Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Schoooool's Out!

Last day of school - 2013

My babies dared to graduate Kindergarten and 2nd grade. Their report cards made me misty. They have both worked so hard and we had tons of transition this year. I'm SO proud of them! Ruby's teacher said she is a leader in her class. I can't think of anything I would rather hear. And Calvin's teacher said how his class gained so much by him sharing his story with them. (The first week of school he asked his teacher if she would hang his Korean flag in their room. She totally did. So, even though over half the class is Hispanic, Korea was represented along with the American flag.)  :)

It's true - I look at this photo and I feel a little twitchy about the next ten weeks. That kid in the middle is made of part dynamite - especially combustible when mixed with the dude on the right.

But I'm determined to do my best to have a happy and relatively peaceful, fun summer.

In a completely unrelated sidenote (cough cough) Silas will be attending his "old school" one morning a week. It will keep him in the school groove, but it will also give the rest of us an important break. If cash grew on trees, he would go two mornings a week. Keepin' it real. I used to feel so much angst about this kind of thing, but I'm here to tell you, if you have a really challenging kid - a break is good for everyone. Every. One.  I'm so thankful that we have the option of a local daycare that will let him come on a really limited basis. They saved us last year and they'll do it again this summer.

Silas is pretty pumped about it, as long as "I don't hafta sleep they-a." (He napped twice there last year and it was quite traumatic apparently.)

I wanted to find a fun surprise for the kiddos for after school today...

Cue tiny cans of Pepsi! Whoa. Caffeine pop.
Ruby's surprise was the watermelon, which was probably a bit anti-climactic.
Calvin's surprise: Personal Shrimp Ring!

I mean, come on.
You can't make this kid up.
He's addicted to seafood.

 But back to our summer plans.
This was our "Summer List" from 2011. (I don't think I even bothered last year in the rental. Lame.)

I loved the idea of this list and we did most of the stuff on it, but I grow loosier and goosier with every passing year. I fly more by the seat of my pants. I feel like a colorful To-Do list is still a To-Do list, and I feel like that might make me angsty.

So...I reinvented it.
These are the kinds of things we want to spend our time doing. When we do one? We'll write it down under the category.

We're also logging the number of times we go on bike rides and get ice cream.

(Sidenote: Silas drew the "sunglasses" down in the left hand corner.)  

Finishing touches...

Excitement is building...

(new consignment store gingham! can't not give it a shout-out.)


This picture also serves as an important "After" shot. (See first photo of the post.)
Summer haircuts - a family tradition!

(I know you probably don't usually click through on all my random links, but that one will be worth your time AND I need you to help me understand why Silas appears to have aged zero percent in TWO years??! It's also really funny.)

So that's our plan, Stan.

Vacation starts tomorrow!
First stop: Doctor appointment for Calvin! Yay!


What's your Summer plan? Do you do a list? Does it give you hives? Am I just an aging weirdo?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


1) Guys, I just did my first Piloxing class.
If you know me at all, you know this is a little legendary. I was so worried, I had a nightmare about it last night. I am wicked uncoordinated and flimsy and gangly. This body is not accustomed to bouncing about. Or boxing. Or Piloxing.

I was hoping Piloxing involved a pillow. And a blanket. And a darkened room.

Not so.

I hated it. I glared at the instructor once and she seems liked a really nice girl. One time she made us extend our left leg up and out after an hour of piloxing and then said, "Alright, hold it!" and I said, "Nope." I said it. I meant it.

But I never had to stop all the way like I thought I would and true, I have some kind of undiagnosed moving disability, I lack all perceivable rhythm, I can't move my arms in fast circles while I bounce around rhythmically on my legs. BUT I DID IT.

I'm going back.

2)  Just this guy. He wants mac and cheese every day. (He gets it on Thursdays...if he gets a gummy worm at pre-school. It's a long story.) (The worm has been withheld a few times. Don't remind him.) He is obsessed with containers. 12-27 times a day he says, "Can I have that bottle (can, box, etc...) when it's all gone? Spice bottles are his kryptonite. He's currently pining over my coveted bottle of Spring Chicken Serum. He checks it daily and he'll be danged if it's not diminishing quickly enough. It's the dropper. Sends him right over the edge.

