Monday, December 30, 2013

Because two is better than one. Or maybe it's not. I don't really know.

Guess how many times I blogged in 2009 (the year of my Blessed Treehouse debut)?


How about 2013?


(This post makes 12.)

I birthed this blog almost five years ago, and much like an aging metabolism, my blogging rhythm has slowed down. Drastically.

Metamucil, anyone?

I guess the best thing to do when plates spin haphazardly and irons catch fire is to increase the load. It's the way we multi-taskin' overachievin' people-apleasin' modern women keep the prescription drug  industry a-thrivin'. (Dude, it's a joke. I'm totally not endorsing the recreational use of prescription meds. But if you do use prescription meds recreationally, I totally don't judge you, k? Hopefully this disclaimer covers all my bases. Like I said, I'm a people pleaser.)

So what I'm getting at is that one blog has been too much for me. So naturally I now have two.

In my perfect world, one blog will continue to serve as my family scrapbook (say cheese!) And the other blog will serve as my brain dump (#sorrynotsorry).

But my world continues to be very much imperfect. So there are no guarantees.

Because let's face it, at this rate I'll have a whopping two blog posts published in 2014.

Or maybe none. Or maybe 238. Or who really knows. And I know, I know, you're right. Who really flippin' cares?!

Thanks for keeping it real with me.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

How the Grinch stole Christmas from the Mothers of Preschoolers. And Claire.

For no good reason other than because He is good and crazy, God gave me opportunity to speak in front of a couple dozen mothers of preschoolers on the topic of simplicity. Share my journey with some precious mommas who, like me, are desperate for any blessed moment that does not involve the whining crying tantrums of our offspring in the cereal aisle of Kroger. Sure, why not.
And so that’s how I found myself standing clam-palmed and rashy in front of a few round tables of darling mommas in the middle of November.
I don’t think it hit me that what I had been asked to do was quite unfair in all ways until I sat at one of those round tables half-listening to their sweet tender prayers, and the one, I’m sure her name was Claire but it might have only started with a C, asked for prayer because that very afternoon she was going in for an ultrasound to well, we pray, determine that a lump on her breast is no more than just that, a lump.
And Claire, I’m sure her name was Claire, she just won’t leave me alone in my head because I sat next to her as she told those ladies, “I’m awesome at avoiding. But I’m sure it’s nothing.”
And now it was my turn to stand up and blab on and on about my journey of simplifying life? Oh, okay, Claire might find out she has cancer today, but in the meantime, put that Ali girl up there a few weeks before Christmas so that she can spoil our poinsettia fundraiser and santa shopping sprees with her Grinch-ass message about finding joy in living with less.
Because that’s fair.
Dammit, why was I there?
And I don’t know. I don’t know. But I was. And I did. And I have no damn clue whether or not it made one stinkin’ difference in the whole world. In my little selfish insecure igloo I pray that if I see any of them out in public, at Target with their red cart full of Christmas cheer, they won’t shoot the messenger who was asked to speak on that topic at this time.

Because the only thing I really care about since sitting at that table are the damn results of that ultrasound. And Claire, I really think her name was Claire, I haven't stop praying for ya.

*Claire update: (And yes, her name really is Claire!) She connected with me via facebook, and praise Jesus, her ultrasound gave the radiologist no concern. I am stupid dupid humbled. When I walked into that room of MOPS mommas I had no idea that I would be entering such a privileged space. Thank you, Lord.

Friday, October 11, 2013

the songbird girl

Her hijab glows persimmon. Her voice, soft yet firm as the fruit.

Her years young, her spirit rich, a caged bird sings and her name a song.

A collective breath heard across the heart of nations as she answers, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education. I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Peace, her song. The voice of the silenced, a generation of women raped, slaved, burned, flogged. Brutality stifles hope.

A young teen, the songbird girl determines to have her hope song heard. Taliban determine her dead, a gunshot to her head as she rides the school bus home.

“They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed,” her peace message grows stronger with each threat to her life.

Her attack leaves her crooked smiled and warrior spirited and a weapon in her mouth.


When a young Pakistan girl breathes peace to all, souls tilt heavy toward her like flowers to the sun.

We crave to be soothed, salve to violence and murder. Balm to broken and beaten. Life to empty. Peace we all crave.

A deer pants for water, and a soul for Shalom.

