About Those Influencers…

I didn’t date a lot in high school.

I had a bazillion guy friends, little to no boyfriends.

Maybe it was because I was a commitment-phobe.

Maybe it was because I was wiser than my 15 years and knew I should spend my time making friends and having fun instead.

Maybe it was because no one swept me off my feet.

….or maybe it was because I spent 90% of my time looking something like this:

That could have certainly been a factor.

I didn’t take myself very seriously back then.

I wore costumes year-round, I found t-shirts and jeans to be the best use of my clothing budget, and I spent too much time exploring abandoned houses and swimming in public fountains to be concerned about creating “the perfect image”. (Hence the dead broom on my head in the picture above.)

Fast forward to 2017. Fast forward to the age of Snapchat.

Things have changed a bit, huh?

Teenagers today not only feel pressure to create the perfect image – to create the most viral persona – they have quantifiable evidence of how they’re doing along the way.

Comments, likes, views, retweets.

It’s calculated and explicit.

When I was in high school, unless I could spare the extra $5 to buy a Seventeen magazine in the checkout line, I wasn’t explicitly bombarded with the cultural expectations of a 15 year old girl. Of how I should look, dress, and act. Of how I should get a boy to notice me, of how I could appear more attractive.

I mean…I knew in a round-about way, based on interactions in the halls at school and on movies and tv and magazines, but I didn’t know specifically. (And I certainly wasn’t given feedback on it.)

I didn’t worry much about my overall life image, I worried about individual encounters. I thought about my image on a temporary, personal scale. I considered its effects interaction by interaction.

Did I wear the right shirt to school today? I hope this one kid in my one science class doesn’t make fun of it.

Did I say the wrong thing to my teacher? I hope the 3 people who heard it don’t think poorly of me.

Did she just give my crush the note I wrote about him? I hope he doesn’t make fun of it on the football field.

If I bombed, it was somewhat containable and – afterwards – I got to go home, regroup, and start again the next day.

But now? On social media?

It’s public and widespread.

It’s quantifiable.

It never ends.

And it’s affecting the way our girls view both reality and themselves. (It affects everyone, really, but let’s stick with girls for the sake of this post.)

They’re no longer just “social networking”, they’re crafting a personal brand.

They are promoters of themselves, equipped with online tools and wide audiences:

“Let’s grow your audience”

Suddenly everyone is a marketer and the product is…himself. herself.

Post by post – with each newsfeed scroll – they’re being fed a narrative. They’re being given a set of expectations for how they should look and act and relate to others.

No longer do they seek it out on the front page at the checkout stand, it’s being hand delivered (and custom-advertised) to them.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our culture has really crappy standards.

So as a result, our kids shifting.

They’re moving from relationships to fan accumulation, from innocence to seduction.

The shift

A few years ago, I came across the live-tweeting of a middle school girls’ beach trip. As I scrolled through the pictures, I was astounded at how these still-prepubescent 7th grade girls had seemingly been replaced by young adult women in string bikinis.

Before you get all “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN’T WEAR”, it wasn’t the amount of Lycra on their bodies (or lack thereof), it was the image as a whole that shocked me: the stance, the pursed lips, the magnified cleavage. They all had an identical, obviously-learned stance, and it was crazy seductive.

It instantly aged them – physically and sexually. From 12 to 18 with one pose.

When I was their age, I wouldn’t have known sexiness if it hit me in the face (remarked the girl in the tantalizing straw hat).

But today? It’s no wonder they’re sexier than ever before – they follow accounts depicting it. They’re coached by internet celebs on how to achieve it. They learn about healthy relationships from the Kardashians.

Per their newsfeed, they honestly think life looks like this:

{{pay attention to both the account names and captions}}

and are disappointed when it doesn’t. When they don’t. When her body doesn’t. When he doesn’t.

We hear so much about porn (and as a mom of boys, the thought of what’s ahead in parenting them makes my hands clammy), but not a whole lot about the influencer portion of social media with our girls.

A world where they are sold aesthetically-based, looks-driven lifestyles.

A life in which physical appearance becomes the goal – for her, her wardrobe, her makeup, her future spouse, her future “micro fashion” kids.

A life in which her personal brand is filtered and perfect.

And, yikes.

I fear we’re parenting physically and forgetting to catch up digitally.

We pay attention to who she hangs out with after school, but not where she spends her time online.

We know who her friends are, but no idea who the social media influencers and vloggers telling her how to be a teenager are.

We don’t let her watch inappropriate movies in the living room, but admittedly know little about the YouTube channels she’s subscribed to or what Netflix shows she’s binge-watching. (Like when a 6th grade friend of mine confessed she wasn’t allowed to watch Modern Family with her parents but was on season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy, thanks to some late night, unmonitored Netflixage. And obviously Seattle Grace Hospital is the best place to learn about healthy relationships and sexuality…..said no one ever.)

The truth is, each family is different. Each home has different rules. It really doesn’t matter what your specific rules are.

What matters is that you are consistent in both worlds – that you monitor the digital world to the extent you monitor the physical.

Don’t just check the friends she follows online, pay attention the influencers. Who is she following? Who does she retweet? Which accounts does she tag? What giveaways does she enter?

Check the internet celebrities. The YouTube stars. The Instagram fashionistas. The Twitter personas. The brand-sponsored Snapchat stories.

These are the people telling her how to be a teenager; the accounts helping shape her opinions and decisions.

They are to her what magazine subscriptions were to you. We have to know who she’s subscribing to and what messages they are planting in her heart.

I want nothing more than for our girls to be the confident, beautiful, valued masterpieces they were created to be.

Let’s not let something stupid like a filtered Instagram celebrity be her only defining measurement.

