Chillin the Most (The mantra that least describes vacation with kids)

I know summer is behind us, almost officially. I meant to write this post as soon as we got  back from our epic family Labor day camping trip, but back to school week proved to be even more insane than I thought. 

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Look at me chillin!

Speaking of our Labor day camping trip, it was amazing! Every year our family takes a camping trip about an hour North of here, it’s nothing fancy and it’s not really too terribly rustic. It’s really a campground by a lake near a cornfield and some cows and yes we have flush toilets and showers.

But that doesn’t really matter, it’s not the what, it’s the who…

This year we had 35 people camping, we are one camping site away from taking up an entire section of the campground, and I have to admit, we’re pretty proud of ourselves.

The one site in our section that was not in our family had a wicked sweet trailer. They had the nicest camping chairs I have ever seen, they even had an inflatable screen and a projector so they could watch the sandlot around the campfire. Seriously.

But the thing the had that I found the most ridiculous was this big, red flag that said “chillin the most.” (NAME THAT KID ROCK SONG!)

For the first few days that flag taunted me…. and for the last few it just made me laugh. Well played flag… well played.

Because for me, there is nothing “chillin” about camping with kids… or any other vacation with kids for that matter.

I love our annual  camping trip, we reconnect with family and get ridiculous tan-lines. We fall asleep in sandy beds after one too many s’mores… but guys? it is crazy exhausting and not one iota “chillin.” Continue reading

The Parable of the Exploding Ketchup.

Hey all, I’m really excited to be guest posting at The Mudroom today. The Mudroom is a lovely blog collective that focuses on making room for people in the midst of the mess. My kind of place, think I’ll hang out there more often.

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We pulled out of the zoo and immediately they started asking for more.

Can we go out for Ice cream?!”  “Can we go out for dinner?!”   Oh please Mom! Oh please!”

We’d just spent hours traipsing around the zoo, petting the wallabies, climbing the wooden train and tracking down the tigers.

We weren’t there for me. I mean we were, but you know . . . not really.

As our sticky, crumb-infested mini van pulled out of the parking lot, my husband looked at me . . . “I’m not going to tell them ‘no’ about dinner. What do you think?”

I have a meal plan in place at home, but whatever you want, baby.”

Let’s flip a coin, Mom! Heads is dinner at home and tails is a restaurant!”

It was a very expensive tails.

We decided on a local brewery, because we live in Grand Rapids, beer city USA, and any restaurant that lasts either is a brewery or supports local beer culture.

We walked in and I scanned the trendy dining room, full of local art and hipster beards. I sighed with reassurance when I spotted the stack of high chairs in the corner.

High chairs, okay, we’re allowed to be here . . . I reassured myself. There is nothing like taking kids out to eat to remind you of just where you are in life.

We sat down and ordered drinks and melt-in-your-mouth fried pickles. While our kids wiggled and spilled, I leaned over to my husband and whispered; “It’s like we’re the PSA for why not to have kids . . . or at least not to take them out to fun restaurants . . . everyone must wonder why we dared emerge from our hot dog cave.”

Then my daughter leaned over and said: “Actually . . . I bet they’re all thinking “Wow . . . they have three awesome kids. They are soooo lucky.”

And I was put. In. My. Place.

Head on over to The Mudroom to finish it on up! 

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Looking for God’s will in the Grocery Store. (it’s by the raisins)

I spent over an hour last night in the grocery store. My list only had 12 things on it, but still I walked up and down the aisles in a daze. I wasn’t even thinking about anything specifically but it was more a a plodding, processing rhythm.

Moving again. Moving again. Oooh, new yogurt!…. Moving again.

I found beef jerky chocolate bars, and kumquats on sale. I didn’t buy either, but I found myself curious on both accounts.

Also they keep moving the raisins. I hate that. Make up your mind grocery store dictators: Are we keeping them in produce? Baking? By the Canned peaches? I’m already on the verge of madness as it is, can you just keep the raisins put pleaseandthankyou?

I like here. I’ve figured out here (I know where the raisins are, this week.) Why does it have to change again? What is God up to? Why God, why get all settled, have us fall deeply in love with this sense of home, only to mix it all up again after less than a year?

These are questions God doesn’t really answer.

If you ask him how you should love people or to help you be more generous he’s all over those answers, he wrote a whole book about it.

