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Vacation Withdrawal

caboTwo weeks ago, my husband and I went on vacation. Just the two of us.

It was a perfect, perfect time in Mexico. We spent our days eating tacos, drinking coffee, talking about theology and walking along the beach. So, it was basically the same stuff we always do, with a lot better scenery. And a lot less children.

We came home to the busyness of Easter weekend, followed by the big kids’ spring break. Two weeks ago feels like two years ago.

Guys, we have never done a vacation like that before. So I didn’t know.

I didn’t know how bad the withdrawals would be.

When I look at my pictures, I feel a nostalgic ache in my heart. When I open my cupboard and see the bag of coffee from the coffee shop we discovered, a twinge of sadness passes over me.

I unpacked my luggage (two weeks later, because I’m a stellar housekeeper). One of my shirts smelled like the aroma therapy lotion from the spa we visited and it was just TOO MUCH.

Yesterday, I was watching a TV show set in the Caribbean and the scenery… I couldn’t even handle it!

I left my heart in Cabo.

But it’s OK. We have plans to go back.

In like 10 years.

Sigh.

beach

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Why You Should Complain on Facebook

I had a bad day recently.

The big kids’ school was delayed 2 hours, which kind of threw everything off. So I was rushing to get to Enoch’s pediatrician appointment. But the Interstate backed up, so I took the exit before my exit, thinking Siri could reroute me. Instead, she kept trying to make me do a u-turn to get back on the backed-up Interstate. Somehow I ended up on hilly back-roads that hadn’t been plowed, which caused me to almost slide into another car.

By this time, I was completely late for the appointment, and was forced to reschedule for later in the day. Which meant I had to go home, get the babies out of the car for an hour and then reload them in again. The new appointment was at Enoch’s nap time. So, of course, he had a meltdown.

And when I came out of the doctor, there was a note on my windshield, because someone had sideswiped me. Seriously.

My general philosophy of handling a day like this is to find the irony and laugh it off.

So I posted this on social media:

baddaycarnitas

I really wasn’t trying to whine. Mostly, I was discussing the awesomeness of Carnitas.

But now I know.

Now I know why some people spend the majority of their time complaining on Facebook. Or better yet, throwing out vague angst, like, “I just can’t take this anymore!”

It totally works!

Everyone completely ignored the humor and Carnitas and went right for the sympathy! I had friends offering to come over and take care of the kids and other friends volunteering to do my housework (why in the world did I turn that one down?!). Moms and grandmas, with years of experience, assured me it would get better.

It’s days later, and people are STILL checking on me.

I just had no idea. I’ve always tried to keep my social media updates cheerful, or better yet, funny. I’m even open to doing thought-provoking. But whiny? I never realized how much mileage there was in that.

I mean, you all are really awesome!

Oh. And those of you that offered to help? I’ve got a list of names and I’m not afraid to use it! Mwhahaha.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, because self-discipline isn’t my strong point. So why set myself up for failure, you know?

Really, I don’t remember resolving to do ANYTHING in 2014.

But still…

  • We completely changed our diet to a mix of Paleo/primal/low carb. Which means we cut out most grains and processed sugars, and as much processed food as possible (except last month, because CHRISTMAS FOOD). We’ve never felt better, so it’s worth it!
  • I dyed my hair for the first time. Not voluntarily. The grays forced me. It basically looks exactly the same, but requires more maintenance now. Yay.
  • I started putting cream in my coffee. And then someone told me to use heavy whipping cream. Guys. I have no words.
  • We got another baby. Read the whirlwind story here.
  • I started talking about racism, for better or for worse. But the small measure of talking I’ve done is far outweighed by the amount of learning I’ve undergone and continue to press into. It’s a fascinating, sorrowful issue that has gripped my very core.

newbaby2And not one of those things is going away. We will continue to eat paleo/primal. I have to keep dying my hair, because the gray is only going to grow stronger. Cream is my favorite ever. Babies are for life. And racism is still alive and well.

