Ok I’m still trying to come up for breath over here after all those Christmas things mooshed together in the midst of all our family togetherness. Oh boy. I’m so glad for this little part of the Internet where I can come and make some semblance of all the strands of memories I want to weave into place. There was so much leading up to Christmas including my parent’s visit, Elle’s engagement, the kids all coming home (with some surprises!). And then it was off to all the Christmas festivities. And a lot of family togetherness.

Oh it was grand to have all those kids lined up at the bar, hanging in the kitchen, talking and laughing, sitting at the dinner table…even the squabbling was A-OK in my book, give it all to me! Nothing in the world like that. The bliss came, to be sure, paired with frustrating times of course. The “herding cats” times. The Lucy-mood-shifting-everyone-into-bad-mood times. The so-tired-from-lack-of-sleep-the-whole-world-is-blury times. One day en route home from volleyball I flipped out at Claire who was being a little snippy. But I love that gift of repentance and starting again. Oh God of second (and hundredth) chances, here I am again.

There are some memories I want so much to remember:

–Lar’s surprising Elle one morning after Dave picked him up from his red-eye flight. We thought about getting him here after Christmas but wanted him to be here some of the time when Max and Abby were here too so Dave worked his flight magic and figured out a way to change his ticket and get him here early. He hid behind the fridge door just like Elle did when she surprised her sisters her first time home from college and made her SO happy when she realized what was happening (video back HERE). Elle is definitely twitter-pated with that guy and was on the top of the world the whole time he was here. So was Lucy, who affectionately calls him Larson. He’s a pretty easy-going guy and so easy to fit in and love.

–Traipsing in to TeamFit (our workout place) with all FIVE of our college kids, filling that class right up.

–hot tub, steam rising from our bodies, and polar plunges, hyperventilating clamoring for the hot tub, safe again.

–everyone was supposed to have a day to be the “directors of activities” but like most things do, that idea got jumbled up, but we did do Lucy’s firm plan for gingerbread houses after much insistence. I’m right with her, gingerbread house decorating is right up there with Easter egg painting in my book, love them both.

(Elle lives in an A-frame house in Hawaii and she and Carson got engaged on the porch roof that comes out from it, so they made a little model of that which I thought was kind of clever.)

–tennis at our neighbor’s house, feeling my Dad’s proud love for kids who start to “get” the beauty of that game whacking away at that ball in the winter sun.

–sitting around our table. Whether for dinner or games, extra chairs pulled up for all the extras. Fullness. One dinner in particular where we all sat there and talked about growing up memories, a lot of which included moments the kids remembered when I turned into “mean mom,” which I’m glad we can all laugh about now. The kids (mostly Elle and Lar) taught us a game called “Secret Hitler” that I’ve been wanting to learn. It was like pulling teeth to get Lu to branch out from her beloved card games to try it. “Just try it at least once,” we begged. And of course, after the first game she was hooked. And begged to play it again every night. But lots of cards were played too, sometimes with extra cousins or friends who happened to be around. I love that big round table and the discussions and laughter and games it’s held over the years.

Also, the origin of this table is the thing I get asked questions about very most on this whole blog.
The answer is that we had someone make it for us because we couldn’t find one that big that we loved.
And it needs a re-paint job quite terribly right about now it’s been loved and used so much!

–the top of Camelback mountain after some grumbling from my girls to get to the top, but everyone so proud of their accomplishment as we looked out over that vista I have come to adore so much and have hiked so many times.

It was Max and Abby’s first anniversary that day…so happy we got to celebrate with them.

Grace and I had to switch shoes near the top since she had no grip on hers and we were scaling that mountain. Ha!

–I decided I may as well stick up all the pictures we had printed for Max and Abby’s wedding to help us celebrate that big anniversary.

–And we re-watched this awesome video I LOVE from that big day:

Max and Abby from Lindsey Kesler on Vimeo.

It was a good one.

–I was so proud of Lucy and Claire who worked their tails off for finals in the midst of all this hoopla. It was fun to have a few days with just the college kids while those two were at school, but poor girls, they were a little stressed with all those finals, especially Lucy trying to catch up after traveling a few days before to visit her doctors in Wisconsin. See Claire trying to study her heart over there on the couch in the middle of all that hoopla?

