These Tiny Feet

Just over 19 years ago, I met a precious little toddler. She smiled and brightened a room, and had a little pony tail that stuck up and fanned out in the cutest way. A few years later, I met the man I’d marry, and he’s such a sucker for little kids. He loved her right away too. She was one of our flower girls, helping make our day more special as she twirled around in her skirt, carrying a ball of pink flowers and holding our hands.

It’s not my place to tell you her story. It’s full of love, grace, pain, bad choices, trying again, and falling down. In the past few years, there’s a lot of falling down. But you know how God can make the brightest and most amazing things from these dark places? Yeah, he does it so often. Here’s a sweet and perfect one.

sophiafeet

Don’t you just want to eat those feet up?

We’re getting to. Right now, loving that little flower girl of ours looks like loving her little girl. Consequences are tough. Getting back up again after you’ve fallen is tough. But these little feet, and everyone who loves her is rooting for her. Even though she’s burned some bridges and has a tough road. But lucky us, we’re in a position to be able to help take care (for now) of what she loves most, her 8 week old baby girl.

We don’t know how long she’ll be with us, but we know that like her mom, she’ll be in our lives forever. She’s family.

Pray for these girls that we love, and that we know that God loves and has a plan for. Pray for us to be ready to do whatever is asked of us (we think we are). And if you see us with a sweet baby girl, just be glad you get to see a tiny part of what God is doing through her.

 

Baseball, Pumpkins & Not So Perfect Moments

Our weekend was made up of these perfect moments that take your breath away and make you wonder how God could trust you with these precious lives he made. That included Ben sipping on his hot chocolate, and then sweetly smiling and telling me how much he loves everyone around him. It included Michael arriving at dewy baseball fields two hours ahead of most anyone else, to quietly and without thanks, prepare for kids to play. And Ben laughing so loud it makes your heart hurt. That included Drew coming in as the pitcher when there were already bases loaded, and working his team out of that jam, cool as a cucumber. And Drew running while pulling his brother in a wagon that also held their prized pumpkins, both laughing heartily. It included Drew happily making a sandwich for Ben. It included both boys cuddled up with me at the end of a night, eventually drifting off together.

These are the moments we love to remember, to take photos of and store away in our hearts and heads forever.

And I could end the post here, with a few photos of these beautiful moments. But I won’t.

Because our weekend was also made up of these ugly moments. Ben telling me that I’m making him crazy, in a very serious tone, and me not responding in love. Ben swinging on a kitchen drawer, sending silverware crashing as the drawer broke. Drew  procrastinating on homework and ending up much too late finishing it. Michael and I not communicating about something simple that led to ugly words. Me losing my cool way too often.

That’s reality. We have this amazingly beautiful life that is full of the sweetest moments, but is also real and full of ugly. And heck, that’s on the good days.

I’ve been praying for a good friend of a friend and their family, as they are just praying for any moments with their son after a horrific accident this weekend. We shouldn’t need tragedies to remind us to just be grateful for whatever moments we have, but as is so often true, in those moments I just forget. I should have taken photos of some of those moments we’d rather forget, because they’re part of this life and part of who we are.

So, here are a few photos from the weekend, but with some honest captions to go with them.

Ben_cheeringat2nd_10-15-14

Excited to play 2nd! Cries when he has to play somewhere else, and sat down in the grass at one point. (though in reality, one ball hit the grass all game, so I kinda got his point!)

Drew_atbat_10-17-14

so mad about the umps erratic strike zone that he threw his helmet

 

B&D_WagonRunning 2014

me too busy trying to capture the moment to really enjoy the moment

Brothers_wagon 2014

I take back anything bad I said- they’re perfect! 🙂

A Moment to Remember

We all need more moments like these. Or at least I know I do.

Complete abandon, going down screaming with joy, one hand raised in the air in triumph, with no concern about what’s at the bottom.

Have one of those moments today.

Let’s do it.

Ben_slide

Car Conversations & 90’s Rap

This past weekend I spent a good deal of time in the car with Drew, on our way to or from baseball fields. (Between our family there were 6 games, 1 photo session and 1 Tryout this weekend!)

I don’t usually have that much time alone with him with little for him to do but talk to me, so I cherish those moments I do have. I remember that when I was growing up, drive time was often when the most important things were discussed. And when there was nothing important to discuss, we talked about all the things that didn’t seem important at the time but were investments in us, that showed they cared. We also listened to a lot of music and sang along loudly.

So today we do the same with our kids. But these days our songs of choice are 90’s rap. {Don’t judge.}

Some of our conversations this weekend were funny. Some were sad. Hopefully all helped build him.

Here’s a recap:

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit.

