Browsing Category

936Pennies

936Pennies Roadtrip

The Real Numbers Behind Our 7-Week Road Trip As a Family of 5 (And Counting)

October 5, 2017

I didn’t know if we would actually do it–if this grand scheme would really happen. It seems like so very long ago, only a few months in reality, that I felt the pressure of our home not selling, and our window of opportunity closing. I questioned whether we would actually get to take this trip of a lifetime we had always dreamt of.

And so here, the day after we returned from a seven week road trip to the Pacific Northwest with our three (and counting) kids and our Labrador retriever, it all still feels a bit like a dream. Did we really do this crazy thing? Sell our home and pack our life into hardly 200-square-feet of mobile space and hit the road for nearly two months? We did. And we are forever changed because of it. Or rather, each of us, and we as a whole, are more of who we were always meant to be.

During our three-day drive home, my husband and I began talking through the numbers that went into this trip, and how much they speak of the experience. And so here they arethe real numbers behind a 7-week road trip as a family of 5 and counting.

 

The Trip Statistics:

 

7 Weeks

2 Adults

3.5 Kids (Ages 6, 4, 2, and a new little one coming in March!)

1 Labrador

20-foot travel trailer (25 feet when the beds are popped out)

3,600 Miles traveled

Our Trip In Numbers:

Cost of our trailer: $8,700 (Which we will sell for the same once we are back in a house)

Living expenses for seven weeks (Includes groceries, eating out, gas, utilities, rent–or camp site fees–, household items, entertainment / outings):  $6,422

What those same living expenses would have been at home (for 7 weeks):  $6,914

Savings of: $492

Number of times the car and trailer were towed: 1

Number of things Grayson replaced on the car throughout the trip: 4 (Fuel pump, wheel bearing, spark plugs, battery)

Amount spent on fishing gear and licensing: $287

Number of fish or crabs of legal size caught: 0

Number of places we stayed: 7

Longest we stayed in one place: 3 Weeks (Orcas Island, Washington)

Shortest we stayed in one place: 1 Night (Middle of nowhere truck stop in Wyoming)

Friends’ yards we camped in: 3

Number of new states visited for Eryn and the boys: 3

Amount spent on utilities for a family of five for seven weeks: $40

Spent on coffee: $179

Miles Grayson ran in the woods: 74

Number of ferry passings: 10

Number of mountain passes: 5

Average gas mileage while towing: 8 miles to the gallon

Lowest gas mileage while towing: 4 miles to the gallon

Number of date nights: 1

Number of “Is-this-urgent-care-worthy?” injuries: 4

Number of trips to urgent care: 0

Days we ran our friends’ Bed & Breakfast while they took their own adventure: 5

Souvenirs purchased: 8 Books, 3 Pieces of art for a total of $166

Writing Numbers:

(Because this was also a work trip)

Manuscripts finished: 1

Magazine article submissions: 4

Blog posts published: 10

Interviews conducted: 2

Chapters for new book written: 3

Not knowing exactly how to project and budget for a trip like this, we ended up going over what I thought the trip would cost. However, when all is said and done, living on the road cost us a bit less than our regular living expenses. And really, what mattered to us was the time cost. We spent 7 weeks of the 936 weeks we have with our kids exploring mountains, beaches and waterfalls.

They asked great questions and we pondered the same kind of questions ourselves as we watched sunsets over the Puget Sound. We talked of God’s grand creation, what makes up a life that matters, and what is truly important when deciding how we spend our limited days. We invested seven weeks that we will never get back–but I wouldn’t want them back. They have done their job and played their roll in leaving us never the same because of our journey.

Traveling with kids is not easy or cheap–but I stand here on the other end of seven weeks living all squished together with my favorite people and I implore you–do it! If not for seven weeks, then seven days. Or start this weekend by packing a cooler and heading to a nearby nature area for an entire day. These days are painfully limited, but we can stretch them. We can expand them and pack them full of moments with legacy power, leaving us never the same again.

936Pennies Adventure Roadtrip

Maybe 208 Square Feet Is All We Need – Our Second Week On The Road

September 6, 2017

Our Second Week of Life on the Road

Deception Pass, Washington. August 24 – September 1

 

It was not exactly our smartest parenting moment.

