Sunday, April 29, 2012


I've been thinking about this conversation we had as a family the other night. . .

Phil: Mommy, can you come up and watch us in the tub?
Me: Oh, I am so sorry, sweetie, I have to do the dishes.
Phil: Yeah, Mommy, doing the dishes is your JOB.
Paul: (jumping in defensively) Well, it's not really her JOB. . .
Phil:  Oh, so it's your HOBBY, mommy!

Yep.  That's it Phil.  Doing dishes is my hobby.  :)

Now, to his credit, I do tell him every day that doing dishes is my job.  Right after breakfast, they ask me to come in and play with them in the family room and I say, "Well, sweethearts, Mommy has to do her work before she can play."  Then I wash the breakfast dishes and by the time I am done they are so wrapped up in pretend that they have forgotten that they even wanted me to play with them in the first place.  Now, I know if I were the most amazing mommy ever, I would just forget about those dishes and say, "Yes, dears!  Let's play!  I'll be the mommy dinosaur!  RAWR!"  But anyone who has left a bowl of cereal in the sink for longer than a half hour knows why THAT is the meal I always tackle right away!  I'll be the mommy dinosaur later, once those bran flakes are safely down the drain.  Mommy dinosaur doesn't like scraping bran cement out of bowls, it brings out her inner Velociraptor.

Plus, doing dishes really IS my job.  My job is to make a home for my family.  Keeping it clean is a part of that.  To be honest, I don't even mind doing them at all anymore.  For some reason the sound of that running water gets me thinking some of my best thoughts.  Or, I sing when I do them.   The sound of the water also somehow convinces me that no one can hear me, and I can sing as loud as I want!  But when I was first married, you never could have convinced me of that.  When you are a newlywed, you come home after a long day of work and slave away at dinner for your husband, then HE does the dishes, right?  OK, maybe not all the time.  He might just go take a shower or start checking his email and you do the dishes with a grumble and a frown in your heart.  Maybe throwing in a few dramatic sighs, just in case he didn't notice that YOU were once again doing the dishes?  And that you did the dishes LAST night?  And you would really like to sit down, too, because you have been on your feet at work all day?  SIGH, SIGH, BIG DRAMATIC SIGH!!!?????

Yeah, I am guilty of that.  I remember the pile of dishes in our old kitchen, where I only had the brick wall of my neighbor's house to stare at and I could barely see a patch of sky out the kitchen window.  The kitchen was tiny and there was barely room to fit the dishes next to the sink, and they required tons of pre-washing before they went into our 30 year old dishwasher.  First world problems to be sure.  :) I did my share of grumbling and cursing sticky plates and questioning why I was doing dishes once again because didn't I just tackle this kitchen a few hours ago?  How many times a day do these people need to EAT?  Do I now spend my whole life with my bare feet on this cracker crumbled tile floor?  I can't tell you that magic switch went off in my heart, but for some reason within the last year or so the dishes and I have made peace.  Maybe because at my new house I can see sky and trees and watch my new neighbors smoking on their patio.  I love some good people watching.  Or maybe because my new dishwasher requires less prewashing and I am not afraid to run it twice a day.  It says "energy efficient", right?  I think I might be saving water. Or, maybe it's the fact that the sound of the running water muffles the sounds of my noisy lil' children for a few minutes and I almost feel like I am at the beach listening to them play in the sand.  Yep, I have a good imagination.  That helps.

Mostly, though, I think it is just a greater peace in my heart.  When your first child is born, a mother is born in you.  But just like your baby, she grows, too.  You aren't born with all the grace, all the strength, and all the peace and wisdom you will ever have.  It comes to you when you need it.  It comes in big ways through hard lessons and tears, and it comes in more subtle ways. . .through lots of self reflection over that kitchen sink.  

I found a card today while cleaning out some of my old teaching things.  It has this quote by Elizabeth Ann Seton that I used to keep on my desk at work mostly because it is pretty, but I read it today with new eyes. . .

"Contemplate how you are being asked to give your heart to God amidst your everyday activities.  Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life."

We can meet our grace in every circumstance.  In every plate, sippy cup and bowl.  I know I have a long way to go to grow into the mother God wants me to be. But I'll get there. . .one dish at a time.

(Now, if you will excuse me, there's some rice and beans cementing itself to my dishes and kitchen floor as we speak!)

Friday, April 27, 2012

I just want to be her.

Is there some woman you know that you just look at and think. . .dang.  I just want to BE.  HER.  I mean, her life looks so awesome.  She's gorgeous.  She always looks perfect.  I doubt she ever has to diet.  She's got the hottest man.  She has the best life.  Ever feel that little pang of jealousy?

Yeah.  I know.  I feel that way about someone, too.  She has no idea.  I mean, I would tell her but I really don't think she would understand.  If you've ever been to my house you know this girl I speak of. . .


Just look at that darn cat.  Is she not freaking GORGEOUS?  I mean, this girl has it all, right?  First of all, she never lifts a paw around this place.  She spends most of the day just lounging around in different sunny spots looking meditative.  She lifts her head occasionally to watch me chase the kids or gets up and moves when I get out the vacuum, but otherwise. . .life of luxury.  All she has to do is meow and food gets delivered to her bowl.  I carry her around and let her drink from the sink, she sleeps at my feet all night so that I can't even extend my legs, and the kids just love on her all day long and obsess at her every move.  I don't think she's ever worried about a thing.  Plus, she spends a good 2-3 hours every evening after the kids go to bed snuggled up on MY man's lap.  And he's ALWAYS scratching her pretty little ears and telling her how beautiful she is.  What's up with that?

