Friday, August 7, 2015

Burning the Midnight Oil

Waving hello in the dark.

Most of my time lately has been spent with my fingers on a keyboard, my eyes fixed on the screen in front of me. Since announcing the beginnings of Milwaukee Moms Blog, pretty much every spare evening has been spent learning how to make things happen in WordPress, corresponding with potential contributors, getting to know the awesome ladies that have already signed on to be part of the team, and pinching myself.

Because it's still hard to believe I am actually doing this.



The opportunity to start this site fell directly in my lap on a silver platter with a bow on it. All the cliches - they all apply. When I was still trying to find a good excuse to bail, I said to Evan "If I walk away from this and don't even try, I will regret it in five years." He was so wise in his response when he clarified that I would regret it in "5 months. Maybe even 5 weeks."

And he was right.

These late nights, the burning eyes, the sore fingers from all the clicking clicking clicking. It's already worth it. I've gone all in and I love it.

Thank you for grace and thank you for understanding that my presence here may need to be a bit more relaxed in the coming months as I pour myself into Milwaukee Moms Blog. We launch on September 21st and I absolutely can't wait to show off my new "baby" to you all.

If you find yourself awake at midnight, wave to me in the dark. I'll be up.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Good Thing Chicks Dig Scars

My husband never calls me at work. Like, ever.

So when I was interrupted in the middle of my lunch shift with the news that he was waiting on hold for me, my stomach sunk and I already knew it was going to be bad.

I got on the phone and he told me that he was taking Isaiah to Urgent Care because he had split his lip open.

Now, I have three boys and quite frankly I am somewhat amazed that we made it until the oldest was SEVEN before we had to take one of them in to have their face fixed. This stuff is pretty much required in the childhood of a boy though I think that page was left out of the most recent edition of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Still, my gut reaction was to throw my apron on the ground and run out that door to race to be at my baby's side. Evan assured me he had it under control so I asked him to send me periodic updates, but we agreed I could stay at work.

But then he sent me a photo of the damage my boy had done and my Mama Heart immediately jumped up into my throat.

The photo showed what happens when a little boy's face comes flying into contact with the edge of a coffee table while inside a bouncy house. Yup, that's what happened. He threw himself somehow into the side of our bouncy castle in such a way that his face was propelled into a table.

I had to scrub blood out of a bouncy castle when I got home last night.

I'll spare you the photo that made the color drain from my face, but I will show you the text that I got from Evan after the Urgent Care doctor had taken a look at the injury.


Nothing like being told your child is being sent to the emergency room to make you lose focus on your work.

My manger on duty was very understanding and said numerous times that I could leave if I needed to, but Evan said all the boys were doing really well so far and were pretty content just watching TV in the exam room while waiting for the doctor. They were watching Spongebob Squarepants, a show that is strictly forbidden at home, so they were soaking in the contraband stupidity while they could.

The point finally came where I couldn't do it anymore. I was crazy busy, trying to manage seven or eight tables both inside the dining room and outside on the patio, but my brain was at Children's Hospital with my son. A four-top asked me what the desserts were and I think I got as far as Flourless Chocolate Cake before I started stammering, crying, and apologizing. With shaking hands, I explained that I just found out that my son was being treated at Children's and that I was having a really hard time not being there with him. The words were just spilling out and landing there on the table right next to their dirty plates and silverware.

Then the woman to my left put her hand on mine and gently asked, "May we pray for you?"


Friends, how does God do this? How does he orchestrate details so fine as to place that table right in my path at the very second I would need it, when my resolve had broken and I was struggling to find peace on my own?

But He did.

And the five of us approached the throne of grace, right there on the patio while I stood there holding the remnants of mashed potatoes and sauteed collard greens, and prayed for healing for my son and for peace that surpasses all understanding for him and for me. Other tables needed things - drink refills, their credit card to be processed, dishes to be cleared. None of that mattered in those moments because this was a holy moment where the presence of the Holy Spirit had descended and entered into my anxiety, providing a very real intercession to the Father.

I instantly felt more settled, more confident in the care my son would receive at the hospital, and more resolved than ever that I would go to him as soon as possible. In another incredible act of provision and grace, all my remaining tables finished up nearly simultaneously and I was able to drive directly to the hospital.

He was still watching Spongebob when I arrived.
He was also doped up on an anti-anxiety medication that had him acting slightly drunk, which was kind of hilarious.


I sent Evan home with the younger boys so they wouldn't have to watch the stitches going in. It was hard enough for me to watch, even though I knew Isaiah wasn't really feeling any pain. Seven stitches later, my boy was sewed back together and we were on our way to get him a chocolate shake and sit on the couch to watch Harry Potter.

Probably about ten o'clock at night, I finally remembered something.

That table never did get to order dessert. 

Here's how Isaiah is looking this morning, a little less than 24 hours after the injury. It's already looking so much better!


Thank you so much for your prayers and messages while we waited in the ER yesterday. I'm so grateful for each and every one of them. I also want to make sure to say thank you to my co-workers and managers for their patience and understanding yesterday. It's never convenient to adjust to losing a server from a shift, but they knew I had to go and they just made it work. Thank you, friends.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Announcing Our Impending Arrival



So, I've had a little side project going on for a while now. Let's talk about it as if it were a pregnancy. It's of course not a baby at all because #NoMoreBabies, but because it's my blog and because it's more fun, let's just pretend it's a pregnancy.

There was the one time when I was screwing around on Facebook and I discovered a friend posting photos of a baby. I thought, "Oh, what a cute baby!" so I clicked to explore further. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that adorable baby was looking for someone else to have another baby just like her so she could have a sister.

I get it, Baby. I have three boys. I've been there with the whole "we need another baby" thing, but really? Me? I'm way too busy and I can barely get out the door with my sanity and drugstore concealer doesn't stand a chance against the dark circle under my eyes. The last thing I need right now is another baby.

