Monday, December 31, 2012

Abram's 2013 New Year's Resolutions

Mama says there is a lot of stuff in her heart these days. There are scary things happening in the world, new things about to happen in our lives, and many important things to think about. Mama says she is getting new gray hairs just thinking about all of them, but her age has two numbers, so I’m not really surprised about that.

Since I’m kind of the man of the house (when Daddy’s at work), I try to help Mama out as much as I can, which is why I often rearrange the stuff in the cabinets and scatter my toys around for her. (I don’t want her to get bored.) So I thought I’d help her out on here too and share some of my resolutions. I’ve only been around for one year, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job at this life thing so far (I eat, I sleep, I play…that’s pretty much it, right?), but I still have many more things to see and do and learn.

Here are the things I plan to do this year:

I will take every opportunity I get to play outside. In the mud, in the snow, in the sun…doesn’t matter. Being outside is the best!

Baby New Year's Resolutions

I will just keep getting cuter and cuter. (It’s impossible to stop.)

I will be nice to my sister. (She's got some cool toys.)

Cool Toys
I will let my mama kick her feet up and relax a little more. Maybe.

I will get the hang of this talking thing. I babble all the time, but I think it only makes sense in my own head. Mama thinks it’s really funny when she asks me what a duck says and I say “Kak Kak”.

I will get better at climbing. Mama seems to enjoy retrieving me from interesting places.

I will learn more facial expressions. I already have impeccable timing.

Basically, I’m just going to keep being my charming self. After all, it’s worked for me so far. Now, I’m only thirteen months old, but I think that’s a good resolution for everyone – be your charming selves. And dance whenever you hear music.

From bye-byes to blankies, may 2013 bring you all of your favorite things!

2013 Toddler New Year's Resolutions

Love, Abram

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Like Snowflakes, Soft And Gentle, May Peace Come To Us

Several weeks ago, a bookmark with an etching of a tiny, delicate snowflake and those words written on it fell out of my book and onto my lap, and I thought, “Yes, THAT is peace.” It’s an image that has stuck in the back of my mind, one that appears again when my household gets noisy and crazy.

Some days are just like that. My one-year-old and three-year-old chase each other in and out of rooms, laughing and shrieking, and I say “settle down” about 87 times before I remember those words about peace and think, oh wow,peace…I desperately need peace.

Other days I hear about children getting murdered. And I get a dose of perspective.

I listen to a mother tearfully describe her precious daughter who loved ponies and was going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas. I watch the screen cut back to the news anchor whose voice breaks as she struggles to get her words out, and I shuffle to the television to turn it off because I’m barely able to see it anyway…barely able to hear anything over my sobs.

No one needs peace right now more than the families of those sweet babies. They need peace to fill their world, grace to fall around them like flurries of snow. To be given the comfort they can no longer give their children. To be given hope they’ll one day live again.

After my friend Charles died, I spent about a year with a strange ache inside of me, as though at every moment I was acutely aware of his lack of presence on this earth. Grief can physically feel like an anchor weighing you down, pulling you under, refusing to let you surface no matter how hard you struggle. I think that’s why hope is described as an anchor in the Bible – because you have to replace the grief with the secure anchor of hope.

I know everyone wants to understand why this stuff happens. Why must we face evil? Why must we feel fear and pain? Why can’t we fix it? Why can’t we just make that evil disappear?

But the reality is it’s there. The reality is not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

I have tried before, unsuccessfully, to prepare myself for a possible future reality in which I no longer have my children. Gut-wrenching doesn’t even begin to describe the grief and pain that I see in such a world. Yet it’s a reality that parents face.

It’s a reality we all face – the sorrow and brokenness of a world that was never meant to be permanent.  And to be honest, I often choose to bury my head in the sand and pretend that reality does not exist. The pain is too great, the stakes too high. But my ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. My ignoring it doesn’t change the nature of its truth.

This world is not meant to be faced alone, and thankfully, it’s not meant to be faced forever. There’s a better one waiting for us. There’s light beyond the darkness, and no more tears beyond the pain of this earth.

I stalk a forum that my husband is on, and in reading through some of the posts after this tragedy, no words affected me quite like his:

“Evil has no self-restraint, but God has love and mercy immeasurable, and believe me, those children aren't lost but are safe and sound in the bosom of their Savior.”

