Tuesday, December 23, 2008


By Kelly

I chalk it up to hubris.

I had such an extraordinarily productive morning– cleaning the house, picking up toys, vacuuming the half-gallon of pine needles from under our Christmas tree – I thought I would bake cut-out cookies with all three children, right before dinner, all by myself.

Idiot. I say that fondly, but still. Idiot.

The older kids, ages 7 and 5, were helpful and excited. Maybe a little too excited. Connor couldn’t stop eating scraps of dough, and Natalie was a tad overzealous with the horse cookie cutters. (I guess the holy family will be traveling to Bethlehem on nobler steeds this year.) Teyla, at 11 months, stood in her high chair and loudly proclaimed her displeasure, both with her confinement and her lack of cookie-cutting involvement.

The oven smoldered as it preheated. Apparently, the chicken pot pie I made Sunday night had bubbled over more than I thought. The phone rang. My sister had a question about a Christmas present. Connor popped another quarter-sized piece of dough in his mouth. The phone rang again. It was someone from the animal rescue organization; would we want to come see one of their dogs tomorrow? The baby decided to get the heck out of Dodge by crawling out onto her high chair tray. I threw two trays of cookies into the oven. A black cloud billowed out at me. I opened the door to our deck, the better to keep the smoke detectors silent. Natalie decided to make another horse for Christmas.

Is it any wonder that half of the cookies ended up overdone? They weren’t burnt, exactly. But they weren’t golden and beautiful, either. They were a little too brown, a little too crunchy.

Just like me at Christmas.

I try to do too much. No matter how much I aim to simplify, I end up with a To Do List that rivals Santa’s. And I wind up overdone. Not burned all the way. Not in full-down Brittany Spears melt-down mode. Just crispy and hard and brittle around the edges.

It’s not worth it. I know that already, but tonight, two dozen molasses-colored cookies reminded me again. It’s not worth it. Better to bake one batch of cookies and enjoy it than to bake 12 varieties and be annoyed with my kids the whole time when they want to taste the dough. Better to leave the laundry unfolded on top of the dryer than to stay up until the wee hours of the morning so my house will be perfectly in order on December 25. Better to spend some time being quiet before the One who’s birth we celebrate than to have a holiday filled with all kinds of sentimentality but none of truth.

Unfortunately, there’s no real fix for overdone sugar cookies. (Although frosting helps.)

But for an overdone spirit? There’s relief every sunrise.

This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

May your Christmas shine golden with His love and faithfulness. Even if your cookies are overdone.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crazy Love

By Kelly

The holidays make people crazy.

Case in point: Me. I’m thinking about getting a dog for Christmas.

It’s not an impulsive decision. My husband and I have been thinking about this for years. We haven’t had a pet since our oldest was born. But during our double-income-no-kids years, we owned six dogs and one (spiteful) cat, so we know. We know. This is not a step into the abyss of the unknown.

But Natalie, our seven-year-old, came out of the womb asking for a pet. Her love for animals borderlines obsession. My youngest brother used to have a tiny pug named Trixie*. Whenever Trixie would come to our house for a visit, Natalie would focus in on that puppy with laser-beam concentration. Eventually, Trixie would end up hiding under a large piece of furniture – in an attempt to get away from all the togetherness – while Natalie laid on her stomach next to the furniture, peered into the darkness and cooed, “Hi Trixie. Hi. I see you under there. Yes I do. Did you think you could hide from me? I see you Trixie.”

Natalie was Bob to Trixie’s Dr. Leo Marvin.

Given that sort of pedigree, we’ve always known a pet was in our family future. It’s just a matter of timing.

And I can’t shake the feeling that the time is now. Even though we live in a townhouse without a yard. Even though it’s the middle of winter. (And our high yesterday was 4.) Even though we have a 11-month-old who’s walking and chattering and into trouble every waking moment of my day. Because when is life ever perfect? When do the stars ever align? If I keep putting off joy - for Natalie, for our family, maybe even for me - won't I regret it?

I'm ready. My husband is ready. Natalie is more than ready.

So I’ll ask. Am I crazy? Or is it love?

*Trixie was not the dog's real name. It was Booty. But if I told you that in the middle of my story, you would have been too distracted by all the snickering to continue.

**Also, I feel you should know that I successfully resisted the strong urge I had to title this post "Who Put The Dogs Out." You're welcome. Merry Christmas.

Kelly also blog at Love Well, although lately, she's been a bit too preoccupied with Petfinder to write much.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Santa Killer

By Kelly

"Santa isn’t real, you know."

So said my seven-year-old daughter to her six-year-old friend as I drove them home from school last week.

It’s funny; I never knew I could drive with my brain splattered on the inside of the windshield.

Trying desperately to stay on the road – I figured the double whammy of a dead Santa plus a car accident would end the new carpool for sure – I shot an alarmed look at the rearview mirror.

Thankfully, MacKenzie was nonchalant. “Oh, I know that,” she retorted, the weariness of the world tinging  her voice. “But we saw someone dressed up like him at that house last year.”

Another bullet dodged. But I tell you - I’m starting to feel like Neo at the end of “The Matrix.” At some point, one of those suckers is going to hit home.

After I escorted MacKenzie safely to her front door, I turned to Natalie and raised one eyebrow. “Honey, you know we’ve talked about telling about kids about Santa,” I started.

“I know, Mom,” she sighed. “But sometimes, it just comes out.”

You need to learn to lie, sweetie.

No, I didn’t say that. Not really. But it is a puzzle.

Santa has never been real in our family. From the get-go, we told our kids that Santa Claus is nothing more than a fun story. And for a while, that was that.

Then Natalie started going to school, where she found, to her horror, that some children thought Santa was alive and well. She is a helpful child, a factual child. She can’t rest with the deception.

So we’ve become the Santa killers.

I've tried to impress upon her that some families like to pretend Santa is real. I told her some parents might be very, very upset if she is the one to tell her friends the truth. And she gets that. She does.

But when you're seven, it's hard to navigate the world of white lies.

I think it might be easier if I just keep her in the house until January.

Besides, I have something to tell her about the Tooth Fairy.

All's fair in love and war. And mythological creatures fall under both categories.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, although lately, she's too busy distracting unsuspecting children from her daughter's truthful missives to do much writing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


By Kelly

This post was originally published on my personal blog, Love Well, last May. In keeping with the theme, I'm running this encore essay because my kids are sick again, leaving me little energy -- mental or physical -- to write something you'd actually want to read. (I assume most of you don't want to hear the synonyms for snot.) Enjoy. And bless you. (Oh wait. You didn't sneeze? Sorry.)

1. My kids have been healthy all winter. Now that it's May and sunny and 70, they are sick. Natalie fell first. She got a medium-high fever last Friday with a side of sore throat. She was back to full strength by Tuesday. Which is when Connor turned ashen during his tumbling class. He threw up twice during dinner. Yesterday, he still had a fever, so he went to bed early. Natalie, meanwhile, sat in her bed until 9:00 PM, making up songs about believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and generally being cuter than a basket of fuzzy puppies.

2. Which is why Natalie was the one who woke me at 2:00 AM with a sweet whisper. "Mom, I just threw up." My first response was, "No you didn't. You're not sick. Are you sure?" Then I leaned closer and smelled her breath. She wasn't joking. (I'm a bit of an idiot when woken from the sleep of the zombies.)

3. When Connor was sick, I could tell when he was getting ready to blow, because his moaning and writhing would increase in intensity. Therefore, I always had a bucket ready for him. Natalie, apparently, has no such Emergency Broadcast System. So there was no bucket waiting for her.