We had thought it a brilliant idea, only moments later to realize we had set a trap for ourselves. “Let’s let them decide.” My husband suggested from the driver seat. We were leaving Newport, Oregon, where we had settled for a few days to watch the Total Eclipse. Heading North out of town, we ran into stand still traffic, a line of eclipse chasers headed back to life and work. “We could cut east for a while, head to the Columbia River Gorge, then back to the ocean later.” Neither he nor I could decide, so we bounced the idea to the back seat. “Boys, do you want to go see some waterfalls for a few days? Or stay at the ocean?”

Zeke, our six-year-old, enthusiastically answered, “Waterfalls!” a split second before his younger brother, Ellis, yelled, “Ocean!”. Their littlest brother–he is pretty sharp for his age–but having no idea what we were discussing, his vote didn’t quite count yet. And so we had a tie. After a coin toss, we found ourselves waterfall bound, and my mama heart tore just a bit as little Ellison sniffed back tears from the seat behind me.

The little guy is so patient. For four days he eagerly explored the forest and waterfalls with us, but I knew all along that his young heart was set on salty waves and sunsets over the horizon. When we arrived back at the Pacific a few evenings later, his daddy scooped him up from the dinner table and took him to the beach to catch the sunset. He came back all smiles and pockets full of shells.

Besides not putting our decisions to a vote in the backseat, here are a few other things we have learned from our second week on the road:

“Work can wait. Life can not. This takes time to learn and relearn.”

Drape blankets over the toddler’s bed, and he might actually nap in the afternoon.

If you don’t reserve a campsite months in advance, be prepared to up and relocate every few days, landing wherever has a spot for you.

Just like at home, we will do what we make time for. Changing your location and lifestyle will not automatically lend to a slower pace of life. We must carve out and designate time for that which is most important to us, or it will not happen.

What we are eating:

Smoothies (Glad we brought our blender!)

Fantastic fish tacos at Seabolts Smokehouse

Dinner of Tilamook white cheddar, smoked salmon dip, and smoked Cajun salmon (after another trip to Seabolts Smokehouse…)

Instant pot minestrone

Egg burritos. Thanks to a friend in Idaho who introduced us to “eggs” Ellis can have. Later that day he told me, “Today was a great day.” “Why is that buddy?” I asked him. He replied, “Because of eggs that don’t hurt my tummy.”

Another crab boil in the Instant pot

Instant pot clam chowder

Gluten free pastries!

Ellis did not want to try out our new kayak on the lake, because he “had never tried that before.” Once we convinced him to get on, we couldn’t get him off the thing.

We took the boys to explore Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. Grayson grew up exploring that old military base with his own brothers. We laid in the grass as a family and watched kites glide across the sky next to the Puget Sound.

The boys made friends at the campground with:  Aaliyah, Ellie, Kaden, Ashley, and Gracie the Parrot.

Grayson ran many of the trails that he’ll be running a 50k race on in December.

The boys took their very first ferry ride! We spent the day on Orcas Island, introducing them to Moran State Park, and catching up with friends until we nearly missed our ferry back to the mainland. We were the last car they allowed on the last ferry of the night before turning people away.

Questions of the week:

Ellis:  “How do hurricanes happen?”

Zeke: “Is the ocean in the middle of the world?”

It felt good to settle in the same area for a week. Without all of the bouncing around, we had more time to devote to reading, writing, running, and simply being together. This trip is already teaching me so much about the importance of a right relationship between rest, play, and work. But I would have more time to process that during our next week, when we settled closer to Seattle, camping out in our (very gracious) friends’ yard…

 

936Pennies

The Story Behind the 936 Pennies Book – My Interview on the Devoted Dreamers Podcast

August 10, 2017

You know when you meet a person, and you just know there’s a strong connection there right from the first Hello? And a deep stirring that this connection is going to produce glory for the King? That happened to me a few months ago, when I met Merritt Onsa.

