Rules of Ruckus – the Series

How to Crush a Child’s Party (in a good way)

I created this miniseries for three reasons – I love my kids, I love a good party, and I hate disorganization and avoidable chaos. Hate is a strong word, but its the right word. This first entry is a sprinkle of my initial thoughts to be followed by additional party learnings. Enjoy!

Note from the author: Annually I host four children’s birthday parties, nine happy hours, one Christmas Eve open house and a smattering of baby showers, Baptism brunches and miscellaneous gatherings of people I adore and tolerate. Practice makes peaceful, I say. And the more often you host, the more effortless it becomes, extrovert or introvert. What follows focuses on kids parties – always begun with the greatest intentions and just sopping with possibilities of unimaginable chaos. If done right then, like the tightrope walker, glory awaits those who dare to host.

1. You can do it all… But don’t.

And frankly, you don’t have to in this day and age.

If your cupcake game isn’t particularly strong, outsource. To be sure, your local grocer can perfect some pint size confections to wow. Worried your party goers will judge you? Check your guest list. They shouldn’t have been invited in the first place.

If you’ve willingly invited haters into your house, shame on you. Not too different from leaving scraps out and hoping you’ll get a cockroach infestation. Who does that? Not you. Time to put your big girl panties on and stop it. Who loves you? Who will come over even when your hot water pipes have frozen, your crew has a stomach bug, your washer is down, the kitchen floor could grow weeds and the dog just barfed on the ‘welcome’ mat? (Thanks, Emily. You’re my girl). First off, we’re all too fabulous to waste time on judgmental “friends.” And two, I promise you if they’re judging me for store-bought cupcakes, they’ve got no bandwidth for the real awesomeness that could raise an eyebrow like my rhinestone Pegasus earrings or for that one time I let my kids eat Cheetos off the dining room floor rather than sweeping. One time.

B. Specialize – and run with it.

I’ll openly admit that my cooking skills are basic at best. Frozen pizza? Check. Ramen? The best. Toast? Well, that’s burnt most likely. But I can fashion a purple Minion piñata the size of an overgrown toddler like a champ (the video was in Spanish, but I think I nailed it, thank you very much). All I need is copious amounts of tissue paper, hot glue, Chardonnay and streaming episodes of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Training Camp (my not so secret shame show). So, I champion that – and leave the menu child friendly. Burgers, pizza, hot dogs – the kids aren’t picky and neither am I. Plus when they walk in and see a washing machine box transformed into Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceship, they’re like “what food?” What’s your best? Do that – blow it out of the park – and let the rest of your fiesta shine by glow proximity.

3. Leave NOTHING for last minute.

First, let’s define “last minute” with a basic time telling lesson. When it comes to entertaining with and for kids, take whatever time you think you have and divide it by 37 times the number of children in your family. Por ejemplo: Our party starts at 1pm and its currently 9am which in my house means I’ve already been awake for three hours and am in no way properly caffeinated – so that’s four hours to prepare in real time. In my single days, that would mean sufficient time to get my nails done, chill the adult beverages and make heart shaped cheeses for the crudité. However, I have four children ages one to six. SO…….. 4 hours/(37×4) = 1.62 minutes. I have exactly 1.62 minutes to prepare for the deluge of toddlers and maxed out parents about to descend on my house. (much love, ya’ll). Time to shower? No. Time to frost cupcakes? Negative. Time to make coordinating food labels? Sweetie, please.

And why don’t I have time for that? Because with each additional child comes a significant dose of chaos they’ve brewed special for just this day. Believe the rumors, this is the day your three-year-old will potty-train regress all over your entryway minutes before your first guest arrives. This is the day your dog will dramatically confess to eating that block of sharp cheddar last night – in a big way. This is the day the baby won’t nap, your breast pump will stop working, you’ll find the grill is out of propane, the power will go out, and those gentle breezes from earlier this morning will transform into Hurricane Bad Timing, your party tent will blow over and your former outdoor party will be crammed into all 50 square feet of dining room. Ever hang a piñata from your skylight? I have. Thrice. Carpe Diem Chaos Agents! I love each and every one of you, but for the love?! Couldn’t this have waited until any given Tuesday?

