Vital this Mothers Day


What a mothersday weekend we’ve had!  It was our wedding anniversary, maybe not commemorated lavishly, but no less celebrated.  There were multiple mothers day performances and events.

There were the Peruvian folk dances yesterday, performed by the most delightful preschool dancers in front of a crowd of proud mommies, daddies and assorted family.  There was plenty to enjoy even if you weren’t a proud parent – from the matador who almost stepped on his cloak several times, to the young bull obsessed with his horns, to the amplified spontaneous comments of a preschooler who certainly did not understand the magic of the microphones in front of him.

Next, a toddler baker, in an apron and chef’s toque, made cookies with mommy, while teachers and helpers brought juice, posed for pictures, and cleaned up spills effortlessly. Each mommy was presented with a handmade (by the teacher I’m sure) gift.

365-2592Tonight: “Daddy, daddy, you have to make fire! “

And just like that, my chicken and eggplant menu plan turned into chicken kabobs, and mothers day wrapped up with impromptu “camping” with food cooked over a fire. Their little tent was set up outside, and they carefully supervised as daddy cooked chicken on a stick. They were very disappointed that we could not eat in the tiny tent, but happily munched on camp food cooked over the fire even here at the kitchen table.

Maybe some moms would have been disappointed without cards and gifts and lavish meals out, or even less lavish meals prepared by someone else at home.

But for me, this day again proved why I said “I do” to this guy eleven years ago.  Instead of insisting that he needs to finish the office setup he was deeply involved in completing, he dropped everything because a little boy wanted to camp. “Make fire Daddy!” And he did. Dinner was made; hearts were warmed.   And that is what’s vital this mothers’ day.

More thoughts on motherhood

365-1563After a long walk, a friend and I were talking about motherhood yesterday.  The good, the bad, the transcendent.  I knew motherhood would change my life.  I didn’t know it would change me.

I have more irrational fears for my children than I could ever list.  I wake up in a cold sweat after dreams that we got separated at an elevator, I couldn’t find them in a grocery store, I wasn’t there for them.  It forces me to live deliberately, to choose carefully, to watch vigilantly.  I pray now.  Many times a day.

I care so much less about what other people think.  After my son was old enough to go to the pool, I wore the first bathing suit I owned in probably fifteen years.  This body should be on public display even less now – it shows evidence of pregnancy, childrearing, and too many lunches composed of the crusts off their PB&Js.  But you know what?  The body image issues I struggled with my entire life are gone.  Who needs to worry about the eternal pooch and the arm flaps when your son is squealing with delight at splashing around?  And who has time?  Life is short.  Childhood is even shorter.  “Mama, get your bathing suit,” they call.  And I answer, because this will not last.

My world view has changed.  It is not enough to tell me you care about families, Mr. Politician.  Show me.  Show me how you support families with maternity leave, and access to healthcare and decent education.  Show me how you care about those who are getting lost in the larger battles of life.  Show me why you want to send my sons to war.  Show me how we are making the world better for our children, not leaving them with cripling burdens we didn’t have the guts to fix.

Being a mom has made me much less judgmental.  The mom with the tantrum on aisle three gets grace – “You are handling this so well. Motherhood is tough isn’t it.”  The mom who shows up in wrinkled clothes with a cheerio stuck to her hair?  I know her.  I love her heart.  The man on the front page of the paper is not just an axe murderer.  Somewhere, he has a mom, who carried him under her heart for nine months.  She probably cared for him as deeply as I care for my sons.

Being a mom has made me a romantic idealist all over again.  I think of their futures, the choices they will get to make.  I wonder how they will change the world.  I do my best to raise them to be hard working, clear headed, compassionate, idealistic.  Oh, and I want them to learn all the tricks their dad knows so well – opening doors, showing little courtesies, smiling in just that way.  If I do my job well, their wives will be as lucky as I am.

Motherhood is hard work.  Motherhood fills me with awe.  Being a mom has made me grateful for every precious minute of this life.  It has brought me joy in a deep sense that no fleeting “me time” or night on the town could ever replicate.

Motherhood has humbled me.  No matter how much of a hotshot you think you are, no matter how smoothly you can talk your way into and out off anything, a two year old can have you on your knees in three minutes flat.

