Saturday, January 28, 2012


Two beds
One Bathroom
Five plates
Five bowls
Five sets of silverware
Five glasses
One fry pan
Two sauce pans
One coat per person
One drawer of clothes per person
One weeks worth of food and no more
One deck of cards
One box of crayons
One box of markers
Old scrap paper and one coloring book
One backpack of toys for three kids to share
Six books


At home we have multiples of everything it seems. Plates and cups and bowls galore. To eat on, to play with, or to serve with in case 30 people show up. We have a whole drawer of crayons, pencils, markers, and paint. A WHOLE DRAWER! (I could do a lot with that drawer.) We have a dress coat, a ski coat, a spring coat, a green coat, a jean jacket. I have three pairs of mittens and hats per kid in case we have friends who need them, or we loose a pair. We have snow boots, rain boots, and dress boots. We have two pantries of food. And our house isn't even that big. We have toys and books galore. We have clothes in access. We have shelves of movies we never watch. We are storing furniture we never use.

It takes me ten minutes to clean our hotel room because it isn't littered in stuff. I don't have anything to organize because all of our simple things have a place to be.

I can't believe how free I have felt this week. I have had extra time to read to my kids. To talk to my husband. To color. To write. To read for myself. To invest in the people in my life and myself. I have experienced what it feels like to not be burdened down with stuff.

We drove to our house today to drop a load of laundry off. Sitting outside waiting for Paul, I could feel my anxiety rise. I look at that house and I see projects for all my stuff. Cleaning my stuff. Organizing my stuff. Filing my stuff. Purging my stuff. Putting my stuff away. Washing our stuff. Picking up our stuff. Labeling our stuff.


We need so little to live. We need so little to be happy. We need even less to have thriving, healthy relationships.

I feel like I purge our home twice a year and I am always amazed at how much I get rid of. And now, after this week and the experience of the freedom of stuff, I can't wait to go home and purge even more.

I have stuff cluttering my life. I have stuff cluttering my brain. I have stuff cluttering my heart. I have stuff cluttering my time. I have stuff cluttering my relationships.

I want less.

I want simple.

I want more life.

I want less stuff.

But I want to keep the maid.

And the free coffee.

And the free wine.

Can I do that?

True honesty in humlity

I try hard to be honest, to not mislead or misrepresent myself .

I would compulsively lie in High School. I watched it damage my relationship with my parents, friends, co workers, and teammates. I hurt people and scarred myself for life. For years it took an active choice on my part not to lie.

To lie all the time, you have to be constantly aware of the stories you are telling people. It takes up all your brain power and energy to keep all your stories straight. Lying is exhausting. And in the process, you loose yourself.

I hated living like that.

That is why honesty is so important to me now. I don't like to hide things and most of the time I will say what is on my mind. I also never want to appear as something other than what I really am. (I hate the idea that some could look at my facebook photos and think my little family has it all together. Shocker: WE DON'T!!! We are a mess, truly.) I want to be real and transparent. I want people to know they can believe the words that come out of my mouth. I want to be honest. I want to live in truth.

But I am terrible at being honest to myself or about myself.

I have found that as honest as I can be with others, I deeply struggle with being honest with myself about myself. Even more specifically, if being honest paints me in a good light, I really struggle with that.

I was reading the Momastery blog the other day. It is a great sight and was wonderful getting to know the woman behind the blog. As I was reading her story, I was struck that she could say great things about herself when describing herself to us, the reader.

When I found that odd, I realized that if someone asked me to describe myself, I'm not sure how many good qualities I could list. What I would say is, "I am a mess. I'm too lazy to get up early and get dressed most days, I am addicted to TV, I am controlling, I am a secret eater, I don't manage time well, I am an overachiever, I loose good people and friendships in life, I'm too harsh on my kids, I am unbalanced, I'm too hard on myself, I am a perfectionist, I procrastinate, I am forgetful, I don't know contentment, I am a binge spender, I don't do life well, I don't trust God very well, I am a control freak, I live in fear, I don't know AGAPE love. I am a mess."

I see this list and I agree with everything I wrote. You may not or you may excuse some of the things I wrote, but the bottom line is I believe these things about myself. The sad realization is there isn't one good thing on here. It isn't even on my radar to think of something positive about myself, and if I do then it just feels wrong. Saying that feels even worse. Knowing our positive qualities and acknowledging the good in us is a healthy self-esteem.

What's funny is if I was going to list some of my better qualities, I couldn't do it in a concrete way. Sometimes I am thoughtful. I can be patient. I am loyal to friends who live close. I am fun to be with short term.

It's tough and frustrating to know that I have a much unhealthier self awareness than I realize. I thought I was pretty confident and self aware, but I didn't realize that I don't have a very high opinion of myself. I don't say that to beg or illicit compliments, I just wonder if this is true for others.

I wonder if our effort to be humble, we depreciate our value.
In our effort to think of others as better than ourselves, we emotionally sabotage ourselves.

