lunch and christmas gift exchange with Dave

Too many of us never understand what we owe to our dear ones — until there remains no further opportunity of paying love’s debt.  JR Miller

I just downloaded 44 photos that could be grouped into a gazillion blog posts.  I was tempted to just dump them all into ONE but I can’t, I just can’t.  They deserve their own posts.  (Okay, It really might be ten, but with the rate I’ve been blogging it would take me a gazzillion days to post the ten.  I’m determined to do a blog a day until I’m caught up.)

I’m sitting on the couch in the livingroom.  Three of our four cats are prowling around.  Walter is sitting like a king by the kitchen door, Sherlock is sitting on the counter watching over things.  Bagheera snuck up behind Sherlock wanting to play and was hissed at, meanly.

Grace is also prowling around, warming up a cornbag and preparing a breakfast bagel.

It’s a gift to have her home on break for the next few weeks.  Her older brothers already had to drive back to Castleton on the 1st.  We are thinking about going to visit them at some point, just for the fun of it.

But today Grace and I are picking up Seth at the school at 10:30 for an orthodonist appointment.  He has an expander on the roof of his mouth, and a habit breaker, and I wonder if he’ll have either one of them removed today.  That would be nice for him.

Rich and Dave have a wrestling meet today after school.

This would be a nice weekend to visit us if you want to see the boys wrestle.  Dave has a meet on Saturday.  Caleb and Seth have their first meet on Sunday.  They will both be half- a- day long affairs, I will be taking headphones, a charger, and a book so the noise and activity doesn’t daze and confuse me.  I’m already praying they have fun and do as well as they can.  I’ll let you know if they place and get medals.

Sarah Joy was rummaging around the shelves this morning searching for lost school library books until I finally said, “You should have done this last night!” and she went to school with one missing.  She’s wearing blue pants, a purple velvet-textured shirt with ruffled sleeves, her trademark ponytail.  And a smile.

This morning I’m thinking about way back on December 18, 2018 when I drove to Clarks Summit.  The purpose of the trip was first and foremost to get my daughter home for Christmas, but at the same time I was able to spend time with Joanna and stay the night all by myself in a hotel.

I was also able to visit with my brother Dave.  He drove about an hour to meet me for lunch at a favorite little Greek diner.  He did all the ordering and we had the grandest time sitting and enjoying each other’s company while eating delicious food.


Dave is one of the best brothers in the whole wide world (I have two others).  We are a year and two months apart in age and we like to tell each other, “You’re my original best friend.” It’s true.  We’ve been together all these years, and now, even though we live 4 hours apart, we text each other almost daily and talk on the phone once or twice a month.


This was before our main lunch plates came out!  We had spinach pie, a piece of cheese that the waitress lit on fire next to our table so we could eat it sizzling hot, and pita with a sour cream/feta cheese dip.  All of the foods had Greek names that I now cannot remember, (I should have taken notes.)




Then our meat kabobs came out and we kept right on eating.


We ate and we ate and we ate and then had dessert.  We were stuffed full of good food.


The waitress cleared away our dishes and packed up the remainder of my cheesecake, which I would finish eating at 9 o’clock that night.  I asked her to take a photo of us and now I have this picture to remind me of the day Dave came to meet me for lunch.

I’m leaning toward the computer screen right now, looking at it and smiling because I can’t help it.


I posted the quote at the beginning of this post as a reminder to me to take every opportunity I can to spend time with the people I love, and to show them that I care about them.

nancy drew books

When I was around 10 years old my Grandma brightened up my entire world by giving me a set of Nancy Drew books, which I absolutely loved to read.  I got so I would read one a day….all summer long…the summer I was ten.

I love how as an adult you remember things you did as a kid and think, “I still do that!!”  I HATE endings, I hate finishing things that are extra-special.  Most of the time you just have to go ahead and end, but sometimes you have a choice and just can’t.  For example, I read Winnie the Pooh to my son when he was little and I never read him the last chapter because I just couldn’t.  Well, I never read the last Nancy Drew book from Grandma, either………I never will.  It would be over.