Requests for chicken nuggets, reminding me that he’s no longer filled by the kids meals.

Letting him know that a search team was coming this week to again look for Austin.

Letting him know that this search is focused on remains, because that’s what we can search for. And what’s likely.

Why people commit suicide, and why I don’t like using the word “commit” like it’s a crime.

How his Uncle Austin would he think he’s really cool. Especially with the long hair that Austin often sported too.

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit.

Update on what his coach told his team- including “most of you are weird.”

Mistakes are okay. Repeating the same mistakes over and over means you’re not learning.

Singing and dancing in the car. To 90’s rap.

Talking about the play he’s in, and how cool it’s going to be to watch him sing and act on stage.

How proud we are of the big brother he is. But also how he can relax and let us parent.

That baseball isn’t everything. But we love watching him do something he loves.

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit. (And how that’s true in life too)

Singing and dancing in the car. To 90’s rap.

 

Those are the moments that hopefully help build him as he faces life. And hopefully even helps prepare him as the searchers roll in tomorrow.

I’d tell you about Ben’s part in them- but that mostly involves jokes about eating your own eyeballs, crushing the ball (hitting), and how Bulldog Frenchie is his best friend. Not sure about that kid.

Pray for us all this week. I’m not sure any of us have enough of those building moments to make weeks like this be easy. Weeks where we don’t know quite what to hope for and quite what to fear, because they’re all one and the same.

 

swing

 

 

 

 

 

The Girls We Once Were

I remember us. Do you?

Young and beautiful and free.

Dancing, and jumping and twirling and laughing.

Do you remember that time we drew a circle of onlookers as we showed our skills on the makeshift stage at the roller rink?

Do you remember the time we played in the dark, hiding from the neighbor boys in a game that could have lasted all night?

Do you remember the time we rode our bikes to the drugstore and bought sodas and felt so grown up?

Do you remember the night we swam and ran on the beach at what seemed like midnight, but was really just past dark?

Do you remember when we earned those high scores after flipping and leaping and spinning till we hurt?

Do you remember when we planned snacks to share in class, with our teacher just shaking his head at us?

Do you remember when we planned for you to go to school with me in the 3rd grade and somehow pulled it off?

Do you remember when we worse sweats and ponytails because we didn’t care what anyone thought?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that friendships could end?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that our loved ones could be lost?

Do you remember when we believed we could do anything?

I remember us. Do you?

But we were told we might get hurt. We learned that scary things came in the dark. We learned that our bodies could fail us. We learned that people could hurt us. We learned that there were limits. We learned that friends moved on or away. We learned that those we love could be gone in a moment.

We learned there were limits. And we shrank back.

But only for a time.

We learned that hurt could make us stronger. We learned that we could be the light in the dark. We learned that our bodies could give life. We learned that we could love deeper than we ever thought. We learned that friendship can last years and miles. We learned that our memories can last.

We learned that the limits were meant to be broken through.

And now…

The girls we once were look so much like the women we are now.

I remember us. Do you?

 

{My post is dedicated to the beautiful girls who have become even more beautiful women who helped shape my life.}

This post is part of Story Sessions’ The Girls We Once Were linkup. I was inspired by the words there, and wanted to join. Read more of them, or add your own.

aalittle

Good News for Failures

I have said more that a few times that my son is uncoachable.

He listens intently, tries his best to do what he’s instructed, and picks up on things pretty well. He’s a smart ball player, who can take the things he’s told and translate them to the play.

Until he makes a mistake and a coach corrects him.

Sometimes it’s just correction in the form of what to do next time, and sometimes it’s a good old fashioned ass chewing. When he was a younger player, there wasn’t so much of that. But now that he’s one  of the most experienced players on a travel team, more is expected. And the intensity of the corrections is much greater. But as soon as that happens, he gets very defensive, and stops hearing what the correction was and only hears the tone and emotion. He ends up only focusing on the negative, instead of the opportunity to do better.

And as I stood by the field last week and had that thought again, it dawned on me that it’s a confidence thing- that he truly feels that if someone critiques something he does, they are critiquing him. And he feels that if they are critiquing him, that he’s a failure or they don’t like him, or he isn’t worthy at all. All because of being called out on one thing.

After thinking all that, my next thought was this- CRAP. That’s what I do. That’s me.

It’s all or none. Love me or hate me, accept me or reject me, all is good or none is good. But that’s not life. That’s not real.And that confidence issue, of not being able to see mistakes for what they are, causes me a lot of pain. Because I get defensive, feel attacked before anyone speaks a word, and feel like I’ve failed.

Maybe you have that challenge too. Of feeling like any mistake is a failure. Of feeling like one mistake makes you not worthy. Or one mistake may make someone not love you.