So do EVERYTHING ahead of time. Fold those napkins. Cut those veggies. Chill that lemonade. Clean that bathroom. Nothing – NADA – should be left for day of and if it is? Bag it. Set up every item possible – all the decorations, the dishes, plan that playlist. Weeks in advance. My family room was smothered in Halloween décor by early August in planning for our littlest’s 1st bday. Think you don’t have time? Ask yourself this – do you have several uninterrupted hours straight to dedicate to this fiesta? Check your job title lady – ‘Parent’ – so no, no you do not have that kind of time and neither do I. But I do have fifteen minutes a day to do a little here and there. I do have twenty minutes after they’ve gone to bed to get some things straight. Plus shouting at the birthday boy moments before his big day begins is no way to start a party (Mommy is so sorry buddy).

The big reason this insanity happens is that kids are major detectors of stress – namely, yours. They will deftly pick up on the fact that you’re walking a little faster than usual, making less eye contact, and whispering craziness under your breath like “where did I leave that bright pink duct tape?” And sensing your limited mental resources, they will up their game in a big way. Its like when sharing a milkshake – as the group senses they’re about to reach the bottom of the glass, they all start sucking on their straws harder – in this case like Attention Vampires. Which leads me to my next Ruckus Rule.

4. Get childcare.

For those of you blessed with nearby family members, call them. Have the kids go to grandma’s for the morning if you can. Or in my case, call a sitter and have her play with your crew while you prep the morning of. Find someone who can be solely responsible for their needs (ex. 1,000 sippy cup refills, that last minute desperate need to wear the Wolverine costume, the 40th episode of Thomas) so that a) you don’t have to be and b) you don’t end up shouting at your crew (see above confession) which will in turn result in high therapy costs later in life, social hermitage and your kids’ association with hosting parties and mommy madness.

Rules of Ruckus: In the next installment – Balloons: The ultimate kiddie party killjoy.


I got to guest author! ok, so I asked to guest author… :)

Coming Home Series – Miranda’s Story

Sarah writes the “Memories on Clover Lane” blog and I have been following her for several years now. You will just love her!

She began a series entitled, “Coming Home,” and there you will find many stories penned by women who have made a choice that has made them. I asked to contribute and she let me! My heart is to share my unique, God-authored, tale to nourish and encourage others. I am so honored to have done just that.

Coming Home

God’s provision for the hearts desire of His daughters is as luxurious as it is sufficient. His interest in meeting our deepest needs is intimate, specific and perfect.

I should begin by saying that I was certain I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. Never wanted to own a minivan and never thought I would have three children in three years. Three boys, one Honda Odyssey and the second anniversary of my vocation as full time mother reveals how wonderful it is to be wrong. When I survey the landscape of my life at this moment and consider my days spent with my sons, I am humbled by the satisfaction I feel even in the midst of rampant chaos, diapers, trains, messes and superheroes.

Maybe it is in the ‘nevers’ that God reveals His creativity and also His gentle hand. He rarely forces us to move, but waits patiently as He authors change in our lives, softly nudging us in the right direction. The truth is I had a completely wrong and probably immature vision of what it meant to be at home and this vision was colored by fear. Specifically, I was afraid that I would become unimportant or invisible or one dimensional or worse – that my children would know I wasn’t satisfied being with them and wanted more. What if it wasn’t really ‘different’ when they are your own kids? What if some women are just made to yearn for motherhood and home life and I wasn’t built like that?

The reality of having my first two children 14 months apart and working full time was absolute madness. Pumping before work to ensure the baby had enough to get him through eight hours of daycare and then again four times daily in my office, hiding from the glass door separating my modesty with the outside world. If either boy fell ill, the catastrophic ripple effect caring for them had on my business schedule seemed like the end of the earth. The ridiculous image of my evenings with my boys makes me shake my head and laugh in near disbelief. Perched on our kitchen stool, I would hold the pump to myself with one hand, balance the baby on my knees with a bottle held to his mouth by my chin, and periodically chuck bananas chunks onto my toddlers neighboring highchair tray. Roughly 90 minutes a day was all I had to cherish them in and this time was filled with dinner, bath and bed, then it was off to answer endless emails, plan events and travel. I could never savor any moment with them because each minute was a task and segue to the next to-do on my list.

