Monday, January 31, 2011

Let me count the ways

I was raised to enjoy a holiday. Holidays are good excuses for making your loved ones feel special, and Valentine's Day is no exception. At my house growing up, it was a family event. Valentine's Day was about love, and my brother and I were loved. Period.

My mom would set the fancy table in the dining room with layers of white lace tablecloths, bouquets of fresh flowers, and a stack of gifts. When my high school years rolled around, and when Valentine's Day only heightened the sting of loneliness for my peers, I had my family. I was loved. I had a party to attend and it was right inside my own home. And that meant so much to me.

I carry that tradition forward now, and have a small version each year with my two little ones. It's lots of fun. They get it: love lives here.

One of the other ways we celebrate is with our Valentine's Advent Calendar. A few years ago, I came up with the idea of doing an advent of love notes, one a day for the first 14 days of February, for each member of my family. The kids have followed suit as they have been able. Now that my daughter is 8, she is fully writing her own. My son who is 5 is excited to draw some pictures depicting the things he loves about his family.

Each morning, they come down the stairs and get so excited to read their notes, words of affirmation and affection to start off their days. I want my people to walk out the door filled with smiles and security and an unshakable knowing why they are amazing to me.

Between my husband and I, of course the notes are an opportunity for praise and affection as well. I treasure his words, as he does mine. Sometimes the notes are hard to believe. Our resistance to love is striking sometimes, isn't it? We are more comfortable with our suspicions about how the other person sees us, than embracing the fact that someone finds us completely lovely. And of course, there are always the saucy notes. You know the kind. Perfect for kindling romance and laughter.

The thing is, we don't say what we love about the people we love often enough. We miss opportunities. We take them for granted so much. Our Advent calendar is one way we put into words the little things that mean so much. At the top, it says "Let Me Count the Ways," from the poem How do I Love Thee?

Each person has his or her own column of felt pockets, until Feb. 14th.

Some of the pockets have Valentine buttons.

I'm still taking out last years notes, and getting ready to hang it for tomorrow. I stick it into the wall with push pins.

Look at our baggies from the past few years. Of course, the notes get saved. They are priceless. One year, my daughter simply wrote "I love you" on every note.

Of course, you don't have to do something as elaborate as my calendar. You could do envelopes. You could get cute little mailboxes from the craft store. You could come up with any number of simple or complicated, amazing, creative ways to affirm your family members. The point is to be intentional. The point is that you tell them WHY they are so special to you. Not for what they do, but for who they are. That is a tricky part, to stick to the character qualities and strengths, not simply actions, that you appreciate.

Everyone needs to feel seen. If we don't tell our spouses and children who we see them to be, then how will they know?

Happy February, everyone. Tomorrow we start counting the ways.



  1. this is the CUTEST idea!!!!!!!! i mean, SO SWEET!!!! LOVE!!!

  2. BRILLIANT!!! I love this idea!! Thank you so much for sharing today so I have time to do this starting tomorrow!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED!! :) I am also posting a link to this page on Facebook! Too good not to share.

  3. i love this! just the idea of everyone getting a love note~so sweet! i am going to duplicate this in some way! hugs, cathy

  4. i just *love* this! i did something similar when i taught fifth grade, and can't believe i never thought to implement it in my own family?!? so beautiful, and two weeks of pure lovin'. couldn't come at a better time, huh?

  5. What a great perspective for someone like me, who is so anti-valentine's day. I love this.

  6. What an absolutely wonderful idea. I treasure the notes I received from my parents as a child, but haven't done that for my own kids. We need to do this. Thank you, thank you for sharing!

  7. This is so amazing and precious!

  8. Thank you so much Leslie!
    This is a wonderful idea and one we will be starting today. It won't look as pretty as yours, but that's not what really matters right?!?:)
    Enjoy the day,

    I am linking to you in my blog....

  9. What an awesome idea! I love your 5th sweet.

  10. i was thinking yesterday how to kick off february and valentines day in a fun way. this is brillant!!! love your entire post. your childhood sounds much like mine was! i'll be doing one like this for my kids. my only problem is that i want all your cute felt, buttons and tags!!

  11. What a beautiful idea!! I love this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. you are fabulous.


    ps: writing you an email lata.

  13. Great idea! I will be sharing this one, too!

  14. cousin jane2/1/11, 1:28 PM

    WOW!!! Leslie, where were you when I was raising my children 30 some years ago. I guess it is not to late to start a tradition, I love it. Keep posting.

  15. What a wonderful idea!

    sandy toe

  16. i am blog hopping tonight..and i found you! love this idea!!! i am going to see what i can find and write a few love notes tonight!!!

  17. This is so beautiful. I love the idea of leaving little notes.... and then even saving them. ahhh what treasures ;)

  18. This is so, so beautiful. We write notes to the children leading up to V Day, but sadly I never thought of Art and I writing notes to each other. Shame on me. But that will change with this year. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Leslie, I am always so inspired by your blog! I spent all week making my own version of this awesome family love-fest Valentine's wall hanging. I even used "Love lives here" at the top of mine (which you used in your explanation and which was also embroidered on a pillow in my childhood home!). Love!

  20. What a great idea and a wonderful opportunity to let your kids know how much they are loved.