The Thirteen Days of Christmas

Thirteen days.

A house full of kids.

Four gallons of Chex mix.

Chocolate dipped everything.

An entire ham devoured.

Hundreds of games of Dominion.

Epic Minecraft battles.

Laughter.

Teasing.

Inside jokes.

Time with special friends.

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Late nights.

Lazy mornings.

Pots of coffee.

And now it’s over.

Matt flew out yesterday.

Pedro’s back at work today.

Dagmar’s preparing for next semester.

Christmas is put away.

The snowmen collection is out.

My house is quiet.

My couch is waiting.

My heart is happy.

And it is good.

Age to Age

450px-trio_of_handsDirecting our church’s Christmas program is one of the highlights of my Christmas season.

And one of my favorite parts of directing is taking the program on the road to our local nursing home.

Every year I give the kids the same talk.

“I don’t care if you mess up a song or forget a line. I just want you to smile and have fun. If you have fun on stage, your audience will enjoy it. And when we are done, I want each of you to go around the room, take the hand of each and every resident and say Merry Christmas.”

This year was no different.

My older kids knew the drill, but I had some younger kids who had never done a program. They looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted reindeer antlers. Touch old people? Weird.

After church, we had a potluck, put on costumes, packed up props and walked the kids the four blocks to the nursing home where the staff had the residents ready and waiting.

When we had finished presenting the program – which was adorable in it’s imperfections – I prompted the kids to start their “Merry Christmas’ing”.

As my older kids started the rounds, the younger followed.

Small hands, sticky from the potluck dinner, reached out and touched older hands – hands that had seen hard work, loved babies, clapped in joy, and wiped away tears.

Work worn hands that are now so smooth the skin is almost translucent.

I heard the sweet “Merry Twistmas” and saw young eyes full of imp and mischief looking into eyes that had seen much of life.

I saw the hand squeeze. The tentative smiles.

And it happened.

A connection was made.

And then another.

And another.

Those kids started to see beyond the wheelchairs and wrinkles and discovered real people.

Those residents looked into sweet young faces and remembered.

Both the young and the old were blessed.

And there was joy in my heart.

Fifteen

Turning fifteen on the fifteenth in 2015 calls for a special celebration.

How about a Golden Celebration that lasts all weekend!

A celebration that begins on Friday night with a surprise visit from his sister.

And continues on Saturday with his good friend spending the night.

After hiking, exploring and riding the minibike, they turned an old couch into a trebuchet and shot hedge balls into the cow pasture until dark.

12272995_929885637105160_569763478_nIt was a good day.

But the celebration wasn’t over.

Oh no – it was just beginning.

The next day he was surprised speechless by several cousins who drove down from the city to help him celebrate.

12243739_929885570438500_8757045_nAnd celebrate we did.

Laughter, cupcakes, and a full-size Chewbacca costume.

I kid you not.

It was an epic party.

And as I popped more popcorn and replenished the crescent rolls, Grandma did a quick headcount.

Would you believe he had exactly 15 guests on his 15th birthday on the 15th in 2015?!

BOOM! Nailed that one!

Happy birthday, Buddy!

Sometimes There are No Words

Some days just leave you speechless.

Sunday was one of those days.

We went to church in two cars and immediately after our potluck lunch, Jan and I took Buddy to Omaha to see Andrew Peterson in concert.

It was an early birthday gift for him – and a real treat for Jan and I!

We had front row seats – literally 10 feet away from the musicians.

IMG_3041We could see every emotion in their face as we heard it in their voice.

The pain, the laughter, the hope.

IMG_3037The joy as he brought his daughter on stage to sing with him.

The pride as he introduced his son on the drum set.

It was so incredible, the emotions so real, the songs so meaningful.

There are no words to describe it.

No words.

It was most definitely a highlight of the year.

But meanwhile – back at home – things weren’t going as well.

Remember the two cars we took to church? Angel Girl took the second one home after the potluck.

And this happened.

