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.