A Letter to My Birthday Girl

My Darling Girl,

Thirteen years ago, when you were placed on my chest, warm, wet, and full of life I did not see this moment. I only saw my first born baby girl with perfect bow-shaped lips and tiny fingers and toes. I felt the intense rush of motherly love burn fierce and hot in my chest to the point that for just a moment, I could not breathe. I held you tightly and inhaled baby smells and at that moment, we became a family. But I did not see how quickly the years would rush by me. One on top of another, faster and faster. Birthdays and bounce houses, hair bows and Converse, first crushes, contacts, braces, hormones. An avalanche of life lived between sleepless nights, made possible only by Jesus and copious amounts of coffee. I did not see the moment where I am now, watching you balance on this thresh hold before us. Between womanhood and childhood, you stand. Oh, linger just a little longer, sweet girl and let me share a little of my heart for you, with you.

In a few short years you will more than likely be ready to tumble out of our little tree and into the world. We’re doing our best to prepare your heart and spirit for the journey ahead. We try to live out our faith by example, to pour truth into your spirit to be used as a roadmap and the Word into your heart to light your way when the path is dark and hard to see. I pray that no matter where that path leads you that Jesus remains the captain of your soul and the very anchor to which you cling.

My hope is that you also would remember that your dress size, your bank account, and your address are all just numbers that change and fluctuate with the seasons of your life but who you are in Christ is as certain as the rising of the sun. The fact that you were made exquisitely in the image of Him who created all, will never change. Your worth is summed up not in monetary treasure, physical ability, or beauty but in the simple fact that you are of great worth to Him. Pay no heed to the voices of this world, that pull and scream and try to tell you what beauty and success look like. Strive instead to abide by the identity that you have in Jesus which comes with a great peace that no one or nothing can diminish.

fayes

I pray that you will be challenged, provoked, and stirred throughout your life. That complacency would never be your friend and that you will remember that life owes you nothing. Precious things, things of substance and great value must be sought after, worked for, and dug out. I pray that God will surround you with Godly friends and those that will also sharpen and provoke your faith, strengthen your walk and remind you that our ultimate goal in this life is to become like Christ.

Which leads me to this final thought on your birthday – When we become like Christ we love like Him. Compassion and dignity should be second nature to us. Remember the advice given in James, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Be even quicker to forgive. Prefer your brothers and sisters. Bear the burdens of those around you. Respect boundaries and set your own. Always say what you mean and mean what you say. Live out the Word of God and above all, stand for truth, even if it appears you stand alone. Because you are never alone. When you stand for truth, all of heavens army backs you. And ultimately, truly loving others like Christ means speaking the truth with all grace and kindness. You won’t always be liked or popular but neither was Jesus. You’re in good company. fayepaselfie

As I watch you now, feeling your way through adolescence, I stand in amazement at the young woman you have become. What a gift you are! Your beautiful tender heart, your inquisitive mind, your tenacious spirit. My girl, so full of passion and determination, I am proud to be your mother. Never forget how much you are loved. You may tumble out of the nest but always remember that wherever Daddy and I are there is a safe place to land. Happy birthday to my teenager.

sunkissed

 

An Open Letter to the New Home School Momma

To the mom hiding behind your computer screen, searching for the next best curriculum….I know you well. You spent months researching different home school programs, curriculum, groups, and how-to’s. You read every blog, article, meme, and Facebook post that had anything to do with homeschooling. You talked to your spouse, to your friends, and to God about this undertaking and you were giddy with the amazing picture of what it would all look like in your head. When UPS arrived with the small fortune of books, materials, and fancy home school planners, you spent hours going through everything, inhaling new text book smells and blank workbook pages that would soon be filled in with your brilliant children’s work.

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Ahhh!! First day glorious expectations!

Speaking of the little Einstein’s, I know them as well. I know all your dreams and thoughts for them. I know how you agonized over taking them out of the school that they (and you) loved because you felt that God was calling you to do a new thing. But they also were excited and begged to get started before their last year at school was up. And their excitement added to your own, making you certain that the decision was the right one.

You had bought into a vision in your mind of how it would look. You’d read plenty about the joys of homeschooling and spending precious time with your children. No more wasted time in a classroom setting! Every second of every day, they would be learning and growing. And loving every minute of it. You saw yourself taking them on amazing outings and using the great outdoors as a classroom and molding your little protégés into independent learners and free thinkers! Your child with the learning/emotional/physical need would be both challenged and allowed to progress at his or her own pace. You had battled self doubt, friends doubt, and family doubt, overcoming every argument. You couldn’t wait until the first day!

