I have run more than my share of races. My tennis shoes have more miles on them than my parents' new car.
I still don’t really see myself as a runner.  I have friends who train for races by signing up for nutrition classes, printing off their run schedules and following them religiously. I think burbees and fartleks sound like intestinal distress, not something I want to do in a workout. I consider training making a really good playlist and getting out there and running until I want to throw up. pass out or both
Doing that a few times a week logging as many miles as my knees will take.
I carb load (read eat an entire box of girl scout cookies), drink plenty of water (read coffee) and buy expensive socks.
The end. 
Show up race day and try not to finish last. Or die.
So far this has worked for me. Although not well enough for me to start sharing my finish times.
A few months ago I had some friends sign up for a running training class. It was cheap. I had hit a wall. I figured it was a good idea even though most exercise classes stress me out, but chances were good that this would better than what I was doing. Running has mostly been something I have done solo and think that an 8 mile run would pass a lot faster with a friend. And Ira Glass doesn’t count.

I have tried running with people. But for the most part it just hasn’t worked out. They have been too fast. Or too slow. Or moved away. I either wanted to die, was worried that I’d wet my pants (again) or it just wasn't the pace I wanted. Usually it is ok. I can run far and kind of like the time to myself. My brain is always going in about 20 different directions and there is pretty much no way to stop it. But run 4-5 miles and suddenly it has focused on just one thing.  Breathing. 
And that kind of quiet is a rare and good thing. 

But in the last year I have kind of hit a wall. I had some medical stuff that put the running on hold for a while. To treat the issue I had to start taking some medicine that makes me exhausted.  I’d start running and just want to fall asleep. And I promise I wasn’t listening to sleepy folk music. Again. I’m sure it was equal parts medicine, mental block and the new love in my life: cheese fries from Rodeo Goat (almost as good as Snuffers). Regardless of the reason I have struggled to run more than 5 miles at a time for the better part of a year and I need to find a way like Taylor Swift to “shake it off”.
The answer has been to run in community.  To show up to the track and run with a group instead of trying to struggle through by myself. Let's just say I didn't win any perfect attendance or speed work awards but I hit the track more than I ever would have alone. Most nights I even found someone about my pace. Once after a tough workout I even split a nice cold bottle of Moscatto with some sweaty friends.  If that doesn't get me training harder then nothing will. (Our waitress however, might have wished we had showered first though...)

I know most people don’t understand how someone can “like” running. I always try to say that no one likes the first two miles. I spend at least 15 of the first 20 minutes of any run trying to convince myself to not quit. The trick to any long run is just to get past the first two.  And then for a while my legs just know what to do, my brain clears and everything about me feels strong. At least until my knees start to ache or I start sucking wind. And then there is something fun about pushing yourself further than you think you can. Just lately, my furthers are getting shorter and shorter.

I have run lots of races and halfs no longer intimidate me. But today I was a little nervous. After all, it has been over a year since I have ran 13.1 miles (or anything over 10). This race is in my town- meaning lots of familiar faces at the water stations and blowing past me. Not to mention my husband who had tried to “encourage me” more than once to get my long runs in.  Let’s just say I didn’t thank him for the advice. I just mumbled something about having it under control and rolled over and went back to sleep.  I am also a teensy bit competitive. I know I am not winning, but I like to beat certain people. Like the 80 year old in front of me. 

The temperature was perfect. I had plenty of gu and a pretty awesome playlist. Just as I started to get exhausted my husband and kids surprised me on the course with funny signs.  I was not on track to PR but I was pacing ahead of my goal (and last year’s time).  Until mile 9 when I hit a wall.  At this point it was very clear that I should have spent a little less time on my playlist and more time logging miles.  I considered throwing up more than once and every single bone in my feet seemed to hurt.  There was even a brief moment that I thought maybe I could call someone to pick me up and drive me back to my car.  Thankfully a) I never run with my phone b) my husband would have refused to help me quit unless I needed to go to the Emergency Room which ironically was exactly where the finish line was  and c) some well timed Meghan Trainer came up on the playlist.  The last four miles were long and hard and painful but eventually my blistered feet made it to the finish line. (Because we were all about that bass).

