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


12/12/13

Thanks for having us over...

Dear Jesus,

I just wanted to write a quick thank you note to say thanks for inviting us over today.  As you know, it was a very busy day.  After we dropped Maddie off at preschool, we had to run to the post office to deliver a package, then to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner, veggies for the tray at the prayer group tonight, lunch for Maddie (since we thought it was a half day, and of course, it wasn't), and a gift for the preschool director (which we forgot to buy and had to since today was the last day of her school for the year).  Whew!  We made it back to Maddie's preschool (housed in a church) in just over an hour.  That gave me time to get a front row seat, feed Caleb before the other parents arrived, and take Jack to the potty.

With Caleb strapped into the carrier on my chest, I snapped pictures of a beaming Maddie as she smiled sweetly in her angel costume and sang each line of every song just perfectly.  Meanwhile, Jack was distracted by the stickers and paper I had tucked in the diaper bag.  Despite his virus and ear infection, Caleb didn't make a peep.

After the program, we dropped off Maddie's lunch in her classroom and headed toward the van.  I allowed Jack to dawdle on the snowy lawn as I loaded Caleb and the stroller in the van.  I was shaking my head in amazement at the smoothness of our day when it dawned on me that I was standing in Your front yard.

Of course, it had been easy.  I wasn't alone.  You were with me the entire time.  No doubt, you soothed Caleb's sore ears while simultaneously (and miraculously) keeping the ever-active Jack in his seat.  So thank you, Lord.  Thank you for helping me even though I'd forgotten to ask.  Thank you for coming with me when we left Your house, riding in the van to take us home, to pick up Maddie again, walking with us to get Parker from school, joining us on our visit to the doctor and then the pharmacy.  Thank you for giving Caleb that extra long nap so I could prepare dinner.  Thank you for coming to prayer group and bringing us safely home again.  Thank you for everything.

And one more thing: tomorrow, when I start my day trying to do it all on my own again, would you please remind me that I don't have to??  Thanks!

11/24/13

The Great Great Wolf Lodge

We recently went to a Great Wolf Lodge with the kids for the first time.  We had been promising the trip for about six months, you know as part of the whole, "C'mon kids, you're going to love living in Dallas...They have that cool indoor waterpark hotel called Great Wolf Lodge there.  Yeah, sure we can go!"  Then of course we moved to Dallas and learned that one night at Great Wolf was about the equivalent of one year of college tuition.  Okay, so I'm exaggerating...a little.  It took me months to find a decent price.  Finally, the day had come, and we were all so excited!

While we were there, I discovered something amazing...

I could enjoy vacation.  With kids!  Crazy, right?  But it was true!  The first "vacation" we took after becoming parents was torturous.  It was a large, extended family affair.  While everyone else slept through the night and well into the morning, we were up feeding a two month old.  As people lounged in bikinis all around me, I was self consciously trying to hide my post-pregnancy body.  I was anxious every time the baby cried, which was a lot.  You get the idea.   It was a far cry from the relaxing, exciting, romantic trips Aaron and I were accustomed to taking.

Fast forward about six years.  Add three more kids.  Throw in two parents who have learned that the real joy of vacation is not about personal pleasure and relaxation - at least not in this season of our lives... The real joy comes from the children themselves.  From the smiles and shrieks of joy as they bounce on hotel beds.  From the wonder in their eyes as they behold something never seen before.  From the wild, circular running and dancing - a physical inability to contain their excitement.  From the soft, sweet head resting heavily on my shoulder at the end of the day.  From warm little bodies tucked in close to mine, the blissful sighs, the "I love you's," and the sound of air softly entering and exiting four tiny noses.

Were there fights?  Yes.  Meltdowns?  Of course.  Was it worth every penny and every second of planning, packing, and working?  You bet your bottom dollar!

11/16/13

Bouncy House Bliss

Jack was half asleep.  Caleb needed to eat.  And we were already running late for a bouncy house birthday party.

It had been a busy day.  Good busy, but still busy.  Aaron and I were tired.  Though we loved the birthday boy and his family, neither of us were looking forward to another activity.

Aaron opted to stay home with sleepy Jack and hungry Caleb.  I grumbled my way to the van with the older two.  Fifteen minutes later were were greeted by the bright lights and blaring music of the indoor bounce park.  Sigh.

"Mom, can I have some tokens to play that shooting game?"  "Watch me!  Watch me bounce!"  I was silently cursing Aaron.  As Parker blasted through space aliens, Maddie and I wandered over to the claw machine.  A group of hopeful children, faces pressed against the glass, were sighing with disappointment each time the claw ascended without a prize.  Frustrated parents attempted to shoo them away.

I watched, mesmerized.  Didn't that little brown bear just pull loose?  I'm sure that with 2 more tokens I could win it for Maddie if these little squirts would scram.  Um, I mean, if these darling children would kindly give me a turn.  As the other children lost interest, I feigned boredom and held back.  Maddie was pulling on my arm.  "Mommy, come watch me on the princess slide!"  "Just a minute, sweetie.  Mommy will be right there…"  She headed toward the giant slide just as I inserted my tokens.

