On Our Way To Crazy

… like disco lemonade…

Month Twenty-Six. January 6, 2014

Filed under: Campbell Letters — brandi @ 12:18 pm

Dear Campbell,

Today you are twenty-six months. That seems like a good month to decide to write my first letter since month eleven, right? 2013 was kind of crazy.

Here’s the main thing you need to know about your second year: you are freaking awesome. I’m so sad that I haven’t been keeping better track of your milestones and all the funny things you do.

Some details. You started walking and sleeping through the night right around the time you stopped nursing, in January when you were fourteen months. Your first word, I’m pretty sure, was “uh-oh” and you’ve said it about a million times since. For a while it was just fun to say, then you started throwing things on the ground just so you could yell it. I say “It’s not an uh-oh if you do it on purpose!” to you maybe more than I say anything else.

You’ve been an off-and-on good sleeper, based on we have no idea what. You’ll go stretches of falling asleep in seconds and sleeping through the night and then out of nowhere you’ll fight us to the death every night. Some nights you stand in the corner of the crib reaching out and whining, “Mama where aaaaaaare you? Dada where aaaaaaare you?” because you are trying to break my heart right in half. We got into the habit of asking you every morning if you’d slept good, and now when we walk in you say, “Mamaaaaaa! I slept good.” You also use that line when it’s time to go to bed in hopes that if you’ve already slept good you won’t have to do it again. You’re a smarty but we are on to your tricks, girl.

You don’t cuddle, like, at all. You wake up on the run and you run until you fall asleep. You’re favorite things to say these days are, “Dada! Get up!” and “Mama! Come with me!” We can’t move fast enough for you. You don’t understand why anyone would want to sit still, unless Bubble Guppies or Peppa Pig are on. They are the only ones who can slow you down.

You are a talker, man. It’s all the time. You narrate everything we do and everything you do and when no one is doing anything you just start singing the names of the things you can see to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (“choo-choo choo-choo dishes book, puppies apple basket ball”). Your teachers at school (misstanyamisslane, all one word according to you) write home all the time about how you sing and talk and dance all day long. You are a charm ball.

When you’re eating you show us your food and tell us it’s yummy. When music comes on in the store you dance and tell us you like that song. When we leave the house you tell us you like our cars. You laugh anytime we do and say, “That’s funny.” Your best friends are, in order: Birthday Bear, Mama and Dada, Snoopy, baby doll, mermaid, Bubble Puppy, bunny, monster and Elmo.

You love to dance. I mean, you LOVE TO DANCE. In the car, in the kitchen, on the coffee table, in your crib, in the middle of the aisle at Target if the right jam comes on. Your favorite foods are tomatoes, chicken nuggets, apples and waffles. You always ask for pizza but you never eat it. Your favorite thing to do right now is putting your animals (and sometimes us) to bed – you tell them they go night-night in five minutes, read a story, give them a blanket and sing to them. You love coloring, Legos, having tea parties and playing soccer.

Every night we read books that we recently started letting you pick out. At first it was fun but now it’s a way for you to extend bedtime. The other day you told your dad that he could read to Birthday Bear while you played with toys. I sing “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Goodnight Sweetheart” before putting you down, and you’ve started singing “goodnight sweetheart goodnight” to your animals when you put them down.

I didn’t know what being a mom would be like. When I was pregnant I was scared of taking care of a baby and knowing how to feed you and how to calm you down and how to know what you needed when you couldn’t talk. Now you tell us what you need (or think you need) and you are so much fun to be around and talk to and play with. I get nervous when I think about the future, with all it’s unknowns and dangers and all the things I need to teach you and all the things I want to be for you and all the things I want to teach you how to be and all the decisions to be made and the friends and the heartbreak and the risks and the everything. It’s overwhelming. But we figured out how to do the baby thing together and we’re rocking this toddler thing together and I really do find peace in knowing that when we get to those things we’ll be doing them together too.

Last year was a hard one for your dad and me. I left my job, which meant we left our church, which meant (although we didn’t know it at the time) that we lost the majority of our friends and support system. It was hard in ways that continue to change and evolve, and as time passes we are making peace with it and moving on well. Most days.