But....what if?

What if that baby was perfect for me?

So I sent an email, just a simple email inquiring about the need for this baby. Before I knew it, I had been on several phone calls and exchanged many emails where I tried to throw out every excuse I had about why I absolutely could NOT have another baby right now.

God just chuckled, shook his head a bit, and smiled as he provided a solution to every single objection I concocted.

And then the stick turned pink. Metaphorically.

Ok, Lord. I guess I'm having a baby.

Only, instead of a baby, it's a WEBSITE. 

A website that is part of the City Moms Blog Network, a national network of Sister Sites run by women just like me. It's going to be a resource for Milwaukee area moms to find information on what's going on in the city, but so much more than that. We will have events for moms to get out and have fun, neighborhood groups so women can get together for playdates or coffee (or wine!) with the moms that live near them, and provide resources and encouragement for the moms of our area.



We want to create a real community - both online and in "real life."
We want to inspire the moms of Milwaukee to love on one another, regardless of age, race, economic status, or otherwise.
We want to raise awareness and really talk about the tough issues affecting the mothers of our city - racial tension, human trafficking, poverty, and violence. We want to become part of the solution.

Welcome to the Milwaukee Moms Blog. 


To say I'm excited is an understatement.

After several failed attempts in my younger years to start my own business selling things I didn't really care about, I have the opportunity now to go into business for myself, with the essential help of my partner, the owner of the Madison Moms Blog. The difference this time is that this site is a fantastic and terrifying mixture of so many of the things that I love.

A Few Quick Questions: 

Does this mean Arena Five is going away? 

No way, man. This place is my heart and my home. I've poured out my guts to you all and I'm not going anywhere. Here I can be honest about how tired I am, how I screw up, how I am absolutely terrified about all of this. I will continue to write here as I have always done, hopefully with just as much snark and sarcasm as ever. I just might not be able to post as often as I would like, especially during this launch process as we build this site from the ground up. But I look forward to taking you all along with me on the journey!

When will the site be launching? 

Ummmm....I don't know. Soon. Soonish. I have a pre-launch checklist the size of War and Peace sitting on my desk right now and I'm trying not to let it paralyze me and just take one thing at a time. From what people tell me, it should be around 8 weeks or so, which puts us in mid-September. Don't worry - when we nail down the launch date, you will know!

Don't you already have like eight jobs? 

Three. I have three. Ok, now I have four. Plus that whole Mom gig, I guess that's kind of important. And then there's that Wife thing too. Do those count?

The hope is that this new direction will lead me toward a career that is more accommodating for spending time with my family and actually going to bed at a decent hour from time to time. In the meantime, I'm just going to not sleep very much. As I said earlier, it's like I'm having a baby!

How can we help?

So kind of you to ask, thank you!!! Actually, I need a lot of help. The whole point of this new site is that it is going to be a team effort. There's no way I could do it on my own and frankly, I don't want to. Here's how you can help:


  • Connect to Milwaukee Moms Blog on social media and then share the crap out of it. Here we are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bear with me as I try to fill these with content without having to stay up all night pinning clothespin crafts. 
  • Pray for me. Seriously. As in, on your knees, sackcloth and ashes, rending of garments, storming the gates. Alternatively, you could just add me to your list of people who are a hot mess and need an extra dose of grace, mercy, stamina, and encouragement in this particular season. That works too. 
  • Spread the word that I'm looking for contributors. As I mentioned, I can't do this by myself and I need a team of writers around me who are ready to use their gifts to bless the women of the Milwaukee area. Do you know someone who would be perfect? You can even steal the graphic below to use it if you want - that's fine by me! 




  • If you're local and you own a business or are connected to one, think about how you would like to partner with MkeMB. Isn't that a cute abbreviation I made up just now? Maybe you are a photographer - I'm going to need at least two or three of those on my team who want to take photos of our team and our events so they can promote the snot out of their business. We're going to need restaurants, dentist offices, play places, medical clinics, you name it! Email me if you have something in mind and let's talk about it! 
  • Cheer me on. Second only to prayer, this is what I need most of all. I need positive feedback, motivation, reassurance that this is going to be successful. I need cheerleaders to keep me out of my own head and looking forward. 

Thank you for being here and for joining me in this adventure. Love ya. 




Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Adorable Things My Kids Do That are Actually Super-Gross



My husband and I often joke that God made little kids so cute to keep us from tossing them out the window. I don't know how things go down at your house, but that certainly holds true when I just spent the last 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen and wiping the patio door only to have a kid come dump his bowl of blueberries all over the floor, stomp on them and then go stick their sticky palms all over the door when I holler at them calmly ask them to go outside while I clean it up. That's why I gave up on trying to clean my kitchen. Overrated, if you ask me.

Anyway, when I'm done picking up squished blueberries from the floor and wiping fresh fingerprints off the glass, I look out on the patio and see that little stinker walking around in his "toadies" and using a stick to chase the ants. He follows one around, tries to poke it, then heads off after another, talking to them as if they were his best friends. He catches me watching him, looks up, and gives me a wave and that goofy grin that makes me forget all about the rotten apple core I found in the laundry basket earlier that week.

Cutie patootie. He probably just thought "laundry basket" was a distant cousin of "waste basket." An understandable error.

Come to think of it, there are plenty of cute things that kids do that are actually pretty gross when you really think about it.

1. Announce and describe their bathroom behaviors



One kid has developed a habit of providing play-by-play commentary when he goes to the bathroom. It could be titled "Adventures in Defecation." He will come out of his room at 4:30 in the morning and quietly close the door behind him, only to stand in the hallway and yell at the top of his lungs, "I NEED TO GO POOOOP!" Then after we yell back in our bleary voices to go ahead and go for crying out loud, he waits a couple minutes before announcing, "Mommy! Daddy! I got a LOT of poops! Dat's a BIG poop! Oh boy, dat's a DADDY poop!" Adorable? Yes. Disgusting? Absolutely. Next thing you know, I'm laughing in my sleep.

