pure.

James 1:27  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
It’s national week of the foster child or something.  A woman stood at church this weekend and challenged all gathered there to pray.   Not just in a general sense, but specifically, the way that we pray for our own children.  For the half a million kids in foster care who don’t have forever families and possibly never will.  And as I was just nursing Lucy, I asked God to give me a name and He did: Micah.  So I’m praying for Micah this week as if he/she were my own child because the idea that there is a child out there, no longer nameless, who doesn’t have a mom storming the gates of heaven, who doesn’t know the warmth of a family, the solidity of a mom and dad who are never leaving, the security of something as basic as “this is my house.  I live here.” makes me hurt.  So badly.  And if we claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, then that’s who we are called to spend our energy on behalf of, so I’m trying to do that this week and I don’t know what it looks like, but I know it starts with prayer.
The Stockbridge Boiler Room (check out the link in my sidebar) is hosting an hour prayer session tonight for those interested in praying corporately for children in Foster Care in America.  And I’d go but Dan has class, and if we all go I’m afraid there will be four more kids in the system, so I’m going to stay put, but we’re going to be breathing prayers for Micah and for the hundreds of thousands like him/her who are waiting.  And we’ve all waited for stuff: waited in the the check out line, waited for the check in the mail, waited for the money for a new handbag, but none of us, I think, can really understand the angst of waiting for a family.  The Bible says that creation groans in anticipation of Jesus coming and this morning I do too. Groan.  For Micah and others without families who are longing for a savior in the form of a mom who will snuggle them on the couch when they are sick or will look on with rapt attention as they show her their latest new trick or will put healthy food in front of them and admonish them to eat it so they can grow up to be a fireman? a nurse? a teacher? a mommy/daddy?
Oh, Jesus, come.  Because there are a whole lot of us and half a million kids in foster care who are groaning in anticipation of you.  Help us to practice pure and faultless religion so that your kingdom will be realized and that numbers will be added to your family, because right now, a half a million of your children are missing and you ache for them to be found.  Bring them home.

Sunday.

This is what my baby ate today.  Just popped it in her mouth and scooted away as fast as she could, her gagging, screaming mama scooting after her.  Why it was in my house and not here:
I don’t know.  
This teeming mass of digustingness that bursts forth every spring and invades my space.  Jeff the Pharmacist (not his real name), who nearly killed me (but that’s a story for another time), swears chickens love Eastern Tent Caterpillars, but he’s wrong.  Our chicks hate them.  I poked a stick into that gooey orb and carried several, gorge rising, down to the coop and tossed them in.  No reaction from the Kevins.  They prefer whole grain bread torn into little pieces.  Strike two for Jeff the Pharmacist (not his real name).
Meanwhile, the olders were otherwise engaged doing this:
and this:
oh, and this:
You should never leave kids alone by a creek, not because they’ll drown, but because you will go looking for them later only to find them stripped down to their skivvies in near glacial temperatures, doing wild things with sand and mud.  But then you can dangle a hot bath in the outside tub like a carrot in front of a donkey and they’ll happily follow you anywhere.
They’ll even lead the way, filthy clothes in hand.
When you get back, you’ll put your baby on the floor for just a sec so you can download the pictures you just took and when you peek at her a scant minute later, this is what you’ll find:
Better Kleenex than caterpillars any day.
And at the end of a Sunday when you are so dog tired from chasing kids and picking up one mess after another and when your muscles are so so sore from exercising the day before (more on that later) that you can barely bend over without losing your breath, you’ll relive the moments in slow motion as you flip through the pictures and you’ll realize you can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.

Schulers.

There is a clarification that needs be made here in these cyberpages of mine.  It was brought to my attention by my dad this afternoon as we watched little bobble-headed boys run the bases in the warm sun.  I don’t love Amazon more than Schulers.  I can’t stand Barnes and Noble.  Nowhere is it better to get books than Schulers.  Really.  Amazon has it’s place in my heart because I’m busy and it’s convenient, but it can’t hold a candle to spending a couple hours lazily running your fingers across book spines on a rainy afternoon surrounded by the honey oak and and worn armchairs that is Schulers.  You don’t get that from a website or a big box store that is franchised to some entrepreneur who, for all we know, doesn’t even like to read beyond Forbes and Men’s Health.
So, order books from Amazon when you just can’t make it out of the house, but set a date for Schulers and take along your husband or a child or two.  Make a night of it.  Dig up books on subjects you didn’t even know were interesting.  Judge a book by it’s cover.  Go ahead.  Lucy and I spent a lovely afternoon there on Tuesday, spending that wonderful gift certificate from my wonderful boys.  Oh, and I didn’t even spend it on a book, I bought one of those flax seed pillow things you put in the microwave for sore muscles, because have you ever upchucked so hard you strain the muscles in your neck?  I did that last weekend from sheer exhaustion (and nothing else, I swear).  But that’s another story.  For now, just know that my heart only belongs to one bookstore and it ain’t Amazon.

amazon.

