I took pictures of Christmas, I swear.  But I can’t find my camera, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was magical.  And that it involved too much food and too many presents and a cozy day by the fire with all 20 something of us wishing it would snow but being totally content anyway.  It also involved a rocking’ Christmas party during which we gambled with our children (a first) and left Peter with the $8 pot.  Merry Christmas indeed.  There were stockings bulging with books and movies and chocolate and underwear, the usual stuff.  There was an iPod touch for our oldest, who now texts me every five minutes.  Stuff like: can i call owen? and Do we have any pirates booty and can i have some?  I wait until he’s in bed then take pictures of myself making silly faces and make them his screen saver.
There was a Lego set with no fewer than 1,200 pieces that kept Dan occupied for hours while Peter found pieces and cheered him on.  Legos are a win win in our house.  Kanani made out like a bandit since she’s being discontinued next week, thank you American Girl for making that clear to my little girl when we were there last month.  Lulu now has her first pair of Havaianas and a new princess dress-up so we can retire the old tattered one she wears most days.  But the highlight of Christmas is time spent worshiping and breaking bread (or whatever is gluten free) and being together.  Family time and the gift of Jesus put our Christmas over the top.
And now we are packed and ready to head off for a few days of 20 something people crammed into a four bedroom house.  There will be skiing for all six of us as we introduce Lulu to the sport, one she’s already declared to be her fravewet.  This might be our favorite week of the winter.  What can be better than a suitcase full of yoga pants and thirteen cousins with rosy cheeks and runny noses building forts in the woods.  What could be homier than sisters clustered around embroidery and knitting and only taking breaks for the daily game of Colorku and to work on the annual puzzle?  And brothers in law in ski socks and warm nummies stoking the fire while watching sports and wondering what that heavenly smell coming from the kitchen is (probably Molly’s squash curry soup or Dad’s popcorn)?  What could be better than all that?  If I find it up north I’ll let you know.
This is me being real.  Packing six people in one duffle bag with only long johns and pjs and one pair of jeans just in case we hit Mary Jane’s for a vanilla shake.  Can’t.  Wait.


We celebrated Christmas without her with good food and some gifts and a wicked game of floor hockey in which the kids wiped the floor with the parents.  We read a poem about her spending Christmas with Jesus this year, the words making us all cry and feel little jealous that she is in heaven and we were in Rockford.  So we cried a little but we laughed a lot too and then there was this moment when from under the tree emerged nine lumpy packages wrapped in silver and red and with the names of nine beloved grand babies on them.  And inside we found one for him, backed in green since she knew it is his favorite.

 And one for her, covered in hand-appliqued flowers since she was too little for Mumsy to know what she really liked, but she took a guess at flowers and got it just right.

 And one for her, in vintage fabrics and a braid pattern that reminds me of Laura Ingalls and bordered with Daisies, which have to be the happiest flower.  Have to be.

 And one for him, crawling with bugs that she’d picked out to pay homage to the frights he used to give her, walking up doing his tongue smile, something slimy in his dirty hands that he wanted to show her.  Something he found behind the cottage or by the dock.

She got as far as choosing the fabric, painstakingly.  And then she realized she was going downhill too quickly to ever see them to fruition.  And in walked a group of quilters, dear patrons of The New Ewe taking the fabrics and the patterns and doing this for her.  For them.  For us.   Believing that she would be more peaceful in the end if she knew there were women in Hastings piecing and stitching and praying for her babies.  And she was.  And so, nine months later we find nine lumpy packages under the tree that made nine children miss their Mumsy a little less.  Nine quilts for nine grandchildren who will never feel her arms around them again, but will lay in bed each night wrapped in the love born on these gifts.  
There are pictures and thank you cards ready to go in the mailbox, but how do you thank someone for giving you back a piece of someone you’ve lost, really?  Surely Hallmark doesn’t even have a card for such as this.  So in lieu of anything that even comes close to being enough, we offer thanks overflowing and prayers of blessings and the promise to pay it forward somehow, this huge kindness.
This is me being real.  Overwhelmed by these tiny stitches painstakingly made by people who have never even met our kids.  Pretty sure nothing under our tree can top this gift, not even the big ones.  Nothing can top this gift.  Except Jesus.


