Tuesday, December 31, 2013


What a great year.

Correction...what a great year to learn how I deal with life in survival mode.

The first half of the year was spent wrapping things up in a life that kept me just a step outside my comfort zone 89% of the time, while the second half was spent starting a new life in a place very close to our old lives, but dissimilar in ways that no one could possibly know from the outside. 


Yeah me too.  Perhaps that's why I feel like I've been trying to catch up with myself in 2013.  That might be why I haven't taken Ollie's one-year pictures, or started planning yet for the class I'm teaching this spring, or finished the Blurb book that I started in July as a keepsake of Northern Ireland.

Where in the hell has time gone?

Forget about it....I'm not one to dwell on the past, so we won't go down that road.

That starts tomorrow.  I've been inspired friends, and now you're all going to be subject to it...which is your choice.  I mean, I guess you could stop reading at any time.

A few years ago a friend of mine from college started a blog where she documented one year of gratitude.  It was beautiful.  I loved it, and was sad when she stopped.  You can read it here.

Then this last year a friend of mine from church decided to post something she was thankful for every day for an entire year.  I loved it and I'm sort of dreading that she'll stop tomorrow.

Gratitude is beautiful, wouldn't you say?

This is the year of gratitude y'all.

My two words for this year....
Grace for myself, grace for my children, grace for the people I don't know in the grocery store, grace for the rude people, sad people, too-happy people.  It's GRACE ALL AROUND!

And Gratitude.
I've decided I'm going to document my gratitude right here.  Daily.  I'll probably fail at times...because it is sometimes hard to motivate myself to sit at a computer when my slippers are so so warm and Downton Abbey is so so new (SUNDAY PEOPLE!). However, one thing I am good at is acknowledging when I'm thankful, or what I'm thankful for.  Now I just need to bring them together.  Because if I want to teach my children anything, it's how to be thankful. (And not to wear camo...but that's for a different post.)

Wait, is that last sentence not showing grace?  Okay, I take it back.  (Not really.)

This is going to be the tricky one guys.

What are your words for 2014?

Start with January 1st....HERE.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What I want to tell you about Christmas 2013...

This morning it is so quiet at my house.  Correction, it is so quiet at my house right now. I'm sitting here in the dark, only lit by the lights from our Christmas tree and drinking coffee as I wait for our house to soon explode with noise, and energy, and the Spiderman-like climbing of furniture.

Today is Christmas at our house.

Like a child I couldn't sleep a wink last night, but it could have been a mixture of excitement  and resentment because my husband spent all evening on a business call while I Christmas-ed up our house.  Something I thought we'd do together.  That's one problem with Christmas - sometimes our expectations can be too high - the picture we conjure up in our mind doesn't match with reality when the time comes.  It's like prom - until you learn how to make Christmas more about being present.  Let me know when you find the secret.

This is our first Christmas home in two years.  For the past two years we dictated exactly what we want our Christmas to look like, and nestled inside our tiny little family, it was perfect.  There were times when we had to start over....like here.  But, still perfect by the end.

What has surprised me is how much I've loved this Christmas this year.  By nature, Christmas is a sad time for me.  Cue the violins...
As a mother, the birth story of Jesus to so sad to me.  Giving birth as a teenager with no mom or doctor in sight...to a baby you love with every breath of your being - only to know in your gut that this isn't your baby. 

I could go on with about 28 reasons Christmas is sad...but I don't want to put a damper on today.  Instead I want to talk about how we just moved to this tiny little town four months ago and in the course of a week had FOUR PLATES of cookies hand-delivered - two plates by people we had never met but live on our street.  As a farm-girl, turned city-girl, turned small-town girl....I was in awe.

I want to talk about how amazing the gift I made my sons is.  How making it was cathartic and soothing all at once.  At this point I don't even care if they don't ever play with it; what the process of remodeling a toy from my childhood has done has already paid for itself through the changing of my soul.  Stay tuned for pictures!