I’m devouring a book I picked up at Schuler’s the other day~ Coop: a Family, a Farm and the Pursuit of One Good Egg.  I love this book.  And it’s reminded me that, even though I stand to gain very little, I need to put a plug in for Amazon.  If you’re constantly swirling around in the whirlpool of instant gratification, this is the place to hang out.  Every book ever printed, I think, all at your finger tips.  Books may just be my favorite material possession.  I lurve them.  I have books arriving from Amazon at regular intervals, just to keep me happy, prompting Dan to ask me this week if Amazon should be a line item on our budget.  I told him 50 or 60 dollars a week oughta do it.  He was not amused.
So, because I love you so much, I have this carousel thing at the top of my page where I can recommend books and you can buy them and we’ll all be happy.  The only blip is that I can only recommend like 6 at a time and I really have one million, seven hundred and twenty eight that I think everyone should read before they die, or before next week, whichever comes first.
And if your husband is handy (or you are a husband), there are books on how to design and build shelves for your collection.  I’m thinking of ordering some of those for Dan.
So there.  A really shallow post, but now you know how to get your mitts on some really great books without having to venture out into the crappy rainy day with fifteen children and none of them wearing rain boots or thinking to bring a jacket and all of them hungry but not for the same thing and at least half of them whining for some toy that’ll break before you get home and make everyone just that much more miserable.  That’s no fun.  Amazon?  Fun.

best.

Woke up to kids telling me to stay in bed.  Yes.  Stay in bed.  Didn’t need to tell me twice.  Then greeted by a bowl of fresh berries, Gerbera Daisies and a balloon from each kid, even Lucy.  I have pics of this, but thought I’d spare you me in my nursing cami and bite splint (rrrrrrr).  The boys bought gift certificates to Schulers with their own money, which they hold on to quite tightly, so I feel very honored.  This gift may have been prompted by a conversation we had a few weeks prior about what cremation was and I explained that it was when the funeral people burn a persons empty body in a big furnace and then their family spreads the ashes in a place that was special to the person who died.  I have asked to be cremated and have the majority of my ashes spread in the fiction section of Schulers with a bit reserved for London and a bit for the cottage.  So, Schulers.  From the boys.
There was this note:

  And a sweet card from The Kevins, those thoughtful birds.  And Dan bought me a garbage disposal which might sound like a crappy gift to anyone not living with a pan of smelly water under the sink (see post titled “tired.”).  So happy.  Which is what I said to Dan as I languished in bed with my fruit and my garbage disposal, “This is the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.”  To which he replied, “Except the ones before we had kids.  Those were pretty nice too.”  Yes.
No toothpaste in the sink.  No one complaining that he got hit or punched or got his toy stolen by that rat brother of his.  No little shoes to trip over in the back hall.  No piles of laundry or sporting equipment or dirty diapers.  No little voices telling me I’m the best, even though I’m not.  No grubby hands slipped into mine while we snuggle in the monster bed.  No pages filled with scribbles of witty, clever things these amazing creatures have said that I just had to write down so I’d never forget.  Never forget.  Yeah, those days were simpler, but these days are so much sweeter.

So, happy Mother’s Day to all of us who adore their children, even though we sometimes get why some animals eat their young.  Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who occasionally longs for those days before children when the biggest worry was which drycleaner to use, but who would actually never trade these crazy days for anything.  Nothing.   Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who birthed us, nurtured us, let us drive them nuts but still gave nearly everything of themselves so we could be good people when we grew up.  Who spent countless hours, like we do now, on their knees praying for healing, peace, direction, a Godly spouse, grandbabies, brokeness, wholeness, and who have cried, as we have, countless times when they’ve been exhausted or elated or just quiet, watching a baby sleep.  And especially to our Nana who dropped everything to take Tess to Grandfriends day this week when I got it wrong and she was in danger of having to miss the whole thing because she was Grandfriendless.  You are the best.  This day is the best.

need.

Can we talk about toothpaste?  Every night after the kids brush, I find smears of toothpaste in the sink and if I don’t wipe it up right then, which I’m almost always too weary to do, it becomes this Napalm like substance that has to be chiseled off on cleaning day while I sweat and mutter psuedo swears under my breath like, “fricken” and “crap” and “gol darn”.  I love teeth, but I hate toothpaste.  And you, Mr. Perler Bead man, what were you thinking?  How much must you hate mothers to invent a craft for children that involves teeny pieces that need to be implanted using tweezers wielded with surgical-like precision?  What did I ever do to you?  Toothpaste and Perler Beads make me feel like a wretched, shrieking mother.  I hate them (not a word we use).  So, I’m sticking it to the man and refusing to buy either one of them anymore.  We’re going back to the baking soda paste on a willow brush our ancestors were just fine with.  And no more crafts that involve tweezers (tweezers!) or an iron (an iron!).  Because you guys make me feel like a bad mom, and just forced two exclamation marks and I hate (not a word we use) exclamation marks. Toothpaste and Perler Beads make me feel like this:

