Snow, Snot and Lent

I missed our church’s Ash Wednesday service. Leila had green snot coming out of her nose which she would take with her hand and smear all over her face, causing her cheeks to chafe.

Yes, Baby Ruthie, My feelings exactly.

I’m willing to be THAT Mom in a million instances, but I draw my line at the green snot. So the older girls went off with Travis and the Littles stayed home with me and we watched more snow fall and I wondered at the irony of beginning to prepare for Easter on  a day so frozen over. Nothing felt further away than Easter.

I’m sure you saw my posts of children sledding? Or the ones of my cozy snow day brunches? Oh that’s right. There were none of those.

No, we were inside enjoying a week of relationships  here. Relationships and screens to be exact. And relationships in front of screens. A few relationships on screens but pretty innocuous ones.

Having all four home all week, in the cold, I needed to make a quick decision about expectations. Meaning my own. Meaning I needed to decide right away that besides being present with these girls and feeding them, nothing else was going to get done. So this brief post took six days, research for a seminary project came to a halt, the laundry is strangling us and the closet under the stairs I keep meaning to organize has become Hiding Spot Number 1/Sophia’s Office/I don’t think my Swiffer survived.

And so we’ve been in each other’s space and sharing each other’s clothes, adrift without the safety of routine, just like so many of you. Thursday we had a meeting in Sophia and Olivia’s room. There we sat in the mess of our humanity, wearing unmatched socks, in a room littered with Build a Bear accessories, and used tissues. I said that we all needed to say sorry and start over. We each would say we were sorry for one thing. I’m so bad at this stuff. So so bad. Don’t hire me for your intervention/mediation/reconciliation. I’m awkward and use too many big words, not surprisingly.

When it got to me, I was planning a soliloquy on all of my shortcomings: how I’m trying, but learning and I will get better at this even if I’m never quite good -but that’s okay because as much as I want to be the best mom I can-if I model perfection would that really help them -and what would that teach them about their own expectations for themselves and  grace -and on and on and such…

But then Leila said she was sorry for crying so much and it was my turn. I looked at each of them and remembered something I read this week: how children feel like we do, but don’t think like we do, and adults often assume the reverse.

So I thought about how I’d feel and I got specific.

I’m sorry for getting angry about you cooking your own Easy Mac. That was a silly thing for me to get angry for. I’m proud of your independence.

And then we began again.

I think Lent, actually might just be about getting specific.

For some of us, the season interrupts our rhythms with thoughts of God, and for some of us, it interrupts our thoughts on God and nudges us to get specific.

We recognize that though we may try to move towards God,  God has already moved toward us  – toward us in our messy rooms and our piles of used tissues and mismatched socks, and in our love of Diet Coke and tableside guacamole. As much as I long to be someone who exists in transcendent speeches and metaphors, as I type here I am fervently wishing we weren’t out of Frosted Mini Wheats. I also know that  spiritualizing is the Christian Stealth way to avoid getting to the heart of matters.

So we get specific. About our humanity.  Instead of thinking that I shouldn’t feed my kids Easy Mac, ( I really shouldn’t)  I admit that I do, and apologize for being a jerk about it.  He joins us in the most ordinary parts of living, you know, the stuff that “isn’t important” (except that it matters all day long.) We give up, we add on, we confess, and we prepare.

Because although the words spoken over Ash Wednesday worshipers are not joyful: “from dust you have come, to dust you will return,” and Lent itself, is hardly an  illustrative word (sounds like lint, a bit bleaker, perhaps like something that comes out of your nose, just to keep with the theme), the word actually originated in  the Old English word for spring. Spring.  Miracle of miracles: soon the snow and snot will be memories,  we will celebrate that even dust can be redeemed, spring will arrive and Lent will have made us, not just the spiritual us, ready.


Four Realizations from Four Months with Four Kids.

1. If I could strap everyone I know onto this stroller and push them in the direction I need them to go everything would  just BE BETTER. I mean…somedays, when I am not at my healthy, wholehearted, gentleness I might think that, sometimes.

This group cooperated for as long as it took take the picture.

And guess which one of them is two years old? Leading us to Number 2…

2.The secret to rocking a good-sized 2 year old to sleep? Take off your socks. It gives you the traction necessary to really get moving. It’s all about the velocity per minute with these toddlers, in the battle of wills. You WILL nap. You WILL wear clothes. You WILL go to bed tonight. You WILL sleep by yourself in this room that is now covered by my socks….


