the right side of the candy cane.


did you know that a candy cane has one side that’s more desirable?
it’s true.

this morning, the in-house Elves brought candy canes for the kids.  kieran, holding his up to me with a wiggle in his bones, said, “mama, will you open this for me?”

“which part do you want me to open, honey?” i asked.

the wiggle increased, jumping him up & down, arms quivering & fingers wriggling, as he answered,

“the AWESOME part!!!”

as i’m thick into advent, counting down the days rolling off too quickly, i’m tempted to muddle into busyness:

seriously, jill.  pick a picture for the christmas card.

what AM i going to get/make/do for my mother-in-law?

pine needles.  pine needles.  pine needles.  (just from a wreathe!)

& the bells?  why do the little bells at the bottom of the tree keep migrating?
it’s killing me.

but this would be the wrong part of the candy cane.

kieran, facing off.

after visiting with santa, fritter the clown made the kids balloon animals. or in our case, balloon light sabers & a reindeer.

& then there are popcorn ball snowmen.  what’s not celebratory about edible snowmen?

this one?  it has my eyes.

& fudge.  fudge is certainly godly.  it was most likely the fourth gift of the magi.

lest you think my children naturally gravitate to the kitchen for a rousing session of cookery with mother, please know they were bribed with taste-testing.  unapologetically.

so, in this final week, this holy countdown to C-day (ha ha!), i’m fully capable of missing all the wonder, all the joy, all the glory completely.

but just now, i’m going to squint my eyes a little.

i gotta see the awesome part of the candy cane.

’round here

it’s 6:16 a.m., the house is asleep, & i have a cup of tea by my side.  my parents are in town, just overnight, on their way to branson, missouri for a little r & r with some close friends.  they stayed with us last night & took us out for dinner to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary.  FORTY ONE.  that should be in jumbo, gigantic font.  & bless the parents who will happily spend their evening with finger-licking, napkin-shredding little people.  that’s a grandparent, i guess.  like i said, bless them.

when we got home from dinner, i was in the bathroom looking in the mirror, & i noticed something poking out my sweater.  um, awkward.  a little search unearthed a french fry. from leify’s dinner.  as he sat eating in my lap.  & shredding napkins for the floor.

i stood there in the bathroom, french fry in hand, thinking, “how does one go all the way through dinner, coating everyone up, driving home, uncoating, & then reentering home with a french fry in your shirt & not notice?”

apparently some of the tiny & small things i’m so fond of noticing are sliding a bit. 

anyway.

ever wonder what we do ’round here, all of us in a pile together all day long?

yeah, me too.

[if you’re singing counting crows circa 1990-something in your head, it’s totally not my fault.]

sometimes i’ll look at a week in my planner (where i jot notes about what we do) & all i see are empty white squares.  i tell myself this record keeping is for the kids, to have some travel guide of their childhood.  but really, it’s for me.

because a lot of times my mind doubts what my heart knows.

so the other day, a very empty white square day, i followed the kids around with a camera, catching glimpses.

boy, does my life look different through a camera lense.

shall we?
(my apologies if this is not your gig.  i believe i studied anthropology in a previous life.)

because who doesn’t love a four-year-old jazzed about washing the windows?  do you get excited about a squeegee & a squirt gun?  yep, me neither.  smoke ’em if you got ’em, i say.  

then after the window is clean, add kieran + window markers.  oh, yeah.


thalia sculpture with math tiles. rainbow-colored blood in her veins.  (also, why use math tiles for math when you could use them for art, i ask you?  certainly not us. . . .)


thalia muraling her aquarium.  which currently holds 14 river snails.  from our neighbor’s backyard.
& that giant band-aid?  my girl tumbled down the rather carpeted basement stairs & rug burned her pretty sweet face.  but the bragging shiner is awesome.


meanwhile, javin assembled a star wars fall scene, a la the star wars craft book he found at the library.  we stick to themes around here.  (on no part of my own.)



back to the window.

this, i kid you not, all took place within 20 minutes.
after which, i’m sure we all laid down for a nice long nap.
because, really.

but we did manage to get outside, between wal-mart runs, where i found these little gems:

helping daddy fix the trailer.  notice the green pants.  everywhere, everywhere, the green pants.


in case you thought i was kidding, javin detailing star wars action figures.
& lest you inaccurately think my house is a series of well-laid artist corners, this picture is heavily cropped to edit out the garbage can overflow, pool table laden with boxes & apples, & a whole string of bikes, in varying states of workability.  so you don’t get any wrong ideas.

i spy with my little eye:  mommy’s winter boots.  a discarded ziploc.  a football.  a brick. two squirt guns.  the leftover handle to. . .what is that?  a rock, ready for toddler mouth.  & summer’s old, crumpled up waterslide.  yep, keeping it classy, yard-style.


stonehenge, or something.  on the grill.  of course.

keepin’ it real with copious amounts of tea.

