We can't lose hope

We live on the wrong side of the tracks.

We also live on the wrong side of the bridge.

And on the wrong side of the river.

If people are familiar with Minneapolis, then they usually ask, "Where do you live?"  Our response is, "We live in North" the nickname and location of living on the wrong side of...well...everything.

And their look is always the same.  One of fear, sadness, pity.  That is the most common response.  One I was used to when I would tell people I lived near Detroit.  I've been getting that look my whole life.  Now there are some who love North Mpls.  Just like in any urban dwelling there are friends and neighbors who love to create an urban/hipster/artist/liberal/earth conscious environment in the city. We would fall into that category.  But eventually, every person who lives in an urban setting, and one that is known for its long history of crime and abuse, needs to ask,

How long can I live here and still be safe?

As I sit here and write at 2pm in the afternoon, a dear friend of ours is fixing our back door because our home was broken into for the fifth time.  And yes, we do have a security system.  We got that after our house was cleaned out 10 years ago at Christmas and vandalized to a disturbing degree.  With the system in place, we have had four more assaults. (And this is just the personal attacks, whereas our neighborhood  is a place of high activity for random shootings, murders, robberies and rape.  And by neighborhood, I mean our street and back alley.  It is a normal occurrence for friends at parities of ours to come away with some sort of ghetto hood tale to retell when they leave.)  I hesitate to write this because 1. It makes me feel like the girl in an abusive relationship who doesn't know when to leave because she finds an excuse after every attack to stay.  Or 2. We will have even more people joining the campaign to tell us to leave.  I understand, we should move, but truly, I don't want to hear it.  That isn't what this post is about.  And I don't want you to feel sorry for us.  Everyone has struggles in their life, and currently, our neighborhood is ours.  This isn't a contest to see how scary and sketchy our hood is compared to yours, its just our reality.  Simple.

When we first moved into our home there was a host of friends who lived in the hood.  There was talk about how it was a hard place to live, but everyone had hope that it would it would get better.  Slowly, friends were moving away because the crime was hitting closer and closer to home.  And yet, we have remained.  People have slowly been giving up hope that anything will change in North.  That no matter how many young families move in and improve their home, make a life for themselves, they will eventually get scared off and move away.  The others that stay can't afford to leave and so they hunker down in their homes and don't participate in the improvement of the hood.  That was our neighbors story for 30 years, until the tornado came and claimed their house, forcing them to leave.

Five years ago the Lowry Bridge got shut down for repairs and then eventually was blown up to be replaced by a beautiful bridge that was stronger and sturdier than before.  The Lowry bridge is one of the main veins that runs from North Mpls to NE Mpls.  Before the bridge went down, NE Mpls was considered the crime epicenter of our area.  After the bridge went down, it got locked down and concentrated in North.  Crime has since remained and flourished where we live, whereas, NE has become the "New It" place to be.  It's been interesting to watch the transformation of NE Mpls and how the art scene has exploded there.  Old buildings have turned into art warehouses, co-ops have started, small creative consignments shops have started, coffee shops and local cafe's decorate dozens of corners.  Tourists visit Uptown Mpls, locals who know the inside tract hang out in NE, and many are too afraid to come to North.

You can tell that locals here are excited and anticipating the shift of culture for North.  They are hoping that with the bridge opening, which it did this last fall, that the good things that are happening in NE will make its way into our little area.  The warehouse district is also spreading closer and closer to our area.  We are only two miles from downtown and the warehouse district is the "New It" place to live.  So on the other side of the bridge is the New place to be, and the other side of the Highway is the New place to live.  Old buildings are being resurrected.  Art and co-ops and small business are popping up all over.  New life is being breathed into the areas surrounding us, and we wonder,

Can it infiltrate, or will it just compound and lock the crime into our hood?

Two years ago our neighborhood was hit by a tornado.  Though it sounds terrible, and in the moment it was, it has given a face lift to home after home in our area.  For 18 months what was a war zone has turned into a mosaic of beautiful homes.  In my mind, this can only serve to help North siders feel proud of our little hood.  However, we get nervous to hope.  To hope that things can turn around.  To hope that our little hood in Mpls could be a safe place to be after hoping for more than 10 years.

Last summer was the hardest on our family.  Crime has slowly moved closer and closer to our home.  A few years back a girl was murdered in front of our home on the corner.  Two summers ago, I was trampled down by the S.W.A.T. team breaking down our neighbors door looking for stolen weapons.  Last spring while making breakfast we watched the police throw smoke bombs in the home across the alley from us and bring out 5 hostages.  But last summer, in the middle of the night, gunshots and bullets rang out in our backyard and alley.  It brings on a whole new dimension when your husband dives over your body to protect you from stray bullets.  It's when I truly felt scared for the first time.  Things shifted for me then.

How long can you hold out hope that things will change?  10 years ago things were supposed to be looking better for North Mpls, and yet, to me it just feels like it has gotten worse.  Everywhere I turn in my neighborhood there are bars on the windows, gates on the doors, graffiti on the walls and garbage on the street.  So many homes are boarded up and abandoned.  When I drive my kids to school passing business after business gated to protect themselves, I think, what do my children see?  How do I explain to my children that our home got broken into...again... without inflicting fear in them?  How do I create a safe place for them, when our safe place has been robbed?  When the evidence of vandalism is all over our broken back door?  How do I reassure them that they are OK, when I am not even sure I believe it myself.

Today I realized how often my spirit is ready for battle.  I live in a neighborhood where before I leave the house now, EVERY time I leave the house, I need to brace our backdoor with a 2x4 wood beam.  I need to be on guard to keep my family safe, while at the same time resting in trust that God is bigger than our fear.

I want to hope that things are going to be better where I live.  I want to hope that I could feel safe in my home.  Right now my spirit is uneasy as I look at our open drawers that were rummaged through and my bed that was moved around by men who robbed us.  My personal space was invaded again.  Strangers were looking and tearing through our stuff.  And somehow I become distanced from that because, well, its happened before.

This whole post is jumbled in thoughts.  It is fearful and somewhat hopeful that all the good things happening around us could finally come and be apart of us in our neighborhood instead of always just being slightly out of reach.  We live in this confusing place of protecting ourselves, but trying to let go and trust.  Looking over our shoulders waiting for the next attack, but trying not to let fear dictate everything we do.  And finally raising children who see God's goodness in everything.

Living in the hood felt very personal today, and somehow I had let my guard down.  I want to only see the good things happening around us.  The parkway coming to our street, all the community gardens, the park parties.  But I'm not gonna lie, lately, all I see are the bars on the windows and the drug deals happening in the cars in front of our house.  My heart is heavy with the lack of hope I felt today.

When you start to feel hopeless, you realize how important hope is.  We need to have hope.  We need to be able to believe.  Believe that God is still good.  Believe that people can choose love instead of hate.  Believe that people can change.  Hope that sin and hurt won't overtake a city.

When the kids and I talked about the break in today, we prayed for the young men who broke into our home.  And I guess that is what I am asking from you.  We as a family need your prayers.  Prayers to head God's direction for our lives.  Prayers for my children that we as a family can talk about this, but that they won't live in fear.  Prayers that Paul and I can help our children understand. Prayers that hatred and bitterness would not claim our hearts and home. Prayers that we won't loose hope. But prayers especially for the young men and women, not only in North but all over the world that choose hatred and anger, and retaliation for the hurt they are struggling with.  Hatred breeds hatred.  Those that choose to hurt others are deeply hurt themselves, and need our prayers.

Close friends and family asked me today how I was doing.  They showed concern and I am so thankful for them.  I guess this post is my response.  A jumbled, confusing, scattered response.  But that is how I feel right now.  Jumbled.  Confused.  Scattered.

Update:  Sometimes I forget how far these posts go.  Sometimes I write because I need to process what is happening in our lives, and I forget that there are hundreds of you reading it.  Thank you so much for the outpouring of love that you showed me in the last 12 hours.  Thank you for your prayers, and your kind words.  Thank you to my friend who showed up today at my door to visit with me over coffee.  I love being apart of the Church.  The church that lives in the hearts and soul of the people I am honored to call friends and for those I have never met face to face but pray for us anyway.  I want you to know that God has used you all to encourage me and find strength in my trust in our Lord.

There is so much I love about where we live, and it was never my intent to degrade North Mpls. What I will do is give an honest opinion about the fact that here, in this urban setting, we have the gift of daily surrendering our control to God.  We are taught and challenged to trust.  We don't sit comfortably and safe in our home, but many times I see that as a gift.  Yesterday I just didn't want the gift.  I also want to say that we never moved here to this neighborhood to do "ministry".  We do however believe in living as Christ like examples wherever we are, wherever we live, wherever we work.  So we try to shine brightly here.  And when the time comes and we are able to move, we would like to venture a bit more out into the country.  But even if we still decided to move today, we would remain here until our home sold and all was in order, which means we still live in a tension of fear and trust.

Thank you for being being with us.  For loving us and for walking through life with us.

Stopping the cycle of dysfunction

***Yes, you probably noticed the blog is different.  I tried to update it a little.  There is still some work to be done, but I am happy with the progress.  Maybe in a couple weeks, my blog and website will be in one spot.  Simplify right?***

Back to this blog...

I wasn't blessed to have faced all of my demons before marriage and incidentally before having children.  So it has become their burden as well to walk this life with me, broken, struggling, full of mistakes.  Just as  my husband hasn't laid down his dark spirits either, but I walk with him through dark times.  Our sweet innocent children haven't had major heartbreak yet, so their time will come.  I am not talking about sin, I am talking about the issues in your life that tear at your spirit, the ones you live with and are afraid to let go of.

For years, I  didn't want a daughter. I was scared she would see the demons.  In true honesty, I am more terrified I am slowly revealing the demons to her and handing them to her in a fun package that will weigh her down for the rest of her life.  I am handing them to her in the things I say, in the way I talk about myself, in the way I talk about other people.  Dark things that don't reflect confidence, or security.  Negative self talk, eating issues and one of my greatest downfalls, comparison.  Always seeing the better in others and the worse in myself.

The first day I had both my boys in school I cried a lot because I missed them.  I was a wreck for awhile, seriously, I didn't think it would be that hard.  But on that first day, I had a friend trying to cheer me up, and she said, "You get all this time with Little.  You have this rare three years of just you and her, and you get to teach her what it means to be a girl.  To be a woman."

My fear and insecurity and treacherous negative thoughts enveloped me at the thought of teaching someone else how to be something I don't even know how to be.  I am to be her role model.  Her example of a woman.  A wife.  A mother.  A christian.  A girlfriend.  A girl.

