Saturday, November 29, 2014

Car Talk

Remember those days?

Those days when your kids babbled or cooed or were just learning to speak?

It was cute, right?

And oh..........that first word, the first mama, the first "I love you" melts your heart.

But you know what else is great?

Car talk.

I love car talk.

Well, most of the time.

Sometimes the VERBOSITY of my children can get to me........I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY GET IT FROM.

But much of the time I love car talk.

It's unguarded talk - they can't look right at me and I can't look right at them.  It's time when we are all in one place with nothing to do - no toys, no screens, no distractions, no work, no other people.  Just me and them.

And so the other night we are in the car and the talk begins.

Fia:  B******** asked me out today


Me (in an utterly calm voice):  Oh.  (Pause)  What did you say?

(One of THE BEST pieces of advice I have ever gotten was from Suzi - NON-REACTION.  No matter what your kid says to you, what word, what idea, what thought - NON-REACTION.  It has opened a million doors to some of the best conversations I've ever had with my kids)

Fia:  I told him no.


Me:  Oh.  (Pause) Well, that seems like it was a good decision.  Third grade still seems a bit young to be going out with someone.  How did it make you feel when he asked you, though?

Fia:  It kind of freaked me out.


Me:  What happened next?  What did he do?

Fia:  He asked out a bunch of other girls.  EVEN THE NEW GIRL, Mom.  She just got here, like, last Friday and he asked her out.  Finally A****** asked if he would stop talking if she said yes and he said he would so A***** said yes and he stopped talking.  He still likes me the BEST, though.  He only likes the other girls a little.

(I am starting to see how even though it FREAKED HER OUT that she might still appreciate being the one who is liked best..............hmmmm................might have to have further talks about this.......girl to girl)

Nico (from the far back):  I would tell him NO.  NEVER.  That it is REALLY INAPPROPRIATE.

Like I said.

Car talk.

It's awesome.

Then we came home, had some dinner and Francesca said she was going to put on a dinner show.

So she did.

Splits and all in the kitchen while we ate.

It was really INAPPROPRIATE :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Promise Me

Promise that it will be me and you.  Me and you against the world together.  Against the children together.  Against the insecurities and the long nights of sleeplessness.  Against the norm, against the ways things "ought" to be.  Against the bad decisions and the hard decisions.  Me and you.  Together.

Promise me.

Promise that your arms will always hold, always encircle, always protect.  That your words will sooth and love and build up.  That your presence will be the always calm in the sometimes storms.

Promise me.

Promise that the person I have to be, the person I choose to be, the person that is on display for the world is not the person I have to be for you.  Promise that you will always love my naked self more than my made-up self.  That stripped down, laid bare Mandy is the best version, your favorite version and you'll treasure it as only yours.

Promise me.

Promise that when I do the grown up version of a kicking and screaming tantrum - when my silence is heavy and my spirit is angry that you'll see past the facade and look to the heart.  That you will recognize the core of who I am and know.  Know that I'm scared, that I'm tired, that I'm frustrated, that I'm anxious, that I'm hurt.  Know that I need you and always will but sometimes choose to push you away.  Forgive me.

Promise me.

Promise that I can throw water at you and say inappropriate 6 year old boy words and sing off key and talk too much and laugh too loud and flick spit in your face and cunningly, sneakily serve you tuna and you will laugh with me.  That we won't ever grow up and be "proper" adults that there will always be some words that are funny, some things that cause us to dissolve in laughter........even if it's just how funny the OTHER person thinks it is.

Promise me.

Promise that we'll talk.  We'll discuss.  We will always dream.  That we will never grow tired of our children's stories, that they will continue to amaze us and challenge us and make us laugh and we will talk of it.  Promise that while silence can be comfortable it never takes over our lives and that we will be the old couple at the restaurant still talking and laughing and dreaming.

Promise me.

Can you?


Promise me?

I love you.

I promise you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I love water.

