Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sibling Sentiments

These past two months have brought some wonderful things with it, starting with the Christmas season and all it entails, celebrating birthdays, teeth tottering, a Girl’s Trip to Lubbock, football watching, my mom and her classes that teach her how to use all of her technology and gadgets (I don’t even know where to begin to tell you all the reasons why this makes me grin like a possum) cold weather (which equals so many happy things…fireplaces, hot chocolate, cute sweaters…just to name a few)  good friends, and laughter…Lots of laughter.  My 3 geese have been on my hip most of the time, and I was quite traumatized, honestly, when our Christmas vacation came to a screeching halt and I had to deliver them back to school.  They make this house loud and joyful and messy. They laugh and eat and play.  And they make this mama’s heart feel like it’s going to explode when I stop and look at them and think I am going to die from their preciousness. 

As you know, the holidays are synonymous with togetherness.  Breathing the same air.  Peas in a pod.  And while most of the time, this is a good thing, there came a point in our family’s life recently when the Kumbaya moments fell to the wayside and living at Morris Ave was no longer roses and ponies.  The moment was heartbreaking to this mama because once my kids start bickering and fighting with one another…the gloves are off. 

Claire and Gregory have a unique relationship due to the fact that neither one of them remembers their lives without the other. They are 17 months apart, and probably the closest thing to twins that one can muster without actually giving birth to two babies on the same day…a concept that I can hardly wrap my brain around.  They are inseparable. They finish each other’s sentences. She is his “other mother” and he is her biggest fan.   It’s hard to say one of their names without the other.  You get the point. 

And then, there is Meredith Grace.  She came into the world at a whopping 5 pounds, and captured all of our hearts the instant we met her.  She squeaks and 4 people JUMP…and I am beginning to think she prefers her world to operate this way. She is witty and funny.  She is joyful and happy and kind.  We often call her the icing on our cake…we honestly could not imagine our life without her beautiful smile.  But our family faces the same problem that many others share as well…2’s company, 3’s a crowd.  My older two can buddy up and leave Meredith out of their card game, bike riding, trampoline jumping, Lego building or whatever adventure they have found themselves involved with…and cut her to the quick faster than anything.  She will always be the youngest, and with that comes struggles that I know all too well, growing up in a house full of 3 older brothers.  I sometimes watch Claire and Gregory interact with Meredith and wince as they shun her immaturity with their tacky tones and raw run-ins.  Obviously, I address it in the moment the best I can…usually with an apology and a break for everyone.  But as the last couple of months have dragged on with what seems like endless days of being cooped up inside due to frigid temperatures, my patience has become thin and their relationship threadlike.   

 And last night…it all came to a head. 

What had become a typical scenario:  kids playing outside. Sun goes down, kids come inside.  Older two begin playing in boy’s room.  Youngest wants to join them. They say no. She cries. Blah blah blah. 
But this time, it was different.  This time, I heard a tone in her cry that reached in and pricked a spot in my soul that I didn’t even know was there.  It instantly brought back memories of quarrels with my brothers…one in particular…and I immediately jumped to her defense. A flood of emotions overwhelmed me as I walked into Gregory’s room and sat down.

 We read all the time about how a girl’s father is the largest influence in her life when it comes to her self-esteem…which often (not always) translates out in her sexual activity or lack there-of.  Cody is super conscious of this element in his relationship with our girls, and is continuously looking for ways to make them feel adored and special.  But what about their brother?  Anyone can read books that have been researched and written on birth order, sibling rivalry, dynamics between same sex siblings vs. different, etc.  But I want to go out on a limb here and say that the relationship between a girl and her brother(s) is just as pivotal in developing the eyes she will look through when determining her future self-worth.  Not unlike her parents, the voice that she hears from him will become the voice inside of her head as she grows older and begins to look towards her future mate.  We as parents spend so much time analyzing and tweaking our parenting skills to make sure that we do everything we can to encourage a healthy child…emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  But what are we doing to encourage a healthy, trustworthy relationship between our children as siblings? Our girls need a brother that is going to protect them and make them feel safe in the moments their father is not around, and our son needs sisters to teach him what it feels like to be a knight in shining armor.   They deserve a brother that speaks kindly and respectfully to them, and it is imperative that they return the favor.  Our girls need their brother (along with their daddy) to teach them what men of integrity act like, and this precious son then needs to attempt to do so.  These daughters of ours are going to need another voice to echo their father’s proclamations of their beauty on the days when they feel anything but beautiful. These girls need another soul on the planet that knows exactly what it is like to grow up in this home…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Where else would we rather they learn how to exhibit the imperative, yet paling trait called loyalty?  They are a team. A unit.  A tribe.  If we allow them to cut, criticize, and condemn one another in our own homes and pass it off as “sibling rivalry”, we are sadly missing the mark in our expectations of eventual hatchet burying.  Those wounds created by hurtful words or toxic tones, regardless of who speaks them, do not heal easily.  They do not magically disappear with a salve soaked in siblinghood. 

