They don’t make greeting cards for these hellish sorts of days

Yes, and I’m sure the carpet is sorry too.

If, by some miracle, someone mailed me the perfect greeting card today it would read:

I’m sorry you were up until midnight scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.
I’m also sorry the bathroom still smells pukey and you can’t figure out why.
And further, I’m also sorry that your husband’s sinus infection blew a hole in his eardrum last night (while you were scrubbing the vomit), causing everyone in the house to be quite, quite miserable. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these sorts of days. And really, how could they? This is our own personal problem; I don’t expect Target to foresee our issues and prepare a card in advance.

For my young nursing friends, who are always having some sort of trouble.

But I think maybe I’ll start a company and address everything possible. My line will address needs such as:

  • It’s too bad your baby won’t nurse and your left breast is the size of a grapefruit and feels hot to the touch. 
  • I apologize for shouting at you when you wouldn’t take the Advil last night, but you’re a full grown man and you should be able to take care of yourself when you’re sick.
  • Honey, the budget is destroyed. But look at this cute stuff I bought at Target. Please stop yelling. 

And so forth. Please feel free to comment below with any additional Hellish Days issues I could address. I will attempt to meet all needs.

Just shhhhhhh.

Maybe you’re having your own Hellish Day right now! Maybe you are stuck in your own personal misery and feeling worse as the day progresses. I’m with you, my friend. We can handle this mess together. It’s just a few more hours until bedtime, and tomorrow is a whole new day.

Tomorrow is a whole new day. Let’s hold to that hope and make it through.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

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The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet

You should see my basement right now. It looks like a deranged person has neatly placed random things all around the edges of the room. Laundry baskets, the sewing machine, buildings from the kids’ old train set– it’s all tucked up right next to the baseboards.

We’re trying to keep the cat from spraying on the walls. He got all sorts of mad at us for something a few weeks ago, and I found him peeing and spraying all over the edges of the room. Ever since we started blocking his favorite areas with stuff, he’s knocked it off.

(I know some of you cat lovers are worried about Captain Kitty’s urinary health. Let me assure you there’s nothing wrong with him physically; he just has scrambled eggs for brains.)

I took to yelling in my kids’ general direction, “Your cat is peeing on my carpet!” It was all very upsetting.

But our small group is doing a financial study from Crown Financial Ministries, and our first lesson was on God’s ownership of all things. All things. Even the cat. Even the carpet.

Deuteronomy 10:14
So now I wander around the house saying calmly, “The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet.” It’s helping. If nothing else, it makes me laugh.

Now you try it. If the Lord owns all things,

  • The Lord’s minivan smells like the Lord’s children’s smelly feet.
  • The Lord’s checking account needs a fresh influx of the Lord’s money.
  • The Lord’s children just spilled Coke down the Lord’s couch.

And so on. Any time you feel stressed about money or things, just apply our little formula here. Does anyone have an example handy? I’d love to hear them.


Tis the season to be sneaky

 I have gifts hidden in three separate zip codes at the moment. It will be a true Christmas miracle if I can remember where they all are before next week.

Our old house had many terrible features, like a stairway of death, a basement of horrors, and a complete and utter lack of respect for the profession of modern architecture, but it did have plenty of hidey holes for Christmas gifts. Not only that, but our kids were too terrified of the dark corners to go skulking around for gifts.

Also, spiders. That house had fat spiders in the dark corners. We were all afraid of those suckers.

We’ve lived in our new house for three years already, and the only downfall is the lack of decent hiding spaces for things like this. Well, that and the taxes, which are way higher than my liking. But this isn’t a gripe session about the tax code, so let’s go back to the storage issue.

We have one good room for all the random things like the cat litter, the washer and dryer, the water heater, and the furnace. Unless I want to build a fake wall onto the studs, I have to resort to madness to make sure our kids can’t find their gifts before Christmas.

Therefore and thus, this is where it’s all hidden:*

  • All the new socks and underwear are in the van glove compartment.
  • The new box of Q-tips Audrey asked for is buried in the back yard.
  • Caleb’s new apron and mixing bowl set have been mailed to Great Grandma’s for keeping.
  • Eric’s comprehensive set of Janet Evanovich books has been duck taped to the back wall of his mother’s closet. (He is going to be so surprised on Christmas morning!)

What about you? Where do you hide Christmas gifts?

*Portions of this post are complete lies, as my children have a tendency to go to school and read this blog to spy on me. I can’t blame them, as I would have done the same thing if blogs had existed in 1988.