All along the way people cheered, high fived me, handed me water, offered me their snacks, and gave me the thumbs up.  And some of those people were on the sidelines but most were people running the race too. People faster than me. Ahead of me. People whose names I didn’t even know, encouraging me keep going. To push through. To finish. 

When I finally did, I quickly I grabbed a bottle of water and a snack. Slipped off my sneakers and walked my blistered feet in the opposite direction of my car.  For the last 2 hours and some minutes I wanted nothing more than to stop running. To go home and take a nap or at least put on yoga pants and eat some cheese fries.  Instead, I headed to the corner where some of my family and friends had been cheering, so I could do the same for friends and strangers who were still running. This was a small local race. There were few signs or rows of people. Most of the cheering section at the finish line were wearing medals around their neck. These people were tired and hurting just like me but instead of going home they were cheering on everyone else.

I know there are lots of verses in the bible about running the race. Pressing on towards the prize.  Recently my church even did an entire sermon series on it.  Which I think is kind of weird, but maybe there were not so many sports analogies to draw from in biblical times. But I couldn’t help but think that maybe this was it. This was the prize. 
Not the medals around our necks. 
But the community of people who had already been down your path encouraging you to do the same. 
To press on.

And I think that Paul got it wrong when he said that that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. This morning it seemed like we all did.

My favorite new addition to the playlist......this girl is singing my song....


I pick things up quickly.
Well, except for conjugating French verbs, derivatives and any type of aerobic step.
But, for the most part I am a quick learner. At least that is what my teachers used to write on notes they sent home. Right under the part that said I talked back. I could rush through my school homework while watching Full House, talking on the phone and listening to the radio.
School came easy.
Life lessons however, I mostly preferred to learn the hard way. 
Sometimes over and over again.

After a particularly trying afternoon…I finally got Tess to sit down and eat. Just as I was getting her a drink I watched her tag my kitchen table with a sharpie. She was through with the T and moving on to an E. I dropped the drink and quickly wrestled the permanent marker away from her and hid in a drawer that I suddenly considered buying a lock for. She gave me a look that seemed to say, "What is the big deal already. This is art."
I told her it was permanent and wouldn’t come off. Something about me saying it was forever seemed to sink in her little unbrushed head. You could see the panic creep over her face. She went through the four stages of getting busted.  First, I told her it doesn’t wash off and she asked me if she could try anyways. Complete denial.  She scrubbed straight through the two-ply. The quicker picker upper has nothing on a Sharpie. Her next stage was to try and limit who found out. She smiled at me sweetly and asked if we just wouldn’t tell dad. I said that I wouldn’t tell him but I was about 100% sure he would notice. Maybe not today but eventually. Third she moved on to the cover up. “Ok” she asked, “Can I just put my plate over it”.  “Well, sweets that will work for a few hours” (ok, lets be honest a few days)…"but eventually we will have to wash that plate.”  And then began stage four: a complete and total inconsolable meltdown about “how the table is ruined forever and that it is all her fault.”
“Well Tess, both of those things are true. But I don’t love you any less.”

By the time she had hit stage 2 I recognized this little pattern of hers: denial, damage control, cover up and shame.
Tess is just 6.
I am 36.
I go through pretty much the exact same steps when I screw up. First I try desperately to fix it. I pray that no one will notice or make some weak attempt to cover it up. And then I finally land on I am a horrible terrible person who really fucked up big this time and now everyone will know. In other words, some serious shame spiraling.

Tess was inconsolable over this table. And I was still pretty pissed about it too. However this is a good time to mention that this is the dining room set my father bought me for my first apartment at Sears when I was 19. It has paint stains. Glue stains. More marker stains. Wax stains. Stains I can't even begin to identify and chipped paint and loose screws. This table is literally on its last legs. If I didn’t hate allen wrenches so much I would have gone to Ikea and bought a new table ages ago.  It also happens to be parent teacher conference time at my kids' school this week and her teacher told me a similar story. How the other day, Tess made a minor mistake on a paper and was in tears. Terrible, awful inconsolable tears over accidentally using a crayon instead of a pencil. 

