Monday, March 23, 2015


Deep chocolate brown eyes.

Cherie, my sweet  and dear friend, will look into those eyes and gush, "Oh my goodness. He is such a charmer. Look at those bedroom eyes!"

He'll bat his eyelashes at her and add, "And do you see my golden curls?"

From Day 1, he has rocked a chin dimple that drives us all batty. He knows how to work this trifecta of cuteness to maximum advantage. 

He started talking early. I mean, early. By the time he was 15 months old we could have full fledged conversations. 

When he was 20 months old, I went for a Target run with him. I stopped off at Starbucks to get a latte. We wandered up and down the aisles together for awhile.  The only thing I needed to get from Target that day was escape. So we ventured out, latte in hand, looking for escape.

"Mom, wat dat?"

"Its a latte."

"I had dat sip?"

"You won't like it."


I held it up to his lips and he took a gulp. His eyes widened. I smiled, waiting for my opportunity to say, "see? I told you it would be yucky."

My moment never came.

"I need dat latte."

And so it began. 

And so it unraveled in many different ways.

While the other kiddos begged not to eat veggies, he would ask for more asparagus.  But with his own twist of course.

"Put dat lil' peppert. Dat lil' salt. Dat parmesans."

He refused to be left behind or treated like "the baby." He would often knock his eldest brothers to the ground just for the hell of it.

The manipulative cuddler, the bedtime snuggler and the candy smuggler. 

He wants the fluffiest towel when he gets out of his "relaxation Bublé bath."

He loves to perch high up against my hip when its time for a story. Slouched down in my lap just won't do.

His toes are always dirty. Always. 

He loves with ferocity. He is loyal and hilarious. Unbearably sneaky and sweet. Giver of grey hair and messy kisses. The all time best napping partner. 

5 years ago I lay stretched out on a hospital bed. My arms were peppered with purple bruises from multiple semi successful blood draws. 6 visits to the ER. I was covered in hives. Head to toe. Covered. My steroids would wear off and then my anaphylaxis would kick in again. Troubled breathing, violent stomach pain, retching, migraines, anxiety. Never ending anxiety. 

My 2 year old and 1 year old sons were home. 

Without me. 


They had just wheeled me back into the room after a rather long test/scan for pulmonary embolism.

A young doctor walked into the room. Blonde pony tail pulled back. Eyes that matched her scrubs. 

"You're pregnant. Barely pregnant. The count is low but its there."

"I just had a miscarriage a couple weeks ago. Thats impossible."

She shrugs, "Could be leftover hormone…but chances are you are pregnant. Maybe your body eliminated an embryo that wasn't viable but another remained."

"A twin?"

"You need to think about your options. You have been through a lot. Radiation. Multiple drugs. This was a traumatic experience. And you just had to stop nursing your baby because of your accident. I highly recommend looking at all your options."

"My options?"

"Termination. You have so many chemicals in your body and you could end up with severe complications and physical defects. Chances are you won't carry full term.  So yes, I recommend considering your options."

There was silence for about thirty seconds.

She looked tired and a bit impatient. 

I felt one hundred years old.

"You need to think about yourself."

I took a deep breath and wondered why our world is the way it is. Why the jewels are cast into the trash. Why murder is spoken of so casually. 

"I am thinking of myself. Truth is... my baby could come out looking like a unicorn and I would still treasure it. I am thinking of myself as I truly am in this moment. And that is a tired and weary protector. An advocate for this tiny little miracle who has no value or voice in this world. I don't feel the need to discuss this further. Adjust whatever medications need to be adjusted. I won't be killing my baby."

She nodded and left.

You and I stayed behind. 

The months that followed were dark. 

Mental illness is harrowing.  Growing a baby in the midst of that pain and bleakness feels like a cruel joke. 

Until I realized that it was the lifeline. 

The thing that kept me going. 

I'd run into the bathroom, lock the door and hide in the bathtub to escape the confused husband and the crying toddlers, but you stayed with me. I couldn't get away from you. And it reminded me that I couldn't run away from God. 

