Monday, August 10, 2015

Dear Summer

Dear Summer,

Today I go back to work and leave you for another year.  I am so sad. Do you remember when the whole summer was ahead of us and all I could do was bask in your promises? Sigh.

I know you don't actually think I'm sad this morning, but that is only because I have to buck-up and end this.  Don't worry about me, I have a wonderful place to work and lovely people that I enjoy spending time with.  I just need to rip the bandage off, you know?  I have spent the weekend moping around trying to convince Dustin to start playing the lottery so neither of us ever have to work again, but in my heart I know that this isn't actually a solution to saying still have to go.

I think what I'm mourning is the passing of time, you know?  An end to one more of your warm lovely seasons, in which you provided my family with camping, lakeside swimming, gardening, craft beers, library trips, bike rides, unedited time together... the list goes on.

You really outdid yourself this year.  You weren't just a summer, you were this pocket window of time that provided my family with beautiful things.  You also threw in some doozies too, but I'm older and wiser now. I no longer expect perfection - even from you.  Even when I am drunk on your sun-drenched days of May that are so full of promise for the coming months.

But I'm not writing to criticize.  I'm writing to thank you.
  •   Thank you for teaching my five year old to tie his shoe.
  • Thank you for watching my seven year old perfect gear shifts and long distance riding on his new bike.
  • Thank you for listening to the words of my 2 year old form into beautiful conversation and hilarious commentary as he gently (or not so gently) approached 3. 
  • Thank you for convincing my not-so-brave boys to jump off the end of the dock at the lake. 
  • Thank you for organizing my utensil drawer, and then my closets and eventually my garage - getting rid of an enormous amount of access that flooded our lives.
  • Thank you for overwhelming us with God's creation through rivers, lakes, mountains, beaches, and forests.
  • Thank you for listening to my children learn Bible School songs that led to spontaneous concerts throughout every day.
  • Thank you for bringing me together with my parent and the brother who has spent the majority of our adult life living too far away from me - for providing our children with a place to grow up together.
  • Thank you for the few days you allowed us to throw open our windows and let the outside in.
  • Thank you for Lake Michigan beaches, reunions, airplanes, concerts, ice cream, peach cobbler, giant blueberries, watermelon, corn on the cob, and your night-time sounds.
You've really outdone yourself. You weren't just any summer. You were one of the most precious seasons of my adult life, and I'm so glad to have known you.

I can't wait to meet you again.

Your slightly more tan friend,


Saturday, August 8, 2015

O turns 3.

My sweet baby boy.
Today you told me you are not a baby.  I guess you're right. I promise I will try my best to resist the urge to call you my baby boy.  But I also promise you that I will forever think of you as such.

To think that I didn't know you just three years and one day ago seems nuts.  I can't imagine for a minute our family without you in it.  You have had us rolling on the floor with laughter since the minute you figured out how to work a room with your smile. You sense of humor and timing add many beautiful things to this family unit.  You'll do anything for a genuine laugh, and you are good at it.

This past year you have found your words and your voice.  You use your words to make others laugh and to push against the control of your older brothers.  You aren't afraid to say how you feel, nor do you shy away from telling us what you want.  I hope you go forth in your life with this confidence, but find ways to also filter it with love and patience.

Your favorite show is Thomas (when your brothers will let you watch it) and your favorite toy is anything you can push outside while running as fast as your little legs will go.  You received approximately 25 Rescue Bots for your birthday and you love every single one of them. Your best friend is our young neighbor boy of your same age, and you two get in all sorts of trouble together, yet I love watching you play together.

Baby boy, I love you so much.  I wish for you a year of laughter, patience, and the knowledge that our love is shining on you even when we aren't together.

I'll love you forever sweet boy,
Your Mama

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Backpost: This Little Birthday Boy

Written: 5/24/2015

My Dear Dear Oldest Boy,

Today you turn seven and I am completely floored at what a big boy you are.   Where have the last six years gone so quickly?  I will always miss your chubby cheeks and the silly ways of your toddler years, but I am so excited to watch you grow into a boy. 