Ok, they don’t actually make me feel like this, but seriously.
And while sometimes I feel good about what I do and say around here, like last night when the kids wasted yet another bottle of shampoo making a mess in the outside tub and instead of yelling, I just charged each of them one of their precious dollars to buy a new bottle, then sent three penitent kids off to brush their teeth (here we go again).  Sometimes I see flashes of brilliance, but other times: toothpaste and perler beads (I’m not even going to capitalize it even though it’s a proper noun, so there).  
And do you ever have one of those days/weeks/months when you feel just this low buzz of yuck far too often?  I’m having one of those.  And even though I do loath perler beads and toothpaste, it has little to do with them, really, and far more to do with the state of my heart and how I’m spending my time.  God seems distant lately, and it’s entirely my fault.  I’m being convicted of my need for an overhaul of my heart and body.  Blame Jillian Michaels, whose book is fabulous and really making me think (more on that later).  So even though I do feel a bit like this:
I know that there is Jesus who is waiting to cuddle me close and whisper sweet somethings into my ear and convince me to forget about perler beads and toothpaste and the zillion other things fighting for my time and attention.  He’s waiting to make me feel like this:
I need rest.  But I need this too:
To be held.  (If I say to crap in his hand will that be taking the analogy too far?)
So, this is me, being real (tired, weary, frustrated, blessed, hopeful, energized, broken).

guy.

As a sterling example of the nobility of this man I married, I offer up The Lowell Guy.  He is an addict?  Mentally challenged?  Developmentally disabled?  And he got Dan’s cell phone number and calls it.  Incessantly.   Often in the middle of the night, when we’d leap out of bed and into the hall, hearts racing, sure it was a call that Dan’s parents were sick again.  And on the other end of the line are deep, incoherant mumbles rambling through the wires.  We called back once and got Hope Network, where he lives.  So, Dan gave him his own ring so we’d not panic when he calls at 4 am nearly every night.  And when he calls at 4 am nearly every night, I picture his profile on Dan’s cell with the moniker “Guy, Lowell” and try to pray for him as I roll over and go back to sleep.  We’ve attempted to engage him in conversation, asking if we can help him, what his name is, who he’s trying to call.  Nothing.  Just unintelligible scramble.  And this good good man of mine, who is so busy and fields hundreds of calls a day, accepts The Lowell Guy’s place among his other contacts and receives often a dozen or more calls from him a day, all without complaint.  And just so you know, we’ve gotten in touch with Hope Network and let them know that someone who perhaps shouldn’t have access to a phone, does, and when we tried to imitate The Lowell Guy’s deep timbre, they knew right who he was.  And still the calls.  So now we consider him a proxy member of this strange collection of people we call family.  Right between the Kevins and my Keloid scar, Steve.  And we’re not giving them our number.

coop.

As promised, pictures of the Kevin’s new digs…

Seriously.  How talented is my man?
Sign and name courtesy Grant.  (for you city slickers, scratch is what chickens eat)
Lucy and I painted this.
And this.
Oops.  And this.
The Kevins, enjoying a breath of fresh air.
Ok, this Kevin probably isn’t enjoying this so much.
Or this.
But it could be worse.
A lot worse.

cup.

Every Tuesday night finds me shuffling my feet trying to stay warm while I watch my son practice for Little League.  It is a new world for us, with new words to add to our vernacular.  Like cup.  Weeks ago I got an email from Peter’s coach requesting that he come to practice with a mitt, a ball and a cup.  A cup.  So he asked me what one was and I tried to explain it as best I could, but I think I did it wrong because when Tess asked him what it was he told her, “It’s a thing that I wear in my underwear when I play baseball to protect me, because if I get hit there my balls will explode.”  Which is totally not how I explained it to him, but Dan says that it’s actually pretty right on.
So I threw the kids in the car and drove to Dick’s (smirk) and bought my six year old his first cup, which is a bit like booking a 747 Airbus for a single passenger.  And it doesn’t have straps, just these biker shorts that have a special pocket for it, but which could easily double as extra storage for snacks or his water bottle.  So now when I stand at the edge of the field and root for him, I’m really just trying to distract him from knocking on his cup every couple of minutes to show whoever is coming into first that he’s protected.  Because he’s really proud.  And excited.  And I don’t know how long this baseball craze will last, but I figure even after Little League is a distant memory, we’ll always have the cup.  And the memory of Peter wearing it.  Being real (cute).

gravy.

If I were writing a book about my life, this chapter would be called “Gravy is Stupid” (even though we don’t say that.  But it is.  Stupid.)  I rarely eat meat, but am raising at least one carnivore and sleep every night with another and they both love gravy.  Grant reminded me yesterday that he never got a I-get-to-pick-whatever-I-want-for-dinner-cause-it’s-my-birthday dinner, so I took his request: roast beast with gravy, potato casserole and strawberries and went to town.  Except I cannot make gravy.  Cannot.  Make.  Gravy. I have Allrecipes on my computer right here in the kitchen and have consulted it often, but the closest I can come is gravy flavored jello that falls out of the gravy boat in one gelatinous gloop while Peter and I look on in horror.  Tonight it was too runny even though I followed the recipe to a t.  Even with the aid of my new fat separator from a dear friend who feels my pain, but has her own issues with meat (you know who you are), I can’t do it.  But I’m taking it to the mattress because the menfolk are asking for it and I like to please, so if you have any tips, pass them along.  Until then…gravy is stupid.