Monday, October 30, 2017

A Cranky Whine

I'm snuggled up with Kachi and I'm frozen.
Because I stood outside in a parking lot with no jacket all afternoon.
Because Kachi locked me out of the truck.
And my keys and phone were inside.
Ten minutes before I had to go get Sam and Vava from the bus stop.

I had to leave Kachi and Pascal in the truck, run into the store, beg to use the phone, and call my brother to help me.  (Because brothers are amazing).

Then I dashed back outside and stood in the cold for an hour, trying to keep Pascal happy with peekaboo and silly faces (Kachi had fallen asleep). 

While I was waiting, sweet people tried to help.
Two different men came by and offered to break into the truck for me. Two women who worked in the store came out to make sure I was okay.  An older man who had seen what happened brought me the number to call a tow truck.

Just before Rob showed up (having called the school and rescued the big kids), a police car pulled up.

Someone had called the police about a woman who locked her kids in the car.

And unlike the kind people, the police officer treated me like I'd done something wrong.
As if I'd deliberately locked my babies in the car.
I had to give my information, explain what happened, a few times, and then he said "well ... it doesn't seem like there's anything wrong here." But he sounded doubtful.

It was baffling. And unnecessary. And tiring.  And now I'm cold and cranky and feel yucky about the police and feel bad about that.

Guess I need to remember my last post - and let this shadow pass over me weightless.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Less Than Nothing

My nephew introduced me to a clever and interesting YouTube channel, VSauce, where all sorts of ideas and questions are prodded and poked at until answers come out.

Sometimes when I'm puttering around I turn one on because listening to something intelligent feels good on a be-toddlered brain.  And the things they tunnel into are really interesting and unexpected.

This video asks - and answers - how much does a shadow weigh.

In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis writes an allegory of a man traveling on a visit into heaven, where things are so real - so much more real than people - that the visitors are like shadows walking. Blades of grass pierce their feet, because the non-heavenly people are not solid enough to bend the grass beneath them.

In God's High Country, things are solid and heavy and weighty with glory.  Everything else is insignificant and pale, weightless and fleeting and small.

There's this moment when the protagonist realizes he's come up - up - up an immense distance, scaling a massive cliff, which, from heaven's perspective, is a mere nick in the floor, and something in my brain grasps a glimpse of the magnitude of Jesus' willingness to be made flesh.

And I am in awe of - and longing for -  that true realness, that weight of glory.

So when VSauce is asked how much a shadow weighs, the Lewisian answer that came to mind was: less than nothing.

And guess what.

It's less than nothing.

But light - glory - has weight.  On a sunny day, Chicago weighs 300lbs more than it does on a cloudy one.

And I know it's silly but that gives me so much hope.  Sometimes things seem so very dark.  Bad people doing evil things, rhetoric of hatred, entitlement and selfishness and abuse.

But shadows weigh less than nothing.  Insignificant.  Ineffectual.

But the good good news, the glory of the gospel, the light of Jesus can overwhelm that darkness in a heartbeat.  Shadows? Less than nothing.

If darkness looms, let me find my hope in this: shadows weigh less than nothing.
If my heart is heavy, let it be heavy with the weight of glory.
And if I am longing for my true home, let me find it pressed and printed everywhere.

Even on VSauce :).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Three Little Pigs

Kachi loves the story of the three little pigs, and every variation of it.

He has a copy of the classic story that Nanny gave him, a spin-off big wolf tale (Mr. Wolf's Pancakes by Jan Fearnley - hilarious), and Patrick tells him a Sam-Vava-Kachi version.

So he was pretty pumped to find yet another reworking on Netflix.  I was puttering nearby while he watched it, and was startled when the narrator summed up the moral of the tale: if something is hard and takes more time to do, it's worth it in the end.

And I found myself realizing that I'd spent thirty-four years misunderstanding the story, because I always thought that it was telling me: if you need help, run to your siblings.

And maybe that says more about my amazing sisters and brother than the story of the three little pigs.

I run to their houses all the time. 

