It’s not a #momfail, I told myself.

Checking Facebook to see what’s trending, to make sure I’m not missing some major world event, I realize that my feed is full of pictures of my friends’ kids . . . kids on their first day of school. Hey, it’s the first day of school for my kids, too, I thought.

But I forgot to take a picture.

We can’t re-wind our way to the morning to re-capture the moment. It was great to see our kids come into the kitchen to eat the potato cakes their dad had made the night before just so the morning would not be so chaotic. We actually sat down for a few moments at the table, the four of us.

We are still in the midst of transition, and routine will surely find us, however hectic it might be. New town, new church, new school, new family structure (with big kids in a different town at a familiar school). We are finding our way, but there will be some moments that come and go without finding their way onto social media or into our camera roll.

I tell my kids we’re “making memories” when we are doing something that they’re not particularly fond of, like hiking through a rainstorm or taking a bumpy ride in a crowded van. We are, indeed, making many memories these days, but to make a memory, you have to fully notice the moment–touch, taste, smell, and see it as much as possible. For me, that’s going to mean more often than not that I don’t have a camera or phone in hand. It means that I’m going to be laughing, crying, moving, being in the moment. It also means that I’m going to look back on it an hour, days or years later and smile because I was so full of life and love, even if it was painful.

We said we would take a 2nd day of school picture but forgot that, too. The morning and afternoon drop-offs are stressful right now, to say the least. So for all the parents and friends who managed to remember the photos, you are awesome. Please keep sharing. For those of us who didn’t, we didn’t fail, even if we feel like we missed an opportunity. We’re making memories, after all, and those memories usually come with any number of stories to share later.

Keep making memories.

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About time

Yes, it’s about time.

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while,” says Jesus to his disciples.

That was in my daily reading this morning, and, oh, how I do long for a retreat.  I’ve been away from the family on weekends relatively recently, but it’s been a while since it was truly a retreat for retreat’s state.  At this point in my life, I need clarity, calm, and a solid sense of direction and purpose.  This is harder to maintain when one is frazzled, drowning in to-do’s, or just downright tired.


Jesus was speaking to his disciples.  I wonder who speaks to the women these days.  Who tells the overworked mother to rest a moment, take an hour between nursing, grab a pot of tea and go gaze out the window . . . or sleep a few minutes.  All will be well.  Who tells the outside-the-home-working-mothers that it’s okay to be away for another day or two from the family, not to feel guilty about the piling chores and pleading eyes?  I don’t think anyone speaks up because those around us aren’t sure that all will truly be well.  But, it’s better for a mom to take some time out than to walk around getting crazy eyes and becoming more and more like a woman on edge.  Maybe I project.


We have to take care of ourselves.  To nearly every mother I talk to, I ask if she’s taking care of herself.  I ask about her support system.  To the women I work with and for others I know, I try to set an example.  If I can get away from my household with four kids, surely they can, too.  It’s not perfect, but it’s OKAY.


I wonder about those who don’t need or take time-outs for themselves.  Are they being honest?  Have they fully shut down from their inner voices that guide and protect their best interests?  Because I think that’s where dreams and hopes exist.  If we shut out that voice, we risk losing sight of who we truly are and thus risk losing our sense of purpose in this world.  Yes, being a mother is a worthy purpose, but does it give you a sense of joy — mind, body, and soul?  If not, you’re not listening carefully enough to yourself.  If so, blessings, my Mother-friend; spread that love and joy!


I grant you permission to take a time-out.  Find a friend with a cabin for a night or a weekend.  Pack your favorite nourishing food and beverage.  Sleep in silence, all by yourself.  For you extroverts, take a gang of mothers with you and enjoy the party!  If a weekend doesn’t work, take at least 15 minutes a day for you, and only you.  I smile thinking of my friend who locks the bathroom door for her quiet time.  Take it where you can get it!


As the kids get older, it gets easier to find the time, but priorities will still have to be juggled.  Seeking out a deserted place, finding the time to listen to my still, small voice, I know more clearly what the priorities are.  It takes that leap of faith to put me first that ironically grants me insight as to what is best for all.


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Game of Life

This life is most definitely not a game.  However, I am slightly amused when listening to the kids playing the familiar game with the three-dimensional gameboard (that I’ve always loved).

“Alexander didn’t have any kids!”

“I’m an artist!”

“I make $160,000!”

The game is fun, introduces mortgages, taxes, insurance, etc.  There are elements of life in the game.  But not everything.

