Saturday, February 21, 2015

Morning mythology

There's this myth in motherhood, especially in the shared sisterhood of mother-writers, that if we get up early enough, we can work before our children are awake. I seek those dark, cloistered moments in my kitchen, huddled with a journal and a cup of something warm, scribbling my thoughts in the quiet of the open morning before the real day begins. Mornings are supposed to be empty and open and dripping with potential, like dewy grass or the coffee that is calling me with its gurgle-pit-pat as it collects in the pot. Morning is ready for something, for anything...and in the half-moment of quiet, if I stop and hold my breath, I feel the possibilities and almost believe them.

I could make cinnamon rolls and surprise everyone!
I could paint the laundry room!
I could go for a run before the snowstorm hits!
I could write the short story that's been rattling around my head for weeks and then let the kids help illustrate it!
I could get all my chores done early and then relax!

No matter how tired I am, especially on a Saturday, SuperMe takes over, beckoning me into the Realm of All The Things I Can Do. "Come on! Think of how productive we could be!" And I follow her. I can really do everything. For that moment, I am a regular mama demi-god...powerful, motivated, filled with unstoppable creativity, with energy for days.

And then a door opens. A toilet flushes, maybe, or the water runs long enough to arouse my suspicion. Instead of SuperMe, I hear a small voice in the hallway: "Mama?" and the quiet is over until tomorrow.

I know one day I will sit quietly all the time, all day, every day, and I'll long for their voices to call my name, to ask me to help them, to talk with me about what matters to them. I'll miss their hands (which are so small and occasionally sticky these days), coming to me full of drawings or dandelions or tiny stones they've found. I will long to hear someone ask me to read that awful library book one more time (well, maybe). I will wish, probably, that I was more in the middle of their worlds, the way I am now, when I sometimes wish to be somewhere else.

And so, this morning, with rumblings and rattlings and voices calling in the hallway, I choose to be grateful. I'm grateful for their noise, their mess, and their interruptions, because I choose to be. And all the other words in my head and the projects I dream about will have to wait for another moment, because in this moment, my children aren't likely to wait another second.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

#HolyLens, Lent 2015

Well, I changed my mind.

I'm allowed to do that, right?

I realized that I was going to miss seeing the #HolyLens posts on Instagram and sharing about our days and bearing witness to the little holy moments in each other's lives. I remembered that taking tiny snapshots of those moments isn't a burden- it's a spiritual discipline. These photos (for me) are more than just photos. They are signposts of God's grace in my life. I think I need them.

So, just in case that's true for anyone else, I'm putting up some prompts for Lent.

Here are the prompts for this week. (They will be posted on Sundays for the week ahead.)

I hope you'll join me. I know there are lots of other photo-a-day projects out there. The important thing isn't to do this one. The important thing is to remind ourselves that God is always working, even in the most ordinary, mundane moments. This project helps me to do that. If it helps you, too, then please post your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #HolyLens. Let's keep each other company as we look for the places God is present with us...even if we happen to find him sometimes between the forks and the spoons in the drawer or between the mismatched socks in the hamper.

Have a blessed Lent.

Previous week's prompts:

On Silence. And Lent.

Sometimes, it seems like there isn't quite enough of something.

I tug at the edges or let out the seams as much as I can, trying to make the pants cover the tops of her socks when there aren't any other clean pants and we're late for story time. I look through my yarn stash over and over, trying to find something to use to finish the sleeves on a tiny sweater when the blue yarn I need has been discontinued.  I twist and squish and fold and press the tube of toothpaste to coax out the last tiny bit onto three small toothbrushes, all of them moving targets in the hands of their owners, and I don't have time to go to the store.

And when there isn't enough time to write, I scribble my thoughts around the margins of my church bulletin and never get around to opening my computer.

I know this space has been very quiet lately.

I've been busy, of course, but I'm almost always busy...there are fourteen activities to fill every waking minute, it seems. The more free time I have, the more ways I find to fill it. Somehow, in the middle of doing school and post-Christmas resettlement and getting my family all healthy again from illness, it's suddenly Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday? How did that happen?

I'm not at all ready for this. I don't have Lent "planned." I don't have any lists or ideas of what we're going to do this year to mark this holy time between now and Easter. I haven't written photo prompts for #HolyLens, or gospel reflections, or blog posts about meatless meals to help inspire me (and maybe you, too). I haven't changed the wreath on my door or prepared the candles for our table or thought about how we'll do our family prayers.

I've done nothing to prepare.

I've been quiet. Reading, writing a little, knitting. Hanging out with my family. Sweeping the floor more often than I used to. Doing the laundry, and doing it again. Reflecting on my life and the gift of those people with whom I share it daily.

With Lent upon me, things feel different this year. I don't have any activity checklists or new Lenten playlists or collections of helpful links or innovative recipes for cooking meatless meals. I'm feeling an irresistible pull to come inside and shut the urge to look inward and sit quietly with what I find.

