Monday, April 30, 2007

is it possible?

Over the weekend we attended a fundraiser for the Bolingbrook Christian Health Center. The center provides medical care for people without insurance, and God is doing amazing things there. My friend, Sue, is the director of the clinic; she’s just an ordinary Mom, really, with this amazing passion for the underserved in our community.

Anyway, if you know me at all, you know that I love to cook. Big crowds, little crowds, even preschoolers—I enjoy feeding people. So I’m in the planning stages of designing a cooking class for the clinic. One of the things Sue sees over and over are busy families existing on non-nutritious food because they don’t know any alternative. They shop at Aldi, which is jam-packed full of inexpensive junk food, and fill their carts with chips and crackers and fruit punch.

I went to Aldi on Saturday, and as I shopped, I found myself pitying people who have to shop there all of the time. I missed my well-lit, clean, upscale grocery store. While I scoured the perimeter of the store for nutritious food choices, I wanted to shout, “Hey! Frozen vegetables are over here for only 69 cents!” And I realized how deep-down critical I am of people who feed their kids a steady diet of junk and fill their bottles with Hi-C.

I pray that my pity will be replaced by genuine compassion. And as I prepare these low-cost meals for my own family this week, I pray for empathy and understanding to replace my critical attitude. It’s easy for me to put on my helping-the-poor hat and feel really good about myself for getting involved; it’s much harder for me to identify with the poor and live among them. My challenge as I plan these meals? To feed my own family the same stuff. To lower our food budget and, for a time, live within difficult perimeters. It’s not the same, but I pray God would use this season to enable me to connect with people I don’t normally connect with.

Friday, April 27, 2007


I just read this story about Allen Lee, the eighteen-year old boy who was arrested for writing a violent stream-of-consciousness essay in English class. I find this troubling. The students were told not to censor their writing, and Allen Lee didn’t. And in a world of school shootings and violent video games, is it any wonder that what he wrote was so disturbing? I’m not trying to defend his essay as normal, but I don’t think he should have been arrested for writing it.

Now, as a few of you reading this blog can attest to, I was a somewhat troubled teenager. I wrote a few disturbing essays in English class because I was, well, disturbed. But I was never arrested. I was pulled aside after class and invited to counseling, but never arrested.

In the wake of Virginia Tech, schools are obviously taking a proactive approach to preventing violence, and they should. But I think school officials missed a critical first step in this situation: talk to Allen Lee, call his parents, find out why he wrote this essay.

If Allen Lee had been a cute, blonde white girl would they have been as quick to call police? Maybe. Maybe not.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

in praise of naps

An hour ago, the world was falling apart. I was thinking about fair trade, and the evils of plastic water bottles, and t-ball, which is way more complicated than it sounds when you’re the parent of two five-year olds. Unable to decide if I should sweep the kitchen floor (again) or work on the back porch (which I’m prepping to paint), I took some pork chops out of the freezer, checked on baby b. who was still snoozing away, and took a nap. I love naps. And today it was particularly satisfying since it’s raining. Couple that with the fact that I was up at five o’clock this morning, and you’ve got forty-five minutes well spent.

Granted, I haven’t solved any of the world’s problems, but I am refreshed and ready for the evening shift with the kids. Sometimes people need therapy to help them with their problems. Sometimes, I’m convinced, they just need a nap.

Monday, April 23, 2007

rescue operation

The llama household has been invaded. It began yesterday with one or two, and today our opponents are even greater in number. We haven’t been taken over, not yet, but they’re trying. The ants have arrived.

I usually squish them as soon as I see them, but this morning, Twin B. informed me that my strategy seems like a bad idea. “I just don’t feel good about this,” he told me. “If we kill them, won’t their mothers be worried when they don’t come home?”

I don’t know much about ants and their family associations, but he does have a point. My tender hearted son proceeded to “rescue” as many ants as he could find. He walked around with a cup and a piece of paper, and carried them out to the backyard one by one. “There you go little fellow! Go and find your family!”

I won’t tell him what his dad wants to do to the chipmunks that are burrowing in our yard.

