To the boy who turns 5

All I did was write the title of this post, and already, I’m nearly in tears.

It’s not that I don’t want you to grow up. I do want that because that’s the way of things.

Sometimes, though, I wish it didn’t happen so fast.

Wasn’t it just a minute ago that you were barreling into the world via emergency C-section because you were bigger than life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And seconds ago you were a smiley baby I snuggled tight while trying to balance your needs and your toddling sister’s needs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now you’re five. You’ll be on your way to kindergarten next year, and though I am looking forward to the days of having my own schedule again, I have to admit that I will miss you.Corban and mommy

You’ve never known anything but a mom who stays home with you. And these last two years, when your sister went off to school, it’s been just you and me, precious time I wouldn’t trade for anything because I saw your personality bloom.

You’ve become my helper. At grocery shopping. At running errands. At washing dishes and doing laundry. You’ve kept me sane through some insanity because you are funny and compassionate and easy to please, when the occasion warrants.

Corban cooks

I thought I knew everything about babies and children after your sister was born. Having a second child seemed easier than the first time around. But you’ve kept us on our toes–from the numerous ear infections as a baby to the urgent care visit in Illinois to our first trip to the ER for a “pediatric head injury.” You live life wild and hard and sometimes you have cuts and bruises and scars that appear from where you’ve tried to take out a wall on accident. (Even when you play soccer with your sister, we see the football–the other kind–potential in you.)

Without you, I wouldn’t know that it was possible for a person to be noisy from the moment they woke up to the moment they fell asleep. The house is quiet without you. I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going on inside your brain, but occasionally, during the noise, all the thoughts and questions and ideas leak out. I can’t wait to see what happens when you’re in school.

Corban dragon

And speaking of questions: you have so many. I can’t really complain because I was the same way as a child. Even as an adult, I’m asking questions all the time, even if I don’t voice them. You love to know how things work and the reason for things. Just the other night, I was amazed by the workings of your little brain. We walked downtown in the city, you holding my gloved hand with your gloved hand. We hadn’t taken more than a few steps from the car and you were studying a building and a staircase, trying to figure out where it went and how it got there. The amazement I heard in your voice made me pause to be amazed, too.

This, too, is what you’ve done to me. You’ve made me notice things I wouldn’t otherwise see. Because of you I see trucks of all kinds on the road. I know the difference between a bulldozer and a backhoe and a skid loader because that’s what you want to read about. I’m learning about trains and bridges and trucks because those are the non-fiction books you find at the library. (And you want to read every word because you want to know how it works.)

Before you were born, I wondered if I had enough love for two children. In some weird way, my love wasn’t split; it was multiplied.

Corban batman

And now you’re 5 and the years have already passed so quickly. And I wonder if I’ll blink and you’ll be on the verge of manhood. Will I always see you as a little boy?

You bring so much life to our lives. I know we don’t have a lot of proof of our love, at least not in the form of pictures. It’s true what they say about subsequent children and the lesser amount of photos. We were too busy loving you and your sister, figuring out our life as a family of four, becoming a healthy place for you to grow up. You might never read these words, or maybe you will someday when you’re much older, but let them reflect all the love I don’t say, all the love you don’t see when you look for pictures of your childhood. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You are so very loved, wanted from the moment we knew you were coming, even though it scared us.

We can’t imagine our family without you.

Happy birthday, Corban. You are, and will always be, what your name means: a gift given back to God.

The words I really need to hear right now

It’s 6 p.m. and the kids are finishing their homemade mac and cheese at the dining room table. This is our fifth dinner in a row, just the three of us, and I am quick to leave the table to find other things to do after I’m done with my food. So, I’m washing my hands in the bathroom, and even though I’ve been looking at the same soap scum/yuckiness for days (maybe weeks), it’s like I see it for the first time, and suddenly I HAVE TO CLEAN THE BATHROOM.

The kids are still eating, and I’m tracking down a washrag and the baking soda. I don’t bother to change into a “cleaning shirt,” I just attack the grime in the same clothes I wore out of the house earlier in the day. And I’m feeling good because I’m finally doing some cleaning after a week of doing only minimal housework because of a writing deadline and an abnormal school schedule.

