There is this girl I love.  She is sweet as sugar.  Seriously.  She loves people.  Loves them.  Serves others.  Worships God.  And on top of all this, she is has started her own business, Daughter’s Chocolates.  I’d be the worst aunt in the world if I didn’t plug it here.  And I don’t want to be the worst aunt in the world.  So here it is: follow this link and see for yourself if this girl doesn’t just take the cake.  And frost it.
Daughter’s Chocolates

This is me being real.  Proud. Hungry. Crushin’ on you Miss O, you sweet lumpa sugar you.



This is the plant someone sent to remember mumsy by.  I’m killing it in her honor.  Not trying to, but I just realized I am and that is what she would have done.  Killed it, I mean.  I’m just counting down the days until the forecast does not hold torrential rains or subzero temps so I can put this guy in the ground and save him.  If you’re reading this and you sent it to us, thank you.  This plant killing behavior should not be taken as indifference.  I’ve only watered it with purified water.  Have sung to it.  Even tried nursing it, but that didn’t work out.  But that’s not the worst of it.

It used to have beautiful pussy willow buds.  I loved them.  Until Tess picked them all off to take to school for show and tell, which they don’t actually have in young 5’s, so that was really a waste.  But with single-minded focus, she harvested them all, put them in a plastic baggie and went to brush her teeth.  And that is how Peter got them.  And said this, Hey, if these were called Pussy Willems, that’d be perfect cause I like pussies and my name is Willem.
And so I walked four children to the bus stop listening to his sing song voice, I like pussies and my name is Willem.  And cursing the fact that on the one day I didn’t bother with a bra or toothbrush the neighbor’s husband was there with his children.  I thought we had a deal, Ann.  I thought we had a deal. Blushing like a new bride, I implored the neighbors with my eyes to ignore Peter’s song and my saggy breasts and the weird thing Grant’s hair was doing.  And then said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that there are no middle schoolers on our bus and that we’d already had the talk so if I needed to explain it all to him I at least had some background knowledge to work from.

Then I walked back into the house and found this.  The curl Grant couldn’t get to lay down which he apparently felt needed to be excised with the pink handled scissors.  You have to name scissors by the color of their handle, did you know that?  It’s a rule or something.
Pussy Willems and curls.  Sweet.
This is me being real.  Thankful that was Friday and I’ve not heard it since.  So thankful.


He is alive.  He is risen.  Praise God.  I mean, seriously, praise God.  Death could not hold him.  Hell could not break him.  And in a stunning blow to Satan, he returned to us and to his Father, who’d given him up in the worst, most beautiful act of sacrifice ever.  And he must have just wanted to return to heaven and sit at his dad’s feet and tell him he’d done it (even though, of course he already knew) but he didn’t.  He had something to do first.  Had to meet with his people in Galilee and tell them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you, even to the very end of the age.”

You’ve gotta love a God who does it this way: just lays his only son down and then has to walk away and not listen to him, not be available to him at all for three days before pulling him up and setting him back on his feet and, in doing so, proving to a watching world, a world groaning for a savior, that He is sovereign.  And that he gets it.  Whatever you’re struggling with.  Whatever hurts you’re nursing.  Whatever wounds you’re trying to heal.  He gets them.  And your Abba, your daddy, gave his son so that the wounds and the hurts and the struggles wouldn’t be the end of the story.  Jesus is.  And grace just washing over us like a warm rain, rinsing all the yuck away and revealing the true beauty that comes from knowing Jesus is your savior.  And if you don’t have that, then please. please listen carefully because I spent part of Wednesday at the most incredible funeral ever: people there spent three and a half hours praising a God who took a young father and his baby boy home and they did it because they get it.  Get that they’ll be with them soon.  Get that heaven is where our citizenship is, not here.  Get that God calls his children home, some earlier than others.  Stands on the front porch in the dusk of the day when everything is soft and shadowy and claps his hands when he sees them coming.

