The Santa Secret


Be warned. This post is not for kids.

The Tooth Fairy got caught red-handed in our house the other night.

I’d woken up at 4:15 am, poked him and asked if he remembered about Gabriel’s tooth. He hadn’t, so he stumbled out of bed and down the stairs.

He made a lot of noise.

The next morning, Gabe announced “The Tooth Fairy didn’t come. It was Dad.”

I said “Go. To. My. Room.”

I got the girls started on breakfast and then met him there.

“What do you think this means?” I asked him.

“That Santa and the Easter Bunny aren’t real either.” And then one tear ran down his face.

He’s 9. I was 10. He caught dad. I found a receipt in the garage for the skates Santa brought me. My mom whisked me into her room and shut the door, too. And I cried.

“Does it feel weird to you that we lied?” This has always been the sticky wicket for me. I don’t remember being upset that my parents lied, because I understood on some level that the lie was the trade-off for the magic.


“Do you understand why we did it?”


“Ok. Well, I’m sorry that you found out this way. Let it sink in and we can talk about it later.”

He went to school.

I was sad all day long. The world just got a little less magical for him. We wouldn’t have let it go on for much longer. We didn’t want him to feel stupid when he did find out. But I was hoping for one more Christmas.

And…I’ll admit that I gave into some contrived internet fueled mom-angst: I have betrayed my child! We all lied to him! He’ll think God is fake! What have we done????!!

By the time I got him alone in the car on the way to practice, I had all my mea culpas in order.

I needn’t have worried.

He had some very practical questions: “Mom, that time the tooth fairy got caught in the typhoon in Japan and didn’t come for three nights and then brought a bunch of presents for Kate to make up for it? Was that dad?”


“That time we were at Uncle Jake and Auntie Susie’s and we heard Santa and ran outside to find him and when we came back there were present on the porch?”

Auntie Susie and I bought them.

“Where did you get my bike?”

A bike shop in California.

“The Santa Tracker is fake?”


“So that’s why we never have to worry if Santa can find us? Because it’s you?”


Silence. Then “I kind of knew it last year. It just didn’t make sense. And then I caught dad once before but didn’t say anything because I thought I wouldn’t get any more money. And I didn’t want to know because now it won’t be as much fun.”

Hold on. Christmas is not really about Santa, anyway. But it will be just as much fun. Annie is only 3. If she lasts as long as you, we have seven more Christmases with Santa. And now you are on the other side of the secret. You get to help us make it magical.

He chewed on that for a minute. Then he started planning.

“Mom, we can find some bells and ring them like sleigh bells. And I can hide outside and say ‘Ho-ho-ho’. Maybe I can go up on the roof and stomp around like reindeer…”

Then he stopped and I could see him smiling in the rearview mirror.

“Mom. You know I still have to get Santa presents or the girls will think that’s weird.”

Yes, buddy. I know.

Boo Fail

I’ve written about Boo Baskets before. But I have an update.

For the first time in 5 years, we got caught.

Boo Baskets are not a thing in Southern Oregon. When I texted the moms of the four families we picked to tell them we would come a’booing, I found myself explaining the entire concept, four times.

My friend Leah—and she’s six months pregnant so I’m going to cut her some slack—didn’t tell her husband. Which led to this:

Leah’s house has enormous front windows. They also own a huge English Bulldog named Ozzy. The house sits a block from the town football stadium–I’ll take responsibility for choosing a Friday night when their street was packed with cars, mostly driven by mostly sober teenagers.

We had a strategy session in the car after we cruised the house. It was decided Shea would man the getaway car, the girls and I would hide behind Leah’s minivan and Gabe would do the real sneaking.

We neglected to notice the fence around the front yard to keep Ozzy in. And the screen door that swings instead of shuts so that he can get in and out.

Gabe made it to the door and back the first time, no problem, except that nothing happened.

“Did you ring the doorbell?” I whispered. He smacked his forehead and went back. I remembered too late that Leah told me the doorbell doesn’t work so I had to send him back a third time. “Knock loud!” I told him over the minivan.

And he did.

He barely made it back to the minivan before we heard the door squeak open and closed. Usually this is followed by “Hey, look what we got!” but this time there was nothing. Dead silence. So Gabe peeked. I wish I had a picture of the terror in his eyes when he came back down. He pointed, mouthed “A MAN” and then made himself into a tiny ball.

Well, dang. Sure enough when I looked around the corner,  I saw a man who I hoped to God was Leah’s husband crouched around the other side of the minivan, preparing to launch himself right where Annie was hiding.

He wasn’t wearing his Welcome to my house face either.

So first I got big and then I got loud:  “Hi! I’m Jen. You must be Jason! Did Leah tell you we were coming?”

He shook his head no, and you best believe I noticed that he didn’t actually speak to me. So I shoved Annie out where he could see her and pulled Kate–who, bless my smart girl, was already talking as fast as she could about her “great friend Ella”.

It took thirty seconds of explaining before his jaw relaxed, but then he was all in.

“Knock again” he told Gabe. “I’ll make sure the girls answer the door.”

Down we crouched and off Gabe went, for the fifth time in case you’re keeping score at home.

We heard the girls answer the door and find the basket. Squeals of excitement. The it got quiet. Gabe peeked, nodded that the coast was clear and I grabbed Annie’s hand and stood up.

To a chorus of screaming.

Ella and Anna came around the corner just as I moved and caught us stone cold.

Ozzy came out the gate and peed on my foot, he was so excited to see me.

(Later I told Gabe he was lucky that Ozzy must have been somewhere else, or we would have gotten caught the first time.

