Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Table Set for 5

Last year was tough--the first Christmas without my mom and all.

This year in the madness of life, somehow mourning had taken a back seat.

Until Christmas Eve at about 3:00 when I set the table ... for 5.  No need for that extra seat at the end.  And something inside hurt a little.  It made me think of those families who are dealing with this same sort of joy/grief I am.

It made me think of my friend M whose baby G went from womb to Jesus.

It made me think of families in CT who have gifts their children won't open this year.

It made me think of service men and women who won't be home, at least not this year.

Though grief is bitter, I do appreciate the ways it hits me.  The way it makes me put sweet, precious life into perspective. The way it makes me reach out to others who grieve, if only through prayers.

If you set your table with one less plate this year, if you were so wrapped up in grief you couldn't celebrate, if you struggled all day trying to be happy while a part of your heart was breaking, I understand.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Heart at Christmas {re-post}

I love Christmas.

And I struggle with Christmas.


I love the trees, the music, the lights, the merry making.

I hate the "Christmas v. Xmas v. Happy Holidays" debate.  I hate the rush to buy over-priced gadgets for our already spoiled children.  I hate how we ignore those with less because we "need" more (or newer).

I hate trying to find the balance between what I think Christmas is about--the birth of Christ--and what Christmas really seems to be about--presents!

Sometimes I look around me and feel like we all missed the point of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  I mean, it's cute to say that Christmas would feel like Christmas without the presents and music and trees--but would it?

Think about that, are you willing to give up one Christmas holiday to prove that you can be joyous and merry without the tree and shopping and wrapping and food?

I'd wager to say most of us would say no.

I'm certain we are so embedded into the commercial Christmas mentality that we can't imagine the holiday any. other. way.

We wouldn't dare try it because when it comes down to it, Christmas doesn't mean something more.  Christmas really does come from a store.

I read on The Land of La La that the picture above will be a HUGE, EXPENSIVE billboard in New York this season.  It makes me mad.  It makes me sad.  But the truth is that from the outside, Christians celebrate Christmas the exact same way Atheists do.  We celebrate ourselves, our status, our materials ... we forget Jesus (except for during the Christmas Eve service because, by golly, we can't let a Christmas Day service get in the way of all the important present unwrapping ...).

How do we convince non-Christians that our God is big and mighty and that this season is about Him when WE can't even convince ourselves of the same thing?  How do we convince them that HE is enough we WE don't believe HE is enough?

For years I've struggled with Christmas--not because I'm a Scrooge but because I'm a Grinch.  I need someone to show me that Christmas doesn't come from a store.  That it's about giving and helping and heart and Jesus.

Now I know Christians will flock to church during the holiday and they'll help in food kitchens and give to charities ... but what about in January?  What about in July?  Is there a Christian out there who is willing to skip commercial Christmas to encourage a socially just world?  Will we give up a gift to help the man on the side of the road?

When we had M.E. Matt and I decided we would, minimally, do things different.  We tell her all about Santa--about how he is a FICTITIOUS man who lives at the North Pole but how real gifts come from generous hearts (Yes, that's right.  She believes in Jesus not Santa. *gasp*). We sing about Frosty but more often we sing to Jesus. 

But I always wish I could do more.

And this is where I'm heading ...

What I think about Christmas is that if Christians want people to think the holiday is more about Jesus than gifts, than it is time for Christians to make Christmas more about Jesus than gifts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Today She is 7


My little December birthday girl.

Born in a blizzard while breaking every rule in my birth plan.

I am delighted to be your mother.

To love you as you grow.

To discipline you when you disobey.

To lovingly correct you.

To listen to Taylor Swift songs until my ears bleed.

To read you Junie B Jones and The Magic Treehouse Series.

To hold your hand.

To feel your hugs.

To snuggle you in the mornings.

You are a source of joy in my life.

Today, I celebrate you as you turn 7.

Today, I honor your character and personality.

Today, I ponder you in my heart.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why We Don't Do Santa

A few days ago I commented on Facebook that I didn't tell my kids the "truth" about Santa because I never told them the "untruth" about him to begin with.  Some charming and totally nonjudgmental (oops, sorry for the sarcasm) attacked me of course for being a stick in the mud who needed to relax.  I reminded her that I have no issue with people who want to do Santa.  WE just don't want to.  That doesn't make me uptight.  It means we celebrate differently.  End of story.

Anyhow, I'm not the worst mom ever and I'm not "ruining" my kids' childhood fun.

I decided to take today to explain why we don't do Santa.

First let me say that I think this is a heart issue, not a salvation issue.  I don't think anyone's going to hell in a handbag for celebrating Christmas with Santa or without him.  Santa is not right for my family; my sister's family does Santa--we parent differently in many areas and this is one of them.  On issues such as these, it is okay to disagree agreeably.

Next, you must know I have a Santa collection.  I don't have a ton of them but it started with this ironing board Santa my mom and I made in '94 and has grown. If you came to my house you will see Santa Claus.  However, you won't see us celebrating him, singing about him, or telling stories about him.

Here's why.

This poster has been floating around for a while and it pretty much sums up my point of view:
Photo Source
In case you can't read it, the poster says: Dear Children: One day you will learn everything about Santa Claus.  On that day remember everything the adults have told you about Jesus.

Whether we like it or not, many people think Jesus is a lie just like Santa is a lie.  A nice lie.  A fun lie.  A lie of hope.  But still a lie.

My problem is that I don't believe that Jesus is a lie.

And I don't want my children to think Jesus is a lie, either.

If you are critical like I am, you've probably noticed that Santa has some pretty god-like characteristics.  He's  all-knowing; he is everywhere; he has the power to put kids on the nice or naughty list.

My problem with this some of the hidden agenda here.

  • Kids get what they want if they are good (enter discussion on saved by faith v. saved by works here). 
  • Kids "obey" because they are afraid of "not" getting what they want as opposed to obeying for the sake of learning, with their hearts and character, what is right.
  • Kids learn that seeing is believing.  They can believe in Santa because he is everywhere--at the mall, at the YMCA, in Church ...
Is it any wonder that when kids learn the truth about Santa--that he's not real, that he's not omnipotent, that he's not omniscient, they begin to question these truths about Jesus as well?

I never want my children to have this conversation:
One boy asks the other, "What do you think of all this Jesus Christ stuff"? And the other boy replies, "It all sounds like another Santa Claus to me – probably just another lie."
I know some people say that Santa is needed for good imagination and that it's just fantasy.

