I like to plan. It's a well known gag among ourselves and our friends that Jac and I tend to be decidedly different about the necessity of planning. (I'm bringing him around!) And our children? Yeah, they've learned a little too well from my example.

"So, what's going to happen after nap?"

(If you don't ever go to sleep and keep the baby up, you won't live to ever find out.)

"What's for dinner tonight?"

(Why do you only ask on days that I don't have an answer and how about one thing at a time, Mr. Jammiebottoms?)

"How will I say no if someone asks me out?"

(Uh. . . You're ten. Let's work on learning the times tables first, m-kay?)

Anyway, The kids were sorely disappointed by our lack of plans for New Years Eve.

"No one is coming over?! That's sad!" they lamented.

I assured them I had planned on plenty of sugar and probably some games and all would be well.

There were no plans for New Years but there were plans for the rest of the twelve days of Christmas, Twelfth Night, Epiphany, for schooling, for evenings in and out and I, for one, was relishing the thought of the New Year, new goals and fresh starts.

Then the call that Papa was in the hospital. Would he stay or be sent home? If he stayed, for how long? Things weren't so bad. Things weren't looking good but could turn around. Things were . . . Bad.

I got the text Papa had passed after the New Year was rung in and everyone was in bed. We got the first text offering condolences and help before I was out of bed the next morning.

Messages of sympathy and assurances of prayers came flooding in. We had planned to go to Mass and leave to come and load up so we could go before the weather hit but we were the last to leave the church. Friends came to give hugs and ask what they could do. Folks offered to pick things up for us. Rent a vehicle. Take our kids so we could pack. Elizabeth came and washed dishes, matched socks and folded laundry.

When we hit the road, exhausted and spread thin, friends stayed up to pray and send messages, asking for updates and making sure we stayed awake. More texts came assuring babysitters if we needed them in CA. Later we heard that at Ripon Grace, Pastor Rex asked for prayers for our safe journey. All of this prayer ...continue reading


Children of mine,

At the moment, we are climbing the Sierras in the van with most of us sick. You have requested to listen to Hamilton at least a half a dozen times and are rolling your eyes at our California themed play list. Someday this will be the soundtrack of your memories. Someday.

It's been a little over two weeks since Papa Bill passed away and I haven't had the words or the heart to write about it. Writing makes me feel things and I have been numb. Numb with stress and worry and work and the next thing on the list. Someday you'll understand. Someday.

I want you to remember Papa. That's the hardest part of this loss for me-the fact that Lu and Penny and probably Gemma, too, won't remember him. We will share stories and laugh over photos and sing the songs he sang but they won't remember his dignified stride, his laugh, the weight of his hand on their head. I wish I could have bottled those things up to bring out and share as I willed. Life doesn't work like that though and we are given the gift of loss to savor the now. I know you don't understand that and truthfully? I don't either but God says someday we will. Someday.

Anyway, there will come a day when the memories of this trip have become fuzzy. Maybe you'll remember the bag piper or the time spent at the Wyeth's or cousin Kathy and Saboin. Maybe you'll recall the sickness or build-a-bear or any of the other things we did these last two weeks. So I want to put down Papa's eulogy I gave for us to remember. It gathers up some of the best lessons he gave and someday you will appreciate it. Someday.

Eulogy for Papa-January 7, 2017

I was voluntold that I was to read the obituary today. However, as I reflected on it I thought that it would be unnecessary to do that since it is printed in the programs. But if you'd like to have it read to you, please find me afterward because I have 4 of my children that can do that for you.

It is a daunting task to sum up the life of someone,  especially for a man who lived a life as rich and as varied as Papa Bill. I have been overwhelmed with the desire to include all of the important memories to everyone. However, that is impossible and the truth is most of you are here today because you have your own memories of Papa Bill. Thank you for coming and I ask you to treasure and cherish those memories and share them with us at the reception!

With that said, what I will share with you today is what I hope my children will know about Papa. And I know he was known by many names and titles but I hope you won't mind me calling him Papa Bill because I couldn't call him Bill even if he wanted me to.

