A plea from an athlete

This morning I was running with Blue just before 7am. My runs have been pushed back later and later these days because the dark mornings make it hard for me to find safe paths. We had just finished our first loop and were about to turn the corner and head back for the lake when I heard the familiar sounds of a dog closing in on our heels. I turned and yelled for the dog to stop, but he didn't. I pulled Blue close by his nearly broken leash, and I walked ahead, trying to escape future bite marks. I didn't dare run; I've made that mistake before. The dog continued to follow us, growling and barking intermittently. I turned every once in awhile to shew him away, but he would not go. He got so close to us that I was forced to stop and wait. I turned with Blue (who was being a total nutcase at the time) and I told the dog to go. Just as I did so a car whipped around the turn going far too fast for our sleepy neighborhood. I stood there yelling at the dog and the car, but the sound of engine drowned my groggy voice. I was sure the dog or I had lived our last day. But somehow the car narrowly missed the dog, which scared the dog enough that it turned and ran back to its home in the darkness. My knees nearly buckled, and my legs shook the rest of my run. It was one of the scariest moments I have had on a run ever.

Running the streets of Elkhart has become therapeutic for me. I know each invisible mile marker, and I know when I'll settle into my pace and run freely without pain or discomfort. I know when I'll start to get tired. I know the longer paths, but I'm definitely no stranger to the short cuts. Running helps me feel so alive when everyone is sleeping or barely waking up.

But as much as running fills my lungs with the air they'll need to chase two tiny toddlers around, running has also become scary to me lately. Too many people text and drive. I have to hop onto so many lawns to avoid distracted drivers that it messes with my pace. I wish people could know all the precautions I take before leaving my house. I know the best routes, I wear the reflective gear and I run on the opposite side of the road, but no matter what I do, it's not enough.

People aren't watching for runners. They're not watching for me.

Please be careful. My life matters to 6 humans and 1 dog-who-thinks-he's-a-human in this home. I assume it's the same for every other athlete on the streets. Please watch for us.

things.

It's after 11, and I told Tim that I'd be sleeping by now. But something about my tiny world sleeping has given my thoughts the needed space to spread their proverbial wings and fly. I have so many thoughts but not enough time or hands to jot them down. So here, in random order, are things that have been on my mind lately.

I made a mistake. A colossal one--perhaps the biggest one of my life. It haunts me in my dreams and creeps into my thoughts as I routinely wash the dishes. I should never have gotten my tubes tied. There hasn't been a day when I don't think about what I've done. Tim feels (and has felt this way for nearly 18 months) that there wouldn't have been more babies for us. I disagree. I feel a hole I didn't expect to feel, and I trip in that hole every day, and the wound will not heal. I ache. Although Tim and I disagree on this subject, he is kind and listens to me repeat the same few words of regret to him each night on our walk. He no longer offers condolences or apologies. He just listens and lets the words hang there without reservation. Sometimes our differing opinions makes me angry. Sometimes it makes me cry. It is a burden I bear alone, and perhaps that's why it hurts the most.

I thought I'd never see night skies like the ones I saw in our small town in Texas, but I still do. I never forget to look up on my nighttime walks and feel the greatness of the world around me. The stars shine brightly here and remind me that no matter where I go, the moon and the stars will go with me.

I told God tonight on my walk that I am so tired of carrying uncertainty and doubt in my heart. With the exception of truly being able to empathize and understand people in similar situations (which I realize is a huge gift), doubt has done me little good. It has caused me to lose sight of so many things that are good and true. I told God I am ready to begin peeling away at these onion-like layers. I've been ready for some time but haven't found the courage to do much, but I'm slowing getting my footing and finding my way.

I recently told a group of women much older than me when I first felt joy. They looked at me oddly and asked, "Honey, what's the difference between joy and happiness to you?" I explained what I thought the difference was and then related the story of walking down the long staircase at BYU sometime in September or October of my junior year. I was walking alone, weighed down by the heavy Shakespeare anthology in my bag, when out of nowhere it began to rain. The rain was warm and strong, and I had nothing to shield me from getting wet so I just embraced it. I remember watching students running to their cars or apartments frantically, and I continued to walk and let the rain soak through my tan sweater. I can still feel the smile on my face and the rain dripping from my hair. It was wonderful. It was joy--pure joy.

I've read four different novels/books over the past two months. It's a record for me since having kids and working at night. But I've made it a priority to read a little here and there, and it has been so good for my imagination. Sometimes I think about the different protagonists during the day, and I feel motivated in ways I wouldn't normally expect to feel.

I recently explained to my mother that words are my love language. It was a funny conversation about birthday cards, and I hope to remember it forever. I also hope to receive more words in the future; it's all my heart could ever ask for.

