Preparing for the First Date

Tonight, I feel like I'm preparing for a first date. A blind date. But I'm not.

I'm actually preparing my house to welcome its first official showing. Tomorrow morning, we open our doors to the public and try and convince someone to buy our home.

Except it really feels like I'm preparing for a first date.

The preparation is the same. Now, please bear with me as I walk through this metaphor. I'm talking about my house being the girl, if that's not painfully obvious. First of all, she is a rare find. The runner-up in the Biggest Loser competition, every single area of this young lady has been overhauled. She's curvy, comfortable and confident. Fresh highlights and a clean interior, this girl is the Real Deal. She only announced her single status for twenty four hours before five men begged to get a chance to meet with her one-on-one. Over the next five days, she will meet with each one of these young suitors and see which of them is willing to meet her price. After all, quality don't come cheap.

In preparation for the meeting of each of these suitors, she readies herself. She gathers her resume of recommendations and picks out her favorite outfit. She's sure to plant the air refresheners and set her CD player to some Kenny G, to help set the mood. She wishes that she could plant a video camera somewhere in the house so she could replay the meeting's activities afterward, but she just can't. How fun would it be, though, to be a fly on the wall!

Understanding that physical beauty is especially important during this first meeting, she goes for a tan, plucks her eyebrows and shaves even the hair off the top of her feet. She finds herself going above and beyond her normal beauty routine, just to be sure she's showing off her best features. Will they like me? She wonders. Will they feel comfortable with me? Will they see me for what I'm worth?

So she looks in the mirror one more time, smiles back at her mom and opens the door. Hello, Mr. Right, here I come!

Conclusion: As busy as I am, apparently, I still have waaaaay too much time on my hands.


Being "On Call"

Growing up, my dad was always "on call." He owned a small family company providing propane for home-heating and water-heating. If someone ran out of gas, he would be paged and would have to leave the family to take care of business. You can't leave your customers out in the cold. Especially in Buffalo, NY.

When I married Andy, I learned another aspect of being "on call." As a landlord, my husband would need to respond to situations about clogged water drains, broken windows or disturbances. Thankfully, Andy works hard to head-off any potential problems so these calls are far and few between.

When we had the boys, I learned firsthanded what it meant to be "on call." As Jack and Ben's primary caretaker, I was the one who responded to their cries in the middle of the night or during the day. It was difficult for me to sleep in the middle of the afternoon while they slept, knowing that I would need to get up in a moment's notice if my assistance was needed. You just don't sleep well when you're the one "on call."

This morning, our realtor put a big "for sale" sign in our front lawn. It seems so weird to see it there, as if this part of our journey has officially begun. We've been preparing for this for MONTHS. Organizing, weeding through things, refurbishing, painting, cleaning and fixing... and now we're really moving forward. But this morning, I realized I have learned another aspect of what it means to be "on call."

Our realtor said he will give us 24 hour notice for any possible showings, but that means I've got to be ready. I am, once again, "on call." Someone could want to come tomorrow, or it could be next week. It could be this Friday and possibly every day after that. I'll have to get my house together to showcase its most positive features, be sure that all evidence of toddler-hood is restrained to the boys' room and then find somewhere to relocate me and my boys during the showing. This could happen at any given time. I'm not a horrible housekeeper, but I'm already sick of how often I feel it's necessary to clean the bathroom mirrors, shine my stovetop and vacuum the hardwood just in case someone wants to come and see my house!

Sometimes, I miss those days of being carefree. Of sleeping in until noon on a Saturday just because you could. Of hearing a noise and allowing yourself to drift back into sleep because you knew someone else was taking care of it. Those days of zero responsibility and a clear mind. When all money you earned was spending money and the only thing you stressed about was if your parents were going to let you have a sleepover on Friday. Oh, those simple days.

Welcome to adulthood, Mindy. You've finally arrived. Now it's your turn to take over the responsibility while your boys enjoy a wonderful childhood, free from worry about what they're going to do about dinner, if they'll have a roof over their head and if their parents will still love eachother in thirty years. Your parents did it for you. Now it's time to extend the favor.

Oh, alright. Now, please excuse me while I go wash our windows. I've got a house to sell!


I'm the Lucky One

My husband came home from work yesterday and we started our usual "catch-ups" with the boys.

It's a fun little activity that helps connect our worlds. I remind them everything we did that day so we can tell daddy. It's cute to see their reactions as we re-hash our movements and describe our adventures. "Did we get to see Aunt Marissa and Uncle Dan today? Did we eat soup for lunch? Did we see dogs outside our window?" That sort of thing. It's not very complicated. Sometimes, the boys' eyes will widen as they seem to remember something they enjoyed, but usually, all we get is a little "yes." It is fun, though, to connect with their daddy at the end of the day even if the most exciting thing we did was see the garbage truck!

