Happy Skeaster

For as many years as I have been alive, Easter Sunday has meant one thing: the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Also, jelly beans.

As a child, I spent Easter in shiny-new-white-patent-leather-shoes (or, in lean times, the scuffed-old-toe-pinching ones from the year before). Sometimes we wore hats. Usually, Dad got Mom an orchid corsage. There would be flowers and sunshine (or in Northeastern Ohio, snow on occasion) and the promise of a world reborn, sanctified, and made new.

As an adult and a mom, I have celebrated this holiday with familiar practices. We dress up the kids. We go to church. We eat a home cooked meal. We thank the Lord.

This year, however, we are not doing any of that. At least, not in any of our usual ways.

Despite our efforts to carve out space for service, reflection, and prayer, this year, Lent in our household seemed more raucous than ever. Softball, basketball, and soccer stormed in, along with our middle kiddo’s first foray into community theater. While usually I pride myself on being an underscheduler, this spring found us tromping off to practices, games, rehearsals, and shows nearly every day of the blessed week. Additionally, my husband took a new job that necessitated multiple trips overseas. As happy as I am for my kids’ newfound athleticism and musicality, and for my husband’s promotion, I found myself crawling rather than skipping toward this Spring Break, which once again coincides with Easter.

So when my husband suggested a brief mountain getaway, I agreed instantly. I could picture it – a cabin, some quiet, crisp air, a hike, my book. And sleep. These days, I wake up still dreaming of sleep.

Of course, when it came time to reserve the lodge, Easter weekend was the only time his schedule could accommodate. Which happened to be the only time childcare was virtually unattainable. So instead of the mountain getaway I envisioned, I am here in a tiny cabin, freezing in the Sierra Nevadas, and accompanied by my three children.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and the nearest church is thirty-five miles back down the mountain. Totally do-able. But we are not going.

Instead, we found an early-bird deal for a family ski pass further up the hill. And though it feels borderline sacrilegious, we will be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ wearing snowsuits and eating chili.

We did not dye any eggs, pack baskets, or bake our traditional holiday bread. We don’t even have any marshmallow peeps. And you know what? It turns out that all of that is okay. Family rituals are great. I am a big fan of the customs that connect us with those who came before us – the prayers, the fasting, the feasts. But all traditions were born somewhere. In a village, on a mountaintop, at the foot of a cross on a hill.

There are many places where love can be born, many rituals in which rebirth can be celebrated. Holidays can pull families apart or knit them closer together. Today, nobody played any sports. We played games in the car instead. We had a conversation about geological formations on the Interstate, and all five of us went to the grocery store together. Usually I find shopping a chore. This afternoon, it was adorable. Everyone picked one thing they wanted for dinner and another for breakfast. Tonight, we dined on pot stickers, salad, mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter morning with oatmeal, avocado toast, frozen pizza, more Honey Nut Cheerios, and blueberries.

And right now, at this very moment, all five of us are nestled together in this tiny room, in the shadow of a mountain, safe in each other’s arms.

Happy Easter everyone.



Merry January

In the middle of cooking dinner tonight, the whole family went outside to play soccer and softball in the twilight. When we finished, Lizzie asked if we could say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. We all gathered on the side porch and put our hands on our hearts. We pledged.

Back inside, the girls helped get dinner on the table, where Henry promptly requested that we sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for grace. We agreed. Lizzie wanted us to do it with hand motions from last year’s holiday concert. We said, “sure thing.” Katie offered to accompany us on the piano. (She does not know this song.) We sang and danced “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the tune of “Jingle Bells” on a Monday afternoon in January.

We are either doing something right or a lot of things wrong.

Probably both.

But I embrace their crazy. Because children are exuberant and wonderful, nonsensical and merry. They fill us with honor and magic, sport and delight. If only we will listen. If only we let them.

On evenings like this, I pledge my allegiance to my kids.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

Too Many Children

I hate school mornings.

I loathe the insistence of my alarm clock.

I dislike my kids’ complaints, moans, and grumbles as I compel them out of bed.

I hate the swift nutrionlessness of weekday breakfasts – the bagels, the granola bars, the hurried toast.

I detest packing their lunches, slicing vegetables they will not eat, peanut-buttering bread that hopefully they will. Knife work in the morning is good for nobody.

