Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ups and Downs, Coffee and McFarland, USA

This past week was a busy one. As with all weeks, it had its ups and downs. Kevin and I toured some coffee shops on Tuesday morning (what is called a "caffeine crawl") to do a little research for the new coffee shop our church is putting in this fall. My friend, Becky, provided a more comprehensive review of local coffee shops, but here is my quick rundown of the three we visited:

Jives (on Nevada): Converted from the old Harley Davidson Motorcycle Museum, I'm told the style in here is Steampunk. It was a little dark inside for 10 a.m., but the pumpkin spice latte (my first of the season) was delicious and it would be the perfect, cozy place to work without distractions (at least on a Tuesday morning).

Stir: My favorite of the three, the bright, cool, 1950s vibe in here (think your Grandma's porch or a diner) was complemented by the easy-going, friendly barista. I tried a Cafe Miel (honey and cinnamon latte), and it was divine. Just be sure to go early—they close at 3 p.m.

Fifty Fifty Coffeehouse: Recently remodeled (it used to be called The Raven's Nest), this place is a fair-trade (I think all of them are) hipster heaven. I spotted a man-bun, Chaco's and khaki dress shorts (on the same person), i-devices galore, and entertaining signage at every turn. Maybe some day I will "Do Good Work" at their inspiring high-top community table, if I ever escape my children get a babysitter for an afternoon. (Granted I can stop staring at all the fascinating people!) Oh, and I enjoyed my brown-sugar latte--made with homemade brown-sugar syrup.

That was definitely an up of the week. But there were some downs too. On Thursday, we Redboxed (that's a verb, right?) McFarland, USA. I've decided that while I don't really like sports, I LOVE sports movies. This movie was so uplifting and really spoke to me on issues of faith, life and family. Although it's about a public school coach starting a track team in a poor California town, it had some great insights for those in ministry (all Christians, right?). I won't spell them out for you (because you should really watch the movie and be uplifted, too) but let's just say that what you do has lasting effect on those you build relationships with.

In conclusion, Ungrind published my article "Reinventing Mommy" this week. It's basically me offering help and hope to other mamas who may feel a loss of identity in motherhood (even though it's their very favorite thing in the world). Until next time ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reinventing Mommy

“Being a parent is hard!” My sister’s words tumbled forth in a Monday-afternoon email. She continued, “Of course I wouldn’t change anything, but I didn’t realize what I was giving up by having kids or how hard it would be.”
What prompted her lament was that, as a mom of two toddlers, she could no longer participate in the community theater scene the way she had since she was a girl. The leading lady parts she had once played were no longer really an option for her with two active little boys to care for.
As a mother of three young children myself, I understand her feelings. I, too, often feel like I “gave something up” when I made the decision to take on the role and responsibilities of motherhood.
There were the obvious things I said goodbye to — my job as a magazine editor and my place on the improv comedy team I had helped to found. But there were also the more subtle things — money for extras, regular haircuts, time with friends, free time and kudos for my accomplishments. And while, like my sister, I wouldn’t change a thing, sometimes I do feel like my identity had been altered beyond recognition.
Read the rest here. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Cross-stitched family by the talented Heather Bauers.

A few days ago, I was trying to get the "perfect" photo of my girls in their matching PJs. I must have taken twelve or more shots. The 3-year-old was either making a contorted face with eyes scrunched closed, or the baby's hands were a total blur because she was clapping. The best photo I got had both girls looking at the camera and mostly smiling, but wisps of hair hung over the 3-year-old's eyes.


I've been a pseudo-perfectionist my whole life. I say "pseudo," because there are definitely things I let go. (My laundry pile is a perfect example.) But something about being the oldest child, I think, has always driven me to be excellent in what I do. More precisely, I crave to be recognized for excellence in what I do. 

I'm not a person who would intentionally broadcast to others that I'm perfect or have a perfect family, despite what the Facebook "highlights reel" may convey, but I still probably aim for "pseudo-perfect." Imperfect is one thing; sub-standard is another. The season of raising young children is an especially difficult one in which to maintain any level of perfection. Messy house. Messy kids. Messy car. I try to have the right expectations, but sometimes the imperfection gets to me.

The concept of beauty in the imperfection is a well-worn theme. But sometimes you don't see the beauty in the moment—or maybe you never see it. Forget about the beauty for a minute (it is there); most days I ask God what He's trying to teach me through this assault on my perfectionism. And you know what I think it is? Dependence. The less I can do on my own, the more I am forced to turn to Him—the One in whom I live and breathe and have my being (Acts 17:28). He's big enough to handle my frustrations. More than that, He loves me. He loves my husband. And He especially loves the little people who are wreaking havoc on my carpet (SO imperfect).  

