a complicated season

Last Thursday I had an ultrasound scheduled to check on the progress of my pregnancy with our fourth child. Simply looking at the faces of my ultrasound tech and doctor confirmed my fears: there was no heartbeat.

It was not entirely surprising that this baby had stopped progressing. There were warning signs along the way – signs that indicated a less-than robust progression for this sweet little baby. Still, we didn’t lose hope for a miracle and we didn’t stop cheering this little one on.

Before the appointment, I ran through the possible scenarios in my head, trying not to think too much about the worst-case scenario.

And yet, despite my hopes and prayers and pleadings, there we were: the worst case scenario.

I was surprised by how much it hurt to hear that the baby stopped growing in the days prior to the ultrasound and that there wasn’t a heartbeat. Somehow I had thought that because we had other children and we’ve had other losses, it would soften the pain. And it didn’t. A loss is a loss is a loss.

It felt like an out-of-body experience. Here I was, in this situation I had hoped to never experience again. I was profoundly sad about the loss of this baby.

“I’m so sorry,” my doctor said.

My doctor carefully outlined our options and we decided to have a D&C the following day, if possible.

I was escorted into a large room with a round table and four chairs. I sat with my back to the window and the door closed in front of me, alone. I was glad to be alone and I cried for this little baby we would never know and never hold and never snuggle. I was grateful for the 7 1/2 weeks that we had with this sweet one. I was grateful that I remembered during this pregnancy to have little chats with the baby and let them know that they were loved. I felt myself letting go of the vision I had for next summer: a June filled with fresh baby snuggles, a July spent teaching Annie about being a big sister and an August watching a new little one exploring this world with wide eyes.

At some point, trying not to cry in front of the staff, I told them that I was grateful for the three daughters that we have at home. My nurse nodded, “but it’s OK to be sad about this one, too.”

Telling Frank was the hardest part. We were both surprised by how utterly sad we were about this pregnancy loss. It is our fourth and last pregnancy loss. We knew we did not want to try again.  We knew that we would continue to be happy and content with our “party of five.” And still, we both felt the heavy weight of the finality of this loss.

The weekend that followed felt like the fullness of the human experience all in a 72 hour period. Loss, grief, hope, gratitude, peace, sadness, joy and anger – all fluttered in and out of our hearts in no particular order. And often, we felt all of these things all at the same time.

Over the weeks that I was pregnant, I felt a whisper of gratitude weaving through my days. I found myself reflecting on the difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. I wondered about what it would look like to live a life OF gratitude: a life where every moment is appreciated and enjoyed and adorned with gratitude. But… what does it look like to practice gratitude in the face of sadness and loss and grief?

We are beginning the holiday season. Christmas decorations are unapologetically filling the aisles of our favorite big-box retailers. There is a hyper-sense of GRATITUDE and JOY and HAPPINESS as the must-have items this holiday season, available for purchase in the form of wreaths and toys and stuff.

We are not the only people who are experiencing loss and sadness and disappointment and grief as we enter the holidays. So many people will sit down to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with a freshly empty chair. So many people are living a “new normal” with out someone that they dearly loved. So many people are saying, “this is my {first, third, tenth} Christmas without…”

The message seems that in order to be truly happy and fulfilled, gratitude and joy must occupy all of the available space in our hearts. That if we could only have more gratitude and more joy, we would not have space to be sad.

Life is just not that simple: I cannot manufacture enough gratitude to drown out everything else. BUT. Gratitude and grief can exist together.

On Friday night, I crawled into bed with Ellie for our usual tuck-in ritual.

“Which songs would you like tonight, Ellie?” I whispered.

“The usual,” she said with a small, content smile.  She closed her eyes and curled up under her covers, waiting for me to sing her the same two songs I sing to her every single night.

My heart filled up with gratitude for that moment and gratitude for my daughters, but it also swelled with sadness for the baby that we will never get to hold.

Gratitude and grief in a single, complicated moment.

