The Whoffer

Last week, as I was giving Kieran a bath, he held up a plastic fish and said, "Look, Mama, I caught a whoffer!"

"I think that's a butterfly fish, buddy," I said with a smile, soaping up the washcloth.

"No, Mom! It's a WHOFFER! I caught a WHOFFER!" he insisted.


I remember when Natalie and Connor were the ages Teyla and Kieran are now. I only had two kids, and being a SAHM, I was with them every moment of every day. We went to the grocery store together, to the park together, to the library together. There wasn't anything in their lives that I didn't experience with them.

So when Natalie would say something funny, I could reach back into the recesses of my mind and say, "Oh! She's repeating a line from the children's hour at the library this morning." And when Connor would step into our pontoon and parrot, "Life jackets! So we can be safe!" I knew it was Dora.

And then, Natalie turned five and went to kindergarten, and let me assure you - having your oldest go to school is a seismic event. In the blink of an eye, her circle shifted away from the constant overlap with mine. I wasn't a part of everything anymore. She started to create her own world, separate from me, with her own friends and her own memories and her own experiences.

I could no longer interpret every phrase or figure out the seed event that grew into such a flowery story.

It hit me like a sucker punch. I didn't see it coming.


So last week, when Kieran kept insisting, "It's a WHOFFER, Mama! A WHOFFER!", I searched through the storage cave of my mind and remembered a Backyardigans he'd been watching earlier that day. It details Tasha, the fisherwoman, attempting to catch a whopper.

"OH! Is it a WHOPPER, buddy?" I said with sudden recognition. "Like what Tasha caught?"

He grinned in dismayed relief. "Yes, Mama. But not a whopper. A WHOFFER!"

OK buddy. You can call it what you want. I know what you're talking about.

For a few more years anyway.

Here, Taste This : Fruit Punch Smoothie

Thanks to my new diet, I've developed an addiction to smoothies.

They satisfy my sweet tooth, give me a boost of fluids + veggies + fruit and, if I drink one out of a fun glass, I can almost pretend it's summer.

(Yeah, that's right, Minnesota. I'm looking at you and your 60-degrees and clouds. We shouldn't be grayer, colder and wetter than frigging Seattle. Yet we are. This is unacceptable.)

It's taken me a while, but I've finally figured out a basic, adaptable smoothie recipe. I call it the Fruit Punch Smoothie, because then I can throw in whatever I have handy that day, and my kids won't blink.

And despite the name, it's really more than fruit. I tend to start with a base of veggies - spinach, mostly - because it's easily disguised if you add frozen berries. I'm always looking for ways to up the veggie quotient.

The basic formula is as follows:

2 cups of liquid (juice, almond milk, etc.)
2 cups of frozen fruit (berries, peaches, pineapple, mango, etc.)
1 frozen banana
+ another cup or two of whatever you want

I often add in some yogurt for added creaminess, and as mentioned, spinach. And if the finished smoothie isn't sweet enough for you, add in a couple tablespoons of honey, agave or maple syrup.

Bada bing. Summer in a glass. Pay attention Minnesota. It's not that hard.

Fruit Punch Smoothie

1 cup orange juice
1 cup carrot juice
2 cups raw spinach
2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup yogurt

1. Combine ingredients in blender and combine until thick. Makes about 4 smoothies.

1. If you blender has a hard time grabbing the ingredients, try adding more liquid. Or stir the mixture and watch for an air bubble to pop. If the mixture is really thick, an air pocket can develop around the blender blades; you'll know you've got one if only the bottom part of the mixture is moving even though the engine is whining like a three-year-old at bedtime. The Master has more great tips here.
2. Obviously, the ingredients are customizable. Just know that if you don't use berries of some kind, the spinach will tint the whole concoction. I'm out of berries right now, so the smoothie I made this afternoon included spinach, pineapple, mango and banana. It tasted great, but it's color was - how shall I say - less than appetizing.
3. If you have leftover smoothie, throw it in a popsicle mold for a sunny day.


I'm always tinged with wistfulness this time of year, when the final few days of school roll around and I'm forced to acknowledge the passing of time.

It's easy to ignore that in March, for example, when the days blend together in one perpetual, never-changing swath. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, exercise, grocery shop, nap, pick up from school, homework, eat dinner, bathe, go to bed. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But then early June arrives, with her lilacs and fresh-cut grass and the promise of summer, and I'm woken from my daze to see my children, changed. Natalie is finishing sixth grade this week. Next year, she moves up to the junior high area at our small, Christian school - "the vault" it's called, more because it's the original 1900s part of the building, than because it houses tweens. But whatever fits. She'll go from having one teacher to having many. Her books will be stored in a locker, not a desk. She'll be an official big kid, on the cusp of high school. I still picture her like this:

A pig-tailed first grader, smiling big in a slightly too-big pink dress and tennis shoes.

