On Time-Outs, Bad Guys, and Saying “No”

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There’s been a lot of talk in our house lately about good guys and bad guys. “What happens to the bad guys?” “Why are they bad?” These are the questions that keep my 3-year-old boy up at night. It all started when he saw his cousin perform in a kid’s production of Annie. He still asks me, almost a year later, why Mrs. Hannigan was so mean! Now the conversation is more focused on Darth Vader and the “dark side.” He has yet to see Star Wars, but our kind next door neighbor keeps providing him with an endless supply of storm troopers and yoda figurines which have now becoming friends with his Playmobil Noah’s Ark set.

As we’re driving around town running errands, I’ll hear his sweet voice and questions from the backseat. “Why is Darth Vader so mean?” “Does he need to go to jail?” I’ll typically say things like, “Well, Darth Vader made some bad choices,  one bad choice after another.” Or, “Darth Vader was tricked to turn to the dark side.” Or to keep it simple, “Darth Vader just needs some friends.” To be honest, I’m not sure what would be the most age appropriate answer for my little guy who is trying to figure the world out with an endless supply of “whys.”

When he makes some bad choices of his own like, let’s say, slapping me in the face or pulling his friend’s hair in a WWE hold while banging his head up and down on a trampoline, we again have a conversation about bad choices while he has a time out. I’ve been sitting with him during these time outs and try as best as I can to speak in a calm voice while keeping him in place and helping him transition out of his bonkers state of emotions.

His slapping and thrashing episodes usually happen once I say “no” to him. Just last night when I told him it was time for bed and no, he couldn’t go on the swing in the dark in our back yard, he told me, “Don’t say ‘no’ to me. It’s not nice. You’re going to get a super big time out and then you’ll have to go to jail.” Trying not to laugh, I accepted his words and said that Mommy would take a time out once he was in bed (and I’d prop my feet up on the couch with a handful of chocolate covered almonds and some wine).

The other day he asked, “Why do you always say ‘no’ to me?” This deflated me. I told him, “I don’t like saying ‘no’ to you sweetie. But sometimes I need to say ‘no’ because I know what’s best for you.” This conversation reminded me of some hard lessons I’ve learned, and continue to learn, when it feels like God is saying ‘no’ to me as well. After each heart breaking end of a relationship in my single days, I felt like God kept saying ‘no’ over and over and over again. Some wise person spoke some truth to me during that time and altered that meaning a bit by offering that perhaps God wasn’t saying “No” but “Not yet.” Those four extra letters felt like a peace offering from God. God hadn’t forgotten me and my desire to be married. God hadn’t abandoned me. And perhaps, God didn’t even like saying “No” to me. But God did say “Not yet. Oh, not yet Marlene. I have someone even better. Just wait and hold onto me a bit longer. Trust me on this.”

I’d like to think that is what God is saying to me now as I feel like I’m wading through another “No” season of life, a season where things aren’t happening as I thought they should. “Not yet, Marlene. Not yet.” And for my son I do try to find many times to say “Yes” to him throughout the day to buffer the “Nos” and the “Not yets.”

We’re Going on an Adventure

I’ll never forget those words my Mom spoke to me on that crisp afternoon in the Spring of my tenth year of life. I was standing outside of Ordway Elementary School with the rest of my fifth grade classmates as our teacher gave a demonstration. I was oblivious to my Mom being escorted by a school administrator as she quickly approached me.

I was, of course, shocked to see my Mom. But more than any emotion I may have felt at the time, all I remember is her saying to me, “We’re going on an adventure,” and then being quickly pulled away from my classmates as we briskly walked to her car. “Are we going to Disneyland,” I thought? What kind of adventure were we going on? I got giddy at the thought of it.

As soon as I opened the car door, I saw the solemn look on my Dad’s face. And then his words felt like a kick to the stomach as he said, “We had a house fire.” No fanfare. Just the few words needed to get straight to the point.

[To read the rest of the story, click here. I’m guest blogging on my friend’s blog today!]