I’ve been learning through this experience, and really this year, that very few moments are “good” or “bad” – that so many experiences and situations can evoke a range of emotions. When I had the twins I was scared and happy and nervous and elated at the same time. When I left my job to stay home with our kids I was apprehensive and hopeful and afraid and free and sad. There are so many moments like that – moments that defy singular categorization.

And for all of these complicated and beautiful and broad moments, I am grateful.

part three: the walk

This is part three in a three part series. Read part one here and part two here.

So if our marriage had been drowning in the first part and rescued in the second part, part three should surely be our “happily ever after” right?


When I was 16, I would think through the years of my life and how I thought it would all play out:  I would graduate high school, go to college, graduate college, get a job, get married, have kids… and then my life would be over and void of any personal satisfaction or meaning.  What a stark vision of the future! In this entire vision of the future, the wedding was the pinnacle of it all. It would be the happiest day of my life and all the days before would be the crescendo and all the days after would be the sad denouement.

I figured the best years of my life would probably be the years between college graduation and marriage – full of wonder and potential and hope and excitement – and the cherry on top would be a wedding.

Funny story: there were only 18 months between college graduation and our wedding.

There is so much emphasis on having The Perfect Wedding. The perfect dress, an idyllic ceremony that is both representative of your separate histories as well as of your hopes for the future, a party-inducing play list, the right lighting, and so on and so on.  And I am the first to admit, I do love a great wedding!

I love watching the groom see his bride for the first time. I love watching the bride’s family give her away to a teary-eyed, clammy-palmed groom.  I love a great ceremony. I love the first kiss.  I love the celebratory walk up the aisle.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

The first steps back up the aisle truly begin a journey of a thousand miles. The walk back up the aisle, full of hope and promise and purpose and joy, signifies how we intend to began our marriage. It can be so easy to lose that momentum, though.

Marriages aren’t perfect, but marriages are beautiful and complex and unique and messy. It’s just that most of us don’t really know how anyone else’s marriage truly works except maybe our parents’ marriages. We see weddings and we see 50th wedding anniversaries.  Sometimes our friends let us see under the tent – a peek at an argument or an accidental glance of tender moment. But it’s hard to get context. We don’t often truly understand the inner-workings of most peoples’ marriages.

Writing this series presented that very problem. I am giving you a very specific peek into our life – into a part of our life that was particularly messy and difficult. This period of time certainly shaped our life moving forward, but it is only a picture of a moment in time.

I sometimes find myself wondering: what are other peoples’ marriages like? What do they talk about? What do they like? Do they talk at dinner or eat in silence? Do they go to bed at the same time or is one person a night owl while the other is a morning person?

Is it normal to want to talk to your spouse all. the. time? Is it normal to always want to hold hands or touch each other as much as possible? Is it normal to be grateful your spouse travels?

Are we normal? Are we OK?

I’ve come to the conclusion, after much thoughtful consideration: WHO CARES what is normal!?

Instead of normal, I’ve found myself craving people and experiences that are authentic and genuine and real. The uncomfortable thing I’ve discovered is that very few things live inside a comfortable little box of good/bad, wrong/right, beautiful/ugly.

In this new space of intimacy and knowing and closeness, we’ve come to realize there is so much in life that is beautiful and messy, delightful and terrifying, or happy and sad – all at the same time.  Even when I really reflect on the way that I felt on our wedding day, it was a broad and brilliant array of emotions that included everything from sadness that many of our grandparents couldn’t share in our day to elated to celebrate our wedding with so many family and friends. Life, as far as I can tell, is full of moments that defy limited categorization.

That being said, I would love to gloss over our post-drowning marriage and say, “Yep, all good here! There’s nothing to see here! Move along!”


A few weeks ago we had a pretty big fight that started before church (AWESOME) and concluded after lunch (C’MON!). Frank had a bunch of feelings and I had a bunch of feelings, but we were afraid to talk about these feelings because neither of us wanted to burden the other with these feelings. So we actually fought about how he answered a question that I asked. The exchange in question was no more than a dozen words between us, but all of the feelings came bubbling up. For quite a few hours we snipped and argued back and forth. It took us hours to realize that we needed to go back to the now familiar territory of compassionate and honest communication. Once we started talking, we realized that neither of us was burdened and that both of us actually had very similar feelings on the issue at hand.

