KELLY

33 years ago today my world got a little bit better.  I had to endure the first 16 days of my life without my cousin, Kelly.

But then she was born.

Our moms are sisters and so we were destined to be together in family.  It just so happens that we are also the most amazing kind of friends. We grew up 500 miles apart, but the good thing about long distance relationships is that when we got together we made it count.  We spent countless hours in the woods together, on the beach making sand castles, and walking up and down the sidewalks of our small town in Indiana.  We jumped waves, had screaming contests, played dress-up, and she and I were in charge of passing out the gifts at Christmastime.  Most of our memories were made in the basement of our grandparents’ home, where we made blanket forts, ‘haunted’ houses, wrote poems, had sleepovers, and shared all of our holiday meals.

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And when we weren’t together we were writing each other actual letters to be sent through the actual mail.  I received my latest letter from her 16 days ago, on my birthday.  Because that’s how awesome she still is.

Kelly is one of the most beautiful people I know.  First of all, she is ridiculously beautiful on the outside.  I probably wouldn’t like her if I didn’t know her..she’s just that pretty.  But her outer beauty is exponentially amplified because she is so incredibly beautiful on the inside as well.  She loves people with an intentional love (you should only know the thought and care she puts into every single gift she gives and card she writes).  Her generosity is evident in the way she spends her time, energy and resources (she and her husband have recently started the most amazing ministry where they provide free housing to people who are displaced due to medical trauma…she also once gave her favorite Bible to a homeless man who had none of his own).  She is wise beyond her years, compassionate beyond belief, and her gentle yet bubbly spirit is contagious to everyone she meets (if you know her, you understand this….if you don’t, I wish you could!!).

We have been dreaming together since we were children.  For most of our life we lived far apart, but for 2 glorious years we were roommates in college.  It was one of the many things we had planned to do together when we were young.  To room together in college and be in each other’s weddings and be pregnant together.  We also planned to be pediatricians and run a practice together.  I guess 3 out of 4 isn’t bad.

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Now that we have small children, it’s hard to have all the conversations that we want to have.  We crave time together.  We still gather for holiday meals in our grandparents’ basement and enjoy the ocean together, only now it’s our own children who are playing together and experiencing the moments that childhood are made of.  I love that we’re still making memories.  I love that we get to watch our kids play, and pass out the Christmas gifts, and jump the waves.  I love that no matter what stage of life, I can call and she will listen.  I love that her heart breaks with my sorrow, rejoices in my happiness, and believes in my doubt.

What a beacon of light Kelly is.  During those college years I was stumbling around in my faith and she was such an anchor for me.  If it weren’t for her, who knows where I would have ended up.  I am so grateful to God for her.  Kelly, thank you for loving like you do, for bringing an immeasurable joy to us all, for your peaceful nature, your gentle spirit, your kindhearted thoughtfulness, your faithfulness to our Savior, and your never-ending fountain of encouragement.  I love you so very much.

I think Grandmother said it best, in her poem entitled ‘Kelly’:

I see you now above the binding cords of earth,

Climbing, soaring upward on wings of joyful mirth;

Chasing the winds of success with triumphant, easy grace,

Gliding high on faith in God through the sanctity of peace.

The little girl that warmed our hearts with laughter and with fun,

Now brings more joy and pleasure than the day that she was born;

Still tender, full of wonder, unspoiled by the passing of time,

A sacred, daily reminder of God’s pure and perfect design.

-Frances Pierce

I hope you have had the most wonderful birthday imaginable!!!

‘I thank my God every time I remember you.’ Phil. 1:3

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MAGICAL

40 days ago, Michael told our kids that we were going to Legoland and Disney World:

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He read the boys a letter of appreciation for their sacrifice while he was in seminary.  And to honor that, we wanted to do something really special.  They were beyond excited.

So after a rigorous count down (like every 5 minutes for the past month, we counted the days, minutes, seconds), we embarked on our journey at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday night.  And I must have planned the trip when I was still in my twenties, because when I saw the arrival time on the GPS:

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I thought, ‘what in the world was I thinking?? We can’t drive all night, spend all day tomorrow with our friends, then wake up, go to Legoland from open to close (to get our money’s worth), check in our hotel, go on a timeshare tour at 7:30 the next morning, then do every single thing the resort has to offer (to get our money’s worth), then wake up and be in the Magic Kingdom from open ’til close (to get our money’s worth), then wake up, collect ourselves, and drive all the way home…’

I must be crazy.

But the adrenaline kept me going.  I was excited.  Too excited to sleep.