3) I found the perfect blush. Rimmel Apricot. I found it in my old make-up bag. I think it's bogus that make-up goes "bad". It's a conspiracy. There's probably a youtube video floating around somewhere... I recently re-discovered Rimmel Apricot, and with it - my cheek bones! It's perfection. Also, it's discontinued. Not helpful, right? But maybe check your old make-up bag...

4) I have a strange fascination with arugula. I don't know. It's peppery. At first you'll think you hate it...and then you'll realize you love it. Need it. I bought a bunch last week at the farmer's market and the cute lady had a stack of photo-copied, hand-written recipe cards for Arugular Salad. (I keep typing "arugular"'s like I'm Simon Cowell and I can't even help it.) Of course I took one AND I made the salad. It was phenomenal.

6 oz. fresh arugular
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3-4 sectioned oranges (you have to cut the membranes off. Membranes??? Sick! Sorry.)
1/3 c grated Asiago or Gorgonzola (she underlined "or" twice, so I took liberties and subbed goat cheese. It didn't seem like a deal-breaker.)
1/3 c squeezed orange juice
1/4 c olive oil or canola oil
1 T dijon mustard
1 T white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt


 5) My little lady has been slaying me lately. She's so princessy and twirly and tough. The best little helper. I think I'm gonna keep her. She sleeps in the strangest positions. My neck kinks at the thought. She tries hard at things and asks Silas to play. Sometimes she prays, "help me to be nicer" and it kills me, because she's the nicest. She made every bed in the house today just to surprise me. The girl just rocks my flip-flops off. That's all.

I feel like 5 is a good place to stop. You know I could go on all night here... Don't even make me prove it.

If you don't hear from me for a few days it's because I'm stuck in my bed and can't get out on account of the Piloxing. Please send salsa.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why City Living is Beautiful, Too

It's Memorial Day. We hung our flag and ate the requisite hamburger. I wiped my eyes when the wrinkled veterans stood in church and for all of the conflict I feel these days about this world, it's true - I was sitting on that pew because of the sacrifice of others.

We partied all weekend. I baked this coffee cake last night after midnight. (Also, this and this. It was a good night.)

Somewhere around 4pm today, we lost our steam. We lost it all. Poof. Gone. Fork. Done. Etc...
The gray skies and rain didn't help. So we did what any sensible family would do. We bathed the kids at 4:30, Ramen noodles at 5, Silas to bed at 6, Biggers at 6:30. I AM SO FOR REAL.

And this, friends, is me in a nut-shell. Give me 3 late nights in a row and extra sweets in between. Sit me at a table with friends for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But on the 4th day? I'll get a far-away look in my eyes and pretend not to hear you when you speak.

I'm an introvert.

Some of my friends don't believe me, but it's true. I'm a hybrid, you know. A solid 65:35.

So of course, I was always meant to live in the country. Perhaps even the prairie, although I hear it's hard to come by authentic Mexican food on the prairie, so maybe not.

I thought any town with more than one stoplight was engineered by sadists.

All I wanted, all my life, was a big white farmhouse at the end of a medium-long lane.

Something like this.

I wanted to mind my own business and I thought it'd be great if everyone else did the same.

I wanted family dinner 6 nights out of 7, and I when I said "family", I only counted 5.

I wanted just me, just my people, just my own garden and my own peonies and my own clean fences (make them picket).

I wanted the simple life.

Imagine my surprise when I got all of those things and realized it was only chapter 1.

I don't remember exactly what I thought city living would be like, but I knew it would be a tight fit. We could do it, I could suffer for the cause (what exactly was the cause???) but I wouldn't do it happy. There'd be no more pictures to take. The fields that surrounded us like a hug would be long-gone.

Noise - there'd be lots of noise. And people.

It wouldn't be pretty.

It turns out, I was right about the noise and the people. Wrong about the beauty.
It turns out, the rumble of a train and a knock on our door are more beautiful than a quiet line of nights spent turned inward.

