A little life update from the Tietjen's

So... I never send Christmas cards. Even though I love getting them, but we haven't ever actually sent one out. And now that its WAY past time, and I couldn't even write a Christmas blog, I just decided to give a little family update here. And NOT call it a Christmas card. or an epiphany card, or whatever else. Just a simple, "Hey, here's what the Tietjen's are up to!" kind of card. I mean post. 

I am also including the photos we had taken of our children FOUR months ago and only now just got around to getting together. I mean, these beautiful faces have been locked in the computer for months. They aren't online, or printed or nothing. Nope, this girl right here actually convinces her housemate to take his nice camera, do a quick photo opp with the kids and then sits on it for months. Because yeah, I am apparently that lazy? busy? unmotivated? tired? feel like the pictures are for me so who really cares anyway? Who knows, it's probably a combo of all the above. But here they are, and who knows, now that I gotten this far, I MAY just be motivated enough to get them printed. 

Did you know we don't have any pictures printed and framed in our house of our family? Seriously, I am the worst. 

And these kids should live in a frame. They are the pieces of my heart that live out loud in the best way. They are uncontainable in their passion, fierceness, ideas, creativity, demands, energy, and kindness and frustrations (mostly at each other). You never have to ask them what they are thinking or feeling, they share it all with essays of words. (You can't have two parents who communicate as much as Paul and I and not grow three kids who are just as passionate at communicating.)

Paul and I continue to grow as parents (and spouses) in our knowledge, understanding, learning from mistakes, insight and time with these kiddos. They keep us challenged and humbled. Noah is the protector of the bunch, Caleb the inventor, and Lu our helper. Their hearts are big, their minds are always wondering and their bodies always wanting to explore. For us, we find it critical to learn how to teach them good practices that will help them stay that way. How do you care for yourself and others in a way that respects all life and gives glory to God? This is a guiding theme for us. 

Oh Noah. He is known among his friends as the "Hype Man". His passion serves him in uplifting his teammates, classmate and friends. He is a fierce lover of reading, football, baseball, basketball, legos, spoken word, hip hop, and his family. I can't believe he is 11 and in the 5th grade at Yinghua Academy, which he LOVES. Noah thrives with the Chinese language. Noah's football team also won the championship this year and it was well celebrated. He continues to grow and yet still remains this sweet, innocent young boy who loves to be silly, snuggle and cook with me in the kitchen. 

Aaahhh Caleb. Where I find it easy to describe my other two children, this one just can't be defined in any one word. He has this natural ability for learning, knowledge, reading, math, science, foreign languages, creating and inventing and basic athletic skill. He is wise beyond his years, has a voice that can be heard across town, loves to laugh and play. He makes difficult tasks look easy, he forgives faster than anyone I know, and wants to know everything. Caleb also played football for the first time this year, and also joined the baseball and basketball team. 

Both boys play for our neighborhood leagues and also participate in the local Boys to Men Club which give them a space to hang with their friends, learn life skills, earn some money and volunteer in the neighborhood. 

And then there was her. Eleanor. She is so goofy, and incredibly kind. I have never met anyone who is so concerned for the well being of others quite like this little one. She loves her stuffed animals, her brothers, reading, puzzles and all things artistic. She hasn't started any extra after school activities, but her time will come. She is thriving at Yinghua and loves speaking Chinese. This spunky brave little girl is growing at a rate I am not completely happy about. While I can't wait to see what an incredible woman she will be, I am taking every opportunity to sew, color, do puzzles and snuggle with this little bean. 

Paul and I continue to do what we do. We still live in our little bungalow on the bluffs of the Mississippi with our community garden project right next store. Paul is in his sixth year at Ameriprise which affords him the ability to travel with his band 100 White Flags. This past year Paul also started his three piece blues trio, GOBO which has played a few local fairs around town. He also took the time to help coach Caleb's football team, and assist with Basketball. And for Paul it was a year unmatched as both his Bronco's and his Cubs won their championships in 2016. Needless to say, sports took over a bit over here. Whoa.

