a game of sorts and a day of sorts

 

I’m two steps behind myself.  (I’m like Bergen Hawkeye in this picture – a sort of blur.)

 

 

I’m fiercely fighting getting sick.  I’ve pretty much told myself, “No.  You do not have the time to allow that to happen.”  And so I am applying and diffusing oils as if I am true believer and I am gargling salt water and drinking tea overflowing with honey and downing multiple glasses of grape juice and drinking tons of water and trying to go to bed on time and swallowing whatever elderberry/echinacea/grapefruit seed oil/vitamin D/you name it fruit or capital letter vitamin is in the cabinet.

I think it’s mostly working.  I’m still standing and school is still being taught and everything here smells like tea tree and lavender and peppermint eucalyptus.

It’s a busy week, as so many are of late.

On these weeks, planned and prepared blog posts are just harder to come by.

So rambling is what you get.  Tune in next week if you need something more coherent.

Ryder’s dream came true this weekend – and today.  He’s been making a bare path around our chicken coop for ages.  You’d think our chickens would know that safety lies within the fence.  Within the fence, for the love, you chickens.

But no.  They escaped and Ryder rejoiced.

I stood in the yard, staring at the bent fence where the chickens escaped to what they thought was freedom, but for real and for certain was death.

I said out loud, “Oh chickens.  Why would you leave the safety of the fence when DEATH is on the other side?  Death!”

And Hannah said, “Yeah.  That’s a sermon.”

Bergen and Mosely buried one chicken today.  They buried it around what is apparently now officially our Death Tree.  I cannot even recall how many sad little creatures are buried beneath that tree — a kitten who fell to her untimely death from our front porch one summer, a bird, goat(s), other chickens.  Now that I make that list I feel sort of weird about that section of our yard.

 

 

Have you ever played that car game (or waiting in line game) called Fortunately/Unfortunately?

You just take turns saying ridiculous things back and forth.  Like this:

Fortunately, our dryer did arrive, many thanks to the generous men who gave up a portion of their Saturday afternoon to deliver it to our house.  Unfortunately, the electrical connection to the dryer seems rathe burned and an absolute fire hazard.  Fortunately, our house didn’t have to burn down for us to learn that the electrical outlet is damaged.  Unfortunately, we still have no working dryer.  Fortunately, Berg was able to mostly repair the clothesline to a useable state.  Unfortunately, the clothes I left on the line yesterday were rained on during the night. Fortunately, Hannah miraculously offered to take our clothes to the laundromat for us today.  Unfortunately, the electrician hasn’t come out to the house yet.  Fortunately, the sun is supposed to shine again by mid-week.

See how the game works?

Usually you end up making up stories to play the game, but this time it was all true.

The moral of that story, however, is – can you even believe how amazing our friends are?  I mean, can you??

With all that bit of rambling, I’m going to sign off.  I’m hoping for sunshine for all us, a slower week than Monday was, appliances that run when you want them to and friends that treat you like family.

Also.  Let’s play Fortunately/Unfortunately in the comments sections today.

 

_____________________________

 

 

 

Five Finds Friday (why I screamed & cute tassels)

 

This week has felt unusually speedy because Mosely and I have been gone for two days of it – belated birthday adventuring.  I’ll share more about that but this morning I am up early (for me) and typing and catching up on emails and feeling the weight of business ownership and the drag of fighting off a cold or whatnot all week because – I tell you what – ain’t nobody got time to stop for that.

Also, the state of the laundry in this house is atrocious.  We’re down to using beach towels and I won’t even comment on the unacceptably low number of clean undergarments.  But – thank the Lord (and that’s meant in legitimate seriousness) a used dryer has been purchased (or will be by the weekend hopefully) and will be installed and the digging out from under this mess can commence.

So, here we are.  Hello Friday.

 

 

FUNNY

 

Three creatures are despicable to me.  Terrifying actually.  It’s probably a stereotypical list.  I don’t care.  I’m stereotypical.  Whatever.

Spiders.  Snakes.  And mice.

When we first moved to this farmhouse in a field, our house revealed evidence of many creatures in the third category.  They were taken care of mostly and it’s actually been years since I’ve seen a speedy disgusting mouse or any left behind evidence of such a creature.  I’m sure, because of the age of this home and the millions of openings in our kitchen cabinets, that mice have been quietly minding their own business and I have happily ignored any signs and accepted the lie that they don’t live here.  But I was blissfully free of any true knowledge of their existence.

Until Monday night this week.

I stood in the kitchen, talking to Mosley and Piper, innocently filling my glass with water at the fridge.  And a terrible thing happened.

A mouse darted out from under the fridge and skittered across the kitchen floor.

I did what any reasonable person would do.

I screamed.  Loudly and at great length.  Then I leapt onto the safety of the kitchen table.  (This was a perfectly normal response to the nightmare I was currently enduring.)

