6.13.17 Brick Removal

Summer has been some sort of come-back for me.  I’ve been gone for a while.  Like the kind of gone that happens after something rips your heart out…only you have to keep going gone.  I had the pleasure of chatting with a dear friend the other night…and she didn’t even know that what she was saying was breathing truth and wisdom right back into my soul.  She said that when we experience a trauma…and then we experience that same trauma over and over again…one after the other…we become numb.  We become successful at building a wall up around our hearts and we in turn become successful at controlling our hurt.  I had become an expert at this.  I have never had a wall before.  I was always the caller out of walls.  But there I was…the foster mother of a 2 year old little boy that I had adored for a year…having to turn him over to his great aunt.  And I wondered….

….why doesn’t this hurt more?

And that’s when I realized.  Something wasn’t right.

I noticed that sneaky wall.  I started seeing bricks that I had neatly stacked…one by one…guarding the thing that had been hurt so bad.  I didn’t even know I had been laying them.  That’s how sneaky those things are!  I was going through all the motions…all the while…laying bricks.

So I decided.

I have to stop laying bricks.  And start living life again.

Because let’s face it.  Bricks are heavy.  And not that fun.  And if there is one thing I know…it’s that I was created for fun.  Always have been.  Always will be.  And it was time to have fun again.

So I got out of bed…the place that had become my only real comfort…and made myself celebrate.  If I can celebrate who is here…maybe I can let go of who is not.

And the last day of school seemed about as good-a-time as any.

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I had a Pre-school graduate, after all!

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And a luau to attend!  And who doesn’t love a good luau, anyway?  Plus…I got to tattoo my girl.  And may I just add…her choice of placement made me proud.  She tells me she’s just like me.  And if that’s not a reason to quit layin’ bricks…I don’t know what is.

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Our favorite cheerleader had her very first pep-rally on the last day of school.  I mean…come on.  I have my own cheerleader!  Everyone should have one.  Trust me.  Some how…some way…find yourself a cheerleader.  They really help with the walls.

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I have been making a Summer bucket list for years.  As luck would have it…a blogger that I follow upped the display ante and I followed her lead.  Hand drawn clip art makes everything better.  Plus it’s cuter hanging in the kitchen.

So…the first day of Summer…we all slept in.  And when we woke up…I hit the store for poster board and new sharpie markers.  If you are gonna go down…go down with new sharpie markers.  I’m just sayin.

I gathered all the kids…and we listed everything we wanted to do this Summer.  There were no rules. There were no limits.

And this thing has become my play book.

Every day is intentional.

And every day is purposeful.

And every day is meaningful and magical and is a blank canvas that ends filled with memories and a check mark.

And I’ll be John Brown when I tell you there is healing in it.

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My kids have rallied around me.  This list means something to them too.  It means more than just a fun to-do list.  They have learned the art of cutting out what isn’t important.  They have learned how to be intentional about finding joy.  They have learned how to turn heart break into a satisfying check mark.  Because the sun always sets.  Every day.  The sun rises for us…and sets for us.  And when you are busy stacking bricks…you miss it.

So…the funny thing about this picture is that I had asked Aiden and her friend (who is about as whimsical and distracted as she is) to move the tent so we could better see the sun start to set over the bay.  They did.  But they spotted a water slide and that thing needed to be ridden right. that. second.  When I arrived with the rest of our stuff…I saw it out in the bay…like some sort of floating, portable cabana.  At the same moment I saw it…I heard Carly yell from the top of the water slide, “AIDEN!!!!  THE TENT IS IN THE WATER!!!”  It’s a good thing those two are the athletes they are…because I’ve never seen two girls get from the top of a water slide to the water’s edge as quick as they did.  They swam out and got it.  And we had a bucket list view.

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The big girls picked a flower to put in their hair.  So obviously…Elsie Mae wanted one to.  Only in true Elsie Mae fashion…instead of picking a single flower…she picked the whole bush.

And we almost got to the car before I heard Colton say, “Elsie?  Why are you carrying a bush?”

Go big or go home.  That’s that girl’s motto.

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This morning…I dropped the kids off at Bible School and went to have breakfast with Honey.  We watched a squirrel do acrobats to get the bird seed from her bird feeders.

But really…I liked watching her better.

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Tonight…I went out to feed the chickens and one had died.  I’m so thankful that Annslee wasn’t with me.  We had bought the wrong food off of Amazon…and I didn’t figure it out in time.  He wouldn’t eat it.  Or she.  It was Dabo Swinney.  I considered chick CPR for half a second.  But the Salmonella paranoia got the best of me and I told myself there was nothing I could do.  Anyways…long story short…Annslee cried and cried.  And I held that girl and cried with her.  And then we decided that if we were gonna be cowgirls…we had to toughen up.  Animals dying are gonna be a part of it.  So…we remember all the things we loved about Dabo…and I tell her it was my fault and that I was sorry…and she tells me it wasn’t my fault…none of it…and we dry our tears and learn from it.  We talk about how my great grandma Kelly had to go out and catch a chicken and ring it’s neck…de-feather it…and then eat it for supper. At least we don’t have to do that,  we decided!  And then we go to the store and get pedialite for the other two chickens…just in case.  I would have offered them a shot of whiskey…after losing their friend and all.  But apparently…that wasn’t going to help them any.

