Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Continue. — Random Holiday Traditions NOT To Be Monkeyed With.

I believe in tradition.

Growing up with some family traditions gives you a strong foundation. Because you know what to expect. You get excited about little things. You look forward to these little things happening. And as you grow up, you share these traditions, these ways of doing things with others.

Sure, you adjust. You are flexible as you need to be based on events and people and time.

Traditions are a guide. Traditions give you a place to start.

And I believe with all of my heart…that you don’t … “monkey with tradition.”

A line I stole from the movie, ‘Mystic Pizza’, and made it one of my life’s ambitions.

I am the glue. I am the memory. I am the keeper of the tradition.

I feel a responsibility to keep them going. To keep them alive. Even if no one notices or is even paying attention, it is important to me that we keep doing these things.

So here is a list of our random family holiday traditions.

That should never ever be monkeyed with.



1. We open all of the family presents on Christmas Eve.

2. Santa brings unwrapped presents on Christmas morning.

3. Our elf on the shelf is named, Holly. I know, he has a girl name, but he’s a boy. Elf’s do that sometimes. Apparently. Especially when they are named by 5 year old girls.

4. Holly shows up on the first night that the Christmas tree lights go on. That’s how he knows to come.

5. The tree always goes up after Thanksgiving and usually comes down after New Year’s Day.

6. On Christmas Eve, the kiddos get to hug and kiss Holly goodbye. But he must be on the tree before bedtime so Santa can find him and take him home.

7. You may not go downstairs on Christmas morning before Momma. She must get the picture of the kiddos at the top of the stairs in full excitement mode.  It’s a Momma Rule. And Momma Rules can’t be broken.

8. We will have Monkey Bread for breakfast on Christmas morning. And we eat our Monkey Bread off of little blue Snowman plates. That is the only action those plates see all year.

monkeybread plate

9. We drive about 45 minutes to see Santa each year. We meet family friends for lunch and listen to THE Santa sing songs, play guitar and tell stories. It is pure Christmas magic. We believe.

10. We will always give our friends an ornament of some sort as a Christmas present.

11. We will always give a photo calendar to our Nanas, Maws and PawPaws.

12. There will always be 3 new ornaments added to the tree each year: one with a picture of X, one with a picture of Y and one with a picture of me and Felix together. Each with the current year engraved on it.

13. At Maw Betty’s house, we will always hang the “Horton Balls”, handmade ornaments with each person’s name on one.  New additions of babies or unions are added each year.


14. We open presents one at a time. Sometimes we clap for each present. But not always.

15. We watch the TBS 24 hours of A Christmas Story for … well, almost 24 hours. I’m actually sad when it is over.

New Year’s Eve (My favorite holiday):

16. We bring the neighbors some oranges.

17. We eat 12 grapes at midnight.

18. We make our Family Mind Map of Goals for the new year.

Valentine’s Day:

19. Is always Family Fondue Night! A night for us to stay in and enjoy each our family, while dipping random food into chocolate.

Christmas 2010 - Feb 18 2011 387

Fourth of July aka Y’s Birthday:

20. Fireworks. No matter where we are. Fireworks.


21. We use the classic plastic pumpkins to go trick or treating. No bags or pillow cases for us.

Halloween 2010 031


22. We go to an indoor water park on or around this holiday.


23. You can have Monkey Bread for Breakfast if you would like. You always get to choose the food for the day.

24. There will be a sunrise walk and photo shoot on the beach and I will make you hold up your fingers to show your age. Guaranteed.

25. There will be number candles on your cakes. Not just the number of individual candles, but candles (and sometimes even the cakes) in the shape of numbers. Because they are cool.

July 4th weekend 130

And because it is … tradition.

And…say it with me“You don’t monkey with tradition.” 

You just keep making new ones.

Merry Christmas, Action Worders!


Focus. — On One.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One.


Tonight, we will distribute these 250 presents.

They are all lined up.

Organized by number.

Wrapped. Bagged. Tissue papered.

With brightly colored bows and ribbons.

Sitting pretty.


I’m overwhelmed by this image and the need it represents.

I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who made this happen and the joyful giving of a community.

