The Storm

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The Short Story (Because brevity is bliss):

We had a storm last week and it was craaaaaazy.

The Long Story (Because I want to remember the whole story so I can tell it to my kids some day when all they remember about this ordeal is that they got to stay up late and eat ice cream in the dark after we’d already brushed teeth. And because I suck at brevity.):

Last Tuesday, January 10, actually started off quite fantastically. We have a tradition in our neighborhood that whenever a child from our community has a birthday, we gather at their house in the morning for a celebratory breakfast before starting the day. We had one such birthday on Tuesday, and I’m not one to complain when I’m served sizzling meats and birthday cake before 8:00 AM. After dropping the boys off at school, I took Hannah to her first baby-and-me music class. Also wonderful.

There was no problem at all until I got home from the music class and realized that the “atmospheric river” the meteorologists had been warning us about was reaching it’s max capacity. We were in the midst of one of the biggest winter storms I’ve ever witnessed, and that’s saying something.

Now, I grew up in Seattle. I know rain. I’ve seen every manner of rain and lived to tell the tale. This rain, however, was different. This was dark, brooding skies, incessant sheets of rain, and strong gusts of wind. Making matters worse, we live in a narrow mountain canyon, literally on the edge of a creek (and by “on the edge” I mean close enough that the boys pee off our back deck into the water, and by “creek” I mean that the storm had turned it into an insanely full, about to spill over, raging river.).

By the time I picked up the boys from school in the afternoon, I could tell there would be problems. Tree branches littered the streets and a few large rocks had rolled down the canyon walls outside our house. Things were getting wet and wild, and I cancelled our afternoon plans in favor of hunkering down inside our safe, warm house.

That night Jon had to work late, so I put the boys to bed and went upstairs to begin a night of bingeing on all of the shows Jon refuses to watch with me on the basis of “risks to his masculinity” (Call The Midwife and The Crown were on the agenda). I was about to cut into a pan of brownies when there was a loud crashing sound, followed by darkness. Utter and complete darkness.

It’s hard to describe the kind of dark that it gets in our house when the power goes out suddenly in the middle of the night during a storm. Since we live in a canyon, there’s already no external light–no distant streetlights, no ambient light from the city, not even moonlight reaches the canyon floor. In those first moments, it was so dark that I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. Thankfully, I was prepared for a power-outage (we’d already had one for a few hours 2 days before when the storm was just getting started), so I fumbled my way over to the kitchen counter where I had stashed a few flashlights.

I turned on my light and went to check on the kids, but the loud crash had woken the boys up and they were already on their way upstairs. Since the boys were awake and now WIRED, I decided to let them stay up and play for awhile so I could try to figure out what to do. My first instinct was to leave. After all, we live in a narrow mountain canyon with a quickly rising creek in the middle and steep muddy walls on either side–not exactly the ideal place to be during a raging storm with a power outage.

I set about packing overnight bags for us and called Jon at work to let him know what was happening (read: I called Jon to freak out and completely lose my mind.). I was about to go wake up the baby for our great escape when I got word from a neighbor that no escape would be possible. That loud crash I’d heard? Yeah, that was a mudslide and the only road out of the canyon was now blocked by a ginormous downed tree, splintered power poles, and live electrical wires. There would be no leaving…for awhile.

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The mudslide damage on our street in the canyon

For the next few hours I attempted to look calm and excited about our little “adventure” in the storm while I continued to fret internally at the possiblity of our house either (A) Being wiped out by another mudslide (B) Having the roof crushed by another ginormous tree making its way down the hill or (C) Being washed away by the raging river outside our back door.

The boys loved that I let them stay up after bedtime to eat all of our ice cream…after all, I didn’t want it to melt during the power outage and go to waste. When people ask the boys how the storm was or what we did all week, they always answer the same thing: Ice cream. The only thing they remember about this whole crazy week was that we ate ice cream in the dark.

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Eating ice cream in the dark

I finally gave up on the idea of trying to get out of the canyon that night and realized that we were just going to have to lay low in our own dark house. I made myself a bed on the floor of the boys’ room and laid down with them until they finally fell asleep around 11:30.

Shortly after, at about midnight, Jon made it home and I got my first report from “the outside”. There was another mudslide on Highway 17, the only road we can take to get to our mountain, and he’d been stuck in traffic for hours before he finally snuck past the barricade during the workers’ break. Once he got to the canyon, he couldn’t drive down our road because of the downed trees. He parked about a mile up the road and walked in…in the total darkness, with no light, and stepping over the (hopefully no-longer live) wires that were strewn across the road.

We got our first glimpse of the damage once there was daylight the next morning (Wednesday). Several men from our community were already out in the street with chainsaws working to clear the downed trees off the road. The power company, PG&E, arrived on scene a bit after 8:00 and began to assess the damage. In total, 7 power poles (including the one directly in front of our house) had been knocked down and needed to be replaced. This would not be a quick fix.

