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Independence Day with the Littles

Our holiday has been pretty poppin’:

  • We went to the YMCA today, decked out in our red, white, and blue, and I practiced yoga this morning.
  • We swam with Uncle Brent and friends during our regularly scheduled naptime resulting in too-late naps for everyone except Keith.
  • We ate hot dogs, tater tots, and applesauce for dinner.
  • We threw poppers on the ground, making tiny explosions with the force of our throws.
  • We lit sparklers, creating designs in the air.
  • We ate popsicles because it’s July in Florida and it’s too dang hot even with the evening’s (relatively) cool breeze.
  • I heard the fireworks outside celebrating our Nation’s birthday, and watched my boys’ smiles as they glimpsed them over the treetops. They raced Keith to see the smaller ones in our neighborhood, first on bikes and later on foot. Amazement shined brighter on their faces than the fireworks themselves.

We lived our best lives of freedom and happiness today, yet when I think about life, liberty, and happiness* in the United States today, I come up short. How can I reconcile the conflict in my head that comes with having a pretty great day with my family while knowing many people living in the United States do not have these guaranteed freedoms?

I can’t right now. Not with families forcibly separated from their children by our government. Not with the criminal justice system imposing harsher sentences on those with darker skin tones. Not with public education being attacked by our leaders under the guise of test scores and grades. Not with the people in power continuing their destruction of health care protections, including preexisting conditions. And on and on it goes.

I’m trying not to let the political actions of our government get me down. I’m a dreamer and a fighter. So I’m combining my hope for a better world with personal action by making my resistance known. Because as the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton emphatically stayed at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, “God’s resistance is love…And [I am] God’s resistance.” *Footnote for anyone who wants to reread my favorite part of the Declaration of Independence, as written by Thomas Jefferson.“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Loving Our Immigrant Neighbor

For my birthday, Keith got me an ancestry.com DNA test because I’ve always been interested in seeing where my family originated from. My dad’s side of the family has been in the United States since before the Revolution, and so has some of my mom’s (my mom and grandma are big into genealogy and have looked into this.) But I wanted something more concrete, and there’s nothing as definite as DNA, right?

It turns out, my mom’s theory that we had a Native American relative could possibly still be true, but it did not show up in the testing. I’m not going to be on any television shows about surprise DNA discoveries – I’m as white as they come. My people hail from Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Great Britain for the most part, with a sprinkling of a few other European areas.

At some point, my people were immigrants. Across the board, my dad’s family were Mennonites seeking a place to practice their faith without persecution. My mom’s family were farmers and who knows what else, but they were still searching for a better life when they made the trip to America. I’m unaware of a pre-Revolutionary immigration system in the Colonies, so they didn’t violate any man-made laws to come here.

This country has a history of being unkind to immigrants. One of our very first laws were the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it harder to become a citizen and allowed the imprisonment and deportation of those the President deemed dangerous. We have repeatedly demonstrated our ill-will towards those coming to this country – unwanted groups have included the Irish, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexicans. We have continuously persecuted blacks first in the form of slavery, then with Jim Crow laws that kept life separate but incredibly unequal, and now with the prison industrial complex and many other ways.

White America others people of color because it is afraid of becoming the other. The Trump Administration’s policy has mandated the separation of parents from their children.

I think about my own young kids being forcibly separated from me and placed in a tender age shelter where they are not permitted to be touched by an adult. I picture Henry having to change Elliot’s diaper because a caregiver cannot do it. I hear their cries for mama and daddy when I hear the devastated screams of the kids currently being detained alone.

Our immigration system has been in need of a vast overhaul for years, but this is my breaking point. This is not okay. This is not Christian.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions forgot to include the most important part of Romans 13 when he used the text to justify the separation policy – Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Love is what life is all about. God’s love for us and our love for others are vital to serving God’s will. Anything else is insufficient.

Micah 6:8 is probably my favorite verse…so much so that we named our firstborn Henry Micah because of it. It states, What does the Lord require of you? To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Our government is wrong on immigration; they are acting in direct contradiction to the latter parts of this verse as well has God’s commandment to love.

We must demand they stop this atrocious practice. Donate to organizations actively helping the least fortunate – the ACLU, RAICES, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are great ones to consider. Contact your Representatives and Senators and demand change. Ask what they are actively doing to stop this practice. Ask follow up questions. Tell them you will continue to follow up on their action plans. Tell them these people matter because we love.

Because most of our ancestors were immigrants looking for a new and better life.

