for my parents

the best is yet to be.

how many Christmases have there been?
together, we make a home

I was loading the dishwasher and cleaning out the sink this morning, early, while the children were busy getting ready for the day. Ethan and Jacob were talking, David, Caleb, and Seth were already gone on the bus, Brittnee was getting ready for work, and Sarah was just getting up and talking to her kitten. I was listening to music; an indie folk Christmas playlist on the Alexa, while scrubbing and wiping and puttering around, when a song came on and stopped me in my tracks.

Life is seasonal, just like the weather. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.

And when you raise a family the changing years are all impossible to ignore, especially during the holidays.

Maybe this is why emotions run so hot this time of year, at the oddest moments they hit.

I remember years ago reading a quote, “The best way to prepare for the next season of life is to ENJOY THE ONE YOU’RE IN”. I’ve taken this to heart because somehow I’ve always known that “the days are long but the years are short.”

This morning Sarah was pressing her face to the window when she noticed icicles hanging off the bushes…….”I’m going out to get an icicle! Want one?” she (very thoughtfully) asked. “Sure!” I agreed. There are so many chances in a day, to enjoy. Soon we were crunching into them and I was deep down content, feeling ten years old again, with my youngest, who is ten for reals……..

Young married couples, couples with babies, couples with babies AND children AND teenagers AND adult children, and then………couples who have paved the way and show us the rewards of years raising up the next generation, now…….. with an empty nest? No, not empty, FULL, rich and full with a bountiful harvest of layer upon layer of loving memories, I see it everywhere when I travel back to my childhood home, this harvest, these memories.

I see two people, who after all these years are so much together that they are one.

All is grace.

Christmas 2019

Merry Christmas! I’m using this blog post as an excuse to get away from the family and sit in my room with just a cat and the laptop. I’m overwhelmed. There are twelve of us here, my own family of nine plus Brittnee, Michael, and Seth’s friend John. The talking, food-eating, doors opening and shutting, sneezing, and mess have finally caused me to crack. Rich asked me if I was okay and I said, “No” and started to cry and then I felt bad because it made him worry unnecessarily, YES I AM OKAY, I just need to cry and type for a little while.

I did the cry part now I’m doing the type part.

Dear little children who will be reading this sometime in the future, I AM FINE and I LOVE YOU. Wasn’t Christmas lovely? Let’s look at some photos and remember it……..

Seth and Sarah opened our bedroom door at 6 am and walked briskly to my side of the bed and said “It’s 6:00 and time to get up, It’s Christmas!” Then, they left and the two of us dozed for half an hour longer, I was trying to keep my mouth shut. I was curious who would get us out of bed, me or my husband……finally I cracked (I see a theme here) and said, “Just so you know, I’m not saying anything because I’m waiting for you to say it’s time to get up.” So he said, “Get up”. I got up and made coffee while he continued to not come out of the bedroom!

Rich loves Christmas so much that he doesn’t want it to begin right away. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself………..

Okay, he just came back in the room (he dared)….he had a note to give to me, so I took the opportunity to ask him why it takes him so long to appear on Christmas morning and he said:

  1. “I know once I come out we will begin and then it will be all over.”
  2. “I can hear the excited voices chattering and I like to hear them.” (he started to cry here)
  3. “And third, I always write your card on Christmas morning.”

Obviously I have the best husband in the world……….

The note he gave me said, “Shanda Lynn, I understand my love, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, too. Please enjoy some nice deserved quiet time. I’m sure the noisy gym didn’t help your frame of mind. I love you so very much. P.S. We’re cleaning. ūüôā ~Me”

I sat in the living room with the eight children ranging in ages from 22 on down to 9 and we waited for Dad to appear……..and just as people were about to go back to bed, he did.

Brittnee gave him a handwritten, heartfelt letter that made him cry.

Caleb’s wildest Christmas dreams came true.

A PS4 for Caleb! He played it so much on Christmas day that his eyes turned pink. Now whenever I walk by him I say, “BLINK!”

Ethan and his dog (who could smell the Christmas stocking beef jerky that the boys always get).

The view from where I sat.