2. Sneeze




I have three kids who all sneeze in very different, yet very cute ways. Isaiah scrunches up his nose like a bunny with allergies before sneezing with a very textbook "Achoo!" When Thomas sneezes, it's like a kitten snuck up on a chipmunk. But Micah....his sneezes attack him. He will let loose three to five sneezes in a row, each one ripping through his entire body like a lightning bolt and shooting snot and spit all over the place as if someone had stuck their thumb over the opening of a garden hose and suddenly released it. Sometimes he looks like a pirate after he sneezes. There have been times when Micah has sneezed and I have turned around to find him wide-eyed and screaming, panicking as he tries to find a Kleenex to wipe away the snot that is currently hanging down below his chin. Is it wrong that sometimes I just watch the show for my own entertainment instead of pointing out the Kleenex box?

3. Pulling out baby teeth




We all get excited about this, don't we? I remember one particularly stubborn tooth I had as a kid that I could actually spin around in my mouth without it detaching. If I had yanked even just a little bit, the root would have let go, but I took a sick pleasure in spinning that tooth with my tongue. Our oldest has lost four teeth now, the most recent just tonight. At breakfast this morning, he would put his finger on top of it and pull it so far forward that it hung out like a saber-tooth tiger tusk. And he was ecstatic. And when he yanked it out of his mouth later, leaving a gaping bloody hole behind, we all smiled and cheered and high-fived while he soaked up the blood with a tissue. See? Super-cute yet super-gross.

4. Burping and Farting

Admittedly, this one might be more of an issue in my house considering that I have three stinky sons running around. When a belch sneaks up on them in the middle of dinner, it explodes out of their mouth like a cannon and they immediately bust out laughing. We remind them to say "Excuse me," of course, but they don't hear us because they are too busy basking in the afterglow of their gastrointestinal foghorn blast. And then there is the farting. Doggonit, I just can't help it but it's freaking cute when my kid is just trying to pick up his toys and it sounds like the entire tuba section of the Wisconsin Marching Band got drunk and moved into his butt.



5. Naked Time

This part is going to get a little weird because I need to choose my words carefully here so that I don't inadvertently add a bunch of search terms to my content that would attract the super-creepy weirdos to the blog. I've got enough problems, thankyouverymuch. So, again I would like to remind you that I have BOYS. All boys. When they get it in their sweet little heads to go au naturale, there is precisely zero I can do about it....because my husband eggs them on and because their little tushies are just so freaking cute. Once, I got a photo of one of my kids doing a back-bend turned flip over the arm of the couch in this particular state. And then there was the time THIS happened:


Classic and totes adorbs. That is, until they sit on my lap and I smell a little something-something an I realize that a sub-par wipe job from an escapade related to #1 on this list just took place and suddenly I find myself wanting to burn my clothes, get new furniture, and take a nap until my kids are grown-ups.

So, yeah. They're cute little boogers, but they are freaking disgusting. If I hadn't really wanted to get into the living room at a reasonable hour to be able to watch an episode of Friday Night Lights on Netflix, I probably could have come up with more.

But I'd love to hear your stories! Any tales of adorable/grossness to share? 




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Face Down in the Rain



There are plenty of good days - days when the sun is shining, patience is generous, laughter is bright. Days when the little things remain little and the blessings loom large.

Many days start out like this and then can change in an instant. Sometimes it feels like the anxiety is waiting right on the other side of the door, crouched and ready to make its move at precisely the perfect moment.

It might be a photograph, a news headline, a text message, an announcement on Facebook. Just a little drop of rain that sets off a storm. 

That day, for me it was a song lyric.

"Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal."

Sometimes I listen to Spotify while I work and I had been lost in a playlist created by Lauren Daigle. With the notes of Hillsong and Kari Jobe floating through the headphones, I clicked over to Facebook. Not that surprising considering I am in charge of my ministry's social media. There's a good chance I was going to find some funny Buzzfeed quiz and share it on my timeline though. I scrolled quickly down the page and I stopped when I suddenly saw her lovely face.

Have you ever found out something terrible via social media and felt a fresh kind of powerlessness?

On that night in February, I was simply checking Facebook quickly before going to bed. No big deal, same thing I do nearly every night. But there was something very wrong. The posts from my friends and colleagues from the community we last lived in in were laced with grief and disbelief. It took me about 3 minutes to dig a little deeper and find out what had happened.

A former student of mine had committed suicide.

Roxie.


The girl with handwriting that looked like it should be a font, the soft-spoken voice with ambitions and large opinions, a gift for dance, empathy and doing hard things.

She had been my student, yes. But she had also become my friend over the years.

She had become a writer, using a blog to work out her feelings of darkness and depression. Roxie had sent me a Facebook message about a year ago, inviting me to read her words and meet her in that place.

And then it defeated her. And as the truth of the news hit me, my knees buckled and I hit the floor as the cries of "No! No!" started to fly out of my mouth.

So there I was at my desk, more than 5 months after Roxie's death. Scrolling down my timeline once again. Someone had posted a video of her dancing along with a link to this news story that was released after her death.

Reading about Roxie, remembering her and grieving for her once again, I found myself starting to cry. For Roxie, yes. But also for the dark places I have found myself in, sometimes afraid I wouldn’t be able to find my way out.

Then Come as You Are by Crowder began to play in my ears.

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

There are times when I feel so broken and hurting that I wonder if rescue is possible, if it is even worth it. Days when I can't even explain why I'm so sad, so angry, so defeated.

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

Exhaustion weighs on me and I often have to fight the urge to stay in bed and hide for days. It's a tired that goes beyond just needing sleep.

