Thursday, August 30, 2012


3: characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements

August 29, 2012
This morning before I got out of bed for the day, I read Celtic Daily Prayer's morning office.  One of the verses for today was Proverbs 20:24, which says, "A person's steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand their own way?"  Given how chaotic these last weeks have been, I found this verse comforting.  What I didn't realize was that it was prophetic as well.  Because I didn't know at 7 AM how my day would go.  At that point, I was naive enough to think it might go as imagined.

At 9, I put in a call to our pest management company.  In the 10 years we have lived here, I've generally seen them only once per year to check for termites and get the thumbs-up all clear.  But today I needed to ask about the tiny moths that were appearing with alarming frequency around the house.  The answer I got was unexpected: pantry pests.  In preparation for the noon appointment, I should empty the pantry and throw away anything not in a can, glass jar or sealed plastic.  I had thought I would spend my morning teaching K about dimes and nickels and reviewing mixed numbers and ratios with A and B.  I didn't.  I cleaned out the pantry.  Four trash bags later, we ran through our math lessons so that we could leave the house for the afternoon and avoid the post-pest control fumes.

Instead of spending the afternoon packing or reading or doing laundry, we killed time at the library, waiting for B's 3:00 piano lesson, A's 4:30 dance class and our home to air out.

I don't think of myself as a control freak.  In fact, I often find it comforting to remember that ultimately I am not the one in control.  But I am wear and over-loaded and overwhelmed.  And I am finding it increasingly difficult to recharge and rest when I don't have full access to my home - how can an introvert recharge without being able to go home to do so? Can my home serve as both a place to rejuvenate and the source of the bulk of my current workload?

I know that flexibility is key.  That's one reason I've drastically paired down our school day to hold just a few warm-up activities, a math lesson and a reading list chock full of classics.  (First up?  Great Expectations for A, Edgar Allan Poe short stories for B and The Princess and the Goblin for K.)

I am trying to be flexible - to not try so desperately to understand my own way - to accept the paradox that I am not in control but must still do the work.  Our house must still get packed up.  I am trying to bend, but not break.  If I can't manage to do so gracefully, I hope those around me will understand.

After writing this post yesterday at the library, we all prayed last night for a calm day today.  Mercifully, we have had one.  We drastically reduced our already-pared-down school plan, watched last night's So You Think You Can Dance and packed up six bookcases' worth of books.  While I don't feel exactly rested, I don't feel as out of control as I did yesterday.  So thankful to God for mercies, big and small.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


: prolonged and usually abnormal inability to get enough sleep

I have never had trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.  Until the last few months.  Insomnia is my new best friend and I don't like her very much.  Sure, thanks to insomnia I've finished a lot of books lately.  But I've written less, lost my temper more, felt overwhelmed and tired and been generally out of sorts.  I've had the newfound experience of dreading bedtime for fear that sleep will not come.

The thing about my insomnia (perhaps all insomnia?) is that it's unpredictable.  I don't know what the night holds.   Will I be able to fall asleep and sleep all night?  Or maybe I'll toss and turn, the eyes of my mind wide open, unable to fall asleep?  Or perhaps I'll fall asleep normally and wake mid-sleep cycle for a few hours?

If the insomnia has been unpredictable, my reaction to it has been predictable.  For the first few months, I would get up and go for a walk outside, enjoying the night air, hoping it would tire me enough for sleep.  But back in July one of those night walks left me limping home, thanks to what I came to know was a stress fracture.  So the last six weeks have found me grabbing my book and curling up with it until I either finish the book or feel drowsy enough to attempt sleep again.

I've found myself wondering whether this is the best approach.  Should I instead do laundry or clean or get organized?  Should I pack boxes of books to get ready for our move?  In short, should I be productive during these wakeful moments or should I use them for restful activities in the hopes that they will yield rest?