His words broke me. It’s a truth that I know. It’s a truth that I often refer to in passing or smile and nod at when another person speaks of it. But this eternal truth needs far more attention – because it is the only one that provides an ounce of hope, the only one that knows of sorrow. Here we are, in the midst of the raging battlefield as the silent snow falls all around us. The light in the darkness.

Time does not heal, but hope does fill in those trenches that the grief dug. That’s all I know to do – cling to that hope as I continue down this path of brokenness and heartache.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Evolution Of A Family Christmas Card

Family Christmas photo

Attempt #1: Slightly overexposed. Toddler is enamored with Mama.

Attempt #2: Overexposed and blurry. Toddler is enamored with Daddy.

Attempt #3: Let's just pretend this one didn't happen.

Attempt #7: Daddy snaps fingers in attempt to get toddler to look ahead, resulting in blur. Preschooler is enamored with television.

Attempt #10: I want YOU to have a merry Christmas.


Attempt #15: Toddler successfully looks at camera, but preschooler...does not. Finally realize you forgot to clear off the mantel.

Just choose one, crop, and go for it!

Christmas On String Christmas
Visit for classic photo Christmas cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Joint Boy/Girl Birthday Party: Success!

I’m not one of those mamas who keeps the house spotless and bakes from scratch daily. I wish, especially since that’s how I always envisioned life as a stay-at-home mom to be, but no – it’s a little more…um…chaotic than I’d anticipated.

However, I am in love with creative projects. With two wacky munchkins running around, I don’t get to do that fun creative stuff as often as I would like, but when it comes to special occasions...well, let’s just say I’m determined to make time for party planning!

Birthday cake ideas for joint parties

Hannah turns three in a few days, and Abram just turned one. Although I would have loved to let Abram have his own party for his very first birthday, it just wasn’t practical, given that their birthdays are only eight days apart and right in the middle of the holiday season. So we had one big celebration with some amazing friends, and I’m so glad we did because, wow, we had a blast.

Knight Birthday Party
Princess Birthday PartyEven though it was a joint party, I really wanted to find a way to make it special for both of them, so I opted to make two cakes. (I’ve mentioned I’m an overachiever, right?) As you can imagine, baking and decorating two fancy cakes in two days is no small feat – made even more difficult by two tiny tornadoes twisting about my toes (Whoa, alliteration, anyone?) – but nevertheless, challenge accepted.

As I began my search for how to create a joint boy/girl birthday party, I came across a website with lots of pics of castle cakes. Then I found a dragon cake tutorial, thus a Princess/Knight birthday party was born! (It was quite fitting, since that’s also what they were for Halloween.)

For the castle cake I made the towers out of ice cream cones that were frosted and stacked end to end, and sugar cones that were frosted and rolled in pink sugar. I found the silver flags in the party supply section at Target.
Pink Sugar Icing Towers

To simplify, I just used boxed cake mix. Hannah, who was quite ecstatic over the idea of having a princess castle cake at her party, helped me mix the strawberry cake (pink for the princess!), which I baked into two round tiers. I have the Wilton Performance Cake Pans that I bought back when I thought I was going to be baking and decorating cakes all the time (HA!).

I added some graham crackers and pretzels for the door and windows, and voila!

Kid's Medieval Cake Ideas

I used dark chocolate mix for Abram's cake and just followed the tutorial to make the dragon's shape, though I had to scale it down a bit due to space. He's got graham cracker spikes, marshmallow eyes, candied fruit slice claws and eyebrows, bite size Milky Way nostrils, and Fruit Roll-Up flames (because he's fire breathing, of course.)

Boy's Knight Cake Ideas

It was a lot of work, but fun and totally worth it when Hannah went crazy over them. When she first saw the completed cakes, she actually turned to me and said, "Mama, did you make that all by yourself?"

*Proud Mommy Moment*

Joint Kids Birthday Cake Ideas

They were also taste approved by Abram, but that doesn't really say much, considering just about everything is taste approved by 'Leftover', as his grandpa calls him.

Baby Messy Cake Face

And, of course, what medieval-themed birthday party would be complete without ‘slaying the dragon’?

Slay The Dragon Medieval Party

Whew, I'm tired! But you know what the best part was? Celebrating with our friends. Since we live so far away from family, the outpouring of love meant more to us than they'll ever know. Party planning is fun, but nothing compares to the precious time spent with the wonderful people we've gotten to know here.