Then from the dining room I hear, “MAHHHHHM! Corban spilled your water on accident.” So I stop the cleaning I’m doing in the bathroom to discover a puddle of water on the dining room table that, thankfully, has only made a dry paper towel wet. It could have been library books or a computer or phone because you know how the dining room table is like a magnet for all the things.

Clean that mess. Back to the bathroom. Call it quits before I decide to take the shower curtain down and scrub it like I normally do. Remember that the girl child’s booster seat cover is still in the washer and needs to dry before we go pick up our fourth family member. Start the kids on their Saturday showers because, by heaven, our outsides will be clean on Sunday morning even if our insides feel less than.

Look around at the million other messes in the house and wonder where the energy will come from to tackle those. To cook dinner this week. To meet those writing deadlines. To respond to e-mails and organize events and continue to take care of the house.

I am often overwhelmed by all of it, and I know it probably  means I’m too busy or that this week was just out of the ordinary and things will settle down, and I really don’t know where to cut back or how to say “no” to any of these things.

So, I’m learning to tell myself a couple of words on an almost daily basis.

Do you want to know what they are?

It’s okay.

Revolutionary, right? Two words no one on the face of this earth has ever spoken before.

Simple words. On the surface, almost meaningless.

But those words are propped up by a big important word.

Grace.

But grace is a complicated word, and it’s church-y, and I don’t always understand it and sometimes it’s overused to the point that I don’t even know what people mean by it.

So, when I have a hard time giving myself grace, I say this instead: It’s okay.

It’s okay if your house is a complete mess because you’re tired of all the daily life stuff. Or because you’re chasing a dream, trying to live out a purpose beyond the walls of your house.

It’s okay if you spent $34 at the gas station on “dinner” while driving across the state from a visit to friends because you just want to keep going and not stop. (In all fairness, it was from Sheetz, which has significantly better quality food than your average gas station. I ate hummus. The kids had fruit.)

It’s okay if dinner looks like pizza or mac and cheese or take out more nights than you care to admit.

It’s okay if your preschooler wears the same shirt twice in one week because the second time is picture day and he won’t wear anything else. (By the grace of God, you had time to wash it between wearings, but it’s okay even if you didn’t.)

It’s okay if you don’t fold the laundry, if you forget to wash enough shirts for your husband’s work uniform and he’s getting ready for work as you realize this.

(And it’s okay if you try to make a pretty graphic for your blog post and the application doesn’t save it and you have to scrap the whole thing and try again the next day.)

Are you hearing my heart? Because I need to hear it, too.

There is grace for all this ordinary mess.

grace for ordinary mess

And it will not stay this way.

Today, maybe we don’t have the strength to do it all the way we want to, but tomorrow … well, as my favorite literary heroine famously said, tomorrow is another day.

Give yourself permission today to let something slide. Stop telling yourself you’re a bad mom/wife/person because of (fill in the blank). Get through today and deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

It’s okay. And it will be okay.

Are you listening, Lisa?

It’s okay.

A vote for summer (and fall and winter and spring)

In less than a week, summer will (unofficially) be over. At least where we live, the kids go back to school next week and the carefree, do-what-we-want days (I stole that line from my coolest Colorado cousin) will be over.

Back to setting alarms and packing lunches and meeting the bus twice a day.

Back to homework and enforcing a regular bedtime and the end-of-day reunion of family.

Honestly? I’m going to miss summer.

summer

We’ve never been close, summer and I. Although I’m sure I enjoyed the break from homework and school when I was a student, summers sort of lost their allure when I got my first job out of college. Summer was like any other time of the year. I got up, I went to work, I came home. Except it was more humid than other times of the year.

Our family summers in recent memory have had their positive moments, but I’m becoming one of those moms who enjoys her relative freedom during the school days. So, I sort of feared this first summer following our firstborn’s kindergarten year.