Hiding Places: all the spots the kids can’t find you

In the course of normal human parenting, there will come a day when we need to hide from the children.

Of course we love the children. We love them to bits.

It’s just that sometimes we love them best from a distance of ten feet to one acre. We need a little time to pluck our eyebrows, to finish a chapter in a book, or to take a nap.

(Please, dear Lord. A nap. I’m not asking for much.)

As an introverted parent I’ve become an expert on hiding from my own kids. Here are some of my best ideas.

Suggested Hiding Spots:

  1. Behind the washer and dryer. I know it’s a little dusty back there, but I think we can make this work. Use the extension on your vacuum and get out the lint balls, then install some sort of a shelf and sleeping bag combo. Be careful not to set the sleeping bag on fire from the hot dryer parts.
  2. In your kids’ own messy closets! Artfully rearrange their crap until you have a parent-sized hole. Cover yourself with a sheet.
  3. The neighbor’s back yard. Make sure you can see your own house in case of flames or sibling death-matches. Pull a lawn chair over to the adjoining property, cover your face with a hat, and snooze away. Your kids will assume you’re the neighbor if they don’t look too closely.
  4. Under your bed. I can’t do this right now because our mattress and box spring are sitting directly on the floor, due to some issues we’re having with Eric not being willing to spend over a thousand dollars on a bed frame I’ve picked out. (And we keep breaking our other bed frames. But that’s a discussion for another time.) You probably have some space under your bed. Crawl right under there and rest. You deserve it.
  5. The back of the van. Our van windows are so tinted you can’t see a dang thing from the outside. The kids can’t see me without actually opening the back door or peering over the back seat, and we all know kids give up looking long before this. Just don’t move and they won’t be able to see you, like in Jurassic Park.

So there you go– permission to hide and concrete ideas of where to do it. What did I forget? Where do you hide in your own house?

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Just in Case You Wake Up Cranky (hypothetically speaking, of course)

I have been told that it’s humanly possible to wake up and be actually awake. Right away. My brother-in-law just opens his eyes and ta-da! That’s all he needs. He’s awake and ready to go.

I have no idea of what this would actually feel like, or how it’s even possible, as it takes me about 30 minutes and a gigantic mug of coffee before I can function.

But this morning was worse than usual. I wasn’t just tired, I was cranky. The sight of the cat infuriated me. The light in the bathroom was horribly bright. I hated the curtains.

The curtains. The curtains I picked out and like just fine, thank you very much.

At that point I had to realize that maybe the problem wasn’t outside of me. Maybe it was inside of me. Maybe I was a nut.

Maybe I’d crossed the line to Crabby Town and needed to reel myself back in before I injured someone in the house. I have a long, long list of things that need to get done today, so crawling back in bed until I feel better isn’t an option.

Psalm 123:1 to the rescue. I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.

Lord, I need your help to get these kids off to school without emotionally scarring them. Lord, I need to empty the dishwasher and feed the cat and get to work and then do worky things. Lord, I am not in the mood to do any of these things with a good attitude. Please, please help a girl out.

I lift my eyes to you, O God.


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Mushy Peas: Something American Mothers Don’t Force Kids to Eat


[My friend David and I are simultaneously posting about peas today. Click here for his side of the debate.]

What looks like baby food, tastes like baby food, and is, in fact, probably baby food?

Mushy peas.

Americans everywhere are wrinkling noses in confusion. They’re running through memories of all kinds of peas– frozen peas, snap peas, canned peas, sweet peas– but not coming up with anything resembling mushy peas.

For today’s blog I went to the largest grocery store in Kalamazoo and searched the international food aisle for genuine mushy peas. I did find digestive biscuits, weird tomato sauce, and something called barley water. But no mushy peas.

This was the best I could do after searching two separate aisles at length:

Picture this in a little paper cup, like we put ketchup in at a fast food restaurant. Now you have exactly the idea.
Picture this in a little paper cup, like we put ketchup in at a fast food restaurant. Now you have exactly the idea.

A few months ago on Facebook, my friend David mentioned this international approach to an already sketchy vegetable and we were all grossed out. They’re basically pre-chewed peas, it appears.

When we were in Ireland I found a pub that served gluten-free fish and chips, a delight I haven’t been able to eat for almost six years. The meal was served with a little container of mushy peas, so I had my chance to try them.

Um, no. No good. My kids and my husband weren’t fans, either. Not even my own mother liked them, the very woman who forced me to eat peas from 1977 to 1994.

We asked the waiter how he liked mushy peas. And he made a little grimace and said, “Well, then. I don’t like the fish.”