I’m overwhelmed by the hours of shopping, wrapping, organizing and honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of presents and the process we will use to give these out tonight.

So, I’m trying to focus.

Focus on one.

Focus on one present at a time.

Focus on one smile. One excited giggle. One “Thank you.”

Because out of so many,

that one present,

in the red bag, with the cheerful snowman in his crooked black top hat and green scarf,

is for one child.

One child who might not be surrounded by the comforts of … a lot.

One child who might not know safety and security, not to mention, stockings full of stuff.

One child who might squeal with delight upon opening it up.

One child who might still believe in the magic of Christmas.

So I’m going to try to focus on each one. 


Thanks to so many, Christmas might be just a little better for



Need. — Who Am I To Decide?

At this time of year, we are often compelled to give.

Give to others.

Others in need.

We give canned goods for the local food pantry.

We buy presents for children on Angel trees.

We tip better and make lists of gifts to buy for others.

We put together baskets of holiday meals for local families.

I have participated in these collections, in these canned food drives, in these angel trees, in these many acts of gift giving.

And every now and then, I have discovered that someone, some family, some child seems to be found on more than one list for giving.

I discover that they are receiving a basket of food from the school and a bag of gifts from the local church.

They are getting to go to the community center party and getting new clothes and shoes from the local Rotary club.

And I’m a little ashamed to think that I have probably thought  at some point or another, and maybe I’ve even said things out loud like, “See, that is what really bothers me … when people take advantage.”

But here’s the thing I have learned recently.

Who am I to judge?

Who am I to decide?

Who am I to have anything at all to say about who is really in need and who is only kind of in need?

Statistics show that the majority of us are really only six months away from poverty at any given moment …  if a tragic, devastating event were to occur in our lives. (Many of these start with the letter ‘D’.)

Death. Divorce. Disease. Deployment. Destruction. Disaster. Debt. Deceit.

We are all just a few bad choices or one act of very bad luck away from being …there.

And if we ever find ourselves…there…in need. In need of help. In need of the local food pantry. In need of help at Christmas.

If we ever find that we have to show up and get in line and look at others and ask for help. If we ever find that we have to put ourselves and our families on any and every list for help that is available. Then…

We wouldn’t want others judging us; deciding if we are really in need or only kind of in need?

Would we?


Because if we are … there; if we’ve made the decision to ask, to seek out help … then we are indeed in need.

Need is relative. And it is also personal.

So when people seek out help for their needs, it is not up to me whether or not to provide help. It is not up to me to judge whether the need is really needed.

It is up to me to give with a joyful heart.

And do what I can to meet needs and fill wants.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

P.S. I continue to be overwhelmed by the amount of generosity of people everywhere. We are still collecting donations for the families of the local food pantry to provide a present for each child and grandchild. If you would like to help, we are getting closer to meeting needs and filling wants…only need about $1100 more dollars to make it happen. If you are able to help, you can make a donation online:

The Giving Tree Angel Tree


Present. — Needs and Wants and Fishes and Loaves.

The Giving Tree Angel Tree

This morning, I asked the girl child what presents she wanted from Santa.

She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, “You know. I don’t really need anything.”

Heart. Warmed.

Tears. Brimming.

Blessings … being counted.

This time of year I do a lot of thinking about wants and needs and giving.

There are many things we want to do. There are even more things we need to do.

And the line between can sometimes become blurry when we think about this season of giving.

From giving thanks to giving gifts; there are lots of needs and lots of wants.

Last year, I wrote about a leap of faith that I became involved with at our little church, called our Giving Tree Angel Tree. To this day, I am still overwhelmed and amazed by the power of saying YES. How so many said YES:  I will help. I will give. I will meet a need and fill a want.

Whenever people come into this little church that I have talked about before…this little church in this little town doing big things, they always remark that the building is so much bigger than they thought it was; so much bigger than it appears on the outside.

Well, just like the building, this church is doing bigger things than most people realize. Bigger things that might seem…impossible even.

Bigger things that make me a little nervous sometimes. Bigger things that challenge me. Bigger things that push my faith.