I found a groove with one child all day long and in what seemed like an instant, I was back to having both kids all day and one of them is in constant need of social interaction. Summer could be a disaster, I predicted.

And then it wasn’t.

There were family visits here and there and long drives in between. There were outings and adventures and days of sheer boredom in between. There was togetherness–oh, there was togetherness–and times I wanted to have JUST FIVE FREAKING MINUTES TO MYSELF WITHOUT ANYONE TOUCHING ME. (Have I mentioned I’m an introvert?) And a long separation that was almost too much to bear.

There were trips to the library and reading on the porch and visits with friends and an amazing vacation and countless memories that are falling through the cracks of my mind. (And parks! We went to the park so many times!) summer 2

There were plans that came about and plans that didn’t.

And you know what? Summer was great!

Today, I was mourning the upcoming loss of time with my daughter. She’s a creative, imaginative, passionate spitfire of a human being in a small package but she’s crazy fun to be around, even when she’s pouting. As we drove to get school supplies, just the two of us, I felt the need to tell her how much I would miss her when she went back to school.

And then an hour later I was thanking God that she was going back to school because she couldn’t stop fighting with her brother.

I can’t have it both ways, I know. I can’t have our family all together all the time (at least not without some major changes to how we live and I’m just not sure that’s our best option) and I can’t send the kids away forever. (I would never do that, by the way, even on the hardest days.)

Just the same, I couldn’t have endless summer because I’d miss the colors of fall, the slowing down in winter and the rebirth of spring.

I will miss my daughter when she’s at school, but I can’t wait for those big hugs when she comes leaping off the school bus at the end of the day. Or the big smile on her face when she sees me at her school. I love hearing the stories of her day and storing up our tales to share with her.

I will miss the freedom we have in the summer to take a family adventure on whatever day suits my husband’s work schedule, but that just means we have to be more intentional about scheduling our fun on other days. (We already have some plans!)

Part of me wants to regret all the things we didn’t do this summer–all the projects and the exploring that just didn’t fit into our lives–but that would rob us of the joy we did have.

So, summer, I’m sad (really!) to see you go, but I know you’ll be back again next year. And fall, I’m ready for you! (Okay, that’s false bravado. I’m not ready AT ALL. But bring. it. on.) And winter, you just wait your turn. I promise to make hot chocolate and try to enjoy the snow again this year but don’t get too eager. And spring, my love, you’ll be what keeps me hanging on during those subzero mornings waiting for the school bus to arrive.

Play nice together, seasons, and I’ll give each of you your due. I’ll look for the best and turn away from the worst. (Okay, I’ll probably still complain loudly on Facebook about snow days and shoveling and heating  bills.)

It’s hard to say good-bye, and I hate transition times, so I might be singing a different tune in a week or two. For now, though, we’re squeaking out our last bit of fun this week and preparing for the return of routine next week.

Thank you, summer of 2014, for reminding me of all you have to offer. You’ve earned a place among my favorite seasons. (Spoilers: It’s a 4-way tie.)

How was your summer? What’s your favorite season and why?

What I learned when my kids went on vacation

Last year, we sent the kids to their grandparents for two weeks out of necessity. As in: this move is NOT going to happen unless I get these kids out of here. I’d come to the end of my abilities to pack boxes and clean and move stuff with two summer-lovin’ children under foot, so we begged (I mean, it didn’t take much) the grandparents to find it in their hearts to save these poor children from their stressed-out parents.

They obliged. We moved. And we all lived happily ever after.

Then summer happened again, only this time there was not a pressing need to send the children away. But work schedules being what they are, Camp Nana and Papa as we’re calling it, has become our summer thing, and this year it again stretched almost two weeks because that’s what had to happen.

I’m writing this now while the house is still quiet and the kids are off visiting baseball’s greatest stadium (Wrigley Field, if you didn’t know) for the first time, but by the time you read this, we’ll all be together again in a van hugging the mountainous curves of Pennsylvania on our way back home.

