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Literature is my Utopia. - Helen Keller

A place to contemplate books, life, and never ending peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
A Seagull In A Parking Lot

A Seagull In A Parking Lot

When we drive into the parking lot of our local grocery store, they swoop away in a nervous flapping of wings. Dozens of solid white seagulls, floating and landing around the asphalt like the pictures in children’s Bibles of manna in the desert. I guess that’s what they’re hoping for–manna. Or even better, a few stray french fries. They flutter around, up and down, always here in this parking lot, winter or summer. And I wonder, “why?” I don’t live near the ocean. I am a good 2-3 hours by car from the coast. I don’t know how they got here, and I feel sorry for them. I feel like rolling down my window to say, “Um, excuse me, but don’t you know you’re supposed to be on the beach? Why in the heck aren’t you at the beach?” If I were a seagull, I’d be at the beach.

Here’s the part when my husband starts to worry that I am going to give some kind of analogy about how I’m a seagull in a parking lot because we don’t live at the beach. Breathe easy, Mr. Mia, I’m not going in that direction. Not today, anyway…

Today I’m relating to those seagulls in parking lots when it comes to the mom life. Sometimes I feel kind of lost, like I’m not quite the right casting fit for this role. It’s not an overwhelming soul discontent; it’s a building up of little monotonies that make me feel like I’m losing my identity. It’s the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ate for lunch (which I despise). It’s the sugary cereal I bought because I told my kids they could pick out one treat for being so good at the doctor’s office. I think sugary cereal is the worst possible way to start our day, but we’ll all be eating it tomorrow morning. It’s the four full albums of kids music in one day of errands. It’s the number of pictures of Strawberry Shortcake I’ve colored in the last week. Okay, I actually really like coloring. But it’s all those other things I do or eat or say that make me ask myself, “Who am I?”

And come Monday morning, when all of this crashes down as my husband heads to work and I struggle with feelings of inadequacy to fill this huge role in my children’s lives, the answer to the question of Who I Am is too often “Impostor.”

The definition of impostor is “a person who deceives others by pretending to be someone else.”

Yeah, that rings true on Mondays. Or Tuesdays. Or many other days in between. Days when a mom is just too tired to be enthusiastic about playing, even though deep down it’s really her favorite thing. Days when it seems like a huge, insurmountable chore to tidy up the living room and think of something to cook for dinner. Days when you’ve listened to your teenager’s music selection for weeks now and you have just had enough. You know, those days. On those days, I’m pretty sure my precocious daughter can see right through me as she thinks, “Hmph. You’re not fooling me.” Her eyes say it when I admit we’re out of milk again, or that we don’t have enough time to watch that video I promised her, or we didn’t get around to painting her fingernails like I said we would. And a voice in my head whispers,” She’s right. I am an impostor. I’m not really good at this whole full-time mom thing.”

Am I a little overly sensitive to a four-year-old’s unspoken (possibly, please Lord, imagined) criticism? Yes. Yes, I am. Because I know it. I know that I am not a natural at this. I feel like a seagull in a parking lot. Like I’m trying to get into this role I’m not really cut out for. If I fail so badly at this some days, it can’t really be what I’m cut out for, can it?

2014-03-20 19.51.43However. Those seagull-in-a-parking-lot days are not every day. There are days mixed in when there is a sense of rightness in my life as I butter the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and wash and fold laundry. I can be doing the exact same things on different days and feel completely different about them. Possibly I’m an emotional basket case? Possibly. But I don’t think so. I think we all come at our days sometimes feeling like impostors, like this job, whatever it is, is too hard and too taxing and it can’t really be what we’re meant for. Compound this with the loss of a lot of things we used to base our identity on–careers, sports, friendships, charity work, and so on– and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that some days parents are sure they’re misfitted in an identity that is based so much on other people.

That feeling is an especially big deal to most mothers, and it’s hard to conquer those feelings that you’re lost in something too big, that you’re not suited for this mom-life, that you just want to feel like your contributing an intelligent thought in a conversation with other adults once in a while. Here’s what I and my fellow parents need to remember: who we are hasn’t completely changed, but it has altered in a lot of ways. I would be a pathetic mother if this gift-filled, hard, joyful journey hadn’t rounded off some rough edges and penetrated my heart. I wouldn’t be worth much to my children if I didn’t consider them worthy of a sacrifice in my likes and dislikes. I’m not saying you have to love reading “Moo, Baa, La La La!” five times in a row or that teaching 3rd grade math has to be your favorite pastime all of a sudden because it’s part of your life. Because you know that’s just dumb. But you’re not doing “worthless” things and you’re still you and you’re becoming somebody better than the “you” whom you used to be. And so am I.

