Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Shenanigans: A Pictography

 We try for Christmas pictures


 American Gothic

(Thanks Caleb Sawyer!)
Passive Observer
Bad Luck Charm
Henry and Lyd

Trimming the Tree

The First of  Many Attempts...

Even a little blurry, she is still one of my favorites

Cookie Decorating
What you are looking at, Martsolf?


Beautiful. Debatable Edible.

Preschool Buddies

These two are too much 

Purslane and Milan

Preschool Christmas Performance (Rudolph)

Comedy and Tragedy

These two found each other the second week of preschool...

The Girls. Pursy, Addi, Ellie, Evalina and Brooke

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bill is Homeless

Standing next to the front door of the gas station down the street from our house is a homeless guy named Bill. Bill has a squeegee in his hand and a raggedy white/grey beard. For the past three years, every time I pull up to the gas pump, he lumbers over to my car and says very politely "Good morning ma'am. Can I wash your windows to get a little something to eat?".

When we first moved back into the city after five years in the Happiest Valley in the world (Penn State) I remembered that there are poor people who sit on curbs and next to expressway exits with signs asking for money. We got used to the regulars in our neighborhoods in Denver, New Orleans, and Washington DC but there aren't many panhandlers in State College. In the city, I always made Grant uncomfortable by never just handing over money, but always shaking their hand and asking their name. I heard a sermon once about erring on the side of trusting those who supported themselves on the compassion of others, and thinking I never wanted to be wrong and let a fellow man go hungry while I had dollars in my pocket.

And let's say they actually took my money and spent it on a handle of booze... what a small comfort in a life lived outside and on the mercy of others.

But Bill. I remember one time being in a hurry and telling him that I would just buy him something to eat instead of waiting two minutes while he washed my windows. I will never forget the look of offense on his face and his polite refusal to take money without doing work. He didn't want a handout, he wanted a wage. Washing windows was his livelihood, and he is good at it. We wipes off drips and moves windshield wipers and takes great pride in surveying my car when he is done, head nodding at a job well done.

As we were driving away the last time Bill worked on our car, Pursy asked why Mr Bill (which is what we call him) washed our windows. I explained to her that Mr Bill didn't have a house to live in and he worked washing windows to buy food. She said "when I get bigger, I want to wash windows just like Mr Bill". Which gave me a beautiful segue into talking about working hard and being the best ____ you can be. If you want to wash windows, be the best window washer, just like Mr Bill.

A homeless squeegee wielding man named Bill helped me teach my children a valuable lesson about taking pride in your work, faithful presence and taking care of others. But every time we pull up to the gas station and I see his beard walking towards us and he introduces himself like he has never seen me before, I think that it isn't my dollars taking care of him. His kind words and his quality work are caring for us. I see it clearly through my spotless window.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Best One

There is a reason love stories capture our attention. The narrative of two people meeting, discovering each other, chance encounters. The looks, the unending conversation, the delight, the attraction, the thrill, the lightning bolts- we love all of it. The thought that two human beings could connect in any meaningful way and decide to keep doing it. All love stories are epic but I look a little longer at the interesting ones... the ones that overcome, defy logic, come back around, rise above, don't make sense.

When I am in my dark place I wonder how Grant and I got to be the armchair lovers that I remember singing about while listening to this one album I discovered in college. I don't remember the band or the song title or any other lyrics other then one about being a "comfortable armchair lover". The idea obviously being that love that endures will evolve into something that brings more then just lightning down your spine, it will be a safe place to fall apart, sink in to, and will be so familiar that you long for it when you aren't there. I remember loving that idea for other people, other lovers, other love stories.

But certainly not for me.

I wanted the moment before our hands touched to be for always. The thrilling uncertainty and the confident assurance that we were waiting on each other for a move that was sure to come. Of course you want to kiss me. You could hope to be so lucky that I would kiss you back. And you won't back away because you want me. You have been watching me from across the room for hours. You already thought about how to talk to me, how to get my attention, how to try and make me forget anyone else was around.

Then the hand on the small of my back. Comfortably guiding me through a crowd of people as if we were already together. Listening to me ordering a drink so you can figure out what I like. What it says about me that I like my whiskey straight up. That I like my steak medium well and my coffee dark with sugar. When we go to a show I don't like to sit down. I don't like to stand in the front either, just somewhere in the middle where I can move without being the center of attention. I like that you open my car door for me but let me pay if I pull out my wallet first. I probably won't tell you when I decide to leave the room. I like what I like and will answer your questions about my personal tastes but don't take offence if we don't agree. This is the beautiful mystery of getting to know another human.

