Monday, December 31, 2007

gearing up

The Llama Papa is getting ready for a trip to Russia. Siberia, to be exact. He’s going with the Slavic Gospel Association to work on this project. Now, you’re probably wondering why my husband would choose to go to Siberia in January. The short answer is that a good friend of his works at SGA, and he’s always wanted to join him on one of his trips.

When we decided to take a self-funded sabbatical and regroup as a family, we sat down and made a list of what we hoped to accomplish during this time off. The list includes household projects like cleaning out our basement and painting our bedroom, along with personal goals and dreams. My list includes things like completing a book proposal, going to Calvin college’s Festival of Faith in Writing, and going on a silent retreat led by Ruth Haley Barton. The Llama Papa’s list includes this trip to Russia, backpacking in Yosemite, and some classes to keep his job skills sharp. When school’s out for the noisy boys, we hope to do some traveling as a family. That’s on the list too.

I’m thrilled to see my husband go on this trip. As a young college student at Urbana, he felt a distinct call to missions. Not to go, but to send. When we began dating seriously, he shared this call with me, as it would affect our life together in a major area––our finances.

All these years he’s been sending, it’s exciting to see him go.

Will you join me in committing to pray for him while he’s away? He’ll be gone January 2 through the 14th. He’ll be helping on the camera crew, taking pictures with his fancy new camera. The trip schedule is grueling, with planes and trains and not much sleep. Please pray for endurance and good health and safe travels. And for God to show up. Pray especially for that.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rome Ants

I’ve never been a flowers and chocolates kind of girl. Oh, maybe early on in our courtship a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day made my heart go all aflutter. But let’s get real––ten years of marriage and three kids later, the only thing that consistently goes aflutter are my thighs.

But that doesn’t mean romance is dead. On the contrary, it runs stronger than ever through the Llama household. It just looks different.

Today, it looked like my husband cleaning out the garage in 28 degree weather so I can park my mini-van out of the snow and ice. He’s gearing up for a two-week missions trip to Russia, and he didn’t want me to have to scrape my van while he’s away.

That, my friends, is love.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

snapshots of Christmas

Christmas Eve: Grandma and Grandpa Llama graciously take our three boys for several hours in the afternoon. Just long enough for Llama Papa and I to finish cleaning the house. (Oh, how quickly it all goes without any little helpers!)

5:30 p.m. Grandma and Grandpa arrive with their overnight bags and join us for a bowl of soup. A few of my friends have told me how strange it is that my husband’s family (who all live about five minutes away) all spend the night on Christmas Eve. But it feels normal to us, to all wake up together on Christmas morning. And so the tradition continues and we all take turns hosting the party.

9 p.m. My husband’s sister and her family arrive. I tuck my nieces into their bed on the floor of the office.

until 11 p.m. The house is full of Christmas magic as stockings are stuffed and toys are put together. We all have way too much fun trying out the wii that Santa leaves for the noisy boys.

11 p.m. My sister-in-law is impressed with the cute Christmas basket I left on her bed. A few bottles of water, chocolates, tissues, and a flashlight. Of course, they’re sleeping on a pull-out futon in the basement, with boxes of stuff lining the walls. She is sweet to notice the basket instead of the stuff.

2 a.m. “Mom! Mom! My tummy hurts,” a too-hot Twin A. crawls into my bed. I go downstairs to get the children’s tylenol, and give him a dose.
“Did Santa come yet?” he asks.
“I wasn’t paying attention. I was too worried about you,” I tell him.
He cuddles up with his Dad and I move into his bedroom.

7:03 a.m. I hear stirring downstairs, but see that Twin B. is still snoozing. Suddenly, he sits upright and moves his curtain. “YES!” he shouts when the light comes in. Like a bolt of lightning, he runs to his door. I am glad I got to see this. And, thankfully, Twin A’s fever never comes back.

7:15 a.m. Wii.

8:00 a.m. The look on baby b.’s face is priceless. He woke up today with no expectations, and suddenly, there’s a party at his house! With presents! I love watching him toodle around from person to person, trying to take it all in.

8:30 a.m. The cinnamon rolls come out of the oven and we all enjoy this yearly indulgence. I read the Christmas story since everyone is still, and my sister-in-law and I both try to ask the kids thought provoking questions. It doesn’t work, but I’m glad we tried.

9:30 a.m. Twin B. opens a pirates of the carribean dart gun from his Aunt and Uncle. “THANK. YOU.” He tells them. Clearly, this is the favorite of the year. (Yes. I’ve given up my non-violent toy stance. It simply doesn’t matter. The boys were building guns out of Tinker Toys, people.)

11 a.m. We’ve managed to open all of the presents, except a few left for baby b. He’s busy playing with his brother's slinky and has no interest in opening more boxes. I’m beyond grateful for family who understands the nature of an overstimulated one-year old and the fact that nobody insists he open more gifts.

12:01 p.m. More food. We snack our way through the afternoon while baby b. naps.

The cousins play, the grown-ups visit, we all have a turn on the wii. The afternoon is a blur of play and naps and newspapers and conversation.

5:00 p.m. We sit down for a nice dinner, and I’m grateful for the family that gathers here. Half of us are still in pajamas, which is a beautiful thing. The food is a pot-luck of family favorites, and I’m grateful for family that pitches in and brings stuff when the party is at my house. Even more, I’m grateful for the clean-up help.

6:30 p.m. My sister-in-law makes chocolate fondue. Oh. My. What a way to end a party!

Last night on the way home from our favorite chinese restaurant:

Twin B: Santa Claus isn’t real. He’s just for pretend.
Twin A: No! He’s real, B! Remember we left those cookies and in the morning, they were all gone!
Twin B: Maybe it’s somebody’s job to sneak into people’s houses at night and eat all of those cookies.

I love that nobody even considered the fact that maybe Mom might eat the cookies. Just maybe.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

let's not forget

I was at the grocery store recently, with my cart piled high with food for Christmas, and the woman behind me couldn’t stop complaining. “Is this line ever going to move?” she grumbled, ignoring the toothy grin of baby b. in the cart ahead of her. “Any day now!” she called out, loud enough for all around to hear.

I wanted to say something.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in twelve people in the world are malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of five.

I don’t bring this up to be a downer or put a guilt trip on the well-fed of the world. I bring it up because many of us need to be reminded that waiting in line to buy groceries is a blessing. I don’t like shopping either, and I don’t know anyone who likes to wait, but seriously, folks––in a world where 160 million little kids are hungry, what does God think of our grocery store line complaints?

We were at Old Navy a few months ago, buying new winter gear for our three boys. Nothing fancy, just warm coats and hats and gloves, a few pairs of blue jeans, a couple of sweatshirts. I don’t mind buying these things; on the contrary, I enjoy buying my children the things they need.

On the way out, the noisy boys asked for a new ball. “No, guys, not today,” I told them, “we have plenty of balls.”
“You never buy us anything!” Twin B. stomped.
“Yeah,” Twin A. joined in. “You never buy us anything!”

Um. Excuse me? I just spent some $287 on little boy coats and gloves and jeans. And I was happy to do it. But the ungratefulness in the hearts of my boys disturbed me.

“Be grateful,” I told them, “that we can walk into a store and buy the things we need.”

I imagine that God is happy to give us the things we need.

In this season of abundance, let’s not forget to say thank you. Even if we have to wait in a long line.

Friday, December 14, 2007

chocolate and rusty nails

Advent. That’s what I was planning to write about today. A specific memory of the Christmas I was on bedrest with the twins and the deep, abiding peace of Christ.

But, friends, today has not been a deep, abiding peace of Christ kind of day. Not even close.

I woke up in a panic at 4:45 this morning, obsessed with getting the boys’ birthday invitations in the mail. The dishwasher was next, and then wrapping. And then my people were awake.

The morning hit a major snag when I started to wrap a gift and realized the security tag was still on it. I cursed Kohls all the way to the store and vowed to never shop there again no matter how cheap things were. But the woman apologized, a real “I’m-so-sorry-you-had-to-drag-that-baby-out-in-the-cold apology,” and my anger vanished.

For the moment.

The anger reappeared when I stopped off at Burger King to get a refund on the kids’ meals I picked up last night on the way to the children’s museum. The kids’ meals that had no cheeseburgers or milk in them. Only fries. And when I explained the problem to the teenager behind the counter, she accused me of trying to steal cheeseburgers. Honestly, folks. I could not make this stuff up.

I called a friend this afternoon to vent about the craziness of the day, and do you know what she was doing? She was scrubbing the rust off of nails to make some kind of Christmas ornament. She had tried soaking the nails all week on her kitchen counter in an effort to make them rusty, but the darn things wouldn’t rust. So she soaked them in toilet bowl cleaner. It worked, but the rust was orange instead of black. So here it was, one-thirty on Friday afternoon and she was scrubbing away on orange, rusty nails. Of course.

Because we all know Christmas is not about the abiding joy and peace of Christ. It’s about shopping and baking and cards and scrubbing freaking orange rust off of nails to make ornaments.

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part of the day. This afternoon I made myself a cup of tea and got out my latest grocery store find: 100 calorie triple fudge brownies. Doesn’t that sound great? A nice, 2-point treat to go with my tea. Desperate for chocolate, I open the package up and pull out a small, wrapped bit of brownie smaller than my thumb.

That is just wrong.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

empowered

How did this class empower me, Andrea wants to know? I’ve already written a full six-page essay on the subject, but I’ll spare you that.

I’m less fearful. Most people are surprised to learn that I was walking around most days in a state of hyper-awareness, unable to sleep well, and constantly thinking through “what if” scenarios. (What if someone sneaks into the garage while we ride our bikes around the block?) Facing these fears head-on was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But knowing I’m able to handle a worst-case scenario attack allows me to let go of this hyper-vigilance. Freedom from fear? Empowering. It opens up a whole new world.

