There are moments in history everyone remembers. Where you were when Kennedy was shot, or whether you saw the second plane hit the south tower. Monday evening I was just about finished packing for the first of this year's 3 Christmases: a trip to Arizona to enjoy my in-laws and a rain-free week of fun. Time got away from me and I heard the 11 o'clock news come on in the living room. I probably wouldn't have heard what came next if it weren't for my shock at the late hour.

"The search for a baby boy has been called off today in Springfield...Angelica Swartout...confession..."

I flew to the living room just in time to see the mugshot of a beautiful girl I mentored years ago. I'll never forget the anguish and sadness I felt slam in to me like a semi truck. The news was talking about Angie. My Angie. This life that I had poured in to for years while she was in high school--was on the news. Her mugshot--was on the news. "NO!" I screamed to God. "This isn't happening. This can't be happening..."

Several weeks ago we reconnected on Facebook. I was so excited to accept her friend request, I didn't even hesitate. I wanted to catch up. To see what she'd been doing these past 6 years. I wondered if I'd see pictures of a boyfriend, a husband, a family. Was she working? Was she happy? We quickly made plans to get together and chat.

God has a funny way of not letting things happen. Her days off were chalk-full of commitments for me. My available days she was working. We'd get together when things slowed down after the first of the year, I told myself. Then she could meet Em and we'd have a great time.

They were talking about this person as if hers was yet another unimaginable story. It was the type of story I would have winced at and then turned the channel. "'She' is being held...," "...'her' family says..." Do these newscasters realize they're talking about a person? A real, live, person that I spent hundreds of hours with talking about college, chatting about boys, pondering life. I could have thrown a Christmas ornament at the TV if I could have mustered the strength. What gave them the right to refer to this amazing girl as "she" or "her" -- as if to have already forgotten her? A rich story of a child who practically grew up in a baby-mill fronting as a foster home. A story of an outwardly beautiful girl that couldn't see past her hand-me-downs to realize how her heart was more authentic and tender than most. How dare they use simple pronouns to describe Angie in this way?

The next day it really hit, and I realized the magnitude of her act. I was fried. I was sad, hurt...and pissed as hell. She didn't give birth to a stillborn baby, as told in numerous emails. She gave birth while working the nightshift alone at a motel, wrapped him in a dirty sheet, suffocated him in it and left him behind the motel in a dumpster.

I once heard someone say, "forgiveness isn't a one time thing. You choose to forgive someone over and over until one day it isn't a choice; it just is." So today I choose to forgive her; whether it's my place or not I don't know. But every letter I write in plain ball-point pen, addressed just-so with her inmate number will contain encouragement and love. Because I refuse to forget the 'her' that was once Angie.

I Refuse.


wax on...wax off.

I am a focused person. I don't think that makes me any better or worse than the next person; it's just how I happen to be. Some people call it 'drive', but with me it's more focus than anything. Take Christmas presents for example. Some people have the ability to shop for their loved ones by walking into a store, picking up a few things, swinging by gift wrap and calling it good. Not me. I turn a would-be pleasant shopping trip with cider, Christmas music and credit cards into a full-scale-nuclear-attack. For example, in mid-November I make a spreadsheet: who to send a christmas card and who to send a gift. There are columns for gift ideas, when I find it and when it's been sent. I have codes and sub-categories so I make sure no one is missed. I'm going to stop now because this is only step #4 of Operation 'CCSIFS' (Casual Christmas Shopping is for Sissies), and I fear you'll show up this afternoon for an intervention if I continue.

Needless to say, while this kind of focus served me just fine when I ran my own business, it can be a thorn in your personal life. I mean who has time to smell the roses if you're on a mission? Let's just say my daughter has taught me more about the good stuff of life than I ever could her, and leave it at that.

The other day I had one of those days. I hadn't had one in a while, but I think life was just saving up for that day. Having read my string of emails accounting for the day's frustrations, my husband sent me on an errand (sans baby) that evening so I could 'get out and take some time.' I got into the car, and going through the usual pre-trip checklist I turned on the seat-warmers (bestinventionever), tuned the radio and adjusted my mirrors. As I'm adjusting the rear-view, this movie line comes to mind: "focus, Danielsan."

