I’m Positive, Honey.

I would’ve paid good money to watch a video of myself walking through the Target parking lot yesterday – one arm holding a poosploded baby under the armpits, trying not to make the mess bigger than it already was, the other arm struggling to push the tractor-trailer they market as a tri-seater shopping cart, stopping every few seconds to either pull up the preschoolers too-big shorts that kept pantsing themselves or to bend down and retrieve the toddler’s marker tops that kept falling off his fingers and rolling under vehicles. (Tops, by the way, not markers. Just the tops. Perfect “finger hats” for a 2 year old.)

I also would’ve paid good money to have a free hand to video other people’s reactions as we scrambled in towards the bathroom. Poop shooting up the baby’s back, mom yelling “DO NOT DROP THAT FINGER HAT AGAIN” and “I KNOW THEY’RE TOO BIG BUT YES YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR PANTS ON IN PUBLIC”.

It was kind of the perfect capper to our already funny morning.

A few hours earlier, running 40 minutes late to the final class of my women’s Bible study of the semester, I arrived in the classroom of 100+ fellow mothers and found my seat, only to be greeted by a handheld microphone a few seconds later.

“Sarah, what do you think?”

Come again?

“What’s your answer? Or you can share an answer from the discussion at your table.”

Oh, um, I actually just got here. I don’t even know what the question is.

“That’s ok. It’s ‘What is a victory in motherhood you have experienced this semester?'”

Huh. Give me a second to switch gears from a very unvictorious mindset seeing as one of the last scenes with my angel baby before we left the house this morning was me pounding on the bathroom door saying, “We are SO LATE. If you don’t wrap it up in there right now I will leave you.”

They laughed. I laughed. The story was used as an example at least 3 more times throughout the morning. “We all have those days we just need extra grace…days we need a do-over. Amiright, Sarah? *wink*” (You’re welcome, world.)

But I also went on to share a small victory. Because there is always a victory. Some days we just have to look a little harder than others.

That’s life, isn’t it? Beauty mixed in to chaos. Victories tangled up with defeats.

Parenting, especially. It’s like the rainbow marbles from Inside Out: a little bit frustrated, a little bit happy, a little bit funny, a little bit covered in peanut butter.

Our victory this semester has been an effort in parenting from the positive.

I don’t know what it is about us that makes it so easy to parent from the negative. (Well, yes I do. They’re irritating. We’re irritating. Everyone is tired and a little emotionally unstable.)

It’s so easy to parent from a don’t/quit/stop/no position.

Don’t touch that.

Quit hitting him.

Stop throwing your food on the ground.

No. Just no.

I don’t want to be that way. I want to give yeses well and freely. I want to do an obnoxious amount of encouraging and be known more for my problem-solving than my shame-giving. For my gentle words instead of my sarcastic, slightly elevated ones.

Insert positive affirmation experiment #1: the “kind words” jar.

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If we hear our boys using kind words towards each other, saying “please” and “thank you” without being reminded, or being the first to apologize after a brotherly fist fight, they get to pick a honey stick.

Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
proverbs 16:24

So simple. Yet so profound.

I hear our oldest catch and correct his words often. It used to happen loudly and over his shoulder so I would hear and bestow a tube of nectar upon him, but – upon learning that the honey may not be a) requested or b) given for insincerity – has actually morphed into something he does for himself.

The best part? Kindness is contagious.

He randomly offered me one the other day.

“Mom, I think you should have a honey stick. You helped us clean up the playroom when you didn’t have to, and that was using kind words.”

(Analogy needs a little work, but YASSS. A victory.)

Parenting with scripture, you guys. Apparently it works.

Novel idea, I know.


2 things:

1. You know those Instagram accounts that showcase inanimate objects in beautiful ways? Yeah. I’m embarrassed of how many pictures and scenarios I just tried to create of a mason jar filled with honey sticks. Turns out I do not have whatever gift those ‘grammers possess.

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(Honestly. I’m ashamed.)

2. My first attempt with purchasing honey sticks happened in the Sprouts checkout line where I asked if they sold the whole jar of honey sticks anywhere in the store, or just the single sticks at the checkout for $0.35/piece. They informed me I could buy the jar for around $40. I politely declined, paid for my $84 gluten-free shampoo, and ordered a bulk pack of 100 sticks for $14 from Amazon instead.

Even Still, We are Bold

After the Paris terrorist attacks in November, Bob Goff tweeted,

“We’re incredibly sad, but we’re not afraid.”

I had been scrolling through tweet after tweet of fear-inciting information before I came across his wisdom. Picture after picture of incredible brokenness and uncertainty.

