i put him to bed two

we got back last night from our longest roadtrip ever:  18 days smeared over 3 states in a 1970′s camper with 4 kids.  sounds like a bad word problem.  anyway.

yesterday, our last leg of this epic family adventure, was the baby’s birthday.  yesterday, our little guy turned two.
the lips!  for the love.  [andy's photo, across the breakfast table.]

i’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, & i have to admit, i’ve been dreading this day for a really long time.  like, nearly 11 years.  the day my littlest one was no longer really a baby.  this might seem a little up hill, a little dramatic, but there’s something tidy & secure about a tiny one all tucked up against you all the time.  the universe feels safe, the world spins on kilter.
but now that i’m here, leif-as-two, i’m kind of relieved.  is that weird?
lake superior, baby.  bam-o.

as in, wow!  we did it!!  we’ve brought four tiny, helpless creatures into the world & through babyhood!  hooray, we might get a full night sleep sometime in the next year!  i can almost reason with this new 2-year-old (just kidding.)!

i’m surprised at myself, & really that’s a pansy way of saying i’m surprised at God.  because Who’s doing the untangling?  credit where credit. . . .  yes.  i’ve been planning for YEARS, people, to be sad when i hit this landmark.  [how depressing is planning ahead to be sad?  come ON.]  & i know i’ve got hoards of time ahead of me, so-help-me-God, especially since my kids are all still technically “little”.  plenty more growing up to be done in this here household, yessir.  but babies-aren’t-us anymore.

& that’s okay.
happy birthday, big guy.  it just gets better & better.

on being bald

i should have seen it coming, but i didn’t.
we were checking out books at the library, at the nifty self-service kiosk, all four kids & i. libraries are notoriously kid-friendly, so, being one of the few places i’ll venture by myself, my guard was down.  & self-service kiosks, really.  freaking brilliant.  unless you’re attempting to maneuver one with an ambitious toddler & three other children, noses embedded in books.

my fatal mistake:  not letting leif check out his own book.
without thinking, i whipped his picture book “we’re going on a bear hunt” through the bleeper & handed it to him, setting him down beside us so he could sit quietly & look at his book while i herded the other three kids through, their mountainous stacks too much for their small arms.  you caught that, didn’t you?  sit.  quietly.  you’d think i’d never met my own son.  hello.

you can imagine the rest, but i don’t know if you’d get the part where leif was digging his fingernails into the back of kieran’s calves, trying to dismount him from the stool.  & you might not picture the fit he threw, both in my arms & in the entryway after i abandoned thalia at the kiosk completely so i wouldn’t make such. a. scene.

i wanted you to have the full picture.
you’re welcome.

because the full picture also includes my total inability to keep track of all four of my kids in the library (or anywhere, who are we kidding?), get them out without at least two of them straggling, & my unbelievable concern of what the librarians, those sweet & genteel ladies, thought of me jumping ship on my 8-year-old & bear-hugging my toddler to prevent (anymore) physical harm to any by-standing siblings.

whenever i recount these stories to andy, he ALWAYS begins humming, quietly at first, the circus theme song.

if the shoe fits. . . .

the funny thing is, i’m surprised how much i care.
i mean, a long time ago i lost all my hair, & with it, i had to shed a whole heap of what people thought of me.  i went from young woman with insanely long, straight, blonde hair to prickly bear who buzzes her scalp clean every other thursday.
this, from my coaching days.  i’m holding a BULLDOG.  with a CHAIN.  you’re not even noticing my hair, are you. . . . 

anyway, losing all my hair was the fear i was most afraid of in my life.  i remember sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table when i was little, nervously stealing glimpses at my aunt in her red bandana.  she also had alopecia (the latin name for “you have no hair & we can’t figure out why”.), which was really unusual, because we weren’t blood-related.  (alopecia is sort of genetic.) i remember thinking, “if i ever lost all my hair like her, i would die.”

i had already started losing my hair then, but all of it didn’t fall out until 10 years ago, after i started having kids.  i remember crying & crying in the shower as huge globs of hair just came out in my hands.  it was really, really terrible.  i had a little boy, & my whole life seemed to be imploding.

but it didn’t.  & i didn’t.

