Messy Memory Making with Friends

I felt horrible. I couldn’t believe I had done it to them.

I love Christmas cards! They are still up on my bulletin boards now, because the bulletin boards were put on the wall just for that purpose. The cards will likely remain there until replaced next year!

I love the photos – particularly the photos of my friends. (Come on, people! Don’t chicken out from the camera and make your kids get in front of it! I like to see YOU! 🙂 ) I love the plain cards; I love the fancy ones. I love the cards from family, from best friends and from “strangers” whom we met only once overseas in years past.

I actually even enjoy most “Christmas update letters,” because I care what is going on in people’s lives; but I admittedly often wait until after the new year to read some of them.  I have friends who collect the cards in a basket and spend the year taking one card out each day at dinnertime and praying for the family who sent it. Sorry we have never gotten that organized, but I love the idea!

My love for receiving those cards is probably why I felt so horrible about what I did.

I ditched a friend. Hear me out: I have over five thousand contacts in my phone. I know…crazy! I started an electronic address book back in the 90’s (1890’s it feels like!) with my “Palm Pilot,” and have electronically transferred the book with each new device and update. It is my “Roledex” from the 1870’s with a new twist. I never see a reason to delete anyone – because who knows if our paths could cross?

Rather than going through 5,000 contacts to send cards to less than 10% every year, I finally made a Christmas card list of people I think might “want” one. But last year, I noticed a name was missing. (Sorry if your name was missing too! I didn’t mean it!) Since the list was from the year before, it meant that the Kirk and Cassie Birtles family had not received a card from me.

I texted my good friend Cassie: “Did I send you a Christmas card last year?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

What? I didn’t send her a card and she didn’t even seem to mind?! She is so kindly unpresumptuous.

That January, her husband let the cat out of the bag in a humorous way. He had me laughing out loud. Apparently, when our card didn’t arrive, they had assumed I had not sent out cards. But when Kirk and Cassie went to a friend’s house, there was the Brady Christmas card prominently displayed, so they deduced that their friend must have ranked more highly with the Bradys than the Birtles did!

Then they went to Kirk’s sister’s house (whom we had befriended through Kirk)- and there was the Brady Christmas card. The story kept getting deeper when they went to Kirk’s parents’ house (whom we befriended through Kirk and his sister) and there, on their fridge, prominently displayed were the Brady kids and parents, wishing all of the other Birtleses a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All of the Birtleses…except Kirk and Cassie. They were left with a blank fridge. 🙂

Apparently, it happened for two years before I noticed that their name had inadvertently been eliminated from my list of cards.

WHAT A MESS!

I felt horrible.

BradyBunch1It reminded me of what great friends the Birtles truly are:

  • They gave me the benefit of the doubt, assuming the best intentions on my part.
  • They didn’t discuss it behind my back and hope I got the message. (Well – maybe they did and I don’t know, since I wasn’t behind my back.)
  • They didn’t remove me from their Christmas card list; I still got their wishes to have a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” because their wishes for me told me about their heart, not as payback for my own.

I told them I was so sorry, and made sure their address was on my list! I checked it twice! But then, I decided to try to make it up to them- and make them laugh too.

Fun Friends

I went through my files and found one of our Christmas cards from every year…as long as I have been sending them – since around 1897 🙂 . I wanted to make sure the Birtles family knew they were loved.

I copied each card, put them in separate envelopes and started sending Version 3 them daily at the beginning of December. “Merry Christmas and Happy 1998!” was the first message they received. Next was 1999, 2000 and so on, all the way to “I hope your 2016 is blessed!” in this year’s card.

BradyBunch2

2013

However, the company I used to make the cards for this year, Nations Photo Lab, made a mistake on my cards. When I brought the mistake to their attention, their customer service was amazing, and they immediately sent out a new box of Brady Christmas cards…which meant that I had literally hundreds of extra Christmas cards (the mistakes), so I thought it was well worth the postage to send the ENTIRE BOX of HUNDREDS of Brady Christmas cards to the Birtleses for their amusement.

I giggled all eighteen times I walked to my North Carolina mailbox- and hoped they were having as much fun at the Michigan end. Haha!!

