Thursday, February 16, 2017

Kids!

A conversation between myself and our kindergartener this morning on the walk to school:

(Kindergartener looks downtrodden and sad.)
Me: "What's wrong babe?"
Sara: mumbles something unintelligible
Me: "What? I can't hear you."
Sara: mumbles some more
Me: "I still can't hear you."
Sara (louder and less mumble-y . . . finally): "Joe is mean and he was being a hypocrite!"
Me (questioning whether she actual had an actual grasp on the meaning of the word "hypocrite"): "What do you mean, honey? What does hypocrite mean?"
Sara: "Hypocrite means I was cracking the ice and Joey told me I had to stop, but he kept on cracking the ice."
Me (surprised that she DID actually get the idea of hypocrisy): "Well, that isn't nice. Why don't you just not walk near him. Stay by me!"

Ah the drama of sibling relationships!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Church and the therapist's office

I need to start by saying that I love my church. I love the people there and the community. I feel we have a greater than average share of eclectic, quirky people when compared most churches I have been to. We are accepting and welcoming more than I feel is normal for a church. Those people are my family and I love them! But we still have a long ways to go, in my opinion. And I feel that "the church", in the broad sense of the word, should be more like the waiting room at the therapist's office.


Yesterday I spent a little more than an hour in the waiting room at Fraser. Fraser is a mental health specialty clinic for kids. They are mainly known for their amazing work with autism, but they work in all areas of mental health. It is a wonderful place and one for which we are very, very grateful! I have spent Thursday afternoons there for almost a year now, (for a while we spent time there on Friday too, but we've weaned down to once a week!). The woman that we see there (who we are adore, and care about, and are so, so thankful for, and who has made a huge difference in the life of one of our kiddos and, thus, in the life of our family as a whole) had surgery earlier this winter and so this was our first week back since before Christmas. (7 weeks off of therapy, especially in the midst of a major home remodel, is really tricky for a kid who has a significantly hard time with changes to routine and unpredictability!) So, after that break, I feel like I was seeing things with fresh eyes yesterday.

Many of our same "friends" were there in the waiting room with me. Familiar faces. But there were new people that I didn't recognize as well. The Fraser waiting room is a unique place. So very much diversity! Ethnic diversity. Economic diversity. Age diversity (the woman sitting next to me, who I have had short conversations with from time to time, brings her GREAT grandson to his therapy each week). Language diversity (there is always at least one interpreter in the room to relay information from therapist to parent). Diversity of abilities. Diversity in the issues that bring us each to Fraser. It reminds me a bit of what I imagine heaven to be like.

It is the least "calm" waiting room I have EVER been in. Kids throw major fits there. Sometimes they lay down, refusing to move, in the middle of the floor. It is loud! People often act in ways that would not be socially acceptable in any other setting. Loving therapists and parents can be found sitting in the middle of the floor trying to engage with a kiddo they care about and want to help who has shut down or is being oppositional. If people need to get by them (because they are, quite literally, sitting in the middle of the floor of the small waiting room) they just step over or around and give a sympathetic smile. It is the least judgmental setting that I have ever been in. It has a vibe of we've-been-there-too, keep-up-the-fight, you-can-do-it. Solidarity! Parenting is hard, hard work! That is universal. But some kiddos are even harder than average.

Everyone in that waiting room is desperate. They realize they can't do it alone and need help and wisdom and support. They are at the end of their ropes and knowledge and ability and are acknowledging their needs just by walking through the door. That fact brings an amazing feeling of unity and also an inability to put on any air of pretense or having things all together. Just by being there, we are all saying that we DON'T have it all together and that we're pretty much a mess. And we need help. No one there is judge-y. People give a sympathetic smile and let you know you aren't alone. People own their "stuff" and don't attempt to be fake. I imagine we all spend enough time faking it in other settings and it feels good to be real for a bit.


Isn't that how church should be too? Aren't we there because we are acknowledging that we need Jesus? That we can't save ourselves? That we are all sinners and are a bit of a mess -- possibly even a huge mess! When people ask me, on Sunday morning, "How are you?",  can I say that I had a shitty week? Would I get in "trouble" if I said shitty in church? A big part of me wants to be authentic, but instead, I almost always default to "Good. And you?" This is not completely false. I AM good. I am healthy. I have a wonderful family that I love (and who, if we're being honest, I want to murder at least once a day). I have food to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over my head. I have wonderful friends and a great community. But, also, life is hard! It isn't easy to convey all of this in church (or anywhere), so I default to "Fine." or "Good." But I wish church were more like the Fraser waiting room. Where we could drop the pretense and be more real and have it be ok to do so. Where other people would be that way too. That we all would. Where we could just sit (often completely wordless) with our crap. Where just by walking through the doors we would be admitting what a mess we are. I think Jesus would be in favor of that. My Jesus would, anyway!