During those seemingly endless weeks of bed rest, you would nudge me awake every Wednesday morning, and we would take our daily escape to Bible Study Fellowship. We would go and be filled and come home and slip between the sheets and remain still for the next six days. You and I and Jesus. 

When the anxiety would hit, so would you. 

Swift kicks to the rib. 

Calling me back. Calling me home.

You were born in our home. Tiny brilliance. A long, arduous labor leading to the overwhelming gift that is you. Mercifully and miraculously without defect. 

I saved your life.

You saved mine.

I valued you then. I value you now. There was no minute in which you went from disposable tissue to sudden life that if taken could be punishable with incarceration. You were life from the beginning. We thought of you that way. 

Its no surprise that in many ways you are the heartbeat of our family. The greatest force of life, someone to be reckoned with. You survived the unthinkable. God's plan for your life started in the midst of chaos and disaster. We held on tight.

Your birthday is not till November. 

But this month, I am celebrating the moment when someone asked, "is it really worth it?" 

And we shouted, "YES! Yes. He is worth it."

Monday, December 22, 2014


Seven years ago on the 27th of December...

I lay on my hospital bed in all my hardwired post-partum misery.  I phoned the nursery at 4am and threatened them with bodily harm if they did not bring me my baby immediately. I'd rip out all the tubes and wires from my body and HUNT. THEM. DOWN.

They brought the baby.

I had not seen him since his terrible birth hours before on the 26th.

My Dad had stayed with me through night in one of those miserable armchairs that loudly proclaim "visitors are NOT welcome!" When they brought the Bear in, we both huddled close together and watched him open his eyes and take us in with a spark of miraculous recognition. It was a special, unforgettable moment. In fact, it is my first real memory of my son. If I ever have a "MY LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY EYES!" event, that moment will play in the slideshow.

Bear started growing up, steady and sweet. With a kind of heart breaking kindness and compassion purely innate to who he is. His sensitive heart is a brave and fragile wonder to behold.

Yesterday, he lost his first two teeth. Yes, two at once. With no days of wiggly teeth beforehand so we could make a preemptive run to the bank for some dollaz.

We were seated at the table, basking in the glow of our first farm raised meal. He turned and informed me that his mouth hurt. Lo and behold, two fully grown adult teeth jutted out from behind his baby teeth. I reached out and touched a baby tooth and it went from firm to holy wigglyness in two seconds.

"I am so efficient" Bear said in a proud voice.  "No holes for me."

I pulled out his teeth with string and placed them in the palm of my hand. I still remember the excitement over their homecoming when the Bear was nearly 12 months old. Finally! Teething crackers! Now they've done their job and their time is up. Who knew milk teeth could usher in near emotional breakdown?

I've watched him closely this week, savoring the sixness of him.  I adore his habits, even the messy ones that so heavily mark these boyhood adventure days.

The wooden box next to his bed filled with revolutionary war soldiers. He takes them out and lines them up carefully, then returns them back to the box in a precise order.

The pile of books always strewn about his bed. His bed never lacks an open book.

His enthusiasm for a great story. "Read it again! And make the voices even crazier please!"

He rarely wishes anyone "Merry Christmas" instead he says, "A most heartfelt Merry Christmas to you!"

The sound of his wheels turning just before he builds something incredibly creative and out of the box.

His scent when he comes in from an afternoon of outdoor play. Sunshine, crushed grass and freshly churned earth.

The way his face crumples before he apologizes to one of his brothers. The broken way he says "I love you, will you forgive me?" The purest contrition I've ever heard in a child comes from this little boy of mine.

His innocence. Its still intact. In this day in age, that is miraculous and I thank God for this gift. Shepherding him over the next few years to keep that innocence without it festering into ignorance will be a tricky line to walk.

Seven. He is turning seven in five short days. I don't know why this birthday feels so much more monumental than turning six did, but it does.

