Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day Fifteen: Sometimes You Just Have to Bake It Out and Shake It Off

Thursdays are probably the busiest day of the week. Preschool is a short day. I pick up Daughter #2 at 3:30 and we wait until Daughter #3 is finished with Drama around 4:15. Then we rush home, finish homework, and head to Daughter #2's dance class. We come home with just enough time to eat whatever I remembered to throw in the crockpot and maybe squeeze in a shower (if we were able to finish our homework) before small group starts.

Yesterday I was so proud of how things were going. We were back to our regularly scheduled programming after the couple days from you know where, when I got a text from a friend. "Are you coming?" It took about 2 minutes to realize she meant dance class and that we were officially missing it. With the concussion it was probably a good idea to wait anyway, or at least that's what I told myself.

Friends, when life starts to feel out of control, and I long for the days where I was the only one controlling my family's schedule, I do the only two thing I know to do. Kitchen dance party with a side of baking.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, step one is always a dance party. If you are looking for some fun music, I suggest this playlist of mine from Spotify. It's just the best.

And if you are looking for something yummy to bake, I suggest this recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. These are divine. (Just add an extra 1/3 cup of brown me) If you are looking for any other goodies to bake, check out my Pinterest board here.

So shake it off mama, shake it off.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 14 - A Follow Up of Sorts

It's almost 9 on a Wednesday evening. All the girls are in bed although I highly doubt anyone but Daughter #2 has fallen asleep.#3 is bound to soon but my sweet #1 girl always has so many things running through her head she has a tough go of it.

As you saw in our Day 13 post, we had a bit of a rough one. Today I kept everyone home from school. After calling all the attendance offices we had a lazy morning followed by a trip to the dentist. Daughter #3 does indeed have four loose teeth, but no serious damage. They took X-rays and everything seems good. We just will be having our first visit from the Tooth Fairy earlier than the other girls did. Her teeth and mouth are tender so Frosties, applesauce, and yogurt have been our diet. 

I was so happy when we pulled the van back at home. We were in for the day. I looked at all the messages of encouragement and support when I saw a dear friend, who happens to be in the medical field, ask me oh so gently about Daughter #2's symptoms. "Sounds like she might have a concussion with the sleepiness, and vomiting..."

Suddenly, all of her symptoms made sense. I called the doctor's office and they fit me in.

Yup, a mild concussion.

Tonight as I cleaned up shoes and toys I heard that voice in the back of my head. "You are choosing to send your kids to public school. None of this would have happened if they had been home learning with you." And that voice was right, in some small way, but it isn't true. What's true is that we made a choice for our family. And it is the right choice for us. And so we beat on, boats against the current, or something Gatsby-esque like that.

Day 13 - A Day in the Life

It's been a while....I know. But let's forget that for now. Because if you have a child in public school, you know my pain. I bet you've had this day, or some version of it. Mine just happened to occur on October 13, 2015.

It starts out innocently enough. The phone rings and it is the school. They don't say the usual, "Don't worry, she's fine" at the beginning, although their tale of monkey bars and a fat lip doesn't sound too bad. "I checked her teeth.....there are no injuries...." You go on with your day.

You bring your preschooler to pick up your kids. Daughter #2 gets off the bus and you double check her teeth and lip. She seems to be okay other than the fact she's not. She takes her backpack and curls up on the sidewalk saying she doesn't feel well and is tired. You somehow manage to get her to the playground to rest so the preschooler can play for the next 45 minutes while you wait for Daughter #1 and her friend to be done with choir. 

The preschooler is tired, you can tell because she is crying a lot and is slow to make good choices. She seems to be coming around until you say it's time to get the girls. She runs back to the swing for just one more belly swing where she promptly and swiftly overshoots the swing and lands on her face.

Run to your daughter and pick her up as blood pours out all over your shirt and coat. Notice her bottom teeth might be a tad bit loose. Pick her up and carry her as fast as you can to the other side of the school to get in the doors. Daughter #2 drags behind trying to keep up while contemplating places to nap on the concrete.You may be shaking but you try not to show it. Have her try to use the drinking fountain. Try not to think about the blood. Try to have her not scream at the top of her lungs. Try to have her calm down as her "I'm gonna throw up!!" echoes through the halls where the kids are finishing choir. 

