Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

I'm ever mindful of the fleeting moments that make up my days. There are hours that I think might never end (like the three hour play date I hosted yesterday). But most days roll quickly one into another until before I know it the school year is half over and Ainsley's that much closer to Kindergarten. I can hardly believe it's true until I see the calendar before me. Much as I don't like the swiftness of the hourglass sands, I do love that it makes me ever mindful of the little things.

I know they are what I'll miss most when the season with the littles has passed me by. Today offered me the perfect chance to savor such moments in the routine loveliness that is mothering little girls. They had their check ups at the dentist this afternoon. It's hardly a cause for celebration but the girls actually love going since the dentist is a beautiful person both within and to look at. She always remembers us like we're friends. I know the more likely truth is that my girls have teeth she remembers. Not your run of the mill chicklets. Emerson has a weird jaw click that seems to alarm the dear dentist at each visit and Ainsley's teeth are so tightly aligned and pressed together that there is ever a tooth she is "watching". We can scarcely get the floss between it and the little pearls that bookend it on either side. In any case...today was our day to visit our dear friend Dr. Dentist.

Ainsley lay back on the exam chair and slipped her feet out of her flip flops. Might as well get comfy since we're all old friends. I sat at the end of the room and watched as her tiny tanned feet flexed with each little tickle of the polish was applied to her teeth. Little feet that have walked on the soil of at least nine states that I can think of and probably more that I can't readily recall in her short tenure on earth. My mind wandered to the next steps they will take and where they will be. Before looking too far down the road I just enjoyed the moment of her smallness. I just looked at her tiny body that took up only half the length of the chair. At her little dimpled knuckles on hands that love to pick up ladybugs and flowers and roly-polies.

When it was Emerson's turn to lie down, she took up nearly the whole of the chair. Her lankly legs clad in jeans with pockets full of notes to friends and treasures collected at recess. She looked so grown up lying there with the willowy frame of a tween. But I loved noting her youthful reticence and the way she quietly answers the dentist's questions about her favorite Thanksgiving foods. It reminds me quickly that she may look older but she is just a girl of eight years. I love how she smiles so wide and deep when the dentist (our old friend) makes a funny about the importance of mashed potatoes. And I love it. I love the simplicity of the sacred moment of motherhood. How I get to be the one to look after them at their appointments. How blessed I am that the appointments we've gone to together in all manner of dental and medical offices have all - every single one been routine. How there's nothing little at all about this particular blessing or moment.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Perils of Hope

Before we had kids I was an awesome mom. I had great ideas and big plans. I would not fall into the trap of over scheduling my kids and running them all over Texas six days a week. And I would, by the way, not live in Texas. Well, here we are. I’ve kept to the not over-scheduling part but only to hear the onslaught of messages that if I don’t introduce my girls to a myriad of sports, music, dance, and all manner of extracurriculars in the early days, I’m doomed. Doomed to a life raising girls in goth dress whose greatest skill is manufacturing homespun meth out of our garage. It’s hard not to feel the pressure and to know where to begin with the many choices of activities, sports, clubs, and leagues offered at every turn.

We’ve tried a few things and haven’t found the "thing” yet. Though Emie loved dance (press in and I’ll whisper this) her little ballet moves leaned much more readily into the “donkey kick” category than a swan’s grace. Soccer was equally torturous where she actually asked me for refreshments while running across the field (more than once) during a game.

Music and theater really seemed to be a better fit since she has used every opportunity to perform in some fashion or another since she was so little. Even as the giggliest little one she used to practice making sad faces in front of the mirror when she wasn’t even two. I could waste my breath and suggest she not be so dramatic but I’m pretty sure it’s in the girl’s DNA. And music just seems to come naturally to her. The girl loves to sing and she’s pretty good.

Last year she joined the church choir and loved everything about it. Especially the part where she could look at the jumbo screens and find herself on camera. She was excited to move up to the next age level this year because they, as she pointed out, “get to sing solos and hold the microphone.” I’ve reminded her that every child is not automatically handed a mic and told to let fly. Our church is big. In the last membership class 800 people joined. That’s three times the size of my in-laws' entire congregation including each baby and shut-in. And this is just the number of new members to add to the 11,000 already showing up each week. Even in a church so large every child in our church is invited to join the choir, there’s no audition necessary. Come and sing your praises to the Lord one and all. But as for holding the mic and singing by yourself, well, they wouldn’t mind ensuring first that you can umm, well, actually sing since 11,000 people will be leaning in to listen.

When Emie mentioned the upcoming auditions for solos in the choir I encouraged her to give it a go. But I honestly didn’t know if she was good enough to come out with a part on the other side. I wanted to encourage her to try but did attempt to temper her expectations. On the way to the Saturday audition she was filled with excitement and not a single butterfly. I had enough for the two of us. I feel responsible for this little gift of hers. I want to nurture it. Encourage it. Fan the embers to help it to grow. The last thing I want is for her to start to believe it’s not a gift at all and shove it deep within her at such a young age.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Driving Ainsley to school the other morning I hear her say from the backseat, "I don't know if I believe in Santa Claus." "Okay," I said. She went on to say that she just wasn't sure he was real. Then said, "But Mrs. Claus, yea, I believe in her." I said "Yea, she does seem pretty real with that red dress and those little glasses." "Yes," Ainsley agreed as if that was all the proof that was needed to ensure someone's existence. I added that we know Jesus is real so that's really all we need to know to celebrate Christmas. She said, "Yes, Jesus is the best gift." My heart swelled full as I noted that the little bird (in spite of her Christmas list already in full swing) got it. The meaning behind Christmas. And then she said "But those gifts from Santa are pretty good." Yes indeed. Yes they are baby girl.

Isn't that just it? The whole of the Christian life in one little pearl of wisdom from the one whose lived just five years on this green earth. I don't know why we felt the need to flesh out these big life questions about Christmas on October first. But I do know this: Jesus is the bomb. The best. The everything. But gifts from Santa are awesome, too.