Generally speaking, in days past, if a shocking or potentially stressful situation is occurring, one of my beloved children tends to panic and when she panics she tends to overreact or to freeze or to aggressively yell at anyone near her to solve her problem for her.  We’ve adopted a less than gentle response to such situations, a phrase we believe we acquired from my brother, the former marine.  The wording itself takes on many variations but basically says, “If you panic, you die.”  In other words, in a tense situation, a life or death situation even, the people who survive are the people who remain clam.  Therefore, “panicked people die.”    This is a phrase quite familiar in our home as it has been tossed around in both serious and less than serious scenarios for years.

Now, back to the kitchen, the offending mouse, and our kitchen table.

I am perched on the kitchen table, possibly still screaming.  Piper has scrambled up beside me and the other kids have come running to see what shocking disaster has happened because of the intense commotion.

Mosely, my usual Captain of Panic herself, has remained steadfast in the kitchen throughout the development of this situation, still serving up the brownies she was originally dishing out before disgusting mouse made its appearance.  And now, in the middle of the screaming from me and the sympathy screaming from Piper, Mosely shouts to us all, arms stretched wide for emphasis,

“People who lose their minds, die!”

 

FASHIONABLE

 

I know I have highlighted my friend Allison’s jewelry before.

Because I love her bracelets and they’re so pretty and they stack beautifully with leather cuffs and they have WORDS on them and you get to pick the words and I love wearing reminder words because I need so many reminders.

These bracelets make fantastic gifts and their price point is fair and accessible and I also love her and I like supporting her small business (that grew from a project with her daughter into a bonafide company) and anyway, I’ll talk about them as often as I want to because I can.

You can find A Gilded Line on etsy here.

Of course your word options are literally endless, but Allie has been adding a few more options and ideas lately.

Besides bracelets, which are still my favorite, she has cute bookmarks and keyring.  (I really think the keyring are great!)

 

 

But, what I REALLY like right now that she’s just begun offering, are these gorgeous tassel cuffs.

They’re so pretty.

 

 

And they come in tassels of three different sizes.  And one even has three tiny tassels.  AND you can still stamp your words on them too.

I love them.

My only problem is trying to decide what words to stamp.  And, which ones to give away and which ones to keep for myself.

I think these make ideal gifts because they are so versatile for any occasion.  The non tassel bracelets are only $10 and the tassel bracelets are only $15.  This makes them very affordable   And did I mention how well they pair with leather cuffs and other jewelry?  (I know I mentioned it.  I know.)  I especially like them with my jewelry from Death Before Dishonor.  (Which is extra cool to me since both of these artisans are my friends and both of them are friends with one another.)

I think the tassels are a sweet and colorful addition.  And with this weather we are having here, short sleeves and three quarters length (one of my favorites and London’s least favorites) shirts are back in the daily rotation so bracelets are back and visible.  I am of the jewelry opinion that if one bracelet looks good, five looks even better, so stacking these up my wrist is my favorite.

 

FLAVORFUL

 

When Mosely informed us of truth this week, she was serving up homemade Tuxedo Brownies.

They were delicious.

I did not take a picture and I cannot find a recipe online for them.

We found the recipe in a cookbook we checked out from the library.

 

 

Everything in this cookbook looks fantastic and we are cooking lots of these recipes while this book is at our house.

I’ve got my eye on some praline bars.

When we return this to our local library, probably late because – us, you too can check it out and bake delicious desserts.

 

FAITHFUL

I did not know Buddy Hoffman myself.  I attended the church in Georgia where he pastored and I listened to him officiate several weddings that I have attended, but, as for first hand real life knowledge, I never actually knew him.

But I know loads and lots of people who did.  And the ripple effect of this single man’s life have been felt in my own life for decades.  Because of Buddy Hoffman’s influence, people I know and love dearly have been shaped and changed, grown and stretched, helped to make into the people they actually are today.

I think that’s exactly as it should be with all lives lived for Jesus.  We may not know the person directly, but the person’s life has fed into so many others, because of Jesus, that we know the person indirectly because of the way they have influenced people we do actually know.

Buddy passed away recently and I came across this —

This article and video in Christianity Today.

It’s hard to watch for me, and it’s not even wrapped up in personal knowledge of Buddy.  And this isn’t an episode of a TV show.  It’s – you know – the real thing.  And without Jesus, without that hope in the face of the most deep pain imaginable, we’re just an echo. a shell, a bit written for a script, a fiction.

I ache for this family and the pain I absolutely understand of losing a rock, a family leader and a safe place, a pillar in your home.

And I praise Jesus for a life lived that ripples into a thousand different lives.

In a myriad of ways, all of our lives ripple and burst right into other people’s lives.  That’s humanity.  That’s the human condition.  But – to what purpose?  To what effect?  What stories and memories will our people and our ripples be telling when our actual voice is silenced?

 

FEELS

 

Despite the foul smells emanating from the piles of laundry all through our home, I seriously do love the signs of a full and busy household.

Even though the jetsam and flotsam that finds a refuge under the magnets on our fridge makes me cringe, I love that it exists.