Ten days before I was to return to work after my second son was born, my heart caught in my throat as I considered the approaching date. It was out of nowhere as though all of a sudden I realized I would have to again part with this small one I had just met. With my first, I was so caught up in the learning of parenting and balancing work and daycare and pumping that I didn’t have to feel the separation. I ignored the feeling this time around, passing it off as cold feet, but in the months that followed even my coworkers could tell I wasn’t really myself anymore. 40 plus hours in office, night programs, travel and so much email to devour me every night. My oldest would come home calling me by the daycare providers name and though she was dear, she simply wasn’t me. One night at swim lessons, my husband and son in the pool, I watched two women chatting on a nearby bench and felt a foreign emotion – envy. They were stay at home moms and I envied what they had – time. I couldn’t fathom having a third child – a hope of ours – when I could barely spend time with the two we had. I was loosing heart. No one ever says when they’re old that they’re so glad they had less children and spent more time at the office. Was this really the story I wanted to live?

Every ‘coming home’ story entwines itself with a ‘staying put’ story. Our God is the ultimate multi-tasker working revision and refinement in the hearts of all family members impacted by a mother’s decision to spend her days raising tiny humans. Mine is no exception. Months passed before I sat my husband down and said, “I can’t do this anymore. Please could we consider a part time option?” I’ll never forget the look in his eyes – fear. He spoke to me with a tone of ‘how could you do this to us’ in his voice solely because his desire to provide everything our family needs is so strong. We both had felt that dual income and having a life outside children was best and now I was standing on the edge of the boat, making a jump to swim for shore, and changing everything. This completely rocked the foundation of our family structure. Months of talks, prayers, and tears revealed that there would be no part time option. And this gave way to the most intimate of moments in our marriage. He looked me in the eye and said one the bravest things he may ever speak, “I want to give you what you want. I’m just scared.” My strong man, my superhero, shaken to his core as God called my heart to come home and beckoned him to stay his course, man his post and be the sole provider for our family. My respect for him deepened beyond measure that night as it has for all men and women who uphold the needs of their families with their time, talents and energy.

I left my office on June 3rd, 2013, and standing there on the front steps, every cell in my body felt deep freedom. Finally, how I spent the minutes of my life would match my heart’s priorities.

These two years at home have been many things: rewarding, desperately painful, satisfying, deeply lonely, refining and adventurous. Building relationships with my children, carving out a rhythm that nourishes, defining us as a family and myself as a mother are all journeys in their own right. Yet even at its worst, God steadied my heart and not once did I consider coming home a mistake. When my third son was born in 2014, something was noticeably missing: a ticking clock. This was the first time a new person was welcomed to our family and the deadline of work’s hostile takeover wasn’t a threat.

We possess a brilliant brevity in our souls – this short burst of time God has given us to dwell and thrive on this earth. Owen, Graeme and Colin, and their daddy, William, have my heart and my days. And now I have new ‘nevers.’ I never question the value of my presence in their lives. I never wonder if anyone else could care for them better. I never think my time could be better spent elsewhere. I am home. My Father granted my hearts desire beyond my asking.

Significance Vampire

It was at 13 I first laid eyes on the embodiment of my life’s lack of significance: Kirsten Dunst. She was the female lead in Interview With A Vampire and her very existence – my same age, beautiful, famous, talented, accomplished – barely lifted an eye in passing my boring, middle class, suburbia, braces, bangs. I remember laying on the couch in the sitting room we never used and feeling I was already so ordinary. No acting, no modeling, no sports prowess, no ballet classes, no significance. Not a kid prone to dismay or depression, this was the first time I’d really experienced feeling like I was way behind where I should be in life and why hadn’t someone told me and why didn’t my parents know what Kirsten’s parents did and sign me up for acting classes at age 3 and what was I gonna do about it? I cried there on that couch and resolved to make things right because I never wanted to feel insignificant again.