It wasn’t the similarity in our feelings, but the authenticity of our feelings, that gave me the biggest sense of relief. I knew Frank’s heart and he knew mine.  We couldn’t really do anything about the feelings or even the issue we were upset about, but we could encourage and walk alongside each other.

So here is what I have to say about our life together: it is messy and imperfect and complicated, but it is ours.

Frank and I try to set aside time weekly to talk in person without distraction. Sometimes we talk about what we are thinking and feeling, sometimes we talk about what is going on in our lives, sometimes we talk about dreams and ideas and sometimes we talk about practical matters. Sometimes we talk about our strategy for dealing with a zombie outbreak. Our conversations are not confined by anything – sometimes not even reality!

And so, we keep finding our way back to one another. I met another couple who found their way back through a shared hobby. Some couples exercise together and some couples travel.  The important thing is that they create space for connection.

I feel like people often mistake the act that creates space for intimacy as actual intimacy.

I know that I used to get confused on this issue a lot. I used to think of sex as intimacy, when it is an opportunity for intimacy. I used to think that going on a date is intimacy, when it is a space where connection can happen.

Intimacy is closeness and knowing and understanding.

I think that sometimes I get lazy and I want to check the box and have intimacy without having to be vulnerable, without having to put myself out there. Sometimes I get scared to hear what Frank really thinks and feels – worried that I will be responsible and blamed for his feelings.


It is worth it to be brave in order to be known, to be seen, to be heard. It is worth it to be brave enough to know, to see, and to hear another.

We’ve had a challenging year. We’ve dealt with quite a few different illnesses and transitions and minor floods – just a lot of stuff.

And yet…

We are on this journey of a thousand miles that began with both of us holding hands and smiling big, toothy grins. If all goes well, after walking through jobs and houses and kids and life together, we will still be walking, holding hands and celebrating the joy of our adventure.

My 16 year old self would be relieved.

part two: the rescue

This is part two of a three part series about the rescue of a drowning marriage. To read part one, click here.


“We need help.”

These three simple words were immediately followed by lots and lots of other words.

It was messy, frustrating, beautiful, sweet and sad all at once.

Our first therapist appointment was an orientation. What was the world of our marriage as we understood it? What did we think the problem might be?

The Problem

Defining the REAL problem can be difficult when all of the symptoms of the problem also look like problems.

I thought the problem with our marriage was that Frank was not partnering with me on my agenda.

Frank was equally certain that the problem with our marriage was my inability to get on-board with his agenda.

Clearly, one of us was absolutely wrong and it wasn’t me.

In our second meeting, our therapist asked Frank to describe his family of origin (a fancy way to describe the family you were raised in).

And so Frank began to speak…

While I was listening to Frank talk about his family of origin and the people he loved and his stories and his life, I realized I was genuinely listening to Frank for the first time in months. I realized that I was soaking him in. It reminded me of something familiar and lovely and warm: it reminded me of one of our first dates.

One of our very first dates was to a restaurant called John’s Place in Lincoln Park (now the White Oak Tavern & Inn). Our conversation was light and quick and funny. My face hurt from smiling so much. I wanted to know everything about Frank after that date. He was one of the most fascinating and spellbinding humans I had ever met.

We spent our first nine months of dating learning everything we could about each other while simultaneously trying to create new memories together. It was dizzying and exciting and intense. And then Frank proposed and we spent six months planning our wedding together and taking premarital classes with quizzes and personality tests. Every avenue we walked down was an opportunity to learn more about the other person.

At some point – maybe it was while having twins or maybe it was while Frank lived in Atlanta most of the month or maybe it was while we were sprinting through life, we stopped really knowing each other. We stopped running together.

So it goes – one thing leads to another and to another and then we were in therapy and Frank started talking about his life. I knew many of the stories, but had forgotten some and needed reminding about facets of others. I found myself watching him talk and feeling my heart thaw.