Until the first day comes. And expectation meets reality. Your once excited pupils suddenly realize that schooling at home doesn’t mean we just do whatever we want, but that reading, writing, and arithmetic are still a vital part of their day. Their little dream of sleeping in every day and living in our jammies is just that. A dream. Between the two year old toddler vying for attention, the phone that won’t stop ringing, the dishes piling up, and the laundry pulling at you, and worst of all, your once excited students have now become whining and griping monsters, the weight of the decision hits you. And in that moment where the fantasy meets the reality, you feel yourself wilting inside. “Wait just a minute, here!” Your inner voice screams. “This is not what I signed up for!” “Where’s the joy? The excitement of learning?”

And then, almost immediately the guilt sets in and the lies bombard your mind as your inner voice begins to runs down the List of Things You Didn’t Do Right:

~Lie 1. “It’s because I’m not doing enough.” Our best is all we can do. Enough is a pipe dream.

~Lie 2. ”They’re bored! They’re supposed to be loving this! I didn’t get the right curriculum.” They’re kids. They’ll get bored a theme park eventually. And home school still has the word “school” in it. It does require work. Contrary to what some people think.

~ Lie 3.“I’m not equipped to teach them.” They are YOUR children. You are the best equipped to teach the little buggers.

~ Lie 4. “This is supposed to be fun.” Says who? That mom who writes blog posts for a living and only posts the cute/fun/perfect pictures? Show up at her house unannounced at about 4:15 pm any week day and I think you’ll see a different picture.

~ Lie 5. “I’m not crafty/smart/creative enough” Here’s the thing, we need to realize and teach our kids that learning is an ongoing process. We are always learning. The joy in homeschooling comes when you figure out that you are learning with your kids. You are  teaching them to love learning! Eventually. The day we think we’ve arrived and that there is no more to learn, is the day we die. Remember that the next time you talk to some “expert” who refuses to acknowledge that we are all life-long learners and acts as if he/she has it all figured out. They are dead inside. Move along.

~ Lie 6. “I didn’t pray over them enough.” Really? God keeps a score card? I missed that in the Bible. And there’s that word again. Enough.

~ Lie 7. “I shouldn’t have nursed them to sleep when they were babies.” Just. Stop. It.

~ Lie 8. “I shouldn’t have co-slept/let them cry it out/given them vaccinations/not given them vaccinations.” No, really. Stop.

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I saw this on a museum tour this summer and realized it’s what my laundry room looks like. Everyday.

And on and on until you are a blubbering, guilt ridden mess hiding in your pantry, sneaking chocolate while your children are watching TV because you could not handle small, whiny voices interrupting each other with, “What’s 8 x 8?” “How do you spell arachnid?” “Why do I have to write my name on this paper?” You have simply given up. And it’s only 10am. On the first day. (See? I do know you.) Just stop. Put down the chocolate. It’s not you. It’s not them. It’s life. I’m going to tell you a secret I wish I would have embraced when I first started. Are you ready?? Here it is: It’s ok for them to be bored. As a matter of fact, it’s good for them to do some monotonous things. Your job is to prepare them for life. Not to entertain them. It’s ok for it not all to be fun. It’s ok for them to do things they don’t want to do. It’s called character building. Your job is to pour more than just the multiplication table, English grammar, and history lessons into them. What would it matter if our kids mastered all of the laws of physics and mathematics but failed the simple assignments of kindness, compassion, discipline? Andrew Kern said it best when he said, “Children are souls to be nurtured, not products to be measured.”

So give yourself some grace. It’s ok for you to bumble through that first year or so trying to find your own personal rhythm, because that’s what it’s about. You’ve got to find YOUR family’s tempo because no two are the same. You’re learning something you were probably never taught unless you were home schooled yourself. Stop comparing yourself. Pour into your children. The most important lessons they will learn will come from watching you. Breathe deeply. Let them see you struggle and lean on Jesus to get you through. Prepare them to live radically for Christ first and they will be prepared for college.

Remember mommas, we CAN do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Even educate our kids. If you get nothing else out of this rambling post, just remember, with Him, you, imperfect, curriculum changing, chocolate eating, grammar diagramming nazi (or not), Pinterest fail queen, are ENOUGH.I’m off to the store to finish the last of my school supply shopping. Notebooks, pens, and chocolate for the pantry.