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Power pole down in front of our house.

Since Jon’s car was already parked on the other side of the mudslide, he was able to walk back out of the canyon and go to work on Wednesday morning. I, however, was still trapped at our house. David’s school was cancelled anyway, so we just hung out inside the house reading books and sitting by the fireplace.

Wednesday afternoon we got word that the trees had been cleared off the road, and anybody who would like to have access to the world outside the canyon should move their cars out of canyon now before they closed the road again to begin electrical work. Since there were still mudslides on Highway 17 that were intermittently closing down the road, I decided to just park my car outside of the community but stay put.

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Walking back home from our car–we had to park about 20 minutes (at kid pace) away from our house.

Even though being stuck in a house without power isn’t ideal, it still beats being stuck on a Highway with a car full of kids for hours on end with no way to get off the highway (this has happened to us before, and it is a scene from a horror movie that I do not chose to ever repeat.). Turns out this was a good call–most people I know who left the canyon took 3-5 HOURS to drive the 3 mile stretch on Highway 17 between the last exit in town and our exit. No thank you, very much.

We spent the rest of the day Wednesday staying out of the way of the PG&E crews that had taken over the street, visiting our neighbors (some of whom ended up in the emergency room with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes coming off their generator), cooking meals on our BBQ, NOT using water (because our community water pump doesn’t work without power = no filtration, and no way to purge sewage…ewwwww….), napping (Hannah) and going completely bonkers from being stuck inside all day (Boys. And me. Mostly me.). With the mudslide commute, Jon got home around midnight again. The rest of us were already asleep huddled around the fire in my bedroom.

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Our home within our home…sleeping bags around the fireplace.

Thursday was pretty much the same as Wednesday. Still no power, still no way to get off the mountain.

By Friday we still didn’t have power, and I was starting to lose it. We’d all been living, playing, eating, and sleeping in one room, because that one room was the only room with a fireplace…and heat is a good thing when it’s 35 degrees outside. Since we were all sleeping in one room, that meant I was doing very little “sleeping” and much “tending to children who woke up in the middle of the night” so that they wouldn’t wake up the rest of the room. Plus, I was still nervous about the whole tree-falling-on-our-house-or-washing-away-in-a-river possibility. After 3 straight nights of no sleep, I was SPENT. Like, really, really over this whole storm adventure thing.

By Friday morning they seemed to have the mudslide situation on Highway 17 under control, so I made quick to get the heck off of our mountain. I was beyond excited to finally re-enter civilization! My cell phone had been perpetually out of battery for the last 3 days (which is a bit disconcerting when it’s your only link to civilization and emergency help should you need it), and the only way I could charge it was to go plug it in to my car for a few minutes at a time. On the agenda: finding a place where I could charge my phone and get something warm to drink.

As soon as I dropped the boys off at school, I drove over to the closest Starbucks ready to get my charge-and-drink on. When I walked in, however, my dreams of recharging disappeared. Every single chair, booth, and table was already full. I even asked a few different people if I could sit at their tables, and I got denied each time. Under normal circumstances I would have just brushed this off and moved on with my day. But this?  This was not a normal circumstance.

I’d been scared and stuck in a cold, dark house for almost 4 days with 3 young children. I needed a warm place to sit and charge my dang cell phone. Nobody would make room for me. I’d just been through one of the most stressful weeks of my life, and nobody cared. Nobody here even seemed to notice. It was, shall we say, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I burst into tears and stormed out of Starbucks (baristas, by the way, love it when their customers grab their drink, randomly burst into tears, and then storm out of the store.).

Then I did what any rational adult would do in this situation: I called my mom. I was done being the “strong” grown up, and I just needed to cry with my mommy. I have no regrets. She totally talked me off the ledge and made me feel like someone really did care (because, really, people do care). She (and my dad, who had been called in for reinforcement) offered their love and support, then convinced me to go home and take a nap. It was sound advice, and I took it.

I tried to take the nap, but my brain wouldn’t turn off–I was trying to figure out how to get the heck out of here. I couldn’t stand one more night in the cold, dark house with everyone huddled around the one, small fireplace. I sent out a plea of desperation on Facebook, looking for someone who might have room for us at their house for the weekend. After a few minutes I had so many responses from friends offering to help us that I had to take down the post so we wouldn’t break the internet (Thank you, friends, you really are the best!). See, I told myself, people really do care.

In the end, we decided to make a break for a warmer locale. My sister lives in southern California, and we figured this would be the perfect excuse to visit them for the long holiday weekend. I don’t know if my sister had been tipped off to my pleasant little phone call with my parents earlier in the day, but she and her family bent over backward to accommodate us. Her family moved out of their house for the weekend and stayed with her in-laws so we could have her whole house–and, most importantly, all of their beds–to ourselves.