I took this picture the other night when I was up late, and Little woke up sad.  I pulled her out of bed and crawled on the couch to snuggle her and rub her back till she peacefully drifted back to her dreams.  I laid there looking at this face and just praying to God that I wouldn't screw her up so deeply that even He couldn't fix her.  How do I love her enough to hopefully not pass along all my issues, all my faults, all my insecurity about what it means to be a woman?

And then God slowly spoke in my ear..."give them to me.  You can't give them to her, if you've given them to me."
(what I love about this picture is that by just looking at it, you would never know the doubt, fear, control issues and insecurities that lie deep within someone.  Everyone is more than skin deep.)

See in order to teach Little how to love herself for who God created her to be, I need to face my issues with who I am and love me because I too belong to my creator. It's easy for me to say to my children, "I don't love you because you got a golden ticket at school, or you learned how to tie your shoe, or helped wash the dishes."  The same is true for the mistakes they make.  I don't see the good or the bad, I just see my kid, and I love them because they are mine. (I know they are God's and I do pray that my control issues will always allow me to understand that and not hold on too tight.)  But really, its just because they are apart of me, they are mine.  That is why I love them.  And I know that God would express the same opinion  about me if I dare ask that question and open my ears to hear the answer.

I love that face.  I mean I really love that face and the personality that goes with it and the girl that she is.  I am wholeheartedly in love with my daughter.  That night while she laid on my chest, I just wept.  I want the most for her life.  I want her to love without abandon.  I want her to have real confidence, the kind that comes from knowing that no matter what, she belongs to God Almighty and no make up or boy will ever change that.  I don't want her to be a people pleaser, always bending for the approval of others to the sacrifice of herself.

I deeply wish she won't be a perfectionist like me, never pleased with what she creates because it won't ever be good enough.  I don't want her inner dialog to be negative thoughts that tear at her character and value in this world.  I want her to live a life outside of guilt, unlike her mother, who is a struggling recovery addict to guilt.  I want her to feel comfortable in her body and skin without make up and a dress.  That she could love herself just as much in sweats as she would in glitter.

I deeply desire that she would know that her beauty is far more greater and goes much deeper than her skin. She will be told she's beautiful her whole life, because she is, and I am terrified that it will take her a lifetime to realize that it is her heart and character that make up her beauty.  I don't want her to use her beauty to manipulate people like her mother did in High School.  I don't want her to use her beauty to obtain privileges that aren't rightfully hers just because she has big stunning eyes.

I don't want her to think she has to perform for us to gain our acceptance.  That she needs to be funny, outgoing, creative, exciting all the time, but that truly we love her without those things.  That she could be whoever she wants or needs to be and that is all we ask, for her to be true to herself and in tune with the creator who made her.

I desperately want her to realize that I don't want her to be me, but I want her to be her.  I desire for her to forge her own path.  To find out what being a woman looks like for her.  To love and respect who've I become, but look at me and say, "I want to do things different."

Helping her means having to face my own demons.  Helping her means letting go of all my baggage.  Teaching her means forgiving myself.  Guiding her means loving myself.  Respecting myself.  Believing in the woman I have become.  It doesn't mean perfect, it means respect.  Respect for the mistakes I've made and the forgiveness and understanding I've gained.  It means respect for my body and how it ages.  How I talk about myself will speak directly into her self talk of what a woman is.  Oh man, I am one respect away from quoting the song, so I'll stop before my inner Aretha comes out.

So far this girl has her own strong opinions about everything.  Her clothes, the way her animals should go to sleep on her bed, her hair, her toys, her books, her food.  She has nothing short of the strongest will I've ever seen.  I don't want to break that with giving her my issues.  I want to help train her in how to use that.

I want to help her embrace her life.  I want her to always love food, art, music, people, books, God and her family.  I desire for her character to run deep and her faith to be strong, so that when she is faced with trial, she can confidently stand in the grace she has known all her life.  I prayed a lot that night with my daughter tucked in tight with me.  I let go of my fear and insecurity of raising her.  I held on to my other issues, because apparently I'm not done with those yet.  But I don't look at her with fear anymore.  I look at her with hope.  I am hopeful because I know God is capable of healing me and helping her.  I have hope, and in that hope, I can love my daughter with abandon and fearlessness.  I don't know what "a woman" is supposed to look like, but I look like me, and I'm what she's got, so we'll start there.

And the thing I pray over Little every night is, "Let your insides match your outsides sweet girl."  And I believe God answers prayer.

Preparing for Dedication

The fall and winter is usually when Paul and I travel the most for work.  He is a graphic designer by day, but plays guitar in a band at night.  That really is a side project and he isn't gone all the time doing it, but he travels and practices and takes time to write so it still takes up his time and energy.  I travel when I speak at conferences and retreats and have been writing a lot more these days.   He will be gone 1-2 weekends per month and I will be gone 1-2 per month.  We always make sure we are home as a whole family at least one weekend a month together for these winter months of crazy.

People always say that it sounds incredibly hard and busy.  We understand it is a bit busier than usual, but really, how we approach it makes all the difference.  We try very hard to look at our priorities and make room only for the things we won't compromise on, faith, family, fun and structure.  We withdraw from everything else during those times to protect our family.  We don't schedule dinners, parties, classes, or kickball or extra circular activities.  We take the things we usually do and replace then with travel.  So during the week, we don't do anything else.  Whenever we are home, spending time together as a married couple and family is our top priority.  That's probably why people think we are so busy, because we are either traveling or hiding for months, and then in the spring, we come out to play.

Paul and I both feel called to our family, our marriage and to our ministries.  We in no way want one of these aspects of our life to allow the other to suffer.  And we deeply believe that if God has called to us these aspects of our life, then if we seek him continuously and ask for his guidance he will provide a way.  So we pray and talk and schedule and find a way for each of these aspects of our heart and lives to empower the other, not destroy it.  We want healthy rhythms and routine for the kids.  We want and need time together to keep our marriage strong.  We see how our whole family flourishes in our regular life schedule of slower paced living.

I have learned how to prepare for this season of our lives each year. On New Year's we open our schedule and we look over the next six months.  We discuss priorities, time as a family, what we will cut out of the schedule and what we need to keep to stay healthy.  We discuss sitters, schedules, merchandise, food, family chores, the whole bit.  So I have learned how to prepare the house.  Get things in order.  I have learned to love friends through emails and phone calls while being in the airport since I don't see much of them.  I have learned to make lists of financial items that need to be taken care of during the week when I am home.  I have not mastered the birthday thing and remembering and sending cards.  I am horrible at that, and not sure its in my DNA to be that girl that will send you a card to arrive on your actual birthday.  That just seems way too hard.  I have though learned how to organize multiple sitters and a network of people to take care of the kids.  (And this is just all the house/family stuff, I didn't list all the business arrangements that need to take place, writing and preparing speeches, and ordering and organizing merchandise to sell.  Preparation in of itself is a part time job.)

The last two years I have needed to include food preparation into this list which is an enormous task.  I can't leave money for the sitter to buy pizza or McDonald's   I can't let Paul make the kids PB&J for lunch.  I need lists of the "DO NOT EAT" foods.  Lists of the "APPROPRIATE SNACKS".  Most of the time, I need all  the food prepared so that our friends and family watching the kids feel comfortable and confident in their ability to love them and take care of them.  I want to bless them as much of a stress free weekend as I can.  So that now includes lists and lists of food, days of cooking and freezing food, and organizing the menu and vitamins that each kid takes.  Then I think about myself.  What am I going to eat?  I usually take some hard boiled eggs, Larabars, apples and almonds and scones.  I am happy to eat salad for the weekend and know that usually in the green room are veggies and fruit.

But on Thursday what I wasn't expecting and totally forgot was that Paul was now on our diet.  It was Thursday morning and Little and I came home from dropping the boys off at school.  We were going to paint nails, read books and play a game while we waited for the new stove to arrive. (which it didn't and we are hoping comes Monday!)  But then my mind drifted to the fact that Paul was going to be leaving for his Chicago weekend gig at 5am the next morning.  He would be gone all weekend.  Then it hit me, what's he going to eat?  Oh shoot!  So I looked at Little and we struck a deal.  Cook one thing for Daddy and do one thing for her.  What was tricky about this is that Paul may be on our all natural diet, but me and the kids can be fine eating snacks and bird like food for a few days.  We are happy being granola, seed, nut and fruit and veggie people.  Paul needs meat.  Paul need substance.  How the heck am I supposed to do that?  So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I prepared food that he could take, but if he gave me the look of, "am I really supposed to eat that?" then I had it already prepared for the kids.  To me it felt like a win/win.

So this is what I sent with Paul to help fill in his gaps of meals, and hopefully when in a pinch, make a  meal in and of itself.  My goal was that he wouldn't hate the diet so much that he wouldn't want to do it anymore.  The challenge was great, but I have already heard from him that he is doing well, and every time he eats the food I prepared for him, he knows how much I love and support him.  And that's the goal right?  Take care of our loved ones.  Support them in their dreams and dedication to being the best they can be?  He wants to eat healthy, take care of  himself for me and the kids, rid himself of some chronic issues.  How can I not do everything in my power to help him in that. I can either be apart of his downfall, or his success.  I am his wife.  I want him to succeed.

So I sent him with:

I made our coffee cake which I get from thespunkycoconut.com.  Its really delicious and sent Paul with three HUGE pieces, one for each morning he was gone.

Paul has eaten Larabars before and I believe his response was, "It tastes like chalk.  I can't believe you eat this."  Welcome to the diet!  So I splurged and bought a bunch of different kinds of bars for him to try.  His homework was if he didn't like it, put the rest of the bar in a baggie and bring it home so the kids could eat for a snack, they are too expensive to throw away, seriously.  And if he liked it, he needed to keep the wrapper so I knew which ones to get him next time he traveled out of town.  And yes you will see Enjoy Life candy bars in there.  I figured, he would be watching everyone else eating oreo's in the green room, if he felt like something sweet, then he had something on hand.

Hard boiled eggs are a great snack in this house.  One splurge item we use is smoked salt.  It it just to die for and we can't eggs any other way.  We are adding it to pop corn and roasted veggies, its just too good not to.  We get ours from here.  It takes our usually every day very plain food, to a whole new wonderful place of goodness.

I found this box of a cookie mix, so I decided to cook them up and had Paul try them.  He loved them, which is a huge test in this house.  So I sent him with some, ate quite a few myself and then each kid got two in their lunch the next day.  Yes, cause I ate that many if you must know.  The cookie mix was Pure Elizabeth.  Don't remember where it came from, but I will keep my eye out for it now.

