Saturday, May 7, 2016

what we remember-to my mama

The cards were stacked against her. Fifteen. Unwed. Pregnant. Therefore, the cards were also stacked against me.

She straightened up her act in a hurry. I was born. She finished high school, in spite of many obstacles placed in her way by an administration that thought new moms had no place in their high school. She and my dad got  married. She and I moved out of my grandparents house. My mom, dad, and I moved a few times. My favorite game was standing on our brown and yellow couch, jumping high in the air, and landing on my knees on the hardwood floor. My brother was born. She had an in-home daycare so she could be home with us, but still earn money. As we got older and went to school, I remember her working at a chiropractor's office. My parents divorced. We moved a few more times. My mom got a job at United Way in St. Cloud, then at the College of St. Benedict. She started working on her degree when I was around middle-school age. She graduated from college while raising two kids and working full time.
the kids obviously get their good looks from yours truly

awww. Sending love to my dad and mom

Christmas love

a new baby brother and neither of us look too sure about the whole thing

Happy Halloween from the clown

I liked perms

a lot
My brother and I grew up and graduated from high school and college and got married and had babies. My mom moved, both geographically and up the employment ladder. Today's she's Vice Chancellor of Gift Planning at a prestigious university.

Apparently my mom doesn't give one crap about how the cards are stacked. She's going to reshuffle. She's going to come to a dead end and make her own road, a closed door and pull out her axe to bust it open. But she's going to do it with humor, killer music, flawless hair (although she loves to be reminded of her mullet days), raucous laughter, generosity, pasta, wine, bread, okay, carbs in general, and love.
the laugh, including the knee slap, the face we make, and the disbelief that others might
not find us as hilarious as we find ourselves are identical

rocking modern, black furniture since way before it was cool
I'm sugar coating it, obviously. There were fights and hurts, tears and bitter misunderstandings. I had classic teenage moments. There was depression. To this day, in the ways we are alike, we are identical, and in the ways we differ, we are polar opposites. I have made and continue to make many decisions that disappoint her, and she's done things that make me shake my head in disbelief.

But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, there is love, acceptance, and support. No matter how deep my hole is, my mom will lean over, extend an arm, and help me start the climb back up.

I didn't understand the depth of love, the depth of pain felt on someone else's behalf, the depth of awe at another person's accomplishments until I held Isaac, then Audrey, then Elliot, then Asher. I cannot begin to express how fortunate I am to have had Kellie as my mom, how fortunate my kids are that she is my mama role model, even with the cards stacked against her and against me, too.
since having these four, I get it.

please let them remember these moments

please let these moments outnumber the angry, poorly handled moments
What will they remember of me? There are certainly millions of mistakes, but I hope that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, they will remember love, acceptance, and support. I certainly do.
Mom, Cory, and I in my post-birthing Asher stupor. It's a good look on me, right?

Celebrating my mom's birthday, December 2014.
Our sense of style is clearly not identical!
From me to you:

Friday, May 6, 2016


A friend posted this on her facebook page. It's hilarious, right? Ridiculous. A funny poke at the silly things celebrities do that some people actually care about. While it looks harmless and silly, it brought up a few questions to my overly analytical brain.

1) How did these people become celebrities? What makes their comings and goings and outfits and boyfriends so much more interesting than the rest of the world's daily lives? Is a sex tape, being related to someone with sex tape, or dating someone with a previous sex tape our best bet for fame these days?

2) How long does it take to create that one picture to post on those social media outlets to get shared around the world to get you free stuff?

3) Aren't they hungry?

4) Isn't living with a constant wedgie just grueling? I mean, add constant wedgie to constant hunger pains and I would be the most unreasonable, insane person on the planet.

Some of these questions are obviously tongue in cheek and others are absolutely serious. When did we become a culture looking to these people for fashion, dating, life advice? What are we missing in our lives that we want to shop where they shop and look like they look and distort our faces to match their faces?

I'm raising humans here. I'm trying to grow myself. At this point, as I knock on the big 4-0, I'll be one of the very few un-botoxed, un-collagened, un-augmented or reduced people my age.

These pictures aren't real. The time and effort that go into taking one of these highly processed, highly photoshopped pictures is ridiculous. Yes, they are beautiful humans. No, they are not perfect.

Maybe that's why I struggle so much. It is impossible for me to feign perfection. My clothes are about as out of style as they come. My house has holes in the basement and kitchen ceiling, not to mention popcorn ceilings, which, according to our realtor, are about as bad as things can get in a home. My kids aren't the best at everything and they argue sometimes and they still choose mismatched clothes and balk at taking showers and I lose my temper sometimes, too. I'm just here in real life. I'm a reasonably intelligent human being, buying in to the lies that my real life is eight billion degrees removed from the real life of my friends. That's dangerous. And silly. And stupid. Therefore I can't even begin to compare my life to that of celebrities.