Listen. I know Jesus didn't make Santa or Mrs. Claus, as believable as her springy white curls and little round spectacles make her seem. But for today I really don't mind that my little lovie thinks she's awesome. There's so much to be celebrated in this brief life. And so much to toss out. Every good gift is from Jesus after all even if Santa or Mrs. Claus is the one delivering it.

This is what I know: A new shirt can seriously make my day. A bargain priced fun throw pillow can change the color of my outlook for a good long while. So let's enjoy the gifts. Stop short of self-indulgence but not before doing the things that bring a little smile.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Feeling Fierce in Second Grade

I'm a little bit in love with Emie's most recent self-portrait and the words she chose to describe herself. Just last weekend we spent some time talking about grace. About the freedom that's ours when we forgive ourselves. The little love had really been beating herself up over tiny missteps. Actually over things that only she counted as missteps. So odd that she would exhibit the exact same characteristics her mother has. But she is a cute little apple that didn't fall far from this here tree. We're both learning the same lessons. This life is so much better and lighter when we see ourselves through a lens of grace. She's internalizing this so much earlier than I did and it does my heart such good.

Baby sister's right there as well. Just last night in the car I overheard Ainsley (while playing a game on my phone) say to herself "You can do this, Ainsley! Come on." Yes you can, baby girl. Yes you can indeed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I Love My Children as Much as I Love Their Bedtime

Some days I can't wait for bedtime. I mean the part where my kids go to sleep. Not the part where we go through the sometimes very long though awfully sweet routine of stories and devotions and prayers. I mean it is a sweet routine theoretically, just not when Ainsley says, in the middle of my Jesus Calling for Kids reading, "I sometimes sneeze when I'm brushing my teeth," and I realize I could be reading from the phone book for all of the spiritual enlightenment I'm transferring. But I read on and tuck them in and we say prayers. And Ainsley breathes new life into the room by saying something amazing like she did last night, "Dear God, Thank you for the sweet, sweet way you made my heart. How you made each of us different and how we got to swim today with Izzie and get to go to Home Depot tomorrow with daddy. Thank you for that." And I want to stop time and memorize her voice. How her tousled curls spill across her paisley pillow case. How she curls her little legs into a tiny pretzel in her pale pink bed on top of the flat sheet but still underneath the comforter.

And then I go to kiss them goodnight and Emie holds me close and smells like sunshine, basil peppermint wash, and love. So much love. And though I'm crazy about them both I am so very ready to have some quiet and rest. all.by.myself. And then she asks me to kiss her ten more times and finish with a squeaky kiss. And though I've been known to (ahem) exaggerate she really does count them. And so I kiss ten times and start to walk away. Done for the day...until she asks me for a cup of water...from downstairs. And when I bring it up Ainsley asks if she could have a different stuffed animal from the playroom and could it please be a really cute one. And I bring it and they ask if they could listen to a different Bible story because the one they are listening to on Dirk's old iPhone has a scary part and it's not bringing them sweet dreams. In the two seconds in between this question and my turning toward the phone on the dresser Emie has fallen into a deep, trance-like sleep.

But Ains, she's awake like the noonday sun. So I ask which story she'd prefer and instead of the scary one. I begin to list off the stories by their titles (as they are categorized on the phone) when she says she'd like the one where the girl makes that funny laugh. Well, sure I know just the one since I make it my business to get the fresh heck out of their room at bedtime as quickly as I can when those stories start to play. So of course I have no idea which story that one is and am finding all this routine less and less sweet with every passing second. I want nothing more than to pass her some chewable Ambiens with a wood grain chaser and climb into my own bed.

But at long last I find a story that she seems to find acceptable and just as I get to the door she asks if I'll come back in for more kisses and a squeaky one, too. So I oblige and drag myself downstairs and into bed. The pillow feels extra soft and I can feel myself sink into the mattress. Cannot wait for sleep. And then a moment later I hear it. From the monitor the little bluebird says, "I just can't sleep." And you want to know something? A miracle unfolds. Something blossoms up from deep within and I am new again. I want her with me. I cannot get upstairs fast enough to go and get her. To bring her into bed with us and pull her little pretzel folded body next to mine. She's still so tiny. Still my baby. She took my face with both of her hands and kissed me on the cheek. "I love you", she whispered and then was asleep. I mean like within one second I could hear the change in her breathing. For her I am sleeping potion. The chewable bear shaped Ambien and wood grain chaser. I bring her rest. I revel in this moment for a good bit. Lying there in my comfortable bed with a warm and healthy child nuzzled close. She won't likely climb right next to me in bed when she's in junior high. Won't need me in that way. But I sure won't mind if she does.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bluebird of Mine

Spent the day with this precious bluebird and have never been more certain about our decision to wait until next year for Kinder. Love having her to myself and so grateful for this time. Said the mom who may also be pretty excited about pre-k starting next week.

And she's obviously gifted.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fresh air is something I know I need and want but I've never seen it. Sometimes I know I'm breathing it in but I can't see it in front of me. At least not until today. I had the amazing privilege to get a peek into such refreshment this very day. I want to share it with you. Look quickly because it's just a willowy glimpse of beauty but it's unmistakably there.

Can you imagine someone on Round Six of chemo cracking hilarious wit, sharing incredible wisdom, and encouraging you all the while? Me neither. Before today. Meet Marianne. My dear, dear friend, inspiration, and soul sister. There's only one of her and the world could use so many more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We've been on a bit of a watch around here lately. Sure the whole world was waiting for the Royal birth. Would Kate have a boy or girl? Would she wear skinny jeans out of hospital on her way home with baby? Don't we love that the Brits say "hospital" instead of "the hospital"? No need for extras for them. Except of course if we're talking about the future King and then bring on the fluff and pomp. Anyway...I obviously saw something shiny and forgot what I was typing.

I wanted to say that we've been on our own watch here in our home. Waiting for Emerson's second grade teacher to call and introduce themselves. Maybe not as newsworthy on a global scale but big stuff here for the resident eight year old. The bated breath wasn't really for the answer to the question of who the teacher would be as much as it was who else would be in the class. Emie's braved three separate elementary schools in her short tenure as a student and I was so hoping she'd be in class with the two little friends with whom she is closest here in Texas.