I know a lot of people feel this way.  Possibly not about their cat (although who wouldn't be jealous?), but about some other human being.  Maybe a celebrity, a family member, a friend, or just some girl you see at the park or grocery store.  It's an easy trap to fall into- looking at someone else and thinking you just don't measure up, or wishing you had something- real or imagined- that they have.  I guess at a time like this, it's good for me to call to mind the old adage "Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides."  That girl may seem like they have it all or they have it all together, but on the inside she may be struggling more than I can imagine.  I mean, think of poor Boots.  She was abandoned by her own mother, and she never knew her father!  How sad.  I wonder if she ever thinks back to he lonely days in the animal shelter. . .I would have no idea how that feels.  We love her so much, but now that we have kids we only change her litterbox once a week and we always forget to trim her nails so she has to go around trying to find furniture to sharpen them on without getting scolded.  She suffers in silence.  She never gets to go outside and play with the other cats!!  She can NEVER HAVE children of her own!  Plus, as many times as Paul tells her how pretty she is, he also tells her she's stinky..  He never says that to me. (Thanks, honey :)

Wow, I just went from being jealous of her to feeling totally sorry for my baby girl!  I am going to go brush her right now, turn on the sink, then we'll sit by the window together and watch the birds.  Then, when Paul gets home, we'll both cuddle with him on the couch.  There's always enough love out there for all of us, right?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
1 Corinthians 13:4

Thursday, April 26, 2012


   My 22-year-old sister, Emily, is the founder and executive director of Ekisa Ministries International in Jinja, Uganda.  She doesn't like to talk about herself, but since I am her sister I get to brag as MUCH as I want!!  Basically, I want the whole world.  . .or I guess the anyone who would possibly visit this little corner of the internet. . .to be inspired.  God created my sister extra-special.  He did not make her a straight-A student, or a star athlete, or a dancer or musician.  I mean, she played sports, took dance, played the flute, and mostly showed up at school (right, sis? :).  But her heart wasn't into any of those things.  Once, I even remember her telling me how sad she was that she wasn't really "good" at anything.  It broke my heart and it was totally not true, but you know how our society measures success-  ribbons, medals, grades, perfection.  If you aren't the "best", then what are you?  Fortunately, we were blessed with parents who didn't really give a darn about ribbons and medals, they just wanted us to be nice people.  And that is something my sister is blessed with to the extreme.  When God made her extra-special, he made her six feet tall, sassy, witty, goofy and with the most sympathetic heart of anyone I know.  She's the best at a lot of things that society doesn't measure, and I feel so blessed that she has found her calling to share her gifts with the world.

Em first visited Uganda on a mission trip before her senior year of high school and I am not sure if any of us imagined it would turn into this!  But on that trip, the seed was planted for a lifetime of service to the people there.  On her first trip to Uganda she volunteered in an orphanage and met several handicapped children who touched her heart.  Not only did these children have little or no chance of being adopted, they could not stay at the orphanage past a certain age.  Their future looked very bleak.

Being handipcapped in Uganda is considered a curse, and not just society but their own families often reject those who are disabled.  From that moment, my sister was determined to make a difference for these kids, and not long after she came home her quest to found Ekisa began.  When she moved to Uganda to open Ekisa in October 2010, she was only 20 years old.  I think of my priorities when I was 20 and I feel a bit like the Snooki to my sister's Mother Teresa.  People thought she was crazy, or brave, or a little bit of both, but everyone can agree she has a God-sized dream.  When she arrived and began to lay the groundwork for Ekisa, she realized the need of the disabled children there was far greater than she had originally imagined.   The children who were being brought to my sister were not only orphaned and disabled, but simply put- on the brink of death.

Children like Zak who was neglected by his family because of his mental handicaps.  10 year old Zak weighed less than 30 pounds when Ekisa took him in and started showing him love for the first time.  Or baby Natasha- physically handicapped and very ill with pneumonia, abandoned in a hospital by parents who could not afford the $13 medical bill for her care.  Selina.  Nam.  Walter.  Their stories have kept me up at night.  They touch the hearts of everyone who hears them.

The children who have been welcomed into my sister's home have disabilities ranging from Down's Syndrome to Cerebal Palsy, Hydrocephalus, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Epilepsy, Autism. . .but those things don't define them at Ekisa.  At Ekisa these children have hope.  They have love, they have care, food, medicine, physical and occupational therapy. . .they have grace given to them freely every day.

Here's the amazing awesome-super-amazing-big-God thing about this.  Ekisa has no corporate or government grants, their work completely depends on the donations of regular people.  The fact that so many people have answered the call in their hearts to help Ekisa and keep them running shows me every day how good He is, and how his goodness is so alive in so many people who hear His call.

If you want to find out more or donate to Ekisa, please visit here.

Witching hour.

One of the main reasons I started this blog is to offer encouragement to my friends on the things we all struggle with.  Not because I am perfect at parenting, I just don't mind sharing my failings on a public forum if it means someone else can benefit. :) I know that you can relate to me here. . .the very hardest time of day when you have young children is that magical time right. . .before. . .dinner.  I mean, every part of the day has it's own unique charms.  There's the energy and optimism of morning, the messy exuberance of lunch, the sweet snuggles (and sigh of relief) of naptime, the blissfully long stretch of play in the backyard as the day turns to evening.  And then, there's the witching hour.  It all comes crashing down because. . .

You have to cook dinner.  

Can you believe this happens EVERY DAY? 

The dinner fairy hasn't arrived yet so you pull yourself off the grass and head inside.  All of the sudden, the blissful play has vanished.  Everyone needs to pee.  Simultaneously.  And they all need help with their pants, their hands, and the half a roll of toilet paper they are attempting to flush down the toilet.  Elbows are being thrown, tears are being shed, the baby has disappeared upstairs and is digging in the cat's litterbox, and everyone is tugging on your apron and hanging on the oven handle like it's the monkey bars.  And have I mentioned your husband hasn't even insinuated that he might be leaving work yet?  Oh, man.  Deep breath.

Here are some ideas, in no particular order, to keep you from pulling your hair out or simply throwing in the towel.  I didn't reinvent the wheel here- this is some pretty standard stuff that I have put together.  Everyone's family is different and every child is different, but these are some lessons I have learned to help me survive and thrive until 6:20 when my knight in shining armor comes through the front door.  Now you have 15 weeknights worth of evening sanity ideas. . .you can just pick/choose/rotate them as you see fit!

1.  Crock pot it up.

Now, I can't eat from the crock pot every single day.  But when I do, it makes me soooooo happy.  Because dinner is just IN THERE.  I can just scoop a spoon in and dish it on plates at a moment's notice, meaning that during the roughest part of the day, I don't have to leave the kids unattended at all.  We can even go to the park or for a walk and get home right as daddy is arriving!  I love you, slow cooker!  And I love you, Pinterest. . .so full of crock pot recipe goodness!

2.  Play doh.

There is no better time of day to pull out the play doh than when you are getting ready to make dinner.  Play doh is a little messy and crumbly, and so is dinner. . .so you can handle all the sweep up at the same time.  I like to plop the kids at the kitchen table while I cook with a few accessories to spur their imaginations like cookie cutters, kid size knives and plastic dinosaurs.

3.  Watercolors.

Once again- a messy thing that you can combine cleanup with your dinner cleanup.

