Monday, August 19, 2013

So long sweet summer

Apparently today is back to school day. Many friends and families are shuttling their sweet little ones off to school, many for the first time.  I’m not yet part of this group, we’ve got another year before kindergarten, but a part of me is breathing a sigh of relief.  

We have had a great summer, for the most part. We’ve been steadily working through our summer list, cramming in the fair, the aquarium, barbecues, Planes!, the beach, and so much more. Apparently I’ve never given my son an actual ice cream cone, so Carter made sure that was #2 on the list. I have entire memory cards full prolifically documenting the smiles of this summer.

But if I’m really honest, there’s a dark side of the summer mom in me. The exhausted, worn down part of me that really craves that break some moms had. The side that is more than a wee bit jealous of the moms at home who have been hanging out at the pool with their kids and frolicking to the zoo/museum/beach on weekdays when there were less attendees than the weekend throngs. I watched from the sidelines as other moms joyously celebrating a break from packing lunches and looking forward to banishing the alarm clock.

To give you a glimpse into our summer weekday life…

There is no break. Our routine is exactly the same and then some. Each kids needs to be slathered in sunscreen every morning since I gave birth to Casper the friendly ghost and his kid sister. Every Friday we lug both kids’ nap time blankets and loveys home, wash them, and make sure they get back to school on Monday. They need healthy lunches. There are folders to review and, again, return. The school parties seem endless. An appetizer for the school picnic, sliced kiwis for a Hawaii party, and Avery needs 27,000 pairs of underwear a day (did I mention we’re potty training? It’s not going great). And the water days. OH THE WATER DAYS. Everyone goes to school in a bathing suit and even more sunscreen, plus a towel, plus an extra outfit, water shoes and regular shoes, plus a bag for their wet towels and swimsuits. Then we’ve got to deal with all those wet clothes. And to make it extra fun, the day of the week changes. Last week, one poor kid came to school in a bathing suit the day before water day. It was reassuring proof to know I’m not the only one.

I am not on top of my game. All summer I’ve had this nagging fear that I’m going to forget something. On Carter’s first day of pre-K he went to school with a chocolate brownie bar in his lunch. Day 1. It was an organic, baked, whole grain snack but still! At my best, I would never let that happen, lest I be judged as the mom who sends her kids with a chocolate bar for lunch. My best days are long gone.

Yet I’ve learned a lot this summer. I know some of those same moms are currently more than ready to send those kids back, to pack lunches to the moon and back, embrace the alarm clock once again and reinsert some structure into the day to day chaos. I know that “breaks” are relative, and they’re a privilege.  The fact that we’ve survived this summer is proof of two things. One, most of the stuff I worry about doesn’t matter because kids are resilient. Two, and this one is a big one, the strength of the Lord will sustain me to care for our family. There is no human way I could have survived the last few months.

So welcome back school year. The time when we’re all in this together, trying to muddle through the right choices making sure everyone’s clothes are on right and their shoes match (mine included). Let’s press in together and cling tightly to the Lord in those moments when we feel the edges of our neatly organized lives begin to fray. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I’m not sure how I feel about this week. I already know I’m way too plugged in, and I’m not that sad to unplug for a week.

Here’s what I’m eliminating for the week:
1.       Facebook
2.       Pinterest, blogs, etc.
3.       Apps, except the ones that are actually needs, like GPS and my grocery list
4.       TV and Netflix, except for my kids who watch one episode of Curious George every morning before school if they’re ready and being good
5.       Anything on the internet I don’t truly need (this includes news stalking, which is very difficult in the wake of tragedies this week)
6.       Non-Christian radio
7.       The random phone calls I make when I’m bored, driving, etc. when I just can’t stand the sound of silence

Obviously my job includes a whole lot of time on the computer and internet, but I hid my bookmark bar after I almost clicked on about 10 times in the first day. I also almost logged on to Facebook within 5 minutes of being awake day 1.

