Wednesday, September 21, 2016

the struggle is real.

Every morning, a secret, unknown battle wages between my daughter and me. Actually, it’s only a secret if you don’t live in my house. Those who live there, know.

It begins a little something like this: I tell Kenzie to go pick out something to wear, and she'll return with a blue shirt with flowers all over it and purple leggings with hearts all over them. And she’ll say innocently, “Mommy, how about this?”

I’ll sigh, brace myself and say, “Cute, Kenz. But that’s maybe a little too much going on for one outfit. It doesn’t really match.”

And she’ll counter, “Yes it does. Seeeeeee … flowers and hearts. It matches.”

I’ll tell her to keep the shirt but swap the leggings for any other pair in her dresser – as long as they are in the same color family as her shirt and aren't outrageous.

She’ll sigh, trudge back into her room – rejected leggings in hand – and reemerge proudly. With a sequined tutu.

I’ll take a deep breath and explain that a tutu is neither a pair of leggings nor "non-outrageous" and she’ll look up at me with her big brown eyes and plead, “But mo-om, I LOVE this. It matches. SEEEEE.”

No, I don’t see.

Soon, it becomes time for me to enter her bedroom. We begin intense negotiations on a shirt and pant combo and suddenly, somehow, every article of clothing is sprawled out on her floor and someone is crying. We eventually manage to get her into an outfit that I don't love, but at least it's over. Until she plucks a fuchsia sweater with sparkly jewels around the collar out of her closet and says, “I’ll just put this over my shirt.” I bite my tongue. She might be dressed for a Vegas show rather than a day at Preschool, but, I let it go.

And the scenario above is BEST CASE. Worst case, we are in a hurry, I pick something out myself (GASP) and she looks quietly at the ground, then back up me, and says the five words I dread in life, “I don’t like that mama.”

What do you mean you don’t like it, I say. It’s so cute and with these pants and these shoes – ADORABLE. Come on, put it on.

“But mooooommm …”

And, oh what follows. The explanations I’ve heard.

Those sleeves are too long. Those buttons are not my favorite. This zipper is too bright. My toes feel weird in these shoes.  

And, my all-time favorite, “This shirt is too sad.”

Too SAD? Sad?  I’ll show you sad.

The outcome is always unpredictable. Sometimes she gives in and walks out of the door looking like a respectable 4 year-old. Sometimes she’s dressed for a Christmas pageant and it’s August and we’re going to the park. Some days I’ll firmly insist and she’ll defiantly refuse and we’ll both end up throwing a fit (except hers are overt and loud and involve consequences, and mine are more internal and involve silent swear words). We’ve had many a time out, many a lost privilege, many a lost mind over the morning’s outfit.

My friends tell me they can relate. They say, pick your battles. And I try. It’s just asking a lot. She has ALL this cute stuff that I dream of dressing her in, and she just wants to wear everything at inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways. I mean, whyyyyy will she not wear her cute, stylish demin vest? The one I die for and matches with just about anything? Instead, she’d rather wear an over-sized poncho with a huge white snowflake on it. Still in August.  I cannot handle it.

And yet. I choose to pick these clothing battles with her, time and time again. I stand my ground far more than I give in. I’ve said, you HAVE to wear these boots in the rain and this sweater when it’s chilly and you cannot wear a Princess Jasmine costume to church. 

She is headstrong. For sure. I can let A LOT of things go with her because, you know, I have to survive in life and leave the house. You want the pink plate, not the purple one? Sure! You want to walk instead of ride in the cart? Of course! You want an apple instead of a banana? No problem! You will only play Go Fish with me if I show you all my cards and let you win? Why not?!!

But her outfits. The everyday struggle that happens so early every morning. THAT's the battle I pick? WHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

It may stem from my childhood.

In middle school, my process for getting ready was so ridiculous – I’ll never forget it. I’d write down everything I wore each day, from top to bottom, in a little journal - just to make sure I was mixing it up and not repeating outfits too frequently. I was NOT the most stylish girl at all, but how I looked and what I wore mattered to me. That was certain.