I understand the Suburban urge to retreat to the country, where the clock ticks slower and the cookies never burn. I framed the idea of peaceful solitude and nailed it to my heart. I equated stillness with rest and rest with God. I believed in my soul that I would find more of Him between trips to my raspberry bushes, our sheets flapping in the breeze.

I didn't know I'd find him in faces and scars.
I didn't know what I didn't know.
It seems pretty dang obvious now.

His hand is on this land, and because this is where He sent us, we feel it stronger here. We watch strangers become kin and we find Him. We turn away, swear that we need a break, feel that pang of guilt, and we find Him there, showing us our own messed-up hearts while He keeps on loving us anyway.

He was never hidden in the flowers and fruit of the life I lived then. I saw Him in creation, all around me, very sure I stood in His palm. And I did. But He's here, too. I couldn't trust it until I saw it for myself.

What I know now is that His beauty is everywhere. Hayfields and painted barns don't own the rights. It's etched on brick and sprayed on steel.

I don't have to look past the city-ness of the city to find it. The city-ness IS the gift. Where His children are multiplied, so is His grace. And that's here, where kids cast and reel hurt and affection, where they scream down the sidewalks after dark, where they knock on my door when I'm tired.

This is the simple life, where people are immune to being impressed, where the hardest work required is the turning of a knob.

This is His wit and charm, His perfect winsomeness and His clever way of turning my stubborn shoulders around so I can see the fullness of context, contrast, community.

So I can see more of Him.

"The city is making us realize that sameness is a failure...Maybe, just maybe, God will use the city to remind us that all his unique individual masterpieces clustered together in high rises and housing projects and neighborhoods bear a reflection of his original design. Perhaps it will be in the city that the church will rediscover the richness of diversity interacting in hard-earned unity."
- Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America by Robert D. Lupton

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Around Here

(Around here, it's always 10:25.)  :)

We're in that famous wind-down. I'm tripping along between believing summer is around the corner and trying not to rush it. Same song, different tune. The story of my life.

We're planting tomatoes and thinking about beans. I'm excited about the possibilities of our little wonky yard, but I feel like I need to start seeing tangible, quantifiable progress being made. And yes, I'm a super fun, easy-going wife. Why do you ask?? I just get weird, guys. That's all. I get all amped up about something and before I know it, I'm worried that it'll be over soon. Meanwhile, it hasn't even started yet. I have a gift-card for a massage that I got for Christmas but I'm afraid to use it because then it'll be, well, gone. I've started saving my Country Living mags for a month before reading them because I just like to know they're there. That's how I'm being about summer right now. It's annoying, even for me.

So yes, there's still time for the beans. There's time for the patio, even.

We've been yakking around about it for a few weeks, but inspiration finally struck this week in the likeliest of places.

 Just stop it, Meg. Stop your radness, already. Stop your chippiness and your container gardens and your bunting. You're making me covet. 

Long story short, I want to copy the whole nine yards.

Speaking of copying, we've got an outbreak of it around here. Cannot even tell you how many times a day I hear, "He's copying me!" "Stop copying me!"

WHY does every kid at some point find unparalleled glee from copying their brothers/sisters/bosses????

And now, some Howard.  This is a blurry pic of Howard sitting at his "office", set up for him by our resident tech geek, Silas.

Oh my word, I don't even really like pets. Don't hate. Don't hate.

I'm just not animaly. But I die for this right now. I showed it to Calvin and we both cackled like twin church ladies. It's too much cuteness, even for me. I hope my mom and Holly aren't reading this because they won't possibly be able to handle it.

The thing is, Howard escaped yesterday morning. It was a tricky scenario and there was some finger pointing, but it was an accident. Dude bolted. It happened right before the kids left for school and it was just so upsetting for everyone.

We prayed and I told them to keep praying, but I wasn't feeling confident that we'd ever see him again.

All morning Silas fretted and stewed. He asked if we could pray again.
You'll have to sit down for this, because I memorized it then real-quick copied it down.