Yesterday, after we had caught up with our stories of coloring, visiting with family and playing with puzzles, Andy said, "Min, our boys are so lucky to be able to spend time with you."

I've gotta tell you. That could seriously be one of the most wonderful compliments.

I am not a nanny. I don't get paid to do this. I've got a master's degree in education and I worked hard to become tenured in my position. There are lots of other things I could be doing with my time that could be more constructive, things that would be using the degree I worked so hard to obtain.

But you know, there's nothing else I would rather be doing with my time.

Nothing more valuable. More rewarding. More difficult or more exciting. It's true that some days, a big day is a trip to Target and a walk in the park. My makeup bag has evolved to require only two simple pieces. I usually have time to brush my teeth, but could care less about doing anything more with my hair than throwing it in a ponytail. Most of my clothes are stained with toddler love and it's rare for me to use the bathroom alone. But how fortunate I am to be able to invest my time with my two little men.

No, Andy. I'm the lucky one.


Wishing My Life Away

Do you ever feel like you're wishing your life away?

Like you're living for the weekends? Or a vacation? Perhaps even just a break. Or a night-out? Or longing for the days to end just so you can go to sleep? Or perhaps anxious for the next few months of house renovations, being on the market, open houses and negotiations, finding your new home and fixing it up so you can live in it?

Yeah? Well, I'm totally there.

We haven't even officially put our house up on the market and I'm feeling anxious to be on the other side.

I'm beginning to realize there have been several seasons of my life where this has been true. In college, I'd long for the end of the semester. But I still had to make it through the exams. When I was teaching, I'd long for the weekends. But I still had to go through Monday through Friday. When I was a new mom, I'd pray for daylight. Or Andy to come home. Or the boys to be all grown, cleaning, changing and feeding themelves. I remember many (well-meaning) people saying, "Oh, enjoy these first few weeks with your newborns. It goes so fast." I'd think, "Really? I hope so!"

As much as I wanted time to pass quickly, I am smart enough to know that there is a lot of learning in that in-between time. In fact, that's probably where the majority of life actually takes place. It's been during those times that I developed a determined attitude, a clear vision and a closer walk with my Creator. That's usually when I'm focused on God to carry me through, knowing that I'm not strong enough on my own!

So as I find myself in yet another "in between" stage, I will try and keep my eyes on the prize. Keep moving toward my goal but being available to experience life in the present. Our days are too precious to simply wish them all away.


Why I Like Airplanes

Every time I see an airplane taking off, I think of my husband.

It's sort of a little joke that began almost four years ago when we were first married. Our Sunday morning drive to church took us by the airport. Driving along the expressway, it was common for us to see an airplane making its ascent into the air. And I'll tell you, no matter how often you've seen that happen, it's simply miraculous. Every single time. It just doesn't seem like it should be possible. And if you're fortunate enough to see one in action... that's pretty cool.

"Look at that, Andy!" I'd say, like a kid in a candy store. Kinda how excited my boys get when hear a police car's siren. He'd match my enthusiasm with a little smile and a joke. 'Cause that's how my baby rolls. "Ahhh, good one, Eddie," he'd joke. "You have no idea what I had to pay him to get that timing just right."

And so the joke continued. We'd see an airplane taking off and marvel at the timing, the execution and the sight. "Is that Eddie?" I'd ask.

"Uhh, no. That's Paul." If we missed a takeoff by rounding a curve, he'd say, "Oh, Frankie was a little too early."

After four years, it still makes me smile. Thinking of my best friend and his quick-wit, humor and laugh. I love it.

Andy is out of town this weekend on business and won't be home until tomorrow night. It's the first time we've been this far away since we've been married. We've been doing great - my mom came two spend two days with me and the boys and helped keep my mind off the fact that my best friend was hundreds of miles away - but I hate that he's not here.

This morning, though, we drove to church. I took the expressway. And I saw an airplane take off.

I'm glad that I kept my composure and didn't burst into tears. Gosh, what am I twelve years old? Instead, I smiled and told my mom why I love watching airplanes take off. She might have thought it was a little weird, but had to at least acknowledge the silliness of our little joke.

When I got to church, I wrote Andy a text message. "Eddie's execution was absolutely beautiful this morning. Well done, Andy. Well done."

Looking forward to Eddie, Paul or Frankie flying Andy home tomorrow. Or perhaps it will be someone I've never met; I'll have to ask Andy. I hope someone on the ground is able to acknowledge the flawless execution of their takeoff. I, however, will be much more excited about that plane's landing.


