Monday, December 17, 2012

I Do Care.

Let me begin by saying I don't have answers. To any of it. If you're looking for a blog to part the heavens and help you make sense of this madness, this isn't it. Someone much more educated than I am is probably who you're looking for. And let me also begin by saying that I have no idea what's going to come out of my fingers today. I am not writing this as a pastor. I am not writing this as a counselor, as a parenting "coach", or as a blogger. I am simply writing this as a mom.

And like you, one with a broken heart.

Friday morning, I was having coffee with my dear friend Sarah. She sat at my kitchen counter, while I was in my bathrobe and messy hair, making chocolate chip cookies from scratch. My husband had just returned from dropping off our daughter at school, and my almost-ten-month-old was sitting in his high chair, still pajama-clad and eating bananas and waffles. Sarah and I talked about Christmas gifts, about how One Direction tickets are too expensive, and Rod chimed in about how cod liver oil should help her aching back. We laughed, giggled, and held my baby. We sipped, solved, and wondered about the right age to talk about where babies come from-- like you're supposed to do on a normal morning. Like you're supposed to do because your daughters are best friends and you scored an added bonus by finding out you really enjoy each other's company as well. Like you're supposed to do when it's Christmas and you feel the excitement in the air.

Like you're supposed to do after you've dropped your kids off at school. Their second home.

Not like you're supposed to do while at that very moment unbeknownst to you, 1,200 miles away, the darkest kind of darkness on earth was creeping into a little town and rewriting its history forever.

I don't care about the theories. I don't care about the media frenzy. I don't care about the debates on gun control. I don't care about people's views on what his mother should or should not have done. I don't care about making a politically correct stand on gun control or mental health medicine right this minute. I don't care to weigh in about the judgments being made on the fact that there were weapons in the house. I don't care about what the "experts" say. I don't care about he said/she said/they said/we said.

But I do care.

I care that Charlotte insisted on wearing her new pink Christmas dress and boots to school that day. That rambunctious Daniel knocked out those missing two front teeth of his. I care that Miss Davino had a gift to work with autistic kids and that her fiance had asked her parents for her hand in marriage the day before her life was stolen. Little Olivia had impeccable table manners and Little Ana sang "Come Thou Almighty King" like someone much more seasoned than her six young years allowed. Madeline loved to play. Catherine had red hair. Chase just won a mini-triathlon. Six year old Jesse ate a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich with a chocolate milk for breakfast that morning. James was a swimmer. Grace was blonde haired and blue eyed. Mrs. Murphy's parents waited shoulder to shoulder next to parents of first graders for word on their own 52 year old daughter's fate. I care that Emilie was an artist with a gift for making appropriate cards for hurting people. That Jack will be buried in his hero, NY Giants' wide receiver Victor Cruz's number 80 jersey. Noah had a twin sister in another room. Dawn was not just the principal, but also the Sandy Hook Book Fairy. Caroline had a contagious grin and a cherubic face. Jessica loved horses. Sweet Avielle loved the fall colors in Connecticut. Lauren Rousseau said her first year teaching at Sandy Hook was the best year of her life. Mary Sherlach was a year away from retirement. Victoria Soto's favorite color was green. Benjamin was growing up in a musical family. Allison was shy. I care that Dylan moved with his family to Newtown from the UK last year.

I care that there's now 27 families who were planning on celebrating Christmas next week who won't be making spirits bright. 27 trees with tagged gifts around them, all now untouched forever. 27 sets of plans for parties, vacations, and snowball fights on Christmas break. I care that there were 20 small beds empty that night, and will be so for every night after. 20 sets of pj's unworn. 20 stuffed animals unhugged. 20 refrigerator doors that will now be missing masterpieces. 20 mothers who will be shorted a nightly lullaby performance from now on. That's 20 sets of kisses forever bottled up in the hearts of parents until eternity. 27 sets of dreams, aspirations, successes and failures. 27 destinies cut too short.


He had plans too. At one time, the shooter (who had a name, Adam), was a baby. He was born, like any other baby. In time, he learned to crawl, then walk. He played with a balloon in the grocery store, had to be potty trained, and tried to figure out what clouds were. He experienced the terrifying first day of kindergarten, and the awkwardness of middle school. He was a child, one time. Innocent. Helpless. Fragile. Voiceless. Loved by his mother. Looking for love. Lost/found/lost again... Just. Like. All. Of. Us.

And there was a plan for HIS life, too. This wasn't it.

Events like this surely open our eyes to the fallen world around us. It makes the winter wind feel that much colder. Makes the loneliness we feel seep deeper into our bones. Makes the angry of us angrier, the fearful more fearful. The darkness becomes darker than midnight ink.

What do we do now?

We grieve. We shut up. We stop tossing around what WE would have done. We don't point fingers at others, but point them at the man in the mirror, identifying the ugliness inside of ourselves. We wrap our arms around each other. We cry if we want to, loudly and from our toes. We worry for our children and their children. We contemplate packing them up and running to Nowhereland. We look at those faces the media keeps showing, and we mourn the loss of the light in those eyes. We fall upon the mercy of a loving God, who in NO way, shape, form, or fashion had a hand in this slaughter. We stop trying to say deep things and say simple things. We pine for the innocence that is being stripped away from our lives more every year. We pray. Hard. We love. Harder. We live goodness in front of our kids. We teach them the value of life-- from conception to elderly. We exemplify kindness and we extinguish cruelty, even among sibling rivalry and typical childhood banter. We hug them while they are small and even more so when they aren't small anymore. We give them a safe place to disagree with us, to be angry with us, and better yet-- we show them how to disagree and coexist. We listen to them while we cook dinner. We make eye contact with them as much as we can. We bathe them in esteem and we crown them with dignity. We empower them to make choices, making the difficult ones for them when their own governing fails. We say no, we say yes, we say maybe. We notice the freckles on their noses and we praise God for the stinkiness of their feet. We teach them to listen-- to authority, to others, and to the voice of God inside them. We celebrate them- from birthdays to plain days, and everything in between.

We keep living. We rally together. And we keep living.

We have to.

If we don't, the casualty list grows in other ways.

May the God of peace, mercy, and comfort wrap His arms around Newtown, Connecticut. And around you.

And me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WHY Did I Have Kids?

My sister has two boys. One is almost 2. The other is 4 months old. I have an almost 9 year old and a 9 month old. So, between the two of us, we have 3 babies in diapers. 3 kids under age 2. 3 BOYS. (I can't tell you how happy I am that the oldest child in our brood is a girl). Anyway. Last night, I was standing in the kitchen with my sister and brother and I said, "Does it ever hit you that we are ages away from these kids being in kindergarten... much less grown?"

I really do know better than to ask a question like this. The day I sent my oldest off to kindergarten, I thought ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How did this happen so fast? Every summer after she turned 2, I was keenly aware that I was a summer closer to that dreaded fall morning, when I would leave her in the hands of a literal stranger, in a room filled with 18 other kids who were just as important to this stranger as my child... the day when my only child went from being number one to being assigned a student ID and became just one of many. That day, my chest ached all day long. I could hardly concentrate on anything. And though it's easier now that she's in 3rd grade, I still dread that fall day every time like the first time. And I miss her the whole day long.

Still. When you're up to your eyeballs in the day to day of washing dirty baby clothes, changing dirty diapers, and wiping off dirty faces, you can't help but think, "How much longer is this?" And when you have a colicky newborn who acts like he hates life and you went through infertility meds to conceive this little joyball, you may or may not say something like, "We PAID someone to do this to us!"

And I gotta be brutally honest. There's been a few times when my friends without kids have asked, "Why did you have kids?" And I'd think, "That's a GOOD question."

Don't get me wrong. It's not every day. And I usually always have a good answer. However, there are those days when one of them has made me want to move to a monastery or shove concrete earplugs into my ears. You have to understand. We went 7 years without a child in our home. 7 years of peeing when I wanted to. 7 years of showering without worrying if someone was trying to eat out of the trash can while I washed my hair. 7 years of eating food while it was still hot. 7 years of vacationing without having to set up a Pack 'N Play. 7 years of never thinking about a babysitter. 7 years of seeing new movies in the theater the first month they were out instead of catching them on DVD two years later. 7 years of only thinking of MY clothing, MY sleep schedule, MY playtime, MY entertainment, and MY boogers, MY bowel movements, and MY gas.

Ancient history.

As I sit here typing this, I have a chunky boy in my lap who may or may not be chewing on a blue highlighter (don't judge me)and he's got a madstyle case of the wiggles. I flashback to times when my office was quiet and toy free- when Baby MacDonald wasn't playing in the background constantly and when I could go to lunch at noon without having to think about naptime interfering with it.


Because without them...
My refrigerator door would be pretty boring.

I wouldn't get nearly the amount of exercise I do now from bending over and picking up items including, but not limited to: Squinkies, cracker remnants, singing animal toys, forgotten items under the couch, miscellaneous pieces of tiny paper slivers from an art project gone haywire, and dirty socks.

I would have never known that the early morning news is actually pretty interesting. Alot happens overnight in the world.

Christmas wouldn't be nearly as magical.

I wouldn't know which coffee is the most caffeinated.

I would have missed out on iCarly's final episode, Good Luck Charlie's new baby episode, and wouldn't know the secret formula for Crabby Patties.

I would be more rested, but less motivated about life.

