Shelter in Place

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 8/52

I wasn’t prepared for an emergency situation to unfold on our quiet Monday afternoon. We were on a mission to figure out the best options for our new stroller/travel system since our car seat and stroller situation from the past few babies is not going to work for the next season. We need a mobile home-base-on-wheels to carry us through the summer and especially going into the school year next fall when I take seven kids to our weekly activities spanning four days of the week. 

We went south of Seattle to a giant baby store—once a Bed Bath and Beyond—which still looks like a BBB but is filled with baby clothes, cribs, toys, storage solutions, feeding supplies, and fully assembled strollers you can push, breakdown, and lift to experience the functionality of each system. We didn’t buy that day but we did figure out what the best solution will be for us when we’re ready to order it.

We’d already made the drive south, so on a whim, we decided to stop by the mall to fill out clothing needs for the kids and the upcoming season. Everyone has been short on pants because their legs keep growing (don’t they know it’s easier if they just stay the same size so we’re not having to buy new clothes all the time?) JC Penney is usually the department store of choice because we can often find when everyone needs under one roof. 

As you can imagine, shopping with six kids is a bit of an endeavor. We decided to split up for a stretch, me with the girls, sorting through a collected pile of sale items to see which pants would actually fit them. To keep our rascally toddler occupied, I handed him daddy’s phone with the Incredibles 2 movie to watch as he sat in the corner of the dressing room, and Dad took the older boys to look in their section. One of the two refuses to wear anything but athletic shorts or maybe some baggy sweat pants, but I was hopeful they might find some nice-looking and nice-feeling pants to satisfy their desires and the mama as well. 

They’d been gone for 10 minutes when the girls and I had made our selections, so I gathered the ducklings, the extra phone, the items we wanted to buy, and we set out to find the boys.

Parked outside the boys’ dressing room, two little girls swung their feet over the edge of a slightly-too-tall-to-reach bench, older sister strolled around nearby racks, and the little guy puppy-dog-eyed me to start up the iPhone movie for him for the second time. My husband called me back to the oversized room where the boys had been trying on their stuff so I could give my stamp of approval.

The little guy came with me and I handed him the phone once again while he huddled on the floor, so we could get through this last bit of decision-making. I didn’t want the girls hanging out without one of us, so I sent Daddy out to be with them while I checked the fit and practical use of everything the boys wanted to buy. A couple of minutes went by, pants went on, pants went off, and I sorted the pile between what we’d take and what we would leave.

Outside the dressing room door, I heard a bunch of running, a slammed door down the row, some hushed whispers and a variety of other sounds that didn’t seem quite normal. At that moment, my mind was in 5 places. Girls out on the floor, toddler with phone, boys and pants, what were those sounds?, and man, I’m tired.

More frantic shuffling and door-slamming, and I tried to figure out what was going on with the very few clues I had.

“GET OUT!” He hollered down the way. “WE HAVE TO GET OUT. THERE’S A SHOOTER.”

It was my husband. I thought about his words and it took me a minute to register what he had said. My first thought was to stay put. Dad had the girls. I needed a second to get oriented and figure out how to take two boys with no pants on, and one toddler with a phone in his hands—out of there. I’m sorry, but you need pants on to leave a dressing room, so I ordered them to drop the merchandise and put their pants and shoes on.

“QUICK!” I whispered insistently. I took the iPhone from my toddler and pulled him to standing. A siren started going off, which startled him, and I yanked the boys out the door down to the entrance into the store, searching for my husband’s bald head to know where we were to go. Because I had both phones (mine with me and his with the toddler), we couldn’t afford to get separated. Emerging into the store, I  looked around aisles and displays trying to figure out if we should be ducking, crawling, running, or what? I couldn’t hear any gunshots, but I saw people rushing to one corner of the store with terrified faces. My husband and daughters are right there, my husband visibly upset and all of us looking bewildered about what to do.

My husband asked for his phone and I felt around for where I might have put it because I did not think hard about it when I took it from the toddler, who was whimpering and protesting. It was in my back pocket. I haven’t been able to carry the kid easily during my pregnancy, but I slung him up over my shoulder because I couldn’t have dealt with the chase if he wriggled away from me in the commotion. It strained my back a bit, but you do what you have to do.

I barked orders for the kids to hold each other’s hands, and I counted them compulsively every few seconds while we hurried along to who knows where? A JCP employee started waving customers into a back stockroom, where the sirens were twice as loud immediately overhead, and there was barely any room to stand because of the over-packed racks and the dozens of people already crammed in there. Once inside, we stood shoulder to shoulder with other shoppers who similarly did not know what was going on. The kids worried, my husband tried to find any kind of information he could from his phone about the unfolding situation, and my sensitive #5 child started crying while holding her hands tightly over her ears because of the loud alarms.

I counted the kids again to make sure we had everyone.

My first concern was staying together as a unit. I didn’t feel especially panicked at the moment because I had a mom job to do. I needed to remain calm and we had to gather information by keeping our eyes and ears open to what was going on around us. It was confusing, upsetting, and more than anything, it was difficult to answer the steady stream of questions from the kids because we really had no information.

“We’re ok,” I reassured them. “When we figure out what is going on, I’ll answer all your questions.”

They took in all the clues around them as well. They overheard people talking about a shooter and police response and all the other rumblings of the crowd around us.

Within a few minutes, we were directed out another exit from the stockroom to get over to an elevator out on the floor. More than a hundred people were gathered, waiting for a turn down the elevator to the basement since only 15 or so people could fit in it at a time. A stressed JCP employee was shuttling people up and down to the basement, where everyone was being evacuated to. She tried to reassure the nervous kids and make sure the right buttons were pushed on the elevator. It was really weird to stand there in a crowd of people, many holding their phones up to capture video of the scene around us or looking down into their screens while trying to find information about the situation. The exterior doors were all locked, and the door to the main mall entrance was pulled down, securing the store. The kids all took turns muttering about how they didn’t ever want to come to this mall again, and when would we be able to get out, and why were we getting on an elevator?

I kept counting them, reassured them and kept hold of the 5-year-old’s hand while she struggled to process the sensory details of the ordeal.

Within a few minutes, we were down in the basement on our way to the employee lunchroom area, beyond double doors that are usually off limits to customers. Several hundred people were packed inside, sitting, standing, and filling all the corners of the room. We made our way to a little corridor near the back of the room where we could all stand together near a row of vending machines. The sirens were off, the first relief from blaring noise in ten minutes, and we settled in there. My husband kept searching for information on my phone, and the toddler was once again engrossed in Incredibles 2 on his device, with a few siblings leaning in from the sides. My oldest leaned against a vending machine, chewed on her nails while holding back tears, and I sat on the floor with my five-year-old sucked close to me.

In the most heartbreaking way, the little one sobbed out, “Mama, how does this even happen?”

I smoothed her hair and pulled her closer, trying to comfort her without much to go on. “I don’t know, sweetheart. We will just stay together until we figure out what to do next. Right now we’re safe.”

We had long-since abandoned the items we intended to buy back at the dressing room, but I saw a few people carrying around arm-loads of merchandise they wanted to purchase. It was a weird juxtaposition for me, holding my distressed child and seeing other customers clutching material things they didn’t own yet, but weren’t about to set down.