I continue to travel and speak. This summer was full of great gigs including the National Youth Gathering, Luther Hour Ministries, and the adult gathering on Mackinaw Island. I love writing for Gatherhaus, an online community that promotes intentional living through simplicity and purpose, and our local paper. I am also working on two new book projects which will hopefully final first drafts this year which I will pitch to publishers. I started working at the kids school two hours a day to bring in a steady income. It's not much but I can't believe how much it eases the pressure of my works of passion. Writing is not a lucrative career, and the anxiety of turning it into one was too much for me last year. Now, I am able to approach my work with the question, "What do I need to say?" NOT "How can this make money?". This distinction is critical to my creative process and the integrity of my work. I have already discovered profound peace in my work with this shift. 

And though the Garden may appear to by my project, it really is a family/community investment. I am honored to be apart of it, proud of what it is becoming, and love my time in that space. We strive every year to grow and improve our outreach and effort. We hosted multiple events last year, grew a TON of food and experienced high community engagement. We are confident this year will be no different.

Thank you all for doing life with us. For following us on this journey. For your interest, your kind words, your time in the garden, showing up for the kids games, donations to our ministry, and booking either Paul's band, or me to speak at your event.  No man is an island, and what good is our heart and soul if we can not share it with each other. 

May we all continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, love and compassion. And hopefully in that, be challenged to participate in the restorative and justice work of humanity showed to us by Christ Jesus. 

Happy New Year!

Finding my truth

He is not my knight and shining armor. 

He is not my prince charming.

He is not even my best friend.

He's not hearts and flowers and rainbows.

He's not my captor or my savior. 

He is not my everything. 

He isn't candy hearts and sweet nothings in my ear. 

He is most definetly not my yes husband.

He isn't my better half or a fix to any daddy issues I might have. 

But he is... my truth.

When I was a young woman trying to find who I was, he could see me. I mean honestly, truly see me. The hidden pieces, the secrets, the madness in my mind. He could see who I was pretending to be and who I was hiding. He could see me struggling to be what everyone else wanted while loosing myself in the process. 

He could see me before I knew me.

And he loved me. 

He looked at me and spoke softly, "I see who you are and who you could be. I love all of you. I love the light and the dark in you. If you never change, I will continue to love you. Either way, I am in."

I am starting to think I might feel lost my whole life. Looking and searching and rediscovering and redefining myself. I often feel adrift and wandering. I wonder if I will ever find my center, or peace in the process. My dreams shift and change and my passions are vast and wide. I carry the same struggles, never really letting go, always dragging my baggage a little behind me. I also live as a kid in a candy store, wanting all the things, loving all the things, wanting to try all the things. All the dreams, all the projects, all the ideas, all the music, all the art, all the books. It is impossibly hard to live with me.

He is the truth who keeps me grounded. He is the truth that speaks into my madness when I have lost my way. He is the truth that calls bull crap when I start to pretend to gain acceptance again. When I throw excuses at him, or try to lie, he calls me out and brings me back.

When I am lost or confused or stuck in unhealthy patterns, he is my true north.

He sees my brokenness and says, I love you.

He is in the thick of it with me when my weaknesses take the strength out of our life and says, I still have patience.

When I have given up on myself, he says, I'm not done believing in you.

When I pull the blanket over my head and want to stay in bed all day, he climbs in and says, I feel it too, but we are at least in this together.

We don't see each other as the polished and fancy versions that can be captured in photos and tag lines. We aren't sugar and spice and everything is perfect and nice people. We're kind of gritty, dirty, sarcastic, reality folks. The kind that can own our vast disfunction and say, Hey, we're doing the best we can.

Our version of romance looks like having the perfect way to snuggle on the couch so we can be touching from head to toe, but he can still reach his scotch on the table.

It looks like him scratching my back every night because he knows, HE KNOWS me and how it relaxes me and is my favorite thing at the end of the day. 

It looks like him showing up every night to his family because he chooses us again every day.

It looks like each of us having "going out time with friends", because we both understand that we can't be everything to each other. We still need our tribe of individual and independent friendships. 

Romance for us looks like hard truths, commitment, and even when we are excruciatingly annoyed with each other, which we can be often, it still says, "I don't like you right now, but I still choose you."

That is my truth.

He is my partner. He is my champion. He is my biggest advocate. He is my wise council. He is my listening ear. He is the one I have vowed to create a life with. To be together and create family together. He is the one I come home to, no matter where I have been. No matter how long I have been gone, he is my home.

