Friday, January 13, 2017

Middle - Five Minute Fridays

After reading the word middle I thought of my dinner last night.  It was filled with middle goodness.
My sister made me a simple, but decadent sandwich.
Toast wearing so much golden butter served as the envelope carrying a sweet savory middle: brie cheese and freshly made blackberry jam.
When I first sunk my teeth past the warm toast, sweet, but tart blackberries and creamy brie cheese surprised me. They suited each other well.  The sandwich was very rich so it was a bit hard to finish, but very satisfying too.
The goodness was the middle.
Later we sliced into miniature molten lava cakes and more flavors flowed straight from the middle.
We couldn't eat much savoring a couple of rich bites.  I chose my bites from the middle.  The middle where the chocolate soaks the cake.  The best part.
Most of life seems to be found in the middle.
Like the toast that brackets or holds the sandwich's contents, major life events or victories don't make up most of our days.  Our days are made mostly in the middle. 
It's usually what we make of the middle moments, the middle of a day, the middle of all that is mundane that makes us and makes a life sweet and gives it's best content.
Do I take time to taste the middle moments, really?
Pause and lean into them?
Learn from them?
Open them?


Pausing yesterday, putting down the stack of mail and bills. I feel baby boy's arms lightly twist around my legs and his head lean against my knee. His touch, barely there yet deeply there all at the same time. 
He quietly toddled off, but I lowered myself onto the kitchen floor and say, "Baby Mac, please come back."  His gray green eyes glisten happy as he walked back and drops gently on my lap. 
Middle moments.

My dad's eyebrows arched up as he related an interesting historical story.  He's always been filled with lots of knowledge about lots of things. Especially history and numbers. This time I really listened to the story.  I left the house with the story rolling over in my mind.  Amazed by it. 
Middle Moments.

This morning I padded up wood floors.  Everyone was ready, and it was  time to get my husband up.  He likes to sleep til he absolutely has to get up and gets ready within fifteen minutes.
He needed to get up now...
I usually go and tap him and tell him, "You must get up if you don't want to be late."
I pause in the room, daylight barely opening it's eyes over the earth.  I can't see well, but I decide to slide in the warm sheets and find myself right in the middle.  The middle of his arms.
For just a couple moments I rest my head on his shoulder and stop rushing. I don't say, "You must get up." Instead we pray.

Life isn't made up in what we do every once in a while, or the place we arrive.  Of course that's part of it.  But the meat of life is made somewhere in the every day, minute by minutes. Tucked into all the middle of our moments. 

My baby boy in the middle of sister love

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Snow Days

I see her peeking behind her screened door.  It's early in the morning.  She's cradling a cup in her hands and still wearing her pink pajama bottoms. She's looking for signs of life or rather awakened life stirring at my house.  Just across the street.
She's our little nine year old neighbor. 
It's not your typical Tuesday.  It's a snow day Tuesday.  Which means in a couple of hours my house and her house will become the shared playground for the afternoon.
There are already snow boot tracks criss crossing through both yards.  There have been hours of Barbies played, countless cups of hot chocolate, many loads of wet snow clothes spinning dry, and lots of movies shared. 
Thankfully on snow days my girls usually sleep in.  A bit longer than our neighbor.  Just give it a couple hours and the house will be a hub of activity and brainstorming.
Yesterday I felt a bit of tension as I surveyed just how many activities were spread across the house.  I couldn't find kitchen counter space as the girls had decided to make candy and decorate cookies.  After which they tried to sell to a few kind neighbors.  I finally went upstairs to escape the activity for a minute and heard them charge back inside, snow boots squeaking across the wet hardwoods, "We made a dollar!  Someone bought our cookies!"  My oldest girl cheered.  "We are starting to make money!"
I smiled in spite of all the chaos. Oldest girl is always drawing up plans of how she will start her own business and you know...make money.
I think their plate of cookies turned up a small four dollars.  But after sampling the cookies, that was a generous profit. 
The silent snow started falling Friday and fully cloaked the yard in brilliant white by Saturday.
It's been a few days of slow going, family time. 
We have loved it.
Fire popping and crackling at night. Lot's of movies and games.
Red cheeks, igloos.
So many sinks of dishes.  There's been a lot of snacks eaten.
I have a feeling this is the last snow day as warmer temperatures are set to come this afternoon.  The snow will puddle and all of the snow cone making will cease.  In fact its supposed to be sixty degrees by week's end.
But it's been a lovely slice of January. 