Does that for you too, don’t you doubt it.  Probably giggles too a bit.  Just can’t wait to have you in his arms.  Cause his boy died so we could get there.  So death wouldn’t be the end of the story.  Died for that.  Gotta love that rescue plan.  And if you’re in the process of being rescued, then you get it.  Are you being rescued?
This is me being real.  Thankful.  In need of a savior.  Thankful I’ve already got one.  Loving being part of the rescue plan.  Chuckling over this quote from our house this morning, “Peter, God told his son to go die on a cross for a bunch of sinners and he didn’t argue as much as you are.  And all we’re asking you to do is wear a shirt with a collar.  To church.  On Easter Sunday.”
Happy Easter.


Because studies show that at least nine times out of ten, my words are not the best.  But these are:

“They nailed Jesus to the cross.
‘Father; forgive them,’ Jesus gasped.  ‘They don’t know what they are doing.’
‘You say you’ve come to rescue us!’ people shouted.  ‘But you can’t even rescue yourself!’
But they were wrong.  Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side-if he’d called.
‘If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!’ they said.
And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5,000 people.
But, Jesus stayed.
You see, they didn’t really understand.  It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.  It was the love.
‘Papa?’ Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.  ‘Papa?  Where are you?  Don’t leave me!’
And for the first time-and the last- when he spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible, endless silence.  God didn’t answer.  He turned away from his boy.
Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world.  The sun could not shine.  The earth trembled and quaked.  The great mountains shook.  Rocks split in two.  Until it seemed that the whole world would break.  That creation itself would tear apart.
The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On his own son.  Instead of his people.  It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.
Then Jesus shouted in a loud voice, ‘It is finished!’
And it was.  He had done it.  Jesus had rescued the whole world.
‘Father!’  Jesus cried.  ‘I give you my life.’  And with a great sigh he let himself die.”

~Sally Lloyd-Jones   The Jesus Storybook Bible
Now my words…if God demanded nothing less than life from his only son, who was perfect and blameless, how could he possibly expect anything less than that from me, a sinner who messes up all the time?  And every time I give into sin in my life I crucify him all over again and that, that seriously has to hurt the very heart of God.  I’m so sorry for that, Jesus.  So very sorry.  For putting you on that cross again and again and making you suffer for the very things you already died for.  And for hurting myself in the process.  For times I haven’t been able to forgive myself, even though you already have.  And for how that just means I think more of myself than I do of you.  For the cobwebby corners of my soul that I have closed up, for the scabby wounds I’ve not let heal, really.  For all the yuck that you bid me leave at the foot of the cross where you died for it and that I stupidly pick up day after day and try to carry myself.  Can’t do that.  Not anymore.
This Jesus who we crucified?  Who we crucify every day in a thousand and one small and big ways?  He is worth dying for.  We aren’t.  And still, we are and he did and praise God it all makes sense to Jesus.  Seriously.  Because it makes none whatsoever to me.
But the crazy, non-sensical (it’s a word-look it up) nature of grace is the very thing that compels me to draw more lines in the sand, to link arms with Jesus because this God who gives and takes away, who is sovereign and perfect, his plans are better than mine.  Mine always fail.  His never do.  And when you come to the end of yourself (and you will if you haven’t already), you’ll find Jesus.  He’ll be the one on the cross letting you know that the King of the Universe thinks you’re worth dying for.  And you’ll be able to chose: crown him or crucify him.  But for the love of, well, God, do one or the other.
You, whoever you are, you are loved.  Greatly.  By the King.  Crown him.


There was this guy who was a prophet, a name I don’t use lightly, but I believe it.  He died this week.  Entered heaven holding his baby boy and introduced him to Jesus since he’d been too little to do that on earth, but in heaven everyone gets to meet Jesus first thing, no matter how little you are.  It’s the start of things there.  But he left his wife and two little girls here.  Their work isn’t done.  His is.  That hurts.  Could you pray for them?  For his wife and his little girls and his family and all of us who weren’t finished listening and are sad for the silence he left behind?  Except he didn’t, really, because we gathered this morning and it was loud.  We praised a God who gives and takes away, even though we don’t get it.  We gathered as a family and traced the line in the sand that Jesus drew 2000 years ago and we said, death…you can come this far.  You can take our bodies.  That’s all.  But you have no hold on those who belong to Jesus.  We said that through singing and lifting our hands and through halleluias from shaky voices while our eyes watered and we wondered how she’ll ever be ok again.  Cause this valley is dark and it’s long and it’s really, really deep.  But it’s also lined with about a billion followers of Jesus, here and in heaven (her husband and her boy too) who are going to be cheering her on.  Her and her little girls.  And at the end is heaven, because that’s where our citizenship is and, though while we’re here we’re working to make heaven realized on earth, we’re really groaning in anticipation of a savior who’ll sweep all this yuck away and make it perfect.  That’s the promise we’re taking to the mattress.  Death doesn’t win.  Jesus does.  Sweet Jesus.
Will you pray?


