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.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Is This What Makes Me Your Mommy?

Seven times my belly swelled, I felt kicks, I saw ultrasounds, I pushed, I nursed, I rocked and I looked into eyes that came straight from mine. Instantly, I was their mom. Giving them life is what made me their mommy.

But what about you, little guy with court papers that say you're a Robinson now? What makes me your mommy? You didn't grow beneath my heart or memorize my voice before you took your first breath. Our eyes are continents apart and no one mistakes me for your mom. Our DNA doesn't line up but it has to be more than legal documents that make me your mommy.

Most nights, at 11 PM, I lift you from your bed and carry you to the potty so you wake up dry and successful. You don't remember it in the morning because you're hardly awake for the trip. Sometimes when I go to get you up, you're already wet and I change sheets, wash legs, search for dry clothes, and tuck you back in, warm and dry. Tonight, I gather you in my arms and you must dream that I have you at the potty because you wet all over me. I squeal, you cry. I mop the floor, give you a bath and tuck you in warm and dry and have this crazy thought that I feel privileged to do all of that for you. Is this what makes me your Mommy?

 In the mornings, you stumble to my bedside and ask me to fix you breakfast. I wonder if you knew that I was asleep and how precious sleep is to my weary body. But I get up, we snuggle and then share some warm oatmeal, because you're the only one of the 8 who likes a bowl if it as much as I do. And even though I'm missing my slumber, our hearts connect over oats, honey and raisins. Is this what makes me your mommy?

Before you go to bed, you pick a story. Sometimes it's the seek-and-find one that I'm tired of reading. Other times it's another one that you want to hear night after night for a week. We share the story like it's the first time we've ever read it and you're off to bed. I come in later and lay with you, all cozy in the dark where someone might mistake me for your mom because there's no light to expose skin. You pick a song, usually "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock" and I sing "Jesus Loves You" but you usually take it over. We pray for "peaceful sleep and pleasant dreams" because that's what my grandmother prayer for me. We also pray for the precious mommy who gave you those beautiful lips and adorable smile. I kiss you goodnight and look forward to doing it all again tomorrow. Is this what makes me your mommy?

You spill, I clean.
You hurt, I kiss.
You yawn, I tuck in.
You shiver, I warm.
You do wrong, I correct.
You break, I forgive.
You succeed, I admire.
You smile, I melt.

That is what makes me your mommy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Beware of The Rut

This day was a big hunting day for three generations of Robinsons. Of course, our freezer will be full of meat because these guys cleared shooting lanes, planted food plots and spent the time in the woods but the real reason three bucks would step into the line of fire in one day can be summed up in two words: THE RUT.

The rut is the time of the year when the testosterone levels in bucks is on the rise and they are primed for breeding. It's during this time that the normally cautious males start exhibiting reckless behavior.  Basically, they have women on their minds so they start acting stupid... so stupid that they come out during the day, chase the girls all over and are no longer on high alert for danger. It's this behavior that lands daddy deer in the back of trucks and on man-cave walls.

I only know this stuff because I have been married to a hunter for 20 years but I share this information for more than just to be informative. I believe there's a lesson in this for men.

I want guys to be reminded that it's the lust for women that brings down so many men- even men who had good things going for them. Men with families, jobs, respect and influence can lose it all in a moment because of the rut. They become reckless and let passion drive them. and unfortunately it drives them down a road to destruction. Look at Bill Cosby, Josh Duggar, and Jared, uh, Jared... the sandwich guy. Three men who had the world in their hands and they blew it all. And those are just recent examples. The list of men who gambled with sexual temptation and lost is exhaustive.

Young men, married men, heck... ALL MEN: Don't be like those bucks with eyes glazed over, running crazy paths just to get some. Think of where decisions will take you. The decision to look at porn, go on an innocent lunch date with a co-worker, or cast a second  glance in the wrong direction may seem harmless enough but when pursued, those choices will lead to your slaughter. Think of those poor, lust-sick deer in the picture and be reminded that they got off better than you will if you take the same path.

