Mommy needs a moment

I’ve noticed something about my kids.  It is definitely a pattern.  Perhaps you have noticed a similar pattern in your own life.

My children–they are always around me.  I mean always.  There.  Right there.  All the time.  If not both, at least one.  Sometimes one of them will go to a friend’s house to play or sleep over or something, and I’m all “woo-hoo!”, and then the other one is there.  Right there.  Saying things to me like, “Can we go to [insert germ-ridden and overpriced place where kids like to go]?  And go shopping? And make cookies?  OOOOOH, I know, let’s make slime!”  And I patiently smile at my little one and say, “why don’t we play the pajama game.  We will both get in our jammies, and lay on the couch with books, and see who can be the quietest.”  No one ever wants to play the pajama game with me.

Sometimes while I’m taking a shower, I get to listen to stories about Minecraft.  And when I sit on the toilet, people want me to make them pancakes.  Seriously, I could be in the kitchen for an hour doing dishes and such, but the moment I step into the bathroom, someone wants pancakes.

Most of the time I enjoy having them around during the day, but I long for days past when they went to bed at 7:00 pm.  That was really awesome, does anyone remember that?  That lovely middle part where your kids were fully sleeping through the night, but still young enough that you could put them to bed before Jeopardy came on.  I kind of turn into a pumpkin or something right around that time, so it worked well for me.  I tried to keep this going as long as possible, but my son was all, “MOM, I can’t go to bed at 7:30!  I’M ELEVEN!”  Whatever.  In that case, can I go to bed at 7:30??

Now I know that you moms who have already launched your kids out into the world of college and first apartments and fiancés and weddings are going to say something like, “Enjoy it!  Pretty soon they won’t want to be around you!  They’ll be all grown up and move away, and they will only come around when they need money, and you’ll be so lonely and purposeless and empty and wishing they would call!”  This is most likely correct.

But two things can be true at the same time, you know?  And acknowledging that the one thing is true does not make the other thing less true.   For instance, I can be reasonably smart and well educated with a Master’s degree and yet be completely unable to help my 6th grader with his math homework.  So yes, I will be very sad when they grow up and fly the nest.  But ALSO—mama’s so tired.  Not in a “I need sleep” kind of way, like when they were babies.  I am tired in the overworked and underpaid (make that unpaid) kind of way.  I’m tired in the stretched thin and pulled in too many directions kind of way.  In the eating 50% of my meals in the car while commuting or driving people to dance class kind of way.  I’m tired in the 3 loads of laundry a day kind of way.  I am tired in the get up at 5 am and pour all of my energy into the people at work and then my people at home, after which I get a whole 30 minutes to myself at the end of the day before I collapse into bed kind of way.   And I only have two kids.  Apparently there are people out there brave enough to have more than that, and honestly, I don’t know how you do it.  Or when you had the free time to keep making all the babies.

These days, most of the alone time that I get happens in the car.  Commuting is kind of like my “me time”, except that it’s stressful and there are lots of people cutting each other off and making rude hand gestures and my armpits get sweaty.  Oh, and last year I had to have an MRI, so I got to be alone in that machine for a good 45 minutes.  Little loud though.  I go to yoga once a week and that is kind of like being alone.  At least I’m on my mat all by myself and just breathing, and it’s quiet.  Except for when that nose-whistling girl is in my class, then I get all angry while I am yoga-ing.

Where I really want to be alone is in my house.  All of my mom fantasies begin and end in my clean, quiet house.  I mean, sometimes I get to be alone, and I get to be in the house, but I rarely get to be alone in the house.  A few years ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I told him they could take me out to dinner.  Oh, and–could you take the kids away for a few days so I can be alone in my house?  You could see the confusion in his face, maybe a little trepidation.  I’m sure it is a little disarming to hear your wife say that she wants you to pack up the kids and leave town.  And honestly, it took me a long time to work up the courage to ask for that, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or make anyone feel unloved.  But after some explanation, he seemed to get it.  And guess what?  On the weekend that we set aside to execute this plan, ONE OF THE KIDS STARTED VOMITING.  Naturally.  It took until February of the following year for us to find another weekend that fit the bill.

And what did I do on my mommy mental health weekend, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  I made sure my house was all clean on Thursday–dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms all done.  I went out with a friend Friday night and stayed out as long as I wanted.  Which was 9:45 pm.  Then I stayed in my pajamas all weekend, watched whatever I wanted on Netflix, made food that nobody complained about, took a nap, and read books.  And my house stayed clean all weekend.  It was awesome.  All moms need to be able to do this on the regular.