*photo credit to my friend Margaret 

Friday, January 27, 2017

House update

Work on the house is coming right along. It's getting more exciting each day. We are so looking forward to the blessing that our new space will be to our family and those who spend time in our home. Living kitchen-less and in cramped quarters has been a challenge for our larger-than-average crew, but we are surviving it so far!


The other day I was at Target and bought a bunch of Sharpies so we could "bless" our new space. We all gathered in the new kitchen and spent some time praying over our home and all the people that would come through our doors and our family and the blessing that the new space will be. Then we set the kids free to write all over the studs. Blessings. Scripture. Song lyrics. Un-readable stuff written by a 6-year-old. It was a great night.





Walls have gone up. Walls have come down. Windows have come out. New windows are in. Holes have been cut through walls. Other holes have been patched.








It's exciting to see the progress each day. Some days it is more noticeable than others, but always exciting. Some days you run 2 errands and listen to a podcast and when you get home your entire kitchen, that was there when you left home, is gone! Crazy!

A couple more months and we'll be living in and growing accustom to our new space.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

CSC trip recap

No words or pictures could capture our trip. The feelings, the experiences, the people . . . it was so good and so hard and so wonderful and so emotional.


We left early on Sunday morning, December 18th. At the airport by 4 am to check all our bags and pick up coffee and get to the gate in time for our first leg of the long trip to Cebu. We flew from Minneapolis to LA. From LA to Seoul. From Seoul to Cebu. Nearly 24 hours of total time in the air between the two flights! Due to the time differences, it was early Tuesday morning, local time, when we finally arrived in Cebu. We were tired and weary, but excited to be there after the weeks and weeks of dreams and plans.







We were asked to come to help with Christmas preparations for the kids. 75 kids, give or take a couple! That's a whole lotta Christmas prep, let me tell you. We shopped. We wrapped. We wrapped some more. We "emergency" shopped for a few more things. We baked cookies. We made table decorations for Christmas dinner. We frosted cookies. We played with kids. We held precious babies. We made friends. We witness the selfless gift, purchased with money donated by orphaned and abandoned children, that would bless someone who had needs beyond any that I can wrap my brain around! We worshipped. We sweat a lot (TROPICS! We were in the tropics!). We listened. We cried. We ate A LOT of rice. We even slept a little bit.















I can't put words to the life long impact an experience like this has on a person. I'm so grateful to have been able to share it with some of my very favorite people on earth.





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Levels and Travels and Bursitis, oh my!

It's been a whirlwind of a fall and winter so far. When we turned the calendar to October, we were looking forward to pretty average fall and winter. The biggest "stuff" on our radar was all the "lasts" of life with Jacob still living under our roof full time. But shortly thereafter, things got crazy.

We took on this major addition/remodel/house project. It will be so, so wonderful once it is finished, but it most certainly throws a wrench into regular family life!

Then a couple weeks later the two older girls and I were offered the opportunity to spend Christmas in Cebu at CSC. We gave it only a few minutes of thought before we were in. So there were passports to get. And tickets. And plans to be made. And packing to do.

Then in November I was diagnosed with bursitis in both my hips. It was good to have a diagnosis and to know what was going on to cause all my hip pain. So that started a journey of PT to work on healing and diminished pain.

What was looking like a calm season took a turn. A crazy turn, but a turn that would lead to lots of fabulous destinations. Life is nothing if not a crazy ride!


Friday, November 11, 2016

Heavy-hearted . . . but hopeful

I feel like 2016 has been a rough year. It has been a rough year for me, personally. It has been a rough year for my family. It has been a rough year for my immediate community. It has been a rough year for our state. It has been a rough year for our nation. And, it has been a rough year for the world. Hurts. Struggles. Violence. Protests. Elections. Refugees. Wars. There is lots of bad stuff going on out there.

This week, especially, there are many hurting people around me. And, I would guess, around you as well. No matter what your political leanings or what candidate you voted for, I would hope that each of us in this nation (and many people around the world as well) have dealt with the goings on of the world with sobriety this week (figuratively, if not literally!). I would hope that, no matter what side of the line you find yourself on, you would be a bit heavy-hearted with me this week. There are many people in our nation who are hurting. People who are scared. People who are in mourning and are deeply wounded. Many of them are people that I love and care about deeply. And that fact hurts my heart!