Sit in the office with a frozen sponge as you call dentist. Find out dentist will close before you can get there (remember you have to drive a whole other child who doesn't belong to you home) and they don't open until 11am the next day. Try not to cry or break your phone. 

Stand in line to pick up the two girls. Daughter #2 is taking a nap on the floor and can't get up. Your preschooler is still crying hysterically. People are giving your strange and sympathetic looks. Wonder if it has something to do with the blood covering your coat. Watch as the choir room doors finally open. Daughter #1 greets you asking if everything is okay. You realize as she speaks she sounds like she has had a two pack a day habit for the past 25 years. 

For those keeping track that is two sick kids and a dental emergency. 

Rush all four kids to van. Realize there is nothing fast about two sick kids, a bleeding preschooler, and a curious friend who really wants to know why everything is so bloody.

Get Frosties for dinner. Because.

Everything seems to be going okay until you realize your amazing daughter who is in corner of couch using the wipe-off markers for practicing addition is actually using a Sharpie. Realize also the Sharpie fell....on the beige microfiber couch. Be unable to hide the scream that escapes your lips. Your sick oldest daughter will immediately turn 16 and yell, "I hate our family!" and leave the room. You apologize to daughter and quickly hit up a Facebook group to find out the correct procedure for removing the stain. As you are doing this your middle daughter will begin throwing up. In the kitchen sink. Which doesn't have a garbage disposal.

Find out so far none of the remedies are working. Use a ridiculous amount of towels to remove vomit from kitchen sink without vomiting yourself. While doing this you remember you are supposed to lead your small group tomorrow. So that's not happening. Begin list of schools to call to report absences tomorrow when preschooler comes in shrieking because she her teeth hurt when she tries to eat. Daughter #1 will use this time to inform you that while she was helping the preschooler fix her craft she accidentally poured out about 6 ounces of Elmer's glue on your table cloth.

Text your husband who happens to be out of town that this is your worse parenting day ever and you want to tag out. He will continue to check in on you and encourage you. You will be grateful and start to calm down.

You let the kids stay up with Netflix longer than they should but it gives you 30 minutes of calm before you send them to bed. Curl up in your own bed and peruse the DVR. Realize about 5 minutes later that all the kids will be crawling into bed with you. Turn off TV. Cuddle with girls. Exhale. Start again tomorrow.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day Four: A Sunday Night Prayer

Tomorrow morning our kids start another week at school. And even as we tuck them into bed tonight, we hear a report on the news of yet another thwarted school shooting. Last week’s shooting is still fresh to me, but already it has cycled out of our news and the world seems to be ready for the latest scandal as political interest groups continue to fight about underlying causes and the best way to handle it. Meanwhile, I rub my daughter’s back looking at her hair shine gold in the glow of her nightlight and I pray.

Tonight I pray for my children and for yours. I pray for the ones for whom each lockdown drill is an act of bravery. I pray for the ones who worry and are anxious; the ones who are constantly thinking about the worst case scenarios. I pray their hearts while be guarded. I pray they will feel a peace to fill them from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes. I pray they will remember that God is with them and that they have no reason to fear. I pray the moment they walk into their school Monday morning any worries will be washed away and they will be filled with joy, ready to learn.

Tonight I pray for the lonely, the bullied, the left out and forgotten. I pray for the angry the frustrated and the hurt.  I pray for the ignored, the needy, and the ones whose minds and hearts have veered off course. Because at some point, before the killers whose names go in and out of the news stockpiled ammunition, wrote manifestos, and walked into schools with hardened heart and mind set on death, they were children. They were the ones walking into school each day as students. They played ball, ate lunch, and practiced their times tables. So tonight I pray. I pray that hearts stay soft. I pray teachers and students and families and friends truly see them. I pray for early intervention. I pray for mercy.

Tonight I pray for all the moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, the aunties and the uncles, and anyone else who is tucking in children. I pray for our own hearts. I pray we will remember why we send our kids out to school when fear makes us want to keep them at home.  I pray that when I drop them off at school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon I will see, really see, each and every student. I pray that even in my most hurried and frantic moments I will pause long enough to smile, to say hello, and to ask how school is going so far. I pray I will never be so busy that they become just faces. Help me to see who they are and who they are made to be.

