Reeses Christmas Trees

I know our world and especially social media is full of debates right now. There is never a shortage of opportunities to read people’s opinions, to witness tempers flair and unfortunately much of the time just being generally disgusted by the lack of compassion and courtesy out there.
But I have good news.
I have found a topic that really has no room for debate.
The peanut butter wrapped in scrumptious milk chocolate that is currently being called a Reeses Christmas Tree. 
I guess there was a major brouhaha a few weeks ago about the candy not really looking like a Christmas tree. It was such a HUGE deal that the company who manufactures the treat came out with an ad campaign that was proclaiming “all trees are beautiful” and “we celebrate trees in all shapes and sizes”.
So I just had to know for myself. I purchased a bag, brought it home and opened it to share with my family. Everyone had a thought or two about the treat. Aside from it being delicious, I think Caleb summed it up best, “It looks like a log of poop, but it sure does taste good.”
So I have good news friends, a topic with no real debate. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and we may all have our own idea of art, but I think the candy factory mold was broken this year.
So give the company an A for effort on spin control, an A for tickling our holiday taste buds, but an F for tree making.
Here’s a picture for you. Don’t be the judge on this one, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the fact that this controversy is resolved.


A Real Day in the Life of a Large Family Mom

A few moments ago, my six-year old was burping repeatedly and loudly after finishing her last bite of cookie from an impromptu tea party with her siblings. I stopped long enough to shove in the mandatory three cookie minimum. My 17 year old was repeatedly tapping my foot under the table with her shoe clobbering my brand new, first- time worn, gray suede, low-cut boots that were helping me hold on to the last shred of feeling like a hot, groovy Momma in my mind. My 23 year old was spontaneously singing the cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Sleeping at Last. I was trying to read a blog post aloud by another mom of a large family explaining why moms with large families never share what it is really like to have a large family.
I felt inspired to write my own blog post about the topic. So here I am with my fingers typing away while my six-year old is melting down and being far to hard on herself as she constructs paper snowflakes for the front window. Don’t worry we have offered numerous times to help her. She is having none of it. The same two previously mentioned children are singing loudly to other select cover songs they choose as they click their iPods back and forth, back and forth. My 20 year old just flew out the door to rock climb. My 10 year old son left the tea party with cookie crumbs on his face which I am sure I may find later on his shirt sleeve to join his 12 year old brother who is recovering from a night of vomiting while still feeling chilled, feverish, coughing, stuffy and just in general miserable. That’s just the ones that are living here.
I spoke last night during dinner to my 24 year old son who is a new dad. Our dinnertime is when it works for him right now.  He calls while driving home from work so when he gets home he can give his attention to his own family. Time was spent both last night and today on the phone with the lets call him 28 year old son ( his birthday is in a few days) coordinating plans for his family’s stateside visit for the first time in three years. And my 26 year old called about the dentist and to get dates to ask off from work for his brother’s visit. Of course, my adorable baby-making husband called somewhere in the middle of all of this chaos to chat and share a friendly hello and a grumble from his work day. Some of you may be envisioning me complete with air traffic control headset saying to yourselves, “Houston, we have a problem.” But here is the thing…
I. Wouldn’t. Change. A. Minute. Of. It
Sure, I don’t usually dissect or describe my day to the degree I just did. For one, it is simply just my incredibly, wonderful day in the life. Secondly, maybe if I did, I would become like an Eeyore or allow myself to constantly be overwhelmed in the constant stimulation of my life.
Most of you do not often hear me complain about the intricate balance of being a mom to a large family. And you probably won’t. Sometimes we large family moms feel like we aren’t allowed to share the difficult days. And so often, when we do open up our hearts, we are either greeted with comments of ” Well if you didn’t have so many children…” or “Oh thank God you aren’t really superwoman-you’re human.” Of course I’m human and if you ever did see me with a cape on, it would only be because I was trying to hide under it or because my dental bib had shifted to my back and was flapping in the wind as I escaped the chair of doom in panic ( but that’s a story for another post).
On the flip side, when we share our triumphs, we have to be VERY careful. Let me say this clearly- it is never the desire of a large family mom to make another mom feel inferior or less than. No one is trying to look like we have it all together. But seriously, it does take a tremendous amount of emotional, physical and financial energy to be a mom. And we come in all shapes and sizes as moms to kids in all shapes and sizes with all different kinds of needs and demands. It’s apples and oranges folks. So why are we constantly playing the comparison game?
Sure I like to think I am a fun, cool, hip, patient, loving mother. And I am pretty sure I am- let’s just go with that definition. But I am not perfect- I am human. I take great comfort in being perfectly imperfect while resting in the only Perfect One who created me.
So let’s just all celebrate one another in whatever stage or season of motherhood we find ourselves. Let’s commit to breathe words of encouragement into one another’s lives. Let’s be glad for our triumphs, laugh at our messes, and cry for our sorrows and defeats- together. Friends, let’s be gracious.
Well, I just got my cue to go. One teenager, not the sick one, is yelling down the stairs, ” The Tylenol are not there.” And I shouted back, “Oh my God ( yep, that’s what I said) if I have to come up there. They are exactly where I said they are in the clear box on top of my little bookshelf in my room!” To which she replied, “Oh there.”

