i put him to bed two

we got back last night from our longest roadtrip ever:  18 days smeared over 3 states in a 1970’s camper with 4 kids.  sounds like a bad word problem.  anyway.

yesterday, our last leg of this epic family adventure, was the baby’s birthday.  yesterday, our little guy turned two.
the lips!  for the love.  [andy’s photo, across the breakfast table.]

i’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, & i have to admit, i’ve been dreading this day for a really long time.  like, nearly 11 years.  the day my littlest one was no longer really a baby.  this might seem a little up hill, a little dramatic, but there’s something tidy & secure about a tiny one all tucked up against you all the time.  the universe feels safe, the world spins on kilter.
but now that i’m here, leif-as-two, i’m kind of relieved.  is that weird?
lake superior, baby.  bam-o.

as in, wow!  we did it!!  we’ve brought four tiny, helpless creatures into the world & through babyhood!  hooray, we might get a full night sleep sometime in the next year!  i can almost reason with this new 2-year-old (just kidding.)!

i’m surprised at myself, & really that’s a pansy way of saying i’m surprised at God.  because Who’s doing the untangling?  credit where credit. . . .  yes.  i’ve been planning for YEARS, people, to be sad when i hit this landmark.  [how depressing is planning ahead to be sad?  come ON.]  & i know i’ve got hoards of time ahead of me, so-help-me-God, especially since my kids are all still technically “little”.  plenty more growing up to be done in this here household, yessir.  but babies-aren’t-us anymore.

& that’s okay.
happy birthday, big guy.  it just gets better & better.

five gigantic years old.

i may as well load up all the mommy emotion in a big heap & deal with it in one fell swoop.
kieran is 5 today.
which makes two kids turning a new year in 8 days’ time.
every year, all of march is birthday madness.
which means i can’t see straight
for all the mommy pondering going on
until easter.

i need a nap.

& a kleenex.

(have i mentioned we do this again in july?  javin & leif were born within two weeks of each other.  well, two weeks & nine years.  oy vey.)

last night at bedtime (why is it always bedtime?), i was singing
with leif snuggled on my chest
& kieran tucked in beside me, arm slung across my neck.
after hugs & kisses & extra snuggles
on this last night of kieran-as-4,
i thought i felt him fall off to sleep.
i felt the tears at the back of my eyes.

there’s something this year about the kids’ last night
being the age they are,
weighty with significance.

it feels a little bit silly,
but it’s killing me.

i asked you, little kieran,
if you were asleep yet, like i thought.
“nope!” you answered me,
perplexed that i would think that of you.

& i felt a tangible relief
that i could have a few more moments with you
as my sweet 4-year-old boy.
i snuggled you a little harder.

today, kieran, our third kiddo, you turn a bright & shiny five years old.actually, everything about kieran is bright & shiny.

unending smiles.  dimples.
bright eyes & a huge heart.
a silly sense of humor.
the best giggle.

& games.  does my boy ever love a good game.
every morning, after the sleep is rubbed out of his eyes, he begins.

“mama?  you’ll probably say ‘no’. . . i think you might say ‘no’. . . but. . .do you want to play a game with me?”

& honestly, there’s nothing kieran isn’t game for.

he truly loves all life has to offer.
activity, adventure, food.
from the time he was a baby, he fussed to have on his plate exactly what everyone else had.
first food?  broccoli.
because at 8 months he saw
that good was happening
& he wanted in.

he’s a beacon to all of us, this little-one-so-big in his (now) five-year-old skin.

and no one in our family is as bold as he is:

the first to ride his bike.
the first the first to get stitches.
the first to break a bone.
the first to tangle with a raspberry bush at the end of the sledding hill.

all because he’s so fully engaged in life & so exuberant about it at the same time.
[& a little bit crazy.]

& the imagination!
four is a holy ground for imagination & creativity.

always making something out of a stick & a rubberband.
always engaging one of his siblings for a romp.
always eager to help stir a cake or crack an egg.