This morning my nine month old and I enjoyed our lattes together at the local coffee shop – his more organic than mine. And if pressed to recall the details of my day I’d list a little something like this:

  • Woke at 11:32pm (last night) and 4am and 6am – the first to return my sweet 2 year old (Boss) to his bed and the latter two occasions to plug a bottle into the sleeping, but growling mouth of said nine month old. He growls – go figure. Must be a boy thing.
  • Awoke officially at 6:15am – changed two diapers, stripped soaking sheets from toddler bed, fixed another bottle, grabbed coffee, watched Octonauts – the amazon adventure one (for the thirteenth time) my 3 year old (Chief) loves and snuggled
  • Dressed Chief with relative ease. Chased protesting soggy Boss around and WWF’d him into his clothes again reminding him that it is -2 degrees outside and improper nakey weather. Partially loose battle and pack his pants in purse to replace his orange gym shorts at a later time. He did look so cute in his Superman cape and knee high striped socks.
  • Deposit Boss and Chief at preschool.
  • Post coffee with Goose (9 month) head to insurance office to dispute a $1k increase in our flood insurance. Thanking God it was an error.
  • Grocery store where I receive a call from dentist that next month’s root canal will cost five hundred dollars more than projected. Pray for help.
  • Return groceries to home, vacuum, laundry, play with Goose, dishes.
  • Pick up from preschool and attempt car wash – so badly needed this time of year. Car wash fails mid-wash and stops working. At least I got my $8 back
  • Return home finish dishes, vacuum and mop entire house – filthy. Baseboard heat exists as a result of The Fall. Intermittently make snacks, fold laundry, pump breast milk, find lost precious articles such as the Batman car/paper airplane/Dusty Crophopper and so on. And all with a 25lb teething baby strapped to my back. So used to it I actually like having him there.
  • Fix two dinners – one children’s at 5pm and one adult at 6pm
  • Wrestle, chase, love, answer innumerable questions, diaper, wipe, and so on. Its now 9:41pm and all the men are asleep including my husband who is currently in the top bunk of Chief’s bed not to be moved. My pink bathrobe uniform and I are snuggled in my bed and the snores of Goose in his neighboring crib compliment the artificial rain track on my phone.

I began watching the Oscars tonight and felt that faint sense of insignificance rising up in me. Look at all these beautiful women and their accomplishments and gowns and makeup. Though I was grateful for the brevity of the emotion, that girl crying on the couch no one was allowed to sit on except for prom pictures was right next to me. I nearly simultaneously remembered that I cherished the luxury of the day I just waded through. I sang Boss to sleep looking right in his sweet face and said, “Jesus loves you. I’m so proud to be your mommy.” He said, “I happy mommy.” I made Goose laugh a deep, gurgling laugh only babies have. I asked Chief how many kisses he needed today and loved that his response went from five to seven to 100 because he delights in that question and my answer so much.

Three little beings orbited around me throughout the trappings of my day – or I them. With certain assured confidence I made three young men feel they were significant, loved, wanted, and safe for the last 24 hours. The weight and glory of being the universe for these tiny humans – its fleeting and simple and wonderful. And yet there was a time roughly ten years ago were I couldn’t have imagined a less terrible way to spend a day – a day without significance or accomplishment. I can see that 22 year old version of me saying, “Really? You do this everyday and feel good about it?” To be sure I revered the call to motherhood for other women, but had thought I knew I wasn’t one of them. I remember nannying for two families on their vacation and after one sunrise to sunset with five little ones saying, “So you guys do this like every day?”

Is it irony to say I revel in a job that the world views as one of the least significant vocations available? That the young woman who swore she would never, ever be a full time parent is now grateful for the extravagance of not going to an office or factory daily, but spending her hours and herself on those who possess her heart?

Each night I pray over my boys that they would have deep peace and confidence in their identities as sons of God. I tell them I am so proud to be their mommy. What I didn’t know that day was that my significance has been paid for, is unshakeable and so beautiful. I can’t earn it or create it. I may fill my time with efforts and accomplishments beyond compare, but only He can fill the desires of my heart – even the desires I might feel certain I don’t want. Sometimes its so very good to be wrong. My deepest desire is that on the day I see His face, He will say, “Well done good and faithful daughter.”

Matthew 10:29-31

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luxury of Knowing

Very recently the brazen, railing truth of a dear friend’s motto has come to my doorstep. Likely I have said this phrase hundreds of times. In personal conversations, in my mental storm, and even in business meetings.