4.  Give up on the toy cleanup.

I had this major vision of my kids cleaning up the playroom so that my husband would come home to a lovely and organized home.  I used to kill myself trying to make it happen and end up totally discouraged if he didn't notice or we just flat out didn't succeed.  In reality, right before dinner is the worst time to clean up!  I mean, you need them to PLAY with those toys so you can cook their food!  If they have no toys out, you have all the additional stress of trying to  keep the house tidy while the kids are hanging on you AND you cook.  Plus, they are the least compliant when they are tired and grouchy.  We started saving cleanup until after dinner, and it's way better. My husband has graciously accepted that a messy house means happy kids, and that eventually it will get clean.

6.  Casserole time!

I love to make a casserole during the morning or naptime and save it in the fridge until dinner.  We still have to be home, so it is less ideal than crock pot, but it is so much better than, say, a skillet meal, because you can leave it unattended and attend to your kids who neeeeeeeeeeed you so much.  Any time you can rid yourself of prep work at mealtime, it helps.  My skillet recipes have disappeared from the rotation until further notice.

7.  Leave the cooking to someone else.

Eating at restaurants is not really a part of our budget, so we would rarely just plan on having a whole meal out.  But if you want to leave the cooking to someone else without the expense, grab a refrigerated pizza at Aldi. . .they are only about 5-6 dollars and serve the whole family.  Plus, they are really good!  Another favorite meal of mine (that I learned from my own mom and dad) is to grab sandwiches from a restaurant's dollar menu and bring them home or to the park for a picnic with all of your own drinks and sides.  You'll look forward to this kind of night all day!  Low prep, low cleanup, low cost!

8.  Pull out your big tricks.

This is a good time to get out the things you don't normally get out on a regular basis.  Let them make a mountain out of the couch cushions or a tent under the table.  Bring a toy back into rotation that they haven't seen in a while.  Turn on the wii.  Get out musical instruments and turn on the stereo.  Distraction is powerful!

9.  Involve them in the set-up.

Kids love to "help".  If you have the time, let them!  They think they are such big stuff, then you can brag to Daddy about their hard work and make them feel even better!  You don't have to do it every night, just whenever it works with what you are making.  Tell them they are your kitchen team.  Make them little chef hats out of paper.  They'll eat it up.

10.  Team up for a witching-hour playdate.

Usually, playdates are in the morning, right?  Well, why not plan a playdate with a close friend AFTER naps?  Kids are less likely to be fussy at the witching hour when they have the excitement of being with their friends.   And if your friend is anything like you, she will understand if your kids ARE fussy.  It requires a little planning on both of your parts to make sure you can both feed your families when dinnertime rolls around, but its a fun change of pace.  

11.  Feed the kids early

If your hubs gets home after 6 like mine does, it might just be a good idea to set a dinnertime and eat at it.  Sometimes, I feed the kids their entire meal before he even sets foot in the door.  Or I will start them about 5-10 minutes before he gets home.  At any rate, they are less grouchy and we can enjoy a more peaceful meal together.

12.  Turn on the TV without guilt.

Most of us like to limit screen time for our kids, and that totally makes sense.  However, if you think of television like a diet, you can just save some of their "portion" for the most difficult hour of the day.  Whatever your personal limit is, if you know you have a meal coming up with more prep work, just budget some of your screen time for then.  And don't feel bad about it, OK? 

13.  Enlist a helper

If there is a young person on your street in need of service hours, or a little neighbor who might not be old enough to sit on their own but wants some babysitting practice, this might be a great time to offer them a guaranteed service hour every week! 

14.  Have some "room time"

When my oldest two were particularly small (maybe about 2 and 1) one of the best ways for me to survive cooking dinner where it was too dangerous for them to be underfoot was to put them in the crib together with a stack of books and a stack of pacifiers.  Remember, I didn't say I was a perfect parent!!  Their bedroom was literally only a few feet from the kitchen so I didn't worry about them, and they were tired anyways so it wasn't too hard to convince them to just contain themselves in that crib until Daddy got home.  I'll do a similar thing now and send them all up to their room for a dance party while I cook dinner.  The chandelier may be shaking, but I just imagine no one is getting hurt.

15. Tune it out.

The other option is to just let the kids whine and cry.  Close the gate and barricade them out of the kitchen, and just cook the things you need to cook.  As they hang on the gate, you can just cheerily say, "Dinner will be ready soon!"  Sometimes they even give up and go entertain themselves!  And sometimes they are just going to cry.  And you know what- that's OK.  My grandma told me kids can't be happy 100% of the time.  Don't take it personally.  Everyone else's kids are doing the saaaaammme thing.  It's just that time of day.

What other ideas do you use to get dinner on the table while maintaining your sanity?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

12 Books that change your heart forever.

"Spiritual Reading is food for our souls.  As we slowly let the words of the Bible or a good spiritual book enter into our minds and descend into our hearts, we become different people. . .as we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice.  Sometimes we  must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words."
- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Here are some non-fiction books that have nurtured my spirit.  Some of them are intended to be spiritual books, some of them are not, some are from a Christian worldview, and some are from diverse perspectives.  A handful I have read recently, some I read so long ago I forget many of the details. Each of these books carried wisdom, comfort, grace, and "bread" for my journey in their pages. I may have put them back on a shelf but I carry them in my heart.

1. The Way of the Heart  by Henri Nouwen

This is a short and lovely book about praying with your entire being.  So often we focus on the mind and on words, then we get frustrated with ourselves when our minds wander or our words fail us as we pray.  It is written to an audience of ministers, but we are all ministers in our own way and there are gems of wisdom for everyone.  If you have ever wanted to really "pray without ceasing" this book offers the path.

2. I'm Proud of You by Tim Madigan

This is a powerful story of a deep and meaningful friendship.  The author brilliantly covers love, loss, heartbreak, reconciliation, and the most personal and universal parts of the human experience.  When I bought the book, I was expecting a simple memoir about how great Fred Rogers was. . .which of course I already knew.  But this book is so much more than a tribute to this man.  Mr. Madigan shares his heart and his personal journey and struggles so skillfully that everyone who reads it will find something that resonates.  It leaves you wanting to be a better friend to everyone you meet, and a simply a better human being.

3. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

Honestly, I don't enjoy many parenting books because I find them preachy, intimidating, or they are written by the parents of older children who are dealing with completely different (and more complex) problems than "How do I survive until I can get these kids down for a nap?" But if you have little ones, this book is for you. The subtitle is "motherhood from the trenches" and it is written by a mom who had 5 children under the age of 6.   I don't even know how she found the time to write this book but I am glad she did.  She gets it.   She doesn't brag about it.  She doesn't preach about it.  She just tells it.  It is short and filled with so much truth and goodness.  Her thoughts are expressed in very carefully selected and lovely words.  I finished it during one episode of Sesame Street, then went back and read it two more times in the next day.  It's like sitting down for a cup of coffee with a good friend.  She isn't going to tell you how to do things, she's just going to tell you how it is for her, and by exposing her innermost thoughts and feelings simultaneously offer you comfort and call you to greater accountability.  There were passages I read in this book that go through my head every day.  It completely changed my way of thinking about some aspects of motherhood, and made me a better mother to my three boys.

4.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This memoir is compelling and fascinating. . .I couldn't put it down.  The author brilliantly weaves together humor and wit with tremendous heartbreak.  When you finish the book, you can't help but wonder at the amazing power of some human beings to overcome and thrive despite devastating circumstances.  The characters (made all that more impressive because they are real people) stay with you forever.

5. The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living by Mother Teresa

I have had this daybook for years.  If I was going to a desert island and could only take one book or some hypothetical situation like that, this would be it.  Every day is a gem from Mother Teresa, who basically changed the face of the earth with her love.  The most important thing I have gained from this book is that this amazing love starts in our home.  If you want to love the world, love the people closest to you. . .that's where love begins.  Smile at each other, and smile at your family first before anyone else.  Love them first, and the love will spread.  I would like to buy everyone in the universe a copy of this book.

6. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I only recently purchased this book, but I think that's its overwhelming popularity comes from the fact that the author has distilled a very meaningful truth.  We all have different ways of loving and of feeling love.  If you want to love other people the best you can, you need to make sure you are expressing love to them in a way that they understand.  This book, through examples, quizzes, and concrete suggestions for daily living helped me discover a lot about myself and the ones I love.  The other basic concept of the book is thaot love is not just a feeling, it is an act.  It's a conscious choice of what we DO for another human being because we are called to love them.  This book has the potential to change your marriage forever and for better.

7.  Found. . .the best lost, tossed, and forgotten items from around the world by Davy Rothbart

This book is just like it sounds from the title- an entire collection of "things"- from mundane shopping lists to devastating suicide notes. . .dear john letters to the scribbles of children. . .all things that people "found" and mailed to the author.  You will laugh and you will weep.  You'll feel hopeful, amused, and somewhat unsettled but mostly you will just feel connected to the anonymous people who wrote the pieces in this book.  You realize how universal our human experience is.  Everyone, from all walks of life, experience the same emotions, thoughts, and feelings, they just get expressed in different ways.  This book makes you appreciate that.

8.  The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

I picked this book up at the library when I was a new mother struggling with balancing my new role with the old.  It seemed overwhelming to me to be a working mother AND be the wife I was called to be for my husband.  I mean, I have to cook for him, clean for him, take care of his baby AND PRAY FOR HIM!!  Sheesh. :)  It seemed a little ridiculous.  However, when I got over my selfish instincts and dove into this book I realized that what my momma said was totally right. . .the only person you can change is yourself.  My marriage is deeper and more loving than when we were newlyweds, mostly thanks to the fact that Paul is a great guy and I stuck to the concept in this book. . .pray for your husband, darn it.  He needs it, and so do you.

9.  You Are Special by Fred Rogers

"You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, 

consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and 

capable of loving."

- Fred Rogers

If you want to make someone feel loved, give them this book filled with wisdom and grace from one of my favorite humans of all time, Fred Rogers.  If YOU want to feel loved, just read this book.  It's better than ice cream.  It's like a hug made out of paper and ink.  I love it.

10. Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living by Allan Lokos

This book is boils down to one concept. . .you could avoid a lot of heartbreak and suffering if you can just be more patient.  Unfortunately for me, patience is not just gritting your teeth or taking deep breaths.  I thought I had it mastered!  It actually comes from a deeper place, and this brilliant book helps you to get there.  Patience is really more of just a manual of how to be a decent human being.  If you want to make the world a better place, read this book!  The author is a Buddhist and writes his book in a tone that is accessible to all faith traditions.  I gleaned so much knowledge from these pages.  I am hoping it is making me more patient because I need it!

11. Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

This book has two incredible parts.  The first is the "why".  Why do we read to our children, and how can it change their lives and build their character.  The second is thorough and wonderful list of books to read to your children at each phase of their lives, including small descriptions of each book.  I use this book as a guide for gift giving for all of my godchildren, and a guide for library checking-out for my own!  I bought a copy for my mom, just to thank her for nurturing me with books so well as I was growing up. 

12. Miracle at Carville by Betty Martin

Speaking of my mom, this is one of her favorite books.  My mom talked about how powerful this book was for her many times when I was a child, so I was so excited to finally read it for myself when I found a copy at my university library.  It is long out of print, but totally worth exploring your local library to see if they have it.  Betty Martin, who had to change her name in order to avoid bringing shame to her family, was diagnosed with leprosy as a young woman.  She lost her family, her fiance, and her comfortable and happy life as she was forced to go live at Carville, an institution for those with Hansen's Disease.  In other words, a leper colony.  Like any great memoir, it makes you think, it makes you weep, and it leaves you feeling inspired, grateful and hopeful.  I will never forget it.

OK, What books can I add to this list?  I am always looking for something new to love!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

So, I feel compelled to write about a blog I found through Pinterest.  The Nest Effect is written by a first-year teacher with lots of enthusiasm for new organizing ideas and willingness to share them. I feel like I need to write about it TODAY because Tiffany, the girl who writes this helpful and inspirational blog, sounds like she needs a little inspiration herself.  I feel like she needs to know how much of a difference she makes through blogging, and what a gift she has!

I think one of the hardest things to do as a human being is "put yourself out there."  It's something that bloggers do that I very much admire. . .put their thoughts and feelings and deepest inner selves on the internet for all to read and see.  Of course, they do this with the hope that someone else will read it and it will resonate with them. This sharing is such a beautiful part of the human experience and one of the many things that makes the internet so fabulous. I am sure it feels great when bloggers get positive comments and know that lives have been changed through their compassion and openness.  And I am pretty sure that one negative or hurtful comment can be enough to ruin an entire day, to make you question your purpose, to delete the 100 kind comments from your mind.  Not cool, negative people, not cool.  My momma always told ME, if you don't have anthing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  She's a smart lady, my mom.  I kind of wish she had a national pulpit to share that kind of advice from, because obviously a lot of other people in the world are well-meaning but don't have my mom's voice ringing in their head when they choose their words!