Just to top it off, I sent a text around January 4th. to Kirk and Cassie:  Did you get a Christmas card from us this year?????”; I wanted to be sure they weren’t forgotten. 🙂

They replied to my text, “Who is this?”

Haha!

Then, yesterday, the season of Joy was wrapped with a beautiful bow when a package arrived from Michigan. B Pkg

The Birtleses had sweetly modge-podged all of my Christmas cards onto a twenty-four inch letter “B”!!! Yay! It looks beautiful in my house – as if I planned for someone to creatively display all of my past Christmas cards!

Version 2

Version 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter (age 12) immediately asked when she saw the artwork, “Does this mean they used all of the cards we sent, so now they don’t have any pictures of us in their house?”

Bahaha! Maybe we need to send some more!

SUCH. GREAT. FRIENDS!

I like to say:

“Imperfect moments make perfect memories.”

But maybe in this case, it is better said, “Messy moments make magnificent friends.

If it hadn’t started so messy – with my accidental deletion of their name – it never would have ended so memorable! So if you are in the middle of a “mess”…just wait! There may be magnificence in the making!

God bless you and your messy-memory-making with FRIENDS,

Terri

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted; but an enemy multiplies kisses.” –Proverbs 27:6

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I Miss When They…

Dear Lindsey,

“Class of 2015.”

That seemed like “Jetsons” time of the future when I first heard that my child would be in the “Class of 2015”. But like the “Party of 1999,” it came and went. My son left for college Monday and we are down to five seats at the dinner table. Sniff. Sniff.

For those of you who had babies in 2015, your child will be somewhere around the class of 2033. I almost named this letter, “To the mothers of the class of 2033.”  Doesn’t that sound SO much in the future?!! It is. But I want to tell you, like so many mothers before me told me, it will be here sooner than you think!

I could pontificate for hours on that alone, but I thought instead I would just throw out some random thoughts about having young kids. I had it listed as “Ten Notes to Young Moms,” but the number kept changing, so I am just leaving it as is: unsolicited advice:

(If you are an “old mother” like me, feel free to attach comments below with your “unsolicited advice to young mothers”!)

  • Be silly. You will miss the silly days! Push the grocery cart and make “Vrooming” sounds while your kids “drive” and almost crash into the lettuce! Make hungry monster sounds while the sock monster gobbles up those little feet, getting them dressed for the day. Have the goose in your pocket (your hand in the shape of a goose’s beak) “goose” them up the stairs when it’s time for PJ’s. Let your little princess do your hair, or your prince carry your suitcase. You may look silly to everybody except the ones who matter. You will be amazed how a little “vrooming” takes away your own stress in life. I miss that!
  • Be happy. Kids’ peace comes from your peace. Our mouths can feed our minds. Make your mouth speak happy thoughts to your mind and to your kids’ minds. It seems like happiness would be easy when surrounded by youth, but alas, the enemy seems to thrive by stealing smiles from moms. Happiness is a choice – Make it!

Video: Excitement of bringing home baby #3 (Christine) and the “toddler buzz” about it!

  • Slow down. Life gets so busy. I know you want them to excel in all areas. I know you want them to be geniuses. I know you want them to play instruments, do sports, become leaders. Don’t sacrifice their childhood on the altar of your goalsetting. There will be time. I promise. There will be time when they are so busy, you will be the one wishing to slow down. Enjoy their youth and allow them to get serious about things when they are the ones driving it. I miss lying in the front yard looking at clouds and pretending they are animals.
  • Blow bubbles. I used to be afraid that some moment would slip by and I would miss my chance to teach something important. I didn’t want to miss a teachable moment. I think my pendulum swung too far. Some moments are meant for just soaking in. Stop and blow bubbles. I miss that.
  • Don’t be so embarrassed; other people love your imperfect kids! When I drove to my friend’s house, whom I hadn’t seen in a year, her toddlers, age 3 and 4 greeted me in the driveway. The older stopped abruptly when I opened my car door, and said in a disgusted tone, “You don’t look like Mr. Brady!”

Oh my! My heart laughed! How I missed having toddlers! I missed the times when they got the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” reversed! I missed their fresh look on old things! Your toddlers (when behaving) do not need an apology! You may be surprised what a blessing they are to those who no longer have toddlers! Let them bless!

