Five Kids: A Year in Review

Dec 31 2012

I’m starting off the New Year by leaving my husband and four kids and taking off for Central America. Or, as I like to call it, living the dream.

The only problem is I’m a disappointment to myself and Mamas-In-Need-Of-A-Break everywhere because I’m already a teeny, tiny emotional mess, anticipating the longing I’ll feel for the ones left behind. Or, maybe not longing, exactly, for the Large One who’s hollering in his room right this minute; I might not be completely sure I’ll miss arguing with him and wondering how many ways I’m messing him up. But the littles? They’re harder to leave at this age.

It’s OK, though. It’s going to be All Right. These are important things to tell ourselves when we raise children. Important things so we can remember to Breathe and to Forgive and to do our Survival Best.

So don’t worry about the Big Hollery Kid or the Leaving, Longing Mama. It’s OK. It’s going to be All Right. I’m going to go ahead and Breathe, first of all, and then Forgive every one of us for the missing and the not missing and our collective mess. I’m going to keep doing the best I can, acknowledging that mediocre survival is sometimes our best — our Survival Best — and, when making it through the day is all we’ve got in us, it’s also Enough.

But I’m leaving, is my point. I’m leaving with my middle-most child to visit the country of her birth for a week. I’m not sure whether I’ll write to you from the road because I’m not sure yet what parts of her story are mine to tell and which are the ponder-in-our-hearts parts. I’m going without a writing plan so I can pay attention to my daughter and my gut and my heart, and it’s OK. This Not Knowing is part of what it means to be a mama. And a writer. And a human.

I started this blog four or one hundred years ago, and it’s become a lot like parenting in that I know there was a time that existed before I did it but I can’t remember what that time felt like. Two years ago, I dusted the blog off and decided to write like I mean it. To bear regular, honest witness to the mama experience — to the agony and the ecstasy and the wonkiness and the wonder of motherhood.

Somewhere along the way, your path met mine, and we started walking together. You came alongside as my witness, and you let me be yours. You  joined me in the mission to laugh and cry at the magnificent mess, and I want you to know I’m grateful for you.

This year, I looked at all of the Five Kids blog posts from the past year, and I compiled some lists of favourites for while I’m away. Just in case we both need them. I hope you enjoy this walk down 2012 Memory Lane half as much as I did.



 5 Favourites From The Heart:

  1. On Being a Brand New Mom: An Open Letter to New Mama Me
  2. On Getting the Hang of Mothering: Mothering doesn’t get easier. It gets stronger.
  3. On Parenting My Newest Teen: I love you. You’re not alone. Knock it off.
  4. On Having Kids on an Unsafe Planet: Where else would you build your nest?
  5. On Teaching My Kids to Love Themselves: What if I’m thankful for me?

5 Funny Faves:

  1. So Your Bathroom Smells Like Pee
  2. How to Organize the Linen Closet
  3. Sex and Parenting, a Special Video Production: If at First You Don’t Succeed
  4. There’s poop and a full ride scholarship under my front porch.
  5. What’s in plants?

5 Other Cool Places the 5 Kids Blog Appeared:

  1. On Little Boys and Little Traumas: Zipper Penis at Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures
  2. On Faith, Doubt and Lunchables: Ask. Seek. Knock. Breathe. at Rachel Held Evans
  3. On Calling Balance a Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: Rejecting the Myth of Balance at The Huffington Post
  4. On Redefining Successful Time for Myself: Radical Acts of Self-Care at Families in the Loop
  5. On Adoption and the Real Mom: On Being Made Real at I Am Not The Babysitter

And, of course, a great big THANK YOU for all your encouragement and support in 2012. Here’s wishing you and yours a very

Happy New Year!


Day 3 of 3 Giveaways for the Heart and Soul

Dec 29 2012

by Melanie Weidner

Oh, I’m so excited about this final giveaway in the Heart and Soul series. I can’t imagine a better way to end 2012 than by introducing you to my friend, Melanie Weidner, the artist behind Listen for Joy.

Friends, sometimes I am lost. And sometimes I am found. Sometimes I’m both at the exact same moment, which Anne Lamott calls grace. I don’t know any other way to live this life, except to wonder and to wander and to seek and to fall short and to eventally find, but only bits and pieces at a time, and not necessarily in that order. It’s a wild dance, living as a human with the spark of the divine inside me; it’s a loud laugh and an ugly cry and a huge mess and salvation, all rolled up, gory and glory mixed together.