Dear Lord help Howard come safely home and thank you for our wonderful cat and him to come back to us and thank you he is a bootiful cat and he's our best cat ever and that he can come home soon to be back in our family and thank you for our love to be good in Jesus' name Amen.

Then I very nicely prayed, "God, thank you that you always hear our prayers" but in my head I was gritting my teeth, all, "God, you have a big opportunity here to show these kids that you're real and you mean business. Don't you even think of not bringing Howard back to us, because this doesn't feel like the right kind of day for 'God always hears, but sometimes he does the opposite of what we ask'. Amen."

One hour later I was standing at the sink, getting ready to make tuna melts for a friend. I cracked the lid off the can of tuna and that very second, I kid you not, I heard Howard whining outside.

The prodigal had returned. Hallelujah. I almost teared up, and that's no joke.

I emailed Calvin's teacher and asked if she could let him know, because it was only lunch time and a soul like his can only take so many hours of worrying. (Can I say one more time how much I love my kids' teachers? They are the BEST.)

Speaking of teachers, we're doing this teacher gift. $3 each. And super cute. Hot dang. I think I'll keep you, Pinterest.

Last thing. Or as Silas says, "Last more."

My presentation on Monday night went so, so well. Thank you to all who sent some prayers along! I rode over with my friend Jessica and it's been a long time since we've had 90 uninterrupted minutes to talk. All the chattering kept my mind off my gig. It was perfect.

In the end, I went over my allotted time.

What? You're not shocked???

I also cried about eighteen times, several of which required me to focus intently on the clock hanging in the back of the room in an attempt to thwart the all-out ugly.

But it seemed like the people in the room were really listening. Maybe like they were even understanding. It was such a reminder to me that God is crazy-alive in each of our stories. And when we share them, His power reigns down. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to share the one I've been given.

 This is the only shot I got of me speaking.

Okay, fine! You win! It's staged! We didn't know what to do, so we faked it up after. FINE!
(You can tell it's a fake because I'm smiling and not weeping...)

Also? My mom surprised me and drove almost 3 hours with a friend of hers to watch me. Best Mom EVER!

Cory is still at work right now, the kids are all in bed. I have a tub of salsa calling my name and I might go ahead and start a movie, because Sarah said The Odd Life of Timothy Green made her bawl so I'm curious to see if it works on me.

(Around here, we always stay up late.)

Hey-Hey! Tomorrow's Friday! Long-weekend Friday! Let's plan a party or something.

Ever Yours,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's Just Me, the Activist

Cory and I used to watch the local evening news regularly. We watched mostly for kicks, having already gotten the pertinent stories of the day online. But, you know, there's the ever-important weatherman in his dorky tie and once we were lucky enough to catch a reporter screaming and cursing at her videographer while she thought the camera wasn't rolling.

Then, there would be the activists, marching around because of inadequate parking or an unfair ruling. We'd roll our eyes and wonder if they knew how silly they looked and if they truly believed they were changing anything.

A few months ago there was a homicide/suicide just down our street. It happened at 8:30 on a Monday morning on the sidewalk, broad daylight, two houses down from Silas's pre-school. Concerned calls and texts came in, but we were fine. It was a whole half mile away.

Still, the news was shocking and I wore the shove and drag of darkness around like a veil.

We were unsettled. It wasn't that we were afraid for our own lives, but that the thick pulse of humanity and all its pain, all of its confusion rose up around us. The corners that we try to hide from crept out of the shadows and I could see the chain connecting death and life. I remembered (again) the reality of that tension, as real and unnoticed as the turning of the world we stand on.

A month or so later, just 2 blocks away this time, there was a drive-by shooting. We heard the shots from our couch and wondered why someone was lighting fireworks on a Sunday night.

4 teenagers were shot, no one killed. They said it was gang related, made sure we all knew that it wasn't random violence.

But I imagine the barrel of a gun hanging out the passenger side of a Chevy, I imagine bullet casings landing on the same grass Calvin and Ruby play on at recces, and it sounds pretty random to me. Random enough.

When we heard about the neighborhood parade, we didn't think twice. We knew we might be some of the only ones who showed. We knew it was strange, even for us.