That may be a fine point but the problem is that kids don't KNOW that Santa is fantasy and so they idolize and love and worship something that is. a. lie.

Furthermore, my daughter has a fabulous imagination.  She has imaginary wolf and fox friends.  She drives laundry basket cars and goes shark diving in the bathtub.  And she's done it all without Santa.  My son is equally imaginative.  We are regularly getting bad guys and building architectural miracles.

I don't need Santa to make Christmas fun and festive.  I don't need Santa to help me raise/discipline my children.  I don't need Santa to increase my children's imagination.

I need Jesus.

He is who I celebrate at Christmas.  He is the one who guides me on my parenting roller-coaster.  He is the giver of ideas.

That's why I personally feel like it is wrong for Matt and I to stress Santa Claus at the expense of talking about Jesus during Christmas. If we don’t make it a point at Christmas to tell our children about the significant birth of Christ, we are missing an incredible opportunity.  If we lie to get our children to believe in Santa while telling them about Jesus, then we set ourselves up for having to explain later on why we lied about Santa while hoping they'll trust us when we say Jesus is real.

What I think about Santa is that involving him in your holiday celebrations is your decision.  My decision is to ignore the charming little story in lieu of what I believe is the truth: JESUS.

I'm not up tight.  I'm not ruining my kids' lives.  I'm parenting in a real and purposeful way.  I applaud your decisions you make for your family.  Please extend me the same grace.

(If you are interested in a lengthy, biblical analysis of Santa in culture, click here)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Family Night: Grinch Feast

I'm the mom who saved dinner with breakfast.

Notice how I haven't been blogging?  I've really just struggled to find balance in life right now so blogging and exercise have taken a back seat to sleep and dissertation writing.  It's a real shame but it is just a season.

The one priority that WON'T slip is time I spend with my family.  BUT, some nights I do forget my family likes to eat.  I blame the dissertation.

Last Wednesday night this was the case.  It was 5:00 and my children were getting crusty and I thought, "oh ya, they might want to eat."

My fridge was mostly condiments so, I had to think quick.

We have a standing rule at our house. No Jim Carey "Grinch Who Stole Christmas" until after Halloween.  And here it was, after Thanksgiving and we hadn't watched the movie.

So I got an idea.  The mom got a wonderful, delightful idea.

I quick drew a hot bath for the kids (which I colored green and called a "Grinch Bath").  I helped them in (I almost said tossed but I don't toss children).  Yes, my kids can be in the bath alone.  Thank you, Jesus.

While the kids were in the tub I sent my husband this little message:

Happy WHOlidays!
You are invited to a night of Grinch fun,
with Who-Hash and Who-Pudding,Who-Punch and Who-Fun.
No planning is needed, RSVP not my style.Just show up for food and a showAnd enjoy your family a while.

And then I got to work.

In the kitchen I pulled out some frozen (gasp!) potatoes O'Brien and eggs and I whipped up Who-Hash (need a recipe?  Click here).

Then I made some Who-Pudding in the microwave. (click that link for the recipe)

And I made some green Grinch griddle cakes (secret code for I dyed pancakes green).
Well, they WERE greener than they look.  Remember, I'm not a photo blogger.  I'm a busy mom with an iPhone.

When the hubs got home we sat down and enjoyed our green Grinch feast (made entirely out of pantry/fridge staples in under 20 minutes).  Then we went to our TV room, snuggled on the couch, and started our favorite silly Christmas movie.  

About half-way through I made dessert (because I considered the pudding a part of dinner.  As far as I'm concerned when you have breakfast for dinner pudding counts as yogurt).  

For dessert we had Who-Punch.  Matt had purchased green apple soda to which I added vanilla ice cream.  It was super good.  You could dye clear soda green or just make green milkshakes.  Or skip this step altogether and call the pudding dessert.  But then we can't be friends.

Our Green Grinch Punch.  MMMMMmmmmmm

Why am I blogging this?

Two reasons:
1.  Because I miss blogging.
2.  So you know that I'm still hanging with my family and that YOU can too.  Tonight.  In 20 minutes.  

Go, make breakfast for dinner and a memory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thing for Which to be Thankful

I love November on Facebook (once the election was over).

People get to counting those things for which they are thankful.

Health.  Family.  Friends.  These all make the cut.

Sometimes I wonder what Facebook would be like, what life would be like, if we counted things we are thankful for more often than every November.  What if we did it daily?  What if there were no repeats?

What would you be thankful for once you were out of the obvious options like family, faith, and freedom?

Could you be thankful for sunset (even if it is earlier than you like)?

What about stretchy skinny jeans (Can I get an amen as the day o'eating nears?)?

Could you be thankful for the bad junk in your life?

Really, can you look at the ugliest part of your life--the hardest part--the part that causes you the most pain and say you are thankful for it?

It's no surprise I've had a rough year and a half (mainly because I blog about it).  These days have been darker than I've ever known.

Amazingly, in these dark days, I see how much I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for shame because it causes me to find my identity in Christ--not in others.

I am thankful for memories that cause heartbreak and tears shed over a woman who, once again, won't be at the table this year.

I am thankful for a head cold because it makes me rest.

I am thankful when I lose my temper with children because it provides an opportunity to humble myself and ask for forgiveness.

I am thankful for days so busy I'm not sure if I am coming or going because in this overwhelmed state, I remember I need Christ everyday.

I am thankful for the 21st of every month, not because it's the monthly anniversary of my mom's death, but because it is a monthly reminder of how I miss her because she was so amazing.

It is an utterly profound act of grace that these bad days, these dark times, these ugly characteristics ... these are something for which to be thankful.

Best wishes for a gratitude filled Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Celebrating Crow's Feet

When people age, we presume it is with sadness or trepidation.  I mean, celebrities get older with Botox and Mercedes and pre-midlife crises and then midlife crises and then just crises.  Being young forever has its consequences.

I've always loved getting older and not just because on the outside (at this moment), I appear to be defying my age.

I will probably always wear make up and fuss about my hair (and dye my hair) but I will not age with a grudge.

Evidence of "crow's feet" on my eyes and small wrinkles around my mouth demonstrate how much I have laughed.

Small wrinkles on my forehead attest to the thought and concern I've given complex issues in this life.

