Tag Archives: children

What I’m Into: May 2014

what i'm into may

This month, spring came, at last, to Minnesota. If I’ve been more absent from the online space than usual it’s because I can’t seem to leave the sunny spot on the deck. When I do get myself to move, it’s only to work on Book 2.

We have waited so long for this weather, and we are a skinned-kneed, dirty-footed, bug-bitten kind of happy. This month Dane learned to ride his big-boy bike (without training wheels) and Andrew got my old Schwinn Roadster fixed so that we could go on our first family bike ride. We had our first summer beach day and spent hours and hours at neighborhood parks. The tree frogs have started showing up on the sliding door after dark, suctioned to the glass, eating bugs.

For one consistent week and half of another one, I was committed to potty-training Liam. In the end, he bested me with his stubbornness and the constant smell of pee. I’ve regressed to a sort of half-assed kind of training in which I make him use the potty at home but put him in a pull-up when we go out. Probably this is screwing him up irreparably, but I don’t even care, because summer.

This month, I wrote nearly 20,000 words for my new manuscript (after trashing the first 12,500) and drank an unbelievable amount of coffee. I filled my house with lilacs and we left the windows open at night, falling asleep to the sound of toads on the pond. May.

What I’m Reading

books i read

I didn’t have time to read much at the beginning of the month, but over this past couple of weeks, that’s all I’ve been doing. I read my first Kate Morton — The Forgotten Garden — which was rich and enchanting and addicting. (I read in two days during the first warm weekend. I barely left the patio.)

I worked slowly through Cheryl Strayed lovely memoir about her time on the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild. And then for a change of pace, I read Lauren Graham’s first foray into writing: Someday, Someday Maybewhich was a fun, quick read. I’m just about finished with Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith CrisisIt’s deep and slow and brilliant, of course.

What I’m Listening to

I’ve been slowly working through your excellent list of music recommendations from last month…which is how I discovered Beach House and rediscovered my eternal love for both Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.

I’ve also become a little bit addicted to The Rural Alberta Advantage, which I found on the too-cool-for-me NPR station The Current. Thanks to a Pandora radio station based on their music, I’ve started compiling a Summer 2014 Playlist that so far includes stuff by them, Noah and the Whale and The Lonely Forest.

And of course, it’s summer, so there’s country music in the car. I can’t help myself.

What I’ve Been Watching

All of my shows have faded out for the year after a giant grand-finale of dramatic plot-twists and relational fireworks. With our Internet, we scored a free session of HBO-Go, so we’re watching Game of Thrones in real-time instead of 10 months later on DVD, which is kind of awesome.

Other than that, I’ve mostly curtailed my TV viewing entirely. I’m finishing re-watching the first season of Desperate Housewives, and then I plan to cancel my HuluPlus for the rest of the summer. It’s too nice for sitting inside in the dark, and frankly, I’d rather be sitting on the deck reading these days.

Other Things I’ve Been Loving

– Dane’s fifth birthday party. He wanted a “komodo dragon birthday party,” but luckily I talked him into a Super-Hero theme instead. Which would have been simple and straightforward, were it not for that beautiful tyrant that is Pinterest. As it turned out, I ended up staying up until 3:45 the night before his birthday, putting this together:

superhero party

At the party, my Mama Friend’s husband said to her, “What’s wrong with Addie? Has she been hitting the wine too hard?” “No honey,” she said to him. “She’s just brain-dead tired.” Hopefully in the end, Dane will remember a fantastically awesome party instead of the zombie that was his mother that night.

– The teeniest baby turtles you ever saw. They are so adorable that I’m almost tempted to keep one as a pet. Almost.

tiny turtle

– Purging. (I started All the Spring Cleaning this month and finished about 2% of it. Oops.)

spring cleaning

– This incredible patio that my rock-star husband built us. So pretty.


– Cheap, short summer hair cuts and the faces the boys make when they get them.


– The last day of pre-school and a boy who has changed so much I almost can’t believe it.


– Dandelions by the handful.


Blog and Writing Stuff

I’ve been a little absent again this month here. Sorry about that. I’ve been so thoroughly immersed in my work on Book 2 that by the time I get done for the day, I have nothing much left to offer to The Internet. (I talked a little bit about that writing process in this post here.)