My weakness and shortcomings are apart of me. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't work good in me also. By not acknowledging the strengths, I am discounting the progress God has made in my life. The things he has done through me. The characteristics I want to pass along to my children.

We all possess good and bad. Strength and weakness.

Why is so hard to stand strong in our strengths? By admitting to my strengths does that mean I am then conceited? I think too much of myself? I am now better than others?

I think that is only true if we separate our strengths from our weakness. If we look only to our weakness, then we have an healthy low self-esteem. If we look only to our strengths than we have an unhealthy high self-esteem. When we can see the good, the bad, the ugly, the grace, the strength, the weakness, and Christ in the middle of it all, we are humble. We are humble because we realize for all the weakness, he is there. For all our strength, he is the source.

I wasn't expecting to read Momastery and have this reaction. Clearly I have some work to do in my prayer time this week. I need a healthier self-awareness.

I heard someone say one time it isn't self-esteem, its God-esteem.

I like that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Downtown Scavenger Hunt

The Tietjen's are staying down this week due to the final repairs being done in our home from the Tornado almost nine months ago. It was a lot of work to find a hotel that provided a full kitchen, two rooms and was close to school and work, which are both downtown. We lucked out and are staying at the Depot.

Once here we discovered that the pool is only open on the weekends. This was a bit of a shock to me and my plans of spending all of our free time in the pool. My kids have Friday off of school, so I thought, what am I going to do with them during the day stuck in a hotel room?

Well, the pool opens in the afternoon, so that left the morning. Paul works downtown, just a few blocks away, so I decided to take the kids on a downtown adventure. Before we got going, I grabbed a piece of paper and drew 12 empty boxes, then I filled in each square with something they had to find on our walk. If we found all 12 things, we got 15 extra minutes at the water park. I tried to think of things that would be easy to spot, but not all once. I included a tree, someone riding a bike, the river, a sculpture, a bookstore, someone using their manners, someone drinking coffee, etc. Random stuff like that.

So I gathered the kids around then brought out my Bible and shared with them what I had read in my devotion yesterday morning. It was Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." We decided this would be our motto for the day. We could remind each other about it when someone started to slip up. (Which we all did when we all REALLY needed to go the bathroom. It was very helpful.) After we talked about that, we brought out our game, discussed the rules, and we were set to go.

We started with stretches.

I had brought Rice Chocolate milk, since my kids can't get anything at a coffee shop, and I heated it up in our room and poured it in travel cups. They felt like grown ups and we had a warm beverage to start our winter walk. Little finished hers before we left the hotel. That girl and her chocolate, seriously.

We started out by heading to the Guthrie which is this architectural dream and the only building in the United States by this particular designer. It has a beautiful bridge that looks out over the water, and a fun see through floor when you make it up nine flights.

We spent some time there, and took some fun photo's.

The first would be the fact that my kids all passed out and laid down because they were so tired after five blocks. They have no social etiquette yet.

At one point when Middle was standing over the looking glass floor staring at the street and he cried, "I'm scared! I'm scared! My heart is beating wildly!" That kid cracks me up.

This is a bad shot, but you can see the ground in the yellow part.

After the Guthrie we headed back towards the high rises and the skyway to wander around, explore and meet up with Paul for lunch. During our walk, (which by the way, Little walked all ten blocks by herself and only on about block 11 did she asked to be carried. She was not going to get outdone by her brothers.) the kids were picking up dirty ice/snow chunks and calling them ice crystals. I looked at them. Thought about it. Then I decided I didn't care. Let them play with dirty snow with gloves on. It makes 'em happy.

We walked slowly. We found stuff on our scavenger hunt and crossed it off. We found cool little nooks for forts and played a while. We starred at the river. Then we finally made it to the sky way bathroom.

That's where we took this picture.

The kids were rewarded with a juice that they shared.

Then we found dad for lunch at Chipotle. You can eat Gluten/Dairy/Soy/Sugar/Meat free there. It's great!

Paul sent us on his own adventure in the sky way to find him. He sent us photo clues on my phone to let us know we were headed in the right direction. It was super fun!

14 blocks and waking up early did Little in. We knew it was time to go when the crying would stop matter who held her. She had lost all ability to find reason. So we all made a wish in the wishing pond and headed home while the snow started to fall.

It was a great day downtown. We found everything on our scavenger hunt, so after nap time, (it's eerily quiet here right now) we plan on suiting up and hitting the water park. Now I think I need a nap.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chinese New Year - The year of the Dragon

Today Big celebrated with his whole school the Chinese New Year. I volunteered to help do the kids face paint. Big was very adamant to clarify it was not make up, it was paint. Like soldiers, or costumes at Halloween.

It was fun to be at his school. I haven't had much opportunity to volunteer there, and that is guilt that I am trying to let go of. Being in his school is always so eye opening because of how little understand. Everything around me is written and spoken in Chinese. It's almost like we put our kid on a different playing field completely that we can't relate to. Really great parenting right?! (He is thriving and loves teaching us all sorts of Chinese, but today it was very apparent how different his life is than one I understand.)

