How Do You Play?

I’m in the middle of a great book about the importance of playing. It’s giving me something to think about as I go about my everyday stuff, because it’s making me realize that I don’t spend enough time playing. It’s making me watch my kids play, and think about how I can learn from them, how to encourage them in their play, and how we can pursue more fun around here.

Play isn’t much of an issue when Ben is at home – he is naturally a very playful person, and when he’s an old man, he will be a more wholesome version of the Taco Bell commercial about the seniors sneaking out of the retirement home at night. He’s always got a twinkle in his eye, and is constantly cracking jokes and reading stories with all the silly voices.

Everett’s backyard version of “water skiing”

And then there’s me – a little on the intense side, often forgetting that life is not one big to-do list. I think I can be pretty funny sometimes, and I enjoy pursuing creativity and relaxation, but playfulness…not so much. I’ve just never thought about it a lot.

So now there’s this book: The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turning into a Tiger. (affiliate link) It’s interesting to be reading about the scientific study and different categories of play, while watching my kids naturally doing these things, and trying to figure out when I lost it. Movement, banging things, building things, imagining, wrestling, storytelling, and rituals. (That last one is actually one of the easiest for adults – ritual or celebratory play refers to birthday parties or the fun things we do for holidays.)

Having kids gets me to do more of these things with them – and I do have to admit that it feels good to build Jenga block towers or get out the puzzles. But how often do I intentionally pursue play for myself? I don’t even know how I would do some of those things. What could I build?!

I can see dramatic improvement in my life when I do take part in any these things – daily walks and yoga have been a huge benefit in my life. Writing and telling stories feeds my soul. Dancing in the kitchen while we clean up from supper is always a good way to get everybody in a good mood. So maybe I’m doing better than I thought, but there’s still lots of room for improvement!

I found it interesting that in this author’s mind, competitive sports don’t count as play! She’s referring specifically to recreational play, where there is no pressure to win or perform, and the focus is on freely playing without worrying about improving skills or striving to reach goals. Just plain, simple fun.

I want more of that! How can I intentionally pursue play in my own life? Maybe we all need kids to lead the way! How do we keep them from losing their sense of fun and ability to play? I’m so curious to hear your thoughts!

Are you like Ben, and find it easy to incorporate play, or are you more task-focused? How do you play? I need some fresh ideas!!:)

Gracefully Let Go

I’m not in the habit of quoting Buddha, but I came across this quote on Pinterest recently, and could not resist:


That last part of the quote is what grabbed my attention. It sums up perfectly what’s been on my mind recently….

When Ben and I were dating, we would talk about kids – how many we wanted, and what our family might look like.

I though four children would probably be necessary, but Ben said two.

I asked if we could compromise, and have three, and he said, very Ben-like, “We’ll talk about it when the time comes.”

So I never really decided how many kids we would have. Because I knew there was a good chance it would be hard for us to have kids, a bit of me wondered if we’d have ANY.

Well, Anika came along, and life was so awesome, there was no doubt we wanted more where that came from. But when it took so long for us to have Kaylia, it made me not only desperate for two kids, it made me quite certain I wanted three.

However, after Kaylia was born, it became clear that three might not be possible. For a long time, I remained hopeful that my physical limitations would heal up in time for me to squeak one more baby out before I turned 35. After that, I said I would give up. (In case you’re wondering what Ben thought of all this, his opinion was that he would be sad if we never had another baby, but he was happy with the family we had.)

Thirty-five rolled around this summer, but it turns out, I still didn’t want to give up my baby dream. There was a part of me that still desperately hoped of Baby #3. We had all that baby stuff sitting in the basement, and I was unable to part with it.

I felt stuck and frustrated. My therapists said “No.” Pregnancy would not be a good idea, and I didn’t want to wreck my body any further – I wanted to be strong and healthy to enjoy the children I have been blessed with.

But my friends all talked about how when you’re done, you KNOW you’re done.

I didn’t know. I never got to choose.

I wish I could know what it feels like to be DONE. I wish the baby clothes could get shipped out victoriously, speedily followed by the crib and stroller. I don’t want to be sad about this.

One mom who had decided to stop at two said she felt a pang of longing every time she saw a family of three, even years after making the decision.

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering “What if…?” I didn’t want to have regrets when I was eighty, thinking we should have had more kids.

But I didn’t get to make the choice. I still feel as though I need every person to know that we only have two because we couldn’t have more, not because this is what I wanted – I’m not sure why I feel the need for everyone to know that.

