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The White Witch

The last time I blogged was Christmas. When the snow was welcome. I can hardly remember that time so long ago…

We’re rounding Valentine’s Day this week, and I know I never want to forget surviving Snowpocalypse 2014…especially with a toddler who is a darling, chubby challenge. This month for everyone in Michigan has been intense. Every time anyone turns a corner on the road, we must inch slowly–trying desperately to peer around 8-foot mounds of snow by every streetlight–and cross our fingers we’re not going to crash. Now, I’m watching the flakes fall gracefully out the window by the lamppost. It’s beautiful and peaceful and I also can’t stand it.

This winter has reminded me of the years I spent in the South growing up, and I’ve actually longed for those days. To a Southerner, this winter is truly inconceivable. Some would say it’s Michigan at it’s finest, while others (myself included) think the snow is delightful when you’re sitting by the Christmas tree drinking cocoa, but as soon as the wreaths come down, it has to GO.

But, it’s not just the gray skies and sixteen feet of snow in my driveway that’s making time go by a bit slowly these days. Winter usually drags on in these trying months, but I happen to be stuck inside with the wild & undeniably adorable monster, Oliver. My littlest boy is hilariously out of control, turning out to be the type of kid as capable of destruction as the Tazmanian Devil. This child scurries up the (treacherous!) wooden stairs faster than I can pour myself a cup of coffee, and the moment I have stopped giving him his nineteenth snack of the day, he manages to find other things to put in his mouth.

This boy is lovable, hysterical, wild, boisterous, crazy, silly and, funnily enough, obsessed with cows. We spend a great deal of our time searching videos of cows. Mooing. And repeat this over and over. Why? Because we can’t go outside!! The days get long, & as moms stuck indoors, it’s so easy to feel trapped, stifled, alone. But I’m pushing through this season like everyone else knowing that someday…eventually…the snow will stop falling. But there are days like today where the snowflakes are so fat and slow that you can easily catch one on your tongue. On these days, it’s well worth a pause to remember that even though the snow complicates our lives so very much, when you look close, each flake is more beautifully designed than anything I’ve ever made. It’s quite amazing. And the white witch’s spell won’t last forever. Soon enough we’ll be walking the beaches barefoot, wondering where the time went.

For today, I’ll take just a second out of my resentment for Michigan, to remember catching snowflakes with Oliver before church. I’ll also (not so fondly) remember only getting a happy picture of him when he put an orange IKEA fork in my mouth rather than the snow baby-sticking-out-the-tongue picture I wanted. (hashtag “story of my life”)

I’m buried deep in this crazy life, and on days where it feels like I can’t dig myself out of this place…whether it’s because of snow, or stress, or responsibility, or change, or more snow…I’m sure glad the snowflakes are purely magical, the sun is coming, and this boy is mine.

Under the Tree

I’m not sure if you caught Josh’s Christmas blog post, but if you didn’t, certainly stop reading this right now and hop on over. He talks about our desperation for Christmas this year and also how it took weeks longer than usual to muster the motivation to deck our halls with boughs of holly. The Bishops have transitioned the past few weeks, recovering from turkey overload and also letting the dust settle on our more traditional roles as I’ve been home.  There was a short stretch of time of such exhaustion and emotional heaviness around here, I would have sworn I wasn’t going to see the twinkle of a single Christmas light at our house. But then Josh and I realized how greatly we need Christmas—how desperately we need the Kingdom to break down the doors in our lives—and we hauled down the boxes of ornaments, set up the nativity, and hung the stupid wreaths regardless of our sluggish hesitation.

Now, on December 9, we caught up. And decorating is truly a sign this year for the internal shifts taking place, especially within me. It’s not a big secret, but we’ve been seeing a wonderful counselor for a little while to have some healthy perspective and an extra set of hands to help pull us out of our mud pit. I sat in her office last week, and rather than melting into her yellow cushioned chair feeling like dead weight, it was as if I was floating as lightly as the snowflakes out her window. Stress is lifting and restoration has already started.

Writing about this makes me a bit nervous, because, to be honest, as helpful as it is to have a blog, I’m well aware of the fact that most bloggers (at least the ones that I know) use their posts not only as an important personal outlet, but also as a gallery for onlookers. We love our posts to move people with bedazzled metaphors, funny jokes and stories about our kids, and well-rounded structure to please an audience. All good things, but this post isn’t about any of that. Our reality right now is that we’re in the trenches, crying for help, trying to get out. Marriage is hard. Kids are difficult. Professional goals are shelved and dusty. Finances are tough. Big questions sit heavy on our shoulders every single day. But even though we may not feel this cornered all the time (and hopefully we won’t for much longer), we are no more desperate for a Savior now than we are in our best times. We *always* need Christmas, whether we feel the ache of that need or not.