We had a great weekend playing with my niece and nephew, swimming, eating out, hiking, and feeling very loved. When we went to church with them on Sunday morning, though, God got the last laugh: the sermon was on why God allows natural disasters to happen. Seriously. I took copious notes, and I left church that morning realizing that God’s grace can override anything and everything–even a storm. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

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Hiking with my sister and her family in sunny southern California–no storm here!

By the time we got back home after our weekend away, the streets were cleared and the power had been restored. All’s well that ends, well…I guess.

So, that is the story of the storm.

I know that I’ll remember this adventure for years to come, but if you only remember one thing about my story, remember this: ice cream is not worth sacrificing. If your power goes out, just start eating all the ice cream. At least then your kids will have a story worth telling.

From The Mouths of Babes

img_9747This week as I was putting our house back together after Christmas, I came across one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a small journal that my sister gave me a few years ago from her travels in Thailand (lucky duck). On the cover of the journal there is a gray elephant decked out in colorful jewels and draped with a red blanket, an elephant fit for a king. The real treasure, however, lies within the book.

When you open the journal to the first page, I have written “From The Mouths of Babes: Funny Things Kids Say and Do”. The following pages are filled with funny (at least, funny to me) quotes and memories from the important little ones in my life: my own children, my nephew, even some of my former students.

As I was re-reading the quotes in this journal I was reminded of how precious this time with littles is–this time when the most innocent words can be misconstrued, and when you realize that common knowledge isn’t so common after all. It all makes for some hilarious tidbits, and lucky for my children, I WROTE THEM ALL DOWN. And now, my friends, I will share some of these gems with you:

December 21, 2012
David (age 2), looking at his picture Bible: “Mommy, I found Jesus!”
Mommy: “What is he doing?”
David: “Playing in the water!” (it was the story of Jesus Baptizing John the Baptist)

May 2, 2013
Mommy : “I’m thinking of a treat, see if you can guess what it is. It’s something you eat that is brown and sweet. It starts with the “ch” sound.”
David (age 2 1/2): “Jellyfish!”

May 2, 2013
David (age 2 1/2), crying hysterically: “I want my fingernail off my finger!”

July 30, 2013
Mommy: “David, can you think of an animal that is covered in wool?”
David (age 2 1/2): “A WOLF!”

November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving)
Mommy: “David, what are you thankful for?”
David (age 3): “Balls. And beer.”

September 11, 2014
David (almost 4): “I’m touching my butt!”
Mommy: “That’s a yucky word. Try saying “tushy” instead.”
David: “I’m tushy my butt!”

December 2, 2014
David (age 4): “Mom, where are you from?”
Mommy: “Washington.”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “California?”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “Seattle? Ireland? Arizona? Ireland? America?”
David: “No, I think you’re from Heaven.”

December 3, 2014
Jacob (age 2): “Sorry, Daddy.”
Daddy: “Why?”
Jacob hits Daddy in the face
Jacob: “For hitting you.”

December 6, 2014
Jacob (age 2), pointing to a very tall water fountain: “Is that a water mountain?”

January 13, 2016
David (age 4): “Mom, thank you for this yummy treat!”
(The “treat” was a plate full of lettuce leaves.)

April 3, 2015
David (age 4), with pirate face paint on, talking to a lady in the park: “Hi, I’m David!”
Lady: “Hi! I like your face paint. I’m jealous!”
David: “Hi, Jealous!”

April 8, 2015
Jacob (age 2 1/2), having found his first ever snail: “Mom, I’m holding a sticky seashell, and it smells like chicken.”

April 10, 2015
Mommy, pointing to a letter “M”: “Jacob, do you know what letter this is?”
Jacob (age 2 1/2): “McDonalds!”

April 19, 2015
David (age 4 1/2): “Do wildflowers growl and bite?”

August 20, 2015
David (age 4 /12), playing with a rubber band that just snapped his hand: “Ow! That rubber band just got me in the nuts!”

November 10, 2015
Jacob (age 3): “Mom–stop singing. I can’t hear my ears.”

December 10, 2016
Jacob (age 4): “Mom, I love you so much that I’m going to toot!” (proceeds to toot in my face)

Awwww…aren’t they just PRECIOUS?! My take-away from this exercise:  I need to teach my children phonics more often than we go out for fast food, I should feed my family lettuce more often, and my children have a long way to go in learning the ins and outs of their own anatomy.

May your days be full of laughter and so much love that you have to toot.

 

My Best of 2016 Awards

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As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today I noticed a recurring theme of “2016 has been the WORST year ever…” in my friends’ posts. Venerated celebrities have died. A controversial presidential election took place. The worldwide refugee crisis and slavery have reached historical highs. Brexit. Just a lot of weird, terrible, confusing, heartbreaking things went down over the past 365 1/4 days.

