly embraced with great gusto and glee.  Yes, dangerous, but FUN nonetheless.  

Write the fortune on a little piece of paper and fold in a tiny square of tin foil.

In the mean time, Grandpa showed up for dinner with summer produce.  Hooray!  Making the evening that much more fun.

That Sunday morning, I took out a frozen loaf of bread (3 for $3.99 at grocery store) and let it rise during the day.  After my nap it was ready to be cut up into eight rolls.  Easy.  The kids always tell me how good my bread recipe is so you should feel very lucky that I shared it with you.

Flatten out the roll, put the tin foil fortune into the roll.  Fold dough up and put on greased pan.  Cook 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Uncle Ian came over for games of chess in the backyard.  Love having their pictures taken.  Fun.

I admired the swiss chard that was sitting the sink, then froze it for the next day’s Vitamix concoction.

The stir fry came together quickly.  The rice was plucky and fluffy.

And was so delicious.  It really was a hit with the whole family.  Easy recipe:
Ginger (didn’t have fresh; used dry)

Garlic (minced…to taste)

stir fry in a little oil

Add chicken and saute to cook through

add chopped red pepper

1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

red pepper flakes

Mix together and add to stir fry. Sauce will thicken after a minute or two

Then add some dry roasted peanuts and scallions.

Serve over rice.
Thanks, Shawni!

I also made frozen egg rolls.  They were fair.
Gregor cut up the squash and made this amazing spicy Chinese dish, but I really couldn’t tell you how.

The biggest hit of the night was…

Nelson’s fortunes.

Baked inside these beauties were small nuggets of a better life and future…

Mine said, “Good things are being said about you…somewhere.”

I’ll have to always remember how much fun it was to have Grandpa open the fortune roll that said, “It is a bad sign when someone says, ‘you’re ugly.'”

Grandpa is a very good sport.

With our Sunday dinner almost completed, I looked around the table and felt a swell of family love.  Everyone was laughing, talking, chowing down. The light was low, the table had been set and even had a tablecloth.  We used cloth napkins and matching cups.  Yes, a success.  It was decided that our Sunday meals would be a little more special from now on.

My eyes wandered around the table, resting on Gregor who gave me a smile.  We went around the room and asked, “What did you learn today?” and my favorite, “Who did you help today?”  Then my eyes came to rest on Nelson.  He had laughed like Shrek’s donkey and scarfed down so much food he was swaying back and forth with happy delirium.

“Oh…” he moaned, “Can I go lay down?”

“Sit,” I said.  “You’re not getting out of dishes.”  I’m convinced my children are masters at being sick at opportune times.

“I really don’t feel good,” he said, patting his stomach.

He got the look.

Minutes went by and when his mom wasn’t looking, the boy wandered into the living room and flopped on the couch.  I took note of his whereabouts and turned back to our dinner.  Until I heard this noise.  It was that noise.  I looked over to see Nelson leaning over the couch and hurling food out of his mouth.  His entire dinner, all the contents of his stomach came up.  It kept coming…and coming…and coming.

I have never seen so much food come out of a person.

I looked at Gregor.  “Oh…Nelson,” he lamented.  “Why didn’t you grab the bowl?”  (We have empathy issues.)

“You have to clean that up,” I said to Gregor, while yelling to Nelson, “So sorry buddy!”

Gregor went into the living room, turned around, and walked back in the kitchen gagging.  “Can’t. do. it,” he choked out.  This has been Gregor’s one annoying trait since we were engaged. (Yep!  He only has one 🙂 He really did come a long way in our marriage.  For instance, he managed to hold my hair when I threw up every morning pregnant with Cope.  He changed diapers, wiped up spit-up, and scrubbed poop off carpet.  I’ve been so proud of his progress.

But these skills have obviously been under-used and gotten rusty.

So I went into the living room and I’m not joking, I had to run right back out my gag reflex was so intense.  My eyes watered, my nose was so overpowered by the smell that I had to force myself to keep it in.

And so, dear 76-year-old Grandpa, asked for a bowl and a scraper and went to work cleaning up the vomit of his grandson.  I have had very few moments when I felt so ashamed.  But still, even that shame couldn’t get me back into the living room.  

Arthur, I’m so very sorry.

Well, Nelson stayed on the couch and fell sleep.  The rest of us ate brownies and ice-cream.

We did have fun.

We were punished.

No, I did not submit my “fun” story.  It was better here anyway, where I really live.

One thing I vow to continue:  We will continue to have better and higher-quality Sunday dinners where we sit around the table like a Norman Rockwell painting meeting an episode of Parenthood.

But at the back of my mind I am circling back to my brother-in-law’s comment.  “For every fun thing you do for your child, they will punish you for it.”

I’m sorry to say, Curt, that you just might be right.  I’m still holding out a teensy weensy bit of hope though…

This weekend I am running away to NYC with husband.  The children are not coming.  Uncle Ian is in charge…Good luck, honey.