Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Contemplative Christmas Letter

It is the season of Christmas, lights, miracles, family and friends. Of candy canes, shopping malls, presents and laughter. Of champagne, glorious food and music. As all my friends and family undoubtedly know, I love this time of year.

This Christmas season, I find myself in overwhelming awe of my blessings. With another baby on the way, I find myself contemplative, reflective, and no doubt, emotional. And in the past year, while more fully realizing all that I have to be grateful for, I find myself confused.

Jason and I just watched Romero, the film looking at the life and work of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who thirty years ago was murdered for his stand against violence, his plea for dignity, freedom and peace for his people. The people of El Salvador are shown to be in a state of destitute that I will never comprehend, as I'm not sure any modern American could, for they are in constant fear of murder, torture, rape and kidnapping.

I am unsure of the state of El Salvador today. In fact, I am not a very worldly person and am unsure of the state of government in basically every country, including our own. But I do know this: I was born into a country, into a neighborhood and into a family where on the very first day I came into the world, I received more blessings than so many will ever know in their lifetime.

Why? Why me? These questions and realizations stir a deep sense of guilt in me, as well as the feeling that I am undeserving.

When I read the news or watch films like Romero, I am plagued with further questions. As an American, middle-class stay at home mom, I simply try to live a good, Christian life, to raise my family the best I know how and to have some fun as well. What could I possibly do to influence the state our world is in? How can I help those suffering on the other side of the world? How can I help those suffering in my own city?

And when these thoughts stir in me, I experience a crushing sense of helplessness.

So many of the things I do in my life can seem petty. Wrapping Christmas presents. Dusting. Doing laundry. Grocery shopping. Cleaning up pee off of the floor. Christmas decorations. What is it all for?

Please don't mistake me, I am not pitying myself. And I am not undermining the importance of the work that I do, or the work of so many of the other mothers I am blessed to know. I chose this life very intentionally and with pride and I am so grateful to be able to do it. But sometimes the lifestyle of Americans and of our culture can seem so meaningless. What is my purpose in this life, in this world? Is there something more I can or should be doing?

 Burdened by this confusion, I spoke with my mom about some of these thoughts a couple of weeks ago. She, like any wonderful mother, thinks I am a perfect angel and need not worry about these things. She reminded me of the work Jason and I do for Engaged Encounter. And she also spoke of a different type of suffering, a different type of poor--one that is around all of us despite all of our blessings. The poor in Spirit.

It seems that our culture is so full of people who are lost, who are sad, who are angry and who are without hope. Drugs, pornography, guns, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, addictions to work, addictions to shopping, depression--these things are a darkness cast in our society whose shadows are foreign to me, and yet are very real problems right here, right now.

And further still, there are seemingly smaller problems: selfishness, rudeness, loneliness, sadness, unfriendliness, laziness, addiction to technology, boredom and indifference. These ailments of course seem trivial to many of those we hear about occurring in other parts of the world. But do they not cause a slow "death?" Are they not the reason for the poor in Spirit here among us?

I may not have the funds right now to support the causes I would like to. I certainly do not have the time to volunteer for every organization I think worthy. I may not be able to pack up all my belongings right now and travel to a struggling part of the world where they need my help. I wish I could do all of these things. With all of my heart, I wish I could.

But I am rich in Spirit.

In my adult life so far, this is the one constant I hear. Passion, enthusiasm, energy, spark; these are part of who I am. I am so in love with my husband, with my family and with my life, and this creates a joy in me that others witness.

So this Christmas season, I may weep for those I cannot help in El Salvador. I may feel sad that I cannot buy all of the gifts I would like to for my friends and family. I may feel frustrated that this six month pregnant body is just too tired to do everything I would like to.

But I can be rich in Spirit. I can smile. I can laugh. I can be generous with what I have. I can be compassionate, kind and forgiving. I can try to be more patient with my children. I can let my loved ones know just how much I love them.

For now, that is what I have to offer. It is not glamorous. It is not epic. But that is what I can do right now.

This is the season of hope. Let us not dwell on all we cannot do, but thrive in all that we can.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Original Mamma

Here's something that I wrote for the original Mamma - my mom. I was away from home, caring for a sick child and pondering where I have learned the maternal instincts that I have. That is, if you can "learn" instinct. Or maybe it's simply passed down . . .

Maternal Immortal

Born from your womb,
Your spirit begot mine.
Thy blood is my blood,
So my veins are thine.

As my fingers are placed
On his feverish brow,
So present is your hand -
Willing mine now.

Natural touch, ease and grace
Are passed down the line;
Instilling instinct,
So my wisdom is thine.

From child to child
As loving arms embrace,
Forever babes will be cared for
By hands given thy grace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting Older . . . Maybe Not So Bad?

Everyday we are bombarded with all of the reasons that getting older sucks. On TV, in magazines, in books, on the shelves of Walgreens - we can never escape this idea. We are constantly reminded of many bereavements to come: crows feet, sun spots, memory loss, breasts that may not be quite as perky, stretch marks, gray hairs and on and on and on.

Well, I would like to take this time to remind everyone (including myself) that there are also some really wonderful things about the aging process.

The most obvious of these is wisdom. For instance, I have started a vegetable garden this year for the first time, and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. But I am enjoying it a lot, and it is exciting to know that in twenty years I will (hopefully) have gained a lot of knowledge.

That is a very pragmatic example, but obviously the benefits of gained wisdom reach to all areas of our lives. I have noticed that this extends to my own vanity. Those who know me know that I am a girly girl and love to do my hair and make-up and put on a party dress. But still, I also don't care quite as much as I used to. My weight and my appearance are no longer such a high priority. That's not to say that I'm "letting myself go," but these things just aren't as important to me because I now have so many more aspects of my life that I cherish.

