Category Archives: Uncategorized

Parenting in the Garden

They are toddlers, and only two of them. I take with me to the garden, showing them the plants I’ve already planted, letting them help with the last few–my hands over theirs, patting the dirt into place. No one cries, no one needs a fresh diaper before we were done; it is a successful day.

Then there are three, one in a stroller and two sharing the hose. I show them how to separate the roots–“This way the roots can spread out and grow better.”–and together we pat the dirt into place.

Soon they turn the plants out of the pots themselves, spreading the roots, placing them so carefully into the holes I dug. We chat about what will grow–the tomatoes we will preserve and how the strawberries are already forming berries.

Today, I stand at one end of the row, watching them dig the holes, turn out the plants, and place them. The oldest tells the youngest, “Spread out the roots so it can get growing right away,” and she complies. The middle turns to me: “Does this hole look deep enough?” and I nod, and I think how next year they could do this themselves.

They are almost ready.

I think about the plants we’ve planted tonight: those extroverted tomatoes that spread all over if you let them, but burst forth with riotously colored fruits; the quieter zucchini introvert that stays in place and hides its produce under giant leaves; early producing rhubarb–tart, but can be sweetened; the potatoes and onions that give their produce last–but it lasts through the winter. I see these characteristics in my children.

I see my children in my garden. We train them, prune them back, water, weed, wait. We show them what we want from them, then trust God will bring the harvest.




Kicking the Bucket

Apparently I was nominated for this ALS ice-bucket challenge that’s running rampant on Facebook. I wouldn’t know, if my husband hadn’t told me…the challenge was posted on the page of someone I know but am not Facebook friends with.

I saw this person tonight, and he asked when I plan to post my own video.

While most people can be deterred with a joke or a vague excuse, this person didn’t lose track. And honestly, I don’t know this person well enough to know if he was just killing time (we were both waiting for children to finish an activity) or if he truly thought I should do this.

So I’ve run through the gamut of “I should probably do this even thought I don’t want to because it’s good to do things you don’t want to do but man I don’t want to and I definitely don’t want to do it just because I’m following the crowd and anyway, I don’t agree with the organization and its methods so I’m not interested in supporting it anyway but I guess I could do like other people and name a different organization that I do want to stand behind and besides who wants to be the late adopter and if I was going to do it I should have done it in the first few days, not now that everyone has done it but I suppose I should probably do it…” Yeah, I think I’ve covered it all.

But I realized that this is what it comes down to: The only reason I’m even vaguely considering it is because someone personally pressured me to. And while I think highly of what I know of this person, I don’t think that I care enough about his opinion of me to dump ice water on my head. I’ve spent too many years trying to simultaneously be noticed for being different and please everyone, while still managing to not be noticed, and I have to keep reminding myself that I’m over this.

If I choose to take the ice bucket challenge, it will be because I care about the issues, because I want to prompt others to make a difference for something…not because I’m trying to up the esteem of someone I see once a week.

It seems like a small thing, but for me, that’s pretty big.

Fearfulness and Dirty Turtles

They’re not really related, but they’re what’s on my mind.  (Is it really okay to use two contractions in a row?  Seems lazy…but not lazy enough to merit changing anything.)  I’m in a cabin on a lake in Minnesota–and thinking about how that bit of information probably isn’t specific enough for anyone to track me down, if they were so inclined, especially since my particular lake doesn’t show on most of the maps I’ve checked.  Anyway, I’m on vacation, with lots of fishin-on-a-boat-with-nothing-to-do-but-think time, and so I’ve got something to say.

Here’s the first:
Motherhood is a fearful calling.  Motherhood is a fear-filled calling, for that matter, and I’m not sure which description is more accurate.  It’s certainly something that we get to be mothers…that we are entrusted with these little people, set free with them even if we’ve never managed to keep a plant alive, allowed to shape and mold them in the way we see fit.  I’m always a little in awe of the whole deal.

But for me, there’s this continuous fear involved, too.  I ride in the boat with one hand clenched around the strap of a shortie’s life jacket–not because I think she will fall or because she is afraid or even because I worry that a sudden squall will tip our boat over and drown us–but because I don’t trust the water.  It’s a tricky thing, that water.  I’m not afraid of it, really, but when it comes to the shorties, I certainly don’t trust it.  There’s a myriad of other things I don’t trust:  swings with really long chains, excursions into really tall trees, hikes along narrow mountain ledges, roller coasters…it goes on and on.

And yet.

And yet, I find myself continuously letting go, giving permission, taking pictures of these adventures.  Because to hold on is to allow myself to be conquered by the fear, to let it grow and control me. I fight that every day.  I smile and click off another picture, try to seem at ease even when I’m sure the shortie is going to fall overboard, never to be seen again.  I loosen my grip on the life jacket strap (even if I realize seconds later that my fist is already clenched around it again), and I think about these people in trusted to me, and I vow to let them go, to let them grow and discover and even fear for themselves.

Oh, and about those dirty turtles?
My dad had this saying when it was taking us a long time to get all loaded into the car.  He’d say, “And we’re off like a herd of turtles.”  I came to understand that it was a tongue-in-cheek comment about our speed.  Other times he’d say, “We’re off like a dirty shirt.”  I’m still not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I use both sayings here and there.  Lately, I noticed that it has evolved to, “And we’re off, like a herd of dirty shirts.”

