Day 23: Ha! Ha! Ha-lidays!

Image from pinterest.com

While little ones learn to master Ho! Ho! Ho!, challenge your older kids with these fun Christmas tongue twisters.

  • Chocolate cocoa cravings cure colds
  • Santa sings shining star songs
  • Sally skis super slow
  • Big bright bells banish boredom
  • Grumpy Grinch goes grizzly gus
  • Pretty packages perfectly packed
  • Tip-top tiny tot toys
  • Sally’s striped stocking’s stuffed slightly
  • Santa’s super souped sleigh swiftly slides sideways
  • Cheery cute caroling Christmas critters
  • Candy cane cookies keep kids coming

And tell silly jokes, like these:

Q: What does Santa eat for breakfast? A: Frosted Flakes!

Q: Why does Santa have three gardens? A: So he can Hoe Hoe Hoe!

Q: What do elves learn in school? A: The Elf-abet!

The Key to a Happy Life

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Want to know the secret to living a joyful life? It’s simple. Gratitude.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned to master, it’s gratitude. From the time I wake each morning, till the wee hours of the night, I am grateful for each and every gift that comes my way.

I start each day by checking on my family. Husband. Daughter. Son. (Dog.) “Thank you God for giving me another day in this world surrounded by the people I love.”

Minutes later, we sit down together for breakfast. I don’t take it for granted that I have never known the feeling of hunger. Or thirst. “Thank you God for giving us more than enough food to nourish our bodies.” I want to complain that I am overweight, but instead – I am grateful that I have too much instead of too little.

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As I wave the kids off to school, “Thank you God for our safe community, for our nice bus driver who is careful and caring. Thank you for my children’s friends. Their teachers. For all the people who help build their character and their brains each day when they aren’t with me.”

At work, I am grateful, not so much for the pay check (although that’s nice too), but for the co-workers who make my days pleasant. For the friendly conversations and kind words. “Thank you God for giving me a job I like and for letting me spend my days with people who add to my life.”

In the afternoons, I am grateful for my family’s laughter, love, and learning. I have seen enough children struggle with what we assume are “simple” things – reading, writing, walking, talking, swallowing. I know enough to be grateful for these every day accomplishments. To me, every word my child learns is a wonder. Every math equation a miracle. “Thank you God for my children’s health. Their intelligence. Their talents. Their abilities.”

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I also am grateful for the piano and guitar teachers who never fail to make my children feel loved and special. For the gymnastics instructors and coaches who have said, “Good job!” For the Sunday School teachers and neighbors who have gently corrected and nurtured my children. I truly believe it takes a village. “Thank you God for filling our lives with people who care.”

I have seen enough in my life of pain and grief and loss and longing to know a good thing when it comes my way. I have also watched loved ones become immobilized by sadness to the point that life no longer seems a gift, but a burden. Every breath a curse. Every moment a disappointment.

When I have a bad hair day, I remind myself of my best friend Heather Williams. She lost all of her hair during chemotherapy and never once complained. After 19 months of fighting, she passed away at the age of 13. Heather’s parents also have chosen to live their lives in gratitude, giving back to the hospital who helped their family. Since Heather’s death, they have helped raise millions for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Here they are, being recognized as Volunteer of the Year in 2003.

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Heather’s father, Charles Williams (center), receives the 2003 Volunteer of the Year Award from St. Jude Children’s Research Center. He is joined by (from left) Joe Shaker, former chair of the ALSAC Board of Directors; his daughter, Gwynné; his wife Gayle; and John Moses, chief executive officer-elect for ALSAC. 

When my children are sick with the flu or strep throat or just a bad cold, I try to enjoy my time at home with them. I have seen parents grieve the loss of their child, bury their babies in the cold, hard earth. I will never complain about a fever, a cough, or a whine.

When I’m out of breath from climbing the stairs at my office (pathetic, but true), or feel sore after a much-overdue workout, I keep going. Each step for my brother, who passed away at 19 and would probably give anything to take one more step on this planet. I will never complain when things get tough.

When my husband drives me crazy and I look at him as if I must have married the wrong man, I remember the look on my mother’s face when my own father packed his bags and said good-bye to our family. In all the chaos of our busy days, I will never complain that I am overwhelmed, lonely, unloved.

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To me, it’s not hard to be grateful for the many, many blessings in life. It’s also natural to take it one step further. When you feel grateful for your food, share the bounty. Launch a canned food drive in your children’s school. Donate non-perishables in the container at the grocery store. Volunteer at your local food bank.

When you feel thankful for your happy family, reach out to the children in your community who need a little extra attention. Invite them to come along with your family to a movie, a dinner, or church.

Grateful for your husband? Help a single mom by bringing her dinner, babysitting her kids while she gets a haircut (a luxury for so many busy moms!), or stopping to offer friendship and an open ear.

