When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


Happy, happy birthday, baby!

My baby is not a baby anymore.  We went to his one year check-up today.
Walking? No.
Cruising? Yes.
Introduced table food? Yes (Like six months ago.  Baby food is too much work.  Sorry, Jack.)
Talking?  Barely.  (Says 4 words, signs 5.)
Sleeping?  Eh...(Between teething, ear infections, and mom becoming a total softy, I'm up more than I'd care to admit.)

You got a passing grade.  The doctor said you looked good, needed a few shots, and we could be on our way.

I know these doctors see a thousand kids a day.  They know all the milestones and markers, signs and symptoms.  But they don't know you.

Not like mommy does.  Can I take a minute to tell you about your little one-year-old self? 

When I open your door in the morning you are standing and bouncing, reaching your tiny arms toward me.  What a wonderful way to start the day!

You still take a "bah-bah," as you like to call it, filled with soy milk (since you are allergic to cow's milk).  You love to eat and throw food.  Most of your meals end up on the floor.  After you've had your fill, you sign "finished" and eagerly await your release from your highchair so you can wreak havoc on the rest of the kitchen, emptying the cabinets, raiding the pantry, searching for bits of food on the floor.

You love to be tickled.  You giggle uncontrollably when your brother plays peek-a-boo with you in the van.  You smile when you see your sister.  You call for me all day long, "Mama, Mama, MAMA!!!"  You give the best hugs, wrapping your little arms tightly around my neck and laying your head on my shoulder.  You are a cuddle bug. 

Your nickname is Coo-coo-nu-nu.  Parker gave it to you a few months ago.  No one really knows why, but we all use it now.  Sometimes it gets shortened to "kook" or "kookster." 

You love to climb stairs, suck on rocks, and splash in the toilet.  (We keep all the lids down now.)  You are so happy and charming.  Everyone comments on your sweet disposition.  I love taking you places.  You flirt with everyone, smiling, shyly looking away, only to smile at them again and giggle.  Oh, you are trouble

You have stolen my heart.  Thankfully, I have more than one!  Parker and Maddie were just a bit concerned before you were born about how mommy could have enough love for another baby.  I explained that God gives mommies (and daddies) a brand new heart each time they have a new baby, just for that baby.  I've got several in my chest these days.  Perhaps that's why it's hard to breathe when I look at the three of you.  My hearts swell and my chest tightens when I think of just how blessed I am to be called mom, to get to watch the story of your life unfold, and even get to mould it in my own little way. 

I love you, Coo-coo-nu-nu.  Happy birthday, dear boy.



I have a confession...I.love.feet.

Not all feet.  Very specific feet.  I LOVE my kids' feet.  I love to tickle them, nibble them, smell them and pretend to gag.  I love, love, love them. 

Though my kids' feet are my favorite, my obsession with feet began years ago, with their father.  Aaron has beautiful feet.  "Jesus feet," I used to call them...with "lollipop toes."  Allow me to explain:  I was raised Catholic and have seen my fair share of crucifixes.  Statues of the crucified Christ always had beautiful feet. 

Similarly, Aaron has lovely feet.  They are soft and slender but masculine at the same time.  His toes are long (but not too long) and slightly rounded on the ends, hence the term "lollipop toes." 

My feet?  Not so pretty.  I have always secretly hoped our children would inherit their dad's feet.  Only time will tell.

I love watching the progression of the kids' growth simply by looking down.

First, there is the impossibly soft newborn foot.  Oh, how I love newborn feet!  Minuscule toenails, bright pink flesh.  They somehow seem skinnier than they ought to be if one were to judge by the fluffy infant socks that slip off so easily.  I love the way they curve inward, still mimicking their cramped position in the womb.  Stroking the bottom of a newborn foot is like stroking pure silk.

Then there are baby feet.  Suddenly that narrow foot has expanded and ballooned out on all sides. Even the top is puffy with baby fat.  Chubby toes line up, like sausages in a row, just begging to be eaten, or at least nibbled.  The best part is the tiny bubble on the bottom of the big toe that disappears not long after the first steps begin.

