The Mom Gets in the Pool*

*With a tip of the hat to Allison Tate’s “The Mom Stays in the Picture”

If you don't get in the pool, you can't hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

If you don’t get in the pool, you can’t hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

Yesterday I spent four hours at the official opening of the neighborhood pool, which we joined for the summer. There were at least 200 people at this party.

You know how many moms got in the pool over the course of four hours?

Six.

At one point I counted the number of moms wearing suits: 15. Every other mom in the joint was wearing regular clothes, huddled up with a friend or hunched over a phone while their children frolicked with dad. Or alone.

This was not a weather issue. It was gorgeous. A high of 81. I spent the whole time in the sun with SPF 50 and hardly got any color.

No, I’d bet my bathing suit top–a significant bet, trust me–that it’s more of a bathing suit problem.

And ladies, let me be clear. I HEAR that. Me and bathing suits go way back and not in a friendly way.

But that will not stop me from getting in the water, for three reasons.

1. I’m a So Cal girl and I love the water more than I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit.

2. I gave birth to three children who are half fish.

3. Two of them are girls and I would rather poke my eyes out with my big toe than make them feel that only women who look the “right” way or wear the “right” size deserve to be seen in a swimsuit.

Sometimes, I can can rock the suit out of the gate. And other times, like today, I take a deep breath and fake it til I make it. Today that moment was when another mom leaned over and said “I am so glad that you swim. So many moms don’t swim.”

Dana pointed out a long time ago, it’s really true that nobody’s looking at us.

I mean, they may have been looking at me when I was screaming, laughing, splashing with my kids. Or doing the Chicken Dance on the pool deck—that’s because I do a mean Chicken Dance.

But they aren’t looking at us like that, like “Who does she think she is walking that fat a** all over this pool?”

Not the nice ones anyway, and who gives a flying fig what the mean ones think?

Your children will love it. When you get your hair wet, and do cannonballs and partner up for the water balloon toss. You’ll be that mom, the fun one. And if you think they won’t remember, they do. I do.

My mom got in the water with us and played hard. You ain’t seen nothing in this world until you have seen your mom come down a water slide head first and shoot through the inner tube hooked on the end.

I can’t tell you what she was wearing or how she looked in it.

But I can see the grin on her face and hear her scream as she hit the water. WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

So what if this summer, we made a pact to do it differently? And what if I could promise you that all of the following are true:

The kids are waiting.

The suit doesn’t look as bad as you think.

Your hair will recover.

And you know you want to.

So let’s all stand up. Take off our t-shirts.

And be the moms who get in the pool.

Puritanical

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First, a little History of These United States That You Don’t Often Hear in History Class.

There was a reason the Puritans were not welcomed in England.

It’s because they were craaazzzzy. No really. Go read the source material, or just grab your kid’s 11th grade lit book. Start with William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. Then do some research on how they ran their colonies. If you didn’t look like them, think like them, speak like them and most of all believe like them—they ran your ass out of town. Like, way, way out. Maryland, almost 400 miles to the south, was the first solidly Catholic colony for a reason.

We have crafted a giant pageant around the First Thanksgiving, and we like to link our commitment to the First Amendment to the persecution of these “refugees”.

But the truth is, their brand of oppressive, Old Testament Christianity totally ignored the love of God embodied in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus His son.

Plus, they were scared all the time. All. The. Time. Even before they landed at the start of winter in a barren land. For their sheer ability to survive their own stupidity, we might owe them a debt of gratitude. But mostly I think it’s interesting that a people so devoted to the Bible were terrified of life. Maybe they never read the second half.

They had a nasty way of branding everything that wasn’t like them as “of the devil”: women who didn’t follow the rules, the Natives, people of other Christian faiths, notably the Quakers (the Quakers, for goodness sake), later immigrants from England. It was a horrific approach if you think about it, to not acknowledge and tolerate disagreement, but to assign evil intent to everyone and everything that didn’t fall into their very narrow line.

