Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One thing I won't do

I wouldn't mind making a little money from blogging. Have I kept that a secret? If so, the cat's out of the bag. I'm not planning on making the big-time, but I also wouldn't hate it if I made enough to buy a week's worth of groceries every now and again. So, feel free to click on those ads you see and order stuff or share this blog with a friend or pass my name along to anyone who might want to pay me to write. I wouldn't mind in the least.

With that said, I want to stay true to myself and remember the reason I started this blog. You can read that reason here. I want to bring people together so we can learn from each other. I want people to know they aren't alone in their worries. I want to love big and crazy. I want to write for the simple love of writing and reflecting on life. For all those reasons and a whole lot more, one thing I won't do to grow my blog is engage in "mommy wars."

I'm not entirely sold on the mommy war thing and certainly won't blow it out of proportion to get people riled up and interested in my blog. I think the internet is full of cool stuff. That YouTube video of the giraffe whooping up on the crocodile is good stuff. The blogs about emotional running stories and adoption and babies growing up waaaaay too fast get me every last time. Real tears are shed repeatedly.

But the internet also blows things way out of proportion. It is full of small people wielding big words in hopes that those words will make them feel bigger. Instead it just makes everyone feel smaller. People hide behind computer screens and lob grenades full of righteous capital letters and condescending exclamation points and they damage people. It is wrong and it is exactly the opposite of my intention here.

I recently saw a blog equating mommy wars to gang wars. I saw another blog labeling the 12 moms you'll see on the sidelines of your kid's game. Another blog was soliciting answers for what, aside from the obvious answer of income, stay at home moms have given up to stay home with their kids. I find this annoying at best and intentionally inflammatory at worst.

Here's the deal. If you're a nice person and love your kids and are trying you're darndest to make it in this wild world and admit your mistakes and get up tomorrow and try again, I bet we'll find some common ground and get along just fine. Bonus points if you like to run or read or laugh, but totally not necessary. I don't actually care if you work outside the home or inside the home or from your mini-van or your acura. I don't care if you wear high heels every day or hang out in your pjs, put on a full and beautiful face of make-up every day or store your make-up in your car for application on the way to fancy occasions. (ahem. not naming any names. . . OK. Me. it's totally me) I don't care if your kids wear mismatched hand-me-downs or organic cotton outfits from J. Crew Baby. (Is that a thing?) I don't care if you breastfed until the baby went to kindergarten or if you knew you'd never breastfeed. I don't care if you birthed thirteen kids with no pain meds, adopted toddlers, or asked for the epidural on your first OB/midwife appointment.

I care if you smile at the stressed out person in line at the grocery store. I care if your kids go to bed each night knowing you love them and that if they have a nightmare they can go to you because you're a safe place to land. I care if you watch them swing so high. I care if you hear someone's kid screaming in a check out line and react with empathy and not annoyance. I care if you wait up late to hear your kid come home the first (and fortieth) night they drive somewhere with a friend.

We are all making our way in this world as parents and spouses, siblings and friends, children and co-workers. We have so many hats to wear and so many responsibilities to carry. To get hung up on how you mother versus how I mother is something I just don't have time for. Now I will call the cops in a heartbeat if you are hurting or neglecting your kids. Obviously. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the daily decisions people make with the best interest of their family in mind.

I get it. I know. Some people watch what we do and say and feed our kids and how they act and dress and speak and spend their time judging away. They read blogs for what seems like the pure joy of spewing anger and vitriol. These are the people that shout the loudest and type the fastest and with the most fury. But they are in the minority. They just happen to be a noisy minority. The people I know are doing their best to raise kids who love and respect their family, their friends, strangers they haven't met, this world and who will leave it a better place than it is now. Isn't that one of our biggest collective dreams as parents? That this wild and beautiful place we call home and earth would nurture our kids until they are old enough to nurture it back.

The people I know support each other when life and parenthood feels impossible and potty training just will not happen and Jr. won't do his homework and Lizzy all of a sudden wants to quit soccer and we want to throw up our hands. The people I know celebrate together when potty training finally happens and Jr. gets a B+ and Lizzy sticks with soccer and has a great game. We laugh together and cry together and wonder what in the heck we were thinking together and rejoice in the fact that these crazy kids are ours to love forever together. This is what motherhood and friendship can and should be.

There are thousands of pictures of what motherhood looks like. There are thousands of job descriptions tied into that one word: mom. Let the words that ring truest and loudest be wild and beautiful and abounding grace and love.

Your turn: What's your experience with "mommy wars?" 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Breathe deeply. Just be.

A few weeks ago, I was standing at the kitchen table trying to guzzle down my cup of Mother's Milk tea in order to keep my milk supply up for the ever hungry Asher. I was thinking of all the things I had to do to get the house ready for a last minute showing that morning, not to mention the walls to paint and the boxes to pack to get it ready for putting on the market in about a week. (A friend of a friend was looking at the house before it officially hit the market.) I was thinking about Asher's breastfeeding and Audrey's possible Lyme's disease and a whole lot of everything as I stood there gulping.

