Sunday, April 30, 2017

what i learned from loss

Oh my heavens. It's been three months since I've sat down and recorded anything here. I constantly have blog posts floating through my brain, things I want to remember, things I want to be sure to tell you about. But honestly, we've been so busy living. Life with four is infinitely different than life with three. I've let a lot of things go so that I can focus more on the fun--the laundry, a clean house, this blog. But so far the trade off has been worth it...our clothes may never make their way back to our closets and may be stuck in a perpetual cycle of wear, wash, grab out of basket, but we are really having fun in this crazy season of life.

Last week, though, I kept meaning to type out a blog in my head, one that is important for me to tell you four about one day. Last week was infertility awareness week, and even though I managed to miss the official week window, there are a few things I want you to know.

While your dad and I didn't experience traditional infertility, we did experience the heartbreak it entails. With each loss, each unexplained failure, we felt our dream family slipping further and further away. When we got married, I had a pretty concrete plan: Be married for approximately 7 years before kids (during which time I would focus on my career), pop out a baby every 2 years until we got our four little ones, send our kids to an amazing school or find a dual language nanny so I could be super mom and super lawyer. I had quite the story written.

But here's how our story really went down: Be married for 1.5 years before beginning treatment for reproductive issues, decide after 4 years that we better start trying for a baby, really really want a baby quickly, lose 3 babies in an extremely short timeframe, decide to leave traditional lawyer job to find a lower stress environment, go all in on fertility treatments, get pregnant with twins at 28, decide to quit being a lawyer all together and stay home with my kids, go through a failed ivf, find out we were having another boy, be super excited we had 3 kids, find out on the day of kid #3's first birthday that kid #4 was on his way. Looking at it like this, it doesn't look as pretty as my plan. It's definitely not as neat, there are some extreme curves along the way, but let me assure you...this was the most beautiful story written.

I've finally, years later, gotten to a place where I view our losses through a different lens. I can now look at that time in my life and see how it changed me, our family, and the choices we went on to make. I am a better person because of those three babies that we never met, because of the failed embryo that I had pinned so much hope onto.

I'm nicer now. I know that sounds silly, and it's a little embarrassing to admit, but the pain we waded through softened my edges in a good, good way.

I respond more quickly with empathy. I believe empathy is one of the most important character traits, and I know that mine was developed through the fire of loss.

I am a better mom. The moments I fought for you gave me a different perspective on motherhood, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I am more honest and vulnerable. Our journey to kids taught me the power of telling your story, and more importantly the power of listening to the stories of others.

So here's the thing, little ones. Your life is not going to go as planned. You'll have your story written, and then the chapters will come all out of order, or maybe not come at all. And in that moment, maybe even for years, it will be heart wrenching. Finding a bright side down the road does not negate the real pain of whatever situation you find yourself in. But this is my plea to you...when you find yourself in those places that feel God-forsaken and unredeemable, keep your heart as tender as you possibly can. I promise to protect you as fiercely as I can, but I beg you to hold on to your tenderness. Because the tender spots are where the light creeps back in. And one day, if you let it, you just might find that enough light mixed with your darkness to make you a new person--a person filled with more gratitude, more love, more wholeness. A better person than your planned story could have possibly accounted for.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

marching forward

My sweet littles,

Last weekend we had the precious opportunity to take you to your first protest. It was peaceful, united, and quite beautiful. After a previously scheduled viewing of Paw Patrol Live, we walked with dear friends down to Public Square in Nashville and joined almost 15,000 others to take a stand for women's rights in one of the March for Women Sister Marches.

I am so grateful that you are too young to understand how divided our country is right now. It's hard to fathom how good-hearted people can be standing on such opposing sides of history. But I am so grateful that within our home, at least, there is unity. Our family stands for peace, progress and love. We stand for those who are like us and those who are nothing like us. We stand for the right to worship our God, any God, or no God. We stand for the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized, and the "other."

