Spoiler Alert! My review/recap of Downton Abbey, Season 1, in 70 seconds or less

31 May 2012

That's ten seconds for each episode. Go.

Oooh, England! Train! Titanic!

Wow, Elizabeth McGovern hasn’t aged a day! Oh, that’s her daughter. 

Three words: gay butler intrigue. Ok, so he’s a footman, but footman are expected to pick up some slack at fancy dinner parties and travels to London and such, so…

Ok, so there’s an entail? And they need a male heir? And being a doctor and/or lawyer is a bad thing?

Flower show!

Lord Grantham is a good, right man, and a bit like Victor Garber on Alias. British Spy Daddy.

So there’s a Turk, and he seduces one of the daughters! And then he dies! There’s a cover up and a letter and an embittered middle sister.

Professor McGonagall has great one-liners.

Ooh, they find an heir! And he’s like the son they never had! And he’s so dashing and moral and learns to love getting his clothes put on by strangers, but Mary hates him. And then she loves him, and he loves her! And then they fight, and… Why? Why would Mary not say yes? That last sentence is a direct quote from the husband.

Garden party!

And then the war!

And now you know everything I know about Season 1 of Downton Abbey, give or take a valet and an Irish socialist chauffeur and several broken hearts, and something got stolen and there was a set-up and a mean lady named O’Brien with crazy bangs kills. a. baby., and did I mention I have to watch this all with closed-captioning on because the accents are brilliant but my understanding of them not-so-great. Except for McGovern, as she is sporting a fine Madonna-now-lives-in-London-not-Detroit accent.

Oh my, get thee to Netflix and watch Season 1. And then buy Season 2 on Amazon or wherever and watch it, and then loan it to me because I haven’t seen it yet, and I just watched Season 1 over two days (4 hours/night) and suffering from severe Grantham withdrawal.

[this post brought to you buy the letter C for COFFEE and the numbers 4 and 30 because that’s when I woke up this morning – yesterday to you - to catch my flight. 4:30 AM.]


It’s summer! What are you watching/catching up on/doing outside because it’s too beautiful to be inside watching tv?

Me on a Plane :: A One Woman Show

I should not be allowed to travel alone.

There was an incident with lotion (all over my shirt… at 5 am; commence silent wardrobe meltdown in the fickle darkness of an apartment filled with sleeping children), too many Entertainment Weeklys torn and stuffed into the carryon, a late night panic attack over a misplaced library book, and a showdown between the nook and three paperbacks I was highly unlikely to read. 

All that being said, this chaotic one-woman show is nothing compared to flying overseas with three children, the lotion was not baby vomit, and I don’t have to worry at all about packing an extra pair of trousers and underwear for myself (too much information? Have you ever been on a plane with a baby/toddler/older strong-willed child with a small bladder and a bottomless cup of sprite?). 

Today, the diaper bag has been replaced with the laptop bag, and I am spending the day in the city where I fell in love. 


Truth be told, I fell in love with both the city and the boy, and this is where we started our life together. It’s a strange thing to come back as visitor to the place you once called home. As we descended over a dizzying maze of suburbs and highways, I tried to think back before all the moves and all the babies and most of the heartache and a dozen years, when it was just us and an apartment in the city. 

And a cat. I forgot about the cat.
And a red Honda hatchback with a blue fender. We called her The Egg.
And a cell phone the size of an iPad.
And beautiful, impractical dreams.
And a lake the size of the Irish Sea.

It’s good to be home. Again.

Dear Woman, It's Celebration Day

27 May 2012

Dear Woman,

Yeah, you in the back row, crying your eyes out like it's a rescreening of Titanic. This is celebration day! Last day of school! Pull it together!

jack school

Cuz your kid? That's a sweet, happy smile on his face, standing alongside his friends. He can multiply, read 300-page books (much thanks to Ms. Rowling), create businesses and play kickball. He knows the planets and sings the presidents. Every year he experiences, learns and grows more, and today you get to cheer him on as he advances to the next round. He is alive and becoming a better human being every day. Rejoice!

Sure, there will be tears eventually (or in an hour), when he realizes not all teachers are adorable 20-or-30-somethings. He will sigh at the exasperation enrollment and doctor's forms and learning names will cause. There will be gritting of teeth and forgotten homework, and eventually, yes, puberty. You can cry then.