 

The Coconut Chronicles: Why God Gave Me a Boy

When Coconut #1 was about a year and a half, Hubby and I decided we were doing so well with her (she hadn’t been to prison, nor was she hooked on drugs) that we wanted to try for a boy.  Like we had a say so in it.  Anyway, we prayed and God in His sovereignty, wisdom, and at times, humor, blessed us with what we asked for.  I should have had some sort of inclination as to the fate that was to befall us as I struggled through my pregnancy, labor and delivery.  Towards the middle of my pregnancy we found out that the little turkey was lying sideways instead of head down.  If he didn’t turn the right way, a C-section was going to be the only way to get him out.  Thankfully at zero hour the midwives worked their magic and got him to turn.  Labor and delivery about killed me with contractions stalling out and baby’s heart rate dropping but he finally arrived, perfect, and beautiful, demanding, strong willed, and inconsolable.  The first year with him made words like “difficult” seem like gross understatements and improper usage of adjectives.

You don’t realize it until it happens to you that going from 1 kid to 2 is not just adding another kid.  It’s exponential.  The energy, the diapers, the craziness.  Combined with the fact that we had a difficult baby, that first year was intense.  But we survived it.  I do remember feeling guilty through most of it because frankly, I was miserable.  It was all me those first 18 months or so.  I was the only one who could get him to stop crying so he spent most of that time attached to my hip.  Or my breast if I really want to get honest. It was the only time he was manageable.  And then one day when he was almost two I remember walking with him up the sidewalk to our house.  I was walking faster then he could handle, and I heard him say, “Wait me, mama!” As I turned toward him he reached up and placed his tiny hand in mine with supreme trust that wherever I led him he would be safe.  I felt my heart melt.  As he gazed at me from pools of deep brown eyes fanned by the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen, all the previous months of struggle seemed like a distant memory.  I felt weak in my knees at the knowledge that I had almost missed THIS.  This moment.  This memory that sticks out so vividly in my mind.

Months went by and as his freckles deepened and vocabulary expanded I found myself more in love with this foreign, tiny creature so different from my dainty daughter.  She loved princess dresses and high heels whereas there seemed to be an electromagnetic pull between him and mud puddles.  Whatever toy you handed her became a baby to be put to bed.  He, on the other hand, could turn the aforementioned toy into a gun or sword or any weapon for that matter.  Boy noises and using “poopy” as an adjective for anything and everything was common place.  Streaking naked throughout the house after a bath, yelling, “Super Wee-Wee,” became an Olympic event in our house and I have loved every ridiculous moment!  His squeaky, high pitched voice that still, to this day, conjures up images of the Muppet Beaker could make me laugh in the midst of a storm.  I realized that this little man child was a gift to me straight from God.  And somewhere, along the way, I’ve figured out…

Why God Gave Me a Boy 🙂

~ Because He saw I lacked patience and knew this small man child would give me many opportunities to stretch and grow what patience I possessed.

~ Because he knew my control freak nature and knew this little boy would teach me that love does not control by emotions or force, but by example, gentleness, and a firm but kind hand.

~ Because He knew my past and the men who had come through my life and that I needed to understands some “whys” that came out of that time in my life.

~ That my son’s life also would be shapen, for better or worse, by my influence in him and that there were things I would need to change in myself to ensure he got the best start possible.

~ Because He knew the joy a small, dirty fist clutching weeds offered to me as flowers would bring to my mommy heart.

~ Because He knew the feel of small, warm arms wrapped around my neck would melt my sometimes cold facade.

~ Because He knew that sweet, sleepy breath on my cheek during prayers at night would still my restless gypsy spirit.

~ Because He knew that bugs given as gifts, ouchies healed only by mama’s kisses, and original artwork presented as carefully as a Monet would be more treasured than gold.

~ Because He knew that a tiny hand slipped into mine with a whispered, “don’t worry momma, I’ll take care of you,” would sustain me through the valley of grief more than funeral home flowers.

~ Because He knew that the unbiased love of a little boy exclamations of, “Momma, you so bootiful,” could lift my spirits and make me feel wanted and needed.

~ But most of all because He loves me.  His desire is to reveal to me, in a small measure, when I look into the depths of huge brown eyes and find myself drowning in love, in like manner does the Fathers love for me encompass Him.