4. Since Connor had a bucket, he threw up things like apples and water. Since Natalie had no bucket, she threw up everything she had eaten in the last 12 hours (shrimp, pasta, green beans, milk, chocolate pudding and carrots -- lots of carrots). I am now on hour 8 of "Mega-Hazardous Waste Clean-Up" and the 18-inch stain by the side of her bed is finally starting to fade.

5. I gag the gag of a thousand hypochondriacs when faced with the smell of vomit. Yet God made me a mother.

6. Because of the illness, both kids stayed home from school today. Which meant the two sick kids had to accompany me to Teyla's four-month well-baby check-up. Which means I took my last remaining healthy child to the doctor so she could get shots, be cranky and run a fever.

7. After the doctor's appointment, the kids decided they felt good enough to eat lunch. They requested microwavable mac and cheese. Which smells like vomit to me.

8. I had all kinds of goals for this week. I've accomplished very few of them. Which is probably why God had me read this quote Sunday night: "I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly realized that my interruptions were my work." (Out of the Solitude, Henri Nouwen)

Kelly also blogs at Love Well -- when she isn't mothering sick children, that is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving (A Partial List)

By Kelly

I’m thankful for the toys scattered around my living room, because it means I have little ones at play.

I am thankful for the headache that’s keeping me quiet today, because in the stillness, I am more conscious of the holy beauty of life.

I’m thankful for my tiny house, because it has no cracks that let in the winter chill and it has AC to fight off the heat and it has windows to let in the light and screens to keep out the bugs and even though it’s only a townhouse with no yard, it’s still like a mansion compared to the majority of the world.

I am thankful for my aching muscles, because they are strong and serve me well.

I am thankful for my the children we sponsor through Compassion International and World Vision, because they remind me daily of the heart of God.

I am thankful for “Baby Einstein” DVDs.

I am thankful for the men and women who will eat dry turkey on a military base in the Iraqi desert tomorrow and for their families who will have an empty seat at their table here in the States, because they are paying for my freedom.

I am thankful for men like Mark Driscoll and women like Beth Moore, who use their God-given gifts to point me to Jesus and to enlarge my view of God.

I am thankful for my family who will be in California on Thanksgiving Day, because even though I won’t be with them, the wonderful decent better-than-a-bus airline industry will bring them to me for Christmas.

I am thankful for the Internet, so I can shop on Black Friday at home in my pajamas.

I am thankful for the camaraderie of the blogging community – especially the sweetness of Stephanie, the intellect of Veronica, the poetry of Beck, the humor of Megan and the hundreds of other voices who keep me company every day.

I am thankful for pumpkin pie, because I love it and it is all things Thanksgiving to me.

I’m thankful for the scars on my heart, for they are a reminder of God's extravagant mercy and redemptive power.

I am thankful. My soul overflows with gratitude.

Lord, may it always be so.

Kelly blogs at Love Well and is thankful for that too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baby Food

By Kelly

Growing up, I was never the domestic type. My dream was multiple careers, not multiple kids. I brushed off attempts by my Mom to teach me how to cook and clean and iron. I showed no interest in decorating or design. Heck, I barely knew how to do laundry. In college, I changed my sheets at the end of every semester and called it good.

So it came as a complete shock to me, when, a few years before I had a baby, I started to feel a pull to watch cooking shows on HGTV. (This was before the Food Network. Do you remember a time before the Food Network?)

I worked an evening shift at the time, so I watched these mysteriously alluring programs while I ate lunch at home. And something inside me started to change. For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to make some artisan bread with fresh rosemary this weekend?” Or maybe, “I should just sear a steak for dinner and serve it with arugula and homemade vinaigrette.”

Never mind that dinner most nights was at Rubio’s or In-n-Out during my 30-minute break away from the newsroom. I was captivated by the sights and the sounds and even the simplicity of a life at home.

It seems silly now, but that softening in my spirit was my first baby step (pun intended) toward motherhood. Suddenly, the idea of domesticity was enticing to me. I felt a yearning in my soul to create a home and to fill it with love and laughter – and yes, maybe a seared steak or two.

I always smiled at the end of each cooking show, when the host would take a big bite of his or her completed dish. Inevitably, it was divine. Their eyes would roll back in their head, their speech would momentarily stop. Only groans and sighs could communicate the bliss that was going on in their mouths. Picture Rachel Ray sampling one of her 30-minute meals. “Yum-o.”

I often wondered if the food was really that good. I mean, once or twice I understand. I made some pumpkin bread yesterday that I can’t stop eating. “Oh my word, that’s good bread,” I enthused all afternoon to no one in particular. “Wow. Seriously good bread.”

But every day? Every recipe? Every time? Come on. I mean, what are the odds?

Earlier this week, I sat with Teyla, my ten-month-old, as she opened doors and pushed buttons on her tiny kitchen. I watched her eyes shine with curiosity and wonder. She picked up a plastic green triangle with her chubby little hand and stretched it out toward my face. I instinctively leaned down and pretended to take a big bite. “Oooommmmm. Yum, yum,” I cooed, my eyes widening with mock ecstasy.

And then I smiled.

Huh. What do you know.

It really is amazing. Every day. Every time.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


By Kelly

I sat on my kitchen floor last night and played "let's fall all over Mom" with Teyla. She's ten months old now, which is both an indisputable fact and an incomprehensible mystery. She's starting to purposefully interact with us; she offers me bites of her food, for example, and she loves to shriek and watch us whip around in amazement. She's still a baby. But she's moving fast toward toddler territory, leaving the calm world of infancy behind.

The realization of all that growing up made me a little nostalgic -- which is how I found myself reading my post from exactly one year ago yesterday and marveling at how quickly life rushes by, like a stream heavy with the refreshment of spring rains. Here it is.


So I'm 30 weeks pregnant now. And really, all things considered, I'm doing great.

It's just that -- I think I've turned into an elephant.

I don't walk. I lumber.

I don't move fast. I plod.

I don't stop quickly. It's not easy to halt this girth.

(Insert elephant trumpet sound here.)

When I get out of bed in the morning -- or, let's be honest, in the middle of the night to heed the siren call of the wild -- I puff and pant. My ligaments stretch and strain. My back muscles scream at me I struggle to right myself. My heart rate shoots up instantly. (Can walking to the bathroom constitute a strenuous workout?) I'm so front heavy, I'm developing a permanent swayback.


I also have to contend with a female child in my abdomen who is training for "Dancing with the Stars." (I think she has a particular liking for the mambo.) She jabs and rolls, kicks and turns. She is in constant movement, making my stomach heave and roll like an ocean storm.

And then there are the special effects pregnancy performs on my face. About three weeks ago, I looked like a "before" picture from one of those old Clearsil commercials. Remember? The one where the announcer draws a constellation on the face of the unsuspecting teen, connecting the red acne dots with a black marker? "The Big Dipper!" "The North Star!"

Yeah. That was me. Only I think I was sporting a small galaxy on my visage. It was ... beyond words. I could only grimace and bear it and remind myself that this, too, shall pass. (And thank you, Lord, for Proactiv!)

I comforted myself with the thought that this only confirms the old wives' tale that says you're having a girl if you're uglier pregnant than you are normally. Because I certainly don't glow much when I'm with child.

Unless you count the shine from the oil, and I really think that's only attractive to Exxon executives.

But she's worth it right?

Pregnancy is such a strange, mysterious, amazing thing. I keep reminding myself, "It's not everyday that you get to be a part of a miracle, girl. Suck it up. Your energy and smaller self will return. Someday, you'll be able to walk across the room again without having to stop and catch your breath. Someday, you won't have to hike up your pants every time you get out of a chair. Someday, you'll get to meet this little girl and all the inconveniences and annoyances of pregnancy will fade like a Minnesota fall."

