Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mommy Mates


The abrupt voice interrupted the private concert that was going on in my head to Journey's "Open Arms" that was playing on the Post Office speaker system. 

I approached the desk with a big smile and friendly greeting. 

"What can I do for you?", came the emotionless question and response.

My friendly approach failed to break the doldrums of her day but as she weighed my package and asked me to verify that I wasn't sending bombs through the mail, her phone lit up and on the screen were five beautiful brown children. I don't know if it's socially acceptable to take a peek at someone's phone and then ask them about what you've seen but I went there.

"Are those your children?"

 She eagerly grabbed her phone and took it out of lock screen so she could show off her four handsome boys and their princess of a  baby sister and instantly the counter between us seemed to disappear and we were just two moms talking about Mom Life. I doted, she exuded pride. This is what moms do.

Then I told her that I have 8 children and with a gorgeous smile she said, "I feel like we're Mommy Mates." We laughed together (while other people in line probably grew impatient) and she want on... "You know, people see all my kids and they're like, oh my gosh! But you know because you're there."

Yes, I know. 
 We know. 

We know that while there may be things in our culture that separate us today, there are more things that bind us together. We share goals for our children, pride for who they are, insecurities as moms, and the desire for our children to grow up free from fear. We share because we're both raising humans. And we want our humans to grow up and be able to impact this world for the better.

When all of this black vs. blue vs. white is exploding in the streets around us, I'm reminded that we all have the same goals. We all want to live and to thrive. Unfortunately, we all don't have the same method for getting us to those goals and that's where it gets difficult. 

But today. 

Today it was easy. All it took was a smile and some story swapping. Some interest in others' lives and some tying of the heart strings. I know the big picture isn't nearly as simple as this but what if the big picture was made up of many thousands of pictures like this. What then?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Life Line

The setting is my 88-year-old grandmother's house. The curtains are drawn, the carpet is shaggy and the only noise is the rhythmic squeak of her walker. Grannie is walking laps around the small living room. Every half lap or so, she stops to draw in a couple deep breaths and gathers the strength to finish the lap. Her frame is frail and stooped. And following behind is her great granddaughter, my daughter Libby. Libby has been walking laps with Grannie for 6 weeks now. She has devoted her entire summer to move in and give much needed care to her great grandmother.

 Part of that care involves the nightly rounds in the living room. Before they begin, Libby helps Grannie get up from her wheelchair and makes sure she's steady at her walker. Then she wheels over the oxygen tank and gently puts the oxygen tubes to her great grandmother's nose and carefully loops them around her ears. She sweetly let's her great grannie know that they're ready and before long, they're off. As they head into their first turn, Grannie lifts her head and smiles at me as she jokes,"this is our marathon."

Lap after lap, Grannie leads and, pulling the oxygen tank, Libby diligently follows, the two generations tethered by a tube. Grannie paves the way and Libby follows. They're going steady and they're connected.

Such is the circle of life. One generation leads and the other is to follow. The connection between them serves as a life line, just like the oxygen.

Lead Grannie, lead. And follow, Libby follow. The way has been paved for you. Run your marathon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Two Abortions at Age 16: The Other Side of the Story

Two days ago I read this Yahoo article about Chelsea Handler and her decision to have two abortions at age 16. I won't go into all I'm feeling after reading the article where she upholds her decision and even gives props to her parents for talking her out of her initial decision to carry to term. I would encourage you instead to read it and then read the fictional letter to Ms. Handler from her child to see how this story could have gone had she made a different choice:

An open letter to my birth mom:

Today is my sixteenth birthday. For as long as I can remember, I've known I was adopted but today my parents told me that you were the same age as I am now when you found out you were pregnant with me. That must have been so difficult. I can't imagine how hard it was to decide what to do about me.

My parents also told me today that at first, you decided to have an abortion. It seemed like the only way out, I'm sure. I mean, having a baby is hard and being pregnant at my age... just wow. The thought overwhelms me.

I just have to say thank you for changing your mind. I don't know what made you turn your car around that day and cancel your appointment but thank you. Thank you for going through the humiliation of everyone knowing.. and seeing, that you were pregnant. Thank you for enduring the swollen feet and stretch marks (sorry!). And thank you for laboring for me. Thank you giving me life and then choosing to give me a better life by giving me up for adoption.

