Take thirteen cousins (you know who you are) who love each other and play well and can get enough of each other and things are good.  
Add ten adults (you know who you are) who love each other and play well and can’t get enough of each other and things are better.
Throw in a mom (you know who you are) who is a dynamo in the kitchen and, as a transformed follower of Jesus Christ, wants it to be about being together, not putting on a show, and so leaves the mashed potatoes to harden on the dishes so she can look for treasures to pass along to her daughters and things are even better.
Chip in a dad (you know who you are) whose voice cracks as he reads about giving thanks in all situations and you know as he’s doing it, he’s looking around at all his progeny and wondering how he ever got to be so blessed, how a case of terminal cancer could give birth to falling flat out in love with Jesus Christ and living to see his six children and thirteen grandbabies do the same, chip him in and things are getting even better. 
Just to put things over the top, might as well toss in a God who loves his children with such a crazy love that he sent his only son to die a terrible death so they wouldn’t have to and, well, you’ve got just about the best Thanksgiving ever leading into the best birth story ever and the most miraculous love ever.  It’s all over the top.  Just the way we like it.



We’ve been sick for 196 days.  Or maybe 4, I’m losing track.  The boys have a weird strain of flu that has only two symptoms: awful stomach cramps and red cheeks.  Tess has a cold and Lucy has pink eye.  The boys run around like maniacs one minute, totally well, and the next are curled up on the couch with terrible pain and red cheeks.  It’s very strange and has earned them an extra long Thanksgiving break.  Peter wrote this note yesterday morning just in case I tried to make him go to school.  Told me if I made him go he’d give this to Mrs. Clark so she’d send him home.  Then I took the wind right out of his sails by telling him of course he wasn’t going to school.  He has the flu.  I can read.

I’m choosing to spend these long days looking for the Vortex.  Somewhere in this house is a swirling mass of air about the size of a dinner plate, I’d imagine, that is a direct connection to an alternative universe.  Lucy knows where it is, she’s the only one, because she goes there all the time and pushes stuff through.  And at the other end is a group of alternative universe mommies who are catching the stuff and saying things like, “Great, more pacifiers.” and “Check out these cute shoes.  Quick, someone try these on little Ginny.”  And I’m hoping that when I find it I can toss some chocolate in and entice them to at least return the shoes.  Cause we need those.  In the meantime we’re not going anywhere.  Except Costco later this morning since we’re in dire need of raspberries and spaghetti sauce, so if you’re going to Costco we promise not to breathe on you.  And we’re going to pick up our grocery order from our staff at Meijer Grocery Express because if we don’t we will surely all starve to death.  And lest you think me the cruelest mom in the world, please know that unless the boys are in the throes of cramps, which last about an hour, they are absolutely fine.  It’s all just a matter of timing.
The boys taught Lucy to do knuckles yesterday, which is exceptionally cute, and nearly makes up for the nineteen new naughty habits she’s picked up this week.  Like this:
Simply pushes a chair up to the counter where I’ve stashed all the art supplies so she won’t get them and begins drawing on the counter which, frankly, is a much better canvas than the walls or the couch or her hands which all now bear marks of her handiwork.  Tess says markers are Lucy’s nemesis. 
18 months is turning out to be mine.
Tess has been waking up at five and asking to be put to bed at seven thirty.  I found her this morning while getting Motrin for Grant, washing her pet marble before putting it back to bed on it’s little barrette bed and covering it with a scrap of fabric to keep it warm.  I’d take a picture of it but Peter dropped my camera and cracked my lens, leaving me with only my telephoto, which means I’d have to go to the neighbors (you know who you are) to get a tight shot of it.  Tonight the marble is sleeping in my room so it doesn’t wake Tess up so early.
The new dryer is still melting polyester, which is everything Peter loves to wear, and I’ve kept my calm with the GE people over several phone calls, but I think I may have called the dryer a bastard yesterday and for that I’m sorry.  It’s just that I’m tired and cranky.  Four sick kids will do that to you.  So this is me.  Looking for my happy place.  And hoping it’s in Joshua cause that’s the book I’m on and I’m going there to look for a little sunshine.  Hoping you find your sunshine today. 


