I will not be packing ALL of these…. At least I don’t think I will be…

6 1/2 or maybe a 7.  I can squeeze into a 5 1/2 if they are 90% off and  designer.  I can walk with my toes splayed apart like a ducks feet in a 7 1/2-8 if they are 75% off and adorable. (The smaller the shoe- the greater the pain. Hence the dependence on the deal to determine their worthiness of my foot sacrifice.)

To say I have shoe issues would be putting it mildly. I usually blame it on the fact that shoes fit , no matter what day of the month it is. (Clothes do not. Trust me.) I’m ashamed to even post the number of pair of she’s that I own. (I’ve never counted them.  Nor will I. I will, however, be making a large donation of very gently used shoes tomorrow- because seriously- I have too many and thinking about my shoe hoarding is making me think of all the people who duct tape plastic bottles to their feet because they have none.  Not that a pair of silver pumps I’ve worn twice will help them, but at least i won’t have to see my guilt reflected in them anymore- but, I digress. I digress a lot. Consider yourself warned.)

Is there a TLC show about shoe hoarding? I hope not. Someone may nominate me. Please don’t. I’m working on it. No, really! I can quit any time. (See what I mean? Shoe issues: I has them.Classic.)

The truth is: even with my admitted shoe hoard- I spent last night browsing shoe shops online. MOPS convention is next week and I haven’t decided what shoes to pack.  Convention- requires a lot of walking so I will need something comfy. It also will afford me a few hours by the pool so I’ll need something pool appropriate. I’ll be doing double duty as a Board Member and a Field Leader- and those each have their own unique needs. I also signed up for Mom Prom…and have to have the right statement shoes for that- too.I may have shopped in person too. (Found: nada. I already have several potential pair lined up in the foyer.)

I might need an extra suitcase. Or shoecase, to be more accurate. Ugh.

I blame Cinderella.

Every time I pry (or slip) my feet into a new pair of shoes I wonder (more…)

“Tracey? Tracey?”

I kept walking through Target, like the mom-bie (zombie+mom) that the lack of sleep and pallor from late night feedings- I knew looked like.

I heard it again: “Tracey, Trace?”  Recognition almost registered through my mommy-fogged brain. “Tracey? You mean me?” I looked around. I saw a friend. She DID mean me. I thought about pretending I wasn’t me. I was a mess and not exactly feeling like a “visit.” Besides, time was ticking and my boobs were filling. It was almost time to nurse again- if I went off the schedule there would be tears and a possible overflow. Which, I generally tried to avoid. I checked the baby in his seat.He was sleeping.

I decided to risk it. We talked for a few minutes, and I somehow felt like I’d been pulled out of my mom-bie ness. It wasn’t a deep conversation. Just a chat. With another mom. One who also happened to be between nursings and risking the public humiliation of leaking to talk to me….a sister in motherhood with a cart piled with diapers and wipes.

That few minutes of connection between nursings and the target checkout- refreshed me. It woke me up from my mom-bie sleep. It reminded me that I have a name.  Honestly?   (more…)

Even here? Even here.

I thought I knew what my tattoo meant as the Hawaiian radio DJ (long story- let’s just say it FELT like the right time and place to get it!- and it was;) inked it onto my ankle: a bird’s nest- held in the crook of a branch- a reminder of Gods tender care and comfort- as he gently holds my family. 3 blue eggs tucked into the nest of our love held in the crook of a branch dotted with 5 small blossoms representing each member of our family— because we aren’t just eggs- but still growing.

It’s a visual planted in my heart at MOPS convention in 1998. (14 years ago- really? I can’t even believe it.) when the theme was “Feather your nest.” Based on Psalm 84 vs 1-3.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
 my heart and my flesh cry out
 for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home,
 and the swallow a nest for herself,
 where she may have her young—
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

At dinner we were each given a small bird’s nest on a branch- to remind of us the truth of God’s presence in our lives and His promise of a nest for my family, by the altar.

Over the years- that nest sat on the sill- reminding me of God’s presence as I washed dishes, washed gum out of kids hair, held dripping ice onto bloodied boo-boos and all the other things a mom does in the kitchen.

It reminded me of the truth through our struggle to buy our first home, in struggles with fertility, struggles in pregnancy and struggles in my marriage. It always brought me back to the altar. (It also gathered a lot of dust… nests are not easy to clean.)

When I started working on a book project in process (A Mile in Her Shoes)  I wanted a way to engage. To engage means to- To connect with commitment. My commitment is to the “other mom” the one who’s not like me…. She’s different. I wanted a visual reminder of that commitment. I chose to make that commitment to reach out- with a tattoo.