Threads by Melanie Weidner

Sometimes, into the mess walks another person who, through her words or his music or her art or his story or her willingness to expose the vulnerable gory and the blinding glory out loud, holds up a mirror to my soul and tells a part of my story, too.

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner

Melanie’s one who paints my story when I have no words.

She reminds me that my mess isn’t just redeemable — as in fixable or cleanable or erasable — but my mess is a critical, crucial ingredient to a life that’s already whole. Already enough. Even broken wide open. Especially broken wide open.

Toward Resurrection by Melanie Weidner

And, like the best art does, when I’m at my end — when I’m all done and washed up and finished and sure I can’t go on because the world and God don’t make sense — Melanie shows me a vision for Love that’s so beautiful and so crushing …

God Also Grieves by Melanie Weidner

… and so quiet and so true …

Closer Than We Know by Melanie Weidner

… that I can’t help but hold on for a little bit longer. For just one more step through the muck and the mire and the magnificent. Which is all we ever have to do in life and love anyway. Just one more step in faith.


Giveaway #3:
Depths: 11×14 Art Print
by Melanie Weidner

I own a copy of this print, and I can’t wait to give one away. This piece is life to me. And all of motherhood. And all of salvation. The destruction on the surface. The relief that comes in the depths.

(Please note that the watermark and copyright do not appear on the print itself. They’re present on these images to protect Melanie’s work online.*)

This giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Erica Kain!
Check your e-mail box, Erica.

To Enter This Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this blog post by 10:00am (Pacific Time) on Monday, December 31st. One entry per person, please.

This drawing is open to international participants ’cause this is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

The winner will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Monday.

Disclaimer: Melanie is not an affiliate of this blog, nor did I receive any compensation for this post. All costs for this giveaway are incurred by yours truly. I adore Melanie, I’m inspired by Listen for Joy, and I love that I get to introduce her art to you. You’re made for each other, I just know it.


*All images used with permission of the artist.
‘Cause, really, that’s the only cool way to use art.


Day 2 of 3 Giveaways for the Heart and Soul

Dec 28 2012

Giveaway #2:
The Journal of Best Practices
by David Finch

“Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along.”
David Finch

There are a lot of reasons David Finch’s memoir, Journal of Best Practices, landed on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s heartwarming. It’s honest. It has pita-bread-posing-as-talking-vagina sandwiches. And even though the book is written against the backdrop of an autism diagnosis and David does stunning work to normalize the Asperger experience, its real power lies in normalizing the marriage experience and championing the transformative work of learning to love each other well.

“At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What the @#!% is wrong with my husband?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis explains David’s ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, but it doesn’t make him any easier to live with.

“Determined to change, David sets out to understand Asperger syndrome and learn to be a better husband with an endearing yet hilarious zeal. His methods for improving his marriage involve excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the Journal of Best Practices: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies, including ‘Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along’ and ‘Apologies do not count when you shout them.’

“Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, The Journal of Best Practices is a candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.”

This giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Robin Jingjit!
Check your e-mail box, Robin.

To Enter This Giveaway:

Leave a comment (perhaps about marriage or living with special powers or pita bread) on this blog post by 11:00am (Pacific Time) on Saturday, December 29th. One entry per person, please.

This drawing is open to international participants ’cause this is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

The winner will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for a final giveaway then!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with David and Kristen Finch. They don’t know I’m doing this. All costs are incurred by yours truly. I just think this book is a fun, funny, beautifully honest read and that it helps folks feel less alone.


Day 1 of 3 Giveaways for the Heart and Soul

Dec 26 2012

No one started crying ’til after 8:30 on Christmas morning. Since crying usually starts around 7:10, we called that a Christmas win, baby!

By 9:00, an inferno of neon blue Lik-a-Stix Fun Dip raged under the kitchen table. Fortunately, one quick-thinking kiddo knocked over his can of breakfast soda which dripped through the slats of the table and effectively tamped down the cloud of sugar dust, gluing it in place for clean-up.

I think the first grown-up melt-down occurred at 9:05am. And then again later in the day when the I-Said-Do-NOT-Throw-That-One-More-Time-In-The-House ball knocked over the bottle of red wine. But we big kids rallied, folks, which is the main thing. We rallied and kept our Christmas crap together, rolling on through the tremendous and glorious mess that is family.