& the brother thing?
he has it down.
both little brother & big brother.

so willing to love & be loved.

yep, kieran.  we are the richest family for having you placed perfectly at our center.

you truly are your namesake, “ray of light.”

happy birthday, big guy.
we love you to the moon & back.
five is gonna rock.


8, then.

she turns eight today.
the sweet little one in the middle of all these boys.

the one who holds her own in wrestling matches,
who is the princess amadala to their luke & han
& the pretty mirkwood elf for their lord of the rings.

the kind girl who teaches kieran his letters
& awards him with stickers when he does well,
who already has flawless cursive she taught herself.
the girl who makes things pretty just by touching them.
you, sweet thalia, are the creative girl
who sees art on the road, in a cloud, in a paint splotch,
the girl who isn’t afraid of the art inside her.

you are the girl, sweet one, who teaches us about passion,
about doing what you love,
about loving life in all its glorious colors & shapes.

she is eight today, my little girl who isn’t.
it hit me last night when she & her brothers
had all crawled into my bed last night for prayer
while i nursed leify.

“this is your last night being 7, thalia!”  i said.

then i nearly cried.

i love raising kids more than anything andy & i have ever done, more than anything i’d done before.  having kids has changed me, grown me up in a way only tiny, dependent people  in your stead can.

but this, THIS.  this letting them grow up.  it’s a little bit much for me.

SO.  on this day, this lovely, rich day to celebrate my only girl, as the tears threathen my eyes, my i have the grace to let her grow, to change & catapult into the wondeful woman she’s becoming, into the artsy, thoughtful, sensitive woman God has made her to be.

help me grow up, too.

& sweet thalia, with you here, darling,
our world is richer, deeper,
more pink,
& tons more beautiful.

with you here, our world is perfect.

happy birthday, Sweet T.

we love you.

notes from a birthday party.

march is birthday season around here.  cakes, party, gifts.  both thalia & kieran, my middle kids, arrived just as spring was getting her groove on.  which lends a big ol’ “wahoo!” to the advent of spring.

march is also one time of year when i yank out all my mothering insecurities, lay them carefully on the table, & try to iron them out.  mid-february of every year, i start to get an internal jitter.  not one but TWO birthdays are coming, & what are we going to do?  what kind of theme do they want?  (i hate themes.)  what kind of cake?  where should we go & do i have to come up with games?  bah.

when this quaver starts, i begin chattering at andy.  which he loves.  & i try to be all nonchalant about it:  “ummm, hey andy — uh, what should we do for the kids’ birthdays this year?”  trying to act cool, like i don’t really care what we do.  it’s no biggie.  my entire persona as a good mother is absolutely not hinging on my birthday performance.

andy:  “i don’t know.”

me:  “we could blah, blah, blah. . . ”  & i keep rattling, because, you know.  that’s fun to listen to.

the funny thing is, i know that i know that i KNOW that i don’t have to arrange a spectacular, wonderful, magnificent extravaganza for my children with clowns & balloons & a unicorn jumping out of a cake.  but part of me gets all pinterested & feels insecure at my inability to conjure up one interesting party game.  (i hate party games.)  i do this every year — dread birthday season — & every year it’s a remarkable time of lavishing love on the kids, in spite of me & my panic.

maybe i’m not the only one who gets hung up on trying to be impressive instead of just trying to be, & letting that be enough.

with that disclaimer out of the way, i give you the 2014 edition of March Birthdays at the Britz House: thalia crafted  her own cake design this year, a leaf on a chocolate cake.  the kids voted for a renaissance/Lord of the Rings party. thal & her pals.  while i hid in the kitchen stirring something, andy & his mom & the kids turned our living room into a forest.  i called it Mirkwood, thinking i was smart.  javin reassured me i wasn’t. the pinata Grandma Maria (“GraMaria”) crafted for us, completele with javin’s angry bees. the icecream, by my brother & our friend henry, who owned that big blue beauty. this is about the best shot i could get of kieran.  he mowed through his presents, tissue paper flying, while i scrambled to connect gift to card to giver.  an absolute devouring, wolf on prey.  a very smiley, cute wolf. thalia, meanwhile, savored. assembling legos with auntie Jen’s adept guidance. I part of my inner circle, these dear women who wash dishes at parties & corral children for gift-opening & compliment my cake. Papa Don with my nephew, Gabriel. Gramaria singing the pinata song & directing the smacking.


