Thursday, December 11, 2014

I've got things to talk about. Tristan's birthday, moving across the country.. well, diagonally across, acclimating to Texas again, lots of things. But I won't talk about any of that today.

See, what had happened was... my KC driver's license expired right before we moved. "No probs," thought I, because I think in these adorbs word configurations now, this is what I have done to myself. "No probs, I'll just blow this off and get my Texas license as soon as I get there." Except no, because if you don't have a valid license somewhere you have to start all over. As in applying, vision test, written test, and may God have mercy on my soul, the road test.

"So what," maybe you're thinking. "You're a grown woman, and you've been driving for decades." And that is true, although my grown-ness was once loudly challenged in a gas station, because of my height and what I have to assume is an incredibly youthful appearance. ("You GROWN?" he asked me, from across the store. "I mean, you ain't like a child or nothing?") I digress. I am, more or less, grown.

Back in the day, I failed the road test twice, because of parallel parking. I would like to veer wildly off course here, since I can and say WHY IN THIS DAY AND AGE DO I HAVE TO PARALLEL PARK. I AM GROWN AND I WILL DRIVE A HALF MILE AND PAY FOR PARKING BECAUSE I DON'T EVER, EVER HAVE TO PARALLEL PARK. Parallel parking, ironing clothes, check-writing, and phone calls: all prehistoric and personally offensive to me.

So I went and I took the test and even cheerily posted a pre-test selfie.

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I guess I was flying too close to the sun. It started off well, with the DMV officer laughing at a couple of my jokes. First thing off the bat was parallel parking. I took a new approach, which was going so.very.slow. that I was unlikely to bump anything. (burned before) I'm pretty sure I flunked that portion but I knew it would only be a couple of points so I got a little cocky, because I know how to drive. Moments later, I was returning to the DPS in shame, having exceeded the speed limit by 5 miles. Automatic fail. The internet was unanimous, they all felt very sorry for me but also could not stop laughing. I was laughing too, for a while. Then panic set in.

"What if," I asked myself in the wee hours of the night, staring into my ceiling fan, "what if I fail again, because I don't do a blinker enough yards from a turn? What if I don't check my mirrors enough? What if this time I DO bump the curb and oh Jesus whom I love, why do I have to parallel park again?"
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I woke up hours early, as is my custom when I need extra time for worrying. When I arrived at the DPS, I tried to put on a brave face, like I had not been praying out loud for please PLEASE Jesus make me pass one moment before. Again, the jokes went over well. I parallel parked like a professional 90 year old with vision in one eye and a bleeding ulcer. Then I drove under the speed limit around the city of Conroe. The thing is, they won't tell you if you mess up or pass or fail. They just keep a poker face and tell you to park by the curb at the DPS before they break the news. At the final stoplight, I was pretty sure I had maybe failed again, so I tried a little test joke. "So," I said casually, "I guess you can't tell people their scores till they get back, so, you know, a failed student won't just take off on a raging joyride with you in the car, heh heh heh." She laughed, albeit a little nervously. She then directed me to park by the curb in sight of the armed troopers, and told me I passed. After that she exited pretty quickly to get my paperwork.

I stood on the curb by a man with a multitude of neck tattoos. In my mind, I referred to him as a felon, but then I decided that was a rash judgment and just called him a thug. I made some small talk about getting a license. "I haven't had one in 4 years," he spit out, directing his words towards the armed state troopers. "I don't see the POINT, but I am getting sick and tired of them ARRESTING ME ALL THE TIME." I gave the guy a little room to breathe. Finally she came out and gave me my paperwork, and I said goodbye, to the felon and to my own life of crime. Feels good to turn over a new leaf. Plus, now I can look my 8 year old Judgy McJudgerson, in the eye.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tomorrow, I will be 36. Technically, this year will still be my mid-30s, unlike my husband, who will turn 37 in 2 weeks and definitely be in his late 30s. 36. Guys, I can smell 40. 40 is not old anymore. In fact, I'm starting to feel a little iffy about calling 70 old. Still, as with all my fully-adult birthdays, I will now assess my life accomplishments and lack thereof, and ponder my mortality. Also I will totally get presents and make myself a cake.

I know that, someday, after I leave this mortal coil, people will talk really nicely about me, and my funeral will be a fairly cheerful event, given the circumstances. That's because I'm almost 36, thinking that way. I'm glad that you'll all be nice at my memorial, but I personally feel the pressure each year to have accomplished something meaningful. "Ah, well," I think, "at least I loved my kids."

I wonder if that gets easier, the way that other things got easier.

In grade school, I was convinced that my protruding ears would make me forever unattractive, and that no boy would ever love me. Somewhere right around age 13, my ears became a non-issue.

Part of the reason they faded was my overarching awkwardness, my wonky knee (it's crooked, mind your business), and all my many other MANY other awkwardnesses. All of high school I was very, very concerned about my non-blonde-and-tan-ness (in Texas, many high school girls look like Miss Teen Texas contestants, and that is daunting).

47629_10150356344660441_4994076_nIn my 20s, I had a severely ill child and he was the only thing that mattered. Haircuts came and went, overalls were worn (I do miss my overalls), and life settled into stark perspective. In the light of life and death, I grew very comfortable in my skin.

Now, past the halfway mark of my 30s, I'm okay with how I look, how I think, how I relate to people, how I parent my children, for the most part. This decade, I am starting to worry about what I will accomplish. I have books in me, lots of books. I wonder if I will ever let them out. I like the thought of late bloomers. I wonder if the pressure to not be an underachiever will change.

I take comfort in the way that time shapes and shifts what matters, like a camera focus sharpening on the nearest object. This, my 37th year-in-waiting, will be a good year. I will learn to love. Also, maybe I'll write a book.


Thursday, October 9, 2014


Isn't FAQ a complete statement? Is the s really necessary?

Excellent question. I can't handle skipping the s. You're gonna have to accept this.

When are you moving? 

Our plan is to be in Texas on December 1st. We are looking for a big place to rent for the first 6 mos-year

Why Texas?

Well, it's God's country. Obviously.

Tell us more about the job

That's not a question, but I'm feeling generous. We will be Senior Associate Pastors, with holy duties all over the place. Stay tuned, there will be lots of internetting of meetings and so on.

Are you more excited about the pastoral position or the cheese enchiladas?

I won't even dignify that with a response.

What can we do to help?

Pray for a smooth transition, moving the kids means a new school, new friends, etc. Luckily we have family there, but it's still a big change. If you're local, we could use boxes and eventually we will need manpower to move furniture and whatnot. Lastly, you can donate to our moving fund if you want to.

Will you miss Kansas City?

We will, we love IHOP and our friends and, even though we're so excited about this new ministry, it is painful to leave so many precious people. We love the fact that IHOPpers are such a travel-y community and know we'll still get to see y'all from time to time.

What else would you like to say?

So much, so many thanks for the years of blessing here. So many people who have walked with us. Words fail me. It has been a rich season and I will remember it with great fondness. Looking forward to a season of service and fruitfulness at Freedom Fellowship.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Disclaimer: I don't feel like I've said this perfectly or even particularly well. There are some things that I work out on "paper" and you are reading along. I reserve the right to edit or even change my mind)
I'm on a journey. Now, I don't know about good drivers, but for me, a journey is often unpredictable and sometimes I end up somewhere unexpected along the way. Currently, and by that, I mean for the last few years, I am journeying through the "whys" of my faith. Most people wouldn't even notice the journeying, because I'm sticking fairly close to my fundy roots, because there's a lot I do believe deeply, unequivocally. But some of my questions revolve around "the rules". What does the Bible say and what is Western culture? When am I operating out of fear instead of faith? What really matters to Jesus, because He is my friend and I love him, so I want it to matter to me.

