Sunday, November 30, 2014


First, a little celebration. I did Nablopomo with only three backdated posts, hooray!

Yesterday was Madeleine L'Engle's birthday. She is one of my favorite writers. Fiction, reflection, memoir, poetry, she loved to write. She also raised a family and had her most well-known book rejected 30 times.

Today, as always, I think of my two little girls, N and J. It's been 6 years to the day since they lived with us, and I still miss them. I wish with all my heart that I could get a redo. I hope they are well and happy. I pray for them. They've probably forgotten me, but I will never forget them.
I saw this candle when I was unpacking my Christmas box today. I've had it since I was a little girl. A smaller candle nestles in front.

"Oh, her arms are empty," I thought, "The baby bear must have gotten lost." My three girls came to mind, and sadness swept over me. They, too, are gone from my life.

At the bottom of the box, to my surprise, I found the baby bear candle. When I put them together, I felt a whisper in my heart, saying, "You'll see your girls again someday."
I hold onto hope. As Paul says, we do not grieve as the world does, and I am so thankful for that.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Two Tree Tradition

Since his second Christmas, Raccoon has always wanted his own tree, a little cedar and I get a large pine. This year, I fully expected Kitty to want her own tree too, but thankfully she was happy with a few loose branches.

The kids lose intetest in hanging ornaments pretty quickly, but guess who thought the big tree was just for him? I'm glad I tied it to the wall!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Duck, Duck, Chicken

Our little flock of 12 chickens and 2 ducks all survived the night. No one ecaped the coop last night and the dogs are behaving themselves, so all is well in birdland.

The coop is now our favorite place in the yard to hang out. There is always a little hen drama happening. At least I'm hoping they are hens. We'll have to eat the roosters if there are too many. The goal this time is eggs.

This post is to celebrate joy in the little things, like smiles on my kids' faces as they watch their new feathered friends.

In two and a half weeks, we will also be having adventures and trials in puppyland. Any guesses on how many? I think 8 total, 4 from Jewel and 4 from Storm.

Break's over. Back to school.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and I Miss My Family

My family is just about to sit down to an afternoon Thanksgiving meal, and I am not there. I miss them.

I am thankful that I have a family that I miss.

I am thankful that we had turkey, and that we have enough to eat every single day.

I am thankful for my children who remind me of what is truly important.

I am thankful for fuzzy socks, pregnant dogs, and two new ducklings. Who knew they were so different then chicks? They have long, downy bodies with tiny wings and big bills. I hope they make it through the night since Raccoon didn't want to put them in with the chickens.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Season Here We Go!

After a bout of grinchiness yesterday, I am feeling better and ready to dive in to the holiday madness. We're actually doing Thanksgiving this year with some friends. Since I cannot cook, she is going to do the food and I will entertain the kids.

Raccoon and I have exactly 99 days of school left. I mention that because I'm counting tomorrow as a school day. I figure it is an important cultural experience. School on Thanksgiving, yup, that's the way we roll.

But even as I think about celebrating tomorrow, I know there are a lot of families grieving the loss of their loved ones who won't be sitting at the table this year. I pray for them as they fight through the holidays and special times to come.

How amazing heaven and being with Jesus must be. I do not wish SB back, but I long for the day when we will all be together, and everything will make sense.

Until then, merriness with compassion.

Think of someone who might be sad this Christmas and spend some time with them: the elderly, the sick, the grieving, and travellers far from home. Be nice to store clerks. Forgive those nearest you.

As Raccon says, only one more sleep!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One month 'til Christmas

November 25. Two days until Thanksgiving. A month to Christmas. Three of our family's birthdays also come in the next two months.

Maybe this year we'll go to the beach, escape it all.

Monday, November 24, 2014


This morning, I saw a plum-sized spiderweb near the light in my bathroom, covered in tiny flies.That spider may be small, but it's certainly successful.

It is easy for me to think of God as infinitely big, yet looking at the details on bugs in pictures from an electron microscope (thank-you, Raccoon), I also realized that nothing is too small for God. The feathering of their six legs, the fragmentation of their wings, they really are works of art.

