Can barely find my nightstand for the stack of books lying there awaiting cracked spines and sand between pages.  The following are listed in no particular order.  I also am not endorsing any of them really, except numbers 5, 8 and 10, so if you begin reading one and find shocking accounts of terrible acts and are horrified, you can bet I’ll be too.  Oh, and I’ve made it so easy for you to order any of these books.  Just click on the carousel above and you’ll get right to Amazon.  Ok, on to the books.  Here are the top ten I’m looking forward to visiting:

1.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo~Stieg Larsson
Have resisted this book for a year or more, but just today found out it’s a trilogy and am somewhat enamored of trilogies these days (see #2 and 4).  Shall give the first a try and see if it’s worth ordering second and third.

2.  Mocking Jay~Suzanne Collins
Not on my nightstand yet, but will be as soon as the book is released on August 24th.  Book three of The Hunger Games series promises to be as captivating as the first two.  They are geared for young adults, but I double dog dare any adult to begin the first and put it down.

3.  My Name is Mary Sutter~Robin Oliveira
Historial fiction (be still my heart) about a woman doctor during the Civil War.  Why do they call it that?  Remind me to post about misnomers later.

4.  My Name is Memory~Ann Brashares
From the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (which I have no interest in reading, so convince me otherwise) comes a new work of fiction that has been described as a cross between The Time Travelers Wife and Twilight.  Oh, and it’s the first in a trilogy.  Yup.

5.  The Vision and The Vow~Pete Greig
I’ve read, devoured, this short book before and plan on doing it again.  And it’s more than just feeling the need to have something of real substance on my reading list.  It’s the desire to remind myself what being a follower of Jesus is all about and this book’ll do that.  I promise.

6.  The Passage~Justin Cronin
It’s another vampire book (sigh), but it’s all over the place and I’d rather just read it and find out what all the hullabaloo is about than wonder the whole summer. 

7.  The Gathering~Anne Enright
Misty of Chincoteague Island-Marguerite Henry
Started reading this with the boys this evening and while Peter only hung on through chapter three to find out who “the phantom” was, Grant was enamored, so we’re forging on because it’s a classic and a Newberry Honor book and I’ve never read it.
8.  Bird by Bird~Anne Lamott
Loaned to me by a friend (you know who you are), and written by a favorite author of mine, Anne Lamott writes about writing.  Riveting.

9.  Mr. Tuckett~Gary Paulsen
Am planning to read this with Grant this summer just as soon as I figure out how to painlessly staple my eyelids to my brows so I can stay awake long enough to involve him in the plot.  Trouble is everyone is going to bed too late and mama is exhausted.  As I write the boys are screwing around upstairs and I’m ready to turn in, so those scheduling difficulties need to be ironed out before I launch my summer reading project.  If I accomplish nothing else this summer, it will be to teach that kid to love reading.

10.  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years~Donald Miller
Because this guy writes the way I think.  And he loves Jesus.  And he’s real.  Sometimes too real.  And because I’ve read Blue Like Jazz and it’s worth your time.  Oh, and because my dad loaned me his copy and so I have no excuse.  Not only is he super funny, but he serves on Obama’s task force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families and healthier families is something I’ll support any day.

happy reading.


Tonight I crept into Lucy’s room and blinded her repeatedly with the flash of my camera as I took pictures of her sleeping.  It’s the last time before she turns one tomorrow.  The last pictures of her being a baby.  I couldn’t help but scoop her up and rock her for a bit.  Birthdays are so bitter sweet.  I have been four times openly defied by my kids (well, thousands of times, really, but humor me): I forbid each of them to grow up and they still have gone and done it doggonnit.  But tonight I felt time slow down at least a bit and I did my part in holding up the clock by rocking my baby while she slept.  I prayed.  

I asked for forgiveness for the times I’ve resented the extra work she’s produced for me and for the times I’ve wondered about how easy my life would be right now with just these older, independent kids to take care of and about the kinds of adventures we could be having if we weren’t tied down by naps and strollers and short attention spans (although hers is far longer than either of the boys).  I praised God for the way she’s brought out the best in each of us, for the way Grant listens outside her door each morning for her first peep so he can run in and rescue her and bring her to me all dewey eyed and tousel-haired from her rest, for the way she’s taught us to celebrate teeny milestones like going up stairs and signing all done, for the answer she’s prompted from each of our older children when asked by a neighbor boy (you know who you are) if they like having a baby sister an immediate and emphatic, “yeah”.  
This is what a baby looks like on the night she turns 1:
See I told you I was blinding her.  I’m sorry Lulu, but it’s a milestone.
Dan will kill me when he sees these pictures and in rebuttal I’ll quote, “The only thing it is permissible to steal is a kiss from a sleeping baby.”
Then he’ll shoot me a dark look before quickly forgiving me.  He’s so good.