& then. . . .

IMG_7634

so, there we are.  all laid out, in ordinary form.
my anthropology apologies to you all.

i guess there’s more going on here than i realize.  🙂

seeing sunshine

“on some days Joy is generously strewn along your life-path, glistening in the sunlight.  on days like that, being content is as simple as breathing the next breath or taking the next step.  other days are overcast and gloomy;  you feel the strain of the journey, which seems endless.  dull gray rocks greet your gaze and cause your feet to ache.  yet Joy is still attainable.  search for it as for hidden treasure.”
–sarah young, “jesus calling”

i see dull gray rocks today, but i want to see sunshine.  it’s here;  i know it is.  i just need to dig down deep enough into the dirt of my life & search it out.

here goes, searching:

  • little toddler shoes everywhere, & the way toddler-boy walks around with one shoe in his hand.
  • fresh snuggles from my kids, all piled around me & clamoring for laptime first thing in the morning.
  • pandora.
  • farm eggs on hot cast iron for breakfast.
  • popcorn for dinner.
  • my new red can opener.
  • little girl in pigtails.
  • pvc pipe as guns, because i have boys.
  • hearing one of the kids say to another, “no weapons at the table” in a serious voice.
  • pushing tulip bulbs down, deep into the earth, just before the snow & frost came.

once i got started on this list, this mindset, the day bloomed in front of me.  the kicker is it was there all the time.  i just wasn’t seeing it, not even looking.

so tomorrow when i get up & the kids are bickering & the dishes pile high & the fatigue wears thin,  i’m vowing to look for the sunshine.  to slow myself, to recast my vision, to look deep into the dirt of my life for the Joy.  because it’s down there, if i just scrabble around a bit.

the anatomy of a circle

i just finished reading, “selfish reasons to have more kids:  why being a great parent is less work & more fun than you think.”  don’t message me & tell me i should have another baby.  that’s awfully nice of you.  maybe you think my babies are cute.  thanks!  & don’t message me & tell me i shouldn’t.  i will wonder what i’ve done terribly wrong & might be offended.
i didn’t read it because i want to have more kids, though, but to glean the “less work & more fun” part the author, bryan caplan, writes about.  parenting more fun?  yes, please.  less work?  abso-freakin-lutely.  i’ll take two.
caplan writes about how we modern parents make parenting more stressful, more difficult, & far more weighty than we need to.  he sites all kinds of stuff i won’t get into about nature & nuture, how we parents can’t really affect as much as we think we can.  how sitting back to enjoy parenthood & who our kids are is the one of the fast tickets into happiness in the family.

so, what about this hefty lot of energy & involvement i’m channeling into my tribe; does it need to be draining?  does it need to suck the life out of me?  are those who have gone ahead & sent back their foreboding, “live your life NOW, because when you have kids, oh man,” hitting a nail?

i don’t think so.  i have a decade of momhood in my belly, & i think i agree with caplan.  yes, i’m a little worn out.  but has my life as jill ended?  heck-to-the-no.  i am still here, perhaps under a load or two of laundry, or maybe a small child.

BUT.  i also think there’s a new path to follow.  could i enjoy my children even more?  & if i did, what would that do to my everyday motherhood?  if i’m going to mom-it anyway, could i tweak my course a bit & amp up the happy around here?  another experiment, i’m thinking. . . .

in the last couple days, since i finished caplan’s book, i’ve opened my eyes a bit.  what IS going on around here, with these four small people inside my walls every day all day long?
& better yet, how can i tune into that happy place?  here’s what i’m experimenting with:

  • i’ve slugged myself out of bed before everyone else, to have a bit in the Word & on the internet (i’m not going to lie), a bit of quiet & a cup of tea.
  • i’ve slowed way downdoing less & noticing more.  fewer chores per day, simpler meals, less activities per week.  is there anything about that that doesn’t sound good?
  • i’ve shut off the ever-present voice in my head that says, “do.” (whose voice IS that anyway?)  without the voice, my whole life has relaxed to sit & be (a hair more, anyway.  i DO still have four kids running around & climbing on everything.)
  • i’ve slept in.  (instead of feeling guilt for not being up at x-hour.  do you have this, or is it just me?)
  • i’ve tuned myself in to whichever child is in my eye line, instead of wheeling through the meal plan/calendar/chores-one-must-get-done.  when i tune, i feel toddler belly in my hands as i pick leify up to see what mommy’s chopping.  i notice the shine in girl’s eyes when she brings another of her paintings for my approval.  i’ve listened, really deeply listened when kieran asked what leif would look like if he were dead.  (what?!  i feel like i can’t even tell you that.  what he meant (that we eventually got around to) was what does a skeleton look like?  holy moly, i thought the wheels had completely flown off the cart.  ahem.)

