Friday, May 26, 2017

Memories from Carson's Graduation

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." ~ e.e. cummings

Well, I have survived the milestone of Carson's graduation. (Although taking the poignant photo above and continuing to look at it almost did me in!) The commencement ceremony was lovely -- especially these closing moments, which included the singing of the Oak Mountain alma mater. 

As a member of the OMHS Singers, Carson joined the group for the final performance of his high-school career. 

Sharing this milestone with family made the evening all the more special. These four children fill my heart with joy!

Joe's parents joined us for the evening. Pop said that he wouldn't cry if I didn't, but I think I actually shed enough tears for both of us.

My father, dubbed D-Dad by Carson as a toddler, remembers vividly rocking his first grandson to sleep on his first night home from the hospital. We were all feeling nostalgic for that sweet little baby who has grown into such a fine young man.

We love Carson so much and can't wait to watch him soar!

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." ~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Carson's Graduation Announcement

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Senior portrait by Allison Hilyer Photography
Announcement from Photo Affections

Monday, May 22, 2017

Graduation Party & Gift Ideas

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." ~ Les Brown

For kindergarten graduation, let your child sign the mat for a cap-and-gown picture. This signature will be even more precious a few years down the road when you photograph your high-school senior holding this special keepsake from long ago.

Make sweet mortar boards by securing a fudge-square cookie to a mini peanut-butter cup with icing. Add the tassel with a thin strip of fruit candy.

Any cylindrical foods, from store-bought cookies to pinwheel finger sandwiches, can become a diploma when tied with ribbon.

For a graduation-party tablescape, favor, or gift, wrap Starbucks Frappuccino bottles in custom labels, fill with posies, and add the gift tag to a striped paper straw.

Cut a custom square-shaped black card, and hot glue a tassel and button to the center. For an extra-special touch, enclose cash tied like a diploma.

Frame a quote from a favorite book, such as Oh, The Places You'll Go. Let the look of this print inspire whimsical decorations and a springy color palette.

For step-by-step instructions on making these easy tissue-paper flowers, visit this tutorial.

"The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse." ~ Edward Koch

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Glimpse of Carson's Senior Portraits

"You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes." ~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

These senior portraits of Carson, taken by my talented friend Allison Hilyer, are enough to bring tears to my eyes. Here are a few of her heart-melting images that capture this milestone year.

This is just a sampling of the many gorgeous photographs Allison has shared with us. I will share my very favorite one next week on the day of Carson's graduation!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Letter to My Son at Graduation

Each year, parents of our congregation's high-school seniors are asked to write a letter to their son or daughter and read it to the group at a spring banquet held in honor of the graduates. As you can imagine, this is an emotional task that many of us worried we would not be able to get through. Proclaiming what our children mean to us and offering them some final words of wisdom was worth the challenge, though. Heartfelt messages of love poured forth from every mom and dad in attendance. Here are the words I wanted to share with Carson. 

Our dear Carson,

As we approach the milestone of your graduation—one that we have been simultaneously preparing you for and dreading, often in equal measure—we reflect on the many transitions we have experienced together.

The day of your birth was one of the most blessed days of our lives. Within your tiny, perfect form, you held all of our love, hopes and dreams. One look into your sapphire-blue eyes, and we were smitten.

Watching you grow has been our privilege and joy. From taking your first steps at nine months to stepping into a school bus at six, onto the wrestling mat in middle school, and into the spotlight of the stage in high school, you have always amazed us with your talent. If ever you doubt your abilities, know that we who have watched you from the beginning see no limits for what you can accomplish.

At this moment of transition, a special memory comes to mind. You were about five months old, and every day was full of joyful discoveries. You observed your surroundings keenly, and the intensity of your experience heightened our own senses. Tasting the sweet indulgence of a creamy chocolate milkshake, touching the soft fur of a puppy, listening to the soft creaking of the rocking chair as you reluctantly succumbed to sleep—every moment seemed extraordinary encountered with someone so new to the world.

One day, we ventured out for a walk around our neighborhood. The sun was shining in Kentucky, where we lived at the time, but the mild climate kept temperatures blissfully comfortable. A little while into our stroll, a soft breeze began to blow. The rich green bluegrass began to dance, and tree branches nodded gracefully as the gust caused the leaves to quiver and sway. You grimaced, closing your eyes and wrinkling your nose as the gentle whisper tickled your face. As the breeze grew stronger—lifting tufts of baby-fine blond hair and playfully caressing your exposed arms and bare feet—a smile spread across your little face. As the wind blew harder, you started bouncing in your seat. A giggle erupted, and from your belly you began to laugh heartily. I laughed, too, experiencing your first encounter with the wind. I will never forget the moment I watched you lean forward in your stroller and stretch your arms wide, as if to embrace the breeze. It was a moment of pure, unrestrained joy.

You accepted that first breeze as a gift—fully experiencing it and appreciating it as if God Himself had blown a breath of love for your pleasure. As you approach graduation, I encourage you to savor the feeling of fresh air on your face. Be present. Cherish each moment as a gift from heaven to be unwrapped.

As you prepare to step into the future that God has planned for you, know that your earthly family and heavenly Father adore you. We will always be here for you, offering our love, support and guidance as you stretch your arms wide, catch the next breeze, and fly.


