Bathing Suits, Ice Cubes, and the Kingdom

As a parent of two kids, having only one kid around reminds me of bathing suits.

I remember from my swim team days that the really good, big kids would wear two bathing suits sometimes to practice.  The idea was that two suits = more drag = more work = stronger muscles.  Then when the meet would come and they’d wear only one suit, swimming would be noticeably easier.

Hear me:  I’m not at all suggesting that my two kids are a drag.  I promise.

I’m just saying that they are constantly working out my parenting muscles, and when I get the unexpected blessing of hanging out with just one of them, I sometimes feel that easy-breezy feeling of swimming with just one suit.

Tonight would be no exception.

Chica is spending the night with Nana so that she can get to her early morning violin lesson on time.  While Jay drove her over, Bubba and I were left to finish cleaning up dinner and do bedtime.  Chica’s usually our resident table clearer, so without her here, I tagged Bubba for the job.  This was after, of course, surveying that what was left on the table was (mostly) three-year-old friendly.

His first instructions were to put his cup in the sink and his straw in the trashcan.  Easy enough, right?

Next thing I know all of the water from his cup is dripping down the cabinet and into a puddle in front of the sink.  Not easy enough, apparently.

This is what I wanted to say:  “Bubbaaaaaaaa!!!!!  Ugggghhhhhh!!!!  How hard could it be???  Seriously?  Get out of here and sit on the sofa.  For a long time.  Now!”  And again for effect, “Ughhhhh!!!”

Maybe it was the one kid/bathing suit thing.  Maybe it was his sweet little stunned look.  Maybe it was me finally learning to listen to Jesus in the moments that count.  Whatever the reason, I took a nice long pause, and instead managed a calm, “Why did that happen?”

“I was trying to pour the water into the sink through my straw.”

“That was a bad choice, Bub.  What will you do next time?”

He points, “Straw-trashcan.  Cup-sink.”

“You’re right.  Like I asked you to.”  Still with a calm that I so rarely manage, “Well, what do you think we should do now?”

“I don’t know.”

While it occurred to me that his answer might have been in an attempt to avoid what was coming next, it is also entirely possible that he just didn’t know what to do.  Chica usually fetches the spill cleaner-uppers (aka leftover cloth diapers), so with her gone, I figured this was a good time for him to learn.

“Come with me.  I’ll show you where the good towels are.”

So I proceeded to show him how to open up the towel wide, lay it on the spill, and wipe back and forth.  He was rather bothered by the bunching up at first, but he quickly got over it…and then into it actually!  Realizing it was going to take a while, I went back to loading the dishwasher.  Despite my calmness, I also decided that one spill was plenty for this night, so I finished clearing the table myself.

At one point I grabbed somebody’s cup that held a few leftover ice cubes.  Not thinking, I slung them into the sink and onto a metal baking sheet….right above where Bubba was working.

“Whoa!  That was loud, Mommy.”

“You’re right, Bub.  Sorry.”

“You made a bad choice, Mommy.”

“Well….I’m not sure it was a bad choice.  I was just dumping the cup out, and it hit the pan.”

And then, with exactly the same tone I had used on him minutes earlier…

“Where should you put the ice next time, Mommy?”

Yes, I did eventually answer him, but only after laughing out loud.  Touché, Bubba.  Touché.


My prayer these days is to live in the Kingdom.  By some strange path, bathing suits and a spilled cup of water and my funny little Bubba have all lead me back there, back here, to contemplating the Kingdom some more.

I hold lots of jobs as Mom.  Dishwasher loader.  Backpack emptier.  Bath giver.  Booboo patcher.  Smoothie maker.

I’m starting to think I should maybe add Kingdom tour guide to my résumé.  Even though I admittedly don’t fully get it myself, I am introducing them to a kingdom….whether it be my own or the Kingdom.

What will they see?

Blessed are the merciful…
Or blessed are the ones that don’t make a mess?