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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It all began to unravel after I made the presumptuous comment to my friend that my 2-year-old had finally mastered potty training. We were getting caught up while our boys were in gym class – essentially a padded room for toddlers to bounce, jump, crawl through tunnels, and dive without fear of getting hurt. It was at this moment in our conversation when my little guy snuck away to hide in a tunnel and do his business. In his undies. When I spotted him, he said, “Don’t change it. Don’t change my poo-poo anymore.” This is code that he is actually in the process of pooping. There is no warning in his rule-book. He just goes.

I drag him to the bathroom, with a poop load. I get most of it into the potty, with the remainder in his undies. I try scrubbing the undies in the sink, which ends up clogging drain.  As I scoop the poop out of the drain with a paper towel, I assume that this is just a minor set-back and I put another pair of undies on him and we return to class in tact.

After gym class, we head to Toys-R-Us to finish some birthday shopping. As I’m in the game aisle, I start wondering why my feet start feeling wet. I look down and I am standing in a puddle of pee. My little guy is sitting in the cart, smug as a bug. I grab some wipes, pray for evaporation, and wipe the pee puddle with my feet. Not surprised that I can’t find a single employee to warn, we race off to the bathroom and hope Toys-R-Us doesn’t get sued for someone slipping on Aisle 12.

After Toys-R-Us, I decide to swing by my friend’s house for an impromptu play-date with her 3 kids.  We let my chocolate lab, Sutter, take a break from sitting in the car and let him run out his energy in the backyard. He escapes. We catch him. Meanwhile, my little guy is in the backyard pooping in his underwear again. “Don’t change it,” he says. This time I’m borrowing pants and a pull-up (forget the undies… we’ve had a major potty set-back today). I take him to their changing table in the bathroom, and as I pull off his undies, his poo flings across the bathroom and lands on the floor and the cabinets.

It gets worse.

The boys are playing again in the backyard with my friend’s chickens. (Remember that Sutter is still in the backyard.) For some reason, we leave our 2-year-old boys in the pen area with the chickens and go back inside for something. Meanwhile, one of the boys opens the pen, and Sutter starts attacking one of the chickens. We come out, and Sutter has an entire chicken in his mouth and is wringing it from side to side. My friend and I tackle Sutter, and he is covered in feathers… bits of chicken are dangling from his mouth in a foamy mess. The chicken survives (praise God!), but Sutter is lunging with all of his might to go for the kill. I drag him with every ounce of my being to get him back in the car.

My friend and I finally have a moment of peace, we think, to sit on the couch and complete a sentence. Realizing that we haven’t heard our boys in a little while, we meander to the back of the house and find the boys in her shower rubbing all of her good shampoo over the shower doors and on themselves.

Stick a fork in me. I am done. It is time to end this day and pray for a good start tomorrow.

On Waiting and Cabinet Making


I’m living in the midst of a second remodel in our 3 years of marriage. My mini-kitchen that I’ve set up in our dining room looks more like a campsite with my portable stove and the endless dust and dirt that ventures over from our demoed kitchen three feet away. Let’s be honest. We’re basically eating in a construction site.

Carl and I have “kitchen” on the brain. We’re eating, sleeping, and breathing kitchen decisions right now. Carl will even wake up in the middle of the night thinking of what kind of crown molding we should have on our cabinets. I spend every spare moment scouring the internet pricing out different options and trying to figure out what an air switch is. We are currently in cabinet decision mode. Do we have inset or overlay? Stained or glazed? Shaker or…???

These cabinet decisions are reminding me of a conversation I had about 7 years ago with one of my comrades in the single days. We were sharing about how bored we were with the same prayer request – the same longing and hoping that God would provide a spouse. We were so bored with that request that we just took a break from praying about it completely. Instead, we just hoped to be on the other side… knowing full well there would be plenty of other challenges awaiting us in marriage. Other struggles, decisions, and compromises that would eat up our mental space and keep us up at night… like making decisions on kitchen cabinets. And, here I am. I’m no longer praying for a spouse, but cabinets are front and center.