I’m more assertive. Just knowing that I have the ability to kick the tar out of someone allows me to set a verbal boundary right where I want it, knowing that if they escalate the situation, I’m prepared.

For instance, I mentioned the drunk man at McDonalds. I was there with my three boys several weeks ago, and he zeroed in on me right away. (I think it’s the blonde, slightly overweight factor. Drunk guys dig chicks like me.)

“Oh, you have three boys,” he said.
“I do.” I responded, noting his slurred speech.
“I have two boys and then I get my girl. You want to know how to get a girl? Let me tell you.”
“No. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Oh, come on. I’m just being nice. Let me tell you what my wife and I did one night...”

(Loudly) “You need to leave me alone. Now. You’re drunk and you don’t belong here. You need to leave.”

And he did.

And can I just say that I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get to kick him?

A few months ago I would have handled this differently. I would have been friendly instead of assertive, thinking maybe he would leave me alone if I was nice.

So, how do I feel empowered? I feel much more confident setting verbal boundaries and I am free from fear. The list goes on, but these are the big ones.

Next week? How to share God’s love with drunk men at McDonalds.

Monday, December 10, 2007

don't mess with the llama

video

Every woman should take this class. In a word? Empowering.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

snow joy

The noisy boys are in heaven. Our first snow of the year dumped not just a sprinkling of powder, but a nice, deep layer of sleddable snow. (Is sleddable even a word? And yes, I was an English major. Don’t ever show this blog to my advisor––please!)

The boys raced outside first thing yesterday morning to help Llama Papa shovel. And yesterday when I picked them up from school, I surprised them with new sleds. We hung out on the playground hill until I couldn’t stand it any more. (I really need to remember to wear my long underwear for these extended playtimes.)

And can popcorn and hot chocolate constitute a real meal? There’s protein in the milk, right? And corn, that’s a vegetable? But I digress.

The real problem of the day was with baby b. He stood at the window all morning, watching the noisy boys, pointing and saying, “brrrr!” He brought me his shoes. He brought me his coat. He wanted to play outside too.

Now, you should know that when the noisy boys were babies, they never wanted to play in the snow. Of course, they didn’t really know it was an option. (Cut me some slack, people. Twin babies in the snow? How would I even do that? And why?)

But baby b. sees his options. And he wants to play in the snow. Do you know how hard it is to find snow gear for a one-year old in December? (Ironically, most snow gear sells out before it ever snows. I know. Strange.) I mentioned my crisis to the Moms in the Kindergarten line and asked if anyone had any ideas.

And when I came to pick up the noisy boys in the afternoon, one of the Moms gave me a pair of the cutest, littlest snow boots you’ve ever seen. Inspired by her basement find, I searched through our blue bins of hand-me-downs one more time. And voila! I found a snowsuit! Never mind that it used to belong to my niece. It fits baby b. perfectly!

So if you see a cute little boy outside, with cute little boots and a kind-of-girly purple and teal snowsuit on, give us a wave! We’re loving winter!

Monday, December 3, 2007

grangers for Jesus

“I made a present for God,” Twin B. thrusts a carefully folded bit of paper and tape into my hands, “since His birthday is coming up.”
“How nice!” I encourage him, “what is it?”
“Well, I think God likes farms, since that’s where He was born.”
“It’s not God’s birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday!” Twin A. shouts from the other room.
“Well, Jesus slept in this thing on the farm. I can’t remember what it’s called.”
“A manger?”
“Yes. That’s it. I made him a granger. To sleep in. And I’m going to put it by my bed and we can sleep next to eachothers.”
“I think God will like it.”
“Me too.”

 “For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.” (Matthew 18:2-5; The Message)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the corner of the room

The pile feels endless––an old pair of shorts, a bag of hotel shampoo, the August issue of Family Circle, faded jeans. A few treasures, but mostly junk, languish in this dusty corner of my bedroom. My Mother’s wedding dress lay buried at the bottom of it all.

I unzip the cover and feel the soft, white velvet. She had a Christmas wedding. I can still hear my Mother’s angry voice, “Nothing good ever came from that marriage.”

I want to answer, “Well, me. Maybe.” But I don’t. Like so many other things, this is not about me.

What to do with the dusty dress now? I can’t bring myself to toss it away, into the Salvation Army bag. And so it hangs, crowded into the corner of the guest room closet.

I think of my little neighbor friend, only eight, who endures this grief. Last year, she sat at my kitchen table and cried. “This divorce is even going to screw up Christmas,” she told me, incredulous. “I have to be with my Dad two days before Christmas, and then my Mom on the actual Christmas. But we’ll never be all together. Can you believe it?”

And so we made cookies together. And when she left, by some miracle, she was smiling again. Last week, her best friend moved away from our street, and when the van pulled away, I reached over to hug her. She had no tears then. “Well, at least we can write!” she chirped. “Oh,” she said, “by the way. Christmas is all messed up again this year.”

“Then lets make our cookies again,” I offered.
“Yes, I’d like that.”

Me too, dear one. Me too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

on cleaning up

It’s all coming back to me, this having a toddler thing. I feel like I’m on a treadmill all day long, moving, but never going anywhere.

And I’ve decided that cleaning up with a toddler in the house is like trying to vacuum in the middle of a hurricane.

I put baby b. in his high chair, and he eats breakfast while I unload the dishwasher. When he’s done, I clean up the high chair mess while he toddles off to the family room and dumps a box of tinker toys. Before I’m finished with the kitchen, he wanders back in with his broom to “help” me sweep. And on and on it goes, all day long.

Yesterday I gave up for a few hours and actually tripped on my way across the living room.

At least he has a healthy sense of curiosity.

Any illusion that I am able to keep all of these balls in the air AND keep a tidy house are officially shattered. Twin A. had a playdate a few weeks ago, and when the little boy’s Mom came to pick him up, I invited her in. I didn’t apologize for the mess; after all, four Kindergarten boys and a toddler had been happily playing for two hours.

And they were all alive.

She told me later, “I love your home. It’s lived in, like our house.” And the next week when Twin A. played at her house, she invited me in for the first time. We pushed the pile of mail on the counter to the side and had a cup of tea.

Maybe this toddler thing isn’t so bad after all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

assertiveness training

I’m probably the only Mother on the planet who purposely taught her two-year old to throw a fit. But that’s exactly what I did when the noisy boys were toddlers. I had noticed a disturbing trend at playgroups, mostly with Twin A. He was so easygoing that other kids would grab his toys, push him down, whatever, and he wouldn’t make a peep. While I was grateful for his sweet nature, I didn’t want to set him up to be bullied his entire life.

And so I taught him how to assert himself.

“I’m playing with this right now.”
“I’ll give you a turn in just a minute.”
“Don’t push me.”
“May I please have a turn?”

I was remembering these lessons this past Saturday. With Llama Papa busy on household projects and baby b. up early from his nap, I gathered up the three boys and headed to one of our favorite play spots--the children's museum. One of our favorite areas to play is the air / ball / boat section. The noisy boys can literally spend hours there.

And so they settled in while baby b. toddled around, squealing happily. Twin A. manned the cannon, stuffing fuzzy balls in and shooting them out into the wooden boat while Twin B. built air-ball shooters out of pvc pipe. Everyone was having a great time until Twin A. realized that the kid in the boat, a boy about seven years old, wasn’t throwing the balls back out. He was hoarding them under his jacket on the floor of the boat. At my prodding, Twin A. boldly asked him to throw the balls out. Please.

But the boy didn’t want to throw the balls out.

And so I asked him if we could please have a few of the balls. (There were over fifty fuzzy balls in the boat at this point.) He grudgingly obliged.

“Maybe if you explain the game to the boy, he’ll understand and want to play,” I offered, handing the confiscated balls to A.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think he wants to play. I’ll just move the cannon.”

And so he continued with his happy play. Other kids joined him and they simply shot the balls at other targets, away from the boat.

This was a good reminder to me. Sometimes we need to confront people. And sometimes we just need to move the cannon.

(By the way, for you local Moms reading: this is prime children's museum season. The closer we get to Christmas, the emptier the museum gets. I'm not kidding. The week before Christmas this place is empty! So take a tip from the Llama Momma: shop online and skip the mall. Go to the museum instead!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy unBirthday

six years ago

I woke up with a bachache––the same backache I’d had for two weeks. My belly was enormous. Pulling on my huge maternity pants, I realize this is the last week I can wear them. Unbelievable.

At Bible Study, I can hardly sit in my chair, my back hurts so much. “Don’t be a baby,” I tell myself. I didn’t want to be one of those whiny women, complaining all the time about aches and pains. After all, I want these babies more than anything. I wasn’t about to start complaining about the pregnancy.

My BSF leader pulls me aside after class. “Are you okay?” She asks. The tears come without warning.
“My back,” I explain.
She wraps her arms around me. “Call your doctor. Today. Right now.”
“But it’s normal,” I tell her. “Back pain is normal when your belly is this big.”
“It is normal, but there’s also a lot that can go wrong in a twin pregnancy.” She is a nurse in addition to being a BSF leader.
“I have an appointment this afternoon. I’ll mention the back pain.”

When I get home, I check on the turkey thawing in the fridge. I clean my bathroom. Something inside me knows there is something wrong.

“I’m sorry for the discomfort,” my doctor says, “I just need to make sure I’m feeling what I’m feeling.”

Minutes later, I’m in a wheelchair. My doctor tells a nurse to call labor and delivery. He pushes my wheelchair down a hall, to the elevator. Walking briskly, he explains, “You’re in active labor. We need to stop the labor. Now, we just saw the babies on the ultrasound. You're at 26 weeks. The babies are almost 2 pounds and they do have a chance. But we’re going to do everything we can to stop this.”