I couldn’t have seen any of this coming (except the hair dye) when 2014 started. I couldn’t have resolved any of this (except to maybe eat healthier). The truly important parts of my year, the parts that change me the most, were completely out of my control.

So for 2015, there are no resolutions. But there is more faith.

Because 2014 grew my confidence:

In a God who knows I’m made of dust.

In a Savior who has experienced what it’s like to be human.

In a Jesus who guides, even when I can’t see what He’s up to.

My own self-discipline will only take me so far (not very). But trusting Jesus seems to lead my feet to places beyond my own simple expectations. If I try to guess, I’ll probably get it wrong. So I’m just going to rest in faith that He has a path already mapped out.

2015 should be interesting, guys. Just like always.

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Help Me!

helpwantedI don’t like it when people help me. It’s painful! Or at least vulnerable.

For one thing, I don’t want to put anyone out. When I had pneumonia, a friend offered to come get my kids for the day. And I almost said, “No, I’ll be fine,” because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I had freakin’ pneumonia, people! And I was still trying to not be a bother.

But I think, even more than that, my introvert side is hesitant to allow people free access to my Personal Zone. Because sometimes my Personal Zone (i.e. my bathroom) is kind of messy.

When Phoebe came along, friends started to offer help. By default, I was ready to brush them aside with, “Thanks, but I think we’re OK.” Chris, who knows I do this, convinced me that I needed to let people help me.

One of his persuasion tactics was asking a friend to pick the kids up for school for the first two weeks after he went back to work. He told me the plan once it was all settled. So I decided to throw caution to the wind and jump headfirst into being helped.

I mean, I’m still not OK with people dropping by the house unannounced (I might have a mild panic attack… or more likely, just not answer the door). But when people offer help, I’m learning to accept.

In the past few weeks, friends watched my kids so I could run errands. They brought food. Someone even came over and dyed my (unwashed) hair. And most of the time, I hadn’t had a shower, my sink was full of dishes, and I hadn’t cleaned the bathroom in a week.

Because, apparently there are people who love me enough to not mind that I have no makeup on and can’t remember the last time I swept my floors. They don’t care if my table is covered with stacks of papers that my husband considers a filing system. Or if all of our laundry is unfolded and my house smells like poopy diapers.

And I think I feel OK with allowing people like that into my messy chaos once in awhile. At least more OK than I would have been a couple of years ago.

Maybe this means I’ve gotten over myself just a little bit more. Maybe I’m becoming a healthier person. Or maybe I’m just too tired to care.

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Shocking: My Husband’s Reaction to My Cooking

My husband isn’t what you’d call and adventurous eater.

And he’s been anti-vegetable since I’ve met him. Basically, if it was green and it wasn’t salad, it shouldn’t be on his plate.

This was extremely limiting to the cooking process. Coupled with my lack of culinary skills and I was left with about 6 recipes that we could all agree on.

And I was BORED. So, so bored.

I was so bored that I felt bitter every time I had to cook dinner again.

Through a series of unfortunate events involving a scale, Chris and I both concluded that we had to start eating healthier, and we stumbled across a plan that intrigued us. Problem was, it cut out all grains and processed sugars.

Did you know pasta is made out of grain? And tortillas are made of grain? And rice is a grain? I mean, there went ALL my recipes.

But my husband said the most beautiful, magical words to my ears, “All bets are off. I’ll eat anything.”

A blank slate! And no veggie was restricted (except artichokes, because I once sneaked them into a meal and he still hasn’t forgiven me).

As exciting as this was, I was also dreading the experiment a bit, because of past trauma with feeding Chris food he didn’t like. During an offensive meal, he didn’t talk. He just concentrated on choking down the awful food and he didn’t talk at all. Awkward silence.

So I kind of started out slow, sticking to veggies I knew he tolerated. And then I got brave and reckless.

I made roasted broccoli. And he said it was so good he could eat it every night. He took a second helping. I cried a few happy tears.

I made “spaghetti” and meatballs with zucchini noodles. He declared it delicious.