We just returned from another fabulous week-long Fourth of July vacation with my family in Chelan. It is always a week of fun, relaxation and . . . gluttony. Yes, we sure know how to eat (and drink) while we are on vacation. So I got on the scale Saturday morning and had gained a few pounds. But this is not the crises it used to be, nor am I feeling guilty for enjoying my family vacation. It is what it is and I am eating very healthfully this week and it will come off. But it is only through having experienced this vacation seventeen times that I have gained the wisdom to know this. No need to freak out and no need for dieting. (One of these days I'll write a post about why this mamma has given up "dieting" like, for eternity.) In the mean time, I will only wear a large moomoo until those extra pounds are off. Just kidding. Sort of ;)

Another aspect of getting older that I am appreciating is my heightened sense of appreciation! For example, I used to think only old farts really got into enjoying a scenic drive. I mean, come on, it's just like mountains and rocks and trees and sky and water and stuff. What's the big deal? Well, apparently I am officially an old fart, because I was riveted (yes, riveted) by the drive from Leavenworth to Chelan. So much that I wrote the following poem in the car.

So, I hope you can appreciate it and cheers to getting older!

Highway 2

I see this land again for the first time;
Shadows of clouds, cuts of rock, naked my eye.
A beauty so breathtakingly bright,
My eyes squint, shocked by the light.

Glimpses of God;
In the clouds' glow, their billow.
Hints of heaven;
In the elegance of trees, the weep of the willows.

Oh River, reveal your majesty--
I long to follow thee
Between the hills, into the lush, emerald valley
Where the sky reaches down its fingers, touching me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Romance

Well, our summer is off to a scrumptious start. Particularly yesterday was a wonderfully memorable day . . .

A 5:00 am wake-up call isn't usually my idea of a great way to begin a Saturday morning, but this was an exception. After a surprisingly good night of sleep despite a stomach full of nerves and sleeping away from home (on the most oddly comfortable sleeper sofa ever made), I woke to the sound of my best friend Jenny making a pot of coffee. Quickly up and at 'em, we ate a light breakfast with another great friend, Kelly, who is also my training partner; nibbling on bananas, discussing pre-race jitters, cradling mugs of coffee in nervous hands.

The Seattle Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon began for us at about 7:40 am after spending an hour in race-day traffic driving what would normally be about a ten minute trip and waiting in line with many of the other 25,000 participants to have our turn to make a deposit in a honeybucket before the run.

I felt pretty confident during the race, especially as I was much more relaxed having completed the same run a year ago. My excitement and adrenalin caused me to take off probably a little too fast during the first few miles, trying to navigate my way through the herds of runners. I finished with a time of about 2 hours 4 minutes - not too shabby. But I was hoping to get a little closer to setting a PR from my time last year, which was about 1 hour 57 minutes.

A little frustrated, it was difficult not to be upset with being so far off. As Jenny said several times before the race, it all comes down to just one day. Months and months of training. So to not perform as well as I know I can is discouraging. However, I also have to keep in mind that two weeks of my training were skipped in May due to illness and a hurt back. Also, just this past week I was nervous about whether or not I'd even be able to run the race as I was sick again. So, as usual, I need to not be so hard on myself. I've got two half marathons under my belt! Plenty to be proud of. And as Jenny pointed out, it's just all the more reason to train for another race; can't wait to get that time down to 1:56:59! :)

The memory making didn't finish at the finish line. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. After arriving home, eating saltines and ginger to settle my stomach, stretching, icing and a nap, my darling step-daughter, Adrienne, arrived. She will be staying with us for about a month and we are so excited about the weeks we get to spend with her. She will be thirteen in September and may pass me up in height (and possibly maturity) while she is with us. On the calendar during her visit is a week long vacation with my family to Lake Chelan over the Fourth of July and maybe a showing of one of the 2010 summer movies, Eclipse. I've read all the books, but haven't seen any of the movies, so it should make a great opportunity for a no-boys-allowed night out.

After an afternoon of resting and visiting, I got to get all dolled up to attend a beautiful wedding with Jason for a friend from childhood, Lisa Winterroth, whom I've known since I was five. Not only was the wedding immaculate, but I was able to catch up with many old friends and dance the night away with the love of my life. I've really got to give Jason some props - he is turning into quite the dancer! Who knew?! It is such a pleasant surprise almost seven years into our marriage, as dancing is just about heaven on earth for me, especially when I'm grooving with my other half.

It was so inspiring to be hand in hand with my darling love, watching a father achingly hand over his daughter to her groom, witnessing another couple in love, stars in their eyes and smiles on their faces, recite solemn vows to one another in front of the world, making the same commitment to one another as my Jason and I made to each another on our magical day. Our life together began with a day of enchantment that continues as I swayed in the arms of my love seven years later, realizing for the thousandth time that I am even more in love with him.

Jason - you are the continuous miracle in my life. I love you.

After the gorgeous ceremony with this breathtaking view, just after the couple walked down the aisle, a large bald eagle flew overhead in the clear, blue sky. It was as if instead of releasing doves, an eagle was set free, flying low and in great view, a symbol of the purity and strength of the vows just made.

As you can see, the bride was a vision and her groom, charming. Cheers to the new married couple!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Aquaman and the Super Eye of Compassion

Oh, we parents. We're kind of ridiculous, aren't we? If you have spawn, you know what I am talking about. Ya know, with the competitiveness and the comparisons. At some point, I think we all can get a little crazy with the desire for our little Tommy to run faster than little Jimmy. Or score more baskets. Make more money. Read sooner. Walk sooner. Get better grades. Look prettier. Sing prettier. Eat more vegetables. When you think about it, we're kind of like toddlers, aren't we?

Well, I had slowly been feeding this little monster for the past couple of months until everything came to a halting end on Tuesday. Joshua and Noah have been taking swimming lessons, and as Noah was still two, I had to be in the pool with him for the "Tots" class. Within Noah's class were little tots ages two to probably as young as six months. Noah was probably the oldest and his teacher, Ms. Vala, would just rave about him. She would constantly use him as the example and said that he was definitely more advanced than the students even in the next class up.