He also doesn't understand all of me, but accepts me all the same. He knows on a very real level that I will always live in a bit of madness. That my issues at this point might never be overcome.

And yet... And yet... he stays. He loves. He gives me truth. He gives me home. He gives me space to be me and wrestle with myself. He doesn't give up. 

We have this intense partnership that involves honest conversations, hard truths, accountability and lots of passion. We love big and we fight big. We don't agree on much and have very different opinions about things. Our marriage is a meeting of two driven, powerfully spirited people with lots of thoughts, deep emotions, and a million ideas. This was never a "you complete me" kind of thing. It's more a "Wow I think you are incredible and I would like to know you and love you for the entirety of my life" kind of thing. A choice to stay and build on the life and love we had when we started out.

We are what I like to call "full folks". We are full of it. All of it. All the time. Drive. Passion. Commitment. Ideas. Love. Anger. Wonder. Fear. Regret. Hope. We got it all. 

Both of us. It's a very full relationship over here.

Much of our life feels steeped in a battle. We fight for peace in our neighborhood. We fight for open communication and healthy relationships with our children. We fight for our marriage. We battle for contentment while pushing hard towards dreams. We battle to find truth in politics, art, religion and culture. We battle to be true to ourselves and to each other. 

Which is why him being my true north, my steadfast one, is the best version of  romance I can come by.

So to my sweet and opinionated and passionate husband, I love you. Thank you for choosing me. Every. Day.

Happy 14th Anniversary. 


Non-Pinterest Chore charts and Payouts

I kind of just wish I could just blink my eyes and my kids would know how to do chores, manage their money and never complain about helping. I would have magically somehow found a way to have bread three Mother Theresa's.

Chores and Allowance and Volunteering are all things that I want my children to have a healthy relationship with. Not OCD, or hoarding or laziness or compulsion.  I want them to understand these things, respect them, and give them their right place in their life. 

Unfortunately, this knowledge isn't something they just have. Seriously, out of everything else, I wish I could buy this knowledge for them, or give it to them like a vitamin every morning ensuring they were responsible people who were capable and able of great things. 


In the past we have been really, really bad at following through on chores and paying an allowance. We are sporadic at best, consistent never. As I look at how quickly my children are growing and they currently don't posses skills, in my opinion, they need to be moderately adjusted adults. Heck, I want them to be moderately adjusted people always, even teenagers. So... that means this summer became our responsibility training. For all of us. Me included. 

One of the reason Paul and I haven't jumped on the allowance band wagon is we were really struggling to figure our way through it. I am all about kids learning how to manage money and the easiest way to do that is by giving them a allowance. However, we also strongly believe that if you live in the house, then you are responsible to help out. No financial gain. You eat the food, you help clean up. You make the mess, you clean up. We are a team and it is not the responsibility of the parent to assume all of the chores and cleaning and organizing. This is unfair to the parent and most unfair to the kids who never learn how to take care of their things or themselves and live as a community or team.

Then there is the issue of being a team player, but also having some set chores that are elective in choosing to earn extra money. More than this is the fact that I want my kids to learn about volunteering their time without asking for money if they help weed the community garden.

With all of these issues, and the fact that I have a son who needs to know every little detail about every guideline so he can manipulate himself around it and find the loop hole, I decided to write down all of our chores along with our expectations. Gheezzz. it seems excessive, but there is small part of me that likes having it all spelled out on our door so that there is no question about what we expect. 

We broke it down into three different categories:

Family Chores: These you do because you are a part of this team and we live, work, and love together. Because we each take up space in this house, we each are expected to pull our weight in pitching in.

Allowance Chores: The kids have a daily chore they must accomplish without complaint. If they consistently complain, we can withhold payment. I HATE complaining. (Wait, I think I am complaining..)

Community Involvement: Much like our family chores, we live in this neighborhood and the garden and garbage walks help better our neighborhood. We do this because we have pride in where we live, and we want to do our part to take care of the place we live. We live by example. We do not get paid for volunteering. 

I am hoping this will clear up our confusion and expectations. That my kids can go to the board and know what to do. Starting this in the summer allows us time to teach them how to do these chores properly and allow them time for this schedule to become a habit before school starts. 

I will be honest. I am not super excited about all the time this will take on my end to teach them about saving money, how to manage it, and put some way for donating. Or the time it takes to teach them how to clean a bathroom or vacuum out a car. 


