15 November 2013

added to the list. wait, hold the list.

Okay, I have something I want to add to the "list of things I do not do." I think. Maybe. Oh, I don't know!  Grr. You'll understand my angst as soon as you see the idea.

Elf on the shelf.

On one hand, it is the epitome of what I don't- should not- do.  We don't even really do Santa, for crying out loud!  I just saw a Pinterest pin of a friend, that boasted 20 IDEAS FOR ELF ON THE SHELF!! WITH A SHOPPING LIST AND A SPREADSHEET OF DAYS TO KEEP TRACK OF THE IDEAS SO YOU WILL HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED AND IT WILL BE SO FUN!!  Or something basically like that.  And seeing the hype (shopping list?! spreadsheet?!) it just made me so. tired.  The thing I know deep down in my soul is that I need less things in my life that require lists and spreadsheets, etc. Things that confuse my kids more about what to get excited about at Christmas.

But.  But. I love play and silliness and laughter and surprise.  And creativity! And special things that make memories.  And Elf on the Shelf has those things in spades.  Like, who doesn't want their kid to wake up in the morning and burst out laughing because the elf is riding in underwear suspended from a helium balloon, floating through the family room (thank you Pinterest for that visual, btw).

So I'm left clutching at compromises. Can I do some version of this?  Minus the "he's watching your behavior and reporting it to Santa" element?  Minus the "purchase the helium balloon before oldest child gets off school but after finishing the grocery shopping and baby's nap" stress?  I don't know.  No neat, easy answers here!  I'll be pondering this a day or two.  Because I have plenty of time, right?  Christmas is a loooong ways away. Right?

Stay tuned for a Christmas tradition that I AM ready for, and I love, and it's easy.  And in a perfect world it would save my children from attitudes of entitlement. And materialism. And the flu. And terrorists.  Okay, maybe not all that.  And it does involve me venturing into our spider-y basement and opening sketchy boxes.  (Shiver). But still, stay tuned for Christmas-y goodness!

01 November 2013


I've been trolling Pinterest again.  So fun!  And I pinned a few Christmas ideas.  So, sue me.  At least it's November!  And it's not like I'm wearing Christmas sweaters and belting out Amy Grant's first Christmas album.  Yet.  Not that I have a problem with anyone doing that.  I'm just not organized enough to have all that holiday stuff handy this week.

But as I was clicking away, I realized that my mind was shuffling the pins I saw into three categories: First, things I could do- and might want to do- very soon.  Like my classic favorite Pinterest example: glowsticks in the kids' bath at night.  Easy-peasy, cheap, and heavy on the fun & memorable quotient.  My next group of pins are the, "Maybe someday, not this week, could happen, it looks cool" group.  And last but not least is the category, "Never going to happen.  Realistic assessment says... nope." For me, building ANYTHING using wood acquired from pallets fits this category perfectly.

Now here is the thing.  I'm not jealous of anyone else's pins, especially the ones in the last category.  You built an indoor playhouse/ tree fort out of pallets and painted it to look like Cinderella's castle?  Cool!  More power to you!  And my response to the first category of pins is kind of gratitude.  Like, you have easy and meaningful activities that will make my hours between nap and dinner prep less... slow? Sign. me. up.

It's my inner response to the middle group of pins that became a little less subconscious tonight, that has me fascinated.  I realize now that when I see an idea that I know I COULD do, that might be fun and cool, but that I know I can't really (realistically) tackle right now- I tense up inside just a little.  There is a tension in evaluating whether I should do something now, or not.  SO... I think I would be capable of painting a sign that says, "Eat, Drink, Give Thanks." And I kinda want to. It would look great in our kitchen.  Or, I could make a few and sell them!  Yeah, like that Proverbs 31 woman, making and selling things to keep her family dressed in purple, or whatever!  But then I realize that I can't handle a big craft like that right now when I can't even handle my dishes, laundry, and clutter.  So I am a little disappointed and frustrated inside.  Therein lies the danger of Pinterest for me.  It's not in comparing myself with what other women can afford with their money, but what they can afford with their time, maybe? Or comparing myself with some hypothetical version of me that has more free time?  (Because- less kid time? Ouch.)

So I am going to tread- or click- more carefully.  I want to be conscious of this tension I'm creating, and work to have two mental categories: yes, and no.  No more "could/should" in the middle that stresses me out. And if I can't handle that, then a Pinterest fast, perhaps.

But not until I find all the cool free Christmas printables.

15 October 2013

mother lovin' pumpkin

I was looking absentmindedly at my son's pumpkin tonight.  The one that he got on his class trip to the pumpkin farm.  He loves it wholeheartedly, as only very young children love personally selected autumn gourds.  He wanted to decorate it, but knew he didn't want to carve it.  It's a little, "pie" pumpkin, so I thought he was on the right track with not carving it.  I suggested painting it, but that wasn't what he wanted.  He finally got a permanent marker (with permission) and went to town. After carefully drawing eyes, ears, mouth, nose, chin, hair, and dimples (dimples! ha!), he named it.  "Two Peas".  I don't know the significance of the name, but he explained to me that he meant the kind of peas that come in a pea pod, and two of them.

On the side of his pumpkin I can see in the dim light of my lamp where he wrote the name.  In black ink above and behind the left ear are the words, "Too qes." Two peas. (He wrote the "p" backwards.) It won't be seen on Pinterest- it's a pumpkin that only a mother could love.  And when I see that neat yet misguided writing, it makes my heart swell.  He is so sweet, and creative, and tries so hard.  He badgered me to tell him how to spell "two" and when I told him and he realized he'd done it wrong, he was crushed.  Crying, the whole works.  Didn't have the heart to tell him later about the backwards "p."