At the time, we had no idea how long we’d be in that room, but about a half-hour in, we were told the situation had been diffused and we should make our way to the first floor (street level) to leave the building through one open exterior door. We filed out of the lunchroom to an escalator and made our way out to the parking garage and into our van.

There was more chatter from the kids about how they never want to go to that mall again, and why do people have guns and what really happened back there anyway?

My husband and I were quiet in the front seat for a few minutes while navigating out of the parking lot.

He said quietly to me, “Are you ok?”

“I’ll cry later,” I said, trying to keep the bulk of my emotions in since my sensitive girl was still in my line of sight and she was watching me. I did feel the tears welling up, but instead of spilling them out, I just returned the question.

“What about you, are you ok?”

“No,” he said emphatically. “That was not ok at all.”

I grabbed his hand and we drove the 20 miles home trying to silently process what we had just experienced.

*More on the aftermath of this experience coming soon.


1531. reaching 36 weeks, 1532. compassionate care, 1533. help with our clutter, 1534. last writing day before baby, 1535. hot cinnamon tea, 1536. spring temps, 1537. cleaned out car, 1538. fellowship time, 1539. new (free) shelves, 1540. extra sleep

Snow Adventures

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 7/52

I’ve been radio silent here, unable to make the posts happen on the schedule I had planned. Everything is going well, it just happens to be taking every extra ounce of energy and focus I have available to keep our household on the rails, get to the appointments (several a week just for me & baby), handle the daily things I must do to keep myself in a healthy zone (eating well at timed intervals, blood sugar values, injections for blood thinners and insulin, and charting all of the above), and the layers of needs among multiple children that never cease. While I’ve been publicly quiet, I have been privately capturing bits of the past few weeks I will slowly roll out to the blog–whenever they arrive. I have still been taking photos of our family each week, so look out for those in the coming days and weeks along with thoughts about the ups and downs of this recent season.

The snow has been gone a few weeks now, but it did leave its mark on all of us. At first, we had a few thrilling days; maybe six inches total, which everyone was excited about. The kids suited up in their odd and mismatched not-really-snow gear for a little time in the front yard. They made snowballs and snow angels before returning to the warm house ten minutes later, which is about how much time any one of them lasts in the cold. What can I say? We are used to mild weather. It was fun and games, smiles and glee.

Temperatures warmed enough to mostly melt the snow over the following few days, but news outlets kept reporting we might have another winter storm on the way, including predictions of record snowfall for our area. At first, I didn’t think too much of it. Having grown up in Central Oregon where all seasons are a bit more pronounced than Seattle’s ever-mild weather, the prospect of a few more inches of snow did not faze me at all.

“You might want to stock up on food,” the radio blared more than once that week. I hadn’t really planned on stocking up, as our normal weekly routine is to shop at Costco on Saturdays, and aside from running out of the ultra-convenient just-warm-it-up foods week by week, we have a fairly impressive running supply of staples that could get us through a longer stretch if needed even if I didn’t pick up a thing.

On a Thursday, I went to a morning OB appointment after sending all the kids with Daddy to school for their art, language, and engineering classes they do twice a week. The preschoolers went along with them for the morning and I came to pick them up a while later after the OB visit. The appointment went mostly fine, but I did end up with an insulin prescription I needed to fill at the Costco pharmacy, after discussing the baby’s current development and how I’d been faring with my blood sugar readings. I opted out of the oral drug I was offered to control blood sugars because the doctor said while it is considered safe in pregnancy, it does cross the placenta, and they do not actually have long-term studies regarding how it affects babies beyond birth. That was enough to convince me that insulin injections were the only way to go. I’d already been giving myself twice-daily injections following the blood clot in my lung last September, so I had already dealt with my needle-aversion. I fetched the little ones and headed over to deliver my prescription to be filled, planning to send Daddy there later to pick it up on the way home from school.

When we arrived in the parking lot, there were no open parking spots anywhere, even though it was a random Thursday at 10:30am. I spend more time at Costco than anyone I know, so I’ve got a fairly developed sense of roughly how much traffic to expect there based on the day and time, and that morning was especially nuts. I did score a parking spot in rather short order, so the little two kids and I made our way inside to the even-more-nutty sight within the store.

I’ve never seen anything like it. The storm was predicted to arrive Friday afternoon, and here we were a day and a half early, with crazed crowds filling their baskets with all kinds of stuff. Because I’m on a pretty stringent diet for gestational diabetes, I really only had one thing in mind – make sure to pick up a rotisserie chicken for my meals the upcoming week. I can make 6-8 different easy meals for myself with just one chicken, so that has been one of my personal staples through this season. All the aisles throughout Costco were packed with people, but the line for rotisserie chicken was longer than I have ever seen. People elbowed and crowded their way to the front to get a golden brown bird fresh out of the oven, and even the employees behind the counter were incredulous at the demand. I was fortunately not in a hurry, and I waited patiently, even though half a dozen people side-eyed me as they cut in front of us. One lovely woman who waited beside me for a time asked if she could nab a chicken for me, (being a little more mobile without a cart and two children), and I thanked her as she set it carefully in my cart.

At the sight of this mayhem, I decided maybe there was something to this stocking-up craze that was going on, so I started doing what everyone else was doing–filling my cart with supplies we might need if there was indeed a snowpocalypse, as predicted. I felt a little silly, because I’m not usually one to fret about this sort of thing, but man, watching hundreds of people swirl around the basic necessities: milk, bread, bananas, and the like will make you think you really need some of that stuff too. It was really challenging getting through the store and all the way around to the pharmacy just to drop off the prescription. By the time we were ready to go, I hadn’t yet picked up the filled prescription, but the checkout lines were longer than I’d ever seen. We ended up in one sort of by accident (because it started so far back in the store) and within minutes there were dozens of people behind us. I felt like if I left the line, I’d never find my way to the front again. Serendipitously (or ahem…by God’s provision), there was a woman in line directly ahead of us that I knew from my weekly bible study group. I asked if she would hang with my kids and my cart while I raced (in waddle-like fashion) over to the pharmacy counter to pick up my stuff. She was so gracious and played a huge part in us making it out of the store in one piece, with everything we would need for the next week. I made it back to the line as she was loading our cart’s contents onto the conveyor belt.

The next seven days were slightly more traumatic. First of all, my husband was on a business trip, so it was just me and the kids hunkering down at home by ourselves. We were unable to leave the house at all because the snow had come so heavy within a day, and the plows had so thoroughly built up an embankment of icy dirt-mound on the street-side of our big passenger van, we couldn’t dig our van out of the gravel area where we park. Ironically, we have probably the easiest place to park along our whole street…until of course, there is a 2-foot embankment to knock down.

