My parents and my brother’s family are in Puerto Rico this week. We are really really happy for them. I mean, I’m not entirely sure why they went… Who wouldn’t want to be here when its in the 70’s one day and snow flurrying the next? Especially when you can visit old friends like this guy:I think he is ready for February to be over too…

Sophia made her debut on the church stage last night. See if you can pick her and my son out of the crowd. These preschoolers singing their three songs made for some incredible entertainment. Especially when the two 3-year old boys broke into an improvisational dance routine. Magic.

And highlight of the week? Dad’s Day! Travis got to go to school with Sophia. They both dressed fancy for the occasion and donuts were served. And I think this is one of my favorite pictures ever.

Rethinking…The House

I’m pretty convinced my house could eat me. Some people think in terms of charts, graphs, and checklists. I guess I think in terms of exaggerated literary metaphors- The House is something to be conquered, a force often angered, and a galactic struggle for which I am always looking for new ammunition.

I love The House. I could live here forever but to enjoy it there is a consistent need for streamlining, purging and rethinking systems. And my new mantra? I try to think in terms of what it would feel like for a guest to enter, repeating the following: “If I didn’t know how bad it could be, how bad is it?”  Granted, if you come by at most points in the afternoon, there are no cushions on the couch and there are pigtails flying through the air at shocking heights. But lack of seating options aside, I am trying to re-evaluate the “stuff” situation, yet again.

I just found this post, which I found interesting and inspiring and right along the lines that I’ve been thinking. This is why the dollhouse should be in my bathroom and, luckily, all the craft stuff is already in the kitchen…but its on top of the refrigerator. Oops.

My girls have lots of stuff they hardly ever access because its not in the living space that I share with them. And they want to be near me. Constantly. And I want them to be able to play independently, and make choices about their play and pursue it on their own…So, I have some reorganizing to do. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Warnings? Please someone out there write me and tell me that your child only plays with 3 wooden toys and a cardboard box. I love that kind of stuff.

Dear Christie,

Christie has written me a letter every week since she began college last August. Well, I call them letters. She writes me emails. But letters sounds so much more Jane Austen. And in a life that  feels very Amelia Bedelia, I need some Jane Austen.

She writes me an update on her life and I respond. And our correspondence has been one of the highlights of this year. Mainly because I get a weekly glimpse into her heart, how she is growing and changing and all she is thinking about.

 But also because I must give a response.  Ask me to sum up my day – no problem. Highs, lows – disastrous moments, done. Ask me to sum up a few months and I will wax poetic about themes in my life for that season, etc. etc. But to try and give account of my week, every week is challenging. And exposing. Especially because for most of our relationship, I have held the role of “leader” in Christie’s life. I was her high school small group leader – i.e. Spiritual equipper, soul nurturer, teacher, counselor, fount of wisdom and knowledge.

And now she knows the truth.

She graciously has not pointed out that all I claim to be “learning”, I had already taught her. Or that maybe “to be less mean” is not quite an inspirational challenge. She was infinitely patient with me when in one email I told her that I was learning to yell and scream as opposed to being passive aggressive and was quite proud of myself. This is the stuff her mentor has to offer her.

Years ago I was leading a group of girls at a camp and it was Ropes Course Day. I hate high ropes courses. I know this is practically antithetical to the Christain faith. But it’s true. I have no particular fear of heights. It’s the helmets, the awkward waist harnesses, and of course the carabiners. Those cheery ropes course people really acted like I could be trusted to remember to clip, flip and lock everytime on the right wire. I could not and should not.

But the hardest part about Ropes Course Day was that I tried to be someone I wasn’t. No one told me to. I put this pressure on myself to act like I was having a blast and shout this to the rest of my girls. All I wanted to do was cry but I thought I had to be excelling in order to encourage them to do the same. But when it was all over, we didn’t really have much to talk about. We’d done it but it didn’t make us closer or braver or really want to try it again.

I think that was the last day I ever led that way.

When I started leading the small group Christie was a part of, I was at a completely different place in my life. Sleep deprived for the first year, I didn’t have the energy to be anyone but myself. And I had grown enough to know leading had nothing to do with packaging my faith and selling it to them in a box. Life is hard. In those three years that our group met weekly, we laughed a lot. But we also saw a lot of heartbreak and a lot of loss. They deserved nothing less than my transparency.

And so it continues. These dear friends of mine are about to enter the Last Leg of the First Year. Some have had experiences that have exceeded all expectations, others are still wondering what they should be expecting. There have been times to grieve and times to celebrate and lots and lots of changes. But sweet girls – my commitment to you is the same as to Christie and the same as its always been. Walk with me as we follow Him. You lead me in asounding ways. So let’s strap on the blue helmets, painful harnesses and keep moving down the line – honest about our fears and joys. Lets carry each other and keep moving forward – no matter the forces pulling on us to stop, or the tears that stream down our faces along the way.

