Archive for ‘mom stuff’

December 6, 2010


Before I write this note about other people’s moms, let me first say of my own- She was not the perfect mom.  But I am not either.  And there is grace and forgiveness for both of us.  And there is not a scale to measure whether one of us needs it more or less than the other.  There is grace and forgiveness and there is redemption and that is more than enough.  Also something I am only just gaining some perspective on- she is not solely responsible for every awful thing that happened to me in my childhood.  And neither am I.  And her bad decisions were not made as a result of my unworthiness as a daughter.  And my bad decisions are not her responsibility. 


All that being said, my childhood was sort of riddled with neglect and abuse of all kinds.  It could have been worse sure, but it wasn’t pretty.  One of the (many, many) coping mechanisms I used to make it through was to count down the years, months, weeks and days until my eighteenth birthday.  Freedom.  I remember thinking when I was about ten years old, how insanely far off my eighteenth birthday seemed.  And then I only made it to fifteen. 

(This is why I am the “Phoebe Buffay” of my Friends.)  My mom’s crazy boyfriend had kicked us out again and we landed on a mattress in her dealer’s garage.  No kidding.  I won’t go into details about it, suffice it to say, it was beyond terrible.  Fast forward a few weeks and we’re unpacking our backpacks in a homeless shelter.  And then I was totally done.  I moved in with a friend and then I kind of moved from one house to another, staying wherever I could with whoever would have me.  The miracle- someone always had me. 


For about three years I was taken in by one family after another.  And that’s such an incredible thing to me.  I sat at so many different dinner tables.  Not one night did my head go without a pillow to rest on.  Amazing.  I know from experience, fifteen year old girls are not the most pleasant people in the world, especially fifteen year old girls with very messy lives.  But so many times open arms welcomed me, bought me new toothbrushes and socks, gave me a list of chores, asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and hugged my sad little angst filled self. 

I know now that my mom’s mothering was not a reflection of my worthiness, but when I was fifteen I honestly thought she didn’t love me because I wasn’t lovable.  But God stepped in.  He put people in my life.  His hand is all over that whole period of my childhood.  Over and over with words, and smiles, and gifts, and time, and really just a place to sleep, I was shown love.  I thought I was just a screwed up, homeless, teenage girl who just had the misfortune of being born unlovable and time after time, people stepped in and disputed that lie, offered hope and brought redemption, big and small to my bruised and tattered soul.  


The holidays are such a good reminder for me of how God brought me through that time.  His Love shines so bright in the faces of families who welcome me.  This Thanksgiving, like every one before it all the way back to when I was fifteen, was spent with a so-much-more-than-sweet family who invited me to their home.  This Thanksgiving, like many before it, was filled with gratefulness for the spectacularly amazing group of people that God has surrounded me with.  To sit at a table with somebody else’s aunts and uncles, to pass the salt to somebody’s dad, to hold the new nephew, to be a part of the laughter and love that families share this time of year, not because I was born into the family, but because I was welcomed into a family, that is truly, truly, the best gift ever. 

And so, to the Falcones, the Sittlers, the Kelleys, to Janie, the Blinns, the Harbaughs, the Thomases, the Tedescos, the Fosters, the Houstons and every other person or family that has offered anywhere from a hug to a home- you have no idea what it means to me. Thank you, a thousand thank yous, with every bit of me, from the toes up- thank you.  Be blessed, you are all lights, keep shining.     

Love, love.  

December 1, 2010


Growing up we had something like the opposite of traditions.  The only thing I really remember holidays having in common was that they were all sort of chaotic, but then a lot of my childhood was somewhat chaotic. 

My parenting now, though filled with all the love and intention I have, is sort of only loosely based on What I Know Not To Do.  (Except for the many tips and tricks I have picked up from My Amazing Friends and the countless parenting books I have devoured.)  One thing I have learned is that traditions are important. 