Not drinking it, of course.

My drink of choice is always Diet Coke.


But I love being IN the water.

I love the feel of it on my skin.

I love the weightlessness of being immersed in the water.

I love how relaxing it is to feel it pouring over you and sweeping away the cares of the day.

I love water.

Today I was swimming - swimming laps so that I may become a bit more weightless, my body stronger.

And for a moment I didn't love the water.

I didn't love how hard it was to push against the water to propel myself forward.

I didn't love how tired and achy my body felt after I had already been on the treadmill and now was in the water.

I didn't love the obligation of the water.

I didn't love that I would close my eyes and veer out of my lane.

Nothing about the water was weightless or relaxing or delightful.

I was immersed in the OBLIGATION and STRIVING and PUSHING of myself.

I was not immersed in the water.

As I began to realize this I began to push less, I relaxed into each kick, each arm movement and let the water propel me forward.

I began to feel my body give way to the water.

I began to feel the rush of water pass me by........rolling over me and creating that feeling of weightlessness.  I began to glide more than push myself.

My body, rather than achy and tired, felt more and more restored by the water.

And I realized that is how I act towards God sometimes.

I make him an obligation.

Something to push against.

Someone who expects ME to propel myself.

I take my eyes off of Him and I veer and I get mad at being off-course.

I STRIVE and I PUSH and I act out of OBLIGATION.

But, ultimately I am not immersed in HIM.  I am immersed in SELF.

It is when I relax into Him, when I allow HIM to propel me forward, when I allow HIM to restore and renew and allow HIS presence to wash over me.........

Well, then I begin to experience weightlessness.

Weightlessness which comes from not being burdened by the cares of this world.

Weightlessness which comes from being fully loved.

Weightlessness that comes not from obligation but from a desire to be restored.

Weightlessness that comes not from self but from GOD.

Dear Father, let your presence wash over us today.  Let us experience the restoration and weightlessness that comes from fully immersing ourselves in YOU.  Let us be propelled forward not by our own strength but by yours.  


Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Job

This job?

It's hard.

It comes with so many demands - on my time, on my emotions, on my strength.

It drains me and leaves me empty, at times.

What started out as dreams and imaginings and YES! I can't wait to do this thing........well, that first burst of excitement gives way to the reality of what I signed up to do.

It's just a lot more work than I expected.

There are some days when it's just repetition and sameness and OH MY WORD do these people love to talk.  It's a lot more listening than I imagined.  More care than I imagined.  TONS more patience than I imagined.

By the end of some days I am frustrated and irritated. 

I wonder if what I am doing matters.

I wonder if I made the right decision in taking on this new life, this new job.  

I wonder if everyone wouldn't be better off if life had stayed more of the same.

There are days when I miss my old life.

BUT..........then I think.

I love these people.

I love this environment.

I love the atmosphere.

There are the perks of flexibility, time off when needed (I love the guy I work with - he's incredibly understanding and aware of when I have hit my limit) and I have a lot of creative control and input into what goes on.

It's good.

I DO love it.

And on the bad days?

I remember it's a job.

It's not meant to be fun ALL the time.

I don't do it because it's "fun".

It's work.

It starts off intense, round the clock and then gives way to a lighter load.

It may seem mundane at times BUT................

It's important.

It matters.

It is worth the time and the energy and the effort.

It's worth the hard days and the bad days.

And sometimes I kind of suck at it.

But it's a job.

And that will happen.

I just get up the next day and try again.

I pray more.

I love more.

I give grace more - to myself and those around me.


Because being a mom is the most important job I will ever have.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mommy Moments: Part 2

Sometimes I forget.

I forget the lessons I learned in the early days of motherhood.

The why of why I named this blog Mommy Moments instead of Mommy Life.

It's easy to get lost in the ENTIRETY of motherhood, to become overwhelmed by the sheer responsibility of it all.