Bigger things that make me walk around mumbling my new mantra….”Fishes and loaves. Fishes and loaves.”

I’ll be honest. Sometimes the mission of helping others, of meeting needs and filling wants seems so huge to me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that need help. Sometimes I feel like we can’t take on more, even though the phones are still ringing with requests for help. Sometimes I worry that we won’t be able to make a gift appear for every child.

‘Fishes and Loaves. Fishes and Loaves.”

This is what this little church in this little town doing big things…does. It meets needs. It fills wants. It does bigger things.

So during this season of giving, this is the challenge that we all need to try to accomplish. We, as we are able,  have to try to meet needs and fill wants.

So again, this year, I said, “Yes.”

There are angels on a tree.  Angels of families that come to the local Food Pantry on Friday nights.

If you are willing and able to help others this season, then I challenge you to…

Take action. Help others.

Do bigger things in giving this year.

If you would like to help our Angel Tree efforts, here is an online link for donations:

100% of donations will go toward Angel Tree gifts.  I will do the shopping for you … for them.

As of right now, there are still 49 kiddos on the tree.

Which makes me walk around,  mumbling and praying and believing…

“Fishes and loaves. Fishes and loaves.”


Perfect. — Please Pass the Mashed Potatoes.

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving  Freedom From Want

Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving
Freedom From Want

Traffic might be heavy.

The weather may be dreadfully dreary and cold.

It might be too windy for the iconic Macy’s Day parade balloons to fly.

You may forget your toothbrush.

Or forget an ingredient that was on the shopping list.

Someone may say something that hurts someone’s feelings.

Or ask a question that crosses the line.

The kitchen might get too hectic.

The cook may feel overwhelmed trying to get everything to come out at the same time.

The mashed potatoes might be lumpy.

The gravy might get cold.

The turkey might turn out to be a little on the dry side.

A kiddo might refuse to eat. Or say something is yucky.

Or … spill their milk on the nice table cloth. Or on the carpet in the dining room.

Someone might drink a glass too many of wine.

Or may have one too many helpings to cause a belly ache.

There might be an awkward silence.

Or too many people talking at once.

Someone may not help clean up the dishes even though they didn’t help cook and it is their turn.

A piece of china might get chipped.

Or maybe someone wasn’t able to come home. Or schedules conflicted. Or someone is ill or too far away. Or doesn’t have family, related or not, to gather with right now.

There are so many things that can go wrong on days like Thanksgiving.

Here’s a gift for you to make this holiday just a little bit easier, simpler:

It is not supposed to be a perfect day.

It is just another day. Another Thursday, where we set the intention to come together as friends and family and just be together.

So, accept it all. Everything that might go wrong and know that it is all part of the story.

The story that is this holiday, this Thanksgiving.

Because families are all about their stories. Their pictures. Their times. Their memories.

The traditions. The laughter. The dessert. The time and place. The table. The gathering. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember it all. And just be thankful.

For every little piece of this day.

And please pass the mashed potatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Revise. — A New Holiday Calendar.

Last week, my alarm clock started making its typical noise at 4:30 a.m.

But as I jerked myself awake and reached for the snooze button, I realized the song playing was Wham!’s Last Christmas.

“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart and the very next day, you gave it away…”

Which is wrong on so many levels. 1) That song was stuck in my head for the rest of the day. 2) I’m not a George Michael fan. But mostly, 3) It is not even Thanksgiving yet, why are we hearing Christmas songs already?!

I shouldn’t have been surprised, I started seeing red and green stuff mixed in with the orange and black back in October.

So, what if every holiday were like Christmas these days? What if every holiday started 2 months ahead of its schedule?

First of all, we could mark Valentine’s Day on New Year’s Eve. I think single folks everywhere might get on board with this one. Less pressure to find a date for one night, so less stress about New Year’s kisses and February 14th plans. Done.

And I don’t think anyone who would be drinking green beer for St. Patty’s Day would mind an earlier start. Seriously, if you are already on board with drinking green beer, I’m thinking you don’t really care which day this occurs, right?

However, decorating and hiding Easter Eggs in February could pose a problem. Especially if there is snow on the ground.

