Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Letter to My Boys

I got so caught up in my Lenten Challenge blog posts that I didn't write your usual letter last month. I did keep track of all you'd been up to though, so brace yourselves for a longer-than-usual letter.

It seems like you've started on a growth spurt again. Once you hit four, it was like you outgrew all your old clothing overnight. You're now comfortably wearing a 5T most of the time, and you're once again above average in percentiles for your age. You were 41" tall (63rd percentile) and 40 lbs (76th percentile) at your yearly check-up. Everything else checked out okay, minus your first couple of cavities when we took you to the dentist recently. Sorry--Mommy and Daddy haven't been the best flossers and you got a couple cavities in between your back molars where your teeth are tight.

Last week we had parent/teacher conferences at daycare and your teachers raved about what a sweet, kind boy you are. They said you're one of the few in class who gets along with all of the kids, even the ones who aren't very friendly back to you. They also said you've been sticking up for yourself more instead of crying when you get upset, and I got to experience it firsthand the other day when one of your classmates called you a "baby" at drop-off. It was totally my fault, and I felt awful, though you didn't seem to mind. I'd said, "I love you, baby" when you gave me a hug and another kid picked up on it. When he said, "You're a baby!" and pointed at you, you almost-yelled, "I'm not a baby! I don't like that!" and went on about your business. I was so proud of you, but felt bad, too. I'm sure it was just the first of many times I'll embarrass you. Sorry in advance, kiddo.

You also recently had a 4-year screening to see where your skills line up compared to other kids your age. One area you excelled in was language. You call out rhyming words all the time at home, and the test-giver was impressed that you'd already mastered that skill.

Probably the most exciting part of your last month, though was your friend birthday party at the Legacy Park Community Center pool. You were so excited to invite all your friends from class. You all swam at your favorite indoor "froggy pool" and we had cookie cake and opened presents. It was so fun watching you get to celebrate your special day with kids you'd grown up with from babyhood.

Speaking of your birthday, this year was your golden birthday (you turned 4 on the 4th), and I tried to make as big a deal as possible so you'll remember it. There were balloons, and pancakes, and birthday parties, and more balloons, and stickers, and streamers, and presents, etc., etc., etc. It was a magical day, and I hope you'll never forget it.
I love you more,

There are so many updates for you, little man. It's been a big month! There were so many firsts, I could barely keep track. You started saying "hi" and "hello" when you're waving, or when you put a phone up to your ear. Not really any other real words yet, but you're signing like crazy. You sign "more," "all done," and "drink" almost every night at dinner, and "nurse" when it's time to nurse before bed. And every time you see Daisy, you frantically sign "dog" over and over until we say, "Yes! That's the dog. That's Daisy." You also blow kisses daily, and wave bye-bye when I drop you off at daycare.

You've been cruising along pretty good for a while now, and standing on your own, but it wasn't until the day of your big first birthday party that you took off and haven't looked back. You're officially walking and getting better at it every day. You love to stand and climb on things, too. When you stand next to your toy box, you get out every toy in the box and then proceed to stand or stomp on each one before abandoning the pile and moving on to your next conquest.

When you hear music, you can't help but dance, though your dancing is more of a bouncing motion right now. I'm afraid you might have your father's rhythm. It's too soon to tell. :)

Because you and Gavin have birthdays so close together, I'm guessing that your family birthday party will almost always be a combined party, but this year, I wanted you to have your own special first birthday party. We had a "Little Man Mustache Bash" complete with mustache candies, cupcakes and confetti.
The "Little Man" tie banner I made, with a picture of you from every month.
You demolished your cake, though didn't really eat that much. Most of it ended up on the floor, or in your hair, or flung on the wall. Exactly how a first birthday should go, I think.
For gifts, everyone brought a different letter they'd made or purchased to put together an alphabet wall for your room. They're all so unique. I can't wait to see them all together. And everyone signed the backs so you'll always know who made them for you.
A "D" made of wood and rock from Grandpa Dave and Grandma Charlene.
A "B" that Mommy made from the newspaper from the day you were born.
The day after your birthday, when Daddy picked you up from daycare, he got you home and you were extremely fussy. We noticed that you weren't really using your right arm and every time we touched it, you'd scream. We were obviously terrified and headed to urgent care. A few doctors, some x-rays and a day later, you were diagnosed with something called "nursemaid's elbow." Apparently it's pretty common and snaps back into place fairly easily. You hobbled around for a couple of days, but you're back to your old self now and we are so thankful. You gave us a pretty good scare.