I realized that I was afraid.

And I still am, truthfully.

You can catch some anxiety, too, if you’d like. All you have to do is turn on the news.

Belgium. School shootings. Syria.

The tornado that had us hunkered down in the closet last night.

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Each story plants a seed of fear and doubt. Each story has us wringing our hands, wondering how we keep living life in such a scary world.

I don’t consider myself a particularly fearful person, but I might be carrying around more anxiety than I realize.

I fear religious extremists. I fear school shootings. I fear bullies. I fear raising my children on this planet. I fear simply trying to raise children.

Maybe it’s not even that severe.

Because I also fear being cornered by an overzealous multilevel marketing business partner. I fear that my kids will eat a Tide Pod. I fear my shampoo. (Have you seen the deadly toxins in there just waiting to murder you in the shower?)

It’s easy to live in fear. Our culture breeds it.

And then I remember these 7 profound words:

“We’re incredibly sad, but we’re not afraid.”

No amount of suicide bombers or cartoonish presidential candidates should throw us off our game. No terrorist attack or Facebook alarmists. No tornadoes or toxins.

The world has always been broken. Always has been, always will be. (Until Jesus comes back, anyway.) We do a disservice to ourselves when we pretend otherwise.

For Christians, this is where the rubber meets the road. We go every week to worship a God who – we claim – is big. Who is good. Who has overcome death.

Do we believe it?

…do I believe it?

Is He…bigger than a news story? Bigger than a candidate you don’t agree with? Bigger than a “If you’ve ever done any of these 5 things, your kids are ruined” blog post? Bigger than evil?

As our house gears up for Easter celebrations, I find myself overwhelmed with the urgency to teach my boys how to be bold. I feel the burden of making our home a boldness charging station.

Because if we truly believe the Easter story – that God actually defeated death – then my.actual.goodness. we have nothing to fear. There’s no excuse not to be bold. Bold in prayer, bold in faith, bold in our convictions, bold in our kindness, bold in our joy.

The moment we retreat; the moment we cower, Satan wins. Darkness wins.

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” 
[Hebrews 10:39]

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do you not be discouraged, for the Lord your God goes with you wherever you go.”
[Joshua 1:9]

So, no. We won’t be shrinking back, thankyouverymuch. Not today.

Not when he or she wins the election, not when there is a bombing, not when that law is passed in our country, not when the American Academy of Pediatrics releases a new report about car seats exploding when installed improperly.

The next time I find fear worming its way in, I will regroup and recharge. I will make little, bold, daily decisions that bring tiny slices of heaven to earth.

I will throw a party for no reason and pay the tab on the table next to us at lunch. I will take my boys out on a late night date night and befriend people who don’t look like me. I will smile wider and encourage more. I will pray harder and fight for things I believe in.

And if and when all of that fails and the world is still going down the crapper, I will remember that we are not a people who fall apart. We do not shrink back.

No, we press on with boldness.

This is the indescribable, counter-cultural hope of Easter.

Goodbye Bikini, Hello Love.

Just last week I was sitting on a beach in Mexico with a piña colada on one side and my husband on the other. He was wearing a blue swimsuit that matched the blue of his eyes.

I was wearing a green polka dot bikini that actually made me feel quite uncomfortable, being preacher’s kid who grew up wearing athletic shorts to my knees (dubbed “Lord Shorts” of course).

But it was our honeymoon. You’re supposed to show skin on your honeymoon. You’re supposed to only wear skin on your honeymoon. Or something.

We were so cute, he with his 4-ish pack (everyone loses a few “packs” after college), me with my toned legs and flat stomach.

We were so young, him trying to remember how much to tip the waiter, me trying to figure out which fancy hotel bathroom product to use on my hair.

We were so in love.

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It seems like it was just last week.

Yet somehow one week turned into 7 years.

And that cute couple went from carefree 21 year olds to tired 28 year olds with 3 kids and a mortgage.

Piña coladas now give me heartburn, he’s down to a 1 1/2-pack (if we’re being generous), and there is not a bikini in the world that can (or should) hold up this thrice-childed body.

We haven’t gone on a trip alone together since Mexico, we have yet to celebrate our anniversary from last month, and our at-home Valentine’s Day dinner this year was interrupted 4 times by sick children.

He took a week off work this week, the first in a long time.

We celebrated by buying a lawnmower, calling a plumber, hiring a landscaper, and getting tubes in our son’s ears.

Somewhere in these 7 years, we became adults with responsibilities. Our “vacations” have become centered mostly around home improvement.