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles…
Or give a little extra only when you don’t have homework and aren’t too tired?

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…
Or seek first the approval and admiration of others?


Jesus, give me the strength to introduce my two little people to your kingdom, one spilled glass at a time.

Lessons From a Violin Concert

Dear Chica,

I underestimated you.  Forgive me.

Tonight was the night of your first Suzuki Marathon Festival.  Despite the struggle it was to help you and Bubba quietly endure many, many minutes of sitting and listening, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I hope it was the first of many.

As the songs got shorter and so did the players, we all were anticipating when they’d flash that Lightly Row poster.  Even Bubba.  The moment finally came, and up you waltzed behind that red curtain, violin tucked under your arm just like you’ve learned.

Only problem was, you kept on waltzing in your signature Chica way.  Right onto the stage.  Two songs too soon.


Your daddy and I panicked a bit for you.  We were absolutely sure that you would lose it as soon as you realized everyone else was playing a song you didn’t know.  We both pictured you running off the stage and melting into a puddle of tears.  I tried hard to catch your gaze, ready to wave you back off if you looked my way.

But you never did.  Girl friend, you faked it.  Beautifully.

You faked it so well that for a minute I thought, “Maybe she knows that song after all. Maybe this is the one they’ve just started, and she knows more than we all think she does.”

But no.  You had no clue, but nobody could tell.  You just rolled with it.  We underestimated you big time.

Afterwards, as we got in the car, I told you again how proud I was of how you had handled yourself.  Can I just remind you your priceless response?

“Well…what was I supposed to do?  I would have looked like a fool if I had run off the stage.”

Sometimes you are so wise.

So, Chica, let me just go ahead and fill you in on the fact that this certainly won’t be the last time that you may want to run, but it will often be best to just fake it:

Your first real soccer game.
Tryouts for the school play.
That job interview you thought you’d never land.
Your first day of your first job.
Your entire first year (or 5?) of being Mrs. Somebody.

Oh…and without a doubt…that day they wrap a pink little baby up in a blanket and tell you you’re actually allowed to take her home.  That day I can guarantee you won’t know the song.  Don’t run.  You’ll look a fool.  Instead, just copy those around you that are doing it well.

Nobody will know.  Well…maybe I’ll know because I’ve been there.  But you’ll fool the rest of them.  I’m sure of it.

I love you,

A Non-Snuggler’s Guide to Surviving the Night with a Snuggler

Bubba loves to snuggle.  Perhaps a more precise statement would be that, when sleeping, Bubba loves to have as many of his body parts touch as many of your body parts as humanly possible.

I hate to snuggle.  What I actually mean is, if you’re sleeping in my bed, you better be far enough away from me that I don’t know you’re there.

Bubba usually finds his way into our bed in the unconscious hours of the night.  Thankfully Jay doesn’t mind the snuggling, so he defends me.  It normally goes like this:

Bubba plasters himself to me (or on top of me even).
Me:  “Bubbaaaaaaa…..scoooooooot over!”
Jay:  “Come here, Bub.  I’ll snuggle you.”
Bubba plasters himself to Jay.
Mommy’s happy again.
We all fall back asleep.

Well, this weekend Jay has been banished to Chica’s bed because he has some funky cold that none of us can afford to catch.  I have no trusty bed defender, so I had to get creative.

Guess what….my plan worked!  So in case you need it some day, I present to you…

The Non-Snuggler’s Guide to Surviving the Night with a Snuggler

1.  Scoot to one side of the bed and let your companion fall asleep however they’d like.  It will probably mean a strangling choke-hold and an under-the-cover temperature rising well over 90, but it will be worth it.  Trust me.


2.  Once the offender has fallen fully asleep, it’s time for your secret maneuver.  Slip carefully out of the bed, walk around the outside all stealth-like, and find the unoccupied, cold side of the bed.  Enjoy it, friend.


