Things I Don’t Understand Thursday: Gambling

casino Maybe it’s because we’re a one-income family or because I try to squeeze my grocery dollars as far as they’ll go.  Maybe it’s because I feel a sense of accomplishment when I can produce an edible meal out of rice and hamburger for approximately $3 total.  Maybe it’s because I know how far $50 or $75 could go in the life of a single mom or a child in Africa.  Or maybe it’s because I’m just no fun.

But after spending a few days at the casino for my husband’s convention, I have to say it:  I just don’t understand gambling.

Please don’t be offended if you do enjoy this.  I’m not trying to be condescending or sarcastic.  It’s just that my brain can’t figure out a way to make losing money fun.  I guess I just don’t have enough of it to view it as a sport or hobby instead of a loss.

The photo above was taken on the casino floor earlier this week.  I walked around feeling nearly assaulted at the constant cacophony of bells, alarms, dings, and chimes.  Lights whirled and blinked and shone with such brilliance that I contemplated getting out my sunglasses.  Stools filled with people staring desperately at slot machine screens emitted a haze of cigarette smoke that nearly gave me asthma on the spot.  No wonder they’re chain smoking, I thought–they’re scared out of their wits that they’ll lose all their mortgage money!

As I wandered deeper into the bowels of this beguiling money-making machine, I stopped to watch some people at the $5 slots.  High rollers in my world.  All I could think about was how they could be at Little Caesar’s getting a pizza for each of their “spins,” or in today’s world, “button pushes.”  $5 will rent a movie, get 5 coloring books at the dollar store, buy two days worth of hot lunch for our kids, get 5 roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s…or…one push of a button.

You can imagine my angst when one of the women in that area walked up and easily slipped a $100 bill into the Wheel of Fortune game.  Ouch!  20 pushes of the button…or a week of groceries for many families.  20 pushes of the button…or 5 tanks of gas.  Or a nice outfit.  Or 3 BioSand water filters for a family living without clean water [see right].

I wandered next to the Craps table [I had to ask the dealer what the game was called].  This was interesting.  This game had people using chips and cash.  I watched as a man plopped two Benjamin’s on the table and stabbed them into some sort of hole-in-the-table-money-take-away-er.  All with ease.  With one swift motion.  $200–gone in 2 seconds.

Now, lest you think I’m trying to be the morality police, I’m not.  I tried the $1 slot machine twice, and nearly won!  [How many people say that, huh?!]  And I’ll admit:  after my first pull of the lever when my 7’s nearly lined up, I felt a tightening in my stomach and this foreign kind of excitement rise up in my chest.  I thought I was going to win!! So I think I understand the compulsion to keep trying.  Just one more time.  One more quarter, dollar, Ben Franklin.

But the sad thing for me is that I can’t imagine that many of the people playing are truly in a position to lose this kind of money.  With the state of our economy in ruins–particularly here in Michigan–it seems almost irresponsible to choose to spend your afternoon throwing money away.  It makes me sad for the kids who sit in the hallway waiting for their parents [yes, saw that].  It makes me sad for the elderly who haul their oxygen tank along with them to sit in a smoke-filled room [yes–the first thing I saw here].

It makes me sad that people feel that the best use of their time and resources…is to throw them to the whim of dice on felt.

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Posted in Finances, Heartbreak, Kids, Rants, Travel, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sugar Two Ways

One of the great things about being gone with my husband, aside from getting a brief vacation from Mommyland, is getting to do stuff together that we don’t do at home.  Such as ordering pizza and eating it in bed while watching Monday Night Football.  Ah, the little things…

One of these adventures led to an interesting conversation in which we came up with our own theory concerning sugar.  I’m testing it on you to see if you agree.  Here it is:

If sugar is going to be combined, we think it can best be partnered with two things:  Salt and Milk, separately.  I’d make the case for salt to be part of the larger “spice/spices/spicy” category, but for our purposes here, I’ll stick to salt only.

SUGAR + SALT examples:

Coke + chips/french fries/pretzels

Margarita + salt-rimmed glass

Caramel-corn

SUGAR & MILK examples:

Pie/cake/cookies + milk

Breakfasts with a syrup component + milk  [in my opinion, milk with french toast or pancakes WAY trumps OJ.]

~~

Obviously, this is subject to opinion.  I know people who enjoy pop with their cake & ice cream, or who don’t particularly crave the salty-sweet combo.  I guess everyone’s taste buds are different, but I’m curious to see if you can de-bunk this theory.  Can you think of a good sugar combo besides these listed?  Or would you add an example to my list?

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Casino Life 102: Simple & Sharp

I’d like to think I’m pretty easy to please.  Granted, I have my moments and my private rants, but in general, I’m happy with little things:

A glass of Coke with lots of ice and a straw.

Receiving a funny card in the mail.

A husband who helps me put away the clean laundry [HATE that job!]

Splurging on dessert at my favorite restaurant.

Seeing lots of comments posted to a blog [*cough*]

So, you can imagine my glee when I discovered that this delightful casino we’re staying at [see yesterday’s post] outfits the limebathrooms with Bath & Body Works products!  Not some Dial knock-off or an oatmeal-based beauty bar, but the real thing.  From the mall–only smaller.  AND, it’s Coconut Lime Verbana!  What fantastic news!  I also scored a couple bars of Warm Vanilla Sugar, but since it’s not my favorite, I’m opening them up to the highest bidder  [see below for my giveaway].  Free shampoo, conditioner, bath bar, “moisturizing bar”, and shower accoutrements.  Like I said, it’s the simple things that blow my hair back.

sharpsNow.  Let’s contrast this simple pleasure with another kind that I haven’t run into before.  At least not in a hotel: “Sharps”.  I saw this sign right away on the table when we walked in.  Lovely of them to promote safety and cleanliness–I’m just sayin’– I haven’t seen this before.  It reminds me of that scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are staying in the hotel looking for Moonlight Graham, and the man at the front desk has to remind them that they don’t allow “midnight abortions” at their establishment.  Good to know.

Anyway, my small-town naivety is being enlightened, I suppose, by all these experiences.  I’m enjoying some time away from the phone ringing and the doorbell dinging.

Enjoying the Simple and the Sharp here at the casino.

If you really would like my Warm Vanilla Sugar soap, be one of the first two people to leave a comment saying that you have added a *NEW* link to my blog from your own.  I’ll check it out and then email you for your address.  Thanks!

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Casino Life 101

kidsincars
This is one of those signs that you just can’t walk past without stopping.

And staring.

Perhaps briefly taking a picture with a camera phone [hypothetically speaking].

Scratching your head and letting a “Hmm” escape, slow and ponderous.

Really?  We need a sign to remind us not to leave our children in the car?  Are these casino goers so crazy for the slots that they’d literally run from their vehicles, forgetting their own offspring??  Is the allure of the lights and bells that seductive?

Imagine the scene: Ginnie and Trish peel into the casino parking lot, exhaust pipe belching black smoke powerful enough to compete only with the smoke unfurling from the window courtesy of Trish’s Camel unfiltereds.   Little Austin is strapped into the back seat of the Torino trying to focus on Handy Manny’s exploits when the engine stutters to a stall.  With rolls of quarters bouncing in their pleather bags hot with certain luck, the girls barely stop long enough to crookedly apply their Wet-n-Wild lipstick before hopping out of the car.  Just as Ginnie reaches under the seat for her AquaNet, she is startled by Trish’s piercing squeal:   “Ginnie!!  GIT over here, girl!  We’re going to be late! The slots will be taken! Forget your hair and let’s GO!”

Payless heels clicking loudly against the pavement, little Austin is left to spend the day with Manny in the Torino.  Alone while mom flirts at the Blackjack table, he wonders why she didn’t see the sign reminding her to utilize the casino childcare facility.

Maybe she didn’t want to cut into her winnings?

PS:  I’m not here with Ginnie or Trish.  My husband’s at a convention and I’m keeping him company 🙂

Posted in Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Random Fun, Rants, Uncategorized, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things I Don’t Understand Thursday: Slow Drivers in the Passing Lane.

People, it’s called the passing lane for a reason.

I know it’s tempting to drive with an entire lane spread out wide across your windshield.

I understand your desire for control, and your desire to be a separate entity from those employing a more leisurely pace.

HOWEVER.

It must be said:  I don’t understand why you insist on remaining in this lane WHEN YOU’RE NOT PASSING ANYONE.

Please note exhibit A, taken by me this summer.  As a favor for Mr. Clueless, I’ve blotted out his license plate.  I have yet to blot out his trespass driving miscalculation, however.  I’m working on that.  With my counselor.

IMG_3124OK, I’ll concede that I’m no driver’s ed instructor, though I should be.  But.  Notice the long line of respectful, law-abiding drivers on the right.  Good job, folks.  Kudos to you!  Way to enhance the flow of traffic!

Now turn your attention to sad Mr. Blue Car.  Note that he could easily slide over into the right hand lane and still leave an appropriate distance between himself and the gray car.   If I were playing Rush Hour, I would totally move his fanny without giving it a second thought. It’s an obvious and sensible strategy.

What makes me crazy about the Mr. Blue Cars of the world is that they TRAP those of us wishing to drive faster than 45 mph by making it impossible to maneuver around them!  There is not enough space to pass him on the right, not to mention you’re not supposed to pass on the right.  And so I return to my initial point:

IF YOU’RE IN THE PASSING LANE, PEOPLE, PLEASE PASS.

And then kindly get out of my way.


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Four More Days

One of the great joys, and simultaneous “pinch-me’s” of my days, is a more fervent awareness of the slipping away.  Time slipping away.  Childhood…slipping.  Days, seasons…slipping.

It sounds depressing, I know, but actually I feel joyful that God has given me new eyes to see it.  New eyes to behold these slices of history-to-be.  Already I look back at photos and can’t believe how fast the years have taken flight.

My youngest son M is the spitting image of his older brother J, who is, of course, the spitting image of his daddy.  This morning I pulled a long sleeve shirt out of the closet for him, pulled it over his small round head, and watched his smile pop through–transporting me in an instant to a time when it was J’s head emerging from the soft cotton.  The picture, bent and wrinkled, stands still in my heart: two boys, two faces I love, both wearing the same shirt, both growing up so fast.

On days when our two older children have school, M and I like to stay in our jammies and snuggle together.  I spoil him IMG_9298with chocolate milk in a sippy cup [even though he’s waaaayyy too old for sippies], and we watch Berenstein Bears on the couch.  We wrestle and he wraps his small warm arms around my neck and I think that life just couldn’t get any better. I threaten to kiss his face off, and he says he’s too old for kisses “titheth”.  I tell him you’re never too old for mama’s kisses.  He disagrees.

I guess today he decided to better outline his thoughts in regards to kissing mom, because as I was blow-drying my hair, he bravely walked into the bathroom, stood on the toilet so as to look me in the eyes, and declared, “Four more days!”

“What?”

“Four more days!”

“Four more days for what?” I turned off the blower to better listen to his instructions.

“Four more days left to kiss me!  Then I’m too big!” I decided that aiming the hairdryer in his face and turning it on high was the only way to reasonably convey my thoughts.  He folded up in laughter and righted himself just as fast.

“No mom, only four more days.” Then he hopped off the toilet and set to “popping wheelies” on the glider ottoman that seems to have taken up residence in our bedroom.

I stood there, pondering this ultimatum, issued by a little boy trying to figure out what it looks like to turn 4 and hang with the big kids. Of course I didn’t get too crazy over his “new rules,” because after all, I’m the mom and I’ll be kissing his face off until he gets married. HOWEVER, as I said in the beginning of this post, I am more and more aware of the “slipping away” of life and of my role as an integral part of our kids’ lives.

I quickly opened my pharm drawer and reached for some Prozac

I set a brick on his head to stop him from growing up

Done with my hair I ran into our room and scooped him up, rocking him like the baby he’ll always be to me.  “Four more days?!  Four more days?!  That’s not enough!” I taunted him and kissed him and tossed him onto the bed, into a tangle of blankets and arms and laughter.

“Ok mom.  Eight more days.”

I’ll take it.  I’ll take all eight and cherish each one.


Posted in Family, gratitude, Growing Pains, Heartbreak, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Play, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Slow Burn

Last week I told you about Daisy Chain, a rare and wonderfully gripping piece of Christian fiction from author Mary DeMuth.   The first in her Defiance Texas Trilogy, Daisy Chain weaves a tale of suspense and fear, grace and deliverance, as told through the eyes of a forlorn 14 year old named Jed.   Chapter One opens like a firecracker–rising high and exploding with questions, doubts, and a terrifying new reality that Jed’s best friend, Daisy, has vanished.  Jed’s choices, while innocent in the making, prove to be an unshakable dark cloud that follow him throughout the book.  Could he have done something differently to protect her?  Why did he leave her?  How can he go on?  And, Can he ever forgive himself?

A-Slow-Burn-300x300These questions, deep and universal to anyone who’s ever felt the weight of guilt, follow Daisy’s friends and family into book two,  A Slow Burn, due out OCTOBER 1.  This time, the chain of regret is tightly wound around Daisy’s mother, Emory Chance.  Never one to wallow, Emory’s past and present at last collide, forcing her to deal with the demons that took up residence in her heart as a girl.

Mary’s skill as a writer lies in part in how she expertly layers her characters so that the reader feels a kinship to them.  Despite her faults [and believe me, there are many], Emory became someone I cared about.  I wanted her eyes to be opened to the loving folks around her.  I wanted her to unfold and welcome difficult healing.  I wanted her to allow her heart to be soft–to be teachable.  I wanted her to repent.

“Only Emory didn’t repent of anything; instead she nursed her grief, feeling the great injustice of it all.  She reminded herself she was a good mother to Daisy, considering.  She wasn’t wicked. Not as wicked as her parents were.  Daisy, she didn’t know how good she had it” [pg. 46, A Slow Burn].

The depth of character that Mary builds in her books is outdone only by the unbelievable sequence of events that had me hunched in the dim light of the early morning hours, unable to put it down.   A Slow Burn builds on the mystery of Daisy Chain while adding fresh elements of surprise, new characters, and eerie revelations about Daisy’s disappearance.  With many questions remaining, the forward momentum compels me to unlock the answers.  Will Book Three finally hand over the keys?  I can’t wait to find out!

I hope you’ll head to your Christian Bookstore this Thursday for a copy and leave a comment with your own review.  Let’s start a conversation!

~~

PS:  I feel fortunate to have been chosen as an influencer for Mary, and as such, was privileged to have received this book free as an early release so that I could tell you all about it [thank you Zondervan Publishers!].

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Lessons from the Orchard, Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the stunning day we had outside at Crane’s Orchard.  It was lovely.  Absolutely lovely.

Now that I’m at home, sitting in the quiet listening to Fernando Ortega, my mind spins both with things that I saw and with things it seems the Lord showed me.

As we meandered between rows and rows of trees, many of which have probably been there for decades, we eventually came to a grove of young trees.  Newly planted to birth the coveted Honeycrisp apple, these trees were small.  Delicate looking.  Even frail, it seemed.  Still staked down with a protective wrap around their bases, these trees, though little, were producing delicious apples–and lots of them.

IMG_3448Here’s my youngest, who at 3.5 years is already half the height of this Honeycrisp.  As I stood to to snap this picture, taking in the amazing sight of a tree giving life to this much fruit, it reminded me of John 15:5:

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Bear much fruit.  Isn’t that what I long to do?  What I desire for my children?  My husband?   To see love poured out; to experience joy in abundance; to live in peace; to exhibit patience after spilled milk; to extend kindness and to model goodness; to be faithful to my husband and to my friends; to be a picture of gentleness and self-control [*cough*].  Each day.  Imagine the harmony!  Our home would be a utopia in Suburbia.

Yet John expresses this promise as a condition: If a man remains in me and I in him…”

The alternative, I suppose, is the rotting and withering that comes with a life separated from the vine, from Christ.IMG_3480And, if I’m honest, sometimes I think I can make it on my own, drawing from the shallow well of my own strength.  Haven’t we all thought this?  Or if not consciously, unconsciously?  I know better.  But there are days when I think that somehow I’ll be able to reach deeper, keep it all together, stay focused, be kind–if only I try harder.

Today the Lord reminded me that even if you’re frail and small, even if you need the support of something stronger pointing you to Heaven, even if you’re young–fruit only grows if you’re deeply rooted.

Being in the orchard reminded me that it is only the vine that provides this kind of life and bountiful fruit.

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Lessons from the Orchard, Part 1

Sometimes I feel like I’m overly emotional.  I mean, yes, I am a woman enduring cyclical hormones, but still, I don’t know how many people tear up at the sight of a lovely old tree or because painfully beautiful harmonies envelop them in church.  Maybe it’s gratitude or, I hope, a tender heart, but either way, it has me reaching for my sunglasses.   No need for my kids to see the waterworks and start to think that I’m dealing with a bad case of gout or some other unspoken rashy inflammation.

IMG_3450Today we went to our favorite apple orchard and soaked in the gorgeous pre-autumnal air like starfish welcoming back the evening tides.  The sky stretched out in brilliant blue with clouds ornamenting the expanse.  Apple trees bent under the weight of their fruit, giving and giving and giving still more to deers that will arrive to scavenge the ground at dusk.  In long shirt sleeves and jeans we were warm under the sun, but cool enough to sense fall awaiting its turn to trumpet onto the pages of a new calendar month.  It was exactly. perfect.

As we walked together through two different orchards, I felt such a deep sense of gratitude.  Such a profound thankfulness that we were able to experience this beautiful day together.  To be outside, to smell the fresh air–and later–pies baking.  To take in the grandeur of nature’s palate.  I found myself thinking,

IMG_3437Lord, how is it that we are blessed with all this?

How many children never know the carefree joy of running through rows and rows of apple trees?

How many–young or old–are confined to their homes and are not outside to drink in this Indian Summer sunshine?

How many innocent little lives are tucked away in brothels and slums, who know only the stench of a dirty city and the fear of a life going to waste?

With sunglasses safely on, I could feel a flash of sadness rise up inside me.  Tears filling my eyes.  It’s a strange thing, this mix of gratitude and deep sadness.

We walked together through two sprawling orchards, kids climbing like monkeys in the low branches of sturdy IMG_3464trees, then running to conquer hills and valleys.

Passing time together as a family, being thankful, seeing God revealed in Creation–it was church in my heart.  It was the kind of day I wish I could bottle up and save for deep January when the snows are unleashed from their heavenly hiding place.  It was the kind of day that reminds me of God’s goodness.  Of his gifts, all around us, freely given.  It reminds me of grace.  That for absolutely no reason–No reason–He saw fit to invite me to delight in Him with dust on my shoes and the fruity sweetness of a picked apple still resting on my tongue.

What a gift.  What a lesson in gratitude.

Posted in Faith, Family, Food, gratitude, Kids, Nature/Outdoors, Random Fun, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

FREE RICE!

If you’ve ever stared into the eyes of a child who is malnourished or starving–whether in real life or in a magazine or on TV–you’ll find satisfaction in knowing that playing a game can simultaneously deliver food to those same children.  It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s quite possibly a small part of the solution to global hunger.

Free rice is a site I heard about a long time ago and, to my joy, re-discovered today.  I invite you to check it out!  My goal was to earn 1,000 grains of rice to be donated [paid for by sponsors and handled by the UN food bank].  Set your own goal, plug in your brain, and decide to make a difference.

Help end world hunger

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Things I Don’t Understand Thursday: Christmas in SEPTEMBER?!

clip_image005_2Poor Baby Jesus.

“Dear 8 pound, six ounce newborn infant Baby Jesus.  Don’t even know a word yet.”

It’s bad enough that our society has gone to epic proportions to exploit his birth after Thanksgiving, but NOW we have to walk into our local Costco and be visually assaulted with artificial trees and gold foil wrapping paper on Labor Day.

I do not pretend to understand this.

In fact, I find it offensive because it ruins the specialness of Christmas. And I don’t even care if that’s not a real word.   I haven’t even mentally left summer!  I haven’t been apple picking! I don’t have my harvest decorations up! I haven’t discussed Halloween costumes with our children!

To add a little vinegar to the baking soda [= explosion, in case you’ve never tried it], the catalogs are starting to roll in.  The ad execs are no doubt counting their money in neat little piles like Ebenezer Scrooge, drooling over the prospect of a fruitful shopping season that will pull us, definitively, out of a recession.  Whatever.

In fact, yesterday we got a cozy little slice of marketing heaven:  The Company Store advertising free monogramming on select items as their “Happy Holidays” gift.  Don’t forget–Hurry!  Offer expires 10/14/09!

‘Ya know what I want to say?

I want to say, “CALM DOWN, PEOPLE.”

Live in this moment–this season, for crying out loud.

Enjoy fall.

Relish the colors, the changing leaves, the coolness of the evening air, the morning mist.

Delight in the unmistakably fall smell of apples baking.  Of spicy pies.  Homemade applesauce.

Shiver through a football game and remember the days of rooting for your boyfriend [now husband] who’d claw through the painted yardlines and rise up, smiling that boyish grin, captivated by something absolutely synonymous with autumn.

And ‘ya know what else?

DON’T RUSH ME.

Let me hold these days and drift through them with the kind of ease that comes when you’re over 30 and better understand the precious nature of time and season.

Let me sit in the quiet and admire God’s creativity.  His beauty.

Let me marvel at how so many colors can be captured on one single leaf.  And how pumpkins are the same–yet different.  How apple cider slides down warm, allowing you to pinpoint its exact location until it pools in your stomach like liquid comfort.

And let me enjoy Christmas when it’s Christmas.  After the snow flies and we’ve celebrated the harvest with turkey and mashed potatoes.  When you can count the days with numbers instead of months.

Because don’t you agree?  Christmas doesn’t belong in September.

Please do me the honor of leaving a comment if you share this perspective!  Also, thanks again to Kamarah for the great photo.

Posted in Decor/Organizing, Family, Holidays, Home, Nature/Outdoors, Rants, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chasing Pavements

Before anyone gets all “copyright lawyer” on me, I will admit the obvious:  I’m “using/borrowing/adapting” Adele’s song title for my own use and express benefit.

I was going to say, “So sue me,” but actually, no.  Please don’t.  I just spent the $78 I made at my garage sale and don’t have a penny for legal fees.  I hear bake sales are profitable, but when you factor in all these new nut allergies and everyone wanting gluten-free products, it pretty much leaves me with a pile of scrambled eggs and a bowl of canned mandarin oranges.  Something tells me they might not be hot sellers.

I digress.

If you’ve ever heard Adele elaborate on this song or if you’ve cracked into the world of urban dictionary [.com], you know that to chase pavements is to beat at the wind.  To chase something elusive and perhaps non-existent.  To continue down a proverbial dead-end road.  You get the idea.

I’ve been chasing after something that has seemed impossible for years.  It’s actually not even a personal “thing” in my own life, for my own body/self/person, or even in my own family.  I’ve been begging with God, praying, pleading on behalf of someone else and that person’s needs.  Have you ever been there?  Have you ever done that?  Desperately emptying yourself, draining all your tears, wringing out your heart, only to leave the Cross feeling like you’re chasing pavements? That your holy and righteous and God-honoring prayer might not be answered in the way that seems to make sense?

-1

Thanks to Kamarah for the photo

When I run, this is part of the path that leads me to and from my home.  Over the past year I’ve passed this spot more times than I can count–and before I started running, hundreds of times with my trusty dog.  Sometimes familiarity like this can breed a certain level of blindness.  It becomes second nature to ignore one’s surroundings while the backdrop of your life passes by in similar color and texture.

But this spring I was nearly stopped in my tracks by this lovely burst of green, this determined patch of life that erupted from the concrete crust around it.  And all at once, I could sense the Lord speaking to my heart, that the “pavements” person in my life could be like this mysterious and tenacious grass.  That this person could possibly make it.  Could overcome the odds.  Could turn it around.  Could push through the hard and the cold that seems to weigh down the spirit.  Could experience life in a new way.  Could really live!

Boy, God.  Do I believe that?  Do I have enough faith?

So each time my feet slap the earth, I repeat the same name in my head.  I say it.  And say it.  And say it.

Tears come, and I say it.

Joy and sorrow flood me.

Am I chasing pavements?  Sometimes it feels like it.  The road stretches out long and arduous in either direction of that small island of life in the picture.  And likewise, the answer I long for still seems far off.

But I’m starting to see the spark of something.  And I’m still willing to chase.  To believe.  To hope.

Because I know that someday that pavement will turn into streets of gold, and I’m desperate to share the road.

Posted in Faith, Heartbreak, Nature/Outdoors, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

You’ve Got a Friend

Our youngest doesn’t see being 3 as a handicap, but truth be told, at his young age he has already experienced age discrimination.