One of my greatest problems with some of the current modesty teaching is the weight of responsibility it places on women. I grew up with some of this, living in fear of making a brother stumble at any moment. In retrospect, I think I probably overestimated my sensual threat level.

As teenagers we were taught, and later, as youth pastors, we taught the girls that they were blazingly hot Bathshebas walking around with their weapons of sexuality, slaying Davids all over the place, and we taught the boys that they were victims of rampant sexual desires with very little power or control over their urges. We also inadvertently made their sexual purity the central theme of their young walks with God.

For women, there is a message in culture in general: you are a body, not a soul. Your power is in your sexuality, and that is your only means of power. Is it possible that we're presenting the same message in the church? Young woman, we say, you are a threat and a weapon against men of God. Fear yourself, cover yourself. It's the same message with a different application. Not only does this put women in an impossible place, where her very womanhood is a shame to her, it also negates the responsibility of young men to develop righteous habits, to learn how to appreciate beauty without sexualizing beauty.

Do we, as Christian women, have a responsibility to protect other Christians from lusting? I don't know if I'd say responsibility. The responsibility is theirs. Do we have a responsibility to love them? Yes. And sometimes that's going to affect the way we dress, because of love. Where's the line? you ask. Bikinis or burkas, v-necks or turtlenecks, skirts instead of pants, exposed ankle bones? I can't make that call, because it depends on the people you're around and, to some degree, their battles. I can say that there is nothing wrong with being shaped like a woman, and being beautiful and comfortable the way God made you. There is no shame in being female.

Men have an equal responsibility to love, choosing to see women as more than their physical frame, not placing the weight of their own battles or shame on someone else, because it's their battle. Because of love, a man might have to take a thought captive, not because of fear. It's about love.

I have struggled through this post, feeling like I'm missing a thousand things, like I'm not saying it the way I want to. Ultimately I just wish we could love God and each other and not live our lives in fear. I'm on a journey out of fear, into faith. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This summer was intense. Maybe that term is buzzwordy, but it's pretty polite yet strong. I could also say this summer was the 7th circle of hell, but that would be overstating it, and besides, I don't know my hell theology well enough to define the 7th circle literally, if I were pressed. I could answer metaphorically, for example:
You: What is the 7th circle of hell?
Me: Oh, that would be This Summer.

It was intense. Somewhere along the way here I have lost some of my supermom powers. I have grown weak and no longer want to take my children out of the house as a unit, because they are stronger than me now. Not physically- I could still take every one of them down if necessary- but in a metaphorical mom-is-so-tired-of-hearing-you-fight sense. In my defense, one of them is HIGH maintenance. Or four. But especially R2. He takes school breaks VERY personally, and tends to throw fits all summer long as a protest and petition to be put back on the school bus right NOW. And the Man of God was gone all summer doing teen camps, which is a real job with budgets and meetings and stress and details, but also bouncy houses and hot dogs and hijinks. Not that I'm bitter.

All that to say we needed a vacation. Lucky for us, we booked one last February for September. So we hit the road with the Clarklings and did some ministry and then launched into vacation-with-kids mode, which means exactly the same as normal life, except much more expensive and complicated and not in your house. Pretty sure they had the best week of their life, while we carried luggage and power-washed sand off them and broke up fights and dragged their kicking, screaming bodies out of the ocean at the end of the day. The MOG and I gradually developed wisdom about beach umbrellas and spray sunscreen (even though the internet said I would KILL them with spray sunscreen). We never figured out how to not get sand every dadgum where.

Now, lemme splain about Gulf Coast beaches. If you aren't from here, you don't want to come here, unless maybe you're from the Midwest and you've never been to a normal beach. We welcome you, Nebraskans. But the rest of you, we don't need you standing around looking superior, because this is our beach. Gulf Coast beaches don't have white sand, our sand is tan. Also our sand is not super-powdery, it is more liquid-cement like. It collects on your feet, and up your legs and into all your areas, and it solidifies and it stays with you forever, just like Jesus. It's a free souvenir for you to keep in your car and your hotel room and your shorts forever.

Also we have seaweed, unlimited amounts of seaweed, so quit being a snob about our beach and get jealous.

One of the beach days, we stumbled back to the van with our random sunburned patches aching, screaming kids in tow and the Man said, "I'm just figuring it out- these vacations are for them." Exactly, The kids had a vacation, and they will probably remember it the way I Instagrammed it, the moments of eye contact and hand-holding, the dinners out with us, and our attention, after a summer of surviving. I hope they'll remember it the way I remember my childhood, with the joy and the closeness- an awareness that things are not perfect, but things are good, together.

It was time for the grownup vacation. You're not gonna believe this, but we needed it.

To be continued...

Friday, September 12, 2014

"You should have a reality show!" people tell me all the time. "Your family is so funny!" Every time, I think, "I am SO glad I don't have a reality show." I control the way we are presented, for the most part. I tell you the funny stories, the redemptive moments. I don't tell you how heavy it is to have a teenager with severe special needs, not really. I don't share the ugly moments, the bad advice I've given, so many selfish choices I make... I don't tell you when I really, really blow it. I am so thankful for the grace and forgiveness of God, because if I had a camera in my face, NO one would offer me that kind of grace. I suspect it's the same for you.

I watch these Christian "scandals" unfold, somebody says something stupid or they question the Bible in some way; right now the dogpile is on Victoria Osteen, weeks ago it was Michael Gungor. We, the hands and feet, the human arms of Jesus Christ, cannot wait to attack our fellow Christians. We grab onto a headline, an out-of-context quote (or in-context), a weak moment, and we rip our brothers apart. I cannot imagine the broken heart of the Father in these moments. Do we have a responsibility as Christians to hold each other accountable? Maybe we do. But I bet you when Jesus had to turn around to his beloved friend Peter and say, "Get behind me, Satan," I bet it hurt Him tremendously. I imagine Him saying it through His own tears, His own longing for Peter to be aligned with His heart, back in the safety of that place. I guarantee Jesus didn't feel proud of Himself for taking Peter down a notch.

The anonymity of the internet makes us all bullies. We can write an open letter, a scathing blog, and our friends will cheer for us and against our brothers, while the subject of our vitriol will probably never see our stunning, brilliant rebuke. What are you doing with your life? What is your time going to? Because there are some men and women of God out there, doing the work, asking the hard questions, making mistakes, sure- but making them in the pursuit of truth and the propagation of the Gospel- to glorify Jesus. We are ONE, guys. We're the SAME BODY, serving the SAME CHRIST. Our face to the world is a civil war, often an uncivil one. If I were an unbeliever, I guarantee I would have no interest in a faith that cackled with glee when one of their own stumbled.

What would it look like if we lost the anger and the fear and the bitterness? What if we blessed each other, prayed for each other? We need each other, we need all the facets that all the different voices and expressions bring.

 Let's not be so eager to wound and destroy each other.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Social media is a mixed bag. I recognize its hold on my thought patterns, my addiction to constantly being connected- at the same time it is such a valuable tool and connector. I'll write more about the 2 weeks we just spent in Texas and in the Caribbean, but I'll start with my early-morning-should-be-packing thoughts about social media, or more specifically, Facebook.

I'm crazy thankful for the connection. The MOG and I grew up in basically the same county, maybe even the same zip code, for our entire lives. 7 years ago we made the move across the country, to a new state and a drastically different way of life. In time, we've made friends and built a life in our new home- we had to bloom where we were planted because life never comes with a calendar, and the new thing could be the forever thing, so there's no point kicking and screaming for the "old normal", there is only learning to thrive in the "new normal". 