Plus the dog is now eating the paper snowflakes.
To all you moms, I salute you, we are in this together!

Lydia’s snowflakes she made on her own.

Sex with teenagers in the house

I have had a lot of people ask me the personal question, “How do you have sex with teenagers in the house?” I really don’t mind the question and it always brings a smile to my face. It warms my heart that others see my husband David and I as a couple that is still intimate. And with your teens, I think that is where it begins: the appearance of intimacy.

David and I hold hands everywhere we go. We sit on the couch together, right next to each other. We turn on a favorite song and slow dance or take advantage of a melody Lilly plays on the piano. We spontaneously kiss as I do the dishes or David is doing a project. We whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears and giggle, loudly sometimes. We let the children know it is okay for us to have inside jokes. We spend time each day after David has greeted the family, just the two of us chatting, letting the children know our relationship is important. We aren’t trying to gross them out, but we are okay with them understanding, we are attracted to one another and we were made to be sexual human beings. We both grew up with parents modeling they were in love which has helped us immensely with our own family.

In our house, with the ages of our children living at home ranging from 4-23, there is almost always someone up until the wee hours of the morning and then again at the crack of dawn-usually different children-but they are always up! So waiting to spend time with my husband until everyone is tucked in bed is not an option.

If you read my earlier post on special dates ( ) then you already know we spend a weekend discussing sexuality with our children when they turn 13. So opening the door to healthy dialogue and questions, along with an understanding that we view sex as a very good thing- HELPS! An experience happened about four years ago that paved the way for a more relaxed approach to intimacy in our house.

All of our children were home, including our now daughter-in-law. The littles were in bed and all of the older children, ages 14 and up, were waiting to watch a movie. I said I was going to go “tuck their Dad in bed [I am a night owl, he is not] and visit with him a little and maybe join them later.” David and I were “visiting” and Lilly came to see if we had the VCR remote. She didn’t knock and even though the door was locked, her forceful knock and push of the knob elicited a loud and forceful shriek with a “Don’t come in here!” A bit later in the evening I decided to venture downstairs and join them. They were well into their movie and as I snuggled down in my chair, fits and starts of giggles erupted. “What? What’s so funny?” I inquired. Giggle, giggle, laughter everywhere, followed in unison by simultaneous mockery from various children. “What? What? ‘Oh, oh, don’t come in here. Step away from the door. Don’t come in here.’ We know what you were doing.” Ha ha ha ha ha! Or at least they were amused! 😊

