27 October 2010

New Daddy

Last night should have been one of the best night's of Asher's life.

Earlier in the day, his holster and six shooters arrived, just in time for Halloween. Walter took Asher outside in the afternoon to show him how to shoot the capgun and that little smile he tries not to smile when he's overjoyed kept popping out on his face. We knew the guns filled a joy deep within his spirit.

After dinner, I presented my sheriff with the cowboy hat I had ordered to replace the large seed corn hat that got thrown in with the stuff I really wanted at an auction last year. The new hat has a sheriff's badge on it. It fits his head much better and all around looks much cooler!

It should have been a good night.

But after we gave him these gifts he's wanted for so long, Asher turned into a whining boy who had traumatic meltdown after meltdown. Way too much crying. Too much anger. Too many grumpy words.

Even though it was only 6:30, Walter decided Asher just needed to go to bed. After stomping upstairs, I overheard him sobbing to Turtle.

"I need a new daddy."
"I need a daddy who looks the same, who is a Walter, but doesn't give these bad consequences."

Oh, dear Asher.

Even in his grumpy anger he knew enough to want to hold on to the wonderful daddy he has even while he wished for a replacement. We've come a long way from the days when he simply wanted a new daddy or mommy. I actually see this as a mini-victory because even in deep anger and frustration with his parents, Asher realizes the fun and loving daddy he has is mostly a good guy. Hopefully he looked at the toy cowboys and knights lying around his room and remembered daddy isn't all bad.

As I continue to study through the book of Isaiah in my Bible Study, I wonder if God's people in Judah felt the same way. Did they want a new God? Did they remember all the good things God had done for them and their ancestors but just wish God would ignore the way they had turned their backs on Him? Maybe they wanted to keep their God, Yaweh, but just take away his wrathful side. Taking the good of God and hoping the holy side that demands obedience would melt away.

An authority figure who gives good gifts, lives up the fun times, and winks at the naughty things we do.

Would this really be a good Daddy?

25 October 2010

Big Dreams

They started roasting the pig at 1 am Sunday morning and we took the first eagerly anticipated bites about 15 hours later. I couldn't bear to walk around and look at her face, and tried not to look at all her piggy friends still rooting around the farm but I did enjoy her deliciousness.

With the sun peeking in and out of the clouds, good friends, and top chefs who had cooked all day for us, I knew we made the right decision to join the Epiphany Farms CSA this year. Even though I admit I'm tired of bok choi and arugula, I whole heartily agree with everything the local farm movement stands for and love the passion the three chefs have for their farm and future restaurant.
I consider it a huge honor that we will soon have a farm to fork restaurant in our very own Central Illinois town and love that my family got to be a part of the company's experimental CSA. Excitement oozed out of one of the chefs while he talked about his frustration with local fusion and so called Italian restaurants in our town. He described the shot gun he keeps just inside the barn door to protect his turkeys from hawks and the excitement started oozing all over onto me too. I didn't doubt for a second that he absolutely agreed with the "I (heart) worms" t-shirt he wore.

While we ate the pig, turnips, leafy greens, and amazing peach cobbler we heard and saw the way dreams are coming true for this young group of world-traveling/ex-big city living/ Las Vegas style chefs.
When someone has such intense passion for anything, and so vividly describes how their big crazy dreams that at one time made no sense are coming true, I can't help but get excited.
It renewed my energy to think about big dreams I have and what I can do to take small steps towards making them a reality. Our visit to the farm proved more motivational to me than any of those business videos we used to watch during unit meetings of my working days. Forget figuring out who moved your cheese, figure out who has turned a patch of grassy land into a full-blown rooster crowing, pig mudding, tomato and basil growing farm.
Speaking of dreams coming true... the winner of my giveaway for Bittersweet is Ellen! I'm so happy someone who listened so compassionately to a deeply bittersweet time of my life gets her own copy of the book.
And finally, I leave you with a picture of a little girl whose dreams, for now, revolve around doing exactly what her big brother is doing...

22 October 2010

Concrete and toilet paper

"Stop eating the toliet paper."

"Never, never, ever eat concrete."

Ah yes, more things I never thought I would say. I blogged about a whole host of things I never thought I would say back a few years ago and you could read a few of them here, here, and here.

You might think these words were spoken to the youngest member of our family, but no I regularly need to ask Asher, my four year old who desperately wants to grow big and strong. to not snack on non-food items. My son, the one who eats practically nothing but radishes and peanut butter and jelly, also snacks on toilet paper, leaves, grass, and yes did attempt to eat concrete as well.

He sits at the dinner table and claims fear about eating spaghetti casserole, fish, and anything that has tomatoes or onions in it but without hesitation chews on random pieces of nature (and household items). I believe it's the temptation of the forbidden fruit.

