Valentines Hearts

There are four wonderful, incredibly brilliant, amazingly creative geniuses that live here at Thistlewood Farm.

Not that I’m partial or anything.

I’m just a mother.

And while I love each one of them with a love that fills up my heart and makes it overflow with absolute joy….

…there is one that truly tugs at my heartstrings.


She came into this world weighing only 2 pounds and 2 ounces with the sweetest cry I have ever heard.

She is my thinker.

My dreamer.

An old soul.

Contemplative and quiet and watching the world with a solemn stare and a soft smile that holds such mystery and wonder.

She is the first one to give up her brownie and to help with homework and to make sure no one forgets their cheer leading shoes and that everyone has their lunches packed….

….and to laugh at every joke.

art house

The other day I sat at an academic meet watching my little thinker compete.

They asked question after question about math and science and Kentucky and adverbs and adjectives.

And each time the reader would read the question….I could see her furrowed brow and the wheels spinning faster and faster in her head.

She would start to buzz in and answer…..but every time…..

 …..something stopped her.

I could see the earnestness in her face and the longing in her eyes.

She simply wanted to participate.

She simply wanted to contribute.

And my heart ached and I spent the entire second half of the academic meet preparing my “every member of the team is important” speech.


And then……I saw her buzzer light up.

It was a math question….something almost incomprehensible to me about percentage and multiplying and then dividing.

And when they called her name….

…..I held my breath.

And then….with a quiet confidence she answered correctly.

The breath that I had been holding came out in a rush and I wanted to stand up and cheer and hold up the number 10 written on pieces of notebook paper and sing “We Are the Champions.’

But they frown on those sort of things at academic meets.

So I sat and cheered wildly on the inside….where it really counts.


After the meet was over and we walked to the car….she turned and looked up at me with a question in her eyes.   I knew she was waiting for my normal-after-meet speech where I thouroughly analyze the questions and say all sorts of mom-of-the-year comments like “Make sure you remember that the capitol of North Dakota is Bismark” and “We need to practice a little more on the history of Kentucky.”

But this time I didn’t.

I did not say a thing.

We just walked silently across the parking lot….with the cold wind blowing and a hint of snow in the air.

And then I paused and said my variation of these six words that can shape a destiny….

…..”I love to watch you at the meet.”


She solemnly looked up at me and stared.

Those words came without pressure.

Without analysis.

Just celebration and encouragement and understanding and acceptance from me.

She didn’t say anything.

She just reached up and tucked her tiny hand into mine.

And then suddenly…..I saw it….there it was……a smile of confidence that danced from one side of her face to the other and ended in the tiniest of dimples.

The smile of a champion. 🙂

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  1. Image for andrea cammarata andrea cammarata

    See what you did I am crying...sniffling and I have goosebumps! : ) It's all good and those moments in time are the diamonds of life...absolutely positively nothing is more precious and perfect than those shining stars of life!!! Sending you all tons of hugs and by the way...HAVE FUN my friend!!!

    1. Image for Brenda Bijak Brenda Bijak

      YOU. ABSOLUTELY. KILL. ME! Now there are two people crying!! Such a beautiful perspective from a Mother's heart. Thank you for that little story this morning! Love your blog and all your inspiration. Thank You! Sincerely, The lady on the couch in her dog pajamas crying.

  2. Image for Marisa Franca Marisa Franca

    Doggone it, Karianne!! I'm doing exactly like Andrea. I'm smiling and tearing up and everything -- sniffling a little too. Those moments are so precious you hug them to your heart and it fills you up so much you think you'll burst. And at the end -- I KNEW you were going to tell her that you love to watch her at the meet. I read that post , at your suggestion, and it got to me too. You know, my kids are all grown but I'm going to say that to the grandsons every time we go see them. Even if it's to say I love to watch you play with your Legos.

  3. Image for Gina Gina

    I knew that's what you were going to say! Love it! I wish I had known those six words to say when my kids were younger. I don't have many opportunities to watch them now but am filing this away. The opportunity will present itself in the future I'm sure.

  4. Image for Beth L. Beth L.

    I have tears too...this came at the perfect time. My daughter started gymnastics a few weeks ago and Tuesday night after class I wanted to encourage her but had no idea how to really encourage her. I tried talking about the different things she practiced, but couldn't find the words. It's its simplest form...I love to watch you practice...fits says it all. Thanks

  5. Image for Katharine Katharine

    My Mother gave me a childhood loaded with champion moments...and I promise they add up to an invaluable coat of armor for the journey ahead!