If you're thinking about trying your hand at homemade cakes but aren't sure if you have the skill, I say go for it. There are so many tutorials and pictures out there to help you get the creative juices flowing, and you just might surprise yourself. Besides, if you fail you can always make a last minute trip to the bakery, and no one ever has to know. :)

Happy baking! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wonder {Five Minute Friday}

5 minutes. Unedited. Topic: Wonder.

Five Minute Friday


Sometimes my breath catches when I think of the moments of awe I’ve had, and I wonder if I’ll ever have them again.
I wonder if I’ll ever feel that wonder again.

As a girl, when I looked at the world through innocent eyes, I felt it. That sense of awe. That hope. That soaring feeling of a life not yet lived, waiting to begin. All things new. It was just out of reach – everything I’d ever dreamed of. Hoped for. Prayed for.
And now I don’t know how many more moments like that I’ll have. Life has become more real, and with its blessings, more beautiful in many ways. But also more real. It can be scary, cold, indifferent, difficult…

It can change without a moment’s notice and leave us broken and battered in its midst. And yet that wonder still exists. It’s still out there for those who want it, a desire left untouched until the world opens up and gives it to us all over again.
God graces me with His love. Pours it out with all the mighty strength he holds, and yet my sense of wonder is not the same. I long to be that girl again, wishing for a life well lived, not knowing what lies beyond the horizon, and being okay with that.

I'm not good at getting my jumbled thoughts out in just five minutes, especially because I feel like I could go on forever on this topic. I love wonder. It's probably one of my favorite things, and it just doesn't seem to happen as often or with as much intensity as it used to.

But another one of my favorite things is this cutie:
Christmas boy

And today is his first birthday! I just wanted to give him a shout out, since he's one of the things that still fills me with wonder. Happy birthday, my sweet little Abram boy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Note To A New Mom

Dear Mama-To-Be,

You have no idea what is about to happen to you.

Bear with me – this isn’t another one of those ‘just you wait’ cautionary tales. By now you are probably tired of (and possibly even extremely irritated by) all the advice you’re getting, all the snide comments about ‘what you’re in for’, and all the self-professed seasoned parenting pros who are telling you EXACTLY how your baby is going to be and exactly how you should handle all of it.

They don’t know anything. And neither do you… because babies are just like life and Forrest’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

When I was pregnant with my first, I got all kinds of warnings and counsels. Honestly, I shrugged off most of them.
“Your life is about to change.”
“No shit,” I thought.

And I didn’t believe them when they told me I’d better get used to not sleeping. After all, the books said babies only needed to nurse every 3-4 hours and were capable of sleeping through the night at three months old. Surely, it wasn’t that bad.

Advice For a New MomThen my daughter was born, and I spent far too many nights crying right along with her while deliriously and desperately praying that I would not die from the exhaustion. I prayed that the intense anxiety I felt was not the dreaded postpartum depression, prayed that I would one day understand how people could possibly go on to have more children after enduring months like these.

So endure we did, and gradually life got easier.

BUT then my son was born. He did things by the book, we all slept, and life was good. I finally stopped believing that people who supposedly had babies who slept were liars.

So I can’t tell you how to prepare for your little one. You might sleep; you might not. You might have a hard time at first; you might be a natural. You might be scared; you might be confident.

How To Raise A ChildPerhaps you’ll be excited to show your little one off and visit as many friends as possible in those early months, or perhaps, after you get asked why you’re just now bringing the baby by, you’ll smile and say, “It’s just been a little hectic” while wanting to snarkily answer, “Gee, I’ve slept a total of ten hours in the last three weeks and am up to my elbows in spit-up and diaper changes. You tell me.”

I don’t know how your story is going to go. The best I could do is tell you about mine, and perhaps we can compare notes later on down the road.

All I know is that gradually, you will get to know that little person, and his or her presence in your life will fill your world in ways you can’t possibly imagine right now. They’re not kidding when they say it changes your life. I know there are ways that I still haven’t even discovered yet, as my children still have many more years of growing and changing to do.

My strengths and weaknesses are both more apparent. I am a more real version of myself. There is more joy in my laughter, more sorrow in my grief. I both need and receive more grace than ever before.

Yet I often look at these two little beings that I brought into this world and am blown away, completely and utterly blown away by a million tiny things that I can’t quite name.