I know.  The Law Offices of Sam Bernstein are about to be put on speed dial, trust me.

I can’t blame the big kids–they’re faster [barely], they’re stronger [on most days], and they have a much larger vocabulary [no denying that one.]  M does what he can to keep up with them.  He braves the bike ramps.  He jumps the sidewalks on his two-wheeler.  He yells and screams with the best of them.  And arguably, he can ride our electric dirt bike as well as any kid who’s ever mounted the steel horse plastic pony.

Still, when you’re 7 or 8 or 9, chillin’ with the preschoolers isn’t on your list of “must-do” after school.  The kids that are slightly closer to him in age are girls, and while better than nothing, generally aren’t the thrill seekers that he innately is.  I mean, giving your American Girl a new hair-do might be cutting edge, true, but…can she ride a quad no-handed is really the question.

Even though my M can ride a quad “going no handlebars”, as he says, he often finds himself wandering alone.  Just this afternoon I caught him sitting by himself pounding some boards together for pretend–designing a half-pipe for Tony Hawk no doubt.  He’s a nomad on paved sidewalks.  A restless wanderer, longing for a friend.

Anywho, last week he started preschool, and I probably don’t have to tell you–he loves it. It’s just a couple of hours a week, but it has given him the opportunity to hang out with other super-cool 3 year-olds who also enjoy the art of jumping, singing, drawing, and playing with trucks.  Even though I nearly lost my mascara to TurboTears round 4 at the thought of my baby going to school, it has warmed the cockles of my heart [as my hubby would say] to see him in the company of so many tender souls.

Which makes today so great.

On the way home from his school I looked in the rear view mirror and asked him, “M, what was the best part of your day today?”

You wanna know what he said?

He said, “Having friends.”

Awwww!  [sniff sniff]

A moment of silence, please.  Show a little respect for the poor kid.

This conjures up two points I wish to make:

1.  That he does, obviously, feel terribly left out when the big kids take off [again, I can’t blame them, but he does feel it].

2.  It also reminds me to verbalize my thankfulness for my own friends.  There are many times when I sit at home and think “What would I do without her in my life?  What would I do without her to call, to talk me through it, to make me put down the chocolate.  For ten seconds.” When I think of all the people I call friend, I feel so. grateful.

So to all my dear, dear friends out there who have walked beside me long after doll days and bike rides [’cause some of you have been around that long!], thank you for being there, for loving me, for filling my life with blessings overflowing.

Today I join my little boy in being thankful for YOU.

Posted in Family, Friends, Heartbreak, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Neighbors, Play, Random Fun, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Daisy Chain

Last spring I was privileged to hear Mary DeMuth speak at a Christian Writer’s Conference.   In a room full of other brothers and sisters, alike in our love for the Lord yet quite possibly different in our perceptions of faith, I received her challenge to re-think my boundaries on His love.  After all, maybe the love of Jesus has no boundaries.  Maybe he loves and loves and loves.  And maybe he does it regardless of our choice to return his affection.  Could it be?

While it’s easy to love someone filled with grace and kindness, we all know that it’s much harder to extend love to those who are gritty.  Prickly.  Unkind.   I have found this to be true in life–and in literature.

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A few weekends ago I got sucked back to 1977 through the binding of a book that I could not put down.  Daisy Chain, written by Mary, is a riveting and mysterious tale that had my emotions swirling: anger, injustice, fear [I actually had shiver bumps], love, admiration, and sympathy were all tossed in the blender of my heart.  Each one distinct, each one lasting and thought-provoking.

Mary sets the stage expertly: a lone church half-burned and in disrepair stands witness to an empty field surrounded by a dark forest.  Childhood friends Jed and Daisy meet there to forget the cares of their young lives, both heavy with burdens too cumbersome for children.  At the end of their afternoon together, Jed heads home for dinner, not wanting to be late.  Not wanting to again rouse the anger of his father, the town’s self-righteous pastor.

However, as Jed finds himself half-way to a warm meal, his gut tells him that he’s made a mistake.  Why would he leave Daisy–abandon her to walk home alone as dusk settles on their small Texas town?  He turns back, running now, fear pounding in his steps.  When he reaches the church, the door is left swinging on its hinges, an eerie squeak telling him something’s not right.  Finding Daisy’s shoe only confirms his fears.

And that’s just the first chapter! [I know!  Lock your doors!  Pull the shades!]

I normally don’t read suspense stories–fiction or non–because I get paranoid and have bad dreams.  This book, however, had me hooked, staying up till all hours for just “one more chapter.” I wanted to creep into the pages, talk to Jed, interact with his mother, meet his sister, stand as a defense against the twisted love of their angry father.

With threads of love, redemption, guilt and remorse, Mary weaves a tapestry of well-rounded characters and beautifully painted scenery against the backdrop of small-town secrets.

The good news is, if you like this book as much as I think you will [run, don’t walk to your nearest Christian bookstore], you’ll be happy to know that its sequel–the second in her Defiance Texas trilogy–is coming out this October!  I’ve been asked to read and review A Slow Burn early [thank you, Mary!], and it is equally thrilling.  This time told from the perspective of a different character, more secrets are spilled, more questions are raised, and answers are beginning to seep.  But not all of them! There will be much left to be resolved in the third and final book, all published by Zondervan.

Watch for a follow-up blog posting about A Slow Burn, and join me in reading this series which has critics comparing Mary to Harper Lee and Francine Rivers.  It’s a lofty compliment and high praise, but I can promise you, it’s well deserved!

If you’ve read this book or others by Mary, please leave a comment and share your thoughts. I love discussing great books!

Posted in Faith, Family, Friends, Heartbreak, Home, Kids, Literature/Books, Nature/Outdoors, Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Things I Don’t Understand Thursday: No-Shows

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We’ve been trying to sell this sweet little kitten for a couple of weeks now.  I would’ve thought that some eager high-schooler would’ve snatched her up like a Dutchman crossing a penny in the street, but alas, no.  There have been phone calls from “interested” shoppers, and even a couple of folks who have had the privilege of driving in the luxurious, smoke-free, V6 carriage of fun.  And it is fun.  Oldsmobile is synonomous with fun.  Just ask Tiger Woods.  Fun.

However, what I don’t understand are the people who call me, feign interest, tell me they’re coming to check it out, ask me to wait at home for their vague arrival time,…and then don’t show up.

What’s the deal, people!?  Three times this has happened!  Didst thou suddenly develop swine flu, and because thou art in quarantine thou art forbidden to pick up the phone to cancel thine appointment?  Didst thoust case of Carpel Tunnel flare, hindering thou fromst using thine telephone to call me?  Didst thou endure a frightful home explosion which destroyed thoust calendar?  And memory?

I have to say:  IT’S RUDE.  I try to be gracious, although I fully admit to failing daily.  BUT.  In my mind, it seems a matter of common decency to follow through.  To be courteous of another’s time and family life.  To be honest.  To speak the truth.

So, my fellow Americans.  Please.  For the love of all that is good and pure, either:

1.  Show up when you say you’re going to.

OR

2.  Don’t make the promise.

Fair enough?

Posted in Discipline Issues, Family, Finances, Heartbreak, Home, Rants, Uncategorized, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Medieval War Games

Well, they did it again.

Made a game out of wood and jumping and self-inflicted wounds.

Little did the feudal lords of the middle ages know that their catapulting weaponry would be such a hit in the backyards of the ‘burbs.

While we grown-ups chilled on the deck, sipping our Coke on ice and munching on chicken brats and kettle chips, the boys were gearing up for battle.  Actually, J had never heard of a “catapult,” instead thinking he was making a simple machine.  Remember those?  Inclined plane, pulley, wedge, screw, etc.

“Mom!  Look!  I created a LEEE-VER!!” He sounded like Bill Nye the Science Guy during 4th hour Biology.

“A what?!” I asked, just to hear him say it again.

“A leeever!”

IMG_3335If I could zoom in on his shorts you’d see the skulls-with-crossbones sprinkled up and down the legs.  How fitting, don’t you think, that he’d spend his time creating dangerous devices with leftover wood and landscaping bricks?  He’s clearly ready for some real fun. Bikes are for sissies.

Things got real fun, alright, when his brother joined the party and insisted on shooting plastic toys off the opposite end of the “leeever.”  They found an old reflex-checker from a toy doctor’s kit, thinking it would surely fly nicely, getting some “huge air.”

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It was at this precise moment that I should have demanded they strap on their helmets or at least some swim goggles.  Perhaps the kind of headgear that wrestlers or umpires wear would have worked.  But being the stupid encourager of creative-play mom that I am, I didn’t stop them.  Not for a helmet, not for the goggles.  Even though M is drawn to accidents like moths to flame.  And sadly, this day was no exception.  Enjoy the accident in slow motion below:

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Effective jumping technique, tool on opposite end appears to be catapulting in the correct direction. Watchful older brother on guard.

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Oops...and there he goes, folks. Down, down, down. To the Ring of Fire.

OK.  I have to stop the show for a second and explain.  I never thought the board would actually flip up and smack M in the face. Of course not.  I mean, what kind of mother lets her children reconstruct Medieval war tools in the backyard and actually thinks it’s cute?  [At least, in the beginning it was cute.  When it was just a “leeever” and not a weapon of mass destruction.]

So here’s my poor M after going inside and being soothed by a warm bath, fresh PJ’s and a bedtime smack SNACK–did I say “smack’?!

Maybe not so much a "ring of fire," but more like a slap across the ENTIRE from of your face.

Maybe not so much a "ring of fire," but more like a slap across the ENTIRE from of your face.

It reminds me of that scene in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley asks Richard [David Spade] if there’s a mark on his face, while motioning dramatically with his hands:

Tommy: Richard, do I have a mark on my face? It really hurts.
Richard: Nope, nothing. I thought I hit you on the shoulder.
Tommy: My shoulder doesn’t hurt very much, but my face does.
[points to huge bruised area on his face]
Tommy: Right here. Not here or here so much. Right here.
Richard: Nope. Ship shape! Waitress, can I get that shrimp cocktail I saw in the glass case?
Helen: Yep. And you, what can I get…
[pauses and looks at Tommy’s face]
Helen: [**], what happened to your face?
Tommy: I knew it!

This time we were all witnesses, and we don’t need Helen to tell us.

YES.  There is a mark.

Thank you, levers and simple machines everywhere, but there will be no more Medieval War Games at our house.

Ever.  Again.


Posted in Family, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Nature/Outdoors, Play, Random Fun, Summer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faces From The First Week of School

My friend lives with the mantra that “Life’s too short to have unflattering blackmail photos of yourself floating around.”

I suppose she’s right.

But when a 3 year old is taking the pictures, what’s a mom to do?

IMG_3357The bus came as scheduled last Tuesday and whisked two of my favorite little humans off to begin a new school year.  It’s always a bittersweet time for me; I’m excited that our kids have the opportunity to learn at a fantastic school with teachers who are absolutely committed to their craft–and to their students.  Yet the pangs that often come along with sentimentality stabbed at me as I watched them mount the bus stairs, turn to wave, and then drive off into the late summer haze.  I started crying!  Luckily my neighbors are in the same boat and we hugged and blotted our tears without shame.  Kleenex should consider pre-packaging a going-back-to-school kit for moms that includes tissues, new mascara, and a bottle of wine [for later, of course].  You’re on your own with all the old photo albums and size 18 month clothes that you dig up later to relive the memories, still crying, and uncorking the wine in the living room with your old VHS of Beaches playing in a loop in the background.

Anyway.  Blackmail.

So as I recuperated in the kitchen with my 3 year old and the dog, M suggested that I make funny faces for the camera which he was holding a frightening 6 inches from my face. Now I understand why all the female TV anchors have their panties in a bunch over HD digital television!  You practically have to be Barbie herself–or perhaps Kim Kardashian–to not look like the “before” photo in a midnight skincare infomercial.

With camera in hand, M proceeded to give me directions, and I think that, despite being terrifying, the pictures really capture my feelings for the day.  Take a look, and appreciate my willingness to forego conventional wisdom and actually post these on the *world* wide web.

Exhibit A:  Mom, how do you feel about J & A leaving for school and growing up so fast?

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I'll be scheduling my neck-lift as soon as we get our tax refund...

Exhibit B:  Mom, demonstrate your emotions surrounding the issue of your youngest child preparing for preschool–which starts NEXT WEEK.  Are you feeling old yet?

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Note the young photographer's interesting use of scale and angle. Now if we could do something about that face...

After our photo shoot, M and I had a fun day together visiting our local children’s museum and playing outside.  Even though it’s always a bit of an adjustment for me to get used to a quieter home, a different schedule, fewer mouths at the lunch table, it has been a blessing to bond with my special little man.

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Moms out there– leave a comment and tell me how you’re adjusting to your kids being back at school!

Posted in Education, Family, Friends, Heartbreak, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Neighbors, Play, Random Fun, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come On Over!

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Friends!  I’m excited to announce that I’ve been asked to do some blogging for West Michigan’s own kids’ TV show, Come On Over! Supported by the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, this show has already won numerous Michigan Emmy Awards and has been lauded by critics and families alike!  It’s a privilege to be joining their team for the next little while, and I hope you’ll follow the blogging community that’s intended to inform and empower parents and caregivers.

Childrens’ play is the focal point of this show, and if you’ve never tuned it, I encourage you to check your local listings–especially if you have 4-8 year olds at home!   Stories about creativity, imagination and unstructured playtime come to life with silly characters and even funnier neighbors who stop by or pop their heads over the fence.

Check out their updated website and find me on the “grown-ups” page, or access the site through the Children’s Museum homepage here.

Thanks for reading…now go out and play!

Posted in Education, Family, Friends, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Nature/Outdoors, Neighbors, Play, Seasons of Life, Summer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moments With Love

Ever since I was little I’ve had a nudging–gentle, but there–prompting me to act of behalf of those with small voices.  Or no voices.  I remember vividly lying in bed one night when I was probably 11, drawing a picture of a huge community home I was going to build for homeless folks in our city.  Forget counting sheep–I was counting empty beds and dreaming of how something as simple as clean sheets could change an outlook–an attitude–a life.

This nudging progressed to mission trips and two summers spent in South America working with kids and families living in poverty.  I loved it–I loved the language, the music, the lifestyle [who can reject mandatory naptime?!]  When I got back, one of my college housemates [now best friend] and I planned a fundraising campaign on campus where we asked everyone we knew for $5–the mere cost of a pizza–to purchase Bibles and send them to a mountain church in Peru.  Most recently, my Bible-shipping friend and I started our own-nonprofit which we ran for nearly five years.  Our focus was to provide for the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV in Africa.  Because I still believe that clean sheets, a school uniform, a nutritious lunch can change an outlook–and attitude–a life.

This was only further branded on my soul when we traveled to Zambia in 2004.  It changed the way that I look at so many things–even to this day.  Which brings me to Love…

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As often happens in the ever-expanding blogospere, I found myself clicking into infinity one night last weekend.  Who knows where I started or how I ended up at Moments With Love, but I did, and I’m so glad.  I’ve added a link in my margins to her website [she goes by “Love”] so that you can read her story; a story of God’s great and infinite planning.  A story of grace.  Of how he brought together two people with a heart for kids and adoption, and placed a desire within them to bring home two little girls from Uganda.   Unfortunately,  these types of ventures cost money [darn capitalism].  Which is stupid.  Why not judge a family by their love and potential to nurture a child emotionally and physically and spiritually–rather than whether or not they have an extra $20 grand in their bank accounts?  I’m writing my congressman…

So and if you’re moved [i.e. if your heart is beating within your chest] you can decide if you’d like to cheer her on by making a purchase or donation to help them bring their little girls home.

Check them out and send her a note of encouragement.

PS: the necklaces are made by Ugandan woman and your purchase will help to fund their livelihood, too.  We all know that mothers with money mean kids with full bellies.  Which is a good thing.


Posted in Faith, Family, Friends, Heartbreak, Home, Kids, Marriage, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arctic Dog Mushing On Labor Day

Leave it up to the neighborhood kids, my own included, to create a game that is so wonderfully ridiculous I can’t help but document it for you.  Yesterday’s game had me laughing so hard the residual giggles followed me indoors after playing photographer to their silliness.  I must give credit to A.M, the 9 year old who I’m starting to realize is the mastermind behind such wildly creative game-inventions [you might remember her from her British commentary on Asian fashion].

Let me set the scene:  It is Labor Day in Michigan.  The sun and relative humidity are living in perfect harmony; temperatures hover near 80 degrees.  Blue skies all around canopy our town in the beauty of what we hope will be a long Indian Summer.  In such conditions, what sort of games would you expect 6-9 year-olds to be playing?

Baseball?  No.  Too predictable

Bike Riding?  Been there, done that.

Fort-building?  That is soooo August.

“Hey!  I have an idea!  How about we pretend to be sled dogs and I’ll be the musher!”

Wellll, of course!  Why didn’t I think of that?  Why don’t I contact my leprechaun uncle and we can mush the dogs to the end of the rainbow while we’re at it?!

A.M., the sled-dog master, showed up on our yard with a bungled mass of yarn, standard gear for any hard-core arctic racer.  She found the end of the ball and slowly drew three individual strands from the center, handing one to each of her “dogs” [her sister and our two oldest].  Taking a tip from Wikipedia, no doubt, she instructed them on the appropriate formation.   Wiki tells us, “The dogs spread out in a fan formation ahead of the sled as they run, and this gives them more room to maneuver over rough ice or other obstacles.”

Well done, novice mushers. Note the skis at the ready; these kids are not messing around.

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And….THEY’RE OFF!! [by the way, do you see any similarities between these two pictures?]

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Later, after realizing that skis do not work as well in grass as they would in water or, in this case, on snow, the sled team abandoned the aerodynamic wood planks in favor of all-out-sprinting.  Again, Wikipedia points out that, “…recreational mushing thrives as an unorganized sport providing healthy outdoor form of winter exercise for families.”  Winter, schminter.  September 7 is as good a time as any!

IMG_3333They ran through the Labor Day grass alternating between the command to “MUSH!” and childlike imitations of dogs barking.  After nearly reaching Nome, they collapsed on our front porch for a rest and a “snack.”

Now, what, would you imagine, a group of kids would conjure up for a sled-dog-appropriate snack?  Jerky?  Raw beef chunks?  For amateurs.

Instead, their trusty Musher offered them salmon.

No, I’m not kidding.  Not real salmon, of course, but I stood there in my kitchen with the windows open [trembling with laughter] listening to this exchange:

“Good doggies!!  Want a treat?  Salmon?  Treat??” in an eager, high-pitched voice.

“Woof!  Woof!”  [tongues panting, down on all fours, barking like dogs].

Oh Glory, was it funny!

Leave it to this group of kids to find a way to keep busy and wring the life out of summer.

They may have been soaking in the sun, but in their hearts, they were truly deep in the snow, living the wild, untamed life of a Sled-dog Team.

Posted in Family, Friends, Home, Kids, Nature/Outdoors, Neighbors, Play, Random Fun, Seasons of Life, Summer, Uncategorized, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teaching Kids About Friends

When I was in grade school I was teased mercilessly.  I remember, shortly after having moved to a new school in the 5th grade, crying in bed at night and having to confess to my mom that I just didn’t have any friends.  What a terrible feeling of isolation at such a young age.  It was the 80’s and I had bad hair, thick glasses, and clothes with the wrong labels.  Or none at all.  I was new, I wasn’t cute, and everyone made sure I knew it.

So today I was outside fiddling with a car we have parked in the road, and I heard my son coming home before I saw him.  He had ridden down the street to play with a friend and I wasn’t expecting him home for another 45 minutes.  As soon as I heard the crying, I knew it was J.  Head down, hand wiping away tears, I could only see his red helmet gleaming in the sun and my heart turned over.  What could it be?  What happened? Of course my mind was racing with all sorts of horrible options.

After J calmed down, hiccuping and swallowing his sorrow, he explained that the friend he was playing with saw his older buddies down the street.  The older buddies asked J’s friend to play, and off he went.  When J asked his friend, “Hey–where are you going??”  The friend said, “I’m going to play with them,” walked in their home, and shut the door in my son’s face.

Awwww.  POOR BABY!

Kleenex.

A moment of silence, please.

I could completely understand J’s feelings and heartbreak in that moment.  It’s been a few years, but I can still remember the sting of rejection–the stab of betrayal.  Recently I heard a statistic that said that in their school careers, 100% of kids will be the recipient of name-calling or unkind words. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me, but now that one of those 100% has a face–and a face that I love–the story changes.

I want to hold him, or possibly keep him home.

Wrap him in a cocoon, swaddle him in a blanket, secure him in my nest.

Is it too late to home-school??

My husband pointed out, as we discussed the incident, that if I wasn’t so tormented as a kid myself, I may not be the compassionate person I am today.  [Did I mention that my husband was one of my chief bullies in 5th and 6th grade??  Maybe he’s trying to take credit for my compassion…]

So tonight at bedtime we spent a long time talking about friendships with the kids.  We’re not instantly going to write off the boy down the street because of one poor choice, but we did decide that this year, our one big family prayer is that the Lord will help our children to:

1.  Choose their friends wisely

2.  That God would give them at least one good friend

3.  That God would give them the courage to walk away from bad situations, even if they’re with “good” friends.

We’re also focusing on one of my favorite verses for instructing about friends:  “Bad company corrupts good character,”  I Cor 15:33.  Our kids know that one inside-and-out.  Now let’s just pray that the Holy Spirit reminds them of these words in those moments of confusion, betrayal, and sadness.  And moms out there–let’s help each other by talking to our kids about treating one another kindly.

Do you have a tip to share?  Please leave a comment and encourage each other!

Posted in Education, Faith, Family, Friends, Home, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Play, Seasons of Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Quarterly Bonus

Being a stay-at-home mom is something that I love and worry about in equal measure.  I love it because I get to have a front-row seat to the lives of my children.  It’s messy, both in literal and figurative terms, but it’s equally full of joy.  I have the opportunity to hear and answer their questions about the world, about God, about kids needing water in Africa.  And, let’s be honest, the less honorable things like Why do dogs lick their butts and Mom, do you have another baby in your tummy?  Because it looks like it.

The worry comes from wanting “success” at my job.  For me that means raising kids who love Jesus, who are polite, who are kind, who think of others’ needs, who are helpful.  Because I’m with them all day, heads turn to me when the little angels aren’t all those things [think: mall wrestling].  Their dad is supremely helpful and really creative, but still, I’m the one who does most of the disciplining simply because I’m around them the most.

For me, the issue of their spiritual development [i.e. loving Jesus] is one of thee main reasons why I view my job, despite the wax on the walls and wrestling in stores, as being so importantDeuteronomy 11:19 says:Teach them [the words of the Lord] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

What is God saying here?  He is saying that it is his intent for parents to teach their children about their Godly heritage all the time!  Learning about their faith should not, nor can it fully be, just a Sunday experience.  I love this verse and could say a lot more about it, but for now, I’ll leave it with that.   While I don’t believe that moms who choose to work outside of the home are sinning, it is my belief that staying at home makes it easier to do the kind of things that Deuteronomy instructs.  It makes it easier to talk with them while “you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

There are a lot of Hallmark-esque signs and plaques that say things like, “Being a mom may not have a great retirement plan, but the rewards of sloppy kisses and hand prints on the wall make it all worth it.” That is so true.  HOWEVER…As many stay-at-homers know, unless you are Mother Teresa [I am not] and don’t *care* about recognition of any sort, there can be days and weeks that pass before a thank-you is uttered for your tireless contributions to their clean laundry folded perfectly in their dust-free dressers which sit upon beautifully vacuumed carpet.  Because as you know, my house is always in perfect condition.  [a-hem].

So, back to Mother Teresa.  Perhaps not hearing a Thank-you or getting a quarterly bonus or having a high-powered business lunch means nothing to you.  Perhaps your priorities are so squarely aligned, so Jesus-centered, so other-focused that these selfish thoughts never enter your cerebrum.   Good for you.  Maybe you should mentor me.  Because I’ll admit: the business lunch idea sounds fun.  It would mean I could get dressed up in something other than flip-flops and someone else could cook for me, which is like my favorite thing in the world.

In light of this, I guess God decided I needed that “quarterly bonus”, too, because the other night over dinner, I got it.

I got one of those Hallmark moments–delivered by my 6 year-old daughter.

I was telling the kids of something new I’m going to be doing when they go back to school, and she was worried that it would take me away from home.  I assured her it would not.  And then she said,

“Mom, thank you that you don’t give me away to a babysitter everyday.

Kleenex, eye pat, sniff.

Kleenex, eye pat, sniff, SOB.

Kleenex, eye pat, sniff, SOB, stored in my heart, forever.

Moms, the world may not value what you do.  You may not get the recognition you sometimes crave or feel you deserve.  You may feel like things are spinning and your efforts don’t matter.  But they do.