Papa Bill was an educator through and through and he was always teaching. Every conversation was an opportunity for a lesson though it was seldom explicitly stated as such or heavy handed. And so I want to share with you some of the greatest lessons he taught us.

He taught us to value home and where you came from. Born in 1928 in Lead, SD, he always considered it home. A number of years ago as we biked the Michelson trail. he shared with us that it was the same route he took as he rode a train away to service. He said he cried as wondered if and when he would ever see his beloved hills again. And not a trip went by that he wouldn't declare upon arriving in South Dakota that no where in the wide world -and he had seen a lot of it! -had skies as blue as SD. Loyal, he stayed in contact with his high school class through email and facebook -because he was into those sorts of technologies-and attended many reunions. When he moved to Tuolumne, it became his second home and it was love for Tuolumne County that flowed through his veins. He felt like belonged there and never forgot how the community had welcomed him and his family in when they were strangers. He did his very best to return the favor, opening up his home to others and welcoming folks into his family. And as is evident by the presence of the piper and the kilts, he was deeply proud of his Scottish heritage and closely identified with that part of himself.

He taught us that some things are worth waiting for. As a child, Papa loved to eat stale marshmallows.  Laughing, he'd tell us about taking the homemade marshmallows his grandmother made and hiding them in his underwear drawer until they were good and crunchy.  This carried over into stale peeps, a treat that my mom and I still enjoy.  His wife of 60 years was his high school sweetheart who he left at home when he joined the service.  But instead of sending a "Dear Joyce" letter home, he waited, returned and married his love, making her my nana.  And, as many of you were privileged to witness, his beloved kilt was purchased in the last years of his life, a luxury he had waited a very long time for.

He taught us that sometimes it doesn't pay to wait, either.  In the service, he dutifully fulfilled what he had promised to do, but did not stay one day longer once he had made up his mind that he was through.  He dropped out of West Point because it wasn't for him.  When he had a young bride, a baby, and a full time job, he packed everything up and headed to southern Colorado to pursue and get his masters degree because it was the right time to him.  He was unable to sit still, always moving on to the next thing, and he was known to announce when he had decided enough was enough, "My coach has turned into a pumpkin!" and that was that.

He taught us there was a right way to do things.  When he was 9, his older brother grew lax in his milk delivery route.  Papa was disgusted that it wasn't being handled in the right way and took over the responsibility, waking at 4 am to get the milk, deliver it, return the used bottles to the dairy and return home all before school. He taught us there was a right way to hold drum sticks and a right way to march.  He was very opinionated about the right way to drive and didn't hesitate to tell you if he thought you were not in fact doing it right. Papa even had a right way to wash a car and it was a big deal when I got my first car that he made a special trip down to show me how to wash it correctly.  I still feel a tinge of guilt each time I use an automated car wash.

He taught us that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well. This fact was evident throughout his life but most especially in the many hobbies he was passionate about.  His HAMM radios, wood working, model planes, real planes, weather tracking and his Bible study were just some of his hobbies he shared with others.

He taught us that life is too good to be taken seriously.  One just needs to look at one of the dune buggies to know that this is true because they look ridiculous.  It was on those dune buggy trips, often in the midst of a particularly rough patch that one would hear him laugh.  Or around the campfire, sharing stories or songs.  I will never forget that sound for the rest of my days.  He was good at reminding me not to be so serious.  On bike rides he'd ask me how I was feeling and I would answer, I don't feel good. It was my go-to response because I was difficult.  It never failed that he would give me a squeeze and say, "You feel pretty good to me!"

He taught us it is never too late for redemption.  Papa Bill was a man who came late to Jesus.  Having avoided church for the majority of his adult life because he was afraid he'd be forced to lead the choir, he began by learning about Jesus.  Then he came to know him.  He was baptized at 86 and even in the last days of his life, he chased after the Lord, coming to Bible study as usual.  This is the most important thing - that he followed Christ.

