Learning from the "FOR SALE" Sign

Six years ago my husband and I moved to our current home.   Before we could do that, of course, we needed to sell our former house.  What a long, arduous process.  After 104 days on the market, our real estate agent left a message on our answering machine with bad news once again.  The prospective buyers who had visited our house three times -- that couple who was poised to make an offer, we had been told -- had put an offer in on another home.

We were back to square one.  And we were scheduled to move in less than three weeks.

That night I got into my car and drove without any destination in mind.  I imagined the worst possible outcomes: never selling our house, running out of savings as we paid two mortgages, losing the new home, needing to move back into the poorly-heated, poorly-ventilated, cramped, one-bedroom apartment where we first lived and not being able to carry Reese’s crib up its killer staircase.

I drove back roads where I rarely passed the oncoming headlights of another car.  I prayed aloud, voicing every concern on my heart, pinning down my rolling thoughts into words, and sensing that God was nodding along at all the right points, listening intently. 

Eventually I found myself on the opposite side of town.  I drove into a small neighborhood and stopped directly in front of the house that the potential buyers had chosen over ours.  Dimming my headlights, I conducted a blow-by-blow comparison of the features.  They had a shapely maple tree in their front yard, but so did we – and who bought a house for the tree in the yard?  They had a two car garage.  We had only one.  Without knocking on the door and asking for a tour, there wasn’t much else to evaluate.  

I still continued to stare.

As the light from their television flickered through their drawn blinds, I tried to think of something sensible to say if someone would question why I was sitting in a parked car outside of the house.  Nothing came to mind.

I scanned the yard until my eyes rested on the for sale sign.  Suddenly, I wanted to get out of the car and kick it down, to tear it from its measly posts and stomp it to bits.  These people, whoever they were, certainly didn’t need it anymore.  For all I knew, they were inside toasting their good fortune while I ogled the dark exterior of their house.

Even now, years later, I remember how depleted and hopeless I felt at that moment.  What's different is that I now know that the story wasn't finished that night.  Two weeks later we received an offer on our house, and all the loose threads were wound up.  Not as neatly or quickly as I would have liked, for certain, but wound up nonetheless.

Right now, I'm in a similar place.  I'm looking forward to when I can reflect back on the situation from a future perspective, assured that all the details have worked out.  But I'm not there yet.  In the meantime, I cling to what I know.

I know that God is faithful.

When I remember past difficulties -- those insurmountable hurdles, those unreachable deadlines, those hurts too deep to bear -- I see how He's carried me through every single one, time and time again.  When I look at my current situation from that perspective, I realize that this story isn't finished yet.

In fact, one day it's going to be added to the long litany of His faithfulness in my life.

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Some Days Were Meant to Remember

I began loving her before she was born.  I've told her that I've loved her thousands of times since she's arrived on this earth.

And yesterday, for the very first time, she told me that she loves me, too. Some days were meant to remember.

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Frame Your Name: clever wall art

Something happens to me during the fall where my interest in domestic affairs spikes exponentially. By domestic affairs, I mean the day-to-day maintenance of my house, not necessarily an increased vigor in national politics. Mainly, it boils down to the fact that I want to burn candles and try new recipes in the crock pot. Toss in a pumpkin dessert, and I'm set.

So, while I'm on my domestic kick, I thought I'd share one more simple idea with you. Last post, I shared how to make an easy, personalized decoration for a kid's bedroom. Today I want to share my absolute favorite wall art idea, which is depicted in this frame below where I spelled our last name with pictures of letters from places that are significant to our family, like our church, the hospital where our children were born, the university we attended, and a local dairy with awesome milkshakes.

You know, the important stuff.

This past summer I created two of these frames as wedding gifts for our friends.  Take this one below.  Each letter tells a different part of the couple's early story -- where they met, where they had their first date, and where he proposed, for example.

This idea could work for more than just wedding presents, of course.  You could easily spell your child's name by taking letters from his or her favorite places -- the library, school, streets, restaurants, or parks.  Or, you and your children could search for letters in everyday settings or from nature to photograph.  An upside down trellis could form an A.  A sideways view of a traffic light would make a convincing E.

