Lessons from Christmas

Christmas is over. The tree is down. The lights are packed away and we’ve finally found a normal schedule again. I think.

But as I reflect on the craziness of the last few weeks I’ve decided that this Christmas season has taught me a few lessons.

1. When you give your brother-in-law an elf hat for Christmas and he puts it on with his new safety glasses and then he grabs a tape measure and pretends to be one of Santa’s elves making toys – you immediately take a picture and put it on your blog.


Because you can.

And it’s hilarious and he will never see it anyway.

I hope.

2.  Changing all the light bulbs in the house on Christmas Eve day to LED might make sense economically – but will create bad lighting for selfies and other photo ops and drive your camera loving daughter crazy.


And certainly don’t help my photography skills. Or lack thereof.

But aren’t those kids cute! (just missing a son-in-law who was on duty Christmas Eve!)

3. After 26 years of attempting a beautiful ice cream log for Christmas – I have finally accepted the fact that it will never look good and will quite possibly always look like something less than attractive.


And well – less than appetizing.

Which is why we shall always eat by candlelight on Christmas Eve.

3. The stomach flu is always nasty – but it’s extremely unwelcome when it attacks on Christmas Day.

No pictures. You’re welcome.

4. Having a house full of family can wipe out a stocked refrigerator quickly. I took three grocery runs the week between Christmas and New Years – mostly for coffee and vegetables.

The coffee I expected but the veggies were a new and surprising development.

5. Speaking of surprising developments – I have lots of Christmas goodies now hidden in the freezer. While my children pigged out over Christmas weekend, by New Year’s they had decided to eat healthy.

Go figure.

At their current rate of consumption, Jan and Buddy should have them gone by Easter. I hope.

6. I love playing games with the family at Christmas. Really, really love it.


Especially new games like this one – Ticket to Ride.  Which is my new obsession.

I even won a few times – at least until my new son-in-law arrived. Hmmm…somebody should tell that guy it’s not good manners to beat your Mother-in-law at her favorite new game, at her house on Christmas. Good thing I like the guy.

7. Actually – I love them all – the whole crazy bunch! And carving out time together with crazy schedules to be together is the best Christmas memory of all!

Hope your holidays were special!


The Force was with Them

What could be more exciting than watching the much anticipated new Star Wars movie over Christmas break?

Unless it was watching it with cousins.



Especially cousins in costumes.

A whole slew of cousins in epic costumes!


Everything from Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker to R2-D2.


Chewbacca and some Ewoks.

886368_10205378770646287_509271128307715090_oAnd Porkins and Biggs – two X-wing fighter pilots, just to name a few!


This wasn’t just a movie viewing – it was an epic event!


And yes – the force was with them!

The Orange Chair Adventure

Three generations of women.

One grandma. Four aunts. A slew of cousins.

One day of adventure.

One amazing niece who hosted and made the arrangements.

Many miles traveled to enjoy a day of memory making.

EmporiumA flea market. Antique stores.  Curiosity Shops. The Emporium.

Giggles. Laughs. Secret purchases.

Crazy driving.

El BashasA Mediterranean lunch.

Discovering gyros, schwarma, and garlic sauce.

orange chair paradeFinding the perfect orange chair and recruiting cousins to help carry it out of the store, across the busy street, and down two blocks.

Then watching two amazing aunts figure out how to get it in the back of the mini van already packed with bodies and purchases.

cousin photo shootSeizing photo ops to remember the day.

A snapshot in time.

Precious people.

Precious memories.

mom and her girlsAnd of the course – the big orange chair.


Dead End Adventure

Just when you think all is normal – things take a turn!

We had spent a long weekend with my family at our annual Camping Trip at Dolliver State Park.

1011159_10200136474912170_384301849_nLots of food.

Lots of fun.

Lots of silliness.

Lots of bug bites! 🙂

Jan left early – on Sunday night – to check the livestock and go to work on Monday. But the rest of us stayed one more night.

That’s when things took a turn to the unusual.

We were in the middle of packing up in the morning when a sudden rainstorm hit. Talk about a torrential down pour!

Then the electricity went out leaving us sitting in the dark dining hall eating sandwiches while mini lakes were forming all around us.

Now that’s a memory we won’t soon forget!

But that was just the beginning of the day’s adventures!

We got the van packed up and Pedro started the 3-1/2 hour drive home through intermittent heavy rain and strong winds. We were about halfway home when the transmission went out.

Boom. Just like that.