Snow makes everything dazzling white.(Until it's trampled on and scraped by sleds and trudged on by boots)
When snow first falls it brings beauty to all it covers.
I remember discussing this with oldest girl a few years ago.
We sat in traffic stopped at train tracks.  The snow had fallen and was still cemented icily to the ground. As we sat looking at the train we noticed how pleasant the hill in front of us looked.  Usually this hill was a mangled maze of weeds, ivy, and shrubbery that needed to be mowed down.  It was an eye sore.  But not on this day.  The snow had clothed this usually ugly hill with beauty.  A new beauty that wasn't indigenous to the space.  Funny, all of the weeds and messy vegetation actually provided a great base for the snow.  The dips and shapes that emerged from under the snow were interesting and pleasing to look at. 
At that time oldest girl and I discussed this.  How snow had transformed the quite ugly into something strikingly beautiful and had used the ugliness underneath.
We revisited this conversation the other night at dinner as the wind whipped around the house and temperatures plunged.
I know the application here.  It's easy to see.  That when God's grace falls, His redemptions covers the ugliest patches of dirt in our lives and His holiness brings a startling beauty.
Even to that spot. That person that seems almost unredeemable.  Even if  that's me. 
That relationship that seems filled with broken places.
That part of my life, season of my life, or brokenness of my life that almost broke me.
He can redeem even that.
Every year when the first snow christens the earth Isaiah's words fill my thoughts.  I'm staring out the door, breathing in that cold, but clean air.  "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it.  I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.  Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool." (Isaiah 1:18).
It's true. But I must confess I've always had so much trouble believing it. 
As I wash all the hot chocolate cups today, oversee crafts, and listen to little girls hatch their dreams of entrepreneurship gazing out my windows looking at the snow I'm going to pray to believe it. 
Believe it more this year. 
Cold kissed rosy cheeks

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Holidays Can Hold

The holidays have all blurred by and January has opened up a new year.
I wanted to try to remember, pause or reflect on what filled up our holidays, but I never stopped while they sped on.
Too many things to keep track of.  All of the special events, family gatherings, and traditions that splatter the end of November through December calendar.
It seems like so many people have had a hard year.
I seemed to have heard it everywhere and from people I hadn't expected.  So many problems.  So many obstacles.  So many question marks.
The reasons are numerous and varied, but I haven't known too many people that hailed 2016 as a sunshine soaked year.
It just seemed like an arduous year that had to be plodded and waded through with periodic times of refreshment or load lightening here and there.  For the most part, it's not one I would ever wish to repeat.
As Thanksgiving approached and Christmas unfolded, I found that the holidays can hold.
When life has been rough and worn you raw and you don't exactly know what to do next the holidays have a way of letting you know what to do next. They can be your compass for the last six weeks of the year.
Granted, holidays can heighten the hurt, but sometime they can help you walk forward when you don't know what to feel or think, you just have to keep walking.
Sometimes the holidays can help hold you.
This season felt a bit awkward.  What to do? It hadn't exactly been a joyous and festive year.  How would we treat the holidays?
Thankfully we returned back to the rhythms of the season and they swept us along in their fast moving current.  It helped.
I remember right before Thanksgiving when my husband and I were trying to inject ourselves with some hope we decided we would definitely be doing our Friends-giving again this year.
I'm so glad we did.  Our house was brimming over with friends of all kinds and the food was excellent.  After the fire pit was doused and all the dishes washed and the last guest left  late in the night, we smiled sleepily.
I felt held that  November night by Hope.  Good things had happened in past Thanksgivings and they happened at this Thanksgiving. The holiday helped hold us.

Happy Thanksgiving :) 

Frog legs made a Friends -giving appearance
(Some say they were good)  

Keith frying his turkey 

When I try to think of all of the Christmas activities that happen between school-church- and a large family I can't recall all of them clearly.
I just know we were busy.
I remember shivering outside of a local Christmas Tree  lighting listening to my girls singing loudly, their school choir encircling the sidewalk.

Despite our less than enthusiastic feelings about Christmas this year, my husband and I knew we had to get a tree.  Eventually.  I'm never too excited about it, but I don't think either of us really wanted one this year. Our kids kept begging and reminding us that there were officially only two weeks until Christmas and still no tree. And why? What plausible explanation did we have to offer them? Sooo,
we brought the tree home on a weeknight.  (We didn't do any home work.) and spent the night letting the kids decorate the tree, eat holiday-ish food, and watch Christmas movies.
The kids were fully delighted. As we swept up pine needles and watched the tacky tinsel shimmer in the multi colored lights I knew we needed these moments.  Especially now.

