Permission to Blink

Moms, do the following questions sound familiar?

Questions like…

What’s if today is the last day you push your sweet boy in the swing?

What if today is the last day you pick up your baby girl?

What if today is the last day your sweet one says “Mommy,” and tomorrow you will be “Mom” officially?

I see these articles and posts almost every day.

Maybe it’s just me, but all those posts do is lead to more questions. And not the sweet, reminiscing ones.

Questions like…
Am I enjoying my children enough?
Do I sweat the small stuff too much?
Was I a good Mom today?

(Also, does anyone notice that none of these, at least that I’ve seen, are targeted towards Dads? But I digress…).

Fellow Moms, as a young(ish) mother myself, consider this permission slip signed. Permission for what, you ask?

To let go of the guilt.

Now, before you call me as cold as Elsa, don’t misunderstand. I have my bittersweet moments just like everyone else (It happens regularly, but the eve of their birthdays always get me, especially at bedtime as I tuck them the last time as that age. Pass the Kleenex and the candy bowl).

But I think we need to be careful to not let those moments overwhelm our days and those days overwhelm our weeks.

I can remember when Luke was in the newborn/infant phase. I was completely smitten with him of course, but with the often sleepless nights and many fussy days, if someone texted me,“Don’t blink!” I wanted to throw my phone against the wall. Those people were all well-intentioned, but I remember thinking, “Please let me blink.” Not wish the weeks away, but blinking = rest = enjoying that stage.

It was actually discouraging as a new Mom to hear, “You’re going to miss these days” or “Cherish those sleepless nights” or “Don’t rush time, this morning may have been the last time he slept in the bassinet beside your bed.” Of course, I knew they had the sweetest intentions. But, as a new Mom those first few months and now four years later, I’ll tell you a little secret.

The most encouraging phrase I could hear was, “It gets better. Every age has been my favorite.”

That didn’t mean the infant phase was a bad one necessarily. They were simply encouraging me. Even if I thought baby life would be superior to all the next seasons of life, and some of those cuddly, giggly baby days did feel that way, it was like they were putting an arm around my shoulder and telling me, “You think it’s good now? Just wait.”

(They were right).

That stubborn, little infant of mine is now a 4 and a half (if he was reading this, he’d tell me to add that half part) handsome, little boy.  And while there are still frustrating moments and times when I feel like he’s sitting on my last nerve because he enjoys the view, I have to tell you…

It’s my favorite age so far.

He has a reading ability that can truly only be described as God-given. He is kind and wants everyone to be included (well, unless he and his friends form a “Boys Club,” that was only created because the girls had done the same, he insists). He has developed a sharp sense-of-humor and the jokes he makes up are actually starting to make sense. He loves music the most, and tells me now he wants to be a songwriter (complete with asking for a “guitar strap” from Santa and guitar lessons next year). Infant, one, two, and three were filled with priceless moments, but four has been the best.

And that boy is now the usually-proud big brother to a sassy and sweet baby sister. And while I want to squeeze those cheeks in my Facebook memories, even with the lay-on-the-floor-fits, you have to know…

It’s my favorite age so far.

She’s showing a feistiness that I hope doesn’t bite me too much as she gets older, but I have to admit, I hope she keeps it. She loves books, but will only let you read to her if it’s her idea (she prefers flipping through them at lightning speed). Allie’s her name, stacking toys is her game. She still mostly babbles in her own language, but she understands everything we say perfectly well. And while she can and does tell us “No” easily and often, it’s hard to tell our Cindy Lou-Who look-a-like the same with those pigtails and curls. Infant and one were filled of precious memories, but two has been my favorite.

And I’m not oblivious to the fact that I’ve yet to be a parent of a moody middle schooler and eye-rolling sophomore, but I love hearing from parents who tell me, “Don’t let people scare you. I love the teen years. The conversations are harder but deeper. Oh, and they sleep in. It’s my favorite age so far.”

Do I think (know) those middle school parents have hard days? Of course. But I think the “favorite age” mindset means you find the positive of the age, the day, and the season.

Think of a sponge. If you don’t wring it out every so often, the weight of the water becomes too much to bear and it kind of defeats the purpose of what it’s trying to clean, right?

I think the same applies to us, Mamas. We are going to miss the moment if we’re too worried we’re not enjoying the moment enough. Our babies’ childhoods are to be treasured in joy, not trapped in guilt.

Now if you love the “Don’t Blink/What if” posts, please don’t let me rain on your parade. Maybe they encourage you. Just like these babies we raise, every Mama is different. And, of course, It’s natural for us all to have teary-eyed thoughts, knowing you’re going to look back on these days when you were that little boy and baby girl’s whole world.

Just don’t dwell on it so much that you miss out on theirs.

So, in case you need it, here’s your permission to blink or not read those doubt-planting articles.

(I’ll even sign for you to go take a nap).

Remember, 4 and 2 are my favorite ages so far!

It gets better.

You were a good Mom today.

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When the Savior Forgives the Mayor

By now, most of you have heard the big news of the day here in Nashville. In case you’ve been under a rock (or say a mama of three or more kids – HOW DO Y’ALL DO IT?!), Mayor Megan Barry admitted to an extramarital affair of over two years with her chief security officer.

Because social media is wonderful but also terrible, right away people were gloating, even celebrating. (This leads me to say that I announced to my husband the other night I’m officially an Independent. GIVE ME NO ASSOCIATION WITH EITHER, PLEASE AND THANK YOU, but I digress).