To take such care with things mostly unseen, how amazing. Even God's bugs are beautiful. I would have cut a few corners there, but nothing is too small for Him. That tiny spider in my bathroom has as detailled a life as his foot-long cousin, the goliath bird-eating tarantula, that lives in the Amazon jungle.

Some of us are given large lives, to be played out on the stage of the world. Others, like me, are given small lives, played out mostly at home with an audience of three. Today, looking up at the light, I realized that both are masterpieces; the only difference is scale.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pine Trees

Kitty had a bad night, then woke up around 5:30 am. We checked on our six new chicks, all still alive after their first night in the henhouse, then took the dogs for a walk. Breakfast, a bath, then we arrived at church half an hour early. Good stuff.

Afterwards, we went to a pine forest park, one of the only ones I've ever been to in a region dominated by eucalyptus trees. Both pines and eucalyptus were imported, but the pines didn't do as well in the high altitude. It smelled like my home state, Maine.

I hope we can take Raccoon and Kitty camping sometime in the US, so they'll remember the smell of pine trees too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fear of Success

I finished the first draft of my novel on November 13, a little more than a month after I started writing it. It needs a lot of rewriting, but the bones are there. At this point, I'd be embarrassed if even my mom read it.

Still, like any aspiring author, I dream of it being a success, a best-seller made into a great movie. I would not be surprised if I failed, but I am scared of success. Failure means life will go on, while success could change everything.

I mostly think about the pressure successful writers feel to continue producing, of being marketable and profitable. Of initial success and subsequent failure. Public interest in my private life.

There is also wild success which is even more complicated, or failed success - being published and no one reading my book.

I do not want to self-promote. I am awkward in interviews, shy and nervous. I have no fashion sense and I'm overweight. Not that this affects the quality of my writing, but me, famous? I'd rather hide under my bed.

And maybe I'm just flattering myself, but it's in my nature to imagine as many possibilities as I can.

Just the thought of a public life makes me want to stop writing. Right now, I do it only for myself. I have no audience and no worries. Maybe I'll do the Emily Dickinson thing and just leave my stories behind when I go.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful for Farmers

I have been trying my hand at a little vegetable garden, and it's not going so well. I have a few corn sprouts, a few peas, scallions, chochos, and broccoli. But not really enough survivors of anything to make me feel like it's worth it.

Thinking of farmers producing food for entire countries, I admire them tremendously. It seems hard to break even as a farmer. The few things I've tried, like chickens, ended up costing me more than if I had just bought them at the supermarket.

Regardless, we have ventured into chickenland again, buying 6 decent size chicks and 4 just hatched chicks. So we brought ten home, nine made it to bedtime, and we'll see how many wake up tomorrow morning. Babies of all kinds need their mommies. Poor chick got squashed by his boxmates. I ended up mixing the large and small chicks because the little guys just couldn't stay warm on their own. We are officially irresponsible, impulse buying chick owners. Sorry little guys.

Kitty was so excited to have chickens again that I had to hide them to get her to eat supper. Raccoon was happy, briefly, but has already moved on to the next thing he wants - a goose.

It seems an appropriate month to say, thank-you farmers for your hard work that fills my table with good food.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Notes: How to Kill a Unicorn

by Mark Payne, founder of Fahrenheit 212

Book Subtitle: How the world's hottest innovation factory builds bold ideas that make it to market.

Favorite Quotes:

On whatever innovation challenge you're trying to crack, look for that distinctive set of problems that your competitors aren't working on... Unique problem sets can't help but spawn unique answers. The odds are good that you, too, will soon experience the sort of calm excitement that comes with seeing the obvious for the first time.

Potential for change is the reason we get goose bumps from great insights - they hurl open the gates to new possibilities that weren't visible before.

Humans innovating for humans can get pretty far using their humanity.

