What the Train Taught Me about Perspective

We live a few hundred feet from a train crossing.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Because our home's original owner was a man who owned a cement company, our walls are solid concrete. (We have to be very careful hanging picture on outside walls. The nails only go in about 1/2 inch before "ping" and they bend.) This place is a fortress. So even though trains thunder by about half a dozen times a day, we barely feel a tremor.

But of course, between the hours of 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM, we hear the whistle. OH MY WORD, do we hear the whistle. We hear it in the distance, we hear it as it grows close, we hear it around the corner and then it takes up residence inside us when it sounds its arrival at our street.

This delights Kieran to no end, of course. Even the faintest whistle triggers his train dance. "Train cah-ming, Mama! Train cah-ming!" he squeals. And then he runs for the front door and bounces on his toes with impatient joy. We end up standing on our front steps for the whole show, from the almost-scary thrill of the piercing it's-here whistle to the ding-ding-ding of the crossing guards returning to their upright position after the train is gone.

Watching the train in December
Occasionally, we will catch a train crossing when we're in our car, as happened this morning. We were loading up for the drive to school when we heard the first whistle. We ended up pulling out of our driveway just as the red engine roared through the intersection. We drove closer and idled right next to the crossing guard, counting cars and feeling the tick-tick-tick of the train wheels shake the minivan.

But you know what? It's hard to watch a train when you're close to it. The freight cars whizzed by with such ferocity, I couldn't focus. I got dizzy. I ended up backing up a bit so I could gain some context. It was too close, too fast, too much.

It's funny what a little perspective can do.

My word for 2012 is focus. It isn't as all-pervasive as Sabbath was last year. It's more of a drip in my mind than a steady stream. But this morning, because of the train (Hi, my name is Kelly, and I'm an analogy queen), it's been like a mountain brook rushing with snow melt.

I've lost perspective of many things in my life lately. It's understandable. When you're standing close to the fast-and-furiousness of it all, it's easy to get hypnotized. You can hardly take in what's right in front of you when - zoom - it's gone and the next thing is coming at you full steam. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Pack the lunch. Fold the laundry. Make some dinner. Clean the dishes. Hug a toddler. Play dolls. Go to bed. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! It's all encompassing, all consuming.

But thanks to the "train cah-ming," I think what I really need is to step back and remember the big picture. (Maybe after I close my eyes for a few minutes to chase away the vertigo.) I need to refocus on my husband, my family and my deepest dreams. It's easy for me to lose sight of the best things in life when I'm caught up in the zooming train inches away from my nose.

One of my Siesta Memory Verses from last year was this passage from Ephesians.

That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you — every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask — ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory — to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him — endless energy, boundless strength!
I think those words need a freshening in up in my mind this weekend.

Maybe I'll focus on them while I sit on my front porch and watch the train.

Last week, in between trains, I created a Facebook page for my blog. I'd love you to click through and like it, because then I will have another way to interact with you. As a thank you, I've put a video of Keiran's I-want-to-jump-out-of-my-skin-with-excitement train ritual on the Love Well wall. (And if you're not on FB and you want to see the video anyway, email me. I'll send you a link to it on Vimeo.) Happy weekend!

Sweet Little Lies

This picture is a couple of years old, but the attitude captured in it is always current. Read on. 
I was cleaning up dinner when I heard a loud "crack" from the playroom. Kieran immediately started to wail.

"What's going on?" I called as I walked, drying my hands on the way.

Kieran, in full-out cry, reached for me. Teyla, sitting on the floor next to her brother, wore a scowl.

"Did you hit Kieran?" I said with my eyebrow cocked and serious face, which is Mommy code for: Don't even TRY to mess with me.

"No," Teyla answered, more to herself than me, scowl louder than words.

"Teyla," I said, shifting the still-bawling Kieran to my other shoulder, "look at me." (Mommy code for: I so know you are lying.) "You and Kieran were playing nicely in here, and now something is wrong. I want you to think about it again, and tell me the truth. Did you hit your brother?"

There was a long pause as we stead at each other. Then Teyla's eyes shifted to the side and her words slid out in a long, tremulous, "Nooooooo."