The much anticipated call came last night and Mrs. S introduced herself to me over the phone. She sounded great. Energetic and kind and already asking if Emerson wanted to go by Emerson or Emie complementing her name all the while. I liked her. Before I had even hung up the phone I could hear my cell buzzing with a text. Both moms of her friends were texting to say their kids were not with Mrs. S.

My heart sank. I know this isn't the perils that royals deal with or a global catastrophe, but my heart broke for Emerson that she'd be starting over again this year with a clean slate in the friend arena. I ponied up and prepared to have "the talk" with her. I told her that I had received a call from her teacher that evening. "Oh, I hope, I hope that Ines is with me!" she beamed. I felt myself grow a little warmer as I carried on, prolonging the inevitable. She sounds so nice, I went on, "Her name is Mrs. S!" "Oh, I've seen her before", Emie said. I knew I could skirt no longer and had to just throw it out there for her so I stared the little love right in the eyes and said, "Ines and Charlie aren't in your class." She let out a tiny, almost imperceptible sigh, and then said, "Well, if our rooms are near to one another we'll go to recess at the same time and I can catch up with them there." She bounced out of the room and went back about her happy little life.

So there you have it. I neglected to follow my own favorite piece of advice, "Don't borrow trouble." I love that my firstborn girl reminded me that surprise plot twists almost always make for the best stories. May I do as well with my own story.

In other news, all of my talk of being awesome is nothing but folklore now. We are in the last few blocks of the marathon and sprinting is but a memory. We're walking with a bit of a limp but we're getting there. School starts in four days! The "no tech screen" window has shrunk more than a little and I may or may not have eaten all of the Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars that Walgreens had in stock last night. Antioxidants, friends! And mental acuity, which by the likes of this post shows that I need to get my hands on some more of those puppies before sundown. Consider it done!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

From Zero to Hero

I just read something that really resonated with me.

This truth really hit me week before last but I couldn't articulate it as simply as this. I just was feeling really lame in my parenting. I had gotten pretty completely lazy about monitoring how much time the girls were spending playing on the computer, watching the TV, or playing on one of our phones. I got mighty comfy just letting them chill while I did my super important stuff (read: Checked Pinterest for more ways to make my life better in Every.Single.Way!). I was well aware of my mediocrity and mostly just felt crappy about it and resolved to accept that I had just wasted an opportunity to do well. But it dawned on me that I could do something different. All was not lost! The girls weren’t on their way to “juvy” just yet and there was still some chance for each of us to lead productive and interesting lives once again.

That very morning I was on FB (checking super-important geo-political updates no doubt) when I saw a post from my friend Kate in New England. She admitted to falling into a similar lack of awesomeness in mama-monitoring and had just instituted a new rule in their home: No tech or screens of any kind from 10am to 4pm every day. Brilliance right in front of me. I copied her plan instantly, as I often like to do from the smart people I know, and made this little rule our own. I'll add that our entire summer wasn't one big wasteland of brain-drain. We kicked things off with a long vacation followed by two weeks of daily swimming lessons. We were something back then. But then came August...

Instituting my new rule felt good instantly. It was great to see the girls follow the rules and leave technology alone. But when I found them staring off into space for long periods of time I realized we needed something to do. Actually a lot of somethings once we truly unplugged. It’s not like we all just laid on the floor all day and watched Bravo before (that was just me, sillies!). I kid. But we had gotten pretty cozy in the A/C just lounging the lazy days of summer away.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thirteen Years People

Dirk and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary yesterday. Well we really celebrated the day before because that's when the babysitter was free - but yesterday marked thirteen years since our wedding day. It's kind of hard to believe that it's been that long since we hosted what we think is the funnest wedding ever thrown. But it was kind of about us so I suppose that's not a fair contest. But it was fun and even after all of these years later, there's nothing I'd have changed about it.

A barn wedding before barn weddings were a thing. I still remember the look on my dad's face when I told him I'd marry in a barn. He was not feeling the patina and character and vibe I had in my mind. And he saw it before it was set up. Before the old mattress laying on the floor and dirt had been swept out of the place. But I knew it would be amazing. I just didn't know how amazing. And so has the theme of our union been. I knew I was getting a great deal that day. I just didn't know how great a deal it would turn out to be. God picked the best partner for me. He's not the best in the world nor am I. But we are this - the best for one another. I've never been one to say "He's my everything. My soul mate. The best husband in the world." Because you know what - no mere mortal is all of those things every moment of the day. Don't tell Facebook I said so since it screams the opposite from loquacious members everywhere. But seriously people, it's not about being the most amazing person in the entire solar system. It's about being amazing to my man. To my kids. Just bloom right here. Big love blooming like wild right under our roof. That's my charge. May I do it well.

So rather than mush crazy over my man I will say this-- God led me to a really good man. There's no one I'd rather be partnered with in the twists and turns that make up a full life. I'm sticking with this one come rain or come shine. Blessed, grateful, and since it's our thirteenth - Lucky!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

From her backseat perch in the car Ainsley initiated this conversation yesterday:
Ainsley: Mama, do some people call Jesus Santa?
Me: I don't think so, sweetie.
Ainsley: Oh, 'cause I learned a song at church that talked about it. "Ho, Santa! Ho, Ho, Ho Santa!"
Me: It's Hosanna, sweetie.

These moments make my entire day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just an Ordinary Week Until I Almost Died.

(Not that I ever in a million years would exaggerate or anything.)

Last week was a blur. Like a big speedy blur of fullness. It started out ordinary enough. Summer days filled with sun and swim. Wednesday was a highlight when I got to go and see one of my dearest friends, Marianne. She's in the middle of a big battle and she's way ahead. Knocking cancer in the kisser and teaching me so much about life, grace, and love all the while. She is one of my favorite people on the planet. There's just so much to be said for being present in the right here right now stuff of life and she's really good at this. Refreshment:)

The next day was ordinary enough and I was enjoying the daily-ness. Ordinary is good. I have never underestimated the power of a calm life. All the same I really was focusing on enjoying the simplicity that is our daily schedule on this day. I met with the gardener to show him some stuff that needed tending to in our Big Ivy and when I walked back in the house and noticed that my head was throbbing. It hadn't seemed like a stressful encounter but I took two Tylenol and went about making the girls' lunch.