Real Life Does Not Imitate Movies, Apparently

The kids watched High School Musical 2 today, as part of their “Yay, we’re done with school for the year!” celebration. If you’ve seen that particular strain of movies, you know that high schoolers randomly break into song–even if they’re playing baseball.

So tonight we went to a real baseball game.  With real high schoolers.

Afterwards, both girls, at separate times, told me the game would have been much more fun if the players had danced and sang sometime during the game.  And, “the game was a lot longer in real life than it was in the movie.”

I wonder at what point they will realize how much real life isn’t like movies.

It’s Been a Long Time…

…since I’ve laughed so hard.

We’re visiting friends from Kansas, just overnight, and somehow we wound up playing Mexican Train dominoes.  Not that it applies to anything, but you needed setting.  I was winning and Smiddy was sure I could have been helping him out a little.  Martha tried to convince the group I had sharpies and white out under the table, and that was how things were going so well for me.  Finally, after I messed Smiddy’s next play up yet again, I told him, “I took an online personality test once…it said I was pragmatic.”

Harry looked up, startled, then relaxed.  “I thought you said you took an online personality test and it said you were pregnant.”

Oh, did we laugh.

Later, we contemplated the ramifications of online pregnancy tests…


I just erased probably 200 words, decided they weren’t worth your time. Here’s a cute kid instead.
Mayhem: Mom, I slept wrecklessly last night!
Thora: Wrecklessly, huh? Do you mean restlessly?
Mayhem: Well, my covers were all thrown off and I almost fell out of bed.
Thora: I guess you were sleeping wrecklessly.


Ever have one of those moments when you see yourself for who you really are–and it’s not pretty? Happened to me last night.

I was standing across from her, noticing her trendy, highlighted haircut and her pretty dress. She complimented me on my tights, I returned with a comment about her nifty boots. And then she had to walk away to take care of something, and as I watched her, I found myself looking for a flaw. Was there a run in her tights? Perhaps that dress didn’t fit as well as I thought?

And then I realized what I was doing. I wasn’t just looking for a flaw…I was looking for failure. I was trying to find some small area where I could say, “See! She doesn’t have that right! I’m better than her!”

What a pitiful, small way to live! And that’s been eating at me all morning. Is this really what I do? Do I really watch and wait, smile and compliment, all the while searching for something in the other person that I can find fault in, something to draw my attention off of my own failings?

If she speaks harshly to her children, then I can say I am better than her, I, who never raises my voice but can use it to cut. If I condemn her behavior, then I don’t have to deal with my own lack of self-discipline. If her haircut isn’t quite up to today’s standards, then my insecurities about my own style can be held at bay.

Except for this: I think I also assume that everyone is doing the same thing to me. If I am critiquing every person I come in contact with, then certainly they must have an equally watchful eye trained on me. What pressure! I sat at a Christmas party the other night, painfully aware that my socks weren’t working with my outfit. My socks. There’s this perceived pressure I’m dragging around with me all of the time, and I’m extending it to those around me.

And now it’s hitting me. Smiddy said something the other day, that he tries to see me the way God sees me. How often do I do that? Have I ever done that? I filter me, and those around me, through this sieve of failings, but that’s not how God sees me.

So…today, I’m trying to see me (and my children, and those I come into contact with) the way God sees me. I’m packing suitcases and fighting off this weird seasonal vertigo thing, and I’m trying to look past failings and irritations, trying to find the grace for myself that I know God gives.

Standing Still

The children were talking about an upcoming visit to Kansas this morning.  They are excited to fly on an airplane, and to see their friends again.  What I noticed was that they speak of their friends as if the friends haven’t changed in the ten months since they have been together.  I wondered if they will have trouble connecting with their friends–after all, my children are different people than they were almost-a-year-ago, and their friends will be, too.  

We change a little every day, and yet, because that change is so minute, we rarely recognize it in ourselves until we look back and compare our now-self to our then-self.  Not only that, but we affect those around us–and they affect us–in so many ways.  We’re growing to fit each other, usually, I think.  So when we move away, when our contact grows farther between and our lives no longer intertwine, then the little sprouts of our lives begin to shoot out in their own directions.  

I wonder if Mayhem’s quiet friend will still be willing to let Mayhem take the lead in everything, or if she will have found a voice of her own.  Will Frienzy’s clingy friend still need so much, or will it be Frenzy left wishing for more?  

All of these questions today, and even they are shaping me and my actions….because none of us are standing still.

Some Days

Some days, you wake up and you grab onto that sunrise, seeing it as God speaking to you, reassuring you, reminding you that He’s got this, He’s in control.

Some days, you use too many commas and you don’t bother to try to fix it.

Some days, you realize that what isn’t said is far more important than what is.

Some days, you write it all down, hoping that will help you remember what the issues are and what needs working on.

Some days, you find old letters to God, old pleas for help and comfort, efforts to sort it all out, and you remember that there is nothing new under the sun.

And some days–you work out and get on with the day because it isn’t going to get any better if you sit here moping about it.


Mayhem: I saw a dress you might like, Mommy. But it was skinnier than you.

Thora: Well, it was nice of you to think of me.

Mayhem: It was taller than you, too. You’re really not that tall.

Thora: Any other compliments you’d like to pay me?

Mayhem (looks me up and down, finally says): Your shoes and your shirt match!