But before you adjust the crown on your head as you enjoy a crumbling marriage, a few thoughts kept coming to my head as the “Breaking News” kept scrolling on the television:

1. It can happen to anyone. Anyone. Do you think, as she took her oath as mayor with her husband by her side, she planned to start an affair that same year? I don’t.

2. Protect your marriage. I’ve seen this rule ridiculed in the media, but Brett and I swear by it: We never go somewhere with a (non-related, duh) member of the opposite sex by ourselves. Not for lunch or even a quick cup of coffee (or Sprite). In a group setting with other people? Absolutely fine. But we don’t want to create a situation that 1. Creates suspicion- all it takes is one person seeing you at that table together, even completely innocent, for rumors to swirl and 2. Becomes too comfortable- All of the sudden, one lunch with a colleague or old friend becomes two, three, four, and so on. Don’t even create the temptation.

3. Pray for your spouse. He or she is not above temptation. Jesus Himself was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). Pray for the protection of their heart and the strength of your marriage.

4. We need accountability. “Judge lest ye be judged” is thrown around all of the time, and it’s taken totally out of context. As believers, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, the ultimate conscience-giver. So when we see other believers (and likewise, when others see us) straying, it is biblical to speak up. Tactfully, lovingly, privately, BUT LOUDLY. Surround yourself with like-minded followers of Christ who won’t be afraid to call you out on your junk. And be willing to take it.

5. Grace is free with a repentant heart. And it is offered to us all from God through His Son, Jesus. It doesn’t escape us from earthly consequences, and Mayor Barry will likely be facing a wide range of those. But our Redeemer doesn’t have a bias when it comes to who He forgives. He doesn’t see black or white skin, red or blue parties. He sees our hearts. It is ours if we own it, confess it, and ask for it. Praise God.

Mayor Barry, in your statement you said you knew God would forgive you, but the citizens of Nashville didn’t have to. But the body of Christ? We are compelled. It is, and should be, in our nature. While I am just a few miles away from officially being called a Nashvillian, this neighbor just over the county line forgives you.

Mayor Barry and I differ in a number of ways. I wouldn’t have voted for her before this, which would make it all the more easy to join the berating crowd. But may His church be louder in proclaiming, “Greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world!”

2017: New Baby, New House, New Sarcastic-ish Thoughts

2017 has been a year when very little happened in our lives.

If by very little you mean… bought a house, renovated it, sold our first house, had a baby girl, husband starting a new position at work, and tried our best to keep a toddler boy healthy and happy all the while.

WHAT A BREEZE.

Really though, what a year full of blessings. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be growth. Growing a baby in my belly all year up until August 30, moving into a bigger house that our family will grow in, and watching our son grow every day.

And man, has he grown in ways we didn’t expect. I enjoy sharing videos of Luke for friends and family who love to watch, but selfishly, I love to have them pop up a year or more later in the “memories.” A couple days ago, it was a video of Luke roaring like a lion from this time, last year. I remember being SO excited about that- he had only said a handful of words at that point, and all of the questionnaires indicated he should’ve been giving speeches by then. And now, while he’s not giving speeches, he has some serious, sweet, and stubborn conversations with us (“No tell Mommy no.”). He can read/recognize many words and his imagination has far exceeded a lion on a page coming to life.

I often joke it’s because his Mama and Gran Gran are teachers, but I know that’s not really it. Some kids show great athletic abilities early on, some have the talent for finding the rhythm of the song when they aren’t even 3 feet tall, or some can listen to their parents the first time, every time (not our boy’s best skill). For Luke, it looks like God has given him a terrific memory and an affection for learning thus far. We hope it stays, but even if he doesn’t care about it tomorrow, we pray he’s kind first (and cleaning up his toys happily second).

Allie is growing every single day too. Just this morning, she seemed too big for her three months sleeper that fit great yesterday. She is “the sweetest of peas” as her Daddy says.

And our new-to-us 1983 house looks much more like 2017, in large part due to my parents who painted the whole inside- walls, window frames, doorways, and built-ins. Plus, a handy husband who put his wood-working hobby to good use and we have our dream house. Next up: Painting the exterior white! (Don’t worry, we’re hiring that one out).

I used to always write things I wish stayed in the year we’re leaving. Some of those keep reappearing (Elf on the Shelf, leggings as pants, people calling in-laws their in-loves). Some of them have disappeared (where’d you go, Advocare?), but have reappeared as something else (Looking at you, ItWorks). But I decided to be more positive and write 17 of my favorite things of 2017.

(Who is this person?)

In no particular order…

1. Ain’t doin it.

Heather Land, who makes these videos, is kind of living my dream. Tell people her most giant annoyances in a sarcastic way and get away with it. I would be her co-writer for exactly zero dollars.

2. Rock and Play

I realize I may regret this when we transition Allie to her crib, but from the first night we put her in this until now, she has either slept through the night or woken up once. AND THAT IS PRICELESS. Especially when you have a constantly-energized toddler who has no sympathy for your exhaustion. So, if her good sleep has only lasted this long, praise be to God for Fisher-Price.

3. Magna-Doodle

Luke loves this thing. We got it for a couple bucks at a yard sale. Best two dollars spent ever. No marker ink! No getting paper! Just sweet, sweet magnets.

4. Swaddlers

This goes with #2, but to all new parents out there: Keep swaddling even if they fuss about it. They’ll most likely get used to it. And those little hands won’t find themselves as alarm clocks during the night when they wake themselves up.

5. 3 Day Potty Training

This one is still TBD, but so far, it’s working fairly well. Supposedly after 3 days of taking your little one to potty every 15 minutes or so, they’ll be completely trained. It did suggest we wake him up in the middle of the night to go potty, but I’m not a crazy person. Also, I’m not buying that we won’t have accidents and it’ll all be over in three days, but he has made it to the potty more than missed it, so that’s a win!