But, if you ask “why” about the hard stuff of your life he just sits with you on that, whispering something that can’t be put into words but somehow centers around a thousand intertwined strings of moments all focused on bringing his healing love to the world through your life. Continue reading

20 thoughts and feels from a not so good pastor’s wife about having to (probably) move again.

How do you like THAT title? You like it… You like it….
Warning grammar nerds, I have not adequately proof read. I’m sorry. Can we deal? 

Pew Selfie, New Church.

Pew Selfie, New Church. hi.

I laid in bed last night for a while after Kel fell asleep, feeling deeply sad. The sort of sadness that comes from knowing you have to let go of something, even though you don’t want to. Even though all you want to do is channel your inner four year old and dig in, screaming until maybe… just maybe you get your way.

We are moving again. It’s not officially official but it may as well be. Yes, there is a five percent chance (or less) that we could get to stay but since my thirties is forcing me to be an adult about things (boo forced maturity that comes from three kids and home ownership) 

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Big sister, little sister storytime.

I want to grow claws somehow and dig them into the drywall, hissing at anyone who tries to remove me from our home. I want to go buy 7 spirit hoodies from Noelle’s school and wear them on repeat to represent how very much we are NOT leaving. I want to make mimosas and day drink and whiny text all my friends about how hard this is, because yes I know there are people dying and starving but we have to move. again. dammit. dammit. dammit.

Pass me another mimosa. Or scotch, someone bring me scotch maybe?

OOOH Or Put Big Metal Chicken on my porch Blogess Style? 

This is not, by the way, how a “good” pastors wife handles moving. I am pretty sure they sigh and say something about the will of God and how blessed they are to serve no matter where.

Maybe I’ll get there. Maybe the mimosas will help.

PS I’m not really day drinking. If I were I’d be Netflix binging on Scrubs, Parks and Rec or Gilmore Girls. Or all of the above…. WWLGD? What would Lorelai Girlmore do? 

Probably drink more coffee and kidnap Rory for a trip to boston to eat Chowder in her Jeep.

This is not helping, or is it….?

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So I’m not day drinking or Netflix binging, I’m doing the much more helpful, cathartic thing and whiny blogging about it to you guys. Continue reading

Penny Family Update

Well I’ve said that I want to get back into blogging. Let’s start with an update, shall we? Then I’ll try to follow this up with a fun, easy Valentine’s Day card project perfect for preschoolers and Kindergarteners. 

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How it actually looked writing this post…

With as many snow days as we’ve had, I still declare winter 2014-15 a fairly mild one… so far. It’s only February after all. I would probably be cool with any winter less severe than last winter which left even the perkiest of Michiganders running for Zoloft and SAD lights. It was 8 foot snow drifts bad, so this? Easy Peasy.

Little miss Clara is 12 weeks old now and a gorgeous, soul-healing, life changing little baby. She sleeps amazingly well at night and only gets up to nurse once (on average… knock on all the wood) and then goes back to sleep until 9 or so. This allows me to help Noelle and Caedmon with breakfast, clothes and their very important, yet terribly elusive socks. I hate folding them, they love losing them… we live in constant sockmageddon.

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We are all loving Clara beyond measure and we’ve had had no jealousy issues with the older two. If anything they’re a bit too into her, especially Caedmon who has been known to pick her up and move her to wherever he is for fear that she is “very sad being alone momma.”

Watching your four year old carry your wiggly 12 week old is endearing and terrifying all at the same time. You want to swoop in screaming and grab your camera simultaneously. But ultimately you have to go with swooping and screaming so as not to encourage the behavior which can only end in tears for everyone involved.

And speaking of Caedmon, he’s still my big hearted, snuggly, opinionated little guy. He’s enjoying the mountain of Christmas and Birthday Legos and presents in addition to lots of craft time. Honestly I think we’re all ready to ride bikes again but we’ve got a lot of waiting to do. He hourly asks me if it’s fourth of July yet… nope… still very nope.

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Noelle is doing really, really well in Kindergarten. We adore her Montessori school and I’m so thankful for it that I well up with tears on a weekly basis. I’ve felt such a peace sending her there. The staff, especially her lead teacher, advocate for her beautiful individuality as they do with all the kids, praise God.

This past fall she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder by a doctor at Brains Potential here in Grand Rapids (I wholeheartedly recommend them if you need help with your kids.) Seeing her through this lens has been so much more freeing than I ever imagined a diagnosis could be. It’s just a way of understanding how she interacts with this world, not a pill, not a stigma, but a way of understanding my very unique daughter.

