Friday, April 29, 2016

happy four, kenzie lou.




My Kenzie,

You are lovely. Everything lovely mixed with sassy and spunk and joy and sweetness. That’s who you are. You are a delight. If I could bottle up each one of your expressions I would. I’d save them forever and play them over and over again on the worst, or even the best, of days. You have a face for everything. Surprised, shy, silly, shocked, sad, sleepy, sweet – everything. Each one is precious, priceless and uniquely you.

And your chipmunk voice. The one that could go on forever about your day at school, or about helping people, or about something that Caleb did. My favorite stories of yours begin with “Mom you know what? …” or “Mom, you’re really going to love this …” and there’s sometimes even the “Mom, this is a really sad thing …” (which usually ends with you telling me you got a paper cut, or your friend got sick at school). You’re always giving me “golden trophies” for doing things like going the right way to school or clapping for you after you sing a song. You are very compassionate and are always thinking about people who are less fortunate. My dream is to help you put your generous heart into action. You like to say “mom, the longer we wait to give food to people who have nothing, the longer they will have nothing.” Good point, Kenzie Lou. You are inspiring.

I love how you’ve grown into my little buddy. Always the one who wants to go on quick trips to the grocery store or out with me to run mundane errands. While your brother, the homebody, turns me down, you’re always the one who says, “I wanna go with you, mama!” Caleb is our “drive thru boy,” but you are our “sit in the restaurant girl.” The one who wants to be out and about where all the action is. When I’m cooking dinner, you pull up a stool at the counter and talk to me the whole time. We bake cakes and make cookies together. Once you hear me get the ingredients out you run to wash your hands and get your stool to help.

You have a knack for creating special moments. When we’re about to read a book, you’ll pause, run upstairs and grab some stuffed animals and blankets and make the couch all “cozy” for us before we start. You love creating warm, inviting spaces wherever we go. You like to tidy up, fold clothes and organize. Please may you continue that trend and be more organized than me so you can help your mama later in life! You twirl in your dresses, love painted nails, die for sparkly shoes, are awe-struck over princesses and can create beauty out of the most mundane things.

While I still marvel at how such a “particular” baby turned out to be the sweetest little girl, I also have to remember that you are passionate, full of emotion, and … some might say … a little bossy. You are strong-willed, head-strong, confident and outgoing. Are you really MY child?? I see so clearly now how those early days prepared me for the toddler you’d grow to be. Some days I am still at the end of my rope, but always oh so in love with you. You teach me so much, Kenzie.

Lovely. You are lovely. It’s a word that I don’t use often, it doesn’t easily roll off of my tongue, but it’s the word the keeps popping into my heart when I consider your four years with us. It’s who I knew you to be when I first found out about you in a doctor’s office and felt like I had loved your for thousand years before.

Makenzie Kay. The brightest, most lovely part of my heart. You will never be able to comprehend the amount of love I have for you. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Love,

Mom

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

lessons from a kindergartner.



Caleb had a hard day at school. Nothing earth shattering, just the typical Kindergarten “stuff” that gets lodged in between art projects and recesses and silent readings.

Daily performance evaluations.

You know, purple means excellent, pink means good, green means okay and any other color pretty much means a future most likely filled with detentions and possibly juvie.

We’ve been lucky, even proud, that Caleb has come home with only purple and pinks thus far. But yesterday, I knew something was up when I picked him up from school and heard, “Mom, I had kinda a hard day” from the backseat on our drive home.

Some simple questioning led me to check his school folder where I saw he got a “green” for the day. More questions led to the revelation that he had gotten in trouble in music class for playing tag with a friend and was sentenced to “walk cones” for five minutes the next day.

He explained this whole thing to me and I could feel his pain with every word that came out of his mouth. Once he got it all out, he began sobbing.

I watched from the rear-view mirror with a crumbling heart as he buried his cheek into the side of his booster seat, covered his eyes and started silently crying. It was THAT look - the look of SHAME and I wanted to nip that in the bud – fast. I knew I had to whip out my words - the good stuff- the pearls of wisdom that would tell him that it was just a little mistake and that I still loved him, was proud of him, and everyone makes the wrong choice sometimes.

