Archives for January 2012

Good, Kind, Important

I read The Help this summer as we made our long and exhausting move from St. Louis to Florida. I was emotionally vulnerable and the book was the perfect escape during that first week we were here. I got lost in the story, the rich development of the characters taking me out of my momentary troubles and giving me someone to root for.

I was most struck by the relationship between Aibileen and Mae Mobly, the little girl she watched and loved. Aibileen took it upon herself to make sure that little girl knew and understood her value and her worth.

“You is good. You is kind. You is important,” Aibileen crooned to Mae Mobley over and over in an attempt to undo the emotional harm and pressure the child received from her young, inexperienced and judgemental mother. This relationship was precious and I bawled, both in the book and in the movie, as Aibileen walked away from Mae Mobly after giving her one last reminder.

“You is good. You is kind. You is important.

I’ve thought about this a lot as I’ve parented my children these last few months – particularly as I have schooled them at home. I will be the first to admit my weaknesses as a mother. While I am constantly challenging my children to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry I myself am not always following that.

I am slow to listen, quick to speak harshly and even quicker to become angry. And in so doing, I tear my children down. I. Hate. That.

Sloan takes the brunt of my quick to become angryness. Mostly because he is equally quick, and perhaps even quicker, to become angry and I react. It’s not that I don’t try to stay calm and patient. I try and I try and I try. And he pushes and he pushes and he pushes.

Round and round we go until one of us snaps. On the precious few days when I manage to not be the one to snap I collapse into bed exhausted and depleted of all sense of myself. Most days, however, I crawl into bed heavy hearted at once again losing control of my own emotions. And I wonder…

Does he know that he is good and kind and important? If I think back on the days events have I given him any reason to believe that I see him as good…and kind…and important?

The thought that perhaps my child is going to sleep unsure of these things can be paralyzing. He knows I love him. He knows this because I tell him all the time. A hundred times a day he hears me say I love him and I sincerely mean it when I say it. I love that child fiercely.

But does he know how good I think he is? Does he know that I think him to be one of the kindest young boys I’ve ever known? Does he know how important he is not only to me, but to so many others? Does he know?

Today found Sloan and me locked in yet another battle of the wills. Each day is new and yet each day is the same. It’s a battle and a war and some days I feel like I am losing. I’m at battle with all three children, of course. You’re at battle with your kids, too, if you think about it. We’re all fighting the war against their sinful natures and desires. We all wake up each morning and walk into the battle zone and it’s a war we must win when they are young and their hearts are pliable and easily molded.

As I felt the frustration bubble up inside of me, I looked into his challenging eyes and saw so much anger. So much confusion. You see, Sloan isn’t the only child needing correction in our home, but he receives it more than the others. This is partly his fault and partly mine. He tries to parent the other two kids and gets in my way and so I have to deal with him before I can deal with them. But many times I deal only with him and forget to correct the other two for pestering and nagging him in the first place. And Sloan feels worn down – I can see it.

So after a particularly grueling hour of back and forth, I stopped and grabbed his hand. I was angry and he could tell, but I was fighting against the anger with every fiber. Looking deep into his baby blues, I spoke softly.

“Do you know that you’re good?” I asked. He blinked, surprised by my reaction.

“Do you know that I think you’re amazing? I think you are kind and gentle and humble. Do you know how good you are?”

Slowly, he nodded his head yes.

“Do you know that I think you’re important? You’re important to me and you’re important to God. Do you know that?”

Again he nodded, his eyes welling up with tears.

“Good,” I said, the anger melting away. “I want you to know that.”

I’d like to say his behavior changed and that he was immediately kinder and gentler with me and his brother and sister. It didn’t exactly work that way, but as the day went on, when he lost control I would look him in the eye and raise my eyebrows and he would stop and nod.

He knows.

He does know. And my prayer tonight is that he would embrace those things and bury them deep. Tomorrow is another day of battle and I feel more prepared now that I’ve added another weapon to my arsenal. We’re going to win this war, he and I. He’s too good and too kind and too important for me to give up on.