I think that's it, buddy. See what I mean? It's been a busy month. And I can't believe you've been a part of our lives a whole year already.

I love you more,

Watch Bennett Grow--One Year Old!

Official Stats:
Weight: 22 lbs (37th percentile)
Height: 29 1/4 inches (23 percentile)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 46: Roots

Our roots are where we are nourished. They anchor us and help keep us grounded. Having strong roots means you're established. Looking back over these last 46 days of Lent, and the daily writing challenge, I'm realizing my writings all had to draw on one of my deepest, most established roots, and that every single post was rooted in the same thing. 


Whether I was pissed at injustice, gushing over my boys, sharing my faith or counting my blessings...everything I wrote was rooted in love. I don't think it was intentional at first, but as I'm looking back, it makes sense. Because without love, we are nothing.

My faith, my marriage, my friendships, the way I feel about my would all be for nothing if it didn't stem from love.

We are made to love and be loved, so as you're reading this, may you be deeply rooted in the knowledge of how truly loved you are. And may you never wins.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 45: Far

I like to question authority. I like to break the rules. Especially rules I think are stupid.

Shocker, right?

Okay...maybe notsomuch if you know me well. I think I tend to rebel partly because I can't stand when we (I'm calling myself out here, too) do things a certain way just because "somebody" made a rule and that's the way it's always been done. It's healthy to question why we do things the way we long as we don't go too far.

But then again, maybe going too far is what it takes to make a change for the good. Maybe going too far is what breaks people out of their comfort zones and really makes them think. Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks during the Civil Rights movement. They questioned the status quo. They made people stop and think. In some people's minds, they went too far...King was assassinated, for goodness sake. But you know what? They made change for the good.

I've been watching the History Channel's Bible miniseries over the last few weeks and one of the things that's enthralled me is how much Jesus pisses off the Pharisees. The Pharisees were these scholarly, smart, authoritative voices for the Jewish faith. They had rules...loads of them, and Jesus broke them left and right. He chose nobodies as disciples, and let women and children hear him teach. He hung out with shady characters and chose to eat meals with "sinners." He offered love to everyone, not just those who deemed themselves the most religious. GASP! He went too far, and the Pharisees turned him over to the Roman government. You know the rest.

The way I see it, the Pharisees of today are the people shouting at everyone, "You're going to hell!" because they're set on a stupid set of human rules that has nothing to do with how God loves us. And it's our job to "go too far" to set things right. It's our job to spread love instead of hate.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 44: Cup

When I look at my husband holding our two boys, and see how much they adore cup runneth over.

When friends calls to ask how my baby's doing after a scary week of doctor's appointments and cup runneth over.

When I realize how generally healthy and strong and resilient by boys are compared to all the very, very sick kids in this cup runneth over.

When I get together with a group of women who know me and get me and allow me to be my goofy, outspoken, cussing cup runneth over.

When I snuggle with my big boy before bed and he asks for "one more cuddle" or "one more song" cup runneth over.

When I hear a product I worked on at Hallmark helped a dying Grandma record a message for a grandbaby she'll never cup runneth over.

When my belly is full and my thirst is quenched, and I pull into the driveway of my warm, cozy cup runneth over.

When my baby reaches out for me because no one can comfort him like his cup runneth over.

As I'm making this list of blessings in my life, it is impossible to have anything but a grateful heart. I am so very blessed.