There is a mouse.  He looks something like this:

Don’t let his furry little ears and innocent eyes fool you.  He is a sqatter.  An uninvited guest.  In our kitchen.  Has run out from under the sink several times and nearly scared the life out of me, this menacing, dangerous intruder.
So Peter has devised a plan.  I can only take one picture of this since he’ll hear and then he’ll get all self-conscious and then the jig’ll be up.  So here it is:

Nope, didn’t even hear the camera, so single focused is he.  Here’s another shot.  And it’s closer:

I’ve enhanced the picture, even though it makes the old baseball jersey he’s wearing look like an even worse color than it already is.  His plan?  Cheese in front of the fridge.  Mouse runs out to eat said cheese.  Peter stabs him with his new pocket knife (which is larger than a seven-year old should ever be allowed to handle).  There is a book light clipped to the pantry door, can you see it?  It’s providing a macabre little circle of light and it’s trained right on the cheese.  This plan was not a good idea on several levels.  So I convinced him to go get a mousetrap from the basement.  Only this is what he brought me:

Apparently, the last time we killed a mouse, we didn’t even bother to remove the head.  Just ripped the body off the trap and pitched it into the woods.  I was not raised like this.
The trap is in the trash.  The mouse is under the fridge.  I’m ordering pizza until someone kills it.
I was not raised like this.  Did I already say that?
And what he is up to isn’t the worst of it.  
Tess, as I type, is outside chasing the Kevins away from the Minions.  Wait, have I told you about the minions yet?  These are the Minions:

Only they don’t look like that anymore.  The Kevins have several events in my iphoto, chronicling the first weeks of their life.  The minions have three pictures, lost inside an obscure event labeled spring 2011.
Tess is outside chasing the Kevins away from the Minions.  She is naked except for her flip flops and a bathrobe which is not belted.  A bathrobe that is flapping open as she runs.  She has just quoted Beasty Boys to Peter (“So I went into the locker room during classes.  I went into your locker and I smashed your glasses”), which is totally not appropriate for children to listen to.  And they haven’t.  But they hear that one line from a negligent family member (you know who you are) often enough that it’s become part of their vernacular.  
Lucy is in her bed.  She is normal.  But only because she’s sleeping.  Grant too, but only because he’s at school.  Once Lucy wakes up and Grant gets off the bus, they will join in and become crazy too.  Happens every day.
This is a foreign country to me, but I’ve purchased the Rosetta Stone course and am learning to assimilate with the natives.  I’ve renewed my visa so I can stay here forever or at least until the house falls down, which might be next Thursday.  The natives run around with bb guns and swiss army knives killing stuff and asking me to fry it for dinner.  They rarely cut their fingernails and only come inside to eat, which they do with their hands only.  They are wild and ungroomed and totally dangerous.  Except for right now.  Right now, there is a clean little girl in a pink robe laying on her unicorn pillow pet next to a clean boy in a bright yellow jersey laying on his panda pillow pet and they are watching a movie in which a cucumber (who isn’t dumb) preaches the gospel and it all seems perfectly normal and civilized to me, all things considered.  I love it here.
This is me being real.  Me and my five people, nine Kevins, six Minions and a Keloid scar named Steve.


She turned something yesterday.  She did it the best way possible: with cake and cherry pie and a stack of child-written notes saying things like:
Nana, I love it when you swim in the lake with us.
Nana, you’re my best Nana and I love you way down deep to your toes.
Nana, you’re the most beautiful flower.
Stuff like that warms a Nana’s heart.  That and thirteen grandchildren, three daughters, and a lot of hullabaloo all focused on being together and shooting stuff with bb guns and riding bikes.  This family we have going on here?  They are the best.  Cousins who adore being together and siblings who are raising them in groups and Jesus sprinkled liberally on top and inside and over everything.  There is great joy in a loud afternoon spent watching life erupt with catcalls and shouts of exclamation while the daffodils pop above the ground litter and the spring peepers accompany it all.  Great joy.  And we found it here yesterday (and most other days too) when we gathered to celebrate our Nannyburd and the just totally cup-running-over-spilling-onto-our-shoes blessing of this woman we love to her toes.
This is me being real.  Thankful.


