Dear Vacation, You’re the Worst.

[alternate title: Our Life, the Sitcom.]

Oh, hey there. Just bloggin away from the comfort of our cozy little beach condo in Florida. It’s the last full day of our first vacation without kids in 7 1/2 years.

You’d think I’d be on the beach instead of blogging, but I have a wicked heat rash and my husband is curled up in a feverish ball on the couch.

True story.

‘Tis only the beginning, my friends. Only. the. beginning.

Here’s how our week has gone:

Saturday: Say goodbye to our boys, whistle the Hunger Games tune and salute my mom who is holding down the fort at home, board a flight, arrive in Florida, take a long walk on the beach, drink some weird cucumbery vacation drink.

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Sunday: play a round of golf at the world’s most hilarious golf course. Almost take out a snapping turtle chillin on the fairway. Get woken up at 3am from the upstairs neighbors’ party and, uh, love for each other. (I forget how intimate apartment life is.)

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Monday: BEACH DAY! (aka life.) Fishermen on either side of us catch 5 sharks, ranging from 2-4 feet. Fisherman #2 ends up being an ichthyologist with a degree from Stanford University (which makes us feel better about his random knowledge/the way he fondled the shark’s underfins).

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Also the man in the condo upstairs, unaware of our proximity, keeps coming out on the balcony to fart.

Tuesday: Taylor has a fever and body aches; sleeps all afternoon (probably flu). Mom calls from an urgent care at home where she is waiting for our 8 month old to be x-rayed following a seemingly small fall. I FaceTime in my consent to treat. Diagnosis: broken clavicle.

Wednesday: Taylor has an increasingly sore throat; sleeps all afternoon (probably strep). Drive to nearby town for cell service, spend 3 hours waiting for pediatric ortho doctor to call back to schedule a consult. Finish a novel on the beach that is “sure to be the most fun you have all summer”. (is not the most fun I’ve had all summer.) Beach fishermen begin catching hammerhead sharks 30 feet away.

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Thursday: Taylor breaks out in a painful blistery rash; sleeps all afternoon (definitely Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease…you know, the child’s virus that only affects 1 in 1,923,842,434 adults). Meanwhile, I get a full body heat rash from…my sunscreen? laying out? both?

Friday: House burns down, lose deposit on the condo. Shark bites left foot off.

Just kidding. Friday hasn’t happened yet. I’m hoping it’ll be: fly home, hug boys, figure out how to hold and clothe and transport an infant with a broken collarbone, scratch through Cape San Blas, FL on every map in our home.

I’m beginning to dislike this place and I think the feeling is mutual, as evidenced by our last trip here when my dad hit a deer, Beckett got strep, and Taylor caught a stomach bug (I’m sensing a theme – the theme being that his Texan body shuts down when he ventures into other parts of the continental US).

So. Maybe next time, instead of coming here where we share a tube of anti-itch rash cream and sleep in separate bedrooms for half the trip, we’ll do something more fun. Like get matching appendectomies in a back alley in Mexico or something.

Until then, peace out, vacation. You were the actual worst.

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The Evolution of Infants

At Mom Rush Hour at Chick-fil-A a few weeks ago, my toddlertastic son broke out of my grip and sprinted full speed into the crowded parking lot. I took off after him with his baby brother on my hip. (I would say the baby was “hanging on for dear life” but the truth is he is THE WORST holder-onner I’ve ever met. There’s no 50/50, Floppy McFlopperson let’s you do allll the work and then some.)

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As I maneuvered between parked cars trying to grab the toddler, I failed to notice where the baby’s head was in relation to a vehicle’s side mirrors…which is how I ended up ramming his face directly into one. Hard. Like, head-snapped-back hard.

He cried. I apologized, never slowing my pace. No time to check for blood with a feral brother on the loose.

This is my sweet third baby.

A third is a far cry from a first in so, so many ways.

When my first was 2 weeks old, I was sobbing uncontrollably trying to figure out how and when to go pee.