I’m starting to see with stunning clarity that each child is really and truly an individual who processes, learns about and interacts with the world differently. This is really causing me to call into question a “one size fits all” education model and love and advocate for montessori education.

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Kel has been working for the Methodist Denomination while waiting tables at Carrabas Italian Grill to carry our family through until he gets a full time placement as a pastor again. But he will be done slinging noodles as of February 14 and he will be the interim pastor at Dowagiac First United Methodist church in Dowagiac, Michigan, which is roughly a 75 mile drive from our current home in Northeast Grand Rapids.

This is currently a temporary placement, due to the former pastor leaving unannounced, and Kel being a natural, available fit for the job. He is commuting down there twice a week and staying overnight a few evenings a week to reduce the drive time and expense. I hate going 36 hours without seeing him but it’s only until July.

Sometime in the next six weeks, the Methodist Denomination will let him know where his next, full-time placement will be. The Methodist church uses the itinerant system (click that link if you want to understand what that is.) Which means that basically the Bishop and his Cabinet decide where Kel will work and ultimately where our family will live. It’s part spiritual and part strategic and a hundred percent hard for me to come to terms with, but I’m getting there. It’s hard to know what you’re supposed to accept and what you’re supposed to change up in your life.

Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” There is something there… when I married Kel I married his dreams and calling as much as he married mine.

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I’m still breathing hourly prayers that we can stay here in Grand Rapids, at the school I fought for and love so dearly, among these walls that we’ve painted, these floors we’re polished and sense of home we have cultivated with moments both bitter and sweet.

But the phone call could go the other way, any week now.

Either way I’ll hit my knees in some sort of Hallelujah, for at least the waiting game will be over.

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And as for me, I’m adjusting well to being a mom of three, usually. I’ve never had so little left to give at the end of the day. I wonder where I went in the hours of my day and yet, still I find myself in their eyes as we play, create and observe life together. I want more than this, even though I am often deeply satisfied with the work of “mom.” It’s both AND. It always will be. There has to be more than this, there is more than this, it’s just spending a lot of time chilling on the shelf right now. For now. Just for now.

It’s a conflicting way to live and I’m likely not saying it well.. but I’m starting to find scraps of time to release a little creative energy out through words, and fabric and yarn. And this is so so good.

So yeah, that’s what’s up with us. More to come. Thanks for reading, really.

What have you been up to? 

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

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My most important 2015 plan

I’m late to the 2014 reflection / 2015 goal setting thing, I call new baby to that… I mean hey, it’s still January.

Every year, in December, I make a photo book for our family that sums up our new year. Some we give away, one we keep.

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This year the back of that book said the following:

“2014: The year of Clara. And moving. And church planting. And Kel graduating. And Noelle starting school. And…. a lot of other stuff.”

Last year life exploded across the pages of our calendar. It was a mix of every feeling I’m currently familiar with: hope, joy, heartache, grief, stress, depression, satisfaction, infatuation and frustration.

As I look back through the pages of our 2014 photobook I can see the mix of emotion in our eyes, and as I do each one takes center stage in my chest and, in a small way, happens all over again.

Remember how happy we were when all that snow finally melted and the tulips broke the soil?
Remember how our mouths dropped with the test was positive?
Remember how proud you were when you saw him in his Cap and Gown?
Remember how scared we were as we peeked in on her, sleeping on Kindergarten eve?
Remember how relieved and grieved we were when it all came crashing down?
Remember how overjoyed we were when they brought her to your side and you saw each other for the first time?

2014 was all the things, really it was.

Continue reading

And Then There Was Clara (Part 2)

A few days back I started to share with you the story of how our new daughter, Clara, was born. In case you missed it, here is Part 1

I sat in yet another transitional bed and breathed deeply as the contractions amped up at what seemed to be an alarming rate, from every 10 minutes, to every 8, 5, 3. And as they sped up, they got stronger and more painful.

I squeezed Kel’s hand with each one as we waited for the nurses to work through the medical procedures necessary for our daughter to be born.

A steady stream of medical personnel made their way through the room, asking questions, running tests and filling little test tubes with blood for some last minute lab work.

Many of the staff mentioned that there might be a hold up centered around my breakfast. You see, even though I’d been having contractions, I had shared a bowl of oatmeal with our son around 9:00 that morning (3 hours prior) and the verdict was out as to whether or not the anesthesiologist would be okay with doing the surgery within five hours of the oatmeal.