So…tonight I go to bed a little lighter.  Some more bricks came down today.  And all the intentional heaving of bricks is making me stronger.  I’m excited for what check marks will be added to our list tomorrow.  I have a good feeling about it.

4.24.17 Four Leaf Clovers & County Fairs

During the week of St. Patrick’s Day…I found 3 four-leaf clovers.  Like…real ones.

So…obviously…I kept them.  They have been sitting on top of the chifferobe ever since.  I had every intention of pressing them in my favorite, first edition copy of To Kill A Mockingbird…but still they sit.  Today…I found one on the floor.  Crushed up into a gazillion dried up clover pieces.  And that just proves my point that nothing is safe in this house.  Probably…some ball came sailing over the balcony and knocked my poor, little clover off it’s perch.  And probably…there was a kid involved.  And probably…they don’t even care!

Plus…let’s go ahead and talk about the jack-in-the-box that is at my feet right now.  I tell you…that thing is what nightmares are made of…clowns popping up out of nowhere…when you least expect it.  And I’m scared to move the thing…because it might get mad at me.

Let’s move on to happier things.  Like the County Fair…where things like chili cook-offs, super potato sack slides, cheese on a stick, classic country music, and ranch rodeo’s take place.

The County Fair and Rodeo are one of my very favorite things on this planet.  And I wait all year for that thing to roll back around.

This weekend…we took our first trip out.  It’s a place where I feel completely content.  The kids are happy.  My boots are on.  Nobody cares what you look like.  And everybody is there for the same reason.  We all love Texas.  Your only concern is getting the goldfish that your sweet Annslee James won home…with enough water to last the night.

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This is Clemy.  It’s full name is Clemy Clemson Clarkson.  I voted for Deshaun…after Clemson’s quarterback…but Flicka James calls him Clemy.  Notice how much water is in that little tanky thing.  We will come back to that later.

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I took this screen shot because it is a very happy moment for me.  It’s when my little girl let go of her fear of the super slide and decided that wild freedom ain’t so bad.

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This fish was rescued from the tea-cups, rode in the bottom of a stroller for half the night, and was re-filled with water before we headed home.  It endured a lot of sloshing.

By the time we got him home…Clemy was swimming in about 2.5 inches of water.  I carried Clemy in from the car…and then went back out to get his sleeping owner.  She mumbled sleepily…”where’s my fish.”

“He’s safe, my love.  Go back to sleep.”

I’m not going to lie.  Her love for this fish transferred right to me…like all things that are important to our children do.  So I spent a good hour…at midnight…researching how to keep a goldfish alive. I prayed Clemy would last the night…and turned out the lights.

The next morning…I closed both of my eyes as I entered the kitchen…scared out of my mind that I was gonna see a floating Clemy…

…but there he was!  Swimming in his 2.5 inches of water like he owned the place.

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I promised Annslee that we would go to the pet store after visiting Honey to get Clemy the necessary supplies to live a good life.

And that’s where that girl found a light prism!!!  Honey’s crystal flower was making rainbows all over the living room.  And I took that as a good sign of things to come.

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And then my mom and dad showed up!  And that man had just won a golf tournament!  He’s no stranger to winning all kinds of golf tournaments…but this day was special.  This was the day he got his groove back.  And the day that prism rainbows covered Honey’s house.  And the day that Clemy was getting his new home.

Ok.  So…it turns out that there’s more to keeping a goldfish alive than a bowl and some food.  Those carnival workers should really put a warning label on that throw-ping-pong-ball-into-a-fishbowl-and-win-a-fish game.  This fish wasn’t gonna be free.

A goldfish has to have a small filter.  Because if it eats it’s own poop…it will die.  And it has to have water conditioner.  Because if there is chlorine in the water…it will die.  And the water temperature has to be not too warm…and not too cold…or it will die.  And if it doesn’t get enough light…it will die.  And if it eats too much…it will die.  And if it gets startled…it could jump out of it’s tank and die.  And if you put anything with bacteria on it in the tank…like a shell…it could die.  And if the rocks in the tank are too small…it could get one in its mouth and die.

So…$63 later…Clemy had a tank…a filter…clean rocks…a clean turtle friend…some kind of hut thing that Annslee felt he needed…water conditioner…and an owner who was taking this thing very seriously.

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As soon as we got home…we got the tank ready.  I sterilized the turtle and the other thing (whatever it is).  I cleaned the rocks.  I added the water and the water conditioner and let the tank sit for two hours…to ensure room temperature water.  Just as we were going to move Clemy to his new home…Annslee noticed water all over the counter.

You guessed it.

The tank had a crack on the bottom.  And the pet store was closed.

After locating the crack…I called my friend, Cara.  Because I knew she would fully appreciate the problem.  Plus…her husband likes fish.  And he fishes.  And he builds things.  So obviously…he’s gonna know what to do.

“Does she have any apoxy??

“Nope.”

“Does she have any silicone????”

“I don’t think so.”

“Superglue??”

Done.

I have a teenage driver who will go to the grocery store for me if I tell him he can get whatever snacks he wants.

He took Aiden.  And those two came home with 3 tubes of superglue…1 bottle of rubber cement…and pop tarts.

I heated up my glue gun while they were gone…because short of building a house…a glue gun can just about construct anything.

So…I had spent hours preparing this tank already…and I thought…

“If there is any way that I can make this happen with the water in it…I’m doing it.”  Superglue is remarkably sticky.  This is not my first rodeo with this stuff…if you’ll remember the Christmas ornament triage post from a while back.  So…I know.  It can stick.