But today? Smile for your boy... because he is on a fantastic adventure and he knows it. And so are you... because you gave birth to him and God said, "Show him the world."

So what are you waiting for? Dry your eyes. Let's do this thing.


The emotional weight of a high pressure system

25 May 2012


When the clouds roll in and no rain comes, I feel the high pressure system rising in my bones. It's a dark day, with heat and humidity bearing down, and I want to lay in bed under the gray metal lamp reading and writing and not at all cleaning or cooking.

I put them into quiet time early because it's too hot for a walk to the park and the tv has been on too long. They've been fighting and hitting and I think, "Oh, summer just started! Let's not do this for three months straight, ok?"

I'm pleading more with myself than with them, for if only I was more consistent, had a routine, kept a clean house, or was wiser with discipline. If only I could figure this thing out. If only I could do it all (or even one teeny tiny little bit of it). If only I knew when summer was ending... I think then I could make it to the finish line.

They are so good with their round cheeks and loose teeth, plastic swords flying through the air and tortilla chips broken by stubby toes. I feel so incapable of being all they need me to be: mother and teacher, home and security. We run into one another in a cramped apartment slowly shedding its cluttered skin (packing up and selling off for an unknown move date in an unknown future). They trip over books and my knee hits the chair and I yell out loud to no one, yet only really to them and those cheeks, "I've had it!"

It is quiet time under a dark, dry sky. He sings loudly from his bed and she escapes, bringing me Lego heads. This is summer. 

Day Four.

The heart of him

24 May 2012

He brings home the prayer journal he's kept at church. Sweet, short prayers ending in Jesus' name with cryptic y's and g's dotting the pages (I'm afraid to ask, don't want him to know I've been peeking).  I flip through it anyway because what mother doesn't want to know what her child talks to God about?

He writes about friends with injuries, family travels, and brother with split lip. He thanks God for mom and dad, for home and school. And he writes about death and Ireland.

Jack's prayer journal

I hesitate to photograph or expose this holy moment. I cry at the heart of him.

Because I don't want him to think it's more about money than people, don't want him to worry about the future, don't want to burden him with uncertainty. But also because he loves, he believes God is good, and he knows we ultimately belong where Jesus is.

Which brings me to the second thing he brought home.

If You'd Been There / Jesus Appears to Jackson

His response? OMG. 

I cry again at the heart of him, laughing through tears.

Soul Sisters (alternately titled: "my blonde alter ego buys me a plane ticket")

23 May 2012


My twin lives in Chicago.

Though not technically my twin, but more like a blonde me, three kids and thick frizzy hair and all. And not even really a sister, but more like the person you've spent more than half your life with, loving and playing and heartbreaking with. And not actually Chicago, really, but more like the farthest northwestern suburbs of Chicago, beyond the reaches of the Blue Line but not yet to Wisconsin. 

We share a birthplace and a home church, slight spiritual and political rebellions, and a deep love of books and Jesus. We started here in Kansas City, but then she went to the University of Missouri and I went to the University of Kansas, I went to Chicago, and she went to Wisconsin, then she went to Chicago, and I came back to KC. Then I went to Ireland, and she held steady. 

She's holding steady still, while I flit and float all over the place. This is actually how it's always been. When I wander, she keeps the light on. 

And when I need a break and a quiet glass of wine, or when she needs a laugh and a change of pace, she says, "How about I buy you a plane ticket?" and I say, "Oh, yes, please! I miss you." She asks me, "What do you want to do?" And I say, "Let's just be in the city, look at art and feel alive." 

Because a twin knows when she's needed, even if not really a twin. Even with half a gaggle of kids between us. Even across all the miles. 


apparently we need a more recent picture.


I'm sure I'm not the only one with a God-given twin... who fits that bill in your life?

This is the best day, in five...

18 May 2012

Perspective... It's all in how you look at it.

She's not so different than she was then. I mean, apart from the bangs. And Fluffo (the dog). Really, the only discernable size difference is in how the backpack fits her a bit better. Her hair is a bit darker. She's taken to wearing belts, too. But she's still her.