There's one glitch, of course.  Unless you can find an enormous picture frame, this only works for names with six or fewer letters.  For us, this means that my youngest daughter never will have her own frame.  (Poor, sweet Kerrington with her beautiful, yet uncommon and lengthy name.  It already was a foregone conclusion that we've forever denied her finding a souvenir key chain with her name on it.  Now it looks like she'll also never get a picture frame, either.)

I'll make it up to her with one of those awesome milkshakes.

Happy framing!

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Easy Art for a Kid's Bedroom

I've mentioned before that I like letters.  They just come in so handy, don't they?  Take this one, for instance, which is hanging on the wall of my daughter's bedroom.  It's a simple wooden letter that you can purchase at a craft store.

I'm also a fan of decorating, so why not merge these two interests together?  And that leads me to today's How To Post.

To create an easy, personalized decoration for your child's room, follow these four easy steps:

1) Buy the letters that spell your child's name.  If you prefer, you could use their initials -- or, just about any word that you like.  (So, if you come into my house and see the word chocolate hanging on a wall, you'll know why.)

2) Select any combination of scrapbook paper that you like.  Purchase enough to adequately cover each letter.

3) Trace the outline of the wooden letters onto the scrapbook paper and cut each one out.  You could use scissors; I prefer using an Exacto knife.

4) Adhere the scrapbook paper to the letters using rubber cement or a glue stick.

And that's it, except for hanging the letters.  If you're like me, the craft will be no problem.  But after you've hung the letters you might step back to observe your work and realize that you have little skill in aligning anything in a straight line.  You'll get past this.  (It only took me seven extra nail holes.)

Perhaps the best feature is that this decoration can mature with your child.  If you change the decor or decide to paint the room, simply peel off the original scrapbook paper and adhere new.

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The Contrast of Coordination

On the sidelines at my oldest daughter's soccer practice this evening, I spoke with a friend who also has three kids.  We watched as my two-year-old dribbled a soccer ball on the sidelines with unlikely skill for someone so small.

"That's impressive.  That's World Cup stuff," my friend noted as she took a sip of her coffee.  "You do know that this will be the kid who trips over herself while walking down the hallway," she joked.

Isn't that the truth, though?  Have you ever marveled at the competing lack and abundance of a child's physical coordination?

"You know, I've seen my son stab himself in the cheek with his own fork while eating." my friend continued.  "And I've watch him pour his drink over himself because he tips his cup before bringing it to his mouth.  We're still practicing this: touch it to your mouth, then tip.  Touch, then tip!  But then one of the kids will do a perfect cartwheel and flip and I think, aren't you the child who fell out of your chair during dinner?"

I had my own stories to contribute because my kids seem to like falling up flights of stairs and walking into large, inanimate objects.  Walls, for instance.  They've also been known to injure themselves while brushing their teeth.

They must get this from me.  I'm not the world's most coordinated person.

Later in the evening once we got home from practice, I was helping the little ones hang up their jackets and line up their shoes.  I heard a thud and splash from the bathroom.  "Mom!  Quick, I need a towel!"  Reese yelled.  "I slipped!"

In this one moment the contrast of coordination was made all the more clear.  During soccer practice this child had demonstrated one hour and fifteen minutes worth of successful footwork, and then within a minute after arriving home, she somehow managed to submerge one of those feet directly in the toilet.

They grow out of this, right?

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Short and Sweet: Vegetables

Why I need to teach my children more about basic nutrition in 100 or fewer words: 

We're driving to soccer practice and Reese is telling Brooke all about school lunches.  "They make you take a vegetable every time that you buy a lunch.  Every time!"

Brooke reflects on this for a moment before weighing in.  "That's okay.  There are only three vegetables that I don't like."

"Which ones?" I ask.

Without flinching she reports back to me, sounding mildly amazed that I don't already have this knowledge tucked away in my memory.

"Celery, stuffing, and grass."

Come to think of it, I don't like those vegetables much, either.

