A Beginner’s Guide To Geocaching

If you follow me on Instagram you will notice that I post scads of pictures from our Geocaching adventures. I have come to realize that many of you may want to dip your toes in the geocaching pond, but have no idea where to start.

“How are you doing that GEOCACHING thing?!?”

You guys, YOUR SUMMER NEEDS GEOCACHING! There is a treasure hunt everywhere, you’ve probably sat on a bench with a cache and didn’t even know it. Even our small town has dozens of finds to search for.

To help you get started, I thought I would post a little beginner’s how-to using knowledge I’ve gleaned from our geocaching adventures, which are still relatively new for us.

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How we started

Last summer I was listening to my friend’s podcast when a guest host came on and raved about how her family were geocaching and loving it. Somehow I figured out that it was a free thing you could do involving mini vans, kids and a GPS smartphone… so away we went with a really long break over the fall and winter.

  • Your Turn- Download the Geocaching app, it’s free and it’s called “geocaching.” it features a white background with a green “G” that looks like a pin. I’ll just take a screenshot…

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    Looks Likes This…..

Continue reading

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

Crazy Easy Little Kid Valentine’s Cards

I’ve always been crafty, so much so that I’m often tempted to make everything by hand and from scratch. I’m trying to reform this a bit because if I don’t I’m going to end up with carpal tunnel syndrome, suffocated after being buried under a mountain of leftover fabric and felt.

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That being said, I just can’t give up homemade Valentine’s Day cards. And I adore doilies, I hold firm to my belief that it doesn’t have a doily, it’s not a Valentine.

However, my son has 36 kids in his preschool class, my daughter? 20.

Then there’s the 15 cards for the play group party and the ones they want to send to their cousins, aunts, uncles and apparently all the cats in the world. Because of course they do.

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So, over the past few weeks I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to combine homemade with wicked simple in an end product that would both involve them and not destroy my home or my sanity.

This is what I came up with! I guarantee you Pinterest has cuter, wittier ideas but these have a special, vintage something… doilies probably. #doilylove

The great thing about this project is that it will take at least 3 craft sessions to get done. Which is a bummer if you’re short on time but GREAT if you are looking for a way to fill the long winter hours.

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Breakdown: Have your kids glue scraps of ribbon, paper, lace and doilies onto a heart. Then place a message over top “found poetry” style and cover with a light layer of mod podge (optional) so it all stays on.

Here is what you’ll need:

Valentine’s Paper (solid colored or patterned, I did both)
Scissors
Glue Sticks
Doilies (never optional!)
Heart punch (optional)
Printer
Mod Podge
Paintbrush
To be honest I had all this on hand, but like I said I’ve developed a mildly impressive craft stash over the years. 

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Cut out the hearts. I did this for my kids but you could totally have your older ones trace and cut out the hearts. I could have had Noelle cut them out herself and hone her cutting skills but in the interest of time I cut them out while they were having a bit of screen time.
Make sure your hearts are a size that you can find envelopes for, I got mine at Hobby lobby but amazon has great deals, like these! 

Prep your materials by cutting shapes from the scraps leftover from the paper you cut your hearts out of. Cut doilies into little triangles too, like lacy pie. Punch out hearts or confetti. The kids can help with this stage!

Give your kids the hearts and glue sticks and let them glue confetti, doily pieces and paper scraps to their hearts. I set my kids up at a card table in the corner so we could keep this project going for a few sessions.

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Glue Glue Glue, Stick Stick Stick. We went through four glue sticks in an hour so stock up!

I marked the back of each heart with the first letter of each kid’s name so they could give their friends and family the cards they made. I feel as though this will prevent kid drama.

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Now print out a cute message. I went old school and did “Happy Valentine’s Day” in a typewriter font, but there are countless witty valentines phrases. I cut each word out separately to have it look more found poetry (or ransom note?) style, but you can do it your way.

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Stick on the words in the appropriate order.

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Now, if you’d like, when your kids are in bed, paint a thin layer of mod podge over each valentine.

Let them dry and that’s about it! Envelopes and off to school or the mailbox! 

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SO there you go, my crazy, easy take on vintage Valentines card designed for young kids to get involved while parents stay sane.

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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

The day I realized I had Kindergarten all wrong

“Her mom probably cried when she left for Kindergarten and I celebrated with my friends by going out to brunch.”

I picked up this (mis)quote somewhere along the road (I think it’s from Jen Hatmaker and I think it’s from her blog, or her book Seven. Forgive me for my terrible sourcing here.)