The floors are dirty and sticky because kids I love spilled orange juice and I’m not saying I cherish dirty floors or anything that lofty, but I am saying I am keenly aware that the spilled orange juice will go away and with it, the noise and the laughter and the camaraderie that sits on my sofas and wrestles in my hall will actually go away.  It will grow wings and fly.

And although I enjoy quiet mornings before feet hit the floor and still nights after feet have stopped walking back and forth, I like most the busy happy and sad of a regular day with my people.

 

 

_________________________________

 

 

 

Ripley’s Gatlinburg Attractions: A Review in Three Parts, Part 3 (Guinness World Records)

 

I’m including the same intro and review before and after each of these three reviews.  You can read our family’s Mirror Maze Review here and our 5D Moving Theatre Review here.

_________________

Gatlinburg in the winter is a different sort of town than Gatlinburg in the summer.

When we took our recent adventure to the mountain town, we found it sleepy and quiet and that’s exactly the way we liked it.  Traffic was minimal (except for the weekend) and the streets were not overcrowded and the restaurants had no wait time.  Again – that’s exactly what we love – especially when we are always a party of six (at least) and generally tables for six are not as readily available at peak times.

The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was hands down our favorite activity of the week, but we had some great laughs and funny moments at several other stopping points along the Gatlinburg streets.

In exchange for writing honest reviews, the kind folks who run all of the Ripley’s attractions offered us tickets to a few of their other museums and amusements.  I’ll be sharing all three reviews in a three part series over the next week or so.

 

Ripley’s Guinness World Records

 

In sixth grade my friend Susan and I wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.  We scoured the pages of this tattered copy of a book we had and looked for any record we thought me might be able to break.  We found a record for two people being tied together at the ankles by a section of string for the longest time.  That was a real record.  I’m not making it up.  And Susan and I thought we could break it.  We used red yarn and a decent amount of it because we wanted to be able to use the bathroom without one of us having to actually see the other one on the toilet.  (These were the things that were important to our sixth grade selves.)  What I can no longer remember is how long the real record breakers stayed tied together.  I can remember that we lasted about two days.  But two days – you guys!  For two days we literally were tied together by red yarn.  We were the talk of our house.  (It was summer so that made sticking side by side simpler.)

Ripley’s Guinness World Records was one of the spots I wanted to check out, probably based on my fond memories of that paperback book my family had growing up.  Right on the main street, entrance was easy, just like all the the other Ripley’s attractions.  One of the world’s tallest men – in statue form – greets you at the entrance.  He sits down and stands up and it is ridiculous how tall he is.

 

 

You are given a bracelet at the front gate, and although it seems like a nuisance, it would be worth your time to sign up right at the beginning and register your bracelet.  Inside there are a passel of opportunities to break world records yourself and if you sign up at the beginning your name and info is entered into all of the other games and challenges through out the museum, which makes it more rewarding as you compete against other previous guests at the museum.  (The signing up takes a few minutes – but don’t worry.  There’s a Ms. Pacman game for you to play while you’re waiting.)

 

 

At first you are simply guided along a museum with bizarre and interesting and kooky and odd and entertaining world records.  There’s a lot of reading on the exhibits at first and the kids were just rushing past and I, typical parent, wanted to read a few of the posters and stories.  Eventually, and pretty quickly, you are in a large room set up wth all kinds of displays and games and exhibits and interactive opportunities.  This is really the bulk of the museum and it’s a good place to land for a while and compete with one another.  (This would make a pretty great rainy day option and if your kids are older, like mine, they’ll be quite entertained for a long time and you’ll feel like your money’s worth has been spent.)

 

 

The games were varied – memory challenges with name and face recognition (at which I stunk!), virtual chopping down trees, a game where your eyes lead the computer to draw a picture, typing challenges, a basketball game (of which I dominated, much to my surprise and pleasure), frisbee golf, drumming, hopscotch, soccer, an old western style shooting game, and more that I cannot even recall.  It was fun to go up against the world record holders but even more fun to challenge your own son or daughter.  The room was open enough that the kids were free to explore and visit each challenge themselves instead of us being forced to move as an amoeba.  I could see the kids at each station and that allowed me to actually compete and play too.  Otto toppled me quickly in frisbee golf – it’s a frustrating game to me.  London beat us all in the face recognition challenge.

 

 

It was a great way to spend our afternoon and everyone felt like they were able to play together for a long time.  There weren’t any cries of “no fair”.   With five kids, that might have broken some kind of world record itself.

 

In Review

 

I’d say the key to all Gatlinburg attractions is the same, keep your expectations in line.  Recognize that this is not Disney.  This is Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  These are mirror mazes and world record museums and 5D moving theaters on a street in a mountain town.  A town that sells footlong corn dogs at place called Fannie Farkle’s for the same price that you can buy two kids’ meals at Chick-fil-A.  

Be reasonable, guys.  

If you are visiting Gatlinburg for the second (or thirtieth) time, you already know this.

And you’re okay with it.

