Game On

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Today is the first day of a new month and a new challenge. I have challenged my mother to post a new blog entry every day during the month of November as part of NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. I debated making this challenge because I knew my ultra-competitive mother would surely accept. With three small children, the youngest of which still wakes up in the middle of the night, I often lack both the time and brainpower required to function normally, much less write, every day. After making this challenge, I experienced a moment of panic. How will I come up with something to write about every single day this month??? There are no rules regarding subject matter or length of posts, but I often work best within structure. I perused a few lists of daily subject prompts, but none of these peaked my interest. I finally found my inspiration while reading Facebook posts. One of my friends is posting each day during the month of November about something for which she is thankful. I am thankful for so much, mostly the people in my life. I am looking forward to writing about just a handful of these blessings. Today’s post is short (and uninspired), but it is my way of announcing, “Game on, Mom!”


Savory Moments

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Today I had one of those moments I wish I could bottle up for future enjoyment. I stood in the kitchen washing dishes while my three girls sat at the table eating lunch together. For some reason, I had pulled the baby’s high chair directly up to the table rather than attaching the tray. The girls were mostly finished eating when the baby started banging her hand on the table. To her sheer delight, her older sisters began to imitate her. I watched the baby look from one sister back to the other over and over, grinning from ear to ear as the three of them banged their hands on the table. The sound, which at other times might have spurred the onset of a migraine, was music to my ears. It was a soft, rhythmic drumming highlighted by happy notes of laughter.

I stood watching them for no more than two minutes before they were finished with their game, but as I watched them, I realized that this was one of the savory moments in life. In this moment, I felt so much joy and delight and love for my children. This is one of the moments I hope to remember during the not-so-pleasant times of sass and crankiness that are commonplace in a house with three girls.


God is Good

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I spent the summer after my freshman year in college in New York City working with a group called Campus Crusade for Christ. I learned so much that summer working with so many amazing people. This was truly a life-altering experience. Each week we worked with different churches and ministries all over the city. Of all of the places we experienced, my favorite place to work was the Bowery Homeless Mission. I learned so much there, one of the biggest realizations being that every person has a story (and many of these stories will surprise you, so don’t judge too quickly simply by someone’s appearance!). Something the men who lived and worked in the mission often said has stuck with me since my time there: “God is good–All the time. All the time–God is good!”
Today that saying bounced around in my head as I processed several bits of hard news I received throughout the day. Many people I love are struggling with really difficult circumstances. My heart feels heavy when I think about each of them, but in the midst of the heartache, I am reminded that God is good.
God’s goodness echoes in the laughter of my sweet girls. It shines through the smiling face of my happy baby girl. I see God’s goodness in the puffs of white cloud in the bright blue sky, and I feel it in the warm kiss of sunshine on my face. Mostly, though, I am reminded of God’s goodness through the promises He gives me in his word. We live in a fallen, broken world that is full of heartache and pain, but God is still good. Even when our circumstances are not, God is still good.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” –Jeremiah 29:11



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A friend recently posted a link on Facebook to a blog entry by Meg Meeker, M.D. entitled “Mom: Your Kids Love Your Squishy Hugs.” (http://www.megmeekermd.com/2012/11/mom-your-kids-love-your-squishy-hugs/) I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr. Meeker’s explanation of how children perceive their mothers. She provides excellent insight into what truly matters to our kids when it comes to the motherly physique, and, even more importantly, she gives us an excuse not to work out! Okay, not really, but she did get me to start thinking about how my children see me. This, in turn, caused me to think about how I saw my own mother when I was small.


These days I have a hard time remembering my own last name, but, surprisingly, I was actually able to drum up some memories from my childhood about how I saw my mom. I recall thinking that my mother was the most beautiful woman. I even remember feeling sorry for other kids I knew whose moms weren’t as beautiful as mine. In my shallowness, I wondered if they loved their own moms as much as I loved mine despite their poor mothers’ shortcomings in the looks department. It’s awful, but true.