3.  You can count on the fact that your bed magnet will reorient itself and be soon attracted back to your warming side of the bed.  Untitled_3Have no fear…the secret maneuver also works in reverse!  Slip out of the bed again carefully, retrace your steps, and return to your original position.  You are guaranteed at least a few minutes of cold, lonely slumber.


4.  Repeat as many times as necessary.


Non-snugglers out there….you’re welcome.

One day I hope to write another expert post titled the following:

The Anti-Co-Sleeper’s Guide to Getting Your Kid to Stay the Heck in His Own Bed

I’m have a sneaky suspicion that it may go something like this…

Step 1:  Wait until he’s eight.

Step 2:  Enjoy.

Two Months of Stories

_MG_3447This sweet guy turned three in November.

I don’t believe in birthday parties with friends and favors anymore.  I tried once, but I seemed to botch everything from the budget to the (lack of) pavilion to the sunburn.  So now Nana reminds me each March and November that there’s a birthday coming up in a week or so, and it’s about time to plan something.  And something always seems to turn out to be dinner and cakes at her house with just us.  I’m so thankful.

Bubba’s only request this time was a piñata.  This request, no doubt, was a direct result of la fiesta fantastica de su amigo Weston a few weeks earlier.  Can I just tell you that Party City has a most impressive assortment of piñatas?  Holy cow…..or pirate or bird or Elmo or….you get the picture.  After wandering the aisles trying to talk myself into spending twenty bucks to buy a cardboard Jake for my kid to decapitate, I finally found the perfect choice….

_MG_3422Not only was it a lot easier for me to stomach the decapitation of this creature, but his remains could serve as a perfect prop the following Monday.  Happy Birthday, Bub!  And Happy Dinovember to me!  : )

P.S. Pro-Parent Tip #1113  No need to buy piñata stuffing candies if you are lucky enough to have a November baby.  Just use the Halloween leftovers.  They’ll never know.



We had a pre-Thanksgiving weekend getaway with my family at a cabin near Crabtree Falls.  No internet, lots of junk food, and game after game of Blockers at the kitchen table all made for a restful mini vacation.

_MG_3571 My favorite memory from our trip, however, has to be the spontaneous hike that I took with Chica and Grandpa after checking out the frozen creek.  On a whim we decided to explore the hillside that rose behind our cabin.  After a while of up, up, and more up, we could see what appeared to be the top of the hill.  Despite Grandpa’s better judgement, Chica and I just had to see what was on the other side.  When we finally reached it, we discovered a road!  This lead us to a new way back to the house and an exciting adventure story to tell when we returned.

Oh how it will make my mommy heart happy if at least one of my kids grows up to love hiking as much as I do.  This day was a start maybe.



I think violin teachers have super powers.  My kid, who has only been playing for a matter of weeks, stood up there and played her special part of Jingle Bells, and no one ran away screaming.  It was all pretty magical if you ask me.


My very literal kid insisted on wearing both red and green for the evening performance because these were Mr. Claytor’s directions.  “He said Christmas colors, and Christmas colors are red and green, Mom!”  Got it, Chica.  Got it.

_MG_3730 _MG_3732


Jay went out of town at the beginning of December for his geek work conference.  Whenever I leave town, one of the kids gets sick.  When he leaves, I’m always the one that ends up under the weather. This trip was no exception.  I hurt my back, and after one teary Skype call with my parents, Grandpa was on the way to help me make it through until Jay’s return.

He helped make lunches, took Bubba to school, folded laundry, wrapped presents, and returned library books for me.  But perhaps the most miraculous of all was that I somehow convinced him to agree to put up my Christmas tree.  Wow.

So for weeks it sat in our living room, ornament-less but twinkling proudly with each branch curved just-so in the way that only Grandpas know how to do.  Every few days Chica would remind me that we needed to decorate it, and each time I gave her some lame excuse as to why it wasn’t a good time.  Finally I told her on the Saturday night before Christmas that it wouldn’t happen until the den was clean, and I sarcastically added that she was more than welcome to help me work on it Sunday morning.