I’ll admit: I felt selfish when I told people the kids were going away for two weeks. I mean, it’s not like I have another job and need someone to take care of them for me, and even though it’s hard sometimes and I’m exhausted, it’s not like I wasn’t going to survive summer if they didn’t go. I didn’t need them to go, but I wanted them to go, and I will tell you without hesitation that I look forward to days when my time is more flexible on a regular basis.

But I will also tell you that the idea of nearly two weeks without my kids terrified me. I had plans, no doubt, but I was worried that with so much time, I would end up doing none of the things I had planned.

Do we look too eager?

Do we look too eager?

That partially came true. My house is still messy in spots. I have not cleaned like I thought I would. I talked myself out of having a yard sale and took the stuff to Goodwill instead. (Because really, an introvert’s nightmare is inviting strangers to stop by your house all morning and dig through your unwanted stuff and maybe make conversation.) I barely kept the dishes clean, which happens during an average week in our house.

This vacation was not a total loss, though. Far from it.

Here are some things I learned:

  • My friend Alison invited me to share her favorite writing spot so we could be introverts together.

    My friend Alison invited me to share her favorite writing spot so we could be introverts together.

    Alone time is good but it can easily turn into loneliness. I enjoy solitude. And quiet. And with a husband who works a full-time job with sometimes odd hours, I got a lot of that. I read many books. I wrote. And eventually, I got lonely. He would come home from work and I’d talk his ear off for 20 minutes straight because I hadn’t uttered a single solitary word out loud all day. When my life is busy with kids all day, I don’t think I need anymore of people. But, as it turns out, I might be lonelier than I think. News flash: introverts need people, too. We just don’t always need them as much as extroverts.

  • I have a lot of feelings. The first day without my kids, I was tired from a long day of driving and dealing with a lot of emotional thoughts. I cried for the better part of a day. I’m not usually a frequent crier because I don’t make regular space in my life to deal with my emotions, so when a major event triggers the tears, a flood of biblical proportions occurs. When I’d gotten past that day, I figured I was good to go. Then one night, Phil came home from work and I just cried without a reason, at least not one I could identify. I concluded that I had more time to think and feel and think about how I feel, which set me off again. I don’t think these are bad things, at all. I think it’s a sign that maybe I need to let myself sit with my feelings more instead of pushing them into a back closet because I don’t have time to deal with it.
  • My mom is a superhero. I’m pretty sure this has been true my whole life, but I’m only now seeing the irrefutable evidence. Every day, she posted pictures to Facebook of all the fun things they were doing. Legoland with their uncle! Parade! Carnival! Splash pad! McDonald’s for every meal! Fireworks! Gardening! A trip to Wrigley Field! It wore me out just thinking about it. (And did I mention she doesn’t drink coffee? She MUST have a superpower called unlimited endurance.) I’ve slept in past 8 a.m. more days these last two weeks than I’ve probably done in the last six years. She makes it look easy, but then again, I am just getting the Facebook version. (No offense, Mom. You’re still a star in my book!)

    Let's make our own Tie-dyed T-shirts! Why not?!

    Let’s make our own Tie-dyed T-shirts! Why not?!

  • I’m not responsible for an unforgettable summer. When school ended, we had plans. We were going to do family things and go on adventures and make summer memorable. And now it’s halfway through July and we’re headed to the beach soon and we’ve barely come up for air since the first week school was out. Then I remembered all the fun things the kids have been doing with grandparents (see above) and the experiences Phil and I have had with and without them and our upcoming beach trip. And I realized: they’ve ALREADY had one heck of a memorable summer! So, thank you, grandparents all around, for making memories with our children so I don’t have to wear  myself out entertaining them daily.

My kids have been my best teachers these last six years. Now I know their absence can serve as the same.

Have you ever been separated from your kids, spouse or parents for an extended period? What did that time teach you?

Why my kids will never leave me

She squeezes my neck and wraps her legs around my middle.

“I’m going to give you the biggest hug ever,” she says.

The world around us drifts away as all my senses narrow in on this one moment.

“Promise to miss me?” I whisper as I look into her eyes, the tears already pooling in mine.

“I promise.”

