Sunday, January 27, 2008


I leave on my silent retreat early tomorrow morning.

I’ll be away all week.

I’m still apprehensive, but I’m more excited than nervous. I’m really looking forward to uninterrupted time to pray and simply be.

As my friend Ed has said before, this blog is like a hungry farm animal. Heck, my whole life is like a hungry farm animal. It will be good to step away for a time.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


My friend, PattyK, just launched a new blog. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo-whatever-that-thing-in-October-is, she is planning her own version of writing accountability––FEBO.

Interested in setting specific writing goals for the month of February and enjoying the camaraderie and accountability of other writers looking to do the same? Head on over to her blog and join the conversation.

And since we’re on the subject of writing, have you seen Mary Demuth’s new blog So You Want to be Published? It’s a treasure trove of valuable information for aspiring writers. Check it out!

And in other exciting news, I won my first blogging award. Thanks, Jenny!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I’m registered for a silent retreat next week. Five days of solitude and silence, prayer, and spiritual direction. I leave on Monday.

I’ve gone on silent retreats before, but never for this long.

I’m nervous.

No computer.
No phone.
No distractions.

Just me and God.

In her book Wilderness Time, Emilie Griffin observes:
“When we go on retreat we clear space for God’s action in our calendar… Making a retreat requires a certain kind of trust. We need to trust the Spirit. In contrast to vacations or holidays in which activities – planned sight-seeing, sports, entertainment, or events – are within our control, retreat leads us into a less predictable situation. We don’t know what God has in store for us, but we are willing to risk what we will find out.”

Trust. Yes. This is where the apprehension is coming from. I am a Planner with a capital P. I don’t like leaving things up in the air or even up to other people––I like to take care of things myself. The ugly term for this, I believe, is––ahem––control freak.

But this retreat isn’t about my agenda. It’s about making space for God to work in my heart and life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

oatmeal - WFMW

My boys love oatmeal, especially the toddler, baby b. Not the instant stuff, but real old fashioned oats cooked on the stove with a little cinnamon and grated apple. (If you’re cooking for more than one, it really doesn’t take much longer to cook the real stuff and it tastes so much better!)

Recently I stumbled on the perfect way to cool it off––frozen blueberries. Baby b. loves to snack on frozen blueberries, so I threw some into his hot oatmeal. It cools it off, adds great nutrition, and he loves stirring the berries around to make his oatmeal purple.

Frozen blueberries. The perfect oatmeal cooling device. Works for me! Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I was recently tagged by my friend, Musing Mom, to list a few of my favorite books. For some of these, it’s hard to limit myself to just one, but here it goes! 

1. One book that changed your life.

Other than the Bible, which seems like the obvious answer, it would have to be The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

2. One book that you have read more than once.

Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey

3. One book you would want on a desert island.

The Bible

4. Two books that made you laugh.

The Sacred Diary of Adran Plass by Adrian Plass

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

5. One book that made you cry.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

6. One book you wish you'd written.

Is Your Mama a Llama?

7. One book you wish had never been written.
I can’t remember the title, but it was one by Bret Easton Ellis. When one of my college professors assigned the book, he looked right at me and said, “Some of you may find this book offensive. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine. I’ll assign you another book and you can sit out on our discussions.” It felt like a dare, so I read the book. I wish I hadn’t.

8. Two books you are currently reading.

Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life by Bret Lott

Becoming a Woman of Grace by Ruth Haley Barton

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Usually I don’t tag people on these things, but given that it’s about books and I love to hear what other people are reading, I’ll tag: Raising Cain, MamaToo, Marmot Mom, Ellen, and Chosen Rebel.

No pressure to participate if you’d rather not, but consider yourself tagged!

Friday, January 18, 2008

surprise, surprise!

Well, technically they were following directions.

"Don't forget to put your toothbrushes away," I reminded the noisy boys before bed, sick and tired of cleaning up after them in the bathroom every night.

I didn't actually tell them where to put them.

I wondered why they were giggling when I put them to bed.

(And, yes. The lid was down. And yes, we have new toothbrushes without suction cups now.)

Edited to add LLama Papa deserves the photo credit on this. He originally spotted the toothbrushes and grabbed his camera. After reading all of your "Wow, what a fun Mom you are!" comments, he wants FULL CREDIT for being a super fun dad. Which he is. And the funny thing? I don't think the noisy boys were trying to play a trick on us or be particularly funny. They just thought that would be a good spot for their toothbrushes. These boys are a HOOT to live with, that's all I can say!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why does God care about me?

Does God care?