When my third was 2 weeks old, I was 3 hours and $200 deep in Nordstrom’s semiannual sale.

The evolution of parenting a baby is hilarious.

It starts off different from the beginning with response time to a crying newborn:

First child: .02 seconds

Second child: 3 minutes and/or after a Daniel Tiger episode has been turned on (whichever comes first)

Third child: sometime after the overflowing toilet has been fixed/hangry toddler has had a 3 course meal and before the return of Jesus…so roughly 17 minutes. Which, generally, is just long enough for said newborn to work it out on his own.

The differences only continue with feeding.

Like a baby’s first food.

First child: homemade, non-GMO spaghetti squash puree drizzled with breastmilk reduction

Second child: Gerber carrot puree in a jar

Third child: Fazoli’s meatball

Speaking of food, first babies are cleaner and wear bibs approximately 18x more than their third baby counterparts. They also have a better diaper changing situation.

First child: “The Pampers wetness indicator line is showing 3mm of blue. Time for a new diaper. He has sensitive skin, you know.”

Second child: “Have you changed him in a while? Me either. We should probably check.”

Third child: “Don’t you dare change that diaper. It’s not sagging yet which means there is at least 12% more capacity. Good stewardship, that’s what that’s called.”

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Even their milestone development is different. With the first baby, your camera is at the ready at all times. By the third? The first “person” to see them hit a milestone is usually the wall of their pack ‘n play. There’s a lot of, “Hey, babe…did you know he could crawl? How long has he been doing that??” and “Oh, crap. I didn’t know he could reach that yet.”

The pediatrician is well aware of the discrepancies. At well-check visits:

First child: “He has scooted a total of 12.4 feet and has 4 consonant sounds. Would you like to see my list of foods he has tried, ranked in order of favorite to least favorite as identified through baby sign language?”

Second child: “I’m pretty sure he has said ‘mama’. I know he’s pulling up because he pulled my coffee off the table this morning.”

Third child: “Can he pass a toy from one hand to another?? What kind of a question is that? He’s alive, isn’t he?! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM US. Also, he doesn’t have toys. He played with a clean diaper for 30 minutes before we came here.”

The last time we were at the doctor, another family was in the waiting room with us. The dad looked at me several times before finally getting up and moving seats to be closer to us. I looked at him questioningly and he replied, “Ma’am, you set your son’s car seat directly in the sun. I’m sitting here to block it from his eyes.”

Well excuuuuse me, sir. Maybe he just needed a little extra Vitamin D to go along with his singed retinas. He’ll be fine.

It’s funny, too, when my husband comes home from work and I give him a rundown of our day:

First child: “We watched 1 Baby Einstein, read Moo, Baa, La La La 4 times, tried spinach (bleh!), sang Itsy Bitsy Spider…”

Second child:*gives recap of first child’s day* Oh, and the baby thought a solo cup was hysterical.”

Third child:*gives a recap of first two children’s days* …aaaand now I’m trying really hard to think of something to tell you about the baby. What did I do when we only had one? Did I really tell you everything our 7 month old did?? What do 7 month olds even do that’s noteworthy besides be cute???” (actual conversation recently)

Sometimes I feel guilty about how different our third is from our first. But then I remember that I can now shower every day without the fear that he’ll die of exasperation in the 10 minutes I leave him alone and the guilt quickly dissipates.

Also, though? Third babies are kind of awesome. So much less stress involved. Way more time to just enjoy their baby-ness.

Our third is the snuggliest bundle of chill. He’s truly one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever encountered.

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What I lack in written baby book memories, I make up for in kisses and adoration, little nugg. (And intervening when your older brothers inadvertently try to kill you off by shoving Hot Wheels cars and pennies in your mouth.)

Our love for you is fierce and borderline dangerous, but it couldn’t be bigger.

 


 

PS I loved writing this post because it doesn’t seem like that long ago when this sir was in my belly as I wrote The Evolution of Pregnancies. I’m glad he’s out of the womb for many reasons, but mostly because he done near broke my insides.