6. Selling Stuff Online

Guys, I sold a flush Mount Light we took out of the ceiling, without the box, a few weeks ago for $15. I even sold our old 1983 mantle we ripped off the wall for $80! I was floored. Give it a shot before you sit outside for eight hours hosting a yard sale. So much easier.

7. Bible Studies

I was part of a couple this year, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it and got out of both. It also gave me some adult time which as all SAHMs know, we never crave. But above all, it kept me disciplined to be in God’s Word and be held accountable with others sisters in Christ. I hope to be back in one in 2018!

8. Cook-out

Skip the expensive restaurant, just take me here. I had it for the first time a few days ago and DELICIOUS. I had a burger, onion rings, hushpuppies, and a Sprite for $5.

9. Ed Sheeran

I’m late becoming a fan rather than just listening to him on the radio, but Brett gave me his CD for Christmas and I, him. Great minds or been together over a decade, you decide.

10. DVR

We just got it this year (I like to be ten years late to a trend). But for a Mama who goes to bed often at 9:30 and catches up at naptime, it’s my television hero. Nothing like crying to This Is Us at 1:30 pm.

11. Storytime

He often goes with my parents now, but I love that the Library has it for the little ones. Not gonna lie, kind of my dream job (besides being Mommy). Teaching kids for the joy of it, what a concept!

12. Dot Paints

Paint without the mess for toddlers. The end.

13. John Crist

We may have gone to another local church the day after our LifeGroup helped us move just to see him. He makes fun of Christian “stuff” and trends in just the most accurate, hilarious way. I can’t hear the song “Good, Good Father” without thinking of him first. I’m sure it’s what Chris Tomlin was going for. My favorite of his.

14. Imagination Library

This has been one of my favorites since 2015, but Allie is a part of it now, so I’m adding it this year too. Dolly Parton will always be an inspiration just for this alone. Always such a good mail day!

15. CFA app

Earn free chicken just buy scanning it when buying delicious chicken. Enough said.

16. Ibotta

I used this app with my groceries, and it has already earned me a $25 Amazon gift card. It’s basically coupons that go towards gift cards, so you earn money on food you’re buying anyway. Here’s my referral link if you’re curious.

17. Cherry Sprite

Sonic’s cherry limeade in a can. I have one everyday during Luke’s nap and I LOOK FORWARD TO IT.

2017 was so good to me, if only for all the free Chick-fil-A sandwiches I earned alone.

I pray the Lord grants us another great year in 2018. Even if it’s not, He is good. So good that I won’t sing Good, Good Father.

Happy 2018!

When One Becomes Two

Well, y’all, I had full intentions of writing a post at some point DURING FORTY WEEKS OF PREGNANCY.

(I mean, I did write one about saying goodbye to our first home and hello to our forever-as-far-as-we-can-see one).

(But you’d think I would’ve at least written one about the miraculous growing of our precious baby girl, especially the look on Brett’s face when the lab tech said, “It’s a girl!”).

(He gave a nervous laugh, and we were both overjoyed, but moments before he said he was very confident it was a boy because “he saw something” on the ultrasound).

(Pretty sure it was a kidney).

But alas, it just didn’t happen. I had opportunities during naptimes or what I once knew as “downtime” between Luke’s bedtime and ours, but listen. I went into “EVERYTHING MUST GET DONE BECAUSE WE WON’T HAVE FREE TIME UNTIL 2035” mode this summer.

Luke’s scrapbooks of the first two and a half years of his life? Check.

Sort and sell/give away the vast majority of his baby clothes? Check.

Look for anything that I could sell because WHY DID WE MOVE THIS TO THE NEW HOUSE? Check.

Transform Luke’s room into his “big boy room,” including adjusting him to his new twin bed? Check.

Create baby girl’s nursery? Check.

Finish a list of little home projects? Mostlycheck!

Oh and those “Fixer Upper” episodes that I’ve seen 238 times each weren’t going to watch themselves.

So, this little memory-keeping space of mine went on the back-burner.

Until, your lucky day my friends, today.

So, I thought I’d jot down a little backstory (for me to one day look back on and read) and update on our baby girl’s arrival.

(Feel free to quit reading).

(But before I begin, the title of this blog is from one of our friend’s weddings a few years ago. During the ceremony, the pastor accidentally said “when one become two” instead of the opposite and never realized it. It was a beautiful wedding, but I never have suppressed laughter so hard in my life. Years later, Brett and I still refer to it. And if you’re reading this and recognize that it was your wedding I’m referring to, know that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and it has made me smile for years.).

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. The arrival of Allie Mae.

She is named after my great-grandmother and I always knew that if God gave me a daughter, that was the name. Not only for her hard-working, God-fearing, family-oriented, sometimes feisty namesake, but it’s old-fashioned, Southern, and unique. My future husband would have no say in the matter (kidding but not really), but thankfully my sweet husband had no arguments.

My pregnancy went very smoothly. My only “complaints” (again, like with Luke, I use that term lightly because I was and am so grateful to have healthy pregnancies when so many deserving ladies cannot) were some typical aches and pains and the constant bathroom breaks, which led to really taking about 7 power naps every night rather than a good night’s sleep.

(I’ll take “Newborn Preparation” for $800, Alex).

Also, to any mamas expecting their second child with a very rambunctious toddler who sees your preggo belly as a jungle gym, and treats it as such, let me calm any fears that your baby will not come out with 36 bruises and/or birth marks. Luke tested that theory out WELL and Allie was clear as a bell.

