break.

Last year we had a very short, one week Christmas break and we all groaned and complained and so they gave us two weeks.  Which we are calling Small Summer.  Even though it’s freezing and snowy and the pool is frozen solid.  Two weeks looms large at the start, but it’s swallowing us right up with it’s long days of hot cocoa and friends over and mystery trips.  Their favorite so far was treasure hunting, which it actually just antiquing with a fancy label.  I give them each a fiver and something to hunt for (a star! miniatures! something that glows!) and set them free with the warning that if they touch ANYTHING they will be wearing mittens for a week.  The teenagers love this.  The smell, the dust, the used everything. They love this so much they opted to stay in the car and snap about how dumb everything is.

And so break rolls along.  Lucy has worn her hat day and night for three days. Abe got a shirt with Mac n cheese on it for Christmas and hasn’t taken it off since. The tree came down the day after Christmas because by then I. am. over. it. and the kids used a can of gas and small matches to burn it in the yard yesterday.  Today no one has eyebrows and all evidence of Christmas is gone.  See ya.  Lucy had ten dollars burning a hole in her pocket and Peter discovered last night that I’d mistakenly bought crunchy peanut butter, which is the worst thing ever.  So I loaded kids up and took them for a late night Meijer run where I saw all my Shipt shoppers and wondered aloud about a branch of Shipt that involved people in green shirts coming to your house, picking up your kids and taking them shopping.  I would pay almost anything for that service.  Especially when someone has ten dollars to spend.  In aisles where nothing they want costs ten dollars. I nearly lost my soul.

The dogs continue to steal packages and run away.  Every Vos Small is outside as I type trying to earn ten bucks by finding the curtain hardware that was delivered yesterday.  It’s brass and beautiful and they must have loved it because they hid it well.  Also, they clearly have more bite strength than I give them credit for.  I have fed more kids this break than a soup kitchen and I’ve loved nearly every second of it.  If you are a social worker or work for CPS, Kindly stop reading.  Abe…he’s not nearly as disregulated as he normally is during the holidays.  But he has itchy balls.  And so his hands are constantly down his pants.  He is not our first child to engage in self-exploration.  Last time we followed the doctors directive to ignore it and let it run it’s course, which it did after years of embarrassing mishaps (oh gosh, he/she is doing it on stage! Not in church! I know it’s your company picnic, but Dr. Meier said not to shame him/her!).  Last time we followed the rules.  We will not make this mistake again.  So last night as I was shelving peanut butter and wiping sweat out of my bra, dan saw Abe, you know.  And so he responded with love and logic…”Abe, if you keep touching your penis it will come off and stick to your hand.  Then when break is over and you go to the cafeteria, you will ask the lunch ladies for a cheeseburger and they will see your penis hand and say, ‘Gross! No food for you!!'” I found this a very healthy way to handle the situation and have noticed he has kept his hands out of his pants since.  Also, he no longer likes cheeseburgers.  For those of you concerned that we actually said these words to our adopted son who has food issues, not to worry; he laughed as hard as we did.

Welcome back CPS and social workers.  For all you mamas who are planning fun activities every day-you are killing it.  For you mamas who are drooling on the couch, sure you can’t last another hour-you will.  You will rise and you will make all the cocoa for all the kids and it will be fantastic.  This is your hour.  Christmas break is our bone and we are sucking the marrow out of it.  Well done.

this is me being real.

Christmas.

We are watching my favorite Christmas movie, Arthur Christmas, after a mystery trip to carol at nana and papas and a drive to see the lights.  The snow is falling outside and everyone is in soft, warm jammies and dreaming of what they’ll find tomorrow.  I carried presents out of their hiding places this afternoon, silently chastising myself for not doing advent readings with the kids this year.  No advent readings, no candles, no straw to feather baby Jesus’ manger bed.  I bowed under the pressure of December.  The sign up genius’, the dishes to pass, the luncheons and gift wrapping and UPS shipment notifications.  These consumed my time and the rest fell to the wayside, enveloping me with guilt and shame.  And so I resolve to do it differently next year.  To let the baby reign and everything else fall away.  Or at least to have it more balanced.  Because if you strip away the trimmings and wrapping, there is only this: a baby.

Wether you are at the top of your game or just riding the pine, the baby came for you.  Wether you are loudly proclaiming Jesus or whispering quiet adoration or saying nothing at all, the baby came for you.  Wether you are having the best year of your life or you lay down last night wishing you wouldn’t wake up at all, the baby came for you.  Wether you have all your ducks in a row or exactly none of them, the baby came for you.  Wether you grew up in the church or have never darkened it’s doorstep, the baby came for you.  Wether you think you are someone to be proud of or someone who no one could ever be proud of, the baby came for you.