I guess I'm just reminding myself that we're all doing the best we can. And we're all craving connection and acceptance and love. And if I start looking for that in the world, I lose. Every time, I lose.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A boy meets his shadow

Our Classical Conversations group is done for the year. Final papers are written, speeches have been presented, Memory Masters certificates have been earned. We are not done with school for the year, but the most intensive part of our day is done until next fall. Today was our first day since all of the end of year hoopla ended, so we all breathed a nice, calm sigh and had a relaxing day.

There's this two year old in our house who cheers at every baseball game and gets shuffled along to every homeschool group, show choir practice, baseball practice, and church meeting. He builds with blocks while mama teaches math, plays with playdough during writing, and draws during family read aloud time. He does it with a smile on his face and makes fans wherever he go, but he rarely has time to do whatever he wants to do on his little two year old timeline.

This morning he did.

He were outside throwing a football when he asked, "Mama, can we go for a mile walk?" With nothing on the agenda and no pressing school work to get done, I happily replied that we could. Carrying his little cow umbrella to block the sun, he walked to the end of our driveway. "Which way should we turn," I asked. He thought for a moment before replying, "mmmmm, prolly Grizzly Way." Since we get to Grizzly Way whether we turn left or right, I decided to just follow him.
swishy pants. check. plaid shorts. check. little brother t-shirt. check. cow umbrella. check. let's roll!

He wanted to cross the street so we looked both ways and crossed. Apparently our long driveway tired him out because he sat down in the grass on the other side of the road. "Should we sit here and have a snack," he inquired. "Maybe an apple?"
Yes. We took a break across the street from our home
Disappointed to hear that I hadn't brought an apple on our one mile walk break across the street from our house, he got up and decided he wanted to walk the opposite direction. We looked for cars again and crossed the street. He quickly tired of holding the unwieldy umbrella and asked if I would carry it. I happily obliged, not because I love hauling all of the kids' castaways, but because I couldn't find my sunglasses and it kept the sun out of my eyes.

We walked a bit more, with him crossing the street every time a dog came into sight so he could ask the owner for the chance to pet the puppy. I guess the sun began to bother his eyes because he started a question about the umbrella. "Mama, if that bright sun. . . WAIT. Is that me?"
a boy meets his shadow
My sweet boy just met his shadow. I told him to move around and see what the shadow did. "Dance, Asher," I instructed. He wiggled his arms and watched Mr. Shadow do the same. "Even the hairs move, mama." He was blown away. I watched him learn and observe and verbalize his new discovery and it was an absolute gift.
and dances with him

We finally continued on and I pointed out the melted snow running through the ditch. "No, mama. That's water," he replied. We talked about the fact that when snow melts it turns into water and goes down hills. We walked along the ditch and he shuffled into the snow to touch the cold, "freeeeezing" water about ten times.
He discovered that melting snow is not just cold, but freeeeeeeezing water
Then he found some pebbles and threw them into the snow to see if they would stay on top or sink into the rapidly melting snow. We found an icy spot with some melted water, a teeny tiny pond put there just for us, or so it seemed. We threw our little rocks into it to see where it would splash and sink and where it would stay on top of the ice. As we played in the ditch, the homeowner pulled up and stopped her Prius at the end of her driveway. She asked about what we were doing and what Asher had discovered. She smiled to see a little boy enjoying a lazy day of outdoor learning. I think she would have ruffled his too-long, blonde hair if she'd been close enough. She had that loving grandma look in her eyes.

We turned back toward home and hadn't been walking long when Asher uttered, "A mile walk is long, mama." I asked if he wanted a piggy back ride and he most certainly did. We walked. I kept reminding him to hold onto my neck. He kept asking why. I kept telling him that I was holding a 34 pound toddler and an umbrella while I walked up a hill in Danskos so I needed a little help. Well, I said that in toddler-speak. He'd hold on for a while, then point to the bird or the water or the rocks.

We returned home from our mile walk. Technically it was less than a mile, but don't tell Asher because that was his "mile walk."  A lot can happen in a (almost) mile. Memories. Learning. Love. Lots and lots of love.

I sure do appreciate the leisurely pace of a two year old boy on a brilliant spring day.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Caption this. . .

Forgotten Spring.


Pining for Spring.

Maybe this is a study in glass half full, glass half empty types.