There’s good news.

failures

 

You’re loved. You’re worthy. You’re coachable. It’s okay.

Coaching helps us grow and learn. Coaching helps us be the best us.

It’s so easy to remind my son of that. Not so easy to remember myself. Let’s work on that together.

 

You Know You’re a Working Mom When… Beautiful Realities

I recently read this post that all working moms can relate to. It’s pretty good. I think the author, Rebecca Rose, and I could be fast friends. We could sit over a cup of coffee, or better yet a glass of wine, and connect.

She so vividly and accurately wrote of the challenges and heartaches of a working mom. (and please, oh my gosh please don’t let this turn into a battle of how you define ‘working’- for purposes here, it means a full time employed outside the home mom.) She made my heart ache a bit.

And she concluded with encouraging words to us, that despite it all we’re doing okay. But I got to thinking…. sometimes as Moms, we focus on the challenges and let the guilt build, and forget to see the amazing things too. So go read that and you’ll see some truth. But there is more truth.

Beyond the ugly realities, here are some beautiful realities.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your  kids know that your time is scarce and the time you set aside for them alone is even more precious and tells them how much you love them.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You gladly use your vacation and sick time anytime possible to see their school awards, nurse them to health or visit their class, because you’d rather be there for them during those times than anywhere else.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your kids introduce you to the friends you don’t know well, telling them about how you help people, build cool things or are in charge of a big department. No professional award can measure up to that.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your kids never question their ability to grow up and be anything they want to be, including a SAHM.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You learn to use the short special moments to their fullest- the car ride and bedtime are your greatest multitasking achievement of the day- pairing a necessary task with investing in your relationship.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You’re teaching your kids that you’ll do anything for your family, including be away from them all day if needed.

 

Our experiences are all different, our reasons for either staying home or working away from home all being different. Me? I’d always pursue a career, but might do it differently if I had it 100% my way. Many of my mom friends feel the same.

There are beautiful realities in any circumstance. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of them.

Christmas Gifts

The stockings are hung, the presents are wrapped, the goodies are baked.  We’ve rehearsed our Christmas Eve KidStuf show, decorated for the Christmas Eve candlelight service, watched the favorite Christmas classics, and even cleaned the house.  We’ve bought the last minute presents and should be sitting back relaxing and enjoying it.

But I’m on day two of migraines and getting enough relief to barely function but nothing more.  And Michael is on week three of an episode that hasn’t landed him in the hospital but has made me contemplate the need for it many times.  So just like usual, I’m feeling a bit sorry for us, and mostly for him.  He should be able to enjoy this season, but we’re here once again and he’s struggling with the emotional battlefield that creates.

But God keeps sending us these small surprises that help keep us going, and remind me that we’re not forgotten.

First, there was this gift.

As I dug through my wrapping paper supplies, which includes old Christmas cards that I use as tags, I saw handwriting that I hadn’t seen in years.  6 1/2 years actually.

Austin’s last Christmas with us we made quite a few sweet memories.  One of them was him helping me with Michael’s Christmas gift.  Austin was a computer whiz, and I asked him to set up and configure the new laptop that he’d helped me find.  He met me at Panera and we drank coffee while he worked on it, to make sure Michael didn’t see.  He then bought a warranty to go with it as Michael’s gift, and what I found was his handwritten note saying that he’d bought him a warranty.

It’s the kind of thing I’d normally throw away, and I’m not sure why I kept it.  I’m not sure how it sat in that box of supplies for so long without me seeing it either.  But as I sat wrapping presents this year, with Michael asleep near me, and me hoping for a miracle for him this year, I got a small one of my own.  A reminder of my brother and of the love he had for us.

Later that night, last night, another completely unexpected gift was given.

A small company, UnMarketing, who says to ‘Stop Marketing, Start Engaging’ did just that through granting items from wish lists for a fairly large group of people.  They asked you to send them Amazon wish lists, and they’d be selecting some people to pick an item off the list and send it.  No questions, no fuss, no contest.  They didn’t make you share it to win it, or like them on Facebook, or fill out an application.

Within 10 minutes, two items off of Michael’s Christmas list were ordered and a personal note sent about why the man behind this chose those- he didn’t just throw money (which was cool enough on it’s own) but he took time to connect.  They weren’t high ticket items, but they’re items that he’ll love.

And with those two gifts, I’m reminded….

We’re loved, we’re taken care of, we’re not forgotten.

I wish I didn’t have to write a post like this every year- that I didn’t struggle with balancing the great and true Joy of the God we’re celebrating and the kids who have my heart with the heartache of this illness and my brother being missing.  I often feel like I’ve said as much as I can say on these topics, and have nothing more to give.