I Really Hope…

…her feet never grow to be as big as mine.

I am pulling for Size 7. I always gaze at the Size 7 Rack wistfully in TJ Maxx. Best selection and no style looks awkward. I think I was that size for two months in the sixth grade.

Where’s My Helmet?

The weather has been beautiful. The kind of beautiful you forget about during long winters. We have been heading down to Colonial Williamsburg every day. Sophia rides her bike quite professionally these days. But I find myself shouting the whole time as I chase her with the now-half-filled double stroller. “Sophia stop! SLOW DOWN DID YOU SEE THAT PERSON? No No No Steer AROUND the horse poop! This WAY- Stay on the cross walk!!!” I must look like a lunatic. The problem is training wheels are loud. She can’t hear a thing I am saying from behind. And half the time, when she does hear me, it throws her off and she crashes or rides directly into traffic. I need to bring it down a notch.

Remind you of anything?

Yes, I got a vision of myself in 12 or so years teaching her to drive. She – confident, border-line reckless. Me – tense, loud and noisy. I remembered today how I used to stroll her as a baby down those same streets, around those same piles of manure (do they aim?), first in the infant seat and stroller, then just the stroller, eventually in the double stroller when Olivia was born and now she rides her bike the whole way. Time is passing. Maybe if I’m a little quieter I will actually enjoy the bike-riding phase. Because there’s little chance we are going to enjoy the learning-to-drive phase. Especially when it will likely be unclear if I ever learned myself…

An Officer and My Best Friend

 Ever watched two women share the news of an engagement over the phone? The newly engaged shares the news and both erupt into other-worldly shrieking followed by sobbing, followed by descriptions of the shrieking and the sobbing: “OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH! I AM SHRIEKING I AM SOBBING OH MY GOSH!!” On either end of the phone there is standard body language: flapping of hands, jumping.

The other scenario is when the About-to-Propose-Man calls the Overly-Eager friend for advice about the ring. The friend usually erupts into all the same emotions but tries to conceal them because she is on the phone with the man. This usually results in the sound of one hyperventilating because she is gasping for breath while she holds in her shrieks and her sobs all while still flapping her hands and jumping.

But what if the friend who calls with her news late Valentines Day night is your best friend? The friend you started both kindergarten and 12th grade with.? The friend who is still your friend after the horrors of 7th grade and the fact that you have not lived in the same city for eleven years? What if its the friend who stood in your wedding with you, flew across states to hold your newborn babies, and was able to always gently remind you who you were when you couldn’t remember to save your life? What if its the friend who knows every story and every secret and every doubt? Or the friend whose faith consistently pulls you out of your cynicism and whose belief has believed for you in your darkest time? When this friend calls and announces her engagement- how do you respond?

You shriek and you sob and you announce that you are shrieking and sobbing all the while flapping your hands and jumping up and down. Because that’s just what we do. And because the beauty of the moment defies our english, and we talked too much in Spanish 1-3 to ever learn anything. But mostly because when God does something, He does it perfectly. And it takes your breath – and words – away.

And then you get on the phone with Just Proposed Adorable Officer Man and you babble incoherently -partly because of very recent dental work and partly because its simply hard to be coherent while jumping and flapping your hands. You want to say something profound and challenging but all that comes out is something like “Welcome to the family.” Which is totally wrong and completely true all at the same time.

So, Officer Jon… with her you get me and you get Mariah. And you get to care for us in our post-retirement, geriatric beach cottage – which will not be without its challenges. I predict we will grow crankier with age but not less independent. And brace yourself – if aforementioned dental work is any indicator – I’m going to be a drooler.

No Complaining

(Leaving for Monday FunDay…It was Hat/Don’t Let Mommy Do Our Hair Day…)

Travis taught the girls a two word phrase that has been more a more effective parenting technique than any of my lectures, parabolic stories, or directed role-plays. Of course. The phrase is “No complaining.” It’s his one rule for when the three of them are out and about.  Many behaviors fit under complaining: fit-throwing, screaming, sobbing, whining and classic griping. In another life as a fourth grade teacher I quickly learned that the fewer rules you had the better. I guess I forgot this truth as a parent. They remember his one mandate and I often hear them repeating it to each other.

This presents as a strong challenge to me. What if I really stopped complaining? What if I removed it from my daily dialogues, and my colorful descriptions in conversations? How much of my sense of humor actually centers around my grievances? There’s a serious chance that if I take this on, I might lose my language skills altogether. But family rules are family rules. And I’m feeling that this one might be more necessary for me than anyone else.