Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching Cinderella

"Caley! Your turn." It's our morning routine. The boys get started on their own, I work with Lillie Grace, and round out the morning with Caley. I had just finished with Lil and had gotten her started on her own and now it was my baby's turn.
"Not Caley, Cinderella, Momma." In walked the cutest, curliest Cinderella complete with click-clicks, fashion accessories, crown, and purse.
"Why hello, Cinderella! So nice of you to join us this morning. It just so happens we are working on the first letter of your name...." and so it went. I taught a complete phonics lesson to Cinderella, reviewed skip counting by twos, and sent her on her way to the "cellar" to finish up some math.
When we started Kindergarten with Logan 8 years ago, I would have never allowed Cinderella at school time...and not for the simple fact that Logan would have never dressed up in girls' clothing...but because I was, at that point, too concerned with school "looking like school." We utilized our desk table most of the time, had plenty of "seat work," I even think I made him raise his hand that first year. Ridiculous, I know. I was so nervous taking on my child's education, even his Kindergarten one. I was so focused on the what and the how that I never even noticed the "him." It's not that Batman never showed up for school, I just never let him in. My thinking was that he needed to be serious about his learning and how can he be serious dressed up as a cowboy? I poured over scope and sequence, teacher curriculums, and milestones he should be meeting that I completely overlooked the fun, the imagination, and the joy. I grew quite a bit that first year of teaching Logan. I eased up quite a bit too, it was slow, but it happened. Toward the end of Kindergarten when a knight in shining armor (or plastic) showed up, I admired but quickly piled it up on the side for "after school." By the middle of first grade, an Aggie football player showed up. How could I make him take THAT off! Only the helmet was pushed to the side. By the time Cole was in Kindergarten, Batman reappeared and we read about fruit bats that day...with the mask still on. And by the end of that year, I was all about guessing as to which character I would face...with a smile. Since then I have taught Batman several times, a ballerina, a Marine pilot wannabe, Snow White, a Marine policeman, a little mommy and her set of triplets (whew, she had her hands full!), a fireman, Tinkerbell, an Indian, Minnie Mouse, and a host of other dress up characters. Recently I even had a camo ninja drop by. I have enjoyed my guests for school so much since that first meeting of Batman so many years ago. We have laughed, researched something new because of it, tried our best at changing our voices, and enjoyed a twist in our day.
School in our house never looks the same. People stop by, activities happen, plans change, and we adapt. But even when we have a full day at home, "school" never "looks" the same when visitors appear to learn. I love seeing their imagination and the fun being someone different brings. I am allowing them to still be kids. And the funny thing is, when their schoolwork demands they be more serious, they are no longer dressing up anyway. The days of Batman are long gone.
So today, instead of teaching Caley, I treasured teaching Cinderella.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Momentary Motherhood

"We interrupt this program...." Just as the man in the yellow hat was about to turn the doorknob to find out where all the bubbles in the hall were coming from....
"Ugh! Mom, Curious George is off!" my Lillie yelled as that ear piercing beeping filled the living room. "I don't like that sound!" "Mom!"
Her frustration was evident given Curious George is not often something we watch on school mornings. That morning was an exception because of phone calls that needed to be made before we got our school day underway. She was flustered on her one day to just sit and watch, her plans were interrupted. As she was asking the tv with her brain to will it to come back on, it suddenly did but missing the moments of the show taken up by the Emergency Broadcast System. Curious George and the man with the yellow hat were already cleaning up the mess. She missed it. Her plans ruined. Ruined by a moment. A moment filled with noise and interruption.
"Ugh! I missed that part."
I'm a lot like Lillie some days.
A few mornings later, thinking my teaching was done for the day, I hopped on the computer to check and respond to email that had been sitting in my inbox for days. I had been way behind on little things and I was hoping to use this time of quiet, children busy with work, to clear out that boxand maybe even sneak away to fb to see what others were doing. As I typed away, gathered notes, checked calendars, my little ones continued to need my help, a question about this, or help with that. With every tap on my arm, I could feel my frustration mount. I thought I had gotten them started in the right direction with school and I could work on my own agenda. I wanted them not to want me.
"Guys, can't y'all see I am in the middle of something? Please stop interrupting! I am not sitting on the couch with a magazine and coffee. Give. me. a. second." The frustration obvious in my voice, my plans interrupted.
It wasn't until a few short hours later, as I tumbled into my quiet time, late and in much need of encouragement, that was I convicted of my selfish, sinful desire for momentary motherhood.
Momentary: adj. Lasting only a moment (a very brief interval of time)
Motherhood: n. The condition of being a mother
Defeated, I thought back through the course of my day. I talked on the phone with a good friend while I nodded and pointed to children as they came down from upstairs, fixed and served breakfast all using hand signals and "looks". I had wanted so badly to catch up with her and was so frustrated that my kids needed me, had questions for me, wanted lovin', even though I knew very well that they would even as I dialed her number. I should have greeted them as I usually do with hugs and kisses to start our day, breakfast underway, we usually walk through our AWANA verses or share tidbits from Proberbs, we go over our schedule for the day and I have them look ahead to things that need to get done. Chores are done, dishes cleaned, laundry started, and our school day begins. I didn't want all of that in that moment. I wanted my moment. I thought about wanting to check email that morning as I had one needing help with reducing fractions. The neighbor that stopped by to chit chat as my littlest one needed me in the bathroom. And the list went on. A day full of moments. Moments that could have been better tackled with my head in the game so to speak. I was distracted by my wants, my selfish desires, my view of what I wanted my day to be filled with. I was trying to force my motherhood into moments with the rest focused on me. As I took my focus off of what God had called me to do that morning, I was forcing my job into moments; a job that can't and shouldn't be forced into moments. God has called me into the job of motherhood and that job is seamless, each moment flowing into another so as to make up my days. It's when I force the seams, when my view is interrupted by God's view...I am annoyed, I am frustrated.
Deuterononmy 6:6-7 (NIV) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
God's plan for me is to be focused, my job is to be seamless. It is not made up of small moments, but rather those moments make up my job. He tells me they will need me, they will ask me and I am to be ready for them because I am viewing my job as one that doesn't end as each little moment ends.
I was crushed by how quickly I had allowed myself to lose my purpose that day, God's plan for my day, my weeks, my years. I didn't want the lying down and the walking by the way and the getting up. I wanted a moment here or a moment there, the brief intervals of time. I didn't want the constant distractions. Not that day. In that moment, I realized, they aren't distractions when I am focused on what God has called me to do. They are more simply my moments, certain important points in time that make up the whole of my day.
I saw it this past week while the schools had off. How many mothers posted, "I can't wait for this week to be over!" or "I hate early dismisal!" or "Are anyone else's kids driving them crazy?!" They had the same focus as I did. Momentary motherhood. Living life hoping motherhood only has to come in small, short moments. The idea that we can be mothers for only small moments and still have our own lives, our own purposes apart from them. That's when I find no joy in motherhood, when my focus is on me and my purpose is for me. They are distractions. They are annoying. They bug me.
Someone told me once that raising children was like being pecked to death by a gaggle of baby geese. I laughed at the word picture...then. Probably because my focus was off that day. Had my focus been where God would have it to be, that word picture would not have rung so true. Raising children is a gift, a reward. That's what He says. Being pecked to death by a gaggle of baby geese would not be considered a gift, a reward. Not the way I am walking today thankfully.
My job is not to simply raise my children in short, simple moments, but to walk through this life with them with a focus on Eternity, seeing them on the other side of heaven. My two greatest focuses should be loving my man and loving my children (Titus 2:3). When my focus is there and not on "doing lunch," catching up, facebooking, shopping, chit chatting, or even blogging....I see my days as God sees them, moments making up life and not as life interrupted by moments, momentary motherhood.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Open Letter to the future Mrs. Bean