12181921_409306075929370_178079365_nShe hit some loose gravel and went in the ditch – flipping the vehicle.

Thankfully she was able to get out of her seat belt, open the passenger door, climb out  and walk three miles home.

She was unhurt. Not a scratch.

There are no words.

Absolutely no words for how a parent feels when they see their child’s car upside in the ditch like that.

Knowing that she was inside.

We’ve spent the last 24 hours dealing with the sheriff’s office, the tow truck, and the salvage yard.

All the while so very, very thankful.

Sometimes there are no words.

Fall Adventures

Our suitcases have gotten a work-out the past month.

With my niece’s wedding and our annual family reunion almost back to back – I didn’t even get the suitcases back in the attic before we needed them again.

As soon as we got back from the reunion – Angel Girl had just enough time to wash her clothes and repack them before leaving on an epic adventure with three cousins.

11999053_903684599725264_6864385375566096415_nTo Disney World.

Yes. My baby girl flew on an airplane and is spending a week exploring the Magic Kingdom far, far away.

And she’s having a wonderful time.

I do get a daily text.

“Magic Kingdom, lots of rides!”

“We’re in line to meet Anna and Elsa!”

“Epcot!”

Meanwhile – back at the farm – we were busy getting Buddy packed up for his week in South Dakota at Teen Pact Survival.

While his sister is hobnobbing with Mickey and Goofy, he will be in the Black Hills dressed in camo, sleeping in a sleeping bag and learning survival skills.

And loving it.

IMG_2931He obviously didn’t pack lightly.

But I’m just thankful he had something to pack!

Would you believe that he outgrew almost all of his jeans over the summer? Talk about a growth spurt!

So yes, I am that mother who ran to town the day before he left frantically buying her son new socks, undies, and jeans. 🙂

And now, with my children in different parts of the country – I am that mother with a very quiet house – temporarily, at least.

Am I feeling left out on this adventure thing? Oh no.

I didn’t put my suitcase away yet either.

Jan and I have a 25th anniversary trip in the works.

Our turn is coming – soon! And my suitcase is ready and waiting!

But for you – I’m enjoying the quiet – because I know it won’t last long!

Gob Smacked

They totally did it this time.

They pulled off the ultimate surprise.

It was a normal Tuesday evening. We had a normal evening meal – just Jan, Buddy, Angel Girl and I . Dishes were done. I was settled on the couch reading when Buddy brought Jan in, followed by Angel Girl.

“We have a surprise for your anniversary,” they said as Jan settled in beside me.  “Wait right here while we go get it.”

(A surprise? But our anniversary was a few weeks ago. I told the kids not to get us anything!)

A few minutes later Dagmar walked in. (What? Girl you have class first thing tomorrow morning!)

Followed by Pedro. (Wait a minute? Don’t you work tomorrow at 7 am?)

Followed by Matt. (MATT!!! You’re supposed to be in Colorado? How did you get here?!!)

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All of our children were home at the same time!

On a random Tuesday night.

How did this happen?

It was a surprise months in the making.

Matt drove 10 hours from Colorado, met his siblings in Des Moines and they drove home together, coordinating with Angel Girl and Buddy as they drove.

We were gob smacked.

Totally surprised.

Shocked.

IMG_2882Dagmar had to leave very early the next morning to get to class on time, but Pedro had a the next day off and Matt could stay for a few days.

It was so sweet.

So surreal.

From a quiet night on the couch reading to a room full of those I love most.

I kept asking Matt if he was real.

I almost wondered if I was dreaming.

IMG_3444But the laughter was real.

The smiles. The silliness. The teasing.

The ice cream and apple crisp around the table. (Buddy knew it was Matt’s favorite and made it for him that afternoon!)

We all stayed up way too late. Nobody wanted to go to bed. Nobody wanted it to end.

It was the ultimate surprise.

The prefect gift.

This mama’s heart couldn’t ask for anything more.

A Prairie Wedding

My niece got married last week!

Talk about exciting!

And – to add to the fun – the ceremony and reception were at my parents home.