 


 

And, hey. If – by some miracle – you’re a teenage girl who’s made it all the way to the bottom of this post, CONGRATS! (Your mom made you read this, didn’t she?)

But since I have you, here’s a word to you:

If you find yourself trying to measure up to what you see online…or if you are sad every time you open up Instagram and see that perfect chick…or if you can’t find the boyfriend the all the “goals” accounts describe…or if you can’t keep up with all the new tweets from *thatoneaccounteveryoneloves* and you’re driving yourself crazy trying…

Unfollow. that. crap.

Fix your newsfeed, girl. Save yourself some sanity.

You’re stronger and better and prettier than you can even imagine. Find people and accounts who remind you of that.

ABC Bible Verses

Several years ago when my firstborn was 18 months old, I sat across from a mentor and asked her how to teach him about Jesus.

“Do we sit down every Tuesday for family devotions? Play sermon tapes at nap time? Lay my hands on him and pray over his diaper changes? Anoint his head with oils? Leave it up to the professional at Bible class?”

It seemed so daunting to me.

I didn’t know how. I didn’t have the answers. I’m not great with small children.

Looking back, it makes me laugh. He was so little. And I placed astronomical expectations on myself.

It’s taken me a few years to realize how much we try to over-complicate this.

Faith-filled parenting is not about a formula to success or about my kid knowing every book of the Bible by his second birthday; it is about speaking truth and teaching about Jesus throughout every day life.

Did you know that God isn’t frazzled by chaos? It’s true. He’s right there in the middle of it. Right there in the peanut-butter-coated house you and your tiny humans inhabit.

And any amount of time you devote teaching your children about Him will be blessed. It will never ever be wasted.

Don’t let intimidation deter you – just do it!

Here are some Tiny Human Faith Endeavors we’ve undertaken recently. I share them not because we’re awesome, but because we’re very not. (Which is why we need to arm our kids with God’s words instead of our own.)

Resources help me.

I hope these help you!

ABC Scriptures

A few years ago, the boys and I did a Year of Fruits. Each month, we focused on a different Fruit of the Spirit. It was very unplanned with very low expectations. It was shockingly simple, yet profoundly sweet.

This past year, I upped the ante a little bit with my oldest. At the beginning of the school year, we started ABC Bible Verses. 

Instead of memorizing one Bible verse per month, we memorized one per week – each verse starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

If this seems crazy, let’s refer to the fact that my boys can watch How to Train Your Dragon exactly 1 time, and spend the following week reciting every dragon species within the movie. If we can spend time filling our memory banks with names like Deadly Nadder and Hideous Zippleback, we can spend time filling it with truth from the Bible.

And, wow. I am blown away by just how much these guys have learned. (My 5 year old, specifically and especially.)

Because today?!

Today we finished.

26 Bible verses in 26 weeks.

And, like, the amount of pride I feel towards that child is inexplicable.

Here’s what we did:

Each week, we’d write the new verse on the chalkboard in the playroom.

And at the end of the week, we’d make a video after we’d memorized it.

Some videos were perfect, some included one brother helping the other say his verse, some included forced flatulence and hysterical laughter. (Kids, man.)

I typed up the verses we used…feel free to print and use in your own home!

(or download the PDF here.)

Honestly, we didn’t have, like, an Official Bible Memorization Hour. It was incredible how quickly he picked these up. (hello, underestimation of tiny human brains)

I recited the week’s verse when I remembered, we worked on it kinda sorta on the way to preschool, and – BAM. Memorized.

Kids are crazy spongey.

This is an endeavor I’d highly recommend.

Stay tuned for a review of our ULTRA CELEBRATION tomorrow night. We’re going to celebrate the heck out of this kid and his hard work.

3 final sidebars:

  1. I told Beck if he did it, I would, too. Here’s that video: https://youtu.be/2czRAQ2hpp0
  2. It’s incredible how much our 2-3 year old picked up just by overhearing his brother. He knows at least one word from every verse. They’re listening and learning, man. Always.
  3. If you’ve seen that un-be-lievably cute kid who did the same thing and ended up on the Steve Harvey show, do not watch the video above. It’ll be highly underwhelming. That kid was, like, a prodigy or something.

Hiding His word in their hearts. You can never go wrong.

Another One Bites the Dust

“HOW DO THESE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO YOU?! 

I’m being totally serious–you are a completely engaged, capable, attentive mom–and yet?!?”

– my friend Aimee. Also, probably my husband.

There’s a list of about 5 establishments our family should never enter again. Due to unforeseen bathroom emergencies, we should never again step foot inside the Kroger pharmacy, Panera Bread, King Wok II, Rosa’s Tortilla Factory, or Braum’s.

It’d been a while since we’ve disgraced ourselves publicly with a banishable offense, so we were probably due.

And so it was that yesterday, sitting across the table at Chick-fil-A from a sweet friend, engaged in a serious discussion, I saw my son standing ramrod straight in the middle of the restaurant. Frozen like a statue halfway between our table and the play area.

He was, maybe, 10 feet away, so I yelled his name and called him over to our table.

me: Hey. What’s going on? Come over here.
him:
me: Buddy, come over here.
him:
me: Comeoverhere.

No response.

His posture was weird and he had this, like, shocked expression on his face.

It wasn’t until a few seconds in that I noticed something on the ground by his foot.

Something big enough to be seen from our table.

Something important enough he didn’t want to venture away from it.

Sand from the park? No, we didn’t play in sand.

A pile of hashbrowns? No, we weren’t eating breakfast.

Chocolate ice cream? No, we didn’t get ice cream.

It was then I realized.

Mmmm, yes.

The “something” was poop.