I want to tell you about how I volunteered to help purchase, assemble, plan, and deliver Thanksgiving baskets for my church because I was desperately searching for a miracle, unsure if this was the place to find out.  Then I want to tell you how we put together 85 baskets for people in need in our area so that they would have EVERY SINGLE THING they needed for Thanksgiving weekend as a family.  Then I want to tell you how people are just so stinkin' generous and we had such a surplus of donations that we donated substantial amounts to local soup kitchens and daycares and food pantries in need, and how the donations were so great that we finally just gave up and bought all of those same families that got the Thanksgiving baskets Kroger gift cards to mail to them in January.  I cried in church Sunday when I heard that.  Sometimes God gives us miracles when we need them.

I want to tell you about Miles' Christmas program and how he sang out and did the motions.  I also want to tell you about how he sat in the bleachers with all of his friends and watched the rest of the program while being perfectly behaved!

I want to tell you about the church Christmas program and the time when the teachers told the students not to talk into the microphones, so Liam chose not to sing a word since he had been placed right in front of the microphone.  They, however, didn't say anything about not deep-sighing or letting out a little burp directly into the microphone.

I want to tell you about amazing Christmas dinners we've had with friends that we've missed for the past two years. Conversations over prime rib and wine, talking about our goals for 2014, even exchanging gifts.  How I've missed them.

And I want to tell you how much I love watching my sons love one another.

Today, if I'm honest, I have expectations of how the day will go.  I have expectations of how my kids will open their gifts, and how breakfast will pan out.  I have expectations of what time we'll leave for Ohio and how our drive out will go. 

But for this moment I'm just going to sit in the early-morning glow of the Christmas tree - one of my favorite things about this time of year - and recount my blessings.  2014 is going to be about gratitude my friends.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Turning 4

Dear Liam.

This note has been two weeks in the making.  I actually starting thinking about what I wanted to say to you before your birthday ever happened.  Then during your birthday....and NOW - a week and half after your birthday has come and gone.  Please don't think for a minute that this lateness is in any way associated with distraction, or neglect.

It only has to do with not knowing what the right words are.

Because you, my dear one, are a words guy.
 You analyze words and force me to think about things I haven't critically thought about in years - like who we'll see in heaven, and if we'll still like Christmas cookies once we're there.  You question everything - including snowflakes and rainy days.

To say that you've taught me a thing or two about God...that would be an understatement.

You were so excited to turn 4 - everything comes in fours now - snacks, minutes, underwear.  On the day of your birthday you kept telling everyone we met that you were three when you were sleeping, which I think is amazing.

You went to bed a toddler, and woke up a little boy.

You had very specific requests for your birthday, because you're a guy that knows what you want - Spiderman wrapping paper, a snowman cake with blueberries and strawberries, Cinderella/Snow white napkins, pizza with pepperonis, a blue tow-truck pinata...the list goes on.  Decisive you are.

I love the way you wrap your arms around my neck with the tightest grip one could ever imagine - it's like acupressure for my soul. Your imitation of Spider Man makes my whole inside smile.  Sometimes I look at you and just can't believe that I am so lucky to know you, and spend every day with you.  You wear your tired like a giant cloak for the world to see - dressed in louder-than-life shouting laced with far-reaching excitement.  For this reason, I am also sometimes very happy to put you down for a nap.

You are my logical thinker, my honesty expert, and my cookie loving boy.

Happy fourth birthday little one.

I love you forever....
Your mom.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


You watch excitement wash over their faces on a daily basis and it never gets old.  You can tell when it's garbage day by the frantic running of tiny feet across a wooden floor combined with the sound of heavy trucks starting and stopping.  Your torso warms with light from inside at the shouting of, "That's Awesome!" partnered with large gestures toward the car transporter on the way to school.  You smile with genuine gratitude for the honking acknowledgement from a semi you don't know and the way it lights up their morning.  You live in a world full of boys.


He sits now.  For entire minutes he sits and writes or draws.  He sounds out letters and tells you what is at the beginning of 83% of the words that leave your lips.  His sleeves barely reach his wrists and his torso is exposed to the brisk fall air on every shirt he owns.  Five is so big.  Five has almost turned into 6. But now, as he stands up on the giant stage before you, he suddenly looks so small.  You clamp your fingers around your chair and hold your breath so that you don't run up to the risers and sweep him up into your arms and brush the hair away from his eyes as he fits perfectly into the crook of your lap.  This little boy.  Your little boy.