So there I am with the other moms setting up our stations to transform these young one for their big performance that evening. I love going and having the kids say, "Big is that your mom?" I wonder, do they ask cause they love my outfit, (it was great today, one of my favorite actually, hoping Big would be proud of his mama) or do they say it because they wonder who the crazy lady is. (Paul would vote for this option, always.) I love seeing my kids face light up when I show up. He is the light of my life, so I love that the feeling is mutual.

Somehow, in the event of splitting up the painting responsibilities, I got glitter duty.

Oh yeah, that's right, I got to brighten the world today by sprinkling glitter on all the kids faces. That way, when they took the stage and the lights hit them, they would have a little extra something to make them shine.

Here's Big before being painted.

Here's Big with his dragon painting covered in glitter.

I also had dust glitter and a compact with me, so all the girls wanted to be turned into pixie dust fairies and see themselves in the mirror. All the boys wanted red glitter on the flames on their face so that it would be scary. Ha, I love boys and girls.

Here is the class waiting to for the last few kids to get painted.

After the two little ones and I couldn't find any parking and walked half a mile down a main street without a sidewalk in the freezing cold, we made it inside just in time. (can you tell how I feel about that?) When the dragon hit the stage, Little was sitting in her chair and she looked at me and said, "puppy? no no. puppy? no no. all done. bye bye. all done." I took her comment to mean, "I don't like this. Please make that large dog go away." While I appreciate her commentary, all I kept thinking was, "come on girl, that isn't a dog, its a dragon! Who's teaching you the proper animals? Oh crap, that was supposed to me." Needless to say, she was not a fan.

The Yinghua New Year performance allowed each class to feature a song or dance, putting them in the spotlight for their moment in time.

Here are some of the highlights.

Here is a class doing the dragon dance, you know, because its the year of the dragon.

This class reenacted a song/story about a farmer who went out to pick his vegetables. What was really funny about this was the kids dressed up like animals pulling big stuffed felt carrots off the other kids heads. Weird? Yes. And my kids sat there a little confused the whole time.

At this point Little was not sure about any of this. She just kept looking at me and saying, "all done. all done. no no no no. all done" with a look of fear on her face. I wasn't sure if she was against bright colors, fans, little kids, singing, dancing, Chinese people or China in general, bright lights, glitter, the stage, or the costumes. These kind of sound like all things that would get her movin and grovin' but she was having none of it.

She eventually settled into the rhythm of the event and at least got to sporting a bored face instead of scared.

Then she discovered the stairs, her freedom, and she started mimicking all the moves and language. I'm pretty sure she thought she was speaking Chinese. So what did we learn? That my daughter's strong opinion can easily be bought with persuasion and glitter. That it might just take her awhile to warm up to new things, but then once on board, she is your strongest supporter. Or she just felt trapped and gave up and enjoyed the show.

This was one of my favorites. These boys were flirting with the girls, trying to get them to come over to their side of the stage. The girls below were being shy and coy and telling the boys to go away. I like the principles of this school.

Here is Big and his class. They did a very fun dance with paper towel tubes that they decorated, a head band that they braided, and their uniforms. Big wasn't afraid at all, did all the moves and singing and even threw in a few extra hip moves. Oh man, that kid likes to dance, mostly to the tune in his head.

Now a few mom thoughts:

I couldn't believe how big my son felt to me tonight. He was so grown up and I couldn't help it, I cried feeling all those things that mom's feel when their baby is growing up so fast. I am so thankful he is still a snuggler. I would then look over to my other two kids and think, Middle you are going to school next year and you will be up with Big in one year. Man how did that happen?

I was so proud of my son. So, so proud of him. I couldn't take my eyes off him. He was strong, great, silly, goofy, and seriously kept throwing his hips around like he couldn't help it.

When it was all done, I got to throw my arms around and look him in the eye and tell him how great he did. We drove back to the hotel where I had his favorite dinner waiting. After reading stories and brushing teeth, he asked me to pray over him when he was tucked in.

I guess my baby isn't a grown up yet. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dunn Brothers

It was at this time last year that I was preparing to go to Haiti for my first time after the Earthquake. It had been a long hard year watching friends and relatives go while I had to stay back. Listening to their stories of helping, witnessing, rebuilding, sharing and loving on those I have come to love. In a sentence, it sucked. I mean don't get me wrong, I was happy for them, and it's not about me, but it kind of felt like it in a selfish sort of way. I really wanted to go, and having a newborn made that a little tricky. So now it was my turn. I was on my way.

I was flying standby the next morning, so the day was a day of preparation and hanging out with the kids before I left for five days. Nothing was packed yet, but I had the whole day and wasn't worried about it. Your needs are pretty small while in Haiti. Throw some skirts and T-shirts in a bag and call it good, is kind of the way I roll.

Well, I got a call saying that it would be better for me to fly out today, instead of tomorrow.

Oh...I can swing that, sure. No problem. (um...what am I thinking?)

