Dispatch from Family Camp

I wrote this Tuesday morning, but as you might imagine, Internet access is spotty and slow here in the North Woods. I’m hoping it posts tonight -- if I can stay awake that long -- and then I’m going to reserve the rest of my stories for when we get back home. Sharing a few stories will be a good distraction from the piles of laundry.


Family camp with a baby is an entirely different beast than family camp with a toddler.

I am so tired today, y’all, I can barely motivate myself to life my coffee cup to my lips. (And we’re only 1.5 days into the week!)

I spent the better part of the day yesterday following Teyla around camp, steering her away from the dock’s edge and toward the playground, accompanying her through game after game of “let’s climb the stairs and now climb back down” and in general, being on guard. And guard duty is exhausting.

But it’s good. It’s still really good. The weather is cool – low 70s -- which is a bit of a shock after last week’s heat index warnings. But it makes it pleasant to sit on a porch and listen to the birds.

(For all of five seconds before – oops! – your toddler is already headed toward the dock again.)

Connor and Natalie are having “the funnest fun” reuniting with friends. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen Natalie at all today. She’s raced from breakfast to the playground to kids camp to the craft shack and now to the beach without even stopping to catch her breath. Connor is keeping Corey company; I left them warring it out at the carpet-ball table. (Our family was runner-up in the camp carpet-ball tournament last year. Corey is itching for a rematch.)

And I’m stealing this small break while Teyla is napping to do some … well, some sitting. I’m also breathing. And I’m allowing my mind to drift at will. It’s really, really nice to have a break from High Alert Level Red.

And that’s what vacation is all about, right?

Too Much Fun

We leave for a week of family camp tomorrow.

I think I'm excited.

But honestly, I might be too exhausted right now to take my emotional pulse. Because this last week was The Busiest Week of Summer. (And if ever a week deserved caps, it's this one.)

To wit:

1. We had VBS every morning. That means I had to get all three kids up and out of the house by 8:30. (Which, unfortunately, isn't that difficult lately, since Teyla has taken to getting up at 6:00. It's part of the downward sleep spiral we're in right now. Right around the time summer vacation started, she stopped taking naps. Sigh. I think one of the most frustrating things about babies is that they are always changing. Just when you think you've got them figured out, that you've got a good schedule going, the child-in-question throws everything out the window and assumes a new personality. It keeps you on your toes. And that's all I'm going to say about that.)

So. Where was I? Oh yes. VBS.

We went to VBS at the church that is affiliated with the kids' school. The theme was Backstage with the Bible, which is the new VBS curriculum built around Go Fish music. (And if you don't know Go Fish, go check them out. Great Christian acapella group that makes fun, upbeat kids' music. Their motto is to make "great music for kids that won't drive their parents bonkers.") In keeping with the theme, Go Fish did a concert Thursday night, after a pre-concert picnic and carnival. It was really fun, but halfway through the second half, the kids hit The Wall, made evident by all the complaining which was making my ears bleeds. So we wisely bowed and and put everyone to bed and I fell asleep putting on my pajamas.

2. Besides VBS, we had our normal activities for this point in the summer. Connor had soccer Tuesday morning, when it was roughly the same temperature as hades in July (or Houston, take your pick). The coaches had wisely set up a sprinkler on one side of the field so the kids could take turns cooling off. I'm not ashamed to say I took a few passes at the thing myself. Later that day, the kids had t-ball at a nearby park, where I poured water on my head to keep cool. I acted like I was doing it to entertain Teyla. But that's not entirely true. We had swimming lessons Monday afternoon -- indoors, which meant the room was about 104 degrees with high humidity. And now that I think about it, we should have had karate on Thursday, but I totally forgot about it. Whoops!

3. Monday night, I went out with the girls on our MOPS steering committee to celebrate a successful year. It was a fun night, but it added to the crazy, so it must be mentioned. Corey also had a business dinner Tuesday night, which is why I had to brave t-ball by myself. One of the best parts of his business dinners is that he always brings me home a dessert. This time, it was some heavenly tiramisu.

