Tuesday, January 15, 2019

koalas at 3 am

I've learned so much about koalas this week my brain is oozing koala facts. Jonathan comes home from work and I'm like, "Did you know ...!!"

(I'm trying to decide if this is better or worse than the days when my big end of the day news was how many diapers I changed, and of that number how many were blowouts.)

In the last few days I've also learned the origins of the word agony and the lineage of the Greek gods and goddesses. And as if that wasn't enough I'm mastering the two-fives and eights trick in math as well as trying to remember what a vertex is.

All on 2.5 hours of sleep.

Over the last 5 days.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. 

But I haven't slept much lately thanks to Miss Harper. And then last night when I finally got her settled I heard Ainsleigh "reading" a book in the living room.

At 3 am.

What's up with this girl and her random 3 am parties? There's no consistency, or pattern, she just gets up at 3 am sometimes.

I once found her doing a craft at the table. Like a serious one. There were supplies everywhere! When I asked her what was happening she of course said she was making me something.

(Yes, we have an okay to wake up light. No, we are not using it right now. Yes, I need to do something about that.)

Last night - well, early this morning - I wanted to cry and ask how I'm supposed to teach about koalas and symmetry and the Greeks when I'm hardly sleeping enough to string together basic sentences, but I opted for snapping, Go. to. bed. now.

Every time I get frustrated about how hard it is to do the school thing and the baby thing and the life thing Jonathan reminds me this was not my plan. I didn't expect to have a new baby when I checked the I'll homeschool box. (He also said when I got pregnant with Harper it broke my brain because all of my plans were ruined and I'm just now recovering, but that's another post for a different day.)

But here's the thing: if we scoot the baby aside for a moment, aren't there still challenges? The baby is not the only hard thing, she's just the loudest and most draining right now. 

Last night - before the baby waking and the 3 am Ainsleigh in the living room surprise - I was praying about what I'm supposed to be learning from the current whirlwind I'm standing in.

What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I asked.

And He answered, dependence.

Oh. Well. That was super clear.

I'll work on that.

I'll try to be less frantic.

I'll strive to remember what's important.

Thank you for answering. That was very direct and obvious and I know I've been given that answer a handful - or twenty - times, but I might need to ask again.

Thank you for this family and that I get to teach my kids. And thank you for koalas. They really are fascinating creatures. 


Thursday, January 10, 2019


On Christmas Eve Jonathan's brother said, "I'm running out of projects to do on the house. I need to come up with something to do."

"Oh, will you move?" I asked.

"Pull a Rodman?" he asked with a smile. "No, probably not."

Jonathan's parents built or massively renovated every house they lived in. Often they moved before renovations were complete. The house they're living in now is beautifully redone, but every time Jonathan tells me the kitchen is on the opposite side of the house, clean moved across the whole darn space, my brain twitches.

I lived in one house most of my life - 5 on up - and when my parents sold it in my early 20s there was a long list of needed repairs. Home repairs were not our thing, much less gut jobs and moving kitchens.

Last night as I was putting away dinner Jonathan said, "Babe! I found a project house."

Me, looking around the very unfinished kitchen I was standing in, "This is a project house."

"No," Jonathan replied, "that is a real project house."

Oh mercy me, he's about to pull a Rodman!! I thought. The very notion striking fear in my heart.

As I finished with the dishes he found the house online and called me over to the desk. There's no interior pictures of course, but the exterior ...

"Honey," I said. "The roof."

"Yeah, I know," he said with a dismissive wave. "It needs redone. There's tarps and stuff. But the real question is, is there water damage inside?"

"If you call our realtor for life (we were gifted a knife and cutting board set with this engraving on both from him so that's what we call him) I'll look at it."

I haven't heard any more about the project house, but I also haven't seen much of Jonathan today so who knows what's brewing.

I love looking at houses, but this one ... the exterior shots are not promising. I think this house was my limit: no working heat, bathrooms needed redone, kitchen too, but the place was livable. I'm not sure I want to take on another gone to pieces ranch house. We'll see what happens. At least being a Rodman is never boring!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

that's not what I meant

So yesterday when I said we're busy and I need a stay at home day and it's all so stressful ...

I did not mean B needed to get slammed with another virus.

We spent our afternoon and evening at home, which was not the original plan!!

And B slept from 4-7 pm on the couch, which means I have a 10 month old sleeping in my arms and a 7-year-old next to me reading Plants vs Zombies.

Jonathan's at a friend's house. I don't mind him hanging out with friends, but I feel like he enjoys the experience more. He goes and he's gone until he comes home. When I go I leave half my brain with the kids.

Is the baby crying? Does she need me? Are the big kids listening? Is the baby starving because I'm her primary food source? Is everyone fine for two hours without me?!

Of course they are, but I can't convince my brain so it returns to the kids over and over as I try to relax and enjoy my time away.

I'm going to try to convince B to go back to sleep,, but first - what am I thankful for today?

We knocked out a lot of school work even though B wasn't feeling well.

