Wednesday, December 30, 2020


 "What a year," said everyone everywhere.  I won't belabor the ick this year has held.  Everyone knows it.  As I was thinking back, I realized I do have some key takeaways that I thought I'd share here to have forever in memorandum.  These are in no particular order of importance.

1. Get the X-Ray, Get the Colonoscopy. - As a family, we broke 4 bones this year, and by the last one, even though everything was moving, I just knew we needed an X-ray.  Before this year, I always would have been the one to wait and see, watch and hope.  Sometimes that works, but this year, that never works.  I've learned how to deal with the actual issues at hand (like how the hand is probably broken).  I won't go into all the ways this philosophy also applies to colonoscopies, but you're gonna have to trust me.  It does.

2.  Mute the Person.  My social media feeds happen to be very diverse politically, and usually, this serves me well.  However, this year, it felt like a minefield.  After yet another round of doom scrolling and subsequent anger, John was like, "Why are you still reading any of it?"  Right then, I took an aggressive muting strategy, and I have felt much better about life.  This does not mean that I am ignoring the other "side" of issues, but it means that I am no longer angry about what real life people I know think about them.  I am better off not knowing so that I can keep valuable relationships in tact, as well as my sanity.  That choice is mine, and it paid immediate dividends.  And since we're talking about this, Don't Read the Comments.  They are always the worst and never make you feel good about anything,

3.  Most Things We Do With People Revolve Around Food. This is more of an observation than a major takeaway.  I guess I took this for granted, because we've never before been in a situation where we needed to mask to be with people.  However, most of the things we all do together usually involve a menu.  I am very much looking forward to a post vaccine world where we no longer have to move eating outside and/or 6 feet apart. 

4. Do What Your Family Needs to Do.  Some people realized this year that they needed to slow down.  We realized that we need almost every bit of the activity to which we were accustomed, because we have a lot of needs, some of them more specialized than average families.  We need help, and because we are not super high risk for Covid complications, after the first six weeks, we realized that we needed to get back to having sitters and tutors and in person schooling as soon as possible.  Our mental health was very much at stake, and I do not say that lightly.  I felt super conflicted about the decisions that we were making that many people may not have understood.  My counselor kindly pointed out to me that this is part of growing up.  You gotta make the decisions for your own family, because you are the only ones who fully understand your life and have to live with your choices.  And this year with limited options, we all had to make choices, and they didn't necessarily line up with some of what even our nearest and dearest might be doing.  However, that doesn't mean that they weren't the best choices for our family in our circumstances.  

4a.  And since we're on this subject, this year I also fully embraced You Don't Have to Tell the Internet About Everything You Do.  Again, we are all mostly doing the best we can with what we're working with.  If I don't want to worry about what "people" will think about what we are doing, I don't have to share anything about it.  What freedom to just go radio silent online for weeks at a time.  Normally I like living as an open book, but since everything seems up for misinterpretation this year, skipping the sharing often felt right.

5. We Also Have to Take Care of Others.  As a Christian, this year felt particularly crushing.  It has been divisive and frustrating to say the very least.  It has been difficult to listen to some Americans elevate their rights over all other things.  I am tired of people urging others not to "live in fear" when there is a very real pandemic that is killing our vulnerable neighbors and straining our healthcare system.  Taking Covid precautions feels much less about living in fear and much more about being loving neighbors.  Although we have certainly not lived this out perfectly, we are working to wear masks, limit gatherings and distance wherever possible.

6. Trips Matter.  Gosh, this year has been such a disappointing one on the travel front.  We were *this* close to a Disney cruise, and we had several other things cancelled, like so many we know.  This is a problem of privilege, I am fully aware.  Travel has always been one of our favorite hobbies and escapes, and when it seemed to dry up completely, I was sad sad sad.  The whole year had to be reimagined as far as what "fun" would look like and what our family "needed."  So we took different trips with different purposes, mostly closer to home.  To be honest, we actually ended up having some great experiences that were totally unexpected and un-orchestrated and what we needed this year within the constraints of our current reality.  All in all, I'm so thankful for the trips we were able to make, even if they are not the ones we had planned.