 Be conscious of the little relationships in your home. Teach them how to treat one another.  Call your boys to a higher standard by sanctioning them to safeguard their sister(s).  Impart on your daughters the necessity of respecting their brother(s).  Model loyalty.  Mirror sincerity.  Require tenderness.

So…30 minutes and many tears later, I believe that I communicated to our geese what I have been trying to say for years. God has given them each other…to take care of, to learn from, and to cling to. And most importantly, Gregory left the room with this simple understanding:  Sometimes, being a big brother is better than being a superhero. 


Whatever works, folks.       

Friday, November 30, 2012

Uncomplicated Purity

Like many of you, hubs and I have some sappy stories from our days in the beginning our life together.  Every year when we break out the Christmas decorations, one story in particular takes us back to the days when we were “living on loans and love”.  Grad school had started for him, I was finishing up my education degree, and we were freshly married. Our parents were extremely generous and supportive, providing us with enough money to pay our rent and put groceries on our table…but the rest of it was up to us.  Life was good. We were oblivious to the realities of being grown-ups, because our reality was the little cocoon that we had created in the tiny apartment we called home.  Our days consisted of going to class, coming home and cooking dinner together, and spending the evenings studying or watching TV or taking walks together in the neighborhood.  It was a time of sweetness and uncomplicated purity.

After only a few months of marriage, it came time for the holidays.  I was so excited about having our first Christmas together as a married couple, and looked forward to everything about the season.  I remember asking him about a Christmas tree and he reminded me that we would need to look for an artificial tree due to his allergies.  So my mom and I set out on Black Friday, early in the morning, and found a tree on sale…I think I paid $20 for it.  I assure you, there was nothing glamorous about it, but I brought it home like a hunter with a 10 point deer.  Hubs insisted that we put it up immediately and after the ten minutes it took to assemble it…we stopped and looked at one another as the obvious question crossed both of our minds.  What in the world were we going to put on the tree?  (Refer to the above mentioning of just how green at this thing called “life” we really were)  That was the moment when I popped off about how I would just run to Hobby Lobby the next day and pick up some decorations.  Hubs looked at me and sweetly said, “Honey, we really don’t have the money for that.”  Gasp.  I remember looking at him…puzzled…and thinking, “is he serious? We can’t have a naked Christmas tree…”  (This would be a good time to explain that hubs and I grew up with different backgrounds, but that’s a whole other blog post for a whole other time…but you get the picture) I don’t remember the rest of the evening or how that conversation all played out that night but I do know that I didn’t run to HL the next day, or the next.  Our little tree sat in our living room…naked…for 3 days.  And then the magic happened.

Cody came home from class with a plastic sack filled to its brim with pinecones. He had a friend at school that had offered him as many as he could find out of his yard that day. Seemed sweet enough…but  I was slightly taken aback when he whipped out another sack…this one from Wal-Mart…and began removing ribbon, paperclips and spray paint.  He proceeded to explain that he had come up with an idea of how to decorate our Christmas tree.  He presented the idea, I was skeptical to say the least, but was weary of looking at the bare branches, so I agreed to help. 

That evening, we spray painted every one of those pinecones with gold paint and let them dry.  After they dried, we carefully pulled apart dozens of paperclips to make hooks.  And finally, we hot glued the paperclips to the pinecones, and completed the look with a tiny bow.   We laughed and told stories of Christmas’ growing up while we worked on the project.  I quietly remained skeptical, honestly, but enjoyed the process of my new husband’s handiwork. 

When they were all completed, we began to place them on our little tree…and one by one, they adorned that tree until it was covered in handmade ornaments.  I was amazed at how precious they turned out, how amazing our tree looked, and in total awe at the man that made my dreams come true of having a beautiful tree for our first Christmas together.  Those ornaments were nothing special to an outsider, but to us, they represented so much. 