Losing is not an option.

The one where we get cozy

My parents are remodeling their condo and in so doing they needed to get rid of some furniture. So we sacrificially chose to relieve them of said furniture out of the goodness of our selfless hearts.

Stand back. I might get struck by lightening.

In the eleven years that we have been married Lee and I have bought exactly six pieces of furniture. Everything else has been given to us by our parents. Couches, chairs, beds, buffets, cribs, dressers and on and on. We live in a house full of hand me downs…and we love it.

Mostly because these hand me downs are…kind of gorgeous.

We set up this entertainment center this weekend along with a couch and two oversized chairs. It looks so good, we might need to get cable.

Just kidding.


This room, which has been cluttered and kind of boring since we moved in, looks down right cozy now. It’s livable and functional and…pretty.

Of course, my total lack of style and inability to decorate is on broad display now that I have this fancy furniture in my house. My bare walls scream at me and look at that pitiful fireplace mantle and the bare, empty shelves on the entertainment center. Folks, I literally have nothing to put in those places.


This is where my pinterest friends tell me that I can get all kind of ideas if I would just give pinterest a try and I promise you all *holds up three fingers* I am trying.

You can’t understand what pinterest does to a non-creative, non-crafty person like me, though. It literally makes my head spin and my throat close. The overwhelming cuteness and undeniable style that floats through those web pages leaves me feeling entirely incapable of pulling anything off. I don’t have cute knick knacks to put on the shelves. I have books and picture frames. And a C-3PO doll that Sloan dug out of his toy box and wrapped up for me for Christmas.

What do I do?!

This is such a first world problem. Seriously, I don’t care that much…except when I get on pinterest and I curse my inability to create beauty out of paper clips and a toilet paper roll.

But wait! There’s more. Look at how this room, which was completely empty two days ago, turned out when we moved our couch and chair and piano into it.

Isn’t it happy? And the best part of it is that every item in that room was lovingly donated to us by our parents. The couch, chair and buffet belonged to Lee’s grandmother. The piano is the same one I learned to play on (and subsequently forgot how to play) as a child. The blanket was a wedding gift.

I also love this little corner.

We are so blessed.

need want something for the wall above the piano and again something for the back of the piano to dress up the room. I’m open to suggestions. Seriously, friends. I stink at decorating. I have some Christmas money saved so I am hoping to get out sometime soon and maybe get a few things to set out.

This is where I open it up to you all. What do I do and how do I decorate? If the suggestion requires me using a hot glue gun or a needle and thread, however, just know now that I appreciate it, but I will likely never do that. I need my decorations cheap, but pre-packaged. Martha Stewart, I am not.

In all seriousness, there are people all over the world who will never understand this problem and I recognize that and humbly walk the halls of my home grossly aware of how much we have. I am constantly praying that my home will be a blessing to those who enter and that I will never take it for granted. Ever. I am grateful for this space that we have, but I hold it loosely with outstretched hands.

So what say you, bloggy friends? What do I need to do to make our space finally feel complete?


Yoga in the fetal position

Last night I decided it was time to get my lazy behind up and actually work it out a bit. I have always been an active person and have been an avid worker outer (my blog…I say that’s a word) since I was in high school and my track coach taught us all the finer points of navigating a weight room. From that moment on, I have made sure I had access to a gym and I exercised faithfully.

Until we moved.

Something switched off inside of me when we moved down here. Part of the problem was the stress of moving, which working out would have helped with but the other half of the equation is the fact that we decided to save some money by not enrolling in a gym. “We can just work out at home,” Lee said matter of factly.

My husband grossly underestimates my motivation and drive.

It’s true, we have a lot of weights, and we have a work out bench and a pull up bar. We have plenty for me to use, but the final nail in my active coffin was a complete lack of desire. With the kids home all day, working out didn’t feel like an escape anymore – it felt like a chore. And so I stopped.