They invented the fear of the stranger in the village that is fundamental to our American psyche. The woods are haunted, only the devil goes bump in the night and we have never welcomed the immigrant, quickly forgetting from whence we came and instead stomping on our own borrowed shores like a two year old screaming “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

They lived by a convoluted version of “freedom”. They came here to be free to practice their extremely controlling and authoritarian religion. Certainly, no one was “free” within their communities—there were very strict social expectations, most of them oppressive. In essence, they travelled over the ocean to a new land for the freedom to practice their particular brand of oppression.

It didn’t work very well. Within 50 years, the debacle at Salem, where 19 innocent people died for greed, power and pride, proved that they themselves were the evil walking the new world. Not all of them, of course, but as a group of people, they left a scar on this land. Their gift to us, 300 years on, is a stubborn insistence that we know best and no one else can tell us what to do.

Some would argue this is not a gift at all.

History is cyclical, and over the life of our nation, we have at times lived again under the shadow of oppressive public religion. So I say this to my Christian brothers and sisters who want to us believe that somehow, our Christian faith is under fire—Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

We need to check our hearts and make sure that what we really want is freedom, and not the freedom to practice our own brand of oppression.

In case you aren’t sure what I’m so worried about, here’s a list of interesting reads:

Adoption groups can legally deny non-Christians

Oklahomans vote to constitutionally protect the death penalty

Best and Worst states to raise children–Bible Belt is LAST

Six States with the most people living in poverty (also mostly the Bible Belt)

Infant mortality rate highest in Bible Belt

 

Why I’m Grateful for My Breakdown

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Today is World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day.

Inspired by Dr. Christina Hibbert, I want to tell you about the good that severe postpartum anxiety has wrought in my life.

I had a day five years ago when I thought the only way out was OUT.

That was my lowest point. But was also my saving grace.

Because of my postpartum breakdown, I reached out to Postpartum Support International and found an awesome counselor who encouraged me on my first visit to use prayer for healing. She’s not a Christian counselor,  just a very wise and spiritual woman who met me right where I was and suggested that the Holy Mother may be a place I could turn for help. My relationship with Mary was ambivalent for lots of silly reasons in hindsight, but now I have a nurturing and peaceful devotion to her that feeds me as a mother and wife.

Because of my postpartum breakdown and my awesome counselor, I finally realized that fear was an emotion that ruled too much of my life. It manifested in my OCD and anxiety, an intense desire to anticipate and control outcomes. I was spending so much of my life trying to get in front of the next big (mostly imaginary) disaster and missing the little way of St. Therese of Lisieux, who believed “that the people of her time lived in too great a fear of God’s judgement. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God”.

That was me. Bigly. And when I decided not to be that scared woman anymore, it left a HUGE hole in my spiritual life. I had to admit that I believed more in fear than in God’s love.

I have since fixed that little problem right there.

Because of my postpartum breakdown, my awesome counselor, my new commitment to the Little Way and my own God-given big mouth gifts, I decided that the whole shame-filled not talking about it thing was bull-hunky. I ended up on this path at the right time thanks to bloggers like Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker, who were telling everyone that we had to tell the truth or it would kill us. Also Richard Rohr, who knocked me out of bed one night with this line: “If we don’t transform our pain, we transmit it.” I thought about my extensive family history of anxiety and my girls and the hereditariness of it all. I knew I had to shine a light, and that if I brought my mental health out of the dark, I would transform it.

So I told it, to everyone who asked (and some very tired looking mamas slumped in the corner of the playground at the mall who didn’t, but this whole Shine the light thing is not an exact science and better safe than sorry).