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You get the point. This Thanksgiving season, make the effort to change your way of life. Instill a sense of gratitude in your own children, and learn to be grateful for the little things. They really are what matters most in the end.

What are you grateful for today? Take a moment to list it here (on facebook or the blog). You might just help someone realize how blessed they really are.

j

Surely, I’m Not the Only One!

If you’ve been following my blog, you already know I appreciate the simple things in life.  Today, I stumbled across a site for women who share my point of view. The Simple Woman\’s Daybook

I’ve posted my list from the site, and I encourage you to post yours here as well. Share your thoughts, so that we can all focus on the simple pleasures in life.

Outside my window… 13 happy children riding bikes and playing football. Plus Ellie, our Golden Retriever, whose birthday is TODAY!

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 I am thinking… that I need to pack for our trip tomorrow -Little Rock, here we come!

I am thankful for… family and friends.

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From the kitchen… Birthday cake & ice cream from Ellie’s birthday party this afternoon, plus leftover cucumber salsa and chocolate Torte from my Wine between the Lines book club gathering last night at Carol’s house (who is one of the most talented chef’s you’ll ever meet — her leftovers are being enjoyed as I type!). And…leftover shrimp etoufee is simmering on the stove. Today – I’m all about leftovers!

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I am wearing… Jeans and white shirt. My jacket, socks, and shoes were kicked off as soon as I got in from a conference today. They’re still on the floor and sofa…right where I left them (sigh).

I am creating… A blog entry. A non-fiction book about our farm. A second novel. Another children’s book. A home my family wants to come back to. An open door for friends.

I am going… to backpack in the Smokies with my family in two weeks.

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I am reading… The Samurai’s Garden; Mary; Julie & Julia; and Billy Ray’s Farm (just to name a few).

I am praying… for peace. Just imagine…if everyone was kind all the time – all the world’s problems would be solved.

I am hearing… a report about a hostage situation that took place today in our small town. Very sad.  I offer a prayer for those families as well. I also hear kids laughing, my daughter humming, our neighbor’s dogs barking, and our parakeet chirping – which makes me even more grateful, knowing that at any second those sounds could change to police sirens and helicopter propellers. You just never know. I say another prayer.

I am hoping…I never again lose someone I love.

On my mind…All the things I need to do before we leave town tomorrow morning.

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Around the house… Friends. Pets. Books. A never-ending To-Do List.

 

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One of my favorite things… is a house full of joy.

 Plans for the weekend…We’re taking our children to their very first concert – Taylor Swift! Weekend trip to Little Rock!

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Share the Love

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A friend introduced me to a happy little website: cuteoverload.com

It’s got tons of cute photos and videos of animals that just make me smile. Here’s one of my favorites (pulled from You Tube) – a Slow Loris shows us all that we just need to Share the Love. Enjoy! (HINT: You need to click the green hyperlink “Share the Love” to see the video.)

We’re All The Same

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A friend shared a link on my facebook page that I’d like to share with you. No words needed. Just take a couple of minutes to enjoy the show, and remember – we all dance to the same internal rhythms. Can you hear the music?  Click here: Stand By Me

In Jesus’ Name We Play

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Every night, when my children and I say our prayers, we end with the phrase, “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

When my son was two, he mistakenly replaced the world Pray with the word Play. The altered phrase stuck with me and carried a special message. Perhaps my toddler understood much more about faith than I had given him credit for. Was it a simple phonetic substitution, or was he telling me something I needed to hear?

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The next day, as I played with my young children at the park, I stepped back, and watched a sister and brother share the slide, play hide-n-seek, and venture out into the world at each other’s side.  I cherished every giggle, as they played together in a zone of perfect peace. Pure joy. Delight.

Delight – one of my favorite words. It makes me think of being so happy, so overjoyed, that we take on a special glow. We become one with the light – the supreme power, the essential energy that keeps the universe in sync. It is, in essence, the effect of touching God – or at least the closest we can come at this stage in our being.

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The point of the story is this — it’s not just when we pray that we should be reverent and respectful of our faith, but at all times – even when we play. And perhaps, in those jubilant moments, when we open ourselves up to true peace and happiness, it is then that we are closest to God.

How did I get all of that out of  a toddler’s simple twist of the tongue? I know it may seem a bit hokey. But I try to absorb the many lessons my children teach me. I hope I never let myself get too busy to stop and listen. To look them in the eye and process the connection of the moment.

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I truly consider my children to be the greatest blessings in my life, sent to teach me all I need to know about giving and growing. They have been placed into my hands to stir my soul, to strip me of all selfishness. Thankfully, they never fail to remind me that it’s the simple moments, the little glimpses of time I get to spend with them, that are the greatest gifts of all.

Enjoy every moment of your day. Find your joy. Be delightful. And remember, in Jesus’ name we play.

j