I sat Kieran on my knee and asked the offended. "What happened, buddy?"

"Tey-da HIT ME on da HEAD it HURT!" he practically shouted with righteous indignation.

You could almost read the thought bubble above Teyla's head. "Crap! I forgot he can talk now!"

I stuffed the laughter threatening to bubble up inside me, and I stared hard at the offender, "Teyla, would you like to tell me the story again? Did you hit your brother?"

"Yes," she sighed, equal parts remorse and resignation.

I thanked her for her (reluctant) truthfulness, talked stern about honesty the first time and then hugged away the hurt in both my youngest.

Then I returned to the kitchen and giggled until my sides hurt.

Mommy code for: I win.

Because There's No Epidural for Living

There are (rare) days I wake up and think, "Life? I love you. Let's me and you go make a pot of French press and get married."

And then there are (most) days when I wake up with a toddler picking my nose BEFORE I'VE EVEN GOTTEN OUT OF BED and I get in the shower only to watch through the glass doors as the same toddler (smiles adorably) and then smears cream blush all over the toilet. And I think, "Sweet hosanna, where is my life epidural?!?"

Because, let's be honest. No matter which side of the natural childbirth equation you're on, a guaranteed pain-free day would be an instant hit. Imagine the day you're going to take that college final and you haven't even read the textbook, much less studied, and - life epidural! You color in those Scantron dots with a silly smile on your face and a jaunty tip of your head. Or what about the day when you are parenting solo and one of your kids throws up and the washer breaks and you reach for the coffee only to find you're out? Life epidural! Get through the next 24 hours without feeling frustration, resentment or that raging headache.

Or what about when life really hurts? You miscarry the baby. Your spouse says, "I'm not sure I ever loved you." You find porn on your teenager's computer.

Life can hurt. ("Life is pain, Highness.") It's good, it's a gift, I'm the biggest proponent of sunshine-rainbows outside of Kelle Hampton. (Seriously. No one can top her in optimism. She's my hero.) But still. When we are lying in bed, not even awake, and we feel life's sucker punch to the ribs (or the toddler's head-butt to the nose, take your pick), we might be tempted to find a way to anesthetize our way through the day.

Through our life.

Pain is one of the consequences of sin, as I see it. The world is broken, thanks to Eve. She listened to someone she shouldn't have and believed what she shouldn't have believed. And today, we all live with the fallout.

But we don't have to repeat her mistakes.

Enter I Blame Eve, the new book written by one of my Internet BFF's, Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Susanna blogs at confessions of a tired supergirl, and she is every inch what you would imagine given her blog name. She's witty and real and not afraid to ask hard questions or embarrass herself. She writes in a disarming, girlfriends-chatting-over-coffee kind of way, but she writes deep truth.

I Blame Eve is all about us dealing with the waves Eve put into motion. (And yes, Adam is totally complicit too. He just stood there, silent and removed, as Eve discussed the merits of life change with a talking snake. So I'm not letting him off, OK? It's just that Susanna's book is for women, so we're focusing on Eve here.) Because of Eve, we try to hide from God, we have pain in childbirth, we battle dirty laundry daily (as Susanna points out, Adam and Eve didn't wear clothes; ergo, no laundry in the garden of Eden). But above all, we think God is holding out on us, that He isn't looking out for our best interest. In short, we think life would be better if we were in control.

Some of us try to bury the pain under guilty pleasures, self-soothing and pacifying ourselves. When life begins to feel broken, we go shopping or indulge in a new relationship or eat our way through a bakery. When the good feelings wear off an the despair begins to creep back in, we simply repeat the process, committing to a lifestyle of overindulgence to survive. Others of us respond by trying to control our surroundings. We figure that if we can make our world look like we think it should, then we will feel better. We organize ourselves into corners and negotiate impossible to-do lists. When we can't control our environment, we try to control other people, placing high hurdles in their paths and holding then to standards they can never attain. Still others of us try to perfect ourselves, thinking that if we can patch ourselves up with self-improvement books and breathing exercises we will lessen the pain of real living. Or some of us do all these things. Like me. As you can imagine, living with me is no walk in the park.