  6. Image for Dawna Dawna

    You always seem to have the right words to say! Proud momma moment and thanks for the lump in my throat!! :) Such a sweetie in that last picture!

  7. Image for Diane Diane

    Oh my gosh the tears flow! Being a momis the greatest/hardest/most important thing you will ever do! Thanks for encouraging words so filled with a gram to my three joy Boys , 4, 31/2, and 2 years old I view life so differently as the seem to get it now as a blessed to have found you!

  8. Image for Adrienne Adrienne

    I read some where to just say that. No critiquing, no advice...just I love to watch you play basketball, baseball, cheer, whatever. I do that. And then the little smarty pants 8 year old will say, "yeah, but I walked all those people. That wS so NOT good. What'd you think of that?" Ha!! I loved your story and, of course, teared up :)

  9. Image for Kelli Kelli

    I'm a new subscriber to your blog and read the story about the six words. I've always thought I was a good, supportive, not too "over the top" mom, but your story got me to thinking. And I thought "Okay, I'll try it on my 15 year old (going on 90)." He's also wise beyond his years and will probably look at me like I've gone nuts, but why not! Love the shock factor! He plays baseball and had a bad day fundamentally. He is a ridiculous perfectionist and was recapping all the things he had done wrong, when I threw the phrase out there and the reasons why. Same response. He looked at me strangely and completely stopped the recap of his many shortcomings. At the end of the day, I heard him talking to my husband and was telling him about baseball practice. I admit I got those proud mommy tears when I overheard him say "End of story, Mom enjoyed it so it's okay." Thank you for sharing that story.

  10. Image for Sharon H Sharon H

    Ah, Miz know I love everything you write about, but especially the times you write about the things most important to you: your sweet family! You know the best part of putting these 6 words into practice, besides the potential impact they can that your children are young enough to still have several years at home with you so they can receive this powerful message over and over and over! And even when they are grown, you will continue to bless and affirm them with those small, but powerful, messages. How fortunate are your children! You GO girl! ;)

  11. Image for Susan McMullen Susan McMullen

    Karianne! I needed to work today and now I am crying!! I LOVE your stories, love your insights and your kids! YOU are a very special mom!

  12. Image for Michelle Michelle

    Jeepers, it's 5:30 am and you can still make me cry!! I am just waiting for my son to get the last parts of his hockey gear on, then we are off to an early morning hockey practice. I didn't think I could register much emotion this are the Oprah of the blog world!! I truly enjoyed your post on the six words, and I took it heart. Sometimes I try to "help" with what I think he needs to be working during games...but really, all I need to be saying is ...(wait...more tears!!) I love to watch you play. Thank you for that!

  13. Image for Kay Kay

    Loved your post! Her mother is definitely a "thinker" as well.....and full of wisdom. As parents we kick ourselves when we make wrong choices in dealing with the everyday stuff. You can definitely bask in the glow of getting this one right! Congratulations to mother and daughter!

  14. Image for Sandy Sandy

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful moment with your daughter. What a lesson. Being present without giving advice or critiquing.

  15. Image for BrocanteuseRose BrocanteuseRose

    Awe teary over here with sniffles... Perfect mommy thing to say! 2lbs 2ounces!!?!?! Oh my goodness. Heart racing over here. And you let her out of the house NOT wrapped in bubble wrap, knee pads, elbow cushions, helmet, and some feather pillows duct taped just for good measure even this many years later! :) What a perfectly GREAT encouraging mommy! :)

  16. Image for Peggy Peggy

    Ah that is so sweet! My left eye is all watery now... okay that sounded weird but my right eye is pretty close to swollen shut from allergies this morning. (its ok as the swelling will go down soon.)

  17. Image for Michelle Michelle

    Such a sweet story and reminder how our words impact those we love. I love reading your post. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Image for Michelle Michelle

    What a sweet and encouraging story. We lost our precious daughter six years ago. Your story brought up such memories. Never a time passed that I did not tell her that I loved her. Just always remember that words set the tone. Always,always encourage and build up so that they will stand strong

  19. Image for Teri Teri

    So it's official - you have made most of us a good way. Every mother can relate to this message. Positive words (even just a few words) from a mother are long remembered. I only wish that every child out there had a mother just like you. Many do, but my heart truly aches for all those who do not. LOVE your blog.