Fireworks would be less fun if it is too cool in the evening to sit out under the stars on the 4th of May.

But I think Trick or Treating in August would be an improvement. Maybe I would actually like this holiday a little bit more if the walk around the neighborhood were to take place on a nice Summer evening, instead of a cold dreary dampish night two months later. (I still would have issues with the sugar binging anytime.)

And as for Thanksgiving, well, that should really be celebrated every day of the year. Being thankful. Being grateful. Helping others. Family time.

Yes, that is a holiday for every day.

Now, I’m off to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer…before Thanksgiving.




Mildew. — Why I’m Dreading Holiday Decorating.

It is November 7th. And I am trying to be thankful.  Thankful for mildew. 

Yes. Mildew.

A few weeks ago, I went to the crawl space under the house to retrieve the Halloween and fall decorations we have stored there. I love this time of year. Not so much Halloween, I just fake that for the kiddos. But I love the fall colors. The oranges and maroons, the leaves. The pumpkins and scarecrows, the golds of it all.

So, I went under the house, ducking under the beams, walking like a hunchback. Until I found the three plastic tubs of fall decorations and dragged them out into the sunlight.

As soon as I carried them inside, the kiddos started pulling stuff out, knowing where it all goes. The leaf garland on the mantle. The little straw scarecrows on the bookshelf. The pumpkin lights in the living room. The spider bowl in the kitchen.

“Slow Down.” “Take your time.” “Be careful!” “Don’t drop that!” “Walk. Walk. WALK!”

I started looking around, seeing the browns and golds and oranges and maroons and smiled.

And just as I was starting to feel that “Fall is in the air” spirit, that is when it happened.

I smelled it. Within just a few minutes,  I smelled that sickened, sweetgross smell of … mildew.

I vaguely remember that Felix mentioned in passing that the crawl space was damp. But I’m sure I wasn’t really listening.

But. He was right. Yep, the damp mild temps of summer has created the opportunity for mildew.

On my stuff. On my fall stuff. On my decorating stuff.

I am really, really sensitive to that icky smell, and began to go back through the house collecting the spider bowl, the pumpkin lights, the little scarecrows and spiders. Back into the box. And into the garage. All of it.

Everything except for the plastic pumpkins that the kiddos carry for trick or treating. Mildewy.

I have to admit that I am a little sad that I am going to have to throw most of these things away.

Nothing that was too valuable,  mind you. Everything that can be replaced. I just can’t have any of it in my house anymore.

But what makes me even more sad, is the realization that all of my Christmas decorations are down there, too.

Along with the tubs of yearbooks and high school memorabilia.

And even though I know in the big scheme of things, it is not that big of a deal. 

I am still a little sad to throw the little scarecrows in the garbage.

The big ones get to stay outside now.

The good thing is that I cleaned out and downsized some of the Fall Decoration boxes.

But I’m really dreading to see what is inside the green and red boxes.




Pretend. — I think this costume is broken. I don’t love Halloween: Part 3.

Lil’ X told me this morning: “Nothing is real on Halloween, Momma.  It’s all pretend.”  He was looking into the little Jack-o-Lantern that I had plugged in at the last minute, my feeble attempt at pretending to be a little festive on this day.  He looked into the plastic pumpkin and said, “You’re not real.  You just have a little light bulb inside your mouth. You’re just pretending.”

photo (12)

I think I will use that way of thinking to my benefit today.

I’ll pretend that my house is all decked out for Halloween and we have all kinds of good holiday spirits going on in our home. I’ll pretend that I wasn’t feeling like the proverbial ‘bad Mom’ this morning, because I wasn’t really doing anything super special for the kiddos for Halloween today. Instead,  I’ll pretend that I fished out the fun black and orange socks for everyone.  That I donned my witch’s hat to greet them in their beds just for fun. That I  even made orange and green pumpkin pancakes to make this October 31st just a little bit memorable.

I’ll pretend that I got up early and made it to the gym this morning like I planned.  I’ll probably enjoy the fact that I missed the circuit this morning, that I believe involved Burpees and Wall Squats, when my legs aren’t so sore later.  (Secretly, I like Burpees and Wall Squats, so I’m actually a little sad that I missed this one.)  I’d like to pretend that my day isn’t so busy that I could sneak off to the gym later this afternoon, but that’s not gonna happen.