Because of my postpartum breakdown, my awesome counselor, my new commitment to the Little Way, my own God-given big mouth gifts and my light-shining, I found myself sitting on a hill at a park during a 4th of July celebration exactly one year from my own breakdown talking to another broken mama on the phone—from 150 miles away. I found myself pulled aside at church for a conversation about a new mama who was hallucinating and no one knew who to call.  I have given the phone number of my awesome counselor to at least five women in her service area. I supported a new grandma through getting her daughter admitted for psychosis. And just three days ago, I watched a new mama’s tired eyes fill with tears because nursing is kicking her ass. Then she was embarrassed because it was brunch for God’s sake and we don’t talk about these things at brunch, right?

And I said WHY YES WE DO! We talk about these things right the heck now because that’s what you need! So let’s get dessert and maybe another drink and you can tell me everything. (I stole this idea from the second Sex and the City movie where Miranda makes Charlotte do shots over how hard it is to be a mom, which was a way more brilliant scene than anyone probably realized.)

I wasn’t that woman before. Now I am. Better.

And for that, I am grateful.

“If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.”

Forgiveness, Warsan Shire

 

Today is Yom HaShoah

Night

One year when I was a 10th grade teacher, my colleagues and I built a heck of a unit around Elie Wiesel’s holocaust memoir, Night.

We were so proud of that unit as we planned it. The novel was the centerpiece. Then there were ancillary short stories, movie clips from Band of Brothers, Schindler’s List, The Devil’s Arithmetic. We wrote quizzes and essay prompts that mimicked the exit exam. We made photocopies and lesson plans and a culminating project. We prepared profiles of real Jews who had experienced the Holocaust to pass out to the students, and on the last day, we would tell them if their person survived or died. We stole that idea from the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

We made it as thoughtful and authentic as we could. Then we set out to teach it.

That first year, I was pregnant with Gabe and I skipped the part with the babies. I skipped a lot of stuff that year, because I just couldn’t.

The second year, I made myself sit with it. That was the first year I got a parent phone call about the book, a mom concerned that the story was affecting her student too deeply. Does it have to be THIS book? I was right there with her. I didn’t skip the part about the babies and I had a baby at home.

I also had nightmares.

The third year, I was pregnant with Kate. This was the year we decided to mix up the movie clips, so I sat at home one Saturday and watched The Pianist and Sophie’s Choice, back to back.

Keep the baby quiet.

A son and a daughter. Choose.

I didn’t sleep for two nights.

That year, I cried when I read the part about the babies. I cried when I read the part about the hanging. I cried when we watched the clip in The Devil’s Arithmetic where the mother refuses to leave the baby she has birthed in secret and they are sent together to the gas chamber. I hugged the student who laid her head down on the desk and sobbed. I didn’t write referrals when kids said “That’s fucked up” in class or when a young man stood up in class, threw his book across the room and said “This book is fucking stupid” after we read the part where the son steals food from his own father and leaves him to die.

But when the unit was done, I asked to be transferred out of tenth grade. I couldn’t do it anymore.

Last week, I saw a picture on Facebook of a teacher friend. Her students were all crowded into a small space—the size of a boxcar. She was standing on a desk over them, reading from the book. They’re still doing it, I thought. God bless them.

I get how this sounds: Like we’re all snowflakes who can’t handle the truth, melting at the first suggestion of genocide. Protect the children from this history. Teach it to them, but don’t teach it, teach it. Don’t read about ten year old boys taking three hours to die from hanging while other ten year old boys watched. Don’t talk about babies ripped from their mother’s arms and thrown alive into a bonfire.

We’ve come so far, that mom told me. Do they really need to be exposed to the horrors when we’ve made sure as a society it will never happen again?

There it is. That right there is why we taught the book in the first place, why we built such a confrontational unit, why we created a place for the kids to sit in the bald faced truth of what happened.

The danger of being 80 years away from something is that we think we have the luxury of choosing to pass the information on or not.

We don’t.

Look around the world today. Hatred lives. And not just There. Here. So high school English teachers all over this nation pick up that book every year and walk through the horrors of the Holocaust with a new group of students so that the kids will know.