I’ve repeated it with friends during friendly banter about how ready I was for my children to go off to school.

I’m one of THOSE moms, I said, the ones who will drop them off at school and head for the coffee shop with a grin on my face.

And then came the night before Kindergarten. As I emerged from the bathroom after brushing my teeth Kel signaled for me to follow him into the kid’s bedroom.

“This is the last night we have two preschoolers, she starts Kindergarten tomorrow… We have a school kid!”

We squinted at each other in the dim light and exchanged some sort of “holy crap” type look complete with raised eyebrows.

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She was going to school, for real school, not preschool but like big, huge, out in the world school.

And then I started to cry, and panic, and wish that we had some paper bags in the house so I could hyperventilate properly. (Kel offered to get me a plastic bag to which I responded “are you trying to kill me?!?”)

We headed to bed to chat about it all more and I started sobbing to him.

“I get it! I get why Moms cry when they send their kids to school! It’s not because they can’t stand to be without them for a while, it’s because this world is so damn scary and mean and we won’t be there! I need five more years to talk to her about All. The. Things!”

“Like how to be resilient when people are mean to her! And how to show love to a kid who everyone else is being mean to! And how she needs to believe what we teach her about who she is and who God says she is so if someone teases her for being too busy or picking her nose she will know that what they say doesn’t matter because people suck Kel! And OH MY GOD someone is going to offer her drugs like tomorrow, I just know it, we haven’t talked about drugs. I need five more years, I won’t be there! She is NOT READY for the big world.”

I am not ready to let the world have a crack at her. Not yet.

Because guys? The world can be so mean, so so mean and she is sweet, she is all kitties and big brown eyes and almost too many hugs and kisses every single day.

I don’t want careless people to break that.

Do you remember how scary school can be? And how mean kids are? I may as well toss her to the wolves as send her to Kindergarten!

I know she will come home crying and I know that we will have 17,842 more talks about life as it’s happening, complete with names, faces and context.

But Kindergarten day was dawning and I felt suddenly obscenely unprepared.

Still, the sun rose and we pulled on her skort and her polo. I did her hair in pigtails WITH little braids in them, completely exhausting my updo skills.

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We walked down to the fantastic Montessori school and I kept breathing as we stood amongst a crowd of other excited buzzing parents and children.

When her teacher walked out I eyeballed her and thought something along the lines of: you better cherish her little heart and see how wonderful she is or I will break you in half…(just kidding Ms Jennifer… if you’re reading this I’m sorry and I swear I will rock snack duty next week.)

It’s like this:

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” ~Elizabeth Stone

This quote nails it.

Suddenly you wake up and you send your unprepared heart to Kindergarten, and it’s all exposed and out there. You can’t swoop in to protect it and past experience tells you that there’s a 1000% chance it will be broken time and time again.

You think of every mean thing that happened to you and try frantically to protect your child from enduring the same. You know broken is beautiful and that she has to learn to endure heartache, to believe in who she is because she’s had to defend it, to see the world through other people’s eyes because she has access to them…

And you want to believe that God has her, but your life tells you that his “in control” and your “in control” are worlds apart. He will allow hard things to happen to her, the bitter and the sweet are coming, neither of which call to question his power or love… somehow.

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So you send your heart to Kindergarten and you make peace with the lump in your throat and the look of terror on your face. You remind yourself that you are new at being a school-kid mom and that you have much to learn as well.

And you will learn, both of you, and it will be some sort of okay even though it will constantly take you by surprise.

And you realize the morning of Kindergarten that not only do you have no idea how to spell the world, that you grossly misjudged how it would feel to send her through those doors to face the big world, to let it have access to her.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don't get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don’t get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

Oh world, be gentle
Oh God shape her, May I always be her safe place second only to you as you are the only one who has staying power on this earth.
Oh Noelle, be brave, be unapologetically yourself, be a good friend, a passionate learner.
Oh God… be with her in that classroom, preserve that heart so she can show the world how much beauty you jam packed in there… 

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Meeting Nickel Baby ( A gender reveal and subsequent feelings )

Hi friend, it’s been a while. Too long really.

RIght now I’m sitting in the living room while our family watches world cup, loudly, and my daughter pecks at my feet with a beanie baby rooster. This is life, crazy and often happening all at once.

My son is sleeping on the love seat after falling asleep on the way home from the pool, it’s 5:25. This is likely not a great idea but I really don’t have the energy or creativity to get him to wake up right now.

