Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Turn, Turn, Turn

In a matter of days we've crossed the bridge from the prim, pursed lips of the socialite tulips who believe in their heart of hearts that we all owe them the world (we do) (shhh) to the fiery teenager tulips with their skirts crooked and splayed, flaming red.

The socialites were first to the scene, so charming and graceful, backs straight, lined up like a church lady choir.

The angsty, messy teenagers don't even bother playing it cool. Their faces open wide to the sky and the air, their inked-up arms reach out to grab what they can. They're star-struck. Front row ticket holders. They don't give a rip if we're impressed. They know they signal an end to this fine act. They don't mind at all that it means they're almost goners.

The socialites sure are pretty, but I'm figuring out that I'm a trashy teenager. Or at least I aspire to be.

(Do you ever write a line on your blog and imagine it emblazoned as a headline when you, say, run for President someday? Me, either.)

Summer's kinda here, baby. We all have a fresh pair of $2 flip-flops to prove it.

Things came more alive today and my heart was quiet, because I know that just as this season takes its turn, shuts its door, the world it moves in does the same, and none of us is exempt.

I would have guessed that finally coming to grips with a life that never stops changing would have left me bereft, unsettled. Truth is, I find it tremendously comforting today. It means that all that is required of me is to live this day well. Tomorrow will be a different scene, a different sky. It will be new challenges, new heart cracks, new chances to run outside during my free hour to clip a branch of tangible hope and carry it with me inside.

I desperately want to hold on to this free-fall. I want to wear it until it fits like a second skin.

We lived this day well, and we can do it again tomorrow and then again and again, when things are different and the tulip petals make a carpet for whatever comes next.

We can be certain about the promise that He never changes, and that He is our home. So today, right now, I'm okay throwing my hands in the air, shucking the rules, and playing my music way too loud. With me?

PS -  Our new canvas came. I love it so much. The 8x10 looks smaller than I thought it would, with the sides all wrapped. But we can't all be an 11x17. {EDIT:: Just measured the canvas. Sure enough, 8x10 without including the sides!}

PSS - Crack broccoli, okay? It has revolutionized our broccoli-eating (see, nothing stays the same!) and we were fairly high on the broccoli-loving totem pole. (Now I'm finding it impossible to move on because I'm imagining what a broccoli-loving totem pole might look like... I need a moment...)

So. Here's the recipe. It is imperative that you follow the directions, specifically the one that says to heat the baking sheet with the oven. It makes the most satisfying sizzling sound when you toss it on the pan. And make sure you squeeze lemon over it at at the end! I can't stop loving it. It's the healthier version of crack bark, by a factor of about 2 million.

And, now I want crack bark. Goodbye.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


My house is a holy terror of a hot mess. This is what happens around here on the weekend: Mayhem erupts. No time to clean. No care to clean.

And now it's 11:41 on Sunday night and I shall start my week with a sink full of dishes and no milk in the fridge. 'Tis the way we roll.

We dined on Saturday's very best and lazed around like only our kind of people would. The sun seemed to sit higher in the sky, it hollered down to us, so we answered by walking downtown for for $1.50 tacos and the avocado salsa that makes me want to quit life and spend the rest of my days all green and garlicky.

It was perfection, wrapped up in a day. I wanted it to stay forever.

It was one of those days where my heart felt goose-bumps over my own personal luckiness. It's God, sure it is, but I have to believe it's a little bit random, I have to believe in luck, because if I dare to think otherwise, I'm tempted to consider that God loves me more than the single mom doing her best to survive the crush of generational poverty while every receptionist, every professional, every white-collar anything looks at her like she's only 2/3 of me, or you. This life is a stroke of luck, of course it's proof of God's goodness and His love for me, but it's confusing to think of how a motherhood scarred with loss feels His grip. If I feel loved by tulips and tacos, things of beauty and a simple life, where does her eye fall?

Let's just put this out there: God is confusing. We've been reading Romans in our small group. Paul is talking about God choosing people and not choosing others and just when it starts to click, the gear slips a little and we're all stuck there scratching our heads. But the next verse reads something like, "God does wonky work! You'll never make sense of it. Don't even bother trying." The ultimate disclaimer. But if it applies to eternity, it doesn't feel out of line to apply it to life right now.

All I really know is, I got a prized hour alone with my oldest littlish boy. He held my hand while we traipsed around in one of my favorite places dodging bumblebees and garter snakes and I felt like the glass slipper has never found a better fit. It was quintessential spring and we lapped it straight up. We found $1 perennials near the road-side and a machine that doled out cold fifty-cent cans of pop and he told me so many funny things.

