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It’s been a rough cold and flu season at our house. Like so many other families (yours, perhaps?) we’ve been through the wringer. It seems like we’ve been hit with one cold after the next. Throw in Owen’s newly diagnosed seasonal allergies, a few ear infections, fever, pink eye and our recent bout with the stomach flu and you’ll understand why I’ve basically turned into a hypochondriac. “What’s next?” I moan and lament. “What do we do differently?”

When Anna woke up sick on Thursday night, the second child to fall victim to a tummy bug, I cursed a few times under my breath. Jonathan was gone on a business trip and I’d already been trapped at home since Tuesday morning when Owen became sick. I was tired of cleaning up soiled carpets and bed sheets, and frustrated by the amount of work piling up before our upcoming trip. Plus, I was looking forward to MOPS in the morning and those plans would have to be cancelled.

And yet, as the long night wore on, and Anna awoke every two hours to vomit, my heart and perspective slowly (emphasis on slowly) began to change. These days, I have many opportunities to show up for Anna and Owen. I make them three meals a day, and bathe them. I take her to the park, and wash their clothes and kiss them when they fall. But, these caring moments are so frequent, so part of our routine, that my children take them for granted. At their ages, I don’t expect anything different.

But when I sort through the fuzzy and fading memories of my own childhood, I can remember the times my mother would hold back my hair and rub my back and lay down towels on the carpet next to my bed. These moments of physical agony, when we are completely helpless, is when the care of another person is so particularly memorable and meaningful. It is when we’re at our lowest that we truly appreciate and understand the meaning of love.

The last few days have provided many opportunities to pray over my children. I rub my new oils on their bellies, an anointing of sorts, and ask God to heal their bodies. I whisper encouraging words.

“I am so proud of you.” 

“I know this hurts.”

“You are scared and tired but you’ll feel better tomorrow.”

And when she does wake up, we cuddle and read and play all the games I’m often too busy to make a priority. Friday is long and busy, and when they sleep or watch movies, I do load after load of laundry, make meals, sanitize door handles, mop up messes. But in the midst of the crazy, I make an important realization: I am getting better at this job. I am confident. We have routines. I know how to clean up vomit effectively and contain an active toddler at the same time. I’m not a new mom…I am growing up. And the thing is, they are too.

These sick days are gifts, if I treat them as such. She will not always need me and he will not always want me. Someday I will wear a hat they find completely embarrassing, and I’ll cheer for them the wrong way at their soccer game. They’ll lambast me afterwards and I’ll probably cry, feeling like a new mom walking through uncharted territory. “Where did I go wrong,” I’ll ask? “What should do we do differently?”

When these days come, someday, faraway I hope, they will be new opportunities to settle into my motherhood role again. I’ll have to remind myself that just like babies be babies, teenagers are just teenagers. Colds and flus and temper tantrums and missed curfews are not an indication of bad parenting; they are an indication of growing up. And I hope and pray that in their desperate moments they will look back on the nights I rubbed their backs and held their hair, finding full assurance in the deep love surrounding them.

P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love this article in today’s New York Times, “When My Daughter Called Me Sick, from College, I Got on a Plane.”

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The bucket swing is too small

by Lesley on April 2, 2015 · 4 comments

in motherhood

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Today I shoved her legs in the baby swing, because she insisted, and something about the whole operation didn’t feel quite right.  I’ve been trying to ignore the awkwardness of these seats for awhile but when I lifted her, so heavy and long, I finally acknowledged the obvious.

“I think you’re too big for this swing little girl,” I say. She smiles and throws her head back; eyes mischieveious and smile to match. She knows. Earlier this week she used the big kid swing, no problem, pumping her legs with precision and speed like she’s much older than three-and-a-half.

Meanwhile, her little brother giggles from his seat. He walked much of the way to park, stopping to (roughly) pat Sparkles the Cat and yell, “MOW, MOW, MOW” before pushing his own stroller the rest of the way. Little man is turning a corner. The baby who I was convinced might stay a baby forever has suddenly, with no explanation, become happier. Giggly. Babbling. And (besides his severe dislike for being left in the church nursery) Delightful.

It’s mostly an ordinary day, full of routines and time outs and string cheese for snacks, but I notice his belly looks smaller, and her hair is longer, and I’m no longer feeling frenzied like I was for so many months prior.

As a mom it sometimes feels like I’m living in land of Oh, This Again. We’re going to fight about which cereal, again, and argue about whether she has to take a nap, and we’re going to clean up leaky sippy cups and read Little Blue Truck for the ninth time and I’ll insist on brushing her hair and she’ll cry before I even put my brush to her head because that’s all part of the routine.

As babies their growth was nonstop and marked by piles of outgrown clothes, discarded pacifiers, and a boxed up Bumbo. In the toddler and preschool years, growth is slower. Better paced. Agonizing at times. If I don’t look closely, I forget they’re inching out of one phase and into another. One day she’ll brush her own hair, and he’ll read Harry Potter, and they’ll rush out the door without eating a thing because that’s what teenagers do, if I remember correctly.