On the ground, in the middle of the Chick-fil-A dining area, 6 inches away from a 60 year old couple enjoying lunch, 10 feet away from me – A. HUMONGOUS. PILE. OF. POOP.

Not, like, a little bit. A lot a bit.

Have you ever made eye contact with complete strangers at a restaurant while grabbing fistfuls of human feces from the ground adjacent to their table?

Ever grabbed a wad of napkins to casually dispose of excrement before the smell affected their appetite?

It’s not an experience I’d recommend.

Like, how do you even close that conversation out? Nobody prepares you for these parenting moments.

I went with, “…aaanyway, sorry again. Enjoy your lunch!”

(It didn’t feel great. Hindsight’s 20/20 I guess.)

After taking care of the obvious offense, I carted my son to the bathroom to get cleaned up.

It was there I encountered yet another conversation I was unprepared for.

How do you make small talk with a lady washing her hands at the same time you are washing behind a naked kid’s kneecaps?

The answer is you don’t, really. You just let it go and pray her eyes can unsee that moment.

(And, to be fair, he wasn’t completely naked. He was wearing a shirt. And one sock.)

After cleaning him up the best I could, I realized I had nothing to put back on him. Not underwear, not a Pull-Up, not pants, not a loincloth. Nada.

The only thing worse than pooping IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DINING AREA would probably be toting my naked kid around, so I did what any reasonable person would do – yelled for my friend.

“THERE HAS BEEN A SITUATION. I NEED BACK UP.”

She provided a Pull-Up, I got my toddler (whom I’d completely abandoned back at the table), and we got outa dodge.

But not before I confessed our transgressions to an employee.

I felt terrible, but I also felt like Lysol bombing the floor couldn’t hurt.

“Excuse me, ma’am? I’m not really sure how to say this, but, uh, I thought my kid was potty trained and….I mean, he is mostly….but not today I guess – ha! – because, you see, he pooped on your floor.

….well, technically he didn’t poop ON your floor, more like the poop fell OUT onto your floor. From the leg of his shorts. Well, and his boxer briefs. I guess this is why you shouldn’t buy tiny boxer briefs. Cute as they are, they don’t hold stuff in, should there be an accident…knowwhatImean? Hah..ha..h…”

She did not know what I meant.

She also was highly upset by the situation.

There was no, “Oh my goodness, it would be my pleasure to help during this humiliating time.”

or

“Poor guy! Please have a year’s worth of free chicken sandwiches because I can tell you guys feel bad, and I’m incredibly gracious and forgiving. Plus, I know that – over the course of the past 5 years – your purchases here have singlehandedly paid my salary.”

Nope.

She was straight up mad.

She got all ‘tudey and, “Well – *exaggerated huff of disgust* – are you going to show me where this happened so I can sanitize this eating establishment?”

To which I replied, “You know, ma’am, maybe next time I’ll have him aim better. Like onto the ground right outside your car door. (Or something. Just thinking out loud here.) Yes. Right over this way.”

I know she was actually mad not just because she was fairly unkind in her response to me, but because one of my teen friends was working the drive-thru during this whole debacle. If there were any doubt, Ms. Shame-Heaper made her disgust quite well-known to the other employees after we left.

“You know your little friend? Her kid pooped on the floor.”

– her actual words

It’s unfortunate that we can never go back there again.

…but it’s super fortunate that we have about 91 other Chick-fil-As within equal distance to choose from.

So, yeah.

If you feel like you’re bombing as a human…if you’re feeling down about your parenting skills….just consider the time this girl and her entourage dropped a turd next to a lunch date.

We will overcome. And so will you.

HOLEY EARBALLS (pt 2)

We are now one week post tube/adenoids surgery.

I don’t want to oversell the success of last week…..but I totally will for 2 reasons:

1) 4 hours post-procedure, Hutton asked for the TV to be turned down. [ D O W N ! ]

and – could it even get any better? YES –

2) he woke up from anesthesia completely potty trained.

True story.

Like….went in to surgery wearing a Pull-Up, came home requesting underwear. (To which I replied with confused upward inflection, “Um, no? You’re not even fully awake from, like, being put under and getting things shaved out of your nose and stuff?”)

But this is Hutton we’re talking about. Unique is his middle name, and his timing is always spectacularly random.

(Like the first time he tried to potty train at 17 months old, 2 weeks before Brooks bro #3 was born.

…………nah, bruh. That’s what diapers are for.)

While the timing is random, the results are concrete: 1 full week of semi-restored hearing, 1 full week of undie-coated toddler buns.

I see you, 3-Day Potty Training Boot Camp! books, and I raise you general anesthesia.

As far as the surgery itself, things couldn’t have gone better.

For starters, instead of choosing a construction or firefighter or cowboy hat at the hospital, he copied the little girl in front of him and went back wearing a “Strong and Courageous” shirt….and a pink tiara.

hello, senior slideshow.

The time from his being wheeled back to my joining him in recovery was a little over an hour, during which our family’s newest love, Dr. ENT man, came out to tell me how everything went. (Great.)

I was also able to ask a pressing question about Right Ear.

me: Earlier in the week, Hutton discovered that when he sniffs really hard, his holey ear sucks in air and makes a gross noise. And it’s now his go-to party trick/conversation starter. Is that normal? Or okay?

ent: Yes. That is…that is…that. is. AWESOME. That is a great trick. <insert laughter>

Hutton cried exactly one time during our hospital experience, and that was when he woke up from anesthesia. Not immediately after, while he was discovering his newfound toilet proficiencies, but a few minutes later when I told him we had to leave before he could consume a FIFTH popsicle.

He ate 4 in the amount of time it takes most kids to eat half of 1.

