Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why I Quit Making New Year's Resolutions

Y'all, I became a Bible Scholar this year. 

But not really. Not even close. However, even still- as I neared the last chapter in Revelation early one morning a few weeks ago, y'all I promise I could hear the distinct beginnings of the sound of the graduation march floating through my living room.  

That's right: It only took me 30 years, but this gal *right here* just read her ENTIRE BIBLE. I started in Genesis and read allllll the way through. Every single page was turned. I wrapped up Revelation at the beginning of December and believe me when I say that nobody's more shocked at that fact than me.  

Before y'all think I'm getting all Pharisaical and all "street corner standing/trumpet tooting" there are some things I have to confess about my recent "Bible-Scholar-Situation". (Other than the fact that reading my entire Bible did not, in fact, miraculously make me a Bible scholar. Like, not even close.

First up: It took me a LONG time to finish. Two Decembers ago (2012) our preacher Wayne Rodgers, taught a Bible class about reading through our Bibles. Specifically, reading it cover-to-cover. He spoke about the importance of daily Bible study and benefits of taking time each day to read and meditate on the scriptures and handed out bookmarks that outlined a 365 day plan to outline how to read through your Bible. (So what if it took me almost two years to finish. Who's counting, amIright??)

2nd confession: I had already attempted reading through my bible. Plenty of times. I can remember being a teenager and spying the little blank boxes next to the passage sections in my old, trusty, pink leather study Bible. I got started reading through them, happily marking off each day's reading and being pleased when I saw the column begin to fill up with all those neat little check marks. It felt good, it felt fulfilling to see my progress, but inevidebly, it would get pushed to the back of my mind, and my daily readings began to be fewer and farther between until one day, I just flat quit. I stopped looking at those blank columns in the back of my Bible and forgot all about that lofty and seemingly unattainable goal I'd set.

I mentioned those blank bookmarks our church passed out a couple of Decembers ago. I took one as the stack was shuffled down the pew and honestly didn't think I would ever really get down to working on it.(Ouch. Sorry, Wayne!) But I came home that next week and spied it sticking out the edge of my Bible. Other than the Holy Spirit's direct leading, I can't really say what pushed me to start. I started the first few day's worth of readings, and proceeded to complete the Creation Story, Adam & Eve, Cain and Abel, and was beginning on the story of Noah when I realized that there was something different happening to me this time. 

I met Noah that day. Like really, really, met him. I was there when he built the ark. And when all.those.animals showed up at his front door asking him for room and board for a while. I sat with him and his family inside the ark as the door shut and the rain started. I heard the cries from his friends and neighbors begging to be let in as the waters started rising. I cried with him as he mourned the losses of every person and place and thing he knew was washed away in that cleansing tide. I got cabin fever with him as he fed and tended and tried not to squabble with his sons while they waited for the Earth to dry out. I was hopeful with him when they released the raven and was disappointed with him when it returned. I was cautiously optimistic with him when he released his dove the first and rejoiced with him when it didn't return on the second attempt. I waited with him. And waited and then waited SOME MORE for the mud to dry. And I was there with them when God spoke and told them that He would never destroy the Earth with a flood again. I loved that promise- just like Noah did. 

And my experience continued that way as I read my way through my Bible. I was reintroduced to people I'd heard stories of my entire life, but had never really known. I got to know men and women who's lives have impacted mine- they have permanently changed the person I am. I knew all about Abraham and Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Saul and David and Solomon and Elijah and Elisha and Daniel. I'd learned all the apostles' names and read all the parables, but never before had I been there. I believe it's that daily, cover-to-cover journey through my Bible that led me to those relationships. 

I didn't get this thing done in 365 days. It took me nearly TWICE THAT LONG to get to the end. And y'all, that is OK. In the middle of my Biblical walkabout, I got pregnant, had a subsequently high-risk pregnancy, birthed a baby and raised that newborn along with a 3 year and an 18 month old. I didn't get to read my Bible every day. There was a season in my life right after the baby was born that I didn't even read it every week. But I missed it. I missed my 5:11am daily coffee date with Jesus. And, as soon as that season passed, and I was able to sacrifice some of those extra hours of sleep that I was no longer using to nurse a screaming baby, I was able to dive back in. 

And that's the beauty of why I believe I was finally successful for the first time ever, to actually complete a New Year's Resolution. Because even though I got derailed sometimes. Even though I had to press 'pause' for a while when my life got crazy- I never quit because it had become a habit. Bingo, y'all: IT HAD BECOME A HABIT. 

And I had a circle of people supporting me. I'd text my husband or my best friend in Japan updates as I completed each book and as I pushed my way through some of the Old Testament. When I got through the prophets, I really began to think that I may actually finish. I propelled myself through the last of the OT and once I started the New Testament, I realized there was no stopping me. 

My daily Bible study had become transformed from something that I "had" to do into something that I "needed" to do. My behavior, my mindset, my view- had changed. Studying my Bible every morning before the kids woke up had somehow morphed from a resolution I was working to maintain into a habit that I had started to keep without even thinking about it. On the days that I was rushed or tired or hit my iPhone's snooze button 17 times, I could tell. Finding myself through this journey has been something that has changed my life forever. 

If you're looking for a something to challenge and change your life in 2015, let me encourage you to do it by beginning (or strengthening) your daily Bible study. There have been so, so many resolutions that I've started and failed through the years: drinking more water (That's actually a really good one. I really do need to hydrate. I'll probably put this one back on the top of my 2015 list. Especially when you read the next up on my crashed-and-burned list.), drinking less coffee (Before you ask- NO. Not worth it. I need two things to survive: The first is Jesus. The second is COFFEE.), flossing (Sorry! I'll grab a few of the kid's flossers and shove them in my toothpaste drawer tonight.), squats (Does picking up the baby count?), yoga (I reached all the way to my tippy toes to grab a roll of paper towels out the top of the laundry room shelf this morning, does that count?), walking (I run around the house searching for kids and cups and lost LEGO men. I probably clock 20,000 steps before lunchtime.), running (Oh man, WHAT WAS I THINKING), balancing my checkbook (that's one that I really do plan on keeping up with in 2015. It's been balanced to the penny for the last 6 weeks and I'm not gonna drop the ball this time! Huzzah!), washing my face with those 17 step cleansing routines (At the end of the day, y'all, I JUST WANT TO GO TO BED.), and, finally- letting my hair grow (Have y'all seen the micropixie I ended up with recently??!)

Having resolutions is a good thing- I plan on starting 2015 with a few resolutions that I'd like to work on to help me better myself this year. But I don't want to keep seeing them as resolutions because, to me, that makes them seem lofty and somewhat unattainable and easily forgettable. I want to start 2015 by creating new habits in my life. Because habits become part of you. Part of your nature, your personality, your sense of self. If I can figure out a few habits that will help improve something in my life this year, then I am ALL ABOUT THAT. Bring on drinking more water and knowing where every penny Matt makes is actually located. Carpe Diem and all the rest of that good stuff, 2015!! 