My days off would be about catching up on my DVR shows, sleeping in, and having lunch and a pedicure with girlfriends. Those things are lame. (Trying to convince myself on this one, I ain't gonna lie.)

My furniture would wear out alot quicker. I hardly ever sit on my couches. Or chairs. Barstools. The toilet. Or anything.

I would think terrible things about that random screaming kid in Target.

I wouldn't have those cool stripes on my belly to fascinate my daughter.

There'd be no elf wreaking havoc in my house from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I wouldn't see my purse as entertainment. Wallets, checkbooks, and makeup mirrors aren't nearly as exciting as playing "What's in this purse that doesn't belong".
I'd never have learned the difference in powdered formula and liquid formula, the difference between Target brand diapers and Walmart brand diapers, the difference in colic and gas, or the difference in a childbirth with an epidural and one without it. These are key things to know in day to day conversations.

I wouldn't receive handdrawn pictures of waterfalls with gummy bears dancing on the river banks, poems about rocks, or endless amounts of handcrafted bookmarks that say "MOMMY" in fat crayon letters.

I would watch TV while the sun is up. Who does that?

I wouldn't understand the feeling of your heart about to burst with pride at something wonderful your child did in public, like: saying thank you, asking a grown up how their day is going, saying "Yes sir" without you prodding them to, or holding a door open for an elderly lady.

I also wouldn't know the not-so-bursting-heart-with-pride feeling when your little one says: "Look at that lady with the BIG butt," or the "Someone-help-me-I'm-drowning" feeling you get when your child acts like she's being attacked by fire ants because you told her she can't have a slurpee in the middle of a grocery trip.

That you can love something the size of a kidney bean so much, you'd throw yourself in front of a train to save him. You'd also go without Diet Coke for nine months to protect him, which is equivalent to throwing yourself in front of a train.

I would have missed the slobbery kisses, the beautiful sound of your baby singing "Mamaaaa" while he plays with the remote control, and the feeling that I'm the most beautiful woman in the world when I catch my boy staring at me with a dreamy smile on his face.

I wouldn't know what it's like to have cat like reflexes.

I would have never REALLY known what "love at first sight" felt like.

I wouldn't know what it's like to be the only one who can fix a skinned knee, a broken heart, or a feverish ache.

I'd have never discovered that I am a human GPS. I can find a toy the size of a marble, a misplaced homework assignment, or a pair of shorts in a laundry pile the size of the Eiffel Tower in less than 5 minutes.

I would have much cleaner floors but a lonely dinner table.

A shower with no Barbies in it, but no singing in it, either.

An office room in my house with an actual computer in it, but no baby bed.

Time to read those magazines I've had since February, but no one to interrupt my reading with a question about where squirrels sleep at night.

A heart that would ache for little hands to hold it in their tiny palms. A lullaby to sing with no ears to hear it. A photo in my heart with no frame to hold it. An adventure with no passport. A map with no treasure at the end.

A life less colorful than a black and white coloring page.

So, when someone asks why I had kids, I think I'll give a new answer.

Why would I NOT have? I would have missed it all.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Before I Had Kids.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Saying that having children changes your life is like describing the Grand Canyon as a hole in the ground. It's like saying the ocean is wet. It's like saying you're glad political commercials are over for another four years.

It's the understatement of all understatements.

The more I parent, the more I see how unprepared you will ever, EVER be for this job. Sure, before you have kids, you read books, watch videos, follow blogs, listen to advice, ask questions, build theories. You imagine, think through scenarios that involve something similar to Pampers' commercials, and write out baby names. You pin a million things on Pinterest for the baby's room and you even role play how YOU would handle the screaming kid in Walmart who is only wearing one shoe and shouting "PAPER CLIPPPPPP" over and over like a wild and untamed wolf boy.

Then, you get pregnant. You faithfully follow the doctor's orders and check the weeks off your pregnancy calendar with a smile every week. You have all the baby apps on your phone and you've never been more aware of muscle twinges, backaches, and heartburn than you are now. You clean, nest, plan, check, and organize. You learn how to breathe, write out a birth plan, and pack a meticulously mapped out bag for you and Little Sweets for the big day.

Then, the big day comes. Whether through induction or natural labor, the ball starts rolling, and you realize super quickly that this baby business isn't exactly like it looks on TV. From thinking, "I don't think this should feel like a Mack truck is rear ending me over and over" to the horrible things you think about your loved ones who are telling you how to breathe (think spontaneous combustion), you see really quickly that there's not always happy background music playing while you birth your babe. Then, of course, you go home-- albeit not as excitedly as you thought you would ("You mean the nurses don't go with us so we can sleep?") and you begin to see why those who had kids before you would chuckle to themselves when you shared what you were "going to do" after you had babies.

I'm not saying people who haven't had children are stupid. Please understand that. I am simply saying that they're in for a great surprise. Like, "the toilet has been Saran Wrapped and I just sat down to pee like a race horse" surprise. One thing is for certain in parenthood... Nothing is certain.

Before I had kids, I would think-
Look at that child with the nasty snot dried on his face.
Now I think-
His mom has finally just given up and is hoping the dried snot will keep the new snot trapped inside, like a beaver's dam.

Before I had kids, I would think-
I'll love my times up at night, feeding a hungry baby.
Now I think-
If I put the bottle in his crib with a cooler on one end and a microwave on the other, will he figure out the process?

Before I had kids, I would think-
Look at that poor child. Her diaper is clearly wet and no one has changed her.
Now I think-
Not changing her yet is saving the earth, right? Win-win.

Before I had kids, I would think-
My kids will be well-trained from months old and will smile at people who speak to them, never pitch a fit in public, and will never throw her sippy cup because it has water in it instead of juice.
Now I think-
I don't blame her. Half the time, I don't like these people, hate crowds in stores, and wish I could drink coffee all day.

Before I had kids, I would think-
He will be dressed like a little Old Navy model every day.
Now I think-
How old does he have to be for pajamas to be socially unacceptable at noon in Target?

Before I had kids, I would think-
Oh, I'll just nap while she naps.
Now I think-
Two hours? Do you know what I can accomplish for humanity in two hours? I can shower, shave my legs, get dinner started, vacuum all the floors, do two loads of laundry, and STILL watch 3 and a half episodes of Dr. Phil so I can feel better about my own life. Why would I nap?

Before I had kids, I would think-
I can't wait to take them somewhere fun like Disney or to the beach.
Now I think-
Does the mall count? There's a slide there!

Before I had kids, I would think-
My kids will only eat organic foods, drink milk from a local dairy, and will sit in this plush high chair like the little doll she is.
Now I think-
Are these cheese puffs made with ANY real cheese? Close enough. Let's skip the dairy cows and go to Chick-Fil-A. There's cows there. And that high chair cover? Where the heck is that thing? I think the washing machine ate it.

Before I had kids, I would think-
Someone should teach that horrid child who is pitching that fit a lesson. The mom should talk to him and find out his inner feelings on why he's so upset about a goldfish cracker. What's really going on?
Now I think-
That poor mom.

Before I had kids, I would think-
I'll just take my little ones wherever I go.
Now I think-
I have to plan my errands around nap time with Navy Seal like precision. Can I do Publix, the library, the post office, and the school in two hours? If ANY of these errands start to interfere with nap time, we will just go hungry tonight, I'll get late fees on these books, Aunt Patty won't get her Christmas card until Easter, and the class party should have enough moms, right?

Before I had kids, I would think-
I'm not sticking my kids in front of tv when they are babies.
Now I think-
There's NO WAY that Baby Einstein DVD is 30 minutes long. How in the HECK was that just 30 minutes?

Before I had kids, I would think-
I'm only gonna use Pampers or Huggies, clothes from Baby Gap, and Ralph Lauren bed sheets.
Now I think-
Does Dollar Tree have diapers? Because I'm already in here picking up a onesie and I could have SWORN I saw a crib sheet for a dollar in here the other day. Or was that a dish towel? Close enough.

Before I had kids, I would think-
I will run when she calls me, so she knows she can trust me.
Now I think-
That sounded like a bump, not a cut. I think we're good. I'll be there after I load this dishwasher, honey!

Of all the things I misjudged before having my kids, the greatest misjudgment is this.

I will love my baby so much.

That's like describing Black Friday as a "big shopping day" or like describing Yo Gabba Gabba as "annoying". Understatement of the CENTURY.

Through the colic, the diaper blow outs, the temper tantrums, the "I only wear rainboots" stage, the "I hate tank tops" stage, the "If you touch my hair, I'm going to throw nails at you" stage... through the clingy stage, the whiny stage, the demanding stage, the defiant stage... through the broken arm, the month long 104 fever, the chronic constipation... through the teething, the chewing, the drooling... the RSV, the scratching stage, and the "I have to have this pink comb with me at all times" stage, I have learned a mere lesson.
This is more than love.

This is life. This is why I was born. This is living.

And I wouldn't change one little thing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Challenge is BACK!

It all boils down to this. We are in the final days of November. The turkey sacrificed his life for our bellies, the cornucopias are packed away in the attic for another 11 months or so, and our weekends are being filled with ladders leaned against houses and staple guns and strands of icicle lights.

And I'm about to explode with excitement.

Why is that? Why is it that the day before Thanksgiving feels so much different from the day after? Why is it that life changed overnight after the silver platters and carving knives were packed away?

And why is it that the closer I get to 40, the more I heart Christmas?