At the window of my house
    I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
    I noticed among the young men,
    a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
    walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
    as the dark of night set in.
10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
    dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
11 (She is unruly and defiant,
    her feet never stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the squares,
    at every corner she lurks.)
13 She took hold of him and kissed him
    and with a brazen face she said:
14 “Today I fulfilled my vows,
    and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15 So I came out to meet you;
    I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
    with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
    with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
    let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
19 My husband is not at home;
    he has gone on a long journey.
20 He took his purse filled with money
    and will not be home till full moon.”
21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
    she seduced him with her smooth talk.
22 All at once he followed her
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer[a] stepping into a noose[b]
23     till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.
24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
    pay attention to what I say.
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
    or stray into her paths.
26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
    her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
    leading down to the chambers of death.
(from the book of Proverbs)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For. Real.

As today came to a close, my mind started replaying some of the craziness that took place under our roof today:

15 fall festival fish found belly up in several of my kitchen bowls that are on our back patio, serving as temporary housing for the poor, unlucky goldfish. I found myself scooping them out, throwing them into the bushes and consolidating the breathing fish while two suspicious children looked over my shoulder to make sure I didn't throw out any live ones.

3 rounds of the cooking competition  "Chopped" were played out in my kitchen. I had three kids cooking pancakes, then egg-concoctions and finally the dessert round (which closely resembled the pancake round because all they had to work with was Bisquick. The result: frosted pancakes.).

 And then there was the pigeon. Yes, the pigeon. My oldest son noticed a pigeon hanging around camp today and thought it was unusual. He thought the bird looked lost and disorientated and ended up catching it and bringing it inside the house. Turns out it was a banded racing homing pigeon that took a detour on his way to pigeon racing glory. I am not making this up. We looked up the number on our feathered friend's ankle band and found out that he belonged to a fancier named Oviedo who didn't speak English. So we were on our own with the pooping bird.

We won't mention the throw-up that landed next to a bed in the night due to too much spinning on rides at the fair yesterday.

Between the 75 dishes used in the season premiere of "Chopped", the mixing bowls designated as fish tanks and the bowls appointed for feeding the pigeon, I tackled more dishes than an elementary school cafeteria lady today. And we won't even talk about the vomit covered and bird-poop infused towels that I laundered today.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter missed her flight to NYC and spent her afternoon waiting to get on a stand-by flight. Of course, I could do nothing but pray for her as I scrubbed my way out of my kitchen to start on baths.

This is for real. My For Real life. Never predictable, never sane, never dull. But always real. Really crazy, really messy, really exhausting and really worth it.

For Real.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

"Which one do you like best Mama?" she asked about the young women in the workout video. I was on the floor doing leg lifts, trying to keep up with the 20-somethings on the screen.

"What do you mean? I don't know any of the girls in this video. I just do the exercises. I've never met them." I breathed out.

"I mean which one do you think is the prettiest?"

"It doesn't matter which one is the prettiest."

"It doesn't?"

Ugh. I felt something in my stomach even though I was working out my legs.

"No. God says that what matters is on the inside. You know, how you treat other people, what you think about and how you love God. It doesn't matter to Him if you're the prettiest or dressed the nicest."

This idea seemed foreign to her. 

After my answer, I realized that I was telling this to one of the prettiest little girls I've ever seen, bias aside. This little girl has had people stop in their tracks to compliment her eyes and tell us how stunning she is. Not a day goes by that we aren't commenting on her external beauty and I often find myself mesmerized by her smile and her eyes. Oh, her eyes.

She's a typical five-year-old girl in that she never ends the day in the same outfit that she donned in the morning. She twirls, she spins, she prances.

She's a typical female in that she not only longs to be lovely, beautiful and desired but she wants to be the most lovely, beautiful and desired. Without any intentional instruction, she has learned to compare herself to others and has created a beauty measuring stick in her mind. What steps we take next may determine if she uses that stick to measure others for the rest of her life.