I settled on the bird’s nest …. because it was one of the strongest visual’s God has used in my life … (It’s possible I have birds nest jewelry, décor and photography… I may have written 6,000 nest inspired blog posts and given several talks….. nest= not a passing fad for me;)

Besides- I thought I knew what it meant.

And I kind of did. But not like I do now.

Now, I know it means much more.

Shortly before Kyle’s cancer treatment began and shortly after my diagnosis with some crummy spine issues and the fear they have involved…The nest took front and center again. This time with inspiration from a new verse:

 Psalm 139: 7-12


Where can I go from your Spirit?
  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
 if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
 and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
 the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

I sat with an ice pack on my neck and a biopsy report in my hand and I read that verse and talked back to God. (My mother has yet to cure me of backtalk- she’s tried- poor thing- she’s my mom. But, I digress.)

Even there?  Sure- if I ride the wings of the dawn, or move across the sea- (to be a missionary of course) but what about even here?

 In chronic pain and physically limited body.

In my husbands cancer.

In fear of losing my husband.

In talking to my kids about cancer? How bout here??

The answer was simple, yet, not. Two words:

Even here.

Maybe it was a moment of psychosis…. Maybe it was my heart telling me the truth I already knew- or maybe it was God speaking to my heart.

Psychosis or not-  I knew without a doubt- that all these years later-our nest is still in the still resting at near His altar.

A number of weeks later as I sat down at the radiation center- I looked up to see a tiny birds nest in a flower arrangement. With 3 eggs held in it’s twiggy embrace.

I have no doubt he is with us and holding onto us-

Even here.

Regardless of what you are experiencing- personally, in your ministry, financially, or professionally- I believe he has a place for your nest at his altar…. Yes- Even there.

If you’ve never been to MOPS Convention– I hope you’ll seriously consider it….. I assure you- God will plant something in your heart- and he will grow it in your life- Even here.

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord- I know you are with  me- but please keep reminding me… in times of pain and fear- I get spiritual alzheimers……..I tend to forget. I love you Lord- and thank you for your tender care- amen.

I spent hours making and freezing healthy casseroles and filling notebooks with instructions for my husband. (And who ever else was caring for the kids.  Sometimes it took some fancy scheduling to make it to convention!)  I included a phonetic dictionary of preschooler terms: nana= blanket, sneezus= Jesus and usually meant he way praying….etc. I wanted to make sure communication would continue without my mom-terperative skills. I left a list of places to find things to avoid the inevitable call to ask “Where are my clean underwear, and do you know where the kids shoes are?” Being inevitable, the calls still came. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I left clean MATCHING clothes for each day. Because, I’m a good mom.

I left detailed lists of chores broken down by age/ person and day. Truthfully?  I just hoped someone would mop up the toilet misses before I got home. I should have included emergency cleaning instructions. Like for cat vomit and cheerios and mashed banana.  I also left a list of do’s and don’ts. Do bathe. Don’t do it in mud. Don’t let the children kill each other or harm the cats…. You know- simple stuff, like that.

Year after year, I went to MOPS convention, and left feeling refreshed by fun and connection. I was reminded of being a part of something even bigger than our local group. I was reminded that I am incredible and unique, and called….I also worried about my families managing without me.  I worried if they were eating. I worried if they could read my instructions on the casseroles….I worried about the cats. I worried about the morning they went to church without me… (umm matching clothing at church is important.. It’s kind of like visible holiness…rt?) I worried about what they were into and if they went into public restrooms alone.

Year after year, I returned hone, exhausted but refreshed.

I found ignored lists and a freezer full of frozen casseroles. (There are probably still some from 1992 in there… I was an over-achiever that year.) In the fridge, I found 4 days worth of half eaten McDonald’s meals and (now leaking) papercups of watered- down- by -melted -ice Sprite.  (What’s up with those cups? Why must they leak after 6 hours? I hate that!) The kitchen garbage was piled to the ceiling like a gross game of Jenga. (they need to be reminded to take it out or they’d all drown in yesterdays junk mail. )

Year after year I was met at the airport by a family on the verge of collapse and in some pretty interesting outfits.