And I'm really not that different.

We are in the "less than one week before actuarial exam count-down" at my house and this is the time of the year when I have to work with all my might to get along with my husband. This one week period when he needs to be in a good place emotionally and full of much sleep challenges me to not bring up the long list of items I feel we NEED to discuss.

I'd love to talk about why we should replace the cabinets in the master bathroom.

Or maybe I should schedule a night to review our finances and saving plans.

Discuss when exactly he's going to buy me the diamond earrings I've been asking for at every anniversary, birthday, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother's Day, sweetest day, love on Angie day...

And simply everything he does feels me with the need to remind him of the importance of putting his socks in the laundry basket and really why doesn't he read for fun other than when we're on vacation and I just can't understand why he doesn't keep in touch with his college friends better, and when am I going to get a night off anyway?

This is one of the two toughest weeks of the year. The other one will happen next spring before his next exam.

I'm tempted to eat the concrete and toilet paper, to grab the forbidden fruit of criticism and deep discussions. Maybe I would do well to keep my mouth busy so I don't speak things I'll regret later.

Anyone have a good recipe for concrete cake with tp frosting?

17 October 2010


With my hands full of garbage can lids, I met one of my new neighbors. She said she heard a Christian writer had moved onto the street and she wondered if I was the next Shauna Niequist. Immediately I wanted to hug her and claim her as my new best friend because I couldn't think of another writer I would want to be compared to.

Almost three years ago, I heard Shauna Niequist on the radio promoting her first book, Cold Tangerines. She described that book as one of celebration and claimed she wanted to be known as someone who celebrated and lived every moment of life. My heart, at the time completely broken from recurring losses, wanted to be her - that woman who celebrates even when life is hard. So I bought that book. And read it on a Florida beach while soaking in as much sun as my skin could possibly hold. I underlined, read out loud, and found myself believing Shauna and I were in fact the same person because so many of our life experiences were the same. That book was my inspiration to consciously choose to turn my back on letting recent hard knocks define the rest of my life but instead choose to celebrate because life is in fact good and God hasn't disappeared.
Since finishing that final page of Cold Tangerines, I could hardly wait until Shauna released her next book. When I received a copy of Bittersweet, I thought about saving it until I could fully enjoy it on another beach, but desire for more inspiration compelled me to get started right away, and I wasn't sorry.

Even though I loved Shauna's thoughts on celebration and the way she approached it from a real way of acknowledging hurt even in the middle of celebration, something about it made me question what her essays would be like if she had experienced deep loss. The kind of loss that makes you want to sit and stare and wonder if the pain would ever go away. Bittersweet is the answer and I am not disappointed with her honesty and complete openness even in the middle of a broken spirit.

As expected, my copy of Bittersweet is underlined and dogeared and even now I struggle with what thought I want to share the most. I'm bouncing between thoughts of change, joy in finding theological doctrines to be absolutely true when put into practice, and the importance of telling our own stories. In the middle of her hard season which Shauna writes from come encouragements down the road of faith. But she doesn't stop with her story and this I love.

Her final essay is a call to all people of faith. "If you are a person of faith, it is your responsibility to tell God's story in every way you can, every form, every medium, every moment. ... Don't allow the story of God, the sacred, transforming story of what God does in a human heart to become flat and lifeless. ... If you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have within you all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world. Your story must be told."
That means your story. Not just mine because I have a blog, or Shauna's because she wrote a book, or your pastor's because he stands in front of the crowd every Sunday. Your own story. Your story of loss, of change, of grace, of hope, of love. It's your unique story meant to be shared. Meant to challenge, motivate, and reveal more of God's heart to whoever you choose to share it with.

Perhaps because our losses have been the same, or because I too recently moved, or because I too long to see God's grace in the middle of it all, or maybe because I love her quick chapters that have left me with plenty to ponder when I have to put the book down and get back to my harried life. Perhaps because I have seen the bittersweetness in life and am reminded of it every time I write Amelie Hope's middle name. For all these things, I am thankful that even though she risked much by opening herself up bare to the world, Shauna dared to share her stories and her discoveries of God's grace.

The bittersweetness of my day today is that I have finished reading this book.
But, I am so pleased to get to offer one of my readers a signed copy of the book! Yes this is it, my very first giveaway and what an honor it is to be able to share it with one of you. Please leave a comment on my blog before the end of the day on Friday, October 22nd and I will randomly choose a winner. I know many of you read and comment on these notes in Facebook, but for this giveaway, I will just look at comments on the blog itself.
I can only have one winner but I encourage everyone else to check out the book for yourself.