She jumps into the car that will take her away for two weeks and waves “bye.” I circle the car to redeem a promised hug from my son and he doesn’t stop talking until I almost squeeze him too hard.

More hugs. More waves. A tearful good-bye in the parking lot of a Ruby Tuesday in Somewhere, Indiana and then they’re off and we’re off and I’m sloppy crying all over the dash of our now quiet, half-empty van.

kids with nana and papa

They were happy and safe, our kids, in the capable hands of their grandparents, and this was not the first time we’d sent them away.

Two weeks without them was cause for both celebration and sorrow.

The tears were a bit of both.

She hands the baby and pack of wipes to her husband, who takes both and the hand of their young son and wanders to the video game area while she retreats back to the bathroom.

A move I well remember.

She lingers at the mirror as she washes her hands, checking her reflection, and I can almost hear her thoughts. Maybe this is her first chance to pause all day.

We have done this, traveled with babies, and I remember the exhaustion of changing diapers then taking my break or tag-teaming at the rest stop. I remember desperately and silently pleading that they would sleep for just one hour so we could have a noise break in the car.

The memories pushed forward through time until they were almost happening live as I watched this young family.

My kids were in another car in another state.

But for a moment, I forgot they weren’t with me.

My kids will never leave me.

Years ago I would have protested that statement, wanting nothing more than relief from the demands of parenting little ones.

Someday, I thought, they’ll be gone and we’ll have our days to ourselves again.

I believed that because we’ve been parents most of our married years, there would come a day when we would gain a measure of freedom. Parenting is exhausting and the thought that it might NEVER END filled me with dread.

Someday, they’ll leave. It became the mantra that would get me through the toughest days.

I lived for “someday.”

But the truth I’m discovering is both better and worse.

They will never leave because they are imprinted on our lives.

My heart bears their handprints; my soul their footprints and I cannot look at the world around me without thinking of them.

We pass construction equipment and I turn to tell my son, only to remember he’s not there. A train winds through the mountains and I point, ready to announce it before remembering the back seats sit empty.

Even in the silence, my husband and I recite the funny things our kids have said. I hear our daughter’s made-up songs in my head.

Because these two little humans have changed us forever and whether we know them for another day, another decade or nearly a lifetime, we are permanently marked.

I know now why women with grown children still tell the stories of their kids’ childhoods, why the growing up seasons are hard to accept.

I want my kids to grow up, to mature appropriately and become who God intends.

But wanting that does not mean I want to forget or erase the memories.

I want to remember.

I wake to a quiet house, well past my normal time to get up.

Husband at work, kids on vacation, and the house is mine for the day.

In half-awake, half-slumber, I’m sure I hear the kids rustling around in their room, certain their giggles fill the hallway as they greet the day.

But no, I remind myself, they’re not here right now.

It’s only the memories.

The house is quiet and empty of people but it’s full of memories.

And I’m beginning to think the best kind of life is the one that remembers.

To the mom at the grocery store trying to make ends meet

I used to love grocery shopping, especially in the early days of my relationship with my husband when we planned meals together and had oodles of time to wander the aisles dreaming of dishes to create together in the kitchen or daring to try something completely new.

Photo by Jenny Rollo, courtesy of www.freeimages.com

Photo by Jenny Rollo, courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com