My biggest fear is that I’m going to miss something, but I’m probably not going to. I’ll probably get a lot more cleaning and laundry done, and I’ll go to bed earlier, which is good for everyone. However, I may end up getting really involved in those Curious George episodes…

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stuffed with stuff.

I blew possessions week out of the water. This is not about bragging rights, this is about having WAY too much stuff than a family of four (two of whom are very small) could ever need. 

I purged at least 7 items from every room/area of the house. And it amounted to over 400 items. Some of it had to be thrown out (unless someone wants some medicine that expired before my children were born), but most of it went in a pile to donate.

Emotionally, this was a roller coaster. It was liberating to free myself from a mound (literally, a MOUND) of things we didn’t need. But it was also sickening how much we have that we don’t need, and, if I’m being really honest, probably never needed. And then it was freeing again. Repeat, times 50.

My biggest logistical challenge was time. I happened to be on vacation for much of the week, and busy with work and life the rest of the week, so that was tough. Some of it was maddening. I went through well over 100 pens and sharpies, and purged most of them, but that takes time. Some of it was wonderful. We’re donating 3 trash bags full of stuffed animals to Solutions for Change, which will go to chronically homeless families trying to get their lives back.

I loved involving Carter in this week. I loved seeing him let go. We’ve tried to purge before, and he held so tightly to things he never played with we never got rid of anything. Yet when we put it in the perspective of where these toys were going and why it was important, he started to open his heart and see needs beyond his own. I think his mother could probably learn a thing or two there.

So we have a mountain of boxes and bags, all waiting to go to their new homes (again, time I haven’t had yet). And the craziest thing is I’ve barely made a dent. You can’t tell a single thing is gone. I did a first pass with the time I did have, but there is still so much more. I barely touched one corner of the garage. Moving forward, I want to continue this cycle of careful consideration of what we do have, and be really mindful of what I buy and why. This home can’t possible need another souvenir mug. Ever. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Undressing Clothes

I finished clothes week yesterday. It certainly wasn’t food, but I didn’t like it. I found that 60 seconds goes REALLY fast when I’m trying to pick out an outfit, and shoes, and jewelry. I also found that more often than not, I wanted to change. I really struggle with feeling insecure in whatever I’m wearing, and there are definitely days I change 3-4 times before I leave the house. Not good. I also realized that I hated one shirt I was wearing (which will no longer be part of my wardrobe), and the whole day I just felt off because of my shirt. My shirt! What a ridiculous, vain, unnecessary thing to ruin a day over!

The biggest lesson of clothes came out of the possessions side of it. I finally got rid of the sophomore year homecoming dress, but more on that later. And, going forward, I really don’t want to buy endless amounts of more. If I buy something, it needs to replace something else and it needs to be necessary.

I know the Lord is working on me, and empowering me to be comfortable in my own skin, but this week really showed me my need to depend on Him in this area.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cause I am living in a material world

Next up: Possessions. I’m actually doing this in conjunction with clothes week since I’m going to be on the other side of the country visiting my sister for most of the real week 3.

Oh, possessions. I have a lot of stuff. Most of it I hold on to with open hands, but there are *far* too many handfuls.

This week, I’m going to go through 13 rooms/areas of our home and give away 7 things from each. That’s 91 items. Some rooms may have 70 things I could give away. Jen Hatmaker gave away 7 things a day for 30 days, which is 210 items. That’s my second goal: 210 items.

Carter is getting in on this action. He really loves his stuff, and that concerns me. I want to find a local resource, maybe an orphanage or women and children’s shelter, to donate these things to, and I want him to go with me and hand it over. It’s so important to us that he understands how blessed our life is, and how we are called to share with others. I’m not quite sure how that’s all going to go, but it’s so important to shepherd his little heart. And mine, too. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Week 2: Clothes

Moving on to another area of great excess in my life: clothes. I have a LOT of clothes. More clothes than can actually fit in my closet, which is silly considering I have something like 15 feet of closet at my disposal.