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I had a lot of little people invested in this situation.

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You can probably guess.

This did not work.

And…once again…I ended up sticking my fingers together AND to the superglue bottle.

At this point…I was down right pissed.

I can’t believe I’ve allowed this stuff to get the best of me again.

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So…after unsticking my fingers and admitting that we were gonna have to pour the water out and start this whole process over again…I dumped all of my beautifully, fish proofed water out in the sink.

I coated that bad boy with the rubber cement…and then used 2 glue sticks on top of that.  It was a hot southern mess.

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But if this doesn’t make it all worth it…

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My girl had breakfast with her fish this morning.

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We’re not gonna talk about the fact that I got up twice in the night last night to check on this fish…and to make sure the tank wasn’t leaking.

What we are gonna talk about is how I believe Annslee and I have proven to the family that we are ready to take on 2 of the chickens that happened to hatch in her 1st grade classroom today!

And how I’m taking my theory that a glue gun can solve the majority of the world’s problems to the bank.

4.18.17 My mind’s on my Honey.

This is my mom and Honey.

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Honey is my mother’s mother.  My mom calls her “Mother.”  She always has.  That’s something that I remember thinking was strange when I was little.

Mother.

So formal.

But now…when I hear her call Honey that…it’s not strange at all.

The word…when it comes off of mom’s lips is respectful…

loving…

and filled with care.

And this is fitting…because it’s how Honey has always felt about her daughter.

I would listen to Honey talk about my mom as a child…and I always knew that the way she felt about her was more.  That’s the only word I know to use.  She just felt “more” about her.

More appreciation.  More love.  More respect.

She felt more of these things for my mom.  I knew she did.

But I didn’t really understand all the reasons why.  I knew that my mom was special.  I knew she was different all throughout my childhood.  I always imagined that we were school friends.  I always wanted to be like her.

But…it wasn’t until lately that I fully got it.

It wasn’t until now that I totally understand why Honey felt the way she did about my mom.

It was because she didn’t ever think she would have her.

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When I was a teenager…and realized that I was more than a tomboy who played soccer, climbed trees, beat the boys in tetherball and swim races, and preferred to play night hide and seek to house or dolls…I thought about having babies.  And I remember a pretty early fear being losing one.  I had heard the stories about both of my grandmothers.  And I guess those stories had stayed with me more that I thought they had.

My Dad’s mother and father had a baby boy.  His name was Richard.  He was born after my dad…and before my aunt.  I don’t know how long he lived, for sure…but I don’t think it was more than a couple of days.  I remember my grandpa looking at Colton as a baby and watching him breath as he slept.  I remember him not taking his eyes off of him and telling me, “He is broad through the chest.”  I thought his comment was weird.  I looked at him…and realized his eyes were filled with tears as he watched my first son take peaceful, baby breaths in his bouncy seat in front of the fireplace at my parent’s house.  And then I understood when he said…

…”He reminds me of Richard.”

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I had also heard the story about the baby that Honey had lost.  She and my PawPaw had wanted and tried for a baby for a long time.  He was in the Navy.  And she got to go out and visit him.  His mother had told my grandmother that she would get pregnant when she was there.  And she did.

They had a son.  His name was Donald.

Honey went into labor with him when she had the flu.  And she was long passed due.  She wasn’t conscious when he was born…from what I remember.  She says that she remembers a lot of her family members coming to visit her in the hospital.  And she began wondering why those people were there.  She thought that the baby was in the nursery.  But too many people were there, she says.  She began wondering what was wrong.

Donald lived for 2 days.  And they didn’t tell her that he had died until she was well enough to receive that kind of news.  As if you ever are.

Her doctor told her that she would never be able to have another baby.  I don’t really know why.  And I don’t think she does either.  But that doctor told her that if she tried to have another baby…she would not live through the pregnancy…and that the baby wouldn’t either.

She didn’t listen.

And she got pregnant one more time.

And she had my mother.

And the weight of that is so heavy…that I drop tears writing it.  She wanted my mom so much.  She wanted her so much that she was willing to die.

And that explains it all.

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So…those stories made me afraid.  What if that happens to me?  Each time I got pregnant I wondered…

“Is this the one?”

But I had my four sweet babies…and I began to let go of the fear that those kinds of things had any kind of magical power over grandmothers and their granddaughters.

But just as I had let those thoughts go completely…

It happened.  It happened three times in a row.  It happened, what seemed like, over and over again.

And I can only imagine the “more” that Honey felt about my mom…the way I imagine how grateful I would be if God put a baby in my hands and said, “Here.  I have been saving this one just for you.  It will never replace the three that you lost…but here it is.”

I wouldn’t love that child more.  But there would be an appreciation for that child’s life that I would never be able to deny.

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I’ve been thinking so much about Honey these days.  Her body is becoming weak.  A translucent, icy blue has replaced a life in her eyes that was vibrant and full of joy.  She is tired.  And her memory is failing her.

She packs her purse with old greeting cards…or clothes…or things that seem important to her at the time.

And every time we talk about her purse…she tells me that her mother gave it to her…even though it was her Christmas present from my mom this year.

She talks about her brother, John Elbert, who died years ago and wonders why he doesn’t come to visit her.  She asks where he mother is.  And when I tell her that she died a while back…she always acts surprised.

“She did?  Well…I didn’t know that,” she always replies.

