Its This Girl

Thursday, December 29, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

ReaganIts this girl… 

The one who when I begged for five minutes to grab her socks and shoes from the McD*nald’s Play Place shoe corral, looked at me, smiled, darted out of my reach, and came out of the slide with a smug look on her face.

When I asked for the fifth time, she coyly walked up to her shoes, looked at me out of the corner of her eye and grabbed just one of her boots.  “One, Mommy?” she asked.  The look in her eyes belied her innocent expression, she knew I meant both.

When I said as much, she walked back and switched out the boots; leaving the 1st and bringing me the second.  I burst out laughing.

Its this girl…

The one who has been grabbing any doll in sight, bringing them to me, and pointing at their chest. “Food for baby.”  She smiles proudly every time I agree with her.

Imagine the humiliation when we were in public and she pointed at my chest, “Food for baby!”  To complete strangers.

Its this girl…

The one who has had the ability to be potty trained for months, but not the incentive.  And with this girl, incentive is everything.

We finally discovered her incentive the nights she cried to go to Cubbies with Hudson.  We explained that only big girls who went in the big girl potty got to go Cubbies.

Two weeks ago, she put on underwear and hasn’t looked back.  Two accidents and a three-day weekend is all she needed. 

Did I mention she gave up her pacifier the same weekend?  Cold turkey.  This girl and her will astounds me.

Reagan2Its this girl…

The one whose feisty spirit makes us both laugh and beat our heads against the wall at the same time.  The one who loves building with blocks and playing princesses with Devyn.  The one who repeats everything her older siblings say and do.  The one who grabs her baby sister’s hand and pulls Ashlynn into her room to play.  The one who proudly declares at least six times a day, “Mommy!  I’m a big girl now!”

Its this girl that turned three years old today. 

We love you, Reagan Jacqueline.  You are such a gift to our family; you make us laugh and giggle.  You are such a delight and we are honored to be your parents.  We hope you had a special day, my Love!  And PS, yes, you are such a big girl now.

Wordless Wednesday, Christmas Edition

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

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I think she's ignoring me.

Friday, December 23, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-


I've explained that its not time to open presents yet.

So she's either ignoring me.  Or displaying willful disobedience.

I'm not sure which option is worse.

Regardless, I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time she thinks she's in charge.

From Our Family to Yours

Thursday, December 22, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

InternetCard

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:18

Life Lessons*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 14 Comments A+ a-

It’s the kind of day where you want to beat your head against a brick wall, where even the deepest sigh can’t express the discouragement you feel. 

I knew this parenting stuff would be hard, but up until this year, its mostly taken a physical toll.  Newborn feedings, sick children, nights of steam showers, night terrors, energetic toddlers, dancing and running, and on and on.  Pure exhaustion resulting from lack of sleep and then trying to keep up with the Littles throughout the day.  These early years have been physically hard.

And now we’ve entered the emotionally and psychologically hard years.  I’d mentioned in Devyn’s birthday post that I’d never really envisioned her past kindergarten.  I’d never really given much thought to shaping and molding a person with character, faith, values, and integrity.  You mean to tell me that these kinds of people don’t just appear?!  That helping create this kind of person takes work?!

Well, we’re learning.  And we’re learning fast. 

Jon and I’ve always agreed that building character and integrity is far more important to us than academic, athletic, or any other kind of success.  That we would rather have a child who’s recognized for their character than any other award.  I don’t care if my child brings home a “C” as long as we knew their best effort was put forth.  I WILL care if my child brings home a B+ and is capable of an A but didn’t try.

Character.  Integrity.  Strong words, deep meaning.  Hard work.

Devyn is one of our easiest, there is little we have to get on her about, but she’s not perfect.  And lately, Devyn has been struggling with lying.  Its usually to avoid getting out of trouble (isn’t that the root of most lies) and we’ve tried everything in our bag of magic tricks to help her learn this valuable lesson in life.  We’ve done spankings** and groundings.  We’ve taken away privileges and toys.  We’ve discussed and reasoned until we’re blue in the face.  Nothing has worked.

And then today.  The dreaded email from school. 

Long story short.  Devyn signed my initials to her reading log and when the teacher confronted her on it, she pretended to forget who had signed the initials.  While I grew flustered at the email, embarrassed that my child had been caught red-handed, I was more concerned with the character issue that was at the root of this problem. 

A quick call to Jon alerted him to the issue that was brewing at home.  And then I turned to Twitter.  Because I needed a new idea, some new arsenal for our bag of tricks.  And boy did Twitter deliver.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)  Idea after idea rolled in, and within the hour I had a good idea of a sufficient punishment.  And after discussing it with Jon, agreeing that this was worth the try, we called Devyn into our room.

The moment I asked to see her reading log, she knew.  I could hear the whimper in her voice, the dread in her steps.  And when she returned to our room, her eyes flooded with tears.  We asked her if she knew what this was about, and she immediately started crying and apologizing simultaneously.  And let me tell you, its hard to remain removed from the situation.  That’s my baby who’s blubbering and apologizing over there.  My baby girl who is obviously sorry, and scared, and embarrassed.  One side begged to comfort and cuddle her, assuring her that it was all ok.  But I managed to remain stoic, determined that she learn this lesson now.  When the consequences aren’t so dire.

So we sat there.  Her dad, Devyn, and I.  We discussed the situation, we explained the consequences (both physical and emotional, ie, the lack of trust), and though she cried through most of it, we were resolute in our determination to see this through.  She knew that she’d be required to read double the time that is usually required from her homework.  She understood that she and I would be going to her teacher in the morning, before school started, so she could apologize to her in front of me.  And once again, we discussed why this was such an important issue to God, Jon, and myself.  I’m hoping it sticks this time.

And then we moved to the kitchen for the final part of her punishment.

As I poured a spoonful of T*basco sauce, I explained she didn’t need to swallow this.  But she would be required to keep it in her mouth until we said she was done.  “Devyn,” I explained.  “I want you to remember this the next time you want to tell a lie.  I want you to remember how this burned and how it tasted horrible.  My hope is that telling lies will soon burn your mouth, your lips, like this sauce does.  That this will make you think twice before the lie ever leaves your lips.”

I shot a look a Jon, twin expressions of dread filled both our eyes.  Neither of us wanted to do this, neither of us wanted to be in this position.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  But unfortunately, it had become necessary.

After a few seconds, I held a cup so she could spit it out.  It hurt.  It burned her mouth, her tongue, her lips.  And as I sat with her on her bed while she cried, I told her that it was my hope that soon lies would taste just like this.  She nodded and placed her head in my lap; spent from the long evening of discussions, tears, and discipline.  And unfortunately, she’s even more embarrassed to have to talk to her teacher tomorrow morning.

I don’t know if it’ll work.  I hope it does.  I don’t want to do this again.  But heaven knows I have three more children to go and a number of life lessons to teach.  I’m continuing to pray for guidance, wisdom, and yes, other unconventional methods of discipline***.  Anything that will teach these character issues to my Littles.  Its exhausting work.

*  I’m taking advantage of this last moments of talking about Devyn.  She’s soon reaching an age where she’ll get a choice of what is shared on the blog, and I’ll have to respect that.

**  Yes, we are spankers.  And I’m more than willing to discuss that with anyone who can maintain a respectful conversation via private email.  We also do timeouts, groundings, loss of privileges, and anything else that will teach a lesson.  Each child has responded to different methods.

***  For instance, when a tantrum is thrown and stomping is involved, our Littles will stomp up and down our stairs for a set amount of time.  We tell them to get their stomping out now.  Its usually by the third or fourth time stomping upstairs that they’re saying they’re sorry.

Mish-Mash, Photo Edition

Sunday, December 11, 2011 7 Comments A+ a-

I decided on a fun bird theme for Ashlynn’s invitation, sent it to Katie at Kuhl Cakes, told her to take creative license, and this is what she came up with.  It was perfect!!

BirthdayCakeI especially loved the individual smash cake.  So precious!  I still can’t believe our baby turned one!

SAMSUNG            Devyn has been sitting right next to me as I attempt to finish up Ashlynn’s stocking, showing avid interest in it, and asking to help.  So with her birthday money in hand, we went to Michael’s and came home with this sewing kit.  She has been a busy girl, even sewing a skirt for Ashlynn.

Lightbox_1323458588999There is nothing, NOTHING, more tender and heartwarming than seeing your baby girls grasp hands and dance to Christmas music together.  They’ve recently become best friends with Reagan leading Ashlynn by the hand, shutting themselves in Reagan’s room, and playing together for long periods of time. It does this mother’s heart good.

Lightbox_1323624415780Devyn was in the church musical this morning and it was a shock to the system to see our eldest up on stage, looking far older than we remember letting her be.  In fact, as we shopped for the required apparel for the concert, Jon was visually upset that we’re now shopping in the older girl section of the store.  He’s not ok with her growing up.

Its been fascinating to watch Hudson’s relationship with each sister develop.  He very much idolizes Devyn, wanting to be big like her, do everything she does, and their relationship is developing into best friends.  With Reagan, there’s very much a competitive element to their relationship.  I’m sure it has something to do with being just 22 months apart.  With these two, they’re either best friends or worst enemies.  There’s little middle ground or gray area.  In fact, I have no doubt that when Hudson forbids Reagan from dating any of his friends, she’ll arch an eyebrow, throw him a saucy look, and say, “Watch me.”

