My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Judging Judies, you know the type

It’s all part of adulthood to make decisions based on what you think is best. I find myself having difficulty with people’s viewpoints that seem narrow and restrictive. When a person I know may consider herself open-minded and loving, and then shares an opinion that I find bordering on prejudice and mean-spiritedness, I think, “Wow.” What’s right, what’s wrong? I get so confused sometimes. I find myself wanting to judge people… for judging other people!

Here’s what I saw on Facebook last Friday. A “friend” posted:

So, it’s really okay to buy your Valentine’s chocolates wrapped in velveteen packaging with food stamps while purchasing your cigarettes with cash all while making me wait 10 minutes behind you in line to buy my groceries??? I must have this system all wrong.

And in my mind, I had a flash of what I would have LOVED to write under this person’s post to dismiss this self-righteous attitude. But I realized that her public opinion on poverty, nicotine addiction and welfare fraud were not likely to be swayed by my comment. In person, I guess that I would have said something like, “You don’t really know the whole story,” or something of that nature, but I don’t know that this would translate to something public like Facebook.

And then I remembered my friend Mama T’s words on the subject:

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

I want to try to think better of people who are judging others. If they judge others so harshly, just think of how hard they are judging themselves. Geesh, must be a hard gig to live under such scrutiny.

I think this just about sums it up:

I will try to love better, judge less, and allow others their moment with Jesus. Tell me what you do to get through your day when you feel like you’re surrounded by a bunch of Judgey Judies. I need some wisdom here.


Parenting=Most humbling experience of my life (again and again and again)

I have a million blog ideas floating around in my head, and someday they might make it further than my head, but not today.

Today I have to tell you about the big fat piece of humble pie I have been eating.

My story goes like this…

Oh, wait… I have one thing to get out of the way: Even before this situation occurred, I fully acknowledged on multiple occasions that my children were not perfect, flawless, angelic, or incapable of mass-destruction. Okay, carry on…

So the other day it snowed. Yes, it snowed the night before Halloween, and I think that this happens nearly every year as an eye-catching conversation-starter prior to traipsing your little ones around on an October evening where light-weight nylon costumes are the norm. In any case, my kids were thrilled to see that someone had the gumption to make large snowballs with the snow on Scout’s school’s playground.

The catch? Since the playground is home to a half-acre of woodchips, the snowballs were more of a wood-snow-hybrid. (This is what those in the story-telling biz call “foreshadowing.” )

Ruby enjoys playing with the “big kids” on days when we pick Scout up from school. So do a lot of little siblings. The problem comes when the little siblings try their not-yet-ready-for-elementary-school moves on some of these other kids: pushing, shoving, etc. Add snowball throwing to that list.

I stood back from the playground with a few other moms, and the next thing that I knew I heard Ruby crying and a few older girls were running towards me to tell me that Ruby had indeed been beaned in the face by a snowball by a fellow kindergartner’s little brother. So it goes, right? Well, I was surprised to see that this kid was pitching snow/chip balls at kids that were approximately 5 inches from him. I did my mommy thing where I talk really loudly and say, “So-and-so, did you like it when this little boy threw a snowball at you? Well, maybe you should tell him that you didn’t like it.” Yeah, everyone, let’s all tell this little 3-year-old that we aren’t crazy about having a ice-laden woodchip dagger being flung at our heads.

When I went home that afternoon, I felt like this issue was resolved and we were all better for it.

But, like many parents before me, I found out that there wasn’t so much a sequel to this epic story as a prequel.

The next morning, while we were brushing our teeth, Scout mentioned something in passing. “Well, Ruby did throw a snowball at him first.” Turns out, Ruby had started the entire thing. That other kid, he probably didn’t even know what a snowball was until he saw my kid chucking one at him. That kid probably watched her slug him with one of those things, and he burned with the fire inside: “That looks like so much fun! Why don’t I fling one of those things at her face?” Turns out, Ruby instigated the whole shebang, and I can’t even contain how uncomfortable that makes me. My smugness at thinking that I had helped the victims confront their assailant? My self-righteousness at assuming I had understood the proper way to handle things? Gone, and replaced by my knowledge that I had it all wrong. As it turns out, I should have been helping that little boy confront my daughter, the original woodchip-snowball thrower, and teaching Ruby a little lesson we like to re-visit regularly called: HAVING EMPATHY FOR OTHERS.

You could call her "The woodchip-laden snowball thrower," but I will just call her Ruby

You could call her “The woodchip-laden snowball thrower,” but I will just call her Ruby

Yikes. We all have days like this, stories like this, and humbling experiences like this. At least, I hope that we do. The beauty of parenthood is that tomorrow I can go forth with the knowledge that I have gained today, and I hope it will make me a more loving, compassionate parent. I know that it will make me way less judgmental of the kid who throws the first snowball… because I might not have the sequence of events quite right.