The nurses kept saying, “Wow – he’s doing great. We legally have to keep you for 30 full minutes, even though it’s only been 7 minutes and *eyes the pile of empty Pop-Ice wrappers* we can see that he’s tolerating liquids well.”

Yes, ma’am. He’s nothing if not hungry.

The only other dicey moment in recovery was when Hutton asked when he would see “his doctor man” and I realized that, as much as I had talked up getting to see him, Hutt did not actually recall spending time with him. (Sedation, and all.)

Thankfully, the doc made another round, Hutton thought he was seeing him for the first time that morning, and all was well.

He even told Hutt he could take home the mask used to put him to sleep; a new “toy” that – in addition to smelling like cherries – has been used by the brothers to put each other under pretend-anesthesia no less than 12 times this week.

We should really get out more often.

All in all, as much as we have debated and prayed about what to do with this guy’s earballs, we’re so thankful last Thursday went well. He’s hearing better, talking more clearly…it was definitely the right move.

More to come in the future, but for now, we’re ecstatic.

Also?

Taylor was gone all week on business.

He hated being away. We hated him being away.

But if he wouldn’t have been away, we wouldn’t have experienced the abundant blessings of our people.

Coming to wait with me at the hospital, taking care of our other boys so I could focus on Hutton, bringing us food, leaving balloons and presents on our doorstep…our people stepped up when we needed it, in ways we didn’t even know we needed.

We are a thankful bunch.

HOLEY EARBALLS (pt 1)

[for those who have asked, this is the scoop on hutt’s earballs. If you are not family and/or care nothing about an oddly specific, obnoxiously detailed medical history of my middle son’s middle ear, feel free to pass this post on by.]

About 18 months ago, at the beginning of the Winter Virus Season, our middle boy got an ear infection.

And then another one.

And then another one.

And on and on.

The infections clustered enough in a short enough amount of time that we were referred to a pediatric ENT to talk about putting in ear tubes.

Super simple procedure; very common in small kids.

So we did it.

The surgery was so fast, I was still arranging my purse and coat into the seat next to me in the waiting room when they called us back.

Parents of Hutton? He’s ready for you.
“…really? Because I literally just sat down. And I was about to have an intimate moment with that vending machine Reese’s cup. So…”

“He did great!” the doctor said. “We’ll see you back 6 weeks post-op to make sure everything is healing; otherwise, he’s good to go.”

……………………

We saw him less than 2 weeks later, because Hutton’s ears were already goopy and disgusting again. Diagnosis: ear infection #6.

And then 4 weeks later, at the originally scheduled follow up visit. Diagnosis: ear infection #7.

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 8.52.10 AM

It seems like most kids see their ENT’s exactly 3 times: once at the consultation, once at the surgery center, and once at the post-op visit.

Tubes go in, infections stop. Or so I hear.

Hutton’s continued. On and on and on.

We finally got him through last winter, had a 2-3 month infection reprieve, and then summer happened.

And over the summer, he got The Mega Infection.

The one that couldn’t be cleared after 4 rounds of antibiotics. The one where sewer slime oozed out of his ear for an entire month. The one where our pediatrician conferred with an infectious disease doctor about “what type of infection this could possibly be to be resisting all the medication”.

We ran cultures, we switched meds, we sighed heavily.

Finally, at some point, the infection was cleared.

Clearing it was a big enough deal, we threw an Ear Party to celebrate.

No more infection? EAR PANCAKES FOR ALL!

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 8.55.10 AM

But then we went to the ENT for a follow up to the follow up of the follow-up Follow Up.

We learned that during the course of The Mega Infection, the tubes and fallen out.

“The tubes have come out, and one ear looks great,” our ENT said. “The other eardrum, however, was ruptured. The perforation is slightly bigger than the tube was, so we’ll just monitor that until it closes up. In the meantime, keep that ear completely dry. (oh, and here’s an earplug. Trying to keep this in your 2 year old’s ear is a complete joke that will make you want to bang your head against a wall.) Good luck!”

earplug

Our next follow up appointment was 6 months later. By some miracle, we made it all 6 months without another infection.

We did, however, notice a change in hearing and language during those months.

And by “change”, I mean every other word that came out of Hutton’s mouth was “WHAT?” or “TALK YOUDER” or “TURN IT UP”.

Sure enough, the audiologist confirmed hearing loss at his follow up in December. Not severe, but certainly noticeable.

When the ENT examined him, he said, “Well, we have a few things going on. The first being that the hole in his ear drum has grown a little bit, which explains his hearing loss.”

me: “Grown? Is it supposed to do that?”
him: “Not really. It used to be maybe 40% of his eardrum; now it’s more like 50+%.”
me: “Haha! For a second I thought you said FIFTY percent. 5-0. Like, half his ear drum.”
him: “I did.”
me: “Oh. Um. And we aren’t sure why it’s grown? That seems like a large hole. Is that a large hole?”
him: “It is sizable.”
me: “Like how sizable?”
him: “Well, for reference, ear tubes are 2% of the ear drum.”
me: “And now he’s at 50+%? So…from 2%, to 40%, to 50%.”
him: “That is correct.”
me: “This seems like an issue.”
him: “Yes, it will have to be repaired at some point. Probably when he’s around 6. We’ll just keep it completely dry until then.”
me: “Mmmm. Yes. 3 more years of those cool, super effective ear plugs. No problem at all.”

So not only did the perforation grow substantially (?!), his left ear has significant amount of fluid on it – again – which explains why he can’t hear a dang thing.

Our ENT wanted to immediately jump back into another tube.

I, on the other hand, wanted to find the root cause of all the fluid so we didn’t…I don’t know….end up with, like, 2 broken eardrums that needed to stay dry.

