Eighteen months ago, my darling daughter gave me this darling book for my birthday:


It’s a sweet little volume with spaces to write just a few words about each day of your life for up to five consecutive years.  It was a thoughtful gift from my daughter, who knows I love to write and journal and keep memories, at least with words.  (Pictures are another story.  Observe photog skills above.) I fell in love with this little gem immediately, and wrote in it enthusiastically for five, ten, fifteen days in a row.

And then I put it on a shelf and forgot all about it.

Until a week ago when a darling friend of mine who, due to her modest nature, shall remain nameless (I got your back Shalom), posted a picture holding this exact book and stated that she’d met her 2015 resolution by writing one thing she’s thankful for in it each day.  What a fantastic, fabulous, fantabulous idea, I thought.

So now, in honor of my friend, my daughter, and my personal life motto of Copying Other People Instead of Thinking Things Up By Myself Because That’s Hard, I’ve decided to adopt Shalom’s New Year’s Resolution as my own. (Thank you Shalom.  You’re pretty and nice.)

I will write one thing (or more) that I am thankful for, every day, in this fine little book for one fine little year. Do you mind if I share today’s entry with you now?  Don’t worry, I won’t make it a habit; I know being forced to read stranger’s journal entries is what gives blogging a bad name.  But bear with me just this once.

Today, I am grateful that after spending my morning at a Seminary Teachers Conference that was interesting, inspiring, and kinda-life-changing (for reals), I got to have lunch with a dear friend in Lake Oswego, meet my husband in sparkly downtown Portland at twilight for window shopping and hot chocolate, and then come home to this:


Ethan and his buddy Austin making dutch oven ravioli for Ethan’s “Cast Iron Chef” scout badge.  Ethan had to plan and cook a meal using the dutch oven, so naturally he asked if he could make his favoritest food in the whole wide world forever and ever amen and the end:  ravioli.  Go figure, we found a recipe online—and here I thought dutch ovens were just for meat and potatoes.  Where there’s a will there’s a way, baby.

While they were sprinkling mounds of grated Parmesan over the lumpy red concoction, I overheard Ethan telling Austin—with a casually cool authority—about his views on cooking:  “I don’t cook very much.  But when I do cook, I like to make Italian food.  Because it’s…you know…refined.”  Austin nodded in assent.  Of course it was.

(p.s.  Ethan has never cooked anything Italian—or Mexican, or American, or German or Chinese or Lebonese—in his eleven years on this earth.  Never ever ever ever amen and amen and the end.)

And now I’m sitting on my bed in my robe and slippers, punching happy words into a laptop while the Hub watches Big with the kids, insisting they’ll love it because it’s a “classic from his childhood.”  (Does he really think that’s a mark in his favor?)  I’m relaxed and ready to read, looking forward to another great Sunday tomorrow—church with the family, dinner with new friends.

So much to be grateful for today, but I think the refined ravioli tops my list.  How do you combine the words grateful and ravioli?  Gravioli?

Yes.  Gravioli.  A noun, an adjective, and maybe one day, an adverb?  I could write, and eat, and live graviolitiously.  And this year, that’s just what I intend to do.


Here comes the sun.

I’ve felt a little scruffy this brand new year.  The snow and ice sit-in was fun at first, but by Monday night I was ready to put the kids in a sled and push it—gently, mind you—down the nearest hillside just to get five minutes (or five hours) alone in the house.

See, much as I love(ish) winter break, I do not think it was intended to last as long as the Flood.  I’ve gained a whole new respect for Noah’s wife, trapped in that stuffy boat with crabby kids and cluttered quarters, because after two and half weeks of in-home partying (read:  house trashing), we ended the Big Laze with cancelled church, cancelled school, delayed school, delayed school, and delayed school again.  It was a dream for the kids.  FOR THE KIDS.

And speaking of the kids, and the house, and the kids-in-the-house-for-three-weeks-straight:  the Christmas Bomb seems to keep exploding in said house, on a twelve- to twenty-four hour rotation, even though the Big Day was over two weeks ago.  I’ve done nothing but bend over and pick things up since Thanksgiving, but the gifts just keep on giving.  Like a pebble tossed in a lake, each new gadget creates its own ripple effect of chaos, culminating in a three-foot radius of Crap circling every side.  The tree may be down, but the piles still stand high.

Come on, mom.  You know about The Piles.