My aging hands folded in prayer or intertwined with a loved one are a badge of love.

Laughter, love, and consideration of others--is this not the mark of a life well lived?

Wisdom does not always come with age but there is no reason joy can't.

So to my sister, Randean Beilgard Klindt, I wish a very happy birthday. Celebrating the life of your best friend is a wonderful thing!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Date Night {IN}: Words with Lovers

What's this? A blog post?  That's odd.  Obviously some one has hijacked WITHMIM?

Don't call the blogthorities.  It's Reagan.  I'm in New Orleans missing my family like crazy so I thought I'd share our last home date as a way of making my thinking of my husband (instead of preparing) legitimately legitimate.

Confession:  I love Words with Friends.  Matt plays with me because he loves me.  It's all pretty sweet.

But I decided to spice it up a little bit.  Ergo, Words with Lovers.

Um, if you want really classy pictures, you should probably check Pinterest because these are coming at you from my iPhone, and were taken at night.  Worst case photo scenario but I've never been a photography blog so ...

The pictures are bad but the idea is fun (and easy.  Did I mention I put this together in under 10 minutes?).

So here's what you need:

  • Cream colored sticky notes
  • Marker
  • Pen
  • Scrabble game
  • Scrabble letter values

Here's what you do:

  • Write out the letters for WORDS WITH LOVERS and put the sign where your significant other can find it (for me, that meant our crazy-dirty garage door).  See the first picture.
  • Write a letter on each sticky A-Z with corresponding values.  See the second picture.
  • On the back, write an activity you can do TONIGHT that goes with the value.  See the third picture.

 Here are some ideas:
A--Ask and answer one question.
B--5 minute Back rub
C--Cut the rug to "your" song.
X--Xperiment by kissing in a new way (um, spiderman kiss?)
W--Ask and answer a "would you rather" question.

Now, here's how we played.  I hid the notes and sent my husband on a scavenger hunt.  I hid them REALLY hard.  He didn't find some of the letters until the next day but that's okay.

Anyways, we broke out the Scrabble Board and just played regular Scrabble.  Whenever someone got more than 10 points or got a Double/Triple word, we did one of the post-it activities.

Remember a few lines up I said something about Spice?

Yeah well that's because activity S was STRIP SCRABBLE.  (Dad, if you are reading this post, please stop here.  Thanks).

Strip Scrabble is EASY PEASY (and if your spouse doesn't like games, this might be an option).

Set up your game as normal.  Whenever someone lays down less than 10 points, he or she must strip.  Whenever someone gets a double word or triple letter, the opponent strips 1 article of clothing. Whenever someone gets a double or triple word, the opponent must 2-3 pieces of clothing.  That's it.  Best part, it's kind of a win win even if you lose :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012


It has been more than a week since I last found I could sit down and just type--for no reason--into a blog post.  It breaks my heart a little bit to see the blog I love shriveling up but life gives us seasons.

I have had seasons of loneliness followed by seasons of friendship.

I have had seasons of sorrow followed by seasons of joy.

I have had seasons of dancing followed by seasons of stillness.

The funny thing about a season is I tend to either grumble through it or take it for granted.  Neither are great responses.  Both responses lack perspective and gratitude.

I am in a season of "how in the hell am I going to get this all done?!?" and I choose to embrace it.  I choose to love this season.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not getting enough sleep.  I am not getting enough time with my children or husband.  I feel perpetually behind.  I feel trapped by statistical formulas and job prospects.

But I am a great believer that God gives us more than we can handle.  Yes, yes, I know the adage "God never gives you more than you can handle" but I think that is statement is a lie.  Actually, I know it is a lie.

God gives us more than we can handle.

Moses had more than he could handle.  Israelites couldn't handle Pharaoh or his armies.  In that den, Daniel had more than he could handle.  Same with David going up against Goliath.

God gives us more than we can handle because when we have more than we can handle, we trust HIM to help us through.

How sweet the overwhelming days when they cause me to lean on God for support.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

While I Was in the Kitchen

Last night I was in the kitchen making dinner.  My kids were in the bathtub.   It was mostly quiet.

Don't worry.  My kids are old enough to be in the bath by themselves.  Plus, from the kitchen I can hear all the goings-on in the bathroom without having to actually be in there.  My floor plan is a real gem, I tell you.

Anyhow.  Kitchen.  Cooking.  Praying.

It comes to me out of nowhere, this question:

Tomorrow, if you are treated by everyone the same way you treated everyone today, what will your day look like?

I rambled through my day in my head.  The friends I saw.  The drivers I passed. The peers I attended class with.

How did I treat others?

Did I offer comfort and compassion?  Was I a good friend?  Did I listen?  Was I fully with them (rather than on my phone)?  Did I offer grace and mercy?

In many places, yes.  In other places, no. Isn't that how it always goes?  I am so thankful that each day starts anew.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this question.

Tomorrow, if you are treated by everyone the same way you treated everyone today, what will your day look like?

Linking up with Shell at Pour Your Heart Out!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Daniel Fast ... Again

Have you ever heard of The Healing Journey?

It is a 29 week (yes--29 WEEK) Bible study geared toward helping us right our relationships with Jesus by finding our wrong beliefs/perceptions and replacing it with truth.

I start week 6 today and it is intense.  So many parts of me are being destroyed and these ugly thoughts I push down into that place where no one ... well, almost no one... looks are being brought to light.  It is scary.  And wonderful.  And ... I cannot explain it.

For example, for one assignment we had to rate these statements.  If you had a low statement, you had to write what you really think and then find scripture to counter wrong beliefs.

For example, I rated low on: Even though I may have done wrong things, it is not a part of my identity.
What I believe is this: I am the sum total of my failures.
The scripture to counter this is: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


Anyhow, a year and a half ago Matt and I did the Daniel Fast to bring our bodies, minds, and souls back into closer connection with Christ.  Fasting has a way of drawing me near.  (You can read about our first fast HERE).

So we are doing the fast.  Again.

We aren't doing it to lose weight or to "try on" veganism for a while.  We are fasting to draw near to the heart of Christ.

Please pray for us during these intense 21 days.  And if you have must-eat vegan recipes (no sweeteners, no leaven), please pass them along!

I will be following my three earlier meal plans but switching up some of the meals.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Blame the Toys

Saturday morning my kids made the biggest mess.