The temperatures warmed and refroze the embankment in a few days’ time, and by the time we tried to shovel it clear, it was not an easy job. I tried kicking the snow-walls down with my big leather boots on so I might diminish the height enough to drive out to the bare street. I’m pretty sure I looked like a drunk penguin while doing so, and I made very little progress with that method. We don’t even have a snow shovel of our own (which tells you about how much snow we typically get in Seattle), so a friend mercifully came by to drop one off for me. I gave that a quick try, but with my size and mobility (as I already hinted at, I’m at waddling stage), I tried for all of 30 seconds before I came to the conclusion it was not going to happen. We had to wait a few more days for a little more snowmelt, and the return of my able-bodied husband to get free of the snow trap. We did, however, have all the food we needed thanks to our earlier Costco stop!

The kids had a few snow-play sessions in the yard, but as the snow piled up, it became clear there were some really unsafe conditions outside. One tree in our yard (a small, deciduous one) was so heavy-laden with snow that the whole tree bent over nearly to the ground, because of the weight on its branches. The tall pine trees in our side-yard were dropping big branches and hunks of icy half-melted snow blocks without warning, and despite the protests of the kids, I couldn’t let them out to play on those days.

By the end of the week, the kids’ energy was out of control and they were antsy to get back to school to see friends. My nerves were pretty frayed by that point, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so relieved to see my husband return from a trip as I was at the end of that week.

It’s all a distant memory now. In the past week, we have had sunshine and temps in the 80’s, and as far as I can tell, there are no remaining snow remnants like there were for a few weeks where it had been piled high by plows and shovels.


1521. the sunny side of a dark night of the soul, 1522. well-timed support from cherished friends, 1523. visit from mama, 1524. online shopping and stuff that fits, 1525. easy returns, 1526. sandals for my pregnant sausage feet, 1527. steak & spinach salad deliciousness, 1528. collage night and the one I made for my ledge, 1529. birthdays, 1530. new writing opportunities

The Life of a Gatekeeper

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 6/52

She stood at the door of the gym, facing away from me; wide stance and crossed arms, scanning the floor for unsafe behavior or toddlers who might be wandering into the path of well-meaning capture the flag players. The weather through the winter months doesn’t always allow for outside play, so indoors, the whole bunch sorts out the abundance of energy each seems to have (save the mamas who hustle around and make the magic happen). 

Some are in classrooms, preparing lessons and supplies for when recess is done and all the kids file into their assigned classrooms.

Some are cleaning up from lunch, where over sixty children eat on picnic blankets laid atop the midnight-blue carpet stretched across the church’s basement floor. Only after the flock has moved over to the gym can moms gather stray lunch items, collect wrappers and the uneaten bits left behind. Blankets are folded and carried outside to shake out the crumbs, and industrial strength vacuums are trusted to take care of the rest. 

Some moms tend their littlest ones who have come along for the ride, changing diapers and feeding in peace while their big kids play. 

One mom is in the kitchen, rinsing out the tea and coffee cups that have been used throughout the morning by all the women who have brought their children to this one-day-a-week thing we do to spark a love of learning and awe for the threads of hope and wonder woven through history, science, and the Bible. 

It’s our homeschool cooperative, and it is a haven for all of us. 

The circle we form in the morning is a beautiful joining of hands to pray for the most present and pressing needs in each of our lives. We come with joys and sorrows, petitions and praise. We stand shoulder to shoulder, each familiar with the sobering responsibility of raising children to know truth, to see connections between the physical and spiritual realms, and to apply wisdom in real-world situations. 

As the end of recess draws nearer, kids come to the door, hoping to sneak by to stop at a drinking fountain or find their moms. But experience has taught all of us if you let one cross the line prematurely, the deliberate boundaries fall, and confusion and chaos take over. 

It takes attentive vigilance to guard the door. The gatekeeper must oversee what happens and guide the kids through the transition of what will happen next. 

I’ve stood in that doorway before. It’s a job that easily overwhelms. There are other moms inside the gym that keep an eye on the bathrooms and monitor the activities, but the door job is still a bear. Kids come near, expectantly hoping the rules don’t apply to them, so they can pass through to whatever their heart desires to do next, but it can’t happen without bringing on a tidal wave of children who also think the rules do not apply to them.

Kids are smart, they watch and see what everyone else is able to pull off, what they can get away with. They know the gatekeeper is there, they know the expectation that once they’ve gone in, no one leaves the gym until it is 1pm. Ah, but if one breaches the invisible barrier, they think it gives them automatic permission to go themselves.

A gatekeeper must be firm but kind, holding the boundary for the benefit of everyone.

Being the gatekeeper of our homes is similar. Every time I set a limit, there is an attempt to breach. There is a test, a stepping in with tip-toes. Will this work? Can I get away with it? I’ll bet I can if I just keep testing. This is why vigilance is exhausting. This is also why it is needed. 

What do limits provide for our kids? I’ve grown to see limits as a loving thing. Only with limits can our kids learn to navigate freedom with wisdom. When in the gym, they can play whatever they want. Capture the flag, basketball, or tag. They can choose which friends they’re going to spend their time with, what conversations they’re going to have, and how active they’re going to be. Is it a mental decompress time or a physical exertion time? The child decides—but within the boundary. 

The gatekeeper isn’t a micromanager, just a watchful eye, compassionate guidance, and firm boundary-enforcer. As I learn more about my own limits and the freedom I find within them, the more committed I am to being a diligent gatekeeper of my home.


1511. a stretch of chill days, 1512. flexibility, 1513. new writer friends, 1514. insulin, 1515. episodes recorded, 1516. hodgepodge snow gear (photo coming next week), 1517. protein trail mix, 1518. honesty, 1519. safe winter driving, 1520. last-minute library return

Listening in the Kitchen

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 5/52

When the heart is quiet and the ears are open, there is much to hear.

I seem to discover important things in the most unlikely places. Today, I stood in my kitchen, reeling in a compounded mess: life on the go with a large group of children who would much rather stack paper plates on the counter with metal forks between them than sort the stuff, and ditch the trash upon first pickup. We’re still working on some things. They also seem much more interested in using every glass in the house over the course of two meals than making use of their reusable, color-coded water bottles.

I filled a plastic tub with warm, soapy water so the few things needing a bit of a soak could loosen food debris while I tossed napkins and individual plates in our family-size food waste bin. I didn’t really want to be there in the middle of that mess, just like I don’t really want to be here in the last trimester of a surprise pregnancy with multiple diagnoses to complicate things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for the baby coming, but the health challenges I’ve encountered, and extra layers of complexity it brings to my household have not been my type of fun.

I like things to be easy. Some (weird) things come fairly easy to me. Pregnancy has typically always been a time where I’ve felt a deep sense of purpose, joy, and even in the discomfort, I could offer a whole-hearted yes, I am in. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled through some long, dark stretches, but I’ve found a lightness of spirit, or at the very least, I mostly remember the more positive parts from days gone by.

This has not been one of those weeks. I’ve been diagnosed (on top of my other diagnosis) with gestational diabetes. I’ve had it once before. It’s not entirely unfamiliar, but it has been entirely discouraging me this week. It’s like all my efforts to get an A on this test have landed me exactly in D- status (I won’t claim an F, as honestly there is so much out of my control here), and now I have this huge red slash through my paper.