A six-year old told me.


Posted in Chores/Duties/Jobs, Faith, Family, Home, Kids, Marriage, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

“Things I Don’t Understand” Thursdays: Actual Yahoo.com posts by people who don’t believe in grammar

“Open Question

Hey guys my kid watch lazy town in his frend its calld nogin chanel ıhave verizon tv what is the chanel number?”

If you don’t believe me, here’s the link.

My high school English teacher would gauge her eyeballs out with a cafeteria spork.te_spork_detail

Need I say more?

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Treasures In Jars of…Ragu

Yesterday was grocery shopping day.  The flour and water paste I was contemplating was a viable option, but in the interest of not stunting my childrens’ growth, I fled to the store for something with a bit more color.  And taste.

However, the thing with grocery shopping, I’ve discovered, is that the unpacking not only exposes your bare cupboards, it also exposes your empty…and dirty…and disgusting…refrigerator.  Or at least, I’ve heard this from sloppy housekeepers I know.

Well, OK.  I’ll admit it.  I’m the sloppy housekeeper that I know.  I got home with all my gorgeous vegetables and vibrant fruits and they just looked so lovely in their reusable canvas shopping bags that I just couldn’t toss them into a slimy or rather, “unkempt” fridge.  So I went to work.IMG_3262

I got out my Hasmat outfit and rubber gloves.

I removed the shelves and deposited them into the sink bubbling to life with hot suds.

I tossed wilted herbs and squishy celery.

I opened–and smelled–mysterious Tupperware containers of…airplane-food-after-seven-days-in-a-deserted-car-in-Arizona-in-July.

And last but not least, I tackled the interior door and its contents: the condiments. Just look at all the crap I pulled out of our door.

OK.  I admit it. I have failed in my mission to manage our home.  And you, dear reader, get to bask in my “oversights” as I give you a photo-tour of some of the treasures I found.  Let’s examine:

IMG_3267Exhibit A:  Thai Premium Fish Sauce.  Don’t let the title of “Premium” fool you into thinking that it is anything less than putrid and overtly offensive.  Did you SEE the episode of The Office when Dwight hid a fish in Michael’s air vents?  Need I say more?  I tried–really I did–to dump this out so that I could recycle the glass bottle, but holy fish sauce. I couldn’t get the top off and the slow drip of fish brains was just too much.  Forgive me.  I had to throw it away.  [Don’t start with me–I’m already doing penance].


IMG_3268 IMG_3270Exhibit B:  Ragu + two or three months?  The mold on the lid resembles the huge worm in Dune.  I didn’t dare to touch it.  The Yellowstone Hot Springs in the jar?  Yeah.  Let’s just move on.  It’s like spaghetti sauce with leprosy.

IMG_3272 Exhibit C:  What?  You don’t think this looks like cottage cheese?  Well let me tell you about its fragrance. My “small curd” cottage cheese was more like “large turd.”  In a bucket.  With sauce.  Of course I have to tell you–I’ve encountered said “large turd” before, sadly.

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IMG_3278Exhibit D:  Innocuous looking, right?  Until I tell you that I bought this on a vacation to Florida in 2003.   When I was pregnant with our second child.  Six years, four months, and roughly twenty days ago. Is there an expiration on Burn Relief Gel?

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IMG_3279 Exhibit E:  Sad Day.  Note two things:  this expired on January 25, 2009 [whoops–missed that by 7 months], and I never opened it!  Bad Jane!  I hate to waste, and this was just pure waste.  But, I didn’t want to take a chance that “all natural” horseradish would be good yet today.  No need to start growing hair on my chest at my age.

So there you have it, friends!  A tour of my folly!  I will tip my hat off–to myself–however, for the new and improved interior of our fridge.  The work was worth it–I have a whole extra compartment in my door now, mold and stink free 🙂

Posted in Chores/Duties/Jobs, Decor/Organizing, Family, Food, Home, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Couldn’t Sleep, So I Thought About Names

The other night I went to see The Proposal at the movies with my BNE.  It was really cute and I have to say, I was even a little surprised by some of the elements that I thoughtthe_proposal_movie-thumb-500x340-1171 would be so predictable.  Of course Ryan Reynolds is just an assault to the eyes–it was a real trial to have to look at him for 2 hours.  And Sandra Bullock–please.  She’s stunning.  Over 40 and nary a wrinkle or flab roll?  I have no use for people like that.

So I’m lying in bed trying to sleep, and I’m thinking about these people and what their real lives might be like.   Does Sandra design new tatoos for [husband] Jesse James?  What does Ryan do in his spare time?  Do he and Scarlet [Johansson] cook together?  Does he call her “Scar”?

Then, because my brain is one constant rolling rabbit trail, I started to think about names.  The things that fill your brain after midnight, right?

How do nicknames begin?  Do mothers name their children with potential nicknames in mind?  [and seriously, does Scarlet Johansson go by “Scar” at home?] This made me think of my pastor, Rob Bell.  I wonder if his parents decided to call him Rob, to distinguish him from his dad?  Or if he chose it as opposed to Bob, Robert, Bobby, Robby?  My dad thinks that Bob is the greatest name you can give a child.  He wanted us to name both of our sons Bob, and has often said that if he could change his name, he would choose…Bob.  “There’s no confusion, no questions about the spelling, everyone can pronounce it, and it’s the same frontwards and backwards.  Perfect.”

When a mother looks into the soft, squished up face of her lovely newborn and bestows a name–arguably the first gift a parent gives a child aside from life itself–does that mother stop to think about what the future might hold for her baby?  How the name will fit when the baby becomes a boy, a teen, a man?  When Lovell Swindoll held her infant son in 1934 [no I didn’t just know that, I Wikipedia’d it], did she have a stirring–an inclination–anything?–to think:  “This is our new son, Charles Swindoll.  He is destined for greatness in the Evangelical world.”  Or the mother of C.S. Lewis–or Dietrich Bonhoffer.  Did they know?  Did Clive’s mom think, “I’ll name him Clive Staples so that he can go by C.S. That sounds so distinguished, and it will certainly look fantastic on a book sleeve.”

If they would have known–if we could know–the futures awaiting each of our children, would it change our parenting?  If we were raising the next Billy Graham or Corrie TenBoom, would it change the way we nurture our kids?  Would my temper be better controlled?  Would my tongue be tamed?  Would we read together more, study our Bibles with greater fervor, love our neighbors any differently?

Of course anyone who’s ever seen Back to the Future will tell you that once you know the future, you can’t change the past because it will alter the outcome of that future.  If Chuck Swindoll’s mom had done something drastically differently, who’s to say that we’d have the same Chuck on our radios today?  If Dietrich’s mother radically modified her mothering, would he have stood with such determination at the hands of the Nazi’s?  Only God knows that, but certainly no one can deny the strong, indelible print of a mother [and father] on the hearts and lives of her children.  In fact, years ago I heard Chuck tell a story of personal temptation; he recalled the Bible verse that his mother had taught him as a boy that came rushing into his heart at an acute moment of weakness.  Realizing the impact that that mother had on him and the lifelong imprint she left made me want to teach Scripture to our kids.  Right then, I wanted to be the kind of mother whose teaching followed her children into adulthood.

Thinking about names, about raising kids, about shaping their hearts and their spiritual formation made me stop to consider:  crystal balls would be nice, but the end of the story actually lies in the present.  The end of the story is decided in some measure, apart from God’s grace and sovereignty, upon how we decide to partner with him in the lives of our children.  How will we choose to use today?  How will we spend our moments together?  Our evenings alone?   As as if by magic,  I heard Chuck just minutes ago, this time talking about the life of David.  And in his teaching he said, “When’s the last time you thanked God for not showing you the future?”

He gives us only what we can handle for the day.  I believe that.  And so, I look at the little faces that, with my husband, I named years ago.  And I trust that they’ll grow into those names and into the future that God holds for each of them.

Posted in Faith, Family, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dressers Are Over-Rated

IMG_3219 You know you have a laundry problem when your kids ask for clean clothes…

…and you go to your dining room table to find them.

Posted in Chores/Duties/Jobs, Decor/Organizing, Family, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Things I Don’t Understand” Thursdays: Kitchen Tornadoes

It seems like I spend most of my time in the kitchen.  You can’t relate…can you?

Breakfast prep and cooking.

Breakfast clean-up…but wait…the dishwasher needs unloading first.

What?  A mid-morning snack?  Let me just get that for you…and your five friends…

Lunch prep, clean-up, etc.

And on and on it goes.

Throw in a craft project, trying to unpack groceries, your husband returning hungry from work, washing and chopping vegetables, getting dinner ready, and… wallah!  You’ve got this:

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It is at this precise moment that we generally get unexpected visitors from people like Oprah and the President of Bolivia.  Neighbors want to come in to use our countertops to arm wrestle.  Daughters want their nails polished at Mom’s Salon.

Sure!  Just push the piles of crap aside, and do what needs doin’.  IMG_2900

What is it about the kitchen and why is it so deathly hard to keep clean?!

Well, obviously for most people, it is the heart of the home.  It’s nurturing.  A natural gathering point.  A place of comfort [cookies] and refuge [hot chocolate after sledding].  Good smells come from the kitchen.  I’ve heard that good eats come from the kitchen…when other people cook.

Because the kitchen is full of so much life and love and warmth, you’d think I’d do a better job of keeping it tidy.  But friends, here I am writing while the dishes are splayed all over, the sink full of pots, splatters on the stove, and for some reason I’d just rather ignore it for a little longer.

Do you ever have those days?

Yes, it bothers me.  I don’t like it when my flip-flops stick to the floor.  I don’t like chunks of food left under the island–our dog should really take care of those, after all.  I don’t like the tacky feeling left on the stools by little hands that need washing.  I don’t particularly enjoy sudsing up a bowl of Murphy’s to wipe down the cabinets.  The smell is great–don’t get me wrong–but it just takes so much time.  I feel like I don’t have the energy.

IMG_2894Of course the kids don’t seem to care.  Maybe by the time they’re bringing home dates [Heaven help us] or trying to impress their study group they will.  Maybe they’ll get annoyed when they plop their arm into a fresh puddle of sauce–right before their choir concerts.  But until then, I’ll continue to balance cleaning and playing, cooking and scrubbing.  Because judging from this face, in the scope of life, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Posted in Decor/Organizing, Family, Food, Friends, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Neighbors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mall Wrestlers

I don’t know if I wish I would’ve had my camera or not.  In the moment I might have gone a little Russell Crowe on the situation, so perhaps not having it was a good thing.  Then again, right now, as I type, I’m feeling like an LA paparazzi member thinking, oooh—if only I had gotten that shot. Shameful, I know.

My mission this morning was simple:  head to the mall for jeans.

Ok, ladies–I can hear you now:  “SIMPLE?!  Jeans-shopping with kids?!”  Well, I knew exactly the brand I was looking for, I knew that my local mall-carrier had then on sale and I had a coupon [chi-ching], so all that was left to do was find my size in the pile.  Should be nearly effortless.  As long as there was a changing room large enough to accommodate my huge yet stylish mom handbag, three children, and piles of jeans, I thought we’d be set.

However, as any mall-going mom will tell you, you have to set the tone early with your expectations.  Therefore, we went in with clearly articulated rules:

#1.  If you can behave yourself during the jeans-shopping portion of the morning, you will get to play in the mall play-topia.

This was met with shouts of joy and personal accolades.  Great.  On to #2.

#2.  If you can behave yourself during the jeans-shopping portion of the morning AND a brief trip to Costco, you’ll get the play-topia AND a movie on the way home, courtesy of our sweet new van 🙂

This was met with shouts of joy, personal accolades, and a parade in my honor.  Splendid.  I’m the greatest mom ever.  On to #3.

#3.  If you CANNOT pull it together long enough for me to find some booty-shakin’ jeans and/or find sanctuary in the beauty that is Costco, your rewards will be taken away one by one.  Poof and poof.

Can you guess what happened?

The scattering of brownie crumbs on the kitchen floor this morning should have tipped me off.  Some might call it a reality check, others, a foreshadowing.  The feet scuffing and door banging in the mall restrooms might have been another hint.  [M had to pee the exact moment I touched my first piece of merchandise at the mall.  Thee very instant–“Mom!  I have to pee!”  Love that.]   Locking me out of my changing room was another ominous cloud in the skyline of our day [they lost the play-topia for that maneuver].

But you’d think that after losing the first reward and seeing the quiet, yet seething dragon lady emerge–they’d get a grip.  Maybe a light bulb would illuminate their dark little worlds.  A bright flash of realization that things could get ugly if they didn’t change their behavior. If they wanted to mess up their day–fine with me.  Strip away my kindness!  Force my hand!  I’m ready to play.

Being the trooper that I am, I forged ahead, undaunted, armed with consequences and the balls to follow through.  If Sacajawea could walk through the Rockies in the winter–wearing moccasins with her infant child strapped to her back–I could get through the mall, doggone-it!

But it was really the wrestling that got my goat.

The last straw.

My camel’s back?  Broken. Brokeback Camel.

I stood at the cash register asking for a price check on a lovely fall jacket designed, I’m sure, by Tim Gunn [it was Liz Claiborne].  I had a few coupons left and thought maybe I could swing an extra purchase if there weren’t too many zeroes.

The boys started getting crazy, so I instructed them calmly and authoritatively to sit on the floor next to me, in front of a display of shirts.

While I stood trying to do mental math on my discounts, I turned my head just ever-so-slightly enough to notice them writhing on the floor, locked together in some sort of wrestling move.

Oh. Nelly.

M was laying down on his back with his 7 year old brother J on top of his face.  J’s head was facing M’s feet and was now migrating down to M’s stomach while he yelled, “Stop it!  Stop it!”  M had his little paws clutched around J’s neck–a surprising feat for a 3 year old, but with this kid, it’s no surprise.

“Get up!” I hissed.  “We are leaving.  You just lost your movie and if you can’t get your act together, your bikes will be gone for the rest of the DAY when we get home!” The yellow-sweater clad grandmas behind me gave me the “loser mom” stare and I was cooked.

I marched ahead of them, leaving a waft of smoke in my trail.  My poor daughter, who really did do a great job [thanks, A!], trotted a step behind me trying to point out how she successfully evaded trouble.

Now I know some people get into this–martial arts and whatever.  I even know some closet cage-fighting fans.  But you heard it here first:

Mall wrestling is not fun for moms.

Posted in Discipline Issues, Family, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

[Homemade] Tents Make Good Neighbors

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There was a moment today–one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks illuminations–that made me so grateful for the gifts in my life.  Not only do I have clean water, access to food and electricity, a smog-free blue sky above me, and the love of family, I have the extra blessing of neighbors who exemplify community in the best sense of the word.  Kam & Janet–you bless me every day.

The play explosion started around 9:30 this morning with our boys building jumps for their bikes and “getting some huge air” when they launched from the wood planks, nearly crashing into a nearby fire hydrant.  They migrated from bikes to electric dirt-bike to roller blades to scooters to squirt guns.  Barely wanting to stop for lunch, the three of them [our two boys and Kam’s son] moved in and out of activities and in and out of larger groups of kids, gobbling up summer and not wanting to leave even a crumb to waste.

My daughter and three other girls, on the other hand, camped out on our deck with an amalgamation of horses, dolls, socks [sleeping bags for mini-dolls], blankets, and other things to feed their imaginations.  It was so sweet to watch them moving the tiny plastic bodies, blowing life into them with their ad-libbed dialogue.  At one point the oldest girl sat as puppet master to her doll, discussing Asian fashion trends in a British accent.

Because that’s what you do.  When you’re 9.

As play progressed, I sensed the possibility of an impending fight due to a sudden doll shortage.  Springing into action, I suggested they get their Polly Pockets out to supplement their cache.  One of the girls replied,

“They won’t work because they can’t spread their legs to get on the horse.”

“Yeah.  They can’t spread their legs unless their pants are off.”

That’s what she said.

We moms about lost it!

Later in the day Janet had to go to work, so she arranged for her girls to go to Kam’s for a couple of hours.  However, with such spectacular fun underway on our deck, the girls stayed camped out at our house, drifting off into faraway places and adopting new names and voices for their play.  And that’s when it hit me–that illuminated gratitude I talked about earlier.  I reflected on this–on the beauty of this kind of trust and availability.  That Janet could leave for work and *know* that her girls would be safe; that they would be cared for and protected and loved while she was away.  That the girls had the freedom to roam between my home and Kam’s, following the whims of their creativity–and that that was ok.

As I unearthed myself from the pile of laundry on our dining room table, I went to check on them and saw that they had built a tent with the blankets that were drying outside.  They had beds inside, a canister of pretzels–all the basics for an afternoon of camping.  The tricky thing, however, about using a velour blanket is that it’s slippery, and soon enough the fort engineers determined that something was needed to hold down the sides of the blanket.  Off they went into our garage that’s overflowing with junk recyclables to find the final keystone for their home.

Now, I toast their ingenuity and resourcefulness, yes.

I take my hat off to their planning and teamwork.

However, in the spirit of nurturing neighbors and protecting kids and all the warm-fuzzies I just shared, I had to chuckle to see the last addition to their structure:

IMG_3215

Cheers to creative minds everywhere.  Cheers to play.

Posted in Family, Friends, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Neighbors, Play, Random Fun | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hello, My Name is Jane, and I Have I.C.D.

My brain works in strange ways.

I am increasingly distracted by my surroundings and by the everyday jobs that pull me in 17 different directions before I finish even one of them.  It’s frustrating, but I know that many moms struggle with this.  After years of the media championing the skill of multi-tasking, I think we’re all finding out [after a surge of moms-gone-crazy signing up for spa weekends and copious amounts of Prozac], that all multi-tasking does is fray your hard-wiring and lead to nervous breakdowns.

Or heavy drinking.  Or at least, contemplating taking up heavy drinking.

OK, maybe not for you [wink wink], but I’m guessing you’ll agree that it surely diminishes the quality of work you’re able to accomplish on any one task when three kids are pulling on your arms, shouting over-top of each other, and threatening to die from hunger if they don’t have a peanut butter sandwich in their face in approximately 21.8 seconds.

One thing that I think my brain does do well, however, is making connections.  Unfortunately these aren’t always the kinds of connections that are helpful, like recalling which animals were most recently added to the Endangered List, or which glaciers are most rapidly shrinking from global warming,…but other “interesting” connections that, frankly, are utterly useless and quite possibly, annoying.

My secret little skill habit obsession, is that I connect faces.  A lot.

On a girls-only shopping trip to Chicago this fall, one of my friends decided that I needed a diagnosis after 15 postulations like, “Oh my word.  Ya’ know who he looks like?!”  [Of course I’m thrilled to have made such an important “discovery.”]  Or saying, “She totally reminds me of an African-American version of so-and-so, except with curly hair.”

What?

So, back to my “diagnosis”.  With the help of other really smart 30-somethings, we decided I have  I.C.DInter-Connectivity Disorder, because in my brain, faces [in particular] get automatically connected.   Now, this is an invented diagnosis, but I think it sounds real-enough to be true–don’t you?

To showcase my ICD, I have selected two reality-show TV contestants who I think have similar-looking counterparts in Hollywood.  Leave a comment and tell me what you think.  Am I crazy?  Or, rather, what level of crazy am I?  You decide!

Case Study #1: Project Runway star [voted off last week]: Ari Fish looks like Samantha Ronson

pr6-ari-biolohan_ronson2-420x0

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Case Study #2: Design Star [HGTV] Contestant: Jason Champion looks like Will Ferrell but with staighter hair.  This one is a bit more of a stretch, but if you watch the show and see Jason in action, I’m confident you’d agree with me 🙂

HSTAR_Jason-Champion_s3x4_lgwill-ferrell-charity1.0.0.0x0.400x581

Posted in Friends, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Random Fun, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

“Things I Don’t Understand” Thursday: Cash for Clunkers

I know–I’m chastising myself–believe me.  I promised you that this week I would share my own self-deprecating bad habit that, despite living in my own body for all these years, I still don’t understand.  But tonight I’m so short-wired and frustrated I just can’t even find the energy to upload the pictures and try to be funny.

Instead, let me spew some venom on this once-blessed, now-cursed Cash for Clunkers program.  The man on the radio today said it’s been one of the most successful stimulus plans to date.  While this may be true, we are getting our rears handed to us with a red bow attached by some faceless website manager who works for the government, thank you very little. I’ve spent this entire week on the phone, driving 45 miles away three separate times, visiting the Secretary of State office, calling my insurance lady [Pam, you’re awesome], calling my old insurance lady for proof that we’ve always insured our car, going to the bank to have the lien on our title signed away, emailing the credit union and going there to see the loan officer–WITH THREE KIDS IN TOW as you might have read about yesterday–only to have the rug yanked out from underneath us.

Because why?

Because the people in charge of this program have found a way to say that our 1999 Suburban 4×4 is *not* eligible.

In plain English, here’s a snippet of the email I got:

“The 99 Suburban 4 WD has a GVWR less than 8500 lbs, but a curb weight over 6000 pounds.  Therefore, it is classified as a heavy-duty vehicle and therefore not subject to fuel economy labeling requirements which is why you don’t see it on the CARS.gov web site.”

Ohhhhhh!!  Right!!  Why didn’t I think of that?!  Silly me!

Now, never-you-mind that a year 2000 or 2001 will be accepted, but my 1999 “heavy-duty vehicle” is rejected.

Splendid.  This logic makes not sense at all to me.  While I sit here trying to figure it out, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed a bowel obstruction, an ingrown toenail, and some sort of dandruff.

So friends and readers, next week we’ll get into the grit of my bad habits and, let me tell you, I’ve got some great pictures that may or may not be considered blackmail material at some point.

But today, this is all I can think about.  Today this is what I truly don’t understand.

PS:  Do you have your own Cash for Clunkers story to tell?  Please share!!

Posted in Finances, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bedtime Prayers

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Jars of Clay and Buckets of Sand...molding little hearts for Jesus

It’s exciting and gratifying to share this post today.  I have been feeling badly that I don’t give enough attention here to the wonderful, curious, and edifying things our children do; after all, silliness and general chaos often make for more interesting reading.  This, however, is proof that:

1.  It’s worth it to spend small, quiet moments with your kids; they’ll lift the veil and give you a glimpse into how they process the world, how they process who God is, and how they process what He means.

2.  Only YOU [not grandma, not their aunts, not the babysitter] can raise your children to reflect the values of your household.  Of course we have no guarantees that our kids will be perfect, and we have no guarantees that they won’t be prodigals.  God holds the loose ends of their little hearts.

BEDTIME PRAYERS

M [age 3.5]:  “Dear God.  Thank you for Jesus, thank you that He loves us, and thank you that He knows our name. Amen”

A [age 6]:  “Dear God.  Thank you for Jesus, and thank you that He died on the cross to take away our sins and give us a fresh start.  Amen”

Hearing these words was so powerful for me:  that He knows our names–that He gives us a fresh start…

And hear them from our own mini-pastors of the Word?

God is Good.

Posted in Faith, Family, Home, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Chalk and Bees

In all fairness, I should say that my kids, overall, did a fantastic job of being good helpers with happy hearts today [I’ve discovered that threatening to take away their bikes for the day is a huge motivator!  What will I do when winter comes??]  Only M found a way to get into trouble [shocking], using sidewalk chalk to write on his clothes and body and then returning to the house to wipe his hands on the carpet.  Because why wouldn’t you, right?  He promptly got his butt thrown in the bathtub, grinning all-the-while.  Typical.

With a birthday party on the docket, we spent the rest of the day running all over creation in search of last minute gifts and dinner ingredients, subjecting the kids to such “drudgery” as produce shopping and going to a tractor supply store.   We returned home and to my dismay, I realized I had neglected a few items of business.  While I would like to blame this on dementia or low Gingko levels, today I was straight up unorganized.  Looking at the clock I saw that we had a half hour to accomplish three remaining tasks.  Could we do it?  With such a blissful morning and stellar track-record, I was certain the kids were up for the challenge.

Coke-deprived and stressed to the max [perfect recipe for a headache], I started hollering for everyone to get shoes on, again, and get in the car.  Racing around the kitchen, I grabbed a $20, smashed it into my purse, whipped on my sunglasses and flew out the door.

“Is everyone buckled up?” I yelled over my shoulder.

“Yes, Mom,” they replied blandly.

Without double checking for shoes, seat belts, pulses, or the presence of unwanted materials, I roared out of the driveway at 4:20, knowing that one of my stops closed at 5; it was going to be close.  Windows down and wind twisting through our hair, I sped [not really…but kind of…] to the store.  Nearing the stop sign, I came to what I would call a “totally appropriate” stop: I eased up on the gas well in advance, gently applied the brakes, increasing pressure as we neared the corner.  Perfect–I noted that the invisible driver’s ed instructor next to me happily checked the box on his clipboard next to “proficient.”