Needless to say, over the years, our lives have grown and our Christmas decorations have grown with it.  Cody works incredibly hard to provide our family with a beautiful home that we enjoy decorating year after year for the holidays.  But every year, when it comes time to decorate our tree, one thing always remains… our pinecone ornaments.  We have kept them for 12 years and will continue to do so as long as possible.  They have hung on every Christmas tree, and every year, our geese have to listen to the story of when “we became an us”.  We remind our babies of our meager beginning, and it is a precious reminder to us as well.  Those silly pinecones remind us of simpler times…of resourcefulness…of the extravagant happiness we felt that first year, and yet by the world’s standards, we had very little. While I don’t necessarily long for those days (because after all, those were pre-baby days) I sometimes long for that ME.  I long for the girl that hadn’t tasted tears of grief and loss.  I long for the girl that didn’t know what it was like to stress about the unknown.   I long for the girl that was satisfied with making something beautiful out of simply “making do with what we have”.  I long for uncomplicated purity. 

While the reality stands that that “season” of life has passed, I pray that our little pinecones may be a reminder to all of us to embrace the season we are in…regardless. A season of joy.  A season of chaos.  Most of all, a season to celebrate the One that gives us life abundantly that came to the earth in the rawest form of uncomplicated purity. I am incredibly grateful that some things never change.  

Merry Christmas~



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Car Connections

A week ago today, my geese and I got into the Suburban to head to school like we do every morning.  Upon turning the key in the ignition, I came to the realization and horror that my vehicle was not responding to this command.  In fact, it was ignoring it completely. There was no response…no guttural utterance, no choking, no sound…nothing. This vehicle had begun to give us fits about 3 months ago, and things just seemed to be getting worse.  I gasped out loud, and quickly grabbed my cell phone as I glanced at the clock.  Great, I thought…12 minutes until the babies are late to school.  Without even thinking, I began to dial the phone number of the one person in the world that has consistently rescued me from any possible car woe that has come my way. 

My daddy. 

Upon dialing the 4th number in the sequence, my heart sank and the tears emerged.  Claire looked at me sweetly as I brushed the wetness from my face.  A couple of phone calls later, and the kids off to school, I sat on my couch with a cup of coffee and began writing the plan…  the plan for my pity party that was inevitable and imminent.  You see, my daddy was the one that showed up with a (new to me) car on my 16th birthday just in time for me to drive to my first Winter Formal.  He was the one that took the day off from work and took me car shopping on my 18th birthday, as we celebrated my acceptance into the college of my choice.  He was the one that sat me down and explained how to purchase insurance, why it’s important, and how much it cost.  He loved cars, even going as far as owning his own 1968 Camaro where he dabbled in the sport of drag racing.  He changed my oil every 3,000 miles like clock-work, he rotated my tires, and he was the first one I called at the first sign of problems. He made me feel protected and when I married Cody, he continued to do such.  Cody embraced this safety net, and developed his own dependence on Dad’s knowledge.  He shared this knowledge with Cody, and they did their own bonding under the hood of many vehicles. 

I have inherited his love of cars, and am constantly looking at the make, model, and features of new ones as they roll off of the assembly line. I am limited right now in my choices, due to the gaggle of geese I tote around to every dance rehearsal and soccer practice in Small Town America.  But one fact remains: I have never, ever purchased a vehicle that he was not a vital part of the process. He was always my road trip traveler in the past when I have trapessed across Texas in search of a “mommy-mobile” suitable for this tribe.  He was always full of advice, full of opinions, and full of banter about whether or not I was getting a good enough “deal”. 

I knew that it was time to begin looking for a different car, and I knew that this was just going to be one more “first” to add to the list of “First ____ without Dad”.  It’s been a full year of those, and I am beginning to glimpse the finish line as we quickly approach the anniversary of his passing at the end of this month…Thanksgiving Day, to be exact.  I got online and began looking, and two days later, found myself travelling…alone…to a nearby city to obtain a new car. 

And I bawled the entire way there. 

But after pulling myself together, blowing my nose, and putting on some lipstick, I got to thinking:  Seriously? Are you really this sappy? It’s a car, for crying out loud! Get it together! But it did get me to pondering my relationship with my own babies.  What will they remember about me? What will they grieve for when they do it for the first time, alone? What will be the one thing that makes them feel like an “official grown-up” when I am no longer around to share in the experience? My daddy probably had no idea that I paired this experience with him in such tangible, heartfelt ways…I honestly didn’t even know myself.  Of course you expect the “big” ones to be painful…holidays, anniversaries, etc.  But it’s truly the little things that make an imprint on the hearts of the ones you love the most that will stay with them for an eternity. 

What “little things” am I imprinting on the hearts of my baby geese today? I have to stop and ask myself this question as life carries on. When it’s easier to just cook dinner myself, I have to pause and remember that my girls are going to someday be deemed responsible for providing meals to their own families.  I need to expose them to this skill, which requires timeand taking the time to do it, requires intention.  Am I being intentional in the opportunities I provide my children each day to learn things about life that only their mama can teach them?