Isn't it funny that when I see his effort and his mistakes, it makes me love him more?  At least, (if I'm honest here) when his mistakes aren't costing me extra time, money, or energy.  His goofy, misspelled pumpkin is endearing.  I see who he is, when I look at it.  I know he's trying hard, has come a long ways, and will be a great writer- one day. So... why is it so hard for me to remember that my honest mistakes and imperfections don't make it impossible for God- and others- to love me?

And why can't I keep my heart soft when my boy makes honest mistakes of the other kind- the kind that make me late for church, or make me spend 38.9 seconds wiping up a spill, or cost me 25 cents worth of wasted colored cardstock? Like my harsh impatience is what's gonna teach him the greater life lessons of responsibility and respect? Can I wrench my eyes away from myself long enough to see that in those areas of behavior he's trying hard, has come a long ways, and will get there someday?

So, there are my deep, pumpkin-inspired thoughts. October seems to be a month for deep thinking here!  Lest you think I'm getting too serious, I will tell you that I and my older children have been laughing like hyenas about poop.  C's first explosive, nasty, diaper blow-out diarrhea, to be exact. So there's that.

08 October 2013


I feel like God is trying to teach me something, and at times it's painful.  Like, as I get fresh waves of understanding, spurred on by memories and connections, they feel like contractions.  This week I feel doubled over and gasping, spiritually speaking.  The awkward and embarrassing memories and realizations are coming faster and more frequently, and I am afraid.  Afraid that I will go back to the blur and numbness of the daily grind, and forget the aha's.  Like I wish I could spend a week thinking and praying so I can push through. Give birth to whatever this is.  It's tied to my identity- that I've continued to be a slave to others' approval in ways I thought I had outgrown long ago. That the idea that someone didn't like me, 20 years ago, someone I haven't spoken to in almost as long, still makes me tremble and feel panicked.  And I want to scream to myself that THE GOSPEL IS ALL I HAVE.  Over and over until I get it.  Right now Pandora is playing, "I need you, how I need you.  Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, My God, how I need you." Cue ugly cry.

But I don't want to just feel this.  I need to unpack it, memorize it, get it into my bones.  Think and do and breathe and BE different.

If you had told me a week ago that I'd be feeling contractions, spiritually, I'd have nodded and believed that I understood.  But I wouldn't have.  In my 38 years I haven't felt quite exactly like this, before.

It wasn't me that started this, and rushing it will get me there no faster- much like childbirth. I think I have to wait to receive the next part of this.


06 October 2013

drawing lines

I am reading Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet, borrowed from our local library after several weeks of waiting.  It didn't take me too many pages to figure out that I was going to have to own a copy of this book and read it again and again, marking up pages and letting the truths seep in. Reminds me of Traveling Mercies by Ann Lamott.  It not only makes me want to shelf the idea of writing a book, but it makes me question why all these other women are writing- because Niequist is. that. good.  Why bother, as long as she keeps writing?

At any rate, one of the many things that struck me whilst reading Bittersweet was her idea of keeping a list of things she doesn't do.  That in this mad crazy pretend world of Pottery Barn Kids catalogs, Pinterest, and the like, we can't do it all.  So she works at being intentional and listening to the Spirit about what she's called to do, and then making it clear to herself what she CAN'T do if she wants to do those well.

After a tiny bit of thought and a huge bit of desire to drop the dross and live fully, here is where I am drawing the line.  Here is what I want to say I DON'T DO:
paint furniture
make crafts out of vintage items
have a pet.  or poultry.

This list exists so that I CAN:
Cook well
Be a photographer
Be creative/ artistic once in a while
Spend time with my kids
Read and pray
Do my basic functional adult tasks

Things on the bubble for me right now:
hosting frequently
writing more intentionally

And I think that as I live with this idea this week, more things will accumulate on the "I don't" list. At least I hope they do.  Because when I realized that I can say, "Yeah, I just don't garden," it was immediately as if a weight lifted.  It was palpable. I didn't realize that being a crummy, virtual non-gardener was making me feel a degree of guilt and shame.  Wasn't every good and perfect mom supposed to organic garden WITH their children?  And make gluten-free recipes with the produce joyfully harvested from said garden?  It just isn't happening that way.  Aside from the fact that my ability, energy, and motivation to "do my basic functional adult tasks" is so low that it's causing conflict between me and the mister.  If I get time away from the laundry hamster wheel, I need to do something with my free time that fills me up, not stresses me out.

So I'm drawing lines!  I'm going to say, "NO!" with a measure of joy and certainty.  And don't get me wrong, I know this is meant to be a fluid list.  Who knows, maybe in a couple years I'll be puttering around in my garden, all green of thumb and wearing a cute apron I sewed myself.  But for now, no. No.  NO!

(Happy sigh.)

04 October 2013

bated breath

So, tonight is Friday.  Which means movie night- especially when Craig is doing stats at an away football game, as he is tonight.  And while G was at school, the littles and I made a crash trip to the library to score some books, and the aforementioned movies.  F picked out a Barbie DVD, and I grabbed two for G: the classic How to Train Your Dragon, which we've seen (and loved) multiple times, and an exciting new pic that I was sure he'd get into: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (cartoon episode, not the full-length feature film of my youth with the foam costumes).  I almost just got the Turtles, but at the last minute grabbed both so Go could pick.  I was certain he'd be thrilled to see cartoon ninja reptiles defeated nefarious villains.  But G decided that it looked too scary, after having me read the back to him and analyzing the bad-guys involved.

And when he wasn't sure, Craig encouraged him to pray about it.  (I love that man.)  Grady became more firm in his resolved NOT to watch it, even when I said I would stay with him, I thought it was pretty harmless,

and we could watch a few minutes and stop the movie if it proved too much.  He said something to the effect, "I just don't want to grow up like that mom, watching things that will scare me.  Not even when I'm older."