How about your humbling experiences, parenting or otherwise? What have they taught you?

It’s raining, it’s pouring

No doubt if you live in Colorado, you’ve heard about some of the extreme flooding that we’ve been having. I live in Northern Colorado, so the main point of interest for me lately is that Estes Park (the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park) had flooded, and all of the roads in or out had been closed. (Not true, I learned after writing this that they opened Trail Ridge Road–the road that goes through RMNP over to Grand Lake–as a route for evacuation.) As far as I can tell from these photos here and here, Hwy 7 and Hwy 34 are fully washed out in areas. In mountain-area speak, there are only 4 ways in and out of Estes, and all are closed. (Well, Trail Ridge has traditionally been a seasonal road, so let’s see how long it can stay open before snow flies.) Residents are essentially living on an island. Can you imagine what the Estes Park Safeway looks like?

It’s estimated to cost millions to repair. Worse yet, people have died and many have been evacuated and may have lost their homes. Many in Boulder county have had entire residential streets torn up by the water. Schools are closed, the University of Colorado is closed, and there are closures along the interstate nearby. My sister-in-law works at a hospital in Longmont, and she assures me that it was a wild day at the office, so to speak. The hospital probably saw this guy:

But as for me, I can count my blessings. We are safe and dry. Our schools are also closed, but since I have soup and the kids have movies, we can just hunker down. If the kids feel like it, we might do this again:

Our walk to school on Tuesday morning

Our walk to school on Tuesday morning

We have the luxury of a safe, dry home, and I am grateful. For now, local reservoirs are holding and Spring Creek is okay. The Poudre River has overflowed, and caused a lot of road closures and some evacuations, but most city dwellers are safe this morning. Please say a prayer for those folks who don’t have such luxuries, especially those who find themselves scrambling for what to carry with them as they leave their home and head to safety. (How sad, the local Red Cross evacuation area doesn’t have a place for pets. This is probably not unusual in an emergency, but I just never thought about it before.) And pray especially for the folks in Colorado who were spared from fire a year ago, and are now fighting against mudslides and floods.

Stay safe, Colorado!

Video inspiration: Brave

This week is back to school week around here. I know lots of folks who will be starting their journey, like us. We launch our kindergartener into the very big public school world on Tuesday, and I need some inspiration.

P.S. I’m not sure if this is for my kiddo or more for me, but either way I love this song and the video is fun too!

Sara Bareilles–Brave

I wanna be a dinker, at least as I define it

“I’m back,” I say to no one in particular.

I love to write, but sometimes it is simply inertia. This object was in motion, and stayed in motion. (Alternatively, one could argue perhaps that this object was at rest and remained at rest.) This summer has been a bounty of pool time, camping trips, late bedtimes and lazy mornings. All this time, I have not given any voice to the many blog posts that occurred to me while I was watching my six-year-old blossom from a life-preserver-wearing-floater to a full-fledged-swimmer, while I witnessed my three-and-a-half-year-old start writing a semi-legible name, or while I spent time trying to manifest the moose that would make my wildlife sighting all-time-best list.

Yes, it is August.

Fortunately, something happened and I was inspired to write again—not in my head this time, but here at the keyboard. My evening was simple enough: I attended a small-group gathering at church, and then came home and read this fantastic essay online. The perfect storm of thought-provoking content, a moment to reflect, and the power to read. (Sorry, I had a SuperWhy moment.)

The church group was pondering the wisdom of the “Wow” of Anne Lamott’s book Help, Thanks, Wow, a book on what Lamott describes as the three essential prayers, and the essay (if you don’t have time to click over) is about the immense gratitude that a mother feels once she sees her daughter’s tendency to move slowly through life as a gift not a burden. What a blessing this wisdom is to me at this particular juncture in my life.

You see, I too have a daughter who goes through life at her own pace. To be fair, I do not always feel grateful for this characteristic, but I think that tonight was trying to tell me something.

In the past, I have called my daughter “a dinker.” Not at all nice, right? I mutter under my breath that she’s always “dinking.” I looked up the definition of “dink” in the dictionary, and it actually doesn’t reflect what I think the definition is, so I would like to one-up Mr. Webster, and offer this: Dink (v.) to move slowly, to putter around, to lose track of time while trying to complete a task, and this also: Dinker (n.) one who dinks. Example: “Kiddo, could you quit dinking around and come here and brush your teeth already?”

