Our Brutally Honest Christmas Letter [2018]

11 lines of text is all I had on our family Christmas card this year.  11 lines cannot adequately provide you with enough information that is our family- our wild, incredible, ordinary, but not-so-ordinary family.  11 lines shared some of our good things, but I assure you 2018 was the hardest, most complicated, and heaviest year I’ve had.  We changed in big, enormous ways, we’ve loved and lost, we’ve started over.


Five is tough.  Five is adventurous and exciting, but also scary and new.  Five is starting kindergarten, making new friends, and hitting your teacher.  Wait…what? Yep.  Only Eleanor (exhale heavy sigh).

Did I ever tell you that Eleanor was the first person to acknowledge Luca as a boy?  Out of her teeny, tiny, toddler mouth came, “He’s my brother,” and not just once- always.  I’ll forever wonder how kids just know these things.  I’ll forever be afraid that she’ll be lost in our shuffle, our disarray, and following behind Luca.  Because sometimes being ‘normal,’ doesn’t get you what you need.  Sometimes being normal leaves you out.

She’s crazy smart, by the way.  She gets pulled out for advanced reading because she was too bored in the classroom.  She’s seeing the school social worker {which launched immediately following the slight teacher abuse}.  With everything that’s changed in her teeny life, I’m glad she will be getting some tools to help her navigate through her muck.

We share the same soul.  Maybe it’s because I understand all too well what it’s like to feel all the feels and feel them with such enormity.  We can’t hide its magnitude and we wear it like armor.  It’s big and real and it sucks to carry around.  But it’s in this connection that makes me understand myself a little better.  Someone who will finally and fully understand me.  I’m taking that as a gift.

She never chose to be Luca’s sister.  But I’m glad she came second.  I’ll watch her compassion and empathy continue to flourish in the years, reminding her to use her passion, independence, and strength for good- to use it for the underdog and for those who need it most.  She has a magical fight in her.  I can’t wait to see what 2019 will give her.

Eleanor’s 2018 highlights: all the drawing, painting, and coloring a five-year-old can do. Starting kindergarten and riding a school bus.  Eating jelly from the jar with a fork at 6am.  Cutting off 9 inches of hair because it was itchy.  


It’s impossible to compare him to anyone else in the world… so we don’t.  After accepting my teaching position and learning we’d be moving, we knew that God aligned our stars to make this move about Luca; to make it be about changing our world, not his.  To finally give him the freedom to live as who he was always meant to be, not by expecting him to fit in the pocket-sized, misery box the world made for him.  So on June 8, we called him Luca.  We gave him validity.  And he finally broke open through his box of shame and was released back into the world with freedom- as his whole self, not the empty shell he thought he’d have to live in for eternity.

I cried for three days.  Some people told me to wait, some supported and trusted us through it all.  We lost a few along the way.  I never wanted it to be this hard, but you’d have to have a barren soul to not see how living his truth has vigorously changed his life.  Strangers and distant friends/relatives have shouted from the rooftops at the obvious change in his demeanor merely by a single photograph.  It’s definite.

We did the right thing.

He’s still the same kid, though.  Grumpy, smart, compassionate, affectionate, hilarious, and charming.  He gives us the strength to live ferociously and fight the good fight.  He reminds us that our Good Father is right, loving, and true.  He gives us life.

Luca’s 2018 highlights: Starting 2nd grade and riding a school bus!  Golden birthday at Legoland FL.  Riding a two-wheel bike.  Super smart mathematician. 


Devin remains the most boring of the family.  And by that I mean he’s the lowest maintenance.  He doesn’t require much, but he consistently holds us together.  He’s everything we need.  He’s absolutely essential.

In September, he started a job at ePromos, which he enjoys mostly because he typically doesn’t have to talk to people.  He uses a lot of acronyms and I believe it’s very fancy work.  He has a computer and gets vending machine coupons so he can endlessly enjoy Twizzler Nibs and Twix.  What a life!  Sometimes I even let him watch his beloved Vikings so he can yell at all the people who can’t hear him.

He’s everything I’ve ever needed.  Luca and Eleanor won the jackpot.  I know he’s the real deal because he changes my car clock after daylight savings and charges my phone when I fall asleep.

Devin’s 2018 highlights: “I got a new job. New house,” says Devin.  But that’s boring so I’ll give you a quick run down: he got a beater car from a dealership (complete with big, red bow!), his little sister got engaged (wedding next August), and thoroughly enjoys his daily twenty minutes to himself after the three of us head to school.  

Mama Bear

I didn’t do well this year.  I wasn’t well this year.  I made a lot of mistakes that didn’t need to be made.  I was hurt and defeated.  I got a little lost.  I had to leave to find myself again.  And I hope that 2019 brings her back.  She’s broken, but she tries.  She’s regaining her steps and she (finally, hopefully) won’t crumble.

I teach with real gravity.  I try and make each day count.  I still haven’t a clue what I’m doing and I make it up as each day goes.  But I look at those kids in the eyes and I don’t, won’t ever, give up on them.

Leaving a comfy job and a best friend hurt like hell.  For 12 years I tried to find people to fill our holes, but it was now that we needed our people to overflow us.  Loving a job that didn’t always love you back and living in a house that was 132 miles away from your mom just wasn’t enough for me anymore.

But now I know it was all in the cards.  2018 took me and shook me, but 2019 will uncover and recover.  We don’t have to lose ourselves by becoming mothers.  It gives us identity and intensity.  We wear ‘mother’ like a badge of honor, but we don’t have to hide in it.  Being a mom is transforming; it means being full of dreams.  It’s creative and rowdy.  But it’s not all.  It doesn’t have to be all of you.  You don’t have to dissolve.  You can still be vivid.

Mandy’s 2018 highlights: taking my two best friends to Disney, learning IEP language and feeling legit by, for the first time ever, holding my own insurance. 

To sum it up…

Life is really shitty sometimes.  It’s not always beautiful.  We’ve had a bunch of those moments this year.  But sometimes I think we’ve figured this out.  Maybe not everything, but we’ve figured out that even when life gets really shitty, we make it work.  We learn and grow and push ourselves.  It’s about what we do in our lives during the shitty parts that make us who we are.  We are responsible for our own happiness.  We are responsible for our actions, how we treat other people, and how much love we give.  We trust and we push the limits. We do the best we can.  And I think that’s pretty damn good.

May God bless you and those you love this Christmas. Have a happy, healthy and loving new year.


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