Dear (future) Mrs. Bean,

There are so many things I have stored up in my heart for this boy who will one day be your husband. There are so many tidbits of his life I could share with you, but on the eve of his 10th birthday, the ones I have been storing up in my heart recently, I want to tell you before they are long forgotten. Bean~his nickname since birth, we used the expression Cool Beans! in college and the name Cole Bean! stuck almost instantly~is one of a kind. People use that term very loosely and about so many things, but believe me when I use it, he truly is one of a kind. After 10 years of being his Momma, I have only tapped into what I am sure is to be, a small fraction of who he truly is. As much as his Daddy is a potato, he is an onion. There are layers beyond the layers I have uncovered, some only you will know. But to get you off on the right foot of understanding, I thought I would share what I have learned about this young man to this point.

First, I promise, I have been teaching table manners. Since he could sit at the table. They just have not taken off. I still have several more working, teachable years until you break bread with him for the first time, just know, I am trying. He enjoys eating; he will try and like almost anything you will put in front of him. But whatever you do, don't touch his food. Just don't. Avacados and crunchy wassabi peas are the only things to date he won't eat. He loves to sit around the table, the very act of a family meal is very important to him. When his Daddy is gone and I set up dinner at the bar, he is visibly disappointed. Your mealtimes with him should be very entertaining. He likes to tell and listen to stories and his odd- fact wealth of information will astound you. He loves to be listened to and by listening, you must be looking at him or it won't count. When he is in a conversation with you, he is all in. You will love that about him. He is never looking over your shoulder to see who else he could be talking to and if for some reason he misses anything you have said, just please repeat it one more time. Trust me when I say, "Never mind," won't work for him; You will save so much time in the long run if you just repeat...because truly, he wants to know what you have said. It really does matter to him.

He's a hugger. And he will never pull away from a hug first. We've tried to see. He will outlast even the best of huggers. And he's not just a hugger but an I-need-to-feel-you kind of guy. I always have a head on my shoulder, a hand to hold, or an arm around my waist. It's his way of showing love and he needs to have it shown back to him. Love on him. Let him hold your hand. Hug him before he leaves for work and even when it's too hot outside, let his arm drape lovingly on your shoulders. It's his security. It's his way to love.

I hope you like his Daddy because if anyone will be like him when he grows up it will be him. He wants to be a Marine, hunt, camp, farm, do yard work, watch football, and anything else that defines his Daddy. What Daddy says goes for that one; Daddy's word is gospel. He will LOVE Texas A&M University, he will be in the Corps of Cadets, and he will be a Marine. He will be trustworthy and a hard worker. He has watched his Daddy his whole life with a careful eye and who he will become will mirror so much of that man. This will be a good thing.

He will have sympathy pains when you are pregnant, just be prepared. If something will hurt on you, for some strange reason, it will hurt on him. You will need to reassure him that when he bends his finger this way on a Wednesday with a pencil in the other hand and he gets a small pain, he will be ok. Again, just tell him, "Yes, you will be fine," and don't try to play around with him and say, "Oh no." It will become a "thing." Also, he is a germ-a-phobe. Some of this he comes by naturally, some of it...well, it's unexplainable. When you sneeze and he blows the air around him or he has the need to wash his hands after he just washed them or he won't drink after you or he won't taste a bite of what you ordered because it's off of your fork...just let it go. Trust me, just let it go. Oh, and don't grab food off of his plate. *Just let it go.*

You will be protected and loved forever once you become "his." He is the most faithful and devoted supporter I have ever known. If you are in his circle, you will forever be there. He loves who he loves with all of his heart. He is almost faithful to a fault and will believe the best in you always. He is very quick to forgive when he has been wronged and is very quick to want to fix things when it is not ok. He has the biggest heart of any 10 year old I know. He will never forget your birthday and the thought that goes into his gifts and homemade cards will be what draws you to him.

With all of this comes a faith so strong. His convictions run deep and is deeply remorseful when he messes up. He knows his salvation is secure and does not waiver on his beliefs. His heart is good and he genuinely wants to please the people who love him most including his Heavenly Father. He sings from the heart during church and will clap when moved. Just not with the beat.

At night, he has three things he must tell you. Wait for them. He will chase you down if you miss hearing one and repeating them back to him, so in the long run, it's easier to hear them out. And really, they're worth the wait.

"I love you."
"See you in the morning."
"Good night."

I guess the hardest thing I have had to learn is that he is slow. Slow, slow. He is slow to eat. He is slow to get dressed. He tells his stories slow. He is slow to make decisions. He is slow to do his work. He is slow to make a chess move, checkers move, or pick his three things in Clue. He's slow. I have learned patience from this very boy and it has taught me there is a reason in his mind for how he does things. I have learned his slowness is not necessarily to annoy anyone or a sign of being lazy. He is deliberate. He ponders. He thinks things out. It is why his handwriting is so neat, why he never misses a spelling word, why he is so very good at chess, and why I believe God has a plan for this slow, diligent, thoughtful boy. It will drive you crazy at times, but there is a purpose. Just remember that when on his slowest day it makes you want to fall on the floor in pure exhaustion.

He is a hard worker, self motivated, and determined...unless it's dark upstairs. That's when I know he is still a little boy and still in need of me. I will continue to teach him and love him and prepare him for you. You are going to be one of a kind too. You will almost have to be. I am praying for you. I am praying that God is very real to you at a young age and that your faith in Christ is strong before He ever brings you to my Bean. I am praying that your heart will be prepared to walk beside and love my Cole. He can be an odd little character, but through those odd little layers is going to be one amazing young man. For right now, you'll just have to trust me on that one.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

That Old Bag

Our relationship was not always this strained. In fact, in the beginning, I was kind of entranced by her, mesmorized by all that she stood for, all that she meant. She was the unknown. All that she stood for seemed so glamorous and mysterious.
My first encounter with her began with a sad goodbye to my then boyfriend as he took his first step toward becoming a Marine at OCS Juniors. It was my first taste of the many goodbyes to follow, and there she was. I watched as he walked off with her, into the unknown. I spent the next 6 weeks wondering, waiting for phone calls, looking for letters. It was a long six weeks and it was my first taste of what would eventually characterize our life. Eventually he came home, with her, and it was wonderful. I came to realize that sometimes seeing her meant it was good again. All was right in my world.
As the years went by, she came and went more and more. I saw her off to another OCS, short dets, 6 deployments, and so many "short trips" in between. It has not always been love. In fact, there were many long nights I would watch her appear and the heavy weight of a hard goodbye was at hand. The sight of her often times would bring me to tears. She no longer mesmorized me, she no longer seemed somewhat mystical. She only reminded me that soon she would join Patrick and he would be gone. She symbolized during those times long nights, lonely periods, and heavy loads to carry alone. Just the very sight of her two deployments ago made me physically sick. I hate to see her sitting there, almost in a taunting way. Reminding me he was leaving.
And she doesn't always stir up bad feelings, in fact, sometimes her presence makes me smile. Just seeing her in the corner, makes my heart feel joyfrl. She comes home, she always has and when she does, I love her. She reminds me that deployments end, he does come home.
Today I ran into her in the garage. The sight of her sitting there alone gathering dust made me smile. They tell me she won't be needed for at least 2 years and I am going to hold on to that. I am going to pray that she sits there. He doesn't need her. I don't want her. Over the years she has taken a beating and no longer stands quite as tall. She symbolizes a long career nearing its end, a career that has taken him to places far away from me fighting for the very freedom I love. She has been faithful in that when she takes him away, she brings him home. I am thankful for that old, faded seabag. But I am even more thankful that she isn't needed right now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Not yet, baby girl, not yet.