I was so upset I didn't even try to take three minutes to giggle about the nonsense or to take a picture of this epic disaster.

I.   LOST.   IT.

Big time.

There was some yelling, some discipline, and tears because sometimes I handle messes okay but when kids intentionally trash a room (in under 5 minutes), mom comes a little unglued.  Or a lot.

We all--yes, it took all four family members--got the mess cleaned up but inside, I was just a bit devastated that toys (and blankets, and leaf pixie dust, and shoes, and stuffed animals ...) being thrown about the room could prompt such a meltdown ... on my part.

It dawned on me.

I am feeling overwhelmed.  I do not want one more thing on my plate, even if it is something as small as having to clean up a room.

At this point, I want to give away 95% of my children's toys (and my possessions) just so life feels a little more simplified.  I love to care for my husband and children and father.  I love my school and job. I love that God relentlessly gives me more than I can handle so I can lean on Him and not myself.

I just think I would love all of this more if I did not have to clean up a bin full of cheap fast food toys ever again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More is Less

I have heard it said often "Less is More;" therefore, by defintion,  more is less (at least sometimes).

Like the more I do, the less accomplish I feel because I am not spending enough time ______ (fill in the blank with anything parent-guilt related: reading to the kids enough, making quality lunches, going shopping for organic dates, volunteering int he classroom enough, dating my spouse ...).


Like the more ways I reach out to people actually makes me feel less connected. Sure I have 330 Facebook "friends."  When was the last time I actually talked to one of them?  Great I'm on Twitter.  I'm partially connected but who, really who, am I connecting with?


If I just buy more  _____________ (fill in the blank with: food, new shoes, new necklace, trendy patterned jeans, leather jacket, boots, a new video game, scrapbooking kit, a vacation) I'll feel better.  But paying for all that more, means less time with my family (see example #1).

I want a full life.

Full of laughter and joy and hope and friends and memories.

There is a difference between a full life and a filled life.  Right now, life is filled.

Filled with "To Do" lists ranging from blog and clean up the dog run to read for fun and exercise.  All this stuff is a part of life but life should not be all this stuff.

The more I do, the less I feel like I experience this life of joy and freedom I've been given.

The time has come to get rid of the "more" that makes my life less.

I'm starting with Twitter.  I've only been Tweeting for a month and I honestly can't stand it.  It's just one more thing to do.  So, so long Twits!

What "More" is making your life "less" (and what are you gonna do about it)?

 Thanks, Shell!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Christmas. Already.

It happened Friday.

As in, Friday September 28th.

THE phone call.  In general, I prefer to avoid this call until late October.  This year, it happened Friday.

It's a simple question, really.  "What are you doing for Christmas?'

But as I've said before, simply questions rarely have simple answers.

Last year was really hard without my mom BUT one of the benefits was this free pass I got.

It was a "Get out of petty 'You put that photo of me looking all fat in the calendar on purpose' family drama free" card.  Let me tell you, it was a beautiful thing.  Seriously, Monopoly should look into adding one of those to the Community Chest.

The holidays really weren't amazing.  Somehow the rest of my family just extended this grace to not have to be around petty conflict when I was experiencing a hard and traumatic time.

That card expires after one year, apparently.

I'm back to deciding/defending what we'll do for the holidays.

It's the holidays and you are supposed to spend them with family. However, what this September 28th phone call says, though, is how messed up families can be.  We have to negotiate time WAAAAYYYY in advance just to make a couple of days barely tolerable (read: we walk on egg shells or avoid family... isn't that fun?).

What's with the holidays anyway?  It's supposed to be a cheerful time but look at rates of drinking and alcoholism during this season, will you?  It's anything but happy and I'm not just talking about my family.

I know there are no perfect families but I'm not sure why we force the issue at the holidays.  No one lets bygones be bygones.  I hate to say it but if we can't (or won't) solve conflict for 50 weeks, it's probably not going to get solved in 2 weeks just because we've declared this the season of Jesus' birth.  If we don't want to be around each other, it's okay.  Sometimes you have to just let people go NOT because you don't care, but because they don't.  I've come to grips with this reality.

I've had enough miserable holidays with estranged family members.  I've had enough negotiations of where we will be and who we will have to avoid while we are there (or who will avoid us).  This nonsense is ruining it for me.


So, no more phone calls about the holidays, okay?  You do what you'd like to do (and let us know--maybe we'll join you).  The rest of the time we'll be at our house.  You are all invited.  Well, most of you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Rain

Gray clouds lumber overhead--foreshadowing.  

Thunder crashes, a bugle sound calling to battle.

Lightening amazes, showing what is to come.

Wind whispers its secret.

Rain sneaks in.  
                                                              A drop here.
A drop there.

And suddenly the wet earth smell like peace.

Friday, September 21, 2012

VIVA Las Vegas


This year has been hard on our dating life.  In the past we have been great daters.  I love to find dates and do them.  I love to create dates and enjoy.  I love to spend time alone with my husband--not as the father of my kids--but as my best friend and lover.

I don't know if it was the death of my mother, my father's cancer, the incident where I hit rock bottom, or what but dating ... well, it wasn't just put on the back burner it was taken off the stove top entirely.  And put into an old paint bucket.  And left in the backyard ... for the dogs to pee on.

Dating and being dated have not even come close to being on my priority list this year.

And I am feeling the effects.

There is nothing wrong with our marriage.

Life is going well.  We aren't arguing or disconnected.

I just miss the days where we aren't "mom and dad" or "teacher and lawyer."  I miss being 100% who I am with him and knowing he loves that part of me best!

We are going to Las Vegas this weekend for an "us" trip where we can celebrate love and marriage and intimacy (and sleeping in!).  

This doesn't make up for a year of drought in the dating zone but I'm looking forward to it reinvigorating us as a couple (not that we don't love being "mom and dad" but "Matt and RJ" are fun too!).

Thursday, September 20, 2012


My new Real Simple came in this week.

SQUEAL! (with a capital S folks ... this is exciting news!)

On the "Simple List" there is a note that last year (just last year), Americans spent $310 million dollars (yes, MILLION) on Halloween costumes ... for their PETS.

Right below that number is this one: 5 million.  As in 5 MILLION people (men, women, children) who benefit from the sale of Fair Trade items.

We will spend $310 million dollars on pet costumes but won't pay a couple dollars more for that Fair Trade coffee?