Independent, wild, sassy, excited, not a tear in her eye. This is the best day, she says. Graduation day. Nothing to be sad about. She's all wide-eyed and fancy-free. It's not the end for her, but the start of the next big adventure, whatever that is.

But for me, I'm weepy. A bit scared. Have not a clue what is next. We've made an executive decision not to enroll her in kindergarten yet. We have hopes, dreams, prayers that she and the boy will enroll on in Irish schools. But really, who's to know? Anxiety eeks up my chest and I'm all ready to seep out worry and doubt, when she says it again.

"This is the best day. Graduation Day. I'm so happy!"

It's all in how you look at it.

Where are you looking?

Linking up with Gypsy Mama and her Five Minute Fridays.

My sap overfloweth

17 May 2012


Ok, so I lied. It turns out I am sentimental. Very, very sentimental.

Especially these days, the end of the school year days, the garage sale-ing the baby stuff days, the selling off of books and double stroller days. We are slowly saying goodbye, and sometimes I feel this weird saltiness emerging from my eyes that normal moms, grandmas or humans call tears.

Oh, I cry all the time. About me and how hard we have it and about not getting what I want. That's called selfishness and I know it well. But the sentimental bit? I don't like to admit it, but it's true, and it feels uncomfortable in my all-too-flimsy exterior.

The girl's last day of school is Friday and today I had to withhold the urge to grab her teacher by the hands and run off with her. To my house. Where she would teach and love my kids forever. Because this woman gets our girl, that she's adventurous and sassy, wild and rare. At our last meeting, she looked me in the eye and said, "I'm praying she will find a teacher who won't stifle her creativity, who will let her be her own person, even when to us it looks different. She is so special." When she said those words to me, she had tears in her own eyes, and on Friday we say goodbye to her and the precious care (and zebra-print) she's given our girl.

Yesterday we sold our double buggy ("stroller" to ye Yanks) and said goodbye to babyhood. The wee lad is still two and not ready to run free in airports and city centres, but his sister has long outgrown it and the fact is there are no more babies coming along. He's it for us, and from here on out he will get bigger and older and independenter. But that buggy saw us many countries and miles, adventures and oceans. It gave me freedom to roam with all three of them, wind in my face and sand under our feet. Now it belongs to a nice lady with baby on hip, as well as in utero. She needs it more than me. Her adventures are just beginning.

We have a saying in our house: people over things. The closer we get to Ireland, the more goodbyes of things and, yes, even people. When it comes to the things part, it stings for a brief moment, but I look towards the people and know this is how it works. But when you have to say goodbye to the people who have loved and shaped your kids, your hard bones bend a little, and you wonder how your child's precious heart - and yours - will contain all the people in all the world who gently tap into place pieces of her story.

See? Sap gushing all over the place.

my view on mother's day

15 May 2012

looking up, into these faces...

mother's day

The blessing of being broody

11 May 2012

There are two distinct definitions of broody. One means the desire to reproduce offspring (this is the Irish definition, one I learnt as I carried my big baby frame around the place for 9 months; friends touching my belly, saying, "Oh, I'm feeling broody!"). The other means moody, meditative, introspective (this one I know from daily, personal experience).

The man is broody today (the latter, not the former). He spoke with friends, via skype from across the ocean. Two guys he worked with, hung out with, drank loads of coffee with, and prayed with. Great, God-loving, people-loving Irish guys. And he misses them. This he doesn't say much, but today he did. "I miss them." I think it's a phrase somewhat foreign to men, in which they express emotion and need for maintaining personal relationships and interactions with people other than their moms and/or wives.


I love this side of him, but to be honest, it kinda makes me uncomfortable. I mean, I'm the broody one. Melancholy, wistful, a little stormy. He's the steady bow, navigating the choppy waters, steering us onward and upward. So when he expresses a need, an emotion, a slight angsty-ness, I have to shut my mouth from saying, "Hey, you're the strong one, man. Hold it together!" Instead, I must nod and say, "I know. Me too." And we can be sad together in that moment, for the distance and the time lost.

