Thursday, October 6, 2011

I desire mercy

These days, I am all about Mercy. Pretty much mostly for me.

The laundry needs folding, the dishes are piling, the toddler is wandering around without underwear holding his potty chair to "show me" what he did...accidentally tipping it over in the process. "Lord, have mercy," I say out loud.

It's not always chaos here; I hate to paint the wrong impression. We do have days moments where everyone is at absolute peace, myself included. But there are definitely those times, usually involving a diaper or lack thereof, when I know I'm need of some serious help.

As I was thinking about these things the other morning, and reflecting on my need to embrace the sacrifice of each moment, no matter how loud, or heavy, or stinky it is, I was struck by a particular verse in the Gospel of Matthew. ""Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"

Really, Lord? 

Thomas à Kempis writes in the Imitation of Christ, "One does not live in love without suffering, and this is confirmed by daily experience." 

Bingo, Mr. à Kempis! That pretty much sums my daily experience, anyway. But do Jesus' words mean that all sacrifice and mortification are useless and that we only need to love to set everything right? 

I'm guessing not. Here's one thought. Perhaps these words refer instead to God.  Perhaps the love that is spoken of is not that which God expects from man, but the love God has for man. Perhaps “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” means: God wants to be merciful, not to condemn. As is in Ezekiel: “I do not want the death of the sinner, but that he convert and live.” God does not want to “sacrifice” his creature but to save him through his repentance.

How revealing... and convicting. Do I ask for mercy for myself, and ask for sacrifice from others toward me? Or do I offer mercy toward everyone around me, and sacrifice myself?

Do I bend my children's wills toward mine because the dishes just MUST BE PUT THIS WAY IN THE SINK; because no, mommy is too tired to clean up pudding paint AGAIN; because it's a nice day but mommy is allergic to every plant in this state? Do I think -- well, you got yourself into that pickle, now not get yourself out! And all the while I plead, Lord have mercy on me.

It's quiet in the house now. The kids are now all asleep; a cool Fall breeze floats through the windows. It's easier to sacrifice now, with no one yelling that I'm doing it wrong. It's good time to begin again. The stinky is still in the bathroomm, waiting. And so, with a silenced, humbled heart, I turn around.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Perfectionism...Woe to the Imperfect

People often say that parenting brings out the best and the worst of the virtues and vices within. The little bundle of joy nestled so snug in the soft cotton blanket is still cuddly at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am…, but by 5 am the patience is somehow clouded by the blurry cotton balls that have lodged themselves between the eyelids. Frantic, we panic. Help! We think. This child is not sleeping! There is something wrong! A new blanket! A new crib! Something that vibrates, or hums, or whirrs…..yes! This must be the trick!  And so we race to the store the next day and stock up on something, anything that will result in a night of sleep. We have spent a boatload of money on each of our three children when we reach the two-week sleep deprivation stage. (Side note: this is the time to offer babysitting services to new families. One hour of sleep in the afternoon could save them $200 in impulse buys at Babies R Us the next day.)