I was a little surprised that Paul wanted to take the Quinoa and bean salad with walnuts in it.  I thought this was pushing his limits, but he actually really likes it, and its ALL protein   So I am hoping this big batch will help with the hunger over the weekend.

These scones are really very British and not sweet at all.  But they work great dipped in coffee or slathered with a nut butter or jam.  So that is what I sent with Paul, scones for a lunch with a can of our homemade strawberry/apple jam made this past fall.

Here is the jam and the cashew ranch dressing that I sent with him.  I figured, most of the time salad is your only option, so I wanted him to have dressing that he enjoys.

I am not gonna lie, I never thought I would see the day that meat and potato man would take a suitcase of granola, hippy, authentic real  food with him.  He had bamboo silverware and everything.  He was so happy to have food to eat, and I was so happy that was willing to pack a whole other suitcase of food.

Weekend one is a success!  Now in two weeks we will both be gone, so I guess its back to the kitchen to start preparing food for five people, two who will be gone and three that will have sitters.  I should start now so I will be done in time.

But in true confession, every minute in the kitchen is worth it.  It is worth it that my husband is happier with himself and his body and his attitude.  It is worth it for my sons ability to have friends, and interact in a healthy way with others.  That he has stayed of meds because of the food he eats.  The absence of my depression makes every moment in the kitchen worth it.  To pursue our dreams.  To use our God given gifts to bless others.  To have joy in our home.  You will probably find my body dead in the kitchen when I go, but yes it is worth. every. single. second. for the life we have.  The good things are absolutely worth the work.

Taking time to pray

I believe in quiet prayers.   Prayers that only reach the heart and ears of the God who made you.

But never underestimate the power of praying out loud.  Not only does God hear those prayers, but other important  hearts and ears hear them too.

I think it is critically important that we as Christian parents pray with our children.  I don't just mean your standard meal time and bedtime and morning prayers, or even the Lord's prayer.  I mean, plain speech, talk to a friend, share what's on your heart prayers.  This is one of those of things that we could do from the very beginning with our children.  This way it is never a taught skill, it is a natural form of communication and one they understand, because they have never been without it.

This isn't about passing along religion to our children.  This is about teaching them how to be in a relationship with the Lord.  How to share your heart with him.  Your fears, your joys, and just the every day musings of your mind.

The best part of praying together as a family, out loud, is first, you and your children will grow comfortable praying in front of people.  So many people, even life long Christians, get nervous praying in front of others.  Praying together as a family will help all of you get more comfortable praying out loud in front of others.

Second and most important, you get a direct line straight into the heart and inner thoughts of your children and spouse.  There are many days where our lives are filled with day to day chores, responsibilities and adventures.  You have seen your family, shared laughs with them, frustrations with them, and then when the day is over, you crash into bed.  Days can go by without a true, real connection.

Tonight at bedtime, I was abundantly blessed.  We read our stories, we sang our songs, we said our prayers.  But I wanted us to pray together as a family.  We don't do it every night, and even tonight, I was tired and ready to just be done, finish the dishes and crawl into bed.  But the Lord was nudging me.  "Create the habit. Talk to me", I heard.  And so I said, "Big, what do you want to pray for?"

Big, "God, I pray for our friend Ms. Inga.  I pray God that you would heal her hurt head.  That you would take away her headache.  God I pray that you would help make Kieran and Michael big helpers to Inga so that she can rest, and they would take care of her.  Amen." (I don't think I actually told the kids my friend was ill, they overheard it in a phone conversation.)

Middle, "God I pray for cousin Ryan that you would take away his cancer and he would be all better so he could be with his family.  Make him not sick anymore. (We haven't spoken about Ryan in the last couple weeks, so this touched me very deeply.)  And please God heal mommy's toe so that it won't hurt or fall off.  (I broke my toe last week, but it has no real threat of falling off.)  Amen.

Little, "God I pray for Inga's head. Make it better. See that mama, I prayed for Ms. Inga too! Amen.  (she is a work in progress, but nothing is sweeter to my ears than then sound of small children praying)

Paul then prayed for me that I would not get overwhelmed with chores.  He praised God for the work I do around the house and taking care of our home and our children.  I love nothing more than having my children hear their dad pray to the Lord, especially as he prays for their mom.  I love that my husband did that, and that my children heard that.

I prayed that my children would desire God on their own.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed that God would continue to be the final authority in our home and a few other things.

This kind of blessing doesn't happen every day in our home.  But what it reminds me of, and why I share it with you, is to serve as an encouragement.  That we would pray with our children so they can hear our hearts and we can hear theirs.  So that we all know that even though mom and dad have authority in the home, we are all under God's authority.  That our children would hear our confessions and seeking God's forgiveness, communicates to them that we aren't perfect and need God desperately as well.  We get to hear what our children's inner thoughts are, which allows us to serve them and help them more effectively.

My hope and desire is that we would each be encouraged and take the time to pray with our children.  Nothing is more important, and I promise you will be blessed.

Celebrating Life and Marriage

Today a bunch of new friends and I got to celebrate this amazing gal.  My dear friend Lindsey Burken.

I met my sweet friend in college and through the course of time, she has become a huge part of every aspect of my life.  Not only is she the godmother to one of my kids, but a key component in our lifestyle change and one of our biggest supporters.  She serves with me on the Haiti Mission Project board, she has a genuinely compassionate spirit.  Her soul is full of Jesus and music, and one of the best the best things about Ms. Burken is that she truly does care about the people in her life.  God uses her in mighty ways to love others.

Today we celebrated the fact that God has written marriage into Lindsey's story, she is getting married!  For so long Linds has made the most of her life, continuing school, attending concerts, traveling the country on fun trips with friends, serving and volunteering and crafting, and being the CFO of the HMP all while being a youth director. She is highly dedicated to the course of creating moment after moment for her students to fall in love with Christ.  I have long admired her persistence to her students faith life.

Just over a year ago, Lindsey met a man who, by just looking at her photo, was inspired and moved and wanted to meet her.  Just over a year later, they are getting married.  It has been such a joy to watch God reveal himself to her and Tad in a way that only a Christ centered relationship can unveil him.  God has shown them both how to love and forgive, how to communicate and understand, how to have dreams together and share a life together.  He has brought them together to walk through life and share in God's grace for his beloved.  Anyone who has been in a Christian marriage can attest to knowing God's grace to a deeper level through their spouse.  So we got to celebrate that new life and marriage today with Lindsey's wedding shower.

So many of Lindsey's friends came all the way out from Woodbury to join us in the hood for the celebration. I wanted the shower to be a collection of all things that "felt" like Lindsey.  It is second weekend of Nov. so fall was our theme, a season she loves and her mom was in town which was a huge added bonus!  We ate salads and desserts, and had wonderful drinks.  This was a game free party so it just allowed time to talk and share fun stories and get to know one another.

Here was the table spread.  It's amazing how hanging some fun cheap lanterns can heighten the excitement of the event.  It is those little touches that draws your attention to a focal point to create a dramatic effect and add to the fun.  My problem is I am obsessed with the little touches and details!

We feasted on a Watermelon/pomegranate/mint salad, Black bean chips and pumpkin salsa, Candied almond salad, and a Chicken salad with rice, artichoke and tomato and bean salad.  What I love about this is that two days ago, I notice that even after three freezes, we had a watermelon growing in our garden!  So half of that salad is garden fresh!

Also included on our menu was a gluten/dairy/corn/soy free Cesar salad and mushroom/ asparagus/tomato brushetta.

 Below is a wonderful antique dresser that a friend of mine and I saved from a garbage pile this past spring.  I love this dresser!  It typically in my room holding my jewelry  hats, scarves, tights, purses, etc.  Today I wanted to bring out so that the array of dishes would color and fun to the event.  The wide top also served the perfect place for desserts.  It was perfect!
 I found this little box at an antique store for a $1.  I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for then, but then getting ready for the party, it just made sense to throw a piece of colored paper on the bottom and lay the flat ware in it.  It was a perfect way to hold the silverware so it wasn't scattered everywhere.
 For dessert, I made a pumpkin/berry cobbler and a dear friend of Lindsey's made the sweetest vanilla/chocolate cupcakes.  There was also individual servings of cheesecake available.  Everything personalized and in perfect proportions.
 I have a learned a great little trick for serving.  Each item on the menu has its own space to live.  I served four different drinks, one hot, two cold, and one alcoholic. I displayed each drink on its own serving board with cups to give it a place of notice.  Otherwise, you just have a bunch of drinks and cups scattered around.
 Here are some of the special ladies in Lindsey's life that made it out for the shower!
 Joanna on the left helped plan and create the party.  She also served with Lindsey and I on the HMP since it's creation.  It's wonderful having friends gathered that share your heart for life, love, and ministry.
 Who wouldn't like getting a present this big!!!!
 Enjoying each others conversation and watching fun gifts being open; gifts that will help build the home of a new family.
 I have a problem throwing anything away that can be reused again.  I sat on the floor most of the gift opening folding tissue paper to give back to Lindsey so she can reuse it for her gift giving later.
 Just a fun picture of the party planners with the bride to be!
 I kind of have to say she is the sister of the groom, but Tabitha will always just be one of my very dear friends first and foremost, and it was so fun having her there!
So Lindsey and Tad will celebrate the beginning of their marriage together.  This today was a day that we got to surround Lindsey with love, and support for her new adventure.  Weddings are exciting for all the promise they hold, all the hope of a couple who will commit to doing life together no matter what.  Lindsey and Tad we are so happy and excited for you.  Thank you for letting us all be apart of this journey with you.  We promise to love you and support you and pray for you through the years as you continue to dedicate yourselves and your marriage to the Lord.

We can't wait for the big day!

I will say, I am often too busy at the party to take pictures, and most of my pictures just look like they are trying to be artistic.  I think it would be a great idea sometimes to hire a photographer to capture those wonderful parties and events in your life so you don't have to worry about the picture taking.

Or I could just take a class and do it myself.  But that doesn't help with my being busy issue.

Oh well.

To be a blessing

So every year we have a Thanksgiving tree.  Its our way of having a visual aid to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  It's also a really great art project for the kids and I to do together.  We work on our tree for about an hour and they get to draw, dream of ideas, cut and tape it all together.

Here is our tree!

Notice the bike lane on the road.  Clearly Middle has grown up in Mpls where bike lanes are everywhere!  Ha!  It made me laugh out loud.

Our twist this year as we, like so many others, are trying to be thankful, is that we have two different colored leaves.