But the wildest part is that with all the pain and brokenness of this life, we have the audacity to think we can fix ourselves. We turn ourselves inside out looking for peace, for deliverance, for clarity, when as far as I can tell, we don't have a whole lot of peace, deliverance or clarity on hand. We try to set ourselves free when we don't have the ability to do so. Just like there is no way on this green earth that I could give myself an epidural, there is no way we can bring healing about in our own lives. We would be crazy to think otherwise. -I Blame Eve

Again and again, in this easy-to-read book, Susanna points to the only person who can bring wholeness to our brokenness. She uses stories from her own life and from the Bible to make her point that trusting God is better than forging our own path. Because Susanna's style is so approachable, this is a great read for summer, or to do as a study with your friends. She's even thrown in questions for small groups in the back of the book.

And really, sitting at the feet of Jesus with your girlfriends and a cup of coffee, reminding ourselves that our need for control is not going to get us what we crave - well, that's as close as we're going to get to a day epidural anyway.

Ruthless Rules for Stuff: Sticky Situations

Earlier this week, I wrote about my new-ish ruthless lifestyle when it comes to stuff. My philosophy is to evaluate everything in my home by these two questions: Do I use it? Do I love it? If I can't answer an honest yes to at least one of those questions, the item must go.

At the end of my post, I mentioned my rules get a little tricky in two areas. And those are gifts and anything that's related to my children.

Let's tackle gifts first, because I have one staring me in the face. Literally.

A few days ago, a loved one (who doesn't read this blog) gave me that necklace, because they knew I lost most of my jewelry in the robbery last year. It's beautiful and not cheap. Those are real pearls, they told my husband, and that probably means the delicate gold chain is real as well.

Problem is? I will never wear that necklace. It's not my style at all. The past few years, I purged all similar necklaces from my jewelry stash, because they didn't pass my two-rule test. I didn't love them, ergo I didn't wear them. So out they went, no matter the sentimentality attached.

But now I'm faced with a fresh dilemma. It feels ungrateful to donate the necklace to a local charity, which is what I do with most of my unwanted stuff these days. But it seems ridiculous to put it where my jewelry box used to be and hold on to it just because it was a kindhearted gesture.

Ugh. I hate internal conflict. Why do people give me gifts I don't like and force me to deal with them? It's so rude! [/sarcasm]

The only solution I can think of is to give the necklace to someone who will love it. (Read: Who wants a necklace?) I can't justify keeping it just because I feel guilty getting rid of it. Giving it to someone who wear it and enjoy it will honor the intent of the gift, which is to bless someone with beauty.

And I will still have satisfied my ruthless rules.

Stickier still, though, is applying the rules to children's stuff, especially when it comes to evaluating anything from the baby era. I mean, that's not just stuff. That's my heart.

That yellow smocked dress that Natalie wore for her dedication, which was the Sunday immediately after 9-11? That's more than fabric. 

And the baby blue two-piece set adorned with a fuzzy duck that Connor wore for his first official pictures? 

And Teyla's tiny newborn-sized clothes?

(Seriously. Those are newborn clothes. And she's drowning in them.)

And Kieran's blowout outfit?

(Kidding! Just checking to make sure you weren't asleep at the screen.)

Those are memories. Those are love. Heck, they still smell like my babies. Holding them up to the two-rule standard is agonizing. Because those tiny clothes, those soft blankets, those brightly colored rattles and tattered board books aren't going to get used anymore. And yes, I love them. Oh my heart, I love them. But if someone else could use it and love it too, is it right for me to hang on to it just because of sentiment?

So I've made some hard decisions - and some concessions. I've kept for myself two tubs of baby clothes, one for the girls, one for the boys. I tell myself I will give it to the kids someday when they have babies of their own, but I'm not an idiot. I know they won't want sleepers, possibly spit-up stained, that are decades old. The memories are mine, not theirs. 

And I've put my favorite baby toys in our storage area, because I hope I'll get to use them again when guests with little ones come to visit.

But the rest? I've given away. Many of the clothes I've given to my siblings or my close friends, and I will confess that it makes me smile wide to see one of Natalie's old dresses on my niece or Kieran's infant short sets on my nephew. And I gave most of the toys and baby paraphernalia to area ministries that help families, where I know they will go to good use.