Well, Tuesday was the beginning of a new session. Noah is now three years old and began the next class in which mommy is no longer in the pool with him. And thus disappeareth our little Aquaman. He has hardly been in the pool at all and firmly dislikes his teacher. In Noah's defense, his teacher is kind of creepy looking and is not the best with getting toddlers to warm up to him. Um, maybe a smile would help?!

What's funny is that I was so proud of Noah! Not just in a good, Christian way, but also in an immature, gloating kind of way: "Ha, ha, ha! Look at all of you stupid parents with your stupid babies who can't even back float! Stop wasting your time and get out of the way for my little (trumpet tooting: Bum-ba-da-da!) Aquaman!" Okay, it wasn't quite that bad.

As parents, I think that sometimes out of our own insecurities, we can judge other parents' decisions and approaches and even their children. Parenting is challenging, frustrating and confusing and in order to build our own confidence, we may occasionally observe other families with a critical eye. But this is exactly the opposite of what we need to do so that we can cope with the challenges, frustration and confusion of parenthood. Rather than burning bridges with judgment and criticism, we should be building them so that we may have the support that we need from our peer parents.

One area that this is challenging for me is when a group of parents begin discussing anything related to their children's school or education. I struggle because I feel that when I express my opinion at all, if the parent knows that we are homeschooling, they become defensive. I understand it. I really do. They feel that because we are homeschooling, we are saying that the public school system is not good enough for us. And of course, like all things, it is much more complicated that that.

But please, let me assure you of the following:

We are not sitting in judgment of every family in the world that doesn't homeschool. 


We do not believe that every family in the world should homeschool.

Yes, we believe in homeschooling. Of course we do! And we believe that any of the wonderful parents that we know could do it, if they wanted to. That's the clincher. You don't have to be trained in teaching. You already are the perfect teacher for your children - think of all the things you've already taught them. But you do have to want to do it. Without that desire, homeschooling is not the right option for your family. And you can't fake it. 

We have not been given any more patience or teaching ability than any other parent. But we have been given this desire to approach our children's education differently. We didn't go out and pursue or seek this desire. It just happened. Just like you may have the desire to read to your child at bed time, or be active in their school, or coach their soccer team, or wrestle with them in the living room, or teach them to ride their bike. God gave all parents the abilities, skills, inclinations and wisdom needed to raise their children. All of the parents we are blessed to know are the perfect parents for their children and make the best choices for their families.

My very best friend has recently been reluctant to share with me some of the struggles that she was having with her son. She was afraid that I would judge, that I would be listening to her hardship thinking, "Well, why don't you homeschool?" And her fear was real because we all judge. At times, we all do it. Whether it be about swimming lessons, discipline, breastfeeding or homeschooling, we all do it. And even though my best friend knows that I love her, that I think she's a fabulous mother and that I am always there for her, she was still scared to be kicked while she was down. I can understand that. Sometimes it's easier to put on a brave face than to admit the struggles we are currently facing as parents.

But in doing so, we are not creating the support we need to conquer this enormous task that God has given us. It takes a village to raise a child. And in this self-absorbed, fast-paced, lonely culture that we live in, it can be very difficult to find the village or community that we need.

I KNOW there will come a day when I am going to need a shoulder to cry on as we face the challenges of homeschooling. I will need the support of my family and friends. And I don't want to have to be afraid that they are thinking, "Well, why do you homeschool?"

As parents, we need to take off the gloves, to look not with an eye of criticism, but with an eye of compassion. To all of the amazing parents we know, thank you for being an inspiration to us, for helping us and supporting us on our journey. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Sorry that  I don't have much to report and that my blogginess has been somewhat neglected.

BUT - Great news! After about a nine month break, I am finally feeling inspired again and am continuing with my book! Pages are spilling out of me. Yes, yes, yes!!! I am so happy to be continuing with this story and that I am not abandoning my characters, dooming them to the fate of no ending.

So, my morning writing efforts have been applied to my book.

However, darling Noah does turn three next week. Three years old. Has it really been three years since I had a baby?

Wow. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

All About Eve

So let's talk about Eve. Yeah, like the first woman, Eve. So, here's a woman, one woman, who is entirely responsible for the hardships of womanhood. Cramps. PMS. Mood swings. Contractions. Episiotomies. Labor pains. Tampons. They're all her fault. Can you imagine that? What a burden to carry!

And there have definitely been months when dear Aunt Flo is making her visit and my uterus feels as though it is being wrung inside out and I am cursing the hell out of Eve, "Damn you Eve! There is no frickin' way any apple could have tasted good enough to be worth all this pain!"

So yeah, in my lowest of feminine moments, I find comfort in abominating Eve. It feels kind of good to have someone to blame. Stupid Eve.

On the other hand . . .

I love being a woman. For many of the very obvious reasons. Doing my hair. Wearing makeup. Haagen Daas. Carrying my babies in my womb. Nurturing my family. But it wasn't until recently that I've seen one of the annoying cursing-out-Eve aspects in a different light.

I don't need to explain to any woman, or any married man for that matter, the emotional roller coaster that we females ride on. At times I can feel quite guilty because I know that my man and my children are sometimes undeservedly on the receiving end. When I find myself livid over spilled milk, crying because my clothes aren't fitting how I'd like, yelling at my children to stop yelling or becoming misty eyed over a commercial, chances are that there just may be a few hormones racing through my body. Just maybe.

I really believe that no one's happy if Mama ain't happy and I fully realize that my mood truly sets the tone in our home. That's a big responsibility and one that I'm not sure I want to have. And with that there is a huge challenge in dealing with these hormonal mood crashes and also not being a complete monster to be around. I love my Midol, but apparently you need a prescription if "bitchy" is one of your symptoms.