But oh, girl, it has been so good for our family. We’ve learned to depend on and take care of each other in ways we never had to before. We’ve learned so much about what we value and how we want to live and what kind of world we want you to be a part of. And we have had so, so much fun. You are a ball of joy and light and silliness and movement and pretzels and I cannot handle how awesome you are. Thank you for a wonderful crazy year. I can’t wait to see what happens next.



I was not on fire. October 16, 2013

Filed under: Introspection — brandi @ 9:30 am

Here’s the thing. I was never on fire.
I wanted to be, so desperately. Sitting in the dark arena/chapel/gym/youth room/campground, the music swelling, the lights just right, I would decide to DO SOMETHING about it all and go down front and try, this time, to get it right. To say the right words and turn my heart into something with a spark I could fan into a flame so the words on my t-shirts would finally be true.
I was the FCA secretary. I worked at the Christian bookstore (not, despite my begging and pleading with the manager, in the music section. But I sold the heck out of some homeschool curriculum in the education department.) I had the See You At The Pole shirt with the big American flag on the front. I never missed youth group. I had one of those laminated sheets that told you IF YOU LIKE (mainstream artist)… YOU’LL LOVE (Christian artist)!
I don’t care what anybody says, Audio Adrenaline is not and acceptable substitute for Everclear.
I was in the youth choir. (Bad idea.) My serious boyfriend was the son of one of the pastors at our church. (Worse idea.)  I highlighted Proverbs 31 and took notes in the back of my Bible and ignored all the things that set off alarms in my head because I knew I was the only one who had those questions and I didn’t want to become someone’s (unspoken) prayer request.
They never told me directly that I was wrong. But I picked it up in a thousand different ways.
When my friend yell-whispered ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN??? before passing me the tray of communion wafers. When I mentioned being interested in going into youth ministry and someone suggested I try to marry a youth pastor instead. When I was the only one who had a problem with the line in that Newsboys song about “an entire turnaround that would make a bouncer take ballet, even bouncers who aren’t ‘happy'”. When everyone was jumping and raising their hands and crying and I tried and tried but my heart wasn’t in it.
I figured out how to create smoke. But I was not on fire.


This post is part of a synchroblog for Addie Zierman’s new book When We Were On Fire.


Easter, Mumford, and Dancing Babies. March 31, 2013

Filed under: Introspection — brandi @ 9:40 am

As I write this I’m sitting on the couch in our apartment. Campbell is dancing in the middle of the living room floor as we watch Mumford and Sons play Red Rocks on our TV. Aaron is still asleep. There are bits of muffin and banana all over the table, remnants from a breakfast that was forgotten when a couple of dogs walked by our window and we had to go say hi.

A pretty typical morning at the Manes house, really. But not in most places, and not most years.

It’s not just any morning. It’s Easter morning.

Everyone we know is pulling out their best dresses and shiniest shoes and heading to church this morning to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There will be choirs and baptisms and communion wine and “He Is Risen Indeed!” and super high-tech videos and productions and lots of praying and clapping.

But not for us.

Campbell is captivated by live music. She is inches from the screen, clapping and stomping and shaking and dropping it low in her diaper and footie pajamas. Mumford in particular really gets her going. Something about the banjos and the driving rhythms and the yelling must resonate in her little heart. I don’t know where she gets that from.

Marcus Mumford is singing “awaaaaaake my soul…” on the screen in beautiful harmony with the rest of the band and the ten thousand people crammed into that amphitheater. I’m absentmindedly singing along when those words catch in my throat. Awake my soul. Most days that’s about as much as I can pray for.

Which is kind of a lie, since prayer isn’t really something I do.

I left my job as a youth pastor three weeks ago. It was a long time coming but it still took me by surprise. This is the first Easter in at least a decade when I didn’t feel either religiously or professionally required to attend a service. So we didn’t. We’re not. We’re home. It’s weird.

We’re taking this time to… detox? Regroup? Find ourselves? I don’t know exactly. The roles that church has played in my life over the past decade plus are no longer relevant. I have a lot of thinking to do. The tensions I’ve been feeling for a long time finally have room to be worked out. I’m nervous and excited.