I never considered myself a perfectionist. To me, perfectionists were people whose lives were perfect. These were my friends with perfectly ordered lockers in Middle School, with binders always impeccably arranged, with bedrooms always tidy, makeup always flawless, clothes never out of style, hair exactly the way it was supposed to stand up or curl or hang.  But having children has revealed that, Hello, I am…a Perfectionist. But even worse, I am a perfectionist who is woefully, absolutely, never ever perfect. Ever. I exist in a state of constant panic and frenzy, trying to create a perfect organic, loving, music-laden, natural-toy (but not too many toy) family environment amidst three budding, growing, exploring children; trying to create a perfect home to entertain family and friends that gives the illusion of order and serenity; trying to create a perfect veggie-laden, homemade, chemical-free lifestyle to nurture my family while adhering to a tight budget…. and for my efforts I reward myself with an inward grade of “FAIL” by the day, hour, minute. And so I run faster, sweeping, baking, wiping noses. Exhausting myself and bewildering my husband, who cannot understand why I burst into tears when the toddler spills his milk on my newly cleaned floors (shouldn’t it be the toddler who is crying?)
Just sit down and rest, he commands, and so I do, thinking inwardly about how while he’s bathing the children for me I’m going to “quickly” tidy up the living room, wash the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, fold some towels, and then hop back on the couch to exude a picture of peace and calm when the children return. I’m so tired, I say, and I am. Perfectionism for a perfect person must be hard. Perfectionism for an imperfect, striving mother or three small children… is going to lead me straight to loonyville.
So…what to do? I crave order. I read parenting books that tell me that my children crave order. AAAAAGGGH! What do I want for Christmas? Some order. Some consistency. Less running, less yelling, less pounding up and and down the stairs. Is this reasonable? Feasible? I read blogs by women with 10 children who insist that oh, yes, it is so feasible. I bake, I sew, I clean, and on the side I self-teach my children who are all on the verge of winning Nobel prizes for their absolute brilliance. Piece of cake! Just make a list or two.
In the meantime, for those of us who are mere mortals, I have decided on a few basic necessities that will, I hope, keep me from being admitted somewhere. First, I need quiet time. And more than five minutes. I need at least one hour a day of uninterrupted quiet. To make this work I coordinate naps to occur all at the same time, every day. And for those who insist they are too big for naps, they sit on their beds and read. And during this hour I’m implementing a new rule for myself: no cleaning, no cooking, no frantic running. Just…being. Writing, or reading, or sipping tea. STOP MOVING. (We’ll see how this works.)
Next, I need a place for everything, and everything in its little place. And then I need the little people around me to also do it. It sounds so much easier than it is. But we’re working on it.
Finally, I need grace. Grace for myself, grace for my children, grace for the women out there who really are perfect. (You are amazing!) I need to learn to exist in a house that might be slightly out of order, a kitchen that might still have breakfast dishes in the sink, and a day that might require boxed macaroni and cheese for lunch instead of a homemade hot dish every day at noon.
I don’t want to be a perfectionist, just a little more perfect. I want to be calmer; I want more order; I want organic, grass-fed beef dinners and natural play toys for my perpendicularly arranged living room. And I will achieve these things by surrendering the need for these things. Baby steps. Baby steps.
There is a reason that Grandparents laugh so much, I am convinced.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A special post for Grandpa

Dear Grandpa Lanier, Happy (belated) birthday!
We LOVE celebrating birthdays, especially yours! You asked for cookies, right?
Cookies it is! Actually, Grandpa, we LOVE cookies, so we were really glad you asked for them. We set out to make you the best cookies we could manage, all by ourselves (mostly).
And while we baked, we learned.

About math....

And science....

And teamwork.

We were really focused for a record amount of time.

The best part, of course, was adding the chocolate chips.

We might have tasted a few white chocolate chips -- just to make sure they were good for you, Grandpa.

 Yep, they're good.

So we entered the final stages of our multi-step cookie project, thinking about how much we wished we could be there to see you taste one.

But we'll have to wait for that. And in the meantime, we'll keep baking. Because we can. And because, really, we think we're good bakers.

We even helped clean up.

You can expect your goodies coming soon.

Love, a few of your biggest fans.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In which I find I am still a Dragon

It's been awhile since my last post. An entire Lenten season, in fact. And in that time I have passed, or am passing, through that narrow road. What is it about Lent that requires so much shedding of unwanted layers?

Here it is, friends, in all its glory, in C.S. Lewis form:

Then the lion said . . . "You will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again.

 Oh Edmund, why did you have to be so stupid to thirst for gold and turn yourself into a Dragon? Oh Edmund, why did you have to be the boy who took the bait who passed from death to life and back to boy again? Oh, C.S. Lewis, why are so you right on... again? I don't think I'm back to the last layer yet. In fact, I think that God is still peeling, because I am still reeling. I find I am still asking: is this really what you have for me, Lord, to lay myself down for these three beautiful children and meet their every wish and demand RIGHT NOW and make toast, and bake muffins, and clean sheets, and wipe up milk and collapse into bed every night? Really? Me? Wouldn't it be nicer if I just rolled around in some shiny gold and silver and soared through the air, uninhibited, breathing fire through my nostrils so that no one would interfere with my plans?
So you see I am still growing. I will continue to look into that pool; I will continue to feel the layers, those wretched scales peeled away from my true nature. Oh how desperately I long for the removal of all these layers of selfishness, of grumpy, huffy, stomping, I-don't-want-to-clean-up-your-messes pettiness,...and see my true self, my truest created self...shining through. 
"And there was I as smooth and soft as I peeled switch and smaller than I had been."
So okay. Let's continue with the surgery. Dare I? 
 -- Let me decrease that He might increase.... I'll say it again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On sitting down.

