Saturday, September 28, 2013

sister weekend

Snapshots from our sister weekend. . .
my sister-in-law Marlys and I threw a little "thank you" party for
my two youngest sisters, Abbie and Elizabeth
They are continually babysitting, cleaning, stopping by to help, endlessly cheerful
and just plain unselfish.  Last year we all took them out to Biaggi's-
this year we had dinner here and then spent the next day shopping
we sent invitations with menus from Francesca's (local Italian restaurant) and instructions to order
so fun to be together.
I kicked Daniel and the kids out  of the house for the weekend *wink wink* and made the kids bedrooms into little retreat - rooms (in other words, piled all the toys in the closets)
It was so much fun.
When Lydia got here we ran to the library and raided it for every girl - book imaginable to have sitting out 
Seventeen Guide to Style
What not to Wear
1001 Questions to ask Before You Get Married
Picnic Foods
we started out with pedicures from the last salon open in town.
it's kinda fun to set a table for adults ;)

my beautiful youngest sister- Elizabeth

Abbie and Mom

our authentic italian arriving via our authentic italian delivery guy (ha ha!)


all kinds of pizza & pasta
greens with fresh tomatoes, feta & bacon
sparkling water via Trader Joe's (&Lydia)

shopping till we (almost dropped)

we missed one of my sisters.

she couldn't make it.

here's why:

(welcome to the world, my sweet newest lil nephew, zacharias thaine)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

on pressure

She was beautiful, every girl's (and guy's) idea of beautiful, perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect athletic body.  She was a mom.  How could she still look so smoking hot and super girl-next door at the same time??!!

I could feel myself sweating, partly because I couldn't find my deodorant anywhere (best guess: Eli threw it in the trash) and partly because our little parental-soccer-information meeting was being held on the field in 102 degree midwest humidity. 

Well and I was also sweating because my clothes looked dumb, my BlackBerry wasn't an iPhone, my earrings were drooping in my ears-that-need-re-piercing, my flip flops looked like dog chew toys (although we don't own a dog) and because I shouldn't feel this way at thirty-one years old!

*It's really humbling to admit I care about this stuff.  I shouldn't.  I know.  There, I got it out. 

And then SHE started talking, timidly interrupting the little meeting, scared and unsure.  She sure didn't look like someone who would be scared.  Now, me, with the sweat marks, I should be scared. 

Her son has allergies.  Severe allergies.  Like, call-911-allergies.  She was scared that the other parents would be mad if her son didn't partake in the snacks they brought to games. 

Really?  Are people that mean?  Apparently they are, because she was legitimately concerned and wanting to clear the air before it ever got clouded.  We all agreed, a bit incredulous, not to be bothered and (hopefully) set her mind at ease.

But this bugged me.  Why should she have to worry what people think if her son brings his own snack?  Ahhh, as busy as we Americans seem to be, we have too much time on our hands if we can't live and let live a little. 

The same week, back at the same soccer practice,  I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen for awhile.  She was dashing from her (running) vehicle to grab something she'd left at the playground.  She was literally fifteen yards from her car. 

With the reclaimed item in her hands, heading back to her car, she stopped, breathless, to apologize to me that she'd left her kids buckled into her vehicle.   

I know, it's the big no-no, don't leave children unattended in vehicles. 

I get it. 

But somewhere, someplace, this insanity of worrying about what others think of our parenting has got to stop. 

It was still midwest humidity with ungodly temperatures.  What kind of decent mom would think of dragging her kids out of the cool car across a sweltering parking lot to grab a forgotten toy?

I know what kind of mom-- the mom that I am when I'm afraid everyone sees my inadequacies, the missing deodorant,  the tear in the skirt that was super chic a bit ago. . .

the mom who has been burned one too many times by well meaning whispers

the mom who tries so hard and still her kid keeps biting the other kids

the mom who feels that everyone is against her and she's holding up her little world with her own two hands

the mom who just can't bear another disapproving glance or well, the way I did it was the only way to go

yep, that mom will be afraid to make her own sane decision to leave her well adjusted, well behaved children in her own car for 45 seconds. 

I look down at myself.

What about me makes this sweet woman need to apologize to me?!  I did buy some more deodorant.  Perhaps that's the key to looking like you have it all together.