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I put on Josiah’s batman headphones and rocked out while everyone else slept and I took the 1:30-4:30 a.m. driving shift. We arrived at our destination at 4:30 a.m. and realized that no one else in Florida was awake.  So we pulled over in a CVS parking lot and slept for an hour.  Except Josiah.  He stayed awake during that final hour.  When he saw a palm tree at 4:40 a.m., there was no convincing him to go back to sleep.  His vacation had begun…

So, with the help of Yelp, I found a little breakfast place and called them.  They opened at 6:00.  Perfect.  We pulled in and with an extremely cheerful waiter, we had a fabulous breakfast.  Of course, Zachary spilled his chocolate milk (even after a warning about the shoddy lid from our waiter) all over the table.  And we had to brush our teeth in the parking lot.

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But when I walked out of the restaurant, reenergized from good coffee and an excellent eggs benedict, this is what I saw.

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That’s just not a bad way to start the day.  We live in the woods, and I rarely get to see the sun rise or set.  There is such comfort in that daily occurrence.  I stopped and praised Him for His beautiful handiwork.

‘From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.’

I really hesitated planning a ‘theme park’ vacation because I was afraid the kids would be too enamored  by man-made cement, brick and mortar, plastic, steel concoctions and forget to appreciate God’s great handiwork.  As if a theme park or fancy hotel could cover it up…  We saw God’s creations the entire trip.

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Whoops, how’d that last one get in there?  Oh,that’s right…because God made coffee.  And that’s just true.

And there was also this:

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This is just a few of the 500 little creatures with whom we shared our hotel room.  And before I killed them with my flip flop (sorry, but I did. They were trying to get my honey and peanut butter) I snapped this photo.  Even though they are pests, it is really something to see how hard they work.  They made a perfect line all the way from the entrance of the condo to the kitchen, neatly lining the edge of the floor. I admire their tenacity and work ethic.  Then they died. The end.

Our first day was with my best friend since 2nd grade, Erin.  We have been friends for 25 years, and because of distance and life demands, we have only been able to see each other twice in the past 10 years.  We are both moms now and we have the added obstacle of a 3 hour time difference which makes it extremely difficult to chat on the phone.  If she can talk, I’m doing dinner, if I can talk she’s trying to get kids out the door.  But there is an understanding and a deep friendship love that we share, which makes seeing each other just….easy.  We can pick up right where we left off, and it’s hard to explain what a comfort the familiarity of her voice is to me.  We, amazingly, (thanks to our very understanding husbands) were able to talk without interruption for almost 2 solid hours in the ocean.  Our hands and feet were pruny.  Our hearts were full.

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And then we just relaxed and watched our five children run around and play together like they’ve grown up together since birth.


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Because in a sense they have.  They already know each other because Erin helped shape me, and I her.  We experienced childhood together.  Elementary. Jr. High. High school. Youth group. Camp. Family strife.  Brothers. Prom. Driving. Boyfriends. Mistakes. Graduation.  Life.  She’s one of my dearest and I’ll treasure that day so close to my heart until we can see each other again…hopefully sooner than later.

That evening Erin and Billy treated us to dinner and we shared a wonderful meal and great laughter together. Love them.

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Have you ever seen a child look more like her mother???

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We got back to their condo and piled the kids up on the floor and fell fast to sleep.  My cup truly running over.

The next day was Legoland.

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(You should read Nolan’s face as extremely excited….but that’s his new ‘cool’ pose).

It was super, duper hot.  We were sweating within 30 seconds of getting out of the car.

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See the glisten in that photo? Yeah, that’s sweat. The humidity was 1,000,000%.

So imagine my anticipation of the water park, which I scheduled right after lunch (and paid extra for). You know, during the hottest part of the day?  Well, let me give you a little tip for when you visit FL.  God likes to throw the smack-down between 1-4 p.m. every single day in and around Orlando.  The water park closed.  The driving school closed.  The boat ride closed.  And Zachary, Josiah and I were stuck under a shelter waiting for the storm to pass, while Michael and Nolan were in another location doing the same.

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Here we are being thunderstruck.

Finally we stumbled upon the build-a-car-and-race-it-down-the-track activity that was inside and out of the storm/humidity/heat.  Zachary had long since removed his shirt (because we were supposed to head to the waterpark), and they made us dress him.

‘Why?’ Michael asked.

‘Um, we just like for everyone to be dressed.’

‘Oh.’

This was also the time that we discovered 2 huge blisters on Zachary’s poor feet from his new flip flops.  Thankfully, I had read about the dangers of flip flops and packed tennis shoes.  So we switched them, and the kids went to work.

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See the cute guy in the green shirt?  He outwardly loved this activity so much.  Cars/engineering?  Are you kidding me? He was in his element.  At one point he came over to me and said, ‘Some bratty kid keeps stealing my wheels.’  He was really really into it.

