De-cluttering the soul

30 March 2011

If you're at all familiar with me or this-here blog, you know that lately I've been a bit overwhelmed with clutter... mind clutter, soul clutter, household clutter... you name it, I'm cluttered. So today, armed with a Barnes & Noble gift card and a couple of hours to myself (thanks to the dear husband who took both wee ones to Home Depot), I was able to pick up Organized Simplicity.

I've been following author Tsh Oxenreider's blog for awhile over at, felt kinship with her overseas journeys and admired her ability to nest wherever it is she found herself and her family. The nesting part has never come naturally to me, either near or far, but I know the type of home I long to create for my family: a simple, creative expression of love and security. I'm anxious to dive into this book and learn a new thing or two.

The face in the middle says it all

Child prodigy

27 March 2011

My only piece of writing for today is to reflect on this:

After a protracted bedtime battle - of getting up and laying down, of asking for water or milk or any form of nightly thirst-quenchers, of chatting and laughing and climbing, of toys repossessed and blankets redistributed - I find the boy asleep (finally!), nearly upright in bed, with The Magician's Nephew laying on chest, safely cuddled by a protective arm.

I heart that kid.

On waking, with a family

25 March 2011

It's Five Minute Friday, and I'm doing something strange: writing first thing in the morning. But it's all good... the topic is easier for me now:

Waking Up….
My phone starts buzzing at 7am every morning. I pray for a couple of seconds, hoping that the kids will still be dozing and my day won't yet begin. But, just like he's done every morning for the past 6 or so years, the boy comes lumbering in at 7.01. He squeezes in next to Daddy for a brief cuddle, before husband says the words every 8-year-old wants to hear: "You can go watch cartoons now."

So while the big boy is off, we in our barely coherent sleep/wakefulness companionship, roll to the middle a little bit and wait for the next one to arrive. She's usually just as slightly aware as we are, as she finds her way into our room, fumbles into our bed, and divides our brief slumbering oneness with her warm body. Her hair flies out in all directions. She is just about as much of a morning person as I.

Eventually, the idea of coffee is more pleasurable than dozing, so the husband rolls out of bed and it's just the girl and I. I ask her if she wants to get up, too, reminding her that brother and PBSkids wait for her in the living room. She sighs and rolls over to face me, flings a bony arm around my middle and says, "No, I want to stay here for awhile."

The baby, blessedly, has not woken yet.

waking up, awhile ago

It's morning still in the Western Hemisphere... what did you wake up to?

Literary overload

21 March 2011

I've become addicted to the library, which in theory is really very good, and in practicality is really very overwhelming. There's an ever-increasing tower of books on my nightstand that beckon to me daily, each with a three-week expiration date (give or take a renewal). So I'm feeling no small amount of pressure to be reading - a lot - every day. Don't get me wrong, I love to read. Love it. I would do it all day if my children could feed and clothe themselves. And I really, really want to read all these books - they've all been carefully chosen, placed on hold, and then brought home for me to pore through and feed my soul. But... I'm not sure they'll all get read, and in reality, I'm pretty sure one or two will go back to the library without ever getting to the title page.

So in case you're wondering, my nightstand book list, in no particular order (notwithstanding the cookery books in the cupboard in the kitchen):

Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
Thinking Write, Kelly L. Stone
"You Can't Make Me," Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Acedia & me, Kathleen Norris
Barron's Essential Words for the GRE
The Portable MFA in Creative Writing

Don't ask me what the MFA books are doing on this list... I don't really know yet, myself.

Coda: After soldiering halfway through Freedom, I've decided to close the book permanently. I don't consider myself particularly judgmental when it comes to literature, but surely there are better, more edifying and life-affirming things to spend my time on. Sorry, Franzen. It may have been Oprah-endorsed, but it has most definitely been Karen-rejected.

Onto the next...

On waiting for a miracle, in five

19 March 2011

So by now you probably know the drill: Write for 5 minutes on a topic without editing, looking back, or stressing, and then moving on with life. So, for today's Five Minute Friday:

On waiting...

Well, as I sit down to write this little piece, I'm waiting for the husband to turn down his computer so I don't have to listen to polka music for the next five minutes while I try to pour my guts out.

No luck yet...

As fate (read: providence) would have it, we've all been waiting a lot around here: we've been waiting for March madness to start, waiting for spring to come, and most recently, waiting for a sweet family member to open her eyes and be healed.