Lightbox_1323618308716And with Ashlynn, the adoration is mutual.  There is nothing that the other cannot do, or do wrong.  Her face lights up the moment he steps into view, and she is the first person he asks for when I pick him up from school.  It is precious indeed.

Keeping It Real, Grinch Style

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 7 Comments A+ a-


I have pictures and a post to write about our baby's first birthday party.  Someday I'll get it up. Hopefully before December is over.

It was the most laidback, casual 1st birthday party we've ever had.  It was just family, some snacks, and a gorgeous cake!  It was perfect!  Pictures soon, I promise.

I just finished working on the invitations for Reagan and Elliana's joint 3rd birthday party.  The theme is ladybugs.  I can't believe our girls are going to be 3 years old!

Let me recap.  Four parties in 4 weeks, two of those parties within six days of each other.  I'm going to admit, I can't help but wonder if God is playing a cruel joke on me. 3 birthdays within 6 weeks of each other, DURING the holiday season.  Really?!

Now I'm trying to address 150 Christmas cards, finish Ashlynn's Christmas stocking, start shopping for Christmas gifts, do some holiday baking, and maintain my designing schedule.  I think, no, I know, I bit off more than I can chew.

So somewhere between the twinkling lights and the birthday parties, I'm in desperate need of the holiday spirit.

This Year Has Been a Gift

Thursday, December 01, 2011 6 Comments A+ a-



I never knew if I'd get to have this year again.  I'd just been given the green light to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom.  With the loss of income, I resigned myself to the idea that we were done.  I'd weighed the pros and cons, the idea of have having a 4th child versus staying home with the ones that we already had.  The latter won out.

I spent a lot of time that week cuddling 15-month-old Reagan, wondering if I'd really savored and relished the last pregnancy, the last of our baby days.  It was an extremely bittersweet time.  Mourning, yet celebrating a dream come true at the same time.

Little did I know that God had already given me a gift.  And two days after I'd put my notice in at work, two pink lines appeared.  I'd been so caught up in our decision for me to be home, I was completely oblivious to the miracle taking place in my own body.  And while I wish we could say we were nothing but happy, but I'd be lying.  We'd lost income and gained another mouth to feed in a matter of days.  The stress levels were high.

But as time passed, and we grew into the idea of becoming a family of six, I was able to see this baby for what it was. 

A precious gift.

It was the first time I didn't work through a pregnancy.  There was no stress trying to schedule doctor appointments in-between lunch breaks and meetings.  There was no need to find a temporary substitute to train and fill my shoes during maternity leave.  It was a gift of stopping, savoring, and committing to memory the moments that make a pregnancy. Even the last days of feeling swollen, huge, exhausted, and done.  It was an experience unlike any pregnancy I'd had before. 

It was a treasured gift.

During those first months of my babies' lives, my time off was always marred by the knowledge that I only had 12 short weeks.  And then it was back to reality.  Three babies.  Three times I cried the week before it was time to go back to work.

But not this time.  There was no sense that I was running a race against the clock.  There was no dread as she turned another week older.  It seemed as though with each milky smile, it eased the heartache of months of sitting and pumping in the bathroom.  With each smile, coo, and nap, I forgot about the times I missed first steps, first words, so many firsts. 

It was a redeeming gift.

This year hasn't been easy.  I feel like I'm still figuring out the best stride for me as a stay-at-home mom.  But this girl, this precious babe has smoothed some of the harder, sharper points of this year.  She has brought so much delight and love into this family.  She has fit in seamlessly, filling a piece of the puzzle we didn't even know was missing.  Her silly and sweet ways help balance the strong-wills and have brought laughter in moments when we needed it the most.

She is the gift that we don't deserve, and now we can't imagine living without. 

Happy birthday, our dear Ashlynn Rose.  You are more precious to us than I could possibly put into words.  Thank you for the light you bring with your smile, the affection you demonstrate with your head butts, and the giggles you instigate with your lopsided walk, the head shaking, and your dance moves.  You are a treasure and joy, my love!

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 1 Comments A+ a-


Totally Worth It!

Monday, November 28, 2011 12 Comments A+ a-

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Birthday cake done by Kuhl Cakes! Thank you so much, it was perfect!

With Gratitude

Thursday, November 24, 2011 2 Comments A+ a-

Its Thanksgiving. And while I may have been celebrating Christmas for almost a month, this is truly one of my favorite holidays. A time to stop, reflect, cherish, give thanks, and, of course, eat. It seems that its the antithesis of the holiday coming up... appreciating what already is, instead of creating lists for what is wanted.

And reflecting, cherishing, and giving thanks is what I'm doing today. For the big and the small.

...for the toys that litter our living, that sit under the covers on our bed, that are tripped over in the middle of the night. Small reminders that we have Littles to enjoy them and the means to provide them.

...for the cabinets that need washing, dusting, and rearranging... for the fridge that still works despite constant opening and closing. Proof that food once filled them and tummies were content.

...for the sound of crying, fighting, and making up. For the opportunity to practice forgiveness and instill teachable moments.

...for noise, chaos, and running. Sounds that aren't heard when fevers are spiking and coughs are hacking. Healthy Littles equals noisy Littles.

...for parents that are unwavering in their support and love.

...for sisters that can pick up on the slightest nuances and be armed with Starbucks and a listening ear.

...for family, both immediate and extended. Whose idiosyncrasies and craziness can be annoying and cute at the same time.

...for a husband that continues to love me through bad decisions and bad attitudes; who's willing to offer grace quickly.

...for Littles who stretch me and teach me. For the fullness they bring to my life.

...for health, for love, for full cupboards, for friends, for fireplaces and blankets... For coffee and honey butter spread... For good music, dancing parties, and wrestling matches... For friends, old and new.

...for a Lord that offers a fresh start every morning. A Lord that is never satisfied with the status quo and will bring whatever lesson is needed to move me beyond myself. A Lord that promises to be anything I will ever need.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Hearts 4 Hearts Dolls

Sunday, November 20, 2011 8 Comments A+ a-

I mentioned that Devyn requested the Hearts 4 Hearts dolls for her birthday and I am so in love with these dolls that I felt they deserve their own post.

Hearts4HeartsWe were wandering the aisles of Walmart when Devyn first brought them to my attention.  There stood the display of dolls and in an excited, run-on, long-winded sentence, Devyn told me about them. 

As I looked over the individual dolls, the one thing that really stood out to me was the fact that they looked like Americ*n Girl dolls but didn’t have the pricey tag attached.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Americ*n Girls dolls as much as the next female.  Heck, I devoured the books as a girl myself.  But I’m not about to spend $100 on a doll at my girls’ ages right now and the $30 price tag of these Hearts 4 Hearts dolls was definitely more manageable.

I patted Devyn on the back, urging her along, but tucked the idea of these dolls away to explore further.  And explore I did…  Here’s a brief highlight of my favorite things about these dolls.

  • First, and foremost, I LOVE that a portion of the proceeds go to World Vision, a Christian organization that is much like Compassion who strives to help children in other countries.  I LOVE that!
  • These dolls bear a strong message about confidence, education, and a desire to help their families.  A message I’m consistently trying to instill in my own girls.
  • These dolls are little girl dolls.  They are dressed like little girls.  There’s no makeup, no questionable clothing, no unattainable body shape.  Dolls that I have no qualms giving to my girls.
  • These dolls are well-made.  Despite the smaller price tag, these are not thrown together or made with cheap materials.  Well-made, strong, dolls.
  • I love that each doll comes from a different country and comes with a story of a girl in that country, and I’ve already read the books to Devyn.  What a great way to expose our girls to new cultures.

Devyn received two Hearts 4 Hearts dolls for her birthday.  She received Consuelo from us, Nahji from my parents, and an outfit for each doll from Jon’s dad.  Devyn shared Nahji with Reagan last night and both girls fells asleep with a doll tucked under their arms.  And it’s already been decided that we’re adding a Hearts 4 Hearts doll to Reagan’s Christmas list. 

ConsueloMexico

Consuelo - Capture the colorful warmth of Mexico with our Consuelo doll! Like all Hearts For Hearts Girls dolls, Consuelo stands 14 inches high and has a poseable, smooth vinyl body, and high-quality rooted hair for hours of doll play. Her hair is a waist-length fall of shining black and her eyes are deep brown with copper highlights.

Consuelo comes dressed in a ruffled, lace-trimmed turquoise skirt and a lime-green blouse with lively floral embroidery on the collar.

Accessories include: Silvery hoop earrings strung with bright beads, color-coordinated bangle bracelets, festive hot pink flower head band, bright pink shoes with silky ribbon ties, doll-sized hair comb with hair elastic, girl-sized H4HG power bracelet, beautiful mini storybook about Consuelo’s life.

NahjiIndia

Nahji - Experience a girl’s life in exotic India with our Nahji doll! Like all Hearts For Hearts Girls dolls, Nahji stands 14 inches high and has a poseable, smooth vinyl body, and high-quality rooted hair for hours of doll play. Her brown eyes gleam with amber glints and her hair is a sweeping fall of rich coffee brown.