This trip "home", (to Texas), we happily stumbled into multiple situations where we were able to reconnect face-to-face with family and friends that we haven't seen in some time, for some, 10 years or so. The amazing thing was feeling like I was stepping into today, not trying to catch up on 10 years or 8 months or however long it had been. I've seen their struggles for sobriety, or their children being born. I've seen them fall in love and I've seen them meet Jesus on their own turf. I've watched family grow, caught glimpses of their new houses and their temporary pets and their laundry in the background. 

"It's the highlight reel," people say. "The food probably got cold while that picture was being taken," people say. "It's a glossy misrepresentation", people say. I watched, during this time and during the cruise, and I learned, it's not a lie. It's a snapshot, and nobody wants to memorialize the snot and the sweat and the fighting. We all have that and it is part of our shared humanity. I'm realizing that even if all I have is the highlight reel of a friend's life, it is a connection to what they love and who they long to be, and we share that. 

I'm thankful. The open window is a gift, an invitation to live our lives together, across the miles and the words we can't figure out how to say and our deepest fears about ourself. Bring on the selfies, I say, because I love to see how your face looks today. Take pictures of your food, my good friend, because I can't be there to share this meal with you. Post too many pictures of your baby, because babies grow up and you will never regret too many pictures. Let's live together, friends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It was the first Vacation Bible School of the summer, and their hopes were high. I signed them in while they chatted up the octogenarians, cutting to the chase on family secrets and video game cheats. They had been here before, so they could talk with casual confidence about the layout of the building and reminisce about last year. We hit a glitch when Toby's name tag wasn't pre-made. Brynn had hers, and being a deeply loyal and concerned sister, she bolted for the sanctuary and her group of first-grade best friends she had never met. 

Toby, bereft of his second half, suddenly got very nervous. 

"I don't wanna go," he whispered to me. "I don't want to go here, I want to go home." 
"Let's just go check it out," I answer, leading him reluctantly into the sanctuary.

We sit, side by side in the pew, watching the kids mill around and volunteers scrambling with last-minute details. I remind him how much fun he had last year, how he made friends and sang in the choir. 

"I just want to be with you," he answers, slipping his long-not-baby-fingers into my hand and rendering my heart to a quivering mass of love. Every one of my kids has the ability to bring me to my metaphorical knees, and this boy has a death grip on my heart. I prayed for him, begged for him, worked harder than I have ever worked to keep him alive. Everything in me ached to grip his little hand and just go, go back home and hold him forever. 

photo by Shelley Paulson
Something else in me, though, continually reminds me that these children, flesh of my heart, are not just extensions of me, just the rewards and the joys I have been given. They are people, small people-in-training, learning how to live and breathe and serve others, how to walk independently. Every time I drive away from them, my body aches like I'm missing a part of myself. Every time I pick them back up, they are new, braver, sweeter, still mine but increasingly their own. 

"I want you to stay," I lie. "I want you to go up to your group and make a friend and spend the day. If you hate it, you don't have to come back. But you have to try." He looks at me, with the same baby eyes that brought me to tears of thankfulness in those first months. I look back, transmitting confidence and strength, pushing back any desperate hope to keep him small and mine forever. That panic, that wish is for later, when I am alone in my van. Today, I am making one tiny stride to building a man. "Go," I say, "go! You're going to love it." 

And he did, and he went back and made friends, and then he came home and climbed in my chair, arms and legs and elbows and energy enveloping me in a painful, boisterous boy-hug. I take the hit, I will always take the hit, because he is my baby and I am his mama. Always. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

"I'll sell some stuff on Ebay," I think. "I'll sell some stuff and I'll just order a pickup from a postal worker and it's like RAINING MONEY." "Maybe I'm an optimist," I think.

Fast forward through 7 days of cackling "Dance, my minions, dance," as the bids came in. Now push play, hurry, you're too far if you're already at the part where I am crying at the post office, rewind STOP. I realize I can't do my normal digital postal approach because I have to have USPS boxes or something and I think, "I'll just take the kids to the post office. How bad could it be?"

Photo by Shelley Paulson
Listen, new moms and drunk moms and moms who forget a lot of things, it can be so bad. Don't take your kids places. Stay in your house. Anyway, I was all excited because I bought this rolling shopping bag thing and I was excited to use it and all of the children were excited as well, so they started punching each other and pulling the straps off the bag and also just deliberately crushing orange crackers in the rug, because that is an always thing. I took possession of the bag and made some threats and we were off. It took 8 minutes to get to the post office, during which time I answered 14,000 questions about the postal service, stamps, Ebay and the government and a couple of curve balls about Minecraft.

"Listen," I tell my offspring, "It might be crowded in here and we might have to stand in line so just stay with me and don't crash into people, look where you're going and don't climb on things and try to respect people's space and don't touch anything and don't pee in your pants and don't be loud."

I once read a study or maybe just a headline of a study or maybe it was on a sitcom, who knows, the point is that young children have a tendency to hear selectively and tend to filter out negatives, so instead of saying, "Cain, don't hit your brother in the head with a rock," you should say, "Cain, do you think you could throw that rock in the river? You're so strong, I bet with teamwork you and Abel could throw some rocks real far and then we'll have ice cream!" 

And that study might be on to something, because they did.all.the.things. While they were crashing into people and fighting and trying to get inside priority mail boxes and climbing into hazardous waste containers, I was trying to figure out which box I needed, and how the what you're supposed to do, and the line was in front of us and behind us, all just grown people who know how to ship things and not bring hellions into the post office. By the time we were second in line, my Michelle Duggar vibe was wearing off and I was handing out some pretty intense eye threats and also sweating a LOT. The lady behind me asked kindly, "Is your husband deployed?" In retrospect, I should have lied. "Yes," I should have said. "He's deployed, and boy are these kids wild. Army life, am I right?" But I didn't, I just told the truth and sweated a lot more.

We got to the counter just as Tristan almost successfully broke into the glass Breast Cancer Awareness display case. "Uh, you need to go over there and do blah blah blah," said the clerk, who had no pity for fools acting like this was the UPS store where they tape your boxes for you and smile and tell a poor fake Army wife what to do. I gave 10 seconds thought to making a run for it, but the fear of getting bad feedback on Ebay made me stay the course.

Out we went into the lobby, where I taped boxes and ignored small people committing federal offenses while Toby, in repeated attempts to be helpful, said things like "Man, this must be stressful," and "You're so sweaty..." and "So, Rhode Island is an island, huh? Interesting."

Finally I had it all packed and taped and made some pretty direct statements to my constituents about what would never happen again while we were in our second round of line waiting. Again, they did not listen. Or more specifically, the smaller ones did not listen. Toby tried some generic pep-talking and R2 just obsessively pointed at the Spiderman postage posters while the other two tried out their audition tape for Supernanny.

"Okay," says the lady, "This box costs about $1000 to ship because of blah blah blah" and I just handed her my card like, "Girl, please."

On the way out Toby offered to carry the cart and ended up bludgeoning me in the forehead pretty solidly. I stumbled to the car, sweaty bangs sticking to my bruised and possibly bleeding head, while Brynn excitedly requested either ice cream or toys as our next stop, on account of their good behavior. I would have laughed but it was too painful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I love this nation so much. I'm not blind to our flaws. In fact, I participate heartily in many of her flaws, like, for example CORN DOGS. And also in her triumphs like CORN DOGS and DEMOCRACY because this is the greatest country in the world. Happy Birthday Merica.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I wake up nauseated. This is not morning sickness, I tell myself, because all of my friends have been puking, and not just the pregnant ones... so many pregnant friends. I think harder. No, this is not morning sickness, or food poisoning, or anything except the stomach bug that is going around and it has got me. Conveniently, this happens on the first day that the MOG is completely out of pocket due to teen camp duties.