Do you remember the Karate Kid? No, I don't mean the new Karate Kid. I mean the old school, Ralph Macchio Karate Kid from 1984. I'm sure I've seen it a hundred times. The classic story where the skinny awkward kid takes on the cool blonde stud with the great hair, gets the girl and still saves the tree. Great story. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, Mr. Miyagi is trying to teach young Daniel Larusso the art of martial arts and expresses the need for him to focus if he is to master the art, get the girl, and save the tree.

Last time I was in the car I had the rear-view adjusted down so I could see Emily. We were singing songs on our way home from an event-filled trip to Nords (don't get me started) and I can't help but watch her little hands go over her head to do the 'sun' as it's drying up all the rain so the itsy bitsy spider can go up the spout again. But this time there was no peanut in the backseat, so I was adjusting the mirror to see out the back window.

I remember a day when the reason I adjusted my rear-view was because I was feeling exceptionally tall that morning (hardy har), but these days it is certainly for a different reason. Today I think I'll make more of an effort to curb my slightly-nerotic-OCD-list-making-tendencies and concentrate on those mud puddles forming outside our door. What are Hello Kitty rainboots for, afterall?




Welcome to naptime. Looks peaceful, doesn't it? Em's napping for the moment and I am crunched upon my laptop, monitor on full blast. "Oh, how sweet" you might say, "she's getting some work done while listening to her daughter sleep." Not so much. I'm shopping online (sorry, babe) and listening for poop.

When Emily and I came home from a trip to Seattle a few days ago, our home was normal. It watched as David whisked me into his arms, took me off to bed--------okay, not really. We went to the pool, had dinner, unpacked, did some laundry, the ush. David got some good peanut-time in before heading to work the next day. Day in the life.

Little did we know Emily had picked up a tummy bug that turned our home into an electricity-sucking machine. Bright and early Monday morning, the last two days' food arrived in a not-so-nice way. Poop, bath, scrub, disinfect, laundry, repeat.

So while our home is hospital-fresh, nearly every piece of laundry washed, and my child cleaner than ever before, I'd rather be living with a pile of dirt. Ick.

"Where's the silver lining?" you ask? Cuddling. Tons of it. Life is good again.

Miss Kitty makes it all better.

[You'll have to excuse me while I re-duct-tape the monitor to my head. Didn't think that would make a good photo.]


home depot

Hello, my name is Amanda and I was in Real Estate for 10 years.

I'm sure I should begin every day like that, but instead I self-medicate every morning through a routine of exercise and caffeine. Why? Because I'm a recovering Real Estate Broker. When driving through a neighborhood, I can recall how many For Sale signs there were and from which companies. Some people spend their professional lives honing their skills in science, an art form or people-management. I spent my 20s cramming my brain full of real estate statistics and marketing strategies.

A year ago next month, I closed my last transaction. I packed up my office, had a tearful exit interview with my Managing Broker, and closed up shop. Our move to Portland the month prior had presented both an opportunity and career change: being a stay-at-home-mom. However, it wasn't until yesterday that I opened the 3 boxes of office supplies I had packed up that last day nearly a year ago. David and Emily were playing in her room, and, left to my own devices, I took a little trip down memory lane, unpacked the boxes, and had to laugh at the end result.

What's left after blessing Goodwill with a large banker-box-full of supplies.

At the risk of competing with Home Depot, whom I believe annually moves up the date when they roll out the Christmas decor, please tune your dial to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and sing along...

On the first day of Recovery, my old office gave back to me...
  • 12 college rule notepads (in varying sizes, colors and binding locations, because you're never sure whether you're in a 'top' or 'left' spiral binding sort of mood)
  • 11 title company letter openers (with these convenient little magnets on the backside)
  • 10 letterhead-notepads (from varying insurance agents, title companies and inspectors who gave out plenty of free stuff but didn't see introducing themselves as part of their marketing strategy)
  • 9 highlighters (only 2 of which were the same)
  • 8 boxes of paperclips (jumbo too, in case of emergency)
  • 7 safety pins (serious emergency kit material if you're female)
  • 6 hundred Manila folders (refer to item 3)
  • 5 staplers (also useful as a weapon)
  • 4 boxes of sharpies (coloring is allowed when you're stressed, and these don't need a built-in sharpener)
  • 3 boxes of hanging file folders (i don't think i even had that much file space, come to think of it---)
  • 2 boxes of sheet protectors (i could cover each business receipt individually for our CPA this year)
  • and 1 THOUSAND mailing labels.
If you've ever wondered why your Real Estate agent has a trunk full of used Starbucks cups and has a little eye-twitch, now you know. Caffeine is sanity when you're surrounded by mountains of paperwork.