“But I need to go home,” I tell him, “I’m making the turkey tomorrow.”

My doctor pauses and comes around my chair to face me, kneeling down. “Sweetie, you’re not making any turkey tomorrow. You’re not leaving this hospital until these babies are born. Nobody will care about the turkey. They’ll get a pizza or something. It doesn’t matter.”

And so it was. Nobody cared about the turkey.

Once the drip of magnesium sulfate started, I didn’t care about much of anything. Between the hot flashes and extreme nausea, I just held on through that long night. Prayers bubbled up from my soul; prayers I couldn’t think to pray, but they came groaning out of me anyway. “Please, God.”

He was present during that first long night, and on that strange Thanksgiving day. He was present.

And He heard. He answered. And my babies did not come on this day, six years ago. And the noise I hear right now in the next room is a sweet reality.

Happy unBirthday, noisy boys. Today I celebrate God’s faithfulness to you both; to me. Surely He gave me the desire of my heart that day. And I am so grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

paying it forward

I didn’t know I was pregnant with twins. I just knew I was exhausted. Scheduled to move across the country in three days, my husband and I both had long lists of things to do and people to see. A few days before the move, my friend D. called. “What are you doing tonight?” She asked.
“Dinner with my family,” I told her.
“I’d like to come over and clean for you while you’re gone.”
“Oh, I can’t let you do that,” I stammered.
“‘I’d like to,” she said. And I believed her.

And so we went out for dinner, and my dear friend came over and cleaned our bathroom. When I came home and saw the white grout, I tried to forget what color it had been before. And I cried at this gift of pure friendship; I could not repay her.

The moving van pulled up to my neighbor’s house early this morning. The house hasn’t sold yet, but her husband has already moved. They’ve been living apart for 6 months now. To say it’s been a hard year is a gross understatement.

She drops her young son off right after the noisy boys leave for school. Baby b. is down for his nap.

And so I give her this gift that she cannot repay. I give it with joy; with tears.

What can you give today, with no expectation of repayment?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

funny little things

Baby b. is officially toddling all over the house. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it here before, he is so stinkin’ cute.

Lately, he’s taken to wearing a video sleeve on his arm. He just marches over to the videos, pulls a video out of the sleeve, and slides that sleeve right on, like a jacket. He’s very proud of this, and waves his arms up, smiling and shouting “Hi! Hi!” And he wears the sleeve around the house for hours, switching videos every once in awhile.

And the noisy boys are no longer interested in Sponge Bob or Cyberchase or Diego. Not since they found the Discovery channel. Now they want to watch Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs and Man vs Wild with all of their T.V. time. (Of course, Llama Papa is thrilled by this turn of events.)

At one point, we were watching someone clean raw sewage out of a basement, and the noisy boys were so taken with this, as was my husband, and it occurred to me: I am the only female in this house with four males.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. I’m just saying.

These shows have inspired an entirely new genre of play. Yesterday the noisy boys spent three hours building experimental robots out of boxes, caps, foam, and remote control cars.

Childhood is a wonder. Noisy? Yes. But also sacred. And oh so much fun!

Monday, November 12, 2007

being right

I woke up too early to sore muscles and three sick children. Halfway through my coffee, I glance at my calendar.

“9:30.”

With no memory of what this might refer to, I ask my husband, who reminds me that we’re having blood tests today for our new life insurance policy, so I shouldn’t eat or drink anything. For the next four hours.

Perfect.

Oh, and I’m a classroom volunteer for Twin A.’s class. I rummage through my in-box looking for the volunteer schedule that tells me what to do when I can’t make it, but it has evaporated into the land of un-filed email that can never be found. And so I email the teacher and the schedule coordinator, explaining that Twin A. is sick and I’m not sure what to do about my volunteer shift.

His teacher emails me right back and tells me not to worry about it. She has extra help today. Just give A. lots of hugs.

And then I get an email from the coordinator. A very rude email detailing sick policy protocol, which I have clearly broken. And she sent it out to the entire class.

Have I mentioned that I’ve just had a very emotional two days of getting beat up and my body hurts all over? And I’m starving, but can’t eat anything? Oh, and I have three sick, needy children?

This is a good reminder to me to show grace. I have been that coordinator, sending out curt emails. Being right.

But right doesn’t matter sometimes. Sometimes kindness, courtesy and grace should be above “right.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

finding my voice

I’m taking a self defense class this weekend and next. I cannot begin to describe the intensity of this class.

The class is hands-on, meaning we practice the techniques we learn full-force with our adrenaline pumping. The “assailant” is a gentle man who shares a name with one of my boys, and I’m amazed at his commitment to end violence against women. So committed he’s willing to dress in a padded suit and receive our blows.

I expected the class to be intense. In fact, I slept little this past week and consumed more than my share of snickers bars in an effort to quell my anxiety.

The biggest surprise yesterday? How hard it was to yell. In fact, I found it easier to kick the tar out the pseudo attacker than to use my voice to yell, “Back off now!” or “Get out of here!”

The yelling feels unnatural. Wrong, even. In the midst of a simulated attack, I have a hard time finding my voice.

I need to find my voice. And as I learn this lesson myself, I’m aware that I’ve never given the noisy boys permission to be loud. “That’s inappropriate,” I tell them. “Use your inside voice.”

But they need to know that sometimes being loud IS appropriate. They need permission to use their voices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Do you want to get well?

Thirty-eight years. According to John 5, that’s how long the man had been an invalid. He was waiting by the pool of Bethesda, hoping to be healed. When Jesus saw this man, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Why would Jesus even ask?

Honestly. The guy has been lame for thirty-eight years. He’s lying by a “healing” pool, waiting.

Of course he wants to be healed.

But Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?”

And the man’s response? “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7)

Right. It was a yes or no question, but instead of answering, he gives us a list of reasons why he hasn’t been healed. And is it just me, or is his tone kind of whiny?

It’s easy for me to judge this man for his response, and yet I know I do this. I claim to be waiting for Jesus to heal me. I even get upset that he’s kept me waiting too long. And then when He shows up, I hesitate.

I think Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed because he knows there is a cost involved. For thirty-eight years this man has been lame. Being healed would mean learning a new way of life; working; being productive. As difficult as it was living with his infirmities, for thirty-eight years, it is all this man had known.

Jesus healed the man.

How about you: do you want to get well?

Friday, November 2, 2007

flingshots and glitterbugs

In the spirit of the gloshers, let me tell you about our afternoon. On the way home from school, Twin B. announced that the glitterbugs have been busy. Twin A. agreed and decided we should pick up as much glitter as we could on our way home. I assumed this glitter was imaginary until I saw each of the boys with a handful of candy wrappers.

And I got a shipment of chairs from Target today. (Aren’t they cute?) The noisy boys had a blast with the packing supplies, which included jumbo-sized rubber bands. Perfect for making flingshots.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Don't forget to glosh

In honor of the three thousand tons of candy the noisy boys hauled in last night, here’s a recap of our recent trip to the dentist:

Me: Wow. You got a goody bag from the dentist?
Twin A: Yup. Look at all of this stuff! (Pulls out stickers, pencils, and a yo-yo)
Me: Cool. When I was a kid, we just got a new toothbrush.
Twin B: We got those too. And these! (Holding up his new toothbrush and flosser.)
Me: Look at those nice flossers!
Twin B: They’re not flossers, Mom, they’re GLOSHERS.
Me: No, they’re called FLOSSERS. They’re for flossing your teeth.
Twin B: No, Mom. The dentist said they’re GLOSHERS.
Twin A: Yeah. They ARE gloshers.

Whatever. No need to nit-pick on the details. As long as they’re actually gloshing their teach, I’m good with that.

Especially after last night. Holy cow. You’ve never seen such efficient trick-or-treaters! They literally RAN with their neighbor friends from house to house. I actually broke a sweat trying to keep up. Which is a good thing considering I must have eaten some thirty-eight small-sized snickers bars yesterday. My head is still buzzing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

balloons

The noisy boys both love balloons. But a strange thing happens when you offer one to Twin B.
“No thanks,” he says.
“But you love balloons!” I prompt.
“I don’t want one,” he explains, “it might fly away.”
And he’s serious. Two years ago he asked me to hold his balloon and I lost my grip and it was gone. Now, to avoid even the chance of experiencing such heartache again, he’s sworn off balloons.
“Isn’t it better to have a balloon and lose it than to never have a balloon at all?”
“Nope.”
And so he continues his journey through childhood balloonless.

I do the exact same thing with my writing. I’ve been writing for small-run publications for four years now. I joke that I’ve been published plenty, but in magazines that nobody reads. I write for ten bucks and five copies, and suffer very little rejection. Unlike writers with reams of rejection letters, I have just one. Because if I don’t send the query or pitch the book idea, it can’t be rejected, right? If I don’t ever take a balloon, it can’t fly away. I’ll never be disappointed.

Of course, I’ll never have a balloon either.

Monday, October 29, 2007

reconnecting

“How did you do all of this alone?” my husband rolls over in bed to ask. Good question. The answers roll off the tip of my tongue: “You do what you have to”; “Not very well”; and “I honestly don’t know.”

What I do know is that I wake up happy and excited to get out of bed now. I don’t pull the covers over my head and wish it would all go away anymore. I feel connected to my spouse. I am enjoying our children. And this is a huge change for me.

Since my husband was laid off, we’ve taken some time to think and pray about our next steps. Thankfully, our finances are in good shape and we have this luxury of time. I didn’t realize how desperately we needed this time together until it was here.

And we’re thoroughly enjoying it.