I’m wading daily through piles of clothes–new ones with tags stuffed beneath old ones needing washed (really kids, why separate them?), piles of baked goods (stale and grody, but we’re not picky), and piles and piles of papers–important gift receipts, important gift cards, important thank-you card lists because I swear I’m gonna write thank-you cards this year, all buried beneath crumpled grocery lists and scribbled-on post-it notes:  return gifts!  use gift cards!  write thank you cards!

And then there’s The Wrap:  gift wrap, bubble wrap, cellophane wrap, plastic wrap–they’ve all nested, mated, and are breeding with vigor in my home.  Just yesterday I bent over (again) to retrieve what appeared to be a cross breed of gift/plastic wrap:  it was red-colored Saran, brought in special for the holidays. Ethan had wound yards of the stuff around a sock snowman he’d made for his sister, apparently hopeful that, though the red is transparent, the sheer volume applied would mask the poor creature’s identity til the moment of unveiling.  (It didn’t work, but sister played along valiantly.)

But oppressive as they may be, The Piles and The Wrap are nothing compared to The Blankets.  Tell me, oh sisters-in-post-holiday-suffering:  what’s with the blankets?  They. are. everywhere.  Slung over the back of the couch, hanging off the side of the chairs, dripping down the seats of my car, wadded in the corners of the family room, spread over the entire living room floor, flat and wrinkled and on purpose, as though we are an Afghan family preparing for Ramadan instead of an American family cleaning up after Christmas.

Wait.  Did I use the word family next to cleaning?  Oh, that’s richer than the stale apple pie coagulating in my kitchen.

What I meant to say is that I am a mother cleaning up after her family’s Christmas.  They’re still having fun, and I’m still bending over.  (And I’ll bet you three lamb kabobs that Afghan mothers are doing the same two weeks after Ramadan.  And if the cross of motherhood is no respecter of nations, you can bet they’re not happy about it either.)

So last night, despite my anticipation (dread) of another late morning, I set my alarm for six a.m., determined to get my own self, at least, back on some kind of sleeping/waking/eating cycle that doesn’t mimic that of a frat boy.  And when the alarm chimed this morning, I’m proud to say that I got out of bed a mere forty-minutes later.

I stumbled downstairs and crawled on the stairmaster, ready(ish) to take on the new year.  My feet plodded slowly (who made these pedals so heavy?) as I surveyed the nine blankets rumpled across the floor, looking as groggy and grumpy as I felt.  I knew that restoring my pre-holiday habits would eventually feel good, but right then it just felt bad.  And hard.  And kinda depressing—probably because it felt so bad and hard.

Fifteen minutes in, I almost quit.  Because, I thought (while hyperventilating), would one more day of frat boy life really doom me in the end?  I was just about to hit the cancel button when I looked up out the window and happened upon this:


 (photo courtesy of Derrick P. Smith, aka the Hub)

A sunrise.  And with it, just moments after this picture was taken, the sun.

The sun.  And everything that hot, melty, pink-orange-red perfect sun implied:  that something good was about to happen.  That things were going to change.  That the dark, the cold, the chaos, The Piles, the stifling hibernation of winter–none of it was permanent; it was not our new reality.  The sun told me that one day—not too far off—the snow and the mess and the sugar-crabbed, housebound kids would be a memory and we’d be looking forward to the light, fresh-air, happy days of spring.

I finished my workout and, before any of my lazy kids got up to start another lazy day, took a lazy moment myself to sit on the (blanketed) floor, look out the window, and stare at the sun.

We’re gonna get through this winter, moms, I know we are.  Know how I know?  Because today, the sun said so.

Flunking summer.

What are your kids doing right now, on this beautiful August morning with the sun high, the sky blue, the day ripe with possibility?  What are your kids doing with this golden orb of time—summer time—that spills like sunshine through a window only three months each year, calling on their free spirits to come…run…play with me?  What are you kids doing right now, with the air light and the breeze low and their young life’s potential stretched out before them, poised for the greatness your summertime mothering will bring?

Yeah, mine are watching tv too.

In fairness, after I punched out that last paragraph, I closed my laptop and asked (forced) my ten-year old son to take the dog for a walk with me.  He didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to.  The dog didn’t want to.  But I had finally written something pathetic enough to make myself feel guilty enough to lift tush from chair, and the three of us opened the front door and stepped into the sunlit world of a child’s summer morning with all of the hazy magic it brings.

The magic lasted about nine minutes.  Then I got tired and asked (forced) boy and dog to turn around and go back home.

