Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, My Friends

Merry Christmas!

I'm sitting in the quiet - well, somewhat quiet, as we wait for the family to arrive for all that this day brings.  We've got carols playing and the coffee is hot and we were just able to have a quick video chat with Matteo in China.  

It's strange to not have him here, but it's ok.  We're a church worker family so Christmas has always been about everyone being someplace different and arriving at staggered times and then naps once they having a son on a different continent is just a little like that.

Sort of.


This season has been so much harder than usual.  It's me...and I know that.  I just keep waiting for that 'feeling' to come...the feeling of Christmas.  The warmth, the joy, the peace.

I realize much of that is the timing of the actual holiday this year...working through Friday and then boom, here it is!  But still, I've been waiting.

There have been so many parties this year and each one has gotten more and more there has been much good.  The gifts are all wrapped and under the tree and this year there was a conscious effort to keep things simple and smaller...every few years I notice that Christmas gifts begin getting bigger and bigger and we (as in me) need to dial it down.  That this family of mine has everything they need and don't need piles and piles of more things.  

But I do love to spoil everyone just a bit with something they've had their eye on....whether they need it or not, simply because it's fun.


But this year I've been waiting.  And waiting.  Waiting for that 'feeling' to come...the feeling of Christmas.  The feeling of being little again and sitting at my Grandparents with all my cousins. Of the smells and sounds and sights of Christmas past.

But things change when you become the Matriarch of Christmas present.   And the change isn't bad...but the change does bring a bit more organization.  And a bit more menu planning.

And then last night, while sitting in church, I realized.  I'm waiting for a feeling to come...but Christmas is not about a feeling.  Christmas is about faith...and faith alone.  Faith is knowing and trusting and believing without seeing or feeling.

I still want the feeling...but I want the knowing a whole lot more.

This past season has been harder than any other we've walked through.  We haven't shared and we won't, but the last few months have just been hard.  We hold hands, we pray, and we wait...we wait for life to become a little easier.  And still, God continues to throw down hurdle after hurdle after hurdle and then to top it off, there've been walls for us to climb over.  

And we do, one step at a time.  

I think of Peter in the boat and of Jesus holding out his hand and telling him to trust.  That if he does, all will go well and he will not sink.  And so Peter begins to walk and rather than having faith, he begins to doubt and starts to sink...and then Jesus grabs him and all is ok.  But first he gives him a reminder that his savior is always there.

And through this valley we've been trudging through...the one that has felt very long and very dark, we know that Jesus is gently guiding us.  That he is standing, hand out, asking us to trust.

But sometimes, it's just plain hard.

I'm trying to focus on the lights.  And the smells.  And the sounds...because woah, the music has been glorious this year.  Quieter than usual, and that seems fitting. 

My human brain continues to settle into the negatives though and that makes me ashamed because I do know better.  I have so much to be thankful for but it's just been easier to sit in the ugly...even at this beautiful time of year.

And yet there is so much joy and so much laughter and so. many. cookies.

Because as we all know, cookies make everything better.


Merry Christmas, my friends.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Yesterday morning, the local buffet place - the one conveniently located next to a 24 hour fitness, opened it's doors for around 50 hardworking school crossing guards.  As a Christmas gift to them, we bought them all lunch and let them rest their feet a bit.

But no one really rests their feet at a buffet place because you just keep getting up to get more food, so it really is like working out and eating at the same time.  Mashed potatoes and stuffing and meatloaf and green beans and banana pudding and enough already...but it was soooo good.  I texted our middle boy while I was there knowing this is his kind of place...all you can eat comfort food.  We'll be back together next week.


And then I got a call from that guy that I like so much, who had an invite from friends for dinner.  Every year at this time I begin to wonder if our schedules can hold even one more event but I can't think of what we'd let go of.  Besides our sanity, that is...but I lost that years ago while raising this houseful of boys.

And oh, how I long to be rid of the piles.  And the dirty tissues because yeah, it's also cold season and while I'm in denial, I'm miserably sniffly and sneezy and (according to my boyfriend) snore-y.  

Because hello, stuffy nose.

I'm continually blessed by technology and the fact that I can not only hear, but see, where my boy lives.  His kitchen is getting fancy thanks to China's version of ebay and he's already said that his wok is the most amazing thing ever.  

It's still a bit surreal...he's lived away for so many years that it just feels like he's the next state over.  We video chat almost every day as he walks to school, I've 'met' his colleagues, I've seen and heard his handsome face.

God is good.  (and please keep him safe.  amen.)