Right now your favorite television show is Rescue Bots.  You got a new bike for your birthday and you seem to be a real natural at riding it. You love baseball and soccer, and you are learning so much at piano lessons with Mr. Mark.  You are now an excellent reader and love to read stories to your youngest brother whenever he will listen.  Your favorite thing to do is listen to music on the headphones.  Will you be a musician someday?

In a few weeks we are going on a big trip to New England that will include climbing mountains, camping, and kayaking.  I have no doubt in my mind that you will thrive while we are there.  You love hiking and just being outside. 

Bear and Monkey are still always by your side, but I can see you becoming less dependent on them. You dish out kindness to others without condition, and always offer sympathy when you see a person that is upset or hurt.

Have I mentioned that I think you are amazing?

You can find ways to create something out of nothing (like bus mirrors or hitches). Your energy in contagious to your brothers (sometimes not in the way I would prefer). J I can’t wait to see what the next seven years hold for you.

I’ll love you forever,
Your mom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Adventure 2015

 Eureka - Indiana - Toronto - Montreal - Sumner, ME - Bar Harbor/Acadia - Portland - Adirondacks - Buffalo, NY - Ball Lake, IN - Lake Michigan
One week ago we pulled into our driveway road weary and full of excitement.
For a little over three weeks we had been packed (and unpacked, and packed again) into our tiny little car with a tent, camping stove, five sleeping bags, and enough clothing to get us through for a spell.

This trip had been 9 months in the making.  It was designed to be inexpensive, unplugged, and adventurous.

It was NOT a vacation.

Don't get me wrong.  Parts of it were relaxing.  Large chunks of it were absolutely good for our souls.
It's just that nobody made me a margarita, which in my mind = vacay.

There is actually not a thing about it I would change. 

I learned a lot about my kids.  I grew a new and more powerful appreciation for my partner.  I climbed a big mountain. It was all pretty awesome.

There were difficult moments.
People cried (and not just kids).
People whined (and not just kids).
We accidentally made my 7 year old and ourselves go on a 17 mile bike ride.
It rained unrelentingly into our tent.
Our giant trunk-hogging camping stove never worked.
Anything involving being in the car was totally dreadful.
Accommodations were at times imperfect.

But there were shining perfect moments.
All three kids climbing a real mountain.
Wearing swimsuits all day.
Painting the mountains with my five year old.
Bathing in the most serene lake I've ever laid eyes on.
Treasure hunts.
New friends.
Ferry boats.
Golf carts.
Sandy beaches on the ocean.
The phrase repeated over and over again, "Best vacation ever!"

But I must emphasize for clarity.  It was NOT a vacation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


This weekend I fell through a window.  It was sort of a "come to Jesus" moment - an awakening if you will.  I was the 35 year old that squeezed herself through a tiny little window of the ceramics lab on a campus full of people and expected to clear the 5 foot landing that lay on the other side.  With sunglasses and sandals on. 

Maybe I was showing off (although I still hope not a soul saw me).

Maybe I was too proud to say, "You know Tiffany, you're far too old and out of shape to do something so absurd."

Or maybe while I was dangling through the window with my foot and fingers stuck in it's tiny opening, knowing that I was going to have to just let go and fall, I was thinking, "this is how it all ends. This is how they'll find me."

Obviously it didn't end.  I'm fine.  And not a single bump to prove and bare witness to my poor judgement. 

But a bruised pride and broken necklace are good reminders anyhow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday Shorts

I've never known how to "talk" to boys.  I've known how to  fight boys and argue with boys.  I know how to force boys to play Barbies with me, or to pick up my housekeeping chores while mom is away.  Now I'm learning how to raise boys.  The only language spoken in my house is boy and I am fluent.  I hear friends talk of daughters and precious things, but it is a language I can't even begin to grasp.  In this world full of boy things where everyone shouts at them to be brave men, how am I to raise my voice above the noise in order to teach them that bravery is actually sensitivity, inclusivity, and respect in disguise?  After that, how do I get them to stop pulling down their pants because they think it's funny?