And then my family came home.  And they messed up the house.  And wanted pancakes.  And complained about the food.  And put clean clothes down the laundry chute because that’s easier than folding them and putting them away. And told me stories about Minecraft.  And gave me huge hugs, because they missed me.

And I missed them too.


All the books I read in my sweats in 2017

Welcome to the second annual installment of “all the books I read in my sweats” (and pajamas, and sometimes yoga pants) in 2017, in the exact order in which I read them of course. Because why would you bother making a list if you didn’t put things in order?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings–Maya Angelou ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s a classic for a reason.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  This was my first foray into Maya Angelou, and I will definitely put her other works on my “to-read” list for the future.





Falling Upward:  A spirituality for the two halves of life–Richard Rohr ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really loved, and really needed, this book at this particular phase in my life.  Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest at the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico.  I call him my favorite monk, but I’m not sure that he’s really a monk.  But I call him my favorite monk, so there. I now subscribe to his daily emails and have stalked out most of his public speaking appearances on YouTube and all of the podcasts I can find.  He is a wise teacher and I am a total groupie.  I might need an intervention.  Anyhow, this is a book about spiritual development, if that is something you’re interested in (which I am!).  There is a lot of wisdom in this book.  I just bought my own copy and plan to read it again.

The Nightingale–Kristin Hannah⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really liked this one, as did most of the people I know of who read it.  I have not been a big fan of Kristin Hannah in the past because I find some of her other books a little cheesy, especially the romance parts.  Eeew…romance.  Anyhow, this one had lots of tragedy to balance out the romance.  I’m all about tragedy.  The themes in this book are very similar to Sarah’s Key, which is a fantastic book as well.  In fact, at the end of the book Kristin Hannah acknowledges Tatiana De Rosnay, the author of Sarah’s Key, for helping her with her research for the book.  This is a nice long one if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into (with a little cheese on top). This book had five-star potential, but I subtracted one star due to the cheese.


The Kind Worth Killing–Peter Swanson⭐️⭐️
This book was a real page-turner, but also I didn’t really like it.  Which is weird, I know.  Sometimes I will read a book like this and it is suspenseful enough to keep me reading, but the whole time I am also harshly critiquing it.  My major issue with this book is that the author seemed to give the reader almost too much information about what was going on in each character’s head, which kills some of the suspense.  The book is written from multiple points of view, and the author seems to just blurt out each character’s motives and internal dialogues.  Some of the twists and turns in the plot were a little lame and predictable. Just my $0.02.


The Underground Railroad–Colson Whitehead⭐️⭐️⭐️

I had high expectations of this book because of all the praise and attention it garnered, but it wasn’t my favorite.  In the context of the pre-civil war era, the author tells the story of Cora, a young black slave attempting to flee from slavery via the underground railroad, which is imaginatively contextualized in this book as an actual railroad.  I felt a little bogged down by this book for some reason.  I preferred The Invention of Wings (which I read a few years ago) which is set in the same time period with similar themes, and just blew me away.



Love Wins:  A book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived–Rob Bell⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a book that will challenge the way that you think about heaven, hell, and God.  Is heaven a literal place?  Is hell?  Isn’t it incongruent to think that God would give us never-ending grace and forgiveness in this life with unlimited chances to believe in Him, but as soon as our physical bodies cross over into death, those who didn’t believe burn in the fires of hell? Or that God’s grace is only available to humans during these finite moments that we live in our physical bodies on Earth, despite the fact that those of us who are from a faith tradition typically believe in an infinite God who is beyond what the human brain can comprehend?  I myself am doing some deconstruction of my faith and found this book to be a breath of fresh air, a new way of looking at things without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  I will read this one again.  Rob Bell got a lot of flack for writing this book, with many calling him a heretic.  That makes me like him even more.


The Other Boleyn Girl–Philippa Gregory⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a historical fiction novel set in the era of King Henry XIII in the English Tudor Court.  This book was an excellent escape from everyday life.  It was scandalous without being too smutty.  When I first started reading I was a little put off with the treatment of women in that era, though I realize this is just a function of the time period.  Still–holy misogyny, Batman.  I read quite a bit of historical fiction but have never read anything set in this time period, and it was terribly fun to read.