A dear friend said to me when she heard of Papa's passing, that she couldn't imagine the world without him in it.  I agree as it just doesn't seem possible.  But here we are and the world is better for having Papa in it and we are better for having known him.


It seems right, fitting even, that since we took our fall photos before it was officially "autumn" that I should finally get around to posting them on a frigid day in December.

Yes, I am rolling my eyes. Yes, I am disappointed in myself, too.

The lot of us were struck down with a stomach bug the third week of September. Jac and I both kept telling ourselves that surely we were not really sick. Surely it was all in our heads.

We woke on Jac's Birthday determined to power through, but by 12, admitted that our sweating, lethargic selves were, indeed, sick. We allowed ourselves a moment to mourn and grieve and then Jac suggested a run for the canyon.

Because driving those curvy roads with a van full of nauseous kids and people is living on the edge! And then coaxing photo worthy smiles out of them all?! Who doesn't love a challenge?

I kept glancing over at Jac all the way up wondering what we had done.

But God is good and no one got sick and no one yelled (Lu did cry but she was 2 and she takes her roll of being obstinate and difficult very, very seriously.


As we edited them at home later, Max couldn't get over how old he looked. "I look like I'm 15 or something!" We laughed over grumpy/crazy/confused faces and compared Jac's running shots to those of years passed.


It was another one for the books. "2016-the year we felt like puking." Nice!

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A long time ago a friend shared how some of their friends had a laundry and letters Friday evening tradition. After this week, I thought why not combine the idea to air my dirty laundry in letter form? Sounds fun!

Dear New Neighbors,

So they probably didn't disclose that you'd be sharing a fence with seven kids and a crazy dog. I'm betting you are wishing they had! But since it's too late to back out, know Gemma is just going through a dramatic stage and the screaming you hear is just for show. Thanks for being cool and not calling CPS on us!

Beloved Children of Mine,

I know I've said it before, but In case you need a reminder:

Don't toss your clean, folded clothes on the floor. It makes me crazy and prone to yell.

Dear Child's Future Spouse,

Your beloved is probably going to throw their clothes on the floor along with everything else. I apologize. I tried.

Dear Parents Everywhere,

A word of advice- if you cannot get your children to come when you call and you need them, use the restroom, sweep up a dust pile or mop the floor.  Works like a charm. They will come running.

Penny's Teeth,

Listen up, punks. It's high time you showed up already. We've all waited long enough and you're making our girl miserable. She hasn't napped all week, for crying out loud! Give us a break, okay?

Love of my life,

The London fog you brought this morning and the bagel with the cream cheese I like? Incredible. Even better? The way you talked me down from the yelling over the clothes on the floor. (See above) You da real MVP.


Advent is supposed to be exciting so just relax. And think about and pray over any grand ideas of traditions before you start them, okay? Because seriously, you're exhausted. (See above) I guess you can take comfort in knowing you don't have an elf to move around. Let's celebrate the small victories, shall we? ...continue reading

A month ago, Lucy turned three.

It was all she could talk about for weeks leading up to it. And heaven forbid anyone mentioned the word "birthday" as she would start to yell in an extremely territorial way, "It's MY birthday!  MINE!"

She didn't have many requests for what she wanted to do so much as what she wanted to get.

"I want a pink cake.  And a monkey to whack."

Translation: Strawberry cake and a monkey pinata.

She was very insistent about the whacking part. . .


We all trooped out to divide and conquer the extravaganza prep and riding in the cart, she was an empress inspecting her dominion.  EVERYTHING was on her wish list.  I wheeled her away from Jac and her siblings and each aisle we passed held some wonder for her.

"Oooh!  Red trees!  I need those for my birthday, mama!"

"Look at that!  I need that for my birthday."

"Mama! Those things are for my birthday!  Let's get them!"

I made the mistake of wandering down the candy aisle in search of Runts (none could be found) and she locked in on the gum.

"Mom!  There's pink gum right there!  I need it. Get it for my birthday."

I laughed at her demanding tone but only because it was so shocking.

"You don't  NEED any gum." I assured her.