  20. Image for Susan Susan

    Thanks for the reminder! I'm just now realizing how much it means to my kids to have mom and dad show up and be supportive. Some times we have to "divide and conquer" when they have things scheduled for the same night. Unfortunately there are too many kids that don't have the support (so we cheer loud for them too) - your kids will always remember that you were there!

  21. Image for Kris Kris

    Thank you for a new phrase I will be adding to my "stash". I can't tell what the colorful fabric is part of, but I love it, and the bird, too!

  22. Image for Karen in Texas Karen in Texas

    That was just a lovely post. It is so cold here today in Texas - I know, I know, not your kind of cold - but really cold for us in Central Texas - the kinda of cold that no matter what - you just cant get warm, but this post was a heart warmer !!! Love it !!

  23. Image for Pat @ LifeAtLydiasHouse Pat @ LifeAtLydiasHouse

    What a precious story! Been there, done that! It reminds me of a Bible competition that my precious "thinker" was participating in back as a third grader. I was on pins and needles the whole time but she made it through. Now I'm cheering her on as a 23 year old who is having to adjust to a bully in the workplace and she is going to make it through this one too! Hold on to your hat because this time will fly by quickly!

  24. Image for Cathy Cathy

    I,too lost it at work after reading this! (mascara everywhere!) Thank you so much - will share this w/ my daughter when she has a daughter... or a son! Such a beautiful blog.

  25. Image for Karen Karen

    Do you know what a fantastic mama with a sweet soul equals? Happy and well adjusted children! YOU are awesome!

  26. Image for Kimberly Bruhn Kimberly Bruhn

    She truly is beautiful ... inside and out! What a memory for both of you! I'm the one who wrote you about my son going to play golf with Jesus after a 6-year fight against leukemia and you wrote me back! It made my day that you cared enough! I am so glad to read about your family and share in your joy! I started going to a parent's grief group on Tuesday and, I think, I hope, it helped! Life will never be the same without our Michael but we are trying to keep on keeping on! Love to you and I know you cherish each one of those precious moments! Kimberly

    1. Image for cute chris cute chris

      Kimberly, I don't know you but I know that my heart is aching from your words. May God bless you and bring peace to your mind and heart.

  27. Image for Patti Patti

    Oh my, you made me cry. As a mom of two girls I can relate. You should write a novel. Could give Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. Keep on sharing. Your posts brighten my day.

  28. Image for jenifer bow wilson jenifer bow wilson

    I 'm sure I'm one of your older readers and I love listening to you talk about your family and your life. You remind me of me, although I have to say, you express yourself so much better than I ever did. Today's post brought me baited breath, goose bumps, and then tears at your daughters smile. I remembered my girls going through similar events and I savor each one of those memories. Thank you for bringing me back to that time.

  29. Image for Karen G. Karen G.

    So beautiful! Both of my girls were little tiny things too (2 lbs 3 oz & 3 lbs 2oz.)....I look at them like you look at your sweet girl....a bit of awe, an overwhelming pride, and pure joy that they have both blossomed into amazing young ladies. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart with us - mine just grew a couple sizes from reading about it <3

  30. Image for SuzyMcQ SuzyMcQ

    KA, You are the best! And, you bring out the best in everyone you touch. You are a blessing to each of us and, thanks so much for all you do, all you give, for being YoU!

  31. Image for Kim Kim

    What a sweet story!!!!! I'll say it as most mom's never do, you are an awesome mom! Doing a great job! You must be so proud of your sweet little girl as well as your other children!

  32. Image for Lisa Lisa

    My identical twin girls were born at 32 weeks weighing 4 pounds and 3pounds 4 ounces. I was a pediatric nurse and knew the complications they could suffer in the future as "preemies." My husband, a physician, and I worried about learning disabilities, CP, brain bleeds, etc. Two years ago my babies graduated from the Colege of the Holy Cross, Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, They also jointly received the college's foreign language award. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of them. They currently live together in Rome and have wonderful jobs they both love! Although it pains me every time they leave home to return to Rome, I am comforted by how far those tiny NICU babies have come.

  33. Image for judith judith

    When my son was tiny, I would say to him, "Max, It's going to be a good day today. Do you know why?" Of course, he said, "Why?" And I would say, "Because you're in it!" I said that throughout his childhood. I said it to him the other day (he is now 23) and he came back with the answer! This post choked me up - your kids are very fortunate, and your daughter is lovely. Keep up the good work with them. I love the blog, too!