Even the most simple of past holiday traditions reeled us back into each other.  Oldest girl asked me as soon as December started when I would be serving our regular Christmas ice cream sundaes? (This began when she was much younger and is literally just ice cream with red and green candy.) I smiled. She had remembered this simple small thing.  We had to start having them of course.  We've eaten too much ice cream this past month.

We did have to attempt at Christmas cookie baking.  Despite our first two batches landing solidly in the trash we finally produced some things that oldest girl accepted as worthy of plating.  She teared up at the first round.  That is a tradition that is only for the joy of the kids.  No one was going to be gifted with those cookies and more joy was spent eating the dough and decorating them. :)

I heard my husband's usual chuckle at my confused wrapping attempts. Package wrapping isn't my skill set and we have always laughed at how appalling they are.  He quickly took over.  I gladly yield all present wrapping to him.
That familiar exchange brought small smiles.
Even in the silences between us the holidays held.
The Saturday we spent a whole day solely looking for special things for our kids reminded us of what was important and right with our life.  Our four precious children.

We experienced much graceful generosity and that is always humbling.  It's never deserved. Ever. But it happened nonetheless.

The simple task of having to go look for presents for family members and friends brought a familiar joy.  I loved looking for things that might make someone smile and feel thought of.  The whole task was one of my favorite days of the season.  I have always loved giving gifts and it meant something even more to me this year.  I came home that day quite tired, but full in heart.

The four days of Christmas gift exchanging and feasting at all of our combined families were all familiar and special times of the past.
We watched our girls wear their matching Christmas dresses to their great grandmother's Christmas party. So many great grandkids tearing into presents and cardboard bits and tissue paper littering her floor as the kids played with all of their new toys.
Briefly for a few fleeting seconds my mind went back to eleven years on that night.  Keith had proposed to me after leaving that party.  Now I had four of my own kids there.
Sometimes the holidays bring back a flood of special memories that otherwise lay dormant in our mind and force us to recollect on generous moments and perhaps re-collect some sweetness, some things that once were.
Christmas Eve with the Kids 

Seafood Feast Christmas Night 

Christmas was special this year because we were at church.  Even though I spent the service chasing my one year old around the perimeter of the building I noticed everyone's happy faces and watched Christmas joy spread smiles wide and sparkle eyes.
Our last stop on Christmas night was the most delicious.  It wasn't a typical ham or turkey.
My mom and sister decided to live on the edge a bit and have a seafood themed meal.
There was fish, shrimp five ways, lobster tails, and crab legs.  Among many other side dishes and the usual roast beef for anyone not willing to try the seafood.
I have not been that full in a very long time.  We just kept eating.
I watched my husband masterfully crack open the crab legs and show my mom what to do.
It was a fun twist on Christmas food and definitely my favorite.

I'm thankful the holidays are over.  I'm thankful that January is here and 2016 is forever history.  I wouldn't want to repeat much of it.  But I'm thankful that the holidays can hold us together and give us the next steps, the familiar traditions to walk through when we don't quite feel it or know what to do.
Two days before Christmas I remember putting kids' jackets on and picking up a load of presents to take out the door to a family function.  I had two covered dishes in my hands and my husbands' were loaded down with gifts.  I decided to cut through the loud and said quietly looking him right in the eyes, "I love Christmas because it was always a special time for our family.  It was our best time.  We have always done Christmas well. We have always made it special."  My eyes swum with tears and I watched his mist over. Over a decade of past Christmases fast flying in my mind's eye.
Sometimes the holidays hold.  Hold you and hold up in front of you what is most important.
Whether the holidays were hard to navigate because of pain and loss or a welcome distraction from pain and loss, or if 2016 was wonderful and you are spilling over with New Year Hope....
I'm so glad its a new year.
Welcome 2017.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

All The Pretty Things (Books to Read)

You know I love books and I love to pass them on to others.  Here's a jewel I took my time reading through.  That I might absorb the story fully.