I gave the boys each a Harry Potter lego set.

Grace and her very very heavy book of art and wearing her new Christmas winter hat from her Dad. With a Harry Potter book by her side (she’s reading through the series for the first time!)

Brittnee had a girl from school embroider this for me. I love it!

Grace and I each gave one another themed gifts from this book (The Starless Sea) we recently read and enjoyed.

Sarah found herself a big present to open. (She did most of the gift-passing)

Seth and his Go-Pro

David and his new clothes. If he had his way, he would gather all his gifts and take them to a quiet room and open them in private.

Ethan loved his new Vans….

Harry Potter themed…….

Rich opening his GTO tshirt from me….he tends to pick out his own gifts but this one was a surprise. It was to me, too, because I wasn’t planning on buying it until I was in the Lucky store and saw it.

Sarah loved her unicorns but they were almost impossible for her to get them out of the packaging, I caught her with a sharp knife and saved us a trip to the ER. Jacob, Brittnee, and I opened them for her and she was thrilled that the Elven princesses had magnets on their seats to keep them from falling off their unicorns.

We started an all day fire in the fireplace with the Christmas wrap and boxes. I only had to pull plastic out of the flames once (my husband will burn anything).

I had gifts to open from Joanna which Grace had brought home with her. She painted me a mushroom ornament!

Soon each family member was all doing their own thing. Jacob and Brittnee painted pictures.

Caleb got his playstation set up.

Grace went back to reading.

Sarah went behind the Christmas tree and set up all her toys for herself.

Seth played games while wearing his new wrestling head gear.

Ethan started his lego set.

Rich and I made Seth and Sarah walk with us and they lagged behind the whole time, shoulder to shoulder, talking. (IT WAS SO CUTE)

I bought Sarah a “well-wishers” american girl doll and we discovered that they not only look alike, but they each have a mole on the same place on their face!!!!

Dinner was ham, scallopped potatoes, squash, vegetables, and corn bread.

Jacob and Brittnee had gone to her family’s house.

It took a while for Dad to carve the ham and they were so cute standing there waiting and watching.

I never have an appetite for holiday meals that I prepare myself. But here’s my plate of food.

Merry Christmas!

tis the season


It’s an invigorating 15 degrees outside this morning but Seth still didn’t understand why I said ZIP UP YOUR COAT loudly (I had already said it in my nice mommy voice 5 times). ¬† He still has to listen to me…… I feel warmer if they run to the bus happy and in zipped up coats.

Good morning! ¬†Maybe 15 degrees isn’t really that cold compared to where you live? ¬† The sunshine is pouring through the windows and I think to myself, “I would rather have it be 15 and sunny than 30 and cloudy.”

The sunshine is pouring through the windows into our new 2018 decorated Christmas tree!  Rich went and picked it out at the fire department with Seth and Sarah on Saturday.

BUT FIRST…..he took his wrestling team an hour away to a school near the coast of Connecticut for some joint practicing, and I was home with Caleb, Seth, and Sarah for a morning of:


Cereal for breakfast and long morning hair.


Door Basketball……


….named such for obvious reasons. ¬†They did break the glass out of a framed photo which was hung to the left of the door (to the pantry). ¬†So I took the other things off the wall. ¬†This is a house for children. ¬†They MUST play.


I popped three pots of popcorn on the stove so we could strand a popcorn chain for the tree. ¬†Seth had a very difficult time with his very short string….but he did it, and ate a lot of the popcorn pile in front of him, too.



Sarah was concerned about the beads.  Would they be thrown away after Christmas?  Would they, Mama?  So I finally told her that after we took the tree down I would put the chain in the sink and sip the beads out with scissors so we could keep them.


Caleb started bringing up the Christmas bins from storage and we found our Christmas books.


Parker took 7 naps.


I read Seth some stories about when he was a baby and he saw his old playpen in the photos and asked if he could bring it upstairs, “I know right where it is” he said. ¬†“Why not,” I replied, “go get it.” ¬†Sarah called it a “play crib” which makes sense. ¬†It’s funny that my older kids are baby experts but my youngest two know practically NOTHING at all about babies.