What I hear, though, is “Whooosh, clunk.”

Followed by, “Uh-ohhhhh.”

“What just happened?”

“Well, um…M just….uh…there’s bees,” said my daughter.

“What??  What are you talking about?” I asked, still frozen at the corner, glaring into the rear view mirror.

“M brought along honey bees [crackers] and they fell on the floor.”

“How many fell on the floor? How many are there in the box now?At this point my jaw is clenching just a bit, and I wonder if it’s possible for adult molers to crumble under the weight of such crushing pressure.

“There’s none in the box,” my daughter gladly reports [glad that she wasn’t the one who brought them.]

“There’s none in the box?”

“No,” Barbara Walters informs the car.  “They’re all on the floor.  The whole box spilled.  M wasn’t holding it when you stopped and it just dumped all over.”

Heavens TO Mergatroid.

I lit into a rant [yelling over top of the wind, of course] about how we’re *never* going to be able to get a new car if this is the way they treat our old one, and “just wait until your dad sees this”, and I can’t believe M even TOOK an entire box of crackers into the car–he should know better!  He’s THREE!  He should know that crackers spilled and smashed all over our car = a white-knuckled mom with red eyes and elevated blood pressure.  [Nevermind that I didn’t inspect their carry-on items before boarding the vehicle.  Let’s skip over that minor detail].

Fast forward to errand #3: the Credit Union.  I had to go inside for lit-e-rally FIVE minutes. Five minutes!  Is that too much to ask??  Apparently, yes.

While I took care of our business, I asked the kids to “quietly play” in the children’s area, a dreamy little nook with books, legos, and a chalkboard-topped table.  Again, I failed to inspect the details and had by now blissfully erased the memory of the morning’s chalk debacle with M.

As I spoke with Julie, I hear a crash behind me.

Chalk.

All over.

Very nice.  Love that.

I suavely ignored the commotion  with an air of  “Whose kids are THOSE?” We finished our conversation just as M fell down and whacked his head against the chalk table.  This is followed by the kind of scream that’s injected with long periods of silence.

Screammmmiiiinnnnngggg [long silent breath] Screammmmiiiiinnnnnngggggg……

Ah.  These trips are just so relaxing.  Such a bonding moment, just me and the kids hanging out at the Credit Union.

I’m at a loss for words.  Not only did he actually hurt himself, he dumped over the chalk and still managed to get it all over himself—again.

What’s a mom to do?

Ban chalk, ban bees, ban trying to run 3 errands in 30 minutes with 3 kids.

Sometimes hopeful thinking just isn’t enough.  I should have known.

Posted in Family, Food, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Random Fun, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just Another Day at the Beach

Yesterday was a perfect, cloudless, blue-sky day–the kind of blue that looks like an inverted Caribbean Sea hanging motionless above a busy world; blue that is deep and changing and ever-present.  Carolina Tarheels Blue.   Hudsonville Ice Cream Packaging Blue.   J.Crew would call it Pacific or Lagoon. Whatever you call it–whatever it reminds you of, it reminds me of beautiful.

Everything I love about summer was perfectly packaged and delivered to me in the form of Grand Haven State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan.  If IMG_3123there were a way to preserve the moment, bottle it or freeze-dry it, ready for February consumption, I would find a way to do it.  When things get icy and slushy and brown-snow-on-the-side-of-the-roady–that’s when I’ll remember this day.

With cooler packed, windows down [no A/C, remember?], hair a’blowin’ and kids a’singing, we headed to beach for our fifth attempt at finding joy in sand.  We circled the park two or three times looking for parking before happening upon a mini-van leaving a prime spot [“…It’s a Christmas miracle!!”].  I joked with Brandon that on a day like that we could have sold the spot and made some mad cash.  Instead, we walked away with some mad memories.  Here are a few of the fun and noteworthy ones, in no particular order:

IMG_3070 1.  [Left] My daughter is taking notes from her Aunt Lori and is spending time under the umbrella picking out shoes.  I could hear her talking to herself in a quiet voice trying to decide between “this” or “that.”  She’d better start saving now, ’cause let me tell you, that wasn’t a Payless advertisement.

2.  [Right] Our youngest gets a little crazy when he gets water in his eyes.  Reminiscent of a Civil War soldier IMG_3075undergoing an amputation who, without anesthesia would ‘bite the bullet’ to manage pain…[you were thinking the same thing, right?  Admit it!], apparently M has decided that handfuls of wet sand and pirate-like squinting help him. That kid should have been born with goggles permanently attached to his face.

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3. [Left]  Fricano’s Pizza.  If you’re a fan of trashy decor, paper plates, menus that double as place mats, and pizza that’s cheap and greasy, but also irresistibly crisp in a way you’ve never experienced…then add this to your Bucket List.  I love it.  Love, love, love. It’s unique, it’s been around for decades, and I guarantee you’ve never seen another restaurant that so charmingly seems to evade OSHA and any scrap of decorating sense.

4.  [Right]IMG_3099 Really.  Could he be any cuter?  Ice cream after dinner, just in case we weren’t stuffed enough from our visit to the Pizza Kingdom above.  Side note:  I don’t care how old you are, when it’s 92 degrees at 6 pm, everybody eating frozen treats needs a bib, rubber gloves, and a pail for washing.  Scrap that–just jump in the lake.  That kid was a mess.

5.  IMG_3117[Left].  Well, I thought I had seen it all.  Until, that is, this guy escaped his time machine and blew out of the 1970’s straight onto the boardwalk.  I do give him props for getting out and exercising in the heat, but…honestly, I’m at a loss for words.  Is it the tube socks?  The roller skates?  The spandex?  The hair?  [see pic at right]  IMG_3112Whatever it was, maybe just that intangible sparkle or brash confidence that skates hand-in-hand with not caring what others may be thinking–whatever it was gave me a smile.  I had to document it for you.  I felt like I was on Ventura Beach, and that’s not a bad thing 🙂

6.  Last but not least was the ordeal of dad trying to take a photo of mom with her precious little angels.  Ahhhh.  It’s so relaxing, taking family pictures, isn’t it?  Has that been your experience?  Or do you deal with this kind of nonsense? [see pic]IMG_3108 Do you see my kids?!  J is covering his face like the flash is giving him an instant migrane, M looks like he’s getting his tonsils checked, and A is just pissed.  Notice that I’m oblivious to this foolhardy behavior.  I’m thinking I might have something for the Christmas card until I see my husband’s face.  His eye roll tells me, nope–no deal. We need to try again.  Take a look at our final effort, and our last beach photo:

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It’s hopeless.  Look at my daughter.  Such a gentle spirit, that girl.

Our kids have rejected the notion of happy camping and Kodak moments.

Something tells me that the next few years with this crew are going to be pretty interesting.

Hope you’ll be around to hear our stories.

Posted in Family, Food, Kids, Marriage, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Nature/Outdoors, Random Fun, Uncategorized, Vacation, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Things I Don’t Understand” Thursdays: husbands + laundry

Exhibit A:
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Let’s talk about this picture, shall we?

If you will direct your attention to the images above you might think, “Yep, that figures…just go ahead and dump your clothes on the closet floor [mumble, mumble].” Or maybe you’re thinking, “BOY!  I thought that only happened at our house!”

What I don’t understand today is why these dearly beloved clothes are on the closet floor.  They seem drawn by some peculiar magnetic pull–perhaps strong rivets and powerful buttons–right down to the carpet.  Each day I walk into this space and there’s a new pile of clothes waiting to be tripped over, stumbled upon, cursed at.   And I hate to say it, but that in itself isn’t the part that makes my split ends curl.

Move along with me, please, to Exhibit B:

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The part that gets me just a bit annoyed is the fact that these clothes are left directly adjacent to a provided and fully-functioning laundry receptacle. I haven’t quite figured out yet how to make this process easier for my dear husband [who, in case you’re worried that I’m slandering him, knows fully about this post].

Should I construct a laundry shoot?

Affix a basketball hoop above the hamper to make it fun to be tidy?

Make a ramp from the shower area directly into the laundry basket?

Buy a larger basket that fills up any and all available floor space so that any “accidental dropping” will be caught?

Seriously.

Leave a comment if you have an idea.  I welcome your suggestions.

PS:  Next week’s edition will take a look at one of my own bad habits that I still don’t understand.  We’re all about self-deprecation here–gotta be fair to the hubby 🙂

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Stupid, Childish Pity-Party

Today I’m throwing myself a pity party.  I’m being a baby, and I know it.  I hate that about myself:  these feelings of entitlement, of ‘being deserving’ even when I have done nothing ‘deserving’ at all,… of wanting what I cannot have.  The list of things I’d do with $1 million dollars is growing, and I feel like a brat.  It’s not attractive, and more importantly, it’s not at all God-honoring.

Last night I had a great phone conversation with someone I love so much who has hit a few unwelcome road bumps lately [then again, when are road bumps welcome?].  Despite the grief and disappointment that has come with those bumps, this person is trying to flip the coin over and look for something shiny.  To see any flash of brilliance, any shade of light that might overtake the darkness of melancholy.  And I appreciate that attitude.  That kind of optimism, that kind of striving for hope, is to be admired.

Yet, I pointed out, while it is important to keep one’s chin up, it’s OK–necessary even–to sit in the pain.  To feel the hurt.  At least for a little while.

“Yes,” E* agreed, “…but in the scheme of things, do I really have it that bad?

OK.  If we’re comparing ourselves to the kids I saw in 2004 with my own eyes–using a filthy, stinking pit toilet in the middle of Africa, and returning home to a roof and four walls with no food and no parents–OK, no.  We are blessed beyond measure.  We are blessed beyond comprehension when held up to the rest of our world.  Knowing this, and marveling at my good fortune should preclude the kind of stupid wallowing I’m giving into today.

In Philippians, Paul says that “He has learned the secret to being content in every circumstance.” [4:11]

EVERY circumstance?!

As you continue reading, Paul talks about being content whether he’s well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want.  I wonder if, when Paul was strapping on his sandals, he ever wanted new sandals.  Better sandalsDesigner sandals. Or if he ever looked around his tent and thought about redecorating.  26_bedouin_tentOr adding on.  Perhaps tossing in a few extra floor pillows to “better minister to weary travelers.”

I know, ridiculous.  If Paul was alive and among us today, he wouldn’t be pining for a new iPhone or new bedding or a new van.  He wouldn’t be fretting about the catalog of dog-eared pages of things he wouldn’t be adding to his wardrobe.

Why do I give in to this trap of Western-bread materialism?

Do I honestly believe that the things lying out of reach right now will truly make me happy?  Am I that person?  Joyful only when the house is pretty and the closet is full and the car smells new?

That’s shameful.  I don’t want to be that person.  I want to live like that Tentmaker and know the kind of pure contentment he wrote about so long ago.

This has been hard to write, because in essence, today’s post is a confession.  A confession that I have a lot of gratitude to catch up on, and a good share of sourness that needs to be scrubbed away.

Will you join me in the scrubbing?

What do you need to confess?



Posted in Decor/Organizing, Discipline Issues, Faith, Family, Finances, Friends, Home, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CA$H for Clunkers

My husband and I never know what to do about our cars.  They’re both ten years old and run perfectly, but are beginning to show their age in small but annoying ways.  For instance, Brandon’s car has a non-functioning seat belt clicker and mine has no air conditioning.  The no-air thing is particularly charming when I’m barreling down the expressway next to semi trucks and trash collectors.  One kid is screaming that it’s too windy and would I please put the windows up, and the other two whine that it’s too hot with the windows up and would I puh-leeeze [!!] put them DOWN?! Of course I can barely hear a thing, the radio is useless in the chaos, but HEY.  That sweet little kitten is paid for.  Thank you Dave Ramsey.

Still, being the person I am, the allure of something new with artificial climate control is quite sexy.  I would love to ditch the 1999 Chevy for something with a built-in nav screen and better gas mileage.  BUT…we don’t particularly like those monthly payments or the insurance increases that come along with it [adios vacations].  Plus, let’s be honest: we’re dealing with three kids and a dog [who occasionally needs transportation], spilled milk that dries to a lovely yogurt-like consistency, smashed french fries between the seats, stepped on M & M’s from grandma, banana peelings and a variety of wrappers littering the inside at any given moment.   Why would we upgrade to just make a mess in something more expensive?

The answer to that question is Cash for Clunkers. Unless you’ve been spelunking or investigating the ocean floor for the past several months, you’ve heard about this program.  Basically, the government is offering people like me a nice chunk of change [toward the purchase of a newer vehicle] as an incentive to get gas guzzlers off the road.  Sounds great, but like I said, our kids leave such a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of food behind them that we could feed a small refugee family on the spot.  And there’s still that nasty monthly payment thing and that “new car = no vacations” crap.

Well, today I think I made a breakthrough in my arsenal of persuasive arguments to be used with Brandon [in love and with all gentleness, of course]

Say what you want about driving with no air.  Pretend it’s still 1956 if it makes you feel better.  Say you’re saving gas by keeping the A/C turned off–or not fixing it.  But when you look in your rear view mirror…

cool jonah

…and see that your 7-year-old is wearing snowboarding goggles to ward off the wind

…it may be time to consider a change.

Posted in Discipline Issues, Family, Finances, Random Fun, Vehicles | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Eleven Years and Counting…

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US!

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Honeymooning in Colorado

There we were, all shiny and new, fresh from our trip down the aisle, where, on thee hottest and most humid day in the history of the universe, we said our vows and unwrapped a life together.

Now that we’ve surpassed the decade mark, I definitely feel like we’re officially ‘veteran’ enough to dispense advice and share the kind of stories that wipe the fog from our memories and remind us that once it was just him and I: no mortgage, no kids, no dog, few bills.

Of course those are the things of life, and I love the life God has given us.  In fact, imagining my life any other way is an impossible thought.  Removing even one element would be like removing the Jack of Diamonds from a house of cards: it would all come tumbling apart, unable to stand on its own without the strength of another.  Unable to climb as high, unable to steady itself.

That’s how I feel about the life we’ve built.  Comprised of small moments that, when added up, make a lifetime.  Things that to others, mean little or nothing at all.  But to me, they are our private history, and our greatest joy:

Crying with overwhelming love at the birth of each of our three children

Late nights lying on the couch

Laughing together.  Laughter, laughter, laughter.

Sitting on the porch watching a storm roll in

Jumping on the bed at 1 am after Boise State won the football championship

Dreaming and planning and inventing

French toast on Saturday mornings

Reading to our kids

Campfires in cool evening air

Feet in the ocean, ears to the waves, sun on shoulders

Pictures of friends, or better yet, friends in our home

Traveling and enjoying this beautiful creation

Hugs and kisses after work

Meals together and praying with our kids

Loving our church and our community there

The freedom we allow each other to pursue ambitions

Supporting and encouraging

Hilarious camping mishaps that would only happen to us…

Watching our kids’ faces light up with discovery

Knowing that I get to spend this life with my best friend.

Who knew that a kiss at our Freshman Homecoming Dance in 1990 would turn into this?

Some kiss!

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“Things I Don’t Understand” Thursdays: Indoor Baseball?!

Well, this really got my goat.

After withstanding numerous accidents in the house ranging from family photos being knocked off the wall [that was dad modeling great behavior] to lamps crashing to the floor, we have banned indoor throwing/pitching/catching/baseball/homerun derby.  Wrestling has somehow made the cut because dad loves it as much as the boys, but when things start to resemble The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, it’s always me, the mean mom, who has to put the kay-bosh on the fun.

I’m so unreasonable, aren’t I?  Waaaaayyyy too uptight.

My youngest son, who indeed thinks I’m the devil in a blue dress [make that shorts and flip-flops] because I’m the one making it harder for him to reach the status of Albert Pujols, decided that yesterday was retribution day.

According to key eye witnesses, while I was upstairs cleaning, he came tearing in the house like the terror that he is, and threw a ball into a burning candle.

Awesome.

I came downstairs and thought someone had spit their toothpaste on the wall–it was all drippy and clean-smelling and turquoise.  Note exhibit A below:

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My little angel is gladly pointing out how the drips extend well below the scope of the picture.   We had to get a razor blade and remove half of our paint job scrape the wall delicately to get it off.  We now have chunks of exposed drywall that resemble the shapes of Kentucky and The Bahamas, respectively [mind you, this is in our front foyer].

What’s a mom to do but turn it into a geography lesson?

Oh well.

We try to teach forgiveness here, and I think once you see exhibit B you’ll agree that his deep remorse is obvious.

Deep.  Remorse.

IMG_2901

Posted in Decor/Organizing, Discipline Issues, Family, Home, Motherhood/Mommy Duties, Random Fun, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ah, the irony…

This is a short one today, but after yesterday’s post, I couldn’t resist sharing.

Look at what just dropped into my inbox today–an email with this as the subject:

“Odd-Ball Vacations from $65/night”

HA!  Didn’t we already conclude that hotels in the $60 range are only good for photos and mockery?!

And, “Odd-Ball?”

That’s a nice way of saying, “1970’s era styling make this chalet a true memory-maker.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy our lovely shag carpet [you never know what treasures might be lurking in its’ weave], antique furniture [the fact that it doesn’t match just adds to the charm], and cozy bed linens [we wash them weekly]!  Remember to bring your own Lysol disinfectant, blue-light crime scene detection device, De-Con, and personal alarm system.”


Posted in Random Fun, Travel, Vacation | Leave a comment

“Look for the Pink”

This past weekend we embarked on a time-honored family tradition of visiting Beaver Island, Michigan in the summer.  My husband’s grandma, grandpa, and mother were born on the island, so our history there is significant and worth exploring.  Because the ferry departs so early in the morning and we live 3+ hours from the docks, we decided to drive up the night before and sleep overnight in Charlevoix.   I have to thank “K”, my sister-in-law, for arranging our stay; however sarcastic this post may become [and I make no promises], she delivered what she promised:  a safe, cheap room that would have us close to the docks for The Emerald Isle’s 8:30 am departure.

We drove into town off M66 and the road came to an abrupt T, leaving us to guess which way we should turn to find the now infamous 1415 Bridge Street [are you sensing a pattern of directionally-challenged adults in our home?…ahem]  Let me tell you–I think we got too used to having a GPS machine during our trip West.  Now we feel helpless without “Rita’s” calming voice telling us to “turn right, and then right.”  And if we make a wrong turn, she’s not there to “recalculate.”  [If you don’t have a GPS you won’t understand.  Sorry.]  Navigating new terrain, however exciting, is akin to me trying to use chop sticks.  With wet nails.  Blindfolded.  Eating soup.  I just can’t quite grasp it!  God love me, I try!  But I just can’t quite get there.

At my prodding, Brandon decided to call his brother who was already waiting for us at the one-and-only Villa Moderne.  That’s right, folks:  Villa Moderne–a little piece of France tucked away right in Northern Michigan.  “T” answered the phone and told us to turn around, keep driving, and just “Look for the pink.”

Sure enough, we turned the bend and could see the rosy glow emanating from the 1970’s facade of the “modern hotel.”  IMG_2756 As we drove closer, Brandon and I alternated with:

“Is that it?”

“That can’t be it.”

“He said, ‘Follow the pink.'”

“Seriously?  It looks like a Vegas strip club!”

Pink neon tubing traced the edges of the roof and framed the porch in the kind of true class that only neon lighting can provide.  The vacancy light buzzed and cars whizzed by just feet from the parking lot [and hence, the main floor rooms].

Now, it’s not that I’m a brat or that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  I don’t need the finer things in life…all the time…but I’ve got kids to think about!  I don’t want them to get bedbugs or fleas or…scabies.

The fact that there was a community microwave and refrigerator in the hallway was no big deal.  I trust that the guy who was sitting–alone–in front of room 4…on a bench, smoking–would not add drugs to our milk or poison our breakfast food.  I’m sure he barely noticed us pulling up to The Villa and dragging our five bags up the flight of stairs by the office.  Certainly there would be no need to worry about safety with the hollow fake wood doors that opened with the turn of a five-cent hardware store key.  Deadbolts are overrated.

But just to be sure we did jam a chair [taken from The Brady Bunch set in 1979] under the doorknob.  Just to be safe.  Not that I was scared.

So here’s what $60 gets you in Northern Michigan:

IMG_2759Matching sheets and linens.  Who says that red gingham and coral don’t go with an aqua floral print?!

Furniture that is not only useful, but that shines with the kind of glow that can only come from decades of love.  IMG_2761[The green chair’s front leg bent off when I was sitting on it to tie my daughter’s shoe in the morning.  Not sure if that means that I added too much love to the decades… or if my hiney is just too big for a dainty collector’s item like this].

Thick, lush, coordinated bathroom towels that wrap you in luxury and leave you wanting to contact the hotel IMG_2757decorator.  After all, it takes a special touch like authentic bleach stains to make a bathroom feel like home.  Nate Berkus wouldn’t have thought of that.

We slept like babies on our beds–the sirens and low-flying aircraft barely kept us up!  We ignored the small eyebrow-raising features of the constantly running toilet and the red smear on the ceiling [I’m sure someone just killed a bug].  The bench smoker never bothered us, nobody poisoned our milk, and we didn’t get scabies.

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What more can you ask for, really?  Safe, cheap, no bedbugs.

So, K, thank you for saving us a boatload of cash.  It was worth it just for the laughs and pictures!  We looked for pink and saved some green, all in the same night 🙂

Posted in Decor/Organizing, Family, Seasons of Life, Travel, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

INTRODUCING: “Things I Don’t Understand Thursdays”

In an attempt to help my regularity [ha!], I’m launching a new theme for Thursday posts:

“Things I don’t Understand.”

Sometimes these will be deep and thoughtful; theological, perhaps.  Other times, I will grapple with questions that are not at all important in the scheme of our lives amidst global warming and weapons of mass destruction.  I’ll try to sprinkle in some humor and maybe even post a picture if I need evidence to make my point.

Today’s topic definitely falls into this latter category of general silliness.

Things I don’t understand: why our kids leave cups of milk, chocolate milk even, hidden around our house for me to find and barf over when I take the lids off.

Refer to exhibit #1 below.

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Notice how the chocolate milk has curdled into a patty similar to a slice-of-brain, clinging all soggy and floppy to the straw.

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Ignore the clutter on my countertops and the egg shell in the sink.  Instead, focus your attention on exhibit #2 above.  You will see how this almost-cottage-cheese sliver is still hanging onto life.  You can practically smell it, can’t you?  Have you ever visited a cheese-making factory?  I have.  IN AFRICA.  It was disgusting. And now my children have turned our home into a cheese-making factory.

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Exhibit #3.  Death in the sink.  I reject the notion of this thing existing in our house.  With nose plugged and brow furrowed, I actually had to chop it up to get it down the disposal.

Note to self: talk to the housekeeper about this horrendous oversight.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Son of a BEACH!

What a day.  Last night I was so exhausted after our elusive hunt for beach parking that I just couldn’t even tell you about it until now.  Well, let’s be honest: it was the exhaustion and the fact that the couch had some sort of magnetic pull on my rear-end during the Bachelorette Finale.  The exhaustion, the magnetic butt problem, and the fact that I was trying to be self-disciplined enough [a-hem] to invoke the 24 hour cool-down period after being completely torked-off and not wanting to say something I’d regret today.  Or ever.  God bless me.  You’ll see why:

Having heard from Channel 8’s indisputable and all-knowing Terri DeBoer that Monday was going to be the best day of the month [i.e., the only day breaking 80?], we decided to head to the beach with the kids to spend the day stocking up on vitamin D and exfoliating our feet in the sand.  What a delicious thought.  We Michiganders survive a soul-shattering seven months, if you’re counting from November to May, of cool-to-downright-frigid temps, lack of sunshine, overabundance of gray skies and oppressive cloud cover.  In fact, someone told me today that we actually have more days without sun than Seattle!! That’s right–pass the Prozac.  So when summer hits, watch out! We are determined to enjoy it!

Back to my story.  Brandon wanted to run a few errands in the morning and I gladly stayed home to get us packed.  Cooler, snacks, water bottles, towels, beach chairs.  I piled everything up by the door and waited for him to come home, knowing that the later we left the house, the worse our chances would be of getting into the park.  Believe me, my dad taught me that lesson very well over the years.

Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.

Where was he?

Tick-tock.

Finally the troop exploded through the door as the clock neared noon.  Brandon helped me collect our paraphanelia and we finalized our plans.

“Considering the time, I think we should ditch Grand Haven and just go to Holland.  It’s closer,” I logically pointed out. “Remember, I have to be home by 4.”

“What?!  We love Grand Haven!  We’ll be fine.  Let’s just go.  We’ll get lunch on the way.”  Famous last words.

