November wins first prize for “most diverse month”: it comes on the heels of Halloween and spooky season, winds its way through fall happenings and Thanksgiving, then ushers in the Christmas festivities. Our November was full and lovely and also marked with great sadness: I’m sharing all of that, and more, below.


My favorite novel of the month was easily this book that is quirky and quite different from my usual fare, which may be why I loved it. I also read (and enjoyed) three seasonal books this month—one sweet, one mysterious but also silly, and one twist on a classic. And the kids and I all had a lot of fun with this readaloud.

In the realm of nonfiction I found this book fascinating, this one convicting, and this hilarious. I’ll be sharing full reviews in a quick lit post next week.


It’s tough to get my kids a gift they don’t already have, but my parents succeeded in giving them an entirely original present that all of them enjoy: a personalized matching game, made with laminated family photos. My dad is a master gift-giver and he really outdid himself with this one! The kids had fun looking at each photo and learning about the subjects: some of me when I was little, some of my parents and other family members; other photos were taken on my parents’ various trips overseas. I love that this is a game they can all play that connects us to my parents in a creative and meaningful way. In playing with my parents, we stumbled on a fun and faster way to play Memory: a free-for-all match, where everyone plays at once, flipping over two cards at a time while keeping an eye on everyone else’s cards. This also happens to be the only way I can beat my kids at a matching game: their memories are better than mine, but I’ve got speed working in my favor, which levels the playing field!


Some podcasts that inspired and informed this month.

John Mark Comer Teachings Podcast—The Three Levels of Faith

Foundation Worldview Podcast—How To Not Lose Your Temper With Children

Focus on the Family Broadcast—Getting Organized for Christmas

That Sounds Fun Podcast with Annie F. Downs—The Kindness of Jesus with Lisa Harper – Episode 504

The Megyn Kelly Show—What Life is Really Like in the Mob, and Finding God in Prison, with Former Mafia Member Michael Franzese | Ep. 674

Verity with Phylicia Masonheimer—125 | The World of the Early Church

10 Things to Tell You—Ep. 197: Modern Manners for Teens

Mama Bear Apologetics—Episode 89: A Crash Course in the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Part 1) and also (Part 2)


My grandmother (“Oma”) passed away this month. It’s in moments like these when I realize the inadequacy of the written word, the limitations of my own writing: how can a mere paragraph or two convey the immensity of her life, or the enormity of our loss? I hope she would forgive the shortcomings of this small tribute.

Alwine Maria (Dietl) Obergefell was born in Kempton, Germany, on January 30, 1925; she would have been 99 next year. She was raised by her grandparents, and her youth was filled with skiing and dancing and vibrant friendships, all cut short with the onset of World War II. She met my grandfather (“Opa”), Helmut Obergefell, shortly after the War had ended. He was a bedraggled soldier and lodger in their family guesthouse, and what began as a frosty relationship soon blossomed into love. A marriage and two sons later, they immigrated to the United States where my mom (their surprise third child, the daughter Oma had longed for) was born in 1956. Oma maintained connections to her German culture, friends, and family, but was a proud American citizen and loved the life her family made for themselves here. She and Opa had a passion for traveling, though, and they introduced our family to the joys of cruising; even after their traveling days were over, Oma enjoyed traveling “vicariously” through trips she planned for us.

I have so many wonderful memories with my Oma and Opa in their Los Angeles home: festive meals (table spread with a mix of German and American foods, with Oma’s incomparable German potato salad always present); back-to-school-outfit fashion shows following Oma’s generous August shopping sprees with my brother and me; egg hunts in their yard at Easter, and charcuterie dinners and thoughtfully-chosen presents on Christmas Eve. I occasionally stayed overnight with my grandparents, and Oma and I passed our time exercising to Angela Lansbury workout videos, coloring alongside each other, playing with my mom’s old Barbie dolls, and watching The People’s Court.

After my grandfather’s passing, Oma sold her home in the valley and moved to a senior community in Orange County where she was happier than I had ever seen her. She made great friendships, served on several committees, tended the community rose garden, and participated in every exercise class and music appreciation event that was offered. She loved having family join her in the residents’ dining room, giving her an opportunity to proudly show off her home.