In other healthy food news, I made this sweet/salty frito mix for people to munch on while we waited for the turkey to cook on Thanksgiving.  Heve I mentioned that yet?  That the bird came out and rested and when that guy that I like so much went to carve it, it wasn't all the way cooked?  As in RAW?  Carved it up anyway, threw it in the oven at 425 and nobody was wiser.  Except me.  And everyone else who was here.

But alls well that ends well and it turned out just fine.  But I'm buying a new thermometer.


Anyway, this mix.  Found it here ( and doubled the recipe but only made a single batch of the caramel.  I think it would be too sweet with a full batch. 


And outside the winds are blowing hot, hot gusts while my beloved state burns and burns.  Pray for's so dry here and the fires are burning out of control.  We're way far away but know so many who are right there and it's sad and scary.  


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

When I Grow Up...

 ....I want to be the Innkeeper.

He was doing his thing, running an Inn.  I picture the sweeping of floors, the making of beds, the making of food and drink.  The laundry and dishes...because there is always, always laundry and dishes.

He, I would think, had a partner helping out behind the scenes.  Someone who was chopping wood and onions, spreading hay, feeding animals.  Someone who, when the sun dropped behind the hills and the moon rose high over the fields, would lay down next to him and share in the secrets of the day.

He was 'just' an Innkeeper.  And he was probably thrilled when the decree came to have all return to their hometowns to be counted and taxed because times for most were tough and that ruling meant that business, for a short time anyway, would boom.

And then, into the town of Bethlehem, came a sweet new couple.  They were tired from the journey and probably cold and a little bit hungry.  She was so very pregnant and feeling heavy and maybe a tad bit cranky...or was that only me when carrying my babes?

It was dark and the journey had been long.  They knocked and knocked and no one had room.

But the innkeeper...he saw something.   Or maybe it was that person I envision standing beside him.  However it was, he saw beyond two people and their donkey begging for a place.  He saw two human beings who needed help.

I'm assuming that life hadn't always been easy for the innkeeper because there are so few that haven't ever had to work hard, to figure things out when life was tough, to worry.  He was just an innkeeper after all...not a king or a prince or nobleman.

He knew every bed was taken and maybe even all the couches, too.  He knew that there simply was not enough room anywhere in that little inn, but rather than turn them away, he saw something in them.  They were real people.  He then thought to his stable.  It was warm in there and trampled hay softens to a silky sort of smoothness.  He set them all up, inside and away from the harshness of the weather.

He didn't know anything about them and yet, rather than turning his back, he helped.  He gave his last available space to them for the night.  That Innkeeper didn't know that she was carrying a prince, a king, a savior.  

He just did what he knew in his heart was right.  That Innkeeper wasn't too proud to offer his stable...our Lord wasn't too good to be born in one.

I want to be like that Innkeeper.  I want to throw open our doors of our little house and welcome all in.  I want to close my eyes to the clothes people wear and the cars they drive and the work they do.  I want to greet all who knock.  I want the conversations to be safe and the laughter to be great and the music to be lovely and the food to be plenty.

I don't want to stress about the laundry or the sweeping of floors or the chopping of onions.  I want to honor my savior in the way I open our home.

I pray that those who enter will have a glimpse to the bigger picture of what it is we are trying to be in this little house on this little street.  


Friday, October 27, 2017

Hotter Than Ever

The word of the week is HOT.  Like, hotter than hell kind of hot.  Hot and dry and windy and hello?  It's October and we're ready for Fall.

I've turned up the AC and currently have a pork loin slow roasting in the oven with green beans, onions and potatoes because it's too hot to even turn on the grill but because the oven is cranked up, the house is struggling to cool down.

Oh well...smells good in here.

Brian had his first official men's chorus concert this semester and whoa!  Look like your Dad much?

What a cutie this youngest of our houseful of boys is.  He's still full steam ahead pre-med but is leaning towards physical therapy...kinda fun to watch the 3rd child figure things out.  We've lost that whole parenting pressure thing and the bottom line is - he'll figure it out.  We can't micro-manage the heck out of every move he makes because we've been worn out by his older brothers.

Lucky him.


I've been doing a bible study on Proverbs 31 that had started as an online group but has turned in to something so much more for me.  I'm struggling, my friends...struggling to find that happy medium of being a wife and a mom (to grown boys) and homemaker and working woman.  My work is ok...I do it because it is something that God has handed me but I know to the very core of my being that I am a true homemaker.

And I miss it.  A lot.

I will forever be thankful that I could live that calling while our boys were being raised.  I know it's not for everyone but for me it was the best gift ever...that guy that I like so much worked so hard, without complaining, to make that happen.  What a beautiful gift that is...more valuable to me than a fancy car or jewelry.