All of the pretense and pain and mess of life melted away. The more I learned about Frank, the more I wanted to know. Good, bad, ugly. Whatever.

Intimate partnerships thrive on knowing and being known. When couples who know each other intimately are separated by time and space, they long for the other. They thirst for their other half.

It sounds silly and cliche, but I think this was the heart of our problem: we were thirsty for each other.

Thirst is a tricky thing. Thirsty people often think they are hungry. That’s why most diets and eating programs insist that participants drink plenty of water. Most of us have been walking around our entire lives thinking we were hungry, when more often than not, we were actually quite thirsty.

That’s how it was for us in our marriage: we were thirsty. We thought we wanted our spouse to act differently or to follow our agenda – but really, we were thirsty to know and be known.

The other thing about thirst is that once you realize that you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Once we realized there was a problem with our marriage, we were already pretty far down a troubling road.

Realizing that the problem was that we were missing genuine intimacy was only the beginning. We needed to figure out our way back to a place where we could know each other.

So here is what our counselor did: he gave us a road map for communicating more effectively. He recommended a book called Nonviolent Communication (don’t get hung up on the title – it’s not about actual physical violence) which gave us the framework for expressing ourselves in a healthy way. Aside: The book is awesome and provides so many examples and concepts that are useful in all types of relationship/interpersonal situations. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend it.

In a nutshell, the concept is that you state what you observe (he was late), how you felt (and I was frustrated), what you need/value (I could have used that time to do other things) and a request (do you think you could let me know when you are going to be late in the future).

The result is that we own our emotions and our emotional response to things. Frank doesn’t make me feel a certain way. He does things and I have an emotional response. He can’t change my feelings, but he might be able to change his behavior.

And vice versa.

We also became aware that expressing emotions is very difficult in the English language. A great example is that other languages, like Greek, have multiple words for the concept of love. There is the love you have for your spouse, the love you have for ice cream and the love that you have for your friends. In English, we just use the word “love” and hope the listener understands the subtle yet significant differences in intention. Other languages use entirely different words to describe different types of love. We spent some time reviewing words that describe emotions so that we would have a greater breadth of language to use with each other.

Once we had a framework for communicating and words to use, we just started talking. It was, at first, like drinking from a fire hydrant; the conversations came so quickly and with such intensity that we almost couldn’t keep up with it. We talked about our marriage, our lives, what we loved, what we feared, who we want to be when we “grow up,” our daily struggles, and so on and so on and so on.

But those conversations, over the course of weeks, helped us find our way back to each other.

Some of these were hard conversations. It is hard to hear from your spouse that what you did or what you failed to do caused them pain. It was hard to take responsibility for the part I had in the blaming and posturing and distancing.

This kind of examination and vulnerability required a LOT of trust between us. We had to trust that we could be honest without fear that our comments would be used against us in our (inevitable) next argument. We had to trust that our spouse wouldn’t feel responsible, and therefore hurt and resentful, when we had differing opinions and feelings about topics. We had to trust that our conversations would be met with compassion, kindness and love.

Truly, that kind of trust is only possible when two people are more interested in the good of the other. We had to be certain that the other person would receive our feelings and stories and ideas without judgement. The only way to be sure, though, was to be vulnerable and to see what happened. Try, succeed, fail, forgive – on repeat.

As we moved towards the other, we sent out “feelers” to make sure it was safe to share. It felt sometimes like two people in opposite trenches, peering out across a battlefield. Will he shoot? Will she lob a grenade?

Over the course of consistently kind and honest conversations it became clear to us that we would listen and love and be compassionate, which meant even more feelings and experiences and stories came tumbling out.

The result of using the tools we learned in therapy and building trust between us was that we both felt known and heard and loved. For the first time in years, we felt truly connected. We were on our way home – we just had a few more hurdles to clear…

Part three: the walk

part one: drowning


As Frank and I were emerging from the fog of a hard season of our marriage, we both said that we never wanted to be so far from each other again. Frank asked me to write down our experience so that we could remember and learn and remind ourselves as needed. We also felt that perhaps sharing our struggles as openly and honestly as possible would help other couples in a dark season find their way back to each other.