"I'm coming!" I shout over my shoulder as I race up the stairs.
"I'm coming!" I call as I change the baby's diaper and hear their feet following me from below.
"I'm coming, right now!" I say, as I run to the bedroom to get the toddler a change of clothes, and then notice laundry that needs to be put away, and also quickly scrub the sink.

I've started to wonder why my three-year-old daughter follows me around the house when I tell her I'll be right back. I'm coming, I say. I'll be right there. Of course, I never do really make it "right there," at least not in the near term or without carrying a bushel of something that needs to be folded, washed, cooked, or itemized.

Finally, one day last week, she cornered me. "Mommy, stay right where you are."

Surprised, I lowered my foot that was raised mid-air. "What? Why?" I was poised to race through the house. "Stay right here?" I asked, pointing to the ground.

"Yes," she said. She handed me a crayon. "Color."

I looked nervously around the kitchen.

"Yellow," she clarified.

I saw a crumb on the floor and my hands began to twitch for the broom. I could hear the dryer timer beeping from the basement. I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner. I suddenly felt that I needed to go grab a cookbook and chop something. But she was resolute, her hands on her little hips. "Mommmmy!"

"Okay, okay." I grabbed the crayon and sat down. I started to color the mermaid's hair red. I stayed in the lines. That was fun -- so neat and tidy. I decided to blend the red with the orange to give the mermaid highlights, and I found that to be fun, too. We decided that the mermaid needed a blue fin, and my daughter wanted her to have purple arms. Why not? The toddler came downstairs and gave her a black mowhawk with his gigantic toddler crayons. I laughed. Out loud. It felt good. "See, Mommy!" My daughter looked at me approvingly. (Is she three, or fifteen?)

We talked, we laughed. She told me about her day. That crumb is still there, on the floor, right next to the chair. I've swept the kitchen four dozen times since then, but perhaps I feel I need to leave that crumb as a reminder of the Afternoon that Mommy Colored and Had Fun.

I'm reminded that I serve the God who came down, the God who got dirty. When Jesus tried to climb a mountain for solitude and the crowds came after Him, He didn't tell them to go back down. (AAAAGHH! Climb faster! I want to shout as I read the Gospel account. RUN!)  But He didn't tell them to go back down. And He didn't lock Himself in the bathroom in hopes that they would give up and go away (I might be guilty here). He turned around and taught them. I wonder if Jesus would like to see me color.

And so I put down my broom. Again, and again, and again.

Unless a crumb seed falls to the ground and dies, it will bear no fruit.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Purim

Our family doesn't celebrate most Jewish festivals, which makes sense, since we are not Jewish. But we are Catholic, and as our former Archbishop once said, we stand on their shoulders. That is, we venerate God's chosen nation and the things now revealed that were so long ago prefigured: "The New is hidden in the Old, the Old is made manifest in the New," said Augustine of Hippo in 400 A.D. 

This year we are celebrating (in miniscule) the festival of Purim, which began on Saturday at sundown and will end today at sundown. Purim is special to us because it celebrates Queen Esther, who, as many know, was also named Hadassah, which as many know, is also the name of our daughter.

The event celebrates how Queen Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai defeated Haman in Persia, allowing the Jews to be saved from extermination.  The Jewish Virtual Library also provides a good account of the story.

One of our favorite verses is Esther 4:14: "Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source; but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows but that it was for a time like this that you obtained the royal dignity?"

Indeed, who knows? There are so many instances in which I might wonder: perhaps it was for such a time as this that I was put in this house, to care for this family, to minister to this child, to talk to this friend....

So on this day, we will celebrate. We made (and ate) Hamantaschen  - triangular filled pastries that symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people.

We remember Esther and her courage and pray that we too would each be faithful to our "such a time as this" moments.

And we watch Esther as an Asparagus in Veggie Tales' Godfather-esque take on the story.

Yes, we adapt.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another Go

Despite my dismal gardening record...we are giving it another go.
This time, with gusto.

Updates, hopefully positive, to follow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I need....