I was praising him for his wisdom when he interrupted me to continue, "And that's how I feel about pop, too, Mom.  I don't want to drink pop when I'm older either. I just want to grow up to do the things that I want to, that are right.  I want to stand up and be me."

And here's the part that made my heart beat harder and made me want to hit the pause button and soak in my life and my kids.  G went on the approach F who was cuddled on the couch, and he said to her, "I don't want you to grow up like that either.  Like don't drink pop or choose bad things.  I want you to grow up and be strong, too.  Don't you want to be strong and do what's right and listen to what God says?  And if you do stuff like that, then someday when you die, when you're in heaven you'll get to be one of the important people.  Doesn't that sound good?" He said all this in the most earnest, sweet, persuasive voice.

Fin wasn't sure she was buying the idea of all he was saying, at first- specifically, I think she wasn't ready to swear off pop.  She's tasted it a time or too, and she's decided she likes it. So she was not immediately agreeing with him in a starry-eyed way; she wasn't matching his enthusiasm. And in a flash I could see how it might all go down, in the future.  I could see him growing up the consummate oldest child; obedient, high-achieving, good.  And I could see her fighting to create her own identity by defining herself as different from him- rejecting and rebelling at least a little against the areas in which he excelled- including faith.  His passion for God was going to drive her away.  And it made me shiver.  In desperation, I tried to open up a door for her, and I explained that G was talking about being herself, and making choices for God instead of being like other people.  She liked that, right?  And heaven, that sounded good, right?

And she agreed, G was satisfied, and we went on.

 But it made me realize that I just need to keep praying.  That each of my kids will have their own journey and experiences woven into their story of God's grace.  And having each other as brother and sister will be a part of that story.  In my own limited, tiny view, I will judge whether they are helping or hindering each others' faith- but actually the very things I dread are likely what God is using to shape them and draw them to himself.  And I laugh now, realizing that I (again) thought I could understand and control everything with my kids.  Classic.   I'll have to wait with bated breath to see how this all unfolds.

So we watched our movies, and I made apple crisp.  And after jammies and brushing teeth, I tucked the kids in, saying to them as I always do, "I love you bigger than a mountain.  And I always will.  And God loves you even more than that."

19 September 2013

every good and perfect gift

So someone from church, who wishes to remain anonymous, got a new scooter for us to give our girl for her birthday.

It was so generous, kind, and unexpected, it made me cry. Finley's reaction to the scooter was, as you can see, not to cry.  Girl freaked out with happiness.

Daddy took her for a little spin in the driveway.  Early morning, jammies on, before breakfast.  That's how we roll when it comes to birthdays. (Sap alert: This picture makes me heart skip a beat.  And makes me want to marry him all over again. Sorry, but you were warned.) Later in the day she got to ride it for real. Helmet on, of course.  She fell once, but did great and loved it. 

Big brother has been saving his dolla dollas for a loong time to buy hisself a big set of Legos he's had his eye on.  He is so. close. to being able to afford it.  Then this week he took some of his own money and bought is sister a box of girl Legos, because that's something she wanted for her birthday. He was so excited to do it, he said, "Mom! It's just like when we talked about how giving to other people gives YOU joy in your heart!  Well, I am so happy to buy a present for her I can't wait for her birthday to see how much she likes it!" In future sibling strife, I will hold on to the memory of this moment.

This girl. She keeps me on my toes. She can be level headed and philosophical one moment, and all drama and torrents of BIG FEELINGS the next moment.  Beautiful, strong, kind.  Funny!  Oh so funny, in an intentional way.  Artistic, mathematical, girly.  In this pic we are gearing up to eat the cupcakes BEFORE dinner, because a sudden violent thunderstorm kept us from heading out to the restaurant for her birthday meal on time.  So we sang happy birthday and ate cake, after which it was calm enough to head to our neighborhood Applebees.  

Are you having a hard day with your kid(s)? Well, I wasn't (today), but I did something that I'll do our next hard day (tomorrow?)  I went back and looked at old pics of them I'd put on facebook years ago. SERIOUS nostalgia.  Try it!

16 September 2013

deep breath

I am pausing before I type here.  Do I really want to reveal to you the sometimes bitter and cynical streak that lurks within me?

Okay, here goes.  I am tired of cheap motivational drivel on Pinterest.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Pinterest- like, looove Pinterest, and I feel like I follow some savvy, creative people therein.  However, you know that you are reacting from a deep place when you read a cutely graphically designed pin that reads, "Wake up and be awesome," and your immediate thought is, "Why don't YOU wake up and be awesome! Leave me alone!" Or when you launch into an imaginary lecture in your head, aimed at the person who wrote, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Bullllll-oney!  So I may be a little literal. And hormonal.

But, people, please.  Can I write a public service announcement here for a minute?  I have for many years been a "wake up and be awesome" kind of person.  And I have to pull back the curtain here.  That is the way of death. Hold up, don't click away on me now.  I've been reading Jami Nato's blog From the Natos, and I feel bolstered in expressing this truth.  When you run out of awesome, you run to the gospel.  And I think I'm going to try to sidestep some of the misery in the middle, and just start running to the gospel first thing when I wake up. Because I never have enough awesome, and that whole phrase just seems like a lot of pressure.  "Be awesome." Cue my failure.  I know that the intention behind this is to motivate and encourage, but look me in the eye and tell me where to find the awesome when my toddler is screaming in the aisles at the store?  After Houdini-ing out of the safety belt in the cart and standing in his seat over and over? How about when my clothes have mystery smears on them and they don't fit anyways and my husband is busy and the laundry is the Burmuda Triangle and the bank account is sparse and the fridge is littered with moldy leftovers? Because I like the part where Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." THANK GOD he doesn't say, "Hey!  Don't worry!  All you have to do is... BE AWESOME!"

