I Lost

Sunday morning, I decided to take all four kids to our (new) church by myself. It was an act born out of desperation as much as dedication. We haven’t been to church for almost a month, due to moving, bad weather and illness. I miss that set-apart time with God, the chance to physically do something to demonstrate the blessing of a fresh start. So today, even though I knew it would be challenging, I decided to go.

The morning started off fairly well. Corey left for a business trip. The kids and I weren’t rushed. We left for church with time to spare, and I even managed to pep talk Natalie into attending Sunday school at the new church for the first time.

The trouble began when I started to check Natalie and Connor in to their classes. Connor had been to Sunday school at the new church before. But Sunday, when I tried to hand him a name tag, he balked. “I’m not going to Sunday school,” he said, tight with both fear and anger. “Yes, you are buddy,” I said, with an amazingly calm voice. (I was praying like crazy.) “I’m all by myself today, and I’m taking Kieran with me to church because he’s tired. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay the whole service, and I don’t want to leave you alone in the sanctuary or drag you around with me. So today, I need you to go to Sunday school.”

“I’m not going!” he reiterated, and ran around a corner.

Natalie, with tears in her eyes, tried to grab his hand. “I’m going to Sunday school today, Connor. I’m scared. Won’t you come with me?”

“No! I’m not going!” he barked, swatting off her advances.

I thought maybe time alone would help him calm down. So I walked Natalie to her small group, made the appropriate introductions and got her (nervously) settled.

I returned to the lobby to talk to Connor. Things went from bad to worse. He ran away from me, refused to look me in the eye, pulled away from me when I tried to take his hand. I ended up dragging him (holding Kieran in the other arm) into the back of the group Sunday school room (as he clawed at the door frame and carpet) to talk.

“What is the deal, Connor? What is going on? Why don’t you want to go to Sunday school?" (Still praying like crazy, fighting the frustration threatening to spill out.)

“It’s boring! I’m not going!” was the only reply I could get.

I did what I could with consequences. I took away his computer time. I reminded him that his Dad would be hearing about this episode, and that he would exercise his own consequences when he comes home on Tuesday. Nothing mattered. Nothing changed.

I was backed into a corner. (And Connor was literally in a corner, sitting crossed and angry, kicking at the wall and knocking over garbage cans within reach.) Should I leave him a room where I don’t know the adults and let them deal with his attitude? (Past experience would show he would stay in that corner the whole hour, scowling, not responding to anyone no matter the kindness showed him.) Or should I relent and let him come to church with me, the better to spare the childcare workers his tantrum?

I relented. I told him he could come to “big church” with me, but that he would sit on his behind the whole hour and not doing anything other than listen.

Which he did. He fidgeted and he made goofy faces at Kieran, but he did sit. He did obey.

But I hate that I lost the battle. I am afraid I reinforced his subconscious belief that he can throw a tantrum and get his way, that obedience is conditional, that he is stronger than me.

I lost. He lost.

How do I win with a strong-willed child?

Five Minute Friday: Five Years Ago

For a couple of months now, Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama has hosted Five Minute Friday. It's a great little exercise for writers -- to give yourself just five minutes to capture a thought, no editing, no rewriting, no pressure. Each Friday, I've wanted to join in, because I'm trying to ease myself back into the blogging world. Kieran is almost 10 months, we've completed our move, we're settling into a less hectic pattern. My soul is stirring, hearing the siren call to write again. But my writing muscles are flabby.

So today, I play. And hopefully from here on out. Today's prompt for the exercise is "five years ago."


Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I can’t really remember what life was like five years ago. Five years ago, I only had two kids – and they were preschoolers at that. Life was sleeping in until everyone got up, Nick Jr. on the TV, weekly trips to the library where we would spend hours reading and coloring and playing games on the computer, monthly trips to Minneapolis to go to Toddler Tuesday at the Mall of America or explore the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Five years ago, if the kids both napped, I did too. I had no set schedule. Life was dictated by the whims of early parenthood. Painting? Sure. Little People? With pleasure.

Now, five years later, I have four kids. (I. Have. Four. Kids. Ohmyword.) My youngest two are preschoolers; my older two are in first and fourth grades. My life today is controlled by the school schedule. Our days start early and are slightly rushed. Afternoons don’t allow for long naps, since Natalie and Connor have to be picked up by 3:10. Teyla and Kieran and I play for a few hours each day. But then we have to be home, ready for the scramble of homework and dinner and baths for four and books and snuggles and lullabies.

It’s seems crazy my life used to be so much more mellow. The pace was slower five years ago, like a slow-moving stream at the end of summer. Today, my stream gurgles and splashes and sometimes rushes along, overflowing with blessings.


Proof that I only wrote for five minutes? That abrupt ending. Gah. But the rules stipulate I can't go back and edit, so it stays as is. (That is very hard for me. Part of my writer's block lately has been the constant need to edit and rewrite until my thoughts are such a messy jumble, I hit delete and walk away.)

What were you doing five years ago?

What it Takes for a Mom to Earn a Sick Day

I got the stomach flu last week.