The days aren’t always easy, but we are right where we are supposed to be. If God gave you these children and this infinitely precious opportunity to spend time with them, He made you for it. He knows you won’t always get it right, and He is okay with that. Can you and I be okay with that? Can we get our wings wet and still try to fly because He makes us able to do what He needs us to do? That’s my prayer for you and me and all the parents out there today who some days wake up feeling like they’re out of place in their own lives. You are “Mommy.” You are “Daddy.” You are right where you are supposed to be.

April 15, 20141 commentRead More
March Reading

March Reading

Hello! How’s life? Let’s just say, things have been busy around here. Busy with good things, but still busy. But I carved out two “we-are-going-nowhere” days this week and they are just what the doctor ordered. (Seriously, we’ve been so busy, we actually ended up at the doctor’s office with ear infections and sinus infections and he said, “You’ll probably be fine if you get some rest, but here’s a prescription if you think you need it.” He’s a great doctor.) Yesterday I vacuumed, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, and played with kids, and today I finally have a chance to think.

Restless: Because You Were Made for MoreI read an all time low of three books last month. Yowch. I mean, really, that is an all. time. low. But it’s okay! I did some other worthwhile things, and one of the books was a book I really needed to ponder. It’s called Restless, by Jennie Allen.

A small group of women introduced me to Jennie Allen’s study, StuckI get chills even now when I think of how we all started with that book study focused on getting past the places where we feel like we just can’t make any progress, whether it’s anger, sadness, busyness, discontent, or feeling broken. Some of us in the group realized some places we didn’t know we were stuck. And then my awesome friend who also blogs decided to host the IF: Gathering at her place in February. It’s amazing how we all were feeling stuck in various ways, then we were ready to move on from being stuck, and the IF: Gathering was timed right then. Because the IF: Gathering was all about moving into a place where we cast of fear and realize God has put us all here on this earth for a reason and it’s time to pursue that reason. Christine Caine talked about moving from being delivered to being free. Rebekah Lyons talked about how simple the word “calling” really is. And there was so much more. It was all awesome. Now I’m almost done with the book Restless, and it has been a continuation of that theme of realizing God knit us together in such a way that we each have something unique to offer. I highly recommend it. I’m not a Jennie Allen junkie (yet), but her stuff is really honest and relevant to women today and it’s worth looking into.

Looking for MeOn the fiction side of things, I was excited to read Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I’m sorry to say, it was quite lackluster compared to her debut. Poor authors whose first books are amazing! That’s a lot of pressure. But this is an honest review, and Looking for Me seemed a little winding, wandering, and overall lacking on major themes. I’m not even sure if the main character, Teddi Overman, found herself in the end. She found a guy and bought a house, so I guess that’s something. ??? I was not a fan. But I’ll admit, I kind of checked out on searching for the deeper meaning about 3/4 of the way through when it seemed like Teddi was going in circles. I’m not against circles…as long as there’s eventually a really good ending point.

Dear Mr. KnightleyThe book that pleasantly surprised me was Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. ”What in the world?” you may ask. “Why did you read another one of those Jane Austen knock offs you hate?” Despite the title, this novel is not actually a continuation or even a variation on Emma or any of Austen’s booksIt’s actually a modernization of Jean Webster’s Dear Daddy Longlegs, which is a great book if you like old-fashioned goodness. Dear Mr. Knightley is about Samantha Moore, an orphan who grew up in foster care and books. Her reading was her world for a long time, but as she enters adulthood, she finds she has to set aside the book personas she so easily dons and embrace her real life story. What I liked the most about the book (besides all the references to classic literature), was how Reay wrote a quality book with strong characters that eventually points her heroine to God, without writing the (forgive me) often predictable Christian novel. This book was predictable in ways for me because I read the classic it’s based on, but it had a gritty realness to it mixed with the change that takes place in a person when they start to understand unconditional love. I don’t know if I can make any sense in explaining it, but it was a good read. I felt empowered as a writer by reading a book that was both clever, well-written, and based on the love of God.

