Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cooking with Aunt Sue

This past weekend, we attended the Memorial Service for my Aunt Susanne. Although I didn't see her as much as I would have liked as an adult, I have sweet memories of her as a quiet, permanent fixture in my childhood. I remember snuggling with her in the old hammock at Nana's house at Two Tulip. On one occasion, in which I felt very grown-up indeed, she took me on a trip to New York City. Having lived there for a large portion of her life, the smells and sounds and busyness were probably just like breathing to her. But to a ten-year-old, (very) sheltered little girl, it was a head-buzzing adventure that left me wide-eyed for two weeks afterward.

The details of her Memorial Service were thoughtfully and personally planned, just how I would like my eventual send-off to be. Her niece and nephew sang an old family song, her relatives and friends remembered her quiet gentleness that often belied an amazingly sharp mind. Her grandchildren crafted dozens and dozens of peace cranes, reflecting on how Grammy Sue had an earnest and long-standing hope for peace on earth. A larger crane, on which we all penned a single word in remembrance of Aunt Sue, was set sail on the river beside the church... a river that Sue had explored with her grandchildren, whose rhythmic cadence could be heard as she rested in the backyard hammock in the months that she was sick. Sue's crane slowly and gently circled for a few minutes before disembarking. Her son Max was beside me, and remarked something like, "How just like my mom. Gentle and un-rushed even in the end."

After the service, we descended on Max and Denise's house. It's worth mentioning that the way that Denise served her mother-in-law in her illness was a thing of beauty. She slept for months with a baby monitor beside her bed, and snuck over to Sue's adjoining apartment if there was any sign of trouble in the night. Max and Denise graciously opened Aunt Sue's home, and invited guests to pick a few books from her vast library. Admittedly, most of the literature was beyond my college-dropout intellect, but it was stunning to see the vast array of topics that interested Sue... everything from politics to Buddha to oil drilling to Jesus. It was calming to walk through her little domain, and the great loves of her life were obvious as I did so: books...and her family. Paintings by her grandchildren and candid photos of them laughing in the woods papered the walls and were wedged in among her stacks of books.

I was delighted to find Moosewood Cookbook among the stacks, a recipe collection that I had long coveted but could never justify buying. I am not sure if it was one of her favorites, or if it was a gift given just before she got ill... maybe she had hopeful culinary aspirations as she leafed through it, only to become so sick that she depended on charity casseroles and cans of Campbell's soup. There were no tell-tale grease spatterings or finger smudges that are so prevalent in my own cookbooks. But as I cooked my first recipe from the book last night, an (amazing!) Swiss and Mushroom Quiche, I liked to imagine Aunt Sue in her little kitchen.

I could see her chopping the onions, pausing and removing her glasses for a moment as she wiped her tearing eyes. She would lean back to the fridge, so close she probably didn't have to leave her spot at the stove, and grab the butter, and plop a bit into the pan. It would sizzle and foam. She would stand at the counter and grate the cheese, possibly with a small grandchild at her side, begging for a sample. She would cut the butter into the flour with two forks crisscrossing each other, and add a little more water so it would stick together. As she rolled it out on the floured counter, maybe she would upset her glass of water and it would run down the side of the sink and onto her skirt. Possibly she cursed under her breath softly, before catching herself and quickly glancing over to see if her small grandson, who was busy creating animals out of colored duct tape at the table, had noticed. He hadn't (or didn't care), so she would mop up the spill with the corner of her sleeve and refill her glass. After sliding the glass pie plate into the oven, perhaps she would sit with Stephen and read a book. Or, as she was by all accounts a "play-slave", maybe they would mold something out of clay or create a fort on the living room floor.

Of course I don't know all these things. As I mentioned, I didn't often see Aunt Sue after I became an adult. Was she a cook? I don't know. Possibly her busy metropolitan life had left her more apt to phone in a take-out order or stop by the local delicatessen on her way home from work. But I had fun imagining. And as my hands rolled out the dough on the counter, I felt a kinship with her... really, with all the women in my family who have gone before me. An age old-ritual... flour, butter, a little water... we women have been doing it for centuries-- the rote, mechanical, mundane chores-- all with the end purpose of nourishing our families and creating a home. We are a calvary of mothers, of aunts, of Nanas, of sisters, of daughters (and daughters-in-law)... with flour smudged on our cheeks and a sink full of dishes. And though Aunt Sue has set sail down the river... across the Jordan, really... we carry on the rhythm of her days. Cooking, reading, learning, loving, playing.

My Moosewood Cookbook sits wedged among a stack of others on the counter in my kitchen. And I have a feeling that every time I reach for it (which will be often), I will pause and think of Aunt Sue, with her quiet and gentle presence, and invite her memory to come and cook with me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

giving God good advice

"Giving God good advice and abusing the devil isn't praying."- L.M. Montgomery.