So sleep well sweet girls, sleep well.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 3: This is Where I Struggle

Day Three didn’t get out on time. The reason? Saturday.

When our family made the shift to public school from homeschooling, one of the most noticeable shifts in how we operated as a family was how we spent our weekends. Saturday, being the most notable.  Homeschooling offers a flexibility that cannot be matched or even closely compared to public school. There is room for being able to focus on your learners, to move with their interests, and to make space for what public schoolers would call extracurricular.  Piano? You bet. Gymnastics? Why not? Dance? Of course! Theater? Absolutely. Time to run around the park and burn energy? Mandatory. Arts and crafts and quiet reading time? This is the fabric of what we do. And the beauty of it was all of that was accomplished before dinner, leaving our evenings, and most importantly, our weekends free to spend with the family.

Enter our new normal.

Meet Daughter #1 at school at 3 and let her and Daughter #3 play at the playground until Daughter #2’s bus meets us there at 3:30. Go home to have snack (they are famished after only a 13 minute lunch break) and start homework. Two nights we have some enrichment classes they couldn’t bear to give up but the rest of the evenings are spent doing homework or reading until dinnertime. Eat dinner, shower, and have about 45 minutes together until family Bible time and then bed.

Saturday. Saturday is our day. The one where we can let them sleep in. They all start crawling in bed with us around 7 and stay there until we have breakfast. But instead of lazy days together spent exploring the city, we now start taking them to dance class or rehearsals, because we are trying to leave their school day evenings free. Saturdays are full and good and we watch them dance and leap and beam and do the things they love, but they go fast and before we know it we are eating dinner and curled up on the couch for family movie night. Saturdays, despite all the back and forth have become sacred. Those minutes and hours here and there I both guard and savor.

And that is why Day 3 didn’t post quite on time.

Thank you to everyone following along to my Confessions of a Public School Mom. I am so glad you are here! Be sure to like my Facebook page to keep updated or follow along through email or your favorite reader (just check the sidebar).  -------->

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 2: Lockdown Drills and Little Hearts

I wasn't going to write about this today. This was scheduled and planned out for later. I was going to let you know about our background with homeschooling and the public school system. I was going to summarize the things I learned my first year. I was really going to set the stage before I dove into some of those topics surrounding public education that are just plain hard.

School shootings are one of those things. But as I was waiting to pick up my girls from school I saw the news flash across Facebook. "Police say at least 10 people have been killed in a school shooting." 

Lord have mercy.

This is my daughter's second year in public school. She attends an amazing Chicago public school in our neighborhood and loves it. One of our biggest challenges when adapting to public school after previously homeschooling was figuring out how to handle my daughter's anxiety. Each time there was a fire drill, my girl came home nervous and fidgety. For days we would see how it had affected her. Her teacher was amazing and worked with us to help minimize the stress these put on her. By the end of the year she could perform a drill without it bothering her in the days to come. Progress.

We weren't far into this school year when we got the memo about a lockdown drill. The Chicago Police Department would be on hand to walk the school through what would happen if they needed to implement a lockdown. (Just typing this is making me cry.) I spoke with my oldest about it. She said her teacher had talked to her about it and they had practiced. She wasn't worried for the drill. I spent Monday praying, hoping she would feel peace.

This Tuesday, on the way to school, I asked her how the drill went. Now that she had a night to process, how did it make it feel. She non-challantly told me it was no big deal. How everything was really smooth and although the school felt really quiet, she knew she was safe. She told me she knew that if she had been in the bathroom during a lockdown drill she should go into a locker until she could get to her room. And I started thinking about how sending her to school was a choice -a  choice which has inherent risk.

And as I think about this I hear her voice from the backseat.  She asks, "Mom, has anyone actually needed to do their lockdown drill. Like in real life?" 

Pause. "Yes, baby."

"Mom, has anyone ever been hurt at a school?"

Pause. Deep breath. "Yes, baby."

"Mom, has anyone ever died at a school?'

Stifled tears. "Yes, baby."

"A lot?"