It hasn’t all been bad, though. In the midst of the crazy town that has been 2016, there have been many rays of light. This year has taught me to be grateful for what I have and to embrace the blessings in my life. So, let’s turn that frown upside down! Here are some of the highlights from my year:

Best Loss:
Excess Busyness.
This year I made a point of not over-scheduling our family. We had been running into a lot of burn out, and I decided that enough was enough. I limited the boys’ extra-curricular activities to one activity at a time, that they could both do together. No more shuttling kids back and forth and back and forth. I said no to some invitations that I would have liked to say yes to. We cut back on our travel and adventure-making. We just needed some time to chill out, and it’s been good for all of us.

Best Addition:
Hannah!
Oh my goodness, I can not say enough wonderful things about this child. Born in February of this year, she has changed our family for the better–she’s taught us to be more loving, more generous, more protective (and more lenient…third child problems, I guess). The boys care for Hannah and teach her. Jon and I love cuddling her and hearing those sweet baby giggles in our home again. Even the dog loves licking the floor under her high chair.

Best Academic Surprise:
David’s kindergarten success!
I have struggled with making school decisions for our kids every. Single. Year. It’s complicated, and I just want what’s best for them. The problem is, sometimes I don’t know what’s best for them and we just have to make a decision and pray for the best. That’s kind of what happened this year with David starting Kindergarten, and we’ve all been blown away (in the best way). He is thriving like I never expected could happen in my wildest dreams. The kid loves school so much that he cries when it’s the weekend BECAUSE HE WANTS TO STAY AT SCHOOL. When this year is over, I’m sure I’ll also be crying BECAUSE I’LL WANT HIM TO STAY AT SCHOOL.

Best Over-coming:
Jacob starting preschool.
Poor little Jacob had literally never been away from me or his brother until this year, and it was a rough start for him. When he first started preschool he was nervous and timid, but all of that has changed. He’s making new friends and learning new things. He’s brave and kind and excited to learn. We are so proud of our little guy!

Best Husband:
Jon!
Yeah, yeah…I only have ONE husband…but he’s a KEEPER! Each year that we’re married (and there have already been 11 of them) I fall more in love with this man who I have chosen to do life with. He’s kind, caring, hard-working, Jesus-loving, and unfaltering in his dedication to our family. He snuggles babies and wrestles boys. He cooks the most amazing steak. He even sends me out to do “whatever I want” (a nap in my car) on the days he’s home from work. Love you forever, Jon!

Best Adventure:
Our trip to Arizona.
This spring we took a pilgrimage back to the land of my birth: Arizona. While there, we visited my grandma, aunts, uncle, and cousins–family who we hold dear in our hearts but don’t get to see in person nearly often enough. I got to introduce my kids to the joys of polliwog hunting in G.G. Sandy’s creek, the smell of creosote in the desert after it rains, and why we don’t touch the owie trees (cactus). We got to see one of the Wonders of The World (the Grand Canyon) and we discovered the place we’re going to retire so we can hike and visit day spas every day (Sedona). It wasn’t a lavish vacation, but it was one of the most impactful adventures we’ve had in a long time.

Best Yes:
MOPS.
Two years ago I was asked to step into leadership at our church’s MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, but it just wasn’t the right time. Last spring they still needed someone to take over the group, and I said Yes. Leading and praying for the moms in our group has been one of my greatest privileges this year. I have a huge heart for moms in the trenches, and I love that I get to spend my week ministering to them now. Plus we get brunch at MOPS, so what’s not to love?

Best Surprise:
My sister Jessica showing up on my doorstep for Thanksgiving.
While I love most parts of the life we’ve made for ourselves here in California, I will always miss my friends and family who are far away. This year we hosted my parents (from Washington) and sister Erin’s family (from Southern California) for Thanksgiving at our house, but my other sister Jessica couldn’t make it. She had just started a new job and couldn’t get time off work to fly down from Seattle. As we were sitting down to dinner on the first night of everyone’s arrival, however, there was a knock on our door–it was Jessica, and she’d flown down after work to spend the weekend with us. I know that it was a huge sacrifice of time and expense on her part to be here, but it meant so much to me. Love you, Jess!

Best Accomplishment:
Running the Big Sur Half Marathon.
I’ve been a runner for most of my life and I’ve run more half marathons than I can even recall, but this one was special. I ran it in November, just 9 months after giving birth to my third baby (via C-Section…my THIRD C-Section. All of you C-Section mamas know what a big deal this is.). It took a lot of focus and sacrifice to fit in the training, overcome injury, and make this race happen. My dad flew down from Seattle to run the race with me, and it was the most breathtakingly beautiful course I’ve ever run. Absolutely one for the memory bank.