We are more tired than we’ve ever been and more covered in someone else’s barf than we’ve ever been. We can’t go out by ourselves on a whim, our DVR is full of quality shows we can’t find the time or energy to watch, and our weekend fun is now measured in productivity.

And yet.

As I look over at this man through the candlelight at our kitchen table as we Rock-Paper-Scissors who will get up from our dinner date to put our oldest back in bed for the 5th time…

and as I look over at this man through the candlelight of a restaurant dinner date as we decide if we should order dessert or just head home so we don’t have to pay for an extra hour of babysitting…

and as I look over at this man as he rummages through every cabinet to find the dinosaur cup with the green straw that has to be packed for the day of preschool we are already 20 minutes late for…

and as I look over at this man who takes a vacation day to hold our high-as-a-friggin-kite two year old before he is taken back for ear surgery…

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I’m thankful we’re 7 years past our beach selves.

Early years are great. Early years are fun. Early years are flexible.

But, oh, the sweetness that comes after.

The depth. The tenderness. The partnership. The intimacy.

It’s not always easy. Or sexy. I don’t always like him, nor him me. We disagree. Often.

But I sure do love him. So much more than that little baby love I had back on that beach.

Sometimes I tell my boys that as very, incredibly, stupidly much as I love them, I loved their daddy first. And still love him the most.

They need to hear that.

He needs to hear that.

I choose him, and this season in our marriage, a million times over.

I like our life, Mr. Brooks. I can’t wait for 77 more years (and hopefully a lot more Mexican beaches) with you.

Random Acts of…Something

Beckett loves going to the doctor. He also loves the act of taking medicine (which totally worked to my advantage recently when I gave him shots of 100% carrot juice every day for, like, 3 weeks straight).

Any time one of his brothers is sick, he tries super hard to be sick, too. Maybe it’s the extra cuddling they get. Maybe it’s the medicine they take. Whatever it is, he wants it.

So, naturally, he was oddly jealous this morning when Hutton took his antibiotics. (Antibiotics for his 4th double ear infection in 3 months, by the way.)

(….if you listen closely you can hear my essential oiler friends giggle with glee at the prospect of wheeling their traveling oil suitcase over to get to work on him. Looking at you, Candace & Christie.)

After Hutton took his morning meds, Beckett wandered into the bathroom where I was getting ready.

Beck: Hey, mom…I think I’m getting sick.
Me: Oh yeah? What’s going on?
Beck: I…uh…I…my stomach hurts. I think I’m going to throw up.
Me: That is a serious bummer because you have preschool today. If you’re sick, you can’t go and that would be so sad.

He nodded. I nodded.

One of things I consider a gift of mine – that my children do not now and certainly will not in the future – is the gift of making every moment teachable. Even if it doesn’t feel naturally teachable, just force that crap until it fits, you know?

“And while we’re on the subject, Buddy, let me tell you a story about The Boy Who Cried Sick,” I said, as I launched into what I felt to be an incredibly heartfelt and very applicable rendition of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Me: See, Bud? We don’t want to miss school. But more importantly we can’t pretend to be sick when we aren’t. That makes it hard to know if you really are sick in the future. Ok?
Beck: Yeah. I understand. — *long pause* — But, Mom?
Me: Yes?
Beck: I know that I am definitely going to be sick right after school.

Nailed it.

Leaving Your Mark

Did you know it’s Random Acts of Kindness week? I didn’t know such a thing existed but I saw it on Facebook so obviously it’s legit.

With Hutton feeling bad this morning, he got to stay home with Davis and I instead of going to school. (He is honestly pretty unaffected by this decision. He’s just content where food is. School, home, Chick-fil-A…it’s all good.)

The littles and I ran a few errands together, one of which was a trip to Target for “groceries”. “groceries” – of course – meaning 1 necessity per 12 impulse home decor purchases.

At the end of our shopping experience, I ran out of hands. I needed to load some groceries but I also needed to hold both a cranky baby and a Starbucks drink. Faced with an impossible decision (starbucksorbaby starbucksorbaby), the lady behind me in line asked if she could help in some way.

I immediately said, “That would be great! Would it be weird if I asked you to hold the baby??”

She beamed and said, “Oh my goodness, no! This just makes my day!! I LOVE babies!!”

As I passed Davis to her, even the cashier mumbled an, “Aww. Lucky!”

He was a big hit.

It was great.

Until she handed him back to me.

As I put him on my hip, I felt moisture from his bum make it’s way through my shirt and onto my skin. I casually glanced over at her shirt. Also wet.

I tried to point it out. She didn’t notice. I didn’t force the issue.

I simply thanked her and walked away.

For some, Random Acts of Kindness week might entail taking cookies to a police station. Or holding a young mom’s baby while she gathers her groceries.