 I don't expect many things in life to last forever and there are so many people in the world that nothing surprised me more then meeting you and falling down the rabbit hole of our love story. I wasn't ready for you to get to know me. To get familiar with how you kiss or the sound of your feet coming down the hall. I wanted more time to be free and responsible for no one, not even myself. I wanted more eyes on me across a room and more hands on my back and more questions about how I take my bourbon.

I wasn't ready to fall in love with you. But like it does in the movies, I couldn't deny it was happening. Our love story. And it was the best one. We had our electricity and our hikes in Moab and our candlelight baths and our epic fights and our mind numbing sadness and our Mardi Gras parades and our bathroom floor mushrooms and gay German landlords and lonely barstool beers. We had it all. The passion and the fury.

No one has had a better love story then us. I would live it a thousand more times. The comfortable armchair that is now our Tuesday evenings doesn't come from apathy or disinterest. It comes from years of kisses that left me weak in the knees and hours of fights that ripped out my heart. I earned the right to relax in to you. Because I love you with everything I have. And we will tell Knox and Pursy about the love that made them and why we believe they shouldn't settle for anything other then the most epic love story they could ever dream of writing. Because the best one gets told over and over again. And every time we tell the story of how we met and fell in love, I remember that we had it all. We have the best one.

Photo credit: Caryn Azure Carson

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Year of Renewed Passions

In February of 2014 I remembered that I like to read.

I started a book club with some of the colorful women in my life and we have spent the past 10 months meeting regularly to discuss, drink wine and coffee, and get to know one another through our love of books. It is one of my favorite evenings of the month. Having accountability to finish at least one book a month has also encouraged me to finish some of the half read books on my nightstand. It has also inspired me to buy a notebook to scribble book titles while driving...cheers to NPR. A sleeping giant has been awakened... my inner book worm.

I have read more books this year then I have in the four and a half years since birthing my darling Purslane. Here is the list of fabulous books I have devoured in 2014.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Midnight's Children (a valiant attempt- not finished) by Salman Rushdie
Mr Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Hannah's Child by Stanley Hauerwas
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
Real Food by Nina Planck
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Euphoria by Lily King

And Mo Willems, Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, H. A. Rey, and other authors who have given Purslane, Knox and I hours upon hours of happy reading.

The Now but Not Yet

2014 is coming to an end mind blowingly fast. Where did it go??? I feel like the family with young babes has a particular understanding of living in the "now but not yet", which is what we as Christians refer to this season before Jesus returns for the second time. We are to be living every day to the fullest extent, but mystically with the reality that we will not be living this particular life forever. There is an eternity after this life, and as Christians this should impact every decision we make.

Intense. Humans have been trying to summarize this tension for hundreds of years...eventually coming up with phrases that we can block paint on pieces of wood and hang on our wall to remind us of our place in the universe. "Just passing through" was a popular one when I was growing up- the idea that we are strangers on this earth and our real home is in Heaven. This watered down theology has its dangers though. We aren't just passing through- we are living in a time of great movement and if Christians aren't putting down roots and engaging every part of this world we fail to live out our call to be "a royal priesthood and a holy nation. a people belonging to God". (I Peter) We aren't supposed to be just be surviving this life until the next one. We are to be planting our apple trees and building our tents. (credit: Martin Luther and Saint Paul). This world is beautiful and it matters. But it isn't forever.

This season of parenting does feel like it needs some phrases block painted on the wall to remind us that we should be living every day to its extent, but every day is the "not yet". The virtues we try to model and teach our children will not be often reflected in the daily reactions of our 3 and 4 year old darlings. That does not mean we shouldn't teach them, in fact there is an imperative that we raise our children with Christian virtues deeply rooted in their neighborhood, their school, their family, because the daily "now" is what teaches us to long for the future.

What we do daily is what turns our hearts towards what is important to us. "How we spend our moments is, of course, how we spend our lives". (Annie Dillard) Who we are, what we value, what we love- all these are lived out in the daily habits of our lives. The simple and the profound. Children are fabulous at teaching us this, if we slow down enough to watch and listen. Part of what made 2014 feel like it was on a record player set at the faster speed, was the fact that I wasn't just paying attention to my daily rhythms but the rhythms of two other people who are devouring the wonders of the universe one magic unicorn at a time. My Purslane and Knox are fabulous additions to my own habits and daily intentional decisions. But every parent has come to the end of some day or another and realized they didn't do one thing for themselves. Everything was about their children. Which is necessary for a season but as they grow more independent, there is new space for things other then parenting.