"Too many."

"Why can't they stop it?"

Tears falling so fast I can hardly see the road.

"Mom, are you crying?"

"Yes, baby."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Confessions of a Public School Mom - Introduction

One of my greatest fears in life is disappointing people. You will never see me making sweeping statements online about fitness goals or eating plans. The idea of telling people I am going to do something and then not follow through is just about the worse thing I can imagine. So the idea of saying I am planning on writing for 31 days in a row? Well, that’s not in the cards.

But yet, here I am.

Welcome to Confessions of a Public School Mom.

Why should you stay and read? Well, I write this for us. I write for the Homeschooling Mamas out there who can’t understand why on earth I would send my kids to be educated by the Public School System. I write this for my fellow Public School Parents even as we wrestle with Common Core, Lockdown Drills, School Boards, taxes, bussing, testing, safety, bullying, and, and, and. But most importantly, I write this for myself. I write this to remember why we do this; why our family chose this path not out of convenience, but out of conviction.

I hope you will join me this month. No matter what path we choose for our children and our family, we are in this together.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rollercoasters - A Guest Post for the Mudroom

My kids appreciate a good rollercoaster. So much so, our summer vacations have transformed into seasons passes to our nearby amusement park. You can find us almost every weekend in line with our bottomless Sprite and bucket of popcorn in line ready for whatever is coming next. My girls are in love with the thrill of the coaster.

Me? Not so much.  I love taking the kids. I love seeing them get excited when they have grown enough to get to the next ride. I love the look in their eye after having done something scary and living to tell the tale in as much detail they can muster.  I, however, would much prefer to keep my feet on the ground.

There are some I do like; the ones with gentle swoops and ups and downs. The ones you can see ahead so you know what’s coming. The ones that don’t jerk you around but instead keep you tight as you glide and laugh. But those are few and far between. Most rollercoasters are designed to keep you guessing. They want to make you unsure of yourself as you climb and drop faster than you can process. They jerk you back and forth and make it so you can’t get your bearings. You start out enjoying them, but there is always that moment you wish you could get off and ride the Merry Go Round instead.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Join me at my favorite corner of the internet, the Mudroom, to read more........

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Porous Hearts and Broken Bits - A Guest Post for the Mudroom

What does community look like for you? 

Here's a love letter of sorts for all the people who have helped make me who I am just with their presence in my life.


I don’t remember a lot about that first night they all poured into our third floor walkup other than the fact I was scared. New city. New church. New group of strangers coming to my house.

We gathered in my house, but I didn’t lead; I was allowed just to learn. Learn and cook. What started as me making a little extra dinner for a friend turned into a full blown meal for over a dozen people and their children. There was pasta and meatballs and salad and tacos and brownies and hummus and soup and so much bread. I’d start in the morning and go all day; soup in the crockpot and bread rising on the counter.  Brownies – both regular and gluten free and always a fresh pot of coffee.

They were my people. We laughed together, ate together, learned together, and prayed together. We had five out of the seven continents covered and I can’t even remember how many languages were spoken.  There is nothing more soul satisfying than a home full of people who love you and love your children, especially when they tell them and you aren’t able to translate.

It was beautiful. It was messy. It was one of the best examples of community I have ever been part of. It wasn’t perfect. It ended. But it transformed me in ways I could never imagine. It anchored me.


Read the rest over at my favorite corner of the internet..... The Mudroom.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Starbucks Prayers

Today I sit at the high bar of that purveyor of caffeine where the outdoor seating is full of bright green umbrellas. I quickly picked the spot on the far left, next to the electrical outlets since my 18 month old Dell is already a little needy and doesn’t like to work without being plugged in. There are five spaces and the other two customers at the bar have spread out evenly. On the far right a gentleman is working steadily with his shiny Mac and stack of books. He’s writing something and he sips his Grande Americano as his fingers fly, only interrupted by the occasional conversation that seems far too loud for a coffee shop. In between is a gentleman I’d guess is in his seventies wearing a tightly woven fedora with the smallest feather in the brim. He sits with his gently worn, yet meticulously cared for leather satchel. He is reading a photocopied and stapled article about German refugees as he makes the occasional note in his composition book. It’s labeled by hand, “Book #4” and he keeps his place with a small binder clip. He reads, he writes, he sips the espresso in the small white mug. He stops only to use his article to swat at the fly which does not want to leave the window. He checks to make sure it didn’t fall on his bag and goes back to reading. I desperately want to read what he’s writing, but if I peek anymore he will notice. Me, I’m writing but I’m listening to Mumford and Sons, I’m gazing at the unbelievably blue sky, and pondering why people are so bad at parking.