I noticed that my ankles and hands were itchy which seemed irritating but not a big deal. But when my hands started to be red hot with itch and I realized something was amiss. I gathered that some kind of allergic histamine something was happening though I don't have any known allergies. I looked in the mirror on my way to the medicine chest (plastic shoe box) and noted that I was as red as a beet. Like ruby were my ears and neck. My underarms were suddenly as itchy as homemade mittens. I saw that I was spotted like a red hot leopard all the way to my waist. I'm no doctor but I gathered this was abnormal.

I dug through our little stash of meds and came across a Claritin. I took one and thought that I'd be good as new in no time. But instead in exactly no time my tongue started to swell. I wanted to talk to Dirk about it. To see if my voice of reason thought this was a big deal or not. But I was reasonably sure I'd sound like Sylvester from Loony Tunes if I tried to speak so texted him my symptoms instead. He called immediately and told me to get my little red hot self to the Urgent Care or ER ASAP and yes, my suspicions were confirmed, my voice was as slurred as a drunk kitty. His colleague who is a friend of mine was near to the phone and told me to lock the door, leave the girls there, and he'd be home in 15 to meet them. Admittedly this instruction both comforted and freaked me out all in one exhale. I liked knowing another mom was in on the gig and was giving me calm instruction - but anyone who's going to suggest you leave your nippers to fly solo so you can seek medical attention must know something you don't about how grave your situation is.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hey, it's been a while.

We’ve just returned from an almost three week adventure across the Midwest to visit friends and family. Our first stop was in Illinois to see my brother’s firstborn be married. It’s okay since child weddings are legal in this state. Actually he’s 23. The one to whom my mom and I brought his first footie jammies grew up without anyone’s express permission.

It hit me while sitting in the pew that Loompa was about to become someone’s husband. Impossible. My brother Andy’s son. He started as Lump of Sugar which evolved to Lumpa which lent itself quite readily to Loompa, which stuck. The child’s given name is Adam, but when choosing between a moniker that means “Son of Man” or “Tiny Green-faced munchkin” the contest is over. Loompa it was. I know it’s not wildly flattering and I don’t call him this anymore (at least outside of my head).

But there are just so many memories fresh as rain in my mind of his Loompa-ness, his baby-ness. He was my first nephew, the first grandchild to my parents, and an easy happy baby with squishy cheeks and cheery giggles.

But at the front of the church he wasn’t Loompa anymore. His shoulders never so broad and strong. His skin was never so smooth, his hair more shiny. Boy, love does look good on a person, doesn’t it? And so my tears started to flow. I heard my sister behind me ask her daughter for a Kleenex and then later ask for the whole box. Well dang it then I was crying even harder. But it really wasn’t until the wedding was over that I became completely unglued. He and Brianna led the recessional to dismiss their guests. My mom was seated in the front row of the church where Adam bent down to kiss her. She reached for his face with her hand which was remarkably tremor-free. In that moment she was strong and vital, present and joy filled. It was as though a movie reel was set to motion. Every diaper she changed, t-ball game she attended, encouragement she uttered, guitar lesson she paid for, letter jacket she splurged on, sleepover she hosted... all of them were right there in that moment. Her first grandchild was married and she was there to witness it, to celebrate it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


The other day little Ainsley's face was awash with fresh tears and she was calling out to me. When I asked what the matter was, she could barely speak the words through heavy sniffles and sighs. But when she finally caught her breath this is what she said: "When I'm in second grade I'm going to have to learn about silent E's". We should take note that she will be in the second grade in no fewer than three years.

Listen. I know silent E's don't scare everyone. I know silent E's may be some people's favorite. But for this little moment in time my baby is afraid of their looming nearness. In just 1,095 days she'll be chased down by the likes of well, like, side, and drone. It's freaking her out. We don't always understand why people are afraid. We certainly don't always understand why they are afraid of what they are afraid of. But all of us, somewhere deep in our inner parts, know what it is to be afraid. And we can extend the hand of grace and meet people where they are in their battle with fear.

It might be tempting for another mom to hold her tongue and resist saying, "Are you serious right now? You are a sobbing hot mess over a silent E. A silent E you will probably not have to even talk about for a thousand more sleeps!!?" But that's not me. I blow it in other ways I'm quite sure. But empathy for a fearful heart is where I rock the casbah. I've.Been.There. And I just never want to judge a frightened heart. I also don't want to give fear titanic power over anyone, least of all one of my children. Because there's something else we all have in common in our fear, our battle, our struggle. We just want one moment of validation. We want someone to say that they understand that life is scary sometimes and remind us that we know the dragon slayer. The fear conqueror. That never, not for one instant, are we alone in our fear. It doesn't always mean the fear disappears instantly but it does mean we are not alone in it, and that my friends, is very good news.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Life With the Flintstones

Look. There are three days left of school and here's what I know for sure: 72 hours never seemed so long. And I'm not the one going to class. But I am the one waking the little nugget up at o'dark hundred since Dirk's in Seattle for work. And yes, he's good enough to do it every other day that he's in town. Still it's hard to feel inspired to wake up before the sun, serve up a healthy breakfast (and by that I mean a glass of Ovaltine), and send the little first grader off to her prescribed learning coalition so that she can be present for pillow and blanket day. Yes, that was today's theme. Tomorrow it's Craft Day followed by Game Day and finished off with Outside Play Day. Um, I'm pretty sure this is called summer vacation so I don't really see the point of getting up before God to do any of that. But alas, the truant officer has big ideas so my alarm is set.