So far everyone else is on healthy ground.

B didn't puke in the car today despite feeling very unwell in the preschool pick up line.

My mother-in-law can help me tomorrow so only one kiddo will miss swimming lessons.

I have three babies safe and nearby, tucked in, sleeping, or close to sleep. Everyone is fed and warm.

That's quite a lot of goodness despite the illness curve ball today threw at me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

finding space

One day and change back into the preschool / homeschool / routine grind and I'm hair on fire stressed to the max.

I didn't realize how much stress the daily routine put on my shoulders until we had winter break and our days were slower.

Can I get a cookie, a muffin, a donut and a baby who naps?

Would that actually help?

Harper is cutting two teeth and has decided the best way to deal with it is to shriek at the top of her lungs unless I'm holding her.

That seems reasonable. I might join her.

I'm trying to fit so many things in so few hours. I was so grateful Ainsleigh's home visit this morning was cancelled I could've cried. Having that extra hour to homeschool before swim lessons was vital.

We just found out B's parkour gym is closing and won't be refunding the classes we've paid for so we're trying to cram in 3-4 classes a week this month on top of everything else.

I thought I was really good at keeping our schedule open and loose, but this month we're running, running, running.

I need at least one stay at home day a week to maintain sanity and peace. Unfortunately those days are in short supply this month.

I can't believe how much patience I lost when we resumed our normal schedule! I'm trying to teach and Harper is screaming and Ains needs scissors and B is trying to focus but its madness!

This is a very challenging parenting season. But then, every parenting season is challenging.

I'm writing this pool side while B and Ains have lessons and Harper grabs a car seat nap. This is my moment to breathe - five quiet minutes in a cacophonous room while I try not to buy a muffin at the cafe. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

how to quantify a life

Yesterday morning I walked through Charlotte's story. I dug through old files, I found the book I wrote, I sat with chapters I'd long given up on. 

I was glad Jonathan had the kids out running errands with him as I stared at words I wrote years ago and then typed them out once more, editing as I went. I had to stand up and take breaks. Shake my hands out. Make tea. Stretch - right leg back, left leg straight, fingers brushing the floor.

There was purpose in my work. There was a reason to revisit her story, but it still made me sad.

I want to save the person I'm writing about from what's coming, but then I remember it's me.

If I hadn't been there I wouldn't be here.

I'm so glad God is in charge because there's so much I don't understand.

Then this morning, a phone call.

My grandmother died.

We knew it was coming, but were hoping for a little more time.

My parents are traveling and so the timing is not ideal.

It's strange, being 35, communicating and working with my siblings and realizing, Hey, we're the adults. We're in charge here.

When did that happen?

I am at a potential beginning, but my grandmother has reached the end. I'm glad I thought to get quiet and ask questions our last few visits. I still don't know enough about her, but I know far more than I did a year ago.

Life is an endless cycle of beginnings and endings. It's what we do in the middle that matters. The stories we tell. The times we listen. The ordinary days that become extraordinary because we choose to engage.

I always want to pull meaning from Charlotte's life. She mattered because, she existed because ...

I think we do that with every life. With my grandmother it's easy, but with my baby girl how can I find meaning in the frantic hours she was here?

Maybe it's in the telling. Maybe it's in the pages on the table this morning and what's come after. Maybe it's one more thing God knows and I don't.

Even as I struggle to quantify a life - well two really - I praise God.

Thank you for grandparents who know you. Thank you for heaven. Thank you for calling your servant home. She was weary.

Thank you for a sleeping baby in my arms on a stormy night after a long day.

Thank you for beginnings and endings. Thank you for authoring our days and creating our families.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


I shut the back door of the van on Harper's head today. It was a terrible confluence of events. She was in the wrap - sleeping I thought - and I was tossing a bag in the back of the van while the kids waited on the sidewalk. There's a tiny parking lot between a Goodwill and an independent bookstore a few minutes from our house. We park there, go to both stores, and call it a fun morning out. After Goodwill, but before the bookstore, I put the bag in, Harper threw her head back just as I was closing the hatch, and BAM! baby head meets unforgiving door.

Harper cried for a couple minutes, then tucked in and went to sleep. Of course I thought she had a massive concussion. Especially when she transferred to her car seat and continued sleeping all the way home and then in her car seat in the front hallway for fifteen minutes. I called Jonathan, but he doesn't have a job where he can answer the phone often, so I prayed, Lord, if she is seriously injured please make it obvious.

When she woke she was her normal Harper self. There was clearly nothing wrong aside from the large bump on the top of her head. She was in fine form all afternoon, full of jazz with a severe case of the giggles. I felt like the Lord was saying, I'm going to give you enough reassurance to knock you sideways.

Thank you, Jesus.

A few nights ago I received a message: There's been a stillbirth ...

Oh Lord have mercy. Too many little ones too soon lately.

Now that's an injury. A deep wound that will never fully heal. When I'm asked what to do, the words that should be said, the phrases that should not be uttered, the best way to walk alongside I wish it was as simple as Harper's injury and recovery:

Watch for a little while. Pray for reassurance. Hopefully there will be laughter soon.