Yet all I could muster was, “Caleb, don’t you feel bad! Even mommy got in trouble at school sometimes! And at least you’ll have your friend there to walk the cones with you – it won’t be so bad!” And the ever-helpful little Kenzie chimed in, “Yeah, Caleb! I get in trouble, too! My teacher just forgives me!”

He just looked at us like “Really? That’s all you got?”

I reached back behind my seat and grasped his clammy palm while he continued to cry for the duration of the ride home. I think I had one of those out-of-body mommy moments when a million speeches, ideas, consequences, ramifications and frustrations all flooded my brain at once. My sweet, tender-hearted Caleb. Who had broken the rules and had to walk cones. How do I teach him that it wasn’t THAT big of a deal without minimizing disobedience? How do I teach him that his value is set in stone – that nothing he has done or could do could ever change how loved he is? How do I teach him that we sometimes have to pay the piper when we mess up, but that messing up is also just a part of life? How do I stop myself from calling his teacher and BEGGING her to let me walk the cones in his place??

We got home, and he retreated into the quiet living room and the comfy white couch – alone – while Kenzie and I went into the kitchen to start dinner. I checked on him a minute later and asked what exactly was bothering him.

“I don’t want to walk cones.”

So I took a deep breath, pulled him in close and let him sob into my shoulder for a minute. Then I told him that his teachers have rules and  this was just a reminder that he needs to listen. I told him to try and think of these situations as opportunities to do better next time rather than a punishment.

Wait, did I say that?

I said, "you may have made a mistake but – did you know?? – you can make a hundred million mistakes and I will never think less of you. I will always, always, love you and be proud of you."

Yes, I’ve heard this before.

I told him that I LOVED  that he told me the truth – even though he felt so bad about it and it was hard – he trusted me enough to tell me and that made me feel so good and so proud.

Yep, the truth does set you free. I know that’s a thing.

And I concluded with the fact that we all make mistakes – it’s what makes us human.  But we are not our mistakes – and I KNOW. WHO. HE. IS. He is a sweet, kindhearted, amazing person. And he's precious to me. He isn’t his mistakes.

Wait, this is still about Caleb right???

I should know by now that motherhood will always be like looking at a mirror. Most of the things I tell my kids, I should be telling myself. And so many of the limitless hopes, boundless desires and endless affections I have for my kids must mirror the exponentially greater feelings my Father has towards ME and THEM. That is comfort and calm. The truth about who God is and who He says WE are is truly unbelievable. So much so, that I sometimes forget to believe it myself.

(And then there’s Kenzie. Who is perfectly comfortable getting in trouble, knows her worth a little too well, and is applying for a forgiveness punch card as we speak. But that is a blog for another time.)

Caleb walked away from our little talk, dried his tears and got back to the business of being a carefree six year old. He ate his chicken nuggets, finished his homework, read a book and played a game of Madden on the Xbox. I so often focus on the volatility of children – how quickly they can change moods, throw tantrums or change proclivities. But what about the RESILIENCY and FAITH of children? How easy it is for them to believe their parents when they say “it’s going to be okay.” How effortlessly their tears can turn into uncontrollable laughter. How soundly they can sleep knowing that they don’t have to control their worlds because THEY ARE TAKEN CARE OF.


So I guess the old adage is true. All we ever need to know, we learn in Kindergarten. Or from our Kindergartners. Thanks, Caleb B.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

happy six, buddy.



Dear Caleb, 

When you were born, I felt it all. The rush of love. The great fear. The incomparable awe. The overflowing joy. You were just a tiny, fragile thing with soulful eyes and a prickly cry. Sometimes I close my eyes and journey back to those days in the hospital when everything in your life and our lives were so brand new. In one moment, I became a mom and everything else I thought was important suddenly started drifting off into the background.

Six years later, I am in the same spot I seem to be every year. Struggling for words to sum it all up. This past year, your whole life and how you’ve changed mine. I just can never do it. And I want to be so careful about my words with you these days, Caleb, because I know you are a sensitive boy with a great memory. I want my feelings for you to stick the right places in your heart and never get lost amidst all of the other details you so carefully store in there.