You’re making these return trips to Pigeon Forge and to Gatlinburg, to the cabins and to the go cart rides, to the outlets and to the pancake houses, because it’s nostalgic, because you first came to Gatlinburg as a kid with your Memaw and your Pepaw, because you brought your toddlers here and you remember how big their eyes grew when they first ordered their silver dollar pancakes at the Pancake Pantry and rode their first roller coaster at Dollywood and you like the idea of returning to the same quirky streets that seem like they never change, old time photo shops on every corner and a gem store and wooden guns and beanie babies.  That’s why you come to Gatlinburg.

So you stroll through the mirror maze and you let the kids buy a couple of pieces of candy and you stop in for the free fudge samples (always take the free fudge, people) and you admire the hand crafted wooden knives and you buy the funnel cake and you stack up those memories and that nostalgia for all its worth.

Expectations, friends.  Most adventures fare better when you can manage your expectations.

 

_______________________

 

 

 

never and always . . . words on parenting

 

In one of their songs, the Wood Brothers sing a lyric that says,

“Sometimes I feel like I’m never and always alone.”

In some ways, I think that’s the anthem of motherhood, particularly for the mother of young children.

You’re never actually alone.  Fingertips are reaching under the door of the bathroom, for the love.  And yet the early years of motherhood can be some of the loneliest years of a mom’s life.  You remain unconvinced that anyone else really understands how hard it is to begin (and to lose) a battle with a toddler or to negotiate snack time or to change eighty bazillion diapers or to read Goodnight Moon thirteen times in one hour or to cry because you can’t imagine a time where you’ll ever be able to shower three days in a row without interruption.

You scroll across social media with your one hand while you breastfeed a baby held in your other arm.  And you pretend to believe the lie that all the pretty pictures tell you.  That all those other mommas have it together.  That their babes in fox print onesies stay that clean and tidy all the livelong day.  That their floor is actually clutter free and when they actually deign to post a “real life is messy” post you both cackle and die a little inside because their messy looks like your best day.

Yeah.  Sometimes it feels like you’re never and always alone.

I’ve started taking a parenting class my church is offering on Sunday evenings.  It’s really primarily a book study, working chapter by chapter through Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.

It’s basic.  And profound.

And as much as I think all parents should be reading this particular book, I understand (and I remember) that reading a parenting book while raising toddlers feels like knowing you are drowning and having a philosophical discussion about the nature of drowning and how it impacts your breathing.

It’s sometimes just too hard to live with All The Tiny People all day long and then to think theologically and deeply about what type of parent you want to be in that same decade.

Which is, actually and precisely, why you should read this book right now.

I’m just beginning the book honestly and I feel sure I’ll write a thorough review when I complete the entire thing, but something in last week’s chapter stood out to me.  For my own Right Now and for all of the sweet and beautiful young mothers I know whose Right Now is my Ten Years Ago.  (What?  How can that be?  Whatever.  I don’t have to accept this truth just because I type this truth.  My baby can’t actually be seven.  My oldest can’t actually be a young mother of whom I speak right now.  Unacceptable.)

First, there was the reminder that God doesn’t need you to be Able to parent.  He will make you Able.

Second, it was the reassuring reminder of God’s presence.  Like, his for real presence.

Tripp writes (and I add my bold),

God has called you to be a parent.  How does he give you what you need for this calling?  He gives you what you need by giving you himself, and in giving you himself, he showers his amazing, forgiving, rescuing, transforming, empowering, and wisdom-giving grace down on you. As you parent today, you are invited to remember that you are not alone in your house with your children.  Someone else walks the hallways and stands in the family room with you.  Someone rides in the van with you on the way to yet another scary trip with your kids to the mall.  Someone walks with you as you enter your teenager’s room to confront him about something he did.  Someone is with you as you relive the events of the day before you fall asleep preparing to face another parenting day.  Someone is with you as you get up, already exhausted as usual, before the sun rises.  The one who has called you to this very important job is with you and because he is, there’s hope.  Sure, there will be times when you’ll find yourself at the end of your rope, but fight fear and discouragement with expectancy; your Savior’s rope never ends, and he will never leave you alone!

There’s hope.  There is hope because you are actually not alone.

Even when it feels like – never and always – you are.

I found this truth incredibly hopeful – and wonderfully encouraging.

I was reminded of the early years with my half dozen children.  The farmhouse in Virginia that sometimes felt (and was) secluded and lonely.  Of how, even though I was married, by the nature of our joint family choices, I was frequently daily alone caring for demanding toddlers and needy infants and busy preschoolers.  And how I felt alone then.  And how I wish I had embraced the reality that I was not alone.

And now, in this house as a single parent, I feel alone.  Making decisions and having conversations and wading in deep waters.

What a perfectly timed gift for me to be reminded, that I am not, in fact, alone.

What hope.  That there is a presence going before me, around me, with me, equipping me and making me capable when I am not.