So I am working on finding the margins for my own daily life that help me to remember that I am living in the "now but not yet". To nourish my own soul. To figure out how to slow down the moments of the rest of 2014 and get ready for the crazy parade that 2015 is sure to be. To parent my children and love my husband and care for my patients and cherish my friends and serve my church and anticipate the reality of Christ coming again.

Sounds simple enough...

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Photo credit: Megan McCoy

Knox Thomas Steele. My little man turned three on October 19th, surrounded by family and ice cream and dinosaurs. And trampolines. If Purslane is my wild child full of determination and imagination and color, Knox is my full speed ahead, curious, snuggly, hold nothing back speeding bullet. They are so alike and so different.

Knox often starts every day in the middle of night crawling into our bed, still asleep but somehow able to wriggle an arm around me and twirl my hair. Knox is a hair twirler and when we cut off his long baby curls, he began finding comfort in the hair of others...namely his Mamas. So he sleeps a few more hours inbetween Grant and I, until he wakes up for reals with a jolt and I HAVE TO GO POTTY. He potty trained himself two months ago (!!) and can't wait to change into his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle undies.

These undies were his Dad's brilliant idea to introduce Knox to the idea of going potty, and he went for it, full tilt. I think in two months he has had four accidents and each time we learned about it from a wailing "I peed in Michelangelo!!!". He does not like to pee in these undies and the biggest role Grant and I have played in this milestone is to make sure there is a clean pair in his drawer for the morning. We gave him Trader Joe's penguin gummies for motivation, but often he doesn't ask for them and we end up eating them instead...it is amazing. Not one hesitation about stopping play to run to the bathroom, no issues with pooping into the void, and almost overnight I am done with diapers.

This feels like the defining characteristic of Knox growing up. Maybe because he is our last baby, but I feel like changes in development happen overnight before I have a chance to enjoy or even think about doing things for the last time. The week before his birthday we moved him over to his big boy bed, and the day Grant chose to set it up was when he had help from his Dad. So I didn't know that the night before I would put Knox to sleep in his crib for the last time. I didn't have that time of standing over his crib, watching him sleep and thinking about the past three years of nights when I put my baby boy to sleep. All of a sudden, the crib was gone and the bed was in its place.

I don't know what would be better. I tend to be quite sentimental and I wonder if I would be more sad about Purslane and Knox growing up if I knew in advance when things would be happening for the last time. But rocking chairs break and we need to get them out of the house with no time to cry over memories of nursing babies in my arms and piles of bedtime stories with little people small enough to smush in next to me. Favorite board books get replaced with new exciting ones with more words and more pages. One morning Knox doesn't want to eat in his high chair anymore and that stage is over. No more discard piles of peas in the cup holder or vacuuming out the padded seat. And even though my sentimental heart won't miss being up to my elbows in poop rinsing out diapers, no more diaper changes means my babes are growing up. I hope I enjoyed as many diaper changes as I could. Knox lying on the changing table chatting with me about whatever, while I cleaned him up and gave his bare bottom a tap to finish the job.

We take Purslane to preschool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Knox and I have alone time for the first time in his entire life. Four hours of the two of us playing dinosaurs, going to whatever park he wants, lunch on the floor while we play trains, grocery shopping where he gets to choose the snacks, library time where he doesn't have to take turns reading the books he picked out. And sometimes just sitting in the back seat of the car while I run all the errands that are so much easier with just one kid to take in and out of the car. Somewhere in there a trip to Zeke's for coffee and a snickerdoodle. Which he calls "a cookie with doodles".

His language skills are fantastic, as the second child's often are. Our favorite Knoxisms right now are Knock Knock Jokes (knock knock, whos' there? peanut. peanut who? peanut butter!), the theme song to TMNTs while running through the house with a paper towel roll for nun chucks, and his hopeful confession for the conclusion to a time out (I'm ready to be pweasent! Mom? Moooom?? I'm ready to be pweasent!).

This past year we dealt with our first surgery, as he had a lesion on his chin that the dermatologist want to have biopsied. In these cases, being a nurse can get in the way of being a Mama, and I found myself uncomforted by statistics and what the doctors called a "routine surgery". I woke up in the middle of the night panicking about rare side effects to anesthesia and seeing my little boy in a hospital gown lying on a table. My amazing husband decided to take the day off of work to take Knox to the surgery center for the procedure. The morning they left, I hugged Knox and prepared myself for the next few hours where I was completely out of control. Grant sent me updates and photos, and our dear friends texted me words of love and support until I got the final word that Knox was awake and eating a popsicle. It was the first time I felt very acutely that as a parent, I am not in control of my children's lives. I prayed hard and tried to fall into the peace of Jesus. Everything ended up fine, the lesion was benign and because he was under anesthesia the scar on his chin is perfect and almost invisible.