I have spent the better part of my adult life teaching; I have taught in elementary schools and now as a Mom and a home school mother, I am still teaching. Everyday and every moment, if I am purposeful, is a teaching moment, a chance to train, a chance to give wings. I enjoy teaching and I always have.
I can say most of my teaching in my own home has been fruitful and I have loved to see the result of my teaching. Some obvious, some not as much. Most of their learning made my mothering easier in some way and it was always an exciting time. I loved teaching my children to sleep through the night, to walk, to use their words or sign language. I loved the fruit of teaching my children to buckle their own seatbelts, to use good table manners, to pick up their own toys, and to tie their own shoes. I loved the end result of toilet training, blowing noses, using utensils, drinking from a cup, swimming, and walking through the grocery store. I have enjoyed my children learing to ride their own bikes, shower by themselves, make their beds, and brush their own teeth. I have recently taught my boys to clean their own bathroom, do their own laundry and am currently walking them through the basics of cooking. I have taught them all to clean the litter box, the little messes from June Bug in the back yard, vacuum, do the dishes, and swiffer. I love watching them dust their own rooms, change their own sheets on their beds, do their hair, and get a snack. So much of what I have taught them has allowed us more time to enjoy other things and I love the confidence and independence they are gaining with each new skill learned.
My last child will start Kindergarten in the fall. I will get to teach the basic concepts of math all over again, the lifecycles of a butterfly, and patterning. I have discovered though as I approach yet another "last" in my children's young lives, there will be one thing I dread teaching for the last time. I am not ready to teach Caley how to read.
I know that may seem so very strange, but let me explain. Since my Logan, now 12, was a newborn, I have read to my babies. Every night. Without exception. We have always had a bedtime routine of bath, bottle, books, bed. Obviously, as they got older only the bottle changed. We have always done this. I loved the smell of a small baby or antsy toddler on my lap pointing to pictures, talking about the colors, or quietly sucking a thumb or finger just listening. Quick kisses while turning pages or lingering chubby fingers pointing to pictures are what I can picture in my head. Sitting on beds with all four or on the floor with just one. There has always been someone in need of a bedtime story in this house. As the years have gone by, my readers have become more independent. Chapter books are much more common and beginning last year with Lillie Grace, the quiet time in individual beds is the norm. The only sound this past year upstairs at bedtime has been my voice or Patrick's reading to Caley, sometimes both girls, but rarely all four. There are moments still that they will all gather for an oldie but goodie like Dogger, any of the Punchinello books, or The Big Hungry Bear. As Kindergarten approaches though, I can see one of my "lasts" in sight.
Last night, my three older ones had retreated, clean, to their beds and were all engrossed in their reading. Logan is reading Carry a Big Stick, Cole, Old Yeller, and Lillie has started a puppy series, Goldie. As I was picking out a book from the shelf to go snuggle with my K, she emerged from her room, wet curly hair and toothpaste remains on her chin, and one of her new school books in hand. "Mommy, will you teach me to read really quick?"
"Why K?"
"I want to read in my bed like Lillie all by myself."
I pictured snuggling with a wet hair little girl, singing read aloud books with two year old boys, smelling the sweet smell of clean babies after a hard day of play, jammies, and Are You My Mother? I am not ready to say goodbye to Dogger, Goodnight Moon, The Cat in the Hat, Angelina Ballerina, or Goldilocks. In one sweet moment, tickled at her confidence in herself....or in me...I was sad. I longed for my sweet chubby one year olds, the sound of a new diaper under clean jammies, and the smell of baby soap in wet hair. My job requires that I be out of a job one day. But it didn't have to be that day.
"Not yet, baby girl, not yet."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sweet 16

"You knew what you were getting into when you married him though."

This comment came from a friend when we were hanging out at the pool a few years ago as my family was preparing to embark on our first year long deployment. We had done several 6-8 monthers, but never one this long and I felt it was rocking me to my core. I was struggling to wrap my brain around that length of time without Patrick and I was sharing some of my fears from the kids to his safety and this was her response. It sounds kind of harsh in hindsight but that is not how she said it nor do I believe how she meant it. She knew we had been together through all of college and I was fully aware of his ambition to have a flying career in the Marine Corps. But that was it. At 19 or 22 how could I possibly know what I was "getting into" marrying this man that I had come to love through my years at Texas A&M? Our lives "together" up to that point had been characterized by football games, yell practices, dancing at The Hall, classes, lunches in the MSC, Silver Taps, Wild and Wooly Wednesdays at Double Daves, drives home on weekends, dinners at Pop's BBQ, and hanging out with friends. I knew I wanted to marry him, but at that point in my life I did not give any kind of thought on the marriage that would follow the wedding. All I knew up and to that point was that I would get a flower ceremony at my sorority house, I would have a beautiful ring to show to my friends, and I could start looking through those magazines I had longed to look at since my sister's wedding my freshman year in college. It was the next step. I was graduating, he was graduating; it's what you do. Did I foresee the months of separation? The long nights? The worry from his choice of jets? Never. Not once.

Fast forward 16 years. I have the luxury of hind sight. God's hind sight. We were put together 16 years ago by a God we both believed in but had no relationship with...not yet. He knew. He knew what it would take for us to "make it." He knew what I couldn't know 16 years ago. He knew. He knew that we would struggle. That I would struggle with this lifestyle that I should have known "what I was getting into." He knew it was not what I pictured. He knew I would come to a point I wouldn't think I could hold on. He knew. He knew I would need a relationship with His Son. He knew I would not last on my own. He knew my lonely nights and my anxious thoughts. He knew what I could not know. He knew I would come to a breaking point in this military lifestyle. He knew that it would be hard and there would come a point I would crumble. He also knew that there would be that moment when I gave my life to Him that it would be the turning point in my life, my marriage, and in my growing family. He knew the man Patrick would become. He knew that we would both come to Him and change us in ways only He could. He knew He could give me a love for my husband that would allow me to live this lifestyle. Only He knew that we would be here 16 years later. Sweet 16 years later.

Thank you Patrick for the last sweet 16 years.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who they see

"#1 Mom"

"You are the best Mom a girl cood have."

"You are a good Mom."

"There's not one mom that does a better job being a mom than you."

"I'm the luckiest kid in the world to have you for a mom."

