Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My favoritest Valentine thing.

If you were around top of the page this time last year, you may have seen this post. Since then, it has remained one of my top five most-read posts. And because it's sharing something from the center of my heart, I still love it, and wanted to share it again (especially because most of you came on board in the last twelve months!). I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the family I grew up in, as well as how I've assimilated the heart of those memories into my own family traditions today.   

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. Let's start counting the ways.



  1. I love this! I may not get the cute felt board up but I'd like to at least try 14 days of notes at dinner time. :)

  2. I love this idea!
    I had a friend in college introduce me to the fact that Valentine's day does not have to be about a romantic love, but a celebration of the LOVE that is by definition GOD! And how amazing is that?!!
    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. what a SWEET idea.

    love anything that causes us all to cherish each other.

  4. What a great idea Leslie! And you're sooo right...we dont affirm one other enough. Ive been reminded of that this week as someone we know lost their 11 year old son. One day he was healthy, the next day he was showing signs of the flu, the third day, he was gone. Its tragic but also a very good reminder to treasure those around us because we just never know what tomorrow holds.
    Happy Valentines Day!