4. Last night, some of our dearest friends in the world came over for dinner; they were in town from North Carolina for just a few days, and it was beyond fun to see them. I've known Carolyn since she was in junior high and I was her youth group leader. In the years since, we have become sisters. She actually lived with Corey and me for about a year when we were all in Northern California. (She shared a room with newborn Natalie for a while. That's deep friendship.) And it was while she was living with us that she met and eventually married her husband, Rick, whom we couldn't adore more. They were only here for about four hours last night, which was like giving a sample from Sam's Club to a starving person, but we'll take what we can get.

Oh! And since I love food, I feel obliged to tell you we had BBQ chicken for dinner, accompanied by twice-baked potatoes and a side dish of sugar snap peas and spinach. And then we topped the whole thing with rhubarb pie and ice cream. I bought the peas and rhubarb at the local farmer's market, which had its opening day yesterday. It was a perfect summer meal.

5. Which brings us to today. I desperately need to clean this house, finish our travel arrangements and pack for camp. Corey has mercifully agreed to take the kids away from the house for a few hours this morning to I can focus on the tasks at hand. The hope is that I can morph into the Tasmanian Devil and finish most of the work while he's gone. (The most frustrating aspect of being a SAHM mom to me lately is that it takes me two days to do work that should only taken three hours.)

I'm planning to put up a mini-post each day next week, so I can chronicle our vacation. I always enjoy reading those day-by-day accounts, and I've learned that I rarely go back and do it later.

I hope you're having a great weekend. I'm trying to shed my self-imposed guilt this summer when it comes to blogging and commenting. But that doesn't meant I'm not reading! Because I can read even when I'm exhausted.

Which is a blessing.

This Post Brought to You by Mr. Sandman

Pssst. You. Over there at the computer.

I have a post up at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. It's about a certain baby in my house who won't let Mama (that's me) out of her sight lately. I believe the experts call this "separation anxiety." I call it cute but exhausting. I mean, it's nice to be needed, nay, WANTED. But when it crosses the line into demanding my presence every second of the day, I wear out quickly.

In fact, the only reason I'm able to write this without her simultaneously trying to climb onto my head is that she's napping. (Cue the angels.) And since I'm guessing I only have about 30 minutes of free time left, I better get to the laundry before I'm baby-wearing-without-a-sling again.

Thanks for whispering while you're here. And have a great day. May yours be filled with naps that are long and restorative.

My Dad

I don't have many distinct memories of my preschool childhood; it's more a swirl of colors, smells and emotions.

But I do remember one trip my family took to Florida. I was probably four at the time, old enough to wear puffy water wings and a navy blue one-piece that always seemed to slide off one of my shoulders. The small, beachside motel where we stayed had a pool in the center, with a plastic, aquamarine slide on one end.

I remember splashing on the steps with my parents. But I was drawn to that slide. It was both intriguing and imposing. The older kids were whooping it up, slipping down the steep slope to the water below.

I thought I might give it a try.
My Dad said he'd stand at the bottom of the slide and catch me. So I climbed the rickety ladder and launched myself into oblivion.

But instead of my Dad's strong arms, I hit the water and went under. He instantly scooped me up, of course, and I was none the worse for wear. He was trying to have fun with me and thought his joke might make me laugh. It didn't -- not at the time. All I knew was my Dad said he'd catch me and he didn't.

It would be a pitiful, poignant story except for this one thing -- that is the only time I can ever remember my Dad letting me down. It stands out for that reason.

My Dad has been a senior pastor since the day I was born -- literally. The church in Covington, Kentucky where I first learned about Jesus voted to call my Dad as senior pastor just hours after I was born. He was 26.

(My Mom wonders if the fact that he was a brand new father didn't balance his youth in the eyes of the 1,000-member congregation. The fact that he had the blessing of the former senior pastor, Warren Wiersbe, who had recently left to pastor the Moody Church in Chicago, probably didn't hurt either.)

Over the course of his career, if you can call decades of service to Christ a career, my Dad has shepherded many people. He's an amazing Bible teacher, a discerning administrator and a visionary leader. But above all, he loves God's people with all his heart.

These days, I live very close to the church my Dad pastored for two decades. I meet a lot of people who attended that church at one point or another. (We joke that roughly 80% of the Twin Cities fits that category.) And you know what's amazing? Every person who knew my Dad -- every single one -- speaks of his integrity, his humility, his grace and his compassion.

I think that's astounding.