Today is Yom HaShoah, Day of Remembrance. We can remember the victims of the Holocaust and pray for the peace and repose of their souls. We can ask forgiveness in the name of our ancestral family and friends who did not know or did not do enough. We can pray for generational healing.

And we can all make sure our kids know—at whatever level is appropriate for them—that when we don’t love each other enough, when we don’t remember that there is no such thing as other people’s children, when we see the world as us vs. them, we invite Evil to walk among us.

Resources for parents and teachers

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Museum of Tolerance

Teaching Gratitude

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We went to Lake Tahoe for Easter. We stayed with cousins. We went to the sno-park and had a seafood dinner and there was ice cream and swimming and prime rib and an Easter egg hunt.

And then on Sunday afternoon, when I wanted to hit the shops before dinner, one of my lovelies threw a fit: I don’t want to go shopping. That’s not fun for me. Can I stay home?

Sometimes, when we do stuff, I see my kids grow and learn and I think “This was worth it.”

But sometimes I think “We give them too much for nothing.”

I’ve talked about this before—my worry that the life we give them because we are older parents with more working years and discretionary income under our belts comes with a cost.

My kids have travelled a lot. Shea and I like to travel and make it a priority. But there are moments where I see that the children have come to expect certain things.

At 4 am that troubles me.

In the middle of a condo in Lake Tahoe on Sunday, my head exploded.

That’s not fun for me.

I think teaching our kids gratitude may be the hardest of all parenting lessons. It’s so big and goes on for so long. First, say please. Then thank you. Wait your turn. Share. Be a good listener. Let others go first.

Those are the easy ones.

The older kids get, the more conceptual gratitude becomes. It’s not enough to say please and thank you. Some of the rudest pre-teens I know always remember to say please and thank you.

So here’s what I said: “Life is not all about you. It is not about what’s fun for you. It’s not about you at all. It will never be about you, not ever, ever in your whole life. Unless you are the Grinch and live in a cave with your dog. Even then, you will have to think about the dog. But if you want a family, friends, a job and general happiness, then life will never, ever, ever be just about you. EVER.”

It was a moment. Such a moment that I thought maybe I had cut off too big a slice of truth for their ears. I retreated to my spiritual mom guilt cave and thought about it. For like, 20 seconds, because mom guilt is not my thing and the cave is small.

For five of those seconds my mom ego yelled But these kids ARE special and there should be whole years dedicated to their specialness and one day if we just love them and protect them and write their college entrance essays, they are going to RULE THE WORLD!

I shut her up fast because that is the wrong thing. Jesus wrong, kindness wrong, other people matter wrong. Wrong.

Teaching them that they belong to and are responsible for each other? That’s right. It’s not too early either, because the secular world is selling a different message and selling it loudly. We have to start today so by tomorrow they will realize how connected they are to others and that decisions have rippling consequences and those ripples can be positive and turn into waves and help them CHANGE THE WORLD.

Much better.

In the immortal words of my dad, Papa T—parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Which means start early AND stay the course. We can’t stop at please and thank you and think we’ve done our job.

It’s bigger than that.

 

My Girl Martha

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Two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the Lazarus story from John 11. It’s only glancingly about Lazarus. He died. They buried him.

It’s more about Martha, who came running out to meet Jesus and speak some truth right at Him: If you had been here, he would not have died, which is a conversation we’ll be having later. Right now, you can fix this.

She barely waits for an answer before she gets Mary up and sends her out. She readies the folk. This is Martha. She’s a doer. This is her Messiah and she knows he’s going to do something to make them all feel better. She trusts him.

Mostly.

Because the next thing Jesus says is “Open the tomb” and that is one step farther than poor Martha is prepared to trust.

She points out the obvious, in front of a crowd no less: “Lord, by now there will be a stench. He has been dead four days.”

Or in the Douay-Rheims: “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”

Some people may wonder what Martha was thinking, calling out Jesus in public. Not me. I know that Martha was wondering what Jesus was thinking.