I can't help but be suspicious that some child working in sketchy labor conditions made those pet costumes for an unlivable wage.  Does anyone ever think this way?  Or does it not matter because it's just $10 here and there? We don't stop to think who makes that product or how us buying it matters.

I don't want to be preachy but seriously, something is wrong here.

I read those numbers and instantly recalled that part from The Hunger Games where the folks are talking about the rich people in The District and how the District people don't care about anyone other than themselves so long as they have food and entertainment.

And suddenly, I felt very sickish inside.

(On a lighter note, if you keep reading these posts thinking I should a lot like Junie B. Jones, good job.  Reading 25 books in one voice effects you as a writer, apparently.  Or else I just like to keep giving my friend Sarah a reason to roll her eyes).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Think About: Target and Parenting (CSI Edition)

CSI: The Parenting Edition 

The Crime Scene: The check out line at Target on Sunday mid-morning

The Accomplice: One of those horrible kids' carts where the kids sit facing each other and the basket is in front of them.  Obviously designed by someone with an evil sense of humor who had a bad childhood and, at present, has no children.  Seriously, these carts are a tool of Satan but I digress.

The Crime: My 3 year old son was standing on the seat of the cart (this is the kids' seat.  Not in the basket.  He was about 2 feet off the ground) while the cart was NOT moving and we were checking out.  Said criminal was holding onto the handle and watching the scanner/check out process.

The CSI Re-cap: Child was standing.  Check out clerk told him (in a not so nice tone), "You have to sit down or get out of there!"

Mother, swipping debit card, calmly looks at child (still just standing there) and at clerk.  Mother then smiles and says, "He's okay." (Mother is also thinking: if you physically remove my child from that cart, my mean protective mother streak is probably going to freak out. And then you'll get a strongly written note from my attorney husband explaining why touching my child was a big, bad, idea!)

Clerk (more irritated than before, if possible): Standing on those seats is against store policy. He has to get down.

Mother (still nice and calm but smile is fading): "Um, we aren't moving and he's just standing there.  He's okay."

Clerk (turning Target red): "Well, it's my job to keep him safe."

Mother (calmly and firmly): "No.  I am his mother.  It is my job to keep him safe."

Clerk (starting to sweat): "Well if my manager comes out here ..."

Mother (putting purchased items back in unmoving cart): "If your manager comes over here I will explain to her that I am responsible for this child and I will parent him.  If he is in danger I will protect him.  Thank you and have a nice day."

Criminals flee the crime scene


Here's the thing, I understand the check out clerk's intentions.  She wanted my son safe.  Here's the thing though.  He's MY child.  Had she said, "Would you please have him get down?  He is making me nervous." I would have happily obliged.

But she didn't.

She tried to parent my son.

My son who I ask not to talk to strangers.

My son who I tell to NOT always listen to strangers (because I don't ever want him following this advice: "Your mom told me to pick you up so go ahead and get in my car"--even if you don't know me ...).

My son who was standing on a seat (like he does at our dinner table), not moving, highly interested in the check out process. (Scandalous as this may be, he was not throwing an epic meltdown disturbing the masses.  Target has no policies against that behavior, given the nature of the kids in line behind us).

He was not in danger.  He was not putting others in danger.  When he has been in danger, or put others in danger, I STEP IN. Because he is my child and I want him safe.  Because he is my child and I don't want him to hurt others.

He is MY child.  I will parent him.

So folks, if you see some kids who are about to harm your kid, please do what you need to do to defend and protect your child.

If you see another child about ready to put himself in harm's way--serious harm, like drinking ring cleaner fluid or stepping out in front of a car--do what you can to prevent a catastrophe.

But if some parent isn't keeping their child as tied down and protected as you keep yours, allow that parent some grace.  If you must say something, say it (calmly) to the parent, not the child.  There are many ways to parent.  Yours is not the right way.  Neither is mine.

I will parent my children.  I will let you parent your children.  End of story.

What I think is that I will parent my children my way, with or without the blessing of the Target checkout clerk.

(And BTW, I totally let my 3 year old ride the cart clear to the car standing up. *GASP*!) Thanks, Shell!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No More Toddler Beds

I came home and the convertible crib/toddler bed was in the garage.

In pieces.

I am so excited to watch my children grow up, seek the heart of God, and use their gifts and talents to the benefit of others.

I am not one of those parents who wants to keep my children young forever because then, I think how much I would be missing--how much others would be missing.

I want to enjoy every moment of them growing and learning and changing.

But seeing that toddler bed in the garage in pieces just hit me in the heart--hard.

No more babies.

My children are growing and even though I am so blessed for this life of watching them discover themselves, and God, and this world, something inside me just aches.

And once again I as reminded the days go slowly but the years go quickly.

P's new "big boy bed" made by my handsome hubby--without directions.  Gosh he's good!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plain Old Tuna

It has been a mom-guilt morning.

Although I love (LOVE LOVE LOVE) these cool mornings, I'm reminded today how days will be getting shorter and opportunities for fun during the day will be getting less and less.

I reflect on my weekend.

Did we play enough or did I clean too much?

Did we snuggle and read enough books or did we go to too many stores?

Did I focus on my favorite people or my homework.

Am I just wasting this time, this life of mine?

Has it been enough?  Am I enough.

This is a lot to think about by 7 a.m.

Then I made M's lunch.  Plain old tuna fish with crackers (and plums, bananas, cherry tomatoes from our garden, a pumpkin chip muffin, and water).  <---I added that last bit in case you were afraid she'd be hungry with just one measly lump of tuna.

As she left for the bus stop with her daddy it dawned on me that I forgot a dessert.  And then I thought of Pinterest and those moms who make their kids lunches look like pretend sushi or Princess Jasmine and I thought, "Poor M.  Stuck with a mom like me."  She is the most delightful of children and what did she get?  Plain old tuna and no dessert.

In my core I know I'm enough and I do enough and I love enough but some mornings, I just wish I could do more--be more.

Tomorrow, M get's two desserts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Parking Lot Confession

Last week Shell did a post on Pour Your Heart Out about how one small, simple, kind sentence really made her day (or motherhood in general).

Isn't that how it works?  Our words can be rich morsels.

Anyhow, I vowed I would say something kind last week... and not just so I would have something to brag about.