  • If you want to relate to your teenagers, relate to your toddlers. Relationships aren’t made overnight, though one night can break them. Out-of-control teens can grow from seeds of out-of-control toddlers. Enemy teens grow from seeds of ignored toddlers. Spend time with them doing what they love.

photo: Casey’s yearbook page this past year:

  • Be eternally focused. It is easy to get mixed up in the exhaustion of daily diapers, meals and activities and forget what really matters. Pray aloud when an ambulance goes by with lights on. Do your kids know you trust God to get through your day? Do they know you are a sinner in need of a Savior? (My kids are still shocked at that one! haha!) Do you show them the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc Gal 5:22) because you love the Lord, or because a purple dinosaur said that they were neat for a family? Ask them often what they are thankful for – and live in a way that shows them how thankful you are.
  • Make “me” time a priority. What you are full of is what comes out if you are squeezed! Like putting your oxygen mask on before attempting to assist your children, be sure you have your “me” time. Without working out, or reading my Bible, I am full of stuff that I wouldn’t want to “squeeze” on anybody! So I have had to make it a priority in my day!
  • Be careful with “me” time. I tread on this lightly, but “me” time is addicting. Some think pedicures are a right; a toddler-less hair appointment is a given; a girls’-night-out is part of some unwritten contract. They are not.

Motherhood is a selfless act of living, and often it means many “me times” are given up for a season, because priorities shift. But don’t grow weary (Gal 6:9-10), the season will pass.

I remember when my second child was two-years-old and we had a gym membership. At home, my husband and I had decided we would be a reading family, and rarely allowed our kids to watch movies or television.  Now with my “me” time, I was enjoying trying to get back into pre-baby shape, spending time daily at the gym, since childcare was “free”. Oh the joy of a one-hour class and the subsequent kid-free shower and blow-dry!! However, the “free childcare” was zombie transformation.  My kids sat like zombies in front of the gym’s television, showing whatever brainless cartoon happened to be on for the hour of my class, while the worker sat behind them, busy on her phone. I quickly realized it wasn’t worth the price of giving up these precious morning hours with my kids. I ended up changing my mid-morning “me” time to make it (super) early morning “me” time at the gym (so kids would be in bed – not brainless in front of the TV), but oh my what a blessing! By the time the kids were ready for their day, I was ready for my kids! And they weren’t cartoon zombies!

  • Love your spouse. Maybe this should have been first on the list, since it comes as the first priority above the kids. Kids feel security when they see security between Mom and Dad. I have heard moms say, “I would jump in front of a speeding bus to save my kids! That’s how much I love them.” I am glad you are willing to let yourself die to save them by jumping in front of a moving vehicle, but you are more likely to be called to “let yourself die” by dying to self in interaction with your husband…to save your kids. Stop being your husband’s opponent. Stop thinking bad thoughts about him. Stop dreaming of a perfect man who doesn’t live in your house. You want to save your kids? Then be sure you are doing your best to save your marriage.* Talk positively about their dad behind his back! Tell them about your real-live superhero! Sit next to him at the table or at church. Don’t let the kids get between you in seating or in life. Have date nights and make it a big deal to the kids that you are going out with their dad! But it shouldn’t take a date night to create a happily-ever-after in the bedroom. Make a great marriage. Their future marriages depend on yours.
  • Tell/Show your kids you love them.  Kids hear “I love you” when you tell others that you love your kids. Talk positively about your kids to others in front of them and behind their backs! I am not saying you should brag, but stop the complaining! If someone compliments them, say, “thank you.” Or “She has been working at that,” or something that encourages your child to continue the good behavior. Resist the urge to block the compliment with negative that will shout louder than the positive, like, “She has good manners for you, but I wish she would treat her brother that way!”  You may think you are being humble, but your kids are taking the chinks in their armor because of your words.
  • Teach them to love and respect parents and siblings. You are raising future spouses. I recently had to stop my ten-year-old, riding on his older brother’s shoulders, from trying to rip his sister’s head off while they were playing “chicken fights” in the pool. “But Mom!” my daughter contested from her perch on her other older brother’s shoulders, “Why did you stop him?! I like it!”

