Sunday, August 30, 2015

a little trapped

Our littles go to bed very early. Shep still goes down around 6:30, with B&F following at 7:30. While Ellis doesn't have a strict bedtime just yet, in no time he will be joining the early bird crew as well. It works for us. All of our babies are excellent sleepers. We are thankful for their 11-12 hour nights, and I know that giving them the rest they need is important. An early bedtime works well for them, so it works for our family. And we all just do what works for our family.

But lately, if I'm honest, I've been feeling a little trapped. An early bedtime for them means an early end to each evening for us. For them to be in bed, at least one parent must be home. Four years of making sure to be home around 6:00 pm with probably four more to go sometimes feels a bit stifling. I feel like they are missing we are missing out. This Saturday, for instance, we went to a hot air balloon festival and had to leave before any of the balloons were even blown up. They saw the baskets but no balloons. I felt so bad. I worried they were sad to miss it, sad to see no big balloons. But y'all, today they told us the festival was their favorite part of the weekend. Of course it was. They loved seeing the baskets and eating hot dogs and snow cones. You see, they never really feel like they are missing out because they start with zero expectations. And they actually love going to bed. They love resting.

So we shall continue trapping ourselves in the house when most people are just starting their evening. The routine will continue to prevail in favor of our rested, ready-to-greet-the-morning children. And maybe one day in the not so distant future our littles will be ready for a late night adventure, and perhaps even see what the sky looks like when it is truly dark outside.

This happened after leaving the festival. The twins asked to cuddle on the couch, which then turned into a little photo booth action. That's one perfect way to feel a little better about being "trapped."

Friday, August 28, 2015


Barnes and Frances,

A few days ago you turned four. Four. I keep saying it to myself, and yet it still doesn't seem real. How can my tiny babies be four? But it is real. You are definitely four, and in spite of the shock of that number, I am loving sharing this age with you.

You are funny, precocious, giving, kind, energetic, playful, and generally a blast to be around. The days that once always felt long now have a different feel to them, as you keep our whole family busy and entertained. Just today I was thinking about your baby days, when I would literally go a whole day without truly talking to anyone. Now we talk all day long...there is barely a quiet moment between your stories, questions, songs and games.

You are both such sweet siblings. To baby Ellis, you are gentle and helpful. To Shepherd, you are (mostly) patient and inclusive. And to each other, you are best friends. Soulmates. Two parts of the same whole.

Barnes, your imagination is incredible. I can never guess what you will come up with next. Your first and favorite joke is: "Knock knock, who's there, don't cry it's Easter." You say every part, and sometimes you and Frances insert a different phrase or word for Easter. You truly crack yourself up. B, your feelings are so big. When you love, it's giant...when you hurt, it's giant. I love your sensitive spirit and pray that we can foster that as you grow. You give the best hugs in the world--you wrap your whole body, arms and legs, as tight as possible around me and I just melt. Your smile is infectious. When you play and build, you are so very meticulous. I love seeing the zoos and houses and libraries and restaurants and fire stations you create. You have grand plans in your head and work so hard to see them come to fruition.

Frances, you are our nurturer. You already exhibit incredible kindness and empathy, two of the traits I would most want you to have if I could choose. When anyone around you is sad, you feel it. It's beautiful. You love taking care of your baby, who you have named "Kitty Cat Kitty Cat Frances Frances." Yes, that is one name. Of course it is. You feed her, change her, put her down for naps and for bed. She comes in her carseat nearly everywhere we go. Frances, you love all things girl, and you love all things boy. I am so thankful that you don't limit yourself. When the boys all had robot shirts, you just had to have one too--but you wanted it to be pink and purple, which was quite a tall order (don't worry, we had one custom made). You are everyone's favorite sibling--you are so kind and caring to each of your brothers, and they adore you. Shepherd especially is your little companion right now. Your sweet, tender spirit is amazing, and I pray that you will always keep that precious softness that draws people in.

My twins, I love being your mom. You will never know what a joy you are to me. One day if you have kids of your own and realize you love them so much it hurts your heart, know that I love you in just that way. You are so precious to me, and our days together are irreplaceable. As you grow more into your selves, I am loving getting to know you. Finding out who you are, who you are growing into, what you enjoy and what makes you smile are the treasures of my day.

Thank you for sharing your days with me. I pray that I can be a source of love, comfort and encouragement as we continue to grow together.



Thursday, August 20, 2015


On one of our first extended family trips after Andrew and I were married, my mother-in-law and I didn't exactly see eye to eye. We were in Nashville visiting Andrew's sister and were all staying at the same hotel. Andrew got quite sick, so we went back to the room so he could rest and have some down time. Anne knocked on our door no less than four times to see if she could take care of him. No ma'am. No thank you. He was mine now, in sickness and in health, thank you very much.