Best Accidental Joy:
The benefits of random acts of kindness.
This year I wanted to help spread kindness, and to get my kids in on the action with me. We’ve done everything from baking treats for new neighbors to bringing hand-made Christmas cards to our fire fighters. And while the kindness is always appreciated by the recipients, the lasting joy those acts give me and my kids is by far the best benefit. I’ve made special friendships and precious memories through our random acts of kindness, and I intend to keep it up.

Best Realization:
God’s got this.
You guys, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world around us. There will always be pain and injustice and nuts-o politics. This is a broken, hurting world–it always has been, and always will be. That’s why God sent us a Savior, and He is bigger than all of this. When you feel discouraged or confused or angry, put your trust in Him, because He’s got this. And that. And everything else, too. And when we change our calendars next week, that truth will always remain. God’s got this.

Now, as we enter yet another year, may you experience the blessings all around you.

Welcome, 2017!

Bring it on.

Moving Forward

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Yesterday morning I woke up to the results of one of the most divisive elections this country has every labored through (and, having gone through a combined total of over 80 hours of childbirth labor myself, I can attest that labor is the most accurate term for what we have all just gone through here). Now that the results are in, a winner has been called: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. There are a million and one reasons why I could not vote for him. However, despite my own feelings or convictions or efforts to make my voice heard, the truth remains: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States of America. And so, we have a choice to make. Are we for him, or are we against him?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last 24 hours, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be for him. I must be pro-Trump and move forward with acceptance. Because for me, for us, for them it is the right decision.

I will move forward with acceptance because he will be president.
Living in a democratic nation means that sometimes who or what you choose wins…and sometimes it doesn’t. That is the beauty (and the beast) of the democracy that our nation has fought so hard for. No matter how I feel about any of this, nothing will change the outcome of the election at this point. On January 20th, Donald Trump will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and he will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Trump will be the leader of our nation and the free world. With leadership comes a huge responsibility. Leaders need support and guidance if they are to do their leading well. So, for that reason, I will offer my support.

I will move forward with acceptance because unity is better than division.
There have been a lot of Big Feelings across our country and around the world this week. This election has shown me that people are feeling broken and scared and rejected. And right now? Right now we all need love. And kindness. And hope. We need to come together, not break apart. We need to support one another and hold each other up. We need to walk forward as friends and neighbors and families and fellow citizens.

I will move forward with acceptance because my reaction is teaching my children.
My children are watching my every move and word and attitude. They are learning from me how grown-ups handle the real world, how adults handle tough times. My reaction today will teach my children how to be a good loser. My reaction today will teach my children how to respect authority, even when I disagree. My reaction today will teach my children to put their hope and trust in Jesus, not on the fleeting decisions of this earth. My reaction today will teach my children how to be the kinds of grown-ups I hope they will be some day.

I will move forward with acceptance because I reject bitterness.
When we don’t get what we want, sometimes bitterness can seep into our hearts. We dwell on the past, on what could have been, on what we wish we could have had. But bitterness is like poison. It can utterly ruin a person. Instead, I will choose hope. Because in every situation, there is good to be found. Find the good, and cling to hope. That, my friends, is life-giving.

I will move forward with acceptance because Trump was made in God’s image.
God created Donald Trump. He did! God loves Donald Trump. He does! Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, and that includes our neighbors in the White House. There are no contingencies of “Well, love thy neighbor unless you disagree with them or don’t particularly like them or if you’re just too jealous of their incredible hair…”. No. We are called to love all people, because God loves all people.

I will move forward with acceptance because Trump is not my ultimate authority.
Here’s a shocker: there was not a single candidate on my ballot that held true to every conviction that I hold dear in my heart. There was not a single candidate that met my impossibly high standards for perfection as a leader, because no person could meet those standards. Jesus is my benchmark and, sorry fellas, but y’all fall short.

Regardless of who is running our nation or our local government or my own household, my ultimate authority is God and His Word. The world is a very broken place, filled with and led by very broken people. But God is perfect. He is just. He is all-loving. He is all-powerful. He is sacrificial. He is generous. He redeems that which is broken. He is never-changing. He is everything I could ever want or need from a leader, and He is my ultimate authority. God can use any situation to His glory–He sees the whole story, not just the messy parts in the middle. So no matter what happens in the world, there is hope in the steadfast love and leadership of God.

In the end, I get to make a choice. This choice is bigger than an election, bigger than the outcome of a presidential race. Because this choice is for me. I get to choose how I will live my life, how I will lead my children, how I will move forward with the Truth of Jesus. And that choice? That choice is mine. No swing state or electoral college can take the power out of my choice for how I live my own life. So I will choose to move forward. To move forward in love, unity, humility, and grace.

Because choice is a beautiful thing.