It  took days for me to clean up all the messes that went ignored while I was gone.  It took days to get discipline back on track. Honestly, It took days for me to look at my husband without wondering how he managed to function at work if he couldn’t read. (I doubted his literacy- because duh! I’d written it all down!) It took days to catch up on laundry. (Ok I’ve NEVER actually caught up my laundry… I gave that up.)  For years, I got angry that things weren’t done MY way, while I was away.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • That appearance of near collapse at the airport?  It comes from having fun, not neglect. Who knew?
  • They won’t die if they eat the same thing for 4 days straight. (Even if it’s McDonald’s)
  • Dirt don’t hurt. (messes can be cleaned up, and will be eventually, maybe.)
  • Matching clothes have nothing to do with holiness. And the church ladies just smile at daddy’s attempts to dress children for church… they don’t write you off as a bad mom. well- some may but those are cranky ladies with too many cats.. just sayin.
  • No one will eat the casseroles, don’t bother.
  • Velveeta Shells and cheese and banquet chicken can be bought at the party store, hence avoiding the grocery. Men are crafty like that. It still counts as dinner.
  • Cat vomit is easier to clean up when it’s dry.
  • My children are way more resilient than I thought.
  • Husbands may think that letting the kids wear dirty(ish) clothes is actually HELPNG. It saves you laundry when you get home. Thank them for being considerate.
  • If you gripe about how things are (or are not) done when your gone… you can expect even less the next time you go. His way is the RIGHT way, when you’re not there. Deal with it.
  • When they call to ask you where something is…. remember: it’s kind of nice to feel needed…
  • By the time your kids are teenagers… they may send pics to your phone of things they do while you’re gone….. take a deep breath before opening… and know that if they actually DID break a leg jumping off the banister upstairs. while his brother snapped a pic of him in mid air….. they prolly wouldn’t have sent a pic…(yes this really did happen, and no, nothing was broken… )
  • I would have been disappointed if they could do it all my way without me…. (I hate to admit it, but it’s true.)

Here’s the thing, we can either go to Convention and be distracted by our controlling nature (hey- we’re moms, we can admit it.) and return home angry about all that went undone, or done wrong… or we can go to convention, count the messes and mayhem we find on arriving home, as part of the cost, and be glad we went.

After 20 years?  I choose the latter.

I’ve also learned what’s important and I don’t knock myself out over what’s not. This makes it easier for me to leave (I save hours not bothering with  frozen meals) and less frustrating when I come home. I make sure there IS clean laundry, but understand they will wear what they want while I’m gone. (And it doesn’t really matter.) Our lists of what’s important may differ, and your childcare arrangements may need different instructions… but we all need to learn what to hold onto and what to let go of to make Convention a reality that isn’t a nightmare….

What about you?

What works and what doesn’t, for your family?  Lists? Casseroles? Outfits laid out? (during the school year, I put them in gallon ziplocks arranged by day…. I’m like that) Or McDonald’s and dirty clothes because they’re “saving you work” by wearing them twice?

Can’t wait to see you soon!

In answer to my title question:  YES.

My oldest is almost 21 middle is 18 and my youngest is 8.  All have grown up being left each year for MOPS convention, all have survived;)

Gumbys MOPS Convention Trip

Gumby's MOPS Convention Trip

For the record, I technically, did not steal Gumby. I may have suggested that he was within reach and unattended.. but I myself did not steal Gumby.

However- I did have fun living vicariously through Gumby during my rare down time during MOPS International Convention. (It’s NOT all work.. there is a lot of PLAY)

Gumby was a busy little guy.  He met many field leaders and MOPS moms. (Strangely enough, most field leaders refused to allow their faces to be shown in pictures.)

Gumby met a beautiful bride and handsome groom.  Gumby relaxed in the hotel lobby near the fireplace. Gumby met a steer.  (He also climbed on the fence around the steer that was clearly labeled “DO NOT CLIMB OR STAND ON THIS FENCE) Apparently Gumby is a rebel. Gumby found a train that was irresistible, he had to ride it, and even found a little house that was JUST his size!

Gumby brought out my jealous side- by going to the spa.  He had a hot tub, a massage, and a makeover. I wanted to pinch that little guy when he kept eating cheesecake and carrot cake without blowing up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I would have gained a pants size, maybe 2!

Gumby also bought a cowbell and stuffed it into my suitcase for my youngest son.  I can assure you- waking up to a cowbell rung 3 inches from your left ear is NOT a pleasant experience.  Gumby kept asking what SDWSC meant.. now he knows. Gumby watched the season kick off of Pushing Daisies.. I missed it.  Gumby was touched by Erwin McManus’ new book “Wide Awake” as was I.   That little bugger even stole my wedding ring to wear as a crown…cause he was feeling like a prince for a day! No worries- I got it back, I’m bigger than Gumby. Oh and Gumby wants the world to know- Texan BBQ?  ROCKS.

Finally- Gumby was hand delivered to his caretaker and bestfriend, by a Gaylord Resort Staff member (who got a very nice tip, I might add)at which point, I might have been rolling on the hallway floor, laughing so hard, that the pictures from his safe return are blurred.

I’m still working to get caught up form the trip- but I just have to say- if you ever get a chance to attend MOPS Convention.. you should go.. you just never know what fun is in store! (especially if you make some of your own:P)

No Gumbys or Field Leaders were harmed in the taking of these pictures.  Also- Due to confidentiality- I cannot disclose who else was involved in the Gumby disturbance- suffice to say, I was not alone.

