Ninja Track Meet

First, you should know I’ve been caught between a laugh and a cry since 10:15 this morning and giggles and tears are rolling as I type, so forgive my mind’s wanderings-better yet, enjoy them with me.

Our firstborn child went to his first ever track meet, ran the very first race and finished in first place.

i think you need to know more about the kid who won. This poor child is the first born of two first borns. That means when he was a baby and tried to take his shoes off in the car even after we told him “no”, that we thought he was strong willed and rebellious at 11 months old. By the time the fifth kid was born we have mellowed our expectations so much I honestly don’t know if my baby (also, I’m still calling him “baby” and he is almost 3) is wearing his own pants or his sister’s, I do know he is wearing an infant sock and one of his sister’s socks and his shirt is definitely inside out and backwards today with shoes on the wrong feet, and I’ve been taking pictures at the beauty of this child’s adorable self sufficiency. (It’s this kind of crap that makes the baby of the family so unique. Their parents learned to soak it all in, because they finally figured out growing up happens when we blink.)

Back to Zeke and this day.

He’s been telling us about this track meet for a couple of weeks and he told me he thought he could win. I was afraid he was getting a bit hot headed and felt it was my duty to knock him back down to Earth so I have spent the last couple of weeks reminding him that he may be fast at his school but he will be competing against kids from three other schools. Basically telling him it ain’t gonna happen. Cuz I believe in preparing hearts. 🙄

So we get to the track meet and say Hi to Zeke and marvel at the sheer number of kiddos and can feel their excitement as they walk on a springy real track for the first time in their lives.

And then my mother-in-love, Cindy, and I found a good spot in the bleachers and just chatted with the other parents. I’m a super annoying “WHOOOOO!!!” kinda sports enthusiast and holler for everyone so I always have to be extra nice before an event so people don’t smack me upside the head. Anyway, we watched as the kids took their places. A lot of kids. Like a big ol mob of them. Kids from four schools and my kid. The starting line was on the other side of the field and we couldn’t really make out who was who. We were searching the sea of children as they moved around the track and I scanned to the kid in the lead..

wait.

“Cindy, i think that’s Zeke!”

“no! What color are his shoes?”

“those! Those shoes! That’s Zeke!!”

Y’all. He was ahead and by a good amount.

I’m crying again.

Cindy and I were screaming and jumping and bawling and he won!!

But did you read the part where his mother told him he couldn’t win?? That child did this to spite me!!

Im probably kidding.

This reminds me of when this precious child was small and was going to be a Ninja when he grew up. He talked about it ALL the time. His daddy and I were weirdos and decided we should be concerned because first time parents are nothing but prickly balls of anxiety wrapped in crazy.  We talked to our pediatrician about how that was all our child talked about and what kind of specialist could he refer us to??? Our pedi smiled at us and now, looking back, I realize that wasn’t a smile to reassure two young nervous parents, rather it was this man who had worked with children and their ridiculous parents for decades trying desperately to hold back the Judge Judy eye roll his brain was begging to unleash.

“You’re worried because he wants to be a ninja when he grows up? Hmm..let’s put a pin in that for now. I’m sure he will grow out of it.”

I couldn’t believe how little our pediatrician who had raised his own children and cared for thousands of other kids during his career could be so ignorant! We tried rationalizing with our child:

“There is no one to train you and you have to train from the time you are very small.”

“I know ALOT of people and none of them are a ninja and none of them know a ninja.”

“That’s not a real job. There will be no one to pay you to be a ninja.”

“There is no such thing as ninjas.”

And on and on.

One evening we all found ourselves watching the show “American Ninja Warrior” and we were all cheering for these people with amazing abilities and incredible back stories. and suddenly I could see our son, who truly is strong, capable, and fearless on that podium being interviewed after he won the whole dang show:

“Zeke, tell us how do you feel?! What motivated you to become the champion?!”

“Well, my parents always told me there was no such thing as Ninjas and that I needed to just let that dream go, but instead of crushing me I used it to fuel my motivation! And I’m here to tell kids today, **grabs microphone and looks into the camera** don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, that it doesn’t exist, because I’m here to tell you you can, it does AND I AM A NINJA, MOM AND DAD!!!”

I’m so proud of my son. He won and was cheered and clapped on the back and was humble and encouraged others. I’m proud of all the kids as they cheered and encouraged each other to do their best. And for the 87 billionth time of motherhood God has blessed me with a lesson, and maybe I’ll learn it sometime. But for now, I’ve never been more proud of an accomplishment, mine or any others, than I am right now.

unless he was doing it to spite me and rebel. Then I’m super mad and he’s grounded.