I can't be awesome in the way the world seems to mean it, where you can take a picture of me, my home, and my kids at any moment and stick it on Pinterest like an "after" picture.  But I can come to the foot of the cross, ask Him to heal, redeem, transform, forgive, and glorify himself... and then see how the day plays out.  Loving others, listening to His voice and nudges, and thanking him in the beauty and the ugly alike.  Maybe I can edit that mantra strewn all over Pinterest to "Wake up and SEE AWESOME." Yeah, I like that.  I think that fits with the gospel as I understand it, a little better.

And it doesn't make me want to throw up in my mouth a little.

14 September 2013

photogenic memory

We got our family pictures taken.  And as always, it just about killed me.

I thought this time would be different.  That I would not lose my mind, ditch my dearly held priorities, and make everyone close to me suffer.  But I kinda did.  Again.

It started with The Choosing of the Outfits.  Which included me making not one but TWO necklaces for me to choose from, which carefully integrated into my outfit a color that was in my daughter's dress.  Because anyone glancing around my house past the piles of dishes and laundry can see, I have enough free time to MAKE JEWELRY.  And I am sad to relate that this transpired because I went to every shop in our town that sells necklaces and could not find the perfect, perfectly perfect shade of pink necklace anywhere.  So, the good news is that was only a day of time wasted there, shopping.  Ahem.

And I KNOW I didn't repeat the whole shopping process trying to get my daughter the perfect pair of shoes for the photo session.

Then the day of the photo shoot.  It was scheduled for 6:00 in the evening, so as to get the best light.  Fast forward through a very busy day of morning mommy time at church, swim lessons for my girl, and getting my boy from school.  Cue me standing next to my toddler's crib begging him to nap.  Trying everything to get him to close his sweet precious stubborn eyes.  Powerless, and angry in that powerlessness.  Because 20 minutes of napping total for the whole day is the perfect amount for him to look wretched in our carefully planned photo.  I know this, because that's what happened last year for our photo.  My typically consistent napper picks just the right day to get all wired and awake on me.  The catnap in his stroller at sister's swim lesson made him immune to all my tricks to get him to sleep.

Is this the pose you wanted for the Christmas card, Mom?
And I lost it.  Hours trying to play it cool, try again, make sure he wasn't hungry or thirsty, lay down with him, let him cry it out, let him out of the crib for a bit, try again, rub his back, sing, walk away, and plead- hours of that left me raw and desperate. Because in my mind, this one time it really mattered.  I was not going to spend my birthday money for these professional pictures, only to have them kinda worthless because my baby looked stoned in them!  (Again).

You know what?  There are some things you can't control.  And being a parent adds to that list.  And it is good for me to remember that. And I hate it.

More things I couldn't control:
At the photo shoot: Mysteriously bad hair day for my girl.  My oldest has lost those teeth in front such that the snaggle tooth in the middle is hanging out all by its lonesome, still.  Adorable, except not so much.  My homemade necklace kept gently snagging on my sweater.  And my (exhausted) toddler fell whilst running on the picturesque bridge, cutting his tongue and scraping and bruising his face just a few pictures into the session.

Those teeth.  Bless it.
And you can tell me that all of this will be funny a few years down the road, and this was definitely a "first world problem," and I can identify that as true, but I need more than that.  I need to lay down whatever is wrong in my motives and desires- whatever is basically idolatry- that made me lose my mind when my little guy couldn't fall asleep.  Because gentle readers, it wasn't concern for his well-being that pushed my buttons that afternoon.  Nope.  And that fact is uglier than the stye that was blooming in my daughter's eye that night, as she stared mostly stone-faced at the camera like a girl posing in 1890.
Photo by Melissa Tukker Photography.  And, I know. She is a genius.

Last year's photo.  See?! That's a tired baby.

It is so true that the gospel is all I have.  I don't have control- even enough to cobble together appearances for one hour on one day, long enough to take a picture.  I do have grace, and I pray that grace will work on me until I can laugh at my plans, sing the gratitude of what I am given as it comes, and bless those around me as they are. Even when "as they are", is bleary-eyed and awake.
Red-eyed from crying, scrape on chin. Still adorbs.
Smiling is overrated.
All worth it for this shot.  Be still my heart.  She loves her Daddy.

03 September 2013


It is going too fast.  And so help me, I am going to find some way to get off this ride for a couple hours so I can do some Big Thinking- think some thoughts that aren't punctuated with laundry, or guilt, or sweet but mind-bending conversations about animated characters.  I desperately need to figure out who I am and what I want life to look like in this season.  And how to I get there from here?  How is it that purchasing milk can reduce me to tears?  It seems that my daily routine gives me no room to think and plan, so I must carve out space for that- a mini retreat- mini, because that is all I can imagine getting in my wildest imagination.  Get me a quiet room, a notebook, a pen, and two hours. Please.
In the meantime, here is more evidence that the minutes and months are going much too fast.

17 August 2013

state fair

Whew.  That's just about all I can say.  The looming start of school for G seems to have driven me to pack all the fun and frivolity I can into one. last. week.  Since we got back from our Cran Hill extended family vacation, we have gone to the beach, camped in the the yard, done the state fair, celebrated a friend's birthday, had a picnic and explored at the lake, and gone to an Iowa Cubs game.  We even tried (unsuccessfully) to go to the pool tonight, since it's the final day of the season.  Because if it's not yet crossed off on the summer bucket list, I am cramming it in!

We are feeling the affects of my frenzied summer-ing. The kids are absolutely running on empty tanks. Emotional states are fragile.  There is a big transition coming, and my new goal is to push again, but this time for rest.  Rest and meeting of needs.  And hopefully, if it can be managed without ruining the rest part, lots of cleaning.