But with the tumultuous emotional storms come the highs. And it is my hunch that because of our hormones, women may have a larger capacity for truly experiencing the heights of joy.

There are times that I just look at my family and cry. I feel such an abundance of gratitude, an overwhelming awe that I have been so lavishly blessed. I feel so elated and delighted with my life right now. Excited. Mirthful. Ecstatic. Jubilant. Gratified. Peaceful. I've never been a man, but do they feel these emotions the way we do?

Although it's pessimistic, I realize that this bliss will go away. Life will inevitably bring on its lows again. But right now, here in this moment, I am so thankful for finding and experiencing real joy.

And I think it's a fair trade. At times, I am a hysterical psycho-bitch.

But at other times, I am able to feel the epitome of high spirits.

So, I guess I should also thank Eve. As the mother of all mothers, the woman of all women, the absolute matriarch, thank you for making our sisterhood exactly what it is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Embarassing Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Okay, so I am a little mortified to admit this. I am trusting that anyone who knows me well enough to be reading my blog will not judge me. Right? There will be no judging???

So, here it goes . . .

Hulu has helped the state of my marriage. For those of you who don't know, as I didn't until recently, is this magical web site on which you can watch all of your favorite, latest television shows on your computer for free, whenever you want.

So again, yes, Hulu has helped the state of my marriage. Not that there was anything wrong to begin with. But to help you understand, picture this . . .

Our two sometimes monstrous children are finally in bed. Their parents, weary with the day's load, flop down onto the couch, our limbs like spaghetti noodles, limp and dangling at our sides, our necks too tired to hold up our heads. Perhaps we drool. One of us faintly moans as we extend our reach to the coffee table a whopping two feet away to grasp the television remote. For the rest of the evening, we stare at the screen with an occasional grunt, a scratch, a fidget and many peanut gallery comments from my one and only.

Or . . . Suzy Homemaker (that's me) goes about her tasks during the day with pep and gusto. Laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning are no longer chores, but exciting endeavors, for they can be accomplished while watching Parenthood, The Biggest Loser, The Marriage Ref, Everybody Loves Raymond or American Idol. At five o'clock, she greets her husband with a smile and a kiss. Post children's bedtime, she and hubby no longer play zombie, but have many more evenings devoted to conversation and other things.

Jason and I will be married for seven years this September. And last night, during one of these conversations, I learned more about Jason's job than I think I have during our entire relationship. He has had the same job since I met him, but it was just last night that I received a personal tutorial on the ins and outs of IT. Even more amazing than that is that I really found it interesting. I'm not quite there yet, but I am anxious to understand what vmware does and what a virtual server actually is.

So, I realize that this is a no-brainer, but I am reminded that frequent, real conversations with your spouse are pretty vital to the vitality of your marriage. And for Jason and I, if we are busy watching TV most evenings, there just isn't enough time left for that. Or other things.

So, thank you Hulu. Thank you for making it possible that this housewife will never again be subject to daytime television. Thank you for making primetime television viewable whenever I have socks to fold. And thank you to my husband for being my best friend who I just love to chat with and hang out with.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's So Great About Goals?

If I had to single out the biggest challenge in my life, I would say that it is undoubtedly time management. I have become a tight rope walker, balancing and staying centered, precariously carrying all of the aspects of my life. Occasionally my load becomes too cumbersome and if I don't drop something, I will lose my balance and fall.

For a long time, I have really pushed myself with questions like, What's next? What am I going to do now? What are my goals? Like a little honey bee, I search for my next flower; an area that needs growth, something I want to learn about, what I'm going to do next. In many ways, this is a part of myself that I really like. I am rarely bored and I feel this attitude helps me to grow and continue to be dynamic.

However, there is also a huge disadvantage to this train of thought: It can at times discourage contentedness.

When I am constantly striving for more, more, more and
str e e e e tching 
myself further with high ambitions, I fail to live in the present, to be satisfied with myself in this moment. In Terry Hershey's words, it is the "tyranny of pursuit." I am like a frantic shopper, always looking for the latest trend to buy only to become bored with my most recent purchase and replace it with another. Goals can be like that. What about simply being comfortable in your own skin? How many accomplishments do I need to accomplish before I am satisfied?

Another problem with goals is that you can lose yourself in your accomplishments and define yourself by them. There is a real danger in this. What will it mean if I don't accomplish a certain goal? Who am I then? Furthermore, I need to reflect on the reason for my aspirations. What need is this fulfilling? Or am I simply driven to this in order to stroke my own ego???

Of course goals in general are not inherently evil. But I do believe they can be taken too far, a means of boosting my own pride. The seesaw of self-confidence is a delicate balance. But for some of us, maybe we don't need to work on feeling better about ourselves. We live in a culture of me-ism, constantly told to "put ourselves first." And while I realize it is very important to take good care of yourself, a life of only "putting yourself first" should just be called what it is: a selfish life. How many magazine articles or episodes of Oprah are there about how to become more humble? How to work on humility? Self-sacrifice?

Lastly, sometimes goals can be self-defeating in that the means of obtaining them takes away from another priority in my life. Goals take time and time is a precious, hot commodity in my life; it seems that the supply can never meet the demand. This year I planned to run a full marathon in June; a bigger, better achievement than last year's puny half marathon. So I prepared my training schedule and have made it about halfway through. Several evenings a week, my darling Jason would walk in the door after a long day's work, and we would kiss goodbye as I walked out the door for my run. Family dinner time often had to be rearranged or sometimes just didn't happen because of this schedule. Jason and I didn't have as much time to talk.

Do you see the irony? In trying to accomplish yet another goal, I was taking too much away from other more important areas in my life.

I could run the full marathon. I know I'm capable. But I don't want to! I actually don't have to accomplish every feat that I could. I am under no obligation! This is such a freeing realization for me. A weight is lifted and I find myself with more time and energy free to talk to my husband, play with my children or take a nap.