Because it is our duty to love our neighbor, no matter what.

Because we are commanded to treat them as if they are our loved one.

Because God loves us, no matter what.

My Mother’s Day Morning

Mother’s Day morning is…

Getting woken up by a newly turned 2 year old with a giant hug, followed by snuggles with a 5 year old.

Those two boys demanding breakfast for themselves because they are sooo hungry before I put my contacts in my eyes.

Forgetting to make a birthday cake the night before (because one little is TWO) and throwing a boxed brownie mix in the oven the day of the birthday.

Trying to sit down and eat my own breakfast and having my littlest ask for bites.

Breaking up a zombie chase that ends in one brother getting a gigantic bump on his head after crashing into his high chair.

Getting up from breakfast every one to two minutes because someone needs something immediately.

Watching my boys play Legos together for several minutes in a row, allowing me to finish my breakfast even though it’s cold.

Buttoning 12 tiny buttons that small hands cannot yet do for themselves.

Putting on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Wild Kratts” so I can shower in peace by myself and get ready for church.

Chugging most of my coffee on our car ride to church.

Being late to church.

Sitting with the kids at Children’s Time and watching them love on their Dad and friends.

Chasing a toddler around church and ending up in the nursery for the readings and message.

Wishing to worship as an adult without being responsible for two littles who are all consuming in everything.

Walking up for communion and having E dip his fingers in the baptismal font and do the sign of the cross on his forehead then mine.

Taking communion and asking forgiveness for being quick to anger and frustrated so often at things I cannot control.

Supervising a instrumental dance party to “I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”

Baptizing Fisher Price figures in Jesus’ name with the toddlers at Faithworks.

Taking a moment to breathe after Faithworks ends and I’m alone in the sanctuary.

Knowing that one day, when they are older, I will want to have my kids with me all day, but now I just want space.

Dreaming about how I can possibly spend the rest of my day alone, reading a book or napping.

Realizing that my boys love me too much to let that happen so I’ll have to settle for only a bit of solo time.

Needing all the hugs I can get from my boys because I love them entirely too much, no matter what.

Being a mama is complicated and exhausting, but my love for them is steadfast. Always.

Life Moves Pretty Fast – Do Better

Confession: one week into this year’s Lenten season, I have done absolutely nothing regarding my spiritual practice. For those of you who attend churches that do not recognize Lent, it is a liturgical season of the church and begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday. It’s a time of soul-searching and preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I had a plan. I had an intention to practice living in the moment, the way Ferris Beuller summed things up in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

You may be thinking, how can one of the greatest 80s movies (or really, one of the best movies of all time) be the tentpole for a spiritual practice? Like many people, I am usually attached to my iPhone or iPad. It’s so hard to put these items down, not because I may miss something uber important on the interwebs (although that’s part of it), but mostly because I feel addicted to knowing things. Quickly. And it’s not necessary. So the plan was to strive to capture Ferris’ joie de vivre.

I had concrete steps to take to execute this plan.

  • Daily meditation.
  • Looking at my phone at set intervals.
  • Practicing more yoga.
  • Doing things I enjoy with the people I love.
  • Reading my way through a Lenten bible study.

Then, everything went to shit on Ash Wednesday.

The day started off lovely, Valentine’s Day and its hype made my four-and-a-half year old super loving and full of hearts and hugs for the world. We found out that same 4.5yo had been accepted into two Pinellas County Schools lottery programs – Perkins Center for the Arts and International Studies and Mildred Helms, an IB Primary Years Program. Today, we accepted the invitation to Perkins, and we couldn’t be happier to have him attend this wonderful school where he will have Spanish every day plus art, music (including instruments like violin and keyboarding as he progresses through the school), theatre, and dance as part of the excellent academic curriculum. Life was sunshine and rainbows.

And my heart broke as I scrolled though my Facebook news feed and one friend after another in the Coral Springs area were posting about the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. At the beginning, the news reports were inconclusive since it was a developing story. I ran through a list of names of kids I know who attend Douglas, and checked with their parents to see if they were all right. And the ones I know are physically safe. Psychologically, however, I can’t imagine they are okay. Seventeen people at their school are dead because of a school shooter who used a semi-automatic weapon to kill his former classmates.

This is not okay. Schools should be safe spaces for kids. They should be able to learn and thrive, and grow into the people they will become. That’s my hope for my kids. And it is the reason I’m taking action to ensure they become safe spaces once again. I should have done better after Newtown, CT, but I’m here now and I demand action.