The play crib turned into a fort for cats and a couple of 8 and 9 year olds.


They put a blanket over the top to keep the cats inside.  Years ago I tried that when I put babies in the playpen but it never worked.  (just kidding)  LOL


We put mittens on our hands and drove to a local school for their craft/book fair.  All we bought was donuts; soft sweet bread like pillows filled with vanilla pudding and frosted in chocolate.

The boys and I sat in the car while Sarah played outside on the playground for another 15 minutes. ¬†She doesn’t seem to feel the cold like we do, which amuses me.


Rich and David got home around 1 and I took this photo of him and the boys watching a video of Ethan wrestling…….they were so cute with their heads all together like that….and then they left to get the tree.


I told Sarah to stand there so she could block the license plate number. ¬†LOL ¬†Rich used Ethan’s truck to get the tree. ¬†I requested a fat fluffy tree this year and he did a great job.


After he trimmed the trunk and got it into the stand we drove downtown to get lights.  Then, finally, we set to work decorating.  It was a nice way to end the day, all together and busy making the tree pretty.





Then they watched a nice movie while I made a batch of my favorite Christmas cookies, without an apron on.


On Sunday after church the kids had their football/cheer awards and Seth got the trophy for MVP for his team!  We were so proud of him.


Our cat Walter is LOVING the tree.  And Sarah collects piles of the needles to play in with her little toy animals.

Merry Christmas to kids, cats, dogs, and people everywhere!


“the weary world rejoices”

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


Christmas 2017, Part 2


Good morning and happy new year! ¬†I have nothing profound to say. ¬†So let’s just jump into the photos. ¬†Rich preached at church on Christmas Eve. ¬†It was a joy to my heart to have the all the offspring home and in church. ¬†Even Ethan and Caleb playing “thumb war” as they waited for church to start didn’t sway my happy heart. ¬†And Michael looked so nice in his suit as he and Jacob visited before the service.


We watched two Christmas movies that afternoon, the second one being The Polar Express which is a memorable movie for Sarah and I because we watched it more than once together three years ago when she was in the hospital. ¬†So we snuggled as we watched it at home and I couldn’t help but be thankful. ¬†Also I made a huge amount of boneless chicken wings. ¬†Michael and Jacob cut up the chicken for me. ¬†Its a meal everyone loves and we had enough left over for later that night for snacks.


As is our tradition, I baked up some pillsbury cinnamon rolls, too.

Rich and I didn’t put the presents under the tree until almost midnight and we enlisted Jacob to help us get some of them out of the basement, which was the first time we allowed a child to help us in this secret time.


I got the idea from a friend to use zip ties to hang the stockings on the stair railing and that worked nicely. ¬†Rich got heavy duty ones though so it was a little hard to cut them down. ¬†And Rich’s was the top one so I had to keep climbing the stairs to add to it.


((((BEFORE)))) everything is under the tree

The next morning I sent the boys back to bed because they had tried to get up at four. ¬†We all went back to sleep and got back together at 7:30 and this year we took our time opening gifts and didn’t get done until about 10. ¬†It was such a wonderful family time.


We let Caleb pass out the gifts this year (but this is Seth, who kept trying to commandeer his brother’s job)





As Santa and I suspected, this noisy chicken was a big hit with Seth, from the movie Moana (one of their favorites).


Jacob being surprised by one of his gifts.


We got the boys a Keurig for their dorm room which thrilled them to no end.


The children all really love getting shoes for Christmas. ¬†They all received a pair, all but poor Caleb, and he was sure to let me know later on that he was left out but then quickly said he didn’t mind.


Sarah’s favorite sneakers are Scetchers.


Sarah studying her new shoes; Seth about to open his Hess truck.


Sarah trying them on; Seth pulling his Hess truck from the box.


This is the second year he’s received a Hess truck from Santa. ¬†How long will Santa keep up this yearly tradition only time will tell.


Rich, I mean, Santa, also gave the boys a remote control car that can go in the pond this summer and take videos.


One of my favorite photos of the morning.  Taking a time out to listen to Dad explaining their new gift.


Rich always gives me a romantic card and this year it included my itinerary for a trip to Alaska.




