“Goodbye For Now”

“The Ghost Train.”

I’ve heard about this for quite a while now.

Did you ever have an item on your Christmas list that you wanted more than anything else?

I remember how much I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll when I was younger. And I’ll never forget running into my parents’ room and exclaiming what I found on Christmas morning that year. For underneath our tree, was not one, but 12 Cabbage Patch dolls!

“The Ghost Train” is a Lego set that Grady wanted so badly. I almost didn’t get it for him. Originally, his daddy and I picked him up a “Lord of the Rings” Lego set. But, one week before Christmas, my little guy came up to me just before breakfast with his brows all furrowed.

“Mom,” he asked. “Did you send Santa my list?”

“I sure did,” I answered assuredly. “Don’t you worry.”

He smiled at me and sighed, “Oh good! I was afraid he’d forget my ‘Ghost Train.’ That’s the only thing I really want.”

I just nodded to him with a smile frozen on my face, while my heart began to race.

How did we miss “The Ghost Train”?!?!

Needless to say, I made a beeline to Target as soon as I got off work, just to see if they still had any “Ghost Trains” around. My stomach was in a knot the entire time I sat at my desk. I mean, sure, I had confidence that Santa would come through. But, just in case Santa’s elves didn’t quite get around to making it, I wanted to make sure he had a back-up plan. 😉

After all, I knew that no matter how many presents Grady had under the tree, the only one that would really make his heart leap was this special item.

Christmas morning came and the first thing my son did was pick up a rectangular-shaped box and give it a shake. And what he heard was music to his ears. For according to him, a multitude of rattling pieces could only mean one thing…

A Lego set.

And not just any Lego set…

His “Ghost Train.”

He was so excited as he tore away the wrapping paper! Watching his face beam as he held his beloved set made me so happy. I knew he went to bed Christmas Eve just hoping he’d finally get his “Ghost Train.” Watching that dream come true for him is something I’ll always remember.

I tell this story because it makes me think of another one.

One I haven’t been able to talk about. Well, I think I shared my thoughts with maybe two people. But, every time I start to speak on the topic, my heart gets heavy and I can’t talk anymore.

Last night, I watched a video that honored all the victims from the Newtown tragedy. I had heard their names and I knew their ages. Most of the children were age 6 and were in Kindergarten.

Just like Grady.

And as I watched this montage of faces on Christmas evening, I sobbed like I haven’t in such a long time. I couldn’t help but think of all the parents of these little children. I wondered if they too, went on a quest for a “Ghost Train,” or a baby doll or some other special item for their child, but never got the chance to watch their baby’s Christmas wish come true. Where their innocent child should have slept on Christmas Eve, instead remained an empty bed of blankets with no one to snuggle in or a favorite stuffed animal with no one to cuddle to. Maybe they picked out special candy for their child’s stocking or found wrapping paper with their son or daughter’s favorite cartoon character. But, they never got to see their sweet child’s face light up when they saw their Christmas tree surrounded with special gifts carefully selected just for them.

I can’t even imagine the pain they must feel. And my heart aches so much for these families. As a mother, the thought of losing one of my children is gut wrenching. I don’t understand what happened and I never will. I’ve prayed for each one of these families by name and hope that God’s peace, which passes all understanding will manifest itself in their lives, I pray they feel love embrace them in such a way that they can find the strength just to take a breath. And I pray that they share in and find the hope that one day they will see their own again and their soul will finally rest.

I’m sharing this video tonight. It’s hard to watch. But, I think each precious face deserves to be seen: these victims are more than names and ages…they were someone’ s joy and song.

southern sayings

“Bless your heart.”

Awww…don’t you just get all warm and fuzzy reading that?

Well, don’t let it fool you.

Here in the South, it’s the “nice” way of telling someone they’re basically…well, stupid.

There are a couple little sayings I’ve picked up since moving to Tennessee.

One of my favorites is “fixins.'”