And here’s the truth.

My heart knows it’s coming.

My heart knows that her time with us is coming to an end.

I know that I will ring her doorbell in the days to come…and she will answer it.  But she won’t open the clear, glass storm door as quickly…and there will be a blank look on her face.  I imagine it all the time.  And it hurts so bad.  Because at that moment…I will have lost Honey.

And I’m spending every day with my husband…and my children…making them lunches and dinner and giving baths…doing laundry…and taking care of a child that’s not my own.  I’m spending mornings with CPS case workers and documenting every time he lands himself in time out for hitting or biting or telling me “No.”

But my heart longs to go to Honey.  I told Chad the other day…

“I need you to tell me…on a regular basis…

…I have this.  Go see your grandmother.”

She wanted me to call her “Grandmother.”

But PawPaw called her “Honey.”

So that is who she is.

And she’s here.  Right now…she’s right here.

****

Easter 2017:

Aiden asked, “Mom??? What’s our theme this year? I thought we were gonna all wear yellow.”

I replied…

“Survival.  Our theme this year is survival.”

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Untied high tops???  I’m down.

The girl wants to wear her pajama bunny top with her favorite jean shorts????

Go for it.

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I love their relationship.  When they realized that I was trying to sneak a picture of them talking with his head in her lap…they started acting crazy.  But that’s ok.  My heart remembers.

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This is my Chase.  He is such an old soul.  And coincidentally…that’s exactly how my dad sits in that chair.

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She’s a girl on a mission.  She takes after her mother, after all.  She’s gonna squeeze every last ounce out of the holiday that her little body can muster up.  Hide those eggs.  Just see if you can stop her.

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Right now…

she’s here.

And she’s using snapchat.

You’re welcome, snapchat friends!  If anyone took a screen shot…please send it my way.

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People always tell me that my blog make them cry.  My life is really, actually very happy!  But if you really think about it…

…there is a fine line between happiness and sadness.

And the two run together quite nicely.

4.11.17 J. Just J.

This was the first picture I took of J.  I hadn’t even seen his eyes open yet.  She passed him to me just like this…peacefully sleeping…in a diaper and a t-shirt and an infant carrier that was sized for a newborn.  And this seemed fitting to me.  He was supposed to be a newborn.  That’s what I was told anyway.

“Mrs. Clarkson?  We know that your adoption was just finalized with your daughter…but we have this baby…”

I was told that he was 2 1/2 months old.  I was told that he had nowhere else to go…and had, in fact, been sleeping in the CPS offices for the past two nights.  In his car seat.

“Would your family be willing to take him, she asked?”

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So…I met her in a parking lot to a teacher’s supply store…about 45 minutes from our house.  I felt nervous for some reason. I was disappointed in a way…because I had found out the night before that he wasn’t 2 1/2 months old, after all.  He was a head strong 16 month old instead of a dreamy, swaddled baby.  And a mother knows what that means.  He’s mobile.

“I can’t do a toddler!!!!!!” I said rather exasperatedly to Chad.  “I just can’t!”  “I don’t want to.”

I had really good reasons.

We had just gone through trying to de-program and re-program the toddler that we were fostering and had become our adopted daughter.  And it was hard.  The hardest thing I had ever done.  And I didn’t want to do it again.

“No.”

“We can’t do it.”

“It won’t be good for our marriage.”

‘It won’t be good for our family.”

“This kid will be running all over the cheer gym and the basketball stadium at Aiden and Colt’s practices and games.”

“Absolutely not.”

“He will be into everything.”

Obviously…none of my arguments and excuses held up through the night.  And they didn’t sway our children either.  Isn’t that just the way God likes to work sometimes???  Through children?  I’ll never forget Aiden looking at my defiant eyes…with tears in her own…saying,

“Mom.  THIS is the baby that needs us.  THIS is the son who needs a mom and dad and a home.  It doesn’t matter how old he is.”

So I drove to pick him up.

Like I said…this was the first picture I took of him.  I sent it to Chad with the caption…

“He’s so cute!”

I remember the quiet drive home…J asleep in the backseat…and my mind trying to grasp the fact that he will open his eyes from slumber…and have no idea where he is…or who he’s with.  I couldn’t understand how that would go.

But it did.

He started making noises…and I looked back at him so he could cock his head up and to the side and see me.  I smiled.  And I said “Hello.”

He kept looking at me…but he never cried.

We stopped at Target to pick up some clothes, diapers, and baby food.

I knew nothing about what he liked…or hated…or was used to.  I was guessing.  And he was guessing about me too.

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That was in August.

It’s now June.  He’s been our son…our grandson…our nephew…and grandson for almost a year.  And this year is the only year he really knows.  He has celebrated Christmas.  He has celebrated his foster bother’s and sister’s birthdays.  He has played with friends.  He has gone to his foster grandparent’s houses for Thanksgiving dinner and been rocked by his foster grandparents from Iowa.  He’s had more “firsts” than I can count…like the first time to feel sand between his toes and the first time to the rodeo and the first pet of a horse.  He’s cut teeth and grown inches.  He’s fallen in love with cotton candy and decided that he doesn’t like bread.

He is an important part of our family.