The boys received new Eddie Bauer boots which they will need for the rest of winter in Vermont. ¬†(It’s currently -17 in Castleton). ¬†Ouch!

(they go back today)


One of Caleb’s favorite presents was a Patriots Patriotic hoodie.


Rich told a super funny story about being sucked into the amazon lightening deals.  He ordered what he thought were apple wireless earbuds to give to me for 20 dollars and only when he wrapped them up on Christmas Eve did he realize that they were NOT made by Apple, there was only ONE ear bud, and it was made for a Giant Ear.

I told him I loved it even more than the Apple ones because I won’t have to stress out as much about losing it. ¬†It worked just fine, too.


Seth bought Caleb a poster about a month ago at the school book sale and had to wait and wait to give it to him– so this is the moment when FINALLY Caleb opened his new Patriots poster from his little brother.



He opened a Giant Mug from his sister Grace which for some reason struck him as extremely funny.

(Grace was so thoughtful in giving each family member a gift this year for the first time, as she had her own money from her grocery store job.)



Ethan opened up an iPhone X.  And his world was filled with happiness.


These two were together all morning on the end of the couch.  I was out of earshot which made it all the more sweet to my mother-heart.  What were they saying?  What were they smiling about?  Only they know. . . . ..


Jacob’s well organized gift pile.


Sweet Grace.


David was thrilled to get one more big box from Santa and he felt very special like maybe…….he was the favorite. ¬†(It was clothes from Dicks clothing and Sporting goods; a long sleeved blue shirt that he said he had just looked at the last time he was there, a pair of skinny joggers, and a Nike jacket)


Seth in a new Panthers shirt (his favorite NFL team), I asked him about that and he said that years ago his first favorite team was the Patriots “until I found out that Tom Brady was a cheater.”

He is also wearing new sneakers.


((((AFTER)))) nothing under the tree.




Sarah got help from Big Brother as she set up her Safari set.


David began using his new whetstones to sharpen every knife in sight, causing me some bouts of anxiety.


Ethan set up his new phone.


“We are new to this family and we are so scared.” ~Black Cats


“Let me outside so I can bury my big Christmas bone that Dad gave me.” ¬†~Parker


MERRY CHRISTMAS from our house to yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and a happy New Year, too!


As I wrote this, Tessa and Ethan made pancakes for us all; Rich, Me, Jacob, Brittnee, Grace, Caleb, Michael, Ethan, Kylee, David (only one still asleep), Caleb, Seth, and Sarah.  And yes they used your recipe, Mom.

There was also a small Nerf war as I typed.

The house is a happy DISASTER.

So Rich is working on putting all the Christmas-time garbage in big trash bags.

When we woke up it was -3.

It’s 10:00 now, and 1 degree.

And thus concludes yet another Christmas blog post.  More to come!


merry christmas 2017 part 1


“Sorry I’m a little bit too excited.” Seth

Ethan didn’t get home until after 11pm last night so we stayed up pretty late getting the tree and gifts all ready for Christmas morning. ¬†I almost forgot where I put the key to the padlock that I had put on a big bin downstairs to hide gifts but thank goodness my brain came up with it (my jewelry box). ¬†We went to sleep shortly after midnight.

The first thing I said this morning was “GO BACK TO BED!” ¬†Caleb and Seth were not only awake but busy with the lights blaring and making all kinds of noise in the kitchen… four in the morning. ¬†SERIOUSLY?

We got up for real at about 7:30 and spent 2 and a half hours opening gifts together.  We took our time, laughed a lot, made the living room a mess with all the wrapping paper, and it was much fun.  I took lots of photos with my phone that I will put on the blog eventually.


Ethan and his new boots.


Dave in his new sunglasses. ¬†“I think they’re going to make me look like a killer robot.”


Brittnee, Grace, and Sarah


Beauty outside the window.

“Look outside, it’s the most wonderful scene for Christmas.” ~Rich


new Christmas cats!


Seth, myself, and Rich

(we were all playing a card game)






I made ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner and soon we will prepare homemade pierogi that Tessa’s family sent up. ¬†Caleb is putting together a huge lego set, Seth is playing with his new Hess truck, and Rich is watching the Steelers game. ¬†I have had way too much candy today.