So, the tree sits proudly on the stand with hideous homemade ornaments that I’ll treasure til the end of time. The lights are glowing inside and out. Tonight, as Josh rocked Oliver to sleep, I stayed with Jack, telling him that God chose a young girl no older than his babysitter to be the mother of the King. His mattress was dragged into the living room to continue the tradition of sleeping under the tree, and we talked about the stinky stable, the lonely family of three, and the Big Plan that was behind the whole story.

Thank goodness for Christmas. For holly, cocoa, snow, angels, jingle bells, and Christmas cookies. Thank goodness that His plans are sure and good. I’ve got plenty of proof.

Beauty and Brokenness

I got to spend my day in my living room. This alone is quite shocking since my full-time-working life ended last Friday. And since that chapter closed, I’ve already made life just as schedule-packed as it was when I was teaching. As frustrating as that is about myself, I’m certainly glad I made time for normal things like a play date with Jack’s buddy, Judah. The little fox kits wrestled on our basement floor and created imaginary lands for an afternoon, and I’ve so missed our days of friends, apple slice smiley faces, and hallway costume parades. And I’m glad I baked pumpkin cookies with cinnamon glaze for our Cable group, because–finally–I could be the one that comes with the study finished and a snack ready rather than the one who breaks down in tears as soon as someone asks, “How are you?” And I completed a trip to Hobby Lobby with two wild boys in tow, stocking up on craft supplies (hopefully I still enjoy crafting; I’m currently unsure). But one of the most important things I wanted to prioritize after the whirlwind of working settled was to reconnect with Kathy, the teen mom I mentor through YoungLives.


The end of this teaching assignment ended beautifully well. Not because of anything I did, of course, but because four students gave me written good-bye letters giving me some of the highest compliments I will ever receive. My classroom was compared to the warmth of a Thanksgiving table, my character was praised, and I was even told that the environment I created made my kids feel literally at home. Such beautiful ways to say goodbye and such uplifting words to help me remember that, at the end of the day, I still am–and perhaps will always be–a teacher. I’m still in awe of some of the contents of these letters, and I think I may actually keep them forever because out of this assignment blossomed several relationships that I hope last a long time. Students that have babysat for me, shared their stories with me, opened their wounds to me, and will hopefully join my family around the table some day soon to deepen our friendship even further. I loved these kids. More than I’ve loved students before. And I’m so grateful that, for a short season, I had the privilege of knowing them; and, for some, I was a role model and voice of truth.

But even though this assignment was beyond what I expected and with each passing day I could feel an anchoring purpose, I think about one of the most purposeful roles God has me in right now is mentoring Kathy. Coming alongside a young mom and putting my arm around her through the combination years of adolescence and young motherhood…I can’t think of more important work in this world. (Actually, sometimes I wonder if she is doing most of the mentoring. Perhaps she doesn’t realize I’m actually an insecure, struggling mother myself, trying to figure it all out.) Even though I’m still frayed and tired from the past three months, I’m so glad that we were able to do simple things like take pictures of our boys in a toy chest, watch Mulan, talk about relationships, rock our babies to sleep.




So thankful I could end my time at Black River focusing on such amazing and meaningful relationships. And I’m also grateful I could transition from one area of God’s purpose for me right to another. As I navigate some pretty significant challenges in my life, I’m just so grateful that He continues to use me. I’m pathetic, lost, broken, and insecure…but as I’m learning more and more, that’s precisely what he uses to make such beautiful things.


Thank you, Jesus.

 

 

Working Mom

It’s not even eight p.m. on a Friday night, and already I’ve been in my pajamas for over an hour. Most likely, I’ll be passing out around nine o’clock because, as the working mother I’ve been for the past seven weeks, I barely make it through the week. There have been countless times the past two months where I have composed blog post titles in my head or written down thoughts and quotes to revisit on thousands of sticky notes. I’m (clearly) not a writer who has to spill my thoughts frequently, which is a good thing because lately I barely have the time to brush my teeth, much less do the things I love like bake bread, play music, or write blog posts. But I do feel empty or fragmented when I go this long without some brand of reflection. Writing makes me feel like I’m rounding home base, like I’m giving a victorious high five after a tiring game.