Our elected leaders must develop legislation limiting the sale and ownership of weapons that can fire multiple rounds without reloading ammo. To me, these seem to be used only to kill people, and the majority of us have zero need to kill others on the regular. Our elected leaders should look into placing limitations on ammunition, through taxes or quantities available to purchase. Our elected leaders should make it more difficult to buy a gun (and ammunition for that gun) than getting a driver’s license or obtaining a prescription. Our elected leaders should stop cutting funding to mental health care services, and instead provide services covered by insurance to all who need it.

Do better Mr. President, members of Congress, and the Senate. Do better Governor Scott and members of the Florida House and Senate. It is your job to protect the people of the United States, not serve the NRA. If you won’t, we the people will, starting with voting you out of office when your term is up.

Doing better is now added to my Lenten practice plan. I’m holding myself accountable to action, and you too.

Keep Awake

Yesterday I witnessed a beautiful sunrise over the marsh as I drove south to reconnect with best friends who I don’t get to see as often as I like. The sky turned from dark purple to light grey to a sudden burst of light with pink, orange, and bright blue hues. The morning fog swirled around trees felled by Hurricane Irma or maybe just strong summertime storms. I had Christmas music blaring on the radio and I felt it: peace. The stillness within the chaos of everything happening in my world these days. I’ve been working at noticing the happy and beautiful things in my life, and was able to be in, and appreciate, that moment. And it felt wonderful.

That moment was fleeting, however, as my mind drifted away from peace toward events occurring over the past week that have been troubling me. Tax reform that only benefits the wealthy and corporations and harms the poor and middle class. Provisions in this tax bill harming Puerto Ricans by applying a 20% excise tax to payments made by companies on the mainland to their subsidiary businesses in PR. The movement to destroy net neutrality and change the way information is disseminated. Climate change that is definitely happening and leaving polar bears without ice for their homes. A lack of moral leadership in Washington on both sides of the aisle (Presidents Trump and Clinton, Senator Franken, and more).

And then I worshiped at my parents’ church this Sunday morning, the first Sunday of Advent, hoping to hear the good news found in this period of waiting for Jesus’ birth.

The Gospel lesson from Mark 13: 24-37 tells us to keep awake, and not to lose hope. Even in the midst of an apocalyptic, bleak-looking world with great loss and suffering, we know that God brings new things out of the old. It’s the story of the Resurrection. He brings light out of the darkness and a new hope with it. We simply have to watch and keep awake.

But it seems so damn hard these days to stay awake. The disciples had issues staying awake for only an hour when Jesus asked them, and they knew Jesus in real life! We are living in a world with a loss of values and perversion of power, and I feel full of rage and despair often. I’m not alone in feeling this way, but that doesn’t make the world better. And the world, especially the United States that I love, needs to do better.

Pastor Goyer repeatedly told us that the end times aren’t here quite yet. In reality, it is the old order of power and politics (white male hegemony) that is on the way out in favor of our whole community sharing power. Everyone. I love the sound of that. It needs to be our reality.

In the meantime, the dark time, I still need to look for the signs of Jesus turning out the old and reforming it into something entirely new. I need to be fully alert and watching for the billions of ways he comes into my life. I’m awake, and doing my best not to lose hope. The light is coming. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine?

Not yet, but I’m keeping watch and staying awake so I can. I hope.

Hurricane Irma Musings

Waiting. I feel like we have been waiting for Hurricane Irma to make landfall in Florida for always. In reality, it’s been 5 days. Tomorrow (Saturday) we are supposed to (finally!) know where she is going to turn to the north and by extension where she is going to hit. I keep praying it isn’t the Tampa Bay Area. Because our lives, family, and home are here.

Irma is a monster storm. A Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph (maximum gusts at 190 mph) is no party. As a native Floridian, I’m used to the threat of hurricanes. Tropical depressions or storms are no big deal, even Category 1 or 2 storms are an excuse to throw a hurricane party (at least that was the case when I was in college, the last time I experienced a hurricane). Once they hit Category 3 we take notice and by Category 4 or 5, we prepare and often flee.

This time around, I know we are all on edge because of the mess Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Texas. It is scary. Rationally, I know Irma is a faster moving storm, bringing less rain damage, and more wind damage with her. And she is supposed to be a Category 1 or 2 when she hits us after moving up the state.