Then the idiocy of it hit me. My stress and the fast pace of our life at that moment was almost certainly affecting the milk supply I was trying so hard to sustain, yet there I stood guzzling and stressing.

I sat down and took a deep breath and enjoyed my cup of tea and gave myself permission to simply be. For a few minutes I didn't do anything. It was oddly fantastic. It shouldn't be odd; it should just be fantastic.

Today we have a house on the market and the walls are painted and many, many boxes are packed. My milk supply has rebounded and we have a plan of action for Audrey. Piano and dance lessons are done for the summer and co-op has wrapped up. We had this glorious three-day weekend stretching before us and we decided to take a few days to wrap up some easy projects, hang out, play outside, and have some family fun.

We spent our long weekend playing outside and marching against Monsanto, taking walks and introducing the kids to homemade banana splits. We went to a friend's barbeque and got the garage cleaned up, played with new Legos and play-do toys and took care of the neighbor's cats. We didn't really do a darn thing, but it was just exactly perfect.
our  littlest activist

Just say No to GMO

using asparagus as a teether toy

neighborhood walk with my people

I love these kiddos

bbq at a friend's house
Life flies by, faster every year it seems. I know I'm not the only one who really, really hates that. I've found that the more time I have to sit down (or at least lean briefly against the kitchen counter) and breathe deeply, the more I marvel at this beautiful life and the less I worry about things I can't control or fix anyway. Ann Voskamp writes eloquently about this very topic.

It isn't rocket science, but it also isn't easy. There are so many things pulling us in so many different directions. Most of the things are good things. Vacation bible school and baseball, lunch with friends and swimming lessons, volunteering and joining a book club. The list goes on and on. Even when all of the choices are good choices we have to pick the things that reflect what we value the most. It is a decision we must make for ourselves and our family.

What you'll pick is different than what I'll pick. Not better or worse, just different. No matter what you pick or what I pick, I hope we'll leave plenty of time to just be. To breathe deeply. To marvel.

This weekend was a weekend of breathing deeply and marveling. It was just what our tired, overextended family needed.

**I wrote this last night, then woke up to read this:
Photo: The best way to prepare them for adulthood is to let them play NOW, when they were designed to do so!

(Image via The Mariposa Trust)
and this:

8 suggestions for a “Live More/Love More Summer” 

1. Resist the urge to get “one more thing” accomplished—instead get in one more hug, one more cleansing breath, or one more page of your favorite book. 

2. Lower the bar—let good enough be good enough. Happiness trumps perfection every single time if you let it.

3. Notice fireflies, ice cream mustaches, and unexpected cool breezes. Express thanks for these summer delights loud enough for your kids to hear you. They will begin to notice them too.

4. When plans go awry, just let go—sometimes the unplanned has a way of turning out better anyway.

5. Serve up daily helpings of grace. We’re learning; they’re learning. Embracing our humanness allows others to embrace theirs.

6. Say yes to what matters and no to what doesn’t. Act on the callings of your heart and don’t feel guilty about it.

7. Run in the sprinkler. Do a cannonball into the pool. Refuse to let the size of your thighs deprive you of sweet relief and uninhibited joy on a hot summer day.

8. When critical thoughts become words that hurt the people you love or yourself, recite the phrase: “Only love today.” Recite it 10,000 times a day if you have to. Love is a much softer place to lay your head at night.

© Rachel Macy Stafford 2014

on my FB feed. So many of us are struggling with this. We are doing the best we can with what we have. When we compare ourselves to others, it can feel like our best isn't enough. But when we slow down and make choices that are best for ourselves and our family, choices that give us time to breathe and be and marvel, we realize we are just enough.

How did you spend your Memorial Day weekend? At the cabin with friends? Working on projects around the house? Hopefully there was some time for relaxing!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Big Plans for Summer Fun!

In MN, it appears we are foregoing spring and transitioning straight from winter to summer. I'll call it sprinter. Admittedly, our sprinter has been crazy. nuts. insane. you get the idea. At any rate, we've (I've) only had the mental capacity to think about doing what must be done on the day we're smack dab in the middle of. It's not ideal, but it's gotten us through this batch of crazy, so hallelujah!

