Wednesday, June 24, 2015


"OK, honey. You have a couple of options here. We can do the free cleaning, or we can spend a little more time and for $40, we'll buff out all these marks that have built up. It'll look as beautiful as it did the first day you put it on! And oh my, what is that? Is that paint stuck under one of your stones on the side there? What have you been doing?"

I resisted the urge to hang my head in shame at the state of my wedding ring, and bristled a little bit at the tone of the attendant behind the counter - an annoying blend of chipper dismay. Compared with all the shiny new rings in their cases, beautifully lit on their velvet cushions, my ring definitely looked a little battered. The sight of my simple, battered, lovely little ring on that salesperson's elegant, well-manicured hand for safe-keeping had me feeling like Corduroy with his missing button. And suddenly, I found myself hating the mall even more than usual. That's saying a lot, because I loathe the mall.

I started to think about what caused all those marks. I'm sure at least a few of them have come from all the times Andrew and I have moved furniture (look at what I found at a garage sale, honey!), or from the countless dishes that get washed around here (seriously, so many dishes), and from the yard work that we're always behind on (but I keep trying...every now and again). I'm sure some of them have been caused by banging my ring on the edge of the bathtub whilst rinsing the day's grime off little bodies, or from chopping firewood, or building the stone wall in our backyard. Andrew has his fair share of gouges on his ring from the same things - I am (so thankfully!!) not alone on this roller coaster of living. I make stuff, and my ring bears the evidence of my leisure time. This ring is a symbol of the best things in my life, and who cares if it doesn't look perfect? Those marks mean that life has happened - I have made lots of food and done stuff with my hands and wiped away tears (some of my own), and I have worn this ring and felt it press into my husband's hand as we walked on the beach and to and from the mailbox, and do I really want eight years of life buffed away? What a waste of $40!

All this passed through my head in the time that it took me to take a breath. I breathed in, smiled, and said, "The standard cleaning will be fine. I like my scratches."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Perfect Parenting

Okay, it's story time. Disclaimer: I am not telling this story to toot my own horn, or to make myself out to be a great person. I do my best to stay away from commenting on society at large, but I just read a story that breaks my heart, and I feel the need to comment with a story of my own.

It was New Year's Eve, 2014, and possibly the coldest day of the winter to date. Hannah had spent the night at Grandma's house, and I needed to go pick her up. I also needed to get a couple of things from the grocery store, since we were having friends over that evening. Andrew and I were in the middle of a social experiment of sorts, trying to determine if it was feasible for us to go down to one vehicle. So, instead of taking my car, Lucy and I walked, and Julia rode in the stroller. The plan was to run our errands and swing back around to my in-laws' house to pick up Hannah and walk home - easy enough, as long as I could put up with the constant complaining from Lucy of how COLD it was, how she couldn't feel her toes, how her hood wouldn't stay up, etc (she would never make it in the mid-west).

 So, there we were walking down Main Street, bundled within an inch of our lives, all three of us California girls regretting the bull-headed principles that had us pounding the pavement instead of riding in comfort, the heater and NPR cranked full blast (well, maybe that last part was just me). That was when I saw him across the street. He was maybe 18-months old, clad in warm clothes and an adorable little Giants cap, and he was trotting happily down the middle of the road. Traffic was clear for the moment, so we high-tailed it to meet him. I walked up to him and said hi in a friendly voice, but he was pretty shy and he took off the way he had come. At this point we were back on the sidewalk, so I just followed him to see where he would go. We went on this way for about 100 feet until we came to a driveway. The little guy darted out, heading toward an apartment building. I had just started after him when his mom came out from around the corner and scooped him up, obviously panicked, scolding him for running away. She didn't see me.

What I did was completely ordinary - if the above-referenced story hadn't reminded me of it, I probably never would have written it down. I've done things like this before, and I'll do them again if need be - it's part of being a responsible citizen in a community. There was no need to get the police involved - I just needed to get him out of the street. The rest of the situation resolved itself. It comes down to a simple thing - I did for someone else what I would want them to do for me, were our situations reversed. My children have gotten away from me on more than one occasion (I'm looking at you, Julia), and I have had friends and strangers both step in the gap for me when that has happened.

In an age of social media, when it is easy to project a semblance of perfection, when we only see what people choose to share, some folks seem to believe that it is possible to be a perfect parent, and not only is it possible, it is preferable. What's more, if we slip up and someone finds out about it, we are deemed unfit to parent. News flash, my friends: despite what you see on Pinterest and Facebook, everyone slips up. Every day, multiple times an hour, I am reminded of how much I need the grace of God when it comes to raising my kids. And when I read stories like the one I referenced earlier, I shake in my boots. I don't fear my kids getting kidnapped, or them choking to death, but a miscarriage of justice caused by overly-zealous busybodies calling the police when my smarty-pants of a toddler escapes the house again? That's terrifying.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Poke. I'm standing at the sink, up to my elbows in suds, when I feel a six-year-old finger poke me in the side, right above the top of my jeans. Poke. Poke. I look over and smile, my eyebrows asking the question, "What can I do for you, eldest child of mine?"

