What I'm Into {August 2013}

31 August 2013

Another month is over and this one was nearly as wild as the last. We had visitors, travelled to Germany, started school back up again, and celebrated a couple of birthdays. In the midst of all this, we missed our old home in Kansas City just a little bit and missed our stateside family much more than just a little bit. And I wrote a little bit. And then I didn't. I submitted some stuff and I waited (still waiting, actually).

This month was more than I bargained for, but isn't it always that way? Then before you know it, the wind turns and there's tiny golden leaves hiding in your backgarden. Summer is over. Autumn come quickly.


I'm sure this will come as a shock, but Christian Fiction, as a genre, generally disagrees with me. Or I with it. I don't know if it was all the Karen Kingsbury novels I binged on in the early 2000s or the Janette Oke(eydokey) young love reads. If I were to defer to any type of "Christian" fiction, give me Greene or Lewis (images of Christ abounding, the former of which hidden among scandalous love and despair), and if I were to be honest, give me some Francine Rivers (love her beautiful, touching Lineage of Grace series).

So it was with a bit of trepidation sprinkled with optimism that I read Shades of Mercy, by Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira. And I've got to tell you: I liked it. A lot. More than I thought I would. This is a story where simple (in the best way) characters come up against difficult issues of race, discrimination and doing what's right in the face of societal odds. The heart of this story is Mercy, but the compass is her father, Paul, who does more than tolerate those who are different. He leads in love (more than words) and depth of character (more than pity). Not only did I enjoy this read, but I could give it to my 10-year-old and discuss the themes, the calling, and the obligation we have to show mercy, grace, and compassion on everyone. I also deeply appreciate the research and sources the authors took advantage of in writing the story of the Maliseet... those of us who grew up in the boom of the 80s haven't really been encouraged to comprehend (or even discover) the plight of Native Americans, then and now. [you can see a trailer for the book here]

Also... Painted Ladies, by Siobhán Parkinson. This was my Germany read, which actually suited it quite nicely. Spanning Copenhagen and Paris in the late 19th century, Painted Ladies follows the young life of Marie, the real-life wife of artist Soren Kroyer. It's beautifully written, ironically tricking you into coveting the same romantic artist lifestyle that is a sweet mirage, cut with sharp edges. It's hard to root for the lovers, though (he's standoffish, she's willfully ignorant) and the ending is ultimately unsatisfying, but despite these more-than-minor-details, Painted Ladies was a summer read I could not put down.

And an e-book: Take Courage, by my friend Jennifer Ebenhack, who bravely welcomes us into her shifting world as she struggles with panic, anxiety and fear culminating in the Haiti 2010 earthquake and lingering as she and her family make a new home and life in the States. I'm so thankful she took the time to share her journey, write down her hopes, and remind us where true reality is found. And I'm so grateful to see how God brought her through, brings her through still, as she heals and moves forward as a mother and writer. Not many of us would be this transparent and honest, but with Jennifer's testimony, we all may have a little more courage to be so.


So, we're only watching one show this month and it's Broadchurch. I'm a sucker for emotionally intense crime dramas and this UK series fits the bill to the max. Only 8 episodes tell the story of murdered boy Danny and the family, town and police dealing in the aftermath. Who killed him? I think it's Joe, the husband of Detective Ellie. But we're only halfway through (spacing it out, so as not to experience David Tennant overload - and then withddrawal - like we did with Doctor Who), so don't tell me!


Last night we finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness. It was so intense, I spent most of the movie curled under Matt's arm hiding my eyes (a rarity, as you are aware of my aversion to cuddling) and then couldn't sleep for an hour. Also, I'm devoted to Benedict Cumberbatch. There, I said it. And he was crazy, scary good.


All of our new music this month came from Noisetrade, a music download service that offers you the chance to download EPs (and sometimes whole albums) for free, but with a tip-leaving option. We got music from Jars of Clay, Audrey Assad and Derek Webb. 

And for my birthday? Tickets to see The Lumineers in Dublin in November. Hooray!


