The Great Pumpkin – Um, I Mean Turkey!

cartoon-turkey

Want to make Thanksgiving a little extra silly this year? Maybe it’s time for the Great Turkey to visit your home.

Let’s face it – Easter has the bunny. Christmas has Santa. Even lost teeth get a fairy! Who says we can’t have a special guest on Thanksgiving?

Encourage your children to eat their healthy holiday meal and show true gratitude. “Sometimes, the Great Turkey comes at night to leave a surprise for the kids who are a really thankful.”

The next morning, lead the children on a scavenger hunt to find a small gift and teach them the joy of simple pleasures.

“It’s a gift to be simple; it’s a gift to be kind. It’s a gift to smile and to share a happy mind.” – Shaker Hymn

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!

Dog's Birthday

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

I am thankful for… family and friends.

dog party

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!

friends

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.

SmokiesHazy

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.

cake

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

 

cheese

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!

 taylor-swift

The Simple Life

rain

If you’re a mom in Oxford this week, you may be thankful for the rain. Rain in our town means soccer games are cancelled and we all get a little extra time to catch our collective breath.

This week’s rainfall has granted me time to think about our hectic lives. I definitely think there’s something to be said for simplicity. For removing the excess and setting our priorities straight.

Then a friend sent me a link to this unique performance on youtube. It’s a fabulous illustration of how getting back to basics can result in a pure and perfect balance. It also reminds us to take notice of nature’s numerous gifts. After all, there is music all around us.

bus stop

Many of you know that my family and I live two lives. One “in town” where our house is in a state of constant chaos and our daily routines involve mad rushes to soccer, piano, tumbling, volunteer obligations, work, social events, and school. We are blessed to have between 5 and 25 kids at our home 24/7, as we have been extremely lucky to live in the ideal family neighborhood.

bikes

Neighbors visit constantly with each other, everyone comes out each evening to walk and chat, and best of all, we feel safe enough to have free-range kids — a rare occurence in modern society.

afternoon play

But for a brief time each day, and nearly every weekend, we slip away to a quiet corner of the universe.

log cabin

At our log cabin in the woods, we have no television, no computer, no phone service, and no contact with the outside world. We go there to unplug. To bond as a family. To connect with nature, and in our own ways, to listen to God. There is nothing more soul stirring than an early morning walk in the forest, or an evening spent in solitude on a hammock under the stars.

nature

At our humble little farm, we grow an organic garden. We collect eggs from our happy hens, and we soon will be milking our goats (Athena and Hera).

Ad's Goat

(Ad tells Hera a secret)

baby goats

(Em learns to bottle feed the babies)

We also raise rabbits, and we have a barn cat named Mama Kitty – a rescued stray who is convinced she has landed in paradise. I have never seen a happier cat.  (This is all in addition to the golden retriever, tabby cat, gold fish, and parakeet who share our neighborhood home.)

rabbits

This farm is a place filled with special family memories. Our children roam barefoot, climb trees, and catch frogs.

catching frogs

(Em catchin’ frogs)

They plant seeds, harvest vegetables, and build fences.

bell peppers

They stack hay bales, feed the animals, and gather eggs.

eggs

Through these experiences, they have learned how to tune in to the world around them, and how to appreciate a simple life.

chick

Like the youtube video linked above, our family has found a way to simplify our lives. The result, for us, has been a pure and perfect balance.

Whether a trail on the edge of town, a private patch in your own back yard, or a cozy chair in a sunlit room…I hope everyone can find a quiet little corner each day. A private place – away from the chaos – where you can be still, and be filled.

Blessings,

j

 

 

Poof! Summer has Vanished!

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I know I’m not the first one to say this, but seriously — I can’t believe school will be starting August 6.

If you’re like me, you remember LONG summers as a child. Three months away from the classroom, the dress codes, and any form of structured activity. It was a season of free thought, free play, and freedom.

Every summer, I spent five mornings at Vacation Bible School snacking on Kool-Aid and butter cookies – the ones you could slide onto your fingers and wear as diamond rings. My mom piled us into the car every Tuesday to join friends at their aunt’s swimming pool. And each year, we’d make the five-hour trek to Destin, Florida for a full week of sun, sand, and surf.

sprinkler-kids-l

Other than that, my mother, brother, and I were at home, mixing pitchers of lemonade and turning on the sprinkler to avoid melting in the vicious Louisiana heat. But I never once felt bored. In fact, I loved every minute of summer. I played with friends in the woods, fields, and ditches around my house. And when afternoon storms forced us under the carport or into the forbidden zone of “indoors,” we acted out scenes from our favorite films, pretended to be in a band, or made ourselves content with games of cards, Yahtzee, or Monopoly. Time was a gift, and we knew enough to appreciate every second of it.

Maybe I’m being a little too sentimental, but in those days life was simple. Life was good.

hawaii_01

Now, no matter how much we insist we’re not going to over plan our summers, our children end up racing from church camp to science camp to ecology camp, with art, piano, tumbling, and sleepovers scheduled in between. Add to that a week in Hawaii, a week at their grandmother’s, and a few short road trips — and before you know it, summer has vanished. Poof! Nine weeks have flown right past us, and I have no choice but to accept the fact that I am now old enough to be a mother of a middle-schooler! (YIKES!)

flirt_Full

Nothing scares me more than sending my sweet baby girl off to the wolves of junior high. I remember those middle school years. Girls can be cruel. Boys can be relentless. Life’s temptations and trials are thrown at you from every angle, and you aren’t even given time to develop a defense. You walk into battle unarmed and naïve, a drummer boy on the front line.

I just hope and pray that we’ve given her enough strength to have a true sense of self, a real value of individuality, and a clear vision of which relationships are healthy and which are not. She’ll make mistakes – we all do. As parents we just hope (and pray, pray, pray) that those mistakes are ones that don’t end her life, or ruin it.

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As we send our children off to school again this year, I feel a little like the animals in my books. Afraid. Unsure. Full of doubt. I have to remind myself – many times a day – that there is no reason to fear. That God is with them, even when I’m not.

Blessings to you and yours this school season. May you all have a happy, healthy return to the classroom.

j