Observation: I have been known to question the usefulness of men, but I cannot deny that stuff happens as soon as they are unavailable. It is SCIENCE. If the basement is going to flood, multiple children are going to vomit, a sniper takes out your back tire on the freeway, etc, these things will happen as soon as the male in your life is totally unavailable. They will happen as his plane leaves the ground or his phone battery dies. Feminism meets her match in those moments.

I make a goal. "I will not puke", I say. "I will do everything in my power to not puke." as God in heaven laughs. My children, who have been awake for hours, catch wind that I am ill. "Maaaaaaawwwwwwmmmmm," they scream, "can we eat cookies for breakfast?" I nod weakly, because no one is listening anyway. Tristan comes up with his cookie for a little snuggle time. "I'm sick," I groan, "I can't cuddle you, I'm sick." He takes it in stride and does jumping jacks on the bed, crumbs flying as I clutch my stomach and beg God for the sharp knife of a short life.

At one point, I make a mad dash for the bathroom, closing and locking the door as Tristan bangs on the door and howls at the heavens. I kneel on the floor and am suddenly made horribly aware of the state of my bathroom. "This is the grossest bathroom in the world," I think. "This is worse than that Quik-E Mart in El Paso. When I get better I am going to clean this bathroom." Time passes as I camp in this location. I give passing thought to taking a pity-selfie but decide against it, which is why this post will have no pictures. #regrets

I do notice, as I scroll through Instagram while laying on the floor, that my husband is making a rap video for teen camp. Because I am selfless and very near the end of my days, I forgive him.

Eventually, I hobble downstairs, because I am the only grownup and the government requires that children be fed. I make lunch for them and feebly request that no one eat it in the sunroom, or the living room, or anywhere. As I stop by the bathroom before attempting the stairs, I am sure I can hear the sound of macaroni bouncing on the tile floor of the sunroom. I carry on.

"When Cameron was in Egypt's land," I sing to myself from my deathbed, and then watch an excessive amount of television, which is all gross. Toby stops by, wise to his power. "Mom," he says from the doorway, "can we play Vampire Bikini Bordello Party?" or something like that. I raise my hand faintly in protest. "Thanks, mom!" he cries, running away.

The MOG stops by with crackers and Sprite. It has been hours, so I nibble cautiously. Various children stop by the sickroom. "WHAT?" they say, shocked, "Why didn't I get any crackers?" I let them take one, two, many crackers, which I know they will eat on the stairs, crumbs stretching like a Hansel and Gretel path for all of the ants, who will eventually find their way to my room.

The MOG comes home as the children are being desperately entreated to please, for the love, to go to bed. He takes over, using a Dad Voice, and they scatter and I go back upstairs to collapse in my cracker nest. The day is over, the stomach bug mostly conquered and life goes on. Next up: cleaning the bathroom. Tomorrow.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I've never participated in a blog roundup before, but it sounds fairly Texan so I guess maybe I should. Last week Jolie from The Gray Matters invited me to be a part of a Monday Blog Tour, and I accepted. As far as I know, this is Monday, although it is summer and all of the days are a blur of all the things that all the other days are a blur of. I would be more specific, but I don't know what I do all day.

What are you working on? 
Currently I'm working on a lukewarm cup of chai tea and a Seinfeld marathon. Also I am doing a few part time jobs online, and in my spare time I parent. In my dreams, I'm writing a book, although it's just a skeleton of ideas, desperate hopes, lame jokes and duct tape. 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Well, for one thing I would have a difficulty placing myself in a genre. I mean, I guess I'm a mommyblogger, a faith based mommyblogger, but when I hear genre I just think "Well, I'm definitely not Euro-pop-dance-metal."

One difference, I think, is my need to celebrate, not mediocrity, per se, but normalcy. I love telling the stories of the field trip fails, the cake fails, the stumbling drunken-monkey attempts at parenting. I wouldn't say I have an aversion to excellence, it's just I really want to avoid the glossy Instagram-filtered dreamscape that is prevalent. We're all doing slightly less than our best, and we need grace. There's joy in the imperfect, there's success in the failed attempts.

Why do I write what I do? 
I started blogging because I was on bedrest with a difficult pregnancy and I didn't want to talk on the phone. I mean, I never want to talk on the phone, ever. But specifically when the pastor or a great-aunt needed the deets about my cervix, the appeal of typing words to the world in general got super... appealing. 

Over the years, I have realized I write to make sense of life, or to make fun of life. When I write the story of the chaos and the crisis and I find a way to make you laugh at that, I end up laughing too. And then when it hits the fan over at your place, maybe you can think, "She lived through this, I can live through this." I want to make life relatable, the life and the world we all share. I rarely experience something that I don't think, "other people know how this feels, a lot of people". I have learned we are vastly different but so much the same. 

How does my writing process work? 
Somebody figure this out and get back to me. As far as I can tell, I just live my life, funny things happen, and I let my kids play video games and eat peanut butter off the floor so I can write it down. I have stronger than a sneaking suspicion that the process should involve effort and discipline, but that's maybe why there's no book yet. 

Who's next?
This is where this experiment starts feeling a little like a multi-level marketing deal where I hit up my pals for a great opportunity, but, shoot. I'd like to draw your attention to my online pal Katey over at Sweet Goings, who I have never met in real life but feel super bonded to through crisis pregnancies and genius children, and my new friend Sara at Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, because she is a poet-about-real-life and a visionary who I like so much, and also because she complimented me last night at a wedding, or at least I think she did, but the music was pretty loud. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My twins' birthday is today. They would be 10, and I miss them with an ache that has almost faded beyond pain. I miss them like I am missing a part of myself, and the wound has healed, but there is a wound, and a lack. I see them in the awkward lankiness of R2, in the blonde hair and quirky mannerisms of Toby... I see them in 10 year olds that ride past my house on their bicycles.

I'm thankful for the glimpses, thankful that they have not slipped into a not-really-there place for me. They are real, they are alive somewhere, and they are irrevocably mine. I am thankful. 

I wrote this for them last year: 

How many? they ask
and I hold you in my mind
like a dream, like a secret prize
In the shadows of my heart
you age
through a veil, through a glass
you are alive
my daydreams keep time
losing teeth, climbing trees, sweaty sleeping blonde heads
always with me
in the shadows of my heart
And I am so rich
with my arms overflowing
laughter all around me
laughter in me
but always 
the laughter beyond me

This week we celebrated Richy's 15th birthday. Last year his celebration was joyous and beautiful, but almost in a whiplash-we-just-dodged-a-bullet-and-here's-a-party way. This year he was actively involved in the party planning. I had planned on having cake and pizza at home, until he specifically verbalized that his party was going to be at Chuck E Cheese. Oh, Chuck E Cheese, you overstimulating wonder. Still, the boy gets what he wants.

(if you're new here, R2 was born at 24 weeks, and last year he almost died but he DIDN'T <catch up links :D )

I have a FIFTEEN year old. I think that might make me super old. I met R1 when I was 15. Weird.

I made a Monsters, Inc. cake... well, I made a cake that was vaguely reminiscent of Sulley's fur. R2 can't see very well anyway, so I think he was very impressed. He ate 3 slices, so you tell me. The staff at CEC was super accommodating, maybe because we were there at a pretty chill time of day, or maybe because R2 was in such a celebratory mood. He stalked Chuck E around the restaurant and finally got his picture taken.