Now we're in between crazy. We have a plan of action with Audrey. The house is cleaned up and on the market, but not yet sold. We can kind of think and plan ahead and we're thinking summer! Here's our complete list of 103 Super Fun Things to do this Summer from last year. And here are some pictures of our ridiculously fantastic fun!

bird class at eloise butler wildflower garden

frozen yogurt

arch selfie in St. Louis

captains of the Mark Twain riverboat in Hannibal, MO

watch a (cold as heck) parade
grill peaches
visit a state park (Wilderness State Park)
It was an ambitious plan, but it was the right year for it. The kids were 5, 7, and 9. We had no naptimes and the kids were much more flexible. We knew it was our last year without a diaper bag and naps and squawking, awkwardly mobile baby for a while so we decided to make the most of it. We got through about 80 of our 100 items and had a blast together exploring new places and visiting old favorites, cooking new recipes, reading new books, and learning new things. We had a wonderful summer and the memories I have from it still get me all warm and fuzzy.

This summer is definitely different. We have a crawling baby and a house on the market and a summer that may include an across the country move and two boys in baseball and one girl in softball. For logistical and financial and lazy summer, minimal scheduling reasons, we're cutting back on our summer adventures. We'll stick closer to home, but I'm certain we'll have big fun and make lots of memories, made all the more special by the fact that we'll get to share our adventures with our Asher boy.

I'd say the key to success is knowing your crowd and their tolerance for running around and being off of their schedules. It's no fun to go to a waterskiing show that starts at 7 pm if you have a toddler who NEEDS to go to bed at 7:30. Then she's screaming and you're mad that you spent all this time trying to have fun and make memories and no one, repeat, NO ONE is having any fun. On the other hand, let's say your toddler recently dropped his morning nap. You're now free to hit up a new kid friendly bookstore for that really cool 10 am story hour you've been hearing about. You might even visit a new park for a picnic and some swinging before heading home for a much-needed afternoon nap.

We've started our list and I'm glad to report that so far three of them involve ice cream. Clearly we have our priorities in check. Have a looksie. . .

We're looking forward to a summer of fun!

I'm linking up with Kelly's Korner today for Show Us Your Life. If you're reading for the first time, thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you.

What's on your summer to-do list? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One chapter in the big, beautiful story of her life

We have a diagnosis for Audrey. ++ It isn't a diagnosis that comes wrapped up in a pretty bow with a straight forward plan of attack to make it all go away and let life resume as normal for a really fantastic, active, beautiful, almost 8-year-old. It is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. JIA.

It is a diagnosis based on a set of symptoms, the ruling out of a lot of diseases based on blood tests, a best guess, a plan of action, and many follow ups to see if we're on the right track. Audrey has met with pediatricians, pediatric rheumatologists, and ophthalmologists. It has been really hard for her, but her bravery has shone through, even as the tears flowed. All day she plays and learns and reads and laughs, but at night, when she slows down, when she lets her thoughts catch up with her, she wonders what's wrong and why her body feels weird and what we can do to help her feel better.

For that reason, the diagnosis is kind of a relief. On the other hand, the thought of her living with this forever is scary and overwhelming and I automatically fall back to the big part of me that wants to take it all from her. I haven't shared much with her beyond the name of it and the plan of treatment. She feels so much better with that knowledge and I don't want to scare her with too much information.

When she worries, I tell her that I'm in charge of the scary stuff like doctor's appointments and medicine and she's in charge of the fun stuff like planning birthday parties and picking toenail polish and deciding where we should put the sprinkler.  She usually smiles a bit, a tired, knowing smile that I'd rather not see on my 7-year-old's face, then say she just can't help it because it s all too scary. Try hearing your daughter say that without having to choke the tears back until you leave her bedroom. Impossible.

Today she smiled a little brighter when we talked definitively about our first plan of action, but she said she is still a little worried, but not as worried. I tried to think of something, anything, to say to ease the pain in her tender heart. I pulled her close. She put her head on my shoulder. I said, "Your life is like one big, long, beautiful book. There are already lots and lots of chapters in your book. You have a chapter about dance recitals and one about broken legs, another about baking, one about road trips. One of your chapters is JIA. Everyone has at least a few hard chapters in their life book. It's kind of a bummer, but it's just how it goes. You also have a whole lot of chapters that we don't know about yet. That's kind of fun to think about." She breathed a big sigh and smiled at me. A big smile that didn't seem to hide worry. At least not in that moment.

Here's what you should know about my daughter. She is awesome. She gives nice tight hugs, laughs huge hearty laughs, practices accents to tell funny stories, throws footballs with her brothers, dances and crafts, talks a whole lot. She is a flower blooming before my very eyes. I get to call her my daughter and that is an unspeakable honor.