Merry Christmas!

You are loved.

christmas time happenings


“I don’t have any good photos to blog with,” I thought.

“Well you do have some on your phone,” I replied.

“They aren’t that great of quality though,” I continued.

“But they are priceless and of great value, since they capture the moments authentically,” I said wisely.

“Oh fine,” I sighed.

And then got all emotional looking at them because there were over twenty photos, twenty moments during which we were living life and I grabbed the nearest camera, my phone, to record something quickly and easily. ¬† I honestly LOVE this stage of life. ¬†My youngest is 7 and without any toddlers daily life is much calmer, however with seven children it is still busy enough to never be boring and to always have that feeling of “what’s next” — you really can’t prepare, there are surprises every day and lots of laughter.


Handsome son Dave, who was dressed in his High School wrestling clothes for the first time in his career. ¬†And, by the way, this door used to be a curtain hiding our laundry area, but the laundry room has been moved downstairs and now this is a big spacious closet just off the kitchen. ¬†I’ll take photos eventually because I really like how it turned out.


Sarah Joy arriving home from school. ¬†“Christmas Porch” with a wreath, and a snowman flag. ¬†She made me and her dad an ornament made out of a glue/cinnamon dough that smells so good.





I gave him the present; a chocolate fish and a card that I had prepared for the Amazing Pickle Finder.

“Keep looking for hidden treasures your whole life and you will be amazed at what you will see and discover.”

“I am really good at finding things,” he agreed. ¬†(debatable, I thought)

Sarah was holding back the tears because she didn’t find it.



We had SUCH a good time. ¬†We got manicures ; my nails are so pretty now, a deep red with red sparkles similar to Dorothy’s shoes on the Wizard of Oz.

We talked and talked and laughed and just felt so comfortable together; “This is good for my soul,” she mentioned.



We had bison burgers and freshly cut french fries for lunch.  I indulged in a diet coke.



There was a giant Christmas tree at the outdoor shopping center.  We did a little shopping and I bought Caleb, Seth, and Sarah some nice warm mittens/gloves for outdoor play at LLBean and they liked them so much they literally spent HOURS until dark outside everyday until our snow melted a couple days ago.  Wise purchase even though the line was long.  With a sister/friend the lines go fast.  More time to talk!


My dear Hannah sent me and my family a Christmas box. ¬†She lives in Alaska and has visited me 3 times and I haven’t visited her yet.

So guess what I asked Rich to give me for Christmas?!


We spend time together like this every chance we get. ¬†In fact, he’s next to me as I type and he’s rather insulted because a laptop is on my lap and not him.


COLLEGE SON ETHAN IS HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  As of two days ago!


AND COLLEGE SON JACOB my FIRSTBORN is here as well, the person I gave birth to 21 years ago at just this time of year. ¬†CHRISTMAS and JACOB’s BIRTHDAY are all wrapped up in my heart during this season.


Uncle Dave always sends cards for the children under 18. ¬†The rest of us get a family card. ¬†So now there are “only four” in the tree waiting for Christmas morning even though they keep asking me if they can open them NOW.


WRESTLING MEET on Wednesday, two days ago.  David was .5 over so there was a little bit of unwanted stress in making certain he made weight and then come to find out he had no one to wrestle in that weight class.  (he did make weight, however)

But eventually they did exhibition matches (which don’t count in the team scores) and Rich bumped him up to give him experience. ¬†I could see Dave giving a little shake of his head “no” but Rich didn’t give him a second glance and got him right on the mat with someone who weighed 5 pounds more than him…..and Dave won.


He won right in front of his big brothers who also wrestle for college.


Right in front of his big brothers AND their girlfriends.


AFTER THE MEET it was time to play. ¬†Ethan wrestled with his little brothers but what really gives me joy in this photo is Bruce the man on the left just walking out of the camera frame with a smile on his face. ¬†He’s one of the custodians of the school and is ALWAYS so quietly kind and friendly. ¬†We notice he turns a bucket over and sits on the side of the gym during meets, we think he must like wrestling.