Car breaks down? I call my brother.
Have to have an uncomfortable conversation I don't want to have? I call a sister and ask for tips and maybe a practice run first.
Need advice on my kids? Sibling.
Argument with Patrick? Sibling.
Need a place to live? Sibling.
Scared? Sibling.
Feeling stupid? Sibling.
Need to laugh at myself?  Sibling.
Need someone to pray with me? For me? Sibling.

I am definitely Piggie Straw, over and over again. I run squealing and out of breath to their sturdy welcome and they keep me safe and turn my troubles into hot comforting soup.

Dear sisters, dear brother: I love you like crazy. Thank you for being my brick neighbours always, no matter how far apart we are.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Displays of Affection

My Sam.

He's six.  He's into Super Mario, creative Minecraft, and Lego. He's shy, doesn't like to be noticed or singled out, and wants to make movies when he grows up.  He's a good helper, he's funny and brave and independent, and has a current fierce resistance to all displays of affection.  We do our goodbye hugs and kisses before we leave the house (preferably when the other kids aren't watching), because there's no way he's giving me one at the bus stop!

Last week I was changing a poopy Pascal, and found that I couldn't keep his own hands away from the mess.  So I asked Sam to come and hold his hands.  Poop and hand-holding are pretty high up on Sam's refusal list, but he came over quickly and helped me out.  "Don't worry Pascal," he comforted, "I know how you feel. You want to move your hands. It's okay. It will be over soon." And it struck me then as a really sweet, mature thing to say.

Today we drove up to Ottawa to go to the beach, and ran into a bad patch of traffic. The kids were being really rowdy and I gave them a stern warning to stop roughhousing because they were disturbing me and making it hard to drive safely. They kept it down for about sixty seconds before Sam decided to grab Kachi's head and shake it from side to side, yelling something for sound-effects. 

I reached back and smacked his arm away from Kachi and yelled, "stop it now!"

There was a chorus of quiet sorries, and they sat pretty quietly til the traffic eased.

I tipped the rear-view mirror to catch Sam's eye. "I'm sorry," I said, "I shouldn't have smacked you. That was wrong, and I'm sorry I did it. Will you forgive me?"

"Yeah. I know how you feel," he nodded. "Sometimes I just get so mad at Vivian, like when she walks in front of my Mario, and I hit her before I remember I shouldn't. I forgive you."

And my beautiful son just holds out his heart and his bouquet of grace like it's no big deal and the day rolls on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Afternoon Nap

I'm lying on the couch by the open screen door. 

A storm is rolling in. The sound of raindrops and thunder come right through the screen with the suddenly fresh breeze.

The house is quiet. My family is out, and I am home with a sleeping Scally.  I don't plan on moving til they get back. 

This perfect silence, this purring wind, this solitude is mine.

I fall asleep in the bliss of stillness ... and am jolted awake with a bang.

In confusion and fear, I think someone has dashed into my house and the bang is the sound of the door closing behind them.  Glued to the couch, but shaking in terror, I try to collect my thoughts and form a plan.

And then I realize ... the bang was the sound of a mouse trap being tripped, and I have been saved from a different sort of intruder.

The shaking slows, stops, and my heartbeat quiets to its usual rhythms. I can breathe normally again.

If I lie here long enough, someone else will come home and get rid of it, right? 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This Does Not Define You

I didn't think anything could bump The Iron Giant out of my favourite Disney slot ... but have you seen Moana?

*spoiler alert*

I know I'm super late to the Moana party, but wow.
That scene at the end?
It gets me every time. I turn into a crying mess. (Which Sam adores - he loves when I cry over a movie, and he asks a million questions to untangle precisely why I'm tearing through the kleenex.)

If you who haven't yet seen it, here is a super-condensed summary. Moana is our heroine. She's the daughter of a chief on an island, and in order to save the island she has to voyage across the sea to restore the stolen heart of the goddess Te Fiti.

Her final and greatest obstacle is the lava monster, Te Ka, who lives on a reef surrounding the island of Te Fiti.  When she overcomes and finally reaches Te Fiti, Moana is taken aback because ... Te Fiti is gone.  She turns, bewildered, to look back at the raging lava monster, and suddenly sees that the heart (a stone with a spiral pattern) fits exactly into the seething lava chest of Te Ka.