I’m starting to slip that word in a little more frequently at dinner…excuse me, I mean supper. The other night, when the kids asked what we were eating, I told them “Chili with all the fixins.” Grady, of course, promptly asked me what part of the chili was broken and if he’d still have to eat it.

I’m also tossing the term into comments like, “I’m fixin to go to the store.” Yes, I do use the word mostly for my own amusement, but it’s quickly becoming a habit of speech.

y'all“Ma’am” is another saying I’m trying to get used to. I guess I just feel old whenever someone calls me that. I mean, I get that it’s a term of respect and all, but still, I feel like I should break out the big, floral print dresses or something whenever I hear it. Our neighbor boys use it all the time. Whenever I ask a question they’d like repeated, they look at me and say, “Ma’am?” Ha – that’s quite a change from the “Whaaaat?!!!” that typically bounces of these walls throughout the day.

Let’s see…what else comes to mind?

Well, when I first came down here, I remember having a conversation with our contractor. As we were getting ready to lock up the house, I asked him if he’d like me to put his pop in the refrigerator or if he wanted to take it with him. Now, I know all my northern friends will help me out and say that they know what a “pop” is.

He, however, did not.

“What did you say?” he asked as he looked at me quizzingly.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I told him. “I was asking if you wanted your pop. Let me guess, you call it ‘soda,’ right?”

“No,” he chuckled.

“Oh,” I mused. “Well then what do you call it down here?”

“Ma’am, we just call it ‘Mountain Dew.'”


Mountain Dew.

Makes perfect sense to call a product by it’s name… 😉

But, back to “bless you heart”…

I remember the first time someone said that to me.

The best part is, our pastor had just given a sermon on the back-handed slap this line delivers.

I was shopping in an antique store and somehow misplaced my keys. I checked my purse…no luck. I went through the entire shop, which was a headache since it looked like it could be a contender for an episode on “Hoarders.” But again, nothing. I went outside, got on my stomach and searched under my car.

No keys.

The cashier came out to help me:

“Oh, hon, just bless your little heart.”

I swear, she wouldn’t stop saying it.

Now, I’m the first to admit, I totally deserved the line. But, over and over? Really??


At one point I just wanted to sigh and say, “Listen, I know I’m new here, I talk fast and don’t have a drawl or anything, but I KNOW WHAT YOU”RE REALLY SAYING!!!” And honestly, if you could read my mind right now, you’d hear that I’m currently doing enough ‘blessing’ for both of us.”

But, shut my mouth, heavens to Betsy and goodness gracious, why…I do declare that just wouldn’t have been hospitable, now would it?

And heaven forbid I forgo any notion of southern hospitality. 😉

100 Stamps

4:00pm is one of my favorite times of day.

Six days a week, right on schedule, I receive a visit from our mail carrier. Yes, most of the time, my mail box is filled with bills, ads or items addressed to “current resident.”

stampBut, every once in a while there’s a card in there.

And when that happens, I get so excited, I barely make it inside the house before opening it! Seriously, I’m just like the kids, except I manage to rip open the envelope without tearing apart the card.

I just love receiving cards and letters…love it! Emails, texts and instant messages are fun and definitely great ways to stay connected. However, “snail mail” is still my favorite form of correspondence. Call me old-fashioned, but getting an envelope with my name scrawled in the familiar handwriting of family and friends is so heart warming.

Have you ever had a rough day, only to have it brightened by a special note in your mailbox? Or, felt your heart skip a beat because someone was thinking about you…and took the time to tell you? All too often, it’s easy to feel like just another face in the crowd. But, when you get a card specifically meant for you…well, how can you not smile?!

There are two times a year in particular when I keep an ear out for the familiar stopping and starting of the mail truck: birthdays and Christmas. Needless to say, one of these times is now upon us. 😉

As I reflected on all this, I brainstormed about how the kids and I can give these same sentiments to other people in our life.

And so…this year I’m taking a twist on “Embracing a Spirit of Giving”!

For the past two years, we have counted down to Christmas by giving each day to a different group of people. We made hand-crafted ornaments, baked goodies, purchased items and of course, given the gift of our “time” to others.