I am not the biggest rule follower. I am also (this might shock some of you) not perfect.
Which means I screw up lots. I am slow on the uptake for life lessons …. remember….so sometimes I even make the same dumb mistakes over and over again.  Since I am loud and a terrible liar I almost always get caught. Unlike Tess, I can keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks (at least until I get in my car) but I still hate it. I hate getting speeding tickets, being late, forgetting something important, saying things I shouldn’t and even dumb emails that tell me I forgot to turn my lights off when I went to the bathroom. I hate the ugly gnawing feeling inside that I haven’t just screwed up but that I maybe I am a screw up. That is an inner monologue I don’t want my kid to have. Even if it means graffiti on my dining room table.

Tess kept crying. Horrible red faced snot pouring down her chin crying. It is hard to punish someone who is doing a much better job punishing themselves. I tried to talk sense into her. Assure her that I was frustrated that the she drew on the table (again) but that no matter what she does or draws on or tags that I still love her. I tried to find some balance between discouraging the behavior but consoling her.
She kept crying.
She was still afraid of what her father would say when he came home.
She was afraid I was going to tell her teacher and something about this would go in the folder.
I think she was also crying a bit because she knew I had eaten the last Oreo.

Now keep in mind, just a mere 30 minutes before there had been no remorse for punching her brother or talking back to me that had ended up with her being sent to her room.
She mumbled an insincere sorry to her brother and me when I finally freed her like it was no big deal. For some reason physical violence and sass were things she felt like I could overlook but drawing on the table brought on inconsolable shame. 

So I did the only thing I could think of. 
I went back to the drawer where I had stashed the sharpie.
I called Tess back to the table, I uncapped the marker and I wrote an M next to her T.
My own initial.

She kept crying but was totally puzzled by my actions.

Remember that, I told her….
Remember the grace in me not sending you right back to your room or banning you from sharpies forever. That sometimes we don’t get what we deserve. 
Remember that I can be mad at what you’ve done but that I can never love you less.
But mostly remember …
I did it too. Now it isn’t just you.
We all screw up.
We all make mistakes.
We all do things we wish we can take back that aren’t so easily erased.
And if you forget just look at the table. 
At my initial scrawled next to yours.
You are not alone in this.

Me too Tess.
Sometimes that is the most grace anyone can give you.
Me too.

Forever on my kitchen table currently hiding under a dirty dinner plate.

(editor’s note. Tess stopped crying and asked if she could at least finish writing the rest of her name. Or if we could paint over it. She missed the point. But she is only 6. Sometimes I think these points are mostly for slow learners like me.

birthday girl

My son was so easy as a baby. He slept through the night at 8 weeks when I went back to work. As a toddler he was active and always on the move....but a first born pleaser. He ate broccoli and would play alone with Legos for hours. (He still will).  I was sure that Shaun and I were pros at parenting. Our kid was happy, easy going and so freaking cute that we figured we should bless this planet with another set of our genes.

We could not have been more wrong. Not about blessing this planet with our genes or making the most adorbs babies around....just about being the world's best parents.  (The fact that I occasionally had to borrow diapers and wipes from complete strangers...because I couldn't be counted on to remember things like a diaper bag should have been my first clue.)

My first shot at actually giving birth was not exactly fun.  Lots of labor. Lots of pushing. Lots of blood. An epidural that only seemed to take effect on one side of my body. And eventually an emergency c-section, 17 staples across my lower abdomen and ice packs in places I shouldn't mention.
Tess on the other hand was going to be easy.
She was scheduled. I had a time to show up at the hospital. I shaved my legs and painted my toenails. I arranged for someone to watch my older child and a bag packed and ready to go. Completed my pre-op and I had even planned ahead and bought Halloween costumes and taken care of my lesson plans six weeks in advance. In other words, my mom of the year speech was already written.

And anyone who thinks that anything about a cesarian is easy is lying. Or crazy. Or has the last name Dugger.  Someone cuts your abdomen open and pulls out an actual human being, and then staples you back together. WHILE YOU ARE AWAKE.  (I could write pages on this topic...but most of it is just examples of how childbirth is a beautiful and wonderful thing that strips you of all of your dignity and makes the fact that you will not pee alone for the next five years feel like no major breach of privacy).