JIA is but one tiny piece of her life, one little chapter in the big, beautiful story of her life. Wouldn't it be nice to edit the book of our life to take out the hard parts? Heck yes. But we can't. So we try to look at the whole book together and realize that the beauty dwarfs the horrible. The joy trumps the struggle. Unfortunately, it is a lesson my baby girl is learning early.

park fun

park selfie

singing Jamie Grace's "Beautiful Day" at the co-op variety show
What's your favorite chapter in the book of your life? And what's the hardest?
++I asked Audrey if it was ok if I wrote about this. She thought about it and said it was ok because there was nothing embarrassing or bad that happened.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Best way to start your weekend

Saturday dawned lovely, crisp, and sunny. I grabbed my favorite running capris and my Moms on the Run t-shirt and headed a half mile down the road to our town's local triathlon to meet up with two of my favorite people.
Team Tri MOTR

Here we are. Shaun, the swimmiest swimmer of all the swimmers in the freaking horribly cold lake, Kristen, the bikiest biker of all the bikers battling the brutal wind on 109th, and me. I showed up with my running shoes.

I love them. They, along with some other stellar friends and family members, have gotten me through the toughest crap life has thrown at me yet and celebrated a few of my most beautiful moments made all the more special because they were standing next to me. Everyone should have people like this in their life, rooting for them when they think life's too hard and toasting them when they know life is really, ridiculously fabulous. I thank God and all my lucky stars for them many times each week.

Shaun swam in 51 degree water and had the 24 hour brain freeze to prove it. Take that, Michael Phelps! Kristen battled some wicked wind on her sweet new bike, Charlie. I ran 3.5 miles where I felt kind of sick starting at mile 0.1 because I  apparently have forgotten how to fuel for a morning race. Note to self: one piece of toast and a banana 2 1/2 hours before the race doesn't cut it. But we all did our thing and cheered each other on and screamed like fools and hugged because it was really, tremendously fun. Made all the more fun because of the people I was sharing it with. They rock.

Unfortunately I didn't have a ton of time to celebrate the momentous occasion of all of us being healthy and not-pregnant at the same time and long enough to finish a race because I crossed the finish line and kept right on running to my car to get to Isaac and Audrey's piano recital. We'll definitely celebrate soon, probably over a mojito, definitely on a deck.

Later in the day I was sitting on the floor with Asher, probably getting slobbered and crawled upon, when my hand brushed against my knee. I felt the scar that marks my torn ACL and subsequent knee surgery. I had surgery two years ago and missed the entire running season, which seemed like an eternity at the time. I spent a lot of time wondering if I'd ever run again and if I would go stark raving mad without having running as an outlet.

Now, unless my hand brushes against it or I see the scar in the mirror, I usually forget it even happened. When I do remember that it happened, it is a reminder that I'm tougher than I thought I was. That my baseline level of bad ass is higher than I first suspected. That my friends and family will absolutely step up and help me when I'm at my very weakest. Sure wish I could have come to those conclusions without shredding my knee, but I'll take the lessons.

So, you see, Saturday rocked. It was a big ol' hearty celebration of fantastic friends, fitness, overcoming obstacles, and smiling through the muck of life.

I'm tucking that special day in my back pocket to remember for always.

It's Tuesday. I know. I'm late to the party, but how was your weekend? Or what are you looking forward to on this long (hoooorrraaaayyyy!) Memorial Day weekend?

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's all good.

It's all good.

That is something I never say. It just doesn't sound right coming off of my tongue. But today I'm dropping in for a quick minute to say that it really is all good.

I have this habit of taking my life too seriously. Don't get me wrong; I laugh like crazy, complete with snorts and knee slaps. But I also overthink and freak out when things get rough. Admittedly, things have been rougher than usual around here.

The realtor's photographers are coming over today to take pictures of our house. It has been a crazy week of late nights and busy days and purging stuff and trips to storage and general craziness. Today Elliot said, "Yeah! Today is the last day of cleaning all day long." Sad, but true.

This morning we ate breakfast together so I pulled out our daily devotional that has taken a back seat to our busy schedules lately. Again, sad, but true. I flipped it to good ol' May the 19th and got this beautiful, timely reminder.

Jesus describes himself as a good shepherd, willing to lay down his life for his sheep. That's me. Shepherds protect their flocks and if one is attacked and carried away the shepherd will follow the bear or fox or lion and fight for the sheep. That's what Jesus does for me. The devotion ends like this.

God "leads us where we need to be."

It said that today like a little personal message from God. No matter if my house is perfectly perfect. (It ain't!) No matter if it goes on the market Thursday or Saturday. No matter which realtor we use. No matter.

We're going to end up right where we need to be.

See? It really is all good. Fo Shizzle!

Too much? Yeah. Too much.

It's Monday. Any glimpses of hope or words of wisdom to get you started on your week?

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Today I'm following the lead of a few blogs I read and doing a "currently" post. Thanks for the nudge, Life, Love, and Puppy Prints and Squishy Cheeks and Cupcakes.

Here's a glimpse at what's going on in my brain. Enter at your own risk. It's scary up in here!

Currently I'm:
     . . .loving morning snuggles with all the kiddos in my bed.
Displaying IMG_20140515_074019.jpg
     . . .wishing that spring would get here and stay awhile.

     . . .waiting for my mom to fly in for a much-needed and anticipated visit.

