The “Oh, oh, oh” book

My mom learned to read with the Dick and Jane books. I learned to read with the Dick and Jane books. Corin’s first experience reading out loud was with – you guessed it – a Dick and Jane book. Lina recently went through a phase where she carried our big book of collected Dick and Jane stories everywhere, calling it the “Oh, oh, oh” book. (As in, “Oh, oh, oh. Look, Jane. Look and see.”)

And thus, the idea for this year’s costumes was born. We donned them yesterday evening for a fall festival at a church near us.

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Oh, Dick, oh, Jane, it was fun. Fun, fun, fun. But oh, Mother, oh, Father, were those kids ever tired when it was over!

Mother’s Day

This is perhaps the lushest spring I have experienced in Tennessee. I suppose it’s extra rainfall that has brought us this verdant wonderland. It’s been a steady succession of blossoming, from the daffodils in March to pears, dogwoods and cherries, irises and peonies and now the sweet smell of honeysuckle and blossoms I haven’t been able to identify.

Somehow, the spring profusion seems like a fitting lead-up to Mother’s Day, with its celebration of the women who give life, the nurturing they provide and the growth they support. I love Mother’s Day, in all its cheesy Hallmark glory. You’d think the experience of infertility would have soured the holiday. Instead, I fully appreciate the privilege of being honored with funny and thoughtful cards, preschool crafts, little gifts payed for with saved allowance, and delicious meals lovingly prepared by a kind and capable husband.

This year, I thought a lot about children whose mothers are missing. A recent experience with a little boy my son’s age has reminded me that not every kid gets wrapped in the arms of a mom who cares and is there in the ways she should be. I’ve thought, too of friends and family members whose moms are gone, leaving what must be an unfillable hole.

I am so grateful for the time I get to spend with my mom, and for the hugs I get from my precious kids. Corin loves holidays, and his excited Mother’s Day wishes continued all day. I did laundry and housework and got annoyed by the dog, but the time with family was the highlight, as it always is.

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No water guns in the house!

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The boys’ table, a.k.a. Trouble Corner

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My sweet mama

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I still have scars from where he stabbed me with a pencil – twice – but I do love that brother of mine.

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What better metaphor for motherhood than choosing the photo where everyone else looks normal?

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Who armed the hooligans?

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Six days to Christmas and all is well

My son’s Christmas countdown tells me it is currently six days until Christmas. My radio, tuned to the local non-stop Christmas music station, agrees, as does my kitchen, currently overflowing with the remains of last week’s massive round of Christmas baking. We visited the Dickens Christmas festival in downtown Franklin last Sunday and have watched several of our favorite holiday movies. We’ve read as many versions of the nativity story as we can get our hands on. I am enjoying all these things while simultaneously remaining completely astonished that this year is drawing to a close.

So, here I am, finally posting a few pictures from our lovely Thanksgiving at the in-laws’ in Georgia.

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The spread

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These potatoes, y’all…

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The table

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The crew

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The family

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The handsomest grandpa around

There are times when it nearly takes my breath away, how fast life is passing and how quickly my children change. This year, Corin remembers nearly every detail of last Christmas and can look forward to holiday events with much more specific anticipation. He put a lot of the ornaments on the tree this year. He also understands more and more of the Christmas story. Lina still mostly ignores a lot of the preliminaries and really still prefers that we open gifts for her so she can get to the fun part of playing with whatever’s inside. She adores the holiday sweets, and her fairly new appreciation for babies makes the story of baby Jesus one she can relate to better than most. Today, she spontaneously said “Bible” for the first time, and then repeated it throughout the morning. Our Little People nativity set – given us by Aunt Lila several years ago – is always a big hit, and we will spend more time this next week acting out the story of Jesus’ birth in a way that hopefully brings it home a bit for the munchkins.

As an adult, you would think the endless repetition of the nativity story would get old. I find the opposite is true. Every year, the story has new meaning for me. This year, I’ve been struck by the universality of the gift of God’s Son: “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” We humans tend to put everyone on a worthiness scale. It has come home hard this year that God sent a Savior for everyone. I find myself asking, “What am I doing to bring God to people where they are?” It’s a hard question, and I wrestle with what that really looks like in my life. For now, I am thankful for the seasonal reminder of a boundless love that belongs to all of us.

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Singing and dancing to Christmas music

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4th retrospective, and a four-legged good-bye

Thought I’d drop these off from our 4th of July weekend, which also included a celebration of Grandma’s birthday. (Corin: “How old is Grandma going to be?” Me: [a number that sounds pretty high at 5] Corin: “Oh my. I’m not ready for that yet.”) Lots of fun cousin time for the kiddos and lots of good food for everyone.

