Pinning with Karen {an update on my One Word}

23 February 2013

It's a lazy day in our home. Matt is away, kids and I are having an Avengers marathon, and the snow that drowned Kansas City has finally made it's way across the ocean. I'm sad to report it's lost a lot of steam and seems to be dropping half-heartedly from the sky like it's given up after such an eventful week. Nonetheless, when a kid shouts, "It's snowing!" even if it's just a microscopic flake or two, we all feel a little festive.

And if you've noticed a round of silence on this here blog, it's because we are still neck-deep in moving, unpacking, cleaning, organizing and personalizing. Most rentals here come mostly furnished, so while we've got a lot of stuff to work with (wardrobes, pots and pans, mattresses), we've also got a lot of stuff to give away, sell, store and clean. Even though it is a rental, we're attempting to turn this bachelor pad of a house into a family home. And since we're on a tight budget, Pinterest and it's plethora of DIY goodies has become my late-night gal-pal.

A few of the gems I've found:




You know I'm not particularly crafty, and DIY stuff usually makes me break out in hives, but I've got a man who builds and a Pinterest board dedicated just to him:

I'm excited to make this house our home, to fill it with people and food and a cozy place to read. And to paint, too. Imma need to paint some stuff. Stat.

My one word for this year is HOME. It's not just about the house where we sleep, but also it's cultivating the people who inhabit it, especially me and my haughty heart. 

Did you pick a "one word" this year? How's it going?

When at last I need her

22 February 2013

She reached me under cover of darkness - literally - hiding in my room behind closed door and drawn blinds, curled up beneath sheets. I called her that morning, told her I couldn't go on, that something had happened, that I needed her Right Now. The dorm phone rang and I knew it was her reaching for me, buying me a train ticket, meeting me to take me home.

I don't know what happened that year, to my brain and the serotonin levels and the fear that clocked minutes away like eternity. She didn't know, either. But she knew enough to know I needed her, and a good therapist, and probably some meds. She knew enough to know that when I reach out, it's usually a last ditch effort. She knew enough to know that after you've done it all on your own (which she did), after you've raised a daughter to be independent and bold and unafraid of the world (which she did), when fear collides with reality, she knew enough to wrap her wings around me and let me nest awhile.

14 years later (more than that really: years and years and divorce and adulthood and marriage and kids and moving-half-way-around-the-world later), it's still a mystery to me, that she never gives it a second thought. She answers the call. She gives freely. Even when I don't want to, she waits for me, when at last I need her.

ella & granny

Following a lovely series at Lisa-Jo's blog about what our mamas did. What did your mother do, for you?


16 February 2013

I hear bumps and shouts from upstairs, but it's all good. We actually have an upstairs now! I'm letting the children run ragged up there, playing and running, legos scattered everywhere, tickling fights being had. The eldest gets annoyed with the youngest, but they hash it out without tears and I sit down here listening to my Easter playlist and Reaganing.

It's a 30 Rock thing, and my husband resonated with it immediately. When Jack Donaghey is on a roll, gettin' stuff done, he calls it Reaganing. I don't particularly remember Reagan, or his Reaganing, but there really is a fantastic feeling that comes with accomplishing a laundry list of things.

This week has been another week of sorting through the startings of a brand new life. Trash bins and utilities and proof of insurance. Even when you make the calls and pay the bills, you still need proof of such things and you occasionally still have to run down the trash tuck with proof of payment so they'll take away your rubbish. The children were off school Thursday and Friday, so we took our wee three valentines to Dublin for the day. Not so much for fun, but for work. They needed some important government numbers and we hoped to make a day of it.

Now a disclaimer: many times I leave our new front stoop thinking I'll get something done and dusted in a half hour and can just pop in to a coffee shop or other such establishment to celebrate my success. This is often not the case, resulting in two or three such trips before one can technically call oneself done and dusted. Taking the wee three to Dublin on a weekday to wait in line at a government office seemed like one such event. So we played it loose and cool. We were rollin' with it, willing to wait for awhile, praying for patience, reminding ourselves of the adventure.

But lo and behold, manna from heaven! The queue was short, our number was quickly called, and as we gave the woman behind the glass our passports, she gave us a gift. Our children already had these Very Important Numbers! She wrote them down on a sticky note and sent us on our way, in 15 minutes or less.

Huzzah! Victory! This has been our most painless adventure, yet (and in stark contrast to the hard flat tire tuesday lesson), so we celebrated with lunch at a new favourite spot, a walk in the city, and the crowning glory of a playground.

So here's my lesson for the day/week/month: I write a lot about the regrets, the frustrations, the losses and the waiting. I don't often write about the victories, the proud moments, the wonder and the fun. They often go hand-in-hand. But I'm trying to celebrate more than mourn, rejoice more than complain, pursue more than languish, laugh more than cry.

