Of cocoa puffs and cobblestone streets

29 February 2012


I like to think that my children lead a very glamorous life.

Airplanes and oceans and languages... strollers on cobblestone streets and nursing baby across from the opera house and stamps filling up the passport. These are fantastic memories, and when I load my children into the minivan at 6am in the morning for a 10 hour drive from our apartment to Granny's stoop, I close my eyes and remember.

Fresh, cold wind on red cheeks.

Our life seems not so glamorous now. A catastrophic cocoa puff spill. Pulling of hair and calling of names. Carefully weighing the risk asessment of boredom versus the dvd player. Sitting shotgun, in reverse on both knees, pointing and yelling and throwing paper towels and putting out friendly-fires. At 75 mph on the interstate.


But this is what we do. We get in the van (or the plane), and we go. We travel, we seek, we wait. We wake up early and get dressed and pack our sippy cups for the next mission.

"Mom, remember when you woke me up at 4 in the morning to fly to another country? The sun was up then, not dark like today."

Well, the sun is always up at 4 in the morning in Ireland in August. And he remembers... the 4am wake-up call in 2008 to catch a flight to Hungary.

Yes, these are fantastic memories for burgeoning adventurers.


The Old People

27 February 2012

We sit on the hardwood floor, facing eachother, surrounded by half-opened wedding gifts and torn pastel tissue paper. My pen in hand, he reads aloud to me:

"Wine decanter," and who it is from.

I write it down for the thank you list.

We are on the third floor of an old Chicago brownstone. Our first apartment; our first home. The wedding was the week before and we are just now opening and reading and laughing and dreaming. We are married now, and the proof is in the cards and the bows and the matching pillows paired on the bed.

I slit open a small white envelope and take in the image of entwined hands, the typed sentiments, and the tiny signature written in the far right-hand corner of the page: the old people.

"Who are the old people?" I ask him, laughing.

He knows. "My grandparents." The only ones living, who couldn't make the journey, who I'd only met once or twice before. In all honesty, I wasn't sure they knew my name.

"Oh, the old people," I say, and smile. Old people who sign their cards the old people must have a story. And they did. A story of a farm, and a dozen children, and of loss, and of celebration. Of prodigals and companionship and the passing of time.

jack farm 4

We give them their first great-grandchild and he meanders along the dirt rows of their farm, chasing barn cats. They meet and hold the girl - "Oh, look at that hair." - before we whisk her across the ocean. But while we are away the old man goes Home and we mourn from afar. The old woman still sees more great-grandchildren, laughing at their names (and we laugh, too, at our earnest originality in naming). And our children remember her and sigh with heavy eyes when she goes Home, too.

But she was ready, we say. She missed him. She is finally where she wants to be: with Jesus and with Grandpa.

A dozen years from the start we reminisce, sift through the wedding box and find the card with entwined hands. Inside hides a crisp $20 bill and it is signed,

the old people.

We laugh and laugh. "How did we miss this?" we ask. Because we know the time is soon, he writes the old woman to thank her and to tell her that we'll do with it what they would've done: go out for coffee, sit side by side, and talk about our story.

Confession, Sacrifice, and Praying the prayers of incredibly intelligent and spiritual people

24 February 2012

If I were to be honest, I'd say that the words sacrifice, penitence, and confession make me uncomfortable. And even though I am sometimes a cynical person, I prefer the bright, happy clappy side of faith compared to the dark repentance and suffering side.

{a toddler has entered the room... if I type very quietly, he won't know I'm here...}

In the past I've preferred to give up something slightly superficial for Lent (chocolate, Facebook) in lieu of practicing the deeper, soul-searching stuff (fasting, liturgy). While the former did indeed allow me to focus more on Christ and my family during the Lenten season, I think the latter might foster a greater dependence on and knowledge of Christ.