I get lost in the pure numbers of it all - the minutes spent away, the minutes wasted, the minutes gone wrong, the minutes done wrong, the minutes that seem to slip away sometimes with me barely even noticing that the clock is ticking on the in-house days I have with my babes.

But yet.............there are moments.

Moments of a girl sitting on the edge of a bed, legs crossed, fingers slipping golden hair behind delicate ears and she talks.  She talks endlessly and with the mouth of a child, the tone of a child but the words of someone older.  She talks of art class where there was free art today and she talks on and on.

I ask if she preferred free art or art class when there was a project.  I was certain I knew the answer but I asked to hear the response.

I was right.

Oh my girl.

She likes the art project where there is structure and things you are suppose to do and then you can do your own thing within the boundary of the project.  Free art leaves way too much choice and blanks to fill in.  She talks on about such things - using her own words not mine.  It's lovely to hear and I drink in the moment.

Then there are the moments of my boy............I marvel at his size and his strength every day.  How big he's gotten.  How he has opinions now on hair (bangs always, gel on rare occasions, mostly always trimmed and neat would be the preference) and clothes (always athletic) and girls (he likes the loud ones, the ones that act more like boys and only as friends).

I love that he cuddles in the dark of morning or night, that he seeks out comfort only when we give him space.  Those are the moments I treasure - the whispered conversations with an almost grown boy about school and life and friends and how I love his words and explanations of things.  He sees things that most don't at his age - he names everyone's best friends in class using everyone's last names and explaining the whys of the relationships, he explains his frustrations with getting things wrong and being angry and so much more.

I just marvel at who he is when he lets himself go.

And oh my girl.......the last and the oh so typical of being the last.  The clown, the jokester, the always rumpled, always slightly disorganized last.  Her moments save us from ourselves at times, they save her from complete disaster.

I hear just her voice and I smile.

We've had people ask about her "accent" - her Jersey-like, full of drama accent.  It seems to be fading a bit and I will mourn the day it ends when "purrrrse" becomes the ordinary and clipped "purse" - how I love her words.

But her moments are filled with well-timed phrases - such as when we were cautiously watching "Maleficent" waiting for the kids to be too scared and thinking that we would have to turn it off.  The battle begins and the horses charge and there is yelling and screaming and Maleficent begins to rage and it's all a bit overwhelming and you hear......

"I LOVE her."

And just like that the entire tone of the scene changes for us all and we laugh and any hold the images might have had on any of us is dispelled because of a Jersey-like, full of drama accented girl.


Just moments.

But sometimes moments are enough.

Because when viewed through it's entirety motherhood can break you, make you feel not enough, make you question what you do or say or decide.

Motherhood is so hard, at times, because who has it all figured out?

Certainly not me.

BUT.............I have my moments.

Moments that shine.

Moments that last.

Moments that fill me up.

Moments that make me laugh.

Moments to cherish.

Moments to store away.

Moments of greatness.

Moments of perfection.

Moments of sweetness.

Mommy moments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just Right

The cold air blows.

The trees become more and more bare as the leaves make their slow and gentle way down.

Just fits.

Just right.

Snuggle in tight.

The sky darkens at such an early hour, beckoning, almost demanding that you make your way inside.

The garden browns and starts it's gradual decay back to the ground.

Just fits.

Just right.

Snuggle in tight.

The squirrels dash about maiming and destroying all the Halloween pumpkins left on stoops and doorways in the back.

The children find once again the toys that had remained untouched and almost hidden throughout the warmer months.  Legos, jewelry kits, dolls and more make their return from dusty closets and forgotten spots.

Just fits.

Just right.

Snuggle in tight.

Candles are lit, soup is made, bread rises on the stove........the smells of darker, colder days are here once again.

Tea is made nightly, blankets make a reappearance and books are consumed at a rapid pace as the inhabitants of the house settle in for the night.

Just fits.

Just right.

Snuggle in tight.