I love being a mother. Knowing that I created five unique souls astounds me. These kids are so good. I watch them love each other and help each other, and I feel like the luckiest. I tell everyone I know that the only way I could do this many kids is having my kids. My kids are perfectly suited for me and for each other. They watch out for me almost always. Genevieve is always dressing or changing a baby while Mya is always getting breakfast ready in the morning for everyone just so I can take a quick shower. Elle reads books to her sister, insisting that she will teach her how to read by the end of the year. And Birdie loves to help me with Timmy. They make my life possible. They make it hard too. It's not all roses...I mean still have dirty diapers to clean, a million Birdie spills to wipe up and a dozen tantrums to work through each day, but I'm telling you what, I could never have expected to love this stage of life as much as I do. I already feel it passing quickly, and I am trying to hold on as long as possible.

After four failed attempts at potty training, Birdie self potty trained last weekend. It's a miracle. One I am forever grateful for. Only 1 left in diapers!! Hallelujah!

I wish it was appropriate to have family pictures covering the walls because I'd do it. There are hundreds of pictures of my kids from over the years that make me smile, and I wish I had somewhere to put them that I could see them everyday.

I think technology is ruining society. Personal opinion...obviously.

I often think of my neighbor. She was hit by a drunk driver nearly 15 years ago. She was just about to start her senior year of high school. She was a straight A student and had a bright future. But the crash dramatically altered her life. She has a brain injury now that forced her to forgo college and other career pursuits. She can barely hold a job. She has depression. And she lost ability to move one of her hands well. She lives with her parents, and she is always kind, but I can't help but think how hard this unexpected life must be for her. And I also wonder about the person who hit her. What is their life now?

I am too hard on myself. I have had incredibly low self-esteem since moving here. I can hardly look in mirrors without quickly looking away. My body eats away at me. The voices in my head are loud these days, and they are never kind.

Speaking of body issues, my friend's daughter just entered another treatment center for eating disorders. She's been in and out of a couple over the past few years. The toll it is taking on her body and her parents' minds and hearts is so heavy and dark. My chest tightens when I think of how deafening the voices can be. She is only a teenager. She shouldn't have to hear what I hear. I hope that somehow with all her treatment programs she can learn to love herself because it is a lesson I still struggle to remember.

And lastly, I want to say how good God is. He is more powerful than the voices, the doubt, the self-loathing, and the sadness. In my quiet moments, he reminds me he is present and aware of me. I feel him everywhere and am grateful to know I am not alone.

She.


I woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach, realizing Mya only has 9 more years at home. We've made it half way through our time together, and I can't help but wonder if I've done enough. There's still so much I need to teach her about life, love and faith. We continue to approach new and difficult topics with each passing year--most recently discussing slavery, feminism, racism, and divine nature. I try to present things to her in such a way that she can form her own opinions and thoughts while still considering the facts and the things we still don't know or understand. Her young wisdom astounds me; her faith does too. 

While discussing the recent Vegas attack, she asked me why some people are so bad. It's a natural question. It's something I've wondered too. We talked for a bit about our thoughts, and she concluded, "Mom, I just think there are more good people than bad people so I am not going to be afraid." She has deep faith in others, most importantly her family and friends, and it helps me remember my important role as a mother and guardian. 

What else can I say about this beautiful child of mine? 

She brushes her hair several times a day and will not be seen without having her hair coiffed first. 
She is incredibly smart. 
She prefers pretend play to watching television or computer games. 
She hates to be in front of people but secretly craves it. 
She takes awhile to loosen up. 
She rolls her eyes a lot. 
She holds my hand on the way to school and always tells me she loves me before she shuts the door.
She is a fish; she belongs in the water. 
She is her sisters' favorite playmate.
She has the most amazing imagination.
She loves to make eggs by herself. 
She is a thrill seeker and rides all the roller coasters she can find. 
She has the best laugh. 
She loves to read and remains my best reader. 
She is a really good artist when she's patient. 
She appreciates my taste in music and art (except country). 
She is incredibly strong. She has always had amazing abs. 
She can be lazy during soccer, and I want to go crazy, but then she turns it on and is so good. 
She wants a pen pal.
She likes to experiment with makeup, and she especially likes creating a "cat" eye.
She wants to speak Spanish. 
She is patient with Genevieve each day they walk home from school. (V is very slow.)
She is feisty. 
She is kind. 
She says the most thoughtful prayers. 
She recently started bearing her testimony at church and forces me to do the same in the process. 
She is my first creation, and I love her. 

Happy birthday baby girl. I love you so much.







slow down.

I wish I could tell my younger self to slow down.
I was always in a rush.
Have my first kiss.
Meet my first boyfriend.
Graduate from high school.
Move out of my parents house.
Find a major.
Get married.
Graduate from college.
Have a baby.
Soothe that baby out of a tantrum.
Push the first baby off to school.
Meet new friends.
Decorate the apartment/house.
Find myself.