I will be fine. The baby will be fine, but there are swirls of worries and what if I can’t manage this without medication? thoughts (which I really don’t want to add into my already high-maintenance daily routine), and how will I maintain an ultra-strict diet and disciplined exercise schedule on top of everything? I still have seven other people to feed. I already have to keep a sort-of nutty schedule in order to keep in our household on the rails.

I’m still struggling to embrace what it looks like to care for myself in the most basic ways when I’m so used to charging through walls without a thought to what my body and soul really need on a daily basis. It is a top-tier struggle to put my needs on the list at all, let alone near the top of my priorities.

I’ve always loved the meaning of names and have taken extreme care to choose names for my children that reflect lovely or poignant meanings. I’ve always had mixed feelings about my own name, not because I don’t like it, but because the meanings I’ve found for it could lean different directions based on some changes in context. For example, one meaning is “industrious, or striving to excel”, which is great if you’re talking about awesomely impressive productivity, not as great if you’re talking about “tries way too hard at most things and doesn’t know when to quit”.

But today as I stood in the kitchen—doing one of my least favorite jobs and preparing food I wasn’t all that thrilled to be eating in order to hopefully keep my blood sugar in check—I randomly remembered another meaning of my name that I came across some years ago.

Emily also means diligent one. 

Sometimes names are reflective of someone’s characteristics, and sometimes, a name is something that can whisper to your soul a small reminder of who you are and what you’re called to.

All week, I’ve been asking myself, how can I possibly do thisstay on top of injections, blood sugar checks, stringent meals, regular movement, reasonable bedtime, running a householdfor three more months? 

The whisper back was, be diligent, one day at a time. 

I am industrious. I am productive and striving and proud of how much I care about things, even if its annoying to other people who would like to see me chill out. But I am not diligent in lots of things—only those things that land on the top of my priority list, which as I already mentioned, often doesn’t account for my daily personal needs. Certainly not in things requiring deep grit and perseverance that don’t come at least somewhat easily to me.

For whatever reason, body-related things and physical care for myself is something that just isn’t easy for me. For years, I’ve practiced needing as little as possible, and have convinced myself I can sleep when I’m dead, I can get in shape later, and I can get through the right-now challenges if I handle my life a little more efficiently, or simplify whatever requires a little too much effort from me.

Well, not this time. There is no coasting through this, and with this little whisper—an invitation to rise to the meaning of this one little word. Can’t go over it, can’t go around it, but you can bet, I’m about to go through it…I’m going on a hunt to learn how to value my body as deeply as I value my soul, and apparently, muscles only grow strong if you use them again and again.

I’m about to flex my diligence muscle as I prepare for the arrival of my new son.


1501. new bag perfectly suited to what I need to carry around these days, 1502. support from unexpected people, 1503. evening showers, 1504. clear sinuses, 1505. prayers by kids, 1506. favorite snacks, 1507. painting with toddlers, 1508. marital teamwork, 1509. kids presentations done, 1510. little hands slipped in mine




The Futility of Making Plans

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 4/52

I’m returning to the Write 31 Days series I started, but never finished, in 2017. Redemptive Motherhood: How My Children Have Changed Me is pretty much a chronological exploration of how we welcomed child after child into our family, and it is a personal goal and longing for me to write down and preserve the rest of these stories. You’re welcome to read the first half of the series, or jump in right where I’m at, beginning with this story of discovering I was pregnant with our third child.


He was a chunky little fellow with rolls upon rolls filling out his limbs, and a resting stern-face which was pretty funny for a kid of his age. He was just under a year, and his older sister was two and a half years of spunk and wonder, never without her eyes wide open and a few stray curls sticking out in odd directions; a perfect reflection of her wild imagination and quirky personality. It was an especially simple and beautiful time—our young family camped out in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of graduate family housing complex while Daddy was living the grad school life. The kids and I lived our own version of it, spending long hours just the three of us trying to pass the time Daddy was at the University without losing our minds. Or maybe that was just me. 

I hadn’t quite figured out how to be out and about with both kids regularly. Logistics were not in my favor. Our front door could only be accessed by stairs, and getting little people, any bags with supplies or groceries, and my tired mama-self up and down those three flights was no small task. We kept a small stroller in the trunk of our little tiny sedan in the distant parking area because we couldn’t store or move a larger stroller between the apartment and the car, and it was in that season that grocery shopping became a family affair because I simply couldn’t do it—with the kids—by myself. I hadn’t yet figured out how to pack a reasonable-size bag of toddler supplies and snacks that could just live in the car, or easily sling over my shoulder, so we mostly stayed home. 

I have sweet memories of those days, but I also remember being bored out of my mind, longing for connection, intellectual stimulation, or any small escape from the mind-numbing mom-of-toddlers-stuck-on-the-third-floor thing I had going on. 

Everything felt hard. 

Life on a graduate school stipend in an expensive city is not exactly a recipe for financial success.

We were thrifty and economical, spending exactly zero unnecessary dollars, mostly because we didn’t have any. We had food, and our cozy little home, each other…and not much else. 

We had every intention of waiting a few years before trying to have another baby. We had one boy, one girl, and it was the first time of many we would have an even boy-girl split, the picture-perfect family and according to some, many sensible reasons to not have any more children. Given the length of the grad program we were there for, we discussed savoring life with our two fun little people, finishing school, and then—maybe later down the road—we might have one or two more kids. once we were settled and on a profitable career path. It’s funny to think about it now. 

I would say, I was generally happy with how things were going. It felt stressful to navigate the needs of a blossoming family, but we had a plan, and at the time, I put a lot of hope in that plan.

Somewhere in mid-February 2009, I slipped into a funk. I was exhausted, feeling kind of blue, and unable to shake a stewing, brewing, smoldering frustration with life. I shared with a friend that I was really struggling to find motivation to even move.

“Are you pregnant?” she asked. 

“No way,” I said without hesitation. Pregnancy was the last thing on my radar, and we had been very actively and carefully avoiding it since my cycle had returned.

“Are you sure?” she repeated, and I am pretty sure I looked at her like she had two heads. 

I was really sure—until I saw the pink lines that proved otherwise.

I could not believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I was seized with fear about how we would survive, as we were already spread as thin as I could imagine. I questioned why God would allow such a preposterous thing to happen at this juncture of our lives. Didn’t He know we were at our max for the season? Didn’t He know we had a really great plan to do this…later?

For several months, I wrestled with the reality of having a third child well before we planned to. I was eager to welcome and love the child, but not too happy about the timing, and not too sure how on earth we would manage.

As I look back on that season, I can see exactly what God was up to. 

He was giving us the very best surprise of our lives. That child remains a delight and a gift in the greater dynamics of our family, and that pregnancy tipped off a number of dominos that led us to wrap up grad school early, move back to the Pacific Northwest, and so many other details that have unfolded beautifully in our lives since that time. 

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
~Proverbs 16:9

I still like to make plans. Having a plan helps me sort out a sense of vision for where I’m headed, and a sense of peace in knowing that when decisions fall in my lap, I’ll know how to navigate them according to plan. But I am much more comfortable than I once was with the reality that many things are out of my control. As I’ve seen blessing after blessing unfold in our lives, I have become convinced that control is overrated…sometimes the ride, the surprise, and the unexpected bring about better things than I could have imagined. 