It's worth it. It's all worth it.

P.S. But could someone please invent some slip-on shoes that are suitable for winter in a northern climate? Because I almost passed out this morning when I had to tie my boot laces. Who can bend over for that long, people? I have a baby where my lungs used to be.

That's all I'm saying.

Kelly did eventually recover from her Heffalump-like condition. You can also find her blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night Urgency

By Kelly

The electricity of election night is palpable.

During my years as a newspaper reporter and editor and then a TV news producer, I spent many election nights in cold, windowless newsrooms, which, on election night, fairly buzzed with adrenaline, bad coffee and jokes that remain, to this day, unprintable. (Why, yes, I was known as The Run-On Queen. Why do you ask?)

It was a little intoxicating, frankly, the long hours and the breathless pace and the access to power. Every third person was on the phone with a candidate or political pundit. The newsroom desk was usually occupied by someone doing an on-air piece. The bank of TVs behind the assignment desk was blaring and insistent. I stayed – heck, everyone stayed – until the bitter end. I usually drove home around 3:00 AM, every nerve in my body still tingling. It took me days to come off the adrenaline high.

Every once in a while, when someone finds out what I used to do with my life before kids, they’ll ask me if I miss it, if I miss the news business and the rush that goes with it.

On election nights, I miss it.

But then again….

Last night, instead of sitting in a control booth and whispering the latest election numbers into an anchor’s IFB, I sat in a dim nursery and cuddled a tired baby. Instead of talking on the phone to Mr. Important’s media spokesman, I watched Connor earn his gold belt at karate graduation.

Instead of feeling important because I took the pulse of the nation, I felt humbled because I am someone’s whole world.

Maybe I don’t miss it after all. After all, there’s urgent. And then there’s important.

I’m just starting to learn the difference.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, which is both the name of her blog and her motto for living. Sometimes, it takes an election to make her remember that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tales from the Crib

By Kelly

I was reading the October 2008 issue of Parenting magazine over the weekend, and once again, the last page made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I was in bed at the time. And my husband was sleeping next to me. What happened next is up to debate -- no one can prove that I elbowed him or said in a loud voice, "You have to hear this!" -- but in the end, Corey listened to me read the whole thing, even as I paused between paragraphs to chortle to myself and make banal quips. “This is so funny. And so true. Isn’t it funny? Why aren’t you laughing?”

Written by the always witty Melissa Balmain, it lists five horror movies, done mom style.

Bear Glitch Project

Take, for example, The Bear Glitch Project. “A family of four is terrorized by eerie groans and howls that, in a riveting climax, are traced to a Winnie the Pooh toy with dying batteries. PG-13 (violent act involving Winnie the Pooh).


Or consider Smellraiser. “After his wife leaves for the day, a dad realizes with cold dread that something unholy is escaping from their baby’s diaper. R (brief nudity).

Phantom of the Bedroom

Or my personal favorite, The Phantom of the Bedroom. “Each time they climb into bed at night, a mom and dad are summoned by a disembodied voice demanding water, a blankie and eleventeen more stories. G (no nudity whatsoever, despite repeated attempts).

So, in honor of Halloween and the copious amounts of Milky Way Midnight bars we may or may not have already eaten, as well as the big Bloggy Giveaways Carnival going on now, I’m running a contest today. Come up with your own mom horror movie title and synopsis and leave it in the comments. I’ll pick a random winner over the weekend -- which, yes, means you don't have to be clever to play, but where's the fun in that? The prize will be a one-year subscription to Parenting. So you, too, can laugh your husband awake.

Here are a few contributions from me, to get your juices flowing.

I Know What You Won’t Be Doing Next Summer

New parents are horrified to learn that their life après baby doesn’t allow for midnight movie showings or spontaneous weekend trips. PG (repeated showings of “Yo Gabba Gabba” may disturb some viewers)

The Pining
A young mom stares wistfully at the wine list, knowing full well she is breastfeeding and can’t indulge -- for the next 12 months. G (no drug use at all, unless you count coffee)

Fetal Attraction
A mom who swore she was done having babies suddenly feels her uterus flip at the sight of her sister’s newborn. PG-13 (adult situations after husband finds out his wife might want just one more)

Invasion of the Booby Snatchers
A dad is aghast when he learns that the cute baby in the other room is really here to steal his favorite toys. R (constant nudity)

Your turn. Happy Halloween.

Contest is over. Congratulations to Courtney of Chaos Is Us. She's the winner of a 12-month subscription to Parenting magazine.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. And she hardly ever wakes up her husband when he's sleeping. Really.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Good Mom

By Kelly

I was a good mom today.

I say that with no small amount of satisfaction, because many days, I’m not.

I don’t listen well. I don’t play often. I’m not amazed enough.

Simply put, I’m not wholly present. I’m always splintered. I eat lunch with Connor AND check my e-mail. I play Legos AND fold the laundry. I feed the baby AND read a magazine. I quiz Natalie on her spelling AND browse through Twitter.

Multi-tasking is a valued skill when it comes to producing a newscast or editing a newspaper.

It is not a gift when it comes to being a mom.

But today, I had very little on my To Do List. That gave me some breathing room. Instead of measuring my day by accomplishments – laundry folded, dinner made, thank you cards written, lunches packed – I wanted to focus on just being with my kids. I wanted to remember that my most important role each day is being their mom.

So this morning, I watched “Sesame Street” with Connor and Teyla. (The number of the day was 20. Twenty! I’ve never seen the Count go that high before.) I introduced Teyla to the joy that is dancing to Michael Buble. (“Sway” was her favorite. Mine too.) I sat at the table and finally played Legos with Connor, something he's requested every day for the last four days. (Although, truthfully, he didn’t really want me to touch anything. “No, not that one, Mom, I’m playing with that one,” was his constant refrain. So I mostly just watched. But I watched with undivided attention.)

After school, I took the kids to the park. It was sunny and brisk. The wind made our noses pink and our hands tingly. Afterwards, we came home and had hot chocolate (our first of the season) and apples and pretzels and marshmallows. I gave the baby a bath and I sat on the fuzzy matt next to the tub and enjoyed her splashing.

And just now, I put Teyla to bed without nursing her to sleep. (Night three of Sleep Training Boot Camp in the Love Well household.) It wasn’t the most pleasant part of my day, but I feel good about the fact that I’m not just leaving her alone in her room to figure this whole sleep thing out. I stayed with her, comforted her, reassured her. I did what a good Mom does.

That is, I was there.

So often, that’s the crucial piece of the puzzle. I need to remember that. And then live it.

Kelly can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Wall

By Kelly

I am tired.

Really tired.

I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in … well, I don’t remember how long. Since July maybe?

I know this is to be expected. It’s part of the baby package. And, to be honest, I don’t have it as bad as many new moms. Teyla, like my other two children, slept relatively well when she was a newborn. By the time she was eight weeks, in March, she routinely slept through the night.

It was not something I took for granted.

But by the time summer rolled around, the dirty diaper started to hit the fan.

I nurse Teyla to sleep, which is what I’ve done with all my babies. I’ve made that conscious choice, even though I know many people advise against it, because it’s easy, it makes my babies fall into a milk-induced coma and sleep is better than coffee those first few months.

But here is where I pay for it.

Teyla is now nine months old. And instead of sleeping through the night, she gets up once. Or twice. Or maybe three times. Or sometimes – help me, Jesus – even four. And each time, she expects me to nurse her back to sleep. After all, it’s what we do. I’ve taught her this. She knows no other way.

It’s hard to refuse a baby who is standing in her crib, crying out for me. Her eyes are usually shut, her dark, damp hair curled wildly around her face. Her fleece pajamas beg to be cuddled, and she stops crying as soon as I pick her up, as soon as she gets a whiff of mom.