When I see my mother now, I still see the most beautiful woman. Even through my grown up eyes, my mother is stunning. Age has not changed how I see her physical appearance. It has merely enhanced my view of her. I now see so much more of what makes my mother so special, so unique. She is wise and kind and full of grace. She is infinitely giving of herself. She is patient and gentle. She knows so much, but is always eager to learn. She is extremely creative and so much fun. She radiates joy and peace. On the rare occasion that she is wrong, she is quick to ask for forgiveness. She is even quicker to give it. My mom is warm and welcoming, nurturing and hospitable. She is strong and, yet, humble. At the root of all that my mother is, she loves God with her whole heart, and that love overflows to everyone she meets.


I could go on, but I’ll stop for now. I know she will read this, and I don’t want her to get a big head. (Just kidding, Mom.) I only hope that someday my children will be able to see the same qualities in me that I am blessed to see in my mom.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

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Both of my daughters are an endless source of entertainment…well, most of the time.  Today, not so much. Anyway, my two-year-old really keeps me in stitches most days with the things she says, such as the song she made up in the car yesterday that went something like this: “Boogers. Boogers. Everybody has boogers on them.” Children don’t come into this world equipped with a filter between their brains and their mouths. In a slow, arduous, and usually embarrassing process, we have to teach them not to speak out loud every thought that comes to mind.  I’m sure you can think of plenty examples, even if you don’t have your own children, of awkward or embarrassing things kids say to or about other people…loudly…in public. Granted, their words don’t generally embarrass them, only their parents. One of my favorites: a friend told me her niece walked up to a woman (whom my friend knew well) and told her, “Your hair is scaring me.” This precious girl was simply expressing something most of us felt, but would never have uttered aloud. Her mother stood there mortified, while everyone else was busy wetting themselves they were laughing so hard.


My sweet two-year-old made some observations of her own a few weeks ago in the bathroom at the commissary. (For those of you who are non-military, a commissary is a grocery store on a military installment where we don’t pay taxes, and we can buy things like milk and meat really, really cheap.) The commissary I frequent is a half hour drive from my house without traffic. Often by the time I finally arrive, I have to make a quick pit stop. On one such day, my daughter and I went into the stall, and as I sat down on the toilet, she observed, “Your bobum (“bottom”) is big. My bobum is little.” I laughed and agreed with her. At this point, another woman walked into the restroom and sat down in the stall next to mine.  Unfortunately, my girl was not finished with her observations for the day. Next, she asked me, “And why your bobum has hair?” At this, I started laughing really hard, which apparently made the woman next to me realize that it was okay to laugh too. When we came out of the stall to wash hands, she looked over at me with an embarrassed smile. I told her it was a shame she had missed out on the earlier observation about bobum sizes. This early twenties woman with no children of her own laughed again, and I thought, “You just wait…your day of humbling will come. Mark my words, it will come.”



Attention, Attention Please

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I blame the teeth. It’s those darn 2-year molars. It has to be. I recognize that my 2 ½ -year-old is going through the developmental stage of autonomy (also known as the “I do it myself” phase), which lends itself to frequent tantrums when others (namely me) try to usurp her independence for the sake of saving time. I try to build an extra half hour into our morning routine to allow for the time it takes for her to choose her own mismatched outfit, “brush” her own teeth, fight with me about my desire to finish brushing her teeth, attempt to put on her shoes, get really angry when she can’t do it herself, come crying to me to help her, and then freak out because I end up being the one to finally get her shoes on her feet. Somehow, that half hour is seldom enough. We are late most days, often because I make the mistake of putting her in the carseat when she can clearly do this herself. I also recognize that even on a good day she has a really bad temper. Despite all of this, I cannot figure out why my ordinarily funny and good-natured girl has turned into a beast on most days. The only thing that makes sense to me is the teeth. This is the child that keeps us in stitches with her antics. She usually takes great pleasure in making us laugh, but lately, not so much. That’s why I have to cling to the one funny story from this week. It started out not-so-funny. I was talking on the phone with my sister when my darling girl began her 37th tantrum of the day. Generally, I walk away from her when she begins her tirades, and generally, she follows me, complaining loudly. I was explaining this routine to my sister, and I was just commenting that it was strange that she was not following me. That’s when I heard it. The crying that had been coming from the floor below me was now coming in loud and clear…over the intercom. For some reason, my girl decided it would be easier (???) to go in the bathroom, get the step-stool, carry it into the other room, and continue her tantrum over the intercom the previous owners of our home so kindly installed. After a long, long day dealing with drama after drama from my youngest, I really needed this moment of humor. I guess she can be funny even when she’s in beast mode.