Nahji comes dressed in a tunic of bright fuschia-colored crinkle cotton, trimmed in white appliqué, and lavender leggings with deep hems of embossed gold print.

Accessories include: Braided purple choker with pearl-like pendant, drop earrings of simulated pearl and emerald, removable beaded pearl headband, golden bangle bracelets, hand tattoo inspired by the henna mendhi of India, purple strap sandals, doll-sized hair comb with hair elastic, girl-sized H4HG power bracelet, beautiful mini storybook about Nahji’s life, jeweled nose piercing.

I haven’t been compensated in ANY way for this post.  Its simply one mama’s opinion of a great product and one I can whole-heartedly give my support to.  I’m quite excited to add to our collection of Hearts 4 Hearts dolls in the future, hoping they’ll add more dolls and the additional accessories they’ve promised on their site.  And if you should decide to buy one for your little girl, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

This One’s a Game Changer

Saturday, November 19, 2011 11 Comments A+ a-

I don't know why this birthday feels so different from the rest.  But it does.  Perhaps its the fact that she's in first grade now.  Perhaps its just that seven sounds so old.  Perhaps that she's finally "getting" reading or that she's excelling in math.  Perhaps I never imagined her at this age... as an infant, toddler, preschooler, a kindergartener was easy, I never pictured the schoolgirl.  Perhaps its that parenting has gotten infinitely more complex.  I used to have all the answers, it was so very black and white.  And now there's gray, and varying shades of gray at that.  That's another post for another day.

Regardless, I'm not the only one feeling the difference this birthday.  Jon showed up after plowing all night with flowers for the birthday girl.  I was floored, overwhelmed that my husband did this of his own effort.  And when I pushed him on the why, he responded that first grade seems like a good time to start this tradition.  He wants to be the first man to give his daughters flowers.  (Yes, my heart melted into a puddle on the floor and I fell madly in love with my man again.)

It touched my girl, in a way that only other females will understand. She giggled and twirled, and helped put them in water. The fact that she gave him a sticker, proclaiming him the world's best dad, speaks for itself.

She and I headed out for a lunch date. Just the two of us. She beamed when I told her no siblings were coming with us.  And as enjoyed our Olive Garden salad and breadsticks, I was once again awed by how much I enjoy being with her.  Not because I have to or because she’s mine, but because of who she is.  She makes me laugh, she makes me think, and she makes me want to be a better person.

Let me tell more about this girl we’re celebrating today…

  • When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she brought up these Hearts4Hearts dolls.  Her reason for wanting these particular dolls?  Because a portion of the proceeds go to “help other girls in those countries.”  Her words, not mine.
  • She and I have theological discussions often, and she GETS it.  The girl understands more than I was ever able to comprehend at her age.  Heck, she knows more than I did in my early teens.
  • As she and I discussed what she was looking forward to the most on her birthday, she replied that she couldn’t wait to open gifts.  And after a brief pause, leaned forward, “Mama, if I get a new coat, can we give it away to someone else who needs it more?”  (Verbatim.)
  • Her favorite excuse for doing something she knows she’s not supposed to do?  “I’m sorry. I just forgot for a minute.” Right.
  • She loves numbers so much that she pulls out her math homework as soon as she gets home on Friday afternoons.  And we play calculation/calculator games in the car.
  • She is sensitive and silly… loving… a dancing fool… wise beyond her years… compassionate and giving… sweet… dramatic (to a fault)… selfless… and beautiful, inside and out.  1321744515457

Baby girl, seven years ago, you came into our lives and turned it upside down.  You are still taking my breath away with your thoughtfulness, your insights, and your selflessness.  It is an absolute honor to be your mother.  Hope your birthday is as special as you are!

The Quiet Will Come Too Soon

Thursday, November 17, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

There's noise, always noise in our house. Sometimes its happy noise, or sometimes its rough-housing noise. Sometimes there's fighting, or the sound of Mom losing her patience. There's giggling, discipline being meted out, there's whispered secrets that aren't quiet enough. Toddler tantrums, a baby crying, TV blaring, music playing, feet chasing, couch jumping, sibling fighting, dishwasher running.

Noise. Its inevitable in a house with four children. I can't remember the last time the house wasn't alive with it. And while sometimes I want to run in my closet and lock the door just for a few minutes of quiet, there are other times I stop and try to soak it in.

Tonight as we got ready to go to my parents house to watch the Broncos game, Jon and I just looked at each other from across the room.

The Disney music channel was playing from my phone and Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, and Hannah Montana filled our living room. Jon and I had pushed and prodded feet into socks, then into shoes. Hair had been redone, and clean shirts put on. And it felt like we'd just run a Marathon. Too tired to actually get up and make our way out the door.

So we sat there, Jon in the easy chair and I on the floor. Eyes locked as we soaked in the moment.

Watching Hudson and Devyn tease and torment each other. Laughing as one took it to a physical level and soon both were wrestling on the floor. Watching our two-year-old sway her hips and turn in circles to the music. We marveled at her rhythm and wondered how she could possibly be turning 3-years-old next month. We listened to the baby giggle as she watched her older siblings from the safety of my lap. She rested her head against my chest, too tired to prove she's big like them.

Jon sighed a contented sigh, and again we locked eyes. A smile came across his face and he spoke what we were both thinking. "Its a chaotic family, but I love it. And its ours."

Christmas Ornament Exchange

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Wow!  144 of you signed up for the ornament exchange!  I’m so excited, and what a fun way to start the Christmas season. 

We divided the entries among the 10 hosts and each host is matching up her participants with partners.  We’ve broken down the list alphabetically, by first name.  Check the list below and check out the host’s blog to find your ornament exchange partner.

If you can’t find your name and are certain you filled out the form, leave me a comment and we’ll get it figured out.  So without further ado…

JackieJoanna

Jamie DanielleJillian

JennJill

Jenna – Jill

JenniferJessyka

JenniferJessie

JessicaJessica

I will email all my participants later today with your partner’s email address and any notes they left on the form.  Just a reminder that all ornaments need to be mailed by Wednesday, November 30th, and there’s a $10 limit.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know!  Thanks for playing everyone!

A Mish-Mash of . . . Stuff

Sunday, November 13, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

Its been quiet on the blog front this week.  Mostly because every time I went to publish a post, I couldn’t find the words.  So instead of trying to put together a coherent, well thought out post, I’m just going to do a mish-mash of stuff.

  • I’ve been consumed with the news coming out of Penn State last week.  Heartsick over it actually.  I tried reading the grand jury report, but I couldn’t get past the first few pages.  I just can’t wrap my head around the whole thing… the perpetrator… the witness who did nothing… the coach who was willing to pass the buck to someone else… the victims, oh, the victims.  My heart just rips in half over the victims and their mothers.  I can’t imagine feeling that helpless.
  • I read this post on Friday and it resonated with me.  Its exactly how I feel about the situation, but couldn’t find the words to write it.
  • The morning after we found out about it, we had a serious conversation with Devyn and Hudson.  Giving them the tools and permission needed to say no.  We’ve had those conversations before, in fact we have them every few months, and as uncomfortable as it is (not to mention how much I HATE that we even have to have those conversations), they are important.  I encourage you to empower your children with the same tools.
  • Ashlynn’s hand is healing so well!!  In fact, we’re not even wrapping it in gauze any more.  She’s using her right hand more, and has a few raw spots that are still healing.  It obviously is itching her like crazy, evident by the fact that she keeps trying to gnaw on her hand.
  • I’d be worried about the gnawing if she actually had teeth, but since she’s almost one year old and without a tooth in her mouth, I see no harm in it.
  • She is by far our latest teether.  All of our other Littles had a tooth, or two or three, by this age.  So to summarize, Ashlynn is our earliest walker at 7 1/2 months and our latest teether at almost a year old.
  • Don’t get my started on the fact that my oldest turns seven and my baby turns one in the next few weeks.  My heart can’t handle it.  I’m fairly emotional right now and find myself tearing up at the oddest moments.
  • We have 3 birthdays taking place in from mid-November to the end of December.  Three.  I’ve decided that after this year, because I think all babies deserve their own birthday party for the 1st one, we’re going to have just one family party for all three girls.  We’ll do separate friend parties, but there’s absolutely no way I’m planning 6 different parties in the span of 6 weeks.  Not happening.
  • Besides, between daughters, a niece, a sister, a brother, and Christmas, our December is just too full already.  Have mercy, dear Lord, no more December babies!
  • I usually have a no-Christmas-until-after-Thanksgiving, one-holiday-at-a-time rule.  However, I have broken this rule in spades this year.  I’ve been playing Christmas music for a couple of weeks now, making Christmas lists, checking them twice, and I even made Grammie’s chex mix today.1321224239280
  • Grammie amade this every single year at Christmas.  I remember walking into her kitchen and sneaking bits out of the boiler sitting on her counter.  Never mind that it was piping hot, it was too delicious to leave well enough alone.  For me, Christmas will always equal Grammie.  (See?  Tears.  E.M.O.T.I.O.N.A.L.)
  • I started making the chex mix about five years ago.  There’s something very comforting about the smell of it baking, it takes me back.  But the best part?  The part that makes me the happiest?  Devyn and Hudson are starting to associate the chex mix with Christmas and tradition.  And passing that on to them, is priceless!
  • I had every intention of posting my thoughts on Chapter 5 of the Sacred Marriage study.  Obviously that worked out well for me, huh?!  Ha!  While I’m not consistently posting on the study, I am loving the conversations we’re having on Facebook about the study.  I’m thankful that we have women from all walks of life, newlyweds, mothers of babies, mothers of older children, older, wiser, younger, fresh perspectives.  Its been a blessing!
  • We had our dear, sweet friends out for a visit from Washington.  It seems that Amy and I have passed the blogging torch on to our younger sisters, since they already have their visit recaps and photos up on their blogs.  I will say that we’ve decided to drop the first word in our “blogging friend” description.  They are friends, plain and simple.  It was a good visit, and perfect timing.
  • And if I haven’t mentioned it before, I must remedy that now.  Hudson, it appears, is partial to blondes.  For whatever reason, he is a sucker for them.  So when Amy and Kelsey showed up, who are as Scandinavian as they get, I knew instantly that Hudson was going to be smitten.  Sure enough, I knew the exact moment that he noticed Kelsey.  And her blonde hair.  He was suddenly shy and flustered, and couldn’t put a sentence together.  Oy.  I’m in trouble.