For Team Brooks, it means peeing on strangers.

It’s all just a way of leaving your mark on society.

You’re welcome, world.

// post edited to reflect that later in the day, while still pantsless after peeing on a fellow shopper and in a spit-up saturated shirt, cranky Davis was also diagnosed with a double ear infection. Heaven help the 4 ears pictured below and those ears’ parents because SERENITY NOW.

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Smash and Crash, a Monster Truck Bash!

I live my life under the assumption that every stranger is one good joke away from being my best friend. I fancy myself a people collector of sorts.

I also collect children, as the past 4 years has proven.

When you collect both friends and children with the same fervency as you collect Beanie Babies, birthday parties can get out of control.

“Hey, bae, I made the invite list for the party. Do you think 825 is too many? How big of a nugget tray would we need?”

It’s oddly hard to transition from family-style, “come one come all” birthdays to “send your two year old only, please, because all of us have, like, 8 kids and I don’t want the birthday boy to get taken out in the bounce house” birthday parties.

We like to party hard at our house. (And by “we” I mean me. But my husband has the patience of Job and fully supports my themed obsessions.)

And a week ago Saturday, we partied hardy at Hutton’s Monster Truck Bash, a theme which ended up winning out once I saw the bounce house option pictured below. (The runner-up theme was “Very Hungry Hutterpillar: a party buffet”.)

Without further ado, the boyest of all boy birthdays:

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Honestly that giganto bouncy monster truck was $100 well spent. The bounce house delivery man (there’s a sweet career choice for you, kids) dropped it off at 8AM and picked it up at 6PM. Worth. every. penny.

Probably my favorite part of this party, besides celebrating our current favorite 2 year old that you can fall in love with in this post, was the gift-opening.

I told my friends not to bring presents.

Every single one of them still did, most of which were food-related.

Care to guess which presents were Hutt’s favorite?

Pringles and Pirate’s Booty popcorn. Correct.

A smashin’ good birthday party for an incredibly loved little boy. And that’s a wrap.

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We threw this party together the morning of after being out of town all week. Like, easy. So if you want to throw such a monster truck party, get these things:

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When I was getting out of the shower a few weeks ago, Hutton pointed at where he thought my male parts should be (but clearly weren’t) and said, “Broken?”

This is one of the many, many reasons I love our Hutton Smith. He makes us laugh on a minutely basis.

(It’s also one of the many, many reasons mommy’s bathroom doors now stay shut.)

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So, anyway, this little cheeser just turned TWO.

Side note: on rare occasion he’ll cheese at me like this and I think, “Thank heavens for that one time we had to shave part of your front teeth off. If you were still in your original, unaltered, God-made form, the world couldn’t emotionally handle your cuteness. We’re kinda already strugglin as is.”

He’s my current favorite two year old in the world, and heres why:

He loves eating and sleeping so much, he occasionally tries to do both at the same time.

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He loves monster trucks, putting on lotion, shoes, getting his diaper changed, and “choo-choo”s.

He gives hugs every time he leaves the room, nods with both his head and his mouth (I hope everyone is trying that right now), and loves his brothers…uh, shall we say, fiercely.

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He yells “SOME??” from wherever he is in the house when he hears food packages opening and steals any and all things edible that are left within reach. (…like the friend’s plate of pancakes he polished off the other day, shortly after I said “don’t touch those”. In his defense, he waited to touch them until he set a potted plant between me and the plate, blocking my line of sight. He ate every last bite of those suckers before holding his syrup-saturated chin up high and walking away with a “nothin to see here” attitude.)

He calls Beckett “bubba” and Davis “baby”. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know either of their actual names.

He says “wowie” for “owie” and believes firmly in the magic and power of mom-kisses on injuries.

He goes through all of life – the ups and downs, happy times and sad – with his sidekick, Raff the giraffe.

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He has been pooping on the potty for several months, a trick that he taught himself, despite my persistent dissuasion. “Poo poo potty?” “No, son. That’s why we wear diapers. Ain’t nobody got time for that with an 18 month old and a newborn.” (He did, though. He had time.)

He falls asleep by sucking his tongue and playing with Raff’s ears, a habit I kinda hope he doesn’t outgrow until college.

He is freakishly coordinated.

He makes this face when he contemplates disobeying:

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He is one of my very greatest joys in life, and I cannot believe he’s already 2 years old. (Although he reminds me regularly. It’s like they have a birthday radar. Their birthday hits and BOOM, ACTIVATE TERRIBLE TWOS.)

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Hutton, my man, there is nary a person who meets you that doesn’t walk away smiling. You have eyes full of mischief and a heart full of big love. (And a stomach full of bananas and “zizza”.)