Insert sappy tears.

In other news, we have an avocado!


One is more than none but really???

The fav breakfast around these parts is avocado toast...toast some bread, smush on an avocado, sprinkle with salt and olive oil and yum yum yum.

Our little house on our little street might have emptied of boys, but it's still full of pets.  The kind that shed loads of fur.

Good thing they're cute!

This weekend is going to be fairly quiet.  Lots of football for him, lots of Hallmark for me.  The annual Christmas fruitcake will be made - it needs to soak for 30 days before it can be eaten.  My desk is a mess, the laundry is piled up, and on one of the weekend nights I'll roast a few chickens and the garden will fill with people we love...the weather is turning, so sweaters will probably be involved.

Feels good to be back here.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Much Quieter Houseful

Hello, my friends.  I've gotten your emails and yes, I'm still here.  Ready for an update?


Matteo arrived in China and is navigating through 3rd world challenges in a part of the country where no one, aside from the two other people on the music faculty that he is teamed with, speaks English.   But this kid of ours has such an adventuresome spirit that he's doing it all with a smile (and red sunglasses) on his face.  

We've got a great app that we are using and have a fun family chat going at all hours of the day and night...because hello, there's a 15 hour time difference.  Thankfully we can text and call and send videos and while I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology, I currently love love love it.

But China, my friends, is far away.  And when your boy texts all his life stuff...things like passport issues and work permit issues and he tells you about flights to not close at all cities where he lands and then has to take an hour-long taxi ride to the embassy that my oh my, being the mama of an expat is hard.   But it's also good.

Alex has moved, too, and yowza, do I miss him.  He's bigger than life and while quiet, you always know when he's around because he's...hmmmm, how do I say this nicely?

Alex is a slob.  Like a full-on Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.  So while I miss his wit and humor and funny comments, I do not miss his stuff being everywhere he's been.  From socks to dishes to water bottles to ripped open mail...he could keep a full-time housekeeper busy day and night.

But he is so happy and that is infectious to be around.


I had to travel to Florida for work and was able to squeeze in an Italian dinner with my favorite Italians.  These trips are so busy and so packed full and work feels so very very hard right now that this was a beautiful respite.  I'm finding that I'm struggling with my attitude...with finding the joy in day to day life because I'm, well, feeling sorry for myself and mourning what was and knowing full well that I need to let all that go and begin living the gift that I've been given today.

And so every day I remind myself and as of this week, I'm usually able to make it to 8:00am before I start grumbling.

Ah's a process.  But a quick visit with my family who I love so much was a blessing.

I flew home in time to gather with some of my favorite people on the planet at Oktoberfest in Anaheim.  I look forward to this all year and it's just so. much. fun.

Loud, but fun.


We (as in my boy and our friend) built a tall tower of cups and we all danced the chicken dance and drank great German beer and laughed and talked and I just kept hugging all my peeps.  

But's not cheap.  But then again, nothing is.

I really love this kid.


And if you want a taste of real life, and of my real life personality...well, here's me having it out with security.  I mean COME ON - why can't we dance on the tables????  

Though at this point I think I was inviting him and his whole family to dinner, because that's how I roll.


Our little house on our little street is clean more often than not because it's no longer a houseful of boys...but rather a houseful of pets.

Might have to change the blog name, except there still seems to be a lot of boys in and out.

That guy that I like so much has been working all sorts of crazy long hours because as Lutherans, this is a big anniversary year...and because of that there seems to be event after event followed by a huge concert on November 1st.

But then we had an afternoon where we escaped reality and headed for the happiest place on earth for a few hours.  The weather was beautiful and it was exactly what we needed...though I think, sadly, this will be our last year of passes for a while.  

You know, the whole boy in college and it's just not easy thing...and we've gotta be responsible adults.


This past Friday night we filled the garden with friends and then on Saturday morning we had coffee with Matthew while he told us all the news in his part of the world.  Things like the fact that there are no western toilets anywhere (yikes) and that they found oreos in a nearby town (green tea flavored) and that he's comfortable enough now to get out of a taxi if they won't give him the price he wants. 

Brian (and his dad) had a concert Saturday night and Sunday was a church visit for that guy that I like so much followed by a huge afternoon rehearsal.  But then Emily and Alex came for supper and I cooked a prime rib that I found in the back of the outside freezer, complete with twice baked potatoes and a big salad.

It felt like a weekend, even though it was so busy.

I had a moment today...a moment where I was taking communion at church and the choir was singing 'ubi caritas' and it sounded - and felt like heaven.  Like there was no noise...just this warm peace that enveloped me.  Like God himself was hugging me and in that moment, nothing else mattered.  The tears came and I didn't want to move...I didn't want to leave that sacred space.  