It reminds me that my treasures here are destined to rust and fade anyway. It's the love they represent that's eternal.

So I continue to be ruthless with my stuff, living a lean lifestyle, purging my possessions even if it's painful. Because ultimately, it does more than keep my house clutter-free. It keeps my soul focused on what really matters.

And it's not stuff.

Your comments on the last post were so awesome. I'm thinking I might do one more post on my ruthless rules to talk about the nitty-gritty of how to do it. I'm an organizer by nature, so if I can offer a few tips or point you toward people who are more gifted than me, I'll do so. If you have tips to share or questions to ask, leave them here. I'll try to tie it all up in a pretty package with one more post.

My Ruthless Rules for Stuff

If you've ever browsed through a second-hand shop and wondered who can give away their grandmother's yearbook, or their great-aunt's old wedding dress or their family's heirloom dresser, the answer is me.

I'm the one.

I've never actually had my grandmother's yearbook or my great-aunt's wedding dress or an heirloom dresser. But I feel certain that, at this stage of my life, they wouldn't last under my roof.

I am done hanging on to things for mere sentimental value. I only want things in my house that I will use and enjoy. If I won't use it or enjoy it, I will give it to someone who will or donate it to a charity that will put it to better use.

(I'm so mean.)

This hard-nosed approach is a distinct change for me. I used to be nostalgic to the core. I kept every note I ever passed to me in high school. (Reflect on that a moment. Every. Note.) I kept old clothes that didn't fit anymore and were hopelessly out of date because they reminded me of a sweet moment in time. I shlepped boxes of my childhood toys across the country, and I dutifully cared for the hand-me-down furniture given to us by well-meaning relatives.

Then came move #10. We had almost a full six months to plan this particular transition, and we knew early on we would be leaving behind our large, 5000-square-foot home behind and starting over in a 1900-square-foot townhouse. We knew we would have to get serious about selling, donating or tossing many of our worldly goods to make this happen. So we did. We sold big items on Craiglist, we sold smaller items at a local consignment store and we donated loads and loads to the area Goodwill.

And you know what? It felt GREAT. Turns out, all my childhood stuffed animals had mold on them anyway, thanks to that damp cellar in our Northern California home. And the notes were most illegible. And getting dressed was much easier without all those old clothes hanging in my closet. The more I got rid of, the lighter I felt.

In the midst of the Great Purge of 2006, I read an article in our paper.

Seems there was a local man who, in the 1970s, started collecting kerosene lamps. It was a fun hobby for him, made easier by the fact that he was a truck driver and able to visit antique shops and auctions across the country on his travels.

Problem is, he couldn’t stop collecting kerosene lamps. Or tools. Or toys. The article said he first fell in love with the sing-song rhythm of the auctioneers conducting the sales.

“I used to get half toned up and go to these sales,” he said. “I didn’t care, I’d give them bids.”

Eventually, he ended up with 14 buildings – 14 BUILDINGS! – stuffed with stuff. “And I didn’t even know what was in them,” he admitted. He recently opened a store in his farming community to sell off some of his stuff. The store’s name? Dad’s Good Stuff.

I couldn't stop thinking about that man. His story both amused and horrified me. And honestly, it convicted me. I wasn't a hoarder. But I wondered where one draws the line between holding onto things because of the memories associated with them and holding on to things because stuff is our security blanket.

It renewed my energy to be ruthless as I sorted. In the end, we fit into our cozy townhouse with room to spare.

And you know what? I didn't lose a single memory. They are all in there still, tucked behind the library due dates and the reminders to pick up more orange chicken at Trader Joe's.

So now I live my life under the banner No More Stuff. Everything in my house must meet my two rules: Do I love it? Will I use it? If not, it doesn't stay.

P.S. Corey and the kids are grandfathered in.

This gets tricky in two areas, which I'll discuss tomorrow. But for now, because it's a blustery Monday in my neck of the woods and I feel chatty, tell me your story: How do you decide what stays and what goes?

Spirit-Led Parenting : My Unintended Journey and a GIVEAWAY

I discovered I was pregnant with Natalie on Thanksgiving Day 2000. When the test I pulled out on a whim displayed two bright pink lines immediately, I went numb with shock. I hadn't been feeling well for weeks, but I had chalked it up to stress or maybe the flu.

