Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Orange Rhino Challenge

I'm that mama.  It's not even a secret.  I'm not proud.  In fact, it gnaws at me.  A friend introduced this to me after I'd had a particularly ugly bedtime ritual.  I'm a grown up.  I DO know better (although I don't always act like it.)  They are kids.  Sometimes they DO know better, but sometimes they DON'T.  I can't always control how they act, but I can always control how I react.  So here's to loving more and yelling less!!  I'm starting with a week.  Then a month.  Then going from there.  Feel free to hold me accountable.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ally Claire!! (I never knew...)

Dear Ally Claire,

I can't believe you are five, a whole hand today!  I never knew the time would fly by so fast!  Didn't we just bring you home from the hospital?

I never knew how scared I'd be those first few days of your life.  Some people may think we're silly for lamenting that you were in the NICU for 10 days, 5 years ago, but those people have never watched their child struggle for breath, for life.  Those people have never been completely helpless, watching a machine breathe for their child for 4 days. 

I never knew that not being able to hold you would make my arms literally ache.  The first time we did hold you, it was only for 10 minutes and nothing before or since has been so bittersweet.  The next morning as I folded laundry for your brothers, I sobbed.  I felt like I had the flu.  My entire being ached for you to be home with us, in our arms.  I knew a part of me was missing and I needed you.  You are who made our family complete.

I never knew how different you'd be, even as a baby, from your brothers.  I never knew how one child could hate car rides so much she went hoarse from screaming.  I never knew a big brother could be completely smitten with a baby sister.  I never knew that painting your toe nails once would mean a lifetime of polish and glitter.  I never knew that you'd love dresses and high heels and jewelry by your second birthday.

I never knew you would be such a good "tag-a-long", going to and sitting through all of your brothers' practices and ball games, running errand after errand with me.  I never knew you'd love camp so much, even at the tender age of 3, but I certainly hoped.

I never knew you'd sleep on the very edge of the bed like me, but talk in your sleep like your daddy.  I never knew you'd be so stinking messy, so much worse than your brothers.  I never knew you'd talk so big, so fast and know how to add before you'd know how to spell.  I never knew I'd be so attached to you that I'd get antsy when you've been away for only two nights at a grandparent's house.

I never knew you'd make me feel beautiful (because you tell me every day) and that I'd believe you.  I never knew I'd want to be better even though you think I'm the best at everything already.  You say the sweetest things and give the best hugs and kisses.

I never knew I'd be the most blessed woman in the world because you're my daughter and I get the opportunity to be your mama.  When I prayed to God to send me a girl, I never knew He'd send me my best friend and that I'd get to have all of your moments from the very beginning.  I never knew He'd send me such a fighter, someone so strong (willed) and determined, so smart and beautiful. 

Even though by the time you came along and I'd been a parent for almost 5 years to 2 others, I never knew this kind of love.  It's not bigger or more.  It's just different.  I knew it might be.  I had your nana and meemaw to prepare me for that.  But until you got here and were finally in my arms, finally in our home, my mind never knew what it'd be like to have you.

But my heart knew...it knew because it recognized you.  You've always lived there, even when I was just five.  You see, I waited on you a long time and when you finally came, I realized that everything I thought I knew was so very wrong.  You are so much more.  So much better.  So much bigger.  So much prettier.  So much smarter.  you are just so much and I never know if I'll be able to take anymore of you.

But every year, every day with you, every laugh, every breath is a blessing.  I will never get over those first days because now I really know what I could have missed out on.  I'm so thankful for the doctors and nurses and for our amazing God who took you right out of my heart and helped you grow in my belly until you could finally be placed in my arms.  I love snuggling with you in the morning.  I love tea parties and pedicures and sassy attitudes and sparkles and glitter and high heels and dresses that twirl.  I love singing to you at night and listening to your sweet voice singing along with mine about seeking God first and about His amazing grace.

I never knew these first 5 years would fly by so fast.  You start kindergarten in the fall and while I know you're ready, I'm not sure if I am.  But you will do great.  You'll meet your first best friend and have your first favorite teacher and read your first book and so many things.  I hope it's God's plan for me to be there for it all. 

I love you so much.  So much more than I knew I would.  You're such a blessing, Ally Claire (Lucy Goose, Sissy, Lissy, Loony Toons, Bitty Girl).  If there's anything that you ever know, I hope it's that!  Happy Birthday, love angel!!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thankful Thursday, Surviving to Thriving

The kids have been out of school for about 3 weeks and all I have to say is that I'm so glad we aren't committed to being a lot of places and doing a lot of things this summer.  I'm thankful that we are going to get lots of play time - free time, time to just be - these next couple of months.