After spending a really really really loooooooooong time trying to help the kids choose a lego set that was within their budget, we came upon a 12 minute 4-D Lego movie that wrapped up our final 15 minutes at the park.  It was perfect. It almost redeemed the not-getting-to-do-the-water park fiasco.

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(Note: Nolan’s ‘cool’ face)

After we left Legoland, we went to 1. Get coffee and 2. Check into our hotel.  Ok, here is one thing.  It is hard to drink coffee at a theme park.  It’s hard to find it.  It’s hard to drink it. (They’re pretty serious about not letting them on the rides.) And it’s hard to enjoy it slowly over conversation, the way coffee should be experienced. So we were feeling pretty pitiful by 7:30 p.m., when we finally got our lattes.

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Next was check-in.  Now, keep in mind that we had lost a night of sleep, spent from 7a-11p enjoying Erin’s family, and a full full day of Legomania at this point.  So by 8 p.m. that evening, we were so ready to put our kids to bed so we could have 1 minute to talk to each other settle in and relax in our hotel room.

Check-in took 2 hours.  From 8p-10p.  Our kids are 7, 5, and 4 years old.  You know how that went.  So we got to bed at close to 11 that night, and then had to be at our timeshare tour by 7:30 a.m.  They had a ‘complimentary’ breakfast and a 90 minute (read: 4 HOUR) presentation.  We brought all of our children and refused to put them in the convenient child-care area.  Hey, 2 can play at this game.  Our poor sales lady offered our kids crayons and coloring sheets ‘so we could talk.’  Ha.  By the end our kids were playing ninja tag between all of the sales reps.  (Coloring sheets neatly stacked and untouched.)  Here’s how we ended the conversation.

‘Look, it took my husband 8 months to pick out my engagement ring after he had decided to propose to me.  So, if you think you can convince him to commit to you for the rest of his life, you’re insane.’

Michael nodded and we gave them a blank stare until the harassment sales pitch ended.  I will say that we walked away actually considering it.  But no way in the world would we buy something like that on the spot. No. Way.

The rest of that day we spent enjoying the resort.  The facilities were really nice.  It was packed, but really beautiful.

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Not too bad for the city in Florida which is the furthest from the ocean.

That evening, our kids were cranky.  It had been a lot of days with a little sleep.  And by dinner time, they were starting to show signs of overindulgence.  We had a serious talk with them about gratitude and decided to postpone the arcade, which we had promised they could do after dinner.  Instead, they went straight to bed.  As a mom in a country with so much, I vacillate between wanting my kids to experience all the fun things and teaching them an accurate perspective of the world.  Most kids just don’t live like we do.  It is never lost on me that 25,000 people die of starvation every single day, while I enjoy eggs benedict, gourmet coffee, and mouthwatering brick-oven pizza.  And I don’t have this figured out.  I love vacation.  And I love the little children of the world.  We sponsor our daughter, Reina, from Bolivia through World Vision.  Her picture is in our home and we pray for her often.  But sending a check and saying a prayer just doesn’t seem like much, when we live the way we do.  I want my kids to understand. And I see the importance of family vacation.  And I don’t have this figured out.  I just don’t.

Anyway…

The next day was the Magic Kingdom.  And in a wave of sheer brilliance and intense fear, I made these shirts the day we left.  2/3 of our kids are flight risks, and I was completely sure that they would wander away and get lost.

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They didn’t.

I had planned to be there from the secret 8 a.m. opening until the 11 p.m. Electric Lights Parade.  We had one day, people.  And I was going to squeeze every single possible magical moment from it.  We were prepared.  We had a plan.  We had water, snacks, lunch, energy, and anticipation in our backpacks.  And a few surprises up our sleeves.

By 8:05 a.m., we were running into trouble. Zachary kept complaining about his feet hurting, and I felt so bad about his blisters.  But he had tennis shoes on.  He just kept saying ‘it’s too tight!’  Upon examination, we discovered that we had put his shoes on with an extra pair of socks in the toes.

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We rode the uncrowded (no really, it wasn’t bad) ferry over to the entrance.  We entered the park and then something called ‘Disney’ came over us that allowed us to execute our plan with seamless precision for the next 16 hours. It. Was. MAGICAL.  I can’t explain it.  There were down pours.  We happened to be sheltered. There were tons of people. We didn’t feel crowded. It was hot. We were cool (thanks to our clever mister bottles).  I planned, Michael navigated. Our kids walked that entire park.  By hour 10, they began to take turns in the stroller.  And we took turns carrying them. Which wasn’t hard.  I don’t know why.  I carried Josiah 10 steps to our front door when we got home and thought I was going to die he was so heavy. If a ride was down, we stopped to enjoy fireworks.  If a line was too long, we enjoyed overpriced lollipops.  Our day was so efficient and enjoyable, we were able to ride Splash Mountain twice.  And I think we would all agree that Splash Mountain is, hands down, the best ride in the Magic Kingdom.  There were no catastrophes, no disappointments, no complaining, and in 16 hours, only one argument. No kidding.