About that church I mentioned last week.  Got to go there on Sunday and see the kingdom of heaven realized on the northwest side.  I’ve written about the mission my sister and brother in law (you know who you are) run before, I think.  The Stockbridge Mission Church grew out of that.  That need to extend worship and provide a venue for people to come together and praise and pray and sing and be.  Those needs and others culminated in a couple hours of community on Sunday in an old building on Bridge street that holds a coffee shop and a house of prayer and I’ve linked them on the right.  It started with taking shoes off, kicking them onto a pile off to the side and not really worrying if we’d ever find them again, but just kicking them off because we were walking on hallowed ground.  God was there.  He promises that he’ll always show up and He did.  And I think He must have felt right at home looking around and seeing successful businessmen praying with young punk kids with nose rings and searching hearts.  Must have felt right at home listening to Grant and Wil playing the bongo drums to the beat of worship.  Must have felt right at home watching Lucy systematically dismantle all the board games while I sweated like a farm animal and chatted with some neighborhood kids who showed up.  Must have felt right at home listening to people read Luke together and then haltingly, at first, offer up how God is working.  Must have felt right at home hearing Tony preach about being stumps and how branches can grow right out of them, even when you think it’s impossible.  Must have felt at home because I think it’s the closest we can get to His home.  This coming together thing that finds people of all backgrounds, and from all neighborhoods and with all manner of baggage and gifts to offer coming together and taking God at his word: that where two or three gather He’ll show up.  And He did.  Showed up big time.  And left a yummy taste in my mouth and a hunger in my heart that hasn’t gone away.  Hope it never does.  I love it here in my suburban home in the country, but I love leaving it and heading out.  Searching for God and finding him in a dirty, broken neighborhood where the spirit of God is working through servant people to light things on fire.  So good to warm myself by those flames for a bit and see that there is a God in this city.  And he longs for us to gather together.  To leave our comfort zones and our safe neighborhoods and suburban churches and search him out in unlikely places.  And don’t get me wrong: there is work to be done here too.  Precious work.  But it’s good to take a break from it and see what work is being done in other places and take part in it for a bit.  So good.
So this is me.  Being real.  And asking God to never stop showing up in weird places and giving me glimpses of the Kingdom.  And asking that there be no board games there.  And wondering where God has showed up for you this week?


So while Dan was out of town and alone today at a cousin’s wedding (something he rarely does) and I was here holding down the fort (something I often do), I threw up again.  Sorry to mention this, but you’ll see where I’m going with it in a sec.  The kids stood around the toilet watching.  It’s our new spectator sport, apparently.  And when I was finished and hanging limply over the bowl, snot running onto my lips and eyes watering, Grant commented that it looked like my orange juice had come back for a visit, which nearly made me smile except that I was afraid to move my lips cause I wasn’t totally sure I was really done.  So I didn’t.  Smile.  And I’m smiling even less now that the kids are in bed and I’m realizing that this new habit of mine will become fodder for rumors.  It’s only a matter of time before one of them mentions to a teacher or a friend’s mom that I’ve been doing the pukas a lot lately.  And I’m absolutely, definitely not pregnant, but that won’t matter cause it’s what people will think.  What I would think.  And so I’ll have to try harder than ever to appear perky and put together and I’ll spend wicked amounts of time in my closet looking for something to wear with the solitary criteria of not looking pregnant.  Because I’m absolutely, definitely not.  I’m feeling all self-conscious just thinking about it.  So this is me.  Being real and telling you that I’m absolutely, definitely not pregnant, just refluxy and waiting to get into a gastrointerologist in January, which can’t come soon enough.  And even though it perhaps wasn’t the most stellar of solo flights today, there was goodness in the form of getting a haircut and brow and lip wax this morning that left me feeling more like myself and less like Hugo Chavez.  And sweetness in chapters read with the boys snuggled up in their blankets while I tried to do the voice of the beaver in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (our new favorite book).  And even humility in the form of some mild anxiety tonight that has me ready to crawl into bed with my journal and my Bible and chat with God to see if we can’t get it all sorted out.  And looking forward to worshiping in a new place tomorrow morning which I’ll tell you all about as soon as I know myself.  Good stuff, being here.  How are things where you are?

thirty six.