It was a joyful, busy, noisy birthday. I feel like the fog of his illness has lifted to the point that we can really enjoy him and his quirks. A friend texted me after the party to ask how it went and I called it "a perfect day". I meant it. If we have 5 years or 50 with Richy, this memory will stand as a day that he was truly happy and enjoyed.

Happy Birthday to my first baby!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's swimsuit season, I guess. Every year I think about taking a spin back to the 1920's when we got to cover up all of our reproductive organs when we went out in the sun, but I don't want to look like a Duggar. I mean, I heart the Duggars. If my kids wanted to marry Duggar stock, I would give a hearty Baptist thumbs-up. Side hugs errwhere. But I don't really want to look like a Duggar.

Every year this time, I think, "maybe I will find something that looks great." and I go to stores and try on swimsuits and all my flesh is like WHYYYY THE LIGHT and I put my jeans back on and eat nachos in my bed with the lights off.

Now maybe you're saying modesty modesty modesty over like a mantra and I get it. I chanted that for years and once my daughter (God help us) gets older, I'm sure I will start a whole foundation for the eradication of "mixed bathing" and bring back the burkini. Until then, I'm just going to try to find a swimsuit that, from at least one angle, does not look like I am smuggling play dough sculptures inside my leg-skin and also that masks the fact that I stay 5 months pregnant.

I am relatively skinny. I'm absurdly short and relatively skinny. I am not terribly fit, however. So when I see articles about "The Perfect Swimsuit For Your Problem Area(s)" or "These Plus-Sized Women Tried On Bikinis, But You Won't Believe What Happened Next!", sign me up. I will READ that article.

And that is how I discovered that I am a plus-sized woman. Technically I'm a size 7, or a 4 in especially kind clothes, but the women in these articles, these Bounteous Beauties Actually, they look like me if I had a little bit of Photoshop work and better hair. I have a sneaking suspicion this is not technically plus-sized, but I'm going with it.

No more dithering between the Junior Prostitute and Corporate Grandma sections of the department store. I'm going straight to Woman's World and I am going to FIND the perfect swimsuit and try it on.

Feel free to join me afterwards for nachos.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Last summer comes to me in a dreamy kind of haze. "Remember?" it asks, gauzy linen sleeves blowing in the wind, "remember the memories? dreamy days in the park, laughing together at the movies, exploring the city hand in hand? Remember?" I do, faintly. I remember it like that. Also I very faintly remember sweating a lot and crying in the car after a particularly strenuous movie outing... but most of the memories are sweet.

Already, the chubbiness has slipped away and I find myself grasping the slender hand of an older child, a child who is pulling away toward independence. Already the baby laughter of last year has changed, the closeness of just me and them has changed as they make friends and learn the world. Already they are growing and I am not ready.

I made the summer schedule, all the camps and lessons and vacation Bible schools. My stomach sank as I realized they'll spend half their days away. Maybe I'll cancel some things, I thought, dreaming of snow cones and togetherness. I'll cancel things and we'll go to the zoo, to the water park. We'll rent a movie and make heaping bowls of popcorn. Tomorrow, I think, we will begin. Family Memory Summer '14, game on.

7 am on the first weekday of summer: I am awakened by a foot in my face. Tristan is asleep in my bed, Darth Vader undies and a train clutched in his fist. Downstairs, the natives battle it out over Super Mario Super Mega Something Or Other 12. I pretend I am asleep.

9 am: the natives are offered cereal. They don't like cereal. The oldest wakes up from the screaming. "When is my birthday when when when when when cake chuck e cheese birthday when when when change my diaper" he sends via brain waves. "I don't like cereal either" he sends and it lands directly on my central nervous system.

9:04 am the cereal is gone. I step in pee.

9:05 am: everyone is very, very bored. I send them outside to play in the kiddie pool. They are entranced.

9:07 am: bored. hungry. bored.

Vacation Bible School is starting to look pretty good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Part of my soul thrives in a city, with its concrete borders and the cacophony of street performers. Cities speak my primary language, color and chaos. This, the most familiar part of my heart, is like an abstract painting with slashes of red and blue intersecting haphazardly. I love cities.

In the city, strangers gather in groups and in families. The architecture, the excitement, the risk, all entirely human. The city current pushes us along sidewalks, in and out of shops, across crowded streets. In a city I am part of a collective, sharing air and sight and sound with the crowd. 

I love the crush of humanity, the shared experience and the flavor of a hundred cultures in a single block. In the city, my heart reminds me that I am so human. 

The ocean says something different. It speaks to something I'm less aware of. I find myself reaching for the boundaries, trying to find the edges of my world. There are no edges, the world stretching beyond my vision, beyond my understanding.

By the ocean, we stand alone. I climb the rocks, going to the end of the world I know. This is it, the edge, the furthest I can walk before I leave the most connected parts of land. I squint at the horizon, desperately alone and terribly small. This is bigger than me, I think, and I grieve. 

Behind me, a beach ball rolls across the sand, disconnected from my longing for the deep. The waves lap across my feet, every one changing the shore. Where has this water come from, I think, as the sun beats against my skin, skin I did not create and do not understand. My toes dig into the sand and their impact is immediately erased. 

All around me, the deep blues and long stretches of beige, like the loneliness and the tragedy.  I let the sun heal me, the waves remind me. I listen to the silence and I understand, I am not only human, but more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May is a minefield of memories. Twice, I walked through May with my unborn children and my desperate wish. At the end of May, I laid down my plans, twice. I'm always surprised, every year, by the wave of strain and melancholy that hits me on these memory days.

My heart remembers, my body remembers what my mind forgets.

These early weeks were the golden days, bright spring days with the restless kicking of my sons. Strawberries and sunshine, watching my stomach swell with the very sweetest dream. Later, May would become a fight, a grasping, terrified fight to hold on to what I had. It was a fight I lost, and even with all the redemptive years, new miracles, and personal growth, it will never not be a loss.

I tiptoe through these sweet altars, the places they were, the person I was. Heaven is never more real to me than these days of aching and longing for what I held.

may is the bittersweet
days of birdsong and sunlight
and aching even in the joy
may is treasures lost and found

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I was 21 when my dad died. I think, if someone had said that sentence to me when I still had a dad, I would have thought, "Well, at least you're grown, at least it wasn't while you were still a kid..." In reality, though, I don't think we ever stop being kids. There's this strange dynamic where our parents age and slow as we grow into adulthood, and the roles begin to shift, but even as it is happening, there's an inner struggle to still be the kid, to still be walking in the safety of their shadow. I don't think you, or I, anyway, can ever fully settle into the new reality of being the stronger one.

He died almost a year past the atomic bomb that was the birth of my first baby. You can read that whole story, if you don't already know it, but that baby (R2) was 4 months early and he taught me about joy in suffering. But back to my dad. His heart attack and death was a total shock. He was 52 years old.

I usually write about him today, April 30th. Today marks 14 years I have lived without my father. I was at my parent's house every day, I worked with my dad at his graphic design/animation business. The day before his heart attack, I was there, trying on a bridesmaid dress for my friend's wedding. "You look beee-yooo-tiful," he told me, the last words he said to me in person. The next day he called me on the phone to come see his new computer, but I was busy with life and the baby, so I told him I'd see it later. I did see it later, but he was gone. My last words to him were on the phone, "Love you, see you tomorrow."

It's easy to immortalize someone who dies young, especially if they were important to you. I don't want to do that with my dad, or Daddy, as I called him every day of his life. He was normal, human, flawed and so very, very good to me. He taught me how to laugh at myself, how to take my heart seriously but my circumstances and my pride lightly. He taught me what it means to have someone in your corner, the safety of a big hand to hold in scary places, how it is never as dark as it seems.