No full marathon for me. I'm keeping it simple and sticking with the puny half :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

And Then He Turned Five - The Tale of Froggy

Well, there has been a plethora of evidence lately that Joshua is growing up. First was a sudden question that interrupted the silence while we drove home from grocery shopping today:

"What's a vulva?"

What???!!! For goodness sake, he's only four! Okay, he turns five on Saturday, but still--Isn't that a little young to be asking about the details of female anatomy? He goes on . . .

"Right there on the back of that car. V-O-L-V-O. Vulva."

Aaaaaaaah. Big sigh of relief and internal chuckle, snort. That particular conversation is not actually necessary just yet. Praise the Lord.

Then there was last night just before we went out for a nice dinner with some family - a big treat in our home. Joshua was all decked out with a button-down shirt, cords and "Church shoes." After I teased him a little bit about how all the girls at the restaurant were going to be checking out how handsome he was, he actually blushed and admitted, "It's just that I really like girls."

Oh really? Joshua has always had a coy, flirtatious demeanor with certain women - especially blonds. But this was more than that - a bold statement, a proclamation, evidence that my little boy is a man in the making! Okay, well that just might be putting a little too much weight on a four-year-old's words, but it was awfully cute.

To help you to understand the gravity of the last bit of evidence, I will have to give a little bit of history. When Joshua was three months old, we spent our traditional week-long summer vacation at Lake Chelan over the Fourth of July. We had a surprise baby shower for my sister-in-law who was due in December. They received a duck "buddy blanket" by Bunnies By the Bay. I had seen these before and wanted to get Joshua the frog buddy blanket. Upon arriving home, I extensively searched online only to find disappointment. That particular buddy blanket was not being made, yet I knew it was the right one for Joshua.

The very next week, Joshua was baptized. We celebrated afterward at my parents' house. When it came time for gifts, I opened a bag from my parents and inside was a frog buddy blanket.

"Where did you get this?"

"You won't believe this . . . "

My mother then explained how on that very morning, the mysterious frog blankie was found on the sidewalk in front of their house, with no owner in sight. The very same one I had been searching for to no avail. And because it was in good condition, she simply washed it and wrapped it up for him as a gift for his baptism. From that moment on, "Froggy" has never been left behind. For five years, it has been dragged along the path of Joshua's childhood, always present for every bump along the way. 

Fast forward about five years, and I kid you not, the same froggy which Joshua received on the day of his baptism was once again a symbol of God's grace in his life.

This morning, as we prepared to be gone for the afternoon, Joshua announced, "I think I am done with my froggy. I want to give it to Noah."

OK, I know that might not sound like a very big deal, but look at it this way. What is your most prized possession in the world? Could you give it away? I don't think I could! And this amazing boy is just five years old, ready to part with his most loved toy; the crutch he has leaned on whenever in need of comfort for his entire life.

I was speechless. But upon further questioning, I found that Joshua was quite serious. He was done with Froggy and ready to pass it on.

I have praised him all day for his decision, and tonight we took him to the mall to purchase a surprise, early birthday gift. We visited Build-A-Bear and Joshua was able to help construct his chosen camouflage teddy bear, pick out his fisherman's outfit and then very appropriately name him Fisher.

Right now he sleeps Froggy-less, his discarded treasure in his brother's bed.

This evening before bed we read part of the story of Moses out of a children's Bible. This section explained that the king would not listen to God, so bad things happened to him.

Afterwords, I explained to Joshua that when we listen to God and do what is right, good things happen. I told him that because he chose to give away his Froggy, it gave me the idea to go get him a more big-boy stuffed animal for his birthday, and so now he had his new bear. I explained that this was God bringing something good into his life.

And how did he respond?

He looked into my eyes and stated simply, "I think that God was telling me inside that I should give my frog to Noah."

And so here I am, five years into motherhood, and I am in awe of God's work in my own life as well as the life of my son. Joshua proved to us very quickly that parenthood would be more difficult than we could ever have anticipated with his very strong will. I will never forget when he was one, I told him "no" as he got into something he was not supposed to, after which Joshua proceeded to toddle right on over to me and hit me.

How sweet it is to taste the other side of that, to feel some encouragement. Two family members have remarked recently how Joshua seems to be maturing.

Motherhood is difficult. And it will continue to be. I have been at my wit's end countless times and lost my patience just as much; but in the midst of chaos, frustration, anger and discouragement, I can be lifted up. By friends. By family. By Jason. And by my son.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Tiredness, an inevitability of parenting small children, ails me this week. There are several reasons: toddlers' nightmares, talking too late with Jason, marathon training, last weekend's trip to Portland, this weekend's catering job for 100 people and then of course, just the infinite cooking, cleaning, laundry and dishes dance.

So, yes, I have good reason to be tired, right? It's okay for me to have a week where I just get by, right? It's okay if all the cleaning doesn't get done, right? If we order pizza for dinner one night? If I don't get all my runs in? If we watch a little more TV? If there's laundry in the dryer from two days ago?

Hopefully you know that those questions are rheutorical. But then why don't I? Why do I still have this pressing sense of guilt when I have a week like this?

Yes, I am being a little bit lazier. Letting things slide some. There's definitely a long to-do list with not so many things getting done. I am on auto-pilot, accomplishing the minimum.

But here's the thing - both me and my family are in need of some downtime. So then by instating a temporary much more relaxed attitude, aren't I just giving my family what they need and taking care of myself? Why, oh why, the ever presence of guilt? It's like one of the mysteries of the world or something, because it makes absolutely no sense.It's like I feel guilty for being a good mom!

So I am banishing this weight from my shoulders, replacing it with gratitude. For I should be grateful. I have been granted a mother's instinct, an awareness of my family's needs, a grace which allows me to serve my family the best that I can.

