It’s not my favorite thing when I’m in the midst of preparing a meal and the kids are already complaining about how much they dislike it.  That’s not my favorite thing.  Lately I feel like I’m on Food Network’s Chopped three times a day and three times a day I stand before four judges who complain about the texture, the lack of seasoning, the color, the smell, not enough veggies, too many veggies and why I had to ruin it with chia seed.  I always get chopped.  It’s the gastronomic equivalent of Groundhog Day with Bill Murray.  I’m standing there, wisk in hand thinking, wait, they just hated my food yesterday.  How could they hate it again today; it’s a totally different meal.
So this morning as I was sauteeing veggies for a fritatta, kids swinging from light fixtures as they lobbed bombs of disgust in my direction I responded as any mature adult would.  I threw a temper tantrum.
I swore I never make it out of the kitchen unless it’s to clean up everyone’s crap (not a word we use here), called the dishwasher stupid (again, not a word we use here, but very tame when stacked up against the names I actually wanted to call it), stamped my foot and declared that I was never cooking another meal again.  Which I then blew all to heck by finishing the sautee and then following up with homemade waffles while the Smalls looked on with big eyes and Dan tried to smooth it over in his usual way-taking the trash out without being asked and avoiding eye contact.  They were all avoiding eye contact.
And the meal was just as big a failure as I’d anticipated considering the early returns.  Peter hated that there was sausage in his fritatta, Lucy wanted more in hers, and Tess just sweetly ate even though she clearly thought it was going to make her barf.  Grant, true to form, scarfed it all down then asked if he could make himself a burrito.  Dan prolly told me seventeen times how wonderful his fritatta was.  Sigh.
So when the kids asked to go to the gym and swim and Dan volunteered to take them I was on it like flies on stink.  Sent them packing with swimsuits and rashies and not an ounce of guilt.  Because the way I figure it, I’ve spent at least half of my summer in pools or lakes with the Smalls and almost none of it by myself, unless you count late night runs to Meijer.  Which I don’t.  And as I pulled out the ipad to update the blog, I heard Father whisper into my tattered soul, grounding me in the reality that if this is all I’ve got, if this is the lion’s share of my heart ache, then I’ve got nothing.  No kid dying of a brain tumor, no husband cheating on me, no dibilitating disease that’s robbing me of my independance, no fear of where the next meal will come from.  I’m just totally cup running over blessed, something I was squinting hard into my rear view mirror this morning to catch a glimpse of. But now it’s here, right in front of me and I can see it again and I’m determined to wake up every morning asking Father to remind me of how good I’ve got it.  Because it’s just so darn easy to forget in a world that is constantly sending the message that you deserve better.  Because the fact is that if I got exactly what I deserve, I’d be dead.  Instead, I have a standing invitation to approach the throne of grace and lay myself there and be filled up.  So that’s where I’m headed on this chilly afternoon when the leaves are blowing on the trees and it feels like fall.  Headed to hang out with Father.
This is me being real.  Totally ordering take out tonight.  Let them criticize someone else’s food for once…



Me and the Smalls had to teach the story this morning.  It was David and Goliath.  I love that story.  If you haven’t read it in awhile, hop over to 1 Samuel 17 and give it a read.  It’ll knock your socks off.  The story of this boy, this young, weak boy who steps up to the line and challenges a giant with boldness and confidence.  Read his words, let them soak into your heart and see if you don’t feel just the teeniest bit empowered to slay your own giants with Father as your weapon.  I needed this reminder today.  Maybe you do too? I wrote about it a few years ago.  I’m reposting it tonight as a battle cry to stand and fight.  To you and to me and to followers of Jesus everywhere.  Will you join Father’s army?  Will you let him knock your socks off with his provision and mercy?  Will you, please?
This is me being real. 