This is her only present from us, besides that stupid, obnoxious rocking zebra thingy we gave Tess and will rewrap for Lulu so the kids don’t think we’re the worst parents in the world.
Don’t worry Dr. Bruise, I made Dan screw right through the frame into the wall so it can’t ever fall on her.
Oh, and I finally finished the project I’ve been working on forever.
The Japanese lanterns embroidered beneath her name are because Lucy means light and because they only required the stitches I already knew.
364 days to finish her room.  In six months she’ll be in a big girl bed and I’ll have to start over.  But I’m going to enjoy it until then.
One last shot of this little pile of yum.
“Babies are such a nice way to grow people.”
Lucy, my little bird, you are a gift and we adore you.  
Happy first birthday Junebug.


I’m lovin God tonight.  And His creativity.  And His absolute involvement in the lives of His children.  Especially when they ask for it.  We asked God to intercede for Micah, this faceless child brought into our home in the dark of the night.  We asked for a forever family.  We wondered if we might be that family.  We aren’t.  A family member, a cousin of Micah’s mom, learned what has been happening to Micah and has petitioned the courts for full custody, just as his mom relinquished her right to be his mother.  This new forever family of Micahs was described to me as wonderful.  He will be their only child and they will lavish themselves and their love on him.  Oh, and they are going to fight for Micah’s sisters too, so he won’t be separated from them any longer.
I have shed a hundred and thirty seven tears at least today for this answer.  I feel so good.  Better’n than that first shower after giving birth.  Better’n a thousand dollar gift certificate to Schulers and a bar of chocolate the size of a Buick to eat while browsing.  Better’n both those things and the metabolism of a teenage boy.  God is that good.  Oh, and just to clear the water, I’m always lovin God.  Not just when he pulls all kinds of strings and blows me away with His answers.  Always.  Just tonight seems especially sweet.  Micah may not be ours, but he does belong to the God of the Universe.  And two forever parents who are going to bring him home.  Ask.  Receive.


She did it.  She got married.  Despite my asking her not to because I wasn’t ready for it.  But she was.  And so was he.  And so they did it.  Together.

To set the stage, we met Kristin and Christy at church one spring day when Tess was being baptized.  They tell the story with relish, remembering how Grant and Peter were both holding themselves and saying, loudly, that they had to go potty.  They remarked how cute the kids were and then introduced themselves to us after church as asked if we ever needed babysitters.  Which we did, badly, as we were leaving them for one of the first times overnight to go to Boston on business and I had been praying that God would show me who was capable for the job.  There they were.  We test drove them, fell in love and they became our girls.  They have stayed with our kids no fewer than eight times while we’ve traveled.  Now they are both married, something Dan is still not ok with and we got to go along for the ride.  It was heavenly.

first there was this magical bedroom in an equally magical cottage that the bride’s family so generously invited us to stay in for the night:
a storm during rehearsal dinner knocked out the power, so we lit a bunch of candles, turned on Dan’s computer and listened to the game as the storm raged outside.  lucy was wretched and awake most of the night, but we still love her.
then after a day of fishing and swimming and getting hair done and buying first lip glosses and eating mac donalds outside, we threw everyone in the shower and began getting kids geared up.  these socks were our nod to kristin and tylor who are both farmers kids. 
we made it safely through the wedding with only one bum-itching incident which was actually very funny and sort of cute and i cried when i saw kristin for the first time.  she was so beautiful and serene. 
the reception was in a huge white tent with paper lanterns and wild flowers in milk bottles and an old bike with wild flowers spilling out of the basket and an antique hay wagon for gifts and a million other details that i forgot to take pictures of.  but it was beautiful.
these are our girls.  that’s christy on the left and kristin on the right.  best friends and best babysitters.  our kids adore them.  so do we.
grant sitting on his ring bearer pillow waiting for pictures to end.
you have to understand this family and their farm to get how great this was.  they are, quite simply, some of our favorite people.  salt of the earth.  and their acres and acres of blueberry crops are beautiful.  and then there was this fancy tent plunked right down in the middle of it.  and the whole family, who we’ve spent lots of time with, welcomed us and made us feel like we are a part of their family which we sort of wish we were.  
and kristin makes the world’s best jam which she sells in their farm market.  they gave away little jars of it at the reception and tessie, who crushes on kristin’s jam whenever she brings it over, took her little flower girl basket and collected jars from tables as people left them.  22 jars of jam we ended up with.  i’m embarrassed.  pam, i’m embarrassed.  and sort of glad cause it is really yummy.  we had jam bread for breakfast this morning.  we’ll probably have it tomorrow morning too. 
there are not many wedding receptions during which kids (and their mothers) can run into the fields and pick fresh blueberries off the bushes, pop them in their mouths and do it again and again, but this was one of those receptions.