It's not that my Dad is perfect -- he would be the first to abhor that thought -- but he is a living example of a man who seeks God with his whole heart. And if that makes him a great pastor, it makes him an excellent father.

I am so incredibly proud to be his daughter. To walk in his footsteps is a richness I can't really describe.

Next Sunday, my Dad is retiring -- at least from senior pastoring. He's ready to leave the day-to-day work of church leadership and transition to a new phase of ministry. He's excited and passionate about what God has next for him and my Mom.

I am too. But I'm also thankful he'll never retire from his most important calling -- that of being a dad. I'm glad I still get to enjoy his humor, his wisdom and his heart every time I choose to pick up the phone.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you. Next year in Colorado, eh?

God's Fireworks

Wednesday night, I was glued to my radar screen. Huge thunderstorms -- the first severe ones of the summer -- were popping up all over southern Minnesota, very close to our still-on-the-market house. The screen was a swirl of green, yellow, red and even (gulp) maroon. There were even some tiny tornado signs on the map, with tiny arrows next to them, proposing a trajectory.

I wasn't so worried about our ex-home. In fact, we secretly pray that a selective tornado would blow the whole thing to smithereens (while leaving our few neighbors unscathed), because then the insurance company would cash us out and we would be free to move on. But I was concerned about our friends in those parts. Severe weather is the biggest rush to me -- but I know it's also very dangerous.

Because that part of the state isn't within the Twin Cities television area, I couldn't get any real news about what was going on. I just had to watch the radar loop and speculate on Facebook and Twitter. (I babble when I'm nervous.)

It was about this time that I heard Corey hissing my name up the stairs. The kids were asleep, the lights were off. I couldn't imagine what demanded my urgent attention.

Turns out, it was this.

In all my days of weather watching, I've never seen lightening like that. It just kept going and going and going. Corey said it reminded him of the grand finale of a fireworks show. That's a great analogy. We never heard thunder; the storm was too far away. But the clouds flashed and flared nonstop as long as we had the energy to stand on our tiny sidewalk and gawk. What awesome power is at the fingertips of our God. He is dazzling. Bravo.

Soccer Mom

I earned a new badge today.

I am now, officially, a soccer mom.

My five-year-old son started practicing with a bunch of fellow pre-kindergarteners this morning. I don’t know who was more excited, him or me. Because this isn’t just his first venture into team sports – it’s also mine.

(Read the rest over at 5 Minutes for Parenting....)

A Summertime Dilemma

I woke up today to bright, gorgeous sunshine and a warm breeze, which is threatening to make me turn on my AC for the first time this year. And last week, we had five days straight of gray and clouds and temperatures in the low 60s, which makes today’s weather all the sweeter.

But my house is a disaster. It looks like a tiny army invaded and ransacked the place – which is a pretty accurate description of our weekend. I have Polly Pockets (wearing clothes made out of tin foil) on my kitchen table, next to the small checker board. (I might as well call the kitchen Choke Zone Central today.) The dining room is the usual mess of Legos and Pollys; I’m pretty sure some of them are living in sin at this point. I have couch cushions on my floor and empty snack bowls on my couch. All manner of cups and water cans are scattered on my back deck, the remnant of a might water war that was waged last night. I have strawberries in my fridge that need to be dealt with before they make the leap into destruction. None of the beds are made. Books are piled in teetering stacks on the floor of the kids bedroom, and Teyla pulled out the dirty laundry in hers.

It’s enough to my teeth ache. I do not like disorder.

Obviously, what I need to do is put on my big girl pants and tackle this mess head-on.

But the sunshine. Remember the sunshine?

Today is forecast to be the only truly nice day this week. It screams “GET THEE TO THE BEACH!”

Which is why I think I’m going to put on my blinders as soon as I get done with this post and grab the kids and trade Disasterville for a nearby lake.

I know I’ll still have to set things right when I get home.

But if you can’t run away in the summer, when can you?

Baby Bangs*

*with apologies to Amanda

Now those are some serious bangs, baby.

Poor Teyla. This is her bedhead, every morning. Her hair is just so long and curly and has a mind of its own (wonder where it gets that), it's almost uncontrollable.