This was not an easy thing to write. It took several months, many drafts, many starts and stops and starts. We had many conversations and a few texts about the topic. I wrote this in three parts because I think it’s important to share specifics about what we went through. Just saying, “It was hard!” seems too broad and too open to interpretation. “Hard” is a subjective word and for some “hard” may mean “a few times last week my spouse was annoying” and for others it may mean that their spouse had an affair.

The nature of our difficult season didn’t involve an affair or any other obvious transgressions; our hard season was more about two people living separately together.

So… here you go. Part one of our three part story:

We found ourselves in a therapist’s office two summers ago. Frank sat next to me, preparing to run through the highlights of “our issues.” I felt myself bracing for impact.

And how did we even get here?

When we really examined our marriage, sitting in the therapist’s office and in conversations at home, we realized that the situation we were in began months and maybe years before. As we swam through the murky feelings of loneliness and hurt and sadness, the image that stayed with me was that we were silently and slowly drowning.

This image of drowning is powerful for me: I witnessed a cousin nearly drown when I was in grade school. The transition from “fine” to “drowning” was so subtle that it was nearly impossible to realize what was going on. My cousin had been jumping into the pool and climbing out and jumping in again – and then one of his jumps was a little too far out and too far over. Just a few inches and he was doing the silent, terrifying bob. Mouth open, no screaming – only gasping, under water, above water, gasping, grasping.

I saw it happening and I was too young to really understand the seriousness of the situation. My mother, from across the pool, saw what was happening to my cousin and knew he was in terrible trouble. My mom is a woman who is more closely associated with fun and celebration and joy and laughter. But in those moments of terror, she was fierce. She took two, maybe three, efficient steps across the pool deck before executing a perfect, on-point shallow dive. When she came up for air, she had my cousin in her arms.

Those moments of witnessing him drowning and my mom swiftly recovering him were moments that passed slowly and without sound in my memory. And the moment he was lifted out of the water: the sound returned and time recovered. He screamed and then cried.  He sat on the pool deck, wrapped in a towel, understandably upset.

When our marriage was struggling, the descent into drowning was imperceptible. It was as small as a moment where one of us did what we would often do: forget to get dry cleaning, forget to fill the car with gas, forget to put away a gallon of milk before bed, and so on. In those small moments, when our marriage was healthy and strong, we would brush these minor annoyances away. But as we started to drown, these small moments were etched onto an ever-expanding scorecard.

And this score-keeping mentality began to define a deeper, more troubling mindset: my spouse is an asset or a liability. My spouse is good or bad.  My spouse is wrong or right. Judgement, accusation, resentment.

This mind-set transitioned into a game in subtle/not subtle maneuvering. If he got a “guys night” then I needed a “girls night.” If he wanted a back scratch, I needed a neck rub. Silly, trivial maneuvering that led us further from each other.

Sometimes we would have loud angry, arguments. But often, and maybe even worse, we didn’t argue at all.

So the thing about drowning is that people who are drowning don’t look the way you would expect a drowning person to look. They aren’t screaming or splashing or making a scene. They are trying to survive. Up and breathe. Down and panic. Up and breathe. Down and panic. Grab. Grasp. Gasp.

Drowning couples go to church. Drowning couples go on dates. Drowning couples go through the motions because maybe, at some point, they will grab onto a moment of normalcy that will become a life raft.

At some point, we forgot why we were arguing. We couldn’t figure out why “he/she just won’t (fill in the blank).” It felt like whatever it was I needed at a specific moment of time was the least Frank could do considering the spoiled milk/empty gas tank/etc. The truth of the situation was this: nothing either of us could DO would ever be enough. No action to fill our self-created voids would EVER BE ENOUGH. There would always be something else and something else.

I honestly think the path we were on was the path that frequently ends up in divorce, domestic violence and cheating aside. I think that we all know someone who has a particularly harrowing/horrifying divorce story, but so many marriages seem to end in a gasp and a defiant sigh. “Fine. Whatever. It’s over.”