I don’t want to see our family as incomplete, and I most definitely don’t want to be discontent. I praise the Lord for these sweet girls of ours.

“Gracefully let go of things not meant for you…”

Isn’t that beautiful? It’s what I want in many areas of my life. I feel as though God is teaching me to find it in this situation, as well. In the last month or two, as I’ve prayed about it, and tried to release it to Him, I feel as though He’s giving me such peace and contentment.

He knows the longing I’ve had, and He holds it. It is safe with Him, and I am safe with Him, and there are so many other ways to live and love and do family. If we can’t have more children, we will find other ways to reach out and share life with those who are lonely.

God is surprising me with His ability to make my life seem full and good, even when I can’t have exactly what I want.

familyMorgan Jane Photography

He will not leave me longing. I want to let go of my desire for another baby so there is room to desire Him, and all He has for me.

Is there anything in your life that needs to be gracefully let go of?

Adventures with Jesus…and Peter Pan

On Monday morning, I prayed that God would give me an adventure.

I asked Him to show me who I could talk to that day, or how I might see an opportunity to connect with somebody, or bless someone close to me. As I prayed, the thought came to me that since I was taking Anika to her theatre class at the Forks, I would have the chance to meet all kinds of interesting people. There are always parents sitting around, waiting for a whole hour while their kids are in class. Surely there would be someone there just waiting for some kind of awesome conversation.

I was happily anticipating it.

So, we drove off to the Forks, Anika ran off to her class, and I sat down to wait with Kaylia in a large, open area where a number of other parents had already gotten settled. Everyone was kind of busy, so I started reading to Kaylia, quite confident that before too long, something special would happen.

Kaylia is obsessed with Peter Pan these days.

Peter Pan

I found a used copy of a kids’ chapter book version of the story, and we’ve been reading and rereading it every single day for a week, so this was her obvious choice of reading material that day during Anika’s class.

As I sat there reading, the most unusual thing began to happen – I began to collect children.

Little boys wandered over, and snuggled in close to hear the story. A baby toddled over to me, dragging her mom’s water bottle behind her, and beamed every time I paid attention to her. Kids’ moms came over to watch how intently their kids were listening to the story, expressing their amazement that these active little boys could sit so still for a chapter book.

Sadly…it was Peter Pan, with many details about pirates, and plenty of politically incorrect references to “Indians”. It’s not like it was an uplifting story in any way.

And I never got my inspiring conversation with any of the moms there.

But as the baby with the water bottle gave me a huge, toothy grin, and a boy with incredibly curly hair leaned against me as if he’d known me his whole life, it suddenly became clear to me: This was the moment of blessing – for them and for me!

I may never see those children again, but I had the opportunity to give them my time and attention. I spread a little love that morning. It didn’t look the way I expected it to, and yet I felt a strong sense that these little children needed as much love as any adult, and are no less important because they are presently smaller in size. And I remembered all over again that sometimes, we love others by loving their children.

So I never did anything huge or inspiring, and Jesus is never mentioned in the story of Peter Pan, but I felt like I had the little adventure I’d prayed for that morning. Kaylia beamed with pleasure at her new “friends” enjoying the story with her, and as she snuggled against me on one side, and a little boy leaned in for a better view of Captain Hook’s picture, I decided that unexpected adventures are the best kind of all.;)

May you enjoy your Wednesday,and experience an adventure or two, as well!

Do Not Strive for Extraordinary Lives…

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin


I think one of my favorite things about being a mom is the second chance it gives me to see the world through the eyes of a child. If you let them, children will teach you to go slow, and find much excitement in ladybugs, wading in puddles, and burying your feet in the sand.

I love the idea of teaching children to strive for an ordinary life, but I don’t think they really need to be taught to find joy in the little things – they seem to know how to do that already, quite naturally. Maybe it’s our job to teach them not to forget it….

I wish you a day filled with the wonders of an ordinary life!

Tell me – what’s one beautiful, wonderful, ordinary thing you’re enjoying right now?

Making a Big Deal About the Little Things

The year Anika was born, we did not have a Christmas tree.

She was only two months old at Christmas, and I felt a little overwhelmed about facing the holidays with a new baby.

On top of that, my family was going through a rough time, and it was sucking all energy, motivation, and Christmas cheer right out of me.

So we skipped the Christmas tree.