Oh, sure. We have the Happy Christmas Photo like everyone else so we don’t have to hang our heads in Facebook shame.

But we also have the Truer Truth pics. Like the one of this mama and her kids (minus the sleeping-in teenager) in which I learn…

…I really should take my nighttime eye make-up remover regimen more seriously.

Or the one of the Christmas Dinner Aftermath…

…which makes me think I should add extra structural supports for my counter to next year’s Christmas Wish List.

Life is messier than I once imagined, friends. Marriage is more complicated and our successes more triumphant. Parenting is more gut-wrenching and our joys more transcendent. Everything we do in this condensed time of life is a wild mix of the Mire and the Magnificent, often in minutes right next to each other. And you know what? Life is also richer than I imagined because along with the complexity comes depth. Full immersion. Authentic living. I find it all stunningly… worth it.

And so, to celebrate the season of giving, I’m hosting three days of giveaways for the heart and soul. Each item I’m featuring has made a real difference to me this year in my ongoing quest to normalize authentic living.

Giveaway #1:
A Year Of Biblical Womanhood
by Rachel Held Evans

In the early fall, I received my advance reader’s copy of Rachel Held Evans‘ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I loved it. Loved it, loved it. And I’ll tell you exactly why. I loved it because Rachel, by taking all of the Bible’s rules for women quite literally in a year-long experiment that has been called hermeneutical performance art, shows us with humor and grace how very much more the Bible has to offer when it’s not reduced to a simple list of rules, tight-fitting cultural boxes or constrained gender roles.

Sometimes hilarious, sometimes troubling, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes triumphant, Rachel explores all the Bible has to say about women and, in the end, teaches us poignantly to love the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be. In short, if you’ve ever read the Bible or heard the Bible preached and walked away with a gigantic “WHAT THE ??” in your heart, this is exactly the book for you.

As a sometime Rule Breaker, perpetual Questioner, and committed Love Follower — and especially as someone who’s more interested in the grimy, gorgeous reality than in maintaining a pretty facade — I highly recommend it.

Now, there are two ways to get Rachel’s book at a steal.

First, the Kindle version of A Year of Biblical Womanhood is offered today for $1.99. I grabbed a second copy this way because I want it in my electronic library, too.

Second, I’m giving away a brand, spanking new hard copy.

Aaaannnddd… this giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Clarence Warren!
Check your e-mail box, Clarence.

To Enter This Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this blog post (perhaps telling us what your Christmas really looked like… even if it was perfect, I suppose 😉 ) by 11:00pm (Pacific Time) on Thursday, December 27th. One entry per person, please.

This drawing is open to international participants ’cause this is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

The winner will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Friday. Stay tuned for another giveaway then! The next one’s not Jesusy — which may be a relief or a disappointment — but it’s revolutionary, too.

Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of A Year Of Biblical Womanhood, I was under no obligation to write a review or host this giveaway. Rachel doesn’t know I’m doing this, nor is she a sponsor of this blog. All costs are incurred by yours truly. I just think this book is cool beans and a conversation changer.


Musings on the Magi (and Jesus in the Mess)

Dec 23 2012

This is a Jesusy post. For those of you who don’t identify with Christianity and who’ve been reading here for a long time anyway, can I just say? Thank you for sticking around. Thank you for trusting me to be kind. Thank you for being my friend and believing the best of me. That’s not an easy thing to do when the news is often full of Christians who say cruel things, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate you.

I didn’t write this as a blog post. I wrote this for my church, at their invitation to share this Sunday-before-Christmas some reflections about the Magi. The Wise Men. The Three Kings who may not have been three in number and almost certainly weren’t kings. So I want to say thank you to my church family, too. Thank you for allowing me to speak the Truth as honestly as I can. Thank you for accepting me even though the path I travel to Jesus is sometimes weird and wonky and off-kilter. And, most especially, thank you for actively believing that the Light of God exists in all people. You guys are weirdos — honest, open, thoughtful, wise weirdos — which is why I love you very much.


Musings on the Magi (and Jesus in the Mess)

Advent is the one time of year I’m relieved of my spiritual doubt. Or maybe doubt isn’t the best word to describe my constant questions the rest of the year. My ongoing analysis of faith. My perpetual testing and trying and weighing and measuring.

But Advent arrives just when my soul is at its weariest, and I suppose it’s not strange at all to find rest in this season. To find myself deep inside the winter’s darkness and to perform that most human and Godly act which is to believe against all outward evidence that the Light is coming.