These thoughts have spilled over into analysis of my evenings.  At what point should I stop "working" and allow myself to read, relax and unwind for the night?  This used to come fairly naturally to me.  After dinner, J and I would put the girls to bed and read or watch TV.  But our nights have different shape and form now.  A has ballet until 8 Monday through Thursday.  It's now nearly 9 pm and she is eating a portion of black beans and rice - a belated dinner.  But you can't really have dinner at 3:30, dance for three and a half hours and then drop into bed.  At least she can't do that.  She's hungry.  So she stays up, pushing our evening routine later and later. 

My years of parenting have programmed me to believe I must be working in some way until my children are asleep in bed.  Perhaps this notion needs to be shed as they age and our schedule changes.  I do know this:  I am rarely feel rested.  This surely has something to do with the fact that we are selling a house, buying a house and preparing to move.  But it's also about my inability to slow my mind down enough to rest.

Is my insomnia physical?  mental? hormonal?  I don't know.  I do know I need to allow myself some time to rest without feeling guilty that I'm not being productive.  I need to find a way to not fight everything so much.

And if you're reading this and are an experienced insomniac, feel free to offer me tips on how to best use my insomnia...

Friday, August 24, 2012


1 : having or marked by great physical power
2 : having moral or intellectual power

My daughter B turns 11 today.  Almost exactly eleven years ago, I held her in my arms for the first time and that afternoon got to hear her 20 month-old sister A say, "Baby come.  Baby come."  This baby we had been telling her about for months had indeed come and our family has never been the same.

Holding a frog at Cheekwood

B has been strong from the start.  On her first birthday, she cut her foot and got stitches.  She had recently started walking and shortly after the stitches, she took a step, winced, and kept walking.

Tough girl - in a cardboard choker she made

We've made more trips to the ER for B than all of the rest of our family combined.  Her arm has been out of socket twice, she's had a near miss with a concussion and then there were the second degree burns from the time she touched the lawnmower while it was hot.  None of it has daunted her - or even slowed her down much.

With her caterpillar, Artie

Releasing Artie (now a Monarch butterfly)

This is a difficult season for B.  As J and I have talked, daydreamed and pondered moving for the last year or two, B has been adamant about not wanting to sell this house.  In her grandest plans, she wants to live here while she goes to college and then buy the house from us.  So she has very mixed emotions about our impending move.  She loves her small bedroom here, filled as it is with natural light from her wall of windows.  But she loves the backyard at the new house, where she and K have mapped out spots for hammocks and a fort.  And she loves her room there, with its big windows and nooks and crannies.

B in a swing of her own making, summer 2007

B is strong physically.  She's the one who helps me move bookcases or furniture when I want something done and J is at work.  But she's not just strong physically.  She's strong because she feels so deeply.  A and K are sad that we are moving, too.  So are J and I, truth be told.  But B is the one who has walked from room to room with her iPod, recording and documenting this home the way it is right now, so that she will never forget where she spent a decade of her life.

There are times (especially in our homeschooling) when I think I am not strong enough to be B's mother.  I admire her strength and struggle to not be intimidated by it.  But there must be a reason God gave her to me to mother.  From the very beginning, I have prayed for the wisdom to train B without breaking her spirit.  Because her beautiful, strong spirit is something that I believe will guide her through this life.  It is what makes her who she is - stubborn, creative, willful, empathetic, lovely.

A few years ago on a work retreat, we did an activity where we dreamed together about our organization's future and our personal futures.  As a part of that, I remember saying that I want to be like my daughter B when I grow up.  I still do.  I want to know who I am and find strength in that.  I want to feel and own my emotions the way she does.  I want to fight for who I am and what I want.  I learn from her every single day.  It is a gift to be her mother.

Reading together (years ago)

P.S. I let B read this post before publishing it.  Upon reading that I sometimes feel like I am not strong enough to be her mother she laughed and said, "Well, you're still alive.  That's proof enough!"  I should mention that she's funny, too.

Monday, August 20, 2012


3 a : moving, flowing, or proceeding without speed or at less than usual speed

The girls and I are trying something new this week with our school schedule.  We stop whatever we are doing at 10:00 and go for a walk around the block - to get some fresh air, some sunshine, and just to take a break.  I got this idea from a wise friend of mine and I've waited until now to attempt it in the hopes that I could join my daughters for a small trip around the block.  But even before I got to the end of our street, I knew it wasn't to be. The first sign was a throbbing ankle, then a knee that didn't want to bend joined the chorus in my mind saying, "Slow.  Go slow."  Resigned, I told my daughters to continue on without me and meet me back at home.