Where are the homeless?  Where’s the “gotta-have-two-jobs” card?  Where’s the NSF spot and can’t-spend-a-dime-till-payday spot?  Where’s the family barbecue and the birthday parties?  Where’s the comfort, sorrow, and extreme joy?  Where’s church services and dinner parties?  Where’s all the stuff that makes life LIFE?

That’s why it’s only a game.  Our lives, in contrast, are not determined with a clicking spin of the wheel.  We make choices, meet consequences, revel in surprises and learn at every bend in the road.  Fortunately, we’re not stuck in a plastic car (at least not all the time!), and there are oh-so-many paths to choose from and to discover.

Even when it seems like the chips are down, there is entirely too much in this life to radiate light and joy.  There is too much to love.  This is good to remember this summer vacation, and if I let the kids push me to the edge, maybe I’ll get the game out to remind me that my life is so much better than I think it is.

For real.

* I was looking for a stock photo of the board game to insert in this post since it’s been a while since any photos.  I found one — a perfect one.  It’s too perfect for me even to borrow.  I want you to take the time to go look at it.  Context clues tell me that it’s a child who just received a gift from an Angel Tree program or a similar goodwill charity (just saw that the title says it IS Angel Tree, at an Episcopal church neighboring our diocese).  But to me, the eyes of the child and the happy-go-lucky box contrast vividly.  The depth of my reality just increased; the compassion in my heart expanded further than I anticipated this morning.  My thanks to this child.  May gratitude fill my day, my life, and may all blessings be his.

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Spring Break

I knew I should have brought out my camera on Friday, capturing the images of the shining daffodils and the amazing blossoms on a neighbor’s tulip tree.  Everything, including all the people I saw, seemed to follow the sun, soaking up the warmth and energy.  That night after all the kids were in bed, I sat by the outdoor fire that had toasted hot dogs and marshmallows so dutifully, feeling the wind and watching the moon and stars slowly disappear behind the clouds.  The forecast had promised snow the next day.  Could it be?

The next morning, the cinders had been extinguished by the rain that came.  I left for my Quiet Day in the continued drizzle and slightly above freezing temperatures — only 35 degrees below yesterday’s.  On my way home, after spending my day amidst lovely souls and the glowing of Spirit made manifest, the wintry mix began, then the snow.  Big flakes for this our Spring Equinox.

But the warmth of our busy kitchen and fireplace that night prevented any chill.  Homemade manicotti and at least an attempt at a new tiramisu recipe (I called it tirami-soup and wasn’t a fan). Our tummies were full, indeed!  And then we settled in for our snow day and the beginning of the kids’ Spring Break.

This week will be full of its own challenges.  After my already askew morning routine, I get to take the kids grocery shopping.  At least three eating times a day for six that feels like 10.  I’m getting a preview for this summer.  I read something last night that rang in my ears — several something’s in fact.  Excerpts from Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Way of Knowing . . .

“We stand midway between the purely material and the purely energetic, with a full range of versatility in both.” (p. 54)

“. . . where we are is exactly where we belong and that our real purpose in the cosmos is fulfilled in the way that we move back and forth between these two planes of existence.” (p.54)

“Working within the raw materials of the physical world, we are to give ‘birthing’ and ‘body’ to the names of God so that the invisible becomes visible. We are midwives of the Spirit.” (p.55)

The book continues on, giving voice to so many of my thoughts and experiences.  Yes!  Someone else gets the same messages as me and has already traced routes through other traditions, found links and lineages.  I read on about surrender, letting go.

I rest assured that I am where I am supposed to be.  Mothers are surely a mirror through which God sees God’s self.  In other aspects, too, I have a responsibility to the energy I project, reflect, and participate in.

The sun is now melting the snow outside, leaving the ground a muddy mess, fertile, and full of possibilities.

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Present Enjoyment

“Presence is the straight and narrow gate through which one passes to Wisdom.”

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing

When being present is as easy as enjoying a morning cup of coffee while listening to the doves cooing outside or retiring to bed after finishing a good read, life is light.  Sign me up for living life in the present moment!  This is the easy part.

It takes far more effort to be present when the kids plead for us to come play outside with them.  How could any decent parent deny a request for “tickle tag,” especially when the little boy is positively giddy with excitement?  Somehow we compromised and ended up outside in the garden while the kids played.  Promise of a weekend bonfire guaranteed more time together outdoors.

The effort to be present when the kids are screaming and arguing all around, when cleaning up all their garbage from the past weeks in the van (including leftover pancake and peanut butter — how long ago was that?!?), when at the end of the day no one has really done their chores or wants to do anything else, is supremely difficult for me.  I want the moment to be over.  I want to get to the moment that will be more enjoyable.