The story of the Magi is an odd one to appear at the beginning of the Gospels. We land in Chapter 2 of Matthew – chapter 2 of the entire New Testament – and in wander the pagans. Right at the start. Like they belong there. Matthew says they came from “the east.” Scholars have speculated they came from Persia, Arabia, possibly India, and although the word “Magi” refers to a Persian religious caste, when this gospel was written the term was loosely used for astrologers, seers, or fortunetellers.

If we look at the players in the Nativity story, the people who knew what was happening, most learned by angelic proclamation what was going on. Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and the shepherds – they got angels. And specific information. And do not be afraids. Elizabeth knew without an angel appearing; we don’t know how. And the Magi knew. The only explanation, the one they gave as they wandered around Jerusalem chatting people up is this: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

We saw his star, they said.

That’s it.

We saw his star. And they recognized the Light for what it was.

They put together an expedition to find the king of the Jews. But the how of it all? How they knew the star was his? That part’s not answered. We don’t know. We just know they showed up as soon as they could after the King did. That, whatever they saw in the stars, it was too good to miss. So good, in fact, that when the star led them to a humble house and into the presence of a carpenter’s small son, they fell down and worshiped.

And I wonder. What must their suspension of disbelief have been like? How enormous their choice to have faith? How clear their celestial message? To buy into that modest and foreign scene so thoroughly as to follow through and worship Jesus as King?

For those of us in the Church, the path they took toward the Light and the Truth –astrology, astronomy, the coming of a King written in outer space — that’s not a path we recognize. Certainly not one that makes us comfortable, I think. At best, it’s a wonky, weird, off-kilter path to Jesus. At worst, it hits on taboos we’re taught to reject and avoid.

And yet what strikes me every year in the Jesus story – every year in a different way, every year through a different player – is the fact that no matter how much we try to sanitize God, to simplify the Bible, to create strict boundaries and rules so our faith can make sense and so everyone will just behave, Jesus insists on being made manifest in mess.

This life we live is complicated. Horrible. Beautiful. Triumphant. But it’s a mess. And the Light enters in.

We’ve all heard people say, “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” Maybe the reason Jesus doesn’t close the door on us is because he was born in a barn — a real, dirty, grimy, non-glamorous barn – and so he understands our mess.

 “And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

God knew.

God knew about the mess.

God knew that becoming God With Us meant inserting Jesus into the muck and the mire, right into the gooey, sticky center of life. It meant sending a baby — The Baby — to be born in a barn and it meant leaving the barn door all the way open so a wild cast of misfit characters could show us the way.

This is what I know:

Jesus is made manifest in the mess, friends. Jesus was made manifest in the mess then. Jesus is made manifest in the mess now.

And this is what I don’t know, but I’m beginning to suspect:

I suspect that the people who are making their way toward the Light are not always the people we expect.

I suspect we have fellow Truth Seekers who are not necessarily traveling a spiritual path we recognize but who are as sincere as we are in their dogged pursuit of the Light of the World.

And I suspect they could teach us a thing or two about Seeking and Finding and then falling down to worship at the feet of a tiny king. If only we’d be on the lookout and welcome them through the barn door.

This is the season of Advent.

This is the season of the Light piercing the darkness.

This is the season of belief despite doubt.

This is the season of the Baby – the teeny, tiny baby that held all of Divinity inside of him – and this is the part I find no trouble believing at all because I am a mother and I know what it is to look into the face of a child and see the Divine looking back at me.

Advent arrives just when my soul is at its weariest, friends, and I suppose it’s not strange at all to find rest in this season. To find myself deep inside the winter’s darkness and to perform that most human and most Godly act which is to believe, like the Magi, that the Light is coming. That the Light, in fact, is already here. In this mess. Waiting with an open door.


bright star in space image credit nuttakit at

Santa the Aviator: a Guest Post for the Huffington Post

Dec 21 2012

Although we welcome Santa into our homes and hearts this time of year, carefully choosing his favorite cookies (chocolate chip, despite the ongoing snickerdoodle rumors) and waxing eloquent on the magic he uses to shove his girth into the chimney, we know very little about Santa in his role as aviator.

Sure, Santa’s been flying for years. He’s one of the original aviation pioneers, after all. But specific information about how he coordinates his flights and manages his crew has been in short supply. Despite NORAD’s very cool Santa Tracker, scientifically-minded kids want to know more.