God's been teaching me dependence throughout my life. Because it seems perfectionists have hard heads when it comes to things like this. This is just His newest strategy. On the flip side, the enemy is very good at knowing my weak points, and one of them is my pride in my pseudo-perfection. It could also be called self-reliance. That's exactly it. I am a chronic self-relier. And I think God is trying to break me of that ... in a big way. It may be painful, but I'm OK with that. Because I trust the end result will be worth it. It always is. 

Cute in imperfection.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Sonrise Mountain Ranch in beautiful Cimarron, Colorado.

It has been almost a week since we left Sonrise Mountain Ranch, but the refreshment God gave our family there lingers.

The setting was gorgeous and we enjoyed many fun family activities, including making s'mores, swimming and boating, and participating in an Amazing Race (Team Gosselin came in 4th!). But the teaching Matt and Chantal McGee provide on marriage and family life was truly life-changing. (You can get a taste of it in their book "The View From the Rocking Chair.") It forces you to evaluate what your priorities truly are and move forward with intentionality that will change the course of your family. There are a lot of things you (and your children) can spend your time doing. Some of them are good things. But are they the best things? That is a question that parents should never stop asking.

Another thing that really blessed us was the wonderful staff and volunteers at the camp. These people loved on our kids (Josiah in particular) and encouraged Kevin and me as parents. As my last post showed, parenting can be really difficult sometimes. And it can be a big deal for someone to notice your efforts and tell you that you're doing a good job—that they can see God at work in and through you.

It reminds me of Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." I think sometimes we forget how critical this is—to notice what God is doing in the lives of other believers—and to not only notice, but to speak up about it. Many times when I've received this type of encouragement, it feels as if the words are being spoken to me directly from God.

So refresh someone today. Notice what God is doing and say something. A little encouragement goes a long way.  



Wednesday, August 05, 2015

My Children Are Embarrassing

They actually look pretty cute and innocent in this photo. 

So this week, we’ve been spending some time at a wonderful family camp in the mountains of Colorado. Just one week on the heels of our epic road trip with toddlers, we set off again on a five-hour drive to Sonrise Mountain Ranch. Some people in our church gifted us with this week at camp, and so far it has been beautiful, restful and spiritually refreshing. But it started off kind of rough.

The combination of too little sleep the night before, seven hours of travel (including too many potty breaks to count), and rolling into camp as events were already underway, left all of us feeling a little frazzled. We made it through dinner, but by the time we had gathered for worship and introductions in the lodge, it had become absolutely impossible to control our children.

My 4-year-old, who has developmental issues, alternated running away from us and doing an exuberant interpretive dance. Following his cue, my 2-year-old danced around the room, laughing impishly and evading our attempts to wrangle her back to our corner of the room. And the baby was, well … being a baby. Every so often she let us know (loudly) that she was ready for bed. There was nothing we could do to get our unruly children under control.

That’s when I felt tears brimming in my eyes. I was just so embarrassed. This was one of those moments where I really wished my children were a little less like themselves and a little more like the Von Trapps—lining up neatly and politely to impress the crowd with a goodnight song.

I know that at “family camp,” these fellow parents completely understand what we’re going through and aren’t there to judge. But still, why did MY children have to be the ones acting up? Everyone was super-kind and gracious to us following the debacle. (My son almost landed on a baby—not ours—during his interpretive dance, and my daughter at one point yelled, “I’m done!” loudly during prayer—just in case there was any question.) I appreciated the encouragement, but my pride was hurt. Really hurt. And even back at the cabin I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing as I replayed “the incident” over and over again in my head.

But here’s the facts: I have a child with special needs. I have a delightfully spirited, precocious, creative 2-year-old. And I have a baby. Sometimes my kids are going to be embarrassing. And for all my parenting flaws—which I know exist—I can’t change who they are … who God created them to be. If that bruises my pride, so what? Kevin and I plan to do our best to raise them to be compassionate, polite, godly adults, but right now they’re kids. They’re our kids. And when they embarrass me, I just need to remember that one day I’ll embarrass them too. Just kidding. (Kind of.)

But seriously, as a parent, I’m going to have to let go of my pride sometimes. So they’re not behaving the way I wish they would … that’s part of the process. My daughter won’t be 2 forever. Before long, public interpretive dance will be a thing of the past. And you know what. I have a feeling I'll miss these embarrassing moments. Well, at least some of them. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Than My Share

So ... I was going for "artsy" with this photo. When I realized I couldn't accomplish that, I opted for "no dishes or laundry in the background."

Do you ever feel like you're getting more than your share? You know that uncomfortable feeling that you're taking a lot more than you're giving? That's me this week. It's actually been a really great week of various friends and family members ministering to ME. But the less I'm able to reciprocate, the more guilty I feel.

Here's the thing, I would be the first to advocate to moms of young children (and anyone in need, actually) to ASK FOR HELP. Do it. People want to help you and you will be better and healthier for it! But when it comes to actually asking for, or receiving offers of help, I start to feel this pressure that I have to be sure to give as much as I take.