And this morning we got to see baby Penny #3 on ultrasound, which brought tears from all of the places my feelings originate from.

At first the baby wouldn’t cooperate with the ultrasound tech, position wise, so I had to take a walk around the building and chug some more water for bladder fullness.

Then slowly the tech was able to get the measurements she needed. Legs, arms, belly, fingers all accounted for.

FInally she asked us if we wanted to know the gender, we did, we do. I’m still not sure all the reasons why we always find out early, I guess my theory is that the surprise happens either way, at 20 weeks or at 40.

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Kel knew figured it out before the tech got there, We’re having a baby girl!

We told the kids the only way that seemed appropriate, over pink cream cheese bagels.

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Noelle was a lot happier about the news than Caedmon. He’s sort of bummed about not having a baby brother, which is fine. He will be excited when she arrives, right?

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Since the bagel reveal with cute cream cheese photos was a total flop we picked up some balloons, should have been an obvious first choice. Kids love balloons more than bagels. They’ll turn around one day.

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Today I am full of feelings, some of them joyful and excited and some look  more like question marks.

Can we parent three kids well in the middle of all this transition?
Can I bring up daughters who are strong and confident, who trust God in a deep sense and who believe they can do hard things?

Probably. There is healing, there is learning, there is grace.

God meets us all sorts of places, especially in the midst of fear and chaos.

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A Bringer of Water (Even though it’s easier to ignore thirsty people)

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I’ve already referenced in this post that my time at Festival of Faith and Writing made a significant impact on me.  But nothing struck me more than my two sessions sitting at the feet of Anne Lammott.

Because when you hear Saint Anne (as my friend refers to her) speak it fills up your grace tank for a while, it changes the way you look at things and people, including yourself.

A week later her words were still ringing in my mind and echoing in my stream of consciousness.

Miraculously, they managed to make their way into my head during the least likely hour imaginable, the post bed hour when I’ve officially clocked out but my kids are still intent on getting a bit more from me.

More water, more snuggles, more words, more attention.

All when I have absolutely nothing left. 

It was one of THOSE nights, where you’re playing whack a mole, and you’re losing. When you swear that if another child appears at the top of the stairs you’re going to really and truly start sobbing.

And then there they are, standing at the top with a small pleading voice with a myriad of requests. I need you to scary spray the room, I need some more mommy snuggles, Caedmon stole my puppy, I have to poop and you need to wipe me.

In this particular instance it was our four year Noelle, and she wanted some more water, serving three of water to be exact.

I struggle with doling out water at bedtime and here’s why: On the one hand, it’s water and a basic human need. On the other hand, too much of it and I’m stripping the bed in the morning in exchange for clean sheets.

I was about to yell “No, Noelle. Back to bed!” When my voice caught in my throat.

Why? Because I was thirsty, I myself needed some water.

And that’s when Anne Lammott’s words floated back to me. She said so much on grace and loving well and often her controlling metaphor was water.

“We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty.”

Noelle was thirsty, I was thirsty too and she couldn’t get herself water, the cups were out of reach. And there I laid on the couch, the one given charge to keep her from being thirsty, even when it was incredibly irritating to do so.

Sure, there was a chance that her request was really just a ploy for bedtime avoidance, but do you risk it when someone is genuinely requesting water? I mean, it’s water.

I got off the couch, suddenly tenderized by the basic truth of our shared need. My daughter and I needed water.

I told Kel: “I can’t yell at thirsty people, I have to get her water even if she’s just stalling, this is what loving well looks like.”

I probably wasn’t that eloquent at 8:45.

But I got her a little water, right after I made her use the bathroom. And there was something in Anne’s words and my challenge to be my daughter’s water carrier that caused me to respond to her in love, with genuine tenderness as I put her back in bed for the fifth time.

And this interaction has been challenging my thought life ever since, asking me: “What does it look like to give water to the people in your life? And what is water to them, for their bodies, for their hearts? What is the thing you are charged to do so that their basic thirsts are met?”

For Kel it’s words of encouragement and for Caedmon it’s the knowledge that he is needed and his opinions matter. For Noelle it’s time and attention when she wants to read or play kitties.

There are so many things that people are really, genuinely thirsty for. Am I doing something about this?

Or have I been too preoccupied by my own needs to notice the thirsty all around me.

I want to be a bringer of water, not because I’m amazing or even all that Holy, but because there is a Spirit alive in me that I’ve made head space for. I want to quiet the bulk of the noise to make room for the cues that tell me, this person needs water from you.