Questions.  You never knew there were so many questions in the world. You have been forced into becoming the encyclopedia of knowledge. You must know everything, including why autumn is called "fall" and why some dogs lick your face and some dogs don't.  You try to listen - to be present, but sometimes sometimes you just don't have it in you to fill the bottomless pit of his 3-year-old mind.  And those times, those are the times when you turn on Sesame Street and become the observer.


In the chaos before the big metal doors you ask him if he wants you to walk him in, or if he wants to go by himself this time; knowing that he will want you, but also knowing that asking is the right thing to do.  This time he says "no" and you're stunned. A friend is running by and you watch as he nervously, yet fearlessly grabs his friend's hand and says, "I'll go with him."  You watch from outside as they navigate the crowd as two little birds in a sea of larger little birds. You could have never prepared for what this would feel like - a perfect cocktail of pride and sorrow.


Those blue eyes.  You think about those baby blue eyes whenever you're not with him. Driving in the car. Sitting at work.  At the grocery store.  You play it cool, but being away from him is unbearable. 18 months ago you didn't know him.  Now your heart beats steady because it's met him.


You're reminded of your past life daily, and yet wonder how it could have ever come and gone so quickly. You pull ticket stubs out of pockets that you hand hasn't dug through since you left. Your navigation device constantly reminds you which side of the road you should drive on, as though you are an outsider and don't belong here. You hear the accent draining from your childrens' voices, and their change in language.  You cling to the few words they have left, but realize it is all in vain.  There are days when you have to say out-loud, it was not a dream until you believe it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 101

"Thanks for Thanksgiving, for turkey and pie."

Thanksgiving is fo sho my favorite holiday in the history of ever.  The food, the family, the warm fuzzies.  I have never felt so incredibly homesick than the handful of times in my life when I didn't get to go "home" for Thanksgiving ("home" being a nondescript place that is full of family and the warm fuzzies mentioned above).

For the past two years I've had this amazing opportunity to teach people from other countries what Thanksgiving is.  That sounds pretty cool, right?  It's the best - mostly because I got to take all of the most amazing things about Thanksgiving (turkey, giving thanks, loved-ones, gateway to Christmas, sweet potato casserole) and get rid of all of the not-amazing things (Pilgrims, football, Gray Thursday).  I had this opportunity to tell people about this holiday that my country had come up with that was all about giving thanks - something that (in my opinion) we don't do/see/hear enough in this life of consumerism and "not enough".

This year, for the first time, I got to host Thanksgiving for part of my family, which was the second best thing in the history of ever (rivaled only by the holiday itself).

This is where I should fill in the post with lots of pictures....lots of pictures I never took because I was so caught up in the weekend with my parents, baby brother, and his wife.

If you could teach someone who has never been to a "Thanksgiving" what it is, what would you tell them?

Friday, November 22, 2013

A tornado. A community.

On Sunday a tornado ripped through our community. "Ripped" is putting it mildly.
We were at church and completely unaware that the weather concoction which makes such violent forces of nature existed.  I should have known when I walked outside and was surprised at how warm it was.  It should have been a clue when my husband and I joked about the town's Christmas tree nearly blowing over. 
But we were oblivious until a series of phone alarms went off in the middle of a sermon about King Nebuchadnezzar.
Everyone calmly went to the basement.  The children were already there.  Lights flickered. We prayed.  At one point the sermon continued.  Whispers went around the room that Washington had been hit.  Dustin tried frantically to get a hold of our friends that were at church exactly where we heard it had touched down. No one answered.

We were told by people who know such things that the storms were headed Northeast - in the direction of our home.  I felt very safe at church. Then we were told that we had about a 30 minute window of time to get home before a second string came.  I've never watched Dustin drive so fast.

