A Whale of a Bad Time

It was Sunday.  We were on our way to Kullervo’s biannual family reunion (read: incredibly fun vacay with an incredibly fun group of people), and stopped in Knoxville, TN to see our old stomping grounds.  We had planned a day of restaurants and places to bring the kids, and stopped first thing in the morning at the University’s Latter Day Saint Institute building (college ministry for the Mormons) where we’d first met.


This is where Kullervo was sitting when I first saw him. I knew right away that I wanted to marry that boy… I just had to convince him!

We got out of the car to take a few pictures and tell the kids the story of how we’d met.  We decided to walk the couple of blocks to see my old dorm,


Clement Hall… my first home in Tennessee!

and then we walked a few blocks the other way to show the kids the building we’d lived in when we first got married.  


Laurel Apartments – no longer married student housing, and totally lacking in the complex smells associated with the multitude of international students who used to live there.

We were close to the church we planned on attending that morning, so we just walked over.  

After a lovely church service filled with hipster beards and bow ties and a well-written sermon about the Church being made up of regular people and what that means for us, the church-goer, we walked back to the car to continue our adventures around Knoxville.

But when we got close to the van, something was wrong.  I saw a lot of broken glass on the ground, and I was fairly sure I didn’t remember it being there when we parked.20160703_123914

While we were at church, someone threw a rock at the car, shattered the window, and stole my purse (along with about $250-300, an iPod touch, my wallet with my credit cards, bank card, passport card, the spare key to my van, all of the chargers for all of our devices, and some sentimental stuff (as well as other stuff I haven’t remembered yet, I’m sure).

They left the rock.


There was shattered glass everywhere.  Everywhere.  The kids’ stuffed animals.  The car seats.  The Moon Pie that I had started but not finished on the drive the day before.  The steering wheel, the seats, the floors, the cup holders.  The bags of library books were covered in glass.


We realized that they ONLY grabbed my purse.  They did not take the Kindle or the iPad, or the musical instruments.  Our laptops were in the car (but hidden).  It was not as bad as it could have been.


Kullervo called the police.  I called the credit card companies and canceled all the cards (and managed to do so before they were used!).  I called the insurance company to find out how to proceed.  They told me that they could send a glass person out on Tuesday.  It was Sunday.  I asked what we should do in the meantime, and they said they could not advise me on that.  I asked what I should do about paying the deductible.  They said I’d have to pay it to the glass company.  I told them that I’d canceled all of my credit cards, and my purse was stolen, so I actually had no money.  They said they could not advise me on that.  Kullervo pointed out that their customer service was bad, but a problem for a different day.

He called some friends in town, who dropped everything, made us a bunch of sandwiches and brought us lunch, fruit, and water.  They also brought us moral support and an ear for our outrage.  I picked enough glass off of the driver’s seat to drive to vacuum as much glass as I could out of the rest of the car.  And I cried.

Kullervo’s brother was also on the way to the reunion, and he stopped by and gave us a credit card to use while we’re away from home.   We made jokes about Calvinism and God’s grace.  He took the rest of our valuables in his car, since ours was obviously no longer secure.

Kullervo and I prayed and thanked God that we hadn’t gotten hurt.  That we were in a place where the kids could be safe while we dealt with the mess.  That friends were close who could bring us sandwiches and water.  That Kullervo’s brother was close by with resources to share.  That the weather was relatively pleasant and it wasn’t raining.

And we went to Walmart and bought a shower curtain to cover up the hole.  And duck tape to hold it in place.  And, because I wanted something cheery to brighten up a sucky situation, I bought whale duck tape.


I’m keeping the rock, and I’ve named it Forgiveness Rock.  And I’m praying for the people who did this, because they are hurting too.  They are suffering too, because if you can get to a place of moral ambiguity, it means you’ve been hurt and you’ve been damaged, and somebody did that to you.  And I hope that they can take the money and the iPod and find help.  And I hope they find the prayer card that my daughter wrote in church one Sunday telling  God that she knows that He loves her and she wants to follow Him, and I hope it sparks something in them.  I’ll never know the end of their story, but I hope it results in change for the better.


White Privilege

I want to talk, poorly at best, about white privilege.  I am white.  I experience this privilege.  And I generally experience it in such a way that I don’t see it.

But, don’t you see?  That’s the thing.  THAT is what white privilege is.

Kullervo and I were talking the other day about a recent case where a 13 year old black boy was shot in Baltimore by the police.  He was running around with a toy gun.  Kullervo remembered being a teenager at a science fiction convention, and all the teens playing some intricate indoor/outdoor game that involved chasing each other and shooting toy guns.  Kullervo’s brother was drawn down on by the police.  He wasn’t shot.  He wasn’t hurt.  They told him to quit playing, and everyone went on their way.

