Here’s What Your Kid Wants For Christmas


Great Grandma K doesn’t have much to spare, she’s lived a simple life, raised five children, stayed married for decades, and prayed—a lot.  She still prays, even though her kids are grown.  When David and I opened our wedding gifts seven years ago, her $20 donation to our new together life meant more than anything else we received.

Last Christmas I sent an email to the gift-giving family members in our tribe and politely begged them to refrain from buying more toys for our kiddos.  Here’s what I’ve learned about toys: kids don’t like them as much as people love giving them.  Which is sweet and great and I get it, it’s Christmas/Birthday/Half-Birthday, that’s just what we do—buy things to help make the day more exciting.

The toy sometimes fills a hole in the giver’s heart, and creates a need the recipient didn’t even know they had, or needed to have.  What if we decided to bless instead of dazzle?

Plus, I have zero room for more toys.  Please tell me I’m not the only one to secretly snatch all the little knick knacks that accumulate in the corners, under beds and sofas, and in closets and toss them in a donation bag.  Or in the recycle bin.

Instead of toys I asked for experiences.  My aunt bought us a zoo membership.  Nana bought them lots of coloring supplies, a special date to go see a play, and family games.  My dad sent them IKEA gift cards so they could go and pick out anything they wanted.  Rae veered toward trains, a rug, and new bedding, while Lucy insisted on a new wardrobe to house her clothing.  Atticus went straight for a kitten puppet.

They each got the experience of picking out bedroom furniture, or getting dressed up for Beauty and the Beast, or playing the matching game for the 20th g-damn night in a row.

I will send out a reminder this year.  Coloring books, puzzles, games we can enjoy as a family, gift cards to pick out clothing they like, zoo/museum memberships, special days, books–but please no toys.  Hopefully by the time they’re eighteen we won’t have a single trinket left.

Grandma K sent an empty red balloon to one of the kids for their birthday last year.  Think about that, a red balloon in a simple card plastered with animal and angel stickers.  No packaging to fill up garbage cans, no assembly required, no batteries or beeping sounds; the balloon was an experience.

It was the best gift they’ve ever gotten, and I am stealing the idea.  Hardcore.

The floating orb lasted for a few days before I scissored it to death, and they still talk about that one time a red balloon came in the mail from “Nana’s mama.”  Great Grandma K didn’t care whether she received credit for the balloon, she just sent what she could.  Which, when birthed from Love, will always be enough.

Simple and real is better than loud and plastic.

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Mama🐻Monday: A Letter To Dads, From David



Dear Dads,

I don’t usually write for Mama Bear Mondays, but some things have been on my mind that I wanted to share with you. For the wives, this letter isn’t really for you, but I pray that it gives you a bit of grace and peace and understanding for your husband’s journey.

Okay, fathers, how’s it going? You have a kid, or several. Awesome, right? Not awesome? I get that; I have four children. I did not want four children. I did not want three children. I did not want two children. I barely wanted one child. They are he hardest, most disruptive, most frustrating houseguests in the world. No one ever told me that.

Maybe they joked about it.
But I’m not joking—kids will fuck you up.

Every one of my children has broken me in new ways, and I am writing today to tell you that there is hope. So let’s get practical. Here are a few practices that help maintain my sanity:

   1.  Take the long way home.

Yes, your wife may have the noose waiting for you when you arrive, but you are responsible for you first. Are you tense about what your boss thinks of your performance? Take the time to journal about it, call a friend to confess, or just breathe and remember that there is more to life than the American Dream Machine.

Did your parenting partner threaten to feed the babies to the dog when the witching hour hit?  Pray for her (she is responsible for her own emotional health and needs) & take the long way, listen to some music and enjoy being alone for a minute before you step back into the blitz. These things are important and your family will suffer if you don’t take the time to love yourself first.

    2.  Show up.

Going out to happy hour is probably not showing up, it’s escaping. I did it too. Finding an excuse to start a new project at work at 4:45, heading to the fridge for a beer the moment I got home, watching HGTV until my eyes were numb: all escaping and hiding.

Please be honest with yourself.  And ask for help if you need it.

None of those actions was loving to myself though, I was just avoiding the fact that I didn’t want to be spending another night stuck at home with needy kids and a tired wife. When I learned to suit up though, I found that a good night getting covered in baby food and reading Goodnight Moon for the 9000th time is genuinely more fulfilling than an alcoholic beverage or hours of TV

How great is it to be greeted by a kid who will love you unconditionally for at least another 3 years? How special is the chalk nebula they proudly scribbled on the front door to welcome you home? I mostly love checking the closet for monsters and tucking them in tight, sometimes.  Really, that’s all I wanted in the world. To be loved, to do good work. They all give me purpose.