But this is our community and these are our people. They are lovely and hurting. They feel forgotten and unnoticed. They've become something worth standing up for, and we don't even know many of their names.

Our beautiful church rallied around this effort, even though none of them live here. Our pastor reminded us that this is why we're here, and of course I cried. Robert teases me about being a cry baby and fine, it's true. God has pummeled my heart and it now it bleeds with every passing breeze.

So I cried because my children didn't think it was weird and because the dear man at my church told me on Sunday, "This isn't something we would normally do, but we're going to try it!". I cried because Haven and baby Avery came with us and it did all our hearts good. I cried because I'm so proud of my husband, who led us here with courage and conviction. I cried because there was a stinking band, and displaced bands almost always make me cry.

So many people showed up, moms and grandpas. We walked in the heat, passed flowers to the ladies on their stoops and candy to the kids. We carried our signs and pushed strollers and I took it all in.

This is community. It's what I never knew I needed. These are my brothers and sisters, my surrogate family. They are the ones who have welcomed us without question or explanation.

I always had a hunch that we would be changed by what we found here, but I couldn't have guessed how quickly or completely that change would fall.

It's amazing to me that in stepping out of our comfort zone, we landed where we've never been more at home.

Our kids know the concept of drive-by shootings now, and that's okay. It's okay for them to see from a low vantage point that darkness lurks, because every time those shadows shift, it's an opportunity to remind them that God is with us. He's in us.

So tie a daisy in my braids, I'm practically a legit hippie now. 

Did we change anything? Really change it?
I don't know that we did. I doubt any gang members changed their ways because we handed them a pack of Skittles.

But maybe this spinning globe filled with people craving hope can be distilled down to one little neighborhood on a hill. Maybe a human race filled with empty hearts is the same as that young family standing wary at their door, emanating pain in our wake.

I keep wondering what made them open that door. I keep wondering if I'll ever see the other side of it.
Maybe they were reason enough.

I have hope for Chamberlain neighborhood. I know His name and that His heart throbs for all of us. I know that Love lives here, recognize it or not.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

God Bless the Salad and Other Updates

I present to you our favorite Saturday dinner. It's some kind of Cobb salad, since it has avocado and bacon. At least that's what I tell myself. It's also part-Nicoise on account of the potatoes (boil, smash, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, roast until crispy).

I'll shout it from my high horse: I love a good salad!

But the salad was really just the beginning, because Calvin did get his yellow belt. My tiny little baby kicked a board in half with his foot and we were all so stinking proud.

We got our garden planted with help from our new friends Brad and Deb. They totally deserve a pair of shiny crowns or at least a couple of sashes. Their kindness made me cry a little. They are our people now, a new and beautiful part of the community God gifted us with when He sent us here on what seemed like a lark. We shouldn't be so surprised by His goodness. Thank you guys!

And then...I found a bike at Chain Reaction! A vintage American Eagle. Oh boy, did I ever waffle. Because there was a turquoise bike and a green bike and then the AE, in a drab bronzey olive. The two men running the shop probably wanted to smack me with a spoke half-way through my deliberations. I finally confessed that I sort of hoped for one in a prettier color. They smirked and pretended to understand. In the end, I did what I never ever do and erred on the side of practicality. I know. In her defense, she had shiny fenders and will pair nicely with a hot pink or coral basket. And yes, she's a she, even though she's drab. I have vowed to love her forever, just the way she is.

Then today? Prison run. With the two cutest baby boys on the planet.
Robert is growing dreds dreads, people. And I love them. He's so handsome with his little baby dreds! (Do not tell him I called them little baby dreds. Even though that's what they 

I can't stop thanking God that Robert took us as his parents. Such a gift. The usually sober guard came to our table to see the babies and I know a window when I see one, so I asked if he gives her trouble and watched in amazement as she grinned and, dare I say - giggled. Our boy, he's a charmer. I'm so proud of him. He passed his big test this past week and I shrieked like a maniac when he called to give us the news. Dude is smart and amazing.

Life is good, you know? I'm a lucky lady.