It turns out our town wasn't hit.  It was eerily normal - the leaf piles still intact along the street curbs.  We drove through our untouched village as we listened on the radio to stories of destruction - entire neighborhoods with street names we recognized as those of friends'.  Newscasters out of breath and in awe at the devastation. We had no electricity, and wouldn't have any for 48 hours.  Small peanuts. We tried to stay warm and conserve our phone batteries as we texted friends we knew were in the path, or close to it. We searched desperately for news - any news.  We sat in the dark and listened to the radio. We cried for our neighbors and shushed our children.

But this isn't a post about how we were impacted. Because really, we weren't impacted until much later. It's a post about community.

Status update after status update from Facebook friends read, "We're fine, but our house is gone!" and "Praise God! Every living thing made it." Former co-workers, former students, friends.  No one asked why.

The photographs shocked me. 

But NOTHING can prepare you for what real-life devastation looks like, and I saw that finally on Tuesday. Even from a distance it caught in my chest and tore at my insides. This was my friends' reality.  They were smiling and laughing through this.    People have spent days speculating on how an EF-4 could plummet into an entire residential neighborhood and only take the life of one.  There are miracles in that rubble.

I went down to a donation center to help with donations, but they didn't need me.  Too many people wanted to help.  There were at least three UHauls in the parking lot.  I watched as a human conveyor belt unloaded one filled to its ceiling with clothing, food, water, and blankets.  I asked where they were from.  Rockford.  Hours away.  They had come here just days after to help.

Status updates are my closest form of news.  Instagram photos of found objects, and people sitting among their debris laughing at the absurdity of it.  One sentence statements litter my newsfeed, adults finding small things like their wedding rings, and former art students celebrating the discovery of a painting they were sure was miles away.

And then the community.  It would make an outsider jealous at the strength and love they have shown one another. Part of me wishes I could walk into my old classroom with the amazing people I worked with, and watch this community heal in the only way it knows how - with stoic bravery and love. I have never been so proud to live in Central Illinois as I am right now. 

And you, my sons, will be stronger because the community you live in is the strongest I know.

(Photos totally stolen from the associated press, please don't sue me.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

September and October on Instagram

  • Visiting grandparents in Ohio.
  • Eating - a recurring theme
  • Liam trying on Oliver's Halloween costume to show me that it "fits him great!"
  • Oliver dancing in the car.
  •  Miles and Liam reading toy catalogs
  • Our view from our teeny tiny apartment before the move.
  • Miles and Liam riding scooters at the school
  • Oliver doing what he does.
  • Watching The Great Pumpkin with Nana and Papa.
  • Liam scores some extra cuddles on the couch from his friend Ellie.
  • Riding to school in the rain (because we dig the rain)
  • Celebrating a big win on the ipad.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Perhaps you've noticed a noticeable gap in writing.  Perhaps you have way more important things to worry about than blog posts by wanna-be writers.

Perhaps you didn't even notice.

A few weeks ago Dustin's family got some devastating news concerning a new addition that we were so excited to meet.  Basically, it came down to this - After 15 months of him being their son and our cousin/nephew/grandson, Korea decided he couldn't come home.

It's weird how devastating news affects you differently when you become a mother.  When your heart is no longer your own and you have no control over what it loves, you handle tales of other mothers' sadness as though it were your own story.  You can feel the tightness and dread in your chest when you force yourself to think about what just a portion of their sadness might feel like.  When they cry, you cry - not because you are trying to make it your own grief, but because you feel it.

You hug your kids a little tighter and you read Green Eggs and Ham more than just one time a day.  You look deeper into their eyes, and you mourn for them the cousin they were bound to love with every inch of their sweaty limbs.

November is adoption month.  And adoption can have grief too.  It can have deep down in the depths of your gut to the tips of your fingers GRIEF. 

May he know he was loved by many, but may he feel the love of the two that called him their son.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Writing about my life and yoga.

This must be what writer's block feels like - like starting a million posts and then feeling like none of them are good enough to finish.

I'm tired of not writing because I don't know how to get the words down before someone wakes up, or needs a cracker.