How does Santa navigate from place to place? By what means does he avoid mid-air collisions? And what does Santa do about safety? Find out with today’s blog post, 5 Fun Facts About Flying With Santa on The Huffington Post. Click here.

(Thanks for having me, HuffPost Parents. And special thanks to the Old Marine for the insider scoop and expert information. Love you, Papa.)

“santa claus and deer” image credit suphakit73 at

What’s in plants?

Dec 19 2012

What’s in plants, Mom? 

It wasn’t an unusual question coming from the science-minded six-year-old. He wants to know how everything works right now. Ever-y-thing. And all the episodes of Myth Busters feed the fire, friends.

Just yesterday, for example, my kid couldn’t move on with life until he received an acceptable explanation for Pluto’s declassification as a planet. Since it was a snow day and Greg was working from home, I sent Boy Wonder to the parent who, well, cares.

Today, though? No such luck for Mama Me. Although I never manage to answer science questions to my kid’s satisfaction (we both know the string of but why‘s can only lead to the inevitable I don’t know; go ask your Dad), I was the only parent home, and he was stuck with me.

What’s in plants, Mom? he asked. And I thought, What’s in plants? What’s in plants? I know this one! Photosynthesis! But then I second-guessed myself because photosynthesis isn’t exactly in plants, you know? That’s more like something plants do. And, besides, it’s a little complicated to explain… light = energy, and… oh, I don’t know; go ask your Dad. So I thought some more. What’s in plants? What’s in plants? I know! Chloroform! But then I realized chloroform is the stuff you pour on your handkerchief when you want to kidnap someone in a dark parking garage or an abandoned warehouse. No, that’s not it. Not chloroform. Chlorophyll! That’s the plant thing! And it does… something planty. Oh, crap.

In a blinding flash of brilliance, though, I remembered high school biology class, and I yelled, Cells! That’s what’s in plants, man. Cells are in plants. They’re the building blocks of life!

And PHEW, right? Total Mama Win right there. It was a triumphant moment.

It was a triumphant moment that shouldn’t lose its luster just because my kid looked at me sadly, shook his head and said, No, Mom. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. What’s IN PLANTS, Mom? 

Do you ever have those moments with your kids when you’re sure you’re speaking different languages? When you’re positive if you both just talk SLOWER AND LOUDER, you’ll figure out what the other person is saying?

What’s. In. Plants. That’s what you want to know, right? About the inside of plants?

No, Mom, he said. And then he went on to explain.

First, he told me about Myth Busters.  (I knew they were somehow to blame.)

Then, he talked about uh-splosions. (You know. Uh-SPLOSIONS, Mom. Big, giant uh-SPLOSIONS! The trapped air goes up high and gets bigger and bigger and BIGGER inside the bag, and then KAPOW! It blows into bits!) Explosions. Bags. Air. Gotcha.

Next, he told me about the people who give us drinks on the airplane. (Flight attendants? I ventured. YES, MOM! he confirmed. If air gets trapped in plants in those girls…)

And finally, I pieced it all together.

What’s in plants? Oh. OH! You mean what are IMplants?

YES, MOM! What are implants? my six-year-old asked, exhausted and eager and all ears.

And then my brain uh-SPLODED, guys. KAPOW! Like that. Into bits.




UPDATE: What did I say? Oh, I wasn’t trying to be cryptic by not telling you. Truth is, I have no idea. I think I blacked out. I mean, words escaped my mouth. Words like boobs and bags and big but it was an incoherent blur, and I’m pretty sure I painted an unflattering picture of all women everywhere whether we have implants or not. My sincere apologies, All Women Everywhere. Also, I laughed the Uncomfortable Mom Laugh. I never laugh the Uncomfortable Mom Laugh. ARG! So now I have to revisit the conversation. I have to ask my son, you guys… Son? What’s in plants? Let’s discuss.


UPDATE #2: Also. I took a picture of my TV last night. The boys were watching Myth Busters again. And, um, I don’t know how to tell you this, but these are Not Tadpoles, ladies and gentlemen,

and Coca-Cola does not work to deter them, so don’t try that at home, OK? This myth = BUSTED.

Also-also, I’m beginning to suspect Myth Busters may not have been developed with the six-year-old audience in mind.


 Plant with Recycled Paper image credit KROMKRATHOG at