But maybe, you’re like me and facing the same things year after year and needing the reminder that just because you are doesn’t mean you’re forgotten, or unloved.

He loves us more than we can know, which is after all why we have Christmas to celebrate.

Merry Christmas my friends.

 

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

 

Traditions

I’ve been gone.  I know you missed me. {despite your silence that would say otherwise.  no hard feelings.}

Every now and then I disappear because I can’t figure out how to write about what’s going on, but every now and then I just give myself permission to take care of what’s going on around me without worrying about sharing it, or enjoy some time without then writing.  That’s what this was- and I find that after I take a short break, I’m grateful to get back and have the chance to share.  Sometimes I write because I’m ‘supposed’ to, much like I do many things in life because I’m ‘supposed’ to.

Especially at Christmastime, when traditions are everything.

We have to decorate and shop and sing and watch movies and make cocoa and visit Santa and make lists and look at lights and make cookies and visit friends and send cards and host parties and volunteer and take photos and and and and…. Oh, and then there’s Ben’s birthday right in the middle and there’s a whole list of must do’s there too, to make sure his birthday isn’t overshadowed.

I LOVE all those things.  But when they become more about checking off a list and making sure we do all the things than about enjoying the things we do, we’ve put tradition over what we’re really meant to get from it.

And this year, once again, I started stressing about what I hadn’t yet checked off that list and when I would.  But then, one of my best friend’s brother died very unexpectedly and I only cared that week about what she was feeling.  And then I got knocked on my butt by a bad cold and days of migraine.  And then I realized that my husband was slowing down and that we were probably entering the pre-phase of a an episode of his chronic illness.  And when I asked friends about what they consider must do’s so I could alter my list, a good friend called bullsh!t and said that nothing was a must do.  She’s a genius.

So, I switched gears and am really trying to focus on simply enjoying what we are able to do.

It’s not as much as I’d like.  I’d always like to do more.

But yesterday, on my youngest son’s birthday as I worried that it hadn’t been magical enough a day, he reminded me again.

Me:  Ben, what do you want to do tonight for the last part of your birthday celebration?

Ben:  Watch Diego and play with my new toys. 

Me:  But I thought we’d go look at lights and get hot chocolate, or …. You really just want to stay home and play?

Ben:  Yep.

Me:  But did you have a happy birthday?

Ben:  Yes!

So we stayed home, ate ice cream and played.

Yes, in my ideal world my husband would be full of energy and able to fully participate, and every day would be full of lifetime worthy memories.

But maybe just enjoying what we do, whatever that is, and being together makes the best tradition.

Do you have a checklist and must do’s, or do you just enjoy what comes?  I’m not sure I’ll ever drop the list without being reminded, it’s my nature.  But I’m trying to learn.

 

minnie

one of the memories we did make- Ben kissing Minnie!

 

Not About the Turkey

A peek at social media during November and you’ll know immediately that it’s the season of thanks.  I don’t participate in the 30 days of thanks, just because to me it feels forced and something to worry about making sure you don’t forget anyone or hurt feelings.  But it’s also because I’m sometimes overwhelmed with gratitude to a point of not being able to express it.

We’re blessed.  Truly.  No other way to say it.

And as much as I want to say that Thanksgiving is just about being together and enjoying family and friends, we *may* have been stress balls trying to get our house ready for guests.  Michael’s sister and her family are spending a few days with us, and we are pretty excited about that.  Our time with his family is rare, and them traveling to us has been happening about once a year since long travel for us became too hard.  It’s hard for some of his family to understand his illness or the difficulties we face because of it, and that’s caused some issues.  Which makes it even more special when we have time with some of them.

And we like them.  You know how you love family but have some you just don’t like?  These are not them.  We like them and love them.  Awesome.
So it should be easier to just relax, let the house be what it is and enjoy them.  But instead, Michael is trying to get 82 last minute things done, I’m shopping and meal prepping and organizing and cleaning.  And working.

What about you- have you mastered “relax and enjoy it” or are you so busy cooking and baking and planning that you’re feeling more stressed than grateful?  If you’re like me and haven’t, these are the things I’m reminding myself, and you may want to also:

It’s not about the Turkey.

pieOr the dressing, pies, cranberry or potatoes.

It’s not about the perfect table setting.

Or photo worthy outfits.

It’s not about the Black Friday shopping.

Or Thanksgiving evening shopping.

It’s about being together, being thankful for memories with those not with you, and having one whole day to reflect on all we have and all those who helped us get here.

From my family to yours- Happy Thanksgiving.

p.s.  The easy delicious caramel pie I’m making in the photo is courtesy of my friend Jill at Made with Moxie.  You can find her recipe here.