Which was a random sort of thing to say, we thought. But after clarifying what he meant, it turns out mushy peas are always served with fish and chips. They go together, or so it is believed in the general area that is not America. Maybe nowhere else on the globe except England and Ireland, I don’t know.

I’m glad my British friend likes mushy peas, I really am. I’m glad everyone has different things they like and hate, different strengths and weaknesses. I’m glad God thought to add some variety to his creation and how we respond to it, because the variety adds a lot of fun and delight for us all.

But I’m not really that glad for the peas themselves, really.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10

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My Advice to Brand New Brides (saving the world, one marriage at a time)

A young friend of our family just proposed to his girlfriend this weekend. They’re both in the American military, stationed in Europe, so our friend’s posts often involve mountains and lederhosen and other assorted European specialties. But recently a particular girl has started popping up in those pictures, so I was waiting for some sort of news.

On Friday morning they posted a selfie (if you have two people in the picture does it become a selfies? An ourselfie?) of the beginning of their flight to Rome. By Friday afternoon they were posting the photos of the ring as they smiled like madly-in-love fools on the streets of Rome.

So romantic.

But I sort of feel bad for the girl, just a little bit. How is she ever going to win an argument now? He’ll be able to finish every fight with this: “Do you remember that time I proposed to you in Rome?” She won’t be able to trump that. He wins.

At least, not until she has some babies. Then she can end every argument with “Yes. Do you remember how I gave birth to your children?” And there’s nothing that trumps pregnancy, labor, delivery, and nursing an infant. Not even a gorgeous engagement ring in Rome.

My first piece of advice to this bride would be to have a baby right quick so she has some ammunition during arguments.

I should probably mention that I’ve been married for almost seventeen years and so I might not be the romantic fool I was so many years ago. Melanie Shankle talks about this phenomena in her book The Antelope in the Living Room. Old Love, she calls it. Old Love is solid and loyal and beautiful, but it sleeps in socks and flannel pajamas. Old Love has long given up on New Love’s slinky nighties and batting eyelashes.


advice to new brides

So with Old Love firmly in mind, here are some other things I’d like to tell new brides everywhere.

  1. Be very nice to his mother. If necessary, be very nice to his mother from across the country. Listen, sometimes you’re just not going to get along with the woman who gave birth to your husband. It might be you, it might be her, it might be that both of you are crazy. Just get over it. But it’s easier to get over it if there’s a significant land mass between you.
  2.  If you have no plans to be the only one who cooks dinner or cleans the toilet for the next fifty years, make that clear up front. I love my husband so much. So, so much. And the man is not lazy, nor is he a slob. He’s tidy and (I may have already mentioned this) I love him very much. But I missed a key opportunity to spread the housework around when we were newlyweds. My love language is Acts of Service, so of course I wanted to cook the dinners and clean the toilet/tub/oven. Now, all these years later, there’s no way to tell the man to go cook his own dang dinner without sounding a wee bit mean. He has no skills and it’s all my fault. (P.S. Eric works more than fifty hours a week providing for our family, so it’s not like he’s sitting around watching golf. And I love him very much.)
  3. Try not to let yourself go. I feel like a 1950s granny for even typing that out loud, but it’s true. Time will inevitably change your body. You will get a little fluffy and saggy even if you exercise like a madwoman. But just giving up and buying muumuus in five colors is going to make your husband very, very sad. He will appreciate any effort you put into yourself, especially if it means you don’t look like a wild, misshapen hag when you’ve been married for twenty years.
  4. He is going to be very interested in “romantic physical activity” for many years, and your greatest kindness to him will be to enjoy it right along with him. You can fail at almost everything as a wife if you get this right. He can hire an accountant to handle his finances, go to restaurants for meals, and hire a maid. But hiring out sex is frowned upon universally, and affairs are no better. He’s going to want sex, and he married you to get it. Be generous and have fun.
  5. Think well of him, then speak well of him. Verbally spewing about his faults says a lot more about the grossness in our own hearts than his behavior. Jesus himself said, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:34-35). Well said, Jesus.
  6. When in doubt, shut up and pray. I’ve never regretted the times I’ve prayed before speaking. Here’s the thing. We can’t pray, “Lord, please show this fool what an idiot he’s being.” No, no, no. Try this instead: “Lord, please help us to show humility and love to one another. May we care for one another instead of insisting on our own way.” I promise you, in seventeen years of marriage this approach has never failed.  God has stepped in repeatedly to turn us to one another, instead of against one another.

I don’t know it all, so what advice would you give?


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