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Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

Don't cry over spilled milk.  But feel free to cry when your freezer door accidentally is left open and everything within that freezer thaws and expands into what appears to be a puddle of mucous and vomit.

Yes, cry then.

I'm not sure what was worse about this recent experience: knowing that I easily was tossing over a hundred dollars worth of food into the trash, or knowing that some of that food was in the form of actual meals that I had prepared in advance for days when our schedules are too hectic to prepare a decent dinner.

In advance!  Advanced planning!

This was a painful loss.  Meal planning doesn't come naturally for me.  I excel at arriving at 5:00 in the afternoon and being surprised -- yet again -- that it's nearly dinner, that I have children, and somehow I'm the one responsible for feeding them.  For the past seven years I've been caught off by dinner on a somewhat regular basis.  (Don't judge.)

So, at this moment, my freezer is entirely empty -- a clean slate, a fresh start, an invitation for half gallons of ice cream and probably a frozen pizza or two.

I'm going to rally, my friends.  I'm going to harness this desire to be a better cook (something that always occurs in the fall, as if the cooler weather holds the power to trigger latent domestic abilities within me.)  I'm going to try again and make meals in advance.

And when I do, I'm going to make sure that the freezer door is closed tightly.

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Seeking Silence

Each day from the moment the sun comes up until late afternoon, I hear the noise of construction.  Two new homes are being built across the street from us.

At this point in the year I normally enjoy letting the cooler early-autumn breeze waft through our open windows.  Not quite as much this year, though, since the beeping of construction vehicles, the pounding of hammers, and the sound of engines waft through our open windows, as well.

Over the course of a day, it's amazing that I can almost tune out these loud sounds.  Almost.

But then there's a day like today, a Sunday during which all of the workers are off and the construction is halted.  I listen to entirely different sounds -- a singular car driving up the road, crickets humming, wind rustling through the leaves on trees.

I notice how much more relaxed I feel. 

At the risk of typing the most overly-obvious question ever to have been typed: Have you noticed how much continual noise motherhood brings?

The other day I asked Joel if he'd watch the girls while I cut the grass.  "I really need the peace and quiet," I explained.

Yes, I was desperate for the peace and quiet that comes from revving up a lawnmower and listening to its deafening engine as I walked back and forth across my yard for an hour.  Because, as obnoxiously loud as a lawnmower is, it doesn't ask any questions.  It doesn't fight with its sibling over a toy.  It doesn't tell me that it's hungry seven minutes after I feed it a meal.

It's a quiet kind of loud.

And it worked.  I felt a little more human after cutting the grass, much like I'm acutely enjoying the lack of active construction across the street today.

Sometimes, we have to work to discover silence in our lives.  We have to turn off the computer, say no to the request, and guard time when we can be still.  In the words of Jon Acuff, we have to build our own Central Parks within the chaotic New York City of our lives, so that we don't implode on ourselves from busyness or wear out from constant work.

I'm not always good at this.  Between kids, work, and writing, I have little downtime.  I'm assuming that the vast majority of you are in the exact same boat, even if your specifics vary.  Even so, let's find some time this week to be good to ourselves, to stroll around in our Central Park and escape the throbbing traffic of our lives.

(Got an idea on how to practically do this?  Feel free to share in a comment!)

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On Having a Full House

Every Thursday night, the entryway to my house is littered with shoes.  Dozens of shoes.  Between twenty to thirty college students from the campus ministry that my husband works with come to our house each week for dinner.

Only the new people ever bother to ring the doorbell.  They rest just walk in, kick off their shoes, and sidle into the kitchen.  They compliment my cooking and take heaping second helpings.  They play with the girls.  I watch as they decompress from the lifestyle of dorms and apartments and settle into our home, flopping themselves on couches and sitting in clusters on the back porch or on the family room floor.

I can't imagine living life without an open-door policy.  These students have become like family.

Late tonight, long after the meal was finsihed, I washed the dishes.  One student came along beside me.  "Give me any task to help you out," he said.