 

Thank You Notes

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A couple of weeks ago in MOPS we had a fantastic speaker come and talk to our group about something I have totally not mastered: jealousy. And along with jealousy, comparison. I know that it’s hard to fathom, but from time to time I find myself longing for the green grass on the other side (Shoot, I would even settle for the grown children who can wipe their own bums on the other side of the bathroom stall.).

In her talk, however, the speaker gave us the solution to this particular problem of jealousy. Do you want to know what it is? What one quick fix will get you out of the comparison game faster than anything else? Drumroll, please…

Gratefulness!

Being thankful for what you have is the opposite reaction to comparison, and it really does work. So, in an attitude of true repentance and gratefulness, I have decided to pen my own thank you notes* to celebrate the many blessings of motherhood (*credit to Jimmy Fallon, Jen Hatmaker, and every other funny person who has already done this and who I am blatantly plagiarizing with this post).

They go something like this:

Thank you, playground sand, for staying with my children long after they leave the playground. My children had so much fun jumping off the swings into you and digging in you with their sand toys in you that we just couldn’t stand to leave that party. I count it all as joy when I walk into my living room and step into a pile of freshly-dumped-from-shoes playground sand. It’s such a fun reminder of the good times we had at that park and it does not stress me out at all. I love it when I’m about to get into bed at night, but I have to spend 20 minutes vacuuming the floor around my bed first because there is a fine sprinkling of playground sand scattered around my entire bedroom–it’s like camping at the beach!

Thank you, Moms Night Out, for an excuse to get out of dealing with BEDTIME. The friends and the night out are nice, too, but we all know the real reason we scheduled this little shin-dig from 7-9:00.

Thank you, Costco, for allowing me to still feel like a got a bargain at the end of the day because my hot dog + soda still only costs $1.50. I may have spent $400 on “essential” items, but you still know how to please the penny pinchers in all of us.

Thank you, doctors’ office stickers. You made my child feel proud and brave after he got his flu shot (even though he screamed like an attacking mountain lion and left claw marks in my arms from his attempted escape during the procedure). Not only do you change my child’s outlook on his day, but you also change his wardrobe. Thank you for sticking to his shirt all day and never falling off like a decent cheap sticker, so that I forget about you and throw his shirt-with-sticker in the washing machine the next morning. The sticky residue that you leave on his shirt is such a nice addition to the clothing–that shirt was so boring, so normal, before you left your gobs of goo permanently glued to the front right breast of that shirt.

Thank you, weekend mornings with children, for being exactly like every other morning of the week. I never really liked quiet or sleep or brunch anyway.

Thank you, “screen time”, giver of daily mini-vacations to moms everywhere.

Thank you, minivan. You are so much more than a vehicle. You are a storage closet, a kitchenette, a baby-changing station and a super-cush place to sneak in a nap between kindergarten drop-off and preschool pick-up. You have so many cubbies and cup holders that I hardly even notice the garbage my kids hoard in your dark recesses. I’m sorry I gave you so much crap before I had you–I was a different person then, and I just didn’t know you. Can we please be BFF’s now? xoxox

…and I could go on and on with these, but my baby just woke up from her nap. I’ve got to leave it here for now because real life is calling. There is a baby downstairs who needs me a and a house that (definitely) needs cleaning. There is a whole pile of people for me to love and who love me.

And for that, I truly am thankful.

 

Be Love

img_6608When I was a child, I used to dream about lovely things like becoming a ballerina or being able to lick off BOTH beaters when my mom was baking a cake. As an adult, however, my dreams have changed somewhat (although I still lick off both beaters when my kids aren’t looking). As a grown-up, I’ve dreamed of more grand things. Like meeting Jen Hatmaker.

For those of you who may not know her already, you are about to, and you’re welcome. She’s only the most hilarious, genuine, kind, encouraging, inspirational author and speaker of our generation. Stop what you’re doing right now and go on Amazon to buy her books and listen to a few of her podcasts. You won’t be sorry.

Jen Hatmaker lives in Austin, and I’ve seriously contemplated moving to Texas just so we can “accidentally” become fast friends. As it turns out, though, Jen actually came to me! Last weekend she was in central California as part of the tour for her most recent book, For The Love. Obviously I had to go see her. So, I packed up myself and the baby, and drove for “what should have been 3- but turned into 6-hours” through the worst Bay Area Friday Afternoon Traffic ever (remind me again why we live here?). But in the end, we made it. And it was totally worth it.

I had an amazing weekend and I met some amazing people. I even got a book signed by my new best bud, Jen. But the best part of the weekend? I left inspired. Inspired to change myself for the better, and hopefully better the world through that change.

The topic of the weekend was “Be Love(d)”. Jen spoke on how we are loved by God (“Be loved”), and how we can “Be love” for others through our life and our actions. The message totally hit home for me, and I’ve been thinking non-stop about the implications of being loved and being love.