And that same presence is not exclusive to my battered old farmhouse.  It’s there for you too.  You with the teenagers staying up past midnight with their limited perspective and their big ideas.  You with the baby who has forgotten that nighttime is for rest and whose cries pierce the night like a lone wolf on a hillside.  You, my dear daughter, who is balancing school and motherhood and adult life and feeling as if you could use an extra set of hands.  You with the toddlers who is wondering if the brain fog will ever lift so you can remember who it is you used to think you were.  You with the needy kid going through that phase that seems to dictate the tone for everyone else in your house.

This hope is for you too.

It is not never and always alone.  That is the lie.

It is actually forever and always the exact opposite.

 

________________________________

 

 

 

the light that shines.

 

Recently I ate dinner at a fancy restaurant.

It was a perk of this new gig and it was fun.  (I giggled at myself a little inside though.  I was served oysters and bone marrow and beef cheeks and scallops and champagne with fizzing pearls of sugar and chocolate covered strawberries with gold dusted on them and pork belly and yet, I live in a house with approximately three Mount Rushmores of sullied laundry due to the dryer’s week long refusal to cooperate with the game plan and there is an unwelcome mouse in my kitchen, a dining room table often loaded with school books and notebooks and art supplies and Legos knee deep in kids’ bedrooms, but I ate about thirty-two courses before coming back home in my pumpkin chariot at midnight.)

None of which is the point of this post.

At this restaurant there was a light fixture.  A work of art.  A focal piece.  A center stage sort of design.

 

 

I cannot recall how many light bulbs are hanging here.  60?  600?  (I’ve never been good with the placement of zeros although I recognize their importance.)

The lightbulbs are all hanging from fiber optic threads.  And the fiber option threads normally wouldn’t have the bits of light shining through them.

Except.

When the artist designed this piece, he bent the fiber optic threads past a ninety degree angle.  Far enough to almost break them, but not quite far enough to really break them.

And then, at that nearly breaking point, at the exact spot where the thread is basically broken but not disconnected, guess what happens?

 

 

The light shines through.

Look closely.  Each little sparkle of light is actually radiating from where the thread has been just about broken.  Just about wrecked.  And then, right before it is ruined, it’s put back into its straight place and the light bursts through in miniature glimpses.

All those threads.  Nearly busted.  Just about cracked.  Wrecked – almost.

And then — redeemed.

Straightened.  No longer crooked.

And the light shines through.

And it’s more than just the light shining through.  When all of the broken pieces are strung together across the room, high up in the ceiling there, it looks like art.  It’s pretty.  It glows.  It attracts attention.

It’s beautiful to look at.

It is not a succession of strings of broken thread.  It’s a cohesive and organized pattern of seemingly random threads that create one unified creation.

I was texting a friend tonight as we commiserated about a few new sorrows.  Her life story looks painfully like my life story and there’s been comfort and deep sadness in that mutual suffering.  And threaded through our words of struggle and encouragement, raw and hopeful, was the reminder she mentioned, comparing this year to last year.  This feeling to last year’s feeling.  How much faster joy comes now for both of us than it did last year.

And it made me think of these lights.

All the broken threads.

The mess and the tangle that it all sometimes looks like.

And the beautiful light that shines forth too.  Shines forth exactly where it should not — in the broken bits and pieces.

 

 

_____________________________________

 

 

 

after the theatre, over the weekend

 

Sometimes on Sunday evenings when I sit down to write a blog post I have high aspirations of coming out strong and delivering some meaningful words.

But by the time I finish tucking the kids in and telling each child what we will be eating for every single meal the next day (the members of my household are very food-centric currently) and getting our house ready for the week ahead and then finally sit down, I’m all out of clever and meaningful.

Tonight I popped myself a bowl of popcorn, prepared myself a cup of vanilla tea and pretended like my evening plans of school prep and meal prep actually equaled an exciting night life.

And you know what, the popcorn and tea helped.  As did the diffuser with the good smells and the dog for company and the phone call to a brother celebrating his birthday.  (The baby of our family is over forty.  It all feels wrong somehow.)

So I decided instead of waxing poetic, I’d just do a little recap, a catch up.  A rambling meandering sort of post.  (Sort of what my life needs on a Sunday night or a Monday morning.  Maybe yours does too.  You can catch us all up on your weekend in the comments.  No, really – please do.)

The week of theatre camp is over and although it was legitimately a good week and a great experience for my young thespians, we’re all glad for it to come to an end.

“Can we just celebrate all being together tomorrow afternoon and play upstairs?” one of them requested.  That’s sweet.  Can I bottle that emotion?  Can I remind them of those feelings when they forget?  (Like when they forget at three o’clock tomorrow?)

Bergen and Mosely had costumes that made it feel impossible to figure out who they were on stage.  I stared at my own children for many many minutes onstage, unable to recognize them.  (Yeah, my eyesight is not that impressive and our seats weren’t first row, but I’m telling you, I barely recognized my own children.)  Bergen had black hair and a goatee!  And chains of “gold” around his neck.  “At first I loved the necklace, Mom,” he told me.  “The jingling sound made me feel rich.”