The good news is that I did not bawl all the way home from the car dealership that day.  I walked away feeling good. Feeling empowered. Feeling confident.  I’d say he did his job, and did it well. 

And yes, Daddy…I got a good deal. 


Monday, October 29, 2012

October Optimism

One of the most endearing traditions of this Small Town America we call home, is our ability to allow our children to enjoy Halloween in all of its glory, in a safe and family-friendly environment. Now I must admit, I am a bit of a Halloween “scrooge” as one of my friends so eloquently named herself…I hate dressing up, I’ve never been a big candy eater, and you already know how I feel about arachnids…so why would I get fired up about a “holiday” that combines these characteristics? It has always been a bit of a conundrum to me why people find this experience to be so enticing.  Once I had babies, my feelings on the subject didn’t change much….UNTIL the first time I laid eyes on THIS: 



I cannot even put into words how much I love this picture.  Seriously.  Somebody needs to get me some crackers so that I can smear these babies on them and Eat.Them.Up.

I digress.

So over the years, I have grown more willing to be more enthusiastic about Halloween and “Fall Festivals” and Trunk or Treats (insert eye roll here…sorry PTO) for the sake of the children.  Because isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?  Isn’t that what spending gobs of money and time and stress are all about…for the children? So we can dress up and eat gigantic amounts of teeth-rotting candy and blah blah blah….? Ok, maybe I’m not more enthusiastic about Halloween…but let me tell you what I AM enthusiastic about.  I’m enthusiastic about relationships.  I’m enthusiastic about my geese forming relationships with people that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to form a bond.  I’m enthusiastic about asking questions and getting to know others and my children learning the important skill of looking people in the eye when they speak to them. Im enthusiastic about my kids knowing that the building that we attend every week called the "church" is not what makes being a Christian's the God we serve and worship that makes it special. Its the people that make up the Body of Christ inside that building that make it special. And I want them to know those people.

Our church has begun somewhat of a tradition over the last few years that has really blessed our family.  The baby geese of the congregation are invited to dress in friendly costumes, and the adults without young children are asked to bring a couple of bags of candy and some lawn chairs and everyone goes out to a Girl Scout Camp outside of town.  We meet for food and fellowship, and before we break for supper, the children are invited to walk around to the adults who have spread out among the camp in their lawn chairs.  The geese are given a list of questions to choose from to ask the adults …instead of saying “trick or treat”…my daughter might ask the widow that sits across the aisle from us every Sunday, “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?”  or “What is your favorite Bible story?”  And before the child receives a piece of candy from that adult, it is asked of them to listen to the adult’s response and then politely respond to a question that the adult has for the child in return.  A simple exchange between two souls that might not take place otherwise.  It is and was priceless.  I stood there last night and just tried (really hard) to close my mouth. I wanted to soak up the sweetness of the moment. I felt like I was eavesdropping on intimate conversations while I listened to the answers that my babies gave to some of the questions that were asked of them. I was moved to tears more than once as my friends got to know the hearts of my favorite little people on earth (our babies) …as our fellow believers, our church, learned about our babies as people…not as “those P… kids”. I learned that my son’s favorite Bible character is David and that Meredith’s favorite story is about Creation. I would spend a small fortune on a Minnie Mouse costume any day of the week, month, or year to be able to share in the magnitude of those moments.  You can’t put a price on that stuff.
Having said all of that, let me share a little bit of what my babies learned as well….

Meredith learned that Mrs. Hall has one of the most beautiful smiles in Small Town America. Bar None. 
Meredith has been learning from these two since she exited the womb.  Literally.  But lately, she has learned what tenacity and strength and courage look like. She and others are being taught that neither cancer nor any other earthly struggle can separate us from the love of God.





This precious couple teaches my little family about commitment. They teach us about being willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of others. They teach us about humbleness. And I’m not even kidding when I say that their smiles start at the depths of their souls and come forth like a spring…and that is why they smile like that. Like that.   I don’t know anybody that doesn’t need or want some of what they have.


These two stopped long enough to have their picture taken. Lesson learned? The days of having their picture taken (together…voluntarily) are quickly becoming numbered. Sigh.