And this year, these Amazing Kids, they realized it too.  This year instead of racing back and forth to get all of the ornaments on as fast as possible, they slowly picked each one up and let it dangle by it’s hook.  And then they talked through each one- why they liked it, what year they got it, the kindergarten teacher they loved so much and the corner that was getting a little worn.  And I sat on the couch smiling and answering questions and yes, just as I am now, wiping the occasional tear. 

When the tree was all done Emmy glanced down at her hands covered in glitter from all of the ornaments.  She squeaked a delighted squeak and then I’m not even kidding, Griffen put his arm around her and said, “That’s Christmas dust, the magic of Christmas is all over our house.”  And then he went to his room and pulled out his library book and told all the Little Ones to sit down because he had checked out a book just for them.  Good grief it was almost too sweet. 


When they finished the book we made some Christmas Waffles together.  (Nothing amazing really, just waffles with red and green M&M’s, but the kiddos think they’re “like the best thing ever to have for dinner.” ) 


It was a very normal, (if a little sappy), Christmastime evening I think. So maybe it was just the sugar rush, maybe it was a some holiday high I don’t know, but as we all piled on the couch to watch Rudolph that night, I felt Love oh so tangibly fill up and flow out of every empty space in the room and my grateful heart swelled with the amazing amount of warmth and joy that surrounded us. 

Gosh, so blessed.  So, so blessed.  

November 19, 2010

My Ten Year Old

He is such an old soul. 

**Edited to add his prayer request the other night: "I really want God to help me accomplish my goals because I have a lot of really big goals and they're important.  And I can't do them all by myself."

Can I just gush for a minute or two?
Baby griffey
This boy, this manchild, this son of mine…

Griffey boy

I am so glad nobody talked my crazy, know-it-all eighteen year old self out of having this amazing boy. 
Boy griff again
And I will not go on about how the first eight days of his life he scared us to death with his little NICU stint, or how I never put him down even when he was sleeping, or how I read him Steinbeck novels and played Fleetwood Mac to rock him to sleep.  I will not go on about how his birth changed the hearts of both of his grandmothers, or how he has been saying the most profound and funniest things since he was two years old. 

I will go on about how he has grown into the most awesome ten year old ever.  When he was five he prayed “Dear God, please make me a better kid so I can show the world what it’s like to follow Jesus.” And I have a notebook full of great things he has said between now and then.  *Sigh*  This boy…
When I ask him to unload the dishwasher he says “My pleasure” without even the slightest hint of sarcasm.  When we meet new people he puts his arm around me and introduces me “This is my mom, Amber. She is a really great mom and she is an amazing photographer” and then he goes on to introduce the rest of the family with their names and some positive quality he sees in them.  Love.
He walked into the kitchen the other day and said “According to Einstein’s theory everything that has mass has energy, so really if we want to save the planet all we need to do is find a way to harness energy that doesn’t do so much harm to the planet. I’m going to work on that.”  And he went back to mapping out plans in his notebook. And that is kind of Griffen in a nutshell, he is never not working on something, internally or externally. 
A few nights ago in the car I was “having a discussion” with the kids about their behavior and making better choices, but I was admittedly being pretty negative.  Then my ten year old put his hand on my shoulder and said “Mom, it seems if you only concentrate on the problem, the problem will grow or be the only thing you focus on and that’s not helpful.  Why don’t we talk about some positive ways we can change?” 
And then I swallowed really hard and took a deep breath and said thank you, because every time we leave church after I ask what they learned about, he asks me and apparently he listens.  Incredible. 
This morning after he got ready for school he came up to me and handed me this poem:
If you have no Life
You have no heart
No imagination, no soul

Thank God for your Life
For His Son sacrificed His
Really?  Yes, really.  I could write pages of his amazingess really.  He is quirky, he is different, he is so very ten years old sometimes, he can be just as frustrating as any other ten year old.  And he is beautiful, he is amazing.  And this child of mine, Jesus is in him and He knows it and that is the most important thing. (Please don't mistake this for me taking credit for all of his amazingness, really I was still a kid when he was born and I screw up this parenting thing all the time.  I'm sure good intention counts for something, but honestly I think it is by the Grace of God that I get to be his Mom and I am so beyond excited to see how he will change the world.) 

