Friday, June 28, 2013

10 Things I Learned in June

Today I'm linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. For several months she's been doing a post at the end of each month entitled, Things I Learned in {Insert Month.} This month she's invited the rest of us to join in. 

Look out. This may just be the most life-changing post I've ever written. 


1. You know how you sometimes see celebrity men wearing their hair in a bun? It's usually sort of a half-up / half-down sort of do and the "up" part is in a tiny bun. It's weird, is what it is. Well, the "do" has a name. It's called...The "Mun." Don't believe me? Just look in People magazine. {Why yes, I did sit on the beach and devour quality reading material on vacation.}

2. And that brings me to my next "thing." I can go to the same place for vacation every year for 18 years and it doesn't get old. Eighteen summers ago, two newlyweds went to Hilton Head Island for their honeymoon. They fell in love with the place and told the wife's parents that they needed to go there as a family for vacation. The parents listened to their newlywed daughter and her husband and as it turned out, they also fell in love with the place. They loved it so much, they bought some time at a condo there. There were 7 of us then. Each summer we venture back and it feels like home. Only now? There are 15 more of us than there were way back then. And three condos instead of one. 

3. Forty feels happy. I've been 40 for a month now and even though it felt like a slightly unwelcome milestone when I was still 39, I've found I'm actually cool with forty. Except for when I say, "I'm 40." That's still super weird. {You can read about my 40th birthday and all its goodness here.}

4. Brennan Manning and I share the same Enneagram type. I read his memoir, All is Grace, while I was at the beach. The Enneagram is a personality test that I went through several years ago and it was huge for me. I go back to it time and time again. From the first Manning book I ever read, I loved him. I felt understood, a bit less like a misfit. His words resonated with me in a way that no author's ever had. Well, now I know why. We're both 4's. 

5. Good product really does make a difference when you have curly hair. Yes, my hair is naturally curly. These days I wear it straight at least half the time but when I don't, I'm loving Deva Curl. {My husband cracks up every time I say "Deva Curl."} Yes, the name sounds a little ridiculous but I don't care what it's called; the stuff is fabulous. You have to follow their directions for washing and styling your hair. My curls are looking a lot more like they did before babies {and the hair-altering hormones that accompany babies.} I bought the "Get Started Kit" of all the products from amazon or you can probably buy it at your local salon.

6. Kelle Hampton wrote a book. It's called Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected. Okay, so a lot of people already know this because apparently it's a NY Time best seller. But I just found out. I don't follow her blog regularly but I'll never forget reading her story for the first time on Donald Miller's blog. I may have gone through an entire box of Kleenex. Her raw and beautiful account of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome was one of my most moving stories I'd ever read. 

Little did I know, our own family would welcome two beautiful baby girls with Down Syndrome into our midst only months later. And though these sweet girls are my nieces and not my daughters, I feel like reading Kelle's story helped prepare my heart a bit. On my husband's side of the family, we welcomed Bree. 

On my side of the family, we welcomed Naomi, just 3 weeks after Bree came into the world. It was all pretty unbelievable. 

Like the Hamptons, my brother and his wife had no clue their baby had Down Syndrome until she was born. That was almost 2 years ago and I can't imagine our families without these beautiful girls. I read some excerpts from Bloom on-line and I'm thinking I'd love to read the whole thing. {Have any of you read it?}

7. Sandra Bullock is crazy fluent in German. {And yes, I'm aware that "crazy fluent" is not even remotely a technical or proper term.} I saw her on Kelly and Michael yesterday morning and she was speaking German like nobody's business. It was impressive. 

I don't see it as much as other people do but I am sometimes told by complete strangers that I look like Sandra Bullock. {Do you see it?}

{Today her hair was in a messy bun, not to be confused with "The Mun," and I thought, Yep, messy bun. That's me all right.} Also? I like German because my sister lived in Munich and speaks German and I had the most memorable time visiting her there nearly ten years ago. So basically, Sandra Bullock is an amalgamated doppelganger of my sister and me. {That sentence may have just tapped out my vocabulary for the day.}



8. A friend of mine from high school just won Mrs. Utah America. She was always effortlessly beautiful and incredibly sweet in high school. She still is. Congratulations Stefanie!

9. Chaco sandals are way comfy. I used all of my birthday money to buy a pair of black {aka "boring," according to my daughter} ZX2's. I love them, mostly because my back and knees don't hurt by supper-time. {About #3. Forty is not always happy; sometimes 40 is achey.}

10. Naming {or renaming} your blog may be harder than naming your child. Yes, I'm hoping to roll out some long-overdue changes in the coming months. And one of those changes may involve changing the name of my blog. I'll dish more about all of this later but let me just say, I have labored over a name. Labored. {I seriously didn't spend this long on any of my kids' names.} It's kept me up at night and invited a whole host of hilarious fake blog name ideas from friends. I welcome any and all suggestions, including the funny ones. Especially the funny ones.