What is obvious to me, is obvious to me.

With the finesse of a Mac truck, the reality of this reality came dancing into my living room just two nights ago and flattened me cold. How is it possible that if I know this to be true, that I, even I, forgot to remember.

In a previous post I mentioned that this past calendar year, well up until about last May, was one of the hardest, darkest times in my life. When I feel like a train wreck emotionally and physically I assume someone, meaning everyone, must be able to tell. Surely if I’m drowning it’s supremely clear to those around. And even though I live remotely and have referred to this locale, albeit beautiful, as “The Shining,” during the winter, certainly I must see enough people to warrant someone noticing that I’m crumbling at every corner. But…… What is obvious to me, is obvious to me.

Now I don’t mean to imply that it’s anyone’s responsibility necessarily, to notice and therefore fix me. I simply thought that because I felt like a trash yard complete with burning tires and an exploded smelter in the corner, that it was deeply obvious that I was barely holding it together most of the time. But, what is obvious to me, is indeed obvious to me.

Laid as the unintended foundation for this past season of life is the awkward, angled and painful adjustment to this new town that began in 2009. Surely if I have struggled this long with this same issue of needing to make sense in a dissonant locale that this, even this struggle, must be as subtle as a half time show. And there again we have it – what is obvious to me, is obvious to me.

My husband and I had a deeply difficult and real and worth it conversation two nights ago about this past year. What spurred this conversation was a comment he offered that mirrored the comments of two other friends. The meat of these comments was that they hadn’t realized how hard and awful this past year was for me. Needless to say, I was shocked. I mean, each day I felt I was falling apart completely and it wasn’t a roaring, awful sight to see for all those around me? I couldn’t blame anyone for not noticing as though it were their oversight – I mean, three fully different people said the same thing. So that left the common denominator – me – to be examined. I knew I wasn’t intentionally covering up or pretending to be holding it together. And as an established advanced communicator, certainly I had expressed how I was doing, or wasn’t doing, on enough occasions for those around me to have a sense of my struggle. Right?

But what is obvious to me, still is just obvious to me.

Tenacity is the accidental overcoat. It shields the internal struggle with an outside that appears to be in above average working order. My husband said that because I didn’t show my depression through more classic ways like laying on couch or not leaving the house and so on, that he really had limited sense of how bad it was. And this is from a man who loves me deeply and would do anything for me. However, even if I had wanted to respond to my life in those ways, I just couldn’t. Even when I was  so ill I could barely stand, I had to make bottles and change diapers and provide meals and keep going because two other humans depend on me for everything. I couldn’t quit. There was no other person who could take over for me. I couldn’t check out or miss a day. By God and the shear willpower He gave me with His new mercies each morning, I survived each day.

Still I was shocked that what I knew to be painfully obvious just simply wasn’t.

So what do I do moving forward? How do I change my ways of showing need or explaining myself?

Crooked Fish


(Oncorhynchus mykiss) The Rainbow Trout. This painting marks the finish line at the very end of our only hallway and can be seen from the front of the house. Thats how the sight line goes in just under 1600 square feet.

And its crooked.


For five years now, when I pass this image, my left index finger finds its lower corner – aiming to nudge it to salvation before I enter the master bedroom. This has become a reflex, an almost subconscious correction familiar to those of us in the Type A frame of mind. We see, we fix, we breathe.

I must walk the length of that hallway seventy-nine times a day and there it is – crooked, cockeyed, amiss, baffling. And there I am – nudging, adjusting, correcting, baffled.

Here’s the thing: It’s not the painting that’s off kilter – it’s the whole house. You see, we live at the water level and generally speaking, it’s a gorgeous place to be. Lakefront and private and a blessing. But its sinking. The whole front of the house has been sinking toward the shore on saturated land for over fifty-two years. So then, the painting is just a symptom of a greater ailment – a house heading toward the water centimeter by centimeter, decade by decade. The eight foot crack running from ceiling to baseboard in our family room marks the evidence of our home’s determined, disastrous pilgrimage.