As much as this teaching assignment is robbing me of my entire life, I continue to be grateful I was given the opportunity. Black River is a unique little place. And even though it’s not my place, I’m happy to be there for this stretch of time. I started the job several steps behind due to the month of August being a total bust (see previous post about pink eye and strep). And, honestly, I continue to pay for it because I’m rarely more than a week ahead in planning and preparation. Sometimes, I’m lucky to have the next day mapped out. As a teacher, this is the most stressful way to navigate one’s way through the school year, but it was the hand I was dealt. Still, I have found joy in lesson planning, reading, test-writing, and—gasp!–even grading. After seven years of teaching and subbing, education feels just as good of a fit for me as it did when I played school at five years old. Even though I’ve fallen on my face a few times, my teaching skills are improving and I’ve had a few “lightbulb” moments with students that give me the hope and fuel to keep going. It helps of course that the students and teachers at Black River, overall, are rock stars. The kids are mature and motivated, two huge factors that create a healthy, dynamic class culture. My head is often barely above water, but I really couldn’t ask for a more vibrant, challenging, and encouraging work environment. It’s been a huge blessing.

The most challenging part of the working mom gig–particularly as a full-time teaching mom–isn’t actually the school day. And it isn’t even the stack of reading and grading I return to at 9 p.m. most weeknights or even the full Sunday afternoons of studying and planning. Really, the hardest part is the window of time between three and six p.m. These are the hours that demand the most of me and remind me that motherhood is by far the most demanding job on the planet. Josh doesn’t come home until six, and without a moment to breathe after my long work day…I’m on duty for what I now call “second shift”: caring for my children at their worst hours while also making and serving a recognizable meal. By the time we attempt a family dinner (this is also not factoring in the rushing off to karate, counseling, small group, or meetings) and clean the kitchen, it’s nearly eight and I’m so tired that I’m surprised my head isn’t rolling on the floor. And yet the nighttime bath and tucking-in routine still requires a solid hour of full energy and focus just to get through it.

I am exhausted.

It hasn’t helped that during the seven weeks so far at BRPS, Mr. Oliver has decided to cut six teeth. That’s almost a tooth every week, folks. When I say my child is always teething, I’m not exaggerating. This past Wednesday, stuck in the thickness of a hard week, Ollie refused to be anywhere but in my arms during these three trying hours. As a result, I twisted my back so painfully that I had to teach the following day leaning over. Yesterday, I looked like a human “L”.

Even though I feel like our family may as well be in a blender right now, I am able to stop and see a lot of beautiful things unfolding in our lives. First, Jack is speaking Spanish as a result of his Spanish Immersion Kindergarten program. He has taken more responsibility for his little self, and even though I feel like it’s from a mile away, I love watching him blossom. And his wild little brother took his first steps yesterday!!! Thankfully, it was while I was on the kitchen floor with him. I had dropped (literally) all of my things by the back door and spent good portion of the afternoon on the tiles, watching his steps and plops. I’m so glad this didn’t happen while I was away at school; those first steps were with me and toward me. And I’ll always be grateful for that.

Somewhere underneath this glorious mess, Josh and I are holding everything together. Some days it feels like it’s all going to break and spill. In addition to the chaos, Josh and I are digging deeply into our marriage to replace some broken pipes. Emotionally, we are raw and weary. But we know we are not alone. Truly, God is at work during this crazy time, using dinnertime Bible reading, bedtime storytelling, late night pillow talk, early morning coffee spills, and living room “fire ball” games to keep our family together.

Romans 5:3-6 says, wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

We certainly aren’t suffering compared to some, but we are in uncharted territory that is requiring a great deal of everyone. And we will persevere to the end and hopefully look back and know each difficult day was worth it. And until this is all said and done, we’ll manage to squeeze in a date night, a family wrestling match, and good Porker and Pudge story to get us through.


Porker and Pudge

This morning was Jack’s special (and anti-climatic) first day of kindergarten. Considering today was a Thursday and he was supposed to go on Monday, it didn’t feel quite as emotional dropping him off. I didn’t cry because I’d been stuck at home for three long days with a very sick boy who was missing his first few days of kindergarten. We tried not to worry that all of the students would have found their cubbies, lunch tables, and even friends by the time he arrived. Thanks to amoxicillin, his case of strep simmered down, and on Thursday morning, he was finally armed with a Ninja Turtle backpack and his charming smile. And he entered the big, wide world for really the first time.