If my brother-in-law were black, he might be dead.  Or gravely injured.

THAT is white privilege.

Do police lives matter?  Yes!  Of course!  We need our police officers.  Some of my dearest friends are police.  Some of the most formative people in my life growing up were police officers who took me in and treated me like a daughter.

Don’t all lives matter though?  Yes!  Of course!

But, don’t you see?  That’s the point of #blacklivesmatter.  Right now, we treat minorities as if their lives don’t matter.  Or at least not as much as other people’s lives.

I went to the grocery store with all four of my (white) kids the other day.  It has rained for days on end here; they all have all this pent up energy.  Plus, some of the kids, when mixed together with public places, rile each other up in such a way as to be absolutely nuts-driving.  So, they were acting a bit like wild children in the grocery store.  And I was tired and didn’t have the energy to tell them AGAIN to behave.  So I tolerated much more misbehavior than I would have otherwise.

And I left the store wondering if even that is white privilege.  If a relatively young mom of four African-American children took them to the grocery store and the eight year old was playing reckless hide and seek with the four- and two- year olds and the ten year old was asking (nagging) about buying scrapple and the mom was frazzled with the busyness of the store and the lateness of the hour and all the other things that had to get done with the day… what would have been different?  The judgmental looks (which were relatively low for me)—would they have had an added layer to them?

When my kids want to go outside and play unsupervised, I don’t have to worry that anybody will see them and assume they are up to no good

When someone posts about a free bag of Legos on our neighborhood forum at 1pm on a Tuesday, I can send my oldest son out to go run over and scoop them up before someone else does (and I can’t leave because the little one is sleeping), and I don’t have to worry that walking home during a school day with a bag of stuff will make someone suspect him of a crime and call the police.  Because he’s white.

The thing about white privilege is that I don’t even really know what it looks like.  If you’re black, you know that the standards are different, even though they shouldn’t be.  If you’re white, you don’t have to see any standards at all, because they aren’t applied against you.

And if I’m entirely off base here, please call me on it!


They look sweet and innocent…

Regarding Santa

Growing up in a non-religious household, it never occurred to me that people could possibly have a problem with Santa Clause.  It seemed that the only reason one might have a problem with Santa was if they didn’t celebrate Christmas, and therefore were jealous.  It wasn’t until I became a practicing Christian that I realized that it can actually be an incredibly divisive issue among Christians.

My thoughts: If you want to enjoy Santa, do it.  If you don’t, don’t.  Teach other kids to respect other families’ beliefs, customs, and practices.  As for me and my house?  Santa visits every year.

Here’s the thing.

We absolutely follow the tradition of Santa Claus.  We don’t use it as a manipulation tool to get our kids to behave (there is no ‘naughty or nice’ and no threats of coal in the stockings for misbehavior… misbehavior gets punished in December in the same way as the rest of the year).

Our kids know that Santa Claus – Saint Nicholas – was a passionate Christian known for secret gift giving (and for punching heretics, which my kids love to tell naysayers when other kids tell them Santa isn’t real).  I’m not lying to my kids when we tell them that there is secret gift-giving going on. We let them believe in the magic and the beauty that is someone giving absolutely selflessly, and we tie that in to Jesus giving Himself absolutely selflessly, and how we are to follow that model.  Jesus also said that we should do our good works in secret–our praying and our fasting… and I can only imagine that it is acceptable for that to extend to our giving as well.

Santa is also a part of our cultural traditions, and as we very clearly tie the meaning of Christmas–the miracle of God entering His Creation, and how that changed everything, absolutely and forevermore–the stories and legends and myths that go along with it are no more dangerous than letting my kids read about Greek myths or Roman gods, which we do with regularity.  Christmas is about Jesus, and we can use Santa Clause to honor Jesus and celebrate His birth into the world He created.

Just a Typical Night

The kids were doing this:


I was listening to Pandora’s Chicago themed station (the band, not the city), and when ‘You’re the Inspiration’ came on, I started serenading Conrad.  We got silly and started belting out Eagles and Meat Loaf songs.




You’d think that when we got to the part about watching our hearts, still beating, rising out of our bodies and flying away, our kids would react.



Grocery Shopping

It must be late August.

I went to the grocery store today—gloriously without children, allowing me to people-watch instead of children-watch.  And I know it must be late August because we live in a college town and the students are back.

Some of them were shopping with their moms.  I wish I could recreate the perfect worried-mom accent for you, but since I can’t, you’ll have to read this out loud with a slightly nasally, overly anxious tone to get the full effect.

“Oh, honey.  We should get you some Ziploc bags.  Which size do you think you’ll need?  No, I really think they’ll come in handy.  Gallon?  Or sandwich…. no, sweetie, nobody uses quart bags; let’s go with gallon.”