–Grace had the grand idea to do a tough puzzle together:

–We started the wedding dress search right here at home with my old puffed-sleeve wonder:

Oh yeah, baby, that one is my pick!

–The girls and I went on a little shopping trip to this famous bargain place to see if by chance we could find a real wedding dress…and some last-minute Christmas gifts:

–overwhelmed with love for Nana who put so much work into her annual teenager party that every one of my kids was the right age for…Dave and I spying on them after our own party and feeling the love .

–Dave and I had a work dinner one night so these kids took matters into their own hands and made up their own dinner plans:

— Dave’s “activity of choice” was going to a shooting range, definitely not my thing, but it was fun to do something different:

–a dinner at our favorite spot (Oreganos) complete with a visit from Santa, and loved having the small reclining-chair theater all to ourselves to go see “Knives Out,” (which we all loved).

–We all went to Walmart where everyone split up to gather items for our refugee family. Someone from here on the blog told me about this organization in the city that would match us up with a family to help for Christmas (thank you whoever that was!) and it was an interesting experience for us all after our Africa experience this last summer. Lots of thoughts about that maybe another day. Because we loved dropping that stuff off but couldn’t help but try to think of additional ways to “help” and what kind of “help” is most advantageous in that type of situation. We had the opportunity to get to know that mother and three of her six kids in that apartment in the city.

–choreographing an impromptu family dance in front of Nana and Papa’s since we got there early for the annual talent show after that Christmas drop-off. I have been sworn to secrecy on the real footage, but here is an outtake shot:

–filled so heavily with the spirit while narrating our Christmas program at church. (Yes, they somehow thought it was a good idea to ask the lady who doesn’t speak so clearly and her husband to narrate, but we did it without messing it up too much, hallelujah!!)

As we narrated I was aware of some deep issues some friends and families are involved in, and so overcome with the true reason for that baby in the manger so long ago. He came to save them. He came to save me. And the singing and music just swept me away with the beauty of that thought.

This was our Sunday Christmas picture:

All nine. Right before Carson left to be with his own family for Christmas.

I was extra grateful for all the togetherness this year since next year is the year the married kids will be with their “other sides.” Gotta get used to this sharing thing!

And with all that pre-Christmas togetherness, ready or not, Christmas Eve was around the corner.

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  1. Hi Shawni.
    I’ve commented before and always enjoy your story telling and lovely photos. You have a lovely family!

    I would like to say that I did a double take when I read the name of that card game…I love cards and likely would enjoy that one however; I would have to rename it.
    That name only means hatred and death and I cannot understand why anyone would associate it with a card game….

    1. Hi Shawni – I am a longtime reader of your blog and enjoy it so much. That said, the card game name gave me pause as well, especially given the state of the world right now. As someone who’s grown up in a Jewish tradition, and particularly since I know you are exploring learning about other faiths, please know that even reading that name makes me feel sick as well as scared.

    2. Jenng, I completely agree, it’s a horrible name for a game, despite the fact that it’s about defeating evil. I was caught off guard as well, but then bought into the fact that it’s kind of an educational opportunity to teach kids how evil can take over. But agreed, not a name to take lightly in any way. We’ve changed the name of the game in our book.

  2. You’re playing a game with “Hitler” in the name? Because mass genocide is so fun and funny?!?! Good thing you’ve worked to hard raise all of these adult “kids” to be thoughtful citizens of the world!

  3. Geez people 🙄🙄. It’s an actual game that is sold on amazon and other places. If you don’t like the name of it take that up with the creators of the game. Seriously she can’t even mention the game they played without ya’ll getting riled up. It’s ridiculous.

    1. Ha!! 🤣🤣It’s sold in Amazon so it must be ok!👍🏽 This is exactly the lack of critical thinking skills we’re pointing out.

    2. People ignoring anti semitism is a problem. This is a college educated family. At least two adults studied in Israel. A house full of Jewish people celebrating Hanukkah were just attacked for being publicly Jewish. Surely that incident and all the synagogue shootings made the news outside of the East coast and into the american southwest. Is it really a problem to ask people celebrating Christmas not to boast about playing a game with that man’s name on it? You are more concerned about their feelings being hurt than the people living in fear of physical danger? The Jewish community has a right to be scared at the moment. I think the commenters are being brave. How will people know the name of that game is a problem if no one says anything for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

  4. I’ve been reading for years, but I’ve never commented. That last picture is so great! Loved reading about all of your pre-Christmas fun!