So that’s what I’ve been reading lately. Now I have to scramble to find some vacation reads for two trips coming up later this month and in May. Hurrah for beach reads! Please, send me your recommendations ASAP.

April 9, 20140 commentsRead More
Review of M.M. Kaye’s Death in Kenya

Review of M.M. Kaye’s Death in Kenya

A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned in a forum about D.E. Stevenson that “if you like D.E. Stevenson, you should try M.M. Kaye.” Well, if you’ve been around this blog, you know D.E. Stevenson is my most recently discovered favorite author. Of course, I requested an M.M. Kaye book from the library. I was a bit surprised when I got it, though. M.M. Kaye wrote a variety of different books, but most of them are whodunit murder mysteries set in Africa and other foreign locales. I wasn’t sure why a person would think Stevenson’s homey, warm, character driven novels were comparable to murders on the African plains. It was as if someone told a Jane Austen fan, “Well, if you like Jane Austen, you should definitely read Agatha Christie.” But Kaye’s novels looked interesting in their own right, so I gave Death in Kenya a try.

Death in KenyaDeath in Kenya is set in the 1950s, during the British colonial period in Kenya. Em DeBrett is a matriarch of the Kenyan Colonials, but she is getting frailer in her late years and her estate, Flamingo, is entrenched in a mysterious set of circumstances, culminating in a murder. She asks her niece, Victoria, to come help her with the running of the estate. Victoria comes, but does not realize how dangerous the setting has become until the very day she arrives. As the book unfolds, each character is developed and the reader can never really rule anyone out until the very end. It’s a very satisfying mystery novel. Kaye is similar to Agatha Christie in a lot of ways, but where Christie has a mastermind like Poirot or Miss Marple solve the mystery, Kaye makes the crime path unfold a bit more slowly and naturally. The “ah ha!” moment does not take quite so much explaining as it does in a Christie novel, though it does take some. Also, Kaye actually lived in Kenya for a while and the descriptions of Flamingo and the surrounding area are enthralling. I felt that set her apart a bit more from the typical murder mystery writer.

One way I could relate to the main character, Victoria, was in her desire to move somewhere warm. If I had lived in sunny, arid Kenya as a child and was moved to London as a young adult, I would be planning my getaway from that fair but chilly, damp city as soon as I came of age. Victoria was more patient than I would have been, but I completely applauded her choice once the opportunity came. The fact that this tiny bit of the book stood out the most to me should not tell you that the rest of the book is boring; it should tell you that I am really sick of winter. Aren’t we all.

I will probably pick up another Kaye mystery someday, but what is higher on my To Be Read List is her highly acclaimed novel, The Far Pavilions. At 955 pages, it may be on my list for quite some time.

What are you reading to beat the late winter blues?

March 17, 20140 commentsRead More
Surface Farming

Surface Farming

I was driving down the road, thinking deeply about at least four different issues at the same time. The kids were listening to Psalty in the backseat. Listening to Psalty usually means I don’t have to talk for a blessed little while. But Ella had something on her mind.

“Mommy?”

“Yeah?” I turned down the volume and dragged my brain back into the car.

“In the Rapunzel movie (Tangled), the bad guys become good guys!”

“Yep, it’s pretty cool.”

“But there are still some bad guys. Who are those guys trying to chase Eugene?”

“The Stabbington Brothers?”

“Yeah, why are they chasing him.”

“Because they want everything Flynn has, the crown and then Rapunzel’s magic hair.”

“Why do they want all that?”

“They’re greedy.”

“Oh.”

I turned the volume back up. But a twitch in my brain got stronger in the next few seconds. Here was my four-year-old daughter, asking me questions about good and evil, probing into a topic that is prevalent in stories and in real life, and I was trying to stay on the surface and wrap our conversation up neatly so I could get back to figuring out all the stuff.

I turned the volume back down. “That happens a lot, doesn’t it? In stories and movies, there are people who are bad guys because they want more money or power, right?”

“Yeah. Could you turn it up please?”

