There and Back Again: A Beach Tale

Yesterday we returned home from a week at the beach.  As my husband drove, I flipped through a  magazine and read this snippet from an essay by Lisa Belkin:

"Traveling with children is not always a postcard.  There's the getting there, the being there, and the getting back home.  This involves planning and patience in quantities unimagined before you started bringing them along."

To which I eloquently say, true dat.

Several days before we left for vacation, I mentioned to my younger two daughters that we'd be leaving for the beach soon.  I don't recall why I uttered that thought aloud; they clearly needed no coaxing to be excited for the trip.

In fact, shortly after I spoke the words, I noticed that they both had left the room.  Ten minutes later, they still were missing.

Eventually, I found them here:

Perhaps this is why it's inevitable that children, at some point during a vacation, will spontaneously combust into an irrefutably epic melt-down.  When their excitement level hovers at 11 out of a scale of 1-10 for days even before the vacation begins, there's no graceful way to downshift without an emotional collapse.

I am proud to report, though, there were just three meltdowns throughout the week among my immediate family.  Only one of those meltdowns was mine. 

Historically, I fall apart mid-week during a vacation.  For several hours I become convinced that I have done nothing right as a mother -- daresay, as a human -- because my children are manifesting behaviors which suggest that they'll grow up to be self-absorbed, ungrateful creatures who never will remember their manners, consider others, appreciate scenery, or eat well-balanced meals. 

Then, in the throes of despair, I take a nap that more closely resembles a coma.  When I wake, there's a newfound strength and sense of well-being that enables me to continue applying sunscreen and opening juice boxes and shampooing sand out of my children's hair with good humor.

All told, including the hiccups, it was a lovely week, and I'm grateful to have spent it with not only with Joel and the girls, but also my in-laws, two brothers-in-law, and four nieces and nephews.  Besides, those brief emotional outbursts -- whether due to excitement, exhaustion, the changed routine, or the sum total of all these parts -- get forgotten in light of the overall picture. 

When I think back on these travels, I hope that I'll remember details like how my eight-year-old reacted with an amazed shout when we walked onto the beach the first day and she caught a glimpse of the ocean.  Or, how my three-year-old never tires of filling buckets and pouring sand.  Or, how my five-year-old hums while she's snorkeling in the kiddie pool so that her voice reverberates upward into the air. 

The getting there, the being there, the getting back home: all part of the adventure.


Looking for a way to fill these lazy summer days?  Check out Then I Became a Mother: an encouraging, humorous, and candid book for all moms.  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

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And Summer Begins

Some people have neighbors who own dogs.  Our neighbors own cows. 

My husband has named the two cows who graze in the field behind our house, so let me introduce you to Jack and Jill.  I'm not sure which is which, but being that Jack and Jill aren't their real names, the designation matters very little.

When we moved into our house seven years ago, three horses grazed in the same field where Jack and Jill now graze.  I had watched these horses closely, and after a few weeks I named them Strider, Gandalf, and Smoke.  (When I finally learned their real names -- one of which I think was Annabelle -- I was sorely disappointed.  Much less epic.)

At any rate, I've always loved the view from my backyard.  We look up a mountain, with acres of farmland and protected forest sprawling forth.

I'm struck by how we can drink in beauty, just like we drink water.  How we need beauty, how it slakes a thirst in our hearts. 

We walk though our gardens, admiring God's intricate handiwork.

I look at the perfectly imperfect details -- a spider's web covering a rusty ornament that has seen the heat and rain of many summers -- and feel a quiet satisfaction.  These are the details that would have caught my eye as a child: this bell, this web, this little treasure planted in the garden.

My heart is full as I stand on our little plot of ground, and I know that summer will unfold from here.  There will be picnics and slip-and-sliding, lightining bugs and time in the sand box, scraped knees and sweaty heads, sunscreen and freezer pops, bug bites and crankiness from bored kids, marshmallows toasted over the fire pit and the smell of cut grass.