"I need more milk. More milk."
"Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I have more milk?
"Chair! Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I please have more milk?

Each request, on its face, is quite reasonable. The three-year-old needs more milk, and after several iterations she has asked for it nicely. The two-year-old is about to fall under the table unless someone scoots his chair closer to his food. And the baby... is a baby and simply needs something, most likely to be picked up out of his chair where he has been placed to wait for his turn at baby food, which he will receive in in between sprinting to the refrigerator for more milk and grabbing the two-year-old as he topples off his chair.

No, these requests are fine. But it is the immediacy of everybody's needs all at the same time that is my undoing. Every. Single. Morning. Predicably each day around 6:30 a.m. I am found in the kitchen, trying to reamin calm. I attend to each child individually, in turn, which inevitably this means that someone has to endure an additional five seconds of excrutiating pain.
"Milk! Milk!"
"Chair! Chair!"

It is only when I step back and consider this moment, usually later during naps when they are all quiet and sleeping, that I am able to appreciate the validity of the needs expressed in this scene. After all, each of my children is an autonomous, beautiful human being. And in their world, each of them are the center of the universe around which the rest of us are to rotate, predicably, attending to their every need. I know that I act the same way. It's just that I'm not three, or two, or 8 months old, and so I've learned to couch my selfishness in other, socially acceptable ways.  And most of this surfaces during Lent, the time when we give up the things that we typically turn to when we are pressed and tightened and should turn to God but instead eat a bite of chocolate. Okay, maybe we eat the whole package of chocolates. The point is that I wonder at the supreme patience of God, our common Father, as I continue to pray, day after day:
"I need..." "I ask for..." I want..."

I considered this today as I warmed my undrunk, lukewarm coffee in the microwave for the third time. On mornings like these I want to shout to the pint-sized trio sitting acoss from me: "What about MY needs! What about my coffee!"  But God, our merciful, loving, and longsuffering Father, does not rebuke us for our requests about ourselves. He lets us pray about our needs until we are done, and then, gently, He will nudge us. There are others out there, you know, the Holy Spirit prods.

And so this morning as I reflected on my earlier prayers of the day I found that they were not all that unlike my children's morning song. My prayerful requests reflect genuine needs, faithful wants, and heartfelt desires. But they are first about me. Is this how the Lord has taught me that I am to pray? Is it not first about His Kingdom, and second about my daily bread? I am not an infant any longer. I am not a toddler; nor am I three. And so it is with quiet conviction that I return to my prayer chamber. Humbled. Start over, I think. This world, in fact, does not revolve around me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bread on a Rainy Day

From the back of the bag of King Aurthur 100% Whole Wheat flour comes what might be the tastiest bread I've ever made. Seriously. Well, except maybe kowatch. But unlike that epic Polish bread that no one really knows how to spell, this bread is easy and requires no kneading, punching, slapping, or other forms of beating. It also does not consume an entire day.

So last Thursday when the rain poured for a soggy twelve hours and everyone was sick and we were all forced inside staring woefully at the drops on the window panes...I decided to peel myself from the floor...and bake. I needed a diversion that would require only a few ingredients and a relatively simple process, so I tried this recipe that I first saw acclaimed on the faith and family website. It looked awful in the mixing bowl. It was sticky and grey and it seemed very un bread-like. So we added a little more flour and a few extra stirs, and amazingly it came out looking bakery fresh and smelling...and tasting...delicious. Also, I say "we" because the kids, though sick, never pass up an opportunity to "help." They weren't allowed anywhere near the actual food, but they did stir their own bowls of some kind of floury goop on the other side of the kitchen.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
3 tablespoons molasses, honey, or maple syrup
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/8 cup nonfat dry milk
3 cups whole wheat flour, white
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Beat with mixer, on high, for 3 minutes. Place in well greased 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” pan. Let rise 90 minutes.

Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees or to desired brownness. After about the first 15 minutes tent the bread with foil so the crust doesn't brown and harden too soon. Cool 5 minutes and then turn out of pan and cool completely before slicing. We brushed the top of the loaf with butter both before and after baking. Butter, after all, is very good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Purple is for Preparation...