And if that means I don't shower today, then so be it. Who am I to inhibit grace from working in my life?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thoughts of Spring

The Rising

Rise up blades of grass beneath my feet.
Rise up, fragile blooms, from the earth so sweet.
Rise up! Oh moon, come and light my dark.
Rise up! Oh Son, come and lift my heart.

Let the frost melt and the waters run
All over me, reborn in full immersion.
Let the cold winds lose their chill,
Growing warmer, spreading Your will.

Oh, Breath of Life, rise within me!
Fill me up,
Renew me.
I eagerly wait
And anticipate
Your coming and
Your rising.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thinking About Babies (No, I am not pregnant. Just Nostalgic.)

5 am Feeding

Tiny pink clouds and enormous blue skies;
I watch the day breaking within your eyes
And all wonder, all awe is caught in my throat
As the angels sing high and the angels fly low.

You dream your sweet little dreams in the land of nod.
Holding you, I raise a thousand prayers to the hands of God.
May you grow into the one the Lord intended you to be
And may I guide you well with the wisdom the Lord grants unto me.

May your faith grow strong as my love is now.
May your hopes be high and may you learn how
To reach for them till they’re within your tight grasp.
Dear Lord, please stop time and make this moment last.

Here in my arms I hold such a blessing, a treasure—
The Spirit in my hands; nothing can weigh or measure
The overflowing joy that this miracle provides.
Never have I seen such beauty; never have I been more alive.

With your hand in my hand,
Let your heart grow in mine.
May your blessings be many, my angel.
Ever do I love thee for I am ever thine.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dogs Are Not People

Dusk evolves into night as I hit the three mile point during my run. It is a slick, misty evening and my legs heavily pound onto the concrete. Running towards me is a fellow jogger, a leash dangling from her wrist with a very large husky attached. I slow my steps, waiting for her to pull her canine in closer to her side. She does not. In seemingly slow motion, I simultaneously run and balance on the edge of the sidewalk, and out of the corner of my eye, I see it happen. The dog, excited by a runner running away, lunges and I feel his snout brush my shoulder as he attempts to gnash his jaws down on me. The woman, acting surprised and flustered, offers no apology, but meekly scolds her pet, "No, Pongo, no."

Okay, well I've kinda had it with people and their dogs. And just to give you fair warning, this posting will not be politically correct.

What's funny is that I am a dog person. Every few months or so, I find myself on, searching for my canine friend. I want to have someone to go running with! Not this year, but perhaps next when we won't be gone so much.

And I believe that when you become a dog owner, you should also be given a manual on dog etiquette, which would include the following:
  • If you own a dog who is going to take a snap at others sharing the sidewalk, like perhaps innocent runners just trying to get a workout in, put a muzzle on it! Yes, a muzzle. Maybe that sounds a bit like Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, but I'm totally serious. Obviously your dog needs exercise. Obviously you will at times need to bring them into public. But I'm sorry, I should not have to worry about the safety of my shoulders or any other body part when I pass your pet on the sidewalk.
  • Do not let your dear pet wander your neighborhood. Either have them in a nicely fenced area where they will not be able to charge at me or tie them up. I can hear the protests already: "But my dog won't charge at anyone. My dog is very friendly. My dog won't hurt anyone!" Okay, cool. But the thing is, when I go running by your house and see an unfamiliar, large dog coming towards me, I don't know that. And neither do many of the postal workers and delivery workers that come into your neighborhood daily. The other thing that really bothers me about these protests is that they are so short-sighted. Dogs are animals and their behavior can be unpredictable. I'm pretty sure Roy Horn wasn't expecting his well-trained tiger to attack. The same can, and does, happen with dogs.
  • If you take your doggie walking by my lawn and they happen to decide that our mossy, dandeliony grass is the ideal dumping ground, please kindly clean up their crap. Cause if you don't, I'm going to save it for the next time you pass by and throw it at you
  • And lastly, please don't compare your dog to my children. It's insulting. My kids may act like animals a lot of the time, but what right do you have to point that out? Dog-ownership and parenthood are not the same. They're just not. Imagine if your own parents compared their love for you to their love for their dog. Would you swallow that very easily? Probably not. And with very good reason . . . 
Dogs are not people.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quote of the Week

Taking care of a child is like taking care of a
drunk person.

(Seriously - they pee on themselves, they shout unexpectedly, they shove peas up their noses, they're super emotional and irrational . . . It's like our home is a rehab center!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Avatar and Finding Your Snow Geese

James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora. Jo Piazza, CNN
Ummm, yeah. Please take another read of that excerpt, followed by a moment or two in which you allow yourself to give a little thought to this statement provided by a CNN news story found at

So, yes, I've seen Avatar 3D on the IMAX and most aspects of the film are above mediocre. But the beauty portrayed is simply amazing and unlike anything else. James Cameron utilizes flourescent and neon coloring in a way that I have never experienced--natural, magical and breathtaking.

So I can somewhat understand how a person may need a moment to readjust after witnessing that extent of beauty for nearly three hours, leaving it behind only to enter a dreary Seattle day.


But I have a very important piece of information to share with the rest of humankind:

It wasn't real. The planet of Pandora is imaginary.

I know, I know. Take a breath. Absorb it. Take it in. This is not a joke. Avatar is a fictional movie with the purpose of entertainment, which it fulfills very well. But again, it is not real.

And I'm sorry, but to compare our blessed Earth with computer generated images is ridiculously moronic and unfair, just as if you became disheartened after spotting a stallion because it had no wings, no color-changing flesh nor a twisted horn crowning its head. Stupid horses. Stupid regular earth.

More realistically, it is similar to those who are incapable of finding beauty in their own body or the forms of others as they have seen too many air-brushed magazine covers.

What is so ironic is that one of the main themes of Avatar is the appreciation of nature, which our society is so obviously lacking. Living in suburbia outside of a major city, I can appreciate how this lack of gratitude can come to be. I don't always seek out the beauty as I drive by Fred Meyer and the bank. Alicia Keys refers to New York City as a concrete jungle and it is very difficult to be aesthetically inspired by the concrete that we pass day after day after day. Surely an actual jungle would much more easily provoke a sense of awe.