Let's just say that the scheduled c-section wasn't the cakewalk I had imagined. I am pretty sure that my doctor thanked me for getting my tubes tied so she would never have to do it again.
After they pull the baby out there is this moment where you hear your baby cry for the first time. You have no feeling from the waist down, but it still feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.  You can't see past the blue sheet hanging in front of you but you know the baby is out. And you are just waiting for that initial cry. One that tells you she is ok. It is never immediate, there is a few seconds where they suck all the yuck out of their mouths and that baby has to realize it isn't swimming in amniotic fluid anymore and that they have these little things called lungs. I remember that few second delay feeling like an entire year had passed before my 8 lb 2 ounce little girl started to wail.
And she pretty much didn't stop wailing for years.


Even those experienced hospital nursery nurses brought her back to me because they couldn't get her to stop crying.  All. Night. Long.  Finally after about the 7th middle of the night attempt to soothe and feed her one sweet nurse suggested that maybe I give her a bottle. And I am sure that she did this at the risk of every La Leche member having the both of us tarred and feathered. Anything to take that crying sweet child back to nursery so I could sleep. Until exactly 57 minutes later when another nurse brought her back. Again.
I just kept hitting my morphine button.

I spent my first few months as a mom of two sick, tired, and googling cures for colicky babies.

In every way that Owen was easy, Tess was hard.
She didn't sleep. She refused to let ANYONE other than me hold her. She insisted on being held. ALL the time. She decided to refuse a bottle the week I went back to work. We spent years with ear infections and went through every antibiotic known to man before finally getting tubes. And a teensy bit more sleep. As a toddler (and an almost 6 year old) she would eat nothing but McDonalds chicken nuggets, cheetos and fruit snacks. It is no wonder she needed a root canal at the age of four.  She can be so sweet and caring and compassionate….but also stubborn as hell.
She never stops talking and I think that she has a vocabulary that will one day serve her well on the SATs….until I say one short little word and she looks at me like she does not comprehend.
that word of course is, “No.”

As a baby we carted Owen everywhere with us. Determined to be the kind of parents who didn’t let a baby get in the way of our social lives. (We were so naive!). We carted that carrier to restaurants and friend’s house and he slept quietly in his car seat. Our first outing with Tess was to a posh sushi place with another couple…and Tess screamed through dinner. I hid with her in the bathroom praying for the love of all things holy that she would eat and be quiet and since it was only a one-seater that no one else needed to use the restroom.  Our waitress brought us the name and phone number of a babysitter.  Speaking of babysitters, more than one told us that they weren’t sure about coming back until Tess was older (read, doesn’t scream at the top of her lungs for hours at a time). These days…Tess wins over the sitters and spends most of the time taking selfies on their phone.

On the soccer field she is a scoring machine. If there is music playing (and sometimes even when there isn’t) she is dancing. Like no one is watching. Except for the fact that she will yell, “hey watch this”.  However, the girl will cry like you are torturing puppies if you ask her to go to soccer practice or a dance class.
She says she doesn’t need to practice.
In other words. She doesn’t want to be told what to do.
Lord, where does she get this from. Surely her daddy.

I jest,  because this girl is 98% me. From her freckles to her defiance.
The 2% of Shaun comes out in some blonde hair and an affinity for Star Wars that I just do not share.  
Have you seen that Subaru commercial where the dad gives his daughter the keys? He is talking to a 16 year old but looking at a toddler. And sometimes that is exactly how I feel.  (good luck watching it without crying). Tess turns six tomorrow, but sometimes I look at her and see that baby that made me lose so much sleep but love so much. The curl of her little fingers around mine. Sometimes I see the six year old that she is gap toothed, strong willed with an infectious laugh that I can't get enough of. And sometimes I see the teenager that she will become. (which scares the bejesus out of me). And sometimes I look at her and see the most scary thing of all.

When my son was born over 9 years ago he gave me the gift of motherhood. I learned exactly what it meant when Rob Bell said that “being a parent is what happens when your heart leaves your body and walks around outside you”.  I wasn’t sure my heart could ever love any more than it did right in that moment.
Almost exactly six years ago, my daughter taught me that your heart grows and stretches and that it indeed could. And does.
That being a parent isn’t so much about what you do right but loving as big as you can and getting by on as little sleep as possible.

When he was little, Owen was easy, quiet, independent and kind.
Tess is loud, clingy, difficult and stubborn….but still so easy to love.

happy birthday my girl.