which is how our formal wear became trashed.  alexa claire boutique and tux shop in portage will have to work that one out.  two little boys tuxes will be delivered to them in a large black trash bag tomorrow. sorry.
but who can stop this kid from kneeling in the dirt and harvesting some fresh berries?  not me.  he can do whatever he wants with those chocolate eyes and clip on tie.
so can this kid, curly lips and all.
and this one.
yup.  this one too.
so if you’re ever in paw paw, the town so nice they named it twice, stop into fritz’s blueberry stand and get a piece of blueberry pie a la mode and some fresh berries and a jar of jam and stay to look on the waves of heat undulating over the bushes and ripening those little bits of blue goodness.  and ask for kristin, but call her mrs. kubiszak cause she’ll love that.   and maybe could you remind her that the vos’ from ada lurve her and are so thankful we got to share this weekend with her?  i’m not sure we remembered to tell her.  our mouths were too full…


Dragged ourselves home from the wedding (more on that later) late late last night, intending to have a home day and begin the monstrous job of painting the barn.  But I woke up feeling this need to be with my dad and the kids, in a rare show of solidarity, decided that they must be with cousins today and even Dan concurred knowing full well that my mom would put out a yummy spread and that he’d be able to watch the Tiger’s game while Lucy slept and everyone else was down at the beach.  
And at lunch over our Lipton burgers with everything on them, but especially green olives, crisp bacon and raw onions, we told stories about my dad.  Mostly funny, but also sweet like the time my Chemistry professor, whose class I was failing spectacularly in, accused me of cheating and I went back to my dorm utterly defeated and so sad and sure I was going to be expelled which would cause the world to stop and preclude me from ever finding gainful employment.  And the worst part was the part where the professor didn’t believe me.  Me.  And the very next day a dozen roses were delivered to my dorm with a card from my dad that said, I believe in you.  And that, combined with the fact that the other girl confessed and cleared my name, made my heart all better.  We both failed incidentally.  That poor stupid girl picked the very worst student to copy.  But the point is his sweetness and willingness to believe in me and so many many other wonderful things that make up my dad.  Like his sense of humor and stunning good looks (both of which I’ve inherited) and the way that he adjusts his watch when he’s telling a story, especially one about Uncle Ted, and his absolute willingness to drop everything and come.  Just come.  To school to pick me up when I had “the episode”, even though I was grown up (sort of), and whenever I’ve been in the E.R. or had a crappy day or when I’ve called on a whim and said, coffee? (which I do far too infrequently).  When my anxiety was crippling me and I couldn’t leave the house, he came and sat and was just there.  I can picture him sitting on the purple couch, telling Ted stories and making me feel safe.  He is good at that.
But the best thing is the way he follows the wild call of the Holy Spirit even when it doesn’t make sense.  His submission had taught me far more about Jesus than anything else.  He is good at that too and it’s not because he was born that way, but because he’s always practicing, always learning.  Trying to make Jesus look good.  And it’s working.  So well.
When my mom prayed this noon she praised God for raising up the next generation of men who are trying to follow Jesus and train their children to do the same and I realized it’s true.  This family is nearly bursting with blessings.  From Brad who is constantly checking the danger quotient of each activity because his adores his boys and would die if anything happened to them to Tony who dropped his life for eight days last week when his son’s school asked him to accompany them on Max’s trip the very night before they left, to Dan who counts a perfect Father’s Day as one in which Lucy fell asleep on his chest and he could feel her little nearly one year old heart beat as he cheered his Tigers on to victory, these men are the chosen partners for three women whose dad set the bar really high.  And they measure up.  There is not a man on this earth better suited to raising these four children with me than Dan.  No one I’d rather be in the trenches with.  I am so blessed.  Happy Father’s Day to these men I love.