I just want to say some nice things about Tiffany's blog and the awesome changes she has helped me make in my life in 2012.  There aren't before pictures because the before was sooooo bad.  :)

My home office

The first post I saw of Tiffany's was this one. . .

SO, I made it my new year's resolution to DO IT.  And I did!   And my life is so much better for it.  My goal is if I died tomorrow, Paul might be sad but hopefully not stressed and looking around like, "How do I run this place?"  I made a home management binder and a file box for all of my incoming papers.  It so beats the piles that used to sit on my living room desk.  Since this desk is in our living room, people see it right when they walk in the door.  Piles of papers aren't the best for your entryway!  Tiffany gave me the gift of confidence and time, because now I actually know where my papers are instead of digging through the giant pile on my little desk!  THANK YOU!

My finances

Making Tiffany's home management binder really make me get my booty in gear and get my finances in order. Up until this point, I have relied on mostly guesstimating how much money we have coming in for the month.  I am an awesome guesstimator and all, but since I work as an independent contractor, it can be hard to know when money is going to come in.  We don't like to carry a credit card balance, so my goal was to budget our entire family on 4 paychecks a month, use any month where there is a 5th paycheck to save for non-monthly expenses like our prepaid cell phones, the yearly stormwater bill, getting my hair done, etc.  Then, when I do get paid, we can use my paycheck for bigger expenses, like shoes for the kids or home projects, or put them into savings.   Since making this binder, I have honestly never felt so secure and confident about my finances.  It didn't make more money magically appear in my bank account or anything like that, but it did make me feel good that I could budget and plan appropriately.  It also made all of our information totally accessible to Paul any time he wants to crack it open. Tiffany gave me the gift of financial peace!  Amazing, girl!

My kitchen

I spend most of my time in our kitchen.  For some reason, these kids need to eat MULTIPLE times a day???  Huh.  Go figure.  Anyways, even though I spend a lot of time cleaning the outside of my kitchen, my kitchen cabinets were a little bit of a disaster.   Everything was pretty much where my Aunt Therese had so kindly unpacked it the day we moved in. I never gave it another thought as I just shoved stuff back in and shoved more stuff in the cabinets. Thanks to Tiffany I emptied every kitchen cabinet. I moved some things to where I could reach them more easily.  I got my spices and baking supplies in order.  I donated a bunch of kitchen things I wasn't using.  I matched all of the food storage containers with their lids, threw away the broken ones and managed to put them back in the cabinet, lids-on, which makes my husband sooooo happy.  I made a RECIPE BINDER

 so all of my fabulous recipes would be in one place.  I would like to consider this an heirloom.  :) On the outside, my kitchen looks pretty much the same. . .but on the inside. . .so much better!  She has given me, once again, the gift of time because every minute I spent organizing my kitchen has saved me immeasurable amounts of time and frustration digging around when I bake.  Tiffany rocks.

My purse

Because of all of these organization improvements, including a receipt basket by our front door to catch all of the receipts coming in, my purse is becoming slightly less disorganized.  SLIGHTLY.  There are still dead leaves and tiny plastic dinosaurs on the bottom.  But less papers.  And that's nice.

So, Tiffany, thank you for all you do!  I look forward to continuing to follow your blog and gaining more inspiration along the way!  I will leave you with a quote from my favorite neighbor. . .

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” 

Monday, April 23, 2012

31 ways to use a Thirty-One Large Utility Tote

Update: I wrote this post three years ago (because, as a mom of four, I love the organization I get from Thirty-One) and I cannot believe how popular it has become!  Sort of mind blowing?  Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! Would you like some encouragement for your heart today before you leave?  Start here, or here!  

I joke that the Large Utility Tote was my 31 "gateway bag".  It's funny to think of the things we get so hooked on. . .and that one product or event that just got it started.  Like the one casual trip to the Goodwill in high school to pick out a halloween costume. . . that turned into 2 trips a week and 3 years of wearing the craziest most brightly colored polyester dresses and pantsuits I could get my hands on.   Like that, this one little teeny tiny thirty-one purchase of this tote as a gift from my mom turned into MANY more purchases. I love the thirty-one brand so much and carry their products everywhere!  If I could recommend ONE product to anyone, the Large Utility Tote would be it.  It is just so darn USEFUL.  You can personalize it.  It flattens for easy storage.  The fabric is durable and wipes easily.  It comes in tons of fantastic patterns. Here are 31 ways that you can use the tote or give the tote, so you can see just how versatile it really is!

1.  Diaper bag  
So, yeah, now that I have four kids, most of the time this tote is my diaper bag.  My friend Andi gave me the idea, and since she has 7 kids and does it gracefully, I consider all of her ideas BRILLIANT.  Throw a zipper pouch inside with diapers/wipes, toss in all the snacks and toys and changes of clothes you might need for the day and you are good to go!  Then, I just grab the zipper pouch of diaps and throw it in my purse when we get out of the car for a quick trip to the park, or just take the whole thing in if we are going to a playdate.

2. Groceries
I like to rock it at Aldi with this tote ALL the time.  You can fit so many groceries in here, even the awkwardly sized ones, like giant melons and huge bags of chips!  I shove all of my other reusable bags in the cute 31 tote and I am off for a day at the store.

3. Picnic
Not only can I fit a big old quilt in here, but my Fisher Price portable booster fits in here for the baby, too!
4. Poolside
I can't wait to use it at the pool this summer- towels, life vests, googles, it will all fit in here!  I can add a coordinating zipper pouch for sunscreen and I am set!  Plus, you can personalize it with your name, initials or a cute phrase, so everyone knows that lounge chair you just set it on is YOURS.

5.  Sand
We have a couple of great sand parks by our house.  Even though we have our own great sandbox in the backyard, it is so fun to grab a bunch of our favorite toys, throw them in the tote and head to a different sandy spot!  The wipe clean feature of this tote makes it easy to fill with "dirty" things without worrying too much.

6.  Errands
Off for a day of returns, shopping, dropping things off at people's houses, etc?  Toss it all in the tote and carry it out to the car, then keep everything on the passenger seat next to you all organized and ready to go!

7.  Laundry
I love the handles.  Therefore, I have full intentions of making one of these our master closet laundry basket.  Then, I can carry a baby downstairs AND the laundry, no problem!  I am thinking folded laundry would look really swell inside this, too, especially since I don't like to put it away.  Maybe noone will know it is un-put-away laundry if it is in a cute bag!