"Well, I called the hospible and they said I needed pink gum and you're not giving it to me so. . ." She shook her head sadly and gave me a piteous and guilt inducing look. This kid, who hasn't been to the hospital IN HER LIFE (not even to be born) was pulling the doctor as authority over me?  How did this happen?!


I pushed her through the home goods, figuring it was safe.  Instead, she gasped at the vacuums.

"Wow! These would be great for my birthday!" she gestured grandly with her arms.


When we didn't find a monkey (to whack) she admitted that a pirate ship could work just as well because while she is entitled, she is not unreasonable.

At least not about pinatas.

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Her godparents came along with "Biliff" (Elizabeth) and Susan and Jordan who brought 16 pumpkins.



She balked at the thought of taking a knife to the pumpkins but then her mind was blown when she saw what a jack-o-lantern really was. so we gutted the gourds in her honor. She was embarassed by the demand she skip around the room even though she had practiced that part for a week. But she soaked up the celebratory feel of the night and turned three without a hitch.

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When I give thanks for Jac who is more and better than I ever planned on or could have asked for in a husband, right near the top of my list is that he uses Pinterest.

Okay, maybe not that specifically . . . But he communicates.  And in a house where I don't know what the majority of people are saying at any given time, it is a precious commodity.

On Pinterest, he has a board that he made and then shared with me titled "Things Jacques Wants to Eat,"and that makes my heart sing. It makes meal planning and trying new things easier.

Okay, maybe not entirely as we have 7 picky children . . . But it helps!

This week I made steak with gorgonzola butter from a recipe that was pinned.  I baked up a sweet potato for Jac and good ol' russets for the kids and me (the kids take after me in the picky department) and asked the kids 15 times to set the table.

Okay, maybe not that many . . . But it was close.

And then as we waited for Jac to come up and try it out, Lucy yelled.

"Blech!  What smells so stinky? It smells like cowboy poop!"

If you were unaware of what cowboy poop smells like, as I was, now you know. A mixture of grilled steak, gorgonzola, fresh parsley, and carmelized sugar.

Okay, probably not really. . . but it sure was funny.

Jac's board of things he wants to eat is pretty appetizing.  And the steak was delish even if it did smell a little funky.

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“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1

While shopping for Lucy's birthday, the kids were appalled to find themselves walking in a winter wonderland.  "Why is the Christmas stuff out?!" Philip was near panic.  "We haven't even gotten through All Hallow's Eve!"  Seeing the Christmas trees and sparkling decor convinced Gemma that her birthday had to be happening in the next few days.  The girls have begun to repeatedly casually mention gift suggestions for Christmas and Jac asked while out and about what color we should we wear for Christmas this year.  Philip is on countdown for Advent songs and facebook keeps reminding me that there are only 9 Fridays Until Christmas!!! All that is to say IT IS COMING.

I wrote last year  about our Jesse tree and got to thinking that I'd love to share that tradition with even more folks.  How about an ornament swap?!

A Jesse Tree ornament swap works like this- each participant who registers will be assigned one symbol to make. The total number of ornaments each participant will make of their symbol will depend on the number of those participating, but the maximum number required is 28. All ornaments will be turned in to the swap organizer and they will combine all of the ornaments into full sets of the 28 ornaments. You will receive a PDF booklet containing scriptures for each ornament and the order in which they are displayed.

Think and pray about if you would like to participate this year and tell your friends! Please look over the dates below as meeting these deadlines are the way we can insure to get the sets back to you in time to begin Advent!

Click here to see some example ornaments

Click here to see some Pinterest ideas


Sign Up Deadline - 11/9
Receive your symbol and assigned number you will make - 11/10
Turn in all your ornaments - 11/22
Receive your full sets - 11/25


How can I receive more than one set?  - Sign up to make more than one symbol!

What sort of ornaments or materials are okay?  - It is good to keep in mind that the ornaments will hopefully be handled by little hands so durable is good! Foam, craft foam, sculpey or air dry clay, crochet/knit, fabric, felt, shrinky-dink, metal, wood, craft sticks, clothespins, leather, salt/cornstarch dough, etc., are all excellent ideas!