I have had a great life so far. 16 birthday parties. Dance recitals. School plays. Bedtime stories. Sleep overs. The parents you chose for me have loved me unconditionally which isn't always easy to do to a teenager! They couldn't have children, you know, so what you did for me was also a gift for them.

I don't know what you've done with your life- hey, you could be famous for all I know- but I do know that deciding to keep me was your greatest contribution to this world. Because through me, your beautiful blue eyes and infectious smile live on (my parents told me I got them from you:).

Your Daughter,
Giovana (It means "Gift from God")

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Your Kiss

Today, shortly after the sun made it's debut, you kissed me good morning and I was reminded that no one could kiss me good morning like you do. Your morning kiss doesn't just say," Good morning." Behind the kiss, which is usually on the forehead, whispers something more...

You've kissed me good morning a thousand times. There was the, "I can't believe we ran off and got married yesterday", kiss. And 8 of those, " I'm so excited that we found out yesterday that we're expecting!" kisses. One of those was shortly followed by an, " I'm so sorry we lost the baby," kiss but the other seven of those kisses were followed months later by the, "Are we gonna have a baby today?" kisses. You gave me a sad, prolonged, "I'm sorry we have to wake up today without Isaiah," kiss. But over a year later, we also got to have the, "Today's the day we go to the courthouse and make the adoption final," kiss.

You've kissed me good morning with nursing, newborn babies snuggled between us and those kisses often said, "I'm so glad you're home with our children."

Your morning peck has meant...

I'm sorry about yesterday.
I'll miss you today.
I wish I didn't have to leave you today.
I believe in you.
You've got this.

The kiss that said, "Wake up. It's time to go to the hospital for your brain surgery," was quivering, yet strong. Your 5 a.m. kiss that said,"Today's the day we go in for your heart surgery," told me you'd be by my side through yet another long and difficult recovery.  Your familiar kiss has also awakened me from deep, drug-induced sleep following a few major surgeries.

Some days have ended in defeat and some in victory. Days have closed with us not talking and some have ended in deep sorrow. And, with 8 children, everyday has ended with exhaustion. Yet, almost every day has started with your good morning kiss.

Don't ever worry about another catching my eye or earning my affection because every piece of my heart knows that no one could kiss me good morning like you. That's because, deep down, I know that your good morning kiss doesn't just mean Good Morning. It really means Good Life. And it takes a lot more than a kiss to have that.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How We Observe Passover

For the past several years, we have chosen to observe Passover on Easter weekend. It has become a very special time for our crew and is typically the main focus of our Easter (as the Easter bunny doesn't stop at our house.)

 We use a simple step-by-step Passover Seder booklet from VSB has a free download of the booklet as well as a hard copy that you can purchase. You will need one booklet per person (who can read) in your household. This booklet tells you everything you will need, how to set it up and has the complete reading for the seder. It's kid friendly, too.

I've made a very simple Passover plate image that we print, cut out (on the large outer circle) and place on a paper plate for each participant. We also play lovely piano music from Anne Voskamp's website (look for a little music note in the top right corner of her home page). This year, I printed out a few Passover coloring sheets to engage the younger children during the seder. 

We also have a beautiful seder set that was given to us by a dear friend. But let me tell you, we have done our seder with everything from paper plates and plastic cups to sticks representing the shankbone of the lamb. We aren't concerned so much with having everything perfect as we are about having a time to observe the connection between the Old Testament deliverance of the Israelites and the New Testament death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And that's what's so amazing about this booklet and the New Testament observance of the Passover: nothing that happened in the Bible is coincidental. The stories are full of symbolism and events that happened thousands of years apart but yet are tied together through God's providence. 

If you are interested in doing a Passover seder with your family, friends or church, you haven't missed out just because Easter is over. The actual Passover is on April 23rd this year. We choose to do it on Easter weekend because we don't do any secular observances of Easter so we like to have this to look forward to instead. 

I know this didn't go into detail of the hows and whys of doing a Passover seder but you can check out the booklet and website for more information. Instead, I hope this posts whets your appetite for learning more!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mom, Do I Have To?

"Mom, why do have to go to the funeral? Funerals are so sad."

Yes, I was met with this question a couple of days ago as four of my children and I got ready to attend the funeral of a dear southern belle who passed this weekend. Sure, it would be nice to cover up the fact that my children questioned the reason for their required attendance and just make it look like they were willing volunteers but I'm going to be transparent as a parent here... I made them go.