You’ve grown so much this past year. You stepped into five years old with pride and confidence right away. You played on three different sports teams and scored touchdowns, goals and baskets as we screamed from the sidelines. And you made us proud, not only with your natural ability, but because you played when you didn’t always feel like it, you cheered on others’ successes and you practiced so hard to become better. You never gave up.

You walked into a new classroom at a new school with all new people, and you bravely sat down at your desk and let us walk out of the door. You wore your uniform and did your homework and said your lines at the Christmas program. You seamlessly slipped into the school-age years and shined doing so.

You became a lover of Legos and can already build so much on your own, but still treasure working on them with your dad. Your most requested meal has to be orange chicken. You still thrive on schedules and routines. You haven’t outgrown biting your lip or scratching my nail. You lost three teeth and the tooth fairy even made it to Spokane. You helped catch crabs and sharks on Whidbey Island. You wore shorts every day you could get away with it. You read books and memorized Bible verses. You were a great teacher to your little sis.

You became my buddy in a truer sense of the word. My shopping companion, my snuggler on the couch. You asked thought-provoking questions and said hilarious things. I love how our conversations have evolved and the laughter between us has grown.

And all of this is why I’m okay with you growing older. It’s so hard, SO hard, to watch another year pass. I never knew it would be this hard for me. But it’s also so good. So sweet. So rich and rewarding. Because you’re you, and you just get better. You just make us better, too, Caleb.

I don’t know what I ever did without you.

So just remember, you were great at being five, Caleb B. So brave and awesome. You made us so proud every single day and I can say that without even the slightest exaggeration. I know six has big things in store for you and all I know is that I’m the absolute luckiest to watch each year turn to the next with you.

Love you to the moon and a million trillion.


Mama

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The chair.


Months before Caleb was due to arrive in this world, we’d make the routine stops to Babies R Us. I’d spend about five minutes being excited about changing pad covers and diaper genies then retire my pregnant belly to the good ol’ brown corduroy rocking chair in the middle of the store. I’d rest my feet up on the ottoman and glide in peace and comfort as Luke would scramble from aisle to aisle scooping up the basics for this little boy, who we thought would need EVERYTHING.

All I knew was that I needed that chair. What a great marketing ploy. Give a pregnant woman a comfortable place to sit in a madhouse baby factory, and she will end up taking that chair home. And I did. Weeks before Caleb was born, the chair found its spot in the corner of his mustard-colored nursery, and I sat on it many evenings staring at his empty crib and the green letters painted above it. C-A-L-E-B. A boy I didn’t know, but who I could feel every moment of every day. His new, unworn baby clothes were folded neatly in his dresser and hung perfectly in his closet. There was so much anticipation.

That chair saw a lot. It was the place Caleb and I "slept" during his first night home – I sat upright, drifting in and out of sleep, cradling my partially-swaddled newborn with tears dripping down my cheeks – both anxious and in awe of our new realities.

I sat in that chair when Caleb had his first major temperature. I still remember holding him tightly as his burning body shuddered and shook and I trembled almost simultaneously with worry and fear.

And we spent so many dreamy times together in that chair, reading books, willing sleep, and staring into each other eyes. The scene around us constantly changed as he grew from a little nugget that fit in one arm to a little boy on my lap. We rocked, we laughed, we sobbed and we devoured the love that grew exponentially between us each day.

When the time came for a little sister to enter the picture, I knew her nursery would be full of pink and pretty, but I also knew I needed a new chair just for her. We found a simple pink upholstered rocking chair at a good price on Craigslist and voila. Nursery made. I remember rocking her one day and being filled with the most indescribable love, but wanting to intentionally remind myself that this was it. We were done at two. No more pregnancies, no more newborns.  I held her in her fuzzy blanket and said to myself … “No matter how much I love her, and how much I love this – we are done. DONE. No more babies. Remember this moment later when you have baby fever.”