She's a cousin, our cousin, the youngest of the bunch, having just turned 20. She's the youngest of three sisters, but everyone of us thinks she's ours. Over three weeks ago she was admitted to the ICU with severe pneumonia which was found out to be H1N1 and several infections and tubes and tears later, yesterday she was about to leave us. So we - my sister, my mom, my cousins and aunts and uncles, and several hundred other friends and strangers - waited yesterday for news, any news, and a miracle. It just did not seem possible that she could die.

So we waited, and prayed, and tried to trust, and cried... and when the wait was over and the machines switched and the lungs drained, the doctors and the sisters and the mom and dad waited and saw that she began to breathe easier and the numbers began to go up and she slowly, so slowly, began to turn a corner...

I've waited for a lot of things: babies, diplomas, support, signs, but never have I waited for something like this. Never before have I waited for - and then seen, even from afar - a miracle. And still, we wait and pray and see that she just might get better... but before that, there will be a lot more waiting.

So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try...

Erin go bragh

17 March 2011

We're loving Ireland from afar, on this the holiest of all holy Irish days. There will be prayers and emails, skypes and pictures, but here is where we are and here is where we'll celebrate. There's a new batch of people in our little community, who - much to our surprise and delight - are anxious to experience this day with us and see the country and the people through our eyes. That seems so strange to me (me, us, of all people, who scratched and cried and pulled ourselves through our first year there by the skin of our teeth until we felt something close to home and a divine contentment in our souls, and until the people there became part of us and, hopefully, we them). So strange, but a profound blessing, to now be their ambassadors here.

this time last year...


Facebook fasting and other Lenten activities

15 March 2011

We didn't really do Lent growing up.

I'm not really sure why we didn't commemorate it, but I think we always considered our family and church just plain old Christian... nothing fancy like Catholic or mainline Protestant. They did the big-word type things (lent, confirmation, catechism, etc), not us. In fact, I didn't think twice about it until we moved overseas and it seemed like everybody - and I mean everybody, including my 6 year old little boy upon arriving home from school - declared a traditional belief in the cross by bearing it's ashen symbol on their foreheads. I think a part of me fancied this notion, this obvious display of faith (or rather, if I were to be honest, of religion). There were conversations had and ideas floated and it came to pass that the husband and I decided to do Lent.

Now, I cannot remember what I "gave up" for Lent that first year, but I'm pretty sure it was chocolate, and I'm more than sure it was short-lived. My noteworthy failure at abstaining for a few short weeks left me disturbed by my apparent weakness, lack of self control, and inability to maintain a true sacrificial faith.

Since that time, I began contemplating Lent, what I really truly wanted to give up for this period of meditation. What did I cling to that I did not need? What took up time or wasted precious energy? What was it in my life that was more distraction than enhancement of who God created me to be? The answer was quite obvious: Facebook. I could very well go on about the evil toils of Facebook, but you most likely already know them and can see where I'm headed.

Instead I'll tell you I looked forward to Lent this year, not just because of my anxiousness to rid myself, temporarily, of this self-serving vice (who doesn't get a kick out of posting mild braggings and beautiful pictures of children and husbands for all the world - and exboyfriends - to see?), but also to consider "putting on" something in deference to what Christ put on for me: all the shame, all the sin, all the pain in the world, on His shoulders as payment for what I will and would do.

So for Lent this year, as I give up Facebook for 40 days, I'm going to try and put on communing with Jesus - and with you - through writing. My mind has been too cluttered lately, my thoughts too fuzzy, my soul too parched to really share with God and with others what's in my heart. I'm looking forward to clearing the air, opening the windows, and letting the wind and the sunshine in. I know He has been waiting for me to do this, and even now I'm wondering why I needed to wait until Lent began to do this. I could've, should've, done this ages ago!

But, today is where I am and today is where I start. I'm desperate to meet the Father here in a new way, and I hope you'll come meet me here, too.


Lessons in Motherhood, Part 1 : "Clean your room... please?"

Maybe I wasn't specific enough. Maybe the award was not grand enough. Maybe I expected too much.

So I have sent the children into their bedroom to pick up - with the promise of a shamrock shake drive-by - but instead I hear yelling, lightsaber noise effects, lego crashing and detailed conversations on the nature of the galactic space cruiser. I know that the minutes are short and few before I'm in there on hands and knees putting everything in its (sort of) right place, doing their cleaning for them. They stand to the side, sit on their beds, and smile at the loving mother who came to their rescue.

