Ode to Tradition

traditionThese days we are full-flung into the season of family and celebration. It’s all making me feel a little bit like Tevye from the famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, stomping around the house crying, “Tradition!” I’m just missing the big bushy beard and belly to jiggle…OK a few other things too. But you know what I mean.

So here’s my nod to tradition:

At my house, we’ve already hosted Thanksgiving, gone to the tree farm, and trimmed our tree. We’re edging into December and we’re living in Thanksmas at the moment—halfway between pumpkins and snowflakes…Tradition!

We’ve made gingerbread houses and peppermint bark, we’re prepping for Christmas cookies and eating leftover pecan pie. My waistline might be expanding if I didn’t hit the treadmill at 5 am…Tradition!

My kids try to sneak peaks at the packages I’ve hidden on the top shelf of the closet. I’ve been bit by the same generous bug as St. Nicholas and there are presents for nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, including a new game for us to all play together…Tradition!

Somewhere under a pile of school papers is the advent calendar. Every night, we clear space enough space on the table to avoid a fire hazard, when we light the Advent candles, and read a special Christmas book…Tradition!

We’ve smiled for pictures that are perfect. Stuffed messes away. We clean up real nice, but we’re starting to fray.

So purpose and meaning we seek, packing shoeboxes full of toys for kids who’ve nothing, put together scarves for the homeless, given presents to the local foster group home. And, while good and necessary and right, it still lacks a bit of something.

Perhaps it’s a leftover melancholy from my childhood, where traditions were few and far between. But as I sit here in the quiet, with my coffee, I wonder if meaning comes less from tradition, and more from the consistent presence of a loving friend or parent.

So yes, tradition has purpose and contributes to meaning. But it’s my presence inside those traditions that make the difference. And somehow that’s a little freeing.

Wishing you a blessed week…and one full of meaning with a side of holiday tradition.Tweet This

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Worth a Thousand Words

thousand-wordsFrom the moment my daughter was born, she was most content when not inside. As a baby, the best way to calm her colicky crying was to snuggle her in a bouncy seat under the maple tree or, when it got cold, take her for a ride in a sled.

During her early years, I spent hours in the woods trailing a toddler looking for critters under overturned logs, disguised behind leaves, and lurking in the water. We amazed at how they were created to adapt to their environment and needs.

I started photographing the animals we found and put them into a book for my girl…and those little books became board books published a few years back. (Check out the All About God’s Animal series over here.)

My girl is a tween now and doesn’t need me by her side as she builds tree forts and digs for fishing worms. And so it’s been a long, long time since I hunted the woods, beaches, and waterways for critters and nature to capture on film.

my-girlUntil now. A few days ago, my girl asked me to go take pictures with her. The little dude was at soccer practice and the field is hemmed in with fields and trees—full of natural beauty, decay, and life all mixed together for us to explore. Continue reading “Worth a Thousand Words”

Creek Water and Redemption

creek-water-redemptionThere’s just something about a creek…or, if you’re from the South or small town Indiana like my Gramma, a crick.

We had one of these magical places behind my house growing up. It was home to a huge rock, a towering sand cliff, and more horsetail reeds than a kid could possibly make into pretend salads. We hunted frogs, fish, and imaginative respite.

It was my home outside my home. So when, as an adult, I saw a creek meandering behind a beautiful house, my heart fell in love…despite the fact my husband and I were planning to move elsewhere at the time.

Weed clogged and dirty, this creek was basically run-off from all the neighbors’ yards complete with resident frogs and occasional fish. The fact that I was enormously pregnant didn’t stop me from weed-whacking the entire backyard and meticulously laying out newspaper to stop the weeds from coming back up. I still don’t know how I did it. I could barely touch my toes.

In the 8 years since we moved, our creek has filled in a bit and the frogs have moved out. My kids don’t seem quite as interested and I don’t know which came first—the disinterest or my neglect of it.

However I’m beginning to suspect that my decision to not attack the weeds and debris in our creek had a lot to do with the disinterest.

There’s reasons. Good ones. But not good enough ones.

Continue reading “Creek Water and Redemption”

Calling Mommy Back-Up

Mommy Back-UpA friend of mine emailed me the other day. She’s pregnant, her job is going haywire, her husband is in full-time school, and just that day, her son figured out how to climb out of his crib . . . and forgot how to sleep.

Yeah. One of those times.

And I was her about 5 years ago when my son (then 2-years-old) climbed out of his crib and promptly refused his nap, bedtime, and every other structure we had in place at the time. Did I mention that I work from home? And the only time I had to work was during nap time. Um. Problem.

So I identify with my friend. I emailed her back giving her a few hints, ideas, and thoughts. And she’s been on my mind ever since. I dropped her a line a few days later wondering if there’s something I can do to help—bring a meal, babysit, conjure sanity from thin air.

I hope she takes me up on it. I’d be happy to help, and she could use the Mommy back-up.

But I’m afraid she won’t. Because let’s face it.