For the first time in twenty years, I’ve gone almost six months without doing anything. I’ve run here and there and on occasion my husband has managed to get me out to the garage to lift a few weights, but mostly I’ve become a sedentary bump on a log.

Bad Mommy!

So last night I pulled out a Yoga DVD that we purchased ages ago and popped it into the DVD player. It’s an 80 minute Power Yoga workout led by Rodney Yee. Yeah, I don’t know who he is either. All I know is his royal blue biker shorts are a little too bright and a little too spandexy. It’s…awkward.

About ten minutes into the Yoga video I felt myself starting to unwind a little. I was finally working out and I had missed it. “Stand tall and feel the muscles loosen in your back,” said the soothing voice on the DVD. Rodney doesn’t talk. He just stands there in his painted on shorts on a cliff over some ocean.

I can only assume that yoga is more fun and easier on a cliff over the ocean. That’s assuming, of course, that you are able to resist the urge to shove your instructor over the side of the cliff…

About ten minutes after we loosened our backs, I began to sweat as soothing voice over dude and Rodney led me through the Warrior 2 pose for the umpteenth time. “Now slowly lower to the push up position,” The Voice told me and I did even though my arms were shaking rather violently.

Down dog.

Up dog.

Be the Cobra.

Throw up.

Six months away from working out was long enough for me to forget how blasted hard power yoga is. About thirty minutes into the workout, I lost all feeling in my shoulders, which was actually a welcome relief to the searing burn of my muscles lighting on fire. I accepted the numbness as a sign that I was either dying a slow death or my body was simply releasing a defense mechanism against stupidity.

Forty minutes into the workout The Voice instructed me to stand on one leg, the other leg straight ou behind me. “Now very slowly, reach your arms out over your head. Have one strong, straight line lead from the palm of your hand to the heel of your outstretched foot. Feel the power surge through your body.”

If power feels like pain, I felt it. I was strong.

Shortly after this, The Voice instructed Rodney and I to lay down on our backs and tuck our feet up as close to our backside as possible. “Now place your hands on the floor by your ears and slowly push up into an upward bow.”

And  upward bow? What is an upward bow?

It’s a back bend!

I pushed myself up into a position that I haven’t tried since early high school when I was competing in gymnastics and my body was under the impression that such torture was normal. Last night, however, my body laughed at me. Out loud laughed, then trembled, shook and I plopped back to the floor. I watched Rodney on the screen, folded backwards in bright royal blue spandex shorts.

I may need counseling after this experience.

We did three “upward bows.” Well, Rodney did three. I did one and a half. At this point we were 45 minutes into the workout and I was now numb from my shoulders to my knees. I attempted to continue on, but when Rodney laid on his stomach and The Torturer The Voice told us to grab our ankles behind us and raise up to form a human boat, I threw the remote at the TV and curled up in the fetal position.

This morning I woke up and found the sensation had returned to all of my limbs. Unfortunately that sensation is pain as my muscles try to figure out what happened to their extended sabbatical.

Stupid Yoga.

If you need me today I’ll be sitting quietly on the couch trying to harness my Inner Chi. Whatever that means…

Image Credit

I could have danced all night

As the smells of dinner waft through the house and the sounds of love eminate from my iPad, I have to smile. Because Michael Buble singing “Fevermakes me smile. And melt a little. And sigh a lot.

And day dream.

Seriously sexy voice…

I’m sorry – where were we?

I walk to the sink with the intention of cleaning the dishes when he grabs me and spins me around into his arms. “Dance with me,” he whispers and so I do. You don’t say no to six foot two of pure brawn. Am I right?

Sorry.  I just had to take a moment to stop laughing at the pure brawn remark. Sometimes I really crack myself up. It’s terrible…

Seriously, though. I love it when he dances with me after dinner. And secretly, I think the three pairs of little eyes that watch us glide across the tile floor love it, too. I mean, I know they gag and roll their eyes and giggle uncontrollably, but mostly I know that they love to see him sweep me off my feet.