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The castmembers (Disney employees) kept telling us to have a magical day.   We did.  But it wasn’t magical because we were at the Magic Kingdom.  It was magical because it was intentional together time.  It could have happened anywhere.   At a campfire.  At the park. Around the dinner table. At a church picnic.  This just had the added flare of Splash Mountain.

When Michael and I got the kids loaded in the van at midnight, gave each other ‘ring pound’ (when we fist pump our wedding rings together after accomplishing something only the 2 of us could accomplish), and smiled, we claimed a parenting victory.

One thing is for sure.  Our family’s future includes more intentional together time.  Whether that is on a bike ride at the local park, serving together at church, or another theme park trip.  The destination isn’t so much the point as the value of being together.  Thanks Walt Disney, for taking a risk and understanding the value of family time.  The Coats family sincerely appreciates your dream realized.

BOYS

My dad always said girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and that boys were made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

He was right.

Boys love gross things.  Last night, Zachary tooted, laughed and said, “my fart is refreshing.”

There is a smell coming from Nolan’s bookbag that I cannot identify.  I am scared to go in there and search.  I just keep reaching in for his bright yellow folder, which I can get without touching anything else.  Then I slip it back in…..and hope.  5 more school days…then it goes in the trash.

On our way to school the other day, Josiah picked up a slug and moved it (so it wouldn’t be stepped on) and wiped the slime on his shirt.  He had already changed once because of the  smeared syrup on the first set of clothes.  I took him to school with slug slime on his shirt.  It’s clear, though.  The slime.  Slug slime is clear.  I have that stored in my brain as an actual piece of useful information.

Today, when Zachary picked up a frog, he showed me the best way to hold it so as not to get peed on, and then he kissed it right on the mouth.

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I am learning so much.

But a lot I already knew.  The Lord prepared me for this phase of my life by giving me brothers.  And my mom’s best friends growing up had mostly boys.  In school I had more friends that were boys than girls.

Because of those boys, I crossed bridges I would never have crossed (I mean that literally.  There is a bridge at Grandfather Mtn. I would never have attempted without my dad and brothers.)  I have made leaps I would never have leapt (I went cliff jumping with Michael when we were teenagers).  Because of those boys, I have played slip-n-slide in the mud. Because of those boys, I have laughed my whole life.  Because of those boys, I can mother my boys.

But I’m so prissy.  I like to be clean.   I don’t like sticky things, dirty things, or playing sports.  I don’t like action movies or violence or scary things or unrestrained adventure. (I finally just finished reading ‘The Hobbit’ to my boys, and I hated it.  Sorry.  I know that bothers people, but it wasn’t for me.  Endless peril and no love interest.  It was awful.)

When I found out I was having a boy with Nolan, the thought entered my mind ‘you may never  have a girl’.  I brushed it aside and thought nothing more about it.  In fact, I laughed.  ‘Very funny, God. I already have no sister, so no way would You not give me a daughter.’

When I found out Zachary was a boy, I wasn’t surprised.   I grieved briefly over the realization that I would never attend ‘salon day’ at the American Girl doll store, and then I breathed a sigh of relief.

Really, I love boys.  My husband is a boy and he is the best person I know.  Boys are hilarious, unpretentious, practical, and don’t need very many shoes.  Almost every problem they present can be remedied with food.  Last week Josiah couldn’t find a particular lego so I gave him a buttermilk biscuit.  I didn’t hear another word about the lego.  Problem. Solved.

Don’t hear me wrong.  I am not a fan of current pop culture which capitalizes on reducing the complex male counterpart of our species to simpletons, the way women have always been.  Now, in sitcoms, women are smart and men are stupid.  Women solve everything, while men sit on the sidelines looking perplexed.  The shift towards gender equality in this country is warranted.  But the pendulum has shifted so far that it seems ‘girl power’ trumps all.  There are many heroines, and few heroes.  More women are entering college now than men. I appreciate the advancements, I really do. I enjoy the liberties afforded by those attainments.