As we stand on the precipice of this new thing, this sending the kids off to a new school thing, we are looking for ways to reassure them and ourselves that this is ok.  We can’t physically go with them tomorrow as they step foot into a strange school filled with new people, and my heart aches for that.  If I could go you know I would.  You know it.  But I can’t, so I’m learning once again and a million times a day to remember that these kids are God’s people, were his before they were ours, and he is going with them.  Dan talked with them tonight about the story of David and Goliath.  How David was probably a young boy and small and how Goliath was so big.  And how God only gave David five stones with which to defeat his giant and David was ok with that because he knew that God was with him and that was the only weapon he needed to arm himself with, really.  This first day at the new school is our Goliath.  And we are arming ourselves only with the knowledge that the God of the universe who calls us sons and daughters is accompanying our kids to school.  And we gave them these:

Their own little stones.  They are already in their pockets in their clothes, folded on the step and ready to go. Already getting warmed up in their pockets.
You just put your hand in your pocket, we told them, and you feel your stone and you remember that your mommy and daddy adore you and are praying for you.  So hard.  And that there in no place in the world you can go that God doesn’t go right with you.  Even to school.  Even on the bus.  You are safe, we told them.  We believe in you and in your ability to do this thing.  This scary thing called first day at a new school.  And when that bus pulls up tomorrow afternoon and you dance off I’ll be there.  Right there.  Clapping my hands like a loon and probably crying because I’ll be so proud and thankful.  So thankful.
If you think about it, can you pray for us?  For Peter especially who hates new situations and being the center of attention?  And I’ll be praying for all of you.  For every kid who is starting school tomorrow and especially the ones stepping foot into a new school.  For every parent who has to let go and trust that it’ll be ok.  And I’ll be praising God for good friends (you know who you are) who invited us over for brunch this morning to meet some new people and spend time praying for each other’s children by name.  It’s a privilege to do so.
So this is me.  Feeling five hundred emotions all at the same time and at least one of them is making me want to throw up, but when I worry I do it in my own strength and I’m not strong.  So I’m going to take a page from my own proverbial book and wrap my hands around The Rock tonight.
“I will lay down and sleep in peace for you, alone, O God, make me dwell in safety.”

And it’s making me wonder: what Goliath are you off to slay this week?


There were eleven (a couple were sick), all lined up like cord wood and waiting for the mamas to hit the sand so they could dive in.
There was a basket, filled to the brim with fart-putty and markers and blue nail polish and candy prizes ready to be picked through by kids in pjs or dried-on swimsuits and a clever Nana calling the Bingo numbers
There was squeeze cheese mac for lunch because it’s Wil’s favorite and just special enough for a cousin sleep over, especially when accompanied by ten pounds of fresh bluebs from Kamphuis.
There was a girls tent on the left and a boys on the right and one was much quieter and one was much smellier and I think it’s a no-brainer to figure out which was which.
There were hours of tubing behind the Sea-Doo, Papa’s hair big and poufy and small fingers wrinkled and sore from holding on so tightly.  So tightly.  ‘Specially during Death Ride.
There was midnight swimming (even though it was really only ten) and no brushing teeth and two days without changing clothes at all.
There were sisters sharing a bed like days passed, only this time with Lulu in between, holding pink tightly in her sleep while a soft, warm breeze ruffled her sweaty curls.  Sisters whispering, “I love you” over Lulu while they drifted off to sleep while all their progeny snored softly in tents in the front.
There were pumpkin coconut pampcakes and sausages and Philly pork roll since, did I tell you my little sister and her boyfriend are home from Philly for a coupla days?  And lots of sticky fingers after, rubbing sunscreen and listening (or not) to admonitions to not forget noses and ears.  You know how yucky it is to be burned, so go thick and be safe children.
There was one sister at home, missed so much, caring with her giant heart for a sick girl not her own, but quickly worming her way in while girl’s brother celebrated his first birthday in America on the deck with new slippery clothes and Superman ice cream.  Such a gift to see that unfold.
There was one Nana and one Papa, now both prolly in white bed, breathing deeply and dreaming of doing it all again soon, welcoming us in with open arms and showing us such a good time.  Such a good time.
There is one place, my favorite on this earth maybe, that has been ours for 35 years and that has us all in tears each summer when we gather around the server for the first family meal and clasp hands and wonder at the gift we have in this address that bids us come and be together and make sweet memories of sand in toes and smiles on faces and freckles sprinkled across yummy noses.  Father, we do not deserve this.  Not even sort of.  But we’ll take it with open hands and thank you for every summer we are given it.  And we will tell stories of things we did then and what we’ll do soon and how very much fun it’ll be.  And we will drink icy lemonade and solve problems on the beach, where they are best solved, while kids swim and Papa pulls and the dogs chase birds.  And we’ll wrap it all up with a trip to the Cap’n for a Snickerin’ Sailor with extra whipped cream and we’ll kiss the smudges off pink cheeks and then pile in for a sleepy ride back home.  But before we hit the Cap’n there will be twenty something of us waving goodbye and thanking Nana and Papa and saying, “See you Sunday!  I’ll bring a salad and some chips.” And there will be them, standing in the yard and waving until we beep ourselves over the hill and then trudging wearily in to tidy up and collapse on the couch.  And, I don’t have proof, but I think it’s certain, they will hold hands and say, pinch me-that was the best day ever.  It’s certain.