Friday, April 20, 2007


As many of you know, the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers is close to my heart. When I was a teenager, I became pregnant. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I went to a CPC for support, and they counseled me through one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I chose to have my child, a son, and place him in an adoptive family. My counselor at the center was incredible. She asked me hard questions, she listened, and over and over again, she pointed me to Jesus.

This year, I’m participating in the Walk for Life to raise money for Living Alternatives, a crisis pregnancy center near where I live. Every day the CPC reaches out to women and children with the love of Christ, offering practical help and hope in the midst of crisis. If you’d like to sponsor me and support Living Alternatives, click here.

This seems like a shameless solicitation, which I suppose it is. Even as I write that word, “shameless,” I’m reminded of the power that shame has held over me. Up until a couple of years ago, this was a big secret from all but a few. And then I chose to publish a part of my story in Focus on the Family, and, well, with a readership of 1,700,000, it pretty much blew my cover, which was a good thing. I got tired of hiding; tired of pretending my second pregnancy was my first, and my third pregnancy was my second. I got tired of hiding his picture every time I invited someone over. The weight of the secret intensified my shame.

And when I think of my birthson, who will be seventeen this year, shame is not the word I want associated with his life. He is a gift from God, a blessing to many, and living proof of God’s redeeming grace.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

what a mess

Last night for family fun, I brought out this funny face rice crispy treats kit. It really looks like fun, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It’s a lie. (I think these people are in on the floam conspiracy.) The noisy boys were good sports about it, but the whole project was such a mess. To start with, I was irritated that I had to use a pan. I mean, if I wanted to melt marshmallows and get a pan dirty, I would have planned to make ordinary rice crispy treats. But these were no ordinary treats—and no ordinary marshmallows. The marshmallow goop had to be heated and then mixed with the cereal. The problem? The marshmallow-cereal mixture didn’t stick together. And even if it had, the mixture itself tasted nasty. The noisy boys even tried mixing frosting into the stuff to see if they could get it to stick. No luck. In the end they decided to just play with it and pretend it was moon sand, which they’ve seen on T.V. and really, really want.

So after cleaning up our failed attempt at family fun, we turned on some music. Dancing quickly turned into wrestling, which turned into simply whaling on each other while singing along with the music. “I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart…” WHAM!

Good times.

Monday, April 16, 2007


It’s been a long week already, and it’s only Monday. My husband left early yesterday morning for a conference in Las Vegas, and I’ve been wallowing in self-pity ever since. Actually, the self-pity started on Saturday, but who’s keeping track?

I’m used to my husband being on-the-road. I’m a veteran of this lifestyle, and even see many positives to it. I’ve even started writing a book on how to maintain close family relationships when you’re frequently apart, but I keep putting it down again, convinced it’s impossible to do. Not the book writing, but the relationships.

I’ve got lots of good survival strategies. I know when to get out of the house and when to stay home. I don’t put my life on hold when my husband is gone. I’ve got people I can call when I need a break from the kids. I’ve got people I should call to get my mind off myself. But you know what? It all feels empty today. I’m not content. That’s the real problem—my own discontented spirit.

Do I trust that God is big enough today? Can I hand over my restlessness and trust that He knows what He’s doing with my life, right here, right now?

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?...
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:1-2, 5-6)

Friday, April 13, 2007


Last week was highly emotional. To go from normal life to hopping on a plane to visit my dying grandpa, to being with dear friends who live far away, to dealing with difficult relationships—is it any wonder I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat? But it’s strange, all of this crying, because I’m really not a crier.

I was holding it together fine, mostly, until security in San Jose. I was flying home with baby b., and since security at O’hare had been really smooth, I was completely unprepared for them to make such a fuss over my backpack full of baby goods. Having just spent a full day with my family—which is another blogpost entirely—to say that I was feeling exhausted and raw would be an understatement. I’ve got my shoes off and I’m holding on for dear life to my 19-pound bundle of joy while his stroller and backpack go through the scanner.

The friendly-enough looking security woman says, “You need to make this formula up now. You can’t bring this thermos on the plane.”
“He’s not hungry now. And it’s a four-and-a-half hour flight.”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t bring this.”
“Um. Well, how will I make formula for the baby?”
“That’s really not my problem, ma’am.” She says, dumping the warm water out of the thermos.
That’s when I start bawling.
“You can buy a bottle of water at the gate,” the security woman is trying to be helpful now.
“He – won’t – drink – it,” I sob. “He – only – drinks – it – warm.”