All the Pretty Things is Edie Wadsworth's memoir.  After confessing it took years to finally write this former Tennessee doctor spills out the story of her life across the pages.  I found myself nodding in agreement with so many thoughts she shared.  Feeling as if she formed the very words I felt too despite our very different life experiences.
Sometimes I felt like I was revisiting moments in my extended family's stories.  Coming from a family deep in the Appalachian mountains entrenched in scandals and jail time and alcoholism I've heard and known similar stories in my own uncles, aunts, and grandparents.
This is a story of abject poverty, extreme family dysfunction, and a little girl turned woman who refused to give up on the love of her alcoholic daddy.  Who always needed her daddy.
This is a story about a young girl trying to take care of a charismatic drunken daddy, spending her Friday nights in a truck parked outside the local bar waiting on daddy.  A story of a girl who never stopped loving her daddy.  If you read the book you love him too, despite all of his inadequacies.
This story introduces you to teachers that care and open children's eyes to something better and more.  This story is about a mom who works tirelessly to give her kids some kind of life.
This story is about sisters melded together in the face of trauma.
This story is about people with out hope, clueless that life could really be different.
This story shows the reality of children scarfing down school lunches as their primary food source.
This story is about the power of strong role models like coaches, teachers, and youth pastors.
This is a story about a woman from dirty trailer parks and no dinner who determined to be a doctor and put herself through med school.
This is also a story about a woman whose perfectionistic drive and deep gaping soul wounds drove her to destroying parts of her life as an adult.
This a story that covers honestly topics of divorce, alcoholism, adultery, shame, and rebuilding.
Finally this is a story of a woman who is given grace anyways.  A woman who burns down her life by her own choices and sees God's redemption full circle.  A woman who is finally healed on the inside.
Edie Wadsworth's memoir is powerful showing the good and dark parts of her.  She is honest about her flaws and yet you love her heart.
This story is about a woman who God loves.  So much.  A woman God doesn't give up on.  A woman God wants to father, to hold close to his heart and heal her fatherlessness. A woman whose life doesn't end when she thinks it will, a woman who God takes His time with.  A woman who wades through deep waters and sees God's full healing and remaking after time.
This is a story of not giving up, because God doesn't give up on us.

I pushed so many of the edges of the pages down in creases to remember pages to revisit.  And I have hung on to this book too long accruing quite a fee at my local library.
There is so much wisdom and goodness in this book, but here are two thoughts I want to hang onto.
"the heart doesn't settle easily for blame-it longs to be redeemed." (pg. 243). Thoughts after untangling the wounds and mess of her life.

I want to always remember these words:
" The only thing worse than the fire was the lingering whisper that this was the punishment I deserved. The accusation came when I was at my lowest, but I had learned not to argue with the Accuser, only to confess and cling to the forgiveness of Christ, which was the only defense I had.  I was learning to live in the open.  I had to refuse to hide or to harden my heart just to keep my secrets safe.  The fire stripped me of the need to protect myself- leaving everything raw and exposed.  The only thing left standing in my life was love.  I had to trust that was enough. " (pg. 278).

In closing this book that I'm sure was very difficult to write shows the complexity of persons. Many times it's easy to categorize people based on things they have done or not done.  Places they have been or accomplishments they rose to. Yet all people are filled with so many experiences and indelibly marked by many moments of the past. All of us need grace and indeed every life is a precious gift that can always be salvaged, healed, and resurrected.  We need not count anyone out.  Not even ourselves.

I hope you enjoy this book!
Edie blogs about her life here :

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Better Birthdays

The last half of the year running through January is the birthday season in our house.
Starting in late August all the way through January.
The last week in October means it's time to celebrate our Third Girl.  Fast forward three weeks and it's Second Girl's birthday.
That means combined birthday parties.
Last year that month of birthdays was very difficult and I wasn't able to really put together a meaningful birthday party. I was barely functioning and really just trying to keep my ahead above water. My kids could tell. I felt a lot of mom guilt over it.
We scrambled to make a makeshift crafting birthday party for the girls in the front lawn of their grandparents. The kids had fun, but it wasn't our usual birthday celebrations.
The cake was humorous. I was supposed to have made a Pete the Cat Cake, but when we arrived at the party I realized that Pete the Cat was ripped from the icing and smeared all over the cake cover.
There was no repairing it.  My Madelyn still talks about her cake.  Her funny cake.
I also forgot her candles.  My mother-in-law rummaged through her junk drawer and produced a '60' candle used a few years ago for their grandfather.
The sixty candle was plopped down on the hole in the middle of the haphazard cake.

The 'sad cake' 

Madelyn still jokes about this cake.  Whenever people asked her this year her age she would laugh and say, "I'm sixty."  As if those birthday candles made her sixty.  She thought this was wildly funny. 