It feels like our current climate is trying to force the world into black and white, as a lack of clarity is disconcerting to many, but as you grow I pray that you will see the beauty in the gray. The gray, where you recognize that your values shouldn't dictate how others choose to live. The gray, where you cling to civil rights for all, even if it means giving up some of your own material comforts. The gray, where you realize that well-meaning people can disagree, that some issues are deep and hard and uncomfortable, and that many of your own personal beliefs have no place in legislation and laws.

If I can teach you anything about politics and government, I hope it is this. You have a voice. You have a space in public discourse. You have the right to be heard, even when it makes others uncomfortable. Please always use your precious voice wisely. Consider your views well, and always stand for the issues that lead to more justice and equality for all.

I love you and I pray every day that I can be a worthy example for your young, impressionable minds.


"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, December 23, 2016

wish lists

I love kids' Christmas wish lists. I love what it reveals about their little personality, what they love, and where they are in their growing up journey. To try to keep some control over the Christmas craziness, we tell our kids they can ask for three things from Santa. We explain that Jesus got three gifts, and we want to make sure Santa has room in his sleigh for everyone else's toys. Adhering to the three wish limit, here are our 2016 wish lists:

Barnes- a build-a-bear workshop that makes bears at home and two ninja turtle toys of Santa's choosing.

Frances- a lego Rapunzel castle, a doggie guitar, and shopkins.

Shepherd- Octonauts toys, a jack in the box, and a Mickey suitcase (which was Tinkertoys until just a few days ago)...and he often forgets the three wish limit and adds in a firehouse play doh set.

Ellis- he can't really tell us what he wants yet, but we're pretty sure he just wants to take whatever the big kids get.

Considering we've talked to Santa about ten times this season, I certainly hope these wishes come true on Sunday.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

tree hunting

Every once in a while I open my eyes enough to be stopped in my tracks by this life. This crazy, hectic, sticky-finger-filled, loud life. This life full of hugs and tickles and "I love yous." This life where I wipe bums all day and am handed boogers on an hourly basis. This life full of kids and energy and innocence. This life where I somehow feel both totally empty and totally full at the same time.

Advent encourages us to slow down, to prepare, to make room. This season lends itself, if you let it, to noticing the joy in each your days. With four kids and a list of to-dos that just keeps getting rewritten on the next week of my planner, noticing the joy is not always my strongpoint. But this season, I'm determined to see the magic around me.

I'm pretty sure it's going to be a sweet, sweet December.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

preschool pics

Is there anything better than a cheesy school picture??? I assert that school pictures are one of the joys of life, and I submit the following as evidence:

ellis snuck in for a group shot...not sure why ellis is wearing a summer outfit...

they always want a twin picture.

frances katherine, pre k

she loves dresses and headbands and pink and purple

barnes howard, pre k

he loves blue and ninja turtles and his sister

shepherd louis, older 2s

he loves yellow and Cooper and being with friends

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

on politics and goodness

Sweet littles,

Today I hoped to be writing you a different letter. I hoped to be telling you that we had elected our first female president, a president that, though flawed, would reflect the values that we as a family hold dear. Instead, a man that I have a very hard time finding anything positive about won. You are too little to understand this all now (thank God), but you are not to young to understand the importance of love and kindness and goodness. Many years from now you'll be reading this, and I want you to know that your dad and I stood on the right side of history. I want you to know that the majority of American people stood on the right side of history, despite the results of the electoral college. And I want you to know that we have much to be thankful for and much to learn from this chapter in our nation's history.

First, please never take for granted the privilege into which you were born. Through no merit of your own, you were born to highly educated parents who both have a heart for social justice. Throughout your childhood and adolescence, you will be given every opportunity your heart desires. You will be given quality schools, extra help, exposure to innumerable extra curricular activities. You will be loved beyond belief by parents who have the luxury of flexible schedules that provide much quality family time. You are white--you are not a racial or ethnic or religious minority. Three of you are males, which still carries immense privilege in our society. Please, I implore you, recognize and acknowledge your privileged status. Be proud of your accomplishments, but always remember that you had a different starting line than many. And dear little ones, use your privilege to bring others up. That is my fervent prayer for you. Never, ever weaponize your privilege. Never use it as a tool to oppress. There is enough at this table for everyone, but all will not be served well until the privileged among us find ways to pull others up with our own fortune.