My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 43: Help


Those of you who know me well probably guessed that today's word would conjure the Beatles classic of the same name:
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me?
When I think about the times in my life I needed help the most, they're the times I didn't speak up and let anybody know. But those times...they're also the times when those closest to me didn't need me to say "Help!" to get them moving. People just stepped up and provided the strength and aid I needed. They're the times I learned who's really going to be there for me when things get tough.

When Ryan was in that life-threatening wave runner accident more than ten years ago, friends and family just started showing up at the hospital to sit with me. They brought food, books, and changes of clothes, but also prayers, support and conversation.

When Ryan had a related hernia surgery years later and all of my parents were out of town, friends took off work to come sit with me because they knew I needed them, even when I said I didn't.

When I had my first baby, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I was struggling with post-partum OCD, my mom and mother-in-law cooked and cleaned and sat and talked and cried and laughed, and made me feel like I could handle this mom thing.

There are so many more examples. So many more. And the thing that sticks out about all of them? They showed me what selflessness really looks like.

So thank you, friends and family, and friends who are more like family. Thank you for stepping up even when I didn't give a Beatles-like shout for help.
You can buy this poster at this Web site.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Gavinisms

While looking out the window on the way to daycare:
Me: "Buddy, look at that airplane!"
Gavin: "That's not a airplane. That's a roller coaster in the sky."

While eating carrots one night at dinner:
Gavin: "I want 68 carrots!"
Me: "If you ate that many carrots, you'd turn orange."
Gavin: "And if I eat lots of gray socks, I'll turn gray!"

Overly excited about the dinner I made:
Ryan: "Gavin, what do we say to Mommy for making dinner?"
Gavin: "Mommy, you deserve a meeeddddaaalllll!"

Thinking about Bennett's 1st birthday:
Me: "What do you want to get Bennett for his birthday?"
Gavin: "A chicken leg."
Me: "What's he gonna do with that?"
Gavin: "Prolly bang it on his head."

Pondering Easter candy:
Gavin: "Mommy...jelly beans are made from jelly and beans, right?"

Lenten Challenge, Day 42: Light

I love the old folksong, "This Little Light of Mine." Partly because of its gospel-like nature, but mostly because I love the message. Don't shout through a bullhorn, but live in a way that makes others wonder what's different about you. Okay...maybe that's just my take on the song.
A quick Wikipedia search claims the song was based on three verses in the bible, one of which is Matthew 5:16.
Let your light shine before others, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
I don't see the word "bullhorn" in there, but that's pretty much the same thing I said, right? I'm not always that great at it because NEWSFLASH: I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But I do know that shouting at people through a bullhorn isn't going to make them feel loved. It's just going to make them run the other way because...weirdo.

Love is active. Something we do, something we share. Love is what makes that light inside us shine the brightest. When we love, we're doing what we're made to do. So step away from the bullhorn and let your light shine instead.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 41: Rejoice

How appropriate that today's word is "Rejoice," and I'm spending today rejoicing the sweet baby boy who entered my life exactly one year ago today. When he joined our little family a year ago, he fit in so seamlessly it was like he'd always been there.
He surprised all of us with his early arrival, and has continued surprising us for what has been the fastest year of my life. That chubby little bundle of cute is now a walking, jabbering, happy, smiley, still chubby, still cute, little boy. And it all feels like it happened overnight.

He still looks just like his brother, but has a personality all his own. It's almost as if he's rebelling against the sameness by constantly trying to break out on his own in other ways. He's a climber. Oh my is he a climber. On boxes, on furniture, on toys, but also on the normal things like stairs and ladders. That's right...I said ladders. Don't ask.
He's ornery, and doesn't seem to pay any heed to the word "no." At first I thought it was just his age, but I've come to the realization that it's downright disobedience. I think it's the mischievous glimmer in his eyes that gives him away.

He's happy. So happy. If he's not teething or upset that Mommy and Daddy have just left to go on a date, he's got a constant smile on his face. And that grin of his? Melts me into a puddle every time. I'm pretty sure he knows it, too.
He's a cuddler, and not just when he's tired. He routinely comes over to one of us, including Gavin, and just lays his head on our shoulders for a few moments before powering on to his next adventure.