& when the worst thing you can possibly imagine from the time you are very young happens, well, you don’t just cease to exist.  you don’t.  you live through it, so help you God, & when you start to see the other side, you realize going through that horrible valley sloughed a lot of other stuff, too.

which is why i’m so surprised i still care so very much what some anonymous (though kindly) librarians think of me.  i mean, really.  i may have 4 children mildly out of control, but they’re probably more concerned with my baldness & my nose ring.  let’s be honest.
my attempt at a selfie a few weeks ago, to show you the shiner leif gave me with a  head-butt first thing in the morning.  thank you, honey.  mommy loves you.

anyway, i’ve been wanting to crack open this cavern about being bald since i started writing in this space.  i guess tonight was it.
one of a gazillion cartoons andy used to draw of us.  we used to look like this.  as cartoons, anyway.  

sitting on the bus

this is supposed to be a post about why north dakota doesn’t suck.  we were there a couple weeks ago, in that place i grew up, on that farm.  we had just a few days to drive up a trailer of wares to store with my folks who graciously didn’t balk at our offerings but instead fed us steak & took the kids in the tractor.  ’tis planting season, ya know.
i would tell you about running out of gas because the gas gauge in the van broke the week before, & i’d tell you about finding a gigantic wad of gum in leif’s hair & andy’s emergency, rest stop haircut.  because he is that man.
then i’d tell you about the Lake, capital “L”.  that place is a balm to my toddler-weary soul.
but instead, i have to tell you that right now, i’m a little bit at a loss.  i mean, the road ahead is foggy, the noise inside the proverbial car is loud.

i am officially in the place i detest.  waiting.

as dr. seuss would say, “i’m in that most dreadful place, the waiting place.”  

the house is listed, shown, decluttered, repainted, touched-up.  we are mostly organized (we still have children, you’ll remember.).  we are ready.

& what do we have? a big ol’ white space of quiet.  God is completely & utterly quiet.  no whisper.  no inkling.  people ask me all the time what we’ll do when the house sells.

we really have no idea.

it’s easy to talk about a bus, or renting, or building, or buying land.  but really, we’re just sitting around waiting.  as in, 39 weeks kind of waiting.  something’s on the horizon, certainly.  but right now, the Lord is asking us to sit down & wait.  we’re sitting on the bus idea.

meanwhile, i’m busy spinning my wheels.  

you see, when i stop spinning, i have to take a good hard look at uncertainty.  when i stop busying myself with answering the great looming “what if’s,” there is nothing left to do but to sit & wait with my harried self.  (that, & clean up whatever the toddler just spilled on my shoe.)  & frankly, i’d rather keep sorting keepsakes or mounting piles of clothes to donate than to be still.

stillness makes me feel unworthy.

stillness is like unproductivity, in my mind.  at least when i’m spinning my wheels, i can see dirt being kicked up.  that’s something.  & unproductivity is that big horrible tattle-tale that says, “you. are. not. good. enough.”

which, i’m realizing, is just another half-sister to shame.

& we all know how i feel about shame.  (hate, hate, hatey hate hate.)

BUT.  all the spinning, all the producing & churning is starting to wear me out.  & with a toddler-boy in the house, i need to conserve all the energy i have.

{you’re welcome.}

in my kitchen, andy has painted the walls around the sink & over the countertops with chalkboard paint.  on one of them i have this:

“smile.  breathe.  go slowly.”  –thach nhat hanh.

when i go slowly, as opposed to when i spin, i can see.
i can feel the tiny hand that holds my index finger & pulls me down the driveway.
i can smile at the little fists that bring me “american” paint brushes.  (as opposed to the “indian” ones, common in these parts.
i can take naps instead of fret over ———–  (choose one:  the unweeded garden.  the heap of dishes.  the 34 projects i’ve started & left unfinished in various stages & places in the house.)

when i go slowly, i am living, not just shooting up dust.
i have this little gem on a necklace above my kitchen sink:

“may you live all the days of your life.”  –j. swift.