But just as everything else in our lives, it is our intention, our disposition, our sentiment, our philosophy and our thoughts that so strongly affect our view, our perspective, our mood, our slant and our mindset. 

Think of it this way: 

Your thoughts become your thoughts. Your mindset becomes your mindset. 
Your mood becomes your mood. 

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with Jenny for a trip to Bellingham and back. On our trip home, we ventured off of the main highway for a lazy lunch in La Conner. As we winded our way over to the quaint town, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of hundreds, maybe thousands, of snow geese on the fields. After rolling down our windows, I felt the crisp breeze on my cheeks and listened to this choir of birds sing simply to sing, tears brimming at my lashes. It was a moment I will never forget.

But we could have. We could have kept our windows shut tight, continued chatting, remained unobservant of our surroundings or not allowed ourselves to be affected by them. They're just birds. It's not like they're purple or anything.

Oh how sad I feel for those who cannot understand this. And I realize that anyone who actually became depressed over Avatar was most likely depressed to begin with for probably much more serious reasons, making this type of appreciation all the more difficult.

But for anyone who ever finds themselves waking up on the wrong side of the bed for no good reason at all, who at times finds themselves irritated with the stupid sky that rains or with the lame-ass seasons, maybe try to find your snow geese. It helps. For my mom last week, it was a rainbow. As simple as that.

Be on the lookout.

I didn't have my camera when we experienced this, but with the permission of the photographer Jim Goldstein, I have included some photos that he took near La Conner in 2007. You can see more of his work at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Volcanoes and Life's Many Lessons

Our Volcano

I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma.  ~Eartha Kitt

Today we had our first chemistry lesson in the back yard:

Baking Soda + Vinegar = Awesome Volcano!!!

Yep, as many of you know, we're homeschooling. And with the new year, we're getting more into the thick of it. Joshua is almost five and Noah is 2 1/2. And so far, the more we get into it, the more confident I feel. Well, sometimes.

Take this week, for example. For about a year now, we have been reading The Magic Treehouse series. 
Just this book series alone has been such a wonderful tool in homeschooling. With each book, there is another topic for me to delve into with my sons. For about the past week, we have been reading Vacation Under the Volcano. From that, we of course begin studying volcanoes. And the natural progression from there is earthquakes. And BAM!, we have a natural way to discuss with our boys the tragedy in Haiti.

We have a lesson in compassion and empathy, in culture differences, in gratitude for our blessings, in geography, in current events, in geology and in prayer.

Of course, it's not always that simple. Homeschooling requires organization and planning. But as I've been sick this week, I've had a lot of time to rest on the couch and have worked a lot on our curriculum. But our lessons come very naturally. They are not really forced. They stem from what is going on in our life and from what books we are reading.

Next month, we will have a lot of lessons based on the Olympics. We will read about them, study their origin, have our own relay races, look up the countries of the competitors, and create art projects based on them, such as tissue-paper torches and our own paper flags. Did I come up with all of these ideas on my own? No! The internet has made searching for curriculum ideas so much easier.

So, yes, homeschooling is going very well right now.

And yet, last night, in my emotional, tired, sick state, I had a moment. It was 11:00 pm and Jason and I had just watched a very dumb movie, Post Grad. As ridiculously stupid as it was,  it still somehow forced me to be a bit reflective, and not in a good way.

What am I even doing with my life? How am I contributing to the world in any way? I feel so unimportant. I am not making any difference in this world. I will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on humankind. 

I am a stay-at-home mom who is homeschooling her kids. As long as everything goes well, this will be my life for the next twenty years or so. Cooking dinners. Cleaning toilets. Vacuuming. Creating lesson plans. Doing laundry. Etc, etc, etc. Do you see how I could feel a little, I don't know, small, trivial, nonessential, or insignificant?

As if my mom knew I was going to be feeling this way sometime soon, she sent me an article last week in the mail, "We Forgot the Future and Our Children," by Zoe Deen. Talk about mother's instinct. It is a very well written article discussing the importance of raising children. I would encourage any stay-at-home mom to read it. Turns out, I'm not totally insignificant.

It seems that even in times of doubt, I am provided with a mother who knows, a husband who listens and friends who understand. Thank God.

Magic Treehouse Series

For a look at our curriculum (which is still, and always will be, very much a work in progress), just click the below link.

We Forgot the Future and Our Children
By Zoe Deen

Building With Blocks in the Living Room - A Lesson in Architecture?

Reading Sunday's Comics with Dad - A Reading Lesson? Humor Lesson? Both?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Noah's Shenanigans - The Week of Pee and Pea

Our second son, Noah, is two and a half and we have recently potty trained him. Through this process, it has become abundantly more clear that Noah will most likely provide us with hysterical material throughout parenthood. And so, "Noah's Shenanigans" is born and updates will be posted as quick as I can write them, because they seem to be coming rapid fire lately. Here's the best-of so far:

Shenanigan #1

The first one has to be told despite the incident occurring about a year ago. It's that good. Our eldest son, Joshua, raced up the stairs to announce, "Noah's in trouble." Uh-oh. I flew down the stairs to find our one year old sitting on the laundry room floor, of which the walls were covered with soaked cat food and cat litter. My eyes scanned the room and my son to find a trail of dirty, lumpy, gravelly water coming out of the cat litter box and a stomach-turning, ominous, gray circle around Noah's mouth. Yes, one year old's do like to put everything in their mouths - thumbs, pacifiers, bottles, toys, books, cat tails, sand, and yes, dirty cat litter we've found. A call to poison control assured us that, no, it is not toxic for the child---just plain revolting.