There are a million wonderful things to say about his school, Innocademy. The odds of him getting in to this school were so very slight, and God just answered my stressed-out prayer of what to do about educating this bright, amazing, hilarious, stubborn, challenging son of mine. He fell right into place at Inno, especially since our neighbors are an Inno family.

The day felt oddly familiar rather than fresh and new like the first day of school usually does. He had attended K-Camp this summer at Inno to prepare him for kindergarten and it did exactly that. So, today I’m praising the Lord for carving out such an amazing place for my son, for His continued provision over our family, and for giving me this wild kid to call my very own.

Jack and Caven at Innocademy’s Open House

Even though today will forever be starred on our calendars and monumental in its own way, the most special and spectacular part of my day with Jack was our time telling bedtime stories. We’ve been diligently working lately on better sleep management at our house. For a while, a regular night includes Jack waking up several times screaming in terror due to nightmares demanding to be cuddled, only to start over once me or Josh tip-toes back to our bed. (Meanwhile, that spunky little nearly-one-year-old has been waking up as well, often a few times). Nights have been dreaded and dreadfully long lately, which probably made his case of strep even worse. So, we’ve gotten books on sleep from the library, and storybooks about The Lord’s Prayer and Joseph’s Coat of Many Color. We’ve prayed over and over again to keep nightmares away, and we’ve tried practice runs of how to handle a nightmare. The best bedtime routine, though, involves the art of storytelling, and when this involves me at my most deliriously tired state coupled with my crazily creative 5-year-old, the stories keep us up laughing far beyond the bedtime we’re trying to protect.

Tonight’s story is one I don’t want to forget, and hopefully these characters will be ones we revisit over and over again. Two pig brothers. The older one, Porker, is just like Jack, and his little brother, Pudge, is similar to Oliver. In the first episode, Porker and Pudge were playing t-ball together. Pudge wanted to play with Porker and his friends, but they would only give the little runt the job of retrieving the outfield hits. When the final ball disappears, Pudge’s skills of retrieval end up granting him hero status among the hammy players. And the second episode involved Pudge making fudge. (When Jack realized those words rhymed, we had to go with it).

I can’t think of a better way to end Jack’s very first day of kindergarten than laughing in a world of imagination all our own. It’s my favorite way to spend quality time with my oldest boy, the first child to make me laugh and steal my heart. Sending him to kindergarten at Inno–after a solid year of debating and stressing over where exactly he should be–feels exactly right and good for everyone in our family, and I could not be more proud of him.

I’m sure Monday will feel like our real first day. The first Monday morning, the beginning of an actual 4-day week of all-day school. Perhaps I’ll watch him more closely, walking away with his small class of Spanish Immersion students. And, it doesn’t take much for a mom to bring back all the memories of baby and toddlerhood to make the tears well up and pour down. Maybe I’ll remember his first day of preschool, when he couldn’t say his “s”s correctly and was still working on molars. Or I’ll probably get this image of him with a diaper on and wrists so chubby they looked the rubber-banded pudge.  The emotions are all there and it will continue to sink in that my baby isn’t a baby anymore. He’s independent enough to spend loads of time away from me, taking care of himself, learning from someone else the ins and outs of this world. I wouldn’t trust any school with this responsibility, and I’m so grateful for the shelter of Innocademy. But no matter how grown up this boy gets, I hope to end our nights for years to come telling stories, knowing that no matter how far he goes, home is always where he’ll belong.

Katie.

I remember the day I met one of my best friends, Katie. Her first memory of me involves me being an idiot, going on and on in the community bathroom about my boyfriend at the time and how talented he was. (This, by the way, sums up that relationship). Like everyone else, she smiled, nodded, and probably wanted to gag or roll her eyes. However, my first memory of her involves her typing at her desk with crazy, silver-sparkly hair. She’s an actress and had just gotten out of a play. She was doing one of her many hilarious voices, and for some reason, I was captivated by her. I knew I wanted, even in some small way, to be a part of her sparkly, hysterical life. She’s a command-the-room type person without trying to be, and she’s beautiful in such a unique way like great models usually are. Her heart has a rare purity too, and I just knew that if we were friends, my life would be better for it.

Thankfully for me, as time went on, we morphed into a certain version of each other and became so close that I feel like she’s not only a dear friend, but an extension of me in the best way. We can have conversations without words and frequently finish each others’ sentences. It’s the best kind of friendship, which is why our reunion this past week after four whole years of separation was so precious & special.

Kate took the opportunity to meet Jack when he was one, but in the past four years, we’ve collectively had three more children. I have been wanting to get my hands on Eisley and Thatcher for years, because their mama is one of the people I treasure the most. Their visit was amazing, challenging (as to be expected with littles), and totally refreshing.