A successful two-sided innovation requires:
   - a great idea that opens up big new possibilities for both consumers and the companies that serve them.
   - a great product (or better yet a family of them expanding over time) delivering on the possibilities and promises embedded in the idea, and
   - a great business shaped around that idea and product

My Thoughts

As a stay-at-home mom with young kids who has nothing to do with the business world, I'm quite sure that I'm not the target for this book, but I liked it anyway. His writing-style and examples were very understandable for a newbie, and he included what I like best: stories. I think that his innovation model would work for any organization wanting to break new ground.

His five main ideas are:

1) Look for a two-sided win/win (i.e. for the business and for the consumer)

2) Aim for low business disruption combined with high market disruption (something the company can already do that creates a new, desirable product)

3) Ask transformational questions (look for problems your competitors aren't trying to solve)

4) Use a spatula (turn weaknesses into strengths)

5) Insight = Truth (look for unresolved tensions and company/consumer pain points, hear what people do not say)

His company has helped the underdogs and the big dogs in the business world, and it sounds like an amazing place to work. He could have kept what he's learned to himself, but he didn't, and I admire that. Companies want to make more money, and consumers want better products and benefits. Payne's approach is an inspiring way to make this happen for both sides. Although his ideas may seem obvious and simple, they are revolutionary and took time to develop. As Galileo said, "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sick Day

I think a husband who comes home early to help his sick wife with the kids deserves a medal.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I am a Special Needs Mom

Sometimes I forget that I am a special needs mom, until I see an invitation for an alumni dinner and realize how impossible it would be for me to go. I feel so jealous when I see posts on Facebook about date nights or babysitters. My husband and I don't get nights out, or any time to ourselves, for that matter. One of us has to be fully present all the time, and even when we're both "on duty," it's often not enough.

It wouldn't seem like two kids would be that challenging, but with sensory issues, food allergies, extreme extroversion, and other exceptionalities, life has been really hard lately. We are exhausted. We know we need self-care, we just don't have time for it. Family tries to help us out, but if it's a bad day (which it often is), all bets are off.

I only have two plates spinning in the air - home and our non-profit - but I feel like both of them are about to break. For one of the first times ever, I wish we could just skip Christmas, or put it off a few more months. We could use a vacation, but if we spend 6 hours in the car getting there, it will be more like a nightmare. Figuring out food in new places is always hard, and often the risk outweighs the benefits, so we just stay home.

I cannot pause our lives. We must soldier on, praying that in the end, our kids will be okay. Please, Lord, let them be okay.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adventures in Potty Training

Kitty decided on Saturday that she didn't want to wear her diaper anymore. She had a few accidents, then on Sunday she made it to the bathroom, and has been dry every since. Hooray! Raccoon was three when completely potty trained, so I wasn't planning on starting with Kitty for awhile. My baby is quickly leaving the baby stage. Soon I will have a potty-trained, weaned, and independent little love. I am a little sad, but mostly excited. Naptime is also on the short list of things soon to go. That, I am a little less willing to part with. But all change comes with good and bad.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Well is Running Dry

It's halfway through Nablopomo and I missed another day, today. Super editor to the rescue!!! Our internet has been sketchy this month, my phone battery died, and my daughter is fighting naptime. All of these things do not encourage daily posts. But in the spirit of perserverance, I shall continue on.

I want to go to the beach. For some reason, it gets to be this time of year and I become consumed with waves, sun, and vacation. But then I think of 6 hours in the car, and I feel less inclined to go.

My husband is the pastor of our church, but Kitty and I spend hardly any time actually in church. Yesterday, she was especially cranky so we went for a walk. The church dog followed us and then crossed an intersection and ran away. Thankfully she came back later. But even though I only made it through a few of the songs, I was thinking about how fleeting this life is, and how exciting life after death will be, with Christ. I think of all the things He created in this world and how He made us, and I wonder what we will build and create together in heaven. This life is not the end.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Fish Tipping Point

I cannot say much, but two little guppies may have opened a door I have long been knocking at in search of family reconciliation. I saw a niece tonight - she came by to say thank you - who has grown from little girl to young lady without me, and hugging her was sweet indeed.