We blew out of the driveway, stopped for subs in Allendale, and got to the lovely Haven that is Grand around 12:30 amidst the buzz of the Coast Guard Festival.   As soon as we got in the turning lane that said “Waterfront —>” I knew we were in trouble.  We were already lined up 4 cars deep just to turn.  I could feel my blood pressure rising as each minute passed.  The weight of the 4 pm return time pressed down on me and the anxiety started to build.  This is stupid, I thought.  We don’t have enough time now.  We shouldn’t have come.

Still, we crawled through the city, past the courthouse, next to the beautiful condos, waiting for the light at the Tip-a-Few.  Turns out I should have stopped to, in fact, “tip a few” because getting down to the waterfront took us a half-an-hour!  People were lined up along the boardwalk and littered the streets; they dotted the hillside next to Pronto-Pups and clogged the sidewalks at every turn.  Finally I could see why: a huge Coast Guard cutter was making its way down the channel toward the throng of eager fans.  Water shot out hundreds of feet into the air from the rear of the vessel, but all I could think about was the steam fire Frankenstein-like cork plugs ready to blow out of the side of my head as the day wasted away. Remind me:  who’s idea was it to come here?  And miss the best sun of the day?  And spend an hour in the car?

Easy, Jane.  Calm down.  Happy heart.  You love your husband.  Repeat after me:  You love your husband.

At last we were at the State Park entrance, rejoicing in the fact that we were in yet another line.  We saw the park ranger talking to the other unlucky beach-goer in the white Toyota, 8 cars ahead of us.  Then the ranger left.  We waited.  And waited.  It’s only a matter of time now, I reassured myself.  They must be checking for parking places because they didn’t turn us away…right?

Wrong.  A merciful stranger leaving the park stopped at our open window, returned the Frankenstein plugs which she found crushed on the ground outside our car, and told us that the park was full.  Great.

I voted to park on the street and walk to the open expanse of heaven on earth, but my husband [God bless him] thought it would be more logical to leave the city and drive to HollandWhich is 30 minutes away.  And it was 1:30. I relinquished any whif of control and said, “Whatever.”  I couldn’t even speak.  I was so mad.  Actually, no.  I’ll admit it.  I was furious.

Sooooo, off we went to Holland.

Brandon decided it would be much better–that it would make much more sense–to take the back roads.  Because, you know, they’re quicker.

By now, the cooler ice was melting, the kids were planning a coup in the backseat, it was hot–and we have no A/C–and we were driving the backroads of West Olive.

What?  You’ve never heard of West Olive?

Exactly.

Now 2 pm, I rearranged my 4pm plans out of desperation, and tried to pull my attitude out of my fanny to salvage the day.  With Holland’s ranger station now in view, I cast out any thoughts of how we could have been there for an hour-and-a-half if we would have just gone to Holland in the first place.  We tooled up to the gate with our annual pass in full view of…the ROADBLOCK.

That’s right, folks!  PARK’S FULL!

I felt like Chevy Chase arriving at Wally World.  If there would have been a life-sized talking animated creature, I, too, would have punched it in the mouth.

Brandon, of course, started laughing.  This ticked me off even more.  I started making absurd, sweeping statements I now regret, such as “This ruins my whole summer!”   Yes.  I lost my head.  I totally lost my cool.  It was not a shining moment.

We turned around, yet again, and went all the way back to the red ice cream shop and found a parking place.   We got out, turned around again, this time on foot, with three kids, two beach chairs, a cooler and two bags, and walked to the ranger station.

Which was now allowing cars to enter.  At 2:20 pm.

SON OF A BEACH!!

We all lost our heads yesterday.IMG_2651


Posted in Family, Nature/Outdoors, Random Fun, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Who Needs Whale Watching, Anyhow? Part 2

I know–I said I’d write this sequel on Thursday, and it just didn’t happen.  To all 4 of you out there waiting with bated breath, I’m sorry if the torture of suspense may have elevated your blood pressure or aggravated your digestive issues.

When I last wrote about whales I had you weeping with me, I’m sure of it, when I shared that my failure to thoroughly read directions to the ferry dock resulted in us missing out on the whole cotton-pickin’ thing.  If ever there was a time for a superpower, I would have traded in our picnic lunch for the ability to teleport ourselves to the correct dock.  BUT–the superpower people passed on our lunch and we were shafted.  On to Plan B.

We have no Plan B.

My husband and I sorted through a list of options that all sounded fantastic, but maybe not super-exciting for young families or for our time constraints.  The EMP: Experience Music Project looked really cool, but I had read that it was perhaps a more natural fit for teens.  We had already been to Pike’s Place Market and the Space Needle, and had gotten a tour of the city in a conspicuous WW2 land-to-water vehicle that sent our kids into hysterics.  Olympic National Park would have been a joy, but in five hours, an impossibility.  So, we decided to take a $7 ferry ride to Bainbridge Island.

Dragging three kids, a cooler weighing no less than 57 pounds with our lunch safely tucked inside its watery bowels, and my purse which had grown to the size of a small buffalo [minus the hair], we parked the car at dock 48 and headed over to 52 to buy our tickets.  We passed a few homeless men and a dead jellyfish on the way to the ferry terminal which had a depressing sort of airport quality: flourescent lights, the unidentified general stink of food vendors, and tile floors.  It was new and fairly clean, thankfully, but in comparison to floating dreamlike over the Pacific spotting flukes and water spouts, it seemed like a second-rate venture, to say the least.

The man behind the plexiglass was friendly and helpful, and after we got our tickets we left him in his happy cubical in search of place to eat.  I quickly rejected the idea of eating inside the terminal, however lovely their plastic chairs were; it was gorgeous outside and I was determined that we enjoy it.   The north doors to our right led out to a cement terrace of sorts with a peek of the Sound.  We ignored the imposing view of the parking lot and hum of the nearby interstate and pretended we were thrilled as we sat on the shaded pavement, doing our best to avoid chunks of gum and cigarette butts as we unpacked our lunch:

A bag of icy cold and watery boiled eggs.

Mmmmm.  Are you hungry yet?

Crackers in a soggy box.  Cheese sticks.  Bananas that were bruised and kind of frozen.  Peach slices.  Juice boxes.  Mini Reeces PB cups for bartering and other general emergencies.

Wow.  Just reliving the day is a culinary fantasy.

I can almost smell the waft of sulfur emerging from the ziplock bag of eggs.  I thought I could do it–I even brought salt!  But the smell and the slippery white part holding the now-greenish yolks was just too much for me to overcome.  A7D3BBAF-9B34-0F41-AD0D8E52BCC1E140Morgan, my 3 year old, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of them.  He was shoveling them in with both fists like Cool Hand Luke, blowing chunks of yellow yolk-crumbs when he spoke with his mouth full (still working on that).

I immediately regretted suggesting we try to save money by packing a picnic.  Here we were, a bunch of misplaced refugees sitting on the cement sidewalk, watching ants scurry about their busy ant-worlds, eating stinky boiled eggs and frozen bananas.

Brandon and I looked at eachother and burst out laughing at how ridiculous we must seem to the rest of the world, who, as luck would have it, was disembarking another ferry and streaming past us like Salmon fighting their way up the Columbia.  Practically tripping on us and all our stuff, they side-stepped and jostled and kept walking.  We just laughed.  I joked that we should have brought a hat along that we could set out for donations.

And then it happened.  I don’t know if it was a mistake or if it was intentional.  Perhaps someone did take pity on us and want to share.  Perhaps it was a modern-day Robin Hood.  Or a Socialist.  Or maybe it was just something that happened when Mr. Daily Commuter reached in his coat pocket for his vibrating phone, only to pull it out along with…spare change…that (I’m not kidding) went rolling right up to us.

This paultry windfall caused us to nearly choke with laughter!  We were slapping our knees and wiping our eyes thinking that we were officially tourist dorks.  Oh, but it was funny.  I never knew you could have so much fun with boiled eggs.

All that to say, we successfully took the ferry to Bainbridge and spent the afternoon walking around.   We won’t go so far as to call it a total flop, because it’s always a great adventure to say you visited an island after lunch and before dinner.

And how often can you do that?

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Who Needs Whale Watching, Anyhow?

rud_02

thanks to CBS.com

As I think I’ve mentioned before, we started planning our Washington vacation in December while the kids sat transfixed in front a red-nosed reindeer and an elf with bad hair who wanted to be a dentist.  Actually, as my friend Brian will tell you, if you lip read Hermey [the elf] he says he wants to be a “den-toost.”  But let’s not dwell on poor animation.

The fact of the matter is that for eight months–eight months–we’ve been making reservations, researching towns to visit, figuring out what our kids would be interested in and what to skip, and for those eight months, there’s been one non-negotiable:  whale watching in Seattle.  It had become like a baby I carried around–a little vacation fetus–held in the womb of my brown and aqua planning folder just waiting to come alive and make us look like the tourists we were, out on the ocean with cameras and squeals of delight.

Picture our family: all warm and full of anticipation as we packed our lunches, grabbed the camera, video camera, and Bushnell binoculars I got for free when I cashed in my Visa points.  I guess they were probably about $3,000 when you do the math, but let’s just pretend they were free.  It’s less nauseating.  Each of our kids had their own disposable cameras and were simultaneously fighting over the free Bushnells.   Sun screen?  Check!  Chap stick?  Check!  Water bottles?  Enough to irrigate a small vineyard!  We were ready. Whales–here we come!

The plan was to first stop downtown and see the Space Needle, which we did.  Again–let’s not do the math on those tickets because it’d probably equal out to $5.29 a minute for us to enjoy the view.  We were up there for 10 minutes.  IMG_2592Like I said: nauseating.  But that’s vacation, and we’re happy to do our part to spur on the local economy of Seattle.  Far be it from me to stand in the way of progress and capitalism and improving a ‘fundamentally sound’ economic climate.

Rabbit trail.

Anyway, as we’re driving downtown, thinking we’ve only got 5 blocks to drive to get to the wharf,  I re-read our whale info so that I can plug the address into our handy-dandy-borrowed-from-the-guy-whose-keys-we-lost-in-the-swamp GPS machine. I located the digits and the name of the ferry we were to take.  Great.  Everything was groov—Oh. No.

Oh my word.

Say it ain’t so, captain!

I can still almost make out the words between the charred remains of the cursed email:  “…take the ferry leaving Anacortes, which is 2 hours north of Seattle…”

Crap.  It was almost 11 am.  The ferry was leaving at 11:05  from a location two hours of where we were. [How did I miss that?!]  To make matters worse, this epic mistake would not only cost me the harmony and joy of my children, but half of our million dollar deposit, as well. Yet one more example of math causing heartburn.

CRAP!

I had royally botched the job this time and there was absolutely no way to fix it.  So, I called the company, nearly in tears, canceled our trip, and begged,  pleaded, and pawned my last remaining Reece’s peanut butter cup for them to have mercy on my soul and not charge me the million dollar deposit.

I never knew Reece’s peanut butter cups could be such an effective bargaining tool.  It worked!  She forgave the debt and was even nice to me in the process!  So we missed out on the beauty and mystery of migrating whales [which will probably be extinct before we ever get back to see them], but we did get our money and even got to ride a ferry later that day anyway.

You’re dying to know the rest, aren’t you!  Well, stay tuned for that story tomorrow:  Part Two:  the journey from blue ocean dreams to eating lunch on dirty pavement.

Seriously, with that to look forward to, who needs whale watching, anyhow?


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How Summer Smells

Tonight while I was upstairs getting into my sexy night sweatpants [pathetic, I know] and going through my 83 step face washing routine for bed, I pulled my head out of the sink and was slapped in the face by the most glorious scent breezing in through the open window.  I put my still-damp face up to the screen, closed my eyes, and breathed in some kind of God perfume of evening air, grass, and neighboring campfire.  It’s so iconic of this time of year that I could smell it anytime, anywhere, and think, Ahhh…it smells like summer.

There were two moments like this on our vacation that stand out distinctly in my memory.  The first happened as we descended the path into The Grove of the Patriarchs in Mt. Rainier National Park, a protected patch of 1,000 year old Firs, Pines, Cedars, and Hemlocks. [PS: I fell in love with these trees.  Imagine the history they’ve seen…what the world was like when they sprouted…]IMG_2390 The trail was wide enough for me to hold the hand of my daughter next to me, but narrow enough to carve around ancient trees jutting out and claiming forever the piece of earth from which they were birthed.  Starting at a higher elevation and then gradually working down to a river speckled with smooth stones, the air grew cooler with the rush of water and the dense shade cast by The Patriarchs.  IMG_2384I remember the first deep breath that froze my footsteps: damp and earthy and full of the kind of true pine that everyone wishes they could bottle for Christmas.  I turned to my husband and could only say, Do you smell that?”  This was an invisible and difficult to articulate gift: clean air so fresh it nearly took on color and texture.

Days later as we made our way back to the eastern part of the state, we witnessed the green, lush landscape give way to desert and the kind of rolling hills that look like velvet mounds under the sky.  In the foreground were little white-ish green shrubs that grew in bundles close to the ground: sagebrush.  The windows of our car were completely closed, yet through the vents came the most wonderful surprise of fresh air and living sage.  Brandon and I looked at each other at the same time and said simultaneously, “Do you smell that?”  [We’re creative, aren’t we?].  It was such a strong, unmistakable aroma…as though God was giving a gift to Himself.  A fragrant offering.

Maybe these things are so memorable because I’m often deprived from the smell of our natural world.  I’m closed up in my cozy house with the air conditioning on, adding fake smells of “Mountain Air” to the carpet before visitors stop over.   We live in places where kids can more easily identify the smell of Burger King and Theatre popcorn than the living and breathing world beneath our feet.  Doesn’t that make you just a little sad?

So my goals for the rest of summer:  enjoy the smell of a thunderstorm or the calm after a downpour.  Soak up the moments around the campfire when you can smell the oak.  Breathe in freshly-cut grass and damp, dewy mornings.  Enjoy the smell of summer.

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“It’s just a car…”

You know how your hands start automatically sweating when someone you barely know hands you their car keys and says, “And ya know, if something happens, just remember–it’s just a car”?  You let a little chuckle escape your lips and wave the thought away with a suave one-handed gesture like nothing could ever happen, but inside you secretly think, “Shoot.  He’s right.  Something could happen and this isn’t my car!” You reassure the car owner, even declining to accept the extra set of keys as if carrying them on your person would in some way implicate you or insinuate that you are, in fact, worried about locking the original set in the car.  Or losing them in a swamp.

Now I’m not saying this happened to me per se, but it may or may not have happened to “someone” during our Washington vacation.  Let me set the scene for you.  (Turn on some scary music while you read to really get the full effect.)

It was a dark and stormy night on Plum Street

Just kidding.

It was a wickedly hot day in the dessert.  The sun beat down mercilessly overhead.  You’d buy milk at the gas station and have cottage cheese by the time you got home.  The pavement was melting and so was my make-up.

IMG_2221

He knows mud is good for his skin.

Miles of white sandy beaches: a postcard of romance

Miles of white sandy beaches...

To combat such misery, our gang of 11 souls piled in two vehicles and headed down to the local “lake”  (see the photos and decided for yourself on that one.)   We parked our cars and fled to the shoreline seeking the relief of cool water.  On the way down to the beach area there was an alleged interaction by two parties who shall remain anonymous to protect their identity.  During said interaction, keys were passed and the parties separated: one back to the vehicle and one back to children and Cheese-Its and sunblock.

After a full day of canoeing, fishing, applying lotion, eating, peeing in weeds (who really needs modern plumbing when you can stand in the comfort of grass and burrs next to tatooed men?  Talk about over-rated!).  Anyway, you get the picture.  We were ready to pack it in.  The kids were blissful as ever, but we didn’t want to show up at church missing a layer of skin, unable to walk for the sunburn.

We gathered the cooler, tossed the life jackets in our totes, closed the umbrellas and waddled up the 45 degree-angle boat-launching area that emptied into the parking lot.  As we huffed and puffed up the steep incline, sweating again in the flood of new heat, the Key Person (KP) searched for the instruments of escape.  A look of dread washed over KP’s face and his body froze.

“Did you check your pockets?” Our friend yelled, mouth stretching into a smirk.

“Very funny!!” KP shouted back.

Seriously!  Where could those blasted things be?! We abandoned our plans to leave and dragged the kids back down the incline (which I hear they’re using this winter as a downhill ski jump) and to the miles of sandy beaches in search of the keys.

We looked under rocks.  We unpacked our gear.  Three times.  We checked the canoe.  We checked the kids.  And their diapers.  We looked in the other vehicle.

And we did it again.  And again.  Until we had been looking for about an hour and a half.  (Kids: not so blissful now.)

I won’t say that things got R-rated at this point, but there may have been some potty talk from KP.  We stood on the shore and recounted the events of the day.  What did we do first?  Then what?  Did you see them on the towel?  We wrung our hands and looked at the lake.

Oh my word.  The lake.

They had to be there!  They must have fallen out of a pocket or the canoe (a-hem) or a pelican swooped down and and stole them as a prize catch (cough).

At this point, we decided that nothing could be done, so we summoned our inner gypsies and all piled in the other vehicle–yes, 11 people in one vehicle.  (Don’t tell.)  I contemplated strapping myself to the luggage rack, but the bungee cords would have been brutal on my sunburn.  Instead, I was nice and cozy on the floor between two bucket seats, staring at the lovely craftsmanship of the gray…interior of the van and smelling the feet of the kid next to me.  It’s a good thing I’m so petite or I never would have fit.

When we got home, we all looked at each other, half wanting to puke, half wanting to laugh.

“It’s just a car, right?” our friend chided.  “Just tell him that when you call him and ask him to FedEx the spare keys.”

Very funny. The call was made by KP and we were all there to help him scrape the egg off his face.

“I think I offered you the spares when you left here, didn’t I?” Our generous car-lender said.

A-HEM!!!

What can you say?  You could lose a UFO in that lake–or Las Vegas for that matter- -and never see the lights twinkling and flashing again.  How could we ever dream of finding those doggone keys amid the sooty muck and mossy stones, under seaweed and minnows?

Oh well.  It could be worse.

We could have hair growing on our tongues or chronic gingivitis or saggy earlobes.

Instead, it’s just a car.

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Husbands in Costco

Usually when I go to Costco I have my list of “necessities” ready to go; you know, like cheese, milk, cereal, bread…fondue set?? Just kidding about the fondue set.  But I am always amazed at how many things I end up coming home with that I didn’t even know I “needed.”  Like their gourmet chocolate chunk cookies.

Oh.

My.

Word.

I knew it was a mistake to buy them.  First of all, yes–maybe you do get two dozen, but they’re over $6 for a plastic container which I’m sure 80% of cookie buyers never even recycle.  Secondly, they are addicting.  It takes an inordinate amount of self-control for me to walk away after having only, say, four cookies.  I’m not even going to TELL YOU how many days this container *doesn’t* last in our house!  My kids grab them three at a time and offer them to their friends and I sneak them into the laundry room and then they’re done.  Am I the only one willing to admit that cookies eaten in secret are really good? Maybe I have a problem.

Ironically, this post really isn’t even about cookies, and all these rabbit trails are further evidence that my brain is literally collapsing under its own weight!  Next time the alzheimer’s commercials come on TV I need to pay better attention.

What I actually wanted to tell (all 10 of my loyal readers), is something funny that happened yesterday at our favorite warehouse supercenter.  We’d just returned from a two-week vacation and as you can guess, our cupboards were bare.   When our kids started asking for chicken in a biskit crackers with a side of raisins for breakfast, I knew something had to be done–soon.   Costco and Meijer seemed to be logical destinations.

As we wheeled feriously through the crowds (NOTE TO SELF:  avoid Costco on Friday night!  All the cool people are there and it’s PACKED!…Sadly, I’m completely serious), I found myself asking my kids and husband to “Grab a thing of that cheese…Go pick out some bread…We need more hot dogs.”  As my dear helper-husband reached for the hot dogs, which, as any warehouse shopper knows, come in a pack of three, he verified the kind we buy, and then  attempted to rip the bundle apart.

I heard a sound behind me that my ears vaguely identified as tearing paper, and turned, mortified, to find him struggling with the bundle.

“Brandon!  What are you doing?!”

“We only need one pack, right?!”

“It’s COSTCO!  Everything comes in bulk!”

We locked eyes and crumpled into laughter.  I mean, really, who goes to Costco to buy only one pack of hot dogs?  And even if you do want only one pack…do you really stand there and try to tear a package apart? He knew instantly how ridiculous he looked, and I thought that it was the latest in my long list of reasons why it’s easier for moms to shop alone.

Can I get an AMEN?!

PS: There’s a coupon for the cookies in this month’s Costco mailer 🙂  I dare you.


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Hello, Again, Hello

Well, I didn’t return as Neil Diamond, but I am back.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve last posted a blog and that’s because I was on vacation and away from computers!  YIKES!  For the first couple of days I thought about checking my email, updating FaceBook, and posting something new here–a lot.  Then, once we settled into our vacation routine I decided to not even try to seek out a computer.  Instead, I enjoyed being connected to my family, to nature, to God, and NOT the internet.

So.  It is my hope and my plan to spend the next several days easing back into life at a keyboard.  I have a few funny stories to share and a few things that rolled through the deeper parts of my brain while we drove through the mountains or enjoyed the seashore.  Hope you’ll check back soon to read all about it!

Until then, happy summer night!

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Fill It Up Again

I’m borrowing this title from the Indigo Girls who, if I believed in reincarnation, I would totally want to be in my next life–at least musically speaking.  Their guitar playing–to die for; their poetry–kills me; their harmony–makes my heart stop with its aching beauty.  Since I do not believe in reincarnation, I’m choosing to believe that Jesus might give me their guitar skills if I promise to use them to be part of the praise band in Heaven.  We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, the title is a song from a couple of albums ago and it has a line that I really love:  “…but the new road is an old friend…”

Tonight I can’t sleep because we’re going on vacation tomorrow.  Or, since it’s well past midnight, I guess we’re leaving today.  We’ve been planning this trip since December, and now it hovers closely like darkness coming over the sky–so close it seems I can almost touch it.

I’m looking forward to new roads and new landscapes.  I can’t wait to feel the Pacific splashing against my ankles and smell the salt hanging heavy in the air.  Something inside me leaps when I realize that next week we’ll be hiking through mountains filled with wild flowers and animals that roam freely.  I’m so excited to watch the changing expressions on the faces of our children as they absorb the beauty and the newness of another state.Paradise(MtRainier)

Because I love traveling, for me the new road is an old friend.  In a few days I’ll be able to cozy up to that old friend and learn all the secrets it has been storing up for me; talk to it without saying a word.  Experience roads that few take, stand as a witness to places few have seen, admire creatures and creation living in unity.   Life filled up, again.

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Flab Control, Part 2

Pre-race Hopefuls

Pre-race Hopefuls

Well, there we were, cute outfits and all.  I mean, if you’re going spending time working on flab control (speaking only for myself, girls), you might as well try to look cute.  The jury’s still out on whether the number-over-the-womb hides things or exaggerates them.  Sometimes, when the wind catches the paper just right, it reminds me of some pilgrim sail unfurled on the Mayflower.  That’s not really the look I’m going for.  Regardless, there were were in all our pre-race glory.  Ready to fight with the clock and our quads.

The Thursday night before the race, Kamarah (blue shirt) and I went out and ran 2.8 miles and felt great.  Our time was good, we were strong, we felt ready.  But Saturday morning rolled around and I just didn’t feel like a racer.  I felt like a mom who wanted to stay in bed or feast on french toast in an old fleece robe.  And have I ever mentioned how I am NOT a morning person?  I mean–I am the antithesis of morning.  I am barely a person in the morning.  I do not like to wake up to see prime numbers on the clock.  I was tired, my stomach was all in knots, I regretted wasting my $24 registering for something that I can do for free.

Once race time rolled around, the adrenaline kicked in and it was fun to start with a group of really special women.  I got moving at a strong pace (for me) and felt great until I saw the mile marker clock: 10:12 at mile 1.  WHAT?!  I felt like I was hauling my fanny, but seeing that time started to deflate my balloon of hope.  (I did not stop to think that we were over a minute behind the start line when the gun went off, so I was actually doing ok.)  Instead, I felt disappointed, but ran on.

This is when things got interesting–in a mentally tough kind of way.  I started getting tired.  My legs hurt.  I was thirsty.  I ran and ran and ran and felt like Forrest Gump.  Running forever and getting nowhere.  I thought for sure I had run another mile.  My running mix on my iPod was up to the song that usually measured 2 miles, and I wasn’t seeing the next sign!  I decided they had foregone the idea of putting up a 2 mile sign and assumed that I had passed it.  This is how naive I am.  When I finally DID see the 2 mile sign, I may or may not have whispered something naughty under my breath.  I wanted to walk.  However, as you may have read in my other post, one of my goals was to not walk.