Comforters are stacked high on beds, cozy jammies are donned earlier and earlier and children slumber later and later.

And with the warm months behind us and the cold ones quickly approaching I wrap my arms around the one I love just as sleep overtakes us both and once again I find........

Just fits.

Just right.

Snuggle in tight.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Small Acts of Bravery

I watched my eldest walk up to the big doors of the high school today.

By herself.

The morning was filled with a big, sit down breakfast with the family - homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, oatmeal with brown sugar and blueberries, apples and hot coffee.  We talked and ate and then settled in on the couch to watch Wild Kratts and SciGirls on the computer.  The decision had been made to spend time with the family - in jammies and lazy - rather than rush around to get ready so I can walk my girl into the school for ballet.

So I did a drive by, drop off.

She looked so tiny.

It's a weird thing to not follow in, sign off, be with her every minute until she's released to another adult that we can set eyes on.

It seemed to me to be a small act of bravery for my girl.

The one who cried every time I left her when she was a baby.

The one who hid behind my back for so many years when approached by ANYONE.

The one that left gym on the first day of kindergarten with a "tummy ache".

And I thought of how often these acts go unnoticed by those around us.  That we take for granted the small acts of bravery that happen each and every day.  In our own lives we bypass them in favor for the more public, more vocal, more seen acts of bravery.  

Why do we do that?

All those small acts of bravery might one day add up to ONE BIG ACT......but what if they don't?

Does that make them any less valid?

It's funny to me that the stories we study so often when we are young are the BIG bible stories......Noah building the ark, Moses standing before the Red Sea and leading the people out of Egypt, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath........the BIG names, the BIG acts.  They get top billing in our childhood bibles and classrooms.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There is so much to learn from those moments, the stories of those people.

But as I get older and dig deeper and read more often and listen more..........well, I begin to think about the small, nameless acts of the New Testament.  The blind beggars shouting out to Jesus, the four men lowering their friend through a roof to Jesus, the widow's offering, a man bringing his son to Jesus to heal and so many more.

These nameless, small acts of bravery.......the shouting out, the giving of all they have, the caring for a child, the helping of a friend........these small acts of bravery?

Well, they all led to Jesus.

Every single one.

We remember them, we read about them because they represent faith and trust and love.

And I think about YOUR life.

I think about all the small acts of bravery that happen every day in YOUR life.

When you show up rather than texting, e-mailing, calling or messaging because you KNOW that someone needs Jesus with skin on and words just aren't enough.

When you walk into a school, a conference, a meeting and you speak for your child, trembling because you know you are the one that will have to fight for them.

When you choose to fight for a marriage and sometimes it does look like fighting but at the end of the battle you find yourself still linked together.

When you teach your children to battle for others, to love the unlovable and as you do so you know there will come a day when that won't be the easy path.........yet you know it's the right way, the right thing.

When you give and you are weary and tired and done in and you wonder if you have anything even worth giving..........but then you see the smile, you hear the words of a changed life, you feel the love that comes from giving.

When you kneel and cry out, the words tumbling from your mouth, from your heart and you think that only brave thing you can do today is to lay before God and cry out.

These small things............these acts reminiscent of the nameless, small acts found in the New Testament?

Well..........they draw you closer to Jesus.

When I am witness to such things, I am reminded of your faith and your trust and your love and it spurs me on.

Hope your day is filled with the witnessing of small, every day acts of bravery that lead you closer to Jesus.

Friday, November 7, 2014


I was sitting next to a friend the other day........talking, chatting, asking what's new.  They told me of an opportunity on the horizon for an acquaintance and while my words were positive, my face most likely was not.

Because while my words were somewhat positive, my thoughts were..........well, snarky.

Snarky in that I didn't quite see what my friend did.  I didn't see possibility and what could be, I saw the here and now and the "funny" bits, the over the top bits, the.....yeah, totally don't see it bits.

But not my friend.