This is me being real.  Thankful for thirteen cousins masquerading as best friends who think the perfect summer mystery trip is anything that includes each other and Nana and Papa.  So thankful.


There were nine lovely days at the Sugar in which several people remarked on how happy our children seemed.  How very content and well-behaved they were.  My children.
It’s not because we’re fantastic parents (although we undoubtedly are) or because I’ve read all the books and breastfed them until they were one and try to keep them away from dyes and sugar as much as possible.  My children are happy at the Sugar because they are unplugged.  Period.  There isn’t even the chance of it.  This is the U.P., people, not everyone is even walking fully upright yet.  And so every summer we head there and marvel at how peaceful it is and then we come home to wreckage and shake our heads and remember the bygone days of peace, all memories wrapped in a sweet pink haze and bearing significant resemblance Massengil commercials. But after a while even thinking of walking hand in hand on the beach talking about things like world peace and feminine freshness can’t override the reality of kids hanging off my skirt, begging for five more minutes so they can assemble their clans or spawn a few horses for their pastures.  We were, I’m totally serious, not even in the door from the Sugar before Peter asked if he could play Minecraft.  Not even in the door.  And a little piece of my soul shriveled and I realized we were once again: plugged.
We existed in a sort of re-entry hell for less than two days, marked with near constant fighting over technology, before I threw up my hands and declared a moratoriam on technology.  No Minecraft.  No Clash of Clans.  No American Girl website.  No apps.  Peter promptly threw a tantrum to end all tantrums.  I finally  understand what “weeping and gnashing of teeth” looks like.  There was mourning in Zion.  But within twenty minutes he’d moved from wicked pissed to putting together a new puzzle from the bored box.
My phone is just a phone again.  That’s lovely.  The ipods have gathered dust in their baskets.  Kids have stopped asking if I’ve changed my  mind yet and have just accepted that I haven’t.  Won’t.  It’s not forever, just until August 1 and then we’ll reevaluate.  Until then, the only thing we’re spawning is creativity and peace.  And those in spades.  There have been far less clashes amongst the sibs, far less of me using the computer as a babysitter.  And Amazon hasn’t been here all day.  The UPS man is gong to miss us.  Because I’m unplugging too.  I’m typing this in secret while the kids are outside playing.  Together.  And while it’s probably something involving either weapons or tools, probably something other mothers would die before allowing, they are happiest when they are free-ranging.
The humidity has broken, which means I no longer have to shop in the ethnic hair product section of Meijer for Lucy.  The lion’s share of what we’re eating has come from the Farmer’s Market.  And we went for our first all together swim in the lake took place yesterday when, I swear, the water was warmer than the air and I was back with the family I’d missed while away.  The girls gave me a make-over this afternoon and now I look like a kewpie doll, but I got to lay on the couch with my eyes closed while it took place and that’s totally worth it.  We’ve eaten ten pounds of blueberries since yesterday and the bunny is still hopping around the house instead of installed in her very expensive and lovely outside hutch.  I love these days.  Seriously.
This is me being real.  Unplugged is where it’s at, y’all.


We are back.  From one of our favorite places on earth.  I wish I could tell you about it in person, because a trip to the U.P. in Michigan demands arm gestures and facial expressions.  You’ll have to settle for commentary and pictures.  If you go to Sugar Island in the U.P., you’ll get what I mean.

 You can go on a mystery trip to Hens and Chicks island.  You’ll take your cousin so he can explore this unchartered territory too.  You’ll eat Pringles because you have to eat crap when you’re in the U.P.  It’s a law or something.

 You can go with Grandpa on the “big boat” to Cozy Corners for dinner.  You’ll wait forever for your food, but in the meantime you can play beach volleyball out front and watch the boats go by.

 If you’re like Lucy, you can go tubing with your cousin.  You’ll shriek with glee and make her laugh and laugh.  Then you’ll declare that you’re all done and ask Aunt Cathie to stop the boat.  She will.  You will check that off your four year old bucket list and move on to the next thing.