     . . .planning all of the June birthday parties, plus thinking of Asher's 1st birthday in August, not to mention trying to figure out how all of that will look and how the schedules will coordinate with our house on the market. AAAAHHHHHH!!

     . . .wanting more hours in the day and a cleaning fairy. More practically, a few pairs of jeans that I like.

     . . .thinking about 13,043 things at once.

     . . .dreading doctor's appointments with Audrey.

     . . .watching little boys play baseball. Lots and lots of baseball.

     . . .laughing about my baby boy who loves watching the laundry spin.

     . . .excited about finally having the house ready for the market.

So, what are you up to lately?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just life.

I apologize for my absence from this space lately. I am at a point in my life where something has to give and usually writing is the thing that gives. OK, right now lots of things have to give. Add sleep, most forms of fitness, time with friends, and reading to the list. I miss writing and processing my life through words and hearing from you, but I'd rather post a few times a week and really think through what I write rather than fill this space with random words.

Blogging is a strange little world where people usually know more about the blogger than the blogger knows about them. I don't want to dwell on the bummer pieces of life too much because really, my life is pretty darn great, but I also don't want to paint an inaccurate picture of perfectly coiffed hair and perfectly behaved children and a perfectly planned life. (HA. Perfectly coiffed hair. Perfect children. Planned life. That's a good one, DeNae.)

Case in point: I forgot to order standardized tests for the kids so we'll have the joy of celebrating June by cracking open our test booklets. I brought the camera to take a picture of three of the kiddos singing in church on Sunday, but it didn't have a memory card. I forgot to bring a gift for the choir teacher. There's school to teach and babies to love on and parks to visit and kites to attempt (and fail) to fly and baseball games to enjoy (oh, lordy, are there baseball games!) and dance and piano recitals to prepare for and just good ol' life.

Because really, truly, life is good.

But I'd be lying by omission if I didn't say that things are piling up on my shoulders right now.

We're still waiting on results on the second round of blood work for Audrey. She is mostly her normal, really healthy, really happy 7-year-old self, but there are things that give me pause. And it is kind of freaking me out. I believe that we will figure it out and she will have no long-term ill effects, but in the right now I worry. Because she's my daughter and she cries when she has her blood drawn so I hate to think of the other things she might endure in the name of figuring this out and solving this puzzle.

Today we signed paperwork with our realtor to get our house on the market. My stomach lurched as I put my pen to paper for the first signature. Our game plan is to forego sleep until the house is ready for the first showing. We will not actually go days without sleep, but it is at a minimum these days as we box things up and paint walls. With each box I tape up, I try not to dwell on all we'll say goodbye to and instead focus on all we'll say hello to. But really, we're saying goodbye to a lot of people I love and will miss so much I will ache for a good long while.

It's the pull of life. The good with the bad. The sun with the rain and a beautiful rainbow thrown in to remind us that even in the storms, there is beauty. So, I try to spend my days searching for rainbows and dancing in the rainstorm of life. Sometimes it works and sometimes I just huddle under the umbrella and wait for a dry spell.
That's what we have going on here. Not perfection. Not life as seen on TV. Just life.

Thanks for joining me and reading along in our "just life."

Monday, May 12, 2014

My truths about motherhood

Last night I read "Time for Bed" by Mem Fox and "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown to a very attentive baby boy who didn't even try to eat the books. Not once. That was a new record for him. He snuggled in and flipped through the pages from time to time and laughed a little laugh when I did the animal noises. Then I nursed him and I watched his eyes grow heavy until he finally gave up the good fight and fell asleep. I watched him sleep in my arms. Heavenly, I tell you.

Then I walked into Elliot's room and said that I had something to tell him that I wasn't sure I'd ever told him before. He sat up big and important and intrigued. "Being your mama is my favorite part of every day." "Really? Just me?" he asked, spoken like a kid from a fairly large family.  "Well, you and your brothers and your sister. But, being your mama is my very favorite and the time I spend with you is the best."

He hugged me and kissed me and asked me more questions about how much I love him and told me how much he loves me and how I'm the best mama and teacher EVER.

I went and had a similar conversation with Audrey who said she would never want any other mama and she wouldn't even ever let anyone else be her mama if they wanted to. (Audrey is not accepting applications for fill-in mamas. So there!)

Finally, I chatted with Isaac about the great privilege it is to be his mama and how I'm so very glad he was my first baby. He shrugged his big 10-year-old shrug then hugged me nice and tight and told me he loved me, too.

Here's what I didn't tell them. I didn't tell them that mothering them leaves me raw. Exposed. Broken. That it brings my greatest fears and inadequacies to the forefront. That loving another person this much is, of course, beautiful and wonderful, but also dangerous and frightening.