Six was a tremendous year for him. He accepted Jesus into his heart. He conquered his fears and learned to ride a bike. He learned to jump out of trees and learned how to stick up for himself a little more. He lost his first two teeth. He learned to read. He took risks. He overcame his first failures. He asked really tough questions and gave really thoughtful answers. He discovered Sherlock Holmes and George Washington and Paul Revere. He became a die hard patriot. He laughed a lot! He mastered his lightsaber vocal sound effects. He memorized more scripture this year than I have in my entire life and challenged me to join him next year.

I am proud of my boy. We are mere days away from "Happy Birthday dearest" and so I am soaking in all those bits of charming boyness before they shift, evolve and disappear unannounced one day between breakfast and lunch.

Instead of joining in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the Holidays, I am off to memorize my son's hands, the way they look today, a breath before turning seven.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


"When I grow up I want to live across the street from you. I want to live in a blue house with a red door. I'll have five kids and a wife and we will visit you every day."

Your eyes are wide with excitement when you tell me this.

"The number on my house will be 6531 because that is how old me and my brothers are today and I like this year better than any other year and I always want to remember when we were 6, 5, 3 and 1."

My eyes are wide and wet with tears as I listen.

"Mom? We are going to stay together always, right? Because we are family nothing is ever going to keep up apart, right?"

"I will be here as long as you need me."

"Moooom," you tilt your head to the side in exasperation, "I am ALWAYS going to need you."

"Then I will always be here for you."

You nod, satisfied, and move off to chase your baby brother and build a rocket and grow 4 inches in a year and learn your multiplication table and catch fish and carve wood and mow the lawn and kiss a girl and finish school and pack up your car and drive away.

You are 5 today and gone tomorrow.

So do me a favor, Cubs. Stretch out every day. Roll the minutes out in a long slow line of marching ants. We can lay down side by side and watch them march. It will take a long time but we will stay for every second of it.

Speaking of ants, lets have a picnic. Out in the sun, under a tree, with lots and lots of books strewn about and a hefty slice of pie for each of us.

 Lets have an adventure that has nothing to do with the rest of the world and everything to do with our little family, rolling around the great outdoors.

Lets climb the tallest tree and tie a sail in the boughs and go on a floating pirate voyage into the clouds.

Lets have messy ice cream days and crazy dances in the mud hole.

Lets watch the baby chicks hatch and let me memorize the freckles on your nose and the sweep of your lashes.

 Lets stretch 6531 as far and long as we can until the days of 7642 arrive and then lets do it all over again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Six Chickens

The aches and pains of farm life stretch far and wide. 

Sore muscles, busted up knuckles, pulled backs, hornet stings, irretrievable splinters, all kinds of fun. 

The last few days have brought ache and pain of a different kind. 

The aches and pains of the farmer's heart.

Its one thing to butcher a healthy animal in a humane and dignified way, its quite another to euthanize an injured animal. 

I don't know that I will ever go through the motions of that process disaffected. I had to put down one of our chickens on Good Friday, after our boxer broke into the chicken coop. It was a visceral hurt, cut quick in the gut and permeating the brain and wrenching out grief you didn't know you could ever feel for a chicken. One was more than I could take. J put down the other chicken once he arrived home.

On Saturday I loaded the kids into the car and we headed out to a local farm and picked up four new hens and headed home. Quick and easy, I thought.

Thus began a weekend of trial and error.

Did you know that introducing adult hens into a flocks of other adult hens is a bad idea? 

I didn't.

Did you know that you have to quarantine the new chickens from the old flock for thirty days before integrating?

I didn't.

Did you know that the old gentle flock will suddenly turn into the bitches from Mean Girls the minute you try and move a few new hens in?

Yeah. It got ugly real fast.

Quarantine for thirty days?? Are ya kidding me?

We have a grand total of ONE chicken coop. Its a great coop, thick cement on the outside, predator proof, nice wood nesting boxes. Truly, a great coop. But it is coop, singular. J built a fantastic chicken tractor but it is by no means a long term solution if you need to quarantine chickens and keep two separate flocks. This was made abundantly clear on Monday morning. 

I made my early morning trudge to the coops with their feed bucket and met with carnage a la king. Turns out our dog was whining last night for a reason. A fox dug a hole underneath the tractor and destroyed all four of our new hens.