Then, out of nowhere a sweet little girl who could have been no more than two came up and began to manhandle my controls.  I plastered a smile on my face.  "May I have a turn?" I asked sweetly.  The blinking numbers were counting down.  Only 20 seconds left.  I began to wrestle the controls.  She thought it was a game and pulled harder.  Clearly she didn't know with whom she was dealing.  10 seconds.  I was embarrassed that I was clearly wrestling with a two year old (and losing) when it finally occurred to me to give her the empty token cup.  "Here, Sweetie.  Hold on to this tightly.  Both hands!  Good girl."  Victory!

Followed quickly by defeat.  My perfectly placed claw emerged sans bear.  Deflated, I began to look for Maddie.  I saw Parker hanging around the gun game, but Maddie was nowhere in sight.  She wasn't on the princess slide.  My heart began to race.  It was a small space.  There weren't a lot of people.  Still.  She wasn't in the next bounce tent or the next or the next.  Why didn't I watch her go down the princess slide?  She didn't even want that bear.  What was I thinking?  Why was I wasting my time, our time?  Finally I caught a glimpse of her climbing through a tunnel.

"Maddie!"  She ran up to me, smiling.  I picked her up and twirled her around.  "Maddie, I'm really sorry I didn't come and watch you slide on the princess slide when you asked.  Mommy was being silly.  I'm sorry."

"That's okay," she replied quickly.  "You can watch me now!"  We headed back to the huge pink and white monstrosity and I watched her and cheered for her over and over until she was too tired to go anymore.  She joined me on the nearby bench and curled into my lap.

Suddenly, I was ecstatic to be at the party.  It's so easy for me to take my kids for granted.  To assume I know what they want instead of giving them what they are so clearly requesting: me.   It's both humbling and wonderful to realize that Maddie just wants me.  I forget that she is still so little and innocent partly because she is in fact, so big (in the 90th percentile for height and weight in her age group).

So tonight, I hugged my little big girl tightly and thanked God for our busy day and the lessons He allows me to learn, even amidst the chaos of a bouncy house party.

11/4/13

Pity Party

1:30 AM: Enter sniveling child.  "Mommy, my bed is wet."
"Did you pee?"
"No, I'm just hot.  And my pj's felt all wet.  And I changed them.  But I still can't sleep.  And I'm hot."
"Lay a towel over your pillow, don't cover up, and go back to bed."

Silence.  Sleep begins to descend again…."WAAAAAAA!!!!"

My feet hit the floor.  I am scowling as I rush toward the room, hissing for said child to "Hush up!" before she wakes the entire house.  I enter the darkened room and the smell hits me like a wall just as my feet slip in the squishy bits of disgustingness on the floor.  I fumble for the light.  How on earth can a child so small produce so much vomit?

I am frowning.  Really?  Really?!  This week?  When Aaron will be gone for days.  Can't wait to see who else will get sick.   Bet the washing machine will wake the baby tonight…On and on and on.  My thoughts are on a runaway train.  My mental pity party has officially begun.

As I work to strip the bed, I notice poor Maddie in the corner of my eye, shivering, watching me closely, tearful.  I am certain she sees the sneer on my face.  The sneer at the foul smell, at the middle of the night waking, at the inconvenience…I stop.  Oh, honey.

I am finding that in every situation, there is a turning point.  There is a moment when I am allowed a glimpse of my behavior and then a choice.  Is this who I want to be?  Is this who God is calling me to be?  At that moment, I can choose selfishness and ugliness, or I can choose grace and peace.

My heart and expression begin to soften.  I speak in a soothing voice and lead her to the bathroom where I clean her hair and face in the tub.  She is crying that she is angry with herself for getting sick.  My heart aches.  "It's okay, sweetie.  It happens to all of us.  It's not your fault.  It's no problem."  Her sniffling stops and she begins to relax.

Towels on the stripped bed, hair in a pony tail, fresh pajamas, a bucket on the floor.  I pull a warm blanket up to her chin and tiptoe from the room.

I'm so glad I decided to leave the pity party early.  It was a dud anyway.  Pretty lonely there.  You know that saying, "Misery loves company"?  Well, I think it's a bit misleading.  People don't want to be around misery or miserable people.  They may be drawn to them, like onlookers to a train wreck, but no one really wants to be there.  I certainly don't.

These days, I find myself drawn more toward peace.  Peace, grace, love.  That's where I want to be.  That's where I choose to be.  Thankfully, there's always an open invitation to join that party.

So tonight, at 2:40 AM, as I sit listening to the washing machine running, feeling the wet of my soapy sleeves, and reeking faintly of someone else's, puke, I just want to share a bit of my joy.  I pray you have a peaceful night, too.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Romans 8:37

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

10/31/13

Maddie-deez

Ah my Maddie-deez,

That's what we call you.  Or sometimes just Deezer.  I'm not sure how you acquired that nickname, but it's yours.  Uniquely Maddie.