Instead my advice goes something like this:

They - the parents - are in this for life in a very different way than they expected. You can't fix it. The healing will be slow and agonizing. There will be times when a plateau, a place of rest, will be achieved. Valleys will follow. Deep, dark valleys. Grief is not linear. It is work.

If you have children think about what they need when they are sad. Comfort. Kindness. Compassion. Heap those things on the grieving. Bring them warm food, hot water bottles, heating pads, blankets. Draw baths, make tea, leave nourishing soup warming on the stove so all they have to do is fill a bowl.

Acknowledge the missing. Let the birth story spill out of the mother and fill the room. Let her have a moment where she gets to participate in the tradition of telling how she became a mother through birth even though hers was a sorrowful one. Remember that sorrow can also contain joy; it is a complicated vessel. Ask the father what he was most looking forward to doing with his child. Fathers are action. They are teachers and let me show you-ers. They may not miss the newborn, but they are aching for other imagined experiences now lost.

I don't know why some babies don't stay. I feel deeply that they should. I believe that God made them and they are ultimately His, but we are supposed to have them for a time and when that time is narrowed to two hours from expected years the pain is white hot and knife sharp.

The helplessness that sits on those who attend the wounded is crippling. So they reach out. They ask what to do, where to turn, how to help. I give the best answers I can. Eight years later I remember the thoughtless comments and wide eyed stares when I told people what happened, but louder than the thoughtless comments is the silence of those who sat quietly with me. They didn't try to fix it. They didn't hurry me along. They didn't admonish me to get over my loss. They let me be still until the grief lifted enough for me to move.

If you're walking with someone who is hurting - be still. Listen. Rest often.

To everyone who asks, what do I do?

Thank you. Your willingness is a light in the darkness.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

top (30!!) books of 2018

It wasn't easy. I didn't think I was going to make my goal. I read less than last year. But 150 books is still a whole lotta books!

In 2017 I read 185 books. So birthing a baby, caring for the sweet one, homeschooling a first grader and keeping up on life in general equals 35 fewer books read. It's like a complicated math problem:

If Angela can read x amount of pages in x amount of hours, but has a new baby and is teaching one child first grade and running a household how many fewer books will she read in 2018?

The answer is .......


Yes, I read fast. Yes, I don't watch much TV.

But even if you only read one book this year, well done. Next year, aim for two. Reading is good for you and your kids need to see you off your phone and away from the TV with printed material in your hands. (Yes you can read on a screen, but why?)

Since 2016 I've tracked my reading in a little blue and white striped notebook. If I love a title it gets an asterisk next to it. Here's the ones I marked this year:

* Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo: memoir, education, reading

* It's All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan: random, fascinating

* The History of Bees by Maja Lunde: don't let the bees die, gloomy

* The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente: middle reader, Europe, history, fantasy

* Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education by Susan Wise Bauer: education, homeschool, parenting, very important

* Little Soldiers:  An American Boy, A Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu: parenting, education, America, China, unsettling

* Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner: grief, loss, compassion, important

* Mommy Burnout by Dr. Sheryl G Ziegler.: my life, parenting, self-help

* Montaigne in Barn Boots: an Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy by Michael Perry: memoir, philosophy, lit-crit, funny

* Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children by Sara Zaske: parenting, Europe, Germany, America, no more helicopters

* Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd: memoir, grief, loss, funny

* The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall: children's lit, series, love

* I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda : non-fiction, memoir, America, Africa, letters

* How to Walk Away by Katherine Center: quick, light, hello, beach

* The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland: books, bookstore, bibliophile

* I'll Push You: A Journey of 500 miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck: memoir, travel, Europe, Spain, inspirational, overachievers

* Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce: WWII, Europe, London, entertaining (perfect for Guernsey fans)

* Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis: motivational, self-help, get happy

* One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler: hilarious, real life, memoir, so many kids

* The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King: biography, Mister Rogers, education, child development, fascinating

* The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie: education, reading, homeschool

* Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to be Noticed by Sara Hagerty: truth, wisdom

* Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell: memoir, Alzheimer's, front lines, medicine

* Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle by Natasha Lowe: children's lit, sweet, magical, laughed out loud

* Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton: children's lit, read-aloud, art, bravery, friendship, fantasy, excellent message

* The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser: middle reader, big family, kindness, New York, series

* Educated by Tara Westover: memoir, religion, survivalists, abuse, determination, growth, incredible, still recovering

* Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon: unreliable narrator, mystery, memory care, care home,friendship

*Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield: compelling, lyrical, mystery, fabulous storytelling

*The Library Book by Susan Orlean: history, fire, mystery, LA, libraries, books, bibliophile, fascinating

Wow!! That's a big list! Could I narrow it down to 10? Probably not. If I add in the books I read to the kids I could easily list another 30.

What's my 2019 goal? I think I'll stick with 150 and see how I do!


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