We called them trees. We dipped them in Ranch dressing and suffered through their vitamin-filled crunchiness. And we laughed about how it seemed we’d be able to see the chainsaw grease on the cauliflower, if not the broccoli.

My daddy was a logger for all of my growing up years. And one of his many tall tales from “back in ’09″ (back before we’d had a recent ’09!) was how he cut down broccoli and cauliflower trees. I’m guessing this particular story was manufactured in an attempt to get my cousins, my brother, and I to eat our vegetables. Kind of like the story about the time he stopped at a store in the middle of the night, dying of thirst, and the lady wouldn’t sell him a Diet Pepsi because he wouldn’t say please. (Aesop didn’t have anything on my daddy where morals were concerned.)

I can see us now. Sitting on the bar stools at Papa and Grama’s, our legs dangling. The Tupperware veggie tray (almond colored like everything else in Grama’s kitchen) held the Ranch in the center, the veggies all around the side. I don’t know if black olives count as veggies, but they were there along with the carrots and celery, broccoli and cauliflower. And the black olives always tasted best if they’d been stuck on our fingers first. I don’t know how many olives we must have eaten, but I’m fairly sure we ate more olives than “trees,” despite my daddy’s best attempts.

A veggie tray was standard fare for every big dinner, holiday or not. In the summer, we were sure to have Mom’s potato salad. Aunt Terri’s pasta salad came out no matter the season. And usually you could find a raspberry sherbert salad or some sort of green jello salad (not my favorite, so I can’t give you the details). But no matter the time of year, there was a veggie tray with carrots and celery, olives and trees–with lots of Ranch dressing, but no chainsaw grease.

Five Minute Friday Prompt: “Tree”

Shoebox Time

We went Shoebox shopping this morning. Shopping with three children in tow is exhausting in itself. But when they are each allowed to help select gifts to fill a shoebox, it’s a unique but enjoyable challenge.

We’ve been talking about it for months. Our oldest daughter, intrigued by the idea that you could choose to send your box to a boy or a girl, decided firmly that she was sending hers to a boy. And our youngest? He was going to send his box to a cow. Yes, a cow.

But after watching the movies from Operation Christmas Child at church each Sunday this fall, and making many plans together, our children had it decided: Mary Kate was packing a box for “her” girl, but Ruth and Daniel would be selecting items for boys.

a box for a boy

The gender discrepancy proved slightly hilarious at The Dollar Tree this morning when Ruth gravitated towards the girly items only to be reminded that “her” boy wouldn’t need pretty pink hair clips.

Overhearing our not-so-quiet conversation from aisle to aisle, another Dollar Tree shopper observed, “It must be shoebox time!”

Yes, it was shoebox time.

shoebox time!

We made it home. And for once, my children took naps, exhausted shoppers that they were. But all they could talk about was packing the shoeboxes tonight.

Daniel had barely awakened from his nap when he brought me his pajamas. “I ready go bed,” he said.

I realized later his daddy had said we could pack the shoeboxes when they were all ready for bed tonight. Smart boy. He was getting ready early.

Dinner over, dishes washed, kiddoes fresh and clean, Bible story read, we sat down on the couch. We’d rehearsed it over and over.

packing a penguin“What are we going to do with the shoeboxes?”

“Put them in the car.”

“And then what are we going to do with them?”

“Take them to church.”

“And then what will happen with them?”

“They will go to someone who doesn’t have gifts.”

But it was rewarding to see them following through on what we’d discussed.

Ever since he had decided he was sending to a boy, rather than a cow, Daniel had been declaring he was going to fill his box with tractors. And oh how he labored over the decisions. A backhoe was a must. And more matchbox cars made it into the cart this morning than were needed for three shoeboxes.


He fingered them carefully as he put them in the box tonight. Especially the tractor. But he gave willingly. To a little boy who didn’t have any tractors.

sharing a backhoe

And they went to bed talking of “my boy” and “my girl” and praying for the children who would open those shoeboxes, “maybe somewhere I’ve never visited before.”

the first, the last, and the in between

We talk about the first time and the last time, romanticizing the romance and the goodbyes in Country songs and novels.

But the truth is, that first kiss, though sweet, is often awkward. And the first time that newborn babe is in your arms you’re as filled with fear as you are joy and relief.

That last goodbye, though cherished, is a memory always tinged with sadness. That last glimpse, though not to be missed, often reflecting but a shadow of the person we remembered.

It’s all those times in the middle that give that first memory meaning, that make that last goodbye bittersweet. When we’re so busy living and loving that we never even stop to mark the moment is when the moments are priceless, because we never know how many we have left. It’s in the in between when the memories are made.

{Five Minute Friday Prompt: “Last”}


I am related to some of the most beautiful people in the world. I just can’t decide if they seem more beautiful when I’m missing them so far away, or if they are more beautiful when I get to see their faces again after a long absence.

My beautiful paternal grandmother is in the hospital with pneumonia right now. And the miles never seem so great as when someone you love is hurting and you can’t be right there.

So today, I’m struggling to see the beauty through my tears…

The beautiful friends who write out their prayers for me and give me beautiful written reminders of God’s love for me.

That there are always dishes to do and a house to be picked up. (Oh my grandma is one of the most amazing housekeepers…both my grandmas are!)

The laundry waving on the line and the way the wind dries my tears.

Beautiful memories of Top Ramen and hot dogs, swimming and turtles, wrinkles and hugs.

And my grandma’s beautiful, beautiful feet that have always brought the Good News wherever she goes…


I love you, Grandma. Praying for you and Grandpa and all the family today!


[Edited to Add: Grandma is home from the hospital. Thank you for your continued prayers as she recovers!]

{Five-Minute Friday Writing Prompt: “Beautiful”}