He did it.  After five and a half years and countless evenings and mornings, he walked across that stage to the cat calling of his wife and children and got the diploma that was so hard won.  This journey that predates Lucy and spans taking over the family business and the other myriad things that occupy a man who lives with four kids, twelve chickens and a keloid scar named Steve.  So you’d better believe we made a holy racket when that man marched on Ferris State University this weekend in his cap and gown.  But only after we serenaded him with the electric guitar version of Pomp and Circumstance while serving him breakfast in bed in the morning.
And we did it the way we do everything: as a family.  And by shoving M&Ms and neon orange tic tacs at the kids in return for sitting still through the ceremony.  And with Grandpa there and Nanny Burd too.  They wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

These kids were so proud and excited.  And even though they were sleepy from the Christmas party of the night before during which Christmas Party history was made when a nephew received the first ever live chicken for the $10 gift exchange and at which we ate copious amounts of homemade guacamole and went home with salsa so hot it could take the finish off a Buick.  Even though they were sleepy, they rose to the occasion and were attentive and quiet.  Except when daddy walked the stage because then we were very loud.  It seemed like the occasion called for a cacophony. 
This is a big accomplishment.  I am so proud.  And thankful that it’s over.  But mostly proud.
This is me being real.  And wondering if this graduation comes with a raise?  ‘Cause that would be sweet.


Despite having vacuumed twice and mopped the floor on my hands and knees, there are still nonpareils rolling around and sticking to our toes.  It’s the remnants of a lovely December afternoon spent rolling, cutting and decorating cookies.  A tradition that harkens back to my own childhood when on a given day, I’d get off the bus at her house, or she at mine, and we’d run in to find trays ready for us.  Paint brushes lolling in small glass bowls of colored egg whites.  Cinnamon imperials scattered over the table, always dressed in the cloth with Christmas bears on it.  I remember.  The thing I don’t remember is the hours my mom must have spent cleaning up afterward or how she probably dropped into the couch, dog tired, while we munched on a thrown together supper.  And so there is hope that the same things will be scratched from my own children’s memories.  That they’ll only remember four moms, laughing and rolling and drinking hot tea while kids went nuts with sprinkles at table.  Hopefully they’ll remember how we shrieked to see five boys run in thick with black swamp mud on boots, rug, pants and then louder still when one boy, chastised by his mother for ruining his new boots, set her mind at ease by telling her not to worry: he’d been wearing Peter’s new boots, not his.
I hope they remember how the kitchen smelled and how they all clustered around the oven every time it opened so they could see if it was their tray coming out, mouths watering, hands opening to receive a warm one.  And there were things the kids weren’t privy to, like how two moms who have never met each other before are introduced as strangers by one who loves them both and in a blink are talking of very personal things.  Very.  Because baking Christmas cookies brings that out in women.  Maybe men too, but I can’t speak to that.  They won’t realize that this was the year two of the moms went gluten free and therefore, so did half of the cookies.  Or that those were the ones they liked best.  But we’ll remind them next year.
But they will remember, prolly, that the mountains of green and red crystalline sprinkles melted down in the oven and nearly set the house afire.  They’ll remember open windows letting in cold air and ushering out smoke while moms waved fumes away from their faces.  They’ll remember, I hope, how we four gushed over the beauties laying on those cookie sheets.  How we proclaimed each batch more beautiful than the last.  How hugging us produced little puffs of flour dust that made their noses itch and how we smelled like almond and mint tea.  They’ll remember how much fun we had making edible, yummy memories.  And maybe, just maybe, when they start the tradition with their own kids, they’ll call me and thank me for planting that fun seed, as I did my mom the next day.  And they’ll exclaim, my word mom, how did you ever clean the mess up?  And I’ll tell them: bit by bit.  Smiling to remember.  Ready to do it again in twelve short months.
This is me being real.  Wishing I’d taken pictures despite having hands caked with flour and dough.  Wondering how to get swamp mud out of sisal.  And then, not really caring.  This is me recognizing that rugs and carpet and sprinkles on my socks are not precious, but an afternoon rolling cookies with dear friends?  That is.


There is a little bakery in Portland, Oregon.  They sent me five lovely loaves of gluten free bread.  Not for free or anything, don’t get all excited.  I read about them and decided I give it a whirl.  So glad I did.  Order by 9 on Sunday night and three days later they come in a box, ready to eat, ready to slice and freeze. You can find out more about the bakers here.  Bread is something I’ve chosen not to replace in my own diet.  There is no substitute.  But this presents a pretty yummy argument.  Ate some right out of the box, then sliced and froze the rest as the bakers had recommended.  At some as peanut butter toast this weekend.  I was in heaven.  Then fed the kids french toast made from the same bread to rave reviews.  Which does my heart good since I’ve been looking for a good replacement for the kid’s sake.  So, check them out.  $35 will get you five loaves and no fish.  No miracles either, despite what your taste buds will tell you.  Happy Campers Gluten Free.  Seriously.
This is me being real.  And a happy camper with a freezer full of yummy bread ready to toast and eat.