This baby.  He doesn’t see your ugly; he is blind to the wear and tear this hard world has put on you, that you’ve put on yourself.  He sees only the person you can become and he promises a roadmap to get there.  The baby is the only thing that matters.  Today and ever.  The only thing.  He came to bring life in a world that stinks of decay.  He came to bring peace in a world rife with terror and deception.  He came to save from a world hell bent on taking you down.  He is hope and light and truth and everything, everything, that is good and right.  The baby came for you wether you wanted him to have or not because the baby knew you and I needed saving more than anything else.  Knew we’d find ourselves desperate for a savior and so he came.  We’ve all spent the last month wrapping and baking and taking care of a million and five small details but there is only one thing that matters: what will you do with the baby?  This can go down two ways.  You can hold that soft downy head and in beautiful reverence slip a crown of gold or a crown of thorns on it.  And that headgear will change everything for you.  Crown him or crucify him.  What will you do with the baby?  Because on Tuesday we will wake up and all the trappings of Christmas will be gone but the baby will be there still, waiting to see what you will do.  Please, dear ones, choose rightly.  Maybe you spent yourselves nailing it with Elf on the Shelf this season, perhaps you busied yourself gifting free-trade chocolates and finding non-gmo snacks for Christmas parties or maybe you did it all right and focused on the baby.  No matter, tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it and I’m determined to kneel at that humble manger and crown that precious baby.  Join me?

Happiest Christmas loves!

this is me being real.

dear younger me. 2

Do you remember the day someone called you fat?  I hear her voice in my head still, shrill and mean.  She wasn’t out to hurt you, but she did.  Deeply.  We are 42 now and our body has some serious miles on it.  It’s not as strong and firm as it used to be.  But it’s carried 4 babies and bears lots of battle scars.  It has served us well, is serving us well still.  You will have this great period of about two years in your late thirties when you will try the naturopathic route to get off anti anxiety meds (this will, incidentally end badly, but you will retain the habits that are retainable).  You will eat cabbage and quinoa for months and you will be skinny and it’ll feel so good, even though you will smell so so bad.  But then life will interrupt and your old body will come back.  You will feel shame and disgust; will wear them like a yoke.  But something will shift eventually and you will come to some kind of peace in this skin of ours.  You will walk the dogs every morning, feeling yourself getting stronger and know that you might never be skinny Megan again, but you are happy Megan and that counts for something.  You will commit everyday to feed this body well most of the time and let the chips fall where they may.

That voice you hear telling you you’re fat?  It doesn’t own you.  Doesn’t define you.  You are so much more than a number on a scale or a size on a rack.  How you treat your body is precious, but what size you are isn’t.  I want you to learn this now, before you let that voice lie to you for years and years.  It will chide you as you step on the scale at your OB’s office, telling you that your burgeoning body isn’t beautiful, even as it swells with the miracle of life.  Lie.  It will mock you when you are on the beach with your babies; convincing you that you should stay just outside the frame so you don’t mess it up.  Lie.  It will speak to you of a husband who might not find you attractive anymore because you are no trophy, even as he tells you you’re the sexiest woman he knows.  Lie.  That damn voice will make you look around at every classroom party you go to, wondering how on bloody earth they do it and if their size makes them a better mother.  Lie.

Megan, there is one Voice you need to listen to and one only.  It will tell you that you are loved and a wonder.  It will speak of cloaking you in righteousness.  It will remind you that your citizenship is in heaven and that your work here is confined to bringing as many people with you as you can.  It will hang out with you on the couch in the small hours of the morning when all the babies are sleeping and it will confirm that you aren’t enough, but then in the lovingest way possible it will prove to you that The Voice is.  Enough.  And that you were never meant to be everything.  That wanting that is an idol you bow down to far too often.  Younger me, these are words I wish I could tell you when you are in middle school and wondering already how much size matters.  Megan, you have to believe me on this because I promise you it is truth.  Take care of your body, yes.  But the voices that tell you your size defines you?  They can go to hell.  Seriously.

this is me being real.

away.

We’re flying the coop to a place where we can finish sentences and eat off our own plates and sleep in.  We’re flying as far as we dare fly with so many kids going in so many directions and two pups thrown in and lots of medication.  Leaving these fools to the capable hands of a registered nurse who highlights as the greatest sitter.  They are thrilled; we are thrilled. And, while we wish it could be Naples or London or a million other places more exotic, Chicago is the best we can muster and so we do it every fall and we do it up big.  Nice hotel, upgrade to a suite, spa treatments, the works.  We might as well be in Naples.  Except it’s really cold and snowy and we drove here.  Other than that, same. It’s like a staycation only next level.  We did actually consider just going to to the JW downtown, but we knew they’d find us.  Uber themselves down and crawl into our bed, complaining of a sore tummy and ordering room service without our permission.  And most days we are happily found, but we need a couple days of lost.  Because this fall, especially, has been a killer and we feel like we are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun with Abe’s health up in the air and surgery looming and knowing it will take it’s toll.  Already has.