“He was right there, mom. He saw me. He wagged his tail like he was excited.”


At this point we had been gone so long that Shea came up the street to find out what the heck was going on, and that is how we met Jason, Leah’s husband.

Leah was not at home.

Best laid plans and all that.

For a reminder of how Booing works go here. Or Google it. There’s lots of cute ideas out there.

Christmas Cobbler

Can we start with this: On Christmas Eve, it snowed on our hill. Look at my babies. They have no idea what to do.

IMG_20141224_134042 IMG_20141224_133919

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a dessert hack.

Our new home town is also home to Harry and David, gourmet grocers, famous for their Moose Munch and gift baskets. Their flagship store also has fresh groceries. Last week they had cherries for $2/lb. So I bought a bunch, thinking I would make some jam.

Then the kids started eating them.

A few days ago I put them away in an effort to save enough to make a cherry cobbler for Christmas dinner. I need to work on my hiding places, because yesterday morning there were twenty sad cherries in the bottom of the bowl.

What I did have in abundance was cranberries and tangerines. So I made up a citrus cranberry cherry cobbler, using the cobbler topping from my trusty BHG New Cookbook (the 1989 version, thank you very much). Super easy and delicious!



1 bag fresh cranberries

½ cup water

½ cup fresh squeezed tangerine juice (orange would work, too)

¾ cup sugar

Whatever cherries (or any other berries, fresh or frozen) you got, sister! Pit them, of course.


1 cup flour

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

Pop the cranberries, sugar, water and juice into a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until cranberries pop and break down into sauce, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes. Add cherries, and cook for a few more minutes, until the cherries begin to soften.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Cut in the butter fork or pastry knife. Whisk milk and egg separately, then add to mixture, stirring just to combine

Pour hot fruit mix into an 8x8x2 baking dish. Crumble topping over mixture. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until crumble browns.


I would normally serve this with homemade whopped cream, but since my Kitchenaid DIED on December 23 and the nearest service center is Portland–no, I can’t talk about it, hurts too much.

Ice cream would work too.

Dana and I hope you enjoy this Christmas season. We’ll see you again on Epiphany. In the meantime, happy New Year to you and yours. Be warm, be safe, be happy!


A Season of Hope ~ Guest Post by Amy

Amy is how we all got to know Meg. We prayed for her health and then we prayed her through the door of this life into the next. Meg left behind a husband and two young girls, one only an infant. This is their first Christmas without their mama.

No doubt, Meg’s husband Sam will struggle as he learns to walk without his partner, juggling his grief with the responsibilities of his girls and the season. How hard it must be for him to find the light right now.

But Amy wants to share with us a story of how we don’t always have to find the light on our own.

Meg was an AVID coordinator in the Ontario Montclair school district. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national educational support program, designed for students who will be the first in their families to attend college. As coordinator, Meg was directly involved with the teachers and students, promoting a college education for all.

A few weeks ago, I attended a regional AVID training. Memories came crashing back: Last year when I was here we had just found out that Meg was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child.

Meg took off work to fight the disease with a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her hair so Sam shaved his off as well, in support.  By early summer, the doctors felt Meg was on the road to recovery. In July we celebrated the news that her PET scan was clean, showing no lesions.

Somehow, just six weeks later, she was sick again. She had lesions on her liver, which was swollen and losing function. The cancer was aggressive and untreatable.

By October, she was gone. Her daughters were four and six months old.

At the AVID training this year, her school site team, including Sam, wore pink shirts in honor of Meg. Every year, the region raffles gift baskets to raise AVID scholarship money. One of the baskets had a pink breast cancer theme, but all the money donated for this basket would go directly to Sam and his girls. Without hesitation, I dumped all my tickets in this basket.

The next morning, another coordinator stood at breakfast and announced a challenge: that every person in the room donate $1 for Sam and his girls. Sam was stunned. In tears, I made my way to his table and wrapped my arms around him. Together we watched.

In five minutes, people donated $1500.

Sam cried. I cried. Everyone in the place, 400 people, cried.

Miracles are real. This was a miracle. It wasn’t the miracle we had prayed for months earlier, to heal Meg and keep her here. Instead, the healing was for Sam, to show him that all is not lost. Meg had a hand in it, I know she did. She used all those people to give her husband a hug and remind him that people are good, the village is good. And there is light in the world for us when we need it.

Thank you to all those people who donated that day. It was about so much more than money. Thank you to Sam’s school, who love him and hold him up. Thank you to everyone who prayed for Meg. Thank you for reaching out in love and faith to strangers. I want you to know that it’s working. God’s hands are healing this family with love.

We have to remember that we are God’s work in this world. Happy weekend.

Meg and Sam
Meg and Sam

The Thing About Cranberries

She insisted on having an uncooked cranberry. Actually, she wanted a whole bowl of them.

I warned her that they were yucky. But she was determined and since I’m a Live and Learn Mom (a LALM, can we coin that? As in “Be a LALM and Carry On”???), I shrugged and said “Ok, but let me get my phone.”

This has happened with all three of my children, plus Shea, Teresa and Lesley. It’s my own personal psych experiment: If I tell you something tastes yucky, will that over-ride the voice in your head screaming “IT’S A SMALL RED AND SHINY BERRY!!! EAT IT, EAT IT, EAT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Turns out the answer is no.

Every. Single. Time.

A little late for Thanksgiving, but just in time for Advent dinners, office parties, neighborhood potlucks and Christmas, here are our favorite cranberry recipes.

Not Your Mama’s Sauce (apricot cranberry sauce and cranberry mustard)