For a few years now I’ve been welcoming in the new year by greeting the sun. This year at sunrise I hiked up a mountain with a dear friend…for eight hours…in 25 below zero weather. Stunning…in many ways.


…And more Christmas highlights…

I’ve slowly been sorting through my photos from Christmas. Enjoy!

Mom’s Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Her heart is always open for stray animals, wayward teenagers, and that one tree everyone else would just walk right past… For the last few years, she’s chopped her own tree from the lot of a friend who needs help thinning his forest. Thanks for your environmental consciousness and your big heart, mom.

Dad’s reading from Luke. Note how sad Peter looks. He was up at 5:00am, anxious for Christmas to start. It wasn’t until 10:30 that everyone else was up and ready. It’s hard to be the youngest. My favorite line from the Christmas reading came after dad gave some heartfelt thoughts about the humble circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.  A brother piped in, “yeah, but wasn’t one of his first gifts gold?”

Mediterranean Theme. Years ago, after reading a ‘Christmas Around the World’ book, we decided to have themed Christmases. We took the legs off our dining room table and ate with chop sticks for our Japanese Christmas. We travelled to Utah for a new baby grandchild and ate leg of lamb and flat bread for our Bethlehem Christmas. We turned the heat down, wore night caps, and read Dickens’ Christmas Carol by candle light for our turn-of the-century Christmas. I believe it was the Czech Christmas when we piled straw under the kitchen table—turning it into a stable—and slept there Christmas eve. The year the teen-age boys demanded a turn to choose the theme, we had celebrated the holiday in a cabin, wore pajamas all day, ate microwave dinners, had a rootbeer-tasting competition with an accompanying belching competition, and decorated the indoor tree with huge outdoor lights and tin-can ornaments: “White Trash Christmas”. This year we brought back the Mediterranean theme. We like the food. Mom’s artisan bread, crackers, fruits, nuts, chicken and spinach pastries, smoked fish, hummus, gobs of delicious cheeses…

My brothers’ number one request of me when I go home is to give them massages. This year I got them all massage tools. Thanks for posing for this picture Ben.

Just before I took this next photo, Caleb picked up the back scratcher/ massage hook and asked, “What pre-historic animal am I?” *(if you’re not sure, you can find the answer at the end of this post).

The friendly squirrels. They kept us occupied for a while. This little guy is loving mom’s stale cornbread.

Sweet Ava. She was the only grandchild at Christmas this year, so she was extra spoiled.

We spent a good chunk of time playing memory with her Disney princess cards. Here she is on game three, counting up her wins.

And more games. We had a building competition to see who could construct the sturdiest structure in 30 minutes out of dried spaghetti, toothpicks, and marshmellows.

…just seconds before one of my legs broke under the weight of the CDs.

Pandemic. This was our favorite new game. In the half hour following this photo, I discovered a cure for a disease that was wreaking havoc in Southeast Asia. And, together with the help of my siblings and dear friend Kristen we saved the world from an impending pandemic.

A pregnant belly. 😉

Dad’s sisters. It’s non-stop laughter when they are around. It was great to catch up with each of them.

And a phone call with Sarah. She’s currently serving a mission in the Philippines. It was so wonderful to hear her voice. (Notice the green cell phone in the center of the table. The black phone beside that was connected to my brother and his family out in Utah). I sure miss my sister, but am so proud of the stellar work she is doing half way across the globe. Her experiences are documented here.

*ANSWER: Caleb is a raptor.

Snowshoeing with Momma Leo

Over Christmas vacation I went on a sunrise snowshoeing hike with my dear mother.

It was dark and snowy when we headed down the winding wooded road…

And it was still dark when we began tromping through the Wisconsin woodland…

I loved how the wind blew one strip of snow up the east side of each tree trunk.

And I loved the river running along side the forest.

…and meeting up with the tree trunk that looked like a little gnome…

…and hearing the wisdom my mom gleaned from nature…

…and watching the splash of pink grow across the eastern sky…

Thanks Mom. Sure love you.

ps. a note from my mother:

“Thank you Analiesa for the best gift….time with you in nature. … I cherish watching the sun rise with you. I thank God everyday for the children I have. You teach and encourage me in may areas. … Thank you. May the year Twenty-Eleven bring us both a little more Heaven. I love you. -Mom”

my seven brothers

I have seven brothers. All from the same ma and pa. This is how the back entrance to my home has always looked:

From the time I first saw the play “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” I’ve fantasized that one day I’ll return home to find them all singing and dancing together.

Despite the fact that this dream has never been realized, and despite the fact they shaved my barbie dolls bald, and that the door to by bedroom was often rigged to set off a startling contraption, that action films and football games always trumped my choice of movies, that family activities always seemed to require high doses of testosterone,  and that I more than once found dolls or stuffed animals hanging by nooses from my ceiling fan… I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I love my brothers. I treasure the memories I share with each of them. I loved spending time with each of them over the Christmas holiday. Thank you Matt, Ben, Jared, Aaron, Jordan, Caleb, and Peter for being wonderful brothers.