Mom and Dad

This is one of Carson's senior portraits, taken by my talented friend, photographer Allison Hilyer.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Little Moments with Mother

Many of my most special memories of childhood involve times spent with my mother. Mother stayed home with my sister, brother and me, and our home was her life. As a child, it never would have occurred to me to doubt Mother’s happiness or question her fulfillment in her role as Mommy. Her devotion to us was so complete, I really don’t think it would have occurred to her either.

The big events of family life – holidays, vacations and birthdays – are documented in volumes of photo albums Mother carefully organized, but many of my fondest memories of growing up are found in the snapshots of daily life that fill my mind.

Church was the central focus of family life, and I still remember the preparations Mother made to ready the family for worship on Sunday. She often rolled my hair on Saturday night. We would watch Little House on the Prairie or talk about “girl stuff” as she brushed each section of hair and twisted it into a curler. This was a small ritual, of course, but when I longed to have a daughter of my own, one of the first images that would come to my mind was snuggling up on my bed to roll her hair in pink sponge curlers.

Even the most mundane tasks of daily living seem more significant in retrospect. I remember one particular bath time when my 5-year-old heart was unburdened. Guilt overwhelmed me as I cried, admitting that I had been paddled in kindergarten that day for talking during nap time. Always a worrier, I was certain my once spotless record of conduct was ruined forever. Mother assured me that all was not lost. As she bathed me that night, she tenderly washed the scarlet letter of shame away. She reminded me that each new day provided an opportunity to begin anew, and I emerged from that bath feeling clean and hopeful again.

These little moments of caretaking that filled Mother’s day showed me that I was not just taken care of, but also cared for. Because of her love, my teeth were brushed, my hair was combed, and I had vitamins to take.

Mother made me feel special in myriad ways. I looked forward to the end of each school day, knowing Mother would have ready a cup of hot chocolate in my favorite Raggedy Ann mug. I would tell her about the ups and downs of life in elementary school as I sipped the rich, warm cocoa, savoring the marshmallows she had sprinkled on top.

On days she was called to pick me up early because of illness, I would arrive home to find the covers already turned back on my bed and a favorite gown spread out on the pillow. While I snuggled cozily under the covers, Mother would make Welsh rarebit, a cheesy white sauce she would pour over soda crackers. Although its appeal is lost on our spouses today, my sister, brother and I still think of Welsh rarebit as the ultimate comfort food.

Mother showed me in moments like these that I was valuable. Although she often told me she loved me, her acts of nurturing spoke more eloquently than her words. Each time she rubbed my hand during church, hugged me when I came home from school, or kissed me goodnight, she left a lasting impression on my heart.

Many of my happiest moments were times when Mother paused to have fun with me. Once she draped a sheet over the kitchen table and we crawled underneath. What a magical time this was for a 4-year-old, drinking invisible tea with Mommy in our secret castle!

We also spent time together cooking. I still have the preschool cookbook with our recipe for peanut butter balls. In our earliest days of making the cookies, I dutifully rolled the gooey dough into balls as suggested. As my baking confidence grew, we progressed to pressing a Hershey’s Kiss into each ball or imprinting the cookies with a fork. Years later, I was shaping the cookies into letters, teddy bears and holiday designs.

Little moments of playfulness helped me understand that Mother not only loved me, but she liked me too. I felt special knowing that out of all the people in the world, I was one of her favorites.

Now that I’m a mother myself, memories remind me of the importance of day-to-day activities in filling our home with love. Each time I run the children’s bath water, snuggle up with one who is feeling sick, or call them all to the kitchen to make our favorite peanut butter pie recipe, I am reminded that these little moments will add up to a lifetime of love. Pieced together, little moments with Mother work together like a patchwork quilt to keep us feeling secure, knowing we will always be wrapped in our mother’s love.

This article originally appeared in Ideals magazine and was a surprise to my dear mother. May we all cherish every moment with our loved ones.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Easter Adventures

This year ushered in new Easter traditions for our family. Carson is a senior in high school, so over the weekend we traveled to a prospective college, Harding University in Searcy, Ark. Although I had heard great things about the school, this was my first visit to campus. It is quite a drive from our home in Birmingham, and I must admit that as the miles passed I was starting to have my doubts about whether I could handle the distance. But when we arrived for Bison Days ...

The gracious welcome we received quickly put my mind at ease. Chapel was our first event of the day, and it was a blessing to sing with thousands of young people and to hear an encouraging message. Daily chapel is one of the things I miss about my college experience!

 Students come from all fifty states and many countries around the world, and the sense of community here is clearly evident. There is a thriving campus life at Harding, and it warms my heart to look ahead to all the special times that await Carson.

Joe and I met at Lipscomb University many years ago and spent our share of evenings getting to know each other on a swing, so finding this tranquil spot brought back many memories.We took some pictures around campus together Sunday morning, and I captured many images of spring splendor throughout the weekend.

Happy Easter from Emma, Christian and Mary Ashley!

Seersucker is one of my favorite warm-weather fabrics, and the girls and I were ready for the holiday in custom dresses from Rysa Ruth Designs. I highly recommend this Etsy seller for her superb workmanship and quick turnaround.

Carson stayed on campus, and we did not get to see him much during the weekend. As you can tell from the picture above, as we waited to connect with him on Sunday, we had lots of time for trying out different poses -- the sillier the better in Emma's book! Finally, here is our handsome senior.

Officially Harding Bound!

We are so excited for Carson!

And we look forward to our next visit to Harding University!

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