& living, more than anything, is what this is all about, yes?

slow down, breathe, live.  yes.


{p.s. — i’m giving “just a minute” fridays a break:  it’s been a lesser read post, so instead of keeping it on, which just feels like another form of spinning my wheels, i’m going to bench it just now.  if i gather a dam of music, i’ll keep you informed, though.  no worries!}





this is not a toy

after our garage sale a couple weeks ago, our basement took a deep breath & relaxed, finally feeling spacious enough for kid-play.  i think it even smiled a little.

when leif & i went down to play a few days later, my ring finger in his hand all the way down the stairs, we found a hundred-odd t-shirt bags from one of andy’s shipments in a heap, ready for the garbage.

or maybe not quite yet.

the kids played, happily!, together! for the entire morning with their not-a-toys.  rain showers.  boxing gloves.  wrestling matches.

which makes me think: maybe not everything we’re told & have come to believe is exactly the truth.

i don’t know.  i’m open for suggestions.

just a minute. summer’s on, yes?

cheeks pinking, bronzing by morning,
after sleep’s medicine.
the magic of dreams.

sunshine, always the sunshine producing
shorts & bare little-boy chests,
pigtails & sundresses for the sweet miss.

bare feet, dirty feet, little tiny toes in dirt.
sand box as playpen,
sand dumped on the door step,
leif’s gift hauled to share with mama.

roadtrips with windows down,
audiobooks & library books.
a good novel.
drawing paper & endless miles
to think it out.
the creativity of mobility.

sprinklers & the first trip to the pool.
popscicles dripping off chins,
washed off in sunshiny waves of chlorine.
swimsuits hung to dry.
beach towels back in circulation.

windows open at night,
falling asleep as the world whispers.
birdsong to wake.

the season’s first watermelon
& even the ants that wander
that sticky trail
across the wood floor.

we are all here,
happy inside our long-awaited summer.

["just a minute" is a friday post in which a quietly offer you a bit of my favorite things: usually photography & music.  but, with the cacophony of four small children in summer, i'm turning down the music just a bit, to better hear the summer itself.  i'm certain to have an accompanying theme song soon enough, though.  i hope you don't mind.}

just a minute. the ordinary.

lately, i’ve been taken in by the ordinary, more than usual, anyway.  the light through morning window across the wood floor.  thick warmth of a teacup sinking into my hands.   the dimple in kieran’s cheek when he’s just a little bit mischievous.   leif’s simple adoration of his “key” (kitty).

& then, sometimes, the ordinary is so very ordinary.  the afternoon dragging, the dinner to be made again, the laundry.  oh, the laundry.  but i try not to dwell there.  when i notice myself setting up camp in that place (& sometimes it takes minutes, sometimes hours, occasionally days — let’s be honest.), i attempt to shake off the webs & see again.  see the beauty for what it is, hear the tiny voices in cacophony around me in sweet tones & not irritating ones, enjoy the slowness because it is just that.

i don’t mean for this to be long, it is just a minute, after all, but i think part of this awakening has to do with our downsizing.  four thousand things have left the building now, 4046 to be exact, & there is something bright & clear left in their wake.  i feel that i can see more clearly.  that somehow, when there was so much more in every corner & crevice (& strewn across the floor), i got lost in all that stuff.  now, with more & more gone, i’m not as distracted.  i’m enjoying the kids more than ever, the novel i pick up for just a moment when leify’s nursing, that snuggly toddler i hold just a few moments longer when he’s rocked to sleep in my arms.

i don’t know exactly;  i haven’t sorted this all out yet.  it’s new territory to me.


music this week:  the piano guys.  javin came across this duo a year ago, & what fun.
we love them & play them often these days.  these sacred, ordinary days.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God, 
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

{“just a minute” is a friday post in which i offer up a kid-sized portion of two of my favorite things:  photography & music.}

tulips, my new nephew, & dropping my phone in the river

i promised you tulips a while back, & after we got home (from meeting my new nephew!), both the purple bulbs & the yellowy-orange ones had bloomed.  hall.le.lu.jah.  this is what hope is made of, i tell ya.
my & thalia’s shadows.  artsy or silly. . . .you decide.