How do you know heaven exists?  A question I've been rolling around in my mind for the last year.  I have wanted so badly for it to reveal itself to me - without really revealing itself - ya know?  I cling tightly to a book that was recommended to me.  I lose myself in the pages with a fervor of needing to know.  My questions weigh on me like a heavy leaden harness around my shoulders.  I want to be able to talk to my children about heaven with such sureness and love.  But I need someone to talk to me first.  I am begging someone to tell me how certain they are so that I can grasp on to their certainty.  Then suddenly, today I woke up unafraid.  For the first time since I can remember I woke up unafraid of the unknown, undecided, and the end.  Believing is like getting an extra dose of courage, because knowing and believing takes the the weight away.  I am hopeful.  Is this the beginning of unwavering faith?

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  I've always loved this crazy holiday - always until now.  For no explainable reason I find myself dreading this day when everyone is Irish and everyone wears green, drinks green things, and eats delicious food that I never once had while I lived in Northern Ireland.  Maybe I feel like they're trying to lay claim to my Ireland.  So protective of a place that was only mine for a season.

If you ever want to see pain, teach in a Junior High School.  Daily I see pain and sadness walk through my art room door.  I also see happiness and friendship, pride and thoughtfulness.  But the face that stays with me during my drive home from work is insecurity and uncertainty.  I want to stop them as they leave my classroom and hug them.  I want to look into their eyes and say Everything gets better and You are amazing.  I want to scare their insecurities away.

Every morning I wake up and whisper a prayer full of lists.  Sitting hunched over my knees with my fingertips touching lightly together like the steeple, I go through a list of gratitude and thankfulness.  I go through a list of others needing prayer. I list the many ways I need forgiveness and strength.  When the lists have been run through and exhausted, I pray for time.  I pray for time to give to the things that have been labeled important by myself and others.  I pray for time to give completely to my family. I pray for time to be creative and to do creative things.  How thin can time be stretched over the course of a week?  I am always praying for more time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

That time I said "no" to everything.

First of all, let me begin by saying that if you are looking forward to surgery because you will be on forced bedrest for up to two weeks, then you have clearly overscheduled your life.

{And I know that about 80% of you reading this have just gone off into a daydream involving your feet up on the couch with an iced tea on one side, and the entire first season of House of Cards in front of you.}

That was me two weeks ago.  I had surgery scheduled on February 2nd. I was ordered to take a 2 week recovery free of work, school, walking, lifting, and all things in my human nature.  Throw in my part-time status first semester (less sick time), and the thought of being out of my classroom for two solid weeks - then shrink 15 days down to more like 10 - and me returning on Friday - today. 

When I agreed to the surgery I gave myself a good ol' fashion pep talk about what it would mean to completely clear my calendar for two full weeks.  

I want all of you to look at your calendar a month from now and just try to clear it without feeling guilty.  Now do it with a doctor's note.

Sidenote: I just wrote a sentence here about it being "so hard", but I quickly erased it because that would be a big fat lie designed to make it sound like I wasn't ecstatically cancelling things left and right like a wanderlust hitting the road.  Let's just say, it wasn't hard at all.

Once I had a perfectly valid medical reason, it was the easiest thing - guilt free freedom from all obligations.  Even household obligations - I could practically hear the angels singing as I cleared away every appointment from my overcrowded life.

And so on February 2nd, as scheduled, it began.  The first few days are a bit of a blur, but no less magical.
I haven't run a vacuum because, doctor's orders!
I haven't washed my family's sheets because, doctor's orders!
I haven't been to ceramics class, counseling, Korean class, Bible Study, church, or even work, because, well doctor's orders.
Friends, I haven't cooked a single solitary meal. 

Y'all....I have been given the gift of time and sweet sweet indulgence.

People even brought me flowers.  So I have been given the gift of sweet indulgent time surrounded by beautiful flowers and Netflix.

Now here's the weird and secret part that I'm almost embarrassed to say...
It isn't nearly as lovely as I had imagined and dreamed of all those months when the opportunity to just sit in my house by myself for twenty minutes seemed like the most delicious gift in the world.

