I've been a Newsboys fan for almost 20 years now, which is to say way before they were big-time.

Proof: The first time I saw them in concert, it was in the gym of a local middle school. And I seem to remember the evening was free.

No matter. I was immediately hooked. (Who can resist a spinning drummer and a lead singer who will let my best male friend get up on stage and show off his dance moves?) I bought a t-shirt (in XXL, of course, because it was 1992), a tape of "Boyz Will Be Boyz" and "Hell Is For Wimps" and I've loved their music ever since.

Which is why, when I caught a glimpse of Teyla this morning, with her long curls hanging haphazardly around her face, I suddenly had a picture of Phil Joel, former Newsboys bassist, flash into my head.

I believe we might have the first NewsGirl.

Hey, a mother can dream.

Nine Years

Yesterday, Natalie turned nine.

That seems both plausible and impossible to me, seeing as baby Natalie and girl Natalie live simultaneously in my heart.

I still remember the first time I looked into her eyes. It had been a very long, drawn-out, difficult delivery. I was tired and swollen and losing blood and I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. (And I looked like it too.)

But then they placed her on my chest, and this chubby, dark-haired, slimy thing opened her eyes and looked straight into mine. It took my breath away.

“Oh!” I gasped. “It’s a baby!”

With one heartbeat, I fell in love.

And suddenly, I was a mom.

I’m taking some time off this week to wallow in that a bit. See you in a few days.

Black and Light

This summer, the Upper Midwest has been in the severe weather bulls-eye. Here in Minneapolis, we just lived through 30 of the stormiest days in Minnesota history -- 359 storms between June 17 and July 17. That's three times the amount of storms we saw in all of 2009.

Yes, it means we've heard a lot of sirens and endured a couple of close calls.

But it also mean we've seen amazing skies. I can't stop looking up this year.

I took this "black and light" shot last week, when the rain was still cascading down our windows and the storm that had just moved through was retreating from the sun.

I bet most Midwesterners have seen a similar horizon.

The juxtaposition of light and dark, of sun and severe, is always breathtaking to me. It's as stark and startling as if I'd shot in black-and-white film.

(Here's the same shot in color. Not much of a difference.)

For more pictures in black and white, check this week's You Capture.

You're Tired

My Mom is a genius.

All my life, she’s had one phrase that covers every childhood problem.

She would simply say, “You’re tired.”

Read the rest at 5 Minutes for Parenting....

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys

All day every day, my six-year-old son plays with Legos.

He builds video games and race cars and jet skis and houses with trap doors.

But his favorite things to build BY FAR are bad guys and good guys.

They often battle.

The good guys win. Usually. (Note the presence of R2D2 in the good guy line-up.)(Sorry for the lack of focus. The humidity has been brutal lately. My camera lens keeps fogging up.)

The bad guys are scary. (Connor builds good bad guys.)

Corey says Connor will grow up to be either an engineer or an arms dealer.

As long as he's a good guy, either is fine with me.

I Need This

There are weeks when church feels more like a chore than a celebration.

Four kids. Early morning. Spilled milk. The wrong cereal. Tangled hair. Bickering and whining.

It’s a struggle to make it out the door with clothes and shoes, much less a heart dressed for worship.

There are weeks I wonder why I bother.
Can’t I worship at home?
Does God really need me to travel to a building?
Why all this work?

But then I get there and even if I only have five minutes between kids needing to know how to spell blueberry and “Mom, can I have a piece of gum?” I remember.

I need this.

I need this desperately.

I’m so dry and calloused, I can’t even tell that I’m numb.

I need this time of awakening.

The crust that seals my eyes is gently wiped away and again I see.

I see God.
I hear God.
I feel God.

He is.

Once again, I feel Him stir in my soul. I am alive with wonder and gratitude.

Oh, how I need this.


We were walking around the mall, looking for ice cream, when a security guard scurried past us.

"Do you know about the tornado warning?" she barked over her shoulder.

"No," I stammered, temporarily distracted from my search for Blue Sky Creamery.

"We're moving everyone into the storm shelter now. This way. Everyone move this way." She motioned to us and the bystanders near the stairs. "Let's go!"

The kids, flocked around Corey and me like so many little ducklings, started to quack. "Mom, did she say tornado? Is a tornado headed toward us? What are we going to do?"

Corey and I exchanged glances. Neither of us wanted to spend the next who-knows-how-many minutes in a mall storm shelter with four young children, especially since it was almost bedtime.