I still try to remember how I said that to myself. Especially as the years fly by, the gray hairs pop up, and precious new babies are being born around me. Their smells, their tininess, their innocence. All they do and all I miss. I wonder how I ever knew anything about anything before I met Caleb and Kenzie. It just somehow doesn’t seem possible. And now they are becoming real life little humans that have homework and sports and opinions and proclivities. And neither one of them needs me to rock them anymore.

The other night I sat on an ottoman beside Kenzie’s bed, scratching her back as she drifted off to sleep. I looked around at her big girl room with gold dots on the ceiling and bold colors splashed around the walls. Caleb’s brown chair had been long gone- not even making the move to our new house two years ago. But Kenzie’s chair still sat in the corner of her room. I thought carelessly about how we really needed to sell it. I thought how we could easily fill that space with a cute table or fun teepee. Then, I started thinking about how much we’d price it for and what the listing would read. Something like:

“Adorable pink rocking chair – perfect for a little girl’s room.”

“Adorable pink rocking chair – perfect for a little girl’s room – in fact, we loved it in ours.”

“Adorable pink rocking chair – perfect for a little girl’s room – in fact, we loved it in ours. We wouldn’t even be giving it up if our daughter hadn’t outgrown it.”

“Adorable pink rocking chair – perfect for a little girl’s room – in fact, we loved it in ours. We wouldn’t even be giving it up if our daughter hadn’t outgrown it. In fact, we are NOT giving it up, because she is STILL our baby and we still have some irreplaceable memories tied to that chair that I’m not ready to just “sell” away. Sure, she’s 3, almost 4. But maybe someday she’ll want to be rocked again. So we still need it. Disregard. Sorry. And once I rocked in that chair with her in my arms and I told myself no more babies after her and to never forget that I MEANT it in that moment. But it happened. I forgot. And you will , too. If you’re reading this post and wanted this chair for a baby you’re about to have – rock the heck out of that baby and give no thought to time and “I should be doing this or that” and don’t make yourself silly promises you can’t keep. Just stare at her. And cry if you need to. And remind yourself that the lows will pass and the highs you will miss terribly one day – but they’ll stay in your heart forever.”

Those glorious days with your babies that are sometimes long and hard and feel never-ending, DO actually end. Sure, they give way to different, equally glorious days, but they are still ... different. You can always drift back and bask in a memory's sweet glow, but you will never again live in that time, in that moment. Why is that so hard sometimes?

So. By the time I processed all of these thoughts about a chair (#somuchmorethanaboutachair), my little girl was sound asleep. I slid my fingers through her hair, let my gaze linger for a bit, then walked out the door, brushing past the chair that is staying put. At least for now.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Weary World Rejoices.

Image result for christmas magic
Image courtesy of Google


This year, more than ever, the Christmas season comes with a little (or a lot, if I’m being honest) of heaviness. It’s been a year of new evils, new atrocities and new depths of depravity revealed to us through pictures and headlines that shoot straight to our hearts and fill us with the numbing sensation of sorrow and helplessness.

We know the names of terror and the unresolved issues that float above us like storm clouds ready to burst. We grow tired of politics and rhetoric and feel spun in circles day after day with no real end in sight.

And in the midst of this, there is Christmas. A time when lights twinkle, merriment abounds and a certain magic generally fills the air. To me, the joy of this season is real. I love finding perfect gifts for my friends and family. I love opening gifts myself. I love watching the usual holiday favorites like Home Alone, Rudolph, Family Stone and Christmas Vacation. I love hearing joyful tunes blaring in shopping malls. I even love hustling and bustling it with the masses in long lines and crowded places (sometimes). I love the homemade frosted cookies and hot chocolate by a cozy fire, the cheerful people outside of stores ringing bells and wishing you “Merry Christmas” whether or not you put a quarter in their jars. I love the traditions passed down from generation to generation. I love office parties and white elephant gift exchanges. And I LOVE hearing children singing our favorite Christmas tunes in unison, complete with hand motions and bow ties and fluffy dresses.

But I know this is just part of the picture. Even if some of us taste and experience the goodness of the season, many also get to taste and experience the other side, too. Brokenness in families. Financial struggles. Loneliness. Sickness. Wavering faith. All of these realities in life are somehow magnified this time of year. There are so many complexities to how and why the holidays can be hard for people – some that I can understand firsthand, and some that I can only imagine.