And this, then, is where motherhood finds me most.  On my knees.  Cleaning up the messes my kids make.  Cleaning up the messes I make.  On my knees.  Asking, yet again, for grace.

Right Now


Right now I am

…not studying Spanish as I should be. Lessons started last week, and it would be “mas facil” if I studied more.

…watching the Mom Conference instead. It’s free. While I certainly have not been able to catch every presentation, what I have seen has been really good.

…contemplating baking bread. I was the lucky recipient of a rather large bucket of flour that has produced pancakes and “cheese muffins” galore, but really needs to be used in a more practical manner.

…listening to the sounds of the ceiling fan whirring above my head in the kitchen. It makes such a difference to this very hot and busy kitchen.

…looking at the face of a guilty dog, who raided the diaper pail for the third time in as many days. It certainly makes me grateful that we only use disposable diapers for nighttime – those little crystals are not fun to clean up.

…debating the fate of my rather horrible looking attempt at container gardening. Ouch. I think the plants are just cooked.

…enjoying a clean kitchen – I love the house so much more when it’s clean.

…hearing silence, as both boys happily went to school today – even my little guy who cried so miserably the first week.

… excited to say our beloved old jeep has arrived in Peru. Not sure about the clearance process. I’m keep my thoughts on the household goods to myself.

…feeling too overwhelmed at the thought of unpacking all those boxes anyway.

…annoyed at myself for not working harder to organize our schedule – mornings are still rushed around here, and there was yelling.  Yelling is not the way to start our days when we strive for calm, peace and joy.

…dreading the huge job of refurbishing my cloth diapers. We use bumgenius and all the elastic and Velcro needs to be replaced after 18 months of constant use.

…glad that the weather seems to be cooling down a bit.

…wishing that sunshine and the cooler weather could co-exist in Lima.

…grateful for this life.


Finding Joy, Beauty and Meaningful Work

365-0593It only takes one little flower to change a day that started with a potty accident, followed by a scorpion in my laundry basket (true story) and a chip in my favorite Starbucks Washington DC mug.  “Here Mamma, I brought this for you,” says my almost four year old with his big eyes and long eyelashes.  That boy is a joy, a beauty (yes yes Captain Jack, he is handsome) and raising him is the most meaningful work I have done in my life.

For as long as I have had the blog, the tagline has been “finding truth, beauty, and meaningful work.”  I was probably inspired by a little poetry when I wrote that, and I continue to live my life that way – find what is true, beautiful, and meaningful to do.  But lately I think I have found truth, and this is it: Be joyful, be prayerful, be grateful.

Joy is my new truth.  It is everywhere, and points me to gratitude, and a life lived contently.  And the older my boys get, the more I find myself praying.  Even if it is Anne Lamott style “help, help help”, “thanks” and “wow.”  I also pray “please don’t let it be a concussion” at least twice a day.  Moms of boys, you know what I’m talking about.

I’m still looking for beauty everywhere. (Not finding it in my gardening endeavors so much – oh, there are bugs here.  Many many bugs.)  There is beauty in the way my boys are developing their own language lately.  Oh yes, and beauty in the roses that bloom despite my neglect and the abundant attention from more bugs.  There is beauty in the rhythm we are finding in our days here.

There is plenty of meaningful work to be done too.  It is no longer what I had in mind when I first write that, and worked hard to make renewable energy available to more people.  But meaning can be found in cooking my family nourishing meals.  Meaning can be found in keeping our budget carefully so we can accomplish our many goals (and travel more!) There is meaning in the everyday work it takes to raise these boys – kissing skinned knees, talking through tough transitions, making my boy’s favorite meal for an upcoming birthday.  I’m also spending much more time writing, and promoting causes I believe in.  Paid meaningful work?  A little scarce around these parts.  Scarce as chicken teeth to use an afrikaans saying.

I leave the profound truths to be found by the philosophers, the poets, and the people with more time on their hands than this busy mom of two busy boys.  Instead, I will find joy, beauty, and meaningful work.