I start making phone calls to connect with the husband. Discuss kids, meals, schedule. Got it. There will be no kiss goodbye or one last hug and be safe. This is was it. Our morning good bye was all she wrote.

Make a few phone calls to find someone to watch the kids till Paul got home. Got it.

Make a few phone calls to find a ride to the airport. Doesn't work.

Clean dishes. In my dreams.

Pick up house. Not on my life.

Grab my passport... Grab my passport.... Where is my passport? Wasn't it right here on my dresser?

I check my file folder. Not there.

I check our secret hiding spot. Not there.

I check my dresser. Not there.

I check my jewelry boxes....And then it hits me. My jewelery boxes were the only thing stolen when our home was broken into at Christmas. My jewelery boxes that housed my passport that I pulled out to travel with when Paul and I were scheduled to go to Haiti the previous month. I am two and half hours away from needing to drop my kids off at my friends house so I can travel to Haiti and I have now just discovered that I don't have a passport.

At this moment, it felt like everything in the universe was keeping me from going to Haiti. (I know its still all about me right?) My whole soul hurt. I felt defeated.

I immediately called my friend Lindsey and I'm pretty sure she thought someone had died when she picked up the phone and I was sobbing. Loudly, uncontrollably crying. I couldn't go. I wasn't going to make it again. And Linds does what she does best, she solves my problems. She discovered online that there are only a small handful of emergency passport issuing locations. Guess where there's one? Yea, that's right, Minneapolis. Downtown, five minutes from my house.

It's 1pm, and my kids are still in the pajamas, we haven't eaten lunch and I look at them and say, we have to leave...NOW. They put boots over their footy jammies, and throw on a coat and hat. It's January in MN, which means its -degree's outside at all times.

I throw some crackers and carrots in my purse and call it good. I load up the kids and we navigate our way to find the government building we are looking for.

We find it. I find street side parking. I have two quarters to pay for half an hour of parking. I drag my kids in their jammies without gloves and protective gear, and deciding to carry Little because the stroller would be too much work. What I forget is how much that girl can eat and what a tank she is. So we run to the building, we struggle with hats and coats and bags through the metal detector, and find the office.

I pick a number. I wait my turn. When my number is called, I have my paperwork filled out. I chat with the gentleman for a few minutes and it is then that he informs me that I need a photo.

OH CRAP I totally forgot about the photo!

He says I can get it taken at the downtown post office just two blocks away.

You have got to be kidding me. My kids are in sleeping gear, they haven't eaten and now I have to walk with them two blocks to get my photo taken to return to this building and wait for them to possibly issue me a new passport.

I grab the kids, we walk to the car to feed the meter. I have no more change. I drag them back inside, through the metal detectors with the coats and hats and bags. We get change. We put all said items back on. We go out side and feed the meter. Little has put on five pounds already since we started this little journey I can feel it.

We head in the direction of the post office. I can't see it, but the nice man in the government building swears its there. My kids are freezing and decide to take a stand against the mommy who did everything wrong that day. The mommy who desperately needs them to keep walking, but its windy and below freezing and they are cold and hungry. I give one glove to Big and he puts both hands in it. I give middle the other glove and he puts both hands in it. I wrap my scarf around middle to keep the wind off his face. He's my loudest screamer and complainer so I wanted to tame the beast. I give my hoodie under my coat to Big to make him feel warmer. I am now without any of these things, FREEZING my arse off, carrying my tank of a kid that is throwing my back into spasms. The kids look homeless, or like they have a mommy who doesn't have a clue, and to lift their spirits and keep the complaining at bay, I make them sing.

Yup, you heard me. I made them sing. So there we are, homeless and clueless and singing to brighten our day. I have said before that we resemble a circus and I meant it.

We made it. That two blocks felt like ten. It was more like four since I got took a wrong turn. Yes, I screwed up even two block directions, I get it, I'm not winning an award that day.

My time is quickly evaporating and the stress is becoming more real. I'm not sure I will get my passport in time to drop off my kids and make it to the airport.

When we reach the line, I notice a sign on the door that says, "photographer on break, be back in 15 min." My heart sank. I didn't have 15 min. This is also when my kids decide that they need to use the bathroom. Well, this should take 20 min. So hurry. We rush. We do it, and we are back in line. The lady showed up. I got my picture taken, and we bundled up again to make it our two blocks to see if, yes, maybe, mom can get her passport.

We are half walking, half running, I am half dragging my kids down the street. I am pretty sure I promised them all sorts of things, maybe even the moon if they could just keep up. We made it back. We go once more through the metal detectors, seriously those things are annoying, and we are in line. This is when the nice man behind the counter informs me there is a 30-60 min wait for the passport to be issued.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME? Well, we'll do our best. We have eaten our crackers and now my kids have realized that in fact, that was the worst lunch ever, and not really a lunch if you ask them. I remember there was an old Dunn Brothers on the corner where we parked.