But I am trying to raise courageous, courteous, generous, responsible, respectable, honorable, noble men, who will love honor and respect their wives and choose Christ no matter what the world throws at them.  We are constantly searching for opportunities where our boys can be mentored by men of that caliber. They have an amazing father who fits that description.  And we are grateful for coaches, camp counselors, and church leaders who take their mentoring roles seriously.

So today, I am raising my glass (well my coffee mug) to ‘boy power’.  Here’s to ‘snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails.’  Here’s to roughhousing, and action, and high-risk adventure. Here’s to monster trucks, turbo engines, and racing.  Here’s to football, wrestling, and UFC.  Here’s to fighting and farting, boogers and BMX.  Here’s to running, jumping, climbing, and eating.  Here’s to nobility, honor, courage, fortitude and bravery.  Here’s to the stuff men are made of.

And here’s to Tom, Jonathan, Jeremy, Michael, Nolan, Josiah, and Zachary who have helped me become the woman I am.

Let’s hear it for the boys!

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SUPERPOWERS

The other day I stood looking out of my kitchen window staring at my mother’s house (which is right next door) and thought to myself,

‘How did she survive this?’

Motherhood.

It is so hard some days I think I’m going to lay down and die because my mind and body shouldn’t be able to withstand the brutality.  When the boys used to take naps, I would crawl up the stairs at 1pm, daily, and collapse at the top of the stairs.  Now they are awake for 12.5 straight hours.  And they are energetic for 12.5 hours.  And hungry for at least 10 of those hours.  And with their 2.5 hours they are not eating, they are breaking things, getting dirty, or jumping.

My mother has always been able to work circles around me, but I thought it was because she was a mom.  I assumed that when women pushed out a baby, that they simultaneously gained supernatural powers that allowed them to accomplish mountains of work and never tire.

I assumed that when I pushed out my babies, that my moodiness, sleepiness, and selfishness would disappear.  My mother has never been moody or sleepy or selfish.  She accomplishes mountains of work, and on very little sleep.

When we were young, she used to rest at stoplights.  I am not kidding.  And she would be extremely happy if we pulled up to a train.  She would jerk the gear shift into park, lean her seat back, and say ‘wake me up when it passes.’  A few weeks ago when we got home at 11 p.m., she cooked food for a children’s fundraiser event while the rest of us snoozed.  This is how a typical phone call with my mother goes.

‘What time will you be home, mom?’

‘Well, I just have to feed the homeless, meet with someone for prayer, list 6 houses, visit a friend in the hospital, and mediate for world peace.  I should be home no later than 5:00’ (I generally add 35-40 minutes to her ETA.  Listing houses can be time-consuming.)

‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’  James 1:27

She is fiercely selfless.  The other day I went in her room to get something, and noticed that she had post-it notes pasted all over her dresser.  At second glance, I realized they were prayer requests.  They were directly across from her pillow.  From the moment her eyes open, she is thinking about others above herself.

‘praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,’ Ephesians 6:18

My mother is not moody.  She presents the perpetual sunny side of every obstacle.  She illumines the silver-lining.  She cheers from the side, ‘our grass is already greener!!’  She is ever the cheerleader, motivator, encourager, the beaming smile in a crowd.  She is joy and she is light.

‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’  Matthew 5:16

She never tires of doing what is right.  She is a visionary and a steadfast worker for the harvest.  She never looses hope, and believes and perseveres in all things.  Even when there’s darkness.  Even when others lose hope.  Even when others fall away.  She never tires.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:1-3

I have seen my mother persevere.  She had 3 wayward children.  She trusted the Lord for their redemption and never gave up.  She now has 3 children serving God in different ministries.

I don’t know when my mother got her superpowers.  But she has them.  And I’m not sure why I don’t have mine yet.  But just being in her company gives me energy and hope and patience and gentleness and faithfulness to mother my children.  She embodies love, joy, and peace.

I count her as blessed.

‘Her children arise and call her blessed…’ Proverbs 31:28

Thank you, Mommy, for using your superpowers for good.  For being Jesus with skin on. I love you and am eternally grateful for who God called you to be, and your willingness to walk so beautifully in your calling.

Happy Mother’s Day

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STAYCATION

Over Spring Break, the kids were home with me all week.  Actually 10 days.  That’s a long time.  I still had to work, a lot, but they were home.  Michael was working and had projects to complete.  So I thought of a few things to do throughout the week….to reduce the amount of violence that would be sure to ensue being that it was a cold and rainy week in March.

Here are a few premises about the week.  Our budget is tight, and got tighter recently due to a car repair and some unexpected expenses.  So the goal was to make the week fun for not a lot of money.  Kind of my goal as a mother in general.

So here is an account of those days.