It may have been the best spring break day yet.  It started with green pampcakes and Lucky Charms (because we’re on vacation) which were both magically delicious, I’m told.  And were eaten between fort making endeavors in the family room where all the furniture had congregated so the hard floors could be buffed and waxed by my staff today.  The guilt of a breakfast during which most of my children only ate crap was overshadowed by the fact that I let them drag in blankets from all over the place and build whole cities in the furniture.  It’s what I would have wanted to do if I were 5, 7, and almost 9 and had eaten crap for breakfast.

Notice the gummy-vites.  And the teeny hairbrush.  That’s how we roll.
Peter made an incredibly clever Anglerfish costume.  Incredibly clever.  I’m totally using that next Halloween.  For green pampcakes and clever costumes and fort cities, it may have been the best day of spring break.
We headed to the zoo in the late morning, only just remembering I needed to pack lunches.  I tossed a package of turkey and a block of cheese and some bunny carrots and greek yogurt into a bag and called it good.  That’s how we roll around here too.  Besides, it wasn’t about the food.  It was about hanging out with dear friends (you know who you are) and watching the chimpanzees pick things out of each other rectums and throwing up in our mouths when the anaconda was squeezed up against the glass and all I could think about was that email I got years ago that showed someone inside an anaconda.  He was dead.  They both were actually and it was horrifying.  Snakes are horrifying.  For wild animals and friends and not losing anybody, it may have been the best day of spring break yet.
We couldn’t go home until the floors had dried, which was after dinner, so I taught the kids about antiquing.  Told them an antique store is like an ISpy book where you have to look lots of times to see all there is to see.  Gave them five bucks each and told them to not touch anything and no running.  They were gems.  Peter bought arguably the creepiest clown toy that pops out of a cone and just totally scares me.  But they were gems, so I didn’t care.  Took them to Jersey Junction for a cone and then got Tessie some new shoes.  They were perfect.  I kept telling them that.  For rainbow sherbet and sparkly Morgan&Milos and a teeny ceramic bunny that cost five dollars exactly, it may have been the best day of spring break yet.
I dragged them to Costco so I could get some strawberries and check out the ten person tent I have my eye on purchasing as part of my get-the-Vos’-back-into-car-camping agenda.  It was still there.  The kids walked around and ate samples of things like Bosco sticks and Kirkland brand American cheese slices and then everyone got a whopping slice of pizza for dinner.  In case you’re keeping track, that’s two crap meals and one good meal.  I hope you’re not keeping track.  I left the kids in the car and ran into Furriest Foods so I could grab kleenex and a couple boxes of gluten free Chex.  They were wonderful.  For food samples and pizza sauce in the corners of their mouths and eating dry Chex on the way to Grant’s baseball practice, this may have been the best day of spring break.