Bringing water requires paying attention
Bringing water requires telling the head demons in your own mind to be quiet, because you’re living for someone else please and thank you.
Bringing water requires a laying down of what you thought you’d being doing and instead, redirecting your energies.

I want to be a bringer of water in this world, with my words, my hands, my time. To leave the space I live in and the people in my life just a bit more deeply quenched.

This will require prayer, sacrifice and attention, may the Lord grant me more of these things.

How do you bring water to those in your life? How is God leading you to do this in new ways? 

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How to Meet and Marry an Okie (part 2)

This is chapter two of my little blog-novel about how I met my Okie husband on the internet machine. For chapter one, click here. 

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Leanne and the infamous road trip Lincoln.

The phone calls with Kel started at “just this once” and then “only for special occasions” but as good things tend to do, they became an addiction. We started talking to each other every other night, for at least two hours.

I think “every other night” was an unspoken rule. We’d never met in person and we had no idea what “this” was so every night phone calls would be crazy, but every other night was normal… or at least less insane.

We’d have to wait until his evening minutes kicked in and we never indulged in daytime calls unless it was an emergency. We had email and AIM for that and he didn’t want to get in trouble with his mom for using too much from their share plan. Cell phone rules used to be so quirky back the days when we actually called people

So every other evening I’d crawl into my American Flag day bed (Yes, really) and wait for him to call, and at 9:01 like clockwork his number would light up my little flip phone.

And we’d talk about our days
We’d talk about God
We’d talk about our families
We’d talk about random things like “if you could have a farm with four corrals of animals, any animals you’d choose, what would you have and why?”

FYI Kel would have all beavers, because he wants to see what it would be like when they stampede.

We figured out how much I hate the word penetrate... A lot… by the way… just typing it made me feel icky… 

Sometimes on the weekends he would talk to me as I delivered pizzas, I’d update him about the weirdness of people and how much they did or didn’t tip.

The one night, inevitably I suppose, we discussed the idea of meeting in person. He was planning a cross country, seminary tour road trip with his best friend and was planning to be in Ohio and Chicago and “could he come up and meet me, no expectations?

We’d always joked about how we’d never meet in person, and suddenly all that was changing.

I have no idea what I said, probably “sure” or “yes,” but in my mind I was nervous. This was getting real! Meeting him in only a few months?

I had no idea what we had but I was really scared of screwing it up and losing it. Kel was this voice on the other end of the line, these words on the other end of the computer screen… this person I’d never met who understood and cared more than most I’d met in real life.

Of course I “wanted” to meet him, but…

I was so nervous about it that when the time came, I ran down my immune system and started feeling that preemptive nasty cold sore throat just hours before he pulled into town.Still, I gulped down some medicine and drove to our designated meet-up spot, calling my friend and coworker Amy on the way for moral support.

I pulled up, Amy stayed on the line to be sure that I wasn’t going to get kidnapped by a serial killer.

I got out of the car and he walked out of the house where he was staying, wearing a gray button up shirt and khaki cut-offs pants he’d made himself. They were fraying at the bottom.

And then there we were, saying hi and hugging and so nervous about things that we could hardly speak.

I ran back to my phone to let Amy know I was not being kidnapped… our plan was fool proof, obviously.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t bells and whistles, it was one of the most awkward moments of my life. We didn’t know how to do face to face, we knew late night phone calls and AIM flirting and here we were face to face for the first time yet already knowing each other’s deepest junk.

Yet we sallied forth and went out for dinner. I’m pretty sure I talked to his friend Andy more than I talked to Kel and he spent the meal smiling and flicking straw wrappers and napkin balls at my head like a first grade boy. (yes, really.)

After dinner, we headed back to my parents house to play cards and eventually parted ways for the evening.

The next day I took them to Lake Michigan and we went to our first movie in the soon to be demolished Studio 28 where his friend got us free popcorn and Nachos. We watched Shrek 2 and he gained gold stars for letting me eat most of his nachos after I tanked my own.. I mean who has brakes for free nachos? No one that’s who. 

That night we said goodbye, hugged and went our separate ways. I was supposed to accompany them to Chicago to the next day day but instead I ended up staying home instead, my sore throat had turned into full blown sick.

I thought it was goodbye forever. That wasn’t kismet, or movie worthy at all… it was sort of awkward, I wondered if we would even keep up the phone calls. 

He didn’t call much in the next few weeks because he was on the road finishing his seminary-tour road trip.