But as I think about it more deeply, since I’m no diva and don’t have a particular passion for fashion – why did my clothes matter SO much to me? So much so that I’d lay my outfits out every night, make sure everything was precisely right and then log them in my journal? Why did I care what the tags said on the inside of my shirts or that my purse displayed a certain brand? Why was it all so important to me?

I think my answer is because they were important to me. Everyone else. The people who would be seeing me. I didn’t want to look bad in front of them. I never had a particular desire to stand out, but I was all about fitting in. Being cool. Keeping up with the trends. I clothed myself in whatever would protect me from judgment or ridicule – whatever would not set me apart as different or weird – whatever would allow me to pass for a nice, acceptable person. I rarely felt attractive, and since I couldn’t really do anything to change my physical appearance, I knew I had to take control over how I dressed and presented myself.

These days, I’m not the best dresser. I don’t care about wearing the right clothes or the right brands and I certainly don’t log my outfits in a journal. I’ve grown out of that particular insecurity. But I still care very much about my appearance. I still sometimes feel unattractive and out of place. I still try to make myself up or dress in ways that will solicit the least amount of criticism, attention or judgement. I still like to blend, to fit in rather than stand out in any way – good or bad. But the older I get, I am seeing how harmful and counterproductive this can be. For me, it's a survival tactic. A protection. A way to neither be too lousy or too great. A way to be "just right" and perfectly safe.

I think of Kenzie and her crazy outfits and I wonder why I care so much. Is it because I want to teach her to listen to her mother? To deal with disappointment? To follow orders? To match?

I wonder if I was ever like her. I wonder if 4-year-old me used wear what felt good and comfortable and pretty to ME at the moment. I wonder if I used to never worry about how people looked at me or what they thought of me. I wonder if I ever just wanted to wear pink flowers with red and white hearts or tennis shoes with a pageant dress or a random snowflake sweater in the middle of summer. Back before I cared about labels and fitting in and staying safe and being just like everyone else.

When do we start becoming so aware of all the superfluous, superficial stuff? When does that happen?

These silly little battles that I have with my girl tell me that she is stubborn and headstrong. And that she doesn’t care about the basic laws of fashion.

But they also tell me that she's already unlocked a little secret in life: We are MEANT to stand out.

And I love her for that. I envy her for that.  She doesn’t know about status and judgements and insecurities and images and perceptions and fitting in or not fitting in or any of that stuff. She doesn’t care what she looks like, AND she also doesn’t care what anyone else looks like. She loves who she is and she loves others for who they are. 

Please let THAT be her world. Please let that never change. 

As difficult as it may make my life, I hope she always sticks up for what’s in her gut. I hope she always stays true to who she is and makes no apologies about it. Unless I tell her to apologize. And then she better, otherwise no ipad.  

I hope she pursues what makes her feel alive and fulfilled, regardless of whether it's lucrative or popular. I hope she questions authority and asks, why not? Why not a pageant dress in the park? Who said you can’t swing in sequins? What's so wrong with dressing like an Eskimo in the middle of summer?

All I know is that my girl is beautiful and it comes from every unique quality that shines so brightly inside of her. And all I wish is for her to strive to keep the fire inside of her roaring strong so she can show others, no matter who they are and where they fit, that they are beautiful, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

first days.

Some people looovee the first day of school. New backpacks, fresh pencils, the crisp, fall air.

Not me. I’ve never liked it.

I remember my own first days. The nights before I’d lay in bed, tossing and turning with huge knots in my stomach. My worries were like, “Who will be in my class?” “Who will I sit with at lunch?” “Should I really wear that shirt?” “Will I do something completely humiliating that ruins my life?”

The day itself was always met with nervousness, uncertainty, reluctance and a certain amount of fear. On the outside I looked fine, but on the inside, waves of anxiety were crashing through me and threatening to break the surface.

Now I get to re-live first days of school through my children. And they are still pretty hard for me. Partly because I remember how I nervous I felt myself on my own first days, and partly because watching them grow up and move on to another grade, another year, another stage in life is just plain hard.

