How to choose family

Family is only as distant as we allow ourselves to be.Brian opened the door for me and I slid into the back seat of a taxi cab for our 10-minute ride deeper into downtown San Diego.

Are you here for business or for vacation, the driver asked as we passed palm trees and then drove by street lamps that curved into modern art.

Both, we answered. I would spend my day attending a conference, while my husband walked to a maritime museum and searched for the best seafood.

Trying out a new — thankful — bedtime routine

We aren’t the most structured family. I blame it on the number of kids. I blame it on my creative genes. I’ve even been known to blame it on my husband, poor guy.

But we’re trying something new. A few times a week, we’re gathering as a family to read before bedtime. We light the candles on the mantle and we bring our pillows into the living room.

Jessie, our 13-year-old, fills out a journal page and can then doodle as we read. (We found these amazing, free journal printables here:

Then, 4-year-old Benjamin is responsible for bring out the wooden cigar box that holds our notebooks. The rule is that we start by opening up our own notebook and writing something good about ourselves. Then, we pass our notebooks around so that others can write what they like about us.

The first night I took dictation for Benjamin, who whispered to me that he thought Jessie and 19-month-old Colt were his best friends.

“Did I tell Jessie that he was a big chunk of help?” Benjamin asked as I tucked him in to bed. When I told him no, Benjamin said he was pretty sure that’s what he would write the next night.

We’ve missed nights here and there, but I’m trying to not get too hung up on that. We just want to focus on some of the great gifts God has given us — each other.

P.S. I borrowed much of this idea from author (and all-around-gracious-person) Ann Voskamp. You can read how her family uses journaling as a spiritual discipline here:

P.P.S. Within 30 minutes of writing this, all three boys got in trouble. Perhaps I’ll wait 20 years or so before writing about parenting again.

Sharing the faithfulness of generations

I spent the first eight years of my life next door to my grandma. All that separated us was a gate and there were many days when I swung that gate open half a dozen times. I knew she would always have applesauce, and I knew where she kept the Trouble game. I heard her stories and felt the stitches of her quilts.

My boys live 1,200 miles from my mama. They know her voice on the phone. They feel the joy of pulling into her driveway after months away, and they sit with her on the porch when she visits us. But they are too young to understand the history that she holds. They forget what her eyes have seen. They don’t know yet that she has the answers to questions they will one day ask.

That’s why this time she visited we set aside time for family stories. After the rush of Easter we had Mama fix scrambled egg sandwiches just like Daddy made. We ate ice cream on cones like Grandma and Grandpa used to do every night when they watched the news.

Mama made chicken fried steak and told how her daddy lived through the Tulsa race riots — how his family walked on the railroad tracks to safety in another town. She talked about her favorite doll and her bicycle, about not having a telephone until after she was married.

My mother-in-law came, too. Even though she lives nearby she brought things my boys had never seen. A metal cigar box from Holland that had been her grandfather’s. A cross that had always sat on her grandmother’s Bible. A bracelet made of Dutch coins. Stories of potatoes made with kale, of hot tea mixed with milk.

The boys’ eyes got big. They asked questions. They took an interest in where they had come from. Maybe it will help them on the way to where they are going.

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1

The trials and tribulations of getting to church on time

It’s true that pride comes before a fall because I was pretty smug about having my entire family take showers on Saturday night and pick out their church clothes for the next morning. This was going to be the week, the week that we got to church on time.

Usually my goal is arriving before the nice, organized family with 10 kids, but I’d been dreaming of going beyond that, of actually being seated before the songs started. So, I was taking action, that is until our 2-year-old yelled, “No pants! No pants!”

“You absolutely have to wear pants to church,” I explained as I wrestled to slip the right leg on before he kicked off the left. Then, our 10-year-old walked into the room wearing a striped polo that was on backward and baggy camouflage pants that I’m pretty sure he had played in for two days.

“Is this OK?” he asked. I suggested different pants, perhaps solid-colored ones, but I did not say a word about the fact that his shirt was facing the wrong direction. And when he came back wearing slacks with one leg tucked into a white tube sock, I still said nothing. Time was slipping away from me – and so was his bare-bottomed little brother.

Somehow my husband and I dressed, let the fluffy dog out and got the boys in the car, only to discover we didn’t have diapers with us and that we hadn’t fed our family. Fifteen minutes and one fast-food stop later, we arrived at church. Late.

Our oldest son, who had switched his shirt around by this time, headed to children’s church, but the youngest screamed when we got within five feet of the nursery. The three of us settled into a pew near the back just in time for a prayer and just in time for the little guy to say, “Mommy poopa pants.” Loudly. More than once. I was never so glad to hear an amen.

Maybe it was grace, but the rest of the service went smoothly, and we laughed all the way to the car. “Jesus cool,” we heard from the toddler in the car seat.

Success, after all.

P.S. I actually wrote this article a couple of years ago. Since then, we’ve added one more son and I don’t remember ever making it to church on time.

Heavenly snow ice cream

Today I’d like to introduce you to a little scoop of heaven: snow ice cream.

It’s something I grew up with. Grandma made it for me anytime enough snow fell in Oklahoma to cover the grass, and now I make it for my boys. And my husband. And our next door neighbor.




Here is the super special recipe:

  • Take about a gallon of fresh snow.
  • Add 1 cup sugar; 1 tsp vanilla and 1 can condensed milk.
  • Stir.
  • If it is still a bit dry, add a little milk.
  • Keep stirring (and adding a little milk) until it looks like ice cream.
  • Eat until you can’t stand it anymore.

You can thank me later…