The girl who never wanted to be a mom was going to have a baby.

It took a while for the adrenaline to stop pumping; about three months, I would guess, about the same time it took to get over the all-day sickness that always plagues my pregnancies. But once I got used to the mommy idea, trying it on for size and examining my new future in the mental three-way mirror, I was happy. You might even say I was excited.

And it goes without saying, I was completely clueless.

Corey and I were the last of our friends to get pregnant, the last to hop on the baby bandwagon. Thanks to their endorsements, I was already familiar with the popular parenting classes offered at our church, something about cultivating kids in the way of the Lord. But the class wasn't being offered again until after our baby would be born, and because I am a planner control freak, I went to a book store as soon as I was up to it and bought the book that summed up the curriculum.

It was the only book I bought. Surely, I wouldn't need anything besides this one, I thought.

But as I settled in to read that night, my stomach began to churn. I didn't have the experience to know if the authors' strict feeding schedules, cry-it-out sleeping methods or emphasis on parental authority would work. But I was appalled that they continually tied their formula back to God, as if Jesus himself had endorsed their ideas. "Do this, and your child will be a breeze, a child who will never rebel and who will love Jesus all their life," the book seemed to promise. "But if you dare to choose another path, God will punish you. Your home will dissolve into chaos, your marriage will disintegrate, your children will grow up unruly and hardhearted and you will only have yourself to blame."

I know rotten theology when I see it. I started to do some research. And I got angry. Over Sunday dinner, I shared my newfound knowledge with my Dad, the senior pastor of the church we attended at the time. He was also gravely concerned. The church dropped the class and stopped endorsing the curriculum.

I threw the book in the trash, confident that its foundation was so flawed, it had little to offer me.

But that left me without a plan.

What I wouldn't give to go back in time and hand myself a copy of Spirit-Led Parenting.
Written by my dear friend Megan Tietz and her dear friend Laura Oyer, it is heaped with the kind of wisdom that would have soothed my soul and reassured me that the best thing I can do to parent my new baby is seek Jesus.

As it so happened, Natalie was born in late July, and I feel so deeply in love, the very axis of my soul shifted. I jokingly say I experience postpartum euphoria, instead of postpartum depression, and it was never more true than it was that first time. Suddenly, things I never considered before became realities in my life. Breastfeeding on demand? Check. Co-sleeping? Check. Scheduling my life around this tiny infant instead of the other way around? Check.

Maybe most amazingly, I didn't care if the experts said I was ruining my daughter. I could feel in my soul that what I was doing was the right thing for me, for us.

And that is the message of Spirit-Led Parenting.
What we are so passionate about sharing with new parents and parents-to-be is a message that we desperately wish would have been shared with us when we were new to motherhood: There is another way. There is an approach to parenting that looks fear in the face and boldly speaks an answer: Freedom. Freedom from required formulas, unrealistic expectations of our children and ourselves, and the belief that we must force our babies to fit into a mold that may not have been designed for them. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year
It's true. Babies are individuals, unique in design and breathtaking in potential. Why do we expect them to operate like little machines? I have found so much wisdom in just getting to know my children and then reacting according to who God made them to be.
This idea of beginning without a clear plan can be unnerving. We want consistent guidelines and cold hard facts. We want outlines and directions that are easy to read and follow. But Spirit-led parenting doesn’t work like that. And the reason for this is yet another radical idea: the first year should be less about training our babies and more about God developing us as parents and human beings. If we let Him, God can use that first intense year of baby’s life to train us how to live a life that is fully surrendered to Him. To cultivate in us a trust that follows His lead, seeks Him first, and understands His grace. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year
Yes, this means my life the last 10 years has surprised me. I co-slept with all my children when they were infants; I still co-sleep with Kieran half the night. Our kids all breastfed well past one year. I never fed them traditional baby food. (Natalie wouldn't eat it, and so I went down the route of baby-led weaning before they had a word for it.) I rocked them, nursed them, sang them to sleep. I still sit in Teyla and Kieran's room while they nod off, because they don't like being alone.

