Roller Coaster

I woke up this morning, hacking half a lung and wishing for just three hours more sleep.

It had been a roller coaster night - which is to say, normal. Because Corey is gone on a business trip and today is a day off school, I decried a Sleepover in Mom's Room last night, a treat the kids all love. When I went to bed, my floor was a mess of sleeping bags and damp heads and Legos and flashlights an blankets and Pinkalicious books and stuffed animals.

I love them so much, I thought. My heart is so full.

The view from the top of the hill is always breathtaking.

And then - the plunge. Because I was attacked by the Plague last week, I snuffled and sneezed and coughed half the night. Connor kept waking up to turn on the gas fireplace, which turned a room already heavy with the breath of four sleeping people, into a side room of Hades. At some point, Teyla woke up and crawled into bed with me. "Great, now I have to roll over and try to clear a path through the other nostril," I thought to myself. And then at 5:00 AM, Kieran woke in his room with his normal "Mama, Daddy, Mama, Daddy, Mama, Daddy!" cry. I shuffled back to bed with him, as I always do. He feel back asleep, as he always does, after fifteen minutes of restless thrashing.

He woke for good at 6:30, and I was not eager to greet the day.

Eventually, the ride started to even out. I brewed some tea, got the kids breakfast, folded some laundry. I even managed to spend a few minutes at my desk, sampling my way through my blog reader, which is something I haven't done for at least a month, maybe more.

I looked up and saw the kids playing happily together. Their sweet voices and faces warmed me and made the normal morning doldrums melt away.
I snapped a few pictures (naturally) and went back to blog reading.

Hill tops are lovely, aren't they?

"Mama! Kieran is getting in BIG TROUBLE!"

Teyla's voice was loud and insistent and very Big Sister.

"What's he doing, honey?" I called, already headed for the scene.

"He's making a BIG MESS with your SPICES!"

'Twas true. Kieran had liberally sprinkled a whole jar of Mrs. Dash around the kitchen, and he was working on the Lemon Pepper as I walked around the corner.

"Buddy! No-no!" I said, grabbing the bottles from his hand and trying, in vain, to brush spices off his chubby feet.


I washed off Kieran's feet in the sink, waved along the rest of the kids who naturally came to survey the damage. ("Whoa, Natalie, you have to come see this!" shrieked Connor.")

Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along, please.

I got the Swiffer and spent ten minutes pushing salt-free seasoning into piles. Meanwhile, I guarantee you there was nothing salt-free about the seasoning in my mind. "Oh my word, can't I even sit at my desk for a few minutes and relax? Why must he always create a mess? Why can't he just play with his freakin' toys? Why must he always explore? I am so tired of cleaning up mess after mess after mess."


My brow furrowed to yesterday, when Kieran had managed to grab the diaper changing station off a cabinet and lotion up the carpet in his room while I had the audacity to eat breakfast. And then, when I was putting on make-up, he snuck into the other bathroom - thanks to a sibling who forgot to shut the door - and squeezed half a tube of pink princess toothpaste on the wall, the door, the countertop, the cabinet pulls and - most impressively - the little potty which was stored in the linen closet.

But, by the time I finished vacuuming the spices - and let's face it, they were all probably past their prime anyway; I haven't made anything with lemon pepper since we lived in San Diego - I could hear laughter coming from the bedroom.

I found the siblings engaged in a silly game of Lego war.

And I headed back up the hill.

It's a crazy ride, isn't it? Let's go again.

Why I Love Valentine's Day

I have always loved Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those sweet, little holidays that splash color and joy all over winter. Red and pink and purple. Glitter hearts. Chocolate and strawberries. I’ll channel my inner Ina Garten here and say, “What’s not to like about that?”

Maybe because my Mom did such a great job of making Valentine’s a fun, family day, I never got weighed down with the romantic implications of the day. As a teenager, I was uber-aware of the couples around me and the swoony music and the candlelight dinners. And there were Valentine’s Days celebrated by Corey and me in our pre-kid years that involved dinners next to crashing waves and fondue chocolate in dark, cushy booths.

But mostly, Valentine’s Day to me isn’t a chance to get love – it’s a chance to show love. I don’t really care if it’s reciprocated. I relish the chance to make heart-shaped butter cookies with pink frosting and serve them to my kids after school – just to see them smile. I love helping them make Valentine cards for their cousins and their friends at school – because glittery hearts and silly sayings are simple and sweet ways to love others.

