Tag Archives: conversations


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.



Mom, who is that guy?

(We are watching football.)

MOM. Who is that GUY? With his arm up? Who is that white guy?

(I blink quickly but do not move.)

That guy is the quarterback. He throws the ball to the other guys.


Well, who’s that black guy?

The what?

That BLACK GUY! What does he do?

(I physically flinch. I am not ready for this conversation. I reach in my mind for conversations from my childhood to guide me, but there are none. NONE. Sixteen years of military dependency, and most of that isolated on 2 small bases overseas, offered plenty of opportunities to discuss country politics, rank, and branch loyalty. But color? Everyone was the same color: green camo. It’s not an excuse, but it explains why I am unprepared on a Saturday afternoon to talk about this particular brand of diversity with a four-year-old. I am simply not ready.) 

He’s the receiver. He catches the ball the quarterback throws.

(I watch him as he tilts his head.)

I don’t like him. He’s weird.

(And here, my heart sinks.)

Gideon! Bud. He’s not weird. God painted us all kinds of different shades of colors in this world. Sometimes it tells us what country our family is from. Sometimes it tells us we’ve been in the sun too long. But someone’s skin never tells us anything about whether they’re weird or smart or scary or nice or anything like that. Do you understand?

It’s his SKIN?!


Why God did paint him like a zebra? That’s WEIRD.

(I look at the game again. I walk up to the tv and point.)

Are you talking about this guy? In the stripes? 


That’s the referee, Gideon. He makes sure everyone is following the rules.

Yeah. He’s weird. I would NOT want to be him.

Well, I think a lot of people agree with you, Bud.

And I don’t want to be the white guy, either. 

Who do you want to be?

I want to be the blue guy. 

(I look at the game again.)

You want to be on the team that wears the blue pants.

Yeah. They’re awesome.

Not the white pants… the “white guys.”


YOU’RE awesome.

I know. And I am FAST, Mom. So fast.

There will be more conversations, I know… about weight and race and railroad tracks and religion and faith and tattoos and all those millions of feelings (learned or innate or bestowed) we must individually filter and hold up to the Light throughout a lifetime in the broken world. There will be so many more conversations. 

Please, Lord, remind me to ask twice as many questions as may be obvious, to listen more than talk, and to be thankful for the dialogue. And, please- when it is time… every time… give me words that build and expand, not diminish. Give me actions that care and affirm my words. And give me a heart that is not afraid.

Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it. • Charles R. Swindoll

don’t ask, don’t tell

I have spent most of my life afraid of one specific thing.

Well, to be honest, I have spent my life afraid of LOTS of things. I was a nervous child. I am a nervous adult. This will come a surprise to most of you who have met me or seen me parent… my children climbing on tractors and riding bikes without helmets, me majoring in ropes courses and singing in front of large crowds. Calm and collected in the spotlight, but a wreck in the wings.

The anxiety is more of an internal monologue that ranges from self-esteem to haunted houses to small talk. There are a few regular heavy-hitters:

wrongful imprisonment in a foreign country

getting lost in a jungle with large snakes

having all four tires explode while I am driving

I’m not here to debate the validity of any of these. Believe me, I’ve been through it all before. My brain is stronger than my will, and the Anxious creeps regularly.

There was great relief when I finally confessed this tendency of mine to exaggerate and perseverate on imaginary issues to Curt.

“Like what,” he asked?

Like, for instance, when you’re late coming home I assume you’re in a ditch.

“I’ll text you before I leave.”


Like, I’m going to be singing in church and I’ll forget all the words.

“We’ll make you a cheat sheet to put on the floor.”


Someone is going to take my kids.

“They will bring them back as soon as Gideon gets hungry.”


But then, there is the real one… the one I always have in the back of my mind. Being the daughter of a mechanic and married to an engineer should have cured me of all traffic and car related fears, but still, every time,

I am still afraid all the wheels are going to explode off my car.  I’m afraid something will go ridiculously wrong, all the tires will roll off, and we will explode into a fireball down the highway.