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

Then come the moments when the ghosts I thought were banished come back to torment me one again, whispering lies to my heart with increasing intensity, convincing me of things my head knows to be false, but yet I somehow keep crawling back to believing them.

Run home, sweet girl.


I often find myself face down in the rain, breathing heavily, tears mixing with the raindrops. My fists pound into the ground and I scream out in frustration, wondering how on earth I wound up here again. 

Sometimes I linger there a bit too long and it becomes more difficult to get up.

But if I'm willing to look up, to lift my head up out of the mud and show my face, He is always there. Waiting. And though I am ashamed of my mess, tired and beaten and brought low, I know that I will never be left there in the darkness alone.

And as I think of the mud, the darkness, and Roxie….I find this piece from Ann Voskamp.

The best way to tend to your open wounds is to open your arms.


So this is me, Lord, opening my arms. Coming just as I am, busted and broken.

Ann says "sometimes you just need someone to storm Heaven for you."

I wonder if someone pounded on the gates for Roxie.

It should have been me. She invited me in, reached out to me with what strength she has as she lay there in the darkness.

I saw here there. I met her there. And then I left, expecting her to follow me.

I should have stormed Heaven for her. I should have shook its gates until the hinges broke.

I didn't understand. And I'm so sorry, Roxie.

So very sorry.






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Stall Talkers. Or, the Post Where I Write about Jesus and Poop.



The way I see it, there are two kinds of women in the world.

Stall Talkers and Stall Sitters.

Everyone knows we ladies like to go to the bathroom in packs. We chat the whole way to the door, chat while we wipe the smudged mascara away from the creases around our eyes and then complain about said creases as we smooth the flyaway hairs down and try to get our bra straps to stay put. We share stories about our kids while we wash our hands or maybe even give feedback on one another's outfits while we pick remnants of spinach out of our teeth.

I don’t know what goes on over in the men's room, but I will tell you this much. Bathroom time is prime social time for ladies. And there are some who choose to take advantage of it to a higher degree than others.

Stall Sitters will talk like crazy right up until the moment their stall door closes and locks. Then they shut up. They like to have a little quiet time to take care of business before commencing social hour upon their emergence from the stall.

Stall Talkers see the walls of bathroom stalls as physical barriers only and will continue their conversation long after the lock has been secured on the door. It doesn't matter that they can no longer actually see their friend's face or that they are now adding inadvertent bodily sounds to their prose, the show MUST go on!

There was a pretty significant phase in my life when I was a Stall Talker. I grew up in a house with only one bathroom and sometimes you had to multi-task a bit. If my mom was in the bathroom but I really needed her to agree to drive my friend and I to the movies because I was on the phone with said friend at that very second which meant I had stretched the spiraled cord (yes….the CORD) out so far that it now looked like a strand of my curly hair when I'm stranded outside on a humid day, I was NOT about to wait until she was done in there and then risk trying to call my friend back and getting the dreaded BUSY SIGNAL.

I'm betting there are kids I work with right now who have never actually heard a busy signal. In other "make you feel old" news, the movie Clueless came out 20 years ago and the twins Chandler and Monica adopted would be turning 11 this year.

I cannot even tell you the number of times growing up that my mom would march right into that bathroom with no concern whatsoever for a closed door or a person on the toilet. If she needed to get something done in there, by golly she was going to do it.

I grew up a Stall Talker.

Then I had kids and I became a Stall Sitter - simply because it was suddenly impossible to be one.

Once I had babies who grew into toddlers who could walk and talk and open door handles, I came to truly appreciate the beauty of a closed bathroom door. There was a solid five year period there where I rarely got to conduct my bathroom business in solitude. I always had some sort of company - the door handle jiggling, shrieking and crying, fingers crawling from underneath the door, a kid who has suddenly become a home invasion prodigy picking the lock and marching in to play with the toothpaste.

I have one particularly vivid memory of a nursing newborn, a clingy toddler and a bladder that couldn't wait. I made it work. One kid ate while the other kid emptied a box of tampons all over the floor.

But now that the boys have mostly moved beyond this stage, I confidently close and LOCK that door. When I'm in public, I prefer to push the pause button on conversation during stall time because I can't help but find it a smidge weird.

It's just that somehow I managed to make friends with a whole gaggle of Stall Talkers! All the time, I find myself awkwardly trapped in a conversation with someone who wants to just keep plugging along while the Tinkle Tune plays and I wind up offering little more than the obligatory "Uh huh" and "Yeah" until I have safely flushed, zipped and emerged. What's even worse is when the Stall Talker waits for you to come out and just keeps on a'talking to you while she and her empty bladder and freshly washed hands wait for you to get 'er done.

And then I come out and she looks at me all like "I know what you did in there."

There are plenty of situations where I work well under pressure.

This is not one of them.

Know what's really fun though? When I, a Stall Sitter, find myself inadvertently sandwiched in a stall in between two Stall Talkers. Suddenly these gals can't just use their normal speaking voice to carry on their conversation anymore and have to kick it up a notch. So now I'm trying to use muscles I didn't even know existed to keep my presence as inconspicuous as possible while the women on either side of me are straight up yelling at one another about the cute striped skirt they found on clearance and the concerns about whether or not it would go with that pink top she got last week and is it too skanky to wear to church this weekend?


Honey, if you have to ask your bathroom buddy if that skirt appropriate for church…..it's not. I can tell you right now from my isolated bathroom stall, it's just not. 

So let's agree to disagree on this one. If you are a Stall Talker, I extend to you grace and acceptance. 