And now on to some business-type matters…

  • Tomorrow (Monday) is the last day to enter the Ornament Exchange.  We’ve had 130+ participants sign up, which is so fun and unexpected.  If you’d like to join us, click on the ornament button to the left.  Although I highly suggest a more unique name than B*tt M*nch.  (I wish I were kidding. Ha!)
  • I’m offering 10% off all custom blog designs through 11/15 and am offering premade Christmas templates at a fraction of my normal prices.  And if you have a Blogger on your Christmas list, then a gift certificate might be the perfect gift. (wink, wink)  Click on over and take a look around if you’re interested.

Hope y’all have a wonderful week!  I’ll be crying into my pillow over the fact that my baby turns seven on Saturday.

Sacred Marriage, Chapter 5

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 0 Comments A+ a-

I haven't had a chance to read Chapter 5 just yet, but here's the linky tool for everyone else to link up!  I'll post by chapter tomorrow.

And a reminder that we'll meet online on Thursday, November 8 at 6:30pmMST to discuss the chapter.

An Update on Ashlynn's Burn

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 6 Comments A+ a-

Its amazing what a difference a few days makes.

What a Week, Ashlynn Update

Friday, November 04, 2011 15 Comments A+ a-

Just a warning, I have a couple of pictures in here.  And they do look pretty gruesome.  So if you’re a queasy one, I don’t suggest continuing.

This has been a hard week, probably one of the most emotional weeks I’ve had as a mother.  While my head completely understands that this wasn’t my fault, my heart is having a harder time comprehending it.  And every time we went in for a dressing change, it was a plummet straight into the pit of guilt. 

During the day, you’d never know that Ashlynn had such a severe burn.  I’m sure that staying busy and playing with her brother and sisters kept her mind off her hand.  We were able to maintain her pain with alternating doses of infants’ tylenol and ibuprufon.  However, that first night was another story and she woke up whimpering and crying about 5-6 times.  It broke my heart.  And we got very little sleep that night.

At her dressing change the next day, the doctor prescribed us something stronger for nighttime and that made all the difference in the world!  I only give it to her at night, and right before a dressing change, otherwise she doesn’t need it. 

Thankfully I was warned that the first 24-48 hours after a burn was when her hand would look the worst.  And yet, even though I knew this, I was still unprepared for her dressing changes.  The 2nd day wasn’t too bad, the only difference being that the blister had doubled in size from the day before.  I wish I’d gotten a picture of just how big it got because I couldn’t believe something could be that size without popping. 

But it was Thursday’s dressing change that destroyed me.  I really think that dressing change traumatized me more than the actual burn.  It was pretty clear as we got to the bottom layers of her dressing that the blister had popped on its own.  The gauze was soaked through.  I was horrified when it was completely unwrapped and I laid eyes on it for the first time. 
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48 hours after the burn, the main blister popped on its own.  You can see some of the blisters on the pads of her fingers in this picture.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to help hold her arm down while the doctor cut away the dead skin.  It was seeing the angry, red, raw skin underneath that had me in tears.  Even the doctor and nurse had to ask me several times if I was ok.  No, no, I was not.  This was my baby’s hand that looked like something out of a horror movie.  (I’m still in shock that my baby is going through something like this.)

I drowned my sorrows in ChicFilA fries and fry sauce, while crying to Mom over the phone in the parking lot.  Yeah.  Thursday sucked.

Today’s dressing was hard, but the doctor is greatly encouraged by her progress.  The skin and blister is looking just as it should, and they’ve now turned over dressing changes to me.  Yay me.  (Heavy on the sarcasm there.)  And while it looks 10x better today, I think it bothered her more today.  She was extra whiney and fussy, even trying to scratch at it with her left hand.  At one point, she even brought it up to her mouth and tried gnawing on it.  Poor girl.
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72 hours after the burn.  This is still disgusting but a huge improvement in just 24 hours.  Do you see the blister on her thumb? Sigh. It breaks my heart.
Over all, if she wasn’t wearing her white dressing, I’d never know what lied beneath.  She is a very resilient little thing.  She’s learned how to protect that hand like a pro.  If she loses her balance, she falls with her palm up.  If she’s brushing past furniture, she lifts her arm high.  If a brother or sister gets too close to her, she’ll cradle her arm closer to her chest.  Really.  Its quite amazing.

The doctors have said it should be completely healed in 2 weeks, with very red skin for several months.  All I know is that I’m ready for this week to be over.

Christmas Ornament Exchange

Friday, November 04, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Did you notice the button in the sidebar?  Did you wonder what it was about? Well, a bunch of on Twitter decided to throw a Christmas Ornament Exchange together, because who doesn’t love new ornaments for the tree?!

Addie from Just Another Day in The Life, Ashley from Ashley's Carnival Ride, Emily from A Beautiful Beginning, Kerbi from So Are You to Me, Leah from The Imperfect Momma, Ashleigh from This Lil Heart of Mine, Sonya from Ladybugs, Butterflies, and Boxing, Karah from Chateau Stracener, Faith from Walk With Me By Faith

2011ChristmasOrnamentExchangeHere’s how its going to work…  If you want to participate, and you don’t need a blog or Twitter account to participate, click on the button or this link.  It’ll take you to the form to fill out.  We’re accepting entries through Monday, November 14th.

On Wednesday, November 16th, one of us will contact you with your partner information.  It’ll be up to you and your partner to exchange mailing addresses for the ornaments.

Go shopping for your ornament exchange.  There is a $10 limit.

Then all ornaments should be mailed by Wednesday, November 30th.  Easy peasy!  I think it’s a fun way to start the holiday season and I’m looking forward to seeing who I get as a partner!

And remember, its open to everyone!  No blog or Twitter account needed.  Are you going to join us?!

Mommy Guilt x10

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 14 Comments A+ a-

It was a cool morning, so I’d turned the fireplace on to warm up the living room.  We sat on the floor, Ashlynn and I, and I was trying desperately to get a picture of her for her 11-month birthday.  There were sly looks, batted eyelashes, and then the turning of the face as soon as the flash appeared.  It became a game for us, and as I moved out of the way to get in a better position for a picture, she tried to scurry away and momentarily lost her balance.

The next moment happened in an instant and slow motion at the same time.  I saw her reach out for the glass on the fireplace to steady herself.  And there was nothing I could do to stop it.  As her face scrunched up, her mouth open without breathing, the wail of pain about to burst forth.  I scooped her up and instantly began apologizing.  “I’m sorry, Baby Girl. I am so sorry.”  Over and over again.

I put her to the breast, the only way I knew to comfort her, hoping against hope that it wasn’t as bad as I feared.  And still she cried.  I ran into the kitchen with Ashlynn cradled against my chest, her cries of pain permanently etching themselves into my memory.  Hudson and Reagan peeked into the kitchen and kept asking me what was wrong, what had happened.  As I ran her burnt hand under the cool, running water, I looked over and explained to them what had happened.  I asked Hudson to bring me my phone so I could call Jon, and when he came back with tears in his own eyes, I almost became undone.  He adores his baby sister.

I begged Jon to get home, I was on autopilot but I could sense the underlying hysteria.  And since Jon’s my rock, my calm, my anchor, I needed him.  He promised to come as soon as he could.  I held my crying, hurting baby girl, kept a cold compress on her hand, and cursed every minute leading up to the accident.  I replayed it over and over, wondering what I could have done to prevent it, why was I stupid enough to be playing so near the fireplace, and my heart ached with Ashlynn’s every whimper.  She kept rubbing her hand against the back of my shirt, as if trying to rub away the pain.  And I called Jon every 5 minutes to see where he was.

In between calls to Jon, I was able to get a good look at the burn and was shocked at the huge blister that had already formed.  It covered the whole palm of her hand, and there were smaller blisters on the tips of her fingers.  It looked as though it would burst open at any moment.  And I knew a doctor’s visit was in our very near future.  I called my friend, Cassie, who lives a few blocks over and without hesitating she came and picked up Hudson and Reagan for the rest of the day.  Thank the good Lord for friends in moments like that.