1491. generous wise input on a shift in direction, 1492. a lemon gift, 1493. (multiple) rooms full of sweet friendships, 1494. collaborative brainstorming, 1495. dental cleaning, 1496. hand-me-down baby boy clothes, 1497. outsourcing chores, 1498. clarity, 1499. homeschool planning, 1500. the abundance of comfort in Christ


A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 3/52

~ For Lynne ~

You said to be still and know that You are God

I have known for many years
exactly Who You are

Still I thrashed and panicked with every wave
For ever so long

You said when going through waters, You would be with me
You were there, but so was fear

Speaking louder and more convincingly in my ear than Your still, small voice

You said in the valley You would lead me beside still waters

I could hear the water, but could not see it
So I trembled at the unknown, Walking in darkness

Afraid of what I could not see and what I could not control

You were both before and behind me
Not far, not disinterested

Not disappointed in me

As we walked, I discovered Your patience and kindness
And started knowing in deeper ways

Your faithfulness does not depend on my performance

You said I would not hurt, would not struggle, would not weep–in vain,
And would not any of those forever

By the might of Your outstretched arms encircled around me have I been held still
In the waves, in the darkness, in the pain and loneliness 

So firmly and gently 

So faithfully 

The water is washing me through
The night is peace for my anxious thoughts
And the discomfort and uncertainty of any day after this one is not my burden
But my joy and honor

Stillness is trust

Trust that You are loving 

Trust that You are Able 

Trust that You will keep what I have committed to You

You have set in motion redemption that cannot be taken
By fear, by sorrow, by suffering

By anything 

For nothing shall separate me from the love of Jesus  

This is stillness 

Remembering what You’ve said to be true

Clinging to those promises

As the sustenance of my soul


1481. little steps, 1482. what a beautiful name on the radio, 1483. sensitivity, 1484. the sanctuary of home, 1485. rolls and nudges, 1486. the honor of quiet things, 1487. cracking a new book, 1488. plans for connecting spaces, 1489. a full five days, 1490. mercy headphones

Saturday Morning

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 2/52

We took this photo last weekend, and all week, I’ve been planning to share it here with some reflections, except even though I have written thousands of words this week, none seemed to be quite right for this space. I’ve got a number of small writing projects in the works, so I make small word-deposits every day in different documents as I build on ideas and thoughts in specific directions, but I’m finding the deeper I get into the writing life, the more I realize how important it is to write for the space, for those who will read. But who reads here? Perhaps you should leave a comment or send a note and let me know. And if there is anything you’d like me to write about or ask me about, please include that. I have an ample supply of words, but a bit of a question mark in my mind about what belongs here right now after the long break I’ve taken from regularly writing here.

It’s Saturday morning. Two kids are sitting on the couch, building legos out of a yellow plastic box. Little man just waltzed into the living room with two clementine oranges, one in each hand. He offers it to his older brother and invites him over to the dining room table, where he wants to peel and eat them together. Brother declines and says he doesn’t really like oranges.

“Yes you do,” he says.

“No, I don’t,” says big brother.

“Yes, you do,” he insists, belligerently.

We all laugh at his persistence, and the innocent way he is trying to command the situation.

Deciding it would be easier to just take the oranges to the table and eat them both himself, he peels the skin back in irregular pieces, discarding them indiscriminately on the table and floor before shoving huge hunks into his mouth.

Dad is in the kitchen, grinding fresh coffee and gathering the assorted pieces of his supplies to make a wake-up cup.  We have an overabundance of coffee stuff. I don’t drink it, never have, but I have enjoyed the smell of it ever since I worked in several drive-thru coffee huts in high school. Caffeine, even in smaller amounts, has always made me feel not great, so I’ve steered clear even though I’ve had many opportunities (and reasons) to develop the habit. Dad, on the other hand, has a well-developed affinity for it. Every few years, we add new coffee supplies to our growing collection and each is used for a while before being abandoned for another method. We’ve had a french press, Aeropress, Bialetti pot, Keurig, Breville espresso maker, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. It’s probably time to pare down what isn’t being used, but since it’s not my zone, I just leave it be.

Our near-teenager is in bed still, even though it’s 9:30am. I’ve noticed a sharp turn in her sleep habits in the past few months. She doesn’t settle easily in the evenings, always stretching her bedtime as late as we’ll allow. Many times, we ask her to turn her lights out, which she’ll do until there is no longer a parent nearby and then she’ll flip her little lamp back on to continue reading whatever book she’s sucked into currently. It’s hard to hold the line on it because I remember my own early teen years and how late into the night I would stay up. I spent a lot of time pondering and puttering around my room and enjoyed the time to myself without interruptions. We have to strike a balance because, in the mornings, she can be a bear if she’s not able to sleep as late as she wants to, which is not always an option. It’s definitely new territory trying to sort out where to apply leadership, and where to step back and let her have autonomy. We’ve taken to having conversations about looking ahead to the next day. Will she be able to sleep late enough for a full night? If not, she needs to disengage from her juicy good book and choose rest. To sleep or to read? That is the question. I have to say, I’m glad that this is currently our biggest challenge with her individually.

The table is full of dishes from dinner last night and lazy breakfasts this morning. I’m not especially good at keeping the table top clear. It feels like a losing battle at this point. We rally two or three times a day to reset and prepare for the next planned meal or to create space for projects and school work, but in-between, I have to let it go for my own sanity. Even when we use paper plates for one meal of the day, we have to run the dishwasher twice daily to stay square. There are just so many people, and given that each one often uses multiple dishes per meal — let’s just say staying ahead of the mess is an ideal I may not reach for a long time.

We have been making strides at post-Christmas organizing, though. Usually, I emerge from the holidays in a fog, not quite sure how to navigate the influx of stuff that comes in, and not quite ready for the return to a normal weekly schedule of activities out of the house. This year, our entrance into January has been gentle. I’ve been making a list for the kids, detailing things we need to tackle, and everyone completes a bit of it. Everyone contributes effort, except the two-year-old who seems intent on undoing everything as efficiently as possible. Alternating the upstairs and downstairs spaces each day, we’ve emptied bins, cleared out closets, and have accomplished some of the cleaning we don’t always get to. Simplifying is a great way to start the year.

I wrote a ‘launching into January’ piece over on Kindred Mom earlier this month, and I’m now a few steps into setting my own vision for the year into motion. It is a gentle approach compared to years past. I know with a baby coming in a few short months, there is only so much I can plan, and even those plans must be held with an open hand. In the planner I’m using for the year, one of the questions posed was, “What do you want to leave behind this year?” My list was longer than I expected and even surprised me a bit as I scrawled it out. What I long for most this year is deep growth, habits that serve me (and our family) well, and quiet confidence in the direction I’m headed. In the past, I’ve always wanted to be able to show (or prove, rather) productivity and ground gained, but the events of recent months have shifted my perspective about a lot of things. I wrote, “I want to pursue diligence motivated by faithfulness rather than motivated by productivity,” and I’m starting to really understand the difference. My themes for this year are: slow, thoughtful, substantial, sustainable, focused, joyful, faithful, and my goals are aimed more at depth, quietness, and seeing the beauty of very ordinary moments than at smashing through an impressive to-do list. There are times to hustle, for sure, but hustle is not the only way–and possibly not even the best way–to get the most out of life. Some sweet things can only infiltrate the soul when you slow down, take notice, and savor what would otherwise be missed at a breakneck speed.