The green leaves are for what we want to thank God for that day.  Notice I didn't just say, what we are thankful for, but what are going to Thank God For.  Small word change, but huge implications.  I believe scripture when it says, that every good and perfect gift comes from God.  So, if all blessings come from heaven, then its important to give credit where credit is due.  I don't just want thankful children, I want children who praise God for every good thing in their life.

The red leaves are for how we can be a blessing to others. I was thinking about how great it is to be thankful, but what if we focused on how we could be what others were thankful for?  So that is our challenge each morning.  My kids need to think about a blessing they received that day that they want to thank God for, but then I ask them how they can be a blessing to someone else.  This can seem like a pretty big concept for little people.  So each day I have the kids pick one person they would like to try to be a blessing for.  Then we brain storm some ideas of how they can be a blessing to their teacher, their friends, their sister, a stranger, etc.

I think this is a wonderful way to help encourage children to be outward focused.  To think about how we can be a vessel for joy, for thanksgiving, for love, for hope to those around us.

Anyway, I hope this post doesn't make you feel frustrated if you don't do one, or maybe you think its overkill.  You don't need a tree to talk about this, you don't need to do it everyday.  Talking about it once a week still is an opportunity to focus on how to be a blessing for someone else.  This can be done with children, roommates, friends, spouses and co-workers.

So, don't just be thankful, but thank the one who blesses you.  And if you have a little time in the next few days, find a way to bless someone else.  Be the vessel that brings a little bit more of love into the brokenness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Middle's right of passage

One of my favorite things that Paul and I have learned over the years is the importance of rights of passage.  It is a time to take pause.  To realize that a moment in your life is changing.  That things won't be the same and you need to take a moment to stop, to reflect, to pray, and find tools or wisdom to carry you through this new stage.  Our American culture doesn't do a really great job at this, and Paul and I are far from experts, but we love the idea of arming our kids for the next stage of life, and taking pause with them.

Our first right of passage happens when one of our kids starts school.  This is a big moment to talk about expectations, how important school is and what an honor it is to go to school.  We talk about  the responsibilities of being a school age kid, and most important how God can use them to bring his light and love to friends and teachers that might not know him.  They are now entering a very special mission field and Mom's and Dad's role in their life is a little different now.  There is a lot to talk about, and a lot to pray over for our children in this moment.

We did this for Big last year, and had all these great ideas and hopes and expectations and then he ate candy the day before and we witnessed first hand what sugar does to that kid.  Could hardly keep his eyes on us for two seconds, and that is not an exaggeration.  He couldn't sit still, he couldn't focus, he couldn't listen.  With all that said, we still had a great time, but we were really hoping that this year with Middle would be the way we dreamed this moment would  be.

Then Middle threw up till 1am the night before our special right of passage afternoon.  We decided to do it  anyway and just keep it low key.

The first thing we do on our afternoon is get the kid a backpack.  Since they wear a uniform to school, this is pretty special, and it's just us and one kid doing this together.  Middle LOVED his new backpack.

This may sound like a perfect and wonderful day, but it wasn't without its reality.  We carried Middle most of the time because he was so tired.  He was missing a bit of his spark, and his treat included an OJ and banana.  Poor little kid.  I'll be honest though, out of all three kids, he's the best sick kid.  If you have kids, you know each family has one, and he's ours.

Love the extra snuggles though.

After getting the backpack, we go and pick out a treat and then head to a special park where we can sit, eat, talk and pray over our child.  Here is a wonderful photo of two of my guys.  Ahh...I just took a moment to sit and stare at them.  I love them so much.

If dad gets a photo, mom gets a photo.

Since he was doing so great, we let Middle have a couple bites of coconut milk ice cream.  Chocolate is Middle's favorite, and he was SO excited.

We even lured a chipmunk to share with us.  That was pretty fun to watch.  What can I say? We're givers.

This was a special time with Middle set apart from the other kids and set apart to mark the beginning of school.  I loved listening to wisdom that Paul passed on to him.  I loved the questions Middle had and hearing about the things he was excited for.  Praying over our kids is probably one of my favorite things.  I love hearing Paul's heart for them and what he dreams for them and what is nervous for.  I love that kids hear our hearts and us trying to surrender our will to God's for their life.

Middle's first right of passage.  I probably won't be included in the next one since it will deal with boy things, if you know what I mean, but I look forward to planning it with Paul.  And it will probably include a weekend away.  Lots to talk about as a boy growing into a young man.

The last thing we do for the kids on their first day of school, is give them a necklace to wear.  Their name is written on the guitar pick to remind them who they are.  They are a Tietjen, and Tietjen's are believers in God.  They struggle, they love, they forgive, they laugh, they try hard, they live in God's grace and live a life of serving others.  Also on the necklace is a cross which is there to remind them they are not alone.  Christ goes with them wherever they go.  They belong to him and are not alone.

Enjoy the photos and our little tradition.

The ho hum life

It's one of those weekends where much doesn't happen.  Nothing exciting to write home about (or blog about).  We didn't have anything planned, and we try to do that as much as possible.  We want our weekend to just develop.  We had really great moments, we had frustrating moments.  We didn't eat  anything special or planned.  In fact, most of our meals were pretty lame if you ask me.  I just didn't care.

Saturday was our Sabbath and we had to leave the house because all I really wanted to do was clean and do projects.  I couldn't rest in our house and it was too beautiful to be in doors.  All the kids wanted to do was go to Chucky Cheese.  All Paul wanted to do was walk around  a mall.  All I wanted to do was walk around a lake.  I'm not sure how, but my wish came true.  It was wonderful.  We walked around a couple lakes, skipped rocks, climbed trees, swung on swings, and gave piggy back rides.  With all that goodness there was also, "I'm bored" comments, "I'm tired" and "When can we go to Chucky Cheese?"  Normal kids, normal day.

After, we walked around the mall a bit and looked at lots of silly things.  Then we took the kids out to dinner and came home and put them to bed.  Paul and I rearranged some furniture to bring our record collection back out to a permanent spot in our home and that was wonderful.  We listened to a ton of oldies but goodies for over an hour, then I fell asleep on the couch.

Sunday started with finishing homework, then off to church with their big Welcome Day celebration which included a carnival.  We rocked climbed, bounced house, pet animals, and partook in a hayride.  We had lunch at 130pm, we took naps at 3pm and we started our family bike ride at 530pm.  We ate supper at 845pm and the kids were asleep before I was done praying over them.  The day had good things, the day had unmet expectations that made me annoyed at Paul, then him annoyed at me.  Then we were good, then I was annoyed at my kids, then they were annoyed at me because they were bored and just wanted to go on the bike ride.  The bike ride was amazing and we had a blast riding around the city at night.  It was an extra special adventure.  I realized as my anxiety was rising because we were getting our very tired kids into bed so late, that my attitude was going to make or break this memory.  They don't know how late it is.  They just know that something fun happened.  So I tried to keep my attitude in check and gently encourage quicker movements into bed.

It was nothing special.

It was very normal.

There were no amazing pictures taken, or delicious recipes to share.  Nothing Pinterest worthy.

But in hindsight, I think that's what makes these the moments that get remembered.  Paul and I fight hard not to be too busy.  To allow these weekends and week nights of nothingness so that we can just be together.  To let fun happen.  Yes, my kids get bored and would probably love to have time with friends, or a sport to go to or a party to happen.  But we think its really important to fight through the bored thing.  To have weekends that are slow paced and force us to figure out what to do with ourselves and each other.  And here in the cities there is no lack of great things to do.  We have hundreds of options, but that gets overwhelming.  I don't want all those options all the time, it makes me feel like we are missing out on so much so we have to do stuff so we don't  miss out.  That is a lot of pressure, and one I try hard to let go of.

(I got what I wanted though! With the exception of the annoyance at my husband in which he actually did nothing wrong.  Got to love miscommunication!)  Slow paced family time.  Silly songs on bike rides.  Discovering great climbing trees on the lake.  Our family having good and hard moments constantly throughout the weekend.  It's what families are.  Sticking together in good and hard moments.

I hope my kids remember that.  The days we just spent doing nothing together.

Bad day gone embarrassing

I was sick for about a week.  I had headaches that would render me to my bed.  I had stomach aches that would render me to the bathroom.  I would resurface for an hour and then my body would tell me to go back to hiding.

The day I resurfaced for good, I realized how important it is for a mom to be present.

While washing the dirty dishes, I watched my one son grab a dirty cup from the sink and fill it with warm water and drink water.

I watched my daughter pick up broken chips off the dirty kitchen floor and eat them.

I watched my other son put a stool on a chair and climb to the food pantry and get an open bag of almonds to eat.

I found Lego's in the fridge.

Clearly fending for themselves made them scavengers.

Then I took them out of the house and that is when I discovered that sickness takes away part of your brain.  I am still not sure how it happens and where it goes, but it was almost like I was listening to myself and I kept thinking, that is a bad idea.  Yet I let it all happen.

I'm not spilling those secrets, but it ended with this.

My daughter wrapped in my scarf with nothing else in a public park because there was nothing else for her to wear. 

We went home immediately after this picture was taken and I didn't let us leave again till the next day when my brain came back.

And she was on to me.  She knew it was wrong and she didn't like it.  I kept trying to convince her that it was the new trend, but she didn't believe me.

A dream come true

It may sound silly to you, but it has been a dream of mine for quite some time to know how to can my own food.  When Paul met me I was idyllic and dreamy of growing my own food, cooking and sewing and painting and creating.  I couldn't cook anything but Mac and Cheese and didn't know how to sew a button.   It was bad and my dreams felt pretty out of reach.  I didn't even know where to begin.  Let's just say, Paul has eaten his share of throw away meals in the last 10 years.

There has been something in me for a long time that struggles with my complete dependence on everyone else for my survival.  I would think to myself, "If anything happened that took away grocery stores, communication, anything, I really wouldn't know how to take care of myself."  I saw strong survival qualities getting lost on our generations.  I saw people who work, but don't know how to live or take care of themselves.  It really bothers me.  We make money, but don't know how to take care of ourselves.

Fast forward eight years, and now looking at my family's need for healthy food, locally grown and organic, it just makes sense.  The time felt right.  I tried my hand at a vegetable garden a few years ago.  We ended up with a few cucumbers and some peppers.  Not that great.  I think I grew more weeds than food.  Last year, I increased my garden double in size,  I had Paul cut down three trees in our backyard for more sun exposure,I built my own fence and had the neighborhood kids come over and help me plant.  I went all out and was so excited for my garden. 