My prayers of yesteryear were a lot more eloquent and verbose than they are now. Years ago, my prayers might have sounded something like this:

"Jesus, You know this election is coming up soon. May you slay those liberal, self-seeking Democrats [tongue firmly in cheek] and uphold the Holy Agenda of the Chosen, Righteous Republican Party and may they ever lead our country back to You. This is our only hope."

or perhaps this:

"Righteous and omnipotent Heavenly Father, make my home function with Holy Spirit Power and the blessed Shekinah glory of the Almighty Lord. Give us what we want need [insert exhaustive list of material goods] so that we can serve You better and make a difference in this world. We name it and claim it in the name of Jesus Christ! World without end, amen and amen."

My prayers are simpler now, borne out of tiredness and busyness and (hopefully) a bit more humility-- the kind of humility that can only come from being a wife and mom and realizing that I fail 3483984 times and that I have no business instructing the Maker of the universe on what He should or shouldn't do for me. Out of the knowledge that I have no knowledge, and I am most often winging it from moment to moment.

Most often, it is just this:

"Father-- in all this mess we have created, Your will be done."


"Oh, Jesus. Help me. Help me to love these children when I'd so much rather scream at them. Help me to love my husband when I'd so much rather be throw a boot at him." (This is, for the record, an indication of my own failures and my sinful heart, not a reflection on my husband-- whom I typically adore, and just occasionally want to throw a boot at.)

How smug I must sound to God, when I pray to Him about what He must do. Or even what He should do. How self-important I must sound when I tell Him what is best for our country, or even what is best for my family. I see dimly, in part. He sees the whole.

May my prayers be sincere, humble, and come from a heart that desires the glory of God, not merely ease of circumstances.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My pantry is having an identity crisis

See all these "righteous" foods??

I know it's a small picture, but can you see what we've got going on here?? Chia seeds, hemp hearts, organic non-dairy coconut milk?

I am a clean eater like that.

I only buy local, sustainably produced groceries.

Except for when I stock up on Crystal Light and Crisco, of course.

Around these parts, we may eat organically grown kale and other 'bunny food', but we fry it up in a generous dose of partially hydrogenated animal fat.

Alongside an ice cold glass of powdered red dye #5.

Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Joy in the morning

Last night, Chris and I totally broke the law.
Or, at least one of the rules typed on the sheet of paper hanging on the hospital bathroom door:

"Only one parent/guardian may spend the night."

We're usually pretty decent, upstanding citizens. But Chris and I went all rogue up in here and both spent the night. We're rebels like that. He let me have the cot, the blankets and the pillows, and insisted that he could sleep just fine on the non-reclining vinyl chair. He's dreamy like that.

Speaking of the law, we called them last night. Or, Chris did, around 11 pm... when I was home for a few hours with the kids. I texted him because I was fairly certain that someone was trying to break into the front door. I kept hearing these weird noises and bangs... I was freaking out.

He texted me back:
Chris: Do you want me to call the police and have them come check it out?
Me: No.
(a second later.)
Me: I don't know.
(another second later.)
Me: Yeah, maybe.

The valiant Lititz Borough police officers arrived in record time, parked at the street and crept stealthily through the shadows... and wrestled to the ground and finally apprehended...


My homemade, Pinterest inspired, ruffly burlap bandit of a wreath!

Banging on the door in the wind.

(He's serving 2-4 for criminal mischief.)

Seriously. Can you imagine my mortification??

Although now that I consider it, I would rather be mortified than DEAD at the hands of some creepy door-banging serial killer.

After that drama, Evie took a turn for the worse and I headed back to join Chris at the hospital, with a serious RULES-BE-DAMNED! attitude; I was ready to lay into the first person who questioned my right to be with my girl overnight. (Incidentally, no one did. All the better for them.)

A couple of minutes after I got here, Evie woke up in intense pain. She was screaming and crying and sweating and her whole body was convulsing. I have been through natural childbirth, and I can confidently say that what she was feeling was akin to those sensations, at least insomuch as those pains translate to a five year old. I had a moment where I considered telling her to "moooooo" like a cow, a la Ina May Gaskin, but in the end, decided she would probably give me the stink-eye and clock me over the head with her board-and-IV clad arm.

After those pains passed, she went back to sleep and the nurse came in to give her some kind of anti-cramping medicine. I am not sure if it was the meds, or prayers, or the sickness running its course, or what. But Evie has been sleeping peacefully for the last SEVEN+ hours (unheard of since she's been sick!) and only woke up once to pee. I am hoping and praying that this trend continues and my girl is back to her crazy, fun self soon. We are meeting with the specialist at 11, I guess to see how we move forward from here.