IMPORTANT PEP TALK: Don't let yourself become defeated the first time you slip up. Because you will. And I will. We all will. (Let's just agree to blame Eve and get back on the horse, shall we?) For me, I think, to be more successful at drinking more water or keeping my checkbook balanced, I have to stop thinking of those behaviors as resolutions I'm working to keep and turn them into habits I'm training myself to follow. And you can, too! 

Because once you've stopped viewing things like resolutions and start looking at them like habits, you'll realize you've already won the war. You may lose a battle or two along the way, but even still- your journey into 2015 has already become a successful one. 

Happy (almost!) New Year, y'all!  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Deck The Halls With... cans of Lysol??

Because y'all- that has been the general theme of our Christmas this year. 

Last Tuesday night, my oldest son Luke spiked a 102º fever. He had been complaining all afternoon of being "freezing" and spent the entire little's nap time snuggled under the comforter of our queen sized bed. Around 5pm, when he asked me if he could put on a SWEATSHIRT, I decided to check his temperature and sure enough, is was clocking in at a tidy 102.1º. 

I immediately felt awful for ignoring his symptoms earlier that day. (Enter the latest round of Mom guilt to wash over me like the streams of vomit that were awaiting to cover me a mere 5 days in my future.) I dosed him with some Tylenol to help him rest and held him in my arms as he cried himself to sleep- complaining of stomach aches and tummy trouble. It was the sweetest and saddest thing ever, y'all. 

He woke up Wednesday morning, still feverish, but much more like himself. He ran fever just above 100º all day, but that was without meds so I was hopeful that he was on the mend and had just suffered a weird 24 hour fever virus. 

Y'all, I could not have been more wrong because in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Armageddon struck The McReynolds Manor. The righteous fury that unleashed itself onto my household began with alarming pleas from Luke's bed: "Momma! I hadsa accident! My bed is all weaaat!" I rushed into my Big Kid's bedroom to discover that his bed was in fact wet, but that to my 5:30am's disappointed version of myself- IT WAS NOT URINE. 

I sprang into action, stripping sheets and pillowcases. I cleaned up my pitiful 4 year old Luke, and of course inadvertently woke up my sleeping 2.5 year old Josie in the process. I grabbed the spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and Lysol and got to work cleaning and sanitizing all the things and all the places. The big kids were pumped to be up so early, (I, on the other hand, knew what this was going to really mean come 11am.) especially because it meant sippy cups on the couch and early morning Netflix bingeing while I did everything short of dumping gasoline on their room and lighting a match to get it cleaned. 

While I cleaned, Luke began to really get sick. I mean like the unavoidable, uncontainable, indescribable kind of sick that you hear Moms tell stories about but you doubt can really exist because it's just.that.horrific. The Brown Death had invaded, y'all. I was completely unprepared. Between trips to the bathroom (Which is a whole other sanitization process ENTIRELY: All the edges and lids and sides and bowls and floors and sinks and towels and hands. And it was happened.) and outfit changes- the laundry pile really started growing. I was developing my very own Mt. Washmore and I began to worry that I wasn't going to be able to conquer it. 

That's when, in true life/real world fashion, I was dealt another card because: THE BABY WOKE UP. And he was crying. Loudly. I walked down the hall, opened the nursery door, and before I even flipped on the overhead light- I KNEW. I knew that my life had just gone from 'bad' to 'worse' because as I innocently opened the nursery door the odiferous, wafting wall of the smell of baby dirt hit me so hard I'm surprised I didn't get a black eye. Before I'd even laid my eyes on the "situation" that awaited me in Nathan's nursery I knew it had to be BAD. And, sure enough, once my shaking hands managed to flip the light switch on, I beheld the carnage that awaited me. 

It was as if The Apocalypse had occurred sometime in the night, and my sweet baby Nathan was the only survivor left. The state of his crib was so unbelievable that, for about :17 seconds, I was paralyzed. My feet were literally frozen to the carpet. I could view the scene before me, but it was as if my brain was not able to compute what my eyes were seeing. Baby dirt had exploded onto every surface and blanket and crib slat and sheet that was within a 45 ft. radius of the bed. Nathan was crying pitifully, covered in the same Brown Death as he stood there on that brown battlefield, crying for me, his Mom, to come rescue him from the carnage that had become his bedroom. 

After my arms and hands and feet and brain began working again, I did the only thing I knew to do: I picked up my crying baby and brought him, fully dressed, to the bathtub. I took out all the tub toys and cups and wet washrags that were lying in the bottom of the tub from the previous night's bath with the only 3 fingers I still had that weren't defiled with the Brown Death. I plunked my pitiful boy in there while I undressed him and began to try to rinse out the jammie pants and top that would probably never be clean enough to be able to see the light of day again. 

After I'd cleaned him up (And myself. Again.), I returned to the Apoloyptic scene waiting for me in his nursery. I repeated all the steps I'd completed in the Big Kid's bedroom while praying fervently that I had enough laundry soap to wash every blanket and towel and set of sheets in our house. The room was restored to order and sanitized- as was the rest of the house- and I began to leave the "Clean Up" phase of this saga and progressed to the "Virus Containment" section. 

My sister-in-love and niece sprang into action, retrieving a long list of necessary supplies for me from the store: new bottles of rubbing alcohol and cans of Lysol and 561 bananas and 28 boxes of Saltines and economy sized boxes of diapers and wipes and a huge tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste. They rolled into my driveway like a SWAT team, practically threw the supplies into my garage while holding their breath, grabbed the check to pay for all the groceries and were gone, all in less than 4 minutes. They were like angels sent straight from Heaven, ready to replenish my depleted pantry and help me stock my icebox with all the things that you need when you're doing battle and waging war against the Brown Death. 

In the following days, we stayed home. We ate a million bananas and drank 48 gallons of Orange Gatorade. (Mom tip: Buy a can of the powdered Gatorade concentrate for just this reason. When my kids get sick, my number one concern is to keep them hydrated, especially when they're battling such a strong virus like this one. Bottles of Gatorade are bulky and take up lots of pantry/icebox space to store. A can of Gatorade is small, contains enough powder to make a small swimming pool full of electrolyte goodness and doesn't expire.) We developed a bathroom sanitation routine that we followed every.single.time we used the commode. We washed our hands like Pharisees. We went through paper towels and cans of Lysol and laundry soap like we were The Duggars and prayed that the Brown Death would pass soon. 

Mercifully, Josie never succumbed to the Brown Death. Nathan fought it for a few days, but then emerged victorious. Luke, however, was not as fortunate. He waged war against the virus for almost a week, with no real improvement in sight.