I read these words this morning, like millions of moms across this country reading the same words I'm sure, smiling and hugging and thanking and reading. There were flowers and breakfast made, the Celebrate plate found its way to my spot, there were presents, kisses, and lots and lots of appreciation. After church and Sunday school, we had dinner out, I was given a pass to enjoy an afternoon nap, and then an leisurely trip to the pool. My day was perfect. I was surrounded by the wonderful children God has blessed me with and the man I couldn't imagine living without.

As the house grew quiet as little bodies took baths and crawled into bed, I was picking up from the day's festivities and I came across my four homemade cards. As I held them in my hand in the quiet, I sat down to read them once again. They seemed different now in the dim light of dusk and the quiet that is so very rare in my days. I read each one, studying the pictures they each drew and really took a minute to take in the things they wrote. As happy and as appreciated as their words made me feel this morning~ convicted and challenged was how I felt tonight reading them. Their words came from their hearts, that I was sure. They were writing about the things their young eyes see and the overall picture of what their little minds remember. But to me, sitting here, they opened my heart to the things that sometimes challenge me; the things they don't see.

They don't see the struggles I have when I am so very tired and I don't want to get up and unload a dishwasher, fix breakfast, work through a sibling argument, or make my bed. They don't see my rolled eyes at yet another dirty pile of clothes in the laundry room, the ironing that grows in the basket, or the bathroom that needs to be cleaned. They don't see my heart when I am feeling unappreciated or hurt from a thankless task completed. They don't see the jealousy sometimes that creeps when I have homeschooling work to do as other mothers have their days. Thankfully they don't see the grumblings and complainings as I work on lesson plans or grade papers or pick up after a messy school day. They don't see the days I struggle to be patient when milk spills, dirty shoes skip across my floors, or chores go unnoticed.

As I read their words tonight, I couldn't stop the tears. They didn't come because I think I am a bad mom, but because I know my shortcomings in doing this job God has called me to do. I know where I fall short, I know where I fail, and I know my struggles. Their cards challenged me to want to be better, to want be the kind mother they see, to want to be more content, to be so focused on serving my Jesus that His appreciation is enough. What they don't see, I know He sees and He is strong enough to walk me through those times, those moments, and those days and cause those stumbles and those falls on my journey as a Mom to grow fewer and farther between. I am thankful for the things they don't see. I am thankful for who they still think I am. I am thankful that their love is so forgiving. I am thankful for who they see when they look at me. I can only pray that God allows me to get a little closer each day to be the Mom who they see.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Red Dirt Trail

Ahhhhh...Springtime....flowers, green, cool weather, sunny days, and red dirt. Red dirt? That's what I said, R-e-d D-i-r-t. At our house, it's everywhere: the car, the garage, the back porch, under the bar stools, in bathrooms, on the laundry room floor, in my washer, in socks, on shoes, in my carpet, and I even found some in my dishwasher one night. Red dirt can only mean one thing-Baseball!

At the beginning of each season, I love our first trip out to the fields. They are raked perfectly and the dark, thick white lines cut it into a perfect diamond. The white fluffy bags begging to be stolen and the red dirt. The contrast is almost, well, almost beautiful. I love the sounds of baseball, the feel of baseball, and the excitement of it all. Boys are everywhere with that uniform I love so much. I love to see sweaty little boys with red faces, dirty pants, and baseball caps. I love the bats sticking so high out of bags and the sound of their cleats as they walk past.

Eventually, the magic wears off a little as our days and nights are consumed with team practice, batting practice, and games...so many games. The piles of dirty baseball pants that never quite come clean and inside out socks that hold spoonfuls of red dirt. I still love it, but like anything else, what once held magic now becomes a chore.

I had gotten to this point after 10 minutes of sweeping up the spoonfuls of red dirt that fell to my laundry room floor from the rightsiding of an inside out sock. Not to mention the red dirt that graces the floor of my Suburban that not 30 minutes before I had tried to gently remove from my floor boards without spilling anymore. As I got the washer going, secretly praying that my Spray n Wash would miraculously remove the red dirt stains from Logan's game day pants, I noticed Cole removing socks as the three of the Fitzgerald boys were deep in some conversation in our kitchen. I didn't hear a word of it as I, in slow motion, watched the 10th spoonful of red dirt hit my floor that week. As I went to grab the broom and dust pan, I thought of all of the things I would say...until I heard their conversation. And I was reminded once again, why I love red dirt.

The three were in the process of hashing out the intricate rules of baserunning; when to run, when not to run, when to lead off, when to watch coaches. I heard Patrick explaining rules, acting out the scenerios, and being so animated I could almost picture the play in my head. They discussed batting, fielding, and dugout etiquette. Eventually the conversation turned slowly to life's lessons of dealing with their peers, bullies, tough coaches, working as a team but having individual responsiblities as well, obeying coaches, paying attention, and being ready for the "next play."

It occurred to me why I love baseball so much...aside from the obvious. An old song from Brooks and Dunn reminds me that lessons can come from everywhere. There is life at both ends of the red dirt trail that leads from the ball field through our cars into our home. The end on the field teaches my boys so many skills. Baseball is a unique sport in that it is a team effort but there are moments of individual effort only~hitting, pitching, catching a fly ball. These boys learn to work together but they also have to learn to pull their own weight. Every moment counts and one rally hit can turn a no-way win into a big W on the board. Even when it seems slow, things are always happening and you can't stop to space out for even a moment. I love the comraderie in the dug out and the double line walk of "good-game" at the end. Out there in that red dirt, they are being boys, working hard as individulas, and yet, becoming a team. Quick lessons are given between innings as boys are running out to positions or through the fence of the dug out.

But as that red dirt makes it to the car and into our home, it also brings with it life lessons. I love to watch Patrick encourage and teach through the chainlink fence of the dugout, but there is also something to be said when he climbs in his truck with a red-faced son and in the miles between the field and home, lessons are taught, mistakes are discussed, and plans for doing things differently are made. I've seen tears at the ball field become hoots of laughter pulling up to our home. I love the final statements of, "Ok, now remember..." Patrick is tough on our boys, much tougher than I could ever be, but I wouldn't have it any other way. He is in the process of making young men. They need this time of teaching from their Dad. In our home, pointers are given, maybe even an extra few minutes out in the park in front of our house to pitch the ball and tweek little details. It's like they are a team themselves and it is their "thing." The three of them go through game changing plays, good tips on second base, and batting stances as they eat their heated up dinners. The converations always include their teammates, good and bad, and Patrick is so faithful at weaving God's way into his discussion with them.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Baseball becomes a "when you walk by the way." As they walk through the lessons of teams, competition, good sportsmanship, hard work, friendships, and life, Patrick is teaching them diligently. He is teaching them to be men, strong in stature but also strong in their witness. He is teaching them things that I would have never thought of. They are seeking his advice and his help and basking in his encouragement and praise. He is such a good Dad. And he is providing life lessons on both ends of that red dirt trail.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


There's something to be said for truly happy people. People who can see the good in something even when there really doesn't seem much good in it at all. I know one of these people. He's genuinely Happy. Give him a minute and he'll find the good in it all. He will worry about those who most would direct anger toward. His path is changed, he shrugs and presses. He takes a stituation that would leave most bitter, and finds the good. He resents no one. He blames no one and in the end, he's better because of it. This morning's message was on this exact thing. Joseph was much like this. He stuck it out. He found the good in a situtation that didn't have much good in it at all. His path changed, he shrugged, and pressed. He had much to whank about and yet didn't. He had much to leave him bitter, yet it didn't. He blamed no one and was better because of it. He knew God was ultimately in control. God uses people like this. I want to be one of these people. Happy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's a Boy!!