A few songs later, the lyrics catch me again. “I will wait, I will wait for you.” I feel those for sure. God will wait for me. And I will wait on God. We’re okay here in the in between. We can figure it out slowly. Or not at all. There’s room for us no matter where we spend Easter Sunday.

So, at least this year, I’m spending mine dancing with a one-year-old and eating muffins. Maybe taking a nap. And working to help my heart find a peaceful place in a season of my life that is anything but.


it is from dust that you have come, and to dust you shall return February 13, 2013

Filed under: Introspection,Youth Stuff — brandi @ 11:54 pm

I’ve never been much for sacraments.

I didn’t grow up observing Advent or Ash Wednesday. My first experience with communion happened when I was sixteen, and before my friend would pass me the wafers she shout-whispered “WAIT. ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?” Every so often I would give something up for Lent, not because I understood what that meant or what the purpose was, but because everyone else was doing it and I like a good competition. “You’re giving up soda? Please. I’m giving up chocolate, fast food, television, sleep and talking to people.”

(Do you think I could get away with giving up talking to people? Maybe next year.)

But as my faith has gradually shifted away from evangelicalism and towards… something, I’ve been very interested in the liturgy of the mainline and high churches and the practice of spiritual disciplines and the observation of the church calendar.

As an ordained pastor at GracePointe, every now and then I am called upon to participate in the sacraments. Serving first communion, anointing newborn babies, baptizing. Or, as was the case tonight, administering the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

I do not love doing these things. I love the idea of them, and I love that they are happening, and in theory I love that I can play a small part in these significant moments in people’s spiritual journeys. But I HATE getting up in front of everyone and actually doing them.

There are superficial reasons for this, for sure. I worry about what I should wear, if my hair looks okay, what to do with my face. Do I look scared? Am I doing this right? Is my robe too long? WHY DO I HAVE TO WEAR THE ROBE AND THE STOLE AHHHHHH.

But I think the real reason is much deeper. I don’t speak the language. I am totally comfortable speaking in front of a big crowd, but I still get nervous when I have to pray. My (very large) cynical side doesn’t trust the ritual or the lights or the music. I don’t feel good enough. Trained enough, spiritual enough, pastoral enough. I’m going to do or say something wrong and then everyone will know I’m a fraud.

This isn’t my pastoring. My pastoring doesn’t happen on a stage, in a robe, with adults. My pastoring happens in a circle of high school girls, discussing why, when they wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, nobody was worried about punishing the guy. Why their parents won’t get off their back about their APUSH grade. What to wear to prom.

I always go into these big-church pastoral situations with a bit of dread in my heart and tonight was no exception.

So imagine my surprise when, as I stood there holding the grape juice and telling people, over and over again, “The blood of Christ, shed for you” as they dipped their bread, I got a little emotional. A lot emotional, actually. Voice-cracking eyes-watering get-it-together-for-the-love emotional.

I watched people approach the table cautiously, unsure of what to do. I watched them wait for me to give them a slight nod and raise the cup to show them it was okay. I watched them close their eyes, take the bread, whisper “amen”. One lady asked me if anyone had put their mouth on the cup before she would dip. A couple of my youth girls approached with nervous giggles. An older man whispered nervously before he dipped, “Is this wine or grape juice?” and sighed with relief when I assured him it was juice.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable in those moments. Maybe I’m not supposed to be. Maybe my nerves and insecurities and doubts are wholly appropriate for the holy moments that happen when we take communion and wear ashes and anoint babies and baptize students. When an alcoholic is afraid that holy wine will prohibit him from partaking in the body and the blood. When teenagers who have no idea what Ash Wednesday is all about show up anyway, waiting patiently in line for their ashes and reciting the liturgy.

When a cynical, accidental pastor can’t hold a cup and look people in the eye without tearing up.


One! Campbell is one! November 6, 2012

Filed under: Baby Stuff,Things That Are Awesome — brandi @ 11:15 pm

We did it! We survived! Campbell is one!

This has been the hardest, funniest, most stressful, sweetest, scariest, most beautiful year of my life. I am honored and overwhelmed to be this awesome girl’s mom.

The best. She is the best.

Campbell’s First Year from brandi manes on Vimeo.


Month Eleven. October 26, 2012

Filed under: Campbell Letters — brandi @ 3:47 pm

Dear Campbell,

Oh, baby girl. I don’t even know what to say anymore. You are so grown up these days. My heart can’t take it.