Because my milk supply is dipping for no apparent reason and Asher won't take a bottle or a cup or anything else that has milk in it and I feel like I'm failing him. I keep telling myself that our relationship is about so much more than the way I feed him. I keep telling myself that I don't care how any other woman feeds her baby so why is this making me crazy. I keep telling myself that he is obviously getting adequate nutrition or he wouldn't be happy and growing and thriving. I tell myself those things, but usually I don't listen because sometimes he wants more than I can give him and I only feel failure. I only feel like my baby wants something from me that I can't provide.

Because Audrey tested positive for Lyme's disease and so far my conversations with doctors have yielded far more questions than they do answers and the possible short- and long-term effects of it are daunting. The more anecdotes I hear, the more confused I am and my mind is swimming with what I think I know and the magnitude of what I need to know in order to get the best care for my daughter. When really, the only thing I want to do is to take it from her, lock it in a box, and throw it into the deepest depths of the ocean so she doesn't have to deal with this.

It's what mamas want to do. And it's what makes it so hard because we know we can't.

I want to be so much for them. Mostly I want to be just enough that they know my love and support is a constant in their lives that they can come home to, fall back on, cry out for any time they need me, but that they are strong enough, smart enough, and ready for almost anything the world throws their way.

Being a mama is the best, hardest, most fun, most challenging, most beautiful, most frightening thing I've ever done. Balancing my desire to shield them from hurts with my desire to prepare them for this world is not an easy task and it is one I work on and pray about daily.

I didn't tell them all of that. I told them I loved them. Loved them with a big, fat, capital L-O-V-E. And I do. Goodness knows I do.

Mother's Day may be over in its official capacity, but this is a shout-out to all of the men and women who are loving and caring for kids so hard that it hurts. Thanks for being awesome!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Not perfect. Just life.

I was watching the news last night and saw a commercial for a flower shop. They were trying to sell pretty flowers and hanging baskets for Mother's Day and their big catch was, "Where you can turn every moment into a memory."

I have a few problems with this.

1) You're selling flowers. Having a basket of flowers in my house doesn't make everything awesome. They're flowers, not a never-ending supply of plane tickets and free passes to Disney World. Settle down, people.

2) We have to get over this idea that every moment spent with our spouse or our kids is going to be magical and beautiful and worthy of a Hallmark card. We have to stop perpetuating this myth that if life, marriage, motherhood isn't a Pinterest-worthy collage of sunshine and rainbows and a one-of-a-kind unicorn purchased on etsy thrown in for good measure, then we aren't doing it right.

I love my kids. Oh goodness do I love them. I would love to have about 300 more of them to love and snuggle. To watch those wobbly first steps and listen to them read their very first book with tentative voice. To kiss those chubby little tootsies and sing silly songs together. Motherhood is a gift I thank God for every day.

You know what? I also get irritated with my kids. I lose my temper. We have moments that are the opposite of magical.

And that's ok. That's life. Life happens, love happens, family happens in the regular, daily interactions.

Yesterday we were sitting around our school desk. Audrey and I were doing her spelling lesson while Isaac wrote a thank you note. We were laughing about something when Audrey's laugh turned into a snort and then Isaac called her Suuuu-eeeeeyyyy and we laughed even harder. Then Audrey decided she should snort every time she finished one of the words on her spelling test.

Nothing happened. It wasn't a spectacular moment. It was just a silly little afternoon of school. And I loved it. It makes me smile even now as I think of it.

Earlier in the day one of the kids had a nice little fit about folding laundry. And I had to ask another kid to set the table approximately 33 times. And the toys on the floor didn't put themselves away. Weird, huh?

But guess what? I loved them anyway. I still made their lunch and read their favorite book before reading hour, sang lullabies and helped them wrap birthday gifts for friends. Just like they still love me when I mess up.

Not magic. Just life. Just love.

As mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, dads, husbands, brothers, sons, friends, humans we are going to get it wrong fairly often. Sometimes the mistakes will be small and fixed with a simple "I'm sorry." Other times we'll mess up in a big way and hurts will dig deep. That's when we find out who really loves us. Who's in it for the long haul.

Me? I'm in it for the long haul. The dreary rainy days where we all get on each other's nerves so I offer up a game day and then all the kids argue about which game to play and we finally make it to dinner and they all grumble about what we're eating and bedtime comes and I fall into the first chair I see and sigh a big sigh that we made it through the day.  The first summer day spent at the beach where life is at its very finest as the breeze tosses our hair and the sand melts through our fingers and the sun warms our shoulders and the waves lap our toes and our cheeks hurt from all of that smiling . I want my kids to know it in their gut and feel it in their heart. I want them to know that when they make their biggest mistakes and celebrate their biggest victories and all that stuff in between, I'll be there for them.