"It's a Boy!" the doctor shouted after a long, hard labor that ended with me lying down behind a big curtain and my man next to me with a mushroom-type head cover on.

A Boy? No way. No way. That was all I could think as Patrick gave me a kiss on my forehead and began what would become his routine for each child, of following very, almost too, closely and watching every movement made with our newest addition. As I lay there alone on that table in this cold, bright place, all I could think of was the three words, It's a boy. Almost as quickly as that thought came, I was out and slowly waking in recovery. Alone again, behind a curtain, it all felt like a dream. Nurses were coming in and out and I could hardly remember the events of the last 7 hours. It didn't seem real. Slowly the day started coming back to me and I remembered...I had a boy. Wow. A boy. It didn't seem real.

The entire 9 months I had convinced myself it was a girl and in the process, I think I had convinced Patrick too although I knew he would love to have a little boy. You know, the football-throwing-fishing/hunting-buddy kind of boy. I had the same picture, only with a girl. My mom had two girls, my sister at this time had two girls. I knew girls. I grew up with many girl cousins. I had a brother but with him came two more sisters. I was having a girl. I was convinced. So much so, that I only pictured myself with a girl, I shopped for girl things, I picked out girl names, and I decorated our generic room in my mind with the new girl things I was going to add once she arrived.

No girl. It was a boy. In recovery, I still had not held him. In my groogy state, I had only seen him wrapped up head to foot with just a little nose and two eyes showing. It could have been a girl the way they presented him. I had not yet held him, I didn't know him, I couldn't picture him, I hadn't seen him. It was so unbelieveable. I didn't seem real.

Fast forward to today, knowing what I know now, 12 years later. "It's a boy!" would have had me grinning from ear to ear. Knowing what I know now, 12 years later. I would have anticipated the wonderful moments that come from having a boy, this boy in particular. Past all of the jumping, running, ball throwing, collarbone breaking, team cheering, air soft playing, hunting, fishing, there is a young man who is the neatest boy I know. He is very loving with his sisters, and they adore him. He watches out for them without being asked and he reads to them just because. They come to him when they are hurt or tired or want to be held and he always stops to do just that. He is tough on them and often keeps them in line. I never worry about my girls when Logan is at the helm. He is a great older brother to Cole. He is the most patient older brother I could imagine. He jokes with Cole, shares, plays around, and talks late into the night with him. 98% of the time, they are buds. He is the first one to jump out of the car to help me get in, the first one to grab a load out of my arms when he sees me coming and is the first one to help unload groceries from the car. He is the "man of the house," a responsiblity he has put on himself when Patrick is gone. He secures the garage at night, takes out trash, locks up doors, and checks on me. He has a hard time leaving if he knows I will be alone and is very quick to make sure I am ok. He loves to talk on his terms and I have learned the art of being quiet around him until he is ready. He still loves to be read to and prays daily for his family. He's got the funniest sense of humor and can take a joke better than anyone I know. He can laugh at himself, and unless losing a board game, does not take himself very seriously at all. He needs hugs more than he lets on and loves to weekly measure his growth by is-he-taller-than-his-mom-yet. He challenges me daily to be a better wife and mother because I know he is watching, and if what "they" say is true, he will look for someone like me one day.

Going back to that day in recovery. Knowing what I know now. I would shout at the top of my lungs, "It's a Boy!"

Happy #12 Pickle.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Terrible 12s?

"Oh, hang on, that's a Terrible age!" This comment from a lady last week in Walmart after asking the age of my oldest son, Logan. I had told her, with a nostalgic smile, that he would be 12 on St. Patrick's Day. I still remember being sad after her hasty response as she pushed up in line. I was not surprised though; I have heard that since he turned two. "Oh, the Terrible Two's!" Then came the Terrible Three's, followed by each age that a stranger, friend, or family member deemed to be THE miserable, Terrible golden age. Apparently, if I believed every stranger that offered up their opinion in Walmart, there is NO good age of a child.

I don't buy it. I just don't. My children are not perfect by any stretch of anyone's imagination but I can't think of any time that I would characterize their life by the word Terrible...that in and of itself is terrible. I hate it when I hear people who buy into this worldly way of thinking of children at any age. We have had seasons of their younger lives that I remember as being more challenging then others, children who had moments that seemed more baffling than others, and stages that required more of me than others, but never would I use the word Terrible to describe this time with my children.

You see, I believe these little ones to be gifts from God. Not all gifts are ones that are opened and immediately playable. Most, just ask my husband, have signs that say, "Some assembly required." Some box contents require work to eventually enjoy what's inside. It is very much the same with our little ones. They are work. My work is challenging at times, exhausting at others, repetitive always, and worth every minute. Terrible? No. Not one minute of the past 12 years has been terrible. Not one minute.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Logan came into my arms almost 12 years ago and I would never use the word Terrible to describe one moment of the time I have been given with this precious son. I want him growing up knowing this with all of his heart. Every moment with him, challenging or not, has been wonderful. As each age comes, I find myself saying, "Ok, THIS is my favorite age!"

Terrible 2s? 3s? 12s? I just don't buy into that lie. Our children's behavior does not have to shape how we see them. We are all sinners and fall short of God's standard. As I see it, it is my job to work through the behavior labeled as terrible and if I am diligent and purposeful, I will see fruit.

Proverbs 29:17 Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.

Delightful 2s? Delightful 3s? Delightful 12s? Wow. Seems much more hopeful to me.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Lord is my....Weatherman?!?

It's very hard to drip from thousands of miles away. It's hard to think your man could do anything wrong when he is thousands of miles away. I guess that is the main reason that when I read this verse while he was gone, it really never spoke to me. In fact, when I passed over it, I would specifically, pridefully think how very un-drippy I was.

"A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike."

Proverbs 27:15

In fact, reading this while he was gone and being acutely aware of the dripping of my fellow females around me, I became somewhat prideful. I distinctly remember being in conversations that eventually ended in drippy-ness and complaining. "He is constantly leaving those muddy boots there!" "I don't think he could pick up his dirty clothes if his life depended on it." "He was on the computer all night." "Early? He didn't get home until after 9! I was so mad." "He never puts the top back on!" "I told him that I didn't have time, I don't think he realizes how crazy my days are!" "I was so mad!" "He knew I was mad and I didn't have to say a word." All I would have to say, (and being truthful yet it was definitely pride mixed in) "I would give anything for muddy boots to be in my hall." Instantly, conviction would set in and the conversation would turn to better things.

Now, I will be the first to admit I have dripped a bit in my marriage...ok, possibly more than a bit. In fact, right beside this verse in my Bible I have the words in the margin, "Do I drip?" I am usually very aware of my drippyness, but when he is gone and is thousands of miles away, I can't drip. I don't drip. I refuse to drip. Our phone conversations are anything but drippy. In fact, our conversations are perfect. We are not bombarded with questions, interruptions, and daily life. Everything stops when they are deployed and they find a minute to call. The conversations are schmoopie and sweet talk. It's wonderful.