I kept them all on a bookshelf in my bedroom,  in an orderly row.  My baby brother Isaac went through a stage when he would deliberately crawl in my bedroom just to pull himself up and pull all big sister’s nice books down in a heap.  I wonder if we have a photo of that.  I would have to put them all back again every single day, half annoyed and half forgiving because he was so cute and I loved him.

I had neglected the books.  I had all but forgotten their existence.

BUT THEN.  My brother David went to a huge antique store in Savannah, Georgia and sent me these photos:

(by the way it feels so good to be seen and known and loved by family–by Grandma years ago, and by Dave in sending me these photos bc he remembered I had them)



The memory of Nancy Drew books came back to me as I thought of how amazed I was when Grandma gave me the set, how I treasured them and read them.  I would study the titles and the pictures on each cover.  I loved the size and feel of the books in my hands and their nice hard yellow covers.  I thought how I’ve kept them for 32 years now…..but not on shelves.  Shelf space for Nancy Drew had run out years ago and other books had become more important because life was busy with raising seven children and I rarely had time to read anything but children’s books to them, and no time to enjoy my own collection of books, much less the ones from my own childhood.  I like to enjoy my books by looking at them, pulling one out to look through, putting it back, rearranging them, putting them in neat orderly rows.  Feeling that they were mine, all mine.

I texted him back:  “When I was 10 Grandma gave me the whole set.  And I read one every day.  I should put them on shelves instead of in boxes.”

I’ve been cleaning and cleaning the basement for days.  And as I did, I came across some of the books!

Yesterday, Dave (my son) had an appointment and afterwards had to go back to school, but, “It would be WRONG if we were right next to Goodwill and didn’t run inside quick.”

WE FOUND A BOOKCASE!  It was made of pine (light enough for me to carry myself) and only cost 10 dollars.

Once books are on a shelf no one notices the shelf anymore so any ol’ bookcase of any quality (as long as it is sturdy) will do for books.  When I showed it to Rich he asked how much I paid and I said thirty and he said “good” and then I laughed and said “IT WAS TEN!!!!” to surprise him and impress him.

It was wonderful to gather up my old Nancy Drews out of a dark lonely box and put them all in one spot for the first time in 20 years.  I opened them up to see my name written inside.  I admired the covers.

There were a BUNCH MISSING.

This morning I wanted to blog and could not find my computer anywhere.  David uses it more than I do these days so I kept muttering his name as I went from room to room looking for MY computer.  Ugh.  I felt just as annoyed as I did when I found all my books on the floor.  Boys!  Brothers and sons.  cute.  loved.

I remembered that he had gone to the garage where we have a work out room upstairs.  He goes over there every day to exercise and he is very proud of his resulting muscles.  “Maybe he took my computer to the work out room,” I thought.  I don’t like going to the garage and mainly stay away.  But I tromped on over to look and… since I was there… I looked in the storage closet and FOUND A WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF MY BOOKS.

Thanks Dave (1) for inspiring me and thanks Dave (2) for misplacing my computer and forcing me into the garage this morning!  It’s all because of you two that I’m getting this silly little project done!


I carried them back to the house in this basket.


Getting ready to add them to the shelf.


the shelf I bought at goodwill for ten dollars is already filled up


I wrote down the ones I am still missing.  It’s like a treasure hunt!  I bet they’re around here somewhere!


the beautiful blue of an autumn sky


Samantha cat has a sore paw.




David was using this tool to retrieve Seth’s football from the pond.  He wasn’t being nice. He knew he had to do it because he was the one who kicked it in.


When he saw me up on the porch taking his photo with my zoom lens he did what he loves to do…….


…..take his shirt off and show off those muscles from his daily work-outs.