But then, one night he did and we resumed our every-other phone call thing like nothing had changed between us, like nary a straw wrapper was flicked.

Summer came and clicked along and we grew closer, over the phone and in emails. This was our jam. I’d never encountered anyone in my life who seemed to be so into me, who got my crazy and for some reason kept coming back for more? What the what?

Labor Day weekend rolled around and I had this urge to hang out with him, it was insatiable.. but there were serious barriers, the 1,000 mile variety.

1) It was Friday and I had no way to get to Oklahoma, surely holiday weekend tickets would be astronomical.
2) I was scheduled to work 3 jobs that weekend / next Tuesday (Pizza, Desk Job, Delivering Papers)
3) I had mentioned NONE of this to Kel, how much crazy could he take?

So I shot up an arrow prayer that went something like this: Okay God, if you want this to happen: All of my bosses have to be cool with me not working, the ticket has to be less than $200 and Kel has to be free for a visit.

Within the next 30 minutes every stipulation was met and I had booked my ticket to Oklahoma City.

I didn’t have to fly out of Chicago or Detroit, the first search I made on Hotwire was a ticket leaving the next morning from Grand Rapids into Oklahoma City for only $199.

So I called Kel and it went something like this:
“Hey what are you doing over Labor Day weekend?”
“Parking cars for the OU game and that’s all I HAVE to do.”
“Can I come visit?”
” Tomorrow? That’s weird, you know that? Like tomorrow, tomorrow? I won’t have to time to arrange for you to stay with a girl friend but I guess I can sleep on the couch. Uh, sure. Why not?… this is weird.”
“I know, I just really want to hang out.”

So I booked my ticket, dyed my hair bright red… because brave things call for brave hair… and boarded a plane to Oklahoma City the very. next. morning.

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Ordinary is Extraordinary (children’s book review and giveaway!)

So yesterday a dream came true, did you know? Could you feel it?

Yesterday one of my best friend’s new Children’s book, Extraordinary Jane by Hannah Harrison, hit the shelves (both digital and in real life) and it’s so beautiful.

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I saw it take shape in her dining room, I heard about the story as we drove to the children’s museum and went out for trivia at the wine bar.

And now it’s here and we’re reading it on the couch before bed and after lunch and I find myself in tears every read through… because books are miracles guys.

They’re whispers of dreams fanned into reality by hard work and a thousand bootstrap moments.

I still remember the first time I met Hannah, six years ago at our initial lifegroup meeting in Oklahoma. I was sitting on a folding chair, eating tacos, terrified to engage anyone and exhausted by our move into town two days earlier.

Across the room everyone was oohing and ahhing over something, later in the evening they called me over to fill me in. This girl had painted these amazing Alice in Wonderland portraits of one of the group member’s daughters. They were tiny… and beyond amazing.  You can see them here

Christmas crafting after Thanksgiving dinner

Christmas crafting after Thanksgiving dinner

Over time we became good friends, sharing holidays together as families and swapping woes about being writers and moms and OH MY GOD the HEAT in Oklahoma, surely we will die (she’s from New Hampshire.)

She’s one of the most encouraging, hilarious, creative and lovely people I’ve ever met on the planet and I miss our walks and in-person chats deeply.

And now holding her book is like holding a piece of her heart, straight from her home in Oklahoma via Amazon.com.

Let’s talk about the book a bit more, shall we?

Jane is an ordinary dog in an extraordinary circus. She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. When she tries to be those things, Jane just doesn’t feel like herself, but she also doesn’t feel special. Is she really meant for this kind of life? Her Ringmaster thinks so, but not for the reasons Jane believes.

This is a lesson I want to impart to my children on a regular basis, and certainly one I’m still working through myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is accomplishing and then turn those observations into very real feelings of inadequacy.

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The theme is something every child in our accomplishment-driven society needs to have read to them. Through the experiences of a circus dog, maybe we can take one more step toward helping them believe that it’s not your accomplishments that make you loved or acceptable. Your parent’s love, God’s love, the love of true friends isn’t conditional, doesn’t depend on your achievement.

I think my favorite parts of the book are the tender and thoughtful expressions on the Ringmaster’s face and he helps Jane figure out where she belongs. To me they mirror the acceptance and love that I know God has for me I don’t have to perform or fit in a niche to be extraordinary in his eyes.

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does” ~Kathleen Kelly of the Little Book Store

This is a lesson I want my children to internalize.

I hope that long into the future, when Noelle and Caedmon are selecting books for their children’s libraries that this book book floats back into their memories, that it has become a classic by that time.

