Sunday, August 30, 2015


Caleb B,

I’ve had time to reflect on why the first day of kindergarten is so hard for me, as it is for so many other moms in my place.

It’s a little of this, a little of that, and pretty much everything in between.

It is the dropping you off. It’s the walking away. It’s the wondering … the all-day wondering about what you will do and who you will meet and how you will feel. It’s the hoping you’ll be accepted. It’s the hoping you’ll accept others. It’s the clenching my hands together and squeezing my eyes shut and praying you’ll make the right choices, learn from your mistakes, and know that you are loved no matter what.

It’s the letting go. And I’ve done it before – in many ways and to different degrees – and it’ll be okay, but it always hurts. The letting you go – it always hurts.

I don’t want to. I want to pull you in. Closer than ever before. I want to brush your hair back, kiss your forehead, wrap you up in my arms and tell you, the school district, the government … whoever made the rules that five year olds are ready for this nonsense … that NO THEY ARE NOT. They are babies. Babies that we watched breathe their first breaths, see their first sights, cry their first cries and need us more than they’ve ever needed anything. We taught them to crawl, to walk, to eat solid foods, to sleep on a schedule and use the potty and say please and thank you.

And now we are packing them lunches, shoving rulers and glue sticks into their backpacks and sending them off. To meet new people. To find their own way. What if they are scared? What if they feel left out or unsure? What if they want to go home and we’re not there to hear them?

I mean it’s crazy. Five year olds going to school. Who in the WORLD came up with this?

But lo and behold I’ve caved to the system and I’m sending you off. Spiderman backpack, Batman lunch box and all. I’m letting you go a little more than I’ve ever let you go before and my heart is crumbling and it’s bursting.

Crumbling because this is just plain too soon too fast and WRONG, as I’ve stated before.

And bursting because of the privilege of getting to go through this milestone day with you. To know that this moment represents the first day of you “becoming” what you’ll eventually be.  I cannot wait to see where your bright and curious mind will take you. I can’t wait to see who you gravitate towards and who you will draw in with your hilarious, quirky and compassionate nature. I can’t wait to see your interests evolve and to journey right alongside you and encourage you in your passions.

So maybe stopping time isn’t the best thing for any of us. Because watching you grow and change and become your amazing five year old self has and will forever be my life’s joy. And I want to see more. I can’t wait to see more – no matter how gut wrenching the act of letting go has and will be – my tears will be both crushing AND delirious because I CANT WAIT to see more.

And on the subject of you “becoming,” I can’t wait for that either. An athlete, a scientist, a fisherman, a builder, or a “sharky shark.” The possibilities are endless and I promise to devote myself to loving and supporting whatever you love.

But just know, even before you set foot in that classroom, you have already “become” to me. You already ARE a phenomenal human being – full of warmth, sensitivity, compassion, zest, humor, excitement and love – lots of sweet, Caleb-sized love that is beyond compare.

Happy first day of becoming, Caleb B. Be your best- you are already mine.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

keeping it real.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m not sure this is a trait with all kids, but at least with mine, they let us KNOW when they are sick. And by let us know, I mean LET. US. KNOW. As in loud, guttural cries, “MY TUMMY HURTS!” followed by sobs, moans and pleas for help. It is painful to be home with them when they are that sick – to hear their distinct cries of agony and feel helpless to stop them – to wish the squeeze of my hand or warmth of my arms were enough to take the discomfort away. But it often doesn’t.

There are many things I admire about a child’s ability to be … well … childlike. I found myself this morning adding guttural screams to the list.

When something hurts, they tell us. They don’t hesitate, they don’t worry about being too loud or too pathetic, they don’t worry that their cries will fall on deaf ears, and they don’t even necessarily expect us to fix it. They just want to tell us they are hurt, in the real, honest raw moment that it hurts, and have us be there. While my hand squeezes and back rubs and snuggles may seem to me like inadequate remedies in their momentary suffering, it means everything to them. They hurt, but they are not alone.

I just started reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I’m not too far into it, but from what I’ve read, she considers vulnerability to be a very courageous, necessary thing to lead a wholehearted life. It is brave to acknowledge your feelings, to really feel your feelings, and to let others in without pride or shame.

Being vulnerable has somehow, somewhere along the way, translated to us adults as weakness. And who wants to show weakness in a world that teaches us to outdo, out-perform and portray our lives through all kinds of rosy filters?  I get it. It's easier to use filters. Showing your weaknesses is freaking scary. But, I love and appreciate and admire how others can be truthful with me without caring about how it makes them look. And I can only imagine that people appreciate the times when I can muster the strength to be vulnerable with them, too.