Easy answer: “Because I am raising a future husband, and that is not how he should treat his future wife.”

  • Put your phone down. (and be sure they do too.) I know it is a fight. I fight
    Casey Brady - graduation 2015 (with the cutest photobomb by one of our family friends!)

    Casey Brady – graduation 2015 (with the cutest photobomb by one of our family friends!)

    myself on it. But you will never regret having screens off!

  • Date them. Without distraction. My kids have enjoyed the Mom dates. OK, maybe it was just the donuts they enjoyed, but I like to think they enjoyed the conversation and fun one-on-one games at the donut shop. Intimacy of one-on-one conversation is important to any relationship, but especially when children are in a house full of kids who are usually splitting the mom time! I have heard that kids spell love, “T-I-M-E.” It is amazing how a little one-on-one always improves a toddler’s behavior.
  • Enjoy the season (and know the next season will be great too!) In the words of Dr. Robert Smith Jr, “Don’t waste Chapter 8 because you are too focused on chapter 9.” God planned every season of motherhood with a purpose. Even potty-training! Even colicky babies! My 4th baby was such a cryer; I often worried I would wish his babyhood away, because I was so anxious for the crying to stop. I almost looked so much at “Chapter 9” that I missed out on “Chapter 8” with him – and my other kids.
  • Remember, “This too shall pass.” I remember times when I thought I would never make it through the day, much less through their toddlerhood, or childhood. It seemed like I would never be able to stop the car, and get out without waiting for someone to find the shoe that they had miraculously lost in the 3 minute drive to the store. I thought I would never make it through a meal without cleaning up a spill (or four!), or finish a phone call without having to cut it short because of some escalating calamity. But it is passing all too quickly. Now I beg my kids to go to the store with me. I definitely never imagined THAT when they were young! haha!…

 

I wonder if I could get them all to ride in the cart and say, “vroom!” now??!

Casey at college this past Monday:

IMG_9572

In 2033, you will look back and think, “Wow. It went so fast!” just like all the rest of the “old” mothers. If you look back and say, “I miss when they…,” more than “I wish I had…,”  I think you did it right.

In love,

Terri Brady

  • *  When I talk about “saving your kids by saving your marriage,” my heart breaks for those who are in the midst of the struggle. I feel like it is torturous on so many – especially those who are divorced due to unrepentant infidelity or abuse – my heart and prayers go out to you. May God guide you through and make your kids strong in Him! But for those who are truly just not “dying to self,” and instead battling the things I mention, my statement remains. I pray you have guidance and courage to die to self to save your marriage. God is bigger than the struggle!

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A Very Brady Italy

Dear Lindsey,

After a full year of busyness, we were ready to convalesce as a family!

Of course we could do that in our basement, or at the lake, or at my kids’ favorite campground in Silver Lake Michigan, but we decided to get away – really AWAY – to Italy. (See video scrapbook below.)  We have been to Italy several times, most famously five years ago, when my husband Chris wrote his book, A Month of Italy.  

Thanks to Chris’s vacation advice, on this trip I suppressed my “task-oriented” self. I did not sort emails or work on my lists (despite how I wanted to, since I finally had time!). I didn’t count the calories of the gelato and tried to stop thinking about the stress at home; I enjoyed my family.  My quiet times got deeper. On a true vacation, life can be whittled down to what really matters, to release the stuff that really doesn’t.* As I forced myself away from the daily grind, I was able to think of the long-term-vision that seemed to have taken a backseat to busyness this year. New ideas; new goals; fresh brain! Ahh vacation.

This vacation wasn’t as entertaining as our original month-long vacation, since
the kids are older (now 18, 15, 11 and 10), and we are probably a little more seasoned visitors of the country. However, our oldest leaves for college next week, and we all seemed to cherish every moment as a family of six, knowing we will be having dinners of five too soon.