Whadaya know?  That kid was up before the sun with her sweet little voice at my bedside, “Mommy, I’m ready to help you clean the den.”  Heart be still….and feet on the floor!  Chop, chop!

So we did it.  She made trip after trip after trip to the sink and Bubba’s room and Mommy’s closet as we put away all the junk that had accumulated at the front door dropping spot for weeks.

Then we were done.  And there was this…

_MG_3779 _MG_3782 _MG_3783 _MG_3788

Mostly Chica did all the work.  I fulfilled my obligation of getting the breakable ornaments sufficiently out of reach, but I let her do everything else.  Bubba lost interest pretty quickly, so the other three of us ended up snuggling on the couch while we encouraged her.

No worries that 3/4 of the ornaments are on the bottom 1/3 of the tree.  No worries that the tacky beaded garland crisscrosses in odd patterns.  No worries that more and more of the ornaments are made from recycled “treasures” like old CDs and toilet paper rolls.  It is just perfect if you ask me.



And finally…

photo (7)

Would it be crazy to say that this particular moment might be my most favorite memory of all Christmas break?

The week before, our life group discussed joy.  I must admit that that night I was so mired down and worn out by work funk and the never-ending back pain that I just couldn’t conjure up a memory that I could definitely name joy.  Happiness?  Sure.  Joy?  Not sure.

But this moment?  It was as if Bubba’s pink sleepy cheeks were screaming out to me, “JOY lady!  Right here! Look around you!  Wake up!”

Joy in…
This kid who never tires of snuggles.
That daddy who snuggles back so I could keep doing whatever it was that I was doing.
The other kid reading to herself in the other room.
A husband who folds laundry.
And that same husband who remembers to buy batteries well in advance of Christmas.
A tree strewn with presents that reminded us how to play together again.

But mostly joy in remembering in my core, in that moment, that not one of those things is something that I deserve, something I’ve earned.  Each is a gift from a Creator that loves me in a way that is oh so much deeper and truer than snuggles and folded laundry and batteries.  But He uses those things, the take-your-breath-away pink cheeks, to give us just a little taste.  To remind us.  To wake us up.

May your New Year be filled with moments that whisper or shout or just straight-up declare to you, “JOY!”  And may we together learn how to look and listen.


P.S. I’m taking a Facebook break, friends.  Mostly it’s about regaining some of the enormous amount of time I waste there.  I’m thinking, though, that less time wasted means more sleep.  And more sleep might mean eyes wider open to watch out for those opportunities for joy.  I’ll try to let you know how it goes.

(Under the) Bed Inventory

Tonight I banished my family from the house so I could clean.  It’s that bad.

As I was wrapping up my five minutes in Bubba’s room (check here for some unsolicited cleaning advice), I decided to check under his bed.


So as I literally raked stuff out from under his bed, I couldn’t help but think of memories of this day, almost 2 years ago exactly.  The bathroom scale?  Really??

Lest Bubba may feel left out one day without his own bed inventory, here ya go:

My favorite pair of maroon flats that are too painful to wear all day at school.
A singing Eric Carle book.
Four juggling balls made on Craft with Daddy day.
A real baseball.
Jake and the Neverland Pirates flashcards that I thought I had discarded.
A cork.
Two of Chica’s socks and one of Bubba’s.  None matching.
A string.
A Kohl’s $2.20 price tag.
Twelve wooden blocks.
A wipes box.
Sunglasses that fit no member of our family.
A pink fireman’s hat.
My old flip phone.
Bubba’s name tag from the church nursery.
A walking chick.
A reminder to, “Brush your teeth,” that probably no one followed that day.
Two gummy wrappers.
Pieces from a dish that Bubba threw against the wall and broke one day during a tantrum.
A lion.
A duck.
Brown Bear.
A bubble blower.
Olivia’s car.
Various drill bits.
A whistle.
The Magna Doodle triangle that cannot stay with that toy to save anyone’s life.
Some strange McDonald’s toy.
Two marbles.
A dime.
A bead.
A car from IKEA (which happens to be one of my top 5 favorite toys ever).
And an eyeball.