 

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meandering toward a thought

Friday night the firefighter and I saw U2. My favorite band of all time perform my favorite album of all time. I was five when The Joshua Tree album came out and I know what it sounds like as a record, as a cassette tape, on CD, and on Spotify. I know every word, and feel every bit of passion it was meant to stir. As a constantly forward moving band, this is the first time they have ever revisited any tour and it was this one and OH MY GOSH I WAS THERE!!
Let me back up.
We bought tickets and booked our hotel room in January thanks to my awesome friend, Mindy Lentz posting about the upcoming concert on Facebook. We told the kiddos we were going to be going out of town and that their Aunt and Uncle would be staying with them. This was a mistake. You see, kids immune systems are directly related to the anticipation and excitement lobes of their brains (this is actual science based on my years of study and immersion in child culture.) And I forgot to take into account that it had been three whole weeks since our last strep outbreak. Rookie mistake.
We began the countdown till Friday morning, last day of school, the day Aunt Laura and Uncle Kyle would be in charge, the day my number one item on my bucket list would actually happen.
The countdown may have been the greatest mistake of all.
At 1:00 am Thursday morning a kid entered our room making no sense whatsoever. I felt this child’s body and realized it was raging with fever.
I hollered to the firefighter, “STREP!!” to which he replied, “Let’s wait till the morning.”
That kiddo was in and out of our room all night.
I took her to the doctor first thing, and she tested positive for strep. Please understand our family passes strep around like a bottle of whisky at a bonfire. Occasionally our doctor has gone ahead and called in antibiotics for all the kiddos, but because this was our NINTH round of it in 8 months he needed to test and diagnose each kid so we can be referred to an ENT to find out which little monster, I mean angel, is the carrier so we can yank, I mean remove, that kid’s tonsils.
This would all be well and good normally, but I had eight billion things left on my list to do before we left town, and I couldn’t ask my sister and her husband to wait for the other kids to get sick and take them to the dr. Plus, Park kids don’t all deal with Strep by complaining of throat pain. Nope, they generally like to barf red on the carpet. Most of our house doesn’t even have carpet so they have to seek it out. And if they don’t think they will make it to carpet in time then they will just barf in their bed and on themselves. There has never been more laundry done at a hotel on a weekend than at the Park house during a stomach bug.
So, I went to the boy’s school and picked them up and as I loaded and buckled everyone up I prayed this prayer:
Psalm 139/A Mother’s Prayer
by King David/Amber Park
“Oh Lord you have searched me and you know me,
you know when I sit and when I lie down,
you perceive my thoughts from afar,
you know my comings and goings,
you are familiar with all my ways,
PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY LET MY CHILDREN ALL TEST POSITIVE FOR STREP TODAY SO I CAN PUT ANTIBIOTICS IN THEIR BODIES SO I CAN STILL GO TO THE CONCERT PUUUUUUHHHHLLLLLEEEEEAAAASSSEEE
Oh, and also please let my babies feel better.
Amen.”
And the Lord heard my selfish prayer and inclined his ear and behold, each Park kid tested positive. Thus sayeth the strep tests.
Hallelujah.
So before my selfless sister and her husband came to our house the kiddos had a good three doses in their bodies and I burned all the toothbrushes and set the hand towels on fire and sprayed Vodka everywhere.
I was starting to feel Strepy myself on Thursday and for some weird reason had a refill for antibiotics in my life and started taking them, too.
Smooth sailing from here on out, right?
HAHAHAHAHA!
Have you ever read my blog?
We left my vehicle just in case they needed to go anywhere with our kiddos and instead took my husband’s truck. His truck’s air conditioner has always been a fickle minx and yet he still delights in his truck. And no, this is not an allegory nor a metaphor for his wife.
He took it to the shop earlier this week to see if they could fix it (again), but there really is no clear problem. So they replaced and tightened some things and essentially said, “we’ll see how it goes.”
So we began our six hour drive, in record high temperatures, me with a fever, windows rolled up while the A/C blew hot air that was occasionally just warm. The funny thing is the firefighter thought I was really making a big deal out of it all. He was thinking, “I know it’s not cold, but it IS cooler!” We didn’t realize until two hours into our drive BACK HOME that his vents were blowing cool air and mine truly were blowing hot. The whole time I had been thinking, “When did I become such a baby? I would have died on the Oregon Trail! He’s the toughest person I have ever known!!”
But, we made it to the hotel, and after I laid on top of the air conditioner in our room for an hour we got ready and got in the shuttle and as it pulled away I realized I didn’t have the tickets!! AHHHHHH!! They let us get off the shuttle and waited for us to return, sheepish grin and tickets in hand. When we got to the Jones Stadium, we were wanded with metal detectors, passed a bomb sniffing dog, a man in full body armor and combat gear. We got there early enough to buy a t-shirt and a program and then walked around and took in the immense “Toto-we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore” enormity of it all.
When U2 took the stage, me and 75,000 of my closest friends sang at the top of our lungs and wept as we were stirred by lyrics still relevant today. As I read through the program on our way home I was struck by how truly inspirational Bono and his approach to soaking up culture and grasping humanity (and inhumanity), and how he then goes to The Edge with his lyrics and shares what inspired the song and how he wants the listener to feel and The Edge works his magic and I swear I’ve heard bombs and terror and confusion and war and love from their music. He’s a poet who uses his art to provoke thought and who practices his belief that we can be better. And in his real life he works to make a difference. It’ll be what stands them apart from so many, the challenge and then the action.
And as we were driving home I meandered toward a thought.
Ladies, we have all seen the sign in restaurant bathrooms that tell us that pregnant women should not drink alcohol because of the affects it can have on the unborn child. I looked over at the firefighter and asked him if he has ever seen one of those signs in the men’s restroom. He had no idea what I was talking about. I remember being in a psychology class 15 years ago and seeing the affects alcohol had comparing a healthy baby’s brain to that of an infant with FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Seeing the healthy brain with all of it’s potential in the form of so many beautiful wrinkles and the FAS brain had so few, it gave me such a visceral reaction and I can feel it still today.
The month of May is National Foster Care Month in the United States and as we wrap up this month Im thinking of my amazing friends who have loved and raised babies who have suffered terrible things, and many of these children suffered them before they ever left their mother’s womb. When I think of a womb I think of it as warmth, comfort, safety. It’s after I give birth that I fear the germs, the cruelty, the world for my children. But too many children do not enter the world in this way.
Too many babies enter the world addicted to drugs, brains diminished from alcohol. It is poisoning a generation and too many of my friends can attest to what that looks like.
An FAS baby, then child, then adult has suffered a cruelty that cannot be undone. These children look like everyone else, are not outwardly showing a defect, but in the lack of folds in their brains is what separates them from their peers. It’s what causes them to be left out, or bullied, to be unable to grasp simple concepts, to have  extreme impulsivity, to struggle with rage, to lack empathy, and to not have the capacity to ensure that the next generation doesn’t suffer the same fate.
As I considered my husband having never had one of those signs in front of his face in a bathroom stall I felt so frustrated. The last line of the sign specifically says, “If you think you might be pregnant, think before you drink.” I wonder what impact those signs tailored to a woman’s partner could make if they were posted in restaurant and bar bathroom stalls for potential fathers to consider, too. Maybe the difference wouldn’t be huge, but even a small change can make a big difference. If even only one child was saved from those effects, what unbridled potential in that new person?!? He or she could change the world! And consider the affect a sign reminding a man of the potential for creating a new life could have? To be reminded of the enormity of decisions, maybe it could soften the hearts of some who for whatever reason forgot to care of the impact their actions in bed can have. Maybe it will give them pause as they consider their potential partner and what the upcoming choices can mean.
So I’m sharing a passion. I’d love to get feedback on how to go about making this idea a reality.