And then Connor, my blonde-haired, brown-eyed boy, he'll finish third grade next week and then begin the biggest transition yet - that from private school to public. It's the best thing for him; Corey and I have prayed much over this decision and feel peace and even joy about what's ahead. But it makes the end of this school year that much more poignant. Connor had been with these same kids, everyday, for the past three years - and in a few cases, four years, because they went to preschool together. I know switching schools doesn't mean the end to friendships. His best friend, in particular, lives nearby and Isaac's whole family is dear to us, so we'll continue to invest in those relationships, like this spring break picnic from three years ago.

But it won't be the same. There's no escaping that, which makes my heart twinge.

And Teyla, whose entire life has been chronicled on this blog, will start kindergarten in the fall. She enjoyed every minute of preschool this year; she graduated last week, and bless her heart, she's asked every morning this week, "Do I have school today?" So I know she's more than ready for the leap. But it stuns me that the tiny, dark-haired baby who was born on a cold day in 2008 is now a bounding ball of creativity and spunk, her wavy, blonde hair no more retrained than her spirit.

She's going to public school, with Connor, and I'm glad our district still offers the option of half-day kindergarten, because I'm not ready to give her up yet.

And then there's Kieran, my constant shadow and companion. He's in the full throes of mama worship these days, and June reminds me to savor every minutes of his raucous joie de vivre.

I have a theory that your life stage is determined by your youngest child, so maybe that's why I'm so shocked to turn around and see my oldest firmly in middle school. For crying out loud, I'm not even done changing diapers yet. (Because potty training is the death of me. This summer, OK? I'll do it this summer.) Is it right for them to continue to grow in grace and beauty when I'm so distracted?

Mais c'est la vie, non? Sunrise, sunset and all that jazz.

I'm just glad to be along for the ride. Life groans with beauty, and change is a miracle. I wouldn't miss this for anything. Even if it does make my heart hurt. It's the best kind of ache.


Jesus talks to me when I'm in my garden.

And yesterday, I needed some talking to. I needed some whispers of hope, some reminders of truth, because my heart was dragging low as wet cilantro: my good friend had died the night before.

Cancer. Stage four. That's what the doctors said, a little more than a year ago. It was a punch to the gut for Amy's many friends, but especially for her husband and two children. Our worlds can change in a flash, a fact we usually ignore on purpose, eyes shut tight. But this time, there was no escaping the sudden shattering. We begged for a miracle and struggled when she kept getting sicker. Amy was wise and sweet, and best of all, she loved our babies. She was the one who always volunteered for extra shifts in the nursery, the one who kept coming to MOPS after her own kids were in school so she could rock the newborns. The smiles she gave those little ones glowed holy. Jesus himself couldn't have loved them more. And few things tender a mama's heart like someone loving their babies.

Just eight days ago, a party was thrown in Amy's driveway, a celebration of the best things - life and laughter and Mexican food. We gathered around our friend and said, "We love you. Thank you. See you soon."

But there were fewer days left than we imagined, and Saturday night, she shed her sick and failing body and went to live with Jesus. Her husband held her hand.

See you soon.

I find solace in dirt and growing things, and as I poured soil in the pots yesterday and turned out petunias and lobelia and basil, I thought about how long it's taken spring to arrive this year. The weariness of a winter-without-end grinds away hope. When it's still snowing in early May, it's hard to believe anything will be green again. But here we are, at the beginning of June, and while we are assuredly behind our normal schedule, things are green again. In fact, the shades of green outside my window right now are positively astounding - chartreuse, lime, kelly, blue-green, dark green, bright green, fern green, yellow-green. Spring didn't just arrive; it pounced, with all the joy and playfulness of a kitten. Winter is over. The new season is here.

He makes all things new.

So as I ripped apart roots of plants confined too long in plastic pots, I nodded. And when I settled those flowers in their new home, I watered them with my tears. Life here is messy and prone to thorns and decaying leaves and spades that don't stay where you set them down. Deer eat our hostas and mud cakes under our fingernails and our expectations are frequently left wanting something more.

But life is also filled with aching beauty, lilacs and salvia and chives blossoms that shed their skin on the tip of a green stalk and explode into furry fireworks. Even when we forget to water, flowers bloom and tomatoes grow and we find ourselves picking wild raspberries, juice staining our fingers, finding sweetness we did nothing to deserve.

Every day is a gift. And call me a fool, but I believe this is just the beginning. Death is not the end. Not for Zach's loved ones. Not for Amy's family. This world is broken, but it also sings hope. Because no matter how dark and long the winter, spring always comes.