I am confident that Jesus has been very close to us in all of this. I am confident that there is a purpose in this. I am confident that He chose this specific set of circumstances because it is the very best for our souls, and because He loves us. I am confident that He will be glorified in this.

I am confident that my friends are waaaay better cooks than I am. I could write a book about how kind and generous and thoughtful people have been with us over the course of Evie's illness.

Maybe I will.

Or you know, at least a blog post.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More Ramblings...

--Tom's of Maine deodorant is not made for the hospital. I mean, it's natural and doesn't have aluminum, and probably won't give me cancer, so that's a perk. But truly. I am gross.

--Speaking of gross (and cancer), I have had a little cold sore/blister thingy in the same spot underneath my tongue for the last couple of weeks. Is this just from stress, or do I have herpes? Or mouth cancer?

--No, seriously. Do I?

--When we get out of the hospital, can someone come watch my kids for three days an hour so I can weed my garden? I have totally neglected it all summer, and it's a nasty weed pit of despair, not unlike my Tom's-of-Maine-clad armpits. It's gotten a couple of weeds here and there while Evie has been in the hospital this past week.

--I appreciate everyone's comments suggesting transferring to another hospital. No, really, I do. This is something that we are considering, and should it become necessary, we will not hesitate to do it. At this point, we feel that-- while Evie is feeling nasty, and her condition is somewhat perplexing-- she is not in grave danger. We need to get her better, but this is not... like, you know, a fatal condition. Ack. I don't even like typing that word. We are, however, considering transferring to Hershey just because there's a Starbucks there. For reals.

--Hey Doctor/Nurse/Housekeeping/Person-coming-to-take-an-order-for-some-disgusting-hospital-food-that-Evie-won't-touch: my kid is SLEEPING. Could you possibly turn it down a few notches??

--I am 100% overwhelmed by the massive support and prayers that have been coming our way. Many have asked me if there is something that you can do to help. Would you consider sending a little note to Cana, my middle daughter?
She just turned three, and she doesn't really understand what is going on, just that she misses Evie. She has been a trooper, but I am sure it is hard to see Evie getting spoiled like crazy with attention and surprises and special treats. I am not asking that you send her a toy or a treat (in fact, I would prefer that you didn't). Don't even go buy a card! She would love a picture that your kid drew, or even a note scrawled on the back of a receipt, like this d-bag:

--But really, if you'd consider sending her a little note or a drawing, contact me and I will give you our address. Unless you're some crazy psychopath stalker. In which case, I will most definitely NOT give you our address. I know Cana would love to get mail.

--I miss my little kids. Ruby is still nursing, and I would like her to continue for quite a while yet. I had a moment of panic yesterday, thinking that being away from me during the day will make her want to wean. Luckily, she seems just as obsessed interested in the boob breastfeeding as ever.

--Also, I am a sinner... but who did this to Evie's new little stuffies? Seriously. Friggin' perv nurses.

--Cana's big news-- she (finally!) conquered potty-training!!-- was somewhat eclipsed by this whole kid-in-the-hospital-scenario, but I am super proud of her. We celebrated with new Dora panties and a grown-up "coffee". I am also super glad to not be scooping toddler poop out of panties.

--For the first time since I was six, I am sporting a disgusting, oozing stye in my left eye. Just kidding, it's not really oozing. But it IS kind of disgusting. Between this and my Tom's of Maine fail and my gangrenous mouth sores, and the fact that I am pretty sure I have worn these pants for a couple of days in a row,

--Don't you want to come visit and give me a great big hug????

Monday, August 20, 2012


-My biggest baby is in the hospital. She's gonna be ok, but she's not ok. And that makes me sad.

-My husband is a very tender daddy. Seeing him with my girls makes me love him more.

-It's totally humbling to have someone do your laundry for you. It goes without saying that it's totally a blessing, too.

-People truly want to help my family. It's truly hard for me to accept help.

-My three year old is finally potty-trained. I am too tired to fully elaborate on how wonderful this is.

-I am really, really, really tired.

-Stacey Gagne is one of the most faithful, consistent, thoughtful friends I have ever had. As I was driving back to the hospital today, I was thinking over various life events in the last eight years... births, deaths, and all the barbecues in between, and I am hard pressed to think of too many that Stacey was not a part of. A true friend. I want to be like her when I grow up. And I want to kick her butt in the OBX 1/2 marathon.

-I may have stress-eaten my way through two three pumpkin cream cheese cupcakes for lunch yesterday.

-This will not help me kick Stacey's butt in the OBX 1/2 marathon.

- Sometimes you just want your mom.

-Evie likes to collect cicada shells. I keep startling myself when I come upon a pile of dead, crunchy bug shells in a corner. Not an infestation, just a collection.

-Ruby Rae has mad talking skills. My favorites are "bummer!" and "shit!" Ahem, "sit". I think.