I nearly fell apart the first days I had to drop the kids off at daycare. They were just babies. But they were fine. They were safe in the arms of their teachers, cooing and crying and playing and eating. I was a crazy person. I was a puddle on the floor. I couldn’t believe I was just handing them off. My worries those days were like “Is this the right thing?” “Will they be okay?” “No one loves them like I do, how can I just leave them?” “What kind of mom just leaves them?”

The first time I handed Caleb off to his teacher, I practically ran out of the daycare. I fled the building, sought refuge in my car, shut the door, and let the tears fall. I think it was even raining, which was perfect. Drenched and soggy is how I felt. I just rested my head on the steering wheel like a pillow and sat in the jarring silence. Missing him.

It felt a lot like actual, physical pain. My heart was silently imploding. In slow motion. Like one of those carefully planned building demolitions. You know it’s going to happen, but it’s all so massive and messy. You feel so unprepared, unsafe and undone.

And you think it’s over, but it’s not. Because then there’s the first day of Kindergarten. That day, I worried, “Isn’t he too little for this?” “Will he make friends?” “Will he change in ways I won’t like?” “Whyyyyy is he growing up so faaaaast?” 

I didn’t even feel like I was entitled to be sad. After all, I'd been taking him to daycare for years. I was used to the early mornings, the new teachers the hard goodbyes. I wasn’t just leaving him for the first time. SO WHY WAS IT STILL SO DANG HARD?? I tried to minimize my big emotions by thinking “you’ve been here before; this is no big deal.” It was true - I had done this before. I was a seasoned child-leaver.

But it was a big deal. It’s all a big deal. 

Taking care of these little people is the most important job, calling and role we’ve ever had. We love them with a fierce, crazy, protective love. And a first day in a new class, new grade, new year can feel like an assault on that. It's a fresh, flashy reminder that we are less in control that we ever were.

We are nervous because we know ourselves how it felt so be so full of questions and worries and anticipation that it ties your stomach in knots. And we are sad because we are being asked yet again to loosen the ties that bind them to us – to release them further than we ever have before. And we want them close. Always, we want them close. If we had the choice and made up the rules of life, we’d probably choose to protect them forever and never let them go. Ever. We’d keep them tucked safely under our arms listening to gospel music and watching PBS for life. And allow only the nicest, most generous people in their vicinity.

Who will give them the nudges and winks at just the right moments? Who will remind them to wear their jackets at recess? Who will scratch their backs and stroke their heads just the way they like it? Who, if not us?

Oh yeah. Other people. Other lovely, trained, experienced, nurturing, smart and caring people. But still not us. And it’s the “not us” that’s like a stick of dynamite to the chest.

Just a few days ago, Caleb had his first day of FIRST GRADE and Kenzie had her first day of Pre-K at a new school and everything inside me felt like it was crumbling all over again. I dropped the kids off and watched as other moms and dads walked with their heads hung low, wiping away tears, hugging other parents, laughing and rejoicing. There was no minimizing or diminishing of feelings. I joined in freely with them all – the stay at home moms, the full-time workers, the part-time workers – we all were the same as we collectively worried, “Do they have everything they need?” “Will people be kind?” “How will they handle success?” “How will they handle failure?” 

And our kids looked back at us nervously. Maybe they had the same worries we did. Or maybe their worries were something like, “Is my mom ever going to leave?” “Really, is she going to just stand there outside of the door looking at me?” “Is she really taking another picture?” “She knows she’s supposed to leave now, right?”

When I think back to those first days, it’s really easy to remember the heartbreak.  It’s harder to remember what happens AFTER the heartbreak. So I have to remind myself; I have to add this reality back into the narrative:  

I stop crying. I pick my head up. I dab my eyes, turn the key and reverse out of that parking space.  And I feel relief. Relief that it is over, that we got through it and that we are still alive. 

My heart only FEELS like it has been demolished, but it is actually still beating steadily.  It might be stronger than ever. God is here with me. He has my back. He told me we could do this, and He came through. He is covering me now. He is so good. He is covering me – in ways that assure me that He is also covering them in their little classrooms away from me. I can no longer feel the worries in my head screaming at me. They aren’t gone altogether, but, the sound of my beating heart is louder.