There is a lot of Joy. And there is a lot of Heaviness.

It is in feeling the very real, very legit weight of both that I am sometimes forced to remove everything in front of my eyes, to strip everything away – the sparkle and the sorrow – and see the Christmas season for what it truly is.

“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.”

It is that THRILL OF HOPE that we feel and know to be real. It was born to us on that night divine. We are a weary people in a weary world, but this season reminds us – we have a reason to REJOICE. We fall on our knees; we hear the angels voices. 

Because of Christ. Because in Him, our Hope was born and it still lives.

Now THAT is magic … the kind of lasting magic I want to pour out of my heart so abundantly that others, too, may feel it. I pray that all  - no matter our circumstance, and even if for just a moment - can experience that real and true THRILL OF HOPE and REJOICE this season!

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

inside out.


Image result for joy
Image courtesy of Google
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller
Last June we went to see a little animated flick called “Inside Out,” and it completely caught me off guard. My own insides at the time were a jumbled mess and I was taken aback by how a fun matinee with the kids could grab so tightly onto my heart and so beautifully and simply illustrate the convoluted chaos of human emotion.

Joy. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Disgust. Joy is the leader and you can see it from the start. You root for her. She wants the best for her little person, and you think she IS the best for her little person. She brings with her smiles, laughter and a sea of warm memories. She seems the most logical, the most sane, the most well-intentioned. She plays nice and works well with others. She tempers the other emotions, keeps them in check and helps them from garnering too much of the upper hand.

I root for her. I’ve rooted for joy my whole life. Because joy is the product of so much that is good and noble. Thankfulness. Humility. Faith. Perseverance. Reverence. Love. So many times – SO MANY times – joy doesn’t win. Joy is overtaken by heartache, jealousy, bitterness, loneliness, desperation.

But the thing about joy – the joy that is inside me and inside so many others – she fights. Joy is a fighter. She might play well with others and wear a smile, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t fierce. She is strong. Relentless. She may be forced to drag sadness along with her for miles and miles, but she keeps moving, keeps believing and she perseveres.  I respect Joy for that. For her tenacity to pursue how things should be despite how they are. For her ability to find thankfulness, humility, faith, perseverance, reverence and love in places where they are not obviously found.

I love Joy.

There is a scene in the movie where the main character, Riley’s, childhood imaginary friend, Bing Bong, loses something precious to him. Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong are on a mission with little time to spare, and this loss sets Bing Bong back. He sits down and laments. Well-intentioned Joy does what she does, encouraging him to buck up, keep moving and essentially look on the bright side – none of which provides any solace to Bing Bong. In his moment of disappointment, Sadness sits beside him, acknowledges his pain and listens. Bing Bong has a good cry, pours out his heart a little and then feels better- ready to join Joy and Sadness again on their journey together.

Of course that little scene becomes the larger theme in the movie, that these other emotions are needed. They are necessary. There is beauty in sadness, meaning in suffering, reasons for fear and righteousness in anger. Allowing these emotions to seep in and be felt – sometimes THAT produces the best joy possible.

I think of when my kids get hurt or disappointed, I’m so quick to say “you’re okay!” or “you’ll be fine!” – anything to catch them or distract them before they realize it hurts and start reacting. My intentions are good. I don’t want them to be sad and I don’t want to “deal” with them crying or pouting if I have the power to stop it first.

The other day I found myself taking a different approach. Caleb was getting dressed for school and he didn’t want to wear jeans. He wanted to wear shorts. We were running late, it was raining and cold outside, we still had to get Kenzie and ourselves dressed and ready, and we had little time to deal with whining. I was about to spew my usual responses “Come on buddy, you’ll be fine.” “Caleb, these are just pants – it’s no big deal. Lots of people wear pants when it’s cold outside!” Or, my personal favorite, "Think about the kids who don't even HAVE pants!"

But instead, I looked at my five year old boy pouting on the couch, with the jeans in his hands. 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. First morning after a fun weekend. Waking up, as most of us do, in not the best of moods. A boy who really, I mean REALLY hates jeans.