Here's to laughing at yourself every now and again.



When your baby is 3 months old, the needs are basic. Eat, sleep, burp, poop. If the baby is fussy, you can assume it has to do with one of the preceeding 4 actions. So when Emily was getting fussy one day at the beach house last year, we reviewed the timeline over the last several hours and concluded it had to be gas.

Then, as I'm reaching for the gas drops [that have saved my life on more than one occassion], imagine my surprise as David lets out a yelp. Not a manly yelp...a very girly yelp. Followed by a look I only expected to see when Emily would first tell us she has a boyfriend.

"She's teething."

She certainly was. Two bottoms had poked through, and a mouth full of rough gums foretold a small fortune would soon be spent on Tylenol and teething tablets.

[I'd like to take a sidebar and thank the authors of "What to Expect The First Year" for not offering the slightest hint of what the *bleep* to do about teething until several chapters past Month Three. Awesome.]

A few months after her first birthday, Emily had all her teeth. We're currently working on her "3-Year Molars", as our pediatrician refers to them.

Still, their dramatic entrance isn't what I will remember about her early set of pearly whites. I'll remember how she used what she was given to make the world a better place.

Every parent thinks their kid is the best thing ever. That some day, they're going to be a world changer, and a much bigger deal than sliced bread ever was [or Oatnut, which is an incredible invention, in my opinion]. And they're right - there's a very good reason God says we should receive Him like a child. But what's humbling is when your kid shows you up. Big time. Before age 2.

Going to the grocery store has become an event in our house. We don't run to the store for a few things each day like we used to. We plan it out. Not only because we're trying to be good stewards of our budget, but because Emily has taught me that grocery shopping is an event.

Sure, Emily likes to pick out her fruit and veggies and talk with the checker. But the prevailing reason for the two-hour grocery tour is because Emily makes it a point to greet everyone she sees. She seeks them out with this wise, sixth sense; when they're deep in thought, praying their kids won't notice the store brand because they can't afford the name brand anymore. Or when they're rubbing their hand, staring blankly at the arthritis medicine. She leans out of the cart, and with a near-shout says, "hi!", showing everyone what she's been working on since she was 3 months old. Then I remind myself to breathe, because watching a wave of peace rush over someone like it does when my daughter greets them is simply overwhelming. We should all put our gifts to such good use.

Silly me...all this time I thought teeth were for chewing.

keeping it clean.


the suitcase

I'm back from the blog principal's office. Apparently you're supposed to update these things, or your blog begins suffering from abandonment issues and starts acting up in class.

Let's see if I can schmooze back in to our blog's good graces with a current post.

There are times in life when I stop in my tracks, look around, and take in the moment. It doesn't have to be anything significant, just a moment. The other day I was unpacking a suitcase from our latest trip and I stopped. There it was, our life in a box with wheels. I thought, "if someone needed to know about The Lenkes, they could simply look at this suitcase."

Left to right were Emily's clothes, mine, David's. In the outside pocket, Bailey's gear. Everyone told us the dog would become a 'dog' again when the baby came - and looking at the suitcase, you'd see they were right.

Then there was the epiphany: two years ago the better of two-thirds would have been comprised of my clothes, shoes, extra in-case-we-go-out-fits, etc. David would have tucked his items around mine, likely shaking his head and leaving a shirt or pants at home rather than re-pack a larger suitcase. There it was, Emily's third, my third, David's third. A compromise had happened at some point, and who would have guessed...I don't miss the extra third of the suitcase. Not even a little.

Some moms talk about self-sacrifice as if it's some grand gesture; a slap-the-back-of-your-hand-across-your-forehead-Scarlett-O'Hara pivotal moment that changes everything. By the looks of the suitcase, I've come to believe it's more like a series of small opportunities you're given.

Here's to giving more space in the suitcase than you take up (well...most days, anyway).

the ooooooo-cean!


alki beach pier

pike place