We pulled off on a side road and waited for rescue to come.

DSC_0005There we were – sitting on a dead end.

Four hungry, tired kiddos and me – in a over-packed mini van that smelled strongly of wet tennis shoes.

We called Jan – who was at work at the time. He had driven the Geo that morning, which wasn’t very helpful since it will only hold four people if 2 of them don’t breath.

He had to drove home (the opposite direction), get the mighty Suburban, then drive up to get us, picking up a car dolly at U-Haul on the way.

Poor guy.

This was going to take a while.

We watched Duck Dynasty on Pedro’s laptop, read all the magazines we threw in the car at the last minute and took naps.
Then we finished off the chips and made a big dent on the scotcheroos. Pedro would have eaten the left-over corn but we couldn’t find a spoon.
And we waited.
We didn’t drink any of the pop or water we brought because several of us needed a bathroom badly, and the corn in the fields wasn’t high enough to cover us and there was probably poison ivy and ticks in the ditches.
Still we waited.
Three and half hours we waited.
Finally help arrived and the old 1996 Suburban pulled that fancy pants mini van all the way home.
I guess you just never know what a day will bring.
So always go to the bathroom before you get in the car.
And never leave home without chocolate.

Eating Out

bonfireWe ate out last night.

I mean really out.

Like – outside out.

Like – out in the pasture out.

Yes, I know it’s January.  Yes, I live in Iowa.

But it was a balmy 60 degrees yesterday and the kids had spent all afternoon cleaning out some fence lines. When Jan came home they hauled the wood and started a fire – a big fire.

Since they were already out there – and they already had a fire – we decided to pack up some  hot dogs and make it an adventure!

So – by the light of an almost full moon – we pulled up some stumps, roasted our hotdogs and made a memory.

After eating way more s’mores than we should have, the kids packed things up and went home.

But Jan and I sat on our stumps holding hands while we watched the fire turn to embers.

It was so peaceful sitting there in the light of the flames,  talking and listening to the coyotes howl – a real “country-style” date.

It was one of those sweet moments that can’t be planned, they must just be enjoyed!

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

My kids had the thrill of a lifetime yesterday – thanks to Jimmy!

Jimmy is a home schooled kid who worked with my husband over the summer. Summer’s over and he’s ready to head off to college.

He also has his pilot’s license – and a plane.

He offered to take Jan up for a flight – and said the kids could come, too.

the planeJan – of course – said yes.

I – of course – started hyperventilating at the thought. You all know how I feel about heights.

Seriously – does that plane look big enough to fly?

terrifiedThe kids -of course – were very excited! They had never been in a small plane – actually – three of them had never been in any plane.

in the air

I have to admit that I could not watch.  I didn’t to totally humiliate my children with another melt-down,  so I dropped them off at the airport and went shopping. 🙂

I hoped that a little retail therapy would keep me from thinking about my babies thousands of feet in the sky with a kid who is barely older than my oldest in a plane that looks as small as the models my brother used to put together!

coming back to earth

It worked. I stayed relatively calm and composed – until I learned that Jimmy even Matt fly the plane for a little while.

landingI breathed a sigh of relief when they were all safely on the ground.

At least their feet were – their heads were still floating in the sky!

Thanks Jimmy – my kids will never forgot this flight! You’re a good guy.

Cowboy Night

Okay – raise your hands here – who is tired of winter?

It was during this long spell between Christmas and Spring several years ago that a Shervheim family tradition was born.

It had been a very long and cold winter. They kids had been inside more than out and we were all a little stir crazy. We needed something different – something to break the monotony.

I had been looking for something in the back of one of my cupboards and discovered my cast iron pans.  In the other room I heard one of the little ones whooping it up on the wonder horse while his siblings chased each other around the room shooting their tinker toy guns.

That was it! We would have a Cowboy Night!


The kids enthusiastically jumped into the planning.  We made a special supper using the cast iron pans – just like a chuck wagon – and ate it by the light of our kerosene lamp dressed for supper in our cowboy best.

Then we watched The Lone Ranger before bed.

The kids loved it – and started asking for it about mid-January every year.

The menu has changed from year to year – but it always includes baking powder biscuits, some sort of beef cooked in the cast iron dutch oven, and a fruit crisp or cobbler in a cast iron skillet.

We’ve added some authentic Cowboy music with a Sons of the San Joaquin CD.

And the cowboy costumes are no longer mandatory – usually only worn by Buddy.

But the feel and the memories are still there.