See.  That’s my laziness.  I don’t mind being present, mindful, what-have-you, so long as it doesn’t take too much energy on my part.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?  But I realize there’s no growth in that.  I have consciously boosted my awareness to include the more difficult moments.

Now, what might seem incredibly difficult for you probably isn’t for me.  I’m a doula; some of my greatest gifts for calm and comfort come in what can be highly stressful situations.  I’m not easily grossed out or afraid of the truly tragic. (Now, if someone beside me smells bad in the checkout line, I will likely make my “stinky face.”)  My most difficult lessons surround an appreciation and respect for myself and for those nearest and dearest to me, namely, my children.

I love being a student, though.  Regarding my children as the best teachers I’ve ever had increases my appreciation and respect for them.  One day they will understand this because I’m quite certain that right now they don’t!

So for now I’ll enjoy the present, realizing that time truly flies.  I led the La Leche League meeting yesterday without any children in tow.  I shared that my three-year-old had stayed the night with a friend, much to some shock, I’m sure.  But a fourth child brings a new level of letting go into the process of parenting.  I’m fully aware, though, that enjoying the present moment also means letting go of attachments.  I don’t have a baby anymore.  My oldest is a pre-teen.  The children are growing and changing every day.  I do myself and them a favor by savoring the time we share, the lessons we learn.

Wisdom is all around us.

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Vegetarians Among Us

Among the many choices we have in this life, we get to choose what we eat.  We have options.  I’m sure animals in the wild have options, too.  They show preferences toward certain plants; some edibles are probably tastier than others.  They could eat the poisonous ones, but survival instincts tell them to steer clear.  Undoubtedly the human race would be better off if our survival instincts were so strong that we would opt not to put poison into our bodies.  I digress . . .

Our two older children have decided to become vegetarian, and so has one of their friends.  Lately, out of necessity, most of our meals have been vegetarian anyway, but now it’s becoming part of the meal planning.  Actually, we need to do more meal planning, incorporating intentional vegetarianism into the diet, making sure the nutritional value is there.

Being responsible parents, we did ask for their motives.  It may seem hard to believe, but “going vegetarian” can still be a fad.  We wanted to make sure their intentions were clear, good, and stable.  While we cannot be 100% sure, their dedication in the past week or two has shown stamina and dedication.  We even asked if they would prefer we only purchased local meat, where we could go see how the animals were treated.  The kids have said they’re not opposed to eating occasional fish, but otherwise, no meat.  I’ll have to learn how to cook fish (and stand the smell of it — ugh).  We move forward.

Fortunately, there are many resources to be had, both online and in print.  We also have friends who have wonderful recipes and are willing to share their experiential knowledge.  And my experience shows me that if you raise conscientious, free-thinking children, you have to be willing to work a little harder, go the extra mile, and support them in their endeavors and choices.  Nurture them; that’s another choice we have.

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A busy day all around, and driving home in the dark, I realize I’ve missed my kids.  Lots of good work done during the day, lots of love and laughter shared, but I miss those waiting for me at home.  Knowing that a taste of chaos awaits me, with all of one hour to have the kids fed and in bed, I also know I don’t have time to make dinner.

At least it’s half-price burger night at Sonic.  Four burgers + two fries = 5 hungry bodies fed for under $15.  Plus, I don’t have to cook and can make the conference call.  I know.  We cringe at the thought of what the “beef” might include, but we don’t do this terribly often.  Well, maybe more often than I’d like to admit . . .

Sitting at the table, realizing this is the first glass of water I’ve had all day, I notice our icon in the middle of the table.  A family-size bottle of ORGANIC ketchup.  Yep.  Sonic on our plates, served with a side of organic ketchup.

I let the kids excitedly talk to me all at once.  I feel too much caffeine pulsing through my system.  Somehow I manage to get three of four kids in bed while participating in the conference call.  I love my family.

It’s the effort that counts, right?  🙂

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He Said It

I was trying to sit and help my eldest study for the upcoming spelling bee. Everything has felt like an effort these past couple of days, and add to that the fact that it’s after eight and in the bedtime hour. My second oldest tells us he still has homework to do, and his chores still aren’t done. Everyone seems to be a whir of activity.

The child who is supposed to be washing his lunch dishes comes running through the living room to the piano, but the water is still running in the kitchen sink.

“What are you doing?!” I practically yell at him. Maybe he’s just letting the water get hot, I try to rationalize to myself.

“I’m doing two things at once because you are all telling me to do everything,” he replies, exasperated at best, still moving, straightening up his piano things.

