Spring has sprung in MN

The third and fourth child hopped on their little scooters to “ride” to school this morning. They’ve been staying out to play as late as I will let them and eating and sleeping so well.

These spring days feel so glorious. Like an infant freshly emerged from the womb after a long and unpleasant pregnancy (and labor), the birth of the new human makes every bit of those dreary uncomfortable days feel so worth every moment of the wait. I guess that’s why we stay in MN. The wait is worth it.

Lots of time outside with this little lady . . .

#worththewait

Waffle House Shooting

I am considering adding short news opinions to this blog. They will not be well-written because I simply don’t have time to write well and in a timely manner, especially while single-parenting six children, but I want to call attention to newsworthy items and how said news is reported. In every form of media I take in, marginalized populations are degraded. This may not seem like I’m sharing the “light” but the sad reality is we need to bring those issues to light in order to raise awareness and create change.

Language matters and impacts how people are perceived by others. It is not okay that the newspapers call violence by white men “mental illness” while similar violence by people of color (usually black males but not always) is described in gruesome details that include the innocence or youth of the victims and arouse no compassion whatsoever for the perpetrator.

This morning’s Star Tribune has an article starting on the front page entitled “Gunman kills 4 in bizarre assault.” There is no mention of race in this article. The gun man killed 4 people, all in their 20s(!), but there is also no description humanizing these four young people whose lives were certainly taken too soon.

Additionally, the gun man was nearly naked! Two fully dressed black men that visit Starbucks are suspicious and police arrive nearly immediately, but a white man can walk into a Waffle House naked with an AR-15 and then go outside and not be caught and arrested.

Travis Reinking, the suspect, had been arrested and detained back in July by Secret Service agents because he was in the restricted area near the White House and he refused to leave. I’ll write that again: he refused to leave, (stating he wanted to meet Donald Trump!). At the FBI’s request after investigation, four guns were subsequently removed from Reinking’s possession. But the deputies allowed his father to keep the guns safe from his son. Whose idea was that? The suspect’s? Ummm . . . Do we ever hear of this process for African-American people? I mean, you remove guns from someone’s possession because they pose a danger to society and then you give the guns to the suspect’s parent who has arguably done an inadequate job raising their child to be a contributing adult member to society? No, thank you.

The article states the suspect may have “mental issues.” This one always gets me! You don’t read about the people incarcerated with addiction problems who committed nonviolent drug crimes having “mental issues” but mental issues are the justification that conditions us to believe white people who commit VIOLENT crime have mental illness and are an exception. They just need help. Meanwhile, black people are bad and no matter how much they have been chronically and unjustifiably traumatized, the consensus of those in power is that they need to be locked up or killed, not helped.

That’s the reality of our system(s) today.

What do we do about it? Question it. Don’t believe it. Talk about it. Write about it. Stick up for people that are treated unfairly, even if it means you will be treated unfairly for it. Have tough conversations with your neighbors and friends. You are called to integrity! Raise a fuss to the media when news is presented in a racist manner (every day!). Don’t give up. Get politically involved. Point out injustices. Be loud and proud, not silent. We are morally obligated to speak up and protect each other. We must not be neutral.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)

Prayers for Vocations and Earth Day

This fourth day of Easter is dedicated to world prayer for vocations. And praying for religious vocations (and raising children in a way that supports prayerful consideration of religious callings) is important.

As we pray for vocations and dedication to the religious life, we must not grow weary or forgetful that we are ALL called to holiness. Our universal call to holiness, as part of the human body, includes a call for all of us to be stewards of the earth. And since it also happens to be Earth Day, I thought I would share a link to the encyclical, Laudate Si: https://laudatosi.com

I would love to know what you do, big or small, to take care of our planet. Do you compost? Do you use reusable bags? Do you boycott items packaged wastefully? Each little effort makes a difference. What do you do to take care of our Earth? Comment below or message me.

Top Ten Imperfect New Year’s Resolutions for the Recovering Perfectionist

Something about a new year inspires a lot of us to set new goals, embark on a new journey, and leave bad habits behind (as if it’s that easy). It is as if the ball drops, signifying the new year and poof, we change our lifestyle and our priorities.