I don't feel called to lead Lent this year. I feel called to pray. To be still. To sit and read and wonder and soak up what's around me. To gather up what I have, even though it feels small, and offer it to God. I'm going to take my loaves and fishes, and instead of attempting to arrange them artfully on a plate and posting them on Instagram, I'm just going to bring them to Jesus and wait for him to tell me what to do next.

I don't have any big proclamations to make. I'm not giving up blogging for Lent, but I don't know how much I'll write here. Maybe a little. Maybe more than that. Maybe not at all. I'm not swearing off social media, but I probably will take long breaks from it. I'm just looking for Jesus so I can practice walking with him, or sitting with him, or generally being wherever he is going to be, for the next 40 days.

And I'll be praying for you.

If you have a special intention or prayer request for which I can pray, would you please let me know? I'd be honored to spend the next few weeks holding your concerns and needs. Please feel free to leave me a comment here, send me a message on Facebook or e-mail me.

Thanks for being my friends and for being patient with me. At the end of my life, I doubt anyone will say that I was an excellent blogger- I don't follow any of the rules, ever. Even so, I'm grateful for every one of you who reads my thoughts here and shares this journey with me.

If you are still looking for ideas of what to do for Lent, try Auntie Leila's post at Like Mother, Like Daughter. She's so good at that kind of thing. If you're feeling short on time and wondering how you can keep Lent as a busy parent, try this lovely, insightful post by Jenna at Call Her Happy or these practical suggestions from Sarah at Two Os Plus More. And if you want some reassurance that (like every year), this Lenten journey is going to be exactly how it is supposed to be, try this post from Laura at Mothering Spirit. I'm taking comfort from Kathryn's words about Lent this year at Team Whitaker and Molly's invitation to walk with Christ these 40 days and let our time with him unfold gradually as we go.

Finally, I'm trying to remember that sometimes, all we are called to do is to hold open a space for God. Even a small one is enough for him to use.

I'll be around. A blessed Lent to you all.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Wait

1. The paint can has been sittting in the laundry room for about a year and a half. We were all enthusiasm when we bought it, totally committed and ready to change the world (or at least the room). I think we're no longer sure the color is the right color, despite the one already boldly optimistic green wall among its vaguely depressed beige neighbors. I'm feeling impatient to get it done- tired of waiting, I guess, although I don't know what exactly I'm waiting for.

2. The clock on top of the piano seems to decide each evening to move at half its normal speed. The kids' play goes into warp fast forward, but Time drags as 6:00 pm approaches...creeping, inching upward, the minute hand imitating a sloth, as if it is playing statue and trying not to be caught in the act of motion. I'd give anything for the sight of headlights turning into the driveway- I jump with anticipation every time I hear a car door, and I keep checking the front window to see if he's here yet.

3. Standing outside the van, shivering, I hunch my shoulders against the bitter wind and wonder why on earth she can't hurry just a tiny bit when she is putting on her seatbelt. I know I could have done it eight times by now, but she wants to do it herself, and any attempt on my part to help her will only result in a mind-blowing, time-stopping tantrum, which just means it will take even longer to be ready to leave.

I was never very good at waiting. I keep singing that old song about the snail to myself, hoping one of these days it will take.

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt without worrying, over-editing or backtracking. It's finger painting with words, kind of the way we used to color without feeling anxious about staying inside the lines. We share our work over at Kate Motaung's blog- you can go there to check out more and to share your own writing.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real {p,h,f,r}

Sometimes I do this thing where I think, "Oh, I'll link up with Auntie Leila for {p,h,f,r} and get a quick post in."

That is NOT a good way to get in a quick post. I end up scrolling through photos and playing with filters, and before I know it, nap time has evaporated and all the children are clamoring for snacks.

Snacks are important. More important than blogging. So today, I am actually doing a quick post with some hastily taken photos. Then I'm going to lie on the sofa with a book and a cup of tea and probably fall asleep.

It's not the book's fault that I'll fall asleep. We can safely blame my tiredness lately on binge-watching episodes of Once Upon A Time on Netflix. I know- I should know better than to stay up too late- but it is just so good! 

The book I'm buried in now is Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed. It is long. I was concerned that it would be too dense. So far, though, it is a surprisingly fascinating page turner. I am glad I decided not to try to keep up with those of you who are reading Les Miserables right now, though...this is enough heavy-tome-with-small-print to last me a while.

The print is small enough, in fact, that I finally had to admit defeat and get reading glasses. They're the cheap-but-not-cheapest ones from Target (because the largeheadedness trait shared by all my children didn't come to them in a vacuum, and I had to spring for the spring hinges to be comfy).


I think they are zebra print. The case is definitely zebra print. Whatever...I made it this far without owning any animal print but a bathrobe. I'll survive. 

That's real, y'all. 