It took her mama nearly 40 years to finally break that stick over her knee and pick up a new unit of measurement. As a young girl, I studied Sport's Illustrated swimsuit edition and made subconscious mental notes of what made those models beautiful. I knew all the supermodels of the era and learned their features. I stood on stages in beauty pageants and was measured by my beauty and poise. I still step out of my bedroom when going out, waiting to hear a compliment on my appearance from my husband (fortunately for me, I married a man who dishes them out liberally.)

Something clicked in me in the last few years. I'm at an age where I can see beauty fading. I realize how temporary it is and how little return is made on an investment in it. I also realize that comparing is toxic. That doesn't mean I'm immune to its poison but I'm at least trying to take it in smaller doses. As women we compare looks: hair, eyes, skin, weight, nails, lashes, lips, hips and breasts. But we don't stop there... we compare men, houses, decor, clothes, purses, jewelry, success, holiness, relationships.... I'm getting exhausted just writing this list.

So now I intend to give my daughter something else. I want to give her a new ruler. I want to compliment her thoughtfulness, her cooperative nature, her initiative, her smarts, her creativity, and her gentleness. I will have to dig deep for some of these at her age and stage but I intend to find them and magnify them. Make miles out of these attributes and make inches out of her mesmerizing eyes and charming smile (not centimeters though because we will always want to be beautiful!).

And then, with the grace of God, when I look into those eyes, something deeper will have developed inside, something that will extend beyond the temporary and limited measurements of man and extend into something eternal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Power of Words

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 

Some days are harder than others. 
Some seasons of life are harder than others. 
I try to put on a smile and keep my hard days and hard seasons to those close to me as I've never been one to hang out my dirty laundry for all to see. But in the midst of potty training our newly adopted son, I had a lot more dirty laundry than one mama could bear. The potty training also gave me daily doses of dirty toilets, dirty floors, dirty mattresses, dirty hands... you get the idea. 

This was my 8th go-round of potty training. Yeah, I should be so experienced that I could write a book on it. (And if I did, it would have one chapter, one page, one sentence: Wait until they're ready.) But for some reason this round of toilet training was bringing out things in me I didn't know were there. And they were dirty, too. 

I was overwhelmed, short on patience... I was struggling.  After 15 years of having kids in diapers, I went from thinking I was finally done with the waste management of others to being thrown deep in the trenches (pun intended). And it all happened overnight. 

So maybe I wasn't wearing this season of struggle particularly well. Maybe others could see the exhaustion in my eyes. Or maybe, because God knew He sent an angel of encouragement to me at just the right moment- right in the midst of the hard and ugly. Whether she saw it in my eyes, or the Father put it in her heart, I'll count it as a divine appointment. 

I had my new little guy at the post office. We were going in and she was going out. But before she put the exit door between her and us, she looked back at me and asked, "Is he yours?" My son is black and I'm white, so was a fair question but I shrank back as I answered, "Yes", not knowing why she was asking. 

With compassion and intentionality, she looked straight into my tired eyes, and said, " God's gonna bless you for that." 

And with that, my big brown eyes were brimming with tears. 

"Excuse me?", I managed in reply.

"God's gonna bless you. He will. Just hang in there. You hear me?"

Tears escaped. I thanked. She left. And I'm sure I saw wings flash as she rounded the corner to the parking lot.

I left encouraged and full of hope, ready to tackle whatever dirty came my way. All because someone, mortal or angelic, chose to slow down and cast some uplifting words my way.

That's the Power of Words.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Year Open Heart Surgery Anniversary: An Update

I found this post as a draft that I wrote just a few months after my surgery. (Read on to a more recent update):

"How's that heart?"...That's the question I am getting so much these days. My loved ones all want to know how I'm feeling. And since those who see me in person are asking, I figured I'd answer that question for my buddies who I don't get to see very often.