And so it is with me. July 2013 and April 2014 are the bookends to a year of survival and coping in my life. Pregnancy, loneliness, managing small children, mistakes, constant illness, depression and the harshest winter this area has seen in fifteen years. I nearly passed out in the checkout line at the grocery store one morning from dehydration and morning (all day long) sickness. I gripped the cart like a life raft and prayed that the teen cashier would be swift, accurate and forgettable so I could hobble to my car and sob. And sob I did on so many occasions. For business, my husband traveled countless miles and days – we were separated more than we were together. One month, three major appliances, the furnace and the kitchen lights all stopped working. The day after the washer was repaired, all of us contracted an awful virus and I lost five pounds in one day. I had limited resources and spent most of my days coping from sunrise to sunset. And I grossly underestimated the stress my oldest son would experience as I went from working 65 plus hours a week to being home with him full time – this poured out through his behavior in painful ways. I ache thinking about how hard it was for him and wish I had had more wisdom to help him at the time. Plus we got a black lab which, to date, is the dumbest idea we’ve ever had. I should have known to return him when HE ATE A BIBLE. Not to mention causing roughly $2500 in damage to both our neighbors and our property. And a week before my son was born, we were filling sandbags to avoid massive flood damage if the lake over ran its shores thanks to heavy spring rains and ice melt.

Simply put, what made all of this worse was me. My attitude and response to these realities was a millstone to my husband, my children and friends. Certainly much of what is listed above was awful, but my reaction, my choice to be negative and angry pulled everyone down around me – particularly my husband. Negativity became a habit – deep grooves in my brain and heart where I had tread back and forth over and over. To explain my depression and angry feelings, I blamed my circumstances and believed that if I could just have more energy, just not be sick anymore, just not live here, just have more help, or just not be alone so much, that then I would finally feel happy again.

The wise woman builds up her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

The picture is crooked because the foundation is crumbling. It’s awkward angle is simply a symptom of a disastrous problem. Yes, there were awful conditions experienced over the last season of life, but I possess far greater power to either build up or tear down my family with my attitude and reaction to those conditions. As God gently brought this truth to my heart, I was ashamed at the vast selfishness I displayed because I didn’t consider the impact of my actions and began to remember and recite this:

Joy is a choice. I choose Jesus.

I repeat this to myself multiple times a day and sometimes more. If God came to give us life abundantly, and I know that He did, then I’m tired of being robbed. I’m sick of standing by and letting that abundant life, complete with joy and soul shine and brilliance, slip through my fingers because I’m more focused on whats wrong in my situation and letting those realities pull me down. Its as intelligent as standing on a street corner with all my worldly goods at my feet and letting any passerby take them away. I will not let my poor attitude steal away the truth that I have three healthy, beautiful children, a man who loves me more than life, and a Savior who paid the priceless price for my soul.

As with all healing, this will take some time. But already I see a difference in my day to day joy. Joy is a choice. I choose Jesus. This isn’t self talk or just positive thinking my way to happiness. It’s a recognition that relying on circumstances to make me happy will always prove fruitless. This is a refusal to be robbed, an ownership of the great influence I have over my family, and standing my ground on God’s side of things.

We have a few things in common, that Rainbow Trout and I. We’re both from the Pacific Coast – in fact, the Steelhead, as its also called, is the official state fish of Washington. And we both have the ability to affect our environment with catastrophic or impressive results. When the fish is introduced to locations outside their native habitat, they have a tendency to prey on, out-compete, or transmit contagious diseases to the locals. However, when healthy, the rainbow trout provides a major food source to over forty five countries.  As God has called me to be a woman of consequence because of my faith in Him, let those consequences be positive for all those I come in contact with. Let me nourish and care for and react well and give grace to all that He has placed in my path.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Ask me my story

Just ask me my story.

He’s almost five months old now and a complete doll. All giggles and grins and drool and I’m his universe. What a privilege.

In his first hours, I was all adrenaline. His birth was just 1.5 hours full of intensity and pain and…. well, many things I can’t remember. No meds this time – it was just too fast and the doctor said a nubane dose that close to the finish line would compromise his breathing. It’s like being told you’ll run that marathon you knew you would, but now you’re going to do it with a broken foot or maybe no foot at all. So I said under my breath, “I can do this.” For what other choice did I have? Well, I had the choice of how I would do it – with strength and fearlessness knowing the harder I worked the faster the finish line would be mine and I would meet my son.