He's everything our family needed, and didn't even realize was missing. He fills us with joy every day, and I can't imagine our lives without him.

Happy 1st birthday, my little man!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 40: Blessed

We are all so blessed.

If you're living in America right now reading this, you're blessed.

If you have a roof over your head and food on your table, you're blessed.

If you have a bathroom and clean running water, you're blessed.

If you have family sitting in that cozy house with you, or even halfway across the world, you're blessed.

If you voted in the last election, you're blessed.

If you have a job, you're blessed.

If you have friends, you're blessed.

We're so blessed. Richly blessed, even. And yet, when was the last time we said "thank you" instead of "I need more" or "I want..."? When was the last time we stepped out of our cozy little bubble to acknowledge that we are some of the most richly blessed people in the world?

When was the last time we stopped asking, "God Bless America" and realize He already has?

It's time to say "thank you." It's time to stop asking for more. It's time to share the wealth.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 39: Restore


To begin again, to start fresh, to mend what's been broken.

Today's word immediately reminded me of a Facebook post I saw recently titled, "24 Photos That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity." It included this image:
How have things gotten so broken? Why are the messages people hear from the church ones of hate instead of love like this one above? Why is there a need for restoration at all? Aren't Christians supposed to be the ones spreading love like wildfire? Not breaking people down for the sake of imposing their own agendas and insecurities?

It makes me sad. It makes me angry. It makes me realize that one of the biggest restorations that needs to be happening in this world is within the church itself.

Love wins, people. Can't we all just focus on that?

Rant done.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 38: Alone

Being alone is probably the thing I miss most since becoming a parent. Parents of little know what I mean, right? Most of the time, we can't even get bathroom time alone, can we? Not unless we lock the door, and even then, there are sure to be some knocks and questions and maybe even pudgy little hands under the door trying to pry it open.

When I took the Myers-Briggs test at work, it labeled me extroverted, but just barely. I actually had more tendencies on the introvert side. It doesn't mean I don't like to be around people, it just means that I gain most of my energy from being alone.

I crave time alone. It's how I recharge. It's where I'm most creative. It's important to my sanity.

But there's a delicate balance that's required between time alone and time spent with others. Because I need that, too. It's also important to my sanity. Because we're not meant to go through this life all alone.

We're meant to be in relationship with one another.

We're meant to be a community.
My Monday night "Fondue Crew" gals. They're goofy, but a great community.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 37: Home

Home is not a place. It's not your own cozy bed, or the house you happen to be living in right now. It's not a destination you can get to by plane, train or automobile. It's not just one spot you've carved out as your own.

It's sitting around a table with a group of women who "get" you, or holding your husband's hand in the car. It's watching your baby beam when you pick him up from daycare, or playing "one more game" of Candyland with your preschooler.

Home is relationship. Home is togetherness. Home is where you love.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 36: Beloved

With today's word being "beloved," I couldn't help but post a poem about the moment I knew I was in love with Ryan. It's been more than ten years ago, but he's still my beloved.


I love him most
when he sleeps in my arms—
his hand in a ball under his chin,
his dress shirt pressed with wrinkles.
I take in the earthen scent
of man and run my fingers through his hair,
twisting the thick black curls. His chest expands,
his bent knees rest on the sofa. 
I brush his whiskers against my fingers. 
Then he stirs and captures me—
green-brown eyes piercing,
lips curling in a knowing smile.
The world around us spins away,
changed by his heart against my palm.

Lenten Challenge, Day 35: Dream

My boys,
This funny thing happened when I gave birth to you two. My dreams suddenly morphed into dreams for you, for your futures, for your happiness. I want so badly for you both to grow up to be great men. I dream...'ll be the kids who stick up for the ones being bullied at school, no matter what that might mean to your social standing'll grow up to be loving, respectful, gracious, and kind'll be unnerved by the very thought of injustice, and that you'll strive to do something about it'll find something you love to do so much that it doesn't feel like a job'll find someone to love so much that it never even occurs to you to give up when things are hard'll laugh every day, especially at yourselves when you need to'll put others first'll learn what is feels like to love children of your own'll feel loved and appreciated for who you are'll come to know God, and that even when your faith is shaken, you'll still hold on tight

I love you more,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 34: Rise

Ryan and I visited my little brother in Hawaii a few years back and got to watch the sun rise over Hanauma Bay one morning.