It happened at a sweet friend’s house. She opens her home once a week for friends and strangers to come enjoy dinner and community together. Seriously–it is one of the neatest examples of true community I have seen. And our mutual friend told me, “You need to meet Merritt. You need to be on her podcast.”

As I got to know Merrit more, I fell in love with her vision. On her podcast, Devoted Dreamers, she interviews women about the God-shaped dreams on their hearts. The interviews don’t shy away from the nitty-gritty struggles, deep heartaches, or overwhelming give-God-the-glory moments. When she asked if I would interview, my answer was a resounding Yes!

So many of you have been beside me in some way or another in the journey of bringing the 936 Pennies book to the shelves. Thank you. Thank you! And if you are a bit curious about the very real struggles along the way, my dry season of doubt, and the very specific ways God brought this all to be–click here to listen to the full story on the Devoted Dreamers podcast! 

 

 

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When I Realized That My Child’s Projects Are Just As Important As Mine

August 8, 2017

“It’s a mineral! I found a mineral!”

His shrill voice, brimming full of excitement jolted me from my sleep. I had woken at least six times during the night, and was surprised this time, upon opening my eyes, to find sunlight streaming through the tent fly.

“Boys, quiet down.” I mumbled as I turned over to check on our two-year-old. Still sound asleep, somehow. He was nestled into his sleeping bag next to me. I closed my eyes, but the big boys’ banter continued.

When I gave up on sleep and at last emerged from the tent, the boys took their cue. Hearing my own tent zipper they asked eagerly from the next tent over, “Can we come out now?” I said yes. Our six-year-old Zeke counted it of first importance to show me the “mineral” he had discovered upon waking. It was a piece of broken glass. I thought for a moment, examined the glass, no sharp edges. “That is glass buddy, but it kind of looks like a mineral, doesn’t it?”

“Mom, I found a mineral, too!” Ellis, our four-year-old proudly held up his own piece of glass. “Can I add it to my collection?” He was referring to the collections he and his brother had started upon arriving to our campsite–plastic boxes displaying all sort of rocks and foliage they had discovered.

My first instinct was No, you can not play with a broken piece of glass. But then again, it was dull. And–something had told me deep inside, when they started those collections, that this was important. It’s so easy to brush those feelings off, is it not? When something looks by all means insignificant, but you feel as though you should treat it otherwise, for their sake. I let him keep the glass. Sorry–mineral.

A couple of days later after we packed up camp and were driving down from the mountains, Zeke shared an idea with us from the backseat. “Hey! What if we draw everything that we want to find for our collections. Then we can find those things, and make a museum!” We had yet to stop for coffee, and after three (beautiful) long days camping in the rain, I managed to muster just an ounce of enthusiasm. “Yeah Buddy, that’s a good idea. We can do that at home!”

“Alright!”

He brought up his idea four more times within the hour, and the final time I lost my patience. “Zeke, I said we would do it. You can stop talking about it now.” And that was that. For a week.

I didn’t hear another thing about the minerals or collections or becoming museum directors—until I brought it up. I was out by myself when the thought crossed my mind. I told him we would do that. It seemed he had forgotten. And I was plenty busy with projects. We’re selling our house, I’m in the midst of big book deadlines, and we’re in the middle of several projects for our small business.

Drawings in a notebook and dreaming up a museum seemed just a tad too insignificant given all that was on my plate.

But there I sat at the coffee shop, staring my projects in the face, and it hit me. My son’s projects or not less important than mine. Because his projects are what his dreams and aspirations are made of.

Our childrens plans will lead to greater plans and action and goals and a life lived on purpose—but only if we fuel those budding dreams in their hearts. Only if we offer a listening ear, and only when we invest ourselves in their aspirations. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, raising money to save an endangered species, building a rocket to launch to the moon, or gathering artifacts for a museum.

Something monumental happens when we grant credit to our child’s ideas. When we stop to ask questions, or offer them another perspective. Instead of their idea vanishing into time, it weighs time down. It slows time, offers it more meaning, perhaps redirects it. When we take the time to enter into their idea, it infuses them with confidence to give that idea a try. It makes them brave.

