To my daughter, about my mother


Your Mamu was there when you were born, and she stayed for a week after to help me. I have a very clear memory of her sitting on the edge of my bed while I tried to nurse you. I was trying and you were hungry and it hurt so bad. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I wish I could take the pain for you.”

I know she would have. And I think this memory has stayed with me because as I held you in that moment I realized that I would know her, my mother, in a new way now. Because of you, I would understand her, who she is and what she has been for the majority of her life- a mother. And her simple, honest words in that moment showed me so much about what it means to be a mom.

She has, in so many ways, carried my pain. Practically she has served me endlessly and unselfishly. She has taken care of me without a thought to her own needs. She has listened to me and counseled me, never judging. But most of all I know that every pain that I have experienced has been carried to the Throne of Mercy by her. And as I have been overwhelmed by her love and protection of me all my life, I so wish to love and protect you.

Your grandmother, Antonella, showed me that being a mother is a joy-filled privilege. And you proved her right.

It is a happy Mother’s Day.

Super Sam Party

We celebrated Sam’s birthday with his classmates at a park across the street from our school. The weather was beautiful, but a bit windy, so we passed on the majority of the decorations that I was going to hang. Sam has loved superheroes for a long time, so this party was so fun for him. I am still learning to be hostess and photographer at the same time, so I felt like I missed a lot of opportunities for pictures, but here is the gist of it: 

We set up one of the picnic tables with cupcakes made by Sarah’s Sweets topped with toppers from Wants and Wishes Design.   

I used gobstoppers to decorate the table and give out as party favors also. I put a handful in small treat bags and stapled the vintage-inspired signs to the bags. 

The real party favors, however, were the felt capes I made for the boys and the supergirl masks for the girls. Each cape had the guest’s initial… Eighteen boys. Twenty girl masks. I free-handed the capes, but got the idea here

I ran out of fabric so the little boys got little capes with their initial in lower case. 

The girls were not as excited to run around the park with masks on as the boys were with the capes! I printed a free template and traced them on the stiff felt you can buy at a craft store by the sheet. 

I really wish I would have lined them all up for a picture, but here you can at least see them running around the park. The preparations leading up to the party were a little more time consuming than I anticipated, but it was so worth it! The park was fenced in and we kept the food simple, so I was able to enjoy the party with friends and the birthday boy! It was too windy for candles, but Super Sam was content to sit on Dad’s shoulders for the birthday song.

The third at five

Dear Samuel,

In the span of your short life, you have struggled. You have struggled to breathe. You have struggled to behave. You have struggled to be heard. And you have struggled to find words for the depths of your heart.

I struggle now to find the words to describe to you how much, and just how, I love you.

The difference between our struggles, my sweet boy, is that you have overcome yours. You breathe deep and sure, not a scar left of your battle. You know how to behave and despite your struggles you are learning self-control. You know what you want and you are not easily influenced. And it has been an honor to watch your words start to connect to what goes on in your heart, the tenderness and peace that reside in you.

You are a champion. With God’s grace you have overcome so much in these five years, and I am so proud of who you are today.

I am happy to continue to struggle to find the right words for you, Sam.

I love that you are just, and although you confuse it with fairness at times, I believe that your concern for justice is God’s gift to you.

I love that your words always carry weight, for better or for worse, never spoken lightly.

I love your laugh, hearing it fills me with joy.

I love that you always surprise us with your smarts–you know so much!

I love that you hesitate with new things because you remind me of myself.

I love that you are a good friend, to your siblings and to your buddies.

I love how much you love toys.

I love how serious and reverent you are about the Lord. Every ounce of your five year old faith is in Jesus.

I love that you kill dragons and defend the weak. It may be pretend now, but you are becoming a warrior for the Kingdom.

I love you. I am thankful for your life. I am so happy to be your mom.

Happy Birthday, Samuel Mathias! 

Oh Brother II

After an exciting summer of falling in love and dreaming about the future, I found myself alone in my dorm room. Freshman year had started, the newness quickly wore off, and I was homesick.

I knew I would not wake him up, so I did not hesitate and called my brother. My middle brother, two and a half years older than me, also went to Baylor University. A few minutes later he was in the lobby and we sat together on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table.

He made me laugh and made fun of me a little. He listened to me… and then he broke the glass on the coffee table. It just silently cracked, kind of like a windshield. We sat there for a minute, looked at each other trying not to laugh, and I knew our little party was over. He kissed my head and quickly walked out.

I had a little reminder of how much my brother loves me every time I walked by that coffee table in the lobby. It still makes me laugh.