Friends of my parents lost their son yesterday.  A sweet gentle man with Down’s Syndrome who made everyone fall in love with him with his hugs and childlike innocence.  And his siblings, who love him so deeply, were worried when the end drew near that he would be frightened by dying.  That the actual process of breathing his last would be terrifying to this man who could not understand it.  But in the end it was just a breath followed by another and then silence.  Because Mark loved Jesus more than anything and he knew where he was headed.  He’d been seeing Jesus beckoning to him for months, had drawn pictures of Him and what heaven looked like.  And so even though he did not, could not, understand this process of passing from this life into the next, it held no fear for him.  No gasping for breath, no frightened eyes, no clenched hands, just breath and then none.  Perfect peace as he left this earth and the loving presence of his family and was celebrated in heaven by his savior.  And so in his death, Mark teaches us that this is how we are called to live.  Without fear.  No grasping at this life and it’s trappings.  Just the soulful, peaceful calm that comes from knowing that this world holds nothing for us.  That our citizenship is in Heaven and if we groan it’s because we long to go there.  And so I’m praising God today for the sweet life of his servant Mark and the reminder he paid me today to let go my clenched fists and live with open hands and ready spirit.  To stop thinking it to death but to just live and and do the work I’ve been called to and to see it as kingdom work and not mundane.  To wait in peace for the savior who is surely coming as he promised.  Bless you Brother Mark for showing us the way.
This is me being real.  Challenged.  Thankful.


I’ve been hearing a lot about pinterest on various blogs, so I checked it out last night.  And considering that I never leave home without my journal and that it is filled with prayers and thanks and, yes, pictures I’ve cut out of home dec magazines highlighting things I’d love to do in my own home and considering that I go through about a journal every year or so and considering there is a line of them on the shelf all filled with various things but none of them centrally located when inspiration hits, I thought I might hop on pinterest and organize that way.  Only when I went to sign up, they sent me an email thanking me politely for joining their waiting list.  Wait.  What?  There’s a list of people waiting to catalog the images and ideas they find on the internet?  The internet isn’t big enough for all of us?  I don’t understand.  Help me understand.  Is this some kind of sorority?
And speaking of sororities, Lilly Pulitzer sent me an email yesterday labeled: Shop sorority items now in stock!  And my soul threw up, but only after I totally clicked through and checked out the cell phone cases because a friend (you know who you are) who is not a sorority girl has one and it’s adorable.  And then I remembered that I have friends who are sorority girls who are great and even though I hope they don’t fall for the “Get Greek, Give Chic” campaign, I did just spend a silly amount of money on a new pair of boots for myself, so who am I to judge, really?  Christmas has me all tied in knots as Amazon delivers packages to my door daily with big smiles on them and my inbox is constantly flooded with offers for free shipping and 30% off, but then I see the baby Jesus dolly in his manger bed that we just set up this weekend and I remember that none of that matters.  Only the baby matters.  Only Him.
So even though I’m kind of ticked off at Pinterest for not letting me join up and even though I spent forty bucks on the wrong print cartridges so I could finish The Christmas Letter and even though it was raining this weekend so we left the saw at home and bought a tree at Costco after church yesterday, even though, it’s Christmas.  And nothing matters but the baby.
Deep breath.
This is me being real.  Breathing.  Focusing.


This kid turns eight tomorrow.  Unless the team of scientists I have locked in the garage crack the genetic code in time to freeze him at this age forever.  But since they just sent me a text asking for more duct tape, plasma samples and some queso dip, it isn’t looking good.
And lest you think I went through all four thousand pictures in my iPhoto to find the cutest ones, I’ll have you know that it’s nearly impossible to take a bad picture of him.  Except for the one where he was playing with the empty beer bottles friends had left behind.  Or the one where he was bending over and making his  bare buns talk.  But even in those his hair is adorable and you could eat his chocolate eyes.  Peter’s inability to look bad in pictures is a puzzling phenomenon.  I’ll have to get the scientists to work on that too.  But only after they figure out the time freezing thing.
So anyway, he’s turning eight tomorrow.  I know that because he’s told me a thousand times.  I know that because when I sent him off on the bus this morning I reminded him that it’s his very last day being 7.  I know that because there is a pumpkin pie cooling on the counter, and not the fancy kind, but the kind Aunt Cathie makes.  And there’s a Costco pizza in the fridge and a watermelon in the cupboard, and just for the heck of it and since he’s going to be spending the day with his best friends Luke and Huddy, there’s a family size bag of Twizzlers.  They are family after all.  I know it’s his birthday tomorrow because there is a ridiculously huge box from Amazon downstairs that I refuse to wrap and a Target bag filled with party plates and napkins and there is bacon in the fridge so he can start his day with pork.
I know because there is a teeny ache in my heart when I think that this boy who I just gave birth to (I swear it was yesterday) is another year away from fitting into my arms and falling asleep on my chest and thinking I’m his whole world.  And my whole body wants to sigh when I think that he’s been here for eight years and it feels like a blink which means that the next eight will too and he’ll be driving away and I’ll be praying that he comes home safely to me.  


So I’m choosing not to think of that day, but to focus on this one and the pure gift it is.  That he is.  And the absolute joy and privilege I have to be his mother and to watch him grow and tell him about Jesus.  

This is me being real.  Thankful for Peter.