We got there early, set down our beach mats, dug our toes in the sand, and watched the sun peek its head slowly over the cliff's edge. It was fuchsia, then orange, then bright gold as it rose in all its blazon glory. We were the only people there, and it felt as though God had made the sun rise just for us that day.
Photo credit:
In moments like those, it is so easy to be in awe of creation that it's hard for me to imagine not having faith. Sunrises, sunsets, season's changing, flowers blooming. They're miracles, every one.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 33: New

When things in life are new, they're always packed full of excitement, aren't they? The birth of a new baby, starting a new job, getting married and starting a life together, making a new friend, visiting a new place. In those moments, things are yet to be discovered. They're fresh and unspoiled. They're perfect.

And then life happens. Imperfection creeps in and you realize that even the best laid plans don't keep a friendship intact, or stop a baby from getting sick. Things get messy.

But when that newness wears off, it uncovers the beautiful mess of something even greater. A deeper love, a deeper confidence...a better you.

Here's to the imperfection in our lives that takes over our perfect plans. Life is so much more fun that way.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 32: Surround

Every day I'm surrounded by this herd of boys:
There's a lot of rough-housing and tackling that goes on, but there's plenty of snuggles and sweetness, too. And the burping and farting and other stinky boy-ness is tempered with a heavy dose of laughter and love.

So on the days I'm a little sad my childhood barbies are still packed away in a box in the basement, I remember that I'm not just surrounded by boys in general. I'm surrounded by my boys. And to be encircled daily by their love is better than I could have ever dreamed.

I love my life. And this mother-of-boys thing? It was totally meant for me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 31: Temper

How ironic is it that today's word is "temper," and mine flared this morning when I pulled into the parking garage at work and saw this:
Really? Your car is so precious that it needs TWO parking spots?
I lose my temper over silly things like this occasionally, but most of the time, I can reign it in before I do anything rash, like scribbling a note to let this person know what a yahoo they are. Oh...I wanted to, but I stopped myself because what good would it do? What could be gained?

Nothing. Because it doesn't really matter.

But there are things in this world that do matter enough that we should be livid. Things where good can be gained when our tempers boil. The big things we all hear about like children starving to death in Ethiopia, bullying, and mass shootings. And smaller things, like selfishness and greed. Can you imagine what might happen if we all got pissed enough to do something? If the fire coming out of everyone's ears lit a blaze for change?

What's stopping us?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 30: Go

I've always wanted to go on one of those trips where you just pack a bag and head to the airport, purchasing a ticket on the first flight out. A trip where you just pick up and GO. But the planner in me has always squashed what little spontaneity I may (or may not) have been born with.

I like the thought of just getting up and going, but in reality, it gives me a bit of a panic attack. Where would I stay, what would I do, when could I get a flight back? (Breathes into paper bag.)

I do see the benefit in getting out of my normal, everyday world, though, and replacing it with a new place and a new perspective. It changes me, cleanses my palette a little bit, and heightens my senses. In fact, every time I come back from a trip, my little poetry notebook is always full of new images and pieces of poems.

So today, I'm posting two poems that came out of a trip Ryan and I made to Italy a few years back. It wasn't spontaneous, but it changed me. And who knows...maybe one day I can pack up and go back.

Swiss Alps

Cowbells clanged
as the cable car rocked us up
and over the trees, setting us

down on the top of Monte Tamaro.
Thin air pricked our lungs
and the view pierced our eyes--

an azzuro sky laid out and tucked behind
peaks of snow and sun-poked clouds.
Our guide's arm led our sight

up the highest face to a modern church,
its brick frame jutting out in midair.
A spot to fall in love, said the guide.