I’ve changed his diapers…bathed him…conditioned his course hair…been thrown up on…and treated him like he was my own.  I’ve tucked him in at night with lullabies and determined that his very favorite one to fall asleep to is Moon River.  I’ve helped him overcome a fear of the garbage truck…and the dog’s bark.  I’ve wiped his tears after his birth mom didn’t show up for a visit with him.  I’ve disciplined him for hitting and biting.  I’ve taught him how to communicate with sign language.  I’ve memorized the coconut smell of his hair lotion after his bath and know the feel of his forehead against my lips when I kiss him.

On Sunday…we will celebrate his 2nd birthday.

And then…a few weeks later…

he will leave.

The court hearing for his case was yesterday.  And this morning…our caseworker called Chad.  She knew me well enough to know that Chad would need to be the one to tell me instead of hearing it through some sort of cell phone sound wave.

The judge has given custody to his great aunt.  He will be with his brother and sister.  And the beauty of this is that he won’t ever have to wonder why his family wouldn’t take him.  He won’t ever have to question if they wanted him.  The abandonment won’t be as cutting for him as it would have been otherwise.

But the ugliness of it is that we are losing him.  Our kids are going to look at his empty highchair at dinnertime and hurt.  I will pass an empty crib in an empty room and ache.  The ugliness is foster care…and the need for it.  The ugliness is that he is non-verbal…and he is going to use sign language and non-recognizable words to ask where we are.  He’s going to want his lullabies…and to play basketball with Colton.  He’s going to want to feed the squirrels in the front yard while I drink my coffee in the mornings.  He’s going to want to play with the pretend food in his sister’s room…and sit in his highchair and watch Sprout when he gets overwhelmed.  He’s going to long for time-out after he hits someone…because that is what shows him security and reassures him that he has parents that love him enough to teach him how to be kind.  He’s going to want to go home.

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I’ve already pictured 15 years from now.  I picture Chad and I googling his name…trying to get a glimpse at his teenage face.  I wonder if we will recognize him.  I wonder if he will still love basketball.  I wonder if he will remember us at all.

I took this picture tonight.  He’s wearing Chase’s old, Superman pajamas.  He doesn’t have a care in the world…other than not wanting to go to bed yet.  He has no idea what is ahead of him.  And that just reminds me of this life on Earth.  None of us has any idea what tomorrow holds.  I used to hate that worship song…you know…the one that says…”God gives and takes away…”

I would pretend like I didn’t hear that part.  I wouldn’t let the words really permeate my heart…but would focus, instead on the catchy beat.  Because at that point…God had really only given to me.  And I liked that part of God.   I trusted that guy.

After losing 3 babies in 3 years…which still sounds absolutely crazy to me…and answering the call for our family to do foster care…I’ve had to face the “takes away” part.

It’s been painful.  Excruciating at times.  But I’m here.  And I trust that guy…

the God that gives and takes away.

And tonight…I rest in the fact that we did exactly what we were supposed to do for J.  We took him…when no one else would.  We loved him.  We filled in that gap…until his forever family was ready and able.  And I’m trusting my good God to take care of him for his lifetime.  And I’m trusting Him to take care of us too.

11.8.16 I will love it forever.

This past weekend I did something that I never do.  I left.

It wasn’t too long ago that I sat on the couch one night and told Chad, “I need a plane ticket.  I’m going to Clemson.”

Technically…I was going to Atlanta.  But in my mind…

…same thing.

My closest Clemson friend lives in Atlanta…and we were due a visit.  So without any questions…that man bought me a ticket.  Reason number 974 why I love that guy.

Well…I was only to be gone Friday – Sunday.  That’s only 1 full day away from these babies.  But the puddin’ cup wasn’t happy.  It was all I could do to get sister to school.  This is where I found her when our carpool was on their way Friday morning.

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And when that didn’t work…she came down in this get up and confidently declared,

“I’m ready…and I’m going with you.”

She got mad props for the hat.  And at this point…if she would have fit in my suitcase…her accompaniment was a real possibility.  She got to me with that hat.

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There is nowhere on Earth like Clemson.  I know you may think that I’m exaggerating…but I’m telling you…

…there is nowhere like it.

It’s a beautiful place.  With beautiful people.

These are some of my Clemson girls.  These people are some of the most amazing women I have ever known.  They embraced me without question when I moved there and was the “new girl” and I will love them forever.

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I don’t think I could love this picture more…from the thrill on my face-to the busses that load the players for the legendary trip around the stadium before the game-to one of my best friends-to the sun streaming down on the Clemson Tiger.  It’s all so perfect.

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Our seats were unbelievable.  And our Tigers wore the purple uniforms…which hardly ever happens!

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I wanted my children so bad at this point.  I couldn’t even stand it.  I knew…that if my oldest son had been with me…it would have sealed his fate as a Clemson Tiger.  His very first football game was here…14 years ago…or just yesterday.  I can’t decide which.

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It’s hard to say what was happening here.  We had just beat Syracuse…and Death Valley was a sea of purple and orange.  I had never been on the field before.  And it’s hard to explain how all of my Clemson past was being tied into a nice bow of purple and orange curly ribbon.  This stadium was where Chad and I had our first date.  This stadium is where he proposed.  This stadium is where we became us.  It’s where we started.  And look at what has come from it?  If you would have told me that night when he proposed that we would be the parents of 6 kids…I would have told you to get off the crack.

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I maaaayyyyy or may not have kissed the paw print mid field.  The jury is still out on that one.

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Our few from the hill.  See??!!  I told you!!  A sea of purple and orange…

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…just like a beautiful sunset.

I love Clemson.  I will love it forever.

