Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Bee approves this message. She, too, brings her own book.

That's right: Bring Your Own Book--because you never know when the occasion will call for it. I'm going to provide you with just a few times where you should make sure you have a good book with you. You know, just in case this is something that's been keeping you up at night...

Apply the principles of BYOB to the following:
  • The grocery store. Sure, you think you're going to be in and out as quickly as possible. But sometimes the line at the deli is ridiculously long or you get stuck waiting forever to check out. Be prepared. Also, feel free to let your kids flip through the cake book repeatedly and dream about store bought cakes they will never get while you read. 
  • The toilet. This is a no brainer. Even quick pees deserve the dignity of a good book.
  • Any errand. What if you get stuck in traffic? What if you get held up by a natural disaster? What if you're involved in a hostage situation? Obviously, you would need reading material to help you through these traumatic events.
  • Plane and car rides. Because at some point you may want to do more than look at the scenery.
  • Dog walks...really, walks of any kind. What if--just what if--you fall off the curb while walking and break your leg and have to wait for an ambulance to come pick you up? You'll need something to help keep your mind off the pain. Also, something to swat the dog with, if he decides to fervently check out your newly acquired leg wound.
  • Any social engagement. One, it's a great conversation starter: from "Oh, you're reading that book?" to "That's one of my favorites!" to "Why did you bring a book when we're supposed to be hanging out?" (and that works as a litmus test for any friendship). Second, if your friend is late, you are thoroughly entertained while you wait. Third, if your social engagement goes south, you're already armed with a deadly weapon. James Joyce and Tolstoy are great choices in this regard.
  • At bed time. Something-something-blue light keeps you awake-something-something-yay books!
  • While cooking. Sure, you may end up putting the cauliflower in the chicken tikka masala and burning a couple of the naan, but priorities.
  • While cleaning. Vacuuming is much more fun with a book in hand. It is not advisable, however, to read while cleaning the toilet. Just for future reference. 
  • The doctor. Because otherwise you're going to be stuck browsing medical pamphlets that will leave you anticipating some kind of gruesome death or uncomfortably familiar with female reproductive parts.
The list could continue on. In fact, I think I will challenge you to come up with one occasion where you wouldn't have been better off if you'd remembered to BYOB. Go ahead. I dare you. Meanwhile, I'm going to bring my own book to bed at this point. And maybe a couple cats for company. Stereotypes, unite! Now, where's my mug of tea?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Nostalgia

{Side note before we get to the actual blog: it was so humid today that when I was trying to take pictures, I literally had to wipe off my sense between every shot because it fogged up so much. I know this is possibly the most thrilling thing you've heard all day. Moving on...}

I've spent the week back at Plumfield with Jo March Bhaer and her little men. When my parents packed up to move back to the States from Indonesia, my one request was that they bring their copy of Little Men for me. I have Little Women (as should every respectable home) but was having a hard time tracking down its sequel at the used bookstores I frequent. There are some books you don't want to buy on Amazon. Although, true confession, I did get the free kindle version of Jo's Boys, which I had somehow never read. And I feel no shame because, Louisa May Alcott, you done me wrong with that one.

At any rate, it got me thinking about the books that I read as a child and which ones I felt needed to be in my home and why. The year Littles was born, I spent a solid month trying to track down a counting board book by Gyo Fujikama that I felt was absolutely needed in his life. I finally gave up because it was no where to be found, but got to read it to the twins this last week while at my parents. It was as lovely as I remembered, but the desperate need to have our own family copy had passed.

One beautiful bird, two loving people, three funny goblins, four delightful dreams...
::photo courtesy of my mother who is incredibly gracious to me::

This led me to wonder if it was because we have already built our own family library at this time or because my parents (and the books they have) are now accessible to us in a new way. Sure, we only make it to Tennessee once a year (and actually, this was our first trip back in three), but the idea that it's on a bookshelf waiting for my children the next time we make it there, changed something for me.

Still, I didn't hesitate to bring Little Men back to my own book hoard. There are some books that need to be within reach on a regular basis. I may not reread Little Men for a while, but when I see it on my bookshelf, it will remind me of a few heartening lessons that I just might need in the moment.

In retrospect, I know that most readers attach memories and feelings to the books that they read. Those books read during a happy childhood, then, carry extra weight. Not only do we remember upon re-reading them how it felt to be safe, cared for, and loved, but when we have our own children, we want them to feel those same things so we give them those same books. Without realizing it, we introduce our kids to our childhood favorites, not realizing that our memories are less a product of the books we read and more a result of the fact that we genuinely were safe, cared for, and loved. And our children probably are too--with or without the same exact library.

I don't know which books my children will grow up to remember with nostalgia, but I do hope that the memories that accompany them are sweet. And that's why I re-read Little Men--because I can always use an extra dose of wisdom from Marmee and the Bhaers.

It's also why I don't stop reading to Littles at night even if Tiny has already fallen asleep. You never know what could be seeping into his snoring subconscious. It could be wonderful!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Peace Behind Me

This was the chair I sat in at my parents' for meals. With a twin on either side, meals can sometimes be exciting, even with a hearty level of back up from the Man who was also overseeing the big boys.

