And it was going to be such a good story, too

I was all excited to sit down this morning and write up a story that's been brewing in my noggin for a few weeks now, and normally, Monday mornings are a good time for that sort of thing. The older kids are in school and preschool, the whole week is shiny and clean, and Teyla can be distracted with "Sesame Street" and a cup full of Cheerios.

But this morning, my carpool partner has sick kids, which means I'm going to be running back and forth to school all day. And my van's check engine light came on as I was coming home from my first school run. And Teyla has had two massively stinky diapers in the hour since we've been home.

So real life intrudes on the blog life, once again. I'm going to have to put off the story writing until later. Hopefully, I'll manage to cobble together a few free minutes this afternoon while the kids watch "Martha Speaks" and "Fetch!" Of course, it remains to be seen if my brain will cooperate. Lately, I've noticed this horrible trend, where I compose posts and journal entries all day in my head, but when I finally get the time to write (which invariably comes after everyone is in bed around 9:30 PM), I have no energy left to be creative.

I suspect this is true for most SAHMs who have young kids, and it will change (a little) as the kids get older. I've heard rumors that once your kids are in school, you might even have a few hours each day when you're alone. I can't really comprehend that -- I don't even shower without a little person hanging out between the tub and the shower curtain -- but it's what I've heard.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 5)

My lack of blogging caught me by surprise this week. I was actually shocked when I logged in this morning and and saw that I last posted on Monday. (Even more shocking? Monday was four days ago. And it feels like it was yesterday.) Who knew the week AFTER spring break is actually more hectic than vacation?

Of course, when I say it that way, it seems so obvious. "Wow, Kelly. So what you're saying is normal life is busier than time off? That's bizarre."

But in the interest of keeping it real, I'm telling you anyway. I can't believe it's already Friday. Thankfully, it's also time for another 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary, because that's the perfect blogging antidote to a busy week.

------ 1 ------
Teyla is supposedly watching "Sesame Street" right now. (Which means she's actually trying to climb in my lap while I type on the couch as the TV plays in the background.) Does anyone else get a huge kick out of "Murray and the Little Lamb" segments? I love the hip-hop theme song. "Murray! (Murray!) Murray! (Murray!) Murray has a little lamb!"

"Sesame Street" deserves every one of the Emmys it has received. It's brilliant.

------ 2 ------
Speaking of brilliance, Teyla learned to click her tongue last week and make other assorted noises with her mouth. It's the cutest thing to see her walking around the house talking in clicks consonants like an African native.

------ 3 ------
Remember the post where I begged for highchair recommendations, since Teyla was turning into a highchair Houdini? Y'all responded in spades. (What does that saying mean, by the way? Anyone know? Why do we equate shovels with a terrific turnout?)

To update, I ended up buying the Chicco Polly Highchair in Splash. It came highly recommended by my sister and sister-in-law, and it was a good price, since Chicco appears to be discontinuing that pattern. And I really like it. It's super easy to clean, thanks to its vinyl pad. It's simple to move around the kitchen, thanks to lockable casters on all four legs. It has a clean plastic cover on the tray, which I can easily detach and rinse off in the sink after a meal (or morning snack or afternoon snack or just-before-dinner snack; I spend a lot of time each day just cleaning up from the baby's eating). Best of all, it has a five-point harness and a snug-fitting tray to contain my little escape artist.

Mission accomplished.

------ 4 ------
This could easily be a post unto itself, but Corey and I are in the process of setting up a weekly chore and allowance system for the kids. We've been able to put it off until now because the kids were young and they didn't really care about money. I've also avoided it because it's so darn complicated. How much money is appropriate for a seven- and five-year-old? Do you separate the chores from the allowance to enforce the idea of family teamwork? Or do you tie them together to encourage the kids to earn the money and (hopefully) take more ownership of it? What chores are appropriate for a seven- and five-year-old? How much freedom do I give the kids when it comes to spending "their" money?

Anyway. I was cleaning the playroom earlier this week when one small piece of the puzzle clicked for me. One way for the kids to earn extra money? Let me buy back some of the toys they no longer play with (at garage sale prices -- $1 a toy, for example) so we can donate them to a worthy cause. I figure it will motivate them to part with playthings -- after all, why keep that Easy Bake oven when it could translate into cash that can help you buy that digital camera you want -- AND it will help keep our small house clutter free. Has anyone else tried this?

------ 5 ------
Two weeks ago, I started leading a Bible study group for MOPS women who are looking to go deeper with their faith (or who might be investigating this Christianity thing for the first time). We're kicking things off with the first half of Beth Moore's Daniel. And I am DRINKING IT UP. I haven't been involved in a group Bible study since we moved to the Twin Cities almost 18 months ago; that is a drought for my soul. I have learned that I'm most motivated in my personal study when I have an outlet to share what I'm learning -- and hear what others are learning as well.