I came home and watched my favorite girl perfect her cart-wheel and my tiny wiry baby fill his dump truck full of weeds. My man did mannish stuff, setting our the garden boxes and wielding a tape measure.

We spent time with one of our favorite new neighborhood friends and we all ate pasta and asparagus for dinner while inside I chanted stay stay stay stay stay

Stay this way, this way right here. Stay this quiet, this full. Stay just crazy enough. Stay together. Stay warm. Stay, bare toes in grass. Stay right here, friend, exactly here, pumpkins. No, scoot closer, just a little bit closer, so I can sniff your heads and kiss your necks. Just stay.

We closed the day by bringing home the two cutest baby boys on the planet and three loads of baby laundry.

Today there was a 6-hour prison run and dinner with our buddies.

And then I made the most terrifying observation: My right eyelid appears to be slightly paralyzed. Why haven't you told me??? I knew it was a bit more...mysterious than the left. But I went through a bunch of new photos tonight and there's no getting around it. I feel very old and ever-so-slightly traumatized. I planned to post one of the photos, but can't bring myself to do it after the revelation.

Maybe tomorrow.

For now, a recipe for your week. Baked jalapeno poppers. 
I think the recipe says to grill, but  baking them worked just fine. They were muy delicioso.

We've got another busy week brewing and I find myself having many deep thoughts in my think- tank/shower...only time will tell if any of them find their way to this little space.

I want to thank you to the bottom of my size 9s for your kind words about me and what I do here. Thank you for never making me feel like small potatoes and trust me, the feeling is mutual. I think there's something beautiful to be said for the quirky bunch of misfits sitting in the lunch room. I'm honored to be at the table.

Mad love and spicy poppers to all,

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Smart People and a Movie Quasi-Review

Thrift-store tablecloth turned play room curtains. Huzz.

Singy cat. (He's so dang mean.)

The sky is bright and it finally feels safe to consider (without threat of stone-cold disappointment) that spring is heading our way. Officially. So I'll keep this short.

But first, a brief story.

Place Beyond the Pines finally landed in our local theater this weekend. Sarah and I made last-second plans to go. Ryan Gosling + Bradley Cooper. Enough said? Help me Rhondas, it did not live up to its potential.

But let's focus on the positives: 1) BC appears to have located and bathed in the fountain of youth. He honestly looked like he was 19. It was...disconcerting. 2) RG can look any crazy way, but that voice is always the same and every character he plays retains just enough of that RG-ness to affirm that he truly is the man for the Hey Girl movement. 3) Eva Mendez. I love this girl. I like her boxy teeth. He skin glows like something wonderful, such as maple syrup. She looked vaguely Native American in this roll. Perfection.

In a nut-shell, I feel warranted in summarizing the entire movie with just one keen observation: Never end up on the wrong side of Ray Liotta.

As for today, we have nothing planned. SCORE! Better get to it.

Here's some stuff I've been hoarding for a week or so to share:

Home State - Ohio - digital printable word art
Really crushing on this "Home State" print by Fuller Words.

Watercolor Wallpaper by Little Green Notebook I find myself thinking about wallpaper again for another little nook. Hate me, Cory. Call me crazy, Dad. I know I said I would "never". But a girl reserves the right to change her mind.

I made the mistake of pretend shopping at Anthro last week and now I'm intrigued by this T  (we all agree that I'm painfully predictable, yes?) and this (in gray). Also this muumuu speaks to me in a strange and wonderful way.

Thinking About Our Garden by Under the Sycamore We're garden planning today and this post is full of happy inspiration.

Hope by 70 Piggies  My pal Nicki writes in beauty and truth. She understands small and large places inside my heart like no other. Her words pull me further into the heart of my maker. Her family is getting ready to trek off to Kenya later this summer. They're resting in hope smack-dab between the places of "Let's pack our bags!" and "We need to raise the rest of our funds." This post gives us a glimpse of what it looks like to throw ourselves off the cliff in reckless obedience. 

For Days When Marriage Feels Impossibly Hard by Stanley Clan So, Becca. We sort of live parallel lives. Homegirl wrote this piercing post and it stayed with me for days. Here's to shucking our protective coating and resolving to live transparently. None of our lives are without heartache and confusion. It can be beautiful to talk about it.

Where is the Mommy War for the Motherless Child by Rage Against the Mini Van Okay, this is an oldie, but I don't think I've shared it? It slayed me. To the bone.

Motherhood for the Introvert by Chatting at the Sky And while we're in flash-back mode, this post lingers in my mind so often. And...it was written in 2009. Heyyyyy, Emily! See what your writing does to me? Grabs hold. Doesn't let go.