Keep shining Griff.
Love, love,

November 16, 2010

Our New Place

Shh~ don’t tell anyone, but the last house we moved into, that was supposed to be Our House.  As in, I was still married at the time and because I can be hopelessly optimistic sometimes, I sort of thought that even though the ex had not been willing to do anything to even try to get back together for a year it would probably all work out in the end. 

And you know what? It did work out, just not how I thought it would.  Nevertheless, that house, the last one, it was never ours.  This house, well~ it feels like it is. 

My little family, me and my Fab Four, we feel at home.  I don’t feel like we’re waiting on something or somebody to complete us.  I don’t feel like we’re disabled or disfigured by missing an adult male in our home, and I did, for longer than I care to admit. 


Moving has been part of a really big transition for us, but oh so necessary for about a million reasons.  It represents so much metaphorically and literally for our maybe not-so-little family. Woohoo and hooray for new beginnings!

The first time I walked in to this place the first thing I noticed was the light.  I need light to take photos, and oh do I need to take photos.  The light here is amazing.  The second thing I noticed was the carpet.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so much more than grateful for this house, but I was not super pumped to have carpet throughout. 

In walking through the house for the first time I made a couple of calls and talked with friends about how awesome it was, minus the carpets.  The Pie was with me and she mostly just ran full speed back and forth from one end of the empty house to the other. 

A few hours later we went to pick up The Other Three from school and as they got in the car, before I could say a word, The Pie said “YOU GUYS GUESS WHAT!!! WE HAVE A NEW HOUSE AND IT HAS CARPET!!!”  to which they all replied with shouts and squeals of delight “CARPET!!! WOOHOO!  Now it won’t hurt when we fall, and we can sit in the floor to watch Saturday morning cartoons!” and “YESSSSSS! Now I can do flips in the house and my feet won’t be cold when I get out of bed in the morning!!”   It was pretty fantastic, put an enormous smile on my face.  The excitement continued all the way to the new house, where I opened the door only to have them all run in ahead of me and start making “carpet angels”.  


And so we are here in this great little house with this amazing light and pretty fabulous carpet.  Happy to be moved in and happy actually to have downsized a bit, simplified if you will.  I get (another) do over with the whole “A place for everything and everything in its place” concept.  And we’re loving it.  A lot.  God is so, so, so good, great really. 


P.S. Shout out to the Grace Vineyard Moving Crew, Paul Jones, Susanna and Jeremy Thomas, Tom and Kay Thomas, Rick and Joan Blinn, Zeke and Zach Blinn, Sean and Tim Dockery, Michael Miller, The Thorstads and Rusty the Truck.  You guys all did an outstanding job and we are super duper incredibly blessed!  



November 10, 2010

My Heart

Oh this little girl… She is my heart. 

And she knows it.  And there are days when it is oh so hard not to be wrapped around her little finger.  And there are days when she utterly exhausts me with all of her passion and sensitivity.  (No idea where she gets that from.)  This girl, she is everything I didn't even know I meant when I said I needed a girl.  Of course, all of my Loves are incredibly special to me. Griffen is my joy I think, and Gabe is my peace, and Grace is my Strength.

 And this girl, she is my heart. 

November 3, 2010


Because I kind of think that almost nothing is not a little message wrapped in daily grind type stuff…


At the grocery store with my youngest Little Wonder this morning:
Me:  Hey Pie, hang on tight to the basket, we’re about to go outside and there are cars and rain and wind out there.
Pie:  Okay Mom.  And is there gravity out there too?  And will it try to make me fall?  
Me:  Yes Pie.  There is gravity out there.  There is gravity everywhere.