As I sit typing this blog, my Pandora station is set on Michael Buble Christmas, and the fact is, though the same songs come on over and over, I never hit skip a single time. The fact is, I've had my tree up since the first weekend of November, and I've been waiting on the world to catch up to my excitement. The fact is, I look forward to Ellie the Elf's mischief every single day of this season and I hate it when she goes home Christmas Day. And the fact is, I'd move Heaven and earth to get my kiddos their heart's very desire from start to finish of this glorious time of year.

The real fact is-- if we don't deliberately make Christmas special for our kids, it will come and go and we will find ourselves on January 1 wishing we had slowed down a little more--- looked at their faces a little closer as they soaked in the lights and sounds... ate a few more cookies with them... watched a few more cheesy Santa movies.

Fact is-- Christmas has to be done on purpose.

Last year, I posted a blog with a 25 day Christmas challenge. This year, I'm doing another one-- and it's going to be 31 days long. Don't feel married to it-- but rather, use it as a guideline, an idea sparker if you will- to make this Christmas the best one you've ever had so far. Not that the ideas are mountain moving (though I think they are pretty fun), but they are simply simple ways to pause and soak in the moments around you in the middle of the chaos, the tangled lights, and the endless appetizer platters you have to make for the 244 parties you attend. Some of the things I've listed were in last year's blog. Some are new. The ideas are all pretty non-time consuming and relatively inexpensive, and even if your kids are way past the Santa years, I promise they'll enjoy the sentiment behind it all... In fact, one thing I learned in my decade of pastoring youth is that they'll put up with dorky if it means time with YOU.

Ready? Let's jingle.

DEC 1- Have a movie night and enjoy one of the greatest Christmas movies of recent years-- ELF. (ABC Family), 8pm eastern. No phones/computer/distractions allowed. Only the tree lights, popcorn, and hot chocolate in your pajamas.

DEC 2- While everyone is still asleep, hang candy canes all over the house, from the curtain rods in the living room to the refrigerator doors. Give everyone 3 minutes to find the most. The winner gets a pair of dorky Christmas socks to wear that day-- (after church, of course).

DEC 3- Make a list of all the people you want to bless with cookies and goodies this Christmas. Include the mailman, the garbage dudes, the crossing guard you pass every day, the pediatrician, and your neighbors. As your kids name people, have them explain why they want to bless them. Try to think outside the box from grandma, their BFF, etc.

DEC 4- Santa Stuff. Get a sweatsuit that's way too big. Blow up balloons, and put them in a trash bag. Line the kids up on the other end of the room from you. On GO, they run a balloon to you and stuff it in your sweatsuit. Keep on until your suit is filled with balloons. Give them candy canes for prizes.

DEC 5- Write a solider or two. Wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them for giving up their holiday with their family so you could be with yours.

DEC 6- Only cold stuff for dinner tonight. Yep. Celebrate the North Pole with ice cream sundaes (red and green toppings only), ice cold sodas, and if you're freaking out at the junk food on a school night, frozen fruit.

DEC 7- Make snowflakes, old school style. You know, where you fold a paper several times into a square and cut little niches and nooks out of it. Have each person make 2-3 and talk about how each one is different from the other ones they made and how we are all different from each other. Hang the finished products in your windows.

DEC 8- Baking Day! Make cookies and yummies for all the people you listed earlier. Order pizza for lunch and be sure you're playing Christmas music really loudly!

DEC 9- Take a walk. Like, a walk. With no cell phones (unless you're taking pictures), and soak up the lights in a park, or your neighborhood. While you walk, play "name that tune" with humming Christmas carols.

DEC 10- Make up a Christmas scavenger hunt. The basics of any scavenger hunt is to put a clue to the next clue, which leads to the next clue, and so forth... and it can be in your house, throughout your neighborhood, or across town. Make the prize at the end a bag of Christmas candy for each player-- their favorite kind!

DEC 11- Now, be safe with this one-- but use tapered pillar candles on stands. Give each player a water gun, where she stands across the table from her candle and tries to shoot her flame out. The first player to achieve a flameless candle wins.

DEC 12- Make Christmas pizza. Only use red and green toppings... think pepperoni, green peppers, green onion, tomatoes, etc. Serve Sprite colored with green food coloring.

DEC 13- Today begins the 12 days of Christmas. Play the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" ALL. DAY. LONG. Drive everyone crazyyyyy.

DEC 14- Take a picnic to a local park that's all lit up, and eat on a blanket under the lights... even if it's really cold outside. It's Friday, so stay out a little later on purpose-- go for ice cream afterwards!

DEC 15- Hide and go seek, using only Christmas tree lights to see by. For fun, you could also buy a blinking Rudolph nose for a dollar and the "seeker" has to wear it.

DEC 16- At dinner, play the ABC game. Everyone has to go around and name something they like about Christmas that starts with the letter of their letter of the alphabet. (The first person has "A", the second has "B", and so forth until the whole alphabet is done).

DEC 17- Make everyone wear a Santa hat all evening after school and work. If someone is caught without her/his hat on, a piece of fruitcake is the punishment.

DEC 18- It's a week until Christmas. Write everyone's names on little pieces of paper and have everyone draw a name out of the bowl. Load everyone up for a trip to the Dollar Tree. Give everyone a dollar (plus tax) and have them buy an appropriate gift for their person. Encourage everyone to put thought into why they are buying it-- for instance "I bought my sister a pink brush because pink is her favorite color" or "I bought Daddy a pack of pencils so he would quit using mine." Have everyone wrap them and put them under the tree. You may have to shop in two shifts so everyone has privacy and supervision in their purchasing.

DEC 19- Sit down and have a family meeting about how you can bless someone before the month is up. Like coffee to a cold crossing guard, cookies to a nursing home, thank you cards to an emergency room staff, or even serving food at a homeless shelter. Make it a non-negotiable that everyone participates as a family, and then choose your day on the calendar before January 1.

DEC 20- Now would be a good time to get a last minute letter to Santa in the mail. In fact, have everyone write one. Even Mommy, Daddy, and the grumpiest big teenage brother in the house. Mail them to the North Pole! Then, have everyone go to their rooms for a toy clean out. Give everyone a trash bag, and have them choose at least 5-10 good items to bless someone with. (See Christmas Eve for what to do next).

DEC 21- You know those Salvation Army people who ring the bells outside of stores? They're everywhere this weekend, as it's the final shopping weekend before Christmas. Pick up a dozen donuts. Pull up at the curb of a nearby store, have your kids hop out, and bless the Bell Ringer. Go to the next one at another store. Keep going until you run out of donuts.

DEC 22- It's Holiday Movie Madness Day!!! As long as your bottoms can sit, park them all in front of your TV with movie food. Not only does ABC Family have all day holiday movies today, but tonight, at 6, 8, and 10 pm (est), Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3 will be playing. Keep the popcorn coming. And make sure it's nice and cold in your house so everyone has to snuggle under blankets!

DEC 23- It's Christmas Eve EVE! Just when everyone is settling in for the night, all snuggly and warm, call an emergency family meeting and make everyone load up in the car for late night PANCAKES! Go to iHop, Denny's, or your local 24/7 diner and everyone eat in their pajamas! If your budget can't afford this trip, make a late night drive around at look at Christmas lights one last time. But whatever you do, do it after teeth are brushed and everyone is headed to bed. Shake it up a little!

DEC 24- First of all, leave Christmas music playing all day, no breaks. Have everyone bring out their trash bags of toys. Take them to the front porch and attach a note to each bag, asking Santa to please bless another child with these toys. Ask him to send them to the kids who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy, or to a kid in their own school whose parents lost their jobs this year. Next, find a Christmas book that tells the story of the Nativity simply enough for your youngest love to understand. When it's evening time, have everyone gather around the tree. Read the story to everyone. Have everyone go around and tell something they are thankful for about your family. Give each other your dollar gifts from earlier in the month. If you're really adventurous, watch Home Alone at 9 pm (est). Get the Man in Red's cookies and milk ready, an then OFF TO BED... He's on his way!

DEC 25- It's SHOWTIME! Little feet will patter quickly toward the tree, and even your mopey teenagers will move a little faster this morning. But before wrapping paper starts flying, join hands and pray together as a family, thanking God for His provision in your lives. Open presents one at a time, starting with your littlest fella, and working to Mom and Dad. Everyone opens one present each round. This makes the magic last longer, I promise. Have a good breakfast together. Play all day. Nothing is more important today than those people you woke up with. Soak it up. Take it in. And be careful not to throw away something important in the wrapping paper.

DEC 26- The holiday let down begins. *sigh* Today, spend time with each member in your family, playing with their favorite new toy. This may involve stepping into a foreign world for you, but pledge 30 minutes to each child... get inside their world by enjoying THEIR joy.

DEC 27- You know those police officers who watched the streets while you slept Christmas Eve? Know those Firefighters who were on duty while you opened gifts Christmas morning? Now would be a good time to take them bagels with a note telling them you haven't forgotten about their sacrifices.

DEC 28- Game Night!!! Play board games, hide and go seek, basketball, whatever... as long as you play together and you eat something really yummy. No one leaves, and everyone plays. And this means that each person gets to pick a game. So, yes-- your teenagers will have to play Chutes and Ladders if that's what your kindergartner picks.

DEC 29- Give everyone 5-10 small pieces of paper. Have everyone write down something on each piece that they enjoyed about this year. Put it away until New Year's Eve.