If we don’t fuel these dreams, I fear they will dissipate into adulthood. I’m so afraid that my children will forget how to dream. This is one reason I do have my own projects, ones that reflect my own passions and show my children what it looks like for Mama to chase her own dreams. But it’s also why I set aside those projects today, and sat next to my boy drawing tigers and sea coral. Because he has his own projects and dreams.

And they’re just as important as mine.

936Pennies Chasing Dreams Motherhood

Can My Dreams And My Motherhood Exist In Harmony Together?

July 22, 2017

From as early as I can remember, there was a dream tucked within my heart to be a mother. I think many of us share that dream. After my husband and I slipped bands of gold over each others’ fingers, and spoke hand-written vows to seal our love in promise, it did not take long for me to begin imagining the two of us becoming the three of us. My husband tried to hold this big change off for as long as he could. He adopted me a puppy. I think he thought this would satisfy my maternal stirrings for a while. I don’t think it worked for as long as he planned.

Before long, he felt ready too. And come our second wedding anniversary, we would celebrate with our tiny newborn boy. I was a mama, and it was every bit a dream come true.

I know that so many of you hold similar stories; the euphoric step into mamahood and how it completely overtakes you with a new depth of love you never thought possible. A lifelong dream come true.

Perhaps if we share in that same experience, you may be able to relate to another also. Those newborn bundles of dream-come-true learn to crawl and walk and talk–and this dream, although still dreamy, lacks a bit of luster among the day-to-day routines.

Motherhood begins to feel not enough. It feels lacking. But we dare not speak it, because isn’t this what we always dreamed of?

Mamas, I think we have been looking at this from the wrong, guilt-ridden perspective. Maybe it’s not that motherhood is not enough, but rather that it was never meant to be the whole picture of our dream. Maybe our motherhood is exactly what it was meant to be, and it can coexist with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. You know the ones. Those inklings and ideas that raise your pulse and increase your heartbeat with excitement. But we set these dreams on the back burner because, “It’s not the right time.” The dreams feel as though they are clashing with our current season of motherhood.

Yes, it’s true that in some cases, the timing is not right. But I think that we are writing these dreams off far too early. We are saying No, not now, too quickly. I believe that too many of our dreams are sitting on the back burner, sizzling away and evaporating before we ever gave them a chance.

I remember one of my first thoughts after I began to consider writing a book. I sat at my desk, contemplating this dream, and I felt that strong gut-deep friction. “This is awful timing.” I thought to myself. At the time we had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and I was newly pregnant with our third son. “When will I ever have time to write a book?” I asked myself. And an even more weighty question tugging at my heart: “What if this dream takes away from my children?” What would my dream cost them? It felt ridiculous, to sacrifice time with my children in order to write a book with the message of making the most of the time we have with our children.

But God kept on pressing. And He kept aligning the smallest of details to affirm this dream in my heart.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

His timing is always perfect, right?

Three years later, with the book being published this coming February, I hate to imagine a life in where I would have said no to this dream. If I would have bought in to those doubts that this dream could never coexist with my current season of motherhood, then I would never have had this chance to see God work in miraculous ways, ways far above anything I ever could have done on my own. The Author of time–He made the time for me to chase this dream. And He makes the time for your dreams, too.

If we say no, not now, then we may never realize the beauty born when God brings together our dream of motherhood with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. When He convinces us to chase these dreams, then He can use the journey to usher us deeper into our motherhood than ever before.

Fellow mamas, God created us to be dreamers. We are crafted in His image, the image of the greatest Dreamer. We are His grandest dream, but not His only one. His dreams hold the majesty of mountains, the depths of oceans, the awe of a newborn’s cry, and the narrative of the greatest Rescue Plan ever. And He invites us–His favorite dream– to come along in the journey of these dreams; to be a part of the greatest story ever told.

We can do the same. We can chase the God-given dreams on our hearts while inviting our children right into the journey. They can be present and witness to their Mama working hard and showing up every day to chase her dreams.

And then, one day soon, they’ll take what they’ve seen and run brave after their own dreams.