Martha is my favorite Bible lady, the worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control half of the sisters who were so close to Jesus in his ministry. I relate to Martha. Every time we read the other Martha story, in Luke. I always mutter under my breath in stubborn solidarity “Sure, I’ll sit down and listen but don’t complain to me later when you’re hungry and there’s no food.”

I relate to Martha’s flaw as well—her desire that her plan be God’s plan, instead of the other way around. I get it. I do it. I even think it’s reasonable sometimes.

Why can’t my way be His way, if we’re headed to the same place? Why can’t we follow my directions instead of his?

The answer is a hard one to stomach for Type A gals like Martha and me: It’s because the big picture is BIG, too big for us to see. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that day in preparation for what was to come: his own death and resurrection.

Jesus loved Martha. And he loves me and all my fellow worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control sisters and brothers. I know this because he gave us Martha, in the Gospels of Luke and John, so we could see for ourselves that it isn’t wrong to question with an open and honest heart. Only to not listen to the answer.

And can I just say that for me, if there was any doubt to the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, it evaporates in the moment Lazarus walks out of the tomb and Jesus doesn’t cut Martha some side eye.

That is SUPERNATURAL self-control right there.

Ghost Story

Dana and I are running in twelve different directions this week. So here’s a spooky post from two years ago…and last year…but who doesn’t love a ghost story?

Happy Halloween!

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Growing up, we had a ghost in the house. I’ll put that on my mom. And if my mom was writing this, she’d tell you the same.

We’d lived in the house probably ten years before we put it all together. We sat down as a family and told each other all the weird things that had happened that we thought were just weird coincidence or the creakings and squeakings of a 40 year old house. That night, I named her Dorothy.

Dorothy was the source of the knocking on my bedroom wall, the reason that the dog sat up and begged from no one. She whispered in everyone’s ear, waking us up in the dark of night. Up to that point, none of it was scary. Just weird.

But that dinner was like her coming out party. Once we acknowledged her presence, she got busy.

One night Teresa was playing with my mom’s music box, a masquerade clown that played “Music of the Night” from Phantom. As if that in itself was not creepy enough, two hours after she left, I was watching TV by myself when I heard the box play about six slow notes in the dining room. It did that sometimes, like it hadn’t quite wound all the way down.

Thirty seconds later though, that thing started playing loud and fast like someone had wound it all the way up.

I screamed for my brother, who yelled back “I’m not coming out there!” My mom came running up the hallway and grabbed the box, which had indeed been wound all the way up.

Dorothy.

My dad hired a painter to paint the family room. After six hours they wanted out. The paint fell over, the brushes moved from where they had been left, the TV switched on and off. “You got a ghost, boss” the painter told my dad.

Dorothy.

At Christmas, the stockings my mom made when we were all babies, that hung on the mantle every year, and were packed away in the same place, were gone. My mom turned the house upside down. Nothing.

When we dragged the decorations out for the next Christmas, there they were, right on top.

Dorothy.

I lost a pair of jean shorts, my favorites. I looked for them everywhere, even in my brothers’ drawers. Then I forgot about them. One day in the middle of winter, I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer and mixed up among them—my blue jean shorts.

Dorothy.

My brother used to surf early in the morning. The kid never remembered his house key. He’d tap on my bedroom window so I could get up and let him in the back door. One Saturday morning, he  called my name and tapped, and I got up and opened the back door. Which set off the house alarm. Which brought everyone running, including my brother who’d been asleep in his bed.

Dorothy.

It got to be a thing. My mom, standing over the tv, turning it off only to have it turn right back on. “Dorothy, cut it out!” she yelled finally, and that time the tv stayed off.

One night I was doing the dishes. It was just my brother and me in the house. He came into the kitchen to get a drink, but then he bolted for the back door and locked it. “I just saw someone outside!” he said.

“Blond hair?” I asked him.

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen that. I think it’s Dorothy” I told him.