Some were new roommates shopping together.  I can spot them a mile away; they seem sort of disgusted by each other, but shy about it, and can’t agree on anything, so they politely argue.  My college roommate and I barely hid our disdain for each other (and by barely, I mean that her friends used to literally SIT ON ME when they came over in the middle of the night), so we really didn’t shop together.  Like, ever.  Had we had to live together a second year, I’m sure we would have just had assigned times we could be in the dorm room.  The only thing we ever did together was leave a container of yogurt out for an entire semester and occasionally joked that it was a science project.  (Really, it was just lazy.  Or stubborn.  I guess I don’t remember whose yogurt it was… which means it was probably mine.  I’m gross, y’all.)
I love watching new roommates together because it reminds me of Kullervo and I when we first got married.  Our first grocery trip was a disaster.  Butter or margarine?  The wrong answer could lead to an annulment.  He actually thought full fat mayo was better.  Hello????  I won that battle.  Later on, Friends would back me up on my decision.  “You know what?  It tastes the same and my pants fit better!”


I’m pretty sure that Kullervo and I both left the grocery store wondering if we’d rushed into this marriage thing (we did), and if we were going to make it (we have).
I stood in the grocery store today watching these people and wondering if they were going to grow into being the kinds of friends who finish each other’s sentences… or if their sole good memory would be a smelly standoff that grossed their actual friends out more than it did the other.

When I was in the produce section, I ran into the old-friends roommates.  These are people who have made peace with their butter-lovin’ friend, who have accepted that the other actually thinks Pepsi is better, and so they spend their time at the grocery store throwing food samples at each other.  Because, college.  I only got hit with one piece of cantaloupe, so I considered my artful dodging my workout for the day.  There was also the pair who were bickering in the snacks aisle.  Megan has been on a juice cleanse for three weeks (!!!), and Jenny was loading up her cart with Fudge Stripe cookies because they were her friend’s favorites.  They told me so.  I laughed and told them they were my favorite people at the grocery store today.

And then there were the not-really-cooks.  One set was a (presumably) newly-married couple, another was a set of roommates.  These were not people who cook or bake very often, so they sat in the flour aisle trying to determine if they needed dark brown sugar or light brown sugar.  IN THE WHOLE AISLE.  And the couple stood in front of the spices, cart sideways so they blocked the way, trying to find smoked paprika.  And, did she think they could just use regular paprika?  Did it really have to be smoked?  What does that even mean, anyway?

Flour wasn’t on sale, so I just turned around and avoided the whole scene.  Although the newlyweds were kept crossing my path through the whole store, and the husband kept apologizing.  I hid in the baby food/tampon/diaper section.  Newlyweds NEVER go down that aisle, and I’m always amused that those items are kept together.

It was entertaining to be able to enjoy the grocery store (which, disappointingly, was not playing Richard Marx or Chicago today, so my usual method of clearing an aisle by warbling along with the canned music wasn’t working), and to experience the variety of scenes of new college life in one place.

Thank goodness I left the kids at home.

Special Nights

Tonight was Hazel’s ‘special’ night.  She gets it once a month.

I read about this on a blog at some point—I wish I could credit it with a link, but it was just a passing blog post in the sea of too much information.  In any case, it wasn’t my idea, but we have adopted it as our own.

The idea is this: we have a lot of kids.  It’s hard to give all the kids individual time.  And as they get older, it will become even more challenging with sports and social lives and more sports and life.  And as much as I think our kids benefit from each other’s company (most of them are much better than I am at playing pretend), I know they also crave alone time with Kullervo and me.

Enter: their special night.  On the date of their birthday each month, the kids get to stay up late.  And if that date happens to fall on a Friday or a Saturday night, they get to stay up extra late and watch a movie or play a longer game with us.  If their date falls during the week, they’ll stay up long enough to read an extra chapter of whatever book they’re reading with me, or to play a short game, or hang out while we do chores.

Even better—Oliver and Hazel’s dates are always a week apart, so their weekend, extra-late nights always fall in the same month (which makes delayed gratification that much easier).

I didn’t realize what a game changer this would be.  The kids look forward to their date with a ferocity that surprised me.  So much so that it isn’t something we take away even for the worst of behavioral offenses—for them, right now, it’s too big a deal.

Last weekend, when it should have been Oliver’s night, I had had a really long day full of people and activities and I was totally spent.  So we agreed to postpone his night until this weekend.

So, last night we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Oliver.  He loved it.  And getting to snuggle with my boy as we watched, and getting to watch him squirm with the emerging romantic interests in the movie, and hearing him make connections and tell jokes and play off of our jokes is fulfilling in a parental way I hadn’t realized existed.  This is a kid who is growing up, and it turns out he’s clever and he’s funny.  And we stopped the movie partway through to discuss and make connections about Harry Potter stories and Christianity and the lessons we can learn as Christians from the books and movies.