10.26.16 I’m gonna hold you a little longer…

It has occurred to me over the last week…and maybe little by little over the last 8 years that I’d better squeeze every, last, dried up drop out of the younger years.  We spend our energy focusing on celebrating every “first” that comes along.  We record their first word…like their college acceptance depends on it.  We write down the dates of their first taste of solid food…their first tooth…their first time to pull up…and their first step like our very worthiness as a mother is at stake.  And that was all before social media came into play.  Now…God bless us…we have photo evidence of it for all of the world to see.  And if the world doesn’t see it…(or 500 of our closest friends)…then we might as well assume it never happened.  But that’s not really the point here.

The point is…

I’ve been thinking a lot about those firsts.

I have another momma’s baby here.  I have her baby in my home.  In my arms.  In my nursery.  In my family.  In my world.  And I’m getting to witness a lot of his firsts.  I took him to his first basketball game.  I gave him his first scoop of ice cream.  I watched him on his first hay-ride and his first time on a swing.  I am hearing his first time to say “momma.”  And I love those firsts.  And I’m recording them for her…or for me…or for whoever else God has to be his forever mommy.  Those firsts are important…and joyous to celebrate.

But what about the lasts?

I’ve been trying to remember the LAST time I picked up my oldest son in my arms.  I’ve tried to recall the last time I pushed him in a swing….or his last little league “at bat”…or the last time he colored me a picture.  When was the last time he climbed in bed with Chad and I because he had a bad dream?  When was the last time he asked me to read to him?  When was the last time I tucked him in or sang him a lullaby?

I can’t remember.  I just can’t remember all of the lasts.

When was the last time I held my son in my arms?

Shouldn’t the lasts be just as important as the firsts???

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His first Homecoming date.

I’m fairly certain that her mom and I planned this out when they became friends in Mrs. Holloway’s Kindergarten class.  I’m pretty sure that on the first day of Kindergarten…God smiled…thinking about this image…that seemed so far into the future that we momma’s couldn’t even imagine it.

And we celebrate.  We celebrate the first date.  We make a big deal about the first exchange of Texas sized Homecoming mums.  We take pictures and record it like our very lives are on the line.

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And then we tell our babies that we haven’t held them for the last time.  Because…for the love of all humanity…that…

THAT LAST…

well…that last hasn’t happened yet.

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It doesn’t really matter to me that he can pick me up way easier than I can pick him up.  The point is…

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I haven’t help my baby for the last time.  And I’m not just paying attention to all my little’s firsts.  I’m slowing down to hold on a little longer…and to not miss their lasts.

Hold your babies, friends.  Hold them a little longer.

10.5.16 Is it too late to say sorry?

I just finished getting the youngest three to bed.  Annslee was the last one to go down.  I still have a substantial amount to accomplish before this head can hit the pillow…so I made the enormous mistake of trying to hurry that tuck in along.  It went as follows:

Annslee:  “MOMMY!  TUCK ME IN!!!!”

Me:  “I AAAAAAMMM!!!!”

Annslee:  “Nu-uhhhhhh.  All you’re doing is pulling my covers up and kissing me goodnight!”

Me:  “Well what else is there????!!!!”

Annslee:  “A bunch of other stuff!”

Lesson learned.  Never try to speed up that girl’s tuck in.  You’ll pay for it in the end.

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Yesterday I yelled at my kids.  I yelled like a crazy person.

The baby came to us with a snotty nose and passed a cold to every kid in the house…one by one.  What was a snotty nose for the 1 year old was fever and aches for everyone else.  So…as that blasted virus made it’s way back to the baby again this week…my body finally gave in and got it too.  I can’t tell you how sick I am of wiping snotty noses.  It’s like tiny, little faucets of germs…just pouring out all over everything.  And yesterday…my throat and my head and my sinuses all felt the brunt of it.

All I wanted to do was lay on the couch.  I wasn’t asking to sleep or anything.  I just wanted to lay down.  Heaven forbid I sit a spell.  (“Sit a spell.”  Such a good sentence.)

So…I asked Aiden and Chase if they could keep an eye on the baby.  I wasn’t asking that they change any poop-filled diapers or do any kind of blue-collar work.  Just watch him play with some toys and let me lay here a minute.

You can imagine the result.  I won’t bore you with any details.  But it ended with me dragging myself off the couch because of an un-answered “Hey…y’all have the baby…right????”

I found that kid sitting in the middle of all the household cleaners and a dishwashing soap pod in his grubby, little hand.  He had made his way over to the cabinet under the sink after emptying the dog bowls full of food and water all over the kitchen floor.  The clean-up involved moving the refrigerator so that the semi-newly installed laminate flooring didn’t warp due to dog water damage.

Y’all.  I hit the ceiling.

I started on a soap box about not being allowed to be sick and the problem with technology (Chase had earbuds in his ears and was looking at his phone) that lasted a good 10 minutes.  All of this was happening while I was on my hands and knees…cleaning up mushy dog food.

The tirade was so bad that it crossed the line to unfair.

They had spent all day at school.  They had gone through 7 classes.  They are kids.  And I had shamed them.

So…after everything was cleaned up and I knew the baby had not ingested dishwashing pod powder…I knew what I had to do.

I had to apologize.

And it was hard for me.

I did not want to tell them I was sorry.

I did not want to admit that I was wrong.

But I was wrong.