And then this night. I was doing the dishes. It was dark. The rest of the family was watching tv in the other room. I looked up from the sink, into the window, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting the room behind me. And I saw a woman with blond hair, in a long black dress, walk into the room towards me. I froze, and watched as she turned and walked out.

When I ran out into the family room to tell my parents, my brother said “I thought I saw someone walk into the dining room just a second ago”.

Dorothy.

The mystery was solved one afternoon at my grandparent’s home. I was telling Dorothy stories and my grandmother, a few Canadian Clubs into the afternoon, said “We had a ghost here too. Bessie.” She then launched into a list of Bessie stories that sounded a lot like Dorothy. My grandmother thought she haunted a painting they used to have.

“Is she gone?” my dad asked.

“Oh sure, since we got rid of the painting” my grandmother said.

“Where did it go?” he asked.

“We gave it to you years ago! The one in the living room.”

And I knew exactly the painting she was talking about. A delicate, Romantic style portrait of a young girl, her face glowing against the background, even in the dark.

The girl in the painting was not a blond. And she was not dressed the way that Dorothy was dressed the night I saw her. But since the day my dad took that painting off the wall and sent it to Goodwill, there has never been another Dorothy incident in the house.

I know. Spooooooky.

Happy Halloween!

From That to This

Some people may have seen a giant oak staircase coming down out of the ceiling and thought “That is a really big staircase in the middle of the room.” In fact, Shea was some people. He said “That is a really big staircase in the middle of the room. What do you do with that?”

Same with the wood walls and all the millwork around the doors and windows. The 5 foot wide gold trimmed mirrored closet doors. And the beast of a red brick fireplace.

What do you do with that? You call some people.

I found Bethany and her husband David. They are the owner-operators of Reclaimed Cottage, a business they grew up in Beaumont, Ca—which is close to where we used to live—before it moved up here to the Rogue Valley last Fall. Bethany refinished the kitchen of my friend Michelle and came with glowing recommendations so before we even offered on this home I sent her a Facebook message with pictures of the house that said “Do you see all this wood? I know we can do big things with all this wood. Are you in?”

And she said “YES!”.

And then I said “My name is Jen and I am a friend of Michelle’s”. She just rolled with it, which is how I knew for sure that she and I were going to do big things with all this wood.

I said “I want to white wash the brick fireplace.” She said “Yes.”

I said “I want to paint and distress the wood behind the fireplace so that it looks beachy-cottage-y.” And she said “Yes.”

I said “I want to paint these stairs white, except for the steps, which I want to stain the color of the new laminate.” And she said “Stain is a thing. Takes days and smells up the house. What if we brown wash the stairs with paint?” And I said “Yes!”

We chose wall paint colors—Refuge, Meditative and Sleepy Blue from Sherwin Williams. They’re all shades of blue. It’s now my signature color.Call me Shelby.

We decided on matte white for the bedroom wood wall. When you paint stained wood white, you discover all kinds of holes and imperfections that blended in before. David offered to fill them, but I liked the character so we left it.

I think the stairs turned out amazing and I can’t wait to decorate for the holidays.

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We have miles—of doors—to go before we sleep in a finished home. New interior doors. A new garage door, which was unanticipated. And I think new front doors. The old ones are in fine and refinishable shape, but there’s these eagles on them.

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If I paint them red or black, is that too “Make America Great Again”? Or do they just have to go?

Thoughts?

Stay tuned for the next installment of Reclaimed 1980s Modern Ranch House: “Mom, where’s the milk?!” and other challenges of small kitchen storage.

 

My Babies Are Your Babies Are My Babies

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”  Steve King

I have grown.

I used to fear and pray for and love over only my own children. For so long, that was my measure of personal well-being, if my own babies were healthy and happy.

My world was small because I was so scared. And I was scared because my world was so small.

Once I saw it, I fought hard to spread my net of love and prayer farther than just my own babies. And when I did, when I reached out my hands in benediction for more than just my own, my world got bigger. I touched hands with other mamas, spreading their light of prayers and love outward over more than just their own too, and my babies got safer.