Jon finally arrived home (after what felt like hours) and we were finally able to calm her down with the help of pain meds and cold compresses.  Either that, or she had sobbed herself into exhaustion.  And we debated back and forth about the best thing to do…  And I think sensing that I needed a professional’s reassurance that I hadn’t completely scarred our child for life, he finally agreed that she should be seen.

Lightbox_1320200960803On the way to the Urgent Care.  Can you see the huge blister?  She babbled the entire ride there.

The doctor called it a superficial 2nd degree burn and wrapped it in burn cream, vaseline gauze, and the tiniest sleeve you’ve ever seen.  He prescribed ibuprufon and tylenol for the pain, and wants to see her in the morning.  She passed out on the way home.

Lightbox_1320201055373Poor, sweet bandaged hand.  Handle with care.

She’s already compensating for the loss of her right hand and using her left hand like a pro; she still cries if she puts any kind of pressure on it; and the older siblings are treating her with kid gloves.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling her, nursing her, and studying every sweet feature of her face.  Just doing whatever I could to ease the ache in my heart, knowing it wasn’t my fault but feeling the heavy burden of guilt anyway.  Mommy guilt at its finest.

Trick-or-Treat, Mulan for The Win

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 4 Comments A+ a-

Well, this was one of the craziest Halloweens I’ve ever experienced.  I’m exhausted, y’all.  Exhausted!  I noted that Halloween felt like a marathon, and it truly did.  I woke up at 6:30am, trying to get everything together for the day, and don’t think I sat down for longer than 10-15 minutes at a time.

  • I had to leave the grocery store mid-trip because I could sense the meltdowns were not far away.  And I was right.
  • My friend, Cassie, had to keep a tight rein on Reagan during the costume parade because she so desperately wanted to join her brother and sister and strut her Bumblebee costume.
  • I sprinted between Hudson and Devyn’s classrooms, with Reagan and Ashlynn in tow, to check out both parties.
  • And it was mid-transit that I heard the loudspeaker announce Devyn’s name as one of the winners of the costume contest for 1st grade.  I shook my head because when Devyn said she wanted to be Mulan, I wondered where she got that idea.  Of all the Disney princesses… Mulan.  But it earned her some free ice cream at our local coffee shop.  So be it.
  • And truth be told, Mulan has ended up being one of my favorite costumes of hers.  She really rocked the Asian Princess look.
  • We can’t forget Hudson.  The I-can’t-decide-until-the-last-minute-thereby-ensuring-Mom-can’t-buy-a-costume Hudson.  He had the hardest time deciding between GI Joe, a football player, a fireman, and a cowboy.  He finally decided on Cowboy, but it was too late.  So therefore, he was GI Joe.  Again.

It was a successful Halloween.  And now?  I’m ready for a day at home, with nowhere to go.  Bring it on Tuesday.

HalloweenCollage1HalloweenCollage2

I need a good chuckle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

As I’m going over our schedule tomorrow, I can feel the stress settling between my shoulders.  Just take a look…

Morning

Get Devyn dressed, ready for school. Complete with costume.  Grocery shopping.  Stop by my old job with the dressed-up Littles. Unload groceries.  Straighten up my disaster of a house.

Afternoon

Lunch.  Get Hudson out the door for school.  Return home, put the youngest Littles down for a nap.  Get back to Hudson’s class in time for the costume parade, help with the Halloween party.  Take everyone to my Mom’s so she can show off the Littles in their costumes.

Evening

Make chili for everyone, try to keep the sugar-high kids from destroying the house, have family over for dinner, get the Littles dressed up (for the 3rd time in less than 24 hours), a mini-photo shoot, and attempt at least 2 blocks of trick-or-treating.

Night

Wrestle sugar-high kids into pajamas, convince them that sleep is a good thing, eventually threaten to take away their candy if they don’t go to sleep.right.this.very.minute, then the sugar coma finally overtakes them, we steal their candy anyway and eventually collapse into bed.

See?  Good times await.  I need a laugh.  You?

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Yesterday Hudson and I were playing camping in his bedroom.  As I looked down at this son of mine, whose heart and imagination are stealing my heart once again, I ran my thumb across his cheek, across the smattering of freckles.  “Hudson, do you know where freckles come from?” I asked.

He shrugged impishly, “No.”

“They’re angels’ kisses,” I told him.  The same thing my grandma told me whenever she admired my freckles.

“What?!” he asked incredulously.  “When they’re done kissing my cheeks, do they fly back into my heart?”

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When we pulled into the church parking lot, I hopped out and reached into the back to unlatch Reagan from her car seat.  She looked at me in surprise.  I don’t wear makeup every day and today, like most every Sunday, my makeup was done in the car on the way to church.

“Mama,” she breathed.  “You have lips?!?” 

Ha!  That’ll teach me to wear makeup and lipstick more often.

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Yesterday we spent the day at my parents house while Jon and Caleb put shelves up in the garage.  (Side note, last night was the first time in 33 years of marriage that my parents parked both cars in the garage.  Seriously.)  Reagan and Elliana are developing quite the relationship, and being only 2 weeks apart certainly helps. 

Reagan was walking around with a pacifier in her mouth (a total no-no in our house), when Elliana walked up to her, pulled it out of her mouth, and tossed on the nearest kitchen counter.

“Reagan, you don’t need that!  You’re a big girl!”

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That’s it for now…  I hope to have pictures of our Mulan, GI Joe, Bumblebee, and Ladybug up on Tuesday.  And for all my complaining of our busy day tomorrow, its going to be a blast too!

Marriage: Its Worth Fighting For

Thursday, October 27, 2011 12 Comments A+ a-

This post is not directed at any one person or situation.  It’s a topic that’s been heavily laid on my heart lately.  Be it the Sacred Marriage study or other reasons, I need to write this post.  And before anyone tries to second-guess my motives or my intentions, I only put this out there for myself and because of my need to write it.

My sisters and I have alluded to the fact that Allison’s battle with anorexia saved our family.  And it did.  In every way possible, Allison’s disease forced our family to take drastic steps to fix some major dysfunction.

Allison’s disease was the result of several different reasons, pieces of a puzzle.  Our great-grandmother had died, years of having a hard time making friends, eating lunches and playing alone at school, and our family life.  In a household where she couldn’t control circumstances, fights, emotions, or her environment, she turned her need to control something… anything… inward.  From the time I was 12 years old, until we were forced to family counseling when I was 20 year old, it as a hard home life.  The details aren’t necessary, I don’t need to explain every fight or words that were said, or some of the memories we still have.  That’s not the point of this post.

The summer of 1999 was a breaking point for our family.  Allison’s eating disorder had been around for a year at this point, we were all living separately.  Never in our eight years of tumultuous family life had any of us felt as alone and isolated from each other as we did during that summer.  It truly was the closest thing to hell on earth.  It was “make it or break it” time.

We’ve mentioned a family week that takes place for everyone at Remuda Ranch, another prerequisite to bring Alli home.  It was during that week that walls were torn down, emotions and hurt laid bare before each other, and raw honesty was shared within our family.  It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done… and the first step towards healing.  Not just for Allison.  But for all of us.

Its been mentioned that some may be envious of how close our relationship is as sisters.  And we are close, sometimes unhealthily close.  They’re my best friends.  This, my friends, is the result of facing the fire together and coming out stronger.  (Hang in there, I’m bringing it back to marriage in minute.)  When you go through an experience like that together, you can’t help but become stronger and closer on the other side.  Its like when 2 strangers go through a horrific experience together, like 9-11 or a plane crash.  A bond is formed when facing dire circumstances, because you survived TOGETHER.

This is marriage, folks.  Its not all romance and flowers, it ebbs and flows.  And even when its at its worst, fighting for your marriage IS WORTH IT.  You must have the bad to appreciate the good!  If you can face the worst thing together, just imagine how strong you’re going to be on the other side.  If you never know bad, how can you appreciate the sweetness of the good?!

Watching Allison go through her eating disorder, experiencing the absolute pit with my family, was one of the hardest experiences of my life.  Its an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  But… if we hadn’t gone through it, I can only imagine where my family would be today.  If it took THAT to fix my family, to make my sisters and I as close as we are, then it was worth it.

About a year after we started family counseling, my parents called all four of us girls together.  They had this huge piece of paper, folded up like a scroll.  As they unfurled it, they discussed all that had happened during those last two years.  They apologized for the mistakes they made, what they’ve learned as a couple, and told us they were ready for a new chapter in our family.

The paper was a marriage covenant.  And there, before the four of us girls, they pledged their vows to do it better.  Dad signed under the Husband side, Mom under the Wife said, and the four of us signed as witnesses.  It still hangs over their bed to this day.

8 years.  It was a long, hard 8 years.  But they fought for their marriage and gave us a new legacy. 

I’m so glad they did. 

Sacred Marriage, Chapter 4

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 1 Comments A+ a-

I remember a moment during my engagement to Jon.  I was listening to a friend gush and aww her way through the description of her new boyfriend and a reality check set in.  I will never get those first-time emotions again.  I will never get to experience the butterflies of having my hand held, or the giddy thoughts of whether tonight will be our first kiss or not.  I won’t want to stay up all night talking to him because I can’t get enough, because I want to know everything about him.  I won’t get those moments of seeing only the good in him, because I haven’t gotten to see the weaknesses yet.  It was a little hard having that moment, because I love Love and those moments really are the best.