With the first two days of summer being a bust in the weather department and Tessie doing the pookas all day Sunday, we’re having a quick study in how to squelch summer boredom before it sets in, sometime successfully, sometimes not.

there’s been structure building for father’s day.
this is amway world headquarters.
peter is supposed to be building the distribution center.
notice the survival guides in the foreground.  they were our foremost authority on rabbit snares yesterday.

tessie’s done a lot of this.  poor kid.

there is rocky the turtle we saved in a ziplock from being smashed in the middle of the road this morning on our way home from a friends house (you know who you are)
he could be the guy who finally nulls my strict no amphibian or reptiles as pets rule.
but probably not.

there’s been a new marble jar instituted around here.  fill it up and earn your choice of a sleepover, $10.00 cash or a date with mom or dad and no siblings.   well worth it considering how many times i’ve had to unload the dishwasher this last week: 0.  
i’ve told them the jobs will change weekly and i’m wondering how far i can push it.  like can i get someone to throw a couple marbles to the first kid who is willing to spray egg putrefaction on the hydrangeas so the deer don’t eat them?  or how about a handful to the one who takes the job of reminding me everyday to sunscreen the family so they don’t grow up and have skin cancer?  i’d pay for those things.  but for now we’ll stick to laundry and toys and dishes and reading.  oh yes, i’m paying marbles for reading in honor of grant who tells me regularly that he hates reading.  which around here is tantamount to saying jesus was just a nice guy, not the messiah.

lulu has spent her days growing silkier, longer, curlier, even more fabulous hair.  but you can’t see it because she’s sleeping and i’m not waking her up.  sorry.

and we’ve done a fair bit of this too, i’ll admit.

there is this weird period of the very beginning of summer that feels like we’re getting reacquainted and sometimes that it’s not going well.  there is a lot of fighting and pettiness and general squalor and i find myself asking me a million times a day if it’s going to be like this all summer and, if so, how i’ll ever survive.  but it’ll iron itself out.  i see that during our rest time in the afternoon when everyone has a couple books and we’re all lounging in our comfy spots being peaceful and quiet.  and i see that in the way the kids are right now upstairs playing veterinary clinic with the soft guys and getting along famously.  glimpses of wonderment liberally sprinkled in between moments of crazy.  we’re all tired right now and still excited from all the rites of passage performed in the course of changing from one grade to another and leaving and saying goodbye to routine and hello to flip flops and sleeping in.  
it doesn’t help that i keep waking up in the night wondering what thing peter is going to do in our sitter’s wedding this weekend that’ll cause us undue embarrassment.  i’m pretty sure tessie will itch her bum up front if only she can find it through the layers of puddling tulle and i suspect peter may scratch his balls (his words, not mine) if given half the chance, although i will probably be too preoccupied stuffing kleenex into my pits to stanch the flow of sweat and keeping lucy from eating the flowers off her dress to really worry about it.  at least i can count on grant being a perfect gentleman in his tux and curly lip.  i’m deciding right now not to worry about it anymore.  it will be what it will be and at the end of the day dear kristin will be married and i’ll have lost my last fabulous sitter but i’ll be so happy for her because her fiance loves her and loves jesus and she deserves every happiness in the world.  even if comes at the cost of my reputation and sanity.  it’s worth it.  it’s summer.
look for a list of summer must-reads coming soon.


I just tried The Redheads Pesto Hummus from furriest foods (Forest Hills Foods) for the first time.  I want to marry it and have its babies.  Sorry honey, but I do.  It was good enough to distract me from the argument I was having with Tess over not wearing her bathing suit backwards to the pool party since she looked like Farrah Fawcett when she was pinup girl.  Good enough to  put down Lucy’s birthday invitations and escape into a world where nothing existed but me and my flour tortilla with hummus and a slice of swiss cheese all wrapped into a roll of tangy goodness that will keep me from eating the crap I’m going to feed my kids at MacDonalds in a little bit.  Better’n fries.  It’s that good.  
Incidentally, The RedHeads also make a killer veggie burger that only my sister (you know who you are) and I like and that we can only find in Harbor Springs, which is a really long drive for a veggie burger, but totally worth it if you stay long enough to spend a cozy weekend crammed into a house with twenty something of your favorite family members.  Anyway, now that I’ve made the connection, I’m wondering if they sell the veggie burgers at furriest foods too.  Rambling.   Thanks to Andrea who turned me on to pesto hummus.  You’re my new bestie.
Thirty minutes until we’re free.  Just my new pesto hummus and my kids and my husband and thirteen kevins and a keloid scar named steve.  That’s all I need.


