How to Keep Romance Alive UPDATED

Feb 27 2013

You know, I hate to be greedy and grabby and stuff-oriented, friends, but sometimes, sometimes, it feels good when Greg sends me stuff.

Stuff like flowers.

Flowers are good.

And jewelry.

Jewelry’s nice.


Always smart.


Guaranteed win in these parts.

We don’t always have the cash for that stuff, though. Five kids cost a lot of money. And so Greg and I try to show each other love in ways that are free. Like little love notes. Messages throughout the day that say, “Hey. I’m thinking about you.”

Messages like this one from Greg:

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P.S. We don’t really send each other sweet messages throughout the day. The most recent messages I sent Greg were:

  1. Kid sick. Need Pepto-Bismol tablets ASAP. Can you stop at the store?
  2. Can’t find my keys. HELP. Yes, I already looked in my purse.
  3. Wait. Nm. Found keys.
  4. Yes, they were in my purse. FINE.
  5. Drywall screen. If you buy some, I will clean the toilet.

You know what? I take it back. That last one was totally a love note.


P.P.S. My friend, Gwen, sent me a love note from her husband. She gave me permission to share it here with you.


And here’s the latest from Greg, who loves me very much and knows me well.



5 Quick Questions, vol. 2

Feb 26 2013

It’s been two weeks since our first volume of 5 Quick Questions, and I love (LOVE) getting to know you better. To those of you who took the opportunity to delurk, it’s so very nice to meet you! And to those of you who’ve been around a while, messing around in this space and putting your feet on the furniture? You’re always rad.

As an important follow-up to the last 5 questions, I’d like to say… Greek yogurt? I’m trying. I swear. Also, you folks are, as a whole, not easily embarrassed about your reading material and unreasonably encouraging of all kinds of hair expression. Your wild disregard for shame and acceptance of differences explain a lot about why you’re here. You make me happy.

Here are the next set of questions:

5 Quick Questions
a fill-in-the-blank exercise

  1. My fridge is the place where _______________ goes to die.
  2. Once, in the dark, I stepped on ________________.
  3. I’m from ____________. We’re known for ______________. This makes me feel ____________.
  4. My number one, go-to, family-friendly meal is ________________. (Links and/or recipe-sharing encouraged.)
  5. Ben & Jerry’s best ice cream flavor of all time is ___________________. (If you don’t have Ben & Jerry’s where you live, please share what you eat that’s frozen, sweet and should make us all jealous.)

These questions were inspired by many of your comments from the last volume of 5 Quick Questions, including Amy of Psych in the Kitchen, Cindy, Kate, MelissaG, Laura Brown, and Ellen of New Life Old Farm.

My answers:

  1. My fridge is the place where tortillas go to die. This is weird, I know. Tortillas don’t belong in the fridge. Also, tortillas have an incredibly long shelf life if only we close the bag in a way that they don’t dry out. My kids, however, know neither of these things, and so we have bags and bags of tortillas, wide open, that dry out and then shatter and then scatter their tortilla carcass pieces willy nilly throughout the fridge. As I write this, it strikes me that I could, perhaps, solve this problem. I’ll add it to the list, right after organizing the linen closet.
  2. Once, in the dark, I stepped on a disembodied mouse head. My other foot stepped on its disemboweled guts. Also, “once” isn’t at all sufficient to describe the frequency with which this happened; our cat loved us very, very much and brought us myriad mice bits to express her adoration. Then she scattered them in the hall so we couldn’t miss them on our way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Occasionally, she brought the mice alive on a catch-and-release basis. We called this her vegetarian phase, and it was not better.
  3. I’m from Oregon because I went to college here and I met a man from here and we fell in love and we had a family and we stayed. We’re known for rain. This makes me feel like I should’ve gone to college in the Bahamas.
  4. My number one, go-to, family-friendly meal is balls of meat. Everyone loves them. With five kids, that’s like a miracle wrapped in ground beef. A close second during flu season? Chicken noodle soup.
  5. Ben & Jerry’s best ice cream flavor of all time is Chubby Hubby. FYI, this is the right answer to this question. (Heather Bowie, this is your gimme!) If you disagree, I’m gonna need your full ice cream doctrinal position or a statement from your doctor excusing you for peanut allergies.


I can’t wait to read your answers. Ready? Go!


White Lights Lead to Red Lights, Red Lights Indicate the Exit. How to Find Forgiveness in the Dark.

Feb 25 2013

I was all set to post 5 Quick Questions, volume 2 today because volume 1 was FUN. And we’ll get there this week. I promise. We’ll play together and laugh and gag at our computer screens when I tell you about stepping on disembodied mouse heads in the dark. Cross my heart.