Day 1: Thursday: Mom and I picked up the kids from school and took them shopping for their Easter outfits.  I have 3 boys.  They care nothing about shopping.  I never go shopping with all of them.  Never.  I have never been a mom that strolled around the mall with that giant stroller/carseat system.  I tried one time.  I got so frustrated with folding that ridiculously large monstrosity of a transportation system down to fit in my tiny car, that I forced it closed (I know, Michael, never force it…) and it broke.  I immediately replaced it with a $10 umbrella stroller that I used for the rest of my stroller years, which are now behind me.  Which brings me to why I never take them clothes shopping.  They roam freely.  And that is dangerous in stores where they expect you to look and not touch…  But nevertheless, we took them shopping.  And it was relatively painless.  We found cute outfits quickly, and they actually were excited about being there to help pick them out.  At dinner, Zachary left his gum on the seat and it stuck to my mom’s pants, which she spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dislodge from the fabric.

Day 2:  This was Good Friday.  I felt it necessary to observe a 3 hour technology fast from 12-3.  We read about the crucifixion, and talked about what it meant for Jesus to take on our sin.   The weather was actually nice this day, and we spent the afternoon outside after dying Easter eggs with my mom.  I took the boys down to the creek, and they explored and climbed, and enjoyed nature.

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Day 3: This was the Saturday before Easter.  My cousins came for a family dinner and we put on an Easter egg hunt for the kids, made ‘resurrection rolls’, and ate and enjoyed one another’s company.  We are a family that is good at drinking coffee and having deep, meaningful conversation, but not so good with scheduling activities like Easter egg hunts….  This is how it went.  My mom stuffed all of the eggs for the 8 children in different colored eggs. (This is the thing to do now, you know..so everyone has an equal amount.  We’re breeding socialists folks…)  Anyway, she couldn’t remember what color was whose.

“Let me think,” (while kids are anxiously standing with baskets ready to go),

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“Haven has purple and orange eggs, and Ava has pink, Josiah has..blue, no yellow…..” and so on she went through all the kids.   Then Jason (holding up an egg), “Seriously, y’all, is this pink or purple?”

“Pink” one of us yelled at the same time another person yelled “Purple”.

Dinner was fantastic.  It always is.  My mom and aunt are exceptionally wonderful meal makers.

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My vegetarian cousin Kim stood over my cousin Jason as he attempted to slice the ham, but kept getting distracted.  She stood over him with a look of disgust because we were about to enjoy an innocent creature who died for our dinner (kind of the theme of Easter Kim!!).

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Then, at the end of the day, at bedtime, after the kids had had sugar from candy, bunny cake, and resurrection rolls, we attempted to get a picture with all of the kids and Granddaddy.  (It was as difficult as it looks.)

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Day 4: The kids woke up to their Easter baskets, and the treasures therein kept them entertained in the afternoon following church.

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Day 5: This day I took the kids to the dollar movies with a friend, then to the park with ice cream from McDonald’s. My kids have only been in a theater a few times and this was a real treat.  Nolan laughed incredibly loud (similar to how loud my brother Jonathan laughed when he saw The Great Outdoors for the first time in the theatre, and how loud he still laughs when he watches The Office).  

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Day 6: This day I was sick and declared a ‘stay at home day’.  We had movie time and toy organization time.

Day 7: This was redemption day.  I had tons of unused gift cards/coupons that were about to expire.  We went to the bowling alley (free coupon), Barnes and Noble (gift card) and McDonald’s play land (gift card).  I also declared it teamwork day, and made them work together and encourage each other every opportunity they had.  They played along and we had a really good day.

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Day 8: I had to teach all day on this day, and the boys spent this day with Michael.  I am not sure what they did.  Boy stuff.  Important stuff.  They probably worked out, fixed things, and drank smoothies, and talked about how awesome it is to be a boy.  Zachary told me  recently that “boys are way, way, way, way awesome, but girls are just way awesome.  Only 1 way.”

Day 9: This day we went to an indoor water park.  It was was the grand finale.  We met our friends and the kids had a great time.  So did everyone else in Charlotte.  The entire city was there.

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That night, Michael and I went on a date.

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We were exhausted.  We got our pager and took a seat to wait.  We were grateful for a relaxed evening.  Almost as soon as we sat down, we both leaned our heads back against the wall and sat quietly, finding comfort in just being near one another.  A beebopping 21-year-old girl walked by, stopped, and said,

“How long have y’all been waiting???”

“Forever” was my reply.  We have waited forever for a quiet moment.  But it had only been 4 minutes. (Of course Michael was keeping time.)  We laughed a long time at how pitiful and old and we must have looked, and that we were terrible at hiding our exhaustion.  We talked and laughed for hours that night.  We really treasure those moments together, fleeting as they are.

