Monday, January 31, 2011

(secret) identity

"Who are you pretending to be?"

I get this question a lot. Not because I am inauthentic, but because my boys like to pretend. This week they've "been" Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, and so on. The current rage is "Star Wars," but they cover quite a bit of characters, believe you me.

"Mom, who are you pretending to be?" He shoots this question at me as I'm working to prepare our family's dinner.


"Are you pretending to be Princess Leia?"

"Yeah, that's it. I'm pretending to be Leia. However did you guess?" Must've been the chef knife and the chopped carrots that gave me away.

Some nights, I don't feel like playing along. During the busiest part of my day, I tend to be super-focused on the task at hand. I don't want to "be" anyone, I just want to be Mama-in-the-Kitchen. Mama-chopping-carrots. Mama-with-the-knife.

Or maybe not the last one.

I've been reading lately about behavior types. You know, the DISC assessment. Or the four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholy. Fast-paced versus slow-paced, task-oriented versus people-oriented. I've read this particular book before, but this time I'm finding it so enlightening. I'm learning about my husband, my children, and myself.

I'll spare you the run down (though I will say that we have one absolute, no-doubt-about it, "I"/sanguine in our family....any guesses as to who that might be?). My point is that I, personally, tend to be very task-oriented (my love affair with productivity!) and yet am very cautious, wanting to do things just right (please don't quote me on this the next time you note the lack of dusting in my house).

And while that's who God made me to be, I need to be aware the ways the strengths, when taken to an extreme, become detrimental. I am resolving to lay down my work, and play make-believe more often. To sacrifice my longing for order a little, in understanding that my child does not share my drive...and to value the wonderful ways he is different from myself.

I'm ready to pretend.

I know it won't be easy. And I do still value order, work, and productivity. But my brood won't be little forever. So sometimes, I'm deciding to pretend I don't care that the laundry isn't put away. That I'm not three (four?) steps ahead in the kitchen. I'm going to play make-believe.

But don't expect me to look like Leia. We'll all just have to use our imaginations...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Owen, age 2 1/2: "Mom, you cute."

Me: "I'm cute?"

Owen: "Yes."

Me: "Well, thanks."


Me: "Wait, do you mean cute, like, 'pretty,' or cute, like 'little'?" (he sometimes uses it in this way)

Owen: "You cute. You cute like...a chicken!"

Thanks, son.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Last fall, three and a half years after Riley went to heaven, we finally told the boys.

"You have a brother or sister in heaven."

We told them the story. As we sat around our dining room table, our faces flickering in the candlelight of a mid-autumn night, we told them. We told them how excited we had been to give a sibling to Ben and Kyle. How we'd waited to tell them about the baby...and how our little one flew away before we did. We told them how we decided to keep the knowledge close to our hearts until a time when they were a little older.

They listened quietly. Somberly. Our oldest son, in particular, was pensive. He asked a few questions. They all were glad to think of meeting Riley in heaven someday.

A month or two later, in the midst of some other conversation, Benjamin said something like " Well, I think I know what the worst pain you ever felt was."

I looked at him curiously. "Yeah? What do you think it was?"

"When Riley died and went to heaven."

I sat silent, unable to speak. Then... "You're right, Ben. That was the worst pain I've ever felt. Not in my body, but in my heart." I paused. "But I'm so, so happy to know that Riley is in heaven....and that we can see Riley there someday."

And so, sweet Riley's lifesong lives on. The precious weight of it matters. In my heart, and all those that little life has touched. In the hearts and lives of my children.

"I once was dead, but now I live."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

anything's possible...

Today, I just might have...

...declared my son "such a delight" in the morning, only to be incredibly frustrated with him by dinnertime.

...chosen a bulky sweater in a futile effort to disguise my midsection.

...muttered "Baby!" under my breath in an unkind way after discovering, as I was loading him into the van to go to church, that my 2-year-old had pooped and failed to notify me.

...fought an urge to get out by myself in the afternoon, because I really didn't need to and it didn't work out, time-wise, only to later be glad that I'd stayed home with my husband and kids.

...made an utter fool of myself while trying to jump rope.

...let the yeast proof way longer than I usually do, because I was on the phone.

...note that the bread didn't rise nearly as high as usual.