IMG_20120214_094432.jpgAll that to say is, I'm still contemplating what exactly to fast from this go-round (apart from coffeeshops, which is my favourite treat in the whole world, as me and the kiddos have decided to abstain from certain earthly pleasure like lattes and toy-coveting and save that little bit of money to give to IJM), but I'm also trying to actually follow a devotional/prayer/study plan for Lent.

As you know, I am super terrible at follow-through. I like to blame my carefree spirit and fly-by-the-seat-of-our-trousers type of lifestyle, but really it's that I'm a lazy sinner and put my need for sleep and Grey's Anatomy ahead of my need to communicate with and confess before God.

So in an effort to be accountable - and with the ease of technology - I've committed to doing YouVersion's Devotions for Lent from Holy Bible: Mosaic. I've set an alarm on my phone that tells me it's time to read and reflect, and also get emails every morning with that day's prayer and reading.

I'm also investigating the "offices" which is a word some people throw around, obviously knowing that's shorthand for "praying the prayers of incredibly intelligent and spiritual people." It's new to me, but it just so happens that my mom gave me the book "Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals" which includes morning and evening prayers, as well as daily meditations from saints of yore.

And then there's the Hello Mornings study, the book our community group is reading, the nightly devotions with Jack... I am literally surrounded by God's word.

Now don't get me wrong: I will fail at this. I've got three kids who occasionally need to be fed, and there's laundry everywhere, and I'm a sinner. I've not woken up early to read and pray one single day this week. But I want to at least try. And then mess up. And then try again. Because I think the idea of this Lent thing is, as we grow closer to Jesus in these tiny acts of suffering and sacrificing (which, compared to His, are indeed minuscule in comparison), we become more and more aware of our desperate need of a Saviour.

And with that, a thought from Thomas Merton:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I don't think it's ever too late to start praying, reading, meditating or confessing... I'd love to hear your thoughts, what you're doing this season, or if you want to join me in any of these things.

This time (the year before the year before) last year.

22 February 2012

Holidays will do that to you.

Remind you of what was, or what isn't. You find yourself saying, "this time last year" or the year before, or the year before that.  You smile when you think of the first Ash Wednesday your son remembers, more for the pancakes than the ashes. And you walk the aisles of the supermarket, intent on maintaining any semblance of tradition through the years and the moves and the countries.

It's not terribly hard, not really all that sad. But it is movement, it is change, it is a longing for security and steadiness and sanity. It is not wanting to forget but also trying to move forward. It is hope and doubt, rolled into one. It is faith.

The email pings just now, a hotel or an airline or a booking agency. The emails never end, hinting that we should be going somewhere. We will, even if it's the slow steady ascent up the faith mountain, or a drive into the city to claim and wear the ashes.

After all... it's the Person - not the place - we seek. 


The Thumbless Mitten

20 February 2012


I'm really excited to start my new series, Repurposing Discarded Treasures! There are so many amazing blogs out there about the art of repurposing, that I thought, "Hey, I'm krafty! Why can't I do it?" With that in mind, I bring you my very first project:


We all have them. Our favourite pair of socks that we wear every other day inside our trusty, clunky, old pair of Dr Martens. But the years of shoving your heels inside these leathery Mary Jane's have taken their toll. And behold, the hole.


And there is absolutely nothing worse than wearing socks with a hole in the heel and then stepping in the gallon of milk that your child has spilled on the kitchen floor. But you don't want these beautiful heart & argyle socks to go to waste!


So what do you do? Well, you make a thumbless mitten! This project was so unbelievably inspired, yet super easy to achieve. All you do is pick up the sock, put a hand in it - either hand! your choice! that's the beauty of it! - and, voila! A perfectly snug, yet very fashionable, thumbless mitten. Perfect for holding that piping hot (third this morning) mug of coffee, texting your sister that she's late (again!), or driving your child to pajama day at preschool.


The only caveat? The matching sock doesn't have a hole in the heel. Don't worry, though. Bide your time, put on your Docs, and wait for a hole to spring up in another favourite pair of socks. In no time, you'll have a quirky, mismatched set of thumbless mittens. 