I have to admit I was dreading that week.  But we made the most of it and got to spend some great quality time together.  And now I am really looking forward to a summer of relaxed schedules and more time to get to know my family.

They are changing everyday.

PERSPECTIVE

Last night Zachary had a fever. I knew it was Zachary before he got to my room.  I could tell by his movements, the pace, the number of steps it took him to reach my room.  In his faintest sigh, I knew it was him.  I know my children.  When he got to my room he proceeded to tell me that he had had a bad dream. It had something to do with Tom chasing Jerry and a Lego ninjago.  But he was also as flushed as he could be.  He undoubtedly had spiked a high fever sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. So I gave him some ibuprofen, stripped him down to his underwear, and he fell back to sleep comfortably in my bed.

This morning the fever returned, so I called the doctor.  I was worried because Josiah had had scarlet fever about 2 months ago, and I was concerned that Zacahry could have strep.  Which can lead to scarlet fever, which, untreated, can lead to rheumatic fever, which can be fatal.  And you know how I go straight to worst case scenario.

The doctor worked him in.  When I arrived to the doctor the desk clerk began to go through his chart.

“Looks like we need you to update his chart.  It’s been a while since he’s been in.”

“Ok.” I replied.  Trying to fill out the sheet while holding my almost 4-year-old baby whose fever had begun to spike again.

“When did Zachary come in last?”

“Oh, probably last year for his checkup.”

“Mmmm…..no.  I don’t see any record of that.”

Ok, I thought.

“It doesn’t look like he’s been here since his 18 month checkup.”

“That’s not right, we’re here all the time.” I said, sure she was wrong.

“Well…”she said, eyebrows all the way up into her hairline shaking her head…(she might as well had had her right index finger on top of her left making a sweeping motion at me) “It looks like he’s really overdue for his shots and everything.”

I was dumb-founded.  I cannot believe (still having a hard time wrapping my mind around this) that I have forgotten to bring my son for his checkups.  I remember when we brought Nolan for his last checkup the doctor said, “It is really unnecessary for you to keep bringing him for his yearly checkups.  Unless he needs one for sports, or you are concerned, he won’t need a physical until age 10.”  At Josiah’s last physical my boys caused such an outpouring of pity from the staff (Josiah didn’t cry when he got his shots, but when the doctor attempted to remove his wart, he wasn’t prepared and was horrified.  After the doctor left, they all broke into tears.  Josiah for the experience and Nolan and Zachary because Josiah was upset.)  It was so pitiful 2 nurses escorted the 3 boys back to the ‘prize vault’ reserved for only very serious calamities.  They let each child pick out 2 toys.

Stitches, ear infections, coughs, fevers, rashes….  Surely one of these many memories of this office in my head is from a checkup for Zachary?!?  I immediately walked back up to the front desk and said, “Can you check your other office?  Maybe the records are there?”

“No,” she said, “I’ve already checked there.”

Now, on the way back to the examination room, I diagnosed him with all of the terrible diseases that immunizations prevent.  I was 100% sure he had measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, and chicken pox.  Upon entering the room, I promptly broke into tears.  I immediately called Michael.

“Guess what WE’VE done?????  We haven’t taken Zachary for a checkup in 2.5 years!!” I said sobbing.

You have to understand that me trying to pin this on Michael would be like him pinning dirty oil in my car on me.  I don’t worry about the oil in the cars, he does.  He doesn’t make doctors’ appointments.  I do.   He doesn’t think about it, because I do.

I guess I forgot.

Now, if I had had a few more minutes, I would have called every employer and committee to which I have a responsibility and quit immediately.  Clearly, I cannot manage everything so I will quit everything and just try to meet my children’s basic needs, for crying out loud.  Like getting their immunizations.  I mean….I am a social worker! I have explained the importance of immunizations to parents of neglected children and students of child development.  I know kids need their shots!

But I didn’t have enough time.  To call and quit everything that is.  Michael had just enough time to firmly say, “You are a good mom, Christi Anna,” when the doctor walked in.

So there I was holding my almost asleep almost 4-year-old baby, crying and feeling awful when the doctor walked in.

And I have a black eye.

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Last week, I leaned down to tell Zachary something, and out of nowhere, Josiah ran through and jumped up.  The back of his hard head hit the front of mine.  He didn’t feel it.  I cried.  And I think I may have had a concussion.  Michael thinks that’s a bit of a stretch…but it hurt.  Anyway, I have a horrible black/purple/green bruise that the best makeup cannot cover.

That’s the picture.  Me with a black eye, crying, holding my feverish little boy who hasn’t been for a checkup in …..awhile.