I am certain every mother considers her daughter special, somehow different from the rest.  And I am no exception.  I believe you are the loveliest, brightest, sweetest girl on the planet.  I wish I could capture your essence in words or even pictures, but I know they will fall woefully short.  Still, being that it is your 5th birthday, I feel compelled to try…

This is an age of baby dolls and Barbies, of Polly Pockets and princesses.  It is a time for darling mispronunciations (e.g. renimber for remember and aminal for animal).  It is a time for tears when you fear you have been left out, for shy moments behind my legs at birthday parties, for storytelling, for singing, and dancing, always dancing.  Pictures have become recognizable, and reading and writing have begun.  Suddenly matching colors has taken on tremendous importance (often resulting in monochromatic outfits).  Messy tangles have been replaced with neatly combed hair, complete with coordinating hair bows (Momma thought she would never see the day!).  Days are filled with magical discoveries, like tiny snails peeking out of miniature shells, rabbits hiding under the trampoline, the busy inner workings of an ant hill opened with a stick.  Anything involving glitter, glue, paint or stickers is worthy of an excited squeal.  Mothering younger brothers is a source of great pride, as is any attention received by a much idolized older brother.  Daddy's daily homecoming elicits shouts of joy, running feet, and lots of hugs.  Preschool Bible verses are memorized with ease, and praise songs are always on your lips.  Hugs, kisses, and cuddles are freely given.

Maddie, in short, you are my angel.  You are one of the biggest blessings I have ever received.  I can't imagine life without you.  It's hard to believe you have only been with us for 5 years.  You have lived in my heart for a lifetime.

Happy birthday, Deezer.  Mommy loves you!

8/27/13

Gift

I received a gift today.  It did not come in the mail.  It wasn't the brownie Aaron brought home (though that was lovely).  It wasn't the picture that Parker drew at school.

It came directly from God.  I had asked for it.  No, I had begged for it, so I should not have been surprised when it arrived.  But I was.

Today was filled with chaos.  Wake the kids early so Parker would have plenty of time to get to school.  Feed the baby.  Make sure Jack sat on the potty seat.  Eat, clear, brush teeth.  Hats, sunscreen, book bag, lunch box.  Go!  School then to then quickly to the store.  Jack's "accident" in the van.  Grab the dry cleaning and groceries.  Drop off overdue library books.  Rush home in time to place Jack on the potty again and shove cold groceries in the fridge before baby wakes to nurse again.  And on and on and on.  Potty accidents everywhere.  Eating wars.  Toys, toys, and more toys on every surface.

That's when I asked.  I sat in a chair, surveying the mess, listening to children's cries, the soundtrack of my life.  And I cried.  "God, help me," I whimpered.  "I can't do this alone.  I need your help.  Please, please, help me.  Be with me.  Help me!"  My whimpers had turned into sobs.  Maddie rushed to my side, concerned.

It happened slowly.  I stopped snapping at Jack.  I didn't heave a sigh when Maddie dragged her feet as we walked to pick Parker up from school.  I simply stopped and waited for her to catch up.  Parker got home and requested we go to the pool - a request I would typically deny until dad got home to help.  Sure, we can go.  Small changes in my attitude and behavior I didn't notice right away.

It wasn't a typical day at the pool.  The small crowd that was there cleared out shortly after we arrived.  Caleb slept peacefully in his stroller.  Clouds were scattered across the sky, shading us from the scorching Dallas sun.  I entered the pool, much to the kids' surprise (since these days I am usually on the outside, rocking a crying or sleepy baby).  I taught Parker how to do a flip and watched Maddie do her "tricks" and twirls.  After awhile, I got out to dry off, and it really hit me.

I was sitting in a chair near the edge of the water.  I allowed myself to get lost in the shimmering, undulating waves and focused on the soft breeze that lifted the tiny hairs on my arms.  I watched the kids, strangely, beautifully detached.

I was alone.  No, I was separate.  I was my own person again.  Jessie.  No fetus growing inside, no nursing baby attached, no child pulling on my arm, demanding my attention.  I was relaxed.  I was not alone, I realized.  I was present with the God who had given me this gift.  This peace.

It was awesome.  A passerby might have mistakenly assumed I was bored.  I just sat there.  For more than half an hour.  I didn't say a word.  To anyone.  I stared at the water and then at the kids.  Jack in his bright green flotation vest, Parker in blue swim trunks, and Maddie in her pink bikini.  They were like pictures in a sweet children's book.  I just sat and stared and breathed.

It was then that I remembered my earlier desperate plea.  And oh, how He answered me!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus 

Philippians 4:6-7

8/13/13

Crazy like the devil

One of my favorite country songs (yes, you read that right: there is some country music I actually enjoy) is about a woman's reaction to a recent break-up.  Her mother is disgusted by her seeming lack of self-control and tells the daughter:

Go and fetch your make-up.
Girl, it's just a break-up.
Run and hide your crazy
And start acting like a lady...

I love that part about "hide your crazy."  I don't hear her singing "you're crazy" but "your crazy."  It's a part of her, something she owns.  I suspect we all have a little crazy inside.  Mine pops out every time I have a baby.  And it stays out for a few weeks (okay, a few months).

If you read my previous post Just One of Those Days, you know what I mean.  I completely forgot about one embarrassing aspect of that day when I wrote the post.  My crazy was exposed.