Curses… I seriously knew I shouldn’t have had the oatmeal… 

Finally, gloriously, my OB arrived and took charge. Soon we had the all clear to move into surgery and were meeting with the anesthesiologist who, we were told, was the best one we could possibly get.

We talked about how I’ve handled spinal blocks in the past and I requested that an anti anxiety be “on hand” just in case I started to get panicky.

Minutes later, I left Kel in the room, clad in paper scrubs and was wheeled to the OR to meet our daughter.

I just told myself to keep breathing… in and out… in and out…  and praying, God be here… Healthy… Alive… See us through…and trying not to panic. Continue reading

And Then There Was Clara (Part 1)

Well I am insanely sleep deprived but I really want to take the time to get Clara’s birth story down before it’s lost in to the recesses of my brain forever. And I really, really want to share the story of her surprise arrival with you! 

I’m blessed, or lucky, or genetically gifted. I’ve gotten to carry all three of my pregnancies to term. So I try to keep the complaining to a minimum, because these babies are a blessing and I would never want to invalidate anyone’s struggle by complaining about my own blessings.

However, if I’m being honest with you, this pregnancy was hard and it took everything I have. It truly felt like carrying our daughter and barely sustaining our family was all I was capable of.

For months I operated in a fog at 50% battery life or less and to make matters worse I beat myself up about why I couldn’t carry more joyfully or with greater energy.

So,

As you may know our baby girl was due to arrive on November 13, but she came early on November 10. Here’s how that all happened.

All that weekend I had been having contractions that would come and go, but they were way worse than the Braxton Hicks, tight-belly only contractions that I’d been having through the second and third trimesters.10730843_541514449677_1758459000295678324_n

The evenings and overnights were the worst and I wound up calling my office’s on call doctor at 1:30 Monday morning to get her take. She told me to sleep if I could and call the office in the morning to get my Tuesday appointment moved to Monday.

I have to emphasize here that with our previous two births I’d never had painful contractions, even though I’d been in active Labor. So my trust in my ability to identify what my body is doing when it comes to childbirth is fairly low.

And these contractions hurt, like cramps that started in my back and shot around down my thighs. New territory for me. Continue reading

One Day in the Life (2014 Edition)

For the second year in a row I’ve linked up with Hollywood Housewife to photo-document one day in the life of our family. (Here is last year’s post if you’d like to check it out)

I did most of this on Instagram, you can follow that here if you don’t already. 

You have to understand we are in a weird season, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and Kel is between church assignments so his work load is sort of minimal. Our typical life right now is really odd for us.

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5:30 (ish) The day started out early with Noelle requesting to crawl into bed with us.  I gave in and settled her in to the middle of our bed and snuggled for ten minutes before giving up on sleep myself and heading downstairs.

You may have forgotten but during the last few weeks of pregnancy, sleep is elusive. Comfortable positions no longer exist.

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5:50 Scoot the dishwasher over to the sink to get it started, open up a can of cat food. so Alfie will shut up already.

Yes, my dishwasher is on wheels. We prefer to think of it as “so euro” rather than “so ghetto.” While I AM thankful for this mini-rolly guy, I do miss a “normal” dishwasher… Continue reading

Superman’s Smile.

Yesterday was a really hard day for our family, I’m not trying to be cryptic, I’ll fill you in when I can. 

There are a lot of things I could be worrying on, freaking out about, angry over. All of them rightly so

But you know where I am fixing my gaze instead? On this picture.

supermanIt seems like I would say “I’m keeping my eyes on God” or “his provision” or “his faithfulness” and I am saying that, but for some reason no verse or quote is saying as much to my weary heart as this picture.

This picture says “everything’s going to be fine” and “God is watching out for us” to me in a way that nothing else can.

It’s not a high quality photo, it won’t look impressive to you in a frame on our wall. It was taken in the dressing room of a Halloween Store under dingy florescent lights.

We stopped in because I knew we needed to. I’d spent the morning paying bills, reducing this line and that on the spreadsheet until it all worked out…. ish.

Writing checks, calling doctors to pay uncollected co-pays with one ear as the other one was filled with the voice of a little boy.

“Mom, instead of numbers, let’s look at superman costumes on your computer! Mom! CAN WE LOOK AT SUPERMAN?!”

No, No, No buddy, please wait, not now… 

And then, you know what? Yes. Before we can’t anymore, let’s go get a superman costume. Continue reading