My Dad. He’s one of my best friends and definitely my hero. He has seventeen children, (thirteen who are living), and he’s a grandpa to nine. My Dad is the kind of father who is all about making memories and having relationship with his kids. He still plays hockey with his kids (though admittedly, he’s still trying to figure out ice skates; he’s more comfortable in boots on ice: go figure!), is always up for a game of volleyball or softball…and he turns 60 in one month. My Dad has loved my mom through thick and thin, and on April 27, 2012 my parents will celebrate 40 years of marriage. My Dad is really a simple man. He loves God and lives what he believes in, unafraid to stand for Truth. My Dad is one of the few people I know who knows how to love and care about other people – just about anyone, I think – genuinely. My Dad is not an ulterior motive kind of guy; he is a man full of grace. My favorite thing about Dad is his laugh, the way his whole face crinkles up and smiles.
My mom? By default, she has to be pretty easy-going and somehow she has mastered the art of holding routine and being flexible. When I think of all the things her brood of children put her through…my mom is the most long-suffering woman I know. From engraving names into the windowsills of our house, leaving matchbox car rubber wheel marks on her stair railing, dumping the neatly folded contents of the linen closet contents onto the floor to use for sledding down the staircase, we had to have the most fun of any kids we knew. No wonder the neighborhood kids thought our house was the best place to hang out. I love the way my mother loves children. I’ll never forget how perturbed and miffed she got when someone called her children rug rats. “They’re my children!” She said. Family was the most important thing to my mom. When I was young, I got annoyed with some of her ideas and I remember trying to convince her that Sunday afternoon family drives was an out-of-date tradition and a waste of gas…to no avail. My mom loved reading to us – it didn’t matter how old we were – and she can never own enough books. I tried to count one time, and when I got to over two thousand, I quit counting and estimated that my parents owned around five thousand volumes. My mom values the written word.
Theresa Michelle will be thirty-nine next month. Some of my favorite memories with Theresa were the big sleepovers we had as kids. Theresa never did something like a sleepover halfway. We’d make the most terrific tents you can imagine with blankets and couch cushions and watch movies like “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”…with popcorn and the kool-aid in squeeze bottles (you know, the cool ones). A recuperating “victim” of Lyme Disease, Theresa is always fun, with lots of energy to bring to a group.
Sarah Lynn is the young-looking almost thirty-seven year old. She’s been married to Matt Branaugh, editor for a division of Christianity Today called Your Church, almost eleven years. They have three babies…the intelligent James (7), party girl Mattea (5), and wild man Joseph (1.5). Sarah’s family is beautiful and she and Matt are such good parents. Sarah home-schools her kids and I think her kids have the most fun of any young, home-school family I know. In spite of the twelve-year age difference between us, we are great friends. I love having a sister who understands me; we’re just too much alike! The little Branaugh family lives much too far away from us!
Brian Thomas is next at thirty-two. He is married to a sweet young woman Lindsey who is expecting their fifth baby in a couple of months. It’s finally going to be a boy! Brian and Lindsey have four little girls – Meagan (almost 10) who loves to read, Kendra (7) the little “hippie girl”, Rylee (5) with her shy, irresistible smile, and Addisen (1.5) with her lovely head of curls and sweet squishyness. Lindsey is a great mom to my little nieces who all encapsulate the fresh charm of free-spirited beauty! Like the Branaugh’s, Brian’s family lives way too far away from us! We miss them lots, but enjoyed their visit, albeit short, this past August.
Andrea Marie (30) is the fourth Pratt child and married to Leslie Graybill. She is the mama of baby Alexander Martin (4 + months) – my most darling nephew (under the age of one anyways). I am so blessed to have my sister live only fifteen minutes away from me. We get to see each other quite a bit (though never enough), which is always fun since I don’t think there is anything we don’t talk about. We have special camaraderie with each other since we’ve traveled and attended Bible schools together; reminiscing is always fun. Leslie is in college studying for his bachelor’s degree in nursing and Andrea, a CPM, practices midwifery – more as an assistant since becoming a mommy.
David Patrick (28) married Hope Bell on April 24, 2010. David works at a farming supply store and Hope does receptionist work. They bought their own home this past year and from what I hear, they’ve been having fun making it their own. David and Hope are a dynamic duo. Hope is perfect for David. With his never-ending supply of energy, he found his match in Hope who seems to offer a grounding sense of stability, while managing to keep up with his antics.