I teach high school. Which means that sometimes I am stuck in this never ending loop of homecomings, report cards, pep rallies and prom kings.
Names, music and fashions change, but year after year so much is the same.

One of the dress up days last week was college day, I played country music on Western day, a lot of Madonna and Micheal Jackson on 80s day….so on college day I figured I should play music I listened to in college.
All day I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was in college.
And frustrated that so much of me was exactly the same. Give or take 25 lbs.
The same issues I had in my twenties is the exact same baggage I carry around today.
I am too much.
I have boundary issues.
I am oh so easily distracted.
I hate limits and budgets and rules.
I suck at driving.
I like cute boys and beer and things that are not always good for me.
I play my music too loud.
I talk too loud.
I still wear pajama pants and flip flops every chance I get.  Even in public.
If I am wearing actual pants...chances are good that they are not clean.
I can not be trusted with a credit card.
I lose my keys at least once a day.

I could keep going with this list of the comical, yet negative self-talk that filled my head for a good portion of the day while Dave Matthews and Sarah McLaughlin sang on my computer.
I was not proud of this lack of progress in my life. I mean, I thought I would have a few more things figured out by the time I made it this far. Or at least used my iron or vacuum cleaner a little more regularly.

And then I had to go and read this.

Oh…how I love Don Miller.
And the truth is I loved the old Don too. (the whole post is here.)
Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What rocked my world.

And in some ways I have a love/hate relationship with the old me.
The 10 year ago me is older than the college me….but it made me think about who she was.

I always tell people that 26 is the perfect age.
Not so broke. Not so new professionally, but still free to be young and stupid.
The only thing I had to think about when I wanted to go on a last minute weekend trip was who would keep my dog.
I had a house.
The same house I have now.
I had 5-6 great friends.
They are still some of my favorite friends.
A cute husband who I could count on.
The same one who did all the laundry and cooked dinner yesterday.
And he is still cute.
Some things are worth keeping.
For decades. Or forevers.

Many days I envy that 26 year old.
Especially the one that shouldn’t be on cholesterol medicine, anti-seizure meds and has trouble staying awake past 10 o’clock.
But you couldn’t pay me to go back. I might still be able to recognize the 26 year old me….but the changes have not just been bigger pant sizes, booster seats and better health insurance.

I have grown comfortable with questions and doubts and laying it all on the table.
I do lots of things that I am afraid of that a decade ago I wouldn't have dreamed of.  I’ve even kind of grown a little fond of that nervous petrified feeling.  I am teensy bit better at discerning when to hold on and when to let go.
I can cook things I couldn’t even pronounce a decade ago.
I can change a diaper, pack a lunch in less than a minute and have managed to figure out the pick up line. Two entire human beings have grown inside me and I have managed to somehow keep them alive for the better part of this decade.
I even occasionally think before I speak. (clearly there is still some room for improvement here).

My issues are still my issues.
On most days my socks still don’t match.
I still make a mean mix tape.
And talk to people that I talked to a decade ago. And I’m so glad for it.
Heck, some of my t-shirts are even more than 10 years old.

But there is a lot of new too.
My passport has a few more stamps. 
My contact list, my resume and my driving record have all gotten longer. My hair has changed shades at least a dozen times. 
And my heart has stretched and broken and been put back together more times than I can count.
I haven’t arrived.
I haven’t figured it out.
And I hope to God that I won’t be able to say that I have in another ten years.
Or hundred years.
I never want to get there. 
I just want to go.
And I’m not so sure that I even want to forget where I have been. Even the really hard ugly parts that I am not so proud of. I want to be different. But not so different that you can't recognize me. Some of my best parts are pieces I picked up when I was 16. And 26. And a month ago.
Growth doesn’t necessarily mean we become someone else.
It doesn’t mean we figure it out or arrive.
It just means we are heading somewhere.
Maybe it is knowing what to keep, what to loosen my grip on and what to keep struggling with.

Maybe in the next decade I will master the vacuum.

(for the record...I still have that sweater....and those people...and plan on keeping all three around as long as possible.)

pennies and sparrows

More often than not if my change is only a few cents, I don’t wait around long enough for the cashier to hand me my pennies.
If change falls out of my pocket or purse, I occasionally don’t bother to bend over to pick it up. Especially if it is just the copper variety.

