The putting back

Last Sunday our neighbor's eleven-year-old son came over to stay with Marley while she napped and we went to a meeting with the Stake President. Since it was Sunday and I couldn't pay him, I asked if I could make him a treat- anything he wanted. He asked for brownies and I prodded...what kind? Mint? Cream cheese? Caramel? He answered mint, and I smiled and sent him home.

When the door closed, Eric asked, "Why did you do that to yourself? He would have been happy with plain brownies from a mix." And yes, he would have been, and I could have made brownies from a mix, and might have, under different circumstances. But just then, I wanted to make something special, because I could, and because even an eleven-year-old can taste love and time and care.

When you're a mother who devotes her talents and energy to raising children and making a home for them, you have to trust this. That they know. As small as they are, they can taste and feel and sense the thousands of small things you do each day to ease their lives. The wiping of the counters. The sweeping of the crumbs. The putting back...the endless putting back. Just before they close their eyes at night and finally surrender to the perfect oblivion of child-sleep, the warm assurance settles over them that things are where they belong, or will be, soon.

One thing I know with all my heart is that these things I do each day are important, significant. Even the putting back- especially the putting back.

Isn't it what we all long for in our deepest hearts? To be gently, lovingly set back in the place where we belong- with God, in his loving, accepting presence? Our lives are a journey back to that place, and when we get there, we'll have tales to tell of the time we were almost tossed in the trash, and the long months spent under the bed, with the dust-bunnies.



This being iced and snowed into our home is causing me to slowly unravel. It shines a bright light on all my weaknesses and failings. How I don't do well without little pockets of quiet time throughout my day...how I despise serving three meals a day to three children- the never ending refilling and rewashing and face-scrubbing...how guilty I feel that our generous neighbors welcome our children into their homes for entire afternoons and I'm tired of the noise and chaos after twenty minutes...

But one of my still-forming resolutions for the coming year is to spend more time in the middle. To stop saying "I always" and "you always" and say instead, "sometimes." Sometimes leaves room for the whole picture, which is the truth.

Sometimes I'm cranky with my kids and insist they finish their lunch, even when they're full, because I don't want them to come asking for food in another hour. Sometimes when they argue I pick a side and realize later that it was the wrong one and I hurt them both by trying to choose. Sometimes I get so tired of telling them to be quiet while the baby naps that I give in and let them play computer games all afternoon. Sometimes I stare at the laptop instead of playing scrabble.

But sometimes- sometimes I make chocolate chip cookies for them and sometimes I let them help. Sometimes I bear my testimony of eternal truth at family home evening. Sometimes I scratch their backs to help them fall asleep. Sometimes I let them feel the baby kick and tell them about when they were babies. Sometimes I hear them hurt each other with their words and I let it go and trust them to work it out. Sometimes I thank them for taking their dishes to the sink.

Sometimes I get it right, and someday I'll look back and be able to understand perfectly why I needed to have these weaknesses and these children. And someday the ice will melt and life will get back to normal. Please say it will.



Yesterday in church I had a big fat cry-fest (why does church always bring out the tears?). A storm was churning inside my soul- confusion, frustration and anger over some important decisions that have to be made soon. Decisions that will reverberate inside my heart and mind for the rest of my life, and I so desperately want to make the right choice.

Then in the early evening I walked across the street to the school for an emergency PTA meeting. The neighborhood is up in arms over a redistricting proposal that would break off a big chunk of our community and send them to a different school. I wasn't sure how I felt- we would not be affected directly, but the chunk in question happens to be very wealthy and very generous to our school. In the end I signed the petition, and am hoping, more for the sake of the cohesiveness of the community than anything else, that the proposal doesn't go through. We live in one of the only areas in the city that is a designated national historic district, so it seems a shame to divide it. And okay, I kind of like the privately funded art and science teachers paid for by other people's donations.

As I walked home I could feel the air heavy with the approach of another kind of storm- the ice and snow kind. Sure enough, we're ankle deep in it this evening. I'm anticipating no school for the rest of the week, since temperatures are supposed to stay low, and I'm pretty sure the city of Atlanta doesn't even own snow plows.

Amazingly, amidst all this, I stumbled into several hours of quiet this afternoon while Marley napped, Eric worked in the spare room and the boys went to the neighbors' to play. I pondered, planned and prayed, and as I did I felt the storm inside me calm.

Tonight I'm awash in feelings of clarity, gratitude and peace. We are warm and have everything we need: each other and a Heavenly Father who loves us and answers our prayers, even if sometimes the answers come on the wings of a cold, snow-filled wind.

* Last night I was looking through pictures, trying to calm my mind, when I saw the one above of Mount Ranier, taken when we first moved to Seattle.


The real New Year's Day

Every mother of school-aged children knows that the new year doesn't begin until school starts again. When Christmas break began I was craving sleeping late and homework-free afternoons...but today, with it's early start, quiet house and regained structure, was like a breath of fresh air.