And please don’t misinterpret this. I am in no way comparing cabinet decision making to waiting in singleness. That kind of waiting is some of the hardest I know – long, cruel, arduous, messy. I remember going to a church women’s retreat in my mid-thirties and attending a seminar on this lovely topic of waiting. When I entered the room, I was taken aback by the married women milling around. What were they doing here? What could they possibly be waiting for? I mean, isn’t the only thing we’re waiting for a spouse? I was obviously in a cloud of my own misery. That seminar was an eye-opening reminder that we are always in the process of waiting for something – waiting for that test result, waiting to conquer the cancer that’s entered our body, waiting to get pregnant, waiting for a loved one to come back home. That seminar knocked some sense and perspective into me. Ultimately, we’re all longing for home – where the worries of this world will disappear and the deepest longings of our heart will be satisfied.

In Christy Nockels song, Waiting Here for You, she shares about this longing and how in the midst of it, we are waiting for our God…

Waiting here for you
With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s you we adore
Singing Alleluia

You are everything you’ve promised
Your faithfulness is true
And we’re desperate for your presence
All we need is you

** I highly encourage you to listen to this song by clicking on the song title above.

Timing the Tears


I’m finding that as a Mommy I can’t always engage in my emotional state when I need to or want to because I often just need to hold things together for my busy toddler. I can do this most days, but right now it’s an effort. A friend and I were talking yesterday about when to time the tears when we just need to let down, let the stress roll off our shoulders, cry out for help during a trying season. It’s an interesting concept to set aside time to cry and grieve. It’s another reminder that as a Mommy, my time is no longer my own. Well, except nap time. But as soon as I put the buddy down for his nap, it’s not like I can just say, “ok… grab the Kleenex. Let it out.” It feels awkward to be so pre-meditated with my tears. But I know that bottling up emotion won’t be healthy for me either… as evidenced by the lovely zit forming on my chin. It’s easier for me to keep busy, check things off my to-do list than to deal with everything that life throws your way.

But when I heard this song, it almost made me drop to my knees. It’s my heart’s cry right now. The words pierce me to a point where I need to stop what I’m doing, open my hands, and surrender yet again. This has been my nap-time song lately. As awkward as it is, this song has helped me time my tears, and remind me of the eternal hope I have, even in the midst of a difficult season.


Being a Mommy is Dangerous


When I lived in San Francisco, my parents often worried about my safety. If we were ever chatting on the phone while I was driving, circling the neighborhood for a parking spot, they would often ask to keep talking with me until they new I was safely inside my apartment with the door locked. And, I admit, there were times when I got a little sketched out while walking home on Geary in the dark, and opted for running in the middle of the street until I made it to my destination.

So, now I live in the “burbs” where people don’t lock their doors and neighbors hang out in their front yards and bring over freshly baked blueberry scones. I feel pretty safe here. But, no one prepared me for the dangers of living with a 2-year-old. Have I ever gotten into a fist-fight? Nope. Have I ever taken a self-defense class? Thought about it. Have I ever gotten a black eye before? Well, not until my face got in the way of my toddler’s stick whacking. Serious Mommy danger. You should have seen the looks I got at the grocery store. If anyone asked, I was prepared to say, “You should see the other guy!”

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The Wedding Dress Housewife Chronicles: All in a Day


Do you remember that time when you used to take long, hot showers, you washed your hair regularly and had uninterrupted time to straighten it? Wait… let’s start over. Remember when you used to brush your hair? I know Moms don’t get much “me-time” anymore, but when you do get that rare moment, I suggest changing out of your bathrobe and slipping into your wedding dress once again. You don’t even need to brush your hair or take off your slippers, just lounge in your dress. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and reminisce back to a time when people were waiting on you (yes, YOU!), doing your hair, your make-up, holding your veil, giving you sips of Perrier, touching up your lipstick.

And… end scene. Nap time is abruptly over.

waking up Waking up in your wedding dress is another great option over the typical sweats and baggy T-shirt.

IMG_3870Thus concludes the Wedding Dress Housewife photos for the time being. Thanks to my good friend Lori for being the photographer, and for her creative genius. We are collaborating on more photo locations and wedding dress appearances. If you have ideas or requests, send them my way!