And on the days we laugh, when the sun shines in Dublin for the first time in weeks, I want to remember it. On Valentine's Day 2013, we were Reaganing. Getting stuff done. And we celebrated.

Oh, and we got some groovy mid-century chairs at a thrift store, too. Bonus.

Tell me your latest victory...

My Easter Playlist (UPDATED)

13 February 2013

A couple of years ago I put together an Easter playlist (one of my most searched-for posts - thank you, Uncle Google!). Since today is Ash Wednesday, I'm reposting and updating my list of songs that follow me through the Lenten season...

Karen's Must-Have Easter Playlist
(in alphabetical order by song, non-exhaustive as this is limited to my own itunes catalog)

40 / U2
All Because of You / U2
Amazing Grace / Sufjan Stevens
Awake My Soul / Mumford & Sons
Awakening / Sara Groves
Beyond The Sky / Fernando Ortega
Body And Wine / Jars Of Clay
City Of Sorrows / Fernando Ortega
Come Clean / Audrey Assad
Come Thou Fount / Sara Groves
Come Thou Fount / Sufjan Stevens
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy / Fernando Ortega
The Comforter Has Come / Jars Of Clay
Creed / Rich Mullins
Death and all his Friends / Coldplay
Every Season / Nichole Nordeman
Gethsemene / Keith and Kristyn Getty
Gloria / U2
Grace / U2
Hallowed / Jennifer Knapp & Phil Keaggy
Handel: The Messiah - Allegro Moderato
He Reigns / Newsboys
He Will Come / Waterdeep
He's Always Been Faithful / Sara Groves
Healed / Nichole Nordeman
Holy, Holy, Holy / Sufjan Stevens (download this now. seriously. right now.)
How Can I Tell / Sara Groves
How Deep the Father's Love for Us / Page CXVI
How Deep the Father's Love for Us / Wilder Adkins
How He Loves / David Crowder Band
I Am / Nichole Nordeman
I'll Wait / Sara Groves
I Will Sing Of My Redeemer / Fernando Ortega
I Will Wait / Mumford & Sons
In Christ Alone / (it doesn't matter the artist)
Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet / Jars Of Clay
Jesus, King of Angels / Fernando Ortega
Jesus, You're Beautiful / Sara Groves
Kingdom Comes / Sara Groves
Less Like Scars / Sara Groves
Love Will Find Us / Jars Of Clay & Sara Groves
Lover of the Light / Mumford & Sons
The Man Comes Around / Johnny Cash
My Deliverer / Rich Mullins
My God Has Come to Save Me / Waterdeep
No Greater Love / Jars of Clay
No One Else / Fernando Ortega
Precious Again / Sara Groves
Precious Lord, Take my Hand / Kansas City Chorale
Psalm 18 / Waterdeep
Psalm 131 / Waterdeep
Rest in You / Waterdeep
Rise Up / Ben Shive
Roll Away Your Stone / Mumford & Sons
Romans / Jennifer Knapp
Sing Alleluia / Jennifer Knapp & Mac Powell
Sing To Jesus / Fernando Ortega
Something Changed / Sara Groves
Tears Of The Saints / Leeland
There Is A River / Jars Of Clay
This Too Shall Be Made Right / Derek Webb
Till Kingdom Come / Coldplay
The Transfiguration / Sufjan Stevens
Walls & Tall Shadows / Waterdeep
We Will Follow / Jars of Clay & Gungor
What If / Nichole Nordeman
What is Not Love / Derek Webb
Where The Streets Have No Name / U2 (Please Single)
Yahweh / U2
You Are Lovely / Waterdeep
You Are the Sun / Sara Groves
You Did Not Have A Home / Rich Mullins
You Did That For Me / Sara Groves

So, if you're keeping track, essentially anything by U2, Sara Groves, Rich Mullins, Waterdeep - and, yes, even Mumford & Sons - will do you well this season. (And once my friend John's album is released, you can be sure next year's list will be oh-mazing.)

This post contains zero affiliate links. Just me lovin' on some artists. I've linked to those that are new, indie, or not yet known so you can discover them, too. 

What music speaks to you this time of year?

How to be called (on your birthday)

11 February 2013

So, we call you Jack, now.

I mean, we've always called you Jack. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and sister call you Jack, and it has bounced between our tongues in our home from the moment we carried you into that first apartment. But to others, to the outsiders, to those whom we love but are still somewhat separate from our tight crew, you have always been Jackson. Until now.