As it turns out, first days are good for us, too. They grow us, they change us, they move us forward like we are supposed to. Like they are supposed to.

I have this ever-present, insane desire to want to keep my children tucked safely under my arm. Or to go back in time to when they were just babies, when everything felt safe, close-by, golden and warm. 

Let’s go back to that. Just for a day or a minute. 

We don’t get to do that. And that's why we mourn with our joy and lament with our excitement every year we lead them into a new classroom and then walk out the door. That’s why we cry in our cars. We cry until we remember that our hearts will not crumble beyond repair. We remember that faith will seep slowly into our skin and fill us up with just enough strength to dry our faces, thank Jesus and turn the key.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

10 years and life to go.

For our tenth anniversary Luke and I decided to take a trip to California, but really, we just wanted to escape somewhere - anywhere - on plane, outside of the state. WITHOUT KIDS.

Can I just say what a good call that was? And we won’t wait 10 years until we do it again. No way. This could be an annual thing. Or a twice a year thing. Or maybe more. Whatever it takes.

I love my kids. I totally do. But the moment we left the house at 5 a.m. and headed for the airport – I felt it. The lack of questions, the lack of whining, the lack of hunger, the lack of anticipating the next need, the lack of voices, the lack of noise. All was calm; all was bright.

I FREAK OUT when I'm flying, and yet when we climbed above the clouds and soared at whatever thousand feet, I felt light and lifted. I let the sun's golden rays shine through my little window and warm my face. And I felt heaven draw in even closer to me.

I so looked forward to sleeping in every morning, and yet I couldn’t wait to wake up each day with the sun and discover something new. The hustle and bustle of L.A., the gorgeous blue waves crashing onto the soft Laguna shore, the surfer beach where my in-laws first met, or the cute little Mediterranean restaurant in West Hollywood that made me feel like I was in the middle of Santorini

I love my husband very much. Yet this trip, I also really liked him. Like in an "oh-yeah-you-are-my-best-friend" sort of way. It's easy to forget sometimes as you are making lunches, reading bedtime stories and refereeing arguments how much you truly miss just the two of you. I remembered. I remembered how fun it is to talk casually over lunch, to stroll hand in hand down a windy road, to belt out off-key tunes with the windows rolled down in the car, to laugh uncontrollably at ourselves and dream about how our family might look next year and the year after that.

I saw beauty. I really saw it. Like it soaked into my skin and saturated my insides. I couldn’t get enough.

I was awake, Alive, with a capital “A.” I felt it increasingly as wave upon gracious wave would crescendo and crash against my dry, thirsty heart. And I drank it all in; I savored it. I had waited a long time to feel this, and I SAVORED it.

No doubt, this 10 years felt more like a beginning than even year one. The beginning of living life at a different altitude, with wider eyes and with a heart that is no longer severely parched. The years before have been both overwhelmingly good and unbelievably hard. I will carefully study those chapters. I will look back with nostalgia, relief, remorse and joy. I will gather up every page, every word, every heartache, every lesson, every breathtaking moment and keep it all somewhere safe - somewhere very close to me.

And, with tremendous faith, I will turn the page.

I will boldly and thankfully step into the rest of our story. Because what's ahead is already a miracle - an undeniable and real showing of grace. So many possibilities. So much to look forward to. So much hope. 

The water is really that blue and the sun is really that bright.

10 years down and a whole, new life to go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

40 Things I LOVE About My Sister.

40.  She is the best gift-giver. She will take a looooong time to pick out the perfect gift, but it’s all worth it in the end because it will be, indeed, perfect. AND. She is the best present wrapper; she makes the packaging almost better than the gift itself.

39. She has an infectious smile and laugh and they definitely light up a room.

38.  She has the softest skin that I love to creepily stroke from time to time, and she always smells good (just don’t steal her scent).

37.  She once found us the worst hotel in New York City, and my parents hated it so much that they upgraded us to the Marriot in Times Square the next night (win-win).