tulips are my kind of flower, not only because they’re early, they’re pretty, & they’re strong (all things i’d like to be), but also because i can’t screw them up.  all this loveliness in my yard & i did nothing.  wal-mart did more than i did.  the best $7.98 i ever spent, probably.

transition:  waiting for tulips is kind of like waiting for a baby.  (i couldn’t think of a real way to connect the dots without sounding like a cheesehead, so, there you go.)

meet my first, honest-to-goodness, blood-related nephew, my only brother’s new bean:  zachary john.
i’ve been waiting for this sweet little gem for a while.  (okay, a decade.  since javin was born.  it’s alright; i’m unbelievably patient.  ha ha.)
leif is already totally down with zachary.  he’s the first baby/kid i’ve ever held that leif hasn’t pitched a holy fit over, sidling his way alongside whoever it is taking up his mama.
they’ll be thick, these two.  this is the beginning of good things.
isn’t he edible?  7 hours old.   mmmmm, fresh baby.

& then after handing zachary back & wishing jay & jen rest, we made our merry way home, buckled in for the grandma hangover (sorry, mom.  it’s true & you know it.), & unpacked the swim gear (my parents had come down for zachary’s birth & put us up in a hotel with them (my parents, not jay & jen).).

it was such a beautiful day, so after landing & unloading, i went outside with the kids.  before long, leif took my hand & started toward the backyard.  i tucked the phone andy & i share into the top of my skirt & followed.  then thalia & kieran wandered back to where we were & asked if we could go down to the river.  our land doesn’t slope easily to the shoreline, but the neighbor’s does, & the kids love to throw rocks or watch for jumping fish there.  after plenty of both & some good, deep river water inhales, i reached down to pick up leif.  this is where you’d like to rewind the movie to & hit pause.  & stay there.  but no:  sploosh.  i set leif down so fast & immediately jumped in up to my knees.  frantic as i was, no amount of feeling around produced my phone.  good grief.  every rock on the invisible bottom felt smooth & rectangular, like a cell phone.  good grief.  i scrambled as far in as i dared go before the bottom nose-dives toward the center of the river & the rocks are spit-slick with slime.  (i’m told it’s 37′ deep in the middle.)  no phone.  plus, the river’s high & fast right now, with spring still on.  good grief.  all 3 of the younger kids just stood there, silent, watching me berate myself & pray, scrounge around & get wetter & wetter.  good grief.  

i never did find it, & really.  it would’ve been so impossible to use again, after like, what?  5 seconds in the water?  kieran ran ahead to tell daddy while i sniffled & drew my soaking self up.  the thing about it isn’t even really the stupid cell phone.  no.  it’s that thick sense of shame that bolted into my heart the minute i realized what i’d done.  no matter that it was an accident.  that, “really?  i just did that?  what am i, 5?”  oh, yes.  shame does its work, all on its own.

just so you know, i hate shame.

when i finally got up to the house (our backyard is a two-tiered endeavor, so it’s an actual hike from the water’s edge.  not that i’m complaining.) & retold andy what kieran had already excitedly relayed to him, he just laughed.  of course he did.  because he doesn’t care, & it really doesn’t matter.  it actually was a cheapy phone, a clearance, $30 model which was hard to hear callers on & had kind of started coming apart after we dropped it (i don’t even know what to say here.).

so because it’s our only mode of communication (no land line & no other cell phone) and our internet was down & in need of repair (raining, pouring, la la la.), we went en masse to wal-mart to fit ourselves with an upgrade.  thank you garage sale money, i love you.

& so, i’m not sure how all this fits together, from tulips to zachary & on to my drowned cell phone, but i think it does.  maybe hope & waiting, maybe that bit in romans about all things working together for good. God’s pretty wacky like that.  good wacky, i mean.
none of these things came easily or were immediate.  but they came, yes.  yes, they did.

all i know is at the end of the day, i had a plot full of beauty, a new bean to love in our extended family, & a new, better way to keep in touch with my handful.

i’d call that pretty hopeful, yes?