It hurts to see my kids hurt. And in my adult lens I realize that it hurts those I love to see ME hurt. But I know that I am honored beyond belief that my kids want ME and trust ME when they are at their weakest. It’s a great privilege to be their “person” in those hard moments and I will cherish that role forever. They teach me that vulnerability is not only helpful and freeing to the vulnerable – it is an honoring, life-giving, supernatural, relationship-building gift to the person who gets to receive it.

Exposure is pretty dang humbling, complicated and scary - so there will always be an inclination to hold back – to not put it all out there. But, as I’ve learned from the tiniest, purest little souls, when you strip away all of your filters and bare your truest struggles in the most raw, authentic ways – the broken walls of isolation, the freedom, the going forth into the light, the absence of hiding – even the squeeze of a hand – makes it all worth it. You are naked, you are scared, you are real, and you probably look a lot more messy than you ever have - but still - you are so much better off than you were before. Because you are no longer alone.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

chelanigans 2015.

this is all i wanted. uninterrupted time with these four without school or work or schedules or obligations. the glorious sunshine, daily french fries and overall gorgeousness was a bonus. but them. just time with them was like stopping time to taste a piece of heaven. i will never forget it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day Musings.

Image courtesy of Google

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15

Mother’s Day is a tricky one for me. Years ago my sister gave me some perspective on Romans 12:15. I was struck by how many times I’ve heard that verse, but never really processed it properly. I looked at rejoicing and weeping as two separate things. To be done on separate occasions. Apart from each other.

But after reading her perspective, I was truly conscious about how rejoicing and weeping can happen together. On the same day. In the same moment. You can be so happy for what you have – what and who you’ve been given – but be so sad for others. You can say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU and in the same breath cry WHY, WHY, WHY?

I feel this. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mommy. But the fearful, worrisome girl in me wondered, “Will I be a good at it?” “Will my children be healthy?” “Will I have difficult pregnancies?” “Will I experience loss?”

And God in his faithfulness gave me wonderful pregnancies, amazing labors and perfect, healthy babies. I am grateful. For as long as I dreamed of what my kids would be like, what they’d look like, what their names would be … I could never have imagined the glorious creations that are Caleb and Kenzie. They fill me up and now that I know them, my heart is consumed with an ever present, gracious love that brings "better" to even the worst of days.

Believe me, I am thankful.

But I also ask why? Why did I get this? Why me? Why some people and not others?
There are many people in my life who find Mother’s Day hard and painful. Some find it unbearable. Friends who have lost their mothers. Friends who struggle with painful or broken relationships with their mothers. Friends who long to be moms, but whose dreams are unfulfilled. Friends who have lost their precious babies.

I mean. This isn’t easy stuff.

In the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, we are bombarded with the signs, the announcements the advertisements that IT IS COMING. Flowers on sale and Hallmark cards galore. The sappy commercials and the alerts that pop up on the computer screen, “Find that perfect gift for Mom.” And I love it. I love being able to celebrate the moms in my life and be celebrated myself.

And I also find it so hard. I find it hard to enjoy and be so happy when I know this day must just feel like salt in the wounds of so many. A horribly unfair day that mocks and taunts and gloats and hurts. I wonder if the joy felt by so many on this day is worth the anguish felt by so many others. 

Rejoicing and weeping.

I feel both. And I am reassured of the character of God in asking us to rejoice and weep with others. His character exemplifies what LOVE  is. When done correctly, it is an action. It is hugging and praising and appreciating someone. It is accepting the goodness given to you with a grateful heart. It giving the brokenhearted grace and compassion and prayers. It is making people feel valued and cherished and not alone. It’s being genuinely happy and genuinely sad for people. It’s sharing our experiences, joys and sorrows. It’s connecting, relating, standing beside one another. It’s doing what we can do for each other to magnify joy and make the pain in this life a little more bearable.

Friday, March 13, 2015

that one time i went to kansas.

For Luke - Happy Birthday.

I used to travel a lot more in my younger years. Even my fear of flying couldn’t prevent me from buying a ticket, boarding a plane and finding myself outside the geographical boundaries that usually outlined my life.

As I’ve gotten older, and as finances and schedules became tighter, travel has been put on the back burner. I am sometimes sad that Luke and I didn’t see more of the world together before we had kids. But I know that as our littles become less “little” we have many travel adventures ahead – and it gets me excited. Many of my daydreams involve seeing my kids at Disneyland or Luke in Ireland or all of us in India.

But I know that wherever I go or wherever I’ve been, there will always be a special trip that will always reside in my heart. It’s among the most magical, beautiful, meaningful trips I've ever taken. It was the time I went to Manhattan, Kansas.

No, not New York. Kansas.

In 2006, four months into our marriage, Luke found out he was being deployed to Iraq. My world was rocked. I went from being a blissful newlywed to a wife of a deployed solider (to forever be known as WOADS). I was nervous and scared and knew I would Miss. Him. So. Much. I couldn’t believe I was doing the first year of married life without him – and even worse – I couldn’t believe he’d be out there, alone, in what seemed to me at the time such a dangerous, threatening place.