Missing: One Toddlertastic Human

My camera roll is currently full of Hutton being an awesome 2 year old.

Eating a bowl of M&Ms for breakfast, coloring on his infant brother, polishing off a bag of popcorn in the pantry, painting the floor with acrylic paint…he’s, like, so good at being a toddler.

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(The best part of this picture is the sharpie-d on facial tiger stripes that I had yet to wipe off from hours earlier, long before the hair gel bath. SO toddlertastic.)

He’s my dicey child. He’s either sitting in your lap being an innocent snugglebug OR he’s in the shower getting both himself and my iPhone clean. There’s really no in between.

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One fun thing about having 3 kids under 5 is that – at any given moment – I have no idea where at least one of my children is. It’s why we love enclosed activities these days. Open, public parks are our new worst nightmare.

Thankfully, though, our church has a great indoor playscape right in the middle of the atrium. One of our current favorite activities is playing in it after preschool. It’s clean, our friends are there, and it’s familiar. It’s far less stressful to keep track of your kids in a familiar place.

Allegedly.

But, of course, I lost Hutton a few weeks ago.

At first it wasn’t a big deal. Our playscape is seriously 3x the height of a Chick-fil-A playscape and fairly easy to lose small children in. But after not seeing Hutt emerge for several minutes, I yelled to Beckett and his friends at the top.

Is Hutton up there? He’s wearing a green and white striped shirt.

“Yeah…I see him.”

Ok great. Thanks!

5 minutes later, when all the big kids emerge:

Is Hutton right behind you? I still haven’t seen him.

“No. He wasn’t up there.”

Suppressing the desire to whine “but you saiiiid…” at a 4 year old, I started scanning the perimeter.

After what I deemed an appropriate time of calm perusal, I started jogging and yelling his name.

Still nothing.

The only downside to our awesome playscape at church is that it’s wide open. Countless hallways, classrooms, bathrooms, exits…all within several feet of the play area.

I ran into our children’s wing where our fabulous children’s ministers were working.

“HAVE YOU GUYS SEEN HUTTON? GREEN AND WHITE STRIPES??”

They immediately took off to look with me.

“You check the building, I’ll check the parking lot.”

Right when I was about to go into full-fledged panic, we found him locked in a classroom. Lights off, alone…and smirking so hard. That little weasel was loving every second of the drama.

It ended up being a nonissue, other than embarrassment of losing a kid in a group full of other, far more responsible parents who have no trouble keeping track of their treasures.

Just kidding. I wasn’t embarrassed then. Nope.

The embarrassment didn’t happen until Sunday morning when I saw our children’s minister and she launched into, “So…funny story about the other day…”

Turns out we had a group of leaders from a different, out-of-state church visiting that day. They were meeting with our pastors, asking questions about ministries, processes, etc.

While meeting with our children’s ministry team, they were inquiring about all things security.

“So if someone is having a meeting at your church building, can they hire their own babysitters?”

Our team: “No. For security and safety, only approved staff can babysit. Background checked, trained, etc.”

“So who are all the kids and adults in the atrium right now?”

Our team: “Those are our preschool kids and their parents. The parents are in charge of their own children right now.”

Which – as you probably guessed – is the moment I sprinted in and interrupted a meeting I didn’t realize was happening by yelling about my missing child.

Incredible timing, really.

It allowed our ministry team to turn to their ministry team and say, “This is why we rely solely on our trained, professional staff. Anyone less and, well, that happens.”

If my only gift to society is lowering the bar for everyone else and possibly providing a laugh in the meantime, I accept. You’re welcome, world.

And to my little toddlertastic hungrymuffin: you are my favorite even though you’re kind of the worst right now.

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The Great Physical Digital Divide

coloured-social-networks-elements_1010-427*blows dust off keyboard*

…is this thing still on?

One of the most frequent questions I hear from parents of teenagers regarding social media is how to monitor their child’s online activity.

