holding hands


Let’s take a walk to the creek, I said…

and all three said yes.

So, we played in the magic of a late afternoon- in mud and in sunshine and in peace. We played until the breeze turned cold and the sun threatened to disappear… and then we turned toward the Blue House again.

The littlest called out to me from way behind,

Wait! Wait. I want to hold your hand! I just like to hold your hand.

And so I waited while her little barefoot feet inched their way over rocks and sticker-weed, finally making their way to me. And, I held her hand.

I love you, she said. I love you because you hold my hand even when it is dirty… even when I am dirty and muddy and messy, you hold my hand.

And that, dear ones, that is as close to the Gospel story as you will ever find here in this broken world.

Oh, what grace to have played a part in it.

what she said

She was not surprised to find me crying. After 9 years in this house, Rylie Joy knows her mamma cries at commercials and when she’s mad, when she’s hurt and when she’s laughing too hard to breathe. Basically, every day. I cry for world justice and shelter animals every day.

But this was a sad and silent cry- I had just learned that Ry’s friend had lost her dad over spring break. I was overcome with grief for the family’s loss, with anxiety for the sweet children at home, with thanksgiving for the teachers who showed up on a terrible day to stand with their student. For 800 reasons, the tears came.

And so, I explained to Rylie that I was sad for her friend. I asked her if she wanted to talk about it, but she shook her head.

She left to find her shoes but stopped with her hand on the doorknob…

And in her broken prose she said,


And I said, “What, honey? Hard to know your friend is hurting?”

Mom, she said.

Hard to 



to do.

And then she left.

If there had been any hope of me collecting myself before that conversation, it was gone now.

My God, my God,


It is hard to know what to do.

And I still do not have the answers.

I do know this: she must see me grieve. My children must see me cry and question and fight and cheer and worship in every kind of circumstance. I do not want them to be afraid of being unsure, of being sad, of being small in such a big, broken world.

One day they will come up against that shadowy world without me, and I do not want them to be surprised. I want them learn and practice and know that there is life on the other side. I want them to understand that THIS, this hard-to-know place, THIS is where it gets real. Only in this place can they see the necessity of the Gospel.

If we could right every wrong, if we could heal every wound, if we could explain every mystery… we would have no use for Christ. But we cannot.

There are actually things we cannot fix, and it is a terrible realization.

I will not accept an education from the news or video games or fairytales. No, they will learn about heartbreak and salvation from me. They will learn that the process is messy and inconsistent and wild and dumb. But they will see a real person live a real life, and they will know it is possible to trust God even when we have no idea what he is doing.

Let them apprentice grief by walking through it with me, in the safety of a transparent village.

Let them meet an unexplainable, unforgivable wrong…

Let them stand in the fury of a heart they have willfully hurt…

and let the process be familiar because they saw me do it, too.

And it was hard and beautiful and too, too long.

But it was possible.


9000 miles from home

January of 2015 stole my words and broke my heart. For three months, our little family drew in tight together and stripped life down to the essentials: be together, be kind, be safe. No more, no less.

I am not free yet.

In late April, Curt and I found ourselves hours away from a trip across the ocean that had been planned for 2 years… South Africa. It was a massively orchestrated ordeal involving 8 plane tickets, 5 caregivers, color-coded schedules, power of attorneys, and 2 weeks of vacation. My suitcase was still empty with 6 hours until boarding. Campbell said, “Go. You can stay here and hurt or you can go and hurt. Go.” I packed half-heartedly for a trip I did not want to take.

My anxiety began leaking out of my eyes at midnight about 18 hours later. We were 30-thousand feet high somewhere over Africa. ‘We are too far away,’ I thought. ‘It would take days to get back to my Littles. IT IS TOO FAR. It’s not familiar and it’s not safe. I’m not funny and I’m not sure. I don’t have anything left. I can’t small-talk my way through a week of riding through unfamiliar territory with strangers. Give me my kids, my farm, my space. Let me be in the weeds, but at home. This… this is a mistake.’

But the plane continued south over the equator and I wrestled with God above the clouds.

After 2 days of traveling and changing gates and navigating grumpy airline employees, we found ourselves standing at a check-in desk 9,000 miles from home. “Be out front tomorrow at 6am,” Angel said. “Your guide will be waiting for you.”

South Africa, day 1

The sun was inches from the horizon as I climbed into the back of a truck with 8 other guests. Our guide began to ramble down the road, and I saw the land shake off its sleep. Shadows became green leaves and brown bark. I saw a zebra and her calf scoot across the main road. I sat for 30 minutes and watched a cheetah look for a place to sleep.