fourteen.  hours left in the school year.
fourteen.  hours until they are all mine for lots of days in a row.
fourteen.  hours until our lives become a whole let less fettered.
fourteen.  hours before running to the grocery store for a few things becomes a monumental effort  involving flow charts and sweat and instructions for getting found after being lost.
fourteen.  hours to begin remembering what it’s like to have sand between my toes and the smell of sunscreen in the webs of my fingers.
fourteen.  hours until I hear one of them say, “I’m bored”.  Maybe fourteen and a half.
fourteen.  hours until I will likely cry when I see them walk out their classroom doors (don’t you even ask me to stay in the commons.  don’t) and remember the ways they’ve grown and changed this year.
fourteen.  hours until I look at the tired, triumphant faces of their teachers and thank them silently for the millionth time for being part of the village it’s taking to raise our children.
fourteen.  hours until I remember, really remember, what a gift I have in our kid’s school and the team of people there who are united in their desire to help our kids become followers of Jesus.
fourteen.  hours until I will call Dan and tell him in a tremulous voice that I’ve got them.
fourteen.  hours until we put away the backpacks for the last time.  not on the hooks.  in the closet.  away.
fourteen.  hours until Peter realizes it’s all polyester triple knit from now on.
fourteen.  hours before the idea of me and four kids and a keloid scar named steve for lots of days in a row sinks in and simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.  Mostly thrills.  
fourteen.  hours until summer.


While making blueberry pampcakes last weekend, I decided this was the new color I’m madly in love with:
It’s the color you get when you mix frozen blueberries into pampcake batter and stir just a bit.  
Look, I told the kids.  Look at this amazing color.  Shouldn’t we paint our family room this color? 
They just pounded their forks on the counter and said, feed us woman. 
It’s a warm blue with the merest hint of purple and I want to swim in it.  It’s a little smokey and mysterious too.  One of those colors that shifts with the light and wraps itself around you to make you feel cozy.  
It’s that good.
Editors of Living etc., if you’re reading this take note.  This is the new black.  I expect it on the cover next month.  
It’ll be fabulous.


We’re going to the dogs.  I enter as evidence exhibits A, B and C:
Exhibit A: Last Friday on an excursion to the ice cream store, all three of the kids had to go to the bathroom.  I sent them together then went in after them after they’d been missing for several minutes.  Finding Peter sitting on the toilet rim I ask, “did anyone even think about putting the lid down so he’s not sitting on the rim?”  Nope.  Then, becoming impatient after the third kid decided he had to move his bowels right then, began muttering such things as, “Can’t we do this later?” and “What in the world did you have for lunch?” and my personal favorite, “Can’t you just pinch it off and finish when we get home?”
Exhibit B:  Stepped out of the shower this morning to this lovely scene…

I swear they’re not mine even.  The kids found them on the deck and decided to play with them.  The best part was the Consumer’s Energy meter reader rounding the corner at just the opportune moment.  I simply said, “We usually discourage them from drinking before eleven but, hey, it’s almost summer.” and went inside.
Exhibit C:  My language.  In my own defense, I have very clean language.  I didn’t always, I know mom, but I do now.  My pseudo swear is crap and I’m working on it.  Really.  We use to have a crap jar that I had to pay a dollar every time I slipped up.  The threat was a crap-sponsored trip to Chuck E. when it was filled, but it soon held enough cash to fund a week at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba, so I did the Chuck E. thing with some, bought myself a great new dress with the rest and declared every other Friday and all even days mommy’s free crap days.  Way cheaper.  But tonight after three hours at the zoo with four kids and a keloid scar named Steve and no washy washy, I was done in and called the pizza stupid.  It was.  Stupid.  Stuck to the oven racks and glopped cheese all over the darn place.  So I called it stupid and in the absence of a crap jar, which now holds $231.00 and is the beginnings of a hot tub fund, I allowed Grant to spray vinegar in my mouth.  It’s only fitting since it’s what I’d do to them were the tables turned, but it did make me realize that we are jonesing for summer, all of us.  And while we’re waiting, we’re going to the dogs.