& the joy!!  the hallelujah-joy.  
THIS.  i’m fairly certain this is what God meant when He said children are a gift from the Lord.  yes.  they truly are, every single stinking day, but today, in my slower state, i can see it. feel it.  own it.

but.  (& this is where i’d gone certainly wrong.)  i’ve been in this place before.  this sweet, deep, belly-filling meadow of warmth toward my little ones.  this experiment really isn’t new to me.  i’m plagiarizing myself.
& i’ve wandered from this place before.  in & out, back & forth, here & back again.
maybe you have too.
but i’d like to stay.  it’s nice here.
how do i keep from wandering?  or is it a hopeless chasing my tail?
maybe the anatomy of this circle can be shrunk, at the very least.

so, this is the second part of my experiment:  cull ways to stay here, in this (more) restful place of mothering.  & if you are kidless, or your littles have all grown big?  this in & out, circling around the peace isn’t unique to parenting.  you know it isn’t.  we do this in every aspect of our lives, really.

to keep the cat from straying, to kill the peace thieves, what i’m noticing about myself is that i’ve a few more signposts to keep in sight:

  • stay connected.  to God, to His folks, to a circle that can keep me honest in the Way i want to go.
  • stop looking around.  this is my biggest deal.  i’m like a horse with no blinders.  “oooo, look!  that mama is hiking with her daughter every weekend.  we should go outside.”  “oooo, wow!  that family lives in a bus.  we should sell all our stuff & hit the road!”  “oh, her kids eat that?  i really should get my kids to eat green food every day.”  round & round we go.  it’s an exercise in discontent.
  • practice being me.  it’s funny that we don’t know who we are, but every since i stepped into kindergarten & one little girl had a handful of scented erasers we all suddenly coveted, i’ve had to find a mirror & see who’s there.  like with my science thing, or lack of:  we don’t have a telescope, but there’s a keyboard, a drum set, & 5 guitars in the basement.  that doesn’t make me lacking, it makes me me.
  • revel in the now.  the further i go along in my life, the more i’m convinced this here nugget is one of the big tickets.  even Jesus laid it out, “don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough to worry about.”  yes, yes it does.  when i can keep myself, my calendar, my problems in the boundary of Today, all manner of worry slides down & off.  when tomorrow, yesterday, & dinner tonight are off-limits (worry-wise), i’m free to enjoy what’s in front of me, a stack of worn wooden blocks or a soapy, warm sink of dishes.

i don’t have all the answers to any of this.  duh.  but i do like the conversation.  (& apparently a good set of rules.)

if you would, would you join me in this?  this revelling, this peace-seeking, this lap-it-up-because-there-is-so-much?  i’d really love to here what you have to say.

& in the meantime, may today find you restful, fully aware of who you are & Who loves you, & stayed in the Now.
happy day, my friends.

anti-perfection.

the Iron & Wine concert crooning out my laptop is at full volume, attempting to keep the sleeping toddler asleep.  another child is crying full volume in the bedroom, & i should be starting dinner.  it’s six o’clock.  but i want to tell you about my experiment.

i’m coming to terms with the science parts of my brain.  (i’ve always said they were removed at birth & filled up with words instead.  sorry, homeschooling children;  you’ll get it elsewhere, i’m sure.  [fingers crossed.])  by that i mean that i’m an experimenter.  an evaluator.  an analyzer.  this makes me just a little bit sciency, yes?   what i’ve been experimenting with just now is anti-perfection.
today we had leftover tacos for lunch.  fantastic, as everyone eats without complaint (okay, yeah.  that never happens.).  after lunch, the kids have what i affectionately call “lunch chores” to do. (see, look how creative i am!)  one sweeps, another wipes, they all take their plates & rainbow-colored ikea cups to the sink.  which should make for an ease into the afternoon.  yeah, that never happens, either.  there is always too much coercion necessary to complete such. simple. tasks.  i nearly am mad with trying.  & if i leave the room?  my, how quickly the wheels go hurling off the machine.
i came back into the kitchen after changing a diaper & was truly astonished at how not clean the dining room was.  yes, technically the letter of the law was followed.  the table had no visible scraps left.  the floor immediately under the table was clear.  but the spirit of the law!  oh, how i love thee, spirit of the law!!  the spirit of the law was sincerely & completely absent.  the mess simply was transferred to the countertop for me to deal with.  the chairs were all akimbo.  & the perimeter which we talk about every day was a landmine.
usually, this chaos sends me into an uproar internally.  i wonder how it’s possible these children birthed from my womb, or if they truly have formed a coup to draw out my crazy.  but, after retreating to a little blog reading, this thought wafted through:  what if i could choose happiness in spite of the imperfection?  what i didn’t wait until all our household ducks were aligned to let down my guard & relax?  what if we kept working toward better but didn’t derail every time we missed it?  & in the bigger, grander scheme (leap with me, please), what if i could look at my own pocked self with a littler gentler eye?  isn’t that what i’m actually bent out of shape over, anyway?  the state of my own head/heart/life?
(look at that long hair.  i promise, we cut it.  i hope this doesn’t scar you into therapy, leif.)