I can hear the figurative jeering and tomato throwing from all of the overworked people of the world now - HOW DARE I NOT APPRECIATE EVERY MINUTE.

Oh believe me, I appreciated it, but I also learned something about myself...

I don't want to do nothing, and I would imagine that no one really wants to sit in their home all day with not a single appointment/date/meeting to look forward to.

The reason I over-schedule is because I like stuff.  I like Bible Studies.  I like taking a Tuesday night ceramics class.  I like meeting a friend for coffee.  I like shooting pictures.  I like teaching private art lessons after school.

But I also like being home when Miles walks in the door with a bag full of homework.  I like having the freedom to pick him up from school.  I like fixing my kids breakfast and writing down how our day is going to look. 

So where is the balance?

There is this intense pressure to figure it out before it is too late.  Our ears and eyes are pounded with voices and articles chanting, "regret, regret, regret" - soft voices that rise in volume when an email appears in your inbox asking you to volunteer for your son's fieldtrip, or you show up for class a little less prepared than you'd like.

But would I regret those things if I gave up the things I like? Is it at all possible that having a full schedule could in fact be a blessing that just needs to be kept in check every once in awhile?

And does this blessing actually already give me permission to quit when I'm weary, say no when I'm spent?  Should I in fact listen to the people who say, "You can't do it all" instead of trying to prove them all wrong?

Why do we need a doctor's note to say "no"?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Last night I was a student for the first time since Liam has been born. I wasn't nervous.  I wasn't dreading it.  I actually pretty excited.

For some reason night class is a lot easier to go to when you are getting out of bath time rather than missing out on valuable socializing in your college apartment. 

Basically I'm taking an advanced ceramics course at the local college.  I'm a non-trad student in a room full of 19-20-somethings.  It's daunting.  And weird.  And I totally feel like an old lady for the first time in my adult life.

Back in college non-traditional students had the reputation of asking too many questions and knowing too many answers.  In other words, they actually appeared to be trying, which already set them a world apart from the rest of us.  

This was not going to be me. 

So last night I slipped on my leggings and Converse (because isn't that what all the kids are wearing these days?) determined not to stand out or be labeled. 

It lasted approximately 3.5 minutes.  The rest of the time I spent asking too many questions, knowing too many answers, and getting in everyone's way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Today is the type of day where I just feel like sitting down and letting words fall out of me. 

This is officially the first "snow day" of the year.  And boy did I need it.  I mean, I didn't really need it, but I did really need it, you know?  Going back to work has been both wonderful and sad at the same time.  I don't want to go back to staying home, but I also find myself bitter of the 50 minutes I spend in my car everyday. Perhaps that is the control freak in me.  Who knows.

I am finally reading the book, The Lowland by my favorite author, Jhumpa Lahiri.  It was a book one of my friends gave me as a gift when they found out Unaccostumed Earth was my favorite book in the history of ever.  It's taken me two years to pick it up.  Part of me was afraid I wouldn't love it with all my heart.  I do love it.  I love her words.  I wish I could create just one thing as beautiful as her writing. 

When I first came back from Northern Ireland my dream job was to work in a bakery.  Not to own a bakery, but to knead dough and throw together pastries - homemade croissants and pop tarts with preserves from my garden.  I wanted to be the worker that unlocked the doors at 3 am and clocked out at 10.  It was a dream I quickly forgot as the year got away from me and it seemed impossible to live on a part-time hourly salary while still allowing my other half to do what he loves and also paying for the education I insisted on getting. All of the sudden I want that again and it fills the thoughts in my days.  An obsession.

Sometimes I love my kids so much that it hurts my heart.  These are times when I'm not consumed with a clean house or with fixing dinner.  Times when everyone has frozen in a moment that surrounds me.  Bedtime is the biggest contributor.  Saying their prayers and kissing me goodnight.  The tightening in my chest feels like it could suffocate me as I shoo away feelings of dread and despair. I can't stand to live in fear of losing a single one of them.  I don't understand how people move on after a tragedy.  I pray I never understand.