It’s my last morning without the kids. I’m trying hard to write though it’s hard to admit I’m feeling so rusty. My mind isn’t settling quickly as it should. I’m fascinated by all the life outside the window. The mom and her two daughters on their coordinating bikes with matching baskets, the tag still in the smallest. The family driving their beaming daughter in a Mini Cooper. The detective who has been here three out of five days this week.  The Northwestern fans in their purple polo shirts. And “open up my eyes, tell me I’m alive” rings in my earbuds but I can still here the families gathered behind me laughing at the videos they are sharing on their iPhones.  The street is charming and I remember why so many leave Chicago for the city north of us where the trees are yarn bombed and everyone seems so happy.

There is a lot I want to write. I want to tell you how living in the city has changed and shaped me more than I thought possible. I want to tell you how I struggle between wanting to write more while simultaneously wanting to wrap my arms around my girls and never let them go. I want to tell you sending my kids to public school is an act of faith. I want to tell you what it’s like to have your theology and parenting questioned. So much to write and all I can do is sing along “say something, say something, something like you love me.” And I know the words I type go out as prayers I don’t even understand but the more I hear the clacking of the keyboard the more I hear my heart’s cry go up and there is something holy even in the corner of a loud Starbucks.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Five More Weeks

They look like summer, at least the way I imagine summer should look like, their blonde hair lightened by the afternoons of chlorine and sun. Tan lines despite the layers of sunscreen put on repeat. They smell hot, a mix of sun and sweat, and their feet are constantly dirty. We are at swimming lessons. We are jumping on the trampoline nonstop. We are riding bikes. There have been hours of gymnastics a day trying to perfect that cartwheel followed by attempts to walk across the living room on her hands.  Dance class learning the difference between ballet first position and jazz first position. The joy of swimming under water with goggles and high fives from swim instructors. Just one more roller coaster. One more spin in the teacups. The books. Oh, the books. Reading into the late hours of the night. Weekly visits to the library to swap out their haul and log their minutes. Audio-books: The Indian in the Cupboard, fairy stories, and Encyclopedia Brown. Evenings on the sofa with the fan blowing on us as we watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, again.

Target is screaming at me that school will be starting soon with its piles of black and white speckled composition books and Ticonderoga #2s, but I am trying desperately to remember that we have five full weeks of school before our everyday is altered and two of my three will be gone all day long. I take all three to VBS this week and as I watch them sing their Jesus songs I stop myself from sobbing, stuck somewhere in the beauty of kids learning and happy and the wondering of what I am going to do when I grow up when it is three leaving me all day, just one year from now.

They tell us not to blink, before we know it those baby years will be gone and we will wake from our exhaustion induced stupor and look into the eyes of children who are far older than we realized. That moment hit me in the first few days of summer when I traded in a tattered six year old diaper bag for just a tote, emptied of pull-ups and anything that could easily identify me as the mother of young ones. My cupboards don’t hold a variety of sippy-cups and everything feels fast and too soon.

These are the days sprinkled with magic. Three girls. My ride or die. Hands, much larger than I remember, tucked inside mine as we walk across streets on search for one more summer adventure. Jumping on the trampoline at dusk with glow sticks flying and Stevie Wonder filling the air. Counting fireflies and asking for just five more minutes. Days when it’s fun to play with the friends we miss but mom and dad are just as good, if not better.

This is the summer I don’t want to end. The one I’ve tucked inside my heart and not on Instagram. Here’s to five more weeks of laughs and learning. Five more weeks of sticky fingers from melting ice cream and overripe peaches. Five more weeks of dirt under fingernails and van floors full of sand and woodchips. Five more weeks of lazy mornings and late nights. Five more weeks of soaking in the goodness.

