Monday, June 30, 2014

healthy boy

Shep's nine month appointment was today. We plan for these "well baby visits" as though they are strictly pro forma, another box to be checked on the parenting list. We go in, get excited to find out what percentile our little one is in, cuddle them after their shots, and proceed with our day. We are usually so busy comparing their weight and height with some chart that when our baby is pronounced healthy or average, we barely even hear it. But y'all. That's huge. Our baby is healthy! Our baby is average!

We should never, never take these words lightly. Each time our kids are declared healthy, celebration is in order. So many parents out there have been fighting, right along with their child, praying that they will hear those words again some day. And so many parents have never actually heard those words about their little one. A healthy child is not a given. A healthy child is a beautiful, marvelous, sometimes-nerve-racking-but-outweighed-by-awesomeness creature to be celebrated.

And here's my healthy boy today:

Weight: 20 lb. 4.5 oz (50%)
Height: 28 5/8 in. (70%)
Head: 18 3/4 in. (97%)
Adorableness: 100%

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

your dad

My sweet little loves,

By the time you can read this, you'll probably already know. You won't need me to remind you of how incredibly lucky you are. No one will need to tell you just how special your dad is. But just in case, on the off chance that you think all fathers are as devoted as your dad, let me tell you a little story....

Today Dad had the afternoon "off." By off I mean that he waited until he had bathed you and tucked you in last night (bath & bed is kind of his thing), then drove 3 hours to Knoxville for work. He spent less than six hours at a hotel, had a work meeting, then drove 3 hours home. There are lots of people he would love to see in Knoxville--friends, former co-workers. But he didn't tell anyone he was there. He wanted to get home to you. He knows that you feel sad when he isn't the one who gets you out of your crib in the morning, and he wanted to get back to you. Then, instead of checking out or taking a nap, he took you to the library. He's been talking about getting you library cards since the day you were born, and because it was far too hot for any outdoor activities, he wrangled three kids under three into the library all by himself, teaching you about checking out books. He took pictures, and your faces glowed with excitement and pride.

This sounds like it should be an anomaly, but I promise it's not. This is just the way he operates. Every day, all day, he puts your needs above his. And he doesn't consider it a sacrifice--he loves you so very dearly. When Mom & Dad were trying to have babies, it wasn't just Mom who ached to be a parent. Dad was made for this role....he was designed to love and cherish and nurture and raise you. I always knew he had the heart of a servant, but I never really understood how deep that quality ran until I saw him with you.

Barnes, you are truly Dad's little buddy. When you ask him to "wrestle you," it's music to his ears. He watches your little quirks--wanting to mark on every brick, having to have your stuffed animals just right--and he sees what he was certainly like as a little guy. He loves your sweet, tender spirit, and encourages you to be truly and fully you. Already he dreams about the father/son trips that he will take with his sons, and he can't wait to share all life offers with you.

Frances, I've never seen a girl with more power over a boy. Your dad adores you. I tell him all the time that he is soft on you, letting you get away with things that definitely shouldn't be allowed, but I know he can't help it. From the moment he held your tiny hand in the NICU, he has been irrevocably in love. He encourages your sweet, soft side, but loves your rough and tumble moments as well. He cherishes the smiles you send his way. The thought of any of his children "leaving the nest" one day seems a little surreal, but I know that even more than his boys he can't imagine ever saying goodbye to his little girl.

Shepherd, Dad is unimaginably devoted to you. Even through the rough months, Dad was there for every moment. I think it started on the day you were born...from the moment you entered the world, Dad didn't leave your side, and he really hasn't since. You are Dad's mini me, and he carries you around every chance he gets. I love watching him tote you around, and your smile shows the world that you love it to. We call Dad your "night nurse." He has been getting up to do your night feedings since you were 3 weeks old, and at night no one else can calm you. You adore him...and the feeling is mutual.