A heavy salve of guilt and horror was smeared over Friday's raw wound. 

I wanted to leave the mess for J to deal with when he got home. But I have four boys in the house waiting to run outside and play. So I took a deep breath and barreled through the clean up.

I knew going into this that farming would not come to us instinctually. We are sorely lacking in basic farm knowledge. But we will get it. Hard earned and sweat soaked, it will come to us. 

10 minutes later I walked inside, half defeat and half determination, if such a mixture is possible. I picked up the phone and called my favorite farmers, my Abuelos. Knowledge a plenty over there.

Abuela E commiserated with me over the losses. Six chickens in three days. Ouch. We didn't get to eat a single one. Wastefulness. Which stings on a whole other level once you have shared a home and broken bread with someone who has nothing. 

She started sharing her stories. Her false starts and her trials and her errors and her miseries and her moments of frustration. I listened and laughed and teared up a few times. I felt grateful that at the age of 30, I can still pick up the phone, call grandparents and let age old wisdom soak in through the receiver. 

I don't know how much the boys will remember of this trial and error phase of farm life.  Will they remember seeing their Mama's tears on that Good Friday when she had to kill a hurting friend? Will a hazy memory of the fox hole and the explosion of feathers ever break the surface? 

Boys, this is worth it. All this heart ache and pain. We do it because we love it, yes. But we also do it for you.

A few days ago Cubs came bounding into my room, overall-clad and freckled, sun-streaked hair and cheeks pink and sweaty from the outdoors. "I love farm work! I am a great farmer boy." 

Those words were said proudly, with great enthusiasm and joy.

 It made me want to press forward, it made me know that I could. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Farm Progress

A farm.

That has always been the dream. From our first walk on the shore of Lake Michigan the day we met, its always been that distant romantic idea of "farm life."

Once we started dating, the dream revved up. 

Once we were engaged it became the goal. 

We prayed that our will aligned with whatever God's for us was, but really…we hoped that His will included our hearts desire. 

Back in January, we closed on the dream. 

2.5 acres of dream land.

We spent a month tearing up the inside and getting the place "move in ready."

Then we had to pack the rental and unpack in the new house.

We are bone tired.

Which is saying a lot because as the parents of four boys aged 6 and under….we KNOW tired like the back of our hands. 

The compost bins are built.

The banana garden is in place.

The chicken coop is prepped and we currently have four hens laying around 14 eggs per week. 

Its just a fraction of all the things we want to do here and all ready, we are so deeply tired!!!

But I am encouraged when I see the boys help around the farm. They are so eager to work and learn. 

My heart feels so deeply grateful and thankful to the Lord for providing this place. 

J and I look at each other every day and we say the same thing…

"I can't believe we get to live here." 

In a few weeks the garden will be in full swing for staging.  I'll be attempting to make a natural fence using some of the materials on our farm.  The boys want to make a children's garden for themselves. We'll be deciding whether we raise goats or pigs on the back lot. We'll be eagerly waiting for the first farm harvests, avocados and pineapples. 

So much work and excitement on the horizon, but really I am feeling such contentment here in this day, feeling thankful and working myself to satisfying exhaustion. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014


We get a lot of comments.

Day to day, out and about, people see us and feel the need to comment.

Usually, they stick to the predictable comments we hear all of the time. Any combination of the following:

1. "You sure do have your hands full!"
2. "Are they ALL yours?"
3. "Are they ALL boys?"
4. "Any twins in there?"
5. "You must be exhausted."

While we sometimes roll our eyes at these, they are mostly the harmless declarations of people who really don't know what to say but feel the need to say something, anything.

Sometimes we get great comments. Like…

1. "What well behaved little boys!"
2. "We had four children too. Best years of our lives."
3. "You must have a lot of fun."
4. "What a great bunch of kiddos!"

At other times, we are on the receiving end of some pretty horrific statements…..

1. "Why did you have so many?"
2. "People should really have no more than two children. You need to take care of the earth."
3. "How do you do it? I hate kids. I can't even imagine what you go through."
4. "Four boys???? Yuck."
5. "Did you have this many on purpose?"
6. "Are they all your real children or did you adopt some?"