I made bacon wrapped asparagus that I didn’t even like. He loved it (OK, I did say bacon, so…).

ohmyAll this acceptance kind of went to my head. I decided to have a treat night of pancakes and my recipe had me make cinnamon apples to put on top, instead of syrup.

I thought, “Well, that will never fly.”

Chris wasn’t a big fan of anything apple related. But it looked delicious to me, so I thought maybe I could smooth things over by having real maple syrup on the side that could be drizzled over the apples to sweeten the deal.

He took a bite and exclaimed, “What did you do to the apples?”

“Nothing. Just cinnamon and butter,” I hesitantly admitted.

“They are SO good! They’re so sweet!” (By the way, these were Granny Smith apples, which probably don’t get described as “sweet” very often.)

Honestly, it’s a pretty big thrill for my less-than-skilled-cook heart to hear my husband extol my cooking. But I have to admit. The most exciting part is that the things he is enjoying are items I’d been trying to convince him to eat for years.

I win.

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In the Middle of the Night

Shocking as this may seem, there is actually something I hate more than cleaning the house.

Going to bed.

Chris is not a night owl. At about 10:30, he is just done. Like someone flipped a switch. This is kind of awful for me, because I come alive at night. My brain starts whirling and I want to do things and write things and make things and… everything!

The problem is, we’ve always BELIEVED in going to bed at the same time. When we are counseling a bride and groom-to-be, that’s the advice we dispense. And I still agree with it in concept.

But since we’re currently sharing a room with a baby, going to bed at the same time has lost it’s glossy sheen a bit. I mean, you can’t even have a whispered conversation for fear of waking someone.

So we’ve broken our own rule a couple of times recently.

Now, I won’t stay up after Chris has gone to bed to watch a movie or anything trivial like that. Mainly because then he would judge me. It’s completely mystifying to him why anyone would want to stay awake past 11 at night. But if I burn the midnight oil to do something productive, then he’s way less judgey.

Remember how I mentioned that I hate to clean the house? Our current summer-break status hasn’t been helpful to me in that area. There are just so many distractions! Loud, talkative distractions that seem to always need lunch.

So the other night, when I suggested I stay up late and get some cleaning in, Chris toned down his “I fail to see why anyone in their right mind wouldn’t want to sleep at a conventional time.”

nightCLEANINGOnce he went to bed, I put a TV show on my laptop and scrubbed the kitchen from top to bottom (except inside the fridge, because that’s not a job to take on lightly). It was great! And the situation was potentially enhanced by how ALONE I was (Again, summer vacation. It’s an introvert killer.)

But I’m not going to lie, I probably cleaned the kitchen better than I ever would in the daytime. Just to avoid going to bed.

That is how much I like staying up late.

I mean, this could be a new housecleaning motivator. The procrastinator in me is awesome at doing something, anything, to put off doing the thing I hate the most. So if avoiding bedtime gets my house clean, it’s a win/win.

Except the waking up… the waking up the next morning is so hard to do.

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I Need to Repent

prayingI’ve judged people. I’ve called them names, like wimpy. And weak.

And now I need to repent.

I need to repent to people who put stuff in their coffee.

We drank our coffee black for years. Not only that, we wore it like a badge of honor. When baristas asked if I wanted “room” I was like, “Psh. No!”

Really, it all started with convenience. One time, when Isaiah was a baby, I bought a coffee at the mall. After purchasing, I realized I had one hand to hold Baby and one hand to hold coffee. There were no hands left to add sugar or anything else. So I shrugged and decided, then and there, to become a black coffee drinker.

It served us well in all our years of low-fat, calorie counting eating. I mean, coffee is like zero everything, if you don’t add stuff. (But we’ve given up calorie counting in favor of Paleo/Low Carb. So that’s not really a hindrance for us now.)

And I’ll admit, 2/3 of the time when we ordered coffee out, it tasted like black tar. Even Starbucks’ coffee has a bitter, burnt thing going on. So unless we were at one of our local coffee shops or we brewed our own coffee, it was rarely good.

But dang it, we were black coffee drinkers!