 If you’re like Peter, you’ll spend all your time on the dock waiting for your turn to tube behind Grandpa’s new Sea Doos and having your fabulous hair blow in the wind.  You’ll giggle as you watch your dad do his best to flip your big cousins off.

 You’ll climb up on Grandma Nancy’s new Sea Doo to take a break from swimming in the frigid water.  You’ll stretch them out in the warm sun, pretend you’re driving to Richard’s Landing for brown diapers and Canadian candy bars and wait for the feeling to creep back in from your toes to your thighs.  Then you’ll hop back in and do it all over again.

 Seriously.  This kid kills me.  Wearing his visor so his lips won’t get sunburned and waiting for his turn, probably while eating bugles and cheese squares.

 If you’re like Grant, you might kick off your Sugar Cottage vacation with a trip to the War Memorial E.R.  You’ll cut your finger trying to open a bag of beach toys for your sister.  Your mom will be in the Soo grabbing groceries at Wal-Mart (a whole blog post in itself), so she’ll meet you there and silently curse the fact that fully half of the parking spots are reserved for prison vehicles.  You won’t hear her because you’ll be in triage.  Thankfully, you’ll just get glued and be sent on your way.  Your mom will treat you to a burger with the works at Clydes while you’re waiting for the ferry.  Totally worth it.

 You’ll want to stay here.  Just trust me on this.  You’ll stay in the little cottage just to the right of the dock.  It’s one room of loveliness with a view to Ontario’s St. Joseph island.  It’s a little slice of heaven with a side of awesome.

 You’ll want to take the boats to Duck Lake at least one time.  It’s tradition.  You’ll anchor the boat, slip slide on the slippery rocks, hike past the old library and the remains of Governor Charles Osborn’s cabin.

 You’ll come out at a bridge.  On one side is the prettiest river.  On the other is a pond.  You’ll want to swim.  Your mother will watch from the bridge, vomit in mouth, wondering if there is anything scarier to her than swimming in a dark pond.

 This thought will not bother you in the least.  You’ll hop right in and exclaim about how warm it is.

After you’ve done this fun swimming in Duck Lake and hiking and discovering thing, you’ll head back to the boats knowing there is dipping caramel and apples waiting for you back at The Sugar.

 You’ll go to the pier everyday and jump off.  It’s tradition too.  Your mom will probably only jump on the day you swim to Canada.  There won’t be pictures of this because she can’t swim and take pictures at the same time, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.

 Grandma Nancy will buy an inflatable basketball hoop and your cousins, who know a lot more about sports than anyone, will offer up commentary filled with stats and names you don’t understand, but that will make you put your best game on and go for it.

 You’ll do a through-the-legs-swoop-and-throw that’ll make you feel like the coolest kid on earth.  And you’ll be right.

Even Buddy and Millicent Pearl will jump.  Dogs are get crazy like that on Sugar Island.

 This is Ruby and Archie.  They are neighbors and friends.  This year they got to be the Grand Marshalls in the Sweetest Fourth on the North Parade.  They wore special hats and sashes.  You’ll have to meet them if you ever get to Sugar Island.  They are fixtures there.

 You’ll spend lots of time preparing for Sweetest Fourth in the North.  If you have an Aunt Cyndy, she’ll make your hair very special.  Ribbons and bands and lots of love.

She’ll even transform a total hair bomb into something really cute and festive.  She’s great like that.

 You’ll spend the morning decorating Grandpa’s paddle boat and John Deere Gator into your float.  Peter will be your Grand Marshall, along with Buddy, Millicent Pearl and Super Stewey.

 You’ll parade from the store to Grandpa’s place.  When you get there, hundreds of people will be following with patriotic shirts and dishes to pass.  You’ll grill about a billion brats and hot dogs for them and stand back and think that it’s pretty cool how Mumsy started this 8 years ago and it’s still going strong.  How Grandma Nancy has embraced it and you and how thankful you are for all of that.  How very very blessed you are for another year at the Sugar Cottage.

Grandpa will put on an amazing show, he always does.  You’ll sit on the grass, swatting at mosquitoes and watching kids run around with glow jewelry.  You’ll lean against your husband and silently thank Father for this place and this family and this life.  It is beyond.  Just way beyond.
This is me being real.  Wishing I was still there.  Wishing you were too.