No matter what…I am the mother.  No matter what…I am responsible for this baby’s safety.  No matter what…I can’t yell and shame my children.  No matter what…I have to control my tongue and my anger.

I did apologize.  I asked for them to forgive me.

But it wasn’t easy.

That got me thinking.  Why is it so hard to apologize?  Chad is the oldest member of this house…and I think he would admit to having a hard time apologizing too.  And this baby…well…I can tell you that he doesn’t like to apologize…and he’s only one!  So…I’ve witnessed a wide range over the last few weeks.  The 43 year old…dragging his feet…head down..mumbling an apology, and a baby…who can’t even pronounce the words yet…so he has to sign it.

And this is what I’ve come to.

Saying sorry is hard work.

This baby likes to bite.  So he finds himself in time out on the regular.  I have taught him how to sign “I’m sorry.”  He knows biting is wrong.  He knows I am displeased…and he doesn’t like it.  So…the other day…after biting his sister for the third time…I told him that he wasn’t getting out of time out until he said (signed) he was sorry.  I knew he knew how to do it.  He knew I knew he could do it.  And that kid…that BABY…let his pride get the best of him.  He absolutely REFUSED to say he was sorry.  He would rather sit in time out than say he was sorry.

I waited him out.  It was a battle of the wills, I tell you.

He sat there for a full half-hour.

Every few minutes I would give him a chance.

It wasn’t until he knew that apologizing was his last option for getting off of that stool that he finally gave in.

And that…

THAT…

is how serious pride is.

We are such prideful people.

It shouldn’t be so hard to say “I’m sorry.”

9.29.16 Superglue, Sisters & Fourteen

What I can tell you about superglue is that it doesn’t come off of countertops,  laminate wood floors, wooden spoons, washrags, or my hands.

What I can also tell you about superglue is that it doesn’t hold Fozzy Bear’s head on.  How it can affix itself to all of the other stuff…yet be unable to hold a plastic Christmas ornament together will always be beyond me.

So…I come to you…type type typing away with my right hand completely covered in dried superglue and the left…well…it’s not good either.

Plus…I just realized that all my music has disappeared off my phone…leaving only a white screen behind.

Also…nothing on this computer is set up…so no music here either.  Nor can my kids type and print a paper on this computer.  But whatever.

I’m going under.

I’m going under and there is nobody waiting on a boat to throw one of those cute, life saver rings like in the movies.

When Chad texted today asking if he could go to the U of H game tonight…what am I supposed to say?  Can I simply reply “No.”  Can I say…”You were just in Cuba all week last week and I’m going under and you’re supposed to be here with a life preserver…not at a football game.  AT MY ALMA MATER, no less!”  Because we’re really not allowed to be that way.  After all…I “chose” to be a stay at home mom.   And it’s great and all.  But I’m telling you.  I’m going under.  And call me stupid…but I don’t know how to set up this computer to make it functional.  And I don’t know what happened to my music.  And two of my kids are going to bed without baths tonight because…well…because I spent their bath time frantically trying everything the internet could possibly suggest on how to remove superglue from granite.  Plus…I stepped in it.  So…it’s on my feet too.  And the fingernail polish remover mixed with the lemon juice and Vaseline smell is about to do me in.  (Those were all suggested by the Google…along with some other ridiculous stuff that didn’t work.)  But I’ve noticed…when you make the choice to do something…it makes it awfully unacceptable to admit you need help.  So I don’t ask.  And tomorrow may be different.  Tomorrow I may feel like I have the world on a string.  But tonight…the world feels like it’s bouncing up and down on my shoulders.

In other news…we had to move Colt to the playroom.  Like…literally…his bedroom is in the playroom.  The baby was in our room…and keeping me up half the night and the government frowns upon putting foster kids in a closet…so to Colt’s room he went.  The only available space was the playroom.  We have big plans to add some sliding barn doors…but at the moment…that boy knows what we meant when we talked about the whole family sacrificing to do foster care.  He has three substantial holes in his bedroom.  And zero privacy.  He is sacrificing.  But he’s the one that goes to bed last and wakes up first…so it made the most sense.  Aiden did try to convince us that she needed the “big” space way more so that she could practice her tumbling in there…making me feel like I was in the middle of the Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Marcia were fighting over the attic.  Greg won.  And so did Colt…if a room in the middle of the upstairs with no doors is winning.

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Today was Elementary school pictures.  Let’s face it.  It would have to be a cold day in hell before I would spend money on school pictures.  Annslee’s were taken after lunch and recess.  You can imagine how super those turned out.  I did snap a few of my own…to commemorate the moment.  It was before the superglue incident.  So…at least there’s that.

Elsie is 4 years old and in her last year of Pre-K.  She loves playing school and family.  When she grows up…she wants to be a gymnast and a mommy.

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Annslee is 6 years old.  She is in First Grade.  Her favorite things to play are school and outside with friends.  When she grows up…she wants to be a cowgirl.

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These sisters are thick as thieves.  They can push each other’s buttons quick but can forgive each other quicker.  They are each other’s best friend.

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This guy didn’t have pictures today.  But he is turning 14 tomorrow.  Tonight…I asked him to let me take a quick picture.  This was after the superglue.  I think…everything in my life from now on will be time-slotted.  Before the superglue…or after the superglue.  It was that bad.  Anyway…

His favorite things to do are make movies, build legos, and watch youtube videos.  He wants to be a teacher when he grows up.

And what an amazing teacher he would be.