One day, today, the bucket swing will be too small.

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Happily home

by Lesley on March 24, 2015 · 2 comments

in santa barbara

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A year ago, today, we woke up in Sacramento for the very last time. We’d spent the night at the Melvin’s house, which was appropriate since they hosted us on our first night in Sacramento, and I tossed and turned with dreaded anticipation of the morning, nostalgic about how we’d arrived in 2006 with a tiny moving van and no money, and we left with a much bigger moving van, two children and handfuls of rich memories.

Our years in Sacramento went so fast, but also so slow. They were hard and good years, stretching and beautiful; full of change and growth and the unexpected. Our final days and weeks were no different. The move to Santa Barbara came suddenly, and it was sandwiched between weaning Owen, taking a new job, and saying goodbye to my Grandpa Frank, who died on moving day. In many ways, it felt like we limped out of Sacramento, desperate for a water station and a good massage.

We’ve been here a year, and it only seems appropriate to mark this date with an Amen and a Hallelujah and a Praise God. Santa Barbara pursued us, and we said yes with some reservations, hesitations, and timid feet. And while we still really, really miss the community we had in Sacramento, I think both Jonathan and I would say this last year has been one of the best of our marriage.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this last year has been the breath of air we needed so desperately. It is partly because Jonathan has settled into his new job and really likes it. (And I like that he can easily stop home for lunch a few days a week, when he’s in between court hearings.) I think we’ve also really appreciated a solid 12 months without any major changes, since pregnancies and babies and cancer seemed to flood the years prior. But, as a whole, the biggest thing is that we’ve tried to embrace a new way of living.

Santa Barbara is a vacation town, and we decided on our first day back that we never wanted to grow used to living here, and so we’ve made an effort to create small vacation moments throughout our week. We watch the sunset regularly, and take walks at the harbor on random weeknights. While we miss our little house in Sacramento, we don’t miss yard work, leaky faucet fixing, and all the other things that come with a home built in 1948. Without house upkeep, we’ve been able to spend many weekends as a family; playing on the beach, hiking or picnicking. The thick air, the smell of Eucalyptus leaves, and our church community have all revived my soul and body in a deep way. I also learned how to take care of myself as a mom this past year; accepting that I’m not a bad mom for needing time away from my very needy little boy, and finding small ways to have a break from his constant demands. I’m realizing just how hard I was on myself last year, when Owen was an infant, and I’m thankful that in the middle of a very difficult season with him I was forced to make some healthy changes.

I want to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone reading this is in a sweet season. Maybe you’re in a hard year, or simply having a hard day. Please know that I still have those too.  (In fact, our last week has been filled with a whole host of snot, fevers, vomiting, canceled plans, and mounting deadlines that I just don’t even want to talk about….) Life is never all roses and sunsets and beach days. But, I also want to give praise where praise is due. God brought us home to Santa Barbara, and we are so thankful for our current season of sunshine, and avocados, and new beginnings.

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On women and writing and community

by Lesley on March 15, 2015 · 9 comments

in writing

At this stage of my life, justifying time away from my family is always a battle. There’s the money battle (“Can we afford this?) and the logistics battle (“Who will watch the kids on Friday?”) but, the worst battle of all is the one in my soul. Do I really deserve time away? 

I’m writing from a hotel near Chicago O’Hare Airport, killing time before my flight back to California. My body is tired from staying up too late and a mysterious 1:00am fire drill, but my soul is more than overflowing. Did I deserve the time away? That’s a silly question. Did I need this time away? YES.

I joined the Redbud Writer’s Guild about two years ago, but this weekend was the first time I met many of the women in person. For years I’ve read their books and watched their words pop up on websites like Christianity Today, Relevant, The Gospel Coalition, and Sojourners. These women are shaping Christian culture, advocating for the marginalized and oppressed, filling the world with beautiful poetry and songs, and pointing myself and so many others back to the Gospel through brave, authentic storytelling. They represent many political backgrounds, denominations and races. They range in age from young to old. There are attorneys and seminary grads in the mix, moms and grandmothers, marketers, teachers, a judge, songwriters, pastors and preachers and teachers (or whatever you feel comfortable calling women on the pulpit, wink wink.) But, the thing that unites us is a faith in Christ, and our passion and gifting for the written word.

To be honest, while the weekend was packed with devotions, worship, seminars and panel discussions, the casual conversations were my favorite part. I tried to sit with someone new at every meal and meeting so I could hear about each person’s passions and projects. We talked about everything from how to find a good agent to how to find a good babysitter (the latter is still fuzzy for most of us) and we found encouragement in each other’s successes.

During lunch today I listened to Jenny Rae Armstrong and Amy Buckley discuss how they’re each working on biblical equality education in Africa. (I added nothing to this conversation, just in case you were impressed or wondering.) Not only was I humbled by their minds and hearts for God, but I also loved seeing how He was bringing together women with similar passions and gifting to do crucial KINGDOM work on the other side of the word. (On a related note, check out Amy’s recent article on Relevant called What Does It Look Like to be a Christian Feminist.)