But a comment arrived a couple days ago that waylaid me, friends. And it’s important. Essential, really. It’s important because it goes way beyond the Parenting Game and gets right to the heart. Right to soul. Right to core of How We Parent + Who We Are + Being Human + Survival.

Once upon a time, I wrote about bringing home our 2nd and 3rd kids. About how long we’d waited to adopt them. And about how amazing it was to finally have them… except when I realized I was in a dark, desolate mental place and so it turned out not to be amazing at all. I talked quite frankly in that post about how hard it is to forgive myself for that time. For living in the dark. For not being enough. For being, well, so totally human when my kids needed me to be so totally divine.

This week, a fellow mama found that post, and she commented.

I’m late to reading this, she said. I want to say I can forgive myself for giving in, but I can’t. I was so deep in the dark side that I did swallow that bottle of pills. Ambulances came, and my daughter, little at the time, had to explain to the neighbors at the bus stop that I was in the hospital, but she didn’t know why. My marriage was a shambles. I had to take months off work, leaving a classroom with no teacher. But the thing I can’t forgive myself for is that I almost left my daughter with no mother. I did put one foot in front of the other. I changed my meds and went to marriage counseling and saw my shrink regularly and I came through, my marriage survived, I survived, my family survived. I’m a better mother now. My daughter doesn’t remember that day, but I do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself.

Have you been there, friends? Deep inside the dark? Where the despair already swallowed you whole? And where white lights should lead to red lights, and red lights should indicate the exit, but there are no damn lights at all? 

I have. Oh, I have BEEN THERE. Not with the swallowing of the pills. But in the middle of the crash landing, breathing in the smoke from the engine fires, and sure, certain, I wouldn’t survive it.

And forgiveness after crashing the mama plane? Forgiveness for being so very broken when my kids deserved peace? How do I do this forgiveness thing? And why would I try?

Sometimes, friends, sometimes clarity comes when we see a fellow mama’s story. Because it absolutely easier for me to offer her grace than it is to offer it to myself. And yet, when we’re gracious to another, we begin to see that grace belongs to all of us, yes? Even me.

Oh, mama, I wrote in reply. Oh, mama, you are worthy of absolute love… BOTH the you who lived in the dark and breathed desolation and drank despair and acted on the absence of hope, AND the you who survived and found enough of the light to live and love again.

I don’t have enough of the pieces of wisdom for forgiveness. But I do have one piece, and it’s this… I keep working to forgive myself because I want to see my children free. Free from shame. Free from beating themselves up. Free to throw their shoulders back and hold their heads high and accept the fullness of the light despite the inevitable time in the dark. And I don’t know how to teach them to release themselves from shame without setting an example of living in full freedom myself. I’m not there yet. I haven’t arrived. But I’ll set my feet on the forgiveness path as many times as it takes. Because forgiveness doesn’t just free ourselves. No. Forgiveness is one of the Wild Things, and a world of unreasonable grace is where I want to live.

So, friends, there’s my piece. My tiny bit. My white light. And I thought, perhaps, you might have a white light of your own. A gracious word. A bit of wisdom. A story of love to share, like the stories you shared with Not Evan when he needed to breathe joy.

It felt like there were no lights when I crash landed ten years ago. And maybe that’s the nature of the crash landing, I don’t know, to be lost and alone and blind and afraid. But I’m starting to think it doesn’t have to be that way. Not always. Or not for long. I’m starting to think that we might help each other find the exits a little sooner. That the exits may be closer than we know. And that if I add my white light to your white light to her white light to his white light, we may find our way together.



When the Mommy War is of My Own Making

Feb 22 2013

I opened her blog and I saw it again. Another statement — an aside, really — explaining why she no longer writes about her children. It was just a quick note to her readers to help them understand the shift in her content, I think. Her babies are getting bigger, you see. And she wants to honor their stories as their own. To respect them and hold their hearts gently. To do everything in her power to protect their sacred space.

She wrote beautifully, as always. And compassionately toward her children. And gracefully. And honestly. And full of light and truth.

I was annoyed.

I will tell you now with as much honesty as I can muster, and I will confess, that I didn’t hear her words kindly or accept them as an invitation to spend time in her sweet spirit. Instead, I was a teeny, tiny bit eye-rolly and the smallest bit breath-huffy. Because when I opened her blog and I saw it again — again — it felt like a weapon. Subtle, for sure. But it hit the mark, aimed not just at what I do, but at who I am. A veiled critique of my writing, my sense of humor, and, most vulnerably, how well I love my littles and my bigs. How deeply I cherish them. How well I protect them.

