A Simple Decoration

When our oldest son, Robert, graduated from high school it was easy to choose a theme for his graduation party. Music! Music had been his life for all of junior high and high school. And he was going to the University of Arkansas to study music education. I ordered a cake and found this simple music note tree centerpiece. Silver and black, covered in music notes, it was the perfect addition to the table.

Music note tree.

After the party, I put the decorations away in the closet. No thought was given to them for the next two years until Rachel graduated. Even though Rachel would study special education in college, music had been a crucial part of her secondary education as well. At first, I kind of joked, “Hey. Wonder if I still have that music decoration from Robert’s party?” Once I found it, there was no question it would once again grace the table.

I knew it would be four more years before our last high school graduation. So, as I put things away after Rachel’s party, I was determined to hold on to that centerpiece. I placed it back in the closet, in the same box.

I would sometimes see it during closet clean-outs but was careful not to throw it away. Yes, I probably could have bought another one. But it would not be the same. A new one would not have been present at the other two graduation parties.

I chuckled this morning as the music-note centerpiece was pulled from the closet. It decorated the table for its third party. This one to celebrate the high school graduation of our youngest, Ryan (also a musician) and the college graduation of our daughter, Rachel. It was a beautiful day filled with family and friends, yummy snack food, and two delicious cakes.

After the party ended, I began to think about that centerpiece. I’ll readily admit that I am often sentimental over things which others might find simple or unimportant. This particular item could easily fall under one of those categories. So, why was I so determined to save it? What did it represent?

For me, a sappy mom whose kids are growing up way too fast here’s what I came up with:

  • Importance of music in our family
  • Commitment to education
  • Celebrating accomplishments
  • Love of family and friends
  • Support of siblings

None of those things are simple or unimportant. On the contrary, they are part of what makes this life so beautiful.

Our music note centerpiece may have reached its end, but memories of the celebrations it graced will continue to make me smile. Memories of my children’s accomplishments. Memories of family and friends who love us and took time to celebrate with us. ❤

Easter Baskets & Sugar Cookies

When the kids were little, I loved preparing for Easter. Shopping for baskets, candy, books, etc. Plastic eggs to fill and green plastic grass to lay them on. Sugar cookie baking was also part of our tradition. A variety of cookie cutters were used to create eggs, baby chicks, flowers, and crosses. A powdered sugar, milk, and food coloring glaze added the final touch.

After the kids went to bed, I would gather all my basket supplies. Once the plastic eggs were filled with jelly beans, they were placed carefully in their respective containers. Sitting on the fireplace hearth, they waited to be discovered the next morning. A plate of cookies sat on the kitchen table, often with a note for each kid.

After their basket discovery, it was off to church. The morning filled with beautiful music and powerful reminders of Christ’s love. Next came pictures and lunch with extended family. Oh, and Easter egg hunts. Indoors if it was raining. A full day of family fun!

This year the kids are 24, 21, and 18. No, I didn’t buy baskets or plastic grass. I did, however, buy plastic eggs, jelly beans, other candy treats, and baked cookies. Everything was placed on the dining room table creating an edible centerpiece. Plates of sugar cookies graced the kitchen counter.

Our family was not able to be together for the whole day. Some of us went to church, others came for lunch, others stopped by in the afternoon to visit. There were cute little to go bags they could fill with treats from the centerpiece. And pictures? Well, this is all I managed to snap.

Yes, this year was different. No cute little pics of the kids in their dressy clothes. No actual Easter baskets. No Easter egg hunt. But that’s ok. I spent time with my family. I was reminded of how much Christ loves me. It was a Happy Easter!

But I might have to buy Easter baskets next year… 😉

Pancakes & Sr. Trips

We’ve enjoyed a variety of family traditions over the years, dependent on where we lived, the age of the kids, etc. One favorite was Saturday morning pancakes. We started this one the year we lived in Liberal, KS, far away from extended family and friends. A simple thing, but so important for us as a family.

Not all traditions happen as often Saturday morning pancakes. Actually, there is one family event I never thought of as a tradition until our final one. The senior trip…

As each of our children approached their high school graduation, Gart and I asked them to choose, within reason, a place they would like to visit. The choices of these three proved as varied as their personalities. Robert? Colorado. Rachel? Washington, D.C. And Ryan? New York City!