I would really like to send equipped adults into the world. I want my sons and my daughter to show respect for their things, know how to clean, and have some organizational skills under their belt. More than that, I really want my children to have a healthy relationship with money. To learn how to save it for multiple purposed instead of spending it right away. To learn how to wait and save for the toy they really want, and not spend money they don't have.

Again, if there was a pill that I could give them that would this work for me, I would buy it in a second. I would even donate plasma to make sure we could afford it. Alas, it does not exist, and so our current future looks like we are learning how to be responsible.

Paul and I too, since we have to make sure we follow through and they learn these learn. 

Here is what our overall door looks like now. Meal schedule, daily check list to get screen time, and chores. Whew. Who has time to do chores when making all the signs took this long?

Midlife crisis at the ripe age of... 5.

Our Little was born at the stroke of midnight. We tell her she was born at this magical moment that stands in between time. The witching hour. I told her that every year on her birthday at the stroke of midnight, I come in and kiss her on her nose and say a prayer of thanks for her big beautiful life.

When she woke this morning, on her fifth birthday, she was immediately distraught. Her eyes accusing and her words laced with frustration as she yelled at me,

"I missed it! I missed my birthday! You didn't wake me. You were supposed to wake me!" 

In my most calming voice I said, "You didn't miss it. I kissed you and now its your birthday! We get to celebrate all day!"

She was not convinced as her eyes narrowed at me trying to decide if I was telling the truth. 

She left the room and then came back a moment later. The lines still formed on her face, the frustration still in her eyes, she scowled at me,

"I'M NOT FIVE! YOU SAID I WOULD BE FIVE, BUT I'M NOT. I'm still four! I weigh 40 lbs. I am supposed to be 50 but I am still 40. When do I turn five?"

Well, I never saw that loop hole coming, so I explained the difference between time and weight and how she has a whole year to gain her 10lbs. (I left out the part where we don't actually want to accomplish that every year. I figured baby steps were in order here.)

She was still not convinced. 

The weight thing came back to haunt us a few times today. Each time re-explaining that she can be 40lbs and five years old. I'm not sure where stand on that still. Hopefully the doctor tomorrow can explain it with words she will understand since mine clearly aren't working.

At nap time, I laid her down and she burst into tears. She has currently been obsessed with death. We passed a cemetery the other day and she asked about the grave stones and if people were laying in the ground. I told her their bodies were but their spirits weren't. Everything that makes them alive is still alive in heaven (I went for the easy answer, don't judge me) but it didn't work. She started crying her hysterical cry where you can't understand what she's saying because she is sobbing more than talking. So then I have to ask her a couple times to repeat it because I can't help if I can't understand. Then all of a sudden, the tears magically stop and she is calm so she can talk to me and then the out of no where the tears and sobbing are back. It's amazing to watch actually. I am convinced she has already taken acting classes without my knowledge. 

So she is currently terrified of being put in the ground. I mean, downright convinced that they will put her in the ground while she is still alive and the actual act of being buried is what is going to kill her. I understand, she's five, so it's child logic, I am just not really good at these things. Clearly, since in my effort to help her feel better about being buried alive, I actually said, "Well, you can be cremated instead."

I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW! Now you can judge me. 

Ever have that moment where your mouth acts before your brain catches up? And it's like you experience the words for the first time as if they DIDN'T come from your head? Almost as if you were a whole other person in the car and you think, "How stupid are you that you just said that?" 

Yeah. I know. I get it. If there was one wrong move to make in this conversation, I just made it. "Sure little girl, if you don't want to buried alive, they can burn you to ashes instead." 

Way to go mom. There is no way you are winning "mom of the year" now! So much for talking frankly and honestly with our children. Maybe there should be some fine print in this manual that says, "Honest and truthful yes, but age appropriate critical." I think I missed that memo.

So, the wailing got worse. I actually rolled our windows up in the car because I was afraid someone was going to report me for child abuse if they heard her screaming. About an hour later after lots of consoling and trying to back pedal in the most tragic way, I didn't actually convince her that things look good when we die, I just tried to focus on the "Let's live and focus on having a life full of love and fun and family and friends... etc." She either started to listen to me or ran out of steam. I'm not sure which one.