It was the fastest decision we ever made.

"Let's go," we said in almost unison, and we herded the kids up the stairs, past the stores where employees were shutting gates and locking up and urging the crowds to "get to the storm shelter, there's a tornado warning, everyone's closing, let's go."

We got to the exit. The sky was dark, unnaturally dark for 8:30 on a summer night. But it wasn't raining yet and the sirens weren't ominous and no one could hear the sound of a rushing train.

We ran for the car, avoiding fat raindrops that were starting to fall.

"What's happening? Where are we going? Are we going to get hit by a tornado, Mom?" The kids were buzzing with nervous energy.

"I don't know, guys. Give us a few minutes to find out." And then, under my breath, "I can't believe I don't know what's going on."

is a certified weather geeks worst nightmare -- not knowing the parameters of an approaching storm.

Corey turned on the radio. I called up the radar on my Blackberry. A quick perusal of both told us we were safe to head east, toward home, since the storm was still to our west.

By the time we hit the freeway, the streetlights were on. The rain started to fall in earnest. lightning crackled across the sky. Several times, the light flashed so bright and so close, I involuntarily gasped.

My pace quickened -- although not in a bad way. I love storms, and while I know I should apologize for the crazy, I just can't. Storms thrill me and mesmerize me and make me stand in awe of the Creator God who controls it all.

The radio told us of one, maybe two, confirmed tornado sightings in communities near us. Corey and I craned our necks, looking for rotation that might be illuminated by the stabs of light.
We couldn't see anything but rain and an inky black sky.

It was an odd sensation to be on the freeway, amongst hundreds of other cars, when you know a tornado might be on the ground just a few miles away. I doubt any of our fellow drivers were ignorant of the storm. There were too many emergency vehicles careening about, too much rain, too much darkness to think this was just another garden-variety thunderstorm.

Still, there were all were, driving around, doing the most normal thing on earth during the most abnormal of times.

Just as we pulled off the freeway at our exit, the wind started to blow. Sheets of rain darted across the road like veils of gauze. A frenzy of leaves and branches were ripped from the trees, which were being pushed and pulled in a mad dance.
We opened the garage door, pulled in and shut the garage door in one fluid motion. I was so thankful we switched from satellite to cable last year; our satellite could never sustain a signal during bad storms (which is the time you need it the most).

I instinctively turned on our local NBC station as soon as I got inside. I interned at KARE-11 multiple times when I was in college, so of course, I'm loyal. But KARE is also the station my family watched when I was growing up in the Twin Cities. For that reason alone, I always turn to KARE when I need a dose of comfort during a stressful situation.

Tornadoes were popping up all around us. Most were north of our home. Then came a report of a wall cloud within a mile or so of the mall we just left. Then a confirmed sighting of a funnel cloud just down the road.
Corey and I took turns standing at the window, trying to see through the curtain of rain. Nothing. "Just my luck," I groaned. "Tornadoes everywhere, and it's too dark for me to see the rotation."

Slowly, the storm passed. T
he kids settled down. I fed the baby and checked Twitter. The TV was muted.

And Corey passed out Popsicles, since we never did find that ice cream shop at the mall.

Two Months

Two months.

Time, you do fly.

And Mr. Kieran, you do grow. (Please slow down.)

This entire post is really just an excuse to share my favorite Kieran pictures from the last month.

But if you want to know more about our final babe: I'm pleased to report that Kieran is a happy baby. He's generally easy-going, unless you dare to leave him alone in his bed after he's woken up. Then, he's liable to scream as if he's been neglected for hours on end.

He's an great eater, as evidenced by the cheeks.

(I love that picture. Hello jowls, nice to meet you.)

People who hold him constantly comment on his strength. He can hold his head up forever when he's on his tummy; occasionally, he even pushes his upper body up with his arms.

His siblings adore him.

Sometimes, they love him too much, if you know what I mean.

Kieran is our first official baby-wearing baby.

The others were worn a lot, too, before I knew the term. But now that I've read the research on baby-wearing, we're in with all the way.

We've so loved watching him grow the last few weeks. But of course, the best milestone from this past month is the smiles. (And the coos. But I can't capture those with still photography.)


What a gift. We are blessed beyond expression.

The Best Kind of Tired

It hits me after the sun finally sinks into the horizon and the clouds lose their glow and the blue tint fades from the summer sky.