This year I wanted to treat the girls to a much better birthday party.  It had been several years since we had made a big deal out of the kids birthdays. 
As the summer closed the girls and I started brainstorming about the party they wished for. 
A harvest party at their Aunt Jane's house.  
As the idea hatched and Aunt Jane was contacted more people decided to join in. 
There are six birthdays in the span of about four weeks in the family. 
Everyone was in.  
All birthdays would be celebrated together and that also meant extra moms to plan, assist, and help.
Really we just thought of the idea, Aunt Jane and Aunt Jeanette took off with it and made that hot October Saturday very memorable. 
They had so many ideas. 
There was a pumpkin patch, lots of games, hayrides to the barn,  a photo booth, so much food, and well over sixty people at the party. 
It was a beautiful Saturday celebrating six beloved children.  All cousins.
I don't think they will forget that day.
We won't forget all of the planning.
And my girls especially loved it.  Their lack luster birthdays redeemed from the preceding year. 
Are you in a down season? Where you just have seemed to let things go or not be able to give your best? 
It will come around again. 
You will have a next time. 
I knew in the specter of that awful autumn last year we needed to right it with a beautiful beginning this year to birthday season. 
The day meant a lot to everyone.  
To my girls.
It meant so much to me .
God is so compassionate and merciful to give us another chance, good and beautiful memories to hold close and replace the bad.  
To give us new.  A new year, new moments, and new life. 
God gives new seasons.  A season that one year meant the death of some things and sorrow replaced with grace and new beginnings.
This was a lovely Autumn.  
I'm so thankful.  

Aunt Chica 

2nd Girl turns 7 

Third Girl turns 4 

This game got the most giggles.  How long does it take to eat a doughnut with no hands? :)

2nd Girl doesn't like her pumpkin. Clearly 

A Better Birthday :) 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Saturday Spending

Saturday reminds me of that crips $100 dollar bill in your wallet.  It's the best offering of the week.  Usually.
It affords us with the promise of perhaps the most unfettered time with people we love, friends, our kids, or time to spend catching up on everything that has been left off during the week.
I say that is usually the case.  I realize lots of people work on Saturdays.  I know for years I felt like my husband never actually had Saturday off.  We would get a few moments squeezed out of a Saturday, but never a full Saturday at our disposal.
If Saturday means you are off from work and present for your kids, your spouse, and your life then seriously ponder how you will spend it wisely.
Many years ago I heard how many Saturdays we have during the span of childhood.  I had forgotten.  Harley A. Rotbart M.D. tells us the facts in No Regrets Parenting:  There are 940 Saturdays from birth to college.  If you have a five year old you have already spent 260 Saturdays.
Before reading this book I had been thinking a lot about the importance of Saturdays, but it felt confirmed to me in a big way. After reading these numbers it further confirmed to me how intentional I need to be about crafting moments that add up to something meaningful in the Saturdays of our lives.
Time is precious and also fleeting.  So now what to do about it? We can't hold onto time.  It's fast flying by.
We have to try to consciously spend our time in ways that it matters.  Almost like making a wise investment.  Will the way we spend a Saturday actually produce dividends in our lives and the lives of our children later?  Or will it sink into the oblivion of white noise time.  Are the minutes mostly  activity and lots of distraction without content and connection?  That's an easy way to spend the moments.
I think we have to think of time in terms of spending because if we aren't careful to budget time we start spending it in ways that we can't afford.  Ways that rob us because we assume we have  much more time than we actually possess.  We waste and squander time believing it is endless.

One thing I've decided about parenting is that there is no right way or style to parent.
I know many times I haven't been confident in my parenting because I feel like I'm not doing it the right way or I'm an incompetent mother.  That insecurity can hold me back and rob me of joy.
Recently I honestly said, "You know you may not find much to be confident about, but if you are honest you try to give your kids your best and they know it. You are a good mom."  I spoke the words out loud and they sounded foreign.  Weird.  Kind of like something I wanted to be true, but never was sure of. I said the words aloud again.  I let them settle over me.
The next few days I found myself telling a down trodden friend the same words.  "Well, you may not have everything together.  No one does.  But you are a great mother.  You can be confident of that.  You truly are.  You need to be confident of that. Your kids love you. " She smiled and nodded a halting agreement with those words.  Like she too was a bit timid to claim them.
Now that I established that fact it leaves me feeling like I can add to that foundation. I've given myself permission to be confident in that.  That's helpful.
I am a mother that tries hard to create a beautiful life for her kids and yet perhaps making the most of Saturdays will only help me more. I love to be a mom and want to do the best for my kids.  How can making the most of time aide me in that goal?