We’re thinking through what it would look like to take a sabbatical. We’re setting some goals individually and as a family. We’re carefully planning and scrutinizing the financial ramifications of such an endeavor. And we’re excited for our future. I daresay I’m more excited for our future today than I was on our wedding day over ten years ago. And that, my friends, is some kind of miracle.

God is good.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I've gotta ask...

Why would a Sunday School teacher give five-year old Kindergarten boys rocks at craft time? Real rocks. Big, heavy rocks.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for Sunday school teachers the world over. And I’m glad that Twin B. is thankful for Jesus and Twin A., for whatever reason, is thankful for Moses. I really am.

I just don’t understand why they had to write those things on rocks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

children's clothes - WFMW

When I was pregnant with the twins, nobody warned me of the chaos that was about to enter my house. Oh, they mentioned the craziness of feeding and bathing two babies, and the sleepless nights. But nobody warned me about the children’s clothes.

They’ve taken over my house.

I’ve spent countless hours trying to remedy this. My current solution? Give up. You read that correctly: just give up.

Cram as many clothes as you can into their dresser drawers. It doesn’t matter if they fit or not. You can deal with that day-by-day every time your child gets dressed. Anything that doesn’t fit, just throw on the floor. Schooch the pile close to the edge of the room. (It will be easier to ignore that way.)

Every time you’re at Target, buy a couple of those plastic blue bins. When winter comes, throw all of the shorts and t-shirts into the bins. Put the bins in the basement, but don’t label them. That way you can spend hours going through all of the clothes every time the seasons change or the baby is ready for a bigger size.

Stop thinking about the clothes as a headache; embrace them as a hobby. A way of life, even. Clothes all over the house? Works for me! (It must. I’ve been living this way for five-and-a-half years!)

Now, if you’re looking for REAL ideas, head over to Rocks in My Dryer for more great tips!

Monday, October 22, 2007

words for a friend

When I stepped into the world of blogging, I had no idea what I would find. Honestly, I was just looking for a place to write and exchange ideas with other people who were looking for a place to write and exchange ideas.

And so I met Charity, and was immediately struck by the depth of her insight. I have been encouraged and challenged by her thoughts. I have grown to love her as a sister in Christ.

I wept as I read of her current struggle with cancer, surprised by the depth of my own emotion for this woman I have never met. After all, wasn’t I just saying that blogging cannot take the place of true community? And yet my first instinct had me checking mapquest to find out just how far away she actually lives. Maybe not too far to bring a casserole, which is what I tend to do when there are no words.

And then L.L. Barkat invited us to share our thoughts about Charity, and it got me thinking again about community. If there is a place for casseroles and hugs, is there not also a place for words?

Even when there are no words.

Friends – please pray for Charity.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Several years ago my mother-in-law asked me, “So, what do you do when one boy wants to go to the park and the other one wants to make cookies, but you really don’t want to do either one because it’s almost naptime?”
“Um. I say no.”
She was so busy being Super-Grandma, the thought hadn’t crossed her mind.
She and I still chuckle at this and I often remind her as I drop the kids off for an afternoon, “Remember: you can always say no!”

As parents, we say no. (Or we should.) But we don’t like to hear it ourselves, do we? “No” is simply not the American way.

When my friends and I were in Colorado, we ate at a resteraunt in downtown Estes Park. It was a moderately nice place, and as we placed our orders, my Aussie friend asked for a bowl of soup and an elk patty “with no bun or anything.” (We were all curious to try elk.) “Can I get that?” my friend asked.
The waitress looked her in the eye and said, “No.”
It was hilarious. And yet the American in me wanted to get the manager and insist that my friend get exactly what she wanted. My British and Aussie friends simply moved on. “Oh, okay.”

When is the last time someone told you “no, you can’t have that?” Is it any wonder we walk around with a sense of entitlement, angry with God when He doesn’t do things exactly our way? Angry because we really, really want something, and He seems to be saying “No?”

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

boo

People ask me all the time: are the twins different? Oh my. Yes. Here’s a snippet of conversation from tonight to illustrate. (For anyone living on another planet who doesn’t know about “booing,” someone secretly leaves a bag of candy at the door along with a picture of a goblin with a cute Halloween poem instructing you to “boo” six friends within 24 hours. Because Lord knows we all need more candy in our homes.)

Twin B: I can’t believe we got booed!
Twin A: Yeah. I wonder who did it?
Twin B: It was the HALLOWEEN GOBLIN.
Twin A: No. It was one of our FRIENDS. Goblins aren’t real.
Twin B: Mom! Are goblins real?
Me: No. Goblins aren’t real. This is just a fun thing everyone does for the kids, but the goblin thing just comes from Target.
Twin B: (coming out of the bathroom) There’s a goblin in the toilet.
Me: There’s not a goblin in the toilet. Now, everyone get your clothes in the hamper and put on your pajamas.
Twin A: I can’t. There’s a goblin in there.
Twin B: (dancing) Three little witches riding on a broom…
Me: There are no witches and no goblins. Put your clothes in the hamper.
Twin B: (singing and dancing) Witches! Goblins! Witches! Goblins! Are all real because it’s HALLOWEEN!
Twin A: (looking out the window) Here comes a real goblin, Mom. I’m serious.
Twin B: Boo! Boo! The scary goblin is coming for you!
Twin A: (screaming)
Me: You’re not helping, B.
Twin A: I hate witches and goblins. Can I have another Kit Kat?
Twin B: Can I have another Kit Kat?

At least they can agree on something they both like.

Monday, October 15, 2007

home

The airport is empty at 1:30 in the morning. It’s strange, walking through O’hare in the middle of the night. I will my body forward; honestly, I just want to lie down. The short nap on the plane left me in a fog that exists somewhere between asleep and awake.

It takes a village to pick me up. Flight delays mucked up the original plan, so my brother-in-law will spend the night at our house. By the time I reach the van, I am so happy to see my husband I almost cry.

I try to chat on the way home, but I just want to close my eyes. To be honest, I am completely out of words. My three girlfriends and I managed to squeeze several weeks worth of conversation into a few days. On Saturday we got up at seven, started talking immediately, and continued to talk all day long while we hiked and ate and drank tea. Until 2 a.m.

At some point we decided we were a traveling mystery to those around us. “People keep asking me where I’m from,” my British friend remarked. “When I say ‘California’ they just look at me like I have two heads.”
“Yeah,” my Aussie friend nodded.
Later my other friend whispered, “I am the only Asian person in this restaurant.”
“Really?” I asked, looking around. “Is that weird?”
“Not really. Except people keep staring at me.” The rest of us hadn’t noticed. My Aussie and British friends were too busy trying to find a proper cup of tea. But she was right. People were staring.

We laughed until our sides hurt. We dove into the deep places of our souls with abandon, knowing our hearts would be completely safe in this company. We challenged and encouraged one another. We almost cried every time we remembered our Aussie friend’s upcoming move back to Australia. But this wasn’t the time for those tears.

I am grateful beyond words for these friends. Which is a good thing, since I have no words left. Really.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

eBay, addiction, and a weekend away

Have you ever sold anything on ebay? I’ve been clearing out my office and just put up my very first listing.

I’m addicted.

I’ve checked the site fifteen times in the last hour, to see if anyone has bid yet. (No one has.) But NINE people have looked at it. I know. There’s help for people like me. I can stop anytime I want to. Really.

In other news, I’m headed to Colorado this weekend for a girl’s weekend away with some friends from California. That is, if I can pull myself away from my eBay listing long enough to pack my bag!

And on a completly unrelated front, I just signed on with "BlogHer." What do you think, friends? Am I selling out?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

quote of the day

"I didn't kiss anybody at school today because I didn't want to give them my germs."
Twin B.

Um. Right. Unlke LAST week...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

community

“Do you think you can walk to school with us, or should we take the car?” I ask Twin B., currently crashed on the couch with a bad case of croup.
“I can’t walk,” he responds, rasping with each word.
“We’ll take the car then."
“Why don’t you call Grandma?” He reasoned, doing his best to look even more pathetic than he is.
“Good idea.”
So I did. Grandma happily came over while Twin A. and I walked to school. And because he had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the afternoon, I asked a neighbor to walk Twin A. home.

Some days are just like this. There’s simply not enough of me to go around. Three boys often need to be in three different places at the same time—with baby b.’s “place” usually being his bed! I am grateful to live in community with family and friends and neighbors. And I wonder, how do people get by without this sort of community?

Recently, LL Barkat wrote a great post on her blog, Seedlings in Stone, about community as it relates to blogging. Can blogging provide true community? I chimed in on Seedlings with my opinion, and I’m sure she’d love to have you join in the conversation!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

encouragement

My Grandpa is an encourager. Even as a kid, I remember feeling safe and protected in his home. He and Grandma were always on my side, even when I was screwing things up. The other day he sent me a short email, “Great blog post today! Keep looking for similar opportunities to write.”

It made my day. Over the course of my life, these short bursts of encouragement have had a huge impact on me. When the voices in my head tell me I’m no good, the soft, kind words from the encouragers in my life whisper the truth.

Do you build people up with your words, or tear them down? Do you actively look for opportunities to encourage your children? And not just a blanket, “Great job, kid,” but a specific word of truth spoken into the heart of your child?

“I was proud of you today out on the soccer field. You worked really hard and did a great job following your coach’s directions.”

“You have a fantastic sense of humor. I enjoy spending time with you.”

Our words have the power to build our kids up or tear them down. I'm not an advocate of the constant "great job eating those cheerios" pseudo-praise that's so popular today, but truthful, specific words of kindness will build into them a true sense of worth, rooted in the love of Christ shown through us. Speak the truth to your child today, and watch his or her face as you say it. The effect is immediate.

“Thoughtless words cut like a sword. But the tongue of wise people brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

change

I have a friend who moves every few years. She gets antsy if she stays in one place for too long. She craves change.