We stood at the edge, hands hooked.
Under the sky-roof we thought
our prayers could be heard first.


I heard the sun shine in Ravenna.

It mingled with the purr
of bicycle spokes and the flutter
of a wood-dove's wings gliding by.

Un latte, per favore, I asked,
so I could sit awhile, drinking happy,
and wonder where the citizens
of utopia go for vacation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 29: Water

At work, we have machines placed sporadically around the Hallmark complex that dispense ice and water. They're like the ones most of us have in our refrigerator doors at home, only much larger. There's one exactly 40 steps from my desk (I counted) that was under repair until just recently.

I think my particular machine was probably only out of service a month or so, but it felt like an eternity that I had to walk to a whole other floor just to fill up my water cup. I hope you can hear the ridiculousness in those words, because at the time, I sure could not.

I bitched, I moaned, complained about how faaarrr I had to waaalllkkk to go get water. There were even days I got a little dehydrated because my woe-is-me attitude prevented me from walking aaalll the waaayyy down a flight of stairs and back. To sum it up, I was being an asshole, but didn't realize it until I started typing a tweet to complain. A tweet that would have carried the hashtag #FirstWorldProbz. A tweet that I am so very glad I never sent out.

I needed a little perspective, and that hashtag suddenly snapped me out of whatever ridiculous complaints my brain had been swimming in, and plopped me directly into the reality of the situation. The reality is that there are women all over the world who walk miles to collect water for their entire families. And a lot of the time, that water isn't completely safe to drink.

So now every time I fill up my pretty pink water cup, I'm reminded just how blessed I am to walk only 40 steps for water. Water that's clean, and safe, and free.
I know I already mentioned them in another post last week, but I think the organization is worth mentioning again. They're based in Kansas City, and the work they do provides clean water and sanitation for the millions of people without access to it. Check them out to see how you can get involved.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 28: Silence


When it's truly achieved, it's such a place of tranquil stillness, isn't it? I wrote about hearing silence and being at peace in a previous post, and seriously considered skipping today's word, but I wanted to challenge myself to write about it from a different perspective.

What happens when silence isn't calm and peaceful and reassuring? What happens when silence is wrong?

When children are orphaned, abused or neglected.

When entire nations of people go hungry.

When kids commit suicide because they were bullied.

When more people are slaves today than any other time in history.

When injustice rears its ugly head, silence is unforgivable. I should be screaming with rage at the things listed above. Sometimes, I do. But most of the time? It's hard to break through the noise and distraction of my everyday routine. It's hard to think I can really make an impact on some of the world's biggest problems.

But I can provide some much-needed love to a small group of orphans in Russia. I can sort canned goods at my local food bank, teach my kids to stand up to bullies and donate to organizations that work to stop sex trafficking.

As Edward Everett Hale would have put it, "I cannot do everything, but I can still do something."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 27: Happy

"If you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life." My dad said that to me a lot growing up, as did a number of wise parents, I'm sure. Because work doesn't feel like "work" when you love what you do, right?
Fast forward several years, and I have this sign sitting in my cube at work. It's a constant reminder to me that even on shitty days, I can choose to love my job. I can choose to be happy with what I have. Because what I have is pretty damn awesome!

That's just the thing about happiness. When we wake up every morning, we make a choice whether to be happy or not. When we focus on the negative, or dwell in a glass-half-empty attitude, we're choosing to be unhappy. We're missing out on the good.

I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna in this post, because I know life can be just plain awful sometimes, and the last thing anyone needs is someone telling them to "look on the bright side." Because sometimes the bright side is so dim it's almost non-existent. I know that. I'm guilty of that.

But I do believe there is good in everything. We may not always be able to see it or understand it, but it's there. Some days, we have to look for it a little harder (or a lot harder) than others.