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Jonah and My Near Death Experience or Mothers’s Day 2017

Last night I almost died.
Michael and I were at a restaurant and when we received our food, food we had both ordered many times over many years we noticed Michael’s chimichaunga (a deep fried bit of heavenly burrito awesomeness for all you non TexMexicans) was pathetically flat. He cut into it to find the dang thing had practically nothing inside, so basically it was a $20 deep fried tortilla.
So we discussed whether or not to say anything about this travesty of a meal. The fear of making waves and what nastiness may fill the next one was deemed too much of a risk for our delicate sensibilities, so Michael proceeded to just dig in. Of course, Im using the term super loosely as it was more stabbing than digging given its paltry condition.
I was in mid-bite when I had a brilliant idea, so brilliant it apparently trumped proper chewing in my mind and I swallowed so I could tell him to take a picture of his meal before eating it so we could at least get it comped or a coupon for next time without taking the risk of something bad happening to his food this time.
Only I couldn’t speak.
Or breathe.
There was a piece of steak completely blocking my airway. I could feel it both on my tongue and also covering my windpipe and because I am so damn stubborn and bossy I still was pointing at his food attempting to convey my plan with sign language as the life was ebbing from my body. He was trying to guess my charades and probably wondering why I had decided to not speak for the first time in our life together.
Still dying.
Took a drink figuring it would push the freaking steak pieces connected by sinew all the way down where they could be together in my belly so I could finally tell him to stop taking bites and take a PICTURE OF HIS FOOD.
Whelp, instead of pushing it down I vomited spectacularly all over myself and coughed and spewed and coughed and gagged and tears were streaming and I was sitting now in a Chilton, steak, and water stew.
At this point, Michael asked “Wait. Are you choking??”
No, brah. Now Im dead.
After assessing that I was going to make it, (though if I could have died of embarrassment I surely would have, it just turns out thats not a real thing) he looked at me with more incredulity than he has ever before, which is remarkable, and said, “DO YOU NOT KNOW THE INTERNATIONAL SIGN FOR CHOKING???”
Because instead of putting my hands to my throat, pointing in desperation at myself, making some sort of GESTURE that i was, in fact, about to die, I was stuck on getting my point, my thought, my way better idea and brilliance and me and my me monster out there for him to admire.
We were out to dinner because I had reached a point of crashing and burning yesterday. I had a sitter come over at 2 because my heart was overloaded and I couldn’t mom, adult, Amber anymore. I needed a break and I ran away. I drove around and cried. I went to the mall on a Saturday and became even more overwhelmed watching kids not much older than our oldest speaking ugly words and talking about the drugs they have used and how drunk they were going to get tonight and about sex and oh my gosh. I listened to hateful words and tone being used between families. I watched so much ugly unengagedness and I WAS PART OF IT. It was where I ran to. Yall, I hate the mall and never go there. But I did yesterday after I had already cried off all my makeup and had run away from the sweet family who loves me and instead immersed myself in a crushing sea of culture that overwhelms and scares me on a good day.
This morning at church our Pastor was speaking about Jonah. The good part. The part where he is in the belly of that whale. It was darkness, and it was certain death. And he spent three days in there. 72 hours in hideous circumstance. He was where food is digested. I cant imagine the stench, the hopelessness, or the insane stubborn fortitude to make it three days before finally, desperately crying out to the God he KNEW but had run from. And when he finally gave up his refusal to share God’s love with a people God loved but Jonah felt did not deserve, God was there, waiting for that cry, for that brokeness because that’s when He moves and that whale VOMITED Jonah onto dry land.
And then our pastor asked my brother Kyle, who is a brilliant poet earning his PhD at Texas Tech to speak to us about the irony and the poetry of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of that great fish.
As one who lives to laugh and loves words, I was so close to being a crazy woman in church just laughing my sinful ass off at the irony of the day yesterday and the revelation of truths today.
Now, I’ve read Jonah plenty of times and I already know he’s not done being a dummy in the story. And I know I’m not either. Im so spectacularly flawed and stubborn I will run away again. I will do as Jonah and sit in self-satisfied pride waiting for a shit show to go down because sometimes I just cant help how good and right I believe I am.
Im a dummy.
Im worse.
And I am so thankful for yesterday, though I cried more than I have in years. Im thankful that I broke. and that I almost died. and that I went to church. and that I got perspective. God, Im so thankful.
I wish i didn’t always have to be broken. That I could just chip, instead of shatter. But I am so thankful that God is always ready to put me back together, and make me better.