After time, however, these interesting little mysteries become all too familiar – and that’s when contempt can begin to seek in.   Every marriage goes through this stage.  An enrapturing love quiets down to a predictable routine.

Almost 10 years of marriage later, 14 years together as a couple, and I can certainly attest to the truth of this statement.  Jon and I have reached this point in our relationship where I can predict Jon’s reaction, Jon’s routine, better than he can.  Jon knows ME better than I know myself.  We can actually finish each other’s sentences.  Jon will start to tell me something and intuitively, I just know what its going to be about.  And vice versa.  We actually have full conversations with our eyes, without a word said between the two of us.

Some may find that boring, the predictability of it going against everything that is supposed to define the idea of soul mates and everlasting, true love.  It means the opposite of me.  To know that Jon knows me so intimately that he can predict my next thought, my next move, IS true, deep, everlasting love to me.  It’s a love born of an intimacy that few get to experience. 

Giving respect is an obligation, not a favor; it is an act of maturity, birthed in a profound understanding of God’s good grace.

However its within this intimacy, where there is nothing to hide, that my weakness, my failures, my missteps are laid bare to Jon.  He knows ME.  All of me.  He knows that patience is not one of my virtues.  He knows how badly I’ve failed in my worst parenting moments.  It’s a nakedness and vulnerability that I’ve exposed to Jon and I’ve placed in him a trust to love me and respect me through those ugly sides and moments. 

This chapter spoke profoundly to me and I had to cut this post in so many places.  There were so many things I wanted to write about, but decided to keep it to just these two points.  One of the best chapters I’ve read so far!!


A Jumbled Mess

Friday, October 14, 2011 5 Comments A+ a-

  • Its Friday.  My mind is fried.  And bullet points are all I can handle today.
  • First of all, I am overwhelmed by the kinds words from everyone in response to my last post.  Twitter, Facebook, this blog.  Wow, I’m just awed that so many care and are excited with me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • I have to admit, while the first email was exciting, the second email was even more so.  I have names of people to contact, more information about the publishing company, and a greater desire to finish this book.  They want to see a finished manuscript!  MY finished manuscript.  Um, someone pinch me.
  • So I’m hoping to dedicate more time to this book o’ mine.  I’m trying to be realistic in my goals, but I think a book in four to five months is doable.  Right?  I’ll just write when I have free time.  Right.
  • Hudson’s imagination has really gone into overdrive since starting preschool.  I’ve never seen him make up games on his own before.  He usually just goes along with whatever Devyn wants to play.  But yesterday he played hair salon and today it was restaurant.
  • He was both the “cooking man” and the waiter.  He even set up a table with a chair for me, and plates.  He took my order on a coffee filter and scolded me for changing Ashlynn’s diaper in the “restaurant”.
  • He’s really bossy when he plays imagination.
  • Last night was Devyn’s first musical performance and it lasted all of 15 minutes.  Ha!  I’m sure that trying to keep the attention of 80+ first graders is a feat above all feats.  So I completely understand.
  • It was adorable!  Adorable in a way that only a mom (or dad or grandparents) can appreciate.  I didn’t get teary, it just warmed my heart in only a way other mothers can understand.  And to The Grand Ol’ Flag of all things.
  • Afterwards we went to McDonald’s for a treat after the “concert” and I got a brief glimpse into Devyn’s teenage years.  Apparently some other families had the same ideas and there were about three boys from Devyn’s class there, all vying for her attention.  And then there was Devyn… who was both embarrassed and flattered by it.  Oy vey!
  • Does anyone want to come take my place during their teen years?  I’m just not sure how I’m going to deal with it all.
  • Reagan is continuing her streak of not going to sleep until 11:00pm or midnight.  We have tried everything!  Earlier naps, no naps, earlier bedtimes, later bedtimes, earlier wake times.  It doesn’t matter.  The girl is a night owl.  And I’m thoroughly convinced that these Littles are just born with the internal clocks they were given.  School mornings are going to be fun with her.
  • Ashlynn continues to be a morning girl and I’ve decided there’s nothing better than waking up to her ear-to-ear smile. 
  • Her personality is really starting to shine and where Reagan tends to be mischievous, Ashlynn seems to be a clown.  We all think she’s hysterically funny and therefore, she’s constantly trying to make us laugh.
  • And her kisses?!  Oh sweet, open-mouthed, slobbery, baby kisses.  Be still my heart!
  • Have you heard of Pinterest?  I opened a Pinterest account last spring before it really took off.  And while I can totally appreciate the purpose of the site, I just do not have time to devote to it.  I’m sorry to anyone that follows me on there, because I never pin anything! I’m just never on there.
  • Except I will be on there this weekend.  A lot.
  • Apparently when I signed up to “help” with Hudson’s Halloween party at school, I signed up to PLAN it.  This was recently brought to my attention by his teacher, and I assure you, had I known that’s what I was signing up for… I wouldn’t have.
  • So now when you see me pinning a ton of Halloween party stuff this weekend, you’ll know why.  And say a prayer for me.

The one that made me jump up and down

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 24 Comments A+ a-

When I got the email, Ashlynn was fast asleep on my chest and it took everything within me not to squeal out loud and wake her up.  So I slowly eased out from underneath her and got a few feet away before I started squealing and jumping up and down.  I tried calling Jon, there’s was no answer, so I called Christine instead.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as I tried explaining to her through gasps of air. 

“Christian… publisher… interested...” was all I managed and all she needed to hear.  We squealed and I promised to call her back once I’d caught my breath.

I ran upstairs to talk to Dad, I showed him the email, and he begged me not to get too excited.  Um, doesn’t he know its too late for that?!?!  And so I decided that I needed to call the one person who’d understand, who would get it, and who would be just as excited as I was.  Marianne.

As soon as she answered her phone in Utah and understood why I was calling, I could hear her joining me in the squeals, the laughter, the jumping up and down.  I laughed as I imagined her 8-month pregnant belly shaking from her excitement, I could hear the concern in her 2-year-old’s voice as he asked, “Mama? What’s wrong?”  And we got teary.  Because second to my mom, she has believed in me the most, she has encouraged and supported me, and on occasion, has even kicked my rear end when needed.  Its because of her I even started writing again.

I died as I waited for others to call me back… Jon, my sisters, and mom.  And I explained again and again.  I opened my email to find that a Christian publishing company is hoping I’ll consider them when I finish my book.  (As if I have so many other prospects knocking at my door.  Ha!)  And even if nothing ever comes of it, that email means more to me than I care to admit.

I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, trying to process what this means, if it means anything at all.  I’ve been euphoric one minute and negative the next.  Its been a wild ride of emotions.  I got mad at myself for saying anything on Twitter at all, afraid of what others will think, and most importantly, afraid of failing.

My writing is one of the most vulnerable areas in my life, publishing those chapters was/is a terrifying step for me.  I am so insecure when it comes to my writing, so afraid of failing that I’d rather not even try.  In writing this book, I’m trying to prove something to myself.  I never imagined it going further than this blog.

And it still might not.  I don’t know what, if anything, will happen from that email or the emails since, but I know this…  My identity is not defined by either success or failure.  A book on the shelves of a bookstore, or the book on this blog, neither will define who I am.  And as long as I can keep that in mind (I’m repeating it to myself as I write this), I’m ok with sharing this with you.  I’m an open book, my life is an open book, and I’m happy to let you in on this turn of events.  Even if I fall flat on my face.

And now I’m just as terrified to hit publish on this post as I was the time I hit publish on Chapter 1.

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 13 Comments A+ a-

PictureCollage1Image-1021PictureCollage2PictureCollage4PictureCollage5Image-1017PictureCollage3Photos courtesy of Becky Young Photography

Sacred Marriage, Chapter 3

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 2 Comments A+ a-



“Love must be learned, and learned again, and again; there is no end to it.  Hate needs no instruction but waits only to be provoked.”  Katherine Anne Porter

Gary Thomas used the above quote in Chapter 3 to solidify his argument that love is not a feeling, it is something to be learned.  I’m referring to the unconditional, Christ-like love that we’re supposed to feel for our spouses. 

Do you know what’s easy for me to do?  Its easy for me to nag and nitpick at Jon, to keep a tally of everything he’s done wrong or how much he owes me.  Its easy for me to point out the ways Jon could be a better husband or dad.  Its easier to believe that Jon’s not meeting my needs or doing his fair share.  The list goes on.

Do you know what happens to me when I get sucked into that line of thinking?  I become impatient and angry; I become bitter and mean.  And the further I fall into this pit, the more our family suffers.  When I’m in this cycle, I notice that my patience with the Littles is low and my expectations unattainable.  In short, I become intolerable to live with.

But its easier than loving Jon the way I’m called to love him.  Because the way I’m supposed to love him requires work.  A determination to turn thoughts from the negative to remembering the times he’s been a good husband and father.  To resolve to keep the focus on everything he does right, and does well.  To take that painful step of asking myself how I’ve failed him and our marriage, and then taking the necessary actions to seek forgiveness.

See?  Its work because it goes against our very nature to love in this way; in a way that puts him above me.  And because I fail, and fail often, I’m resolute in my desire to learn how to love Jon the way Christ wants me to love him.  Again.  And again.  And again.

