Painting

Right about now, I feel like I could use a good, calming activity.

Life is hectic and a little scattered, and we just returned from a really fun but really busy three-day weekend Up North. (Pictures coming soon, for those of you needing a fall color fix.)

So while life is good, it's also running on a higher gear than I would like at the moment. Which is why I smiled when I saw these pictures.



I took them earlier this year (thank you self-timer), for no other reason than to remind myself that there was a day that I did something quiet that I enjoyed.

I love to paint. And I don't mean artwork. I wish I had the skill set for that sort of thing. I just love to paint my home. I love to paint the walls and to paint the furniture. I even love to touch up the areas that need touching up, simply because it gives me the excuse to get out my paintbrush and make something that was dingy look new again.

(Awesome Martha tip: Make touch-ups easy by filling empty and clean baby food jars with leftover paint from your home. Just shake the jar, stir it with a bamboo skewer and use a small art brush to cover up the dings and dents of life.)

Something about the smell of paint, the swish of the brush, the freshened surface after I'm done -- it's all very calming and satisfying to me.

What about you? Where do you do when you need to chill out for a bit?

Liar, Liar

Do you remember the first time you caught one of your children in a bold-faced lie?

It happened to me, just this morning.

You can read about it at 5 Minutes for Parenting.

Change

It’s hard to write when you are surrounded by a swirling vortex of change. Thoughts and stories are whipped away by the wind. You might do your best to grab them as they circle round, but it’s likely they’ll be shredded by the time you recover them.

That’s my position the last few weeks. I’ve always known our future was hidden in the mist. When we moved here, to the townhouse, two years ago, we knew we’d move at least once more before we settled down. The townhouse has been a wonderful rest stop, but it’s not the final destination. (Lest that be too cryptic: We need more space for our family and we desperately need a yard.)

But suddenly, the mist is starting to melt away. And the future, previously gray and shapeless, is starting to form into something resembling … well, something. It’s hard to tell still.

All I know is, I’m hurting my mental eyes as I strain to make out what’s ahead.

On one hand, I’m excited about the next chapter in the adventure. I can’t say I dislike change. I’m invigorated by it. I’m easily bored by the same. (Interesting future post: How I struggle to balance my lust for the new with God’s decree to be content.) There’s a part of my soul that’s being re-energized by the approaching possibilities.

But there’s another part of me that is frustrated by the uncertainty. I’m definitely a sanguine. But I’m also a planner. I thrive on organization. And change, by its very nature, is hard to control.

A good editor would slash this paragraph, because it doesn’t advance the story, but I’m going to share it anyway. I was poking around The Secret Life of Kat this last week and came across a Q&A she did with Shaun Groves. And Shaun described his wife, Becky, this way:
My wife is my opposite in most ways. For one thing, she’s intensely organized. Organization is her drug. I sometimes wonder if we had kids just so she’d have more people to keep organized..you know, in case she got bored after getting my life together.
I laughed out loud. If organization is a drug, then yes, I’m an addict. I make menus before I go grocery shopping. I do the laundry every Tuesday. I organize my children’s books (although not alphabetically; even I’m not that sick.) I have a system for everything. This makes me uber-productive, so I’m OK with the weirdness. But sometimes, it does start to control me. And when the winds of change start to roar around me, my inner control-freak wants to scream. But HOW is it going to work? And WHERE are we going to live? And HOW CAN WE BE SURE this is the right thing?

Ahhh. And there’s the rub. I want facts, not faith. I want a well-defined path ahead of me, not one that is veiled in mystery and suspense.

But that is not the life of a disciple. God’s best adventures are lived out in the unknown. And there’s no better time to exercise what I believe about God than in the eddy of change.

Which means I’m trying to do one of the most unnatural things in all of humanity -- I’m trying to face the vortex with peace, joy and a strong infusion of believing God.

Because while I don't know the future, I do know Him.

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Things I Saw in Colorado

A baby who stole my first ever Sonic cherry limeade.


Mountains. Honest to goodness mountains.

A park in the trees that was quintessential Colorado.

A Papa who shares his watermelon.

A really cool slide at the Focus on the Family visitor's center...

...and a little girl who loved the adventure.

A wardrobe that opens into Narnia.

Enough sunshine to make a former San Diegan weep with joy.

Cousins old (Silas, age 2)...

...and cousins new (Eliana, age 4 months).

The wild, wild west.

An old-fashioned church that a cowboy built for his wife.

A working cattle ranch.

A working cattle ranch dinner. (Holy cow, that was some seriously yummy grub.)

Family.

Luke's Daycare.

The Garden of the Gods.