Yes, I did. I took them outside again, and went to the coffee shop and I got them a hot chocolate and treat for letting me abuse them for the last hour. We were sweating and freezing at the same time. They have boots on with footie jammies. Their hair is unbrushed and staticy. We are a sight for sore eyes. I'm on the phone with the airlines, Paul, the cab company and possible hotels for me to stay at that night. I looked at my kids and said, "This is a fun adventure right?" They all cheered.

After we enjoyed our treats, we went back to the government building, went through the metal detectors AGAIN, and my passport was ready. We grabbed it, we ran to the car, we made it home. I think I wished my kids clothes on, because somehow they had changed, and I carefully and slowly drove them to my friends house. (wink)

I made my flight. In some act of God and wonderful miracle, I went to Haiti that day. I can write about that trip another time.

What's funny about this story is we are staying at a hotel downtown this week while they redo our ceilings from the tornado. We drove up to the hotel and my kids exclaimed, "Mama! That is where we had our adventure!"

And they were right. We are on the same block as Dunn Brothers this week.

Funny thing is, we picked this hotel for its location and full kitchen. But it also has a pool. Apparently this pool is only open on the weekend. Go figure. So I guess I'll take our already planned swimming time and we can take a walk down to Dunn Brothers.

Maybe we won't look homeless this time. Maybe I have learned something in a year.

Maybe not.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Food issues in unexpected places

Yesterday I wrote about the difficulty to live in a place of not knowing and reevaluating behaviors all the time. (I think this hits all parents.)

There was an afternoon where we had company over and Big had an episode. It was a strong flashback to days gone by, memories I would like to trade, and my responses being so far below appropriate. I was trying so hard to keep my cool, but really, really struggling. I went upstairs where our friend lives and asked him to come downstairs and take care of the kids while I found my control. I needed a couple moments to find God’s peace, seek His guidance and find my composure. I started to weep and in frustration ask “Why?” What did he eat? Would he lie about it if I asked him about school? And God quietly spoke to me, “Sometimes the why doesn’t matter or what he ate doesn’t matter. He will eat things that will hurt him. That is a fact. Things that will make him angry and loose all control. We have to teach him how to handle himself and find control even in these situations. We have to learn how to deal with it, regardless.” So from that day, we have tried to live that way.

However, I have also learned that when my gut is speaking to me, I need to listen. Sometimes the why or what does matter because the answer brings freedom and understanding and a healthier way of living.

Which brings about another story.

It was days before Christmas and small behaviors started to come out again. Constant pushing the boundaries and rules. Constant disagreement. Constant arguing. No threshold for sharing or speaking politely. Angry at the world for every little thing that doesn’t go his way. The key word here is CONSTANT.

I need you to understand that I have a strong idea of sin and knowing that it is apart of our life. Knowing that that we naturally have these tendencies, these reactions, these behaviors. They are very normal. But when my nice boy never shows up, and then, Big is distant and irritated all the time, my gut tells me something is off.

This is what it was like before Christmas. His behavior was different than if he ate something, but at the same time, something was off. Paul and I could both tell, but we had no idea where to start figuring it out. We felt lost. I don’t like asking big about what he ate every time something feels off. I don’t want it to be an excuse for him. So we patiently wait and watch and pray.

I was deeply sadden this time because we were heading down to Texas for Christmas where my mother-in-law spent the last couple weeks shopping and preparing special meals for us, and instead of taking our healed son to be with her at Christmas, we were bringing our enhanced son.

(We have started talking about Big’s responses in this way because his feelings and reactions are normal, but they come out in the most extreme way when he is filling his body with toxins. So he isn’t really crazy, his emotions, responses, lack of control are enhanced. More extreme. Get it?)

He was HIGHLY distracted on the plane. He couldn’t focus. He was angry that we weren’t going to Denver. He was on edge and distant and frustrated with us.

Christmas got a little better and then we came home. Things were starting to feel off again. Then when I was away in Baltimore speaking with my friend Henry Graf I was talking to Paul. He told me our contractor was over working and cleaning up the mess upstairs from the repairs he did to the ceiling. Then it hit me. Henry’s wife got very sick when she visited this summer because she slept next to an open piece of drywall, and she is highly allergic to wheat. Drywall has a large wheat component.

The whole ceiling upstairs was getting ripped down and rebuilt. Dust was everywhere. He wasn’t eating anything but his body was absorbing the toxins.

It is fascinating to me the body’s response to food and toxins.

Yes, we need to move forward from the reason for the behavior and work on our responses to the world and what is happening. We can try to control our behavior and responses. However, we can’t tune out completely because something might be truly be hurting you. When Big is getting filled with toxins, its like he is living half a life. He has hardly any joy, he fights with his friends and can’t focus on school. Everything we do as a family is filled with stress. So yes, I always want to keep my eyes open so that maybe I can notice if something is wrong and I can help him to the best of my ability.