(Custom suggests I add a "in the name of Jesus" at the end of that last sentence, but I'm not sure what his stance on the issue of toilet talk is because I suspect that must have been recorded by one of the disciples whose work never made the final cut for the Bible. Pretty sure that guy was a Stall Talker who just couldn't get enough grace and gospel talk so he just kept on going and likely wrote down stuff that Jesus said while pooping. I'm sure it was great and all because, hello, he's Jesus. It's just that I think it's kind of a violation of Jesus's privacy to record his bathroom banter. Just my two cents.)

(And yes, I'm positive Jesus pooped. Fully human and all that. Although I might argue that even though it's not explicitly stated in the Bible, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he was the one person EVER who could actually say for real that it didn't stink.) 

(If someone actually HAD written down stuff that Jesus said in the bathroom, I'm pretty sure it would be recorded in the Gospel of John.)





Thursday, July 16, 2015

5 Instagram Feeds I'm Loving Right Now


With the numerous social media platforms out there beckoning for our attention, it can be easy to get lost pretty quickly. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has clicked over to "check Facebook real quick" only to come up for air an hour later and wonder what the heck just happened. Wherever my brain goes during that time must be the same setting that kicks in when I see pretty nail polish at Target. Next thing you know I'm snapping back to attention in the checkout lane where I realize I have bug spray, a clearance purse, a candle, mascara, a throw pillow and a pack of pens in my cart and I have zero recollection of the previous hour of my life. Is it possible that Target secretly pumps some sort of hallucinogen through their air ducts?

If my friend who is basically in charge of a Target store is reading this, please know that I am totally joking. Except about the mystery items in my purse - that happens all the time.

What I love about Instagram is that it is a platform that allows for such variety of material - cute photos of my online friends' families, incredible shots of nature at its finest, perfectly lit photographs of food made to look like art, and more selfies than you can shake a Selfie Stick at. Choose who you follow wisely and flipping your thumb across the surface of your phone screen can be a way to cultivate a community, get inspired and be challenged.

Today I'm sharing five Instagram folks who I have come to ADORE. Their photo streams are always lovely in their own unique ways. None of these people have any clue I'm writing this post, so I promise you that my endorsement of them is not coerced in any way.


1. To Find Your Next Favorite Book....



Friends, I can't even tell you how many books I have put on my library hold list simply because Stephanie Howell posted them on Instagram. First of all, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Stephanie is secretly some sort of robot or angel because it should not be physically possible to read as many book as she does while also being Mama to FOUR little girls.....and pregnant with a fifth child....while stationed in Italy with her Ranger husband who also travels all the time. It's amazeballs. Second, she has impeccable taste in books. If she doesn't like it within the first couple chapters, she ditches it and moves on quickly. I've both chosen and avoided books specifically because I trust Stephanie's' judgment. Finally, I have yet to encounter anyone else who makes books look this sexy. Stephanie created this Instagram specifically for books because those posts were so popular on her personal feed (which is also GORGEOUS, by the way). She's only posted 26 photos and already has over a thousand followers! Girlfriend knows how to take a beautiful photo. I could gush all day.


That's two for the price of one, for those of you keeping track at home.


2. Make a Smoothie that Looks as Good as it Tastes....


Crissy Page is one of those bloggers that apparently everyone but me already knew about. I don't remember how I stumbled across her page, but it has been her Instagram feed that has me hooked. Crissy is working hard at eating clean and while trendy food stuff would usually turn me off, her beautiful photos of her smoothies.....yes, smoothies....have me coming back again and again. She really inspired me to try to get back into eating better and I'm started with smoothies. I pull up her photos nearly every day to see what kind of smoothie I should make for breakfast.


3. Experience the Wonders of the World....


How did it take me this long to start following National Geographic? There is so much here to enjoy - portraits of humanity, striking images of creation, and accidental photos of the inside of an elephant seal's mouth as he prepares to bite the head off the photographer. No, I'm not kidding.


Now, go change your pants and follow this account immediately. This Instagram feed is a can't miss.

 
4. Revisit our History in a Whole New Way




This is one of those feeds that is known for being like a box of chocolates - you never really know what you're going to get. As I'm writing this post, the most recent post shows a waitress from 1950 giving a bear a bowl of honey at the counter of a cafe. From cinema icons like Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn and sports legends like Muhammad Ali to pop culture figures like Will Smith and Britney Spears, this quirky account loves to share the shots that make you look at history through a whole new lens. 

Recent photos include a bikini-clad young woman in Iran prior to the revolution, the original design for Mount Rushmore before the funding ran out and a couple kissing under the mistletoe in 1940....wearing gas masks. WARNING: you're not going to want to stop scrolling!  

5. For the Days When You are Just DONE and Want to Sell Your Kids to the Circus



There are just some days when you have already HAD IT before your cup of coffee is even halfway gone. Thrive Moms gets it. When I need reassurance that I can totally survive this whole parenthood thing, I come here. When I need to be reminded that I am not defined by the moment when I lost my temper over the LEGO crammed into the DVD player, I bust out the secret chocolate stash. Then I come here while I eat it.....hiding in my closet. This community is encouraging, honest, and unapologetic in they way they always point mothers back to the perfect grace of Christ. LOVE IT. 

What are your favorite Instagram destinations? I would love to hear all about them!

While you're scrolling through all this these new lovely photos, be sure to follow me on Instagram and we can bond over photos of my three-year-old working his game at the public pool or name the dinosaur who came to our camp-out. Good times.  




Monday, July 13, 2015

Mommy Slumps Now



Grace and coordination have never been my spiritual gifts. In fact, they swim in the same pool as athleticism, patience, and spontaneity. I can remember people's names and obscure movie titles like a boss, but please do not ask me to overhand serve a volleyball. It's horrifying.

When I was 14, I actually played club volleyball. As in, my mom and dad paid money for me to play on this team, go to practice, compete in matches. You know, the usual. Right before one particular match, my coach came up to me and told me that I was more than welcome to keep practicing and coming along to games, but that I wouldn't be seeing much playing time.