Hearts by Nester  I believe that sponsoring a child in a 3rd world country is just sort of not-optional. For one thing, the need is just too great for us to decide that we don't have to play. For another, our hearts need one or four or ten of them banging around in there.

Happy Weekending, Homies!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Story of My Life

1. I spent 4 hours yesterday at Calvin's dr. appt. with all 3 littles.
2. It was the second of its kind in under a week.
3. I sprouted a cold sore yesterday somewhere around 11:13 a.m.
4. I sprouted a splitting headache yesterday around 4:08 p.m.
5. Chips, salsa, and good TV can cure almost anything.
6. (But not cold sores, dangit.)
7. That picture above? The Kroger parking lot, just up the road.
8. We're swimming here in Northern Indiana.
9. The city septic backed up into our basement last week while Cory was out of town.
10. But I don't really want to talk about it.
11. FPFG: "Was I walking around in PEE down there???!!!"
12. CMB: "It was mostly rain water."
13. Mostly.
14. I'm sitting here in my pajamas because I had big plans to watch last night's episode of Scandal while Siley is at school.
15. Turns out yesterday was not Thursday.
16. So I still have 90 minutes on my hands, and I sure don't want to mop my floors.
17. Sorry about your luck.
18. Remember how my basement filled up with partial-pee last week?
19. 15 minutes later Cory's car died. In a torrential down-pour. 2 hours from home.
20. His awesome dad rescued him.
21. It ended up being an easy fix, so the car didn't die after all....
22. But it's definitely in Hospice care.
23. Know of a great car for sale around the $4k price point? Hit me UP.
24. I have lots of food-related things to tell you about...sometime soon.
25. But today, all I can think about is vacation. We're doing a repeat performance of this trip in exactly 10 days with these people. So pumped to thrift. I'm already suppressing the urge to show you all my outfits before I go. I can't explain it. Vacation anticipation does strange things to me.
26. I have the most hilariously strange assortment of books and mags for my trip. I've been hoarding.
27. Indian Beach FL. Any great restaurant suggestions???
28. I feel like I'm done now, but if I stop I have to go mop.
29. No can do.
30. I think I might finish this book today. Lord, I'm hoping so. It has taken me FOREVER. The story is fascinating and his writing is beautiful, raw, funny, poetic. I can't figure out what the problem is.
31. Speaking of books, the kids and I are obsessed with this library book. We can't stop loving it. Ruby is endlessly enamored of his "cute hair". I want all of them to spend all of their allowance money on art, from now on.
32. The only problem with that is that they don't have any more allowance money.
33. Because I took it.
34. Back.
35. It's a long story...
36. Suffice it to say, I had my reasons.
37. And before you get too judgey, just know that Calvin only had $4 and Ruby only had $2.
38. Hey - I recently came into a small sum of cash. (Roughly $6.) What ever shall I do with it??
39. Enough is enough. I've really taken advantage of your time. It isn't right.
40. But thank you from the bottom of my heart for sparing me from a free hour of vinegar mopping.

Always, Very Truly,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Permission to Fail

The past year has felt like the most drawn-out invitation to retreat into the Small. It would have been nice if it had ended with moving to a smaller house.

Life has gotten busier in the strangest ways, and still, here it is, the nudge and pull to be less, do less, have less. We've been confined in closer quarters, squeezed of our excess, stripped of the senseless religion that's tailed us from our youth.

But we're a couple of old dogs and these new tricks don't feel right sometimes. We're prone to wanting, quick to forget that this is the flipped-under world that we signed on to when we believed and agreed that we would walk these miles with Christ.

The truth is, God calls His people to do great things all the time, and by "great", I mean big. And by "big" I mean, like, really actually big. Things that get people noticed. Things that pay the bills and then some. Things that require marketing teams and fancy shoes and extra forms from the IRS.

But sometimes, His calling is big in a really quiet way. Sometimes - often - the Bigness happens shyly, inside us, when we finally agree to unclench our fists from the allure of standing just a little taller than the rest.

Blogging is a tricky boat to steer and sometimes I struggle to make sense of how it fits in with my life right now. I'm wistful about the days when the words came more easily and didn't cost me an ounce of pain.

I'm going on five years and somehow, astonishingly, this community keeps growing. (Thank you! Also, really??) The people in my back yard sometimes think this thing is a biggish deal, but what you and I know is that I am a drop in the bucket. And sometimes that thought comforts me more than any other, but sometimes I notice that the blog sisters of my generation have book deals, magazine spreads, conference tickets, etsy shops, thriving businesses, and 85,000 followers. At a minimum, they've defined a niche or their work helps pay the bills thanks to a sidebar full of quirky-cool ads.