15 October 2010

Mommy Brain

I hate pretending to be dumb.

I'm not blonde, but jokes about a woman's intelligence as if it related to her hair color make me want to jump up and scream smart phrases and maybe draw a couple of those economic graphs I came to love with my dear smart Econ friend Vanessa (who does happen to be blonde).

Now that I'm a mom and do crazy nonsense things like showing up at church with my shirt on inside out or putting milk into the pantry, I've been tempted to blame it on my intelligence's transformation into mommy brain.

And now that drives me crazy too. As a woman who used to spend her days in the corporate world brainstorming and talking intelligently, I already struggle with hours filled with playing sheriff is coming and figuring out why Amelie doesn't think she can ever consume enough snacks.

When I discovered a book about how being a mom actually makes you smarter, I researched all I could about the topic. I haven't even read the book yet, but love the research I discovered when I wrote this article for the Pantagraph about how having a mommy brain actually does make you smarter than you previously were.

Not smarter in an IQ sort of way, but smarter in a way of being able to better use more of the mass of muscle in your head. Smarter in perception, efficiency, resilience, motivation, and emotional intelligence.

When Walter read my article, he asked if I was saying that I was smarter than him. And to my extremely intelligent, math-brained husband I proudly said YES!

(Heads up to you my faithful readers: For the first time in my 3 years of writing this blog, I am hosting a give away on Monday. But it requires comments!! So instead of telling me in person that you read my blog, I'm excited to see some electronic comments that you, my readers do exist! :) )

12 October 2010

Keep your brave

We had fish for dinner last night.

I rarely make fish, but love it, love it! There's something about buying fish at a Midwest chain grocery store that takes away some of the appeal of freshness and all those health omega whatevers. But I had a recipe in my line-up that I wanted to try and so fish came up on the menu last night.

This is the actual conversation we had last night at our dinner table:

Walter: Asher, eat your fish.
Asher: I'm scared to eat it.
W: You're a brave boy, you can do it.
Asher: I'm not brave. I gave all of my brave to Evan today.
W: I will give you some of my brave.
Asher: Well I will take it off
W: I will duct tape it to you.
Asher: I will take it off with tweezers.
Angie: Then I will knit some brave together and wrap it around you so it won't come off.
Asher: I will take it off and throw it onto the smoke detector.

Really, I'm not making any of this up.

Don't know where he gets his ideas, must be the same place that used to inspire him to make a puddle of sap for his little sister to sit in.

Being an emotionally charged mom who always sees the deeper meaning behind his words and never wants to miss a teaching moment, I wanted to tell Asher to NEVER give his brave away!


Whether it's needed for eating fish, meeting a new friend, joining the track team, standing up for the truth he believes in, life must be met with lots of brave.

And if he does give it all away to a good friend, mommy and daddy will always have enough encouragement and love to fill him back up with more brave.

Never run out of brave my dear Asher!

11 October 2010

Whe Mommy is sick

I picked up Amelie's dress from my desk in the living room this morning. It's the adorable brown corduroy dress she wore to church yesterday for the first time. I felt a tag underneath and thought Walter had forgotten to cut it out before she wore it to church. I lifted up the skirt to remove the tag and found instead the matching brown bloomers still attached by plastic cord to the back of the dress and I laughed out loud. This is what happens when Mommy is sick.

But a million other things happen while mommy is sick that make up for a little girl wearing bloomers still attached to the inside of her dress.

Saturday may have been the sickest day of my life. I couldn't keep anything down and found myself believing I should bring the sleeping bag to the bathroom floor because it would take less energy to just stay there. Walter got the sickness first in the middle of the night Friday and spent much of his night in the same bathroom. Although he was functional throughout the day on Saturday, I know he didn't feel completely well.

But he took over, sacrificed a much needed day of studying, and brought me glasses of ice water while setting up episodes of The Office for my entertainment. And I was reminded of the wonderful caring husband I have.

When Mommy is sick, kids eat crackers in her bed, 4 year olds spend too many hours shootin' em up on the iphone, and birthday parties are missed. But I don't take for granted the help of family who step up and do kind things. My brother brought our sickly family chicken noodle soup and popsicles just when we wondered what would make it to the table for supper.

Yes, when Mommy is sick, little girl's wear bloomers still attached to their dresses, but when Mommy is sick she is reminded of the ones who go to great lengths to care for her and she is thankful!

06 October 2010

First lines

"Call me Ishmael."
Voted the best first line in a novel, this opening sentence from Moby Dick begins an adventure (a long adventure) of whale hunting that remains popular more than 150 years after publication.