Dad pours himself out for the three of you each day. I know that throughout your lives, your greatest lessons on God's unconditional love will come from watching your Dad love you. Please never forget how special you are to get to be his sons and daughter.

Oh, and I really really really love you too!

Friday, June 13, 2014


When I was in the "working world," Fridays were always a favorite. Two days of no work (or at least less work) were just around the corner. Everyone was a little brighter. Bosses tended to check out slightly early, co-workers grabbed lunch together. Fridays were definitely the best work day.

As a stay-at-home mom, I would posit that Fridays are the absolute worst work day. By Friday, I am tired of the mundane...of the incessant snack making, diaper changing, potty helping, tantrum taming moments of mom life. And my kids are tired of me. Art time and song time and cookie making and even pure bribery isn't nearly as shiny and fun on Friday. Yes, we are all ready for a change, and even though that change comes the very next day, Fridays are tough around here.

Take today for example. Last night I made the mistake of telling the twins we would go to a touch-a-truck event. Rookie mistake. Never tell your almost 3 year olds about any plans beforehand. Never. Despite the drizzle and mud, they insisted that we go see the trucks. So after Shep's morning nap, I packed all three in and we trekked 25 minutes north. Upon pulling up, I thought it was going to be great. Two firetrucks, a police car, a tractor, a swat truck, a bus...about 10 vehicles lined up for toddler inspection. I was getting major mom points for this. Because some of the trucks were letting kids honk the horns, however, B&F immediately freaked out. I pretty much forced them to walk half-way down the aisle of trucks, thinking they would eventually warm up, but no such luck. We stayed less than 10 minutes.* Great, I thought. I will salvage this day with a trip to Calhoun's for my favorite corn pudding. After all, we are NEVER in this part of town, so we might as well take advantage of the the drive we just endured. After three passes trying to find the restaurant, I stopped to consult google. Turns out it closed last summer. Awesome. So after a lunch of fazoli's breadsticks and a drive home where Frances and Shep fell asleep less than 5 minutes from home, I am now sitting in the living room listening to the monitor as all three kids scream and cry and refuse to take a nap.

Pretty typical for a Friday.

*Note: I am currently convinced that your rate of success at events like these is directly related to how many kids you have that still need strollers. Though I wouldn't take anything for having all three of mine under three together, there is something to be said for getting at least one out of the stroller phase before adding a third.

Monday, June 9, 2014

the second time around

It goes faster the second time around, they say. But you don't listen. You've done this before; you know what to expect. You have that sweet second (or third) baby, and the long days begin. Balancing your new normal can make an hour seem like an eternity. Trying to entertain 2.5 year olds and keep an infant happy and stimulated, you count the minutes until dad gets home. And then you wake up one day and realize that they were right. It is going way too fast this time.

Last week Shepherd slept through the night...and not in the technical he slept 5 hours way--he went to bed at 6:30 pm and woke up at 6:00 am. This is one of the best milestones a baby reaches. It brings with it a happy, well-rested little one and sane, coherent parents (or dads in our case). Today at family gym class, he crawled all over the place, pulling up, scaling wedges and ledges. He has developed strong food preferences, banging incessantly for more ritz crackers. And next week he will be nine months old. Nine months. Three quarters of a year.

I'm normally the one looking to the future, getting excited about the milestones to come. And I'll admit that I cannot wait to see Shep's perfectly chubby thighs take their first steps and discover what his voice sounds like. But I really wish it would slow down a bit. Just a tiny bit. I don't want to miss these precious moments of drool covered onesies and gummy grins.

It truly does go faster the second time around.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ten lessons on faith

As a parent, we constantly think about the things we want to teach our children. There are the literal lessons. Most moms of toddlers are focused on ABCs, shapes, colors, numbers. Many dads dream about the day they can teach their little one to swing a golf club or throw a baseball. And then there are the less concrete ones--how to treat others, how to be part of a family, how to be a good friend.