I am not technologically savvy.  I have yet to figure out all the bells and whistles associated with my smartphone.  In fact, my smartphone tends to make me feel quite stupid.  One thing I hadn't learned was how to lock it so it wouldn't randomly dial people when in my pocket.  So all day on that horrific Monday, I was butt-dialing an old acquaintance.  And leaving messages.  Unintentional, crazy-sounding messages.  Of course by the time I realized this, it was always too late.  Each message contained some sort of rampage.  The last of which I'm sure included me shouting, "No I will not take off my 'grumpy pants!'  I was up until midnight last night cleaning this place up only to have you destroy it today.  NOW PICK UP YOUR TOYS!"  Nice.

What makes it even worse, is the fact that I used to babysit for this person.  It was one of Aaron's graduate school classmates.  I was working evenings as a counselor for children (ironic, huh?).  My mornings were free, so I babysat his sweet son and was friends with his lovely wife.  The same wife who was sure to hear my mad ranting and wonder if her own child endured such ugliness under my care.  Ugh!

I sent him a text apologizing for the many calls and messages, explaining I didn't know how to operate my own phone, I'd just had a baby, so sorry if I sounded grumpy, blah, blah, blah.  He responded with: "That's fine...Who is this?"

When we moved and got new phone numbers, I apparently forgot to alert all my contacts.  Why didn't I just lie?  "Oops, wrong number.  Who is this?"  I could have written that.  Instead I fessed up.  It was me.  Crazy me.

I relayed this story to a dear friend (who shall remain nameless).  She laughed when I shared my fear that I had crossed some sort of childbearing threshold.  Maybe I had too many and there was no way I would ever be able to effectively, lovingly care for all of them...No, she assured me.  We [mothers] are all a little nuts sometimes.  She has two children, close to Maddie and Parker in age.  Her daughter recently told her, "Mom, you're crazy.  Not the good kind of crazy.  Crazy like the devil crazy!"

I was so relieved when she told me this.  It brought to mind a number of adages:  Misery loves company.  There's safety in numbers (not sure why I thought of this one, perhaps because sometimes I think my kids are conspiring to drive me insane, and banding with other mothers will offer some sort of mental protection).  This, too, shall pass.  And on and on.  My favorite one, however, comes from my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group:  Friends don't let friends mother alone!

I think it's so important for moms (and dads) to have friends to help them along the long, arduous (though eventually rewarding - or so they tell me) journey of parenting.  I don't have to hide my crazy from my true friends.  They hear me out, listening to my struggles, sharing their own, laughing with me, crying with me, and encouraging me.  I am joining with one such friend in a challenge to stop yelling at the kids.  It's called the Orange Rhino.  If you are a parent who is tired of hiding your crazy, feel free to join us!

8/5/13

Just One of Those Days

It's been one of those days.  Not one of those oh-how-I-love-my-sweet-family days.  The other kind.  The really, really bad I-wonder-if-I could-ship-one-of-my-kids-away-in-a-well-ventilated-box kind of day.

Every person in our house had a full blown meltdown at one point or another.  Maddie was first.  We were at PetSmart.  See, Parker's fish died last night.  We performed the funeral [flushing] today.  Gross, right?  Yes, I allowed my son's dead, decaying fish to remain in his room an extra night because he wasn't quite ready to say goodbye, and I wasn't up for a fight last night.  So today, we set out for the pet store.  Maddie, whose fish is still living, wanted to know if she could get a seahorse.  I explained we were replacing a dead fish, and when hers died, we'd do the same.  This trip was for Parker.  But please, mommy!  Can't we just ask if they have them?  Fine.  Whatever.  I just wanted to survive this outing with 4 kids ages 6 and under.

We find Parker's new fish and head to the check-out.  But mommy, what about my seahorse?  I suppressed a sigh and asked the cashier, "Do you happen to carry any seahorses that can survive in a regular fish bowl?"  No.  Shocking.  Well, apparently it was shocking to Maddie who proceeded to wail so loudly, customers aisles away leaned out to see the show.  Caleb began to stir in his car seat.  Jack was heading for the door.  People in the line behind us were waiting for us to move.  Maddie stood her ground, head thrown back, exercising her diaphragm, "WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!"  I knelt, hugged her (perhaps a bit too tightly), and hissed in her ear, "I know you're disappointed.  Me, too [slight lie].  But seahorses can't survive in fish bowls, and that's all we have.  I'm sorry, honey.  We have to go now."  "WAAAAAA!!!!!!"  She resembled that blond-haired muppet who would throw her head back to sing, hinged mouth gaping open.  "WAAAAAA!!!"  I pulled her out of the store, threatening loss of television if she continued and woke her baby brother.



So we finally get home and I go to clean out the fish bowl.  One problem.  I can't find the dead fish anywhere.  Oh, I put it in a cup on my dresser.  Of course.  We say our goodbyes, flush, clean the fish bowl, and deposit our new friend inside.