Now before you rush to judgment, be aware that

  1. It was getting really hot out (77 degrees, thank you), and
  2. We were approaching a big, scary hill.  (Scary because it was so big.  I’ll save my calf muscles for our daily hot dog runs to Costco, thank you.)

Boy and dog walked/trotted home much happier than they left it, thanks to the sweet promise of Fresca/water upon return.  (Have your kids discovered Fresca yet?  Ethan thinks he’s drinking a martini every time he has one, so sultry and cool.  I dread the day he discovers it’s sugar free.)  We slogged back through the front door and I flopped on the couch, parched and sweating, thankful that I’d provided enough summer fun for one whole day.  With everything we’d packed in—the sun, the dog, the front door—it was surely almost bedtime.  I glanced at my watch.  It was 8:44.


The truth is:  I’ve had it.  I can’t do summertime anymore, I just can’t.  And lest you think I’m a lousy mother, let me tell you, my frustration is not about the kids—except for when it’s all about the kids.  Which it always is, all of the time.  All of the summer ding-dong-day long.


They’re driving me crazy.  And not in a sweet funny way, like, “Look, little Teddy ate a crayon again, isn’t that crazy?!”  Young mothers, enjoy that plush craziness while it lasts, because little Teddy is still cute and can barely speak, two virtues of childhood that that fade too fast and too permanently.  When Teddy turns ten, he’ll drive you crazy by begging to play Minecraft for the twelfth hour in a row (you’ll let him) and demanding a cold Fresca for the twelfth day in a row (you’ll give it to him.)  Why?  Because he’s driving you crazy.

And don’t get me started on my teenage girls.  Friends often tell me how “nice” my teenage girls seem, but that’s just because they’re smart and can put on a good front.  You know what they’re doing behind that sunlit door of summertime?  Their nails.  And their hair.  And their makeup.  What they’re NOT doing are the dishes or the laundry.  Those are my jobs, see?  I mean, what if the dish soap botched up their mani; what if the fabric softener spilled on their pedi?  What mother wants that thrown on her Pile ‘o Guilt?

Another thing they’re not doing is earning money to pay for the things they are doing while they’re not doing their chores.  It’s a vicious cycle, but one that I can’t seem to end.  I keep giving them more money to buy more nail polish to give them something to do while they’re not doing dishes or laundry.  Why?  Because they’re driving me crazy.  (Just look at the photo—do you see what summer is doing to my wattle?)

And, as if the summertime gods weren’t laughing hard enough, guess what else they threw on the Pile?  The fact that we just moved.  To a new house, a new town, a whole new side of the state.  So imagine your summer-at-home-with-the-kids (wretched as it is—I know, sister, I know) and subtract any and all friends from the equation—yours and theirs. Imagine the dog days of summer flopping out, one after another, with no play dates, no phone calls, no school chums hopping in and out of the house to occupy (i.e., babysit) your restless young charges.  Imagine no fellow moms with whom to re-gift your kids; You, Yourself, and You are your children’s only companion, entertainer, and BFF  (but not in a good way.) (Is there a good way?)  Add to that infinite trips to IKEA—Satan’s bachelor pad, I’m telling you—to get “just one more thing” for your daughter’s new bedroom (you’ll buy it; she’s driving you crazy), and you’ve now imagined my summer.  Go on, enjoy a slice of my homegrown hell.

I’ll admit it:  when we first moved here, knew no one, and had no commitments on the calendar, I rejoiced in our family’s newfound simplicity.  At last, I thought, it’s just us and the kids, five peas in a pod, a little glimpse of eternal bliss.  Our busy busy family was finally getting time to breathe and bond.  Relationships would be renewed, love would be lasting. It would be a rare and magical summer.  Oh yes it would.

The magic lasted about nine minutes.

And now?  I’m looking constantly at my calendar (three more weeks??), frantically out my window (is anybody out there?) and trying, unsuccessfully, to slip quietly out the back door (“Mom!  Where are you going?”  Shoot. “I’ll be right back, kids…I have to, um…shave my legs…”  “Outside?”)  Yes.  Outside.

What I’m not trying to slip through is that phony front door, smug with it’s promise of the sunlit world of summer.  I know what’s on the other side, you big fraud:  more Kirkland hot dogs and more trips to IKEA.  Let me know when Fall, and the first day of school, comes a knockin’.  Then maybe I’ll lift tush from chair to answer.  Until then, you’ll find me at the food court.  Turns out, our new Costco serves gelato.  Take that, summertime.  And you thought you’d won.