But you know what is weird, the second I decided to do it, I looked around and found no one deserved it.  -----> Judgmental Mom Confession

Okay, the friends I'm around always deserve it and I support them and their parenting efforts so they didn't seem like fair targets.  Being kind to those you love is easy.

On Thursday I had a different sort of opportunity.

I was  leaving a parking lot and someone cut me off.  Now, the line on "my" end of the parking lot was huge.  Getting cut off meant I was at the back of a GINORMOUS line.

I wanted to go home.
I wanted to see my family.
I might have cussed.
There's a good chance I yelled at the woman who cut me off--you know.  Just in case she could hear me in my car at the back of the line.

And then I did what any calm, rational, and loving person would do.

I threw my car in reverse, flipped around, and sped angrily to another exit.

My intent: Get in the line in the road that keeps people in the parking lot from getting out.  I was gonna show that woman!  I was gonna get on the road first, darn it!  I was going to cut off the cutter-offer!

My plan worked perfectly.

Well, almost.

There was that small still voice in my head, the one that even though it was quiet, somehow managed to be more convicting than the "Stupid Woman!  You won't beat me! I'll cut YOU off!" rampage happening in my self-thoughts.

The small voice said: "Choose My way."

That's it?  Choose My way?  That's what you've got for me God? But she cut ME off?  Didn't you see that?  Didn't you see how rude she was?  How selfish?  She made me angry!  She doesn't deserve my patience!"

"Nor did you deserve Mine."


Grace. Unmerited favor.

It gets me all the time.

My car inched closer to the parking lot exit and there she was, waiting in her not very nice red sedan.  I looked at her behind that windshield. Older.  Tired. Waiting.  Suddenly my mad became His compassion.

Maybe she had a bad day.  Maybe she is sad or broken or lonely.  Maybe she cut me off because she is exhausted from working and going to school.

Maybe it had been a long time since someone had shown her a little grace.

So I told the justice and "right" seeking voices in my head (Yeah that's right lady, you cut me off but I'm gonna win!) to shut up and I let the distance between me and the white Jeep ahead of me get bigger and bigger.

And I waved her in.

What I think is our words--especially the dialogue we have in our head--matter.  And so do our actions.

I'm grateful for the parking lot incident.  It showed me places of my heart that are vengeful and self-seeking.  But it also showed me a capacity to be kind and to remember.

I'm where I am because of unmerited favor.  How can I not pass it on?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Redeeming the Day

Do I remember September 11?  Boy do I ever.

I'd never been glued to the TV like that before.  Never flipped from news channel to news channel dumbfounded, confused, and saddened by what I saw.

I'd never seen the country come together (momentarily) like that to buy flags, donate blood, and send money.

It was a life shaking time for me, for others, for this country.

And every year, we remember.  Memories now are burdened by politics and scandal but we remember.  We run Freedom 5Ks, donate blood and money, and send cookies to those in our service sectors.  It's all about redeeming the day.  About saying--you can break me down but you cannot stop me from rebuilding.

Last September 11 was another one of those days for me.  Bad timing, for sure.

No details but trust me, it was a day of destruction.  A day of tearing down.  A day of confusion and pain and ruin.

But I'm here a year later.  Still standing.  Still fighting.  Still reminding myself circumstances can tear me down but I will rebuild.

I will fight the good fight.  I will stand firm.  I will not be shaken.

I'm still here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Not Technically Fall

It might not technically be fall but I don't care.

I got my fall stuff out.

I don't have a ton of fall stuff but what I have is now out.  Scarecrow sitting by a pumpkin.  A couple of wreathes.  These pumpkins I made with the kids what feels like eons ago (because Fall is a great time to recount with sadness how quickly things change ... like the weather or kids, for instance).

Pumpkin pie and apple crisp candles are burning.  The windows are open letting in those slightly cooler breezes.  Frank Sinatra is crooning over my iPod.

Summer ending is such sweet sorrow.  But at least I get to fall back on fall.

I love fall!

Bring on the boots, scarves, sweaters, hot drinks, corn mazes, and cool days.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

These Cool Mornings

Cool mornings are like water down a dry throat--serious relief to my soul.

I know I've said it over and over (and probably over) that I'm convinced I have reverse SADD.  I'm telling you, too much sun makes me a wreck!  Some mornings my husby reaches to open our Roman shades and I shoot him this, "If you open those and let the sun in before noon I will probably spit in your dinner" looks.  Btw, I've never actually done that--even when he does open the blinds pre-maturely.

Today it will get into the 80s but this morning, there was a breeze with a bit of chill to it.

So I dropped my son off at preschool, kidnapped Matt from work, and did what any true lover of cool mornings would do.  I whisked my love to Starbucks for a grande spiced pumpkin chai with whip (because Starbucks fall flavors are out now, that's why!  Hooray!).

These cool mornings ... oh how I love them!

No time to hit Starbucks (or do you live where there *gasp* isn't one?).  No problem!  My BFF totally hacked some great drinks (and I've convinced her to tackle coconut mochas next.  Yay for friends who are creative cooks!).

Try this recipe for Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There Is No Such Things As Free Legal Advice

My husband is an attorney.

Attorneys are often stereotyped as high-priced scam artists.  And this is true of many but, like all stereotypes, this is not true of all.  In fact, I know dozens of lawyers and I find them to be the most intelligent, empathic, and compassionate people I know.  And I'm a teacher!

I know people hate attorneys but really, my husband is one of the top 1% who don't give attorneys a bad name. It is true that, in your opinion, he might charge too much "by the hour" but he is also the most incredibly generous person I know.  He chose to go into the field of law both because he loves it and because it financially sets him up to give like a crazy person.  And that is what he does.  He GIVES like a crazy person to our church, to non-profits, to micro-loan centers, to family and friends.  And he gives more than his money--he gives his time.  Ask him to help and he will.  Ask him to serve on a board and he will.  He is generous with his time and money.

When I see what a generous man I have, I get really irritated at the people who take advantage of his career by wanting something for nothing.  By feeling entitled to free advice because some other attorneys out there are real scum-bags.

Let me tell you a truth.  There is no such thing as free legal advice.

Remember in high school economics how you learned about OPPORTUNITY COST (also known as "there is no such thing as a free lunch")?  Basically if you have $20 and you spend it on a meal and movie, it actually costs you more than the meal and movie. If you spend $20 on dinner and a movie it costs you whatever else you could have gotten (like 3 pairs of Target shoes on sale or 20 boxes of Hot Tamales).  The same is true here.  When you ask my husband for free legal advice, it costs him something.