Does that mean I have discovered The Right Way to Parent? Hardly. What works for you may be completely different than what works for me. And that's OK. That's the point.

But I do know my life today is radically marked by experientially knowledge of God's grace. It's been the best surprise. Parenting has humbled me, emboldened me, taught me selfless love.
Spirit-led parenting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It has no “rules” and doesn’t rely on the wisdom of others. It requires only that you listen to your child, to your intuition, and most importantly, to the Lord’s leading to determine the best way to respond to each unique situation. While some families may find that the approach they are led to may appear quite similar to the ones found in the popular school of thought, others will discover that God leads them to methods which split off the mainstream path.  Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year
So much wisdom. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's not a parenting manual; it's a journal of humor and comfort, an encouragement that you can parent your children just as they are meant to be parented because you have the Holy Spirit.

And in the end, that is enough.
Every baby is His unique creation, every mother is His treasured child, and every family has a calling. When my heart led me to care for my daughter another way, it wasn’t rebellion or failure or the beginning of ruin; it was Him. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year
I am so excited to be able to give away a copy of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year. Just leave me a comment here by next Friday, April 20 - and don't forget to leave me a way to contact you in case you win! Update: WE HAVE A WINNER! Kelly from View Along the Way. And get this: She had her second baby between the time she entered and I picked a winner. Glad to see she'll be able to put it to immediate use. Congratulations Kelly!

To read more about Spirt Led Parenting and for more chances to win a copy of the book, check out these other stops on the blog tour. 
4/10 Gypsy Mama, Mama Monk, Little Hearts Books
4/11 Sarah Bessey
4/12 I Take Joy
4/13 Love Well
4/14 Joy in this Journey
4/15 The Stanley Clan
4/16 Simple Mom, Life Your Way
4/17 Lifenut
4/18 Fried Okra, Live Renewed
4/19 The Pilot's Wife
4/20 Nish Happens
4/21 To Think is To Create
4/22 It's Almost Naptime
4/23 Keeper of the Home

Entertaining Angels

If there is a Pinterest standard for Easter, I failed completely this year.

I didn't dye eggs with the kids. I didn't get new clothes for anyone. I didn't buy any candy besides a couple of boxes of Trader Joe's jelly beans which are still sitting in a drawer in the kitchen. (OK, confession: And a couple of boxes of Peeps, which are now unwrapped and getting stale and chewy for me, which is the only way to eat a Peep, and don't try to tell me otherwise.)

I didn't even do Easter baskets. I didn't have enough candy to make them look respectable, and I had no stomach to go shopping just to fill the baskets. So I left them tucked in the storage area with my mommy guilt.

I'd like to spiritualize my laziness by saying, "We just focused on Jesus this year." But it seems wrong to add deceit to sloth.

But you know what? It was still a great holiday. Both because the truth of the resurrection doesn't need bunnies to make it better. And because we were invited to Easter dinner by a family in our church.

Never underestimate the value of hospitality.

Because this family hails from Canada, they have no extended family within driving distance. So they open their home on holidays to other "orphans" so no one has to celebrate alone. When Dana asked if we would want to join them for Easter this year, I said yes right away.

Corey and I did the same thing when we were newlyweds living in San Diego. Having neither the money nor the vacation time to fly home very holiday, we simply opened our house up to anyone else who might not have family nearby. (And to be clear, that's almost everyone. Very few people living in Southern California are from Southern California.) Thanksgiving was our favorite. We would host a potluck for somewhere between four and sixteen people. We would play Nertz and watch football and eat way too much food and it never mattered if the dishes matched (they didn't) or the centerpiece was crafty (it wasn't) or if no one could ever beat Corey at Nertz (we didn't). It was a shared holy day, a day to be together and be thankful for the moments when friends become family.

To be clear, Dana's Easter table was not only beautiful, but it would have passed any Pinterest test.
She is a gracious hostess (I hope her laptop recovers from the many times we found Kieran banging on it) and the food was amazing and the kids reveled in an outdoor egg hunt with friends.

But it wasn't the trappings of Sunday that left me with a glow. It was the spirit. By entertaining us, Dana and her family fed our souls with heaping portions of love and acceptance and community.