I'm Afraid Of Being A MomBefore you lies this amazing, uncharted, wild land that is yours to explore. Sometimes the terrain is rugged and rocky. You’ll hit patches of desert. Maybe at times you’ll feel like you’re sliding down a mountain. And then you’ll come across a clearing, a river, an oasis. You’ll find yourself firmly planted on a mountaintop, your breath taken by the beauty you see below.

Your land is different from mine. Your journey may take many different turns, and although I wish I could give you all the answers that you seek, it is a journey that is yours and yours alone.

I might not be able to tell you much, but I can tell you one thing for sure, Mama – this is a journey you are privileged to take, a voyage more significant than any you’ve ever been on. 

That little soul you carry within holds so much more than I could ever begin to tell you.

So much love.

So much life, waiting to be lived.

I wish you well on your journey, my mama comrade.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toy Ideas: A Not-So-Serious Christmas Gift Guide For Toddlers

As the Christmas holiday rapidly approaches, I once again find myself confused and overwhelmed by the overabundance of beeping, flashing, jangly toys on the market. Most of the stuff out there is just junk that will get tossed in the toy box and forgotten long before the stockings even come down, but sometimes I get lucky and discover a toy that actually entertains my kids beyond Christmas morning. 

We all want to give our children a magical Christmas, but how can we be sure we will get our money’s worth out of a toy purchase? Well, in an effort to help fellow parents weed through all of the unsatisfactory toys and find the ones that will actually provide hours of entertainment, I’ve put together a list of playthings that will undoubtedly spur squeals of glee from your little one.

If my little guy could write a letter to Santa, he would likely include the following in his wish list:

10) Packets of OatmealWhy bother with fancy maracas or drums when your child can let his inner percussionist out by gleefully thwacking together these crinkly casings of fun? Extra fun if one happens to rip open, sending oats flying everywhere.

9) Random TrinketsThis generally includes items your older child discards haphazardly, such as stickers, candy wrappers, marker lids, and other various choking hazards. Fun for you as well – nothing is quite as exciting as watching your toddler pick up a freaky purple spider and shove it in his mouth, only to discover that it’s just one of those plastic rings left over from Halloween.

8) A Giant Pile of Freshly Squeezed Dog TurdIt doesn’t cost a dime, unless you count the animal that provides it and the food required to create it, and Play Doh is highly overrated anyway.

7) Measuring TapeDrape it, drag it, fling it, wag it…with this toy, one thing is certain – it will never, EVER actually be in the drawer it’s supposed to be kept in.
Baby Likes Playing In The Laundry Basket

6) Plastic/Cardboard ContainersThe recycling bin is a veritable treasure trove of Christmas goodies.  Nothing says playtime quite like a tampon box or a mostly-empty bottle of coffee creamer.

5) DVDs, Books, or anything else kept on a shelfThe more important/expensive the item, the better, and all you have to do to ensure that it gets played with is stack the item as neatly as possible amongst other important/expensive items.

4) Remote ControlIn the middle of an intense moment of your favorite television show? That’s exactly when this item will most often be played with. Just make sure this is easily accessible to your little one, and it won’t be long before you’ll kick the television habit – an added bonus for you!

3) Laundry BasketPush toys? No, laundry basket. Rocking animal toy? No, laundry basket. Expensive playhouse? No – laundry basket. The epitome of versatility, this item never loses its appeal. And somehow never gets used for laundry.

2) A Stocked PantryOnce again, who needs a fancy playhouse? There is so much delight to be discovered within…
Playing In The Pantry
And finally,

1) Toilet Paper  And it's even better when it's already in the toilet.

So there you have it – a list of toys that your children would love to have but that you most likely will not purchase for them for Christmas…

Because then they probably wouldn’t want to play with them anymore.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Winter Un-Bucket List

I’m someone my husband likes to call a ‘Christmas junkie’. I admit it – I totally get swept up in the lights, the music, the decorating, the baking, the gift giving, and all of that stuff that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that because that stuff is fun, and who doesn’t want to have a little fun during the holidays?

However, the key to enjoying those aspects of the holiday season is to keep it all stress-free. Minimalize. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the unimportant as important. The minute you stop enjoying those things and start stressing over them is the moment you lose all perspective and start failing at life.

If you think about it, the whole point of the holiday season is to celebrate and reflect upon something so simple and amazing – the birth of a V.I.B. (a Very Important Baby) – so shouldn’t it be a season of simplicity and peace?