Mere consistently learns that life is more fun when Gigi is around.
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." L.M.Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables  


Monday, September 24, 2012

Thelma and Louise Theology

We had quite a little situation at our house this weekend.  Saturday night, the back gate was left open in the yard, and our two dogs ran loose, like Thelma and Louise with fur.  Me, being somewhat fickle in my parenting of animals, didn’t sweat the escape, because I figured they would return when they were finished with their frolicking.   Their pattern had been established.  They would get out, run around the neighborhood a couple of times and flex their muscles to all the dogs still imprisoned behind their gates, and then show up in the driveway, thirsty and ready for bed.  I knew the drill, and didn’t have the energy to resist their rebellion.  The geese were panicked, but I assured them that when we woke up in the morning, Abby and Sugar would be present and accounted for.  Looking back, I see that I should have been more concerned, but I had more important things to worry about that night…like whether or not Kansas State was going to beat the OU Sooners. You gotta have priorities, people.

The sun came up on Sunday morning, and as I stumbled to the Keurig (speaking of priorities) I noticed the lack of two nose prints on the glass window of our back door.  20 minutes and 5 different “oh no…they didn’t come home last night” statements later, Captain Obvious left the premises and I began to feel annoyed.  Where could those little jailbirds have gone?  And then it happened…annoyance gave way to panic…panic gave way to guilt (it was me, after all, that opened the back door after hubs had specifically put them in the house while he worked in the yard) and then guilt gave way to tears.  Tears are the official place that hubs figures out that any given situation is serious.  After some reassuring hugs and some “we can look for them after church” salve applied to my guilty wounds, I got dressed and the five of us headed out the door. 

My sweet friend, Heidi, made the mistake of asking, “How are you?” and you would have thought that Armageddon was near due to the high-pitched, unintelligible squawking that came from my mouth.  I think I sputtered out something about my dogs being missing and that it was all my fault, and anything else neurotic you can think of.  I made the decision to spare the souls sitting around me of this mess and go look for my animals.  My kind-hearted son overheard this conversation and offered to come along to “help and keep you company, Mama”.  (I kid you not that some days I fantasize about smearing my children on crackers and eating them up because their sweetness overwhelms me)  So off we went to search for the dynamic duo.   

When I say that my little and I drove through the trenches SEARCHING AIMLESSLY for those animals, it would not be an exaggeration.  We hollered their names, we whistled until we were hoarse, and we brainstormed on their direction of departure.  We prayed out loud, we prayed silently, and we may or may not have stopped once for refreshing beverages to fuel our journey.  About half-way through our pilgrimage, I received something from the Lord that took my breath away.  I received the words from God that said, “This is the kind of searching I do for my children every single day. You search for your dogs with great fervor, and I search for my children.  I will drive up and down the streets, I will holler their name, I will go to ends of the Earth to call every single one of them Home. “   Leave it to the God I adore, to go with me, as I left the church building.  Leave it to Him to quiet my heart in my moments of panic and anxiety, and understand that while this may seem small to some, it was a really big deal to me.  He knew to go with me because He knew that this was more than just my dogs being missing. He knew to go with me because He knows that when I screw up and make mistakes (aka ALL THE TIME) I hear another little voice in my head that blames, accuses, and slaps on the guilt.  A voice that is undoubtedly, not His.  “You are so irresponsible…you let your kids’ dogs run away…what kind of mother are you?” OR “you know that Abby is Meredith’s best friend, right? Are you just the cruelest parent ever to dismiss your kid when she cried last night for her dog to be found?”  The voice of an enemy that wants to see me wallow in shame and guilt for something as simple as letting my dogs out; but he uses the simplest of things to destroy the most convoluted of people. How many times do we as mamas hear that voice instead of the One that proclaims Life abundantly? How many times do we spend our days beating ourselves up for the mistakes we make with our children instead of celebrating the One that redeems them all?

At this point, my hubs had called and left word that upon his arrival home, he discovered that there were two exhausted, thirsty little mutts in our backyard, waiting by the door, nose prints in-tact. I cried again, this time out of sheer thankfulness that I didn’t have to watch my daughter’s heart physically break when I broke the news to her that Abby and Sugar were gone.  Selfishly, I had decided that I would rather have had my spleen removed with a bread knife than have had that conversation.  I came home, grabbed those stinkers (the dogs, not the children) and hugged them in-between scolding’s.  Abby got a bath, complete with the adorning of her Halloween dress, and a snausage.  I honestly kept looking at her and thinking about the Prodigal Son story. How melodramatic is that?   How could this little being with fur tug at my heart in such a powerful way?  Is it because of what she represents…ultimately my kids laughter and joy at the end of a long day? Probably.  But deep down I know it’s more than that. It’s the way that God uses everything around us…everything… to teach us about His love.  If I will drive down a weed-infested alley to look for a little animal that smiles with an under-bite and smells other dog’s backsides to say hello…what in the world would my God do to find me? That, my friends, is theology at its finest.


So…where is God revealing Himself to you today?