8.  Car
In a dark or coordinated-to-your-interior color, this is the perfect catch all for your trunk.  And if you need a bag while out and about, just empty it and use it!

9. Entry Catch-all
I keep mine on the bench in our entryway.  That way, when I toss things down when we walk in the door, it looks neat. Then, I can just pick it back up and grab it on the way out!

10. Teaching
Oh, how I wish I would have had one of these teaching.  Every day I looked like a bag lady going into school with an assortment of totes from textbook companies, Vera Bradley bags, plastic Walmart bags, my umbrella, my purse.  Ugh.  This would have looked way better.

11.  Photography
Our digital camera bag fits great in here along with any other props you want to take along to a photo shoot!

12.  Bridesmaid
This would make such a cute gift for your bridesmaids.  Pick a color or print that coordinates with your wedding, get it embroidered with her initals, and it is something she can use on the wedding day to catch all of her "gear". . .shoebox, makeup bags, change of clothes, etc.  The best part, she'll still be able to use every day after!

13.  Sports
The new Spirit colors coming out May 1, 2012 make this the perfect bag for cheering for your favorite team member from the sidelines or hauling their equipment to the field.

14.  College Student
Because it folds flat and is easily personalized, this makes a great graduation gift!  Your college student can just keep it tucked away when not in use and pull it out for everything from a trip to the laundry room to a trip home for the weekend.

15.  Tailgate
Once again, SPIRIT COLLECTION!  I can't wait to pack my tailgate supplies in one of these.  Every year, our tailgates get more elaborate.  This would help haul all of the spirit gear and decorations I need!

16.  Baby shower gift
Any new mom would find this useful- get it embroidered with her last initial and put it by the door at the shower.  Ask each guest to bring something small to fill the basket- washcloths, saline spray, baby medicine, a tiny board book.  Have each guest attach a note of encouragement to the mom-to-be so after baby is born she will have lots of kind words to read, tiny items that will save her trips to the store, and a great basket to use of all kinds of  new mommy things.

17.  Home Parties
If you sell Scentsy or Pampered Chef, do craft shows, etc, wouldn't it look cute to haul all of your wares into the place you are selling in one of these!  Plus, like I said before, HANDLES.  You can throw it over your arm and still carry a crate or two in your hands!

18.  Stuffed animal/toy storage
I have used one of these to hold stuffed animals.  They look so cute peeking out of the top, and it can also lend itself to lots of pretend play!  It's a house!  It's a boat!  It's a cave!

19. Pitch ins
There is no easier way to haul boxes of crackers, tupperwares full of cookies and my favorite serving trays to a friend's house for a pitch in!  You will look super prepared.  Impress everyone.  They'll never know you just tossed it all in there on the way out the door.

20.  Holiday gifts
It goes without saying that it can be a little tricky to haul all of your beautifully wrapped presents to the family gathering.  Every year, 31 comes out with one of these in a great holiday print!!  Enjoy!

21.  Sleepovers
Taking your kids to Nana's for the night?  Forget the trash bag!  Put all of their pillows, blankies, and favorite stuffed animals in here and you don't risk dropping an armful of linens on the driveway!  Not that I have ever done that.

22.  Day out with the Fam
Perfect for packing all of the things you need to head out for an adventure with the family.  Just leave it in the car and grab the things you need as you hop out- a frisbee, sunscreen, your purse, hats. . .they all just toss in and go.

23.  Road trip "Suitcase"
If you are taking the kids on a road trip, don't even bother packing the real suitcase!  Just pack the kids clothes in here, then when you put them in the dresser at the hotel, this can be your laundry basket!

24. On the boat
Big enough to carry your life vests and towels, and even a tiny cooler full of frosty beverages down to the boat for a day of fun in the sun!

25. On the trail
You can fit bike helmets for the whole family, portable bowl for the dog, snacks, even an air pump.  The space is generous and it fits great in your trunk or the back of your van!

26. Guest room
Embroider it with Welcome and keep this in your guest room full of extra things your guest might need. . .towels, washcloths, an extra pillow, a spare blanket.  then, they can use them as needed and if they don't need them, they are out of the way!

27.  Craft room
Fabric, scrapbooking, the possibilities are endless.  My whole sewing machine fits in here.

28. Garage
Great for big things like balls, a blanket or small tent for the baby, or your container of sidewalk chalk that you just want to haul out to the yard when needed.

29.  Purse/tote organization
Keep one on the top closet shelf with all of your lesser-used purses, totes, and evening bags.  Then, when you need one pull the WHOLE basket down, instead of untangling a bunch of straps to find what you want!

30.  Entry closet
This looks great and fits great on the top shelf of a small entry closet to store anything you need- hats, umbrellas, tote bags, you name it.

31.  Travel
My sister took one of these to Africa with her- it's so flat and light that it travels well in a large suitcase, and can perform lots of functions when you arrive.  She can take it to market and who knows, maybe even carry a live chicken around in it.  It's just that versatile.

See?  Now don't you think you need one?  Or, don't you love yours even more?


My sister in law, Mary Beth, is someone that I deeply admire.  Not only is she beautiful, smart, athletic and funny, she is also level-headed, peaceful, compassionate and calm.  She's just the kind of person you would want by your side in a crisis.  She wouldn't need a speck of makeup to look completely stunning.  She makes the best tomato soup I have EVER had.  She's a playful and compassionate mom to her two beautiful children.  And she does one of the toughest things I can imagine.

Mary Beth has been a volunteer for CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, for over 10 years.  I can't think of anything in the world that makes me more upset than child abuse, and I can't think of many people I am more grateful for than the people who protect, defend and comfort abused and neglected children.  Mary Beth is a gift, because not everyone would be strong enough to volunteer in this kind of capacity. . .to deal with things in a professional and level-headed manner when the pain and injustice are so raw and REAL.

And of course, because MB is just that kind of person, the majority of us had no idea that this whole "changing kids lives" thing is something she has been up to until she got nominated for a major award this past year.  So not only is she a freaking rock star, she's a really humble one at that.  

You can read a beautiful "Volunteer Spotlight" of MB here if you scroll down a but.

My heart overflows with gratitude for people like Mary Beth who make a real difference in the world, one person at a time.  I am humbled and proud to be a part of her family!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Growing up, my mom always told me "If you don't laugh, you'll cry."  Mom and Dad taught me by example to look at something stressful or sad and just try to find the humor- from the simple things like turning a botched crock pot spaghetti recipe into a 20 year running joke, to the more profound things dressing my grandpa is his favorite Hawaiian shirt and tucking his autographed picture of Charro in his casket at his funeral.  Laughter makes everything, from embarrassment to grief, better.