My Wow moment, one that I realized recently, was that this child has indeed given me the joy of seeing life in a new way. Countless times, in fact. In the past, I have found it cliché when people wax philosophical about the insight gained by “seeing things through a child’s eye.” Well, as they say, one person’s cliché is another person’s wisdom. I’m switching sides.

The specific story that came to mind was of a series of events that happened two summers ago. At the time, Scout had just turned four. Cory created a garden box for her in the back yard, approximately four feet by four feet. She was thrilled. This was her garden, and she was growing things in her garden. She planted the seeds and even occasionally weeded. (The sprinkler system could be trusted to handle the watering.) Among her precious crops were a few stalks of corn. As time went on, the corn grew and so did her love of gardening. This rather reserved four-year-old would happily engage in conversations about her garden. She shared details about the types of plants she was growing, what she did to take care of the garden, information on how gardens grow, and she boasted that this was her own garden built for her by her dad. But the best part of all of these garden-related conversations was the corn cook-off that she envisioned in the future. She invited everyone to enjoy her corn with her at the end of the summer. She anticipated a mighty crop, and it would be delicious.

As it turned out, the bugs got the corn and we never did have any magnificent harvest, but we did have a girl who lovingly turned a plot of earth with run-of-the-mill vegetable seedlings into the opportunity to feast on the simple pleasures of life and revel in the wonders of nature.

Wow, kiddo. Simply wow.

I try to be intentional with my time, and I imagine myself to be someone who slows down to take it all in, but it appears I am not a natural dinker. Maybe there is still time for this precious girl and others like her to teach me how to dink around. I think I need more practice, but she can help me. I want to be a dinker.

When I think about all of the things that I have missed because I don’t slow down, it makes me feel a twinge of guilt. But I have today, and I have been given this opportunity to pause and reflect. Whether it’s the garden harvest fantasies, the dandelion bouquets, or the way that she can find an anthill like a heat-seeking missile, my girl is the wholly (holy) joyful dinker. Let’s embrace that term and reinvision a world of sweet dinkers.

The sweetest dinker

The sweetest dinker

What about you? Are you a dinker? Do you have a dinker in your life? Or, as I suspect, have you learned something special from a small child?

Totally Unrelated to Kids: Unusual Weather and Homemade Food

The other day, a lovely woman that I know was saying that she’d like to have her baby in a Birthing Center, but there are no Birthing Centers in Fort Collins. (The nearest one is in Longmont, about an hour away.) Without any thought, I fired off some comment about how Longmont’s hospital is not-for-profit, in contrast to our local hospital. Not helpful at all, and certainly a highjack of her original conversation. I have been cringing at my silly ramblings ever since.

Of course, this is nothing new to me. Have you ever walked into a conversation and changed the trajectory to something controversial or political? I do this surprisingly often without any ill intent. I don’t want to sound like a braggart, but if you have a story about how you stuck your foot in your mouth, I bet I could top it. I’m that bad at communicating. Of course, I communicate quite a bit, so therein lies the problem. Those of us who talk a lot, are more apt to have more snafus. I think this has to do with statistics or string theory or something.

I’m particularly terrible at email communication. So the story goes, you cannot fully interpret the “tone” of a person’s message if you simply read it. Many emails are sent off without editing, and can be received and misinterpreted very quickly. I once got an email from another kind woman that I know. In the email, she was trying to communicate her thoughts in one long run-on sentence, and I picked up on one particular phrase and responded hastily. The next thing you know she’s calling me crying, saying that she didn’t mean to offend me. Dear me, I haven’t made anyone cry since the 4th grade. I felt awful. Come to find out, her email didn’t mean what I thought it meant, and I was a jerk for responding with such a defensive tone.

Who among us doesn’t struggle at times with communicating? In some instances, like yesterday when I struck up a conversation with a stranger while waiting to get my tires replaced, I am fond of the exchange and really enjoy making a new connection. In other instances, I’m awash with guilt and remorse: “Why on God’s green Earth did I say THAT??” In the worst case scenario, I’m left rehashing the conversation with a mock-dialogue while in the shower days later. Talking to yourself is questionable in many circumstances, but having full length conversations based on recent historical events may be the most futile communication effort ever employed by word-vomiters.

In any case, I’d like to introduce you to the most non-polarizing topic I’ve yet to stumble upon… The Weather.

I posted a few photos on Facebook of our recent weather, and suddenly I’m popular. I’m striking up conversations with old college buddies and extended family members alike. Folks like to weigh in on the weather. And, as I’ve learned, it’s surprisingly difficult to have strong feelings about the weather. The weather simply is. Weather is not a justice issue, nor a source of alienation. There is no proper way to respond to a photo of a snowstorm in May, thus it is a conversation-starter without inviting conversation-killers.