Then we had kids. And we made decisions that affected our finances and before long grocery shopping was a necessary evil. A stress-inducing, let’s-get-this-over-with errand. Even then, though, we had flexibility to shop during the daytime hours. On rare occasions we’d find ourselves in a pinch for dinner at the end of a long week and we’d be in the store scanning the aisles for something quick and not too expensive. Because take-out or pizza delivery wasn’t an option. That’s where we first saw you. Maybe you were a working single mom in the same boat as us, looking for a quick meal at the end of a long week. Or maybe your situation was otherwise. But here’s what I want you to know: I see you. And not in the oh-look-at-her-can-you-believe-some-people-are-like-that kind of way. I. See. You. I know you think people are staring at you and judging your decisions and coming up with all kinds of neat and tidy solutions for your life that they know nothing about. I know this because I’ve done that, to my regret, and I’ve felt that unseen pressure to hide what’s in my cart, to shush my children so they don’t say anything that would draw attention our way. I’ve fumbled with my money and my WIC checks and my SNAP card at the register, certain that everyone in line is both staring and trying not to stare at the circus act that is our family. If you catch me looking at you, it’s not to judge or stare. It’s because I want to see you. I want to look at your face and smile. I want to tell you you’re doing fine and you’ll get through this. I want to. But I probably won’t because my courage leaves me the moment I open my mouth. I see you. And I hear you. Ridiculous, right? Because who doesn’t hear you snapping at your kids asking them to just make a frickin decision? It’s hard not to notice the frustrated words that come out of your mouth. Maybe other people can tune them out, but I don’t do that because the words I hear from your mouth are the same ones I’m thinking and sometimes saying. I’ve wandered the aisles muttering, speaking forcefully to my kids when they’re misbehaving. I’ve threatened and yelled and sighed with exasperation. So, I hear you, but I don’t blame you. I know that it’s hard to make one more decision in a long line of decisions you make every day and hour to keep your family afloat. And the grocery store isn’t exactly peaceful. I see you. I hear you. And I know you. I know you’d love nothing more than to fill your grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables but when it’s a choice between eating for a week or eating for a day, eating for a week, even when it’s not the food you want to eat, wins every time. And I know you feel like a bad mom when your kids ask for grapes and you have to say “no” because when you get home the grapes will be gone faster than a snowball in July and you know that the $5 or $6 you spent on grapes could have bought five boxes of pasta instead. I know that some days you’d rather have anything else than peanut butter and jelly, and that you know ramen noodles aren’t healthy but cheap and filling. I know you aren’t ignorant and I know you want what’s best for your kids, but sometimes, the best is too far out of reach. I know. And I’m sorry. It’s a battle our family is still fighting as we emerge from our lowest point, financially. But can I also tell you this? Your kids see you, too. I know you feel unappreciated and like all they do is take and you have nothing left to give. But someday, they will know, too. They’ll remember all the days you did your best with what you had. They’ll remember what a treat it was to have ice cream. They’ll see how you sacrificed yourself for their good. They’ll see, and I hope they’ll thank you. In the meantime, keep the faith. Do what you have to and don’t worry about the people who think you should be doing something else. And if a strange woman gives you a smile and gushes nonsense in the grocery aisle, just know she’s trying to help you feel noticed.

When it’s Father’s Day and I remember

When Throwback Thursday comes around each week, I find myself thumbing through a bin of photos looking for just the right one to capture that week’s sentiment. More often than not, I spend a whole morning looking and remembering.

A few weeks ago I found a bunch from a family vacation we took out West to Utah and Arizona in 1993. The one where we drove through the desert and saw awe-inspiring rock formations and stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon breathless and speechless.

My brother is that white speck at the bottom.

My brother is that white speck at the bottom.

Later that week, I was thinking about all the places I want my kids to see in their life. How I want to take them to Niagara Falls because it’s closer than it ever was from where I grew up. How I want them to experience people and places all over the world. How I want them to remember road trips as fun and exciting, not torturous boredom. (Our daughter just agreed that traveling U.S. Route 30 from here to our hometown sounded like fun. Parenting win!)

I want them to see beyond the small slice of the world we live in. And I have my dad to thank for that.

Last year, I wrote a little bit about my dad, but recently I’ve discovered another way he has quietly shaped my life: He planted in us–my brother and me–a sense of adventure.

My dad showing us how tall this tall cactus really was!

My dad showing us how tall this tall cactus really was!

I was not what you would call a risky child. Constantly worried about doing the wrong thing or getting in trouble, I was a stick-to-the-rules-and-nobody-gets-hurt kind of girl. And trying new things was not high on my list any day of the week.

But I remember loving the idea of seeing new places.

I couldn’t tell you from memory what our first family vacation was, but I can tell you that I remember taking them.