The sad thing is, 18 months ago, I figured that the way we were living was the way it was just going to be, especially in our season of life.


On one of our dates, we had fun. This was a surprise – we both had expected to simply go through the motions: go on a date and have a meal. Check the box.

We stayed local, in a town we lived in but hadn’t really explored. We discovered new stores. We enjoyed a new restaurant. Almost inexplicably, our guard came down; we laughed.

We laughed the way we laughed when we were first dating. We talked and listened the way we used to when we were first married.

For an evening, the fog lifted – loneliness and hurt and sadness slipped away. The scorecards fluttered to the ground. Our separate agendas were forgotten.

I wish I could say we grabbed that life raft of a moment that God threw our way and held on. Unfortunately, we had a lot of work to do and that thick fog rolled back in at the end of the evening.

But Frank, my brilliant, brave husband – he didn’t forget that moment. That moment of closeness reminded him that we didn’t have to drown; we just needed help finding something to grab onto.

And so…

On a thick and hot July evening, we sat stiffly next to each other on the too-plump couch in our therapist’s office.

Frank drew in a breath and began, “We need help.”

And the rescue began.

Next week part two: the rescue.

gifts of service

I was a little bit nervous to take a spiritual gifts test last week.

For the uninitiated, a spiritual gifts test is basically an inventory of what you like to do, what comes naturally to you and how you interact with others. The end results are words that describe a unique set of gifts that help describe the kind of work you enjoy and the activities and interactions that energize you.

I’ve taken the test before and was disappointed to see administration rising to the top. For an inventory of gifts that were supposed to energize me, I felt disheartened at the results.

I suppose that I had really hoped that I would take this test and find out that I was someone else. It sounds crazy to write that sentence, but it’s true.

And truly, I spent so much of my life hoping that I was someone else, wishing that I would find a hidden talent or a secret skill. This pursuit of being someone else was ultimately a frustrating and exhausting endeavor. Even still, when I look back at those years I see some of the same themes bubbling to the top.

I really wanted to be a leader.  Leading sounded like fun – who didn’t want to be at the front of the line or the head of the class? There are some people who are born-leaders. They don’t care where they are marching, they just want to be in charge. That was not true with me – there were times when I was really uninterested in leading, but felt that not wanting to lead was a sign of weakness.

When I learned about servant leadership, I was so excited and relieved! I didn’t want to lead just to be a leader. I loved the idea of helping people along by taking a leadership role.  The idea of servant leadership gave me permission to be myself while also giving me the authority to do my work.

Looking back on my life and career, I notice similar themes emerging. I thrived under directors and bosses who embraced the idea that the goal was greater than getting credit. I loved working with people who embraced a culture that good ideas and great work sometimes came from unexpected and unorthodox places. One of the agencies I worked at adopted the phrases “One Team, One Dream” and “Winning Ugly Together” to focus and motivate employees. Sure, they were cheesy, but it put words around the spirit of working together for a common goal and gave permission to the idea that often the process is messy. I loved it.

Basically, the concept of servant leadership and the cultural attitudes of the teams I worked on encouraged and empowered me to look at a given situation and step in where there were holes. To address specific needs of an organization or group, I became good at things that others were not as interested in.

It was hard for me, though, because the gifts and words we seem to value as a society and even as a church, are leading and celebrity and influencing. The problem was, if I didn’t see a need, I wouldn’t lead simply to be a leader or strive for popularity for popularity’s sake.

I knew that I liked to help. I knew I loved to work.

And so, with all of that history behind me, I took a spiritual gifts test – half wincing – because if history was any predictor, gifts like leadership and teaching would not be in my top five.

Y’all: Those things are STILL NOT in my top five.

And that is OK.

My top five? Serving was number one. Like, big time, number one. Followed by mercy, faith, giving and pastoring.

I looked at the test results for a while. I mulled it all around in my head and heart, investigating what serving really meant.

And instead of being annoyed, I was relieved. And excited.

Serving has often been limited to serving food and giving people things. But the heart of serving is an attitude: What do you need? How can I help?