7.  Take Care of Yourself.  I actually feel like I am currently living in low battery mode.  I'm a little dim, and everything seems to take extra energy.  However, though it has taken me almost a full 40 years, I have finally learned the true value of getting the sleep I need.  Exercising regularly has never been a problem for me, but this year, it became a lifeline just to get out of the house.  And sleeping 8 hours almost every night has been borderline nonnegotiable.  Also, Give Yourself a Break.  Recognizing that I am in low battery mode from the whole "surviving a pandemic as a parent" thing, I've had to let a lot of things slide.  Is my house extra organized from all our time at home? Umm, no, quite the opposite.  Have I learned a new skill?  Or even done the skills that I like doing and am good at?  (RIP 2020 Cookie Life) Have I done much beyond our basic survival? No, I have not.  And that's okay.  My children and husband know they are loved, and we have eaten every day.  Right now, those feel like massive wins, and I'm gonna celebrate, probably with more take out.  There will be other seasons for skills.

8. Let Them Watch TV.  I guess this could actually have been under the banner of Take Care of Yourself, but I'm gonna break it out.  We went to a new parenting therapist smack dab in the middle of May when no one knew up from down.  When we, through masks and tears, explained some of the issues we were dealing with, she said, "Let them watch TV."  We have always limited screen time, and I think I was fairly prideful about that.  But this year, with nothing normal and all bets off and NOTHING to do and NO ONE to do it with, we were crumbling.  And we were fighting a losing battle that started at 5:15ish most mornings.  This incredibly kind person took that pressure off of us for this year and said that a little (okay, a lot) more TV will not hurt them.  Our relationship is more likely to be damaged by the fights, and we adults need to sleep past 5:15.  This is not a forever season.  It was the permission we needed to take care of ourselves and know that our kiddos will not suffer permanently.  At least, if we have to choose suffering, and apparently we do this year, we should suffer more screen time and less screaming time.  Once we got back to school, some of this naturally righted itself, though we are still more permissive with screen time than we were pre-Covid.  Again, there will be a season for less screen time, and this is not it.

9.  Recognize Reality for What It Is.  This may seem so basic, but I tend to paint everything with a rosy tint.  I am glass half full and pie in the sky and rainbows and all that.  I have been disoriented all year trying to make sense of reality and wondering where the rainbows are.  The truth is, the rainbows are there, but they are harder to come by for now.  We've had a hell of a lot of rain.  Letting myself grieve the reality of circumstances without totally succumbing to despair has felt tricky at best and impossible at worst.  We have SO MANY GOOD GIFTS in our life.  We have the best friends and supportive family, and we are well resourced, which I do not take for granted in a year like this when so many have struggled professionally.  We also have some true sadness and pain that accompanies our daily life.  Both realities are true.  This year, I've done a gratitude journal every day, which has helped me reach towards positivity when I've wanted to crumble.  I'm also about to complete a full Bible read-through that I've done with The Bible Recap this year.  Who knew when I started both of these disciplines in January how necessary they would be to combat our current reality?

10.  Laughter Really is the Best Medicine. Plus Getting Outside. And also Chicken.  This year I found and shared close to 300 memes related to 2020.  I found that laughing and sharing laughter with others really did help.  Another quick fix- going outdoors.  If you really are having as much screen time as we were some days, this made a big difference for all of us.  Chicken must also be good medicine, because we never slowed down at CFA, for which I am extremely grateful.  Running a restaurant (or 2!) in a pandemic is not for the faint of heart, and we are crawling to the finish line.  However, I am thankful for the income and the opportunity to take CFA to people in our life who come down with Covid.  At this point, I've dropped off a lot of dinners. 😳

These are just a few of my major takeaways - here's to a better 2021!

Monday, November 02, 2020


 Though most things look different this year, my love of themed costumes remains constant.  I had actually relinquished a family costume concept, but through a turn of events, we ended up heading to Wichita to be with my family.  One of the things they used to rope me in (though it didn't take much) was that all the cousins would be dressed in Star Wars theme.  Because that universe is so large, there were plenty of options for us to join in that fun!  Plus, John and I could borrow costumes, which helped a lot.

The 13 cousins in matching costumes was really epic, even if baby BB8 wanted to roll out of the pic, and baby Yoda had to be held aloft by his hiding mother.