Opportunity lost. And this image came to mind, of me, with an old-fashioned plow. Now, I’m not a farmer. My children aren’t soil. But bear with me in this Little House on the Prairie imagery. I had this image of me with that old-fashioned plow, my hands on the handles and my horse and I walking along at a brisk pace, quickly going over the top layer of soil. “Well, that was easier than I though it would be!” I said to myself as I brushed my hands off and called it a day. But I had gone so fast and wanted it to be so easy, I had barely turned over any soil. That is not a field that will reap a good harvest. That is a field that hasn’t had the rich soil underneath tilled up and broken into fertile ground. Am I that surface farmer every day when  it comes to raising my children? I can skim along, check a day of activities off, and I can be a surface farmer, just going over the fields with the plow in the fastest and straightest manner, getting it done without getting too dirty and exhausted. But what have I actually accomplished? What I need to do is push the plow down, blister up my hands, break a sweat, and get down to the rich matter below the surface.

I thought about this idea for a few moments in that car ride, wondering if my analogy actually made any logical sense, when my breath caught in my throat. Because, hold on, my children actually are soil! In the Bible, Jesus gives a parable about a sower:

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9, NIV

Okay, so this daily sowing of my children’s minds and hearts just got a lot more serious. As a parent, my ultimate goal is to plant seeds in them: seeds of wisdom, seeds of truth, seeds of love, all kinds of seeds. And how tragic would it be if I didn’t prepare them for those seeds first? What if I just let them stay shallow soil? Then the seeds I plant will sprout soon after sowing, and I’ll think, “Good! My work is done here.” But there will be no root to the sprouts because that soil wasn’t tilled and prepared. That wisdom or love or truth will dry up and vanish. Yeah, I’ve seen that happen. And I’ve seen parents replant. I’m guessing there’s a lot of replanting involved in this whole process, and it lasts a lifetime. What makes my heart thud even now when I think of all of this is that I only have a small window of opportunity to condition the soil of the soul. There is so much more that goes into the shaping of person than a parent or two parents or an entire village pouring into a child. I’m thankful for that, but I’m also mindful that my chance to make deep furrows are at their finest right now.

I always thought I’d like to be a farmer, and I guess I kind of am. The good cultivators in any walk of life get exhausted, get grimy, and get very involved with the work of their hands. I have to remember that when I just feel like combing the soil over, gliding over the surface without changing the make up of the field. I don’t want to be a surface farmer. I want to pull up the thorns and weeds and plow deep into the richness below, where the seeds can flourish into a legacy my children will keep forever.

A note for any already exhausted mamas and daddies out there: you are doing good work. This post is in pursuit of refining and reaching higher, not loading on the guilt. I know there are days when I’ve done the best I can and it still isn’t pretty. I only want to share an idea that is helping me remember what really matters in the time I spend with my young children. I hope it will help you in some way, too. 

March 12, 20142 commentsRead More
Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsThough a life long Southerner, I am not a big fan of Southern Literature. But ever since reading The Secret Life of Bees, I knew I would always give any novel by Sue Monk Kidd a try. Mermaid Chair left me pretty disappointed, but I stood by my love of Bees and put myself on the library waiting list for The Invention of Wings as soon as it came out. Here’s what The Invention of Wings is about:

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. -Goodreads.com

I enjoyed the fact that this book was based on real abolitionists, the Grimke sisters. They were remarkable women in a time when women weren’t supposed to be remarked on for anything but their choice of dresses and hair styles. They were Southern Belles gone wrong, in their society’s opinion. I also appreciated how this novel portrayed a reality of slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, without being as graphic as the recent popular novel, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. Having been to Charleston countless times, it was a hard reality check to really imagine what some of those historic buildings were housing three hundred years ago. The historical element of the novel was the novel’s best point.

Where the book disappointed me was in the character development and very inwardly focused narrative. The narrative switches from the first person perspectives of Sarah and Handful. I got very sick of being in Sarah’s head especially. If Kidd wanted me to feel stuck in molasses, she made her point. Handful’s narrative was more humorous and interesting. I would have rather heard more about Sarah’s sisters, Angelina, but it turns out there’s not really a whole lot known about her. She was the one with spunk in the Grimke family. The slow moving span of 35 years that the novel covers and the misguided patience of Sarah throughout her life made me tempted to throw the book down in frustration. But it was on an e-reader, so I didn’t throw it.