The problem isn't so much that I buy too much, it's that I have bought too much, and I didn't really know my style and for the longest time I didn't know where to shop. It's safe to say, as I'm knocking on the door of thirty years old with two kids and a real job, I'm beyond the Charlotte Russe years. I can probably get rid of the dress I wore to my Sophomore homecoming, right? Even as I type that, there's a little part of me that's yelling "wrong! I might need it someday! I could wear that again!"

So for this week I'm choosing two thing: Go through everything. Be realistic. I did this a lot before we moved and made some first round cuts thanks to my brutally honest sister. Shamefully, that was over 50 pounds of clothes, but there's still more, like the homecoming dress. Part of this ties into next week’s focus on possessions.

Second, I'm going to set a time limit on how long I have to get dressed this week to 60 seconds, and that includes picking out shoes and accessories. So far, I'm 2 days in. Yesterday was good, today was less good but not terrible. I spend an awful lot of unnecessary time staring at the same clothes. And then changing what I’ve already put on and feel super anxious about all of it. So 60 seconds, and praying my focus shifts away from what I want people to think of me. 

A third and unexpected conviction was the light shed on human rights within the apparel industry. I took a few really interesting classes in college on this, but I've frankly been lazy in this area. I cannot stand the fact that my kids' clothing may have been made by the sweet hands of children forced into labor in deplorable conditions. There are some great companies out there bringing data and light to this ( is one, although a bit limited). 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reflections on Food

I really think food is going to be my hardest week (famous last words?). I'm really glad to have it behind me, but also really intrigued by what I learned.

I didn't completely launch myself into a plate of doughnuts, but being Easter weekend, I indulged a bit more than normal. And I kinda felt sick.

I didn't even want soda, which is a huge victory.

We hosted a pretty big party yesterday and worked late last night cleaning, washing dishes, and trying to put everything back together, and this morning I was exhausted. I thought I would treat myself to a latte. That was not a good decision. As it turns out, I think my latte days are behind me, it wasn't even worth it and threw half of it out.

But oh. my. goodness. The San Diego Smashburger I ate Saturday? I felt like it was the best thing I've ever tasted.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Food. aka give me a cookie.

The first week of 7 is super hard: Food. The author, Jen Hatmaker, chose 7 foods and that’s all she ate for a month (whole grain bread, chicken breast, eggs, sweet potato, spinach, avocado, and apples) with modest amounts of salt and pepper and olive oil. The cool thing about 7 is you’re free to make it your own. I started out thinking that I wanted to exclude 7 foods, but in the end I decided to pick my own 7.
I included Jen’s chicken breast and eggs, but I wanted to try going gluten free for a week, so I swapped for gluten-free tortillas. I also included balsamic vinegar (very importantly, this does not mean sugar-laden dressing, just real balsamic vinegar and one particular dressing that’s just vinegar and oil and no junk or gluten). I was going to limit my list to pears, sweet potatoes, spinach and avocado, but in the end decided to include all vegetables and fruits. I also have had some 100% fruit juice mixed with sparkling water, salt and pepper, and olive oil for cooking.

What isn’t on this list… cookies, bread, cheese, milk, ice cream, candy, cookies, brownies chocolate, soda, wine, beer, coffee, iced tea…. A lot of more. Those are the ones I really miss. Especially iced tea, and super especially baked goods.