I wrote over at Deeper Story this month about faith and parenting and about how there’s no shortcut to raising godly kids — No Way Around But Through. I also wrapped up our beautiful series of small, intentional acts of everyday justice — One Small Change — and told you why I tend to avoid writing about “Hot-Button Issues.”

I’m planning a couple of short series for June — one on favorite books and another on blogging tips and practices. These are both questions that people ask me a lot, and I thought they might be good, practical things to tackle while my creative voice is all tied up in Scrivener with the new book.

You can keep up on all the things going on over here by following me on Twitter or Facebook or subscribing to the blog!

Linking up as always with the fabulous Leigh Kramer. What have you been into this month?

Some Posts in Some Places

I got back from my whirlwind trip to speak at Taylor University last night. It was a great time, and I’m going to tell you more about it tomorrow.

For now, all I can say is that after two nights of uninterrupted sleep and two quiet mornings of writing, the transition back to life as a Mom-Writer has been a little brutal. I spent half the night in Liam’s bed, another hour in Dane’s, and the whole lot of us were up by 5:30, fighting over what to show watch.

Currently they are pillaging my junk drawer for coins and fighting over who has more. I can’t take the glamor.

Because of the crazy travel schedule, I didn’t really get to highlight my interview over at Heather Caliri’s blogA Little Yes: Baby Steps to Big Adventures in Faith, Art and Life. A couple of weeks ago, Heather and I had the loveliest phone conversation about what it looks like to raise kids from a place of broken faith. She then she transcribed it into an interview, and now I self-consciously feel like I sound like the dumbest person alive. It’s a little bit like hearing your voice on a voicemail or recorded on a tape, and thinking, Oh man. Do  I really truly sound like that?!

So anyway, all this to say, if you’re interested in my baggage with the word “intentional” and my slightly incoherent thoughts on raising my babies to love Jesus, you can click here. But be kind.

In the meantime, I have to go put out a skirmish over nickels. LUCKY!

One Small Change: Love My Children

I’ve gotten to know Gillian Marchenko only a little bit through the blogging world (and through some strange — Wait! How do you two know each other?!?! moments on Facebook in which you discover your virtual friends and your real life friends are connected somehow. Strangest thing ever.)

What I do know about Gillian is that she’s a tremendous, honest writer who takes her readers into the heart of what it truly means to live with special needs kids. I think this is so beautiful. I haven’t had a chance read Gillain’s brand new memoir Sun Shine Down yet, but I’ve heard only great things and can’t wait to dive into it.

No matter who currently inhabits our lives, I think this is a powerful idea — to start changing the world by loving those closest to us. Read Gillian’s lovely post here, and then go buy her book!

Gillian Marchenko with kidsIt’s nine o’clock in the morning. I spoon leftover chili into my mouth and look out a smudged window full of fingerprints. My four daughters are at school after days at home because of icy temperatures that managed to fluster even the most tenured Chicagoans. The house is still, quiet. My dog Scout licks her lips as she naps in a chair next to me.

When I pitched a ‘one small change’ post to Addie months ago, my mood matched my idea. I wanted the post to advocate for families affected by disabilities. I’d like to write something about the special needs mom, and how to be inclusive to her and her child in your community!

I have two kids with special needs. Polly has Down syndrome and a stroke and seizure disorder. Evangeline (adopted from Ukraine) has Down syndrome and autism. I write and speak and educate about disabilities and own the proverbial advocacy pompoms. I often don a cheerleader outfit when it comes to my girls.

But not this morning.

Today I’m not throwing my pompons in the air to get your attention. I’m not thinking about inclusivity. I’m thinking about survival. I’m not thinking about changing a community. I’m wondering how in the hell I can stop my seven-year-old from breaking up the floor boards in her bedroom and eating them.

I’m not a cheerleader. I’m just a deflated mom sitting in her pajamas, eating last night’s dinner for breakfast.

You’re probably wondering. Then… what’s your one small change, Gillian? A bad attitude?

Well, yes.

But really, my one small change is this:

I’m going to love my children.

As I spoon lukewarm chili into my mouth, a thought occurs. Perhaps the best way to advocate for my girls is by loving them well and enjoying the crap out of them. And any mother will tell you, loving our kids isn’t always easy. It takes work. Maybe I should ration what little energy I have in the trenches of early motherhood not for big groups of people but for those in my charge. Mother Theresa said “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

The person nearest to me…

“I like you best,” Polly says to me first thing when she wakes up in the morning, her nose all bunched up as she giggles. Her arms encircle my neck.