All too soon those baby feet become toddler feet.  If it's summer, those feet are likely to be brown on the bottom from running barefoot outside.  They get dirty under the still-tiny toenails.  They are still fat and squishy, but now their kick packs a punch when tickled.

Then suddenly those toddler feet are wrapped in socks and shoes, bundled up for preschool and playgrounds.  They escape for afternoon naps and bedtime and still require much tickling and kissing (at least in our house, because, well, I love feet).

And now, my oldest son has graduated to the smelly phase.  He wears socks and shoes at home and school.  He runs and plays and sweats all day.  On particularly busy days, you might catch him taking a nap.  He's usually so exhausted he falls asleep across his bed, still wearing his sneakers.  By the end of the day, when we peel off those shoes, I don't have to pretend to gag.  I still grab his ankle, and growl loudly (like a hungry giant), "Let me smell those feet!" and bury my face in his toes.  Whew!  He laughs and laughs.  "Do it again mommy!" 

Is every family this weird?  (Don't answer that.)


Thank you, Hands Free Mama

A few months ago, I was turned onto another blog by a good friend.  It's called Hands Free Mama, and it's all about one mom's journey to let go (of all the unimportant things) "to grasp what really matters." I liked the blog and thought I was doing a pretty good job of what she was describing...until yesterday.

She had a post about having a "worthwhile" summer with your kids.  She was challenging me to do summery things with the kids.  I began to ask myself, what opportunities am I missing this summer (as I tackle cleaning the basement or organize a closet).  How would the kids remember this summer?  How would I remember it?

Then, of course, my mind took off.  Forget summer, what other opportunities have I been missing with them?  How many times have the kids asked me to play something with them only to get the same response, "Sure, honey, I'd love to...Right after I finish ________"?  I realized that they had stopped asking as frequently. 

What I first saw a sign of maturity (independent play), I now began to question:  Did they stop asking because they never got a real "yes"?  Tears stung my eyes as I read her post.  I ran up the steps and released them from quiet time early.

"Want to play?" I asked nervously.  What if they said no?  Luckily, children are very forgiving. 

Their little eyes widened.  "Yes!" they shouted.  And, oh, have we played since then.

We have had water Olympics in the wading pool, planted herbs, caught a caterpillar and built it a makeshift home on the porch (filled to the brim with all the leaves it could eat in a lifetime), had several water gun fights, you name it!

There is laundry wrinkling in my dryer.  There are stacks of papers in my room.  There is avocado stuck to Jack's highchair, but my heart is peaceful today.  Today I am confident I managed my time and responsibilities well.   

There was no argument as I sent the kids up to quiet time this afternoon.  I think it's because they are tired (in a very good way) and realizing I am not sending them up there because I want a break from them so I can get to the important stuff.  They are the important stuff.  I think that's the big takeaway.  All the other details of my life won't matter a bit in a hundred years.  What will matter is a legacy of love. 

Did my children recognize they (along with Aaron and God) matter most in my life?  Will they look back at their childhood and remember me constantly on the phone or computer or cleaning something, or will they see me bending down to peer in their eyes and listen to the very important things they have to say?  How often do they see me with an impatient frown on my face as I wait for them to finish what they are saying or doing?  How tragic! 

But today is a new day.  When quiet time is over, we are building a fort in the living room.  We'll eat popcorn and watch a cartoon during the rain storm.  Then, per Parker's suggestion, we'll decorate the kitchen to "celebrate all the races dad's won" (though, he's never actually won a race, to my knowledge).

I am determined to celebrate the rest of the summer with these crazy kids.  Thank you, Hands Free Mama, for the much-needed reminder of what summer (and motherhood) is all about!




(This post is a little out of order...I wrote it about 2 weeks ago.)

We've spent the last few days indoors.  It's sunny and gorgeous, but we are inside due to the severity of Jack's rash (see below).