There are many things that have made this year memorably rough a variety of levels. A major one that comes to mind for me, as far as my immediate community goes, is the shooting of Philando Castile. On July 6th of this year, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer less than 2 miles from our home. This happened in my immediate neighborhood. Our community was thrust into the national spotlight overnight. Many people, even Twin Cities residents, had no idea where Falcon Heights was before this summer. Now people all over the country recognize the name of my community. My dad, one of our daughters and I took a bike ride the day after the shooting to join the gathering of people who were mourning, protesting, remembering and holding vigil at the location where Philando (Mr. Phil as he was known at the elementary school where he worked) was killed. It was an emotional and meaningful thing to be a part of. Many tears. Hugs between strangers. A heartfelt word to my young daughter from a black woman thanking her for coming to share in the "hard" of the moment. There was less anger than I expected; more deep sorrow.

The following week, the elementary school that our kids attend organized a gathering and peaceful walk to the memorial to show our concern over the violence happening in so many different communities in our nation, but specifically the violence that happened right outside our doors. It was a beautiful gathering of caring, concerned community members and I'm so thankful that we were able to be a part of it. It fells good and right to do something when you feel so overwhelmed and helpless. The three teachers from our school who organized the gathering are amazing people. Amazing leaders. Amazing teachers. I am very thankful to know them and have them influencing my kids! My talented friend Shaina (who has a fabulous name . . . even though it is spelled "wrong") took some very moving pictures of the event, which you can see here (see if you can spot any of our family members in the photos).

Although I live very close close to the location where the shooting took place, it is not a part of my normal, daily driving route. Because of that, it becomes easier to forget with time. More than 4 months have passed now and many people have moved on and forgotten at this point. However, one of our kids has a weekly appointment that brings us down the road where the memorial is, and so, on our drive home from our appointment every Thursday we drive by that spot. We remember. There is still a very large memorial on the side of the road. There still are people who remember and have not forgotten. People who are still hurting.

This week there are many people that I know personally and care about deeply who are very sad and hurt and disappointed in our nation. They are mourning and they are scared. Scared for themselves. Scared for their children. Scared for people that they love. This makes my heart feel heavy! I am a highly sensitive, deeply feeling person, so I realize I am in tune to the pain of others in a different way than people of a different personality type are, but I would hope that the deep sorrow of many in our nation would bring sorrow, in some degree, to each of us. Regardless of who I voted for, regardless of who you voted for, there are people around you who are hurting and I would hope that that fact would make your heart heavy too. I also realized that there are many people who are very happy about the outcome of the election (obviously, since Trump won), but I would hope that even those who are celebrating the victory of their candidate could be sympathetic and, hopefully even, empathetic to those around them who aren't feeling celebratory right now. It is a hard time for our nation. I realize I haven't been alive for all that many presidential elections relative to people that I know with many more years of life and wisdom, but I feel like this one is unprecedented in the level of angst and division that the outcome of the election has brought to the people of America. It feels different to me this time around. More divisive. Heavier. I, for one, hope to act in ways that bring peace and healing and a feeling of being loved to those who are hurting. Smile at a stranger. Be civil to those who you come in contact with who hold political views that differ from yours. Love your kids. Hug your friends. Make strides for peace in ways that you are able.

I want to be a safe place for both those who are happy with the state of our country as well as those who are hurting. I am very aware that I have friends and family members in both camps. People that I love and respect fall on both sides of this struggle and that makes things tricky, but not impossible.

But through all of the hard and the sad and the horrible, there are also many, many glimmers of good in the world. The world holds much hope! On Wednesday morning, after the election results were tallied and in, I went to school with my elementary kids to volunteer, as I do each Wednesday. The chatter of elementary school kids this particular morning was more interesting and insightful than it is most "normal" Wednesday mornings. The toast with cookie butter (yum!) and coffee and the amazingly beautiful sunrise that I witnessed that morning paired with the laughter of kids and seeing a student that was pretty discouraged a couple weeks ago flash me a smile (rare for this particular kid -- at least in my experience) and volunteering in a kindergarten classroom (gotta love kindergarteners!) were all good for my heavy heart! So while there is hard in the world and sad in the world and sorrow in the hearts of many of us, there is also so very much wonderful! The warmth of the sun on your back in November, the crunch of leaves underfoot, snuggling, health, newborn babies, meaningful work, laughter with friends, coffee, hugs, a beautiful sunset, people who love you through your yuck, naps, catching up on laundry, online shopping, a good book, music that moves you . . . be on the lookout for the good things in life. There are so very many. The seemingly little, insignificant ones are my favorite! Enjoy them. It's ok to be sad and it's ok to mourn and it's ok to hurt, but try not to forget about all the good that is still in the world. As Glennon Doyle Melton likes to say, "Life is brutiful!" Simultaneously brutal and beautiful. Intertwined. That's how it has always been and I imagine that is how it always will be! I'm going to try my hardest to focus on the beautiful and the good. It's easier sometimes than others, but it's always a good goal.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blessings abound