Lily glowed as golden C3PO.

Bella rocked as R2D2. 

William loved being a "bad guy" Storm Trooper, though he certainly looks charming here.

On Halloween night, Violet was an adorable Ewok.  However, her's was the one costume that we had fully nailed down before this new plan, so she went as Hamilton's Angelica Schyuler to school on Friday.  Work!

William went as Charmander to school that day, so they fully enjoyed double costuming this year.

Our trip to Wichita was fast and furious.  We drove up on Saturday and got changed to head to my brother's house for dinner and candy hunting.  Having all the cousins together is always a special brand of chaos.  It's also special and precious and worth it, so I was glad we made the trip, even if it was short.

Even looking back through these pictures totally fills my heart, because being with family can truly be such a joy.  After the candy hunt, which resembled a half baked Easter Egg hunt where we adults threw candy willy nilly throughout the yard, there was crazy cousin candy trading.

We spent the rest of the evening laughing and talking while the kiddos ate candy to their heart's content and watched a movie as they hit sugar comas.

I missed our normal Halloween with all our friends and spooky punch and Trick-or-Treating in our neighborhood, but I wouldn't have traded this particular Halloween for anything.  

And mad props to this guy, my amazing husband who is up for matching family costumes because he knows how much I love it, even if it isn't his schtick.  

"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You're my only hope."

Because our nuclear family brings certain complications, we actually drove up in two cars.  This felt like overkill, but ultimately, it made the whole thing possible.  Here's to learning how to work with what we've got and making the best of where we are.  That's definitely a motto for our family, but it also applies to life in 2020.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


October, for the Spensts, has held some pretty wonderful surprises that we had thought were off the table. For many months this year, it looked as if baseball would be canceled.  But, MLB got it together and played a 60 game season, culminating in a longer than usual playoff season this October, mostly in a bubble.  The Dodgers had looked promising going into the year, but when everything shut down, it looked like it might not come to fruition.  Lo and behold, it all did.  And they were crowned the World Series champions after a 32 year drought.  And we were swept up in the joyous (albeit tense at times) experience!

As a bit of back story, John lived his elementary school years in Central California cheering for the Dodgers during their World Series days in the late 80s.  Eight years ago, he realized that he needed a hobby that didn't take him away from home but provided a helpful distraction.  Enter baseball.  Specifically Dodger baseball.  Did you know there are 162 games in the regular season?  We have the MLB subscription (because of course we do) so that we can see every one.  Which really just translates to having baseball on in the background through most of the spring and summer.  

And it is a lovely, simple distraction and has been a lot of fun for John.  I realized quickly that I could go all in and enjoy it or resent often having baseball on.  You can probably guess where I landed, as I know all of their names and positions and much of the history now.  In 2017, we got to go to Game 4 of the Dodgers/Astros series that the Dodgers eventually lost in what we now know was a cheating scandal.  It really didn't occur to us that we might get to see another Dodger World Series game in person any other time.

When they made the announcement that the last rounds of the playoffs would be in Arlington, John preemptively booked a hotel room so that he could go down and possibly loiter in the parking lot if the Dodgers made it.  Then, they announced that fans would be allowed, with tickets sold in pods of 4, at 25% capacity, going on sale at 10 a.m. on Oct. 6th.  In basically what amounted to a ticket lottery, we secured World Series tickets at face value well before we even knew who would be playing.  We cheered the Dodgers through the playoff season, with all of our kiddos getting in on the action as well.

Our tickets were for Game 5, and since the Dodgers had lost twice, it was guaranteed, but would not be an ultimate win night.  Still, we drove down to Dallas for a quick trip on Sunday and made our way to Globe Life Field.  It totally felt like a Dodger home game, with almost everyone decked out in Dodger gear.  I missed the electricity of a full crowd, but having a row to ourselves and no one directly near us had many advantages.  The whole experience felt surreal and like an unexpected gift this year.

(borrowed sign, but still true)

We had a fantastic time, and the Dodgers won the game we were at, which felt amazing.  Even though it was a super quick trip, it was nice to be away and do something fun with friends!  We came home and Game 6 was last night.  And after 32 years, the Dodgers were World Champions once again.  We screamed so loud that we woke up our kids who all wandered out blearily.