But gosh darn it, I’m ready for a full eight hours. And frankly, I think she is too. She isn’t napping well anymore, and she seems a little unsettled with the constant waking, as if she’d like to sleep longer but she just isn’t sure what to do.

With my older two were babies, I charted a course back to sleep using the guidance of one of my favorite parenting books, “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer.” Tracy Hogg, an English nurse and baby coach, has many wise pieces of advice. But to me, her resounding message is this: Everything you do conditions your baby. Babies react to what you, as a parent, have intentionally or unintentionally taught them to expect out of life.

Teyla is the perfect example of this. She has always nursed to sleep. Therefore, when she wakes in the middle of the night, she knows no other way to return to dreamland than to breastfeed.

To break this bad pattern, Tracy advises that I back out of the habit slowly. The first step is to nurse Teyla a little less each night when she cries. I should unlatch her as soon as she falls asleep and lay her back in her crib. Eventually, the hope is that I can get to a point where she doesn’t need to nurse at all, that she would settled just by me picking her up, or even just by me patting her on the back reassuringly.

But it takes time and patience to get to that point.

And when one is tired, one has little patience.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But last night, as I rocked in the chair and nursed Teyla back to sleep yet again, my weary brain hit the wall. "This can't continue," it said. "You know what to do. Make a plan, put on your big girl panties and do it. You need some sleep. She needs some sleep. No one can teach her this but you."

Truth from the wall. Ouch.

Anthropomorphizing at 4:30 AM? Bigger ouch.

Obviously, it's time. See you on the other side.

It does exist, right?

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. Most recently, she wrote about how much she loves Sunday afternoon naps, which makes perfect sense in light of this post.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dose of Reality

By Kelly

Hi. My name is Kelly, and I’m a parent of three children. Natalie is 7, Connor is 4 and Teyla is 8 months. As you might suspect, we’ve battled our fair share of colds over the years. In fact, Connor and Teyla have colds right now. My walls echo with the sounds of coughing, congestion and crankiness. Mom is ever present and ever needed.

Too bad the FDA doesn’t trust me to decide how to treat them.

The news yesterday that drug manufacturers are voluntarily recommending that over-the-counter cold medicine not be given to children younger than four annoyed me. The story line is that many parents overdose their kids, who then end up in the ER, because they don’t read directions properly. Plus, no studies have ever proven cold medicine to be effective in young children.

Huh. Could have fooled me. I’ve watched a child who couldn’t breath through a congested nose – even after the dreaded BBOS* had been deployed, even in a room filled with mist from a humidifier – fall deeply asleep 30 minutes after swallowing a small dose of infant cold medicine. Sure seemed like the drops made the difference.

But what do I know? I’m just a mom.

Here’s the deal, FDA. I know you’re considering getting rid of children’s cold medicine altogether. But I do read directions. I keep track of my dosages. I understand that acetaminophen might be in more than one product. And while I don’t reach for medicine as soon as my child starts to sniffle, I don’t want you telling me I can’t give them medicine when I think it’s warranted.

My kids shouldn’t be penalized for other parents’ ignorance.


After all that, I think I need a glass of wine.

Except, if I think about it, I could overdose on that too. And it doesn’t really solve anything. It just masks the symptoms.

Don’t tell the FDA….

*Blue Bulb of Suckage

Kelly is usually found blogging at Love Well, where she’s rarely controversial and 95% more pleasant.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

If You Give a Child a Muffin (Tin)

By Kelly

I'll admit it: Lunch is the ugly red-headed stepchild at my house.

I have a long-standing love affair with breakfast. Egg scrambled with spinach, bacon, mushrooms and avocado. Pancakes sprinkled with cranberries and blueberries or maybe bananas and brown sugar. French toast topped with pecan praline crumble. Rosy grapefruit. Fragrant strawberries. And coffee. Lots of  dark, rich French-press coffee.

And dinner? Well, dinner's the star of the show. My whole day is centered around dinner. I look at my meal list as I'm eating breakfast and decide what time I need to start cooking that night. I get meat out of the freezer. I double-check my vegetable drawer to make sure nothing has jumped the shark since my last trip to the market. It's the one meal where I know everyone in my family will get at least one serving of protein, fruit and vegetable on their plate, if not in their belly.

But lunch? Meh. It doesn't do it for me. I'm not a big sandwich eater, I get bored with leftovers. It's the "I guess I have to eat something now or I'll raid the candy cupboard at 4:00 PM" meal.

As you might imagine, my take-it-or-leave-it attitude has rubbed off on my kids. Natalie, age 7, would eat a frozen-then-microwaved burrito every day if given the chance. Connor, age 4, prefers PB&J. I usually grab whatever leftover is closest to growing fuzz.

But a few weeks back, just before school started, I decided to give lunch a temporary jolt and plan a Muffin Tin Lunch. The concept isn't unique with me; I've seen it explained on numerous blogs and in several parenting magazines. The basic idea is to serve a lunch of several small portions of food, cleverly (and cutely) portioned in a muffin tin.

I decided to take the concept one step further and use the muffin rows to explain the basic food groups I try to get my kids to eat. Thus, we had a row of fruit, a row of vegetables, a row of protein and a row of grains. I also upped the ante by including one item in each row that my kids normally eschew but might like if they would just give it a try. For example, Natalie insists she doesn't like strawberries. So I made sure a couple went in the fruit row. Connor says he doesn't like peppers, so I put a couple of slices of sweet yellow bell in the veggie row.

When I called them to lunch and produced two muffin tins filled with morsels, their faces lit up. They were completely delighted. They were a little put off by my insistence that they must take at least one bite of everything in their tray to earn a treat. But they quickly overcame that hurdle and giggled through their lunch of "samples." (Four words: Sam's Club on Saturdays.)

In the end, Natalie discovered she liked yellow bell peppers. Connor decided he didn't like grape tomatoes. And I found a way to get my kids to try some new foods without resorting to bribery.

Moral of the story: If you give your kids a muffin tin lunch, they're going to ask for more.

(Bonus post-script: Here's the power of Google. Late last night, I did some quick research to see if I could credit someone for inventing the Muffin Tin Lunch idea. While I didn't find the source, I did find a brilliant blog called Sycamore Stirrings that hosts Muffin Tin Mondays. She even comes up with themes for the lunches, such as "shapes" or "favorite children's book." Check out this page for some truly inspirational ideas. Or just Google "muffin tin lunch." There are tons of great sites out there.)

(Pictured in my muffin tin lunch: yellow peppers, baby carrots, grape tomatoes; chicken strips, brie cheese, bison sausage; oyster crackers, graham crackers, leftover bread from Outback with butter; cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes.)

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, when she isn't fantasizing about breakfast.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dollar Bin Compassion

By Kelly

Normally, I love the dollar bins at Target.

They are right up front, filled with all sorts of cheap trinkets and chic treasures. They are glossy and bright and alluring and everything is a dollar. (Except for the items that are $2.50. Sneaky Target executives, I’m on to you.)

I try to walk by the bins without looking, without allowing my eyes to be dazzled by their glitzy wares. But one dollar for a complete set of markers? One dollar for brand new kitchen towels? One dollar for funky seasonal socks?

Who can resist that?

But this summer, I almost lost my dollar bin affinity, thanks to my children.

In mid-June, on my first Target excursion with all three kids in tow, I thought it might be fun to let the older two pick out a small toy from the dollar bins as soon as we got in the store. I hoped it would inspire joyful obedience the rest of the trip and cheerful gratitude the rest of the day.

I was wrong. (Rookie mistake.)