I started to put together a bucket list of all the things I want to do this winter, and then I realized…I kinda want to do everything. The Christmas junkie in me needs to calm down a little.

So instead I came up with some things I will not be doing this winter:

1)     Participating in Black Friday. Two words: Y’all crazy.

2)      Writing a letter to Santa. Dude’s not real. Someday we gotta accept it.

3)      Stressing about gift giving. Do you think the wise men worried about the gifts they brought to Jesus? “Yo, Melchior, which scent of myrrh should I bring – Dirty Spice or Eau de Tree?”
No – they were wise men. Give from your heart, and don’t worry about it.

4)      Shoveling snow. Not because I’m too good to shovel snow, but because I don’t live in a place where it snows…and I’ve gotta put a positive spin on that.

5)      Burning the Christmas cookies. I’m easily distractible these days, so I figured it would be a good idea to go ahead and add this to the list. One can hope.

6)      Going caroling. I can’t carry a tune. This will never, ever happen, and even if by some miracle it does, I promise I will only mouth the words. It’s for your own good if you’re within hearing range. Trust me.

7)      Watching the ball drop in New York on New Year’s Eve. Again, y’all crazy. Standing in the freezing cold, elbow to elbow with a bunch of strangers, unable to use the bathroom? I’ll pass.

8)      Believing the groundhog. Each year we wait with great anticipation to see if spring is just around the corner, and one thing I’ve learned is…that rascal’s on to us. He thinks we’re a bunch of suckers.

I feel better already just knowing I can mark some things off my list. May your holiday season be merry and bright! (But also relaxing and low-key.)

Do you have a winter bucket list? Or UN-bucket list?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thirty Days Of Thankful

November always sneaks up on me. October tends to feel like a downhill plunge from the summit of a roller coaster – the anticipation barely has time to build, and before I know it, I’m exiting to the left and wondering what the heck just happened.

I’m exhausted. Through and through. Today I just feel completely worn out. After all the traveling, the wedding, the teething, the trick-or-treating, and all that October has brought me, I’m ready to take it easy and relax.
Not gonna happen though. If October is the roller coaster, November is that ride you look at and think “oh, this won’t be so bad”, and then when you get off, you can barely walk and feel like you’re going to puke your guts up.

And don’t even get me started on December.
The reason it’s this way, however, is entirely my fault. I just get overly ambitious toward the end of the year and think I’m going to magically become one of those Pinterest women whose party planning and baking skills rival Martha Stewart.

Is it the weather change? Is it the full moon? Is it because I’ve put off doing the 987 projects I’ve planned throughout the year and suddenly remember all of them at once?
I don’t know, but I do know my world is about to be filled with loaves of chocolate chip pumpkin bread, themed birthday party and holiday decorations, and a muddled brain as I try to figure out which writing/scrapbooking/photo editing/video making project to tackle next. (Until I crash from all the cleaning and kid-chasing and decide that a nap sounds much better.)

No matter what I end up doing, there is one thing in particular that I’m challenging myself to do daily – be thankful. After all, this is the month of Thanksgiving, and what good is doing anything if I’m doing it without a grateful heart?
As we approach the end of the year, I realize I have much to reflect on and much to look forward to. My little boy will turn one year old. My little girl will turn three. We are all currently so healthy and so happy, and I shouldn’t want or need much else.

Enjoy my gifts – that should be my focus this month. I’m thankful I have all of these activities in my life to choose from because they make my world – and my heart – so full.

Being Thankful While Busy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Like A New Pair Of House Shoes

One year my grandma told me she wanted a new pair of house shoes for Christmas. (For those of you unfamiliar with southern speak, house shoes are slippers.) Such a simple request, so I had no problem purchasing the house shoes for her, lovingly wrapping them in pretty paper, and placing them underneath her tree. I didn’t tell her what the gift was, though I was pretty sure she knew, and looked forward to seeing her open it on Christmas morning.

A few days later I visited her again. I was relaxing in her recliner when I happened to glance down at the gifts under the tree and noticed that mine appeared to have been tampered with.
I picked it up and examined it, and sure enough, the paper was wrinkled, and the tape had definitely been peeled off and replaced.

Grandma lived alone. There was only one explanation.
“Grandma!” I exclaimed. “You opened your present!”

Her eyebrows raised, but she didn’t even hesitate.
“Well, yeah,” she said casually. “I was just sitting here the other day, and I thought, ‘I’d sure like to put on my new house shoes’, so I did.”