I literally feel like I have new heart. What a difference a little plumbing makes, when it comes to the ol' ticker:)

Obviously, my heart condition was life threatening so I'm glad the surgery has eliminated that risk. But life-threatening or not, my heart was giving me problems on a daily basis and it was only getting worse with time. Chest pain and severe palpitations had become a part of my everyday and while sometimes random, there were certain activities that were sure to trigger problems.

I obviously didn't finish or post that update so I thought I'd include it with this new update:

As time went on and more time passed since my surgery, I began to have more issues with my heart. While my symptoms weren't as bad as they were before open heart surgery, they were still bothersome and seemed to be getting worse with time.

After some tests, we recently discovered that my heart has developed scar tissue where the surgery was done. This scar tissue develops over time which explains why I felt so good after surgery but got worse with each passing day.  It turns out that the scar tissue was interfering with the heart's electrical system. This didn't sound too good but the good news is that the doctor had two fixes for the problem.

The first solution is a procedure is called ablation,  where he would go into the heart via catheter, and burn away the scar tissue. But before trying that, he suggested another option: medication. I'm not a big fan of medication but I'm not a big fan of another heart procedure either so we decided to give the meds a try. And...

My chest pain and irregular heart beats are now a thing of the past! The medication has taken care of 99% of my symptoms and all that with no side effects from the medication. I am so happy that I think I tell someone every day about how good I feel.

So here I am, 1 year later, and I feel AMAZING!! I'm running almost everyday and am even thinking about training for a marathon again...  I may be pushing 40 but I feel 20! 

Thanks everyone for your prayers and encouragement this past year. I have been so blessed.

*I also spent the last 6 months having my varicose veins in my legs treated so my legs feel great, too!!(I'll do a post with before and after pictures soon)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


There's nothing in life like going for a prenatal check-up and hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time. It's awe-inspiring and invigorating at the same time. And after you've heard the evidence of a little life hidden away inside of you once, the promise of hearing it again keeps you excited and focused month after month.

That heartbeat is one of the few connections you have to your unborn child so you listen deep and hard at every OB check-up, making the most of every second. Once the baby is born, however, hearing the heartbeat is no longer a priority because you can finally see your precious newborn. Instead of listening intently to the heartbeat, you're listening to him breathe and cry, you gasp at his every sound and carefully inspect every inch of his tiny being- from head to toe. It's rare to hear the heartbeat again after he's born.

I am blessed to have gone through this mind blowing journey seven times. Through seven pregnancies, each just as exciting as the first, I was able to feel connected to my child by hearing those racing thumps being amplified on the Doppler tool that's on my swelling belly. There was one pregnancy, too- my eighth- that came with all the same anticipation as I went in for my first appointment to hear those heart tones. I left that appointment heart broken beyond repair after learning that there wasn't a heartbeat. So I know the emotions that run with the absence of the rhythm, too.

All this came to mind as I was washing dishes late one night while my littlest ones were sleeping peacefully in their cozy beds. Suddenly it hit me that I had this soon-to-be-adopted son and I had never heard his heartbeat! Of course, I didn't get to feel him grow inside of me, carry his weight inside of my womb for the better part of a year or, with purposeful pain, push him into life and those things I can not change. But his heartbeat? Well, it's been there all along and I had never heard it. Sure, I see the evidence of the blood pulsing healthily through his veins as he plays, sleeps, dances and yes, even as he screams. But I had never actually heard it.

I stood at the sink stunned, dropped my dishes, dried my hands and headed for his room. Tiptoeing quietly, I navigated through the toy maze and made my way to the side of his racecar bed where he was lost in sweet dreams of motorcycles and mac n' cheese ('cause he loves them both). I slowly laid my head down on his little heaving chest and tuned in. Ahh. There it was. That heartbeat. There all along but only audible when I slowed down, tuned in and listened. What a joy to hear it! And now what a joy to know that I've heard the heartbeats of all of my children- except the one in heaven- and I'm thinking that I'll have to repeat this scene with that one too... when I get there.