My brother is brilliant. He finished Baylor with a double major, top of his class, headed for medical school. Right before graduating, he took a semester to study abroad in Argentina. There, he had an encounter with God that changed his life. He experienced God’s love and presence in an amazingly powerful way, and it not only changed who he is, it changed the direction of his life. He declined acceptance letters to prestigious medical schools. He considered all things, his grades, his accomplishments, his plans, and counted them loss compared to knowing Christ. He felt called to full time ministry and obeyed.

For over ten years I have watched him consider, again and again, and choose Christ, again and again. I have watched his life be consumed with passion for Christ, and watched as he shares that passion with thousands around the world. And I am blessed to have his example, because as I have watched I have learned: Christ is worth it all.

American Girl

I remember moving to America. I was ten years old, not quite a kid and not quite a teenager. I remember visiting toy stores for the first time and knowing that I was too old to get excited about the play kitchens and tiny pots and pans that I had never seen before. I remember feeling awe and wonder and yet at the same time feeling it slip through my hands–not only because I was getting too old for most of the toys, but also because we could not afford many of those things. I remember I loved the child-sized  furniture the most.

I don’t remember how I got my first American Girl Doll catalog. Over the next few months I spent hours looking at the dolls on the pages. Their outfits, their hair, their stories–I was mesmerized by it all. When I looked through those pages, my age did not seem to matter. I knew I had time… Time to play with dolls–those dolls–and time to save money for one.

My aunt came to visit from Argentina that summer and she ordered Kirsten for me. No more saving and looking and longing, my doll was in the mail headed my way! What I am sure was a couple of weeks felt like years, but as we pulled up the driveway one day I spotted the big box on the front porch. I finally had my American Girl, and was well on my way to becoming one.

I played with Kirsten–I did her hair and made her clothes. I loved reading the books about her life as an immigrant from Sweden. After a while she found her place on a shelf, replaced by sports and school and art and later by a boy from a Swedish family.

The next memory I have of Kirsten is seeing her in the hands of a chubby two year old, my daughter. Too young to understand or appreciate the doll, she played with her when we visited my mom’s house. A few years later she received Nellie, Samantha’s best friend, from Neil’s mom. And so the stories and the value of these dolls started to make their way into her heart, slowly at first. For a while I thought she might not like dolls like I did, maybe she is different than me. Maybe growing up in America has numbed her to the excitement of new dolls with historical tales.

I’m not sure if the fact that her friends have them triggered the excitement, or perhaps her age, but all of the sudden she began to play with Kirsten and Nellie all the time. And I of course, am delighted. We talk about their stories and their hair and we pretend that they are late for a fancy ball.

Is there anything better than playing with dolls when you are a little girl? I am not trying to sound like a commercial for American Girl Dolls, they just happened to be the kind that I spent part of my childhood with. I know the company is not the same it was twenty years ago, for better or for worse, but the magic of playing with dolls is the same.

We visited the American Girl Store over Spring Break. We ate at the Bistro and slowly walked through all the collections, my mind flip-flopping between memories of myself as a ten year old and pictures of my own daughter explaining each story to me. I knew she wanted Josefina so badly, but she knew she already had two dolls, and she knew how expensive the dolls are. She would never ask me for the doll. Her contentment challenges me–we are different.

I told her she could pick something out, something she really wanted. I told her she could get Josefina… and I realized that right then and there was one of the few moments in our lives that I knew exactly how my American girl felt.



I found a handful of old Little Golden Books at an antique store a while ago, including this one:

It’s been in our house for over a year, and I know I’ve read it to the kids several times, but just yesterday I noticed something peculiar…

Notice the “design elements” of Skupper’s room? The hanging bed, the rope, the eye hooks, the clock, the ladder, the window… Remind you of anything?

I’ve answered a lot of questions about the boys’ bedroom, and many ask where my inspiration came from.  It looks like reading to my kids has affected me more than them!

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The kids finished listening to the second of C.S.Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia at school last week. As you know, we like to celebrate when we finish a book! They listen to this series at lunch, so the whole school participates. A family at our church had a “Narnia” themed car for trunk-or-treat last year, and they generously let us borrow their set up. The students dressed up as their favorite characters once again, and we had everything from Edmund to Mr. Tumnus!

After playing a couple of fun games during lunch, each class walked outside to find a mysterious wardrobe…

They all peeked… Hesitated only for a bit…

And followed Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund through the fur coats…

To find the White Witch waiting for them on the other side, enticing them with Turkish Delight!