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Radnor Lake from a quick. slightly rainy hike on Saturday afternoon

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I knew when I took that last photo, of my dad with his guide dog, Chief, that it would probably be the last one of the two of them together. Chief is retiring from his life of faithful service and this weekend will be going to join his new family in west Nashville, where he will spend his retirement relaxing and playing with his people and their other two Vizslas. After that very painful parting, my dad will be heading up to Pilot Dogs, where he will meet his new guide dog and spend two weeks training before they travel home together. I think my dad would say partings are by far the hardest part of the otherwise remarkable experience of having a guide dog. It is no small thing to say farewell to a friend and companion who has been by your side nearly every moment for so many years. We’re all losing a member of the family. But Chief is 10, has arthritis and has earned his leisure years. We will miss you, buddy, and hope your days are full of love and joy. Don’t boss those young pups around too much.

Awesome moms

Prepare yourself; this one’s going to get sappy.

It’s Mothers’ Day, and I’ve got to tell you: I know a lot of awesome moms. I see so many of you, loving your kids with everything you have, making sacrifices that often go unnoticed, juggling a millions things no one else thinks about, ending your days utterly exhausted, but knowing in your bones that they are worth it. I see the look in your eyes when you watch your kids enjoy life with abandon and when they make you proud. I see your pain when your kids are sick and hurting and you can’t fix it for them. I see you worry as your kids grow and make choices and take risks.

There is a lot of legitimate criticism out there about ways modern parents screw up. I see plenty of that, too. Moms (and dads, too, but their day’s in June) have a hard slog trying to figure out how to make the right decisions for our kids. How do you keep them safe while encouraging independence? How do you show them love as you demonstrate consequences? How do you teach them to love God and serve others in a world obsessed with self?  How do you shelter them while preparing them to live out there? It’s really hard; sometimes it about breaks your heart. Sometimes the simultaneous mundanity and enormity of the job is enough to bury you alive. Sometimes you really screw up.

But I see so many of you, making mistakes, getting beaten down, but carrying on out of the immense, undeniable force of a mother’s love. You encourage me and make me feel less alone. You give me hope that there are good parents in this world, raising kids who will make us proud. You give me the confidence to be boldly unapologetic in doing my best for my kids.

Of all the awesome moms I know, three in particular deserve special mention.

  • One mom gave me life and raised me to be the person I am. It may be a cliche, but being a mother really has given me new eyes to see my own beautiful mom. How much better I understand all that she poured into my brother and me. I am forever grateful for all she gave and continues to give, and now I treasure our friendship more than ever. I know she’s missing her own mom this year, and it reminds me how precious our time together really is.
  • One mom loved a couple microscopic clusters of cells enough to give them a chance at life with someone else, and now she loves from a distance a little girl who calls me “mama.” Laurie sent me a bouquet of flowers this Mothers’ Day, and it meant more than I can say. It took two moms to make Lina, and don’t you think I’ll ever forget it. (I’m sorry, Laurie – I know Dan is probably rolling his eyes at us again!)
  • One mom came to me by marriage, a mother-in-law who makes it impossible to relate to all those mother-in-law jokes. I have an inkling it may not be easy to cede the role of “chief woman in your son’s life” to someone else, but she has shown me such love and grace, and she has become a second mother and friend. She is a remarkable woman, and this weekend, we had extra reason to be incredibly proud of her as she graduated with her BSN.

I’ll leave you with pictures from our graduation celebration.

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Easter

Easter has become one of my favorite holidays. We keep it pretty low-key, but the kids have such a great time, and we have had some fantastic conversations with Corin this week as we’ve read Bible verses about Jesus’ death and resurrection and talked about what it all really means. He understands so much more every year, and it’s such an amazing thing to watch him take it in.

As a big added bonus, my cousin and her kids are here visiting on spring break. The weather was really pleasant for this first Easter in the new house, so we got to do a real egg hunt in the back yard for the first time. And the final icing on the celebration: Lina’s donor family sent us a box of cascarones (confetti eggs) all the way from Texas. We’re still dropping bits of confetti around the house, like a little party that just keeps going.

It was a fun day.

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Hard to believe that not long ago, this kid could hardly be bothered to look at a coloring book.

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“Hey, Corin,” we said, “come take a picture hugging Lina.” She was pretty sure he was trying to strangle her, instead.

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She’s coming for you, Chief.

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