The youngers played on the playground at the Little League fields while Grant practiced.  They found this weird round and round thing that I tried, but I started to dry heave and had to get off.  They loved it. Love all the things that make me dry heave.   Then Lucy got tired, of course she got tired.  No nap, dragged from place to place and now at a playground in the freezing cold and it’s past her bedtime and I can’t remember the last time I changed her diaper.  This is the last picture taken today in which I look remotely happy.  And I’m pretty sure that just after I snapped it, I said, “Ok, now I need to not have anyone hanging on me for a bit.  I love you but I need a little space.  I’m serious.”  Or something like that.
What follows is the reason today will not be remembered at the best day of spring break.  Not even sort of.  We froze.  We retreated to the car.  The kids climbed all over the inside, eating the string cheese we’d just gotten at Costco and standing on the strawberries and making me sweat.  Just before Grant finished, I tried to start the car.  Nothing.  Carrying a crying Lucy, I went from car to car asking after some jumper cables.  The coach finally found some but to no avail.  Nothing.  He left us knowing Dan was on his was home from class and would swing by and pick us up within the half hour.  But it was cold and dark and the boys climbed up on the roof of the dugout and got stuck and Lucy wandered around the bases crying and dragging her clean blanket behind her and I spilled the strawberries as I was taking everything out of my car.  I told the kids to go to the bathroom in the woods, which Tess did unsuccessfully, but Peter bounded out of the trees shouting, “Best thing about poopin in the woods?  Not having to wipe.”
By the time Dan arrived I was in tears, nearly.  But not as nearly as when I walked in the door from the day and they’d forgotten to do two rooms and there was a blown breaker in half the house and the dispatcher for the tow truck kept calling saying the driver couldn’t find the ball fields and I remembered I’d already stocked up on strawberries the day before.
Deep breath.  This coulda been the best day of spring break.  But it didn’t end well.  And yet, as I was kissing the kids and tucking them in and telling them I’d had fun with them today, I realized it was true.  I did have fun with them today.  And tomorrow is a whole new day.  And it’s going to be filled with more dear friends (you know who you are too) and new adventures and lots of strawberries.
So this is me being real.  Exhausted and heading to the monster bed so this day can be put to rest and another birthed.  This day that coulda been the best.  This day that sort of was.


Chalk it up to Michigan to host a spring break we’ll likely never forget for it’s ferocious weather and freezing temps.  And while I’m constantly exploring ways to occupy the hands and minds of four children in said weather, I’ve had some failings already.  Four days into it.  For example:
It’s a desperately poor idea to drag them to Hobby Lobby to get stuff to make your son’s party invitations for his upcoming golden birthday.  Poorer still to spend the next hour and a half cursing the fact that you lack spatial awareness as you fight to put the patterned paper in the printer the right way.  This will involve much sweating and in the end you’ll throw your hands up and declare that no one is having another birthday party.  Ever.  Which will make your daughter instantly devastated since she’s already planning her much anticipated first ever party this summer.  You will mutter a pseudo swear under your breath (like crap or maybe something stronger, depending), apologize to your daughter and declare yourself a liar.  There will actually be many more birthday parties, though we may hire out the invitations from now on.   Then you’ll wipe the sweat from between your breasts with a sock from the mismatched sock bin, since you’ll be in the laundry room during this whole dark time.  You’ll resolve to just be ok with some of the kids getting their invitations printed on plain white paper.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom.  Seriously.  Just a really stupid one for trying to tackle a project involving buttons and directions and pressing print thirteen hundred and seventy two times, between each of which your baby turned the printer off or pulled out the paper or just generally destroyed something.  Bad idea.
There have been some gleaming victories though:
The bike trip to Seidman so the kids could make merry in the woods for an afternoon, and even though the baby got scratched several times and there was a potty accident and I think someone may have come home without a boot, it’s still an afternoon surrounded by only woods and fueled only by imagination.  That’s the stuff.
Having dinner out last night.  A dinner that found Grant devouring a 12 oz steak and then moving on to finish off Peter’s abandoned fries and my arugula salad.  And after which we discovered, quite by accident, that the local ice cream shoppe was open for the season, which meant we had to go.  Had to.  So we stood and froze and ate that ice cream, darn it, because that’s what you have to do when Scoopers opens for the season and you see it and you’re there.  Have to.
And a magical play date with cousins, during which, the moms got to escape to the gluten-free haven that is Marie Catribs for some face time and conversation finishing.  That fed my heart and my body.  And while we were gone, Lucy stole Viv’s shoes (which are fabulous, so who can blame her) and thirty six (or maybe 9) boys, armed to the teeth and loaded for bear, headed out on a hunt and found only stories to tell later and mysterious creeks that sucked them in despite their best attempts at staying dry.  Their very best.
So, bring on the cold and the snow because we have ways of dealing with them that involves vegetable fried rice and good books and warm company.  And we’re not afraid to use them.  Quite looking forward to it, actually.
So this is me being real.   Eager for seven more days of the same, good and bad.  And anticipating a morning spent helping the boys decoupage my empty supplement bottles for use as Lego Minifigure organizers.  Heaven help us all.