Because of the slow pace and tiresome narrative from Sarah, this book is a 2.5-3 out of 5 star book for me. If you’re interested in the Southern history and the Grimke sisters, I would recommend it, but if you are simply looking for a book that is similar in style and feel to The Secret Life of Bees, I’d give Beth Hoffman’s Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt or Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March a try.

The Violets of March       Saving Ceecee Honeycutt

March 10, 20140 commentsRead More
Waste Not: Part 5 of the 7 Challenge

Waste Not: Part 5 of the 7 Challenge

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against ExcessLast month I was supposed to be working on the Waste part of the 7 challenge. When I began thinking about this part of the challenge, I thought I was already doing pretty well on that front. I have a family of four and we fill up our recycling cart at the same rate if not faster than our trash cart. Usually, our trash cart is only half full on the day the trash is picked up. I am guilty of looking at neighbors’ trash cans on trash pick up day and thinking, “Wow. They are Wasters.” Needless to say, there was a high horse to fall off there.

And fall off I did. Because, while I do recycle absolutely everything I possibly can, the point remains that if I have something to recycle, that means I’m buying something that’s prepackaged. Deli meats, canned spaghetti sauce, boxes of noodles, yogurt cups, all that stuff comes in recyclable packages. And some things I consider to be necessary are packaged and aren’t recyclable. I mean, when I think about all the Styrofoam egg cartons…but how do you get around that? Aldi only sells one kind of egg!

I guess it all comes down to how much trouble I’m willing to go to in my attempts to reduce waste. I think I kind of phoned it in on this part of the challenge. And that is unacceptable. So I’m doing a re-do in March. Here are the more specific goals for the month:

-Start (and, please Lord, finish!) potty training Isaac in the second half of the month. He’ll be 3 in June and with another baby due in July, now seems like it’s time. My “method” relies heavily on not wearing a whole lot of clothing for the first few days of potty training, which is why I think this should take place in the warmer part of  the month. I greet this part of the challenge with a great deal of trepidation–potty training my firstborn took about a year, and I am not exaggerating.

-At least try to get Ella out of nighttime Pull-ups. I’ve heard some parents have success with waking young children up and taking them to the bathroom before the parents go to bed. I’m just not sure about this one. One problem is I go to bed about an hour to an hour and a half after my children. Is that enough time? Another problem is I abhor the drama that always follows when my poor little four-year-old is incoherently sleepy. To willingly bring that upon both of us is going to take some girding up of mental toughness. If anyone else has experience with methods for getting rid of Pull-ups at night, please share. I’d really prefer not waking her up because I think she barely gets enough sleep as it is.

-Sew a couple of handkerchiefs for myself. Yes, I just used the word “handkerchief.” And the word “sew.” I hate, hate, hate buying Kleenexes. Which is why my husband is always asking in a very nice but what I hear as accusing tone, “Don’t we have any Kleenex?” I just don’t think to buy them, and when I do remember, I say, “We don’t really need those.” But my husband and my kids really enjoy a soft nose wipe for the winter months. And the allergy ridden spring months. And probably all the months in between. I could care less, I’ll use a brown paper bag, but I do grab a Kleenex if they’re handy. I’d rather use something that’s reusable, though. So, hello, old fashioned-ness. (I have the same goal for nursing liners, but I won’t go into great detail there. Details about Kleenex usage are quite enough for one day).

-Reduce our dependence on boxed cereal. There are lots of reasons this is a good idea, one of them being most cereal doesn’t keep my kids full past 8:00 a.m. Another reason is a lot of those colorful boxes pose major recycling problems. Another reason is it’s mostly gross and we throw out half of the box. Is there a drawback? Oh yeah, cooking and washing dishes before 8:00 in the morning. Dear friends, bring on the easy breakfast ideas.

Those are the goals. I could think of more, but my children are pretending to be firefighters and I probably should go put a stop to their throwing open the front door and yelling “Fire, fire, EMERGENCY!” for the whole neighborhood to hear. Because a false 911 call is even more wasteful than a Styrofoam egg carton.