It Costs His Ethical Integrity

Expecting an attorney to give you legal advice without engaging him as your legal representative is asking him to go against his professional, ethical duty.  It is unethical for him to give you legal advice without giving him an opportunity to research your question and issue and to formulate and educated answer.  The law is grey, not black and white, so there is no easy answer to your question.  If you don't want to pay him for sound legal advice, don't ask him.

When you take him to lunch to "pick his brain" (also known as "I'd rather buy you a $10 meal than pay you what you are worth but I want the same services because I'm cheap like that.") it is unethical for him to give you an answer.  If he gives you a bad answer, he is liable for malpractice.  Malpractice is expensive and a reputation ruiner.

If you wouldn't expect your oncologist friend to diagnose you with cancer over one lunch conversation without paying for a doctor visit and physical, then please, don't expect my husband to solve your legal woes for free.

Your need for a free answer is not worth him losing his ethical integrity.  That's a high cost for "free" legal work.

It Costs His Family

Do we live in a nice house and take vacations and have great cars.  You betcha.  Do we have loans on the house and cars and the legal education?  You betcha.

See, my family, much like your family likes to eat, have health care/dental/vision insurance, wear clothes, etc.  We don't get these items for free because my husband is an attorney.  We have to buy them.  Which means, he needs to make money to pay for them.  Weird, I know.

When you expect free legal advice and you don't pay my spouse, it affects our whole family.  The phrase in the legal world is "you eat what you kill."  Well, when he doesn't get paid for his work, we don't eat.  There is no salary to fall back on here folks.

Obviously when you look at us we aren't starving but that doesn't mean that some months aren't tight because believe it or not, even people who engage Matt to be their attorney don't pay their bill.  And that costs us.

I have this friend who does my hair and you know what?  She charges me full price.  Seriously, no friend discount at all.  And I'm cool with that because I want her to A. Do a good job and B. Eat.  She has to make a living.  I'm obligated to pay her for her services.  I'm happy to pay her for her work.

The same goes for attorneys.

It Costs His Family Double

The truth is Matt is an incredible person.  He goes on those "free legal advice" lunches more than I like.  He does a lot of pro bono work for family and friends.  He can't do it during working hours so he does it during family hours.  So when he goes on a "free advice lunch," his wife and kids lose out on his time.  And when he is researching your issue at 8:00 pm, his wife and kids don't get his attention.

Like many jobs Matt's comes home with him.  This is especially true of "free" work.  His dedication to "free" work costs him time with his kids and family.  So your "free legal advice" costs us not only his pay check, but his attention.  Tell me again why you are more entitled to his time than his family is?  I keep getting confused on that part.

It Costs Giving

As I said before, my man gives and gives and gives.  But if he is doing free work for people who choose not to pay him, it keeps him from being able to give his time and money to the charities and organizations that mean most to him.  The less money he brings in, the less money he donates to World Visions, E3 Ministries, etc.  The more time he spends doing "free" legal work, the less time he has for serving non-profit companies, like Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries.

See, this guy, he wants to give the best of him.  Pay him for his time so he can pay it forward.  Because he WILL pay it forward.

It Costs His Partners

At his firm, partners profit share.  Matt keeps X% of what he brings in and the rest goes into a firm "kitty" to cover things like overhead, salaried employees, etc.  When a partner doesn't bring in his fair share, other partners have to "cover" it.  So your "free legal advice" doesn't just cost Matt, it costs his business partners.

The Bottom Line

You wouldn't expect an electrician do work without paying him.  You wouldn't expect a doctor to diagnose you without paying for an appointment.  You pay the person who cuts your hair, trims your lawn, tunes up your car, cleans your house, watches your kids, rings up your groceries ... Just because attorneys are stereotyped as rip-off artists does NOT mean you are entitled to "free" legal advice.

Your free advice isn't free and regardless of what you personally feel about attorneys, you are not entitled to anything.

What I think is if your legal question or problem isn't worth paying for, it probably isn't worth asking about. 

Oh, and I totally recognize how this goes for sooooo many other jobs: doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, pastors, mechanics, stay-at-home moms (no, we are not your free child care source) ...  People deserved to be compensated for their labor.  End of story.

Thanks, Shell!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Some days I feel like I have it all together.

And the next day it feels like it is all falling apart.

Last week I looked at school and work and life and thought--"no problem."

Today I looked at deadlines, and sack lunches, and Scholastic Book Orders and thought, "Is it okay to drink at 10 am?"

I know these overwhelmed days have as many hours in them as the relaxed days but they feel so fast and hurried.  I hate feeling like the one-legged girl at the arse-kicking contest.

I simply must remember to breathe.

I'm overwhelmed today.

Tomorrow is a whole new day.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Fashion: From Board to Body

Life would be much simpler if I had everything in my Pinterest NOW WEAR THIS BOARD in my closet.

Alas, I do not.  But the great thing about pinning clothes ideas is making them work with what you have.

A few weeks ago my family was going to the Farmer's Market.  I love farmer's markets with their roasting peppers that smell eerily familiar to marijuana and free peach samples and homemade salsa.

Anyhow, I decided to throw together an outfit and hair style I'd pinned.

I Pinned this hair tutorial:

Source: via RJ on Pinterest

And it looked like this one me.

And then I found this great outfit.  I even called it "What a trip to the Farmer's Market should look like."

Source: via RJ on Pinterest

Okay, I didn't wear the cardigan.  Who could blame me?  It was like 90 degrees out!

See, sometimes it's okay that I just keep pinning away.  I mean, I use it.  Sometimes ...

And if you are thinking "you needed a pin to throw together jeans and a white t-shirt"? Your point is well taken.  But sometimes I just need little outfit inspirations to remember that jeans and a T with a scarf and the right bag are totally acceptable and cute wear-gear.

So there.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Work Out

I am a work out nut.

Correction.  Before I had surgery, summer hit, and I got walking pneumonia I was a workout nut.

But now I'm healed just fine, the prescription meds are kicking in, and I'm ready to get back into the school-year schedule by settling back into my workout craze.

Here's the thing.  Sometimes I don't want to workout but when I make myself, I feel incredible.  I feel endorphins and flexible, and crazy energized.  Working out makes me feel amazing.  I even love the "Delayed On Set of Muscle Soreness" (DOMS) that comes the next day.  When I hurt, I know I'm doing a good job and worked out hard.  That pain means my body is breaking down and building up.