Sometimes we accomplish our goals but sometimes life is stressful and January is not the dry/clean month we had planned while justifying our eating/drinking at holiday gatherings. And I should mention that while I am certainly not encouraging binge eating and/or drinking, I have been reflecting on self-acceptance, forgiving oneself, and the value of moving on and setting more meaningful goals this year.

Because at least for me, even when I accomplish my (often lofty) goals, I am still not happy with myself. It never seems to be enough and I remain imperfect. And it’s even worse when I don’t accomplish the goals I set!!! But guess what? There is nothing really wrong with indulging and adapting here and there, especially when our goals are shallow and indulging means skipping going to the gym to spend time with an elderly relative or a lonely friend. The only thing wrong with breaking our own rules once the year turns new is our mindset about it. Part of acceptance is being able to adapt and savor those moments of presence with loved ones without feeling terrible about making an exception to your own rules.

I’ve written down ten imperfect goals for people, especially parents, that share in the struggle to accept our imperfections as perfections. I hope they are deeper and more realistic than the typical goals we often set for the new year.

1. Instead of trying to do more this year, try to do less. Say no to hustle and bustle. Slow down.

2. Instead of resolving to change yourself, work to ACCEPT yourself. You are beautiful just as God created you!

3. Rather than focusing on physical inadequacies, as defined by the images of beauty projected by others, focus on TRUE BEAUTY, which always comes from within. Look inward, not outward.

4. When you indulge or don’t meet a goal you’ve made, forgive yourself. Forgiveness means being sorry for wrongdoing and doing your best to repent or be better. But if your goals were unrealistic, shallow, or for the wrong reasons, prayerfully reflect and reconsider your goals.

5. Practice discipline. We are stewards of our bodies, spirits and minds, so it’s necessary to be disciplined, exercise our free will and make hard choices.

6. Pray daily, hourly, constantly and consistently. Let your work be a prayer. Look and listen for God in everything you do and in everyone you encounter.

7. Set small accomplishable goals and celebrate every success, no matter how small.

8. Whether you stay at home or work full time, when you are with your children, say “yes” to really being present with them for at least a few minutes every day. Set a timer, if it helps.

9. Observe your children and take a moment to look for their sense(s) of wonder daily. Pause and try to see the world through their eyes.

10. Ask for help. Be humble enough to ask for help. Love yourself enough to understand your limitations. We were created for interdependence, not independence.

Our culture wants us to believe that our identity and who we are is limited to what is written on our resumes, how many friends we have on social media, how beautiful we are according to unhealthy standards that dehumanize the beauty of our human diversity (including but not limited to neurodiversity that is both visible and invisible). So easily we forget that we are all born naked, vulnerable, dependent on others for home, food, drink, freedom, safety, and for love. We receive so many different levels of nourishment (physical, mental, spiritual) on earth.

When we look deeper than the surface, it doesn’t really matter that you fit into your prepregnancy clothes, had “perfect” hair or skin, kept your house clean, stayed on top of laundry and dishes at all times, had a kick-ass career. It doesn’t matter if you were a respected, well-known, rich, or even famous. What matters in the end is love. Did you put God above all things? Did you love your neighbor as yourself? Did you teach love by living love?

#sharethelight

My Sister’s Wedding

My gorgeous sister, Leah, got married Saturday, and everything about her wedding and reception was perfect. I loved that it was all very “her” and also very “him” from the Timberwolves theme (both basketball lovers, they happened to meet at a Timberwolves game) to the groomsmen’s blue Air Jordans.

I may have ugly-cried (okay, I did) when Leah interrupted her wedding ceremony right before she and Jeremiah said their vows and surprised all of us (even the Pastor) with THE most beautiful speech of proposal to her stepdaughter. It was so thoughtful, loving and authentic. Even the groom was in tears.

Here is her surprise speech:

I was not there when you took your first steps or said your first words. But I promise I won’t miss a first of anything again. in the past two years I’ve watched you lose your first tooth, ride a bike for the first time, graduate kindergarten, become a big sister, learn how to do your first cart wheel, and continue to grow into an amazing young woman. I am not here to replace anyone nor will I try to. I will be the best I can to you and your daddy. I promise to love you as if you were my own, to protect you, to listen to you, and to always support your dreams. I promise to cherish every moment we spend together but most of all I promise to love you unconditionally. I am so thankful that you are sharing your daddy with me. You have touched my heart in a way that you can’t understand. I may not have given you life but life has given me you. Will you officially take me as your stepmom by accepting this charm bracelet?