  • skipping through Dublin
  • after dinner walks
  • a trip overseas, just Matt and me
  • cool, fresh, mountain air
  • a visit from my mom and sister, graciously babysitting for a week plus a couple of days of pure fun
  • summer field trips with the kiddos
  • Jack having a brilliant time at kids club
  • birthday dinners with friends (who bring pressies, and flowers, and cake!)
  • the first day of school coffee with matt (without kids)
  • our giant sunflower in the back garden, finally in bloom
  • lunch in the playbarn with the wee lad, on our final day together before preschool starts
  • new friends
  • old friends
  • hearing about the history, culture and love of words among the Irish as they celebrate the life (and mourn the passing) of Seamus Heaney... I can't get over how art and Ireland are so intertwined... they breathe words here. I am in love.
...for more things I love, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

posing in front of the American Ambassador's Residence... somehow we always make a scene.


Most read... this old post on Equally Shared Parenting, due to a very nice retweet from Rachel Held Evans
My favourite... On how God's way is a beautiful mystery, revealed to me on my birthday

SCRIPTURE (new addition)

All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Psalm 84:11-12 [the message]


So that's it for August. What are you reading, watching, listening to? I'm in need of some new book inspiration... would love some ideas!

Five Friday Favourites

30 August 2013

1) We're back to school! Ah! This is obviously my favourite thing about this week, but really, it's the picture that will last a lifetime:


2) Jen Hatmaker's "Spicy Families" blog post. I so prefer her way of looking at families like hers and mine, as opposed to my way of looking at us: crazy, weird, improper or out-of-control.
Me: THERE COULD BE VIOLENCE IN THESE STREETS – we’re near the end times! We need to figure out how to be more precious. I don’t even think our kids know any hymns! How are we supposed to break out in spontaneous family worship?? WWAVD?? (What would Ann Voskamp do?) Remy told me Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey “because he was so rich.” We are raising dullards. Let’s just throw in the towel.

3) Stephen Colbert's Daft Punk segment. Yes, this is like three weeks old, but I was in Germany and I've got three kids and it was SUMMER, remember? We don't get Hulu or other such free streaming tomfoolery here, so I actually had to buy the episode. Best $1.99 I've ever spent.

4) Guys with Fancy Lady Hair. Just click, please. You won't regret it. Ever.

5) This week was filled with friends. A birthday party, a playdate, a coffee. And there is really nothing else that makes this place feel more like home than when I laugh hard with a kitchen table full of people or have someone to share a latte with or can shove five kiddos into the back of their car because it's raining and the five minute walk home would just not be as fun. Life with people... Ok, so this is my favourite.

What are your Friday Favourites?

In Autumn, I'm homesick for everywhere

27 August 2013

While August takes its last breath, Autumn has come to Ireland. Those late night sunsets and early morning wake-up calls giving way to dark skies in time for bed. Matt crouches beside an outdoor fire, smelling of Colorado and camp singalongs. We fashion smores here with chocolate digestive biscuits, which is really the better way to do it, anyway. Who hasn't lost a Hershey square or two from lack of melting?

This was meant for Asher's birthday, but company and cool rain postponed the crowning event. He's not keen on cake, but could live off biscuits. And marshmallows on sticks. And cardboard, but that's beside the point. It's still summer holidays, and we - who never plan much more than a week in advance and dread the long days and endless Wii fights - we are eeking out a bit more of this season.

Fall is my very favourite thing, as we Americans calls it. My Irish friends think it's such a strange name, lacking the colour of Autumn, the rhythm of it. Whatever name you choose, wherever we are, my favourite memories are coloured in Autumn. They smell of Autumn. And when he strikes up the chiminea and I open our window, I smell chili cookoffs and football season and first day of class and falling in love. 

I bounce and stir on a hayride, waiting to see if he'll touch my hand.
I trace Chicago leaves as they turn and drape the city streets.
I ride my bike to the bookshop, feeling every ounce of fresh freedom.
I am pregnant and cuddled under a blanket on a balcony, counting kicks.
I see my mother and her umbrella at the meeting of the waters.

In Kansas, come this time, I am always desperate for it: this smell, the crackling, the turn of the weather. But here, it surprises me with its promptness. Autumn arrives on time in Ireland. Early, even. And before I know it, before I prepare myself with pumpkin spiced recipes and early season sweater sales, I am homesick. For everywhere. 

I can't help it, can't shake it, but I wouldn't even want to.


Soon, I'll be homesick for this memory, too.

Writing with Heather of the EO for Just Write.

The one who came last

25 August 2013

I wrote my Five Minute Friday with pen in my car on this Sunday afternoon. I knew I wanted to write this prompt, and I knew what I wanted to write, but between my birthday and his and summer break and life and work, everyday is a blur and sitting for just those five minutes to write about him didn't seem fair. Until today, whilst Asher slept.