As I walked slowly home, I thought about how often I've been getting this message to slow down.  When my ankle started hurting in July, I limped for several days before going to see the doctor.  During this time, I had to walk slowly.  My body simply would not let me walk at my normal pace.  On a trip to Lowe's, I realized why this was hard for me.  In addition to the physical pain (which I certainly can bear), there was what I came to think of as the embarrassment factor.  I walk quickly so that people have less time to notice me.  I felt like a spectacle limping to the van from Lowe's that day.  That feeling has only increased as I've had to field countless questions about the large grey air cast I have to wear to support my fractured ankle.  I have been a walking spectacle over the last month.  It's not a feeling I enjoy.

Some people like being seen - or even need it.  It validates them and lets them know they are doing the right things.  I have a friend who once commented that her children would not be overlooked by people - she would see to that.  I immediately thought, "There are worse things than being overlooked." And while I want to be sure I see my children for who they are, I am not preoccupied with them being seen by others.  I try to not prevent that when they seek it, but I don't seek it on their behalf.

Yet there is this tension in me about being seen vs. blending in.  I don't want to be noticed most of the time, but I can't deny that it feels good to be known.  Yesterday as I hobbled up to the communion rail, my priest raised a questioning eye at my cast (he'd been out of the country visiting family these last weeks) and then after he gave me the bread, he prayed for healing for me.  It touched me that he not only noticed my condition, but immediately lifted me up to God for healing, right there at the communion rail.

Later that same night, J was asking me whether he might enjoy a series of books I've read.  I told him I didn't think they his type - more historical fiction than fantasy/sci-fi.  He then asked whether A could read them.  That got an adamant head shake, accompanied by "No," mouthed quietly as A sat nearby.  A and J then laughed about the way I say No when I want to give it force and emphasis.  J turned to me and said, "Isn't it nice to be known?"

It is nice to be known.  Being known requires being seen.  The enforced period of slowness and healing I am in is teaching me many things.  Chief among them, that I can (and perhaps should) risk the pain of being seen for the joy of being known.

The timing of this injury is interesting since it's hardly a time I want to slow down.  I would much rather be moving quickly between school work and house work, readying our possessions for selling or packing and moving.  Surely the timing is no coincidence.  In forcing me to slow down just when I have the most to do, it makes me aware not only of my own limitations, but of how my limitations make me feel.  Because I am good at the thinking, not so great at the feeling.

So as you perhaps bustle through your day, getting things done in a pleasing and satisfying way, think about what it might mean to slow down.  What would it cost you?  What would it give you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


8 a (1) : difficult to bear or endure

It's been a hard couple of weeks.  A month ago, I began exhibiting symptoms that were ultimately proven to be from a stress fracture in my left ankle.  I've been wearing an air cast for three weeks and have seen some improvement.  But it's been difficult to navigate de-cluttering our house, cleaning out our basement and getting everything spotless to get our home on the market while wearing a large gray boot.

It's been hard to split my attention between homeschooling our three children and organizing our home for sale.  It's been tough to homeschool at all when asked to leave our home multiple times per day for showings.  I've struggled to balance our need for stability with the flexibility required by the situation.  I'm trying to extend grace all around - to myself and to my daughters as they alternate between excitement about a new home and grief about leaving the only home they've ever known.  I'm slowly but surely learning that I can't homeschool daughter #3 in the ways that worked for daughter #1 or daughter #2.  My children are nothing if not individuals.

Yet through all of these difficult things and my anxiety that has accompanied them, I have heard small whispers from God.  Whispers to rest.  Whispers that He is in control and will be with me no matter where I live.  Whispers that His radiance is a gift I couldn't hide even if I tried.  Whispers that I should listen not only to Him, but to those around me.