DEC 30- Have everyone take a nap today. You'll be up late tomorrow night! ;-)

DEC 31- New Year's Eve!! Today, it's all about fun. Your last chance to make memories in 2012. Let everyone pick a food they want for the late night party-- fuel for the crew as you wait for the ball to drop. Make a grocery store run with everyone- put someone in charge of the list, someone in charge of paying, someone in charge of putting away the groceries, someone to help you get the kitchen ready, etc. Then, cook your little hearts out! When it's getting dark outside, begin the party! Open your jar of memories from this year. Have each person draw one out and read it, and repeat until the jar is empty. Play games not found on a board- like 2 Truths and a Fib (players guess which is the fib), 20 Questions, and Truth or Dare. Have a movie marathon-- fun ones like Sleepless in Seattle, It's a Wonderful Life, Ratatouille, and the Wizard of Oz will keep you busy. Get sparkling grape juice in fancy glasses ready for the big moment, and watch the ball drop! Count it down, scream and holler, yell and dance your legs off. It's a new year! And you just celebrated the holidays for 31 days with your family.

Even if you celebrated half of these days, KUDOS to you.

The days pass slowly, the years like a flash. Soak it up, parents. One day, we will wake up, put on our slippers and robes, shuffle into a living room with no bikes or dollhouses around the tree... no grumpy teenagers with bad breath will greet us... and we will look back on these days and wonder where they went so quickly. We will count the hours until our kids are done with Christmas with their OWN families and will make their way toward our home.

I don't know about you-- but 216 months isn't long enough with mine. 18 Christmases are too few. I've gotta slurp every last drop out of this. Since I started this post, hours have passed. I've changed a few diapers, fed a couple of babies, and ran a few errands. And just now, my little guy crawled into my lap, where he sits, sleepily fighting his late nap. I am painfully aware at this moment, just how short this phase of his life and mine, is. I squeeze him a little closer, and find myself humming him a Christmas song.

Merry merry to you. And yours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sixteen Years.

I've been gone a while. This summer wasn't the easiest one ever, by a long shot. Between a premature nephew born (he's fat and sweet and fine now), my grandma literally almost dying several times, my parents' being strewn from here to there with their own health issues and family demands, all three boys having RSV... I almost pulled my hair out approximately 241 times. Now, fall is here, and I welcome its colder air with a giant sigh of relief.

So, I haven't quit blogging, and I have refocused and repurposed myself to get back on track with this, as it's my therapy and my cleansing (this and a long hot shower, where I dance around naked Barbies and missing kitchen utensils). To say life takes on a life of its own when kids enter the picture is like describing the Grand Canyon as a hole in the ground.


This week, on Friday in fact, I will be married 16 years to this man.

That means that I've woken up to his presence somewhere around 5840 times. I've fallen asleep with his hand on my back or his foot touching mine most of those nights. I've picked up his socks, cooked his dinners, and ironed his clothes. I've made him mad, made him want to run away and never come back, and made him laugh. We've camped, traveled, wined and dined, and escaped away alone many times. We've prayed, strained, struggled, and searched. We've lost, rebuilt, and refocused. We've birthed two children and have felt like we've bitten more off than we can chew so many times, it's not even funny (ok, it is). There've been alot of road trips, Christmases, birthdays, special days, and plain days. Lots of bumps, bruises, tears, and cuts. Romance, love letters, and text messages that would make Gaga herself blush.

What do I say to the man who loves me at my ugliest? Loved me at my heaviest? Loved me at my stupidest? My frailest? My weakest? What do I say to the man who pushes me?Pushes my buttons? Pushes my fears away? The man who overhears a wish and makes it come true for me? Who is okay with my constant playing of Zac Brown Band and even takes me to his concert? Who makes me coffee every morning and rubs my back (sometimes while he's falling asleep) at night? Who relies on my "expertise" for our children? Who trusts my judgment? Who admits without hesitation the kids are my field and defaults to my database?

How can I express enough love for the one who proved himself to me over years and years of my skepticism and my keeping him at arm's length? Who made it his number one priority to win my heart through integrity, tenderness, and persistence? Who dealt with my terrible bout of depression, loving me through it until I was whole? Who dealt with my mood swings from fertility meds, tears over 14 total years of one lined pregnancy tests, and knew exactly how much time to give me to wallow in my pity before he made me get up again? Who laid his hand on an empty womb night after night and thanked God for its fullness? Who sang songs to his unborn children while they kicked his cheek with joy in response to his voice? Who defends me to a cocky 8 year old and relieves me from a busy 8 month old when I just can't hold him any more?

How can I express enough gratitude for the hands that hang Christmas lights on the roof of our extra tall house, instinctively grab my hand in a crowded parking lot, and hold my face for a good night kiss before we roll our separate ways in our king sized bed? The hands that wiped my hair from my face during childbirth, roll up little meat and cheese spirals on toothpicks for his daughter, and change dirty diapers from his son without being asked to? How can I be more thankful for the smile lines around the eyes that dance with laughter at jokes that only I know the punchline to? The lines that represent happiness at lives being changed through the Gospel? The lines that deepen daily because of his instant response to seeing his son wake up in the morning or his daughter's fifteenth art project for the day? The same lines that greet me at my makeup mirror every morning, when he sneaks in for his morning kiss?

Is he perfect? Nope. He makes me angry when I find my clean dishrag in the sink next to egg shells in the sink. I am frustrated with him because he's as bullheaded as I am. He is too patient sometimes, and it makes me want to break him in half. He's loud, he's boisterous, and he knows someone EVERY WHERE we go. I have no idea how I can clean his bathroom, only to find it looking like a zoo 12 hours later. Life isn't one big passionate whirl with us. And BELIEVE ME... though I've loved him most of my life now--- (I fell in love with him at 17, got engaged to him at 18, and married him at 19... He was 29, 30, and 31 which adds to the hotness of our love story, ain't gonna lie), I feel like I just have started seeing who he really is. That this jewel-- this prize of mine, has been in front of my face for all this time. That I've only just turned around and recognized his face.

That I am just getting to know him. Really know him.

Mommies, life is busy. Kids suck the minutes out of days and the months out of our years. It's lovely, yes. But it's also easy to put what should be priority one on the back burner and make it priority 10 or 12. All the while, we are missing a romance that was meant to fuel us for all the sandwiches we make, all the glitter we sweep up, all the laundry we fold, and all the Blue's Clues we watch. Really look at him. And if you can't see him, ask God to give you new eyes. You'll start seeing him for who he really is if you try to. I promise.

Rodrick, we are a little older than we were 16 years ago. We are a little more tired, definitely a little wiser, and a whole lot better. You make my heart skip a beat. Yours is the handsome face God crafted for my eyes to see and my heart to take in for all my days. Here's to you, love. And the life we've made.

Happy Anniversary!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Rainy Monday Kind of Blog.

I'm just sitting here, looking out my office window, at the ravaging storm called Isaac, which basically equals a rainy Monday. Walker is asleep right outside my door, and to be honest, I'm fighting the urge to crawl up into his crib with him, even though the sleep I got last night was not only sufficient, but it was deep.

Something about rainy days and Mondays.

I happen to like both. Always have. And when they coincide on the same plane, well-- that's just my kind of beginning to a week. I know, I know. I'm odd. And I know that plenty of you are loathing the fact that it's Monday, or that it's raining AND Monday if you live here in central Florida. Some of you are already dreading the next 8 hours or so of predicted downpours, while trying to come up with creative ways to keep three kids under the age of 4 happy without going outside. Some of you are exhausted from a weekend that didn't stop moving and are actually happy to go back to work this morning, but can't fight the nagging thought that it's just another day to do it all over again, and one day closer to another exhausting weekend.

It's okay.

Since rainy Mondays are daunting enough for most people, I thought I would write about the lighter side of motherhood this morning, and give us all a little permission to take a minute, sip on something in a cup without a straw or sippy lid, and realize that you're not alone.

Today, give yourself permission to...

...not feel badly for throwing away some of that refrigerator art. Or at least relocating it to an undisclosed location. And to think, "Oh yay! Just what I wanted-- a watercolor painting of a tree and our house that actually looks like my great Aunt Mary's dog's water bowl!"

...look back at your little ones' newborn pics and think, "Ew." And then silently thank God your little bundles got better looking with each passing month. After all. Are wet newborn ANYTHINGS really cute? Really?

...take a nap when you can. This includes, but is not limited to: red lights, their naps, their TV time, while you're on the phone with customer service, and in the car line at school. Everyone is buckled in and being held hostage. Get in line 15 minutes early and snooze.

...secretly love that your kids want the crusts cut off their sandwiches so you can eat them while you make lunch. your sister alot. She gets it. Especially if she's a mom. And speaking of sisters...

...hope your sister is also awake with HER baby at 4:00 am. If you're up, she should be too. (Sorry, Lori.)

...use the "Mommy needs to go to the bathroom" excuse for more than just using the bathroom. Feel free to read a chapter, make a phone call, or sit in a trance for a few minutes. Or seconds. Believe me-- if something noteworthy happens, like someone finds a paper clip, or the world's biggest booger-- you'll know it. You're in the bathroom. Which equals a flashing sign that says "APPROACH ME NOW".