“Honey, are you ok?” she asked, looking genuinely concerned.

“Yes, I’m fine.  I just didn’t realize we were behind on his shots and physicals.  I feel like I am here all the time.  I have 3 boys.  We are always in here.”

“Well, lets take a look…..oh, see you are only 2 shots behind.  That is not a big deal, honey.  Not a big deal at all.”

“Um hum” I mustered, wanting to hug her, but thinking it was probably a little inappropriate.

After the very gracious doctor examined him, and cultured him, and took a blood sample, it turns out Zachary has something viral, nothing to be alarmed about.  He needs fluids and rest.

He was so adorable when he got home.  Whenever the kids are sick I put a TV tray by the couch, and let them drink their fluids in the living room.  They love the special treatment.  Sometimes they ask for that when they scrape their knee.

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“Mom, I fell down, can you fix up the little table and give me some Gatorade while I watch TV?”

Anyway…it took me a considerable amount of time after the doctor’s visit to gain a little perspective on this.  I mean, I was feeling like quite a failure.  I called Michael, my mother, and 2 friends who all reassured me that Zachary was fine and that he was certainly not a neglected child.  I needed to hear that from all four of them.  One of my friends even told me she was sure that her son got all of his shots 2 weeks before kindergarten.  I love her.

Yes, in the scheme of things, this wasn’t a huge deal.  He is strong and healthy and smart and immunized, or will be, as of Monday.

He has an appointment scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

BROTHERS

Growing up should take longer than it does.  I needed more than 18 years to appreciate what I have in my brothers.

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I didn’t see it as a young girl on a Saturday morning who didn’t want to watch Thundercats or WWF, but was voted out every time.  Or as an adolescent who just got tired of all the toothpaste always being on the outside of the tube, so thick and dried up that the lid wouldn’t close.  Or as a teenager, going through the grunge phase, who couldn’t find her favorite flannel shirt, because her brother was wearing it!!!

But I saw it today, when my heart ached because I miss them so much.

When my boys fight, I find myself saying things like ‘Don’t you know how lucky you are to have each other???’  ‘So few people get TWO brothers!  And ALL of you get TWO!’  ‘You better love each other!’  One day you might live far apart and you might miss each other!!! (I don’t actually say that last part, because I fully expect my children to always live right beside me…. – daughters-in-law, take note.)

Boy did we used to fight.  There were three of us and two would always gang up on one.  Jonathan and I used to run by the bathroom and throw things in the tub while Jeremy took a bath.  Jeremy and I tormented Jonathan simply out of duty as younger siblings.  Jeremy and Jonathan did all sorts of terrible things to me, like take apart their motorized cars and put the little spinning thing in my long thick hair….creating such a tangle it had to be cut out.  Or decapitating my Barbies.  Or making faces at me during dinner which made me laugh so hard I had to be excused from the table, and forego supper!  (I still sometimes laugh at inappropriate times.  I blame them.) Or making fun of me for listening to Mariah Carey’s “Always be my baby” for the 276th time. (I kinda get it now, by the way.)

But the fighting must be all part of it.  There must be something in the wrestling, the fighting, the arguing that makes the bond stronger.  Maybe because the bond has already endured such turmoil, it is mega-ultra-super strong.

That bond sure came in handy in my young adult years.  Like when Jonathan had to help me get out of a situation I shouldn’t have been in in the first place.  Or when Jeremy called to comfort me when my dog died, the sheer compassion in his voice bringing me to tears.  Or when Jonathan spoke at my wedding.  Or when Jeremy anointed our home.  Or when they baptized me.

They baptized me.  Do you know what that meant to me??  There was a time in our teenage years when I didn’t know if they would make it.  As in live…  We had all strayed so far.  And 2 years ago, they led me out in the ocean and prayed over me and commissioned me to service in the Lord.

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Mega, ultra, super, strong bond.

It’s that bond that makes me rejoice in their joys.  Like when my nephew was born and I held him and thought I was going to fall to pieces because I instantaneously loved him so much.  But it was more than “I really love this baby”.  It was like, he was a piece of me, like he was my heart, just a little further away.

It’s that bond that makes their heartaches mine.  Like when a relationship failed, and it pierced me to the core.  And when I was told the ultrasound showed no more sign of life, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe.

Their pain is my pain, their joy my joy.

They’re the only ones I can make fun of my parents with.  They’re the only ones who really understand why I turned out the way I did.  They encourage me.  They strengthen me.  They challenge me.  They bless me by the way they live their lives every single day.

Some days I just wish they weren’t so far away.  Looking forward to eternity with you.

Love you, brothers.

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