But about the state fair.  It was fab.  We were given some free tickets, and different combinations of vouchers for food and rides.  My parents came along to help with the shuffling of children.  G rode a zero-gravity type spinning ride. He came off it with a big grin.  F rode a mini roller coaster.  She came off it with... a running hug for mommy and a shy pronouncement that it was fun.  Then Craig and G rode a spinning tilt-a-whirl type thing that left Craig sick for two hours. Oops.

Last comment about the fair: there are 50 foods on a stick there, and I didn't eat any of them.  But I did eat something called a deep fried pickle dog.  Yup, it exists and I ate it.  And it was good.  

I watched the movie State Fair- the 1945 version- with the kids in preparation for the day.  We were humming and singing the theme song for hours after.  I think those Rogers and Hammerstein fellows are on to something!  The funniest part was that the kids didn't think the midway in the movie looked different from the midway we visited today.  And I had to explain to them how those old phones worked.  Which reminds me- G asked me today what was in a container at a garage sale.  I said, "film." And he responded by asking what film was.  And I honestly didn't even have the energy to go there.  Generation gap, indeed.

Updates: G ran a 5k on his own, going just over 6 times around our large block.  Just put his shoes on and announced he was going for a run, one day, and did it several times since.  C nods and shakes his head to say yes and no, respectively.  The list of words he says in growing exponentially and now includes Mommy, Daddy (not mama or dada), please, bat, ball, pop, dog, out- and more.  F still cannot sing the alphabet song correctly, but can DO things that G wanted us to do for him long past this age.  She is crazy independent.  

That's all for now, until I can pull my tired scattered mind together and wade through the emotions of G starting kindergarten, to post later this week.

Our state fair is a great state fair
Don't miss it! Don't even be late!
And dollars to doughnuts, that our state fair
Is the best state fair in our state!
(from the musical State Fair)

23 July 2013

grabbing the bull by the horns, then hanging the horns on the wall

I'm doing a better job, and want to do an even better job, at following through with my ideas and creating things on a regular basis.  I have a need to be creative, to be human, to be myself, to be something more than a cook and maid and driver.  It's all well and good to pour myself out for the children, but I would like to get a refill once in a while, and being creative does that for me.

Maybe this is true of everyone?  Or are some people wired more that way than others?  Well, at any rate,  I was feeding that need (poorly) by trolling Pinterest and pinning ideas that excited me.  Not bad, but better is stopping now and following through on the best of those ideas.  I have, um, many pins.  Plenty of inspiration.  Now I am going to siphon some of that into a good does of doing.

That has prompted me to learn something about myself.  The side of me that wants to be artistic and free-spirited, and the side of me that craves order and structure and symmetry, are having a hard time working together to design a gallery wall in my living room.  And Pinterest is not much help here: there are just too many images of gallery walls on the interwebs.  I like many of them- both the careful, symmetrical, and matchy, and the organic, messy, and varied.  I think I am going to just have to throw one up on the wall using 3M Command hooks so that I can juke past my perfectionistic defenses and move on.  

We've lived here seven years and need more on the walls. It's time to commit.

I'll let you know if I survive the pressure.

16 July 2013

stitches in time- now nine

On the eve of our anniversary, I am struck by how God takes two people- two people who are very different!- and stitches them together into one. It has been mysterious and painful, but nine years in, I realize that we are far more "one" than we were when we said, "I do."  Still so different (can't get him to watch Downton Abbey; I have to manufacture interest in fantasy football) yet my life and heart are so mixed up with his, I can't believe it's been nine years. God does beautiful work through marriages. Happy anniversary, honey.

My heart still skips a beat looking at his face.  Seriously, he's handsome, strong, full of Jesus, and his kids think he hung the moon. This picture says it all!

15 July 2013

photog assistant, paid in sweet treats

Going to work on a lot this week.  Maybe even at being a real, grown up photographer.
Too bad I can't have this helper at all my shoots.
For realz.

Blessings on your week.

20 June 2013

line 'em up, knock 'em down

C has graduated from innocently exploring the world around him, to actively trying to get into things, including things he understands are off limits.  Like the water in the toilet.  And the top of the kitchen table (via the kitchen chairs). And the street.  So the fact that I was describing him as "high maintenance" a few weeks ago now seems like a crazy joke.  As in, I turned my back long enough to help the older kids start a video on youtube about backyard birdwatching, and within thirty seconds I turned around and C was on his hands and knees on the table, happily banging a serrated steak knife on a dinner plate. Cue the twinkle in his eye and dimple on his cheek.  Sheesh! He's so cute and joyful all. the. time. So it's hard to be overly frustrated.  I'm just getting used to a different gear, and getting used to tipping all the kitchen chairs over when they are not in use.  And then standing them back up when F and G need to use the table. Over. And over.

This is all good because it's natural exercise, right?

This week our memory verse* is Romans 12:18- "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone." This was particularly directed at G, who has trouble handling the presence of little sister and who has been heard saying things to F like, "You can't be in this room.  Just go away." Not about his room; about the family room. So, yeah, we're working on the whole sibling thing, still.

Life is full right now.  Earwigs and ants, swimming pool trips, sprinkler fun, park dates, G's week-long summer class, birdwatching, and all the usual shopping, cleaning, cooking, and laundry.  Legos and dolls and balls and bats and ice cream.  And the feeling, so strong, that wells up in me is, "This is beautiful.  This is the good life."  How long this season will last I don't know, but I want to stare at everything and soak it in.  I want to laugh at the funny and laugh at the frustrating because it is all sooo good. I plopped down by the hubs last night as we watched Black Hawks hockey on TV, eating homemade guacamole (successful attempt at copying Chipotle's recipe, as per Craig's request) and the kids were all fast asleep and the dishes caught up, and I said, "We are livin' the dream!" Because we are, and that's no less true given our imperfections and the world's griefs.  There are so many things that I want to be "better" but I won't sell out the joy of the present.  Pass the chips.