I get dizzy when I look away from the book if I'm wearing them. Eyeglass Wearers- does that go away? (And yes, I know I should get my eyes checked by a professional. We shall call this a stopgap measure.)


I have a thing for bright colors, especially in my kitchen. Lately, our glasses have all been breaking - I guess they have finally realized they are cheap (from Target and IKEA) and that we have had them for almost 14 years. Anyway, they need replacing, and rather than go out and buy a whole set of matchy ones, I've decided to finally just get what I've always wanted: vintage sour cream glasses. I'm piecing together a collection a bit at a time. 

I plan to drink nothing but water (and possibly lemonade) from now on, because they are just so lovely. 


The kids and I spent the morning today on the sofa, reading book after book after book. This is the best way to spend a chilly morning, of course, but it is somewhat rare that all four of them agree to do it together. SuperSam said (when we finally had to get up for lunch), "This is my idea of a perfect day."

That's my boy. 

I recently discovered the blog StrongHaven, where Lizzie is doing a fun challenge to read 365 picture books this year. We are starting out late, but we almost never read just one picture book at a sitting, so we are joining up. I will keep a list on the blog of what we have read (under the "Bookshelf" tab, which isn't there yet, but will be soon). We are also participating in Read-Aloud Revival's Read Aloud Streak (mostly because we already read aloud every day, and I thought it would be fun to see the calendar fill up with marks).

It's sometimes hard to be a recovering Type A stay at home parent. It's an ongoing challenge for me (anyone else?) - so much of our work is repetitive and so much of what we do is hard to quantify. Rather than ignore my Type A-ness and feel frustrated about it, I'm focusing on relaxing and enjoying my time with my kids while indulging my need for checklists when I can. A reading streak is right up my alley. Think of all those little rows of boxes, each neatly marked with its makes me kind of tingly just thinking about it.


This is an old one. That's what happens when I do a photo post. Anyway, the twins! Look how little they are! And matching sweaters! They're feeding each other mint leaves from our garden. This was at the height of their toddler naughtiness, and it's good to look back now and see that those days were actually short-lived. Hang in there, Rosie, and other twin toddler moms. It gets better. Soonish. And then you get this:

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that they are Laura and Mary Ingalls celebrating Christmas. Obviously.

Linking up with the folks at Like Mother, Like Daughter today (and if you haven't heard Auntie Leila's interview on the Fountains of Carrots podcast, you should. Really. I consider that interview a help to my ongoing effort to focus on what is pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy.)

Happy Thursday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Share

There is still a little bit of Christmas left around here...mostly the kind I've hidden away in a drawer because it's too nice for the kids to eat. It has a high cacao content, or it was expensive, or my friend/mother/husband gave it to me (just to me) special because I really, really like chocolate.

I never meant to be that mother who hides in the laundry room with a handful of chocolate chips on a particularly tough afternoon. Some days, like today, the constant bickering and hair-pulling and shoving and tattling can make a mama cry. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I yell instead. Today, that bit of Christmas in the kitchen seemed just the thing.

So I got it out. I whacked it to break it apart, I carefully peeled back the foil, and I passed out smooth, fruit-shaped wedges to each of them. "Let's share it," I told them. After we'd licked our fingers (and I'd washed mine) I played all their favorite songs until they were yawning and heavy-eyed. 

The house feels peaceful. No one is yelling or crying. It might have been the Christmas...or it might have been the sharing. Either way, I'll take it.

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt without worrying, over-editing or backtracking. It's finger painting with words, kind of the way we used to color without feeling anxious about staying inside the lines. We share our work over at Kate Motaung's blog- you can go there to check out more and to share your own writing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Welcome.

The first lines of dawn are writing themselves on the sky as we pull in, gravel crunching under tires, rubbing sleep from our eyes and unfolding ourselves from the seats. There are twenty-four hours of music and audiobooks and Waffle House coffee and McDonald's bathrooms behind us. Bed-shaped, we stumble toward the house, carrying pillows but leaving suitcases for later. Before we even reach the door, they are there, pouring out into the barely-light, arms wide open and faces beaming, their eyes scanning every inch of us to see how much we've grown.

They're here! There they are! You made it! Awww...just look at you!

Hands reach out and pull us into warm pajama hugs, taking our pillows and coats, guiding us into the house, into the familiar smells of coffee and old books and family. As one aunt points us toward the room that is always ours at the end of the hall, another is following with luggage, and the third is hurrying ahead to plump pillows and smooth blankets on a bed that is already warm, I realize they are giving up their beds for us at barely four in the morning.

Aren't you going back to bed? I ask, concerned about the early hour in spite of my exhaustion.

I think I'll get a head start on the sausage biscuits, she tells me, eyes crinkling with the pleasure of a good welcome.

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes without over-editing, backtracking, or worrying, just for the love of the process and to see what happens. After we write, we share with the rest of the community of word-lovers over at Kate Motaung's blog. Come visit her to read more Five-Minute Friday writers and to share your own writing, if you want to play along!