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9.21.16 A perfect day for lemonade.

I’ve never had a problem with emotions.

I also haven’t really felt myself lately.

And the two of those things have danced around each other for months.

For the first time in my life…I have felt positively non-emotional.  It was sorta nice, actually…for a while , anyway.  There were no tears the night before the first day of school.  There were no tears the following morning during the drop offs.  There were none on the river in Colorado…a place that generally tugs hard on my heartstrings.  I didn’t cry when I looked into my grandmother’s faded, blue eyes and realized that her memory had faded even more.  I didn’t cry when I loaded our cat into a pet carrier and drove him to his new home.  I’ve watched sad movies…listened to sad songs…heard sad stories.  And nothing.

Until today.

Today…I cried.

I cried hard.

Today I watched This Is Us.  This is a quote from the pilot.

“But there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the child that I lost.  And I’m an old man now.  I like to think that because of the child I lost…because of the path that he sent me on…that I have saved countless other babies.  I like to think that maybe one day…you’ll be an old man like me…talking a younger man’s ear off…telling him that you took the sourest lemon life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.  If you can do that…you’ll still be taking 3 babies home from this hospital…just maybe not the way you planned.”

A doctor was having to tell a new father that one of his babies had died before birth.  And he shared his own experience on why he had become a doctor.

I tell you what.  I sobbed and sobbed.  I let out all kinds of pent up emotion that I didn’t even know I was carrying around inside.

Because a day never does go by.  And I think I’m just realizing that one never will.  And all of that is coming together with how we have allowed God to use the sourest lemon of my entire life to send us on a path that resembles lemonade.  The truth will always be that we would never have adopted our daughter…or be a foster family for this baby boy if we had brought our babies home from the hospital.   And that even though I didn’t bring my babies home from the hospital the way I planned…they are all around me.  I brought them home in my heart.  And it’s time that place is warm again.

It felt a little bit like Fall today.  Finally.

Its was a perfect day for lemonade.

9.11.16 Why We Said Yes

I can’t even tell you how many blog posts have been started and stopped and then restarted again in my mind over the last 9 months.  There are pictures and stories…hopes and losses…dreams and disappointments…beauty and ashes sprinkled all throughout the lives surrounding me.  And I’ve lived it all.  And written about it none.  And that’s ok.

I’ve missed taking pictures with my good camera.  I’ve missed telling our story.  I’ve grimaced and rolled my eyes as iPhone photos and Instagram posts have replaced this small space.  But I also haven’t done anything to make it different.  Until now.

I’d like to think that my laptop crashing was the cause of this whole silence.  But deep inside…I know it wasn’t.

Being tired was.

I have been so, so tired.

I have a Sophomore son.  He’s brilliant and talented beyond belief.  He’s kind.  And I’m tired.

I have a 13 year old son.  He’s the most creative and gracious person I’ve ever known.  I’m tired.

I have an 11 year old daughter who just started Jr. High.  She is pure happiness on fire.  But I’m tired.

I have a 6 year old pudding cup, flicka baby who is my huckleberry girl.  She looks like me.  She acts like me.  She feels like me.  I’m tired.

The adoption of our youngest daughter was final in June.  She is a spitfire…a live wire… she’s joy erupting out of the mucky mire.  She is awesome.  I am tired.

You can imagine what life is like with 5 kids.  Some of you know…because you are living it.  The car rides…the activities…the homework…the meals…the LAUNDRY!  It’s enough to make a person crazy.

 

So…people may wonder.

 

Who is the little black baby in the facebook pictures?  Surely they haven’t taken in another human!  Surely they don’t have SIX kids!!  She stays home!!  He’s in ministry!!  What about college???  What about food and clothes and weddings and cars????!!!!  How could they possibly give these kids what they need…if they take in these “extras?”

 

It’s a fair question.

 

And all I can tell you is…

 

Because God told us to.

 

That’s it.

 

That’s the answer.

 

When God tells you to do something…and in this case…when He tells your family to do something…

 

You don’t tell Him no.

 

This baby needed a home.  This baby needed a mom and a dad to take care of him.  And for now…we are that mom and dad.  Our kids have been called to be his brothers and sisters.  And this is a role…that I am so proud to say…they take seriously.  They know that it may not be forever.  But they know that it is for today.  And not a one of us doubt that it’s what God wanted us to do.

 

We sat down with our oldest son this morning and we told him how important his feelings and opinions are to this family.  We told him that we valued his thoughts about whether or not we should agree to take in this child as a long term placement.  We told him that whatever he was thinking and feeling was ok.  We told him that we understood if he thought he may feel ashamed or embarrassed if we walked into a basketball game with a baby on our hips…so obviously not traditionally born into our family.  We understood the feeling of…”Oh my gosh!  My friends are gonna think…there are the crazy people with a bazillion kids!”

 

But that kid.  That kid looked me in the eyes.  He looked at me straight into the heart and said…

 

“I would be proud to call him my brother.”

 

When God calls a family to do something for him…

 

You don’t say no.

 

So here’s the amazing thing about this whole thing.  I tuck my kids in bed at night.  I rock some of them.  I give some of them a bottle or a sippy cup of milk.  I kiss their cheeks or their foreheads.  I read to them.  I sing to them.  I pray with them.  I wink at them…or I just touch their shoulder and tell them to sleep well when they are feeling too old for anything else.

 

And I sleep.

 

I sleep…because we said Yes.

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