This happens a lot: I give orders, they agree, then two hours later I'm ankle deep in action figures and frilly pink underwear... the room is clean eventually, but they're no closer to independence or responsibility, and I'm a lot closer to a head full of grey hairs and a fraying sense of mental stability. I know there's a missing link between the words in my mouth and the actions of their little fingers, that special something that will snap them into submission.

Do you know what it is? It would really help me out a lot today...

To live to read another day

14 March 2011

It's raining now, and I'm partially in bed. Feet over the covers, back against the pillows. A tower of library books sits on my nighstand (the telephone desk, a gem of a find at the flea market). It is the perfect time to start, crack open the cover and dive brain first into a parenting book (re: the strong-willed child) or the epic fiction (Franzen's ironic Oprah pick) or the cookery book (anything Jamie Oliver).

But it's ten till midnight. And spring break officially starts tomorrow. And the man is away. And there's a winter advisory. And I'm exhausted.

Surely, those are the makings of an adventure.


Sunday afternoon and different kinds of "quiet time"

13 March 2011

The house is dark and somewhat quiet as each one of us experience different types of quiet time: the baby is sleeping, big brother and sister are in their room reading and creating masterpieces, auntie/sister is dozing on the sofa, and I'm sitting in my comfy club chair channel surfing between golf and and college basketball (hence the dozer on the sofa).

I enjoyed another kind of quiet time earlier, worshipping with my church family and listening to a friend as he shared God's heart with us. We're in the Gospel of Mark right now, a book which I tend to ignore based upon my own preferential treatment of the Gospel of John. Mark has been good, though, and a refreshing change of pace for me. Today we only read a couple of passages, but took some time to process them and ask some questions of ourselves. This one verse, from the Message, is sticking with me:
Jesus wasn't able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that's all. He couldn't get over their stubbornness. Mark 6v5
I asked myself a question I already knew the answer to: "Does my stubbornness hinder Jesus from doing much of anything with me?" I know the answer is yes, and I don't mind saying that I hate that idea.

Instead, I want to embrace where Christ has placed me now, in this weird in-between thing. I need Him to help me cherish the value in raising my children, supporting my husband, being a friend and a sister.

I need Him to do much of everything, in me.

...Well, quiet time is over, Star Wars is on the telly, and it's time to think about dinner... gonna rely on Jesus to help me "do much" of some stuff!

Love, in Five Minutes

11 March 2011

The more I read and the more I waste time on the internet, the more I find out that there are loads of other women/wives/moms who are living a life similar to mine. Not just the going overseas thing, but the living in-between thing, the need for creativity thing, the longing for home and/or security thing... I'm continually blessed and surprised to find out that I'm a) not alone, b) not a weirdo, and c) the bearer of needs and desires that may just in fact be God-given.

With that in mind, I find myself following a blog and doing whatever this nice lady tells me to. So on Fridays (or up till now, Tuesdays) that means write for 5 minutes on a topic and not looking back. I think you should try it, too.

I feel the most loved, when...

I know I am loved. I know that people love on me and my kids all the time, through prayers and generosity and playdates and shared stories. This is a fact and I'm so grateful for it. And yet there are times where I don't think I recognize the actual feeling of being loved. This is not for lack of the loving occurring, but a result of me not truly living in and relishing the moment, not seeing through an act of kindness or a spoken word to the heart of the person doing or saying it. I confess that at times I'm not even paying attention to it, much to my own harm and eventual regret.

Having said that, I can say there are times when I do feel it in my bones and revel in its warmth:

when I leave the bedroom and meet the boy in the hallway, he comes up to me, puts my face in his hands and says, "You look beautiful, Mom."

when I hear the grinding of coffee beans from the kitchen (at 11:30pm) and know the husband makes sure my morning - our morning - gets off to the best start.

when I open the door and the baby comes running, claps his hands together, and laughing he opens his palms to me and jumps.

when the girl says, "This sticker is for playing 'All the Single Ladies.' Thanks, Mama."

when I'm prayed over, sung over, blessed over and over...

There are so many more, so many people, so many ways God is raining down love on my curly mop-head. I want to pay attention. I want to live a life of intention... love intentionally, give intentionally, feel intentionally. I think I might be ready to feel - and accept - the love.