Advocacy on a larger scale will happen. I’ll get over my bad mood, apply chestnut colored lipstick to my lips, and stand in front of a group abolishing myths and assumptions about disability with Hallmarkisque remarks and funny stories about my kids. I really do want the world to change. I want everyone to see value, purpose, and dignity in people who are differently-abled.

But I realize that as a frazzled mom of four girls, the most important work I should attempt to sustain is to love my children, thus showing the world not only that kids with special needs can be valued, respected, and loved, but that they are.


Gillian MarchenkoGillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and their four daughters. Sun Shine Down, a memoir about her daughter Polly’s birth and diagnosis of Down syndrome while living in Ukraine, published in 2013 with T. S. Poetry Press. Currently she is writing another memoir about depression and faith that is contracted with InterVarsity Press. Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks up for the rest of us. Visit her at www.gillianmarchenko.com.

Crates, Baskets & Other Things I’ve Been Into this January

what i'm into 01.14Once upon a time, I had a crate on my kitchen counter underneath the light switches, out of the way.

It was where I stashed all of my Most Important Mama Stuff — papers and pens, recipes and receipts and magazines and drafts. In the summer — sunscreen and bug spray. In the winter — chapstick and Sudifed. Always, the charging phones could be found buried somewhere beneath the piles.If you couldn’t find something, the best option was usually to look in Mama’s Crate of Doom.

I don’t have an office right now, and I write most mornings at my kitchen table. The crate seemed like an acceptable, makeshift drawer. But really, it wasn’t. Most of the time it ended up looking like this:

crate of doom 1

I normally get two giant bursts of ORGANIZATIONAL ENERGY a year. Once in the spring, and once about now, when the year is new and I have all kinds of Ideas about how it will go this time around.

I didn’t make many resolutions for 2014 (it kind of snuck up on me this year. I wrote about that here). But one that I did make was to get rid of the Crate of Doom and find a better way to organize myself.

And I know that this is not a DIY blog or a Home blog or really even a Mama blog. I know that you come here for all sorts of deep, spiritual insight…but you guys. I DEFEATED THE CRATE. The first floor of my home has never been so organized! And really, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t be a little narcissistic every now and then and brag about your awesomeness?!?

So here’s what I’ve been up to this month. The Crate has been replaced by this rad charging station that I invented all by myself.

charging station 1

How did you do it?!, you ask? Don’t worry! I’ll tell you! I bought the chalkboard crate and the file organizer at Home Goods. I flipped the crate over, and my Mama Friend (who knows about All the Tools) drilled some big holes — one in the back to stick two power strips through, one in the top, and one in the front.

I turned the file organizer on its side and — BOOM. Perfect place to stick all of our many tablet-type things. Then I attached the cute metal box to the side, which is perfect for our iPhones and iPods and camera. It also works for other miscellaneous cords that we need ever now and then. And the best part? NO TANGLE OF CORDS! And no giant box of collected papers and accumulated junk!

But Addie! You ask. Where did you PUT all of that stuff that was formerly housed in your Crate of Doom? Well I’ll tell you! I created this awesome Kitchen Command Center!

kitchen command center 1

There are four file boxes — one for each member of the family. The rest of the baskets came from Home Goods.The ruler one on top holds all of my notepads. The middle one holds the books I’m reading, including the ones I regularly need — my Divine Hours book for the mornings and my Bible. The bottom basket is for current projects, and the magazine file is for — you guessed it — magazines!

Family Command Center 2

Above it, I created a menu board for each day of the week using a washboard and some cute, covered clothespins. In the cheese box, I created tiny file folders, where I put the meals we eat most regularly. On the back of each little slip of paper, I wrote all of the ingredients each meal needs so that when I’m making my grocery list for the week, it’s really easy.

Then — the coolest part — this sauerkraut-cutter-turned shelf. I simply pounded a couple of nails in to hold the “shelf” into place, and now I use it for my grocery list, pens, and scissors.

sauerkraut cutter shelf

But Addie! Don’t you miss your crate? Well, I’m glad you asked. NO! I don’t. And here’s why. My amazing husband repurposed all of my collected crates (I keep buying them places. Because I have a problem) into this rockin’ entryway crate shelf.

entryway crate shelf 2

Our 80s-style suburban home has these weird little “fences” barring the sunken living room from the entryway. I’ve never loved them, but I couldn’t find a piece the right size to obscure the little mini fence. This works perfectly! We have a basket for all our our winter stuff, a spot for ice skates, a basket for library books, and the top crate for stuff we use all the time and need to grab quickly on the way out.This summer, the ice skates will be replaced by beach toys, and the gloves and hats will be replaced with sunscreen and bug spray.