And PS, I’m thankful for a man who’s always ready with a portion of forgiveness.  He’s had to extend it more times than I care to count.

Chapter 4

Sunday, October 09, 2011 3 Comments A+ a-

Brooke and Holly were laughing over a joke that Tom, one of the local transients, had shared with them. The three of them sat at one of several picnic tables that dotted the grass of the park sitting on the outskirts of town. They were going through an unseasonably warm period and some from Campus Crusade had taken advantage of it. There were about fifty-five young coeds milling about the park; grills had been dragged out of storage units, dusted off, and taken to the park in the hopes of food, fun, and fellowship. When Logan first heard of the plans, he suggested this park instead of the more popular one on campus. The group had heartily agreed, most having heard both Logan’s seminar last semester and hearing of his rendezvous to this park on a twice monthly basis. That’s how the group found themselves at the park better known for its homeless population than for the young bodies playing Frisbee.

At the sound of Brooke’s laugh, Logan looked up from his place at the grill and smiled. He and a few of the guys had been serving lunch here at least twice a month for the past year. When he’d first lain eyes on Brooke last fall, he’d wondered if she’d ever join them and had instinctively known that she’d be a natural with this outreach. He chuckled when Tom threw out another joke and Brooke laughingly laid her hand on his shoulder and countered with a joke of her own. Tom was one of Logan’s favorites; despite the dire circumstances of his life, he was always smiling and always wanting to make others laugh. It warmed his heart to see Brooke and Tom connecting in the same way he and Tom had.

Logan turned his attention back to the grill and the task of distributing hotdogs and hamburgers to the next in line. Brooke was constantly invading his thoughts these days; he was completely unsure of himself where she was concerned. It was a foreign feeling for a go-getter like himself; he always knew what the next step was going to be in any other situation. He knew where he wanted this to go and he was almost positive that he understood God’s direction, but he was completely out of his comfort zone when it came to what Brooke was thinking and feeling.

While they’d officially met only a few weeks ago, God had brought Brooke to his attention months ago. He’d seen her walk in with Holly, walk up to a new group of underclassmen, and welcome them to Crusade when he heard it loud and clear. That’s her, my son, that’s one the one you’ve been waiting for. While the voice no longer surprised him, he recognized the Lord’s prodding by now, he was surprised at the notion of a spouse, or even a girlfriend for that matter. This didn’t fit his plans at all. Upon his graduation, he’d dedicated his life to serving God and that was his only plan for the next five to ten years. A wife and family just didn’t fit into the equation, especially not now. But with the voice resonating in his head, he started rethinking the original plan. When it became apparent that Brooke and Jason Reed were seeing each other, he took a step back, thinking he must have misunderstood.

Yet week after week, he couldn’t help but be drawn to Brooke and her obvious, sincere love for God and of His children. When God placed them both in Sammie’s coffee shop that night, weeks ago, Logan decided to take advantage of the opportunity. When Brooke revealed that Jason had called things off, he felt his hope soar. In the three weeks since their initial meeting, they’d spent most of their free time together but no lines had been crossed regarding a more romantic relationship. Theirs had grown into a rewarding friendship and Logan was unsure of the next step; unsure of whether Brooke wanted the relationship to cross that line or not.

He looked over at Brooke, mesmerized as she engaged Reagan, a thirty-something year old woman with Down syndrome who called the park “home” in a conversation. He smiled as Reagan told Brooke about her friend, Jesus, Brooke smiling knowingly and listened to Reagan’s plans for the following week. Just then Brooke looked up, as though sensing Logan’s anxious thoughts, and caught his eye. She lifted her hand in a wave and sent him a sparkling smile. He felt himself blush and he groaned inwardly.

One of the most charming things about Brooke was the fact that she was so unaware of her own beauty. But the kicker, the thing that really drew him in, was the way she shined every time she talked about her Lord. It was obvious that her every thought, every action, every move was an extension of a real, fulfilling, and deep relationship with God. He’d never met anyone whose life was wholly dependent on being and giving their best for God. And just by being Brooke, she was challenging him to grow stronger. Yes, he knew that he wanted Brooke for his wife; it was no surprise since he was utterly fascinated by her. He swallowed the lump in his throat; he had no clue how to go about this.

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Brooke swung the Saturn into the left lane, barely missing the truck’s fender and Logan dug his fingers into the seat, trying desperately to hide his fear. Brooke bit the side of her cheek to keep from laughing; Logan looked as though he could bolt from the car at any moment… if she’d slow down long enough for him to open the door. The two were headed to her parents’ house for Easter dinner. When she’d heard that Logan was planning to spend the day alone, she’d insisted that he join her and her family. He’d look thrown at the invitation but hastily agreed to come.

“I truly enjoyed yesterday,” she told him. “It felt so good to get out and really do something for a change. Most just want to sit around and talk about reaching out to those in our community.”

He closed his eyes as another semi came within inches of his window. “That’s the idea. How can we save the world, when we can’t even fix the problems here?” he asked hypothetically.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye; so many guys she knew had such grandiose ideas, yet rarely acted on them. Jason had been such a guy, often blaming his lack of action on lack of time or resources. Logan was such the opposite, starting his twice monthly barbeques for the homeless with one grill, 10 hamburger patties, and two other guys from Crusade. Brooke was certain she’d never met another like him.

Her eyes clouded briefly as she thought of Jason. Rumors had floated through Campus Crusade for a week or so; Brooke paid no mind to them, determined to give Jason the benefit of the doubt. But when Holly confirmed that yes, he was engaged to a woman from his hometown, Brooke closed her eyes in preparation for the pain she was sure to come. She was surprised to feel nothing. Maybe it was the company of Logan that had brought her a distraction. Maybe she had prepared herself for such news when he’d first broken things off with her. But truth be told, she knew that her feelings for Jason had dissolved quickly because they’d never been real to begin with. Once again she was thankful for a praying mom and dad, knowing that through those prayers, she’d been spared a broken heart.

Brooke again jerked her car into the right lane, and looked down in surprise when Logan grasped her hand that was sitting on the console. With tightly shut eyes, Logan mumbled, “I’m scared, all right? And if you tell anyone about this, I’ll deny it to my dying day.” Brooke chuckled as she sped past the slow Camry, giving a cheerful wave as she did. The driver looked up in surprise as the Saturn passed her. “That’s it,” Logan groaned. “If we get there safely, I’m driving back.”

Brooke laughed out loud, carefree as could be; what an incredible, joyous day to be alive. She couldn’t help but think how right it felt to have her hand in Logan’s. Inwardly, she giggled like a school girl, anxious to get her mom and sisters’ opinions on Logan. She pressed her foot on the gas and urged the Saturn a little faster.

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Jessica was shocked at Abby’s appearance and wondered what could be causing the shadows in Abby’s eyes. Abby had walked into the kitchen with her infamous egg salad and seemed to melt into the stool at the counter. Jessica exchanged a look with her mom but stayed at the stove to finish steaming the asparagus. Aubrey left her peeled potatoes in the sink and crossed the room to her middle child. Without a word, she drew Abby into her arms and smoothed a lock of hair from her brow. Aubrey smiled, memories of rocking Abby as a child sweeping over her. She felt Abby object at first, ever the independent one, but slowly she relaxed until Aubrey felt like she was being used as a life vest. Aubrey frowned, wondering what was bothering her child. She drew back, kissed Abby on the temple, and murmured into her ear, “I’m here… whenever you need me… I’m here.”

Abby responded with a weak smile but turned the attention to her older sister. “So, Jess, how’s the moving plans progressing?”

Jessica groaned, not even bothering to hide her displeasure at the idea. “Let’s see, the company wants Rob out there in three weeks, we haven’t had any interest on the house, and just by looking online, I highly doubt we can afford anything as nice as what we have here.” She sighed, trying to lower her rising voice. The last thing she needed was for Rob to hear her; things were still a little strained between them, especially now that they were making plans for Rob to go ahead of them.

Aubrey resumed her position at the sink and continued peeling the potatoes. “What happens if you don’t sell in time?” she wondered.

“The company puts Rob in a furnished condo and we’ll stay here until the house sells.” Jessica was torn; part of her was ecstatic at the thought of staying a little longer, the other part fearful of being apart from Rob.

Aubrey raised an eyebrow; she was sure she didn’t like the idea of a husband and wife living separately from one another. A number of verses came to mind but she wisely tucked those away until she and Jessica could talk privately.

Just then she heard a car pulling into the driveway and the toot of the horn as Brooke announced her arrival. Aubrey looked out the window to see Emily skipping across the yard, dressed in her Easter finery, to greet her beloved “Aunt Ookie” – short for Brookie. Brooke emerged from the car and swept her niece into a hug. When a young man surfaced from the passenger seat, Aubrey bit her lip in concentration. Brooke had never brought a guy home before and had wondered what made Logan special enough to do so. Even when Brooke insisted that the two were merely friends, Aubrey had felt a small nudge at the back of her mind. She watched as Brooke introduced Emily to Logan and Aubrey was surprised when Emily reached out her arms to be held by him. Surprised because Emily was rarely that friendly with strangers, let alone a man, but there she was, content as could be.

“Watcha looking at, Mom?” Jessica wondered as she made her way to Aubrey’s side. She raised her eyebrows in surprise at the sight of her baby girl being held by a very attractive man. “Uh oh,” she breathed.