However, when Phil was first diagnosed with life threatening food allergies at age 16 months, I have to admit it was really hard for me to find the funny. That day at Riley Hospital for Children, clutching my sweet, kind, smart, red-splotched, itchy and vomiting firstborn son, it was hard to wrap my mind around how I was going to find the funny in this.  I had failed my son.  He had had these allergies for how long now, and I had just ignored the symptoms, brushed them off as just the way Phil is. . .oh, that Phil.  He's just a gagger, that's why he throws up so much!  I look back at pictures of his red, splotchy, tormented skin and I think. . .how did I not notice?  But your firstborn child is perfect.  No one can tell you otherwise, right?  Oh, he's just a little itchy, that Phil!  I am sure he will grow out of it!  The truth of the matter was that Philip had severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.  Now, not only did I need to worry about normal mommy stuff that we first time mommies all obsess about like developmental milestones and nutrition and taking turns and sharing and sleeping through the night and potty training, but, oh, yeah, by the way your son could die pretty much anywhere from normal food that people eat all the time without thinking twice about.  No big deal, right?  I felt like the walls were closing in.

I stayed strong at the hospital for my little boy, I stayed strong in the car (and also said a thankful prayer that it wasn't a milk allergy since milk was his favorite "food"), I got home, put the boys down for a nap and started going through my kitchen cabinets. . . and the tears began.  Wow.  Everything was poison.  POISON.  It's like finding out your house is full of loaded guns and you didn't even know it.  Contains nuts.  May contain tree nuts.  Contains traces of peanuts.  Processed on shared equipment with eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.  I started making piles- food pantry, give to friends, throw away.  It felt good to purge.  I pulled myself together. I called Paul at work.  We talked.  I made grilled cheese.  We bathed the kids, put them to bed, I grabbed the keys and headed to Meijer.  When you don't know what to do, just keep moving forward.  My first trip to the grocery post diagnosis was both terrifying and incredibly annoying.  Reading every package, with one part of my brain thanking God for food labeling laws and the other part of my brain cursing people for loving nuts so much.  For Paul and I, who lived on a steady diet of peanut butter and fried egg sandwiches, a major lifestyle change was in order.  The next few weeks were full of trips to the library, searches on the internet, reading blogs, painfully long trips to the grocery and chatting with friends. I had to educate myself as much as possible. One day at a time, keep moving forward.  I couldn't allow myself to think too far into the future, and I still don't. One day at a time.

Even taking it one day at a time. feeding Phil seemed overwhelming.  I mean, he still needed to eat 4 or 5 times a day, right?   His allergies had caused him to have a fear of food in addition to normal toddler picky-ness.  I cringe when I think of the foods I fed my trusting baby, imagining how awful they made him feel.  I felt like all I was feeding him now was cereal and macaroni and cheese. . .I felt so limited.  I felt like a bad parent.  I felt like I had failed.  Then, Paul suggested I sit down and make a list of all of the things Phil COULD eat.  I still have that list.  It made me feel better then, and it makes me smile now to think of all the things we have been able to add to it.  We get magazines from Catholic Relief Services all of the time, and we just so happened to get one the day after I made that list.  Every magazine is filled with the faces of women and children who struggle to eat, or even have clean and safe water to drink.  Any time I feel like feeding my family is overwhelming, I think of those faces.   The women who have to send their children to bed with hungry bellies.  Who have to pick through trash, or sell their bodies to provide for their families.  Meanwhile, I prance down the aisle in a grocery store full of food.  Yeah, my son can't eat everything.  But I can give him everything he needs.  For that, I am deeply grateful.

Over three years later with the benefit of time, perspective, and experience everything seems much more manageable.  The fear lingers, but I can't let it grip my heart.  DO NOT BE AFRAID, God says.  In some aspects, this allergy diagnosis has really been a gift.  We have seen the true love and care our friends and family have for us in the amazing consideration they have shown for Phil.  What a blessing they are to us.  We have learned to appreciate the things we can have instead of the things we can't.  I have learned to be assertive, which is FAR, FAR outside of my comfort zone.  But when my child's life is at stake, I ask for the strength and grace to swallow my irrational fear of inconveniencing any other human beings and just think of the one that God gave me to love and protect.  We worry less about the other first-time parent things, because, hey, he's alive and he's happy and he's just doing great!  And, we have finally learned to laugh.  Especially thanks to our second son, Daniel, who I think was born just to bring us this gift.  Consider this conversation between my children at age 2 1/2 and 3 1/2.

Phil: Sir, I am allergic to peanuts. And eggs.
Daniel: Did you say penis??
Phil: Nooooo sir. PEANUTS. PEANUTS. 
Daniel: Oh, penis and eggs. OK, got it.
Daniel: Yeah. Penis. Penis and eggs.

How can you stress with a brother like that?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


A comment I have been getting a lot lately as people find out more about my sister's ministry is. . .
"Wow!  That's your only sister!  She lives there? In Africa???  You must REALLY miss her!"
And I surprise myself with the answer that comes out of my mouth
"No," I say, "not really!"
Then, the person usually nods knowingly and says something about Skype and Facebook and I nod back and we continue the conversation. . .but I have been pondering that knee jerk response and feel the need to explain.

No, I do not miss my sister.

Not the way I miss our old Graham Avenue neighbors, not the way I miss my late grandmother, not even the way I miss having a Gap in the Washington Square mall.

That sounds harsh, so maybe I should clarify.

I cannot say I miss my sister because the alternative is unacceptable. In my mind, "missing" means longing for something and wanting it back.  If I had the Gap in the Washington Square mall again, I could knock out all of my shopping in one totally uncrowded mall that has a Target attached to it.  Yeah, I long for that!  If I had my sister back from Africa, I would not have my sister back.  Emily's heart and soul are in Africa, with the children and women that she serves and ministers to.  She is absolutely the happiest I have ever seen her in her entire 22 years.  God has transformed her, her spirit has been awakened, she has been filled with grace, her entire being overflows with joy and service.  She is more fully present now than she ever was when she was in my physical presence, because the Lord is so alive and present in her.  She has become the hands and feet of Christ, living the Gospel, and serving the least of His people.  Her heart has found its home.  It was never really here to begin with.