Before heading to Iraq, Luke spent four months training in Fort Riley, Kansas. Toward the end of his time there, an opportunity arose for me to visit him. It would involve buying an overpriced plane ticket, enduring a long layover, arriving in Kansas City, Missouri, renting a car and driving two hours at night to Manhattan and only getting to spend less than 24 hours with Luke before he had to report back for training.

Of course I went.

So I boarded the plane, nerves in tow. I sat through my layover, restless as could be. I got my rental car, not believing I had two more hours ahead of me. I made the drive from Kansas City to Manhattan, reading my "Mapquest” directions through the dim rental car dome light, having to make u-turns, stop for directions and know no one would be able to come find me if I got lost. I checked into the LaQuinta hotel and waited for him to arrive. 

I cried like a baby when he walked through the door and realized he was worth all of it and more.

The next day we only had until 5 p.m. before he’d have to head back. We hit up the local Chili’s for lunch, ventured to the Walmart, and walked around town. There wasn’t much to do, but we didn’t need to do much. I was nowhere I knew and no place exciting, yet it was one somehow one of the most special, endearing days of my life. 

He left that evening and I slept in a puddle of tears in my little La Quinta bed, woke up with a brave face, drove the two hours back to the airport, then boarded the plane to make my way back to a home that didn’t feel like home without him. But somehow, when I think of this trip, I don’t remember those parts.

I remember how, for a little while, a LaQuinta hotel felt like the Four Seasons. A Chili’s restaurant felt like a cafĂ© in Florence. A Walmart felt like a London boutique. A walk around a sleepy town felt like a waltz along the Seine. And seeing my husband after all we had been through and all we had to go through was better than the view from the Eiffel Tower.

It felt like the best place I’d ever been.

After weathering that storm and two kids later, he still has that effect on me. Whether we’re on a plane to Mexico, on a road trip to Vancouver, in a hotel in Seattle, at the beach in Edmonds or on the couch watching Veggie Tales with the kids.

Wherever we go or don’t go in the future – I will have no regrets. Because my journey gets to be forever with him, and that’s all that matters.  

Monday, March 9, 2015


Photos Courtesy of Lisa Barton Photography

Miss Makenzie,

I kind of find these birthday posts a little daunting. Not because I don’t have enough to say, but because there is so much and it all seems so inadequate.

I want to tell you you’re the sweetest. But that doesn’t truly describe how you throw your arms around me and squeeze the hardest you can, and I can actually feel what love is. How you kiss my cheek and hand at random moments and it stops me in my tracks. How you can talk forever about how much you love us and it's like the most beautiful song my ears have ever heard.. How your young soul is so completely filled to the brim with a brightness and warmth that shines so magically through you. It’s visible. We are fuller and better people for getting to see it.

I want to tell you that you are funny. But that doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. You make us laugh by making up silly walks and crazy voices and funny faces. By telling a joke, then saying “just kidding, not funny.” By insisting you’re not bossy while still being bossy. By creating goofy rules for us to live by.  Your smile and laugh are two of the most rare and valuable gifts this world will ever know. We are so lucky to get to wear your joy every day, and you are so unknowingly generous to give it.

I want to tell you you’re strong-willed. But that may be too weak a word. If you are determined to do something by yourself, it will get done, even if it makes us 20 minutes late. And on those occasions when we don’t have 20 mins to spare, you can sure cry it out with the best of them. "I don’t want to. Let me do it. No, no, no." At times it makes us crazy, but realizing that you are still learning and growing, I know someday this will be one of my favorite qualities of yours. I’ll be able to focus less on the “willed” part and see it as what helps make you confident, determined, resilient and STRONG.

I want to tell you you’re beautiful. But that doesn't even begin to cut it. Because sometimes we just stare at you – and not for the reasons you may think. Being your parents, we will always think you are the most beautiful girl ever created. But what really makes you beautiful is that light, that generosity, that joy, that strength that is inside of you. It draws people in. That is the best kind of beauty, Kenzie girl. The kind that radiates from within and is so blindingly obvious that it brings beauty to everything and everyone around you. 

I want to tell you that I love you. But wow. That little four-letter word falls way, way too short. If you only knew that when I smile at you, every one of those smiles is a brand new one, reserved only for you because only you could produce it. And that I can literally feel my fingers and toes tingle and my heart swell when we are cuddled together, touching cheeks. That you exceed any dream or expectation I could’ve ever had about you, and ignite a pride and thankfulness in me that is simply too big for words.

As the page turns from two to three, I will store carefully the details and memories from these past wonderful, challenging, glorious years. And I wait with baited breath to see what this new chapter – THREE – will bring to us and our sweet, funny, strong-willed, beautiful girl.

Who is so, SO much more.

We love you, baby girl. Happy Birthday!