maybe you can speak to this, but i don’t know if it’s my firstborn-ness, or my type-A-ness, or my mom-of-four-little-kids-ness, but i want things perfect.  there, i’ve said it.  “hi.  my name is jill, & i like things perfect.”  but life is not perfect, my children are not perfect (yet.  i’m working on it.  [tongue-in-cheek.]).  i am most certainly not perfect (though my facebook status may try to tell you otherwise).  i can’t even imagine whatkindofa pain i’d be to live with if any of these things were true.  God truly knows best. duh.
so wouldn’t it be best for all parties involved if i could just set down my standards a notch, step over the plastic bag/costume/lamp chaos in the middle of the kitchen, & go on with my happiness?  wouldn’t it be best for everyone if i cut myself a little slack when i (choose one, or all):  sleep in/ignore the laundry/yell yet a-freaking-gain at my small ones?  yes, yes,  i think it would.  wouldn’t i be so much happier if i could make peace with my own imperfections, realizing that i’m not done?  i don’t need to hand over my house or my life to the dogs, but i could loosen the knotted bits a little.
& really & truly, if i’m basing my worth on the absence of dirt or dilemma or misbehavior (on my part or theirs), i’m missing the whole deal.  there’s only one Guy that can truly level out my worth, & He said long time ago when He made me up that i’m a hallelujah-masterpiece.  that, my friends, should be enough perfect for anyone.
yes?

buckets.

i intended to write about writing bucket lists.  i’ve always been enamored by the bucket lists, big long plans for a full & rapturous life.  but the baby is sleeping, which means i have 35 minutes at best, & i’m frying pancakes with only white flour (which i hate) because i ran out of spelt & forgot to buy more when i went to the co-op last time.  probably because i had the 4-year-old & the baby & only myself who really can’t put together a cohesive grocery list right now.  & speaking of the four-year-old, he’s asking me repeatedly when we’re going to the bike races, which are today, in an hour, & now my pancakes are burning.

which is why i can’t write about bucket lists, or how intimidating they are, or how really instead i wholeheartedly believe in making a whole heapload of time in your every day for the magic of memories & goodness to flow.  because it will.  because He promised.

but now the baby will wake up in 30 minutes & i haven’t even gotten the kids to make birthday & father’s day cards for andy, both of which large & fabulous events coincide tomorrow for my smart husband.

so instead, i’ll tell you that right now, while andy has taken over the pancake flipping for his crazy wife pecking at the computer when we’re trying to get going, & the baby will sleep for 27 more minutes, this here life is raining buckets of goodness from the Creator of all things good & holy.  i am lambasted in overwhelm sometimes, i am buried in laundry & dishes always, & if you talk to me on the phone, you will know my head is never quite on.  ever.

BUT.
this, on a necklace, sits over my sink, my meditative, hot, soapy, basin:

may you live all the days of your life.  –j. swift.

i have 22 minutes left.  i better go.

friday’s picture(s), saturday (or, procrastinators welcome.)

i’m learning.  i hope so, anyway.  as a rule, i hate procrastination.  i do the dishes after each meal, i fold laundry fresh from the dryer (because i like it), & i’m teaching myself to make my bed every day.  i know, gag.

but in my goody two-shoes, i’m missing something.  maybe a bunch of things.

feb, mid 019

what if life weren’t about checking off my to-do list?  or better yet, what if my check list were all wrong?

feb, mid 034

my newest nephew’s tiny toes.  freaking adorable, eh?

feb, mid 040

what if i’m missing the great because i’m nose-to-the-grindstone busy keeping my house picked up?  i really do think the good life is more about noticing.    the freaking plethura before me every.single. day.  the little dimples just above the corners of javin’s mouth when he’s joking around.  kieran’s latest costume, bottomed out in rain boots. hearing thalia read calvin & hobbes to javin.  their sharing a laugh.  leify’s doughy little legs that kick-kick-kick all day long, especially when i’m changing him.  God in the details.

feb, mid 051just lots of thoughts today, friends.
what do you think?  i’d love some discussion.