On those nights, I stew around my kitchen and stir doubts into the soup. Maybe the smart people are right and I'm doing it all wrong. I could do more, shout louder, switch to Wordpress, write more, say less, network like I mean it, take a class, learn a trade. I can't compete. The world around me is savvy and I just recently learned what "domain" means. I hit the pillow feeling sure that I should just shut it all down.

Because of course I'd like an invitation. Heck yes, I wanted the book I spent over a year writing to be published. I struggle to find my place, my worth, amid what I think I lack.

But here's the fantastic, can't-wipe-the-smile-off-my-face fact of the matter: Little is much. Small is holy. Quiet can be sacred.

That year I spent hunkered down in the fox room taught me a few important things. 1) Not a single dot or dash of art is wasted time. 2) I can write a whole book!! 3) I can write it just for me.

The day may come when all of this changes. It's not likely, but it's possible. Until then I'm clinging to the simple truth that my Savior found His home in the small and the ordinary. He invented the crazy math where a little + even less = more than necessary.

So I'm right here, cheering on my sisters who are doing things "better" and "bigger". They're walking the path laid out for them and they're doing it justice. I'm reading and learning from them every day.

But for me, and maybe for you, our bigger doesn't work the room and our better won't ever own the crowd. 

It is neither my duty nor my desire to push away from where I've been placed because this is a thing of beauty and my heart is being straightened out in the process of watching those around me snatch up the things I always thought I wanted.

It's amazing how wrong I've been about what I need. I've seen too much to go back to thinking my plans are the right ones.

So my hope is that in the moments I seek recognition I will find only His; in the days I crave popularity I'll rediscover the humbling gift of my brokenness; in the time and time and time again that I fall back into defining success by things that aren't real, I'll come face-to-weary-face with my failure. Because only then can I remember the truth of it all - there exists no failure inside Christ's sovereignty.

If I am His, I am exactly enough.
If you are His, you are exactly enough.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home Alone Volume II

Some girls shop their way back to sanity.
Rich girls travel, or do a spa weekend.

I read books, cook food, take naps. I watch a little telley.

But yesterday I found myself with a rare and priceless gift, the likes of which I haven't seen in a very long time: I had 2 hours alone in my house on a sunny Saturday afternoon. And I had already had a fun morning shopping and lunching with Mr. Lee and Rubester and I'd already spent one light-headed hour scrubbing the tub.

My Home Alone came to me by way of fluke, unplanned and impromptu, which was probably for the best.

I didn't know what to do. I felt almost exactly like this. I wanted to do everything (and by everything, I mean books, food, and nap) but the truth is, I still hadn't showered and I had dinner plans with two charming ladies, so that probably needed to happen.

I ended up doing what any sensible girl would do - I took 19 pictures of my baby succulents. They were $2 each at the CVS and yes, it seemed a little splurgey for something so tiny and killable, but what kind of sick person would walk away from a baby succulent? Not me, that's who. I bought triplets. They make me smile every day in their little green crib.

Unfortunately/fortunately, that little escapade took me all of ten minutes because I played my favorite rogue ultra-amateur photographer game, "Don't Move the Dials", which means that whatever the camera happened to be set at for its last use is what I'm stuck with.

{Incidentally, the camera I used to take the above photos is for sale to a good home. It's a Canon 40D with a Canon 28-135mm lens. $350 for the pair. Very good condition. Email me if interested at shannandmartin@gmail...} Edit: SOLD!!!

As my Good-Luck Saturday would have it, our land-line rang, which only means one thing - prison call! We blew right through the allotted 30 minutes. Hilarity ensued, so of course I facebooked it. (On the slim chance that you need more FPFG kid quotes in your life, follow me on facebook here. I also rant about celebs and talk too much about food.)
Robert: People always be tellin' me I'm too white. I don't care. I use proper English!
Me: You're your own person. I love that about you.
Robert: Yeah, but I might need to kick up my "hood".
Me: Well, Dad and I are more hood than you think.
Robert: laughs
Me: You don't even know.
Robert: Yeah, you're so hood that you just drove your mini van to Target and bought pink shoes.*
Hahaha. LOVE this kid.

After our call, I somehow ended up on a 90's Country Music bender. I don't even know how it happened but I sure am glad. It was divine. Just, Sammy Kershaw, I love you. I need more of your nasal in my life. I feel bad when my friend Melanie says you're a dirty old man. You're the Charlie Daniels of the slightly-buzzed crooners. Joe Diffie? I like it that you had a beer gut and didn't try to look pretty. Pam Tillis? Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it shore felt right. 
The 90's was where it was at, people. They said "ain't" without irony. They said "cain't" instead of the blase, stuffy "can't". Their boots weren't just for show.

