Hand Written Notes and Carousel Ponies

We are in that sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where it seems that everything around us takes a soft curve—or a sharp right turn—from a spirit of gratitude to over-consumption. I don’t know about your family, but at my house, there are only a few hours between being thankful for what we have on Thursday and shopping the best deals on Friday. It’s hard to know how to navigate these waters, but the best way to claim the joy of the entire season is to keep the giving of thanks alive.img_4174

During this season especially, your kids will probably receive loads of gifts (and acts of service) from grandparents, relatives and friends. But the dangerous side effects of receiving such generosity are the pesky symptoms of expectation. You might even hear your children grumble and complain about how they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, and you’ll wonder who are these entitled little monsters you’ve created. But even if they are so overcome with elation that they leap to hug Grandma of their own free will, there’s an even more meaningful—but often neglected—way to express gratitude: the Thank-you note.

Thank-you notes are a lost art. We live in the days of oversimplified communication, acronyms and abbreviations for everything, and emojis for everything else. A handwritten letter is a novelty equal to a hand-painted carousel horse: so very nostalgic and hard to come by. But that’s what makes them even more meaningful.

A written note is proof on the page. The root of happiness is gratitude, but the tricky thing about thankfulness is that it only exists in the act; nobody knows you’re thankful unless you say so. When you write it down, everybody knows how you feel.

They show intent. A handwritten note says you unplugged from technology, set aside time, and returned to the most basic tools of written communication: pen and paper. There’s something beautifully intentional in a written note.

They’re fun to receive. Think about it: in a giant pile of window envelopes with bills and junk, your name on a colorful envelope catches your eye. How fun it is to receive a pocketful of sunshine in your very own mailbox. It’s so easy to give that gift to someone else.

Handwriting is an extension of a person. Have you ever happened onto a letter written long ago? The handwriting nearly breathes on the page. It’s a time capsule of the writer’s handwriting, message, voice, and even a good measure of their spirit. Even if it’s scrawled and messy, your handwriting is part of who you are. You can use it to carry your voice into the world.

And so I’m on a mission to revive the art of the thank-you note, in my own home, starting at my dining room table. Here are the tips and tricks I’ve found for making thank-you notes more than an ethereal relic of days gone by.

(Wish I could tell you the rest of the story here, but I interrupt this message to point you to Parent Cue, the parenting blog where I write once a month.
Click bait? Perhaps.  Still worth it, I hope.)

Click here to finish reading this article I wrote for Parent Cue:
How to Teach Kids the Art of Writing Thank-You Notes.

(p.s. If you’re reading this and smiling to yourself because I owe you a thank-you note –
or worse yet, my kids do – then please just be awesome.  And patient.  By now you know I’m a hot mess who does her best.)

On the Air: Focus on the Family

It was a Full Circle moment in my life, to be invited to join Jim Daly and John Fuller to record an episode of The Daily Broadcast with Focus on the Family.  The thing is, I grew up on a healthy dose of James Dobson’s voice in my ear every day, in the kitchen and in the car, as he coached my parents to dare to discipline on their journey to raise great kids. This invitation seemed like a call back to where it all began.

I was honored to join them.  (Beyond honored.)

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What a team they have at Focus on the Family. Jim Daly and John Fuller are most hospitable hosts who put me at ease, and the production team sewed all of my seams into flawlessness.

Together they held my story so carefully, sharing it with such dignified grace. I am so honored to share it with you.

Click here to listen.
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“Pivot” : A Story of Love, Emotional Attachment, and a Couch

This is the story of how most of our family lost all perspective because we loved a couch too much. Read on for sentimentality and ridiculosity because we are sentimental and ridiculous.

In this ever unfolding journey of making a home together, Peter and I are making small changes here and there to claim this life as ours. Not his-plus-hers, but altogether ours. The former involves tasks like combining the contents of the medicine cabinet to hold what we both need; the latter is more buying a new medicine cabinet so it’s mutually new to both of us. It’s a subtle difference, but it matters. When you’ve shared a proverbial bathroom with somebody else before, you look for ways to make this bathroom experience new and different.

That’s maybe too much about bathroom preferences, but like I said, I am sentimental and ridiculous.

Anyway, we budgeted and saved, and this week bought new living room furniture. We chose a very welcoming couch, a very masculine and sprawling recliner for the man in my life, and a matching chair that’s oversized enough to seat two people (who would really have to like each other or commit to certain intimacies) but small enough that it could be called Mom’s chair (since oddly I don’t like big things and resist possessing them).

It was all very fun and exciting, especially because we intended to move our beloved Best Couch downstairs to the family room.

Please indulge me just a moment to wax eloquent on The Best Couch.

fullsizerender-8 It is a sectional that’s 13 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It’s a monstrosity. I bought it when the boys and I moved into this house together, and there are more memories hidden in that couch then the money between the cushions could buy. We’ve read years of bedtime stories on The Best Couch. I’ve watched entire seasons of Gilmore Girls. It could actually be called The Best Napping Couch. (I could write odes about the naps this couch allows.) We all three slept end-to-end night after night for the many weeks of Tucker’s Broken Foot Summer, when he couldn’t get up the stairs. It’s an important, anchoring piece of our history. I could only agree to new living room furniture, albeit in the name of Ours, since I knew The Best Couch was moving downstairs.

So, we donated all of the furniture in the family room to make room for The Best Couch. And when I say ‘donated all the furniture in the family room,’ I mean that we rented a Uhaul to take a veritable plethora of items to Goodwill: a sleeper sofa (that was already used when Robb and I bought it 17 years ago, when it was the only piece of furniture we could afford), an oversized chair that at one time fit each of my toddlers on either side of me, and a matching couch that was also pretty famously good for napping.