So, since I wasn’t really sleeping anyways, my fabulous doctor said it was my call if I wanted to induce once we got to 39 weeks and baby was healthy. I waited until my due date, but at that day’s appointment her EVICTION NOTICE WAS SERVED. Dr. M had already booked my room for the next morning at 5 a.m. (I’m fairly certain she’s an angel) and sure enough, we woke up at dark-thirty to go meet our daughter.

(Kudos to my parents for taking care of big brother while we were at the hospital, especially my Dad during that time, who (barely) slept on our couch each night so our boy’s routine wouldn’t get too rocked).

(Also, a little rant: when we told some people we were being induced, a few answered with skepticism and questioned our- meaning my doctor, husband, and myself- decision. Don’t do that. None of us would’ve put the the baby or my health’s in jeopardy. I trust my doctor’s expert and professional advice over yours. For future reference, “Congrats! We’ll be praying for you!” is the better response. End of I-Need-Sleep-Rant).

Everything went so well with labor and delivery. Turns out, when they hooked me up to all the various machines, they discovered I had been having contractions five minutes apart. So I likely would’ve made the trip to the hospital that day anyways.

We were in a room by 5 a.m. and answered the required 104ish questions. (my favorites: While looking at Brett, the nurse asked, “Is he your husband?” I said yes, then she asked, “Is he the father of the child?” THAT HAS TO GET SO AWKWARD SOMETIMES.) (For the record, yes).

Dr. M came in shortly after 7 to break my water and shortly after that I was asked when I’d like my epidural and I’d like it then and there thankyouverymuch.

From 7 that morning until about 1 pm or so, I progressed quickly and steadily. By 2 o’clock, it was time to push. And by 2:25 p.m., Miss Allie Mae was placed in my arms and we were in awe of that screaming, beautiful, 7 pounds, 9 ounces baby girl.

By 2:35, she had heard Daddy’s voice, calmed down, been cleaned up a bit, and was bright-eyed as could be.

Of course, we were and are totally smitten!

I think we both really took those moments- the hospital stay, and still these first few weeks- in because not long after delivery, I had the procedure done that ensures as best as we can that this will be it for us.

(God could always have different plans, but as far as we’re concerned, NO MORE OCCUPANCY).

Our boy and our girl. We feel complete and so blessed.

(For the record, we would’ve done this had the second child been another sweet boy, but I ain’t gonna lie, a boy and a girl definitely made it easier).

Speaking of our boy, we knew the biggest challenge this go-around wasn’t going to be the newborn life. We knew what to expect this time, and we know these nights of not lots of sleep and days of staying in are temporary. We knew the hard part was going to be helping him adjust to this new human and to learn that he had to share our attention now.

Overall, he has done well. There have been a few meltdowns when Mama can’t get up right then and there, a handful of timeouts, and lots of gentle but stern talking-tos about baby sister and why we can’t always do what we used to do. So don’t let Facebook fool you, there have been a few challenges along the way, as to be expected.

But let me say, some of the sweetest times have happened too and they’re getting more frequent everyday. We’ve done our best to encourage but not force him to warm up to her. Now, about three weeks later, we see lots of Luke kisses to Allie, he tries to calm her when she’s crying (or at least let me know “Allie sad!”), says yes to holding her, and maybe my personal favorite- gets excited to throw her diapers away.

(#MomWin)

While I can’t always sleep when the baby sleeps this time around thanks to that wild toddler, and that toddler makes it a goal everyday to take every single toy and book out, I know the days are long, but the years are short. Corny but it’s true.

Brett may (ok, does) come home to a frazzled wife most days, but he always comes home to a thankful one who gets a front-row seat on the couch to our babies growing up.

And hopefully you’ll hear from me again on here before they start Kindergarten.

But not before I watch Chip and Jo create that Italian Rustic farmhouse in the middle of Waco for the 394th time.

(Professional pictures thanks to the fantastic Wendy Hardin Photography).

The House That Built Me as a Mrs. & a Mama

It was our forever home.

When we bought our house, we were newly engaged. He was 21 and I was 22, he was finishing up his undergrad degree and I was a month into my first year of teaching. He moved in and slept on his old twin mattress while we saved up to buy furniture, and I moved in the day we returned from our beach wedding. We didn’t look at a single other house in person, this was it. It was two minutes from my school, on a cul-de-sac, and had a front porch. It was perfect, in my young mind. And it was. It was also going to be IT. This was our house where we’d raise our family and then rock on that front porch when they’d come back and visit us.

Then, over six years later, that perfect house that the newlyweds in their early twenties thought would be their home for as long as they could imagine, found itself with a “For Sale” sign in its front yard.

About five months ago, I started getting the feeling that maybe forever wasn’t going to last as long as we thought it’d be with this house. One night while giving our toddler a bath, I mentioned to my husband what had been rolling around in my mind for a few days. I thought he’d laugh it off, but instead he said, “I’ve actually been thinking that too.

Well, this certainly was a development.

What inspired this? I’ve been home (joyfully) with our son for the past couple of years, so the proximity to my former school wasn’t a huge pro like it had been before. And, the teacher in me wasn’t thrilled where he would be zoned for elementary school (it wasn’t my former school). The kitchen was pretty small, and blame HGTV, but we’ve been wanting a bigger kitchen/eating space for some time and there wasn’t really a way to do it without adding on to the house. And we’d love to be closer to a part of town that was nearer to my husband’s work, our families, our church, and just all around more convenient.