And lucky for you I am giving away a copy of this gorgeous book today!

And all you need to do is leave a comment below that answers this question: What book did you read as a child that wove it’s way into your heart and made an impact?

For me it was Perfect the Pig by Susan Jeschke, I loved the way Perfect was enough for her, beautiful even though he was very different… how she fought for him, loved him.  

But don’t rely on the giveaway, go buy a copy right now. Buy a few and do what I am doing, give them away at every kid’s birthday party for the foreseeable future.

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Reflections on the life-saving gift of Caedmon on the occasion of his 3rd birthday

My baby is three. I have no idea how that happened, except yes, I sort of do.

It happened through late night nursing and strained carrots, through sippy cups and walks in the park, it came in tantrums and way too early morning snuggles and then?

Then this morning we woke up and there he was, three years old and requesting his 5 am snuggles, whispering me awake, warm breath on my face.

I followed him down the hall and pointed to the decorations, the streamers, the puff balls and the tissue wrapped banister.

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He made demands, because even on his birthday that’s who he is: a little boy still clinging to the firm belief that he is the axis on which the world turns.

Then there was an epic muffin-related tantrum where he ran around the dining room with the $6 box of gluten free muffin mix screaming.

“I don’t want you to make them, I just want to eat them!”

I’ve learned to halt logical thought in moments like this. #wheresmycoffeeIloveyouhappybirthday

Time out for both of us. 

Time outs are all about time to think things over, right?  

I choose to think about the timing of babies.  It is as my friend Anne Bogel says “a crapshoot.”  

Can I tell you a secret? We had a big fight after Caedmon was conceived over who was supposed to do what and “what if we just got pregnant?”

Then I retreated into the bathroom to cry, wailing about how if I did turn up pregnant then I would always remember how we fought about it.

what if our fight just turned my womb into a hostile and unfriendly environment?!”

Don’t you love the ridiculous things we think and say in the middle of arguments? 

And then? Cue Caedmon.

Caedmon who announced his arrival before we’d even had the chance to celebrate Noelle’s first birthday. Who’s presence made me worry that people would doubt our intelligence and sanity with two babies so close together (20 months.)

Little did we know that this pregnancy was a life raft in disguise. Little did we know that this baby boy would be more than wanted, he would be a needed distraction in one of the worst seasons of our lives.

The baby I wasn’t sure I was ready for is the thing that kept me going after my mom took her life.  

I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Caedmon when we got the call, made the trip, planned the funeral. I was heavy with pregnancy and grief when I spent hours and hours on my feet greeting funeral guests in cheap, plasticy ballet flats.

At my next OB appointment I filled my doctor in on what had gone down since our last visit. He immediately escorted me down the hall to “take a peek at the little guy.”

“Is he going to be okay? Isn’t stress really hard on unborn babies?”
“He’s going to be fine, it’s going to be just fine.”
“But I’ve read that in like, a thousand places. Extreme stress isn’t healthy in pregnancy, I’m there, extremely stressed.”
“It’ll be okay, you’ll see.  He’s doing great.” 

Pan to baby on ultrasound. Healthy heartbeat. Healthy growth. Healthy boy.

When people asked me about the pregnancy I would usually tell them it was all fine

But if I decided to be honest I would tell them: “I just want him to be born, even early.  I want him to be in a happier place than inside me. I need to see him. I worry about him, being along for the ride on all of this. What if he’s born sad?”

People would tell me it was ridiculous but that didn’t change my mother’s heart…

 I just wanted to see him on the outside, have him in Kel’s arms and safe from the storm inside of me.

Yet all along I knew that this child came for a reason. He came as the best and possibly only beautiful distraction that could have turned our heads in that season.

I don’t understand the foreknowledge of God and I couldn’t tell you why mom left as she did, when she did.

But I deeply believe that Caedmon’s birth right after my Mom’s death was no accident.

photography by Janey Wilson

photography by Janey Wilson

And when he came? Oh, the joy of that moment.

When he came I was able to let go of the worst of it and trade it willingly, gladly for the joy that comes with holding a minutes-old baby.  It wasn’t “all better” but guys, it was better with Caedmon.

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He was loud, he was particular, he was beautiful, he peed all over everything but he was here.

And now he’s three and he doesn’t understand a word of this story. He only grins when I show him pictures of the day he was born, He grins and asks when the muffins will be ready.

He has no idea that there was a time in which he was one day and seven pounds old, a time in which he kind of saved our lives.

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