So back to today at nap time.

I laid her down and all of a sudden she started the ugly cry again, (Yes, we all have one and even at age five, it's not pretty. It's actually comical and I have to try really hard not to laugh. One time in the midst of a melt down I excused myself to get her some tissues to help, and even though there were some in the room, I went to another room to get them so I could get my laughter out. I only wish I could secretly record for you. It's RIDICULOUS!) In between her sobs, she tells me,

"I don't want to die and be buried in the ground or burned! (sob) I want to go back to being little. Now that I am five (hiccup) I am big and I don't want to die. I want to be laid on the grass like a flower or be brought back to my bed. (sob) I don't want to be (hiccup) big."


And then at bedtime...

"I wish I was little still. (cry) When I was little, I could go with you everywhere. I have to (sob) go to school now and I am going to (hiccup) miss you. We do everything together and I am going to miss you. We are going to be lonely without each other. I don't want (cry) to die or get big or go to school without you."

So.. we clearly have some issues we need to work on over here. We have some anxiety, obviously, we have a strong fear of death (thanks to me) and we don't like change.

And you know the terrible part? She doesn't even start school for four more months!!! The really selfish and dark hole in my heart wants to scream, "Do I really have to do this all summer?!?!"

My small child thinks her life is over because she turned five today and only death and separation are in her future. Maybe I should make a dream and vision board with her. Find pictures of all the fun things we get to do in the next four months and in then in the next six. You know, give her something to look forward to so she doesn't think it's all down hill from here.

And the next time my child asks me about anything remotely life changing, I'm calling my mom.


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A Birthday Disaster

Let's take a minute, (or 10 since I have lots of words with this being my second cocktail and all tonight) and reflect on my weekend. 

We had a community garden tree planting event and two birthday parties to throw. It didn't sound too difficult.

Friday night Paul was out with a friend. so I did minimal cleaning to prepare for the party. By that I mean I put all the embarrassing things away, but let the vacuuming, sweeping and dishes get the best of me. I claimed I was inspired and wanted to write, so I headed to my room with my laptop in hand, settled into bed. I think I wrote four sentences, got distracted by Facebook and then fell asleep. 

Due to that great responsible move, Saturday morning left me hours behind in prep. While ignoring my kids plea for breakfast, I threw a load of laundry in, put clean dishes away and then realized I was supposed to make a gluten free pastry for our friends who were coming to help plant apple trees in the community garden. I hadn't even made Middle's birthday treat, so there was no way a breakfast pie was happening. At that moment of realization, our neighbors showed up with breakfast in hand to come help plant. I threw on the clothes that were heaped on the floor, because I had worn them yesterday and opened the door with a smile. Having no gluten free option available, I brought forth grapes, and then didn't even end up washing them, but had my neighbor do it. My patheticness took over in that moment. 

Once everyone was assembled, we went outside to plant and that's when we saw a crew of Whole Foods volunteers come to plant the trees that they donated to the garden. With more people than were necessary, we decided to move our effort to cleaning the garden, which turned out to be the smartest move I made all weekend, considering all the x-rated items and glass we pulled from the dirt. Don't want the kids finding those things!

After the cleaning and planting had commenced, it was time for a quick lunch and party prep. Oh yeah, I still hadn't made Middle's birthday treat or decorated. So as the clock struck 1pm and the first friend showed up while Paul and our oldest were putting up streamers. (The only reason we were doing that was because I bought special streamers for Little's birthday party the next day which ironically never went up and I didn't want Middle to think I would decorate for her and not for him. Got to have it fair and even right?) While the streamers went up, I was still mixing the ice cream that was supposed to be frozen over night. But me? Oh no, I was going to be serving it in exactly 1 1/2 hours. Yeah, I was winning over here. No birthday treat, (the ONLY thing we are serving mind you) the bathroom is disgusting, there is garden dirt all over our floors and that is when I realized that we don't have a birthday present for our daughter. Who we are celebrating. The. Very. Next. Day.