The biggest change this month has been how intent you are. You get an idea in your head and you MAKE. IT. HAPPEN. These ideas generally include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • I need to go splash in the toilet water.
  • I need to empty all the plastic bags out of their boxes.
  • I need to climb up on the bed.
  • I need to eat a cell phone.
  • I need to push all the buttons on the DVR.
  • I need all the stuff in the diaper bag to be moved to the floor.
  • I need to play with the oven drawer.
  • I need to crawl into my toy basket, stand up, then fall over on my face.

And lord help anyone (read: me) who tries to get in the way of your plans. If I manage to catch you before you make it into the bathroom, your entire body goes limp and the whining begins. We are in trouble when you know words.

You have a lot to say, though, even without the words. It seems like every day a new sound is added to your vocabulary, and you use them with emphasis and inflection and I swear it’s a real language we just can’t understand. Your sound choices just seem so intentional. Especially when you’re talking to the wall.

Mealtimes have gotten a lot more fun in the past few weeks. For a while it seems like food just served to make you mad. But you spend more time actually eating now and less time throwing food on the floor, which I have to say I really appreciate. You’ll taste anything we give you, and you are learning what you like and don’t like. No matter what else is available to you on your tray, if there’s shredded cheese you will pick it all out and eat it first before you touch anything else. Then you’ll sign “more” at us to try to get more before settling for the other food you have. Smart girl.

One of my favorite (and least favorite) things about you is your independence. You are perfectly content to do your own thing. In fact, you prefer it. Sometimes I think we are getting on your nerves when we try to insert ourselves into whatever game you’re playing. You are always on the move, looking for something new to explore or climb or taste. Like dirt. And the bottoms of shoes. And dryer sheets.

Sometimes I wish you were more of a cuddler, that you wanted to climb up onto my lap and hang out with me. But I know that you know we are here when you need us, and when you don’t, we’re right there anyway. Probably taking pictures.

We love love love you, Campbell Lou. You light up the room.



Month Ten. September 14, 2012

Filed under: Campbell Letters — brandi @ 3:25 pm

Dear Campbell,

Being your mom has had a super weird and unexpected side effect in my life. I don’t just see people anymore. I see people who were once somebody’s baby. The checkout guy at Target who is moving so slow it might kill me? He was somebody’s baby. The upstairs neighbor with cement blocks for feet? He was somebody’s baby. The jerky teenage boy who is tormenting one of my youth girls? Somebody’s baby.

I know it’s not universal, but in general… one time somebody was really excited that that person was crawling, laughing, clapping for the first time. Somebody rocked them to sleep and dried their tears and wiped their booty. Somebody helped them learn how to eat solid food and dragged them away from the outlet for the thousandth time and tried to get dressed while they hung onto their legs for dear life.

This realization has shaken me up, sweet girl. I have told you before that my default is to be cynical, jaded, sarcastic. But having you in my life has given me some perspective, I think. I’m quicker to give grace, to laugh things off. I have more room for joy, earnestness, trying. It’s not perfect, but it’s growing. You’re cracking open my shell, my defenses.

Because who could be jaded with you bouncing around them? With your clapping, and your shrugging, and your head shaking no, no, no, but with a grin that says the opposite. You’re high-fiving and saying “uh-ohhhhh” and trying so hard to stand unassisted. And the dancing! Oh, the dancing. You bounce and wiggle and nod your head and shake your legs and it is too much for me. TOO MUCH.

Month ten has been a pretty crazy one. In the course of three weeks we sold our house and moved into an apartment, which was pretty life-altering for me and your dad but you have rolled with like nothing changed. The new place is bigger, with carpet and big windows and a low pantry shelf full of tupperware for you to play with. You are thrilled.

Life is starting to settle back into a rhythm that’s been missing for a while. Summer was hard, moving was hard, but now school has started and we are settled in and there’s a pattern to our days and weeks that we’ve desperately needed. Lots of things in my life are difficult these days, but you, my bug, are not. You are sleeping well and learning to nap better and eating everything and crawling, playing, exploring. We start every morning the same way: you squealing in the crib until the monitor wakes me up, me opening your door to find you standing waiting for me, smiling and bouncing. I am tired, so tired, tired in my bones, but that moment is one I will hold on to long after you’re big.