Instead, that kind gesture led Connor and Natalie to expect a bauble every time we set foot in Target the rest of the summer.

“Buuuuuttttt Mommmmmm,” they would whine, “I really, really want something. What about this skull piggy bank? Or this remote controlled Curious George gum machine? I’ve always wanted one. Please? Just one? Pleeeeeease?”

I gritted my teeth and denied (and denied and denied) their requests. Inwardly, I fumed at their lack of gratitude and their disdain for the many blessings they already have.

How do parents constructively and meaningfully instill a sense of gratitude in their children, especially American children who are so very blessed?

That question was one of the primary reasons why my husband and I chose to sponsor two children in third-world countries - one through Compassion International and one through World Vision. (Those of you who know my husband's past know the other reason why child sponsorship means so much to us.)

Karla, the little girl we sponsor through Compassion, is seven, the same age as Natalie. She lives in El Salvador with her mother and does chores around the house. She goes to school and works hard at reading and writing.

Maynor, the boy we sponsor through World Vision, is four, the same age as Connor. (The exact same age, actually. They share the same birthday.) He lives in Nicaragua with his parents and plays trucks and helps with the harvest as much as he's able.

To my children, Karla and Maynor represent a life they can’t imagine – a life without piles of toys, without an abundance of food, without a closet full of clothes. And they are real. Their pictures hang on our fridge. We get letters from them, covered with drawings and hand prints. Our kids write back. They learn that there are millions of children around the world, just like Karla and Maynor, who live in poverty. Children who don’t have a Target down the street, much less the money to buy a new toy every week.

We try to remember to pray for Karla and Maynor everyday. We pray that God would bless them and their families, that they would feel God’s love, that He would woo their hearts, that they would grow up healthy and strong. The $30+ a month that we send Compassion and World Vision helps realize some of those requests.

At the same time, we also pray for us, that as our family sponsors Karla and Maynor, we would truly learn the meaning of gratitude and compassion. We have so much.

So very much.

And unlike the cheap trinkets at Target, Karla's and Maynor’s worth is priceless.

If you’d like to learn more about sponsoring a child through Compassion, click here.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Almost Lake Wobegon

By Kelly

It was rainy and cool in Minneapolis this past weekend, harbinger of an autumn that’s coming on much too fast. Fighting the doldrums and Early Onset Cabin Fever, my husband and I gathered our three kids Sunday afternoon and headed to the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

We hadn’t visited since spring. Summer is glorious in Minnesota, but short. Why waste a sunny day playing indoors? We have winter for that.

But if we must have winter and dreary weekend days, I’m glad we have a place like the Children’s Museum. It’s colorful and creative, imaginative and engaging. Our kids are partial to scrambling through the huge anthill in the Earth Works room and playing supermarket clerk and mailman in the kid-sized neighborhood of the Our World gallery. Teyla, at eight months, loves crawling around the padded Habitot room, which is full of textures, sights and sounds designed for babies.

It’s just one of the reasons I’m happy to be raising my family in the Twin Cities. And according to the results of the 2008 America’s Favorite Cities survey, even outsiders view my hometown as a good place to settle down. Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked second (out of 25 major U.S. cities) in the areas of cleanliness, intelligent residents and safety. We came in third for having friendly people and being an affordable place to shop and live. And we were in the top five for public parks and access to the outdoors, farmers and specialty food markets and ease of getting around town.

We didn’t do so well in the thriving nightlife area, ranking low for quality of singles bars and nightclubs. Nor did we score high on weather. (Only Chicago came in lower than us.) But that’s OK. When it comes to raising my kids, I’d rather have intelligent neighbors and great public parks than Las Vegas’ party scene or San Diego’s picture-perfect climate. (I will not remember saying this come January.)

The Twin Cities tend to be in the top ten of every “Best Place to Raise a Family” list out there. Chalk it up to great schools, low cost of living, tons of pediatricians, almost non-existent pollution and low crime.

Here are a few other reasons why I love living here:

Change of seasons. There’s something magical about watching the ebb and flow of nature through the eyes of a child. Natalie loves the snow. (Despite her father’s mantra that “winter is evil, winter is evil.”) Connor looks forward to our annual trip to the apple orchard. The seasons give our lives structure and variety and expectation.

Active lifestyle. Minnesotans are a resoundingly fit bunch. Even on the coldest winter days, you’ll see people jogging and ice skating and cross-country skiing and sometimes even biking to work. (Although I personally believe winter bikers are certifiable. As are people who ice fish.) During warmer months the trails and parks and lakes and fields can get downright crowded. The assumption is to get out and get moving, never mind the weather. Gotta love that attitude.

Water. I wasn’t born a Minnesotan, but I grew up here. Thus, I am a water baby. There are gorgeous, sky-blue lakes around every bend in Minnesota. (Which is also why we have mosquitoes the size of robins. But I digress.) I love swimming and spending lazy summer days at the beach. I'm proud that the sport of water skiing was invented here, that we have a pristine lake wilderness to canoe and yes, that those lakes freeze into hockey rinks each winter.

So now it’s your turn. Brag a little about where you live. What makes your city a great place to raise a family?

And if you can't think of anything? Feel free to move to Minnesota. Your first play date at the Minnesota Children's Museum is on me.

Kelly, who still misses San Diego, despite all evidence to the contrary, can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mom, The Fashionista

By Kelly

Yesterday, I spent 90 heavenly minutes in Ann Taylor Loft shopping for new clothes. The older kids were in school, the baby napped in her stroller, my travel mug was filled with steaming Sumatra with hazelnut cream. I may have floated a little as I browsed through the sweater selection. It was glorious.

I’m not a clothes horse by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been wearing maternity clothes or oversized t-shirts for the better part of two years now. So it was time. Past time, really. I’m ready to have some style again, to wear clothes that make me feel like me.

Of course, this being the year of the ‘80s revival, clothes shopping has been, shall we say, an experience. I started yesterday’s shopping excursion at Target. Pegged jeans? Blouses with bows? Sweater vests? Neon lettering? Been there, done that, gave the t-shirt to Goodwill. Last year, I believe. I'm ready to move on.

Thankfully, I was able to find some outfits at the Loft that are a good blend of practical and hip, without straying into trendy territory. I still need to sort through my purchases -- a combination of jersey shirts and lightweight sweaters and jeans and cargo pants. -- and decide what to keep. (I tend to buy everything I like and then return half of it a week later, after I’ve had time to think. Stores love me.) But overall, I’m looking forward to a fall where I don’t feel frumpy.

Of course, nothing I bought yesterday would be considered high-end fashion. I'm a stay-at-home Mom and a Midwesterner. I love to add some funk into my wardrobe, but I can't stomach the thought of forking over $745 for a shirt just because it bears the Versace name. It just can't be that good.

Can it?

And that reminded me of a fabulous article I read in the August issue of "Good Housekeeping." It was written by blogger Kyran Pittman at Notes to Self who was given the opportunity to test fashion editors claims about must-have items that cost a small fortune.

A quick excerpt:
Classic pumps: $495... Classic diamond studs: $5,000... Classic trench coat: $1,395. I could afford the $24 classic tank top, but it would have to wait until my husband got paid again. I added up the list. Ten grand. More than twice our monthly income.

Remember the scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway, playing the ingenue assistant at a high-fashion magazine, smirks over an intense editorial discussion about couture? That's not me. I am not above fashion. I recognize that real artistry goes into the design and manufacture of fine clothing, and that there is a market for it.

But it mystifies me when it is marketed to moms like me. If the editors of these lists were to leave Manhattan and come to Little Rock, AR, to stand behind me in the supermarket line, coupon book in hand, would they tap me on the shoulder and tell me that a $2,000 designer handbag was an "essential"?