Our prayer for you, sweet one, is that you continue to grow into a mighty warrior for God. That you use your physical strength to stand up for what’s right and for those who cannot stand up for themselves. We pray that you will become a gentle giant with a fierce appetite for the Lord and a life full of integrity.

Your first two years were pretty fabulous…I can’t wait to see how we grow to love you even more in year 3.


[PS if you fancy yourself a cyber-celebration, check out his Monster Truck Bash party in this post. It was a smashin’ success.]

“Well, Flitter.”

A week ago Sunday, my mom called with the news: Nanny has died.

We knew it was coming; in fact, we were kinda praying it would happen quickly.

A few months go, as her memory was betraying her more than ever, we got to FaceTime. And while she was lucid and engaged, she cybermet my son, her namesake, Davis Fielden.

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Several weeks later she met him in person, but by then she was pretty confused.

So when mom called to tell me the news of her passing, I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprisingly sad. No matter how much you expect death, it still stinks.

With Taylor at a conference for work all week, the little dudes and I packed and loaded the car to spend the week at my grandparents’ house.

The night before we left, I heard Beckett over the monitor talking to his brother. He said, “Hutton? Can you say ‘Arkansas’? That’s where we’re going tomorrow. We’re going to see Papa! Nanny won’t be there, buddy. Nanny died. But we get to go celebrate her!”

And celebrate we did.

One thing about my Nanny, is that she loved to laugh. She giggled constantly. She also made me giggle constantly when she did things like wipe the front of your shirt after you burped and say, “Get any on ya?!” (She also LOVED Avon. I fear for the future of the company now that she’s gone.)

Nanny loved to laugh, and she would have loved to laugh at the things that happen when you road trip for 9 hours with a 4 year old, almost 2 year old, and 5 month old.

Like when we had been on the road for all of 10 minutes before I had to pull over and wipe-bathe kid #3 in a Chick-fil-A parking lot.

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…followed shortly by a trip to Kohl’s to buy some clearance onesies since, you know, he blew through half his stash within the first hour of our trip.

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…followed shortly by a trip to Walmart in Arkansas to buy some underwear since I didn’t pack a single pair for myself.

___

The thing about small kids and somber times is that on one hand, they are a nice distraction from the sadness. They just keep being kids and saying sweet things like, “I’m sad Nanny died. She was my best grandma. Why is bubba’s poop green sometimes?”

On the other hand, their candor makes grieving slightly uncomfortable. Like when your 4 year old raises his hand at the graveside to answer a question no one has asked. (Still no idea what he was going to say. No one was brave enough to call on him.)

Or when that same 4 year old watches the casket go by and ask-yells, “What’s in that box they’re carrying? Mom? Mommmmm? Why aren’t you answering?? What’s in the box??!”

___

Over the past 2 years, we’ve had many conversations about death. When two of Hutton’s friends died within a few months of each other (one at 36 weeks in-utero, one the day before he turned 10 weeks old), we talked with Beckett often about death and grief and the joy of heaven.

(At one point I worried we might have oversold heaven, if that’s even possible, after he packed a suitcase and asked if we could leave rightthatsecond. And then cried when I said no.)

It’s a weird deal talking to kids about dying. I mean, it’s incredibly hard to reconcile as a grown adult, let alone as a preschooler.

But our sweet Beck…his little processor is so pure.

Like when we were eating breakfast next to Papa one morning and he said, “You said we had 4 sleeps in Arkansas. That means we have 1 more, but I’m not ready to leave yet. We’re the last ones here. Who will be the mommy when we go home? Who will take care of Papa like you take care of us?” {hold on, son, let me just sob into my raisin toast for a second}

Or how Nanny’s death has gotten us on the topic of our dog’s death again.

“When is Macky’s birthday again, mommy? What kind of a birthday party do you think God is going to throw him? I bet he’ll LOVE it!!”

At the funeral, my dad mentioned something he heard my Papa say while Nanny was in an especially rough stage of her illness.

He said, “I would spend every last dime I had to take care of Joann.”

And, you guys, he did. He loved her so well until her final breath.

Death is sad, but her death is not nearly as sad as it would be if we didn’t have hope that we would see her again. We will.

And in the interim, there’s no doubt in my mind she’s making creamed corn and keeping everyone in stitches with her “Nannyisms”.

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Papa, I hope you still know how to read my blog on your iPad, you tech-savvy whippersnapper, you.

Thank you for the legacy you and Nanny are leaving. And thank you for teaching us to love well.