You make my heart happy, baby doll. This season has been saved by the shot of joy you bring into my days, hours, moments. Thank you for being awesome.



Month Nine. August 19, 2012

Filed under: Campbell Letters — brandi @ 10:40 pm

Dear Campbell,

It has taken me ten minutes to get ready to write this post. There were so many weird things going on with my computer screen and keyboard that I literally could not figure out how to get the internet open. I blame you for this. You and your obsessive love for anything with a screen or buttons you can mash down with your tiny but surprisingly strong hands.

If you’re not supposed to have it, you want it. You pass up any actual baby toy in favor of remote controls, cell phones, the monitor, computers, cords, lamps, the assorted electronics that surround the TV. We thought for a second we might be smarter than you and gave you a remote from an old DVD player to play with. But no. You knew. I’m pretty sure you rolled your eyes at me before you took off for the real thing.

Month nine has been a tough one, sweet girl. We went to youth camp, first of all, which was an experience I do not care to repeat. Big Mama came with us and you guys had a ball – napping and playing and talking to all the kids and reading and bathing and going for walks. I am jealous of the week you two had. My week was a little different. After spending all day chasing kids and dealing with drama and running all over creation and calming parents and cleaning wounds and dispensing medicine and advice and hugs, I would collapse on my bed only to be woken up by you every thirty seconds.

It wasn’t your fault, I know. You were in a new place and a strange bed surrounded by unfamiliar people. All I’m saying is that when I only have the opportunity for four hours of sleep, it’s not ideal to wake up three times in those four hours. To nurse a baby. Who has daggers for teeth.

But! We survived! And we survived the three week process of Getting Back On Schedule, although looking back at it from here I’m not sure how. Truly, the best thing I can say about July is that it is over and we are all still alive. Just last week someone asked me how camp went and before I could get out my standard, “It was great!”, I started crying and let loose on them about how it was possibly the worst string of days of my life. But we made it! Yay for August!

So here’s the thing about having a kid: it is super hard. And just when you think you have it pinned down and you think you’re doing pretty well, the game changes. It was hard when you were tiny and eating all the time and couldn’t really be put down. And then when you started rolling and and drooling and trying to eat the rugs and the dirt. And now you are mobile and into everything and yesterday I swear you disappeared right in front of my eyes and then I found you under the crib. I function on less sleep than I ever thought possible and it has taken me over a month to read The Princess Bride. Life is not as it once was.

But here’s the other thing: it is super awesome. Every day you learn something new. When you are in a room and I stick my head around the door, your face lights up and my heart soars to the heavens. You have your own little language and you MEAN what you SAY. Your clothes are tiny and adorable. I could sit and watch you explore and crawl and pull up and giggle all day long. You love people, especially your dad. When he puts you to bed I stand at the door and listen to the two of you – talking, laughing, singing the Avett Brothers, reading the dinosaur book – and I can’t figure out what we ever did before you came along.

I mean, we slept a lot. But besides that.

You are our bug, our peanut, our sugar, our baby doll, our sweet pea, our Campbell Lou. And we wouldn’t change a single thing.



Month Eight. July 21, 2012

Filed under: Campbell Letters — brandi @ 12:04 am

Dear Campbell,

So you are basically a grown up now. You are crawling, for one thing. You are mobile and you are EVERYWHERE. Most babies crawl on both knees, but not you, girl. You use one knee and one foot, resulting in a lopsided scramble move that is both efficient and hilarious. You are no longer interested in anything you can reach from where you are, but every leaf, every floor vent, every piece of fuzz across the room is the most fascinating thing that’s ever existed and you will not rest until you get to it and put it in your mouth.

You are also pulling up on everything you see. The floor is boring and not good enough for you. The sofa, the entertainment center, my leg, the ottoman in your room with the wheels on it that does not stay put no matter how mad you get. You need to be tall and see, even if you can’t get yourself to where you want to be quite yet. There’s no disappointment quite like crawling to the sofa, pulling yourself up, and NOT finding a pile of remotes to chew on.