3. If you are building a lego set and discover a.) that you have lost a very important piece, like, let’s say, Ariel’s body, or b.) you believe that perhaps said piece never came in the original package, you can go to Lego.Com enter in the set number, find the picture of the piece and THEY WILL MAIL IT TO YOU. I don’t know why this blew my mind. But it did. Ariel’s petite pink bodice arrived in the mail in 5-7 days. Cue that Everything is Awesome song right now.


Buy and build on friends.

4. No one tells you what to do with the teeth.

Did I miss the workshop somewhere?  Have we all just bought in to the Tooth Fairy Narrative? Fine then. The Tooth Fairy called me and wants to know what to do with the excess teeth piling up around her. Some on the windowsill, some on her dresser, some stored in drawers. Do we need to keep the teeth? Maybe just this very special first one? Please help. The Tooth Fairy wants to know.

5. There is always MORE than anticipated (thus us continuing on to number 5, get it, get it?) More diapers, more hunger, more homework, more people still awake. What is there never enough of? Eggo Waffles. Please advise if you know where they sell a bigger box or if you live next door to me with an extra freezer.

6. When you have this many children you always appear to be in crisis. Even if you’re not. Though often you are. The other day I was sitting with all four in a cafe and the table next to me began discussing me. “I would cry all day if I were her,” was the one quote I was able to grab above the din of my eating companions. Her friend began to explain that I was clearly someone who could naturally handle the chaos and remain relaxed. I was not relaxed. I was sweating, but perhaps appeared relaxed because having recognized that I was in my dark place, I was concentrating on practicing my techniques to get  out: praying, deep breathing, chanting, and being angry at Travis…leading us to

7. Anger at spouse is a common response to each and every overwhelming scenario. I think I just have  to send my emotion to the nearest person, who will not one day blame me for their counseling as an adult (or charge me for it). Travis said to me a few weeks ago, “Were you angry at me all day today?” “No. Just between 1-2 and 5-6.” I totally understand in new way why Jesus said “In your anger, do not sin.” Because so much of anger is CRAZYTOWN. There is a whole category of anger that is righteous and compelling and action inducing and justice inspiring. That is not my anger these days. My anger is crazy.  And that’s okay. Breathe, eat, pray, chant, wait 45 minutes.

8. I’m losing my life (and my mind, etc) Jesus also said “You have to lose your life to find it.” I had a remarkable realization the other night as I was deep in thought over a situation with one of the kids. I had only ever thought about one other subject this intensely…myself! I love to think about myself, what I like, don’t like, what I think, how to respond, what my plans, dreams and desires are etc..I can think about myself without stopping for forever. I basically have.

It took four kids to start kicking the habit. What does that say? Some people don’t need kids to learn selflessness. Some learn it with one. I needed four. That’s some commitment to self obsession right there. Please. Hold your applause.

 9. We’ve given them each other. 

A dear friend with four grown kids always reminds me of that. And it’s so true. On the good days it’s like a Brownie troop over here, on the rough days it’s still like a Brownie troop, just one in which the leader yells and threatens to quit and is eventually spoken to quietly by the Girl Scouts Governing Board. She promises to sell more Samoas and they keep her on.

Travis is convinced they are going to care for us while we age. It’s how he comforts himself in the hard moments. We shall see. So far one wants to be a Baby Doctor and one a Rock Star. Those are very time consuming professions. In the meantime,

10. Life Skills training does start here. 

aka, everyone has to pull their own weight. Or push it.

Or really just have me carry everyone because I’m a natural at handling chaos and remaining super-relaxed.

Onward. (still sweating over here)

Amy Julia Becker is my Spirit Animal

I don’t even know what that means. But this book, my friends…Amy Julia captures the cadence of real parenting and real life and real faith. Her style and her tone belies the fact that she is actually in it and fighting the upward spiritual battle that many of us are fighting AGAINST LOSING OUR MINDS, and our selves, and our marriages, and our belief in God, all in the 12 minutes it should take to get little people dressed.She connects it spiritually and we read her struggling to connect things spiritually for her kids…I’m not even done with this yet, but it made being up every 2 hours last night totally worth it (and even more productive.)


I’m convinced parenting is the one vocation you can be experienced at but never an expert. But you can be a learner and a listener, and always a witness. This book does all of that with grace and its by product.. hope.