I know that they add up, but I still don’t think that pennies are usually worth my time or effort to keep up with. I’ve heard rumors for a while now that the US Mint is going to stop making them. That we will have to start rounding up or down when paying in cash. This does not sound like any kind of loss to me.  The reason, besides taking up all kinds of space at the bottom of my purse, turning green in my car's cup holder and the fact that you can’t even use them in a vending machine….is that it actually costs 2.41 cents to make a penny.

In other words, they cost more than they are they say they are worth.
A penny costs more than a penny.

Their worth is whatever someone decides to print right on the back, opposite Abe Lincoln.
Their cost, however isn't decided.  It is determined by what they are made of.
Pennies used to be made almost entirely of copper, until copper got too expensive. Now they are made with cheaper metals with just a thin copper plating. The world tends to look on the outside for worth, rather than what is inside. It is easy to cover up the cheaper stuff with a thin varnish of what we really want others to see. What we try to sell others is the outside instagrammed image through our most flattering filters, but what determines value goes a little deeper than that.

I have never been the kind of girl to balance a checkbook and have been known to raid my son’s piggybank for change (or twenties). I have bounced a few checks, lost more debit cards than I can count, forgotten to pay the water bill and blown more than my share of pennies on things I do not really need.
I am bad with money.
But I am especially bad with the concept of worth.
Particularly my own.

I know what should be the truth. I know what the people I care about most would say. What the Bible says. What all the other books say. But knowing something is true and feeling it aren't always the same.
More often than not I use the wrong standards and particularly the wrong internal dialogues. 

If a penny can be worth more than a penny…well maybe I have been getting my own worth confused as well. 
The other day after a long afternoon of meetings I drove straight to the tattoo parlor.
In service will do that to a girl. 
I asked an intimidating man who was covered in his own ink and piercings to draw two tiny little sparrows just below my collarbone.  His tattoos took up most of the skin I could see and I'm sure he laughed at my chaste request and mom jeans. Angry music played in the background as the needle hummed and I gritted my teeth.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31  NIV

Another verse in Luke says almost the exact same thing. 

In other words….we have been getting it wrong. We have been looking in the wrong places for other people to tell us what things are worth. And of course when I use the word we, I mostly mean me.
Things that seem worthless are not lost in the eyes of our Father. 
It is not numbers of likes or bank accounts or pant sizes or GPAs or friends requests that determine value. It is not what people have told us. It is not, thankfully, even what we believe about ourselves.
Like a penny it is what we are made out of.  More importantly it comes from WHO made us. And made with such care that He takes the time to number every single hair on our head (and quite possibly even the ones that end up in my shower drain).

This seemingly worthless thing,  is not worthless.
It is valued. 
It is counted.
It is cared for.
It is worth more than we think.
Even a penny is worth more than a penny.

Isn’t that what most of us want? Wouldn’t that be enough? 
My God rarely stops at enough.
There is a reminder just below my collar bone that is even more than that.

You are worth more than many sparrows.
You are worth more.

growing pains

Earlier this week Tess lost another tooth.
And there is something about gaps in my kid’s smile that tug at my heart.  A gap that will be filled with a tooth slightly too big for their five year old face. Adult teeth look so funny on a little kid and it takes years to grow into them. When I say Tess lost her tooth, I do not mean she wiggled it out and tucked it snugly beneath her pillow for the tooth fairy to trade out with a dollar bill. I mean she lost it at the bottom of the swimming pool.  She was excited about the tooth, but sad that she had nothing to show for it. I assured her that the tooth fairy would be just as happy to take a drawing of her tooth. That the exchange rate for real and drawn teeth were exactly the same.  She was not so sure and drew 3 teeth just in case. Or was possibly hoping for 3X the payout.

I remember snooping through my parents drawers as a kid and finding a few baby teeth. These baby teeth both fascinated and disgusted me. Even more gross than holding on to baby teeth, I had a friend growing up whose mother saved her umbilical cord after it fell off.  Those cords are smelly and scabby and I couldn’t wait for my own babies to lose theirs and have it replaced with a perfect little outie belly button. I do, however, understand the concept of holding on to things that should have long been let go.
Like baby teeth and things that tether us, we are meant to lose them so that we can grow. 
New teeth and new ties.