It took just a few minutes on a miserably cold winter day to create a tradition that  binds us together.

Years from now – in the cold of late winter –  as my kids are scattered with their own homes and families – maybe, just maybe – they’ll remember the cast iron pans, the tinker toy guns, and The Lone Ranger.

And they call each other up and say “Hey – you remember Cowboy Night?”

Slumber Party – Round 2

The addition of 8 extra children made it another full weekend here! But what a fun one!

My sweet friend Cinnamon trusted me to watch her children again (you may remember the Toxic Slumber Party of a few weeks ago!) while she and her husband had a much needed weekend away before he is deployed to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks.


I can’t believe she actually shared this adorable little guy with me for 2 days and expected me to give him back!

Let me tell you – that belly was made for “bubbling”!


The weather was great – sunny but not too hot and humid. Perfect for popsicles and playing outside!

You may notice that Angel Girl and Grace are quite dressed up.  The older kids worked together and filmed 2 hilarious videos over the weekend.

Late prince

All of our dress up clothes were brought out and used – we like to pick up odd and random items at thrift stores and garage sales to make our movies more interesting!

This child shall remain anonymous although I will tell you that his name begins with a “G”.

Oh wait – all the kids have names that start with a “G”! 🙂 And they have more nicknames than any other family I have ever known! Bob, Nubby, Lolli, Figgy, Gigi…the list goes on and on.

Trust me – it could get really confusing to an outsider!


Didn’t I tell you this little guy is adorable? He’s also a little parrot – repeating whatever you say.

Sunday morning in church he was sitting on my lap when his sister asked to be excused. He looked at me and said “Where go?”

I whispered, “She had to go potty.”

“Ohh”, he answered quite loudly, “Potty. Potty. Potty. Potty.”

There were definitely some chuckles around us! 🙂


Yep. It was a pretty crazy weekend! Lots of laughter, lots of food and too little sleep!

And no stomach flu!


Easter Dresses and Muddy Messes

Yesterday was our first full day with all the children- and boy was it a day of contrasts!

Our day began with sweet little girls all decked out out in their Easter dresses complete with gloves and hair ribbons. (The gloves lasted all of 10 minutes!)

It included a trip to church, palm branches and goody bags full of Cheerios, pretzels and mini-marshmallows.

The girls really got into waving those palm branches! And even though they whacked us in the face several times – and whacked their brother’s heads in the row in front of us, I’ll still call the morning a resounding success.

The afternoon, however, was a different story.

It wasn’t the girls though – they had a wonderful time! They were finally able to go outside.

They discovered that their pretty pink boots made big splashes in the mud puddles; they fed the chickens, gathered the eggs and walked the length and depth of the yard.

Oh the happiness!

No, the girls had a very lovely adventure. It was the big boys who had a misadventure – a very muddy misadventure!

Remember my overconfident declaration – “I’m not worried about the boys, we’ll feed them when they’re hungry and make sure they wear clean underwear when they go home”?

Yeah – we might be rethinking that one.

Right after lunch they headed out to explore the ravines. I just told them to stay away from water, stick together and stay off the road.

They stuck together all right.

I’m not sure of the details, but the story goes that they were down in the ravines exploring when James stepped into the “Mud Pit of Death”. It instantly sucked him in up to the top of his boots. Of course the older cousins had to “rescue” him.Muddy Jeans

In the heroic attempts to “save” their cousin – all of the older cousins got into the “Mud Pit of Death” with him – which instantly started sucking the boots and shoes right off their feet.

Yes – just like a giant vacuum cleaner. What a sacrifice!

The final causality count was three boots, three shoes, and an untold number of socks.

Aunt Julie and I were shocked with the muddy, shoeless group who drifted back to the house.

But don’t worry – we  aunts got our revenge! There was no way those mud- encrusted jeans were setting foot in my house – so the boys had to drop their drawers outside the basement, wrap a towel around their skivvies and sheepishly walk upstairs to the showers – carefully navigating all the safety gates we have in place.

It was priceless!

Then this morning they had to go outside in their pj’s and spray off those jeans to remove the biggest chunks of mud before I could wash them. (They loved this part!)

We’ll be off to the Amish store  in a few minutes to replace some of the boots, Aunt Melinda found shoes in the shoe bucket to replace some of the ones buried in the ravine, and the jeans did come clean in the wash.

So, while the outward evidence of the misadventure are gone – the memory made will last forever!

And that’s what this week is all about.