So we decided to just go with it. Laughter seemed to be good medicine for the situation. We sleep with our door open, so now if one of my big kids is moseying by our room and the door is shut, they know not to knock unless there is trauma or fire. They understand if the door is shut, we are having private time. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are being intimate, but it does mean we are carving out our alone time.
Some of you may be thinking, oh, but I would still be too self-conscious. Turn on Pandora, a CD, the radio, a white noise machine. If it is getting late, I also am not afraid to say to my older children, Dad and I could really use some alone time, stay off the second floor (we have a three story house and the big kids’ rooms are not on our floor) for the next hour. I think establishing you are a couple and your relationship has important needs that require attention is vital in the life of a family.
Now, we do get a chuckle because sometimes when we are already in bed, reading and chatting, occasionally one of the bigger kids will walk by and say, “Would you like me to shut the door for you?” 😜

Note: This was written almost three years ago and never posted. The children are now almost 7-28. We are in a different house now with the sleeping quarters all on the same level, but it still has three floors. I would say I still find this post to be true, but I would add one other “suggestion”. Take advantage of teenage or adult drivers. Recently when Grace was home for a visit and almost everyone else was at their Saturday morning martial arts class, we spontaneously arranged an early lunch date for Grace and her youngest sister Lydia. Grace didn’t mind and I figure we will readily be babysitting her future little bambinos some day. And when that day comes, we don’t need to know whether they are doing their taxes or taking quality time for one another- though I recommend the latter 😉

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Mondays are long days for our household. Mondays are good days-fun days, but long days. We are members of a local homeschool co-op that meets on Mondays and takes up most of our day. Our evening is full of one activity or another for several members of our family.
I allowed myself to sit for a short time on the love seat in our kitchen before I accepted a simple everyday fact- yes, these people really do need to eat (again) and I probably should feed them. I sat just long enough to feel my hips stiffen and my knees ache. We had decided on boxed organic chicken noodle soup and drop biscuits for dinner. A simple meal.  Lydia and I took on the role of biscuit makers. After we made our buttermilk substitute we mixed the remaining ingredients. My oven reminded me for the umpteenth time this week that it was long overdue for a cleaning, as I stood fanning the smoke detector to appease the head-splitting beep. All three dogs chose to hide under my legs each time the box on the wall screeched.
As the soup began to steam and the cheese bubbled on the biscuits, I had many hands wanting to help and make our workload lighter. I wasn’t sure I wanted help. The extra patience to make sure this one didn’t get burned on a cookie sheet and that one on dripping hot liquid was a virtue I had to dig deep in the moment to find. I was hot and tired. I was weary from our pace of life, but it took me more than a minute to realize I was hot because I stood over the open flame of the burner, forgetting to turn it off as I lifted the pot to pour.
The song, ” Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?” played in the background. We had one of those TV commercial moments where everyone was singing as we ladled the soup and placed our nourishment on the table. We were in sync. Singing and dancing rejuvenated us all.
As the music faded and we bowed our heads, all I could think was, “Thank you God for giving me many somebodies to love.”

Savor the treasures

Wow this has been quite a year for us! But it is such a joy to see all the beauty God has brought to our lives this year- a sweet marriage, a beautiful babe, and today I find myself philosophical as we celebrate our sweet Phoebe girl’s 17th birthday. Our former neighbor in Richmond posted a tribute of sorts to her son Jimmy. I met Jimmy when he was 13 and he died when he was 21. He died of a heroin overdose. I have never forgotten Jimmy or watching the boy grow into a man. His life and his death impacted me greatly. These are Karen’s words:

“Our son was a delight to all of our family and was born again as a child of God, but chose to try heroin and became addicted to it. While he was trying to get free from it’s control( moved back home, daily N.A. meetings, working daily) he succumbed to that lure and died in a work van of an overdose. The thing that a friend said at his funeral is always a comfort to me. “Jimmy is in heaven, not because he was good, but because he is His(God’s)” . Even suffering the pain of the loss of this precious son, I have remained grateful that I was allowed to enjoy him while he was here and I look forward to the day that I will see him again in glory. One thing I have learned is that my husband, the daughters we have and the precious grandbabies we enjoy are treasures to be savored. I don’t want to waste a second of such a gift.”
She also posted a link about the crisis of heroin today and its link to OxyContin. Here it is in case you are interested in reading it:

Karen’s words touched me today and were a great reminder. I have never forgotten Jimmy and the beauty of a young man that he was- I still think of him often. The ugly of his death does not define the beauty of all that was his life.