the candy flew, the cake went fast, the icecream was amazing, we played no party games (though andy & the kids prepped some).  the kids even took themselves outside while the adults sat & had conversation.  i know.  i had to blink hard to make sure it was real.

so, my party-planning assessment is this:  pretty much, after a solid Word to the heavens, i sat back & watched each festive detail spring into action, no worry required.

who knew my panic wasn’t necessary?

& you know what?  it may have been the best party we’ve had yet.

making my day.

it’s amazing, the bedtime education, isn’t it?

wait.  i mean the things kids bring up at bedtime.  stay with me now.

tonight at bedtime, as we snuggled into his bed alongside ours, kieran, 4, dug in with an anatomy lesson for me, beginning with the food pipe & the water pipe, which i didn’t know about.  then there’s the music box, that mystical place in your throat where your voice comes from.  i didn’t know that, either.  all fascinating.

you’d think anatomy would cover it, enough topic for the evening, but he apparently had stored up his latest big questions, because before he fell asleep we went over How God Made Clothes & What’s Inside Your Chest.  at one point, i thought we actually were going to snuggle & get down to the business of sleeping, when kieran off-handedly says to me, zero fatigue showing, “how do you build a house?”  my word.

i’m telling you all this because it makes me happy, & because the rest of the day was a study in keeping my head on without slamming something into the wall.  i swept the floor ten thousand times.  the toddler sincerely won’t eat anything, though we try everything, in cute purple bowls & on spoons with balloons decorating the handle.  [not eating equates to not sleeping, just so you know.]  he’s willing to try everything, too, or at least smash it around the room.  or, because he is my child, he’ll graciously bring me whatever he’s spit out of his mouth, carrying it happily in his hand to launch into the kitchen sink.  or as was the case tonight, carrot bits all over the clean dishes.  thank you, honey.  mommy loves you.

i hope you’re laughing by now.

i’m finding that if i’m not laughing by the now in my day, i’ll most likely feel like crying.
& i’d rather not do that.

the truth is, this bit with 4 little-ish kids & a house, dinner to make & laundry to fold, a self to actualize & a husband, with friends & siblings & parents, & a hefty side of emotions & expectations, of hopes & dream & failures, is no small deal.  most days i feel like i’m running into the same wall over & over, hung up on the same corner in the maze & not finding my way out.

i don’t suppose i’m alone in this.

also, i suppose we aren’t really living unless the living is a little bit difficult.

well then, i might be wholly alive.

anyway, what i’m getting at is that when the day goes awry before i’m even out of bed,
i have to make an effort to set the day straight.
i don’t like being bossed around, but plenty of days, i let myself be run over, from self-pity to a sort of depressed-ness, to anger to overwhelm to despair.

wasn’t i meant for more than this?
yes, yes, i think so.

but if i’m looking closely enough, i will have an amazing conversation with a little boy who thinks i am the whole world, while he’s got his tiny pajama-clad arm slung around my neck.

& that?  that’s the effort that makes my day, that rooting around in the muck to find a gem.
that’s the gold in my pocket, the I’ll-be-with-you-though-there-will-be-trouble that Jesus mentioned.

because my days don’t have to line up like dull soldiers reporting for duty.  they can shine & gleam in the Light.
“there,” i can say.  day made.

the recesses.

find something you’re passionate about & stay tremendously interested in it.   –julia child.


i am certainly passionate about this little guy.  & his sister & two big brothers.