...count the minutes until naptime and bedtime. All day. a tad bit jealous of your friends who don't have kids yet. They get to sleep whenever they want, use the bathroom when their body actually tells them to, eat food while it's still hot, and never have to plan an evening out around when they can get a babysitter. Go ahead and be jealous. Because any minute, your tater tot will do something to remind you why you made this decision to be a mom. And jealousy will vanish like helpers at chore time.

...worry a little about Max and Ruby's lack of parents. ice cream. Alone. Just because you can.

...feel your eye twitch a little after hearing, "Mom, LOOK" for the 43rd time in ten minutes. a little bit happy when you drop your child off at school in the morning, especially if you have more than one child and even if the remaining children are home with you all day. Less is more sometimes. And by the end of the school day, you'll be aching to see that sweet face walking to your car. *sigh*.

...pick a really big and yummy birthday cake for your child's first birthday. Because Lord knows you deserve whatever cake you want for mothering even a good baby for the first 12 months.

...make a commitment to not talk about the kids on date night. And then break the commitment.

...lay there for a few minutes when baby cries at night or in early morning. Of COURSE you aren't pretending you don't hear her... You're being optimistic and hoping she goes back to sleep. ;-)

...wonder how long those goldfish crackers that your child is eating have been in his carseat, but still not be concerned enough to reach back and take them.

...never having had implemented the "three second rule" with your second child. Or even a "five." Or a "ten."

...order your kid a 6 count nugget kids' meal and feel totally crushed when she eats all 6 because you were counting on the 2 leftovers as YOUR "lunch".

...make a run to Target like "that mom" that you swore you'd never leave the house like. You know- in sweat pants and a t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, no makeup, and kids wearing pajamas and holding sippy cups. Because Target has a Starbucks in it and that's the only hope you have right this second. And it's ok.

...want to punch people who say "Oh, he's growing up so fast" when talking about your newborn who is still doing the same three things over and over- crying, eating, and crying.

...have a pity party. Whenever you want. It's your party and you can cry if you want to.

...not have a shower until Daddy gets home, just in case one of the Banshees decides to close his brother into the refrigerator, empty the Desitin on the baby's head, or try his new-found scissoring skills on the dog. Again.

...count the months until kindergarten and then panic madstyle when your baby turns 4.

...wonder on a daily basis what you've gotten yourself into. your baby breathe while she sleeps. And she's 8. totally convinced that no mother has ever loved her child as much as you do yours. And no child has ever been more perfect.

...because you're right. ;*)

Happy Monday, Mommies.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ode to the First Day of School.

This morning, hundreds of moms across Lake County woke up a little earlier. We sleepily turned on our Keurigs, made breakfast (or something resembling it at least), and crept into quiet bedrooms for the first wake up call of the school year. Ain't gonna lie-- I was a little nostalgic this morning as I crawled into bed next to my third grader. I lingered a little longer than usual and smelled her cheek. I paid attention to how soft her skin feels on her neck as I breathed her in before I handed her over to the school system for another nine months. I looked at her hair, tangled and tousled from a good night's sleep and her blissful unawareness that yet again, her life will change from the very first day of this school year.

I remember so clearly her very first day of school in kindergarten. She had never been to preschool. I kept her with me every day I could until the big day arrived and I had no choice. I hardly slept the night before. My mind would not shut down! What if she falls and gets hurt? Who will pray for her in a public school? What if she can't open her water bottle? What if she gets made fun of? What if she suddenly feels afraid? What if her teacher is not as nice as we think she is? What if she needs me?

All day, I wondered what she was doing. I don't think I stopped praying all day long. At the end of the day, I swear I must have been 30 minutes early. I sat and stared at her classroom door. When the release announcement was made, I almost ran to her. But I stopped myself. I stood, composed on the outside, heart about to burst inside, as my kindergartener RAN to me and fell into my arms in a collapse of joyful relief. She talked non-stop about every kid in class, what they were wearing, what they ate, what they said, what they thought, what they did. The next words out of her mouth?

"Mom, hurry and get home. I didn't pee all day. I couldn't get my belt off, so I just held it."


My heart broke. My tiny tot sat all day, needing to potty and didn't have the nerve to ask her teacher for help. She held her pee for 7 whole hours.

I wanted to BAWL.

You better believe, from that moment on, I thought of everything. I made sure there was extra underwear in her backpack. I made sure her water bottles were unscrewed enough for her to open them easily. I double checked her clothes were buttoned right, her shoes were velcroed just the way she liked them, and her ponytail was looped three times, tight like she prefers. I prepared for everything. Until I realized one day...

We weren't really prepared for anything.

Like the first time she fell and no one prayed for her. Like when a boy in her class called her a demon and broke her tiny heart. Like when a teacher (not hers, but one who was in charge at the moment) called her a troublemaker and humiliated her in front of her friends. (She said, "I didn't know what to do so I just stared at my shoes until everyone looked away). Like when she herself called a child stupid. (God help me). Like when she was burning up with a fever of 102 and having chills when I walked into the office to fetch her.

In His mercy and gentleness, God has taught me a few things about the control-freak tendencies we possess as mothers. Can I pass them on to you?

We are only stewards of His greatest prizes. We love them as much as is humanly possible, yes. We lay down our lives, yes. We would eat styrofoam peanuts in order to give them filet mignon, yes. But on our very best days, we are merely corralling them for HIM. HE is the One that loves them with an everlasting love. HE is the One that laid His life down-- literally laid it down-- to save theirs. We intend to. He DID.

And if He laid down His life, He surely loves them most. For that fact alone, rest easily.

Their hearts will get broken. Deal with that fact as soon as possible, and move on with your life. Take each blow as it comes-- because there's WAY more victories in this life than heartache. Don't anticipate the pain, but expect it. Because it WILL happen.

Controlling their every move, is setting them up for great failure. When your child is old enough, have HER talk to the doctor about what's wrong. Have HER order her meal at a restaurant. Have HER introduce herself to new people. When it's fundraising time, have HER make the awkward phone calls to relatives. You're a parent. Not a gopher, spokesperson, or advocate. Ok-- you are sometimes. Which brings me to my next point...

We have to be their eyes and ears, and we MUST rely on the Holy Spirit's wisdom. Know when to step in! A child left on his own decision making abilities at any age produces a spoiled, entitled, and ungrateful human being. But micromanaging a child is basically emotional paralysis. We have to let them fall sometimes. We have to take our hands off and walk away because it's too painful to watch sometimes. And sometimes, we have to put on our butt-kicking shoes and clean someone's clock for hurting our child. Ask God to show you when each is appropriate.

Never, ever underestimate a good night's sleep.

Choose a confession and speak it DAILY (or more) over your child. Abi's is "You're smart, safe, healthy, kind, and obedient." We say it Every. Single. Day.

Get involved on their campus. Obviously, this will look differently if your child is in kindergarten versus when he is in middle school. But the point is, make it a goal to know the office staff. Take them donuts and coffee occasionally. Send the teacher a Monster energy drink. Make a point to have lunch with your child at least once a month, EVEN IF SHE'S IN HIGH SCHOOL. And don't say you don't have time. Because you do. This is their world for nine months. Become a part of it.

Talk to them EVERY DAY. And not just about homework. But about who has a crush on who, who wore the same color shirt as them, and which kid had the grossest lunch. If you need conversation starters, hit me up on here or on Facebook and I'll set you up! Talk, talk, talk, talk to your child. All the time. Until your ears hurt. Because these little things you don't care about that they choose to talk to you about will one day turn into life-altering conversations that they won't want to discuss if you weren't willing to talk about Barbies, Legos, and the kid who smells like cardboard in their class.

Be prepared for this never to get easier. It's just a fact. It just means we will continually need Him. Always.

All weekend, Abi had said she didn't want me to walk her to class on the first day. Of course, I said TOUGH, and walked her in anyway. She was confident and sure as we walked through the campus toward her room. She made sure I wouldn't do this again tomorrow. I agreed. We got to the door handle. Abi says, "Mom, please don't leave me." I swallow. We open the door and find her desk. My little girl who acted 15 last night, trying on my makeup, wearing high heels, and dancing to Kidz Bop suddenly looked 5 and like it was her first day of kindergarten again. I get her all settled, thank her teacher, and walk out. I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, watching my heart look around and take in her new home for the next nine months. She sat, quiet and shy- a vast departure from her normal bubbly nature. After a few minutes, the boy across from her broke the ice. And she spoke back. She turned toward the window, until that moment unaware I had been peeking in. I gave her a thumbs up. She gave me a thumbs up back. And I walked down the sidewalk and back to my van.

It may not get easier. But it sure gets better.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Cashie.

I believe in the written word. I believe that spoken compliments and words of affirmation are super important for the ear to hear, but that the most faded ink is longer lasting and more cherished than the sharpest memory. See, over time, words fade in our consciousness and we forget the tones and enunciations that made the spoken word so impacting at the moment of its utterance. I'm not at ALL taking away from the fact that we should speak words of love from our mouths to the ears of our loved ones. But I am trying to fortify the fact that if written, words will never lose their power.

I think this is especially true when it comes to our children. Telling them daily that we love them is paramount to their development. However, there's day to day stuff that we tell them and they forget. Things we would like to capture for them to last a lifetime. Things that we want to freeze in time and seal away for them to enjoy when their maturity allows it.