And I told him- Curt- I told him. I felt like an idiot, but we were doing the whole full-disclosure thing and it was going really well and I figured I might as well go all the way. Heal me, husband. Show me logic.

“Oh, Kate,” he said. “You don’t need to be afraid of that.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s dumb. But I always, just for a second, panic and try to figure out what I would do if that happened.”

“Right, but I mean you actually don’t need to be afraid of that.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Well, if all your wheels came off at one time, the car would just stop. Bam. Right there. Game over. Having all four wheels come off would actually be perfectly fine. What’s more likely and far more dangerous is for someone to forget to tighten a lug nut and have one or even two wheels fly off. THAT happens all the time and causes all kinds of ridiculous wrecks.”


And this is why I am not a full-time Champion of Logic.

It’s also why Curt is #2 in my phone.

Sometimes logic is not the first thing you need, people. 

the baby

Rylie Joy (7) taught me to be a mom. She redefined normal and changed all the filters on our life. Gideon James (4) is the toughest, sweetest, most ridiculous child I’ve ever met. His name is generally spoken and spelled in ALL CAPS for a reason.

Then there’s Abby.

She is her own whole book of awesome.

Abby June Mulder is our third and final (biological– hey, who knows?) child. She turned 2 just before Christmas.

summer 2014

Shortly after the New Year, Abby decided she wanted to potty train. Within a couple days, we were home-free and she wore a diaper only while sleeping. There weren’t even undies small enough to fit her tiny little chubby buns. But, she was all about it. She would stop herself while playing and run to the bathroom. She would tell the nursery worker at church she needed a potty break. She would hold it all through grocery shopping and errands. Curt and I high-fived each other- we were almost finished with diapers.

Three months later, Abby June Mulder (as she calls herself) decided she’d had enough of the responsible life. It started slowly… a little leak whilst playing outside. Then a full-blown accident right in the living room. THEN a test for the babysitter who put her diaper on wrong. And then, THEN y’all… the poo. She started skipping the potty and “painting” instead.

I heard her downstairs, absolutely not taking a nap. I gave her 20 minutes and then went down to have a little chat. The smell met me before I even got through the door. Abby June Mulder was hiding behind the curtain in her window seat, completely naked and covered in gross.

“I don’t want a spankin’,” she said quietly.

“I’m not going to give you a spankin’,” I replied evenly. “You’re going to help me clean this up and then I’m going to give you a shower.”

“I am sorry,” she said, without a hint of remorse.

When I returned with a bucket and some water, I flipped on the light and surveyed the damage. She had painted the window. The window seat. The curtains. The wooden treasure chest. The door knob. And everything I hadn’t noticed the first time I walked in. Everything. Lawd, everything.

ABBY JUNE! I yelled. “What in the world, Child? This is the third time you’ve done this! You totally know how to go to the potty. I know you do. This is YUCKY and this is NOT FUN. I absolutely do not understand what is going on with you.”

She lifted her chin and squinted her beautiful, hazel eyes.

“I did say sorry.” 

And that, friends, in a nutshell is our Abby June. Twenty-five pounds of the most brilliant, dramatic, street-smart, guarded, gorgeous life to ever grace this farm. She is everything I would ever want my child to be- at 18 or older: confident, independent, daring, hilarious, tough as nails, and a really decent singer.

Lord, please help me be smarter than my children for just a little bit longer.

And Lord, I pray for the hearts and egos of the boys who will love- and likely lose- Abby in the future. She is in a league of her own.

Also? Thanks.

my little man


Mom. Jesus did walk on the water.

Yeah, buddy… he did.

Mom. Jesus did take his friends fishing in the boat.

Yeah, buddy. What else?

Jesus did go fishing and the waves did get big big big. The storm came and the boat did tip tip tip tip tip over. And Jesus did tell the storm to BE QUIET!!! And Jesus did get out of the boat and walk home.