My sweet Marine has been home now for exactly 30 days. Other than the usual adjustments of remembering how much earlier need I get up when he is home, lunches that need to be made the night before, additional laundry in the hamper, and remembering to buy those Swiss cake rolls he loves so much, our homecoming is usually very seamless. He is great about coming in, stepping in to help, giving baths, running errands, and just being Dad and husband again.

It wasn't until a quiet morning that I first realized that God was trying to convict me on my dripping. I remember that morning specifically because when I got to the verse about the dripping, I realized it was also raining outside. Not a heavy thunderstorm-for-an-hour-and-blow-over kind of rain, but a constant steady dripping kind of rain. Hmmmm, that's so interesting how God used that word picture. And on the same morning that I read this. That was my one and only thought before I finished my quiet time and began my day of schooling, laundry, and life. Errands that took us out of the house, a package that arrived at our door, and a dog that needed to be occasionally let out, all got me out in that constant dripping kind of rain. Our house does not have gutters so not only are you dealing with the steady rain but each time coming or going, you are dealing with the constant dripping from the steady rain. In your eyes, on your arm, in your hair. I love the rain, really I do, but it eventually wears on you. It gets your clothes damp, back stairs muddy, hair wet, floor dirty, and dogs smelly. "Ugh, I will be so glad when it stops raining!" Drip. That word seemed almost audible in my head and instantly I thought of my verse from this morning "A constant dripping on a day of steady rain....." What a word picture.

I thought about that night before with Patrick. He had had a long day and while I was upstairs tying up loose ends with school, he had shut off lights and had gotten into bed. I was annoyed coming down the stairs. Didn't he know I was not done in here I thought as I turned on a light. Ugh. Dishes in the sink from his "midnight snack." Huge sigh, trying to be loud enough to be heard. Dishes clanging together a little more loudly than need be. As I finished, I turned off lights and headed to the bedroom. The laundry that I had left on the bed that afternoon that needed to be folded, was in the hamper next to the bed...NOT folded. The least he could have done was started folding laundry. I made a point to sigh louder as I turned on the bedside lamp and hastily began folding the laundry. "Baby, I would have done that, but I am so tired. Leave it and just come to bed." Easy for him to say. "Baby, if I leave it for tomorrow, it will just add to tomorrow. I don't think you have any idea what my days look like." Drip. I won't go any further. You get the point.

As I sat there that rainy day, it occurred to me that was a Drip. How did I start dripping already?? He just got home. I quickly pushed the thought aside. One drip. Ok, so I had a moment. I will apologize later. My day continued but I couldn't get that out of my head. I could almost see the question next to that verse in my Bible as if it were right before me...Do I drip?

Very conscious of my "bad weather" moment, I pressed through my day. When he got home I made a point to greet him and show him with my hug how glad I was that not only was he home, but that he was home, home and not in an overseas country. As he walked toward the kitchen, I heard his wet flight boots squeaking, "ugh, your boots! Patrick." Drip. I did it again! My heart stopped as I watched him remove his boots and with a quick apology run off to see children. What am I doing? Who cares about his boots? Didn't I spend the last 7 months reminding my drippy friends how much I would love to have his boots in my house? I quickly said a prayer that God would help me to not drip. Oh, what a reminder I was about to get.

Slowly, God started bringing to mind my dripping. It was a slow trickle at first and then became a steady rain of memories of the past 30 days. I had fallen right back into my drippyness without even realizing it. He had been signed up for a cross-country the weekend he returned from leave. Drip. He left the bags from unpacking on the floor in our room. Drip. He didn't call one day from work. Drip. He decided he needed a new truck. Drip. He was off one day when we had school and made it very difficult to get stuff done. Drip. He left the creamer out one morning instead of putting it back into the refrigerator. Drip.

Thankfully, not every drip was verbalized, but every drip was a real thought nonetheless. It was keeping me on the defensive. I was so ashamed. God had, so quickly, shown me where I was falling into old habits and not choosing to love Patrick. The Drip was constant. It was, at times, clouding my good thoughts and keeping my focus away from the blessings of having my man home. It was making me ready for an argument, if not with Patrick, in my thoughts. My dripping was putting up barriers and robbing me of my joy.

God was teaching me and using the simple concept of rain to do it. I prayed that day, and everyday since that God would be my Weatherman. He would stop the dripping. He would remind me daily to keep my focus on His plan and not the wet boots on my floor. When I am dripping the forecast is anything but welcoming...cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms and definite dripping. When I am walking with my God and keeping my thoughts captive the forecast is much more inviting...sunny, no chance of drips.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

10 Minutes Out

"They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

What? He will be here in 10 minutes? My heart began to beat and every emotion I should have already had, I had in about a span of...well, 10 minutes.

The weeks leading up to Patrick's return were some of the busiest, most intense weeks I have had since their leaving on July 6...and then again on July 7. My thoughts were constantly on the men returning home, getting messages out to the wives, and the logistics of my being there for each homecoming, not because I had to but truly because I wanted to. These women had come to mean so much to me. We had weathered this deployment together and I wanted to see the culminating end for each one of them. It is such a precious time and I was truly, unmistakeably happy for each one of them.

Knowing my husband was last to fly in, my thoughts and focus were on the string of jets from here to Japan. Once the jets depart from Japan, the easiest and fastest way of getting information is from them. In Hawaii, they are able to use their personal cell phones and that's when the information changes by the hour as jets break, jets take off, men walk, weather systems pass through, etc. I had asked each of the women to keep me posted on any information they got just to make sure no one missed a homecoming due to bad info on my part. I was getting text messages, emails, fb messages, and phone calls. As times and arrivals changed, my brain was in constant overdrive as to the logistics of my own family and trying to squeeze in multiple trips to the squadron to welcome them all home at any hour of a given day. I was constantly checking email between spelling tests, logging into fb to check messages while doing laundry, and returning phone calls in route to ballet classes. My brain was in constant motion and at the end of everyday, I was physically and emotionally drained. I knew Patrick was lagging behind in cell two and I didn't even have the time to contemplate his movement in our direction. For the better part of 10 days I was constantly thinking about main body, cell one, cell two, separate emails, text messages, phone calls, children, their activities, timelines, babysitters, etc.
The ready room was a buzz of activity. I can remember mentally checking off names as I saw faces in the ready room and when they arrived. I knew who was in cell two and I was worried that everyone would get there in time. When I first walked in, I saw a new wife's face that I didn't think would make it in time from NC and I was so relieved. I checked off another sitting opposite her. As they arrived, I checked them off mentally. I wanted to hug each one. I saw extra faces and I was so thankful. We had been such a tight group and this was just a testimony of that. They had their men. They didn't need to be there; but they were. We were a team. One for all and all for one. I was looking, hugging, checking.

I guess that is why when I asked the ready room desk if they had heard from cell two, I was stunned to hear them say, "They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

It all suddenly became still. With those six words, it suddenly all came into focus on my family. Those 10 minutes are frozen in my memory. I can almost remember every single second. I no longer was focused on faces in the ready room, but the face in my own mind of my sweet husband who was about to be physically in front of me. I remember my heart beginning to beat much faster and I was instantly nervous. All of a sudden, I no longer cared who was there, I was nervous. I was looking around to round up my crew. Searching the ready room crowd for the familiar faces of my children. It's funny what begins to go through my mind and how quickly the thoughts come and go. How will I look to him? Will he like my outfit? How do the girls look? What is that red stuff on Caley's cheeks? Lillie's hair needs to be smoothed. Where are the boys? Are the boys ready?