36.  She is one INCREDIBLE aunty. Seriously. I think my kids like her more than they like me.

35.  She has a heart for the underdog, the victim and the oppressed. Her compassion is beyond inspiring.

34.  She knows probably every word of the Bible, yet has taught me the most about what it means to have a simple, “childlike” faith.

33.  She has gotten over her fear of affection and doesn’t hyperventilate so much after I try to hug her.

32.  She is a great debater. Good luck to those who go up against her. She knows her stuff and she’s convincing.

31.  She let me sit at her lunch table when I was the new kid at school and had no friends. And she only rubs it in my face like four times a year.

30.  In middle school, she made me a sign inspired by a Full House episode that says, “Guys come and go, but sisters are forever.” I had it in my room until I moved out. Because of a guy.

29.  She is like the teacher that Michelle Pfieffer played in “Dangerous Minds” and I always hear “Gangsta’s Paradise” playing faintly in the background every time she gives me a pep talk.

28.  She was my sidekick on two incredible, life-changing trips to India.

27.  She let me live with her for a month in Washington, DC after I graduated from college and had no direction in life. We had fun.

26.  She thought I was the most annoying little sister when we were little because I’d always get her in trouble. But she also did a lot of stuff worthy of getting in trouble for. To my credit.

25.  She forgave me after our hugest fight over a Brian McKnight tape back in the early 90s. Didn’t think we’d survive that one.

24.  She is the most popular in any crowd and she doesn’t even know it. Ever since we were little, I knew she had that special something that made people comfortable and made them flock to her. She is that person everyone wants to be around.

23. She used to squeeze my sides and tell me my obliques would leak.

22. She took me on the adventure of a lifetime: two weeks traveling through Europe with just a backpack, baguette and jar of Nutella. It was magical. She pushes me to expand my horizons, and because of her, I’ve seen a lot of beautiful things in this world.

21. She used to sing songs from Sound of Music or the Little Mermaid in the shower every morning at the top of her lungs.

20. While other kids in school got in trouble, she went to journalism camp.

19. She is a great singer and artist and is super creative, which is not fair because I did not get those genes at all. AT ALL.

18. She is an AMAZING writer. I’m always just like, whoa, whoa, WHOAA!

17. She has a book recommendation for EVERYTHING. I’m not kidding. Name a topic and she’ll give you a book title and author (and 9 times out of 10, she will order it for you from Amazon and have it shipped out to you the next day).

16. She once put a drink on a random girl’s head, the drink spilled, then she got mad at the GIRL for giving her a bad look. (????)

15. She volunteers Lisa and I for the most random things. Mostly church things and going on runs with her clients.

14. She is the worst liar. The WORST. (As in she can’t lie, not that she lies a lot).

13. She was my first example of seeing someone have a dream, work for it and see it through to fruition.

12. She is steadfast and resolute in so many things that matter.

11. She is truly both the sweetest, friendliest person and the toughest, most capable person.

10.  She has chased after someone at a train station on a bike while ringing the bell on her basket.

9.   She has forgotten to pick me up nearly three dozen times when I was a poor helpless child, but it’s impossible to stay mad at her.

8.   She worked for a real newspaper in high school and had her own column called “Bina’s Beat.”

7.   She felt oppression at a young age by cops who pulled her over for speeding. Because she was speeding.

6.   She did a radio interview on KUBE 93 about racism. It was poignant.

5.   She is the hostess with the mostess. Everyone is welcome at her house, always. And they are always made to feel welcomed, loved and important. She has the gift for hospitality.

4.   She is the best role model God could give me growing up. She is strong, confident, humble, full of faith, love, and passion. She is a dreamer and a follow-througher and a seize the day-er of life. I truly do not think I would have made it through my youth without her wisdom, example, encouragement, truth-telling, tough love, just plain love, friendship and laughter.  When it comes to sisters, I got the best of the best.

3.  She sees love through from start to finish. She fights for people and for what they are meant to become. She’ll not only fight for them in court in front of a judge, but she’ll take them home, pray for them, loan them her car, have them over for dinner,and  introduce them to her family so it feels like they have one too.  People are so important to her. She loves in such a beautiful way.

