Christmas Eve with Fritz and Maria means lots of laughter, good food and stories about their childhoods in Germany and Denmark.

Maria gifted all the boys with several pairs of socks which they immediately began bartering and trading.

Reading from Luke.

How much do I love this photo? Let me count the ways.


Our first and best gift on Christmas morning was talking to Stefan. He’s well and happy but full of secrets and unfinished stories. I don’t think we’ll know much about his mission until he comes home.

Mary’s Shutterfly books for each sibling and parent delighted everyone. She spent hours finding photos of each person and included sweet notes. The boys loved them (as did I).

Hans bought Mary a roll of tickets for her varied performances and parties and car drives (she likes to issue tickets to anyone before we attempt a long drive… she’s a creative soul).

Ben got the biggest hug of the day when she opened her present from all the boys– her very own teepee. She spent much of the day inside it and slept in it for the next week.

Gabe and his legos.

Hans. So adorable.

I bought matching outifts for Ben and Hans (without really thinking about it).

Erik didn’t appreciate being left out.

December 25, 2014

Hans, Xander and Gabe,

I’m giving you rocks for Christmas this year. But these rocks come from the valley of Elah where the Israelite and the Philistine armies came to a stalemate. That is until David and Goliath battled it out and David… well you know the story.

I also got you slings from Jerusalem just like the one that David might have used to kill Goliath, but I actually think his was a lot bigger. Since these might be considered weapons and weapons as gifts have a bad history at our house I would suggest being careful with them. Another note: these rocks are really from the other side of the world, but in spite of that they really look like rocks from our side of the world. Who knew rocks could look so similar. So you have two options. First be very careful with your rock to keep from mixing it up with plain, old, non-giant slaying, Utah rocks. Or if you happen to mix it up with another rock you can just call all the rocks around you giant-slaying rocks.

When I first got these rocks my thought was to say something about David along with him, but my second thought had more to do with stoning adulterers. Let’s just all commit to be adulterers right now so we don’t have to worry about stoning each other. Now back to my first thought because I love David and I think it’s more fitting.

I’ve always heard a lot of lukewarm, diplomatic explanations about David, since in the end he did do some stupid stuff, but anyone who knows anything knows that when David was young he was one of the coolest people in all of the scriptures. I fell in love with the stories of David on my mission just because he was so confident in himself and in the Lord. If God said he would do something, David would just assume it was true and act accordingly even if he was totally just going on faith. David had incredible faith in God, but I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned from David is that oftentimes having faith in God means having faith in ourselves.

I think about one of the very first stories we learn about David when he tells the king that he’ll fight Goliath. David talks about how bears and lions have come to try and take away the sheep he was watching and he went after them, saved the sheep and killed the beasts. How many people are crazy enough to think they can go and fight lions and bears? I think the crazier thing is that David actually thought he could win and he showed that same confidence when he was getting ready to go against Goliath. “Of course I’ll fight him,” he said, “and of course I’ll win.” And so he did.

Now I don’t mean to get too cliché on you guys, but do you realize what you’re capable of? Can you imagine what crazy things you can do that probably seem crazy, but are actually totally in your realm if you’ll just be bold enough to go out and do them?

So go out and slay giants and do great things. I’m glad you’re my brothers. Merry Christmas.



Ben possesses a strong Mr. Rodgers/college professor streak.

December 25, 2014

Dear Mary,

My favorite sister. As much as I thought you might like a sling I thought I might as well enjoy having a sister and give you something different from your brothers for Christmas. What you have here is an oil lamp from Jerusalem. There are so many scriptural stories and references to make with an oil lamp so don’t be surprised if I jump around a bit.

When I was in Jerusalem this summer a few of my friends and I got oil lamps just like this and read the entire gospel of Mark in one sitting by their light. It was one of those dorky things you do that ends up being really cool. Something we didn’t anticipate though was how much attention these little lamps needed to keep burning. The wick needed to be trimmed and then the oil needed to be refilled and once we thought we had everything the wind would blow it out. And then you would need to trim the wick and refill the oil… Can you imagine having to do that every time you needed light after the sun went down? I think we would go to bed a lot earlier.

Mary you have such a good Christmas, Bible name and there are so many light and oil lamp references that it’s hard to settle on something to write. There’s the parable of the 10 virgins, letting your light shine, the light of the world… the list goes on. And I’m trying not to be too snarky. I’m not really trying to teach you a lesson or tell you to go do something in this letter, but I guess I’m trying to make this little Christmas gift more meaningful than it is on its own. I want you to know that I love you and I want you to remember me. I guess in a lot of ways you could say that this is just like the little oil lamp because I know it’s not very big, but I do hope the light does some good. I hope you remember your crazy older brother and know that I love you.