“With all my heart, I want you to know that your dreams and goals are valuable and important, but the pressure to produce results in one thing you can check at the door if you want to.  

Instead of feeling the pressure, you can take a deep breath and see the lovely life around you—and the limits of motherhood—as a place where you have total freedom to rock this gig one humble day at a time.”

~ Emily Sue Allen, from Embracing Your Motherhood Season


1471. witnessing the courage of others to sacrifice comfort in order to serve, 1472. reclaiming order in small ways, 1473. a gentle re-entry to the weekly schedule, 1474. homemade stock + soup, 1475. successful podcast segments recorded, 1476. finishing school paperwork that was hanging over my head, 1477. grace for mistakes, 1478. researching space missions, 1479. when the kids take initiative to organize a space without being asked, 1480. quiet Saturday morning with sun streaming through the windows

More of the Story: Finding a New Normal

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. New Years Day. 1/52

(continued from this post)

There are days I could pinch myself, I’m so excited to welcome another baby. At the end of the day, all the blood, sweat, tears, and repetitive mess-mediation that happens ten times daily adds up to laughter, love, and all the good stuff in life. It’s a sweet gift to have one more child on the way to delight in, and one more layer of chaos to add to our already boisterous home. 

There are also days I tremble at the sobering responsibility of raising four sons and three daughters; at the overwhelming mountains of laundry and dishes; at the thought of going through childbirth yet another time. My experience thus far is it doesn’t get easier with subsequent births. Each one is still impossibly hard, incredibly painful, and full of uncertainty and unknowns. 

I’ve been fixated on the birth and how I imagine it will go. Because I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism at 10 weeks in September, and because of the treatment I require through and beyond the pregnancy, I am in the care of a high-risk OB group. My birth plan is quite a departure from all my others. It will be in-hospital, induced at 39 weeks, and strategically managed to minimize the risk of any further clotting issues. I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to the interventionist approach, even though I know it’s necessary for multiple reasons.

My OB oozes confidence that it will be a straightforward, successful vaginal delivery, saying I’m a great candidate for induction, given my history and obvious knack for pushing out babies. At one of my visits, she leaned onto one knee crossed over the other and reassured me of the most recent research about inductions and c-section rates. Looking around the exam room lit by fluorescent bulbs overhead, all I could think about was how impersonal the hospital felt compared to my midwife’s couch and carpeted floor. I am grateful for the doctor’s reassurance, but I know too much about the unpredictable nature of birth to put my hope in her words. Even if it all does go according to plan, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy experience.

I know as well as anyone that my anxious thoughts do me no good, but they still hang around, especially in quiet moments when I don’t have something else to hold my attention. I often pray and ask for peace, knowing that even as it’s granted me, I still have to keep hold of it on purpose with both hands. 

My 24-week old son nudges his way around my belly, and feel extremely grateful for his movement…a reminder that I’m not going through this experience alone. We’ll do it together, buddy. You and me.

Great love and great labor. That’s what I think about when preparing for birth. It’s going to be so hard, but love is powerful, and I love this little man. 


I received my pulmonary embolism diagnosis around 5pm on a Monday. The ER doctor told me I was one tough mother to have dealt with the pain of a PE for over a week. I laughed, but I don’t think either of us thought it was very funny. It was a serious lapse in judgment on my part to suck it up for so long. The outcome could have been very different. 

The doctors who spoke with us couldn’t give any definitive answers as to how long I’d be admitted to the hospital for, but said to be prepared for 5-7 days, or until they were convinced I was stabilized and they had the dosage dialed in for therapeutic, but not overly aggressive, blood thinning. My entire ER experience, though lame for the reason I was there, was much more positive than I would have expected. Each doctor, nurse, and tech was attentive, compassionate, and thorough in their care. There was one long stretch no one checked in with me, and I found out a little later, two strokes and a heart attack came in all at the same time. 

The doc apologized for the wait as she burst through the door and told me very vaguely about the cases that had come in.

“No worries,” I said. “Those seem like pretty important cases to tend to.”

She said out loud I was important, too, and she was truly sorry I’d been waiting a while.

A little after five, they moved me into a patient care room on another floor. 

The nurse encouraged me to order some food and began the rhythms that continued through the next 24 hours. Vital signs, blood draw, breathing into a plastic contraption to begin the rehabilitation of my lungs. 

My husband was there to help me get settled, but planned a trip home to check on the kids, grab some stuff, and promised he’d be back later with my comfort and care items. 

When I was there alone, everything started to sink in a little. I was truly not well, and even though it seemed like I should have known as much well before that point, I hadn’t admitted it to myself. I see it now in hindsight, and it has made me more aware of those around me who have themselves convinced they do not need care, a shift in their trajectory, or a change in the circumstances they’re in. Denial is a very powerful experience—and because of it’s deceitful nature, you don’t know you’re in denial until it hits you hard. 

I had lots of questions and so did the doctors. They asked me at least half a dozen times to recall various things that may have contributed to the formation of the clot. Had I been sedentary for a long period of time? Had I flown or been on a long car ride? The only thing I could figure was it might have been a day at 8 or so weeks pregnant where my energy tanked hard and I spent most of the day parenting from my bed. I got up a few times to use the bathroom, and to get food for the kids, but my whole body felt heavy and worn out, and I decided listening to my body while growing a brand new human looked like taking a rest day. 

No one can say definitively if that was it, but it’s the only thing I can think of. 

One doctor mentioned briefly something about elevated estrogen being one cause of clots in the first trimester of pregnancy. I didn’t really have a context or understanding about it at the time but asked my high-risk OB about it at a later visit.

She explained the composition of blood being in a constant state of flux between coagulants and anti-coagulants…so your blood is always at the perfect viscosity to flow through your veins and also to not flow too well that it’s unable to clot effectively should you bleed. In pregnancy, estrogen levels are especially high in the first trimester, and it acts as a coagulant, thickening your blood ever so slightly, which in some cases (like mine) contributes to clot formation. She told me the other point at which estrogen is high is during the six weeks following birth, which is one way the body attempts to mitigate the blood loss after delivery. All that to say, even though I am healing from my experience in September, I’m not out of the woods yet. 

The only recommended treatment for a pulmonary embolism during pregnancy is to have continuous blood thinning throughout the gestation and postpartum period, and only injection blood thinners are said to be safe for pregnancy because the chemical makeup of the injections involves molecules too big to cross the placenta. That means I’m being treated, but the baby is safe from any negative side effects. That also means I’ve been shooting myself in the soft skin of my stomach every twelve hours since September and will continue through May, at the earliest. It’s by far the most inconvenient part of this pregnancy, having to remember specific times to administer my shots. 

I’ve driven home from the kids’ school more than once to pick up the syringes I failed to take with me, and we had to turn around an hour into a long road trip to come back for the zipper pouch I forgot to bring along for the few days we were going to be away. But, some things are important enough to be inconvenienced for.