The day crawls by.  Thanks to my immobility while Caleb nurses (all the time), the kids have watched more TV in the past 3 weeks than they have in the past 3 years.  I'm pretty sure their brains are liquefying and ready to ooze out of their little ears at any given moment.  I decide any subsequent shows will be earned via academics (writing the alphabet, reading books, reviewing sight words).  When I announce my new plan, the second meltdown of the day commences.  Parker begins to sob about the injustice of it all.  Real tears and all.  He runs about the room and finally throws himself in a crying, sniveling heap behind the couch.  *Sigh*  Is it really only 11:00?

Feedings, diaper changes, lunch, and baths.  I decide to extend an olive branch to the kids by allowing them to play with food-colored shaving cream in the tub... And that's when all hell broke loose.  Jack had taken his bath and was running around the house, diaperless (a dangerous situation).  Maddie was in our tub calling to me that she needed some [plastic] princesses.  Caleb was crying.  Parker was heading for the guest bath where Jack had bathed.  Slip, splat, ow!  Parker was laid out on his stomach on the bathroom floor where Jack had apparently dumped the majority of his bath water, or maybe it was pee.  Who knows?  I put Parker to work sopping up that mess while I chased Jack down with a diaper.  I swaddled Caleb and called to Maddie that I would bring her princesses in a moment.  Parker was in the tub, Caleb stopped crying.  Where was Jack?  Why was it so quiet all of a sudden?

I peek in Parker's room to find Jack on a stool, hand clutching the fish food container.  No.  No!!!  The bowl is completely pink, the water thick with fish food.  Our new fishy friend was no where to be seen.

Enter crazy mommy [meltdown #3].

I have had it.  I lay Caleb on the floor and bellow, "Nooooo!"  Pulling Jack off the stool, I rush the fish bowl to the bathroom.  Commence cleaning...and crying.  Followed by a hefty side of yelling.  Now Jack has followed us into the bathroom and begun dumping fish food in the tub.  "Bad Jack!" I yell and swat his (thankfully diapered) behind - which, by the way, I have never done to him.  Ever.  His eyes well up with tears, he begins to wail, and he runs from the room [meltdown #4].  Parker is yelling, "Is my new fish gonna die?  Is it already dead?"  Maddie is yelling about her princesses.

It's just been one of those days.  I was pretty ugly today (inside and out).  Running on empty.  Not enough sleep and definitely not enough time with God.  Maddie noticed it early this morning..."Mommy, why don't you take off your grumpy pants and go and pray?"  "Good idea," I told her.  The only problem is that some days, like today, it can be really, really hard to find the time and energy to pray.  Thankfully Aaron arrived home just as I was measuring the cardboard boxes in the garage...Who offers the best rates for shipping children and how long would it take for them to arrive at Grandma's?  I passed him the baby and headed for the shower.  And I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more.

The result was unsurprising but miraculous all the same.  2 simple truths emerged:  I am blessed (if ungrateful at times), and God is good.  End of story.  Good night!




8/1/13

Another time around the sun

Dearest Jack,

It is nearly impossible for me to believe you have taken 2 trips around the sun with us.  Wasn't it just yesterday you were growing inside of me, and I was writing a love letter to you, dreaming of the day you would arrive?

You are a huge toddler now...not quite a baby but not yet a big boy.  There are so many little things about you that I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing every day.  I know how quickly these things will change.  I want to take a moment to capture my amazing 2 year old boy, just as you are...

You are wild and crazy and full of life and laughter.  You jump right in the fray when Parker and Maddie wrestle.  You refuse to give up your binky, and when we take it away, you simply suck your thumb.  You curl up into my lap and lay your head on my shoulder when you need a cuddle.  You insist I sing "Wock a baby!" [Rock-a-bye Baby] when you are hurt.  Every night when it's time for family devotions you consistently pray for ants.  You substitute "uh" for "I want" when making requests (e.g. "Uh milk!")  You demand bandaids for non-existent injuries several times a day.  Rain boots are your favorite shoes.  You call Parker "Parter" and Maddie "Masin Eclair" (Madison Claire).  You are the most polite of all our children, always saying "Fank oo" (thank you) when given anything.  You frequently hurt others unintentionally by waving sticks, plastic bats, spatulas, etc. around, but you are quick to apologize ("Forry!")  You have trouble with many consonants, including "s" which comes out as "th."  It's super-cute when you smile for a picture and say "Cheeth!"  You have a huge grin, lots of teeth, and ears I trust you will grown into one day.  Your big, blue eyes rimmed with thick, dark lashes are going to make the girls swoon one day.  You are still in diapers because my favorite window of opportunity [22 months] for potty-training a child came and went while I was huge and pregnant and too tired to chase you around with a potty seat.



You love your siblings, and are surprisingly gentle with Caleb.  I catch you lying on his activity mat with him, stroking his head or simply placing your cheek against his.

I am in awe of the little person you are becoming.  You are smart, funny, energetic, and stubborn as a mule.  You will always be my Jacky-Jack, my Moonschoo, my favorite middle son.  I love you to the moon and back, Jack.

7/15/13

Dear Baby Caleb

We have a Jessie the Cowgirl toy from the Toy Story 2 movie.  You pull the string on her back, and she responds with lots of lively, twangy sayings.