I giggled in disbelief.
“So you just opened your present? You just…you just opened it up, put them on, wore them for a while, and then wrapped them back up?”

“Well, yeah...” she said. “They were too small.”
I rolled on the floor in a fit of laughter.

Grandma! You’re not five. You’re nearly eighty years old – you should know better!”
She just grinned as I laughed at the absurdity of a grown woman not being able to wait until Christmas to open her present (and mostly at her attempt to cover it up).

But you know what? Her casual admission said it all – I think she did know better.
At her age she’d probably spent much of her life waiting for things to happen…waiting for the gifts to appear…waiting for the right moment to enjoy them…and perhaps she had simply decided there was no point in waiting.

Enjoying The Small ThingsI want to be like Grandma. What a tiny, simple, unimportant gift, and yet she literally could not wait to open it.
How great is it to have something to look forward to? To have something that you’re so excited about that you just can’t wait for it? To have a goal, a trip, an opportunity, an event, a moment…something that you long for and go after with your whole heart?

And how much better is it when it's something as simple as a pair of house shoes?

As I walk this path of mine, I want to stop and unwrap my simple gifts along the way with excitement. I don’t want to wait for them if I don’t have to. Life doesn’t last forever, so I’ve got to open as many gifts as I can, right?
So what are my ‘gifts’, those things that I should seek in this journey? What fascinates me? To which parts of life am I irresistibly drawn? What captivates me?

They are the moments that I feel compelled to write about or that prompt me to grab my camera. They are the tiny hands that hold mine, the embrace that calms my fears, and the desires in my heart. They are the things that make me laugh, the things that make me cry, and mostly, the things that open my eyes.
They are everything that is simple and pure and true, and so often overlooked.

Things That Fascinate Me In Life

Those are the things I find myself craving. Those are the simple gifts I want to enjoy each and every day, and I refuse to wait until Christmas.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Don't Want To Be Controversial

Many years ago – back when my children were just a distant dream – some friends and I were hanging out and ended up taking one of those silly magazine quizzes. I think it had something to do with values, and the idea behind it was that most men chose one set of answers while most women chose the other set of answers, but anyway, one of the questions asked which you would rather your children remember you teaching them – right from wrong, or not to hurt others.

Of course I want to be remembered for both, but I could only choose one, and being the softie that I am, I was the only one of the group who chose ‘not to hurt others’ (which is apparently the more common female choice, just in case you were wondering).
An argument ensued about why teaching right from wrong was more important – and I don’t disagree – but the question asked which you wanted to be remembered for. My thinking was that as a nurturer, my role in my children’s life was to teach kindness and compassion, while a father’s role was more about teaching solid values. Both parents should obviously be role models in both of those areas, but I guess I’m simply a traditionalist in feeling that children should remember their mother’s gentleness and remember their father for his discipleship. And ideally those individual roles should mesh together in a beautiful weaving.

Anyway, my purpose in explaining all of that is so that you can perhaps gain a better understanding about a certain aspect of my personality. I do not like to hurt others or see others hurt, so much so that I chose that answer.
I realize most ‘normal’ people don’t want to see others hurt, but I’m talking about being that way to a fault. I probably hold back words when I shouldn’t (I should speak up but don’t for fear of offending someone), and I definitely try too hard. By that I mean I can be overly polite or struggle so hard to say the perfect thing and keep from offending that maybe I just end up annoying instead.

I don’t know – maybe that’s not true. It’s just how I see it.
When I began this blog, my intention was to always keep it encouraging and to steer clear of controversial topics. That isn’t because I don’t find them to be important or because I don’t have strong opinions on current events (I do), but because I asked myself what I wanted this blog to be, and one thing I didn’t want it to be was divisive.

The problem is I’m beginning to see that no topic is completely safe from controversy.
Take a look at my Facebook news feed and you’ll see that I have friends from all walks of life. You’ll see a vast variety of religious, political, and social beliefs, and while I find myself feeling a bit like Samuel L. Jackson at times,
When do you stay silent and when do you speak up

I try my darndest to be respectful.

It’s too easy to be misunderstood in social media. People already have assumptions about you based on the very little they already know, so having web debates never quite feels pure. Sometimes I feel like I’m already being looked at through a dirty lens, you know? So what’s the point?

Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have discussions about issues that are important to us. I’m all for intelligent discourse. The part that confounds me is when people start getting outright hateful by making far-reaching judgments about entire groups or by allowing their anger to blind them from the implications that exist within their words.

Consider how hurtful your bias may be. Consider what your words truly mean and what they say about you. Consider that your judgment might actually be quite arrogant and born out of experiences from your past that are no longer relevant. Consider that you’re wrong. Consider that even if you are right, the manner in which you speak your words can have profound, lasting effects on the soul to whom you’re speaking.
Or maybe not even to whom you’re speaking – just a passerby who happens to see your post or read your comment.

Luckily, I’m not easily offended. I have a pretty broad sense of humor and a fairly high tolerance for bad manners. But I do get hurt. We all do, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. It’s just unavoidable when we’re in the midst of a social universe unlike one that’s ever previously existed.
More often than not, though, I get angry, and it’s an anger that comes from a place of deep conviction and passion. I’m sure that, especially right now, most of us can relate to that. My hope is that, despite my anger, my words will always come from a place of love – though I know my humanity will prevent me from achieving that.

That’s why I keep quiet. That’s why I stay out of it. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want my passion to put me in a place of vulnerability.
But then again, that’s life, and how am I to avoid it unless I squelch that passion?

Just as in all things in life, there is a balance, and I’m struggling to find it. When do you stay silent, and when do you speak up for what’s right?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Path I'm On

Last week we took another road trip (I know - we're crazy!) back home to see my sister get married.  And it was one of those weeks.

No, not a bad week - a good week! One of those weeks when everything just goes right and your heart wants to burst with joy and life is all rainbows and butterflies and unicorns.

The kids did great in the car. (Only a couple of screamfests, and they were brief.)
Family, family, family.

We got to play, play, play in the country.
Little Girl got to ride a horse.

Fun on the Farm Blog

She got to be a flower girl.
Bridal Pic Holding Hands

Little Dude has been walking - and dancing - all over the place.

Country Living

I took some gorgeous bridal pics of my gorgeous sister.
Bridal Picture Park Setting
And it was a gorgeous wedding.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. That’s what life has been lately.
And now we’re back and approaching my favorite time of year.

So, sorry, but I just feel like gushing.
I haven’t been doing much writing, but I’ve been doing a lot of living, and also a lot of thinking about what the future holds...

I'm grateful and looking forward to it all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How Siblings Prepare You For Motherhood

I’ve been putting together a slideshow for my sister’s wedding, and boy, does it have me thinking about the passage of time. I’m imagining myself putting together a slideshow for Hannah’s wedding one day (while bawling my eyes out) and thinking about how that ‘one day’ is not so far off in the distance.

Years ago I was just a big sister who yearned to be a mother. Siblings are great for preparing you for motherhood. Their significance lies in the fact that they have just enough in common with you to drive you batshit crazy while also keeping you a little sane. It’s that bizarre dichotomous nature that makes life with siblings so interesting, infuriating, and yet rewarding (if you’re lucky enough to recognize the perks).
As the oldest in the family, I always felt a lot of responsibility in taking care of and raising my little sisters. Probably too much…I so badly wanted to set a good example for them, which greatly shaped who I became as a cautious perfectionist and someone who didn’t step outside of boundaries for fear of failing in their eyes.

Honestly, I don't see myself as much of a perfectionist anymore, probably because becoming a parent has made my own flaws so much more glaringly obvious, and I've grown tired of trying to hide them. I am, however, quite aware of the little eyes upon me, and I see myself reflected in them as they look up at me, pleading with me to love them, accept them, be proud of them…
Once, while babysitting my youngest sister (I’m ten years older), I felt like I was a little too hard on her when I sent her to her room after she’d acted up. I had yelled, lost my temper, and then felt like a horrible sister and worried I would eventually become a terribly impatient mother. But it wasn’t long before she came back out of her room, gave me a hug, and told me she was sorry.  Of course, my heart immediately melted into a pile of syrupy goo, I forgot all about the prior frustration, and I had a realization that would stick with me throughout my journey toward parenthood.

My patience is not unfailing, and my temperament is not unfaltering.  But Love guides us, and it never wavers. Despite my imperfections, weaknesses, failures…I have what I need to help shape a child. Their eyes will see the weak and the strong, the good and the bad, but because I love them enough to teach them and guide them through it all, they’ll be better for it.
I felt like a mama long before I ever had children of my own, and now I find myself knee-deep in nostalgia as my kids and I do many of the same things my sisters and I did back then.

