She turned two last week.  Went ahead and did it, even though she knows how I feel about birthdays.  Did it despite the stolen minutes I spent in her room the night before silently imploring her not to grow up and kissing her sleeping face.   Did it even though I told her that the days sometimes go by so slowly, but the years fly by far too fast and that eighteen months kicks off my very favorite stage and I don’t want it to go too quickly that I forget to remember how great it was.  Amidst all the tantrums and words lost in translation and knocky-knees running away from me and straight into whatever danger she can find, there is a very deep contentment in watching the springing up of a person.  Because this is when it starts.  When you can watch a seed start to really sprout, but I’d like to put my little sproutling in my pocket and save it for a rainy day, thank you very much.
But she did it.  Turned two, I mean.  And it was so sweet.  No waking up wanting only to open presents.  No asking for a birthday party with a clown and a bouncehouse.  Just her, completely unaware of any significance to the day, enabling us to postpone her birthday until 3 o’clock when there was a mystery trip to the Critter Barn in Zeeland so she could pet all the animals she could get her hands on.

Although as it turns out, the animal she most wanted to pet was her nanny-burd.  She got to do that too, since Nana and Papa showed up by surprise, Nana in her signature lavender smell we all know so well and Papa in his signature Cole-Haan loafers which have taken him everywhere from the World Cup in California to mountain climbing in Colorado to a petting zoo in Zeeland, Michigan.

Then to Red Robins for a birthday burger and Holland Peanut for dessert and then to the cottage for a surprise sleepover and presents, which made this new two year old scream in delight.  Never seen that before.  But maybe Bitty Baby and all her accoutrements do that to every two year old.  This is what two looks like:

Now, normally a new two year old wouldn’t be wearing her Uggs in June, but this one had to since it was freezing at the cottage.  Didn’t matter.  We can’t go anywhere now without Bittybubby and stloleher.
Then there was Papa doing popcorn on the tramp and making the kids fly so high we thought they’d never come back.

 Nana’npapa (all one word) are the best.  No contest.  Just the best.  And the perfect hosts when a girl is looking to two turn and wants to do it with trampoline popcorn and a sleepover and some sunny beach time.

And three siblings who were maybe as excited as she was to see her turning two.

Best mystery trip.  Best weekend.  Thank you Lucy June for turning two, despite me, and for making our lives so much richer for you being in them.  We adore you, little mama.
Now you’ll have to excuse this lazy blogger as I step away from my computer and into the white diaper for a road trip to the Sugar Cottage for ten or so days of cousins and Fourth of July and polyester athletic wear and learning how to do all of it without Mumsy for the first time.  Makes my heart sigh to think about it.
This is me being real.  Wistful.  Nostalgic.  Weepy.  The usual.



We host a neighborhood potluck every year, have for about six years now.  It started when I was spending inordinate amounts of time complaining about living in the middle of nowhere with two small babies and one more on the way.  Spending hours a day on GRAR looking at houses and dreaming.  And God told me he wouldn’t move me until I’d found contentment and started to bloom where I was planted.  Here.  So I threw open the doors and asked the neighbors over so we could meet them.  And promptly fell madly in like.  Started a book club that is still going strong.  Came to be on a first name basis with everyone within a quarter mile radius.  Maybe more.  Have asked some to partner with us, without using words maybe, in this thing called raising a family.  Walls came down last fall when we took our place in line at the neighborhood bus stop.  I have spent many hours helping to build a safe neighborhood.  A stronghold in which to raise our children.  And then this conversation:
So, what do you do?
I’m a corporate photographer.
What kinds of things does a corporate photographer photograph?
Oh, you know, like books and promo stuff.  I also do beauty photography.
And that is…?
Boudoir shots and the like.
That’s what I thought.  And there’s a market for that here?
Oh yeah.  In fact it’s hard to make any money doing it because, you know, so many men are willing to take them for free.
Boudoir shots.
Yeah.  I’m thinking of running some workshops to help men who want to break into the field.  Help them get more artistic.  It’s really an art form.  Here is my card.  Any business you can send my way would be great.
I can think of some things to send your way…(I totally didn’t say that, but only because my mouth was too full of vomit).