There have been several times in the last week where I have literally shed tears over the brokenness around me. It seems like everywhere I look there is discord and fear and hate permeating our communities, our country, the whole world. Racism is rampant. Our political future is at an unnerving tipping point. Terrorism and violence have leaked into our very neighborhoods. People against people. Us against them. Each man for himself.

Yet I refuse to believe that it has to be this way. The brokenness that I feel is surely breaking God’s heart as well, and we can no longer afford to sit idly by and watch the world unravel before us. Action is required. And it begins with us. In fact, Jesus actually straight-up gives us the answer to our current predicament.

When Jesus was questioned about what was the greatest commandment, the most important rule to observe, he answered:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22:37-39

Love! That’s it. The tool that will fix brokenness is love. And love, my friends, is something we can all afford to give.

I am a strong believer that lives are changed one at a time. That deep, meaningful connections–surrounded by love–are what change individuals. And when one life is changed for the better, that one life will influence their family, their community, and the world. It starts with one, but the effects are exponential.

This week I put into practice this idea of “being love”,  quite by accident, and I was blown away by the results. A woman had recently moved into our neighborhood, and she has a baby that is about the same age as Hannah. I’d seen her walking with her baby a few times and had exchanged smiles and waves from across the street, but I hadn’t really introduced myself or gotten to know her at all.

Anyway, on Wednesday afternoon I was baking muffins with the boys and the recipe made a lot more muffins than I was expecting. We had muffins covering every surface of our kitchen, and I was trying to figure out what to do with all of them. Then an idea struck me: maybe I should share some of these surplus muffins! (I know, sometimes it takes me awhile to come to realizations that should be quite obvious.).

So, I packed up a plate of muffins and wrote a quick note welcoming this new neighbor to the neighborhood, and we walked them over to her house. When my neighbor opened the door she was delighted and her eyes filled with tears.

“Nobody ever bakes for me!” She said, “I’m a pastry chef instructor, and I guess people don’t feel like they can bake for me! Thank you so much!”

My first thought was, “I sure hope I got out all of those egg shells from the 4-year old’s “help” in this little project”, but mostly I was just happy that she was happy.

The next day I was rushing to unload groceries from my car before I had to zip out again to pick up Jacob from preschool. I was kind of in the zone, running back and forth from the car and trying to make my deadline. As I was unloading the last bag from my trunk, however, I looked up and saw my new neighbor walking down the street. I glanced up, smiled and waved, ready to get back to the task at hand. But instead of continuing on her walk, my neighbor stopped in my driveway.

She asked if we could talk for a minute–I could tell something was bothering her, so I put down my grocery bag and listened. She went on to tell me her story, a story of brokenness and loneliness and a deep need for love. At the end of her story, she  said, “I don’t know why I just told you all of that, but I just needed to tell someone. And you seemed like someone who could listen.”

And in that moment, I knew exactly why she had just told me all of that. Love. I had done one small, simple, seemingly insignificant act of love, and it literally opened the door to this woman’s home and her heart. Love changes everything, and it does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sharing some muffins, putting down your grocery bag, and listening.

So that is my challenge to you, friends. Be love. Whether the world is falling apart around you, or everything is going along just fine, be love. Love is like a rain drop in a pond, and it sends ripples out into the world. Be the kind of love that sends out ripples of goodness and kindness and hope together.

Be.

Love.

 

 

First Baby vs. Third Baby

I’ve been in this mommy gig for almost 6 years now (but don’t even get me STARTED on how my BABY is about to turn 6. SIX! No. Nuh-uh. Nope. I refuse to acknowledge that these babies of mine will soon outgrow me in wit and height, and I will cry IF I WANT TO.). A lot has changed in those six years–the age and size of my child(ren), the availability of new and improved baby paraphernalia, the fact that my doctor now advises feeding peanut butter to babies. We’ve gone from a family with just one baby, to a family with three children aged 5 and younger. The most notable change over the years, however, would have to be with myself.

I don’t know if I’ve become more wise over the years or if I’ve just given up, but the fact is, I do things differently now. Like, really differently. From my first baby six years ago to our third baby right now, my parenting style has…ahem…shifted. You can see this shift in basically every aspect of my parenting (or lack thereof). For example:

Healthy Eating
First baby:
I literally baked his first-birthday cake from the dirt of the earth. It was made from  stone-ground whole wheat flour, home-made applesauce (cooked from the apples I picked myself. Off an actual tree.), and organic angel kisses. Nothing but the most pure, natural ingredients for my little sunshine.

Third Baby:
I’m pretty sure she just ate an Oreo that had been wedged under the couch since before her conception. She is 7 months old.