But I'm not very crafty. Can I still do it? – Absolutely! Pinterest has a wealth of ideas! Plus, you are made in the image and likeness of the great Creator so you've got creativity in there somewhere!

How do I sign up? Fill out the form below:

Fill out my online form.


Our school kick-off was moved off the feast of St. Augustine due to a scheduling conflict.  Then it was postponed because of sickness.  The kids got mighty nervous that we would skip over it all together, the way we did with our anniversary.

It's fine.  I'm over it.

They were so relieved and excited when they saw me making crowns.  They double and triple checked that it really was okay that they wear whatever they wanted and didn't need to match.  They planned and strategized their meals, drinks, and desserts. They were beside themselves.

We were, too, really.  This begins our eighth year.  There is some weight and seriousness to that number.  It feels like we should know what we're doing.

It's fine. I'm dealing with it.

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Max is an 8th grader this year.  He's taller than I am, is ridiculously organized and fastidious and is currently only interested in WWII. He is serious about his work out regimen and his studies.


Philip is in 6th grade and sat us down to tell us all the things he wanted to learn this year.  The list includes things like work on programming skills, Physics and Newton's Laws, improve sewing skills, memorize all of the prayers and mysteries of the rosary, and work on Parkor skills.  He is equal parts serious and silly and while he still can be utterly distracted by his own ideas, he is more and more attentive making enjoying the current moment really great.

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Tess is in 4th grade.  She dresses and accessorizes every day as if it were a special occasion.  She also thrives on switching things up and keeping things new and novel. She is learning that sh can do hard things and how delicious victory tastes when it is hard fought.

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Ellie is in second grade this year and that means she is preparing for first reconciliation and first communion.  She's decided that green is her new favorite color and ravels back in forth between the big kids and the littles in all things.  She is thoughtful and imaginative.

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Oh, Gemma.  She has a few months left before she turns 5 but she acts "like a teenage!" according to her siblings.  She's just starting in this school business, wanting to be at the table with her siblings and focusing on what she's doing.  She also is "all about fashion which means the best stuff and looking the best,, which I'm really good at." Hence her Tom's on the wrong feet with her red dress.



Lu was so very excited about her crown this year and, along with Gem, thought she was BIG STUFF.  Her main job during school is to serve as a distraction. Or to wake up Penny. She takes seriously her role as Max's weight during his workouts and ensures she gets read to every day.

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Penny doesn't even look like this baby anymore!  That evening she smiled for her rapt audience/entertainers that are her siblings and then had her first 'real' food, eating baked potato and filet mignon.

Before we know it, she'll be the one wearing the 8th grade crown.

It's fine.  I'll get over it.

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In the words of Papa Bill, Sally Ho and Tally Forth!

October has been so very lovely in the weather department.  We have been to the downtown fountains to play several times and have tried to soak up the mellowness of a lovely, lasting autumn.

For Tess's feast day I told the kids I'd take them downtown to the fountains.  We had to search high and low for suits because some girls like to wear them just for fun and some girls like to pee in them while other girls like to shirk their laundry duties.

There was some yelling.  I apologized.  We got through it.

ANYWAY . . .

I loaded up kids in their swimsuits and headed downtown only to find Oktoberfest underway in Main Street Square.

"Oooooohhhhh!" Was the disappointed sigh as we drove past.

"What about Dinosaur Park?!" I tried to sound enthusiastic though I knew darn well that I would have to carry Penny up and down the hill in my arms as I didn't have the backpack.

"Yes!!!" They all yelled. Even Lucy who has not been in her recent memory.

So up we went.

Philip obliged my request to see if someone's head would fit in the dinosaur mouth.  Everyone else was too creeped out.


We were "those kids" who kept pushing the music button on the mechanical ride, causing the obnoxious song to be played so loudly it could be heard clearly from the top of the hill.


They took off up the hill, opting to climb up the side walls instead of taking the steps. Ellie went up on her hands and knees, claiming she was afraid of heights.