Now here's where you come in - I need your help. Friends and countrymen, I have a speaking gig tomorrow night (Monday, 6:30 pm). Like, with a podium and a microphone. I'm sharing a big part of our story at Fairview Missionary in Angola, IN.  I enjoy public speaking and did quite a bit of it in my former life, but it has been a while. And I always get clammy right before I start. If you think about it, would you shoot a prayer my way? And if you're in the area, come out and join us!

We just got off the phone with Robert and he offered some advice:

Robert: Let me tell you a trick I learned because you know, I've done a lot of public speaking (giggle). Don't try to think about it, but just keep telling yourself that they're not gonna call your name. Then when they do, just go up there and start talking.

Me: But I know they're going to call my name because I'm the only speaker.

Robert: No you're not.


Robert: Just make sure you don't forget your speech.

Me: I'm showing them a picture of you, is that okay?

Robert: Yeah. As long as I look good in it.

Me: Have you ever looked bad in a picture?

Robert: Good point.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Until then...Happy Mondaying, friends!

Friday, May 17, 2013

You Thought I Was Done?

Every now and then, I have a smart idea. Sometimes it's gingham and ikat, sometimes it's bed coverings as curtains. On this night? Our lone group shot.

(ps - Those are the new favorite shorts.)

So. We went mini golfing one evening after Early Bird dinner. Because we're wild like that.
It was super fun and not just because I came in second (out of 4 - haha) but because Cory was pulling out some really messed up moves. He was a hot mess. Emphasis on hot.

There was another foursome right ahead of us. In my mind they were a full generation older than us, but that's because I often still think I'm in my early twenties instead of my late thirties (true story). They were having the most miserable time. No laughing. No inappropriate humor. Men on one side, women on the other. Drab footwear. It was depressing.

Can we all vow right now to never turn into that? Scout's honor.

I miss my friend. 5 days together and then BOOM. She was gone.
I ran into her last night unexpectedly at the grocery (score!). She was looking all cute in her rad pixie and the cutest skirt. I told her, "I always LOVE that skirt." She looked at me strangely..."I bought it from you. At your garage sale."

hahaha. I honestly don't remember ever owning it. I just remember loving it when she wears it. The more we talked, I vaguely remembered it. But I don't remember liking it when I owned it. (Hence the garage sale?) In a million years I could not have told you that she bought it from my sale. Did I even have a garage sale?? I'm not convinced.

This is just how life is for me and my everyday people. It's not as funny in person. It's more, "You need to get more sleep, Shannan."

This was my last night of vacay, when I had given up. 3 evenings of looking cute had taken their toll. I was spent. So I wore a weird outfit and didn't do my hair.

It turns out, I should never have packed the Blue Dress for No Dang Reason. After wearing it with knit tights, a cardigan, and tall boots, I felt downright scandalous for the 3 minutes I donned it solo.

So I tried on a new dress I'd bought at Target a month ago. It's short in the front a long in the back. You know, a mullet dress. When I first spotted it, I thought it seemed like the quirkiest find ever. So I nabbed it. Then I saw youngsters everywhere sporting the look and it lost some of its sheen. On second glance, it was a giant arrow pointing straight to my chicken legs which were now partially sunburned (left knee cap, left side of right calf, lower right ankle. Don't ask.)

In the end: my gray knit skirt and a t-shirt that keeps narrowly escaping the Goodwill pile.

But at least we had the sunset.

Say it with me, "Awwwww!"

Let's speed this up a bit. One line captions!
"No comment."

"The tree stands alone."

"Dude looks sketchy."

"Sidewalk to Heaven."

"I hate tourists."

"I hope the lady doesn't remember that this is my third night in a row of mocha almond fudge."

Cholesterol free! Lactose free!
Or Gourmet.

And last but not least...
Some traditions beg to be kept.

So there. I'm done.

I'm getting ready now to hunker down with the season finale of Scandal. Tomorrow is a crazy-hectic day, but I'm banking on it being the good kind of busy. Garden planting, garage saleing, and Calvin tests for his yellow belt!

What's on your agenda?