I have three brothers and these five sons. (photo from 8 years ago)

Why am I crying?  I guess it’s because I’m happy and life is beautiful…and fleeting.

deep down joy

fullsizeoutput_4e37A sibling may be the keeper of one’s identity, the only person with the keys to one’s unfettered, more fundamental self. ~Marian Sandmaier

Brother Dave came the day after Christmas and stayed until Friday morning.

He’s a brother in every sense of the word.

I noticed that Sarah in particular had to be close to him as much as she possibly could.


He hardly had room for his arms at times.

It was like she could sense that deep down inside, Uncle Dave could use another human Right There.  Us Grown ups all seem to have a little bit of sad vulnerability within us that is healed by the love and simple phrases of a child.  “Sit by me!  Can I come, too?  Will you read me a story?  Let’s snuggle.  Can I have a taste of your smoothie?  Will you play a game with me?  I don’t want you to go!”  Healed.

If a child is not available, any ol’ human will do.  “It is not good for man to be alone.”


Right away we had Christmas again.  Dave had already sent cards with money to the children but he brought the gifts from our parents that we all enjoyed opening up.


Sarah received the most adorable green umbrella with piggies on it.



The men received new shirts.



Rich tied the ribbon around his head.


Grace received beauty products.


By the time we opened our gifts Rich was ready for a nap.  He had already been awake for hours and had worked out with his wrestling team.  He likes to trap Seth in his arm on the couch when he goes to sleep.  Seth either falls asleep too, or waits quietly until he can sneak away.



Big family dinner all around the table.  I used the crock pot.  Flank Steak, sliced onion and green pepper, sliced fresh mushrooms, minced garlic, and a pat of butter slow cooked all day and then served over your choice of rice or mashed potatoes.


After dinner we sat at the table and visited and I ended up french braiding Dave’s hair like a Viking.


We went downtown for breakfast at the diner.



“When your breakfast is brought last.”


After eating we were filled with happy energy so we gave Dave a little driving tour of our town.

Meanwhile, it was so cold, in the single digits.


We made a stop at the thrift store.


I took this photo of Hess trucks to show Rich later to see if he had any of them as a boy.

And to show Seth what they used to look like.


And this one for my son David who likes knives, especially sharpening them.


Sarah found some boots for one dollar and a couple of books.  David found and purchased a big print of ships on the ocean.  Grace shivered.


Then we stopped at the coffee shop.  (This photo was taken across the street from it).


When I think back on our visit with Dave, the coffee shop stands out as a very pleasant memory.  It was warm and busy, art work on the walls and fairy lights around the windows was beautiful.  We had a corner table by the window, it was light and bright inside.  We played cards and talked and waited for our warm drinks.  Oh it was just so good for the soul.  Completely comfortable and relaxing… needed after a busy week/month of Christmasing.

Quick photos with five of his nephews and our dog Parker who also loved Uncle Dave.


Another very special memory was the walk we went on, just the two of us.

It was, I say again, icy cold outside.  But we bundled up and walked briskly in the freshest of winter air.


It was a delight to see tracks everywhere in the forest.





Shards of snow



Visiting the stream deep in woods is always a winter wonder.









sister and brother


We ended up at the chicken coop and I walked back to the stream to get a bucket of water.

DSC_1025Our brothers and sisters are there with us
from the dawn of our personal stories
to the inevitable dusk. ~Susan Scarf Merrell


1 concert, 2 concert, 3 concert

“Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body.  If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.”  Luke 11

Grace longed for us to be there for her Holiday concerts this last weekend but it was not to be.

Thus, on Friday evening I sat alone on the couch by the light of the tree, and by the light of my reading lamp.

The house was FINALLY quiet after a longer-than-usual evening.

I was nearing the end of my book and I was totally immersed in its pages.

Everyone else was asleep.



I had my phone nearby and I heard it notify me of a facebook message, I turned it over and saw it was from Joanna.