Alas, I feel I’ve not done a good job this day. My nine-year-old feels the need to multi-task. God bless him, the boy is as slow as Christmas and has a hard time focusing on doing one task, let alone three or more.  Often, I have to write a list out just so he knows what he needs to do, and even that can mean a day-long commitment.

Why do we have so much to do? I wonder. So much laundry. So many dishes. So much house to clean (and we’re not in an extremely large house by any means for a family of 6). So much work to be done.

I remind myself that these are the ropes. Sometimes you swing high. Sometimes you swing low. It helps keep things in perspective because as soon as I think this, I remember how grateful I am that we have all we do. We are richly blessed.

We have to be careful, though, of how much of our time we spend in the absent-minded state of doing, doing, doing. Am I showing my kids how I do motherhood, or am I showing them how to be a mother?  Am I teaching them that the only way they will get anything accomplished is if they run themselves into the ground 24/7, or am I showing them that it really is about one’s quality of being that is of utmost importance.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I’ve said if I haven’t lived it.  I would have rather heard my son tell me he’s done his best this day to do what he can.  I would rather have seen a sleepy, contented smile on his face than the tired, sad eyes that were giving up on his homework.

When the tooth fairy visits tonight, I hope she brings another friend with a magic wand to wave over us all renewal, confidence and peace.  We’ll start again fresh in the morning light.

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The Excitement of Firsts

The anticipation in my oldest child leading up to the first day of school nearly pushed me over the edge.  I was ready to trash the school supplies and send her to school with a piece of paper and a pencil.

The second child got stung by a wasp the night before school started and still has residual swimmer’s ear (which will probably lead to a doctor’s appointment soon).  This probably attributed toward his emotional instability before and after his first day at school.


Our third and wild child who started kindegarten this year seems to be doing the best of all — at least outside the classroom.  Could it be that our seemingly most troublesome child is actually the healthiest?  He has consistent behavior and seems to be going with the flow.

Our fourth child informed me she wanted to go to school, too, yesterday.   However, this morning, after being awakened at 7am, she’s not so keen on the early morning school thing.  She’s still in her jammies after 9.

I share all this not only to document my children’s first day of school but also to comment on the different perspectives we take in life.  I remember the excitement, the anxiety, the anticipation not only of first days but of first kisses, first love, first home, first birth.  I hope to experience many more firsts.

Onward now in my spiritual journey and life in general, I realize that part of living life to the fullest is to experience every moment as a first, to bring the childlike enthusiasm to the moment — a beginner’s mind.  I am so quick to make things routine, anxious to make it a habit so that I don’t have to think about it.  There’s nothing wrong with making something healthy a habit, but only if I can do so with awareness and an open mind.

So now I get to practice.  Bring the enthusiasm of the first day of school (that helped me get up at 5:40 am) into every morning.  To make breakfast and help prepare lunches with a happy heart, blessing the food that it might nourish my beautiful, brilliant children.  And then I can move onto practicing in other moments, as if they were the first or might be the last.

“Today is the first rainy day” at my new school, my daughter told us this morning.  Oh, that I might appreciate this day as such.

photo: everystockphoto.com by bies — no, not my child because the only picture i took was on my phone!

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Let Them Eat Cake

Some weeks are just going to be hectic.  A big project, a big event, any reason for excitement and borderline anxiety will do it for this family.  Not only is this upcoming weekend the retreat I love so much (and for which I am also the speaker), but this week is also the week I wanted to start monitoring my son’s diet, eliminating gluten and dairy (reasons are for another post).

Amidst all the busy-ness, I do what I can for the kids.  Sometimes, they will eat cake for lunch (after a healthy, hearty, late-morning snack, of course).  This won’t be the day we eliminate gluten.  Cake sounds good to me, too.

During my phone call with my friend, my youngest — nonverbal — child comes to me smelling like mint, more precisely like toothpaste, showing me her white-covered hands.  It looks like it could be icing.  After all, her mouth is still blue and green.  No, she smells like toothpaste.  A bathroom check and hand-washing confirms that she has, indeed, squirted out quite a bit, smearing it into the sink.  The good news is that her toothbrush is out, too.  Bless her heart!  She wanted to brush her teeth after all that sugary cake!  This is the comfort I give myself.  Naturally, I’m hoping she didn’t eat it.  I’ve made that poison control call before.

A deep breath.  There’s no real harm done, even after she takes the cake server and mutilates the rest of the cake.  I can’t be everywhere at once.  She has reason for angst.  I have reason for cake (though it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing anymore!).  We’ll just have to see each other through this, and I’ll have to remember that a mother’s sense of calm is sometimes her best coping mechanism.

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