Breath, Eyes, Memory–Edwidge Danticat ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There were a lot of good things about this book that I really admired.  However, overall I felt that it is was missing something.  I was interested in reading it because the author is Haitian, and with my recent time in Haiti I have been wanting to read more and understand more about the culture, and was hoping to gain some of this unique perspective from Danticat.  I read that she started writing this book when she was 18 years old, and it was published when she was 25, which is just incredible.  So some of my issues with the book may have to do simply with the fact that she was not fully developed as an author at the time she wrote it.  I felt that it lacked a cohesive plot, and the pacing was perhaps a little too quick and left me wanting for a little more in the way of character development.  The story itself was pretty sad, so I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you are down in the dumps.  That said, I am interested in reading more of her work and, despite the drawbacks I just mentioned, I was engaged in the book.  It left me wanting to understand more about Haitian culture, and to read more from this unique author.


The Enneagram:  A Christian Perspective–Richard Rohr ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
I love the Enneagram.  It is such a neat tool for self-discovery and personal growth.  Though the Enneagram sounds really “woo woo” and “out there” and “new age”, it’s not.  It is an ancient personality typing system which can be used to understand yourself and others better.  If you have ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test and enjoyed learning more about yourself in that way, then you would probably enjoy this as well.  It is strangely accurate.  I’m a “one” on the Enneagram, by the way.  This book is written by my favorite monk, Richard Rohr, but it is not my favorite book on the Enneagram.  It is a little heavy and wordy.  If you are interested in learning more about the Enneagram, I suggest The Road Back to You by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron instead, which is easier to understand for beginners and gives an excellent overview of all the types (there is also a Road Back to You podcast, available on iTunes, which I enjoyed also; and Ian Cron has an additional podcast called Typology).  Of note, my husband started reading up on the Enneagram, since I have been talking about it for a whole year, and he is sold on it too.


The Art of Racing in the Rain–Garth Stein ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just the sweetest, most touching book to read.  Written from Enzo’s point of view–a wise, funny, and beautiful dog who tells the story of his family’s love, loss, and rebuilding.  You will fall in love with Enzo.  One of my favorites this year.






Unbroken–Laura Hillenbrand ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book recounts the true story of Louis Zamperini, a running prodigy turned WWII pilot whose plane went down, leaving him and his com padres stranded in the middle of the ocean. This book is, in a word, stunning.  The story is rich, interesting, and well-paced.  The writing is gorgeous.  There is a good reason that this book is a bestseller-turned-major motion picture.  Highly recommended!




What is the Bible:  How an ancient library of poems, letters, and stories can transform the way you think and feel about everything–Rob Bell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another illuminating read from Rob Bell.  He offers a fresh perspective on the Bible, discussing how we can look at it as true without holding tightly to some of the strictly literal interpretations that we are used to hearing in Christian circles.  It’s on my Kindle, and I plan to read it again.





Little Bee–Chris Cleave ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This excellent book is about a Nigerian refugee, Little Bee, whose life tragically intersects with Sarah, an English woman with a troubled marriage.  It was sad, tragic, hopeful, tender, all of it.  I loved it.






Present Over Perfect–Shauna Neiquist ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and 1/2

For this one, I picked up the audio book format, which I sometimes do if we have a long car trip or I need to spice up my commute.  I enjoyed hearing about this author’s personal journey for a less harried, more peaceful life, letting go of the “hustle” and need to prove and please.  She is warm and relatable, but the book was a little on the long side for me, with some of the material becoming repetitive after a while.  It was a good listen, though I’m not sure if I would have had the patience to get all the way through it in tradidional book form.



Bird by Bird: Some thoughts on writing and on life–Anne Lamott⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anne Lamott is so awesome.  In all of her books, she manages to show up as her neurotic, darkly humorous, borderline suicidal, imperfect self in the most endearing way.  She is wickedly funny and profoundly wise.  This book is a collection of her insights related to her writing process (spoiler: she approaches writing with all of those same neuroses and imperfections, and uses them instead of fighting them), weaved in with her insights about life.  I laughed out loud, a lot, while reading this book.  Even if you are not a writer, there is a wealth of wisdom to be mined from this book.



In a Dark, Dark Wood–Ruth Ware ⭐️
Meh.  This was another one of those books that sets itself up to be a suspenseful psychological thriller but lacked the depth necessary for me to wholeheartedly recommend it.  Fluffy beach-read at best.  I would put this in the same category as The kind worth killing, discussed earlier.





The Sound of Gravel–Ruth Wariner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💥💥💥💥💥💥💥
This book is a riveting memoir about the author’s childhood and coming-of-age in a polygamist cult.  This book blew me away.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  I don’t want to tell you anything else about it because I don’t want to spoil the unfolding.  What I will say is that it is beautifully written, brave, surreal, and reads more like fiction than a memoir.  In fact, most of the time I wished that it was fiction, as no one should have to endure the pain that Ms. Wariner courageously recounts.  This book is my pick of the year!