Te Ka is who Te Fiti became without her heart. And I feel like I'm looking at a picture of humanity as God made us, and humanity as we are now.

At Moana's request, her friend the ocean separates and makes a path to Te Ka.

Te Ka, no longer impeded by the water, races across the ocean floor to kill Moana.  She doesn't run or scream or hide - Moana holds the gleaming heart up high and walks toward Te Ka, singing, "I have crossed the horizon to find you.  I know your name!"

The music is moving, beautiful, and the images are poetry.  The lava monster, sheer rage, howling and snarling; Moana, full of hope and pity. 

But the part that gets me isn't the incredible talent that was poured into the movie.

It's the familiarity of it.

This is my story.  My story. I know that rage, that helpless wounded anger of being hurt, changed, into a person I don't want to be.  My heart stolen, and being trapped in misery.  Yeah. I feel you, Te Ka.

But even more - deeper, older - ... it's our story. We long for better.  We ache to be restored, to be whole and pure and flowing with life.  We want that Garden, where we walked with God and worked without impediment and rejoiced in love. 

Moana keeps singing: "This does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are. Who you truly are."

We know this isn't right. Greed, arrogance, violence,  ... they're not the way things have always been.  They're monstrous and they hurt us because they ruin.  There was better. Once we knew wholeness and life and joy. This is not who we are.

And Jesus crossed a horizon to find us. And Jesus knows our name (our names!).  And Jesus came to restore - oh, not just one heart, but every heart.  And He walked right up to the fierce lava monster and stretched out His hands and restored its heart.

And my heart.

And my heart.

Yeah. I love that story. My story.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Weeds and Wildflowers

I saw the sweetest little moment today.  I was sitting in the parking lot with the kids while Patrick ran into the store to grab some things. It was raining, and a couple walked out of the store.  The woman opened her umbrella and walked to the car while the man stopped to tie his sneaker.  As he followed her across the parking lot, a smile stretched across his face and he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture.

It was just sweet.  He thought she was so beautiful walking with her umbrella - it made him smile, made him want to save the moment.

Because love sees beauty.

On our way to Michigan for a family vacation last week, I had the opposite experience.  We'd been driving for a few hours and it felt like Vava had whined for every single one.  I snapped at her and told her to stop, which (you guessed it) prompted more whining.  I lost my temper, yelled at her, and then felt like a rotten parent. And when she whined again less than a minute later, I'd had enough. I asked Patrick to pull over so I could take a walk and cool down before I lost my temper again.

I stalked off up the highway, growling to myself about her whining, picking my way past weeds and occasional litter.  After a while, I noticed a stem of tiny little orange flowers blooming, and part of my mind thought "Vava would love those!" And a crankier selfish part stepped stubbornly over them.

And I saw them again, and God gently stopped my mental tirade, asked me what my frustration could accomplish, what purpose could it serve.

It could make me yell and fill me up with rage and ruin our day.

But on the other hand, maybe it's like a check engine light and it could make me aware that something is wrong. Maybe Vava's having a bad day, maybe she needs a little extra love, maybe she needs a bouquet of flowers.

I opened up my ragey, knotted little heart and shook the anger out.

I picked up the flowers and turned back.

I saw some more flowers - blue ones this time; she'd love them. So I picked those too, and found some daisies.  I laughed.  I'd walked right over all these wildflowers and hadn't seen a thing.  Brown-eyed Susans, right in my path.  Foxtails and cattails and tiny white stars.

By the time I got back to the car, I had a bouquet.  I gave them to a thrilled Vava and told her I loved her and asked what was wrong. We had a quick chat to sort out the problem that was stewing between her and Sam, a hug and kiss and went on our way.

I couldn't stop thinking about the way my anger had made me blind to the blooming wildflowers. I hadn't seen them at all.  What had I noticed?  Weeds and garbage.  But as soon as I chose love? I saw beauty.