Earlier last Fall, my 3-year-old began shouting at the top of her lungs singing beautifully a new song she learned at school: "Purple is for prep-ar-at-tion; Green is for the grow-ing time. Red and white...are the co-lors of the LIGHT!" After a little research, I discovered the words to the song, called "The Liturgical Colors Song" by Holly Tosco from the Catechises of the Good Shepherd:

 Purple and and white are the colors of the year.

Purple and and white remind us of the light.
Purple is for preparation;
white is for celebration;
green is for the growing time,
red is for Pentecost.
Purple and and white are the colors of the year.
Purple and and white remind us of the light.

The near constant rendition of this song in our house has led to a keen watching at the beginning of Mass to see what color the priest is wearing. Even my two-year old has been known to shout during particularly quiet moments of reflection: "He's wearing green! GREEN Mommy!" Nonetheless, this has been an excellent lesson for me as well in thinking about the seasons of the year, and the seasons that God has given us with which to prepare, again and again, for His coming. And now we all know that starting with the liturgical move into the season of Lent, he will be wearing purple —  for prep-ar-a-tion. 
It so happens that I love to prepare. Or, more accurately, I hate being caught unprepared: I hate fumbling for an answer to a question at a meeting, or trying to cover up the stack of dishes overflowing the kitchen sink when the neighbor "pops by" for a visit. At work I carved out time to prepare for  briefings, meetings,  presentations, even phone calls; at home before hosting a meal or house guest I clean, cook, and make lots and lots of lists; and for trips I pack days, sometimes even weeks in advance. My preparation for these events is deliberate, planned, and a bit compulsive.

So...  what does it mean that the Church gives us a time to "prepare?" And...for what are we preparing?  I pondered these questions with conviction last fall during Advent. While I prepped for work meetings with vigor, and I clean my carpets with zeal, how am I focusing on readying myself for the single most important meeting I will ever have, the most defining "trip" I will ever take -- that singular moment when I see Him face to Face? "Do not be caught sleeping," the Lord forewarns. 
The voice of my 3-year-old will echo in my mind for all ages whenever I think about the liturgical year. And so, as I crest the night from Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday, I prepare to prepare. The kids and I have made our Lent calendars, our alms giving jars, and talked about fasting (I'm giving up treats! my 3-year-old declared. Aha, I thought to myself). Tonight I'll eat my jambalaya and cake. And then I'll go to bed with the (gulp) anticipation of a spiritual deep spring scrubbing. When is the time to prepare? "Now is the acceptable time, now is “the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)."

Now, and now, and NOW!  So here we go.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thoughts from the Mirror

I found this creative game from the "Heart of my Home" blog. Since I am trying so hard to put something new on my blog at least once every week, I'm going to play along. Gypsy Woman comes up with the prompt, and we type for five minutes, no more. How fun! Won't you play, too?

When I look in the mirror, I see…

A 30-year-old with 12-year-old green eyes, smiling back at me and pretending that I am still that courageous, feisty, pre-teen again, ready for another adventure. I am amazed that while time whips at my face and hands and has created the faint lines of a woman three decades in to life, my eyes remain seemingly unchanged, green and deep. Only now, almost two decades later, they seem more knowing, more sure of the body they belong in. These eyes have been inducted into the world and they reflect knowingly from experiences and friendships and a soul that is still growing.

I look in the mirror and I see a woman, a mother, and a friend. I see a wife. My goodness. If I time warp back I think that the 12-year-old me would laugh to see those labels in front of her name. Back then, these were the eyes of the Explorer, the Adventurer. These were the eyes of the girl who formed a two-person club called Yucca-teers after the name of the arid plants that we would tromp over in our Tevas after school. Undaunted, unafraid, uninhibited. And yet, when I look in the mirror I still see an adventurer. The life has changed but the eyes are the same. I look in the mirror and it is not long until the mirror sees other little faces behind me: one, two, three little bodies. They are giggling, splashing water in the sink, reaching for toothbrushes on extended knees dangling from the toilet seat. These are the three little beings that sprouted from me.

I look in the mirror and I see a life that has transpired, and a life that is still coming, and green eyes and a long nose and blond hair that is windswept from a day at the park. This is me? This is me. This is me.