Poke. "Mommy, what's this bump right here?" Poke.

I bite my tongue, because my initial response is something derrogatory, something along the lines of, "That's what happens when Mommy doesn't run." "That's called a love handle." "That's just Mommy's fat." Or worse yet, "Don't do that." There's a badge of shame, for you.

Poke. I feel her move around my back and prod the squishiness on my other hip, investigating.

"That's part of my body, honey. That's the way I'm shaped right now." I say it with a smile, because I know she's reading as much into my face as she does into my words, learning as much from the happiness she hears in my voice as she does from the vocabulary I choose. 

"Mommy, you're symmetrical, just like the hearts we were cutting out for the Valentines. Mommy, how can you smile and cry and laugh all at the same time?"

Class dismissed.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The First Day of Christmas

It's been a great day, brimming with a myriad of minor notables. Here are the highlights:                        
  • Hannah's quiet excitement over finally receiving a backpack of her own.
  • Lucy's not-so-quiet excitement that I finally got the super hero capes finished (thanks for your help, Mom!)
  • The crazy-loud, aleatoric scream-o version of Go, Tell It On the Mountain that my children sang in the car on the way to church this morning. 
  • Sitting in the balcony for the glorious final verse of Silent Night, sung a cappella, a full church of folks praising Almighty God, with two or three brave souls adding their descants into the mix. Absolutely breathtaking. 
  • A house full of people that I love.
  • This picture of my little super hero:
  • My nephew and my daughter snuggled up with my brother-in-law, watching Snow White.
  • Dining seat assignments scrawled on torn up sheets of binder paper, artfully arranged on fine china.
I could go on, and the truth is, these tiny things probably don't mean anything unless you were there. They are very minor miracles, but they are a still, small reminder that if we are paying attention, we can catch glimpses of the faithfulness of God. Every single day, He shows Himself trustworthy. We spend Advent in anticipation of things to come, but we are still in advent. As God's kids, we are still leaning into this time of waiting, trying to catch glimpses of the way things will be when the fullness of time comes about, and we are waiting no longer. To me, this Christmas has an air of eagerness about it, as if all Creation is whispering, "Just wait. The best is still on its way." In that way, I look forward; forward to tomorrow, when the seemingly endless march of Christmas parties continues; forward to the new year and the promise it holds; forward to the end, when I will see my Savior face to face. You see, this is merely the first day of Christmas - the best is still on its way.

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light 
shines anew from Thy heavenly face,
greets the hour of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

The hour of redeeming grace came two thousand years ago, and it comes again today, and it will come again every day until the end of time. The best is still on its way. God is faithful. Always.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Need a Bigger Form

Forms. I have mixed feelings about them. I see the need for them, but filling them out can be a drag. I turn in an AWR (assignment work record) for Lucy's homeschool every three weeks or so - it's basically just a list of the different things that we do for school. There's a slot for every subject: math, language arts, spelling, history, science and a convenient little section labeled "other" for things like PE, arts and crafts, music lessons, etc.

This form actually isn't a drag to fill out...unless I forget, and then I'm scrambling at the last minute. :-) Life isn't easy to put on a form, though. There's a whole lot about school that can't be measured. I remember from my days as a high school teacher - the administration/BTSA/powers-that-be always wanted to be able to measure progress. There needed to be a tangible way of assessing kids' advancement, their knowledge, and their ability to apply what they had learned. Teachers had to be able to present evidence that our students were getting better at what we were trying to teach them.

As Lucy's teacher, I have to be able show my lead teachers that she's getting better at her handwriting, that she's learning how to do addition and subtraction, and that she's learning how to earn and use money, among other things. However, as Lucy's mother, I also want to be able to measure a different sort of progress. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that I get to be directly involved in the character development of my children, but it's tempting to take it too far. Sometimes I want to make myself into the powers-that-be, arming myself with an imaginary checklist: honesty...check; good work ethic...check; progress. And so it goes. But, life isn't easy to put on a form, right? I'm not the administrator of my kid's life. It's not my job to follow my daughters around with a list for them to live up to. When I do that, I'm merely teaching them how to be good citizens, instead of showing them the Gospel.

The truth is, there's not enough room on any form to tell the stories that make up so much of our schooling. Our area has been experiencing a severe drought, and our family (along with everyone else!) been praying for rain for a very long time. Well, this week we got it. The heavens opened up, and we rejoiced in our rain boots. Lucy and I stood in my bathroom a couple of days ago - the skylight in that room makes it the perfect sounding chamber for the merry pitter-patter of raindrops. As we stood there listening, Lucy asked me why God had waited so long to send rain. So I told her the truth that I am still trying to grasp; God is in charge of everything, and He makes us wait sometimes. He always gives us what He knows we need, even when it's not on our timetable. We can trust Him to be faithful, because He has proven Himself faithful again and again, over and over, from the dawn of time. When we have to wait, it is important that we do our waiting with our face toward God, trusting in our faithful Father's purpose. As we talked about this huge truth, Lucy looked at me with her big blue eyes, framed with a smattering of freckles, and I saw the wheels turning in her head. I saw the foundations of faith being laid, and it did my mama heart good.