In the right Hands, two fish can go a long way, and I hope that our reconciliation becomes complete. I will not stop knocking, and maybe sending more fishy gifts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Things My Children Have Taught Me

1) Go outside more - I've always been an introverted bookworm (are there extroverted ones, I wonder?), but my kids are very active and experiencial. Sometimes the only place I can handle their energy is in the great outdoors.

2) Appreciate my squishy parts - Being a mom has changed things about my body in ways that make me sigh, but they fight over who gets to put their head on my flabby arms and jiggly belly. They love me, wiggles and all.

3) Laugh more - most things could be worse and probably have been, I'm just glad my last two kids are still by my side.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Minutes of Quiet

Both of my children have gone off to the store with Daddy to get eggs, bread, and treats. It is perfectly quiet in my house, something it rarely is. What should I do with my five minutes? Something besides a blog post, I'm sure.

Maybe a shower, or I could stretch out on my bed and close my eyes for five blissful mintues, or I could just stare off into nowhere. I'm going to see if there is enough water pressure to kick on our hot water heater. For a few quality minutes of alone time, shower wins.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


It can be defined as discovering hidden truths. C.S. Lewis also described humor as truth-telling.

I have set 3 big goals to accompish by Christmas:

Raccoon will recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Kitty will be diaper-less.

I will keep track of how many days in a row I don't yell at my kids, until I reach 365 (hopefully by Christmas 2015).

To reach these big goals, especially 1 and 3, I need to figure out the assets I can leverage. Repetition is not working for Raccoon. I need to engage his imagination. And what can I do for more self-control? My triggers are excessive noise, simultaneous needs, and constant mess clean-up.

The thinking has begun. Insights to follow, I hope.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Writing fiction as a parent...

is more complicated then in my pre-kid life. I could write anything then. Now I think of my children. What kind of an example, or message, is my story going to give them? Would I want them to copy the things my characters do? My days of just wanting to tell a good story have gotten more complicated.

Since reading If God is Good, I have been thinking more about the role of suffering in each of our lives. As I was thinking about this, I read a quote today by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., "No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of."

I told my son a little of my story, but he doesn't want anybody to die. But in some ways, I think bad things happening in stories is a way for us to process those challenges as well, to think what would I do? How would I react?

This post isn't done but my kid-free time is. More to come later, perhaps.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Too Tired to Post

Five years ago was the last time I got any real sleep. There has been a night or two here and there, but an entire month of good sleep? Dream on. :)

I find myself not caring about things that used to bother me, like missing puzzle pieces and meals at odd hours.

Kitty is asserting her personhood and her little sister I-have-a-right-to-everything-he-has. I see potty training in our near future.

I am so ready to fully arrive at the "big kid" stage. I know I'll just worry about other things, but I hope at least to sleep at night.

If you can't tell, it's been one of those "drink from the tea pot" kind of days.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When Things Go Wrong

I'm a rose-colored dreamer by nature. I see only the good in things, until they go terribly wrong. Like my puppy project. Two dogs in heat was utter chaos, and they mated with so many dogs, I will probably have to find good homes for ten mutts or more. Instead of being a blessing, it's a burden.

Hare-brained schemes have a long history in my family, but I still have trouble resisting the allure of a new project. My heart rushes in before my brain thinks things through. As I get older, my projects get more complicated and involve more people. And my failures run between light disappointment to deep regret.

Lord, save me from myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Raccoon is five. Kitty is amost two. These are the golden years of their childhoods. I want them to:

Know the scent of apple blossoms

Sled down a snowy hill

Be best friends, most of the time

Go to the beach after Christmas

Have imaginary friends and secret hideouts

Climb trees

Ride bikes

Learn to swim

Spend their summers reading

Smell fresh cut grass

Sleep in a tent

Eat lobster with their grandparents

Know where home is

Have a furry best friend

Paddle a canoe

Conquer their fears

Sleep on the sea

Feel proud of themselves when they learn new skills

Persevere and triumph in the little things

Always know that they are my treasures

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Notes: If God is Good

by Randy Alcorn

Favorite Quotes:

“…I would rather be a leper who knows Christ than be completely whole and a stranger to His grace.”