My burst of organizational energy also included making reward charts for my kids and hanging new curtains around my patio doors. But I won’t make you look at those. You’ve been patient enough.

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been a good months for reading…mostly due to the fact that I had an entire week on a beach with no one yelling to GET ME SOME PEANUT BUTTER ON A SPLOON, MOM! PLEASE! 

I finished Sutton, which I loved (and only took me, like, three months to read).Before vacation, I splurged on a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple because it kept popping up on Best of 2013 lists. I was not disappointed. I loved the complex, quirkiness of the characters and the way Semple used such an unconventional structure, not as a gimmick, but as a way to probe deeper into the story. Brilliant and lovely.

Unfortunately, the other book I bought for vacation was a last-minute Goodwill grab — Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot. And while the 13-year-old-girl in me will always love Meg for bringing us The Princess Diaries, this book was pretty shallow and predictable — even for chick lit.

I also finally read Ann Patchett’s brilliant novel State of Wonderwhich has gotten all kinds of praise and awards and has been sitting on my shelf for months. Set largely in the Amazon, it was kind of a tough book for me to read. I think it has to do with my own Missionary Boy baggage and all of those years I spent trying to conjure in myself a “heart” for Africa so that I could be the kind of Christian girl that boy I loved would want to marry. All that to say, the Amazon was a difficult place for me to visit, even from my living room couch. But Patchett’s writing is so gorgeous and the story was so compelling that it was worth it.

books i read jan 14

I’m thinking of joining up with Leigh Kramer for her February Reading Challenge — no new books and no library books. Only reading the books currently sitting in my To Read pile. We’ll see if I can do it!

What I’ve Been Watching

Let’s talk first about what I’m not watching…which is The Bachelor. I go back and forth between being super proud of myself and feeling super left out of all the fun. I just couldn’t get on board with Juan Pablo. Dreamy, he may be. But I just find him dull and a little boring to watch. We’ll see if I cave one of these snowy days and get caught up on the entire season via HuluPlus…but for now, I’m holding strong.

Still watching Nashville, Hart of Dixie and Reign. I’m a little behind on my Vampire Diaries, but I’ll get to it. Grey’s and Scandal are on hiatus, which is making space for me to watch Felicity on Hulu, which I never did when it aired originally. (Still can’t decide if I’m on Team Ben or Team Noel.) Parenthood is breaking my heart. Andrew and I are continuing to make our way back through all of the episodes of Chuck. We also love Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Because Andy Samberg.

Other Stuff That Happened in January

Andrew and I left the kids for a week and went to Mexico for a week for a belated 10-year-anniversary trip. It was exquisite, and I wrote about it here.

I went in the ditch on Highway 94 going 70mph (wrote about that here), and we had -40 windchills and at least 3 days of canceled preschool.

After a week of 4:30AM wake-ups, we moved Liam to a big boy bed. I felt like I should have been a little more sentimental about the whole taking-down-the-crib thing. It signals the end of the Baby Era, after all. But I’m too tired for sentimentality these days, and I didn’t shed a single lousy tear.

Note: He is still waking up at 4:30. But now he just lurks creepily around our bedroom for a while until I get up and come lay in his bed with him. I’m so sleep-deprived that I can barely see straight.

Blog & Book

I’ve been deep in free-writing/researching/reading mode for Book 2, which is still a little cloudy and unnamed in my mind…but is sort of beginning to take shape. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more about that with you soon.

This kind reviewer listed my book as a top read for 2013, but in his review he questioned why I handled my spiritual struggle the way that I did. I wrote this blog post as a response to that.

As February begins, I’m getting ready for some book related travel, including a reading at Taylor University on Tuesday, February 4th and an Epic Florida Road-Trip with my kids…in which I’m hoping to do some readings in Chicago, Nashville, possibly Atlanta, and maybe Charlotte, NC. (More details on all that next week.)

I think the Facebook Secret Algorhythm hates me, but feel free to follow me there anyway. You may see a post from time to time. I’m also on Twitter here.

Linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer again this month. What have you been into?

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