There are perfect moments. There are moments when my 10 year old son is snuggling on the couch with my 8 month old and this happens: "You are so advanced. You grabbed the purple X. This ball goes crinkley crinkley. Hi, Boo Boo. Isaac is holding you. Uh Oh. Bye Bye, toy. You dropped it. Oh, you want the orange star? Mom, Asher doesn't suck on things as much as he used to. But he still drools like a dog."

There are moments my 7 year old is having a hard day and she says, "I can always look at you and know it'll be ok."

There are moments my 5 year old dons his baseball cap for the first practice of the season and his smile, complete with dimples, is about as close to perfection as I'll get.

There are perfect moments. But it isn't perfect.

It is love and grace and forgiveness given and love, grace, and forgiveness received. Every day. Every hour.
It is life. It is family. It is love.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Life. When you don't even know what to wish for.

We visited the mountains of Colorado in March 2012 and fell in love. We wanted the hiking and the skiing and the whole lot of it.
We put our house on the market and wished for a buyer and a job for Jim to go along with it. We were wishing big. Then, instead, we got a wish we didn't even know we should wish for. We got the Asher boy. And when we found out about our cuatro baby, we took our house right off of the market just as fast as you can say, "What the?" because we couldn't wrap our  brains around a new baby and a new house, new job, new midwife, new pediatrician, new friends, new everything. I like change as much as the next girl, but that would have pushed me straight over the edge of crazy.

Cuatro grew and grew until my belly just couldn't house him anymore and then Asher was born and somehow eight months passed and a few weeks ago we had a big talk about our address. We ultimately decided that it wasn't worth it to push the job issue with Jim's work and that now wasn't the time. We might broach the subject again in another year or two, but not now. We told the kids that our life in limbo was over. We were going to be here in Minnesota so we don't have to say, "Well, if we still live here" or "Unless we move to Colorado." We were just here.

Then the next day we found out that Jim could probably transfer to Colorado. The very next day. Then last week we found out he definitely could transfer to Colorado. We had a nice, big laugh about the timing of all of this. In fact, we're still chuckling. HA!

There are so many reasons we want to live in Colorado. My mom and her husband are there. I haven't lived in the same state as my mom since I was 18. I miss her. The mountains are there. The winter on steroids is not. The lifestyle and beauty. I mean, really, it's Colorado.

There are so many reasons we would love to stay here. We love our community of friends. My brother and his family are here. So are my dad and his family. We love our church. We love the green grass in the spring and summer and the lakes. My running friends are here. It's been our home for a really long time. Did I mention we love, love, love our friends and family and our friends who are more like family?

We are in this really great situation, surrounded by wonderful options, and we don't really know what to wish for.

We are meeting with a few realtors tomorrow to discuss our options and we'll go from there. We anticipate that we will have our house on the market this month. And I'm so freaking excited. And I'm so freaking sad.

What I really want to do is gather up all of our coins and go to a wishing well and wish for our house to sell so we can move to Colorado and then we just scoop up all of our favorite people and bring them with us.

But that obviously can't happen.

So, like all things, we're taking the good with the bad. We're walking through new doors and closing old windows. We're taking Isaac's advice and we're Leaning Out and Looking Up to see what God has in store for our family.

We trust it will be good no matter where we end up. We trust there'll be hard stuff no matter where we end up. We trust there will be bellies aching with uncertainty and tears of sadness shed. We trust there will be times we think we've made a huge mistake. We trust we'll be in it together.

Life. Crazy, uncertain, beautiful, bold life.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What goes on while we sleep

While my family and I sleep, snug in our beds, bellies full and books read and kisses given, terrorists in Nigeria steal into the night and abduct teen girls. Teen girls with big dreams to change their communities.

The problem is that they live in a community where girls aren't really allowed to dream. And if they do dare to dream, they'd better keep it quiet because if the wrong people find out there are bound to be problems.

Teen girls who were the stars of their family with big dreams and big plans for their future, abducted and taken as "wives" to militants. Can you imagine how their lives have changed since that horrible, unfathomable night? I cannot even begin to imagine. The horrors they endure. The fear they feel. The pit in their stomachs as they try to imagine a lifetime of this.

Read this article. Or this one. Go ahead and take a few minutes.

You're back? Does your stomach hurt? Are you pissed off? Do you feel rage? I do. We all should. Collectively, as a community and a country and a world we should be outraged. Individually, as a woman and a mother, daughter, friend, teacher I am outraged.

Why does this keep happening to our girls? The girls who quietly obey the customs of their family and their country and the girls who speak out and dare to dream. All girls are at risk of sexual mutilation and rape and slavery and abduction and murder and oppression embedded within a world that sees us as disposable. Something to be bought and sold and tossed out with the trash.

My 7-year-old is putting newspaper on the floor so she can paint my toenails. She picked gold and pink and blue polish and the first foot she painted looks obnoxiously beautiful because she did it especially for me. Her big problem is getting her feelings hurt and being worried about finishing co-op and not seeing her favorite co-op friends as often. These feel like big problems to her. She was up late crying and I was up late rubbing her hair and hugging her and helping her through big feelings.