And you know what? On the days I choose happiness, happiness finds me. So today...I choose happy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 26: Ate

I once ate a pork sandwich that looked exactly like a cuban cigar, down to the edible label, and the ashtray it was served in.
Not long after Gavin turned one, my mom and I took a weekend trip to Chicago and ate at the fabulous Moto Restaurant, where everything we ate was an oddity of some kind. Besides the cigar, we ate our menus (I promise...they were edible), a vegetarian dish that looked like sushi, and a dessert that looked like mud. It was an experience like none either of us had ever had, or will likely have again. And it was awesome.

But the best part wasn't the strangely delicious food. It was the experience itself. And that we got to experience it together.

But isn't that what it's all about, anyway? Think of the last time you had a girl's night out, or went to dinner on a date with your spouse. Even if the food was the most delicious thing you'd ever tasted, the memories from that experience aren't really about the food are they? They're about the people, and the conversation, and the relationships that form around the table.

A great friend once got me the print below (you can buy it at this Web site), and I love it, because it sums up what's supposed to happen around a table together.
When we share a meal together, it builds community, it builds relationships, it builds love. And that, my friends, is what life is all about.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 25: Faithful

"God hasn't called me to be successful. He's called me to be faithful." --Mother Teresa

It's hard not to think of Mother Teresa when the word "faithful" comes up, isn't it? She was the first person who popped in my mind when I heard today's word, and when I ran across the quote above, it seemed so very fitting with some of the themes that have been coming up in my writing again and again during this Lenten journey.

Success does not equal faithfulness.

All we're asked to do is be faithful. It doesn't matter how many times we screw up, or make mistakes, even colossal ones. What matters is that we stick with it. That we're ardent in trying. That we believe. What matters is that we're faithful.

Whew! I don't know about you, but that takes a huge load off this control-freak's shoulders. I try too hard most of the time to get things juuusst right. In my marriage, in my career, in my friendships, in parenting. But I don't have to be the ideal wife, employee, friend, parent. I just have to be genuine in my faithfulness in those things.

The same is true with faith. I'm gonna screw up. I'm gonna screw up a LOT. But that's not what God cares about. We're not called to be perfect, and don't ever let any Christian tell you otherwise. They're delusional if they really believe that. We don't have to get it right all the time. We don't have to be perfect.

Because God doesn't work on technicalities. God works on love.

Lenten Challenge, Day 24: Find

You know what I've found? Sometimes the best things in life are the ones that "find" us. When we're so busy searching for perfection, we sometimes miss out on the moments and things and people who are right in front of us.

So often, I get so busy making plans, mapping everything out, making sure everything is scheduled, that I forget to make sure I'm actually living the life I'm planning for. And who says you can map out the perfect life, anyway? Well, you can, I guess, but it sure as hell isn't likely to work out that way.

It's taken me a long time to let go of some of that control and just let life happen to me. And by "let go," I mean, "only holding by a thread," instead of clutching with a death grip. I think it's been my boys who have helped me do that the most. Because every parent knows that with children, things rarely go as planned.

You take them for a family photo shoot, and one is a little fussy. I may not get the smiling shot I planned for, but there are sure to be some great candids of me loving on them. It takes two hours to get home from work because of a snowstorm? I may not have time to make that new recipe I'd planned on trying, but the ease of a frozen pizza gives me more play time with the boys before bed.

May you let life happen to you today, so those little moments can find you. Because those little moments? They're the big ones.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 23: No

Saying we have a big family is a gross understatement.

My boys have 8 grandparents, 11 great-grandparents, 15 aunts and uncles, a hoard of great aunts and uncles, a bigger hoard of cousins, etc., etc., etc. And that's not counting the friends we count as family. It's why our holidays are crazy, why simple "family-only" birthday celebrations turn into a full house of people.

I'm not complaining here. I know how blessed we are, how blessed my boys are to have SO many people who love them whole-heartedly. I can't imagine our lives any other way. But having that much family also means a lot of time on our calendar, and over the years, I have finally learned it's okay to say "no" to the occasional family or friend invitation.