Poor little guy!  The doctor thinks it's an allergic reaction to the penicillin he was given for his ear infection last week.  He just can't catch a break.  Luckily, it doesn't seem to bother him.  However, it really flares up in the heat.

Of course I allow Parker and Maddie to run around outside, but it never lasts long.
"Mommy, come out and push us [on the swing]!"
"Mommy, can you play wif us and chase us outside?"
"MOMMA!  Just put Jack down for a nap!"

I've been trying to figure out some indoor actives that would satisfy all three kids.  Today we went to the Louisville Science Center with Pappy [Aaron's dad].  It was super-fun!  However, even with the help of another adult, it was pretty exhausting. 

We planned our day just so.  Packing baby food, scheduling our departure for just after Jack's morning nap (which, of course, he decided to skip this morning).  We met Pappy at the entrance and utilized our grandparent pass and Imax coupons [double score for this momma who absolutely sucks at couponing].  After one hour of play it was time to schlep everyone to the adjoining Subway for lunch so Parker and Pappy would have time to eat before their 1PM Imax show.  As the kids ate, I ran two blocks to feed the parking meter with the change I got at lunch.  Running back, I scarfed down my sub and then played with Maddie and Jack in the Kid Zone until Parker and Pappy were finished.  Then we played for another half hour or so, and it was time to head home.

As I drove home I reflected on our day thus far.  I was so pleased with our morning!  How wonderful to live in town and have the help of a fabulous grandpa!  Even with all the planning and running, it was a really good time.  I was also really looking forward to our afternoon.  Quiet time for Parker and Maddie, nap for Jack, nap for me...

Then I noticed the silence.  Oh. no.  No! No! NO!  Don't sleep in the van!  C'mon!  I looked in the rear view mirror.  Maddie's eyes were fluttering, and she was rubbing her favorite blanket against her lips.  Parker was zoned out.  Jack's seat doesn't face me.

"Maddie?  Maddie!  Honey, is Jack awake?" trying to keep the frantic edge out of my voice.

"No, Momma.  He's asweep." 

I sighed and tried to maintain my positive attitude.  Okay, so what?  He missed his morning nap.  I'll just put him down right when we get home.  [How many moms out there are already laughing because you know the punch line?]

"Alright guys, listen up.  When we get home, we are going right up to quiet time.  We will get to watch an afternoon show when quiet time is over, but Jack is going to take a nap right away, so I need you to go up the stairs very quietly.  K?"

"Okay mommy."

Then, as it always does, something magical happened when we crossed the threshold of our home: instant amnesia and energy.  Everyone's eyes brightened, all traces of sleepiness gone.  Jack lifted his head from my shoulder and smiled.  The questions began: "Mommy, want to come up to my room and play wif me?  Mommy, can we watch a show? Mommy, can we have a dwink?"

I continued to talk in hushed tones (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I hissed), "Go upstairs.  Quiet time.  Right. Now."

I took a wide-eyed Jack to his room, placed him in his crib, and tiptoed out.  "WAHHHHHH!"  I tiptoed back in, patted him gently, and whispered, "It's naptime.  Time to go night-night.  Time for sleepy time...[Don't you speak English?  How are you not tired yet, demon child...um, angel?]"

I tiptoed out again and stood with my head against his closed door.  I could hear him playing in his crib.  "Bwahb, bwahb, duh dud duh!"  I knew he wasn't going to sleep.  However, I knew that if I wanted to survive until Aaron got home I would have to.

I went downstairs, closed myself in my room, shut the curtains and lay in bed.  "Bwahb!  Bwahb! BWAHB!"  I reached for the noise-cancelling headphones.  (I think Aaron uses them for shooting.) 

Ahhhh....Suddenly there was silence.  I set the bedside alarm for 15 minutes. 

BEEP! BEEP!  BEEP!  I sat up, confused.  Where was that light coming from?  Who was that?  A tall figure was illuminated in the doorway.  I quickly slammed my hand down on the alarm, ripped off the headphones, and squinted to see a very puzzled looking Aaron staring at me.  He had his head tilted toward the stairs (where one could hear children playing rather loudly and a baby who sounded like he might just cry at any moment).