(I am refering to my husband when I say ‘he.’ You know that right? That was clear? Just wanted to make sure.)

“Dip her and kiss her,” the oldest and wisest usually yells and we are always willing to comply as they clap their hands over their eyes and squeal in mock horror.

“Dat’s soooooo gwoss!” the four year likes to yell just before he leaps off his chair and tries to steal me away from the man of my dreams by latching himself to my leg and grovelling for a dance. And what can I say…I agree. I’m a sucker for his freckles.

So I dance with Landon, and he gives me a twirl, then a dip and, if I’m lucky, a kiss.  I catch the eye of my first partner and an unspoken message crosses between us. This is kind of awesome.

Lee then grabs his one and only daughter and sets her on his toes and together they twirl – Cinderella and her Prince. I, being always in high demand (ahem), have a dance request from yet another partner, the dashing eight year old with eyes as blue as the ocean. We spin and dance to the soft music of Harry Connick Jr. crooning through the media, dinner cooling on the plates but joy warming our hearts.

And in a flash, Sloan spins me back in his arms. The arms of the one who swept me off my feet twelve years ago. The one I’ve been dancing with for more than a decade. The one who shares these small people with me. Together we dance as they watch.

They who are our love song.

And I look in his eyes and know that we have a lot of dancing left to do. May it be that we are still dancing fifty years from now, together and with them. And maybe there will be more young eyes watching?

I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d rather dance through life.

Homeschool 101: The Update

As we head into our second semester of homeschooling, I thought it might be fun to give a little update on how things are going so far. Fun for me, anyway. This has the potential to be wildly boring for you.

I’m kidding!

Please keep reading…

So after four months of homeschooling, we’ve got a few things solidly under our belts. Those things are, in no particular order:

– The kids can all read Latin fluently.

– I churn butter every night before bed.

– Tia knits daily. Yesterday she made me a sweater.

– Landon is reading Socrates.

– Sloan split an atom just before Christmas.

– We survived.


Okay, so maybe only one of the above statements is true. Although Sloan did receive a microscope for Christmas and I’m quite certain he’s on the path to atom splitting. Or, you know, he may just continue to look at boogers under the contraption. Hard to say at this point.

There are many, many aspects of the homeschooling journey that I have really loved, the largest one being freedom. I really, really love the freedom we have to follow our own schedule. I love that we are still on break this week simply because we can be. I love that I can stop lessons for the day at 1:00 in the afternoon and we can just read books the rest of the day. I love that I don’t have to have them all up, dressed and ready to go for the school bus that comes rolling through here at 7:15.

Lawdy that’s early…

On the other side of that coin, the freedom sometimes freaks me out. For example, many times we are through with all our lessons by 1:00-1:30 and I find myself twiddling my thumbs and worrying that maybe I missed something. That leads to a whole train of thought that eventually has me picturing Sloan sorting trash at a local dump someday because he couldn’t get into college because I failed him in the second grade.

It’s a vicious train of thought.

I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not likely going to destroy their education. We are learning every day and we’re doing it at a pace that works for them, so that has to be a good thing, right? Not knowing the standards for what they should be learning is what has given me greatest cause for stress, though. Am I doing too much? Am I doing too little? Sometimes it overwhelms me.

Then my four year old labels all fifty States on a map and names more than half of their capitals and I think, We’re doing just fine.

Or Sloan walks by and, just for fun, speaks to me in alliteration. Then there was the time he reenacted the entire sinking of the Titanic at the lunch table with two apple slices and a piece of bread. He is such a kid after my own heart.

Tia is still not reading fluently, but she gets a little better every day. As I mentioned earlier, though, she’s a bit of a whiz with the evil numbers and is well on her way to needing first grade math curriculum.