Merry Christmas!

Aww ‘tis the season. You can smell it in the air, cinnamon and fireplaces. You can see it in the cherubic rosy cheeks of children and the sparkle in their dancing eyes. You can hear it in the cursing and grunting of our mail carrier as he attempts to shove a stack of darling embellished Christmas cards and letters in our ridiculously tiny, albeit, adorable mail box. The season is upon us.
I have a confession. I’m hiding all of the cards and letters. Can’t handle how shiny and coifed you all AND YOUR CHILDREN are. When did you find a day when no one had pink eye or green snot? How was it not windy? Why isn’t at least one person crying? How are you all matching? And when did your kid start using hair product and get an actual haircut that didn’t happen during a round of monthly buzz cuts from dad?? There may have been a memo saying it was time for us to grow up, but more than likely a baby ate it, a toddler hid it, or a preschooler deleted it.
Second confession, we have exactly 87 million Christmas ornaments and not one of them is on the tree.
I did not start out as Scrooge. Really! We even had a tree trimming party, danced to Christmas music and decorated.
And then that day.
Friday, December 9th 2016 shall live in infamy in the memories of our family.
I found out I had Strep the day before and made appointments to get our kiddos checked at 9:00 Friday morning. Strep gets passed around our family like a bottle of Hot Damn at a highsch…I mean, college bonfire. Four out of five kids tested positive and since it was a Friday we knew the other kid would likely come down with an acute case at 5:01 after their office closed, so our pediatrician called in antibiotics for all of the kiddos. Here’s an interesting fact: when your pharmacy calls to say your prescriptions are ready, they do not mean children’s antibiotics are already mixed. Also, a ten day course of amoxicillin comes in two bottles.
For us that was ten bottles that needed mixing, while we sat in the drive thru, with a carload of sick (read MEAN) children while an elderly man in the car behind us honked and hollered things that were definitely NOT seasons greetings. He did mention God and Jesus, I just don’t think he knows them. I offered to pull around, but the pharmacist firmly told me the man needed to wait his turn and that we needed to finish our transaction.
When we got home I gave the kiddos all their first round of meds, fed them lunch and then started to make the brownies I promised to bring to a Ladies Christmas party I was going to that evening. While getting the ingredients down I accidentally pulled down a Costco sized container of sprinkles. It hit the counter of our open-concept kitchen and burst forth. Teeny tiny dots of multicolored sugar all over the kitchen and living room. The children, delirious with fever, thought it was like confetti and a parade as I stood, horror struck, that i couldn’t even begin to think of the best way to handle this. So i barricaded the kiddos in the playroom, and began the painfully slow clean up process. I tried sweeping but the sprinkles were so tiny they just scattered and neither type of broom I had could get them. They also were either possessed by some sort of magnetic energy or by Satan himself because every time I brought the vacuum wand near, half of them would scatter. It took half an hour to get most of them (we are still finding them).
Ok, back to the brownies. I stepped out to the fridge in the garage to get another carton of eggs to find our dogs had lost their dang minds. They were in the garage because it was cold outside and by way of thanks they found the 50 pound bag of dog food and gorged themselves on it and then barfed and relieved themselves all over the garage with reckless abandon.
Ew.
After I thoroughly cleaned our garage, I went back inside, cleaned myself up and was ready to tackle those Christmas party brownies. Tra la la la… what does my baby have in his hand and mouth? Christmas ornaments. Oh gosh…
I went to our real tree to find nearly all the ornaments had been pulled off compliments of our two year old and 15 month old. They had used my distractions to full revelry. Even cleverly commandeering the chairs from the barricade I had made to help them reach higher on the tree than ever before. Ornaments and pine needles everywhere.
This is the part of the story where I recognized these situations were teachable moments and I sat my darling children down and explained to them about sin and why we celebrate this time of year, that our mistakes are why Jesus was born, that this season reminds us of grace we could never deserve.
Um no. I went back in the garage, yanked the attic ladder down, grabbed the empty ornament tote and threw every dang ornament back in there and snatched the rest off the tree, too. I climbed back up the ladder awkwardly and huffily and threw that tote back in the attic. Then I vacuumed up all the pine needles and surveyed our now forlorn Charlie Brown looking tree with lights barely clinging to bare branches.
I held back tears, baked brownies, cooked dinner, gave medicine to kids, gave baths to babies, wiped my armpits with baby wipes and reapplied deodorant because there was no time for a shower, and waited for the firefighter to come home.
I flung myself into his arms and ugly cried about the day. Then I grabbed the brownies, and the gifts I was taking to the party and ran away. I mean, I went to the Christmas party. As I drove I imagined what my sweet husband was walking around the house to find…
Our clear canister vacuum full to the brim with pineneedles and rainbow sprinkles. The most joyless Christmas tree in all the land. The stockings no longer hanging from the mantle but balled up on the floor of our room. The kitchen a disaster from the brownies I made and took away. I imagine it was a shock to his senses to realize he was married to a real life version of The Grinch.
At the party I fell apart and just shared the craziness. I’m generally awkward at parties, but I would say this was definitely my shining moment in buzzkillery. And on that lighthearted note, we played our stealing Santa game.  I opened my chosen gift to find a simple frame outlining a handmade canvas with the word “pray.” painted in large typewriter font. It was so pure and simple and in that moment reminded me that I don’t have to carry everything. I have an open invitation to crawl into the arms of my Father and weep and be comforted. That the moments that are too much are too much because I’m not seeing them with the wisdom of timeless Grace, that these moments are only that and that my Father delights in me. And I know that day was only ridiculous and not earth shattering, but when I share the small hardships with Him it softens me to share the too high mountains and deep, impossible canyons.
Also, no one dared steal that gift from me.
Post Script: As soon as I got home that night our baby started crying. We walked in to find him and all his bedding covered in vomit. We spent the entire night bathing and comforting him and changing his bedding and cleaning up puke. All night long. And then two nights later the other four kids came down with it and took turns vomiting all night long. Children do not vomit any color but red and it is their duty to vomit more in their bed, on themselves and carpet than in the toilet or provided trash cans. There were at least 15 loads of laundry completely dedicated to that weekend of stomach bug. There was carpet cleaning and disinfecting EVERYTHING. And doing it all, lovingly and gently on very little sleep. At the level of stress I had left my house on Friday, if my heart hadn’t been changed, I don’t want to imagine how ugly and bitter my heart would have become. Instead, in the thick of it, we found times to giggle, to come together, and to be thankful.
But we still don’t have ornaments on the tree. And next year we are getting a fake one. And maybe we will send out a Christmas card, but it’ll probably have to be with a picture of our feet, cuz that many faces is too hard.