He was uninterested in my hesitation.

I was uninterested in him and found a different ENT.

First things out of new guy’s mouth: “Wow, that’s a big hole. And his hearing is pretty terrible from the combination of the hole and the fluid build up, but before we jump to another tube, let’s try to address the underlying issue.”

s  l  o  w    c  l  a  p    for our new ENT. I love him s’much.

He thinks Hutton might still have reflux – an odd but reasonable assumption, seeing as Hutton has no other glaring food or environmental allergies and we’ve explored every other option – and even suggested we visit a pediatric gastroenterologist. (We did; it was unhelpful.)

To drain the fluid on Left Ear, we’ve tried:

  • a chiropractor who, as precious as she is, adjusted him a few times before saying, “I think the fluid is gone!” (It wasn’t. At all.)
  • allergy meds
  • reflux meds
  • snake oils
  • wishful thinking

…to no avail. Not only is the fluid not draining, it is perpetually infected.

So, tube #2 it is.

This week.

One tube and one adenoid(s?) removal.

Long, long, long story summarized: the holey eardrum will have to be completely reconstructed in the future, and the other ear will have to stay clear and fluid-free if he has any hope of hearing and speaking clearly and at a normal volume for the next few years. (Which, currently, DOES NOT HAPPEN EVERYTHING HE SAYS IS DISTORTED AND/OR AT AN ELEVATED VOLUME.)

(The excessive volume is kind of a funny trait until you go to the public library. Librarian #2 was wholly unimpressed with our presence the last Monday.)

When I tell this whole saga from the perspective of a year and a half in, it’s doesn’t feel like a big deal. Probably because it’s not, really. It’s kid stuff that we won’t even have to think about in a few short years.

Before now, though, it’s been exhausting.

We’d think we were in the clear, only to find a new complication. In the clear again, new complication. Repeat.

One infection, one appointment at a time.

Even though we know his overall health is fantastic, and even though we know he could be dealing with actual life-threatening issues, and even though we know this is a blip on the radar, the middle portion has been wearisome.

We’re very ready for Thursday. We’re praying his hearing improves dramatically, and we’re praying taking the adenoid tissue out will keep his ears free of infection.

We’re hoping Left Ear pulls its crap together so Right Ear can be the only high maintenance one.

Feel free to pray with us.

We’ll keep you posted.

And, to thank you in advance for your prayers, here is our main man reading the title of this blog.

Calling all Foodies!

For as long as I’ve known Hutton Brooks (3 years and 9 days), I’ve wanted to throw him a food-themed birthday party.

Food is his #1 love language.

That said, I’ve also felt like our window of time for such a theme was running out.

I mean…at some point, constant eating becomes, like, a self-control issue or something.

A 36 year old sprinting to the kitchen at the mention of chicken nuggets? Not cute.

A 3 year old? Totally hilarious. And totally still fair game for a birthday theme.

What started with this invitation:

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 4.33.27 PM

(yes. Genius, I know.)

morphed into a “foodie” theme.

Specifically, a Central Market foodie theme.

Central Market, aka Heaven on Earth, is a grocery store here in Texas that sells “high-quality, hard-to-find gourmet foods”.

Their produce section is so immaculate, you find yourself saying things like, “Have you ever seen such beautiful cauliflower? I’d marry that asparagus in a heartbeat.”

Mostly, though, we went with a Central Market theme because their tagline is “REALLY INTO FOOD“.

home-bagAnd that perfectly describes our favorite foodie, Hutton.

In fact, this was our conversation about his birthday:

me: What kind of food do you want to eat at your party?
him: Meat.
me: Ok. What else?
him: Hot dogs.
me: Ok. What else?
him: More hot dogs.

We finally landed on a few more buffet choices, pulled everything together, and had the greatest foodie birthday of his 3 year old life.

[fair warning: pics aren’t the best quality, but you get the gist.]

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Hutton’s favorite part of the party was either the Candy Land bounce house or the unsupervised, unlimited popcorn consumption.

Mine was a toss-up between the food our friends brought or the food our friends took home.

The thing about having 3 boys so close together is that they like the same toys. And share the same toys.

Ergo, we are drowning in toys.

So nearly every birthday, we offer an alternative to presents. This year, it was this:

foodie drive

which led to this:

foodie drive

The food our friends brought was the greatest gift to us.

The food they took home was the greatest gift to the party theme.

Because, you see, Walmart has a few items of importance for a foodie birthday:

  1. 100 paper lunch sacks for $1.96.
  2. A 101-piece pretend food set for $9.96.

combine the two and you have GROCERY SHOPPING PARTY FAVORS.

The kids were instructed to grab a bag, get some groceries, and cook up some meals at home for their fam.

Some kids picked out 13 items, some 2.
shoppingAsk my friends how much they loved going home (and keeping up) with one can of tuna and a single piece of lettuce. Unconditionally, I’m sure.

I love me a good party theme, and this one did not disappoint.

Not because the grocery bags I crafted made me squeal with delight. Not because Hutton’s new chef hat and apron are hilarious.

No; it didn’t disappoint, because celebrating Hutton is our favorite.

And bringing a smile to his face by putting 15 of his favorite eats on a table for 15 of his besties to enjoy with him?

That, you guys, is totally worth the amount of time it took to clean the floors, tables, and walls after a gaggle of 3 year olds were a) armed with plates full of macaroni and cheese /frosted cupcakes and b) unleashed in our home.

Totally. worth. it.

 


 

UPDATE: I totally forgot to add my FAVORITE favorite part, and that was after the party as my mom helped me put my house back together, completely oblivious to the fact that my brother safety-pinned a balloon to her vest.