Better said, the stomach flu got me.

I woke up at 1:00 AM Thursday morning, surrounded by little bodies, and I could tell by the sudden rolling nausea that this would not be a good night for co-sleeping. With quiet tip-toes and many prayers, I got Teyla and Kieran situated in their own beds and returned to mine to await my fate.

By 1:30, that fate arrived, and I found myself getting a close-up view of our new toilets. Shaky and sweating, I climbed back into bed, hoping my stomach would settle down now and let me sleep.

I slept. Fifteen minutes later, the nausea roared back. And once again, I found myself lying on the cold floor of our bathroom, face pressed into the tile, my head swirling and my body bereft of all fluid.

And so it went. Every 30 minutes, I would stagger from my bed to the bathroom. A couple of times, I passed out before I made it there. I had no earthly idea how my body managed to keep up this grotesque parade. I mean, I hadn’t even eaten that much the day before. Was it somehow managing to reach back into time to meals from past weeks and resurrect them so the virus would have something to do?

Oh. And did I mention Corey was in Washington, DC at the time? He was. So when Kieran got up at 5:00 and wanted to nurse and be cuddled by Mom, I could only oblige him for 15 minutes before I was called away to heave into the toilet. (I stumbled out of the bathroom to find him crawling onto my nightstand, the better to get to my clock. Oy.)

Corey, to his never-ending credit, got my desperate texts when he got up at 6:00 AM for a breakfast meeting. He immediately called Delta and got on the next flight home. Natalie, bless her heart, held down the fort until he arrived at 11:30. (Read: My nine-year-old daughter took care of me and her three younger siblings all morning while I lay comatose in bed. At first, she was devastated when I croaked out that I was too sick to take her to school. The girl hates make-up homework. But she pulled through, and a few times, in my fevered haze, I saw her tip-toe into my room to place a garbage can near my bed or to refill my water bottle. She even got Kieran to take a nap all by herself. She was truly an angel to me that morning.)

(Although there was that time she asked me if there was anything she could do, and I wondered unintelligibly if she could dig up a bottle of Gatorade or Vitamin Water for me from the fridge in the garage. "I'm not really sure where it is," I said, eyes closed, voice raspy from dehydration. "But it might be on the bottom shelf? On the door? It's colored, like Kool-Aid." And ten minutes later, she came back holding a bottle of Cabernet. "Is this it, Mommy?")

I heard Corey arrive mid-morning, because I heard his deep voice and I heard the kids excitedly telling him all of their adventures. I vaguely remember him coming in to check on me. (I was no longer throwing up, but I was working on holding down 2 tablespoons of water at the time, which took all my focus.) Otherwise, I remember nothing from the rest of that day. I slept, on and off, until 7:00 PM, when Corey helped me walk out to the kitchen so I could sit with the kids and him while they ate Burger Time. By 7:25, I could no longer stay upright, so I returned to bed and slept until the next afternoon.

And even then, my bones ached and my energy was shot and I had to take a two-hour nap after sitting in a chair for 30 minutes.

It. Was. Yucky.

(Aren’t you glad you clicked over to my blog today?)

Thankfully, I’m better now. Even more thankfully, no one else in our family got sick. It was just me and one day of the worst virus I’ve had in 20 years. But it’s over now, and thanks to Corey, I even got a real sick day for the first time since I’ve been a Mom. (It does happen! You only have to puke for six hours straight to earn one!)

And now, I'm off to drink some Vitamin Water and enjoy my nausea-free existence. It is so very good to be here.


First real morning in the new house.

I reached for a bowl – and it was there. I didn’t have to dig for the cereal. I knew we had milk (and I didn’t have to move boxes to open the fridge).

After the kids left for school, I made myself a scrambled egg on my new gas stove. (It's the first thing I've cooked in a week.) I smiled as I watched the burner click-click-click and then whoosh. Blue flame, hot and true. I've waited eight years to cook on a gas stove again. ("Now you're cooking with gas," my brain said to itself. My brain makes me laugh.)

I sat down at the kitchen table. pushed aside the glittery remains of Valentine stickers, and handed Kieran chunks of banana while I ate my eggs and drank my OJ. (I must have OJ with eggs. Nothing else will do.) Teyla slipped down from the table, and I turned on the TV next to the kitchen fireplace and I nibbled on a cinnamon roll while the happy and innocent refrains of Dora filled the room. I haven't been able to eat and watch TV with my kids in four years.

And now I’m sitting at my new desk in my new bedroom watching the sunshine light the trees in my backyard. Bare tree limbs next to sturdy firs. The light is golden, the promise of spring to come.

Everything is new -- yet it's all familiar, somehow.

Hello Monday. Welcome home.

The Big News

So here's the big news, the elephant in the room, the announcement I've been skirting around for the last few months because I was hoping to write the story of How We Got Here.