Merry Christmas from the Park Family!

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Honesty in Advertising

I am a very rational, conscientious shopper when I am not pregnant or breastfeeding. Basically I have not shopped smart since the Bush Administration. But it’s ok because I am part of an online resale group. I have been able to recoup some compensation for my poor choices.

this has been a humbling experience, especially when a parade of hot college gals were coming in our home to try on clothes. I had to shut our dressing room down when my wide eyed sons started asking if they would puuuhhllleeeeeeaasssee come back and visit…

 

 

 

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A Lens to View Socialism

Socialism scares me, y’all. And I have been struggling to understand how so many smart people I know think it is what our country, our people, need. As I have tried to understand and consider the individuals I know who are proclaiming it’s merit I realize the problem is worldview and the lenses we see through. Before I anger and alienate you all, please know this: I respect and admire your compassion and hearts for people. Truly. Those qualities are important. I believe they are necessary as we live with and love our fellow man.

I’m going to share my worldview and lens. I’m going to give you more than rhetoric and internet articles, more than speeches that have been written, edited, practiced, and soundbited.

I grew up poor in Clovis, New Mexico. The kind of poor where in the winter we ate breakfast in the tiny bathroom of our house because we had a little spaceheater in there and it was the only room you didn’t need a coat on to be in. Before school, I would sit on the toilet and eat my cereal. I have seen a bare pantry. I never went to the dentist as a child because that was an extravagance.  In fact, what I asked for for my high school graduation gift was a trip to the dentist to try to get my teeth whitened from the stains that came from the water I drank as a kid. I remember when we moved to Lubbock and seeing all the kids with braces and thinking they must all be so rich! I got one pair of shoes every year when Payless had a sale. The same pair of shoes every year, because they would “go with everything”, mostly because they were so ugly no one would really care to look at them. I remember one year receiving a bag of hand-me-downs from my cousin Emily. In those hand-me-downs was a pair of red shoes. Y’all. To this day I remember those shoes and how brokenhearted I was when I outgrew them. Even now, when my mom shows me pictures of those faded red Keds with holes in them and torn laces and tells me they weren’t in much better shape when I first received them, the eyes from my childhood refuse to believe it. I was wearing Ruby slippers.