Love is All You Need

On my dresser, sits a picture in a rugged, handmade frame. Well, at least they told us it was handmade. It's a photo from our honeymoon in the Bahamas. A photographer roamed the resort with a camera and snapped shots of different couples eating dinner, at the pool and walking through the grounds. Traditionally, I'm too cheap to buy these photographs. But I knew that I would regret it for life if I hadn't. I was totally right. We purchased five photos, but the one that's currently on my dresser - the two of us sitting at a restaurant, my hand on his - is my absolute favorite. Partly because we look so cute, but also because it represents a wonderful season in our life together!

We worked hard before our wedding and the day was just perfect. We had been looking forward to our honeymoon to relax. This all-inclusive resort was everything I could have asked in the perfect destination after our wedding. We felt so spoiled. So pampered. So lazy. It was fabulous. The resort's mantra is "Love is all you need." They even answered the phones with it before saying their name. As newlyweds, we were convinced that were true.

We dreamed about our life together, a life that we now shared. We had every reason to expect the best. Andy had been working tirelessly for the past three months gutting our house to make my move from the suburbs to the city more comfortable. We were both excited about the adventure that awaited us. Would we be able to have kids? What would they be like? Would we be able to buy more rental properties?

Life was much simpler. It was just us. No one else depended on us for their existence, no one expected much. We were newly married and people seemed to give us a little space to enjoy our time together. Our biggest decision of the weekend was which movie to rent or where to go for dinner. I could leave my scrapbooking materials on our kitchen table for days at a time and poured myself into numerous cookbooks, preparing new recipes everyday. Life was grand. Our honeymoon and first year of marriage was a wonderful season in our life, one at I will always remember with gratefulness.

Seasons changed as we got pregnant, found out we were having twins and then even after the boys were born. We took one step at a time. We failed at some things, excelled at others. We made mistakes and worked to do better. Parenting has been the most challenging thing I have ever done - but it has also been the most rewarding. 

And now, we are preparing to transition into another season of life for our family. We are looking to buy a new home!

We need more space, more bedrooms, more grass. But all of this comes at a cost. It's expensive. It's a lot of work. It's exhausting. It's emotionally draining. Our house will be on the market next week and so we're up to our elbows in unfinished house projects, servicemen, and mortgage letters. We're continuing our (ongoing) discussion about where we'll live, how much we can spend and what things are really important. We're taking walking in different neighborhoods and interviewing the neighbors to see what things they like about the community. We're looking up elementary school listings in Business First, wondering how many more bedrooms we might need and if we'd be able to expand to the house in the future. It's a little scary. Makes you feel like you've got to have all of the answers for the next twenty years of your life, just to buy a house!

And yet, through all of this craziness, a beautiful picture of a happy couple honeymooning in the Bahamas sits on my dresser. An optimistic couple, very much in love. Hand over hand, their eyes are innocent and eager. Excited about their future and willing to do whatever it took to give the very best to their family someday.

We are that couple.

I don't have the answers I wish I had, but I'm trying to convince myself that's alright. I didn't have all of the answers four years ago either and look how far God brought us! Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

So until our house is sold and until we buy a new house and until we're finished renovating and until we're all moved in and until our stuff is organized... I'll just have to remind myself. Love is all we need... though money helps a little, too! ;)


Running Toward the Prize

Our family gathered in the stands one sunny Saturday morning to watch Daniel’s final T-ball game of the season. His coach told us to watch the next batter because his father had promised him $5 if he were to hit a home run. T-ball games are pandemonium on a good day so this was going to be interesting.

Word quickly spread in the bleachers and everyone was watching the next boy to bat. He hit the ball off the tee and took off for first base. The pitcher was the first one to get to the ball. He quickly threw it to the first baseman but it went over his head. The runner, with his head down, kept his little legs moving towards second base while completely ignoring what the other team was doing to tag him out. Missed throws, confusion and yelling did not deter this little guy as he kept moving, rounding each base crouching low with his head forward and arms swinging. The final throw to home was too high as he crossed the plate to score the only home run of the game.

The determination of this little runner made everyone love him. Determined with his eye on the prize, he wasn’t distracted and wouldn’t be deterred from his goal.

What would happen if we were to put our heads forward, ignore the distractions and run towards the prize today? Have a good game!

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

- Ken


Chef of the Evening

Here's another post from my dad. I absolutely LOVED doing this!

I was working on a five-year plan for work one summer evening on our front porch when it occurred to me that we should have a five-year plan for our family. At that time, all four kids were still at home so I projected into the future for a moment. Of all the priorities to consider, the first thing that came to mind was, “Our kids don’t know how to cook!” They would soon be off to college and later be on their own without the proper knowledge of the culinary arts. In some Italian neighborhoods, that could get a guy beat up.

