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.

Mom

"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 crazies...plus dad to keep Ellis from jumping in the creek

little graces



As we pulled into the driveway tonight, Frances asked about our neighbor's dog. Was Ms. Patsy sad because her dog was gone? Honestly, I didn't think the kids were paying attention on Halloween night when Ms. Patsy told us of the dog's passing. But, of course, they heard. They listened to her words, even when they seemed engrossed in their candy, and they registered her sadness. After I explained that Ms. Patsy's dog had died, and that yes she was sad because she loved and missed her little friend, Frances quickly determined that we should do something nice for her. As soon as we entered the house, Frannie grabbed paper and started making a card...and Barnes and Shepherd joined right in.

I wrote three times in September, zero times in October. I've been trying to work more, yet mothering the same amount. We're currently dealing with pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and a back injury. We're looking at kindergartens. I'm trying to be more intentional with each of my four babies as individuals.  I'm potentially cancelling my first weekend away all by myself since the kids were born...for the second year in a row. As it is for everyone else, life is just a lot. Most nights, my well runs pretty dry.

I'm so thankful that I believe in a God who shows up in the little moments. Many yearn for spiritual mountaintops, but I feel God's love most tangibly in the mundane. I was so done with parenting today, but on the way home from dinner my possibly possessed stereo system (I really never know what might come on when I crank the car) decided to play sweet music by my dear friend. Music that reminded me that "little pieces of a broken heart" are enough. That we don't have to be whole and shiny to come to our Lord. That He takes us as we are....broken, bruised, cranky, needing medication.

And God took it from there. Shepherd made up some crazy story about how a fairy godmother had sprinkled his ear with magic dust and now it talked to him (but only he can hear it, of course). We voted unanimously that everyone's cough should go away. We made cards for our sweet neighbor, indulged in a little Halloween loot, and ended the day smiling on a night that could have easily gone awry.

What would I do without these little graces? These little graces, that though they are small in the scheme of life, often have huge impacts on my day? My prayer tonight is that I keep my eyes open, noticing and giving thanks for God's graces as they come, and teaching my kids to be ever aware of all the magnificent ways God loves his children.