A kalediscope of imperfect details will blur over the next months before we descend into autumn, just waiting for us to notice and drink in their beauty.

And summer begins.

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No Ironing Board Needed

Here's to the phase of life when you use this:

more frequently to do this:

than to take care of this:

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Don't Be Fooled by the Blue

After nearly fifteen years of service, my alarm clock broke and needed to be replaced.  I stood in the store eyeing two models.  One had a digital display that glowed red.  The other had a digital display that glowed blue.

Between the two options, the blue display seemed so soothing, so calming, so appropriate for a setting that's specifically designed for sleep.

My decision was settled.  I bought the clock with the blue display, took it home, opened the box, threw away the packaging, and plugged it in. 

Just right.

Just right, that is, until nighttime when I turned off the lights.  The blue display, so mellow during the afternoon, morphed into an inhumanely bright glare that illuminated the bedroom walls and seared through my shut eyelids with a center-of-the-sun intensity.

Part of my bedtime routine now involves strategically covering the alarm clock with a pillow.  My husband shakes his head at this, but gosh, I threw away the packaging on trash day so it can't be returned.  Looking on the bright side (literally and figuratively), besides from the fact that it hinders sleep with its obnoxious blaze and will require me to cover it with a pillow every night for the next fifteen years, it's a perfectly good alarm clock.

Just in case you're on the market for new clock, though, remember the adage about how the hottest flame burns blue.  The same goes for alarm clocks.

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Here's to the Dads

Here's to the dads who catch little bodies as they plummet down sliding boards. To the dads who coach soccer practices and help with math homework and get kids riled up by wrestling right before bedtime. To the dads who read story books and give piggy back rides and play tickle monster. To the dads who hug, pray, listen, and say I love you. To the dads who are present and protective.

Thank God for fathers, and thank God that He's a faithful Father to those who are fatherless.

Especially today, here's to the dads.

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On the Road Again (and again...)

This morning, I stood in front of the calendar and wondered how two full weeks of June already have passed.  Since the semester ended in May, we've had birthdays and house projects and visitors and end-of-school festivities and a smattering of short road trips embedded between the typical days at home.

The inability to easily settle into a predictable routine seems to be the one predictable thing about summer.  It's like the last leg of a road trip when you're back on residential streets again, but accustomed to highway driving, you still find yourself moving faster than you ought to be. 

That being said, let me downshift and share some highlight from our recent travels because, my oh my, we've been places.

Three weekends ago we visited my family in Pittsburgh, where we discovered a park that still had one of the most amazing playground attractions ever created.  I don't know its official name, but my children called it the spinny-thingy.  My mother called it the merry-go-round.  My husband called it the concussion-maker.

It's as awesome as it is potentially dangerous, which, come to think if it, is precisely why it's awesome.  Flirting with danger in a controlled environment is the stuff of childhood.

The following weekend we attended a wedding in Williamsburg, Virginia, which took seven hours, two rest stops, and -- thankfully -- only one urgent toddler bathroom break in the weeds on the side of the highway to reach from our home in Pennsylvania.

The morning of the wedding, the girls put on their flower girl dresses, I fixed their hair, and we left the hotel at 9:30, which was plenty of time to arrive for the pre-ceremony pictures with the bride and bridesmaids at ten.

Or so we thought.

Unbeknownst to us, a bike race was scheduled on the two-lane road that led to the ceremony, and we found ourselves driving at an alarmingly slow pace in its wake.  Cars were ahead of us.  Cars were behind us.  There were no turn-offs.  Minutes were ticking by.

This is not good, my husband muttered, and a moment later he spotted a connecting road.  Without second-guessing, he pulled onto it and announced, I'm trying something. 

I'm not entirely sure how it happened -- I think it had something to do with God bending time and space and street intersections on our behalf -- but we arrived at the designated location at 10:15.  My husband dropped us off in the parking lot, I hastily waved goodbye, and we rushed into the house exactly as the bride was exiting her room.