Maybe I'm just a little touchy because I'm trying a new eating plan. Since I'm living with caveman I figured you know... when in Rome (or when in the cave) do as the cave-people. Dirk's been following the Primal Blueprint for a few months and though I made merciless fun of him for it, I now see that it's done a world of good for his fitness, health, and happiness. So what could I do but agree that yes, "Me want to be happy and healthy, too." So on the bandwagon I jumped. Although there aren't any bandwagons in caveman's Neanderthal world, or any baked goods for that matter. Nary a grain of sugar or wheat to be found anywhere in this prehistoric place and yet it is where I have moved. And I love moving! It's been great fine. I mean I do like the whole food options and I cannot deny that I already feel better after just a few days on the plan. But I'm not gonna lie - I have had fantasies about chasing down (with a large club) anything between me and my eating a family size bowl of gnocchi with vodka cream sauce followed by a one pound bag of plain M and Ms... or some such carbohydrate/sucralose combination. Baby I'm a want you. All of your carbo-sugar laden goodness. But I know that it takes time to retrain the body and mind of a woman who cut her teeth on Sugar Babies and fettuccine alfredo. And change is good. Me like change. Me need to go to bed to wake up Bam Bam for craft day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Miss Your Skin

So the Ainsley love is on my mind so much these days. Tomorrow she graduates from preschool. Precious lamb that she is. And before I say anything about how dumb I used to think graduations from anything before high school were or the fact that she's going back to repeat the same program next year at the very same school -- I will say this: It all makes my heart full of sweet sentiment for her and her darling little life. And as much as I know that my identity expands beyond the role of mother in many different ways I do know that this role, this job is without question the most important work I will ever do and this little girl is my last baby.

When Ainsley was about three she used to tell me when I wasn't near to her that she missed my skin. When I carried her she'd stroke my arm and say, "I love your skin." Even this morning after she crawled into bed with us she drew nearer and nearer to me saying that she just wanted to touch me on the skin. I may not have found this to be wildly endearing at 4:17am, but I do get it. I do get just wanting to touch the one who loves your very soul. To just reach out and feel the familiar warmth and security of the one who is ever for you, is with you, is in love with you.

And as much as she loves my skin I want to love being in it. To be comfortable in my own skin. As I head closer to the second half of my forties I'm ready to just be there. To feel at ease with me and Whose I am. Some days I'm more there than others. But I do know this--that to get there -- to that place of comfort with myself I need to reach out and touch the One who knows me. Who loves me, is for me, is in love with me. I need a savior. And there's absolutely nothing like knowing that He is for me! With me!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Before There Was Google, There Was Mom

On Mother's Day I'm ever thinking of my own mom and wishing she was near to me.

I can remember countless times that I would call on her for all manner of wisdom. In the way that people now Google for their answer I would turn and ask my mom (who always seemed to be right there):
  • Where is Antarctica?
  • How many cups are in a gallon?
  • How long will it take us to drive to St. Louis?
And with precise search engine optimization she would answer me correctly. When I left home the process changed ,but only slightly. I would dial up the phone number I'd memorized when I was in Kindergarten---seven digits with so many sevens all together. Nearly every time my mom would share that number with someone they would say: "That would be a great hand in poker." As a child, I had no idea what that meant but I liked knowing that the number was special. I already knew that since it was my pathway home. To that voice on the other end of the line who would say every single time she'd hear my voice, "Hi baby." For I was, and still am, the baby in the family of three kids. Soon thereafter I'd hear the answers to so many of my questions:
  • How do I you cook a roast?
  • Can I use a glass dish instead of a bundt pan for this cake?
  • How much milk do I put in to scramble eggs?
She'd answer me readily and encourage me that I couldn't go too wrong. To just give it a try and tell her how it worked out. I would do both. Give it a try and later tell her how it worked. Our relationship wasn't perfect as I'm reasonably sure none involving two humans ever is - but it was ours. It was close and comfortable, tried and true. She was proud of me. Liked who I'd become. Wanted to be near to me and was crazy about my kids.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'm so happy. So very happy. I think my chest will explode.

It's impossible not to feel both wistful and proud when I hear my Emie regale tales of her day. It's another opportunity to remember that indeed she is becoming her very own person. Last night we went out to dinner and had such a fun time. Ainsley wanted to sit outside for a bit so after Dirk was finished he took her to an outdoor table. Note that we were at Freebirds World Burrito so it's not as though we messed up the universe of any reservation schedule. The menu's on a chalkboard.

When it was just me and Emie at the table, I asked her about her day. About recess and lunch. The two places where it all happens when you're seven. I asked her if she had a chance to be a friend to someone. Someone who needed a friend. I hope I'll always remember what her face looked like before she even started to tell me about it. How her eyes lit up and her dimples plunged, it was as though someone had just plugged in a thousand Christmas lights in a dark room. That.little.face.

She shared with me that her friend Jay was a bit sad on the bus ride home. She told him a made up a story about him, their mutual friend on the bus, and herself. One which had them all laughing hysterically before the end. My firstborn experienced something sacred today. To feel the unsurpassed joy of bringing someone else a smile when they just can't muster one themselves. To make someone laugh when they have already realized that life really isn't very funny. I know she's done this before. She's been spreading the joy around like so much glitter since she was a babe - but for her to get how amazing that feels - Well that's the stuff of glory.

I reached across the table and held her squarely on the shoulders and said "Do you have any earthly idea how amazing you are? How crazy beautiful and amazing you are? You?" Or as much as I could before she recanted, "Mom" in the way that has four syllables. I wanted to stop time and record every sparkle in her eye. Every long eyelash. How her lips were red as cherries. She's growing up so fast. The other day on the way to church she was talking (with great knowledge) about the Revolutionary war. She later explained to her sister (who had asked) what formal attire was. How does she know all of these things already when she was just crawling a few minutes ago? The years go by so very, very fast.

Oh, this job is so hard sometimes. It takes everything I have some days to hold it together as a mom when it's all about pouring myself out and into the lives of the little lovies. The Lord refills me readily but there are days when I'm weary. But yesterday, well it was different. I was on top of the world. I got one of those this is why I'm doing what I'm doing moments. It is a privilege denied to many to get to pour into a real life. An individual sparkly, gorgeous, unique, not-my-own life.

Lord Grantham's words sum it up so very well. "I'm so happy. So very happy. I think my chest will explode."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I just came across this picture. Though taken two and a half years ago it is vintage Ainsley and me. I mean seriously people, who needs cable? She's flying through the air and I want a nap. Not a lot has changed since then and then again everything has.