This year though, we’re giving the gift of our words in a project I’m calling, “Embracing a Spirit of Giving 2012: 100 Stamps.”

Here’s the deal:

Every day until Christmas, the kids and I will each write a letter to someone we know. That’s 25 letters a piece, thus requiring 100 stamps.

The requirements are simple:

  1. They have to be encouraging and tell the person what they admire or respect about them.
  2. They need to tell the person why their presence is meaningful.
  3. They have to use specific examples; blanket statements or “I think you’re cool” sentences aren’t going to cut it. There has to be a “because” in there.
  4. They have to personalize and decorate the card. And yes, they get complete and total free reign with this! So if by chance you receive a card with battling Skylanders on the front, then know I said it was “okay.”

As a way to wrap-up this project, I thought it would be fun to show the kids “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Day. After writing all their letters, I think they’ll relate to the concept of how a person’s life really does matter and we should never take for granted the impact one life may have on another.

Now, one of the ideas that shaped our previous projects is giving the gift of “presence” as opposed to “presents.” So, we’ve chosen a few specific ways to honor this concept. But, more on that later…

And yes, I will have a few other “specials” to add to the project. I just wouldn’t be “Kelly” without throwing a surprise or two into the mix!

“Embracing a Spirit of Giving 2012” is officially underway!

I hope your season is blessed!

September 24, 2012


Dear Ava Grace,

A decade ago, at 5:32pm, you entered this world.

And changed mine forever.

On that day I became a Mother.

Not just any Mother…your Mother.

There are many things I could give you today Ava. But more than anything, I want to give you my words. Don’t worry, you’ll still have a package to open. But, clothes and toys will one day be outgrown. But, these words I write to you are timeless. They will always be here for you to read, tuck away into your heart and remember.

Ava, I want you to read this early because I have no idea how long my letter will be:

I love you.

Having you for a daughter is a gift. It’s a gift not because of what you do, but because of who you are. I don’t say this to dismiss or diminish any of your admirable and loving actions. But, my dear child, please know that you are enough. You don’t have to try to earn my love…it’s yours.

I’ve thought about this letter for well over a week now. How could I not? After all, you’ve been counting down the days until your birthday for a month now. I thought about drafting various letters to you, then compiling my thoughts and sentiments into one final version and publishing that on your birthday. However, I didn’t quite make it past the “I thought about…” part.

So, here I am, sitting in bed on your “Birthday Eve.”

And you’re laying beside me.

I’m not surprised to find you here. Now normally, I would lead you back to your bed because it’s a school night. But, special occasions call for exceptions, don’t you think? Hmmmm…I can’t decide which is better: my sneaking suspicion that you’d be waiting for me. Or, the fact that you knew, because it’s your birthday, that I would let you stay here for the night.

So, the setting for this letter couldn’t be better. When you read this, you’ll know that I wrote while watching you rest.

I think over the past decade, and am in awe at the way you, who was once a tiny being, have had one of the biggest impacts on my heart.

Ava, there are several things I could write about when it comes to you:

You are so thoughtful. How could I ever guess that when you first asked me how to use the microwave, it was because you wanted to make me a hot chocolate. You know how much I love them! And the days when I awake to an aromatic cup sitting on my nightstand are some of the sweetest mornings indeed.

I love the way you save the top of your freeze pop for me. I have noticed that when you open them, the amount you cut off keeps getting bigger, thus increasing my portion. 🙂

I think though, my favorite gestures of your thoughtfulness, are your letters. Reading your words of love makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s too early for you to understand, but when you have children of your own one day, you’ll feel this compulsion and fear to not mess up. There will be days when you think you’re doing an okay job and others when you wish for a do-over. The way you see me matters so much. I hope you continue to look at me the way you do now.

You are amazingly talented and artistic. I enjoy your drawings so much Ava…they are beautiful. And what would this home be like without your voice filling it with song? Your spirit brings a force that causes shadows to dissipate, as you light up rooms with your presence.