My kids making themselves at home in God's Garden.

Rock climbers.

Thunderheads.

The Broadmoor.

Danger.

One of my favorite blogging friends in real life -- Angie from Flibbertigibberish.

Angie's kids and mine getting along like they were destined to grow up together.

Veils of rain.

Grammie listening to stories.

A full-scale replica of how most of the world lives, thanks to the Compassion HQ tour.

Artwork from kids rescued from poverty.

Jesus.

Love.

Fearless Winner

Congratulations to Misti from It's a Mann's World. She won the copy of Max Lucado's book "Fearless."

And to all you early birds who fear that you'll never win a contest, please note: She was commenter #2. That was the number Random.org picked out of all the people who entered the giveaway. So don't fear entering early. Only fear those who make us get up early. Amen?

Happy Sunday.

Fearless

Teyla’s bedtime routine right now is as pure and sweet as homemade ice cream.

I give her a bath and snuggle her into pajamas. She makes the rounds to the rest of the family and delivers sloppy goodnight kisses. Then she turns to me, arms outstretched, and we close the door to her room and read books until she’s tired.

Some nights, she falls asleep in my arms, while I rock us both past the state of drowsy. Some nights, I put her in her crib and she breathes out a deep sigh and wiggles under the blanket I tuck around her.

Either way, I end up staying in her room a while, listening to the fan blowing on her dresser and the symphony of a tree frogs and crickets outside her window.

It’s during those quiet, tranquil moments that I let myself soak in the last 24 hours. Sometimes, I’m at peace. Sometimes, I regret. Sometimes, I’m too tired to do anything but let the memories wash over me.

Inevitably, within five minutes, I’m filled to bursting with love for my family. I’m freshly aware that we are blessed – incredibly blessed – to live together under one roof, to eat regular meals, to have access to education and medicine and technology. How great is our God to give this gift to me, a sinner? How rich are His blessings and His love for his own?

“But it’s a little too perfect, isn’t it?” whispers a voice in the back of my brain. “After all, anything could go wrong tomorrow. What if you lost one of your children? What if your family was fractured? What if? What if? What if?”

I’m not a person prone to fear, but I think all mothers know this drill. The icy tendrils of fear creep into our souls and threaten to paralyze us with the unknown.

Max Lucado’s new book, “Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear” addresses this very problem. And he offers the best solution: Fight fear with faith. Feed your fears, and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will. It’s really that simple.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about Lucado. He’s a master storyteller and a prolific author. The tone of “Fearless” will be familiar to you if you’re familiar with his work. It’s genuine and witty, heartfelt and hard-hitting. Reading it is like having a deep conversation with a good friend – which is especially helpful when discussing something as personal and hidden as fear.

We fear we don’t matter. We fear we’re disappointing God. We fear not protecting our kids. We fear the worst-case scenario. We fear the end. We even fear that God isn’t real.

With wisdom and tenderness, Lucado forces us to face our fears. He reminds us that, because of God, we should not be intimidated. He teaches us to make faith our default position instead of timidity. He shows us that it’s possible to be less afraid tomorrow than you are today.

I’ve been so encouraged by this book, I’m going to pass it on. And that’s saying a lot for a book lover. But it just doesn’t feel right to keep this one to myself. Fear is at epidemic levels in the Western world right now. Consider this an inoculation. Leave me a comment on this post (make sure I have a way to contact you), and I’ll draw a winner on Friday night.

As for me, I’m relishing my evenings with Teyla even more these days. Thanks to a fresh infusion in faith in The One Who Knows, fear can’t make it past the nursery door. And both Teyla and I are sleeping like babies.

The Meaning of Labor Day

On the way to church yesterday, our family was admiring the perfect weather. It's summer's last hurrah, all blue skies and warm water and green grass and cool breezes.

"And it's a good thing," I said, looking in my rearview mirror. "Because tomorrow is Labor Day, and the day after that...."

"Schools starts," Natalie chimed in. "We know."

"But first we have tomorrow," said Corey, "with homemade donuts in the morning (a Labor Day tradition in our family) and a full-day spent on the water in the boat with our friends."

"Do you know why it's called Labor Day?" I asked the back half of the minivan.

Hearing no reply, I said, "It's to honor mothers everywhere, since they have to work hard in order for babies to be born. That's called labor, so tomorrow is Labor Day because of it."

Corey snorted. "No, it's really called Labor Day in honor of dads, who have to go to work every day to support their families."

Natalie, increasingly skeptical, said, "It's not either of those things. I know it's because kids have to go back to school the day after Labor Day, and we are the ones who really have to work hard. So it's called Labor Day because of us."