We celebrated the birth of our Coconut #2 last week.  These 6 years that I’ve been given with him so far have been priceless.  Worth every second of hard labor, newborn reflux, and no sleep.  Happy, happy birthday to my man child who, in my eyes, hung the moon, melts my heart, fills my soul.  I am blessed to be your Momma and to have the opportunity to watch you develop into the man that God is growing in you.

 

Happy Bday Bubba!

The Coconut Chronicles: Journey to the Crazy G

Hanging with the Coconuts is pretty cool.  We are in the midst of summer break and I am loving having so much down time to spend with them.  However, I must say that this years 4th of July festivities pretty much wore me out.  See, we went to the Crazy G Ranch to spend 2 nights with “Papa and Jem” (the kids nickname for grandpa & grandma).  What’s so tiring about that?  Well let me tell ya,  Papa and Jem are the best grandparents in the world.  I’d put them head to head with anyone who thinks theirs are better.  However the word “no” in the same sentence as the Coconuts is somewhat foreign to their tongues.  Oh sure they’re going to argue that point but when the 5 year old comes out of the pantry after looting through the snack drawer with a package of OREO’s at 9 in the morning for breakfast and I’m the only one in the room with a problem with that, well I’m thinking they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Let me also throw this in the mix, the Grand Parental Units (GPU’s) live at the lake.  At least they did until the worst drought since the days of Elijah hit, and instead of having lake front property, they now have 12 acres of…I don’t know what….stuff that used to be under the lake??  But it’s still a pretty cool place.  Additionally the GPU’s have the mother of all home theaters.  In my kids perfect little world (since the lake is out for now) they would go up there, eat chocolate and popcorn whilst drinking something full of caffeine and sugar and watch movies non-stop for 48 hours straight.   So it’s to this kid mecca that we go.  We arrive like the Clampett’s complete with several suitcases, groceries, and our silly Dachshund, Samson, who loves going there as well.  You see, it’s not only the Coconuts that the grandparents adore but our dumb dog as well.  He gets the royal treatment every time we go and I would not be surprised if one day after a visit there, he refuses to get into the car for the return trip.

No sooner have we arrived do the Coconut’s begin.  “Are we going swimming?” Me: “Where?! There’s no water!” Coconut’s #1: “Grandma said!!”  You see, the GPU’s have somehow managed to convince my children that the Coconut’s every wish is their command.  Even if it means calling down rain from heaven apparently.   Coconut #2 chimes in: “Are we going to shoot fireworks?” Me: “Tomorrow.  Today is only July 3rd.” He replies, “So??” Meanwhile the 2 year old Coconut is running amuck making as much noise and mess as possible while we drag suitcases and bags in the house.  At the same time I’m screaming like a shrew at the dumb dog, “go make poop!” You see, if he is not reminded he will go straight into the house and leave a little present for the GPU’s.  They’ll say, “Oh he just gets confused!”  Yeah.  Because he’s only been there 75,000 times. And he’s been house broken for 3 years.  I can see how he’d forget.

Ok here’s a run down of our 4th of July festivities:  1.  Death by Slip ‘N Slide – which  I vividly  remember from my youth….I think I might still have a rock or two impaled in my groin area from the full on belly flops on wet plastic stretched out over hard, rocky ground.

2.  Coconut and GPU Hallmark Bonding Moments – This is where the Coconuts wake them up at the crack of dawn begging for Fruit Loops and cartoons while Hubby and I sneak back upstairs for an hour (or two) more sleep…Priceless.

3.  Double Feature Movie Night (or Afternoon) – In other words, Papa puts on a movie for them and then dozes off in the safety of the darkened theater.

4.  And finally….the grand finale….FIREWORKS!  Over which I was feeling both excited and apprehensive about.  3 kids amped up on sugar and adrenaline, $200 worth of aerial bombs…er I mean fireworks, and 2 grown men (Hubby and Papa)  over joyed with the prospect of having an excuse to play with explosives.  So you are sensing my stress level now.

Anyway,  I had planned this whole Norman Rockwell thing.  Brushed up on my American history and was ready to infuse them with a dose of patriotism.   I started out by asking them if they knew why we celebrated the 4th of July.  Coconut #1 says, “I know!  Because it’s America’s birthday!”  Before I could tell her how awesome and right she was, Coconut #2 breaks out singing, “My Country Tis’ of Thee, while the 2 year old starts into her version of Happy Birthday.  We are interrupted from our little history lesson by Hubby and Papa dragging out the box of explosives and a lighter. I can’t compete with pyrotechnics.