9 mins....People ask me all of the time what it is like, you know, seeing him for the first time, and I can not explain it nor fully put it into words. To be apart for so long, you get used to him not being physically there. Phone calls and emails do not replace the physical presence of anyone, especially not of your man. For 204 days, I slept alone, I held no one's hand, I never hugged a grown man in a romantic way, there were no playful pats, no sweet kisses, no looking into someone's eyes, and no sense of someone being right there. I wondered how my hair looked, did I still have lipstick on, and oh no! the wind is blowing so hard! What will my hair look like? Is my scarf straight? It won't matter! The wind is blowing so hard! It's going to be all up in my face! The girls will be cold. Cole doesn't have a jacket.

8 mins....As we began to mill outside, my thoughts began to switch to our home. Will he like the sign? Did I remember to pick up the magazines on the counter? Will dinner smell good? Will he like the new pillows on the couch? I should've gotten a new sheet set. I wonder if I should have bought that coffee table? Did the grass people come? I should have put flowers in those buckets by the front steps. Ugh. Did Logan remember to do poop patrol? I hope Lady Bug, just this once, stays out of her clean litter box!

7 mins. ... The kids began to wave their flags and play with the others. I watched my own. My Logan stood off to my side, very quiet and waiting. He looks tall to me today. And so much like Patrick. My young man was a rock. He was invaluable this deployment and was such a huge help. I love him. Cole was running around with the girls. He looked so sweet and innocent. His joy was evident. Still so much a boy. He worried about me so much during the last 7 months, almost too much at times, and missed his Daddy. His tears would come and he just needed to be hugged. He had the best hugs and he never pulls away first. My girls were waving flags and playing chase. They were chatting with the other kids. Their smiles pasted on their faces. So many tears over missing their Daddy. Caley learned to ride a bike and Lillie had lost two front teeth. He had missed it. Would he notice? They had a list of things they wanted to show him. It had been a long 204 days. I knew God had walked me gently through this deployment, but it had been a particularly emotional one for me. The missed holidays, the extra worry of the squadron wives and all of their personal trials, middle school for Logan, and being without family for longer stretches of time. My children wouldn't necessarily remember my struggle this time because it wasn't until the quiet of my nights that the tears would come. I thought of the things I had had to walk through alone. Things that by the time he and I talked or chatted, were already a thing of the past. I hated to bother him and I knew he worried about me. I am good about keeping my daily woes to myself. He has a job to do and he can do it better when he knows I am ok. I was ok. My God was so good. My moments were just that, my moments. He didn't need details, he just needed to know we were good. I needed him to know that; in the big picture of each of our weeks, we were good. Sometimes bearing that load without my husband to talk to nightly can take it's toll. But God provided ears and shoulders for me; He always does. I had wonderful friends from church who I knew were praying for me, I received two anonymous cards with such encouraging words, I had those special neighbors that knew when I needed something and were there, and I had "my person" in the squadron who allowed me to release and bounce ideas off of her and meet me to keep me company when I needed it the most. Yes, God had provided. But it's still not the same. I still remember this moment in time right before the jets came. Someone took a picture and I am crying. It's the only one. I wasn't sad, just remembering the past 204 days without him.

4 mins....Someone yelled, "I can hear them!" Sure enough, faintly in the distance, the unmistakeable sound of jets. I can still remember getting chill bumps. It was cold that day, but those weren't from the weather. The sound of jets coming in when you are waiting after such a long separation are the sweetest sounds. The kids are jumping and shouting, flags were waving, "my person" gave me a hug. I teared up again, but that time because her hug reminded me how thankful I was God crossed my path with her.

There they were!! 5 jets in perfect formation! Awesome! Wait, there were supposed to be 6?! Did one have to go back? Where was that jet?? I overheard someone say, the one jet had to go ahead and land. So they were all here. Oh thank goodness. They each peeled off to land. Such an amazing moment. The excitement is overwhleming.

3 mins....As you are waiting for the jets to come around, it is some of the longest moments. I remember gathering up my children and the nervousness came back. It's almost the feeling of those first dates. It's the first touch. It's that weak in the knees feeling. I get those emotional feelings all back again and it is so wonderful. The anticipation is so exciting!

1 min...The first jets round the bend and I begin to count. He is jet 4 and number 13. Why didn't I wear my glasses? That's jet number four. Is it number 13 though?? I should have gotten my glasses. In the last moments of me thinking it was jet number13, that pilot in that jet didn't respond like mine would have. Frantic, I began looking around and just then, as quick as I realized my error. I saw him. Shear joy! We did it! #6 was over! All of those months of being alone, doing it all alone, were done! I could see him pumping his fists in the air and in that moment in time, I did it too! Someone caught a picture of this too. Only one.

As my children ran out to the jet, as I got closer, it was him. His smile, his mannerisms, his quirky way. As he climbed out of the jet and our family hugged, I could see him look at me. He caught my eye. It was him. As I patiently watched my kids all hug him, I stared at him. His laugh, his voice, his quirky way. It was him. I was in love. At that moment, it wasn't the daily choice kind of love, it was the feeling kind of love. The butterflies in your stomach kind of love. It is the first kiss kind of love, the dancing in his arms kind of love, the quiet conversations late at night kind of love. I was in his arms. I was his wife. I was done shouldering the load without him. The relief was overwhelming. The love I had for this man was overwhelming. The joy was overwhelming.

All of this, in just 10 minutes out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

....and pink cake.

My Lillie Belle turned 7. My baby girl is 7. I am not really sure why 7 made me stop to think, but it has. 7 years with a girl. I still remember the day I found out we were having a girl. Pink. Bows. Baby dolls. It feels like yesterday. Patrick and I had two precious boys and I, as surprised as I was having two little boys first, enjoyed each moment being a boy mom. Not growing up with a brother in my house, I still remember the shock of seeing Logan for the first time and hearing the Doctor exclaim, "It's a BOY!" What do you do with a boy? I thought it was a girl! I was supposed to be having a girl!?! As time went on though, I discovered you do much of the same thing with a boy baby that you do with a girl baby...or so I thought. I enjoyed every minute of having boys. I still do. I loved their little chubby legs running through my halls, their sticky kisses, and dirty fingers. I loved hearing their truck noises and their gun sounds. They would build and knock down, run and fall, jump off things and climb up everything. They were the spitting images of their Daddy and oh! How the three of them could wrestle. And I never could've doubted their love for me. When we discovered we were having another baby, I truly assumed it would be another boy. I remember kind of thinking it would be neat to have a girl, but that thought was quickly pushed aside almost with the same questions I had before having a boy; what would I do with a girl? We had all these boy things and boy clothes...and I knew boys. I loved boys. At that point, I really couldn't picture myself with a girl...until the day we found out the baby I was carrying was a girl!