Oh and we found out that we were expecting Baby #2 (yay!!!), so that puts a little GIDDY UP IN YOUR STEP.

So, we spent a few weeks looking at houses online in the area we wanted to be. We were getting pretty discouraged by what was out there, but we knew Spring was coming when many would go for sale. Then, one afternoon in December, my husband sent me a link to a house in our dream neighborhood. It’s an older neighborhood in the area we grew up in that we honestly never thought we’d be able to afford. But it was priced right because it was a fixer upper. Like intercom-in-the-walls, missing-baseboards, old-linoleum-flooring, MISSING-BATHTUB fixer upper.

For the love of Chip & Jo, IT WAS BUILT IN 1983 AND NEVER LEFT. RONALD REAGAN IS STILL PRESIDENT IN THIS HOUSE.

I said, nope. Not gonna happen. I  don’t mind a little work, but this was too much.

But it never really left my mind. My parents told me I should look at it again, and then one day I drove past it and well. A wide front porch that would fit a couple of rocking chairs (Have you picked up that a front porch is a requirement for me?), two oak trees in the front yard. That was it. I loved it. It was far from perfect, but I could see the amazing potential.

One walk-through the house, and while very daunting, overwhelming, whatever-stress-related-adjective-you’d-like-to-use, I knew it. This was our house. I could see our children playing in that fenced-in backyard. Hosting birthday parties back there and under the covered deck.  Taking a walk down to the pool on hot, summer days. Turning that small, fourth bedroom with the built-in bookshelf into a playroom. Which room would be our son’s room and which room would be the new nursery. We started talking knocking down a wall here, a partial one there. Thinking which paint color would look better, which kind of flooring would change this place and bring it into this century.

To make a long story a little less long, after two showings, a few rounds of negotiating, and lots of prayer, we were under contract.  And then over twenty-five showings later at our own house, we accepted an offer and the new-to-us house is officially ours.

We are so excited, overwhelmed, and incredibly thankful. It will be rough few weeks of transition as we remodel that house a bit, but it will be oh-so worth it. We can’t wait to see how God will use this house in lives in and outside our family for prayerfully many, many years.

But, can I just say? It sure is bittersweet.  Since buying the house we’re leaving, I’ve changed my last name, started to learn how to be a godly wife (really, still learning… such a work in progress), taught students that became “my kids,” hosted friends and family, have become a mother to the sweetest boy, and just learned another blessing is on the way.

If these walls could talk, they’d tell you about…
… when a nervous, new Mama and Daddy brought home their newborn, sat at the table eating the Chick-fil-A they had picked up on the way home from the hospital, looked at that sleeping baby boy and said to each other, “Well. Now what do we do?”
… all of the pacing that took place in the hallway between our bedroom and the kitchen trying to calm down that crying boy, and the smile of relief when he fell asleep on our shoulder (and we did too).
… the dances that have taken place on these hardwood floors. Ranging from laughing hysterically while imitating some Bruno Mars dance moves to even a slow dance to a favorite Brad Paisley song a time or two.
… the (silly) arguments they heard as two people learned to live together, yes, but also the sweet apologies that came afterward too.
… the sweet husband tolerated and even complimented some early Pinterest recipe fails at dinner. (Ok, they still sometimes happen).
… the 2 a.m. feedings and then the 2:30 a.m. staring contests between Mama and baby when he was wide awake.
… the screams of joy when our baby took his first, wobbly steps on that living room floor.
… all of the crawling “races” between Daddy & son, and the sweetest first sounds of his giggles that made those pacing nights worth it.
… me telling my husband that we were going to be Mama and Daddy one Sunday morning… and getting to tell him again two and a half years later when he came home from work one Monday evening.
… seeing my husband’s sister decide to follow Christ within that small kitchen area.
… consoling one another when loved ones passed away unexpectedly.
… and so much more.

So  dear 608, you will always be thought of with a smile. I know I will drive past you someday and show our son where he did so many of his first “firsts” with a tear in my eye. I have grown so much living inside your walls. In many ways, I’m hardly the person I was when we first got to know one another. I pray God was glorified while we were here, and that He will continue to be for the next family that calls this place home.


Thanks for the wonderful memories.

(And this next house REALLY WILL BE OUR FOREVER ONE BESIDES HEAVEN).

(Or until I’m too old to climb stairs. Then it’ll be time to move to the beach).

(Moving life is not for me).

(What are you guys doing a few Saturdays from now, by the way?)

(And RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU LOVE TO PAINT!)

 

 

 

Why The Election Doesn’t Matter

Caught your attention, didn’t I?

Now, before you call me un-American and say I’m committing treason and allege that I hate the bald eagle, let me proclaim this loud and clear: I AM VOTING. 

But the truth is that “my” candidate has a very, very small chance of winning. (It’s not Chip or Joanna Gaines, though, I WISH). (I don’t mind sharing, it’s Evan McMullin). (Don’t tell me it’s a wasted vote or why I should vote for __________). 

I didn’t write this to justify my vote or to persuade yours

I’m writing it because we all need a little reality check. 

(Me included). 

I admit, I can become a little despaired when thinking that one of “these two” will very likely be our next President. Probably even more so when I think of my sweet son, how he sees them behave, and how they could impact his future. 

Until I had an epiphany not too long ago…

I want you to all think back to your childhoods. Now, depending on how old you were, you could probably name the president when you were a kid. Maybe, if you were in upper elementary school, something they said or did. 

But keep thinking. 

Who taught you the values that inform the decisions you make today?

For me, it wasn’t President Bush (Sr.) or President Clinton. 

It was my parents.