& i appreciate your patience with me, in my abscence from this place, as i tend to my passions.  turns out four children under the age of ten is fairly time-consuming.  who knew.

but my passions elsewhere seem to be morphing on their own.  possibly in relation to all the baby hormones.  or all the salad i’m eating lately.

passionate about, lately (in no particular order):

  • downsizing.  i’m reading tammy strobel’s “you can buy happiness (& it’s cheap!)”, which is chock-full of simplicity inspiration.  we rearranged the basement to accomodate andy’s entire t-shirt business yesterday, moving all our stored goods around & skimming off the top for the local goodwill.  gosh, i love giving stuff away.
  • travel.  this weekend we nearly hopped in the car & scooted to MI to visit andy’s folks.  i find myself hungry for a roadtrip adventure with andy & the cherubs.  our plans were stopped short by a humungous buck that galloped his way into our van, denting in the front panel.  (andy fixed said dents, but by that time, we’d rerouted our weekending plans.  another time. . . .)
  • cloth diapers.  i KNOW.  it’s kind of silly, & i feel pompous even bringing it up.  we didn’t use clothies until baby #3, & now with leif i truly look forward to washing the tiny bucketful & returning them crisp & fresh to the purple basket beside my bed.  i KNOW.  somebody shoot me.
  • saver’s.  i.love.thrift.  & our weekly hour-long jaunt to woodbury for church is made that much sweeter when we squeeze in an hour at saver’s.  today we scored a small wooden puppet theatre, a red shirt for javin’s “flash” costume (both big boys are currently & obsessively running everywhere, in imitation of the flash.), a birthday gift for one of thalia’s little girlfriends, & a pair of rockin’ boots for me.  i may have just joined the 21st century.  you’re welcome.
  • evening t.v. dates with my huz.  for the last year or so, when i started watching t.v. again, andy got me into a t.v. series on netflix & we’d watch it together after hours.  right now we’re watching season one of “once upon a time”.  i do love me a good fairytale.

& that, my dear friends, is what’s up in this neck of the woods.  or at least in the recesses of my brain.

thanks for visiting the recesses.  i do love to come here & chat with you!

how about you?  what do you find yourself passionate about these days?  anything that surprises you?  please do share.  i love to be inspired!  let’s do well by julia, eh?

the right mom.

i’ve got a morning ritual now.  i set the alarm on my phone, wake up to some funky, froggy song, & after hitting snooze two or three times, i get up to read scripture & do a little journalling.  then i read blogs, & if i’m still the only one awake, i write here.  it’s a quiet, before-the-house-wakes bit to sort out the brain files, the battles fought in the night, to stand me up for the day.

this morning, my girl was up five minutes after i sat down, wandering through the door in tinkerbell jammies. i still wanted my time, so i told her to get a pillow & a blanket, her markers & some paper.  i read a few more minutes, & then my little one treaded in, bleary-eyed, to crawl in my lap.  i kept reading, rubbed his soft little back, let him snuggle as best he could over & around his sibling inside me.  i felt the frazzled strain between my routine getting shafted & wanting to be a good mommy to my innocents. i had residue left in my belly, knots & twists to work through.

out of nowhere, little one looked up at me, still perched on my belly, & said, “you’re the right mom.”

some hard shell cracked.  pieces chinked off & fell to the floor.  i heard my insides breathe a sigh of relief, where i didn’t even know i was holding my breath.

my next thought surprised me, “yes, yes i am.”

i hadn’t been second-guessing my mothering exactly, but that little vote of confidence, so self-assured & matter-of-fact sent lifeblood up my spine.  slowly, the frazzle faded, the clouds cleared.  i could stand up straight & look into the day with a fresh brain.

am the right mom, because i am his mom.  their mom.  & nobody can do this job like i can.  i was meant for this job.  for these moments.  for this space early in the morning when they’re awake too early & i can’t yet see straight.

it’s the same for you, no matter your vocation.  you are the right mom, or the right dad, or the right office manager or the right friend.  you are the right daughter, the right son, the right teacher, the right farmer.  you are the right one, because you are the one meant to do what you’re doing.  nobody can do it exactly like you can.  nobody can speak the words you can, or do the tasks you’re meant to do.

today, do us all a great service, & be the right one, whoever that is for you.

nobody else can do it like you can;  we need it from you.