Your smile is contagious. I love your glasses. I wish I could pull off twirling in a frilly skirt as well as you do. Your imagination inspires me. Your compassion for others makes my heart ache for their needs too. You’re too smart for your own good and I know that one day we’ll find ourselves in a battle of wits and I’ll lose. You’re headstrong, yet considerate. You have a sweet shyness about you that is endearing. You are generous and respectful. You’re mischievous and playful. Your brothers couldn’t have asked for a better big sister. Yes, you can be bossy, but you always have their back and look out for them without thinking twice. You are beautiful. Your faith is moving. I am a better person because of you and my life is richly blessed because you are in it.

Ava, I’m surprised that the sound of my typing hasn’t caused you to stir more. But, then again, you’ve always been a sound sleeper. Do you know that one of my favorite things to do when you were a baby was watching you sleep? You looked so peaceful and angelic, as the sound of your breathing softly filled the room.

I still love watching you sleep.

Every night before I go to bed, I check on you and your brothers, adjust your blankets, kiss your forehead and say a prayer. As I watch you tonight, I can’t help but marvel at how much you’ve grown. I remember how I used to cradle you as you nestled in my arms. There is a part of me that wishes I could hold you that way still. I always felt that my arms could protect you from any harm as they surrounded you. But, my darling baby did what babies do…and you grew.

Ava, as much as I wish I could save you from hurt: I can’t. But, I can promise you that even though I can’t prevent the storms of life, I can and will stand firm with you through them. I have weathered many trials in my own life. And, what I’ve learned is that if I relied on my own efforts, then I’d be washed away. But, by placing my hope in God, and enabling Him to be my shelter and refuge, I am able to endure. By His strength, I not only withstand, but I persevere.

As I think about your future, I pray that you will embrace that too. Remember you are never alone. You have a Heavenly Father who loves you and calls you the apple of His eye. You have your family here who absolutely adores you and friends who support you.

And you have me…always.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday. Celebrating you is so much fun, but it’s even better with chocolate cupcakes! I’ve been visualizing them in my head and if all goes well, then they’ll be so pretty. And hey, if we’re lucky, they may just be delicious too.

I love you Ava Grace.


Happy Birthday,


“You want us to what???!!!”

“You want us to color on the floor?”

“Yes,” I replied as my three children gazed up at me quizzically.

“So, you want us to take these permanent markers and color a picture on the floor?”


“So, just so we’re clear…you want us to take these permanent, NON-WASHABLE markers and color a picture on the floor?!”

“Yes!” I laughed. “Here, I’ll start…”

A few days ago, our crazy dogs somehow managed to rip up a section of our linoleum floor in the basement. My poor husband was flabbergasted when he saw it! But, he was ready to fix it. He precisely cut out a square and planned to replace the missing section with the leftover flooring our previous homeowners left behind.

But, somehow…that flooring went missing. (Adam thinks he threw it away. “Ha,” the packrat in me gleefully exclaimed. See, you just never know when you may need that old flooring…).

Anyhow, he went to Lowe’s and just planned on picking up a new piece there.

But…they didn’t have any matches.

So, we were left with a 15″X18″ section of concrete and no feasible way to hide it.

Oh, what is a girl to do?

I first I said, “I guess we’ll just have to replace the entire flooring. Darn.”

But, that idea wasn’t exactly fitting into our budget.


If you can’t hide something…then highlight it!

I went to the store and picked up a colorful selection of permanent markers. I cleaned up the floor, laid out the markers and told the kids we were making a doodle mosaic:

I just love the way it turned out!! The kids each got to draw whatever they wanted to. My only requirement was that they each write their name somewhere on their drawing and the date they made it.

While admiring our masterpiece, I made sure the kids understood that this in NO way means they can destroy any area of the house in hopes of creating another coloring opportunity.

Oh yes, and they cannot encourage the dogs to do so either…

The Cookies

My aunt shared this story with me today.