So Merry Christmas Mary. Be a good little lamp and do great things no matter how small you are.



If you have an engineer at your house, I highly recommend DaVinci’s Trebuchet and Robotic Arm.

For years, literally years, I’ve had this idea about making a giant heart shaped bulletin board for photos. I am completely enamored by his labor of love.

Inspired by my own blogpost about Playmobil, I bought Mary the Princess castle. We had so much fun putting it together I got a bit teary at times.

December 25, 2014

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’ve noticed that what I give you and even what I do is often outlived by what I say. Do you remember what I gave you for Christmas in 1994? Neither do I, probably because the nicest thing I could do then was not eat dirt for a day, but that’s the same year I said I was a cow-pie and we all still remember that. What about 2007? Do any of us remember a single birthday or Christmas gift from that year? No. But that was the same year I made my jokes at lake Powell about the sticker being on the outside of the boat and the Pringles can deliveries (which Mom believed). Anyways my point is that if I want to give you something enduring, my best bet is not to give you some object, but rather to say something, which is what I’m doing now.

I got this bowl though at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and I thought maybe it could be a reminder of all the kind, clever things I’m about to say. First of all the Grand Bazaar is a huge market with shops crammed so closely together that they make a maze of alleys impossible to navigate except by wandering and getting lucky. I’m also convinced that C. S. Lewis made a secret excursion to Turkey because Aslan means lion in Turkish, the Calormen are totally Ottomans and I tasted Turkish delight and it’s so good that I can totally understand how Edmund betrayed his siblings for it. I might too– it was so good. When we got back to Jerusalem I wrote a story about a lion that ate a shop owner in the Grand Bazaar and everyone was afraid of him and I think a little girl saved the day. I don’ remember the details and I didn’t save it anywhere, but it was a good little story.

Trying to stick with the biblical theme of everyone else’s gifts I thought of the story of Jacob and Esau and the mess of pottage. This story has caused a lot of problems because it kind of looks like Jacob was a sneaky little jerk and I actually don’t really doubt that because the Old Testament is surprisingly honest in showing the weaknesses of good guys like patriarchs and prophets. I love that they do this because showing their imperfection makes them more real and rather than diminishing their successes it grows them. But I’m getting distracted. The story of the pottage is important because of what it reveals about the character of the individual sons and hints at what’s coming in the future. Jacob is obviously pretty clever, maybe too clever, and knows how to stay calm, see opportunities and take care of himself. Esau, I feel, often gets a bad rap, but I don’t think he’s so bad. Esau might be a bit hasty and irresponsible in selling his birthright for pottage, but he was also wild and passionate. He knew what he wanted right then and he did what it took to get it. He was a hunter and his dad loved him for the meat he brought home. So they were both good sons and I think Jacob and Rebekah actually loved both of them.

But then we come to the whole blessing scene where Jacob and Rebekah conspire to make blind Isaac give Jacob Esau’s blessing. Birthrights weren’t so much just a favorite son gift, but more like insurance. Bad stuff happened to kids and normally the father was there to take care of them and help them when they ran into trouble. When dad died those extra emergency resources were passed on to the oldest son (because they’re normally the most responsible) so they could continue to take care of struggling children. Anyways this summer I heard it explained that that Esau wasn’t passed over for the birthright because he was evil, but because he was passionate and impulsive and while that’s a great attribute it’s maybe not the ideal for the family treasurer. Rebekah recognized that and steered the inheritance to her more fastidious son, Jacob.

I guess I love this story because as similar as we all are we children are also really different. And I’m not saying that I can’t handle the birthright just because I didn’t get a 36 on the ACT because I totally can and I’ll be responsible, but I do love the recognition that children are different and have different talents and because of that they sometimes need different things. And I think you guys are really good at that. I remember when I was debating whether or not to go to Jerusalem and Mom said that of all my brothers I was the one that “needed” to go. Maybe she thought I was on drugs and saw this as some kind of rehab… Actually don’t know why Mom thought I needed to go, but I love the idea that she saw that I needed something even if not everyone else did.

So thank you for treating us as individuals and recognizing the personal greatness in each of us in whatever form it is. I hope you enjoy this bowl until it breaks and then I hope you just remember this note and all the clever things I said.

Merry Christmas.



December 19, 2014



  1. Shannon C

    February 1, 2015

    I loved this unexpected trip back to Christmas! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Michelle

    February 2, 2015

    Love. I laughed out loud with delight when I saw what the boys gave Mary and saw that photo! And Mary’s thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me.

    p.s. Can we come over and play?

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