While all was peaceful one moment, in the next moment as I listened to the sound clips she was sending me and saw the photos, hot happy tears were running down my face.

I hadn’t known she was going to be there at Grace’s first concert with her husband, Steve.

You can imagine the moment; a quiet house, a lonely mama missing her firstborn daughter, and like a kiss from heaven the gift of words, music, and photos from a dear friend.

Heart bursts.


And it didn’t end there.  On a whim or a prompting, I texted my brother Grace’s concert schedule for Saturday and as he was free for the 3pm performance he drove almost an hour to go see her.  He had a big delicious meal at a local Greek eatery and then went to campus, found our girl, and sat in the audience for her second concert.  He recorded every song for us and sent beautiful photos of the two of them after the show.


For her third concert, her boyfriend Caleb was able to drive from New Jersey to attend.  They went out to watch the new Star Wars movie together afterwards.

So you can see, even though her parents couldn’t make it to her first Christmas concerts at college, we were overwhelmed by the blessings of a best friend, a wonderful brother, and her dear boyfriend who all stood in the gap.

(At about the 2 minute 15 second mark in the audio posted above you will hear Grace’s voice singing a descant part in the beautiful and mournful song “Lully Lulla Lullay”.  There is a video HERE.)

Our eyes are wide open to see God everywhere.





I just cried a little


Brother Dave sent me this text last night:   _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ !!!

We texted back and forth, playing “wheel of fortune” style but with only one letter guesses like every hour or so and none from 9pm-7am.  He was very strict.  If I tried to sneak in extra guesses I got a big huge red “X” back.

After all those hours, I finally ended up with this:  happy _a_ _ !!! and then while I was down taking care of the chickens waiting for the time I could guess again, the answer popped right into my head.

So then the mail came and there was a package.  I ran to the house, opened it up and saw a wrapped present, which revealed neatly folded yards of fabric:  one of cherries and one of cats.  Two things I ADORE.

This is from my brother.  He’s turning 40 in a month.   What 40 year old motorcycle riding manly man with a big beard and tattoos does this???  My brother that’s who.

He had driven our mom to the fabric store over the weekend and as she browsed, he selected and bought the fabric for me, took it back home with him, wrapped it in pretty paper, and mailed it.

I’m crying over the thoughtfulness and text him a big thank you.

He writes me back, “It’s the little things that mean the most.”


what my brother did for me


About a week or so ago, while my poor brother Dave was in pain passing a kidney stone, he read my blog post about how and why I was a fan of Rosemary Wells.

And guess what that thoughtful guy did without me knowing a thing about it?

He emailed Rosemary Wells with the blog link and she read it!

She emailed him back and said thank you for the once in a lifetime review and asked for my address so she could mail my family the newest books.

They came today!


I love how she wrote “For Shanda’s family”.

I will treasure these books for the rest of my life.


I already read them out loud to Sarah, of course.  She liked the Warthog’s wedding story best because it had an *ibunny phone* all throughout out it, with a flap she could lift in order to see a map.   The green dot on the map was where Max and Ruby were in the hotel as they searched for a lost wedding ring.

Anyway, aren’t brothers the best?  I’m so thankful to have three of them and Dave is now my absolute favorite because of what he did.  (((LOL) only teasing, Nate and Isaac!)))

To think, she saw my post!!  And sent me two hardcover books!

It was just the uplifting mail we needed today because………..


…….tomorrow little Sarah bird is going back to the hospital for another surgery.

This one is to fix a “congenital obstruction of the ureteropelvic junction.”  The surgery is a “robotic UPJ/pyelopasty”.

It is expected to last 6 hours, or more.