How do I know what apps they use? How much involvement is too much? Isn’t “monitoring” an invasion of their privacy?

Great questions. Tricky subject.

Oh, and also? I really have no idea.

I don’t know how much monitoring is too much. I don’t know what age your child is ready for what apps. I don’t know what site your child spends most of his or her time on.

I think it’s a case-by-case, kid-by-kid conversation. Age plays a big role in these decisions, as does gender.

I can’t give you a list of specific rules, but here’s what I do know:

It’s critical for you to be involved, on some level, in their digital life.

…that’s vague and highly unmotivating.

Let me put it another way.

There probably isn’t a single parent out there who has given his or her son a subscription to Playboy for his 12th birthday.

There probably isn’t a single parent out there who has let his or her 13 year old daughter roam the city alone at night passing out headshots, asking for a 1-10 rating of her beauty.

And yet.

There are a whole lot of parents out there who have armed their 12 year old son or their 13 year old daughter with an unrestricted smartphone and unfiltered wifi. No game plan, no boundaries.

And it can be the exact. same. scenario.

Like my 14 year old friend who often retweets from sexually-charged Twitter accounts geared towards 20-somethings. Accounts that provide an exceptionally narcissistic, unrealistic view of relationships and create expectations for her future husband to look like David Beckham and spend an average of $500 a week on lingerie for her at Victoria’s Secret. (You know, for her perfectly toned size 00 body.)

Or my 15 year old friend who Facetimes his girlfriend until the wee hours of the morning, a perk of keeping his phone in his room all night because he “uses it as an alarm to wake up for school”. (Good news – $2.88 + your local Walmart = a standard alarm clock. Problem solved.)

Or my 13 year old friend whose parents don’t approve of the way a few primetime TV shows portray sex, yet allow her unmonitored access to Netflix. (Hello, Grey’s Anatomy and Orange is the New Black marathons. Because you teach such healthy sexual practices.)

Or my 16 year old friend who is often texting and Snapchatting men she has never met, hoping their virtual love makes her feel more beautiful in real life.

We’re experiencing a double standard of epic proportions.

Have you wondered why today’s teens seem…sexier? More daring? More knowledgeable?

I have an idea.

We hesitate sending them on an out-of-state school trip with chaperones we don’t really know, yet happily let them sleep each night beside a miniature computer with unguarded access to the world.

We meet the friends whose houses our kids spend time at after school, yet resist asking about the hundreds of Instagram and Twitter friends they spend hours with each week.

Do you see the discrepancies?

The virtual can have a severe impact on the physical.

Really, our teens don’t distinguish between the two worlds. Their virtual is their physical, their physical is their virtual. It’s one in the same.

It’s time to start parenting equally in both.

That doesn’t mean every text needs to be read. (Please don’t.) It doesn’t mean every follow and comment and hashtag they make needs to be controlled.

But it does mean parents cannot be entirely checked out of the digital world.

It means that our kids cannot have free, 24/7 reign over the entire internet because we are too busy or overwhelmed or uninvested to do anything different. It means that we cannot sit by and let the interwebs teach our 14 year olds everything they never needed to know about life, love, and relationships.

It means that we can feel confident in having the same conversations and asking the same questions and setting the same boundaries for their phones as we would for their physical world. It means we strive to be involved digitally to the extent we are physically – that we know generally where our kids spend their time and with whom. Anything less is a disservice to them, really.

It’s time to be present in both, parents. We can do this. Our teens are counting on us.

 


If you’re completely bumfuzzled* as to where to start, here are two of my favorite resources:

  • OpenDNS is a free, customizable filter for your wifi router. I like it because free. But also because it sets an overarching filter on each device that accesses your router (like a teen friends’ iPhone, xbox, etc.), in addition to the specific filters you set on each individual device (which I also recommend).
  • iParent.tv is a great site for learning about specific apps and age-appropriate suggestions

(*my recently-rediscovered, new favorite word that is oddly hard to work into everyday conversation. tips appreciated.)

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.]