And I stopped her.

"Hey- you're a great mom.  What in the world?! Leave your kids in the car!  That's what I'd do, plus, I don't care! It's ok! I'm not like that!"

She smiled, relieved, and left, still breathless.

I think about this crazy pressure phenomena for awhile.

Why am I scared of the other normal women in the soccer mom group?

Why is Ms. Stunning Beauty scared of the other women?

Why is my friend scared of me?

I talk to Daniel about it, and he nods and grunts makes thoughtful uninterested sounds, completely oblivious to the pressure game women play with each other.  Men have their own pressure games, a bit more bold and in your face.  At least men seem to know where they stand.  Women are a bit more sneaky.

There aren't any great answers popping out at me as I jump into my own pressure cooker of teaching my kids, preparing for a year of Bible Study and relationships with other women, sports and music and trying to help my daughter stop sucking her thumb. 

I try to balance being a stay at home mom with hiring my very-first designated nanny as I desperately race to help my husband complete deadlines and finish our house renovation projects. 

I try to balance working crazy hard with the freedom of paying a teenager to come fold my laundry and scrub my floors. 

I try to balance ministry (people in my home at all hours of the day and night) (this means serving a second dinner at 11pm sometimes) and sanity (taking time to lay on the trampoline with Eli).

Is it a balancing act or a pressure cooker?  I don't know.  Some days it feels like a pressure cooker.

I logged into Pinterest last night intending to pin pin pin away after months of neglecting my boards. (I blame Africa for this.)  The pressure hit me like a sauna blast. 

Guys! Come ON!!!

"Thirteen ways to fold a napkin." (I just want to know how to keep napkins in the house.  Sanitary napkins, too, for that matter.  Seriously.)

"How to make a homemade jellyfish in a two liter bottle with a grocery sack" (I am not making this up.)

Install your own whirlpool in your master bath (I don't have a master bath, I just need to clean my one bathroom.  And it's directly off the dining room.  Try that out for convenient-- and awkward.)

Jewelry that coordinates with outfits no one should buy, nails and haircuts and celeb sightings and news and terrific birthday parties that are in no mothers' capabilities or budgets anywhere. 


Stop folding the napkins.

Hug your son and let him bumble his own way through the jellyfish project and you stop trying so hard. . .maybe go paint your nails some really happy WalMart $2 color.

Just be yourself. 

Wear your own jewelry.

I love Pinterest because I am a writer and artistic at heart and I thrive on inspiration.  I buy books just because the title inspired me and paint colors because of how they make people feel. 

But sometimes inspiration, on Pinterest, in books, out in the world, in the church, at the soccer field. . . sometimes it gets awfully confused with comparison and jealousy and envy and pressure.

I'm asking myself this week:

Am I a safe friend?

Do I project condemnation or criticism?

Am I part of the pressure problem?

What are practical ways that I can help dial down the pressure?

Can I be a gracious receiver?

Can I exhibit humility while offering help and strength?

Is my own identity as a Child of God enough if everything else is gone?

My chalkboard wall is littered with multiplication fact post-its and though there's a great centerpiece on the table, it isn't clean. The white lights hanging in the dining room give a cozy glow to my chaos and I don't feel pressure in my own home. Here is where I know without a doubt that I am loved by a good man, needed by beautiful children, and safe in the Hand of the one True Identity Giver- Jesus Christ.

from Pinterest  \/

definitely not from Pinterest \/
(but happy none-the-less)

Treats are yummy regardless how they're packaged ;) - on his way to Puggles

And camping. . . in your own backyard. . . is such a terrific experience.  A picture would say a thousand words of joy if only your mom was a photographer.  But since she's not. . . you just look like you're laying on a tarp and you have large nostrils.

Annnnnnnd, we may not be submitting this project to the paper anytime soon since we can't spell everything (WHO is the kid's teacher anyway?!)

Now here is a surefire pinterest/fb/foodblogger approved chocolate chip cookie recipe:  Start with Olive Oil Miracle Whip, add some eggshells and Windex and stir it all together with a butcher knife.  Yum Yum. (Believe it or not, there is chocolate chip cookie dough in that bowl.)

I suppose this is what you do if you are eight going on twenty-eight and you know how to use a camera and you really wonder what you look like driving. 