(I'm sorry, Reba. I was never a fan. Truly very sorry.)

In typical fashion, I spent too much time singing in the shower and had 20 minutes to pull myself together. I wore old bootcut jeans, navy velvet blazer, grey v-neck, bubble necklace, and converse. My hair was a free-flowing fright, I'm sure. But it was so worth it because I heard Baby Kenny Chesney singing a real country song and not Carribean-Pop-Country fusion.

Since I'm already over-sharing I'll go ahead and say this:
Blackberry sangria
Goat cheese guacamole and homemade tortilla chips
Something called Al Pastor, which involved delicious pork, fluffy tortillas, fresh slaw, and tomatillo salsa.

Our weeks have gotten stressful and insane lately. I needed yesterday like Tim McGraw needs his hat. 

What was your weekend like? More importantly, what would you do with two free hours in your casa?

*Ruby has been saving her allowance money for pink patent ballet flats with bows on the toe. I literally pried them off her cute brown feet an hour or so ago while she lay fast asleep.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Bright Idea and a Free Canvas Deal

I've made a decision, the consequences of which are sure to reverberate through the ages. What once eluded me now seems entirely clear. It's fate, maybe. Or serendipity.

I'm making a gallery wall.

In the stairwell.

Did I just invent this idea?

What??? No???????

Is stairwell a proper word? Or am I channeling Mr. Carson agayne? (said with a long A) (oh wait, that's Canadian...)

As I've lamented, we have precious little wall space up in this nest. We're maxed out. Except for the stair...well? There's loads of space there. And it's partially visible from the living room. So, you know, win/win.

Think this. But there's a twist.

Bear with me. (I like to twist.)

I want to do all or most of it in canvas prints of our personal photos.

!!!!! ZING !!!!!

(You better be as excited about this as I am. The least you could do is pretend.)

True, I won't be able to bag this beast in a couple of weeks, or even months. BUT... We keep saying we want to enjoy more of our photos and I see deals at Canvas People all the live-long day. As in, they really want me to have this gallery wall. No otha explanation. I'll be able to chip away at it, deal-by-deal. Right now, they're giving away an 8 x 10 for free-eeee! (think Oprah) All you have to pay is shipping. It's a little bit'a extra cash well spent. (Also in that category: babysitters for date night, bi-monthly Hacienda chips and salsa, Butter Kek, fig or pomegranate candles from TJ Maxx, the occasional cooking magazine, tulips from Aldi.)

I've been kicking this around for a while and last night I started snooping around our ginormous electronic warehouse of pictures. It did my heart good, man. So I think I'm going to go way, way rogue and swing for a flower/farmy/cute kid theme. (No one's ever thought of that either, right? I'm entirely original, yes? No????)

Here are some contenders in the category, "Flower":


(This is reportedly Cory's favorite photo that I've ever taken. I find it kind of creepy. I must've been in a real mood that day.)

The nominees in the category "Farmy" are:

 And now, "Cute Kid":

Uh, yeah, I've barefly even started combing the archives. I could probably wall-paper the whole dang house in cute kid and flower pics. I'm sure much deliberation will ensue.

But I do know that I'll make sure to include this beaut. I still crack myself up over this. I daresay it was my finest hour. Email if you're interested and I'd happily send you the jpeg so you can have this sexy beast printed on canvas for yourself!

Click here to order your free canvas! This would make a fantastico Mother's Day gift, too. (Just make sure you order by April 25th if you're buying for your Mum.)

*links are affiliate links

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Gospel of Flea Markets

They've been saying Spring is coming, that it's waltzing our way.  I didn't believe them until yesterday.

My right hand clamped around Silas's, my left carried a loaf of French bread and ten plum tomatoes. We pushed the button, waited for the signal, then I pretended to be brave while we crossed four lanes of city buzz.

I eyeballed the Buick that stopped too closely for my comfort and it struck me that my kids will grow up believing that cross-walks and city streets and cars, cars, cars are ordinary. This is the wild that will raise them.

I was raised by stretches of green and a wide yawning sky. My wild was sticky afternoons with no where to go, drippy orange push-up pops and forest moss beneath my sneakers. We tended carrot seedlings in a secret garden, crafted make-shift slip-and-slides and swam in giant plastic trash cans. I never once played with a neighbor because there was no neighbor. So I hid in the forsythia with my brother and caught craw-dads in the creek instead.