Your friend is here, and he is sad. He will not get off the couch. He will not look at us. He will not talk. You spend fifteen minutes on your knees next to him on the couch, looking up into his face. “You sad? You want mines trucks?” And then you gave him all of them. “You sad? You want a snack?” And then you piled chips, grapes, and a can of tomatoes in front of him. “You sad? You need a hug?” And then you leaned in and patted his back. When nothing seemed to work, you turned to the coffee table covered in train tracks and matchbox cars. “You watch.” You said. “I stay here until you feel better. You feel better, you come play wif me.”

And here I thought I’d need to teach you how to be a good friend.

Turns out, I have a few things to learn from you.


You are exhausted and you will not nap. It is quiet in the house and I get you to lie down with me on the bed while I read and Abby naps downstairs. You talk to yourself for a bit and then I feel you put your hand on my shoulder, as if you need to tell me something but don’t want to interrupt me. I look up from my book and you… you are asleep, your hand a tether to me.

And we do not move for two hours.



Mom, Jesus did go away?

He did, bud.

Where Jesus lives?

RIght now he lives in heaven with God.

Him coming back?

Yep. He is coming back.

Him need to get his boat back from his friends?

Yes. Yes, exactly.


Dear Gideon,

You are my favorite boy.

I love being your mom.

Love, Me



Where are the black and whites?

When I woke up this morning, it was way past “we’re gonna make it to the bus on time” and yet before the sun had graced the fields. 

When I woke up the second time, Gus Man was breathing in my face asking me if it was snowing outside. It was not. Soon, I said. But not yet. 

When it snows, there be penguins in our yard, Mamma?

*head tilt*


Yah. Penguins. Outside. They comin’?

I don’t think so, Buddy, but I’ll see what I can do.

The Late Train to school is leaving now. Ry’s been dressed an ready for an hour, sitting on the front porch. We are desperately out of tissue and toilet paper thanks to the Never Ending Head Cold Sickness that has plagued this family for 2 weeks. We will go to the grocery store and I will try not to end up on the news.

Y’all pray.

Tomorrow we leave for a Sebeck family wedding in St. Louis and I will try not to end up on the news.

And then next week? 

Next week, we will have toilet paper and tissues and dog food and bread and I will tell you some stories. 

Someone start working on the penguin thing for me, would ya? I’m in way over my head with this kid.

Home Sweet Home

I have been gone for 4 days and 4 nights. Hardly life-altering for most, it was a major milestone for a hermit who hates to leave the quiet of the back roads.

I would do it alone. Curt took off work and stayed with all three kiddos while I flew to South Carolina for a women’s writing conference with 452 other word-slingers looking for inspiration, practicals, and room service.

And we’ll talk about it- you bet. I’m still sorting through the floodwaters of inspiration and information.

For today, let’s pick it up as my plane is landing again in Grand Rapids. Let’s watch as the south gives way to a Michigan fall… the land below a perfect puzzle of reds and yellows and browns. Let’s not be surprised when Kate gets a little mean with a cab valet who requires me to sign in for a ride like I’m waiting in line at Chili’s. Let’s imagine me driving home alone a little under the speed limit, savoring the last moments of quiet.

As I hit my dirt road, my speed increases. I can’t wait to be home. I imagine the kids lined up in the front window or maybe sitting on the front porch, waiting for Mamma. I pull in slowly and pop the trunk.

As if on cue, the kids scream from the back pasture and I hear running through dry leaves as I pull my bag from the trunk. Rylie arrives first… she is the fastest and the one I expect to be the most emotional. We’ve never been apart this long.

She’s so big, I think as she makes it to the driveway. She is so big. She’s suddenly shy and will not look at me. She wanders over to the car and leans against the door. Her hands are in her pockets and I know she is fighting to hold herself back.

I wait while she finds her voice.

It’s a familiar dance for us.

Mom? she asks.

Yeah, Babe?

I finally see her eyes. Those big, brown, Disney eyes.

Mom, what’s for dinner?

And I am home.

matters of the heart

So I said, “Husband! I had a dream last night and we were totally making out.”