I don’t know where you stand on the issue and frankly it doesn’t matter. But just as I never saw my son through the eyes of someone else who could notice behaviors, I encourage any parent who might have some doubts to pray over the situation. Teaching our kids how to control themselves is a critical life skill, however, there might be something real going on that is keeping your child from embracing their real self. I am not saying that every temper tantrum is cause for pills or a gluten free diet. Big still has temper tantrums. He’s an opinionated strong willed six year old that lives in a sinful world. It happens. But never underestimate your sixth sense, your gut. It’s always right.

So if you didn’t know…Drywall has wheat in it.

They need to work more upstairs next week to fix the mistakes they made. We are getting our insurance company to put us up in a hotel due to our issue. I sure hope that works.

And if you think I’m making this up, it has been unbelievable the difference in both my sons the last week once the cleaning company came. We knew something was up, but we couldn’t figure it out. Another lesson learned in our adventure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The spectrum

I’ve heard it twice now.

The spectrum.

People refer to this when they are talking about Autism.

It’s the Autism spectrum.

This means that there are all levels and all reflections of this issue and each has its name from classic Autism to Aspergers to ADD and ADHD to Sensory disorders.

I wouldn’t have put my son on this level. In fact I wasn’t looking, wasn’t paying attention and it was even suggested to be by a friend. I was thrown off and put off that someone would think something was wrong with my son.

He was just an active boy.

He has always been full of energy.

He was curious and asked tons of questions.

He gets angry because he’s tired.

He pushes all my buttons because he’s my kid.

He questions all my decisions because we taught him to have a voice.

He yells and screams because he learned it from us.

He cries a lot because he is very sensitive and emotional.

He can’t hear me because he’s focusing.

He couldn’t do martial arts because it was new to him and he’s just young.

I had a reason for each behavior. Please hear me that I’m not saying that any of these above reasons weren’t or aren’t true. My point is I wasn’t looking for a diagnosis for my son. I wasn’t looking for medical clues to his behavior. I was just looking at my son.

If he were tested, he may fall into one of these categories. I’m not confident in that statement, but when I know how he responds to eating food he shouldn’t, I can see many of these qualities in him. The only thing we know for sure according to doctors is that he has leaky gut. What I know in my gut is that he would be on the spectrum.

When I knew that he was probably on the spectrum, I all of a sudden saw him different. Almost like there was something wrong with him. He “had” something. Please forgive this statement because I don’t look at other children that way, I never have, but when it’s your own child, I think this is a natural first reaction.

I was looking at him as a kid “with” something instead of just my kid. I hated this even more.

I find I am talking about this in past and present tense because it was something I felt, but still experience as it sneaks up on me. It sneaks up on me because I don’t know how to live in this space of just looking at my son for who he is, and yet keeping half an eye open to his behavior and trying to figure it out or navigate my way through more issues. (I don’t assume that even though we have come this far, that we are quite done yet. The body is complicated and fascinating.)

How do just look at my son and not his behavior when he is always behaving? Behaving good, behaving badly, behaving badly, behaving tired, behaving with a giving spirit, behaving with a sad spirit, behaving cranky. I have to look at the behavior but not make it about food or his brain, or his stomach all the time.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to look at him and not his issue.

I don’t know how to look at his issues and separate it from him.

Most of the time I just feel exhausted as we navigate our way through food issues. And even while we navigate through one child, there is still the other one who has severe wheat and peanut issues. It presents itself on his skin and in his behavior.

I don’t know how to do this. How to figure out what’s going on with my child and help him along the way.

I hope I get better at this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I have a dream

Thank you Martin Luther King Jr.

Thank you for a being a voice for so many.

Thank you for having a vision and a dream.

Thank you for giving others a vision and a dream.

Thank you for standing up.

Thank you for your faith.

Thank you for acting out in faith.

Thank you for dedicating your life for others to live.

Thank you for being an inspiration.

But I hope that we can live up to your dream. I hope the everyday people of this world can live in your dream and fight for your dream and be a voice for that dream.

I hope that everyday people don't just leave it up to you. Or Bono. Or the Jolie/Pitts. Or President Carter. Or President Clinton. Or missionaries. Or pastors. Or gang leaders. (Yes I believe they are trying to fight for a dream, just in the wrong way, the only way they know how.) Or celebrities. Or government officials. Or NGO's. Or non-profits. Or your neighbor.

I have found that often times I leave the responsibility to make the world a better place or live differently to inspire others, or to truly make a difference up to others. I leave it up to the people who have the money to do it. The time to do it. The education to do it. The desire to give their lives to the cause. I mostly leave it up to others because even though I want things to be better, I don’t know where to start, or I honestly am just too lazy to do it, clinging to all my tried and true excuses.

I believe that what Rev. King was trying to do was empower the average person to live differently. To live outside of their prejudice. To turn away from hate and embrace love. To hold their tongue when only destructive words were going to come out. To pray to the almighty God for strength to change their dark hearts and hard habits. To live in big life changing moments in our ordinary days.

But that takes active participation on our part. We have to engage in being the difference. We have to do our part.