Maybe there were questions to ask back then, and maybe my parents asked them. But it seems to me that the answers must have all been easy.

Is there a way to make my kids believe the same, twenty-odd years from now?

I exhaled on the other side of the street, the scariest, "citiest" leg of the trip behind us.

We tossed a letter into the big blue mailbox. I sat on the sidewalk and held Silas in my lap as a train screamed past. We kept on walking.

We stepped over broken beer bottles and tried not to notice the trashed-out mess around us.

We walked the back blocks where no one goes unless they have to. It's Poverty Alley and you'll know it by its smell - that unmistakable scent of decay and lost hope.

Silas held my hand, saying on repeat that I'm cute and he "still" loves me. I caught his falls as he tripped along the buckle and crumble of sidewalk that someone keeps pushing to the bottom of the repair list.

We smiled and said hello to neighbors with cigarettes dangling from their lips. Their teeth were missing, their hair greasy, but their eyes were just as kind as yours. Sheets covered windows and pain lined their faces, but they thought my son was cute and daffodils pushed up around them in patches. It was spring in their yards, too.

I'm a collector of the discarded and the worn. I've paid cash for five defunct sprinklers because they're quirky and I'm fond of their rust. I don't mind taking the quilt that's fraying at the edges - I prefer it, in fact. The flower pot is chipped? Hand it over. The knob is broken? Sure, because it tells a story.

I've chosen to decorate my life with things that someone else has rejected. Things that aren't done living, things that can be bought for a song. They still have something to offer and maybe I can provide the context to prove it.

Why is it so different with people? My instinct is to back slowly away from the broken and the hurting. Why do I strain to see the beauty in their chips and dings?

For years I've convinced myself that my love is earmarked for the broken like me. I'm more cut out for middle-class heartache, thank you very much. My solidarity is with people who think/act/talk/smell/live like me.

I'd really rather forget about the dead streets covered by canopies of oppression. I'd like to never know in the first place about the boys who lurch down them at dusk.

I want to look away. To hide. To pretend life could always be what it was when I was eleven.

But I'm learning the beauty of meeting the eyes around me. I'm forcing myself across the busy street and I'm doing it with precious cargo, not because it's natural or even because I always want to, but because I suspect it's the only way I'll learn that we're all the walking wounded.

I used to think God gave me a particular heart to love the tattered things that other people pass over. Only now do I see the incompleteness of that belief.

I am called to love broken people. Loving broken things is just a hobby.

 My childhood was a dream. It shaped me. I see no fault in it and I'll always thank my lucky stars.

But my kids were called someplace different.

My hope is that everything that jars my senses and makes my heart lurch will become their ordinary wild. My prayer is that they'll walk with ease to their neighbor's table and notice early the way shards of amber glass can catch spring's light.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What I Look Like When I Blog and Some Super Smart People

Hi. This is what I look like when I'm blogging. At least usually.

At this particular moment, I actually look more like this. Same desk, same computer, same ergonomically incorrect chair. Same funky socks.

But most nights, we put the kids to bed, tidy this zoo up a bit, and I get comfy. And as luck would have it, my stalkerazzi moved to the new house with me, so we have an appropriate visual. (Look closely and you'll see my pajama shirt...)

Tonight we're at the tail end of a whirl-wind. We drove to Muncie and back today to meet our newest nephew, fresh off a plane from Uganda. He's the same age Silas was when he came home. And it struck me tonight that he's two months older than Calvin was when Ruby was born.

I feel like I'm thinking out loud right now....

What? That's what it always seems like??

While I'm at it, you should know that I'm dealing with my first whole chicken as. we. speak. It's, uh, boiling on the stove. I feel sort of bad talking about it. It stunned me with its chickenness, that's all. And its headlessness. I think I'll stick with split breasts from now on.

Are you curious about why I'm boiling a whole chicken at 10:14 on a Saturday night?
Well, stay tuned. There's Velveeta involved and I'm not afraid to admit it.

We're having special overnight visitors tonight and tomorrow should be one for the record books of my murmured heart.

I'm leaving you with a bunch of random links I've been saving for a few weeks because they're awesome and no other reason is necessary.

Living in Africa Doesn't Make You an Awesome Person by Annie from Ramblations I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read this.  I really love her transparency and the girl just makes sense.

Why We Have Our Best Ideas in the Shower by Leo Widdrich at Buffer This is super sciency and involved, but it's an interesting skim. And most importantly, it confirms my sneaking suspicion.

Listening Well as a Person of Privilege by Christena Cleveland This girl nails it. "Privileged folks often underestimate how much they need solidarity with oppressed folks."  She slayed me with her well-shared wisdom and convicted me with her brave truth-telling.