And that's not the only time we have disagreed. Anne is my number one opponent in my fight against more "stuff." She finds it impossible to arrive for a visit without gifts for the kids, no matter how many times she has witnessed our overflowing playroom. Books? Thanks, Anne. More gadgets? Yep. Art supplies and toys and baby beds and stuffed animals (especially ones that she somehow still has from Happy Meals). Check.

But here's the thing--almost every disagreement I have with my mother-in-law is rooted in the fact that she loves too much. Too deeply. And she just can't help but express it. She loves Andrew so very well. Learning to let him cling to another woman must have been hard. And each time she stepped on my toes a bit, it wasn't because she didn't love me was only because she loved him too much. And her grandkids. Y'all. Anne was created to be Gigi. She is patient and playful, fun in a way only a grandmother can be. The kids adore her, justifiably so.

Yes, while mother-in-law horror stories abound, I got pretty lucky. Anne is the mother-in-law you call in the middle of the night when you have 5 month old twins and both parents get a stomach virus. She is the one who then makes a 3 hour road trip at 5:00 a.m., wrecks her car in the mountains on the way, then parks it at your house so that you can't see the damaged side because she doesn't want you to worry.

Now don't get me wrong--she is definitely not perfect, and she is not a push-over. That would be too boring for her. Instead, she balances her desire to please and serve with quite a bit of spunk, and makes you like her all the better for it.

I met Anne a little over 10 years ago. At the time, her son and I were fumbling our way through the beginning of a college relationship. A group of our friends stayed at Andrew's parents' home in Greenville for the Tennessee vs. South Carolina football game, and Anne was perfectly warm and welcoming to all of us. She says that she could tell that Andrew and I were more than friends. I so wanted her to like me. I had no idea that weekend that, 10 years later, she would be one of the people I cherish most in the world. That she would be a second mom to me in so many ways. That she would be someone I have cried to when my babies were sick and struggled through the uncertainties of motherhood with. That I would spend more than one night having a little too much wine with her, including one evening where I tried to convince her to go to Waffle House with me at 1:00 a.m. That she would be the one my little family turned to when we needed extra hands around. That she would become one of my people. My most beloved people. I didn't realize that weekend in 2004 that I was meeting the woman who would soon give me the greatest gift a mom ever gives another woman--the gift of her son, raised so incredibly well, cherished and taught by a mom in such a way that prepared him to excel as a husband and father.

We recently found out that Anne is sick--she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We are not fooling ourselves. We know the road ahead for her, and for us, is long and windy and difficult and ugly. And speaking for myself, I am not praying so much for ease. Some things aren't realistic. As much as I hope for an easy recovery, as much as I pray for some miraculous healing, I pray more fervently for the grace to face the path ahead. For good days. For sweet moments. For pain-free time. For continued laughter and lightness. For inexplicable peace that comes only from our God. For more memories, big and small, as we travel together.

As a daughter, wife, mom, special-ed teacher, mother-in-law, Gigi and friend, Anne's whole life has been spent serving others. I pray that those who know and love her may now surround her and serve her well as she marches into this uncharted territory.

Monday, August 17, 2015

passing it down

Barnes & Frances have grown into quite the little mirrors. With two almost-four-year-olds around, Andrew and I are quickly becoming aware of what is said and done often in our home. Our words, actions, mannerisms...these two mirror them right back to us. It's adorable. It's overwhelming. It's a glance into just how influential we can be as their parents and a reminder that we teach most effectively through our actions. And while there are many characteristics I do hope to pass to our children, there is one in particular that I don't want them to mirror.

I enjoy running. For me, it's like therapy and exercise rolled into one. And while I've been running for years, I am not a great runner. During one of my more difficult runs last week, I thought to myself that maybe I should just give it up. Stop running. I am not "good" at it, probably never will be, so perhaps I should put away my running shoes.

You see, I sometimes have a problem enjoying good. Perfect, or at least excellent, has always been the goal. And my fellow perfectionists know how paralyzing this can be. Not beginning a project at all because it's not perfectly planned. Playing into a diminishing return because you just know it could be better.

In this way, life with four under four has been so wonderful for me. I have learned to embrace good. Sometimes excellent is too lofty a goal, and good has to do. Good can be good enough. And here's the thing--good can still be fun and interesting. Good is still worth the time and effort. And...often, what started as good turns into great.

So while I want my children to try hard, I pray they can embrace the good. I want them to enjoy activities not because they are great at them, but because they love them. I don't want them to quit soccer because others score more goals, or decide not to do gymnastics because someone else gets skills more quickly. Because good is okay. Good is a goal in and of itself. May they learn from me to never let perfect be the enemy of good.