Turns out, there's a Kids Day after all.

I Think I'd Rather Be Called A Hippie

I snickered when I read Amber's post yesterday. (If you don't understand my title, go read it and come back.)

I snickered because I love that kind of husband-wife interaction. I snickered because husband's over reach, sometimes, when they are trying to set the mood.


And I snickered because it's happened to me.


Shortly after Corey and I were married, there came a Friday night when we were alone. We were living in San Diego, across the freeway from the military base where "Top Gun" was filmed. I loved that movie as a teenager (which I think describes roughly 97% of females who grew up in the '80s), and I was positively giddy that the air outside our apartment crackled and roared daily with fighter jets overhead.


That particular night, Corey attempted a little "Top Gun" vibe. He snuggled up next to me on the couch, and said with honey in his voice, "Kelly, you big moose. Take me to bed or lose me forever."


I laughed so hard, I almost fell over. He was chagrined to learn he got the line wrong. Oh so very wrong.


(Please tell me you know how the line is supposed to go. And if you're a husband reading this, note that calling your wife a moose is not the best way to entice her to an amorous evening.)

Looking for more humor? Check out the Friday Funnies at The Run-A-Muck. Comedic gold.

Observations (or What I Learned on Our Trip to Denver)

My post at 5 Minutes for Parenting today shares my best not-so-common tips for navigating air travel with your kids.

(Wow. That was a complicated sentence.)

If you’re planning a Thanksgiving or Christmas trip, check it out and learn from my mistakes.

Travel is on my mind these days because we just returned from a five-day trip to Colorado. I collected a few observations to share on the blog. (I know! Can you stand the excitement?) These are the things I would tell you if we sat down together for a pumpkin spice latte. (Which I guess I wouldn’t drink, because to drink a pumpkin spice latte is to usher in fall, and my kids don’t go back to school until next week; ergo, we aren’t in fall yet.) (Also, I echo Heather’s thoughts about the seasonal shift. Fall, I love you. But you always bring your ugly cousin, winter, when you visit. Which makes me quite conflicted about your time with us.)

So buckle up and make sure your carry-ons are safely stowed. Here we go.

------ 1 ------
I have decided that the unspoken rules of airplane etiquette dictate that you should not talk to your seat mates until you are landing. As the plane nears touchdown, conversations break out all over the plane. People who didn’t even look at each other 30 minutes ago are now chatting it up like long-lost friends.

I theorize this is because people are afraid to start a conversation with someone next to them at the beginning of the flight because, hello, what if that person turns out to be a lunatic? At the end of the flight, it feels safer, because we know we’re all getting off the plane in 10 minutes anyway.

------ 2 ------
Airport food can rival ballpark food as the most overpriced junk on the planet. On our flight out last Thursday, we stopped for lunch. Two hamburgers and one children’s order of chicken strips set us back $35. And it wasn’t even that good.

------ 3 ------
My Southern friends will be happy to know I experienced my first Sonic stop last week. (There are a few Sonics in the Twin Cities, but none near us. Ergo, I’m a Sonic virgin.) We managed to stop during happy hour, and I decided upon a cherry limeade, since it seems that’s one of their iconic drinks.

So imagine my surprise when my first sip revealed a carbonated drink. Since when is limeade or lemonade carbonated?

I don’t like carbonated drinks, so I was disappointed. Tell me, those of you who are Sonic lovers: Where did I go wrong?

------ 4 ------
Corey mocks me for this, but I will say it anyway: Embassy Suites creep me out. They are usually too dated, too big and too 80s-prom-ish for me to enjoy our stay at one of those huge, patio-centered monstrosities.

But when you have three kids, a guaranteed suite is a huge bonus. So for our trip last week, we booked a room at the Embassy Suites in Colorado Springs.

And I have to admit: I was pleasantly surprised. Its d├ęcor wasn’t teal and rose, and it didn’t have nine stories of rooms around a dusty and fading courtyard. It was stylish, comfortable, clean and up-to-date. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

------ 5 ------
I also love a hotel that makes me laugh. The paper cover on the top of the glasses in the room said, “Because sometimes you need a cup of coffee to go down and get a cup of coffee.”

Amen and amen.

------ 6 ------
We did a fair amount of driving between Colorado Springs and Denver last week. After about 15 minutes in the car, Teyla would start whining and fussing in a very unpleasant manner. Or, even worse, she would start playing her new favorite game: Let’s see how loud I can screech at a pitch you didn’t know was possible for humans to hear.

At one point, Corey looked at me and said, “And you want to drive 15 hours with that at Christmas?”

I’ll be booking our holiday tickets today.