And that's a good thing.

Ignore the confused look of your children. Your mitten is perfect.

Oh, and also

Trying out delight for size, in five


I started it. My list.

1. Red front doors.

Things to be thankful for, not just things that make me happy. But they do make me happy. I recognize the joy in them. The delight.

2. A fire on a cold day.

They're not there for nothing. Not given for waste. There is only one reason beauty exists in this world. Common grace.

3. My firstborn, 9 and healthy.

I could be cynical and ignore it. I try to. Only for the flowery, I say. Only for the farmer women, the super holy ones, the ones who cry watching the Hallmark channel.

4. Cookies for breakfast.

This is not for the woman with hard lines, with snark and sass and attitude. Not for the doubter, the wanderer.

5. Pink cheeks to match her pink shirt.

But it is. Because it's a crime, a sin, to not bear witness. To recognize it, to delight in it, to accept it is saying thank you.

6. A moose hat to keep the wee lad warm.

It is saying, "I know. I see You. It's all from You, and it's all Yours."

7. A roomy apartment to shelter us. (Forgive me... I have been so ungrateful for it.)

He withholds no good thing from us.


Five Minute Friday with GypsyMama.

Heart-shaped pizza for five, please

15 February 2012

I spent the day with my four valentines.

The first Valentine, he is all heart and soul, rising early for cuddles and carefully signing Transformers valentines for his classmates. He calls each one friend, and for this, I'm so grateful.

The second Valentine spent most of this February day in soccer shorts, with multiple watches and armbands aligning each wrist and throwing away the sweet little clips I hoped - one day, maybe just one day - would adorn her hair. She spends her quiet time practicing her hearts, bringing me her best, sealed with a kiss.

My third Valentine had a bit of a nudity problem as the night wore on, having spent most of the day in his jimmer jammers, jammin' on his guitar and wedging himself into crevices. His affection for me is carefully balanced with screams, as he follows me yelling, "HUGS!" or "MOVIE!" or "I DIDN'T DO IT!" These outbursts are quickly followed by kisses, baby snot, and the eventual stripping, streaking and bathtime.

This is how a mother spends her Valentine's Day, surrounded by these creatures of mystery, sharing a heart-shaped pizza and refilling cups of milk.

And the fourth Valentine? He cleaned the kitchen and kissed me long as he headed out the door for a meeting. Those two gifts were equally amazing.


How did you spend your Valentine's Day?

As it is with the menu, so it shall also be with you {part 3 of 52... maybe}

13 February 2012

I am a terrible planner and organizer, and by extension, a kind of lazy and frantic mother. Implementing long term strategies isn't something I think about in between nappy changes, feeding frenzies, and the snooze alarm. So menu planning kind of scares me. Literally. The words menu and planning could not be less intrinsically karen.

One_Bite_200x150But here I find myself a month into menu planning (project five from One Bite at a Time, which is also available for free download). I'm not talking a freezer stocked with a month's worth of meals, casseroles, and soups. I'm talking a week. One week. That's it. My menu planning is for one week at a time. And then I start again.

Here's how it works:

Start with the sales.

On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when the sale papers come out, I scour for the cheapest produce. For us, it's usually chicken and/or ground beef (sometimes roast or pork).

Search recipes based on produce.

Once the produce is decided, I peruse my recipe book or my Delicious account for dinner recipes. When I find a few recipes or some meal stand-bys I know we all love, I go back to the sale paper and look for additions: side dishes, snacks, veg, dairy... anything that will complement the meals or feed us in between times.

Only plan for dinner.

The key here is I only plan for dinner (as Tsh suggests). Breakfast is very low key at our house: coffee for everyone and cereal for most (I kid). Lunchtime finds us all scattered, so we usually get by on sandwiches or leftovers or more coffee.

Coupons if you have 'em.