I came into the weekend not knowing what to expect, and I left with clarity and goals for my writing, new friendships and a huge admiration for the work of the Holy Spirit.

If you’re a female, Christian writer please ask me about Redbud. There’s a place for you in our community, and we’d gladly welcome your voice. Thank you Buds, for being a community who shares the same trunk, and blooms together for the same purpose.

And, speaking of thank you, my husband deserve a big one. Jonathan, thanks for brushing Anna’s hair, taking the kids to donuts, and being a generally amazing dad. I needed this time, and you made it happen for me. xoxo

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Stuff I’m into lately

by Lesley on March 5, 2015 · 1 comment

in what i'm into

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You guys, February was fantastic, so don’t let me lack of blogging tell you otherwise. While California’s drought is a bit scary, I have to admit that I’m loving our mild winter. We have spent a lot of time outside as a family, and we’re enjoying the simple things like trampoline jumping, avocado picking, and cul-de-sac playdates with “the neighbor boys.”

…Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Books: I mostly read Amy Poehler’s new book, but skimmed the last half. And I’m almost done with Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Mind. So good.

Music:  Uptown Funk has been on constant repeat since December. Also: Sugar by Maroon 5 is my new jam. The super cute music video, combined with a few family weddings, has given Anna major marriage fever. A few days ago we had a long discussion about the appropriate age to get married. Right now, she’s convinced it’s 16. Sigh.

Food: Anne and Amy’s Chicken Noodle Soup is amazing, but if I shared the recipe I’d have to kill you. (Just kidding. I’m too lazy to type it all out.) We also tried Blue Apron this month because of their “two free meals” deal. The food was delicious, but I didn’t love the concept. Each meal took an hour to cut, chop and prepare. With a little boy who still likes to be held, especially in the late afternoon, I rely on pre-made food, make ahead meals or simple, 15 minute or less prep. Have you tried Blue Apron?

TV/Movies: I made it through the Parenthood season finale, sob, and wish the series wasn’t over forever. Did you watch? We also saw American Sniper (double sob) and I’ve been sneaking in a few episodes of Sister Wives Season 5, because I can’t help myself, and nothing makes laundry folding more fun.

Podcasts (new category!): I’m still really sad that Serial is over. I need it back in my life. But if I’m on the treadmill, I do have a few other favorites. This American Life’s If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS was one of the better podcasts I’ve heard in a really long time.

Wearing: Jenny gave me the greatest ever birthday present: a hand-me-down Lululemon workout top. (She remembered that I wanted one last year, and hers didn’t fit well anymore, so I got it! Score!) I’m also loving this tiny gold ring from Ashlee and my favorite pair of black skinny jeans. The stretch on these babies is so, so forgiving.

A few of my favorite purchases in February: This drawing for our new hallway gallery wall and lots and lots of Girl Scout Cookies.

Things I loved in February:

  • Sarah’s wedding in San Diego (January 31st, but it still counts.) Anna nailed her flower girl job duties; smiling the whole way down the aisle and sitting quietly in the front seat during the ceremony. The rest of us had a blast dancing, eating cookies, and feeling the love of family and commitment. That photo at the top of the page is the happy couple and us, at their rehearsal dinner.
  • Lots and lots of sunsets, all month long. It’s a New Year’s goal to catch 1-2 sunsets over the water each week, and so far, I’m doing it! We even caught an amazing sunset during the Superbowl halftime with cousin Isaiah.
  • Visiting the Melvins at their new house in Costa Mesa.
  • How Anna is calling everything “cute.” Example: “Mommy, your wedding photo is so cute.” and “Mommy, this birthday card is so cute. Awwwwwww.”
  • Owen learning the word “applesauce” (or, to be specific, a grunting rendition only we can understand.) He uses this word daily to communicate his food preferences.
  • Writing the feature story for Kidaround’s latest issue, which comes out today!
  • My birthday (I went on a beach walk! I got a pedicure! I drank a Blenders! And we had a date night!)
  • Valentine’s Day at the beach with our kids. It was 80 degrees. Crazytown.
  • Hachoo’s weekday visit, our birthday dessert at the El Encanto, and flying kites at Elings during sunset hour.
  • Anna graduating to the next level of swim lessons. The girl launched herself into the pool yesterday and then swam back to the wall. We are so proud of her! And she is SO proud of herself.
  • Spending too much time on Glide, catching up with my college girlfriends, and sending each other funny messages using the Crazy Helium Booth app. Trust me, it might be the most entertaining thing you’ll ever download.

Reading:

Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year (hint: you might be surprised.)

On Friendship and God’s Bounty

Where Should Your Children Go to School?

When We Were in the Fire

Anticipating:

A trip to Chicago for a Redbud meet-up, finishing What Alice Forgot (it’s so good!) and receiving Shauna’s new book in the mail.

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