When faced with selling and moving out of a house that's been occupied for ten years, the to-do list is a long one.  We had multiple items that needed attention in every room.  Some of them were handled by a repairman, some by a painter, some by our family.  All required time, attention and management.  It's so easy for me to fall into the trap of believing I am responsible for it all.  I'm not.  I believe that where we live is ultimately up to God, not me.  And He's been guiding us along this path faithfully and clearly - not by directing me, but by directing my husband.

A few weeks ago, we found a home we really liked.  By the time we got upstairs, J was sold.  He loved it.  We were a week or so away from putting our house on the market, but went ahead and made an offer (contingent upon the sale of this home).  Negotiations went back and forth with the seller.  We made what we felt was a reasonable offer and the seller still wanted more money.  I wanted to just agree, largely because I didn't want to have to go through this arduous process all over again for another house.  But J agonized over it, talking it through with me, running the numbers on his spreadsheet and just feeling generally unsettled.  We ultimately decided to stick with what we thought was our best offer - even if that meant walking away from the house.  To our shock, the seller accepted.  It was so clear to me that J was listening to God through this process because he felt so much peace after we agreed to stick with our top price and not be moved, even though he was the one who first fell in love with this house.

When it came time to look at offers for the sale of our house, J was again the voice of wisdom.  After six showings in three days, we got an offer.  My instinct? Take it and be done with it.  J's thought?  Make sure we get the best offer.  He asked our agent to follow-up with the other agents who had shown our house and see whether any of them planned to make an offer.  Ten hours later, another offer came through - better than the first in every way.  So our house is under contract and we wait only for the inspection to happen before sighs of relief can be expressed by our entire family.

If the last few weeks have been hard (and they have), I can't imagine how difficult it would be to navigate life without a partner like J.  He is wiser than he realizes and more comforting to all of us than he knows.

In the midst of all this craziness, I missed writing J a birthday post celebrating his 38th birthday on Monday.  Please consider this evidence that I am so thankful for him, evidence that he's the one I want by my side in good times - and hard ones.

My Guy

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


: deeply felt : ardent; also : engrossing

In a matter of days, our house will be on the market.  We've already had one showing and a few phone calls from friends who have friends who might be interested in buying our house.  I don't know about you, but our house doesn't normally exist in a state of show-worthiness.  It has taken hours of de-cluttering, countless trips to Goodwill, the purchase of dozens of plastic bins and cleaning from top to bottom to get our home ready for this.  And now the vigilance begins.  A sampling of my instructions to my daughters over the last 24 hours:

"B, take your markers to your room."
"K, put this doll on your bed."
"A, put this book on your bookshelf." (Followed by, "But I'm reading it."  Which led to, "Then you can put it on your bedside table, as long as it's the only book there.")

There will be more instructions, more cleaning, more dusting over the next days and weeks until we have a contract for this house to sell to someone.

This project of getting our home ready to sell has felt all-consuming.  When I'm not actually sorting items into Goodwill, trash and yard sale piles, I'm thinking about which room needs correcting next.  I think about the things a potential buyer might like (my kitchen) and the things they might not like (the small downstairs bathroom).  I try to cast a critical eye around the space, try to see it as a buyer might.  But I've lived here for nearly a decade, so it's hard to see it with a fresh eye.

The things I've been doing over the last few weeks needed to be done.  Books needed to be purged.  Paint needed to be freshened.  Shelves needed to be reorganized.  Yet I've struggled inwardly with how much of my time and attention all of this takes.  As I said to a friend last night, "I am normally a pretty peaceful person, but right now I'm anxious.  I feel like this is all-consuming and that's not who I want to be."  My friend was sympathetic.  We talked about how hard it is to do something like buy and sell a house without it being consuming - there are things that just must be done.

But my theory is that there has to be a way for me to keep my true self available, even in the midst of stress, busy-ness and riding an emotional roller coaster.  I don't want to be a housekeeping Nazi.  I don't want to be a mom who can't clear her mind enough to teach a math lesson without snapping.  I do want to be a wife who takes time to make dinner - even if it means getting the kitchen spotless again immediately after eating said dinner.  I want to be the mom who takes her time with lessons, stopping to read about this flag and how it relates to the country's history or pulling out a book to show how far away these two countries are from each other.