So there’s a glimpse of being a poor child.

Here is what being poor, teenaged, married parents looked like: My mom worked selling things we could never afford. She clipped coupons, went to the grocery store with a very specific list of meals and needs and tallied every price before putting anything in her basket. She had an envelop with cash and held her breath as the cashier rang things up. She bought things in bulk and divided proportions exactly. She was smart and kept up with every money thing in our life down to the penny. My dad worked every job he could. He worked night shifts in a meat packing plant where he had a knife pulled on him cuz some guy was having a bad day. He put up with ignorant bosses who said ugly things to him because his name was “Neko” and he had darker skin. He worked dangerous jobs, long hours and wanted better for his family than was ever given to him.

My parents did everything they could to protect me from the harsh realities where we lived. Things like gangs, prostitution (our next door neighbor for a time, I remember she would give me french fries and candy through her window), spousal and child abuse, drugs, and alcoholics everywhere. I remember when a child molester moved back in with his family across the street after he got out of jail. I remember because it was the first time my mom ever talked to me about some of the horrors we coexisted with. I can still hear our fat neighbor screaming at her skinny meek husband and their children. Screaming so loud while their yard full of starving dogs tried to out-volume her. They never could.

And here’s a glimpse at the lives of my playmates: many of my friends didn’t have a dad. Or they weren’t sure which guy was their dad. Or they were afraid of their dad coming back, or they just didn’t care. The dads who were there were often there in the middle of the day in their underwear drinking beer. One dad watched the Simpsons in his underwear while drinking beer and would talk to his kid and me about how fat his wife was. I had friends who didn’t go to school. I had friends who smelled bad because they had animals living in their bathtub. I had friends who shared their bed with many siblings. Friends who had disabilities that come from being in the womb while their mom continued a serious drug or alcohol habit. The habit continued while the child struggled to find something edible in the house. I had friends whose parents would give them adult sized clothing that they would then wear for years while their parents always had booze and cigarettes and whatever else. And I had sweet friends who lived things we don’t talk about.

I knew when my friends families got money from the government because their parents bought new stuff.

We never bought new stuff. My parents worked too hard and too much making too much money for us to get anything new. We did not qualify for government assistance. I wonder what if they had just quit? What if my dad decided to bail cuz our life together was too freaking hard? What if they had fallen into ugly habits that would have destroyed their drive? What if my dad decided he was too damn good for a nasty night job at a meat packing plant? What if they had bought a bunch of temporary crap rather than squirreling pennies away? Eventually their scrimping and saving and hard work paid off. My dad, who was a smart, personable guy, was given a job that he was great at. We moved and he was promoted and made important contacts and did well. My mom no longer needed to work. So what did she do? She became very involved in our schools and she volunteered a lot of her time for a local pregnancy center that reached out to women in crisis situations. She loved those girls because she KNEW them. She cared and gave deeply. She loved. My parents taught us to see and care about people.

I only know of one other family who made it out of there.

My takeaway: if you rob someone of their drive, of their need to try, you rob them of dignity and you rob future generations. You step on hard working people to such a degree that it might be tempting for them to give up because why should they work so hard at such hard jobs to pay for other people to have things that they themselves cannot afford?

I have no answers. I just have this lens. And I’m asking you to look through it for a moment. Many of you have had privileged lives though you may not recognize them as such. Many of you believe in socialism because you have only known good people in good situations.

I am not against helping people. I am not against doing for those who cannot.

I am against socialism.

Unshiny

Today’s post starts with a prayer, which is ironic, given it was the absence of prayer that brought about this post. My prayer as I write is that He will be glorified in this flawed human’s account.

My baby has RSV. This may not sound too bad to some, but I have seen what it can do in one of our other kiddos. I’ll stick a pin in that and maybe another day share what that looks like, even now. For now, our five month old is struggling with it. I am on high alert constantly, suctioning his nose, monitoring his fever, doing everything I know to do to help him breath and ease his constant cough.

Our three year old is also not feeling well. She has a cough and really just wants to rest. Our toddler is not enjoying this energy (or lack of) in our house. She is used to a faster pace, and a sister to play, and a mommy who is more interactive and playful. Normally when she gets in an ornery mood, we switch up the activity. We go outside or go somewhere. Right now that just isn’t possible, and she has instituted a reign of terror to let us know how she feels. She is hitting, hair pulling, screaming, throwing things. It’s awful. At one point, I was nursing Keegan to put him down for a nap and Amelia went to her room to escape angry toddler and Eva followed her and started beating on the shut door, screaming.

Y’all it was awful.

I had my phone near me and I almost texted my mother-in-love for help, I almost prayed, I almost lots of things. Instead, I crafted a funny way of sharing the moment on facebook, and posted it. Sat there for a few minutes and deleted it. And then in a passive aggressive moment of righteous indignation with myself, I also deleted the facebook app. Because I’m very self aware and also holy.

Just kidding. I’m stupid.