Like my daughter, I love to grow but I struggle to let go. 
She asks me at least once a week to measure her against the door frame. In the summer I read almost a book a day. My brain grows, but mysteriously my pants seem to shrink.
Sometimes at night my daughter wakes up crying and saying that her legs hurt. I rub them, beg her to get back to sleep and just tell her that she must be growing.
And that sometimes growing hurts.

The summer is coming to an end and I am finally getting around to cleaning out closets. The shorts and swimsuits my kids have worn this season will not fit again next summer so I add them to the give away pile. My son hardly notices, but Tess pulls out some of her favorite items saying that she loves the dress with the horses on it and that I can NOT give away her favorite dress. I tell her that the only way she can wear that dress now is as a shirt.  Sometimes growing means letting go of the things that used to fit you. But don’t anymore. As far as I know I have never woken up with aching legs. The only kind of growing pains I remember starred Kirk Cameron, but I know the kind that feel more like an ache in your chest. Or a fear so big you have to remind yourself to breathe.

I cleaned out my own closet this week as well and it is the same but for different reasons. Things that used to fit. But don’t. And sometimes even coming to terms with the fact that I will likely never ever fit into those jeans again and it is time to let them go. And of course it isn’t just my pants. There are people and habits that don’t fit anymore that I have held on to for far too long. Things I keep holding on to because they are easy and comfortable and I somehow convinced myself that it was a part of me. That these less than flattering traits were just who I am.  Not something I need to yank out and toss.  Partly because I don't have the patience to work at it or I worry a bit about the gap that they will leave. Habits and unhealthy relationships, like teeth are rarely easily lost. My daughter has wiggled and worked that tooth for weeks now until it was so loose she didn’t even notice when it finally slipped out and fell to the bottom of the pool. 
Like my daughter’s baby teeth. And her aching legs. 
Growth sometimes hurts, takes work and can leave a bit of an empty space until something more mature takes its place.

I am reminded how quickly she grows when I see a gap in her smile. Or pants that suddenly look more like capris. Or even when I am woken up at 2 am to rub her legs. Again.
And it will remind me to do the same.
To lose something.
To do the work.
To let go. 
To clean out more than just my closet.

Now, if only I could get someone to leave money under my pillows….

(This is my favorite band of the moment. listen. love.)


It is July, which means an inevitable camp post. I can close my eyes and hear the Loma Linda screen doors slam.  I can smell the river water mixed with vinegar ear drops.  I can feel the cut of the grate of the catwalk on my bare feet and the uncomfortable way the sheet always slips off in the night and you wake up stuck to your mattress.  These days I am way too old for camp but apparently it has found some way to infiltrate all my senses and my heart. Permanently.

I could not wait to send my kids.

I want him to have the same crazy memories and nicknames and stories about scraped knees, bathing suits ripped on the rapids, raccoons eating contraband snacks but mostly feeling like the summer was mine.  For three weeks in July I left my parent’s world behind for an unairconditioned dorm, sub par food and not nearly enough showers for the number of girls who needed them. In return I had thirty new roommates, inside jokes, new tan lines, a fully packed caboodle and a sense of who I was on my own.  Even more memorable than my summers spent as a camper were the ones where I donned a staff shirt.  All the fun of camp, except this time I got nights off, to ride the truck up the hill and break into the dining hall when I needed a midnight snack. 

Those summers drained me the way only loving well can.  I took my job seriously. Sort of.  I mean I loved my campers and didn’t want any of them to sneak out, get hurt or do anything illegal.  Mostly my goal was to show them a good time. To throw dance parties in the alcove, to ambush other dorms with water guns and toilet paper. To run things that didn’t quite belong up the flag pole and occasionally share my heart in the circle of girls at devotionals that almost ended with someone playing a song and no less than a half a dozen girls in Micheal W. Smith tears. As I grew a little older, I focused just a more on the heart than the fun.  I shared my doubts and my faith and loved them as best I could….and then I turned the lobby into a slip and slide or helped short sheet someone’s bed.  

Maturity has never been my biggest attribute.