As we drove, the gray sky swept into pink and orange and red. ‘This looks like Texas,’ I thought. ‘Sharp aloe and rocks, cracked earth and endless sky… this looks like home.’ I saw the woman in front of me lean over to her neighbor. “This looks like home,” she said, “This reminds me of Texas.”

Something inside me broke. It was Africa, but I was not in strange country. “See?” God whispered. “This is familiar ground.”

The truck rounded another corner and we found ourselves staring at giraffes. “A bunch of giraffes is called a journey,” our guide yelled back to us. “A leap of leopards, a pride of lions, a crash of rhinos, a journey of giraffes.”

“Or a trip if there’s just a couple… like now, right?” I heard myself throw out there. Our guide caught my eye in the side mirror and started to laugh. “Oh, but see?” God whispered. “There is still some mischief left in you.”

Our group would prove to be instant family. We represented every generation from retirees to middle-school… and we were very much able to laugh. We would voluntarily eat meals together, yell at each other to duck down for photos, carry each other’s beach gear, and beg to have schedules changed so excursions could be taken together. Our guide would prove to be an expert in land-management and conservation, and I found myself dusting off my outdoor education muscles again after 10 years of time-out. “Oh, but see?” God whispered. “These people are safe.”

And that was Africa.

Familiar and brand new and chaotic and easy. Why would God bring me to the other side of the world at the most difficult time in our family’s life? To show me how far He would go to bring me back home. To let me laugh again. To give me space. To have me see impossible animals in unbelievable proximity. To stand in awe. To prove, in ways I could completely understand, that He never changes.

We are never prepared for what we expect.

-James Michner

[I feel like I’m teaching myself to tell stories again.

It’s going to take a bit to find my rhythm again.]

behavior charts


So. Eight years after having my first child, I have finally joined the world of behavior charts. It took me forever (like the meal planning) because… I was scared it would be too hard and I wouldn’t follow-through and I wouldn’t like my system. Yeah. I know.

Version 1 (which lasted more than a month) was simply a sheet of paper divided into three sections- one for each kid- that was taped to the fridge for all to see. They could earn 1 star sticker per day. Once they reached 10 stars, they could pick a prize out of a shoebox full of small goodies. This was a big hit. All three kids can count to ten and were able to keep track. Once someone earned 10 stars, I crossed those out with a red pen and we started over again the next day. Simple.

Basic Rules:

  • Stars are awarded after dinner/just before bedtime by a parent only.
  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you don’t get your star for the day. End of story.
  • If you kick, bite, or hit someone during the day, you lose a star. Done.
  • If you were caught doing something amazingly wonderful that day, you might earn an extra star.

The kids quickly found themselves on different numbers. I think Ry earned 4 prizes in 4 weeks. Abby refuses to eat dinner a lot, so she missed a few days. Gideon is all or nothing on life. Having siblings earning prizes on different days was not a problem for this crew. If anything, seeing the options in the prize box each time it came out was incentive to do better.

Prize Box Contents:

tictacs, chapstick, stickers, punching balloons, lego people, small beanie babies, spray bottles, and basically anything you’d find in the Target dollar aisle.

Problems with Version 1: it got messy after a few rounds of 10 with all the stars crossed out. We were going through a lot of star stickers. Kids (my kids) were fighting about which star sticker they got for the night. COME ON.

One particularly rough day (ahem), I pulled the star sheet off the fridge and ripped it up. NO STARS FOR ANYONE TODAY. (I’m not here because I’m awesome. I’m here because I’m honest.)

NOW. Yesterday, I created Version 2 with all the new hope that comes with starting over. Version 2 uses the same basic rules and rewards as Version 1. Each kiddo has a piece of card stock paper- again with their name, and again on the fridge for all to see. I changed things up a bit by stamping a simple “path” of stars numbered 1 through 10. Each kid has a magnet that travels forward or backward according to behavior. Once someone reaches 10, they get a prize and start over at 1 the next day.

FLAW: (noticed as soon as tall 8-year-old returned from school) Charts and magnets must be taller than tallest child.IMG_8348

Ideally, I’d like to combine the behavior chart with the daily schedule*/chores for each kiddo on a metal pan (like this) when we move to the Blue House this summer and have bit more wall space. Or maybe I’ll incorporate a clothespin system (like this). The kids LOVE seeing everything- having fun masking tape and colors and numbers and THEIR NAMES up… that’s super fun. Keeping the rules simple makes my expectations and their progress clear.