So that's what I've learned in June. Told you it would be life-changing. What have you learned? You can tell me in the comments or if you have a blog and want to scrawl out one of these posts too, link up over at Emily's!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When Your Little World Conspires to Love You Big

Early in the week he told me we'd go out Friday night. Nothing fancy, just a casual dinner for two in order to kick off my birthday week. I couldn't wait. We could eat tacos for all I cared. 

I was turning 40 in a few days and a girl needs all the celebration and consolation she can get; I'd relish every birthday opportunity that came my way. 

Friday finally rolled around and so did my giddyness. A birthday dinner, just the two of us. And my parents had the kids for the whole night. Even though it was casual I changed outfits five times like a fickle and fussy 20-year-old instead of the resolute and "mature" 40-year-old I was fixin' to be. 

"Reservations aren't until 7:30," he told me, "you've got time." 

"Great," I said. "We can just leave early walk around downtown. You know I love that."

We got in the car and when we reached the interstate he went south instead of north. North would have taken us to my favorite neighboring big city with the perfect downtown and the strolly streets I was hoping for. 

"Oh," I mumbled. "I thought we were going the other way."

"Yeah. Um, I know you love going downtown but I have other plans. I hope you're not disappointed."

And truly, I wasn't disappointed. I was just happy to be together and happy that he'd made plans days ahead of time and so thrilled that the birthday fun was beginning. Plus, he told me a few weeks prior that he'd already gotten my present so I was about to burst. {Even though, in my mind, we were only having tacos.} 

"We have some time to kill before 7:30 so I've planned for us to go look at some houses."

"Houses!" I shrieked. "We're going to look at houses?!? I love you! We could just look at houses and call it a night and this would be the best date! I can't believe you mapped out houses for us to look at!" 

I have this thing about looking at houses and I'm always trying to drag him into my little world of crazy house love. So the fact that he planned for us to look at houses? Well. It was positively awesome. 

After we'd looked at several homes and I was high on house love and birthday air and date night, he pulled into a nearby park and told me he just couldn't wait to give me my present. Wide-eyed and pulse racing and terribly sweaty, I just stared at him as he handed me a brown envelope and said, "Here it is." 

My 40th birthday present. In a brown envelope with "Hallmark" embossed on the back flap. It obviously wasn't jewelry or my dream dress from Anthropologie or a new house. A million ideas flashed through my mind and my hands shook as I read the hilarious card about turning 40 and the beautiful note he had written inside it. I was crying already. 

Inside the card was a folded piece of paper. Fingers trembling, I fumbled with the tape and unfolded the white letter and read the words and could not speak

Which was ironic. Because I was going to She Speaks. 

Some backstory. I've wanted to go to the writing track of this conference for five years. I've prayed and begged and dreamed and written scholarship contest entries. Every year the conference would come and go but I could not. 

To make all of this even more unbelievable, I'd gotten a message two months ago from one of my dearest friends from college. She lives half-way across the country and does a lot of speaking. She was flying to She Speaks and wondered if there was any way I could go and we could room together. 

My heart sank when I read her message. I knew I couldn't go. And honestly, I was mostly at peace that once again, this was not my year. 

But I did pray. I prayed right in the middle of the attic I was cleaning out when her message lit up on my phone. I told God that I wanted to go, that He'd have to work a miracle to get me there, that I'd be fine even if the answer was "no" but that please, if there was any way and if the timing was right, could He send me this year? 

We sat in the car and I wept. Shoulders heaving. Tears streaming. Mascara running. 

I had no words, only the raw emotions of someone who had been given a gift that seemed too big and too impossible but there it was in black and white, for real

It took some time to get my wits about me and clean up the drippy cosmetics that had run off my face like a river. My husband told me that we had one more house to look at on our way to dinner but he wasn't sure exactly where it was.

As we wound through a neighborhood I said, "Oh I know where we are. This is right around the corner from so and so and what's the address again that you're looking for?" 

We rounded the corner and there, stretched across our friends' driveway, were people that I knew. My sister and my brother-in-law, women from my book study and their spouses, friends from our small group...

And eight of them were holding a sign and each sign was a giant letter and the letters spelled:

It took a split second to register. And a few seconds to catch my breath and then the nervous giggling came and I started hitting my husband on the arm, squealing, Shut. Up. And then more laughing and some tears and finally, finally I got out of the car and hugged our friends. 

All of these people! They {and my husband} had conspired to throw a surprise party for little ol' me. I'm not sure if I'd ever felt more loved than I did that night. It was humbling, a tad embarrassing, exciting, but mostly overwhelming in the most wonderful ways. 

For a girl who loves a party and loves surprises more than anyone else I know, this surprise birthday bash and the She Speaks gift felt like a lottery win.

But that's not all. In lieu of regular birthday gifts, these friends and our families had chipped in to send me to the conference. I guess it takes a village to raise a writer. 

It was all a bit much to take in but I did my best to savor the moments and to be grateful instead of sheepish and all, "You shouldn't have done this!" 