On their prairie surrounded by mom’s gorgeous flowers.

And two of my sons were groomsmen.

They’re the handsome chaps on the right.

11948534_892079190885805_957635954_oSee those ties?

They were my contribution to the wedding. I made all four of them. It looked like such an easy pattern – I mean really – how hard can it be to make a bow tie?

Ha! You have no ideas how many times I messed up that simple pattern!

And yes – I teared up when I saw Lexie in her wedding dress.

11220081_10208139244345287_4520535201894319070_nBut I wasn’t the only one.

Her aunts and I were a puddle.

Seriously – it was just yesterday that she was a little tike running around Nana’s prairie with my kiddos shooting pretend bears with the bb guns.

And now she’s a bride – walking across that same prairie on her dad’s arm to meet her groom.

Sniff.

They grow up so fast!

 

VBS

This year’s VBS is now history.

What took weeks to plan and prepare for – was over in the blink of an eye.

We had drama.

11061979_10152874338071423_7271705925682164061_nAnd laughter.

And suspense.

And lots and lots of trench coats.

11665577_10152874339901423_3384670670926188579_nAnd we had music.

And silly games – both inside and out – because of course we had rain.

11693955_10152876094836423_6241233042329684299_nWe did crafts.

And got snacks from a crazy snack lady person.

And had an absolutely incredible group of volunteers – including some amazing teenage helpers and actors.

But most importantly –

11403497_10152876096531423_6818735480113891379_nWe had lots of precious children who heard about the One True God.

And that made every detail worth it.

Surprises

Life is full of surprises.

Some of them good.

Like having two of your kids surprise you with a visit.

Bringing flowers.

Filling the house with laughter and conversation and fun.

And surprise birthday parties for sweet friends at church.

11146493_10152775272351423_2927726358448763586_nSharing memories, laughter, tears.

Singing. Hugging. Crying.

Praying for healing.

Such sweet times.

Other surprises are not so fun.

Like waking up on Sunday morning – after 3 inches of rain overnight – to a flooded basement and realizing that all the dirt work and the new gutters didn’t work.

Then getting more rain and more flooding.

And there are the surprises I’m not so sure about –

Like the box of orphan kitties Buddy brought home.

New ImageThey sure are cute – in a very loud and needy way.

Their constant cry for love and attention is breaking this momma’s heart.

Meow. Meow. Meow.

Did you know there are thousands of different ways a kitty can get himself in trouble – especially without a mother? It’s a wonder any of them make it to adulthood.

But they are so adorable.

I actually sat down and held one. More than once.

Yep. Life is full of surprises.

 

Tender Transplants

I’ve spent a great deal of time digging in the dirt in the last few weeks.

I’ve divided African violets, re-potted house plants, and transplanted tender seedlings into larger containers.

Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, eggplants, cauliflower.

eggplant seedlingsIt’s a slow, meticulous and rather messy job,  but it does give one a great deal of time to think.

While my hands were covered in potting soil and I carefully moved the tender root systems from one container to a larger one, it suddenly came to me that I am in a transplanting season in life.

My kids are growing up fast and and leaving. They are being transplanting from our home to homes and apartments of their own.

They’ve outgrown their old lives just as my seedlings have outgrown their pots.

They need more room.

But, unlike my plants, I will not be the one to transplant my children. It’s time for them  to do it for themselves.

New jobs, new classes, new friends.

New problems, new responsibilities, new decisions.

On their own.

As I looked down at the tomato seedling in my hand and saw it’s fragile roots, I realized how vital a strong root system is to a plant.

How much more so for my children!

tomato seedlingsAnd my momma heart prayed, “Take care of the roots, children!”

Those precious roots that your dad and I have tried to build into your lives.

Roots that will anchor you in the bedrock of strong faith.

Roots that will help you stay strong when the world is storming around you.

Watch those roots!

Tend them carefully.

Water them.

Give them good soil.

Let them grow deep and strong.

Please children, hear your momma’s heart.

Take care of the roots.