And Christmas still happened.

It was possible to have a pretty good Christmas, anyway.

But I don’t want to go without a tree again. I know that Christmas isn’t about the tree, and the presents, and all that stuff, but as a kid, there was so much magic in all of those traditions. My mom was always great with the little details.

I have so very many memories of all those fun things we used to do at Christmas – pink popcorn, my Grandma’s fudge recipe, decorating our extremely color-coordinated Christmas tree, our wooden manger scene.

Now that I have children of my own, I have two goals each Christmas:

1) To teach them exactly why we celebrate Christmas.

2) To fill their lives with as many magical memories as I carry with me from my own childhood.

gingerbread house

My magical memories all have to do with the little things – the traditions that were special for our family, and all the little details that made it feel like home. A candlelight fried chicken Christmas dinner from Chicken Delight, accompanied by my mom’s favorite instrumental Christmas music…. Opening presents on a Sunday, and ONLY once it was dark outside!

Ben and I have our own traditions now, and our Christmas looks a bit different. I love that. Our way of celebrating is unique to our family. Everybody has their own way, and it doesn’t seem to matter much what the traditions are, just as long as they get done each year!

December 2012 020 edit #2


It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most; it is making a great deal out of the little ones. (Anonymous)

gingerbread house

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

If I Could Have Seen the Future

We went to Tinkertown this last weekend with some friends, and had a wonderful time.

There were so many moments of the day that were just plain wonderful, and made me mentally stop still for a second, in an effort to take it all in.

The weather was absolutely beautiful. Hello, September-dressed-up-like-July.

The first thing I saw when I came in the gate was a tree covered in bright orange leaves, surrounded by all the other crazy colors of Tinkertown. It was the most festive fall scene I’ve seen in a long time.

I loved seeing Anika with her friends, bravely taking on every ride in the park. She’s a little daredevil. It makes me kinda happy.

And Kaylia followed in her footsteps, like usual. Awesome. Motion-sick Me will take pictures while everybody else whirls and twirls like crazy.

But deep down, there was something else really amazing and meaningful for me about being at Tinkertown. I kept thinking about it all day long, and if it wasn’t such a bright, crazy, colorful, fun place, I might have gotten emotional.

Five years ago, we took Anika to Tinkertown for the first time, and she loved it. We loved being there with her.

But it was right smack in the middle of those years we spent dealing with infertility. Our family was so small. It often felt like we almost didn’t qualify as being a “proper” family, just because we were so small.

So our tiny, little family went to Tinkertown five years ago, and I tried very hard to have a light heart that day. I tried to enjoy Anika as fully as possible, and not long for more. I wanted to feel like we were enough, just us three.

But I found it difficult to be surrounded by so many other families with tons of children. I wanted to have tons of children. I wanted to be one of those frazzled parents, being pulled in 10 different directions.

But we calmly walked through Tinkertown with our one child, perfectly calm and under control.

This last weekend, we walked through Tinkertown with another vibrant, chubby-cheeked little girl, full of life and enthusiasm, lisping mature words she’s heard from her big sister.

Now I can feel like we’re enough. Not a ton, but enough. If I didn’t have health issues to deal with, maybe there would be more. I don’t know. But this is the life we’ve been given, and it’s so good.

I wish that in those dark, heavy times, I would have done a better job of waiting. I wish I would have chosen to rest instead of panic. I wish I could have given myself fully to those days when we were a family of three.

I often felt back then that if only I could see the future, if only I could know God was going to answer our prayers for another child, then I would be able to wait for a miracle with peace and joy in my heart.

But in wishing that, I actually missed a miracle. I missed the miracle of waiting in faith, with the peace and joy only God can give, instead of joy in receiving what I asked for.

I once heard a preacher say we need to long for the Giver more than the gift.

I missed my chance to learn how to long for the Giver in that situation.

I’m sure there will be many more chances in the future, but the chance to learn it in that situation is over. I received the miracle I was longing for before I learned the miracle of how to wait in patience and faith.

If I could go back five years ago to tell myself something, it would be this:

There is no need to see the future.

God was good back then, He is good now and He will always be good.

He had miracles for me back then in those dark moments, whether I could see them or not, and He has miracles for me today.

The miracle of today erases those hard, hard years.

We all know that in this world, there many sorrows and hardships. Sometimes the future looks very uncertain.