"Um. . . you don't HAVE to walk there.  Come on the steps if that makes you feel safer."


She didn't need to be asked twice which was good because with that crisis averted, another cropped up. Lucy stood frozen on the narrow steps. I felt her shrinking within herself and I started to sweat from more than the heat of the day.  People were coming up behind us and Lu and I were to have a confrontation, well, things could get ugly.

I played it cool.  "Hey, Lu!  What's going on?"

"That is a dragon. Right there." Fear rimmed her words.

"It's not a dragon!" Ellie hollered down to her.

"Oh!  Yeah, it's an elephant!" And with that decided, she kept climbing.


Note to self: teach Lucy about Dinosaurs.

By the time we made it to the Stegosaurus, she was over any hesitating and went up and down the back of the dinosaur even with her slippery Salt Waters.


Turns out hot, painted concrete and swimsuit clad bodies aren't the best mix.


And Gemma wanted to know the dinosaurs names.

"Their names?  I don't think they have any.  Would you like to give them some names?"

"Yes!" she was eager and decisive. "This one is Isabelle." She pointed to the Tricerotops. "And thiiiiis one?" She concidered the T-Rex, "I think it's Sparkle."

Best. Name. Ever.

Penny spent her time trying to lunge out of my arms so she could explore the dinos on her own. So we tried to sit her down at Sparkle's feet, but her kicking, anxious legs wanted to dance with joy instead.  So cute.


It was a great trip with much laughter and enjoyment. And then it ended with a full body press to get a screaming, enraged Lucy into her car seat.

Oh, the memories!

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I lamented more than once that I doubted Lu would ever be out of diapers. The fits and starts we had! It made me question my ability to be a parent.

Before Penny was born Mama Syd scoffed at my claim that I had never dealt with one like Lu before. "You say that about every kid!" she laughed. Then she came at Easter and with wide eyes said, "That Lucy. . . She's something else! Boy, is she stubborn!" Rest assured, if I had been able to drink I would have simply poured a tall one and raised it in an acknowledging toast before slamming it back.

The thing is, the kid cannot be convinced of something that isn't her idea. Or be distracted or swayed. She knows what she wants and she absolutely did NOT want to be potty trained.

One day in June she stood up mid-lunch. "My skirt is wet!" she announced matter-of-fact like. I was up to my elbows in dish water but went on high alert. "What?! Why? Did you spill your water?" "No. I peed." "Luce! Where are you supposed to pee?" "In the potty chair." she replied. And then, "Yeah, you keep saying that. . . "

A week later she ran to the dining room-AWAY from the bathroom-and hollered, "I'M POOPING!" Again I was at the sink. "Okay! Let's go! Quick, quick, quick!" was my enthusiastic reply. "No." was her flat response. "I already did." And then, "Oh! And I'm peeing." she said as she watched a puddle form on the floor.

No words. None.

When Mama Syd and Papa arrived for the summer and found out Lu was still in diapers, my utter lack in potty-training prowess was laughed off. "We'll do it up at the lake, won't we Lu? It will be easy up there!"So it was with no little joy that I pointed out how she remained in diapers the last week they were here. "Yeaaaah," Mama Syd sighed, "I didn't get that done either. We'll work on it this week though, right Lucy?"

The look that she gave could be summed up as, 'Do. Your. Best.'

But then, seemingly without any real trying, she just up and decided that that was what she was doing.

It may have helped that Mama Syd offered to take her to the Outhouse in style.

I observed that it was a little Silence of the Lamb-y but it got the job done, so who am I to judge?

Really, once she set her mind to it, there has been no turning back. Well, except for 6 days in when I found her happily playing in a Pull-up. "Hey Lu? You need to get some chonies on and go potty in the potty chair." "Yeah," she said, not even bothering to look at me, "I don't do that anymore. I just wear diapers."

I am drinking heavily, friends. Heavily.

So, this was written and SUPPOSED to be posted in August.  But WordPress and I haven't been getting along very well so I just realized that it was never put up.  I'm shaking my fist and imbibing as I type.