Spring Break is nearly over. Can I get an amen? It actually has been great to have the girls to myself and not have to wake them for anything. We found plenty to do with our time. We baked a half batch of chocolate chip cookies yesterday because that's how much the family flour supply would allow. But it seemed plenty.

Our aim was to bring a plate of them to some new neighbors we saw move in a few weeks ago. They're at the other end of our street and on one of our trips past we thought we scoped out some little girls on their upper front porch. PFs (potential friends) bring out the Betty Crocker in all of us. Once we had our plate all set and our card ready to roll we walked on over. Yep, you guessed it. No one was home. Hadn't factored in that possibility. And since it's Spring Break we didn't opt to leave them on the doorstep in fear that we'd only attract the local raccoon family to their door and that just doesn't seem too neighborly.

Back home we went, cookies in hand. It wasn't long before we all started to look pretty longingly at the plate. I mean, they weren't home and would they ever know if we just took a couple off of the plate before bringing them down the next day? So we started in and well, it's going to take a lot of convincing for me to feel brave enough to bring what is now a plate of only three cookies from our motley Welcome Wagon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

So Glad You're Here and Good Night

It feels weird not to have written in such a while. I'd gotten into such a comfortable habit of cranking out posts every couple of days. But we've had company here for a full week so that just changes things. And it was the in-laws. And though I actually really like them - a novel concept and a rare gift I'm sure - it's still just different when you have extras in the house. Different in a good way. Like different as in I cooked real meals! I should back up to say that not only did I cook real meals, I planned for real meals like I'd never done before. I made lists, shopped, chopped and prepared to make Ina Garten blush. I held my own and it turns out it wasn't that painful and it saved a ton of hassle.

I had so many provisions around that it appeared my aim was to put everyone in a food coma. Part of a plot to sneak in a much needed nap. But the coma really wasn't necessary since my house guests were big nappers. Huge nappers. Like marathon nappers. Did I mention they like to take naps? Green with envy I am, that's all. But they're good at it. In fairness I should note that this is only because they really sleep poorly at night. Like they don't sleep at night much at all kind of poorly. It's a bit like having owls as house guests. Here's an example of their prowess for napping: Dirk was outside chatting in the afternoon with his dad a few times when he would notice him drift off to sleep mid-sentence only to wake up and pick up exactly where he left off in his conversation with Dirk. This is brilliant stuff here. Mad skills that would be wonderfully helpful during a boring meeting. Take a little snooze and then wake right up and say, "As I was saying..." and just never miss a beat. They're something these in-laws. In truth they lead really full and productive lives in their golden years. My mother-in-law's schedule makes me tired. She's on several boards, does all of the book keeping for her church's child care center, bakes from scratch, quilts, and keeps up with a wide circle of friends. About that nap...

We did wake them up long enough to show them the Alamo, the Riverwalk, a few authentic BBQ/honky-tonk type of joints and other Texas fare, Dirk's office (a mom likes to see these things), our church, and Emie's beloved Orange Leaf. They said they had a good time and we believe them. If getting away is about getting some rest and relaxation--well, mission accomplished indeed! Unfortunately we hosts still had the little people here wanting to try out their new in-line skates, and shoot hoops with their new basketball. So, no rest for the parentals. But we were really, really glad for their company. The in-laws and the little people for that matter.

It was just a treat to be with people with whom we have shared history. Others who know our stories and our people. We got to hear about family members and how they're all doing and also about new subjects such as the perils of cutlery in restaurants these days. Have you noticed that forks are not sharp enough to use in most eating establishments? Neither had I but if you ask my mother-in-law, she would tell you this is a big problem today. The forks out there aren't sharp enough to pierce the food on your plate. Makes you wonder if perhaps a lack of meat tenderizer is the true culprit but that's fodder for another visit. We'll be visiting them in June so we'll have something else to talk about.

The girls are on Spring Break this week and Dirk's heading out of town for work. Cleverly timed, husband, cleverly timed indeed. In any case, I don't imagine I'll have time for lots of posts but life's full of surprises.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Because You Love Me

I love Valentine's Day. Anytime the color pink and chocolate are found in the same place I'm really very happy. We had a sweet time this year. Incorporating what has become a tradition for us of a spaghetti dinner followed by a cake frosted in pink. The girls love it and Dirk loves that a meal is actually served at well...meal time.

Menu planning completely alludes me. I've seen the calendars, notebooks, Post-it pads, and every manner of meal time helper out there and none of them call my name. It's like dinner takes me by surprise every single day. I want to say to my family: You want to eat again? Didn't you just eat yesterday? I admire those who plan their meals out a week in advance and buy all of the ingredients ahead of time. I live closer to the edge where it's 4:45pm and I am trying to figure out a way to make a meal for a family of four ;out of a few pieces of lunch meat, bread crumbs, and an apple. I do want to improve in this area and suppose breaking down and making a plan is all that I can do. Yesterday was a better day. I made this and it was both simple and enjoyed by the entire family.

This is not a picture I took of course nor is the actual meal I prepared. Dinner a la Pinterest post. Mine looked nothing like this as none of the recipes I try from Pinterest ever do, but it was really tasty. Light soy sauce, brown sugar, pineapple juice combined and poured over chicken breasts in a slow cooker. I even made my own veggies and multi-grain rice to serve alongside. Look how fancy I can be when I only cook one day a month!

Please note that I am cooking today too before you pick up the phone to call Protective Services. I really do want to do better in this area and realize that when kids ask for a family meal to enjoy together around a common table it's actually a good thing.

Anyway, back to Valentine's Day...I know you were on pins and needles. I often ask both of my girls something their Auntie Mary has asked them for years: "Why are you so beautiful?" It's been fun to hear their varied responses as the years go by. For quite a while now Ainsley has answered with this profound response: "Because you love me." Isn't that just the whole truth? The reason she is so beautiful to me is because I love her. We see beauty in those we love. May we see it in everyone else as well.