So a couple of weeks ago, flying to our vacation, Chris and I both asked the flight attendant for black coffee. But when he brought it, mine had somehow become “coffee with cream.”

Chris felt bad for me and half-heartedly offered to take the offensive cup, but I knew he really didn’t want it. Plus, I was trying to wrangle a baby, so I was more concerned about imbibing some caffeine without spilling on myself. It wasn’t like I was expecting the 4 oz. airplane coffee to actually taste good anyway.

creamincoffeeOK, here’s the thing. I took a sip and it was delicious. I didn’t know how that could be, but it was. The cream just smoothed everything out and compensated for any nasty flavor. I actually enjoyed that dinky cup of coffee.

I hesitatingly mentioned this phenomenon to Chris. And it kind of came to mind a couple of more times over the next week, but I WAS A BLACK COFFEE DRINKER. So I just went back to drinking my coffee black.

When we got home from vacation, Chris texted me from work saying, “You inspired me. I tried cream in my coffee. I really like it!”

I texted back, “Are we going to be THOSE people now? The ones that put stuff in their coffee?”

Apparently we are, because we’re hooked.

It’s just so smooth and silky. And I can only imagine all the bad coffee that can now be helped by a little cream.

But I do feel like I need to apologize to all the wimpy people that put stuff in their coffee. We’re now one of you.

Except sugar. I’ll still judge you for that.

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The Runaway

We don’t even like our dogs. So why do they get such a hold on our hearts?

Our beagle Chester is a grumpy old man. A grumpy “Get off my grass, you crazy kids!” kind of old man. He was an old man when he was still a puppy. I mean, who ever heard of an introverted beagle?

When you say “beagle” most people get all mushy and tell you a tale about a beagle they had once that was the “best dog ever.” “Beagles are great with kids,” they say. Beagles are so playful,” they say.

No.

Chester alternates between sleeping on his pillow, growling at anyone who comes close, barking for 3 hours straight at the neighbor dog and tipping over the garbage can. No happy kisses. No cute antics. Just glares and huffy standoffish-ness.

When he was 8, we got him a puppy-brother, which wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to him. But it did make him look like the good dog, because at least he wasn’t chewing the table legs and attacking our toes when we sat on the couch.

I guess being the good dog got old or something. Because, the other evening, when one of the kids didn’t latch the gate properly after retrieving a ball, Chester took the big break and set out to explore the neighborhood.

Chris, always the delegated dog-finder, walked around the block and then took the car to search further afield. No Chester.

It ruined my night. That dumb, rude dog ruined my night.

He doesn’t cuddle. He doesn’t even act like he loves us, unless we’re going to feed him or he’s been boarded at the kennel for a week.

But I went to bed sad that the dog was missing.

There was no Chester and no news in the morning. The city’s lost-dog department didn’t open until noon. There was nothing to do, but mope around the house.

Then, like a miracle, our vet (who’s number was on his tags) called to tell us a lady had found him. They gave me her number and we arranged to go get him.

There was much rejoicing in our house (and I’m assuming at Chris’ office, when I texted him the good news).

When Chester saw me, he ambled up and gave me some obligatory kisses. He was happy to jump in the car and come home. But he really acted like nothing had happened. He had been out all night, crossed 3 busy streets and wound up a couple of miles away. But no big deal, apparently.

photo(30)He didn’t follow me around, happy to be near me again. He didn’t seem grateful or sheepish or… anything.

So I tried to pay him extra attention, because SOMEBODY needed to acknowledge the trauma we’d all gone through. He groaned when I hugged him. He growled when his puppy-brother tried to say hello.

Finally, we just left him alone to sleep. Because he obviously wasn’t interested in any family bonding.

I laid up at night worrying about him and he just wanted to come home and sleep on the couch like nothing.  (Is this what parenting teenagers is like?!)

I’m glad he’s home. I’m just not sure WHY I’m glad.

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My Hate/Hate Relationship

exercise-girls-_4The internets are really good at making me feel guilty.