  5. The nastiness and hyperbole of the tone of some of these comments is revealing. I”m here to say not every Jewish person finds this game problematic. There are always some who like to think that they are the only point of view on their faith and they think that this means they don’t have to speak to other people kindly. This is actually very intolerant. We all know this family to be a good and loving family and that’s why we enjoy the posts. It should be noted that game is about stopping him. It’s possible to make comments kindly.

    However there’s a similar game that’s a fun game of deduction called Werewolf which avoids these which my family absolutely loves.

    I so enjoy this blog.

  6. I know she is not monetized but now dozens of people are going to go to amazon to buy that card game with that man’s name on it. A generation of non Jewish families will connect that man to a villain in a game first, mass murdered second. I am not Jewish and I have a problem with trivializing the feelings of those who for good reason say they are bothered with the name. I’m sorry Kate are you saying you are Jewish and you don’t have a problem or feel any fear upon reading that man’s name? Did you have a relative die in the camps or flee Europe? Are you visibly Jewish living in NY? NJ? Go to synagogue? Go to Kosher markets? There are verbal and physical attacks almost daily against those who appear Jewish in NY/NY. Even tolerant California had a shooting at a synagogue. Hitler is not just some made up commercial villain like the Joker in the Batman world to market. The diary of Anne Frank is not just a book to make you feel things about the human spirit. It shows the torture of trying to hide for years so you won’t be executed cause you or one of your grandparents happened to be Jewish.

  7. Hi all – before attacking Shawni and her blog, the game Secret Hitler is about STOPPING Hitler (by taking over the government – not by war/battle). I live in an extremely liberal city that could not be farther from Utah/Arizona and the biggest atheist, most liberal, social justice aware friends of mine enjoy the game and were the ones that introduced me to it. (I’ll note they asked before we started “would anyone be upset by seeing/using the name Hitler?”) Also, please see from wikipedia, the game creators released: “the Trump Pack, a booster pack for Secret Hitler, which replaces the fascists’ cards with Donald Trump and prominent members of his administration at the time (respectively Sean Spicer, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Mike Pence), was released in June 2017, with all proceeds generated from the pack’s sales donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.[10]” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Hitler). So frankly, I’m impressed that the Pothiers like the game! Maybe they will upgrade to the Trump pack. I don’t always agree with everything Shawni and her family does (or anyone! It’s great that we are all different) but you all seem to really be grasping here to suggest that they are trivializing genocide.

    1. There are anti Semitic people who are liberal. Hate to tell you. A Trump pack? Really? President Trump hasn’t rounded up American Jews for slave labor or execution. He hasn’t made abortion illegal for white Protestants while encouraging it or forcing it on everyone else. Great, a US President is in the category of Hitler in this game for 8 and up? What are we subliminally teaching our kids in a fun family environment? Why not have it Germany vs Britain? Something real historically speaking. You are aware of what liberals were doing in the south in 1950’s to African Americans right?

      Someone used that man’s name to make money. He was a real person who committed genocide and people are still hurting today. Whatever happens to the USA vs USSR? Is this game designed to label all liberals as heroes and conservatives as genocidal maniacs?

  8. As a part of the discussion on “Secret Hitler,” I thought this was an interesting piece that explained the game a little bit more. I had to Google the game because I had no idea what it could possibly be with a name like that. I just spent the last year reading Holocaust narratives with my students as a part of a college initiative, and many of my Gen Z students were not particularly familiar with the Holocaust or Hitler and didn’t remember what Auschwitz was without jogging their memories, so the name is indeed concerning. The piece shines a little more light on what may have been the purpose of the game’s design and creation, which appears to be political satire. The Trump expansion pack seems to confirm this.


  9. Thank you for the discussion here, (especially those who were kind and thoughtful in their responses, I so appreciate that and can feel the love and willingness to reach out to try to understand others that way, creates such a better discussion). Interesting to hear everyone’s point of view and I appreciate the links to further insight on the theory behind the name. I agree, definitely not a name to take lightly, agreed, the makers of the game had some ulterior motives in naming it, and I do apologize for the feelings hurt.

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