He grabbed the broom and swept the kitchen floor.  Another student dried the dishes.  One more sprayed the windows with Windex, wiping away all the fingerprints from the day.  Someone else vacuumed.  Another emptied the brimming trash cans and carried the bags to the garage.

Just watching it lifted my heart and lightened my load.  It's what family does.

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This is the blog post in which I tell you that I've entirely finished my book.

I've entirely finished my book. 

I told you that I'd tell you this.  (The post's title entirely killed the suspense, didn't it?)

Sorry about that; I'm a bit excited.  So excited, in fact, that you might have heard the shout and the thud when I emailed the final revisions to my publisher.  The shout was triumphant.  The thud was me dropping to the floor in delirious exhaustion.

The dream to write this book hatched over five years ago.  I can't quite express how it feels to know that this dream will become a reality when Then I Became a Mother is finally released on October 20, 2012. 

What I'd most like to say is thank you to each of you readers.  You see, this blog provided the impetus for me to turn my abstract dream into something tangible.  I had talked about writing a book.  I had jotted down ideas and sent snippets of stories to a few friends in emails.  But until I began writing here at Pink Dryer Lint two years ago, I hadn't gotten serious and taken the necessary steps to make that book a reality.

Over these two years, though, your readership and support did something for me.  They convinced me that I had valuable things to say.

I absolutely cannot wait to share those things with you.  I guarantee that if you like this blog, you're going to love this book.

In these next few weeks, I'll be giving you some sneak-peeks.  I'll share the cover design with you.  I'll let you preview the video trailer.  I'll invite you to check out the website and read a sample.  As for now, I'll share my head shot with you.

For the record, this is the best I can possibly look.

I'd also like to ask you to partner with me.  Would you help me to spread the word?  You could tell your friends, share the news with a mom's group that you attend, or tell the women's ministry at your church.  You could post about it on Facebook.  If you're the author of a blog, I'd be delighted for you to write a review.

Let's talk!

Feel free to email me directly (robinkramerwrites@gmail.com) or leave a comment below if you'd be interested in sharing about Then I Became a Mother in any of these ways.

Above all, thank you.  You've helped me to write a book!

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I Doubted. It Still Happened.

For nine straight days, our caterpillar dangled in his chrysalis inside of a Tupperware container.  The container, like the caterpillar, sat motionless on our kitchen counter -- except for the time when I bumped it while taking dishes out of the dishwasher.

And the time when a child slid it precariously to the edge while piling books onto the countertop.

And the time when another child knocked the container onto the ground, causing it to roll and spin like a quarter that had been flicked, finally falling to the ground in unnerving silence.

I used a strip of Scotch tape to adhere the chrysalis back to the top of the container, partially marveling at the absurdity of merging office supplies with the process of metamorphosis, but mostly suspecting that he was a goner.

Does a chrysalis recover from a fall?  Staring at it gave no indication.  Its hardened shell revealed nothing.

My daughter took the container back to school, and there it remained, day after day, in suspended animation.  I imagined one week passing, then two, then three, and her entire class slowly realizing that the butterfly never would emerge.

Yet it did emerge.

This afternoon, I listened as my daughter recounted the entire process in painstaking, halting detail -- how she carried the container outside with her classmates for the official release, how her teacher gently prodded it to fly, how the butterfly landed on her friend's shirt, how her friend had screamed, how the butterfly finally flew in the direction of the tallest pine tree on the playground.

And as I listened, I wanted to cry.  Because how many times do I think that I've dropped something, peering at it and wondering if there's any chance for resurrection, all the while God is working something amazing on the inside?  Something that I can't currently see, something that will take time to unfold and be revealed.

Something like the fact that my three kids -- despite all the bumps and falls and failures along the way -- are going to eventually unfold their wings, and I'm eventually going to watch them fly.

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Image compliments of Dave Govoni (flickr.com)

When You Don't Know What You're Doing as a Mother

I've been in the hood -- motherhood, that is -- for seven years, four months, and twenty-one days.  Even so, on a regular basis I still feel as if I don't entirely know what I'm doing.