Thirty six.  The number of years since my husband was born as of today.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who saved me from being an single fifth grade teacher driving a burgundy sedan with a bumper stickers that says, “My yorkie is smarter than your honor roll student.”
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who used to lead a civilized life and now walks in the door every night to complete chaos and doesn’t ask why there is blue crayon all over the wall in the bathroom or where his good hammer is.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who works his tail off to keep us in Bogs and duct tape and just laughs when his children tell people their daddy sits at a desk and plays with his pencils all day long.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who has spent his whole life searching for God, even if he didn’t know it, and just found him in the midst of brokenness (cause that’s where God hangs out) and now is just hungry.  For knowledge, for relationships, for the chance to pass what he’s learning on to his children, just hungry.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who won’t drive my car because of all the crap, but will leave for deer camp on Sunday and not change his clothes or shower until he returns late Wednesday.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who vowed to love his wife for better or for worse even when worse looks better than where we’ve been at times and will unashamedly tell people about our adventures in marriage counseling and will emphatically answer the children when they ask if we’re going to ever get divorced like so and so’s parents that the promise he made to me and God fifteen years ago was forever and he means it.
Thirty six.  Years of building this man whose heart was broken for Africa last year and who still thinks about the slums there and dreams of building a company whose main purpose is to generate money to fund missionary work in Africa and in our backyard.  
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who would crawl across the Sahara for a bowl of Moose Tracks, who still loves Legos and who wears the ugliest red sweatshirt, called Big Red, on Sundays.  
Thirty six.  Years of building this man who humors his wife even when she’s irrational (which I never am), and is patient with his children when they are out of control (which they never are) and who thinks heaven has come to earth when he has his Lucy June snuggling in his lap (which it has).
Thirty six.  Years we’re celebrating today with a burger at the Schnitz and the biggest chocolate/chocolate cake the girls and I could cook up.  And even though his morning started with me wishing him a Happy Birthday while puking my bran muffin into the toilet while all the kids stood around watching and I had to tell him that he need not worry, I’m absolutely not pregnant, it’s just this reflux stuff the doctor referred me to a Gastrointerologist for.  And even though I told him not to laugh out of pure relief, that I probably have esophageal cancer.  And even though he said better that than another baby.  Even though this morning was as imperfect as it always is, it’s still a happy birthday and we’re celebrating.  So, this is us.  Being real.  What are you celebrating today?


Whatever you think about Halloween, you have to admit that this is one cute bear.
And this very caucasian looking China girl who would have worn anything for the privilege of makeup.  Someone actually asked if she was a Geisha, which of course is a high-end Chinese prostitute, and instead of asking if he was dressed up like a jackass or if that was his normal persona, I smiled and said, “Not really.”
And this kid who you can joke about crashing to until you’re blue in the face and he still won’t get it because he’s eight and he doesn’t care.  But you’ll still think it’s funny so you’ll keep them rolling and eventually he’ll just walk away and sit by someone else.  And while necessity may be the mother of invention, frugality is it’s slightly cooler older brother.  The one who throws a kid a roll of duct tape and a boot box and tells him he was made for costuming.
And the squishiest, yummiest knight ever who will run to every house in his sweet shuffling gait and with his cape billowing out behind him until someone steps on it and nearly kills him.  Then he’ll just keep running.  Eye on the prize, man.  Eye on the prize.
After trick or treating on Saturday with the best neighbors ever (you know who you are) and some dear friends (you do too), we spent Sunday going to the dogs.  Gastronomic Sodom and Gomorrah only ended near dinner time when I forced Everything soup down their throats, in one fell swoop quadrupling their veggie intake for the day.  Now everyone is ignoring their treat bags, except Lucy who is still basking in the afterglow of a night where adults willingly handed over (and unwrapped) copious amounts of candy without a fuss.  
So, whatever you think about Halloween, these were the best people to spend it with.