I was delighted to be included as a bridesmaid Leah’s wedding. Each of the bridesmaids were beautiful, gracious, smart, endearing, fun.

I couldn’t be happier for Leah and her awesome husband, Jeremiah. I am thrilled for their two beautiful kids. I am thrilled for my family too. We gained a brother/uncle and niece/cousin. Like I said at the reception, when I was a little girl, my Dad asked me to pray that he wins the lottery and I prayed for a little sister for myself. Truly, I won the lottery when Leah was born. She’s exceeded all of my dreams and imagination.

Staying home

The fresh cold air fills me with gratitude for my current freedom and privilege of staying home with my little ones.

Without a doubt, motherhood is deeply challenging. I constantly worry about the kids’ development, as I find myself challenged by their behavior and at a loss for how to respond to tantrums. I feel really frustrated when my school-aged children try to negotiate with me or ask me “why” rather than immediately obeying me.

I’m an imperfect work in progress. And as a mother of six children, I am humbled by how much I don’t know. Every time I think I have things under control or know about parenting, I’m humbled and reminded that I don’t control anything but I DO have free will to respond to any person or situation with love or with frustration and impatience. I often choose to respond with the latter with my own children. Today I’m going to try to be calmer and slower to respond. I am going to try channel the feelings of appreciation I had this morning to be a loving teacher.

As I pulled the two youngest kids around our house on a sled this morning, I felt thankful, blessed and energized. Thankful for the legs and feet that carry me, the body strong and healthy enough to pull the sled through the snow without pain or difficulty, Sir William Wallace (our collie) prancing along side us, the pure joy and delight in my kids’ eyes and their gut giggles when we speed down a slope, the beautiful trees around us, the cold crisp air that is fresh and pure to breathe. Exhilarating, beautiful, peaceful . . . I pray for grace to appreciate the abundance of blessings that have been poured down upon me.

Deployment Day 1

Today was a melancholy day. We miss Dylan so much already. I didn’t prepare a menu ahead of time this week, so we had breakfast for dinner (banana chocolate chip pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon). The kids were hungry and enjoyed dinner with cheerful attitudes. I really enjoyed hearing about their days and appreciated their table manners (which are often lacking, to be honest). “I miss Dad so much already,” was something I heard about a million times today. It brought me joy and gratitude each time.

Homeschool transition 

Good morning,

This is a blog to update you on why I haven’t been blogging, silly as that seems. As some of you know, we are moving from our small house in St. Paul to a small town named Isanti (still in Minnesota) where we are building a house (or having one built for us, rather). I haven’t been writing lately because on top of Dylan working a lot, we are homeschooling and that is keeping me busy and SUPER overwhelmed. 

We decided that Catholic School is too expensive for us, especially with building a brand new house. And you couldn’t pay us to put our kids back in St. Paul Public Schools (literally). If you are curious about why I feel so strongly about our district’s public schools, this is an editorial with some of our final experiences (the straws that finally broke the camel’s back) in the St. Paul School system: https://www.google.com/amp/www.twincities.com/2016/05/25/letter-to-the-editor-for-may-25-2016/amp/

Homeschooling has been rough. I am having the school-aged kids wear uniforms so they get into the habit of dressing properly weekday mornings and once they are dressed, it is supposed signal that they are ready to learn. A good idea but I’m not sure it’s as effective as I intended. 

Our oldest two children are doing an online school. They are independent and motivated. In fact, they’re so motivated that they are working ahead and as middle schoolers, they are a third of the way through a high school Geometry Class and it’s only September. They are the youngest ones in their online class and they just keep working and moving ahead. I’m proud of their work ethic and motivation, but I’m especially proud that they are loving and helpful. 

Our third, fourth and fifth children are far more challenging. They’re energetic, and they aren’t motivated like their older siblings. I’m really thankful that my Aunt Kathy, a retired school teacher and Sister of St. Joseph is taking our third and fourth child to tutor them in reading every week. They need some extra help and are receiving it from a retired reading specialist that loves them, knows we she’s doing and believes in educating the whole child (for example, they pick fruit and vegetables from her abundant garden in between lessons). They love, respect and listen to her, and that makes a huge difference. 