936Pennies Parenting

Let’s Never Stop Getting To Know Them

July 15, 2017

“Why do you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I watched his little brow furrow as he popped another bite of pancake into his mouth. I sipped at my coffee, waiting patiently for his answer. “Because I just do.” I was not letting him get away with that.

“What do you think would be cool about being a firefighter?” He looked at me now, sipping orange juice from a straw. “Rescuing people, and putting out fires.” I smiled. Now we were getting somewhere. I continued to ask him questions, the kind that require specific answers. I had woken early that morning to find him by himself, already awake before his brothers and Daddy, sitting by the front window. “Do you want to go get breakfast with just me?” He grabbed his shoes and was out the door, and now we sat, just the two of us at that cafe table. Looking over at him, I couldn’t help but notice just how grown up he looked—how different.

I can only imagine that your children are growing as quickly as mine. And my heart aches at how easily it is to forget to keep getting to know them. They are so different from a year ago—and are we able to count and name the ways?

My first baby, by this time next week he will be six years outside of my womb. Six years. No longer a toddler or preschooler—a kid. A boy. And every day I see him inching more and more toward manhood. As I watch this, the passing of time happening mercilessly right before my eyes, I fear that time and boyhood will pull him away from me. It’s so easy when they are tiny, to cuddle and read books and run wooden trains across endless loops of tracks on the carpet.

But I’ve seen it happening—as this near-six-year-old boy grows and makes friends and reads books and learns, his interests are developing. He’s more content to do his own thing—to ride his bike over homemade jumps for hours on end—and I think we both forget that we still need time, just him and me.

That’s what brought us to that breakfast table. The evening before after he was sound asleep, I replayed in my mind the two questions he had asked me that afternoon. “Mom, can you read more books to us?” I walked toward the bathroom to grab my hairbrush, “I can’t, Bud, I need to get ready to go.” And, “Mom, can you do this craft with us?” I had turned that one down, too.

I know it’s not realistic, or healthy, to sit side-by-side with them all day long. But perhaps those simple invites tucked into their everyday conversations, the ones we often turn down in the name of Busy and Distracted—perhaps those are a precious gift from our child, an opportunity to keep getting to know them—to mark up the passing of time with timeless memories.

Maybe, if we were more open to those invitations, if we even went looking for them through invites to breakfast, a walk around the pond, or a trip to the ice cream shop—we’d be more aware of time’s passing before us. Maybe we’d be more at peace with its pace because we would be leaning into all it has to give—a front row seat to our babies-turning-big-kids.

I think I’m going to try it. I mean, I have been. Perhaps—no, I am certain–the reason I write so much on time is because it is one of my greatest struggles. But this morning over pancakes and coffee, we won. Over questions of aspirations and favorite hiking spots and hobbies, I got to know my boy a little more.

This is how it happens—how we know them yesterday and today and tomorrow and twenty years from now when they’re living their own lives—we know them because we made an effort to at every stage. And sometimes effort looks like a plate of pancakes and a hot cup of coffee.

936Pennies Motherhood

Everything I Know About Motherhood, Today.

June 22, 2017

I am nearly depleted by it, motherhood. Many days I think that I am, yet somehow by the grace of God I resurface. It empties me, nearly. Yet equally it fills me.

It is both great joy and great challenge, and on my best days, great joy in the challenge.

I know that far too often I feel as though I have nothing left to give. Guilt rushes in and crushes me as I hear my voice snap, tones I never knew it could hold. Fatigue and exasperation–perhaps desperation–coat my words.

And then a simple “Thank you” or “Love you” from your lips tilts the entire day, shifts everything, readjusts perspective, and reminds me that all is not wrong. There is grace yet to be found here. New mercies await us tomorrow, but we have not yet used up today’s. God’s reservoir always has a little more to give.

I know that motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever done. And one of the most rewarding, always. I know that I never knew that I could fear so deeply, or love so fiercely.

I know that you give me more grace than I deserve. Far more. And that while I am trying to teach you about patience, you know much more about it than I do.

I know that God chose me to be your mother, and that, my Love, is an honor.

I know that while many days I long for a break, I cannot imagine this life without you in it.

