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


Last Baby's First

There is something special about firsts.  First steps, first words, first teeth.

We are at the end of an era in our home.  We are encountering a number of last firsts.  Caleb is our last baby.  Simply put, he is growing too quickly [for my liking].

He is finally starting to make some noise.  For months he has been busy watching and listening to the circus around him.  Now he screeches and giggles and makes all sorts of noises.  I am making out some "mama" sounds, but I'm not ready for him to be speaking yet, so I try to convince myself it's simply babble.  Surely my baby isn't old enough to talk.

He has begun to stand unassisted.  I know what comes next.  I have seen it three times before.  Those precious, wobbly first steps.  The launching of his tiny body into my open arms.  And I'm not ready.  When he takes his first steps, it will be the last time any of my babies takes a first step.

The strangest and perhaps saddest thing is the teeth.  It's not strange that Caleb's should be appearing.  It's strange to see him smiling alongside his oldest brother.  Parker recently lost some teeth.  Both he and Caleb are now growing in their top two front teeth.   When Parker and Caleb smile together, it's like I'm staring into the future and back at the past at the same time.

It reminds me of my favorite Joni Mitchell song, The Circle Game.

And the seasons, they go round and round.
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We're captive on the carousel of time.
We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round in the circle game.

My feelings are completely mixed as I type this evening.  Tears of joy and sadness stream down my cheeks.  I will choose to cherish these last firsts.  I recognize that the end of the baby era means the beginning of a new era for our family.  Different, but beautiful all the same.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to ride on this carousel with my wonderful family.


My Hooptie

I officially own a hooptie.  My 2001 Honda Odyssey is on its last legs.  I lost one key fob, and Jack ate the other one [he didn't actually ingest it; he just gnawed it to death a few years ago], so I have to manually unlock and open the doors.  The kids' door no longer opens with the mere flick of a handle, as in the van's former glory days.  No, now you have to yank and pull with all your might, grinding gears fighting against you.  The faint smell of van stank (click to see previous post) ever lingers in the air despite many cleaning attempts (personal and professional).  The check engine light is constantly aglow, since the transmission is slowly but surely slipping.  There are a myriad of other warning lights illuminated so that the dashboard resembles a Christmas tree.  It's quite festive.

But the real kicker is that the radio doesn't work.  Hasn't for about a year now.  When it first went out, I was distraught.  The radio was my sanity.  Kids screaming in the backseat?  Crank it up a notch or two (or six).  Rough day?  Listen to some praise music.  Long trip?  Pop in a book on CD.  For months after it went out, I found myself constantly reaching for the dial.  It was second nature.

I'm used to its absence now.  In fact, I enjoy it.  Here's why:

1. Silence is golden.  There is very little silence in our world anymore.  In my world, there is next to none.  So an evening drive to Kroger (sans radio) allows me uninterrupted time to think or just be.

2.  Travel conversations with the kids are crucial.  As they age, and school days lengthen, my time with them becomes less and less.  Add in friends and extracurricular activities, and suddenly, my influence in their lives is diminished.  Important, yes, but smaller.  So I cherish our time in the van.  It's a great time to catch up, to hear about their thoughts, joys, concerns, and to [hopefully] impart some wisdom. (Deuteronomy 11:19)

3.  Finally, storytelling!  My own mom is a fantastic storyteller.  When I was little she would weave intricate tales about children (bearing a striking resemblance to my brother and me) or giants or fairies or trolls or forest creatures.  Each story was very detailed, filled with sights, sounds, and smells that made my imagination run wild.  These days, I have the privilege to continue that legacy.

Don't get me wrong, there are many times when the question: "Mommy, can you tell us a story?" makes me groan aloud.  But I'm glad they ask.  I'm glad they listen.  I love to look in the rearview mirror and see the hint of grin playing on their lips and a faraway look in their eyes as they are transported to a magical land and introduced to a fairy.

Today the fairy was a hat maker.  She was quite perturbed with the humans who were stomping around in her bluebonnet patch.  She had grown these flowers specifically for her fairy customers all around the world, and these clumsy, loud, picture-taking giants were destroying her handiwork.  Luckily, with the help of three kind children [Caleb is too young to care about having a role in the stories] she was able to gather the materials necessary to make fairy dresses instead.  The fairy rewarded these sweet children with a magical cloak which allowed them to enter into fairyland whenever they wished.

We didn't miss the radio for a second today!



Sweet Surprise

"Is the Easter Bunny real?  Because [friend's name] says the Easter Bunny isn't real.  Tell me the truth."

Not a conversation I expected to have with my five year old two days before Easter.  I dodged it: "Well, I've never seen him myself, but I wonder who would put all that candy in our yard, if not him…"

Then, today, just one day before Easter, my six year old comes to me, perplexed.  "Mom, Maddie says the Easter Bunny isn't real.  Do you put all that candy in our baskets?"

"Well, what do you think?" I asked, holding my breath.

"I think she's wrong.  I think he's real….But do you put the candy in?"

"It's a surprise." I smiled and winked and hightailed it out of the room.

That night, after the kids were tucked in bed, I joined a half a dozen other bleary eyed parents at Walgreen's, filling my shopping cart with  enough sugar to put the dentist's children through college.  I began to feel a little resentment toward Maddie's young friend.  Why had she spoiled the fun?  My kids still seem so young to me.  Shouldn't I have a few good years of magic left?