I stopped reading her for a while, although I love her writing and her heart and her perspective. I stopped reading because her asides hurt my feelings and there was no practical way to defend myself. Also, it takes a lot of time to be grumbly.

But, I wanted to respond, can’t you see?

Can’t you see that I DO respect my babies in the very telling of our stories?

Can’t you see that in the middle of our growing, and the middle of our muck, and the middle of our pain and our joys and the wreck and the redemption that is family, I hold this space as simultaneously sacred and silly and holy and hilarious and irreverent and healing and true and deep and real?

Can’t you see that talking about this crazy, messy life sets us all free? And that silence traps us inside false models of unattainable perfection?

Can’t you see that I walk with my children and I ask for their permission and I hide some things in my heart and I do this — I write this — to honor them always?

Can’t you see?

Can’t you see me? 

And that last question was when I realized I was wrong. GAH. I was wrong for all the best reasons, of course, which I always feel should somehow erase the wrong if the universe is just or merciful, but nope. Still wrong.

In my desire to be heard, you see, to be known, to be trusted, to be liked, and to live fully into my calling as one who writes the deepest truths I know, I took her truth, her conclusion, her best way forward for her family, and I made it about me and mine. I took her experience, I fashioned it into a knife, I fell on it, and then I blamed her in secret for the Not Good Enough way it made me feel.

Which makes me wrong — again.

And I’m sorry.

And will you please forgive me?

I’m not a big believer in the Mommy Wars. In fact, I went on record debunking them after I found so many mamas with so many differences who all share the same desire to love our children to the very best of our abilities. (Our abilities which sometimes suck, but still.) But here I found myself harboring a Mommy War of My Own Making. My heart — the same one that beats to the rhythms of other mamas’ hearts — was unable to hear one mama’s story because I was too myopic, too defensive, and too afraid that her truth was too different from mine to listen.

Oh, this is not who I want to be, friends, this person with a bit of war hiding inside me. This is not who I want to be at all.

I want to be a Listener, friends. And a Story Honorer. And a Grace Giver. And a Love Sharer. And a Light Shiner.

I want to be a Door Opener. And a Back Patter. And Ceaseless Praiser. And a People Defender.

I want to be Myself and champion You, too, even though we’re different or perhaps especially because we are.

So I declare a cease-fire in my soul. I declare that Peace has won the day. I declare that her truths are no less true for me having different ones. And I declare that I will declare the same things tomorrow and the next day and the next day and however many days it takes to lay the war to rest.

Let us all be our truest selves. And honor others for doing the same. There’s room, friends, for every one of us to live the truth out loud.




Please note: The “she” I mentioned up above? Isn’t just one person. There’s no one to find. This is a theme that popped up in many places over time, and I’m not pointing to any one specifically. Just so you know.

How to Support Your Favorite Writers

Feb 21 2013

My friend, Amber Dusick of the uber funny, always awesome Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures blog wrote a book.


A whole book!

And I’m going to write more about her book when it’s released in late March.

But Amber’s book got me thinking about ways to support her right now. Before the book is released. And I thought that maybe you would want to know what you can do, too. For Amber, who I’m certain you already love, and for all your favorite writers.

How to Support Your Favorite Writers

  1. Buy the book. Or, if the book isn’t released yet, preorder the book. Preorder sales matter. A lot. And being on a best-seller list before the book’s released? Well, that matters if we want to see another book from Amber. AND WE DO. Say there isn’t a book, though. Or, well, you can’t afford it. There’s other stuff you can do for free. Stuff that matters more than you might think.
  2. Be a Facebook fan. Most writers have a Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, like your favorite writers there. Like their pages. Like their statuses. Like their pictures. And comment as much as possible. Your likes and comments make a difference (an ENORMOUS difference) in Facebook statistics — the more likes and comments a page receives, the more likely Facebook is to promote that page to others. AND, the more likes and comments a Facebook page receives, the more appealing that writer is to publishers because the writer can prove there are people who care what she’s saying.
  3. Comment directly on the blog. Your comments serve two purposes, similar to Facebook comments, likes and shares. First, your comments are a tremendous source of encouragement. And second, your comments prove reader engagement. Comments are truly critical to a writer’s success. Already commented on Facebook? Awesome! Consider copying and pasting it to the blog, too.
  4. Share! Share what you’re reading with your friends. Share by word of mouth. Share via Facebook or Reddit or Stumbleupon or Twitter. Share your excitement about the book. Share when there’s a post you particularly love. Or just share that you’ve been following this writer for some time and why you keep coming back. And then, periodically, share again.

The truth is, it’s up to writers to be committed, to hone our craft, and to deliver material that’s worth sharing. But ultimately, readers are the people who drive a writer’s success.