^^ Jacob and Seth on the left and Ethan pinning Caleb on the mat.  And it took me a long time to get that sentence out right.  (names LOL)


Seth’s turn to wrestle with E. ¬†It was such a fun night. ¬†We were only missing Grace because she was at work.


We are forever trying to hug Dave and he is always this reluctant, but we know he secretly enjoys it. ¬†Tessa is a good sport. ¬†Such a dear girl who, along with her sister, has grown up with my own children (they live nearby) and is in love with Ethan. ‚̧ ¬†She’s a senior this year, while David is a freshman so she sees him now and then and tries to get hugs. ¬†You can tell (sort of) that he’s warming up to her. ¬†(no, his arm never got higher than it is in the photo).


HERE SHE IS!  She got back on Tuesday (thank you to Michael who went to get her from college).  Yesterday she and I went shopping with Ethan and we took this photo as we were waiting for him to finish up his hair cut.

(I prefer myself with bangs but when I am too lazy to deal with them I pin them back).


When Seth got home from school yesterday he had a sore by his mouth which immediately freaked me out (internally, I didn’t show it to him) because it wasn’t there when he left in the morning. ¬†He complained that he thought his jaw was broken and his cheek hurt. ¬†But he pointed to the sore spot by his lip as the place where it hurt. ¬†(I don’t think he knew what “a jaw” really was) I was thinking “Oh my goodness my child caught a contagious skin rash during wrestling” and took him to the docs who told me it was basically NOTHING. ¬†I mean, it was infected slightly (like a pimple actually but he’s too young for them just yet). ¬†She gave us a prescription for an antibiotic cream but Rich didn’t get to the pharmacy in time so we just rubbed neosporin on it and this morning it looked much better. ¬†I’m still picking up the prescription though, don’t worry Mom. ¬†I’m sure it will come in handy. ¬†Seth has had chapped lips so the Doc thinks he was touching his face with dirty hands. ¬†(8 year old boys are generally dirty) I do tell him to wash but when he’s at school who knows. . . . . .

The whole experience ended up giving us a nice time together. ¬†His appointment was at 6:10. ¬†¬†WHY is it SO DARK he kept asking. ¬†We agreed that it isn’t a pleasant feeling to be going to the doctors when it’s dark outside. ¬†Scary.

I took him to Dunkin Donuts after, it was just a short jaunt down the sidewalk from the office. ¬†He ordered himself a bacon egg and cheese on a plain bagel, toasted, and five glazed munchkins….and a hot chocolate and he looked so cute as he waited. ¬†He didn’t want help carrying his treasures. ¬†He ate and drank everything. ¬†He hugged me.


We went to the Goodwill store next and he and his bright eyes saw a wrestling head gear for Caleb (who needed one) for ONLY A DOLLAR.   Jacob said they are twenty at the sporting goods store he used to work at.   So Seth got the deal of the day.  Grace scrubbed it with antibacterial wipes this morning.


Then we met Jacob, Grace, and Sarah at the pet store.  WHAT are the girls looking at, you ask?

Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I typed all this at the end of the couch at Ethan’s feet. ¬†He sleeps on the couch when he’s home even though he has a perfectly good bed in a bedroom upstairs. ¬†I think he finds it cozier to be on the couch. ¬†He’s sound asleep. ¬†Listening to him breathe gives me joy. ¬†He stretched his feet out and pushed against me, waking up just enough to look down at me and say sorry. ¬†I said, “I like it.” and gave him a pat on the leg.

Merry Christmas!



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.





common hours

Write it down, when I have perished:
Here is everything I’ve cherished;
That these walls should glow with beauty
Spurred my lagging soul to duty:
That there should be gladness here
Kept me toiling, year by year. . . . .
Everything thought and every act
Were to keep this home intact.
Edgar A. Guest


Saturday morning I woke up and Rich wasn’t in bed with me anymore, he was out on the couch. ¬†Sometimes if he can’t sleep he will get up and move into the livingroom. ¬†ESPN was on, quietly, and he was sound asleep and looked so peaceful. ¬†I made some coffee and tip toed back to bed. ¬†Shortly thereafter, Seth came in and got into bed with me. ¬†We read stories on my blog for a while and then Sarah came, too. ¬†I love these grateful days of having children small enough to still get into bed with me on a lazy weekend morning. . . . . .