Brain on Fire–Susannah Cahalan ⭐️⭐️⭐️
This memoir that had the unfair disadvantage of being read by me after The Sound of Gravel.  Just like a mother tries not to compare her children, I tried not to compare this memoir to my previously stated favorite.  But I did, I can’t help it.  Anyway, this one is a real-life medical mystery, recounting the author’s experience with a rare neurological diagnosis.  If you like the TV show House, I predict you will enjoy this book.  I felt a little lukewarm about it, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.




Mothers and other strangers–Gina Sorell ⭐️⭐️

I almost liked this book, which was confusing for me.  I found the beginning of the book hard to get into, but by the middle I was starting to get invested in the main character, Elsie, as she struggled through her grief after the death of her mother, a selfish narcissist who was largely absent for most of Elsie’s youth.  All this fantastic character development, the plot started to thicken and –then she meets her long lost aunt in the last chapter, who gives her all the answers she needed for closure.  It felt anti-climactic, almost a lazy way to end it.



Of Mess and Moxie–Jen Hatmaker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Oh man, why can’t Jen Hatmaker be my friend in real life?  I loved this spunky, honest, and hilarious book of short essays on everything:  parenting, faith, childhood memories, failure, grace, girlfriends, Netflix binges, dreams, doldrums, and all the messy parts of life.  My favorite chapter was the one on exercise–it had me laughing out loud!




Finding God in the Waves–Mike McHargue ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

god in the wavesThis is a really compelling, really honest memoir by Mike McHargue, also known as “Science Mike”.  Born and raised in a Southern Baptist evangelical church, he describes his crisis of faith brought on after he studied the Bible through the eyes of a scientist.  Not surprisingly, his questions were not well received by his church, his Christian friends, or his family, nor was the fact that he lived as a “closet atheist” for two years.  He describes his journey, along with an encounter with God that lead him to put some of the pieces of his faith back together, with science as the glue.  I enjoyed it.  His scientific insights were enlightening and his honesty was refreshing.


Looking through my list for this year, I notice that my reading was a little light on fiction, which is something I would like to read more of in 2018.  Talk to me.  What were your favorites this year?  I want to know your hits and misses this year, of any genre.  Let’s build our repertoire for 2018!

7/5/17: Medical clinic day 3

We had another productive day in our medical clinic.  We were able to provide care in two different locations today, and by the end of the day we had seen about 85 kids! Phew! I know you love to see beautiful faces, so here they are:


Had to pull the smile out of this one…


Look at all these handsome boys!


What a goof ball


If you’re going to play the kazoo, it should definitely be a bright pink lip-shaped kazoo.

For my medical friends who may be curious about the kinds of things we are seeing, mostly the children are pretty healthy.   We have been seeing relatively minor things such as ringworm, uncomplicated infections, lots of umbilical hernias (I am guessing the prevalence of worms/parasites in this population creates more pressure on the abdominal wall making this more common, but if anyone has a better explanation please chime in!), asthma, GERD, some dental caries, anemia, asthma, eczema, and the like.

We have some quite a few team members that are not medical professionals, and they have been so important to the success of our clinic.  Also, they get to have most of the fun, if I’m being totally honest.  These ladies get to play with the kids–and when I say play, I mean PLAY.  I’m talking sack races and soccer games and manicures and lots of loving and giggling.  I can hear it going on out there, and I just know that our interactions with these kids are so much better because of what they do.

Some of our awesome Canadian ladies who love to play with the kids!

I know tonight’s update is a little short and boring, but I’m exhausted.  So let’s conclude with a picture of a peacock and a turkey just, you know, hanging out.





7/4/17:  Medical clinic day 2

Good evening friends!  I am homesick for my family tonight.  Still, we had a successful second day at our medical clinic.  We worked with another local children’s home and set up our clinic in the same location as yesterday.  We were able to do well-child checks on about 40 kids today!  Everything flowed very smoothly after working out some minor kinks from yesterday, which was great to see!

I had the privilege of visiting this particular children’s home last year on my previous trip.  We were asked not to take pictures of the kids, so let me paint you a verbal picture.