Benjamin Joseph follows at twenty-six. Just last week he landed safely in Germany, on his way back home from Afghanistan. After surviving a fifteen-month tour in Iraq and a twelve-month tour in Afghanistan, Ben is planning to wrap-up his army career and officially come back home to the States. It’s a big relief for his family who has prayed him safely home! Ben was my best friend growing up; of all my siblings, I have made the most memories with him. We got into all sorts of scrapes together, as the gullible duo who’d try just about anything. Recently, as I was digging through a box of old keepsakes, I found the posters we made when we ran against each other in presidential campaigns. I wish I could find the video we made of our version of the TV SHOW, “Jeopardy”. That was epic.
Then there’s me…the twenty-four year old woman who writes this blog…the one who dances with her husband in the middle of the street, longs to be a mommy, is working on cultivating the art of cooking, has never struggled with talking, and serves as a cashier at a local grocery store. Husband Ryan – the love of her life – works as a carpenter and dreams of teaching. He is an unnoticed, incredible writer – an artist with uncelebrated talent.
James Robert (22) married his bride, Renae, on October 8th, 2011. The adventurous newlyweds are living in the new home they are remodeling. It is beautifully situated down a dirt lane with over five acres of land. I could be jealous if I let myself! James is still the musical maestro in our family – having dabbled in more instruments than any of the rest of us (though almost all of us have played one instrument at one time or another)! Guitar is his first choice though and he’s a pretty talented guitarist if I do say so myself! His wife Renae is a very creative woman – talented in a number of ways that I am definitely not…like drawing and painting, for example. (Wait, actually…I can paint walls! Okay…never mind.)
Gabriel John follows at three-months from being twenty. He’ll celebrate his golden birthday this February and I’m asking myself where the time went. My little brother is a man now. Gabe does roofing at a mini barn business, and bought out a greenhouse in the spring. He just finished setting it up at my parent’s place where he hopes to begin business this next year. He is a talented by-ear pianist (though he’d never say so himself) and a photographer with a camera I drool over. One of the main things I miss about Gabe is playing volleyball next to him…it’s the next best thing to playing volleyball by my husband. 🙂
Hannah Ruth is a beautiful eighteen-year-old. Just the kind of young woman I want to be like when I grow up: funny, genuine, servant-hearted, and sensitive. I strongly dislike drama, so my stable, down-to-earth, sensible sister is a joy to my heart. She is always eager to lend a hand and completely unafraid of diving into the thick of things. I love that she’s totally undeterred by dirt. Someday she is going to make some young man a pretty incredible wife. When my brother Ben was leaving for Iraq, he hugged Hannah and said, through his tears: “Hannah, you’re a good girl.” That’s the perfect description of Hannah. By the way. she makes awesome homemade crescent rolls. I’ve given up on cooking like her.
Stephanie Joy turns seventeen this January and is finishing up high school, which feels so strange to me since I clearly remember the day she was born. Stephanie had the cutest smile as a baby girl. Now the years have passed and Stephanie works with Hannah selling homemade soap and cleaning at some cleaning jobs. Her stubborn spunk reminds me so much of myself and with her impulsive spontaneity she’s a woman after my own heart. Stephanie always makes me feel special. She sends me letters most often, usually homemade creative cards with a newsy note enclosed.
Catherine Grace turned fourteen today; November 20th. That seems quite unbelievable…just because I can’t believe the little “Cath-a-pack-arine” is turning into a young woman. And little she is – at under five feet tall and skinny as a beanpole. I don’t know for sure, but here’s to guessing she is the most tan and fit Pratt – the way she gallops about the woods with her trusty blue-tick hound, Shiloh. If any Pratt girl was a tomboy, its Catherine, who would rather read books in her homemade, rough-hewn tepee or trap small game. Her bedroom wall is slowly being decorated with tanned furs – from woodchuck to raccoon. I’m not sure, but it won’t be long before woods-woman Catherine joins the hunting crew (that would be Gabe, Hannah and Stephanie). I still laugh when I think about her reading through the big ole’ unabridged version of “Little Women” at ten.
Last, but not least is Mary-Margaret Anne, the baby of the family at eleven. We call her Maggie; I think the Mary-Margaret only comes out for scolding or special endearment, anymore. The Pratt family – and the world for that matter – would be incomplete without Mary-Margaret…who has always been precocious. I’ve never known another kid to play Senate and Congress (as she told me she was playing, a year ago on the phone), although I hear that more recently she’s taken up playing Lewis and Clark. Maggie is always up for anything – especially boating, swimming, soccer, or almost anything that includes being in the great outdoors. She got the “honors” for having the worst broken bone injury in the Pratt family, when she fell out of a tree three years ago, and broke her arm and dislocated her elbow.
And there you have it. My family.
Man, I miss them so much.