...cleaned the bathroom specifically because I have people coming over tomorrow.

...discovered a kitten who was locked in the pantry.

...determined to get the children in bed early, and succeeded, for the most part.

...put the boys in bed and then take the baby to the bathroom with me while I brushed my teeth, because she'd had an unusually restful afternoon, and I feared she may not go down easily.

...let my daughter play with stuff in her daddy's nightstand drawer while I washed my face.

...written this blog post while letting her crawl around and explore, hoping against hope that she would tire herself out....

Friday, January 14, 2011

to my husband

Dearest Jeff,

You are such an unusual man. I am continually amazed at the ways you have led our family. I'm not even talking about the obvious stuff, like providing for us so well, and giving us the security a budget of bills paid on time. I'm not even talking about the way you plan romantic getaways for us...trips to the beach, the "Weekend to Remember" conferences. I'm not even talking about getting up at night when a particular son is having a rough time.

What I'm talking about is stuff like...guiding us toward water birth and eventually, the idea of birthing at home. Most husbands would've resisted, terrified at the idea. But you were the guiding force behind all that, and I am so very glad we decided to go down that path together.

What I'm talking about is stuff like...having a heart for homeschooling. I could never understand what you liked about it...I certainly resisted the idea for a long time. But you were right. I believe that the Lord made your heart tender for homeschooling, because if you hadn't been supportive, it would've been nearly impossible for me to take this plunge. I can never thank you enough for your support in the endeavor.

What I'm talking about is stuff like...not closing the door on more babies, no matter how much I campaigned. When I was absolutely sure I was "done," and was even fairly impatient with your lack of agreement, you stood firm. You had no peace about the idea, and there was no way I could expect you to make such a decision under those circumstances. Once again, you were right. Just a few months after that, God dramatically changed my own heart on the subject of more children.

My wise, sweet husband, I am forever grateful for your gentle leadership in our family, and your heart for God's will. Thank you for being patient with me.

You are a gem, a treasure. It is a rare guy who would do these things, choose these paths, accept these responsibilities. It is a rare guy who would regularly stand up in church and share very vulnerable stuff, for the sake of shining light on a dark subject and encouraging other men. Even though it's hard, and even though it's uncomfortable, you do it.

And so, I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. How thankful. And how honored I am that God has allowed me to spend my life with you.

I thank my God every time I remember you. ~Philippians 1:3

Thursday, January 13, 2011

potato cheese soup

This recipe is based on my mama's Golden Cream Soup. It's something I grew up eating - and it was one of my favorite meals. Now, I've adapted it a bit, and it's something I love serving my own family. I do double my mom's recipe, because a single batch barely gets us through dinner, and this soup is just as awesome the next day. It really hits the spot on chilly winter nights.

Potato Cheese Soup
6 cups peeled, chopped potatoes
3 quarts chicken stock
1 cup peeled, chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 T. parsley flakes
1 t. sea salt
2 dashes pepper
3 cups milk
2 T. flour
4 cups shredded cheese

In a large saucepan, combine potatoes, stock, vegetables, parsley, and seasonings. Mix well, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are all tender.

In a separate container (a good idea is a tight-fitting lidded container), gradually add milk to the flour, mixing well. Once this mixture is combined, add it to the pan. Cook til thickened, 10-15 minutes.

Add cheese. Stir til melted. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a letter to a woman I have never met

To the woman I only know as "Nelson's Wife,"

You may not remember this, but nearly five years ago, you put together a manila folder of homeschooling information for me. Though we had never met, when you heard that there was a measure of homeschooling interest in our household, and you gathered materials for us. Your husband Nelson took it to the office, to give to my husband Jeff, to give to me.

I am ashamed to tell you that I didn't look at it. You see, I wasn't the one interested in homeschooling. The very idea made me want to run screaming from the room. My husband was the one with a heart for it, and for that reason I accepted the file folder...but didn't open it. To tell you the truth, I rather resented it. I didn't want to be nudged toward something I had absolutely no intention of doing. I had my own plans for my kids' education, and frankly, I hoped my husband would forget about this whole homeschool thing. Maybe if I just didn't mention it, the idea would fade away.