I am beat.

Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually done. Toast. Crispy. Fried. Finished.

It’s not that life isn’t good. Just the opposite. Life is so good and so rich and so much right now, it takes all my energy just to hold it close all day.

And then night comes, and I fall into bed, exhausted.

And I thank God for my blessings.

It’s the best kind of tired.

I don't remember putting "get frustrated" on my to do list

Today has not gone as I planned.

Teyla shuffled into my bedroom at 6:30 AM, bleary-eyed and wild-haired, and motioned me toward the stairs.

Barely awake, I shook my head and held out my arms in the universal signal for “Come snuggle with me.”

She immediately started to scream.

Apparently, she wasn’t in the snuggling mood. She was more in the I’m-two-and-I’ll-scream-if-I-don’t-get-exactly-what-I-want mood.

Desperate to keep the other kids sleeping – oh, and did I mention Corey’s out of town? – I grabbed her, tucked her under my arm, shut the door to my room and ran into the bathroom, in one fluid move. I held a towel over her mouth for the next 10 minutes while she screamed and howled and screeched and yelled. I kept saying in her ear, “Be quiet. You need to be quiet. Everyone else is sleeping. When you’re quiet, I’ll move the towel.” But it took a long time for her to exhaust her fury. Finally, at 6:45, she settled down and motioned for her pacifier, which she had spit out during the first tantrum chorus.

Good morning, sunshine. Where’s my coffee?

My plan today was to get through the morning routine, put Kieran down for his first nap, take a shower, then load everyone into the van, hit an exercise class at the YMCA and spend a few hours hanging at the pool (which would end with naps for the littles and quiet time for Mom). It’s a perfect water day – sunny with a few decorative popcorn clouds, temps in the mid-80s, dewpoint tolerable in the mid-50s. And goodness knows Teyla needs a nap in the worst way.

But ‘twas not to be. Kieran only napped for 20 minutes instead of his usual 90 minutes, so I didn’t get a shower. Teyla continued her reign as Miss Queen Cranky Pants of the Universe. Kieran fell asleep again 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave for the Y. He woke up again 40 minutes later.

And so on and so on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

To be transparent, the thoughts in my head this morning have been less than Christ-like.

“Nothing is working out,” I grumbled. “Instead of soaking up some sun, I’m stuck inside again with a grumpy toddle and a baby who won’t nap. I can’t even sit down without Kieran freaking out. When was the last time I had a break? Other moms get a break, don’t they? The only time I’ve been alone this month was when I went to that one workout class. Otherwise, I’m always on duty. And no one appreciates it. And I can’t even talk on the phone with a friend without someone demanding my attention. ‘Mom, I need milk!’ ‘Mom, can I go in Regan’s house?’ ‘Moooooom!’”

Pity. Party.

Which, when I realized I was in the thick of a good pouting session, made me even more frustrated. Because I hate pity parties and general kvetching.

But I can’t escape the fact that parenting four kids through the thick of summer is like running a marathon. I’m up for the challenge, and I believe the pay-off is worth the work.

But it’s hard some days. It just is. (Can I get an amen?)

A few minutes ago, I was sway-walking around my garage with Kieran in the sling, trying to lull him back to sleep. I was praying and stewing about how to get myself out of this funk. And Amy Grant’s “Hats” came on my iPod.

Oh. My. Word.
Sun goes up.
Breakfast show
Can’t you see me running?
It’s crazy, don’t you know.

It don’t stop.
No it’s never gonna stop.
Why do I have to wear so many hats on my head?

This may be a dream come true.
This may be poetry in motion.
This may be a dream come true.
But when it all comes down,
It’s an awful lot to do.
Preach, Amy.

Maybe the fact that I’m not alone is enough to get me through the rest of today.

That, and the hope that tomorrow will be better.

She Calls Me Momma

Miss Teyla came to my room yesterday afternoon and sunk into my arms. It was then that I realized she was burning up with fever. I was able to get her a bath and some Tylenol while she shivered and looked at me with glassy eyes. She fell asleep in my arms at 6:00 PM. She woke up several times in the night, drenched in sweat and desperate for water. But this morning, she's doing much better. To celebrate my sweet girl, I thought I'd pull this out of my drafts folder. I wrote it a few weeks ago. It's truer today than it was before.

I have this toddler.