To be sure I have plenty of respect for those who choose to do without an epidural, but let’s be honest here friends – I don’t need to be a hero. In fact, with my first son I received a delightful epidural and cracked jokes with the doctor and my husband while he was being born. Science has produced a great many wonders and painless birth is a fabulous achievement. Though I shouldn’t forget that sitting still for the mile long needle to be inserted into my spine while having full blown contractions is incredibly difficult, but I just kept reminding myself that I might be paralyzed if I moved and  that motivated me sufficiently.

But just ask me my story.

The details of this third birth are hazy or foggy or another word I can’t find. I can recall some of the details like the three doses of cervadil that didn’t work, but the fourth that made everything begin with a fury. That first full contraction at 1am that tells you the adventure is here. The sound of the steady breathing of the doctor asleep in the corner of the room and asking the nurse, a female football player reminiscent of the Trunchbull, ‘is the doctor here?” when really I knew he was asleep. Being surprised at my candor in the midst of progressive labor. Gratitude for the sweet Trunchbull for her fist in my lower back at the eclipse of each contraction. Grabbing my husband’s hand over and over and then clinging to his chest towards the end. And I remember saying to the baby placed on my chest, “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay,” and thinking later that calling him ‘baby’ was all I could do as it took us two days to finally name him.

Please ask me my story.

Roughly ten hours later, when the adrenaline had worn it’s course, I called my husband, tending to our other children at a family member’s home, “Could you come back and stay with my tonight? I just need you to be here.” The rattling of the details of that furious experience was making me shake and I needed his arms close by. What safety and danger there is in love.

The thing is I can’t feel those memories. Not as they were being made and not now. Perhaps there is design in that – God giving us a reprieve from massive emotional experiences while they are taking place so that more slowly, as time metes them out, we can portion them from our hearts to our heads and make sense of them. For now as I write these things down, I can begin to feel and experience them in the safety of my desk and sunrise view.

Consistently though, the words, “ask me my story” were in my mind, but never left my mouth. But no one did and I was surprised to find that I wanted to be asked so much. I’m a story teller by His design and delight in the word choice and verbal trailblazing even the silliest occurrence can render when relayed to a wanting audience. So imagine my delight when my sister did ask and specifically said, “I want to hear the whole thing.”

So I’ll be she who asks because I’m certain each women, whether its her first or fifteenth, has a story to tell and is pleading to be asked.

Thank you for hearing my story.

making sense: the marathon


So I’m lonely. Again. There you are old reality – lingering in the corners of my heart waiting for the life noises to dim so you can slip right in through the cracks. These last five years have brought a great many things and likely more than I can consciously count. God is beautiful and faceted like that – His blessings and purposes are majestically obviously and yet so mysterious we experience them like oxygen. But one constant through these seasons of romance, marriage, babies, and love has been deep, unrelenting, reliable loneliness.

For five years now I’ve lived exactly 2,797.81 miles from the city where I find most of my history. The adjustment has been challenging in shapes and colors too impossible to have anticipated. Though still in the same country, I couldn’t be further from my origins. Frequently when meeting someone for the first time, I’m introduced with what would become quite conspicuous upon speaking to me for a few milliseconds: “She’s not from here.” This then leads to the next conversational bus stop: “Do you miss Seattle? How do you like it here?” The thing I miss the most?

I miss making sense.

I miss making sense in light of my surroundings. I miss that the way I speak, the way I think and the way I relate to others made sense to everyone and everything around me. I’ve considered whether it would be more difficult to move to Africa or London, but with that cultural transaction you have the luxury of the obvious: It’s going to be different here and you know it. When you transition between cultures in the same country it’s almost like a doctrinal blindside. You simply don’t see it coming and discerning between the many shades of beige and gray requires surgical discipline that is purely exhausting. And you don’t realize the daily drag has been draining you until you’re five years into the journey and you feel like a hollow shell.