When you were born, it was her voice I heard in my head: "It's you!  It's you! It's you! You're here!"  That is exactly how I felt.  I was ecstatic!  All during my pregnancy it was as if I were waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I already had three, happy, healthy, wonderful kids.  Who was I to try for another?  I have had so many friends who have suffered devastating losses through miscarriages or the early death of a child.  Even more who have had issues with infertility and have been anxiously waiting for months or years to experience the joys of parenthood.

I will never understand God's ways.  I know that I have done nothing to deserve the blessings of my children.  I recognize that they are gifts, not promises.  The length of time we will have together on this earth is even outside of my control.  So, I try to cherish every moment.

And with you, sweet Caleb, it's so easy!  Everything about you makes me fall in love with you.  Your silky dark hair, skin as soft as velvet.  Your very chubby cheeks and cherub lips.  Your teeny tiny ears and long toes.  The way you take hurried breaths and squeak and sigh.  The way your soulful, blue-gray eyes search mine.  Your neck that begs to be nuzzled.  Even your cries are music to my ears.  I am so beyond grateful that you are here safe and sound.  Holding you in my arms is absolute heaven.

Hindsight is 20/20.  I know I had a rough time transitioning into motherhood.  Still, I wish I had known and appreciated the fleeting precious days of a newborn's life when I was a new mom.  I am so very thankful God has given me the chance to experience this multiple times.  I suppose I am a slow learner. But now that you are here, son, I really, finally get it.  And though I am bone tired, I am smiling with tears in my eyes.

Welcome, Caleb.

Born 7/10/13 at 2:42pm
9lbs 9ozs
21 inches long



6/26/13

Mommy Tantrum

"Please stop making messes!  Please stop making messes!"  I shouted/sobbed, as I frantically rocked a screaming one year old a bit too vigorously on the couch.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  The older two children stood timidly at the edge of the living room, watching mommy fall apart.

Yeah, I'm sure it's totally realistic for me to beg a 6 year old, 4 year old, and almost 2 year old to not make messes.  May as well request they stop breathing.

Rewind 1 hour.  Sweep the kitchen floor for the 3rd time today.  Warn eldest son not to walk about with a pop-up tunnel over his head.  "But mom, I'm just..." Crash!  Tiny shards of glass from the glass he just knocked off the counter sail across the floor.  "Don't move anyone!"  Sweep again.

Mop the floor.  Attempt to be a fun-loving, spur-the-moment mommy.  Allow kids to choose dinner and help cook (since Daddy called at 3:30 to say he wouldn't be home until after bedtime.  Um, did I mention I'm due with our fourth child in 2 weeks?  Just sayin'.).  The kids want pancakes with sprinkles?  Fine.  When we finish, a fine layer of pancake mix covers the counters and floor.

Sweep floor again.  Turn back back to rinse dishes in the sink.  "Mommy, Maddie used too many sprinkles!"  [Read: Mommy, Maddie dumped an entire jar of sprinkles on our plates, the table, the floor...].

Sweep floor again.  Sit to eat.  Jack finishes first.  "Oops!"  He's climbed out of his chair and taken the lid off his sippy cup, spilling an entire cup of milk on the floor and into the pop-up tunnel (still in the kitchen for some reason).

Mop floor (alternating between ranting and praying aloud).  Jack slips on wet floor and lands flat on his back, smacking his head on the tile.  Screaming ensues.

And now we have arrived at the mommy tantrum.  Screaming, crying, rocking a crying child.  I can't blame the kids.  They are just being kids.  Even the pregnancy plays a role in the fatigue/raging hormones/mood swings, etc.

I decided to write this blog post tonight because I want my kids, heaven forbid they remember this time, to at least understand a bit about why their mommy seemed so crazy and moody.  I love you kids so much it hurts, and I'm on my way into your rooms now to kiss your sweet (sleeping) faces!

6/22/13

Waiting

Dear Caleb,

I'm sorry I haven't written to you sooner, little one.  Believe me, you are on my mind all the time!  Much has happened in our family since we discovered you would be joining the circus...birthdays, a move to Texas from Kentucky, a trip to Virginia, you name it!  Even with all of that activity, YOU are the most highly anticipated, main event in our family.  We simply cannot wait to meet you!

All of your siblings are excited about your arrival.  Even Jack lifts my shirt and pats "baby Cay-wib." While Maddie was initially disappointed she would not be having a baby sister, she quickly settled into her role as our "only pretty princess," and now she can't wait to push you in the stroller (since Jack screams bloody murder whenever she attempts to wheel him around).  Parker is convinced you will come out ready to wrestle and join "the boys' team."

From the moment we knew you were growing inside of me, I've felt as if our family was complete.  I get tearful just thinking about holding you in my arms.  Precious child, you are so loved already!

See you soon, Caleb!

5/30/13

Happy Belated Birthday

Dear Parker,

This post is exactly one month late.  So much has happened in the last 30 days with our move to Texas, I've not had time to catch my breath and write about your special day.  But believe me, son, I've been composing this in my head for a long time.

I want to tell you about your birthday but also about who you are as a six year old boy.  Let's start with your party.  Technically, you had 2.  One on the weekend, so all your friends and family could attend, and the other on the actual day, at Chuck E Cheese, with one of your best buddies, Jack.