I've read the arguments. That bag, those shoes, that dress will last a lifetime if properly cared for. They will never go out of style. They are an investment.

Really? Really?

Go read the whole article for yourself. I promise you won't regret it. And I won't give away the ending, except to say I think Kyran would have loved my shopping trip yesterday.

Clothes are just clothes. But every once in a while, it takes something special on the outside to let the beauty on the inside shine through.

Find Kelly also blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bedtime Thoughts

By Kelly

The kids wouldn’t go to sleep tonight. They sat in their beds and read books and played Legos and skittered down the stairs to suggest that they might sleep better if they could just get some scissors out of my office and create a pretend computer out of paper before turning in for the night. The air was full of whispers and giggles and "thunks" that shouldn’t have been.

The baby was no better. At seven months old, she’s like a tiny Dora the Explorer, always on a quest to discover something new. “Carpet. Plant leaves. Dirt in the mouth! Say it with me.” Even though she’d been awake since 2:30 – or more likely, because she’d been awake since 2:30; over-stimulation, anyone? – she wasn’t the least bit interested in sleeping. She squirmed through my attempts to nurse her, she lurched toward the floor where her blocks beckoned. She spit up, for good measure. She made a spectacular dirty diaper, for even better measure.

And I just wanted them all to go to sleep. “Be sweet little children, and give Mommy her hour of alone time before her head falls off.”

Then I remembered this quote from Anna Quindlen about her years as a parent.
The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Ah yes. The next thing. I'm a master at looking ahead, especially on nights like this, when I'm solo-parenting. Dinner, bath, book, bed. I have no energy to soak up the details. I'm just trying to survive.

But that's no way to live.

So the kids finally fell asleep, and I fell onto the couch to record this: a lesson on living in the moment. Because when I read this post in a few years, I won't remember the exhaustion. I won't remember the march through the bedtime routine.

I'll remember the giggles and the smiles and the trusting faces. I'll remember how much I love being a mom.

It's worth it. Even when they won't go to sleep.

Find Kelly also blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School Daze

By Kelly

I know for many families in the United States, school is already underway.

Which leads me to ask, "Seriously? School on August 9? Who does that?"

Here in Minnesota, school doesn’t start until the day after Labor Day. (It’s the law.) And while I don’t want to sound all high and mighty, I’m pretty sure that’s the day God intended kids to go back to school. Memorial Day is the beginning of summer. Labor Day is the end. Those holidays are divinely appointed bookends to keep summer from being spirited away by miserly gremlins who worry more about "testing" and "brain drain" than giving our children a chance to actually relax and sit in the grass and watch the clouds dance across the sky.

(Sorry about the slobber. I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

I guess I'm also personally thankful to have some extra time to prepare. This will only be the second year I've been the parent of a school-aged child, and the whole school experience is a minefield for newbies to navigate.

Case in point:

Last year, my oldest child, Natalie, started first grade. The second week of school, Natalie brought home a list of 10 words and announced there would be spelling tests each Friday.

“Fabulous!” I smiled to myself. “My little girl is really growing up. We’re on Learning Lane now.”

I was a little concerned about the difficulty of the words, considering she was still struggling to grasp basic phonics. But I figured the teachers must know what they are doing. After all, they are the experts.

Imagine my shock when she came home that first Friday, carrying a test with a big +3 on the top in red ink. She, being blissfully naïve, was thrilled. “I only got seven wrong, Mom! That’s three right!”

I, however, was horrified. How did my daughter end up with such a low score?

I inquired of her teacher. She gently pointed out that it might help if Natalie studied her spelling words at home during the week.

Apparently, it’s called homework (insert air quotes here), and I, being a Mom, am now responsible for such matters.

Humbling? Yes. But it was a good lesson. I'm a rookie in the Big Leagues now. I should keep my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Through trial and error, I learned that I'm responsible for spelling words and the "suggested" reading that is sent home each week.

But overall, I'm still really green.

I don't know if it's OK to request the second-grade teacher I'd like Natalie to have. (Is that obnoxious? Or normal?) I don't know if I should continue to walk her to her classroom each morning. (Overbearing? Or caring?) I don't know how much I should help her when she's doing her homework, or how often I should remind her to clean out her folder, or if I should make excuses for the days she'll miss school for family trips.

It's just a whole lot of new -- for both of us.

Any suggestions from veteran Moms? I have six days until Labor Day.

Unless I can find a state that believes school shouldn't start until Columbus Day. Sounds educational to me.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, although she's currently taking a short hiatus to enjoy the last full week of summer. She'll return after Labor Day. Of course.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


By Kelly

Last night, as I waited for my brain to turn off and the drowsiness to descend, I read through my journal from last year.

I was sad and slightly startled to see how much depth my writing had 12 months ago. These days, my writing tends toward the surface and the amusing. Nothing wrong with that, inherently. It’s a large part of who I am. I’m always thrilled when good friends tell me my blog is exactly like the real-life me. That’s a compliment.

Yet, I’m not a shallow person. At least, I didn’t use to be.

“I’m forlorn,” I thought to myself as I snuggled under the comforter, drowsiness padding my brain. “Yes, that’s it exactly. I’m forlorn.”

Waking up this morning to sunshine and cereal with blueberries and “Diego’s Moonlight Rescue,” I didn’t feel quite so melancholy. (My sanguine personality wastes little time throwing pity parties. They aren’t fun.)

But the basic premise remains: This year, I’m living. But I’m not delighting. At least, not enough.

I know much of this can be chalked up to the changes of the last year. New house, new city, new baby, new school, new church, new friends, new schedule. New, new, new. Who has time to reflect and ponder and wonder when the dishwasher needs to be unloaded and the dinner needs to be made and the kids need lunch and the baby needs to be held? Oh, and did I mention my husband has been gone at least a week each month on business trips?

Thus, I have been consumed by the urgent, day-to-day details of life. It takes a lot of energy to keep this many plates spinning.

And while I truly love the adventure of the new and the delight of new discoveries – and yes, a part of me even delights in the challenge of keeping the plates spinning – I also miss the old me.

The old me was better at balancing the surface, urgent life with the deep, important life. I was better at playing with my children, instead of excusing myself under the guise of getting another task accomplished. I was better at noticing the simple gifts in my path each day, instead of rushing about, like a chicken desperate to get its fill of grain before the wind blows it away.

I had more margin in my soul. More space. More room to breathe.

How do I get it back?

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hallway of Pew-Pew

By Kelly

Warning: This post is not for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart. Or for those eating breakfast. Especially if you're eating Cocoa Puffs.

Connor, my three-year-old, is currently potty-training. He's not all that thrilled about it, since he's just fine with diapers -- even if they are sagging to his knees. And it seems like whole lot of aggravation to him to stop playing just so he can go into the bathroom and do something he used to do while playing. But he's mildly excited about his new "big-boy" Diego underwear, and he likes putting yellow stars on his Potty Chart. And he's already met all the signs of potty training readiness. So -- onward and upward.

But, as I've come to understand, potty training a child is also potty training a Mom. (Can I get an Amen?!?) It means Mom now has to stop what she's doing and attend to a child who's wearing Pull-Ups or (help us Lord) "big-boy" underwear even though he isn't tuned in to the siren call of the nether-regions.

Which brings us to the moment last week, when my husband and I were lounging at the table after dinner. (Lounging is not common in our house, so when the moment presents itself, we wallow in it.) The kids were busy in the bathroom -- Natalie was splashing in the tub, and Connor was playing with some bath toys in the sink.