I called our pediatrician's office on the morning of Day Five. She assured me that there was nothing else I could be doing or should be doing to help the virus end sooner. She said it was a particularly strong strain (She wasn't lying. I caught a stream of Gatorade and animal cracker vomit in my BARE HANDS not an hour prior to our phone call that morning.) that was taking 3-5 days to cycle through their systems. I had another angelic WalMart supply delivery from my other niece and I began pumping Luke full of Kefir and probiotics and bananas and smoothies. And by the end of Day 5, he was so.much.better. Hallelujah, y'all. 


We are currently waiting with baited breath to leave Florida and visit our families for Christmas. While we don't want to be without our Louisiana relatives at Christmastime, we most certainly don't want to be those people who gave everyone The Brown Death that one year at Christmas. We've pushed our departure back 24 hours to give us an extra day to make sure everyone is healthy and happy and it looks like we just may make it. 

I hope that you and your's are experiencing a healthy and happy Christmas season. And, if you're not- just know that you're not alone. This year, I've decked my halls with cans of Lysol. Instead of the smell of fresh baked cookies wafting through my house, it's been the antiseptic scent of diluted rubbing alcohol. 

Despite these unwelcome circumstances, there have still been good times: We've watched Christmas movies and played with our white board Nativity pieces. We've read Luke Chapter 2 and made paper plate glittered angels. There are handprint Christmas trees hanging on our walls and our amaryllis bulb is finally blooming perfectly on top of our icebox. We've survived this less than perfect lead up to our Christmas season, knowing that as long as the five of us are together, despite our inabilities to fully digest solid food, we will still have all the Christmas spirit we need. 

That said, we are still praying to close the 24 hour symptom free window in about an hour so that tomorrow we can leave to visit our families in Louisiana with clear consciences. Because, while The Brown Death is certainly the gift that keeps on giving, it's not one that we'd ever want to share this holiday season. 

I pray that y'all have a blessed Christmas with y'all's family and friends. And, if there's a lagniappe piece of pecan pie at y'all's house- feel free to eat it for me!

Merry Christmas, y'all! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bring 'Em When They're Little: a post about football games and family worship

As I drink my coffee this morning and prepare myself for attending church with my brood of littles, I'm thinking about all the other Moms who are gearing up to do the same thing. 

{Sunday morning pep talk, y'all}: We can do this, ladies! 

We can pack all the crayons and stuff our church bags with quiet toys and find that missing socks' mate with grit and determination because we know that by enduring the craziness that comes along with 2.5 hours of Bible class and worship we are installing an example of our priorities in our children. We may miss most of the sermon, our blood pressure may be peaking by the last song and at the end of worship our pew may look like a tsunami hit it, BUT WE WERE THERE with our families, attending and showing them that there's no place we'd rather be on the first day of the week than with our church family worshipping Christ who saved dirty, rotten sinners like us. 

My most important job is to point my kids to Heaven, and in my opinion, it's never too early to start showing them the roadmap to get there. 

People sometimes comment that bringing small children to worship is pointless because they are "too young" to understand it. They say that they'll bring their kids to church when they're old enough to sit still or tall enough to see the song leader or smart enough to read their own bulletins. 

But I want to challenge that message with this thought: Do they watch sports with their young kids? Because I know we do. We're huge football fans and there are plenty of times that we watch games as a family- even with our brood of three littles who are 4, 2, and 1 years old. 

They can't comprehend the in's and out's of trick plays and quarterbacks and defensive linemen, but we don't shoo them out the room to other places because they're "too young" to understand it all. We explain it to them- sometimes more than once each game. (And by we, I really mean my husband, Matt. Because until we got married almost 10 years ago I was still pretty foggy on the whole offense vs. defense thing. True story, y'all. I am a football newbie.) We don't make them go into another room to play until they're old enough to discuss BCS rankings or the fine art of a perfectly executed onsides kick. We pull them into our laps and teach them while we watch. We pause the game to explain field goals and point out the path of a flying football. We talk about the separate teams' colors and discuss who our players are and how to spot them on the field. 

And y'all, that's what we do during worship, too. 

We whisper in our big kid's ears every Sunday about communion and song leading and baptisms and responses for prayer. We show them how to flip through song books and our Bibles to find our places. They get to look through our bulletins and Bible class handouts during the sermons while we attempt to focus on the lesson because we are TEACHING them how to worship. 

And while parts of the services will surely fly right over my youngest's head, I can know assuredly that even so, he's young enough to recognize our love for Jesus through our efforts. We may have to take turns escaping out the back doors with that fussy 1 year old, but even so, he will grow up understanding where we placed priority because we sacrificed our schedules and our social events and sometimes our sanity to put the effort into our church attendance and participation every week. And that's what makes all the blood, sweat, and tears that can be will be shed while we attend worship and Bible classes and song services and prayer meetings with our kids worth it. 

So the next time you're hesitant to pile the kids in your van and take up pew space for a couple of hours because they're "too young" to understand, think about football- and your priorities- and focus on The One that won't be over at the end of 4 Quarters. Worship gives our kids access to Christ for eternity. And there's no better overtime than that.

"I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." - John  (3 John 1:4)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

30 Days Of Thanks

I've noticed over the past few years that a trend has been started to post daily, via your favorite social media outlet, one thing that you're thankful for. A lot of my friends have done it before so I figured I would give it a shot, too. Here goes nothing, y'all...

November Thankfulnesses
Saturday, November 1st: Leftover Halloween Candy. Because I get to enforce Mom Tax while they're sleeping and because chocolate is my love language. My cousin Lani and I had a post-Halloween-candy discussion and we came to the same conclusion: Of all the lagniappe candy in our houses- THE CHOCOLATE STASH IS ALWAYS THE FIRST TO GO. Family genetics for the win, y'all. 
Sunday, November 2nd: Faith. It's my Safety Net. My Autocorrect. My Confident Expectation. My Compass. My Guide. My faith is the lifeline that tethers me to Jesus and I'd be hopeless without Him. 
Monday, November 3rd: Homeschool Preschool. It's a new week in my house. My oldest, Luke, (4) is at that age where he's absorbing and growing and learning and talking about absolutely everything in his great big, wide, world. It's awe inspiring to look at him and see his progress and know that even just the tiniest, littlest, smallest part of his new knowledge and the fact that he can now (almost) write his own name might just be because of me. Awesome sauce.   
Tuesday, November 4th: My Right To Vote.  Because God Bless America, that's why. 
Wednesday, November 5th: Breakfast Supper. We have a standing tradition that, before we go to church on Wednesday nights, we have supper at my Sister-in-Love's. About a year or so ago, it evolved into eating breakfast for supper with them. I grew up having breakfast suppers and I always loved them. There's something about giving yourself license to have pancakes and waffles in the same day that's somehow liberating. If you've never eaten breakfast for supper, I strongly suggest your trying it. I promise you won't regret it. 
Thursday, November 6th: Nathan's Eyebrow Raise. I caught it on camera today and I'm so glad I did.
 See what I mean?? So stinkin' cute. 
Friday, November 7th: Movie Night. Our kids are obsessed with our sofa bed. To them, hauling it out after supper on Friday nights to pile up in it with snacks (which lead to 1,372 crumbs) and blankets and every.single.pillow in our house to watch movies together is just about the coolest, bestest, funnest thing we could ever do together. Our Friday night Movie Nights are the hilight of their weeks and I'm OK with that. May our couch always be the coolest place for them to crash. 
Saturday, November 8th: Warm Krispy Kreme Donuts.  By the truckload. Hooray for shopping in Pensacola today!!! 
Sunday, November 9th: Mah Boo.  I got an awful flare up of mastitis (Sigh. Again. For like the millionth time since my oldest was born. Ugh.) and my husband, Matt, totally stepped up to the plate today to help. I woke up feeling awful, and managed to survive long enough to make it through teaching my Bible Class. I went ran home as soon as class was dismissed to dive into bed while he stayed and survived the 90 minute worship service while wrangling our three hooligans. He came home and left me (mostly) undisturbed in our bedroom under 4 blankets and a comforter and a quilt with a bottle of Tylenol, a glass of water and a Netflix marathon of Gilmore Girls while I slept and sweated and shivered my way through the worst of it. I'm so thankful for an awesome teammate like him. You are awesome, Boo!
Monday, November 10th: Netflix. Y'all, I limit my kid's TV times like the best of 'em, but LET ME TELL YOU that nothing makes a sick Momma's day quite like repeat episodes of Curious George and Strawberry Shortcake. Because today, I'm still sick and I'm in survival mode. KIDS- I'll fill your drink cups, throw a sleeve of Ritz crackers on the kitchen table, and if you need me, I'll be the one huddled in a chair under a blanket with a cup of hot tea in my hands. M'kay? Thanks, for understanding kiddos. Disturb me if there's blood or bone exposed. (Not really. But almost.)
Tuesday, November 11th: Chapstick. I must confess that I have a problem with this stuff. I am addicted to it. I've got tubes all over my house: kitchen sink window, junk drawer, nightstand, van door, diaper bag, purse, next to the sugar bowl- it's everywhere and in all the places. This time of year my lips take an especially hard beating and I am so thankful for those little tubes of Chapstick I have stashed everywhere that keep my lips from feeling like they've been burned by the fire of a thousand suns… And why is it so hard not to lick them???!
Wednesday, November 12th: Dollar Tree's Helium Balloons. Because, for $1, I have the best good behavior reward incentive EVER. We have charts up in our house, and if I catch the kids doing extraordinarily wonderful things, they'll be able to prance on over to their corkboard and color in a square on their cards. Fill in all the squares and Voila!: A trip to the Dollar Tree commences to purchase said child a $1 helium balloon or any other treat of their choosing. But 89% of the time, they're gonna choose a balloon. Thanks, Dollar Tree.
Thursday, November 13th: My Day Runner. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am in love with my planner. There's something about the paper pages, and the two-page-per-week layout that just sings to my soul. Today is grocery day so I'm cruising through my trusty paper pages menu planning for next week and starting my Thanksgiving shopping and cooking to do lists and figuring out what leftovers we are gonna eat on what days. My life is a zoo sometimes, and being able sit down and take 20 minutes each week to figure out exactly what I'm gonna feed my family for supper each night (because for some reason they have to eat every single day) has been a sanity saver. I love you, DayRunner! Thanks for helping me make sure my family doesn't starve!
Friday, November 14th: Doorstep Delivery Starbucks. Today has been a banner day, y'all because I got not one but TWO visits in with friends! This morning brought a good friend of mine from church over who just got back into town after working away for SIX MONTHS and we were able to spend the morning drinking coffee (and a chai tea latte- yum!) and talking over the audio from a Disney movie and just plain ol' catching up. Having another real, live adult in my house between the hours of 9-10:30 am was a welcome change. Hooray for adult conversation! And, as if that weren't awesome enough, this afternoon brought ANOTHER wonderful lady over from church who dropped off the cutest, most adorable, most magical Christmas jammies that she made for my three kiddos. I seriously can't wait to put them on the kids; she embroidred their names on the thermal shirts and they have the cutest matching striped pajama bottoms and I DIED when she showed them to me- but then she also brought along two cups of Starbuck's Hazelnut something-or-others and they were awesome. They tasted like sugar and cream and coffee and hazelnuts and heaven. Staying home is a blessing, and I realize that, but it does sometimes leave you starved for adult interaction. But today I got a nice break from the toddler/preschool talk (twice!) and it was so, so nice. I'm thankful for my sweet, encouraging Sisters.  
Saturday, November 15th: Date Nights. I'm serious, y'all. Matt and I hadn't had a real date night (I think) since before Nathan was born last October. I got to actually get dressed on a non-church day, put on my make up and pants with a zipper and grab a purse that DID NOT HAVE A DIAPER IN IT and go to supper with my husband. We got to eat (namely a Bloomin' Onion and a steak as big as my face) and hold hands and actually sit next to each other in a booth and not take anybody to the bathroom and unbuckle zero carseats and it was perfect and magical and just exactly what we needed. Date Nights are vital- and addicting! Now that we had a taste of being out by ourselves, I want a Date Night every weekend!   
Sunday, November 16th: My (Other) Family. We worship with an amazing group of loving, laughing, and most importantly imperfect people at Gulf Breeze Church Of Christ. Our relationships with them have become some of the closest ones we have outside of our blood relatives. My best friends were made through connections here- and I'm a better person because of these women. We've put down roots for our family here, and I couldn't think of a better group of souls seeking Jesus to do it with. 
Monday, November 17th: Eggs. Specifically when they are packed by in a box of 5 dozen. We eat a lot of eggs in our house. It's nice not to run out every time I need to scramble some. Hooray for easy egg breakfasts! 
Tuesday, November 18th: Pediatric Dentists. I took the three kids to their first dental check up today and man y'all, things have changed a ton since I was a kid! The staff and crew at our office was spectacular. All three kids got gold star reviews and bags full of treats and temporary tattoos and toothbrushes and bouncy balls that have already been lost under furniture and between car seats. I spent the nights leading up to this visit panicked about cavities and imparting crazy childhood trauma on the kids and I'm relieved to report that neither instance occurred today. Yahoo! 
Wednesday, November 19th: Vick's Liquid Inhalant. Because today is the first day that I've had to break out our humidifiers and this liquid camphor that you can add to a warm mist humidifier is THE BOMB. Both Josie and Nathan have been battling congestion and coughing and are creating amounts of mucus that previously seemed to be phyically impossible. They are sick and crabby and sleep deprived and so am I. We have both warm and cool mist humidifers running in our house right now so walking into our living room has become akin to entering a Vicks VapoSteam Rainforest. The season of sickness has begun... 
Thursday, November 20th: Cadbury And Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The kids are still crazy sick and I am in serious need for self medication and this stuff was perfect. I do miss not having a calorie ridden bread bowl to eat it out of, but even still, it was mighty tasty. And when you've got two kids who are sick and the other who is cranky that Daddy is gone for a few days and will therefore not stop crying YOU EAT THE SOUP TO SUSTAIN YOURSELF. Throw in the fact that my dear friend Amy heard my plea for chocolate and Ding Dong Ditched me an entire bag of Cadbury's Christmas Chocolates and I think I just.may.survive. 
Friday, November 21st: Pizza Sister. Yes, I'm thankful for food items two days in a row. But my husband is still gone and the kids are still sick and I'm still hanging on by a thread. So takeout Hungry Howies that was picked up by my amazing Sister-in-Love, Tammy and then delivered here as she arrived to run interferience for me between the two-sick-kids-and-one-kid-who-is-still-missing-Daddy was essential to my survival today. She stayed for supper and Movie Night and I almost wept to see her leave because sometimes (lots of times) I'd be lost without Tammy. And not just because she comes over with pizza and fresh arms to hold all the clingy kids but because she loves my kids and they love her and family and sisters are amazing. ::happy sigh:: 
Saturday, November 22nd: Operation Christmas Child. Want a sure fire way to turn yourself into a blubbering fool? Buy a couple of shoebox labels, watch the OCC video with your kids, then sit back and watch your 4 year old immediately begin to run back and forth through your house gathering all his favorite toys to "share with his friends who don't have any". Kick it up a notch by going to the store with them to fill their containers and watch them talk excitedly to each other about what they are each going to buy for each of their friend's boxes. Sob quietly as your 2 year old picks out the same exact dress up jewelry that she owns so that she and her friend can match. Then have the waterworks really start when you go to the drop off site and your kids hug the collection crew and boisterously tell them all about how they want to share toys and treats and PINK UNDERWEARS with their friends far away who may not have any. Yeah, a day like that will really turn you into a hot (Mom) mess. I love my kids and their generous hearts.  
Sunday, November 23rd: The Closing Song. Because some Sundays are tougher than others and TODAY WAS ROUGH. Today was the kind of Sunday when, as the last song is being sung, you are frantically gathering all of the Bible Class papers and all the broken crayons and all the crying kids in your possession and are running to your van like a Jamacian Bobsled Team in an effort of straight up self-preservation. Days like today are exactly why we sit in the back, near the exit because there are times when you must Rise And Run as soon as that closing song begins. And there is no sweeter sound than that closing song because it means you have survived. Hallelujah. 
Monday, November 24th: My Vacuum. I do have, what some might call, an unhealthy attachment to my vacuum. But, with three kids and a dog and a cat and a husband and myself- we create a lot of dirt and crumbs and hair to pick up. I take a break from vacuuming on Sundays, so by the time Monday rolls around there are crumbs in all the corners and grit on all the floors. It always amazes me how quickly our floors can accumulate that fine layer of dirt after being left undistrurbed for a mere 36 hours. I certainly don't remember walking through every room of my house crumbling a graham cracker trail for some little lost German children, but somehow by Monday mornings my floor looks like something Hansel and Gretel could follow to find a cottage made of candy. Wait... Did I just use that comparison and thereby make myself the witch?? Hmm.... Anyway, thank you, vacuum, for keeping us from being buried alive in piles of toast crumbs and crayon shavings. 
Tuesday, November 25th: Sam's Club. Because y'all already know we buy our eggs in bulk (see November 17th's entry) but with our young family of five, we go through beaucoup flour and sugar and toilet paper and dog food, too. So hooray for Sam's Club- because where else could you buy a gallon of pancake syrup or a tub of peanut butter large enough to bathe a baby in?? 
Wednesday, November 26th: A Godly Husband. Because of Thanksgiving tomorrow, we moved our Wednesday night Bible Class to Tuesday night. And instead of having splitting into separate classes like we usually do, we all gathered in the pews and had an impromptu song service and devotional. The men all took turns leading their selections, and after Luke saw one of the big kids get up to lead a song with his Grandpa, there was nothing stopping him from wanting to get up and lead a song with Matt. My heart just about burst wide open when I got to watch my husband stand up and lead a song with my oldest son in his arms. Luke sat there singing "Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary" at the top of his lungs, and I'm pretty sure I fell in love with Matt all over again while I sang along. (Isn't it funny how parenthood makes you love your spouse more and more like that?? Maaaan.) I'm grateful to have a little boy who loves Jesus like Luke does, but I feel even more blessed to be married to a man that will guide and point him toward Christ like my Matt does. There's not better man out there y'all, and that is a fact.  
Thursday, November 27th: Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all! I'm thankful for so many things today, it seems like a trite exercise to try and list them all. We had the opportunity to double dip our tryptophan consumption today by having lunch with our church family this afternoon and then having supper tonight with some dear church friends at our house. They have a daughter that falls right between Luke and Josie so the kids all had a great time playing while the grownups got to visit and eat and actually concentrate on the conversation instead of constantly havin to worry about one of the kids knocking someone down in the church foyer. I loved today. And not just because the turkey. 
Friday, November 28th: 99¢ Poinsettias. While I've never been one to stay up all night hitting stores in the Black Friday madness, over the past few years I have gotten into a pretty reliable routine. Being an early morning gal like I am, early on Black Friday morning well before the kids wake up, I sneak out like a ninja and drive across the highway to WalMart to score my cheap Rubbermaid boxes and then slide over into the Lowes next door and scoop up a couple of their cheap poinsettias to put next to my front door. They aren't the huge ones, but they are red and festive (two of my very favorite things) and when I inevitably kill them come Spring there isn't much guilt involved because I got such a good deal on them.   
Saturday, November 29th: Leftover Pecan Pie.  Should I really need to elaborate on this one, y'all? Because really- it's lagniappe pie- what's not to be grateful for? Bonus points are applied if you eat it straight out the pie plate with a fork. Because then you don't have to clean a plate and less dishes are always a bonus blessing in my book. 
Sunday, November 30th: My Show Purse. In a rare turn of events, I went to a movie today with one of my Sister-in-Loves and my niece. It has been ages since I've gone to a movie and as I opened my contraband chocolate and Diet Coke I was ever so grateful that I'd remembered to grab my oversized 'Show Bag' when I ran out of left the house this afternoon because snacks smuggled into the movies taste so much sweeter than the overpriced array they offer to you there. Yay for a girls afternoon! And yay for Mockingjay!!! 

On this side of November, I can look back and say that I'm glad I made myself sit down and perform this little exercise of gratitude. I've always considered myself a grateful person- I've always considered myself somebody who knows how blessed she is to live in a house with multiple bathrooms and a microwave and magic machines that clean my dishes and clothes. I live a very "first world" life, and some of my daily gratitudes reflect that. I get it.

But below that; underneath the funny little, silly little things I've recognized that I'm grateful for runs a deep river of gratitude that springs from a realization I have that makes me understand that everything I have- every blessing and gift and funny ante-dote that I've ever been given- has come from Him. 

And that's what I'm most thankful for: Jesus. Because without Him, all I'd be left with is an empty shell of gratitude. Without Jesus, my thanksgivings would be like one of those old, hollow, hand painted eggs- it would be pretty to look at, but incredibly fragile and empty on the inside. The slightest shift or movement would crack the pretty exterior of my life and before I'd know it all the "blessings" of my life would be nothing more than a pile of painted eggshells on the floor waiting to be swept up and thrown away. 

So I'm thankful to possess a strengthened form of gratitude through Christ. Because thankfulness like mine was purchased with a price: Jesus. And it's with that attitude of gratitude I'm connected to Him, tied to His mercy in ways that make my daily reachings out to Him exactly the lifeline that I need to survive. 

So now that November has drawn to a close, I'll keep up with my exercises of thankfulness with a renewed vision of just exactly how much I have to be grateful for.  My blessings have abounded this month, and I pray yours have as well. 

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." -James, Jesus' brother. (James 1:17)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Life, Interrupted.

Y'all, I am frustrated. And the source of my frustration is my kids. I hate to even admit that, BUT I AM. 

At 6:22am today, I sat down again to finally try and finish the 'Happy Halloween' post I'd started writing almost three.weeks.ago. :45 seconds later, Nathan woke up screaming. 
(I still haven't finished that post. True story.)

::UPDATE- It has taken me over sevennine, TEN DAYS to writing this. Because- Motherhood happens, y'all.::

 It was literally minutes, no- moments after I'd just settled down with my warm blanket and freshly poured coffee that it happened. I'd barely settled in my comfy chair with my laptop; I'd just exhaled as I prepared to begin to write when I heard the first stream of his cries coming from the nursery down the hall. And, as selfish and hard-hearted as it makes me sound- for the first few moments when I heard him- my raw reaction was that it frustrated me. 

I went down to his room, changed his diaper, got his blankets arranged and found his favorite doggie pacifier. I got him snuggled back into his bed, tucked him in again, and by the time I closed his door like a Mom ninja, he was back asleep like the precious angel cherub baby he is. (Because he really is- that kid is adorable.)

Looking back on it now, it seems petty and selfish to have gotten so frustrated with such an innocent interruption- the logical part of my brain knows and understands this. But, in the emotional "Borderline Burned Out Mom" part of my brain I can admit that it frustrated me because for me, in the life phase that I am in right now, one of the biggest drawbacks I deal with is the constant, never ending, unceasing feeling of interruption and incompletion because sometimes, I JUST WANNA FINISH SOMETHING. 

And if you've ever stuck around for any length of time in a house with three kids preschool aged and under, you understand that completing things (much less actually finishing them without interruptions) never happens.  A typical day for me is a 13 (sometimes 16+) hour merry-go-round of interruptions. I start and stop so many tasks and chores and projects and errands that my mind feels like I'm an internet browser with 438 open tabs. 

My two bigs usually wake up before the baby, so as I'm getting them out of their jammies and into their day clothes, I gather a load of laundry to run. However, just as I'm scooping up clothes and socks and random dirty pajama tops to wash, I'm interrupted by the baby's cries from the nursery. 
I leave the laundry pile on the floor in their room and leave the bigs to finish getting (mostly) dressed by themselves to go wake up and tend to the fussy baby. As I'm changing his diaper, my two bigs are finished getting dressed with their backwards undies and mismatched tops and socks that are pulled way too high. They've now made it into the nursery for me to help my middle child fish her arms out of the correct holes in her shirt (we are still working with her on dressing herself- she's 2.5) and are now begging for drinks. 
I herd the four of us into the kitchen (while I stop at the deck door to let the dog out) to fix my soon-to-be-dehydrated bunch of children fresh cups of 2% chocolate milk (Luke), grape juice (Josie) and Vitamin D milk (Nathan). I start some water boiling for oatmeal and as I'm handing them their cups, I peek around the open door of the dishwasher that's waiting to be unloaded and spy a lone dishrag I forgot to gather last night after I wiped off the supper table. That reminds me of the laundry I started gathering before the baby woke up. 
I dash back into their bedrooms to gather their clothes and make a pass through their bathroom to gather the 291 handtowels and big towels and cold, wet washrags that have been sitting in the bottom of their tub, unrung out from their baths  last night. (Ewwww.) 
It's while I'm in there that I hear the two big kids squabbling over the recently anointed, recently elected, prime drinking cup in our house: a 3 year old, faded blue plastic souvenier cup from the Aquarium of the Americas in NOLA. I'm not kidding. There have been tears and squabbles and wars and rumors of wars and blood has nearly been shed over who's turn it is to drink out of the blessed "Fish Cup". 
If I were a sane person, I would simply hide it in the back of the cabinet or try and find a duplicate, or give it away BUT I AM NOT THAT PERSON because, for some perverse reason, I feel the need to teach them an object lesson in loving and giving and turn taking EVERY SINGLE DAY- I set my sights back to the kitchen. 
As soon as I dump the mound of laundry to be sorted on the floor in the corner of my kitchen, and let the poor dog back inside, I take a moment (for what seems the millionth time) to drag both kids into my lap and go over the high points of sharing and generosity and loving others more than we love ourselves BECAUSE JESUS WOULD WANT TO SHARE THAT RIDICULOUS FISH CUP AND I WANT MY KIDS TO WANT TO SHARE IT TOO.  
We eventually eat our breakfast. As soon as our oatmeal bowls are stashed into the sink, we start our school work and the varied and numerous array of interruptions continue on throughout our day as I try to keep up with our laundry and our housework and our meals and our hearts and our minds and our souls. I need a nap and it's not even 10am. 

Being home with my three kids is a daunting task, and there are some days, like that day when I just want to be able to do something start-to-finish without stopping. Mornings like those leave me with the feeling that I'd be content to just get my dishwasher unloaded without having to stop 17 times in the process. 

Before I had kids, I could unload an entire dishwasher (that I'd only had to run every other day, ha!) in less than 4 minutes. Now that I've got a 3:1 child-to-Mom ratio, if I can get it unloaded by lunchtime I'm feeling pretty stinkin' good about myself. 

And I'm not saying that there aren't ways I've found to better equipped myself to help make my days run more smoothly. I've made and actually follow several routines for both beginning and ending my days. Because it's so much easier to have the kid's morning cups fixed up the night before. Not having three kids hanging on your legs in the morning begging for hydration is actually quite niceI try and follow these routines EVERY SINGLE DAY because, when I do- I really can see a positive difference. 

I have a DayRunner that I love and adore. That bad boy stays open on top of a short bookshelf in my living room. I walk past it 372 times everyday and I would be positively lost without it because it's become my lesson planner and my calendar and my menu and my shopping list and my cleaning rotation and my routine and my brain. I would literally be lost without my trusty DayRunner. We've become organizational BFF's. Hooray for paper pages!!

But, even with all of those plans and to do lists and daily cleaning zones and routines and schedules, I can still get discouraged. There are still days that I am tired and cranky and fussy and frazzled and short with the kids and my husband. There are still moments when I long to be locked, undisturbed in a room with a blanket and a book and a cup of coffee for a couple of hours. Better yet- throw in a strong wireless signal and my Netflix cue and that may just about push me over the edge into an endless pool of bliss. For a burned out Mom like me, that situation happening would be like the equivalent of an entire lifetime of using towels straight from the dryer.

And I've had to realize something about my frazzled and frayed and burned out self. I can have all the paper pages of lists and tasks and reminders and post it notes and alarms and still feel ill-equipped to face my days and unprepared to accomplish all my responsibilities if I have not RESTED AND RECONNECTED with my Savior. 

I recently read my way through The Gospels. What I mean is, during my morning Bible studies, my plan took me straight through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's accounts of the events in Jesus' life and ministry. And y'all, when I say it was a game changer, I am not exaggerating because after I wrapped up John I WAS CHANGED. My view of Jesus had forever been altered and I am a better person now because of it. 

I've always loved Jesus. I've always admired Him. Respected Him. Worshiped Him. But y'all, after reading through all the ins and outs and happenings of his life and ministry, I AM even more IN AWE OF HIM on levels that I never even thought about. He was a multitasker. A go-getter. An early riser. A night owl. A shepherd. A physician. A therapist. A life coach. A guide. As I read through the endless and tireless lists of places and people and situations He encountered- I couldn't (and I still don't) understand how Jesus could have physically and mentally and emotionally survived a life like his. 

For the life of me, I can't get over how unbelievably tired He must have been during his ministry. I mean, serioulsy, y'all- HE WORKED NONSTOP. Teaching. Preaching. Healing the sick. Kissing the babies. Hugging the people. Teaching The Word. I can not imagine what the pressure He endured felt like.This never ending stress, the constant pressure of the needs and demands of other people both physically and spiritually is something that, up until recently, I'd never thought about. How mentally and physically and emotionally exhausting that must have been for Him because everywhere He went- every town he visited, every shore his boat arrived on, every city he preached in- there were people waiting for Him. Because they needed Him. Wanted him. Sought after him. To heal their sick, bless their children, teach their people. I only have three little people's needs to meet every day, and even so- there are days I don't know quite how to handle it well, but Jesus did it for entire towns and cities and hillsides and regions and THE ENTIRE WORLD. Learning how to deal with stress like Jesus did is a lesson I needed to learn. 

There is one particular story that really struck me about how Jesus handled stress in His life. (Matthew Matt.4:23-25, Mark 1:21-39 **my favorite account**, and Luke 4:31-44) Jesus had just begun his ministry, and Luke's account tells us that Jesus had just been in Nazareth- his hometown- where his message was so ill received, that the people in the synagogue were in a rage against him. They were so mad they wanted to throw him off a cliff! 

Jesus left Nazareth and travelled to Capernaum, where he began teaching them in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus was still a relative unknown, and while he was teaching, a man with an unclean spirit came up to him, declaring him "the Holy One of God". Jesus immediately rebuked him and the demon left. The news of this miracle got out, and pretty soon it was spreading like wildfire all over town. 

He left the synagogue and went to Peter's house where Peter's mother-in-law was sick with a debilitating fever. They immediately asked Jesus to see to her, and he healed her. While all this was happening, the people of the city and surrounding villages heard the miraculous news about the synagogue and started bringing him people to heal. Mark's account tells us that "the whole city was at their door". I can't imagine the crush of people that surrounded Peter's house, but Jesus saw to them and healed them. What a job that must have been. 

It's the end of this story that really struck me, because the VERY NEXT THING that Jesus did, after teaching and healing and preaching and caring for an entire city's worth of sick and afflicted people was to escape. "In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus go up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon (Peter) and his companions searched for Him; they found Him and said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You." (Mark 1:35-37) And y'all, I bet they were

Jesus had just spent nearly an entire night healing the sick and casting out demons, and the thing he needed most, the first thing he did to cope, the first steps he took to decompress was to rest and reconnect with His Father. He recognized where His strength came from, and He realized that He needed to lean on that Relationship to keep Him strong enough to survive the life and events and stresses of His ministry. 

I, on the other hand, have not always seen my need to rest and reconnect as being that important. When I'm stressed with the kids and need an outlet to decompress, I've been known to jump onto social media or browse delicious recipes on Pinterest or text my husband ridiculous ecards or just about anything besides what I really need to be doing to empower myself to survive this crazy life I lead: JESUS. 

Instead of logging on to Facebook or Instagram to decompress during stressful afternoons, I feel so much better when I escape into my quiet, dark bedroom, and seek Jesus' solace. The kids can knock on the door and bang on the walls for my attention just as well if I'm in there for five minutes as much as they could if I had my nose glued to my iPhone while I hid on the opposite side of a locked bathroom door. Reconnecting to Jesus is peaceful. Reconnecting to my wireless signal is playtime. And, if I'm feeling particularly stressed and void with my Instagramless moment, I can always throw a hashtag into my prayers with air quotes because Jesus will understand those, too. 

Before I became a Mom, when I'd read the story of Jesus calming the storm (found in Matt. 8, Mark 4, Luke 8) I'd always be surprised that Jesus could actually sleep through such a terrific thunderstorm such a tiny boat. Now that I'm a Mom I can totally get it BECAUSE HE MUST HAVE BEEN WORN SLAP OUT. His abilibiy to sleep through that storm, to me, is a testament to just how drained He felt. Stress exhaustion makes much, much more sense to me now that I've experienced my own versions of pressure and sleep depravation and . Because there are days when I think I could take a nap in the hull of a boat during a storm, too.

On this side of the never ending, never quitting, never-gonna-clock-out-for-the-day stream of the stress of Motherhood and all the interruptions that come along with them: I GET IT NOW. Jesus needed to reconnect and I do, too. His life, His ministry, His mission was one of constant interruptions. There was even one time when he was in the middle of preforming one miracle, was interrupted- preformed a second- then went back and completed the first miracle that he'd started. (Matt. 9, Mark 5, Luke 8) And I thought my struggle to complete a full circut of laundry from hamper to closet was tough. Mercy, y'all! Jesus was the Master multitasker.

And that's my takeaway. I used to live an uninterrupted life. I used to be able to start and finish tasks. BUT THEN I HAD KIDS. And now, my life is different. The value of my life is no longer based on starting and finishing tasks. It's surrounded by three precious little interruptiosn and the duties I've been given to raise them. I can take steps and measures to ensure that my waking hours are as productive and fruitful as possible, but I have to let go of the comparision of what my life used to be like to what it is now. Because there is no way I would ever want to go back to my 100%-completed-to-do-list, perfectly-folded-towel-and-washrag, spoiled-milk-sippy-cupless life. Because my kids are blessed messes. I may be tired, and my days may be long, and I may not get to wash my hair everyday, but it's the best kind of exhausted I could ever think to be.  

Jesus knew the value of taking time to himself to rest and reconnect when He was stressed. And it's time I took that lesson to heart, too.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Will Be Aretha Franklin This Winter

The first day you have to break out the family's humidifiers is always a depressing one, don'tcha think?? 

It means that you've got croup and congestion and runny noses and fussy babies and earaches and long nights filled with Vicks Vapor Rub smear downs and hallway hoverings while you try and discern which of your children's rooms the last croupy cough came from. 

It's the season of lying awake listening for phantom baby cries and cleaning the phar
macy shelves of every single decongestant and essential oil and camphor mist and Vapor Rub and box of Kleenex they have to offer. 

If you're like me and are dealing with a sick (or in my case, TWO sick kids), I salute you. I lift my extra cup of coffee to you as I begin to Lysol all the things and wipe all the noses and suck out all the sinuses and pray that my one remaining healthy child doesn't succumb to the Mucus Monster that rears it's ugly head in my house each winter.

But I've got good news, y'all, because we will survive this season, friends. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Fastest, Bestest 12 Months Of My Life

Happy 1st Birthday, Nathan!

(Photo credit goes to my awesome BIL Clarence. Our family gatherings would never be properly documented were it not for him. Also, for the future Josie who will read this someday and potentially accost me for not including her in the picture: You were there, Sis. I promise. You were just glued to your Aunt Tammy's lap and would not budge to sing and blow out the candles with Nathan. So yes, you were there, even if you weren't in the picture. Booyah.)  

Nathan, right now- you are sleeping in your crib, snuggled in your favorite blue Bundy blanket, wrapped in the quilt made by your MawMaw Valerie and squished next to the Lamby that your big brother bequeathed to you a few months back. If I were to judge the amount of people that love you just by the contents of your crib alone, it would be an easy call to make to say that there are plenty of people around who just can't get enough of you.

But it's bigger than that. 

There are currently 12 cups of variously tinted shades of buttercream icing sitting in our icebox waiting to be spread on top of the soon-to-be-baked cakes for your party on Saturday. Just about every relative you have and friend that you've made is going to be making their way (Some from four states away!) to our house for your party tomorrow. There are presents stashed in closets and in the back of my van and in bags that will certainly more than cover the top of the fireplace hearth on Saturday. If I were to judge the amount of love that people have for you just by the amount of birthday party preparations that are currently taking place, it would be an easy call to make to say that we love you.

But it's bigger than that, too.  

Nathan, I've been trying to write this post for two weeks now. I've never seemed to be able to get much farther than past that first sentence without welling up, breaking down into a ball of tears, and closing my laptop. I can't seem to write you this amazing, wonderful, fabulous HBD letter without crying because I just can't imagine our lives without you. 

It's been a year since you turned us into a family of five and my days have never been better. I've blossomed and bloomed and been blown away by the changes that you've made in our family. And, when I think about how we weren't trying to get pregnant when God decided to bless us with you- I'm overcome with thankfulness because we have you and sadness that we almost didn't. I'm in awe of the plan God put into place by blessing us with you, our very own "Bonus Baby". We may not have been expecting you, but for every second that we've know about you- every single moment since we saw that little pink plus sign on our bathroom counter- WE HAVE WANTED YOU. You completed our family in ways that we couldn't even imagine. 

You have come into our lives and blessed us beyond measure in more ways that I can even fathom. I can't talk to you yet about what my pregnancy was like with you because honestly, I'm not ready. It was a scary, uncertain, and at moments paralyzing time for us. It literally brought me to my knees and shook me to my core as a parent, as a child and as a person. It was the most stressful, fearful, worried time of my life- but I am so glad it happened. Because people don't always grow when life is easy. And as much as I grew in pounds and inches while I was pregnant with you, I grew even more in God's grace and favor. You were growing inside of me while I was growing inside of Him.

It's through that time that my relationship relationship with Jesus got even deeper. He carried me while I was carrying you. He held my hand (and your Dad's) through all the extra high risk doctors and ultrasounds and blood work and genetic counselors. As we went forward after church one Sunday and asked the congregation to lift us up as we prepared for news and waited for answers. As I foolishly Googled every possible genetic abnormality and accompanying physical and mental handicaps associated with them. Jesus was with me as I mentally renovated our house to make it handicap accessible and as I installed a wheelchair ramp into our front door. At the end of all of things, we ended up not needing to call that contractor about that ramp installation, but I'm a stronger/better/wiser Mom and wife and woman because of the journey. One day I'll tell you the rest of the story. But not today. Right now, I want to put the Kleenex away and break out the balloons. 

So for now, I'm going to celebrate you. I'm going to rejoice in the extra gallon of Vitamin D milk I get to finally see in our icebox again. And in the 32 baby wipes I found strewn across the living room floor late last night with the empty Huggies box beside them. I'm going to laugh at the dog's turned over water bowls. And the clementine I pulled out the fruit drawer this morning for your Dad's lunch that had a conspicuously Nathan-sized hole in the rind where someone's tiny teeth had recently been. (By the way, I finished peeling it, stuck it in a Ziplock and we are gonna eat it for breakfast anyway.) I'm going to celebrate the fact that I'm once again doing visual scans of surfaces and floors and rooms looking for potential infant choking hazards. (How did we acquire so many SMALL TOYS?!) I'm so excited that I get to see another baby learn to walk. And talk. And do that adorably cute spider/crab crawl across our living room rug again. I can't wait to have more tiny teeth marks on the two unprotected side bars of the nursery crib or see those teeny smeared handprints on the bottom window panes of our French doors. 

You're ONE YEAR OLD NOW, and while it's been the busiest, blurriest, fastest, most whirlwind 12 months of my memory- they have been the best times of my life. Spending my days with you and your brother and your sister are honestly the most fun I've ever had in all my born days.   

You're the biggest bonus blessing in my life, Nathan. You're the best gift I've ever gotten that I never even knew to ask for. God blessed us so much with our surprise in you, my sweet fella. I'll forever be grateful to Him for that.  

Don't ever forget that Momma loves you heaps and gobs and bodacious amounts. 
And I always will. 

"Let the wild rumpus start!" Maurice Sendak