Of course, I acted entirely casual and collected, like we had been there all along.

I was slightly less collected when we moved outside for pictures and my five-year-old walked underneath a tree, unknowingly trampled berries that had fallen onto the ground, and then accidentally stepped on the front of her own dress, staining it with purple berry juice.  (If this ever happens to you, do not question, as I did, how a child can walk on the very dress that she is wearing.  The child will have no logical explanation to offer.  Your efforts will be better searching for a Tide to Go pen, which will work miracles.)

After the photographer had finsished and the bride and bridesmaids got into their cars to drive to the ceremony, I realized one final glitch: in our haste to get the pictures, my husband had dropped us off and driven to the ceremony by himself.  Without us.

And that's how three flower girls and their mother end up hitching a ride to a wedding ceremony in the back of the photographer's pick-up truck. 

During the ceremony, Reese maturely carried her bouquet, Brooke and Kerrington dutifully followed with the Here Comes the Bride sign, the bride glowed, the groom pumped his fist in the air after the official kiss, and I sat back in my chair to soak it all in, one very thankful woman.

Earlier this week our travels continued when my husband scored a great deal on two tickets to a practice round of the US Open.  After arranging childcare for the day, we woke at an ungodly hour on Monday and drove to Philadelphia, where we spent the morning and early afternoon walking the eighteen holes of Merion Golf Course in the rain. 

What can I say?  My husband loves golf.  I love my husband.  It turned out to be an unconventional, but long-awaited and greatly-enjoyed, date for us, despite the overzealous precipitation.

Just yesterday I found myself on the road again, this time to Delaware with a heavy heart, to attend the funeral of the father of a dear student in our campus fellowship who passed away unexpectedly. 

Last night when my head hit the pillow, I felt sad and worn down from the day's events, and perhaps the cumulative miles.  The sore throat that I had attempted to ignore all day had erupted into a tight cough and my thoughts raced unproductively, as they tend to do when you've been drinking caffeine all afternoon to stay alert while driving.  I finally chugged a dose of NyQuil and waited for the caffeine and cold medicine to duke it out in my system until sleepiness prevailed.

Today, I spent the day with the girls, holding them a little more tightly, hanging a little closer to home, and consciously slowing down.  Some days there should be no rushing at all.

Our travels, at least for this week, are over.  There's no better time to be grateful for home.

Looking for a good read for the upcoming summer? Check out Then I Became a Mother on Amazon. Available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

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Over at MOPS Mom-E-Mail Today

If you're visiting from MOPS Mom-E-Mail -- welcome!  I'm a mom of three young kids, a teacher of college public speaking and writing courses, and a horrible fitted-sheet folder.  I appreciate order, structure, and time for reflection, which are three desires in diametric opposition with the reality of motherhood. 

Occasionally, I burst into spontaneous dance moves or a rather spectacular rendition of Livin' On a Prayer for no apparent reason, but my most defining characteristic -- the one which most deeply influences my actions, speech, and overarching life outlook -- is that I am a follower of Christ.  I love God.  He loved me first.  I get the better end of this deal, by far.

I'm so glad that you've joined me here at Pink Dryer Lint, where I write about embracing the ordinary moments of motherhood and lifeLike the bittersweet day when you dismantle your crib; or the moment when you realize that you're a woman who's trying to do it all; or the afternoon when your child drinks water from the public library's toilet; or the time when you come out of the grocery store, see a minivan in the parking lot with its side door wide open, figure that it belongs to some poor, tired mom with a handful of kids who probably forgot to shut the door or grab her little clutch of mostly-expired coupons, and then stop to realize, Hey, that's my van....

Please feel free to explore the site, hang out with me on Facebook, or subscribe to my posts via email (see the box in the right margin).

Enjoy, and thank you for visiting!