  34. Image for Charlotte ~ Charlotte's Chair Charlotte ~ Charlotte's Chair

    You can tell such a powerful story with just a few words! How I wish all parents could get this (the encouraging words part), thanks for sharing! beautiful pictures and your daughter is simply stunning and so blessed to have you for her momma!

  35. Image for Anne @ Walden Woods Anne @ Walden Woods

    Oh KariAnne I can hardly wait to share your words today and the original story from Rachel ( about these six words. My brother is a child psychologist and he will truly understand and appreciate the effect these words will have and I'm sure he will use the wisdom found in these stories with his young clients and their parents. I have not been so touched for a long time - what wonderful joy to give to your child with such honest and loving words. Thank you for sharing this.

  36. Image for Regina Merrick Regina Merrick

    Oh KariAnne, you make my heart sing . . . And you make me remember how much fun those Academic Meets, All-District Band concerts, soccer games, etcetera, are. I miss it. You came up with the perfect response. :) Stay warm and cozy! It's c c c cold out there!

  37. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    I am in tears!!!!!!! Perfect response and reply. Thanks for reminding me to encourage and not discourage as a mom. Hugs from Henderson!

  38. Image for Laurie Laurie

    I absolutely love this!! The tears, the smiles, the sniffles... I have them all!! This message is so timely for me. Both of my kids are starting up a new soccer season, and I have been one to constantly "encourage" Reminding we can always do more to improve :( I CAN NOT WAIT to tell my babies (15 &16) how I LOVE TO WATCH THEM PLAY!! They will be the most honest words coming from a mom with a totally new perspective!! I am thankful God led me to your blog. He speaks to us in so many different ways, and today He spoke to me using you ❤️

  39. Image for Trina @ Trina @

    Your daughter is lovely! Your photography is beautiful. Your dollar store heart garland {that I almost bought myself the other day, but then decided I didn't need it, and now want it again} looks amazing! I also used those 6 words on my boys the other day. I found that post through you and it gave me perspective. I said, "I love to watch you two play." Both boys stopped dead in their tracks, looked at me and said, "Thanks, mama." Then they were off again. It warmed my heart for the entire day. Thank you!

  40. Image for Audrey Zumwalt Audrey Zumwalt

    "I love to read your stories". Your daughter is beautiful. Blessings, Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures

  41. Image for melissa @ DaisyMaeBelle melissa @ DaisyMaeBelle

    LOVE those 6 words! My middle one is a basketball player. And those are the only 6 words she will ever here from me from now on. Which is probably very good for her basketball career, because I know almost NOTHING about basketball! I'm sharing The Hands Free Mama with everyone I know! Life to the full! Melissa

  42. Image for Elisabeth Elisabeth

    How beautiful. Our children want and need our affirmation. We're everything in the world to them at this point in their life and if mom and dad stand behind them and believe in them, they will grow to be as strong as an oak tree.

  43. Image for Sharon Sharon

    Oh, how I love this story. Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing a child's confidence peeking through in an uncertain world. I'm so glad she smiled.

  44. Image for Lisa R Lisa R

    Oh wow. Chills and goosebumps! You are such a good mom. Thank you for sharing these stories. You have taught me a really valuable lesson that I intend to keep using with my teenager, adult kids and Grandkids. Ya know it might even be good for spouses to hear also. I know mine would appreciate it. Thanks again. You truly always make my day!

  45. Image for Jill Jill

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! As a mom and a former teacher and coach, I say bless your lesson in grace and love.

  46. Image for Polly Polly

    Words and Feelings aren't they wonderful!! My grandson is in his first music contest tomorrow, his mother got nothing but firsts, so the pressure is on him! I will remember this, and thank you for your wonderful stories! Just a bit teary eyed:)

  47. Image for Jody Jody

    KariAnne, Greetings from Bismarck, ND!!!!!!!! I absolutely love your writing style. The story was wonderful. Your kids are lucky to have a momma like you!! Since you mentioned Bismarck I couldn't resist sending you a shout out from the North. Thanks for sharing your life and yourself with the rest of the world!!!

  48. Image for Marian@Gathering Branches Marian@Gathering Branches

    Oh my. The power of those words. I read that post after jumping around on Hands Free Mama and have been experimenting with it. Good stuff, I tell you. I was secretly hoping that's where you are going with this post. Less suggestions, more acceptance seems like a pretty good recipe in this over striving world we live in. The Other Marian

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