A few weeks ago (ironically, almost two years after I eventually began homeschooling), I came across the folder again. To that day, I still had never looked at it, never even cracked it open. But this time, I did.

And I must tell you, I was blown away. It was so thorough! You had stapled and highlighted. You had printed age-appropriate Scholastic readers full of ideas of what to do with my two young students. There were phone numbers, websites, support groups. A sheet of questions and answers about homeschooling, and an entire printed copy of an information guide from the Oregon Home Education Network. You'd included the rules for homeschooling here in Oregon. Pretty much everything I could've needed, and many things I never would have dreamed of asking for.

And I was touched - incredibly touched. Thank you, so much, for what you did for me...ungrateful, hard-hearted little me. Thank you for taking the time to print, sort, gather, staple, and highlight. Thank you for considering the ages of my children. Thank you for caring enough to put this together, just because you heard there was the tiniest spark of interest.

I'm sorry I didn't appreciate, or acknowledge, what you did. I feel ashamed that I never even looked at that wealth of information. I'm sorry to admit that my heart was so closed to the idea of educating my children at home.

But now, nearly five years later, you've inspired me. I hope I can find ways to encourage those peeking into the homeschool movement. I hope that when the time comes, I will be willing to gather information, or just to be honest about where we are and where we've been.

I know that you and Nelson have moved away now. I suppose I will never have a chance to meet you and tell you what your sacrifice and thoughtfulness means to me. But maybe, one of these days I'll pass on a manila folder of my own. Here's hoping I can light the path for another mother's tentative steps. Thank you...thank you for showing me the way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

give me a hand

Miss Elise has been quite the little communicator lately. She claps, she waves. She signs "more" at mealtime, and "milk" when she settles into nurse. I love it!

There will undoubtedly come a day when her communication may not be so pleasing. But for fun!

Monday, January 3, 2011

never thought I'd say *that*

1) "Why is there toilet paper in my blender?!"

2) "Please stop shooting your sister with the candy cane."

3) "Why is there a toy cat down the back of my daughter's shirt?"

4) "Please stop pawing at your sister's head."

5) "Because I like being able to hear myself think, that's why..."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

looking back, and forward

Lately I've felt a little bit lost. Like I've lost myself, somehow. When I walk by a mirror and glance at the reflection, I've found myself thinking "Who is that?"

I suppose part of it is how my appearance has changed over the past years. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it has changed. I am different from the person I was when I had my first baby. I do not look like the girl in my wedding photographs (and that's not such a bad thing - I was a lot heavier then). My hair is different these days. My clothes are different. I wear glasses instead of contacts.

And I feel different, too. Experience? Maturity? Loss of a certain naivete? Perhaps.

Certainly I've experienced much more life than I had back then. I've become a mother, with all the richness and anxiety that role can bring. I've birthed four children, and mourned one I never got to hold. I've seen more of the world (though there's still so much more I'd like to see!). I've learned to be more giving, less selfish... to set boundaries, and to be more generous when I have to share my husband.

I was 14 when I first met Jeff. When I was 20 years old, we were married. At age 24, we moved halfway across the country to put down roots in a completely new place. I was 26 when my first child was born. At lot has changed since those days.

My beliefs about childbirth, food...the way God made our world and our bodies...have altered drastically as well. My priorities have changed, and with each change that comes into my life, something shifts a bit.

The process of learning is ongoing. I'm learning to assume others are acting with positive intent; that there are always (at least) two sides to every story.

This past year - 2010 - was rich, as well as challenging.

My family moved into our new home, made new friends, had a baby. There were so many highs, as well as lows I never imagined I'd have to face. And at age 34, I'm starting to catch a glimpse of what this new phase of my life really means.

And so, who am I these days? Am I different from the person I was 5, 10, 20 years ago? Undoubtedly. Yet, I would venture to say that, for the most part, the changes are for the better. The things I've been allowed to experience have shaped me, grown me, stretched me. I'm growing more and more into the woman God intends for me to be.

I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I am in His hands. And so, as I'm stepping into this next year, I choose to embrace the future. Yes, there will be challenges. Gravity may not be as kind as I hope. People may not be, either. But here I am, plunging in, hand in hand with my husband. We know that as we leave ourselves at the Lord's feet, He will lead us onward. He who promised is faithful!