And he says, “I had a dream that I was diagnosed with this crazy heart disease and my blood pressure kept decreasing and the doctors said it would keep going until I was 50 and then I would die.”

And I said, “This is so totally not how I pictured this conversation going.”

Being married is awesome.

postcards from Texas • Monday


About 45 minutes into our 19 hours from Michigan to Texas, Abby announced, “ALL DONE.”

She was quickly appeased with a new movie (thank you, Nemo).

About 47 minutes into our 19 hours fro Michigan to Texas, my husband started a conversation about the family budget and I unbuckled my seatbelt and began to open my passenger door.

Maybe that’s extreme.

But I was in a funk for the next hour, to be sure.

Which is why a conversation shift to political nuances and voting priorities was a little better but not making my life awesome. In fact, I think there were hives.

When I suggested we talk about something else, that I needed to be rescued from the funk, that maybe we tackle the SEX topic (to be funny… I was trying to be funny) and he replied,

“What do you want to know about it?”

Well, that’s when I put my earplugs in and started listening to my book.

It was a great book (Someday Someday Maybe). I highly recommend it, for pleasure or conversation avoidance. Either way.

Rylie is 6, almost 7. Please stop growing.

  1. Curt and I are still married.
  2. I still like him very, very much.
  3. I hate talking about hard, serious, possibly conflicting stuff. In confined spaces. With a boy who’s both smarter than me and more logical and more… calm.

Gideon has been running a 100+ fever since we loaded the car on Friday. Rylie is overwhelmed but so very happy, so grown up, so funny here. Abby and my dad danced yesterday and she smiled- laughed, even.

We’re in a good place.

It’s good to be home.


buckle up

We are headed south to the Mother Country for the next week.

Texas, I’m comin’ for ya.


Someone please get me this shirt for Christmas.

I’m a medium. 

The last time we were in a vehicle for 20 hours (which, ridiculously, was only two months ago) each way, Curt and I were deciding what we’d like to do over the next few days of “vacation” (P.S. “vacation” is a dumb word when you have 3 young kids… it’s a TRIP, not a vacation). He asked what I wanted MOST and I answered, “Read. By myself. Read by myself alone.”

It was quiet for a moment until he looked over at me and said,

“You are so unpredictably boring!”

Coming from a man who calculates odometer accuracy for a good time, this stung a little.

On the other hand, I certainly never claimed to be the poster child for excitement. I used to be cool. I climbed big rocks with little ropes and I sang on big stages and I travelled the world with a backpack. Now I’m completely content to catch a re-run of M*A*S*H on tv and make homemade popcorn. I know things have changed.

On the OTHER HAND (Fiddler reference there),  I took a naked child to a doctor’s appointment AND recess duty because she puked all over the van, her clothes, and her carseat on the way INTO town, I watched Lazarus the Calf come back from the dead, and I taught Gus Man how to crack eggs for pancakes.

I’m all about adventure, People.

It just looks different now.

All that to say, I’m a little nervous for our upcoming travel conversations. Any question prompts for me? Can you make me more interesting?

And because my life always come back to books, I need to ask you:

Have you read True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan?



It is absolutely one of the top 10 books of my life. I would describe it as a modern-day Charlie Brown story: good kid with bad luck changes the/her/my world. It’s Young Adult fiction, but do not assume that means it’s simple or beneath you or childish. It’s amazing and funny and heartbreaking. She has broken characters that are stunning and true. The language and expression took me by complete surprise… I could see every thought and understand every emotion. Hope and Loyalty and Faith all play heavy here… you can see why I am a fan. Do yourself a favor and read it whilst I’m on the road, ok?

I have Someday Someday Maybe and The Eyre Affair on audiobook for my graveyard driving shifts. We have a tractor show on the calendar, a date night in San Antonio, and a cow show in Ft. Worth. There are also a handful of college roommate hugs and one ‘meet me at an exit on the highway as we pass through town’ in the works.

I cannot wait.

I’ll yell when we get there.

Please pray.