Some days you sit in a car with a sleeping child because this is the only moment of peace in your day. He is a blur, in pictures and in your mind, so that when he is stilled - peach lips parted, chest gently rising, not even a sound escaping - you don't dare move for fear of missing it.

Yesterday was his birthday and the age of 4 betrays the fact that today he is still your baby. 

He is the one who came quickest, the one who came last, the only one to come without being prodded with pitocin. He's the one who came in a white wrought iron bed, the one whose eyes first blinked at the Irish sun, the one born by the sea. He's the one you felt the most, far from home and without so much as a drop of tylenol, so that when he was placed on your chest, fresh and wild from the womb, you forgot what you had fought so hard for, for only that moment.

The midwife said, "Look, your son." And you asked, "My son?"

Yes, that's right. Four years and so many suns and moons ago. Two continents and half a dozen homes ago.

My son came in a blur; quick, and last.


Sometimes on Fridays I write, with Lisa-Jo Baker and her gypsy friends. Join us here.

On how God's way is a brilliant mystery, revealed to me on my birthday

23 August 2013

I have a laundry list of things I need to do today and a short window in which to do them. But I feel like I can't charge forward without laying down some words first.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I never know quite what to do with it. We've always had a complicated relationship, my birthday and I, and I'm sure you'd say, "Who doesn't?" I know this is true, as there's always some invisible line where birthdays cross from best day ever to again, another year older? My issues are a bit more complex and maybe one day I'll open up the birthday book wide.

Until then, I say (think, feel) this:

I am supremely loved, I know it every day. And for the hard days, or the complicated days, or the days where hurt lingers, I want to embrace and revel in the fact my parents once fell in love and got married and had me and my sister. And that fact is awesome and beautiful and belies nothing else but how God's way is a mystery. A brilliant mystery. And I will rejoice in the mystery, no matter the day. 

And my birthday? It was lazy and fun and chaotic and frustrating and all the things that make every day a part of that same mystery. I love being alive. I love my children and the handmade cards and how beautiful birthdays are to them. I love that Asher's birthday is tomorrow and we will celebrate him turning four with friends, an oreo cake, and a new-to-him playhouse (playbarn, really). I love facebook and how I feel like I spent the whole of the day with my family and friends, even if only virtually. I love how Matt goes over the top - not with gifts, but with love and forced-cuddling.

And I love how my dad is the first. Always the first, with a video or a text or a song. My birthday always begins with him. And it always ends with my mother, recounting the memory of the day she became a mother, and how she wouldn't change a thing.

Time can heal. Well, I'd say God and hard work and love, too. But time, another year gone past, brings me - I think, I hope - one step closer to wisdom, to the mystery of Jesus, to grace.

It gets better, every year. I hope I get better, too.

I hope we are all better.

Five Friday Favourites (in pictures)

My favourites of the week, as pictoral essay:

1. the children, stretching their legs and exploring mountain lakes

2. the view from our backgarden, at sunset

3. i don't know them, but they picked a great spot for a girls' night

4. a morning with just the two of them

5. my birthday dates, today as I turn 35... they keep me young/humble/exhausted/content.

How was your week? Any favourite things pop up? Write about it, use the button and let me know!

The River Into Words

We do marriage counseling (and 5 signs it may be time)

19 August 2013

image above: courtesy of Verite Photo.

*disclaimer: I'm hesitating a bit to write this as I am not a counselor, nor am I trained in counseling. I just super recommend it. Consult your spouse, doctor and/or pastor.
Whew. Continue.

So now you know Matt and I do marriage counseling. While we haven't found an Irish counselor yet, I'm wondering if it's time to do the leg work necessary before a crisis hits. Here's our personal 5 signs when it's time for us to go back to marriage counseling:

  1. A lot of sighing, multiple times a day.
  2. One of us always asking, "Are you OK?" with the other one responding, "Yeah," when you're so not.
  3. Failure to get out of bed or failure to get into bed.
  4. Right before or right after we move overseas.
  5. Fighting in front of the kids. (this is last ditch, usually, and a good wake-up call for us)

These are our signs. Yes, sighing a lot isn't really all that traumatic or telling, but for us it's an indicator that one of us (mostly me) needs to talk, but either can't get the words out or isn't getting the response or engagement he or she is looking for (again, mostly me).

As I said last week, I think counseling is at its most valuable when it comes before the crisis. It's important to us to find those pre-crisis signs indicating a need for counseling and the better communication, clarity and honesty that comes with it.