My babies are your babies are my babies.

There’s a responsibility here though. To feel the pain. To stand in solidarity with the mothers who have lost.

Who are losing.

Are fighting.

Hiding.

Fleeing.

Searching.

Grieving.

No matter their color, country or creed.

“There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” Hillary Clinton

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How To Get Ready For Lent–From My Sunday School Class

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Dear Ms. Jen’s people,

We want to tell you how to get ready for Lent.

So first, read Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-18. It’s the Ash Wednesday reading in the Catholic church. It may confuse you because it’s all “Don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing” on a day when we walk around with ASHES ON OUR FOREHEADS, but Ms. Jen says those ashes tell the world we are sinners, not do-gooders. So it’s actually not hypocritical. And the point is that when we do good things, we do them to honor God and NOT to honor ourselves. If you give up chocolate but go around telling people you gave up chocolate, they cancel each other out.

And Lent is not just about giving something up. You can also take something on. That sounds good but we didn’t know what it meant. Ms. Jen says you can stop doing something or start doing something. Angel said “Like stop eating vegetables and start playing XBOX 1 all day long?”

Ms. Jen said no. Angel was bummed.

If you don’t know what to give up or take on, you could think about these three lines from the prayer at the end of our chapter:

Help us to work with you to bring justice, love and peace to everyone.

This could be giving up mean words, fighting with a brother or sister, talking too much at school. It could also taking on hugging someone every day, giving a compliment to someone every day or leaving an anonymous note on your teacher’s desk (you should type it because teachers are really good at figuring out handwriting and they might thank you and then everyone would think you were teacher’s pet).

Free us from being careless and lazy.

This could be making your bed, folding your laundry, setting the table, clearing the table, doing the dishes, walking the dog, cleaning your room, feeding the dog, cleaning the toilets and so on.

(Really, we only came up with the first three and then Ms. Jen and Ms. Elena, her helper who is also Joseph’s mom, took the markers away from us and kept making the list longer)

Keep us from being blind to goodness.

This could be things like giving up regular music and listening to Christian music, or not playing that one violent video game. Maybe turning off the news or Facebook. This one was weird for us because why is it hard to see goodness? Ms. Jen said it’s more of a grown-up problem.

After you pick something, you should think of someone in your life who made a sacrifice for you. Then you could write them a letter thanking them and telling them what your sacrifice for Lent will be. This is a nice gesture, and it will also help you stick to your thing, whatever it is, because you said it to another person.

(At first we didn’t want to do this, but then Ms. Jen was all “Jesus DIED on a CROSS for you, can’t you write a letter?” It was kind of like, Oh. Yeah.)

So that’s it. Good luck!

Ms. Jen’s 4th grade Sunday School

PS: You get Sunday’s off!

PPS: From Lenten sacrifice, not church.

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Thank you to Angel, Ashleigh, Carolina, Joseph, Margaret and Blaine for such a great class on Sunday and for inspiring this post. You guys crack me up! And the future of the Church is safe in your smart, logical, artistic and kind hands.

Introducing Our Before

I bought a 60 pack of moving boxes on Amazon and told my family to pack carefully because if it doesn’t fit in 60 boxes, it’s not coming. Kate wailed that it took 1,000 boxes to move here from California and I said “Exactly” and let her chew on it.

I called all the people to stop and start service. I called all the other people about floors and walls and  dragging gas lines from the street to the stove. I sweet-talked the nice sales lady into keeping the hutch I just bought in her store until I actually move because Shea said I could only get it if we didn’t have to move it.

I chose paint colors. I culled wine glasses.

I lay in bed at night and try to fit this house into that one. It’s 700 square feet smaller, but I have lots of empty cupboards in this one so I know it’s possible. I’m doing well except for the books. I can’t figure out where to put the books. This is a big problem, since 8 of the 60 boxes are full of books.