Okay, so maybe it's not fair to get mad at a little girl who just happened to figure things out and share her new found discoveries with her friends, but….I was still worried a bit about how to navigate this new territory with my own little ones.  How would I preserve the fun and magic of the tradition?  Would the kids be angry, disappointed, sad?  Or worse, would they stop believing me altogether?

I paid and sighed and headed home.  In the living room I began the assembly process.  Plastic grass, chocolate bunnies, Peeps, etc.  My heart just wasn't in it anymore.  Aaron sat with me, cross legged on the floor, filling plastic eggs with small candies.

Just then, who should pop around the corner, but our little night owl, Maddie.  Really??  It was after ten o'clock!  She was grinning ear to ear.  "I just need to get my fairies out of my backpack."  Aaron leapt up and ran to block her view.  After she collected her dolls, we directed her back to her room.

"Did she see?" I whispered nervously.

"Yeah.  She said, 'I knew you and mom bought the candy!'" He was shaking his head.

I marched to Maddie's room and sat on her bed.  She sat across from me, and I tilted my head, raising my brows, giving my best serious look.  "We need to talk."

She tried to hide her grin - a good sign.  Looks like I hadn't scarred her for life.

"Maddie, you get to be a part of something really special now.  It's the Easter surprise.  Remember how mommy doesn't like secrets, but surprises are okay since everyone gets to find out about them in the end?"

She nodded.

"Well, this is a special surprise, and you found out before any of the other kids in our house.  Most kids don't get to find out about this surprise until they are older.  So it's very important you don't tell Jack and Parker yet.  I'll let you tell them in a few years, okay?"


"So, yes, mommies and daddies do put the candy in the baskets and the eggs at Easter.  We get to be the Easter Bunny.  And now, you get to join in the magic and be the Easter Bunny, too!  You are the youngest Easter Bunny I have ever met!  Want to come help?"

She bounded out of bed and ran into the living room.  "I want to do everything!" she announced.   She filled baskets and eggs and oohed and aahed about the toys the boys were "going to love!"

And just like that, the Easter magic had returned.  And it was beautiful.


My Godmother

I have the most amazing godmother.  She is my Aunt Joyce, mother of five boys (men, now), grandmother to 17 (I think that's right?) grandchildren, sister to my mother, and one of the most humble and godly women I know.

With all of those primary relationships drawing her time and attention away, she still manages to send me cards and packages…and has since I was a baby.  She has never missed a birthday or anniversary.  She sends books to my children with poignant quotes handwritten in the covers.  She sends Easter eggs filled with money for the kids when she knows we won't make it the family Easter gathering because we've moved…again.

She has undoubtedly crossed out and rewritten our address in her address book [she refuses to buy or use a computer of any sort] multiple times.  She saves Buckeyes for Aaron at Christmas because she knows they're his favorite (and even gave me her treasured recipe so I can make them for him when we aren't in at Christmas).

She sends clippings of my picture in the paper that are nearly 20 years old.  She keeps treasures such as these and sends them at just the right moment.  When new moves are on the horizon.  When I am feeling a bit untethered to the world.  When I need a reminder that there are ties that bind me to this place, this family.

She saves books and toys that belonged to my dear Grandmother.  She shares some with me, so that I may share them with my dear ones.  It makes my heart swell and tears fall.  She is our record keeper, our memory saver.

I am a godmother myself now.  I think of my sweet godson all the time.  I am not nearly as good as Aunt Joyce in all the ways I have described above.  I hope that the years will improve my skills at this noble task.  I pray with all my heart that I will one day be half the godmother to my godson as dear Aunt Joyce is to me.


I'm up

It's kind of late.  Everyone is in bed (including Aaron), but I'm up.  I'm up packing lunches, making snacks, readying backpacks, washing shorts (because I haven't done laundry all week and Parker's completely out).

And it's the craziest thing…I'm not bitter.  Not even a little tiny bit.  I was lying in bed an hour ago, making a to-do list for tomorrow, when I realized I'd be better off getting a head start this evening.  There was a time when I would have resented these chores.  I would have been grumpy that I was up all by myself slaving away (oh the drama!).  I somehow felt entitled to a more lofty position or higher calling than scraping dried banana bits from the highchair and floor.  But, by the grace of God, that's not where I am this evening.  Instead, I am grateful.  I hear the dryer preparing tomorrow's shorts, see the bread and toaster waiting on the counter, the backpacks on the table, and I feel content.

I feel as though I have finally entered into my seasons of grace as a mom.  This is our family's Golden Age.  The one where the kids get along most of the time.  The one where they are considerate, demonstrative, funny, and fun.  The one where I am still cool in their eyes.  We actually enjoy each other's company.  We can be silly or serious.  We still do The Kissing Hand (a great read if you need a children's book to aid with goodbyes), cuddles, tickle fights, bedtime prayers and kisses.

So it's a pleasure for me to take the time tonight to do what I could put off until the morning.  To avoid the mad dash.  To squeeze in some extra cuddle time before releasing them into the world.  To thank them in a small way for being such amazing little people.

Good. Night.