_MG_3767You better bet I’m not making that mistake again during the five minutes in my room.  Ha.

P.S.  You know how you get that place in the middle of your back where you can’t reach an itch?  There’s that same kind of unreachable spot in the middle of a bed that’s on carpet and won’t slide.  There’s more to this list, but it’s staying put for now.  Oh well.

Good and Ready

I’m sure I’ve written this post before.  This post that boils down to the fact that life with little people moves very slowly and it feels like you may never move on to the next thing.  But then that next thing happens to remind you that time really is moving.  And you wish you could go back to reassure your tired self in the past that it will come, whatever it is.

Well, all of that happened again today, so I hope you’ll grant me the grace to tell the story one more time.

A year ago I was challenged to post a photo a day of something for which I was thankful.  Here’s my post from November 4, 2013:


Day 3: I’m thankful that this time went better than the last time. I’m also thankful for a Daddy that has more patience with the drama than me. : ) 

Can you hear it?  Can you hear that my thankfulness was really frustration in disguise?  For whatever reason I wanted so badly for her to learn to ride that bike.  Because I kept seeing posts of her friends successfully doing the same.  Because I had great visions of us exercising together.  Because I was afraid she would outgrow this bike she chose for herself before she ever learned to ride it.  Whatever the reason, it turned out that the more I wanted it, the more she pushed back that she couldn’t.  And most trips to some flat parking lot for another go at it ended in a silent ride home from all sides.

So I pretty much gave up on the bike and moved on to other pursuits.  Swimming.  Reading.  Getting Bubba out of diapers.   I have a feeling my kids will grow up and tell stories about the unfortunate fate of having a teacher for a mom.  There’s always something to teach ‘round here.

Except for this bike thing?  I didn’t teach her.  She did.  Or maybe Bubba did.  Or perhaps time did.

Two Wednesdays ago I came home from work to find Chica on her bike in the driveway.  Our driveway is actually more like two slightly sloped parking spaces, but this turned out to work to her advantage.  I gather that while Nana and Daddy were busy preparing dinner inside, she pushed that thing to the top corner of our driveway, hopped on, and glided down, just as she had seen Bubba do a million times on his tiny balance bike.  This kid who used to withdraw like a turtle into her shell each time you mentioned the bike, just decided she would get on one day and do it, with no Daddy to catch her and no Mom to cheer her on.

So by the time I got home that Wednesday, she could do it.  And it was fantastic, all 4 seconds from the top of the parking space to the porch.  And I was reminded for the umpteenth time as a mom that they’ll do it, whatever it, is when they’re good and ready.

They’ll quit nursing.
They’ll use a cup instead of a bottle.
They’ll be able to be left alone for more than 5 seconds at a time.
They’ll fall asleep without having to be rocked.
They won’t act like you’re killing them when you drop them off at school.

When they’re good and ready.

So today as I watched her circle twenty laps around the New Covenant parking lot, first from her side and then from afar, I was reminded about time and good and ready.

When they’re good and ready…

They really will both sleep in their own bed one day from start to finish.
They will be able to dress themselves without help.
They will one day eat more than just PBJ, popcorn, and apples.
There will be no more need for pull-ups on our house, even at night.
Our whole family of four will go on bike rides without buggies or baby seats.

And I bet if I quit pushing and just let time do its thing, those good and readies will come even sooner.

P.S. Talk about time moving slowly.  Today Nana bought a watch for Chica so that she could wear it on violin days and not miss her lesson.  Chica is currently announcing every minute for us:

It’s 8:19.
54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59…
It’s 8:20!  In ten minutes it will be 8:30.