Caught!  "What are you doing home?"  "Wait, honey, let me explain!"  Aaron came home early, and here I was, taking a nap (with headphones on, no less) while our three children fended for themselves upstairs.  The scene could not have been more damning...well, I guess I could have been noshing some bon-bons and watching a soap opera.

I hopped out of bed.  I tried to explain that yes, I did use his headphones during quiet time on occasion because we have hardwood floors and Parker and Maddie don't quite grasp the whole "quiet" time concept, but I only used them when Jack was napping...except for today, of course.

As he climbed the stairs to fetch our now-crying baby, I continued my defense.  I outlined our busy day and explained that Jack napped in the van and hadn't taken a morning nap, and I promise I don't just throw him in his crib and sleep for hours. I...I...

"Sure, sure."  Aaron gave me a teasing smile and a hug. 

I still can't figure out if he believes me.

Berry picking

I seem to remember in some anthropology class long, long ago (in a galaxy far far away from my children) the professor talking about differences between men and women and the ways in which those differences assisted early man.  For example, women's eyes are more attuned to fine details, making us excellent berry-pickers.  Let the men go out and hunt, and leave the details to us.  This little differnce can be infuriating at times.  I notice the dust in the house and the small trashs can that need emptying eons before Aaron.  My mom always says, "Men see outside the nest, and women see inside."  She is so right!  He wants to care for the yard, cars, general upkeep of the house.  Meanwhile, I am gazing at the unswept floors and dirty bathrooms. 

Only recently did I realize just how narrow my focus had become...

Last week the kids and I went to the zoo with several extended family members.  (I have learned my limits, and taking my 3 to the zoo alone is too daunting a task at this stage of the game!)

We were sitting on the benches in the splash park area, watching the kids happily run (or crawl, as the case may be) in circles.  I had my eyes on Jack, Mom watched Parker, and Grandpa watched Maddie.  All bases were covered. 

"I love the ice on the buildings," mom mused.

I squinted.  What?  It was 90+ degrees.  What was she talking about?  Then I followed her gaze and noticed fake ice hangning from the roofs of the nearby building facades. 

"I never noticed that," I mumbled to myself.  I blinked hard and looked around.  The kids were playing near some sort of pretend ship.  That much I knew.  I had never (in any of our many, many visits) noticed the details of this area.  It was an arctic ship.  Jack was splashing near some creature.  If someone had asked me prior to this visit, I would have said it was perhaps a seal.  No, it was a giant, white polar bear!  I was literally shocked at the number of adorable (and obvious) details that had previously escaped my attention. 

At first I thought, What is wrong with me??   Why had I not noticed and enjoyed this wonderful place before?  Why had I had such tunnel vision?  I assured myself that it was because I had to look after my children closely.  It was too dangerous to let my eyes wander and take it all in. 

In some ways, that was true.  It was important to keep a close watch on the kids.  But in other ways, it was a cop out.  I'm wasn't seeing the forest for the trees.  I began to wonder about other things I might be missing...

When we got home that day, I prayed that God would change my perspective and open my eyes to the bigger picture.  I prayed my tunnel vision would diminish and that I could soak in all the beauty and wonders I had been missing.  

Then I walked down into our basement.  *Sigh.*  Utter chaos.  Toys strewn everywhere.  Why can't these kids get out one toy at time?  I wondered grumpily.  I began to sweep aside a pile of Lincoln Logs with my foot, when I stopped. 

What was that?  I looked closer.  A super-hero mansion had almost been destroyed by my carelessness.  Each character had his/her own room.  Clearly, Parker (and possibly Maddie) had taken a great deal of time and effort to make this mini-masterpiece.  I was so glad I saw it!  For once, my tunnel vision paid off.

I immediately altered my prayer: Lord, please improve my vision.  Help me to expand my focus when it is too narrow and to zero in on the imortant stuff [like a super-hero Lincoln Log castle].  Amen.