Winter here is magical. Tomorrow it will be 55 and Monday it will be 65 and it is entirely possible that we'll get two feet of snow on Mother's Day. Good thing that wagon is weather resistant.

Monday, March 14, 2016

making space

I am astounded at how quickly these mountains have become my home. I look around and these trees whisper to my soul and the sight of the mountains from our front yard delight me many times each day. I never knew a place to infiltrate my heart so. The move has had many bumpy moments and I miss many people almost all of the time, but when I stand outside and breathe in the mountain air, look up at the millions of stars, pure and bright without city lights reflecting, and hike and explore new places, I feel at home.

I've run in places that have been devastated by forest fires. Every time we drive through our little town, each little volunteer firehouse has a sign informing us of the current fire danger. We are to inform the fire station before we use our firepit each time. Getting home insurance is no easy task due to the risk of fire. All of these situations are constant reminders that the danger of a forest fire exist here, too.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Watching a wall of fire take out the trees that whisper to me so sweetly with the gentle breezes and howl when a new weather system blows in like a freight train. Seeing the devastation later. Picking up the pieces.

When a forest fire finally sputters out, the charred remains of a glorious forest seem to be all that remain. Toothpick remnants of majestic trees and exposed animal burrows. Raw. Hot. Dead.

But then something beautiful happens. Green growth peeks through. Seeds germinate. New animal habitats are formed. Destruction and death become growth and life.

I've been thinking about that in my life. What parts of me need to die so that there is a space for newness? What parts of me need to be put to the fire so that new pieces of me germinate?

With each child and each passing year, I have gotten more and more disorganized. I rearrange piles, but never take the time to purge unused, outgrown, and unwanted items. I walk into the house and drop things in random spots. It has gotten to the point that I am wasting money buying things I know I have somewhere in this pit of a home I have created and time because I am searching for items that I cannot find when I need them. I do not like having people over because of the mess. In short, it has gotten out of hand. This piece of me has to die so that I have room for the people, relationships, passions, and things that really matter to me.

I am working on it. Oh, boy, it is a challenge, but it is a necessary change in my life. On Friday, my mom took the four kids to the Museum of Nature and Science, and I spent the day cleaning out the entryway, closet, living room, and dining room, and got a good start on my archenemy, the playroom/schoolroom. I am throwing a lot of things away, donating many other items, and making sure that everything that stays has a place and that we can all find that place easily. Did I say challenge? Yes. This goes against my very nature. But the other way is no longer working for me. It has to go. I need space for beautiful things to grow and that cannot happen in this mess.

I spend too much time on Facebook. There. I said it. My excuse is that I am home without another grown-up for many hours, weeks, and months of the year, so it is my communication with the outside world. My excuse is that with so many family members and friends back in MN, that is my mode of communication with them.

In truth, so much time on there prevents me from doing some of the things I need to be doing here, and, yes, keeping my house in order is one of them! In truth, spending so much time on there prevents me from the reading and writing and laughing and living that I want to be doing here. I don't have a smart phone, so when I am away, I am away, but when I am home, I am pretty plugged in, and who wants to look at a mama with her face in the computer? In truth, the upcoming elections are causing me quite a lot of stress, and seeing the chatter on facebook is an absolute detriment to my mental health. (that sounds like an exaggeration, but it really is not.) In truth, I do things and automatically think of how I would caption the picture or something funny happens and I think of how I'll explain it. That's weird. I mean, really, if I go to a concert with my kids, but don't post about it on Facebook, did it really happen? Why do I need people to know what I did? Why do I require that validation that I'm doing ok? Why do I feel like everyone's marriage is better than mine and everyone gets to fly to a beautiful beach for spring break and everyone has cute stitch fix clothes, and I'm just sitting here wearing pajama pants covered in dog hair with a big zit on my chin in my messy house with a basement that will never get finished and that still doesn't have window coverings in some (most) of the bedrooms? I am not in junior high; this stuff shouldn't matter to me, and the vast majority of it didn't matter to me before social media.

Last night I saw a political video that just about threw me over the edge. I decided then that I needed to step back from social media for a while. I needed some time to rearrange my priorities, let other people bash each other about how they hang their toilet paper or the proper pronunciation of New Orleans, or some other nonsensical argument that will never ever ever be resolved on social media. I jest, of course. But really, the hate that I see and read about the November elections, the comments I read about the Women's National Basketball League after the Lynx won the championships, the vulgarity that is posted about nude selfies and sex tapes are far outweighing the benefits of easily staying in touch with people and laughing about miniature giraffe videos. My mind just can't handle that much hatred anymore. I feel fragile, wavering in my knowledge that light really does overpower dark, that love really can overcome hate. So I am walking away from social media for as long as necessary so that I have room for love to take hold and overwhelm me and pour forth from me and find a home within my soul.