I love making the summer fun list every year and watching it grow as my children do (2013, 2012, 2011).  I'm thankful that we seem to have hit what I call the "sweet spot" in the last year or so.  Don't get me wrong.  That sweet spot doesn't in any way refer to the fact that we've finally, after only nine years of parenting, gotten everything figured out.  Oh, no.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  What I mean is that after nine years of parenting, we are no longer carrying a diaper bag, because no one is in diapers (and hasn't been for a really almost 3 years.)  And we no longer have to break up our activities while on vacation to plan around naps because no one requires one anymore (sadsadsad).  And while we do still have to take food with us to some places (because my kids are picky), it's not necessary.  We can pretty much pick up and do and go wherever we want to, whenever we want to.  I am so thankful to be in that season of life.  What I've only realized in the last couple of months (the ones that happen to be our busiest) is that we are entering a new phase of parenting, one that if we don't grab it by the horns and commit to being fully there, we'll miss it.  It will go by as quickly, if not quicker, than the last nine years have. 

You see, for almost a decade, to get us to this point, we have been in that season of parenthood called surviving (can I get an Amen?).  We survived on fewer hours of sleep, fewer brain cells (no thanks, pregnancy), fewer left over dollars (if any), remnants of sanity fueled only by cheerios and bites of chicken nuggets or niblets of hotdogs that have been skinned and cut into a million pieces.  We've done our time wearing pee, wiping poop and smelling like puke.  We've tasted baby fruits and chased down bottles left in the van after the previous trip to Wal-Mart.  We've felt guilty for going to church only to have to leave early because a nap was needed and they'd only ever sleep in their own beds.  We've clapped over first steps and yelled over masterpieces drawn on walls.  We've made it and, somehow - surely only by the good Lord's hand - so have they.

But now, we have to transition from the season of surviving into thriving.  Oh, I know we'll still have some surviving to do.  I mean, we are on the precipice of those dreaded teen years (Lord, give me strength!)  I have realized that there will be a year when I have an 18 year old son (you know, the one who'll know everything and think he's so big because he'll be on the way to college), a 16 year old son (I just don't even know that the Alabama highways will ever be ready for that child), and a 13 year old daughter (drama & hormones...kind of like now, but on mega doses of steroids) all living in one house.  Please have mercy. 

What I mean is that when we first start out, I think we do a lot of "reactive" parenting.  Yes, there are some instances that you plan for.  You have to.  But really, until you bring one of those little cave people home with you...how much do you really know?  Nothing.  And we've all looked at our parents and their coy smiles and thought (or maybe cried), "Are you kidding me with this?  Why didn't you tell me parenting would be like this?"  Why, indeed.  It's because nothing could have prepared us.  And so we wing it.  We react and figure it out as we go.  We make mistakes.  We learn.  (It's totally why God makes kids so resilient.  They survive just like we do, lol!)

But you make it to a point to where all your kids know to rest when they're tired.  They know the "urge" when to go to the bathroom (and even when they can go alone in some places).  They know when they're hungry and can even fix SOMETHING to eat and drink on their own.  They don't walk out into the middle of the street completely naked or open the door to strangers. 

So now what?  Now comes the really hard part.  Getting into a different mindset so that you can let them go one day.  We can't merely survive these next pivotal years. We have to figure out how to thrive so that they will, too.

I'm thankful to be done with some of the stress that comes with the tiny years.  I'm thankful that, right now, we get to experience the joy (and even heartache) that comes with trying new things and meeting new people in these little years.  I'll be thankful for all the frustration that has and will come with all of the years when they've left my nest because I have no doubt that they'll grow up and one day, finally get it (gasp!  My mama wasn't a complete moron!)

So while the foundations and routines and habits we've instilled in them to get here are important, these next years are even more so.  I have no idea how we'll survive it.  But I hope we do it while thriving.

I was chosen just for them.  They were chosen just for me.  I've lost precious friends too young, too soon, who've had no choice in leaving littles behind.  I don't mind sounding a little bit selfish when I say I want to be the one to experience the thriving years with these three who have been entrusted to the Mr. and me.  I'm thankful for last season and I'm thankful for this new one.  I hope the plan is for me to see and experience many more seasons to come.

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