My intention here isn’t to be dramatic. I’m simply a sanguine Type A oldest child with words of affirmation as my love language and what used to be a dynamic cavalcade of vocabular acrobatics used on the daily with my phenomenal layers of friends and acquaintances back in the 98117. Until finding this blog as my source of electricity, I felt like I couldn’t remember English, as though I’d lived in a foreign land too long to allow verbal recall of the familiar. Even my inner monologue was becoming uninteresting and one dimensional. Almost daily here I express myself and am instantly aware that the listener has no idea what I’m talking about and likewise, I have no idea what their head tilt, facial expression or tone means either.

I remember being newly married and one evening spontaneously bursting into tears. “What’s the matter?” he asked with genuine concern. My reply? “I’m just so tired of being new.” Even early in my days here, it was wearing on me. A dear friend comforted me in recent months with the truth that maybe it isn’t me, but that there are just some settings that are dissonant with our personalities and sensibilities. Make no mistake – I have lived elsewhere and enjoyed a relatively seamless transition into the new cultural petri dish. And I’m aware that a retreat to my home environment by someone else wouldn’t be perfect. My parents both moved to Washington from the East Coast forty one years ago and its only been in recent years that I’ve seen their comfort level in friendships and general setting satisfaction bloom.

I simply don’t fit in – I am the mayor of the Island of Misfit Toys. And for my personality type that’s intensely strange. On the Myers Briggs I didn’t score a single introversion point, but nailed every extroversion question. I’ve never been to a party, let alone a zip code, where I couldn’t find someone to relate to and later schedule a pedicure with. To be sure, I’ve known loneliness before, but it was temporary. Here its a reality.

Many stay at home moms experience loneliness – I know, I’ve googled it. You’re surrounded by little people all day, rarely physically alone, but lonely in your thoughts and heart. And typically this can be resolved by joining a local play group, library time, gym, or church group, etc. And while I’ve found tiny pockets of these options near me, the other major hit to my extroverted lifestyle is our location – we are about an hour removed from the nearest large city. Last year I was blessed with a mothers of preschoolers group that meets twice a month and attending is like coming up for air. It’s all too brief for me, but a sweet relief nonetheless. My smile is genuine however, when the sweet women there marvel that I’d willingly drive 52 miles. But wouldn’t you travel on horseback or barefoot even to receive fresh water?



5 cup morning

These sleepy summer mornings are still new to me five years into living on the East Coast. Overcast, humid, the lake waves – it leaves the surfaces in our home a little sticky, but peaceful. I was born into the coffee house culture of the West so for me these are five cup mornings – drinking coffee until noon – to nudge my own sleepy mental fog to part. I woke up to this moment with my loves:

photoWhile my sweet little third and hubby sleepy, I’m enjoying waffles with O and G and watching the water. I’m reminded to watch my mouth just now because although I curse rarely, my phrases sprinkle over my little ones with unintended permanence. My 3 year old just told our 14 year old pointer to, “Move! Go get a job!” Something I must say to one of our three dogs on the daily. This segued into spontaneous singing of Jingle Bells. Perfect. When that reached a brash tone only a toddler can perfect (read: bleeding ear drums) I suggest we listen to our happy song.

This week marked our 5th anniversary – its been a blink. One week after our honeymoon we drove my tiny Mazda 3 across the country packed to the ceiling. That began what on paper sounds like a crazy ride of change and adventure, but emotionally doesn’t seem all that insane. Maybe that’s the way it is when you skydive through life – to all spectators they see the brilliant crazy of the jump you’ve just taken, but all I can feel is the clouds on my cheeks. Sometimes blue sky and sometimes storm clouds. Cross country drive, graduate school, two promotions, two jobs, three kids, six dogs, a cottage remodel, massive culture shock and so much happiness. Because my parents were in town to provide free babysitting we celebrated with a sweet dinner out where we poignantly discussed the purchase of a new car (mini-van – shriek! I still can’t believe it) and a bathroom remodel. Perhaps that’s the main way you can tell a dating couple from a married couple at a restaurant – we’re the ones with a pen marking up the paper tablecloth with where we’d put the commode. Dinner was followed by a stop to our local car dealer where this happened:

broken shoe photoCoincidentally, the 5th anniversary is to be celebrated wood. Perhaps this is an early sign that this past and next years will be filled with two types of construction – breaking down of the old and building up of something new.