And I sat down. Right beside him. I put my arm around him and he pulled in for a giant hug. He sobbed into my shoulder and I just squeezed him, held him, stroked his back, kissed his forehead. I said “I’m sorry buddy.” And I was sorry. I was sorry he hated jeans, but had to wear them. Sorry it was dark and cold on a Monday morning and that he had a long day ahead. Sorry that things weren’t quite going his way, and that they wouldn’t – at least not as far as his pants went. Sorry. Sorry that he was sad.

Much to my surprise, when he was done crying and I loosened my grip, he got dressed. Without complaint. Not one word about how he didn’t want to wear jeans. Not one more tear shed. And by the time he walked out of the door with Luke that morning he was smiling, joking around and giving hugs. I couldn’t help but feel grateful we didn’t try to push sadness under the rug or distract or punish it away. If sadness hadn’t won for a little bit that morning, I may never have gotten to see joy walk out that door.

I do love Joy. But I know she has her place. Sometimes when my insides feel raw and vulnerable, Fear can feel like a friend, Anger like an outlet, Disgust like an advocate and Sadness like a salve to my soul. They fill unique, empty spaces – spaces where Joy does not quite belong. At least for that moment in time. And I know that even as Joy takes a backseat in those moments, she is somewhere inside, lacing up her gloves, bracing herself, waiting to get back in the ring and fight.

So I am inspired. Inspired to teach my kids to feel without shame or reservation and to please, PLEASE allow us to be their soft places to land. I’m inspired to give myself that same freedom to sit with sadness and dance with joy, knowing that rejoicing and weeping are both divinely-given gifts that have deep personal and relational value. I want to embrace brokenness rather than flee from it, trusting in the resilient nature of Joy - but even more so - in the benevolent Giver of Joy, who assures us that His blindingly bright light is not diminished even for a second when it is time to weep.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

those things you do.



You love pretty days. Whenever the sun is shining, you say, “Mama, look it’s a beautiful day.” Or you beg to forgo your nap, saying, “But mom, I can’t sleep because it’s such a pretty day out.”

You are thoughtful. When coloring a picture for your brother the other day, you made sure to use his favorite color, black, and when I thought you were done with it, you insisted on adding orange saying, “I don’t want to ‘dispapoint’ brother.”

You are a fan of cozy. The other day, you set up blankets and pillows on two chairs for us to read together and said, “Mama, I made it cozy for us.” You keep your eye on the details and always want to create a warm, comfortable place for yourself and others.

You are one organized chica. The other day, when we were going out of town, I walked upstairs into your room and found you folding shirts, shorts, pants and swimsuits to take for our trip. You made sure you had socks and unders and your bunny, Squishy, and books and blankets and headbands. You made my job easy … so easy in fact, I was tempted to ask you to pack for me.

You are a helper. You love setting the table and make sure that each person has the right bowls and spoons and drinks at their seat. The other day daddy was a little late and you asked, “Is daddy eating dinner, too?” and when I said yes, you said, “Daddy loves green” and pulled out a green plate and green cup. You came up to me, so proud of yourself, and said, “Look, they match!”

You are my exercising pal – or as you like to call it, ‘extercising.’ You’ll do jumping jacks and squats and stretches and say as you struggle through it, “look mom, it’s not too hard for ME.” And of course you love the cool downs when we get to sit “criss cross applesauce.” You keep asking me if I can buy you your own set of weights.

You are full of curiosity and this can be both magical and maddening. You ask, “Why is that boy sad?” or  “Can you I help you with that?” and it’s heart-melting. But you also ask, “What kind of grocery store is this?” “Why is this called a trunk?” “Why does the wind sound like that?” “Why did you say why?” “Where are we going?” “When will we be there?” Why, when, how, what, why, why whyyyyyy? It’s all day every day. Magical. And maddening.

Quite simply put, you are amazing, Kenzie. My little pal, my ray of light. So much silliness and sweetness and strength swirls around you and I am all blissfully tangled up in the beauty you create every single day. Thank you, Kenzie girl. You illuminate everything inside of me.