20 minutes it lasted. 20 full minutes of a balloon shadow.

It was incredible.

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My BFF, the 3 Year Old

My very best friend turns 3 today!

(Well, one of my best friends. Easily top 4.)

If you’ve never had a 3 year old best friend, you’re missing out. They are a riot.

They’re messy and unpredictable, too, but mostly just fun.

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Last week, this guy threw his arms around my neck, pressed his face completely flush with mine, and whispered, “Can we stay like dis forever, mama?”

This week, all he wants to do for his birthday is eat Chick-fil-A, cupcakes, and hot dogs while we sit on the couch and watch movies. He is the human embodiment of my heart’s deepest desires*.

(*assuming he means Home Depot Hot Dogs®)

Hutton is the kind of person that makes you smile just to think about.

When one of his teachers comes up and starts to tell me a story from class, I immediately grin in anticipation, knowing it will be about a time he brought joy to others.

That’s who he is – a joy bringer.

A few weeks ago he wore fake teeth to the doctor’s office because he “just wanna be funny.”

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He said, “Is dat okay, mama? Can I wear dese?”

Um, yes, son. Do your thang.

He is our quiet observer. He’s not as vocal as his brothers, but he soaks everything in. He waits for the quiet reflection of the bedtime to ask questions about something on his mind.

He is a serious foodie. He loves food of all kinds. All shapes, all sizes. He is not a calorie discriminator.

He is an encourager. When his brother was getting discouraged with his memory verses a few days ago, Hutton piped up and said, “You can do it, Beckett. You are strong and courageous. You can do dem all…and den we will celebrate.”He’s a lot like his dad – the steady hand always ready to help.

He is considerate. He shares with others, he goes with the flow, and he holds the door open for little old ladies while saying, “You first!” Treating others kindly is not something we have to work on with him, it is just a part of who he is.

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He is a lot of wonderful things; he is also a hot mess, as all good 3 year olds are.

He spills *literally* every cup of liquid he ever comes in contact with.

He freaks out when his food gets broken. Hand him a crumbly biscuit or a wimpy granola bar and he loses his ever-loving mind.

He does not do bugs, especially “mama-squitos”. I’d tell you about the time one got in the house but that’s between him and his therapist.

And his earballs, you guys? They are the hottest mess of all. The whole saga is maybe a story for another time, but the gist of it is – due to an unending string of infections – he wears an earplug in all water for the foreseeable future and his eardrum will have to be completely reconstructed in a few years.

Boo. hiss.

The downside is he has mild hearing loss/hearing jumbly in the interim; the upside is he looks really dang cute when he grabs your face and says – with exaggerated enunciation – “WHAT DO YOU SAY??! TALK YOUDER SO I CAN HEAR YOU.”

I could write a novel on all the reasons I love this boy, but I’ll just let you come over and watch my 7-hour Powerpoint presentation sometime instead.

We have several recurring prayers for our boys, but my currents for Hutton are these:

  • That the Lord captures his heart. That one day soon, someone can describe him as “a valiant man whose heart was touched by God.” (1 Samuel 10:26)
  • That he continues hearing and absorbing and loving the Bible. That one day he can say, “His word is in my heart like fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)
  • That he continues to bring joy wherever he goes. That he is “joyful in hope, patient in {ear} affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

In case you can’t tell, we love this little boy something fierce.

I’d make out with his personality if I could. (And if that wouldn’t be a really weird thought to have, let alone publish on the internet forever.)

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Happy 3rd birthday, Hutter Butter.

The world is a brighter, yummier, kinder, funnier place with you in it.

Dear Sons, She Doesn’t Mean You.

In 7th grade, as I perused bedding sets at JCPenny with my mom, a 40+ year old male employee waited for her to be out of earshot before he turned to me and said, “You could buy new sheets…or you could just come home and share my queen size bed with me instead.”

In 9th grade, as I was waiting for my food at the counter at Taco Bell, an employee stuck his hand completely down my shirt and groped me.

In 11th grade, as I was scrolling MySpace on my computer, a man walked into the garage of my parent’s home during a yard sale and said, “You got any naughty pictures of yourself on there? I’d love to see them. Or help you take some if you don’t.”

…and on and on.

I’m not sure I’m that special, I think I’m just a woman. Sexual harassment is a part of life.

It’s vile, it’s disgusting, it’s…very real.

Those examples are the mildest I could think of, but they are certainly not the only, nor will they be the last.

So I get it.

I get that we now have a president who has chalked his degrading, despicable remarks about women up to “locker room banter”. (I get that my deepest desire is to punch him in the throat for that.)

I get that women are both disgusted by and fed up with unwarranted, unwanted sexual jokes and advances. (Like…how is this even still a talking point.)

I get all of it.

And S  A  M  E.

But here’s where I start to squirm a little bit…

when I see the decisions and actions of sex-crazed, chauvinistic creeps being broadly projected on all men.

when the story of one morphs into the rule for all.

It’s easy to do.

When your encounters with a certain gender or class or ethnicity or culture are overwhelmingly negative, of course it can shape your respect for that group as a whole.

There’s a small part of me that has to fight the belief that all male JCPenny employees are child molesters. It’s ludicrous, but it is an actual thought I still have. One single man tarnished my view of an entire department store chain.

It’s really easy to lump everyone together.

And maybe we don’t mean to, or realize we even are.

So I want to clarify. Make it crystal clear.

Because, you see, there are 4 men in my own home that are nothing like the men in the stories above.

I’m married to 1; I’m raising 3.

And the rhetoric they’re seeing in culture today doesn’t say “women are equal” as much as “men are pigs”.