And, I pray, Luke will someday say that about his Daddy and me.

Of course, this election matters for healthcare policy, social issues, and foreign affairs. I’m not discounting that, in fact, my candidate’s stance on all of the above is why he earned my vote. 

There’s a lot of issues that the President impacts outside of our house. But he (or she) doesn’t touch any inside our home. 

You know what Brett and I can do and model for our son, no matter who is president? 

Pray before every meal at our table together. 

Pray at bedtime or any other time. 

Teach him the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. 

Dance to a silly song together. 

Read to him. 

Teach that Jesus loves everyone and God made every soul and race in His image. 

Something as simple as not using foul language. (As a teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I heard words repeated from home and it broke my heart every time…). 

Name-calling? No sir. And use manners. 

Take him to church every Sunday. 

Take a couple of angels off the tree every Christmas. 

Serve. 

Forgive when it’s hard. 

Give a meal to someone in need. 

Write thank-you cards. 

Open the door for others. 

Be a friend to the kid in the cafeteria who is sitting by himself. 

Cheer for Alabama. 

(Okay, that one is optional). 

(Except it’s really not). 

Apologize when we make mistakes (because we already have and certainly will). 

And so will Luke. 

And hopefully, prayerfully someday he will know that his mistake (his sin) was redeemed through Jesus and will choose to follow Him. 

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or even Evan McMullin will not be in our home, in our car, or wherever we are to instill those values. 

We will. 

(And certainly with God lighting the way. And many other loved ones by our side. IT TAKES A VILLAGE). 

Maybe for you, it was your grandparents, your aunt, your brother, or even your teacher. 

Unless you lived in the White House with your Daddy who happened to be Mr. President, I highly doubt it was him. 

Last week, we decided we were going to teach Luke, who is a year and half, to put his hands together during our prayer before dinner. We’ve always prayed, but I’ll admit, it’s usually while holding our fork. 

(Please tell me it wasn’t just us). 

So, starting last Monday we put our hands together and would tell our son, “Pray time, buddy! Hands together!” 

He looked at us like we were crazy at first, but already by Thursday, I peeked during our prayer and his little hands were together. 

(Eyes wide open, but baby steps.)

And I kicked my husband under the table to show him, and we both smiled. 

He is watching who matters. 

And he is learning.  


Donald Trump, Jr., You Are Needed For Detention

I know, y’all. 

I said I wasn’t going to write a political blog again. And I’m not. 

This is personal. 

For a little background, I’m sure the vast majority of you reading this know that while I’m a stay-at-home mama to my beautiful baby (ok, FINE. toddler…) boy, I used to be a teacher. 

A public school teacher. 

A proud public school teacher. 

I will spare you my thoughts  (again) on this mess (to put it nicely) of an election. However, the son and “advisor” of the Replibican nominee said the following during the spectacle that was the RNC. This is a direct quote:

“Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class, now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students. You know why other countries do better on K through 12? They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.”

Wait, what? Did that really come out of Donald Trump, Jr.’s mouth?

Sure enough, it did. (Full disclosure: A fellow educator that I’ve never met summed up her thoughts so well here, and she inspired me to do the same.)

Did you hear that teachers? Administrators?

While you buy extra school supplies for a room full of kids you haven’t even met yet, instead of buying a new book for your own child, it is for you and not the students. 

When you use your “whole summer off” to attend inservices about all of the newest acronyms and assessments the district or government is requiring you to do, it is for you and not the students

When you’re not at an inservice, but instead you’re analyzing every square inch of your classroom on a sunny, summer day to figure out how learning is going to be best achieved, it is for you and not the students. 

My home away from home for a long time


While dropping your class off for lunch and you have a student approach you in tears because she forgot her lunch, so you find some cash in your wallet or, if you don’t have any, you give her yours, it is for you and not the students. 

When you stay after school to help that one student finally figure out subtraction with regrouping, it is for you and not the students. 

When you take a pay cut to teach in your community rather than a few miles down the road for more money, it is for you and not the students. 

That’s right, you guys. It’s for your benefit. Just like that sales clerk in a Communist country that Junior mentioned. 

That’s the reason you leave at dark and get home at dark, why you cut coupons to make ends meet, why you sometimes cry on your drive home because the world’s expectations are on your shoulders, why you sometimes cry on your drive home because you just want to take some of “your kids” home with you and feed them, read to them, LOVE THEM because you know they don’t get quite enough. 
Right?

Of course not. 

You do it because despite all that I’ve mentioned, you somehow can’t imagine doing anything else but serving these children and their families. Even with the  high responsibility but low pay. Even with the high expectations but low recognition.

Mr. Trump, do you want to know the real reason other countries “do better?”

It’s because here in American public schools, we take them all. 

Learning disabilities? Welcome!

English language-learners? Welcome!

Low-income? Welcome!

Homeless? Welcome! 

Already have thirty kids in a small classroom but you’ve just moved here? Welcome! 

The students may not score better, but we, the teachers and administrators, DO better. 

Class dismissed. 

Write It Down, I’m Writing In

If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be writing a political post, I would’ve said there’s a greater chance of me breaking into a rousing rendition of “Rocky Top.”

Ain’t no telephone bills on Rocky Top, and ain’t no way am I singing that. 

(Just a few more months Vol friends, and we will all hear it approximately 8,245 times per game). 

But here I am writing one. And let me be clear, I am not expecting or trying to change any opinions or minds. So if you are aboard the Trump or Clinton train (which I have many dear family and friends who are), I’ll say this as nicely as I can, but please don’t take this as me begging to hear why I should vote for him/her. I’ve likely already read your thoughts or scrolled past your memes. Daily. 