Second, protect and stand up for those who are different from you. There are no "others," as we are all children of God. God loves you and made you, but He also loves and made everyone else. When Jesus lived in our complicated world, he was consistently drawn to the marginalized. Today, in 2016, I see the marginalized in our society, and instead of loving them, many who purport to bear the image of Christ push them further to the edges. The immigrants. The Muslims. The lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people. African Americans. The poor. And so many more minority groups, scared and hurting from a world that would prefer to hurl stones rather than extending a hand. I pray that as you grow, you will always be on watch for who the marginalized are. Figure out who society is shunning, and then figure out how you can love them and serve them and walk beside them.

Third, never let your own economic well-being trump the importance of kindness and goodness, and never put your own finances above another person's basic civil rights. I hope you grow to be wildly successful at whatever you choose to do. Part of that, of course, is hoping that you are able to create a stable financial position for yourself and your family. But please know that money is never more important than humanity. I am so dismayed that people could vote for a racist, sexist, xenophobe because it would be more beneficial for their pocketbook. Good people can have differing views on policy, but good people cannot have differing views on racism. Racism, wherever it is seen, must be rejected. It can never be excused for the sake of economics. Never. I'll be honest with you, little ones, this is where I am struggling the most this morning. More than 50 million people voted for a man who was openly racist during and before this election cycle. Some people I hold dear voted for him. But I hold firmly that by voting for a racist you explicitly condone racism. I am heartbroken that so many people still harbor hidden (or not so hidden) views that your race or sex or religion make you more worthwhile than another child of God.

Finally, and this one is super important, never use your religion to try to legislate others' lives. You and God get to decide how you live your life, but that should not regulate how your neighbor must live. Remember that the separation of church and state is a good thing, a very good thing. It is a central tenet in our democracy, and you must never lose sight of its necessity.

There's so much more I could say here, but here's what matters most: love God, and love people. It won't always be easy, but if you filter your choices through this lens, you will be well-guided. Know that in our family and in our home, we will continue to stress love for all. We will still ask you repeatedly what's most important in life, and "being kind" will still be the answer. We will continue to look for ways to make our world more just for everyone. We will pray for softened hearts, softened rhetoric, and healing for our America.

We love you. We tried.

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

halloween 2016

boo at the zoo 2016

The older they get, the better holidays get, and Halloween 2016 was truly a blast. 

Barnes knew what his costume should be, and there was no way he would possibly change it. He was Leonardo, his favorite Ninja Turtle (because blue), and he sported his turtle wear every chance he got.

Frances wanted to be a pink princess or fairy, but only wanted a costume that had an identical doll costume. Yea...kind of limited our choices there. Once we found the right combo, we had to get a "real" crown and princess necklace, of course. For our one family dress-up night, though, Frances strayed from her princess wear and went with Minnie Mouse, and 2014 throw back.

Shepherd has been saying for months that he wanted to be a fire hydrant, so I made him an adorable costume (though at 80 plus degrees, it was too hot for the pants). He wore his fire hydrant sans attachments twice, then switched over to Pioneer Mickey or Mickey Crocket for the family party, and Belle for Halloween. Belle was the 50-1 favorite going into Halloween, and Vegas always wins my friends.

Ellis was a wubb-a-nub, which is a pacifier with a small stuffed animal attached. He is addicted to his giraffe wubbi, which inspired his costume. For family night, however, we just had to pull back out the cutest Donald Duck costume ever. Those yellow legs are too much, y'all. 

Overall, it was an immensely successful celebration. The kids got too much candy, more than they could ever eat. Shepherd accosted people with glow sticks in our front yard--his "handing out" techniques were a little aggressive. Barnes and Frances yelled out "come get candy" to anyone who didn't stop in our yard, and I'm pretty sure they thought we were selling the candy. We challenged at least one kid's gender stereotypes with our male Belle, and we recorded no blood or other injuries. A definite win for our crew.

family dress up--we love disney

halloween night

our four dad to keep Ellis from jumping in the creek