Your party was everything Lego.  And I mean everything.  Anyway, your plates had Lego faces drawn on them, you had a Lego piƱata, the cakes were giant Lego blocks.  You name it, it looked like a Lego.  Mommy was up very late the night before the party, grumbling in the kitchen as she iced the half-marshmallow pieces that sat atop your cake.  But when you stumbled into the kitchen, bleary-eyed, to see why the lights were still on, smiled in wonder at your cake, and stated, "I love you, Mommy!" it made it all worth it.



You got tons of Lego sets at your party.  You started working on them immediately, barely noticing as your guest left.  We saved the big sets for Dallas, so you could build them while mom, dad, and Grammy unpacked boxes.

On your actual birthday, we met your friend, Jack, and his mommy at Chuck E Cheese.  You had a blast!  The trip ended with you engaging a beefy teenage worker in an arm-wrestling match to see if you could win the 1,000-ticket Spiderman toy behind the counter when you only possessed 10 tickets.  You won, of course, and left the restaurant with the biggest grin on your little face.

Now on to you, little man...I hardly know where to start.  You are wiry and can climb anything, just like a monkey.  You just learned how to ride your bike without training wheels.  You lost your first tooth just days before your birthday and your second tooth two days ago.  You are bursting with  energy all day, every day.  You are still very sensitive when you feel left out, but you put on a brave face until you are alone with mommy.  When you cry, I want to punch someone in the face, but I'm trying to teach you (and me) to love your enemies.  The tooth fairy, Santa, and the Easter bunny are still very real, though I've had to field some tough questions about Santa's surveillance capabilities lately.  You have a love/hate relationship with your sister that brings tears of joy to my eyes one moment and makes me want to ground you until you're 30 the next.  Your baby brother idolizes you.  You begin talking the moment you wake up, and you don't stop until your head hits the pillow.  You still actively seek out cuddle-time with mom and dad at night.  You talk to God.  You have trouble with your "r's" and pronounce them "ah-wuh."  You have stolen my heart.

I love you, six-year-old Parker.  I'm so very proud of you, son.

4/7/13

Sweet girl

Dear Maddie,

Sometimes I wish I had a video camera permanently attached to my body.  I witness such sweet, tender moments between you and your brothers; I wish the whole world could see them.  They make my heart swell with joy and admiration.

Today, as I was doing some yard work, I watching you and Jack out of the corner of my eye.  You were such a mother hen.  You constantly brought him toys, blankets, even a pillow.  You asked him questions, and though his answers seemed unintelligible to me, it didn't deter you from trying to make conversation with him.  "Do you like the red ball, Jack?"  "Do you want your blankie?"  "Wait here and I'll get your binky."  "Good boy, Jack!"

You held his hand, helped him into the wagon, and played beauty shop on his head with water from the kiddie pool and a comb.

He adored your attention and care.  He followed you everywhere and obeyed your instructions with a huge grin on his face. 

I'm writing this in careful detail because I want you to know that you did, indeed, love each other.  I have no misconceptions about your development.  I realize that when the teenage years hit (or likely, sooner), there will be times when you two will not be able to stand the sight of each other. 

However, in the meantime, I intend to soak up these precious moments and record them for posterity.

I'm so proud of you, sweet girl.
  

4/6/13

The Amazing Traveling RFC

You read that right.  Traveling.  And I don't mean on vacation.  (We haven't been able to afford one of those in years!)  I mean moving.  Again.

We are headed to Dallas!  Yippee ki-yay, my friends.  (I bet you thought I'd be writing another phrase beginning with "m" and "f".  Sheesh!  Keep it clean, folks; this is a family blog!)

Wait a minute...Didn't we just move back "home" [to Louisville] a few short years ago?  To be closer to family and to reconnect with old friends?  Don't we love our new friends, church, kids' school, etc.?  Soooo, why are we moving again?

Believe me, I've been praying and asking myself that same question. 

This is all I can come up with:  We were made this way.  By God's grace, two kids from a great hometown found each other and fell in love.  Over they years they discovered they both liked to travel.  A lot.  They even liked to relocate.  Frequently.  While they loved their families and hometown very much, their wanderlust remained unchanged.  They even daydreamed about the mission work they might be a part of when the kids were grown and gone.  Then, when God opened a new door for them in Dallas, it fanned the flames of an old desire (living abroad), and they jumped at the chance.

See, Dallas is hopefully just the beginning.  It's the international headquarters for Aaron's work.  After his assignment there, we might have the chance to live overseas.  Can you imagine?  We could be doing mission work right now...with the kids!  I know that sounds nuts to some folks.  Especially folks with little kids.  But to us, it sounds like one heck of an adventure!  What an amazing way to introduce our kids to this great big awesome world!

So buckle up, because it's time for this circus to hit the road!

3/26/13

Must-Haves

I smiled to myself as I descended the stairs.  I was watching Aaron head down the hallway toward the kids' rooms with some beloved items in tow.

Teddy, Strawberry, and Bink.  They are our family's must-haves right now. 