When the time comes to award peace prizes we root for the songbird girl whose innocence is a melody of peace.

Because we don’t want war and machine guns and chemical blasts to be the answer. What we really yearn for is rest for our soul.

As the songbird girl inspires peace without borders, I find hope in the One who has been singing this song all along.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

a son home

I’m there when he comes home. 

The bus stops and he’s grinning, each eager step a stretch the length of his leg, one arm steady on the rail, the other outstretched to greet my momma squeeze.

I'm crouching and hugging and I remember the mother on the news this morning, she wailed hysterics because her son is never coming home. And I remember a mother who watched from a distance as her Son hung from the tree, bled out from hands and feet. She watched Him die. But was she there when He ascended home?

Politicians fight power wars shutting down government funding to a mother whose son was killed in the very war that protects them. And now her son isn’t coming home.

Sons lost in war, a war on terror and a terror war among the things unseen.

Flesh and blood lost, one son’s body brought home and she can’t be there when they roll him lifeless off the plane. Another Son taken home after His tomb opens empty, and she prays faith in the promise that His Spirit will return.

My heart heavy I link my fingers through his and we take our time walking.

“Mommy, today we had gym and Mr. Armstrong says we can only wear tennis shoes, not Crocs.”

Washington, a stubborn mule, withholds death benefits to a mother, and can she afford to be there when they carry her son’s tomb onto American soil? Washington still gets paid. But who will pay for her son’s funeral? How will she bury the boy who lost his life?

And how does a mother grieve when her Son paid it all?

I tighten my grip on his hand. “Okay, buddy. I missed you today.”

Her son, he lost his life. And her Son, He gave His. And I walk with mine toward home, his words linger love to my soul, “I missed you too.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grandma Hollywood and the minis (a repost)

Monday I pulled out cards to write thank you notes to family who blessed our Harper girl with a birthday gift (over a month ago). At the bottom of the list was my Grandma's name. My heart stopped when I saw it. These are the moments that should have been that won't be. Writing Grandma Hollywood a thank you note. And in her most precious way, she would have called me to thank me for the thank you note. And she would have told me that it was hanging on her fridge. She loved us so well.

It's been hard yet good to remember her. Here's another archived post that captures her well. 

During Grandma Hollywood's recent visit to oh-Alison-it's-too-cold-here Ohio, I spent a morning with her and my two minis. The nearly 90 years between them brought forth a range of encounters, some endearing, some frustrating, and some just plain hysterical.

For starters, my kids don't perceive age. They see Grandma Hollywood's thin coarse white hair and say, "Great Grams' hair is funny." Nor do they perceive the limitations that come with age. They expect her to scoop them up to her level, and bless her still beating heart, she tries. And it breaks mine to watch her disappointment when she realizes that her ability to lift a small child is forever in her past. My spunky and gregarious daughter is unaware that when she barrels into Grandma Hollywood's 90 year old legs, she risks knocking my grandmother to the floor, a fall from which Grandma literally might not recover.

And yet Grandma Hollywood lives as if the life-threatening fall would be worth it. When Miss Harper Lynn looked at her and said, "Chase me, Great Grams," Grandma Hollywood looked at me and said, "What did she say?" I responded, "She wants you to chase her." Grandma only grinned, and sure enough, she started her feeble chase, a snail's pace behind my hare of a daughter. And my 2 year old baby girl only knew one thing, she was being chased. The burst of squeals and giggles that ensued were as dramatic and effervescent as if the chase might actually result in a catch.

As I sat with my grandmother listening to her repeat the stories I had heard dozens of times before, I juggled my annoyance of her faulty memory with the constant needs of my kids, "I need to poop! I need to poop! I keep tooting and I need to poop!" No matter how high her hearing aids were turned up, Grandma Hollywood needed clarification on almost everything the kids said, "What is he talking about, Alison?"

Well, Grandma, do you really want to know?

Though I'd love for you to believe that each exchange between my grandmother and children results in pure joy and laughter, there is much harmony to be desired.

Typical of most three year old boys, my son sees pillows and immediately thinks fort. As he pulled the decorative pillows from the couch, Grandma Hollywood became intensely concerned. "Alison, do you see what he's doing?"

Me: "Yes, he's fine, Grandma."
Grandma Hollywood: "But he's pulled all of the pillows off of the couch."
Me: "I know Grandma; he's just playing."