The areas where most of the injections are concentrated have turned all shades of purple and green at different times, and the skin is a little tender to the touch sometimes as well. I’m glad to be more than halfway through this, but I won’t be sad when this no longer has to be part of my everyday routine. 

Ultimately I was in the hospital for about 24 hours before they dialed in my dosage and thought I really didn’t need to be there. Most of the other patients on my floor were immobile, in much more dire circumstances than me. 

Even though I’d only been gone from home a day and a half, I came home and everything was different. 

In my absence, two generous friends had cleaned my entire house…like really deeply cleaned it. I resisted the urge to feel ashamed of the state they had found it in, as the first weeks of pregnancy, and the time that elapsed since my lung symptoms showed up meant I had let a lot of things go. It was a tremendous act of love for them to make sure there was as little left to be done as possible once I returned home. 

My kids were glad to see me and cautious at the same time. They had a few details about what was going on with me, but lots of questions too. We were all in a bit of shock, navigating the bumpy terrain of a new normal. I had previously been a very involved and capable mama but was sidelined by very real physical limitations. 

Other than no longer being at as great a risk of a recurrent blood clot due to continuous blood thinning, I didn’t feel much better/different than before I’d gone in. Except in extreme cases, doctors don’t actually do anything to remove clots or drain the fluid that builds in the lungs as a result of one. The doctors said my body would break down the clot on its own over time (2-3 months) and the continuous blood thinning meant it would be very hard for a new clot to form. They also said it could take 4-6 months for the pleural effusion (fluid) to resolve. I did have prescription painkillers to help me get some rest, but being a reluctant drug-taker even in extreme circumstances, I reserved those for nights and took Tylenol during the day. I could stand for only 5 or 10 minutes before running out of all energy due to reduced oxygen in my bloodstream, and as such, things got very simple around our house.

The first week home, I barely did anything at all. I didn’t make meals, I didn’t put children to bed. I didn’t even really go downstairs at all, where the laundry piles up and everyone else in my house sleeps. I was on the couch, propped with no fewer than a dozen pillows. It would be a full seven weeks before I’d sleep in my own bed again. I still had pain in the middle of my back where I’d felt the first symptoms, and breathing was still very difficult in any position except fully upright. The weird thing was, when upright and sitting, I felt really very fine. That made it challenging to answer questions about how I was doing whenever someone asked. I was great. Feeling fine, and not in too much pain…until I moved. It messed with my mind a little, not knowing how to really share where I was at or what was happening with my healing process on social media or otherwise. I mean, what do you say when you’ve nearly just died—a flippant retelling of the story in two minutes flat? I didn’t care at all who found out or how the news spread but I didn’t know how to share just sound bites of what was going on, and I was still trying to figure out for myself how I was really doing.

Prior to all these developments, my kids had done some chores here and there around the house, but most tasks were a group effort, with me leading the way, them responding to real-time orders in a team style rally to get things done. It’s what has always worked well for us. 

Given my new physical limitations when I came home from the hospital, everything about how we operate as a family had to change. I had to lean on the older kids for much more physical help, which I’ve been hesitant to do in the past because sometimes its just easier to do things myself. They’ve responded so well—compassionate and understanding about what I can’t do on my own, and they’ve grown in their willingness and ability to handle some of the tasks that need to be done.

A side benefit of slowing down out of necessity was I started to see what was not working regarding our home care, systems, and my kids’ individual needs. Since I was knocked out of the equation from a physical standpoint, I could only direct, praise, encourage, correct without doing any heavy lifting. 

It has helped me see just how capable my children are, that they will rise to whatever bar I set for them, especially when I am engaged, clear, and encouraging. Maybe that seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to slip into auto-pilot when managing a large household.

I started leaning on the older kids to help in specific ways. One day, I had the brilliant idea to turn dish duty into a relay, assigning one aspect of kitchen cleanup specifically to one child. Red plates go to E. Cups and glasses to A. Silverware and counter cleanup to J. Dishwasher start delegated to M. 

I could come in at the end, spend 5 minutes and be square in the kitchen again because of my little bits of outsourcing. Pretty resourceful, if you ask me, and the kids were happy because they could each do their own little part in a few minutes’ time. Little bites do get you places.

We did some convenience foods, asked friends to bring a few meals here and there, and ultimately, Daddy played the hero, fielding all the stuff that needed to be done that I wasn’t able to do.

There were a few weak moments when I wondered how I’d survive it—the lowly dependence I felt; unable to carry what was mine to carry. Still, we have managed together.

It is incredibly uncomfortable to be the person in the midst of real and desperate need.

I have always been a very capable person—having both vision and follow-through, energy and tenacity. I haven’t had many experiences meeting my true limits. Anytime I’ve felt the pinch of an obstacle in front of me, I dig in a little deeper, try another way, learn a new skill, or let it go because I realized it wasn’t a top priority.

I can’t say I’ve ever had a challenge to overcome that I didn’t ultimately succeed at. Maybe I have, and I’ve conveniently forgotten my failures. I have been humbled by motherhood at many points, but never quite as this diagnosis has humbled me. 

In childbirth, especially the precipitous, unmedicated ones I’ve had, there are always moments that feel impossible—when crushing pain overwhelms and there is no rescue but to press through it. For me, births have been wild, intense, and mercifully short. The longest out of the six so far was 3.5 hours, and one labor went from 3cm to child born in 45 minutes. 

In contrast, it has been about four and a half months since the hospitalization, and while the experience healing from a pulmonary embolism doesn’t match the intensity of childbirth, it has leveled me in a more humbling manner than I’ve ever experienced. 

There are moments I have thought to myself, I’m at the limit. This is all I can do. And then I’d look around at everything that was still undone around the house or the desires of my children I wanted to respond to with gusto, but couldn’t. There are moments I have felt desperately alone in the journey. But there have also been profound gifts. I am healing. My baby is strong and healthy. My family and I are all changed for the better. We’re working together, learning how to lean in to each other, even in weakness. 


As I mentioned, I’m on injection blood thinners twice daily for the time being.

Around 35/36 weeks, I’ll switch to another type that will be 3x daily leading up to the birth, but the thinning agent is shorter-lasting and is something that can be counteracted if necessary when I go into labor to prevent excessive blood loss.

Most likely, I will have induced labor at 39 weeks, to hopefully avoid a precipitous birth in a location where I won’t have medical professionals available to oversee the process. I’m a little anxious about induction as I’ve had one in the past, and my body did not respond well to it. Timing the birth feels something like threading a needle. They don’t want me to be on blood thinners when I give birth, but they do want me to keep the window without blood thinners as narrow as possible. I’ll be back on within 6 hours after delivery.

I was told the pleural effusion could take anywhere from 2-6 months to resolve. I don’t know exactly when to mark it, but most of the time I don’t feel it anymore. 

I sleep in my own bed, but still have an odd assortment of pillows to achieve comfort. I lay at an odd incline—not upright, but not flat either—and I’ve been using a rolled blanket along my back and a flat couch pillow under my growing belly to create a little valley to rest my hip in while I’m partially inclined. I can lie down flat for a while if I want to, but it still feels more comfortable to be slightly elevated. 