This obstruction is what the doctors believe caused the large amount of kidney stones which they removed in January.  She also has reflux but they told me that as a rule they fix the obstruction first……..ugh. (hoping we are reaching the end of this adventure but I know we have a few months and procedures left)

Gratefully, Sarah is happy.  We are all acting like it’s an exciting sleepover with Mama.  She knows that she will get to watch movies in the middle of the night if she can’t sleep.  And during the day she can go to an art class and the family resource center and the toy room, so in the knowledge of these joyful prospects, we conveniently forget about the surgery part.  And besides, she’s asleep the whole time and it doesn’t hurt when you’re asleep!  (that’s what we overheard her telling Seth in a very authoritative voice).

We have our bags packed.

The best part for me is that Rich has the entire week off and will be with us the whole time with no pressures to get back to work.

DSC_0924 1

little bouquets by the kitchen sink


hugging the best cat ever

DSC_0959 1

a soft sweet neck and little whisps of blond

DSC_1184 1

a pair of cardinals that I photographed this morning from the porch, while it was raining


and they also went to Brussels





IMG_0934(The Atomium)





IMG_0956(The Grand-Place)




IMG_0947(Manneke Pis)


The World is a book,
and those who do not travel
read only a page.
~St. Augustine










Dave and Maria went on a high speed train from France to Brussels, Belgium.  They spent the day wandering about, and exploring.  They ate waffles and chocolate.  In the evening, the buildings lit up and glowed like stars.


dave and maria went to paris


(music for listening!)


Hello, dear friends!  It’s about 55 degrees here with sunshine….I should be outside, but after a busy weekend and busy morning I am perfectly content to be in comfy clothes (baggy sweater, yoga pants, socks), inside my cozy living room, with curled up sleeping cats on the couch with me.  It’s quiet!  Sarah is napping.

I had a nice chat with my brother Dave this afternoon.  He and his wife Maria recently returned from two weeks in Paris.  He had promised to share pictures with me and he’s already sent me over one hundred digital photos….I looked at them all several times….feeling sort of, envious, but mostly heart-happy to have world travelers in the family.  Can a mom of seven be a world traveler at this point?  No.  But I can live vicariously through Dave and Maria.  They had such a good time, I love the photos, and Dave said I could share them here with you.  Enjoy!







Notre Dame Cathedral








The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid


He said the Mona Lisa is still attracting people like a rock star.  They got up to it, took a couple quick pictures and then continued on…….


so fun



Catacombs of Paris, very sad place indeed.






the majestic Versailles::



Marie Antoinette’s bedroom:






my personal favorite picture of Dave:


and favorite picture of Maria:








The Sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte::


Rodin Museum; The Thinker Statue


The Thinker statue


more wonderful art



onion soup!  Dave said he had it (his favorite) about 6 times…..delicious, outside by the street, with a bottle of wine in an ice bucket and his beautiful wife, how can life get better in a moment like this?



black cat in a cemetery



Thanks to all the miles and miles of walking he said he didn’t gain any weight even with so many Paris treats.




(this is where I was envious)…..fabulous bookstore “Shakespeare and Company” !!!!! ^^



Tomorrow I will share their pictures from Belgium.  xo


PLEASE FORGIVE any errors in this post, I am not a *City of Paris expert* and I quickly googled information to go with Dave’s fabulous photography.

Have you been to Paris?


PS. Thia, I wrote you back (and mailed) today!

and, Joanne, I received your letter! thank you!

last little league games of the season

It is around 7:30 in the morning and Sarah and I are the only ones awake.  She is tucked in on the couch, warm and toasty, with a pile of books.  She has already eaten a bowl of fruit.  She is my early bird this morning because she is the only one in the family who went to bed at a reasonable hour.  It’s summer!

What a beautiful weekend we had with bright sunny weather and cool nights.  We haven’t had to turn the air conditioners on yet this summer, the humidity has been practically nonexistent.  Yes, the weekend was lovely and on Saturday we got started on Grace’s room.  She and I have plans to redecorate it and it’s such fun pinning photos together on pinterest.  We are painting over her bright pink walls with a light minty green, and a new daybed/trundle is on it’s way from pottery barn.  Currently, the contents of her room are in the upstairs hallway and her little sister’s room.  It is awful messy up there.  We have a lot to do before this project is over, but the main thing is WE HAVE BEGUN and the walls have been primed, ready for their first coat of paint.