You love the story we tell, of how we chose your name. We wanted something strong; fun but formal; something that wouldn't hem you in, confine or define you. Your dad loved CS Lewis before I did, so that when he told me he'd like to call you Jack after him, I hadn't a clue. He gave me Surprised by Joy to read, in which Lewis offers up the proof: when he was four he named himself Jacksie after the dead dog. He would answer to nothing else, till after awhile he was somehow convinced to go by Jack, and there you have it.

I thought Jack was fine, though short. Being a Karen, I'd always wanted a classic name for formality, but a nickname for familiarity, so we compromised. You became a Jackson.

Just two weeks ago, on your first day of your new school in a new country, the principal was trying to squeeze you into a class. He checked with the teachers and the classes, and all the while you sat there with a big smile on your face, unafraid to be new. We're living an adventure, that's what we tell you. And, thank God, you're starting to believe it.

He came back to the office, successful in finding your place, barely looked up from your enrollment sheet and said, "So your name's Jackson, is that right?"

"Yep," you replied, smile still in place.

"Do you mind if we call you Jack? How 'bout we just call you Jack."

Not a question, but a statement. Here you are called Jack. You sign your name Jack. On the papers and the backpack and the tracksuit your name reads Jack. You have become new again. Your identity is coming into view.

I worried that you'd miss Jackson. Apart from family, you've always ever been Jackson to everyone else. But you said no. You said you liked being Jack here. You said it reminded you of family, that you were going back to your roots. "After all, you named me after CS Lewis, and he was a Jack. So I'm a Jack, too."

So, we call you Jack, now. On the eve of your 10th birthday, when I remember all those years ago practicing the full length of your name in cursive, then shortened, then in print, then typed in different fonts, I wondered what you'd end up being. I had it in my silly little mind that we were somehow creating you.

The truth is, we only chose the name, but you have chosen everything else. 

You chose how to trust, how to make do, how to look on the bright side, how to create, how to imagine, how to be kind, how to get along, how to organize your clothes in your dresser, how to wear your hair, how to sign your name, how to be brave and now... how to be called.

I was afraid I'd mess you up somehow, I was afraid to hold you for a long time, I was afraid to cut your hair, and then I was afraid at each passing birthday. "Oh time," I thought, "you move too fast! Soon he will be gone!"

But I'm beginning to take my cue from you. When I pray courage for you, when you choose courage, I pray it and choose it for myself. You go forward with joy and excitement, you pass time with ease, and every day is an adventure in the story you are writing.

Like the author we named you after - Jack - you are chasing after Aslan.

And I am following close behind you.

A love letter to the eldest on his 10th birthday, who is choosing what - and how - to be called. What do you want to be called? 

Flat Tire Tuesday

06 February 2013

I've been learning a lot about my kids since moving, and I've also been learning about myself. Here are my top five ways to make your children happy in the midst of a new routine.

1) If you get a flat tire on the way to school, DON'T cry in the car.

2) DO tell them it's not their fault, take them back home, and let them watch Madagascar whilst Daddy fixes the problem.

3) If Daddy can't fix the problem, DON'T make your children walk to school in sub-freezing temps, especially if the girl has a bad cold, is wearing tights and rockin' black motorcycle boots.

4) DO take them to a coffee shop that is conveniently located halfway between home and school when you realize you are all crying at the bus stop and not a one of you will make it to school alive.

5) DO fill them up with hot chocolate and whipped cream, let the barista lavish them with marshmallows, ring a friend to collect you, and watch your newly revived and warm children chase their shadows in the sun.

By 10:30am, they'll be happy at school, you'll be home in bed, and you all can try again tomorrow. Join me next week as I continue to share valuable lessons from my crash-course in risk management and childhood limits.

E says: "This hot chocolate totally makes up for you making us walk to school. 
Sorry we never made it, but yum! marshmallows!"

J says: "I forgive you for crying, mom."

Ever reached the point of no return, unable to turn back?

After 40 days

04 February 2013

2013-02-04 15.22.07

I just can't tell you what it's like, after 40 days of displacement, to see your children running up stairs and down hallways. 

To trip over Thomas and his friend Clarabel, tracks winding from the sitting room to the kitchen, long packed away and now breathing fresh air with the wee lad who has inherited them. 

To give an after school snack to your eldest, the sliding glass doors to the back garden framing his sturdy head as he bends over homework, the green of shrubs reflecting off the glare in his specs. 

To peek in on the girl, sick from a cold, asleep in her own room, in her own bed, cuddled up to the hippo we left behind over two years ago.

They're all here, in our new home, breathing new life into these walls. Oh, we are cleaning mildew and a little concerned about the bird living in our chimney, and the toilets are a bit - how shall we say - wanting. 

And now, I must wash the hippo. And the bedding. And every surface. Because now, we are home.

What's underfoot in your house today? Toys, illness, homework or mold?