A speaker I heard once said, “The need is the call.” What this meant to me was that all throughout our day we are presented with needs. There are people in our everyday lives who desperately need us to intervene. God needs us to intervene, to be apart of bringing love into this place. Where the prayer says, “Thy kingdom come…” we are able to bring small glimpses, diving moments of the holy into this place. To be apart of the dream.

So I challenge myself…Where in my life can I bring divine moments into ordinary life? Where can I serve my family? Where can I heal my neighbors? What can I do to love a stranger? A co-worker? A kid? The elderly? My enemy. The person I don’t notice?

I want to live in the dream.

I want the dream in my heart.

I want to be an inspiration for others to live the dream.

I want to teach my kids to be the dream.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haiti two years later

I wasn't there.

I was preparing to be there. I had all my bags packed. I had dropped off my kids at my folks home in Detroit. I had money. I had supplies. I had a team ready to go. I was driving on the interstate through downtown Chicago with Rachel, the other leader of the team and fellow board member of the Haiti Mission Project. We got the call from our friend Andy.

There's been a 7.2 earthquake in Haiti.

I thought I didn't hear him right. You meant a Hurricane right?


We had no details right away. All we knew is that we had a dear friend and fellow board member on the ground in there. We have friends, long time friends that have become family to us down there. We have compassion children there. We have partners there. We have a history there. We have a life there.

Two years almost to the month previous, Rachel and I were leading a team and I was driving down the same interstate when Andy called then to report massive rioting in the streets due to no food. Our trip was cancelled then. I had dread in my heart. I had fear in my mind. I had anxiety running through every cell of my body.

I couldn't drive us fast enough to Rachel's apartment where we could turn on the TV. And that is where we sat for the next four days. We sat glued to our TV. We sat, both of us with computers in our laps. Sitting next to each other, not really talking. Just looking. Watching. Waiting. And then we would cry. We would hold hands and we would cry. We would ask empty questions. We wondered. We prayed. We hoped. And then we read more. We watched more.

(I have to give a wonderful shout out to my parents who kept the kids for the next few days so we could figure out a plan. Because she had them, I was able to immerse myself in the news. I could dedicated all of my attention to what was happening. Thank you Mom and Dad for that gift.)

That night of the earthquake we knew in our hearts that our trip was cancelled. First you go through the mental shift of, can we get in? What do we do if we get in? What do we bring supply wise? And can I still go even though I am seven months pregnant.

We spent that first night trying to locate our people down in Haiti. Are they alive? Are they OK? We were reassured they were. We were fielding all sorts of question, emails, voice mails about if people we knew, contacts we had. We spent days answering everyone we could and finding and delivering information as best we could.

After we knew that first night that our people were alive, we then needed to call airlines, Embassy's, churches, team members, family members all to figure out if our team was still going in.

The airlines and government said no. Not for weeks.

Some team members really struggled and claimed that we were being cowards by walking away and not going when Haiti needed us the most. This was probably the hardest part to digest because it voiced my inner fear. I know what that felt like. I wanted to find a way in. I was hearing of other groups chartering planes in. Going in through the DR. Getting military planes, even getting to the DR with a plan of just walking across the boarder and hitching a ride. People were finding any way possible to go and help. And we were staying put. It was SO HARD to sit by and not help.

But we had to stop and think things through. There was rubble everywhere. Millions were lost and homeless. What they needed was medical care, fluent creole speakers, bulldozers and cranes with machine workers, Counselors. They didn't need us taking up space and supplies with very little training and aid.

The best way to help Haiti was to stay put. The hardest part of helping Haiti, was staying put.

So we didn't. The Haiti Mission Project (HMP) got fire under our feet and in one week we put together the Haiti Relief Benefit concert. We were one of the very first relief organizations to put a fundraiser together. We had inside venues to deliver money. We could bypass large organizations where money gets stuck to red tape and we could gather funds and deliver. And so we did.

I was proud of the HMP in that moment, and how much money we raised. I was excited to see how the funds were supporting building projects, medical relief and individual families in the years after the quake. But this post isn't about that.

Life changed forever that day. For the country of Haiti. For all those who didn't know she existed and now do. And for all of those who have loved her for a long time.

I wasn't there that day, but it changed me. It made me aware that we can't measure what God does in just one moment, because even in one moment, he is doing many different things. I have learned to be thankful in all circumstances and trust that God is faithful to his creation. He is faithful to deliver. He is faithful to listen. He is faithful in love. He is faithful in compassion. He is faithful in healing.Link

My story in this is not powerful. But there are many stories worth reading and I hope you will take the time to read these stories and maybe continue reading about their ongoing dedication to Haiti and her people.

We can't forget.

Joanna serves with the HMP and was in country when the earthquake happened. This was her blog. January 2010 On the side of her site is her calendar. Click back to Jan. or forward to Feb. and read more about her thoughts post quake.

The Livesays are a family living down in Haiti and I hope you can take the time to read their account of the Earthquake. Their voice and their pictures will capture your heart.

Dr. Jen worked with Joanna and the Livesays after the quake and still. Here is her account.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for praying.