Yesterday morning I sat up in bed and stared at the clock, which I believed could not be right.  Then, I picked up my phone to look; it was 9:21.  I woke up Rich and asked him what time he thought it was, “7?” he guessed.   He was shocked when I told him it was almost 9:30.  I don’t think we have slept in that long since we were newlyweds, almost 18 years ago.  Needless to say, we only made it for the actual church service, and not Sunday School.

After church was over, we drove straightaway to the Little League field for five year old Seth’s last game of the season.  As soon as medals were handed out and the sound of the music faded away I felt so lighthearted, we had survived season 2014 with three boys in three different levels of play, on three different teams.  I only cried once, when David’s coach reprimanded me about him not making it to as many practices and games as he should have (I lost him in the shuffle, and the text messages were going to the wrong parent)  No, I did NOT cry in front of the coach (and yes, I was very overtired at the time).  I needed the pep talk, he didn’t miss a single practice or game after that.

ANYWAY, David and Caleb had play offs this past Wednesday and that morning I sighed and wished that (my brother) Uncle Dave could come and watch; so I texted him and just sort of teasingly asked him to come (it’s a 3 1/2 hour trip to our place) and he said no, but then said “I’ll think about it”.  I didn’t hear back from him until 1:00, when he called and said he got busy at work and couldn’t make it.  I said “I understand, it’s okay.”  “What are you doing?” he asked, changing the subject.  “Oh, I’m in bed with Seth, he’s sleeping.”


I got up and ran around the house telling the kids to come quick to see who had arrived!

Yes, surprise and joy; Uncle Dave drove out all spur of the moment to watch his little nephews play ball, in what could possibly be their last games of the year.

We hung around, visiting here at home until it was time to leave for the games.  Jacob showed us his card tricks.  Unfortunately for the teenagers, they had already made plans for an evening at the lake, so they left at 4….and I headed to the fields with my brother in the passenger seat beside me.  I drove him through to see the schools, and we had such a great time at the games, although it got to be late and he had a long drive home.

He drove back to his house through the worst rainstorm and lightening of his life, but was safely in bed by 1:30 that morning.

It was a WONDERFUL day, and I’m so thankful to God for my awesome brother (we are just a year and 3 months apart in age).  My very first best friend.

OH and the boys won their games.

(we watched both games at once, standing in between the fields).


Uncle Dave eating lunch, about an hour after he arrived.


Uncle Dave and Sarah, right after she woke up from nap.  He’s playing piggy with her toes.


With Sarah and Caleb (phone pic)


saying goodbye to Gracie


a hug for Ethan




at the park for the little league games


He was taking pictures of Caleb the catcher.  (this was one of those “oh, this is so wonderful” moments for me)


hanging around with Sarah Joy


this handsome guy was there, too … I love how he gets nervous for our boys as they play….


playing catch with Seth


 I love this picture of happy Seth.


Uncle Dave took Seth over to the Food Shack so he could pick out a candy bar.  He came back and said “I think he had it scoped out because he picked the biggest one!”



They loved their peanut butter cups.  Thank you, Dave, for being fun and strong and wonderfully YOU.


Championship game, Friday

Would you believe it?

Both our teams won, and Dave hit a home run!


David, number 14


getting congratulations from the coach after the game was won


walking around, tossing the glove, happy


Caleb and his coach after they won their game, too


waiting for their trophies


my happy boys!


one last cute moment::

I bought Seth his first two wheeler on Friday and he brought it to the games.

He rode alone, up and down the path by the fields, with a whistle in his mouth, using it as horn when people needed to get out of the way.

Everyone smiled to see this darling:


Happy Monday, friends!

God is good.