I Wouldn’t Use That Sink…

We’ve entered “year end close”, accountant-speak for “I won’t be home for dinner. Or breakfast. Or any dinners or breakfasts for the foreseeable future.”

I mentally prepare myself for these times. I know that the witching hour will be extra hard with no reprieve on the horizon. I know the kids and I will be super tired of each other. I know any big changes in the kids’ lives will be INCREDIBLY DRAMATIC and, therefore, avoid them at all costs.

But the best/worst/oddly refreshing thing about small children is that they rarely, if ever, abide by the elaborate mental life scripts you have been writing for them.

We are experts at knowing what to expect. They are experts at never doing what we expect.

Which is why one of the biggest, scariest changes of our week – moving Hutton to a “big boy bed” – was actually the easiest transition in the entire world. (A far cry from his brother’s transition a few years ago.)

It’s also why some of the easiest, most routine parts of our daily schedules were complete train wrecks.

Like a simple Chick-fil-A dinner/play time before Wednesday night church.

Excuse me, Could you Not

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Despite the dinner seating arrangements pictured above, what started as a relatively smooth experience turned south pretty quickly when I looked in the play area and saw one of my older two boys doing what can only be described as the “poo-poo dance”. (Like, when they don’t want to quit playing so they awkward-dance on their tip toes and hope the need to relieve themselves magically disappears. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.)

Sitting with an infant car seat wedged in the booth next to me and my MacBook visible on the table, I first tried mouthing through the glass.

“Put on your shoes.”
“what?”
“Put on your SHOES.”
*shakes head*
“*good-natured chuckle with restaurant onlookers* PUTONYOURSHOESRIGHTTHISSECONDORELSE *soft smile*”
*shakes head*

I made the only logical choice available: leave the 4 month old and high dollar electronics and tend to the poo-poo dancer.

“You have to put your shoes on right now so we can go potty.”
“…I can’t bend over.”
“Oh sweet mercy. Where is your brother?”
“*points to the 3-story playground* He’s stuck at the top.”

And this, you guys, is when having more children than arms is most stressful.

But by some miracle, one recently rescued brother, one freshly shodden brother, one unkidnapped baby, and one sweaty mama made their way to the Chick-fil-A bathroom.

There was a lot of “don’t touch that – let’s stand on our feet – are you almost done in there – don’t pull the trash out – I can’t wipe your bottom because you locked me out – yes, the baby is screaming – what do you mean ‘oops some poop got over there’? – don’t sit on him”.

For 25 minutes.

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It was possibly top 3 most stressful mom moments to date.

So stressful, in fact, that when the special needs lady we’d been interacting with in the dining area came in and got stuck in the stall next to us, I literally thought “I’m super sorry but I physically cannot help one more person right now.” as I listened to her rattle the lock on her door for upwards of 30 seconds.

(Like…what kind of human am I? A frazzled mom of littles, thats what kind. She’s fine, by the way. Plus, I mentally made amends by showing off my precious infant. It was so cute the way he was half-starved and screaming and red-faced and all.)

Haha…hah…ha…h…

Why is it that all traumatic parenting experiences happen in public bathrooms?

It’s a thing, as evidenced by the very next day in Brooks Brothers land:

A Scone and a Bath, Please.

After I dropped the bigs off at preschool, Davis and I rolled up in my mom-mobile to meet some friends of mine for breakfast. They’re young and cute and collegiate, both about to start their final semester of undergrad.

Halfway through our breakfast, I heard a rumbling from Davis.

We kept talking.

Another rumbling.

I pulled him out of his seat to check on him.

Long story short, probably the quickest way to encourage your friends to stay in school is like this:

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An unfortunate situation which can only lead to this:

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  1. Don’t use the sink at Panera.
  2. My friends are the best. It’s too bad this experience has deterred them from ever having children of their own.

We are about to be banned from all casual dining restaurants in Texas. (Not to mention the blowout at the park the morning after the aforementioned Panera incident. We’ll probably be banned from public recreation areas, as well.)

One of my few tangible talents in life is the ability to find humor in every situation. (Like when we found out we needed to put our dog down and I said, “You know what’s funny about this?” and Taylor said, “…stop.”)

Having miniature humans can be hysterical.

But it’s also incredibly exhausting. I find myself wearier and fighting for joy more often these days.

Especially this week. It’s been a doozy.

Yet, somehow, I married a man who – despite having worked 57 of the past 72 hours – left a card and a gigantic bag of heaven’s candy (Jelly Bellies) on our bathroom counter to thank me for all I do.

Oh, sweet man. You’re the real MVP.

His love and faithfulness to our family make public poosplosions a little less terrible.