There are the workout people who post stuff like, “OMG! My calves burn so bad! It feels awesome!” Which is silly, because obviously it hurts, and that is not awesome.

And there are the healthy-eater people who post all the blogs about how you’re going to die from eating store-bought broccoli or how you can cure lung cancer with coconut oil.

And it doesn’t make me want to change or anything. It’s just the guilt.

But I had gotten pretty good at ignoring the angst they imposed. Especially from the the gym-going people. Because I know that I hate exercise with all of my heart.

Over the years, before I’d really figured myself out, I used to get on, “I’m going to be healthy” kicks. I imagined that I could learn to enjoy exercise. I ran or roller-bladed (remember when that was cool?!) or something. It lasted about two weeks and then I’d completely fall off the wagon. Because, as much as I hate exercising, I hate the out-of-doors even more.

When I hit 30 or so, I realized something was wrong. In my 20’s, I could just stop drinking soda for a week and lose 5 pounds. But after 30, my body was like, “You shouldn’t have been drinking that stuff anyway. I’m not going to reward you for doing what you were supposed to do all along.”

There was a sinking feeling that it was now going to take more than diet to get back into my favorite jeans. But I had enough experience to avoid any kind of outside adventures. Instead, I convinced Chris to get me an elliptical. He gave me his stern look and said, “If I get this for you, you have to use it.” (Because he knows my track record.) And I looked at him with my biggest eyes and said, “I will! I will!”

And I did! I might have even lasted a month or two.

But then we started the adoption process and summer break and… OK, honestly, I just gave up. Again.

Lately, I’ve been trying to un-give-up on the elliptical, because I promised my husband I’d use what he bought me, and because of fat in my belly.

I hate it with all of my heart. When I finish exercising, I don’t feel AWESOME, like all of the internet lies about. It is annoying and it makes me sweat. And my legs feel all wobbly. And I want to eat all of the food in the house.

I think acceptance of this is half of the battle. No longer do I have ideas that I will somehow start to enjoy exercise. I will always more or less hate it. So there shouldn’t be any disillusionment to make me give up.

My new goal is to simply make it tolerable:

I vow to never, ever try to do any exercise that involves the outdoors. I vow to always get an awesome snack when I’m done. I vow to watch TV while exercising, because I love BBC and TLC far more than I will ever like exercising.

So basically: indoors, food, TV. If it weren’t for the sweat and wobbly legs, I could almost pretend I’m relaxing.

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Feels Like Flying and Other Myths

feelslikeflyingThe other day, I read someone say that when you’re doing exactly what you’re created to do, you feel like you’re flying.

I admire the sentiment.

The concept actually kind of annoys me. Because I know I’m doing what I was created to do (for this season of life, anyway). And it rarely feels like “flying.”

Sometimes it even feels like drowning.

There are days where the big kids WON’T stop arguing. And there are no clean bottles. And the key ingredient for dinner fell on the floor. And the dogs have to bark at every car that drives by.

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. But it doesn’t feel one bit like flying.

It’s hard work. And frustration. And a nagging sense of futility.

But it’s something worth doing.

Worth-doing things don’t always feel shiny. Or glamorous. Sometimes, in the moment, they don’t even feel fulfilling.

If a sense of being on top of the world is considered the plumb-line for deciding if my pursuits are worthy, that scares me. Because it places A LOT of emphasis on my feelings. And offers me a chance to give up too easily on something that might be hard and painful, but still completely mine: Completely something I was created to do.

So I’m going to keep at it.

And in between all the chaos, there are moments that pull everything into perspective.

Like when the whole family agrees that dinner is delicious. When one of the big kids says something that let’s me know they really get the Gospel. When the baby grabs me by the earrings to pull me close for a sloppy kiss. When my son sticks up for his little sister in a playground dispute. When my husband cuts some of my favorite outside flowers and puts them in a vase so I can enjoy them inside too.

Those are the moments that feel like winning.

They are why, with my feet planted on the ground, I keep doing exactly what I was created to do. Because I believe beauty is found in mundane. Sometimes you just might have to look really hard for it.

But it’s there.

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