I made myself think of those poor people on The Biggest Loser who had to run a marathon with only a month’s notice.  I commanded my legs to obey me.  Move!  Pick up your feet!  Keep going!  I tried to think about how many people are sick and would *love* to feel the wind in their face while they beat the pavement.  I tried to be grateful for working limbs.  I thought about being done and eating a free banana.  I thought about showing my kids that you don’t quit.

The mass of racers turned the corner like a school of fish, and I could see the finish line.  GAAA-LORY HALLELUJAH! I thought.  My balloon was expanding anew with hope that I could do it.  I resolved to finish…

Photo by my 5 year old daughter!

Photo by my 5 year old daughter!

…until the cruel race workers motioned us away from the finish line and forced us to turn another corner.  My mind went back to the race map and I remembered, vaguely, having to go around the block at the end, probably to get the .1 miles tacked on to the other 3.  I might as well have been running in wooden Klompen shoes for how fast I wasn’t moving.  Remember that scene in Old School when Will Farrell sticks vet medicine in his jugular during the birthday party, and everything starts moving in slow motion?  That was me.  But in real life.   S-l-o-w   m-o-t-i-o-n   m-a-m-a, all the way up to the glorious orange banner waving me on, homeward bound.  And I finally made it!

Despite feeling weak, I did meet my goals:

1.  I finished the race without dying, collapsing, vomiting, or rupturing anything important.

2.  I did not walk.

3.  I finished in less than 30 minutes (28:59)

So, as a poser, as a fake runner, as someone in it just for the flab control, I celebrate!  If you’re reading this thinking you can’t do it, I challenge you to

Us girls, along with 2 husbands who ran!  Kids are there just to look cute :)

Us girls, along with 2 husbands who ran! Kids are there just to look cute 🙂 Photo, again, by my daughter!

re-think your limits.  It feels great to accomplish something that no one else thought you could do.  Especially when ‘no one else’ is YOU.

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Old Dogs and Children

I should have listened to Tom T. Hall and added the Watermelon Wine to my morning–or something stronger–because I needed it.

Monday morning I convinced myself to go for a run in preparation for a 5K that’s been staring me down from the calendar for the past couple of months. As I’ve admitted in an older post, I’m not really a runner.  I’m a poser trying to control the jiggle that seems to be accumulating around my belly and the shaking ‘triceps’ that make me feel like a grandma when I wave.  At any rate, I’m trying.  In between ice cream cones and icy Cokes, I’m trying.

So, as I said, Monday morning I peeled myself out of our new king size bed, ate my farm-fresh protein and laced up my fancy new shoes.  At this point I should have grabbed some sort of tranquilzer or legal drug, regardless of the fact that it was well before noon.  I would soon come to regret–deeply regret–this oversight, but then again, how could I have known the trouble awaiting me?  Who would have thought that 2.8 miles could be so. difficult.

Just an innocent suburban mom trying to keep the flab at bay, trying to go for a run… with three kids and a dog.  We had done it a million times before and made it home safe and sound.   That day, however, would open a chapter that demanded the book be *slammed* shut and put away until all bike sprokets are at least 10 inches in diameter and the little legs that propel the sprokets are at least two feet long and full of energy.

Things started off OK for the first block.  Chris Tomlin was singing his praises in my ears, and I could feel my legs moving without effort.  We got down to our friends’ house on the next block [we can see them from our mailbox, so it’s NOT that far!] and already Morgan, our youngest was whipping up some fake tears and complaining of some kind of devastating leg pain.  I stopped, trying to run in place, not wanting to miss out on Chris getting to the good part, and tried to yell over my huffing breath.  He was not happy.  My friend was in her driveway and graciously offered to watch him while I kept going, but in the move of a century, I declined.  Big mistake.

By the time we reached the edge of our neighborhood I had already stopped four times and was starting to see the writing on the wall.  This was not going to help my ‘training’ at all unless I planned to stop and walk this much during the actual race, and I assure you, I do not.  Still, I don’t want to raise kids who give up at the slightest discomfort or heat-induced irritation, so I kept going [stupid] and hoped he would follow like a fluffy little gosling traipsing blindly behind mother goose.

We reached our turn-around point with the help of my daughter sticking to his side and letting me keep my pace.  Pretty soon though, sweat was emerging from his lime green Diego helmet and he was doing nothing to mask his annoyance that I would have the audacity to continue running.  And that’s when the proverbial wheels fell off and we descended into the eighth circle of hell.  I conceded defeat, ripped my earphones from my ears, turned off David Crowder, and tried earnestly to be concerned about his [fake] injury.

In between sobs he pleaded that he did NOT want to ride his bike.  He did NOT want me to run.  He did NOT want to be at the back of the line, unable to keep up with the rest of us.  He did NOT want to be on the bike trail, and he DID want to be at home.

Well, what was I to do?  I’ve always wanted the super power to beam myself instantly to a new location, but clearly, it still elludes me.  So, I let him dismount and walk, and I took over walking his 12 inch bike.  Yes, that’s right:  a bike with 12 inch wheels, perfect for a three year-old, but more perfect when he’s riding it.

After about 100 yards of that nonsense, bending over like an old woman picking strawberries in the sun, I begged my oldest to ride the mini-bike, allowing me to push a 10-speed that was closer to my height.  Now I was only bending over like determined garage-saler looking for another deal on someone’s table.  Not as bad.

That was going swell until I saw the mini-bike come to a screeching halt on the path ahead of me.

Super. I thought.  Honestly, WHAT could it be now?!

I was dying to run ahead to diagnose the problem, but Morgan was walking so slow that I had to actually stop to wait for him to catch up.  Walking.  I felt like I was stuck in the returns-lane at Kohl’s after Christmas.  Move ahead, stop.  Move ahead, stop.  Flames were building up and shooting out of my ears.  My hair was singed and I could practically smell it burning, I was so mad.

We finally made it up to my son on the mini-bike where he divulged the last in a series of blunders that broke the camel’s back: the chain on the bike had fallen off.

Mom? He asked cautiously.  Could I ride the 10-speed again, because I can’t even ride this bike anymore.

Well for crying OUT LOUD, I thought.  Of course I gave him the bike.  I mean, I had to.

He looked at me and said, “You know mom, we’re supposed to be slow to anger, remember?”

Well for CRYING OUT LOUD!!! I thought again.  I replied, calmly, that I was slow to anger.  It took me 2 miles to get this angry.

Refusing to go back to strawberry picking with the mini-bike, I decided the only option I had was to carry it.  Carry it the remaining .8 miles home.  While my youngest son walked in the Kohl’s return line with the dog–who walked equally as slow–I carried the blasted bike.  All.  The.  Way.  Home.

I did not get a workout.  I did not get washboard abs.  What I did get was a series of red indentations on my arm from supporting the weight of the cotton-pickin’ bike, which remained on my arm for THREE HOURS after my “run.”

IMG_2138And so, the moral of the story is:  Old dogs and children do not make good running partners.  If, in an emergency you MUST take small children and old dogs, forget about Chris Tomlin on your iPod.  Forget about any so-called time to “commune with nature.”  Forget about trying to have a bless-ed 25 minutes to yourself.

Just don’t forget the watermelon wine.  Or something stronger.  You’ll need it.

Posted in Family, Fitness, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Lessons From Donuts and Garages

donutThe fact that I’m still thinking about that donut after a whole week should tell you something: either I’m a sugar addict and revel in all my indulgences–or–I’m worried about my ‘haven’t had a waistline since baby #1’ and don’t want to make it worse.   Well, I should be concerned about said lack of waistline, but truthfully, it doesn’t keep me up at nights.  As far as I’m concerned, a fifty-nine cent gift to my sanity and sugar tank is worth paying the price of having to walk around the block once more. (Although, let’s be serious.  Walking with three little kids and a dog generally doesn’t work up much of a donut-burning sweat.)

Since we’ve safely ruled out the waistline issue, for better or worse, it would make sense to deduce the former suggestion about some sort of sugar addiction.  That would be true: I am a sugar addict.  I need to work on that.  Combating this addiction with a leafy-green substance would be a good place to start.  Increasing my asparagus intake would also be beneficial.  But back to the donut problem.

The problem with the donut, or rather, the lesson I learned from it, lies in neither of the above scenarios.  The donut ‘lesson’ started when I ate this gorgeously fried circle of infinite fatty glory, and ruined my appetite.  It happened last Sunday.

As usual, we were a few items short of a Top Chef lunch, so we headed to our friendly Meijer store after church where I made the ill-fated purchase.  There it was, making eyes at me from within its glass home.  Luscious chocolate frosting dried to a smooth sheen, perfectly tanned donut holding it all together.  I would not be stopped.  I stole it from the tray and stuffed a curved edge into my mouth before even depositing it into the paper bag.  Another bite in the car on the way home.  Another bite while I was chopping veggies for lunch (what’s wrong with that picture?!).  Another bite while the chicken marinated.  And then it was gone.

Brandon put the cedar planks on the grill and I tried to channel Bobby Flay by cutting a little pocket into each chicken breast and stuffing them with cheese and fresh spinach from our neighbor’s garden.   Next came bell peppers: cleaned out and sliced in half, placed directly on the grill next to the mushrooms with a little olive oil.  The grill hissed, cedar saturated the air, and I could not *wait* to eat.

With our patio set newly unearthed and restored to the deck, we sat down in the sunshine for our first outdoor lunch of the summer.  Icy Coke in front of me, warm bread, grilled veggies and that cedar plank chicken.  Oh yeah…and that donut that was sitting in my gut like a brick.  I took three bites of my chicken and was so full I couldn’t eat another bite!  What a disappointment!  I cursed the donut under my breath, safely beneath the decibel level of the children in earshot.  For once in my life I actually found success by making a meal that did not originate in a box or on a recipe card, and I was too full to eat it.  I had wasted my hunger on a stupid donut.

This got me to thinking.  How often don’t we grab for a temporary fix–something tasty, but full of empty calories, so to speak–and end up regretting it.  How often don’t we sacrifice what we’re really hungry for by trying to fill up on something worthless?  To me this has all sorts of spiritual connections and consequences.  The Lord promises to provide for all our needs, yet we often–I often–sell out for a cheap substitute because I think I know better.  My choices are better.  Providing for myself is better.  My way is better.  I’m SO hungry…and I choose…a donut?

Today we celebrated Father’s Day.   On the way home from my parents’ house we drove past several other gatherings and many open garage doors.  I could not believe—could. not. believe.—the amount of JUNK that people have crammed into their little 20×28 covered slabs of attached-to-the-house-cement.  Trash!  Things they’ll surely never use!  Things I’m certain they don’t even remember having purchased!  Things I’m sure they don’t even know are still there, collecting dust and providing a cozy night’s stay for the resident mice!

Why is this?  Why do we load up on all this stuff?  All these things that we obviously don’t need (or else they’d be in the house).  Things we probably don’t even want (or we’d take better care of them).  Things we most likely wouldn’t even recall losing if the house burned to the ground into a heap of ashes!  I would argue that this garage situation is the donut problem in epic proportions.  We’re trying to fill some sort of void–some sort of gap–some deep hunger, with stuff.

The truth is, we’re missing the point.  The chicken and bell peppers are going to waste, and we’re missing the point.  The donut is now taking up residence on our right thigh, and we’re missing the point.  The garage continues to pile higher and higher, and we’re missing the point.

I know I can be a little dramatic, maybe too little serious sometimes.  As my neighbor will tell you, there’s no chance on this side of Heaven of me giving up donuts forever.  Let’s not get crazy!  But I will give pause, next time, to when and where I eat that donut.  And maybe, spend a little more time thinking about the why, too.

Posted in Faith, Family, Food, Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Storm

YOW-ZA!!  Last night we had a mongo storm that culminated in the loss of power in our neighborhood for roughly four hours.  Having just finished our basement and nestled our son down in his new bedroom, our immediate fear was that a disabled sump-pump would lead to a river of discharge water flowing over our new carpet.

My husband flew down the stairs and came up wide-eyed and blinking, announcing with some alarm that, yes indeed, the pump’s resevoir area had filled to the brim and we’d need to bail water.  In the dark.  In our junk “storage” room, next to scratchy rolls of extra carpet, dusty suitcases and the eliptical machine that only gets used when it’s snowing.  Or when we need to dry clothes indoors.  Did I mention it was completely dark?

We retrieved a Rubbermaid container from a forgotten corner in our junk “garage” and went back into the bowels of our home.  With mason jar in hand, we scooped about 20 gallons of water from the sump area and into the bin.  We soon realized that this plan, while ambitious and MacGyver-esque in nature, was not a long-term solution.  A quick phone call (thank God for cell phones!) to our brother-in-law delivered the answer we needed: a generator.

While Brandon left in the typhoon to get the generator, literally dodging felled-trees, lightning-to-ground strikes, and water over the roads, I began to get phone calls from our neighbors.  We soon ended up with extra friends in our living room, playing Chutes and Ladders under candlelight, eating Skittles and jumping at the sound of thunder so big and cracking you can only marvel at its power.  Another neighbor returned home early from a weekend away and found three inches of water creeping through their basement.  Running around like boys in a rainstorm, three men splashed through puddles to connect all three homes to two generators, helping eachother with flashlights and batteries and buckets.

Even as the flashes across the sky grew fewer and fewer, the rain continued to pound, and the voices of friendship stayed close to our home, heard through open windows and absorbed into thankful hearts.  Men in the street at midnight, women comforting children and dogs.  Kids up late in the darkness and mystery of storms.

Today it all seems like a dream: we’re basking in sunshine and enjoying life with electricity that enters our homes without so much as a thought from us.  The tree we just planted in our backyard will have to be resurrected from its new 45 degree angle, but other than that, we emerge unscathed and blessed to have our family safe and intact.  And blessed to know that in sunshine or in storm, we’re surrounded by the love of the family we choose: our friends.

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Grandma

Grandma and me:  June 12, 1009

Grandma and me: June 12, 1009

I’ve been cautioned by wise and well-meaning people that my penchant for emotions (namely crying) may alienate those who don’t struggle with waterworks the way that I do.  But today it’s not to be avoided.  As I was downloading photos from the camera to our computer, this one showed up and all my love for this woman came raining down on me like a summer storm.

This past weekend was the first time I heard about the tumor…and the cancer.  After a hard year of moving from her home, enduring both open-heart surgery and a painful knee replacement, at 83 it comes down to the dreaded enemy that seems to be sleeping in us all.  With grandpa waiting for her in heaven, I doubt that she will be resolute to fight it, and I suppose if I’m honest, I’d feel the same in her shoes.

The sadness this news brings has come over me in waves.  Today while dusting the mantle and looking into the paper eyes of my children in framed photographs.  Sitting down and seeing her familiar features on this screen.  It’s the smallest things that remind me of the enormity of her impact in my life.

So, in her honor, I’m republishing something I wrote last fall about her and the memories I’ve hidden away in my heart.  For anyone who’s ever loved a grandparent for her care, compassion, sewing-instruction, Jesus-teaching, garden-tending, clothes-on-the-line, cookies-in-the-oven type of way, please keep reading.  And if there’s room on your prayer list for grandma, I’d be beholden to you for remembering her.

~

As I was leaving the library with our two youngest children last week, the book’s cover caught my eye.  The delicate painting was so lifelike it might at first glance be mistaken for a photograph.  The vintage barn wore the pattern of a huge American Flag and was sitting atop a blanket of grass left behind in the dust of an old pickup truck.  Displayed near the floor on a Plexiglas stand was Heartland, a lovely children’s poem about that area of our nation, told from the perspective of the Earth.

I am the Heartland.
On this soil
Live those who through the seasons toil:
The farmer, with his spirit strong;
The farmer, working hard and long,
A feed-and-seed-store cap in place,
Pulled down to shield a weathered face-
A face whose every crease and line
Can tell a tale, and help define
A lifetime spent beneath the sun,
A life of work that’s never done.

I am the Heartland.
On these plains
Rise elevators filled with grains.
They mark the towns where people walk
To see their neighbors, just to talk;
Where farmers go to get supplies
And sit a spell to analyze
The going price of corn and beans,
The rising cost of new machines;

Where steps are meant for shelling peas,
And kids build houses in the trees.
by Diane Siebert
paintings by Wendell Minor

At home that evening, tucked under covers and reading to the kids before bed, I found myself heartsick and missing a place I barely knew.  My voice caught as I heard the words aloud.  Ever observant, my daughter turned to me and sweetly asked Mom, why does your voice sound like that?  I swallowed hard and read slowly, trying not to cry.  What is wrong with me?!  Crying over a story about farms in Minnesota?!  Then I realized, it was something else in Minnesota that had me crying.

We grew up 750 miles away from my maternal grandparents.  They lived in a rural town in central Minnesota roughly two hours west of Minneapolis.  Driving into town, the welcome sign listed a population of less than 600 people–a number that’s been steadily declining for years.  There are two churches in this town, one school.  The old grocery store with creaky wooden floors has been gone for decades, but I still remember how it looked and how it smelled: of timber and soap and paper.  They used to have a miniature red shopping cart that I loved and would fight for, because for 20 minutes in that store, I became a grown up.  My brother and sister and I would clamor on bikes and race ‘uptown’ as my grandma says; not all the way to the grain elevators or the city hall, but past the bank and the funeral home.  An entire world to us, knit together on two tidy city blocks.

Trips to grandma and grandpa usually happened in the summer [so although I speak of these times with sentimentality, I really did not spend a great deal of time living them].  We would pile into our huge Olds 88 — maroon with velour interior and ENORMOUS — and hit the road for the 12 hour trek west.  By the time we turned off highway 7 and drove past Warren’s station, I was practically coming out of my skin to see the people I loved so much.  Would the house look the same?  Did grandma remember to put Kit-Kats in the candy dish?   Are her rows of marigolds in bloom?

Turning into the driveway and seeing the familiar landscape felt like coming home.  I have so many wonderful memories there.  Trying to sort through them now seems like ‘counting shades of light,’ as some of my favorite poets say.   She used to wash my hair in her kitchen sink and then set it in curlers for Sunday morning, letting me sit toasty warm under one of those huge astronaut-head blow-dryers she’d bring to the table.  She was with me when I got my ears pierced.  She played games with me endlessly, laughing and slapping the table when I’d beat her.  My brother would sit on her back patio for a summer haircut.  My sister went fishing with grandpa.  And at the end of our weeks together, she’d cry with me when we had to leave.

I grew to love her house and her small town.  Literally right in the middle of a corn field, she lived in the Heartland, and I think that’s why this book affected me so.  The descriptions were a guided tour through the things I have stored up in my heart.  Perhaps I do have rose colored glasses–remembering only the beautiful and pure and innocent days of summer.  But isn’t that what childhood should be?

Last year my grandma moved out of her house–the house she bought with my grandpa when they got married in 1946.  The house that changed and morphed and grew around them; as they built their family, they built on to their home.  The house in all of my mother’s childhood photos.  The house in every one of my memories.

Sometimes thinking about how things change seems so perfectly normal and expected, and other times, like this, it seems to slice away at the most tender parts of my heart.  What will it be like, next time, to go visit her and sit in the visitor’s section of the assisted living center, next to old magazines and piles of jigsaw puzzles?  What will it be like to walk into her room and not smell layers of coffee and years of love?  And my worst fear, of course, is to go back, knowing that there will not be the kind of visiting I so long for with a woman I love so deeply.  When that happens, the landscape of the Heartland–of my heartland– will never be the same.

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Waiting for Mountains, Yearning for Sand

Every now and again I get into kind of a funk.  I usually write it off as fatigue or hormones, but really I think it has something to do with geography.

We’re planning a trip out west this summer and I’ve noticed my heart longing more and more for mountains and fresh air and flowers that grow for no other reason than the Glory of God.  Flowers that exist not because someone bought them at the greenhouse and planted them in their front yard, and not because they were a Mother’s Day gift–as lovely as that is.  But just to glorify their creator.

I remember a trip to the Tetons years ago, before children and mortgages, where I learned about those flowers.  Our friends convinced us to explore the back-country with them, which, when you’re camping with me, is code for bad weather, torn rain gear, and crappy food.  And no toilets.   Despite our follies,  it remains one of those landmark trips that I love to remember.  Even now the memories fool me by erasing the snow [in June] and mud [all over our clothes] with thoughts of mountain lakes unseen by so many and love ablaze around a campfire.

On one of our hikes on a gorgeous Wyoming day in summer’s infancy, my friend stopped and quietly knelt down on the trail.  I was waiting for her to point out a mountain goat or announce a rock in her shoe when she whispered amazement at the most unassuming little white flower I’d ever seen.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure it wasn’t a weed!  But her fingers cradled the petals and she hovered in awe at its simple beauty.

How many people do you think ever come up here?  How many people will ever get to see this flower? she asked.

Of course I didn’t know what to say.  Was she posing a question or making a point?

Imagine that God made this flower just for his glory!

Wow.  That one comment turned my thinking on so many levels.  Stop to consider for a moment how many treasured beauties are hidden in the brush, deep in the rainforest, or swimming miles beneath the surface of the sea.  None, perhaps, will ever be appreciated by human eye, yet they were created–and live–in their order.

Considering God’s majesty buries me.  I cannot comprehend it, but I long to see it.

With our trip drawing closer, I’m starting to feel a pull at my heart that is at the same time familiar and strange.  John Denver has a great line in Rocky Mountain High where he describes a young man’s journey like he was ‘Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before…‘   Sometimes I feel that way when I’m in the mountains or at the edge of water.  Not a melancholy feeling as if where I live isn’t home, but rather, a feeling of natural ease, refreshment, a spirit that can breathe more deeply.  What is it about green?  What is it about the pounding cadence of waves?  Maybe it’s a different kind of home.

Tonight we’re going to enjoy our own patch of green around our backyard fire pit.  I love nights like this: stars scraped away from an indigo canvas, moon bathing us in its light.  Friends, family, conversation,…life unplugged.  While God kneads my dreams and understands every detail of my longing, I will treasure tonight.  Tonight is its own gift while I wait for mountains and yearn for sand.

Posted in Faith, Family, Friends, Nature/Outdoors | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wells and Fences

This past weekend I had the pleasure of listening to author Mary DeMuth speak to a small crowd of conference attendees in Chicago.  While I was only able to hear the last of her three nights of ministry, I’m certain that it must have been her best, because I can’t stop thinking about the theme:  Drink from the Well: Jesus.

After beginning her talk with the questions Who is Jesus? and Who are we as a body of Christ followers?, Mary shared an illustration that I am still digesting four days later.  She told us that a shepherd in Australia once told her there are just two ways to keep sheep near:  build a fence or dig a well.

Hmm.  Intriguing, I thought as I sat in my auditorium fold-down seat.  How does a well help a shepherd tend–and keep–his sheep?  I mean, besides the obvious benefit of their not dying of thirst.

In the well vs. fence theory, a shepherd choosing to build a fence keeps his sheep close to him by preventing their departure and by keeping others out. The sheep he cares for are well-defined; any passer-by knows to whom they belong, but likewise, the passer-by does not have access to the shepherd.  The shepherd is inside the fence with his flock, not outside with the passer-by.

On the other hand, digging a well means that any sheep can come and draw water.  Any sheep has access to the shepherd.  And instead of marking each sheep as “in” or “out,” this perspective invites us to consider that some are close–perhaps intimately close–to the shepherd, while others remain far off.  Even lost.  I’m adding Mary’s graphic below to help your thinking:

Credit to Mary DeMuth

Credit to Mary DeMuth

As Mary continued with her talk, she qualified these theories by saying that “of course this well theory doesn’t mean that ‘anybody’ can get into heaven,” and she affirmed Christ as the only way to salvation.  But even without these footnotes, I was already thinking about how drawing closer to the well and viewing our faith in this new way was going to require a new way of thinking.  Because in the “centered set,” as Mary terms it, there is no “us” and “them.”  No fences.  No rejection.  Just the admission that some are near and some are not.

So why is way of thinking hard to get our minds around?  Even though most of us generally don’t want to espouse an us/them worldview, some might be brave enough to admit to thinking it even if we never verbalize those thoughts.  Look at the “Bound Set.”  If you had to list the in and out’s, could you come up with a few names or groups?

The tricky thing about the fence theory, though, is that it is quite easy, and perhaps almost an inborn tendency, to count others’ sins against them as being worse than your own.  Yes, I may be greedy, but at least I don’t _________. Or,  Well, OK, I might be a glutton when it comes to Costco’s Gourmet Chocolate Chunk Cookies, but who isn’t?!  I mean, it’s not like I’m polishing off a fifth of whiskey after dinner or ___________! You get the idea.  We shrink our own sins in comparison to others’.  We take ourselves out of the equation.