So let’s be careful, women, in how we stand with and for each other against attitudes and behaviors, not against men as a whole.

For equality, not neutrality.

For our voices to be heard in equal measure, not for theirs to be completely silenced.

Can we do both? Be proudly woman and also fully supportive of men?

It seems like we’ve lost our ability to be a both/and nation.

As a result, I fear my boys are growing up in a world where they will have to apologize for being male as much as we fight to be equal females.

Where they will have to downplay their strength because men have used strength to abuse in the past.

Where they will have to tone down their masculinity because that somehow threatens femininity.

I used to think those “I’m getting my shotgun ready” dad jokes were funny, but now I find myself wanting to rebut them. I don’t (because I’m not a total kill-joy) but if I did, I’d say,

“Good news! I personally know 3 gentlemen who have been taught to respect and cherish your daughter (and everyone else), with or without shotgun motivation!”

Because my boys, you guys? They are strong. And mighty. And brave. And kind. And loving.

They stand up for what’s right. They stand up for others.

I want nothing more than for them to be proud of who they are. Proud to be men.

As proud as I am to be a woman.

So, I get it. I’ve experienced firsthand the slimy, humiliating vileness of harrassment. And it is completely unacceptable.

I abhor the fact that our nation’s leader has acted in the very same manner in the past.

But for the sake of my husband and my boys and every other good man I know, I cannot – will not – let the actions of a few shape the way I view and think and, most importantly, talk about the whole.

So I stand with and for women, sure. I love women. I am a woman. Women are awesome and deserve the best.

But I also stand with and for good men.

And I stand as a mama trying her darnedest to teach her boys to do the same.

While I can’t fix stupid, I can raise better.

I hope you’re doing the same.

*shoutout to all my 3 year olds who are 100% over their moms making videeoooossss*

The Power of Story

This weekend, we attended an adoption celebration.

Not just any adoption – an adoption that catapulted our friends from a family of 6 to a family of 9.

They didn’t adopt triplets; no, they adopted 3 kids almost the exact ages of their other kids.

adoption

7 kids, ages 4 to 10.

S-E-V-E-N kids.

Ages F-O-U-R to T-E-N.

Let’s pause for dramatic effect.

* * * * *

(I don’t actually know how to pause a blog post. I’m trusting you’ll do it on your own.)

* * * * *

What seems like insanity to the general population, is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard, let alone had the honor of cheering on from the sideline.

Their story has been written (and edited and re-written) over several years. Over many tears, over many fights, over many victories, over many set backs.

3 kids dropped into an already full house; into a family that said “yes”. They fought for hope, fought for unity, fought for new life in tiny hearts that had been shredded by drug addiction.

They will continue those fights, but now they fight as a legal, bona-fide family team.

And on Sunday, we celebrated.

While this story is uniquely theirs, their journey has impacted an entire community.

* * *

r  e  w  i  n  d .

8 years ago, I married my love and moved to Dallas/Fort Worth to start adult life after graduating college.

We started looking for a church to visit (because when a pastor’s kid marries an elder’s kid, that’s just what you do).

I was adamant that we would NOT join the church Taylor grew up in; we were starting fresh (and so clean clean) somewhere else.

The problem is, every time we visited the aforementioned establishment, I loved it a little bit.

And then a little bit more.

And then a lot of bit.

First I loved the teaching, then the people, and eventually – through the teaching and the people – Jesus.

“Wait, but haven’t you been a Christian since, like, conception?”

Basically.

But there’s a big difference in head knowledge and heart knowledge.

There is an enormous difference in possessing the ability to recite the books of the Bible in one breath and experiencing a relationship with Jesus. (Even though the former is still pretty dang impressive, ifImaysayso.)

It was in this place, at this church, that I met Jesus – in a lot of ways – for the first time.

knew him, but I didn’t really know him. Know what I mean?

No, it wasn’t until I saw people whose knowledge of Jesus affected their lives and decisions in a deeply profound – yet totally natural – way that my own heart started to shift.

It was through people like the family we celebrated this weekend.

People living real, hard life in a different way – and inviting us to journey alongside.

People who invested in Taylor and I, newlywed babies.

People who did weird Christian stuff (that was actually super awesome) like coming over to the house we just bought and praying over our floor plan, asking God to bless each room. (???)

People who took me to lunch, asked intentional questions about my marriage, and made me fall infinitely more in love with my husband over 30 minutes of encouragement and a Chick-fil-A sandwich.

People who sat in the children’s hospital waiting room with us even though we told them not to come.

People who don’t take “I’m fine!” as a valid answer.

People who stood together on a sidewalk and prayed over a friend backing out of her driveway to drive to the hospital where she would deliver her stillborn son.

These are our people.

But not just our people – Jesus’ people.

And it’s not what they did for us that is noteworthy, it is how they lived their lives differently because of Jesus.

I saw this at our church. Over and over and over.

I still see it.

I saw it this weekend as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a few hundred people and watched as our kids raised their hands to praise a God who is displaying his mighty, healing, redemptive power in a newly-permanent family of 9.

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A God who took 3 precious, wounded hearts and gave them an entire room full of people standing in solidarity to say, “You are cherished and you are loved. Welcome to our family.”

A God who took that family of 6-turned-9 and gave them an entire room full of people standing in solidarity to say, “We’re in this with you. We are in your corner.”

And as I looked around at the people standing to our right and left, I was overcome with the beauty of it all.

Because each person there also has a story of their own.

In the room that night – hands raised – was a man with a brain tumor. And a family with a sassy foster child. And a teen with bipolar disorder. And a recovering alcoholic. And a single mom.

A hundred different, unique stories coming together for one purpose – to remind each other of one God’s faithfulness.