I guess no one is really surprised that some of my children (or any child, for that matter) weren't jumping at the chance to go to a funeral. But maybe you're surprised that I insisted. Well I did, and here's why:

There's a lot of tragedy in this world and far too many lives snuffed out way to soon. But this funeral was for a lovely woman who lived to be 93 years young and she made each of those years count.  I wanted my children to see the impact of a life well lived. I wanted them to see pictures of her throughout her life and to realize that the gray haired people they meet were kids once, too. That they had brothers and sisters and parents.  And that they eventually had wedding days and babies and... life. Full, abundant life.

I wanted them to hear stories from that life. Stories that evoke laughter, fond remembrances and maybe even a few tears.

I wanted them to see that life is to be celebrated and that the end of a life that impacted others for 93 years should be especially marked with a time of pause to reflect on that impact. It is out of respect and reverence that we go to be a part of that time of reflection.

On the flip side, it was important to me that they see that a life well lived leaves a pain well felt. When someone lives their life in a way that focuses so much on others, the shock of moving on without them is hard hitting, even when that someone is ready to go home... even when that someone has lived a full and meaningful life. It's because their life was meaningful that those left behind are left with an indelible mark that brings deep sadness, no matter the circumstances surrounding their passing.

When we're young, it's easy to think that we're immortal and to only focus on the here and now. Attending this very special funeral (which was more of a celebration of life) helped my children see the full circle of life and we all need to be reminded of that. On the way to the service, I pointed out to my kids that everyone they could see in every car on the road would one day die. Everyone here on earth is only wearing a temporary suit that they will one day shed as they pass into eternity. I reminded my kids to think of that day when they trade the earthy for the eternal and to ask themselves how they want to be remembered. What would really matter then? For the friend that just passed, it was her love and devotion to the Lord that persisted in the minds of her family and friends. Her laughter, easy-going temperament and her undying service to others also remained. This was a powerful message for all of us, not just my kids.

It's easy to take the kids to the park, ball games and Chuck E. Cheese. They'll line up for those things, fighting over a seat in the car. Not so much for funerals. But, as a mom, I believe that the lessons learned from a life well lived will far outlast a day at the park or a pocketful of tokens from a pizza place's game room. I have to remember to not always go for the easy. It's in the hard that character is shaped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Babies Turn Into Teens

Today my sweet #4 became a teenager. Last year we were buying her ace bandages to play nurse and this year she was more interested in make-up. Not that she needs it... her beauty is captivating. And if it's possible, she seems to be getting more beautiful by the day.

It's my custom on our children's birthdays to tell them about the day they were born so tonight, as I lay at the end of her bed, wondering how we got from that day to this day so quickly, I told her about the miracle of the day she joined our family.

I started with the fact that I bought her car seat the day before I had her because I was a bit busy at the time with having 4 babies in 5 years. I let her know, on the evening of the 30th of November, I decorated the entire house for Christmas while I was in labor with her so that it would be done when I got back from the hospital. I cleaned house, fixed my hair, put on make-up at midnight, drove to Walmart and then back home. Then after sleeping for a few hours, woke up with the sun and walked the other kiddos down to a dear friend's house so she could take them to church while Casey and I finally made our way to the hospital. Annie showed up just after several friends filled our hospital room after attending church; her Grannie pulled into the parking lot after driving all the way from Ft. Lauderdale. Her birth became a party and she was "oohed and ahhed" over plenty by all the ladies who attended the special occasion.

I told her that in her first few hours, I thought she had green hair and figured they couldn't all be lookers. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up, stared at her little face and said out loud, "she's gorgeous!" Green hair or not, she stole my heart.

I may have left out the part about bringing her home and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the little ones that called me mom. I felt blessed for sure but had no idea how I would keep them all alive. Casey and I vowed to sleep on opposite sides of the house forevermore because four was all we could handle.

For the next month, when I woke up every night to feed my baby girl, I carried her to a comfy seat right next to the Christmas tree. As Christmas music was playing, we bonded and she stared ever so intently at all the twinkling lights on our tree.

I remember all of this like it was yesterday. Yesterday, I felt like I would always have those same friends around to celebrate life's most generous moments and that my mom would always be "just" a four hour drive away. Yesterday, I thought I would always have a baby in the house and would be the little mother hen to my little chickadees indefinitely.

That was yesterday and today I have a teenager.

Today I have four teenagers.

And no more babies.

As it turns out, babies turn into teenagers.