Mom just needs it to be simple.

So far, we all win.

* Right now we use a visual schedule with Ry that is identical to one she uses at school. It’s simply words and/or pictures on velcro that are exchanged each day. This has been incredible for her. Her anxiety goes way down when she can loosely plan out the day, even choosing free-time activities. I’ll show you how that works as soon as I snag some photos.



what to do, what to do

Shall we play another “what if” game?

You’ve been SOOOO incredibly helpful in getting my brain thinking about possibilities for the alcoves going into the foyer. I know you’re going to come up with something fabulous for this, too.

I’ll let Rylie show you:


So, there’re two bedrooms and a bathroom at the top of the stairs (where I’m taking the photo). As you come down and just before you turn, there is a another little alcove/landing/space.

There is an outlet and a beautiful window- so light, yes. Honestly, it’s the perfect place for a 2nd Christmas tree, if you are a 2nd Christmas tree kind of family… which, we are not. BUT- I can plug something in. Like a fountain (NO). It’d be a lovely little reading nook with a small, comfy chair, but it’s too tall (45 inches high) for kiddos to hop up there and read, ya know? Trust me, Gideon tried approximately 2.4 seconds after we entered the house.

Footprints. White walls. Bad news.

In years to come, this will turn into another hallway leading to an apartment over the garage.

But, what until then?

I need your brains. Your photos. Your ideas. All of them. Bring it on.

beautiful mess


I’ve lost my words.

And, that’s scary for this girl who… well, nothing is real until she is able to think out and write it out and see it out in front of her.

My little family’s life turned upside down last month. I don’t want you to worry- we are all absolutely ok, and we will be ok. I think this season of Lent is particularly appropriate for us as we carve out new expectations and a new home and new normals. It is an incredible story of grace and redemption in progress… but, that’s just it. It’s in-progress and unstable, which makes my brand of therapy (writing) more difficult.

This little space here has always followed some quiet rules of etiquette… truth being the first and foremost consideration. Whether topics be difficult or silly, they are always true. To ignore my life the past 2 months here at Apple Pie, Anyone? would feel untrue, so I want to acknowledge it. But, as with most of life, a story is so very rarely ONLY yours. No, it’s often tied to this person, who’s bound to the next, who brushes up against the next. That’s what makes a village a village- the connection and the sharing at different levels. And because there are so many strings and hearts and unknowns attached, this will have to be true but silent. For now. Some things are simply not meant to be coached through the internet.

I need to give myself permission to let this space wander a bit, to be irregular and unpredictable. Maybe even a little boring. I say this only because, as I mentioned before, it’s not real unless I write it… and whether 1 person hears it or 527, I need to say it out loud. There may be more menu posts and more Blue House posts for a bit until I can get my heart to make words and think out loud again.

For now, I am supposed to sit in the beautiful mess of our life.

The story will come.

It always does.


AJM and the bunny

She is yelling at me.

She is always yelling, in her way… our Little General. It is how she can be heard above her brother (who has never met a sound effect he didn’t like at full-volume), her sister (who has trouble with syntax but not chatter), and every other large and small distraction on this farm. She is loud and succinct.


“ABBY,” I say, calmly but with the aggravation of a mother who has nothing left to give. “ABBY. WHAT DO YOU NEED?”


Now, Abby is short. SHORT. And, we are all constantly reaching and lifting and leaning her in the direction she wants to go… to get wherever she is certain she needs to be. She bellowing from the bathroom, so I assume she cannot reach the sink (again). Or cannot get off the counter. Or the potty.

“COME GET YOU WHAT, dearest? WHAT do you need? Can you ASK me instead of yelling at me?” I lecture as I make my way down the hall.

I turn and stand in the threshold. She is sitting on the side of the tub- fully clothed, unharmed, and unfazed.

“Why have you been yelling for 5 minutes? You’re fine. What do you want?”

I jus’ wanted you.

“You wanted me to what?”

I jus’ wanted YOU- to come get me.

I want you to hold me.

And so, I did.

Habit has convinced me that I am no more than a longer pair of arms or the one who knows how to zip the coats. That I am the cook and the driver and the finder of lost things. The go-between. The chaperone and mediator for this little girl and this great big world.

The link… to everything else.

But, sometimes… SOMETIMES… I am the very thing she wants.

And, that is sunshine on the grayest of days.