I decided that although I'd been treated to two delicious holiday meals, I needed to cook one all by myself so we could enjoy the best part- the leftovers. I roasted a turkey, made french bread, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. The boys were at school, Marley was down for a long winter's nap and I had all afternoon to clatter around the kitchen and think deep thoughts.

I thought about our family home evening lesson last night, where I got all organized and creative and introduced our family theme for the year: Take care of each other. I made a banner for the mantle and put everyone's initials on empty coke bottles (take-homes from our trip to Atlanta's own World of Coke last week). We all sat down together and wrote about the highlights, good and bad, of the past year and our hopes and dreams for 2011.

For the month of January, each time you make progress toward a goal, you get a bean in your bottle. If we can all fill our bottles by the end of the month, we get a reward. I told the boys they could choose the reward and little Eric came up with the idea of buying a new DVD and watching it while eating "those dinners you're supposed to eat while you watch TV." How could I say no to that? Oh, and everyone gets their own soda that they pick out. Sounds good to me...I'm going to lobby for Shrek Forever After, since we still haven't seen that.

I thought about my own hopes for the coming year and decided to make half-year resolutions, since the end of May is bringing me another precious little plan-destroyer and I don't want to set my expectations of myself too high. As I thought about the baby and the things I want to work on before he or she gets here and this is what I came up with...

1. Make consistent, healthy dinners. I struggle most with the consistency part of the equation. So I came up with a plan I'm hoping will keep me on track and prevent burnout, which has long been my enemy in the kitchen. Two nights a week will be fun, possibly new, involved recipes- things I've seen online or had at friends' houses and want to try out. Two nights will be simple, easy stuff- like spaghetti, or oatmeal pancakes. Two nights will be leftovers and one night we'll eat out. I gave myself a big handful of beans in my bottle for tonight's dinner!

2. Learn to go to bed by 10:30. This is a modification of one of my resolutions from last year- notice I said learn to. I've come to accept the fact that I'm just not an early-to-bed girl, and it's probably going to take more than simple resolve to get me to sleep earlier. So I'm viewing this goal as a journey- permission to experiment with different ideas of how to lure myself into bed: subscribe to a bunch of magazines so I always have good-but-not-too-good reading material? Buy flannel sheets? Crank down the thermostat at 9:00? And if I fail, come May I'll be a sleep-deprived zombie anyway, so there's not a lot at stake.

3. Kids in bed by 8:00. This one is equally hard for me. Since I like to stay up late, I feel bad making my kids go to bed early, and I just don't start thinking about bedtime until 8:30 or so. Then I pay for it the next morning when I have to drag sleepy kids out of bed, and they pay for it when they drag through the day at school. My downfall here is scouts and basketball, which keep Eric Jr. out until almost 8:30 two nights a week. I already have a plan to lobby for an earlier start-time at scouts (our troop consists of Eric and one other boy), and I'll just have to get creative with my incentives for taking a quick shower on basketball nights.

4. Regular date nights with Eric and the boys. I'm really excited about this one! I worked out a swap with our neighbors wherein we get to go out every other week. On the off weeks, we watch their kids one night, and the next night their 11-year-old will babysit Marley at their place for the low rate of 3$/hour so we can go out and do something fun and toddler-free with the boys. Some weeks we'll split up and each take one and some weeks we'll stick together, depending on how everyone's feeling. (Swapping babysitting was one thing I said I was done with when we took this job, thinking that it would be nice to just hire a babysitter, no strings attached. I was wrong- it's expensive, we wind up going out less, and I stress about getting home since every minute is costing us. I'm excited to get back into swapping and get a regular routine going.)

5. Worry less about the future and past- live in the moment more. This one is my favorite and most-needed change. One of the things I've learned about myself over the past year is how deeply I value stability. But I also learned that change brings its own gifts and that I can handle it better than I thought. The next year is going to be a limbo year for us- a year of uncertainty about the future, but also a year full of opportunities to find joy in the moment.

This New Year's has been one of my best-evers. Our new life in Atlanta finally feels comfortable, and I'm starting to see the strengths and insights that were gained through the painful process of moving. I can tell it's going to be a good year.

Ugh. Is it really 10:28 already!?



It rained all day today. I always (ever since reading Our Town in the tenth grade) consider that a good omen on a first day. I tried to imagine the challenges, trials and fears of 2010 washing away, soaking deep into the Georgia clay of our front yard. It was a year of change, and I don't relish change, ever. But I made it through with my head held high and my sanity (mostly) intact.

2011 will have changes of it's own- big ones, with eternal consequences, in the form of a new person in our family and in the world. Eric will once again put his life's work on display in the hopes that someone, somewhere will want to pay him money for his thoughts. We'll celebrate a baptism. We'll buy a new car. We'll go to the movies in June and watch the credits to see the name of someone we know. Maybe I'll get out my sewing machine, or my knitting needles, or plan a trip to Disney World.

Lots of resolutions are floating around in my mind tonight, and I'm not sure yet which ones are the important ones, aside from this one:

To make it through an entire year without running out of gas once.

A tough one, but I think I can do it...

*Picture by Lindsay, who I think took it because of her many memories of our gas-less mishaps:).