Everyone brought food and there were fun drinks and cupcakes with Pioneer Woman's frosting and the cutest decorations you ever did see.

How cute is this? Paper straws with flags to label your beverage
and tie-on paper tags to label your stemware.

The party planners actually had a craft night to make all of this cutesy stuff. {What?!?

And my sister scavenged my parents' house for old photos of me across the years.

We all munched and sipped and laughed and made s'mores down by the fire-pit. Friends came and went and when the evening was over, the hostess sent me home with birthday cards and cupcakes and those adorable decorations. 

I couldn't have asked for more.  


Though the party has come and gone and my 40th birthday is now behind me, the love lingers. I didn't deserve the fanfare or generosity. Even now, it's so very humbling. 

Like most women I know, I have many moments of insecurity, I struggle to know my place, I have dreams and hopes and an equal number of fears that try to quash those hopes. 

But in the most unexpected ways, the party and the love and the community effort to send me to the conference--it's made me braver. Bolstered by so much support and goodness, I feel a little less afraid, a little less insecure, and a little more willing to take some risks. 

I tend to wince when I feel like something is over-spiritualized and I don't want what I'm about to say to be that. But here it goes...

This whole 40th birthday experience was like a divine gift, a message from God himself that said, 

These last 2 1/2 years, they threatened to swallow you up, steal your joy, and smother your spirit for good. But I had other plans. I love you more than you can possibly know and I'm showing you tangibly, in ways that you can appreciate because they're so personal and so real and kind of ridiculous in their bigness. I'm loving you through all of these people, my people and your people. Just receive it and receive them and know that it's all love.

And so I have. And I am. My birthday will sort of be this ongoing gift because the conference isn't until late July and I hope that the fruit from it will continue long after it's over. 

Perhaps there's one more take-away from all of this. Celebrate your people. Not everyone loves a surprise or longs for a big party or a writing conference or book-page accordion decorations. But I think we all long to be loved in big ways once in a while and loved regularly in little ways that surprise and delight and keep us going. 

Because you never know, cupcakes and celebration may be just the expression someone needs to show them just how much they're loved and to make them just a bit braver.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Because Forgetting the Pull-Ups Is Just What Happens at This Time of Year

We are trudging through the eternal school year. Tomorrow is the last day and honestly, I wasn't sure it would ever arrive. 

The year has flown by but the last few weeks? Not so much. 

I identified with every hysterical word of Jen Hatmaker's "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever" post that has probably gone viral many times over. 

We too are "limping across the finish line" folks. These are things I just didn't understand during my oblivious years as a homeschool mom. There were no end of year gifts and festivities. Some years, when I was especially exhausted, we simply quit altogether and I hid under my bed while the kids supervised themselves in the yard. That was our end of the year party. 

Between many, many parties and cheerleading tryouts {two words I never thought I'd find myself typing} and appointments and my own hangover {figuratively of course} from my 40th birthday festivities, I'm kind of done with virtuous motherhood and its many polite responsibilities. 

My youngest is eating Apple Jacks {Apple Jacks!} on top of the kitchen counter while I type this.

Why? Because the kitchen table is covered with laundry.

Needful things are not making it on the grocery lists, some of us have given up wearing underpants altogether, and my kids had FroYo for dinner last night. Swear.

But perhaps the most shameful confession of all? A certain youngest child in our family has been forced to wear "special diapers" to bed for three nights because I cannot for the life of me remember to purchase pull-ups. 

Is the "special diaper" an overnight maxi pad adhered inside Spiderman underwear? 

{Yes, we are putting away money now for his inevitable therapy.} 

Somehow I have no recollection of yearbook orders so this mom failed to order her very sentimental, very social son the elementary school yearbook he so desperately wanted. The yearbook company is shipping me one and it will hopefully arrive today. {Yay for paying shipping costs on a $20 yearbook for your 3rd grader!}

I have a sneaking suspicion that summer breaks were created just so moms could have a respite from the relentless administrative responsibilities of the school-year, 90% of them which seem to fall during the last 3 weeks. 

There's so much to tell you about my birthday celebrations and the ridiculously amazing gift from my husband {and friends and family} but I just can't. string. words. together right now because I am seriously and completely tapped out. 

Brain fried. Calendar clogged. Nerves completely and totally frayed. If a terrorist showed up at my home and said, "Get your act together or I'll have to kill you," I'm afraid I'd have no choice but to take the bullet.

So if you're already enjoying your bless-ed summer vacation, just be prepared for me to make snarky comments on your Facebook and Instagram photos that show your kids jumping off diving boards and playing in the sprinklers. 

Why? Because I've got to pack for a 3rd grade pool party and not forget the plates I'm supposed to bring and get the bunk beds ready for a sleepover and do something with that laundry gracing the kitchen table and remember which kids I'm supposed to take home and which ones are coming with me...

and for the lovenot forget to pick up the Pull-Ups.


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