Some of the things I’ve untangled in this time is that I spend energy in places I can’t afford to spend it. Because I’ve always valued relationships, conversations, helping others and being involved with things, I been accustomed to putting energy out in a lot of different directions. This season has required me to get very simple about absolutely everything. In the past, I have been the initiator in 90% of my relationships—happily so. I can’t do that anymore. It’s not a “don’t want to” thing…its realizing that sometimes outgoing energy is not something I can spare—not with a P.E. diagnosis, not with pregnancy, not with an extra-large family. Part of me still doesn’t want to accept that I can’t do everything I want to, but this is life.  

I still love connecting and conversations, but instead of reaching out all the time (which I often have done compulsively to fill open spaces of time and quell feelings of loneliness), I’ve tried to quiet my soul, tend to the very basic things in my immediate field of view, and respond to those who reach out to me. I’ve thrown myself into writing, which has been a serious form of therapy. I’m writing more (and more often) than I ever have. I’m writing less for productivity’s sake and more for the joy it brings me. 

I’m also preparing my heart and my home for the reality of seven children. It’s still a wild thought to consider the number of kids we have, but it makes me smile. There is a whole lot of goodness going on here, and though I’ve been humbled on many levels in the recent months, I’m full of gratitude for where we are and where we’re going as a family. 

You’ll notice the family photo I included in this post…it is the first of many to come, one every week this year. I did a photo-a-week project with our whole family in 2014, and one a week with just the kids in 2015…but much has changed in that time, and I think we’re due for an update. That means you’ll hopefully be hearing from me about once a week on this blog if you hang around. 

Thanks for being along for the journey, and for the ongoing encouragement you send our way. It is needed and deeply appreciated. 


1461. having a family over for dinner after many socially quiet months, 1462. celebrating friends’ new baby, 1463. sweet conversations with a treasured person, 1464. new planner & pens, 1465. choosing to say my best yes, 1466. two straight days of laundry done, 1467. weekly writing complete, 1468. delicious turkey wrap w/ cranberry sauce, 1469. sunny day, 1470. clearing stuff out








Take Notice

One photo a week throughout the year. 7
/52 (a few weeks behind)

I sliced my index finger open tonight. I was carefully cutting up potatoes to roast in the oven. I wasn’t rushing. I wasn’t distracted. Miraculously, there were not three little people circling my legs as I stood at the cutting board, as there often are. Still, somehow the blade met the edge of my finger and took with it a bit of material it would have been nice to have kept to myself.


I didn’t cry, but I did feel a little stunned.

How did that just happen?

All afternoon, I have been thinking about the jumble of thoughts I’ve had in my brain all week. I sometimes feel myself moving about on auto-pilot–as moms are known to do on little sleep–while my brain whirrs away in some other place, but just a few hours ago, the glorious Seattle sun came out and beckoned us to the park for some fresh air and play time.


I sit on the park bench where things become clear, sun on my face and the crisp March breeze blowing the straggling hairs across my face that have fallen from my unwashed top-knot mom-‘do. I watch my kids dart to-and-fro about the playground.

Slow down, Em.

Slow. It. Down.

See them running and laughing? Take notice.

The one in yellow leggings and an oversized sweater: She’ll be five next week, even though it was only a few blinks ago that she was swaddled up in a pink blanket, smiling in her sleep between feedings. Her spindly, runner-legs carry her around the park loop and her wild hair follows behind.

Take notice.

The one in a blue athletic jacket and the oversized, awkward teeth of a pre-teen boy. That is your son that came home from the hospital at seven and a half pounds and is now nearly staring you in the eyes. Nine on Saturday. Nine years old. How did that just happen?

Take notice.

I will, I say to myself. I am taking notice.

I notice that for all the irritating moments of the same messes and the same squabbles happening over and over, that we are knit together. These mundane, ordinary days are the ones where the seeds once sown are sprouting and growing…not quite like I imagined, but better. Sweeter. More interesting and challenging. Young hearts eager to squeeze all the fun out of life and a mom who wants to make sure that every day of innocent childhood that can be afforded to them be kept so, carefully guarded with love and sacrifice.

So I watch and cherish the time, fiercely protecting these years from the angst and horror of the outside world. There will be a time when the carefree days are clouded with the complicated issues of humanity, but for now, I revel in the lifeline they are for me. They remind me daily that there is heart-rending beauty in the midst of this broken world.

PS. For those who are worried about the cut, I am fine. It’s not serious, but not awesome either. I’m here typing awkwardly with all the wrong fingers while my bandaged digit points at the screen so I don’t accidentally tap it against the keys. I guess one could call this adventures in writing.

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18

1341. the purple dress, 1342. big brother doing dishes of his own accord, 1343. gentle reminders, 1344. seeing a friend’s heart awaken to the love of God, 1345. growing Kindred Mom community, 1346. healing conversations, 1347. podcast plans, 1348. husband to the rescue (re: finger), 1349. growing into vision, 1350. a sweet gift from a new friend in the mail

Flourishing in Motherhood

One photo a week throughout the year. 5/52

We arrived to our weekly homeschool group a few minutes late, as usual. No matter how highly I personally value punctuality, I have not been able to reliably get myself and six kids to destinations on time since my youngest was born nearly a year ago. With all my heart, I want to arrive on time, but I’m only one woman and there are quite a few personalities in my family that frequently prevent me from finding success in that quest.

Still, every time I arrive somewhere late, I feel defeated.

The other moms are huddled in a circle, sharing pertinent announcements and prayer requests with the group. I’m late, but my friends open the circle and draw us in with warm smiles. I have one hand on the stroller where my little guy is squirming around, attempting to escape the clutches of his 5-point harness. My other hand pats the head of his 3-year old sister who is sitting on my foot with her arms wrapped around my leg while she warms to the new environment. The other kids have dispersed to look for their friends who are in the adjacent gym space, bouncing balls and running about with energy to spare.

I’m here. Whew. I’m here.

One sweet newcomer to our group begins sharing about the tumultuous journey of watching her elderly father approach death. His health has been steadily declining, and everyone expects him to pass at any time, but whenever the family makes peace with his passing, he rebounds back from the brink of death for a few days.

She tells us how it is hard to be caught between savoring the last days/weeks with him and mourning the life that is slipping away before her eyes.

Tears are streaming ferociously down my face. I genuinely feel for her, but there is also a moment where I realize that her vulnerability to share with our group has poked a hole in my brave-mom facade, revealing the raw and tender part of me that I’ve been hiding all week.

We comfort her and pray for her, and then I find the courage to say out loud:

I feel like a constant disappointment these days…

The rest of this essay appears on Kindred Mom…head over there to read the rest!

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:4-5 NASB

1321. essays received for Kindred Mom, 1322. a smoother week than last week, 1323. baby walking everywhere, 1324. valentine-making with friends, 1325. kid wonder’s night out with friends, 1326. small amounts of seattle snow, 1327. invitations, 1328. the growth I see in myself over time, 1329. compliments regarding my sons, 1330. jill briscoe talk – the importance of living our mission