Five more weeks.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trinitarian Theology for Toddlers: A Guest Post for Mihee Kim-Kort

It's a hazy Sunday morning as I add this post to the blog. I am sipping coffee and listening to the birds sing their morning song while the rest of the family sleeps, blissfully unaware I am awake. Our church is doing a series on children and isn't it just perfect timing a guest post I wrote on the same subject is live this weekend.

It is probably my largest parenting insecurity, and I spilled it all out.....

When you have kids later than your friends, it is possible to lull yourself into a false sense that you will know what you are doing. You will have the ability to quietly, and let me assure you oh so graciously, armchair quarterback their parenting, believing you will be able to avoid all their pitfalls and lead your own children down the primrose path of enlightenment. You will also keep a tally of all the amazing things they do and list them on a mental to do list for when you have your own. Ask me how I know.
Honestly, I knew parenting would be hard. I knew it would both bring me great joy and regularly rip my heart out. I knew I would be challenged daily. But as a former children’s minister, I was confident knowing the one area I would be strong in was raising my children to love God. The idea of dealing with scraped knees, broken bones, and broken hearts might have left me holding my breath, but telling my children about the Bible and the love of their Heavenly Father was a piece of cake.
And when they were little, it was.

Care to join me to read the rest here?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Learning to Float - A Guest Post for the Mudroom

I don’t like going out in boats. There is something about a “recreational” structure floating out in the vast expanse of dark deep water where at any moment a storm could strike, sending me to an untimely death, which makes the idea of a relaxing boat ride nonexistent in my world. The bright orange vest I’m casually offered brings me no comfort.

When I first met my husband, the smell of chlorine would make my chest pound uncontrollably. My hands would shake and my eyes fill with tears. A bad learning to swim experience left me with a haunting and irrational fear. He was patient with me and encouraged me to spend time in the water. We spent days and days working on floating. He’d ask me to relax and lie on my back and he would support me, but I’d let fear take over and I’d find myself sinking.

Stop fighting against me, against the water. You need to trust me.
You need to trust the water will hold you.”

Come over to the Mudroom to read the rest!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Candles: A Guest Post for Cara Strickland

It's Holy Week and I am honored to be able to share a Good Friday story at my friend Cara Strickland's blog, Little Did She Know. Would you join me over there and take a walk down cobblestone steps in Greece?

I don’t enter Holy Week without remembering. Each Good Friday I step on the carpet in our church, still bearing the resemblance to a warehouse, I see my feet walk down cobblestone streets and paved roads under the blanket of dark, illuminated by a thousand candles.
We were using what is called Terminal Leave, a way of saying my husband got to take a long vacation with all the time off he had saved during his years in the Navy. Some take it when they are done to receive a paycheck while looking for a civilian job, but we as were stationed in London we spent weeks backpacking through Greece, tracing the footsteps of Paul, which is how we found ourselves in Thessaloniki on a Good Friday eleven years ago.
I hadn’t noticed it was Easter weekend. The Greek Orthodox Easter was a different date than the one we planned to observe at our Anglican church. The first thing we noticed were the trucks. Earlier in the week as we traveled to Thessaloniki, we saw trucks full of sheep bleating out into the open air as they barreled down dirt roads. Just days later we would see those same sheep lining store windows as they hung upside down, skin removed, blood still dripping from their noses. Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What I Want Them to Remember - A Guest Post for the Mudroom

Today I am sharing at the Mudroom. Care to join me?

Their nightstand and bookshelves tell you all you’d need to know. Anne of Green Gables, Ramona, Laura Ingalls Wilder. We have Girls Think of EverythingRosie Revere EngineerNot One Damsel in Distress. Harriet Tubman. Helen Keller. Sojourner Truth. Marie Curie. These are their heroes. We go through our Bible with care and find all the strong and caring and dangerous and wild and faithful women lining its pages.

My three daughters? They are strong. Independent. Fully aware they were made in the image of God, the Creator of the universe. There is no limit to what they can try and explore.

Read more here......