-Tim and Alyssa are some of the most faithful, consistent, thoughtful family members that I have ever had. I can't wait to meet their baby, and hopefully love him or her half as well as they have loved my girls.

-Evie is moaning in her sleep beside me. As much as I would like to stay the night, only one parent is permitted overnight, and given the choice, Evie would always, always choose Chris.

-This doesn't hurt my feelings.

-I am really, really, really tired.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Maybe a Makeover Monday

It's a semi-annual post around these parts, folks. The ignoring my kids so I can mod podge a map crafting hasn't stopped. The blogging about it has. But Chris just got me a new MacBook (love him!) so now I can be in the same room with my kids and ignore them while I blog dash off a quick post or two.

Just kidding.

I don't really ignore my kids.


My table used to look like this (can you see it past the gigantic headless prego?)

Nothing wrong with it. If you're into ugly two tone wood and stuff. Which I clearly was in 2004 when I bought it.

Then it looked like this:

Chalkboard table and cool vintage school chairs. I told you I have a thing for school paraphernalia.

I love these little chairs, despite the fact that they were made for skinny 16 year olds and not, um, post-3-babies-mamas. Regardless, we definitely did not split three of the seats down the middle. Ahem.

But then I saw these little guys on the side of the road.

More accurately, I saw them at a yard sale. I wasn't willing to spend $3 each, so I waited an hour and circled around after the yard sale was over. Sure enough, they were sitting on the curb with a free sign. I am like a Stealthy Ninja Trash-Picking Superhero like that.

Possibly they may live in a homeschool room someday, but for now, they are living around my dining room table.

Leftover paint and a few stenciled numbers = free.

You know, just in case I ever need to count my chairs in a hurry.

I totally get that bright red + stencils might not be your cup of tea. That's absolutely fine if you don't want to be awesome.

They're going to look even better when Chris makes me this farmhouse table for my 30th birthday:

Oh, hey, Chris? Will you make me this farmhouse table for my 30th birthday?

These chairs are heavy, solid wood.

So if my ass cracks one of these bad boys, we are in biiiig trouble.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Do not despise the season

This past week, a dear friend, her husband, and her sweet little boy came to spend the night with us. I have always felt a special kinship with Kristi; I so value the ability to laugh at oneself, and Kristi is kind and thoughtful and funny, and she is very careful to not take herself too seriously.

Kristi is passionate about a natural lifestyle; we were a stop on the way to their final destination, so she temporarily unloaded all her organic morsels from her cooler into my fridge for the night. She had thought of everything-- organic milk for her son, organic coffee creamer (hopefully not for her son, or I am totally judging her), organic kiwis (Evie ate 3), some kumbucha tea and homemade sprouted grain bread. I am not sure about the last two, but you know... probably.

She is an extremely gracious person, so be assured when you read this next part: I was TOTALLY putting this on myself, not her.

As she placed her groceries beside mine, I began to feel self-conscious and squirmy. I used to be somewhat passionate about natural food; I still definitely see the value in it, and try to feed my family relatively healthfully and purposefully. But budget and time and lack of energy intercepted my best intentions somewhere between kid #1 and kid #3. And as she nestled her hormone-free milk beside my cans of Diet Dr. Pepper, as she described her tv-free toddler, I started to feel guilty.

Because, you know...

My kids had watched Sid the Science Kid that morning practically until their eyes got red and pus-y.

I had an important meeting with someone a few nights ago, and my husband was working... so I totally told my kids that if they played nice in the other room and let me finish my meeting without interruption, we would take a bike ride to the local Turkey Hill and they could get a small cup of red dye #5 Cherry slushie.

And of course, it's not just TV and nutrition:

I see other stupid, annoying moms post pictures on pinterest of their alphabetized DVD collection (oh, wait, they don't watch TV), or their color-coordinated dry erase memo board that plans their meals for the next 37 months (and they only spent $1.73 on all those groceries because they COUPON!), or their list of 674 FUN, EDUCATIONAL, TV-FREE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS THIS SUMMER... and I just want to cry. I am trying to get dinner on the table for tonight. Sure I would coupon, IF I COULD FIND WHERE I PUT THE EFFIN' SUNDAY CIRCULAR.

And we see all this amazing (good!) stuff, and we think--"This is what I have to do! This is what I have to be!!"

But here's the thing. I am just not in that season right now.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend several years ago. We were discussing another friend, one who buys raw milk from a local farm and uses the cream to churn her own butter. Self-contempt crept into my voice as I said, "Wow. I really need to be like that."

I will never forget what my friend said, "Melody... there's a difference between practice and principle. The Biblical principle is that you are to care for your family and your home. That is going to look different for everyone; everyone will have different practices to make that principle come to fruition in their lives. You have to decide what serves your family best." For one friend, serving her family best means churning butter. Another's family is best served by picking it up at the market: the end result is the same. Neither is more or less.