P.S. Greg installed a new comment feature here last night. It’s a tiny change but I hope it will allow you to support each other even more than you already do. You’ll now see a “like” button on each blog comment. It’s not linked to anything. It doesn’t help my “stats” or promote this blog in any way… it’s simply a small way for you to love on each other. Thanks to reader Maira (aka Maria ;)) for the suggestion. And thanks to Greg for the modification.


UPDATED: How to Clean a Toilet. Or… my toilet brush doesn’t work for crap.

Feb 20 2013

I caught myself muttering in the bathroom the other night as I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the toilet with sadly limited results.

This toilet brush doesn’t work for crap, I mumbled. Which was true and also true.

My toilet needed help. Medication. A special forces team. Euthanasia. Something. Because the toilet brush + gritty cleaning product + pumice stone can only do so much, apparently. And by “only so much” I mean “not close to enough.”

Thanks to the pencil sketch feature in my photo editing software, I’ll show you exactly what I mean without, I hope, grossing either of us out. I still want to be able to make eye contact with you at the grocery store, after all.

For the first time ever on the world wide web, I’d like to introduce you to my toilet, post-scrubbing, complete with water rings and bottom build-up and a hefty dose of ew.

photo 1 (45)

This will either make you feel not so alone or vastly superior, so I figure it’s a win/win. If you just ran gagging from the screen, though, I offer my sincere apologies.


photo 3 (32)

Same toilet, friends! After 15 minutes of quality time with a piece of drywall screen.

photo 2 (51)

Thanks to my friend, Jenn, who dropped this tip at book club the other night, my toilet has a new lease on life.

As for me, I’d like to be put in charge of marketing this miracle product. My campaign will go like this:

Drywall Screen: It Works for Crap


P.S. As Greg likes to point out, drywall screen is just heavy-duty sandpaper minus the paper so it doesn’t get soggy in water, and using sandpaper on porcelain means scratching can occur. I figure we have two options, and we already tried the first, which is protecting the porcelain under layers of gross. Risking a scratched bowl? A worthy alternative, in my opinion. But use at your own risk, K? K.

P.P.S. If you have other unusual, magical cleaning tips, please share! 



I’m not saying I never clean the toilet. I’m just saying my son thought it was an occasion worthy of a homemade card.

photo (45)

Also, my expression while cleaning the toilet? He nailed it.


Things Fell Through the Cracks. They’re Having Trouble Getting Out.

Feb 19 2013

We’re back from our short vacation, and I’m back to writing this week. AlmostSoon. I hope.

I’m also back to bill paying.

And schedule wrangling.

And message answering.

And fight refereeing.

And band-aid doling.

And tear drying.

And couch snuggling.

And child chauffeuring.

And pick-them-up-late-ing.

And dinner planning.

And mess sighing.

And oh-no-what-have-I-forgottening.

And I’m-pretty-sure-it’s-all-too-muching.

And I-think-I’ll-just-read-a-novel-because-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-firsting.

I’d say things are falling through the cracks around here, except I’m not sure what to call it when the cracks have joined forces to become a giant, cohesive, bottomless chasm that already swallowed all the things.


Hello, THINGS? I holler from the precipice. You all doin’ OK down there? Need anything from me? … Ummm … Any chance you can rescue yourselves this time?? … Hello? … Helloooo?? Hello, THINGS?

But the things aren’t responding, so it’s time to don my rescue gear and rappel into the chasm to pull them to safety. Again. Like I haven’t warned them a thousand times to quit playing near the chasm. The things, though, you guys; the things never listen.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like to clean my room. Like my friend Sally’s son says, “I’m not one of those cleaning type kids.” Word, man. But my dad taught me two cleaning skills I still use when my things go missing:

  1. Pick up just one thing. Put it all the way away.
  2. Repeat.

OK, fine. Today, that advice is my rescue gear. I’m getting ready to descend into the chasm, friends, and to pick up just one thing at a time. To do something instead of nothing. Because I’ve noticed that a) doing nothing means nothing gets done, and b) the alternative to nothing isn’t doing it all, it’s doing anything.

Wish me luck down there.

(And if I’m not back in a couple of days, send help.)



P.S. I’m trying these days to give myself credit for the things I do manage to do and not just beat myself up for all the things that base-jump into the chasm. And you know what? I’m already successful today. I’ve had my coffee, my children are all the way dressed, and I am wearing pants. BOOyah!

P.P.S. Are any of your things stuck in the chasm with mine? How’re you doing? And what do you need credit for managing to do today?


image credit “Break” by Salvatore Vuono at