I think the reason Mosely was unrecognizable was because her make up and her lovely head scarf made her look like a twenty year old model.  She was beautiful up there and I already think she is beautiful, but she was a glimpse of a grown up kind of beautiful and it was breathtaking.

(Although in this picture they both refused to smile – saying that their characters really looked like this instead.  Actors – what are you going to do with them?)

 

 

Bergen remembered his line and delivered it loudly.  This boy – what a long way he has come.  Once upon a time he was a second grader who wept crocodile tears at the thought of standing in front of his small homeschool co-op class and delivering a speech about Australia.

Mosely surprised me by how much she loved participating in all aspects of theatre, especially the prep work.  She loved moving sets and learning about make up and being onstage.

Piper adores an audience.  Her costume was a surprise to me until the night of the performance.  It was all feathers and bold and I loved it for her.  Flouncy and fun – just like that little girl herself.  She played a goose and decided that her goose should sound a touch southern.  I think it worked.  She received a hearty laugh when she delivered her line and that’s all any feathery goose can hope for.

 

 

Neither play was particularly emotional in the traditional sense, but at the curtain’s call I found myself sitting there with tears in my eyes.  What on earth?  Later, over tacos or chimichangas or something, my friend and I analyzed why there were tears.  (After she shared she had the same reaction, oddly making me feel better.)  And I’m stealing her insight.  There’s the teamwork – the effort these groups of kids had put into a week long series of rehearsals.  The coming together with many to pull off something big.  And there’s this undercurrent of hope.  I think that’s what is the loveliest – the holiest – really.  The picture of hope – that you can start with an unorganized group of humans and give them a purpose and a plan – and something worthwhile can happen in the end.  Kind of a hope for all humanity.  For a future.

Plus, there’s the emotional factor of having your own heart just walking around on a stage, dressed as a Persian man or a servant girl or a goose.  My heart shaped like a goose.

This weekend we had a handful of various children pass through our home for different lengths of time.  Friends’ children who attended the plays with us or had sleepovers or who needed a few hours of hang out time while their own parents attended to their own responsibilities.  It was a full house.  A happy sort of chaos.  I like these kids.  I love my friends and I love being able to provide a place for their children just as they have provided a place for my children.  It feels like an honor.  I’m happy to be “Piper’s mom” as her friend addressed me this weekend.  And I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to know and be known by the friends of my children.

As I was trekking it back and forth on one of my bazillion trips to the theatre this week (thank goodness for friends to share that transportation burden with) I listened to the load of laughter and story telling happening in the back seat of the car.  I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw the shining eyes of one of our little buddies.  There was just a carload of happy and innocent and satisfied humans being toted from Place A to Place B.

I grinned to myself and audibly praised God for the good good gift of sitting in that front seat escorting that crowd at that little exact moment in time.  Right now & Forever.  Some moments it’s easy to be present.  (And for those moments I am grateful because they help me through all the other moments when it’s so easy to forget.)

 

 

 

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Five Finds Friday (some photos & what Otto thinks about fruit cups)

 

This week has been full.  But you already know that.  And here we are again —- Friday!

 

 

FUNNY

 

First, from a former “funny” entry, I’ve had such a good time hearing your thoughts and comments about my brother Danny’s fishing video.  My framily member Maggie said her two year old son is addicted to watching Danny catch that big one.  He has a new video up here and he’ll probably have a few more this week.  He got a little distracted this week from fishing videos because he became a GRANDPA!  What?  How can the majority of my siblings and I be grandparents already??

Now, on to today’s “funny”.  After everyone shared their thoughts and opinions about the TV show This Is Us, my friend Addy shared this video with me.  It makes me laugh.   (Obviously.  It IS under the heading of “funny” after all.)

 

 

 

FASHIONABLE

 

This week it’s earrings again.  I bet I talk more about earrings than any other fashion accessory.

Noonday has just released their spring collection – and why not – it’s all daffodils and blooms and sunny afternoons around our neck of the woods lately.  (I’m not sad to see glorious afternoons full of the bright sun, it’s just that I am a gigantic fan of snow and it just seems like we never fully received winter this year.)

Anyway.

I LOVE these earrings.

 

 

I don’t know when I became obsessed with giant earrings, but I find that I like those types best of all.  And with these being leather it means that they’ll be light, large but without breaking my earlobes.

If anyone is having a Noonday party I’d love to buy these through your link – so let me know!

 

FLAVORFUL

 

These are two items I’ve recently discovered at Trader Joe’s that make other foods more flavorful.

 

 

The spray is fabulous and has replaced any other cooking spray we use.  Also – the salt blend comes in its own little grinder and well, everyone at my house loves that aspect.

 

FAITHFUL

 

Last weekend and early this week our family had the lovely pleasure of spending a handful of days with Emma.  She flew up from Texas and we grabbed her at the airport and whisked her into a full four days of this and that and the other.  It was just the best.

How kind of God to give us good good gifts in the form of people to walk through life with.