I know all of our children are in various stages of ages and we are on a journey molding them and watching them grow. Our children will do things and have things inflicted upon them that we would NEVER write as part of their life path. They will at times, and on different levels, pull us through heartache and struggles, or one could say, we will help pull them through and out of heartaches and struggles. It is not a tug of war that necessarily has an equal balance. But friends, as most of you know, there is beauty in the ashes. Sometimes we will feel like a spectator on the sideline watching them as they grow, unable to place a cartoon character band-aid on their scrape. Sometimes their wounds are not mere scrapes but gaping gouges strewn across the mapping of their heart.
Remember there will be times when we feel like they rebel against us- even hate us, but their true issue is not with us. It is their wrestling and working out their relationship with our great God who we stand for and love. And love is where I will leave this letter. Friends, love really does, it-

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love sees past the temporary. It sees past the long hair, the nose piercings, the angry rants, the hurtful words, the poor choices. It sees past the appearance of things, the derailment of our plans to their plans, our hopes to sometimes their desires, our need to control and our deepest fears. It sees past the good choices they choose to make for their lives. The choices that make us proud and keep us awake in the night, crying out  “Please just keep them safe!”

 Love sees the heart.

It sees the heart of a person, the heart of our child. It sees past the child to our God who loves them even more than we possibly could. Love sees and trust that He who created them has a plan for them, a plan of hope and one to prosper.

So whatever struggle you may have in life, whatever fears, whatever triumphs,  release them to God. He’s got this, He really does. Breathe in deeply, look around, soak in the beauty of the big and little moments, do not waste a minute- savor them. See the love and beauty ; see the treasures.

   One of my treasures, my birthday girl, koala Phoebe 😊

Love and the Delayed Flight

Sitting at the airport last evening waiting to pick up our daughter Lilly gave David and I an opportunity to people watch. Lilly’s travel plans had been delayed all day due to inclement weather occurring in the connection city for her flight home. We arrived at the airport on time but found ourselves waiting about an extra hour.

We spent about 15 minutes idling in the car curbside until we realized her flight was delayed. We were parked in front of a woman in her late 50s to early 60s. She had a big quilt wrapped around her and no less than five bags of large luggage. A game of guess her story ensued between David and I. As we were in the middle of our elaborate tales for her life, a car pulled in front of us, narrowly missing the front driver’s side of our vehicle. His haphazard driving focused all our attention on him.

A man with a wedding ring in his 60s got out of the car, popped his trunk lid, walked toward the blanket waiting lady and began picking up her bags. She pulled herself up wearily from the bench, grabbed a small bag and began to what appeared be a painful and difficult walk to their car. She mustered the energy to make the journey for another bag one more time before landing in the passenger front seat. He finished loading, slid into the driver’s seat and pulled off. Not ONCE did this pair make eye contact or utter ONE WORD to one another.

David and I sat in a stupor. Make- believe of their story and lives and who they might be no longer had the same appeal. I mean before he arrived, she was a wonderful Grandmom who had travelled far off to help a daughter with a new born bundle of joy as her son-in-law was stationed in another country fighting for the good ole USA. Or she was a tired, selfless daughter who had travelled to care for an aging parent. But the sadness, the emptiness in their lack of exchange only conjured up stories of deep pain-too deep to even fathom. “Guess my life” was over for them.

David popped in the airport to check Lilly’s flight and we decided to park and wait inside. I have been struggling through sinus/allergy issues for weeks after a virus so I schlepped into the airport and plopped down on a cozy leather couch. After parking the car, David joined me. He offered his arm around me for a shoulder to lean into and between discussing the bands and solo artist from the fantastic music playing from the cafe speaker, our “game” began again. 