Cheers to you, year end closes and public bathrooms and Pampers fails. You can’t keep this team down.

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A Year of Fruit

As I reflect back over 2015, the first momentous occasion I think of, obviously, was the pregnancy and birth of our third child.

But aside from, you know, adding another human to the mix and all, 2015 was also a great year for Team Brooks because it was the year we focused on the fruit of the Spirit.

Each month we focused on a different “fruit”, plus a few bonus attributes at the end of the year. We planned activities surrounding it, prayed about it, and memorized a Bible verse to help us remember it. (Backstory found in this post.)

Now that 2015 is coming to a close, I wanted to share how our “un-plan” panned out with the hope that this is somehow helpful for you and your littles going into the coming year because, unlike a lot of plans we try to execute with 3 small children, this one was actually awesome.

Here’s what we did:

January

Focus: Overall view/defining of “fruit of the spirit”

Memorize: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galations 5:22-23

Activities: order/play with these fruit stickers that have a nice 1983 vibe, learn who the Holy Spirit is and how he is different than the ghost on Chuck & Friends

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February

Focus: Love

Memorize: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Activities: mail love notes to our friends, look for examples of love in the world, make verbal lists of all the people who love us

March

Focus: Joy

Memorize: “This is a holy day of the Lord. Don’t be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

Activities: get zoo memberships, defeat the “grumps” with dance parties, answer the question, “What brought you the most joy today?”, talk about choosing joy even when we don’t feel happy

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April

Focus: Peace

Memorize: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15a

Activities: burn/diffuse lavender candles/oil, listen to calming music, schedule “quiet time” into each afternoon, talk about how to be peacemakers, thank God for the peace he gives even when things are sad or scary

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May

Focus: Patience

Memorize: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25

Activities: plant a seed and wait for it to grow, set a timer before an activity begins to practice waiting (or identify natural moments of patience like waiting for the lifeguard break at the neighborhood pool)

June

Focus: Kindness

Memorize: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Activities: random act of kindness (in our case, handing an envelope full of Six Flags tickets to a family at Kohl’s…perk of a husband with a career in theme parkery), choose toys and clothes to donate, celebrate and reward unprovoked moments of kindness between siblings

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July

Focus: Goodness

Memorize: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the person who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

Activities: read a Psalm a day (from this book) and discuss the ways it teaches us of God’s goodness, choose the song “Good, Good Father” by HOUSEFIRES as the theme song for the month, “taste” that the Lord is good through lots of donut consumption, “see” that the Lord is good through a nature hike

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August

Focus: Faithfulness

Memorize: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Activities: pray faithfully each day for daddy/each other from head to toe (with the fantastic printable pictured below), recognize God’s faithfulness in new life (because baby brother was born this month – great timing)

Praying for picture

September

Focus: Gentleness

Memorize: “Gentle words are a tree of life.” Psalm 15:4a

Activities: don’t kill practice “gentle hands” with newborn brother, watch/maintain caterpillars during metamorphosis (we actually got a butterfly kit from Insect Lore as a gift – perfect timing again – and it was SO GREAT)

gentleness

October

Focus: Self-Control

Memorize: “A fool expresses all his emotions but a wise person controls them.” Proverbs 29:11

Activities: no TV/electronics during the day, use words instead of fists to communicate with brother, practice regrouping when out of control by standing completely still (with hands clasped and feet together) and counting to 20

November

Focus: Thankfulness

Memorize: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what we has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

Activities: “thankful” tree, make/deliver cookies to police officers, identify and write thank you cards to people in our lives that exhibit each fruit of the spirit

thankfulness

December

Focus: Contentedness

Memorize: “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” James 1:17a

Activities: look for God at work (idea from the book “God Gave Us Christmas“), practice good stewardship by taking care of and enjoying toys we already have, take treats to the neighbors in celebration of Jesus’ birth

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I’m not gonna lie…compiling this post and looking back over this year brings me all the smiles.

Our personal highlights are mostly centered around hearing the boys digest what we were learning.

Like when my (then) 3 year old said, “That little boy just handed me the toy I dropped. That was love, wasn’t it?” Or when my parenting would get called out because I wasn’t “using gentle words”. Or when I overheard my oldest patiently explaining to his brothers how the trees changing colors were examples of “God at work”.

We don’t do a lot of things well in this house, but our Year of Fruit was one. It was a wildly successful experiment that we all got excited about. “What’s our fruit this month, mommy?” became my new favorite question.

It wasn’t successful because we rocked it out (we didn’t), it was successful because when your family intentionally begins looking for Jesus, he totally shows up in the most unexpected ways. 