Life is kind of a lot sometimes, not necessarily in a bad way. 
Kind of like gravity, not necessarily bad, it keeps us grounded after all. 

It's just that sometimes it’s more important to be careful not to fall.

Hanging on tight,




October 4, 2010

This Little Light of Mine

Leaving church the other day I heard My Sweet One say to his best friend and sister very quietly, “I gave my heart to Jesus today.” And then he beamed.  And she squealed and said “What?! Eew.”  He laughed and explained “Not like I took it out of me and handed it to Him.  I closed my eyes and He was standing there and I said He could have my heart.”  (Oh gosh I can’t even type it without tearing up.)  I glanced at him grinning from ear to ear in the rearview mirror and tried to contain my excitement because he is the most sensitive, quiet, shy, private little soul I know.  “Gabe I’m so proud of you; that’s so awesome. What a great decision!”   He muttered a little “thanks” sat back bashfully, still smiling and sighed.  We talked about it a little more when we got home.  He curled up with me as he does and sheepishly grinned while I told him again how proud I was and how excited I was for what God was doing in him.  I asked what he thought and how he felt and he said “Well God knows my name and he wrote it in His book.  And I’m really glad Mom, really glad.” 


If you knew this kid when he was about this size, then you know how different he is now, (and not just because he is out of diapers).   Little Gabe was a pretty ornery kid, more so than most.  He hardly spoke, he hit a lot and he growled.  No kidding, he used to go around snarling at people and growling all the time, honestly it was hard not to laugh.  He earned “My Sweet One” because when he was not being especially mean, he was incredibly sweet.  Ever the cuddler, and pretty apt to spontaneously smother me in hugs and kisses.  But for the first five or six years of his life, all that sweetness was kind of sporadic and mixed always with the not-so-sweetness.  The last couple of years though, he has softened.  He has grown gentler.  And though it is his nature to be intense, he has lightened up a little.  He loves much more freely now, still somewhat gaurded at times, but so much less angry.  He is still so much himself, and somehow so changed in his eight years.  And I  am so incredibly excited to see what awesome things God will do through him. 

That I get to witness the work that God is doing in his life is such a privilege.  That I get to be one of the people to call out and see the greatness in him is an honor.  That I get to be his mother, amazing. 

September 6, 2010


Big Changes happening around here.  Lots of new stuff, some very super challenging things, mostly good stuff though. 

Emmy started school.  She didn't technically start on the first day, but she did start and she super loves it.  

Sweet story: We went to get her shots so she could start and the whole time we're waiting there are kids coming in and out crying.  I distracted her as much as possible with questions about princesses and quizzes about Care Bears.  Her turn came and she sat in my lap and smiled at the nurse.  Then she looked at the little girl in line behind her and saw that she was crying.  She asked why and I explained that the little girl was scared of getting shots and maybe if Emmy showed her it wasn't that bad she would feel better.  So my sweet girl locked eyes with her crying friend and smiled her biggest smile without a flinch through three shots.  The other girl went from wailing to sniffles and then quieted down.  The nurse was shocked, told her she was the bravest little girl she had ever seen and gave her a lollipop.  I was amazed really.  I'll never forget bracing myself for her kicking and screaming and  tears, and then watching her grin from ear to ear just so the other little girl wouldn't be scared.  

Man, kids are fantastic. 

My little guy, my Sweet One, My Gabe turned 8.  We had a low-key birthday.  He didn't mind, he's a low-key dude. 