The wardrobe was made from plywood, and it just propped up against a minivan. The lamppost is plastic and one of the moms found the Turkish Delight at Marshall’s! But the key to a successful voyage to Narnia is a really good, evil witch.

Our campus coordinator, Pamela, dressed up and played the part!

My kids debated and brainstormed about what to dress up as the day before the party, and we tried not to influence them at all. I forgot to take pictures of them before the day started, but snapped a few during recess.

Sam chose to be Peter, an obvious and easy choice for him. But all he wanted to wear was a blue cape. I offered a crown, a shield, to write MAGNIFICENT on his shirt… No, just the cape.

Jeremiah was C.S. Lewis himself. He wore a suit from a wedding he was in two years ago and glasses with the lenses popped out.

Antonella took her time deciding- she really wanted to dress up as something that no one else would think of. And with great success, she chose to dress up as Turkish Delight. We powdered her with glitter and baby powder, and she was as happy as can be.

The Horse and His Boy is next… What will they come up with?

This Week: Helpers

Antonella: Thank you for helping me make soup.

Jeremiah: Thank you for juicing the grapefruits.

Samuel: Thank you for folding the laundry.

Augustine: Thank you for picking up all your puzzles.

Oh Brother

I am the youngest and the only girl in my family. I have always looked up to my older brothers, and to this day continue to admire them. Their influence in my life is eternal–they have loved me unconditionally, protected me consistently, and taught me many things. Growing up with them was never boring, through the ups and downs of childhood there was always laughter and unity in our home. I decided to pick on my oldest brother first, to share with you how profound his influence was, and is, on my life. Profound, and unbelievable.

When I was five years old, I was asked to join an elite and exclusive martial arts class. Ne-tun, he called it. He was the leader, the master, and the expert. All the neighborhood kids gathered in our living room and did everything he said, practicing high kicks and forward rolls that without a doubt would be the key to our survival one day. We were all mesmerized by his intricate knowledge of the ancient form of self-defense. Too mesmerized, apparently, to realize he never actually did any of the moves himself.

In Argentina, every business has a business card with a calendar on the back, the store’s information, and a picture of a waterfall or kitten or something like that. He convinced me that it was of utmost importance to collect these treasures, and to this day I own an incredible amount of Argentinian business cards from the 80’s. I asked for one every time I entered a store, knowing that I would someday be asked to present my collection before the president, and I would be ready.

Another thing we collected (and by “we” I mean his idea, my doing) is the little stickers that come on fruit. He could tell me which ones were worth a lot, rarity and color combinations being the key to value. If we found one with “Argentina” written on it, we put it on the side of the refrigerator. My mom would throw them away. I hate to admit that this went on way past the age that I knew better.

When I was about ten years old, he took me to Wal-Mart to buy a hamster. Did I want a hamster or did he? I don’t even know. All I know is that two days after we brought the hamster home, it gave birth to like thirteen pink, ugly babies. I cannot bring myself to write about the fate of those hamsters, but he knows. And he knows it was his idea.

Another… yes, another, thing we collected was quotes. We had a box that we put super cool quotes in–sayings like “Life is hard. Pray harder,” and “Love is like a box. You only get out what you put in.” It was a box full of heart-wrenching treasures, full of wisdom, and in my eyes, he possessed most of it.

Unbelievable, I tell you. But the way that my brother has invested in my life is also unbelievable. All childhood silliness aside, his influence in my life has been God’s grace toward me. One of the most important things that I have learned from my brother, as an adult sister, is that this influence that he has… it’s a gift. I have learned that God makes us who we are with a purpose and a specific plan to bring glory to His own name. My brother lives out the things that many of us just talk about–he loves the lost, serves his family, shares the Gospel, prays with faith, and gives generously. And in using this gift, I have seen many lives around him changed. I was probably one of the first lives to change because of his influence. I may have an irrational need to peel stickers off fruit and an aversion to hamsters, but I also have a brother who is an amazing example and friend.

Work Ethic

Last week, after quite a few days of dreary weather, we had a warm, sunshiny day. The kids asked to clean the play scape, and before they could finish their question I had a bucket and sponges in their hands.

They set to work, scrubbing, sweeping, washing… all except one.

August sat in the clubhouse, slowly chewing his crackers, watching everybody else do the work.

The older kids were having a blast, but that did not seem to matter to him.

He was content to sit and watch.

The thing about growing up with older brothers though is that you rarely get away with that sort of behavior. Everybody is expected to pull their weight.

And if you don’t… well, there are consequences.