It's also a kick to introduce some of these women to personal Bible study (and to Beth; "she's Texan" was my only warning). I pray that God awakens a thirst in their hearts that cannot be quenched by anything but Him.

------ 6 ------
Chances are good you've heard this figure bandied about in a marriage class: On average, women use 20,000 words a day; men use 7,000.

Problem is, it's an unfounded statistic. (HT Abraham Piper's 22 Words.)

------ 7 ------
We are taking the kids to a water park at a local community center tonight. I'm so excited for a fun start to the weekend. Plus, they don't know about our evening, and there's something extra-fun about a surprise. I hope you have a great one, too.

When a Rainy Monday is a Good Monday

I love a rainy Monday.

I dropped the kids at school a few minutes ago, their first day back after a Spring break week that lived up to its moniker. Last week was sunny, abnormally warm (our high last Monday was almost 70; and yes, that's after our high the Wednesday before was 5) and absolutely gorgeous. We played outside, rode bikes, opened the windows, hiked at some nearby nature centers. Of course, we also indulged in an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese (a Spring break tradition) and a couple of other extracurricular activities.

But today, it's back to business. And while I love unscheduled fun and last week was a perfect appetizer to get me hankering for summer, I'm excited, right now, to settle down for the next few days and cozy up to my regularly scheduled lifestyle.

The rain outside -- which would be snow, if this were a normal March -- fits today. It's like a little gift from the One who made me me.

I think He knows that, sometimes, a rainy Monday is a little slice of perfection.

Interesting Statistic of the Day

$133,459 : Cost of a four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot house in Souix City, Iowa, the nation's most affordable housing market.

$1,841,667 : Cost of the same size house in La Jolla, California, the most expensive market (and the beach city featured at the bottom of this post).

That's why we live in Minnesota.

Thankfully, her nose isn't running in the pictures

Teyla's nose turned into a fountain of goo yesterday -- it ran, it spouted, it erupted, it bubbled. Fun stuff. (I wrote more about the stages of a cold in our household -- she's in the midst of the snail phase currently -- at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.)

But even sick, she's still sweet and cute. I mean, check out these 12-month photos I got back a few days ago (and kindly ignore the fact that she was 14 months when they were taken, pleaseandthankyou).

Part of the reason I put off getting Teyla's picture taken is that I didn't know where to go. When Teyla was a baby, I splurged on professional portraits (by Kari Layland; great photographer if you're in the Twin Cities) and that ate up my photo budget for the year. (And maybe this year too, but I'm working to ignore that.)
The older kids made do with school pictures, mediocre though they may be. So I had never looked for a mid-range priced studio where I could pop in and get a few pictures.

In the end, I decided to give Target Portraits a try. There's a studio at the Super Target near us, and Lord knows I'm there all the time anyway.

Teyla is at a hard age to photograph. (She doesn't stand still; enough said.) And we weren't in the studio for more than 15 minutes, total. So imagine my delight when they turned out as cute as they did. (And I got 4 8x10s, 4 5x7s, and two sheets of wallets for less than $40. Score!)

I might even head back in a few weeks with all the kids in tow, to see if we can't get a group photo. I need something with all three of them in it, because all the frame groupings in my house are in sets of two, and now that I have three kids, I'm faced with having to leave one child out.

And I don't have enough money for that kind of therapy someday. I'd rather spend it all now on cute pictures.

A SAHM Moment: The Rest of the Story

So you want to know what I did?

As soon as I pulled into the garage, I grabbed Connor and Teyla out of the minivan. Ignoring the phone, I deposited the children in the kitchen and plied them with milk and Goldfish, so I could race upstairs to my computer and e-mail the directions Corey needed.

That done, I raced back downstairs to begin unloading the groceries. No sooner had I gotten to the garage than Corey called; I had sent the directions to the wrong e-mail account. I raced back upstairs (three flights, mind you) to forward the directions to the correct address.

I raced back downstairs and threw another handful of Goldfish on Teyla's highchair tray, which did not calm her fussy crescendo. That's when I remembered the stinky diaper. Grabbing the baby out of the highchair and doing the Mommy Flip, Pull and Look (don't give me that, you know exactly what I'm talking about), I saw a tiny tush that was the medical definition of inflamed.

I raced back upstairs and changed the diaper. (I'll skip the play by play here, but you should feel sorry for Teyla. She was writhing.)

"Mom? I'm done with my churro," called Connor.

I re-entered the kitchen. Why yes. Yes, he was done with his churro, if by done he meant mean he blew it up like a small bazooka scattering cinnamon sugar to the four corners of the linoleum. (Mental note: No more churros indoors. Like Popsicles, they are now an outside-only food.)