The one that probably stands out the most is the one I mentioned earlier. It was our longest trip by car, spanning two weeks, and we packed a lot of sightseeing into those weeks. (And remember this was before the days of Google and GPS, so we planned our trip with maps and travel brochures. Old school!) Arches National Park. Zion National Park. The Grand Canyon. Utah. Arizona. And lots of places between there and our home state, Illinois.

What I always remember from those trips, imperfect as they were, is my dad. He made sure we experienced things in our childhood that were missing from his. When he saw the Grand Canyon, it was his first time also. Sharing that awe gave me a greater appreciation for whatever we were experiencing. No matter what we were doing, Dad made it an adventure.

We had this sort of unofficial rule that we couldn’t eat at places we could eat at if we weren’t on vacation. We avoided McDonald’s and Wendy’s whenever possible so we had to try new things.

Confession: This terrified me. I was so insecure in my growing up years that I didn’t know what I liked, including what I liked to eat. Ordering at a familiar restaurant was easy because I would usually just get the same thing every time. New places, though. I could hardly make up my mind and would usually just panic at the last minute and order the first thing I saw. I also had an overactive imagination (serves me well as a writer though!) so I’d imagine all the trouble we’d find by visiting a new place.

For my dad, though, it was part of the adventure. And a necessary part of the adventure. I don’t remember every off-the-beaten-path place we’ve been to, but I know my husband once found his new favorite barbecue sauce at a joint attached to a gas station. If we’d been traveling alone, we might have missed it, but my dad pulled in ready to try something new. We’ve eaten at family restaurants and new-to-us fast food places.

And I survived every single one of them.

With two young kids who I’d only call picky about when they eat not what they eat, we don’t do this enough on our travels, but my husband has a similar sense of adventure to my dad, and he builds on my childhood experiences by taking me places I’d never venture into alone. (And trust me, I’m not sorry he does it. I’d have missed out on a bacon milkshake if not for my husband.)

I’m still less of an adventurer than some people I know. I won’t be the first to volunteer for something new and even when trying something new, I’m still hesitant sometimes. I still crave the familiar and comfortable but my life is so often enriched by the unfamiliar that I’m learning to embrace those times.

I don’t know if my dad knew that’s what he was doing all those years we went on vacation or if he just brought us along on trips he thought would be fun. But I can definitely say that my increasing love of travel, of seeing new places, of visiting local eateries, started with him.

So, even though it’s hard beyond words sometimes that our family lives 800 miles from our families and hometown, our living in Pennsylvania is part of a lifelong adventure we’re passing on to our kids.

My dad took us across the country on vacation. That led me to take a trip across the ocean for a semester of college. Then it was a trip across the eastern states to make a life with my husband. Where it will lead next, I don’t know, but I’m so very thankful for a father who challenged us to see a world outside our hometown.

I’ve heard said that the best things parents can give their children is roots and wings. Because of mine, I have both. And so, I hope, will my kids.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad and all the dads out there!

What is one thing you’ve learned from your father?

What the next few months might look like {otherwise known as summer!}

Today marks the first day of summer break, which also means it’s the beginning of the first summer of two children home all day after having one in school all day all year long.

Pray for me.

I joke. A little. But I’m determined to make our summer fun and relaxing since last summer was full of stress and moving and settling in and all kinds of new things and did I mention stress?

So, the kids and I are going to have fun. And sometimes my husband will be with us. And I might be able to pause to tell you about the things we’re doing.

And I might not.

So if things get a little quiet around here, just imagine us having all kinds of summer fun. Or me tearing my hair out. Or children fighting because they of so much togetherness. Because all of that and more is what’s in store for us this summer.

I can’t commit to blogging regularly while keeping the kids entertained, or at least occupied, for the whole summer. So, I’m giving myself the freedom to walk away, if  necessary. You’ll still see some book reviews here because for me, summer is about TONS of reading. And some of you will be ecstatic to know that one of my book-related goals this summer is to finally read all–yes, ALL!–of the Harry Potter books. A dear friend is loaning me the ones from her personal collection. The first two wait patiently on my bookshelf. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you want to see all of what I’m reading (all the time, not just in summer) you can find me on Goodreads. There’s a link to my profile on the right side of the blog.