Then a tornado dropped a garage on my garden and I was left with nothing.  For all that happened and was destroyed, I was saddest for my garden.  Heh, I would randomly say to Paul when we were fallling asleep last summer, "I miss my garden".  He would just laugh at me.  It was pathetic.

Well, I was ready this year.  We re dug our plot and planted away.  I was diligent in my weeding and watering and was so impressed with the food coming out of our garden, and the fresh food we were eating, but we couldn't keep up, and the point was to preserve the food for winter. 

Well, I don't know how to do that.  Remember, it was my dream, not my reality.

Thank you dear Heather for offering your mom's hobby farm and her time to help me out!  Spending time with my mother in law in Texas showed me how much knowledge can come from sharing a kitchen with someone.  Yes, you can follow a recipe and search the Internet for answers to your questions, but nothing beats having a teacher/mentor in the kitchen with you.  That's what I wanted for all my questions about food, and how to can it, how to preserve it, what other options I have.  I wanted to share the kitchen with someone who has spent years figuring it out.  Well, Heather's mom saved the day!

Two weekends ago, my sweet friend Heather and I drove my three kids, a huge box of food from our garden and our adventurous spirits 45min north of the cities to her mom's house where we had a blast for two days.

We showed up on a Friday afternoon and the kids went right out to play and run around the acreage.  Probably the best feeling ever to just let your kids run around outside for hours knowing they won't get taken or lost or learn to curse.

Isn't it just perfect?  I couldn't resist taking this photo.  It feels safe and warm and like home.

Here is Big and Little playing catch with Emit, my friends dog.  And yes, Little is acting like a princess.  While they were playing catch, and middle was digging in the sandbox, Heather's mom and I were pealing and boiling two HUGE pots of tomatoes for Spaghetti sauce.  I went to work right away in that woman's kitchen which was exactly what I wanted.  We had big plans for all we were going to can and cook in two days.

Here is her chicken coup where she houses over 20 chickens.  And she was so kind to send us home with two dozens fresh eggs.  BEST GIFT EVER!

With all the fresh food we were preparing and eating, the kids got to feed the chickens all the time and loved it.  I'm not gonna lie, every meal felt like we went to the garden and picked our meal.  We ate fresh from the garden beans, corn, squash, zucchini  for bread, eggs, tomatoes, and watermelon.  The chickens loved that we were there.

After peeling and coring all the apples and piling them in the huge pot and doing the same with the tomatoes,  we took the kids to the lake while food cooked.  It was hot and the perfect time to cool off.  The kids spent their time digging for great rocks and shells and playing with all the dogs that showed up.  Great fun.

After a yummy supper, we enjoyed fresh warm apple sauce around a fire.  We burned pine cones, sticks and needles.  We also got to pick fresh apples off the three trees they have on the farm and enjoy those around the fire.

A beautiful photo of the front of the vegetable garden.

While in the kitchen working on grading zucchini to freeze, Little enjoyed the tire swing.

When it started to rain, Big improvised and drove around inside the barn.  I could have left him there and he never would have missed me.

Little got to be pushed around in a vintage stroller.  Yes her shoes don't match, that is the price you pay for empowering your children to dress themselves.  But she is wearing my pants from when I was 2.  She's so old school.


My friend Heather took this photo of my dream coming true.  She said she had to capture the moment since I had been wanting and waiting to can for so long.  In the end I love that she take the picture.  It may sound silly, but dreams come in all sizes and they take on different shapes and colors.  This was a dream of mine, and I love that it came true.  Heather's mom gave me her weekend, her time, her kitchen and let me ask dozens of questions, let me kids run around her home, and she taught me to can my food.  She was this huge gift in the process of giving us a healthier, happier, self sufficient life.  She gave me a tool to help love myself and my family.  A way to protect and preserve heritage traits and talents.  I am so grateful to her and Heather for helping make a dream come true.  It's a big deal to make room for dreams, whether big or small.  It was such a fun weekend, full of joy, laughs, learning and conversation.


Look what we did! 9 cans of spaghetti sauce, 5 cans of apple juice, 5 cans of apple sauce, and 12 bags of frozen zucchini for breads and soups.

At the last minute, we sent the kids out in the rain to collect as much Basil as they could.  Heather's mom had already collected as much as she wanted so the rest would just go to waste.  All the green in front of the kids is basil, and they picked a ton for me.  We made four big jars of pesto before we left Saturday night.  No matter how organic, locally grown pesto is, it will always include cheese.  We haven't had pesto in 18 months, but now.... Now we can have pesto twice a month if we want!  We are so excited if you can't tell.  Pesto noodles, pesto pizza, marinated pesto chicken, and homemade pesto gnocchi.

I had a small dream come true.  My kids got out of the hood for the weekend.  We had good, unscheduled fun with animals, plants, water and toys.

Thank you Lord for refreshing our weary souls and providing ways for dreams to come true.

A new chapter

Thursday marked the day where two of my kids are in school all day.  It is just me and Little at home now.

Its odd to be in a moment that you know you will remember for the rest of your life and have an authentic feeling about it.

You have the voices of parents who have gone before you and what they experienced, and you have thoughts of feelings that you think you should be experiencing.  So many thoughts.  So many feelings.

I have a 7yr old. 

I have two children in school now.

I have been surrounded by children and chaos for 7 years.  Before that I was working full time.  Before that, I was in college.

I have so many plans and ideas for my time, and yet I feel paralyzed and don't know where to start.  This is what I have been asking for for years, more time.

I cried all day.  I would be standing in my basement, cleaning and organizing, (I started with the big project first) and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and fear, and loneliness, and like part of my body was missing, and excitement, and timidity, and anxiousness, and joy, and peace, and fear, and....


That was my word all day.


I had a dear friend call me, and I was verbally onslaughtering her and I finally said, "I just feel weird.  I don't know how to be alone."  And then I started crying again. (No I haven't forgotten that I have a small child at home, its just that, she is so easy, and going from three kids to one it does feel like you are alone.)

She came right over.  Pulled me from my basement, made iced coffee and we sat on the couch.

Then I started all over in what I was feeling, what I was afraid of, what I was excited for, and my total not knowing where to start in how to live this new life I have.

We went through all the things I was feeling, and she talked me off the edge of each negative one, and pushed me to embrace the good ones.

I know how to be Dani who has three crazy kids that I manage each day and prepping the house and the food, and planning activities.

I know how to be Dani Tietjen the public speaker.

I don't know how to be Dani who has time to pursue an organized healthy life.  A creative life.  Time to daily devote, time to read, time to volunteer, time to paint, time to write, time to sew, time to research, time to work, time to plan great activities for the kids, time to budget our money.

I am excited for my kids.  I am so grateful for their opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese fluently.  I am excited for time with my daughter.

One lesson that my dear friend helped me learn, is that just because my kids are in school, doesn't mean we have to jump on the American band wagon of activities.  I dread that hamster wheel, and I don't want it for my family.  It is really, really difficult to not join activities.  That may sound silly, but here in the cities and at a very cultural forward school, there are so many great activities to get your kids into.  Music, art, sailing, sports, chess, so many!

But that just means more stress on the pocket book, on the schedule, and for our family.  So we only do school, and come home and play and do chores.

I learned other fun things about myself and this new adventure with my friend that day.  But those are other blog posts.  Posts I am hoping to have time to write now!

Even though I still feel weird not having my little people around me, Little and I are going to embrace our first week together at home with fun things planned.

What I realized when writing this is, is that one would think my children were my whole life.  But I have a wonderful speaking career, I have healthy friendships and a very healthy marriage that I invest time in away from my kids.  I have hobbies and workouts that I love to do. 

But when you are used to the constant chatter of your kids, their help when cooking, and they are around to have adventures with on the spur of the moment, you really miss it when its gone.  Yes they fight, and they are loud, and they seem to spill everything and make a career out of making messes, so not having to deal with that each day all day is helpful, but mostly I just miss them.

So, cheers with me to this new stage of life and my children becoming smarter and more worldly than me each and every day.

Boys in thier uniform for the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade.

My little helper dressed herself today.

A nature bike ride in the hood

I love family bike rides.

LOVE them!

We haven't ridden since before the tornado last year.  The bikes got locked in the garage for about a month, then they got buried behind building materials and everything in the garage just got out of control.

Today we rescued out bikes and took them out for a ride!

I had a such an entertaining time partaking in the sights and sounds of our nature path weaving in and out of the hood/ghetto.

Let me take you along for the ride so you can enjoy it too.

Paul is the only one who is responsible enough to know where his bike helmet is.  The rest of us are at a loss.  So he wins the award for being the coolest, safest, and most responsible in the house.  This is no surprise really as he has held this title for the last 10 years.  I mean truly, he is unbeatable, its disgusting.

So, my bun is really big so that works for me.
Little is in the buggy so a private cave works for her.
Middle puts on Great Grandpa's helmet that has 100% no padding.  He rides with a tilted, slanted helmet the whole way.  The crooked helmet is perfect for our slightly off kiltered kid.
Big however has scored the best vote with wearing a baseball helmet.  Yup.  That's right.  We rode for an hour and half with him wearing a StarWar costume that is three sizes too small and a baseball helmet.  I just nodded and smiled politely at all the people we  passed as they starred three seconds too long at our kid. 

We own the phrase, "let you freak flag fly."

Middle is attached to Paul.
Big rides alone.
Little rides in the buggy attached to me.

Within the first few moments, Big says, "Don't worry mama, I will stay in the pocket."  Pretty great memory since we haven't done this in two summers.  If you want to know more about the pocket, you can read that blog here.  https://static.squarespace.com/static/5191963be4b0f499a5389784/51e6ec07e4b0e9e9ce129deb/51e6ec12e4b0e9e9ce12a1f8/1323578481000/

Then as our hour continued, we were rewarded with the following:

In the matter of 20 minutes, I smelled fresh flowers, someone grilling, burning tires, which always takes me back to Haiti, and the stench of the sewer.

We rode down to the Mississippi where we watched a bunch of young men come back from fishing.  Half of them struggled to walk with their pants around their knees, the others just had a look of getting away with something.  We crossed under the bridge and there was the beautiful river.  Then we noticed the bank littered with garbage.

I heard four different languages in five minutes.

An African American Luau decked out with full figured ladies dressed in grass skirts and shell bra's playing games with the music blaring.

A field fight where Middle couldn't understand if they were talking or fighting because it all sounds the same to him.

Riding next to the river on one side and a graffiti train on the other.

Biking through 7 basketball games in the street and one battle scene where kids were using sticks as swords and baseball plates as shields.  It was hilarious.