I’m the opposite. When I was in junior high, my parents announced that we were moving across the country and I was convinced they were trying to ruin my life. (Seriously. I was probably in my twenties before I realized that the move had nothing to do with me. Ya think?)

But change comes whether we like it or not. And this week, it came in the form of a layoff for my husband.

Don’t. Panic. We’re fine.

Actually, we’re more than fine. We’re excited to see what God has in store for us next. In the meantime, we’ve got a long list of household projects to keep us busy. (And, yes, I do use the terms “we” and “us” loosely!)

As much as I hate change, I’m ready for this one.

So is twin A. When I told him that Daddy was going to look for a new job, he cheered, “Yeah!!!”
“What’s the best thing about Daddy not working for Apple?” I asked, curious about his response.
“He won’t always be on vacation!”

As much as I’ve tried to explain that business trips are not vacations, he doesn’t get it. In a five-year old’s world, a plane trip + a hotel with a pool + eating out for every meal = vacation.

Please join me in praying for a more family-friendly work situation! And not too soon. I’d really like to get the garage cleaned out.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

paradigm shift

I’ve been telling a story for over a decade, now. I tell it from memory, emphasizing the wrongs done to me. Friends listen and empathize: “That’s terrible!” they say, “How insensitive!” I think in the telling, the story gained momentum. Instead of becoming less angry, my anger grew, feeding on itself and taking root in my heart. I felt justified in holding onto this resentment; after all, this person was wrong. Insensitive.

Last weekend I spent some time cleaning out my office, and found an old box of pictures and letters. (Remember letters? What a treasure!) Reading through these old letters, I found one from this person, sent fifteen years ago. In the letter, this person acknowledges their insensitivity and asks for my forgiveness. They recognized the damage done to our relationship and sought restoration.

And I had completely forgotten about it.

In my hurt, I’m guessing that I just tossed the letter aside. I honestly can’t remember receiving it, but obviously somewhere along the line I chose to hold onto my resentment rather than forgive. And my resentment grew. For fifteen years, it grew.

I finally sat down and responded to this person with a letter of my own—a letter of apology and forgiveness. I pray for reconciliation.

Oh, how we need grace. We all so desperately need grace.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

first steps

Baby b. stood up in the middle of the floor, like he’s done a dozen times in the past week. But instead of sitting back down, he toddled across the room. Not to me, or his brothers, or his dad, but to our cleaning lady.

It brought a tear to my eye.

And not because our child finally walks, but because in order to truthfully recount this story, I have to admit that I pay someone to clean my house twice a month. So there it is. Judge me if you will. It is what it is, people. And today, it’s a beautiful thing! (And, for the record, our cleaning lady was thrilled to share this moment with us.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

the list

A good Wife and Mother…keeps a tidy house; prepares home cooked meals for her family, preferably organic; spends quality, one-on-one time with each of her children; keeps up with the laundry; volunteers in her children’s classrooms at school; builds relationships with her neighbors; volunteers in her church; opens her home to friends; brings meals to new Moms; has endless patience; reads to each of her kids for thirty minutes a day; spends at least fifteen minutes decluttering her home a’la Flylady; gets plenty of exercise and takes care of herself; never has a headache; always remembers the soccer snacks; the list goes on and on.

And if you’re a working Mom, your list is even longer.

Ladies, is it any wonder we get tired? I don’t know about you, but according to “The List,” I’m a miserable failure. My meal plan includes the words “frozen pizza” at least once a week, and my laundry pile is endless.

I am on my knees this morning, praying for the strength to get through this week. Praying for situations that are hopeless unless God shows up. And I am reminded that God has not called me to be perfect, He has called me to be faithful. So today, I am wondering aloud, “What has God called me to do today?” I will pour my time and energy into those things, and let the results go. I suppose that’s the hardest thing for me. I can spend all day cleaning my house, and at the end of the day it’s still a mess. I can pour myself into my boys, but how do I define success? It’s not tangible.

What’s on your list today?

Friday, September 21, 2007

oh gross

I cannot believe I just did that. It happened so fast, before I could even think about it. And there was really no question—I had to do it.

I just put my hand in the toilet.

Let me explain.

It’s really hard to buy underwear for the noisy boys. They have super skinny frames, so they wear an extra small size. The problem? They prefer just plain white, and the super small sizes all have Thomas or Blue’s Clues or some other “baby” thing on them. Which brings me to today’s toilet crisis. I was picking up their dirty clothes off the floor when a brand new pair of GAP, white undies dropped into the toilet. What could I do? As usual, it had been the only pack of plain white XS underwear on the shelf. And there was one pair of three, soaking up toilet water.

So I had to do it.

Now, dear readers, please tell me I’m not alone in my grossness. What have you done for your children that you thought you’d never do?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

two wheels

“Look at me go, Mom! Look at me go!” Twin B. shouted from his two-wheeler bike. The look on his face? Ecstatic. Proud. Triumphant.

A few days ago, my husband encouraged him to take his training wheels off and try again. “I think you’re ready,” he told Twin B. It took some coaxing, but he finally agreed.

And he took off like a shot.

I couldn’t be prouder. Go, B. go! You’re ready.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

music - WFMW

It’s five o’clock. I don’t know about your house, but at my house, we fondly refer to this time of day as “the witching hour.” I’m tired. The kids are tired. The baby is whiny. And I’m usually trying to make dinner.

My husband travels frequently during the week, so I’m often on my own. And since I’ve given up my five o’clock double martini, the witching hour is by far the most difficult part of my day. Recently, I found something that makes it more bearable. Music! At five o’clock when everyone is melting down, I pop in a worship CD while I cook. It doesn’t work magic, but it does smooth out the rough edges and give me the oomph I need to be a good Mom for just a few more hours.

And while the kids have no problem whacking each other while singing “Lord, I lift your name on high,” I find I’m less prone to resort to yelling and screaming when I’m singing praise choruses.

Upbeat worship music during the witching hour…works for me! Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips!

Monday, September 17, 2007

soccer

I don’t like sports. I don’t like playing sports and I don’t particularly like watching sports. So, suffice it to say, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy watching my children play soccer. Like, I’m really into it.

The noisy boys are on the same team, and have a game every Saturday. They are adorable in their uniforms, and I love sitting on the sidelines cheering them on. The team is comprised of eight Kindergarten boys and one very patient coach. His own son is on the team, and on Saturday when this boy ran the length of the field kicking the ball the wrong direction, he said, “Buddy, you went the wrong way. But good job dribbling!”

God bless that man.

I do wonder what the kids on the field hear while they're playing. A loud chorus of parents shout, “Go, Johnny! Go after the ball! Kick it!” for an hour while the kids run around, fall down, and routinely lose shoes.

Now, is there any better way to spend a Saturday morning? I didn’t think so.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

hypothetical question

Hypotheticlaly speaking, if one was to feed their one-year old a fun, sprinkly ice cream cone bakery cookie that contained numerous harmful additives, including red dye #40 and red dye #3, how long would said one-year old’s poop be hot pink?

Hypothetically speaking.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

quick to judge

“Ryan! Come back here—Ryyyaan! Sit down!” The Mother pleaded desperately, while the rest of us sat quietly with our kids, waiting for music class to begin. What little control the mother had deteriorated quickly as the teacher handed out bells for the kids to use as instruments. Ryan literally ran circles around us during the entire class. I exchanged knowing looks with the moms around me. I watched my own boys participate appropriately in the class and thought smugly, “Heck, if I can get 2-year old twins to follow the directions, what is this lady’s problem?”

I became increasingly critical after the class, as I rehashed the experience over and over. “I understand that kids misbehave sometimes, that’s not what I have a problem with,” I explained to a girlfriend on the phone, “what I don’t understand is why his mother did nothing about it.”

The more I told the story, the more frustrated I became. Over dinner I told my husband angrily, “We’re paying a lot of money for this music class and I certainly didn’t pay to watch an undisciplined child run loose! I’m going to talk to that teacher next week and tell her she has to do something about Ryan, or we’re out of there.”

The next week Ryan did a bit better, but I was still fuming. While I round up the noisy boys and mentally rehearse my "Take care of this kid or we're out of here speech," I overheard Ryan’s Mom asking,“Are you sure it’s okay that we’re here?”
”It’s fine,” the teacher encouraged. “Music is so good for him. We can get an aide in next week to help you, if you’d like.”
“That would be great,” Ryan's Mom replied. Suddenly, I see her exhaustion and her son's autism.

My face reddens as I remember my rehearsed speech. Why hadn’t I even considered that this boy has special needs? Why am I so quick to judge this other Mom, when in reality I have no idea what she is dealing with?

Lord, teach me this lesson over and over until I get it right. Please help me to be slow to criticize and quick to encourage the people around me. Give me empathy and compassion in place of my hasty judgments. Root out the pride that lurks just under the surface and fill me with your grace. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

God is with us

I stumbled on this blog several months ago, and have to share it with you. The author recounts stories from her Mother’s childhood during WWII, and they are powerful.

How easily I lose sight of the simple truth that wherever I am, God is with me. This truth makes me want to weep and dance all at the same time. Think about it, friends: God is with us.

Friday, September 7, 2007

ouch

I joined a different health club. This one has fun childcare—we’re talking computer lab, climbing structure, open gym kind of fun. The noisy boys were having so much fun today they didn’t want to leave. Twin B. actually said, “Can’t we just stay five more minutes?” This is a good thing.

Now, note to self: next time you’re on the elliptical and a trainer stops by and invites you to a “free” circuit training class, don’t go. It might sound fun, but trust me: that workout will kick your butt.

The ironic thing is that before the trainer came by, I had somehow talked myself into quitting my workout early, taking a nice, long shower, and getting a cup of coffee in the café before picking up the kids.