Thatcher & Oliver

Jack and Eisley catch a frog in Ada (this photo was worth the entire trip)

The boys that stole our hearts, and our first born loves

We’ve always shared our faith; but even from a distance, I have noticed an anchoring in Katie. She always, first-and-foremost, wanted to be a mother, but the experience for her has turned out to be inexplicably holy. All of the vitality I loved about her pre-motherhood life has been focused on these two miraculous people (well, three, including her awesome and adoring husband Chris), and it’s as if each morning over breakfast spills and bed head, she is seeing them as newborns for the first time.

This was especially revitalizing for me because lately I haven’t felt like I’ve been the greatest mom to my boys. Sure, we all get down on ourselves and usually we need to give ourselves some grace. But, in all honesty, there are times when I can just downright be a better mom. I can close the computer, leave the dishes undone, get eye-level with Jack, explain things thoroughly. I can play for longer periods of time. I can smile more like Katie does, just at the sight of them.

One of my greatest challenges is that I need about a thousand hours of sleep per week to feel most capable of handling what life throws at me, and I haven’t slept through the night in nearly a year. When I’m tired, my logic is compromised, my joy is shriveled, and my patience feels long gone. I’m obnoxiously aware enough of these compromises, but I’m too exhausted to let the more loving, calm, patient me emerge. Even though I know she’s in there somewhere, my 4-year-old gets perplexed and even sad.

Which is why being around Katie was even better than usual this time around. We both tend to love in silly ways. We make up songs, give wild hugs, and love the element of surprise. We both scoop up our kids and slather them with kisses. We use ridiculous nicknames (in college, we referred to each other as Amber and Susan*). We’re adoring friends and even more adoring mothers. But I’ve slumped in this area, feeling buried under the daily stress of teething babies, tantrums, and continued battles over Jack’s basic needs. I’ve felt deflated, and it’s hard to be outrageously loving toward your kids when you’re barely hanging on.

But I’ve realized that a really good friendship can inspire you, challenge you, and direct you…but in subtle ways while also making you laugh. As Katie and her beautiful clan pulled out of our driveway to head back to Iowa, we all felt wiped out from vacationing with kids; but, I was revitalized and refocused on what really matters. I want to hold my boys closer and make them feel treasured. Like the Saldanhas, I want to worship with my family, gathering around the piano or guitar just to praise Him for the gift of each other. I want to make our little life more Gospel-centered. And, more than anything, I want our togetherness as a family of four to be one of my greatest experiences of joy. Every day.

 

Kate, thanks for being all that you are: life-giving, hilarious, generous, and faithful. I’m so proud of the mama you have become and the family you and Chris are raising. Thanks for sharing your life and heart with me for the past twelve years and for many more to come.

*I can’t believe I’m outing this, but Amber was short for Victoria’s Secret’s fragrance Amber Romance. And Susan referred to Susan Sarandon. Can’t really explain it.

 

Camera Envy

I think when I look back on this past year, one of my biggest regrets will involve Costco. I got my membership last summer after being convinced that was the best place for buying diapers. (Little did I know that my baby would be big enough at 4 months old for his big brother’s cloth diapers, purchased for Jack just before he turned 1 year). I always need emotional support for Costco because I don’t feel yet like I’m officially part of the club. Sometimes I’d call my friend Molly just for advice before venturing onto those shiny, open, intimidating concrete floors.

In addition to mounds of diapers, I first purchased a Canon camera from Costco. Given the store’s reputation for quality products, I thought that despite the fact that it wasn’t the greatest camera on the market, it was still a safe (and affordable) bet. And yet, Oliver is now 10 months old, and I’ve only completed 4 pages in his scrapbook because my camera absolutely sucks. I wish I could go back in time, scrounge and pinch every single penny spent frivolously over the past year, and go buy a dependable camera. Not the kind that would bounce around inside my purse because even the best camera case can’t fully protect a piece of equipment from damage in there. My purse has sippy cups, wipes, and medicine in it regularly, and I’m usually digging through it while I’m driving, tossing every item in there a million times in response to questions or exclamations such as:

“Mom, I’m staaaaaaarving!!!!”

“Mam, could you have your card ready please?”

“Mom, Oliver is smearing snot everywhere!”