North vs. South

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Having now lived in the deep South, the Midwest, the far North, and the mid-Atlantic regions of our beautiful country (oh, and Florida, which seems to be a region all on its own), I have noticed many similarities and differences in the cultures of each region. As for similarities, food seems to be a unifying force no matter where you live. My husband and I found we like beer & brats (short for bratwurst sausages, not obnoxious children) as much as we love gumbo and crawfish etouffee. I have also discovered that people in the Midwest are just as passionate (read “fanatical”) about football as those of us raised in the Southeastern Conference.

I have also enjoyed the diversity of culture in our country. Some of the differences are drastic and some are subtle. There are differences in dialect. Two such examples include the well-known “y’all” vs. “you guys,” as well as the reference to soft drinks as “soda” or “pop” in Northern states vs. “Coke” in the Deep South. (For my Northern friends reading this, yes, Southerners really do refer to all sodas as Coke…do not be confused if a Southerner asks you, ”What kind of Coke would you like?” and then proceeds to list the names of various sodas.) There are also differences in the ways people interact with one another. Growing up in the grace and gentility of the South, I was worried about moving to the Northeast. Generally, I grew up believing people from the Northeast were, for the lack of a more polite way to say this, rude. I found that they are not rude, but rather honest. They are very kind and friendly (for the most part), and you always know where you stand with them.

As strange as it may seem, of all of the differences that I have observed, the one that stands out most to me is the practice of monogramming. Before Christmas, my mother-in-law sent some adorable outfits to my girls. They were red and green polka-dotted leggings with white t-shirts with the girls’ initials embroidered in red. One day when my girls were wearing these outfits I actually had someone stop me and ask what was on their shirts. When I explained that it was their initials or monogram, she said, “Oh, well that’s a neat idea” and walked away. It dawned on me at that point that I had not noticed children running around with monograms embroidered on everything they own like I do when I am at home. I was discussing this with the ladies in my moms group. One of them told me that while she was vacationing in New Orleans, she had a shop-keeper tell her they could monogram an item she was purchasing for her son. She admitted that she thought it was just a tourist gimmick. It was then that I realized that the practice of monogramming children’s clothing is a Southernism. The rest of the country seems to think of monogramming as something to have done on your LL Bean canvas bag.

While monogramming makes it difficult to pass on hand-me-downs, it also has both aesthetic and practical aspects. It adds a personal touch to clothing and even decorative items for the home. Additionally, I, for one, would be lost without monogramming when I am around my identical twin nieces. There are subtle differences, but, let’s face it, it is so much easier to tell them apart when they are wearing their names or initials on their clothing. I need to look into tapping into this market as I make my way around the country. I could make a fortune.


Eating Elephants

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When I married my husband, I remember feeling overwhelmed by planning a wedding and preparing for marriage and moving to a new state. I wish I could say that this is the only time in my life that I have felt this way, but I have moved five times in the past eight years. Like most people, I go through periods of time when I feel beleaguered by too many items needing my attention and not enough time to get them all done. I have been feeling this way recently. We were gone for a little more than two weeks at Christmas-time this year. I had a wonderful time, but I returned home exhausted and struggling to return to our normal routine. (I have to admit that I use the word “routine” loosely. In my mind I am extremely organized and have a set daily routine. However, in real life I thrive on flexibility in my day.)

As I was emptying the dishwasher a couple of nights ago, I was feeling overwhelmed once more. If you have small children you know that unloading the dishwasher is not simply putting away the plates and glasses. Emptying the dishwasher involves drying off everything as you pull it out of the dishwasher because plastic does not dry like other materials in the dishwasher. Sippy cups stay wet. Then they drip all over the other dishes. Plus you have all of the little pieces to dig out of the bottom of the dishwasher. I also only run the dishwasher when it is completely full…and I do mean completely. As I was beginning this seemingly arduous chore, I went through my usual mental pep talk that includes reminding myself to be thankful for modern conveniences such as dishwashers and washing machines because, really, it could be so much worse. Then I looked at all of the dirty lunch dishes sitting on the counter waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. Then I glanced at the clock and noticed it was almost time for my husband to come home…and I still had not started dinner.