STOP. 5 minutes!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hospitality, the Christ-like Kind

Last week the kids and I spent four days in Colorado without Daddy -- a bittersweet elixer of blue-sky, white-peak, crisp-air days; of laughing car rides, hiking adventures, and new play areas; of old friends and family and meals shared around tables...but no Daddy. And after a three hour journey of self-discovery flying by myself with all three kids, I decided that the husband must be with us, whether here or there.
The trip was a good reminder that while the Colorado blue is deeply inbedded in my DNA, my husband has grafted himself in to my being. And the husband wins. 

That said, while we were sans-Daddy, we relied wholly and unabashadly on the hospitality of our family.  And having been the recipients of their generosity for nearly a week, a word about how their hospitality warmed my soul.

It is most summed with a  quote from the Heart of My Home blog:

Hospitality... seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve.... Hospitality...puts people before things.

Somehow, inexplicably, my brother and sister-in-law and my parents put us before their own "things" last week. When we descended upon their well-ordered lives with the wildness of a five-person tornado, they stepped aside. When our twister of flying clothes, toys, baby food, and diapers wrecked havoc upon their basements, living rooms, and kitchens, they stepped aside. And when we careened through their hallways, pounced on their beds, ate up their snacks, and rolled in their yards, again they stepped aside. They served us baskets of kid-friendly snacks and personal plastic plates, with Toy Story and Princess Beds, with matching pajamas and prepared, turned-down rooms. For four days we enjoyed delicious home-cooked meals, pre-set coffee ready in the morning, french toast and blueberry pancakes, and shared toys and games. They served us, and they served us well.
And then, the day before we left, everyone got sick. They got the really yucky kind of sick that is the stay-in-bed all day kind of sick, and our gracious hosts got it the worst. And yet, even in sickness, they opened their home. They let us "be" in the basement; they gave us a place to rest.  

My brother, my sister-in-law, my mom and dad -- gave us what we needed most last week: loving hearts, open ears, and eyes that saw Christ in all the little, wild people who crossed their thresholds. They sought to comfort and to minister. They lightened our load. They loved us, no matter how cranky, no matter how demanding. They allowed Christ to minister through them, and oh, to be the recipient of a minister of Christ.

To my gracious hosts, I thank you, again and again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


According to, a home is defined as "a place of residence or refuge." This seems appropriate as I sit here in Colorado Springs in the house where I grew up: it is the residence where I spent my formative years building friends and memories; and now, with three young children of my own, Grandma and Grandpa's house is, quite literally, a refuge. Save me, I tell them, handing the baby to my Dad.

I retreat to the back deck, where I watch the birds fly in the crisp, 6,000-feet-above sea level air and listen to the drone of the gliders floating over the Air Force Academy, sounds that to me are so tightly intertwined with my concept of home. Home. Here.

But what does it mean for me that this is home? And what type of home memories am I creating for my budding children? What will they remember as they, too, one day cross the threshold of a structure and breathe in deeply, drinking in all that reminds them of a fleeting moment of when they were ten, twelve, fifteen, eighteen-years old?

Our family seems to be on perpetual pilgrimage, and our "home" is right now neither here nor there. Home is where we are. And when I reflect on this, I see that it is true for me as well. While I love the memories lurking in these walls, they would be empty without the sounds of my mom in the kitchen, without my dad fixing something in the basement. Home is more than a house, and it is more than a location. Memories are made that revolve around people and around relationships, and not around bricks and mortar. I think fondly of the people I encountered here in this house, of the laughter we shared, and even of those crazy teenage years of so much...growing. Without the people, this place would be another house in a series of ranch-style homes on a street in a sub-development nestled close to the mountains. Beautiful and charming, but vacant.

And so I ponder "home." I think about what it means to be a source of "home" for my family. I pray that they will  think the words "love" and "laughter" when they think the word "home." I hope they will remember smells of popcorn popping and cookies baking. Let them remember prayer times over candles in the morning, art time with pudding paint and messy floors, and meal time when we gather around the table.

Home. Let that place be people, too. Let that place be me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dirty Details

For almost three years I worked at an organization that is intensely detail oriented. This is an attention to detail that is, simply, beyond ordinary. It is tedious; it is maddening; and at times it is neurotic.  And I loved it.  I relished the information stored in concise records of interviews, in summaries, and in analytical spreadsheets; I reveled in my workpapers colored heavily with blue hyperlinks linking back to source documents; I championed the tracing and referencing procedures that ensured that every sentence, every word I wrote for a final report could be linked back to supporting documentation. At the end of each day my office was re-organized back into piles of paperwork and binders, my electronic documents stored neatly in appropriate electronic folders.  And it is this sense of satisfaction from an organized day that has, at times, made me think that staying at home full time with three small children will drive me absolutely mad.

