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?