As it turns out, we couldn't even PAY HER TO PLAY ME. I was that bad.  

By some miracle, I tried out for the poms squad my senior year and actually made the team. It took me an entire summer to teach myself to do a full split, but that was cake in comparison to having to learn something like a dozen dance routines in about two weeks at a camp. The spinning, the jumping, the high kicking….all on a beat. I worked hard and did my best, but I'm pretty sure I still looked a little like Mary Katherine Gallagher at the end.



At the end of the season, I won the "Most Improved" award. At least it would have been more accurate to just come right out and engrave it with "Fattest Girl on the Team Managed to NOT DIE"

Do not even get me started on the thoughts that race through my head during a Zumba class. Why oh why do gyms insist on putting mirrors on every. Single. Wall?

Now, despite my lack of abilities in this department, I have actually managed to make it this far in my life having only broken one bone - the middle finger on my right hand. Ask me about it some time - I'll be happy to show ya. :)

My sister and I were playing this stupid game where we had to take a running start and then see who could jump highest over a rope. Our fatal mistake was that we set up this game in our living room about two feet from the couch, so when I went high-jumping over the rope, I came crashing down into the leg of the couch, snapping my finger like a twig. To this day, that finger is crooked because I was the 6th grade typing champion at the time and I'll be darned if I was going to let some stupid splint keep me from holding that title in my keyboarding class.

I also remember that the keyboarding teacher's name was Mrs. Seamen and I couldn't help but think that if it were me, I probably would have kept my maiden name. Just my two cents.

Take all this evidence into consideration before I tell you the story of how I managed to break my foot on our very first morning of vacation. (Not the unfortunate reproductive fluid comment, though. That was for free.)

Evan and I were sleeping on an air mattress in the main living area of a cottage, our boys were sleeping in the first bedroom down the hall, two people in the next bedroom, two more people in the far bedroom, and yet another in the room adjacent to us. It was a full house. It was also 5:30 in the morning and we had been up past midnight.

I woke to the sound of an alarm clock, which was strange because the whole definition of vacation in my book is that alarm clocks are not invited. I realized the sound was coming from the boys' room so I climbed out of bed to investigate. Apparently one of my dopey children had been monkeying with the alarm clock in their room the day before and had somehow set an alarm for 5:30 in the flipping morning. Since I was a bit fuzzy and incoherent, what with the not having any coffee in my bloodstream and all, I stumbled into their room to turn the blasted thing off. I slapped at it like a bear pawing at a bee hive until it finally shut off and we all went back to bed.

I shut my eyes and promptly fell back asleep….for 9 minutes.

I had only hit the snooze alarm. The alarm was sounding again.

Our air mattress is awesome - the most comfortable one we have ever slept on. Not a commercial, just a fact. (Yes, that's an affiliate link right there.) It self-inflates and rises to be set pretty high up off the ground. Makes for great sleeping, but it also makes things a little precarious when you are trying to get out of bed quickly because that damn alarm is sounding again, the boys are whining, there still is no coffee in the picture, and husband is not showing any intention of getting involved in this situation.

Yet.

Springing out of bed, I tried to pivot toward the room and take a step at the same time. It did not work as I had hoped.

Instead, I came down with my full weight on the side of my foot and I just crumpled in pain. Evan fully awoke to the sound of my cries of pain combined with the still-beeping alarm clock, and the boys yelling for someone to hurry the heck up and turn the stupid thing off.

By the time he came back from just unplugging the clock, I was still face-down on the futon and still whimpering in pain.



Long story short, I spent the next couple days hobbling around on a bruised swollen foot only when necessary and having to force myself to sit down for long stretches of time with my foot up and a book in my hands. It was rough, but I had to just sit back and let Evan deal with most of the parenting-related situations and bring me a fresh beer from time to time.  

Ok, fine. It probably forced me to actually enjoy our vacation a bit. Blessings in disguise and what not.

However, it certainly gave the rest of our trip a little different dynamic. When the caravan and I pulled into my friend Sara's driveway a couple days later, I did my best to help unload the van and schlep all our gear upstairs while somewhat resembling Igor from Young Frankenstein but with more hair. As I returned to the kitchen, my friend was having a conversation with my oldest son.

"Yeah, she fell getting out of bed," he explained, "So Mommy slumps now."

I continued to "slump" for the duration of vacation and because I'm stubborn, a few more days after that. It took me until Day 10 after the initial injury to finally suck it up and realize that perhaps my foot wouldn't still be so swollen and painful if it really wasn't a simple sprain like I had hoped.

One urgent care visit and x-ray later, I texted my husband: I BROKE MY DAMN FOOT.



At least my husband thinks slumping is sexy. 

Probably should try to get a pedicure sometime this week. Also, I'm currently accepting submissions for alternative stories to explain how I broke my foot rather than the lame line of truth - "getting out of bed."


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why I'm Glad Someone Stole My Camera


Eleven years ago, my camera was stolen.

To be precise, my knock-off Prada purse was stolen off the sidewalk where I had set it down and the camera happened to be inside it. You see, this was back in the day when we would buy a small camera that was actually separate from our phone so I was in the unfortunate position of being unable to carry my camera around in my back pocket.

At the time of the theft, I was wearing a white t-shirt riddled with the remnants of half-eaten Lifesavers and I'm pretty sure there was a stain on the back from where someone had spilled a shot of J├Ągermeister on me. I hate black licorice, so any inkling of keeping that shirt quickly faded after that little mishap.

I remember laying down in the back of someone's car - I honestly don't even know whose it was - and crying because I wouldn't have any photos to remember the night.

As a now 31-year-old mother of three, I have just one thing to say about this incident.

THANK GOD SOMEONE STOLE THAT PURSE.