    3.  Give yourself a break.

Men don’t often learn what masculine femininity looked like in regards to home life.  No one prepared me for the reality of feeling a hard, good life, the reality of four children, four miracles who just kept coming. Give yourselves a break on the days when you are ready to squeeze your kin until they snap.

Breathe deeply when your wife adds one more nail to-do to the list coffin. When you want to quit your job and step away from the pressures of reality, give yourself a hug in the bathroom and remind the little boy looking back at you in the mirror that you’re doing a good job.

I mean that literally. Give yourselves a timeout. Tell your wife that you need to take a shit. Lock the bathroom door. Take a drink of water from the toothbrushing cup next to the sink. Lay down on the floor if you need to. And breathe until you believe that you are capable and effective of going back out there. Because you are. You are allowed to take a break too.

You are allowed to be afraid and confused and angry, too.

But if you start to take care of yourself with the same tenderness that helps you care for your family, I think you will find you are a better, stronger, more loving man than you knew you could be.

Grace & peace,


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To My Daughters: A Lesson On Bullshit And Make-up

To my three daughters,

Here’s what I need you to do.  I know, kids aren’t allowed to say bad words, but this is important.  Repeat after me: bull.  Good job, like Ferdinand—yes.  Okay.  Now shit.  Now please smash them together. Yeah, bullshit.  Good job!  


That’s what you tell people, magazines, and the internet when they insist you could benefit from CC (color correcting) Cream.  Because your skin doesn’t need correcting.  Let’s change it to Carefully Crafted cream instead.  You may wear Carefully Crafted cream shamelessly.  Apply the other kind with more caution, even if it does work miracles.


Also, pores repulse people in 2016.  Yes I know, that sounds silly to me too, because skin is biologically amazing and necessary.  Pores help our insides get out, and the outside get in, they keep us alive.  

What would happen if those little life-giving skin breathers stopped inhaling and exhaling?  Death.  What would happen if love stopped oozing out and back in?  Death.  That’s exactly what they want: the more dead we become, the less we question the importance of pores.  We begin questioning our purpose and our worth instead. 


But that’s confusing when they want us to shimmer and shine at the same time, isn’t it?  Wait—you want us to shirk, correct, mattify, and cover up while sparkling?  

Sweet girls, I see your sparkles, and they don’t come from the lip gloss.  Your glitter shakes out of you like salt from a shaker, each fearless skip leaves a little behind.  The big climbing tree on 11th & Saint Paul still wears your pixie dust from our walk last weekend.


I want you to know that you are loved even if your lips haven’t been stung by bees.  I want you to know your un-stung, pain-free, un-touched lips are so pretty to me.  Remember that you don’t have to hurt to be a pretty human.


It’s hard trying to stay true while loving ourselves and others, especially when wearing a brand of make-up that encourages duplicit behavior.  Two faces could never love the people of this world as well as the one God carefully crafted.  That’s the one I want to see. 

It will take a few decades for you understand that one face is all you need, maybe even a lifetime, but Daddy and I will be cheering that one face along every step of the journey.  Okay?  


Don’t worry girls, they don’t really want you to leave your make-up on forever.  They’ve created an entire industry to help remove all those colorful, stinging, shimmering layers.  But they’d prefer you look like you’re always wearing make-up.  

I think all the pores and humanity scares them.  Your humanity doesn’t need to scare you, my Loves. 

Hear that:  You’re humanity doesn’t need to scare you.  

Finally, gravity.  The Sag.  It’s going to happen.  Hug.  But here is what I know:  God came as sacrificial, lowly servant, a pedicurist.  God did not come to conquer, exalt, inflate, or lift.  God comes to Love—to get looooow, deep into the cracks of humanity—God lets gravity help.  Let your body listen to that. 

As you deflate you become more like God.  

How do I communicate just how pretty and perfect and bright you all are?  Every day I get to look at my three girls, who will become women, and I hurt inside with all the Love.  Big, benign love tumors invade my heart, redirecting blood supply, wreaking havoc on all the things I thought I knew about love.

Here’s what I can do: I can teach you to call bullshit!  

I can teach you to talk about your pore-y fears and your imperfect eyebrows.  We can call bullshit! together, because I’m still learning all of this.  And after we talk about the fears, comparisons, and unfair expectations, we can pray about them.  We can ask God to remind us about the day S/He breathed into clay and called it Good.  We can ask for help remembering that you are Good, along with everyone else. 

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you are all a blessing to behold.



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