Dan and I have become very sensitive about what our boys are exposed to.  Sports channels with racy commercials about Viagra and Cialis, catalogs selling bras, magazines that contain sexy photographs of women.  We’ve been building our fortress against it.  And then Soft Porn moves in.  And has children.  And comes to the potluck.  And it’s served as a great reminder.  This is our street corner and it’s dirty.  So are we.  We all come with stuff we’re ashamed of, secret sins and dark desires.  You don’t have to move to Africa to minister to broken people.  Don’t have to volunteer at a mission (but you ought to do that too sometimes) or move to the inner city.  The inner city will come to you.  In the form of a strained marriage and a same sex couple and a beauty photographer and lots of other brokenness, some of it your own.  So when we open our lives to neighbors and stand on our street corner and refuse to move, we get to partner with the Holy Spirit in blowing the doors off secret sin.  Theirs and ours.  We’re not taking our fortress down, just opening the doors cautiously for other families who are looking to take a stand and link arms.  Trying to keep some stuff out (beauty photography) and some stuff in (Jesus and safety and chocolate) and remember how very very blessed we are to be doing life with these dear folk who have warmed us up and challenged us to keep standing on our street corner.  Because conversations like the one at our potluck make me want to run for cover.  Slam my door and not let my children out until 2036 or so.  But that’s not what we’re called to do.  So we’re headed out, recognizing that it’s probably more than coincidence that our home is the geographical center of the neighborhood.  Understanding that there is a lot of brokenness here in the suburbs, lots of lost and lonely people who need Jesus.  Remembering the many many great conversations that should cancel out this one that freaked me out for a sec.  Praying for courage to speak boldly and with truth.  To love first and judge not.  To stop being such a wimp and take this bull by the horns.  And in the meantime, to continue to dish up hospitality and lemonade and garnish both with the humility I’ve earned through years of screwing up.  That’s why I live here.  In this neighborhood.  Trading people fresh eggs for garden produce and shooting stuff with bb guns.  I love it here.
This is me being real.  Wondering how you live on your street corner.  And thankful that the possum in my garage got out.  But that’s a yarn for another day.


It was a lovely day to celebrate fathers.  A day filled with gluten and dairy free food and sand between our toes.  A day made all the more special by being given the first copies of my dad’s book.  I wrote about it here, when it was just a baby book and not actually being published yet.  Now it is.  And I’m so proud I could bust.  Just totally bust.  Just kept rubbing the cover and drying my eyes and thinking how great it was that he’d followed the wild call of the Holy Spirit and written it and now it’s finished, all that hard work, and it’s here.  Like giving birth, only without the stretch marks or nursing bras.  The baby is here.  You’ll have to wait to get your copy, but it’ll be totally worth the wait, I promise.  Here’s your teaser…

And here is my mom, sitting next to him.  

She sort of wrote the book too.  Has read it a thousand times, offering insight and advice, going to all the meetings and cheering him on.  She has been his biggest support.  So I think it’s fair to say it was sort of a joint effort.  His words, her feedback.  As he’d say, he’d rather fail privately than fall short publicly.  Which he won’t.  Because it’s good.  Beef and pork at Grandma’s good.  And I’ll be promoting it shamelessly here since I’m running over with pride about this thing he has done.  So, be patient.  Good things come to those who wait and you’ll have to wait a bit longer for this one.  Just a bit.  Sit.  Stay.  Good reader.
Seeing her and him and this baby they birthed together made me think of Father’s day and the truth that perhaps my biggest, most important job, besides loving God and loving others is getting behind my husband and cheering him on.  Is setting aside my own agenda to help him meet his.  I haven’t always done that well.  Still don’t.  But God is working on us both and that’s what we’re heading toward.  This man who fathers his children better than anyone I know.  Who is unfailingly patient and kind and always willing to drop everything and have a tea party or toss the ball in the front yard.  He is goodness personified.  Not perfect, never that, but really really good.  And I’m committing to being his biggest cheerleader this coming year.  And asking God to make me everything Dan needs.  Can’t wait.
This is me being real.  Ready for God’s working.  Waiting for the book release party.  Commissioning a tour bus.  Packing my bags.  Giddy up.


Actually catch up, but that’s not one word.  And they all have to be one word.  Plus, we’ve eaten an extraordinary amount of ketchup (or kat-sup as my grandma used to say) lately, so it fits somehow.  Excuse me for being remiss in these first days of summer.  I’ll settle into a routine but not yet.  Too many things to do to kick of summer properly and they are driving us away from home and into territory that makes us tired but happy, except that beds aren’t found until much too late and as a result, we’re super sleepy.  But we’ll settle into the rhythm that is summer.  We will.
Until then…

 There was a last link on our paper chain count down to summer.
 And three last piles of clothes for the last day of school.
And three lunch boxes and water bottles set to feed and hydrate on the last day.
 There were goodbyes said to dear, dear teachers, me with tremulous voice and choking on the lump in my throat.  You, teachers, are very dear to me.  For all your hard work and the heart and soul you put into each of my children this year…thank you.  Seriously.