When I was there I didn’t want to ask for help. It felt too, well, needy.

In fact I didn’t want to take help or in any way look like I couldn’t handle it. I should be able to do it on my own. Right? Right?! I can still see my hands shaking from too much caffeine and not enough sleep. I was so tired, I literally walked into walls.

While I’m not walking into walls these days, I am overwhelmed. Partly because I stupidly said yes to too many things. And partly because my oldest is entering teenhood, trying to figure out life, and she needs her mom (and I refuse to be anywhere else).

I hope I learned something in the last 5 years–learned to ask for help and receive it when someone offers. I know I’ve shuffled my kids to friend’s houses, ordered pizza, and broken down and let them have more screen time than I’d like. It’s what I need to do for right now. And that’s okay.

What are the things that other people have done for you that have made your life easier? What are things you wish someone would do to give you Mommy Back-Up?

Summer Blue–A Poem

Summer Blue

Summer break is still new enough that we haven’t done too much complaining of boredom . . . yet. It’s open and we can sleep in and just breathe for a second. Paint, throw water balloons, read, . . . and go to the beach. Can’t forget the beach, where the sky breathes into the water, which slides into sand.

This unique place is one of our favorite destinations. If you’ve never made it to our neck of the woods, we have, arguably the best beaches in the world. Seriously Western Michigan’s white sandy, fresh water “ocean” coastline has often found it’s way into top mentions right alongside Hawaii, Florida, and the rest. So in honor of Lake Michigan, I give you:

Summer Blue

Continue reading “Summer Blue–A Poem”

Ode to Coffee

coffee
I lift my green mug high and salute all the parents armed against their brood with coffee, the secret weapon of our tribe. May your day be blessed…

Dearest Coffee you have such a lovely effect
When I once was falling asleep,
Your luscious caffeine wakes me up,
Or it may be the many trips to the bathroom you cause me to make.
But it doesn’t matter.
I am awake.

Your lovely smell entices me.
How is it that you do not taste
anything like you smell?
The acidic brew eats at my stomach.
But it doesn’t matter. Continue reading “Ode to Coffee”

Getting Hold of Stillness

StillnessMy husband’s across the country for work, and my kids were both home sick yesterday. Now I’m playing catch-up. I have a million things to do. I can’t see my kitchen counter or my table. There’s Kleenex decorating the couch and deadlines looming for all my jobs. My heart is racing and tears are hovering just under the surface.

And the dog needs to go potty. Really?!

So I open the door for our crazy Sheltie and bright sunshine pours in. The chirping of birds. Bright red, freshly planted flowers line the path to my door. And I sigh. I hear the whisper. Be Still.

A momentary thought of “The List” has my hands shaking, but Continue reading “Getting Hold of Stillness”

Intentional . . .

Intentional Parenting 400pxThis isn’t my normal posting day, but I have news and I’m too excited to not share with you all. I’m starting a new venture blogging and editing for the brand new Dove Parenting Blog. It’s for The Dove Foundation, which is an amazing non-profit that works to help parents make intelligent decisions about the media kids consume. They’re kind of the originators of the concept and have Hollywood’s ear.

While the Dove Parenting Blog is a lot more “mommy blog” than what I do here, there’s a lot of cross-over. The blog is all about being an intentional parent and helping other parents on that path too. Being intentional about our lives in general is what makes it possible for us to uncover beauty–pretty or not. See, it’s connected.

So for any parents out there, feel free to pop over and check out Dove’s blog, spread the word, and let me know what you think.

There’s Something About Thursday: A Mother’s Hands

It’s time for one of the two Thursdays of every month where I give a nod to the things that make us stop and say, “There’s something about . . .”

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It was 4 am and my son had a stomachache. We’d already been up together for hours trying to find something, anything to help relieve the pain. At 1 and then again at 3:30 we tried warm bath, which temporarily helped, but we couldn’t sleep there. Ice pack only made it worse, a warm rice bag prevented tears, until it cooled . . . and still no sleep. Even vomiting an hour earlier didn’t relieve his tear-filled, curled-in pain.

I sat wedged in a corner, exhausted, cradling my boy’s head, thumb tracing down his face—forehead to nose, forehead to nose. My boy’s eyelids drooped as he whimpered and grabbed my hand. His small hands still dimpled at the knuckles, mine starting to show the ridges of age.

I was struck by the familiar sight. This fusion of old and young is one I’d seen before. Continue reading “There’s Something About Thursday: A Mother’s Hands”

Trust, Sweat, and Tears

Trust, Sweat, TearsI sat on the edge of my son’s bed, hands shaking, stomach roiling at the thought of what I had to do. String thread through my fingers, a loop hung in the middle.

His eyes were wide, tears brimming. It had to be done and there was no one else to do it.

The only reason my son sat still as I reached into his mouth, was because he trusted that I loved him . . . and it was, after all, only a tooth that needed to be pulled. Continue reading “Trust, Sweat, and Tears”