She wakes up every morning with a crazy wild mane and a gap-toothed smile that is better than coffee to my sleep-deprived mind.

She has curly hair with metallic highlights and blue eyes that change shades with her moods and skin that is as fair and creamy as milk.

Everything about her sparkles.

She doesn't understand the meaning of the word quiet. "Kie-ette! I kie-ette Momma!" she yells at me when the baby is sleeping.

She sings all the live long day. "A-B-C," "Jesus Loves Me," and "Winkle, Winkle, Wittle Tar."

And she calls me momma.

To the older kids, I'm mom or mommy.

But to my two-year-old?
"I wuv Momma!" she says with her husky voice, equal parts smoke and sugar.

I love being her Momma.


I woke up this morning 1,000 pounds lighter. (Not literally. But that would be cool. Because the baby weight, it is bugging me.) No. I woke up without a burden this morning because


(Pardon the green. But Blogger doesn't have a font that accurately conveys my excitement.)

We closed the paperwork yesterday. Today is the first day in 3 years and 9 months that we haven't owned two homes. And since our ex-house was BY FAR the more expensive of the two residences, the sigh of relief is substantial.

did end up losing money on the sale -- quite a bit, actually. But given the economy and the fact that we first put the house on market November 2006 (think back; what were you doing November 2006?), we are just happy to have it gone. We were losing more money each year paying the mortgage (and the taxes and the insurance and the property management fees and the lawn service and the snow service and you get the idea) than we ultimately did by selling it.

Corey and I are humbled and beyond grateful to be free. We are also exhausted, to be honest.

I fully, completely believe this is God's handiwork. We have alternately trusted and pleaded with Him to orchestrate the sale of the house in His timing and with His purposes. The fact that we are losing money on the house isn't pleasant, but it doesn't diminish God's control of this
at all to me.

Still. It's been a long road.

I'll also admit there's a bittersweet side to this celebration. We loved our ex-home. If we could have moved it with us to the Twin Cities, we would have done it in a heartbeat. (I'm still waiting for a mad scientist to invent a shrinking ray, so we wouldn't have to move and look for a new home. Instead, we could just shrink our current home and all its belongings, buy a new plot of land somewhere and re-grow the house in a new setting.)

And part of me will always miss it.

Sigh. I feel like I left a piece of my heart there. God did so much in that house. So many tears, so much joy. I saw miracles there. I saw glory.

But enough looking back. It's time to look forward and throw a party to celebrate what God has done. Please join me in a YAHOO! and YEA GOD! and SOMEDAY, I'LL HAVE A YARD AGAIN!

Thank you, sweet Jesus. Once again, I stand in awe at your goodness and grace.

If you'd like to reminisce with me, here are a few old posts about the ex-house.
- Something I won't miss:
The Bugs
- How I became a gardener, thanks to our ex-house:
The Ghosts of Gardens Past
- A bunch of posts about waiting for it to sell and trusting God in the wait:
Peace in the Pause, The Long Slog, Ugh


Corey, Kieran and I got home Tuesday night.

Seeing the familiar landmarks, listening to the birds sing an evening song, hugging the necks of Natalie, Connor and Teyla, settling in to my own pillow that night -- these threads weave the fabric of home to me.

It was good to be home. So good.

Yet I'm conscious, always, that home is an ethereal thing. It shifts and shimmers like a mirage. Just when I think I'm close enough to grasp it, it dissolves into thin air.

How do I define home? At its most elemental and important, it is family. My children, my husband. Without them, I am not at home.

But it's also more. Home infers familiarity, comfort. It's the place where I exhale and enjoy and create and live.

Growing up, Minnesota was my home. In so many ways, it still is. Minnesota's lakes, woods, seasons are woven into my story. I am marked by this place.

But San Diego is also home to me. It is where I climbed out of the cocoon and tested my wings. I love San Diego's eternal summer, how its beach communities each have a unique flavor, how its sunshine makes my heart glow. We formed friendships there that will last for a lifetime.

And then there is the future. Where will Corey and I settle? Where will the roots finally be allowed to sink? It's possible that it's in another place altogether.

I long for that to happen. I want to be home. I want to build a nest for my babies and watch them grow and live and learn to fly.

Of course, I believe this yearning ultimately points toward heaven. I believe God planted this thirst in our hearts to point toward Him as our perfect home. The fact that I'm aware of the ache isn't a bad thing. It just means I'm on a journey.

A journey home.