The Party’s Over . . .

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

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Random Tips on Summer Fun (thanks to my grandkids!)

Playdough_0377#1 Playdough in PJ’s is a super way to start the day.


#2  A closet makes a great craft and coloring room.


#3  Even Chuck E. Cheese can be a bonding experience.


#4  Kids of all ages love stories.


#5  Everyone needs a little glam in their life.


#6  Touching the nose is a good way to get acquainted.


#7  There’s nothing like Oreo cream-filled donuts to cheer you up.


#8  Cousins play hard and stick together.

 IceCream2_1515 IceCream1_1634

#9 Ice cream is essential.


#10  Silly families are the best.

Thankful for a July of “glorious chaos” at our house.  Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Summer!

You Found a WHAT?!

This is a story you’re not going to believe.

In Mom to Mom, I frequently encourage young moms to focus on the things that matter most and to give up  “Supermom” expectations.   I admit that one of the things I gave up was fanatical super-clean housekeeping.  Order and organization—yes.   But obsessive cleaning in every nook and cranny—no.

Recently, however, our house has been looking better than usual because we are getting ready to put it on the market.  As part of that process, I had a cleaning team come in this week to help me out.   And you’ll never guess what they found.

Here’s how it went:

“Uh, Mrs. Anderson, do you have a bag or something where I could throw this away?”  One of the cleaners is standing before me with a strange look on his face, clutching what look like two white towels or dust rags in his hands.

“Oh, sure—just throw those rags here in my kitchen trash. “

“Um, um, Mrs. Anderson, do you have any stuffed chipmunks in your house?”

My mind scans the assortment of stuffed animals throughout our home.  A chipmunk?  I don’t think so.  But, well, maybe…

Before I can answer, one of the other cleaners approaches: “That ain’t no stuffed chipmunk!! It’s got bones and everything.”

“Yikes!  You’ve got a live chipmunk in those towels?!!”

“Oh, no,” the girl responds: “He’s not alive.  He be dead.  Very dead. Stiff, actually.”

This is the truth, I swear.  The cleaning team found a dead chipmunk in my house.  And what’s worse, guess where they found it? Under my bed!!Yes that’s right—under my bed!  It was wedged between the headboard and the wall in one of those impossible-to-get-to places that had not been cleaned, I can assure you, for a very long time.  Obviously.

How did this unfortunate little creature manage to get into our house and all the way upstairs to the master bedroom?   Here’s my theory: months ago (too many to admit!) we left for a trip just after our granddaughter, Gabriella, then 2 ½, had been visiting with us for several weeks.  There had been plenty of coming and going through our patio sliders, and I’m not sure they had always been kept closed.   Then, while we were gone, our burglar alarm was set off by a motion detector.  When we came home, we found a few mysterious droppings in odd parts of the house—including our bedroom and the tub in the adjoining bathroom.  At the time we thought it must have been a mouse, inspiring regular visits from the exterminator ever since.   Now I’m thinking it was another kind of visitor…

The moral of this story?  I don’t know.  Maybe “Don’t ever have a cleaning team  come to your house.  You never know what they might find!”

It’s very humbling to share this story.  But it’s just too funny not to.  At least it attests to my authenticity when I tell you I’m not a fanatical housekeeper.

I also think there’s more here.  How ironic that lately Woody and I have been complimenting ourselves on how great our house looks, given recent touch-ups and “staging” efforts as part of getting ready to list it.   We’ve been especially admiring of our bedroom.  Honestly—it looks really great!  On the outside, that is.

But what was it Jesus said about “whited sepulchers” and “dead men’s bones”?  I think there’s a deeper lesson here somewhere.  But that’s for another time.

For now, just laugh with me.  And take comfort in your own housekeeping struggles.  Surely none of you have dead chipmunks under your bed!

Raw Grief, Holy Hilarity, and Stubborn Grace

“This book is the story of how we reclaim the things that are lost.  It’s also the story of how a home can become sacred, and how in the process it can sanctify us as well. I can tell you these things because I have been in dark places—which is the only way any of us learns to love the light. . . . Home is . . . where we learn grace . . . where we find or lose God, or perhaps where He finds us if we will only be still long enough to listen.”  (Tony Woodlief, Somewhere More Holy, p. 32)

So ends Tony Woodlief’s introduction to his amazing book, Somewhere More Holy.  It’s the first book I’ve read this year, and I already know it will be at the top of my list of 2012 favorites.  My daughter gave it to me for Christmas, and I began to love it the minute I skimmed through the first few pages.