Yes, I lost all $100 I had "earned" with my Suck-for-a-Buck T-shirt that was going to buy all of us pizza at 3 am and sure, my fake ID was in there and yeah ok, that purse was super-cute. But inside that purse was the photographic evidence of one of the most embarrassing nights of my life -

MY BACHELORETTE PARTY.

Just so we are all on the same page here, let's go over the basics of the evening so you can paint the picture in your mind.


  • I was 20 years old. As in, NOT 21 years old. As in, I had absolutely no business being in any of the places I went that night. Ahem.
  • My co-workers threw me the party because my maid-of-honor was only 17 years old at the time. As it turns out, the legal age ladies I worked with didn't really know my particular tastes.
  • Having any sort of "particular tastes" about anything ceases to matter after 10 Jello shots.


It's going to be really interesting when I have to talk to my sons someday about my college years.


If I actually had any photos from that night, this would be where I would insert one. 

So somewhere out there in the world is a memory card that came out of a Canon Powershot camera, plucked from the sidewalk outside a bar (of course I don't remember which one) in Madison, WI on the very same evening in June of 2004 that a tornado destroyed a good chunk of my hometown. While that twister ripped houses and trees to pieces, I was busy putting my liver through the ringer and collecting money from strangers to eat a piece of candy off my shirt. 

At some level, I guess I was doing the same thing to myself that the tornado was doing to the good city of Waupun, causing senseless destruction. My husband's aunt and uncle had just finished building their dream home and had lived in it for about a week when they found themselves huddled under the basement steps as the tornado tore away the house from on top of them. 

Image Source: http://www.weather.gov/images/mkx/doc-events/tornado/062304/alto2.jpg
Vance and Sheri still came to my wedding a mere 10 days after narrowly escaping with their lives and losing every single possession they had.

And in the back of my mind, I knew that at the exact same time they were huddled in fear under those stairs, I was drowning my fears and insecurities in mixed drinks and carelessness. I still remember greeting our guests after the wedding and absolutely LOSING IT when I hugged Sheri because I was just. so. ashamed.

I can never run for public office because I guarantee you those photos would suddenly show up and I would have to hold them up right next to the photo you see above. 

And I'm pretty sure I would want to huddle under my own basement stairs and cry. 

There would be blurry photos of a server from Red Lobster dressed like a strange mix of Raging Bull and Tarzan, dancing to a loud bass beat while women squealed. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a photo of me stumbling down the street, my weight supported by a girl named Mimi. My memory is a bit sketchy, but I know that cans of whipped cream made an appearance at some point. 

There's more. Much more. But in the name of keeping at least a little slice of my dignity intact, I'm going to stop there. Just trust me when I tell you that it was worse than a "teen" show on ABC Family.

As it stands, my recollection of the evening is sketchy at best.

At that time in my life, I worked hard at trying to tear down the person that my family had built while still maintaining the attractive exterior. I made some bad choices, got a pretty serious case of Pride that I still haven't quite been able to shake, and really did the best I could to destroy what I saw as broken. There were times when I really didn't see much worth saving, actually. Those were the times when I did the worst damage. 

Vance and Sheri's rebuilt house is beautiful. In the backyard, countless hours of labor were spent hauling and stacking rocks and pavers to create an environment where family could gather to laugh, cook hot dogs and s'mores, share good food and chase kids around. And the best part is the area where all those stone stack up to create steps that are perfect for setting up a family photo. 



Eleven years. 

I am passionate about using storytelling, humor, and creativity to bring encouragement to people. Some might call it "misery loves company," but that's splitting hairs from where I'm sitting. Yeah, I write about some of my soul junk on the Internet. And then I share it in the hopes that more people will read it and then share it with others. It's crazy, I know. 

I find joy in being along for the ride as God has pushed me to share the more ugly sides of myself and my story because there is always someone out there who needed to hear that they aren't alone, that God can rewrite any story to make it beautiful. Long story short, writing is kind of my ministry. In a twisted, snarky sort of way.

What if someone out there is still deep in the midst of their own destruction, splintering beams and tearing down walls, not realizing that when the storm passes, there is beauty to be found? 

Some days will be harder to see than others, but I see that beauty now. 

In his blue eyes. 


In loving smiles. 


In family. 


All rebuilt on ground that was once all but destroyed. 

I can't say that the rebuilding process is complete in me, but what I can tell you is that there has been so much restoration. I heard Sheri say once that the second house ended up even better than the first because they were able to fix some of the mistakes they had made the first time around. 

In my heart, it went way beyond a poorly placed linen closet. There is still so much work yet to be done.

For me, seeing those photos would be like looking at the photos of the wreckage. Instead, I'd rather emerge from under the stairs and get absolutely awestruck by how our amazing God can turn rubble into beauty. 

These photos are now 5 years old, but I love seeing baby Micah's chubby smiles held up in front of that resurrected house. And even though it's taking every ounce of restraint I have not to scrutinize the post-baby jiggle I've got going on, I would rather look at these photos any day. 

As it turns out, God is in the business of rebuilding what is broken. 


For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5: 6-8


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vacation Bullet Points

I owe you a recap post of our recent family vacation, partly because I'm getting old and if I don't blog about it, the odds of me remembering it are pretty slim and also because there's a lot of good stuff to write about. 

We arrived home from our travels, emptied out the minivan into piles all over our house, and I collapsed onto the bed. The kids went across the street to play (thank God!) and I got to work putting everything away. I finally got everything either unloaded or in the laundry and, I kid you not, I passed out. I remember laying down on the bed to snuggle with our dog and the next thing I knew, I was waking up hours later. 

I feel like I need a solo vacation now that the family vacation is over. 

Here are just a few highlights I need to fill you in on:

- The story of how I got out of bed one morning and destroyed my foot. Eight days later, I am still limping. 

- How Micah was pretending to be a shark and then I thought he was pretending to be drowning...only, he was maybe kinda sorta actually drowning. A little bit. 