Rushing made me miss really great moments. Moments where I could cry, laugh, teach, learn, understand, and be amazed.

I'm learning to slow down. Even though I'm so behind with work (I will probably be behind for the rest of my life seeing as it's impossible to get 5 kids to bed at a decent hour), I've started to take my time with the kids at night again. I've selfishly been rushing bedtime for the past couple of years. But lately, I've been finishing the chapter they beg me to finish, cuddling them a minute longer because they want to feel my warmth and sing that extra song because they love to hear mama sing.

Slowing down feels so good. And you know what, the work still gets done. My kids are mostly to school on time. ;) The house will be decorated with time. And friends will come. I used to feel so much anxiety about not making friends; I've even felt that way here, but being home with my kids this summer made me realize that I have a great friend base right at my fingertips if I just let them in. My kids love to talk to me and ask me all kinds of crazy, nonsensical questions. They are the best conversationalists. I just can't be in a hurry. Because when I am, I kill the mood and the words before they have a chance to take shape. I still occasionally seek out friends, but they will come. I'm not at all concerned about that now.

Oh the things I could tell the younger me. But this would be the first thing, and perhaps the most important.

thoughts from last night.


I spent last night at the local urgent care. I've been frequenting different urgent cares more than I anticipated this summer. (With V breaking her arm in Maryland and all.) Let's hope I get a year off starting today. 

Poor Timmy. Birdie slammed his finger (unknowingly...obviously) between the heavy sliding doors separating the family room from the sun room. At first I didn't really know anything had happened because Timmy didn't scream out right away. I assume he was in shock. But as he pulled his finger from the door, blood was spraying all over the place, and I knew it was serious. The laceration required 3 stitches, and by the pictures you can see that the only way to perform the little operation was to bind him in a baby papoose. The whole thing was as awful as you can imagine. It was just me, Timmy and Birdie, and I struggled to soothe either child. 

He's all bandaged up now and on his way to healing, but my heart still feels a little shredded. As I sat by his side, rubbing his cheeks with the corners of his blanket and softly singing "You are my sunshine" repeatedly, my heart ached to see him in so much pain. He didn't understand what was happening, and he definitely didn't like being restricted, and all that he wanted was for me to hold him. The moment I did, he quieted down and nestled his little head into my shoulder cavity--the way only kids can, and time stood still for a minute. 

This morning as I contemplated the experience, I thought of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Just like Timmy, I hate being restricted. My natural inclination is to rebel against anyone/anything trying to restrict me. But sometimes God has to restrict me, and he does it for my benefit, even if I'm thrashing at the seams, trying to break free. But in those moments, if I can calm my spirit just a little as Timmy did a few times last night during the operation, I can feel a gentle voice inside my head humming or whispering words. Sometimes I think those words are just my own, but what if they're not. What if God does for me exactly what I did for Timmy? What if he sings to me? Or whispers encouraging words to my soul? Why couldn't he do that? That's what I've always done for my children when they're hurt or sad and don't understand why they're going through something hard. Why wouldn't he do the same for me? 

I believe he does. I believe he's there, even in our restrictions and pain. He knows us perfectly just as I know my own children. They are under my stewardship just as I am under his. I hope I can remember this when I am asked to pass through something that makes me want to cry big alligator tears and scream for someone to hold me because perhaps then I will be still and realize he's already there.


I used to be cool.

Four days a week I drive up behind a black Honda Odyssey with a bumper sticker that reads, "I used to be cool." And everyday I laugh. It's like those words scream at me. Me and my mom butt of a van. All vans look like they are dragging along a mom butt behind them. I had to swallow some serious pride when Tim and I took hold of our van keys nearly 3 years ago. It was like a sucker punch to both of our stomachs. And no amount of telling us about all the bells and whistles the van had to offer could lessen the blow. We knew it--we were about to drive around the mom butt for the foreseeable future.

And so yes lady with the black Honda Odssey, I hear you loud and clear. I used to be cool too. ;)

I've always thought the bumper sticker referred to the car and not the person in the car, but tonight as I walked Blue around my dark neighborhood in Tim's saggy, old basketball shorts, no bra, a family reunion shirt and greasy hair, I thought of that bumper sticker again. Have I been wrong all along? Does it refer to me and not my van? I thought of what I must look like to anyone passing by in their car and thought, perhaps it does refer to me and my tired, mom look. Perhaps it does.