Lately I haven't been able to hit the gym as much as I'd like.  I have workout videos, especially P90X (since I'm a grad!) but I get bored with those.

So I've been doing some POP PILATES.  This gals named Cassey Ho has a free workout website called BLOGILATES and she posts great pilates workouts, High Intensity Interval Workouts (HIITS), and single move song challenges (think about doing only squats to one song).

I love these videos because:

  1. They are free.  They are on the blog.  They are on YouTube.  They are full-length and free.  
  2. Cassey is really funny.  Sometimes I want to kill her when I'm really burning and I do get irritated with how often she says "OMG" (because I was the student who counted how often the teacher said, "Um".  I'm distractible like that).
  3. There are full body workouts and spot specific workouts.
  4. There are diet options (they are boring, though).
  5. Cassey is real.  She is NOT going to tell you that you can lose 15 in 5.  She is going to tell you to eat clean, to train hard, and to do cardio.  You might not agree with her diet decisions (some people claim she has an ED--she doesn't but her diet is limited for sure) but you can't disagree with her workout science.  If you want to lose weight, you have to eat better and work out.  End of story.
When I feel pressed for time, or lazy, here is the workout sequence I use.  Combined with my regular cardio and better eating, I'm seeing results.

Days 1 and 4 (30-40 minutes total)

 HIIT (10 minutes)

LEGS (these are 3 min each once you skip the mumbo jumbo)


ABS (10 min)

If you can, redo the HITT if you have time!

Days 2 and 5 (50 min total)


Arms/Abs/Legs (30 min)


Day 3 and 6 (30 min total)

Do intentional cardio that's fun--take kids for a walk, ride a bike, etc.

Do abs

Day 7

Rest and eat what you want.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PSA: NOT Saying Stupid Stuff

In high school I had 4 BFFs.  Yes, 4.  I'm so lucky :)

What was great is how, as a group, well all brought special talents to the group.  We used to joke that we were all one big body.

Carla was the heart--all compassion, and good thoughts, and care.  She was probably common sense too.

Bethy was the funny bone--always doing these zaney things--like pretending to fry like bacon or peeing on a pink bike--to make us laugh.

Jina was the legs--she was the one with ideas of what to do and how to do them (and how to convince--and sometimes deceive--our parents into letting us do stuff).

Corrin was whatever side of the brain is super carefree, laid back, and lacking in feelings of responsibility.  I guess she was the breath of air the rest of us needed when we were all hyper-stressed and worked up about something.

I was brain. The intellectual who made smart-Alec comments and could argue us out of any bad situation.  Or land us in hot water.  Whatever.

As a group, we had fun.

But one night, three of us got into a bad accident (weather was the cause).  Our parents got these "your daughter has been in an accident" phone calls and that was it.  For an hour they were left to wonder and worry and stew in their fears.  My parents always told me that was the WORST feeling they'd ever had.   Knowing something was wrong with their baby but not knowing what or how bad.  And not being able to get there fast enough.

When I became a mom I knew I would dread that phone call. What I didn't know was how hard it would be when my friend Carla got the phone call about her daughter.  She'd been in an accident.  There were no other details.

I called her frantic to know what I could do to help and comfort.  I quickly learned how many calls and texts Carla had received and how many of those--well intentioned for sure--were hurtful.  Sometimes, with the advent of the internet and social networking, I think we forget about what are the right, tactful questions to ask and what questions are hurtful, violate privacy and are really, none of our damn business.  

So today, let me share with you a Public Service Announcement Carla and I jokingly wrote.


When someone you know is involved in an accident, presume you are on a "need to know" basis.  If you need to know something, you will be told.  If not, don't ask.  You'll know when you need to know.  You might not ever know and that's because you don't need to know.  You do not have the right to know everything or anything.

Pretty simple but if that isn't clear enough, here are some guideline do's and don'ts.

What NOT to say to a parent whose child has been in an accident: 

What caused the accident?

This is like asking the parent to re-live the event that is rocking his/her world right now.  Consider this a "salt in the wound" question. And the truth is, who cares?  What matters is the accident happened.  It can't be changed so zip your lips to this question and move on.  If they want you to know, they'll tell you.

What is the prognosis?  

Is your kid gonna live?  Is she going to have permanent brain damage?  Remember questions that are easy to ask aren't easy to answer.  The parent might not have the answer or might not have wrapped his/her mind around this answer.  Bad prognoses take a long time to accept.  So don't ask.  If they want you to know, they will tell you.
This is going to cost a lot. 

A. Finances of others are none of your business 
B. Most parents would mortgage their underwear to save their kid.  
C.  We all know medical costs a lot.  Stating the obvious here just adds stress.  Adding stress is not helpful.  

Why haven't you returned my call/text/e-mail? 

These parents likely have a lot on their mind--the least of which is making sure you are totally up to speed on the situation.  When you need to know, they will let you know.  If they aren't responding, you don't need to know.  They'll get back to you when they are ready.  End of story.

I'm just so upset.

I understand why you might want to say this.  I was upset.  This baby girl (now a teenager) lived in the same house as me.  I'd changed a diaper or two.  I was upset.  But her momma--she was MORE upset and the absolute LAST thing Carla needed to do was comfort me.  If you are upset, share that with someone other than the parent.  Sideline your own feelings--temporarily--and just be there for your friends.

What you CAN say: 

Where is the key to your house/mailbox so I can clean/water your plants/pack up the rest of your kids and take them to my house so they will be well cared for while you are gone?

Every day living is going to be tough for the family right now.  Find a way to ease the day-to-day burden.

What hotel are you staying at so we can pay for a night? 

This is expensive.  If you can help out financially, do it.  Pay for a night at a hotel.  Send gas cards or gift certificates to restaurants.  Organize a fundraiser to pay the mortgage.  Pay the utility bill.  

Where can we send cards/flowers/non-latex balloons?

Comfort.  The family needs comfort.  What can you do to provide comfort and cheer?  Can you send a thoughtful card?  Can you go sit with them at the hospital?  Can you sit in the hospital with their child so they can sleep for a couple of hours?

What I think is when there is an emergency, we need to focus more on WHAT we can do to help than what information we can acquire by asking stupid stuff.

Thanks, Shell!