“Post-Christian era – People suppose the Christian faith has been tried and found wanting, when in fact, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, they have been repeatedly told it’s wanting and therefore have never tried it.”

“I usually enjoy the research and writing I do, but at times it’s very difficult. I do it anyway because I anticipate the reward that could never come without paying the price.”

“Suffering reminds us to stop taking life for granted and to contemplate the larger picture.”

“Perhaps one day we’ll learn how many times God refused Satan’s requests to bring greater temptations and hardships upon us.”

“God knows everything, including every contingency, and he knows what is ultimately best in ways we cannot. God can see ultimate purposes and plans that we can’t. He can know it is better for someone to die now rather than later: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil” (Isaiah 57:1).”

"...but howsoever Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.” - George Mueller

"Emmanuel Ndikumana was nineteen years old when he heard that a group of young men in Burundi had planned to murder him in two weeks. He chose to stay where he was and survived the attempted murder through God’s amazing providence. When telling his story, Emmanuel made this enlightening comment: “You Americans have a strange attitude toward death; you act as if it is the end.”"

What I Thought:

“If God is Good” reads like a comprehensive textbook on what the author calls “the theology of suffering.” In short, the author argues that any suffering that brings us to Jesus is good, in an eternal sense, because hell is real. He says, and I agree, that the modern Christian church does not teach us enough about evil and suffering, so when they come, we falter. “Losing your (false) faith may be God’s gift to you,” Alcorn suggests in Chapter 1.

Was it worth reading? Yes, but I recommend it before crisis time. I wish it had contained early on a more concise explanation of how this statement of his is true: “The Christian worldview concerning this central problem is utterly unique. When compared to other belief systems, it is singularly profound, satisfying, and comforting.“ I saw the truth right off, but with statements like, “Secondary evils point to primary evil, reminding us that humanity, guilty of sin, deserves suffering,“ it took awhile to get to the comfort part. And it is comfort in the sense of an antibiotic given by mouth to a sick child, necessary but bitter.

My favorite parts were the stories. I have seen the truth of his statement that “God often uses people in direct proportion to their suffering.” In many cases, we may never know the why, and it is only possible to have faith that, as the author says, “the future will fully vindicate God’s righteous integrity and the wisdom of his plan,” and “suffering while trusting God gives us eternal benefits that otherwise couldn’t be ours, enlarging our capacity for eternal joy.”

This book contains no watered-down Christianity, but a thought-provoking challenge to remember the urgency of the question, “Why?” and that Jesus is the answer.

I was provided with a free copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lost Power but Typing On

We had no power all day, so I'm backdating this post. The power of the editor. :)

Thunderstorm season has started in earnest and my little garden is struggling valiantly against the flood.

Interesting fact of the day: I went to a chicken processing plant and waited in line two hours for a pound of gizzards for my children, who eat them like candy. My son later said they were delicious. All I know is that they seemed fresh. Kitty was with me, patient girl. Next time, we'll go at 8 am to beat the line.

I have other thoughts in my head, but they are all reserved for other projects, and so ends my most pathetic (hopefully) post for Nablopomo. Lol.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Little "I Want To"

I have been keeping a notebook of ideas for stories since 2007, and I decided about a month ago that it was finally time to see if I could flesh them out into a novel. Or maybe I should write a book about trying to write a book, "The Year I Wrote a Book." Lol. But it feels so good to wake up my creative side again. It has been a decade or so of "Must Do" and "Should Do" so throwing in a little "I Want To" after the kids are asleep has been great.

I love to write. And I love to read. I have read a lot of fiction. A lot. So many things have been done before, some well, some not. Where is my story's niche? But no matter how familiar the material, I remind myself that it is possible to fall in love with the characters, think Twilight for vampires and Temeraire for dragons. And so I'm focusing on the story I want to tell, instead of discouraging myself with thoughts like, "Why does the world even need another book?"