His favorite things. Pickles. Macaroni and cheese. Peach juice. Cucumbers and Carrots with "dip dip dip". Cereal with almond milk. Popcorn. Kefir. Edamame. Green football feetie jammies. David and Goliath story in the Jesus Storybook Bible. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His chopstick and hanger bow and arrow. Sliding down the stairs on his belly. Anything where he is running free and fast. The kid loves to move at full speed.

I can't wait to see what this new year holds for my son. It will be our last year with a kid at home full time, as next year he will be in preschool at least a few days a week. I want to eat up every day where we can make our own schedule and have each other all to ourselves.

I love you, Knox. Your personality is getting bigger and bigger and fits right into our loud and colorful family. You are up for anything and everything you do gets your full attention. I admire your determination and energy and pure little boy happiness. Happy third year, my son.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Nothing Wrong with Typical

Saturday mornings are beautiful around here. One weekend a month I work a Friday overnight so am walking in the door at 7a exhausted and ready to fall into bed. The house is still quiet and dark and more then likely, all three of my loves are in my bed together. Neither Grant or I have the heart to put the babes back in bed when the other isn't there and their sweet little selves come in during the night. So I take a quick shower and toss my dirty scrubs into the laundry basket and crawl into the warm love pile just beginning to stir under the blankets. We chat for a few minutes as my eyes get heavy and Grant takes the babes downstairs for breakfast. He takes them on adventures while I sleep and join them later in the afternoon.

But the other Saturdays are different. Beautifully typically different. My family didn't have a television when I was growing up, and so the Saturday morning cartoon fest didn't happen for us. I heard the other kids at school talking about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jem and Smurfs and pretended I knew what they were talking about. My mother also avoided the sugar cereal aisle, so I didn't have Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes unless I was at a friends house, or once a year on my birthday. I love the memories of the ways my mother made ordinary things special, although I certainly didn't appreciate it during middle school.

Grown up Saturday breakfast for Mamas
We do it differently around here. Saturday mornings are for cartoons and pajamas and cereal in the living room. And Purslane and Knox LOVE it. Grant usually gets a few extra minutes to sleep while I bring the babes downstairs and make coffee. We laze around for quite a bit until we have properly Saturday morning-ed the weekend. It is the stuff that the cartoons in the Sunday paper are made of.

Pumpkin Yogurt. Swoon City.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Words of Wisdom for Myself


When you are frustrated beyond despair because you are working through another night of interrupted sleep and locked bathroom doors and two year old angsty meltdowns and an empty gallon of milk and no clean Wednesday undies and the third nuke on your tepid coffee and sibling couch pillow fighting matches that end in crying children and good maternal advice falling on deaf ears and empty roll of toilet paper and the 270th four year old Why question of the day and a ripped library book and bangs you tried to trim yourself...

Put Knox and Pursy in a pair of feetie pajamas and wrestle with them on the living room floor.

Instant heaven on earth.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When Mommies and Daddies Love Each Other...

Last weekend Grant and I climbed on our bikes and rode down the street away from our house and children, and towards 36 hours of a getaway. My parents had arrived approximately 7 minutes earlier, and we were anxious to let them begin enjoying their grandchildren without us in the way. We hadn't had a night away in a while, Grant managed to land a Priceline deal for a swanky downtown hotel, and my parents happened to be free for the weekend. The planets aligned and we began anticipating our trip. The pictography that follows is (I believe) in chronological order and definitely only the moments that I wanted to pull out my phone and take a photo. The two hour PhotoHunt battle on the second floor of the most yinzer bar I have been in, lives on only in our mind and in the memory of the bearded bartender with the great tattoos who refused to make me a Moscow mule that wasn't made with fresh mint. Mutual respect.
Valet bike parking at the Renaissance

Amazing tacos at Seviche
Lazy morning coffee at 21st Century

Americano with cream

Canoodling Bikes in the Strip

Pickled Vegetables

Rum Punch and Mint Julep

Whiskey loving hipster

My Christmas List

Fellow Buccos Fans

Raise the Jolly Roger!

View of our hotel from across the river
Clemente Bridge from the River Trail