The last few years were not kind to my grandmother, who experienced physical and cognitive decline. But in my mind and heart she remained the Oma I always knew and loved. She was as sharp as a tack, with a mind for details; she loved word searches and memorizing and reciting trivia, and she was particularly proud of her ability to rattle off the names of the American presidents and their wives. She was a minimalist who had a special affinity for throwing things away, and I’m pretty sure that she is happily occupying a role as garbage collector in Heaven.

Oma was resilient and could be quite stubborn, and she remained dedicated to every task that she set her mind to; she was also incredibly kind and generous to a fault. Though she had a naturally anxious personality, she was one of the most optimistic and grateful individuals I have ever known—which is especially remarkable, given the many great hardships she endured throughout her life.

Oma will be greatly missed and forever loved. I am thankful for the many years we had with her. I am grateful that she got to meet all three of my kids, who truly loved her. I am relieved that she is no longer in pain. Oma was a dancer in her younger days, and I like to imagine that she is waltzing in Heaven now in the presence of Jesus.


There’s no good way to transition from a tribute to laughter, but I know how much Oma adored her great-grandkids and would appreciate these kid-isms, so here we go.


+ “Sully; you’re the best brother ever. Well you probably aren’t the best. But you’re a pretty good brother.”

+ “What was invented first, cans or can openers? Because how could you open the can without an opener? And why would someone invent an opener if there were no cans?”

+ “In your journals, is your life boring or fun? I’m guessing fun because if it was boring you wouldn’t journal about it.” 

+ Pointing to a Verizon store: “Mom, what’s Verizon?” Me: “It’s a cellphone service carrier.” Charleston: “A cellphone? You mean, like a smart phone? Why do you need a carrier for it, can’t you just hold it in your hands?” 


+ “I know what a teenager is! It’s someone who’s a mom.”

+ “I’m so glad God made all the donut places, and Menchies places.”

+ After she commented that my hair looked yellow with the sunlight behind me. Me: “Did you know that my hair was really yellow when I was little?” Kali: “Oh, yeah, and my hair was really pink when I was little.”


+ “The candy with the shiny wrappers are really hard to open. I think they’re a daddy mission. But mommies can probably open them too.”

+ “Don’t scream Kali!” Shouted to his sister. “You’re going to break the glass. And that’s not good.”

+ “Can I ride in the stroller at H‑E‑B?” Me: “You mean you want to ride in the grocery cart?” Sully: “Yeah, the cart. But some people call it a stroller because they don’t know what it’s called. Some people.”

+ “Mom! This is going to be my first Christmas when I’m four!”

KALI & SULLY, in a totally un-ironic conversation:

Kali: “Mom, where did we buy that?”

Me: “We got it at a store, I think it was Bass Pro.”

Sully: “I think it is actually called Fish Bro.”

Kali: “I think it is called Santa Bro.”

Sully: “No, it’s Santa Fish Bro. That’s what it’s called.”

Kali: “Oh yeah, that’s right, Santa Fish Bro.” (You heard it here first, folks, Bass Pro Shop is now officially Santa Fish Bro Shop.)


We had planned to visit the pumpkin patch in October, but our weekends filled up and then the weather soured and we just never made it. Thankfully the pumpkin patch remains open through November, so we decided to visit Sweet Berry Farm the first Saturday of the month and it was perfect. We had none of the October crowds (in fact we practically had the farm to ourselves!) and the weather was gorgeous. The kids had fun on the bounce mats and we all enjoyed the corn maze, the barrel train and hay ride, picking flowers and feeding the goats. Highlights of the day included Charleston’s unmitigated excitement at getting to pick some pink flowers for his sister, the twins’ squeals as the goats ate from their hands, and laughing at silly costumes on the scarecrows positioned along the hayride route. Our visit established a new tradition of waiting until after Halloween for our annual pumpkin patch excursion!