But it's become apparent, even to an optimist like me, that I won't have time to pen the saga before the event happens. So I need to stuff the part of myself that likes to do things in order and just tell you:


A few disclaimers:

1. If there was ever a sentence worthy of all caps, it is that one. Because this time, we aren't moving with the asterisk of "this is where we'll live for now." We are moving, Lord-willing, into the home where we will stay and plant our roots and watch our children grow and soak in this glorious life God has given us. (I'm reading "One Thousand Gifts" right now, and this? Is pure eucharisteo.) I have taken to calling this our Forever Home. God only knows the future, but our intention is to stay in our new home as long as He lets us. We have moved 10 times in our 17 years of marriage. We have bought 6 homes and sold 5. (We are planning to rent the townhouse. If you live in the Cities and might be interested, let me know.) We are READY to settle down.

2. The past 12 months, we have seriously considered moving to and settling down in the following locations: Seattle, Colorado Springs, Denver and San Diego. We are not moving to any of those cities.

3. Instead, we are doing something so crazy, we would have slapped you upside the head if you had suggested it to us last year: We are staying in the Twin Cities! Our Forever Home is only 10 minutes north of where we are now, and it is perfect for us. (Or it is now. The former owner is also a builder, and he's been remodeling the house the last few weeks to fix all those little things that you always say, "We'll get to that someday" but you never do.) (Or maybe that's just us.) The funny thing is, we weren't even looking for a house when we stumbled across this home. It is sheer gift.

4. Because I wanted to tell you the grand story of the journey before I announced our destination, I missed countless blogging opportunities. You must be so disappointed not to be able to weigh in on the exact shade of green that would be perfect for Kieran's room, what kind of glass tiles could work for a backsplash behind the cooktop, whether or not a top load high efficiency washing machine is worth the money. (Or maybe not.) Remodeling a house has been nirvana for an HGTV addict like me.

5. My Forever Home? It. Has. A. Pool. I am so excited for summer, I am quivering. (Or maybe it's just shivering. Whatever. Winter isn't bothering me at all this year.)

I will post pictures next week, and at some point, I will (I will, I will, I know I will) write the Final Move saga.

But right now? I need to start packing.

(Optimists never pack until 24 hours before the move. The walls look so sad once you take the pictures down, you know?)

Decisions, Decisions

When I was a teenager and people asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I had no answer for them.

It’s not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. On the contrary, I wanted to do SO MANY THINGS, I had no capacity to choose just one. Journalist? Yes, please. Movie producer? Cool. Writer? Awesome. Baker? Wow, that would be great. Lifeguard? Only if I get to work Del Mar’s Powerhouse Beach.

And the list went on. Wife. God-follower. Youth group leader. Overseas missionary. Photographer. Actress. Storm chaser. Meteorologist.

I am bad at making decisions, especially when my “Yes” means saying “No” to something else.

Which brings me to my post from last week. About five minutes after I hit publish, I saw the deeper question hidden within the words. (Sometimes, I need to write out my thoughts before I understand what’s really bugging me. I’m not the only writer who does that, right?)

I didn’t really want to know how to blog with four kids. That’s like asking how I can lose weight without eating healthy and moving more. It’s an impossible question, more rhetorical than realistic.

No, what I really wanted to know is how can I have it all? And the answer to that question is – I can’t.

(Dang it.)

Life is a series of trade-offs. Despite what the feminists of yore want me to believe, I can’t have everything. I must choose what I want most and then love well according to my priorities.

I believe this intellectually, but I have trouble living it. I tend to live my life as if I have more time, more energy, more me than I really do. (I’m an optimist.) And then, when my life gets hectic, I get cranky and stabby because life isn’t going the way I think it should.

Head? Meet wall.

I have a lot of knots on my noggin right now, because this season of life is the crucible of prioritization. I have so many little, malleable people who want my attention and affection. If one of my top 5 goals for my life is to introduce them to God’s glory, the window to their souls is open wide right now. This is the time. Today is the day. I dare not miss it.

That’s not to say I can’t have interests outside being Mommy. I would be a small and miserable woman if all I did was attend to the needs of my family day in and day out. But I do need to be mindful that I can only multi-task so much. (Jo covers this point nicely, so I won’t reiterate. But yes. Multi-tasking is usually just code for “I can’t focus to save my life and everything is suffering because of it.”) At some point, my sanguine tendencies to want to do everything mean that I do nothing well.

And I want to do a few things well. Which sometimes means doing other things less than well.


Reality. I don't always like it.

But it's important for me to accept it. I'm working on that, with God's help.

My Siesta Memory Verses for January were Deuteronomy 6:4-7, the beloved Sh’ma of the Jewish people. There, God reveals the key to a good life, a life of abundance and bounty:

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!”

That’s it! The one thing. Love well.

And then he says:

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.”

And then, in verse 9, he says:

“When you are done with that, you can have all the time you want to blog.”

(Not really.)

Remember that scene in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" when the Nazi has to choose which cup is the Holy Grail? He grabs an ornate, flashy, bejeweled vessel and drinks from it -- and then shrivels up to peach pit as his girlfriend screams? Then the Knight Templar says one of the best movie lines ever: "He chose ... poorly."

I don't want to choose poorly. God, grant me wisdom to chose wisely.

Because peach pit was never on my list of things to be when I grow up.