So this morning I woke up determined to write.  I tried my hand at a number of old posts, but just couldn't hit the end-all "publish" button at the top of the screen.  Which is so unlike me.  I usually have no problem publishing things that I only feel half-crazy about.

So I googled "writing prompts".

The first place I went only had prompts relating to zombies and monsters.  Which is cool, but not really my style, if you know what I mean.  I still don't truly understand what zombies are...and I used to be an art teacher. I've seen a lot of zombie artwork in my day.

Then I found a page that had all sorts of deep-thinking prompts like, "What is the most difficult decision you've ever made?" which doesn't suit me since I don't make difficult decisions.  That's part of my problem, even big decisions aren't usually difficult because I don't overthink ANYTHING.  I'm an "all-in from day one" kind of girl.  Which might be part of the problem with my life.  Maybe I should write about why I need to think things through... but that sounds boring.

Then I found one I could live with. "Name ten things you would buy with your last $20."
And I'm just going to assume that my kids are well fed and have diapers for the month.  I'm going to assume this is my $20 to spend after tithing and taxes and paying off the hit man.
My twenty dollars...

Good heavens, I can't think of a thing.  I thought that would be so easy.  My writer's block has even reached into the realms of a simple shopping trip. 

Let's try another..."Begin with the sentence "Today I will..." and write for twenty minutes."

Here it goes for real...

Today I will sit here and write until I hear the first sounds of my oldest son stretching his body across his bunk bed and sighing loudly as though announcing the morning. I pause with my fingers over hte keyboard, waiting to hear his long, lanky body plummet down the slide attached to his bed before he peaks out of his bedroom door with a smile that will fill my dark morning.
Liam will be next.  He's always next. Tiny tiptoe footprints tell us he's coming, but his silent silhouette waits for acknowledgement before he's enter the room with his tiny comfort blanket held up to his nose and mouth, as though he is shielding from the day.

We sit on the couch, me in the middle typing fervently on the computer hoping to get just one more paragraph done before all three are demanding things like attention and breakfast. The weight of two bodies against my arms create a challenge to my writing, but still I type on.  Their eyes just watch the letters press onto the screen as though they are reading the most beautiful story.

Someone asks if they can "help me".  Someone else asks if they have to go to school today.

Eventually I'll have to get up.  Eventually this peaceful part of the morning will come to screeching halt and everything will slide from calm to chaos in just a mere minute.  I will throw breakfast at them and beg them to eat it while I try to pull on something that looks like something people are allowed to go out in public in.  I will try to pretend I'm listening when they tell me a million times that they really like hotdogs and pirates and I will try to answer the trillion questions they shoot at me while I try to decide if it is worth it to brush my teeth for a school drop off. Little boys will get dressed and teeth will be brushed.  Hats and gloves will be pulled over uncombed heads and onto uncooperative fingers.
As we trample out the door two things will happen that will shape my day.  I'll see the accumulated snowfall from the night before taunting me from the grass and leaves and rooftops, "See what happens when you leave the sea."

And then Liam will turn to me and say, "Mommy, you still have your pajamas on!"

They aren't pajamas.  They're yoga pants.  Though they have never seen a minute of yoga.  Ever. 

I think my recent life is like yoga.  I stretch into positions that until this moment seemed impossible.  My legs burn and my mind races, but I hold tight to the positions, trying to balance everything I've accumulated to date. 
My life is like Power Yoga. Brian Kest tells me to push deeper and feel it.  So I push deeper and I feel it.  I don't like everything I feel, but I do it.  Sometimes I stumble over but I am strong so I always catch myself.  I have to remember to breath.  In. Out. In. Out.

Correction, my life is like hot yoga.  Because I am always sweating when I do it. 

And I'm red.  I'm always red-faced.

So I turn to Liam and say, "This aren't my pajamas, they're my regalia."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall happened...

Fall happened.  Actually it's still happening.  I even have proof right here:
There were bonfires...

With hotdogs (of course)...

And smores (or as Liam calls them, "Shmures")...

Many caramel apples have been consumed...

Hayrides at dusk...

Bike rides on final warm days...

Making applesauce...

Visits from family...

Pumpkin carving parties...