I finally move past security, and a helpful woman behind me tells me I can get hot water at Starbucks and mix it with the bottled water to make it the right temperature. Now, here’s the problem—I cannot stop crying. I try. I tell myself it’s no big deal—look! Hot water! But it was too late. And it wasn’t really about the water.

So there I am, walking through the airport, crying my eyes out. Not quiet tears rolling down my cheeks, but sobs. And I have no time. I need to get to the gate. I am mortified, walking through this airport, but I also don’t really care. At this point, I’m just trying to survive until I get home. So I stop at Starbucks. (God bless that barista! I just held out my thermos, no words, and she filled it halfway and didn’t even look at me funny. I’m guessing I’m not the first empty-thermos Mom she’s met.) Then I stop to buy a sandwich for on the plane. I was starting to get it together at this point, until a nice gentleman insisted I go ahead of him in line. He had a little one at home, he said, and would hate to think of his wife waiting and waiting in line at the airport with the baby. And it was such a kind, human thing to do that I started crying again. The sandwich lady asked me what kind of cheese I wanted, and I just shook my head for no cheese because I couldn’t form words, but I really, really wanted cheese. Any kind of cheese. I felt like a complete idiot. Some people stared at me; others looked away, clearly embarrassed for me. I was embarrassed for myself and just praying I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

I finally got to the gate and called my husband, who felt terrible for me. (Since I was crying, and he knows I’m not a crier.) The conversation was brief, and my tears were at least the quiet kind. But you know what happened next? An older couple sitting near me looked over and immediately got down on the floor (where baby b. was sitting, happy to be free from his stroller) and asked if they could help me. The woman offered me a Kleenex, which I gladly accepted. She put her arm around me and asked me about the baby. And she didn’t stop there. She started telling me about her grandchildren and played peek-a-boo with baby b., to his great delight. She didn’t even ask why I was upset, she just stepped in and offered support. I cannot tell you how much that interaction meant to me.

I was alone in that airport, and felt like the world had caved in on top of me. Strangers reached out a hand, and I grabbed on. And getting on that miserable, delayed-at-the-gate-with-a-squirmy-baby-on-my-lap flight, I was grateful to not be alone.

How do you respond when someone near you gets really emotional? What if it’s a complete stranger? I’ll admit that I probably would have walked right on by myself that afternoon at the airport. Well, not now. But before? Absolutely.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Me, after looking out the window at the snow and freezing rain: "Holy cow! When will spring arrive?" Melancholy coffee time, wondering how many more days until we can walk to the park.

Twin A, looking out the same window thirty minutes later: "Cool! Isn't the snow beautiful, Mom? Can we cuddle up under a blanket?"

Twin B, an hour later, looking out the same window: "Awesome! Snow! Can we go outside? Hey, A., did you see the snow? Maybe we could go SLEDDING and have hot chocolate! Mom, can we go outside?"

The noisy boys were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. Never mind that it's April and our bikes are waiting in the garage while they try to make snowballs out of slush.

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

Monday, April 9, 2007

perfect ten

After juggling baby b. and getting home late last Tuesday night, I almost didn’t get on the plane on Wednesday. When I told my husband, “I don’t really want to go,” referring to our long-planned anniversary trip, he just looked at me: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And so I went.

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip. We took advantage of my husband’s frequent travel perks and upgraded to first class for the flight to Arizona. Let me just pause and say here that whoever said money can’t buy happiness never had much money, because, honey, flying first class is pure happy! (Though I suppose if you’re a miserable person in general, it wouldn’t make much difference.) Our four-door practical sedan rental car turned into a flashy red sports car when the rental agent found out it was our anniversary. How fun is that?

And traveling with my husband of ten years, I was reminded all over again why I fell in love with him in the first place. As we were driving around in our zippy sports car, looking for a good spot for lunch, we agreed that fast-food was strictly forbidden. We drove by a number of places before we saw it: Mariscos Chiuahua. “That’s it!” we shouted in unison. We are foodie soul-mates! Of course, while dining at the lovely Mariscos Chiuahua, I relied on my fading Spanish skills to discover that the people at the table next to us were probably saying, “Hey! Look at the white lady trying to choke down that octopus tostada! Ha!” Not really, but the tostada was an interesting culinary experience.