Dad planned, saved, worked out all the details, ensuring the graduate experienced all the activities on their list. What was Mom’s role? Let’s just say I learned how to let go a little. And began to recognize my babies were not babies anymore.

It all started in Colorado. What could be more relaxing? A quiet cabin, hiking, fishing, feeding the chipmunks, coffee on the deck…but those were my plans. Robert and his friend, Jeremy, had something much more adventurous in mind.

These two 18-year-olds successfully hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, 14,400 ft., the highest peak in the continental U.S. It was difficult to hear them drive away that morning, before dawn. I wanted to yell one more, “Be careful!” Honestly, I can’t remember what I said. I only remember being proud (and relieved) when they returned that evening.

At the top!

If that accomplishment was not enough, they went white water rafting the next day, again unaccompanied, this time with a younger brother in tow. Talk about letting go!

Excited younger brother!

Our second stop in this Morris family tradition was Washington, D.C. This trip was a little different for our family. Robert, busy with college commitments, could not go. Only 4 out of 5 would make the trip. Another mom adjustment.

What an amazing trip! Our Rachel, compassionate and a history buff, was so excited! Highlights included the FDR memorial (her favorite president) and the Holocaust Museum. These experiences strengthened her passion for special education and equality. Watching her soak in the meaning behind these places, I learned more about history, but more importantly, I learned more about her.

Her favorite president!

Our final senior trip took us to NYC! I was ready for the change in family dynamic this time. Ryan would be the only one of our three kiddos going, accompanied by his friend, Will. We packed in as much as possible. Times Square, Joe’s Pizza, Uptown Comics, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty, Museum Of Natural History, Rockefeller Center…

First night in the city!

How was there time for a “letting go” moment? For me, there’s always time. 😉 The end of day two we headed back to our hotel. I was exhausted and needed a break. The boys wanted to do more shopping at Rockefeller Center. We exited the subway, Gart gave them directions, and we went our separate ways.

I might have held back a few tears as the two boys took off on their own…walking down the street…in NYC! I fought the urge to yell after them, “Be careful!” My thoughts suddenly traveled back in time six years to Colorado. They would be just fine.

That’s my baby!

As I sat on the flight home, post-graduation trip number three, the end of a family tradition, I had a revelation. Yes, these trips highlighted changes in our family dynamic. Yes, I had to learn to let go a little. Yes, I learned things about my kids. But there was always one constant right beside me-Gart.

We are in this marriage/family thing for the long haul, no matter what. I cannot imagine my life without him. I’m thankful Gart had the wisdom and forethought to not only begin this senior trip tradition but see it through to the end.

Here’s to new family traditions. And maybe revisiting some old ones along the way. I think Saturday morning pancakes might be a great place to start. Pancakes anyone?

More Than Just a Band Concert

My husband and I recently attended our last winter concert as band parents. Our youngest son, a tuba player, is a senior. If not careful, my emotions can quickly take over during events like this. The powerful music, memories of concerts past and of faithfully attending family members who are no longer with us create a perfect recipe for tears.

The band program has been an integral part of our family life for many years. Great memories. So many expressions of support and encouragement. Sibling to sibling, parent to child, grandparent to grandchild-a beautiful circle of family love and support. With an added bonus of experiencing amazing music. (Not to mention the after-concert dessert. That may be the part I’ll miss the most.) 

Of course, some “mom” traditions accompany these events. Pre-concert photos, often by the Christmas tree, for starters. Due to a musical rehearsal after school, I was not home to get that picture this year. Instead, I was meeting our son for a quick dinner before the concert.

As he climbed out of his car, looking so handsome in his tuxedo, I said, “Oh no. I wish I’d thought to have Rachel take your…”. Before I could finish my sentence, he said, “It’s ok, Mom. Rachel took a picture. She knew you’d want one.” I managed not to burst into tears, so proud that my kiddos recognize the importance of these little things.