Teddy is a raggedy old bear I won for Parker in a Red Robin claw machine years ago.  Since that time, he has moved cross-country with us, always safely tucked under Parker's arm (or sometimes hidden away in his school backpack).  Teddy is his faithful sleeping companion and playmate.

Then, of course, there's Strawberry.  I believe I've posted about this particular blanket before.  She used to be a beautiful, fluffy pink thing, embroidered with strawberries.  Maddie has had her since birth.  Any attempts at buying a back-up Strawberry would surely be met with disaster, as she is now gray and holey.  Strawberry is the secret-keeper.  She is the fort-maker, the make-shift doll, the best friend, all in one.  A night without Strawberry is incomprehensible.

Finally, Bink.  What a love-hate relationship this pacifier and I have!  I tried to get rid of it too early, I'm afraid.  Then the thumb-sucking began.  So, I brought it back from the dead (or rather, the baby bin in the basement).  Now, when it falls out of Jack's drooling little mouth in the middle of the night, oh the wailing that ensues!  If I were to take it away now, Jack's frantic cries of "Bink!  Bink!" might just send me over the edge.  So Bink is here to stay...for now.

My heart is filled with pure joy at the thought of the importance of these simple, little items in our world right now.  I know that one day they'll be replaced with other things, cell phones, Ipads, who knows what else.  So, for the moment, I'll enjoy the simplicity of our treasured creature comforts and pray they don't change too soon. 

3/3/13

Slice of Life

It's one of those evenings...Nothing out of the ordinary, yet everything miraculous.  I just want to document a small slice of life.  Because I'm sure I'll forget.  I'm sure as the days blend into months and years, I won't remember these precious little moments that make up my existence right now.

I just came downstairs from giving Maddie a breathing treatment.  She has Reactive Airway Disorder (kind of like Asthma for little kids) which flares up with a bad cold or during allergy season.  Right now she's on an Albuterol treatment every 4-5 hours, even through the night.  One might assume this is a burden, and to be honest, it kind of felt that way the first few evenings.  Then there was tonight...

She didn't even stir as I lifted her into my lap.  My enormous 4 year old girl, all arms and legs and long, stringy hair.  I placed the mask over her face and kicked the On button with my toe.  She leaned into my chest, and I just reveled in her.  In us.  Cuddling as if she were still my newborn baby girl. 

This weekend we learned she would be our only girl.  We had a gender reveal party with our friends and family to learn the sex of the new baby.  It was so exciting to cut into that cake and see the blue crumbs on the tip of the knife.  While I was absolutely elated, my heart went out to Maddie, who so wanted a baby girl.  I hope one day she will recognize the blessing in being our only daughter.  She will forever be my favorite girl in the world, our one and only princess. 

As I headed downstairs, I stopped by Parker's room.  I tiptoed up to his newly constructed castle bunk bed [more on that fiasco later] and peered over the turrets.  Out like a light.  I kicked myself for not making the top bunk more accessible.  How I miss kissing his angelic face as he sleeps!  "Goodnight Parker.  I love you," I whispered. 

(I skipped Jack's room.  Sorry, son.  You're still a pretty light sleeper.) 

Even as I type, our sweet baby boy is rolling around inside of me.  It is the most wondrous feeling in the world.  Nothing compares.  I can't wait to meet this little guy and see how he fits in with the rest of the circus. 

We know he's our last baby, as my husband stated, "As long as he's healthy and happy, we are shutting this operation down!"  It's truly the end of an era and so bittersweet.  Knowing this is my last pregnancy, I am treasuring every single moment and sensation.  (I won't even let the varicose veins get me down!)

So here I sit...dishwasher running, fetus rolling, blessed beyond belief.  God is so good!  Thank you, dear Father, for these quiet, lovely, love-filled evenings. 

1/31/13

Treasure

"Guess what we found?  Guess what we found?" Parker and Maddie shouted as they burst through the bathroom door.  Who needs privacy?

"What?" I asked with mock excitement.  No need to burst their bubble.

Parker held in his palm four long, shiny, golden bolts.  The bolts to Parker and Jack's new [new to us] bunk bed.  The same bolts that had been missing since the day we brought the thing home.  Two weeks ago.

"Yay!!!!" I shrieked and danced around with them.  "Where were they?"

"In my puzzle box, in my room," Maddie beamed.

"How did they get there?"

"I saw them on the counter, and I reached up and took them.  Then I put them in my room.  'Cause they were gold and shiny!"

I see.

And I really do see.  My kids are obsessed with treasure.  We love to play pirates and search for buried treasure.  We read books about knights slaying dragons and taking their hoards of gold.  I admit I shamelessly encourage this obsession.  In fact, we are transforming the bunk beds to look like a castle and painting a picture of a treasure map on Parker's old table.  I even bought an old steamer trunk on Craigslist (at $20 - what a steal!) to serve as his toy storage/treasure chest.

So can I be mad at Maddie for stealing my treasure?  After I've searched for it in every nook and cranny for over two whole weeks?  After I berated myself for always losing things?  After I'd finally located the manufacturer in Canada to inquire about extra bolts?

Well, no.  I can't.  Because she was just doing what any good pirate would do - stowing away her booty.  That's my girl!