6 Tips to Smart Giving by Amy L. Sullivan We're still talking a lot about the importance of generous, extravagant giving around these parts and how important it is to really understand where the $ is going. This is a great resource.

5 Steps to Help Kids Learn to Control Their Emotions by Aha! Parenting Self-explanatory, right??

Alice Cooper: I am a Christian    Fascinating. I'm still chewing this one around.

Dining Room Tour by DustyLu Gorgeous. Dreamy. Swoony.

Happy weekending!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Total depravity
Unconditional election

Oh wait, wrong Calvin.

This boy of mine, he's a real squirt. He cracks us up all the time.
He also makes us pull our hair out a little.

A few weeks ago he came home from school and handed me this paper. He had found a recipe that "sounded good" in a book he was reading, so he copied the whole thing down for me at school.


I die.

Can we say "Mama's Love Language"?

Of course I ran out for some zucchinis and made it.

For the record, this is what I look like most days around here. You might as well know. The next time you say nice things to me and make me all blushy, might I direct you back to this?

And just in case I haven't already over-shared, that shirt? Pajamas.

It's a shameful secret I bear, but I don't want to talk about it.

I often sleep in the shirt I wore during the day. And sometimes I do it the other way around.

But I said I don't want to talk about it, okay?

I feel cleansed.

Also, I stand like this all the time. I have no idea why. It's always been like this.
I'm part flamingo, only not as exotic or pink.

I think it might have something to do with my uneven legs.

But we're here to talk about Calabacitas.
It was pretty good. Not sure that I'll make it again?

Calvin wasn't sold, either.

But we ate it all and we ate it happily and I looked across the table at my child who arrived from across the ocean with a faux-hawk and now holds a pencil in his hand and writes words like "margarine" and "Montery jack" cheese on lined paper because he loves me so much.

A few weeks later he pulled this out of his back-pack like it was 2-dozen roses and I was the Queen.

He gets to check out two library books each week at school and got a cook book for me.
(Though I think there may have been some ulterior motives involved...)

He recently made this for his Papaw - a folder to keep all of his gardening paperwork.

(If you know anything about my dad, you know he indeed has gardening "paperwork".)

So yeah, I'm being a total bragger Mom tonight. I have the raddest kids ever.

* We just tucked Silas into our bed after the most heart-wrenching, complicated, endearing conversation. He's growing and understanding more. He's starting to figure himself out a little. He's starting to really know his place in this family, and that it's forever.

* Last night we talked to Robert about an on-going quasi-conflict with his counselor. I asked him if he was nice when he talked to her. "Not at first, but at the end I was." My response, "Be nice. Show your teeth (smile). We raised you better than that." He cracked up so hard. Giggled like a girl. It appears that there's no end to his giddiness and amazement over being found and kept by us. He's wonder-struck. We all are.

* Ruby is overdue for a post of her own and I've been keeping notes, so stay tuned. For now, I'll just say that she's blowing me away with her smarts. The girl is reading like no body's business. Lordy, how I've always prayed that my kids would love reading!

Yesterday after she read the hardest book yet I hooted and hollered and yelled and sang. Calvin calmly walked over and patted her on the back, "Great job, Soup!* Just keep working on your fluency."


I'm clearly in over my head in innumerable ways. It feels like a good place to be.

*Family nickname chart (explanations will not be offered at this time) (because there are none to offer) (I blame my mom)

Mr. Lee
Poskie (Me)
Poskadoozaloo (Me)
Keevis (Me)
Calvisbobalvis (Dad)
Calvo (Dad)

El Rubo (Dad)
Rubis-Cuebis (Dad)
Youbis (Me)
Soupis (Calvin)
Soup (Calvin)

Pilot Parkis
Pikesmandu (Calvin)

Howard the Cat
Howsing (Calvin)
Singy (Calvin and Ruby)
Sing-Sing (Ruby)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

High Roller Spring Break

I'm not sure how, but I survived Spring Break. (EIGHT school days off...it was a long one!)

In fact, Sunday night I went to bed feeling all bluesy around the edges. We'd found our new routine just in time to disrupt it again. I didn't want them to go back. I wanted everyone here. Also, I wanted to stay in bed 'til 8.

Isn't that just how I am? Wishing for the thing that isn't happening? (The answer is yes.)

It has me thinking about how infatuated I really am with predictability. I've been pondering the rhythms of our days and the way they treasure-map the path to my sanity.

But I digress.