In a year with so much sadness and loss, this whole thing felt like its own little miracle.  Obviously, it is just baseball, and there are far more important things in life.  But, we were so thankful to experience this ride with a team that we really like.  And now, we need to catch up on sleep, because playoff season includes a lot of late nights. 🤪

Monday, October 26, 2020


 I haven't blogged much this year, because I've mostly been surviving.  It's been a disappointing year on so many fronts, but nearing the top of the list for me has to be watching evangelical Christians become politically zealous in ways that seem not to honor the Lord.  This was distressing to me in the run up to the 2016 election as well, and it has continued in fervor and depth.  Social media in particular has felt like a dumpster fire of opinions, and I've watched in sadness as I've seen believers place a political leaning over grace, kindness, love, truth, empathy, compassion, and the list goes on.  Not only that, but many believers have done this using the Bible as a justification and a weapon.

I grew up as a conservative Evangelical Christian.  I understand the talking points and culture.  I used to believe that all Christians should have the same political beliefs, because of conservative values and pro-life and small government and so on.  The older I've gotten and the more of life that I've seen, the more I see that there are other perspectives that can ring true even inside of my faith.  My faith has continued to deepen, because my need for Christ remains constant.  I am more convinced than ever of my own depravity and shortcomings and blind spots and the ways that all of those play out as I seek to apply faith to politics.

A large part of this journey has come through our personal interactions with social justice issues, particularly racial justice.  (Here's a blog post I wrote about this in June)  As I've mentioned, this whole season has been difficult, and watching Americans disagree vociferously on the history of our country and the bearing that history has on our present has felt like we are living in some kind of twilight zone.  We, as Americans, oppressed and enslaved people for centuries, almost exclusively on the basis of race.  The idea of that leaving no legacy in the present is truly baffling.  Our current laws were passed within the lifetime of many people who are still very much alive.  

Even more disappointingly is the more recent learnings that I've had regarding the Church and the ways it has upheld these systems of oppression over time.  I read The Color of Compromise this summer which was an eye opening look at the way southern Christians used the Bible to justify slavery and kept using it to bolster segregation.  It feels that we are now witnessing the next phase where Christians are using it to denounce racial justice initiatives as anti-Biblical or Marxist.  Or to simply say that it is unAmerican and disrespectful for people to be upset in a country where they have so much.  There seems to be no protest that can please white Americans, and that is sort of the point.  It is a protest.

Listen, I love America and am so thankful to live here.  Truly.  However, I'm not going to put our country or flag above my allegiance to Christ and his kingdom.  I am called to love God and love my neighbors first and foremost.  And my Black neighbors are crying out and lamenting injustice.  I love America enough to want to make it actually a place that is good for all people that live here.  I believe that means fully recognizing and embracing our incredibly racist roots and working to upend the places where those seeds still grow and flourish.  As a side note, I am not a Socialist/Marxist/Communist.  We own a family business and appreciate Capitalism.  However, none of the good things we have here are without flaws.

I understand that many Christians are afraid.  Because they keep saying they are scared or they keep encouraging others to be afraid if such and such doesn't happen or so and so doesn't get elected.  So much has happened in the past year, and so much of it is confusing.  There is hypocrisy on all sides, and it is difficult to know where to find "unbiased" reporting in our country, because most major news outlets have very specific slants.  Even when they claim otherwise.  Anytime I find myself dwelling on fear, I try to center myself on Christ and the fact that this world is ultimately not my home.  I am found in him, and even if all else falls apart completely, I am not lost.

Our family does happen to be transracial, and so it is personal to us.  When we say Black Lives Matter, we are saying that our black kids matter just as much as our white kids, even though that has consistently been up for debate in society.  I will say it today and tomorrow and years from now if necessary to work to right the wrongs that have taken place here.  We can embrace a movement while also knowing it is flawed, because we are all broken people working within broken systems.  It is easier to debate theories than to engage in the work of dismantling systems or do the work it takes to recognize how racism has undergirded our society.