For starters, it opens with a quote from Frederick Buechner. You know a book can’t be all bad, beginning with Buechner.  I also like the fact that each chapter begins with excerpts from other favorite authors of mine.  But it was really an author completely new to me—Tony Woodlief—who captured my attention with his first words and never really let me go until the end.  Actually, I was very sorry to come to the end.

The book is a story that weaves together many stories.  Stories from, as the cover tells us, “a bewildered father, stumbling husband, reluctant handy man, and prodigal son.”  It is the story of deep loss.  Probably the deepest loss any parent can experience—the loss of a child, a beautiful, exuberant little 3-year-old robbed of the rest of her earthly life by a brain tumor.  Excruciating loss and pain.

It is also the story of some almost-losses: of a marriage, of father-son relationships, and of the ultimate Father-Son relationship with God.  Woodlief recounts these  losses and almost-losses with raw authenticity.  Reader be cautioned: have tissues at the ready.

But it is also a story of hope and hilarity and, as Woodlief says in my beginning quote, reclaiming the things that are lost.  The author has a rare ability to juxtapose joy and sorrow, the eternal and the everyday, the marvelous and the mundane, in ways that constantly catch the reader by surprise.  Reading the book feels like riding a roller coaster.  You never know where the next twist or turn will take you.  And oh, those heart-stopping drops!

Woodlief is a really good writer.  He’s also very very funny.  Never have I read a book that took me from laughter to tears so unsuspectingly.  There are—believe it or not—tons of LOL ("laughing out loud" for any non-texters) moments when Woodlief  recounts parenting adventures with his four wild and wooly little boys.  More than once my husband looked up at me from his football game while I was reading the book, wondering why I was laughing so hard.

Amidst the laughter and the tears, it’s also a great parenting book.  The author takes us through various rooms in the Woodlief home where there have been lessons aplenty in marriage and parenting that he shares with humor, humility, and hope.  Side note: you’ve got to love some of his chapter titles—e.g. “Where the Wild Things Are” for the chapter on the boys’ rooms.

Ultimately, Somewhere More Holy is the story of grace—God’s stubborn, abounding, relentless, amazing grace.  Just what a mom needs more than anything else.  Just what this mom needed more than anything else.  Thank you, Tony Woodlief, for reminding us.  And please, write more books!

Isn’t That SO Funny?

“Isn’t that so funny?” is one of Gabriella’s favorite new expressions.  Gigi, as we call her, loves to laugh.  And sing.  And dance.  On our recent visit to Ireland to see her and her mommy (our daughter Erika) and daddy (our son-in-law Richie), I was reminded how very important it is to laugh.  To actually have fun with your kids.

Every time we go to Ireland—and really, every time I travel—I am reminded of the universality of mom-feelings.  On this past visit, we spent a lot of time at playgrounds—another thing Gigi loves.  I loved playing with her there, and I also loved watching the other moms and kids at the playground.

One day we had the great good fortune of a long time on the swing.  There was no line of people waiting, as there often is, for the toddler swings.  As I pushed Gigi, a young mom pushed her son, a little boy who seemed about Gigi’s age (2 ½).  His mom looked as if she had been pushing him on that swing for a very long time.  In fact, she’d become almost robotic.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Then she looked over at me, sighed, and said: “Ohhh, it feels like forever.  The days feel like forever. “  As I nodded in instant recognition of those feelings, she went on to tell me how early her little boy gets up, how he doesn’t nap much if at all, how hard it is to get him in bed at his usual time now that the days are light so much longer, and . . .  You all know the rest of the story well.

A few moments later I noticed a very energetic grandmother playing with several of her grandchildren.  They were having a ball.  The kids had set up a “store” under one of the climbing structures and she was “buying” all kinds of things from them (including ice cream—which definitely got Gigi’s attention!)  Soon the kids tired of that game and ran on to another, and this very engaged grandmother looked over at me with both a big smile and a sigh and said, as she ran after them,” I am absolutely exhausted!”

Sounds familiar, yes?  Days that feel like forever.  Chronic exhaustion. It comes with the mom-job, with keeping up with these little energizer bunnies.  Which is why I love watching my daughter and her daughter have so much fun together.