Anger and love see such very different things.

I'd kind of forgotten about it until tonight when that happy little vignette reminded me that love sees beauty.  So I thought I'd write it down over here and try to remember.

If it's been a weeds and garbage weekend, I hope you have a wildflower Monday tomorrow, friends.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


This afternoon, Kachi was playing on the floor while I held Pascal on the couch. Kachi lost some cars beneath the couch so I got the broom and rescued them. 
I pulled the last car out just in time to see an oblivious Pascal lean too far off the cushion.

I reached out and caught him.

In the face.

He landed on my hand full force, and I scooped him up and cradled him and cooed over him and kissed him. But he looked at me with the most baffled, reproachful expression. To him, I think, he'd just been happily watching Kachi when I suddenly womped him in the face with an open hand. 

My hand, no doubt, was a softer landing than the floor.  But he couldn't understand that I'd saved him from pain - he just felt hurt and betrayed.  He didn't feel loved.  He didn't feel rescued.  But he was.

I feel like God has been saving that lesson for me for a while.

Sudden difficulties or sorrows feel like a smack to the face.
But they're not.

It's love.
It's rescue.

That's the kind of hands He's got.

So maybe I'll remember more easily, next time, that I'm as oblivious as Pascal - and that womp on the face was Him saving me from the floor.

He didn't feel loved.
He didn't feel rescued.
But he was.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The Quiet Moments

They aren't the first moments that come to mind when I look back.  I seem to remember the dramatic moments most clearly of all - the night the cat died, the time we spun on ice and landed in the ditch, the times you let us stay up late to shop at Midnight Madness.

I don't remember the quiet moments so easily.  Hardly at all, in fact.  I don't remember ever fitting on your lap (although there are photos that assure me I did). I don't remember lying down with you to read a book or look up at the stars.  I don't remember tracing your skin, memorizing your hair and freckles and scars.

Each evening I lie, impatient, with my children and try to tune out thoughts of the things I need to do.  It's usually a wrestling match between the mom I want to be and the tantalizing lure of solitude.  And I doubt they'll remember the moments, the boring, everyday moments of cuddles, stories, praying.  But still we do them, night after day after night - not to be remembered, but to press into their soil that solid, steady base that I hope they aren't even conscious of.

Because while I don't remember any single instance of cozing with you, my whole life is weighted and steadied with your arms.  At some point I must have studied your face, your arms, your hands so intently that I memorized your freckles and lines.  (There is a mole on my neck now that matches yours - I love it.)  The rhythms of your speech, your breath, are calming to me - when I can't sleep, I find myself imagining I'm a kid again, curled in a nest on your floor, matching my breath to yours until I sleep.

Thank you for enduring every long and boring and frustrating day.

Thank you for filling me up with good and glad things.

I love you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


My brother and his wife have had to go out of town - at the exact same time we needed a place to stay between houses.  So we've got their whole house to ourselves, full of toys and treats and everything we need.  We haven't needed to unload anything from the van or trailer, just came in with our suitcases and made ourselves at home.

Their house is big, but they have a super short driveway - er, parking spot. From curb to garage door, it's exactly the length of the 15-passenger van I'm driving.  Dad backed it in, and I pretty much planned on leaving it there all week. I'm a fairly confident driver but not when my mistake would ruin R&A's new garage door.

Mom and Dad left yesterday.
I don't know what we'd have done without them.  For a month they worked so hard and put up with us at our worst and most stressed out and loved us and made us laugh and cheered for our kids and babysat and took us out to eat and loaded up boxes and the trailer and our hearts with steady love and hard work.

It was hard to say goodbye. I woke up horrified that I had slept in, leaving them to pack up while caring for my kids, and I kissed them goodbye half-dressed and uncoffeed.

Before he drove away, Dad slid an anvil behind the van's back tire. 

Today was rainy and grey and Kachi wasn't feeling well and before lunchtime everyone had gotten hurt at least once.  So this afternoon I loaded them all up in the van and we took a long prowly drive, bought coffee and ice cream and visited Patrick at work.  And then I drove home and backed that big old van into that tiny little spot because my dad had made it possible for me to park. My back tire bumped the anvil and knew I was back as far as I could go before scraping the garage, and just far enough off the curb to not get hit.  Done.