I know that motherhood has taught me deep lessons about respect–not only in teaching you the value of it, but so much more about what it means to respect you–who you are, and who God has made you to be, and the process of watching you unfold into that potential every single day.

I know that this is going too fast. And if we do not choose to live radically different from what we see around us in this world, then we are going to miss it. Me and you. We’ll miss us.

I know, or rather I am learning, that so much of motherhood is an act of observation. And that I am called to exactly that. Most days I miss the mark. But on those days I truly see you, motherhood is at its best.

I know that your laughter is the sweetest sound on earth.

I know that I would not trade even the most trying of days. And that I cannot take back my mistakes. And that your forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that I receive, and you give it freely. Over, and over, and over. You teach me what it is.

I know that I want you to see my weaknesses, to know that I am needy, too. And to see in me what it looks like to call out to Jesus from that need.

I know that God knew that you were for me, and I was for you, and that was the perfect plan.

This is everything I know about motherhood, today. I am certain you will teach me more tomorrow.

936Pennies

Where We Need To Go More ‘Oftenly’

May 24, 2017

I entertained the notion for a fleeting moment as we drove past one of our favorite walking trails. I almost pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t. Too much work to do at home. But as we passed, my heart ached. Last year I would have stopped. But life now was fast-paced and demanding. I drove on.

It had been one of those days when life shifts on an axis, from great news to bad news all within hours. Circumstances roar like ocean torrents, and you sink beneath the waves, resurfacing for a moment and searching desperately for the illumination of that beacon on shore. Then they overtake you again. Up, down, up, down again. 

But today I was fortunate. And my five-year-old son pointed my eyes toward that light. Ten minutes after I neglected the beckoning trailhead, we pulled into our own town, my mind awhirl with tasks to do as soon as the boys went down for bed. But my heart told me otherwise—that this wasn’t right. I should have pulled into that trailhead.

“Do you guys just want to grab some snacks at the store and go to the park?” I asked the backseat. And what little boy would say no to that? I thought I was killing time. Their Daddy wouldn’t be home for another hour or so anyways. But unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t killing time—I was stretching it. Preserving it. Setting it into stone. I gave them a couple of options for playgrounds, but this was the moment that my boy directed me back to shore after a discouraging afternoon.

“How about the sand by the water?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I remember walking there!” It was my four-year-old speaking up this time. I pictured us, a year ago, him only three, and us strolling along the lake.

“I didn’t like how long we walked.” Zeke, my oldest added.

“I remember we found a golf ball!” I could picture my middle guy, Ellis, pulling the small ball out from underneath the water surface. “Really?” I asked him, “You can remember that?” He went on to describe it in detail, this yellow golf ball. I pulled into the parking lot for the beach. That little golf ball on the beach, during an unassuming summer afternoon, had sure left its mark on him. 

For over an hour I sat there in the grass, listening to their laughter as they ran in and out of the chilly water. The sun slowly dipped below the snow-capped mountains behind the lake. My youngest boy, Willy–his white curls shimmered in the sun’s remaining light as he ran circles around a large Elm tree standing tall beside the sand. Slowly my boys made their way down the shore away from me, then meandered back. Again and again and again.

“I know what we can do, Mom! We can draw in the sand!” Zeke bent low, placing his finger into the sand, running zig-zag patterns backwards, creating art as he went. Two-year-old Willy ran back and forth on the sidewalk in front of me, a grin spread across his face. He tripped and his toddler hands hit the pavement hard. He began to cry, but then rose back to his feet, wiping his hands against each other, and ran on into the sand. He plopped down on his bottom and stared, smiling into the sunset. I watched. And as I did, the day’s worries faded right along with that sunlight. Tomorrow that sun would rise again, and with it, new mercies. Enough mercies.

By the time we packed up, and I strapped boys–sopping wet and sand-covered–into carseats, my heart was light. No longer weighed down by the day and its unexpected twists, but freed—because we let time be what it wanted to be.

Earlier that evening, I drove past that trailhead because work hovered. Anxieties crowded. Time felt rushed and limited and entirely not enough. But my boy brought us to that beach, where time was set free. He sat next to me in that grass, wet shorts and chilly, goose-bumped legs. “I am just cold and need your love.” he told me as he snuggled close. I placed my arm around him. Time could be spent no better way. “We should come here more ‘oftenly’” he told me as we had loaded up the car. And he was so right.