I carry him with me, when I teach my children to laugh. I am flawed and inadequate, but I hope that the canopy of my acceptance and my deep love is something that they can find shelter under all of their life, regardless of where I am.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's hard to really have a nemesis in this day and age. When you're a grownup and a relatively nice person, you don't get much wiggle room for enemies. "Friend you avoid at the store", maybe. "Nail Salon Lady who always cuts you"... now, she's a contender. But in general, you don't get a human nemesis when you're a normal-ish person.

My archenemy is less tangible. Every day I fight a chaotic force and every day it is beyond me. Before you pick up the phone, let me clarify: I do not answer the phone. But ALSO, I am not talking about a real paranormal or psychological force. I speak of the innate ability of my home to generate messes.

I have to own it somewhat. I have never been a neat person. I just don't naturally clean up after myself. "How," you are maybe thinking, "do you not SEE the bread left out and the peanut butter sitting open and the naked toddler cutting the checkbook with scissors?" If so, you might be my husband, or just another person that thinks like him, that personality type he commonly refers to as "everyone, all people." I don't see it, because I am looking at something else. Once someone starts slamming cabinet doors, I remember.

Some days, I wake up with a plan. Today, I think, I am going to clean the house. I have that thought silently, but it sends a bat-signal to my children, and then they think, today, I am going to break this house into a thousand pieces. Today, they think, this house will bow to me.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Science.

I make an attempt to mop the kitchen floor and somehow a glass container of spaghetti sauce is hurled from a great height, causing not only glass shards in a 3 mile radius, but also a CSI-worthy sauce field. "Why," I start to ask, and then decide not to, because there is no acceptable answer to why a child was standing on the counter with a jar of red sauce at 9 am. If I did not try to mop the floor, the sauce would never have made the climb, I know that. Science.

Once that is handled, I move to the next room. I put all the shoes away, vacuum the rug, straighten the paintings. As I turn my back to a child, the unmistakeable sound of a toy basket being upended while another child loses their grip on the milk carton.

Like a superhero walking away from an explosion, I move on.

I will sweep the stairs, I think. I will clean the toilet. I will fold all the laundry. I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE GOD. And like Lucifer, I am thrown down like lightning. I will read a book, I think. I will eat cheese puffs.

I acknowledge defeat and retreat. There is no evidence of my hours-long struggle, no clean window, no unsullied dish. The world is as it was before me. I pick up my book, and suddenly the world is still. My children fall into an easy camaraderie, quietly playing in another room. No one throws sauce, no one pours cheerios in the air vent, no one puts peanut butter on the cat. All is calm in our chaos of shoes and electric-bill-snowflakes.

Into this scene he walks. "Uh," he says, attempting to phrase it carefully, "so... what did you do today?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As a rock and roll girlfriend, I used to follow my man into Guitar Center or Xtreme Music Mporium or Shady Grove Retirement Center for Vintage Claptons, whatever. We went to music stores and I'd find some drum throne or amplifier without too many dials to sit on, and I would perch in the LOUD ZONE and listen to excerpts from Metallica, Nirvana and sometimes Kent Henry. 

It's not comfortable sitting in a guitar store when you are not a guitar player. People have loud conversations about pearl inlays and humbucker pickups and I would mostly wonder if there is any food in the forecast and also how to sit on an amplifier in a skirt, because as a girlfriend, you still wear skirts on dates. No one talks to girlfriends at the guitar store, not even other girlfriends, because there would be no point in talking, since you are in the LOUD ZONE.

"THIS ONE," he would say over the neighboring 14 year old shredding to selected chords from Stairway to Heaven, "THIS ONE, THE ACTION IS TOO HIGH. I THINK MAYBE I SHOULD LOOK AT.." and then wander off. I'd try to shimmy down from the Marshall stack without flashing anybody, and eventually find him deep in conversation with a guy wearing shiny dress shoes, slacks and a tie while sporting a waist-length matted blonde ponytail. As a girlfriend, I would stand there while he, nodding like "yeah, I play too," and not worrying about how much a guitar cost, because we were 16 years old and we had minimum wage jobs so clearly we could buy guitars. 

I think I still did the rock and roll girlfriend thing for a while as a wife, but once there were kids, I was like, "I've got this kid, see?" and I would stay in the car. Hopefully we don't get a tally of our time usage on That Great Day, but if we do I hope the Lord will chastise the MOG for the approximately 10 years of my life spent in the parking lot of Guitar Center and Ye Elite Guitar Shoppes. 

Listen, his music pays the bills, and I acknowledge the necessity of the proper tools for his craft. It's just that somewhere in the 20 years of music and so.many.children, I think I might have reached saturation and can no longer discern the crunchy grittiness or twangy rattle that I used to. "Yeah," I say, "get that one. It's green." 

A few weeks ago, on a particularly arduous quest for the Perfect Guitar, the children and I accompanied the Maestro into a store. Chaos ensued, and after about 20 minutes of chasing them through various secret doors and under billion-dollar pianos, I decided to once again retreat to the car.  Salesmen with face tattoos and navy 3-piece suits breathed a sigh of relief. 

Seasons, seasons. I figure I've got 5 years before I have to be the Band Mom and re-enter the fray. At least I can wear pants this time. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

I started coloring my hair in junior high. Back then it was just red, always red. All the heroines in the stories I wrote were redheads, redheads with violet eyes, because, realism. Then I discovered blonde and I alternated blondes and reds for years and years. My dad ran his own business and so we were either fabulously wealthy or facing eviction every month, so my mom did my hair at home. She called her kitchen salon "LaVonda Jean's".

Sometimes I went to school with hair that was more green than blonde, more pink than red. Luckily I'm a fairly confident type and still thought I looked cute as a greenhead. She kept doing my hair for years and then I moved away to Kansas City and have been experimenting with box colors ever since, except for several glorious months a friend hairstylist was making me blondish.

The thing with box color is, it's rough on hair. My hair is pretty cooperative and tends to take color well, etc, but shades vary from one brand to another and box color tends to be pretty flat, without dimension. 

So I read about E-salon and how you can custom-design your colors and they'll ship it to you, etc. They're running a promotion now and so I jumped in and ordered a kit. The site is pretty basic, letting you choose skin tone, real hair color, desired hair color, etc. Once you've built a whole profile they put your color together and ship it. It comes in an adorable box with your name on each item. They send a brush in case you want to do a bowl and brush mixture, but I'm used to the squeeze bottles so I went that route. 

If you've ever done color, you know you mix the color with the developer and shake it up. This kit has 2 colors and 2 developers, one that is the basic color and the second is the gloss. My main color was soft black and the gloss was red. I got a little confused in the process, even though there are detailed instructions. You are supposed to put the first mixture on the roots for 15 minutes and then the gloss on the rest, specifically the ends, for 10 minutes. I put the first bottle on and got paranoid about am I reading it wrong and I'm going to have black roots and red middle hair and so I put the black all over, which I think was wrong.

There are two steps, stain blocking cream and two sets of gloves, but I still managed to dye my arms and forehead and also my bathroom looked a lot like a crime scene. I don't know if it was the extra step or what but I got dye all over the place. I expect, knowing that, that next time I'll be able to contain the carnage with planning. 

In the end, the color is really nice. My hair texture feels unchanged, which is different than the plasticky Barbie hair I usually have post-color, and the color is really strong and shiny. I don't really have the red tone I expected, but that's my fault for not using the gloss correctly. 

So overall I recommend this stuff if you can't afford a salon. To me, it is an alternative to box color, but would feel complicated for someone who normally has their hair color done for them. Once the promotion is over I think it'll run about 20 bucks, and totally worth it.

I apologize for the "traditional selfie" nature of this photograph. I needed to show you the color, but I never meant to look fabulous. Accident. 