But oh, I can be so discontent in the here-and-now. I want my kids to be more self-sufficient, I want our home to be more orderly, I want life to be less chaotic and loud.

But that's not the season I am in.

God made me wife to Chris. He chose ME, with all my manic insecurities and sloppiness-- to be Mama to Evie, Cana, and Ruby.

He did this in His perfect wisdom.

He knew that they would be close in age, and in His kindness, He promised that He would equip me with sufficient grace for today.

AndohasmuchasIhateitsometimes, this is the season I am in. The season of Target brand non-organic milk and socks under couch cushions and playdoh ground into the carpet of the minivan (how did that happen?!).

God put me in this beautiful, terrifying, maddening, amazing season because it is the very best thing for my soul. He's teaching me to be like Him--one board book, one band-aid application, one wiped nose at a time.

Help me to roll with it, God. Help me to delight in it, God. In the spilled milk and the overdue library books and the piles of laundry. Help me to delight in it.

Help me to not despise this season.

Monday, July 30, 2012


This week, we received the stunning news that our dear friends had lost their son/grandson to suicide.

He was 12.

My brain shut off; it was too much to comprehend. Even now, a few days out, I keep remembering this sweet boy and thinking, "Surely not, Lord. Surely not."

Chris went up to be with our friends for a bit. I stayed home with the girls and struggled to come up with words to put in a card.

We Christians are full our our trite little tidbits, aren't we?

"He's in a better place now. He's not hurting anymore."

"He's an angel now..."

"We'll all be reunited one day."

"God works in mysterious ways."

Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum.

I am not begrudging Christians their religious trifles. Because really... what do you say? "Sorry about your kid. Here's some ziti; it freezes well"??

This situation 150% sucks. There is nothing that I can do or say, no amount of sympathy or ziti that will change the fact that this 150% sucks.

I was not close to this small man, but I still find my faith shaken, my mind whirring with thoughts about the sovereignty of God. About the kindness of God. About heaven. About the fall of man and the curse of death.

And here's what I have come up with:


I don't know why God allows tragedies like this to happen. I don't know how He will redeem this to glorify Himself. I don't know how a family can begin to move ahead after something like this. I don't know about free will and predestination and lights at the end of tunnels.

Here's what I do know to be true:

We are not forsaken. (Deut. 31v6)
We are not forgotten. (Isa. 49v15)
We are helped. (Isa. 41v10)
We are heard. (Psalms 86v7)
God is near. (Deut. 4v7)

For right now, I cling to this... as I cry out for mercy for this family.
For right now, I trust the one who stores our tears in a bottle.
For right now, it's enough. It's gonna have to be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rosey's Ice Cream

So for those of you who have been to to our house, you know that it has had many incarnations over the years. From repair shop, to screen printing business, and most recently, to crack house. But before all those various tenants had paraded their way through my little home, it was Rosey's Ice Cream, a small factory owned by the Rosenberg family. Originally, it was a home delivery service started in the 1920's, satisfying Lititz homeowners with their delicious concoctions conveniently dropped at their front doors (add home delivery diet coke, and this is my idea of heaven). Later, it became the Scoop Shop, and kids would run over after school and choose their favorite selection from the wooden sign on the wall.

Chris and I are both enchanted by this story. Mostly because we are obsessed with ice cream. Little Girl #3 was almost named Rosey, and I think Chris still regrets that she wasn't. Next time, babe. (Ha.) I love homes with history; it's fun to imagine what life was like for the various people who lived and worked and scooped cherry vanilla in our home. Since we bought the place two years ago, we have casually been searching for "Rosey's" memorabilia. We have even met some of the Rosenberg family, who kindly shared copies of some of their collection with us.

I found this ad from 1951 online:

We didn't want to go overboard or anything and install 5 gallon buckets into our kitchen counters (or maybe we did), but a healthy dose of kitsch never hurt anybody. So since the Rosenbergs didn't want to part with their original Rosey's signs, I felt like I had to make a little cheater until I could sweet talk them into changing their minds.

It was always on the back burner, and I even added it to my "Summer Projects" memo board in my cloffice (closet+office).

See that-- "train for 1/2"? I start officially training for the OBX 1/2 marathon next week. The thought both nauseates and exhilarates me. Mostly nauseates, if I am gonna be honest.

So I killed a couple of projects with one proverbial stone, and made my wee little Rosey's sign, and a few yarn ball book page thingamabobs. My house is where old books come to die. For reals.

It'll do until I pry the real one out of the Rosenberg's cold, dead hands I get the real one.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

And then I had kids...