My friend Krishana (Shout out—today is her birthday!) once wrote about her compulsion to return a favor rather than simply accept it as a blessing. She writes:
I'm better at being the giver than the receiver, although in both situations God is still rewiring my thinking. My giving sometimes seeks the approval of the receiver; or I only accept a gift if I can find some way to eventually pay him or her back.  
Once in a while I catch myself saying "Are you sure?" when someone offers me something nice. Of course, it bugs me when people ask those questions when I offer them something. If I weren't sure about what I was giving them, I want to say, I wouldn't have made the offer. And yet that's too often my first response when I'm given something, trying to provide the giver an out.
I share her desire to not inconvenience others and especially to keep pace with the giving that's happening. Here's the thing: That's not how the Body of Christ is designed to work. We're not all going to be in need at the same time. Speaking of the monetary workings of the Body, Acts 2:45 says: "They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."

Some people sold stuff they had so that others who were needy could be taken care of. God used the possessions of some to provide for others. This didn't make the receivers less worthy than the givers. In fact, they were all one in Christ. Those who gave could. And those who needed simply received. The same concept carries over to non-monetary needs—physical help, childcare, or even a listening ear over the phone. And while my need can make me feel like a freeloader at times, I know one day it will be my turn. I will be the one to offer babysitting or housecleaning or a listening ear. I will have the stuff to sell that will meet the financial need of another. And it won't be me, really. It will be God giving His stuff to someone else through me. I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
I am certain that God uses others in the Body of Christ to pour out His comfort on us. So even when I'm feeling like I'm receiving more than my share—and I don't have the strength or resources to reciprocate—I can trust that, that is precisely how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.

(Special thanks to the people who have ministered to me this week. God bless you for your generosity.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Does He Handle Stress? (Or, How Our Vacation Was Almost Ruined)

The aftermath.

This one is for the single ladies who hope to be married someday.

So, this is about how our vacation was almost ruined. We decided to take a road trip from Colorado to Washington State with three children 4 and under. (Yeah, that sounds like the punchline, but it's not.) Our first day started out great with us leaving the house by 5:30 and already North of Denver by 7. But then ...

Our 2-year-old started to whimper and before we could find an exit, she got sick. All over her clothes. All over her blanket. All over the car seat. We stopped at a gas station and used about half a package of wipes, changed her clothes, gave her kids' Dramamine. I was pretty proud about how quickly and efficiently we took care of the problem, and the car didn't even smell THAT bad (most of the "content" had gone on her clothes).

Ten hours later, we were pulling into Billings, Montana, to meet a friend for dinner, and when we opened the van, we realized our youngest had experienced a similar "event." We used the rest of the wipes and quickly changed her into a clean outfit. (This is a good time to interject that my husband, Kevin, is a packing wizard. He thinks of everything, and his foresight has saved the day more than once.) After we left dinner, we had two more hours of driving until the hotel. The baby was wailing inconsolably, so I switched seats to sit next to her in the back. Thinking she was hungry, I fed her two pear-spinach pouches. And about 20 minutes later, two pear-spinach pouches came back up ... all over the seat (lucky for us, the seat was green to begin with).

We got to the hotel at 10 p.m. with three exhausted children, two soiled car seats and about half a dozen loads of stuff to carry up a flight of stairs to our room. This situation could have ruined our vacation. I was on the brink of wondering if we had made an epic mistake even attempting a road trip with three young children. At 11, we were moved into our room and Kevin went in search of laundry services. At 12, I had finally quieted down our rowdy children, who were showing the effects of being in car seats all day. Let's just say, I did not pass the stress test. I was pretty close to a break-down. But not Kevin. He simply did what had to be done. In this case, that meant sitting in the laundry room until 2 a.m. until the seats, straps, buckles and soiled clothes had been washed. The next morning, he had to painstakingly put the seats back together before we could go somewhere. (We drove through Yellowstone National Park and had a lovely time.)

This is what I saw on the bathroom counter the next morning.

There are many things I appreciate about my husband, but near the top of the list is this ability he has to handle stressful situations—keeping a positive outlook and not giving up. This quality is a huge blessing to our family, especially during this demanding season of life. It reminds me of a blog post I wrote not too long ago about the importance of looking for a spouse who suffers well. This is the same thing, really, just on a smaller scale. But six years—and three kids—into marriage, I see even more now than I used to how important it is to be with someone who can weather the downs of life.

We're now a week and a half into our road trip, and we've had a few other trying moments (I don't suggest road tripping with a newly potty-trained 2-year-old), but nothing as bad as that first day. Our vacation wasn't ruined after all. So, ladies ... as you date, notice how your guy handles stress. How does he respond to problems and inconveniences? Someone who keeps a cool head and calm demeanor in stressful situations will diffuse potential meltdowns. Plus, that kind of person just makes the journey more fun.