I long for connection with people, but I have created this online fantasy life that is annoying. It is the double edge of the social media sword. See, I’m not a social person. More than likely you wouldn’t notice me, unless by some miracle you know me well. But facebook has given me the opportunity to show that I do have a personality in a context that I am comfortable with, unfortunately I am a people pleaser who subscribes to sharing only the shiny moments. I like those “likes”. And I dislike the paltry number of likes that a Debbie Downer post gets. My facebook life is tinsel y’all, it’s shiny and appealing, but ultimately lacking substance.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love sharing moments that make us all giggle and I love seeing those moments, too.  Blah blah blah I think this could turn into a post for another day, and it’s not the point of today.

Basically, I’m saying I was acting like a stupid island, stewing in an ocean of ugly thoughts without reaching out in a real way. And even when I pulled my phone out again to text my mom-in-love I couldn’t because of pride. So then I started to pray, but Eva’s tantrum was so loud and my baby couldn’t breath and…I was too angry.

My phone rang.

It was Cindy (my mom-in-love).

Nope. Can’t answer. This moment is too sucky.

She left a voicemail. We don’t leave voicemails.

When Keegan was breathing better I laid him down for a nap.

Then I listened to that voicemail. She was calling to see how we were doing, how Keegan was feeling, and wondered if the big boys could stay the night at their house.

She was leaning in. She was answering a prayer my heart had been to hard to pray, she was answering a text I was too proud to send.

She changed how these next moments could have gone. I might have gone in a towering anger and yelled at the toddler. Heck, I might have spanked her (which is something I very rarely do because often, if I am at a point of thinking I should spank my child, then I absolutely have no business giving a spanking.)

Instead, I went to the screaming toddler who was throwing the Leap Pad at the door her sister had shut, I lifted her and carried her to my room and just hugged her till she stopped screaming and tears were streaming down my face. Finally she accepted and reciprocated my hug. Then Amelia came in and joined in the hug. We sat there for several minutes and then I called my mom-in-love and reluctantly shared what life looked like at that moment. And she offered to be His hands and feet.

I am thankful to fully known and fully loved, in all moments.

Praise

Science

Evolution of child raising as evidenced by the progression of parental reactions to Baby throwing up during the night.

Firstborn: Baby throws up in basinet.  Parents know this because they have been obsessively watching Baby on the video monitor. They have not slept since Baby was born. They immediately call the pediatrician’s after-hours call center. When they do not receive a call back within four minutes they are in the car racing to the emergency room. One parent is driving, the other is in the back seat, attempting to soothe Baby while crying and praying. Baby is not soothed. After many tests the team of drs conclude Baby threw up in bed. Parents consider asking for a seventeenth opinion as they douse themselves in handsanitizer and burn everything they wore in the hospital. Because germs.

Secondborn: Baby throws up in basinet. Parents know this because they sleep lightly and heard the cough, gag, spew on the monitor. Both parents roll reluctantly out of bed. Dad gives Baby a bath while Mom leaves a message for the oncall nurse and cleans up the mess and soothes awakened firstborn. Nurse returns call and they make an appointment for Baby to be seen by pediatrician in the morning. Pediatrician says Baby threw up in bed. Mom, who spent the rest of her night staring at Baby and webmd, shares her google findings with pediatrician and offers a detailed medical history, including that one time, seven years ago, when she went on a trip to Mexico, drank the water, and is now breastfeeding Baby and wonders if it is possible that she has transmitted something that was dormant in her system. Pediatrician maintains Baby threw up in bed and considers writing a script for a chill pill for Mom.

Thirdborn: Baby throws up in basinet. Mom hears it and wakes Dad to help give Baby a bath, new pjs and new bedding. They throw everything in the washing machine and decide to see how the rest of the night goes before calling the pediatrician’s office. Mom holds Baby for an hour before putting Baby back in bed. In the morning they decide Baby just threw up in bed, and there is no need to call the pediatrician. Mom cancels plans for the next day so Baby can stay home and rest.

Fourthborn: Baby throws up in basinet. Mom doesn’t tell Dad, strips Baby’s bedding, decides to wait till morning to clean everything, wipes Baby down with wipes, puts Baby in new pjs and brings Baby into parent’s bed. Next day Mom complains to Dad that she is tired because Baby threw up in bed.

Fifthborn: Baby throws up in Mom and Dad’s bed. Mom gets up, grabs a towel, picks up Baby, puts towel on top of throw up, lays back down with Baby. An hour later, Baby has epic blowout. Mom pats herself on the back for already having a towel down, marvels at the miracle that she chose a white towel as it can be bleached (but not during the night. That would be crazy. She’ll bleach it and whatever else needs it by the time this night is over.) She changes Baby and puts down a new towel. Then she and the Baby go back to sleep, snuggled together until Baby wets through his diaper onto Mom who laments that NOW she is going to HAVE to take a shower…in the morning.

Meetings With Strangers

I like to share stories. I have no artistic bend when it comes to paint and canvas, but bringing moments to life, giving them dimension and color, sharing the mundane that we all relate to and reminding us to laugh and be warmed by our collective human experience, that is what I can share.

Too often I let negative interactions with strangers affect me, and sometimes even define me. The jerk flipping me off for going the speed limit, the woman likening my breastfeeding in public to pooping in public, the foul mouthed comments written anonymously about things I care deeply about.