I have a brand new nephew. My only sister, only sibling- gave birth to her second son last Monday. He is perfect. And he is mine. My sister and I have both an unspoken and a spoken "thing" that what's mine is hers and what's hers is mine. We share it all- from our deepest thoughts to our giggly children. When her first son, Legend, was born, I felt like a new part of me had begun. And as we add to our brood (me another baby in February, and hers last week), the love I feel for our kids intensifies. I've written each baby a letter. So, Cash Lincoln-- this one's for you.

Dear Cash,
Today, you are seven days old. This means you have experienced seven bedtimes, seven sunrises, seven 24 hour periods where your parents try to figure out what to do with your newness, and seven mornings now where I've awaken with you on my mind. You're super tiny, still. Your eyes are open alot- you slowly study the world around you in bite sized chunks while you nurse or while someone new cuddles you and rubs your face. We're still pretty picky about who all gets to love on you. You're defenseless and small. But, I can see there's a giant of a man inside you who is waiting to come out.

You are joining two sides of your family who love you as much as the air we breathe. Four grandparents who think you fell off of the throne of God itself. Aunts and uncles who have made it our life's mission to make sure you get the candy you want, and lots of sleepovers with movies, forts, and popcorn. A brother who will get you into more messes than you can count, but who will be your closest friend until eternity. And two cousins who think you were created just for their enjoyment. But really, this is about your Mom and Dad. I know it's hard to tell who's who in this bunch of people who love you. So let me make it a little easier for you and give you the break down.

They're the ones who love you most.

They're the ones who will sit up at night with you until you learn to sleep like a big boy. They're the ones who are responsible to make sure you are fed, changed, somewhat clean, and rested. They will be the ones who say "no" the most, and who will make you madder than you thought it was humanly possible to be. They'll worry if you come home too late, your temperature runs too high, or you don't eat enough at dinner. They're the ones who will drive 45 minutes to get you the pair of shoes you're wanting and watch their least favorite movie every day when you become obsessed with it. They'll teach you things like how to make your bed and how to play the guitar. They'll show you that a gentleman opens the door for all girls and women, even your annoying big cousin Abi. You'll learn from them how to mow the grass, how to walk your dog, and how to change a tire. You'll also "catch" alot of things from them- like how to be affectionate to your wife, how to pray, what it means to be appreciative, and how to look someone in the eye when you're talking to them.

Your mom worked really, reallllllly hard to get you here. But like the other boys born before you in this family, you had to switch things up and keep it interesting. Silly boy-- your head was facing the wrong direction and you were just too cozy to come out and play. When you finally came out, it seemed your daddy would burst with joy. It was a rainy day and everyone, especially your mom, was so very tired from waiting all night for your arrival. But when you came out, there was a special sunshine placed just in our room. Your tininess filled the space around you. It was almost like you were a dream. You're the 4th grandbaby on your mom's side of the family. But don't worry, Little One... you were celebrated just like you were the only one. We counted your fingers and toes, memorized your eyelashes, and smelled your sweet face over and over again that day, and the six days after up until now.

Every thing about you matters. Your feelings, your thoughts. The dreams you will have, the fears you'll face... All of it is part of your story and part of making you into the person you'll become. There will be days when you'll feel like you aren't important. Days when you'll be angry that Legend may be faster than you or Walker is bigger than you- but in those days, my prayer is that you'll be reminded of how very special you are, exactly like you are.

I know you're new here. Literally hours ago you were tucked inside a secret place that only your mommy could provide for you. But you have alot to learn- alot to experience. It's too much to say in one letter, but I think there's some things you need to know.

Life is good. It really, really is. There will be days when it seems like it's not. But those days will only serve as reminders that good days come next. And good far outweighs the bad in everything.

There's always something to celebrate. Birthdays are once a year. Unfortunately, so is Christmas. But there's 363 other days that are great to celebrate, too. Like making it through a whole day without sitting in time out. Or making a smiley face on your alphabet paper. Or making the team. Or that girl finally noticing that you exist. Celebrate big time. Because we celebrate YOU. You are a very worthy celebration.

Sometimes, people are just mean. In fact, they can be really sucky. Grouchy. Rude. And hateful. Not everyone will love you. Or even like you. But those people have boo-boos on their hearts. So be kind to them. Because they'll need you.

People are also very good. There are people who will help you, believe in you, trust you, and support you for your whole life. When you pass someone on the street, smile at them. They may be your future boss, or someone who just deserves one of your precious smiles.

You'll want to quit. Alot. Whether it's football and you can't take the burn in your legs anymore, or guitar practice and your fingers bleed-- you'll reach a point in your life when you're ready to throw the towel in. Remember that you won't become great at your craft without the burn. Push. It's worth it.

Some risks are worth taking. Not stupid ones, you little booger... Not like "Can we beat this train" risks. I'm talking about the "believing in yourself" kinds of risks. You're smarter than you think you are. And if someone has ever done it, so can you. And if they haven't ever done it, remember that someone has to be the first one. It might as well be you.

Sometimes, life just isn't fair. Someone will get credit for your idea. Someone will get the award you deserved. Someone will get a bigger piece of cake than you. That's just the way it is. Decide as early as you can to be okay with that.

Your brother, your cousin, and you will get in alot of trouble through your lives. But, you guys have parents who are looking out for you, watching most of your moves, and relying on the One who loves you most to give us a heads up for your stupidty. We will spy on you, listen to your phone conversations, check your text messages, and show up when you least expect it. And we will not apologize for it, ever. So, get over it.

You're going to think it's funny to throw lizards at Gia. Don't. Do. It. Trust me.

No one loves you more than God does. No one. And you may be able to spill cherry Kool-Aid on your mom's carpet and destroy it. You may be able to break a window with a baseball. You may find 100 ways to wreck a clean house in 30 minutes or less. You can even scuff up and ruin your new shoes in one day. But you will never, ever, ever mess up how incredibly much the Maker of life is in love with you, little boy. Not when you're 6 or 96.

Really, that's all you need to know.

I love you, Cash Lincoln Adgate. I always will.

Love, Bug.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My View From Here.

I'm at work. This is the view from my desk.

Notice- the pacifier on my desk. Coffee in a big cup because Mr. Sweet Head woke up alot last night. (Who am I kidding-- I drink a cup that big when he sleeps all night). A diaper on my couch, used and folded but hasn't made it to the trash yet. His pajamas, which yes- I brought him to work in and changed him here. A diaper bag and my purse on the floor. A TV to play Baby Einstein for my boy when he's bored. And a smokin' hot red sports car in the distance with a skilled driver at the wheel.

This is my life.

Before you get married and start your family, you have all kinds of ideas of what your morning view will be. It usually includes a giant mansion, shiny cars, cascading mountains, children who only wear clothes from the Gap, and a spouse who looks like he/she has never worked a day in his/her life except to pose for a magazine ad.

But, somewhere between high school graduation and the day you take a picture like the one I posted above, life happens. Reality sets in. We age, we wise, we season. Our faces become a little more wrinkled, our hair a tad grayer. We realize that mansion might actually be a one bedroom apartment, that shiny car a used mini-van... those Baby Gap kids clothed in hand-me-downs, and that guy we married with a few battlescars on him, himself. But the beauty of life- the very strength of it- is our ability to see a perspective that we choose to see.

I am all about choices. From the time we get up in the morning, until we lay our tired heads on our cold pillow cases at night, we make choices. What kind of coffee today? Red shoes or tan ones? Snap and scream or shut my mouth and walk away? Paper or plastic? From the mundane to the life-changing, choices are a part of our cognizance every day.

I know the routine of a stay-at-home-mom becomes old really quickly. Believe me- I get it. The first six months or so is one big ball of same ol' same ol'. Bottle. Diaper. Swaddle. Nap. Wake. Bottle. Diaper. Swaddle. Nap. Then, he turns 1, and your day is one big word NO. In the 2s, it becomes "Let's see how many questions we can answer in one day" time. The 3s, "We don't put your baby brother in a closet and shut the door" time. The 4s, "I have no idea where your cowboy boots are, so please stop crying about it" time. And so forth, and so on. It's hard to see past the phase you're in... it feels like it's your sentence until eternity comes. Right? Like, you'll never, ever sleep again when your newborn is waking up 32,786 times at night, or you'll never, ever be able to dress your three year old without her having a tantrum about the tag scratching her neck, even when she's 17. But the funny thing is, time passes. My dear friend Sam posted this quote the other day, and it's one of the truest things I have ever read... The days are long but the years are short. From the time your little one wakes until she goes to bed can feel like a snail crossing the continental USA... but from Christmas to Christmas feels like the snap of a finger.

When I looked across my office this morning and saw that little boy playing in his jumpy car, I paused for a second as my eyes took in the landscape made out of the trail of paraphernalia that comes with a baby. And for a second, I saw more than a baby jumping in a plastic vehicle. I am a little tired this morning... he was up more than usual last night. I'm a little crabby this morning... my eyes need a little more shut time. I'm a little hormonal this morning... I think my "friend" is coming to visit me soon. But past all that, I saw a man. The man that he will become. Somehow, in just a split second, we flew through infancy, elementary school, sports practices, field trips, sweaty smells, pizzas eaten, ceremonies attended... and I saw that this mundane moment is a building block in the person he will become. That the very hands that he's using to slowly grab that flashing toy attached to his jumpy car will be the very hands that will brush his wife's hair out of her eye as she delivers my grandchildren. There's more to the moment than just the moment. The moment is a step in his giant future.