So... the first party has started, barely, and I sent my husband away to go buy the bike she was getting from her grandparents who live far away, and a special stuffed animal from us. I am left with the couple of friends who Middle invited, a few of the siblings who decided to stay and the neighborhood kids who joined us. Seriously, it was like I was standing in some weird multiplying machine. I had kids running around the house, running outside the house, and running in our neighbors yard. They were waving sticks and lightsabers and screaming and playing and fake dying all over the ground. I had coffee brewing, the phone started ringing, one kid came in and was bleeding and needed a band-aid, another one was crying, and Paul was texting me about help with what bike to get. I was four stimulations over my max. 

At this point, my dear friend showed up with her son and I clung to her like a life line. We were headed to the park! I had to do something. So for the next 45 min the kids ran and played at the park down the street, and I actually had a conversation with my friend. Once we made it home at the time when the party was ending, we sang Happy Birthday to Middle and we dished up the special ice cream fudge he picked. Izzy drinks were served, and spilled on the ground, presents were torn open, and parents were coming to get their kids, sadly observing the chaotic state in which we were currently existing. 

I am not kidding. At that moment, we had more people show up to the community garden next door to prep the land and get it ready for planting. My son invited those kids into the house because we were having a party, shared the drinks and dessert and we added a few more to the mix. I went outside to talk to Michael who is one of the leaders. His brother joined us and started an inappropriate relationship with my hand, as he wouldn't let it go and continued to bestow kiss after kiss with over indulgent compliments. Paul still isn't home, so I wasn't sure how to get myself out of this awkward conversation. Pulled my hand away, he took it back. Moved myself out of the conversation and he brought me back in. It was then our housemate Chad came home, saw my distress and rescued me. 

When Paul finally made it home to wrapping paper all over the floor, garden dirt smashed into the carpet, the sink full of dishes, the first thing he heard from our oldest was, "SOME GUY KISSED MOM AND I WANTED TO PUNCH HIM." Well, that needed some explaining to say the least. (It wan't kissing... it was my hand... it was innocent...it was awkward....we handled it...Your the only man for me.) Done. 

While making dinner, I decided to have a cocktail. I don't need a drink to relax, but it sure is nice once in awhile. Right after my vodka and OJ and Cranberry (don't judge, it was all we had) I realized that everyone was contained with a movie, the sun was shining and I was desperate for a run. I got changed, and was heading out at 730 before the sun set. Before I made it to the door, Paul grabbed my face in his hands and said to me, "Please be careful. You are going out at night and I need you to be aware and safe. Make smart choices and come back to us. I love you." 

Yes it sounded as final now as did to me in the moment. But living where we do in Minneapolis, he wasn't off base. His fear is founded and I was actually surprised he let me go. (That sounds bad, but I am hoping you know what I mean by it.) So I headed out and about five blocks into my run, my cocktail caught up to me. More than the extra weight I put on, that cocktail is what slowed me down and made my head fuzzy and giggly all at the same time. I thought to myself, I just left my house slightly buzzed (not being a regular drinker, apparently one cocktail will do that to you) going out for a run in a highly complicated and threatening neighborhood. 

Not. My. Best. Moment. 

I had a lot of revelations during that run. Many pondering's about fear and violence and culture and the ghetto that will end up in my next book, (It's name to be leaked later), but I made it home safe and sound, though albeit still a little foggy and completely exhausted. Paul was doing his workout and the kids were asleep so I laid down in bed to wait for him to be done and catch my breath. Apparently when my head hit the pillow, I was out. The next thing I know is that I woke with a start and it was 1145pm. I came out of the room, cold sweat chilled on my body, me still in my workout clothes, and Paul was sitting on the couch all showered and relaxing. I think what came out of his mouth as he looked at me was, "Nice nap? You are a big hot mess that passed out still in your workout clothes without even waking up." I think I glared at him then hopped in the shower for a quick rinse off and crawled back into bed.

Since for the second night in a row, I was apparently incapable of cleaning or joining the land of the living, I had to clean up from one party and prep for the next one all before church. With legos everywhere, the dishes still piled high, the bathroom still not clean, I figured the one thing I could do right today was getting Little's treat ready on time. (Middle's turned out more like soft fudge and not ice cream which worked just fine for the kids.) With some picking up done, breakfast only consisting of two spills, one of milk and one of cereal, we made it to church on time and back home in time for the party to start. 