 

 

March 4, 20143 commentsRead More
A Good Day to Play

A Good Day to Play

There’s a photo I keep propped up on my dresser. I’m not sure why I haven’t put it in a frame in the last eight months it’s been there, but something about the spontaneous, unplanned, unframed nature of the moment this photo contains is one of the biggest reasons it has a place in my every day life.

photo It’s a picture of me playing with my oldest, Ella, when she’s around 20 months old.  This is an ordinary moment, a thing I did and still do a lot on a daily basis. Yet it’s one of my most cherished pictures ever. (Please note the original artwork taped to my wall. I used to worry about hanging art on my walls, but God knew that wasn’t my forte; hence, he gave me Ella. I have countless pictures of princesses and fairies and unrecognizable doodles taped up like an endless border in my house, right at a kid’s eye level. Maybe it looks weird, but it’s not going anywhere. Okay, I’ll probably take it down by the time she’s ten, because “let them grow up” and all that conventional wisdom will demand it.)

 

I guess you could classify me as a “playing mom.” I like to play with my kids. Or at least, I like it once I get it down to it. You know paintwithISaachow it goes: you have a million to-dos and and you’re exhausted with a headache and you just want to finish your coffee before it’s ice cold, but your three-year-old finishes up her breakfast, looks at you, and says, “Is it a good play day?” What that means in my house is “Are you too busy for me today?” Because let’s face it, our children have no concept that almost every single thing we do is for them. They don’t know that all that laundry and cooking, hours at a job, hours at a desk, all of that is pretty much for them. Also, they don’t understand that mommy is happier when she has a sense of accomplishment in her days. What they understand is tiny princesses with annoying rubber dresses that come to life if you play along with them. They comprehend monster trucks that drive over bumps in the carpet like they’re Himalayan mountain ranges. They think forts in the living room are the pinnacle of life. It’s not hard, but then again, it is, this speaking their love language. It takes putting my mind in a different state, suspending the idea that getting something done is important, and pretending our dolls and teddy bears are feasting on gooseberry pie and cherry cider for no reason I can understand (what the…what do gooseberries even look like? Are they edible?). The trick is to let them take the reins and tell me what they think would be fun, and truly believe that nothing is ridiculous. Unless they start laughing, then it’s allowed to be ridiculous…

coloringAnd the thing is, I love it. At the end of a play day, I am absolutely more satisfied than I can explain. My small children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love them. I have dirty dish piles, dust that hasn’t moved in weeks, piles of clutter in the corners that I keep meaning to tackle, and I have joy despite all of that. I know it will be there tomorrow, but by tomorrow, my kids will not feel like they have to whine their way into my to-do list. Tomorrow, when I say, “I’ll come be a dragon after I finish these dishes,” they’ll believe me, because I proved it today. I proved I love them in their language, and it’s not so much of an uphill battle to maintain that faith if I am consistent in the time I spend with them.

A couple of years ago, a mom I deeply respect and love told me that she doesn’t remember ever playing with her children. That admission saddened me so much. This is a stay-at-home mom who spent countless hours homeschooling her children and “plays” with her teenage kids all the time now. But she doesn’t remember playing with them when they were small. Her kids remember it, though. They tell me how she played with them. I want my kids to remember that I played with them, and I want to spend so many hours playing with them that I cannot help but remember it, too. Because those are some of the happiest hours of my life.

So my photo of a good day to play stays propped up in my bedroom, and I look at it every morning as I get dressed. I look at it and remember that every day is a good day to play.

tea

 

February 27, 20141 commentRead More
Antelopes. Antelopes Are Good.

Antelopes. Antelopes Are Good.

Here’s a recommendation for you married ladies who need a fun read this weekend. I actually kind of wish I had saved this book for a beach read, because it would have been perfect.

antelope-book-coverThere’s still not a whole lot going on on the reading front here, but I did pick up and finish in two days The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle this week. Shankle writes the Big Mama blog and has been cracking me up for four years. I’ll admit, I sometimes feel uneasy with the consumerism aspects of Shankle’s blog and book writing, the amount of fast food she talks about and the cute clothes she features each week on her blog. But I’m convinced that I’m just not being honest with myself about (a) the amount of fast food eat (Moe’s and Chickfila count as fast food, don’t they?); (b) the fact that I am not a fashion lover or food lover and, therefore, simply do not get revelries on food, especially ones involving Oreos or cheez-whiz;  or (c) the outreach and generosity Shankle and her family involve themselves in that I don’t. There’s way more to Melanie Shankle’s story than meets the eye and there is not an iota of self-righteousness in her work. Basically, Shankle’s writing won’t put you into a mood of deep contemplation, but it will make you laugh and appreciate the beauty in life. And the joy that is nacho cheese.