Sweet Story 2:  The other day he walked over to my camera shelf where all of my old cameras sit.  He stared up at them for a while and then asked if he could have one since I had so many of them.  We compromised and I said he could choose one to learn to use and borrow.  And oh, be still my heart, he chose the old school film rig.  The rest of the evening was spent learning the meter, manual focus and winding film.  While he was walking around snapping, Emmy got hurt and started to cry.  Gabe, attentive big brother that he is, quickly went to her. "It's ok, don't cry. I'll let you take some pictures."  As if holding a camera had some sort of healing powers.  She looked at him like he was crazy and then he looked across the room at me.  "Oh, Gabe, sorry honey, I think it's just me and you that feel better when we take pictures.  She probably wants a hug and some ice."  And so he gave her a hug and I got her some ice.  How lovely is it though, that my little artist and I have this photo loving connecting point?  So, so lovely. 

Oh, and The Pie is doing  her best to adjust to being the only one at home with lil' ol' me.  I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm the like, the most boring person ever, geez.  We try to get out and do stuff, and I try to give her activities and a schedule, but it's just not quite enough.  She wants to GO! and DO! all the time.  She wants a plan every morning as soon as we drop the kids off.  She wants a timer set for each activity.  Honestly if she didn't look like my mini me, I'd say she was switched at birth.  I'm working on finding a part time job for me and a preschool for her so she can get to work on her PHD as soon as possible.  In the meantime she is whipping me into shape.   

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Last but not least, Griff is not even complaining about school.  I feel no need to elaborate or add a sweet story.  That is awesome enough in and of itself.  Also, he is turning 10 this week.  Eek and Holy Cow!!  Can't believe it.  

Anyway, if you happen to think of us, keep us in your prayers and we promise to return the favor.

Love, love,

Amber and The Monkeys

August 16, 2010

Other Peoples Work

Oh Life, let up a little will ya?  Pretty Please?  No?  Ok.

In the meantime, these things whisper and scream coveted messages of hope to my weary heart:

Grace Leaning on Me.  Photo by My Sweet One, Gabe.123
Saw it and cried.  And I will totally admit to being a lot on the teary side lately, but in this photo Gabe so perfectly captured the incredible gift that is My Baby Girl.  The strength and love and protection in those eyes blows me away.  I think it might come from me, I think.  

And speaking of Gabe, he is turning 8 next week.  He will have his own post full of charming stories about how perfect he is.  My tiny little man, how he's grown, how he sees, how he knows, how he moves, how he loves…

Oh do I adore this boy.  

And oh do I adore this poem:  The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.  

(Poem stolen from The AmazingTerri who just so happens to be a stunningly beautiful, multi-talented artist/writer/photographer/woman/mother/person.  Please do click that link and prepare to be moved.)

Also, this is on repeat.  Again.

And so I am doing my best to 

Love, love,

This Girl

August 11, 2010

These Two

I have said before that These Two worry me the most when it comes to you know what. 
It is almost certain that girls will be throwing themselves at Gabe. 
And Em, oh Emmy, exquisitely beautiful and boy crazy already. 

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I’m in big trouble, that’s what I think all too often when I think of These Two.  But tonight, I looked at them and thought about the bond they share and breathed a sigh of relief.  The love they have will be so incredibly hard to match.  This love will set the standard for the love they will want for themselves later.  I think so often kids and teens are running around trying to fill a void, trying to find someone to love them.  In haste they settle for lust, in desperation they cling and grasp at others with the same void.  They do crazy things to make themselves feel good, for temporary highs, to feel whole. 


I think, oh do I hope, These Two will know about a Love so fulfilling that their search will not be a search to fill a void, but a search for True Love.  It’s a big messy world out there, but she will have him to look out for her and he will have her to help him guard his heart as well.  Gabe is setting the bar high for the way Emmy is to be loved.  And she is doing the same for him, loving him tenderly, unconditionally and completely.  In their smiles, and hugs, and cuddles, all the time, they are unknowingly affirming each other, saying to one another, You are incredible, you are amazing, you are beautiful, you are likable…

The way they interact, the way they play, and sit, and breathe just says all the time- You are so lovable and I so love you.  What a gift that I get to witness, to learn from These Two, this Love.



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