And of course costumes to be worn...

 It's no wonder that Autumn is my favorite season of all.  I've missed it so.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baby fever.

I have got babies on the brain lately.
It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I love babies.  Unfortunately when you have your own babies you take for granted the baby-ness that is so awesome. And right now I have a lot of babies waiting to come into my life. Some are waiting to come home. Some are growing inside a belly. 

It makes a teeny tiny part of me wish I was expecting a baby. 

Don't you worry friends.  At this moment as I write this We. Are. Done.

I spent a lot of my vacation time this summer thinking, "this will only get easier". 

Am I right?  I know some things get harder, but vacation - that gets easier, RIGHT?!

(please say yes, please say yes)

I came across these pictures last night that I had forgotten I'd taken.  They took my breath away.

That was me.

Can you believe that the tiny people we love actually grew in someone's belly?  Sometimes even our own?

Before I ever got pregnant, I promised God that if I was granted this one request I would never ever EVER complain about ANYTHING it involved.  

I made it until week seven.  With both pregnancies.  For those of you that need help with math, that means I spent the next 33 weeks complaining about my feet, my back, my sleep patterns, my uterus feeling like it was going to fall out of me, etc. etc. etc.

But looking back it's hard for me to remember those things. That's why people that can have babies keep doing it I guess.  We forget.

When I was pregnant I remember feeling Liam kick at night in bed, and having this overwhelming feeling that I now had a tiny connection to Miles' birth mother.  Until that point I couldn't relate to what she felt with him inside of her.

I bet he was a kicker.

Did she sing to him, or rest her hand on his tiny bump? 

How did she do it?

I mean, I complained the whole time, but I knew I was going to get a baby at the end of it all.  I was having a baby in a traditional marriage and I knew that I had a husband and tons of family to help me.  I also knew I had a great job that I could probably keep forever if I wanted to. I had a house with plenty of bedrooms and two cars with carseats galore. I had every amenity in the world for a middle-class white girl in America, but I still spent so much of my time worrying, complaining, and wishing I didn't practically pee my pants ever day.  (Damn you Eve and that dirty apple.)

So let's take the weekend to celebrate the bodies that grow the babies we love.  It's hard work making a human.  

But let's also remember that it's even harder work raising one.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good news.

I have been a terrible blogger.

But I have good news for all of you.

I have lots of good news.

First piece of good news: We are out of the one-bedroom apartment and into our new home!  (cheers and "hurrahs" fill the atmosphere)  I can't stop smiling.  I am loving our new apartment.  And our landlord.  And the fact that I get to paint over some fancy green ivy stenciling in our new dining room.  In fact, I am so pumped up on excitement adrenaline that I just ordered a bunch of lumber to be delivered to our humble abode TODAY so I can build some bunk beds.  (I'm either drunk on adrenaline, or silly stupid.)

You know what the funny thing is?  I actually had a teeny tiny tinge of sadness when we were packing up and moving from the upstairs one-bedroom one-child-will-sleep-in-a-closet apartment.  We were only there two months (ONLY?!?!), and I hated it at least 2.5 times a day, but I'm weird, and get sappy about everything that comes into my life, and leaves my life.  Something about measuring the passage of time....blah blah blah.

So for purely for your entertainment, and to show off our amazing ability to live in utter chaos, I had the fore-sight to snap some pictures of the space.
Warning: Spaces appear larger than they actually are....(mostly because I used a wide-angle lens, but I don't want to bore you with the silly photo details).
Our bathroom.  The largest room in the apartment.  Okay, I'm kidding.  But it was the most normal-sized room if you know what I mean.
Our living room/dining room/master bedroom/toy room.

The bedroom we so graciously gave to our oldest and youngest children.  I wasn't kidding when I said one of them slept in a closet. Liam was the special child that chose to sleep in the "magical cave".

In case any of you are taking notes, the cupboards can be replicated simply by going to your nearest Sherwin Williams and purchasing "midnight oasis" and "oxblood crimson" in eggshell. (Totally made the names up, but the cupboards are awesome, right?)