I think a basic rule of blogging is not talking about blogging. It's one of those meta-fight-club things where the blogger never really references the medium of blogging. Listen, guys, I didn't make it in fight club and I didn't sign anything at blogger club, so I'll talk about it. I'm in a slump.

It's not like there's nothing happening. Life is happening, my kids continue to be hilarious and I'd like to think I'm growing as a person. Somehow none of that is making it into the brain space that is writing. Every time I think about putting life into words, something freezes up and I feel stuck. I don't know if I need an exorcism or a vacation, but I'm working on it. Writing this, celebrating and mourning our shared experiences, it's too much a part of me to stop doing. 

And that is why after nearly a month, I am back, writing about hair color. Because it's in my brain and it's not stuck. Consider it priming the pump for better stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When you're a young parent... and by young, I mean new to parenting, not that I'm writing this post specifically to the 14 year old moms out there, even though you guys can totes read this but shouldn't you be studying? Anyway, when you're a rookie parent you are constantly trying to find the lines, where you're supposed to be, where the kid is supposed to be. Every other parent, every parenting book and article and blog hits you square in the uterus. You lie awake at night, questioning every decision.

And everybody else is figuring out parenting, too, and they have developed rabid convictions that may or may not outlast the toddler years. "Oh, sure," they say, "pierce your daughters ears. Now, I didn't, because I'm not into infant mutilation, but you know, whatever." You lose your fingernails over an articles about children who become serial killers, most likely because of an exclusively chicken nuggets and applesauce diet for six months of their third year. After some time, you get pretty used to your kids and you figure out what will most likely keep them quiet in public and relatively happy, and you take and toss parenting advice as you gain confidence in your own intuition.

It's just when you reach this level of comfort and maturity that you start hearing a sinister new voice. "Man, you sure are stressed out a lot." "Most moms play with their kids outside." "Do you have a baby in your tummy?" Your terror rises as you realize the voices are coming from inside the house. 

These children, who you have voluntarily brought into your home, clothed and fed, have now turned on you with a wary eye. "Other kids," they say snootily, "have Doritos for their snack." "Other kids have fruit leather." There's no use trying to reason with them, but I try. "Look," I say, pointing to their cheery neon packages of petroleum based fruit-extract-flavored gummy snacks, "these are your favorite, and they're only 4 dollars for a box of 25,000!" They are skeptical.

"When you yelled at me," they say, "it made me feel like you were angry that I poured the whole container of cat litter in the vent." I try to put on my psychologist voice. "I wasn't yelling," I explain, thinking of how to word it so it sounds the best when they repeat it to a social worker, "I was just talking loudly because it seemed like no one could hear me."

Today Brynn found a 30-second timer and followed me around, timing my tasks. All of the sudden I was overcome with the inefficiency of my peanut butter sandwich making process. "How fast are you going?" they ask, while I'm speeding down the freeway. "The speed limit is 65, mom, how fast are you going? Do you want another ticket, mom?"

The scariest part of it is, their discernment is dead-on, most of the time. I live with tiny prophets in Spiderman undies, so nowhere is safe. I'm either gonna have to clean up my act or get better at lying. And they ask me why I'm stressed....

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I try to walk a line here, like Johnny Cash... well, not so much like Johnny Cash. But I try to walk a line between finding humor in chaos without actually complaining about chaos. 

The thing is, there were several years when having a healthy baby seemed like an impossibility. I had had R2 at 24 weeks, and then had the twins, and lost the twins at 24 weeks, and no one had any answers for me. Those were the hardest years of my life, wanting more kids, but wanting to be healthy and wanting them to be healthy. It all seemed out of reach. 

In time, and with incredibly hard work and a ton of grace from God for the work, I gained the family I had prayed for, dreamed about. I live in the reality of answered prayers every day, and even if those answers came differently than I wanted at the time, now I can say I have exactly what I wanted. 

In the waiting, though, I learned how very, very hard it is to wait. I learned how painful it is when someone takes the impossible dream of your heart for granted. I remember crying about people complaining about their children, about their pregnancies,. There was nothing I wanted more than to be in their position. "I will never," I told myself, "be ungrateful when I have children." 

Like all "never" promises, I have failed in that many times. It's still a goal, though, to remember- to not let that feeling of longing and heartache get too far away from me. I have friends who are still in the waiting, and the last thing I want to do is hurt you with a careless approach to the great gift I have been given. 

In all the months of bedrest with Toby, and physical and emotional fight that kept me on my side, pumped full of drugs and prayer, my continual thought was, "If this gets a take-home baby, it is all worth it." That was my driving thought. Any cost, any effort, worth it. And it was. 

All of the hospitals, the bedrests, the adoption fees, my poor body, the sleepless nights of their infancy and even now, the moments of terror when Parenting 101 fails me, I would give it all a thousand times to have these ones. 

If you're waiting, I know that it is hard. I pray that you are given the desires of your heart. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The most alarming thing has happened. Our cats have begun exhibiting the most cat-like of behaviors. I say "begun". They actually began at birth and have never ceased. It's just that their tendency to be cat-like, combined with there being two of them, has piled up the catlikness until has overwhelmed the humanity.

Back when we got the first cat, and then when we tried to give away the first cat, and then again when we got the second cat (what is happening??!!), I made a deal with a couple of the small people around here, about feeding said cat(s) and changing the litter box. In retrospect, it was probably shortsighted of me to expect any kind of follow-through on the deal, since these are the same people who would gladly wear the same outfit for a month and eat Doritos off the floor. These same people cannot keep two matching shoes for an 8 hour period without losing one, but only one. These same people are shocked to tears every day by the arrival of bedtime, every day. It might have been shortsighted.

And the problem with a litter box is, when it is not taken care of, then it takes over. The cats say, "Oh, right, so this is too much work? How about we make your whole house a litter box? How you like them apples?" The thing is, we hate them apples. We hate them so, so much. At the top of the hater list is the Man of God, who is Sensitive to Smells with capital S's.

So the other half of my marriage had been pretty vocal about the cat situation for some weeks and finally I said, "Fine, fine. Just get rid of the cats. Do whatever." He turned immediately to the backseats of the minivan, where small children were singing happy songs about sunshine and Jesus, and he told them we were getting rid of the cats.

The sun left, and the rain came. Storms, torrential flooding, the earth opened up and swallowed the minivan and we plunged into the volcanic center where lava was spewing everywhere and all of the demons of hell were banging on the windows. Down we went, deeper still.

"How can you do this?" Brynn screamed, "Misa's just a kitten! She's like Tristan!" and everyone else was crying and screaming with tears filling up the van, french fries floating everywhere. With one sentence we had turned the Minivan of Cheer into the Hearse-ride to Hades.

$80.00 later, two stunned and confused adults found themselves at the checkout counter at Petco, with a fancy litter box and a scratching post and some various other cat accessories, while small people danced and sang happy little ditties about God and cats and laughter. Maybe we blacked out?  I still don't know what happened.

We still have total control of the situation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

This one time, when I was 7, I went to a roller-skating party with my church/school friends and I was skating with ease and grace speed, and I wiped out and broke my arm. I don't remember it clearly, it's probably blocked along with a lot of other painful memories like the time my brother blew up all my off-brand Barbies by putting Black Cat firecrackers inside their cheap plastic forms... In retrospect, that memory is not suppressed. I'm gonna need a minute.

But I wiped out and my arm was broken, and after a significant amount of time, a parental figure came to pick me up and told me to walk it off. I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but it was my dad and it was ILL of him. Rumor had it, in the childhood household, that I was a drama queen and a bit of a hypochondriac and thus, injuries were taken with a grain of salt. Days later, when my arm was massive and purple and immovable, it was determined that I was not full of it and if you don't think I still feel vindicated, then you maybe don't know me at all. 