Looking for a good read for the upcoming summer? Check out Then I Became a Mother on Amazon.  Available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

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Time Prepping Is Not Time Wasted

My father, a retired school teacher, painted houses during the summer for nearly thirty years.  By watching him, I learned that the time you spend prepping a room is never wasted.

Each time I paint, like I did earlier this week, before I open the paint can I first unscrew the light switch plates and seal them in a plastic bag.  I cover the floor with drop cloths, protect the baseboards and trim with painter's tape, gather all the necessary supplies, and place a cloth rag and paper towels nearby in case of spills or drips.

Sometimes I want to bypass these preliminary steps and simply jump into the task. As I painted, I thought about my desire to skip ahead.  (It distracted me from thinking about how frequently I couldn't recall whether I just painted a section or whether I still needed to paint it, much like when I can't remember if I washed my hair or just thought about washing my hair while in the shower.  Obviously, I'm battling short-term memory issues.)

Unlike actually painting, prepping a room doesn't yield immediate visible results.  In fact, at the onset, it slows you down.

I'm often temped to cut corners and skip the prep, and not just while painting.  I want to shoo my kids aside in the kitchen so I can cook dinner unencumbered instead of parceling out whose turn it is to stir next.  I want to fasten their buttons or tie their laces quickly instead of laboriously teaching them how to do it themselves.  I want the end product of their good behavior even before I patiently instruct them about what that behavior should be.

In other words, I have days when I want my children to be freshly-painted finished products, days when I forget that this whole parenting experience is one long process of setting foundations and laying down enough drop cloths to catch spills along the way.

But as I navigated around this recent painting job, toggling back and forth between edging with my brush and covering wide swatches with my roller, I made quick progress.  My careful preparation at the onset, even if mundane, made the process smooth, the clean-up easy, and the end result successful.

Once again I reminded myself of the wisdom inherent in the process.  Time prepping -- whether in painting or in parenting -- never is wasted time.

Looking for a good read for the upcoming summer? Check out Then I Became a Mother on Amazon. Available in both Kindle and paperback editions!

Grown Ups Live Here. (In other words, we hung curtains.)

Over the past week I've been on a bit of a house project kick.  Okay, I've been on a big house project kick, the likes of which I haven't experienced since I was eight months pregnant with my third child and decided to refinish our bedroom suite.

Neighbors must have shaken their heads when they saw me, dust mask and safety goggles donned, as I bent over my protruding stomach and fired up the power sander in the driveway.

Never underestimate a woman who's nesting.

My current renovation zeal hasn't been sparked by pregnancy hormones, but rather my oldest daughter's pending summer vacation, which starts next Wednesday.  It seemed wise to knock out a few projects when just two kids, not three, are home all day.  I've triaged which projects need urgent care, which temporarily can wait, and which home renovation goals unfortunately must die.

It began when I recently hung curtains in our bedroom.  When we moved into the house seven years ago, we installed attractive honeycomb shades for privacy, but I must say that in the past few weeks I've quickly become a fan of room-darkening curtains.  If I didn't have children who wake early and insist on being fed breakfast, I easily could be lulled to revert to my high school days when I slept in obnoxiously late because our bedroom is now so blissfully dark.

Plus, when my husband walked into the room and saw the curtains, he voiced his full approval: "It looks like grown ups live here."

I concur with his reaction.  We're all grown up now.

Since hanging the curtains, I've cleaned and hung shelves in the garage, organized the basement storage closet, and painted the wooden steps leading into our house from the garage.  I've derived such simple pleasure from admiring those freshly-painted steps and newly-hung shelves that I've begun to invent reasons to visit the garage.

Yesterday I also painted our dining room -- a task that had been a long time coming, given that we bought the paint over a year ago. (To be honest, waiting this long provided a nice surprise. So this was the color that we picked!)

Even if it's a year later than anticipated, there's something to be said for diving headfirst into a task. As I spread the drop cloths on the dining room floor and taped the trim, I couldn't help but think that I was like Forrest Gump in the scene when he rose from his chair on the porch and, for no particular reason, decided to go for a little run -- one that landed him on the opposite coast.