She doesn't seem to mind watching "Martha Speaks" through a wispy curtain, though. Which is a good thing, because I don't think I have the energy to hold her down at 7:30 AM to put her hair in a pony tail.

And after spending the last year growing out Natalie's bangs, I don't think I'm going to cut Teyla's hair, either. We cut Natalie's bangs when she was about this age (17 months, for the record). But this time, I'm steering clear of the salon.

I Tried To Shut My Ears, But They Just Stayed Open

During our San Diego vacation back in February, I had the most surreal experience. One morning, at breakfast, as we were munching our Raisin Bran and eating enough melon from the fruit buffet to satisfy a small elephant, I overhead the strangest conversation at the table next to us.

OK. I was eavesdropping. But this one was too juicy to ignore.

You can read the rest of the story over at 5 Minutes for Parenting.

Martha Speaks and Blisters Me A Good One

It’s not everyday that I hear the Holy Spirit on PBS.

But this morning, as I sat on “the girl side” of the secret fort (formerly known as the couch), with Teyla tucked into my side and Natalie at my feet, I got spanked by “Martha Speaks.”

And it wasn’t even 8:00 AM.

If you haven’t seen “Martha Speaks” – and really, if you haven’t, you are missing out – it’s a show designed to enrich kids’ vocabulary while enthralling them with the adventures of a talking dog named Martha. (She was given the gift of speech when some alphabet soup got lost on her way to her stomach, and the letters ended up in her brain. Which might be my most favorite premise for a show ever. It’s brilliant.)

This morning, Martha was more than a little irritated with her owner, Helen, since Helen was captivated by a handheld video game. She was so interested in trying to reach “the next level,” Helen forgot to walk and feed Martha, blew off her homework and basically lived and breathed the video game. Vocab words for the episode included: addict, obsessed, preoccupied, restraint and hooked.

Talk about hitting a blogger where it hurts.

If you were with me last fall, you might remember I had a small freak-out when school started. I can still feel the clammy fingers of disbelief running up my spine as I walked Natalie into her second grade classroom. It was like living a nightmare.

“Summer can’t be over yet! We were just here! This can’t be happening!”

Yet it was. Time is funny like that.

Determined not to let summer slip away from me this year, I’ve done a fair amount of brainstorming and praying over the last few weeks. One thing I realized pretty quickly is that I need to slash my computer time in a drastic, horror-flick way. "Martha Speaks" just confirmed that.

Shaun Groves posted yesterday about the tendency he has to live in his own head. And while I’m not nearly as creative as he is – which is a little like saying I’m not as in shape as this model – I get what he’s saying.

I, too, am often a bad listener. I, too, tend to think about writing and stories and ideas all day – even as I’m playing Uno or reading a book or placing orders in the imaginary restaurant in my basement. (If you can ever get a reservation, I recommend the grilled corn on the cob and the chicken. Avoid the milk. It’s not refrigerated.)

I need to get better about this. (The living, not the milk.)

And summer is the perfect season. It offers an assortment of tempting real-word distractions – the beach, family camp, homemade ice cream, fresh tomatoes. I want to work on some photo books and write in my journal and dream something big. I need to focus on my children and my husband and let the rest of the pieces fall where they may.

I want to love well.

What this means for the blog is – well, honestly, I have no idea. I think it means I’ll blog less. But to be truthful, I’ve been a pretty sporadic blogger this spring already. Is there less than every-so-often?

The only thing I know for sure is that I’m going to try to blog small stories from this summer, a la Amy Beth’s Daily Peeks. I like the idea of sharing small snippets of my day. I especially like the idea of a photograph being the impetus for the story. I’m visual that way.

Otherwise, I’m going to stay offline as much as possible. That means I’ll be a irregular commenter, a erratic Tweeter and an inconsistent blogger.

But hopefully, that will also mean a full summer. A refreshing summer. I’m looking forward to not being preoccupied or distracted or hooked.

Plus, if I can get this under control, I might just feel strong enough to watch "Word Girl." Because, really, I'm not up to being called out by a dog and dealing with Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy at the same time.

8 Things

My real life friend Mrs. Hawk tagged me with a meme, and since it's Friday and, more importantly, THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER VACATION, I'm going to play along.

(Mrs. Hawk is one of my dearly loved youth group girls from back in the day, by the way, and she is now two days past her due date for her very first baby. So go love on her and her swollen cankles if you have time.)