I think that the reason administration and hospitality were high on my previous tests were probably that those were the areas that I was stepping into most often due to gaps in the workplace and at church.  I really hate filing and calendaring and organizing, but someone had to do it. I filled the need.

People who serve stand in very important gaps in the workplace and in ministry – they fill these gaps in order to accomplish a goal and meet a need.  These “need-fillers” keep projects and work moving forward in important ways.

There are so many other need-fillers out there; these are people who have stepped up to keep all of us moving forward and onward. I find need-fillers to be curious, interesting people who don’t master one particular skill as much as they embrace learning about a lot of skills. Need-fillers will help move, help clean, help teach, help lead – not out of a love of any of those things – but out of a love for people and the end game.

But it’s hard being a need-filler, especially if you haven’t figured out how to name your gift. It’s hard to know when a season of helping with a specific need is over.  It’s hard sometimes when finishing up your season of work means saying “good-bye” to people you love. It can be hard understanding your value and role in an organization when don’t have the words to express who you are at your core.

To my need-filler friends, hopefully these are some words that will help describe your heart: you thrive in the space where help is needed and provide that help out of the joy of your heart. You fill the voids left by people who couldn’t lead or wouldn’t lead and keep organizations and groups not just on life support, but thriving. You see the space between a dream and a reality and help build a bridge between them. You spot the missing people like missing puzzle pieces and help work them back into their rightful spaces.

At the heart of a need-filler is a spirit and attitude of service. That spirit of service is a gift – not just to those benefitting from it, but to the bearer as well.

Want to know what your spiritual gifts are? Click here.

annie is one.

I started this post over a month ago:

Annie, my sweet baby, is one and on the verge of walking and talking and expressing herself.

It turns out, her past year of docile compliance was just a cover: she has been taking notes, identifying weaknesses and formulating a strategy.

As of this week, she has decided she will NOT stand for being locked up in a baby-safe containment area (or, crate, as I call it) while I work out and shower. Once she is free of the bonds of the minimum security baby containment facility, she immediately bolts for any doors she can find.  Cabinet doors and drawers that are unlocked are unceremoniously opened and slammed shut with deep, unmitigated baby satisfaction.

Annie did run into a minor hiccup with opening standard doors: once the door swings open away from her, she found herself standing unassisted. The first few times, she plunged forward after the swinging door in sheer terror. Now that she figured the tricky doors out, she smirks as she maintains her footing and the door crashes open.

A fan of her sisters, Annie is completely delighted by any attention they pay to her.  Ellie is much more amenable to Annie’s hair pulling and grabbing, while Carrie gets annoyed by these shenanigans rather quickly. Despite Annie’s interest in slapping her sisters silly, the twins adore making Annie laugh and giggle.

Annie says a few words that sound like “Hi!” and “Daddy!” and “MAMAMAMAMA” and so on.  I’m terrible at understanding baby talk. I’m lucky if I understand half of what the twins are hollering at me from the third row of the minivan.  All that to say: Annie may be reciting soliloquies from Shakespeare and I have absolutely no idea.

And now, almost a month later:

Annie is walking! It is unsteady, precarious walking, but it is walking! I am both relieved (my child can walk!) and terrified (my child can walk!). I recall, all too clearly, the poop-storm that ensued with twin toddlers and while Annie is only one child, she is one of three very active girls.

No matter.  We survived the twinpocalypse, I am sure we can make it through one more unstable toddling little one.

In short, Annie is one and is walking without fear, speaking without annunciation and drinking without a bottle.

And so… I think I better hit publish on this post before it’s 2027 and Annie has discovered the Internet (or whatever it will be called then) and realizes that I still haven’t published her first birthday summary!

Congratulations Annie!  YOU ARE ONE! (Or 13…)

We love you!


three things: a summer frame of mind

Summertime and the living is…



If you are a small child, the living is VERY easy. Popsicles, bike rides and splashing in the pool… repeat!

If you are the cruise director in charge with coordinating all of the activities and events that, when strung together in your children’s minds, will create the perfect symphony of childhood memories, then summer is your PRIME TIME.