Here's a Valentine's Day picture of the little lovie who indeed is so very much loved.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Nightstick in Your Own Eye

We went to church on Saturday night on an uncharacteristically rainy night in San Antonio.

I noticed an orange vest draped across the back of the chair in front of me. I quickly concluded that the gentleman seated there was one of the church's many parking attendant volunteers. I'm Macgyver-like in this way. Anyway, we settled into our seats and it was quiet, time for the service to begin when a cell phone in the purse of the woman sitting behind me started to ring. She simply forgot to silence it. But before she had a chance to shut it off Mr. Parking Attendant Volunteer turned all the way around in his seat and gave her the look. I felt for her. An innocent mistake and she was being shamed for it. But as she was attempting to silence it, it rang another time and Mr. Parking gave her yet another look that didn't say anything close to sorry about that.

So the phone silenced and the service carried on and it was time for communion. People were quieting as we prepared to receive the bread and the wine. When all of a sudden out of nowhere Mr. Parking turns all the way around in his seat and starts waving his orange baton in the air over his head. Because nothing says reverence and respect like waving a giant nightstick over your head during the Lord's supper. We quickly noted that he was flagging down a friend for whom he'd saved a seat. She came to the seat and the two immediately began chit-chatting away like they were at Starbucks. Hmm.

The whole thing just struck me as ironic. He didn't have any problem displaying his obvious distaste and judgement toward someone else who'd simply forgotten to take care of something that might be a disruption to others. Yet there he was waving a ginormous orange glow stick in front of my face when I'm pondering the night on which Jesus was betrayed. I know there's a lesson to be learned here. Pretty sure there's a Bible verse about taking the nightstick out of your own eye before plucking out someone else's ringing cell phone. Hope I learned it. We all mess up sometimes. May we lavish grace onto others just as it was lavished onto us.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Right on Time. Early Even.

I just found a library book (in the first place I looked) that is due today. There's just no question that with this kind of good fortune today is going to be an amazing day. Hope the Happiness Fairy will be returned before the fines start to accrue. Much as I strive to get all of the girls' books back before the due date I fall short as a mother right there. But today is different. Look out world.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Learning to Follow

So it turns out that battling bugs the size of sesame seeds is wildly exhausting. Who knew? But it is. And this past weekend I was ready to rest. But 'twas not to be. Dirk was working like mad to meet a writing deadline for work and he really needed me to take the lovies out for a bit so he could have some quiet.

Well it just so happened it was Home Depot workshop day. A day I have grown to love only because it was a kiddie event that I am not typically required to attend. Somehow being in a warehouse sized home improvement store crammed with kids pounding hammers non-stop doesn't conjure up images of rest and peace for me.

But there I was with my orange-aproned lovies right in the thick of it. Peeps, it was stressful. I mean it kind of was. I'm pretty handy as far as projects go but don't expect me to pound nails with any sort of accuracy. Or follow plans for a woodworking project. No, please don't expect that. But there the girls were, eager to make their wooden valentine wall hangings with a mother without one clue how to take the first step.

I read the instructions but all I saw (over the incessant pounding of hammers around us) was "Wa wa wa wa wa" in the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher. Except there weren't any words of instruction. Only pictures with little arrows by the nails pointing in the direction they should go. Seemed simple enough. But all of the pieces of wood were angled in such away that one false move and the wall hanging became a doorstop. DIY disaster to be sure. But I stepped up to the plate and gave it my best shot. As I began to place the nails where I thought they should go a woman from Germany (wild guess here) said, "These is so complex for za children. So very deeficult. Do not follow directions on za paper. Pound zee nails in zee back first." Her little wall hanging was all finished. She seemed a trustworthy source from whom to take instruction.

So I listened to my sauerbraten loving friend. I pounded zee nails in zee back. But it didn't work. And I was growing increasingly nervy and wanted to go home and or to the airport to board a plane to Maui. But it was Emerson who won the day. "Mama, it's okay. It goes this way," she instructed. And in a matter of minutes it was my precious little zeven seven year old lovie who was putting the wooden hanger together for both herself and her baby sister.

I wonder how many lessons I've learned from my kids. How many times I've done better to let them take the lead. Oh, I hope I remember to follow more and more often. Their ways are often so much sweeter. And sometimes full of crazy as they'd like nothing more than to ride in the trunk of the car or jump off of the balcony. So, moderation in the following of the littles. Moderation in all things. I do know that much. But, oh, they do know a thing or two about a thing or two.

This morning Ainsley love was looking for her little dolly. It's a plastic doll on which you can snap little changes of clothes. She's a little bit in love with her. She was sad in thinking she had been misplaced when all of a sudden her face lit up like the sun. She remembered where she had put her. She pulled back her curtain to reveal the dolly standing, facing out the window. "I put her here last night so she could look at the stars," she beamed. Of course. Shouldn't we all point one another so that we can see the stars. May it always be.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dream Weaver

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Emerson's first grade class was asked to write about a dream they have for their life. The only parameters given were that the dream had to be nice. Well played first grade teachers. I mean who wants to read 22 essays on the dreams they each had of potty words (which is, naturally, the funniest thing any six or seven year old can possibly imagine.) So Emie brings her work home today for me to read. I was ready for it. For the words about her dream to fly with a unicorn or grow her own fairy wings. All fine dreams for a seven year old girl. But what I found instead was a dream I could only hope to be brave enough to have for myself. It read:

"I have a dream. As a leader I can help people believe in the Bible. I can go around the world."

She included this picture of her holding a Bible and apparently sharing a word:

If you can get beyond the fact that she looks like a raging heretic in this depiction and remember that she really looks like this:

it makes more sense to see that her little protege looks pretty happy with what she's hearing. I mean if someone with this much peace and joy told me how she got it - I'd listen too. I'm pretty sure my heart grew three sizes today. I am overcome with love and admiration for this precious girl.