I abhor the drop-off line in front of school. Too many parents driving too quickly. Too many kids dashing in between.


But most of all, I hate the thought that hate would ever be the prevailing emotion that my children feel as I send them away.

Because there were children in Oregon who never came home from school today. They were older kids, but they were somebody’s children. And they will never come home again.


My challenge for tomorrow: find a way for love to break through the hate.

I think maybe that is everyone’s challenge.

Go hug your kids, folks. Hug your parents, neighbors, teachers, and friends.

May we weave a blanket around our communities so this never happens again.



Art Stand

My middle kiddo, Lizzie, has had some trouble transitioning back to school.

“I miss summer,” she says to me almost daily.

My responses have varied, but have mostly been along the lines of, “I miss it, too, sweetheart. What can we do to make today feel more like summertime?”

We have gone for ice cream cones and drawn with chalk. We have invited friends over to run through the sprinkler. But yesterday, she wanted to have a sale. Not lemonade this time. Or brownies.

“Mom, I want to have an Art Stand,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied, and I followed her outside with a roll of tape. I was not entirely sure what she had in mind. But I watched as this six-year-old, my aspiring artist and budding entrepreneur, taped up her best pictures along our ramshackle front fence.

And then we waited.

“Art Sale!” she yelled as cars whizzed by. “Art Sale!” she called to the couple walking their dogs and the teenager delivering pizza. “Art Sale!” she chirped to the neighbor dragging a trashcan down the driveway. But nobody stopped.

We spent thirty minutes hawking pictures to the air, and I watched my daughter’s hope deflate like a balloon.

Her older sister noticed, too, and Katie came outside to purchase a painting made entirely of polka dots. “It’s confetti,” Lizzie told her.

“It’s awesome,” said Katie. “I will hang it in my room.”

Dad came home from the office in time to buy a colored pencil sketch of an alien spaceship. I grabbed my purse from the car and bought a magic marker rainbow.


But in the mean time, everyone in the real world drove right by. And when Lizzie had had enough, she went in the house to cry. Because ‘family doesn’t count as customers.’ Because it wasn’t summer anymore. And because nobody stopped at her Art Stand.

I do not know the personal stories of the fifty or so people who sailed blithely by our house on Friday evening. Maybe one was a doctor en route to emergency surgery. Perhaps someone else had a woman about to give birth in the car. Still another might have needed to go straight home after a brutal week at work. I can think of a hundred reasons not to stop at a child’s roadside stand.

When I look at friends’ Facebook pages and Pinterest Boards, I am a sucker for the inspirational messages, PowerPoint slides and e-cards with sayings like, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” Or, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I love the words we use to inspire one another to be good people. But yesterday, I felt like waving a motivational sign of my own, with slightly coarser language. “Don’t be a d-bag. Stop and buy my kid’s drawing of a horse.” What good are words if they don’t inspire us to do something better?


I went in the house to comfort Lizzie, and when she finally stopped crying, she agreed to come outside and clean up her sale. “We can try again another day,” I told her. She nodded and pulled the first picture down from the fence.

“Excuse me,” a voice said, and we both turned around. “Are you the artist?” Lizzie smiled shyly and nodded her head. “I was walking by when I saw these beautiful pictures. I just phoned my daughter and her friend. They love art. I know they would like to come to your sale, too.” This stranger perused my kid’s sketches, and moments later, two girls came around the corner carrying a piggy bank.

They inquired about the inspiration for the drawings, applauded Lizzie’s sense of color, line, and dexterity with crayons. They treated her like an artist. And between the three of them, they bought five pictures. Their names were Heather, Sophie, and Hannah, and in less than ten minutes, they restored my faith in all of humanity.


Today, Lizzie was talking about renting a booth at the upcoming town carnival, so she can sell pictures, “to raise money for kitty cats who don’t have any food.” I don’t know if she and I will be feeding these stray cats or merely donating the money to a shelter, but I find myself excited by the possibility of shouting, “Art Sale!” to carnival-goers and passers by. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, please stop over.

Of course, you don’t have to stop at our sale. It could be any makeshift stand by the side of the road. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want lemonade, a Rice Krispies treat, or your car washed. Stop anyway. Be the change you want to see in this world. Make a kid’s day.