She did it surrounded by her cousins and with the lullaby of the waves playing in the background.  Did this turning three and stepping off into her fourth year thing.  Did it just to spite me, I think, since I expressly told her not to.  She did it, we all did, in an explosion of pink and tulle and ballerinas and from atop the seat of a princess bike the Grant and Wil put together for her using Papa’s tools.  Just pulled on her new blue tutu, put Bitty in her seat and rode off into three.  And in case you’re wondering what turning three looks like, in case it’s been a long time and you’ve forgotten, here are some pictures to remind you.
 There was an early morning snuggle with Peter who was second up, which was perfect since these two have been best buddies since day one.
 and an early morning trip to the coop to see if we’d caught any raccoons in the traps.
 Remember I told you there was an explosion of pink and tulle?  I was serious.
 And gift buckets for Lulu and her best cousin Vivienne (vifee).
 There was pink cake with pink icing for which Lucy cracked all the eggs herself.
 And the sweetest tent made by Max and Aunt Jenna and just for her.
 I heart this girl.
 There were presents with Papa
 and matching outfits with Bitty
 and a swim with Ez.
 There was time on SpongeBob Square Raft with with her best Nanny.
 More about him later.
 There was Uncle Tony.  Who needs Fancy Nancy when you have an Uncle Tony?

And there was her, her sweet sweet self, asleep before we cleared the driveway.  And probably dreaming of riding away from me tomorrow on her new princess bike while I run behind trying to catch her.  I will always be trying to catch her.  I will never stop trying to catch her.  No matter how old she gets.
This is me being real.  And wondering what could be better than a birthday at the cottage?  And a big squishy family to share it with?  And the sweet perfume of sun lotion on baby skin and strawberry cake and pure sugar?


my list:
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
      A classic account of the final hours of the Titanic

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
      Promises to teach me everything I need to know to produce all the food I need on 1/4 an acre

BonHoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
       This book has intimidated me for months.  It’s my Everest.  Let’s roll.

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline
       Fluff, but looks interesting

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
       Three sisters converge on their parents to find their lives are much different than they thought.       Duh, but looks intriguing.

Kisses for Katie by Katie Davis
       This book will wreck me, I know.  About a young woman in Africa who is following Father’s call to be home to orphans.

Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
        A challenge to pinpoint seven areas of excess in your life and take seven months scaling back.  Where was this book in January when I actually only had seven articles of clothing that fit?

The Living Great Lakes by Jerry Dennis
       Not sure about this one, but Dan read it and said it was good.  A history of the Great Lakes.  I’m sort of bored just looking at it, but it seems sort of ecologically irresponsible to live here and know nothing about them.

In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson
       Actually just read this last week and then promptly ordered a copy for keeps and gave it to Dan for Father’s Day.  Such a fascinating account of the American Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler.

Big Truths for Little Hearts by Bruce A. Ware
       So, I was going to read a chapter of this each morning to the kids while they sat quietly eating their nutritious breakfast and soaking in the wisdom.  End of week two and I haven’t cracked the spine.  Week three looks promising.

The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow
       Our book club’s summer read about a famous bridal shop in Fowler Michigan.

The World Is My Home by James A Michener
       One of my favorite authors, this is his account of how he writes.  Borrowed it from my dad, who introduced me to Michener in college, causing me to fall promptly in love.

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
       Bought this for Dan for Father’s day, but in the absence of anything else on my nightstand, reached over and cracked the spine (how satisfying is that?) and am into it.  He can have it when I’m done.

Not pictured, but on my Amazon wish list, waiting for me to engage one click shopping:
Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
       The story of an unhealthy, obese man who turned Vegan and went on to place sixth in an invitation only Ultra Marathon two years later.  Vegan intrigues me.  Doing an ultra marathon while Vegan stuns me.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy
       The description lauds it as a moving and breathtaking tale of nineteenth century America that follows several people as they immigrate and leave their mark on the west.  They had me at nineteenth century America.

Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte
       My local yokel read, this Michigander’s funny account of living in the country and trying to accommodate his wife’s desire to own animals.

Not to be neglected are the selections I’ve set aside for read alouds, now that we’ve nearly finished Sounder, a book so depressing I have to take a Valium before settling in to read it.
Poppy by Avi
      The story of a little mouse who takes on a great horned owl as her adversary.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
       Elijah is the first child to be born free in the town of Buxton, home to runaway slaves and an unlikely hero when money turns up missing and he sets out to bring justice to his town.

Naya Nuki: Girl who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma
       Not sure how many times I read this book when I was a kid, but it was a lot.  It’s time to pass the torch.

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
       Just because we’ve never read it.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
       Can’t get anyone to show any interest in this book.  Cretins.  May have to just read it myself.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
       A summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits and a very interesting boy.  Have owned this for two summers, but am committing to it this year.  Giddyup.