Go ahead and try to make this photo divisive, I dare you. Conservatives and liberals alike can all agree that this is one heck of a May 1st snow storm.

Go ahead and try to make this photo divisive, I dare you. Conservatives and liberals alike can all agree that this is one heck of a May 1st snow storm.

Here is another photo that I posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Homemade bagels (made by my hubby)

Homemade bagels (made by my hubby)

Dare I say that this photo of homemade bagels was even more wildly popular than any pertaining to the weather? It’s as if the world has opened up to me: If I celebrate the homemade food that I eat and acknowledge the abnormalities of the weather, I am host to communication that I am actually proud of! I need not fear rebuke from right-wing radicals who say, “The First Ammedment gives me the right to have daffodils and hyacinths in May!” or lefties who cry, “How many calves had to die for you to make those rolls-with-a-hole?” Indeed, I am in a blissful land of heartwarming dialogue.

Of course, heartwarming dialogue can be a bit boring, and sometimes controversy is invigorating. Perhaps there’s room for both. But not about weather and food.

What do you think?

I’m not really a Wallflower, but I’ll try

Have you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? I am not quite sure why, but I only recently read this book. Well, I actually devoured this book. In any case, I have been inspired. Also, I haven’t written a post in a long time. So, let’s see if I can merge these two things…

March 13, 2013

Dear friend,

I have had every intention of writing to you, but this is my first attempt. Time has been scarce, it seems. But when I think about it, time has also been plentiful. How is that? That time can seem infinite and also so limited?

Family is weird and lovely. But mostly lovely. I felt drawn to go visit my father for his birthday this year. He happens to have been born on Valentine’s Day, which is kind of weird but he can’t help it. The kids and I took a trip to Wisconsin for five days, and Cory stayed home because he doesn’t have the same kind of flexibility that I do as a stay-at-home-mom. I did enjoy the face time, and the kids enjoyed the toys my parents bought them.

My dad and me

My dad and me (self-held camera shot)

On the day that we left Wisconsin, my dad traveled about 60 miles to spend time at a hospital where he saw a ton of new doctors and had a lot of new tests. I kept waiting for him to call me, but mostly I called my mom to find out how he was doing. He spent 11 days in the hospital and came home with new medicine and new information. The new doctor suggested that he could have a heart pump, or an LVAD as the heart pump is commonly known. I read a bit about the LVAD, but mostly I can’t stop thinking about the plotline on “Grey’s Anatomy” where Dr. Izzie Stevens falls in love with her patient Denny Duquette and she cuts his LVAD wire so that he can be moved to the top of the heart recipient list.

Oh, Denny and Izzie... why'd it have to go so WRONG??? From

Oh, Denny and Izzie… why’d it have to go so WRONG??? From

My older daughter has been really anxious about school. Many mornings have been difficult these past few weeks.

“I don’t want to go to school today.”

“It’s hard to go to school when you don’t want to go but sometimes we all have to do things that we don’t want to do.”

“I won’t go to school. If you make me go to school, I’m going to steal all the jewelry out of your jewelry box.”

“That doesn’t make me want to keep you home from school.”

Acting not at all anxious with Papa

Acting not at all anxious with Papa

My younger daughter does not like to wear pants. She likes to wear skirts. The skirts have to twirl, though. She will wear the skirt all day and then put it on over her pajamas. She sleeps in a twirly skirt over her pajamas, and it’s probably not comfortable but she does not seem to mind. Other people think she looks nice, though, and they will comment. When they say, “Oh, how sweet!” I really just want to cringe and say, “She actually slept in that stupid skirt last night.”

But I don’t.

One of the "twirly" skirts

One of the “twirly” skirts

I am very annoyed with daylight savings time. I read a poster in a Jimmy John’s not too long ago. The sign was a list of some wisdom of Dave Barry. I really like Dave Barry. It said things like, “There comes a time in life when you stop making a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.” But one thing I remember is that it also says, “No one can ever give you a good explanation for why we observe Daylight Savings time.”

I agree with Dave Barry on that.

I have been leaving messages for a woman who works at our credit union. She is never there, but I keep hoping that she will return my message. I had my debit card stolen out of our truck two weeks ago. The first person I spoke with at the credit union led me to believe that this was no big deal. I’m pretty sure that $2100 should be reinstated on our account. I  didn’t spend $2100 at Target, but someone did. My husband filled out the card dispute form and he even turned it into a PDF, which I found pretty impressive. Why does the credit union need to take two weeks to reinstate the money?

Good thing I don’t actually need money to survive.

That was supposed to be a joke. But maybe no one even laughed. I don’t know why I’m saying this. I really just wish that I could write a post in order to move my blogging process along. I really hope that this post did accomplish that.

Love always,