But I see Kaylia, and I am reminded that the future also holds many blessings beyond anything I can imagine. I want to be surprised with all that joy. These days, I don’t long so much to see the future. I’m learning to live in the moment.

And not just because I got what I was longing for.

As soon as I got what I wanted, you can be sure I came up with new desires pretty quick. It was then that I started to realize joy and contentment would not come from getting what I wanted.

It comes when we just live today. When we see the miracle we already have in this moment.

It comes when we trust God with the future, and thank Him for all that we have right now.

Privacy Is Overrated

In our new back yard, we have a lovely row of trees.

I am often extremely thankful for that row of trees, because they are my little bit of nature – green, fresh, and beautiful, in this vast and barren land of New Development. We chose to build our house on this lot because of that very row of trees.

The other day someone asked me if we were enjoying our privacy, provided by those trees, and also because we don’t live at camp anymore, where almost all of life is shared, all the time.

I didn’t know how to answer that question about privacy. The old me would have said yes. But after five years of living in close community with people, I’m finding I don’t like privacy as much as I used to.

I have always loved my own space. I love having a schedule and a to-do list, and although I have always liked people, I would sometimes start to view them as an interruption to my perfect little plan.

It was hard for me to adjust to camp. There were always people around. We shared a duplex (and an entrance, and a laundry room) with another family, we shared a yard, we shared the majority of our meals with others.

People were forever wanting to get together to play games after all the kids were in bed. There was stuff going on almost every night. It wore me out. I thought it was good and healthy to say “no” to socializing all the time, and I still believe in creating space and margins for sanity.

But I went too far the other way. I said “no” too many times, and suddenly I found myself sitting in our quiet house, having backed into a perfect, isolated corner…and I was completely lonely and miserable.

I am so thankful for friends who kept making the effort, kept trying to share life on a regular basis. Now that we’ve moved, I find myself wishing I’d said “yes” a lot more often.

Now that we’re in Niverville, I hardly recognize myself, I’m so hungry for social opportunities. Look out, neighbors! If you’re new, and moving onto our street, we’re coming for you!

I still love that row of beautiful trees, because I need my nature. But I don’t need as much privacy as I used to.

In our culture, it seems as though we sit in our private homes with our private yards, and leave each other alone so everyone else can live their own busy, private lives. Someone at the door is a rare occurrence (while at camp, I couldn’t even count the number of times in a day when someone was at the door).

It’s easy to plan people right out of our lives. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own schedule, in our own comfort and desires. Community drags me away from my plans and my lists. Being close to others is sometimes the only way for me to always remember they are there.

A friend once told me that growing up in a large home made it very possible for everyone to retreat into their own little worlds.

Can’t get along with someone? Go hide in your own room where no one will get in your personal space.

Can’t agree on what to watch on TV? No problem – there are enough TVs to go around. Go watch whatever you want by yourself in the basement.

Can’t shower or use the bathroom whenever you want? Heaven forbid we should have to wait. Every home should have three bathrooms, at least, right?

I have tried to retreat to my own private place to avoid problems, but in the long run, it doesn’t work out very well.

At some point, I’ve always had to come out. And everything is still waiting there for me.

When we first moved to camp, there was a relationship I struggled with. I told Ben about it, and declared the solution – I needed more space from the person, before they drove me crazy. I needed to take a break from being around them all the time.

But Ben said, “No, you need to spend MORE time with them. You need to spend SO MUCH time with them, that you get past the annoyance, and learn how to truly love them.”

And you know what? It totally works. It’s very hard, but it does work.

Although we’ve moved into a three bedroom house almost twice the size of what we had at camp, I don’t want us to lose each other.

A small space keeps you connected. That’s why we’ve chosen to have our girls share a room. And it’s why we won’t be finishing out our basement any time soon, unless the number of people living in this house increases.

And close neighbors keep you from yourself! Now, when my sweet new friend down the street says, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry…” I smile and think to myself, “Oh, please do! Pry away.” I will try to embrace the discomfort that comes with losing my privacy, knowing that it brings growth, character development, and a connection to people.

I will continue to love that row of trees in our backyard, but I will also continue to hope for a yard full of neighbors and their loud children, and many knocks on the door. Keep me from my private corner. Remind me that life is meant to be shared and lived together.

Bittersweet Mother’s Day

If everything had gone the way we thought it would, we would have celebrated a birthday here last week.

We would have had another little munchkin running around here, turning five years old.