As much as I wish she wasn't hurting, the fact is that these are the things little girls should be worrying about. How will my life change this summer? What's coming next in my life? How do I handle it if a friend hurts my feelings?

She has no idea what other people fear. She has no idea what other people endure.

And for that I am immensely thankful and for that I feel immense guilt. I am sick that there is a place where this happens and that there are mamas who have these worries deep in their guts and fresh on their minds all of the time. Mamas and girls who get the message loud and clear: If you dare to dream, we will hunt you down and kill your dream and try to scare the dream out of others.

My toes are painted now. My daughter ran outside to play baseball with her little brother. I sit here and type these useless words. It's what I do when my heart sings with sweetness and also when my soul retches on the world's ugliness. It's how I try to make sense of things in my brain. But some things just can't make sense, no matter how many words I use.

What is our answer to the world's brutality when girls are taken and the world is silent even as their parents cry out for help and answers and their girls back?

Let's give our daughters the room to dream. Let's teach our boys to respect our daughters. Let's write checks to fund schools in countries where dreaming can be deadly. Let's travel to countries to teach girls and boys to read and write. Let's pray. Let's donate to organizations whose mission is to empower girls and keep them safe. Let's sponsor kids. Let's not keep silent when we hear of atrocities in our neighborhood and in our schools and in our country and around the globe.

We can't all do all of these things. But we can each do at least one of them.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

My advice to me.

There is a whole long list of things I won't give advice on. Ever.

Here's a shortened version:
1-Going into labor before your due date. (3/4 of my kids were overdue, each one later than the last)
2-Getting babies to sleep through the night when they're tiny.
3-Keeping a clean house.
4-Anything related to hair care or beauty regimens.
5-Cooking meat.
6-Car buying.
7-Fashion. Ugh.

That last one is probably pretty obvious after yesterday's post. I read it through about 802 times before I sent it out for a tiny little piece of the world to read because I'm always paranoid writing about marriage. I don't want to sound like a psycho and I don't want to make my husband sound like a creep. I read it enough that the words were kind of just flowing through me automatically. On about the 798th read-through, I felt a conviction deep in my gut. The kind of conviction that flows through my blood stream and settles in, ensuring I don't just ignore it and carry on with my regular routine.

                                If I gave my marriage half, maybe even a quarter, of the
                                attention I give our children, our marriage would look
                                wildly different in only good and healthy ways.

Said another way, if I gave the man I promised to love and honor and cherish forever even a fraction of the time, effort, and love I give to the children we created and love together, our marriage would look wildly different in only good and healthy ways.

Ouch. That's a hard truth.

I wrote those words down yesterday just a few minutes after I pressed publish and I've been saying them in my mind and swishing them around in my mouth to get a good solid taste for what that means.

While there are certainly things that my husband could and should do to improve our marriage, I am not without blame. I am quick to point out his shortcomings and pretty honest about my shortcomings, but I fail in the execution. I know what I can do to be a better wife, but I just don't.

I don't because it's hard and I'm set in my ways and I hold grudges and hang on to past hurts and justify my behavior and think that if he changed first then surely I'd change and I'm so tired and the list goes on. and on. and on.

Excuses. All of it crap.

Yes. The kids need me. And they are much more vocal about their needs than the grown man in the house. Thank goodness for that. They tell me when they're hungry and when their pants are too short. When they need more attention they might cry or whine or throw a fit or run up to me and throw their arms around me and squeeeeeze. They rely on me to feed them and take them to the dentist and teach them their lessons and get to dance on time. And, by George, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I put a lot of me into mothering. It's one of the things moms are famous for. But I really, really need to put more of me into wifeing. (Apparently I just made that word up, but I'm going with it.)

If you've been around this little blog long you know I love Bob Goff and his book, Love Does. It is a simple, yet profound read and I highly recommend it to everyone who will listen. And also to some people who probably wish I'd shut my trap about it. Today on his facebook page he wrote, "We can't be new creations if nothing changes. It's Thursday. Quit something." (See? He's so good. Read the book. Really. Do it.)

So today, on Thursday, I'm quitting selfishness and grudges in my marriage. I'm quitting putting my husband at the very bottom of a very tall totem pole.

I'm going to have to quit them again tomorrow and then I'm going to mess up big on Saturday and then I'm going to try to quit them again. Every day I'll have to quit these big, ugly pieces of my heart. Every day. Gosh, sometimes being human is really hard.

Big Love. Epic Fail.

But I'll keep trying. Because he's worth it and we're worth it and I want our kids to grow up with a beautiful picture of marriage in their mind. Not a fairy tale picture. A real picture. A picture of working through the hard times and celebrating the heck out of the good times.

That's the advice I'm giving to me today. Wish me luck!