And there were last pics taken of these kids before the bell rang and they were officially a Kindergartener, a second grader and a fourth grader.  Except Peter.  I was crying too hard in his class to be able to see through my view finder.  Sucker.  
There were heavy metal doors to push open one last time and a parting shot of the wonderful ladies in the office before we hit the hot car and then there was just us.
And me crying and saying, “you did it.  God told us and we told you and you did it.  You did this hard thing called leaving what was familiar and comfortable and going somewhere new and a little scary and you didn’t complain.  Just went and did it.  You are courageous and strong and so so great.  I’m so proud and I know it’s bloody hot, but I have to just sit here a second more so I can tell you how great you are and so we can thank God for a great year in our new school, which we are going to just call ‘our school’ from now on.”
Then I wiped my snot on my sleeve and blew some cool air down into my bra and pulled away.  Set sail for home.  And fun.  And adventures.  
The first one being this:
DeGraaf tradition says that you get sugar sweetened cereal on vacations.  And since summer is the mother lode of vacations, there it is.  Big box of Apple Jacks and some sippy bowls on the deck on the last day of school and the first hour of summer.  Because you can’t kick off a summer without high fructose corn syrup and FD&C red #5.  It’s a rule.
How did you kick off your summer?
This is me being real.  Glad it’s summer.  Wishing I wasn’t off gluten.  Coming back with lots more summer soon.  I promise.


24.  hours until school lets out and they are mine.  all mine.
24.  hours until I run into the building and wait outside their hallways so mine can be the first face they see as they dance out of their rooms.
24.  hours until I look at the tired, triumphant faces if their teachers and thank them for the millionth time for being part of this village it’s taking to raise our children.
24.  hours until I’ll most definitely cry and probably do a little jig that’ll make parts of me waggle, but I won’t care because it’s summer and parts can do that in summer without me caring so much.  or maybe i’ll just wear some compression hose.
24.  hours until i start issuing ultimatums that start with ‘i am not going to spend the rest of the summer…’ and end with ‘and i’m serious’.
24.  hours until running to the grocery store involves sweat in my bra and instructions for being found after getting lost and maybe color-coded shirts just in case.
24.  hours until I reacquaint myself with sand between my toes and the smell of sunscreen in the necks of babies.
24.  hours until it sinks in that we have made it.  by God’s grace and lots of prayer we have made it.  through this year of losing Mumsy and changing schools and a million other roadblocks.  we.  have.   made.  it.
24.  hours until i can start to dream about a weekend with dear friends (you know who you are) and our first trip to the sugar cottage without mumsy there to greet us un the driveway and other summer plans that i haven’t wanted to think about until it’s legit.
24.  hours until we can put away the backpacks for the last time.  not on the hooks.  in the closets.  away.
24.  hours until peter realizes it all polyester triple knit and bb guns for the next three months.
24.  hours until i see our new school (i think now i can just call it ‘our school’) and realize that this thing that God called us to that terrified me has been so good for us.  and thanks to a janitor named dixie and a thousand other faithful people who prayed us through this transition, and to God who had the crazy idea in the first place, we are better people than we were nine months ago.  good new friends in our pockets and our street corner has gotten larger.  and we’re standing on it.
24.  hours until i call dan and tell him in a tremulous voice that i’ve got them.
24.  hours until i hear them say “i’m bored”.  or maybe 25.  maybe.
24.  hours until my grocery budget goes through the roof and i have to use the dolly at costco.
24.  hours until the idea of me, sixteen chickens, four kids and a keloid scar named steve simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.  mostly thrills.
24.  hours until summer.


Just in case you were on the fence about Grand Rapids, my last post notwithstanding, this might push you off.  World’s largest lip sync and our own Rob Bliss’s response to Grand Rapids being named one of Newsweek Magazines Dying City, a remark they later recanted.  And even though I’m a little embarrassed for the woman wearing the USA cheerleading outfit in the beginning of the video, even though, I’m super proud to live here.  Will be more proud when all the Jesus followers in our city march to their street corner and start redeeming it for Christ, but that’s a post for another day.  Today there is this and it’s totally worth watching.
This is me being real.  Impressed.  And still a little embarrassed by the woman in the cheerleading outfit.