We Christians like to say that we believe that all sins are equal; that we’re all stained and imperfect and unworthy when compared to a Holy God.  That except for the atoning blood and sacrifice of Christ, we’d all be lost, forever separated from the Father.  We all believe that on paper.  We stand up and say it and we believe that.

But then why is it so hard for us to tear down our fences?  Why is it so hard to act on the fact that Christ wishes for no one to perish?  Is it because we believe that an unrepentant person belongs on the outside?  Is it because we know that not everyone’s going to heaven, so why not start drawing teams right now?  Get the jerseys ready and hit the courts?  Start keeping score?  Doling out penalties and fouls?

Mary then asked us to describe the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  Hands shot up:  They prayed [albeit vying for attention], they fasted, they tithed, they knew their Scriptures, they wanted to obey the Law… She stopped calling for contributions and let us sit in the silence.  I could feel what was coming.

“Doesn’t that sound like a lot of the good Christian people you know?…Think about it…AND YET, they *missed* Jesus.  They missed Him!  For all their prayers and Scripture reading and tithing and fasting, they missed Him.

Could this describe me?  Could it describe you?  Your church community?  With which theory do you most identify?  The idea that some are in, and some are out–with no chance of redemption?  Or the idea that redemption is possible–for anyone–if they only draw close to the Well?

Sit with this for a few minutes.  Or four days.  I’m not asking those questions rhetorically; I’d love to hear your thoughts, one philosopher to another.

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The Closeness of Home

In recent days I’ve had reason to consider my story.  I’ve had reason to ponder the forks in the road and the winding path that led me to where I am today.  Who would have ever thought that a simple move in the fifth grade would have forged so many ties that continue to this day?  Who could have seen, as a ten year-old, that the scope of time leading to the future was unfurling in God’s invisible sovereignty?

The home my parents bought back in 1985 is theirs yet today.  The street has seen change and consistency in equal measure: families coming and going, outgrowing the constraints of brick and mortar.  Others stayed and made due, planting trees and watching them grow to maturity. Tilling gardens and enjoying the slant of the sun on their backyard patios.  That’s my parents—patio people; wading through days and months on that street, tucked snugly beneath the leaves of a now giant Sycamore tree we planted decades ago.

It amazes me to look back and see the quiet hand of God in our move to that house: only one block away from a woman who remains, even now, one of my dearest friends.  Only one block away from a boy I barely knew growing up, but through the fire and heat of college has gone on to become a brother in the truest sense of the word.  Only one block away from the man I would fall in love with at 14…and go on to marry.

Going home to visit my parents ignites many memories, as it undoubtedly does for anyone who returns to their childhood home, and I am reminded how blessed I am to remain so close to them.  I know that I can call my mom and, if needed, I can be to her–or she to me–in 15 minutes.  There to help me bring a new baby home, stoop next to me in a laundry pile, stop by with a gallon of milk and some of her chicken soup…all gifts of proximity I am determined to appreciate fully.

My own mother did not enjoy such serendipity; she moved away from her own parents’ small Minnesota town right after high school, and visits with my grandparents became few, by necessity and geography.  I don’t know how she did it:  managing children and home and finances, burning cookies or not, making meals with older generations rarely present at the table—all things foreign to me (except the cookies maybe!)  Before email and blogs and FaceBook and text messaging and free long distance, communication was limited to weekends, and the minutes were rationed for us all.  We all stored up love from month to month, waiting for the calendar pages to turn to the months of summer when we’d pile in our Olds’ 98 Wagon and make the trek to the farmlands west of the Mississippi.  For me, the wait seemed eternal.  I can only imagine for my mom, missing her own mother and father, the wait must have wrung her heart dry.

As a mom myself, I can appreciate how raising children with the luxury and legacy of involved grandparents is an enormous gift.  I often wonder how my grandma, alone now in Minnesota, carries the weight of children far-off.  There’s an old Emmylou Harris song (Calling My Children Home) that I love and that brings her to mind every time I hear it.  I’m listing only part of the lyrics below, but I think it will be enough for you to feel the yearning of the mother’s voice:

~

Those lives were mine to love and cherish.
To guard and guide along life’s way.
Oh God forbid that one should perish.
That one alas should go astray.

Back in the years with all together,
Around the place we’d romp and play.
So lonely now and oft’ times wonder,
Oh will they come back home some day.

I’m lonesome for my precious children,
They live so far away.
Oh may they hear my calling…calling…
and come back home some day.

~

My husband and I are already indoctrinating our kids with the idea that they ‘aren’t allowed’ to move far away from us.  I know, I know–apron strings!  Still, going six or eight or ten months without their company, their smiles, their arms around me, would diminish any sparkle that might reside in my eyes.  I don’t want to be the mom they visit on Thanksgiving and for the Fourth.  I don’t want to be the grandma living time zones away.  I want the closeness of home.  The closeness of those I love and to whom I’ve given my life.

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Something to Brag About, Part 2

If you missed my post yesterday, I announced a two-day brag session to highlight the up-and-coming talent of two of my photographer friends. Yesterday I shared 5 of Lori’s photos [thanks, Lor], and today is Kamarah’s turn to sit with the knowledge that others are seeing–and appreciating–her great eye with a lens.

Because she willingly and lovingly takes so many photos of our kids, choosing my own top 5 would be very difficult. After all, what mom can see a picture of her kids in the spring grass and not love it?! So I worked jointly with Kam, and here are the ones we came up with. If you’d like to send your encouragement, check out her website or leave a comment on this post and I’ll pass it along.

Harvest Pumpkins

Harvest Pumpkins

Best Friends

Best Friends

Little League, little fan

Little League, little fan

Birthday bubbles

Birthday bubbles

Playing at the park--LOVE the colors of this photo

Playing at the park--LOVE the colors of this photo

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Something to Brag About, Part 1

This is the first of two posts that I’m doing to draw attention to the amazing skill of my two apprentice-photographer friends. Both feel the same ridiculous need to downplay their talent, insisting that the pictures they take are nothing special, that they don’t know how to edit properly, blah blah blah. Since they can’t see the forest for the trees, I’m bragging on their behalf.

Today it’s Lori’s turn for the spotlight; Kamarah can enjoy the glow tomorrow. Despite being relatively new on the scene, Lori as already *sold* one of her prints to the highest bidder and shows consistency in her eye for detail and unique beauty. When I asked her to choose her favorite photos for this entry, she sent several and gave me license to choose. Here are five favorites including, of course, my precious daughter. Since I don’t have a link for Lori, please use the comment section below to add your notes of encouragement. I’ll make sure she gets them. Thanks!
Makes me want a blue historic home in the spring...

Makes me want a blue historic home in the spring...

Gorgeous.  What more can you say?

Gorgeous. What more can you say?

I love the soft focus and surprise of leaves at the bottom

I love the soft focus and surprise of leaves at the bottom

My own sweet angel

My own sweet angel

Love the single lavender tulip

Love the single lavender tulip

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White Buckets = Love

I was sitting at a stoplight lost in the silence of our car when the solitary, melancholy piano took me away.   In an instant there was a loneliness–an isolation conveyed on the ivory that made me think of him.  The Walgreen’s sign flashed its specials and traffic raced through the intersection. People consumed by their own destinations, adrift in their own worlds.  What would it be like…to feel imposed on the world but not a part of it?  Things falling apart—dispair, anger, disbelief, confusion—and all the while hundreds of others, each living their own existences, brush past him not knowing or caring about what he isn’t going home to.

How many hurting people are passing through this life feeling that kind of isolation?  Is it the man in the next cubicle?  The woman staring at her grocery cart next to you?  Sometimes when I’m in places like airports and malls I marvel at all the stories and journeys taking place before me.  That cute little girl with the pigtails–is she loved?  The woman who I never see smile; is her marriage ok?  The guy who seems so tough at the driving range–is he there to practice his swing?  Or to escape?

As a Jesus follower, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that generally speaking, His church isn’t doing enough to help the hurting.  Sadly, when many hear the word “Christian,” the first thoughts that come to mind are:  judgmental, unloving, exclusive.  How ironic it is, really, that Jesus did not exhibit exclusivity when it came to those he talked to, ate with, … died for.  So why do we grow hedges and hang drapery to keep ourselves in? Why do we isolate ourselves, often times, from the hurts of those living on the other side of our walls?

This past Sunday at church I found myself in the midst of something so big and wonderful that my heart is still expanding to contain it.  Our pastor taught with a guest teacher on Acts 2, in which Luke, the author, paints in broad strokes a clear picture of what life was like in the early church.  While the sermon referenced texts in both the Old and New Testaments, we landed on these words from verses 42-48:

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. [highlighting mine]

“What would it look like,” our pastors postulated, “if we really did this.  If we gave to anyone as he had need…” They took us through the original Greek and expanded the meanings and challenged us.  They seemed to be saying, “If we, as Jesus Followers, actually took care of each other, might we enjoy anew the favor of all people?”  Might the lost be won over with our love?  Might they look at our generosity and outpouring of glad and sincere hearts decide that if that’s what Jesus is about, then I want it, too.

Rob bent over and collected a four-foot stack of white buckets.  “If you are here today, and you have plenty…think about giving away your plenty for those who have a need.  If you are here today and have nothing–except stacks of bills at home–come and share in our plenty.  Take what you need.”

The guitars started strumming and the tears began to roll.  I had a few one’s and a five in my pocket and I lept for joy to give this paltry offering, glad to do it and wishing that I had more to share.  As I returned to my gray chair, my thoughts immediately went to him.  I yearned for him to be there; yearned for him to be sharing in this bounty and generosity.  My friend came and grabbed my hand and hugged me.  “Let’s go get some money for him.  For Todd*.” My heart beat with love to know that she could read my thoughts and feel my pain, and that she still chose to walk with me through it.

Today I had the new and strange joy of delivering this gift.  Crumpled and stained with tears so they no longer lay flat, I tucked the bills in a card I’ve been saving for him for months, and drove to his house.  And stopped at a red light and watched the Walgreen’s sign flicker.  And listed to Adele and cried.  I walked into his garage and saw the remnants of a once-happy home.  Notes from the kids in marker on the inside walls.  The blue rectangular bike license plates nailed to the wall by the back door proclaiming the names of each family member; or at least, the family that used to live there.

I set the envelope down against the door and looked at those names and sobbed.  I stood in the darkness of his garage and sobbed and felt it all.  Helplessness.  Dispairing.  Disbelief.  Loneliness.  I looked again and again at that wall and realized that as far as we know, things in this home will never be quite the same.

And then God knocked the wind out of me, quite literally.   This same man with big questions and big problems and no church–this same man surprised me.  On the cupboard door next to the stack of names was a small black sticker.  One that I know very well.  One you may have seen around town if you live near Grand Rapids.  Next to an amalgamation of kids’ artwork, record album covers and band stickers was one proclaiming two simple, yet profound words: LOVE WINS.

LOVE WINS.  That’s from my church–that’s from Mars Hill.  That’s our “thing.”  I could *not* believe it.  Somewhere buried beneath all the questions and all the frustration and prayers that seem to rise to an empty sky, he still chooses to believe it.  He still chooses to slap it across his workbench cupboard and read it everyday.

I know that this doesn’t mean that he loves Jesus.  I know that this doesn’t even mean he’s ready to come back to church.  But I have concluded, in this world of confusion and religion, that it’s not about hosting a debate or having a list of answers.  It’s about Acts 2.  It’s about small steps.  It’s about love.  I have concluded that showing love…wins.

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Flab Control

Memorial Day | Pre-race

Memorial Day | Pre-race

You see, I’m not actually a runner.  I’m a poser of sorts.  A mom just trying to keep the flab under control long enough to make it through another bathing suit season.  When I was in labor for our first son, the nurse took my blood pressure [which is famously low] and just stared at the numbers.  “Wow.” She said.  “Are you a runner?  Do you run marathons?” I about spewed my epidural.  Ask anybody who has known me for longer than 9 months, and they’ll tell you.  Me running marathons is about as likely as me winning Top Chef with camping gear.

No, I’m not actually a runner.  But I do like the cute clothes that you get to buy if you’re willing to spend the money and want to get high-tech.  Note that I’m not wearing anything high-tech.  I’m sporting a pair of $19 ‘work-out capris’ from Gap and a shirt I got from Voice of the Martyrs.  Not exactly what you’d call ‘wicking’ material.  I’m blaming my time on that.

I ran in my first 5K last fall and just finished another one on Memorial Day with my BNE. I’m always amazed when I can run 3 miles without falling over, crying, fainting, or barfing in someone’s lawn.  In Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist talks about how for so long she abused her body or took it for granted.  How she overlooked the mystery and majesty of health and parts that work and grow.  Once she got pregnant and saw how her body–that same taken-for-granted body–nourished a new life, her perspective totally changed.  She appreciated it again.  She was thankful for it.

That’s how I feel when I run.  Despite my knees that crunch and sports bra that doesn’t quite get the job done, I feel strong.  I feel powerful.  For me it’s a real sense of accomplishment to finish a race and not have to stop to walk because it’s doing something I didn’t think I could do.   I’m not at all like those tanned gazelle-like size 4 girls who are fresh out of college and run 2 miles before the race as a warm-up.  Spare me.  No need for craziness at 8 a.m.

But I am out there, trying, and later this month, Lord willing, I’ll do another one.  My goals are simple:

1.   Finish

2.  Run the entire race

3.  Finish in under 30 minutes.

There it is!  In print!  There will be a whole slew of other moms and friends out there with me, conquering fears, overcoming obstacles, and doing what they didn’t think they could do.

So cheers to all you actual runners and all you wannabe’s like me.  Get a shirt that wicks and bra that works…and hit the road.

Posted in Fitness, Random Fun | 5 Comments

Shoot the Moon

Yesterday we got out the guns and clay pigeons and had ourselves a birthday.  This was no small shindig–this was a full-on, expertly crafted and perfectly executed surprise party for my brother-in-law, Jason, who will ring in 30 years in just a few days.

Now, I’m a city girl all the way in terms of my lifestyle and geographical location, but I do admit to living vicariously through my sister who lives a serene and idyllic life in the West-Michigan ‘countryside.’  She raises organic broiler chickens for…broiling…and has hens of all varieties which provide brown eggs IMG_1425 enough for me, several of my neighbors and all who frequent her roadside stand.  She hangs her clothes out on the line and cuts fresh flowers from the garden.  They raise strawberries and asparagus and other vegetables that I should try to eat more often.  I love going to her house and so do my kids; they play in the dirt, feed the chickens and admire the general country-ness of the country.

But obvious to all who know us, despite the pleasantries and afternoon visits, there are some differences between the country mouse and the city mouse.  Namely guns and clay pigeons. Which bring us back to the birthday party.

We pulled off the surprise and it was fantastic.  The night ensued with games, visiting and kids on a trampoline with a hole in its center.  This trampoline posed an interesting challenge for any young child: to be able to successfully navigate the circumference of the jumping surface without being shot into the air by a rival and slipping through the hole of doom.  My 7 year old thought this was just the cat’s pajamas, while my 3 year old fell, nearly to his death, and then begged for more [still crying!].

On my way over to the hillbilly golf area, I nearly lost my pork sandwich at the sound of a blast so loud I’m pretty sure the neighbors considered calling 911.  Heck yes–it was time for SKEET SHOOTIN’!  I hiked up my drawers and shuffled through the tall grass on the back side of the horse corral.  There they were:  men aplenty standing in a row like green plastic soldiers, guns cocked, orange thing flung through the air and hoots of glee unleashed when one was shot to smithereens.  It was awesome [read with your best Chris Farley voice].  Men turned into Christmas-morning boys with the women folk cheering on this raw display of masculinity.  Such excitement was bound to ignite some inhibitions, and before long, my sister stepped up to the dirt patch and unearthed her years-old sharp-shooter skills.  Previously wasted on such elementary exploits as squirrel and rabbit hunting, this was the big time, and there was an audience.

She was in her glory:  pregnant, in Wranglers and boots, toting a rifle with her long blond hair flapping in the breeze.  The only thing that would have completed the scene would have been this same Cindy, but barefoot.  She got her gun ready and obliterated the first pigeon.  My eyes almost well up with pride now, just writing about it.  She finished her exploits with a 2/3 record.

Cindy [& Jason] after dominating the pigeonsNot to be outdone, of course, the men returned to the range and decided that clay pigeons were mere child’s play.  I don’t know if getting a woman in the game scared them or shamed them [since she was the reigning champ] but the pigeons were road kill.  On to bigger and better things like sky-high escaped helium balloons which they quickly returned to latex particles.  What could be next?

Shoot the moon!!  Shoot the moon! my son yelled.  I think the guy with the camo-wrapped sharp-shooter [complete with a scope] thought about it for a second.  There certainly was enough testosterone to fuel such an attempt.  But instead they chuckled and returned to the box of flying orange clay discs.  How they acquired the name ‘clay pigeons,’ I don’t know, but they work a lot better than trying for the moon.

Happy Birthday, Jason.  We had a blast 🙂

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Martha Washington Sleeps Here

Well, as I indicated two days ago, I need Nate Berkus to come and rescue our poor excuse for a bedroom from the dismal decay of frump-induced bedding and lack of imagination.  I read recently that one’s bedroom should be reserved for “sleep and sex,” so I guess that means the kids’ books and Matchbox cars on my nightstand should go.  Setting the mood for those two gorgeous activities should, I dare to believe, involve creating a ‘love den’:  dark and lovely.  I’ve heard of others rejecting the notion of a ‘cave’ and opting instead for a ‘love palace.’  Nice.  Makes me think my knight in shining armor will be on his way shortly bringing with him gemstones, poofy dresses and glass slippers that click down brick floors.

Whatever you wish to call your bedroom, we can all agree that it *should* be an oasis.  In our home, however, the oasis has become something akin to the elephant graveyard from Lion KingDon’t ever go there, Simba! It is a dumping grounds in an impending-visitor emergency.  Imagine the scene with me:

Shoot!!  My mom just called and they’re on their way!!  Get these baskets of clothes off the sofa!  What’s all this other crap?!  Quick!  Toss it in our closet before they get here! [activate children scurrying with a look of terror and angst on their faces ala the Everybody Loves Raymond intro].

Our furniture, though just 8 years old, has lost its shine…and an entire layer of wood veneers from the top.  You’d think we were laying in bed playing with knives and spatulas!  [see photo]  Just recently we let our son fall asleep in our bed and returned to find that he had drawn monster trucks on the bare wood with ink pen. That’s a hot look.  Nothing says ‘rockin’ sex’ like rolling over to your son’s drawings ON THE FURNITURE.  I can practically smell the exhaust and hear the radio announcer yell in a gravelly voice, ‘Monster truck rally–SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!’  Just get your lid of chew and join the fun!

Note the drawings in the left hand blob of missing veneer

Note the drawings in the left hand blob of missing veneer

So far you’re realizing that my oasis includes strewn clothes, baskets of junk, and exhaust fumes.  This is why I need Nate Berkus.  I mean, who doesn’t need Nate Berkus?!  But seriously, I need help.

This past week we had a new mattress delivered.  It is pure heaven: a king size dream…with box springs still wrapped in plastic and sitting directly on our floor.  We are such pieces of work.  We’re trying to exercise control by foregoing the $100 frame-only option and putting that money toward the purchase of an actual headboard/footboard.  It’s all picked out but I’ve come to grips with the fact that they’re not going to let me have it just because I’m a nice person with a pathetic bedroom.  To top it all off, we are using this…”bedspread”…[you already know it’s trouble, don’t you!]…that we got from my husband’s mom.  It’s white with some kind of circle-raised-tufted designs and hanging things around the bottom.  I suppose you could call it a “fringe,” which only makes me cringe all the more.

To emphasize its hideousness, my husband, who could live his life rotating through the same 5 outfits, said to me, “It looks like it belongs in an Abraham Lincoln Museum.” Seriously.  If an ex-football coach whose favorite decor involves a certain ‘swoosh’ can detect the awful reality, anyone can.  I have since learned that this luscious textile does have a name:  Martha Washington Bedding.  For a Pottery Barn girl, this is sheer grandma-land that is better left to Bed & Breakfast owners in Maine.  I’ve tried to ratchet it up a notch by using some of our old pillows for color, but even they are not creating the distraction I was hoping for.

It's obvious we're missing a headboard because the photos are way too high [and small!]  Note the fringe and tufts of luxury...Martha sure knew how to get crazy!

Note: space for a headboard, tufts of luxury on the bedspread, and the fringe of fun along the bottom. Hmmmm....

So, people, please send your suggestions!  We’re brainstorming how to rectify this situation and acknowledge that we don’t have thousands to spend on a total overhaul.  Now, if Candice Olsen or Nate Berkus want to help out of the kindness of their sympathetic hearts, the door to my bedroom stands open and waiting.  It’s time for Martha to get home to George.

Posted in Decor/Organizing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Seed Planted

One of my dear friends, dear in a way that few are or can ever be, lives three time zones away in a small city just west of the Rockies.   Talking to her is easy, as it should be with such a friend.  We reminisce, laugh, give and receive advice, we enjoy each other.  Talking is easy, but finding time to connect can be difficult.   Between the challenges of managing the time difference and our combined seven children, we have succumbed to the idea that 5 or 10 minutes on the cell phone while sitting on a park bench are better than nothing.  We don’t have the hours of free time we had as newlyweds, and any time we do have free is quickly scavenged by husbands and little faces.  These small conversations allow us to keep up with each other’s lives until a spare moment provides a window for something more.  It works for us and I’m grateful for it, although the idea of having uninterrupted time together around a campfire or their kitchen table is a dream that makes me anxious for sleep.

This July that dreamy sleep is coming; we are packing up and heading West–one of my favorite destinations, especially in the summer.  Stitching our children into this tapestry of family friendship is something that gives me such joy.  What a gift: the trip, the time together with our own family and with theirs, years of memories, years of love.  I can see the hand of God in it in so many ways.  How He’s moved us and led us through time, moved us across states and through our histories.  Like all the dear friends in my life, I treasure them as the family I have chosen.

During one of our more recent conversations, it struck my friend that we’ll have to be mindful of our selfish desires to sit and visit uninterrupted [I’m starting to doubt that’s even possible] and work to not shush the kids away or hastily get them into bed at night.  How easy it can be, she argued, to want the kids to stay off playing, to be busy in another room, or to be angelically sleeping so that we can have adult time.   Even in a setting with many children [and adults that sometimes act like children], we need to be mindful of their need to have our attention, focus, and love.  The thought settled in and I thought a lot about how easy it is for me, at the end of a long day at home to want to rush through bedtime.  I try to tell myself that in 5 more years–maybe even only 3 more years–my little ones won’t be fighting for my lap and asking me to sing to them.  They won’t be waving a book in front of my face and pleading to hear it…again.  I tell myself to take it slow and enjoy it. But some nights seem to crawl by and everything in me desperately wants my place on the couch with no small voices crowding in my head.

Last weekend, with family over and the campfire ablaze, leaving the coolness of that spring evening to return inside with my cherubs was not on my list of thrills.  I shot a look at my husband who was too busy cramming a chip in his mouth and laughing at his brother to notice.  No help?! I wanted to protest.  I wanted to cram chips in my mouth, too.  I was selfish; I was only thinking of myself and not wanting to miss out on 20 minutes with the group.  And then…my friend’s voice rattled my heart.  I got a grip on my bad attitude and went to do bedtime.

And what a surprise was waiting for me when I did.  After tucking in three tired bodies and praying with them, I shared with my oldest two, “You know, you guys, tomorrow is Baptism Sunday at church.  It’s going to be a really special day…” I explained the significance of Baptism and reminded them what they’d be seeing and what it meant.  I re-lived the day I went into the water and came out to receive their hugs.  Both of them stared at me and hung on my every word.  Jonah asked really good and important questions.  His sister joined him and expressed the desire to talk more about it–and maybe it do it themselves next year, together, brother and sister.  We processed it and talked about Jesus and the Jordan and how He changed everything.

In that moment I knew:  a new gift was unfolding just for me because I took the time to sit with my kids.  Despite the campfire, our friends over, snacks being shared and drinks being sipped in my absence, I was inside being wrapped in the warmth of a moment totally unexpected.  Another gift nearly lost to my own blindness.

This July we’re heading West.  We’re heading toward a home we do not yet know filled with people we know intimately.  We’re going as a family, uniting with another family.  I’m praying that my own blindness, my own selfishness is held in check by the One who gave me such a precious moment with my kids last week.  A seed was planted then.  Not just, I hope, in the hearts of two kids captivated by the love of God, but in the heart of mom who needs to stick closer to the Vine.

Posted in Faith, Family, Friends, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nate Berkus, please?