So once I have my menu, and then my shopping list off my menu, I check coupons. Usually those are few and far between. I could shop only off coupons and then have a fridge full of junk we'd never eat, so I'm careful to only clip and use what I know we'll eat. But occasionally they line up and I know I can stock up and save more!


Write it down.

I write my original menu plan for the week in a notebook, but I also put it in our google calendar with pop-up reminders and links to the recipes online. This way, I can see and display the menu for the week, but also receive a daily reminder on my phone or email.

Only planning for one meal a day, one week at a time, takes so much pressure off! And I'm not a terrific cook (we all know the man is the culinary gifted one in our family), but I do get a tremendous sense of accomplishment through the planning, the saving, and sometimes the cooking. And we're not running to the shop every other day for something. And the kids are being well-fed from all food groups. And the man, from time to time, gets the night off. No, really, I am consciously trying to up my game in this area, to free him up to do more of what he loves and needs to do.

This may not be rocket science to you, but it most definitely has rocked our world. Knowing that I can do it, empowers me to want to do it. And if I can and want to do it, there's hope for anyone.

If you're a master meal-planner, got any tips for beginners?

{this post includes an affiliate link. If you click and purchase Tsh's ebook, I am compensated a small percentage}

With every bowl of cereal

08 February 2012

He's counting down the days and I'm trying not to mourn the 8-years-past-baby, now 9-in-three-days boy who sleeps on Clone Wars sheets two doors down the hall. I look at him in wonder, and yet still try to avert my eyes to the obvious fact he is aging, growing, living days faster and faster.


He is proof of clocks and calendars. He is the second-hand of time. His face changes by the minute, his heart is bigger and wider. His legs are fuzzier than they used to be. His mouth quickly turns from smile to smirk to puckered lips. He knows and spells words that used to be gibberish. He reads faster than we can keep up, and we find ourselves debating and discerning, wanting to keep him naive and fresh indefinitely before his brain discovers and his heart struggles with the mysteries of evil, trouble, and heartache.


Every morning he comes to me with hugs, asks for cereal, smiles with sleep still in his eyes, and I miss him so much my insides sigh. For with every moment, every word, every book and every secret he debates to share (for big boys aren't as quick as small boys with the thoughts they quickly and happily give their mother), he is less and less mine. More and more Yours.

And I give him up to You with every bowl of cereal.

On practicing motherhood, until it comes naturally

06 February 2012


It does not come naturally to me, this motherhood. To get up at 3am to the sound of a cry, to stand in a dirty kitchen haphazardly feeding little warriors with bottomless bellies, to teach and to humble and to repent and to forgive... this all does not sync easily with my haughty heart.

And there have been tears in the dark of the bathroom, and unanswerable questions whispered to the heavens, and shameful wonderings that this can't possibly be all there is: to wipe bottoms and press play on the DVD player. Because some days, this is in fact all there is. Poop and the Wiggles.

Then some days, there is so much more. With the tying of shoelaces, he is independent. With her picking out her own clothes, she expresses creativity. With toilet paper in my face in my most vulnerable moment, he asks, "I help you?" They are my partners in this. We are learning together. And it is me that they want to become, who they are trying to impress, who - with hearts full - they are actually trying to serve.

It does not come naturally to me, but they seem born for it: to help their mom discover who she is. They teach me how to ask for help, and how to rejoice in each small success. It is mostly not fairytales, and very rarely are there roses, and more than I'd like to admit there is frustration, and yelling, and stomping feet down the hall.

But then, we stand in that very same hallway as the eldest calls out, "Three cheers for Asher! Hip, Hip..." for he has peed on the potty and it is not just his success, but all of ours to claim.

"Hip, Hip..."


"Hip, Hip..."


"Hip, Hip..."


I think every day that they still love me and want to learn something new with me is victory. We are practicing motherhood together. Until it comes naturally.



Wordless Wednesday

01 February 2012


(with respect to my sister in law, who says posting pictures alone does not a blogger make. :))