Where do I put that on the form?

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Hey, social media. I'm calling you out. Let's take this outside.

I see what you're doing there, with your perfect pictures of Thanksgiving centerpieces and coordinating placemats.

I see you getting under my skin with adorable collages of my friends and their kids, overflowing with syrupy sweet captions about being grateful for the blessings of the season.

I see the pictures of healthy post-workout snacks, of the cute Halloween costumes, of the beautifully decorated houses.

I see the polls, the quizzes, and the click-bait articles, all waiting for me to fall into a time warp.

You see, social media, nearly every time I log in to your version of reality, I start feeling less-than: I feel bad about myself, bad about my parenting, bad about my relationship with my husband. I start feeling dull, and uninspiring, and frumpy. I start finding fault with my husband, for a multitude of infinitesimal and exceedingly stupid reasons. I start finding fault with my children, because I see the things my friends post, and they look so much better than the things I'm doing (or not doing) with my kids.

Aha. "...they look so much better..." There's the punchline. I know all about the dangers of comparison. When my fridge door is clean, this verse is the first thing I see staring at me:

"Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct." Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)

Truth words, those. And yet, I find myself falling into the comparison trap time and time again, and each time I come up short. The genuine, deep-in-my-gut thankfulness that I normally feel turns into heartburn. Less-than.

Since I'm being honest, I have to say that there are parts of social media that are great - I love logging in to see that a friend from college just had her first child, or to see the awesome video of my students playing the piano for their grandparents. It's things like that that keep me from closing my account and becoming a hermit (albeit one disguised as a social butterfly).

I will be the first to admit my part in this - I have been a purveyor of comparison as well as a consumer of it. I am deeply ashamed to say this, but I have been guilty of living my life from Facebook post to Facebook post, and sometimes my motives for posting have been less than awesome. Maybe it's to prove that I can be creative with the best of them, or that I too, can take artsy, quirky photographs of my children doing insanely adorable things. All of it boils down to one thing: reputation management. Trying to make myself look as good as possible. It's really ugly, right there in Times New Roman, isn't it?

Here is my antidote, my proposition, my December-resolution: this season, I will be posting exactly zero photographs of my children staring in wonder at our beautiful Christmas tree, the twinkle lights reflecting in their eyes. I will also refrain from sharing the heartwarming, meaningful Advent activities that our family somehow (never) finds the time to do. Oh, and no cake pops. I guarantee you will never see me posting about cake pops. Ever.

My motivation behind this is simple:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

I don't think God is offended by cake pops (well...), but if I'm posting things on social media just to make myself look good, or to prove myself, or to make another person feel like they're less-than, then my heart is ugly, and God knows it. He knows it, and He wants more than that for His kids.

So, here's to a Christmas without Facebook leering over my shoulder, whispering about what a cute post that would make.

Social media, you are excused.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If you ever needed proof that I'm a little neurotic...

I don't consider myself a control freak (No, really! Stop laughing, Mom!), but I think everyone has their trigger points. Some of us, like myself, have really stupid trigger points. Example:

People, this is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night. The missing leg to the anatomy puzzle, the missing rod from Lucy's Goldieblox set, the missing magnetic octopus from the fishing game, the missing wooden knife from the play food cutting set, the "pencil" for the Magnatab, the missing ball for the top of the stacking rings...I could go on, but I won't. I know they're just toys, but I can't seem to let it go. All these missing things dance around in my head during the wee hours of the night like psychotic sugarplums, slowing eating away at my sanity. Okay, that was a little dramatic. However, I will confess that we are currently keeping an extra couch, partly because I can't get rid of it until I'm certain beyond a reasonable doubt that there are no toy fugitives lurking within. I have been known to spend my time after the kids are in bed armed with a flashlight, crusading on my hands and knees for the great cause of completed toy sets. It makes me feel rather noble, really.

Most of the time, the missing pieces turn up in due course. I have a checklist that I follow when searching for missing odds and ends:

1. Under the couch cushions
2. Under the couch
3. Behind the overstuffed chair
4. Under the china hutch
5. In my car (that's a terrifying prospect in and of itself)
6. In the girls' beds
7. In my bed
8. In the subwoofer (no, I'm not kidding)

This list has saved me time and time again, and every time I find a missing bit that I've been looking for, I do a happy-mama dance and sleep a little better at night, secure in the knowledge that I have helped humanity in some small way. Or, that I've somehow fed my growing obsession with order and completeness. Same difference, right?

But here's the weird part: how am I supposed to feel when the missing pieces show up on their own? What am I supposed to do when I've been turning the furniture upside down looking for the missing leg to the anatomy puzzle, and I walk out to this:

It kind of seems like it was waiting for me, doesn't it?

What's weirder (is that a word?) is when the missing piece somehow magically appears and puts itself back in its place, and no one seems to know how it got there.

Tonight, I'm happy to say that New York is back on the map, the Magnatab is usable again, Goldie can again build her spinning machine, and all is right with the toy world. But one thing will keep me awake tonight [cue: dramatic music]: where did that leg come from?