They were kind and laughed and said yeah, I get it.  I know there's room for doubt.  But I love this guy.  He's got what it takes.

So rather than meeting snark with snark or rebuke or disappointment there was once again that love my friend has for so many.

I think how easy it is to get off snark has been elevated to a high form of humor.  How it's used to group people together but exclude others.  How it blinds us to see what's possible, what's real and shines the light on minor details, small words or phrases, people's faults rather than their very best qualities.

And I get it.

To be brutally honest?

It's fun.

It's fun to point out flaws and joke about them and say it's harmless and just in good fun.

It feels good to be part of one group over the other, to build up self and cast down the rest.

It's EASY............some faults are GLARING and it is SO HARD not to laugh.  I mean, it's almost as if they are ASKING FOR IT, right?

There are whole v shows and websites and blogs devoted to such things.......where the only purpose of such sites and shows are to make fun of other people, to point out flaws.

It's disheartening...........yet I am easily sucked in.

I want to not be sucked in.

I want to not participate in the snark.  I want to read, listen or watch and instead of going for the jugular I want to go to the heart of what people are presenting, what they are offering to the world.

I see my babies walk out this door and into their school each morning and I pray for the snark to end. I pray that the world will look upon them with eyes of kindness rather than eyes of criticism, gleefully waiting for a misstep.  I pray that they are exposed to people who see possibility and not all they AREN'T right now.  I pray that all their words and actions and clothes aren't picked apart but praised for what they are.  I pray that people go not for the jugular but for the heart - for my kids, well, they have heart.

And rather than picked and poked at and left as scrap?  I want their hearts made whole.  I want them to come alive to the possibilities that God has for them.  I want them to know all the AMAZING, WONDERFUL things that can come from being heard and seen and known.  I want them to value the voice that they have.  I want them to take on life confidently.

But it starts with me.

The adult.

What they see, they mimic.

What they hear, they repeat.

What they live with, they live out.

What is done to them, they will do to others.


Time to end the snark.

Time to look with eyes of possibility.

Time to bypass the jugular and go to the heart of who people are.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

People Before Mission

This is a phrase I find myself repeating quite a bit in my new job.........


I say it a lot but I forget it a lot, too.

Because, in reality, PEOPLE BEFORE MISSION is not the WHOLE story behind the phrase, huh?

The WHOLE story behind the phrase would be PEOPLE (who agree with me/are healthy/are whole/who have the same mission/who get on board/who aren't complicated/who don't require hard work) BEFORE MISSION, right?

I mean who REALLY wants to do the hard work of actually being with people before they even get that there IS a mission?

Who wants to jump in the trenches with people who think "the mission" is dumb or stupid or wrong?

Who wants to put people who have strayed from YOUR mission before the mission?

Who wants to take the time to love and care for and hear out the people who just don't get it?

No one.

Not really.

We talk a good game but living this crap out is hard.

I looked at my son this morning and told him that one day he will remember these moments - these hard, I want to shake you, I can't believe you are my spawn, why won't you just act LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING moments - and he will realize that it wasn't me being calm in these moments but it was God.  That this calm voice, this calm manner, this not throttling him was because of God.

And I forget that when I am with adults.  I forget that the whole idea of PEOPLE BEFORE MISSION are the moments in time when I am fully reliant on God for my response, when I look to him before I look to myself.  When I look to Him and say........ok, what should my response be?  What can I say to this hurting, angry, lost, lonely, confident for all the wrong reasons, running too fast person?

What would I say?

Oh my.  No one should hear that.  Occasionally people do.

It's rarely my best self or even a good self.  Luckily those people love me.

But how about the people who need love from ME?

I HAVE to look to God.

I have to still my own thoughts, quiet my own reaction, my own response.

I have to listen and ponder and relax my shoulders and not tense up with the need for the RIGHT answer.

I have to have a GOD response not a ME response.

I would gladly put MISSION before PEOPLE.......almost every time.