I don’t think about that very often. Except around Mother’s Day. When that old due date rolls around, there are some dreams I once dreamed that are buried way down deep, but keep coming up to the surface each May.

And you know what? I’m glad they do. It makes Mother’s Day a little bittersweet, but I’ve gotten used to it. And this year, I realized I’ve even become thankful for it.

Although I don’t think about that baby much anymore, those bittersweet thoughts remind me of how much I really do have. If we had never gone through any miscarriages, I’m sure I would still love our girls like crazy, I’d still be so thankful for them.

But I think that as a mom, having loved and lost, even when it was only for a few weeks, puts things into perspective.

I like perspective.

I like it that all this happiness is here, even after a good amount of pain. I like how things worked out in the end. I really always wanted three or four kids, but I like finding out how nice two can be.

I like thinking there are babies in heaven waiting for me. I don’t think about that a lot either – I feel a bit of a jolt anytime I have to fill out a medical form that asks how many pregnancies I’ve had, and I realize I need to write down a number “four”.

I am the mother of four children. That sounds kind of plentiful, doesn’t it? An odd feeling for a mom who never felt like she had enough, for so many years.

Those years seemed to go on forever, and now suddenly, they are done. Suddenly I am happy, and suddenly that time seems so much shorter than it did while it was happening.

I wish so much that I could dump hope on all the people who are waiting for something.

I wish I could pass on the peace that’s found in just knowing that God knows, and in the end, even the pain is worth it and part of you, and you wouldn’t go back and change it. I wish I could gift someone with the perspective that comes in the end.

Oh, I wasn’t going to do this, but I really do need to quote Donald Miller one more time, even though there’s been a lot of him around here in the last few weeks:

…We were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. (p.70, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

I’ve lived through something, and it has changed me. Some days I still feel like I mess up an awful lot as a mom, but I do think I’m a better mom because of all we’ve gone through.

For me, Mother’s Day is not just a celebration of this relationship, but it’s also a celebration of what it took to get here. We made it through, and it has been very, very good. These girls of mine are precious, special gifts, and having loved and lost along the way has taught me a little bit about the value of life.

The bitter has made me realize how sweet this life of mine really is!

Slow Down For Spring

Happy First Day of Spring!

I’m kinda glad it’s “official”, aren’t you?! Anika sincerely believes that the weather (and life in general, really) will be dramatically different, now that the calendar says it’s spring.

We’re celebrating.

We went for the first stroller ride of the season.

We played on the play structure, and Kaylia ran through a snow drift in her flip flops.

And we ended up at the lake.

We decided to truly celebrate spring by practicing the fine art of jumping pictures.

And I’ve been thinking about soaking it all in. Oh, that smell in the air. It smells like spring, and evergreen trees. The sun is so warm, and Kaylia’s toes are so bare. These days, it’s good just to be alive.

I am so, so thankful that my “job” involves teaching my girlies to love spring. We play in the sun, and I try to teach them to notice. To slow down, and notice the little things, like the smell and the way something feels, and all the little things that are so easy to take for granted.

I loved this post about learning to slow down to notice, and to fully live:

“The frogs have returned, the frogs and their song.

 Why does the trilling in the throat of a frog do this wondrous thing inside of me?….

That sound. 

A symphony of sound, trilling low and deep, fills the spaces between the trees, lifts us too.

It is like the water, a looking glass of trunks and limbs, like the water itself croons.

With the everyday eyes, I can’t see the singers at all. It takes time for eyes to adjust to stillness, and only the slow really see….”

I want to have eyes that adjust to stillness. I want to truly see spring with all of its wonder and beauty.

It’s time to go slow, and leave behind “everyday eyes”!

Buckle Up For Landing

We made it.

My word, travelling with a two-year-old can be interesting at times. For the most part, we had a good trip, but when it was time to buckle up for landing, Kaylia lost it.

From the moment the seat belt sign went on till the second it went off and I released her, she was screeching,

“I’M STUCK!! Get me out! This is not mine! There is nothing in here for me!!! I don’t want this!!!”

I’d say she’s a fairly effective communicator, for a two-year-old.

Here’s a few pictures from our day of travel:

Running loose and free while she has the chance.

Having lunch with our travel companion, Auntie Kim.

Doing her fake smile for the camera.


So thankful that we’re here, and that the sun is shining! My hubby’s sitting in an airport, waiting for his flight to Belize. Thank goodness my girls are so wildly active that I’ve had no time to think about missing him!