Grandma Hollywood walked away in obvious disapproval of my son's creativity and my kids-these-days parenting. And typical of most three year old boys, it was a mere five minutes before Henry was distracted, leaving the pillow fort glaring at my grandmother. She wasted no time. I've never seen feeble bones move so fast. In record time, she had each of those pillows fluffed and positioned back on the couch ready for a magazine cover shoot, thankyouverymuch.

There wasn't much to say when my son ran back into the room and blurted, "What happened to my fort?!"

I took one look at my now-playing-dumb grandmother and turned back to my son, saying what every good granddaughter would say, "Go play."

As I sat across from my 90 year old grandmother, a woman whose grace has deteriorated while her opinions have intensified, I wonder if she remembers the days when her four children were small, imaginative bursts of energy. "Alison, Henry didn't finish his lunch." "Alison, what is that noise?" "Alison, where did Harper go?" "Alison, don't your children wear socks?" "Alison, Henry went into the bathroom." "Alison, Harper is climbing on the table." Alison. Alison. Alison. The thoughts swirling in my mind were not of a very good granddaughter.

The sweet and gentle Mrs. Claus of a grandmother who I remember has evolved into a nosey, nagging, negative Nancy. And yet as I gather my minis to say goodbye to the woman who still travels solo 2000+ miles from California to spend time with us, she clasps her thin-skinned hands around my face and directs her macular degenerated eyes directly into mine. With pure sincerity and warmth, she says to me, "Alison, I love you and your family so so much." She doesn't let go. She stays there for what seems like minutes. And I begin to melt, remembering only a fraction of what she has survived in a near century: the loss of a twin and mother during birth, the horrors of a wicked stepmother, the passing of a spouse, and the sudden death of a child.

And it's no surprise that within minutes of her departure, I long for her company once again, kicking myself for the moments squandered because of my irritability and impatience. The distance now between us truly does cause my heart to swell, and I become saddened as I think of her now home alone, her only companion the chiming clock that strikes every 15 minutes, a sobering reminder of the minutes passing, her memory fading, her brain diminishing, and her body failing.

Thank you, Jesus, for Grandma Hollywood. Wrap her in Your comfort and peace as she suffers the countless losses that come with her age. Help me to remember the blessing it is to still have a living grandparent. And give me patience and a controlled tongue in those moments when I want to load her back on a plane destined for California.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grandma Hollywood's Birthday (a repost)

This post was originally published in July 2011. As my family mourns our loss and celebrates her life, I want to share this blessed memory.

Remember Grandma Hollywood? The matriarch and queen bee of my family? Did I mention that twice a year she travels over 2000 miles from beautifully pleasant California to Grandma-really-likes-to-complain-about-the-weather Ohio - and she travels ALONE?! I know, I know, she's amazing.

So this year she flew out in June, one month before her 90th birthday. And let me tell you, my grandma looks damn good for 90. When I realized that my maternal grandmother was turning 90, I first thought, "Crap. I don't want those genes. I don't want to live until 90." But then I looked at the gal and thought, "Shoot! Screw 90. I'll live until 100 if it means looking like that." She's pretty hot, a fact that has been confirmed by her neighbor who has offered to "keep her company" if she's ever interested. The man can't keep his paws off of her. But don't you worry. Grandma Hollywoood's lived in Southeast LA for over 50 years making her the Mamacita de Samoline Avenue Locos and she ain't messin' wit no hombre.

So where was I? Yes, my hottie-bo-bottie almost 90-year-old Grandma flew out for a visit, and my always hospitable mamma decided to throw Grandma a surprise birthday bash. It was touching to see how many people gave up their Friday night to celebrate my Grandma - most of these people only knowing her from Grandma's occasional visits.

Her actual birthday isn't until July 24th, so she was obviously surprised to know that all these people showing up were there to honor her.

It was one of those amazing nights where I sat back and breathed in all the love that my family shares.

And I thank God that Grandma Hollywood is still around to share in that love.

While everyone was gathering outside, my parents' dog, Heidi, sampled the birthday cake.
And naturally, these two had to sample the key lime pie. It's a good thing that the dog and kids are cute.

We spent most of the night in my parents' backyard. It was beautiful.
The only thing missing was the rest of the family. My Grandma has three daughters and one son (her son has passed). Aside from my mom, her family, and my cousin Jared's family, everyone else lives in Southern California. The California family would celebrate Grandma's birthday at a later date.