After all, children are a burden from the Lord. Oh, no wait. Scratch that. Children are a blessing from the Lord. But these days, our world tells us quite clearly, children are a burden, a distraction, a headache, a waste of time and money. Adopted kids are just something you collect, they are not even "real" children. Apparently, children are so inconvenient to some they are likened to pollution. Fecundophobia. A child created in the womb is the equivalent of medical waste. Not ready for this burden? Doctors will vacuum  it out of you, piece by torn piece, until life becomes painful death discarded.

There are days when I read the news and my heart sinks down to my toes. I look at the glorification of sinful lifestyles, war, corporate corruption, and I wonder "what have I brought my children into this world to endure?" Slimy prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers, truly a force of Satan in this world. Other "christians" who do everything they can to minimize Jesus and remove authority from the bible in their churches so that they can accommodate their own social acceptance and sexual desires. It is truly gut wrenching.

But then from the next room, I hear a child singing.

"It is finished, He has done it. Let your weary heart rejoice."

My weary heart. The very one that is lifted when a child rounds the corner, joy bursting from his every pore, to recite a verse or two of scripture. My weary heart is filled with peace when I think of what He has done.

These perceived burdens running around my house remind me of freedom and victory.

I look at their lives and feel a heavenly affirmation that He is in control.

They have no past to look at. Nothing to compare the current world with and say, "things have fallen apart. Where is God in this mess?" They live in the world's current state and despite man's best efforts to pollute and manipulate,  the boys still know and experience the love of our one true God.

No one can rewrite His words or His laws or His love. What He has created has value and meaning and purpose, no matter how we try to rearrange things in the name of "social progress." We do not make the definitions, we only pervert meanings.

My life may seem wasted to many. But to me, these days are precious. They are purposeful. Even if the purpose for the day is bathing my three year old for the fifth time that day and nursing a snotty infant back to health. It is done in His name and therefore it has a shimmer of His glory in it.

Which is why my heart's response is always the same, no matter what comment comes my way.

"We are grateful for all the joy and life God has blessed us with."

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Taking advantage of a late napping hour for the younger boys while the elder children play outside on this lovely day. Its been months since I have sat down to blog in earnest. I didn't want to spend time away from the children for the first half of the homeschool year. We needed space to carve out an understanding of how we were going to do this thing. I am glad we did.

I love homeschooling. Its surprised me in so many ways. I have exceeded my expectations in some areas and failed spectacularly in others. My children and I have learned how to extend grace to one another and mean it. We have felt frustration and triumph and misery and joy. I am grateful.

J and I will be starting a fresh new chapter in our lives next week. We will be closing on a house, a 2.5 acre farm. J mentioned the other night that he has been praying for a home like this, with land to work, for years. Years before we even met each other. We are so excited. We are giddy with it.

Right now all is idyllic and lovely. We imagine the chickens, goats, gardens, fruit trees, etc without the harsh reality of poop, more poop, weeds, intense labor, etc. Its similar to the weeks leading up to the labor and birth of your first child. We know the work is coming, but right now our minds are rife with pleasant thoughts of rural life.

We have all this unharnessed potential energy accumulating around the house. The boys are plotting their adventures and seem eager to dive into life on a farm. As always, they watch us intently, taking cue from our own approaches to this great life change. We've moved them around quite a bit and I can sense the bottom layer of nervous apprehension, familiar to me as I wear my own concealed layer riddled with "what ifs." I try and talk it through with them from time to time. Our focus stays on the Lord and how thankful we are to Him for providing this home.

How strange, the intense cross country journey He took us on to reveal where He wanted us to be all along. He is merciful in quickly crushing our misplaced dreams and rerouting us in a new direction. It was painful, but necessary. A good pruning.

We'll be moving in late February. Before then we have loads of home repair work to embark upon. We have little experience but eager hands, which will hopefully go a long way! Once we are settled in the next round of work begins. Clearing land and preparing the gardens and chicken coops.

We can't wait to record all the adventures our little farmers have in their new space.