As I write this, I'm acutely aware that just down the road from here, a friend I've never met in person is sitting in a waiting room while her infant daughter is undergoing her second brain surgery this week. (You can read Joss's story here) That just a few miles from where I sit, her view is much different from mine. Her daughter was left with half of a brain after surgeons skillfully removed the diseased half that was tormenting her with crippling seizures. This mama also buried her 14 year old son 7 short months ago. And while the view of her baby girl, all bandaged and swollen is heartbreaking and way less than her dream ever was for her eyes to behold, the view of her son is only in her memory bank. Yet this mama chooses to forage ahead, her eyes fixed on a perspective I pray none of us ever have to choose... a perspective that says one day, she will have her heart's desire met and hear her little girl say "Mama." And a perspective that says one day, far beyond these earthly bounds, she will touch her son again. And while I'm certain there have been and will be even more nights where she cries herself to sleep, she chooses her perspective with a grace and elegance I've never seen before.

Her perspective gives me back mine. That sleep deprivation and PMS are part of the natural ebb and flow of life. And they will pass.

What's your view today? It's more than what you're looking at.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just ASK.

I like mysteries.

Give me Netflix, a rainy day, no kids (when does that happen?), my leaf blanket, and my comfy couch, and I can go for hours without getting up- watching real life mysteries and trying my best to solve the crime before the 45 minutes are up. In fact, some of my best memories are of me and my sister (who was in middle school at the time) watching Unsolved Mysteries together, but only in the day time, because if we watched them at night, the missing serial killer would for sure end up in OUR yard and wreak havoc on us with his hook hand and creepy mask. (Oh, I should add here-- when my sister was in 7th grade, I was 22).

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for amateur sleuths like me is when there's just no answer to be found. I. Hate. That. It's frustrating to me that no one knows where the heck Jimmy Hoffa ended up. What's the deal with the Bermuda Triangle? Was Natalie Wood killed or was her drowning accidental? How the heck do those crop circles happen? But perhaps the greatest mystery of all comes in the smallest package.


We are given these children at the end of the arduous task of pregnancy and delivery. Our bodies are taxed, pulled, strained, and torn for ten months and then we endure the 8+ hours of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth known as labor-- only to go home with THIS revelation.

I have NO idea what I'm doing.

Life quickly becomes a riddle that apparently only the baby holds the answer to-- and the little booger won't talk. Is he too hot? Too cold? Gassy? Teething? Does her ear hurt? Is that tag itching her? Does she need to be held? Put down? Does he hate green beans or is he just not hungry? Is he behind for his age? Will he every walk? Why does he make that face every time he sees me? Is he scared of the dark or just protesting bed time?

Then, as they find their words, the mystery deepens and the plot thickens. Does "oosh" mean shoes or juice? Does "bah" mean ball or bye? When she says "ah dah... ah DAHHHHH" does that mean "all done" or "you better move before I throw this random ping pong ball into the toilet out of rage"? Does "dee-dah" mean anything at all? And if not, why the HECK does she say it all day long? Why does she eat sweet potatoes like they're going out of style for 6 weeks, until suddenly she acts like they taste like sewage and never touches them again? How can the same brand of diapers that he's worn dryly for months suddenly start leaking like the Hoover Dam?

Predictable unpredictability.

Walker has been a pretty easy baby. Granted, weeks 3-7 were, um... NOT FUN. At all. But once he got his bearings and his tummy settled down, this baby has been a literal ball of fun. He smiles, laughs, coos, and chats all day long- really only crying if he's sleepy. He naps well, generally sleeps awesomely, and plays by himself like a champ. Which is why his sudden collapse of personality puzzled me beyond words.

Here's a mystery.

It was a normal Thursday morning. My friend Bonnie and I took Walker and Legend to the library and then to Walmart. Hunky dory, fine. Bought groceries. Came home. Fed Walker. Put a very happy Walker down for a nap. Two hours later, a very. angry. Walker. awoke. This was like Colic Baby, all over again.

For the next 48 hours, Walker cried. He shrieked, whined, fussed, yelled, cried, and agonized. He had to be upright, bouncing, or being carried around outside to function. Every nap, I'd think, "Oh, he'll be better when he wakes up," only to be greeted with a smile and a scream immediately after.

I was left pulling my hair out in question. His ears? He's drooling alot- is he teething? I thought colic was over-- gas drops help? Needs a walk? His schedule is off? Did he nap enough?

By the second full day, I was in tears as I rocked my baby in the dark quiet of his room. I sat holding my miserable baby and all I knew to do was what I should have done the first very hour of the ordeal. I prayed these words- "Lord, I've done all I know to do. Show me what his problem is so I can fix it."

I promise you, it wasn't even two minutes later when it hit me.
We had changed his formula.

Since the Colic Baby days, we had him on the Target brand of Similac Sensitive. Because of the convenience of being at Walmart that day, I grabbed their store brand of the same formula, thinking- hey, generic is generic... what's the difference? (Even though my friend Bonnie, who was with me said it was a bad idea). I fed him a bottle of that formula just before his nap on Thursday. He awoke fussy and it went downhill from there. The next 48 hours, he ate the bad formula and was in sheer misery the whole time. After the nap when I had prayed this prayer, I remembered I had a tiny container in my diaper bag with a couple of scoops of the Target formula in it. When nap time was over, I fed him that formula, and Happy Baby returned.

He's been here ever since.

There's a verse found in James 1:5 that says If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men liberally. Let me tell you something. I am convinced that there is no more genuine, no more sincere of a prayer than the one a mom prays for her child. And I'm convinced a mother has an audience with God that is unlike any other audience He gives-- after all, it's been said that a mother's love most closely mimics His. And whether it's unexplainable crying, a rash that makes her miserable, or sending your child off to college, that moment itself is real. And it's legit. And it's tangible.

And right then, it's all that matters in the heart of God.

So how then? In moments of fear or in areas of indecision, how do we hear the heart of God? It's simple, really. We ask. And then, we listen. To our "intuition". To common sense. To the process of elimination. And if we still have no answers, we quiet our minds and hearts and let the Peace of all peace take over until logic is out of the way.

And we take comfort in the fact that God loves our children. More than we can or ever will. And He holds the answers to all dilemmas. Especially ones that concern us or our babies.

He cares about the birds that fly. And the flowers of the field. And the brand of formula that makes your baby's tummy hurt.

If you find yourself scratching your head and unable to solve a mystery that has your heart in turmoil and your children in misery, how about you turn on Jack and the Neverland Pirates, park your little ones in front of the TV with a bowl of Goldfish crackers, and sit in silence. Listen to your heart. In the quiet, He speaks.

You may find the answer to two or three questions. If you'll just ask.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fathers vs. Daddies.

So, this Sunday is Father's Day.

I am well aware that while one of my favorite Sundays of the year brings me delight every time it comes around, I am also keenly aware that when the sun rises this Sunday, the holiday holds the power to peel scabs off of wounds found in the hearts of many men, women, boys, and girls.

I love to see men following the blueprint God designed for their lives. And I love daddies. Let's be clear. Daddies are different from fathers. Anyone who knows someone who is "just" a father knows exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, the difference between fathers and daddies is as vast as comparing the Grand Canyon to a pothole. Apples and oranges. Cats and dogs. Boys and girls. You get the point.

What's my wish for this particular blog post? Oh, my wish is simple today. My wish is that this blog will be printed out and distributed to men who have the opportunity in front of them to right some wrongs. Men who maybe need a pat on the back for a job done well. Men who haven't fathered or daddied anyone yet, but have the blank canvas of parenthood in front of them.

But it's mainly to put a spur in the saddle of any man who finds himself being less than all his kids need him to be, and more importantly- less than he was designed to be.

A father shares his "seed" in a moment of passion- whether genuinely or selfishly motivated.
A daddy steps up when the moment is over.

A father works overtime to make extra income for the family.
A daddy knows when quality time is the extra income his family needs.

A father cares about his last name being on the birth certificate.
A daddy gives his name to a child he didn't create.

A father comes home after a long day at the office and puts his feet up.
A daddy comes home and gives Mommy a break- because her job isn't 9-5.

A father raises his children and starts the second half of his life.
A daddy realizes only one phase of his job is over at graduation.

A father may have a hard time with giving affection.
A daddy realizes that if he's not affectionate with his daughter, she'll find someone who will be.

A father sits in the stands and criticizes his son's every effort.
A daddy takes him out for ice cream and then home for one-on-one practice.

A father may have to travel for business.
A daddy makes sure his presence is felt in his home, whether he's there or on the other side of the planet.

A father carries a picture of his kids in his wallet.
A daddy has a story to go along with each face he shows off.

A father's eyes may wander.
A daddy trains his eyes to look at one woman for the rest of his life.

A father hopes his kids aren't looking.
A daddy lives the same life whether they are looking or not.

A father gives instructions.
A daddy models them.

A father demands respect.
A daddy's very life commands it.

A father makes his own choices because he can.
A daddy filters every single decision through the filter of what his choice will mean for his family.

A father builds a retirement account.
A daddy makes sure there's good memories to accompany the funds.

Twice in this life, I've known the love of an earthly father. Once from my own sweet childhood- from a daddy who didn't get it right every time, but always did in the areas that count, and who is pretty much as perfect as perfect can get this side of eternity. And again from viewing the love of my husband for his children. The pure, unadulterated affection that can't help but spill from his every move toward them. I am convinced that inside every man there is a part of himself that only awakens when he becomes a father- and that part of him turns into a daddy the first moment he holds his child.