Over Christmas break we were supposed to take a trip to Kansas for a few days. Then Calvin's health hit a rough patch and the doctors nixed out-of-state travel. The kids were kinda bummed about missing out on the family reunion and sackcloth-and-ashes grieved about missing out on a night's stay in a hotel.

So that was our consolation prize - A night's stay in a hotel!

(A word of advice from someone who knows: Never pass up a photo op with a drab duck. You'll just never be sorry you have it.)

But then two tires went bad and there was much teeth gnashing.

They understood, in their own way. We laid it out as the simple truth that it was: We need to buy two new tires. We don't have money for both. The car is more important. We'll make it up to you.

Spring Break = Making it Up to You

People, we took them to the Comfort Inn 20 miles away. Sixty bucks for the night. Two double beds.

They were so geeked, you don't even know.

We used the side door because Cory insisted on parking at the end of the building, closer to our room. Like it was a true, throw-back motel with the room doors on the outside. The second we made it inside, this conversation ensued:

Ruby: It smells...different in here!
Silas: Yeah, it smells fancy!
Calvin: It's the pool. And the nice carpet.
Mommy: It's chlorine mixed with stale cigarette smoke trapped in the kinda-dingy burgundy carpet.

(Pretty sure Cory was the only one who heard me. I'm not here to be a dream crusher.)

The kids raced around our palace and practiced switching on all the faux brass light fixtures. They slid around on the nylon comforters. (cringe)

It might as well have been Disneyland.

They threw on their suits and Daddy took them swimming while I drove down the street to Marshalls where I found THE BEST EVER bathing suit for $30 with the original $190 price tag still attached.

Dear Marshalls,
Please uphold your commitment to keeping orignal tags on all high-end merch.
I thought the bathing suit was sort of interesting, but only after I spotted that tag did I realize how truly breathtaking it is. After all, it's not so much about looking good as it is beating the system.
Very Truly,

After our afternoon activities, we did what anyone would do on a fancy vacation: dinner at Golden Corral.

People. It was expensive. But I'll sing its praises for the rest of my life or at least through Fall. It just opened a few months ago and buffets always require a certain degree of bravery, but I'm a believer now.

Dear GC,
Thank you for making your mashed potatoes from scratch.
The blue cheese crumbles on the salad bar were a nice touch.
I'd like the recipe for your guac.
And I'm very sorry I took four desserts. It was really too much.
Ever Yours,

Back at the hotel, we were closing in on bedtime. And that's when things got interesting.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Earlier, at dinner, I noticed Silas walking around with both hands tucked so adorably in the front pocket of his hoodie. I distinctly thought to myself, "He doesn't usually do that! He's the cutest ever."

(Silas at a cross-roads.)

Fast forward. We're back at the hotel. It's time for jammies. I pull the hoodie over Silas's head and an unidentified object flies out of his kangaroo pocket and lands on the floor. It looks like a restaurant pager, but GC didn't give us a restaurant pager....

Calvin gasps. Louder than necessary. "Ummmmmmmmmmmmm! I saw those at Ace today!"

Silas stares at the burgundy carpet.

He's been caught. Red-handed. With a clip-on, battery-powered, flashing, bike reflector. Classic Silas material. And he kept it hidden for over 7 hours.

Once again, we did what any awesome parents would do: "Silas, if you steal something again the police can come and take you to jail."

(Keep in mind, jail is not at all theoretical to our shorties.)

Silas cried his eyes out. "You're making me sad! I don't like you to boss me! Don't boss me! Daddy is mean when he bosses me! You're making me saaaaad! I don't like it when you boss me! Etc..."

We read a chapter from our book and the kids were out.

It had been an emotional evening.

The next day?

Free hot breakfast, more swimming, community zoo that we have passes to from last season (cousins Jack and Macy met us there!) and lunch at Culvers with gift cards scored by Calvin from one of his past medical procedures. (Our pediatric Hematology/Oncology clinic does not mess around.)

Immediately after this picture was taken, Silas went ahead and tossed his plastic fish-food cup over the edge of the fence, onto the ground. Like that episode of Mad Men when Don throws his picnic trash onto the grass then drives away. Almost exactly like that. (Uncle Kevin hopped the fence because he's heroic like that and environmentally conscious.)

It was hill-billy perfection.

So much fun.

So almost entirely free.

We'll not be re-thinking this wheel.

ps - Bike reflector was returned using this script: "My name is Silas. I stole this from your store. I'm very sorry."

pss - My friend Nici wrote today about their spring break, which was pretty much the opposite of ours in every way. Truly beautiful and maybe a bit envy-provoking. Like ours. (Not at all.)

What was your spring break high point?