9 candles - one for each decade.

Grandma with her youngest great-grandbaby. 88 years between them - amazing.

It's not easy shopping for a woman who has already started giving away many of her valuables. Nonetheless she had some wonderful gifts to open.

Bless my mom's heart. She read each and every card to my Grandma. Grandma can only read when wearing her magnifying eyeglasses and she can't hear unless her hearing aids are cranked to the max.

Grandma laughed a lot. It was such a blessing to watch her so joyful.

That's Pauline playing with Jenson. Pauline is one of my mom's dearest friends, and Pauline just happened to be my middle school guidance counselor. Pauline is really really good with middle schoolers and toddlers. It's peculiar, really.

My sister and dad. Love.

If you want your face to look thin in a photograph, stick your neck out. See?

I gave my grandmother a framed picture of all 7 of her great-grandbabies. Needless to say she couldn't tell who was who in the picture. She said, "I'll have to get out my magnifying glass and look at this later."

This is what happens when you give a 90-year-old a pair of white capri pants, elastic waist, size 8. She was ELATED. No seriously, she was so thrilled to be given those darn pants. Apparently my mom and Grandma had been to several stores only days before and could not find a pair to save their lives. All it took my fashionably savvy sister was a visit to ONE store to find the perfect pair. Thank you Penny's!

Here Morgan explains how she is awesome and found the magical pants. My Grandma's face says, "I'm in disbelief that you found white capri pants, elastic waist, size 8."

What kids don't love a party? Our friend, Aaron, came over with his niece, Audrey. The four minis were instant friends.

Getting four minis to sit still on a hammock proved impossible as you can see by how blurry the kids are in this picture.

I'm fairly certain this was their second helping of cake.

Harper had some very important "older women" questions to ask Audrey.

Crazy cuteness.

That's Susie. Another dear friend of my mom's. I just adore these women for loving on my Grandma so stinkin' well.

Did I mention that Pauline is also really funny? At least my 90 year old Grandma thinks so.

Audrey really wanted to be in our family picture. We kindly kicked her out.
Grandma with the Nameth clan.

Grandma with her Ohio family. Jared was in Cambodia and Ella & Jake were in California so only Lisa and Jenson made it to the party. Pauline is standing behind the camera trying to get the kids to smile. She was playing peek-a-boo, and instead of smiling, Harper was imitating.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Hollywood. I would not be surprised if in 10 years we are celebrating your 100th. You're a lifer.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Her legacy

I can't help but find myself swirling in sentiment these days. Last week my most beautiful Grandma Hollywood crossed through gates of pearl into her eternal home, and the sadness of her death seems only to intensify with each additional day that I remember she's really gone. The woman who cared for me during my most formative years when my parents both worked, the woman who has boarded a plane for the last three decades twice a year to spend time with me and my family, the woman who has always made me feel like her favorite even though I know that's how she's made all us grandkids feel.

I miss her so much.

Our good and gracious Lord has left me with two precious gifts that I cherish as I long to see Grandma Hollywood again: sweet memory and sweet legacy.

I am filled with lovely memories of my Grandma, and each one leaves me overflowing with incomparable nostalgia and joy. And as I look at the vibrant and full lives of my kids, I rest in the legacy that Grandma Hollywood proudly left behind.

I thank Jesus for her life, the memory of her life, and the lives from her bloodline that beat on. And I pray that words and pictures keep my memories intact while I cherish the legacy that still lives.

The following post was originally published June, 2012:

We dedicated our sweet Greta girl on Mother's Day at church. She wore the same dress that Harper wore, a gown handmade by my great grandmother. My great grandmother died giving birth to my Grandma Hollywood and her twin brother (who also died). Though Grandma Hollywood never wore it (my great grandfather's grief prevented him from ever seeing the dress on my grandmother), all of the baby girls (and a couple of the baby boys) have since worn it, beginning with my Auntie Kay. What a precious legacy that dress holds.

This is the third baby we've dedicated at Vista Community Church (see Harper's dedication here and Henry's dedication here). It is an honor and privilege to dedicate our babies among such an incredible church body. We are so so grateful for the precious blessings of children and faith community.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Six years.