Seriously though, the bible says, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” My children are blessed to have the GPU’s that they do.  Money can’t buy the relationship, the love, and the bond that a strong family has.  The Hubby and I are blessed to call his parents Mom and Dad.  And yes, it’s true, they spoil their grands but not rotten.  Besides, that’s their reward for not killing their own when they were young.  Who am I to take that away from them??

Grandma & girls P1000226

The Coconut Chronicles and the Barbie Nemisis

Warning!  Rant Following!

I hate Barbie.  I realize how strong that word is and I really hate Barbie.  I hate her tiny little high heels that end up lost and then mysteriously reappear, impaled into the bottom of my foot at 3am as I make my way to the bathroom.  I hate her stupid pink convertible that has given my daughter ideas about what her first car is going to look like.  And most of all I hate that ridiculous fake “sparkle” in her eyes that look like she’s knocked back one too many martinis.  Look, here is a doll that is marketed to little girls who is freakishly, disproportionately perfect, wears clothing that I’m fairly certain people in certain professions wear to work, and spends her days lounging by the pool with boys at her “Dream House”.  You may disagree with me, and that’s fine but I personally feel that my Suffragette Sisters of the late 19th century did not have Barbie in mind when they began the long fight for equality. I just have a real issue with indoctrinating little girls into the belief that the sum total of their worth should be based on beauty.  And then we wonder why our teenaged girls have so many self-esteem issues…but I digress.  Back to me…of course, much to my chagrin, my 8-year-old Coconut LOVES Barbie!  Loves her clothes, her car, her house.  So, the strong woman/mom in me rises up and decides that this is a perfect teaching moment.

My Solution!

The following events occurred between, oh pretty much the last 2 weeks of our lives and looks like it’s going to go on until the rapture.   I decided instead of just lecturing her on desiring to be like Barbie, that I would instead gently show her examples of strong, beautiful, independent women in history that didn’t resort to skimpy clothes or a convertible. Women who bucked the system, refused to go along with everyone else and societal norms of their time, and made a huge impact.  So although I wanted to sit her down and inform her that the path to be like Barbie could result in becoming a “kept” woman with 75% of her body becoming plastic,  I did realize that 8 might be a little young to introduce that concept. Instead, I pulled out her kids bible.  I had her read the stories of Ruth, of Esther, and Deborah.  We talked about what made these women beautiful and powerful.  Then I began to introduce her to the likes of Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale.  All my heroines!  She poured over the stories.  She began to regal me with the exploits of these amazing women from an 8-year-old prospective:  Here is some of the most disturbing, I mean entertaining:

“Mom! Did you know that Florence Nightingale was called the Lady of the Lamp?”  Me: “Honey, that’s the Lady WITH the lamp…huge difference!”

“Mom, mom…did you know Eleanor Roosevelt worked for Human Rights?  Who worked for people like you mom?”  Me, “what are you talking about??”  Her: “You know, Human Lefts.”  I finally figured that one out.  I am left-handed.  I guess we lefties need our own personal crusaders.

“Mom, it says here that Sojourner Truth was one of 10 or 12 kids.  Which is it?  10 or 12?  Surely her mom knew how many there were that came out of her….unless she lost count.  Do you think she lost count Mom?

Reality 😦

But what was so cool is that she seemed so genuinely interested!  Buh Bye Barbie!!  Suddenly images of her and I standing up for young women’s self-image issues, campaigning together on the importance of modesty, and advocating the gravity of education danced through my mind.  I could see us now, the worlds greatest Mother and Daughter team, crusading for higher values.  We would get capes made and matching outfits!  That is until she informed me that Florence Nightingale could have gotten around much easier in Barbie’s convertible and then asked me to please print her off a Barbie picture to color.  I was crushed!!!!  I thought I was doing so well.  I asked her if she was enjoying the stories we were reading.  Her response?  “Oh yes Mom!  But Barbie has more fashionable clothes.”

I had been deflated.  My heart was breaking.  Until she walked into the room with that smile of hers that lights up the world, my nemesis in one hand, and reaching out the other, asked me if I wanted to play with her.  I realized right then and there that I must be doing something right.  She still wants to hang out with me.  And as long as she wants to hang with me, I can be sure to put the meat in along with all the fluff the world wants to feed her.  And that for now, at least, she still thinks I hung the moon and values what I think.  As long as I’ll play Barbies with her.  We might not have capes but we still make a good team.  You’ll have to excuse me now, I’m off to fix Barbie’s hair for her date and be sure Ken is taking her to church.