I scarfed down half of my tuna sandwich while I cleaned up the churro remains.

I was just starting to relax, when I jumped. THE GROCERIES!

I raced down to the garage, pulled out the bags, raced back upstairs and threw the veggies in the freezer. The flowers took a bit longer to handle, mostly because I've learned through experience to give the tulips a fresh cut UNDER WATER so no air bubbles get trapped in the stem, which can make the tulips droop.

With all my tasks completed, I put on a "Curious Buddies" DVD for Teyla, poured myself a glass of Trader Joe's pomegranate green tea and sat down to finish my sandwich.

But it was odd. I felt uncomfortable, like I had forgotten something.

It took me an hour to realize: I never did go to the bathroom.

Years of working in a newsroom, under deadline, has given me a bladder of steel. I had to learn to sit in the control booth for hours, if necessary, without pulling a potty break card. Breaking news -- wildfires, terrorists attacks, high-speed chases on the 5 -- waits for no pee-pee.

Who knew that would be a skill I would use as a stay-at-home mom?

Now if I could just find a child who appreciates it when I answer questions by saying, "More on that at 11."

A SAHM Moment

I pulled into the garage this afternoon a little after 1:00, with the following list of urgent concerns.

1. Corey needed me to e-mail him some directions immediately; he was going to be leaving the office in 5 minutes.
2. I had two Trader Joe's bags in the back of the mini-van.
3. One was packed with frozen vegetables, which had already been in the car for two hours.
4. The other was packed with fresh flowers, which had been out of water for two hours; I could see the tulips wilting.
5. Teyla had a stinky diaper.
6. She was also throwing a fit because I wouldn't give her the churro she could see in the front seat.
7. Connor was halfway through his quesadilla lunch and needed something to drink ASAP lest he choke and die.
8. I really, really needed to go to the bathroom.
9. I was really, really hungry. My footlong tuna Subway was calling my name.
10. The phone was ringing.

Which task do you do first?

The Present is a Present

Have you ever heard this saying?
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is mystery
Today is a gift.
That's why they call it the present.
My college friends and I used to chant that to each other when we were especially stressed -- like during finals or when the magazine was on deadline or that time the student center ran out of chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream.

I think I need someone to chant it to me now. I'm not particularly stressed, but I am apt to be distracted from my daily gift. I wrote more over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.

Meditations for a Gray Monday in March

Here in the Upper Midwest, it’s winter.


It’s cold. (Our forecasted high for Wednesday is 5.) Gritty piles of snow lay scattered on the ground. There are few signs of spring, other than the slowly strengthening sun.

Winter is my past, present and future. It hems me in and suffocates my faith. It causes me to question what I know to be true. I find myself slipping into lethargy and dullness. I no longer look for spring to come today or tomorrow. Somewhere in my soul, I know it will arrive eventually. But I don’t live like I believe it.

I’m weary of waiting. I’m weary of being weary.

But then, this picture pops up on my screen saver.

I remember taking it last May, just over the hill from where we live. The sight of it makes me reel with wonder. The color is so vibrant and fresh, it hurts my eyes. It shouts warmth and growth. I'm flooded with expectant hope.

It's then I remember: Reality isn’t defined by what I feel or what see with my eyes. It’s defined by His promises.

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.

As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;

he will come to us like the winter rains,

like the spring rains that water the earth.
(Hosea 6:3)

Will I choose to believe His spring when I’m surrounded by winter?

I wait for the Lord,
my soul waits,

and in his word I put my hope.

(Psalm 130:5)

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 4)

I feel a little guilty participating in the carnival this week. Jennifer at Conversion Diary is hosting, as usual, but she had a baby on Monday, and for crying out loud, shouldn't the woman be in bed, sleeping or something? I hope the fact that I'm playing doesn't encourage this type of crazy behavior on her part.

Now that I've confessed my misgivings, here's 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 4).

------ 1 ------
I've backed off the blog a little this week. Maybe you've noticed? It's a conscious decision. I need the blog to move down my list of priorities a smidge.

I toyed with the idea of shutting it down completely for Lent, as some have done. But in the end, God seemed to ixnay that idea as being too easy; I need to learn to balance this blog with my life, not how to run from one extreme to the other. (I do that very well without practice, thank you.) (Of course, in saying that, I'm not judging anyone else who's walked away from their blog or closed their comments or turned off their stat counter for Lent. This is just my story.)

So here I am. This week, I haven't had the energy to post. It's been more relaxing to spend my free time -- all 38 minutes of it -- visiting your blogs and leaving comments as I used to in the days of yore. Next week, maybe I'll write more. We'll see.

------ 2 ------
Corey is teaching through the life of Elijah at our church on Wednesday nights right now, and if I do say so myself, that boy is rocking the prophet.