How do you spend your Saturdays?
What is the niche where your come alive to your children and are all in and all there?
What is your way, avenue, and path to reach their hearts and love them?
My ways look different than your ways.
I struggle with certain forms, but I really like drawing time, parks and picnics, and reading time. Or simply undivided conversations. I like to give a back rub or brush my girls hair.  I like to take them for a treat or simply wander the aisles of Target and let them come up with all of the ways they could use this toy, this product, these art supplies.
I remember my mom always connected with cooking or shopping time with my sister and I.
Some people enjoy making things with their hands, gardening perhaps.
Recently, my oldest girl sat clipping construction paper into different shapes.  I saw her and asked her what she was doing.
"Oh you remember that guy?  The guy we studied?  I am making shapes like him?"
Recollection flickered in my eyes, "Yes. Matisse." I nodded thinking back to the story books filled with brilliant colors and interesting shapes.
"I'm making these like him.  I'm going to take them to art class.  You reading us those stories  mattered."
I was gently happy.  I hadn't expected a story from two summers to come back to my oldest, but I realized in that small moment that invested time matters and molds us.  Time shapes us, just like it shapes mountains, canyons, and the very earth.  Wisely spent time creates new wrinkles in our minds, sparkles in our eyes, and sparks love in our hearts.
I close with this passage of scripture.  It's always seemed very sobering to me.  Psalm 90:12 describes the weighty importance of contemplating the time, our time,
"Teach us to number out days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  
Snapshot of Saturday Afternoon:
What my Saturday looked like this week 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Noticing November : Bowls of rich soup

Last time I posted some thoughts on November it had to do with food.  It does this time too. 
I think it's because cooler weather and holidays bring people in and places them around tables, kitchen counters, and ovens.  Knowing each other over shared food.  
I think more about food when weather forces all of us inside.  What about you?
A few years ago my mom started having a soup party in the Autumn. 
She hollowed out a large pumpkin and ladled warm, bubbling soup into the seasonal container. 
It was beautiful.  
The kitchen greeted you with a stove filled with large pots of different kinds of soup.  A few crock pots simmered on the counters. 
Ever since that party my mom has been pulling those same recipes out and making them again.  They show up at parties, baby showers, and sometimes family dinners. 
I don't like to eat soup during the summer, but it fits Autumn just right. 
Soup soothes.  And something about it feels not as complicated.  Some recipes require oh so many steps, but somehow one container housing all of the ingredients seems to simplify. 
Another appeal of soup is that you can modify everything to your tastes.  I follow a recipe, but definitely alter it, majoring on flavors we like and leaving off what we may not.  I usually always add extra garlic, pepper, onions, and butter.  Most always.  
This is my all time favorite soup: 

Lemon, Orzo, Chicken Meatball Soup
(I actually put 1/2 cup of parmesan and minced garlic  into the meatball mixture.  I also buy fresh rosemary to chop and stir into the broth.  Great woodsy flavors).  

I know the recipe sounds a bit strange.  Perhaps lemon and rosemary don't make their way into your normal Autumnal soup, but this is wonderful.  If the lemon seems too much, omit.  It isn't necessary.  
These chicken meatballs are so flavorful.  I usually don't like chicken or turkey meatballs, but the fragrant herbs and the salty and sharp parmesan give it a punch of flavor.  
The first time my mom made this I couldn't believe how good it was. 
I attempted it despite my lack of experience making meatballs. 
A few winters ago I made it for my friend Sarah.  After she slurped down a bowl she affectionally named it the, "Bowl of Amazingness" and I enjoyed making it for her .
Really, you should try it :) 
The broth is excellent for dipping crusty bread.  

Here is the Broccoli Soup Recipe my mom uses for these parties.  It's very cheesy.  

One of my closest life long friends Jenna always fills her kitchen with 'bowls of amazingness' or plates, platters, frying pans, muffin tins and cookie sheets of amazingness.  When I want a good recipe I ask her. 
I asked her the other day for a new soup recipe and here was the answer.
Lasagna Soup : 

Here is one other tip Jenna gave me many years ago.  She told me to always add a can of enchilada sauce to any Taco Soup I made.  She's right.  It can be red or green enchilada sauce.  Either works.  I prefer green enchilada sauce.  The sauce really adds a rich depth of flavor.  If I leave it off, I know.  It's not the same.  

What soup do you most often serve? What tips do you have? 
What recipe reminds your family of home?