Then I met the boy who would become my husband and, while I would not call him a drama queen to his face (today), I will say that he is very in touch with both his spiritual state and his physical state, and, more specifically, what is malfunctioning in his physical state. We got married and then we grew up and somehow I developed the walk-it-off mentality of my forefather and foremother. 

As a result, I tend to ignore whatever seems wonky, like that I've been tired all the time, or that I'm achy and irritable and not pregnant, but thank you for asking, until none of us could stand it and we decided to get healthy(er). So we've started a slow-but-steady campaign of trying to improve our diet. 

Something I ate caused an allergic reaction, with hives and swelling and pain, etc, and so I made my once-a-year trip to urgent care. The decoy doctor came in first, as is customary, and did my pre-interview, and then I realized that I have everything. Seriously, have you answered these questions? I have everything. All of it.  Not at this precise moment, but, you know, sometimes. And when someone is asking you if you have blurry vision, it kind of seems like maybe it's a little blurry, right now? IS IT BLURRY right NOW? No, okay, not right now. Whew. 

Walk-in-urgent-care docs are a bit of a breed. Look, if you know one or ARE one, then I'm sure you or they are the total exception to the rule. I'm just saying, when I go, it's generally because I want to pay money to have a professional tell me that Google was right and I should take some Benadryl. Also, he tells me, maybe I should lay off the fast food and eat a normal diet. "Google it", he says, "recommended diet". I'm thinking about becoming an urgent care doctor, myself, because I have MAD Google skillz. 

After that, he told me to go to a physician, and I was like, wiggy-what, because I thought I just DID, but then he said he is not licensed to take my blood. (Is it just me, or do you also hear "take my blood" in a Dracula voice with a muaHAHA?) And he also said I am anemic, and to get some iron at Walmart. So there you go. I'm gonna take some iron and get some diseases from WebMd, see ya later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You might have missed this, but I'm from Texas. Where I come from, we have some sense when it comes to cold weather. If it's hot, no problem, because it is always hot. Put a tarp in your truckbed and make yourself a nice pool. But cold, cold to Texans is like a big sign that says "Y'ALL GO ON BACK IN THE HOUSE." It was never that much of an issue when I lived at home, because it was only cold like 3 days a year, and by cold I mean 40 degrees. Occasionally we would get ice or a snow flurry and the mayor would come out and put the keys to the city in a coffin and we'd all get back in where it's warm until the horror passed, and then there was a resurrection ceremony where the mayor unlocked the donut shop...

All that to say, now I live somewhere that has several very cold months and occasionally real snow and I am smart enough, given my upbringing, to stay inside the house like a reasonable person, for months at a time. Yesterday I deviated from that pattern and paid the price. 

I was driving around on my own, knocking out a meeting and errands, and I tell you, I was feeling okay about it all. I made it up the Icy Hill of Shame in front of my house, and then I barely slid at the stop signs and then I did my errands successfully and THEN my GPS told me go this way and I went that way and it was a dead end driveway in front of an abandoned house full of large rats and homeless murderers. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just pull a quick u-y and the murderers won't even have time to get their axes." Except, snow. "No," I thought, "no no no no no. I refuse to be stuck. I refuse to be a dumb girl stuck in the dumb snow in front of a scary house when it's getting dark." Despite my pep talk, I was stuck. I tried reversing up to the flatter part of the yard, and that worked, but then there was still a hill of snow and no matter how I tried I was not getting over it. "What would a dumb girl do in this scenario?" I thought. "She would cry and then call a boy."  So that's what I did, and also I thought a lot about when the murderers would emerge, since it was still dusk and technically daylight. 

Look, I'm very independent. I handle stuff. I get er done. I never, ever cry and call a boy. Except this one time, with the chipmunk... but I digress. The Man of God was very alarmed by me crying and set out immediately to find me, except I was still following the Dumb Girl Model and sent him a location pin to some other location, so that I had more time to think about my feelings and also to Google how to get unstuck, which brought up the question is my tailpipe in the snow and am I getting dizzy right now because I'm totally carbon monoxiding myself but my tailpipe was not in the snow, because the snow is not anywhere near that high.

After a time, and a time and a half time he showed up and verified that I was, indeed, stuck. We practiced the art of marital discussion, where I expressed my truth about what would and would not get the car unstuck, and he tried very hard not to express what my truth has already done to our car. 

It grew darker and darker, as days are prone to do, and he tried pushing the van from behind while I spun the tires and yelled "It's not working" out the window and he would yell (because of the distance, see) "It would work if you would do it right" and then I'd gun it some more but every time we would just get in another snowdrift. After a while, he came and sat in the car with me and we considered a Romeo and Juliet but ultimately decided to call Roadside Assistance, who put us on a crackly muzak hold for 15 minutes while we tried the same things again.

Eventually we came upon using our floor mat in front of the tires and made a little headway, and then a little more, and then eventually out of the snowdrift and out onto the creepy abandoned driveway road. We then hung up on an inspired accordion version of "We Are The Champions".

 True story: I was totally Disney-princessed and the prince saved me.

My one regret is that I didn't take a single picture, even while sitting in front of the Grandview Haunted House of Dogs and Terror for over an hour. I assure you, though, it happened. And now I will return to the wisdom of my ancestors and never go outside in the snow again. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Inside the house, four children are daunting. They come into the world young, spirited, and full of ideas. The trouble is, we have already been here for years, decades, eons. We are already tired when they get here, and then they don't sleep for years and years, so by the time it gets to the really tricky parts like making dinner and tending to their eternal souls, we don't have a lot of fight left in us.

Outside the house, four children are indomitable. Out in the public view, the parents are always aware that we are one slip-up away from losing control and becoming the subjects of small, unreasonable dictators. Our greatest asset is that, for now, they don't know their own strength.

I've been dealing with some pretty major fatigue in general, so I've been doing partial grocery trips, just picking up essentials like ice cream and Coca-Cola. A couple of nights ago, the Man of God decided to go with me, along with our offspring, to have a dinner out and then tackle Walmart as a unit.

I did a little prep, and set up Team Daddy and Team Mommy grocery lists.  Some people in my marriage were concerned about the length of the Team Daddy list and required visual confirmation that the Team Mommy list was equally long. In reality, the Team Daddy list had been adjusted to allow for Toby walking 200 feet behind while reading a book. That book was almost purchased for $9.98 before a parental conference revealed that neither parent had authorized such a purchase, and it was snatched away and refunded in a storm of pleading and explanation.

Team Mommy had the two younger kids, Tristan, who mostly said, "Can I get out now? Please can I get out? I need to touch the cereal, I need to touch the chicken eggs" and Brynn, who had dressed in full cowgirl regalia and greeted every stern Midwesterner with a "Howdy, pardner." I'd say she got about 90% blank faces and 10% confusion, but she was unmoved, already riding her horse to the spaghetti sauce. Cowgirls don't need your approval, Missouri.

Listen, the team leader of Team Daddy held up admirably. I had strongly suggested he follow the list precisely, since there have been occasions when, being sent to the store for milk and eggs, he comes back with 4 kinds of colored cereal and Easy Cheese, but maybe not so much milk and eggs. His team got all but 2 or 3 items, and I had known those were a long shot. Oh, and they also bought a massive inflated chair, so that balanced the force.

The whole project took a couple of hours. We left for home a half-hour after their bedtime. "Where are we going now??" they said, so hopefully. Team Mommy and Daddy were unified in our response of "Nowhere, ever again."

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