We had our funny moments:

  • When the woman said in her Italian accent that she was a “ballet” dancer in Florence, and I misunderstood and asked her if she was a “belly” dancer. Bahaha! No judging here!
  • When Chris said in perfect Italian, “Posso …formaggio?” when he noticed our table lacked parmigiano cheese. The kids quickly pointed out that he had actually said “Can I … cheese?” which of course went viral on our vacation as the kids often asked if they could…cheese…in Italian.
  • We listened to Italian songs that Chris had downloaded onto his phone. We couldn’t tell what the words actually meant, but that didn’t stop us from singing along in full volume! It reminded us of a funny commercial when a family is singing along in a different language, not knowing the horrendous words they are saying. So Nate (age 15) was careful to not sing anything inappropriate and instead  sang words that he did know – which were limited to food: “Posso Formaggio! Latte! Manzo! Pasta! Pizza!”  He sang to the tune of whatever song was playing – in full tenor voice like Luciano Pavarotti. (And made me laugh!)
  • We played a card game we had just learned with great friends who came to visit North Carolina in early June. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score by getting rid of all of your cards. Hysterically, Casey could not get rid of cards, and while the rest of us were within one hundred points of each other, Casey hung out 300 points behind last place! “Casey, you stink at this!” Chris had said in surprise, since Casey usually seems to have a knack for winning. Chris’s uncharacteristic quote again went viral as the kids enjoyed repeating Dad’s funny statement toward Casey any chance they got, often in the form of a rap song.

We had our amazing moments:

  • Chris took us to Orvieto where we had not been in four years. Without GPS or maps, he drove through the town, right up to the driveway of the villa we had rented (which was no easy task to find four years ago WITH a GPS.) He then took us to a restaurant further up the mountain where we had chingiale (wild boar) sausage and pasta to repeat our order from back then. (OK – maybe that is not “amazing” to you, but I was amazed, since I can hardly get around in my own country without a GPS!)
  • At our favorite villa, Il Trebbio, outside of Cortona where we have visited several times, our rental neighbors turned out to be from Raleigh, NC, and were even taking the same flight arrangement home after their five-week stay. Mondo piccolo. (Small world!)

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We missed our weird moments.

“Nothing weird has happened to us this trip!” Casey (age 18) said on one of the last nights. It was almost sad for us.

  • We didn’t have a motorcycle crash into us after popping our tire with his foot peg when he passed too close to our van in Rome traffic.
  • We didn’t have a 12-passenger mini-bus as our rental car, even though Italians are still shocked that we take four children on trips.
  • No child said, “I forgot my shoes” when we were already an hour into the drive for a day-trip to an ancient city.
  • We didn’t have any other child say, “Me too,” realizing he also had forgotten to put on shoes for the same day-trip.
  • We didn’t have any accidental orders of grappa (which Chris swears is kerosene, but Italians drink it) or pasta al scolio (which was full of octopus and squid, not meatballs like the ordering child had hoped).
  • No scorpions came in through the window at 1am, scaring us into leaving the windows closed for the duration of the week with temperatures in the high 90’s – without air conditioning.
  • No man screamed at us, “Allevamento!” (which means “breeding farm”) into a crowd at the market when he saw we had four children.
  • We didn’t see the dog – which looked like a seeing-eye-dog – wearing a shirt that said, “Womanizer.”

We disconnected in order to be reconnected.

IMG_8502 (3)We rested. We bonded.

We turned off electronics. (Turning off electronics put the “family” back into “family vacation.”)

We played cards. (And all the kids are at a competitive level now.)

We swam. (And kids are big enough that nobody is in massive peril.)

We read…and read and read… (and the kids did too).

We enjoyed early mornings with singing birds and late mornings, catching up on a year’s worth of sleep.

We enjoyed the views from the air-conditioned car, while miles of sunflowers and lavender, wheat and hay passed by our windows. Hundred-year-old cypress trees seemed old until we realized they lined the driveways of six-hundred-year-old estates. Grapes hung down near our outdoor dinner table, while grape leaves brought the welcomed shade on the canopy over our heads. Crops formed their signature squares that make the land of Tuscany so beautiful from its mountaintops.

Glorious vacation.

Family bonding.

Minds at rest.

A heart that has had a good vacation is what makes home feel sweet.  IMG_8676

In gratitude for vacation,

Terri Brady

Video Scrapbook of Bradys in Italy:

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* “Going to the cross reminds me of what really matters, so I can release the stuff that really doesn’t.” – Kimberly Wagner