*This would seem to imply that we do a new memory verse weekly.  Not so.  I meant, every once in a blue moon I remember to do a memory verse, and this is one of those weeks!
A friend who likes to play dolls!? Yes, please!

Sprinkler = joy.

She may not have a super soaker, but she knows how to dominate a water fight. With her toddler brother.

Handle broke on the bucket.  Can't believe it!

What is this strange happy contraption in our yard flinging water!?  I must squeal with delight!

30 May 2013


Nine months ago...
I am riding for a fall, big time.

It came to me earlier tonight as I was folding laundry that I am actually sad that G is finishing pre-K.  As in, I'm not letting my brain go there too often, because there is an inexplicable "ugly cry" lurking.  Every time I think about taking his "last day of school" picture on the front steps, I freak out a bit.  I didn't get all emotional when school started at the beginning of the year, so I was wondering tonight what my problem is.  Seems like the end of things is a lot harder of a milestone for me than the beginnings.  Go figure.

Grady on the other hand is thrilled for summer vacation.  No messy sentimentality on his part!  Sure, he likes his teacher and classmates, but the lure of home for my little 5 year old homebody is too great.  I guess the crushing responsibilities of pre-K- no homework, school 2 or 3 days a week, classroom rewards of Skittles for work accomplished- were wearing him down.  He's ready to be footloose and fancy free.  His basic attitude is, "It's been real, it's been fun, it's been real fun.  Later, suckers." Not that he would ever say it that way.  Ahem.

Pinterest rip-off.  One of many!
Well I had better get with the program.  Because a lot of change and goodbyes are coming.  Two best friends in town are moving.  Moving. Away.  And I have not given myself time to grieve that at all- seems like there will be plenty of time for that later, when the details come through.  And my baby is growing and honestly isn't a baby anymore.  Hello, toddlerhood!  Goodbye toothless smiles, tiny onesies, and naps in the car seat carrier.  And things are brewing in extended family circles that leave me feeling a little bereft too.

I'm gonna need to have it out with God about all these goodbyes, all these seasons passing away that I can't control.  All the fear that wants to step into the void left in the absence, reminding me that I have needs that aren't met in familiar ways anymore.  Faith.  Breathing in and out and knowing that the same One who gives me breath will give me friends, community, strength, and joy in the new things.  And His presence in the loneliness, too.  And I both cry, and remember that He is enough, at the same time.

In the meantime, we made fresh homemade lemonade today.  Wrote our summer bucket list.  And got ready to finish strong tomorrow.

Just need to remember to toss some kleenex in the van.  For me.

His backpack makes G look tiny.  And, Craig was very tan.  

22 May 2013

making mental notes

I know it's the little things that make up the important part of my life.  That's why I love lifestyle photography; that's why I love Instagram.  I just don't want to become crippled by my desire to "capture life" so that I can wallow in the past later... but I still want to look back at the ways my kids were, back when they were littler.  So, in an effort to snatch a few details for posterity, here's a list of things I love about life right now:

I love that C can do so many things with a big grin on his face.  He'll spin, high five, touch his nose, touch his belly button, and waggle his head on command.  Unless you are trying to get another adult to see him do these things, in which case, he won't.  He will shout, "GO!" if you say, "On your marks, get set..." We cut another inch, maybe, off his hair this week.  It was so long we couldn't keep it out of his eyes.  It looks so much better, but I kinda miss the long surfer curls.  Today when F was throwing a fit in her room, C went through the house calling her name, until he found her in her room, and he was so concerned for her.  Of course, his version of her name sounds like two syllables of gutteral sounds, but whatever.  I knew what he was saying. When he wants something he points at it and says, "Eh!" I remember that stage with the other two, but with C it seems way cuter.  He pulls things off tables, climbs into G's lego box and puts legos in his mouth, dribbles juice from his mouth onto his shirt, and... walks right up to Craig to hug him goodbye when he is leaving for work.

What is it like to be the only girl with two brothers?  I'll never know, except through watching F figure out life from that vantage point.  She is an awesome blend of girlie-girl and tomboy.  Today she was teaching C about "how to be on the battle field".  Ha!  She runs like a girl, climbs like a boy, and loves Dora the Explorer, My Little Ponies, and Princesses (mostly the Disney kind, although she has seen very few of the movies).   She is tall- I had to admit to myself that her favorite pair of 4T pants were not going to last much longer, and she is still 3 1/2.  She can throw a fit like nobody's business, and we are still figuring out how to best help her a) avoid them, and b) work her way out of them.  She is so beautiful that I stare at her sometimes.  She is a copier, and will copy G's actions and words verbatim, immediately after him.  I love it when she says sweet things to me that I've said to her.  She likes to cook with me and honestly likes to bring the house from chaos to order. OH!  I almost forgot.  Mysteriously, this girl who can't sing the whole alphabet song correctly, and only knows a handful of letters, can use letter magnets to spell, "car".  Like, she did it, and proudly announced to me that she had spelled car.  But she can't do that with any other word.

Our oldest is such a firstborn.  Smart, rule-following, performance-oriented.  I have to remind myself to lean into the "who you are is enough, I love you no matter what" truth with him.  He loves his little brother fiercely.  Loves to play with him and teach him things, and honestly he just seems to get joy from watching C be himself.  But he is really hard on F.  It bugs him when she succeeds, and if she breaks any kind of rule he is all over her.  It makes me wince when he comes down hard on her, because I hear the echo of the tone and impatient phrases that I've used with him.  God is teaching me; I just wish seeing our own faults in our children was less painful.  Anyway, G is playing baseball.  So far, he likes practicing with Craig but doesn't love team practices.  Taking C and F with me to G's practice on the windiest day of the year last week just about did me in.  Looking forward to his first game, so we can cheer him on.  Oh- and G's little pre-K class performance was yesterday.  FOR THE LOVE.  It was so adorable.  G wearing his pope-style rainbow hat, doing "I'm A Little Tea Pot!" But G wouldn't smile or acknowledge us at all, and he told me later it was because he was embarrassed.  Sheesh!  But when the extraordinary Mrs. W told the kids to grab someone from the audience to dance with them, and he flashed his dimple and ran to get me, so excited, "Mommy!  Mommy! You come up and do the dance!" my heart melted, people.