So when a milestone arrived today, I shortened our lessons - even taking the nearly unprecedented move of saving today's math for tomorrow.  At 10:20 we left our house.  At 1:30 we returned home.  In between, B had her braces removed.  We celebrated with lunch out, ice cream for dessert and an afternoon free of lessons or cleaning.

There are moments every day that are worth celebrating.  Sometimes they are small moments: K telling the time from the clock more quickly than her old sisters, A completing a math lesson with not a single problem incorrect, B writing a perfect paragraph on the first attempt.  Sometimes they are bigger, like getting your braces off.

What I don't want is to be consumed by a process and miss out on those moments.  I want to find a way to do what must be done and still enjoy the fact that life is carrying on around me.  I don't want to move into a new house 8 weeks from now and look around and think, "What just happened?  How did I get here?  Was I marking time or living it?"

If I'm going to be consumed, I want it to be with the beauty of life, with the unexpected goodness that sweeps in as three girls eat ice cream cones, all of them with sparkling white teeth, not a hint of metal in sight.

Friday, August 3, 2012


3. of, resembling, characteristic of, or suitable to the gods of Olympus; majestic or aloof
5. a contender in the Olympic Games

We've been watching a lot of the Olympics around here.  We've watched everything from swim medleys to beach volleyball to gymnastics.  We've watched new-to-us sports like fencing (not enthralled with that one) and archery (more interesting than I would have thought).  We've grabbed our book on the world's flags to see which country a runner is from (Malta, in case you were wondering).

Generally, I've been recording the prime time Olympic coverage on NBC and watching it the next day with my daughters.  This has the advantage of being able to fast forward through commercials and the disadvantage of often being nearly 24 hours behind in knowing results.  Because we've been able to skip through to the coverage that interests us most, I've skipped many of the athlete biographies.

Yet I've still heard the stories about the rigorous training, the financial hardships on the families, the athletes who chose to leave home for a coach who could help them achieve their dreams.  These stories are meant to be inspiring with their emotion-inducing music and misty-eyed parental shots.  And while they do touch me, they've also left me with questions.

Is a gold medal worth a childhood?

Is the time and effort that it costs not just the athlete, but their family, worth it?

What is the rest of your life like when you achieve your dream at age 16?

Could I parent my child through something like this?

I have an abiding thankfulness that none of my children are graced with Olympic caliber athleticism.  Because I think it's beyond challenging to help your child maintain a sense of who they are as a person while also shooting for the Olympics.  Are you a swimmer first, student second?  How much do you let your physical gifts define you?

By far the most encouraging athlete bio I've seen was of young swimmer Missy Franklin.  There was a lot of content, but what struck me most was when Missy told the story of other swimmers who said to her, "You know, Colorado isn't a big swimming state.  Shouldn't you move to Florida or California?"  Her response?  "I don't think I could do what I do if I left home, if I didn't have my family and friends around me."  Her family clearly supports this line of thinking.  Not only does Missy still live in Fort Collins, Colorado, she has turned down endorsement deals in order to swim on her high school swim team.  So it is possible to be an Olympian and still act your age.  It's just not easy.

I think one reason it's so difficult is because the Olympics have transformed over the years from a sporting event that transcends geopolitical boundaries to an entertainment spectacle.  Combine this with the tendency our country has to elevate sport to religion and I wonder whether the result is toxic.  Are we celebrating these athletes as people or demi-gods?  What happens when they step down from Mt. Olympus (or London) and land in Kansas City, San Jose or Peoria?

In preparation for the Olympics, my daughters, my mom and I watched Chariots of Fire.  There were many interesting things in the film, but one thing that stood out was how ordinary the athletes were.  They had relationships.  They were students.  They ran for their own reasons (for God, for respect), but running was just one part of their life.  It seems to me as spectator that such a balance is nearly impossible to attain as an Olympian today.

So as I watch these games, I'll try to keep it all in perspective.  They are just games.  Spectacular games, yes.  But just games.  And in the end, maybe I'd rather be ordinary than Olympic.