Then the model shifts west. Again. And again. And remains unpredictable. But we are still home. No plywood for our windows made of the tough stuff (hurricane wind-resistant). Sitting about 17 feet above sea level in an unlikely evacuation zone (D). I’m taking a break in preparations to write this because if I somehow get all my feelings out in writing perhaps my anxiety about having to weather the storm with two littles will subside. (It helped earlier this week to create a reminder list about all the preparations we had to make.)

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions (glass cage of emotion?) this week ranging from panic to reassured, to anxious to calm. Sometimes all within an hour. I talk to someone who plans to evacuate and think, maybe I should go. Then, I talk to someone else who says that if we aren’t in a mandatory evacuation zone then I should stay to keep the roads clear for those who need it. Don’t tell me what I should do, people! Did I mention I also feel frustrated?

Keith and I have a Plan. We have a Plan B. We have a Plan C. We have a Plan D. As a planner, I like to make ALL the plans. But I can’t plan for ever scenario and can only do what I think is best for me and my family.

So I wait. And pray. And go to Body Attack before the gym closes (yesterday) to be reopened on an undetermined date. And I pack and buy supplies and clean and take pictures. And, and, AND! The list is never ending. But the storm will come. And all the ones I love across Florida will hopefully be safe and protected. I hope.

Father’s Day and Elliot’s First Rays Game

So it has been nearly three months since Father’s Day, and I honestly cannot remember what we did to celebrate Keith’s awesomeness. I took obligatorily adorable photos of Keith with the boys after church (I got one when all three were looking), and Keith got mega-Meyer-nap snuggles at naptime. Other than that, I’m sure we spent the day giving him our love, but the specifics just aren’t ringing a bell. Oops.



Later that week, we made our way to the Trop to see the Rays take on the Orioles. Elliot loved his first game, but I wouldn’t really know because I spent the majority of my time hanging with Henry around the stadium. Our main goal was visiting the touch tank so Henry could touch a stingray. That grosses me out, but he likes it and was willing to wait in line so we waited it out. He drank his free blue slurpee in line (before he dropped it and made a giant mess and freaked out over not getting to finish it), and we were in the last group to touch the stingrays. Except the stingrays were totally over people trying to touch them, so it didn’t work out. Luckily, the view of the game looks fantastic from the tank area so we watched the game for a bit.




Next up, we rushed down to a kid dance party/game that Henry LOVED. It combined his two favorite things, so I just let him dance and play for as long as he wished. I sat in a corner and zoned out; it was bliss. We tried to head back to our seats, but Henry found the coloring area so of course we had to spend some time there. He meticulously colored a DJ Kitty page and started a Raymond one before realizing he hadn’t made it to the kids block area and the game was winding down. We packed up Raymond to finish him at home and set off to play. Henry had so much fun; we never made it back to our seats. We eventually caught up with Keith, Elliot, Tom, and Margo after a game of tag (we couldn’t figure out where they were in relation to where we were). The Rays lost, but the gang had fun.

Elliot is ONE

Our littlest turned ONE in May, and he continues to be a joy. He seriously cannot stop smiling, and makes others feel welcome simply by looking into their eyes, smiling, and waving. He loves to get down and dance at every opportunity, like while the blender is running. Drums are his favorite instrument, and he does a great job keeping the beat. He’s beginning to like reading – especially the BabyLit and Duck & Goose series – after not caring much for the first year of his life. Now, we read many books a day to him. He plays quietly by himself for a good amount of time, just checking in with me periodically to give me hugs. It’s lovely. 


Elliot’s Stats:

  • Weight & Height: At his one-year checkup he weighed 20 lbs (~10th percentile) and was 29.75 inches long (~50th percentile). He’s growing right on his curve and was in the 25th percentile weight for height. 
  • Clothing: He’s just now wearing 12-month clothes, and will be for a while. 
  • Diapers: size 3
  • Teeth: 4 on top, 3 on bottom
  • Sleep: He goes to bed between 8:30 & 9 and wakes up for the day between 7 & 8, with usually 1 nighttime wake up (but sometimes more than that if something is going on with him). He generally takes one afternoon nap for 2-3 hours starting around 12-1pm, but sometimes still does a quick morning one that messes up his afternoon one. Sleep has been a challenge, but hopefully will continue to get better. On the plus side, he goes to sleep easily, just doesn’t stay asleep. 
  • Nursing: He continues to breastfeed a lot – primarily before he goes to sleep and when he wakes up. He takes at least one nursing break in the middle of nap, and doesn’t seem like he wants to give it up anytime soon (although I’m feeling more and more ready to be done, especially when he’s biting me!)
  • Food: He prefers to feed himself, which can be messy! He doesn’t love food, but likes cantaloupe, strawberries, yogurt, green beans, beans and rice, and peas. Plus, he enjoys snack food like chickpea puffs and yogurt melts. I offer lots of food to him, but he’s picky about what he actually consumes. 
  • Movement: E began walking at 11 months (Easter Sunday) and is now working on running and climbing. 
  • Words: Mama, Dada, Dog, Head, Hi, Bye, Door