Don’t we all ask ourselves this question? In light of world hunger, raging wars, and child abuse, why would God care about me––an ordinary, middle-class suburban housewife?

The short answer is, it’s not about me. I'm not any more or less deserving of God’s love than the next person, but He offers it to me just the same. I just need to reach out and take it. Turn from my sin. Believe. It really is that simple.

But I’m guessing this question was asked from a heart filled with despair. A two-in-the-morning-God-has-forgotten-about-me despair we’ve all felt, if we’re honest.

The truth is, most of the time I don’t feel like God cares. But I know He does. I believe scripture is true, and because of this, I believe God loves me. This knowledge is rooted in fact, and not swayed by my day-to-day feelings. This knowledge allows me to trust God and build my life on a foundation of faith, regardless of my emotions.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindnes
s (Jer 31:3).

It’s a leap of faith, I know.

But it’s one I’m glad I’ve taken. And once in awhile, I do have a moment of touchy-feely, God-is-real-and-He-cares-about-me clarity. In the meantime, I walk by faith, and not by sight.

And if you’re my middle of the night googler and you’ve come back again, please leave a comment or email me. My contact email is on the side of this blog. I'd love to continue this conversation with you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the travel thing - WFMW

“How do you do it?”

I used to get asked this a lot. With three young children and a husband who constantly traveled, my tongue in cheek answer was, “Not very well.”

My husband no longer travels for work, but he was recently in Siberia for two weeks. He’s home again, thank the Lord, and we all survived just fine.

Here are a few survival tips:

Plan ahead. Make sure you take some time for yourself before your husband leaves. See a movie, go to Starbucks, whatever floats your boat. Schedule playdates for the kids. Trade babysitting with another Mom or hire a sitter once in awhile, for your own sanity. Making meatloaf? Lasagna? Sloppy Joes? Make extra and throw it in the freezer. You’ll have plenty of options for no-cook meals that don’t involve frozen pizza. (I’m not above serving my children frozen food once in awhile, but on an ongoing basis, it’s not good for anyone!)

Eat out. If you like to eat out and it’s not a stress on your family budget, do it. One of the things we found in the midst of our “travel days” was that my husband would come home tired after a long week, longing for a home-cooked meal and time with his family. On the other hand, I would be desperate to get out. Making sure we eat out a few times while he’s gone is a simple fix to this problem.

Stick to the routine. If your kids normally go to bed at seven, don’t keep them up until eight. Keep it simple and consistent.

Ask for help. If a friend calls and says, “Is there anything I can do to help?” say yes! Ask her to watch your kids for an hour or invite yourself over for dinner. At my house, dinnertime is the hardest time to be on my own. Often, we’ve been in the house together all afternoon, and sitting down at the table in the evening feels lonely. So call a friend! Find another Mom on her own for the dinner hour and invite her over for frozen pizza. And don’t clean up. Please, just leave all those toys right where they are. It will be a gift to her to know she is not alone.

Keep it positive. Don’t fall into the trap of self pity. Whether your husband is away on business or pleasure, own it yourself. I meet a lot of bitter, resentful Moms. I was one of them for awhile. Sit down with your spouse and negotiate. Rather than feel victimized, own the decisions you make together. If he travels constantly for work, let him know you need breaks and get them on the calendar. He can’t read your mind; you need to tell him exactly what you need. Looking at your calendar and seeing dates marked off for a weekend away or lunch with a friend can go a long way toward having a positive attitude.

Have fun. Sit down with your kids and play as much as you can. Remember those days before having kids when you thought about what it would be like to be a Mom? You didn’t think about the laundry and mopping the floor and vacuuming up goldfish, did you? I know I didn’t. Ignore the crunchy floor and sit down and play for awhile. Laugh a lot. It’s good for everybody.

Find support. Sometimes things fall apart. For this trip, I was doing fine until day ten. It all fell apart on day ten. Fortunately, we were already planning to go to Grandma’s house for supper. I dropped the kids off and left for awhile, then came back ready for round 2. If you need a break, find one. Don’t fall into the trap of yelling at your kids or overeating or drinking after everyone is in bed. Really. Lean into the support you have, create it if you don’t have it, and find a better way. There is a better way.

Does this post sound preachy? I’m not usually so preachy. If you need help finding support, please leave a comment or email me. I’ve been there.

For more tips, go to Rocks in my Dryer.