Since I made an appointment to get my hair highlighted next month, I figured why not give my month-old blog a little makeover, too?   It’s almost summer and to me nothing quite evokes the beach like turquoise and lime, so I got suckered into this new layout for the time being.  More upbeat and wistful, I think, than the weeping willow in the mist, however romantic and poetic it may be.  I’m also mulling around a few fun additions that should come to fruition here shortly [if I can figure them out], so keep checking back.

So many WordPressers out there have lovely, colorful, unique sites that make mine seem a bit vanilla and cookie-cutter; I wish Nate Berkus was in the business of advising bloggers on texture and tonality!  While I’m thinking of it, there are a lot of things I wish about Nate [come re-do our bedroom!]… but I digress.

Enjoy the new look 🙂

Until tomorrow,

Jane

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Crazy Pants

Seriously.  My kids are going bonkers.  Straight up crazy pants with the possibility some kind of emotional disorder not completely ruled out.

Two days in a row we’ve dealt with hard-core temper tantrums and general inappropriateness courtesy of our little angels.  I swear my neighbors are either going to think I’m too busy sucking down a Corona in the kitchen to notice the screaming, or that the kids were once dropped on their heads and the damage is finally coming to the surface.  They say nice things and tell me not to worry, after all they say, we all have those days, but honestly—this is a 20/20 episode waiting to happen!  And with my luck Barbara Walters will come out of her 20/20 retirement just so that she can tisk-tisk me and then talk about it on The View.

Well, I actually don’t drink and the kids were never dropped on their heads, but I’m betting there’s a full moon tonight.  How many of you moms out there know what I’m talking about? [see my cool poll and vote!]  For all you non-moms out there, how many times have you witnessed such a commotion and thought the parents were a worthless excuse for rule-makers and that they should have been kicked out of the gene pool before things got messy?  [you know who you are!]

Yesterday one of my sons got honked off that I tagged him out at first base during our backyard baseball game [mark that one on your century calendars–Jane playing baseball?!]  Rather than shrugging his shoulders and saying “Rats!” or something as benign, he decided that running away from me was a much more reasonable and profitable strategy.  I spent the next 50 minutes–I’m not kidding–either chasing him or disciplining his ridiculousness.  It was not only embarrassing that he could not deal with his dismay rationally, but it was a revealing look into his heart that he disobeyed me by not returning to the house when asked to.  Needless to say, his free time options are severely limited this week and I think the little chat his dad and I had with him has started to sink in; he said he’s learned ‘not to mess with dad.’

Today my precious little mini-me, as my own mother will attest to, decided to make non-sharing a new sport and told her friend to ‘shut up.’  Yep, that’s right.  Classic choice.  Just great.  My husband and I don’t use that word, so when Barbara shows up I’m going to blame it on the fifth graders on her bus.

It’s not only the disappointment that I feel as a mother, it’s the compounding of two days of stern talks, consequences and all the rest.  Everyone has their own way of teaching and disciplining, and to be honest, I thought we were swimming with the current, staying afloat.  Today I’m pretty sure the undertow dragged us under and possibly cut our knees on the hard ocean floor .

How do we know when to step back and let them just scream their guts out and ignore them?  When do we chalk it up to exhaustion?  Should I have let the girls figure out how to share on their own?  Maybe when my son ran away from me I should have just let him go [to our neighbor’s garden].   In our quest for perfect children, though we would never admit to it, do we meddle too much?  Do we hover just a tad to low?  Breathing over a shoulder that belongs to the body of a kid growing more and more independent?

Of course we can’t let blatant rebellion and disobedience slide and think we’ll escape the consequences of such a decision; but as kids grow and make choices, I wonder about the how much and how often and… how.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you care to comment!



Posted in Discipline Issues, Kids, Motherhood/Mommy Duties | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Roller Derby

I’ll admit it:  I had A BALL.  A ball!  Jonah, our 7 year-old celebrated his birthday last week and decided that nothing says ‘party’ like r-o-l-l-e-r   s-k-a-t-i-n-g.  I guess once you’re 7 good times can only roll with ample amounts of speed, danger, and loud music [does that ever change?]  At least this time around still doesn’t involve car keys–just some old wooden floors at a neon-frocked establishment that definitely hit its peak around 1989.

We invited a few of his friends and a cousin to this wheeled celebration, and when they arrived most made a B-line for the roller blades rather than old school skates.  Kids these days–don’t they know that you get much better handling, ease of balance and a more controlled ability to stop with the originals?  You remember them: tan suede, dark brown laces, and matching orange wheels and front stopper.  Baby.  What a style statement.  I don’t know what Stacy and Clinton would say, but I said heck yes to those sweet little size 8’s and went to the nearest bench to lace up.

Standing up and skating on carpet over to the rink entry point was a bit trickier than I remember it being at 10.  I nearly landed on my brother a few times, but figured it only garnered empathy with the struggling kids who were spending time bonding with the tile floor by the birthday table with legs splayed out sideways.  Gliding past the line of newspaper-reading dads and cell phone-talking moms gave me just enough time to re-hone my skills.  The rink was mine for the taking.  I was Napoleon Bonaparte ready to conquer any and all who dared get in my way.  Except the group of 7 year olds I was supposed to be nurturing and entertaining, of course.

The wood floor, long since warped and wavy, sent me back through time.  I looked up between the glittering the specks of silver splashed around by the disco ball and noticed a ceiling with tiles missing, exposing an old wooden dome roof.  It was beautiful in the way that old buildings are beautiful.  I wondered how many people have rolled past these same walls under this same ceiling over the years, listening to Madonna turn into Poison turn into Nirvana turn into Jay-Z.

It was fun thinking about all the memories that seemed momentous to me while strapped into skates:  my first ‘lady’s choice’ when Nick from 3rd grade held my  hand and Lionel Ritchie crooned Say You, Say Me.  In 9th grade, circling round and round trying to spot that boy to see who he was talking to, because he wasn’t talking to me.  What would I say to that high school freshman now?  I’d tell her not to worry—that she’d end up marrying him and they’d have beautiful kids that they’d take roller skating, too.

In high school I was the reigning champ when it came to races.   I loved to race because I actually won, something I’m still rather unfamiliar with.   I remember to this day who my main competition was, but I’ll protect her pride and her identity for now.  No need to rub it in once you pass the decade mark.  I won a lot of Coke slushes thanks to my skating prowess, and even more when the DJ did “Name That Tune” competitions.  Chalk up another Coke slush for knowing that Buster Poindexter sang Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot! Pretty cool for a dorky girl who couldn’t serve a volleyball if her life depended on it or keep proper score in a basketball game.  Roller skating was my thing.

Unfortunately, I seem to be gifted in areas that are inconsequential in real life.  Sure, I may kick booty on the rink, but so what?  There are no more drive-ups for me to work at and we have too much carpet in our home for me to skate and mop at the same time, tragic as that is.  All I have left are my fantasies of joining the roller derby or petitioning the Olympic people to finally make it an official sporting competition.  Seriously–if BMX is legit, it’s really only a matter of time.  And “Name That Tune?”  Good for nothing!   They have an iPhone app for it!

Jonah’s party gave me a chance to feel free and fast and unstoppable.  In fact, I felt pretty certain that the manager was watching and considering me for her next open skate-police-with-a-whistle position.  I don’t quite have the dance-while-skating thing down, but now that I think about it, I can’t dance in regular shoes either.  I am, however,  pretty good with backwards skating, turning a sharp corner, and avoiding small children clomping along near the walls.  No small feat, I assure you.  I’m preparing my resume.

In the midst of the Saturday afternoon excitement, it happened:  the skate-police-turned-DJ announced a RACE!!  Oh my.  I felt my palms start to sweat.  No mention of a free Coke, but who cares.  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  A line of 12 year-old boys wearing jerseys and backwards hats clamored for the chance to burn some testosterone and shot out to the start line as I stood frozen on the stained carpet.  I looked at my husband for some direction.  Of course I knew I could win, I just didn’t know if I should go out there.  My thoughts rocked from not wanting to embarrass the 12 year olds to wanting to elbow them out of the way to show them that a 33 year old mom could still kick their junior high asses.

Oh no!  Too much thinking!!  The whistle blew!  They were underway!!  I missed my shot at Olympic gold—I mean, fame in front of 17 people in Byron Center.  The little things I cling to.  The boy with the white tank top won easily and I shook my head with pity.  Poor excuse for speed, really, but his legs were about the size of my arms duck-taped together.  No match for my powerful thighs or years of experience.  The DJ gave a last call for one more race and I finally started skating out onto the wood alone when he said, “OK, if there’s no one else, let’s get back to the music!” Dang it!!  Missed it again!  I cooly tried to snap my fingers and swerved around like I just couldn’t wait to join MC Hammer declare to the world that you can’t touch this.  And by this I mean my sweet mom-on-skates-skills.  I don’t think anyone noticed my ploy.

In an effort to stay away from questionable song lyrics with the kids from school [ MOM!…Guess what song they played at Jonah’s party?!] we requested some classic John Denver and sang all the words with pride, along with the grandmas and other old-timers glad to hear about mountains and eagles instead of someone who’s a “lady in the street but a freak in the bed.”  Ahem. No comment.

The party ended with cupcakes and presents and smiling, freckled faces.  It was a great day and so much fun to hang out with the kids and show them that mom actually knows how to do something besides pack lunches.  It was great to have my daughter look at me with pure delight in her smile, begging me to pull her along faster, and to not let go of her hand.  It was great to have it all, and have the memories to myself.

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Bye Bye, Baby

My five-year old daughter is captivated at the thought of a new cousin in the family.  Each time we ride out to my sister’s house she asks me,

“Mom, how big do you think Aunt Cindy’s belly will be?”

“Probably not much bigger than it was last week, Honey.”

I survey her eyes of wonderment in the rear-view mirror and marvel at how her comments are such an innate part of her girl-ness.  Her fascination with gestation is unique among our kids; our two boys offer no more than a passing acknowledgment of this new life, followed quickly by something along the lines of, “Can I have some more Cheetos, Ma?”

But Avery, she ponders it.  Rolls it around in her cute little head and tries to calculate when the doctor will be able to hear the pulsing miracle of a new heartbeat in my sister’s womb.  During our last pregnancy I got a full-color magazine from my O.B. that detailed the month-by-month changes that God orchestrates while He weaves together muscle and ligament and organ, bathes it all in life-giving blood and puts flesh on the newest member of a family.  I gave this booklet to my daughter and she pours over it.  My oldest son just laughs hysterically at the 9 month birthing pictures that make it look like the baby is “coming out of her butt.”  Poetic, huh?  That’s a boy for you!

Instead, my daughter asks, “How many weeks is Aunt Cindy’s baby?  Because ya’ wanna know what mom?  If her baby is 12 weeks it has eyelids and fingernails!” It’s amazing to look back through the pages of actual photographs and realize that I was three-times a helpmate to Heaven in this growing and developing.

Every time I read Jeremiah 1:5, the depth of this God-woman partnership astounds me: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”  To think that it’s not just the length of each femur or the color of each eye, but the personality, the likes and dislikes, the talents and interests of that person that God knows.  Intimately.  And to think that He asks me to be a part of it!  Intimately!  The reality of it is so profound that I have lately been feeling more and more a shade of sadness settling over my heart when I think that I will not be part of that reality again.  My husband and I have decided that if we have anything to say about it, three children feels pretty complete, and let’s not try for gravy.  I’m satisfied and full of peace with our decision, yet…there is something…unsaid.

In talking to other mothers who are also staring at a complete picture, I’m discovering there is a grieving, a releasing, a pulling away.  While I don’t like to go through life Kleenex in hand, sobbing over “lasts,” it needs to be confessed that there are days that seem to close the door on certain chapters I’d like to leave dog-eared.  Like snuggling with a little one that so perfectly fits in the crevasse of your elbow in the dusk of evening.  Like hearing the coos that come from a sweet, milky, toothless mouth.  Like baths in the kitchen sink.

About two weeks ago our youngest son started riding a two-wheeler without training wheels.  My baby, at 3 1/2, is helmet-clad and tearing down the street like a bat out of hell yelling, “DIRT BIKE RIDER!!” I’m sorry–what just happened?  Was he not in diapers just last summer?  Was he not safe in my arms only a second ago?  Where did that time go?

I’m thankful that this time it’s Cindy who’s pregnant.  I’ve got bad knees and I like my new jeans too much to go down that road again—and don’t even get me thinking about how I could barely sleep for the entire last trimester!  Still, it’s something that I’m acknowledging is a loss for me.  My stage of mommyhood has more to do with explaining sperm and eggs than it does with that sperm + egg combo needing to be fed at 3 a.m.  The little fingers are losing their dimples at our house, and the little toes are growing out of their shoes.

So to all you sisters out there who are not yet mothers, those of you busy building a baby right now, or those of you with very little ones at your sides, here’s a reminder to treasure it.  I know you hear it all the time from the old ladies in the grocery store…but here’s a not-so-old lady telling you the same thing.  Pretty soon you’ll declare your womb closed for business, and you’ll be raising your family while the world swirls around you.  Pay attention.  The little moments are the things that fill up your heart; the heart that started beating inside your own mom when the miniature fetus-version of you was just 18 days old.

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Sacred Laundry

Today is going to be one of those days, I can tell already.   While getting my son ready for school I was, as any multi-tasking mom would be, unloading the dishwasher.  I actually startled myself by saying “YAY!” after completely emptying the top rack. It just slipped out of my mouth, like the first time you swear in front of your mom and then quickly slap an ashamed hand over your dropped jaw.  What is wrong with this picture?? I must really be desperate to check something off the list!!…or perhaps I should talk to a specialist about my current mental condition.

It’s barely 8:30 in the morning, and already I’m sizing up the competition: laundry, dirty dishes, clean clothes that are folded but not put away.  You know the list.  Endlessly full of tasks that, while gratifying to complete, are less than gratifying to actually do. My mental energy is being spent wondering things like:  If I called my husband and begged him to take a personal day, would he come home to help me clean? or  Does everyone have a house that gets this messy? I’m sure not.  But the amount that I have to do today seems so overwhelming, I really don’t know where to start.  I just want to go back to bed and snuggle with my youngest and feel the cool air from the nearby open window.

This balancing act can be difficult for me; that is, balancing my ‘duties’ around the house and still making time to go on bike rides with the kids, take them to the library, play outside and whip up a batch of cookies before the school bus returns the rest of our family to our doorstep.  It’s hard for me because I don’t like living in a mess.  It’s not relaxing to sit and watch the NBA Finals with my husband while simultaneously staring at our dining room table that is literally covered in PILES of laundry.  My husband?  He could care less.  I mean, he loves a clean house, but in that moment, at 9:30 at night, he just wants to sit down–check that–lay down on the couch and relax.  Easy for him, I think, because he gets to leave this bombed-out hole tomorrow morning!

Contributing to this disastrous abode was my brilliant decision to spend the entire day yesterday outside planting flowers.  I don’t say that sarcastically–it was a really great day.  I threw all care and fashion sense to the wind and even put on a sun visor while I planted.  I felt like a Florida retiree: sun visor, sunglasses, tank top and jean shorts, digging in the dirt and hoping my lovely flat of zinnias would endure my amateur gardening skills.  The kids were outside helping me and before long, even a few neighbors wandered over or waved encouragement from their car window.  One neighbor who I’m still getting to know actually stayed and helped me weed our side flower bed.  Wow!  The sun on my shoulders, the wind in my hair that needs a haircut…it was awesome.  I’m so glad spring is finally here.  BUT…  With the front yard wearing a fresh splash of color, I opened the front door of our home and was welcomed by the reality of life inside these walls.  What a drag.

Years ago I was given a tape [remember when church had cassette tape ministries?!] of a sermon that our pastor, Rob, gave called, “Welcome to the Staff.”  This tape has given me so much fresh thought and hope while I drudge through my dirty days.  In it he teaches from Deuteronomy 29:2-6 where Moses and the Israelites are recalling their 40 years wandering in the desert.  The fascinating part of this text is verse 5:  “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.”   While I will not even attempt to replicate Rob’s message, the gist of it was that the part of the Israelites’ sacred history–the part that Moses takes the time to notice, the part that makes it into the Bible, the part that is worth writing down–is something as mundane and ordinary as clothes and shoes.  Our pastor goes on to encourage us:  how many mundane and ordinary parts of our day are actually contributing to sacred history?  The boring, repetitive jobs we all do, the mindless tasks we tackle each day…could they be part of something bigger?  After all, Rob points out, do you think even one of the Israelites ever looked at their dusty stinky sandals during those 40 years and thought, “People will be talking about these for 2000 years!”

He continues to explain that the Jewish writers of Scripture understood that “holiness and meaning was found in the everyday–not in extracting yourself from…the rituals of every day.”  Isn’t that true?  He references other texts to further his point, and then lands on one of my favorites:  Colossians 3:23.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Paul, the writer here, is underscoring the point.  Whatever you do.  There is no separation between sacred and secular, spiritual and nonspiritual, Jesus and world.  To the believer, it is ALL for the Lord.  ALL of life is spiritual.  ALL of life is about serving and loving, praising and worshipping.

Even laundry?

Yes.  Even laundry.  Even sweeping the floor and wiping butts and noses.  This perspective has so helped me re-think my days and what I do here in this house.  God notices.  Not whether or not I leave streaks on the windows or miss a spot on the table, but he sees me.  More importantly, he sees through to my heart.

Today I’m determined to keep my focus on the fact that my life right now is my ministry.  Today I’m determined to remember that whatever I do, I should work at it with all my heart, because it is the Lord I’m serving. I may not have the balancing part down to a science.  Somedays I work too hard on the house and don’t play enough with my kids.  Other days I play too much and get nothing done.  And wear a sun visor.

But I’m trying to figure it out.  I’m trying to remember that it may be a struggle, but it may also be how God refines me.  I’m trying to remember, this day, that laundry can be sacred.

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Communion

This past Sunday I had the privilege of sharing in a most sacred mystery by helping serve Communion at our church.  When my best friend asked me if I’d be interested, I didn’t know how to respond.   Even though I’ve seen it done hundreds–maybe thousands–of times by other ordinary men and women, and even though I grew up in a Protestant church, I suddenly felt like only a priest should be handling the elements.  I felt inadequate.  Unholy.  Unqualified.  What did I know about administering Communion?  Shouldn’t somebody do a background check or at least spy on me for awhile to make sure I don’t yell at my kids or cheat on my taxes?

As a nod to my priestly concerns, I wore a black button down shirt and arrived to church early.  I checked the planning sheet for my station and serving partner, trying to still my mind and quiet my heart before the service began.  The large, imposing beams of our wooden cross, so simple a killing machine, yet so beautiful, stood under the lights at the center of the stage.  Two years ago, as partakers in another sacred mystery, I had the joy of nailing my declaration of faith to this same cross before I was baptized next to this same stage.  The same best friend went down into the water with me: both of us washed new and clean.  Old believers living a new kind of faith.  Young women both, joining the company of ages-old saints striving to live out the way of Jesus.  Trying to grasp the love that was stretched out for us on those beams.

When it was time for us to go up to the front of church to serve, I started to feel myself pull inward.  My fellow Jesus-walkers on their feet, praying communally, and me, eyes glued to the simple wooden bowl of wafers in my hands.  Are you OK? my partner asked me.  Yes.  No.  I don’t know. I wanted to say all these things, but managed a weak assurance instead.  It’s hard to describe the enormity of what I was feeling.  Overwhelmed by the meaning of it all.  Overwhelmed by love.  Overwhelmed by what I was saying to each pair of eyes that met mine:  This is the Body of Christ, broken for you.

The line stretched beyond my line of vision.  One by one they came: coifed and fancy. This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. Tatooed and dred-locked:  This is the Body of Christ, broken for you. Young and downcast, old and frail, strong, weak, sick, unsure, teary-eyed, rejoicing.  I looked them each in the face and the force of history and the weight of these words hit me.  THIS is the Body of Christ, broken for you.  This is the Body of Christ, broken for YOU.  The sacrifice came alive.  Each one of these people, fully excepted, fully loved, fully died-for, fully redeemed.  Before time began.  Before even given the choice to accept or reject Him, He embraced them—each of us.   I swallowed hard and felt my $6 mascara slip down and away from my lashes.  Did they feel it?  Did they feel His love?  Do they know Him?  Do they understand?  I breathed in, breathed out.

Our worship leader was singing in the background and I was singing in my heart.  Standing on that side of the gift—on the giving side—was an experience filled with such power I think I might have actually been glowing with some kind of supernatural spirit-love.  I am no priest and as my family will readily tell you, I am far from perfect.  But how wonderful to think that I don’t have to perfect to approach the throne of our God.  How wonderful to think that we can come to Him as we are: black shirt and tears in our eyes and stained and damaged, and he accepts us completely.

Matt, my serving partner took the elements and turned to me: This is the Body of Christ, broken for you.  This is the Blood of Christ, shed for you. My eyes closed.  My eyes were opened.

Joining in such a God-drenched moment in time is something that can only be described, I’m convinced, by words not yet contained in our language.

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Last One on the Kickball Field

Unless you had the good fortune of being a fast runner and skilled kicker, I think everyone can remember the feeling of being the last one chosen for teams when the kickball was rolled at recess.  That was always me:  lined up on the place where dirt meets grass, waiting.  Standing at the ready, toes jabbing nervously into the dust, trying desperately to look around without making eye contact with the captains in charge of each person’s kickball destiny.   Person to my left, an early pick.  Person to my right, not a classically-trained kickballer, but still better than me.

The feeling of being left out is something not easily forgotten.  I’ve gone on to have a great life and have managed to put my ill-fated kickball career behind me without any counseling or medication.  I don’t think about those days much, except to pray that my own children will not be ridiculed if they do in fact lack the bronze ring of the recess playground:  athletic ability.  Still, there’s a new field of play that, if I’m honest, is slowing picking the old scab of rejection.  This time, the wound pickers are those sitting to my left and right around the dinner table on Sunday afternoons: my extended family.

Comments, subtly inserted into conversation: Remember that waitress at dinner last weekend?  hahaha… or  Hey–you left this at our house last time we hung out… There I sit, lined up where the table meets my stuffed abdomen.  Fork moving from corn to potatoes and back again.  I take a drink and nudge my husband under the table, wondering why they don’t hear the elephant shifting its weight in the smallness of the room.  Where were we that night?  Why didn’t our phone ring?  Not even a mercy invite?Then again, do I want a mercy invite?? I used to count at least one of these people as a dear, dear friend.  In fact, friend first, relative second.  So why has this new curtain dropped between us?  I haven’t quite figured out how to process this.  There are a lot of layers that need to get peeled away, and I’m not sure I’m the one for the job.  Do I really want to know the answers?

This past week I happened upon Dr. Gary Chapman on the radio, talking to singles about dating and God and singleness.  He took some time to address the issue of rejection and what a man [or woman] might mean if they say something along the lines of, ‘I just don’t think we have the chemistry we need to move forward in this relationship.‘  What is the stunned person [probably the girl] to do–to say–in the face of such blunt, albeit gentle, rejection?  And does the non-chemistry-feeling boy owe this poor, bumbling, unacceptable girl an explanation?  After all, what does he mean when he states that they don’t have “chemistry?”  Certainly, any introspective girl would rightly wonder!  Dr. Smalley said that in general, he does not think the rejected party should probe deeper.  After all, he pointed out, if the non-chemistry-feeling boy wanted to share his list of your offending qualities, he would have told you.  So, he concludes, accept this miserable boy’s decision and move on.  No questions asked.

In light of this argument, I find myself warring over what to do with the kickballers at Sunday dinner.  If they don’t feel the “chemistry” between themselves and us, why dive into that murky pool?  Why wait to hear their list of our offenses?  On the other hand, if I need to ask forgiveness for something, I welcome the opportunity to erase the slate and move forward.  I would hate to think that something I have done–or failed to do–has impaired something I always regarded as loving and communal.

Families are weird sometimes, but the beauty of families is that we are supposed to be one team.  There should be no choosing sides.  No picking her over me.  No loving her better for some arbitrary and juvenile reason.  It should be a place of warmth and safety and acceptance.

When the ball is rolled out next Sunday, I’m praying that the teams will slowly settle into the dirt and that there will be no more separation: whether perceived or actual.  No one wants to be the last person standing on the kickball field, toes covered with dust, heart sinking.  I’m too old to be worried about my own family rejecting me.  I’m too old to spend mental energy wondering why my family wasn’t asked to join the game.  But I still care.  And it still hurts.  Whether at recess or in life, it still hurts.

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Blogging: Take 2

Well, I attempted this last fall, and here I am making a go of it again.

Here’s to consistency, honesty, thoughtfulness, and hopefully, good writing.

Thanks for reading!   Jane

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