Next time I’ll do that.

Seriously, people. I’m not sure I can make it up the stairs tonight.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

first words

Baby b. has been babbling for awhile now, but outside of the occasional "Mom," hasn't said any real words. Until today. We were touring a fitness facility, walking by the outdoor swimming pool when he excitedly pointed and exclaimed, "NACK!" We were walking right by the snack bar.

He's a boy after my own heart.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

road trip

Top Ten Reasons to take a Family Trip

10. Listening to Adventures in Odyssey on tape.

9. Eating in Diners.

8. Learning things about your children you never knew before. Like the fact that their bladders can completely fill up in less than fifteen minutes.

7. Staying at family friendly hotels that don’t mind when a one-year old guest hangs out in the lobby for an hour while his big brothers sleep in.

6. Leapsters

5. Laughing together. What else can you do when you’ve stopped four times in the past hour and someone has to go? Again?

4. Learning to wing it. As a planner / control freak, this is hard for me. But what else can you do when virtually everything is unknown and new territory?

3. Acquiring special travel toys. Like this. (The picture doesn’t do it justice. This thing is almost as big as the noisy boys. And, of course, we have two of them now.)

2. Making memories with far-away family. Playing ping-pong in my Uncle’s basement was Twin B’s favorite thing from the entire vacation.

1. Watching your one-year old share an ice cream cone with his Great Grandfather. Worth the whole trip.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

then and now

I walk briskly, pushing the double stroller, hoping to burn off the half-a-package of Oreos I ate instead of dinner. The sugar gives me quick energy, but ultimately lets me down. At least the babies have stopped screaming. From five to seven, nobody’s happy. I walk by the neighborhood school and try to imagine my babies as boys, going to school. Five more years. In five years, I think, I will have a life. I’ll spend more time on my writing, organize my closet, and clean out the garage. I’ll stop eating Oreos for dinner and get more exercise. I’ll have lunch with friends. Surely in five years I’ll have a friend? In five years, I’ll have time for me. It will be my turn.

I navigate baby b.’s stroller down the sidewalk and chat with the noisy boys as we walk to school. “Is today gym?” Twin B. asks.
Twin A. answers authoritatively, “No. Today is ORANGE day. I think it might be music.”
“Actually,” I respond, “it’s yellow day. And you guys have gym on different days. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s gym today or not, B. But you’re wearing your gym shoes, so you’ll be ready either way!” The noisy boys get a kick out of the color system our school uses to keep track of “special” days like gym and art. Or maybe they’re just amused that I cannot for the life of me figure the system out. Either way, it’s a common topic of conversation.

I offer quick hugs as they run to join their classmates and walk briskly home. I put baby b. down for his nap and look around. Three baskets of laundry need folding, the lunch dishes need to be put in the dishwasher, I have four phone calls to return, the kitchen floor crunches, and the family room looks like a bomb went off. I fold laundry while I return phone calls, do the dishes, sweep, and defrost chicken for our dinner tonight. I think about an article I want to write while I snap green beans. Maybe tomorrow, I think, as I get baby b. up for the walk back to school, glancing at the still-messy family room. Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kindergarten

New notebooks, markers, and pencils weigh down the noisy boys’ school bags as they excitedly march down the sidewalk, ahead of me and their dad and their baby brother. We walk the four blocks to school and join the throng of children and parents and cameras, all commemorating this first important day. Other Moms wipe their eyes, and I determine not to be one of them. I focus on the noisy boys—this is their day, not mine, and I truly am excited for them. This strategy works right up until the end, when they line up behind their respective teachers, and I notice that all of the other children are waving at their parents, while the noisy boys are completely focused on eachother, waving and calling out: “Goodbye A.!”
“Goodbye, B. Good luck!”

That’s when I lost it.

It’s also when I realized that separating them was a bigger deal than I expected it to be. And so it is. I am in new territory and it’s overwhelming, but God is here too. And I have a really, really big new calendar ready to hang on the wall.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Authentic Parenting Blog Tour

Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture
by Mary E. DeMuth
Harvest House, July 1, 2007


“Just pick one,” my sister-in-law encouraged me many years ago. I was overwhelmed by the amount of infant-care information out there, and turned to her for advice. “If you start reading too many books, it’s too much. Just find one that you trust and go with it.” Good advice. Back then it was “The Baby Book” by Dr. Sears. That was my no nonsense guide to caring for the two premature, squirming infants in my arms.

Dealing with tandem feedings and diaper rash is one thing, but most of us find that the problems of parenting get more complicated as children get older. The issues are no longer black and white, or even easily defined. I agreed to participate in this blog tour for Mary E. Demuth’s new book, “Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture,” because the title appealed to me. I read the book cover-to-cover in a matter of days, and it resonates with me. Part memoir, part how-to, this book draws on her experience as a church planter in France, and the journey of faith God took her family on while they were serving there. Watching her children struggle in school and deal with bullies and unfair teachers and people hostile to Christianity, Mary did what every Mother I know would do: she freaked out. And then she went a step further and chose to trust God with her children. Again and again.

I found so much wisdom in this book.

Mary writes, “What is the goal of parenting as postmodernity kicks at our heels? Producing perfect children who fit into our American box of Christianity (which leans far more toward commercialism and materialism than we’re willing to admit)? Or is it to raise children who are infatuated with the person of Jesus? Who know life’s not all about them?”

This resonates with me.

Mary writes, “What would our families look like if freedom rather than control measured how well we were following truth? As we parent from infant to toddler to child to young adult, could we see more freedom as our children age? Less adherence to legalism and more capacity to actually walk a faith journey with Jesus?”

If you know me at all, either in real life or through this blog, you know that this is what I’m about. My goal as a Mother is to raise children who love Jesus and are ready to fly. As I nurture their God-given gifts and passions, I pray that they will find productive and meaningful roles in society. And as my children grow and become increasingly independent, I pray for the courage to lovingly guide them on their journeys, but ultimately, to trust God. He loves my kids even more than I do. This book is a beautiful reminder to me today, the second day of Kindergarten for the noisy boys: God is faithful.

I highly recommend this book. Whether you’re a newbie or veteren parent, you will find encouragement here. To purchase, click here.

Be sure to check out the other blogs participating on the Authentic Parenting Tour this week. For a complete listing of the blogs participating in the six week tour, visit here.
Ane Mulligan
A Peek at My Bookshelf
Candle Blog
Declaring His Marvelous Work
Five Bazillion and One
Generation NeXT Parenting
GraceReign
Holy Experience
Hopeful Happenings
In the Dailies
Leap of Faith
Lift My Noise
Llama Momma
sprightly
Soul Scents
Spaghettipie
The View from Here
Write On Edge

Monday, August 20, 2007

Look at me

Imagine the scene: You see him from across the courtyard; his body is limp, and his face is etched with hopelessness, as two strong men carry him. He’s big and heavy, and the men struggle under the load, finally setting him down next to the gate near where you’re standing. The crippled man keeps his eyes down, and holds his hands out, hoping to earn enough money through begging to eat today. You watch from a distance, and then walk over to talk to the man. “Look at me,” you say. And then you give this man what you have: the power of Christ to work in his life.

I often imagine myself in the scene of scripture to try to capture the beauty and power of the passage. I’m no theologian, but this scene at the beginning of Acts 3 moves me to tears. Today I imagined from a different perspective: that of Peter instead of the crippled beggar.

I immediately thought of my friend,Kathy Bolduc. Her book His Name is Joel, chronicles her journey as a Mother with a child who is autistic. I met Kathy at a writer’s retreat, and her powerful story has stayed with me. One of the things she discusses in her book is how churches can reach out to families who have children with special needs. Expecting to find information on how to form a committee or special program, I was surprised to find her simple advice: accept this child. Welcome him or her into your faith community. Look them in the eyes and talk to them.

I thought of this advice today. Too often, we look away from need. It makes us uncomfortable, especially when we can do nothing to fix it. But as a follower of Jesus, I need to look people in the eyes. I need to see from His perspective, instead of my own.

I cannot offer a solution to the problems of the world, but I can give people this simple dignity: look at me. And I pray that as they do, I will reflect the acceptance and love of Christ.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

it gets better

Today was the Teddy Bear picnic for the noisy boys. Families pack lunches and head over to the school playground to meet other Kindergarten parents. Finally. A Kindergarten event that I can’t screw up! Oh. Unless you’re actually supposed to BRING a teddy bear to this picnic, which you were. And apparently the noisy boys were telling the truth when they said that EVERYONE has a Webkinz except for them. Yup. That about sums it up.

Oh, and I was the only Mom with two name tags. For whatever reason, none of the other twin Moms were there. And on a related topic, it never ceases to amaze me what people will say to me right in front of the kids. My favorites of the day:

They split the boys up? How awful!
Which one is smarter?

Of course, I’m just reporting on all of the negatives. It’s infinitely more interesting than writing about all of the nice parents and children and the fact that we can’t wait to start school next week!

I’d better double check the date and time of the first day. At the rate I’m going, we might miss it!

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's all about me

I don’t belong here.

I’m not sure when the evening went from a fun family outing to this dreadful realization. When I read our school newsletter last month, I dutifully marked tonight on our calendar: New Family Orientation. After all, the noisy boys are starting Kindergarten, so we’re a New Family. It fits, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that New Family Orientation is for Really New Families. Like families that just moved from Texas and their kids are going into fifth and third grade New.