Here are some of the many blessings I have made note of in my gratitude journal lately. A gratitude journal is something that I had heard of for years and years, but finally started doing after reading Ann Voskamp's powerful, amazing book One Thousand Gifts. If you haven't read it, you should! And also, she has a new book out called The Broken Way. I have a copy of it on my nightstand, but life has been crazy and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I am looking forward to it though, and know it will be wonderful. So, here go a few of my recent blessings (complete with photographic evidence of some of them). Enjoy!

5912. baby snuggles with Clay
5915. our pediatrician -- I love her!
5918. family trip to the apple orchard
5920. a complete God thing. an answer to a prayer we hadn't even thought to pray :: a tutor for one of our kids who is struggling in school
5922. glorious weather
5925. clothes on the line
5933. volunteering at school
5937. bonfire and dessert with friends
5944. friends who are like family
5950. a supportive, encouraging husband
5951. a girls weekend
5955. sunrise over the lake
5956. loon calls on the lake in the morning
5959. singing words of truth ::
Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
I never ever have to be afraid
This one thing remains!
5960. deep, hard laughter with friends (I nearly needed my inhaler!)
5961. yard work done and ready for winter
5963. knowing friends are praying for me
5964. a bright moon in a dark sky
5965. family walk to the park in the dark -- looking at the moon and the stars and swinging and playing catch and climbing and enjoying time together
5972. walking the kids to school each morning
5975. an eagle overhead -- the majesty!

amazing for a November in MN

walking to school with these 3 is my favorite

sunrises are my favorite

amazing friends on an amazing fall day

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In case there wasn't already enough going on

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind the past month or so. Lots of things (very good things!) coming at us that weren't exactly in the immediate plan, but nonetheless we have found ourself in the middle of them. Major life things. Time consuming things. Thought consuming things. Good things, but things that demand a lot out of you!

We are on the brink of a MAJOR house project around here. An addition and remodel. Big stuff! We have lived in our 1920's house for nearly 20 years now and we LOVE it, but there are lots of things that could stand to have a bit of money thrown at them (and that's an understatement), if you know what I mean. So, we are diving in! All the years we've lived here, we have dreamed of a bigger kitchen. Our kitchen is small and the space is also the main entry into our house. And since 8 people live here (five of whom are full-sized people), the space is pretty tight, to say the least. And when you add in the fact that all the shoes/coats/sweatshirts/backpacks/etc for 8 people get tossed on the floor in the kitchen, it's nearly enough to make you lose your everloving mind! So, our yard will soon be sporting a big hole and life will get messy for a while . . . well, life is always messy, but it's about to get a lot more messy, in the literal sense, for the foreseeable future.

Also, I will be going on a MAJOR, life-changing trip with our two older girls in just over a month. Passports have been applied for. Plane tickets have been purchased. Planning is well underway! My mom, my dearest girlfriend since childhood (my "sister"), my two older girls and my brother's wife will all be traveling to Cebu, Philippines to work at a shelter for orphaned and abandoned children. We will have the opportunity to serve them by helping the staff there prepare for Christmas. How fun is that? Shopping, wrapping, baking, planning, prepping . . . doing what we can to help make Christmas special for the 80+ kids who call CSC home.

I'm quite sure there will be plenty to share on both of these fronts in the near future, so stay tuned.

Life is quite a ride these days. (And always!) I'm hanging on tight.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Teachers are my heroes!

Despite having children in the public school system for more than a decade, I have never volunteered in the classroom on a regular basis until this year. I always had a little person at home with me that made regular volunteering challenging. Sure, I went along on some field trips and helped with stuff from home and worked the book fair and open houses and the school carnival. But regular, weekly, in-the-classroom volunteering is new territory for me.

Each Wednesday morning I walk my kids to school like usual (except for today, when we drove, since it was rainy!), but instead of kissing them goodbye and turning around to walk back home, I go to the office, sign in on the iPad, don my volunteer badge and head off down the hall to spend the morning with some great kiddos!