Sleep Training:
First baby:
I read Happiest Baby On The Block cover to cover and I implemented the 5 S’s of “calming the fussies” like a BOSS. Happiest baby on the block? Check!

Third baby:
What? There’s a baby crying? Ah, no baby ever died from crying…right???

And while we’re on the topic of sleeping…

Naps:
First Baby:
All naps must be done in a crib, with baby sleeping flat on his back. Play soothing white noise in the background and minimize distractions. And, of course, while baby is sleeping I should work on getting some shut eye as well–after all, good mommies sleep when the baby sleeps!

Third Baby:
I forget that there even is a crib at home, because we’re never at home. Between preschool drop-off, kindergarten drop-off, grocery shopping, errands, exercise, preschool pick-up, and kindergarten pick-up there is exactly zero chance of this baby taking a nap in a crib. Carseats, strollers, baby carriers, a blanket on the grass, and my weary arms make excellent napping spots. Mommy hasn’t slept in 6 years, so we’re just gonna roll with it.

Mom’s fashion:
First baby:
Oh my goodness! My pre-pregnancy size-tiny jeans are snug! Oh, the despair and the agony! At least my perfectly styled hair with fresh highlights still looks cute!

Third bay:
I don’t even know what size I am any more because I refuse to look at those blasted numbers printed on the tags inside my pants. If they fit and I’m comfortable, that’s all that matters. I’ve named my muffin top “Frank”, and I’ve decided to make peace with him so we can be friends. I dress Frank in yoga pants and flowy tops most mornings, and we can all move on with our lives in harmony. And this is nothing to say of my shoes that have also grown with each baby that I’ve pushed out of my body.

My hair is worn in one of two fashionable styles: Top Knot or Low Knot, well out of the way of grabby baby fingers. My hair is tinged with gorgeous gray strands that I earned while chasing my boys across busy parking lots and rescuing them from precarious perches.

Public Breastfeeding
First Baby:
Hold on! Let me grab one of my four nursing covers and slip away to a private room where I can nurse in privacy and modesty.

Third Baby:
I’m already late for kindergarten pick-up, so I just whip it out in the Target parking lot. Privacy has been a myth since my toddler learned how to open the bathroom door, and I’ve already lost my modesty in a birthing suite three times. So, ya know, whatever, Bro.

Bathing:
First Baby:
Every-other-day bathing is ideal so you can practice proper hygiene without drying out baby’s skin. Between baths, make sure to dab at exposed skin with a warm, damp towel infused with essential oils and good chakra.

Third baby:
We went swimming in a public pool over the weekend. That should count for at least a week, right?

Receiving Unsolicited Advice
First baby:
Wow! What powerful insight. You’ve done this before, so you probably know what’s best. After all, what do I know–I’m just a new mom. Maybe I should just implement each piece of conflicting advice I get from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me, my situation, or my baby.

Third baby:
(Smiles and nods her head while rage boils from the deepest core of her being and smoke bellows out her ears)

Bodily functions
First baby:
Baby spits up on you and immediate panic sets in. You change your entire outfit, and that of the baby before setting about disinfecting all exposed areas.

Third baby:
Baby spits up on you and you wipe it off your shoulder with the end of your ponytail. The dog laps up any spillage that made its way to the floor. Eh, good enough.

Time Management
First baby:
WAH!!! I don’t have time for ANYTHING any more! Having a baby is hard work! How am I supposed to get ANYTHING done with a BABY?!?!

Third baby:
I only have the baby today?! Halelujah, sweet Jesus! I have a whole hour to get stuff done…hmmm…what should we do? I know! Let’s go get our nails done, do our monthly Costco shopping trip, get an oil change, and run a half-marathon. Piece of cake! (Oooh! Maybe we should get some cake, too…)

Date Night:
First baby:
Date night is important. We’ll call on our army of local family and same-life-stage friends to help babysit so we can get out at least once a week for some alone time to recharge and reconnect.

Third baby:
Nobody wants to babysit two crazy boys and a baby. Not even if you pay them. We are in the “Netflix and a bottle of wine on the couch after bedtime, but try not to fall asleep before the end of the movie” stage of life. And I’m okay with that, because I can’t stay awake past 9 PM anyway.

Dressing The Baby
First baby (a boy):
Pajamas every day. That should do it.

Third baby (a girl):
I spend tens of minutes that I don’t have each morning styling the fluffliest, furliest, adorable-est frock and bow combination for this sweet flower baby. Tutu? Check. Tights that look like ballet slippers? Check. Sparkly tiara? Check. Now, let’s create an excuse for an outing so we can parade the baby in public.

A Mother’s Love
First baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Third baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Some things change (okay, MOST things change), but the important ones will always remain the same. To each of my babies: I cherish you, I’m for you, I love you. And that, my friends is one thing that will never ever ever change.