We decided it was a good morning for pancakes.



Cornmeal pancakes and corned beef hash. ¬†Rich ate the whole pan of hash himself….the kids kept saying, “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” as it fried. ¬†I haven’t made him hash in years.

Seth had the only complaint, “The pancakes are chewy.”

“Do you mean gritty?”


“It’s because they have cornmeal in them.”

I happen to adore cornmeal, and in case you do too, here is the recipe:

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk
3 egg yolks
3 T. butter, melted
3 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 cup blueberries

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, and butter.  Add the mixture to the dry ingredients.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle and sprinkle with the blueberries.  Cook the pancakes until bubbles firm and start popping.  Turn only once and cook until done.

I used blueberries that I picked myself this fall at my parents’ house. ¬†I had forgotten them in mom’s freezer and she thoughtfully brought them to me in a cooler at Thanksgiving. ¬†I was sparing with them in the pancakes as I am hoping to make my four bags of blueberry treasures last until next fall when I can pick some more.



Happiness is being able to sit on the couch and take photos through the window of your bird visitors at the feeder.

Also legwarmers.   Leg warmers are happiness.


The children were ecstatic to see snow coming down and bundled up in their snow boots to go outside.  Sarah danced down the driveway.


Seth was pensive.


Rich and David went to get our 2017 Christmas tree.

At first, they sent me this photo:


But they really came home with a nice large sized tree.


Thank you, guys!


I made tacos for lunch.

Rich and I went downstairs to find ornaments.

Later that evening we watched Elf and let the children decorate the tree.  Only three of them decorated this year.  It was amazingly non-chaotic and I must say, lovely.

Rich and I must be getting older because as soon as the Christmas tree was completely done we said to ourselves, “It’s like it never left.” ¬†The time between trees is all too brief now.


Our three tree trimmers.

Rich hung the lights. ¬†I think I hung up one ornament, my glass camera one. ¬†I still have to hide the pickle (I’ll do it as soon as I’m done blogging). . . .



Sarah was excited to find her Sarah ornament but was very confused when she found the one that said Isaac. ¬†WHY do we have this one??? ¬† “Because he’s my brother and I like to think about him at Christmas!”

Truth be told, at the end of the season when the ornaments all go on sale I buy the ones I can find with our siblings/family names on them. ¬†It’s fun and meaningful to have them hanging on our tree. ¬†Someday Sarah will understand, too.


The first Christmas card tidings received in the mail this year were from our old neighbors.



We were trying to get a photo of the children in front of the tree when Parker slinked over and sat in front of them.  One wonders how long he was in the background watching before he became brave enough to join his children.


My heart missed the older children very much.  I hope they are just about ready to come home and get their photo taken in front of the tree, too.


He’s so cute.


Last but not least; Christmas cat.


“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.” ¬†Francis P. Church

sewn gingerbread house part 2 (completed)



Rich was at wrestling practice with David and Seth this morning so Sarah and I had a quiet house to work in (and on).  A quiet gingerbread house.  To tell the truth, The Grinch was on TV as we decorated.  And then a Christmas movie with three kittens in it.


The door was made with two small Hershey chocolate bars. ¬†The gingerbread men (there are 9—one for each of our family members) are store-bought.

The house is situated upon a Sunflower fiesta pizza tray!


The roof is made of broken up shredded mini wheat biscuits.

I went outside to collect wintergreen and pieces of pine tree.  In order for them to stand up I had to push them into gumdrops.


The house is sewn together with Twizzlers.


(side details)


(back of the house with “S” for Shanda and Sarah)

(and special, and smart, and super, and stupendous)

We left sprinkles on the tray, and added shredded coconut, too.




The boys came home and Seth asked if he could nibble it. ¬†I said “Not until Christmas.” ¬†David was most impressed. ¬†He helped me take the video and watched me make final touches. ¬†“You’re an artist,” he said.