I finished my applesauce, Mom, and it’s 8:21.

Slowly, I tell you.  Slowly.  : )


Albert the Mowse, Hurry, & Anger

The offers:
Sweet Frog with Daddy.
Rides at the mall with brother.
Rivermont Pizza with the whole fam.

The choice:
Late night writing and reading with Mom.

I love that kid.

Chica had a good week at school.  After the fourth positive note home in her agenda, I told her we would celebrate with a treat of her choice if she brought home a fifth.  Her snaggle-tooth grin coming off the bus Friday afternoon told me she had made it.  On the way home we brainstormed ideas.

“Maybe…..maybe…..” she hesitated, never quite hearing the offer that was, to her, worth five long days of self-control and focus.  I thought for sure I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  Or at least I hoped I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  (I’m thinking I’m picking that as my reward next weekend if I can keep my own self together for five good days in a row.)

So tonight on the way home from Nana’s neighborhood picnic I reminded her that she hadn’t yet chosen a reward.  “Time’s up…you need to pick.”

“Ok.  I want to stay up as late as I want.  Can I write another story?”

Be still my little teacher heart.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Bubba to fall asleep, we finally got busy.  She didn’t have a story idea ready to go like the last one, so I helped her find a little inspiration here.  It took possibly 37 spins, but she finally decided to go with a mouse named Albert that liked to dig holes.  She also decided this second novel of hers would be typed on Mommy’s computer.  We would then print it and illustrate each page.  Whoa.  Big time.  Let’s do it.  Except…

FYI:  A first grader typing anything is slow.  Painfully slow.

“E.  I need an e.  Where’s the e?  Eeeeeeee?  Oh. Here it is!  E.  Got it.  Ok, now…”

Times 90 for the first page.  Yes, I did check.  Bless her.

I almost said it.  90 times, even.  You know, those two words that rhyme with “blurry cup” and flow off my lips like they are her middle and last name.  But there was absolutely nowhere to hurry to.  She didn’t have to go to bed yet.  I didn’t have to do school work.  Jay had given me from 7am to 5pm of uninterrupted time to work, and finished or not, that’s enough.  I wasn’t going to do house work either.  I’m saving that for tomorrow.

Instead I just let it go slowly.  We tried about five different spellings of said before landing on the right one.  We learned about how backspace goes one way and delete goes the other.  We right-clicked the squiggly red line to find better ways to spell mowse and backyorad.  Once Chica moved from typing to dictating, we discussed quotation marks and synonyms for said.  Daddy even came up to hear our story and made us talk about verb tenses.  After she had had enough of her mowse story for the night, we moved to reading a little Junie B.  While we read our two chapters, instead of our nightly normal of one, we discussed the finer details of good sportsmanship and why Junie B.’s antics made Chica want to hide her eyes.

Slowly we wrote.  Slowly we read.  Slowly we talked.  Until exactly 10:47 when she rubbed her tired eyes and agreed it was time.  What a great choice of a reward, Chica.  Better than pizza, even.  Thank you.

I just keep coming back to something I heard recently in a sermon about pressure:

There is always anger in hurry.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize this is so true.

Hurry up, Chica!  Read:  I’m mad that we aren’t out of the house yet.  I still have seven more things I need to do, so find your shoes on your own already!

Hurry up, Bubba!  Read:  I’m angry that you’re taking so freaking long to get out of the car.  I should have gotten up five minutes earlier, but I’m going to blame our tardiness on you.

Hurry up, kid in my class that is always the last one to finish!  Read:  I’m angry that I planned more for this day than we can actually accomplish.  I’m really angry that I’m expected to teach you more in this year that anyone can actually accomplish.

So tomorrow I plan to not hurry the finish of the story of Albert the mouse.  I have no need to be angry.

And this week?  As contradictory as it seems, I’m going to try to fight the inevitable pressure by slowing down.  No need to be angry.