“(Insert Oliver’s fussy, whiny, get-me-outta-here fake cry that is only distracted by a toy or something crinkly)”

I need to be instantly prepared to respond to these crises, like I’m on a swat team. A camera for my purse has a better chance of surviving a trip through the washer and dryer than it does in my purse for a single day.*

No. I need a camera like my friends have. All of them. They all must have taken a Responsibility and Aesthetics course in college because they all have wonderful, big, hang-around-the-neck cameras that capture every blade of grass in the summer sprinkler fun time photo shoot. I, however, am still trying to take pictures with my Costco camera where half the photo is blurry and too shiny, so I have to stand a hundred feet away, put the adorable child in the upper left corner of the picture display, and hope that after the camera clicks, there might be a portion of an image worth saving. So sad considering how adorable my children really are. Even sadder for Oliver’s scrapbook which may have a third of the pages that his brother’s does. (It’s okay, Ollie. I’m a second child too.)

Still, I tried. These Spring/almost-Summer days have been so beautiful and my baby is growing so quickly; I couldn’t help but plop the Elmo-jammy-wearing child on the grass, strategically next to the red geraniums in our yard. Not the most successful photo shoot, but oh my goodness, he is still so precious. As luck would have it, the camera wouldn’t load pictures to the computer the first five times. Then the files were unreadable. Then the pictures were incompatible with wordpress. (Really??) I managed to get one picture. One precious picture.

I'll try to put my camera-envy to rest and perhaps save enough money to purchase a "I'm a mom by day and professional photographer by night" camera sometime soon.

Regardless of the terrible camera, the subjects are still worth oodling over.

 

*I actually am a snob about purses and purse organization in these years of motherhood where pacifiers, debit cards, toys, gum, and snacks--always snacks!--must be retrievable by the nanosecond. Even within this system, a camera still suffers.

Aprons and Apricots

This past Sunday, as usual, was grocery day. The last four years have taught me that grocery shopping itself may be the worst part of my life, as if every week, Sunday is April 14 and my taxes aren’t filed. The thought of starting Monday morning without a meal plan and the fruit drawer stocked with apples and apricots is debilitating. I’ve tried 3 online meal plans, special diets, categorizing meals by main course meats. I’ve subscribed to recipe magazines, dog-eared and post-it noted my cookbooks. I’ve used my own lists, grocery lists from mommy blogs and websites, and finally landed on the simplest go-to grocery list known to man (thanks to a funny company called Knock Knock).

I even left this fridge pad check-off system for second go-round with the emeals grocery list and meal planning system, but faithfully returned to the basic “ALL OUT OF” checklist. But I’ve also tested out grocery stores, bouncing from Meijer to Aldi to Costco to Save-a-lot to Nature’s Market and other local alternatives. Plus, I want to order from Country Life when I can, and Josh’s garden is sprouting veggies and fruit that will make it’s way into my recipes. And now… with the Farmer’s Market, I feel like I’m playing grocery pinball, trying to figure out a manageable way to feed my family and retrieve everything I need responsibly and without setting my hair on fire. After Jack was born, my role as homemaker started shifting the plates underneath the solid ground I was standing on, and cooking was no small part of that struggling transition. Becoming a good cook was never my goal. Maybe, I thought, when I’m a grandmother, I’ll get around to finally learning how to roll a pie crust. (But I did this just this week for quiche. Only the pie crust was whole wheat and was made with greek yogurt. Delish!) But I certainly never thought I’d find myself apron-wrapped at thirty years old with the kitchen being my home base in life.

But, here I am. And even though grocery shopping at this phase of life involves picking up diapers, wipes, and Angry Birds band-aids from the store, I now can say I LOVE the crisp grocery list I manage to put together every weekend, I love how dingy, crossed-off, and ripped they are by then end of the trip, and I’m loving the wild menus that these lists are reflecting. I finally can make my rounds through the grocery stores on nearly a schedule, and I can tell you exactly where to find spring roll wrappers in the International section. I know my whole wheat pizza dough recipe nearly by heart. I know precisely when to add pasta to a minestrone so it doesn’t overcook, and I can recognize the sound of a rolling boil. A few weeks back, for example, I tried a pineapple chicken salad recipe that I had at 3-year-old’s birthday party. To break away from our basic homemade pizzas, I folded my whole wheat dough over a spinach and ricotta mixture to make calzones instead. And I de-pitted and sliced the perfect, cold avocado and added it with sticky rice to my spring rolls.

It helps that I have extra people to feed these days. Not that cooking for my little family isn’t motivating (Josh loves good, healthy food too and Jack is finally–finally–becoming a somewhat well-rounded eater, and this kid spends half his life in his high chair).