After five minutes of blissful adult conversation, Connor peaked around a corner of our kitchen, and caught my eye. I smiled. He smiled back. And then -- OH MY WORD! The odor. The nose-scalding, fumigatious odor! I practically knocked the chair over in my haste to get up. "Connor's got a really stinky diaper," I said to my husband in my never-ending quest to state the obvious. "It's bad!"

Connor heard me utter the words "stinky diaper" -- which is code for "get the heck out of here" in the Official Toddler Handbook -- and took off running. I rounded the corner to chase him and stopped dead because I found -- to my horror -- that there were little dots of what Natalie delicately calls "pew-pew" every few inches stretching the 15 feet from the kitchen to the bathroom. Connor, still fleeing, was wearing a Pull-Up that was mostly Pulled-Down from the weight of the load he was carrying. Seems someone hadn't remembered soon enough that Pull-Ups don't hold the amount of bodily fluids that diapers do.

Thankfully, I'm good in a crisis. "STOP!" I screamed at Connor. "STAY!" (Did I mention we used to have two dogs?) I grabbed a beach towel, wrapped up the boy and disintegrating Pull-Up and hauled the whole thing to his bedroom for a change that involved two adults, 58 diaper wipes and about a dozen dry heaves from Mom thanks to the unholy smell.

And the carpet? Let's not talk about it.

I've learned my lesson: Pull-Ups and other such potty-training paraphernalia should only be used under adult supervision. And by adult, I mean someone who's actually paying attention.

If my pain can help someone else avoid this misery, it will have all been worth it.

This public service announcement was originally published on Kelly's blog, Love Well, in March 2007. Thankfully, Connor finished potty training just in time for his little sister to be born in January. Thus, Kelly continues to be up to her elbows in pew-pew daily.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Memories in a Flash

By Kelly

I finished Connor's baby book last month.

Don't be impressed.

He'll be five in October.

The books -- that's right, I'm confessing, he has baby books, plural, as in more than one -- are so mammoth, they really deserve their own birth announcement.

"Kelly @ Love Well is thrilled to introduce her newest addition, 'Connor: the First Year.' The books weigh approximately 20 pounds and stand 8 inches tall when stacked. 'Connor: The First Year' joins 'Natalie: The First Year' in the storage hutch, where they will hopefully be kept safe from the elements and all acid-tinged papers."

It's scrapbooking gone wild, people. It's INSANITY. And while I can certainly change my form of scrapbooking -- I'm currently switching to digital, and I love it -- I can't walk away from the idea of scrapbooking. Partly because my children are adorable, and partly because I want them to record my memories for them. But mostly because I have to do SOMETHING with the thousands upon thousands of pictures I take of them each year.

I wish that were an exaggeration. But it's not. And I bet you have a similar problem. In the olden days, when we had to buy film (remember that?) and then take our 36 snapshots and wait for the film to get developed (remember that?) before we got our prints back, we took considerably fewer photos. At least, I did. We didn't even own a camera (besides my pitiful 110, which hardly counts) the first five years of our marriage.

But now? My camera is digital. Pictures are free and immediate. Therefore, I have become the most annoying of paparazzi to my children. I take pictures all day, every day -- especially if we are doing something special like leaving the house or eating breakfast or playing at the park.

Don't believe me? I spent the weekend sorting through the pictures I took last week. I had to pick through almost 700.

(In my defense, we did all sorts of fun things last week, like visit the the county fair and celebrate Natalie's birthday and go to the beach. But still. It's the principle.)

I've been thinking about this digital photo addiction. Surely, some of it can be chalked up to the freedom granted by the digital era. We can see instantly if our shot was in focus or if someone blinked at the flash. We get instant gratification if our photos turn out well. (How many times have you told your husband to come look at the cute picture you just took -- even though he was standing next to you two seconds ago while you took the picture?) Plus, it's free. Why not take 150 pictures of kindergarten graduation? We don't have to print any of them if we don't want to.

But I wonder if something deeper is at play.

As a mom, I am increasingly aware of the passing of time. My children are growing up. My baby, whom I brought home from the hospital about a month ago, it seems, will be seven months old by the end of this week. My daughter just learned to ride her bike without training wheels. My son is playing with Legos -- the small ones, not the big ones -- and he doesn't need my help to get the pieces apart.

I can't stop time. Heck, I can't even slow it down.

But when I take a picture, ahhh. Then that moment is frozen. It's captured. It's mine. I can control time, even if the results are only in kilobytes.

It's a small way of keeping my children one or four or seven forever. Those chubby cheeks. That little hand. That quirky grin. In a picture, time stands still.

Which explains why I take a few pictures almost every day. I want to keep a few of those grains of sand that slip through my fingers.

Time marches on. But pictures are forever.

Kelly also blogs and shares her photos at Love Well.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ho, Ho, It's Magic, You Know

By Kelly

Around 6:00 every evening, something magical happens at my house.

Doesn’t matter if the children have been playing happily while I make dinner or if they are crabbier than Dr. Cox on a busy day.

When that garage door goes up, the very air around us electrifies. (In a good way. Not in a horror movie, we all scream and fall to the ground contorting kind of way.)

”Dad’s home! Dad’s home! Mom, Dad’s home!”

If the evening is typical, Natalie will rush to the door and throw herself on Corey as soon as he steps inside. “Daddy!” she squeals.

Connor, meanwhile, scurries to hide behind the red chair in the corner of the living room, and waits for Corey to walk by. As soon as he hears footsteps, we hear a little voice. “Dad, come sit in the red chair!”

”I wonder where Connor is,” Corey monotones amicably, playing along with the nightly ritual. “I sure wish I could find my buddy. I guess I’ll just sit in the red chair and wait.”

“Boo!” screams Connor, jumping out from behind the chair. “Did I get you, Dad?”

A wrestling match ensues.

These days, even the baby is getting into the act.

Last night, Corey walked into the kitchen. Our six-month-old was sitting in her exersaucer, banging on the warbling piano keys.

“Hi Teyla!” Corey said.

She looked into his face, with her huge blue eyes, and grinned as wide as she could. Her arms and legs pumped and she uttered the sweetest cooooo I’ve ever heard.

My goodness. We are so in love with her.

Corey pulled her out of the exersaucer, to indulge in a real hug. Then he lifted her overhead to say a proper good evening, when the most amazing thing happened.

(Choose your ending.)


a. the baby started to speak Spanish due to an excessive amount of "Dora" in utero
b. Connor tackled him from behind with a maniacal laugh
c. he flicked a wolf spider off his stomach
d. the baby spit up right into his opened and upturned mouth.

The correct answer would be d.

And for the record, this wasn't a little spit-up. It was a hunk of spit-up. Corey had to put his head under the faucet to wash out his mouth.

Magic, I tell you.

I never said it wasn't dark.

Kelly, who would give anything to go back in time and have a video of her husband at that very magic moment, also blogs at Love Well .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Trade-Off of Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

By Kelly

So I heard another Batman movie just hit the theaters.

Anyone know anything about it?

I’m kidding, of course. “Dark Knight” set a new record its opening weekend, raking in an astounding $158.3 million. To compare: The number two movie for last weekend, the chick-flick “Mama Mia,” only managed to pull in $27.6 million. And according to one poll, more than 60% of the people who saw “Dark Knight” last weekend plan to see it at again in the theaters.

This astounds me for several reasons.

First, I can’t remember the last movie I saw in the theater. Truly. Can’t remember. Maybe "Ratatouille"?

Second, if my sources are correct, it costs approximately half my monthly mortgage payment to see a movie in the theaters these days. And that doesn’t include popcorn, which is more than half the fun. Yet people are spending that kind of money to see a movie, not once, but twice? Wow.

Third ... "Dark Knight" is out already?!? How did I miss this? I consider myself to be a bit of a sci-fi geek. But my first clue that the next Batman had hit the big screen came when I read this fascinating blog critique on Monday.