We wanted to give Little her new bike before her friends showed up. Paul and I made a big deal about the reveal with our camera in hand and unveiling it with the lift of the garage. We were expecting joy, laughter, a squeal maybe.  We were so ready to capture this amazing moment. Her first real bike. All her own. She has been asking for one for over a year and now she got one. When the garage door lifted, we got nothing of what we expected. We literally got...NOTHING. She looked, she saw, she walked up to her bike and just looked at us. I think the word "cool" came out but I'm not sure. What I can say is she was unenthusiastic, unimpressed and the one thing we hoped for didn't happen. 

So while she starting riding her new bike, her three friends showed up and everyone started to play together. I was able to make the ice cream she requested, but I never got the decorations up, and half way through the party, I realized I never even changed the Happy Birthday banner. It still read Happy Birthday Caleb. At her party! After about 10 minutes in, Little started sobbing that her brothers were more fun than her and that her friends didn't want to play with her. She was the Birthday girl so she was supposed to be the favorite. 

I took my kids aside and had a talk. I thought it was all figured out. We separated out the girls and the boys were going to a park with Paul. We had five peaceful minutes, and then Little was crying again. I have no idea what set her off that time, but she came up to me and said, "Mama (hiccup) I need a moment alone (sob) with you to speak about a problem." How can an almost five year old talk like a refined old lady while in the midst of an epic melt down? This was number 2 of I don't know how many because I lost count of the number of melt downs she had. Her party was 2 hours long and she was actually only apart of it for about, oh, a whole 15 minutes. With Paul being gone now for the second party in a row, and me trying to hang with the 3 girls who were invited to this tragic party, all while Little still cried in my room, I went upstairs to elicit Chad's help in convincing Little to come out. 

While Chad was in the room with Little working his magic, the girls and I were playing with the farm animals. Somehow we got on the subject of "if the White and Black cows only gave milk and the Brown cows were for meat." We did some research and kept talking about cows and milk, and babies and feeding them, and milking them. Then questions were happening about other animals and babies and feedings and milk, and all of a sudden I realized I was sitting in my living room ready to deliver a reproduction speech to little girls that aren't mine! All I kept thinking was, "THIS IS NOT HAPPENING?!?!" My daughter is literally living  the mantra"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" while I have other people's children asking me about milk and mommies and babies.

For the second time, of this backwards, upside down weekend, I found myself a little lost and completely unprepared. I have no problem talking about sex, or any issue with my kids. However, I kind of have this fear of other kids asking me questions like that, me explaining things in a matter of fact kind of way, and the child going home slightly traumatized as if I just told them Santa wasn't real and their parent coming and yelling me. So I get a little panicky when the topic turns personal with children who are not my own.

So I decided to distract them with ice cream and cookies. I know. Real mature.  

(Those are the two left over streamers from her brothers party, which she later pointed out where not the special colors she picked.  whoops.)

It was at that point we got Little out of the room, we sang happy birthday to her, dished up ice cream, the moms showed up to get their daughters. That was the moment Little noticed I hadn't changed the birthday sign and it didn't have her name on it. "I don't even get a sign with my name on it?" (tear)

Oh, epical hot mess this weekend.

I sat on the porch with my dear friend who's daughter was still here we shared a cocktail while we talked and the girls played nicely AFTER the party was over. 

So all in all, Middle was a screaming mess, Little was a crying mess, Paul got kicked out of both parties, and I clearly couldn't handle myself this weekend. My obvious coping mechanisms are a blinding light as indicators go.

Middle never figured out how to be quieter, Little, well, we are hoping and praying that the emotional tidal wave of today is not an indicator of her teenage years, though we know we are wrong, we are going to try to keep Paul around more, and  I switched to coffee.

If you made it this far, I am impressed. We should share a drink together. 

I mean get a coffee.

Or a glass of water. 




The need for protection

We dream of having someone to protect us.  To have that one person in your life who loves you more than anything.  The person who will see the darkness and the life in you at the same time and say, "You are worth it.  Everyday I choose you.  I love you.  I want you.  I will never leave you."  Flowing from those beautiful poetic words, usually comes a promise to "have and to hold, to protect and cherish".  I believe it doesn't matter who you are, we all desire to be chosen by someone.