 The "yard" - also known as the "hallway" and "entrance".  

There.  You've seen what I've been looking at for the past two months. (TWO MONTHS?!)  It wasn't bad, but I can't stop smiling because I appreciate our new place so so much now.  I love it.  

I said I had "lots of good news" so here's the second part...everything is easier when you don't have to climb an entire flight of stairs with three kids that don't want to come inside.  Okay, okay, so those two things are directly related.

How about a third piece of great news?  I now have a WASHER AND DRYER for doing laundry.

Alright, so all good news pretty much goes back to us moving.  I bet you get it though.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

These moments.

Sometimes you write a post and it completely wipes you out.  You're emotionally spent because you've just released what's been bottled up inside of you for so long.  You've put yourself out there and have begged for everyone to feel sorry for you.

And then you go pick up someone from Kindergarten.  Someone who is so excited to see you that he jumps into your arms despite the epic battles you fought just that morning.  Then that someone turns to his classmates and pats you gently on the hip announcing, "This is my Mommy. I love her so much."

That's all it takes to forget everything.

I guess this is how we survive it.  It's the same idea behind reproduction. 

Some sort of crazy brain erasing goes on when we are least prepared to let something go.  Just when our knuckles are sore from holding on so tightly to those things we say we are desperate to forget about does something happen that erases every bad feeling - every bad moment that was just etched so distinctly in our brains.

This is how we survive it.

These moments refuel our beating hearts.  They get us ready for tomorrow.

Channeling Katniss Everdeen

I can not tell you how happy I am that it is finally fall.  Autumn looks much better on me than the red sweaty complexion and exposed pasty white legs that summer forces out of me.

Don't worry, I plan to tell you just how much I love fall soon.  But for right now I can only focus on one thought concerning it, and it is that I am so tired of sweating.

I have not missed sweating for two years, I can tell you that.

And being a mother is a tiny bit easier in the fall.  I want to be outside with you.  I want to take you to the park, and pull all three of you in the loaded down wagon.  I want to sit on the front porch and watch you push the stroller back and forth on the sidewalk for hours. Okay, so want may not be the right word.  But I definitely like it more.

Without going into too much details about my son's personal battles during this time, I will let you know that being a mom is super hard for me right now.  I'm just putting this out there in case anyone else is having a super hard beginning of the school year and thinks they are all alone.

You are not alone.

A few weeks ago in our Sunday School class at church we were talking about parenting and someone said, "I thought everything was so hard when they were little, but then they get older and it gets EVEN HARDER."  That took my breath away friends.  My reaction was, "You mean it GETS HARDER!?!?!?"  Originally I was under the impression that I just thought the above sentence in my quiet little well-behaved head, but based on everyone's laughter and looks of pity I quickly realized that I said it out loud. Okay, so I didn't say it, I gasped it.  Like I was hyperventilating.

And it made for a funny moment in Sunday School.

But then I went home and CRIED.  I really cried.  Because God can't possibly expect me to do harder.  I cried in my bathroom, because that is my crying room where I go so no one else can see me cry.  (And when you live in a one bedroom apartment with four boys everyone sees you cry.) It is my crying place.  That, and Target.  It's like I feel so at-ease in that place that all of my emotions just flood out of me. I'm the one wandering around Target after 6pm alone.  On those days I walk slowly down every single aisle of our Target and buy nothing.  Just look.  Every single aisle. Okay, I'm totally lying - not about the every aisle part, but about not buying anything.  I'd like to meet someone who has walked out of a Target without at least one bag.  I'd like to meet them, because that person knows something I don't know. (Like how to resist the magical spell of Target and all of it's beautiful things I never knew I needed.)  So to recap, my bathroom and Target are my crying places.  And my car.  I forgot about my car.

So anyway, I cried. And to be honest, I'm really pretty tired of crying.

I know I can do hard things.

I know I can do them bravely.

I know that in the big scheme of the whole wide world that what I'm dealing with isn't even comparable to the refugee mothers that don't know where they're going to lay their kids down at night.

And in my head I have a voice that is saying, "no one could possibly understand how hard this is. You are alone."  Which is a really stupid thing for my head voice to say to me right now.