What wonderful kids.  Polite with sweet smiles and straight white teeth, they told me about what they liked to do and what they enjoyed in school.  Most of them were so well-mannered that when I asked them how the albendazole tasted (this is a deworming medicine that tastes super yucky and smells even worse!), they would politely tell me it was “good”.   Most of the children were very healthy, with only a few minor illnesses to treat.  Overall I have been encouraged by the fact that most of the children we have seen have been pretty healthy.  That’s how it should be.  That’s how we want to keep it.

I had a great conversation on the bus today with one of the coordinators from CHI Haiti who is working with us for the week.  We talked about how the health care system in Haiti works.  There really is no primary care system currently in place in Haiti.  People do not have a doctor that knows them and follows them with the goal of keeping them healthy.  When people are sick (and often people wait until they are very sick), they go to the hospital.  When children need vaccines, the parent brings them to one of the public hospitals and stand in line to be seen.   There is also a strong vodou presence in Haiti and many people visit a witch doctor instead of, or in addition to, a physician.

In order to address the need for primary care, Community Health Workers (CHW’s) are often trained to stand in the gap.  CHW’s are lay-people who are trained by various organizations to be a resource in their community for health care needs.  They do things like teach pregnant moms about breastfeeding, or make sure that patients with tuberculosis take their medications.  Our friends at CHI train CHW’s and we look forward to learning more about this from them.

After our clinic, we had some free time to visit the tin market, which is a must-see if you are ever in PAP.  You can watch the artisans at work also.  Here are a few tin market creations:


We then went to Haiti Design Co for a little shopping and browsing.  HDC is a sweet little boutique that is also passionate about creating opportunities for jobs and job training in Haiti through beautiful design.  They sell jewelry, handbags, clothing, and other hand-made items.  Such gorgeous stuff, but not in my budget for today.  I’m holding out for another place we are going later this week!

Haiti Design Co

There is so much beauty in Haiti.  I think because it is a third-world country, we focus on the things that are not so beautiful, like the trash overflowing in the streets, the crime, and the corruption.  Indeed, there are some ugly things.  However, I also see beauty.  Today I saw beauty in the trees, some overflowing with mangoes, and others dripping with pink and red flowers.  I saw beauty in the sweet smiles of the children I met today.  I saw beauty in their house mother, who loves those kids and protects them fiercely.

Tomorrow is our last day of clinic, then a free day to see some things and wrap a few things up before we leave.


7/3/17: Medical clinic day 1

My feet are swollen.  I have full-on cankles. My legs are several shades darker than usual even though I haven’t really been in the sun.  It won’t wash off, so I’m pretty sure I have a semi-permanent dirt tan that has leached into my dermis.  Even so, totally worth it.  

We had a great day.  We set out early but not early enough to dodge the PAP traffic.  There was a vendor carrying bananas on his head that was way faster than the post-apocalyptic school bus during rush hour.  But we made it to the HAC eventually and got to work setting up the clinic while the bus went to pick up the kids from the orphanage.

We had to wait quite a while for our guests of honor to arrive, because again, traffic.  Plus, 27 kids and their caretakers on a school bus.  You do the math.  We cheered when they arrived!  

They don’t leave the orphanage much so it was quite an adventure for them to get on the bus and come spend the day with us.  We had some of our team playing downstairs while we cycled the kids through the clinic upstairs.  

Our purpose was to perform well checks but also be able to treat any simple illnesses, and identity anyone needing a referral for a more chronic issue.  This little baby (above) came in looking pretty sick.  His house mom said he had been having diarrhea for a week.  He was lethargic, dehydrated, and pretty much had the “wet dishrag” look about him.  Thankfully he was not vomiting and was able to be rehydrated orally.  By the end of the day…

…totally new kid.  Playing, peeing, the whole nine.  Thankful that we didn’t need a higher level of care for this little guy. 
The rest of the kids looked really good!  Everyone got deworming medicine (parasites are very common in close living quarters and can cause nutritional deficiencies), vitamins, and a few got prescriptions for some minor things.  

We had some wonderful people join us from Community Health Initiative (CHI) Haiti.  CHI is helping us as we learn to do this work in a culturally sensitive, efficient, safe, and sustainable manner.  

On the left is Dr. Ben, who is a Haitian physician and was a great asset to our team today!  On the right is a coordinator from CHI.  His last name is Danger so he is affectionately nicknamed Dr. Danger by the CHI team.  We had a moment of confusion this morning after I met him and thought he was an actual doctor, and almost got him set up with a stethoscope and exam table! 😆

Everything is packed up for the night and we return tomorrow to do it again.   Here are a few more pictures from our day!

In the play yard at FREM

Pharmacy set up

Oral rehydration!

Little buddy

Kids playing with Debbie