Bad things happen when I’m in a rush. I KNOW this. I should have learned from a series of rush- induced incidents I’ve already endured. (The great brownie wound of Christmas, 2004 was a classic and painful lesson) Apparently, I haven’t quite caught on. Because yesterday I learned it anew.

I’d been packing and cleaning and emailing, printing and prepping all day to leave for MOPS Convention.….  I looked at the clock I realized, that if I didn’t get dressed immediately- I’d be driving the college boy to class in my jammies.. since his class starts at 6:00 p.m. That wasn’t an option I (Nor he-) wanted to take.

I ran upstairs, tore off my jammies and grabbed a bra- it’s a crazy, criss-cross backed bionic model (obviously designed by a man) –  I have to put my head through it, then wiggle around until I get it on right.. finally fastening it in the back. (A feat of circus performer talent.) I admit- It’s a bit too much for “in a rush dressing” but, it was the only one I could find. (On my bedroom floor- hmmm I better clean that up before I leave- who am I kidding?  if i clean it up it will get dirty before I come home- I’ll leave it.) Again: I should have known better. Mid- wiggle- I heard what could be described as a whip-cracking sound and then felt a sharp sting on my right cheek.

“Wha?” I grabbed my cheek- and checked for blood. Whew. None. I looked for sling-shot pellets meant for a raccoon. (My son The College Boy seems to believe it’s his job to rid the neighborhood of vermin) Nada. I looked around for a swarm of bees..attacking me in my underwear.. nothing. I looked for a rogue 6 year old with a bull whip (as a mom of boys- I check for anything) . Nope. It took me a full minute to realize I hadn’t been shot at or whipped or stung while standing in my underwear in my own bathroom. I suddenly noticed that one breast felt very– ummmmm “free”. That’s when I realized the bra strap had snapped,and had smacked me in the cheek.

So- I now have a nice little red (beauty?) mark on my right cheek.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to cover it with makeup.  Otherwise? I’ll just tell people I had a yoga accident.  (plausible if I actually DID yoga….but it’s easier to explain than an exploding bra) Oh- and no worries- I picked up a new, less than bionic and easier to put on bra for the trip— I’d hate to have another exploding bra incident at the airport or something…gives homeland security an whole new meaning…

Looks like this trip is gonna be an ADVENTURE!

Make sure and stop by the MOPS Convention Blog to see what happens as thousands of Moms take over Dallas!

PS- yeah- no pics to go with this post..it’s NOT that kind of blog:P

Shoes- Check. (Let’s hope I did better than last year in this arena)

Black pants Check (after 6 days of searching every store in Michigan for pants that don’t make me look like a buffalo in drag from behind..)  (well thats only kind of a CHECK…I finally gave up looking in the three-way mirrors.. funny how little I mind my backside if I don’t LOOK at it…)
527 tops of which, I will wear exactly: 5.  Check (I never know what I’ll FEEL like wearing- so I need to bring options.. I need to wear my purple MOPS Polo when “on duty” so the actual times for wearing my “options” will be minimal…)

Laptop and enough electronic cords, chargers and devices to power a third world country- Check. (a girl’s got to stay connected for pete’s sake.)

Knitting that I know I will have no time to work on- check. (ok- so MAYBE on the plane…)

Name tag- Check (For once I didn’t even have to look for it.. someone told me to keep it on the fridge with the magnetic backing- works like a charm!)

Breakfast bars and instant coffee (gross- I know) in case of dire caffeine and calorie emergency- check. (I might pick up some chocolate covered espresso beans to replace the instant coffee– starbucks has them- the calories would be worth the taste and caffeine:)

Shemergency kit cause it should have everything I may have forgotten- Check.

My To Do list is shrinking – and my excitement is growing … I wonder what it will be like?  I wonder what God will say to my heart while I’m there?  I wonder what weird things my hair will do in the Dallas heat?  I wonder how much laundry will accumulate in my 5 day absense?  I wonder how my 4 guys will survive on Banquet Chicken and Velveeta Shells and cheese, and pizza carry-out?  I’m about to find out all the answers in T-minus 20 hours…  the final countdown has begun!

BIG NEWS!  I’ve been asked to “live blog”  from the convention- so if you want to know the scoop and see what MOPS convention is really like- make sure and watch the MOPS International Convention Blog for updates!

Dear Lord- I pray that you’d prepare my heart and the hearts of the thousands of Moms who are preparing to come and be refreshed and challenged at MOPS Convention- I pray that you’d be with the MOPS Leadership team- the speakers and families– Most of all- I pray we see you in everything at convention- I love you lord- amen.