We tell stories. We act silly. We crank up the music and have ‘dance parties’. We wrestle. We tickle. We laugh and joke. We get on each other’s nerves and then can’t get enough of each other.
I watch them sleep, I marvel at the beauty in their tiny faces, I worry about them, and I wonder where their lives will take them.

To all my sisters – thank you for giving me a small taste of motherhood. I hope my trial run was okay, and I hope you all look back on our memories together as fondly as I do. Even if you did drive me batshit crazy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Minute Friday {Grasp}

It's that time again - Five Minute Friday. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.


He grasps my finger, his tiny little hands gripping mine with fervor. He’s determined to not let go, to hold firm in this adventure of walking. Taking these steps isn’t easy. They’re scary. Mommy’s got a firm hand to hold onto, and this little guy will not let go.
He grasps the floor with his feet, his little toes curling against the cold tile. His steps are short and shaky, but he squeezes mommy’s hand tightly and forges ahead.

He’s so much more cautious than his sister was, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe he won’t be as independent. Maybe he won’t try to ride on elevators by himself. Maybe he’ll stay mommy’s little boy a little longer.
Maybe he’ll just keep grasping that finger. Or maybe he’ll let go and go on to master some new things.
That finger will always be there, held out for him to find if he ever needs it. But he’s so close to letting it go.
And maybe mommy will go on to grasp the fact that her little boy is getting to be a big boy.
You know what's funny? Today was a bad day. My sweet boy was a drooling, cranky, teething mess, and yet this is what I write about when I'm not overthinking. As anxious as I am to get through the messes, I promise I'm still savoring the sweets. :)
Five Minute Friday

Monday, September 24, 2012

Energies And Allergies...And A Fountain Deep And Wide

“Deep and wide, deep and wide…”

Hannah sings in the backseat of the car. It’s a song she learned at church – one that I actually never learned as a kid – but I know it’s about a fountain flowing deep and wide, a fountain that never runs dry. It’s a fountain of love born out of grace, always there to refresh a weary wanderer.
Oh, how I understand that fountain of love more than ever before, as a parent. A mama’s love is as deep and wide, as ever-flowing, as longsuffering, and at times, as painfully beautiful. It’s a love that separation or loss or hurt or anything could never, ever take away.

It’s a love that I hope she’s learning about as she absorbs knowledge like a sponge, soaking it all in. I hope I am teaching her enough. I hope I am everything I need to be for her, at this vital age.
But all I need to do is make sure she knows that my fountain is always here, ready and waiting when she needs it. She may forget every once in a while – because, after all, learning is a process. It takes time. It takes mistakes. It takes patience.

Sometimes we get stuff backwards. We might have something completely wrong but are so sure that it’s right, simply because it’s what we’ve told ourselves over and over again in our heads. We keep repeating it because it’s what we know to be true, what we’ve come to cling to.

But part of the learning process is letting go of the wrong and clinging to the right.

When she wants a treat, she won’t always ask for ‘snack fruits’.   

One day she’ll no longer call it a ‘stump tree’.
She’ll get it right when she asks to play with the ‘paint fingers’.
It’s just part of the process. We have to get it backwards for a while.

That kid amazes me every day – as does her little brother who’s not so little anymore – and I’m incredibly thankful for them. I don’t know what I’d do without that deep and wide fountain of love they’ve brought into my life.
I don’t know what my life would be like without conversations like these:

*Cough, cough*
“Mama, I have too much energies.”

“I know you have energy. You’re bouncing all over the place.”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m coughin’. Cause I have energies.”

“Ooooh, you mean allergies, honey.”
“Yeah, I got lotsa allergies.”

“Well, you have lots of energy. Energy is what makes you jump around and run and play. Allergies are what make you sneeze and cough.”
 “Yeah, that’s why I got lotsa allergies. Cause that’s why I’m coughin’.”

*Overemphasized cough*
“I don’t think you have allergies. But I’m certain you have too much energy.”

And I’m certain she’ll use that energy and those learning skills all throughout her life – whether she’s facing the planned out, predictable, and mundane…or the wild, uncharted adventure that twists and turns far off in the distance.
She’ll get the words right.

She’ll seek the fountain.
It’s all part of the process.