Thank you for giving generously.

Please remember that our lives can be apart of the restoration meant for all mankind if we live intentionally. Living intentionally means to not forget. Do not forget the hardships that others live in and the blessings we live with. To live with a heart for others rooted in Christ. To learn to be moved by the Spirit where he is leading us to care for others.

To the people of Haiti, I love you. Your spirit and dedication of strength in struggle is an inspiration. You have little and yet your spirit is strong. You remain in my prayers. You remain in my conversations that advocate for better living conditions. You remain in my heart and soul. You are not forgotten.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jesus' many super powers

In the car earlier, middle asked out of the blue,

"What super power did Jesus use on the cross?"

What brilliant response was, "What do you mean?"

"I mean he could have flown away, but he didn't. He could have battled all those guys but he didn't, so what super power did he use?"

I thought for a moment and said,

"Obedience. Jesus' super power on the cross was listening and obeying to his Father to stay on the cross so that we would all be healed. His super power is obedience."


That one had me thinking me the rest of the day. Thinking and being grateful and trying to do as Jesus did.

Never underestimate the power of obedience.

I wonder

It's funny, I have a thousand things in my head that I want to say, but I'm never really sure what to share with you. I don't know why you read the blog, I don't know what things about our life that mean the most to you.

When so much time goes by, because life is what it is, and I choose my family and cooking over you, I am left with dozens and dozens of things to share from the last few weeks, but I don't know where to start.

I am not a food blog.

I am not a crafting blog.

I am not a parenting blog.

I am not a devotional blog.

I am not a ministry blog.

I am not a political blog.

I am not a reduce, reuse, recycle blog.

I am not a GF blog.

I don't know what I am.

I guess currently, I am having an identity crisis and don't know where to start with you the reader.

Christmas, New Years, traveling, meltdowns, spiritual awakenings, food revelations, recipes, crafts, life, frustrations, speaking at youth events, revelations all have happened in the last couple weeks, but I don't know which piece of this puzzle I call my life that you are interested in.

Most of the time, in true confession, lately, I think I don't really even understand the point of my blog. What is so unique about what happens in my life that is worth mentioning to others? My life feels very normal and similar to so many I know, so why would you want to read about it?

Alright, I feel like putting that out there at least allows me the freedom to just start anywhere.

Unless you can tell me, why do you read my blog?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Saying good bye to our tree (and a hard year)

We wanted one more night with our Christmas tree. We love our Christmas tree (OK, I know I do, so I'll speak for myself.) and we especially love our house at Christmas. We knew we would be taking our tree down the next day so we wanted one more special evening.

After we watched football and dinner was all cleaned up, we turned all our lights off and sat by the twinkling of our tree. Our Batman toys were near by and so was the flashlight so we started first by having a hoppin dance party where Little was amazingly impressive with her moves and facial expressions. (Seriously, that girl has some swinging hips and she likes to use them. Just. to. funny.) We sang jingle bells while the kids danced and found their favorite Batman toys. Then we played batman for a little while, just the five of us, the flashlight and twinkling Christmas tree. It was so great, and its the kids favorite thing to do, and I think they liked that both Paul and I were playing with them. That is a bit more rare. Once we all settled down and snuggled on the floor we sang "Silent Night".

We had kind of been disconnected all day. We had friends over, the TV was on, chores were getting done, but then we paused everything and came together. (never underestimate the power of erasing a bad day with intentional time with the kiddos.) We took time to have a moment together. To hold on the last affect of our tree and its magic and its power. We looked at our ornaments, we sat still, we snuggled, we hugged, we giggled, we came together. We put everything else aside and said, for this moment in time, nothing else matters except each other. It was wonderful.

(My husband has to laugh at me and how everything has a bit of tradition into it. He probably thought we were just going to take the tree down, and then I turned into this, "We have to have a moment." I need moments for everything it seems!)

I am sad to see our tree go. Sad to say goodbye to all the magic Christmas brings. But at the same time, I welcome the normal rhythms of life to come back again. This year has been crazy for us. Our oldest was at his worst struggling point this time last year. We had four months of crying, yelling, screaming, struggling, talking, crying, yelling, crying, and then our diet changed. Then a tornado hit. Then we traveled for a month. Then the diet changed again. Then we started a new job and new school. Then we took a breath.

It's been a big year and we need some of our rhythms back. Our weekly meetings. Our Friday night family night. Our Saturday Sabbath. Our prayer time over the kids. A workout routine. A weekly meal plan. So many healthy habits have fallen to the wayside to make room for survival. (Which is funny since these things only enhance and make survival actually possible.) But we welcome them. We need them. We say bring it on.

Welcome 2012. With you we hope to find our discipline for life again. We hope to find fulfillment again. We hope to see the benefits to all of our relationships that intentional planning can bring.

We hope for a fruitful year. And selfishly, a slightly easier year.

This is not our tree, but here is my family on Christmas Eve at my in-laws down in Texas. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!