Because here's the thing: I'm tired of feeling sad or bad about not being in Ireland. I'm tired of ending every conversation with guilt over not being there. When our friends say, "Get back soon," it's not because we've let them down, but because we're missed too. We lived there, and I know we will again. Today, that's good enough for me. The relationships, the work... those continue while we wait for God to show us the way and provide the means. Missing them is difficult, but really, it's oh so good. What we're doing is of some value, here and there.

Clearly God is still doing something, and it will be freaking amazing. Because if He wanted, He'd drop the funds in our lap and we'd be off. But instead, He's bringing people to us, working in hearts here and there, working in us and forcing us to be wholly dependent on Him for literally everything. Vehicles, schools, leases, shoes, wisdom teeth, inhalers, meetings, people, security, calling, life and breath... Everything. And seeing that, testifying to it, is worth the missing... painful though it may be.

"I'm gonna go make sawdust," he says after that broody moment we share. Alright then, I think. Onward and upward.



Soundtrack to Irish Broodiness :: Strict Joy, The Swell Season


What makes you broody? And more importantly, what music enhances said broodiness?

the spiritual ramifications of The Everyman's job

07 May 2012


Your net worth is not your worth.

This was a brilliant line in an equally brilliant sermon this morning on the meaning of work. Usually I tend to just flit over the spiritual ramifications of The Everyman's job because the spiritual nature of our job should be, well, kinda obvious.

Though actually, it's not particularly obvious at the moment. Things are a bit haphazard, not ideally where we would like to be or what we'd prefer to be doing.

Husband is gone a lot, sometimes doing ministry-like things of sharing our work or meeting with supporters or anointing babies (ok, so that only happened once, but it was a fairly significant event for our gypsy souls). Other times he's working booty off in the lawn & garden section, carrying fertilizer or helping an old lady find the right mower for her back. In the meantime, I'm doing all sorts of mom things in mediocre fashion, like making truly terrible alfredo sauce or losing my cool during delayed bedtimes or giving my child an iPod Touch to watch cartoons on when he wakes up before 6 am.

Yep. I'm not feeling like a very good employee these days. My bosses are impatient with me. I slack off on the job. My retirement is not accruing anything, at all, ever. And I keep waiting to be transferred to another department. Same job title, different description. These daily chores don't feel very... important, special... eternal.

So I paid attention this morning. And the pastor said things like this:

"If God kept His Son Jesus in a carpenter's shop for 30 years, that was important work."


"God may not need your work, but your neighbour does."


"Your work..." (lawyer, burger guy, secretary, mom, church planter) "...is your contribution to the breaking-in of God's Kingdom on earth."

As I walk around in these achey mom shoes, feeling too tight and clumsy and not at all comfortable, I am breaking-in pieces of the Kingdom. Here, on the stained carpet of our living room floor. Gentleness, kindness, patience... sacrifice, generosity, grace... hope, faith, and love.

That's gold right there.

We're cultivating, he and I and you. Even when we don't feel very nimble with our shears and a bit overzealous with our watering cans. While we wait for the transfer, sigh under the weight of daily tasks, heave another bag of fertilizer and praying under our breath for that one person (or two, or three, or 10) we miss over there... there is a grand design to it, greater than we can see.

It is greater than retirement accounts and mortgage refinancing and diversifying investments. Those are all the ramifications, the after-effects. They're not the goal, not the purpose, not the soul of work.

Your net worth is not your worth.

Oh, I'm so glad it isn't mine.


So, do you feel like you're breaking-in the Kingdom today? Cuz you are, and I wanna hear about it.

Images of a life slowed down

02 May 2012

With not feeling super awesome this past week, writing has been replaced by sleeping. So instead, I thought I'd give you a sneak peak into our life recently. Just some pics of the kiddos, the man, and the randomness...

yes, this is how she dresses herself; i am making a concerted effort to choose my battles wisely

from starbucks, on a rare outing last month

this goose got precariously close to nibbling some toddler fingers

i am generally opposed to baseball, but i am very much in support of ballpark hot dogs

here we are, pretending to enjoy the game (truth: we highly enjoyed the evening with new friends) 

cookie break, whilst walking with my boys

piano man
asher trying out our piano installation

the eldest, being cool

loose park.jpg
our favourite park, in the whole of the land

and then just when i feel lowest, he makes me cry. because i am loved. and hungry.