I simply cannot keep the contents of my household from slipping and sliding all over the place. It would be as if someone were to sneak into my work computer at night and jumble my sentences or un-link my hyperlinks (gasp). No, here I have three little bandits cleverly watching and waiting for me to leave one tidied room and move to another so they can "play" in the "open space." There are no rules here about touching a person's work; this is the wild west, and I'm on their ground, now.

So what to do. I've tried pulling my hair out; I've tried running behind them and re-cleaning what was just cleaned. I've tried doing nothing at all and letting the contents of the insanity simply unfold. None of these have been satisfactory. I've settled for a grey middle ground of mostly messy or mostly clean depending on the eye of the beholder. This is yet another area of growth, of sharpening. I must learn to co-exist with people; not punctuation marks. I must learn to rub shoulders with little bodies that grin and giggle and shed tears and voice opinions and have so much energy that if only they could be harnessed they could do some seriously productive work. But they are children; not employees. And I am their mother; not their boss.

So I will get down on my hands and knees and play horse; I will let them paint in my freshly cleaned kitchen. I will leave them alone in the basement with a bag full of legos and try to stifle my horrified screams when I hear the contents of the bag being spread all over the floor.

I will do these things, because I am a mother, and I'm learning that to be a mother means to be scraped, to be pruned, to (sigh)... let go. And I sense that this one will be a lesson I will never, ever, fully learn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

I know that technically today is not St. Valentine's Day. In fact, our parish priest told us Friday that there now is now no feast day for St. Valentine at all, as he didn't make the cut with the 1969 Church calendar for feast days (Father assured us this was nothing personal, and St. Valentine is still holy and in heaven). And it is true that Valentines Day is most often a marketing gimmick for pink truffles and pink cards and pink roses and gooey chocolate with poems attached.  But... I can't help it; I love this day. I love a day dedicated to thinking about the people I love, to being intentional in the way that I love them, and celebrating the unique and wonderful ways that God has created each one.

Last Friday the kids and I made Valentine's Dots for my daughter's pre-school class-- a quick and entirely kid friendly recipe shared by a fellow northern Virginia blogger. (whose blog, by the way, I've now habitually read. She's great.)

We attached a poem to the back that told each of her classmates how she would pray for him and her. And this morning, when we packaged everything up, she actually did pray for each and every classmate. The joy on her face when I picked her up after giving out her Valentines cards, and yes, receiving some in return, filled my heart. And all day I have been making mental notes and storing heart-treasures of the uniqueness of each of my children, and of the blessing of my husband.
Today might be over commericalized, but it is still a great chance to be thankful, to be sacrificial, and to reflect on the joy that it is to truly love, and be loved.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love and Lefse

Yesterday I labored with my mother-in-law to make lefse, a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread that is, for lack of better word, sacred at extended family gatherings. Lefse is made with potatoes and cream and then cooked on a hot griddle and smeared with butter and sugar. What's not to love about that? Well, making it, for one thing. Five years ago I endeavored to make the culinary masterpiece for my then-fiance for his birthday. How hard could a Norwegian recipe be? Surely I could Google the recipe and whip something together, right? Wrong. There are special tools for lefse baking -- including long wooden turning sticks, specialized griddles, and rolling pins made with deep grooves.... There are also special recipes that go with the special tools, and one does not mess with special family recipes when cooking for soon-to-be husband. So I Googled "lefse in Denver" instead and drove out to someone else's house and bought it. He married me for my creative spirit, I'm sure.

But yesterday was different. 

Using my my mother-in-law's natural Norwegian instincts for lefse and improvisation, we swapped a bread knife for the fancy wooden rod, my rolling pin for the lefse pin, and a hot griddle for...a hot griddle. And we did it. 

We rolled. We flipped. We smeared the butter.

And after the rounds were cooked and stacked I served them.

I waited while my inlaws and husband took their bites. And based on the "this is good" Midwest nods, I think I met the Norwegian standards.  And my husband now assures me that he is glad that he married me. A new dawn has broken in our household.