(Kate says they shouldn’t count in the final tally if we aren’t going to unpack them until the next house.)

AND DID I MENTION WE’VE HAD THE STOMACH FLU????

Here we go with some Before pictures of our 1983 charmer, as well as some thoughts about what will happen next.

The outside:

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Here is the color scheme for the outside. Shea—who repainted his Maui Sugar Shack twice growing up, assures me he and the kids can do this themselves. However, I can’t think about that today. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

The living room:

Why yes, that is cedar paneling. And yes, the brick fireplace was installed over the paneling. So we’re hoping to do something along these lines, with a whitewash on the fireplace and a chunkier beam mantle.

I love those windows though and the fact that the room is sunken. Call me a child of the 80s but I have always wanted a sunken living room.

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Look at that staircase. That thing is why I wanted the house. It’s magnificent. It’s not original to the house—it leads to an attic loft space that will be Gabe’s bedroom. But those stairs—I have plans for them. Big, lighted, joyful Christmas-y plans.

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I’m good with the kitchen. The former homeowner refinished the cabinets herself and did a wonderful job. She and I would like to chat with the fool who built the brick island though. We had a good laugh over that thing. We’re going to pop some white quartz counters on top, create a taller breakfast bar, paint those bricks black and call it a day.

And then there’s the master. It is by far the biggest master we’ve ever had, which is cool. But the wood. I don’t even know. I honestly want to go to bed and hope for drywall.  Does that work? If you leave some money by the bed, will the drywall fairies come in the night?

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I’m keeping the bathrooms to myself for now. The good news is that the cabinets are real wood and the counters are tiled. The bad news is that both those things are original to 1983.

Right now the plan is tile paint and Grandma on a plane to help me refinish the cabinets. It’s a solid plan. There will be wine. I feel good about Grandma and wine.

I’m super excited about all of it. I can see what the house can be and I love the challenge of doing it as economically as possible. I am also open to suggestions. Apple Hill Cottage, I’m looking at you.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Let Her Play

On Saturday, Kate and some of her teammates found out they were badass.

They’re playing basketball for the YMCA. Shea is coaching them. He’s taught them to run the 3rd and 4th grade version of the Michigan State offense. You should see my girl set a pick. It’s a thing of beauty. And she only had to set it once. The rest of the game, that poor other girl was looking over her shoulder.

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That’s Kate setting the pick and Abby rolling off. Down inside is JoJo, waiting for the outlet.

As any coach of young girls will tell you, it’s a struggle to get them to be aggressive. Part of it is nature, but part of it is nurture, too. There’s something to that song Sit Still, Look Pretty and if you disagree consider this:  Coaches implore boy’s teams to stop shooting and pass. But they implore girl’s teams to stop passing and shoot.

All week, Shea worked with our team on stealing the ball. Because they wouldn’t. Would not. And Kate let go of a contested rebound two weeks ago because it was the other girl’s turn to have it. So every day when she woke up and before she went to bed he said to her “Kate, what do you do if someone sticks the ball in your face?”

“You steal it, dad.”

“That’s right. Then what do you do?”

“You drive for the basket.”

The team we played beat us four times last year because they have a gifted little point guard whose older brothers have taught her well. She was the star of the league because no one would challenge her.

Saturday, Kate stole the ball from her in the first thirty seconds of the game, and it was on. I mean on. As a team, we had over 20 steals and ended that game pink-cheeked, sweaty and winners. Our girls were lit up. You know why?

Because they LIT IT UP and no one told them to slow down, be quiet, or fix their hair.

I can make an argument that the song and dance class Kate takes and her desire to play the guitar and her artistic talents will all contribute to her sense of self-worth and giftedness.

But not the way sports will. Nothing else will ground her strength to her feet and help her hold her space in quite the same way.

Sports will raise her chin, her goals and her voice. And that is why we let her play.

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Ok, you got me.

“Let her play”. Ha!

As if we could stop her.

 

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