We then take it one step further in our confession for the desire to be protected. Protection from harm is where our childhood fantasy plays out with the Knight and shining armor.   To have a protector that will battle any and all dark forces so that not one hair on our head is touched.  That we would be so cherished by the love of our life, that they would risk their own life for ours.  It is sacrificial love at its best.  I do not believe this childhood dream is for girls alone.  I have witnessed and experienced boys who have turned into men that long for a protector as well.  Maybe not physically, but, what of our hearts?  The dreams and the spirit that makes us unique?  What about our gift that each one of us offers humanity?  Will the love of our life help us protect those very intimate and personal aspects of ourselves? 

It is a disservice not only to our hearts, but also our relationships when we leave the act protecting to its over simplified  physical limit.  Are not our hearts and dreams and wounds worthy of protection and attention?  Deep inside each of us is lies the scars where we have been wounded and were not protected.  The dreams we hold that we are afraid to share because at some point in our history, someone attacked our idea and we were left wounded and bleeding, promising to never expose those parts of our heart again.  When we are left without a protector, we don't dare to believe that we can be vulnerable or lovable or that we are worthy.

This past weekend I found myself walking the beach on the coast of Connecticut participating in the NE District Youth Gathering.  I was there pursuing my dream of speaking truth and life and love to the hearts of students across the country.  I left my husband and three kids home.  After working 50 hours that week, my husband would then have to manage our three kids, our home, the grocery shopping, our broken car, homework, baths, all the meals for three diet restricted kids, laundry, fights, silly games, screen time, church, and in the end make sure everyone was ready for school Monday morning, because I wouldn't be home till midnight Sunday.  

He called me Saturday, and I was expecting a full break down of frustration because everyone was tired and falling apart.  Instead, I got encouragement and his genuine excitement for me doing what we both believe I have been called to do.  He asked me to make sure I enjoyed my time.  He reminded me to protect my sleep so I could soak up all the blessings that God was pouring on me.   He said that when I got home, life would resume to schedules and homework and we would back to the daily grind.  He wanted to make sure that I rested, enjoyed, and sought God in my weekend.  To enjoy the students and the blessings they are.  Mostly he called to tell me he was so  happy I was living out my dream. 

Protection poured out from him.   His words of protection poured over the lies that I had believed that I wasn't good enough for this job I longed for.  Protection over my heart and the ability to live into a dream.  A gentle reminder to protect my boundaries so that I could remain healthy.  

Protection wasn't a word that I thought much on when looking for my life partner.  It has however become a characteristic that I believe needs more of our attention. 

Our immediate reaction to this would be,  

1. If we are single, we would start looking for a protector


2. If we are in a relationship, make our partner read this to speak these words of what we desire from them

I would challenge that neither of these is my goal for writing this post.  What I have learned and gained from life so far is that if we see what the world is lacking, then we should make the change first in ourselves.  Michael Jackson said it when he sang, Man in the mirror; its where the change starts. 

Whoever you are and in whatever relationships we have, spouses, partners, friends, children,  parents, bosses, co-workers; we have the ability to protect those around us.   To protect those things that people are scared to share.  That when someone dares to expose part of their heart and dreams, that we would rush to protect instead of tear down.  That we could be their champion encouraging and uplifting and protecting along the way.

To help protect their dream by encouraging them. 

To help protect their lives against abuse.

To help protect someone in their healing in AA. 

To help protect a friends heart against shame and guilt.

To help a friend live into their dream of loosing weight to be healthy. 

To be present in the lives of the people around protecting their time. 

To show love in deep ways that will protect wounds we don't even see. 

If we choose to live into that challenge, then I say, we shouldn't and can't stop there. When I think of protection, I think of so many women and children who can't protect themselves.  Women and children who have names and faces and fears and wounds that we don't understand.  Women around the world, children lost in the cities.  Where is their protector?   Do they even believe protectors exist?

Is it possible?  Could we dare to believe that we could, even without knowing them, be apart of their protection?  That if these women and children see that someone cares enough to protect them, then someone would care enough to love them?  That would mean they were worthy.  Worthy enough for love.  Worthy enough for life.  Worthy enough for new beginnings. 

Protection goes beyond our false ideal of a Knight and Shining Armor.  It is so, so much more. 

There are many different organizations that are serving God and humanity by the work they do in protecting those who need protection.  Here are just a very SMALL few to get you started if you don't know where to look.






Be blessed friends, and I am excited to see how protection starts living out in your lives.