Fast forward to last Friday, I was decorating Lillie-Belle's Hello Kitty cupcakes, pink cake with pink icing, and Logan walked into the kitchen to just hang out for a minute. "Is that Lillie's cake?" I told him it was. Watching me for a minute, we talked about Lillie's birthday. After a few questions and a few comments from him, he looks at me very seriously and said, "Mom you know the best part of having sisters?"

I could have guessed a million things. Hello Kitty birthday parties for one. Meeting Princesses at Disney World after so many years of meeting Buzz Lightyear and Captain Hook. The movies Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Princess and the Frog. Pink rooms and dance classes. Hugs for brothers and quiet moments when a big brother reads to them. Watching big brothers hold little sister hands. Fashion shows. Helpers in the kitchen. Fingernail polish. Bows and French braiding again. My house softening for the addition of a little girl. Doors being held open and Barbie toothbrushes. Feet "dancing" on big Daddy feet. Screams, louder than I ever thought possible, at the sound of a Daddy's "scary" growl. Pink Zinka on noses at the beach and mermaid sandcastles. Promises to marry an older brother and lots of pictures to hang up. Pink bicycles with white baskets and little streamers from the handlebars. A daughter for my sweet man to walk down an aisle one day. Sweet smells and gentle hugs. Polly Pockets and Bitty Babies. The list in my mind goes on forever; as it does with my guesses for the reasons it is so great to have boys.

At that moment, I was so thankful for the gift of having both, but my mind was focused on my Lillie. She changed the dynamic of our home in one simple moment and the very dynamic of our family. She came in like a tornado, loving life and taking it by the horns. She has a strong personality and knows what "life" should look like. She loves everyday moments that we often miss and often retreats to "Lillie~land" as we lovingly call the place where only she is invited in her mind, where fairies are, and creation talks. She is strong, determined, and independent, but has a heart of gold. She doesn't like people to see her cry and doesn't like to see me cry. She can, at times, be painfully honest. She sings to herself, dances up the stairs, and loves, LOVES to push her Cole's buttons. She sword fights and plays a mean game of hide~n~go seek. She can catch a lizard with the best of her brothers, but has the prettiest pointed toes in ballet. She is wonderfully made and a perfect fit for our family. We couldn't have known it at the time when the ultrasound tech announced, "That's girl country right there!" (Can you tell our tech was from the deep South?) but our lives would forever be better because of Lillie Grace.

"I don't know, Logan. What's the best part of having sisters?"

"We get to have pink cake. It's so good." And he walked away licking icing off of his growing fingers.

I almost forgot...and pink cake.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

All That's Left

I recently spent some time visiting my elderly grandmother in the nursing home. It was so hard to see her there, that way. To me, she was always a fun grandmother and as I got older she seemed to never age. Not so much anymore. Although she looks alot older, she is doing well. Talking to her though is completely different. She seems to be in a different time. She has gone back to a memory and it seems as if that is where she is. The people she remembers or is looking for, have long been gone from this earth. But not to her. I sat there for most of the visits, bringing myself back to those times with her. For me, it was memories stored away, for her, it's where she is, it is what's left.

This seems to be the norm. My mom's mom is much the same way. The last visit I had with her she was a high school senior going to a dance at City Hall. By the time our conversation was over, I wanted to go too. It sounded wonderful. She was happy. What was left in her mind, made her happy.

While visiting my grandmother, I was drawn to the older men. As they sat there, hunched over in their wheelchairs, sitting by themselves, or just staring at the space in front of them, I imagined those same men, only 30 years earlier. Tall, lean, strong, confident; somebodies. Presidents of companies, doctors, Marines, lawyers, construction workers, Daddies, husbands. My eyes still fill with tears at my picture of them on that day. There was one in particular that I was drawn to most. Even hunched over with a walker, I could tell he was tall. He steps were slow but purposeful and he stopped at every doorway and peeked in. There were two halls connected by a nurses station and in my hour visit with my Maw-Maw, he made it down one side and only a few doors up the other. Every door, peeking. Every step slow. He had a very determined look to him and I wanted to go and help him. Do what? I wasn't sure but he had a purpose in his day. Right before I left there was a shift change and lots of busy-ness with the nurses and caregivers. One nurse walked past me to take her place with a handful of charts and asked the nurse leaving, "Is he looking for her again?" "Everyday. I wish he would stop. It makes me sad." As she was leaving, the nurse caught my eye and I couldn't help myself. "Who is he looking for? Is he ok?" "No, he's fine, just looking for his dead wife." Her harshness startled me, but her statement broke my heart. She went on, "Evidently she was some kind of woman because he is always looking for her, always." She picked up her things and left. My eyes drifted back to his husband searching for his wife. Never to be found but in his mind, she was there. He didn't look sad, or worried, just purposeful. There really isn't any other way to describe him.

As I walked my Maw-Maw down the hall, we passed his room. I saw his biography on the doorway and read what I could. What stuck out most was, "Husband, father of 4, retired military." It could be any man, but it could very easily be mine. As we passed him, his hands were shaky, his steps were too, but he smiled a sweet smile at me and melted my heart. He shuffled and pushed his walker. Stopped at the door. Shuffle, push, stop. Shuffle, push, stop. I couldn't help but picture the man 40 or 50 years earlier. Working to provide for his family, coming home for dinner every night, fighting bravely for his country, kissing his children goodnight, cooking eggs on Saturday mornings so his wife could sleep in, giving piggyback rides, throwing the football with his boys, his giant man hands dressing tiny dolls for his girls, holding his wife's hand on a date, drinking coffee in the mornings, playfully slapping his wife's rear passing through the kitchen, laughing through family dinners, taking his kids to the beach, pushing his girls on the circle swing. Where he was at that moment, gave him peace and he was looking for her. All the memories he could be living through~ his work, his early days~ but he was looking for her. All that made him that man, what was left was his wife. And he was looking for her. To him, she would complete him. He could stop looking. That was his purpose.

My thoughts drifted to my man. With him gone, I have so much time to reflect about me, as his wife. When Patrick is that age, will he be looking for me? Will his time with me be that happy place he goes back to? Will he think that I completed him on this earth? Will he know I loved him? Will I have showed him that enough? Did I take care of him? Did I listen to him? Did he feel respected? Did he know I adored him everyday I knew him? Will he remember us laughing? Will he want to hold my hand again? Will he miss my cooking? Will he want to tell me a private joke? Will he be looking for me? Will he be looking for me to rub his feet? Will he be looking for me to give him a hug? Can he picture my face? Will he want me? Will he need me for something? Did he have a question? A comment? A laugh? A quote from a goofy movie? What will be left? For this man, he was looking for her. He wanted her. He needed her. That was what was left. That was the place his mind brought him back to. She was his comfort and he wanted her. Will Patrick?

It's easy to see changes that I want to make when I step back. When he is gone. And for such a long time. I want him home. I want to love him. I want to listen to him. I want to show him how very much I respect the man I fell in love with. I want to hold his hand and make our home a soft place for him to come home to. I want to be his retreat. I want to listen to him, to laugh with him, and share our goofy quotes. I want to cook for him, sit beside him at night and kiss his cheek. I want to talk to him, rub his back and watch him kiss the kids goodnight. I want to go camping, share a secret, and have a movie night. I want to hold him and tell him how very much I still love him. I want to give him memories to hold on to...so that when that's all that's left, he's looking for me.