So it wasn't until halfway through the week that I realized what was hanging on the wall right behind me. After the kids had been excused from the breakfast table one morning, I scooted my chair over by the Man and suddenly discovered an all new view of the room that included this picture. My dad illuminated this text years ago, and it has always hung in our dining room. It was a lovely gift to read again the words of John 14:27.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

I realized something that morning. The peace was always there, much like the picture hanging behind my chair. I just couldn't see it because I had the wrong perspective. I was pointed the wrong direction. Once I changed directions, it was clearly before me instead of hidden behind me.

There are many things that leave our hearts troubled and afraid. The peace that comes from Christ is not dependent upon us having it all under control or managing our breathing lamaze style or pretending that none of it is bothering us after all. The peace that comes from Christ is always there. It's not contingent on anything that we can do.

But sometimes we have to turn around and fix our eyes on Jesus in order to remember that it's been there all along.

When our hearts are troubled, when find ourselves in a place of fear, may we turn our eyes to Jesus, whose gift of peace is nothing like the peace of the world. With his help, we will not be distressed, we will not be daunted. Turn and look with me. His peace hasn't gone anywhere.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Back to Normal

I love going on vacation, but coming home from vacation can be deadly.

First, when you get home, the house is so thickly coated in pet fur that your anal retentive self refuses to unload the suitcases until everything has been vacuumed. Then, you keep finding spots where your pets revenge-peed and spite-barfed. Then your loving husband recognizes that your brain is about to explode and has to bribe you back to sanity with promises of guacamole.

Guacamole works every time.

Once the piles of laundry have been tackled and the suitcases man-handled back under the stairs, there's still the return to normalcy that must be accomplished. Everyone is tired and whiney from two weeks of non-stop fun, and the grocery shopping has to be done. Add to that the fact that Tennessee was cool and refreshing, while Texas has suddenly become hot, muggy, and mosquito infested, and suddenly Mommy is growling and grouchy.

Let us not continue speaking of ourselves in the third person. Or with the royal We. Obviously, I already need more guacamole.

Regardless, we are getting back to normal, although that normal is now in the middle of summer break which makes it a little less normal than, well, normal. So tonight, as I set out my running clothes for tomorrow's first run back and get back to blogging, I am celebrating the last two weeks with all their fun and family but also celebrating normal.

There is joy in being home, even if coming home means vacuum cleaners and grocery lists and multiple loads of laundry. Because home also means normal, and normal means ordering a new white noise machine since you left your old one at a hotel somewhere along the way and would, at some point, like to stop using your cell phone as a very expensive substitute. And normal can be really nice sometimes. Even if potentially deadly.

{I know you've probably seen all these pictures already but they make my heart happy so I included them anyway. This is low budget blogging. You're welcome.}

{If you have called or texted me in the last two weeks and I haven't responded, it's because of the white noise machine/cell phone situation. And because when the twins are awake, I can't hear anything you're saying on the phone anyway.}

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Community (and the Improvement of my Mind by Extensive Reading)

This week I blew through the Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick. You may not have a thing for YA lit, but seriously, they were so cute. And I actually learned new things as well! Which was beyond fun for me. The Man mocked me endlessly for reading books about people reading books, but if you have a pre-teen to teenage girl, pick these up for them. I will for sure be reading these to Bee when she gets a bit older.

My favorite thing about these books (other than all the fantastic lit references and the adorable young love towards the end of the series--true confession) was the community that they detailed. The titular mother-daughter book club ends up becoming so much more than that, as the families grow together and support each other through moves, weddings, deaths, fights, lost jobs, and more (in fact, it got me thinking about this article on community in Gilmore Girls).

In book 5, as the girls are reading their way through the Betsy-Tacy books, they start talking about how they have a "Crowd", a group of people that they hang out with regularly. And in truth, most of them have all grown up in Concord and known each other since kindergarten so the Crowd was pretty easy to come by. They add a few newbies as the books progress, but the core group is together for years.

I found myself wondering what that would feel like.

I grew up as a Third Culture Kid, and the town where I lived was where everyone came to do language school. My sisters and I would make friends, and they would leave a year later. We had long term friends, but most of them were also long distance friends. Even in high school, the friends that we made graduated and left for college in the US, Korea, Australia, or Europe. There were seasons of my life where I had a Crowd, similar to the girls in the MDBC, but they were short lived.

I'm now a military wife. We make friends, and then we move. Some of the friendships last, and some die the natural death of inevitable separation. Some would argue that this enables community without cliquishness and stagnation. It can also be a great way to get out of relationships that just aren't very fun any more (you can decide for yourself if that's a good thing or a bad--I lean towards the latter).

I'm not sure exactly where I stand on the spectrum of short term/long term community. I do know that I walked away from the MDBC books feeling a tad nostalgic for my old high school Crowd (however short lived it was) as well as for the various friends who have been community for us with each move. I also started praying more for my own children and the friends they will have.