(Which would make a kick butt name for a punk group, wouldn't it? Rocking the prophet, tonight at the Casbah.)

Anyway. This week, we covered the story of Elijah raising the widow's son from the dead. It's a heart-wrenching portrait of grief and guilt. Check out the verse where the widow asks Elijah why he has come to "remind her of her sin and kill her son." Surely she was sobbing as she said that. Her son, her little boy, the last thing she had on this earth that was precious to her, had just died. Her grief was limitless, and it was made more bitter by the thought that God must be punishing her for some secret sin by taking away her child.

Then the most amazing thing happens. Elijah takes the boy to his own room and begs God to bring the child back to life. Where, in the world, did Elijah get the idea to make such an audacious request? God had never raised a person from the dead up to that point in recorded history. There is no precedent for such a prayer. Yet Elijah asks anyway. That's stunning to me.

That is a man who knows his God. He asks the impossible -- and he gets it.

Lord, increase my faith.

------ 3 ------
I'm making dinner tomorrow night for a family in our church; the wife, who is about my age and has kids the same ages as mine, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer a few months ago. Yesterday, she had reconstructive surgery to follow the radial mastectomy forced on her by the disease.

I don't know this family (yet), and if I'm brutally honest with you, that's allowed me to shrug off helping them until now. But this week, God messed up my junk and asked me point-blank why I needed to know my sister-in-Christ to minister to her.

I've been feeling so called to the poor lately that I've shirked my duty to love the people around me.

Ouch. My toes are sore.

But my oven is warm. I'm thinking I'm going to make stew and cornbread, because it transports well. What do you make when you deliver a hot meal to a family in need? I don't have a go-to recipe, and that annoys me, a little. With as much as I love to cook, this should not be an issue.

------ 4 ------
I am not a morning person. During my working years (in contrast to the years now, when I do nothing but eat coffee cake and read blogs), I rarely worked a shift that required me to be upright before 9:00 AM.

Understandably, it's been an adjustment to get used to the school schedule. Compounding matters -- I drive Natalie to school, so not only do I have to get up Monday through Friday, but I also have to get ready, because she wants me to walk her into her classroom, and I don't think my pajamas would pass Christian school dress code. (Not because they are sleazy. Because they are slouchy.)

But this new way of life, this getting up with the sun every morning and getting ready to meet the day, is slowly growing on me. I'm finding that I actually love walking the school corridors each morning; I like watching the kids greet each other as they shed heavy winter coats, I enjoy perusing the new school projects decorating the hall. It's a colorful, happy, ordered place that recalls the best days of school from my youth.

Coffee helps too.

------ 5 -----
Natalie's spelling words this week focus on "au" and "aw" and "aught" words. Hence, she is trying to learn to spell words like caught and taught, and saw and draw, and paws and pause, and because and bought. They are HARD words for a second grader (at least my second grader) because they make no sense. Bought sounds just like caught, only with a "b." But that's not how they are spelled.

Any hints on teaching kids to spell these words? Is there a rule she can follow that will help her make sense of it all? English is so confusing.

Also, Spellcheck is my friend.

------ 6 ------
Earlier this week, on a particularly sloppy day, I was driving out of our complex, on my way to pick up Natalie from school, when I stopped to get the mail. I started to drive away from the mailbox, tugging at the button that automatically raises my window, when another car drove by, spraying slush at my car. Since my window was down, a huge wave of slush hit me in the face. Since I was driving away the time, an even bigger wave of slush flew into the backseat, due to the miracle of momentum, and splattered Connor and Teyla. The poor baby looked like she had gotten hit in the head with a dirty, half-melted snowball. She was so surprised, she was sputtering.

In all my years of living in Minnesota, I've never had slush come into my window before, much less hit the passengers in the backseat. Who knew this could be a hazard?

------ 7 ------
I've never really mentioned this, but did you know you can subscribe to me even if you don't use a feed reader? Just click here, enter your e-mail address, and when I publish a new post, it will automatically be sent to your In Box.

You can also follow me on Twitter -- so you can learn the really exciting stuff about me, like what I'm eating for lunch or what new product I bought from Trader Joe's that is a must have -- or, if you're a Google-head, you can follow me using the little widget in the left-hand column provided by Google.

Technology. Gotta love it.

Here's To Getting Our Hands Dirty

I'm dreaming about spring this week, which triggered my post over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. I've labeled it a half-parable; the story is true, but hopefully, it continues speaking after the facts are stated.

It was a beautiful spring day.

My husband was in our backyard, facing the lake, which was rippling blue-green in the sunlight. But he wasn’t watching the waves. He was ripping up the grass, beating back a hedge of overgrown bushes and pounding in stakes.

He was creating a garden.

For me. (Head over to 5 Minutes for Parenting for more....)