Of course, by the time I figure this out, it’s too late. The noisy boys happily join the other kids on a tour of the school, and the principal leads the parents to the LRC for a meeting. I find myself following, thinking maybe we can just fly under the radar and nobody will even notice that I’m an idiot. And then baby b. starts to screech. Loudly. So my husband continues into the LRC, and I make a quick exit. On the walk home, I mutter positive self-talk like, “How could you be so stupid?” and “I am such an idiot.” Happy to be home, I unbuckle baby b. from his stroller and reach for the door. It’s locked. So is the back door. And the porch door. A few weeks ago a neighbor was burglarized, and I’ve been neurotic about locking everything ever since.

So back to the school we walk. Back into the LRC to try to inconspicuously get the keys. And back home again, to consider all of the ways I’m failing as a Kindergarten Mom. And Kindergarten hasn’t even started yet.

Incidentally, my husband found the meeting quite helpful since he missed Kindergarten Round-up. And the noisy boys had a great time.

Once again, it’s just me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

home

We just got back from a week in Michigan camping at Cran Hill Ranch, enjoying a reunion with my husband’s extended family. Honestly, I dreaded this trip for six months before it came, trying to think through all of the particulars of traveling and camping with baby b. Overall, things went much better than I expected. The first travel day was brutal—the baby screamed for two-and-a-half hours in the car, filled five diapers with diarrhea throughout our first night in a hotel in South Haven, and left my husband and me completely fried and thinking, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” (Later I figured out that he must have cut a new tooth, which was the cause of his misery.)

But things got better from there. The campground was beautiful. Our rented camper worked out perfectly. The baby had no problem going down for naps during the day at our quiet campsite, and he went down early each night while we enjoyed the campfire. We woke up each morning to his smiling face peeking over the edge of his pack-and-play and his happy babble, which I wish there were real words for so I could share it with you. Is there anything sweeter than the babble of a one-year old? My husband would hit the button on the coffee maker and pull him into our bed for a cuddle. “Ooooh!” Baby b. would squeal and point, excited at his first view of the lake.

The noisy boys had a blast running around with their “extended” cousins. A craft room, a frog pond, canoeing, tubing, fishing, swimming, hanging out at the beach—each day was jam-packed with fun. It was a joy to watch them bond with family we see infrequently. My favorite moment? The turtle races. The kids worked hard catching turtles for several days, and then they each picked one to name and race. What fun! I don’t think I have ever seen Twin B. so excited. He jumped up and down cheering on his turtle, Lightning, and laughed and laughed at the sight of so many turtles scampering through the grass. (As soon as the races ended, the kids let the turtles go back into the lake. No turtles were hurt in this moment of family fun, though I’m pretty sure a few need therapy.)

We half-expected rain all week, but it only really came our first night camping. And boy did it come. But I’ll save that story for another day. For now, I’ve got about twelve loads of laundry to do, and the pile of everything is still sitting in our entryway where we dropped it last night. My husband summed it up on day three when we collapsed into bed. “I’ve never been so exhausted, but it’s so worth it to watch the noisy boys build these memories.” I suppose that’s why any family goes on vacation ever, isn’t it? The memories.

We’ve made plenty. And now I’m ready to stay home for a good long time!

Monday, August 6, 2007

a good christian

I would be a really good Christian if there were no other people around. I would have endless patience, a peaceful spirit, and plenty of time to pray and study the Bible. But I'm not alone, which is a good thing. Most days.

Isn't it amazing how quickly it all breaks down? One day I'm making waffles from scratch and teaching my children how to tell time, but give me one sleepless night, and I turn into a screaming shrew. This morning I jumped out of bed when I heard baby b. up at the crack of dawn, after an up-and-down night of fussy half-sleep. I couldn't push my eyelids open, so I stumbled to his crib and reached for him, eyes still closed. Two cups of coffee later and I feel human. Sort of.

I can function with no sleep, but it's more of a survival situation. Feed the kids. Get dressed. Do what absolutely must be done. Just don't try to talk to me, and whatever you do, don't get in my way. Like my husband did this morning. He got less sleep than I did, but I still managed to be cross with him today when he didn't follow my unspoken agenda.

Time to back up. To pray even though I don't feel like it. To read my Bible even though it doesn't feel like there's time. To be kind to my family when I feel like being grouchy.

This is the real Christian life. I cannot fake it or muster up kindness out of nowhere. In the end, regardless of our situation in life or how great we think we are, it really is all about Jesus and His work in us.

Thank goodness.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

pool

It’s hot. Really hot. We’ve been spending every afternoon this week at our neighborhood swimming pool, just a couple of blocks from our house. We put baby b. down for an early nap, eat lunch, and as soon as he’s awake, walk over and enjoy the rest of the afternoon swimming with our neighbors. Standing in the shallow end today watching the noisy boys, I cannot believe how much they’ve grown. Last year they were straining to hold their heads above water, standing on tippy toes and looking up just to breathe. They’re at least a head taller this year and walk around the shallow end with no problem, climbing out and jumping in to swim. And swim and swim and swim. Amazing.

I can’t believe how much they’ve grown in just a year. It snuck up on me.

Spiritual growth is the same way. It sneaks up on me. Sometimes my spiritual life feels stagnant, and then I find myself back in the pool. I find a point of reference and realize that a year ago, or two years ago, I was fighting just to keep my head above water—to breathe. And then I realize I’ve grown, and the situations that pulled me under before, gasping for breath, are easier to maneuver now.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

tag

I’ve been tagged. Ted Gossard asked me to share eight random things about myself or my spouse.

1. My husband works for Apple Computer.

2. Yes. The iPhone really is all that.

3. I once joined a church because they had comfortable chairs and Starbucks coffee.

4. I am embarrassed to admit number 3, and I don’t embarrass easily.

5. My most embarrassing moment is too painful to recount, but it involves a breast pump. And my Pastor.

6. And since we’re on the subject, I’m embarrassed to admit that I hold a degree in English Literature and I cannot spell the word “embarrass” correctly without relying on spell check.

7. I don’t like doing crafts or sewing. When I was in MOPS I never actually did any of the crafts. I would just sit and drink my coffee in blissful peace while everyone else made the craft.

8. I just finished the latest Harry Potter book. It was my favorite of them all, and I’m dying for my husband to finish it so we can talk about it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

one

Baby b. turned one on Saturday. We celebrated with a trip to the children’s museum and messy cupcakes.

I cannot believe he’s already one. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago I was as big as a house, waddling around our house trying to imagine myself as the Mother of three boys. The day he was born, I woke up early and knew—today’s the day. (I’ll spare you all the details of how, exactly, I knew!)

As I labored quietly all day, I played game after game of UNO with the noisy boys. I was excited, scared, and a little bit sad. After all, it wouldn’t just be the three of us anymore, and I didn’t know how it would all work. As we played games, I tried to fill them up with enough of me to last the few days I’d be gone, and tried not the think of the millions of things that can go wrong in childbirth.

We invited my husband’s parents over for dinner, since I knew that at some point, we’d need to leave. I made dinner at 5 o’clock, then went upstairs to lie down. I didn’t know if it was time to go to the hospital or not. I didn’t want to go too early, since I was doing a VBAC. I prayed to know the right timing, since I also didn’t want to give birth at home. Shortly after this prayer, my water broke.

Baby b. was born just two hours later. The delivery was so smooth, it kind of freaked us out. When the nurse handed us our boy and said, “Have a good night,” we just stared at eachother in disbelief. That’s it? And now we have a baby? And you’re actually leaving him here with us? We were on cloud nine.

And in some ways, we still are. Baby b. is a gift from God. He is the happiest baby I have ever met, and fits into our family beautifully. I cannot image life without him.

Happy birthday, littlest one! You are a joy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

learning to fall

No more training wheels for Twin A.! Last weekend Llama Papa patiently worked with the noisy boys and their two-wheeler bikes. He ran beside them, declared himself too old for it all, but kept going anyway. Twin A. fell and got up; fell and got up; then took off and hasn’t looked back since. Twin B. still needs some practice.

One of the uniquely difficult aspects of raising twins (once you get past the tandem feedings and gazillions of diapers) is helping each of them to form their own identity apart from their twin. We are blessed with boys who are best friends, and while I want to nurture the special bond they share, I am also aware of their innate differences. I want to help each of them grow to their full potential and find God’s purposes for their lives. We work hard to not compare them to eachother, but as they get older, that’s not enough. They compare themselves to eachother, which makes it difficult to encourage one without discouraging the other. It’s a constant balancing act.

Twin B. doesn’t want to keep practicing on two wheels. He wants to give up. He’s afraid of falling. He feels dumb fumbling along next to his brother, who is zooming around our court effortlessly.

As I reflected on this today, the Parable of the Talents came to mind (Matthew 25:14-30). In the story, the master gives out different sums of money to his servants, and expects them each to use what they’ve been given, whether the gift was small or large. And his response to the servants at the end of the story tells me that the point is not really what they produced, it’s that they tried at all. The servant that was held back by fear was chastised—fear is no excuse.

As I watch Twin B. and his struggle to ride a bike, I think of my own struggle to use the gifts God has given me. Often I am held back by fear or a sense of inadequacy. I compare myself to the people around me and feel like giving up. And yet just as I know Twin B. will fall and struggle as he learns to ride his bike, my Heavenly Father is well aware of my weaknesses and struggles. He knows that as I venture out into new territory, using the gifts He’s given me, I’ll make mistakes. I’ll feel dumb. But I believe He is pleased with our efforts. He wants to teach us. He’s delighted with the unique way He made each of us, even me, and as we take risks in spite of our fears, He runs alongside of us, cheering us on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

last night

For a brief moment, I allow myself to feel smug. After all, my husband is away and I still prepared a nice, healthy dinner for myself and the kids. As I clear the dishes away, the noisy boys begin a massive lego building project in the family room. Teamwork. Cooperation.

I’ve got this motherhood thing down.