It can be so tempting to jump to negative assumptions. But, when we do, especially when we’re wrong, we miss out on what could have been a beautiful moment…


A young lady was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of a big airport. As she would need to wait many hours, she decided to buy a book to spend her time. She also bought a packet of cookies.

She sat down in an armchair, in the VIP room of the airport, to rest and read in peace. Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies lay, a man sat down in the next seat, opened his magazine and started reading.

ImageWhen she took out the first cookie, the man took one also. She felt irritated but said nothing. She just thought, “What nerve! If I was in the mood I would punch him for daring!”

For each cookie she took, the man took one too. This was infuriating her, but she didn’t want to cause a scene. When only one cookie remained, she thought, “Ah…what will this abusive man do now?”

Then, the man, taking the last cookie, divided it into half, giving her one half.

Ah! That was too much! She was much too angry now! In a huff, she took her book, her things and stormed to the boarding place.

When she sat down in her seat inside the plane, she looked into her purse to take her eyeglasses out and, to her surprise, her packet of cookies was there…untouched and unopened.

She felt so ashamed. She realized that she was wrong…she had forgotten that her cookies were kept in her purse.

The man had divided his cookies with her, without feeling angered or bitter…while she had been very angry, thinking that she was dividing her cookies with him. And now there was no chance to explain herself..nor to apologize.

There are four things you cannot recover:

The stone after the throw.

The word after it’s been said.

The occasion after the loss.

The time after it’s gone.


a surprise

“Mom, we have a surprise for you! But, first we need you to take us to the pet store!”

I had three faces eagerly looking up at me.

And watched as three bodies jumped up and down before me.

Ava then handed me a blue velvet jewelry box.

In it, was a fistful of crumpled up dollar bills. The kids had pulled together their money and stuffed it all inside the tiny box. They knew exactly what they wanted to buy with their earnings, but just needed a bit of help getting there.

Unfortunately, their daddy was away on a business trip, so they had to appeal to the only other driver in the house.

Over the past week, they have commented on what they want to buy with their money. Ava still wants an iPod Touch, but know she has a lonnnnnnggggg way to go. Garrett and Grady had their heart set on the Lego Atlantis Golden King’s Palace. They were only $2 short. But then, while we were up North, the kids put on a little Christmas Extravaganza with their cousins. Their papa, who served as producer, gave them each $2 when the show was over. That gave the boys what they needed to buy the one item Santa did not come through with!

I figured we’d be making a trip to Toys R Us this week, so the pet store thing left me wondering.

The night before I took the kids to PetSmart. The boys have wanted a hamster for quite a while. Ava has two guinea pigs and they wanted a pet that was “theirs” too. They have been so good and responsible and well…I just wanted to get them one. So, I said, “Yes.”

We purchased the cage, but the hamster won’t be in until tomorrow.

They are quite excited.

Since we had just been at the pet store, I knew they must have seen something else they thought I’d like. Lord only knows there was no way I’d go for a snake or a pet tarantula!

We piled into the minivan and set off again to PetSmart.

They grabbed my hands while in the parking lot and literally pulled me into the store.

They then let go and took off…


almost stepping on a dog who, with it’s owner, was walking toward the main entrance…

and made a beeline line right to…

the bird section.

“It’s still here! It’s still here!!” they cried out. As I approached them I remembered how, during our previous visit, they admired one bird in particular.

A little green parakeet.

“It’s your favorite color Mom! And now you can have something special to sing with too!!”

Yes and Yes.

So, we have another addition to our family and after we get the boys their hamster tomorrow we.are.done.

Hmmm…I think I may hold off on taking them to see “We Bought a Zoo.”

Anyhow, meet my new parakeet.

I haven’t named it yet, but it’s really sweet and seems to enjoy sitting on my hand. I have no idea if it’s a boy or a girl, and neither did the workers at PetSmart. The boys have decided that if their new hamster is a girl, then they’re naming it “Cupcake.” If it’s a boy, then they’ll call it “Crackers.”

So, I think I may wait until they name their pet and then go with the other name for mine. 🙂

You know what?

I have some pretty fantastic kids.