I hope this is helpful and – at the very least – something you can take and run with for yourself.

In closing, imma need every eyeball to view this compilation video of (some of) the verses we memorized because THIS IS THE CUTEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

2016, we’re all fruited up and coming straight for you.

Crafternoons are for the {pinterest} birds.

A few years ago my favorite pair of earrings went missing. I couldn’t find them for weeks until, one day, I spotted the very corner of them dangling out of the toilet paper roll in the bathroom.

Because children. They’re always misplacing things.

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I can’t be too hard on them, though, because I’ve been misplacing lots of stuff lately. Like…entire days.

“Oh wow…it’s Friday already? I could’ve sworn we were on Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest.”

I misplaced 3 solid days last week. Honestly can’t tell you what we did, where we went, what we wore, when we last bathed. (The more I think about it, the more I realize what a lucky guy my husband is. What man doesn’t love coming home to a woman with questionable hygiene habits?)

This time last year I had an advent calendar with activities for each day counting down to Christmas. This year I have no recollection of Tuesday through Thursday.

I made it my mission to be more intentional this week. I usually avoid crafts/messy activities like the plague because daily living requires enough of a cleanup on its own, but TIS THE SEASON, DANGIT. We were going to have THE MOST FUN EVER.

It started with a “gingerbread village” because why stop at just a house? Let’s build an entire community.

On Wednesday morning, my early risers and I woke up, busted open the kit, and got to work. We took our time constructing, icing, and candying each structure.

To make it even more fun, we didn’t eat breakfast, we ate gingerbread shrapnel.

It was a total activity win. There weren’t even any meltdowns when it was time to clean up.

In fact, we had so much fun laughing and snacking on pure sugar, I figured it was probably close to lunch by the time we finished.

One full day of Christmas fun over and out.

And then I glanced at the clock.

8:02 am. 

Eight-oh-two in the morning.

I was suddenly reminded why crafts are the worst. The effort-to-appreciation ratio is depressing.

But new week, new me. So we tacked the next day’s activity on to our agenda: baking and delivering cookies to our local law enforcement. (Have you seen the news this month? They all deserve an extra helping of gratitude these days.)

We baked, iced, sprinkled, and thanked.

Wednesday morning from 7-9 am was the most action our kitchen had experienced in a while.

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You better believe I considered petrifying a few of these cookies to deliver this whole ensemble in a shadowbox. That sprinkle job and note are cute as crap: “thank for keeping us safe from mean guys” (I accidentally spelled bad. He totally wanted to write “mean” guys. He also informed me he prefers to use 3’s instead of s’s. You do you, my man.)

When it came time for the actual delivery, I made a slight miscalculation.

And by “slight” I mean have you ever seen what happens to 2 children aged 4 and 1.85 when they a) wake up entirely too early and b) only eat sugar for breakfast?

Our local police officers saw. They saw what happens.

To even get them out of the house and to the station, I had to physically stop my 4 year old from sprinting past me on his 54th loop around the house. Each loop, of course, accompanied by a screaming rendition of the Lord’s Army song. (My first attempt was yelling “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW YOU HAVE GOT TO CALM DOWN” which, turns out, doesn’t diffuse a situation at all.)

When we finally unloaded our circus at the station, a haggard older woman came strolling out in uniform to accept our offering. I put on my most competent mother face as I kindly whispered-yelled to the 2 pinballs zinging around the lobby.

“Come over here, sweethearts! *soft smile* Please put down the– those are break– don’t drop that ornamen– *nervous giggle* What did you want to tell these nice office– come back by mommy, sweet dumpling– tell her about the cookies we brough– whoopsie, let me just wipe that spit up off the floo– no, I’m not telling her what we made, you te– let’s not kick that trash ca–”

I began to wonder exactly how closely the police work with child protective services.

We finally announced what we were doing, passed our gift to the thoroughly unimpressed lady cop, and got the heck outa Dodge right after I handed her the lock one of my boys had broken off their station’s glass award display case.

You win some, you lose some.

When we got back home, I sank onto the couch, exhausted.

We’d had a fun, activity-filled day.

I glanced at the time to confirm it was at least the middle of the afternoon. I’d probably need to start dinner soon.

Nope.

10:31 am.

2 things.

  1. I’m getting a new clock.
  2. I’m going to start Photoshopping our faces on other family’s crafternoon pictures.

Just kidding. Kind of.

These guys may contain (and require) more energy than humanly imaginable, but man do they ever bring joy.

I’d partake in a million stupid crafts – followed by a million full body baths – to see these cheeky little smirks.

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[note the village/masterpiece in the background. It’s the only photo evidence we have of our gingerbreading.]