I can't explain it but it was bigger than me and oh, how I needed that reminder of how big, and in control, my God is.  I'm holding on to that as the week begins.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There's Been A Good Reason...

...why I haven't been around these parts.  So many changes in our little house on our little street and even as I sit at my kitchen counter and write, the tears just can't contain themselves. really should burn more calories than it does.


The big things that are happening are the moves of our boys.  One local, one far away...but both, while so exciting for them, have hit me pretty hard.  I'm feeling the change of our family and if I can be honest, it scares me a bit.  I know we've raised them well and they are thriving...but suddenly our little house is so much quieter.  I'll get used to it...but it's just a bit sad.

So...boy #1.  New job, teaching at a college conservatory in Haikou, China.  Thousands and thousands of miles away.  His excitement makes it all ok and also, the 'wechat' app ROCKS...though we're all going to have to adjust to the 15 hour time difference.

 Having Matthew home this summer was a blessing - for me and for his brothers.  Cramming 5 adults into 1,200 sq ft was a challenge...lots of food, lots of showers, lots of (if I'm keeping it real) beer, lots of late nights, lots of friends in and out and lots of me asking questions while they rolled their eyes.

My role is simple.  Cook, clean, and listen.  

I fail every. single. day.

 Summer came to an end and with it, the closing of the weekend garden parties.  There will be a few more here and there but all in all, we're all back to real life.


 We discovered jackfruit and as soon as it was cut open (with a machete!), we vowed to undiscover it.  

Quite simply...ewww.   But fun nonetheless!

 Boy #2 signed a new lease yesterday and is moving this weekend to the next town over.  It's been fun having him around, too, and I will probably feel his absence more than any of the others.  With Alex comes more than Alex...there's the whole group of friends that are always in and out of our home.  

But it's time and I'm so excited for him.  He's worked so hard and has taught us so much and here I go again...waterworks.  I'm just going to miss him, that's all.

If the kitchen looks like this, then it's a Friday night.  Or a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday.  So many dishes...but so much fun.

 And hey rained this summer in the middle of a sunny, humid day.  We kind of thought the world was ending but then it stopped as quickly as it started.

Insert the Twilight Zone song...

Going away party #1.

Got the basics covered.

 Our friends moved across the street and so we had a housewarming garden party to christen their new home.

Any excuse for a party.


 I'm back to work and in a new, much bigger, position.  The jury is still out on my feelings but each day, I wake up and tackle what needs to be done.  I'm settling in, slowly, and it will all be good.

My pretty desk has always been in our's one of my favorite pieces of furniture.  The problem is, I am now staring at it all the time and can't ever escape the work that needs to be done...but with Alex moving out this week, a little rearranging will be happening as I move my 'office' into the other room.

Kinda exciting.

 The last panforte from Italy was eaten as a way of ending the summer.

So yummy and I'm going to miss them and man oh man, I'm now crying about a fruitcake.


 That guy that I like so much ended his church was just time for that chapter to close.  Such great people and he's enjoying the little bit of time that has freed up...but it's all a bit sad too because he loved doing it so much.

Sensing a pattern of God giving us all these changes at once????

 While this week is all about Alex packing up and moving, last week was all about Matthew.  Necesseties when moving to China...toothpaste, deopderant, hot sauce.  Lots and lots of hot sauce.

Trying to fit everything you need in two suitcases...especially when three trumpets needed to go along for the ride, was challenging.  Lots of weighing and moving things from one place to another.

In the end - the toilet paper stayed.  The basketball did not.

 One last OktoberFest and one last reminder of what great friends he has.  I love that about my boys....they each have surrounded themselves with incredible people.

Crying again.

Sunday night, before his 1:40am flight, one last family dinner.  We were missing Alex and Emily, but they were there in spirit. 

And then we loaded up and as we drove off, our Turkish friends threw water behind our car to wish Matthew good luck.  It was all very cool...and yep, still crying.

I held it together until it was time to say goodbye and then I just couldn't.  I'll forever be thankful for this summer and that he let us be a part of this whole expat's been a journey even before the journey.  None of it was easy...or cheap, but it all worked out in the end.

I'm going to miss him...especially at Christmas.  But first, baby steps.  

This mom gig...what a trip.  Raise them up and watch them fly.  I know they'll never understand and my prayer has always been that they won't have to because they'll just always know that my love for them is constant.  Unwavering.  Unchanging.  

I think they know.

(insert more crying.  I'm giving myself a few more days before I toughen up...)


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