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



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


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!


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!


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.