The other big development this month is teeth. Oh, girl. The teeth. You have six now, four on top and two on bottom, and they are tiny and sharp and make excellent weapons. They’ll attack anything that comes in their path – fingers, toys, furniture, other things. Things that, oh, I don’t know, FEED YOU. It’s not my favorite thing, that’s for sure. I love you more than my luggage but this has been a major challenge.

You went on your first plane ride and first vacation this month, too, to Colorado for your Grandpa and Juju’s 40th anniversary. I was super nervous about the plane, but you were a total rock star. You were great all week, rolling with the time change and the travel and the weird environment and a bunch of relative strangers all up in your business. You rode on a boat and went up a mountain and stayed in a hotel and were all-around an awesome kid.

I don’t mean to end each letter talking about how fun and exciting it is to have you around. And it is not all sunshine and rainbows, I don’t care what anybody says. You hate sleeping, you love yelling at inopportune times and in very public places, and I don’t know if I mentioned the TEETH but that is a SITUATION that I do not CARE FOR. But you have a smile that lights up a room, your sweet giggle makes your dad happier than I’ve ever seen him, you don’t cry when I sing the Avett Brothers to you. You fill my heart with joy, sweet girl, and I’m so glad you’re mine.



Lay back, lay back, go to sleep, my man. June 15, 2012

Filed under: Baby Stuff — brandi @ 4:53 pm

One of the biggest challenges of this baby situation is the sleeping. Hers, mine, Aaron’s. And by sleep, I mean, of course, NOT SLEEPING. Because none of us have really spent many hours doing it. Not in a row, anyway.

About a month ago we decided to get serious about sleep. We had moved her into her crib a few weeks prior, but it took both of us a lot of time to get her to actually fall asleep in there. Shushing, rocking, singing. Replacing the blanket over and over after she kicked it off. Trying to keep her from flipping over because if she flips over then she gets on her hands and knees and then she gets stuck and screams or propels herself forward and hits her head and screams and oh my gosh the screaming it never ends help me help me help me.

Because I can’t do anything without reading about every possible option available to me, I started researching sleep training methods. There are about ten million of them so it was a pretty simple task. No-Cry, Baby Whisperer, Sleep Lady, eight thousand doctors who will tell you exactly what to do if you’ll just buy their book. I had no idea where to start.

The facts were these: Campbell had stopped falling asleep after nursing, which had been my go-to method; she has never really cuddled or snuggled in any way, so rocking just served to make her mad; if we were interacting with her at all she thought it was playtime; all she wanted to do in the crib was roll around and try to crawl.

I was terrified of the ‘cry-it-out’ method, having read a bit about it having long-term emotional effects on babies. We wanted her to trust that we would not abandon her when she needed us, right? Right. I took it off the table.

But nothing else worked. NOTHING. So one night, out of desperation, we gave it a shot.

It works like this: you do your regular bedtime routine, then put the baby in the crib. Leave the room. If they cry, let them for three minutes before going back in. (The book says not to pick them up during this time but we do. You gotta make things work for you.) After you comfort them, leave again and don’t go back until they’ve cried for five minutes. Then ten minutes, and it stays at ten minutes from then on until they fall asleep.

You guys. YOU GUYS. We’ve been doing this for two weeks and have never once made it to the first ten minute stretch. Only rarely do we make it to the five minute one. We’ve gone from a 45-minute dramafest at bedtime to a baby who is out for the night within three minutes.

Turns out we were holding her back. When she would get up on her hands and knees and get frustrated, we would flip her back over and try to get her to lay still. But left to her own devices, that frustration finds its way out through rolling and kicking and flipping and fussing. Then, after a few minutes of fussing, sleep. GLORIOUS SLEEP.

We don’t quite have sleeping through the night going on, but we’re close. She wakes up once after several hours instead of every two. We’re down to one overnight feeding. Everyone is feeling a little better.

I think we might survive.

It’s gotten funny at naptime the past few days. Her latest skill is going from crawling position to sitting up, and somehow she’s learned to do that during the falling asleep process. So, often, I check the monitor to find this:

And then walk in to find this:

Y’ALL. She is full-on asleep in these pictures.


But I’m not complaining. I just sneak in and move her little body a tiny bit and she’s good. AND SLEEPING.


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