Yes, Erika’s days often feel like forever.  And yes, she is most always exhausted (especially now that she is pregnant with Gigi’s little brother or sister).  But even amidst it all, they do have fun.  I wish I had a video of Gigi dancing with her mama in front of the mirror, traipsing around in her mama’s shoes (what little girl doesn’t love that?), or waking up in the morning carrying on conversations with herself interspersed with “Isn’t that just so funny!”  (Not caught on video!)  But we did have fun with her new scooter, new sunglasses, and glasses for Corduroy—and how about tutus for headdresses?  I suspect it’s the having fun part that gets many moms through the not-so-fun parts of the mom-job.

I’m not sure I was that much fun as a mother.  But I hope you are!

You Gotta Keep Laughin’!

women laughing together

I recently returned from a trip to Michigan in which I met lots of moms - moms from three different Mom to Mom groups.  Some were young moms with their first new baby; others had a houseful of toddlers and preschoolers. Some were celebrating their kids going back to school, others bemoaning kids who’d left for college.  Yet others were mentor moms comparing notes (and pictures, of course!) about grandchildren.   We all had one thing in common.  Actually, we all had a lot in common.  But one thing that struck me particularly was that we all so desperately need to keep laughing!

I was speaking on the topic “Can You Really Love Your Kids and Your Life—at the Same Time?”  As I looked out on these audiences of moms, two things were obvious: First, these moms really love their kids.  They really, really do.  But also, these moms desperately need to be able to laugh with other moms about the daily “mission impossible” challenges of being a mom.  Sometimes it’s a matter of survival.  At the very least, it makes being a mom more fun.

As I talked with moms after each session, we found ourselves laughing a lot.  Not that we didn’t have serious conversations.  Some very heavy things were shared, and I find myself still praying for some of the moms I met.  But I also noticed how crucial it was for these moms to hold on to their sense of humor.

There was the one mom who came half an hour early for our Mom to Mom Dessert Night because it just felt so good to get out of the house and let her husband put the kids to bed.  She wasn’t in any hurry to leave, either, when the party was over.  Even though she spent a good bit of her time showing me pictures of her two adorable little girls.  :)   And there was the mom who told me “Hey, we’re doing pretty well even though my kids are so close together in age.  I haven’t put any up on Craig’s List yet!”   Laughter really is one of the best medicines for a mom.

All this reminded me of an older woman I knew many years ago who influenced me more than she ever knew.    She was the woman I wanted to be when I grew up.  An older woman in our church that most people called Grammy Perkins,  she was one of the funniest—and Godliest—women I ever knew.  And that, I must say, is one fantastic combination!

She led the Tuesday morning women’s prayer group at our church.  And what mighty prayer warriors those women were!  I remember my dad often commenting that it was the prayers of those women that got him through the completion of a manuscript he was writing on the Old Testament—and even got it published with a big-name publisher.

Grammy Perkins was also one spunky lady.  One of the best stories I heard about her was how she got her driver’s license.  As an older woman (I don’t know how old she was.  She seemed very old to me—but then I was in fifth grade at the time!),  she had never learned to drive.  She kept telling her husband she was going to learn. “Oh, Julia,” he’s say.  “You know you’re never going to do that at your age.  In fact if you got your license, I would buy you any car you want.”  That was all Julia needed. Out she went and enrolled in driver training classes—right along with all those teenagers.  And, unbeknownst to her husband, she got her license.  Then one night he came home for dinner to find her brand new license hanging from the chandelier  in the dining room—along with a note on the kind of car she wanted.  And she got it!

But what I remember most about her was a little prayer she said she often had to pray: “Lord, fix me up, Lord, fix me up.”

Oh, how often I need to pray that prayer.  “Lord, fix me up, Lord fix me up.”  As a young mom with small children, as a mother of teens, even now as a grandmother.  It’s a prayer I need regularly.  And I notice, along with wonderful Grammy Perkins, that one of the ways God works in me, one of the way He fixes me up, is through laughter.  Truly, it is good medicine.  Often, it is God’s medicine.

I believe it was Charles Swindoll who said, “Of all the things God created, I am often most grateful He created laughter.”  I think Grammy Perkins would agree.  Especially for moms.

Praying and laughing—perhaps the two most crucial ingredients for a mom.  My prayer for you is that  you’re doing lots of  both!