8 things I am looking forward to:
1. Family camp (in four weeks!)
2. Our ex-house selling
3. The local farmer's market opening in late June
4. A canoeing date with Corey next weekend
5. Getting to snuggle my sister's new baby (no date scheduled, unfortunately)
6. The birth of my second niece in July
7. Swimming as much as possible this summer
8. Being tan

8 things I did yesterday:
1. Attended Natalie's final day of school awards chapel; she got a character award for purity
2. Took the kids with some friends to a local park to celebrate the beginning of summer
3. Changed about five poopy diapers (one word: blueberries)
4. Tried to not be frustrated with a baby who wouldn't nap
5. Used a gift certificate to get a pedicure for the first time since February
6. Led a book club of fellow MOPS moms in a discussion of Susuanna's "All I Needs is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans: The Tired Supergirl's Search for Grace" and laughed my head off.
7. Ate a bowl of cereal for dinner after I got home from the pedicure/book club appointments
8. Read "The Last Cavalier," a book by Alexander Dumas that was recently "discovered" in his old papers; I read "The Counte of Monte Cristo" last month and was so taken with it, I've decided to read as many Dumas' novels as I can this summer.

8 things I wish I could do:
1. Get up early AND be happy about it
2. Take a nap every afternoon
3. Paint or draw well
4. Stop time
5. Discover a cure for cancer
6. Go to cooking school and become a chef
7. Return to television production and work for the Food Network or HGTV
8. Get 10 minutes to myself every day

8 shows I watch (here is where I'm going to frighten some of you):
1. Good Eats (when I can catch it)
2. Barefoot Contessa (when I can catch it)

8 favorite fruits:
1. Peaches
2. Blackberries
3. Raspberries
4. Strawberries
5. Bananas
6. Pineapple
7. Cantaloupe
8. Grapefruit

8 places I'd like to travel:
1. Jamaica
2. The Carolinas
3. The Northeast
4. Colorado
5. National Parks in the off-season
6. Africa
7. New Zealand
8. Thailand

8 places I've lived:
1. Kentucky
2. Dallas, Texas
3. St. Paul, Minnesota
4. Phoenix, Arizona
5. La Jolla, California
6. San Diego, California
7. San Jose, California
8. Small Town, Minnesota

I'm supposed to end this by tagging 8 of you to continue the game. But I'm too tired. Even this nonsensical post has taken me 2.5 hours to write, due to constant interruptions.

When does school start again?

(Kidding. I'm kidding. But I think I do need to work on my grand Summer Plan, and pronto. I'm considering the installation of a mandatory quiet time every afternoon, even for the older kids. Anyone have advice on doing that to kids who haven't napped in years? Is it too hard to go back?)


What speaks home most strongly to you?

It's an interesting question, one I've been thinking about for years.

When Corey and I left Minnesota in February 1994, I shook the snow off my boots and muttered, "Good riddance!" I had my sights set on California and the ocean and the glory of year-round sunshine. I saw Minnesota as nothing but the warming box (yes, that's a joke) that allowed me to grow and mature until I was ready to greet the bigger world.

How wrong I was.

During our years in California (and yes, I'm blocking out the eight months we spent in Phoenix, because it deserves no less), I learned -- to my shock and amazement -- that Minnesota had lodged itself far deeper into my marrow than I ever realized. I started to miss the change of the seasons. I longed for some true wilderness, some place where I could see green trees and blue water and no people. I started to pounce on fellow Minnesotans whenever I found them, hoping to trade stories and wishes. "You going back for the State Fair this year? Yeah, me neither. Sure would like some Sweet Martha's cookies though. Did you ever get a whole bucket and then eat them outside of the All-You-Can-Drink Milk booth?"

It was home. I missed my home.

Eventually, as you know, Corey and I moved back to Minnesota. Moving home isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when you're not even sure you want to make that leap.

But leap we did, because we needed a job, and the only door that had opened was one in Minnesota.

And now, because we are here, I'm getting to watch as my own children get Minnesota in their DNA, just as I did when I was little.

For the rest of the story, check out my 5 Minutes for Parenting post today.

And tell me -- what speaks home most strongly to you?