Friday, February 27, 2015

Keeping Up Appearances - A Guest Post for the Mudroom

If you follow me on Facebook, you will know I am beyond thrilled to be part of a new collaborative blog called the Mudroom, started and curated by my good friend Tammy. Years ago she sat in my living room and shared some things her big heart and creative mind were thinking about and I told her she could go for it. Today I get to share my first of what will be monthly contributions to her new endeavor. I'm so excited.

I want to give you a little background. See this picture? It was taken by my talented friend Jennifer Upton. When I wrote this post I knew this had to be the photo used. It was taken at my house just days ago and I love the way she captured the steam from the cup. But can I be honest? There are some things that are really bothering me.

You see, it was taken on my kitchen counter. And my counter hadn't been wiped down that morning so I can see the unevenness in it. My kids coloring books are in the background along with a broken pencil. *I* never would have taken that picture because it wasn't a perfect background, but my friend knows how to see beauty in the everyday and imperfect and captured a shot which ultimately is as perfect as it gets. As I wrote about letting go of the self-imposed appearances, it was obvious this picture says exactly what I wanted to write about.

Grab a cup of coffee and read with me?

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Upton
When my husband and I sold our first home, I was excited. I had enough HGTV shows in me to be able to declutter and depersonalize my house, all while still making it feel warm and inviting. Our realtor was so impressed she took pictures to show future clients. The next time we put a house on the market and had to do the same I was prepared, or so I thought. Somehow, depersonalizing and staging your home when you are on a third floor walk-up in the city with three kids four and under is an entirely new thing.

We emptied the rooms from toys and left mostly books and puzzles. Gone were the photos and pictures brought home from preschool on the refrigerator and there was to be nothing on the kitchen counters. Furniture was rearranged just so and beds had to be made every morning, no matter what was going on, because you never know when you might get a showing. The idea of a showing was all motivating. I felt it was my job, as the stay-at-home parent, to make sure that at any moment our realtor could stop by with a potential buyer and we would be ready.

It took over a year for us to leave the condo and in that time I managed to succeed in keeping up appearances. Know what I learned? Keeping up appearances is exhausting.

Won't you come over to the Mudroom and read the rest?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Turning Forty

I spent my first morning of my forties at a breakfast table at a Catholic retreat center surrounded by three wise women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. I hesitantly shared that I approached today with some trepidation. I have long carried with me the ideas of what my 40th year would look like. Year 38 found me pushing hard in that direction but somehow my entire 39th year became a giant blur, just a fuzzy memory and here I am now 40 years old feeling none the wiser and ever so far behind on life.

I should be here with a completed manuscript. I should be 2 sizes smaller and able to run long distances and still look cute while posing for that post-race selfie. My kids should be remarkably well-adjusted and peaceful, all the while being creative and independent. My home should practically clean itself because by now I have mastered organization so it is clear to everyone where things should go, so my well-adjusted, peaceful, creative, and independent children will desire to keep it looking ready for a potential Pottery Barn photo shoot. I should be doing meaningful life-giving ministry. And I should obviously know and be prepared for what I will do when my youngest goes to school in just another year and a half.

And here I am at forty with none of those very important accomplishments in place.

Yet these women know better than I. The look of peace and reassurance on their faces spoke to me. They talked about the freedom they felt after forty. How something seemed to click and the expectations they had for themselves and they felt from others didn’t matter anymore. They knew who they were. Fifty is even better. Angst will always be with you. All seven year old girls are moody.

These are the things I needed to hear.

It’s hard for me to not feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. I don’t think I would be labelled a goal oriented person, but my years of retail have taught me to keep track of trends and percentages and I am well aware the longer I go without progress the more steep the climb to get to where I want to be. It’s daunting and often paralyzing, but I don’t want to feel stuck.

So I declare what I know.  I have the most amazing husband. Really. He’s the best.  I have three children who even when we are all sick with the stomach flu bring me such joy. I have a family that loves me. I have friends I can laugh with, cry with, and send ridiculous emoji ridden texts with. And I have spent 37 of my 40 years walking with Jesus. Even in my darkest times I have had full knowledge that He was with me.

Those things I haven’t accomplished yet? They are still on my list, but my worth isn’t defined by them.

Later on when we gathered as a larger group, they all reached their hands across the room and prayed a blessing over me.

“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. “ Job 42:12

So let it be.