Tonight we watched We Bought A Zoo with Hazel.  We’ve actually seen it before—it was the very first movie that our kids ever saw in the movie theater.  Hazel didn’t remember it (she was two), and watching her watch the movie brought me so much joy.  She still hides her head under a blanket during any intense parts (and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll realize there really are none… but she hid anyway).  She still gets all giggly whenever there is romance.  And she loved that the child in the movie was her age.  The most cringe-worthy moment in the movie happened when Matt Damon (can we get a collective ‘ahhhh’?  No?  Just me?) was talking about how his daughter still believed in the Easter Bunny… and Hazel said. “Um, I still believe in the Easter Bunny!”… and the daughter in the movie steps out and asks, “What’s the deal with the Easter Bunny?”  …awkward silence…


The kids really look forward to their special nights.  But I don’t know if they realize that I do as well.  And I imagine that as they grow older, these nights will become even more significant in their lives—and in ours—and in the relationships that we want to have with them.

So, if you have a bunch of kids (or, you know, one)… try having a special night set apart for them!  Again, I didn’t come up with the idea, but I wholeheartedly endorse it.  Especially if your kids are as cool as mine.

14 Years

I remember the first time I saw you.  You were sitting on the stairs of the church building at college, and you smiled at me.  That smile… I don’t even know if you really even noticed me.  But I noticed you.

I remember the church dance that you didn’t ask me to.  I daydreamed about you asking me… for AGES.  And I daydreamed about dancing with you, even though you didn’t ask me.  I daydreamed that we danced, and then you kissed me.  We didn’t go to that dance together, and you didn’t dance with me.  I actually got incredibly sick, and you sat next to me, against the wall, and I was so aware of all the places that your body touched mine.

I remember a snowball fight with you, and you caught up to me and grabbed me, and the snow should have been cold, but I was pretty sure I could never be cold if you were touching me.

I remember calling you at midnight on your birthday on the first day of 2001, and you weren’t home, because of course you weren’t… and I woke up your parents.  And I was mortified to have bothered them, and mad at myself for sitting at home, waiting to call you on New Year’s Day.

I remember when you asked me out, FINALLY, the day that I had decided that I was going to get over you.  And then you kissed me, in your car, with the snow falling.  And the next day I wasn’t sure if I could ever look at you again, because what if you had kissed me and it hadn’t meant anything to you, when it had been everything to me?  But then I saw you, and you smiled at me.  THAT smile.  My smile.  And I knew that I would marry you if  you would only ask.

I remember when you were thinking of proposing, but you were going to wait to meet my family first.  But then you got the ring, and it burned a hole right through your pocket, so you took me to the Steak & Shake and got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry you.  We ran inside, absolutely giddy, and because nobody proposes at the Steak & Shake they showered us in free desserts and Steak & Shake swag (such as it is).  And we were GIDDY.

I remember when I moved into the studio apartment in a relatively seedy neighborhood, so that when I drove home from your house in the evening, you’d call me to make sure that I made it in okay.  And one time when I fell asleep before we talked and didn’t hear the phone, you drove in the middle of the night to check on me.

I remember kneeling across from you at the altar while your grandfather asked us to repeat our vows, and then you kissed me.  And while we kneeled, gazing at each other—for what seemed like an awkwardly long time—you smiled.  I’m sure I did too, but you smiled and I just wanted that smile for the rest of forever.

We were barely adults when we got married, and we have grown up together.  And watching you grow, into a more and more incredible, kind, and loving husband, into an amazing father, and into a man of God has been inspiring.  You make me better, in all ways, and you forgive me for all the ways I fail.  You smooth out all my rough spots, and you love me better than I realized one could.

I want to wake up next to you forever, I want to see you in the passenger seat on all my road trips.  I want to continue to roll my eyes at all of your bawdy flirtations forever, so I’m glad you tell me you’ll never stop.  I want to witness your ridiculous machismo when we’re at the grocery store and you won’t let me help carry the groceries, and I want to keep laughing together at all of the jokes we’ve been storing up for years.  I want to be your partner, and support you in all the ways that you need, the same way you do for me.

It’s been 14 years since our wedding day, and you still smile that smile at me, and I still melt every time I see it.  I can’t describe it—but your smile is full of love, and a little bit of shyness, and a little bit of cockiness, and I love it.  And I want to see that smile as it ages, as the lines become deeper and your face becomes ever more familiar.

I want 14 more years with you, but more than that, I want a whole lifetime.  I want to dance with you on our 50th anniversary, and I want you to kiss me the way you didn’t before we were dating.  You are the love of my life, and I want you to always know it.

I love you, sweet husband.  Happy anniversary.