But maybe...........just maybe........people ARE the mission.

Feeling thoughtful today...........................

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Recently Joe and I went to conferences for all three of our kids.......that's right, all three in school.  It's glorious and wonderful and weird and sometimes sad but mostly good.


To be honest we weren't sure what to expect.  We were on the fence about sending Cesca to kindergarten so we were wondering how that was going.  Nico has been a challenge lately at home.  It seems we did THE MOST HORRIBLE THING IN THE WORLD by not conceiving, adopting or picking up at the store another boy child.  WHAT ON EARTH WERE WE THINKING?!?  Obviously, we weren't thinking solely of Nico's need for another human to play sports with.  So there's that.  And, well, Fia........she's a first born girl.  No surprises at conferences there.  We were just hoping that she was participating more.


Turns out?

Our kids save their VERY BEST SELVES for school.

What the heck?!?

Turns out Francesca listens, is very quiet and serious, has lots of friends and works hard.


You mean that child who SCREAMS and CRIES at the drop of a hat at home?

The one who when the tv gets turned off at Grandma and Grandpa's house after ONLY ONE SHOW will open her mouth wide enough to fit an entire cantaloupe in and SCREAM at the injustice of JUST ONE DISNEY SHOW (This is when all the judgy parents and childless people will say then she would get NO tv........I know this because I used to be one.  Judge away, my friends, judge away.  I encourage your blissful ignorance :)


Turns out she's just a superb little kindergartener and we made the absolute right decision sending her.  Thank you, Mrs. B.

Then it's off to Nico's conference............surely we will have some news at this one.

Mrs. Frantum sits down and gets a bit teary-eyed as she tells us how HELPFUL and KIND and WELL-BEHAVED Nico is, how he is the kid that will help anyone without asking, that when a girl spilled her water bottle and everyone else was in line ready to go that Nico ran to get paper towels and wiped it all up without any asking him to.  Also, he is so willing to help kids with their work, that Mrs. Frantum will pair him with *ahem* a "challenging" student (ie an irritating one - my words not hers......she is the nicest teacher and would never say such a thing, truly) and he will help without complaining.


You mean that child who gets up in the morning planning out how to torture and IRRITATE his sisters to no end?

You mean that child when you ask him to wipe up a mess on OUR floor will ask where we keep the towels and say I CAN'T DO THIS?!?

You mean that child who rolls his eyes and challenges us on every front and will scream when frustrated?  THAT CHILD?



Then it's off to Fia's conference..............I'm almost scared.  What if SHE'S the problem student now?


Mrs. Cook has nothing but good things to say.  She works hard.  Pays attention.  Has great grades.  All of it.  Whole package.

No surprise but certainly not indicative of the eye-rolling, brother-baiting, emotional roller coaster we experience at home.


Turns out our kids?...............well, they're a lot like we are as adults.  I don't know about you but I save my VERY BEST SELF for when I am around those I know the least or the ones that are "grading" me, for my boss, for the people I work with, for those outside my immediate circle.

My family?  My close friends?

Oh my.

They could have some stories for you.  Those unguarded, emotional, tired, cranky, every day moments.......those moments are set free in the presence of those I love the most.

And this actually isn't a post about oh why don't we treat those we love most the best?  Why do we save it for those we love least?

Well, because it would be weird.  I hardly want to encourage acquaintances to start EMOTING all over me and around me.  Can you imagine?  What if we began to treat everyone like we do our family, our close friends?

There has to be so much TRUST and LOVE to expose our less than best selves to people and when we do that?  Well, that is when we are challenged to grow, to change, to become the BEST version of ourself that we can.

I am so glad that my kids are doing well in school.  I'm glad their teachers see their BEST selves.  But I'm also glad that they feel safe and loved and trust us enough to show their LESS then best self at home.

Home can the place where they can just be their self - any version of self that they are being at any given moment because ultimately it is not their BEST self that I's ALL of them that I love.