I don't know. I'm just this big work in progress and I think progress has stalled. So I will let go of the things that are holding me back, as hard as that is, so that I have room for new growth. It is all I can think to do. One step at a time.

I will let the wildfires burn within so that fresh greenery can push through the charred pieces of myself.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

To a boy on the cusp

You start your devotional at confirmation by reading a bible verse because your baby brother memorized it.

Then you play your guitar and sing a worship song with such feeling and warmth that I glimpse the future you.

You sled with your brothers and sisters for hours on end, giggling and throwing snowballs and full of silliness.

Then you want to be by yourself and say their games are too boring.

You read Hop on Pop to Asher and laugh at the top of your lungs.

Then you close that book and open Revelations in the Bible or a Harry Potter book.

You think it's weird and wrong that so many parents let their kids play violent video games and use their phone all the time.

Then you tell us you'd like to have your own phone, but know you can't. (You're right, by the way.)
Celebrating his 12th birthday with family
You are boy and young man, all at the same time, and I love both pieces of your unique puzzle so very much and I want to keep them forever. I remember when you got your first haircut and I saw you as baby and toddler. You wore your first fancy church outfit and I saw you as toddler and boy. Now you are suspended between boy and young man and it is beautiful and wonderful and exciting and terrifying.
little baby Isaac at almost 5 months

Bringing me such joy
You are twelve today. Your last year before you become a teenager. So many things will change, probably sooner than later, definitely sooner than I'd prefer. The world beyond our four walls will matter more. It will become louder. Please know that I will want to cover your eyes and plug your ears and lock you in a deep and dark basement so I can keep you forever. More importantly, please know that I won't because the world needs you. The world needs the special gifts that are yours alone, the mix of serious and focused and energetic and silly. The boy who loves sports, sports stats, stinky cheese, all the strangest food combinations, Broadway musicals, rap, and history. The world needs your big, beautiful, but sometimes shy smile, your understanding of right and wrong, your caring, your laughter, your sarcasm, your intelligence, your curiosity, your love. The best gifts are made to be shared, and you, my son, are a gift beyond measure. And most importantly, please know that on your journeys of this big, beautiful, terrifying world, you always have a home, a safe place to land, a place where laughter, hugs, and card games await, a place where we know the best and worst of you and love you all the more for the thousands of moments we have shared.

I remember when you turned five. I tucked you in and sang your lullabies and cried because I thought things would be so different the next day. But they weren't. Not right away. For all the millions of ways that things have changed since I first held beautiful, wonderful, perfect for me, you on February 11, 2004, so many things have remained the same.
Isaac's 4th birthday party

Isaac and his dinosaur cake

Your smile. My love. Your laughter. My desire to be the best mama for you that I can be. Your curiosity. My awe.

Our toothless wonder turns 6

Birthday fun at the Mall of America

A winter walk in our MN neighborhood

We've grown a lot these twelve years, Isaac. They placed you on my chest and I breathed the sigh of a woman who just discovered her place in this world. When I was pushing, I dramatically exclaimed, "I don't know why anyone does this more than once." Then I held you and I looked into your dad's eyes through the happiest of tears and cried, "Now I know." You've taught me more than I knew possible. I've failed and loved and worried and loved some more. I've prayed and cried and laughed and hoped and wondered and marveled. I've disappointed you before and I will disappoint you again, but I hope that when you look back at me, at us, at our complex and ever-evolving relationship, you will remember love. Love that you received and love that you gave, because both have meant the world to me.
Sledding together for Isaac's 9th birthday

Isaac's 12th birthday wish came true when his second favorite team won the Super Bowl.
We surprised them with a trip to the celebration parade.
Thank you for being you and for sharing your best and worst with me every day. I thank God daily for the grand honor of being your mama.
Isaac in a nutshell. Emotions on his sleeve and a MN sports fan at heart

Birthday fun at the arcade

Bowling with family and friends
Happy 12th Birthday, Isaac. I love you, million times two.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

twelfth birthday eve

I held him on my lap, all 11 years and 364 days of him, all legs and elbows and excited grin. We looked at pictures of him through the years. I told him that I am equal parts flabbergasted, proud, amazed, and heartbroken that he will be 12 tomorrow. I told him that I love him and that I always, always will. I cried onto his t-shirt. I made sure he was the first to let go.