- We got lost....a lot. As in, at least four times. Picture me holding my phone, staring at the little navigation triangle like it was some sort of haunted Ouija board piece and screaming/crying because my beloved technology was failing me.

- That time when Micah lost his mind on the train platform in Chicago and we had to grab hold of him to keep him from running in front of an oncoming train while he shrieked bloody murder. We are pretty sure the good citizens of Chicago thought we were trying to kidnap the child.

- When we accidentally walked into the lobby of the Trump International Hotel carrying our Spiderman tote bag and souvenir Rainforest Cafe margarita glasses and felt just a little....out of place.

- I cried like a baby over an animated character named Bing Bong.

- There was the day Isaiah took on his fear of being pulled in an tube behind a speedboat and also the day that Micah took on his fear of giant slides at the carnival. And boats. And water (see earlier). And riding a bike without training wheels. (It was a big week for Micah.)

- A friend of mine and I went out for dinner and I had a sushi roll called Sexy Bacon. It was glorious.

- And then there's the story of Micah doing THIS to his face:


Like I said, lots to talk about. But for now, my foot still hurts and there's a couple baskets of unfolded laundry I need to stare at. Hoping the motivation returns tomorrow! 



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Holy Mother, Batman!


A few weeks ago, a co-worker did an impression of me that was SPOT ON. As in, I laughed so hard that there had to me some necessary clenching to keep from wetting my pants just a little bit. Which reminds me, I still need to write that post about how that very embarrassing event actually happened a few months ago. Isn't it horrible that I keep teasing you with that and then I don't write it? It's just that it's a little intimidating to devote an entire post to something like peeing your pants as an adult. I imagine Beth Woolsey went through this same gauntlet of emotions as she sat down to write The Day I Pooped My Closet. That girl has guts for days for hitting Publish on that piece of work. I've said it before and I will say it again. You NEED to read that post. It is the absolutely BEST.

What were we talking about?

The impression of me. Right.

So I have a bunch of pointless exclamatory phrases I use on a regular basis. I recently adopted "Sweet Fancy Moses!" from Glennon Doyle Melton, but long before that one entered my vocabulary I've been known to have the following fly out of my mouth:

"Oh Mylanta!" - It's crucial to pronounce this one with a significant Midwestern accent. It's all in the nose. My-lain-tuh.

"For the Love!" - Used best when something is discovered that is so obviously stupid or frustrating that finding the appropriate words is too difficult. Instead, in true Hatmaker-style, I go with this one. It allows natural sarcasm to shine as the star, which I appreciate.

"Holy Hannah!" - I have no idea who Hannah is or why making an exclamation about her holiness is appropriate when someone comes around the corner unexpectedly and makes me jump out of my shoes, but I still say it all the time.


"Holy ________ Batman!" - Insert whatever surprising thing you would like in the blank. Shrimp, Margaritas, Traffic, Mullet, Dust-bunny, etc. Nothing like using your inner Robin to proclaim something to be incredible to your superhero buddy to give it emphasis.

My friend busted out a whole string of these, complete with my mannerisms, tone of voice, and Wisconsin accent. It was epic.

Obviously, there are whole lot of other phrases that, if we are really being honest, will sometimes come out of my mouth that involve the word "Holy" followed by another word that isn't always quite as complimentary. Why do we do that? At some point, I think we have all heard the phrase "Holier than Thou" and used it to describe someone who is puffed up, prideful, and feeling a bit too superior and perfect for their own good.

Holy.

It's a loaded word.

In 1 Peter 1:14-16, we get some pretty clear instructions about how we are to live our lives in Christ.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy."

Know what I think? I think motherhood helps make us holy. 

When we are entrusted with the life of another human being who is fully dependent on us, we become acutely aware of our shortcomings and inadequacies. I don’t know about you, but when I was standing in the exam room with my son while the doctor described how he had a super-nasty double ear infection that must have been causing him severe pain for several days, I didn't exactly feel "holy" as I was recalling the numerous times I had told that kid that he was just fine and to stop wailing about it.

To be holy is to be set apart or separate. Achieving holiness involves sanctification - a refining process that uses extreme conditions or stress to cause impurities and faults to be brought to the surface so they can be removed, leaving behind something just a little more pure than before.

When I am standing in the kitchen and the anxiety is pressing in on me like a vice and the boys are yelling at one another over Pokemon cards and the dishes aren't done and there's supper to be made and my family is hurt because I don't call enough and then one kid hits another kid so I snap and yell so now all three are crying and I stop and really look around.

My busyness and selfishness.
My pride.
Anger and impatience.
The need for control.

All rising to the surface and put on display for everyone to see.

But it's those purposeful steps down the hall, the gentle opening of the door, the open arms that draw them in for a hug. It's my voice through the tears that whispers "I'm sorry" and asks for forgiveness. That's where it is. That moment when the great Refiner skims away that layer that had risen to the surface, leaving behind something just a bit more pure. 

Holiness isn't about being better than someone else, doing more "good deeds," or walking a straighter line.

It's when we recognize our desperate need for a Savior that holiness even becomes possible because, heaven help us, we are absolutely LOST on our own. I don't know how it is in your house, but my kids remind me of that fact every single day. They test my patience, push boundaries, challenge my faith and force me to be courageous.

They push me toward holiness because they are constantly pushing me closer to Jesus.

And hopefully, by faith, the next time all bedlam breaks loose and the battle over the red Popsicle or whose turn it is to pick the show on Netflix is raging around me, I can find just a little more peace and patience than the last time around.

It is a slow and imperfect process, but God has never really been one for being in much of a hurry.

And that's how I write about peeing my pants and holiness in the same post. 

*drops mic*

This post was inspired by Kayla Aimee’s new book, Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected. Order your copy of #AnchoredHope today and receive this printable as a free gift by clicking here!


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