Admittedly, some of this was already on my mind because we keep collecting extra boys in our house. They play legos together and watch baseball and tolerate the twins...and I've been having flash forwards to the teenage years when our couch is covered in sweaty boys yelling at the TV and Bee ends up with a crush on one of Little's friends. I'm not ready for that yet.

So yeah, community. And mother-daughter book clubs. Giving me more to think about. What do you find are the benefits of long v short term community? Was there a time in your life that lent itself more handily to running with a Crowd? Do you find it easy to collect community by organized means (book clubs, church attendance, sports teams, etc.) or do you think it needs to happen organically?

:: Pictured above and read in the last couple weeks: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (not my favorite--I found it depressing though well written; it still made me want to move to Maine), The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows (beautifully written with fantastic characters, a good mystery, and some great history), Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (entertaining but typical of Rowell's secular world view), and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (a must read, especially with your pre-teen to teenagers when studying the Civil Rights movement). No pictures of the MDBC books because our library only had books 1 and 6, and I had to buy all the rest on Kindle--seriously, the Man is a saint for supporting my book habit. There's a peek at book 1, the original Mother-Daughter Book Club (already returned to the library) in Bedtime Reading. ::

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Beatles, the Bible, and Discharging Bowels

There are a lot of great stories in the Bible (and a couple really creepy ones--let's be honest), but one of my all time favorites is found in the book of Judges, chapter 3 to be precise. It's the story of Ehud, and if you're having trouble pronouncing that correctly, just sing this with me to the tune of "Hey, Jude":

Eh, Hude...
Don't be so shy,
Take your left hand
And go and stab that guy...

I realize it's not precise, but you get the picture. Also, there is no "y" sound at the end of the "eh". Just so you can rest assured that you are saying it perfectly. I don't want it to keep you up at night.

At any rate, here's the story. Succinctly, and if you want the longer version, you know where to find it (Judges 3!). Israel rebelled against God. God delivered them over to the Moabites. Israel repents and cries out for mercy. God sends Ehud, whose defining characteristic is that he is left handed.

Ehud, strapping his sword on his right side, goes to deliver Israel's tribute to the king of Moab, a morbidly obese man named Eglon. Ehud tells Eglon that he has a secret message for him (sneaky, right?), and when Eglon sends all of his attendants out of the room, Ehud whips out his hidden sword and stabs him in the gut. He stabs him so deeply that his sword disappears into Eglon's fat and Eglon expires after literally pooping his pants. Ehud then escapes out the window while Eglon's thoughtful attendants wait outside the room for an embarrassingly long time, assuming that Eglon is busy using a chamber pot. Ehud then rallies the Israelites, and they soundly defeat the Moabites leading to an 80 year peace.

Now, you could say that this is my favorite Bible story (one of my favorites...) because I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy, and that would be at least partially correct. But the other reason is that I love how it shows that our perceived weaknesses or oddities (in Ehud's case, being left handed--which isn't a big deal now but probably was then) are often what God uses to advance his purposes.

Ehud is a very colorful, very vivid example of how God uses the things that we think make us "less" to change the world. It is rarely our strengths that come into play because then pride is a very small step away. Instead, God uses the weak, the ugly, and the frowned upon to bring about beauty.

If only we could be brave enough, vulnerable enough, to put our weaknesses to good use for His purposes...

The one on the far right would've made a great Ehud.
He could've hidden the sword in his hair, though, instead of strapping it to his thigh.
This was pre-haircut.
Sadly, the Man never approved Ehud from our name list.
It was not for lack of trying on my part.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Vanquishing of the Hair

This was the week of the haircut.

Finally, the Man and I agreed that Bruiser's hair had crossed the line: we either said goodbye forever to his eyes and ears (and neck) or headed into man bun territory...or did the dreaded choppy chop. Bruiser was adamantly against a trim of any kind, but grudgingly agreed to allow me the use of my scissors (but no clippers!). He did not, however, agree to sit still, so he ended up looking a good deal like Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber.

Pre-haircut dream boat. And sister.

It was late, and I gave up and put him in bed, assuring myself that it would look better in the morning. But when we couldn't get through breakfast without bursting into peals of hysterical laughter, we pulled out the clippers.

Bruiser was dismayed, but he rallied when he realized that the clippers sounded like a bumblebee. Bumblebees are fun (until they sting you). Unfortunately, even bumblebees couldn't stop him from getting his hair tugged accidentally. Then: meltdown. You don't need to know anything other than our next door neighbor stuck her head out to make sure no one was dying.

At any rate, it feels like we have an all new kid. In fact, I did a double take when I picked him up from child care after church because, seriously, I barely recognize him without his formerly flowing locks.

Naturally, this has made me think of Samson...which puts the Man and me in the position of Delilah? Sadly, we do not seem to have stolen the strength of Bruiser's vocal cords, which still produce ear splittingly awful shrieks for a whole array of moods.

Thinking about Samson, however, reminded me of my favorite Bible story, which I have been asked to divulge.  I'm not going to write about it now because I just told you that fabulous story about Bruiser's haircut, and I don't want to overwhelm you with awesome.

Instead, I'll leave you with a fantastic picture of Mohawk Tiny and wish you a happy Monday with many less traumatic haircuts to come!