35,854 words done, and another 35k to go. Like my favorite English teacher said, I'm trying to make every word count. We'll see if anything comes of it besides my own personal happiness. :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Confessions of an SPD Mom

My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. This morning we went for a walk as a family, and happened upon a neighbor going our way. My husband chatted with him for about a block or so, which caused my son to have a meltdown. He sat down and refused to walk, then did walk but covered his ears the whole time and said, "Too much talking! I can't take it!"  

He still likes to throw himself down on the ground and can be rough with his friends. He frequently feels out of sorts. He chews on his clothes and anything wood or plastic. He still eats a limited diet, governed by texture, temperature, appearance, and familiarity. When I try to get him to write, he turns into a human noodle. He is alternately exhausted and supercharged, with no happy medium.

I expect more of him, now that he is five, somehow an important milestone to me. I find myself telling him more often to control his body, to calm down, to think about what he's doing. When he has a public meltdown, I feel embarrassed now, like it is a poor reflection of my parenting. And I have begun to make comments like, "You're five now!" or "You're making a big deal out of nothing, this is not worth that much fuss!"

He still needs more and more and more. By the end of the day, or sometimes even half-way through, both my husband and I are worn out from his intense emotions and constant demands.

We signed him up for a taekwondo class three times a week, which we are committed to despite the commute. We hope that it will help give him some of the physical input he needs since occupational therapy is not available here. During the first class, he ignored the teacher's instructions and was frequently off in his own world. He was thrilled with the class, but I worried about all the ways he did not conform. I am a rule-following people pleaser, while my son marches to his own drum.

I love that about him. I want to preserve that. I don't want to scare or threaten him into conformity. I still want to teach him to be respectful and polite, but I don't want him to lose himself by trying to please others, especially me. I can be overbearing and impatient as a mother. I often want peace at any cost.

We almost didn't survive his first year. Two and three eased up a bit, inch by inch. During his fourth year, I saw huge leaps and I convinced myself that the SPD would soon be a thing of the past. But with homeschooling and increased social expectations, I think five may be our most challenging year yet.

I need to take a deep breath and let go of my expectations. I need to figure out what I am going to say to strangers and family and people at church, in English and in Spanish, since his SPD is here to stay. I need to show my son my pleasure in him. More smiling eyes and less hairy eyeballs. I want him to love himself, not to feel like he isn't good enough. To build him up and not tear him down when he makes mistakes.

And to have more fun together. In our home, I am The Enforcer. I need to tell myself what I tell my son, "Relax, it's no big deal," because most things have a solution and it's not anger. I need more grace and patience and joy. I especially need to let go of other people's opinions. I can't discipline the SPD out of him. My job is to worry about what my son needs, not what other people think of my parenting. Help me, Lord, to raise my son in a way that encourage his creative, sensitive spirit to flourish.

That should be my SPD Mom Manifesto.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rainy Season is Here!

Time for puddle stomping and thunderstorms. There were three dead june bugs in my boots.

My mom used to let my brother and I dance in the rain in Texas, much to the envy of our neighborhood friends, faces pressed to their windows.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Nablopomo Here We Go!

For the past six years, November has been the worst month of the year for me. But this year, I feel peaceful, undisturbed even, that it is now November.

Perhaps this has something to do with the Christmas decorations going up everywhere. There is no Halloween or Thanksgiving here, so after Back-to-School, it's Christmas! November here is really just pre-December, which is my favorite month of the year.

Two months back-to-back, but so very different. I think much of life is like this. Push and pull. Paradox. Death giving life.

I took this picture because this is the exact mirror I stared into unhappily for many years. How did I end up here? I used to look into my own eyes and wonder. But I'm not sad in the reflection anymore. Loss and I are still friends, and we hang out from time to time. But this November I am happy, and that is something to celebrate. And my third year of Nablopomo. :)