That’s what I was thinking when I realize I have no idea where baby b. actually is. He was playing in the kitchen just a minute ago, and now…wait…what’s that noise? No. It’s not.

The gate is open. I run to the bathroom and there he is. And he’s quite pleased with himself. He squeals with delight when he sees me, lifting his arms out of the toilet and splashing water all over himself and the floor. That would be, um, toilet water.

Oh my.

Monday, July 23, 2007

worship

Finally. A good night’s sleep. Between a tag-team flu bug and a middle-of-the-night domestic disturbance next door, it’s been something like four days since I slept all the way through. And I am not a good person without sleep. Seriously.

Twin A. and I stayed home from church yesterday. He had been sick for a few days, and even though he was feeling better, you never know.

After the rest of the family left, we played some card games and cuddled up on the couch. We chatted easily, and at one point, he asked to turn on some music. As he was looking through the CDs, he held up his VBS music and said, “This is the one! I’m in the mood to worship, aren’t you, Mom?”

Indeed. No sleep, vomity kids and a messy house. Let’s worship!

We sat on the couch and sang together:

“You are my strength when I am weak;
You are the treasure that I seek;
You are my all in all.
When I fall down you pick me up;
When I am dry you fill my cup;
You are my all in all.
Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name!”

My children teach me so much, when I slow down long enough to listen.

“Taking my sin my cross my shame;
rising again, I bless your name;
You are my all in all.
Seeking you as a precious jewel;
Lord to give up I’d be a fool;
You are my all in all.”

“Where would we be without Jesus?” My son asked.

Where indeed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

childcare

I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts on the “church stuff” post. If you follow this blog, but haven’t read through those comments, let me invite you to do so.

I am for childcare. Each Sunday I am in church and my children are lovingly cared for, I am appreciative. And because I know what it means to a Mom to have a squirmy child lifted from her arms, I am quick to jump in when I can to provide this for others—whether at church or in my home.

We are the church. Let me say that again—we are the church! Isn’t that liberating? It frees us from complaining about the structure of our particular place of worship and allows us the privilege of jumping in and making a real difference in the lives of others.

For those who are leaders in our churches, I humbly offer the following thoughts. When planning events for women, childcare is a critical component. There are many women who will be unable to attend an event if childcare isn’t provided.

With that said, sometimes churches aren’t equipped to provide childcare for every single activity. As a Mom, I’m comfortable with that. I may choose to not attend the event, pay a sitter so I can attend the event, or volunteer myself to provide childcare for that event so others can attend. I have three children five and under. I’m going to miss some stuff, plain and simple. And that’s okay.

A question I think we need to carefully consider: are parents being held back from ministry because they have no one to care for their young children? I’m thinking of the comment from menzach in my “church stuff” post, in which he describes an event that both he and his wife were serving at. They brought a sitter with them to the event. I read that and wondered, “Where was I that night?” Probably home with my own babies. But maybe I shouldn’t have been. Maybe I should have been at church with my babies and THEIR babies too, allowing them to serve more freely.

There are no simple answers or one-size-fits-all solutions to the issue of childcare in the church. But these little ones are a part of His Church too, not a nuisance or a problem, but a blessing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

hold that thought

I’ve been so interested in everyone’s comments on my last post. If you follow my blog, but haven’t read those comments, I encourage you to do so.

More on that soon. I promise! Right after I wash three sets of barfy sheets and get my family healthy again.

Why does the barfing always start in the middle of the night?

Quote of the night: “Maybe I shouldn’t go to swim lessons tomorrow.”
--Twin B. after puking for the fourth or fifth time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

church stuff

The church I belong to is a small, start-up church comprised of mostly young families. For several years I went through a period of great discontent with my church for a variety of reasons, including a lack of “programs” for young moms. Basically, I had (have) needs. A lot of them. And none of them were being met by the church. A consumer mentality seeped into my spirit, and I felt I deserved better. I was entitled to better.

And then something happened. Or maybe it wasn’t just one thing, but a variety of things and I began to see this muttering for what it was: sin. I began to replace complaining with prayer, hoping God would change my church. But He changed me instead. As I cried out to God, I began to see my church as His Church. Leaving would cause damage to people and relationships, and finding a “comfortable” place to settle in and raise my children would do little for my own spiritual growth. Oh, and one more not-so-minor detail: it's not all about me.

A friend recently emailed me to ask for my opinion as a mother of three. She’s a leader in her church and grappling with the issue of providing childcare for everything. “Should the church provide child care for all events?” She asks.

Not an easy question to answer. I’ll save my response for another post, but leave the question open for comment. What is the church’s responsibility to parents of young children?

Friday, July 6, 2007

forgiveness

I stare at the last pot in the sink. I just can’t do it. I’m done. Beyond exhausted.

“Honey?” I ask, “would you please wash this last pot for me and get my coffee ready for the morning? I’m exhausted.”
“Sure, no problem. Good night!” He responds cheerfully from his perch in front of the television.

I double-check the crockpot—already getting hot. I’m making slow cooked bbq pork and bringing a meal to two families from church tomorrow. All I have to do in the morning is shred the pork, add the bbq sauce, and make a simple fruit salad. I’m getting a haircut at 9:30, so I plan to deliver the food early. It’s a busy day with my husband getting ready for a backpacking trip, but dropping off a simple meal should be no problem.

I sleep soundly, but when I wake up I notice right away: the house doesn’t smell like anything is cooking. I jump out of bed and race to the crockpot.

It’s unplugged.

I open the lid, incredulous. Warm, rotting meat with a lovely bbq rub stares back at me. “Honey?” I call out. My husband comes in and gasps. “I am so, so sorry.” He says.

And I know that he is sincere. He unplugged the crockpot to grind the coffee beans and forgot to plug it back in. It was an honest-to-goodness mistake that anyone could make. Even me, Miss Organized and Efficient.

I sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee and cry for about three minutes. And then I grab my notebook of summer meals and flip through it, looking for something that I have all of the ingredients for. Anything. Ah! Here it is! Low-fat Fettuccine Alfredo. And I’ve even got leftover chicken to throw in. I’ll turn the buns I bought for the bbq into garlic toast, and voila. Dinner.

With that decision done, I get to work. And then I make the most important decision of the day: the decision to forgive my husband. Not to just say “it’s okay,” but to forgive him. To let him off the hook. I ask him to grate the parmesan cheese for me, and I tell him I forgive him. The burden of anger lifts from my shoulders, and we work together to get back on-track with the day.

This morning he left at 5 a.m. for a week of backpacking in Yosemite. As I reflect on the events of yesterday morning, I am so glad I didn’t waste the day in anger and hostility and resentment.

Does grace live at your house? I am so grateful that it lives at mine.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth of July

Simple Limeade

Limeade concentrate

1 cup fresh sqeezed lime juice
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups water

Mix sugar and water while heating, add lime juice.

Limeade (makes 3 cups)

1 cup limeade concentrate mix
2 cups water

You can adjust the sweetness to your tastes, of course, by adding more or less sugar. Delicious!

Now, turn your computer off, invite friends over, and enjoy the fourth of July!

(Local Tip: Market Fresh on 75th is a wonderful new supermarket. The produce is incredible and the prices will make you very happy!)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Are they all yours?

We’re taking care of our nieces for a few days while my sister-in-law and brother-in-law get away for their fourteenth anniversary. (Happy Anniversary, R & L!) I love having their girls here. At ten and eight, they are big help to me, and so much fun to hang around with. We’ve been having a blast! The girls and I even used a Polish dessert mix to make a complicated-looking-on-the-box cake. (Which is, of course, inedible. But we had a really good time trying to figure out what “soku owocowego” was!)

The five kids and I were out briefly this morning; we got lots of stares, and one outright question: “Are they all yours?” (Said with that freaked out tone of voice.) I just smiled and said, “No, but I wish they were! They’re all so much fun!” But inside, I was annoyed. Why do complete strangers feel the need to know this information? Seriously. This question ranks right up there with the “How did you end up with twins?” question. (Would you believe people are still asking? Of course, my favorite response is a whispered, “S – E – X.”)

I realize people are just curious, but can’t we all show a little restraint? Whether someone has one kid, nine kids, or no kids, stop and ask yourself: is this any of my business? Unless it’s your spouse you’re talking to, probably not.

Now. Let’s role play. You see a pregnant woman leaving the supermarket while you’re going in. She’s got four kids that appear to be under the age of six with her. What should you say?? Quick??

Everyone repeat after me: “Let me get that door for you.” Trust me. Say it with a smile, and you’ll make her day!

Friday, June 29, 2007

the jewelry party

If you know me, you know the unadorned truth: I am not a jewelry person. Oh, I wear my wedding ring and a pair of diamond earrings, but that’s as far as my accessorizing goes. It’s not that I don’t admire people who are put together and polished. I do. I just have no idea how to do that.

One of my dear friends has a theory. In junior high, all of the girls were rounded up and taken on a weekend away where they learned how to apply make-up and put together outfits and do hair. She missed that weekend and has been playing catch-up ever since. I feel much the same way. It was just never a priority, and now I simply don’t know how. It’s sad, really. A thirty-five year old woman who doesn’t know how to accessorize, and, quite honestly, doesn’t really care.

I wanted to laugh out loud last night at my neighbor’s house. It was like the jewelry lady was speaking a foreign language and I only understood every fifth word. She actually asked, “Do you prefer Jewel or Dominicks? This is a great necklace for Jewel. And if you’re going to CASEY’S, well, then you want something more dramatic…”

Is she kidding? Seriously. Wearing jewelry to the grocery store because…why exactly? Is this what housewives do after their children go to bed? Polish their jewelry for the grocery store tomorrow? Come on. I’m too busy wiping pee from the toilet seats to worry about my jewelry.

Sometimes I think I live on another planet from everyone else.