For people who aren't as adept at reading the seriousness of a loud sigh, here are five actual signs it may be time for marriage counseling:

1) LIFE CHANGE & TRANSITION :: If you find yourself and your family leading up to (or immediately following) a big life change. You know I've tried to perfect "living in transition" ... and actually, the "living in transition" series all began because our counselor wanted me to have an action plan for our indefinite transition period. So, our rough definition of transition is a year before or after a life change or other significant event or circumstance. Examples can be moving, new baby, new job, death, divorce or reconciliation. This is often a high stress and all-around exhausting time where communication can hit an all-time low and freak-outs are bound to occur (as evidenced by the archives of this blog). A marriage counselor can help the whole family find ways of coping and thriving despite circumstances.

2) PARENTING ISSUES :: If you or your spouse is concerned about your child or disagree in how to raise, teach or discipline. Sharing these concerns with a counselor can truly release this burden from your shoulders and enable you and your partner the space and freedom to discuss it sans kiddos (I speak from experience... turns out our 4 year old did not have gender identity confusion). 

3) FINANCIAL PRESSURES :: If you and/or your partner are feeling the weight of bills and budgets, or you're at odds in how to budget or deal with financial stress. You just can't mess around with money issues. Yes, paying a counselor may add an extra line to your budget, but that bi-weekly or monthly fee pales in comparison to the alternative.

4) ROLE EXPECTATIONS :: If you find yourself sparring over who does what in your home, marriage and life. Ideally, this is sorted before making a life-long commitment, and how Matt and I eventually ended up in the Equally Shared Parenting camp. But even the most well-intentioned couple can unintentionally fall back on unspoken expectations and a counselor can help draw out family dynamics (past and present) that both hinder and help role definitions.

5) YOU'RE IN A CRISIS :: Chances are, you will know it when you're in it. I hesitate to put any details here because no matter what it looks like to an outsider, if you feel in crisis, you are in crisis. We were in crisis once, and our counselor was so adept, gently diffusing the tension, waiting out the pain with us, and providing us with next steps to climb out of the crisis... and stay out of it.

Ok, did I mention I'm not a counselor? These are just signs, probably ones you've already thought of and moved on from. But it's my true, deep-in-the-heart prayer that whomever is in need of a mediator, an advocate, a third party or a friend will find it.

For us, it's not only been a marriage counselor, but also a friend, a coworker, a pastor or a family member. We are so blessed to be surrounded by a community of love-warriors (yes, that's a term and I just made it up). They root for us and encourage us to seek the best in one another and reach for help when necessary. Because of them, I'm totally chill with saying, "Yeah, we do marriage counseling. And it's good."

I wish everyone that same support, minus the stigma.


So, did I miss anything? How has counseling helped (or not helped) you manage life's winding road?

We do marriage counseling (and it is good)

15 August 2013

image above: courtesy of Verite Photo.

I'm in this weird phase right now where I try to decide what's blog-worthy and for public consumption and what's best to remain just-for-us. Some things are obvious - do you really want an hourly recap on our potty training escapades? - while others remain elusive and ambiguous. There are some things I really want to share... and others, well, not so much.

So here's my current appropriateness barometer: will it help someone?

Yes, I know that's all big and out there and self-important. But there are a few bloggers - less than a handful - whose confessions and diatribes and play-by-plays leave me sighing, near tears, saying, "Yes, yes, that's me." It makes me feel:

1) not so crazy,
2) validated or known, and
3) like at least I'm not as bad as [fill-in-the-blank].

Which leads me to marriage counseling. We go to it. And it is good.

Ok, we're not really going to it now. We're still newish here and I so loved our stateside guy (he's been around since that 9 year old and her sad stories) and finding an affordable counselor we both like with a similar life philosophy stresses me out. So, yeah, we're not attending weekly sessions or anything. But we do marriage counseling, and like I said: it is good.

Next week I'll share five signs it could be time for marriage counseling. But to start, I want to try and remove any cringe-inducing wince-factors you may come across when you hear some sorry sap say he and the missus are going to marriage counseling. This is usually how it goes:

Bob: "Suzy and I are in marriage counseling."
Awkward Friend: "Ohhhh, hmmm," (with knowing nod).