The hardest part of homeschooling, for me, has been the lack of alone time. There are so many things that I want to do and not having the children home all day would make accomplishing those things a frillion times easier. There are some days when I daydream about packing it all in and marching them to the local school so I can have two minutes of peace and quiet to think.

But in the end, I still know this is right for us and that it will be worth it. I will not regret this time I have them home. The kids may regret it but I will not.

The jury’s out on whether or not we continue homeschooling. At this point I would like to do it for a couple more years, maybe, but I don’t see this as a long term thing. I don’t know why that is, it’s just a feeling I get. We have joined a homeschool co-op for this semester, which I am excited about so I won’t be going it alone anymore.

I’ve felt like Ma Ingalls quarantined on the prairie these last few months as I’ve journeyed down this path all by myself. And yes, Little House on the Prairie analogies are totally apropos if you’re a homeschooler.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear my little budding scientist in the kitchen now turning on the stove and cracking eggs. Um…yikes.

The Pen Hovers

My first diary was a soft, red-bound book with tiny bears covering the front and back in orderly rows. It was a thrilling gift for a nine-year-old with serious secrets to keep.

Dear Diary,

Shhhh…don’t tell anyone but I like Brandon D. I think he’s really cute and funny but I don’t want anyone to know. Thanks for keeping my secret safe.

That was the first thing I wrote in my beloved book. I remember penning those words as if the moment had just slipped past. I was serious about liking Brandon D. and I seriously didn’t want anyone to know.

Through the years, that little red book ceased to be merely a Diary for my angsty gossip and soon became the book of my heart felt anguish. In those pages I recorded my struggles with body image and insecurity. My pen hovered gently over each page as I searched for the perfect words to capture my emotions. I remember writing things like, How do I quench the thirst in my soul? and The little leaf flutters to the ground in a dance just as my heartache flutters in haphazard turns and twists.

Clearly I was a bit of a dramatic, yes?

But writing in those pages became a source of comfort for me. It was there that I felt free to shout, to cry, to dance and to sing, all through the flowing rythmn of pen on paper. Writing in that journal was my worship.

Sometime in high school, that little journal was lost, most likely dropped off at a local Goodwill in a mix of discarded books. Perhaps someone picked it up and chuckled at my girlishness and the dramatic ponderings of my youthful heart. Perhaps it was simply tossed into the trash bin. I don’t know what happened to those treasured words, but I do know that a passion ignited inside of me and writing became more than a hobby.

It became my anthem of praise.

I filled the pages of many, many journals as the years progressed. Late nights and early mornings were spent writing the story of me. I penned poetry and songs. I wrote luxurious prose in the times when my soul danced and ravaged, fragmented sentences when the storms rolled in. There were ups and downs and every day, as my pen hovered over the pages, I felt a surge of energy knowing that these words would only be read by One Other.

Somewhere along the way, though, something happened. I think it occurred sometime around the birth of my second child when life got chaotic and crazy and suddenly the pen didn’t hover so freely any more. There were other, more pressing, matters to tend to and the pages of my journal remained blank and untouched.

And I forgot how to praise.

When I began blogging four years ago, I tried to treat this space as a journal of sorts but the truth is, it can’t be that. For one thing, no one would read it because it would be a jumbled mess. Who could possibly read a blogger that said such things as, The quivering ache for freedom doth shake me deeply. *eyeroll*

(Incidentally, as a young girl, I really loved to write a lot of Thee’s and Thou’s in my journal. It made me feel all Jane Eyre…)

But beyond the inner romantic that seeps out of my pen, the simple fact remains that I cannot tap into that worship and praise through my keyboard. To a degree I can, but not the way I used to. I can’t really let loose when I know that other people are reading. I worry too much about what the readers might be thinking. It’s time for that to change. It’s time for me to sit still  over a blank sheet of paper and watch for what might flow forth.

It’s time for me to pick up the pen, open the book and make the words dance.

This is my 2012 goal. What are your goals for this fresh new year?