It didn’t have the same gusto and flair. We were silenced and saddened by the couple from the curb. We couldn’t begin to guess exactly what was going on in their lives, let alone really know the nature of their relationship. Life can be hard, we know it personally, we’ve weathered it together through tough seasons. But I have to be honest, as I sat curled up next to my life mate, relaxing in the wait, our silly game gave us both a subtle reminder. Let’s never stop touching, let’s never stop looking, let’s never stop talking. Let’s always remember we are a gift for one another and it is in the mundane moments we betray or I should say, display our affections.

Make sure you stop from the dishes, or the bills, your devices, from this post, to look up and really make eye contact and SAY goodbye or hello! Better yet throw in a hug and a kiss. These small little acts may be the very foundation that one day journey your relationship through hard times. I really DON’T know their story and pain, but I KNOW I don’t ever want to feel the interchange they portrayed.

Show your love today and show it often.

The Burp Heard Round the World

My husband and I had gone out a few weeks ago to dinner. It was one of
those, ” I have got to get out of this house” nights. Since our evening out
began as more of a fleeing the scene then a carefully orchestrated evening
out, we had no idea where we were going. We are committed to supporting
local businesses and so we settled on a non-chain Chinese restaurant. We were greeted by an eight- year-old hostess-yes you read that correctly- who took us to our table in an empty dining room. We enjoyed a quiet, unexceptional meal except for the occasional duet performed by a man at another table and myself as we both sang along, far to loudly, to the hits of the 70s and 80s playing through the speakers. I was in need of a night of reckless abandon and also my ears were clogged from the typical, fall, sinus problems that plague many a Cincinnatian. That was my excuse, I have no idea why he was singing so loud.

Bellies full, we all exited our karaoke haven at the same time and
discussed, who did sing that one song? As he and I began to hum the words,
our counterparts grabbed hold of our respective hands and led us into our
vehicles as if gently ushering us into a padded wagon. Hey, some weeks are
just long ones. David and I began to sing songs and reminisce down memory lane. And that’s when it happened. The mother of all burps. It just simply slid out as a reached to hit a note. It was as if all the gas my body could hold, was building up to rush from my digestive system through my esophagus and out of my mouth to replace the words of my song with a deafening belch.

David looked and me and very calmly asked, ” What would happen if you didn’t do that?”

” Do what?”

” If you didn’t allow that sound to come out of your mouth?”

I was a bit incredulous at this point, ” Oh. You mean the burp? I’m not sure
I follow.”

“Well you do that often and I just wondered if it doesn’t feel good or
something? I mean what would happen if you didn’t let it out?”

I was trying to decide if he was sincere or being passive-aggressive and so
I just answered him honestly, ” I have no choice in the matter. It came
without warning. There was no time to batten down the hatches. It was just


Now feeling slightly hurt and wanting to justify myself and reclaim my
desire to be placed in a proper lady category, words tumbled from me, ” I
don’t mean to do. I would stifle them if I could, although my mom told me
Dr. OZ says holding gas in is unhealthy. It just comes out. I don’t know,
gas just leaks out of me. I guess my elasticity is weak all over. You know I
HAVE birthed nine babies for you. I imagine that has wreaked havoc on my

“I know you have honey and I appreciate it. I just wondered if holding it in
brought you some sort of distress.”

I believe it was my sweet husband’s subtle way of trying to help me find
ways to control my problem with gaseous fumes. But what can a girl do? No
one tells you that you grow older and your body can’t always contain itself.
That sometimes you might burp and “pass gas” simultaneously as if you are
participating in a 21-gun salute.

As I lifted myself off my seat cushion to exit the car, my mouth said, “Well I’ll try harder, it just happens,” but my body had its own idea of a
revolt as my bottom released the toot heard round the world.