This alone is groundbreaking as someone has just admitted to going to - insert knowing nod - marriage counseling. I dare say most friendships never enter this territory, where one feels safe saying those five syllables outloud without implying you've hit the rocks and you and your spouse are stranded adrift in search of lifeboats. We're afraid to say it, afraid of suppositions. We're afraid of outsiders judging the quality of our family, the strength of our intimacy, the legitimacy of our bonds of matrimony.

But you don't have to be in crisis to be in counseling. Actually, I think it's preferable not to be. In my experience, counseling is at its most valuable when it comes before the crisis.

For us, it's an off and on thing. There have been years we've sailed along without any 3rd party interference (apart from our children, and some in-laws, and maybe the ocassional couch-crasher). We've simply not felt like we needed it. Other times, we find ourselves in a pickle, or in high-demand mode, or about to enter a crazy season. In these times, the first one to the punch - Hey, honey, let's go to counseling! - wins. It helps that we've both been open to it, we knew a guy, and so we went.

What do we do in counseling? We talk about our backgrounds, our families and their eccentricities (even the most "normal" ones have them!). We share about our kids and any worries or joys we feel on their behalf. We open up about our own weaknesses. We acknowledge when there's fear.

But most importantly, we listen. 

There's this independent question-asker who can draw out things usually left unsaid or misunderstood. We hear thoughts, longings from a different perspective. And then when one of us is on a roll, the other is at full-attention. We soak it all in without realizing it. Just because we're there. Just because, for this one hour, nothing is more important than hearing one another.

Does it always end in cuddles and smiles? No, not always. This is hard work, people! Sometimes there is tension, frustration or messiness. I've been known to pout my way home in the passenger seat. But instead of being hidden away in the junk drawer, the messiness is laid right there on the table. You gotta do something with it now. You've gotta sort through it and put everything in its right place.

Which is what you do at the next session because the buzzer just rang and time is up.


So, marriage counseling (or any old regular counseling, for that matter). Do you do it, too? Has it been good?

Wordless wednesday (sprechen sie deutsch)

Binging on living, for today

13 August 2013

The house is a mess.

We came home from Germany to three adorably sleeping children and a beautifully orderly home, vacuumed and wiped down to perfection by my mom and sister. Then we promptly trashed it. We stayed up till 1am watching Say Yes to the Dress. We spent all day walking a seaside town and falling over in sand. I relinquished all sense of motherly duty and ran around Dublin with my sister, trying on veils and flipping through wedding books. We have spent these last two weeks living, wildly. Our kitchen counters and sticky floors are less than pleased.

But tomorrow my mother returns home, my sister already there. I'll leave city centre adventures behind and spend the day in the laundry room. We'll run from shop to shop to shop finding uniforms and shoes and stocking up on little boy underwear. I'll have to jump-start the menu planning and act like I care about groceries and budgets and three square meals.

And I know I'll be so homesick for family - this is the flipside of visitors, for they always leave and you will be reminded anew of the sacrifice - that just rolling out of bed will take courage and kleenex.

So for one last day, we won't clean. We'll play fast and loose with the rules. We'll send Granny off with a bang, and maybe some dessert.

Tomorrow the recovery will start, the school prep will begin, maybe the bathroom light will get fixed.

But not today.

Go ahead, let's encourage eachother: what one thing will you put off till tomorrow?

Dear Sister {While you were out}

10 August 2013

From Jessica:

I just asked Asher "are you crazy?" and he said, "I'm crazy about you, baby!" Love.

Ella is trading kisses for goldfish cracker for Asher. It's a concerning trend.

I showed Asher your picture. He said, "awwww." I told him what it said [we miss you!] and he said (somewhat indignantly) "I know that!"

Asher would only eat after mom named the halves of the quesadilla after Power Rangers characters.

This is how Asher insisted on eating lunch today... weirdo...

"We don't put things in our underwear."

Ella and mom had an awesome time out last night! They took a taxi home and last night when I was tucking E in, she kept saying how cool the taxi and the driver were. She wanted me to pray that she would get to ride in a taxi again. :)

This was pre-naptime -- it may have been a hint.

Asher just skulked out of the kitchen (because I wouldn't give him dessert because he refused to eat his dinner). When I got to the front room (where he had skulked to), he was halfway out the window. Soooo...


From Jack:

Hey mum, thank you for talking to us tonight. I love you! Goodnight mum! I miss you!!!!!!!!


I write letters to my sisters, and sometimes they write to me. So thankful for a little sister time (and aunt time and granny time) on this side of the ocean. And thankful they can put up with all the stuff I had to edit out. :)