As the panic began to rise, I remembered something my father-in-law told me when I was newly married and overwhelmed. He asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?” I remember trying to determine if this was another one of his jokes or if he was trying to distract me. I told him I didn’t know. His answer was, “one bite at a time.” He then explained that when I look at everything and it all seems to be too much, to simply focus on one small piece of it at a time. This profound bit of advice disguised as an absurd question has stuck with me. When I get that feeling, I stop and remind myself of that silly question and the lesson to take it one thing at a time…one fork out of the dishwasher, or one step while running, or one toy off of the floor. Somehow focusing on the smaller details makes overwhelming days seem much less daunting.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

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I am generally not a big fan of winter. While I find pleasure in the beauty each new season holds, I really do not like to be cold. I was born in Louisiana where a few days of temperatures dropping into the 20s are considered a “big freeze” (usually referenced with the year…”You remember…it happened during the Big Freeze of 1994″). My hands get really dry when it’s cold. They get so dry they crack and bleed, and then I have to sleep with socks on my hands. This makes my hands hot, and then I don’t sleep well. The winter I had my older daughter, we lived in Ohio. The temperatures dropped below zero. I will never forget the way the sub-zero air felt when it hit my lungs. It literally took my breath away. However, several years of living in colder climates has taught me the art of layering and the proper use of scarves, so despite my dislike of the cold, I am now better equipped to handle frosty weather.

That being said, after returning home from dropping my daughter off at school today I glanced out of the window. Little white specks were floating down from the sky. Some of these little flurries seemed to be in a hurry, while others seemed to take their time. There were not enough to accumulate, but I was transfixed by the sight none the less. There is something almost magical about snow. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the warm memories snow evokes in the midst of cold weather, or maybe it is just its pure and simple beauty. Had it been a few degrees warmer, I would have been annoyed that it was not only cold, but now rainy. However, for just a few moments during a busy morning during this busy (and cold) season, I stood watching water in its most enchanting form float down from the sky, and it made me smile.


Remembering Margaret

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One year ago today, my dear friend Margaret died suddenly in her sleep. It is presumed she died from an epileptic seizure (or possibly two seizures back-to-back) while sleeping. Margaret suffered from epilepsy all of her life. She was extremely intelligent, and she hated the way her illness limited her and kept her from being able to do the things she dreamed of doing in life. Despite her frustration with living in a body that would not cooperate, Margaret was endlessly kind. She was like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. She brought joy with her wherever she went. She was beautiful and amazingly creative and funny and a lot of fun to be around. There are several reminders of Margaret in my home. Most of them are gifts she gave to my children. She loved children, and every time I saw Margaret she had books or toys or stuffed animals for my girls. A year after her death, I still think of her several times a week, and I still cry when I do.

My faith gets me through the hard things in life, and really, through life every day. It is a comfort at all times, even when the events of life don’t make sense to me. There are two Bible verses in particular that bring me consolation when I think of Margaret. The first is a verse my brother shared with me shortly after we found out about her death. Revelations 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This verse gives me great hope. My sweet friend often suffered greatly in the 36 years she lived, but I know that she suffers no longer.

The second verse is one that comforts me every time I think of Margaret. It is the shortest verse in the Bible (a little junior high youth group trivia for you), but to me it is one of the most profound.  John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  To put this verse in context, Jesus had just learned of the death of his good friend, Lazarus. I remember hearing this story many times as a child, and the focus of the story was always on the miracle Jesus performed when he raised Lazarus from the dead. Because I focused on the miracle, I always overlooked the significance of this one, little verse until last year. Jesus Christ was fully human, but he was also fully God. In the moment of losing his dear friend, he wept. The word “wept” implies strong emotions. It’s more than just crying. Instead of simply telling those around him, “Hang on, I got this,” he wept. He allowed himself to experience the pain of losing someone, the agony of the emptiness felt when you realize that you can no longer talk to, laugh with, or embrace this person whom you love. After weeping, Jesus displayed his own divinity by raising Lazarus from the dead, but for a short moment he was a man, grieving over the loss of a friend. I think what is most reassuring to me about this verse is the realization that the God of the Universe has experienced the pain and sadness that I feel. He can truly empathize with me as I mourn the loss of a beloved friend, and that gives me immense comfort and peace.