The reality is, there are a handful of crappy humans perfectly content to be crappy humans living among us. Their words and choices do not belong to me.

Recently, I challenged myself to share 30 days worth of positive meetings with strangers.

Here are the first three:

Meetings with Strangers Day 1:

I took the three littles to Target. As we were shopping Keegan (4 weeks old) lost his dang mind.  He is a growing boy and believes strongly that a moment not spent eating is a moment wasted. As I was unbuckling him from his carseat and Eva (19 months) was trying to swan dive from the basket a young male Target employee asked, “Is there anything I can do to help, ma’am?”

I snarled back at him, “Can you breastfeed??”

Target employee: “No ma’am, but I will find someone who can and the wine aisle is right over there.”

Clearly this boy should be moved to a management position.

Day 2:

Last week, the big four were farmed out at school and Parent’s Day Out, so it was just Keegan and I at the grocery store. A woman came over and admired him and we chatted for a few minutes.  She shared with me that she grew up in a family with five siblings and told me she remembers vividly how her mother played with them because she loved children. Her eyes grew sad as she commented how often she observes children starving for attention from parents who are busy staring at their phones.

She said, “No one is going to kindly listen to an old lady telling them to put their phones away. They’d probably just tell the story on Facebook about a rude old lady trying to tell them what to do. But I couldn’t have children and I watch families miss out on this short time because they want to know what everyone ELSE is doing.”

She reminded me to look into my sweet baby boy’s eyes and see the whole world.

Day 3

Today at the grocery store an older woman asked if she could see my baby. He smiled when she asked. She looked at him and I watched as she was transported to the time when her children were small. A woman emits a glow when she is pregnant and carrying her child, and she has the same glow as she carries and recalls her memories of raising a child. She told me that she had two sons born four years apart. Those boys, now men, are her heart’s joy. She shared how much her husband loved their boys. How he played and wrestled with them. She shared that her husband was a strong man whose love for his children had even brought him to tears.

She told me that her youngest son now works with a doctor. One day she went to stop by their office to visit with him, but she saw that their office was crowded and told the receptionists not to bother her son, that she would just talk with him later. She was in the parking lot when her son, a grown man with grown children of his own, caught up with her to make sure she was ok and to tell her that he loved her. She had tears in her eyes as she recalled how special that moment was as she considered how she had given this boy spankings and had been firm, even stern with her children. How in those moments when they were young and she had to punish them she worried what the future of their relationship would look like.

Ms. Wanda is 82 years young and about to move on to a new chapter in her life. She is going to move and let her precious sons take care of her. Her words and stories touched this momma’s heart. We have five kiddos. The firefighter and I question ourselves constantly if we are doing right by our kids. We are too strict and too demanding in a world that produces Kardashians and trophies for showing up. We have FIVE children. Each completely unique in their personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Just last night the firefighter and I had a “come to Jesus conversation” wondering when we would have the time, the energy, the grace, the patience, the humor, the perseverance, the encouragement, the everything necessary to usher each of them to adulthood. And when they get there, will they still like us? Will they want to spend Thanksgiving at our table? Will they remember how much we laughed? Or is my “tiger face” the only thing leaving an indelible mark on their memories?

I am thankful for the Wandas of this world. Angels among us, who have stories to share and take the leap to start talking. I believe we are nudged within our souls to be the difference in each other’s lives. Otherwise, what is the point? Why walk this journey? Why suffer and still persevere? Religion and philosophy are only words on a page if we do not acknowledge that we are the hands and feet and our stories of grace in action are meant to change the world. I have ignored promptings because it is not in my nature to be bold, but the more people pour into me, the more they allow themselves to be vulnerable and share their truths, the greater my understanding of Design. 

An Abridged Guide to Little Boys

Here is a handy guide for moms of boys denoting little boys’ complex thought process regarding hygiene and cleanliness.

Situation 1: Is peeing all over the bathroom acceptable?

Yes. The world is my toilet. Be happy I peed indoors AND in the same room as the toilet.

Situation 2: Should I eat my boogers?

Of course. Not eating them is wasteful. Unless you are using them as wall adornments.

Situation 3: After making number two, playing with a snake, or swimming in a ditch of runoff from a toxic waste plant should I wash my hands before sharing a bowl of popcorn with other humans?

…is this a trick question? I just don’t see the correlation…

Situation 4: If I find a french fry on the floor of the car and cannot remember the last time we had french fries, should I eat it?

Duh. That’s like finding $20 in your pocket.

Situation 5: How many days in a row should I wear the same filthy socks?

Either until I can no longer remember what color they were the day I started wearing them, or until my mom calls the exterminator because she is sure something died in my closet.

Situation 6: Should I wipe well after making number 2?

Who has that kind of time? Besides, isn’t that why we wear underwear?

Situation 7: If I grab two clean shirts out of my drawer and only wear one and drop the other one on the floor, should I fold it neatly and put it back in my drawer when my mom tells me to clean my room, or should it go in the dirty clothes hamper?

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??? Of course it needs to go in the dirty clothes hamper!!! What are we?? Animals??? Besides, if mom has time to write about this on her blog, then clearly we aren’t putting enough clean clothes in the laundry basket!!