Six kids and two pups equals an insane amount of everything.  This week alone: two eye exams, one ortho, one pediatrician, one haircut, three practices, one riding lesson, two meetings at school and 13 basketball posters for lockers.  It’s Wednesday. This afternoon in the 17 minutes between an appointment and the kids getting off the bus, I fell asleep like a narcoleptic.  Could barely rouse myself when the door opened and the kids whirled in.  Thankfully I’d made their snack this morning between emptying the dishwasher and reading the lunch choices.  This craziness is nothing new to most of you; you live in this side show too, dreaming of running away on the worst days, even while knowing you never actually would.  Except to escape to Chicago with your love to spend three days with not family being selfish and lazy.  I’ve already ordered souvenirs for the girls from AG, so I don’t even have to set foot in that paragon of commercialism.  They are packed in my bag, which is waiting by the back door.  It’s Wednesday.  The boy’s lego’s should be arriving tomorrow and will be packed as well.  Yes! We missed you so much!  I can cross Watertower off my list and devote that extra time to Nordstrom and sleeping.  Sisters, enjoy your weekend and promise me you’ll do something just for you?  I talk a big game, but the truth is being away from my people is like cutting off my arms.  But my man needs me and I need him, so later tater.  So much love.

this is me being real.

letter. one.

Dear Younger Me,

This is the first in a series of letters to you aimed at getting to the heart of things you need to know to be better than me.  Which is a confusing way of saying, listen up; I have important stuff to say.  Because I’ve learned a lot on this road and you are just starting out and if you listen maybe, just maybe, you can avoid some of the pits I’ve fallen into. What follows won’t just be my sage advice, though that will be sprinkled in, but consider this a greatest hits of wisdom from all the very best sources.  You’ll listen on a cassette tape in your navy blue Volkswagen Cabriolet, top down and permed hair blowing in the wind.  You are so cool.  But you are stupid.

So turn it up, because the wind is loud and that is only one distraction in a sea of many and you are going to want to hear this.  But take breaks too, to just be a girl who doesn’t have a care in the world, because those are sweet days and they are giving birth to more and more responsibilities and never again will you feel so carefree as you do now.  I taste the memories of those days still and they are sweet on my tongue.  Your first kiss, the way your bedroom smelled in the fall after a summer away, that dance you and dan went to when you wore that Ann Taylor dress with pearls sewn all over it and he looked so handsome in his suit, double dates you’ll have, dozens and dozens of them, with Allie & Joel and John & Katie and Tim , smoking with the top down and thinking you are. so. cool. Megan, hold on to those days of fun and freedom because they are your now.  But listen up too, because  these words concern your someday.  You have no idea what is coming down the road and, like all travelers in a foreign land, you will need a guide.  So, here I am.  Let’s go.

this is me being real.

weekend.

I spoke with a woman last week who asked for prayer because a recent mammogram had turned up some asymmetry.  I wrote back, “Oh my word, I had that exact thing this summer.  Asymmetrical and fibrous and I tried to be so brave, but dan caught me in bed crying and google searching designer head scarves.  But they call you to the cancer center and you’re sure they’re going to tell you it’s cancer and you’re dying and I’m pretty positive they won’t, but I’ll be storming heaven just the same.  Because no matter how many people tell you they’ve had the exact same thing, it’s terrifying. Love you so much and let me know what they say, ok?”  Because if this has happened to you, you think, this is how it goes down, here in this place with the smells and that god-awful art.  Until you walk out the doors and you’re ok and you feel a bit foolish for having jumped to the worst when the best is what happens most of the time.

Sister, if you’re in a dark place, facing things that feel like they might consume you, I have this to say and it’s totally stolen from a dear one who struggles too: anxiety is a beast and sometimes he devours us and sometimes we take him for a walk.  And if the worst has happened, then you need your village.  And if it’s all in your head, well, that doesn’t make it any less real for you and you need your village too. You can’t do this life alone. We are herd people.  So just give a whistle and we will surround you until the beast is gone and you feel safe again. And if you’ve bought the lie that you’ll never be ok again, girl, you know that’s the devil’s Kool Ade.  Don’t drink that crap.

Now, let’s think about something lighter, shall we?  Like the fact that my kid ate homemade horse treats last weekend unknowingly and accused me of being the world’s worst cookie baker for making something that tastes like grass. Or how when I get a phone call, my watch, phone and Judith (laptop) all ring and light up and I don’t know how to stop it so I cover my ears and pray the person hangs up before I have a seizure. There is so much good in this life.  So much funny and sweet and lovely.  Let’s focus on those things this day, huh?

this is me being real.