Everyone has their own bin.  It holds their books, summer bridge workbooks, pencils and the bookmarks we’re using to record how many books they’ve read (one bead per book).  The little jars are for their TechTokens.  They earn one for every page in their workbooks completed and for every 1/2 hour of reading.  TechTokens are worth 15 minutes of iPad or iPod time.  Not a flawless system for sure, but so far so good.

this is me being real.  And hoping if you have a must-read, that you’ll pass it along in the comments section so we can all enjoy it.  Happy reading, friends.


Nearly two weeks in and all I’ve got to show for summer is a few really random pictures and four sleepy children clustered around the iPad watching Horseland and arguing over who gets to hold it.  There has been lots of bickering as bedtimes get pushed back in lieu of water gun fights and late night raccoon attacks on the Kevins. There have been several lovely days on the beach, soaking up the smell of sun lotion on baby skin and constantly scanning the water to make sure they are all afloat.  And on one such day we watched in horror as a boy drowned just down the beach and couldn’t be saved.  Our hearts hurt for that.  And it’s served as a good reminder that even the occasional bumpy summer day that feels interminable and hazy is heaven compared to the hell of watching your child drown and having to go on without him.  Heaven.  So, I’m thanking Father for the privilege of summer and spending my days with this lot and the many friends who we are joining up with for fun and laughter.  The Proverbs 31 woman was lauded for her ability to laugh at the days to come.  I want to be her.  Lord, make me her.  In the meantime there is me and four kids and (only) 12 Kevins and a keloid scar named Steve and there is the realization that it’s already June 19 and Lulu is going to be 3 in 5 seepies and those numbers make me feel like going back to bed.  I’m not ready for July and for my baby to be 3 and for summer to be one third over.  We’ve only just gotten started.  So, I’m banning ical and choosing to take each sweet day as it comes, the good, the bad and the ugly (and let me tell you…).  Today we’re headed to a friend’s pool where we will share a salad and soak up the pure loveliness of each other and raising kids together and we’ll try to stay cool before headed home for watermelon and brats on the deck.  There will be chapters read from The Penderwicks while kids dig in the sandbox and them drifting off to sleep wearing only their undies and laying on top of their covers while water bottles sweat onto their night stand.  Then there will be an hour or so of me listening to him laughing at Ridiculousness while I make myself a bracelet from blue twine and gold seed beads before I fall asleep reading Lost in ShangriLa.  And the pure joy, the pure joy, of waking up tomorrow and doing it all over again with the pool switched out for the beach and brats switched out for whatever I’m not too tired to make.  There will be sand in the beds as I tiptoe in to kiss their sweet faces before falling in myself.  There will be blessings and challenges and the constant reminders that my job is only this minute.  Not tomorrow or next month but now.  Summer is good for that.
This is me being real.  And promising a summer reading list tomorrow.  Or maybe tonight if I get my act together, because there are some really good ones, I promise.