This place where time is stretched and savored and slowed and cemented into our legacy.

Yes, my boy. We should come here more oftenly.

936Pennies Motherhood

I blinked.

May 10, 2017

I blinked. They told me not to, but I did. Who can stop it, anyhow? None of us, that’s who.

I blinked and your pudgy bare toes gripped tight to blades of green grass as you stood to your feet for the first time. I stared at you in disbelief from my knees, pausing from my task of plucking snap peas from their vine. Why did I blink?

I blinked and you clung to Daddy in that hammock with one hand, the other hand pointing to the clouds as planes soared across the blue sky, looping far above your head of white blonde curls. You shrieked in delight as you watched them.

I blinked and that test window blinked back at me. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Pregnant”. And then there was your brother.

I blinked and you timidly walked into the hospital room holding your Auntie’s hand. You approached slowly, taking in the sight of your mama on that strange bed in a silly gown, holding that tiny bundle of uncertainty. You kept your distance. But not for long.

Because I blinked, and then you were best friends.

I blinked and the two of you spent the entire day in the garden helping me dig and pull and plant and nurture. I blinked and you helped me pick of our bounty, warm red strawberry juice slipping down your chins.

I blinked and your little brother stared back at me from that crib, “I wub you,” the words slipping from his mouth for the very first time as I kissed him goodnight.

I blinked and again that plastic window blinked back. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Not Pregnant”. But I knew. And the next morning it agreed, “Pregnant”.

I blinked as I watched you and your brother bound through piles of fall leaves, your laughter mixing a melody with the birds’ songs from the trees. I blinked back the tears and the doubt, how would we do this again so soon?

I blinked at that screen illuminating the dark room, your grandma sitting next to me, us both watching to see. “I’m calling your doctor,” the nurse spoke. I blinked and the tears slipped down my cheeks.

I blinked and your baby brother came much sooner than I anticipated. Time stood still with him nestled in my arm, three days in that room just us, me getting to know him, and coming to see that we needed him. Yes, time stood still, but then I blinked.

I blinked and you and your brother held our tiny baby, and I knew it. In no time you’d be best friends.

I blinked and our whole world changed. From city to mountains. A whole new world for us to make our own. I blinked and it became just that—home.

I blinked and again there was new life in my womb. But then I blinked again and oh how I wish I hadn’t, because then that life was gone.

I blinked, and time went on. But our baby would remain in that time, those three days, until we meet again.

I blinked and your baby brother licked chocolate icing from his birthday candles. I wrapped myself warm in a blanket as the three of you bounded across rocks and slipped toes into icy river water.

I blinked back tears as I told you that I felt like a bad mom. I had yelled too much, I told you. “It’s ok,” you spoke back without even a moment to think. “I will always forgive you when you do something wrong” you told me.

I blinked and you became this little human who somehow understands love and grace and beauty on much deeper levels than I do.

They tell us not to blink. “It’ll be over before you know it.” They say. But how do we stop this constant reflex, a counting of time from birth until grave, a rhythmic reaction alongside of heartbeat and inhale and exhale. We cannot.

So I will keep blinking and you will keep growing and we’ll keep doing this dance of counting time and making time count. Because one day those words from friends and family and strangers will ring true. I will blink and it will be over. Only it won’t. Because we counted time. We slowed it and savored it and told it who was boss. And its treasures will always abide in our hearts—yours and mine—for forever’s keeping. So keep on making time so sweet, little one. Let’s make this business of blinking a sweet legacy of time well spent.

 

 

936Pennies Family Living With Intention

We Choose It For Our Child, And It Will Impact The Rest Of Their Life

March 3, 2017

My teeth clench and my foot braces hard against the floor of this shaking machine. All at once the conversations surrounding us are hushed by the droning of the wind against metal. My heart beats harder. I have always been a nervous flyer.