For our family, faith is a central anchor. Though we don't walk around with our Bible in our bag or talk about God in every conversation, Andrew and I and our marriage are rooted in our love for the Lord. Accordingly, the lessons we want to teach our kids about faith are some of the lessons I think about most. Yes, we have had them all baptized. We take them to Mass each week, and we teach them stories from the Bible. For now, we are teaching them what we believe. But there are bigger lessons I want them to grasp. There are 10 lessons that I hope, as a parent, to truly instill in my sweet children regarding their own faith journey.

1) Believe. For your father and me, believing in Jesus as the Son of God is the most full and true way to know our Creator. And I'll be will make my soul sing with joy if one day you choose Jesus as well. But most of all I want you to believe. Believe in something. Believe in something more than yourself, something bigger than anything you can see. This world can be a hard place, but it is also quite magnificent. Look around; realize your smallness; see the miraculous way things work together; know that a higher power must be behind the beauty we get to experience each day. And if someday you decide to subscribe to a different faith, know that your dad and I will love and support you, learn as much as we can about your life path, and be ready to celebrate every milestone.

2) Question your faith. Never be afraid to question. Ask questions about what you believe, why you believe, whether you always believe. Questions are good. Questions are where we allow ourselves to be honest. Ruth Queen Smith, an incredibly wise woman, once told me that if you've never questioned your faith, you've never owned it. Never be so afraid of an answer that you refuse to ask the question. A true faith can withstand the questions, the answers, and the ambiguity that may follow.

3) Ambiguity is okay. Sweet children, this is a lesson I continue to learn each day. I am a black & white, everything has an order kind of person. But here's the thing...truly believing in something that you can't see or touch or fully explain is never going to be black & white. There will inevitably be gray, and that is just fine. As you live and grow, learning to embrace that ambiguity will enrich both your life and your faith.

4) Be able to explain why you believe what you believe. While ambiguity is good and necessary, your faith must have roots. Analyze yourself, your God, and your choices enough that you can explain your faith to others.

5) Respect other faiths. Each and every life philosophy has something to teach you. Remember this. Never foolishly assume that you and your faith have a monopoly on truth and wisdom. At the end of the day, most of us share much more commonality than difference.

6) Do not judge someone based on their faith. Wise ones walk many paths. Keep your eyes and mind open so that you can learn from all with lessons to teach, no matter what their faith background may be. Surrounding yourself with people who only think or believe like you will belittle your world, and you will truly miss much of the richness your Creator intends for you.

7) Be open to change. People evolve, and their beliefs do as well. Throughout our lives, we experience situations we could have never imagined. Each of these situations changes us, changes our very being. Know that the shape of your soul will shift over the years. Truths that you once held to be sacrosanct may one day come crashing down. And that's okay. Expect your faith to shift and change and grow. Just as a tree may grow in different directions, gain and lose branches, and shift with the wind, your beliefs will inevitably vary. But with good, deep roots, you will be able to hold on to the essential Truths.

8) Find a community. Here's the thing--though we were made as individuals, we were not made to live individually. We crave community, and I firmly believe that we thrive when we find people to do life with. While you should never isolate yourself and refuse associations with those outside your faith, it is vital that you find a faith community to join. Life can get hard and ugly. Hanging onto your God when things feel completely broken is incredibly difficult. There will be times when you truly need a community to lift you up and remind you of God's promises. And communities are also great for celebrating.

9) Hold onto your faith in the good times, too. It's easy to look to God when you need something. When life gets difficult, prayer seems to be a natural response. But remember to maintain that line of communication in the good times. When life is grooving along, all easy peasy, keep talking to your God. You see, in these good times you will often hear and know God most clearly. When you aren't full of petitions, when you aren't doing all the talking and are quiet enough to hear, you may find new depths of faith. And that is beautiful.

10) Love. Please, no matter what you do, remember that it all comes down to love. Love your Creator. Love your neighbors. Really, just love everyone. Live a life full of service borne from love. There is no better way to share your faith than to act with true, no-strings-attached love.