Until now, I've mostly had the opportunity to maintain my ignorance about what kids -- little kids! -- have to deal with in their lives. I know, intellectually, and on a general level, that there are kids in my kid's school (and in pretty much every school in our country) who have yucky home situations. Who don't eat breakfast in the morning. Or dinner at night. Who struggle with academic stuff that their peers mastered long ago. Who don't have appropriate clothes (coats, hats, boots) to wear to school. Who don't have supportive parents. Who don't have a home, or a bed of their own. I know these facts intellectually, but to know these things more intimately, in my heart, by working each week with kids who struggle in these areas, is heartbreaking! If I knew the specifics of each of the 20 or 30-some kids in the classroom, I think it might do me in! I don't think I could take it. Even the kids who seem to have things going for them (kids like the ones that live at my house), have struggles. Real struggles. Some not as "big" as being homeless, for example, but just as real. No one is exempt. And to know those struggles for dozens of kids is so weighty! I told one teacher this morning, "I really don't know how you do it. It's heartbreaking!". She agreed and said she doesn't sleep too great many nights. These men and women are heroes! Their love and concern for kids that aren't their own blows my mind. The hours they spend working with, thinking about, worrying about these kids is WAY more than the hours written in their contracts. I am so very thankful for them!


This morning, one of the kiddos I work with one-on-one wasn't at school. That allowed me to spend a little more time helping out another teacher, but I couldn't help but worry about why this kiddo wasn't at school today. I was looking forward to our game of "war", where we sneak in work on some math facts under the guise of just playing a card game. I want to be a bright spot in the lives of the kids I come in contact with. I don't want to just help them make academic strides (although that will, hopefully, be an outcome as well), I want to build them up. Make them feel seen and cared about and noticed. I want them to know that they matter and are important and can do it . . . even when they think they can't. I want to give them big huge hugs and tell them that I pray for them and buy them a nice, new winter coat. But some things aren't appropriate to do and I just need to keep pouring into them and praying for them and loving them in the ways that I can. I only know the specifics of a very small number of kids (and even then, there is lots of stuff I don't know about them) and it is hard. I know I am more sensitive than some, but I don't know how pouring in to the life of a kid who is struggling in life couldn't get to you, no matter who you are. They are kids, for crying out loud! Life should be (mostly) carefree and fun. And for many it isn't. That is hard for me to know. To really know. Not just to be aware of, and know in my head, but to know in my heart too.

I could not handle being a classroom teacher. For way more reasons than I could begin to list. But I am so very thankful for teachers! They are my heroes! Thank you, teachers!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Senior Night

It was senior night for football this week. At the game on Wednesday night, they honored the seniors on the football team and their parents (as well as the senior team managers and cheerleaders). Jacob is healed up enough to be able to suit up and play again -- which we are thankful for. He's not 100% yet, I don't think, but he is certainly better than he has been for the past month.

at home, before school in the morning
The football team dressed up for school on game day and Jacob looked fabulous! (although I might, possibly, be a little biased) Tradition says that the mom of each senior is supposed to wear their son's jersey to the game that night. Let me tell you, those things are NOT comfortable! First of all, Jacob and I are not the same size! Also, since I wasn't wearing football pads, there was lots of excess fabric in the shoulder area that was crazy-making! I won't get in to the rest of my complaints about the jersey. At the first possible moment, I took that thing right off!

on the field, before the game
Each of the seniors was announced, along with their parents, before the start of the game. They mispronounced my name . . . but I guess it's not about me, right!? Ha! (I'm sure no one even noticed other than me.) After all the seniors and their parents were announced, we stayed on the field with the players for the national anthem. In addition to it being senior night, it was also "pink out". The ENTIRE student section was dressed all in pink to support those fighting cancer. More specifically, breast cancer. I was not unaware of the fact that my mom was in the stands watching her oldest grandchild play in his senior night football game on "pink out" night, almost 4 years after her own breast cancer diagnosis. If you know anything about me, you might not be surprised by the fact that all those things added together had me a bit verklempt!

Go Raiders!
In the end, the team pulled off a 41-20 win. I can't believe we are so close to the end of Jacob's high school football career. The days are long, but the years are short . . . so very true! We adore our #19 and are so very proud of him and the man he is becoming!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Celebrations

It was a big weekend at our house. We celebrated some birthdays. We had a lovely, very fun birthday dinner at my parent's house to celebrate Kirby's birthday, Sara's birthday and Allie's birthday. I won't give away everyone's ages, but combined they turned 92 . . . which is OLD!

Happy, happy birthday to 3 of my favorite people on the planet. My amazing husband, my sweet baby girl and my what-would-I-do-without-her best friend/sister. I am so very thankful for each of them. They are such blessings in my life, and the lives of so many others as well.

sister love
We don't get to all spend enough time together, so we enjoyed every minute of our Saturday together celebrating!
the birthday "kids"