My stomach drops as the aircraft lifts sharply, wheels bidding farewell to the airstrip. The plane tilts left, and I see them like never before. “We’re going to fly right over our house.” My husband leans over me to glimpse what I cannot take my eyes off of: our mountains.

They stretch out before us without end, an infinite expanse of wilderness and wonder. I have never seen them like this before. At least, not since they became our own. Within minutes he spots it. “There! Do you see that curve in the road? Right next to it, there is our neighborhood.” And I do see it. I picture at once our three boys running across the living room, keeping my brave mom, who flew in the night before to stay with them, on her feet. They are a stone throw away, but 10,000 feet out of reach.

My husband points out rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, and canyons. I know them all by name, by smell, by tastes of picnic lunches, and hikes along their trails. I see day drives, afternoons spent tossing rocks into riverbeds, and where we hiked into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. All of these places—our places— are laid out as if bark on a tree, rising and falling, with lines of river and trail snaking their way throughout. Home. And it is. We have made it to be, and we know it intimately.

Not a half hour later, the summits calm and taper into flatter land, then rise steep again into a wilderness I do not know. Our boys are now a range away. I turn to my husband, “Hey, happy One Year In Colorado.”

We are flying away from the new backdrop of our lives, and toward the backdrop of my husband’s childhood. For four years of his boyhood he called the moss-covered trees and cloud-covered mountains of Washington “Home”. And I could hardly wait to see these places that I had pictured so many times from his stories.

That week I would stand in awe of the 286-foot Snoqualmie Waterfall, maze my way through forests of 100-foot trees and beds of ferns, and see the creek where my husband and his brother used to spend entire days rope swinging and creek jumping. And as I did, I could picture our own boys, and it made me wonder about the backdrop we are choosing for their own childhood.

It’s incredible just how much the backdrop that we choose for our kids shapes their futures. It is something that our kids get little to no say in. We choose it, and it will shape them profoundly. This was a realization that weighed heavily into our decision to move to Colorado one year ago. However, it doesn’t take the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to color a beautiful backdrop. Nor does it require sandy beaches with ocean breeze, or a quaint farmhouse among golden fields. The backdrop of our child’s life is made up of so many details.

A backdrop is made up not only of the things that we see day-to-day. It is pace, and flavor, and music, and scent, and words, and embrace. It is the tiniest of details that make all of the difference in a home.

Our move to the mountains was not a fix-all. I would be naive, and sorely disappointed, if I expected it to produce the perfect pace of life. Yes, it has helped us to embrace wonder. But it did little to slow us down. That takes more than a move; it takes intentional choices every single day. Even among all of this awe and wonder, we can still become lost in the rush of life, and we often do. We still find harsh words on our lips, and our minds too busy to offer a listening ear.

Location does not change these things.

Choosing a backdrop is not often a dramatic move, but a continuous string of small, intentional moves; moves we make every single day. Moves like these:

  • Reserving a campsite for a few weekends throughout the summer
  • Looking up nearby nature trails, and choosing one to explore each weekend
  • Playing music throughout the day in your home. (Our favorite Pandora stations are Caedmon’s Call, JJ Heller, Nickel Creek, and Rend Collective Experiment)
  • Lighting candles in the house
  • Diffusing lavender oil
  • Sitting down (with your spouse if you are married), looking over your calendar for the month, and choosing two activities to cross off. Go on a family date instead.
  • Choosing books, crafts, play, and time outside over screens in the morning hours
  • Reserving one evening a week for Family Game Night
  • Packing sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the park
  • Visiting the library once a week, and coming home with a new stack of books
  • Sitting to enjoy a cup of tea with a book, or just while sitting with your kids

These small moves add up quickly. They hold the power to change the whole culture of a home, and the backdrop of our children’s lives.

We chose these mountains because they remind us every day to slow down and listen. They challenge us to this, but they don’t do it for us. We must heed their reminder to keep our hearts focused on beauty, and living a life in line with our values. That is what creating a backdrop is made of: intentional choices that line up with our values in life. Choices to take walks and pursue wonder and create beauty and speak kindness until all of these things engrain themselves into the culture of our home. Until they all add their own color to the backdrop of our kids’ childhoods.