Little singing Happy Birthday to everything she sees and thinks of.  And I mean everythingg.
"Happy Birthday to my toe, to my shoe, to my umbrella, to my bike, my clouds, my jammies, my tree, my wheel, my keys, my fingers, my hair." You get the idea.   It was unbelievable.  If she wasn't singing, she was pointing out every bump I hit, every smell that was weird, she noticed every dog and animal we passed, and she greeted everyone we passed.  It was non stop chatter.  I am a little concerned with when both boys are in school.  I thought there would be some peace and quite, but I have been proven wrong.  Ms. Chatterbox will apparently love being heard and not fighting for my attention.

We stopped and surprised some friends the night before their first day of school and took the nice parkway all the way home.

We biked through pounding music blaring from cars, scandalously dressed girls, kids riding bikes, and animals aimlessly wandering around.

Every turn we made, there was something new to see and something that didn't make sense.  It was nature and the hood all wrapped into one.  Everything had an opposite and we were never bored. 

We laughed, we wondered and now we have lots of stories of our new bike adventures.

We're back biking in the hood, but we need helmets.

Best thing ever

So it doesn't matter how bad or how good the day was.  Doesn't matter if we spent a good portion of the day separated or we did the whole day as a family.

I love family snuggle time.

Family snuggle time consists of all members of the family coming together in hang out on mom and dad's bed.  It is where we don't do anything else except be together.  We reconnect.  We talk about all sorts of random and silly things.  We create a stronger foundation for our kids and open the lines of communication and break down any walls of tension that might have been built up during the week or day. It is probably the most spiritual thing we do as a family and all of our hearts are so full when we are done.  It used to be that we would all lay down and talk and pray and hang out.  It recently has turned into its own thing.

Here are some fun things that happened in Family snuggle time last night.

* Family snuggle time has turned into all out wrestling match.  Seriously, its a good workout for everyone, but man we get loud.

* Paul plays bad cop, attacking the kids to point of tears and then they scream "pineapple" (our safe word for protection.  You say it when you really can't take anymore.) Then they come over to me, good cop, and we snuggle and come up with another plan to attack dad.

* When Little cries pineapple on Big, he explodes out of his hold on her and then does a slow motion retreat. He even has sound effects. He would be holding Little, she would cry pineapple, and he would blow his hands and arms and legs out and then ever so slowly, lower them to the bed. It was hilarious to watch him explode and slow mow to a sleep position.  Paul started doing it becausee it was so funny.

* Family snuggle time has also apparently become the time where we fight about which kid belongs to which parent.  Paul and I play with the kids fighting for them to be just ours.  They giggle and laugh and play along, and I usually win which makes me feel all powerful.

* Prayer time was probably my favorite last night.  Somehow prayer time has turned into an all out personal affirmation time.  I had a tear or two because I found my children's utter confidence simply hilarious.  All they did was thank God for how awesome they were, how cool their siblings were, how handsome their dad was and how mom is so cool cause she is always doing stuff for them.  They all have this strong sense of knowing how loved they are that it has given them unbridled confidence.  Seriously, they each needed their own time to thank God, affirm each other and wait to be coated in compliments.  Middle actually said to me, "mom, you didn't say how awesome I am to God."  Oh man kid, I don't know if you are listening but I prayed that God would give you wisdom.  Pay attention!

I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy enjoying the moment, and all my kids sleep in their underwear and thus it would have been inappropriate.

I pray the feeling of us all crammed on the bed, laying on top of each other, poking each other with feet and elbows and giving kisses never leaves my mind and heart.

It is our most special family activity and totally free.  I hope my kids never out grow it.

A proud mama

It often feels like the things worth fighting for are made up of long roads of small constant battles, big changes, emotional roller coasters, all with little reward along the way.

We all have things that we want to fight for, that we believe in, that we desire for our life.  Sometimes we let those dreams or ideals or goals go because we look at the road and we don't think we can do it.  We grow weary just looking at the obstacles right in front of us.  Surviving that road makes us exhausted just thinking about it.

If I had a penny for every time I heard, "I don't know how you do it", I could pay off my last student loan.  I hear that comment about our diet every time someone asks why we aren't eating with the rest of the group.

I remember sitting in the nutritionists office that very first time when we were going through Big's blood test.  She told me that we would have to start a Gluten Free/Dairy Free diet.  I understood that what she was telling me was a very big deal and it would change the way we do things, but I didn't understand the extent or depth of that change.  I didn't understand the way it would radically change our lives, for the better.

I was home in MI for two weeks, and most people there we hadn't seen in a year.  Last year at this time we were still figuring out the diet, our house had just been hit by a tornado and we were all a little dazed and confused.  Now here we were, a year later, and I could fill the pages of a book with all the observations people were giving me about my children.

When we live day in and day out it can often be hard to see the benefits of the choices we make.  I wish I could express to you the joy, satisfaction, and pride that I had for my children.  Everywhere we went, all the people we saw, my kids were full of joy, manners, politeness, energy, and helpfulness.  I got to experience them for the first time like everyone else was.  I was able to see what they see, instead of the day to day grind of life, little bickering moments and meltdowns and great expectations.

I used to live in a world where our bad days/moments far outweighed the good.  My world was dominated by correction and discipline, explanations and talking down the over emotional child.  Please don't misunderstand me, those things still exist, but they now exsist within the boundaries of children who can mostly control themselves.  Children who have multiple good days with the bad thrown in.  Children who share with the occasional fight.  Children who follow the rules with the occasional defiance.

It feels like what having children should be, a joy.  I stepped back and really observed my children so I could see what they would see. 

Last year I wanted to take my mom out for dinner, but Big couldn't handle it.  He always struggled with me leaving.  He would cry and throw out all the things that make mothers feel guilty leaving.  And I did, and he came with us.  This year, mom and I wanted to sneak out so that the kids wouldn't be upset.  We ended up having devotions together and giving the kids breakfast.  When it was time for girl day, Big told us to have a great time and kissed me goodbye.  Whenever he was told it was time for bed, he would go and get ready.  In the morning, it was never a reminder of what he needed to do before he could play.  He was Papa's big helper with the boat.  He was always helping with the smaller kids.  He was full of joy and gentleness and kindness and goofiness.  When he didn't agree with a decision, he told me he didn't like it, then it was over.

One morning I went for a run and he cried because I didn't take him with me.  When we talked about it when I got home, I told him, running was mommy time.  He looked at me with clear eyes and said, "Oh, just like when I need my alone time and I go downstairs to the pull up bar?  I get it.  You just needed alone time.  I am sorry I got mad.  I understand.  Will you forgive me?" 

Wait?!  What?!  No big fight, no long explanation, no more tears and fighting that I left him behind?  It was just over.  He understood.  He figured it out himself.

A parent has immensee pride when others enjoy them as much as they do.  When other people consider your children a joy to be around.

In the last four years, before I would go home to visit my folks, I would always say, "Dad, I am so tired.  I need your help.  I don't know what to do and I dont' know how to get my kids to listen.  I need you to be the heavy.  I need your help because they are out of control."  True statement.  You can ask my parents.  I would go home, guilty, exhausted and out options.  I felt like I crawled home needing bandaged up and my kids needing boot camp.

This year it was just a fun trip home.  It was a joy to bring my kids and they weren't the reason I was tired.  No discipline needed.  No help required, (except for the fact that it is always way easier to raise kids with a fleet of people).

My children can be who they were created to be.  Seeing their real personalities and hearts come through all the time instead of occasionally is a huge reward for homemade cooking.

This was hands down my favorite trip home.  It was easy, relaxing and just so much fun.  It was fun because my kids were so much fun.  We enjoyed a trip together instead of me sleeping while my parents dealt with the kids.  I hate that phrase, but that is how we existed because we knew no other way.

We know differently now, and I will never go back.  I stand behind our diet more now than ever.  For all the work it is, the reward of my children having the life they were meant to have is worth every dish I have to wash, and that is saying something.

If the idea of this diet is tinkering around in the back of your mind, don't ignore it, explore it.

Mentoriship in the kitchen

I have realized that I am a terrible teacher or mentor in the kitchen.  Coming home to MI, I told my sister that I would help her learn her way around the kitchen.  She has moved onto a very restrictive diet but doesn't know how to cook.  Well, that just doesn't work for me.  You can't have success or still enjoy food or even begin to think that you will stick to your new outline for eating if you can't enjoy food.  And how can you afford to enjoy food if you can't cook, and how can you cook if no one teaches you?

No one really taught me, I just had to figure it out and I watched a ton of Food Network.  No, I mean pre kids I would wake up on Saturday morning, snuggle on the couch with a bowl of cereal and watch for hours until Paul woke up.  I loved it.  Then I just started to figure it out.

I am not even close to a high quality cook.  I rarely create my own recipes, and most of the time I am just adapting or tweaking recipes I have found.  But I can cook.  I do know my way around a kitchen pretty well.

What I realized in the last three days is that I totally function in the kitchen without a plan.  This does not work well when trying to teach someone how to cook.  I also realize I cook a lot with whatever is in my house.  I kept throwing out suggestions to my sister about other ways she could make the meal and I am pretty sure I overwhelmed her.

We start heating a pan and she asks, "how much oil do I put in?"  I pour some in and say, "about that much".  Or she wants to know how much salt, pepper, cinnamon, seasoning to put in, and I look at her and say, "start with a little then add more if its too plain."  I double recipes or I adapt because I don't have a certain ingredient.  I also realized that makes writing out recipes for her really difficult.  I sat down and wrote out our recipe for Mexican Lasagna and couldn't believe how much I adapt that recipe.  It was very difficult to write out, but glad I did once it was over.

As much as it was about helping my sister learn how to cook, I have learned a ton about myself in the kitchen, how I function and where I can grow so I am able to teach my kids better.

All in all, in the past three days I have taught her how to cook:

Sweet Potato Burgers
Fruit Popsicles
Veggie/bean Quino salad
Butternut squash risotto
Eggplant/squash Lasagna
Mulligatawny Soup

It has a been a very big few days here.  Between cooking and visiting with friends, I am exhausted.  I mean I cook a lot, but I don't cook this much.  But my what is really exciting is my sister not only knows how to make these meals, she has them all divided and put in the freezer for the whole month!  She has her freezer full of personal sized portioned frozen dinners.  It's great!

Since I am writing out the recipes for my sister, I will be sure to post them later this week if you are interested, including the original link where I found it.

These are a few of my favorite things....

(I hope when you read the title, you sang the song in the back of your mind.)

I'm here! 

We did it.