I have had a few moments when I thought I might lose it. The first was day 1. I drink coffee or tea every day. Lately, I’ve been drinking a glass of iced tea every morning. The night before day 1 included a trip to urgent care for a massively painful canker sore, which meant I was already limited what I could actually eat. And it turns out that my body is pretty accustomed to caffeine, so by the afternoon of day 1 I was completely useless, laying on the couch, a combination of the migraine from the caffeine withdrawal and feeling generally blah from the canker sore and resulting antibiotics. Normally that’s exactly when I want sugar. Day 2 was a little better, the headache more mild, and then we went to church. Being on the hospitality team, it’s my job to put out all of the trays of goodies after the service. And one person was so kind as to bring a full tray of caramel brownies (my kryptonite). I had to prepare, set out, clean up, and wash that tray. Oh, and then Carter had to go to urgent care immediately after church. Fun times right off the bat. Yesterday in Sprouts I almost cried in the bakery section. Seriously. It’s also Easter time and Cadbury eggs call my name from my very own pantry, along with their friends Starburst jelly beans. Today I ate some clandestine food, a salad with turkey breast and a little avocado mousse which probably had a little cream, but that’s been it.

But in all of this complaining, there’s been a lot of good perspective. Our entire culture revolves around food, almost to the point of worship. My so-called problems are really nothing compared to the millions of people who are actually hungry. We have over 650 food items in our house. That’s a real problem. I’m hoping that over time we have far, far less. SO much less! I’ve had to focus on why I’m doing this, and I really like how Jen Hatmaker sums it up as a prayer of less of me and my junk and more of God. Our bodies are temples, and Little Debbie is not the high priest. Day 1 we watched Hungry for Change, which was mostly stuff I already know and yet altogether convicting and encouraging. We super blessed to live in America, where we have so many healthy food options. And I have an amazing supportive husband who did this all with me and even made dinner every night. I also found out that I tend to eat little things mindlessly, which I noticed when I almost accidentally popped a jelly bean in my mouth about 50 times.

So tomorrow is the end of my 7 days. I don’t physically feel much different, but spiritually I really do want to be conscious in this area of food. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Obligatory Hello Neglected Blog! Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

I recently embarked on a new book journey. Back in September, some of my new neighbors asked me to join their Beth Moore study. I did, and I liked it and I liked them. We just finished that and started 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess.

Here’s the little blurb about the book:

Do you feel trapped in the machine of excess? Jen Hatmaker was. Her friends were. And some might say that our culture is. Jen once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called 'rich' by a child who was living in poverty, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual journey was born. This study will lead you through this same experiment, at whatever level you choose, in seven key areas: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress.

What's the payoff for living such a deeply reduced life? It's the discovery of a greatly increased God a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends a social experiment to become a radically better existence.

I felt like all of those things had been stirring in my heart. Something about needing 2 FULL loads in a 20 foot Uhaul to move four people (plus more stuff crammed in cars and vans) makes one stop and think about how much stuff is really necessary. So I knew I needed to do it, and I was a little scared. Okay, a lot. I'm on week 1, and I sincerely plan on writing a little about each week to reflect and remember. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hello 2013.

It’s a little crazy that I didn’t post a single word in December. But December was a little crazy, along with every day of our life.

Last year, I resolved distinctly not to resolve to anything. We were right in the midst of life swiftly and quite effectively kicking our butts in one of the hardest seasons of our lives. I just wanted to survive it and someday be past it. I think maybe we finally are, but it took most of 2012 to get there.

Looking toward 2013 is new and exciting and different. I pray that it’s a year of growth, of peace, and of joy. I’d like to leave a few pounds behind, eat a few more salads (although I tend to oppress the health benefits with piles of cheese and dressing and all the reasons those aforementioned pounds are sticking around), organize the piles I shove in bins and boxes when I’m trying to clean and don’t have enough time to do it.

I want to cherish today. I really want to take more pictures and capture and remember my precious children just as they are now. I have to start writing down more of what Carter says, because those gems are too precious to forget. I want to cherish my time in the Word. I want to actually go on dates with my husband, something we didn’t do nearly enough of in 2012, and cherish our marriage. I want to cherish our friendships and the family we have in our lives.

I guess that’s my word for 2013. Cherish. Cherish means to hold dear and love, but it also means to care for. There’s an element of intention, a responsibility.

And I’m just going to pretend like Madonna didn’t ruin that word for all of time.