Our actual anniversary was unbelievably perfect. Well, except for lunch. Let’s just say that sushi in Sedona is a bad idea. Anyway, we took a beautiful early morning hike, had lunch, and napped. After using “points” for our hotel—the beautiful Hilton Resort and Spa—we were in the mood to splurge. And splurge we did! After our naps, we headed over to the spa for a couples massage. My husband was a good sport in going along with this, and he did enjoy it—though it pushed him right to the edge of his comfort zone.

After our massages, we had just enough time to dress up and make our reservation at Rene’s for dinner. After a few years of mostly The Patio, Applebees, and McDonalds, this was a genuine treat. Our table was right next to the live musician of the evening, Vibhas Kenozia. Oh, and did I mention the beautiful earrings my husband gave me for our anniversary? I had to ask, “Can we still afford a new fence?” And, yes, I would have returned them if the answer was no!

I could go on, but I fear this post is starting to sound like one of those happy Christmas letters where everything is Always Great. But, the truth is, everything isn’t always great. So much of life and marriage is hard. Really hard. And so we celebrate the magical, romantic moments; we make memories that will carry us through long afternoons at Chuck E. Cheese and long nights holding sick children. We take time to remember why we committed our lives to each other in the first place, and we give thanks to God for His many good gifts. And at the top of the list? A wonderful sister-in-law and brother-in-law, willing to love on our three boys while we were away, and Grandparents willing to pitch in with carpool and babysitting to make that fantastic slumber party possible. It is no small thing to be able to leave for days at a time, without a single worry about the children. God bless you, one and all! We owe you big time! ☺

Saturday, April 7, 2007

good friday

My husband and I are back from our trip. In a word? Amazing. More on that soon. But tonight, a few thoughts on my grandpa, who passed away yesterday.

In my mind, my grandpa will always be 72. When I was ten, I helped my Aunt decorate his birthday cake, and I remember counting out 72 candles. I laughed and laughed as we carried it out—the whole thing was on fire! My grandpa laughed too, and from that day on, every time someone asked me how old my grandpa was, I told them he was “72.”

My grandpa was my cheerleader. For a variety of reasons, it took me ten years to finish college. I was almost embarrassed to invite people to my graduation and almost skipped it altogether. But he was so proud of me. He hugged me tight and cheered loudly, “Way to go, kid!”

He was a college professor, conductor, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. At 96, he planned to play the organ for the Good Friday service at the retirement community he and grandma lived in. He passed away peacefully on Good Friday, with my grandma and two of his children by his side.

I’m sad for my grandma, who has lost her companion of 63 years, but I’m thrilled for my grandpa. Imagine—Easter in heaven! Just think of the celebration! Is he playing the organ? Conducting the choir? Just sitting with Jesus, relishing his new, heavenly body? And he can hear! After all of these years with crummy, screeching hearing aids, my grandpa can finally hear.

On Easter morning as I celebrate the resurrection of my Lord, I thank Him for the life He gives us—both here and eternally. Oh, the hope we have in Christ. He is risen!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Baby b. and I are back from our whirlwind trip. It was grueling. I'm exhausted. But I am so glad I went. The time with my grandpa was sacred. When he opened his eyes and saw baby b. grinning at him, he smiled. That moment was worth the six-plus hours I spent on a delayed flight with a baby on my lap. We moved grandpa home yesterday, to the medical center in the retirement community that he and Grandma live in. Hospice is keeping him comfortable, and he is surrounded by people who love him. He is at peace and ready to go home.

I have so much to say, but tonight isn't the time to say it. I'm off to bed, only to get up early tomorrow, pack again, and get on a plane to Sedona, Arizona. My husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage on Thursday. God is good.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

a gift

This morning I was making fruit salad for a potluck. This afternoon, baby b. and I are off to California to say goodbye to my Grandpa, who at 96, is dying. Please join me in thanking God for this gift of time -- the opportunity to say goodbye. Please pray for safe travels for me and baby, and for the noisy boys who are sad to be left behind.