When our calendars are getting a little full, Ryan and I schedule in a "Day of Nothing." And when I say "schedule in," I mean we actually put it on our calendar, so if we get an invite, we can look on the calendar and say, "Sorry, we're booked." Before kids, a day of nothing meant sleeping in and staying in our jammies all day watching movies. It looks pretty much the same now, minus the sleeping-in part, plus the occasional "we have to get these stir-crazy boys out of the house" excursion. A day of nothing helps us pause, regroup, and find some level of sanity again amidst our busy schedules.

Saying "no" doesn't mean you don't want to spend time with those people, it just means you need some time for yourself. And time for yourself is important. Saying "no" is important.

When can you say "no" and have your next "Day of Nothing"?
Some recent "Day of Nothing" snuggles.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 22: Shadow

I just recently re-watched the old school  Disney classic, Peter Pan, with Gavin and laughed right along with him when Peter loses his shadow because, as Gavin would say, "That's silly. You can't lose your shadow."

It's true, isn't it? Shadows are these distorted versions of our past that linger behind us. A shadow is always there, and there isn't a thing you can do to get rid of it. Just like the things we've done, or said, or thought in the past. They happened. They're over. There's nothing we can do to change them.

Geez...I didn't start out this post that depressing, did I?

That's just it, though. Dwelling on situations I might have handled differently in the past, or disparate words I could have spoken in an argument doesn't help any situation. It just makes it more depressing. It doesn't change the past. It just makes me feel inadequate. And it certainly doesn't make for a successful future. It prevents me from living in the moment.

It's only when we can put those shadows of our past behind us that we can truly make a change in the future.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 21: Night

Oh, nighttime. I've seen a lot of you in the last year. More than I've wanted to, frankly. Such is the life of a new parent, right? What parent out there hasn't heard, " getting much sleep?" in the weeks (or months) that follow the birth of a child?
As much as I'm happy those middle-of-the-night wake-up calls are slowly subsiding, I'll miss them just a little bit, too, because it's in those moments that I soak my babies in the most. When all the world is asleep, and the sound of their soft, sleepy sighs seem loud in comparison to the quiet that surrounds you. The way their warm little bodies melt into your arms because they know they're safe there. It's intoxicating.

It's a light in the dark of night.

There is always light in the darkness. There is always something good to see.

You just have to look for it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 20: Bless

How appropriate that today's word is "Bless." Four years ago today, at 12:40 p.m., I was blessed with my first son, Gavin.
I fell for him wholly at first sight, and that little monkey has continued daily to bless my life in goofy, sweet and unexpected ways. I am still in awe that I was chosen to be his Momma.

What I didn't expect was how awesome it would be to watch him bless others, too. To listen to him make someone laugh, I mean really laugh, or to see him show kindness to a friend who hasn't been so kind in return...those are true blessings.

So, happy golden (4 on the 4th!) birthday to my boy with a heart of gold. I love you more.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 19: Thirst

My first memory of the beach is not one of swimming, or looking for seashells, or feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. It's of thirst.
My family and I had spent the day at the beach in Florida, and I'd neglected to drink anything all day because I was a kid, and I was too busy building sand castles and trying out my new swim goggles to watch fish. The end of our beach day came, and as I got in our minivan rental, I realized how thirsty I was. I can still feel the dryness of my lips and taste the salt from the ocean when I think about it. I ended up chugging an entire bottle of hot water that had baked in the greenhouse that was our minivan the whole day. It's the first time I ever remember being thirsty.

The older I got, the more I realized how blessed I am to live in a place where clean water is so ridiculously plentiful. I've taken it for granted most of my life...still do sometimes. But a little organization called has helped me see that I am a part of a minority when it comes to clean water. Here are a few stats from their Web site:

More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world.

Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.

Of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities.

780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people.

"[The water and sanitation] crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns." 

An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.

Over 2.5X more people lack water than live in the United States.

More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
Sad, isn't it? And ridiculously preventable. Check out their Web site for more info on how you can partner with them to not only quench thirst, but also provide sanitation to the world's most needy.