Shankle’s first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, is also stellar and is featured on the blog here.

 

February 21, 20142 commentsRead More
For The Love of Valentine’s Day: A Redefining

For The Love of Valentine’s Day: A Redefining

I am probably not qualified to be writing about Valentine’s Day. You see, I’m one of those people who has nothing but good memories of this holiday. Yes, you can hate me right now if you really want to. When I was a kid, my parents gave me sweet gifts, my dad treated his wife and three daughters like princesses with flowers or chocolates and even perfume one year, and my friends and I delighted in filling in those boxed, pre-made Valentine’s for each other. (Funnily enough, my husband gave me a Valentine’s Day card when I was about 7 because we were at the same church Valentine’s Day function for kids. I still have it, though I have no idea why I kept it since I really had no feelings for him until ten years later. It has a skunk on it, but I ignore that part.)Then I spent a few early teenage years taking the knowledge that I have a Lover of My Soul very seriously (shout out to Amy Grant), and then I started dating the romantic guy I ended up marrying at age 20. So you are allowed to think I have no room to encourage you on Valentine’s Day.

But let me write this as a parent or simply a caring individual (sort of?) instead of a person in love. Because Valentine’s Day is not going anywhere. It’s going to come around every year, and every year your Facebook and Twitter news feeds are going to blow up with “I hate this day” posts sprinkled with “I love everyone in the world and especially the hottest guy in the universe who happens to be my awesome amazing boyfriend/husband!” posts. Every year the stores are going to fill up with red and pink paraphernalia. Every year you’re going to have to decide what to do with this day. So why perpetuate the love-hate relationship with the Day of Love? Redefine it.

Grab your kids, your friends, or just your favorite play-list and do one of these out of the ordinary actions to display love that goes beyond the romantic version:

1. Load up on baking supplies and bake, bake, bake. Then deliver your goods to whomever comes to mind first: neighbors, parents, your friend who hates Valentine’s Day, the widow who used to live next to your grandmother, whomever. Pick a person, any person. Well, if you’re a single lady, maybe don’t pick the guy you’ve been hoping will ask you out. I’m far from an expert on the dating scene, but I’m pretty sure that’s a no-no.

2. Grab everything that looks like fun in the $1 section of Target or Michael’s and let your kids go wild with making Valentine’s cards. Let them pick their recipients and follow through with that whole actually sticking a stamp on it and mailing it. Even if it’s late, it will be worth it! Seriously, it’s okay if they pick out a box of pre-made Valentine’s featuring Disney princesses or Sponge Bob. Any little token will mean a lot to someone that isn’t expecting a Valentine from your children. Teachers, store clerks, librarians, aunts and uncles, friends, whoever your kids think of. If anything is true about kids, they’re better at sweet thoughts than grown ups, so give them free reign here. Let them choose who they will bless with their Valentine’s Day creativity.

3. Make sure the people you live with feel the loved. Breakfast is my favorite time of day to do a special meal (thanks to Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin for that idea). Get out the red paper doilies, find some kind of make ahead recipe or buy a little something from the bakery the day before, or just put red food coloring in their milk. Whatever. I’m planning on making this recipe for my fam’s breakfast tomorrow, but I know I’m being a little selfish here since I’m the one who is in love with homemade cinnamon rolls. Still, I don’t think they’ll complain.

4. Plant a tree. Be a hippie. Love the Earth. Build or buy a bird feeder and hang it up. And then please, for the love, tell me all your secrets on keeping squirrels out of it.

5. Deliver those clothes you’ve been meaning to donate to the homeless shelter. Or go out and buy something to donate for the homeless shelter. February is a rough month to be homeless. I love giving kids the chance to pick out some things they don’t need, too, to give to needy families.

6. Visit a nursing home. I’ll be honest, this one unnerves me. My social anxiety does not end with a certain age group. But I know some people who really love taking their kids to visit the elderly and I think it’s worth doing. If you aren’t sure you can handle a nursing home, how about just visiting anyone you think could need cheering up? It sure beats movies and a carton of ice cream.