My three kids, with my speaking partner Henry Graf, and myself drove 13 1/2 hours in our NON-air-conditioned car from Mpls, MN to just outside Detroit, MI. (Technically we dropped Henry off somewhere off  I80 and I69 in IN, but he was with us most of the way.)  Yes, no air-conditioning sounds as gross as it was.  Sweat dripping down my back, beading on Little's face and the fact that it was cooler outside the car than inside was just wrong.

We left Mpls when our housemate came home from the new Batman movie.  He was coming in for bed, we were buckling up to leave and head East all at 330am.

We drank more coffee than two people should.  Seriously, I'm kind of worried for my liver after a week with Henry and his addictive coffee habit.

The kids took a couple good naps.

We sang more than 73 silly kid car songs.

We listened to four books on CD.

We ate a total of 7 apples.

We stopped to pee four times.  It would have been five but we were stuck in rush hour traffic in Detroit, we were exhausted and I just wanted to get to my folks house when Little said she had to go to the bathroom.  I will own it. I let her pee the car seat, and its in the wash right now.  I stand behind my choice and the fact that we got to my parents 20 minutes earlier than if I had to find a spot to "rest" in downtown Detroit with three sweaty tired kids.

Henry and I had 8.4 inappropriate conversations.

I cried once I laughed so hard.

We listened to 3 songs that made me go...hmmmm...

We accomplished 0 movement on the book.

We had one serious moment where I felt so honored that my name will appear next to his on our book and I told him that.  He hates mushy stuff, so its fun to do to him.

The kids and I found 2 houses on fire, one house being transported on the road, one personal boat submarine and one miniature car cart pulling a trailer all in 20 minutes.  It was intense to say the least.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Then we got to my folks and it was eat dinner right away so we can go on the boat.

I LOVE being on the boat.

Maybe you didn't understand that the first time.

I L.O.V.E. being on the boat.

I don't own a boat, nor is boating a part of our culture in Mpls, MN.  However, I grew up right by the water and we lived at our cottage in Canada in the summer.  It can often be strange to me that something that was so defining to me growing up has no place in my current reality.

So every summer I bring my kids for a two week vacation and they get to experience all the fun and knowledge and responsibility of living and playing on the water.  I love sharing the water with them.  When I looked at my kids tonight on my parents boat, I almost found myself physically ill I was so full of love.   Love for them, the water, the boat, my parents and watching them fall in love with the water. 

I have found that my first boat ride of each season has me quiet and relaxed.  I am not ready for the fun the boat offers yet, or all the company and memories we make on the boat.  My first boat ride of each season has me closing my eyes, breathing deep and allowing the rhythm of the waves and the wind on face erasing all the stress and noise of my life.  With each breath I can feel the healing water and fresh air brings.  At one point, each child and came and snuggled on my lap in the front of the boat while the sun was dropping in the sky.  I could wrap my arms around one of my children, close my eyes and breath deep.  Breathing in the fresh air and sweetness of the water, and breath out noise.  Mental noise of all the things going on in my head, physical noise of someone always talking to me, emotional noise of all the things I feel all the time.  Life noise.

Last night I got to share one of my favorite things with some of my favorite people, my sweet husband wasn't there, sad face.

Last night I felt refreshed more than I have in a really long time.

I am ready for vacation.

Enjoy a couple of the pictures.  Auntie Kelly loves her god daughter just a little so there seem to be quite a few photo's of her.

Rose Quartz and mountain lions

I love that our family gets to go out the Black Hills every summer due to my husband being wonderful and playing music at family camp. We spend a whole week making art projects, singing songs, playing games and swinging on swings. I love hiking but haven't found that this activity gels well with my family yet.

But low and behold, Middle wanted to use his walking stick that he got from school and go gold mining. Paul and I made a pack that we would do whatever we could to make our kids dreams come true at camp. We went fishing, Tye dying, we made paper, and played countless hours on the basketball court and open field. But this was Middle's last big wish, and I was determined to make it happen. Justin a counselor was ready to take us. Paul and I just finished up a session talking about the Haiti Mission Project. It was 2:30, already way past nap time and Little had no choice but to come with us. Paul was getting things checked out on the car and Big was playing with his friends, so it was just me and Middle and Little. We were late already, Middle kept pulling on my skirt to get me going, and Justin had to be back in time to help prep dinner. So we grabbed our hiking sticks and Little had her bear and I was a screaming stereotype of a city girl who doesn't know how to hike. (Which I do, I just presently was not dressed accordingly.) I was wearing a sundress and three year old Old Navy Flip Flops, which basically means my feet were touching the ground and I was feeling every rock under each step. Those things are thin to begin with and I wore the balls of feet down to almost holes. We had a water bottle and my cell phone. No one was wearing sunscreen and I discover this hike is a mile to the Rose Quartz Mine where we will be lowering my children into a large rock pit to dig for treasure. I shake my head at the ridiculousness that we are becoming.

Four minutes into the hike I hear, "I'm tired, are we almost there?" And right after that, Little says, "Carry me mama? Carry me?" Oh my, what I have done.

Soon after this, we discover all the Mica on the ground which makes the Black Hills famous for all the sparkling rocks in the dirt. It is a beautiful shiny thin shell that coats rocks and you can easily peel it off. Little loves that fact that she has become an explorer and stops every five seconds and shouts, "Mica mama! I find mica!" Considering the ground is littered and covered in this stuff, it's gonna take us an hour just to walk 20 feet. This is annoying, I mean endearing to say the least. Here is Little with her huge hiking stick and favorite animal hunting for mica.

Right after this, Justin and I discover a large animals fresh remains and huge rib cage. I look at him and he informs me there have been mountain lion sightings this summer.


We hike on. I carry Little. We spot wild flowers. We drink water. I carry Little.  Little's puppy has to stop and pee. Yea, we stopped for that. She did the whole bit, wipe and wash paws and everything.

Good Grief.

Collect more mica, find a feather, carry Little some more. Then we arrive after a triumph mile hike to the Rose Quarz Mine in the Black Hills. This is where I find out that we have to lower my children inch by inch down the rocky terrain to get to the bottom. Me in a skirt, with my paper flip flops, a water bottle, two hiking sticks that have gotten discarded, two feathers and a fistful of mica that have become treasures. I shoved my cell phone down my dress and we made it happen. Look at how happy they look and they almost look completely unscathed.


Look how high that wall of rock is behind them.  That's what we slid down while lowering them into the pit.  The kids loved looking for special rocks.  They would collect them, and then separate them, and find their favorites.  Dreams come true baby.  Dreams coming true.

So we pocket our rocks and then start our walk back.  We climb out of the pit, me slipping on rocks and trying to stay decent in a skirt while not loosing our treasures. I have big sunglasses on, phone shoved down my bra, skirt covered in dirt, and my feet slipping on the rocks.  Who are we kidding, if I saw me, I would judge me, I was judging me when we left on this little adventure.

We weave through trees, Little races birds down the lane and that is when we notice more animal bones freshly savaged.   This is when I realize that there is no way on God's good earth that I could protect my kids from a mountain lion!  Justin and I exchange a look, and silently we communicate to each other that the best course of action is to quickly move forward.

This is a bit of challenge as Little pees herself and decides that she can't walk with wet shorts.  Middle has also decided that this adventure has far surpassed his walking capabilities and so Justin and I exchange water bottles, walking sticks and treasures, we haul the two kids on our backs, hands full of gear and we move forward.  My face is wet with sweat, my feet hurt and my back is now wet from pee.  We push on.

We make it.

We never saw the mountain lion.

And three hours later I got to shower.


Someone please remind me of this story when next year I want to take my kids on a hike.

Celebrating LIfe!

Yesterday was my birthday.  I love my birthday.  This year I am 33, the Jesus year.  I don't really know what that means, but people keep saying it to me.  Does that mean it will be my year of greatest trimuph or greatest heartbreak?  Only God knows.  I just pray I will handle my year, my circumstances and my troubles and joys with grace and eyes set on Christ.

Yesterday was my Birthday.  My mom always made sure that we felt very special on our Birthday.  It was our day and our day alone.  What I realize more and more is how I want to celebrate other people on my birthday.  To be surrounded by the people who love you, put up with you, listen to you, walk through life with you.  Hold you up when you fall miserably, pray with you when you are broken, cheer you on when you are inspired, encourage you when you are doing well.  My community gets celebrated today because they love me, invest in me, and make me who I am.  Yesterday we celebrated God's intimate design of our lives together.  Thank you for being here with me.  Last night we celebrated with cake and a bonfire and cocktails.  All food recipes come from www.thespunkycoconut.com.

Celebrate Life today!

This cake is THE BEST Vanilla cake I have found.  It was moist and fluffly  and amazing.  Totally made my day.

Who doesn't want a side of fresh berries and cream?  The blue and white dish came from Paul's grandma and the yellow dish I snagged at a pop up sale here in the cities.  So happy it lives in my home.
Terrible photo, amazing pie.  Mint coconut freezer pie with chocolate crust.  Recipe can be found at Spunky Coconut blog.

The candles were free from a friend.  The holder was found recently in our garage attic by another friend and the lace table cloth was purchased at an antique store for $3!  You heard me right.  I layered it on another yellow table cloth and the effect was perfect!

Peach and Cherry cocktails served in mason jars in an antique milk carries that I snagged at a shop with mom years ago.  I love bringing out small pieces that we don't usually use for special occasions like this.

Sangria served out of a large glass container usually reserved for oatmeal.  There wasn't much of this left over by the end of the night.  Perfection.

This beautiful addition was fond for $10 at a thrift store over a year ago and it was its first appearance tonight.  I did notice it has a small leak, but I hope to fix that.  I added fresh mint from the garden to freshen the water.  It was delish.

Mmmmm.... A slice of both cakes plus fresh berries.  I decided that since the yellow cake is made out of beans with no sugar and the mint pie is raw, I was in good shape to have two pieces.  So good.

I found old Terra Cotta pots in my garage, filled them with dirt, added more free candles and topped off with glass hurricanes that my mom and purchased for a $1 a piece at a garage sale.  Such a steal!  I placed them around our plants in our garden for more mood lightening.

Since we were eating and drinking, I brought out our TV trays and drapped them in fun scarves or fabric I had around the house.  I made small bouquets of mint in juice glasses for a table topper and lit a few candles.  The draped tables added to the effect of my garden party.  So did these ladies dresses.  They fit right in and made it perfect.

I made sure to have a wine table stocked with glasses.  Cocktails were popular, but we all ended our evening with a wonderful bottle of red.