Here's to many more years of being your wife, even if you skin ducks in the garage and stock our freezer full of dead animals. I love celebrating life with you, especially when it comes with a slice of your momma's unbeatable cake.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Poop 'n pills

This is the crap worth blogging about (pun very much intended) . . .

Oh, Monday, will we ever be friends? When my Aquanet-banged sisters rocked Manic Monday, I had no idea how prohpetic their lyrics would be: It's just another manic Monday. I wish it were Sunday. 'Cause that's my fun day. (I also had no idea how sexual the lyrics are - Google 'em, you'll see. I was in grade school naively singing about making noise in the bedroom. Geesh.)

Anyway, the mania today wasted no time as my 5-year-old nearly missed the bus (Rita, you said 7:17. That's very different than 7:15 when you're dragging three groggy-eyed whine-os to the bus stop). After barely getting Henry to the bus, I got the girls home and into the bathtub. I let them splash in urine water (Greta always pees the minute I set her in the tub) while I gathered laundry. As I was giving my worn-three-days-in-a-row cami the good ol' sniff test, I heard Harper ask a question that only a seasoned mother can decode, "Mom, why are there rocks in the bathtub?"

There's a lot of learned skills that come with motherhood, but one of our greatest is our ability to rapidly evacuate children out of a situation that involves soaking among floating feces.

Think high school fire drill, on 5-hour energy, minus the hippies who heed the opportunity to sneak into the vacant storage closet to smoke a doobie.

Get up. Get out. Get dry. And pose there just a minute while I take a picture for the Interwebs.

Of course Greta sensed my angst and streaked across the room, squeezing out one more "rock" before I could snatch her and slap a diaper on her bare bum. I think God must have started feeling bad for me because He delivered an ounce of grace with a towel perfectly positioned under the free spirit pooper to catch what I am convinced was her way of communicating, "Screw you and whatever plans you had for this morning. Now you gotta clean my crap outta the tub and wash this freshly-folded towel. Booyah."

I'd almost rather her smoking doobies.

After I swallowed any remnant of pride I still carried after five years of parenting, I pulled out the most efficient pooper scooper I could find, my hands, and lifted every single mushy turd outta that tub.

The poop situation wasn't over - Greta delivered a mess of a diaper during my morning jog in near-90 degree heat that left her wailing for the final 10 minutes of the jog. Again, I'm convinced the little blister butt was trying to communicate to me, and this time it was, "I saw you pound those chips and queso last night at dinner, run faster lady, run like ya mean it, RUN!"

Fast forward to the afternoon when I hopped in the shower for a quick rinse and my wannabe monkey pulled a chair from the dining room and pushed it to the counter, climbed up, pulled my weekly pill organizer off the microwave and popped three days worth of pills down her throat. Henry tipped me off when he noticed Greta had a "gooey mess all over her face."

Me: What kind of a gooey mess?
Henry: I don't know, but she's eating your vitamins.

Now it's my turn to evacuate the bath in record time.

I think the early morning sprint paid off (thank you, poop scoot) because I made it downstairs while baby girl was still pulling mashed up gelatin capsules from her pie hole. She handed me two half dissolved pills, and all I could think was, "Is this some sort of cry for help? Yo, look, third born, this is your lot in life, sista, you better find another way to get attention, because swallowing momma's herbal happy pills ain't gonna do nobody no good."

Sometimes when I am in distress, my gangsta comes out. So what if I grew up in the 'burbs? What are you saying? Nevermind. Leave me alone.

Fortunately this ain't my first rodeo, so I had poison control on the line and sweet Janice assured me that everything Greta consumed is safe, and I would receive a follow up call in 90 minutes to check on the baby.

Nevermind that my day had gone to crap, but whatevs, call back and check on the baby if that makes you feel better.

Geesh, did Janice not hear the part about the baby eating my HAPPY PILLS?

Even my hubs offered little support. When I tried to convince him that Greta's pill shenanigans were nothing more than a weak cry for help, he looked at me like I had lost my soul and said, "She's not even two. She needs help."

Humph. I see how it is now. Everybody gang up on momma.

But let me tell you. Motherhood is an intensive and brutish training ground for war.

In just one day, I perfected the poop fling and screaming baby sprint, all while surviving without mood-boosting herbal supplements. So if I were you, I wouldn't mess with momma.

Manic Momma will make you wish it were Sunday.