I'm not saying this is easy or straightforward.  It is exhausting.  But I believe it is holy work, and I am thankful that the Lord continues to show up as we walk this journey.  It has forced me to really examine policies and issues in different ways.  For example, I have always and will continue to identify as Pro-Life.  I believe that advocating for increased racial awareness for me comes out of that sentiment.  I heard someone say "Womb to Tomb" and thought that a helpful way to sum it up.  That said, I believe that reducing abortions can come about with several different kinds of policies and that there should be more conversations about birth control access and healthcare reform, both of which have been proven to decrease unwanted pregnancies and abortion.  I wish that we could have discussions that take a more holistic look at what is happening rather than demonizing anyone who doesn't agree exactly with us or do exactly as we would prescribe.

I write all of this humbly, knowing that I have blindspots that I haven't even discovered yet.  I am in process and working to submit myself before the Lord as I wrestle through these issues.  I know this post will hit people in a lot of different ways, and I ask for grace on all sides, because I know that so many of us are working to find our way through this.  We all come to situations with a unique blend of conviction, personality, and personal experience, and this is where I am currently landing based on those things in my life.  I do hope as Christians that we can find ways to respect one another and disagree graciously, because the world is watching.  And if we don't have love, then we don't have anything.

Monday, October 05, 2020


 We made it to the Pumpkin Patch this year, which feels like a small miracle.  In a year when no tradition or joy remains untouched, we eeked out this fall pleasure.  It was the most beautiful of fall days, and we arrived to a crowded parking lot.  Having read ahead that masks were required, I was very curious as to how it would all be handled, but it being entirely outdoors put me more at ease.  Mostly, it felt like people were complying and working to make this work for everyone.  The pumpkin patch had hired a lot more people to make things run smoothly, which definitely helped.  And the patch was full of pumpkins ready for picking.

We let the kids play on the playground and visit the animals and generally run around having fun, which always feels like a parental win.  Let's wear them out with delight and funnel cake.

There was a train ride and a pony ride and a sunflower field, and with so many other things being a no-go this fall, we said more YES than we normally would have.

And it was good.  With our family, there are few outings that go unscathed by some kind of outburst or incident.  But it was as if the weather and the fall festivities wove some magic over the children who got along and worked together and enjoyed what was on offer.  We never take for granted these times and are so thankful when we get to enjoy something wholeheartedly.

It was a good day, and it was a good reminder that not all is lost.  We are climbing out of a hole from what all this year has cost us, and still at times, it feels as if the hole is filling back up with sand as we try to escape.  But, days like yesterday show me that we *might* be making progress.  The ship is beginning to right itself.  There is a ramp out of the pit, even if it is still a long way to get out of it.  

So that's us.  Enjoying pumpkin patches and clawing our way out of a pit. 🤷🏻‍♀️

The Pumpkin Patch is deeply ingrained in our family - here are past visits!

{2019} {2018} {2017} {2016} {2015} {2014} {2013} {2012} {2011}

Thursday, August 27, 2020


Obviously, this year has been upended, and nothing has looked the way we thought it would.  When we were canceling things off our summer calendar, it felt super depressing.  We were in a dark place in May as a family, and we knew we needed something to look forward to.  We realized that Kanakuk was still opening their doors, and we made the decision to head up to Branson in June.


We went last year to K-Kauai and had a great time but hadn't planned to be back until 2021.  But once we saw that it was open and saw the precautions they were taking, it seemed like a risk we needed to take.  And I am so glad that we did.  Everything right now is a risk/reward proposition, and for us, the reward outweighed the risks.


The week's theme was Mahalo, which felt super appropriate.  It turned out to be a wonderful week where Covid obviously played a role but was not on center stage.  There were fewer families than normal, and they adjusted the schedule, spaced everything out and moved even more things outside.  Our kiddos had the time of their lives - especially after having been mostly cooped up for the months before.


There were treats by the pool everyday, excellent counselors pouring into our kids every morning and even a couple of date nights, which had been such a rarity in our world at that point.  Basically, we had a lot of freedom to enjoy being together in a new environment.


There were still themed party nights, though I didn't have the time or energy to go as all out on costuming this year.


All in all, it was a great week, though we did go ahead and upgrade for next year to the larger/more room option, because we do not thrive all in one room together.  I'm so thankful for camp being open and the ways they ministered to our family during a difficult season.