Now, if they rephrased the question, I might answer it differently.  Do I miss watching Jersey Shore with my sister?  YES!!  Do I miss our Target runs?  YES!!  Do I miss the funny way she blows her nose and the way she leaves half empty water bottles everywhere kind of like that girl from Signs and my Dad following her around with a Sharpie to identify them as hers?  YES!!!  Do I miss the hilarity and excitement she brings to our family gatherings. . .like giant stuffed birds, homemade underwear, crazy socks and random kittens in baskets?  DEFINITELY YES!!!  But that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.  Of course, I cry (or bawl) when we say goodbye to her at the airport.  Or when she casually Skypes me and informs me that she has malaria or some strange lump and gets my mind all in a tizzy.  But those are selfish tears.  Those are tears based on fear, and one thing I have learned from Emily is to not let fear grip your heart.  I have to trust the One who called his daughter home to Africa to guard her and protect her.  I have to know that He will provide for her needs while she serves His people, heal her illnesses, comfort her heart, and give her the grace and strength she needs to serve the children of Ekisa.

She's not mine. . .she's theirs.
She's His. 

It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


From the time I was a little girl, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up- get married and be a mom, just like mine!  Actually, first I wanted to be a truck driver.  And then a mom.  You know, just a regular mom who drove her baby with her in the car seat in her semi as she crossed the country, chatting it up on the CB and seeing the sights.  In retrospect that seems pretty unrealistic, but those commercials they aired during my Gilligan's Island reruns after school really persuaded me that trucking was for everyone- even me and my baby.  And my future husband, who would of course ALSO be a truck driver.  I had it all figured out.

So, after dreaming of it my whole life, unsuccessfully trying to convince my baby sister that I was actually her mom, being the #1 babysitter for dozens of families, teaching Sunday school, working at the Y, getting a certificate in education and settling into my career as a teacher, Paul and I were married. (He's not a trucker, but he'll do :) For a few blissful years we enjoyed two incomes, a busy social calendar and few responsibilities outside of mowing the lawn and occasionally cleaning the bathroom.  After we had all that perfected parenthood seemed like the next logical step!  We were over the moon when we found out we were expecting our first child.  I was finally going to be a mom.  It all seemed so right.

When Philip Theodore was born, however, I was TOTALLY not prepared.  When I held him in my arms for the first time, the emotion hit me like one of those semis I had dreamed of driving long ago.  To say I was floored and unnerved by it would be an understatement!   I had expected more of the blissful, generically loving feeling I had been experiencing throughout my pregnancy.  I had visions of gazing at my child's face and feeling love surround me like a warm blanket.  Instead I had my first introduction to what the Mack truck of "mother love" really feels like.  Romantic love seemed like nothing. . .I mean, I really, really, love Paul.  I would probably do anything for him- cut my hair or give him my liver or drink poison Romeo and Juliet style or really just about anything he needed.  But the love I felt for little Phil was something completely different- it was more fiercely protective, more overwhelmingly deep, more moving than anything I had ever experienced.  In fact, I had no idea that Paul was even in the room.  Paul?  Paul who??  I knew in that instant that I would throw myself in front of a bus or kill someone with my bare hands to protect this child. I mean, ME??  I can't even kill a spider!  That's how raw this emotion was. I didn't even know how to process it.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't sleep.  I could barely look at his sweet angel face without bursting into tears because- hadn't he grown just in the past hour?  Oh, no, he's just growing so FAST!!!  In retrospect, it's pretty darn embarrassing!  Whoever said becoming a mother means letting your heart beat outside of your body really hit the nail on the head.  It was all wrapped up in that cute, soft little package.  My heart.  His body.  And not just his body. . .but that of any other child in the universe.  I lost any ability watch the evening news, because in any tragedy all I can think of is the mothers. . .the ones who can't find their children, the ones who had to watch their children die, the ones who had to leave this earth too soon and won't see their children grow.  Nope, I am tearing up just thinking about it, I had better leave that alone for now.

Now that we have three children, our friends often ask. . .which do you think was harder- 1 to 2?  2 to 3?  Paul and I don't miss a beat when we say 0 to 1.  No contest.  As if the overwhelming love wasn't hard enough to deal with in the hospital, it was much more intense back in our own home.  Everything seemed different- our house looked different and all of the sudden not clean enough or organized enough or good enough for our new baby.  I still couldn't eat. Even having a cat for a pet seemed like too much work, and we were so overwhelmed we had to send poor Bootsy to my parents house for a few weeks.  Being awake at all hours had seemed so fun when we were the ones choosing to be awake back in our party days, but now it just seemed cruel and devastating.  I remember at one point Paul and I looking at each other in desperation and him saying to me, "HOW do people EVER want to do this more than once??"  The transition to parenting for us was more difficult that anyone would have imagined.  I am sure having an extra fussy baby didn't help, but, then again, maybe it's difficult for everyone.

My mom made it look so deceptively easy- nice meals on the table, perfectly done hair and makeup, pretty outfits.  She always wore matching nightgowns and robes, made beautiful dresses for my sister and I for every holiday, and still had enough time to work on my homework with me, take care of her own mom, work part-time AND even sneak in an afternoon nap.  Plus, she never, EVER, ever ever lost her temper with me.  (The only time I ever remember her seeming that angry was when she was teaching me to drive, but most reasonable people get stressed when I am behind the wheel.)  Coming from that background, I had way too high of expectations for myself!  At some point on my mothering journey, my mom 'fessed up and said that the real secret is that NOONE REALLY TELLS YOU HOW HARD IT IS.  


I guess they wouldn't.
I mean, who would?

Because, yeah, it's hard.  But it's good.  It's way too good not to put up with the hard.  Actually, too good to even put into words and explain it to someone else.  It's stepping-on-a-lego-in-your-bare-feet painful and sweet-little-boy-fresh-from-the-bath-on-your-lap-reading-goodnight-moon sweet.  It's peeling-stickers-off-the-floor tedious and I-wuv-you-mahmee glorious.  It's messy and fun and hard and effortless and silly and exhausting and uplifting and humbling and amazing all at once.

And maybe I am not as good at it as I thought I would be.  And that's OK, too.  Because if my PERFECT MOM said it wasn't easy, then I must not be a complete failure at it.  Who knows, maybe if I just smile and pick myself up when I fail, someday my kids will look back and think that THEY had the perfect mom, too?  And really, what more does God ask of us than to keep trying our best, keep loving with that perfect mother-love He gave us, and keep moving forward?  

Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)

And P.S.  Obviously we decided more than one was going to be just fine.  And the holding your baby for the first time the second time and third time around feels much more like a warm blanket than a Mack truck, so that was good, too. :)