I. love. them. so. much.
Okay, enough mental notes.  This momma bear needs to hibernate for a while.

14 May 2013


Do you remember that bag with a few leftover (raw) potatoes that I thew in the back of our deep, high-up bread cupboard?  Yeah, me either.
Until today.  Which I will now consider a Day of Reckoning.  Yuuuuck.

When I have to do the serious, "little kids are out of the way" cleaning, like scrubbing bathroom floors and removing rotten potato juice from the bread cupboard, I put on music.  And I've been loving the Rich Mullins station on Pandora. It's got a few cheesy oldies mixed in (I'm lookin' at you, Michael W. Smith), but mostly goood stuff.  Like, close your eyes and throw your head back and belt it out along with the song kinda good. And right when I was uncovering the source of the stench in the cupboard, this song came on.  And the words supplied what my heart needed today. Enjoy.

13 May 2013

you want some cheese with this whine?

I keep trying to cancel my pity party, but the guest keeps showing up ready to par-tay.  Season allergies are ruining my life.  Okay, that's a little melodramatic.
But they are.

And today we started the "no TV for the summer" transition.  And I cut out all pop, meat, cheese, and sweets from my diet starting today.  Just trying to get a little healthier.  I'm not much of an advance planner, and about ten minutes into today it occurred to me that with all this coinciding today, perhaps my timing on all this was a little wonky.

I could say that today was hard, but who am I kidding.  I drank a mug of caffeinated tea.  I let the kids play outside a bunch.  My eyes itched and swelled up and I went through half a box of Kleenex, but the attacks last for half an hour and then they go away for long stretches.  Compared to the average person on the planet, my day today was a luxurious vacation.

What today did do, since it didn't provide enough drama and tragedy to make a Hallmark movie script, was to keep me aware of my own pitiful weakness.  I am not capable of making it through a beautiful, sunny day in a peaceful quaint town in the richest country in the world without reaching for props, crutches, and distractions.  My children are healthy and only moderately rambunctious- no deep grief from that corner, today.  My husband is faithful, handsome, and gainfully employed.  I have many tools at my disposal to make my job possible and easier- toys and cleaning products and dozens of things with electrical plugs that promise to help a mother out.  Yet I still have this urge to drop out, mentally and emotionally.  The urge to splurge runs deep.  "It's been a rough morning, I need this Diet Mountain Dew- it'll give me energy!" "What a stressful time with the kids.  I know, I'll make cookies with them!  And eat one- or six." "Hmmm, while the kids watch Clifford I'll just check Pinterest." Yuck- my own desire to at every moment be looking for a way to increase my own comfort and downshift my efforts and responsibilities is shocking to me.  And until this morning I was in a long season of completely ignoring the depth of my own desperate needs.

Because I want to be here, now.  I want to do what all the cliches people post mean, about living life fully, being present, making memories with my kids and doing something that matters.  And Pinterest does not have enough advice, facebook does not share enough motivation, pop and sugar and rich foods do not give me the energy to do that.   This morning when I woke up and 30 seconds later wanted to turn on the TV and grab a soda, I remembered that I need Jesus.  And two minutes later I remembered it.  And two hours later I was still running into that truth.

I am weak, messy, and needy.  And that does not make me feel like crawling into a hole to die.  It makes me want to go running into the arms of the one who wipes tears, heals what is broken, and gives purpose to the aimless.  Thank God for the gospel, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Where we are ugly, he loves us enough to roll up his sleeves.  It is during the hard days of saying "NO" to my idols and addictions that the lyrics to every worship song go from trite to so, so true.

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

I hope it goes without saying that I don't think drinking soda, eating sweets, meat, and cheese, or watching TV, are bad.  Or that stopping those things makes you better.  I'm sharing that these things were something that I used on a deeper level, as in "used," like something that is shaking me up as I (try) to stop.  I fully intend for this season to be about living with freedom and joy- focusing on my savior, my family, and my life- not by adding a chain of denying myself, but by cutting chains of dependance.

Ask me in three days, and I'll bet I say that I haven't felt this good in a long time.
In the meantime, I'll be clutching my Kleenex and water bottle.

12 May 2013


This is a letter to my mom.  The rest of you are just along for the ride on this one.

Dear Mom,
Here are some of the things I remember from my childhood, about you.

I remember sitting on the kitchen counter watching you cook.  I remember that you made yummy food- pot roast and macaroni soup and chili and tuna noodle casserole and bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip.  I remember when I was old enough to leave home, getting some of those recipes from you, because although I knew you didn't enjoy cooking, it didn't mean that your food wasn't delicious.  On the contrary, your food represents the best of home and comfort to me. (Except the bologna sandwiches.)

I remember that when you scrubbed the kitchen floor, you let us make a fort with the chairs in the other room. I remember that (as a kindergartener?) I was out shopping with you and I realllly wanted that fancy dress, the white frilly one, it somehow mysteriously ended up on my bed that week as a present "from Dad." I also remember you cleaning up after me when I was sick, and stroking my hair, and making me chicken soup.

You led my Brownie troupe. You led my Odyssey of the Mind group. You baked lemon cupcakes for me to take to school for my birthday.  You swam with us at the lake.  You bought me the most outrageously expensive prom dress, because you wanted to give me everything.  (And it was the only one we found that we liked!  Or were we just too tired to shop anymore?!) You worked, and gave all that money for me to go to college. You gave me Strawberry Shortcake's house, an electric keyboard, a sapphire ring, hugs, love, and when I needed it- spankings. (Although not too often on that last one.)