I don’t really care if Corey gets me a card or if the kids make me a gift. It’s not about me. It’s about my chance to show them how much I love them, on a day largely bereft of expectations or pressure.

Valentine’s Day is just pure, sweet joy.

Heart for Orphans

Do you have a heart for orphans? Do you have a blog? Then I bet my last Christmas cookie you've written about it. (Not that you want my last Christmas cookie, because good grief, it's almost Valentine's.) (On the other hand, they are double-iced mint fudge brownies, and they are killer.)

I want to read your best material. I want to weep with you, laugh with you, nod my head in understanding. I want to partner with you as you tell the world that these little ones are worth the pain, worth the sacrifice, worth the fight. And maybe, I'd like to share your vision with the world with the new series Hearts for Orphan's debuting today on the Christian Alliance for Orphans blog.

I am so excited and eager to launch this project, which has been in the works since the Orphan Summit last May. It's a chance for me to shine a spotlight on some of the fantastic posts about orphan care that I come across in my reader. I'm eager to share many of you with a wider audience and connect people who have similar burdens.

Will you click over to the CAFO blog today and read the inaugural post? It's a phenomenal piece written by Missy at It's Almost Naptime entitled "Am I A Hero?" and I guarantee it will rock your world with her signature passion, authenticity and humor. (And if you read it when it was originally posted at her place last fall, I also guarantee that it's even better the second time around.)

And then, will you do me a favor? When you read a blog post that speaks boldly of orphan care - in any form, be it adoption, foster care, or global care initiatives - will you email me the link? Even - maybe especially - if it's your own? After all, I have only two sets of eyes and limited hours in the day. I need help to find the best stuff out there. I can be found at kellyatlovewell-at-gmail-dot-com.

Thank you so much for sharing in my passion and my joy.

A Bud on the Tree

I keep thinking it's spring.

Our winter has been so wimpy. The sun is flexing its muscles. The crust of snow is disappearing. Last week, I swear I heard a song bird.

Problem is, it's only February 9. Even if an early spring is inevitable this year, it's not happening next week. Even though it feels tantalizing close, I still have to wait.


A few weeks ago, I looked around at the chaos in my house -- Kieran balanced precariously on a chair, Teyla playing dolls with her hair askew, Natalie drawing next to the dirty dishes, Connor playing Legos and following me around like a puppy, asking, "Mom, you know what? Mom, you know what?" - and my heart almost exploded. Simultaneously, I thought, "I AM SO BLESSED! I LOVE MY LIFE!" and "OH MY WORD, WILL I EVER HAVE A MOMENT TO MYSELF AGAIN? I AM LOSING MY EVER LOVIN' MIND!"

I know we all feel this crazy tension. It's inherent to parenting in the 21st century. But lately, for me, it feels like it's been tightened to the breaking point. I have never been so in love with my family, never so thankful, never so aware of how much I love each and every stage my kids are in. At the same time, I have never wanted a break more, I have never felt so itchy at their constant desire to be with me. A few weeks ago, when I was feeling especially stretched, I pushed Kieran and Teyla out of my bedroom and shut the door in their crying faces and tried-not-to-scream, "Mommy needs a few minutes ALONE!"

I know, in just a few years, they will all be in school, and I will have more time than I'll know what to do with. (And if you know that's not true, don't tell me. Let me have my dream.) It will change even this year. Teyla will start preschool in the fall, which means I'll be down to one child three mornings a week.

But as desperate as I am for time to stand still, I am straining for a change of seasons. I don't need spring in all its glory, yet. I just need a cracked window, a bud on the tree, a whiff of earth.

My desperation is pushing me to look for babysitters who can watch Kieran and Teyla for a few hours each week, so I can have consistent time to myself. And I think it's working. Today, I have a sweet teenage girl here (which is why you are reading this) and thanks to the magic of Facebook, I've found a few girls at a neighboring college who are open to working up a schedule with me.

The idea of having an afternoon each week when I'm not on duty, when I can do whatever I want without worrying about cutting up apples/negotiating a fight/pulling Kieran off the counter? I'm so giddy, I can hardly sit still.


Do you smell that? I think spring is on its way.