And I doubt I’ll be able to give up Facebook and Twitter or Instagram for the summer, so feel free to look me up there, too.

I hope you have a wildly fun summer. And a relaxing one. And that you find joy whatever the months ahead bring.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you around!

5 on Friday: kidisms

I don’t want to bore you with all the reasons my kids make me laugh, but it’s time for another installment of “Things My Kids Say That Make Me Laugh.”

kids picnic

 

Here are five of the recent gems.

  1. The kindergartener (like all other elementary school girls in the U.S.) belts out “Let it go, let it go…” (Frozen soundtrack, in case you live under a rock … and if you do, I might join you there). Her brother quips, “Let what go?” His comedic timing is perfect, even if it’s unintentional.
  2. They were playing together in another room when the kindergartener came running in: “Mom, Corban says I’m a tattle-taler and I’m not!” I had a hard time not laughing at her when she said it. I can’t wait till she understands irony.
  3. I spent two hours this week (in one day) coloring with my son. When our daughter came home from school and noticed the pictures, she said to me, “Did you color those?” I told her I did. She said, “Those are beautiful. Almost as beautiful as mine.” Um, thank you?
  4. We were talking about the plan for Saturday morning when my husband needed to drop me off at writers group, then come back and pick me up a few hours later before we took him to work. I mentioned there would be a funeral at the church so there might be a lot of cars. Our son immediately tuned in to the conversation: “Where’s the funeral? We’re going?” This made my husband and me laugh because earlier this spring we took our kids to two funerals in the span of a month. And to the four-year-old, it was no big deal that we might be going to a funeral. We’re so weird.
  5. And this same kid who used to be shy around people and new situations sits in the Chick-fil-A where my husband works and yells out “Hey, Matt!” and “Hey, Kim!” to my husband’s co-workers, even if they’re in the middle of a conversation. And it’s loud. And frequent. It’s hilarious. (Or not.)

Probably those were mostly “you had to be there” situations, but in case you have an active imagination and know our kids at all, you can get a good chuckle out of them.

A story 80 years in the making: Review of The Waiting by Cathy LaGrow

In 1928, a 16-year-old girl was assaulted in the woods by a stranger while attending a picnic. Months later she learned she was pregnant. Sent away to live, first, with relatives and then at a Lutheran home for unwed mothers, the girl became a mother faced with a choice: give her daughter up for adoption to a family or keep her and live with the stigma of being a single mother.

She’d carry the decision to give up her daughter, whom she named Betty Jane, mostly in secret for almost 80 years. And then a miracle answer to prayer: a phone call would reunite the two women and renew a relationship that even eight decades couldn’t destroy.

the waitingThis is the story of The Waiting, a debut book by Cathy LaGrow, whose grandmother is the woman, Minka, who gave up the child and on her daughter’s 77th birthday prayed for a chance to see her baby girl one more time. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

So much more than a family history, The Waiting is a stunning narrative that reads like a novel. (It could be a movie and we’d all be ugly crying. It’s that good.) LaGrow, and contributor Cindy Coloma, have pieced together a story that spans almost a century, thousands of miles and two families connected by blood but with no idea either existed.

I was impressed with the details and meticulous research, the emotions that practically jumped off the page. I could see the story unfold, and I’m so grateful for this family sharing their lives and the incredible way God brought together all things for good.

I was moved to tears and had to set the book down a few times for fear that if I engaged fully, I’d be unable to go on with my day. Steadfast love, forgiveness, sacrifice and so.much.joy make up the overall themes of this story.

By the end, I wanted to meet Minka, a remarkable woman of 100 years whose vigor, patience and dedication are inspiring. A story like hers could have easily died with her and reminded me of the importance of sharing stories across generations.

You can read the first chapter here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’ll want to keep reading.

It’s hard to imagine a woman living such a full life in spite of the crushing loss. And it’s harder to imagine that God could bring such beauty out of the brokenness. But she did and He did and The Waiting tells it beautifully.