Pre-kid Sundays live in a place of charmed, idyllic memories for me. Chris and I would wake up on our own, snuggle in bed, maybe fall back asleep for awhile. I would make breakfast and then shower-- actually shower!-- and dress in moderately stylish clothes that (gasp!) actually fit me! Though our church at the time was 45 minutes away, we often still had time (and money) to swing through Starbucks and pick up a tall nonfat vanilla latte. We would casually stroll into church with 15 minutes to spare. We'd chat with friends, scope out the best seat, and settle in for the service. Afterwards, we'd often go out to lunch and then home to--ah! Nap!! I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.

And then I had kids.

This morning, Chris had to work. I was up around 7:30 or so... still plenty of time to get our little girls ready for the 10:30 service. I defrosted some strawberries that I had frozen from our garden earlier in the summer, threw them on top of some waffles, and prepared for a casual, relaxing beginning to our Sunday.

That's when the sh@# hit the fan. Well, not actually the fan. But there was actual sh@# involved, as Little Girl #2 announced that she had just crapped in her panties. (Feel free to judge me for the fact that my three year old still craps her pants.) Have you ever changed panties full of preschooler crap? Exponentially worse than the garden variety of baby crap in a diaper, its disgustingness compounded by the fact that there is no velcro or snaps to undo, and preschooler must step out of said crap-panties. I've probably said enough about this, but you can go ahead and assume the worst and, suffice it to say, there was a bath involved. A bath that wasn't planned for and wasn't a part of my casual, relaxing Sunday.

Out of the bath and we are doing hair. Little Girl #3 is still in her high chair and is now throwing bits of defrosted, smashed up strawberries into the rug and laughing. I corral a kid closer and admonish LG#3 to stop throwing her berries. LG#2 has something in her hair. Toothpaste? I can't venture a guess, but it's going to have to stay there for now.

I get the girls dressed with little mishap, except that I can't find any of LG#2's dresses. I put one of LG#1's dresses on her, but it's three sizes too big and drags on the floor. I briefly contemplate letting her wear it anyway, but eventually change her into a pair of sparkly capris and decide that it's gonna have to be godly enough.

Meanwhile, LG#1 is corralling shoes. Let me stop here for a moment to mention that-- among the girls, they probably own 344 pairs of shoes. Literally, 344 pairs. And.I.cannot.find.a.single.matching.pair. Zero. I frantically dig through piles. Nothing. I look through bins in closets. Where are the other shoes? Do my children eat them? Are they using them for nesting boxes for our chickens? I may never know. Eventually, I come up with 2 pairs for LGs#1&2, and decide that LG#3 is still sort of a baby, so she doesn't really need shoes. (I pause now to thank God that it isn't winter.)

I send LG#1&2 out to the playhouse where they amuse themselves by going down the slide on top of a boogie board. I have seven minutes until I have to be out the door, and I am not dressed. I dig through my closet and the pile of clean laundry that has been sitting in a basket on the floor of my bedroom for three weeks. Where are all my clothes? And when did I lose the ability to put together some sort of stylish-ish outfit? I find a skirt with an elastic waist (cause goodness knows I am not fitting into my pre-kid denim), throw on some flip flops, douse mist myself with Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea that I bought in 2002 (cause of course I haven't SHOWERED) and pronounce myself Good Enough. Out the door and I realize that both LGs #1&2 have removed their shoes. LG#2 can't find hers. We should have left 6 minutes ago. I locate the shoes, put them back on their wayward feet, and strap my LGs into their respective carseats, but not before I pick up a pile of change off of the pavement that was earmarked for children's church donations.

I crank up the air conditioning in the car because I am sweating at this point. I can't remember if I wore deodorant on or not. We are about 1/4 of a mile away from the house when I hear a rattle and a bang. And of course, it is the boogie board falling off the roof racks of my minivan. Because somehow my kids managed to get a boogie board on top of my van without me noticing. I would curse under my breath at this point, but it's Sunday and I don't do that on Sundays. "Sorry, girls. We are just going to have to look for it later." Many loud shrieks, crying, and gnashing of teeth ensues. I decide I'd rather be late to church than listen to this nonsense for the 10 more minutes it will take to get to church. I turn the van around, and the boogie board is nowhere to be seen. I have a terrifying vision of it flying off the car and impaling some poor bicyclist, but push it from my mind, try to console my kids, and head back toward church. It is 10:23.

I pull into a spot at church, and gather our bags. A bag for LG#3, a just-in-case bag for LG#2, and my purse. I can't get out of the car because I am minivan-parking-disabled and I have parked too close to the car beside me. I finally corral all my kids, and head inside. The greeters have abandoned their posts; they can't be bothered with tardy riffraff the likes of me. LG#3 Screams Bloody Murder and claws at my chest as I try to drop her off at nursery. The nursery worker frowns disapprovingly and hands me a child pager. I drop off LG #1, and am almost to LG #2's class when she announces that she has to go potty. I turn around and head back down the hall to the bathroom and wait patiently while she pees, (byherselfthankyouverymuch) washes her hands and wrangles her slightly ungodly sparkly capris on. I look in the mirror and notice that I have toothpaste all over my shirt.