So, if my little, one-room painting episode results in me repainting my whole house, you'll know why. Solidarity with Gump.  Once inertia is overcome, you never know what will happen.

I promise to share pictures in the coming weeks.  Stay posted!

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If These Crib Rails Could Talk

We dismantled our crib this spring.  It was time.

Over eight years ago, we set up the crib for the first time.  When I say we, I actually mean that my husband set up the cribEight months pregnant, I had shuffled around while he worked, keeping myself busy with important tasks such as folding hooded towels, stretching 0-3 month onesies onto child-sized hangers, stacking diapers, and occasionally rocking back and forth nervously as I realized that the nursery -- the room that we used to refer to as the spare bedroom -- was now flooded with baby products that I hadn't known existed just months prior.

Three babies have slept in that crib over the years since then.

How many times did I stagger to that crib in the middle of the night to feed a hungry newborn?  How many hours did I pace the strip of carpet between it and the changing table, hushing and rocking and whispering?  How often did a baby's smile in the morning swell my heart to the point that I thought it might explode?

As we carried the disassembled pieces of the crib into the garage, memories cascaded over me.  I remembered when we videotaped our first daughter as she gazed upward toward her butterfly mobile as it slowly spun.  Nothing but her face, wrinkled and rosy, was visible above her tight swaddle.

As she grew, she learned to kick out of her swaddle and inch her way across the crib until her head was wedged directly in the corner.  I had found this so clever -- my baby traveled!  It took just one night to realize that each time she got stuck in the corner, scrunched and miserable, she cried until we rescued her.  Desperate, sleep-deprived thoughts tempted me, like how easy it would be to solve this problem by duct taping her to the center of the crib for the night.

I recalled a few long, blurry nights when the girls got had gotten sick in the crib  How Joel and I squinted when we abruptly flicked on the hallway lights, groaned as we assessed the mess, and then figured out who'd be responsible for cleaning the kid and who'd change the crib sheets.

I conjured snapshots of the girls as they slept: the outline of their forms bathed in the glow of the nightlight, their bottoms turned up and their knees tucked underneath, or their arms extended above their heads in dreamy surrender.

I remembered the sound of baby feet kicking the crib mattress in the morning as they woke, the rhythmic thuds vibrating through the mattress as if it were a tightly-stretched drum.

Once all of the crib pieces were propped against the garage wall, I returned into the house and watched the girls without speaking.  Are these really the same children who used to whack themselves in the forehead with their rattles, stunned into tears by their own uncoordinated assaults?

How we've grown.  All of us.

We're officially past the baby stage in my household.  The crib now belongs to a new family, friends of ours who recently moved away.  Somehow, my heart is lightened knowing that another precious child still sleeps within the safety of its rails each night.

Looking for a good read for the upcoming summer?   Check out Then I Became a Mother on Amazon.  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions!

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Summer Reading for Moms

What if we moms could see all that we're doing -- all the creating and training and coaching and supporting and loving -- rather than dwelling on all that we're not?  What if we realized that we only need to fill our daily twenty-four hours with what we're called to do, not what we impose upon ourselves?

What if we gave ourselves grace and redefined accomplishment?

A productive day might look like a pile of books on the floor next to the couch where you read to your children for an hour, your cadence rising and falling like it has done hundreds of times before as you've turned those very same pages.  It might resemble a bunch of sweaty-headed kids who never got a bath because you caught fireflies late into a summer night.  It might be seen in a sink full of dishes after a family dinner.  It might sound like siblings apologizing to one another for the fourth time that afternoon.

Accomplishments in motherhood come in many forms, and rarely are they tidy and obvious.  Redefine accomplishment.  You'll discover that you're accomplishing an impressive amount.

Excerpt from Then I Became a Mother.  Available in Kindle and paperback editions for your summer reading pleasure!

Photo attribution: Josue Goge(

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