By now, I understand how to manage the routine.  I know how to get the kids up and moving, feed them cereal, brush their hair and teeth, and help them to pick out clothes that (mostly) match.  I know how to read story books and coax them to eat some of their vegetables.  I know to use a baby wipe to clean their hands and feet, proclaiming it good enough so I can wait until tomorrow to give them a bath.

But there's so much that I don't know.  When I sit in the school cafeteria at Back to School Night, I have the creeping sensation that I'm not qualified to be raising a second grader.  Have I instilled enough in her?  Not just academically, but morally, socially, and emotionally?

When the girls are arguing over the same toy, ignoring the plenty around them and focusing only on the one thing that they don't have, I wonder if they're learning any of the lessons that I'm trying to teach.  When I lose my temper, raise my voice, and act as childish as they're acting, I wonder if I'm doing irrevocable damage.

My middle daughter, Brooke, attended her first day of preschool this morning.  I listened when Reese, my oldest, got off the bus and asked her about her day.  "So, what did you do at preschool?"

Brooke tilted her head to the side and paused for a long while.  "I have no idea."

Reese wasn't deterred.  "Well, did you have fun?"

Brooke nodded and said yes.  "I'll go back," she added.

I love her truthful simplicity.  She spent an entire morning doing who-knows-what -- happily bumbling her way between stations, nervously facing a new environment, blindly meeting a roomful of new people.  Hours later when she tried to give a report to her sister, the experience was a blur to her.

How often do we, as mothers, bumble our way through our days?  We hope, we experiment, we scratch that idea off the list.  We pray, we blow it, we improvise, and sometimes -- on those amazing moments -- we nail it.  We bask, we pour ourselves out, we cry, we bite our tongues, we wish we had bitten our tongues, and we remind ourselves to breathe -- just breathe -- and put one foot in front of the other and get through the next five minutes.  Or the next five hours until bedtime.

And we wake up the next day and try it all again.

I'll go back, she had said, even though she hadn't any idea what she was doing.  What a brave proclamation.

I'll replay those words in my head when I don't know what I'm doing.  Just keep going back, Robin.  Just keep going back.  Because that's what's brave.  Not having it all figured out, but proceeding in faith even when you don't.

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Retaining Memories, One Price Tag at a Time

I'm fascinated with how people process and retain memories.  Some people remember specific events by the meals they eat.  That wedding?  Of course I remember!  That was when we had the crab cakes and filet mignon.  Others, like one of my sisters-in-law, remember the clothes they wear.  That wedding?  Of course I remember!  That was when I wore the green silk dress.

In terms of memory, my claim to fame is that I could tell you how much I spent for nearly all articles of clothing in my closet.  It's impressive.  Or it's a syndrome.  One of the two.

Considering that I take a few minutes upon waking to process what day of the week it is and that I rarely go an entire day calling my kids by the right names, it's also a stark contrast from my typical mental acuity.

But that sweater in my closet?  I know that I bought it on clearance for seven dollars.  And those jeans?  I snagged them for one dollar per pair at the resale shop.  Everything has a story.  Everything had been on sale.

What can I say?  I like clothes.  I like deals.  I love merging those interests together.  I aim to buy items that are versatile and will last.  Typically, I play it relatively safe -- incorporating color with my shirts, but keeping the bottoms neutral.

Until last week.  This is because LOFT, my favorite clothing store, emailed me about a huge clearance event.  There's something about this store that undoes me.  Perhaps it's the lighting.  Perhaps they pump endorphins through the air circulation system.  It results in me doing things like standing in front of a three-way-mirror, turning every angle, and thinking to myself, "Orange pants obviously are a fabulous idea."

And then because they were an additional 50% off the already-reduced clearance prices, my next thought was, "Ditto for the turquoise."

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This post has no connection with LOFT.  I intend Pink Dryer Lint to remain advertisement-free.  However, if you're a LOFT executive who happens to be reading this blog -- and you happen to be itching to give someone a free shopping spree -- I'd be more than happy to be the recipient.  You know, just this once.

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