Shenanigan #2

Bout a week ago, while potty training, Noah was perched on his throne, doing his business while I got some laundry together. A minute later, I walked into the bathroom to find my son looking quite confused and contemplative, his bangs dripping wet. His shoulders, neck, chest, face, the rest of his hair, head and seemingly every other single part of his body were perfectly dry. On further inspection, it was confirmed that yes, his bangs were soaked with urine. What can I say? He's talented. I would challenge any man to try and accomplish that feat. Yeah, go ahead and try.

Shenanigan #3

The very next day, Noah was again on the toilet, and I had the pleasure of hearing him sing to himself, in a very high-pitched sing-songy voice the following line, repeatedly: "Penis - where are you?" Won't that be fun to tell his future wife?

Shenanigan #4

On Friday, we were running a little late to meet another couple for a 6:30 dinner reservation. We had just finished giving directions to the babysitter, were about to escape and then discovered that Noah had stuck a pea astonishingly far up his right nostril. It could not be blown out. It would not descend with a pinching and mushing of the nose. No, it was like surgery on our bed as I retrieved the vegetable with my tweezers. Another classic Noah Shenanigan.

Monday, January 11, 2010

At Least It's Raining

At least it's raining. I actually mean that very seriously. If it was sunny right now, I don't think I could handle it. At least this way, half of Seattle will be depressed right along with me.

Alicia's sick again, so yes, I do have a worthy cause of feeling down. But being depressed is like wearing the wrong sized shoe because it just doesn't fit. I am typically happy and full of energy, but this has got me feeling very drained, lethargic and sad.

What's worse than feeling depressed is feeling guilty about feeling that way. I guess part of me thinks that since Alicia's been sick on and off for about six months now, I should be used to it by now or at least that it shouldn't hit me like a frickin' truck. But of course I am not used to this, especially considering how well Alicia has been for the past couple of weeks.

Sometimes it takes an incredible amount of strength to see the good in a situation. At first I was angry with God for teasing us, making us believe that Alicia was better, before she hit a bump in the road again. But then I mustered up all my hope and saw that a week ago, I was not being teased but being given a wonderful gift. Alicia sat with me on my couch and ate two bowls of Chicken Tortilla Soup while we chatted and had Family Movie Night. It was not God getting my hopes up so that I would feel worse when on Friday I found out that she was sick again. God was literally raising my hopes, giving me a glimpse of the Alicia I have known since I was two, the woman who has been like a sister to me. It was like old times. And it is proof to me that the girl I love so much and have missed so much is still living in that body.

So today I will be depressed. That's right - I am giving myself a day. Because I could wallow in sadness for a much longer time, but I just don't have time for it. And I believe that we have so much power over our emotions and our outlook and perspective. Today I can be sad. Tomorrow, I will grasp hope and strength with both hands, and rise from bed with my rose-tinted glasses on, ready to see the light and not the dark.

Today is the perfect day to be sad. Seattle is soaked with the buckets of water falling; dark and dreary is the sky, drenched is the land, and tomorrow--tomorrow the grass will be greener.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Motherly Superpower to Relax and Stay Calm

When considering what to write as we enter 2010, I've been overwhelmed by the multitude of topics. It's as if when we enter a new year, I can't help but evaluate every aspect of my life, searching for ways to improve. Is this normal? Am I neurotic? Well even if I am, it cannot be helped. This is what I do.

As many, one area that I am particularly interested in right now is health. But that will be a topic to be addressed at

As this blog is titled Mamma Vintage, I think I will address my motherly resolution for the New Year . . .

To relax.

It seems that two guaranteed aspects of maternal life are guilt and the questioning of our own abilities in our role as mothers. Should I put him in preschool? Is he getting all of his nutrition? Should we vaccinate? Is he watching too much TV? How will he recall his childhood? Will he remember the wonderful memories I try to create for him or will he only recall the times I lost my temper?

Raising children is a very daunting task. Just think about it. You are raising children. Little people who are your entire responsibility to raise into healthy, happy, well-balanced, intelligent, moral adults. I can feel myself begin to panic if I just reflect on that too much.

So when the job description seems too demanding and above my limitations and skill level, I find refuge in these thoughts:

I am the perfect mother . . . for my children.

I was given my children for a reason. NO ONE could mother them better than I can. I know them better than anyone else in the world and Jason and I love them more than anyone else in the world.

And it is in the harbor of these comforting thoughts that I am more able to fulfill my potential as a mother. I stop doubting myself so much and I begin trusting my instincts more. With this confidence, I am more able to be creative in my parenting rather than be hindered by my own insecurities.

Am I a perfect mother? Of course not. But when I believe in my potential, I am much more effective.

There are definitely areas I need to improve in. I will confess, I yell too much. When I have one child who refuses to stop whining at me because he is sooo hungry and wants the meal that I am currently preparing NOW and decides to win over my attention by tackling the cat while another child needs to be bathed again because his hair is saturated with urine from playing with his privates while going to the bathroom and the bathroom that I just cleaned is now sprayed with his pee, yes, I might be inclined to yell. Weird, huh?

Nothing has taught me patience like motherhood. To try and stay calm during these times is freakishly difficult, requiring seemingly superpower strength.

On the other hand, on a frazzled day, I actually have had to tell myself repeatedly that there is no crying over spilled milk. Even if it is the fifth glass.

My best friend says I'm unflappable. This year I want to extend that trait over to motherhood.

Christmas Morning Hugs

Playing Together

Christmas Morning Kisses

An Amazing Father

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's Like I'm A Blogger

Yep, that's what it's like. Because I've started another blog. I have made the seemingly gigantic, possibly very stupid decision to run a marathon this June. As part of my training, I will be keeping a journal of how my runs are going. And hence, a new blog is born. Welcome

And I promise to all (what, like three???) of my readers that this blog shan't be neglected.

In fact, in the very near future, I shall discuss the New Year. 2010. It's gonna be a big one. Yikes :)