2. She is a risk taker. Whether it’s moving across the country for school, believing in someone despite the odds, traveling the world, studying abroad, working for a nonprofit, changing her career path, following her dreams, standing up for truth, voicing an unpopular opinion or pursuing her passion. She doesn’t just settle for the status quo in life. I believe this comes from her faith in God, her belief in HIS ability to get things done and make things right, and her insanely deep desire to make this life count.

1. She fills this major, much-needed space in this world that only she can fill with her sweetness, smile, strength, smarts, sense of humor and sincerity. She also fills that much smaller, but still JUST as needed Bina-shaped space in individual people’s lives. I’ve seen it time and time again. People go to her with questions, with problems, for advice, for a listening ear. She is a source of fun, laughter and comic relief. There is only one Bina and we are all blessed people to know her, love her and get to do life with her. But me especially. I get to be her sister, which means that many, MANY times for ALL OF MY LIFE I’ve gotten her attention, her ceaseless prayers, her listening ear, her wisdom, her honesty, her vulnerability, her graciousness, her silliness, her friendship and her love. It’s that love that I’m most thankful for, because she truly loves like no other. To say, I’m thankful for her is an understatement. To say I love her doesn’t even express it. To say she blesses my life, so many lives and this world, is the absolute truth and comes from my heart.

Thank you for living a full, honest and loving life, Beans. Thank you letting me be a part of your passions and adventures. Thanks for being my best friend since the day I was born. May this day, this year, this decade and this season of life lead you to places that bring you great joy and fulfill the deepest desires of your heart. I want the best for you sister, and I love you so much!!

Happy 40th, Beans. #goshortyitsyour40

Friday, May 6, 2016

good enough.

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.”
-Jill Churchhill

Motherhood is by far the most complicated, confusing roles I’ve had to play in my life.

On the one hand, I feel monumentally thankful that God entrusted these two little humans to me.

But then I think – what? God entrusted these little two humans to ME? Maybe He made a mistake because … what?

I feel important because, well, I am a MOTHER. I do everything. I fix owies, put people to sleep, tend to emotional needs and make a mean mac n’ cheese.

But then, I feel SO small. Because sometimes I can’t. I can’t muster the strength for one more tantrum. I can’t kiss away their pain. And a lot of times, I just take them to McDonalds.

I feel strong. Because I gave birth. I provided sustenance to two growing children. I am one half of the duo they rely on most in the world.

And yet I’m the most vulnerable I’ve ever been. I can’t make the world better for them; I can’t guarantee that their lives will be without heartbreak or hurt. I can’t do any of that.

So I’m confused. I’m also sometimes on my knees asking why in the WORLD me?

Because maybe someone else could do it better.

Like the Pinterest mom with the flawlessly executed birthday parties. Those people craft and build imaginations and introduce their children to so much wonder. Right?

Or the organized mom who owns a calendar and plans meals and matches outfits. Those people are on time, on top of it and not constantly stressed. Right?

Or the mom who doesn't have so much baggage or so many weaknesses and flaws. I mean, nobody's perfect, but someone has to be far closer to perfect than me. Right?

Or the talented mom who can sew baby clothes and write music and is well-traveled and cultured. Those people go far in life. Right?

The contradictions, the comparisons – all the different ways you are pulled or taught to believe what is right in raising a child. It is so confusing sometimes. Are you really doing everything right?

Are YOU really the right one for the job?

On one particular day when I was NOT feeling not so qualified – I remember sneaking into my daughter’s room and holding her hand as she drifted off to sleep. Feeling my hand grab hers, she tossed a bit, then looked at me half asleep and said, “I love you so much. You’re the best mommy in the world.”

Exactly those words.

I just have to keep remembering - I AM the right person for the job because He made it so. He knew exactly which mother, out of every mother in the world, those two precious kids would need.


Because to them – somehow messy, undeserving, flawed me – is their "best mommy in the world."

I’ll take it. I hope you will, too. Throw yourself a bone and pat yourself on the back. On Mother’s Day and every day of this crazy, confusing little journey called motherhood.

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.



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.