I’ll pretend that I’m excited about walking around tonight in the cold for Trick or Treating.  Actually, I’m already dreading it a little, but I’ll pretend that I’ll change my attitude before 6:30 p.m. No, really, I will. I will manage to adjust that mentality and focus on some fun…even if I have to pretend that I’m having fun just a little bit.  The truth is, I don’t like being cold and I’m not ready for Winter.

My kiddos are probably living in a fantasy world, too, dreaming that they get to eat all of the candy they collect in their plastic pumpkins tonight.  Ha! That’s a good one.  They can pretend all they want, that they will have open access to their stash instead of giving them up to the Switch Witch who will leave them a toy instead. When they start to have sugar withdraws, they’ll say we are mean and that we don’t love them (or else we would let them eat all of the candy that they want, be all jacked up on sugar and have rotten teeth), but I know that they don’t mean it–that  is just pretend, too.

photo 4 (3)

So, meanwhile Y is pretending to be a random softball superhero tonight.  X was going to be Iron Man, but when tried on his costume a couple of weeks ago, he had to pretend that he wasn’t just a little bit disappointed when he casually said to me, “Hmmmm….I thought I would be able to fly.”

He’s decided to be the Incredible Hulk instead so he can walk around and yell, “Hulk: SMASH!”

Happy Halloween!

It’s a good day for pretend play.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: What do you pretend? What do you make believe?  What would you like to believe is true? How do you suspend disbelief? Doodle things that you believe are make believe that you wish were real and true?

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Switch. — The Witch and the Candy Bowl.

So, as the resident “Non-Fan of Halloween, But Faking It, Momma”, the hoards of candy of this holiday is a little bit of an issue for me.

candyMany of you know that we hit a switch last year and have been trying to reduce our collective sugar intake.


I told you about it here in the MommyVerb: Sweeten. (Which, by the way, is still THE most-viewed MommyVerbs blog post ever for some reason!)

But then I told you about how I am trying still to let the kiddos be kiddos, which includes some sugary … Balance.

So, as I was thinking about this Halloween which is tomorrow, I just didn’t feel good about buying $30 worth of candy for the Trick or Treaters.

I’ll admit it. It just felt wrong.

I can’t preach, less sugar, less sugar … and then hand out handfuls of sugary chocolate and goo on my front porch.

But it is hard. Because I don’t want to be THAT Mom at THAT house who gives out nickels or toothbrushes.

Nobody wants to be THAT Mom.

So, I made a switch.

I ordered $30 worth of glow in the dark goodies to hand out tomorrow night.

photo 3 (4)

Glow in the dark vampire teeth.

Glow in the dark skeletons.

Glow in the dark creepy crawlies.

Glow in the dark tattoos.

Glow in the dark cups and paddle balls.

Yes, I will be that Mom. That Mom that, at the end of the night, when all of the sugary goodies of Reese’s and Hershey’s and M & M’s look the same, the glow in the dark goodies will be remembered and played with … for at least 17 seconds before the sugar high sets in and they start bouncing off the walls.

But I’m taking it even one step further this year.  photo 4 (3)

I have introduced the concept of the Switch Witch to my kiddos.

You know, the Switch Witch. She’s right up there with the Elf on the Shelf and the Tooth Fairy. She loves candy and will show up on Halloween night to switch your children’s sugar collection for a new toy of some sort.

photo 2 (3)

While Y isn’t fully buying it, X is on board. At least in theory. And Y will be on board if it means she gets the coveted Rainbow Loom madness.

So, we are continuing our journey of making the switch.

From processed foods to whole foods.

From distracted time to intentional time.

These are little grape monsters. ...

These are little grape monsters. …

... and this is the kiddos working together to make them. Perfection.

… and this is the kiddos working together to make them. Perfection.

From sugar to well, not sugar.