PS: If you need a bit of joy, and a good laugh at my expense, I can help you out.  I “interpret” my son’s homework assignments with google translate.  Tomorrow’s assignment is “asistir con polo de cualquiera de los siguientes colores (rojo, verde, azul, o amarillo).”  Google says: attend polo Mercedes any colors (red, green, blue, or yellow).  For a minute I thought they had gone a bit far with the private school thing, and then I realized it must be a translation mistake.    Google please note: the word siguientes should translate “following”, not, in fact, Mercedes.

Ordinary Days

365-0021We are starting to settle into a rhythm in our days at home.   I try to keep thing at home  slow and peaceful.  Well, as peaceful as it can be with two very energetic and imaginative boys!

The boys are now in school for a couple of hours each day, and that gives me time to catch up on such little tasks as taxes, organizing the house, and blogging.  I enjoy two of those things very much.  The blog is due for a major overhaul, including a foray into self-hosting.  If all goes well, the behind the scenes stuff will be invisible, and the cosmetic stuff will be unobtrusive.

More things I like?  Yes please.  I just got accepted to become a Power of Moms Ambassador!  Those of you who know me know how much I love this organization.  I have been a fan for years, and have learned so much.  As an ambassador, I get to help this “online gathering place for deliberate mothers” grow.  Go check it out, and join Power of Moms (it’s free) so that you can access the great members-only materials they offer.  Just go to  I’ll do a whole post on the Mind Organization for Moms soon!  It is life-changing.

Remember this?  I now have laundry to do every day –  little school uniforms are my favorite.  We also cook every single meal from scratch.  And I mean scratch – if you want frozen vegetables, you better peel, slice, dice, cook and freeze!  Canned tomatoes?  Not a great option here.  While I can’t say I love washing floors, dishes are a sign of a family well fed, right?

The house has been coming together slowly – childproofing installed, little glitches fixed, and the scalding (I mean scalding) water temperature was finally fixed today.  I actually blistered my hand doing dishes! I am also doing 40 bags in 40 days for Lent this year.  One of my favorite bloggers explains it well here.

Next week, another piece will fall in place, as my parents bring the boys’ beloved pup to Peru.  A bonus visit from grandma and grandpa?  We’ll all say “yes please” to more of that!

These ordinary days?  Yep, they are pretty great.

In defense of deliberate motherhood

Every “mommy blogger” out there has probably responded to Amy Glass and her blog entry “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry.”

I was not really outraged when I read it.  I have met people with opinions like that before.  Gosh, I have run many scripts in my own head questioning my decision to be at home with my family instead of off somewhere doing “important” things.  But here’s the truth.  There are other people who could do the job I used to do.  And while I was quite good at it, the truth is that I was replaced very easily.  The other truth? I am the only Mamma these boys have. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent a former colleague who asked “what I do with myself now”

I think the work we did at __ was important.  I enjoyed it, particularly when I thought we negotiated a good deal for our stakeholders.  But here’s the thing.  The work I do now, is even more important.  I used to shape transactions, and now I quite literally shape lives.  I can’t imagine doing anything I feel more passionate about, or anything where the stakes are higher.  I must be honest though, the pay sucks.

Right now, in these short years, I am the most important influence on my boys’ lives.  Next year, Jack Jr. will be in kindergarten and from there on, my influence, while still strong, will become more diluted with every year that passes.  I have these very short, and very challenging, years to shape their basic understanding of the world, of how people treat each other, of how we live together.  The stakes are so high.  I am not for a minute saying that you must be a stay-home mom to be a good mother.  Most of my friends work full time in challenging jobs, and I know many of them to be deliberate, thoughtful mothers.

But here is another fact: while we can have it all, we cannot have it all at the same time. And if you keep sprinting through the craziness of life in America, running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place, you will eventually have to cut corners somewhere.  Maybe you don’t have time to exercise, maybe you don’t have time to eat healthy meals.  Maybe you can’t take time to be with your spouse.  Maybe you have no time for a spiritual practice.  Maybe you have to outsource more and more of your daily life until you are working to pay for your outsourcing.  Maybe you can manage it all just fine.  I know I could not be the mom I am today while I saw my children for only an hour or two a day, and on our very over scheduled weekends.

Okay, well that’s about as much controversy as I can handle.

This is my favorite response to Amy Glass:

And if you want to be inspired by deliberate moms who certainly are not choosing the path of least resistance, here’s a list of blogs I love in no particular order.