I’m just writing this so it’s not a five-paragraph post on Facebook. Because ain’t nobody wanna scroll when reading a status. 

So. 

Let’s pretend to fast forward a few years. 

(I’m glad this is a metaphor, because TIME, SLOW DOWN). 

My precious son, Luke, is playing on the playground at school (if my husband was writing this, he’d add that he was pitching left-handed and striking kids out). He is constantly surrounded by two bullies. Other children see them, and many choose align with one. However, some don’t necessarily approve, but accept it because the other bully is worse in their eyes. They feel justified.  

Luke has two choices (again, just go with me here):

1. Choose one of the bullies to befriend. Throw insults toward the other group. It would be almost easier. 

2. Go against both crowds and join the group that refuses to participate in damaging others’ reputation or your own. 

You guys already know which one I hope he would choose. 

And I’ve already made my choice. 

Now, I know that’s an oversimplification of the election season. Yet, as I look at my snoozing boy on my chest right now, I have a responsibility to him so when he does encounter these situations, I can advise him without a guilty conscience as to who-and what-my vote endorsed. 

Because while my little ole vote may not make a bit of difference in the election, it does make an eternal one. 

Now, before you jump down me for that, of course we are not responsible for other people’s actions. However, this decision for all of us is not made in hindsight. Both of the leading candidates have stated what they would do. For just one example of each: One openly supports war crimes  (purposefully killing women and children), one openly supports abortions (purposefully killing babies). 

We can’t say we didn’t know. 

And I just don’t want that on my hands. 


Every night, in between my sweet husband drying him off from his bath and putting him in pajamas and him curling up in his crib as he dozes off, I rock Luke. Sometime I sing a lullaby, sometimes I just make the shushing sound, and sometimes I just rock with the white noise machine in the background. 

But every time I say a silent prayer for him and us as parents. 

I pray he comes to know Jesus as His personal Lord and Savior. 
I pray that his Daddy and me are always lights pointing to Him in our words and actions. 

Even in the voting booth when nobody else is watching but me. 

Never Trump. 

Never Clinton. 

Never Compromise. 

(For the record, I will go vote on Election Day because too many have fought for my right. Unless one has a radical change of heart, I’ll be writing someone in. The leading candidate right now is Chip Gaines. Or maybe Joanna.). 

It’ll Be Back Again Someday (Or in 13 Years)

Greetings from Nashville, Alaska!

Okay, maybe we didn’t get THAT much snow, but it may as well have been three feet. Because six inches in this area? SHUT ‘ER DOWN. 

There’s two viewpoints I notice people take:

(My extensive, scientific-based research is from my networking). 

(Some may call it Facebooking). 

1. This is amazing!

2. This is torture!

Now, I’m firmly in the first group. First, I am blessed with a warm home, abundance of food, a sweet husband, an adorable baby, and plenty more of life’s joys to really have nothing to complain about. 

Secondly, I’m a former (still feels weird to say) teacher. WE LIVE FOR SNOW DAYS. I don’t think that excitement will ever go away, no matter how long I’m away from the classroom.  

And so, today is the day the Great Thaw of 2016 begins. And while I do look forward to seeing civilization again (well, most of it…), I’m not going to lie. As ridiculous as it sounds, when this snow finally becomes water on the pavement and drops on the branches, it kind of feels like I’m saying goodbye to a wise friend

I know, I know. IT’S PRECIPITATION. 

But I do think this wintry friend taught us all a few lessons. The primary one being SLOW DOWN. 

Maybe it’s because we were well-stocked with groceries, or maybe it’s because we have the wonderful advantage of neither my husband or I having to drive on slick streets to work, but whatever the case may be, I loved being forced to stay in and do nothing but watch the snow fall. 

And more than that, with my two boys by my side. 

Not only at our screen door watching the South’s version of a blizzard, but by my side for dinner. 

And lunch.

And even breakfast. 

We’ve had no choice but to keep the car in the garage.

We’ve baked sweet treats, made pancakes, found some homemade goodies in the freezer for dinner (thanks, Mom!), built towers with Luke, watched him knock them down, rocked and read stories, fly “SuperBaby” down the hallway, built a snowman, made a snow angel, had tickle fights, cleaned a little bit, and of course a few crawl races with a squealing ten-month old. 

  
During Luke (and I)’s naptime, Brett even managed to wrap one of his grad classes. Notice I said during his nap. He could’ve taken a much-deserved nap himself. He could’ve easily said, “I need to work on homework,” but he didn’t. He chose us. He chose our family.

  
I could write a five-paragraph essay on how we all need to take a breath and stay home more often and INVEST IN OUR HOMES AND OUR FAMILIES. 

(Well, maybe a sermon). 

Don’t get me wrong. Of course it’s good to invest in others (I believe Jesus had some things to say about that), to travel, to get out and about. Errands have to be ran, jobs don’t get done on their own, and life has to go on. 

But I think we all can and should adjust the speed of how we live it

And this ole friend made us all do just that.

For all of those wanting warmer weather, it’ll be here soon (it’s Tennessee, so it’ll be this weekend). Maybe we can remember the lesson our friend tried to teach us when those temps creep back up. 

Gather around a picnic table. 

Make milkshakes instead of hot cocoa. 

Go swing instead of sled.  

Build a Lego skyscraper rather than a snowman. 

The roads don’t have to be ice for us to slow down. They’re just a slap in the face (especially if you try to walk on them) that we should. 

Thanks for the memories, Snowmaggedon ’16. 

You’ll melt away, but you won’t be gone. 