I thought about this all the way home as Blue meandered around the dying flower beds and mailboxes. Am I not cool? (To be quite honest, I don't know if I've ever actually been "cool.") But is motherhood equated with being uncool? I'd bet the people at the post office this morning thought motherhood was very uncool when Birdie decided to throw a screaming tantrum with drool falling out of her mouth just because I wouldn't buy her greeting cards we didn't need. (Why does the post card always have that annoying rack?!) And people probably don't think it's cool when I walk around with boogers on the edge of my sleeves because my kids have an endless supply of boogers and I'm always experiencing a tissue shortage. And I bet people really don't think I'm cool when I step on an airplane with 5 kids in tow because all their thinking about is how long the flight is and what amount of time my child/children will be crying during it.

There are so many uncool things about motherhood--like the ones I just listed. I totally get it. I do. I find myself lame more than I can tell you. But do you know who doesn't think I'm lame (unless I'm doling out chores and such)--my kids think I'm cool.

Mya is constantly asking for advice on style, and she's told me a lot that she can't wait to get older to borrow a few of my pieces. Elle begs me to straighten her hair just like mine several times a week. Birdie always mimics the way I talk and what I say. Just today I heard her telling Blue, "Well, cap Boo. Cap." (Cap = crap) And I laughed out loud. Genevieve is just like her daddy, and she usually doesn't want to do anything after school unless she's hugged me first and told me about her day. And Timmy is a human heart-eyed emoji, and he always has those baby blues directed at me.

I am the luckiest. Six people and one dog think I am the coolest thing on the planet. When they're not being stinkers, they often treat me like royalty. They're always wanting to brush my hair, do my makeup, help me bake, help me wash the dishes, read me stories, sing me songs, tell me jokes, do private concerts for me, show me crooked hand stands, hold my hand, and snuggle in bed. The list could really go on forever. I am so loved within these walls that sometimes I don't want to leave; there's a lack of love outside.

So I may be uncool in my Odyssey (I fully recognize that I am), and I may look like a mess 50% of the time, but I don't really care. Someone will always think I'm cool in this house, even if that person is not even 2 years old yet.

Ten years.


Ten years. I have loved the same man for ten years. And he has loved me too. I keep trying to think of some eloquent way to say all the words that are bursting inside me, but I keep falling short. I'm afraid words cannot adequately describe what I have felt and still feel during these past ten years, but I will do my best.

Without giving you the false impression that our marriage is perfect (I find perfection rather boring), I must admit that our marriage is as ideal as one can be. It is as sweet as apple pie and can also be as salty as the best french fry. Tim is my person. I am his. We'd be lost without each other. I can, without a doubt, state emphatically that we are each other's top priority. He tells me at least once a day that I am his favorite, and I do my best to tell him he is mine.

Of course there have been aches and pains and tears; no relationship can grow without them. But we have always been able to dig our way out of the darkness and find ourselves smiling and laughing again.

Please allow me to talk freely for a moment--I give you complete permission to roll your eyes, but I have write about this man that I married. People tend to tell me that I put Tim on some lofty pedal stool, and perhaps I do, but it's very hard for me to find glaring faults. I guess if you want me to make him feel more human, I'll tell you that he's the type of guy that when you tell him to wash the dishes, he will, but he'll overlook the dirty counters. To his credit, he always tells me that if I just remind him to wash the counters he will, but I never do because I always feel like it's an obvious task that needs to be done once the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher. So there--he's human. He's not perfect. He makes mistakes. But man, those mistakes are so small, it's almost embarrassing to write about.

Tim is good to his core. He is always honest and kind. I tell my girls to look for boys who are just as honest and kind. He has a way of running his hand through my hair or holding his hand over the small of my back that just makes me feel cared for and loved. He loves me so much. He tells me at least ten times a day. He is funny, smart, interesting, sensitive, thoughtful, and sweet. He has had to sacrifice most of his interests because we chose to grow our family by five more people plus one dog. Last year, I think he only watched one Michigan football game during the regular scheduled hour due to soccer games and other family outings, but he didn't complain at all. And if you know him, you know how much Michigan football means to him. And that's just one example of things he's learned to sacrifice over the years.

I love different things about Tim at different times, but lately I've been so attracted to and inspired by his ability to motivate people, especially me. He never uses many words, but rather he listens, nods and smiles, and once he's taken everything in, he asks a few simple questions to nudge further learning. He does this with me, our kids, the people at work, the young men at church and even peers. He is so subtle in his approach that people don't even realize he's motivating them, and they suddenly want to be better and make goals, but they don't know where those ideas come from. Tim motivates just about everyone he meets. He amazes me.

Everyday I am grateful that God placed us in similar places at just the right time. I could not have anticipated how good life would be with Tim. We both kinda jumped at marriage because we liked each other a whole lot and it seemed like the right thing to do, but we had no idea what we were doing. But we're figuring it out day by day and year by year. God has been so kind to us, even in our adversity, and we recognize his goodness all the time. I can't imagine my life with anyone else in any other place. No matter where our physical home has been or is, wherever Tim is, I am home.