                                     Winter band concert 2018

Sitting in those performing arts center seats once again, like so many times before, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude for this experience in our kids’ lives. Involvement in these groups grounded them, gave them a place to belong, and taught them a life-long skill. Responsibility, creativity, discipline-to name a few of the strengths gained. And all of this in the setting of a public-school music program.

While listening to beautiful music, I noticed the number of students on stage. All of these individuals, capable of making a lovely sound on their own. Yet working together, their parts intertwined, created magic. And all the magic held together by an amazing teacher/director standing in front of them.

Although I know time must keep moving, and a new season is approaching, it’s difficult to imagine a school year without such events. I’m looking forward to discovering what new things we will celebrate and encourage as parents. But I will always remember our years attending concerts with joy, thankfulness, and appreciation for the power of music. Looking back with the understanding that if you look closely enough, you realize each event was much more than just a band concert.

Thanksgivings Past

Today is Thursday, November 22, 2018, Thanksgiving Day! As the day begins, I realize one of the things I’m most thankful for is the ability to remember. There are specific people, places and foods which come to mind with each Thanksgiving past. They all blend together, creating a beautiful tapestry.

As a child, my family spent Thanksgiving next door at my grandparent’s home. There were lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. With thirty plus people present, finding a place to sit was often a challenge. Thus, the phrases “On your feet, lose your seat” & “Butt in the air, lose your chair” were uttered often with laughter.

I had two important Thanksgiving jobs growing up. One was stirring the pie filling for my dad’s chocolate pies until it began to thicken. It seemed to take forever, but oh so worth it! There would always be enough filling left for a few small bowls. My second job was chopping the pecans for mom’s four-layer carrot cake, using a hand-crank chopper. Remember those?

Our family also made the fruit salad, complete with marshmallows and coconut. The funny thing is, every year we’d forget to take it out of the fridge. About the time we were ready for pie, someone would say, “Hey, where’s the fruit salad?” Better late than never, I guess.

After I was married and had my own family, there were new Thanksgiving traditions. Sometimes we would host the family meal, having my family travel from Arkansas to Oklahoma to be with us. Other years we would have dinner in Owasso with Gart’s parents, his sisters and their husbands, and our nieces. There were also times our family would travel to Arkansas, and I would share childhood memories with my children.

A couple of Thanksgivings were spent far away from home. The first was a trip to Colorado. My parents, Gart’s parents, and our three children spent Thanksgiving in a cabin in the mountains. Complete with snow, fire in the fireplace, a big picture window, and deer in the front yard. Except for one harrowing drive during the snowstorm, it was a perfect trip!

Then there was Thanksgiving in NYC.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our daughter, Rachel, marched in the Macy’s Parade. Watching the parade on television had been a tradition every year for as long as I could remember. Seeing it in person was so special. Even though it was the coldest parade day on record, and we survived by taping hand/body warmers all inside our clothes and shoes!

So many great memories. So many things to be thankful for. Yet in the middle of them, there are moments of grief. The Thanksgiving we’ve talked about most the past couple of days is November 2015. The pictures confirm the meal was at our home. A photo of Gart, his dad, and Robert-three generations. Gart’s parents sitting at the bar. Gart’s dad in the kitchen helping his granddaughter, Hannah, and daughter, Andrea. Typical snapshots from any of our family gatherings. What we didn’t know, however, was that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my sweet father-n-law.

So, what are our plans for this year? Today will be a quiet day at home. Me, Gart, Gart’s mom, two of our children. We will watch the Macy’s parade, eat a simple meal, but we will also prepare food for Friday-cornbread dressing and chocolate pies! Friday we will all travel to Dallas. A huge meal and celebration have been planned at Paula and Martin’s home (Gart’s sister and brother-n-law.) Friends, family, even a great grandbaby will enjoy each other’s company, eat lots of good food, while adding to our beautiful tapestry of memories.

Will there be moments of sadness? Most definitely. People we love dearly will not be with us. Some for the first year, some for the third year, and so on. We miss them. Their absence felt even stronger on days such as this. Days we know they loved because they were about family.  Yet through the sadness, we will be thankful. Thankful for the memories of Thanksgivings past.