I just heard today that parenting is the only job you'll ever work where you don't get your first real performance review for 18 years. For so long the jury is out on whether or not the effort you're putting in is indeed resulting in a job well done. You just don't get to know until they're a little more cooked if what you're trying to instill and teach is getting through and making a lasting difference at all. Perhaps it's one of the greatest displays of faith there is. To trust that all of the work and sacrifice will bear a bountiful harvest. That God's grace will cover all of the areas in which you've missed the opportunity, said the wrong thing, tuned out. Believing His faithfulness to see you (and them) through even on days you don't see a single berry on the vine.

But every once in a while you get a little sneak peek into the future. You get to see that something along the way, some of your passion, some of your effort, some of your prayers have paid off in a big and eternal way. That indeed the job you've been doing is alright. Better than alright even. Today I got that little peek. I got to see that in spite of my own shortcomings as a mom something's getting through and a beautiful selfless child is emerging before my very eyes. The heart of this precious child is as pure as the driven snow. So much so that when asked to come up with any amazing dream for herself the first thing she thinks of is sharing the truth and love of Jesus with others.

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge." - Ivana Trump

So just two weeks ago I wrote an entire post about Ainsley's hair. How it often becomes a family project but I just can't let it go. Well, I think the universe was listening or reading. I mean, not really because of course God's the only one listening or reading my thoughts or this blog for that matter. Oh, that's such a good thing for so many reasons. The thoughts part not the blog, I mean, I wouldn't mind another reader besides my husband. Any old way, if I felt that the universe was a listener then it would make sense that after I tempted fate, I fell and fell hard.

There I was praising that thick mane of tresses of my little lov when....Wham! My cheeks were reddening as the preschool director told me that the "unexplained rash" they found on my darling's little ear was most likely from (gulp)... wait for it...head lice. Take me now, Jesus. Just come on that white horse and get me out of this office. Good Lord. Bugs? And bugs in my baby's hair? Suddenly the memory of what I called a "family project" to care for Ainsley's hair looked like a walk in the park. A really short walk on a really pleasant day. It's hard to feel like Mother of the Year when someone else is pointing out that your child would benefit from a flea dip.

I have, however, been more than a little encouraged to learn that the little vermin like some clean hair. So there you have it. All of the work I've been doing to keep the dear love's crown in sweet order was perceived as an open invitation for every louse in town. Signals crossed - buglets - wrong idea! Go back where you came from! I do so wish I knew where they came from so I could ensure that none of us ever go there again. Ever.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I got to read a book to the first grade class that this little darling is in. As Ainsley and I sat at the lunch table with her before we went to class she looked across the table at us and beamed: "I can't believe it's our big day!" You know when there's so much love inside of you for another person that you cannot simply hold it in? There's no chance that you can contain it. This was that. My cheeks hurt from smiling so big. I am so overcome with love for this daughter of mine and her little sister friend. I know the simplicity of my company won't always constitute "A Big Day!" but today I'm so glad that it did.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When asked recently what she was most thankful for, Ainsley, age four answered: "My hair and my sister." Now this may not have been a postable moment for most moms. I mean, she didn't say, "My eternal salvation and my out-of-this-world-amazing mother." But she did say she was thankful for two things for which she has held mixed emotions in her short little tenure on earth. I was pleased indeed.

Her hair can be a bit of a family project. Her curls are a splendid cascade around her darling face. But they spend most of their time in a state of entanglement. Like a big wad of matted dreadlock entanglement. But I just cannot bear to see them go. I truly think even after a substantial haircut (as her father has insisted suggested) she'd still have tangles. She likes to wrap her little fingers in it and would likely do so no matter the length. So I work it out. With wide toothed combs and leave-conditioner, and chamois towels, and a touch of magic. It's amazing that hair of hers. But I just so very much want her to know that. To not feel it is this big messy part of her that is a bother. And so indeed it was a day of gladness when she gave first fruits of praise to those spectacular tresses.

And as for her gratitude for her sister, well color me happy. I have been praying since this girl was in my belly for her to love her sister well. For the two of them to be each other's greatest source of encouragement. Some days it looks nothing at all like that. It looks like too many cooks in the kitchen. Like too many engines and no caboose. Like two leaders who are desperately looking for a follower in one another. It doesn't always work so well. But at the end of the day they are there for one another and are united through and through.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”

Oh how I love a fresh start, a new page. January's generous this way and it is most welcome in our home. 2012 was a good teacher and I think we were pretty good students. We learned an awful lot, that's for certain.

We've now been in Texas for one year. It feels good to be able to say that. I think we all feel like that was a good hurdle to clear. The first year in a new place can feel a bit like an opponent. Like you have to fight a bit to be victorious. And Gandhi (who's said a couple of smart things over the years) says this: "Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love." Jesus said something similar and the truth is undeniable. If we want to enjoy some peace and comfort in this world we must continuously strive to love. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. It rejoices in the truth. It puts the needs of others above itself. So may it be with me.

I'm excited for the new year. The Christmas break proved to be shockingly restorative. For all of my concern that we might all be climbing the walls after two and a half weeks of togetherness it's proven to have been an incredible time. The girls did so well to encourage one another and find ways to play well together.

Three years can seem to be quite a span when their two ages are but four and seven. Like when Emie wants to play Headbandz, a game in which the players but a card on their forehead with a picture on it. They don't know what is on the picture and ask the other players questions to try to guess who or what they are. Emie excitedly asks clever things such as, "Can I be eaten?," or "Am I in this room?" and before she gets too far along in her inquisition Ainsley pipes up, "You're a spoon!!" in a fit of giggles and the whole thing's over before it begins. As one might imagine, this is not Emie's favorite outcome. But somehow they find the middle place where they can play well together and truly enjoy the magic that is family at its best.

Yesterday they made a tent with a sheet draped over their two beds and secured it with ponytail bands. They closed the curtains, shut the doors and brought flashlights underneath their new-found hideout. Emie read stories to Ainsley and their dolls and they made up songs to sing together. I walked in to overhear Emie apologizing for an earlier offense to Ainsley (for which she had already asked forgiveness) only to hear Ainsley quickly say, "Oh, that's okay." I wanted time to stand still. I wanted to press pause and just sit in that moment for a good long while. This is the very best of it all. Love conquering a foe turning her into a friend. A dear, dear friend.