(Quality naps and somewhat-oversized are a theme in my furniture choices, I see now.)

With the basement family room now cleared for entry, we took apart The Best Couch into its three sections and carried it down the stairs. Except it wouldn’t go. Like, not at all. We took the feet off the couch. We took the doors off the frames. We made some serious dents in the walls with our sheer force and determination. I wasn’t giving up without a fight.

We were Ross and Rachel in the stairwell. (With Tucker playing Chandler.) We pivoted like crazy, you guys. I even casually suggested that maybe Peter could cut it in half. I pretended I was joking, but let’s just say if he had gone to the garage for the circular saw, I wouldn’t have stopped him.

It was a no-go. Sadness fell over me like a heavy blanket. I mean, irrationally so. My children cried. One of them even needed to say good night to the couch before he went to bed, petting it and rubbing his face on the ottoman. Same child got up this morning to sit among the cushions and mourn.

(I’m not kidding. Not even a little.)

I am a reasonable adult trying hard to keep this in perspective.  But I do sort of wish I hadn’t rented that U-haul and thereby relieved myself of all backup plans for even second-choice furniture in the family room. It’s slim pickins’ for seating around here.

Most ridiculously, I accidentally posted the social media snippet of this with the hashtag #thirdworldproblems, which was a ridiculous mistake that made it sound like I think this is an actual problem. I do understand that it’s not. I’ve had problems a couch wouldn’t fix.

Still.

p. s. Peter graciously thinks we are absurd.  He has never seen anything quite like this mourning period.

p. p. s. In other news, our dog Sam likes the new digs.fullsizerender-9

Helicopters, Cattle, and Neapolitan Ice Cream

Snippets of dialogue at our Thanksgiving table.

Characters: Me, Peter, Tucker, Tyler, my Mom, and my Dad.
(But characters are not specified in the dialogue, so use your imagination.)

* * *

“What should be our Thanksgiving question this year?”

“I have one. How about ‘What are you thankful for?”

“Okay, let’s start with A, and we’ll go through the alphabet.”

“Or let’s just start. How about one free round where you just get to say what you’re thankful for?

“I’ll start. I’m thankful for Peter.”

“We know, Mom. Geez.”

“You’ve told us that a million times.”

“I didn’t know thankfuls were up for criticism.”

“Whatever. Hashtag Pete and Trish. We know.”

“I’ll tell him the private reasons later.”

“Moving on. I’m thankful for The Polar Express. It’s fun to be in that show, and I love it.”

“I’m thankful for the happiness I’ve seen in Tricia this whole year long.”

“I’m thankful for the Heyer family, because they’ve taught me everything I know.”

“Except that you learned a few things prior to one year ago, thank you very much.”

“Now let’s say things we’re thankful for that start with T.”

“I’m thankful for my mom.”

“That starts with M.”

“Fine. I’m thankful for Tricia.”

“I’m thankful for Tucker and Tyler, my two grandchildren who I am crazy about.”

“Good one.”

“I’m thankful for… tires. Because without them, I’d have to put my stuff in a box every day and push it to work.”

“I’m thankful for teachers. You guys have had good ones every single year, and I love partnering with them to help you become grownups who know what they need to know. So, teachers.”

“I’m thankful for my brother Tyler, who is my best playmate and my brother and the one person who will always play with me.”

“I’m thankful for toothpicks. Tyler, could you get me one?”

“Now the letter H.”

“I’m thankful for… hot dogs.”

“I’m thankful for… Happy birthdays. Because I’ve had some unhappy ones.”

“Like the year I turned 13.”

“Yes, that was an unhappy birthday for me.”

“Why, grandma?”

“Because we scheduled your mom’s birthday party on my birthday, so all the attention was on her again. Which was fine, but I decided I won’t do that again. I’d like for my birthday to happen on my birthday.”

“I’m thankful for the whole Heyer family.”

“You already said that.”

“I’m thankful for them again.”

“I’m thankful for helicopters.”

“You are?”

“Yes. Don’t judge me.”

“Oh! I just realized we started with T and now H, so we could spell Thanksgiving!”img_4143

“That’s a good idea for next year. I want a different letter.”

“Next year? Wait a year to spell Thanksgiving?”

“Right.”

“Okay, so what’s your better idea?”

“I just realized I don’t have one, so I’m arguing without a point.”

“Well, you have to pick the letter now.”

“Okay, I choose C. I’m thankful for… compromises.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“Well, how ironic, because that’s what it is to live with you my entire life. All compromises, all the time.”

“Let’s build each other up, shall we?”

“I love that she made us not spell Thanksgiving so we can instead choose the letter C and the word Compromise.”

“I’m thankful for … cattle.”

“Seriously?”

“What’s wrong with cattle? You like hamburgers, don’t you? And shoes?”

“I think the turkey sitting in the middle of this table wonders why it had to attend this party if you’re so thankful for cattle.”

“I’m thankful for coffee.”

“Right. And Starbucks, where you met Peter, blah-blah-blah.”

“Now things that start with N.”

“This is a weird way to spell Thanksgiving.”

“I’m thankful for Neapolitan ice cream.”

“Which I’ve never seen you eat, ever.”

“Well, still.”

“I’m thankful for Narnia. The closet and the forest.”

“I’m thankful for naps.”

“Oh! Good one!”

“That sign on the wall says, ‘The conversation at our table is always better than the food.’”

“I’m not sure that’s true today.”

“The food is seriously good, though.”