Dylan bought me a Y membership and it’s been a lifesaver (or at least a mental health saver which might be the same thing) to get away from the kids and workout (or even walk the track kidless). 

All in all, I have to be honest I really can’t wait to move and give the kids all the learning support they need. I thought I’d be better at this homeschool thing than I am. Yesterday our fourth child (1st grade) said, “Mom, I wish we moved into the new house right now.” I asked why. And she said, “Because then I could use the bathroom.” A sibling was in our one bathroom. The big move can’t come soon enough. Pray for us as we await a new life.

Shoeless feet, Elephant Trunks and Loving without Judgment 

An old Indian saying states, “I complained that I had no shoes and then I met a man with no feet.”

It’s so easy to complain and judge without knowing someone else’s reality, to feel sad and jealous about what we don’t have instead of noticing and feeling thankful for what we do have. 

Last summer we attended a parade during “rodeo weekend” in small town Wisconsin. Our eight year old was so excited and exclaimed, “This is my first parade!” The reality is she has been in many parades, but this was the first she watched. It was exciting for all the kids, but especially this candy-lover, to watch the groups of people walking by and race to collect candy.

As we adults (there were six of us) sat in our lawn chairs and watched our kids run out to grab candy whenever it was thrown, we glanced at each other and whispered unkind comments about the grown man running out in front of the kids to grab candy, as if he was an undisciplined five year old with no one watching him. Here, my eleven year old and twelve year old daughters were patiently helping their siblings grab candy, not taking any for themselves, and even though I loathe bringing candy into our home, that wasn’t the point. The grown man grabbing candy like he was competing with children irked me. In fact, it irked us all. 

What I’m sure went further to justify our guiltless comments and judgmental glances at each other was that he looked “normal.” In fact, he even looked better than normal. He was physically fit and boasted a military haircut. He didn’t say anything to defend his actions; although, I’m sure he knew we were talking about him. 

When he walked behind our lawn chairs and gave the bucket of candy he raced to collect to a little girl (probably around nine years old) missing an arm, we all wished we had kept our mouths shut and helped him rather than assuming, being rude and judgmental. The silence was piercing and the shame is eternal. 

The truth is we never really know what another person’s reality is . . . even though the man looked like a healthy adult male, it doesn’t mean we should have assumed he shares our cognition, emotional quotient, social education. Any of the reasons a grown man would run out and grab candy in front of children make it morally reprehensible to jump to judgments and conclusions, as if that man has been dealt the same exact hand in life as us and should play it the same way. That’s pretty much true of any experience with anyone anywhere. 

There’s an ancient Indian parable about a group of blind men and an elephant. The blind men had no previous knowledge of or experience with elephants so the animal was unfamiliar to them. When they heard that an elephant was in the neighboring town, they were curious and went to examine the strange creature through touch. One blind man touched tail of the elephant and said, “Elephant is like a rope.” Another blind man touched the side of the elephant and said, “Elephant is like a wall.” Yet another blind man touched the trunk and exclaimed, “Oh, elephant is like a giant snake!” All three men were partially right and partially wrong. Each blind man had captured a piece of reality and projected the understanding of what they do know unto what they were experiencing. 

As Christians, we are called to love without judgment and often to accept others’ realities as they see them. To be truly non-judgmental, we must humbly acknowledge that our own reality is subjective and limited, a small piece of something much larger. 

I’m writing today to remind myself to stop before judging. It’s really, really hard. As a Christian, it’s easy to say, “I believe in Christ” but it’s much harder to PRACTICE Christianity. It’s hard to be the Samaritan that stops to care for his enemy rather than thinking, “I’m busy. I’ve helped enough. Someone else will stop.”  But Jesus calls us to be the Samaritan. Every time. He says we are our brother’s keeper, even when our culture, nationality or society tells us that a brother with a different reality is the enemy. 

One of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “I would be a Christian if I ever met one.” And so, I’m trying. And I’m trying to teach the children we’ve been blessed with as parents. And it’s damn hard! But in the end, I know that practicing LOVE without judgment is all that really matters. I have no enemies, only brothers and sisters in Christ.