  

15 Realizations of 2015 (Spoiler Alert: Leggings Are Still Not Pants)

Ba bah ba ahhhh bah ba baaa buh aaahh gaaa ba bah ba.

MAMA!

Oh, sorry y’all.

Luke thought since he can eat read board books, he could also write a blog.

And you read that right. He has said MAMA! Multiple times, in fact.

Although, his train-of-thought is really this: “I’m fussy… getting fussier… why haven’t you picked me up yet… brink of meltdown…okay, I warned you… meeellltttt—“MAMA!!!!”—dooowwwwn!!!!

But IT TOTALLY COUNTS.

Mama: 1, Dada: 0

(And when he says it, I’m wiling to give him ALL OF THE THINGS.)

(But he really just wants my attention).

(Because me? I’m MAMA).

(Prideful? Naahhh….)

I do apologize to my handful of readers for no blog since October. Truth be told though, I didn’t think there’d be another in 2015. This little human keeps us, what’s the word?, BUSY. And you might suggest I could when he naps. However, Luke seems to think the crib is fine and dandy during the nighttime (which LET’S GIVE THE LORD ALL OF THE PRAISES), but remains a torture device during the day.

So the blog-writing, laundry-sorting, floor-sweeping, dust-wiping will have to wait. Because they’ll always be there, and he will always not.

Those sound like some LOFTY 2016 resolutions, though.

Usually, at this time of the year, I write about things that should stay in the year we’re about to leave. And I really could probably do that again, but spoiler alert: Leggings are still not pants, Elf-On-The-Shelf still needs to be packed away forever, and Florida-Georgia Line still makes terrible music.

So this year, in honor of 2015, here’s 15 realizations from this life-changing year (in no real particular order):

1.  I’m so that mom. I take pictures of Luke everyday, and I post one (or two…) just about daily. And I could be sorry, but I’m not. I’d much rather look at a cute baby than read why Trump/Obama/Fill-in-the-blank is the devil.

2. Two things you don’t think you’ll ever say in the grocery store until you have a baby? “Do we need Boogie Wipes? Let’s pick up some gas drops while we’re here too.”

3. Daytime television REALLY needs to step up its game. Although, a Fixer Upper marathon still reels me in every single time.

4. I’m pretty sure when Luke is old enough, he’s going to want to send a Christmas card to Uncle Chip and Aunt Jo and wonder why we won’t visit them in their farmhouse or the silos.

5. God’s love has been reframed for me in a whole new way with Luke. Brett mentioned this in our LifeGroup, and it stuck with me. We were talking about the difference between God’s love and human love. I love y’all, but would I give up Luke for you? To save you? To redeem you? I’ll be honest, I don’t think so. But He did. So the verse I’ve heard since LifeGroups were known as Sunday School, John 3:16, has come alive in a whole new way.

6. I’ve tutored some sweet kiddos a little bit, and to my burned-out teaching friends? If  I could give you anything, it’d be an extra hour (are you laughing your head off? EXTRA HOUR? HA!), so you could find that joy of teaching without any tests, evaluations, and a whole bunch of “stuff” in the way. It makes you wonder how education has turned into what it is. (But trust me, your work is important and if nobody’s told you lately, you’re doing a great job).

7.God provides. We knew He would, and He has. From paying for a brand new car unexpectedly without a loan to Brett winning a full-tuition scholarship for his MBA out of thousands, well, it’s humbling. And reaffirms everything, especially… He is faithful (and He was when things weren’t so solid, too. He’s always there planning paths far better than our own).

8. Diaper pails work until a certain point. Without going into too much gross detail, basically that point is when solid foods are introduced. Then, just trust me: Bag it, tie it, toss it. Outside.

9. Baby shoes are adorable but pointless. That is a battle not worth fighting, my friends.

10. It’s important to take time to be silly even (especially) you’re sleep-deprived or stressed. The other day, I could barely keep my eyes open and Brett and I just started singing Adele’s “Someone Like You” as loud as we could to each other. He was in the kitchen, and I was in the living room laughing my head off. Mood lifted. (Try it, “NEVERMIND I’LL FIND SOMEONE LIKE YOUUUUUUUU….” Don’t you feel better?)

11. I don’t know if having Luke has made me hyper-aware and I didn’t notice before, but twice in the past couple of months I have seen children left in the backseat without anyone else while their parent is shopping or in a restaurant. Oh. You better believe I call or alert authorities when I do (and if it ever happens when it’s burning up outside, I’ll find someone to help me bust a window). I can’t imagine purposefully doing that to Luke or any child. Kills me.

12. People are very gullible. All these political blogs (conservative or liberal) that say an outrageous headline and get reposted a million times make me want to throw my laptop out the window.  There should be a quiz at the voting booth before one votes to see if you’re smart enough to tell the difference between actual reporting and clickbait.

13. We have recently caught on to the wonder of sleep-sacks. Not sure what their magic is, but these seven-hour-stretches-of-sleep don’t have me complaining.

14. I totally get the, “I’d rather be sick than you” line now. Nothing worse than feeling helpless, and so far it’s only been a sinus infection that’s had him down.

15. And on that note, I’m so thankful for so much this year. God gave us the desires of our hearts in abundance in 2015. A healthy, active, funny, curly-haired, blue-eyed baby boy that we are smitten with more every single day, family that’s been an amazing support system, friends who have showered us with gifts and love, and His grace for when we don’t appreciate our blessings enough.

2015, thanks for all you gave our sweet family.

Especially for those four bags of epidural during a long stretch of hours in March.

Amen.

Happy 2016!