7. Adopt a dog/cat/hamster. I am not an animal lover, but if you are, I’m guessing animals appreciate a home whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.

Love You Forever8. Gather your small children and read one of those books like Love you Forever that are pretty much impossible to get through without choking up. Pick your favorite children’s book about love (Guess How Much I Love You, You Are Special, your favorite Bible story about love, or any number of others) and share your love through books.

9. Sing loudly for all to hear. Kidding. Unless of course, you’re a great singer who’s holding a concert on Valentine’s Day.

10. Don’t forget your significant other if you have one. I’ve noticed that even couples who scoff at the holiday want this day to be at least a little different from other days, deep down inside. Pick up a pizza so your wife doesn’t have to cook, clean off your husband’s night stand, shave your legs or face, I don’t know. I’m sure you can think of something that doesn’t involve the schmaltzy stuff you’ve sworn off.

Really, there are so many different forms of love in this world, can we not see past the Hallmark junk and shed some light wherever we are on a day that could be pretty awesome with a little bit of effort? I’d like to think so. I definitely won’t be doing all of these suggestions (especially not numbers 7 or 8!), but just picking one is enough to forge a new definition for Valentine’s Day.  I am fairly certain you can think of a dozen other (better) ideas to make Valentine’s Day about caring for others instead of about wishing for love ourselves. If you do, I’d love to hear what you and your family or friends come up with.

February 13, 20141 commentRead More
Some Things and Some Stuff

Some Things and Some Stuff

My brain is all over the place right now, so here’s a list of bookish and mostly non-bookish thoughts.

  1. I have spent the last two weeks picking up various books, reading a few chapters, and returning them to the library without finishing them. It wasn’t so much that they weren’t good books, but my heart and mind haven’t been into it. I’ve been restless. It’s like something has been telling me, “Just stop the reading, and do some thinking.” And then I attended the IF: Gathering . And now I’m like, “I need a book to get a break from all this thinking!” It was inspiring and rattling to listen to the likes of Jen Hatmaker and Shelley Giglio and Ann Voskamp and all kinds of amazing women. I am still trying to process it all and figure out what it means for me. I think everyone who was a part of IF is in a process, and that’s why the IF leaders have created IF: Equip. This is free and open to anyone, whether you attended IF or not. It’s a devotional/journaling/discussion tool. And it’s awesome.

And if you attended or tuned into the IF: Gathering, I’d highly recommend reading Holley Gerth’s book You’re Made For A God-sized Dream as soon as possible. It is so closely related to the content of the speakers from IF.

2. It’s snowing here again. Y’all…it should not snow so much in place where everyone says “y’all.” I drove in the snow for the first time in my life today, because ballet class cannot be missed. And we were out of diapers.

3. My daughter has started ballet again, and I am eating so much mental crow. Ballet used to be the place where it looked like I had it all together. Or at least I felt like it. Now, I look like that harried mom who just wants her kid to “Pay attention and help me out when I’m trying to put on your dance shoes, for crying out loud.” My frustration is not so much the little distracted ballerina’s fault, but also the fault of the little brother pulling on my shoulder, just about knocking me over, saying in his toddler-deep voice, “Mom, mom, mom, what is that? what is that?” The phrase “Just a minute” means nothing to a two-year-old. Absolutely nothing. So, to all the moms whom I ever judged when I heard you speaking irritably to your children, I’m sorry. I totally understand how you feel.

Also, insert a little boy with graham cracker crumbs all over his mouth in the place of Fancy Nancy’s little sister, and this is what we looked like at Target today:

photo (9)4. Raising a little boy is hard. It just is. I sometimes don’t think I’m built for it, and then I realize, yes, I am. I have one, so I am. But it’s definitely a stretching experience. I love him intensely – his boisterous zeal for life, his big soulful and mischievous blue eyes, his 90-miles-per-hour pace, his affectionate and goofy grins – I love all of him. And almost all of him can drive me crazy at the very same time. It’s enough to pull a mommy’s heart to pieces and then put it back together several times a day.

That’s all the randomness I’ll share today. Sometime this week a real blog post will show up here. Unless I’m buried in the ice storm that’s supposedly on the heels of the current snow storm.

This about sums up my winter sentiments:

Happy snowy days!

 

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February 11, 20142 commentsRead More