This month’s Trail Life camping trip was to Inks Lake which is less than an hour from our house! Luke and Charleston appreciated the short drive and enjoyed a great weekend, despite chilly weather and rain. I have loved hearing Charleston’s stories of all he is learning and the friends he’s making in Trail Life, and I’m especially appreciative that he is developing relationships with kids of all ages, Kindergarten through high school (the older kids in the troop plan the trips and meals, and it seems they are doing a great job). A particular highlight of this camping trip was the skits by the campfire on night two; Charleston got to play the lead in his!

As I mentioned above, my mom and dad came out to Texas the week before Thanksgiving for a visit and we loved our time with them. We played plenty of board games, made great use of our backyard playground, decorated cookies, went to the park, and just savored our time together.

While they were here we visited Sweet Eats, another local pumpkin patch, and once again basked in the beauty that is a pumpkin patch in November. There were ZERO crowds and we had a great time exploring all the farm has to offer, from mazes and petting zoos and pig races to face painting (the kids’ favorite) and apple cannons and trike rides. The weather was great, the company was better, and a great time was had by all.

Sadly, my parents’ trip was cut short with the passing of my grandmother that required them to leave early. I hate the circumstances of their departure and that we didn’t get a formal goodbye before they had to rush to the airport. I hate that my parents spent Thanksgiving going through Oma’s things, instead of with us. The day was a muted one for me, but I was thankful for my own little family and that we got to spend the day with Luke’s sister and parents. Steven and Amanda treated us to a feast, and the kids loved playing in the yard with neighbors. Throughout the day there were small reminders that God is good and faithful and always worthy of my gratitude, even when my heart doesn’t feel like giving thanks.

Black Friday is one of my favorite days of the year—not for the shopping, but because I love this transition into the Christmas season. We spent last Friday picking out a Christmas tree at the tree lot, bringing down our Christmas decorations from the attic, and attending a tree lighting in Georgetown Square. The lighting was insanely crowded, but worth the crowds and the waiting (my kids my have a different opinion on that, though).

Last Saturday was tree-decorating day! Christmas tree ornaments are a big deal in our home. We add a new one each year, representing an event, milestone, or trip from the year. This collection represents memories from sixteen Christmases together—new homes and family members, pets gained and lost, inside jokes…. This year we added a sea turtle from our beach vacation in October (our first time camping in a trailer). It’s so fun to open our ornament box each year and reminisce as a family. Of course we also got pics of all the first ornaments—baby ornaments for those who have them, plus the ornament my parents gave us the Christmas of 2008 (three days before we got married). I cherish these items and the stories they tell.

The kids were excited to get a tree of their own this year for the playroom. I’m happy with how it turned out, and with the other decorations sprinkled throughout our home!



Is It Fair? (November Verse—Psalm 96:9-11) “The reality is that this world is broken. But an even greater reality is that God’s Kingdom is established and cannot be shaken. We can rejoice and be glad that our Righteous Heavenly Father is seated on His throne, enacting eternal justice within His dominion. Evil has been temporarily unleashed, but it will NOT prevail.”

Faithful 11:23—Bold Prayers “The boldness of Abraham’s prayers had nothing to do with the one who was praying (Abraham) and everything to do with the One to Whom he was praying. It did not require great faith on Abraham’s part; all he needed was a little faith in a great God.”

28 Discussion Questions for Your Holiday Gatherings

Give Thanks “Gratitude is the outflowing of a heart that has been changed by Jesus: we recognize God’s mercy and kindness in our lives, and we are grateful. Gratitude is a birthplace for humility before our Creator as we acknowledge His greatness and step out in trust as He leads us.

Eleven Things I Learned This Fall “As I consume new ideas and messages, I can remain judicious without immediately resorting to fault-finding. My mind and my heart are not mutually exclusive, both can be engaged.


Quick Lit || November 2023

Best of the Backlist: Novellas with Big Impact


“A life outside of Christ is both hard and frightening; a life in Christ has hard edges and dark valleys, but it is purposeful even when painful.” ~ Rosaria Butterfield

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“Reading well adds to our life—not in the way a tool from the hardware store adds to our life, for a tool does us no good once lost or broken, but in the way a friendship adds to our life, altering us forever.” ~ Karen Swallow Prior

I hope that your November has been filled with gratitude and lovely fallish things, and that you are enjoying these early days of the holiday season. Now on to December!

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