Emma is a light and it was all joy to take her to our favorite spots and to talk late into the night when the house was silent and to take photos and to stop at coffee shops and to eat meals together and to just laugh and be in the same space in the same state.

If I say too much about Emma in general I’ll sound like I’m making it up.  She’s really that fantastic.  So I’ll mostly just share some photos – a highlights reel.

 

 

FEELS

 

Catching glimpses into the inner workings of the minds of my young kids is so entertaining and endearing and a for real privilege to me.

Driving in between our many trips to and fro the theatre this week, Otto was in the back seat eating a fruit cup from Chick-fil-a.  “Mom, do you know something I like to do with my fruit?” he asked me.

 

 

And then he proceeded to tell me a little tale that went something like this:

“I always pretend there is a battle.  The blueberries and strawberries go first.  They’re out of there fast.  Then the others slowly lose in the war.  Finally all that’s left is the poor apple and the mandarin orange.  The apple always loses and dies.  The orange is the only one left.  When I eat him it’s like he died from just old age.”

I tried not to laugh because I don’t want Otto to think sharing with me is funny when I can tell he’s kind of serious.  He’s sharing a genuine train of thought in his blissfully free young brain.  A picture into his mind.

And I love it.

I love that his fruit cup is a scene and his imagination is full and active and I love that’s he’s in the backseat right now and I get to hear when the apple slice gets taken out in the war.

Tell it all to me son, I’m really listening.

 

 

 

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the state of my fingernails and this one TV show and capital letter B Busy

 

You guys, this week has been Busy.

(I signified the amount of busy by using the capital B at the beginning of the word busy.  That’s how you know the week has been full.)

I should be doing a half dozen other things right now.  Like all that laundry.  Who has been wearing so many clothes this week, for the love?

This week a large portion of my children are participating in a week long theatre camp.  It’s great.  They’re loving it.  I’m finding it educational and fun and beneficial for them.  And every day we have to rise early to get a portion of school work finished at breakfast before they head to the theatre.  And each afternoon they come home exhausted and full of stories.  And every day somehow they expect to eat a lunch that has been packed.  And somehow in that short morning time between getting out of bed and getting in the car they are supposed to eat breakfast.  And every evening they are still hungry and somehow want to eat dinner too.  (If it sounds like to you that all the inhabitants at this home only just consider eating as their full time job, well – yeah – it sounds like that to me too.)  What?  Hey non-homeschool-mother-friends out there — food is exhausting.  How do you guys manage this?  Thinking about food and preparing food and packaging food and making sure food is portable and food is peanut free for the other classmates and that there is enough of it.  Ugh.  Food.

I’ve got the songs from Piper’s musical bouncing through my head ad nauseam.  “But a little hard work will never kill ya.”

 

 

Bergen gets to wear a beard – much to his delight.  And a dress – much to his chagrin.  It’s not technically a dress.  He’s a “Persian male” during Biblical times – that’s what he keeps telling us.  It’s a tunic, I keep reassuring him.  “Yeah, but it feels like a dress to me,” the boy says.

Bless their hearts, the costume managers of this mostly middle school students performance, encouraged/begged/demanded that all of these puberty-riddled students do one thing at home this week.  Well, actually two things.  Bathe regularly.  Daily even. (!)  And employ the proper use of deodorant.  Thanks theatre leaders – we needed your back up on this one.  And all the middle school parents everywhere said amen.

Instead of accomplishing more tasks at hand tonight, I stopped what I was doing and watched the latest episode of This Is Us with Hannah.  If I was a real grown up I would have at least brought in the scads of dirty laundry and folded them productively whilst I sat on my couch and followed along with the pretend lives of pretend people that I’ll never actually know.

Nah.  I was too busy eating my kettle cooked chips and weeping.  (Notice I used the lowercase b for this busy.  I know the difference.)  I posted a Facebook message about the TV show.  I received more comments about that show than about the last eighteen posts I’ve written combined.  Why do I even bother to write anything personal at all?  Let’s just talk about TV already, shall we?  About Jack and Rebecca and Randall and Kevin and Kate and why don’t any of those people on that show own a dog and why does Miguel’s face look so much like an unnatural human color and where does Kevin live anyway and what does Kate do for a living?  These are the questions people really are asking.  This is what we want to know.  Who cares about meal plans and parenting and getting kids to their theatre class on time with a lunch bag filled with marginally healthy food choices?   Who cares about bedtimes and routine and my real life job?  Just tell me what happens to Jack already, TV show writers.  Tell me what I really want to know.

That was an unnecessary rant.  And a ridiculous one, particularly if you have never seen nor heard of the TV show This Is Us.  My apologies.