This past week, I drug my own footlocker out of the attic. Emptied it of all the mixed tapes, letters and beanie babies and started filling it with athletic shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits.  I had fought with my husband for years to send my son to camp and he finally caved. Just one week at a camp relatively close by.  My husband worried about his asthma, his swimming abilities, his introvertedness, how small he is and I just worried that he might never change into any of these clean pairs of tiny little boxers I was folding neatly into his trunk.

Yesterday we drove east to drop him off.  Counselors were ready, cheering and welcoming at the gates. My son was nervous in the back seat. Tess spied and horse and immediately starting asking if she could stay too.

And suddenly it got real.

We unloaded his footlocker. Dropped off packages and inhalers and nailed the swim test. It was like some scene from Lord of the Flies. Boys were flying on giant swings, playing gaga ball, putt putt and basketball.  The parking lot was clearing out, Owen wanted to try out the swing and it was clearly getting time for anyone over the age of 21 to disappear.  And suddenly my memories of being a camper and a counselor were drowned out by the fact that now I am a mom.  The girl who helped us unload our footlocker told Owen his counselor’s name was Mullet.  I spied him on the basketball court and very uncooly interrupted the game to introduce my son. I quickly mentioned his inhaler and that it was his first time here.What I really wanted to say was..... This is my son.  My kid. Guard him. Protect him. He might get scared at night. Don’t let the other kids tease him. He is sometimes hesitant to try new things, but if you are patient and push him a little he will do it.  He is funny and smart but if he has been in the grass he will need to take a shower at night or he won’t be able to breathe.  Like him.  Pretend to be interested in Pokeman. Compliment him. Laugh at his jokes even when they don’t make sense. Remind him to brush his teeth and please please just keep him alive until Saturday.

But I didn’t say those things. I hugged him hard. (my son, not his counselor) and walked back to the car and drove the two hours back home in an unusual quiet convincing myself that Mullet sounded like a perfectly responsible name.

About midnight I was wishing for a full bottle of Xanex. And I am not usually an anxious girl. But I pictured all kind of horrible scenarios. I prayed and hoped he was having an amazing time because I was not sure I’d survive the week.  And if you know me that is crazy talk. I usually don’t worry ENOUGH about my kids, I hardly recognized this girl tossing and turning all night.  I wondered if parents of my campers had felt the same way when they dropped off their kids.

I thought about the difference I suddenly saw in my students when my son finally went to kindergarten.  You see, I love what I do and my content and take it seriously. I want to teach well.  But, when I packed my sons lunch that first day and sent him on his way I prayed mostly for a teacher who would like him, love on and encourage him more than what she actually taught him. My job and my students suddenly looked different.

As a counselor I wanted my kids to have a memorable summer. As a teacher I wanted my students to learn my content, but as a mom I want my son safe and loved.

People mostly refer to God as a father. And if you force me to pick a pronoun…I usually even use He, but…In my restless state last night….while praying and wondering if it was too late to take another Tylonal PM I thought that maybe God as a mother might be the more powerful image.

I mean no one ever mentions “Papa Bear”…it is the “Momma Bear” you have to look out for. It is a love that is fierce and protective. The momma bears who send their kids out into the world. To kindergarten, or camp or college and lose sleep worrying if they will have someone to eat lunch with. If they can tie their shoes or if they will remember to separate their lights from their darks when they do laundry.
A constant tension between loving them ferociously and still wanting them to be who they are supposed to be and have their own experiences.  

And it is so hard. My son is only 9.
He is tiny. He has bad asthma. He is afraid of the dark.
I want to keep him close and safe and most of all alive.
But I also want him to fly down ziplines, bellyslide through the mud and take a few trail rides.

I’m not sure how God the father would handle this, probably with a little more sleep than I seemed to be getting.   But I think I have a better picture of God the mother. The mother God, who loves ferociously and protectively and still finds a way to let go. A God who gives choice and experience and lets us become whoever it is we are meant to be. And one who loses sleep and pursues us when we start to become who we shouldn’t.

My son is hopefully making his own memories this week. In all my free time not sleeping, I pray that he finds God the father and God the mother in the woods of East Texas.  And also that he doesn’t lose his inhaler and remembers to change his underwear at least once.