Any one of those stories could have been the focal point of the evening, because each story is important. And each story should have an army of cheerleaders behind it.

Each story points the skeptics, the weary, the broken-hearted to Jesus. Each story reminds the faithful and revives the wounded.

When we share life, our stories swirl together to create a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

When you see that…like really experience that, Jesus becomes a lot more real than just a hipster flannel graph character.

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If you, like me, default to being skeptical of religion…

if you think “having a relationship” and “falling in love” with an invisible celestial being sounds creepy…

if you think church is just a feel-good place full of perfect people and perfect lattes and perfectly executed worship fog…

or even if you just don’t see the need for it…

Come sit by me on Sunday. I’ll introduce you to stories and faces that look a heck-of-a-lot like the real Jesus.

And when you meet the real, unfiltered, gracious Him, life begins.

Our stories are powerful.

Let’s share them well.

ps if you want to laugh and smile and ugly cry from now until next Tuesday, start at the beginning of this blog and read the entire adoption journey for yourself: Deep Rolling Right Field.
warning: your heart will be permanently altered in the best possible way.

Nifty {Slightly Traumatic} Sixty

If there is one thing our family does not excel at, it is vacationing.

Like the time my 13 month old got strep and a double ear infection on our beach vacation. (The same one where we hit a deer…possibly the only deer in the state of Florida.)

Or the time – on our first solo vacation since our honeymoon – my husband contracted Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease and my 8 month old broke his collarbone at home.

We do not travel well.

Which is why when my brother, my boys, and I decided to drive up to Kansas to surprise my mom for her 60th birthday last week, I should’ve expected more of the unexpected.

Most of the week was great. Truly. It hovered around a degree outside (one single degree), so we spent most of our time inside playing board games and carrying around personal heaters.

The *one* day we decided to venture into the arctic to do something fun, we headed to a science exhibit at Union Station in downtown Kansas City.

It looked awesome. Had great reviews. Sounded like a little boy’s dream.

I’ll never know, because we didn’t even make it past the front doors before Hutton got his finger smashed in the giant, metal, railroad-stationy door.

He immediately let out a blood-curdling scream. (And I immediately had a mild-to-moderate heart attack because REMEMBER THAT TIME I CUT MY DOG’S TAIL OFF? Doors make me anxious.)

I bent down and started consoling him. “Oh, buddy…I’m sorry. Did you get your finger stuck? It’ll be oka—” and then I saw his finger. And I realized it probably actually wasn’t okay. (Door anxiety now in FULL FORCE.)

I scooped him up, divvied the other boys up with my mom and brother, and headed across the lobby to the bathroom. Along the way, his finger started bleeding profusely. Like, leaving a bright, red trail across the beautifully tiled floor.

One of the hardest parts of parenting is assessing a wound. Either this is totally fine and just needs to be cleaned up a bit or you need emergency reconstructive surgery and/or amputation. The line seems oddly blurred between the two.

Hutton’s finger fell somewhere in the middle, but definitely on the needs-fairly-immediate-medical-attention end.

I wrapped his hand up and headed back to the lobby where my mom was asking a security guard for first aid assistance. When I walked up, he held out the world’s smallest bandaid and said, “Do you need this?”

I looked from him to the 14 blood-saturated paper towels on the end of my kid’s hand, back to the security guard, back to the seeping blood.

“Uhhhh nah, bruh. I think we’re past a bandaid at this point.

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But could you be a dear and point us in the direction of the closest emergency room?”

45 minutes and a set of x-rays later, a 12 year old walks into our ER room.

12yo: Hello, I’m the doctor who will be working with Hudson today.

*takes one look at the finger*

I’m trying to decide what to do. Let’s see…we could… *mumbles a few things to herself*….we’ll probably just try to clean it up a bit and he’ll be good to go.

me: Great! So it’s not broken?

12yo: Yes, it is broken.

me: Oh. Huh. ….feels like that should’ve been the opening line….Is it bad?

12yo: No. And I’ve never actually seen a fracture in this bone, so we probably won’t even splint it.

me: ….ok….

*older doctor strolls in*

doc: Hi! I’m the supervising doctor. So what we have is a fracture that is very common in kids whose fingers get shut in doors. I see it all the time. We’ll splint it.

me: *looks from 12 year old to real doctor and back* hmm. So will he need stitches? Or glue?

12yo: no.

real doc: yes.

And on it went. Turns out this hospital is a “teaching hospital” which makes sense because there was a whole lot of teaching going on in that room. It might have been that 12 year old’s very first day on the job ever.

Also, as an aside, we were in the hospital’s system already from previous “vacations”. So. That’s appropriate yet depressing.

Couple things:

  1. This “mitt” is adorable and lasted all of 12 seconds before we started buddy taping instead.

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2. My brother is the actual best person to have in this situation.

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3. No broken bone could stop us from sledding the very next day.

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It was great fun.

Until it wasn’t.

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That’s life with little people.

From great fun to snotty hysterics in .2 seconds.

The rest of the week wasn’t *as* eventful, but by the end of the week, we did have, at last count:

  • 1 broken Kindle
  • 1 broken iPhone (complements of a toddler and a toy hammer)

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  • 1 broken finger

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  • 1 broken eyeball (complements of different toddler, a really intense goodbye hug, and a pair of glasses stabbing the birthday girl in the eye, bursting a few blood vessels)

We life hard.

We also travel hard.

I’d do it all again, though, because this lovely lady is 60. And what helps someone ring in a new decade better than great, slightly traumatic memories?

We’d argue nothing.

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Happy birthday, Mom. (Sorry again about your eye. I hope it stops bleeding soon.) XOXO