For some reason, I love having wooden chairs around a campfire.  These were salvaged from a heap out back of a house that was severely damaged after the tornado.  To far gone to be kitchen chairs, but perfect for outside.  I love free chairs.

We had twinkle lights, a bonfire, amazing food, even better drinks, and wonderful laughs and memories shared.  This birthday truly was a blessing.  Even though we live in the hood, and the neighborhood noises reminded us of that, it did feel like a set a part garden party.

Part Two...EMDR and a bright beautiful party

Because I promised...

Because of a dear friend, this weekend Big was able to participate in EMDR therapy.  This friend has noticed what we knew to be true, that since the tornado, Big hasn't been the same in regards to storms, wind, rain, and if we were being honest, even white puffy clouds.  He is constantly aware of the weather.  He gets incredibly anxious when the sky turns grey, even just for rain.  I can hear him chanting to himself, "It's just rain.  It's just rain.  It's just rain."

My heart breaks for him knowing how scared he is.  Knowing that we don't go anywhere for the day when there is the threat of rain.  I try to balance it out and push him out of the house when I know there isn't rain, but just clouds that day, though I can tell it is hard for him.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours, Kyle Hood, was watching the kids, and while at the park, it started to rain.  Big had a huge panic attack and cried like it was the day of the tornado.  Our friend Kyle, who is a counselor, offered to do EMDR therapy with Big after watching his reaction.  Of course being so close to our family, she can't do regular counseling for him, but she could do this.  So on Saturday, Paul and I went with Big and did  our first session of EMDR.

In its basic form, EMDR therapy is taking the person back to the day and moment of the trauma and having them retell the story.  The idea is that because a certain event is so traumatic, the brain has stopped connecting from right brain to left brain in regards to that experience, so it is not functioning fully.  Therefore, every time something similar to that traumatic event happens, that person is thrown back to that day, that moment in time.  Their emotional response is just as heavy and intense.  If I understand all this correctly, the EMDR therapy is sound and vibration that bounces between right and left ears and hands so that when the person retells the story, their brain is making connections, new paths, between the right and left brain.  This will help in moving them forward from the trauma and helping them heal.

Big was timid when we started, and after him retelling the story, then Paul and I both retelling the story and then Big retelling it again, by the end, he was remember new details and could talk about it without crying.  It was pretty cool to see.  I even think just talking about this helps a ton.  What really took me back, was asking Big to retell the story, because I have told it so many times, I forget to ask my kids their opinion about what they remember seeing and hearing and feeling that day.  It was fun to hear his side of the story again.

So we leave for camp on Friday and are going to visit Kyle one more time on Thursday morning to do it again.  We were a little nervous for Big being away from home, his safe place, but at camp if there was a storm, and just want to do everything we can to help him.  Its been bright and sunny here for the last few days so no way to know if the therapy worked or not.  This isn't a cure all, and I don't think the first storm he sees  he's gonna want to throw a party or watch from the porch, but I am hoping he can think things through a bit more, and his anxiety will be less.  We still plan on going to therapy, but just haven't figured it out with insurance yet.

After therapy while in the car, the kids had lots of questions about death what happens to them when Paul and I die.  In a weird way it was such a great way to express to our kids that even in our death we still love them.  That we made a plan to have them taken care of and loved.  Middle had all sorts of questions about when we die, who tells Nana and Papa so they can come for them, are they going to be alone, can we go to the police and hospital and give them Nana and Papa's phone numbers so they can call them when we die.  It was a little weird for me hearing my son figure things out so fast and make a plan for himself when we bite the dust.

That night, after a wonderful day of fun and healing, we went to our neighbors party where they  were celebrating two of their children's birthday and a baptism.  Our neighbors, whom we play with all the time outside are Mexican and this party was in full tradition, the cream of the crop.  Big white tent out back, a bounce house, Spanish music blaring, over 100 guests with all the woman in their finest, and little girls running around in dresses.  In the garage were pots filled with enough rice and chicken and beans to feed a village.  Drinks overflowing and dozens of kids running around.  It was a scene out of a movie or a book.  It was so wonderful getting to experience a completely different world just three houses down.  We enjoyed playing basketball with the kids, playing catch with Big, and getting time to visit with our neighbors.  I'm not gonna lie, one of the best parts was that the food served was food my family could eat.  They had boiled chicken with garlic and onion and delicious rice.  My kids were able to eat a feast and I didn't have to cook it.  Do you know how rare that is?

After all the fun and excitement, we came home, enjoyed bath time, stories and then sang to our kids and prayed over them till they fell asleep.  It was a beautiful day.

I think a lot of times we look at the 10 commandments or law or guidelines that God sets before us for living.and look at it as a chore.  Something else we have to do or can't do.  We feel guilt when we don't do it and God's judgement if we ignore it.  I believe that if we approach his word and will for our life that way, than we won't ever want to participate in the gifts that he has for us.  Making and creating a Sabbath is hard to do.  It's hard to not work.  It's hard to break habits and create new ones.  However, the gift of the Sabbath and all that it gives and offers is irreplaceable.  It changes your mindset to focus on relationships instead of "to do" lists.  It makes it about people and not about work.  It allows time to focus on God and what he is and what he has for you.

We were abundantly blessed on Saturday.  The ground work of spending time with our kids and prayer over them has blessed the rest of our week.  We see the fruits of that for days on end.

The other bonus is that our work has been more productive because we started from a place of rest.

Thanks for letting me share my day.  Look at the link above to know more about EMDR.  And take time in prayer to see how you might be able to incorporate a little bit of  Sabbath into your life.  You won't regret it.

What a Sabbath brings...part one

Today has about four posts in one.  So many great things learned, observed, and enjoyed ye.  Tonight as I write this, my husband is catching up on the phone with his brother, the kitchen is an absolute disaster, and my list of things to do is still just as long today as it was yesterday, but I am so wonderfully happy.

In full disclosure, it is hard to break into the habit of Sabbath.  It is easy to continue doing chores, running errands, checking email and whatnot on the weekend.  Especially yard work.  And for me it is work.  Some people putz in the yard because it relaxes them.  I enjoy it, but don't get me wrong, it is work, so I avoid it on Sabbath.  So, we as a family haven't been the best at carving out this time each week.  We believe in its importance.  God says it is critical to your health as a human, as a family, as a community.  But we have come up short in living in this command.  So Friday we agreed that Saturday we would make sure that Sabbath happened.  We felt this was even more important since we have so much to prepare for our trip, we needed to make sure our priorities we in order.

So yesterday morning started with each kid coming in to have snuggle time.  Once their snuggle quota was met, they went to build a train track in the living room and Paul and I got our snuggle time where we get to casually wake up and talk about the day.

Once up and out of bed, my first thought was to start getting stuff done.  I had to remind myself that today chores weren't allowed, so I sat down at the table to color with my kids. But they had to show me what they had been up to.  They made a new bed for Little out of our empty tupperware bin.  It was too cute not to share.

Then my children proceeded to draw me coloring pages.  It was awesome,  Here is a picture that Big drew me and we colored together.  Nana her hair is read in your honor.

Middle decided, at five mind you, to draw out a paint by number to help me along.  I wasn't sure if I should be impressed or insulted.  I choose to be impressed.  Here are those pictures.  I love how many numbers he gave me to make sure I understood what color I needed. Ha.

After coloring for a bit, the kids decided to come into the kitchen and help me make scones.  There is something wonderful about joining together in the kitchen and cooking together.  We made tasty cinnamon pecan scones with coconut milk.  Once the scones were in the oven, Middle was the creator of our smoothies.  He decided everything that went in them.  So we feasted on scones and strawberry/blueberry/kiwi/coconut milk smoothies.

It was yummy.

During breakfast, we started our "feed your body, feed your soul" devotion.  This basically means that we passages from my Bible during breakfast so that we remember as we feed our body food, our soul needs it too.  It is also a great way to get the kids into "real" word of God.

So before we begin, Middle says "What does soul mean?"  Again I wasn't sure whether to be impressed that he is paying attention, or offended that we have been doing this for months and he is now just asking me.  I again choose to be impressed that he asked.

Then I realized, how the heck do I answer this to a five year old.  So all you theologians out there can tell me how I did.  I thought for a quick moment and then said,

"Think of an egg.  You have the outside shell and then the inside "egg" part.  The white and yellow yoke is the egg right?  The essence of the egg is what's inside.  You crack the shell to get to the inside, the egg.  Well each person has a soul.  Our soul is like the egg and our skin, our body, is like the shell.  The shell holds the egg, the insides."

Then he made the observation that when we die we don't take our body, but we get a new body when Christ comes again, just like we crack and throw away the shell of the egg.

OK, yup, we'll go with that.

So we sat there eating and drinking and talking about eggs and death and our soul.  It felt right not to have to hurry off anywhere, but to focus on my kids and where their hearts and heads are at right now.

Since chores aren't allowed, I asked if the boys wanted to go outside and toss the football around.  I'm not gonna lie, it was weird for me to be outside playing.  If I'm outside I am usually doing chores around the yard.  Our yard has been neglected for two summers due to the tornado.  Even my son noticed that every afternoon I work in the yard.  He asked me two days ago not to work in the yard and just do sidewalk chalk with him.  As a manager of the home it is hard to put aside all the chores and mess staring you in the face and remember to get down on your hands and knees and play.

So since the house  next door got tore down, we have this big beautiful open field.  The boysand I played catch with the football for about 45 min.  We laughed, we fell down, we had silly throws and we worked on good throwing skills.  I caught myself a few times looking around and wanting to call quits to the game to pull a few weeks, put toys away, work on my fence, etc.  But I stayed present with my children and I was rewarded with a wonderful morning.  I made memories with my kids.  I built trust and deepened my relationship with them.  I was a mom who was present and played with my kids.

This truly happened because of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath forces you to stop what you are doing and be present for what is important.  It creates space for you to deepen and build relationship with yourself, the Lord, and your family.  I had to physically remind myself not to work.  To be present and attentive to the relationships around me.  God has a high opinion about the Sabbath.  It is important to him because he knows how deeply we need it.

Fun time, fun mom, playful mom was present on Saturday because I wasn't bogged down by chores.  But the other cool thing that happened on Saturday morning was the conversations I had with my kids.  When you aren't rushing off somewhere and you aren't looking at your to do list, you are able to hear your kids.  To listen.  To talk.  To figure out life together.  The Sabbath provides time for those conversations to happen.

So that was the first half of our day. The rest of the day included EMDR therapy with Big and a fabulous Mexican birthday party in the evening.

Beautiful things tend to happen when you have the time to allow them to happen.  Lately I have been too busy for life to happen.  Saturday, life happened.