I finally drop off LG #2, and sprint to the service (I most definitely am NOT wearing deodorant), just in time for the last 1/2 of the last worship song. I drop in my offering check (just so the Powers that Be know that I actually was here) and sit down to open to Daniel 2 just as my child pager starts to vibrate and light up like a Christmas tree.

Sigh. At least there's (usually) still naps on Sundays.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fragrance of Christ

The power of scent is amazing to me.

To this day, I can catch a whiff of the slightly-bug-spray-esque Eternity for Men, and I am seventeen again... (sort of) dating this boy named Jonathan (for about a week). Riding in his big, ridiculous (awesome.sauce) jacked-up Dodge late at night. Don't get me wrong-- no regrets here. What I perceived to be heartbreak was actually the tender compassion of God. Last I heard, Jonathan has been married (and divorced) twice and is currently finalizing the paperwork to bring a mail-order bride home from Russia. And is still wearing Eternity for Men. So I am not sad. But I pass a man wearing this cologne, I smell it as I walk through the cosmetic department of Kohl's... and I remember.

It's tanning oil. I am laying out on the beach, my bathing suit straps pulled down so I don't have tan lines for prom. Remember?

It's Dream by the Gap. I am eighteen and achingly homesick at Fire School in Pensacola. I am wearing a lavender sweater. Remember?

It's Bounce fabric softener. I am chasing foxes on the moonlit beach with my friend Cameron. Remember?

Last night, I walked downtown with the girls, where they were having a block party and hosting an artist carving ice sculptures. Through the crushing throngs of people (and trying to keep track of three kids by myself), we saw very few ice sculptures. We did, however, manage to stop at one of the camp-fires, where the Boy Scouts were giving out free marshmallows to roast. The girls enjoyed their gooey treat, we wandered around a little more, saw some friends... headed home.

Later, after I put my little flock to bed, I turned my head and happened to get a whiff of my hair. It smelled like the boy scouts' campfire. And I was transported back to the Creation Festival, a Christian music event that I have been attending since I took up residence in my mom's belly.

I was three and roasting marshmallows on my mom's knee.

I was thirteen and had just met my future husband (but didn't know it yet).

I was sixteen, singing Indigo Girls songs while my sister played her guitar.

I was nineteen and had just smoked my first joint and lost my virginity in K-field.

(I'm kidding about that last part. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

Regardless, even after I showered the smoke out of my hair, I found my thoughts wandering back to Creation. It was bittersweet-- as we had, after many pain-staking decisions, cut ties with the ministry last year. But still, I remembered. I think that, until the day I die, every time I smell a campfire, I will think of Creation.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of the Scripture about the fragrance of Christ:

"...thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:14,15)

... through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him...

How beautiful. How terrifying.

I can see why society is largely disdainful of Christians and their Savior.

We stink of bigotry, self-righteousness, exclusion.

But oh, how I long for this to be different! In my life, in the small circle that God has given me, I want to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. When I am old and gray and my granddaughter pauses to think of me, I want her to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him. Remember?

When the waitress at the restaurant is flustered and weeded, I want to be the one with a kind word. A smile. A generous tip. I want her to remember that smell.

When my husband has had a long day at work, and is feeling discouraged and worn-down, I want to be ready with a timely word of encouragement. A kiss. A steadfast belief in my husband. I want him to remember that smell.

When my girls are naughty and bickering and making me crazy, I want to slow down. To love them. To cuddle them. To let them be kids. I want them to remember that smell. The fragrance of Him.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Kid Funny

Alternate title: Why We Might All Be Going to Hell

I bought some new bras today. Which is actually a blog-worthy event. Really. I have been using the same ratty old nursing bras since Evie was born almost five years ago. It was time.

Of course, I brought my entourage with me. Also known as my three whining children. I bribed them with suckers to be good. Except the baby. I bribed her with breastmilk.

As we're rifling through the endless assortment of lady apparel, Evie pulls out a black, lacy, uber-padded bra.

"Hey, Mom! Look!!!! It's a MENNONITE BRA!!!!"

You know. Cause it was lacy and black, like their head coverings.

God bless those Mennonites. They are (apparently) into some kinky stuff underneath that modest denim. ;)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting it

This past December, I did Advent with the girls. Can I be honest? While there were some sweet moments of reflection, it was not something that I looked forward to every night. Now, I know that I should embrace the childishness of my children... but in my head, it was so much more solemn. Contemplative. Holy.