So today when I found myself back in my bathroom after battling through yet another morning, dropping Miles off at school, and then plopping Liam down in front of Sesame Street I knew that this is a time to be brave.  If there was ever a time to be brave, it is now.  I need to be Katniss Everdeen brave.

I mean, this is what I signed up for, right?  This is what I spent years yearning and craving as a childless mother lying in bed at night and wondering when it was going to be my turn. 

As water from the shower mixed with the tears that fell from my face it occurred to me that maybe this is a huge compliment from God.  God must have thought more of me than I think of myself.  She must have known a secret stash of bravery was hidden away inside of me that would make it all okay.  And my friends and family.  God must have known I was well-equipped for this challenge.  This deep desire for motherhood wouldn't have been put here otherwise.

This.  This is what I dreamed of for years.  This is what I wanted with every ounce of my being.

All of this.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacationing in July

When we first got home there were a lot of things happening that were good for my soul.  One of them was a trip in the middle of July to visit my family and to vacation in a place I've gone for my entire existence.

I love Northern Michigan.  I think I've mentioned it before, but I've even had friends say I should start a campaign for the entire state of Michigan because I love it so much.  While in Northern Ireland, whenever we were asked where our favorite place on the planet was, or a place of peacefulness, I would mention Michigan.  (Which 90% of the people I met thought was the funniest thing I'd ever said."  For various reasons I associate that part of the country with vacation. rest. peacefulness. and God.  I just feel closer to everything when I'm there.  And it felt like the perfect place to spend time with my family as I set my feet on solid ground.

And perhaps the very best part, above the delicious food, and the coolness of the lake....the VERY BEST part was that I got to meet my nephew Xavier for the first time ever in his life. 
But even besides that, this place alone holds so much for me.  Spending two weeks a summer up here for almost my entire childhood, and then two full summers on staff.  It's where I learned to make oatmeal cake bread, and where I worked next to my grandmother - getting to know her in a whole new way.

This is the type of place where you drive up to the wooded cabins along a shaded winding road, and you just know in your gut that you can finally take deep breaths. 

You know there are people waiting for you that love you, and the place is filled with people who want to know more about your adventures since you saw them last.  And people you've known your whole life that are having adventures you want to hear all about as well.

And the soft sounds of boats and jet skis taking off into the distance.  People offering you and your kids rides just because they know it would make them absolutely happy.

And grandparents that will go on adventures with us, and will fill our days with experiences. 
And cousins - many cousins -1st, and 2nd, that we haven't seen in so long, or never at all.  My own aunts and uncles that fill the cabins of this place and never hesitate to act happy to see me.
Visiting my own grandparents' cabin with its permanent fixtures of someone sitting out on the porch, a snack being passed around, and a jigsaw puzzle on the table.
An expanse of land to run around on, with streams to explore, and sand to be sculpted. 

And the beach.  Oh my, that beach.
And a "sea" we can swim in.
A magical part of my childhood that I can finally give my children.

And now for the honesty: I loved our vacation (of course), but it wasn't all warm fuzzy puppies.  Something about the set-up of the place we go reminded the boys so much of Corrymeela (everyone living on-sight, eating in a big dining room, etc.) that Miles and Liam had some moments of difficulty.  By "moments of difficulty" I of course mean, throw-down full-on scream-so-every-person-in-the-neighboring-four-states-can-hear-you difficulty.  And when Dustin had to leave at the beginning of the week for work, I think I also struggled to parent them completely.  Part of me just shut down, whether it was from a lingering sadness that was still fresh, or from having my parents around to take care of my broken heart, or because I thought I should get a vacation since we were on vacation.

I don't know why I thought I should share that part.  I guess I wanted you to know that things that look fun, and beautiful, also have hard, rough, hidden parts as well.  I will remember our vacation as fun and beautiful, but I want a tiny part of my brain to remember that it was also hard, so that when my children say (20+ years from now), "Mom, this is really damn hard."  I can say, "I know baby."

And maybe I'll even throw in a little, "Payback." for good measure.