There are 
10 hours until the bus pulls away with my boys on it for the last time.  Tess finished today.
10 hours until the piles of slippery clothes all laid out on the step and the lunches tucked into their boxes in the fridge go with them.  
10 hours until I sing for the last time, upon finding clean underwear still laying on the step after the other clothes have been donned, “Underwear, it’s fun ter wear” in a morning falsetto that drives them all crazy.
10 hours until I’ll remind them, as I do most mornings, that not all mothers are funny.  Some feed their children slimy oatymeal with raisins while they listen to elevator music in a grey house in which every room is dressed in beige and who make them read the Wall Street Journal before they can eat breakfast.  But not yours, I’ll tell them.  Yours is fun-nee.  Lucky kids.
10 hours until I see my lovely neighbors at the bus stop and thank Father again for dropping me here with these women who I love doing life with and whose kids give mine someone to play in the creek with so I don’t have to.
10 hours until I whisper a prayer under my breath to keep them safe and bring them back.
10 hours until getting all four of them out the door involves hand clapping and sweat in my bra.
10 hours until I rattle off for the billionth time what the breakfast choices are.  They never change.  And still I have to repeat them every morning: eggs, toast, cereal, sausage, oatymeal, grapefruit.
10 hours until I have my last day with just the girls for a while.  And in which we will go to Snow Ave Greenhouses to spruce this place up a bit and in which I’ll probably serve ice cream for lunch since it’s her favorite and summer is for favorite stuff.
There are
18 hours until I’ll be on the bike path listening for the sound of that yellow savior delivering them home to me.
18 hours until they dance off the bus, waving goodbye to Mrs. Baker who has lovingly driven them for two years and who will pass out suckers as they dart past her.
18 hours until I thank her in a tremulous voice for doing so, driving and suckers.
18 hours until I wonder if I shouldn’t have just gone and gotten them at school.  Even though I went today and delivered thanks and hugs to their amazing teachers so they could ride the bus home.  Their request.  
18 hours until they run through a tunnel of their teachers outstretched arms to the busses that will carry them home for the summer-the reason they argued about riding on the last day.  That and something about being embarrassed that I always cry all over the teachers.
18 hours until I think of these three women and our principal and the hundred or so other employees who have loved on our kids and helped them grow this year.  Spent scads of time with them so they would be ready for the next grade and would be better people for it.  Scott, Donna, Tiffany, Cindy et al.-we love you.
18 hours until I thank Father for bringing us to this school, filled with these people and busting open doors to be Jesus to our neighbors and friends there.  Seriously so thankful for that.
18 hours until we start a three month marathon of sand in our toes, not enough sleep and cramming it all in.
18 hours until they will say for the first time this summer, “I’m bored.”  Maybe 18.5 depending.
18 hours until I’ll empty their backpacks and throw them in the closet instead of hanging them on the hook.
18 hours until I’ll swear to myself again to care about the housework less and about making memories more.  To focus on laughing and playing and doing silly things like going grocery shopping in our pjs and wearing our clothes backward to the library instead of being ticked off that the house is in a constant state of defcon 4 and for the love of all things green, close the screen door behind you!
18 hours until they’ll be able to crack a peek at the bins I’ve been filling for each of them with books and bookmarks and colorful pencils and other small surprises aimed at keeping them motivated.
18 hours until they are scattered throughout the house, sprawled on their backs on the floor and draped over the armchairs, noses in their books.
23 days until Kamphuis opens their doors to another blueberry season, which has nothing to do with school letting out, but everything to do with my favorite season ever.  June 29.  You can thank me later.
18 hours until Nana will call and ask if they are free.  Until she’ll tick off over the phone the hours until they’ll be on the beach with the cousins building fortresses and playing big cat and diving off the platform.
18 hours until I’ll call Dan and say that I’ve got them.  He’ll know what I mean.  And he’ll totally get why I’m crying.  The kids won’t.  But someday I will explain to them what it means to trust your most precious people to others all day.  To wonder if they are being bullied or if the time you spent with them the night before on lattice method multiplication has translated to less frustration during math time.  To wish they were here by you, headed to Costco or wherever you’re going so you can just be with them.  To wonder aloud to Father if He would please just guard their little hearts and minds from the yuck that threatens to flood it each day, in our home and out of it.  I’ll explain to them that when the bus pulls away, so does a little bit of a parent’s heart and they don’t get it back until it pulls back up at 4:15 and how strange that is to walk around all day with only part of a heart.  How healing and good it is when summer allows you three solid months of having your heart intact and being a person undivided.  Summer is sweet that way.  I’m ready. 
This is me being real.  Thankful that if I have to wave them off tomorrow that the people they are headed to are people we’ve fallen in love with and who we just couldn’t be more thankful for.  Seriously thankful.


This is what it looks like when you cap off an exhausting week of saying goodbye to great-grandpa with a wedding.  Your mom will forget her camera because she’ll have seven bags of other crap that you won’t be able to live without for the day.  Your favorite Aunt Cyndy will do your hair, making you feel like a princess, and then will have to redo it at least eight more times before you walk down the aisle.

The last shot your mom will take will be on the way to the church.  After that, she’ll be too busy keeping three flower girls and two boys quiet in the front pew so grandpa can get married.  Halfway through she’ll give up and let you carry your blanket up onto the stage so you can catch a quick snuggle with the best man, who is also your daddy, because her new mother in law has assured her over and over that it is that kind of wedding.  You’ll dress in a fancy dress with flowers in your hair and usher in the lady who will become your new grandma by scattering flower petals on the runner.  You’ll ask at the end of the aisle if perhaps you shouldn’t go back and pick them up.  Your mother will smile because that’s her girl.  You’re her girl, you neat little thing you.
People will be crying, which will confuse you and them too.  Because it is a mixed bag of emotions when they walk into a church for the first time since attending their Mumsy’s funeral to watch her husband take a new wife.  You will ask why people are crying and they will tell you it is sad mixed with a lot of happy and you still won’t understand.  Because you’ll probably never have memories of Mumsy, but they do and they miss her.  They are happy he is happy.  They are falling in love with this new matriarch.  But it’s a love borne out of deep, deep sorrow and moving forward always hurts a little.  You still don’t understand, but don’t worry.  Someday they will tell you how Mumsy lived and loved and how she left and how, in God’s great providence, another came who loves him well.  They will help you understand how that can feel bittersweet, watching them smile into each other’s eyes and make plans for a future that should have been hers.  But they will also help you understand what a gift this new Grandma is to him and to you and to them.  And pretty soon she will be all you know and remember and you’ll look back on the pictures of this day and smile.  And so will they.
This is me being real.  Thankful for Nancy and Mumsy and the whole crazy week that left us totally pooped and completely happy.