I read through the list of top lines from novels and smiled as I remembered reading some of them for the first time years ago and became intrigued about the rest of the story of others.
What is it that makes an opening line great?

Quick analysis tells me it's an element of surprise mixed with a perfect choice of words and names. "Call me Angie." just doesn't have the same effect as Ishmael. "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." from 1984 obviously throws a curve ball of surprise and immediately makes a reader stop and wonder what would make a clock strike 13?

I watched the movie Enchanted last night and when the mean step-mother sent the beautiful princess tumbling down the wishing well, she wished her bad luck in a world, our world, where there are "no happily ever afters." Those words put together in the opposite of the familiar "happily ever after" stopped the flow of thought processing in my brain and I'm still thinking about the idea today of living in a place where fairy tales don't really come true.

As I've been doing Bible study in the book of Isaiah where God's wrath and judgement dominate, I admit I have wanted to stop, to skip over it and move on past what I don't want to hear and on to the good stuff of love and peace and hope. It's shocking to be reminded of a God who demands obedience and who will appear on a throne with flying six winged angels. Shocking almost to a point of not being able or want to understand.

But equally shocking is a God who loves enough to die for me. A God whose love is equally as powerful, relentless, and just.

Definitely shocking and the first line of my story.
I leave you today with another shocker...
"I want a moustache just like my brother."

04 October 2010

Hard to be cool

We added a third child to our mix this weekend and traded our red Jeep for a white mini-van.
Like the Go Fish song says, it is in fact "hard to be cool in a mini-van."
Not that we are so cool with two carseats in the back of our Liberty, but there's something in my mind that believes taking that step into mini-van land will push us over the edge into true suburban parents. And I'm fighting that final step.

Walter and I both admitted to each other that we had learned how to drive in a mini-van (talk about uncool!), so it was a homecoming of sorts. Back to where we started - in the car with parents and kids - one big happy family.

I remember growing-up days with my happy family in the mini-van. All of my five foot self sprawled on the back bench while my taller but YOUNGER sister shared the middle bench with baby brother in the carseat. After all, I frequently reminded her, it was a step up from her former sleeping spot on the floor of the Oldsmobile when she had to navigate the hump in the middle of the floor.

Oh yes, good times in the mini-van. I'm sure there will be those good times to come for us when we finally break down and realize it's not worth being squished just to avoid the uncoolness of a "bubble driving down the road."

We are thankful for the use of the mini-van so we could get around all in one car, but I'm still wondering if our good friends left the "hard to be cool" song in the cd player on purpose?

01 October 2010

Tulip Planting

Planting anything in the ground ranks near the top of my favorite activities. Digging a hole with a purpose, sticking a onion shaped bundle of flowering hope into the dirt and then covering it back up with anticipation of what will happen under the ground gets me excited about God's miracle of life.

The first year after my family moved to Ethiopia and I lived in a home with a yard I could plant things in, I went crazy planting tulips. It must have been one of those perfect almost spiritual moments because I feel it like it happened yesterday. We had an off-site work meeting which got over early so I raced home, threw on grubby clothes, and sat outside on the sidewalk of that condo in the sun digging and planting tulips and more tulips. The perfect therapy for the loss I felt with the move back to my hometown to find it completely different especially without my family nearby.

The following spring, those beautiful tulips reminded me of the beautiful fall day and the anticipation I felt of better days to come.

Then I got married and moved again. That first fall in the new house, before I knew of the abundance of spring bulbs previous owners had planted along the driveway, I spent another perfect fall afternoon digging and planting, once again anticipating the excitement of seeing new life springing out after a hard winter.

Bunnies and squirrels teamed up to ruin that dream and also began my six year battle with the woodland creatures living on White Place. A couple of my tulips survived the stockpiling of winter food, but mainly I enjoyed the established tulips that had been there for years and years.

The warmth and sun drew me outside yesterday to plant tulips around our new home. With a silly four year old and a clingy 18 month old, the digging and planting wasn't quite the idyllic moment I enjoyed that first year of planting.

It started out family picture perfect with Asher interested in the process and wanting to put the bulb in the ground.

And then I let him turn the hose on to fill my watering can.
And then I sat in a puddle I didn't realize he had sprayed onto the sidewalk.
And then Amelie had a diaper taking away my ability to imagine the fresh spring smell of tulips.
And then I battled the tarp that keeps weeds out of the landscaping.
And then my holes got shallower and sloppier.
And we finally finished.

Once again I'm anxious to see how these authentic Holland tulips (thanks Becky!) will bloom. Maybe ten years from now when life is different, I'll miss these days of having a clingy girl and a silly boy and the memory will become just as fond as the one of me, alone, on a sunny day planting tulips at my parents condo.