The other day, Rod's heart was broken by our sweet girl when she chose not to kiss him goodbye for one of the first times in front of her friends. I ached for him as I saw the literal rejection he suffered in an innocent moment of growing up. I wish I could let him see the future as I have lived the past- how there will be times that Big Strong Daddy will be an embarrassment and an eye-sore... that his very presence, while representing the safety and security our kids crave and desperately need, will also represent boundaries and rules they will hate. I wish I could assure him that the very arms Abi rejected will be the ones she will collapse into when a boy breaks her heart. That she will love her husband with all her heart, soul, and body- but she will take a person out with one arm tied behind her back if someone messes with her daddy. That when she's 30-something and raising her own children, there will be times when she will catch a whiff of her daddy's cologne out in public, and her heart will melt.

I want my husband to know that while I find him irresistibly attractive and handsome- every time I see him playing "doopies" on the floor with Walker, or hear him on the baby monitor changing a diaper while talking softly to our baby boy, I fall head over heels in love with him all over again. Everytime he's headed out the door to pick up Abi from school and he grabs her favorite snack and a cold bottle of water for her, I notice. When he talks to Abi about the shade of green her eyes are, I want to kiss him. And when he's hurt her feelings and he apologizes, I smile. When we're in public and I see other people observing the tenderness that my Grizzly Man unashamedly shows his wife and children, my heart swells with pride. What a man.

As I am writing this, Walker is sitting in my lap, trying to get a yellow highlighter into his mouth, unaware that in the next room, the ticket to his manhood is working at his own desk on Sunday's children's church lesson. Unaware of the deep laughter they'll share. Oblivious of the heart-to-heart talks that will keep them up into the night. Unseen are the ballgames, campouts, and fishing trips- the mysteries they will solve about women, the inside jokes that only they will get, the straight lines they will walk together through adolescence and young adulthood. Walker is unaware that his father- the one who gave him life- will also help him make his life worth living.

His father is a daddy.

That makes all the difference.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Adjustment

So, I'm into the groove of this two-kid thing. It's quite different than one. And the bigger challenge is having two kids in two different time zones of life. I've had the moments of "What the HECK were we thinking" when I reflect on how before February 26, I had a child who could make her own PBJ, wipe her own bottom, and clean her own room. Now, I have one who thinks she's 16 and one who can't sit without blankets and towels wedged around him, and whose chubby neck has to be daily cleaned out of milk junk.
I adore them both.

Alot of people ask me how Abi is adjusting... How we are ALL adjusting to the 8 year gap between my babies. Well, aside from the 2.935 days that passed between their births and how very, VERY much the world has changed in those almost 3000 days, here's a few differences we're experiencing.

Abi loves him.
He loves her.

I am adjusting to the fact that:
One kid can count coins.
The other is just now able to get a toy to his mouth 50% of the time.

One kid gets into our bed at 3:00 am.
The other one gets some milk and goes back to his own bed.

One kid isn't crazy about hugging her parents in front of her friends.
The other loves us so much, he spits on our clothes.

One kid watches old re-runs of Full House.
The other one watches me like I'm his favorite show.

One kid turns acrobatic flips in the air on her trampoline.
The other one arches his back in an effort to get down all the time, even though he has no ability to do anything but lie there if he does get down.

One kid gets an Adele song stuck in her head and sings it for days at a time.
The other one says, "Ummmm blahhhh" and "heeeeeee" over and over. And over. And over.

One kid like to spread out and take up half the bed.
The other one likes to be straightjacketed in a swaddle every single time he sleeps.

One kid would like to be at sleepovers at ANYONE'S house all the time.
The other one likes to be wherever his mama is.

They are total opposites.

Abi never drooled. Walker drools and bubbles all the time. Abi hardly ever cried. Walker had pretty nasty colic for a few weeks. (Thank GOD that's over). Abi melted at the sight of Rod. Walker is a puddle for me. Abi ate 3 ounces of milk until she was about 6 months old. Walker eats 6 ounces of cereal and milk every night and he's only 3 months. Abi ate every 3 hours or so until she was close to 10 months old. Walker sleeps all night most nights, or wakes up for one quick feeding.

These two will not be on the same page for many years to come. She will be driving a car and he will be in 2nd grade. She will be graduating and he won't even be in middle school yet. She'll get married and he will be trying to figure out where he wants to go to college. She will be settling into motherhood and Walker will be studying for college exams or (my dream) playing football for Auburn.

But somehow, along the way-- they will become friends. It happened to me and my own sister, who is 10 years younger than me. And though my kids have such vast differences and will for all their lives, they also share some great commonalities.

They both were prayed for and waited on for seven years each.
They both have magical eyes that dance when they smile.
They both consume my thoughts, my decisions, and my consciousness.
They both were created out of love.
They both have the ability to make me feel like I'm losing my mind while at the same time making my heart explode with thankfulness.
They both gave me a purpose I never knew I had.
They both are so freaking beautiful, it hurts my eyes.
They both laugh from their souls.
They both bring love and life wherever they are.
They both make me realize I wasn't living before they came.
They are both MINE. And I will love them until my last breath.
And most importantly, they both are loved with the Love of all loves... and were handwoven by His hand for His pleasure.

And one day, when we get to Heaven, I want to see the DVD of the momentS those precious hearts started beating. I am convinced that those two moments were God's very favorite ones since Creation.

I know they are mine. Both of them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Walker's Earth Assignment

So, this little guy is a riot. Not like "life-of-the-party-rolling-on-floor-laughing" riot... More like, old-soul, been-here-before- riot. Like, you expect him to philosophize on the weather or gas prices with his wrinkled forehead. Also like "I know more than I'm telling you" riot.

I laugh at him all the time.

Let me clarify. Now that we are past the constant colic screaming days, I laugh. He is so utterly adorable, and his persistent seriousness makes his rare smiles and coos even more delicious.

He carries an air about him that he is tolerating us mortals- that he is just trying to figure out why the heck he was sent here, and how he's going to best cope with the arrangement he has been given. So, to laugh at this funny little man of mine, I have decided to share some of his most hilarious photogenic moments, along with the fitting captions of Walker's thoughts on his earthly assignment. (caption below its appropriate picture).

Day One: They have laid me with some creature five times my size and irritatingly loud. I don't like this creature they call "Legend." Pretty sure he's trying to eat my head.

Day Two: The older female seems nice enough, though she does put her lips on my face quite a bit. The younger one is also nice, but I'm not sure she thinks I'm real. I seem to be some kind of novelty item to her. Anyway, the man who took this picture called my name and I went along with it, just to entertain them for a while.

Day Five: My captors seem to like this strange item in my mouth whenever I get angry at them. They think I'm oblivious to the fact that there's no liquid coming out of it, but I am not. Again, I go along with their silly game to keep them happy. The bright light in my eyes startled me here. I'm not sure I like this place as well as my last home.

Day Ten: I am being wrapped up like a burrito when the sun goes down. Every. Single. Day. I don't know what I've done to inflict this type of punishment upon myself, but it must involve my arms, as they are constantly being tacked down to my sides.

Day Twelve: I am being held hostage in a cocoon of some sort. These flailing items they call "arms" are always in my way. I have thought about gnawing them off, but I think they will be valuable to me later on in my assignment. For the time being, I am stuck with them by my head when I lay in this bed/cocoon thing.

Day Fifteen: The Bearded Man is very kind. His voice is soothing and gentle, much like the Man I previously lived with before I started this assignment. I have a feeling the Bearded Man and I will be friends for a long time. He lets me lay on him and that makes me really happy inside.

Day Twenty-three: The woman that feeds me most of the time talks to me like I'm uneducated. However, every once in a while, she gives me something to think about.

Day Thirty: The Bearded Man has some wisdom. So far, I've been most impressed with what he has to say versus the females in my residence.

Day Thirty-two: The older female, which I'll call the Feeder Woman in my residence seems to think I am a danger to myself just because these things they call "fingers" scratched my face up and made me bleed. I am very disturbed that I have been strapped into this box/seat mechanism, and have my hands wrapped up just because of a few minor incidences.

Day Thirty-three: Does anyone see this? HELP! TOO CLOSE! TOOOOO CLOSE!

Day Thirty-four: I snapped today and had a moment of weakness, which they call silliness.

Day Thirty-six: I was trying to show the younger female that out "there," is a world we can escape into without the Bearded Man and the Feeder Woman trying to make us do things we don't want to do. Somehow the Younger Female hasn't quite learned my language. But she's catching on a little at a time.

Day Thirty-seven: Why are they always strapping me down?

Day Thirty-nine: I have hope that I will one day be able to hold my head up on my own, without wobbling.

Day Forty-one: The Bearded Man and I had some time alone without the females. I think he understands me. Again, I am happy. And again, I have the milkless nipple in my mouth. I'm onto them.

Day Forty-two: The large people call this a "family" and apparently I am part of it. That's okay with me. Most of the time.

Day Forty-three: At least I have these friends to keep me company.

Day Forty-three part 2: I long to go outside and wait for the mothership to come take me back.

GOSH, this boy is an adventure already! Stay tuned for more Adventures from Walker's Earth Assignment. I'm so glad to be his mom. And so glad to document this wild life for him!