In reality, it was chaotic. The big girls fighting over who got to blow out the candles. Cana wanting to sing the ABC's instead of O Come, O Come Emanuel. Ruby, who I had just gotten to sleep in the other room, waking and crying for mama to come cuddle with her. I am embarrassed to admit that I lost my cool and snapped at my kids... more than once.

The Christmas season is over. We have packed up our Advent wreath for next year, me-- perhaps a little more cynical and world-wise about what to expect for Advent with three small children. And truly, it was a bit discouraging. We left the season without my girls having attained any Biblical truths, or any spiritual renewal. I left the season without gaining any Biblical truths, or any spiritual renewal. We didn't get it.

But God is merciful, and He showed me a glimpse of His kindness the other day.

Continuing a tradition that my parents began, every night at Advent we pray individually for the families who sent us cards and letters. This, too, usually dissolved into fits of tears (theirs and mine), as Evie and Cana fought over who got to hold the picture of the baby... and a cross reprimand from me, "Girls! We are PRAYING to JESUS! BE QUIET!!" (I know, I am an amazing mother. Don't hate.)

The cards, which were displayed on the post in our dining room, have long since been taken down and discarded. (Can I say that without offending? Yes, I throw them out recycle them eventually.) One must have slipped out of the trash pile recycling bin and wound up in some dark corner of the house which never sees a broom.

My sweet Cana found it. The other day, I stopped what I was doing and looked over at my wee girl. She was seated at her little art table, the card in front of her. Her eyes were closed and her little babyish brow furrowed deeply.

"Jesus," she prayed, "please keep them safe. Oh, Lord, please help them to love You more! Be close to them, Jesus."

What a tender mercy for me to hear this!!

I long for the salvation of my children. I long for them to love mercy and to seek justice and to be passionate about the things that Jesus is passionate about. I long for them to love each other, to serve each other. I long for them to have wisdom.

And I beat on Heaven's doors with these requests-- but I know, despite any kind of good parenting or bad parenting on my part-- it is only the Lord's mercy that can save my children. And so I beg for it.

But I also want to be diligent-- Oh, God! help me be diligent! To love these girls, to plant seeds of kindness and compassion and service-- seeds that only Jesus can make grow.

Jesus, I cast my children on You.

I cast myself on You, failures and cross words and impatience- You know them all.

Help us to get it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Makeover Midnight Monday

I thought having a weekly post on here would make me more inclined to blog regularly, and keep track of the quiet little happenings in our quiet little life. It doesn't. It stresses me out. And really... My mom is pretty much the only one who reads this, and I can just call her and say, "Hey, mom! Guess what I decoupaged today?!" And she'll be all sweet and tell me how brilliant I am and how pretty I am and how perfect I am. And it's just much easier and less stressful.

But my sister Gwenn asked for a Makeover Monday post. And here's the thing: Gwenn is a missionary in Haiti, where she spends her time ministering to the downtrodden and disease-stricken impoverished masses. And gets lots of tattoos. But that's neither here nor there. The point is-- I know that, in the scope of her encounters with cholera and earthquakes, she doesn't really care about how Hobby Lobby is having a special on Mod Podge. But she was sweet enough to ask, and for that alone: Gwenn, this one's for you.

A couple of summers ago, an Amish family had a gigantic yard sale in their barn. They had all sorts of amazing crap vintage treasures for cheap. Blue mason jars for a dime, an antique metal lunch pail for twenty-five cents (which now houses the girls' "tools" thankyouverymuch). It was a pack rat's dream come true.

I found this for fifty cents:

I felt a little nostalgic when I saw it, as I am pretty sure that we have a photo of my pint-sized dad in a similar chair. Only his might have been red. Also, I might have made that up. I can't remember. Regardless, it was 50 cents, and it made me happy, and it came home with me (after I somehow managed to cram it into the backseat of my ex-car, our Mazda Scrotege. Yes, that's really what we called it. As in, Evie would say, "Hey, Mom! Are we taking Dad's truck or your Scrot to the grocery store today?" Parents.of.the.year, I tell you.)

Normally, I like to leave vintage stuff the way that it is. But this was looking kinda craptastic in my house, and Chris would give me the Stink-Eye whenever he happened to look at it. He doesn't share my love of... you know... rust.

So I took her apart.

That, folks, is 50 years worth of smashed up bananas and toddler goop. Blech.

I covered up her lady-parts:

What does that even mean? I am not sure why I just typed that.

And sprayed her down.

Because I couldn't find any vinyl fabric in a pattern I liked, I used iron-on vinyl and some fabric I had laying around to make the chair cover, and also replaced the rotting-asbestos-black-mold-of-death padding.


And there you have it. A cute little vintage-ish high chair that is mostly useless because I didn't put the screws back correctly when I was reattaching the seat. And Chris hates it too much to fix it for me. So there you have it. A cute little vintage-ish death trap.

Is it bad that I still let Cana sit in it?

Poor middle child.