And that one act, that thoughtful and kind gesture with the anvil, is so much more than just a parking aid. It's the way my parents have loved me my whole life.  Believing in me and helping me to do what I don't think I can.

If I were leaving my kids in the same situation, I think I might have slid the anvil in front of the tires, to keep the van safe and stationary.  I probably would have suggested they stay home for the week until they could park it in their new driveway.

But my parents believe in me.
And help me.
Even when they're gone.

I love you, mom and dad.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Goodbye, TBay.

I'm writing from bed.  I'm pressed on either side by the sleeping and slanted bodies of my two oldest children.  The baby is asleep in his playpen at our feet. And the toddler is sleeping with Grandmaman.

I fell asleep with them at 830.  I don't think I've gone to bed that early unless I was sick since 1989.  (Suddenly feeling incredibly old.)  But they need the cuddles. They need the extra security of mama at bedtime because we've just turned their world upside down.  We moved away from the only home they've ever known and it's going to be a few weeks before we press our feet against the floorboards of our new home.  We're spending a week with the grands en route, and then a week house-sitting.  It's disorienting, strange.  I took V to Emergency yesterday and when they asked for our address I was all at sea. We're between addresses. Like a letter, sent, but not yet received.

And yet ... being in this limbo is special. Not easy (all four kids melted down at suppertime), and lonely (Patrick stayed behind to work), but special, because instead of just thinking about the next thing, we have time to cherish the last thing.

When we came to Thunder Bay, my parents drove us up in their Honda Civic. My dad's little trailer hauled our few possessions, and it was just the two of us hunting for a place to call our own.  Now, six and a half years later, we're going out with a huge trailer and a van load ... and four precious children.  We came to the city so empty, and we are leaving so full.

I remember our drive up to Thunder Bay, passing a sign welcoming us to the district  (about three hours before reaching the city proper). I couldn't help but read it with that ache, the sorrow of loss and emptiness that miscarriage bleeds into the future - trying to imagine what opportunities awaited, trying not to think about the empty backseat that should have held a carseat or two. I remember holding Patrick's hand and being so glad I was with him.

Prepping for moving away, I didn't have much time or mental space to wax emotional. There were kids to manage and a million decisions to make (and ohhh I hate decisions!) and goodbyes to say or not say and couches to carry and meals to cook and noses to wipe and did I mention the decisions? So I hadn't really given myself any emotional space until I saw that sign.

And I was driving past it again.  This time without Patrick -

But so, so full.

Our gorgeous firstborn was holding up a rattle for the baby to grab. The two middles were laughing and pretending to be Dora and Boots. And mom and dad were moving us once again.

Full.  I'm telling you.

My stupid heart burst wide open, and Sam asked, "why are you crying, mama?"

"Because I love you so much," I replied.

So, dear Thunder Bay, thank you.  We came empty and you sent us out full. You look industrial and adventurous and I had no idea that you would be such a gorgeous garden where our family would grow.

God bless you, city. I love you so much.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Do Not Go Fearful

A prayer at close of day, with apologies to Dylan Thomas
(read the original gorgeous poetry here.)

Do not go fearful into that strange night
Old age should burn and long for close of day;
Ache, yearning for the rising of the light.

Wise ones at their end know dark is slight
Because their shadow will be brief, though awful, they
Do not go fearful into that strange night.

Good ones know their deeds in time aren't bright,
He shines on them, the sun on a green bay;
Ache, yearning for the rising of the light.

Wild ones who ran from the eternal Son in flight
And learn, in time, He sought them on their way
Do not go fearful into that strange night.

Grave ones, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes will flare with sunrise and be gay,
Ache, yearning for the rising of the light.

And you, my dear one, there on that sad height,
Grasp His whole blessing with both hands, I pray.
Do not go fearful into that strange night.
Ache, yearning for the rising of the light.