“What?” Abby asked as she joined them at the window. “Who’s that?”

“That,” Aubrey whispered, as she dried her hands on the kitchen towel, “is Logan. He’s a friend of Brooke’s.”

“Friend, huh?” Abby asked incredulously, watching Logan casually take Brooke’s hand into his own. They both watched as Brooke’s face lit up in laughter at something Logan had said. The older sisters exchanged mischievous, leering smiles. “This is going to be fun,” Jessica conspired with Abby.

“Hush you two,” admonished Audrey. She snuck another look out the window, thought that they did make a beautiful couple, and then called for her husband. She moved to the front door to welcome her baby and her baby’s… friend.

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The dining room table was littered with the evidence of a meal that had been well enjoyed; a half-eaten ham sat at one end of the table, while empty bowls of side dishes littered the length of the table. Emily had snuck off to enjoy another movie, this time the sounds of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato could be heard from time to time. Every so often, she tiptoed back into the room to steal a bit of chocolate from her Easter basket, but would hurry back to watch VeggieTale’s The Easter Carol. Thomas sat at the end of the table, with Aubrey next to him. Both had eased their chairs back from the table and in spite of the fact that Thomas was carrying a conversation with Rob and Aubrey was discussing Kyle and Abby’s upcoming trip to Mexico, the two of them held hands. It was an action that neither of them registered; it was a move that was so routine, so natural. On the other side of the table, Jessica was feeding bits of egg salad to Wyatt while engaged in a conversation with Logan and Brooke of Crusade’s plans for the rest of the semester. To an outsider, it was a room full of chaos and noise, but to the Cooper family, it was the norm.

Abby half-listened to her mom and Kyle discuss their plans for Mexico; she’d heard plenty already about the trip from Kyle. He was so excited to leave in a couple of weeks; he had every minute of their vacation already planned. They’d be busy the moment their plane touched down. Half the time she wasn’t even listening, she just nodded her head from time to time and it seemed to pacify his need for her attention. She looked over at Wyatt, who had thrust his mother’s arm away. Jessica was so intent on her conversation, that she didn’t even notice Wyatt rubbing his eyes. Abby smiled to herself, he was precious, that nephew of hers.

As Wyatt’s eyes continued to droop and as Jessica continued to be oblivious to the growing pile of egg salad on the floor, Abby excused herself from the table. She grabbed a napkin to wipe Wyatt’s hands and face. Jessica looked up in surprised when Abby removed Wyatt from the highchair; Abby motioned for her to stay seated. “Wyatt’s tired,” she explained. “I’m going to put him to sleep.” Jessica nodded her appreciation and returned to the conversation.

Abby shifted Wyatt against her chest and could feel his head growing heavy on her shoulder. She disappeared into the back corner room; the room that used to be Jessica’s had been turned into a nursery, complete with a rocking chair. Abby smiled, knowing that there was nothing her mom enjoyed more than rocking any baby, especially the grandbabies, to sleep. She crossed the room and pulled down the shade. The nightlight cast shadows across the crib and changing table; Abby eased herself and Wyatt into the rocking chair.

She rocked back and forth, singing some of the same lullabies that her mom had sung to her as a child. Wyatt’s head seemed to fit so perfectly in the crook of her shoulder; she felt his body get heavier and heavier as he drifted to sleep. She ended with ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and continued to rock. Abby moved Wyatt from her shoulder to her side; there were times when she couldn’t bear to be in the same room with him. Those were the times that she felt like God was mocking her; dangling the proverbial carrot in front of her nose. And then there were times, like now, where holding Wyatt was a balm for her hurts.

‘Why Lord?’ she wondered. ‘Why am I denied the pleasure of becoming a mother? What have I done to deserve such a nightmare? Please Lord, please! Kyle and I just want the opportunity to become parents; surely we’ll be good ones!’

Abby looked down at her baby nephew, in awe that he would be celebrating his first birthday shortly. She watched as he murmured in his sleep; his cheeks rosy from lying on his aunt’s shoulder and the hair on his head curling from the sweat. She wondered what a baby of theirs would look like. Would he have her blue eyes, her button nose? Would she have Kyle’s brown curls or his almond-shaped eyes? She felt the pressure building in her chest, the pain becoming so unbearable she could barely breathe. Before she could stop them, tears coursed down her face and she wept. Why was the one thing she wanted more than anything else, the one thing she couldn’t seem to achieve? For the next hour, while 11-month-old Wyatt slept in her arms, Abby wrestled with the Lord.

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Thomas was lying in bed, the nightly news was playing in the background, but his mind was on other things. He’d enjoyed the day with his family; he always did. He smiled at the memory of Emily squealing with delight during her Easter egg hunt; he’d enjoyed explaining the meaning behind each item in the Resurrection Eggs; and his heart had leapt for joy when Emily had announced, “He is Risen” when they’d come to the empty egg. He may have been too busy as a father to stop and enjoy those small details with his girls, but he’d learned his lesson and he was making up for missed opportunities with his granddaughter. He sighed deeply; the thought of them moving so far away was a little more than he could bear. But after talking to Rob, he knew they were doing the right thing. If only Jessica would jump on board; it was obvious she was dragging her feet every step of the way. He frowned when he thought of the discord that was evident in their marriage right now. He prayed that this rough patch would be short-lived.

Aubrey was just getting out of the shower when the weather came on the news; he listened to the weatherman predict a continuation of the warm spell with one ear and listened to the clatter of his wife’s lotions and perfumes with the other. He laughed when he heard Aubrey knock some off the shelf and the annoyance in her huff as she picked them back up. His thoughts returned to the day. His concern for Abby was growing stronger each time he saw her but Kyle assured him that she was just tired and overworked. He hoped the relaxation and sun would chase away the shadows and bring back the happy, content daughter he missed. He trusted Kyle; now there was a man who loved his wife with every breath he took. Thomas had no doubts that Kyle would move heaven and earth to make Abby happy. There was no need for concern in that marriage relationship.

Just as his thoughts turned to his youngest and the young man she’d brought home, Aubrey finished in the bathroom. She bounded into the room, lighting it up with the energy that he loved, even this late at night. He smiled at her as she literally bounced into bed. She tucked her legs under her chin, cocked her head, and with a gleam in her eye, asked, “So what did you think?”

“The question is,” he countered, “what did you think?”

She smiled, thought of answering with a cryptic response, but knew he was searching for a sincere answer. When Jessica and Abby had each brought Rob and Kyle home to meet them for the first time, her sixth sense had kicked in and she had known after spending one evening with them that she and Thomas had just met their future son-in-law. Thomas knew about, and respected, the gift that God had given her and often deferred to her intuition on such things. Even though an opinion had already formed in his own mind, he was anxious to hear her thoughts.

She smiled at him, “I liked him. I really, really liked him.” She paused, thinking about the sparkle in Brooke’s eyes and the ease with which they had interacted with each other. “I wasn’t able to get him alone, but when Brooke and I did the dishes, she couldn’t stop gushing about him.” She laughed, “I think I know more about him than I do my own daughter!”

“Well,” Thomas began, “I did get him alone for a little while and you need to brace yourself.” Aubrey felt her breath hitch and her heart stutter. “He wants to marry her.”

“Marry? They’re already talking about marriage? How can that be? They’ve only known each other a short time.” She paused for a moment, thinking back on their conversation in the kitchen. She shook her head, “No, you must be mistaken. Brooke would’ve mentioned that to me. I’m sure of it.”

“Whoa, Tiger, slow down. Don’t get in such a tizzy.” He held up a hand when Aubrey opened her mouth to interrupt. “He was pretty straight forward with me; he said that Brooke had no idea how he felt but that he was sure that this is where they were headed. He wondered how I’d felt about it.”

“And…” Aubrey said impatiently, eager for him to continue.

“I told him the same thing I told Rob and Kyle when they came to me. My hope that they’d both always put Christ first, that being best friends was more important than the flash and heat of passion, and that she was my baby, and as such, I expect her to be treated like a queen.”

Tears filled Aubrey’s eyes and she reached across the bedspread to clasp Thomas’ hand, “Oh Tommy, our baby.”

Thomas felt his own grow misty and he cleared his throat. “Well, I have to say I was impressed with his thoughts on the problem with the disappearing generation in the church.” He chuckled at the memory of Logan’s enthusiasm on the subject. “Yes, I think our Brooke may have met her match.”

He gathered his wife into his arms, and she willingly allowed herself to be held. She had no doubts that a Cooper wedding was in their near future; she just never imagined the hollow feeling of watching her youngest take such an important step. She drifted to sleep with memories of Brooke playing “Bride” with her older sisters.

Thomas looked down at his sleeping wife and tightened his grip. He absently brushed her hair, smiling at the gray that lay interspersed with the auburn strands. He was a bit alarmed at the speed of which Brooke and Logan seemed to be progressing toward the altar but he trusted his girls implicitly. They knew their hearts and little could be said to deter them once minds had been made up. He rubbed his temple in concentration, unsure where the uneasy feeling was coming from. It could be stemming from any of his girls’ situations but he had a strong feeling that it had nothing to do with them. ‘Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is there something you want me to do?’ Silence was the only answer, so he turned on his side, pulling Aubrey against his chest, and fell asleep.