Friday, January 11, 2008


“Mom? Can you help me tape this?” Twin A. asks.
“Not right now, sweetie. Do the best you can, okay?” I respond, holding a screeching baby with one arm and a basket of dirty laundry in the other. It’s 10:00 and nobody is dressed yet, the baby is as cranky as he’s ever been, and I didn’t get more than two hours of sleep in a row last night. A too-high smoke alarm beeps every three minutes. I think it needs a new battery.

I turn on some music and try to warm the mood in our home, which at the moment teeters somewhere between difficult and total chaos.

I grab baby b.’s cozy blanket and binky, and sit down on the floor to cuddle him. We sing along to the music, and the dark cloud lifts just a little. I manage to help Twin A. with the tape.

“Today is a hard day,” Twin A. tells me. “baby b. won’t stop crying.”
“Yeah,” Twin B. agrees, “it’s giving me a headache.”
“Yes,” I agree, “it is a hard day. Today is a ‘let’s just do the best we can’ kind of day.”

“Lord,” I pray aloud, “be present with us on this hard day. I give you my agenda––the laundry, the sticky floor, the scattered toys, my need for a nap. Please give me your perspective for today.”

The only magic in this prayer happens in my own attitude. Suddenly, it is enough to sit on the floor in my pajamas and simply be with my children.

And now, as I write this a few hours later, the noisy boys are at school, baby b. is napping, and the laundry is in the washer. I left a message with a tall neighbor to ask for his help with my smoke alarm. I can take a nap, scrub the floor and clean up the toys.

I am reminded once again of how much energy I expend trying to avoid hard. I plan ahead and try to make good choices, but sometimes, there’s no avoiding hard. It’s a part of life.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Somebody call Avery Coonley, I think baby b. is advanced. Maybe even gifted.

Just today he was pouring water from one cup into another, without spilling a drop. Never mind that he was sitting on the kitchen counter whispering “hot” when the water was clearly cold, at only seventeen months old, don’t you think that’s impressive?

And just this afternoon he was sorting things out into categories. Spoons in one spot, forks in another. Of course he was sitting IN the dishwasher. Minor detail.

Oh, yeah. He’s Avery Coonley all the way.

p.s. For the record, I have nothing against Avery Coonley or anybody who goes there or gifted children in general.

Monday, January 7, 2008

finding grace

Saturday I woke up feeling sorry for myself. I looked at the calendar and started counting, “one, two, three...ten days until my husband gets home.” I should confess that I have been blessed (cursed?) with the personality of most writers I know. We’re a melancholy lot who thinks entirely too much. At least I do.

Prone to self-pity, it’s a matter of discipline to not dwell on the dark side.

And God is good, folks. He has showered me with grace during this past week, and I am trusting that His grace will be enough this week, too.

Because it always is.

Even when things are difficult, or maybe especially then, God’s grace abounds.

Yesterday it was 57 degrees. Above zero. Have I mentioned that I live in the greater Chicago area? That’s nothing short of a miracle, people. Watching the noisy boys ride their bikes yesterday afternoon and horse around with the neighborhood kids? Grace.

Friday night three girlfriends came over after all of my kids were in bed to just hang out and laugh, try to watch a movie, and eat cardboard weight watcher popcorn. Nobody mentioned the huge mess and crunchy floor. Grace.

On Saturday morning my sister-in-law came over and picked up all three of my children and brought them back after lunch, ready for a rest. Grace.

My in-laws plan to pick up the noisy boys every day this week and take them to school for me, so baby b. can have an uninterrupted, long nap. Grace.

Our calendar this week is full of playdates and invitations to share dinner with friends. Grace.

“I forgive you, Mom,” offered Twin A. when I apologized after losing my patience trying to tie three sets of shoes and get out the door in time for church. Grace.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

a proud moment

The noisy boys choose a table while I heat up our dinner. The children’s museum is open late on Thursday nights, and while Llama Papa is away, this is a great place to hang out and play between naptime and bedtime.

I peel the cardboard off the Kid Cuisines and park myself next to the microwave while they heat up. I want to explain to the Moms near me that I really don’t give my kids a lot of frozen food. I feed them a well-balanced diet of home cooked meals on a consistent basis. Really.

Young children are scattered all over the cafeteria eating popcorn and chocolate milk for dinner, but still. I actually planned this meal. That somehow feels worse on the Bad Mother scale.

But the noisy boys are ecstatic. “Oh!” Twin B. exclaims, loud enough for the entire room to hear, “I remember these! You used to give us these ALL THE TIME!”

Yup. It was a proud moment.

update on Llama Papa -- He made it to Moscow safely after two relatively uneventful flights. He has a day to recover in Moscow, then he’ll catch a plane to Tonsk. Thank you for your continued prayers!