I am officially out of touch.

A few years ago, before kids, I worked in the news business. I knew something about everything – and I thrived on it. I knew the basic facts of every regional and national news story to hit the wires. (In fact, I discontinued my "Newsweek" subscription because it felt like old news.) I knew gossip about the Presidential candidates. I knew the latest foibles of the movie stars. (Living close to Los Angeles made that easy.) I knew what foods you should avoid if you have breast cancer, which police union charity call was a scam, how to keep your child safe in the bathtub with six easy steps and which salmonella-tainted food had been recalled that week.

But now? I’m a stay-at-home Mom. And while I’m still a bit of a news junkie, I no longer follow every story the way I used to. I’ve fallen off the radar.

My pre-child self would be aghast. "Have you no brain cells, woman?" she would berate. "How do you expect to participate in intelligent and witty repartee if you don't know something about everything? How will you impress the crowd with your keen insight into What's Happening In The World? Have you become the very thing you despise? Have you no self-respect? Have you no pride?"

Well, no. I have self-respect and pride. I just have no time.

Besides, my crowd -- all three of them, ages 6, 4 and 6 months -- probably wouldn't care if I espoused my opinion on "Dark Knight" being a symbol of the emptiness of our culture. (Or a shining example of the depravity of man. Take your pick. I haven't seen it, so I have no basis to enter the fray.)

But really -- and here's where it gets even more freaky -- I don't even care anymore that I'm not in the know about everything.

These days, my life is filled with everyday holiness. I do a puzzle with Connor. I play restaurant with Natalie. I change the baby’s diaper and kiss her belly and make her smile. I make dinner and savor the smell of garlic and onion in olive oil. I bake cookies and eat them fresh out of the oven with a huge glass of milk.

I feel like my eyes are opening to wonder, to simplicity, to the beauty in the small.

And if I do my job right, I have little time or energy left over to keep up with the 24/7 pace of the rest of the world.

It's a trade-off. But it's one I'm willing to make.

So, world, you can have your “Dark Knight.” I have my bright morning -- and it's usually spent eating Cheerios with an crowd of three who cares more about whether I'm actually listening to their silly knock-knock jokes than whether I think Heath Ledger will win a posthumous Oscar.

And I'm more content with that than I ever thought I'd be.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, which means she probably stayed up too late last night writing. But oh well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to make a birthday special - without hiring Hannah Montana

By Kelly

When Natalie turned one, we threw a huge party.

We didn’t have flame throwers or a Ferris wheel or limo rides. No one got a gift bag, and I made her cake myself.

But we did host a BBQ for our family and friends in our backyard. We invited all the young families in our Sunday school class, and we hired a balloon artist to entertain the masses of children ages three and under. (His rates were impressively reasonable.) Since we lived in San Diego at the time, we busted open a piñata.And because Natalie was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, the grandparents and out-of-town aunts and uncles flew in for the festivities.

We weren’t trying to jump on the over-the-top birthday treadmill.

We were just deliriously in love with our daughter and so very proud. We wanted to share our joy with everyone we knew.

It was a magical evening, brimming with laughter and delight.

Fast-forward almost six years to today. (An apt description of the parental time warp where my children age eight times faster than me.) Natalie is again approaching a birthday – this time, her seventh. I still love throwing parties for her, but now that we have three kids, we’re trying to keep parties in perspective.

(Of course, at times, you have no choice. Take, for example, Connor’s first birthday. He was just two years behind Natalie, and he was the second grandchild on both sides. But because we had just moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere, very few family members could make it, and we didn’t really have any friends at that point. Thus, his first birthday party consisted of a few balloons and cake at the dining room table. I’m already saving for his therapy.)

Natalie’s party this year will be at a indoor water park. Her guests will be the other girls from her first grade class; no more mixed birthday parties for a while. It will be a pretty simple affair -- just sugar, singing and swimming.

I feel good about that. Hopefully, it will be a fun afternoon for everyone – without having to morph into an occasion that rivals the Presidential Inaugural Ball.

But because this party will be a couple of days before her actual birthday, I’m left wondering how I can make the date of her birth special. I don’t want to skip over that day on the calendar. It’s important to me. It changed my life.

We still don’t have much family in the area, so it will probably be just our immediate family celebrating that day. Traditionally, the birthday person gets to request their favorite meal for dinner that night – and of course, we have more cake.

But that doesn’t seem fun enough. (I’m a bit of a fun addict.) I want more – without having to go all out for a second party. Maybe a silly wake-up song? A special card at breakfast? What traditions do you have in your family to make birthdays special? I'm looking for ideas.

Find Kelly also blogging at Love Well.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Busy Brain, Excitement and the Tightrope Walk of Motherhood

By Kelly

I couldn’t fall asleep last night.

I should have started twitching as soon as my head hit my faux goose down pillow. Two weeks ago, I helped out at our church’s Vacation Bible School. (Read: Fun but crazy schedule.) Last week, my husband and I took our three kids – Natalie (6), Connor (4) and Teyla (5 months) – to six days of family camp in the Minnesota north woods. (Read: Fun but crazy schedule.) And the days since we got home from camp have been a vortex of laundry and fireworks and grocery shopping and the lake and more laundry.

What I’m saying is – I’m physically exhausted.

But when my mind is spinning, I’m not sleepy. Busy brain, my husband and I call it. And nothing gives me busy brain like eager anticipation.

It’s just hard to relax when you’re sitting on a secret as good as this one.

Ever since Stephanie invited me to be on the 5 Minutes for Parenting team, I’ve been flying high. Giddy, even.

Do you remember how you felt the day you first took a pregnancy test – and it was positive? Such a happy little secret. It’s like sneaking a square of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Caramel right before dinner - without the kids noticing.

I’m excited by everything the 5 Minutes of Parenting site has to offer. Great writing. Unique voices. A solid brand. The fellowship of moms. The empathy. The support. The laughter.

But as I lay in bed last night, staring at the night stand, I was jolted by the thought, “Wow, you’re more excited about this than you are about being a mom, most days.”

That’s not true, of course. At least, not all of the time.

But almost immediately, I saw a mental mash-up of the kids’ bedtime routine just a few hours earlier. I impatiently thumbed through a magazine while Teyla nursed herself to sleep. (Do cows get reading material when they’re hooked up to those milking machines? I'm just sayin'.) I rushed through bedtime stories with Connor and Natalie, gave them a peck on the head even as my body turned toward the door, and whispered “Goodnightloveyou!” over my shoulder.

And the whole time, I was inwardly glowing over the 5 Minutes for Parenting debut.

To top it all off, my personal blog is named Love Well. It’s suppose to be a reminder for me to slow down and focus on what really matters – my husband, my children, my faith. To love well, each day. To make that my priority.

Oh the irony. It’s as rich as maple syrup.

Yet, if you’re reading this blog, I suspect you understand this tension. I don’t know a mom alive who doesn’t fall madly in love with her children every night when she tucks them into bed. Sleeping children - hair smelling like Johnson’s, skin kissed by the sun - are the closest thing to angels this side of heaven. (Don’t even get me started on sleeping babies, with their little bums in the air like tiny stink bugs, cheeks rosy and damp. It’s too much to take.)

But that loving maternal glow has a way of vanishing at 3:30 AM when one of the angels screams, “Mommy! Come in here quick!”

It’s like walking a tightrope. We aim to walk steady and sure, one foot in front of the other, head held high in unwavering poise.

But more often than not, we pitch and weave and stumble and adjust.

I’m so glad we’re in this together.

Kelly is also known to blog at Love Well if the kids ever go to bed early.