You drove me to piano, school, friends' houses, and church.  You drove me to Perkins when I was little to get me a muffin and spend special time with me once while Jason was at preschool.  You rode with me while I was a new driver, and only clutched at the door when I turned, sped up, or slowed down. ;)

I knew that you loved me even when I pulled away.  When I chose different hobbies, friends, churches,   homes, destinies.  When I was callous, sarcastic, selfish and self-absorbed- I never doubted that even when you didn't like me, you loved me.  And because of that, being with you will always feel like being home.

I almost lost you.  There was a time when I was 11 when you weren't there to put together my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drive me around and I didn't know if you would remember me or even keep breathing. It was scary to see you in the hospital with your head shaved and the wires and tubes making you look so fragile.  That season rarely comes to mind, and seems strange to think of now.  But I know it is a part of our story that intensifies how grateful I am to you, and for you.

I learned so much from you about love that I am still struggling to put into practice.  Things I learned so young they are subconscious, and things I learned this year.  About sacrifice and loss and faithfulness.
You are a hero to me.  And a friend.
You are my mom.
And I love you.

All the numbers in the whole wide world.


10 May 2013

links i love

I've been moved by a few great posts, and thought I'd share.  Someday I'll look back at the things that influenced me, and smile about some, and grimace about others.  But for what it's worth, here's what's on that list:
1. thoughts on motherhood

2. the voice bible- thinkin' about this...

3. the gospel is all i have

4. so funny i watched it twice

5. thoughtful, poetic and beautiful

6. want to buy things here- someone stop me

7. gonna make this someday- soon?

And, I know that seven is the number of completion and perfection, but, one more here oughta do it:

8. annie v nails it again!

So that's some of what's been good to me on the intranets lately.  More soon on athletics, what it's like to be sans hubby for a weekend, and how I've been processing the "gospel is all I have" idea.

07 May 2013

tulip time is here, let's go dutch!

SO, this last week was Tulip Time, my town's annual celebration of its Dutch heritage. And it got me thinking about more than just wooden shoes and yummy Dutch pastries.

There is a lot to be said for a tight-knit community.  One that celebrates together, and makes amazing memories.  Tradition can be a beautiful frame to highlight the generations growing up together in a place.  I'm glad my kids can already, at young ages, remember past Tulip Times and their own parts in them.

But that same tight-knit camaraderie can leave newcomers puzzling out the foreign language of cultural expectations.  My husband's family is Dutch, and I've lived here for seven years.  My husband and I work in the biggest church in town, and as such, have had an easier time making connections and fitting in.  Still, we are no strangers to the feeling of being... strangers.  Not because people here are unfriendly!  But because when you try to become part of traditions and histories that are generations old, you are just run smack into your own ignorance of said traditions.  We've marched in the parades, eaten the food, and even tried weaseling our way into the Dutch Family Singers (only slightly set back by the birth of our third son, right in the middle of the rehearsal weeks leading up to the festival. He didn't want to miss Tulip Time, I guess).

And I still end up feeling clueless and silly.  Why is it that families are invited to march in costume with their babies as part of the "baby parade" but you can't find information posted about what time or where to meet... it's just kinda word of mouth?  And I'm standing in the middle of the street wondering where the other baby parade moms are?

Why is it that a community founded by persecuted seekers of religious freedom now touts, however tongue-in-cheek, the phrase, "If you're not Dutch, you're not much"?

And, why is it that when I get ahold of Dutch costumes and take pictures of my kids in front of the tulips, I always mess the costumes up somehow?  Like last year when I proudly displayed pics of my kids on facebook, "like all the other moms," I found out via a kind and gently worded message sent to my private inbox, that what I'd thought was a strange little vest for my daughter's costume was actually a strange little dickie, worn under the dress. Because it was a costume representing the Vander Zuider Tootenflueten Farfel Province, or some such thing.  Oops! My bad! That's not at all like wearing your undergarments on the outside, is it!  Um, don't answer that.
This year: G's hat band is pulled down. His shirt is not tucked in.
F's hat ties are supposed to be untied, hanging down? Oops! 

What brings me back around is the honest friendly fun that is at the heart of the hoopla.  We've never had to buy costumes for our kids; families have been generous to loan the (expensive) items to us.  There is so much hard work behind the huge event, literally 150,000 people come to a festival hosted by a town of 10,000 (ish).  It's a wonder it's as organized and inclusive as it is.  Many of our town's businesses survive because of this celebration and the tourists it brings, and people pitch in countless unpaid hours in every sort of menial task to make it happen.  I only hope that our churches can remember- that I can remember- that traditions and histories are best used when coupled with invitations and grace and love to the people who are, for whatever reason, on the outside of those cultural codes. I'm often so busy with my own awkward dog-paddle of cultural survival, I stink at thinking of others. Truth is, you don't have to be Dutch to be much, and really you can't be much, to have Jesus anyway.

I took our annual photos two nights ago of the kids in full regalia.  In front of the tulips that were finally blooming, now that the festival is over and the snow has melted.  And unlike other years where I found myself snarling through gritted teeth, "Just look at the camera! No! Put your hat back on! Why are you poking your sister!  That's not a real smile!  NO WE CAN NOT GO HOME UNTIL I GET A GOOD PHOTO!" I decided to relax.  Make it as fun as possible and take pics of the kids doing their thing around the tulips and just celebrate the real- take what I could get and go home.  The kids had a blast.  The next night we were talking and G asked what the word "paradise" meant having heard it on TV.  After we talked a bit, he said, "Yeah, that's kinda like Tulip Time pictures!  That was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be!"

Winner winner chicken dinner!