Other Things: He understands so much more than he can say. For example, if we say you need to sit in the chair, not stand, he will sit down. We’ve started working on getting him to stop doing things that hurt (like pulling brother’s hair)…although we continue to work on that with Henry so we know it’s an ongoing process. He gives fantastic hugs, and sloppy, wet kisses and we are all so in love. 

Henry is FOUR

I have no idea how Henry is four years old already. 

At his four-year-old checkup, he weighed 38 pounds and has grown to 41 inches tall, putting him in the 69th percentile for weight and the 58th percentile for height. He’s growing healthy and strong. He did NOT like getting two shots, but had no reaction and was fine within minutes of receiving them.


Sleep remains a challenge. It takes several tries to keep him in bed following a lengthy bedtime routine, and once he finally falls asleep he wakes up and we frequently find him in bed with us. This frustrates me, but his extroverted self just doesn’t enjoy being alone. We have recently created a sleeping bag pallet for him next to our bed for him to go to if he has a bad dream; hopefully, it will work. He still takes one nap a day, usually for 90 minutes or so, except for when he’s at Oma and Opa’s and he sleeps for several hours. He spends two days a week at Oma and Opa’s, which allows Elliot free reign of the house and Henry to get one on one time. Everyone wins.
 
His favorite things include playing at playgrounds with other kids, dancing (especially to the Go Noodle app), Star Wars toys, building ships, going to Sunday School, and reading. He’s taking swim lessons this summer in the hopes of making him a more confident swimmer, and he loved (except for when he flipped out) playing soccer at the YMCA this past year.

We had a family birthday dinner the night before his actual birthday with the theme – Dragons Love Tacos – because everyone loves a taco party! Instead of having a friend party, we invited his best friend, Maddie, to visit the Lowry Park Zoo with us on his birthday. Henry loved the dinosaur exhibit (Maddie, not so much), and they both loved seeing the animals, riding the rides, and especially playing in the splash pad. We had a fun day, capped off with ice cream for dessert.

 
He starts part-time VPK at Little Lambs, our church’s preschool, in August. He is excited and optimistic about it, but sad to leave mama and Elliot at home in the mornings. I’m sure he will forget all about us after school starts. May the force be with whoever gets to be his first teacher, he’s a force to be reckoned with.


The Yearly Birthday Survey:

  • How old are you? Four.
  • What is your favorite color? Pink.
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Zoo protector.
  • What is your favorite animal? Flamingos & cheetahs.
  • What is your favorite food? Chicken.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Strawberries.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Peanut butter on a spoon.
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for dinner? Chicken and rice.
  • What is your favorite thing to drink? Orange juice.
  • Who is your best friend? Maddie. And Lucas.
  • What is your favorite toy? Rancor rumble.
  • What is your favorite TV show? Hmmm…Oddbots
  • What is your favorite movie? Trolls.
  • What is your favorite book? The Hobbit.
  • What is your favorite thing to do? Crafts. And collecting money.
  • What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Going on vacation. Like to Milwaukee.
  • What is your favorite holiday? Halloween. 
  • What is your favorite thing to wear? Superhero shirts.

Tia Vanesa Is Our Favorite

Shortly after my parents’ visit, one of our best friends (& Henry’s Godmother) came to see us. She brought Henry his birthday present: a NASA astronaut suit from the Air and Space Museum. It definitely solidifies his coolness status as the coolest one in our family. 


Vanesa may be the only person I know who was stoked to be a soccer mom for the day; she even wore her official soccer mom outfit (I told her that next time she needs a visor.) After the game, she bravely painted outside with the Hen. What started out with painting on paper quickly morphed into painting each other’s faces and arms. Luckily for her, I only buy ultra washable paint so it came off very easily. I don’t know who had more fun (it was me, watching them and relishing the fact that I didn’t have to be painted!) 


We took a picnic to the beach to watch the sunset later that day, and followed it up with Amish-made ice cream. We loved having her visit our crazy, and can’t wait for her to come back again soon (or else we will invade her D.C. apartment – all four of us!)