Fact: I *did* write today!

10 March 2011

Dear Diary,

Long story short: giving up Facebook for Lent, taking up more writing for Lent. Will write more later.

(Big Kiss, Little Kiss, Big Hug, Little Hug, Little Hug, Big Kiss)

(Wo)man in the mirror, in 5

08 March 2011

When I look in the mirror, I see…

There are grey hairs, clinging to a head they shouldn't belong to. They are few and far between, but they are thin streaks of lightning that point to an aging storm ahead. There are curls I used to hate, but now relish and swing and twist with my fingers. When I see me, I see curls, and am now grateful that the two go together. There are big brown eyes that stare at me with questions, and a few regrets, with tired lids and a hint of makeup from the night before. They are not the eyes of either of my parents, but rather the eyes of my sister and my two eldest children. I think I like that fact that I'm not exactly the same as those who came before, but a mother/sister twin to three amazing creatures who mirror me in their own ways. There is a mole here, a wrinkle there, ears with several wholes signifying an only-slightly rebellious youth. A crooked smile, a crooked tooth, evidence of a lack of braces but an over-abundance of character. Behind the mirror, behind my face, behind the person looking at it - questioning herself and studying her frame - is a family. A man chasing after a baby, children jumping on a bed, and clothes and toys and papers and mess. It clutters the smudged mirror.

I think in the mirror I see something close to contentment. I'm not sure, though. I don't think I recognize her yet. 

What do you see?

{5 minute Friday... or Tuesdays, in my case}

On the day there was a blizzard

07 March 2011

We watched and waited. Watched and waited... and waited...





Thankfully, March is here. And the snow is, hopefully, gone.


01 March 2011

I really hate to jump on bandwagons, but as you know, I'm having a hard time writing right now and in need of some major inspiration. So I've been searching the blogosphere, reading posts from friends and writers and trying to figure out what is it God's saying to me that he really wants me share with all of you.

Well, nothing. :)

So instead of that, I found on an acquaintance's blog another idea from another blog. The idea? Write about five years ago, in five minutes. Sounds easy enough, so here we go:


Five years ago, we had just announced the news we were pregnant with the girl. Baby #2. The long-awaited wished-for child. We had tried getting pregnant for a year, things got weird (I wrote about this in depth... the weird things would take longer than five minutes to go into), and then boom! Baby! Woot!

The getting pregnant coincided with me getting mono, so besides the constant nausea, the exhaustion kept me on the couch at all hours. The boy was just three at the time, and we were living at my mom's place because we thought at any minute God would send us away to Ireland (little did we know it would be another two years!), and I was just. so. tired. I'm ashamed to say that for the entirety of the first trimester, the vcr/dvd player was on non-stop and Barney and Bob the Tomato and Thomas the Train took care of Jackson while I cuddled him in my sleep on the couch.

But besides being tired and nauseous, I was happy(ish). I say "ish" because I really don't think I ever truly embrace the happiness when I'm actually in it. Afterwards I can say, "Oh, that was a happy time!" but I know, in truth, I probably found faults within that happiness that kept me from totally revelling in it. But I do remember being oh so grateful that there was life growing in me, that the life had lived on past week 6 and that the sickness meant I was still pregnant.

We didn't know yet that it was a girl, but we knew her name years before she came along, so I anxiously awaited the long-heralded arrival of a baby girl named Eleanor Cate. A little less than five years ago, we discovered it was, in fact, a girl. And a about 4 1/2 years ago, we met that sweet little baby nicknamed "Ella" by her big brother. It was the easiest labour of my life - which isn't actually saying much - and she was tiny with huge rosy cheeks and a head full of straight black hair.

She was a promise. I didn't know until five years ago when the second bright pink line appeared that this child was a promise. But she was. Now, she's a spit-fire and a handful and a question mark and a brightly coloured vision of perfect imperfection. Still a promise... I think she's a promise that my life will always be full of pink adventures.

DSC00275 cropped

Über overload

I am exhausted by life today. Am I the only one who feels this way sometimes?

The wee lad has been suck. Über sick. We've got him on three different meds and nebulizer. He's angry and tired, so I'm a little more angry and tired than a mama should be. 

But here he is, finally sleeping. So it can't be all bad, right? Right?