Last but not least, an original art sculpture.  No.  Really it's the only safe place to keep your structure from being demolished. Welcome to my living room.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

forced rest

Sometimes God brings my life to a screeching halt through the . . .



Like a tooth infection ?!?!

Isn't that for people who are . . . y'know. . . gross and just drink pop and eat candy? 

Well anyway,

here I am, in bed, flattened and unable to do . . .really anything. 

It's a great time to catch up on the neglected blog, huh?

I don't have time to rest.

But then, suddenly, you do. 

Between Daniel (my rx go-fer/handholder/medical advice giver) and my mom (who has a direct line to my local Hy-Vee delivery) and my mother-in-law (who is cleaning my kids up from the camping trip among other necessities) (they still reeked of smoke and literally had sand in their hair when she picked them up)  I am being cared for quite well.  

If my mouth would stop being swollen, that would be awesome.  (Is God trying to tell me something? Do I have a big mouth? Hmmm. . .)

Stuff I'm reading right now:

(between school, soccer, piano, toddler-attitude-intervention, awana, and house renovations)

Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church  by Philip Yancey

Yancey is a fantastic writer and his explanation of why he chose to embrace the Church despite it's many flaws is a collection of stories:  the life stories of thirteen people who have deeply impacted him.  You may recognise some of the names, but others are quite obscure; and some are not even believers. So far I've read through Dr. King, (truth need not be violent) G.K. Chesterton, (humor combined with truth is refreshing) Dr. Paul Brand, (pain is a gift and not a curse) and Dr. Robert Coles (sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from the lowly and obscure). One of the most thought provoking books I've read in a very long time.

Extravagant Grace by Barbara R. Duguid (why do Christians sin?)

Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic (motherhood)

The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing by Jeff Goins (learning to live in the space between the "major moments")

7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker is hilarious breath of fresh air to my soul.  I love how serious her walk with God is and the humor that she uses to challenge people to reevaluate their priorities and goals.  My very favorite part of this book is when Jen and her husband splurge and buy each other way-out-of-their-budget cowboy boots (they're from Texas), wear them to a church service where unbeknowst to them, the theme of the morning service is not only giving to those in need, but "leave your shoes at the altar and go home barefoot."  I guess you'll have to read the book to find out what they did.  :)

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an english professor's journey into christian faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Rosaria was a lesbian English professor at Syracuse University; she did not "become saved and everything was wonderful."  She describes her story as a train wreck at the hand of the Almighty: "Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos.  I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the "lost," if they realise that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers. . . Sometimes in crisis, we don't really learn lessons.  Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed."  Read this if you want a refresher course in why to open your home (love love love the pastor and his wife who invited Rosaria and her honest questions to their dinner table for years); read this if you want to be reminded that while deeply held beliefs on marriage are Biblical, so is reaching the lost with love and compassion;  read this if you need a fresh perspective on very current issues from a passionately Biblical perspective. 

** not pictured and already given away: (this is what I do with books-- buy them, start them, give them away, buy them again. . . .hahaha)

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning (the title says volumes.  beautiful, intense writing)

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (open your home, share your life)

Gods at War by Kyle Idleman (we still have idols today- they might look a little different than golden statues)

To Make a Life by Daniel Walser (grief, loss - stunning parallels between grief and a burning house. Truth.  So healing. )

But who has time to read anyway? 

It's not a secret that I love chalk:  I use it everywhere.  Did you know you can chalk on regular walls and then just wipe it off? That's what I did in Cambria's room:

But then she added a little post-it note to the wall.  When I tried to peel it off, I found that it had been glue-sticked firmly to the wall. 

Jacob dearly wants to have a collection, but doesn't know what to collect.  I told him that a collection just kinda happens.  Suddenly you realize you just love something and then you keep looking for more of that item.  He thinks he's found his collection: metal signs.  :)  3 down, many to come.   (looking at the other things that he loves, it could be worse: furs, animal skulls, handcuffs, ammo boxes. . . . .) The desk? He found it in a neighbor's trash down the street and dragged it home using a little red wagon. He is so my child. 

A million things to write about. . .  back to my forced rest now. :) (there is no swollen face smiley emoticon)

**embarrassed footnote:  I'm also in the middle of Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson.