Memorial Day weekend was “bamming”

Memorial Day weekend is always awesome. It seems the weather always cooperates. This weekend was no different. In the words of Hayleigh, this weekend “bammed our minds”. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we enjoyed nearly every moment of our three day weekend, despite an ant infestation. We started out with an ice-cream party to celebrate Hayleigh graduating preschool. I got to go on a date with the most adorable three year old boy ever. The kids consumed large amounts of sugar (and so did the adults). They got to play with friends (and so did the adults),  we paid a quick visit to my father-in-law who is recovering from double knee replacement surgery,  grilled out on my parent’s deck,  busted out the sprinkler and water guns and got super water logged, caught tadpoles so we can kill them the same way we killed Hayleigh’s caterpillar “Stella”, and to wrap up the weekend Peter and I watched a good Denzel Washington action movie that left me plenty of inspiration for sneaking around my house ambushing unsuspecting ants with the same vigor and bravado that Denzel shot down his would be assailants. Oh, and I blew up everyone's instagram. Time well spent, I would say!

Photo: Celebrating our first day of summer with some sugar of course! #icecreammakeseverythingbetter #firstannualfirstdayofsummericecreamparty

Photo: Zoo date with #mybboybraxton . #heiscountingpilesofpoop Photo: Fro-yo! #cutedate #wearesotrendy #mybboybraxton


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(Hayleigh Memorial Day weekend 2010, Royce Memorial Day weekend 2014)
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Thanks to our veterans and Happy Summer!!

When I actually started believing the Bible


Some people are troopers. Some people are jugglers. You know the type. Or maybe you are the type. Troopers put their head down. They make it through the tough stuff. “Grin and bear it”. Jugglers can take on lots of things and always manage to keep them all in the air with a confident smile. Then some people are whiners. I don’t need a Cosmo quiz to tell me what kind of person I am. I am a whiner. If something is less than comfy I complain-either out loud or to myself in my head or to God in obnoxious prayers. Sometimes if something goes wrong I think my whole day is shot. Of if I have a bad day, or a string of bad days, I think my whole entire life is horrible.  I can relate to this quote a friend posted on Instagram yesterday.
 

My dad calls this mentality “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. That analogy never really made a whole lot of sense to me growing up. Actually come think of it, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But somehow I can relate.

For a while in an attempt to be less of a whiner I became more of a stuffer. I would just swallow all my feelings, ya know, stuff them down and put on a forced smile and pretend everything was okay in the name of contentment. Often I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Clearly, my attempts and trooping and juggling back-fired. There would come a boiling point and I would spew like Mt. St. Helen. I am sure any therapist worth their hourly fee would tell me I wasn’t really addressing the root of the problem. I wasn’t really listening to my emotions. “Emotions are indicators” they would say. I have spent years being told that. As a teenager we are told to control our emotions and not let our emotions control us, but rarely how to do this. (By “we” I pretty much mean women. Men aren’t told this as often as women. Peter has no idea this cliché even existed except for possibly over-hearing it in counseling sessions with me.) We are told emotions are indicators of what is going on beneath the surface. We are told emotions are all honest. We are told no one can argue with our emotions. And a bunch of other crap like that. (disclaimer: I definitely think there is partial truth and definite merit here, but not in and of itself).

Unfortunately I bought into the crap for a while. I even went a step further than believing emotions are indicators. I let emotions be dictators. I let them decide how I was going to not just feel but act. I let emotions dictate truth to me. Turns out emotions are not the best indicators of truth. (I know! Hard to believe, right?!) In fact, I found that emotions are the second best liar ever, next to the Devil himself (who I really DO think is real and I really do think likes to use emotions as tools of deception). When I let emotions be more than an indicator, when I let them be a dictator, I made them a liar and I gave them permission to be a controller-leaving me out of control.

This became especially prevalent in areas of suffering and hardship. If something was hard I labeled it bad. If God felt far away, He was. If I felt something, it must be true. I ignored the truth of scripture, which often flew in the face of what I was feeling to be true. Well actually, that isn’t completely accurate. I didn’t just ignore scripture. I read it. I memorized it. I listened to it in sermons and songs, verses like “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” or “God brings all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (James 4:8 and Romans 8:28). . I hated those verses. I would get so fed up with hearing people quote scripture of comfort or scripture of God’s sovereignty. Why? Because it didn’t feel true in my life. I came to believe that scripture was lying. I chose to believe my feelings instead of God. Emotions like to feed off themselves. And Satan likes to feed on lies. So many negative things, dangerous things, were thriving inside me. Meanwhile I was starving. What I lacked was perspective. What I needed was faith.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without many nights soaking my pillow with tears. It wasn’t without many honest, fumbling prayers. It wasn’t without grace that I came to a place of faith. But I decided to start believing what the Bible said, even if it didn’t seem to feel true. I decided “hey, these emotions have gotten me nowhere, but places I don’t want to go. It is time I start speaking truth to myself. It is time I start bossing my emotions around. It is time I start believing that something bigger than me and what I feel is true. It is time I start actually living as if the Bible I claim to believe is true-not just parts of it that resonate with me, but all of it.”

Turns out God is right. Turns out God’s way is best. Turns out scripture is true and sometimes my feelings lie.

When I decided to start believing the Bible, God changed my heart. My faith grew. My emotions followed…usually. I have to keep those suckers on a short leash. The analogy of the mustard seed makes such perfect sense to me now.

“Because you have so little faith.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
you can say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20.

I realized just how flawed and destructive my thinking really was. I was so “me-centered”. I wouldn’t have said it or realized it at the time but I was living as if God owed me something. When something was hard I automatically assumed that God didn’t keep His promises, God didn’t love me and I had every right to be angry with God. I wanted desperately to be close to God, but I wanted it on my terms, not His. I am so thankful that God didn’t give me what I deserved. I am thankful He was patient with me and just so, so compassionate. I am so thankful He chiseled away at my pride and my sinful thinking.  He took a mustard seed of faith-which was all I had to give at the time-and moved mountains in my heart. He gave me grace: His unmerited favor on my life, everything I didn’t  (and don’t ) deserve.

I don’t say all this to come off as if I have it all figured out. It is quite the opposite, really. What I am saying is that apart from God I would be an even bigger mess than I already am. What I am saying is that God gets the glory for any good you see in me, any change that has taken place. It is all Him. So often I still have to remind myself that truth is true even when it doesn’t feel true. Every single day I have to tell myself that just because I feel something doesn’t make it true, or untrue. Just because God doesn’t feel close, doesn’t mean He isn’t. Just because I don’t see evidence of that promise being kept doesn’t mean it isn’t. The story is still being written. Just because something doesn’t feel good, doesn’t mean it isn’t for my good. In fact, probably the opposite. It feels hard because it is for my good. I have to tell myself I can’t be trusted. I have to tell myself Who can be trusted. I some times still look at promises in the Bible and feel anger stir up in me because I don’t see that evidence in my circumstances. But I have learned that God is cool with me pouring my honest thoughts out to Him. He can handle it. He wants me to trust Him, and not just with my pretty thoughts. He wants me to trust Him with my ugly too, with my doubts, with my struggles, with what pains me. He wants to make it beautiful, often by using means I never would have chosen on my own.

So, I am also saying that “I get it”. For anyone who struggles to wrangle their emotions, for anyone who yells and screams and whines to God, to anyone who “throws the baby out with the bath water”, or who wonders if God meant His promises for everyone else but them: “me too”. Been there. Some times I am still there.  But God speaks to us in those moments. He says

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts”.
Isaiah 55:8-9
 
For so long I took this as God “putting me in my place”, and I guess it is that. But the more I get to know and experience the love, grace and compassion of my God, the more I read these words as the comfort of a father speaking to his child. There is freedom and peace in being put in your rightful place, in living life the way you were designed to. Sometimes I tell my kids to just enjoy being a kid and not having to figure out _____ or to stop challenging me on____ because I (maybe) know what I am talking about. I am their mother after all. I say that to exert authority but also to give them a sense of identity and a sense of comfort. It is all taken care of.  Maybe that is a bit of what God is saying. It makes me feel like it is okay to not have it all figured out; I am not supposed to. It gives me comfort in knowing that God knows my thoughts will be jumbled, and naive, and immature. He knows I don’t get it. But He does. He gets it. When things go “wrong” I can trust that what may seem as confusing, frustrating and just plain painful for me, is just His thoughts and ways being higher than mine. It is pretty nice to be able to rest in the care of someone who knows what is best for me AND will bring it about. When I read the rest of Isaiah 55 it made sense in the context of a loving God taking care of His children.
 
So, anyway, all this rambling is to say starting to believe the Bible-like really believe on it and act on it-was the best choice I ever made. Since I hung up my feelings and allowed truth to govern my life, the peace and joy I have felt it amazing. (I still have to hang them up every day…who am I kidding?! Every hour.) When I started to take God at His word and trust Him farther than my eyes could see, and in spite of what I was feeling, I felt like I finally “got it”. (Now, don’t get me wrong, as Peter or anyone close to me can tell you, I am FAR from having this figured out. But I am working on it.) And God has never let me down. Not even for a moment. Turns out He never had.

A letter to my daughter as she graduates preschool


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(last day of school and your first missing tooth!)
Hayleigh Grace,

Didn’t I just write this letter and this one? You will hear from me a couple hundred thousand times in your life how fast time goes. You will hear it sung in ballads and proclaimed by strangers in Wegmans. But you will never realize how head-shakingly true this statement is until you have kids of your own someday, God willing. I know I didn’t realize it. I used to get so tired of hearing my dad say to me “just yesterday I was cradling you like a football”. I used to roll my eyes. When I was pregnant with you and old ladies would stop me while I was running errands and rub my belly and tell me how quickly it goes. I would think to myself how much I wanted to slap their hand off of my stomach, (“you are not actually touching a baby, you know! That is still my swollen stomach you are rubbing…stranger lady!”). Then I would smile politely and wonder why everyone talks about how quickly time goes. Then you were born. You know, like…yesterday.And I blinked, as they say, and you are done with pre-school. I get it now, Dad.

Just writing that makes my eyes swell up with tears. I have spent so, so many hours of my life devoted to reading about, and gleaning wisdom and painstakingly parenting through the little years. And just like that, my first baby, you: my precious girl who made me a Mommy, is done with the little years. I wonder if I have done it right. I wonder if I have done enough. I wonder if I have made the most of the years I have had with you at home with me. I wonder if the over-sights I have made, the character flaws I have, the ways I have blown it-big time have damaged you. Oh, I am so thankful for the grace of our Father. I see that grace in so many areas of my life, but one of the biggest areas is in you.

When we named you “Hayleigh Grace” I didn’t know yet how fitting that middle name would be. But it fits. Oh, how it fits. It struck me anew just today how much it fits. I was looking through pictures of you from this year at preschool. One of your classmate’s grandmothers was wonderful enough to take hundreds of pictures of each kid throughout the year. She gave them to us on a disk at the end of the year. As I looked through the pictures she had given me and compiled them into a photo album for you, I began to weep. I was just so suddenly overcome with so many different emotions. Sadness. Joy. Pride. Nostalgia. Conviction. You grew so much this year-in confidence, in social skills, in just being who God made you to be.  In nearly every picture you were smiling so enthusiastically, so excitedly, so passionately, so joyfully (or at least the candid ones…still working on the non-awkward posed smile. Of course, so am I. I will let you know when I figure it out.). I could almost hear your giggles and squeals through the pictures. Through those pictures God spoke to me. He convicted my heart.

 
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I have been dreading, I mean dreading, you entering Kindergarten in the Fall. There are many reasons for this, but I have come to realize  many of them are completely selfish-the opposite of how a parent should act. I have no doubt that you will thrive in Kindergarten. You love social settings. You were the kid in preschool who literally could not contain her excitement. It spilled out of you in non-sequitors, gleeful giggles, hair twisting, little jumps, and hugging and grabbing any friend you could get your hands on. You were so eager, so invigorated by life and learning. Many of the moms would laugh and remark to me just how joyful and excited you always were and how refreshing it was. I love that about you. I just LOVE it. So, you see, I have no doubt that Kindergarten will be more challenging than preschool, but you will rise to the challenge and thrive.

I am dreading Kindergarten because I don’t want to give you up. I want you home with us. I want to spend my days hearing your laughter, answering your questions, watching through cracked doors as you play wild games of pretend, teaching, molding, caring for your heart. I want to have leisurely mornings where we eat breakfast at 9am in our pjs and then cuddle up on the couch to read books. I want to go on play dates or outings and not miss you. Because I will miss you, very much. For the past 5 years and 3 months you have been in large part what my days have revolved around. Not in a bad way, but in a necessary way. And while that is not always easy or pleasant, it is what I have become accustomed to. And it is what I love. So, selfishly I don’t want to give that up.

But as I looked at those pictures, God- just like the gentle Father that He is, chided me. I could see the joy you had in those pictures. But more than that, I could see the joy you were sharing with everyone around you. People smile and laugh because of you, Hayleigh. People love to be around you. Your teacher told me numerous times just how many friends you made this year and how wonderful you were with every kid in the class. I can’t keep that to myself. You are a gift that is meant to be shared. Not only would it be damaging to you to keep you away from a place you would thrive, but it would be detrimental to Kindergarten not to have you there. I firmly believe that every child in your class, every teacher you encounter will be better because of you, just as I have been (and continue to be in a new capacity). I can’t hoard you. You are too wonderful. To hoard you would be to squelch you. More than that, to hoard you would be to deprive people of potential encounters with the grace of God. Because you embody that. God speaks grace to me everyday through you. He gives me what I do not deserve. He lavishes His good favor on me in the form of you, my precious girl.

I love you with so much of my heart, my Little Momma. Thank you for showing me grace. Thank you for being a vessel of God to reach down deep in my hidden soul. Thank you for being just who you are. It is because of who you are and because of who our great God is that I can find joy and peace in how quickly time passes. It doesn’t mean I won’t have secret cry sessions between now and Fall. But it does mean that I can be confident and humbled by the fact that God has shared such a gift with me and now I get to share a little bit of that gift with a little corner of the world. So, as hard as it is for me to say, and even harder to do come September, I will proudly and joyfully send you to Kindergarten. I will share you with others, not just for your own good, but for theirs. Just as with God’s grace, you are a blessing that is too wonderful, too large and overflowing to keep to myself.

And if I am being truthful, I know you were never “mine” to begin with. You are God’s. I have always known this. I wrote it in journals to you before you were even born. Funny how much easier it is to write when all I know of you are kicks to the ribs and acid reflux. I guess I am still learning how to love with all I have and not be possessive of you. I kind of want to be greedy with you. But because of what God is teaching me, by watching you actually, I will share you. Because joy and grace are meant to be shared. And you do it with such ease. I admire that in you. You are such a giver. It just flows out of you naturally.

So, my sweet grace girl, go and spread yourself over new territory. Go share and give of yourself. Go love others. Go give them laughter and brighten their days. Go fill their buckets. Go show them God’s grace as you have for me over and over without even realizing it. Go thrive in Kindergarten and go make it a better place for you being there.

But first: summer. (You had to know I wasn’t ready to stop holding onto you quite yet, right?!) I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you more and more the more and more I know you.
Mommy

Little-Bigs (and no, that’s not my new rapper name)

The other day Braxton peed all over the floor, 3 times. Kid can’t aim. Hayleigh was having a complete meltdown because she had swallowed her gum and it was the last one in the pack and I hadn’t gotten her new gum when I went to the store like I prrrooooommmmiiiissssed. Royce had decided afternoon naps were for the birds, or for Paisley who always takes advantage of having zero responsibility (because she is a dog), and naps for a good 3 hours on our bed every afternoon. I had made pb&j for lunch again…much to the dismay of everyone but Paisley who ate Royce’s whole sandwich off the floor after she threw it there in toddler rebellion. I went to shower but Braxton fell down the stairs just as I was about to take 10 minutes off. By the time I consoled him, Royce was up from her non-nap (read she had been screaming long enough I was afraid someone would call CPS), and the opportunity had passed. I had a sinus infection that I had been fighting for three weeks and speaking of fighting someone must have told my kids to try out for WWE because some of the moves they were trying were a little bit cage-fighter-esque. My brand new phone decided to stop working, then start working, then stop working again. That evening it was bath night…actually it was 2 days past bath night. For some reason 2 out of 3 of my kids hate baths. Don’t they realize how lucky they are?! At what age do we start viewing a bath as an oasis? As we were wrestling one kid into the tub I noticed the other two were throwing raisins at each other in the upstairs hall…which they said they found up there. I was just praying they hadn’t gotten left up there as grapes.

Most days I can take the little things in stride. But when bigger things are weighing heavy on me it is amazing how the littlest thing can open the flood gates. I have been known to cry because I forgot to buy cheese at Wegmans. Yes, cheese is that important…I am starting to see that Hayleigh comes by her gum meltdowns honestly. I can take a whole crap pile of…well…crap. I can carry that load for a while (no pun intended). I keep adding to it. Then one moment it just becomes too much. I guess that is where the saying the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came from. Some times Peter will look at me from across the room as I am freaking out that a shirt isn’t clean, or that I dropped and broke an entire jar of olive oil, or that the throw pillows are arranged wrong. I can see by his slightly bewildered, very much terrified look that he is unsure whether to give me a hug or just run as fast and as far as he can in the other direction. At least he is learning that it is not ever about the shirt or the olive oil or the throw pillows…well maybe sometimes it is about the throw pillows. There can be a pile of laundry sitting in the dining room for…more days than I would like to admit…rivaling Mt. Everest but if the throw pillows aren’t arranged right, something in my brain just tweaks a little. But really, Peter is learning that it is about 10% throw pillows and 90% something bigger.

It is those darn little things that set me off and open the flood gates.

I know I am not alone in that. Peter has actually joined a support group of men whose wives have taken a little ride on the crazy train. He is finding it very therapeutic to find that these other poor saps husbands think their wives are a teensy-tiny-lotta-bit nuts. I am pretty sure they actually just play video games the whole time in someone’s house where the throw pillows can get thrown all out of whack and all over the place. No, I am kidding. There isn’t a support group…I don’t think.
Maybe there should be a support group for us hoarders of emotions. If there was a support group I would have a lot to say. I am sure most of it would not be profound or helpful. It would probably be mostly spewing, but I might also say this: it is hard to focus both the big things and the little things. How can you chose? You can choose to be consumed by the big things and then you miss the little things happening all around you-you know the things life is made up of. You can be blinded by the giant crisis, so wrapped up in managing that big thing that you overlook the every day things that really matter to the people that really matter. Or, you can be caught up in the little things that you use it as an escape from the big looming reality of a situation you are not dealing with. Ugh!

I am trying to find a way to balance the big and the little. Most days I think I do okay. I chip away at the big thing/s. I schedule emotional time for it. I leave room for when it comes up unexpectedly. But I also don’t want to miss the little things, because to me the little things really are the big things. The little things string together to make up a whole life. So, as I split my energy between big (good and bad) and little (good and bad) I try to let the little-bads roll off my back. But sometimes (okay more than I like) one of the little-bads doesn’t roll off so easily. It gets caught in the load of big I am carrying. And it is little but it is just big enough to tip the scale. It is just big enough to make the big load too big. I don’t like that this happens. But at the same time I would rather this than to shut out the little entirely. I don’t want to miss all the little-goods. I want to be present. I want to be immersed in my life. So, I am learning. I am learning to balance the big and the little. I am learning to carry His lighter load. I am learning to forgive others for the their little-bads that try to tip my scale. I am learning to forgive myself for letting my emotions comes out sideways at the little-bads. And I am trudging on, through the eschew throw pillows and raisin piles of my life. I am not doing awesome at it, but I can laugh at myself some now. As the tears flow down onto the kitchen floor and the 6th Great Lake (which is made out of olive oil) I am able to say “Okay God, cool. If this is what it took to get me to break down, okay. If this is what it took for me to come to you about the big stuff that is going on and admit I can’t do it alone, okay. I am ready for your lighter yoke now, because clearly I can’t even handle spilling olive oil.” (For realsies though, how hard is it to clean up oil?!)


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30
(There’s that verse again; it keeps coming up!)
 
 
After my day as Alexander in “Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day”, and after a very pathetic pity party this happened: a little-good. Boy, am I thankful for those. The kids were waiting to go outside to play. It started out Braxton and Royce were waiting for Hayleigh to get her shoes on, and the light was just right ,so I grabbed my camera to get some sneaky candid pictures. Then Hayleigh sat beside Braxton and they were just…them. I am kind of loving that there is a dead dandelion in the foreground. It seems appropriate, right? I am so thankful that God gave me these incredible kids despite myself. That is a big-good.
 
 
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Things I don’t want to forget…

 

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(Some day we will have family pictures with no one picking their nose, or looking at their feet, or scrunching their face in a awkward smile or glaring and I will miss these days…these days where this is the “keeper” of the bunch.)

More often they look like this:

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or this:

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Each one of my kids has their own signature dance style. Hayleigh will spin slowly around like a fairy with her arms sweeping through the air. Royce will also spin in circles, but without the artistry-and with a few more clumsy, staggered steps and stumbles. Braxton does what we call his “happy feet dance” which is honestly the fastest footwork I have ever seen on a white person. It is like the music overtakes him and he just bursts into motion-from sitting to rapid-fire, blurry movement. It is spontaneous, instantaneous and hard to catch on camera. And it is always the same, always impressive, and always hilarious. Hayleigh calls grilled cheese “girled cheese”. Braxton calls it “gilled tease”. They are all very proficient at coloring. In fact we have more pieces of construction paper lying around with some scribbles or stickers on them, or a single heart scrawled in one corner, than we have just about anything else. I try to sneakily throw them away from time to time. Royce has seen me and now will get paper from the pile of un-used construction paper and take it right to the trash.  When we are playing the board game “Operation” everyone has a technique all their own. Hayleigh gets her face right down close to the board, focuses very carefully and usually pulls the piece out and cheers for herself. She is actually better at it than me. Braxton will take the tweezers and go in full boar with no aim. He gets buzzed immediately…every. single. time. But it never bothers him. He always throws his hands up as if shocked and says “awww maaaan!” Royce just tries to eat the pieces and knock the board over. Hayleigh and Braxton take care of Royce so well. They are so afraid she will choke or fall down the stairs and die. Panic ensues when she even climbs the stairs, which is her latest obsession/way to exert her freedom and test the limits. They get so excited about her firsts. When she says a new word, when she says an old one, or even when she says what they are sure is the entire Declaration of Independence even though was just a string of babbles, they cheer as if she just cured cancer. They also excuse some of her behavior, especially Braxton who will say “She doesn’t know better”, even when she does. They will “chub her” which means pinching her cheeks or thighs and saying “chubba, chubba, chubba”. She LOVES it…not.

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Movie nights are the most exciting thing ever. You would think they were told they could go to Disney World. And if we let them eat dinner at their table while they watch, especially if dinner is pizza-forget about it. Coronaries all around. Their favorite movies these days are Little Rascals, Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Mulan, Frozen and How to Train your Dragon. When they meet a new person they like they want to invite them for a playdate or to their birthday party. This makes for some awkward goodbyes at the playground. Lately they have been making maps to find treasure. They will tell each other “You don’t always get what you want. Try to count your blessings”.  It is not often received well by the other one. Braxton puts his underwear on backwards and Hayleigh puts her shoes on the wrong feet.

 

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For Mother’s Day I was serenaded by a alternate version of “Oh Happy Day”. It went “Oh, happy day. When she wiped our boogers away, but she loved us anyway”.  The way all three of their lips pucker and pout when they are sleeping. We give each other kisses you can’t wipe off.

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Little Mama

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Hayleigh wants an ipad. When she is a grown up and she can do whatever she wants she is going to get a “Frozen” Ipad. She is also going to buy gum every time she goes to the store and have slumber parties every night,  you know when she can do whatever she wants. Speaking of Frozen, the obsession is unwavering. She will sing “Do you want to build a snowman?” though closed doors to us. Her favorite leggings are Ikat patterned, or as she calls them, her “frozen leggings”. The other day while watching construction workers dig, she said it was like Frozen, when they did through the ice. I was talking to my mom about frozen veggies the other day and she overheard and just shouted from the other room “Did I hear someone say ‘Frooooozzzeeeennn??”  She has memorized all the songs and motions. She tosses her glove at the same time as Elsa, but insists she needs practice on the “fact-alls” (fractals) part. She sings “Let it go” to her siblings when they are crying about something. Sometimes it is a lullaby for Royce as she fights sleep. Pretty much everything in life has an application/connection to Frozen. And she will break into the silence with what I think is a serious question and inevitably it is something about one of the specific moments a specific character said a specific thing or about a specific stitch on a specific outfit in a specific scene in “Frozen”. 

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She picks flowers on walks, during outside playtime, on the way out the door to school, out of the landscaping at Wegmans. Every flower is glorious and breath-taking. It is how she does life. 

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She is the slowest bike rider since Rylie Day (my sister). She is much more concerned with seeing all the flowers and ringing her bike bell. She also has a knack for running into people on her bike. She can avoid every spot where no one is and find the one spot where my feet are, or where her brother is on his bike or where Royce is running. Although in Hayleigh’s defense, Royce likes to run at the bike tires a little too much for her own good. The other night though Hayleigh rode around the driveway in circles for an hour straight, singing a narrative to herself the entire time…and she only took Royce out once. Sometimes she says to Braxton “Are you thinkin’ what I am thinkin’?” to which he always replies “Yeeeaaahhh.” She is the bossiest pretend waitress ever. She tells us what to order or will change our orders for us. The kitchen is often out of what we want as well. She likes to dance with her shadow. Nana taught her that. I love to watch her dance and sway freely watching her shadow.

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She is clueless about sports. She will cheer for homeruns in football and baskets in baseball. She calls courts fields and fields-goals. Poor girl is just so, so lost in the world of sports. She is a natural cheerleader. When Braxton and Peter are playing catch or basketball she will stand on the sidelines and cheer (LOUD), yell and wave pom-poms. She is definitely a “words of encouragement” girl, when it comes to love languages. Not a day goes by where she is not planning her next birthday party….or her next three actually. She is the quintessential mama-child.

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She has started saying “Are you serious?” regularly. “You cleaned up all that pee that quickly?! Are you serious?!” Other new hit phrases that make her sound 16 are “sooo awesome”, “are you kidding me"?” and “totally”. She gets excited and yells “yeeah baby!”She likes to advise people by saying “If I was you…”. She has started to grasp and use sarcasm…awesome…wonder where she got that? ;) She still can’t master how to use the past tense correctly but it upset her when I corrected her so now I just let it go….let it go… She likes to try to have peer conversations with me and I try so hard not to laugh at her mannerisms (hand motions like she is an Italian teenager and fake “can you even believe it!?” laugh) and embarrass her. The other day she was telling me the story from her class at church and she said “ugh! I can’t believe I forgot that part! They must have said it like 100 times. (insert scoff and Italian hand). Wow! I shouldn’t have forgotten that! They literally said it 3 times!”

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She will always ask deep questions like “Why does God let people go to Hell if he loves everyone?” “Why do people need to get hurt and die?” “How can God do everything but He can’t do bad things?” “Is Satan more powerful than me if God is in my heart?”  Everyday she has a new best friend. She gets upset when people don’t take as much of an interest in her as she does them. She is so sensitive. If someone at school doesn’t play with her one day, she thinks they don’t want to be her friend anymore. She laughs with her whole body. At home and at school she gets so excited she can’t contain herself. She is literally bursting forth with ideas, thoughts and shrill cheers.

 

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(I didn’t pose her for this, by the way. She was watching her brother and sister play.)

She loves to watch the videos of the kids from Maramara, Chad (the village our church has partnered with). She will look up at me with glee and say “They laugh in the same language as us, Mommy!”  She will  tell me almost every day how beautiful I am, how much she loves me, how I am the best Mommy in the whole world. She hugs with more gusto than anyone I have ever known. Her hug subjects have been know to fall over or turn blue and beg for air. She likes to read to Braxton or cuddle with him when he is sleepy or tickle him when he is grumpy. She puts her arm around him to protect him. The other day she let him join in on her field trip. Afterwards she asked him if he wanted to be part of her class for the last 4 days of school. They don’t like to play in their own room separately anymore. They want to be together all the time and ask for sleepovers almost every night. The way he looks up to her and at her makes my heart smile. The bond they share despite being 2 years apart (a big difference when you are 5 and 3) and different genders is one of my favorite things in the entire world. I love the way they love each other.

 

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Buddy Boo

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On walks or when we are playing outside Braxton gathers sticks as if it is his job. He puts them in the ground as stick families. The other day he introduced me to his stick family. There was the mom, dad, Michael-the only one with a name and another sick with a bad attitude.  He gathers sticks for fire wood for Pop. He breaks them on his leg if they are too long to fit in the fireplace. Very serious business. Very manly.

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The other day at the Lilac Festival he saw people doing a traditional dance with sticks…forget about it. He found sticks and acted it out from the sidelines, very seriously mimicking every motion.

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Construction is called “trucktion”.He makes pictures out of  his boy-ish stickers and uses them to tell a story. The stories involve knights, construction workers, athletes, bugs, aliens, pirates and whatever else is in the Melissa and Doug sticker book. Somehow he weaves them all together into a story.  He has a deep voice that he talks in when he wants to seem tough or brave or when he is talking to a bigger boy. When we laugh too hard he will say “we need to stop laughing because SOMEONE is going to puke!”His favorite movie is “How to Train your Dragon”. A lot of days he will tell me “I am not Braxton. I am Hiccup!” (from the movie). Other days he is “Hans” or “Christof” or “Mike the Knight” or “Peter Pan” or “Prince Charming”. He has faces for every character he plays. A super hero face, a knight face and a prince face.

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The way his cheek feels pressed against mine. The way he fits perfectly in my lap or curled up in the crease of my neck. The sound of him breathing as he sleeps. He is quite impressive at “Where’s Waldo?” books. He always says in the most adorable and inquisitive voice “Where IS Waldo?”. Braxton: “Don’t touch my pivates ya’ll!” (privates…as in private parts…yeah.) He asked me the other day “ How do we know God is real if we can’t see him?”. Hayleigh piped up from the backseat before I could answer “We see what He has made, bud. And we see how  takes care of us and gives us everything we need, bud, like food and clothes and a warm house…and Daddy gathering money at work. And we know He is in our hearts and in heaven when we pray, bud. That is how we know He is real. You can’t see air all the time, but you know air is real. Because you breath it right?” I sat in the front seat and cried. The other day on a walk Braxton saw a “parrow” (sparrow) and told me “Mommy, look! God takes care of the parrows! He takes care of us too!”

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(building a bird nest)

He wears his fireman hat backwards so the giant brim is in the front. If you turn it around for him, he just switches it and seems confused. Real quick=“weel kick”. He is excited to go to preschool now, since we went to the Carnival. Hayleigh told him “ooooh buudd. Not every day is a Carnival.” He loves any movie with swords or “killing things:, so he often will ask to watch Brave or Mulan. He has dubbed his run “my famous run”. “Remember when we were taking family pictures and I did my famous run and fell down and got a boo-boo? Everyone loves my famous run.”

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The other night during one of our cuddle dates he started crying thinking about having to grow up and move out of our house…or as he calls it “graduating”. He thinks Nana Betty (my grandma) and Pop (my dad) are graduating from work. It is apparently a perpetual state. I love the way he puffs out his bottom lip and fights back the tears as he tries to be brave. I love that he wants to be my boy forever. I kinda love that he hates change. Although that is not the good mother in me speaking. I don’t like to see him cry, mostly because his laugh is probably the most contagious I have ever caught.

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He wants to take some of our fireman from Rochester over to Maramara, Chad to help put out the fire. He doesn’t understand how they have no firemen. It bothers him deeply that the kids don’t have warm beds, and snack drawers, and toys and TVs. Braxton talks to his shadow. My favorite thing he has said to it before is “ooooh hi! I missed you!” Wax is plural. A wack is singular. He will ask if he has an ear wack in his ear. He also refers to his moldable toy wax stings this way. I find those stupid things everywhere, especially as wall art, sometimes with crayons stuck to them. .“I py wid my nittul eye!” Throwing a grumpy fish back into the river always perks him up when he is a bad mood. When the sound puzzles will randomly (and creepily) talk from the office I say to the puzzles “hey! Don’t talk to me!” He doubles over laughing to the point of tears and almost pukes, every single time. When Royce is crying he will turn to me and say “dats dwama”. Yet, he is the ultimate protector of his sisters.

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He loves to pretend to do yoga. He will get in crazy positions (or sometimes just sit with his legs crossed or something like that) and ask “is dis yoga?!” He insists he will learn to so a “pwit” (split) without getting hurt. He teases Hayleigh about her friends at school who are boys. Or he will walk by and whisper “no one is getting a snack” or he will tell her he is bigger than her or he going to marry her. He knows just how to push her buttons and make her scream. He is working using that “power” to make her “pile”  (smile). He is scared of “biniger” (vinegar) (from punishments for using bitter words) and will tell me is trying to use honey words even when it is hard. He tells me he wants me to be his mommy forever. He wants to live here even after Daddy graduates from work. He wants to be my boy even when he is taller than Daddy.  He will hug me, look up at me with those perfectly blue eyes and say “you are dah best mommy in dah whole wowuld. I will love you fowuh-evuh.”

 

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Bee-bah

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Royce will always un-buckle/un-velco her shoes in the car. Usually by the time I have the other two kids buckled in she has her shoes undone. She doesn’t take them off. She just undoes them. If they are slip ons, she will just take the heal off her foot. She is an enigma. She can be so feisty and independent and yet want us to spoon feed her at times. She will be incredibly vocal and babbling all the time and at other times she is mute and expressionless, taking it all in. She has a pretty chronic pretend cough. She waddle walks with the best of them. She wipes her boo-boos with tissues and washes the walls with wipes. She like to sword fight…and regular fight. Braxton taught her how to say “butt”. She doesn’t say many words, maybe 20 or so regularly, but butt is one of them! She is very cuddly these days. The other day I was sleeping in and was awoken by her whining at the side of our bed. She had moved the barrier/gate, snuck upstairs and was trying to climb into our bed. When I got her up with me she jumped, laughed with joy and lay her head on my right shoulder and lay there for 15 minutes. She always wants to lay her head on my right shoulder facing out. She gets such a satisfied and proud look on her face. Sometimes I can be holding her and she is not happy until she is slumped across my body with her head on my right shoulder.

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She is constant motion. She barely EVER sits still to play. She shouts as part of conversations. If you talk over her she only gets louder. She has to be a part of everything.

 

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She will color me a picture and bring it to me beaming with pride. Or she will just get a magnet and hang it on the fridge herself. If I am sitting on the floor or the couch she HAS to be on my lap, and she will sit like that for as long as I will let her, or until she sees an opportunity to antagonize a sibling. It is the only time she sits.

 

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She picks dandelions by the tops and holds them crumpled in her fists. She will not leave a clip in her hair. Her hair gets in her face and she blows it out of the way with her bottom lip over her top one. She calls her belly button “bee-bo”. I will look over at her sometimes and she will be lifting her shirt, and silently watching me from across the room waiting for me to notice. She likes to show people her “bee-bo” pretty regularly now, but never demand of course.

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We taught her the “hi sign” from the Little Rascals movie (a wave underneath your chin). She will do her own version by doing a kind of deformed/crinkled wave across her nose. Adorable.  She had her first ice-cream cone the other day. It was serious business. She sat in her own seat, wouldn’t hold her own cone except for a second and ate the stray sprinkles off her pants one by one. She was the only one of the kids who didn’t cry the time their first ice-cream cone was gone (taken away for fear of juvenile diabetes).  She likes to show off. She will do this weird roll, crawl, dance thing in circles to make people laugh. Her run always looks like she is out of control and is about to fall flat on her face, but she usually doesn’t. Her cheeks are seriously 3D and growing by the day…as are her leg rolls. Her cheeks bounce when she runs.

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She will sometimes pat her belly or her chest in a self-satisfied way. She gets that from Peter. She will finally say “more” when she wants something. She uses it in the place of “please'” but for now I will take it. She gets so proud of herself as she is saying it. She makes her lips in a little circle, smiles a “Mona Lisa smile” with her eyes and says “moowuh” in a low, quiet voice. The way she runs to me with her hands up in the air melts me. On Mother’s Day she told me “I love you” in Royce talk.

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These days are long, but the months flash by. I know these moments are fleeting. I want to remember more than that is was hard but sweet. I want to remember how it felt, the good parts. I want to hear their voices echo in my mind long after the lisps and mispronunciations are gone. I want to feel the tenderness of their soft  pudgy skin when they won’t lay cuddled up to me at night. I want to let the memory of their laughter lighten my days when they have moved to their own houses and laugh with their own people. I want to remember the pieces of them that change and the pieces of them they carry in their hearts, so I can remind myself of these times and remind their later selves who they really are.  I want to treasure them up in my heart as Mary did when Jesus was born. I want to carry them with me for when it is hard and sweet in different ways, because it won’t always be sweet like this. But for now, it is oh so sweet.

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