I have good news for you: I do NOT have a magical list of amazing bucket-list-type activities that YOU MUST ACCOMPLISH by Labor Day or else. I also do not have a list of the top ways you are making your children hate you and hate summer and fail at life.

What I have is a very brief list of ways that I have adjusted my mindset and attitude so that I can actually enjoy summer and be more present for whatever shenanigans we find ourselves doing.

In no particular order:

Thing 1: Mess is Best 

I immensely dislike living in a disorderly environment.  It makes my soul itchy.  Quick fix for this? Accept defeat early on and try to never be inside my home.  If I can’t see the mess, it’s not happening.

If for some reason, you can’t put the blinders on to what is happening in your home, then do the dishes every night and wipe down the counters.  At least you can enjoy your morning coffee and Cheerios in peace. The rest is for the birds.

Speaking of which, the birds are outside and they do NOT care if your laundry is folded. So go. I promise the mess will be there when it gets cold outside.

Thing 2: Yes, AND…

In the category of “Everything I learned, I learned from Tina Fey,” I have to give credit to this mindset change to the wise Ms. Fey. Not only is she brilliantly funny, but her improv chapter of “Bossypants” is saving my summer – and maybe even the rest of the seasons. Essentially, the way improvisation works is if a character proposes something like “I am a moose” and the second character says, “Yes, and I am a moose rancher” or something. The idea is that improv only works if each of the characters in the sketch are building off of the other’s story in a positive and meaningful way. In short, improv is life and summer is the perfect season for living.

Example: This week we had a day that contained exactly two hours and twelve minutes of warm, rain-free sunshine. I was driving home with all three kids and groceries in the trunk when my neighbor announced she was filling the kiddy-pool and invited us over. Planner-me wanted to say, “Well, I have groceries and I need to put them away and start dinner and so on …” but SUMMER me said, “YES! And I’m bringing a fruit platter!”

I put away frozen and refrigerated items, had the twins un upstairs and put on swimsuits and we were in the freshly-filled baby pool down the street, noshing on fruit and juice boxes in less than 20 minutes.

That is summer. The girls loved it, we all had fun and life was lovely.

Say yes… and add to it!

Thing 3: Baths

If you can accept that your house is going to be a mess and that your plans may become a mess, then it’s time to accept that your children (and you!) will likely also be hot, sweaty, dirty, happy messes. I learned this one the first summer that the kids were walking.  I would drop them off at their sitter’s house in adorable summer outfits and I would pick up virtually unrecognizable sweaty, smelly, grinning messes. It took me less than two seconds to appreciate that my kids may have been messy, but they were also incredibly happy. Running, jumping, investigating dirty things, rolling down hills, playing in the “forest” and so on are the things that make memories and open up minds and free our children to be children. It delighted me to find my girls covered in the dust of their day, exhausted and happy.

It’s just that… baths, man. Baths are a process in our house.  I can’t speak for any one else, but bath time is just… ugh.

I realized that my desire to avoid giving baths to three children, every single night, was causing me to view activities through the lens of whether that activity would merit a bath. I finally just had to say, “Self. We are going to have to put on our big girl pants and give these kids baths. You’ve done harder and more dangerous things than give three kids a bath. Self, I’m asking you to step up on this one for the sake of the summer! GIVE THE KIDS BATHS AND LET THEM BE FREE!”

It was quite a mental process.

I am pleased to report that once I made my peace with the nightly baths, I felt free. Free to let Annie crawl around in muddy grass in her diaper becuase she was happy. Free to let Carrie hug all of the pollen-laden flowers in the backyard because, gosh darn it, those flowers needed big hugs.  Free to let Ellie roll around on the ground for reasons I could not understand (although, I did find out later she literally rolled in an ant hill, so, you know, maybe I need to reign in my “go forth and frolic” attitude a smidgen…).

Really, letting go and embracing the reality of nightly bath time gives me freedom to say “Yes, and” to a host of dirtier adventures.

So that’s where I’m at.  How about you?