You can't Pinterest that.


My left leg is tucked under me, and my right leg is stretched across his lap. He curves his fingers around my calf. The house is quiet. In the distance, thunder rumbles.

It's been a long day, full of wood splitting and children laughing. Together, we've marveled over the early blooms of the rhododendron and and the lateness of the bed hour. Such is life when you're raising four children and two acres of land. Both are works in progress, although he and I know we are not the creators of these wild things. We are merely the caretakers.

I marvel at the simplicity in these moments, the peace we share in the weariness together. It wasn't always this way. I remember a time when our soil was parched, when the drought left us shriveled and separate. There was no peace then, only staggering loneliness.

But then the rains came, unexpected and fierce. And what was dead was restored. Miracle.

A good thought on this most holy of weeks.

He drums my ankle and I study his profile, smiling at the gray hairs along the temple. Nineteens years this May, and did we have a clue back then how much we would endure? Of course not. But then again, we are not the creators of this wild thing. We are but the caretakers. We would never have seen the beauty of the plan back then. Our expectations were all wrong.

He drums my ankle, knowingly, and the thunder rumbles again.

The rain is almost here.

Linking up to my friend Heather of the EO for her 29th installment of Just Write Tuesdays. But I must confess, I was also inspired by the Marriage Letter series posted each Monday over at Amber's place, which never ceases to draw me into the mysterious beauty of this thing called marriage.

Mahma Mahma

Spring break has finally come to Chez Love Well, so to celebrate, we had family movie night last night and watched the new Muppets movie. (And honestly? It was a little weird. Maybe it's because neither my kids nor my husband have ever seen the Muppets in action before. But I found myself laughing and then trying to explain why Gonzo sleeping with the chickens was funny or why Beaker only says meep-meep-meep and why the old guys sit and criticize the show even though they are obviously apart of it. Seen from a third-party perspective, I realized the Muppets are an acquired taste.)

(Then the movie ended and all the stars started in with the Mahna Mahna song, and Corey looked at me like I had just exposed our babies to a bad 60s drug trip. And then his own children started to sing along, which almost made his head explode. All I can say is: Thank you Pandora Elmo channel for educating my children in pop culture. Maybe someday they will be able to win the pink slice of pie in Trivial Pursuit, unlike their father who can get everything but.)

Of course, I say "we" watched the movie so glibly, when parents all know: toddlers don't watch movies. Kieran was mildly interested in the opening sequence. Then he was, "All done, Mama. All done!" So I sat sat the kitchen table with my cuddly, beguiling, brown eyed son and played "Yegos" instead.

I'm still not sure what we were really doing. It doesn't matter anyway. He would hand me a guy and then take another guy in his chubby fist and say, "Aye-yah!" I would respond by making my guy do a roundhouse in the air worthy of scene from Matrix which would culminate in a blow to the head of Kieran's guy. He would make an "I've suffered a blow" noise, which is something only boys can do, and retaliate by knocking my guy out of my hand and across the table.

There were moments when I thought our guys might be friends. Sometimes, my guy would hold out his hand and Kieran would say "high pive" and I would die from the cute.

And then there was the time I knocked his guy under the table and his head fell off and Kieran said, "Danged it!" which made my head fall off from laughter.

But mostly, I just played along, swooping and swishing and battling and befriending. Kieran's eyes glowed with delight. When he smiles, his whole face just crinkles. I couldn't stop staring at him, drinking in every moment of toddlerhood.

The one time he seemed to grow interested in the movie (or more correctly, in he loud noises coming from the screen), I got up from the table only to find him grabbing my hand away from the dishwasher. "Come on, Mama. Come on!"

Kieran loves many things right now. Heck, he loves most things. He is intense and most of the time, that means he is intensely happy.

But no one can touch my status with him these days. I am Mama, his confident and comforter, best friend and favorite cook. I am the Chief Book Reader before bed, and I am the only one he wants to cuddle with in the middle of the night.

And you know what? I love it. I know this phase is over all too quickly. I can't get enough of that boy right now, with all his giggles and belly and voracious joie de vivre.

I am ecstatic to be ... Mahma-Mahma. (Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo.)