I consulted with Donna and we agreed that we would give each child $20 to make dinner for the rest of the family. They could keep what change was left over but they would have to plan the menu, shop, cook the meal and then clean up. I honestly thought that Daniel, who was about 10 at the time, would buy a box of Rice Krispies and pocket the rest of the cash. One by one, they scheduled their meals. The two oldest provided the transportation to the supermarket for the younger ones and it wasn’t long before everything was set.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the results. Very much surprised. I had not expected the food to look and taste so good. They did a great job. I was taken by how serious they were about their responsibly to provide a meal for the rest of us. I was also surprised by the reaction that we got from our extended family when they heard about what we were doing. A couple of them joined us on one or two of the nights and lavishly praised the chef-of-the-evening for their efforts.

Serving the family made them appear and act grown up. They had been challenged and then exceeded our expectations. There was something special in the air those nights and everyone sensed it.

How many times have we experienced moments in our lives that have made us pause and watch as God helps us, and the people in our lives, to grow up just a little bit more on the inside?

- Ken


Twelve Years Later

I just got an email from Yahoo Mail, thanking me for being a loyal user for the past twelve years and asking me to upgrade to their newer, faster service. Upgrade? Great. Twelve years? Wow.

Twelve years ago, I was still in high school. I was looking forward to college and was optimistic about my future. I wanted to go to Houghton, meet the man of my dreams, get married, teach at my hometown elementary school, stay home with my four kids and live happily ever after. Everything seemed possible to a 17-year old. The Internet was just beginning to emerge and I remember hearing stories and being wary of its presence. For all I knew, the Internet was for pornography. My sophomore year of high school, a boy in my biology class printed out a huge sheet of information for our teacher that he said he "got off the Internet." I remember gasping with shock, astonished that he would be bringing porn to school.

Oh, how innocent one can be.

Once more people learned that the Internet had more to offer than pornography, everyone was getting dial-up. My parents eventually added a second line so someone could be on the phone at the same time and my siblings and I lobbied for use of the computer. Remember those days? When you could actually HEAR your computer connecting to the world wide web?

But that email made me think of my actual email address. I remember setting up my email account. I remember thinking that I wanted it to be something that I could show to possible employers and my friends. An address I wouldn't have to switch when I got married. An address I could have forever. So rather than use my last name (which I would *hopefully *change someday,) I used my first and middle name. And the year I was going to graduate high school... because it said I needed a number.

On a day like today, that memory made me smile. Even then, I knew that I wanted to be married. I knew that I wanted to be a mom. There's no way I could have anticipated how things would have gone in the past twelve years. I would have never believed I'd have taught in a middle school. I would have never believed I'd have moved to the city! I would have never believed I'd get such a fantastic guy! I would have never believed I'd have TWINS! But what a wonderful ride it's been!

My boys are sick today. Yesterday, too. They just can't keep much in their bellies. They're clingy, uncomfortable and irritable. Plus, their noses are like leaky faucets and they've got a cough that sounds like they've been smoking for ten years. It's easy to get overwhelmed this time of year. When sickness invades your house and refuses to leave. When your boys are puking all over you and your couch and your washing machine can barely keep up. When you'd rather use their nap to sleep and recoup your energy rather than make dinner or tidy the house.

On these days, it's helpful for me to remember the day I set up my email account. That innocement 17-year-old, with the whole world at her fingertips and optimism in her eyes. To remember these simple truths: This is the life I had hoped for. This is the life I had dreamed up.

Then I realized: I did it. I'm living my dream.

MY dream. All of it. The happy husband, the healthy kids... the puke, the exhaustion... ALL OF IT!

I am a mom. My life is not a glamorous one. Far from it, actually. But I couldn't imagine it being any better than it already is.

Signing off,


Sing it Again, Daddy

I am VERY excited to introduce to you - the new co-author of my blog - MY DAD!
My dad with Jack and Ben last summer

Sing it Again, Daddy

The story is told of a father who took his toddler to the mall one afternoon. His son quickly grew tired and fussy and was giving him a hard time. It started to look as if the day was about to be ruined. Out of frustration, the father took his son out of the stroller, picked him up in his arms and began singing to him. He made up the words and the melody as he went along. “You are my boy and I’m so glad you are mine… I have loved you from the start… You have brought us so much joy.” As the father continued to sing this strange new song, he noticed that his son started to relax and grow quiet. All the way out to the parking lot the song continued. As he was buckling him into the car seat his son looked up and said, “Sing it again, Daddy. Sing it again.”

Loving when we don’t feel like it is tough and few people choose to do it. But anyone can love someone when it’s easy.

As parents, we wish we could say that we have never over-corrected our children, punished them without first getting the (whole) story or secretly blamed our spouse for the way our children seemed to be turning out. Almost every time that I have reacted in anger to our children, I later discovered that they were only looking for my attention; their song, that only I could sing for them.