Besides the missed phone messages (what are those weird calls from Iowa and Peru anyway?) and the daunting laundry pile and the teetering tower of to-do, another sign of Too Busy (See that?  Yeah, you do.) is the state of my fingernails.  I don’t paint my nails often and I don’t chew them.  I like to keep them relatively the same length and trimmed up.  If I break a nail or get a damaged nail I usually repair the damage pretty rapidly.  I use a fingernail file and smooth it over.  Today I looked at my nails.  Good grief – they were deranged looking.  Can fingernails look deranged?  Maybe I’m turning a corner though, on this busy.  Because instead of ignoring them, I took care of the situation. Now my fingernails look like those of any normal human.  The nails on hands capable of packing lunches and waking up kids early and driving back and forth to camp and typing stories that people won’t care about nearly as much as they care about a fake family on television. And who can blame them?  TV families, dysfunctional as they may be, are prettier to look at than our own.  Even in their brokenness, they’re kind of beautiful.  (Maybe we are too, brown bagged lunches and ragged fingernails and all.)  And TV families can put a pause on their problems.  Let’s insert a soundtrack here and we’ll settle this out next week.

I think that’s a decent idea.  Let’s put on a song or two and we’ll figure this week out later.

I should be done for now anyway.  Probably somewhere one of my children is hungry.  Or thinking about getting hungry.  Or sleeping in order to be hungry tomorrow morning.

Hungry from lying asleep all night long.

 

 

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Love Him Anyway: A Book Review and a Blog Tour

 

It was a first for me.

An unsolicited invitation in my email inbox.  “Would you like to read this book and review it?”

I think I might have said yes just based on the sheer novelty for me of the question.  Also, I like reading books and I already write frequent reviews for what I pick up from the library book shelf on my own.  So this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  The publisher is local and the author has local ties as well. (And you all know how I feel about local.)

As it turns out, it was actually a little more than just a request to read a novel.  It was a request to be a part of a blog book tour – also a first for me.  The idea is that a handful of writers and bloggers will read the book and then write their reviews during a specifically assigned time.

 

 

Love Him Anyway by Abby Banks is one family’s story about what real life struggle looks like.  When what you imagine your life to be is not what your life actually is.  When an impossibly hard medical diagnosis threatens the future for your child and for your entire family and you are forced to face a new reality and a completely new (and unpredictable) future.

The book had not been released officially yet when I read it so it was sent to me via a pdf.

Well.  

I can’t stand reading real books on a computer screen.  It feels – foreign, cold, something not like what I love about a book.  But the hard copies had yet to be printed and so the screen was what I had to to.  I delayed.  Wrote “read Love Him Anyway” on a list and kept avoiding getting started.

Then I read the first chapter on my computer screen.

It’s a good story.  A broken story.  A hard story.

Two chapters in – I wanted to read more.  It is compelling and it reads as if a friend is telling me her story over coffee, well – over tea – but you know what I mean.

But good grief – it’s SO Much.  SO much hard in this one family’s life.  There would have been a time, maybe two years ago, probably more like about ten years ago, when I would have read the story of Abby and her family, of their son Wyatt, of their own extensive physical complications and those of their extended families (which are just skimmed over in this story really), and I would have thought it was almost unreal.  I couldn’t have related to so much heavy and so much sorry being inundated on one family.  But now my own life looks vastly different.  Different than it did.  Different than I had planned or assumed or hoped or prayed.  And so, what that has burned into me personally, is empathy.  Reality.  A hard reality, that life is often unpredictable and messy and terrifying and too much, some days.

 

 

I’m just not at all a fan of spoilers in stories or movies or books.

So I don’t want to give away the story, the intimate details, the baseline.  And yet, I know I have to tell you a little.  The tease, if you will.

I’d much rather just say – You know what, read this book.  Can you trust me?

But I know it doesn’t work that way.

Abby and her husband Jason have three children.  When their youngest son, Wyatt, was only seven months old, his life (and theirs too) changed forever when Wyatt suffered from a medical condition that paralyzed him.  (I’m pretty sure this much is basically on the back cover.)

Love Him Anyway is a book that tells Wyatt’s story, Abby’s story, Jason’s story.  A story about Jesus really.

It definitely reads like a memoir, like a diary – a personal journal of both medical and day to day life.  More like a prayer book, a timeline, a this-is-how-it-all-happened sort of retelling.  As you read you are caught up in the struggle and the pain, the unknown and the fear, the hope and the life raft that carries Abby and her family through the process of fear and frustration and then fighting and accepting, the balance of attacking the situation and living in the weakness.

 

 

It’s a true and honest retelling.  A take-a-deep-breath because I’m just going to peel back my layers kind of book.

My favorite part of the whole story is the way that Abby, Wyatt’s mother, describes the difference between the way she sees Wyatt’s limitations and the way Wyatt sees his own limitations.  It is both humbling and up lifting.  She’s unflinching and sincere and regular and admirable – kind of like lots of women I actually know in real life.

All of which serve to make her book readable and endearing.

You can follow along with Abby and her family, and hear more about Wyatt, on Wyatt’s Facebook page.

If you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of the book Love Him Anyway you can click here.  (Winner will be announced the first week of March when this blog tour is completed.)

You can also buy your own copy at Ambassador International for 10% off with the code LOVEHIM.

 

 

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