It is time to make the switch.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: What is one thing you have switched up lately? What you eat? How you spend your time? Your attitudes toward work or health? What is a switch that you would like to make in your life?  Light-Switch-small

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

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Share. — What Comes Easy….

Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. As a Mom, I feel like I’m always ready to skip over Halloween and get on with the stuff of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween is a little detour full of candy and sugar and pumpkins and costumes and usually involves me having to walk around after dark, in the cold.

As a Mom, you know that I put on a good show for the kiddos though and try to keep my true feelings about All Hallow’s Eve Hoopla on the down low.

Because, I still remember what it was like to be a kid and I wouldn’t do anything to keep them from making these kinds of memories and learning these kinds of lessons.

When I was a kid, I was just like every other kid. I loved Halloween. I loved Halloween so much that my school colors growing up were actually orange and black. Ok. I had nothing to do with that, but it is true. Orange and Black. So it was kind of like Halloween all year long.  But on October 31st, I loved the chance to go door to door, collecting candy taxes. It was like an annual food drive, only for me and only for sugar.

I remember one Halloween night, out walking the streets with my Mom and brother and about 300 of my closest friends. I was probably 10 years old or so and there was a group of us moving from house to house together. I was dressed up as, … honestly, I don’t remember. I will go with a princess. But I’m pretty sure that my brother was a bum. My memories sometimes run together, so I am not sure, but I think he was a bum for Halloween from ages 3-8. Mostly, because I don’t think he cared and it was such an easy costume. Dress him up in older ratty clothes. And then I vaguely remember my Mom burning the bottom of a plate to create some kind of smudge that she could wipe on his face and make him look dirty.

Even though I can’t remember the costumes, I will never forget that we were carrying large brown paper bags for the loot collection.

As we were walking and laughing and playing around going from house to house. I remember spotting candy on the ground. Candy. A lollipop. Then a Hershey’s Kiss. A KitKat there. A Reese’s Cup here. Just lying there in the street. What? I looked up. Did it fall from heaven? Was this that magical manna that I had heard about in Sunday school? It simply must be.

So. Having hit the lottery of childhood, I started collecting it as we walked. I started quietly, nonchalantly (so as not to draw attention to myself) picking it up off of the ground and selfishly putting it into my bag.

It was so easy. I was so excited! I was getting candy from the doors AND candy from the street. Some pieces here. Some pieces there. Lucky, lucky me!

At the end of the night, as we rounded the corner and headed back to our house, I was more than pleased with my night’s work.

Just as I was struggling to lift my bag to dump it out on to the kitchen table to be checked, my little brother was discovering that … yep, you guessed it, there was a hole in his bag and a lot of his candy had fallen out.

Fortunately for him I had been collecting it all night.

My Mom made me put our piles together and divide it evenly. Even though I protested saying that some of the candy at the bottom was mine and made the very mature ten-year-old argument that I could tell which pieces I had picked up off of the ground that were his pieces.

She made me share.

See. It was too easy.

Candy on the ground…who does that?

When things are too easy, we don’t appreciate it. We get greedy and we want more.

When we have to work for something. When we have to wait and anticipate and grow our collection one by one,

then each piece is more special.

Each person. Each friendship. Each experience has a story.

When we work for something and build it a little bit day by day, it means more.

Maybe it is not supposed to be easy.

We are not supposed to get everything we want when we want it.

X doesn’t get to be the Star Helper and Line Leader every day…but he looks forward to his turn, he’s even adding it to his prayers at night.

Y doesn’t always get to play first base…but if she works hard and impresses the coaches with her leadership and positive attitude, then she gets to play it more.

Felix doesn’t always get what he wants. I don’t always get what I want.

Sometimes we get lucky.

And sometimes we have to work for it.

And ultimately, we have to share.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: Share. Go share something with someone else. Anything. A cookie. A cup of coffee. An hour. Go share with someone else. See how it makes you feel.

FYI...Don't get too excited. This is from a few year's ago, before we gave up on the whole sugar thing. Kiddos are getting glow in the dark goodness from me this year.

FYI…Don’t get too excited. This is from a few year’s ago, before we gave up on the whole sugar thing. Kiddos are getting glow in the dark goodness from me this year.


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