Sparta Posts

Enough for Kindergarten

Enough for Kindergarten

Well…

I’m a mess.

So this week, huge milestones were reached in my house.

Noah started kindergarten and Aidan turned 4.

And then I died.

Not really. But almost.

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It’s silly, really. I know that these things in and of themselves don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Noah’s only going one more morning a week than he was last year at preschool, and Aidan’s not off to college yet. But the weight of emotion generated by both of these events is really just dragging me down!

Kindergarten really is a big deal.

He’s got a desk, guys. It’s for real.

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He’s so ready for kindergarten, and he’s so nervous.

I think we’re both feeling the tension that goes with him growing. He’s a little bit anxious and wound up lately. He’s more emotional, more skittish. He’s processing things differently.

It’s such a hard transition for me, too. To know that we’re in school until he leaves me chokes me up every time I think about it.

We’ve been talking about what kindergarten and school in general will be like. We’ve discussed that the most important thing that we as parents care about, and that is that he is kind.

Not the best, not the strongest, fastest, or most intelligent.

Kind.

Always kind.

We started talking about that last year in this post, but this year, it’s becoming much more important.

Jesus asks us to first and foremost love.

Love people who don’t love you back.

Love people who are different than you.

Love people who are hard to love.

Love people just because they are people.

Love is kind.

Kindergarten isn’t so daunting to me because it means that Noah’s growing up. I mean, that’s part of it. But the most scary part of starting school is the idea that he’s going out into the world without me there to protect him and guide him. Without me to pick him up after he falls, or, God help me, someone knocks him down.

I won’t be there to remind him to love, and to make sure he feels loved if someone else isn’t.

It’s trusting that I’ve done a good job so far teaching him to be kind and compassionate.

Sending him to kindergarten is the first real test of my parenting, and I’m plagued with questions. All the words and lessons, reminders and teaching moments – did they take? Were they right enough? Strong enough?

All of his skills…did I teach him enough? Is he prepared enough?

Were the last five years productive enough to give him a good enough start?

Noah started school two days ago.

He didn’t cry, and he sat down at his desk with a mix of trepidation and anticipation.

This morning was the third morning of dropping him off to start a brand new chapter in his life – somewhat alone.

As I watched him hop out of the car, grab his backpack, and run to line up with his new classmates, I was struck by how confident he had become. In three days, he’d figured out how to muster courage.

He’d become brave.

On his first day, my mom gave him a card that had a little blue stone in it to keep in his pocket every day to remind him that he is brave.

This morning I had to remind him to grab his stone. Pretty soon it will probably be lost, the lesson having been learned, rendering it unnecessary.

I’m starting to think that it just doesn’t matter if I’ve done enough.

We’re in it anyway.

And the truth is that I probably need that brave stone when he’s done with it.

I need to learn to be brave and trust that Jesus is enough for Noah, and that it’s never really been me in the first place.

Jesus will be more than enough for kindergarten and beyond.

Noah’s absolutely perfect for kindergarten.

He’s already kind and generous. He’s a smart and curious kid that loves to learn. He loves with his whole heart. He’s social and enjoys chatting with new people and being a part of a group.

He’s ready, so I guess I’d better be, too.

Anyone have a brave stone I could borrow?

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Please tell me that first days make you cry, too.

Love in Reality

Remember before you were married you thought it was going to be different?

Remember when you thought that being married would just be pure bliss, provided that you found the perfect person? You’d probably hate each other at first because you didn’t know each other well enough. You’d both be strong-willed and wouldn’t want to give in to the other, but then suddenly, after so much butting heads, an especially tense interaction, and hating each other, a rainstorm comes. You find yourselves stranded in the middle of the storm, and in some strange change of heart, you both realize that you were always meant to be together, and how could you not be completely wrapped up in each other’s arms right this very moment – never to part! You kiss in the rain until the end of the storm and return to your lives with one small change — you love each other deeply and so completely that you will never ever fight again, and you will just smile at each other ever after. Happily.

End scene.

Right?

I saw this advertisement the other day. It was for some contraption that you can use to make the sound from the television louder only for you. Pretty much wireless headphones, to be honest.

But then the tagline said, “{insert product name here} SAVED OUR MARRIAGE!”

Hold up.

Your shared TV watching experiences were so out-of-control-lose-my-mind-can’t-maintain-my-cool difficult that your marriage was almost lost?

What happened to the rain? The smiles? The happy?!?!

Okay, so the statement was a little insane. I hear you. It’s kind of like those infomercials that take something super simple and make it seem like it’s totally destroying your life. Kind of like the Friends episode where Joey is on an infomercial for the Milk Master 2000.

{Those darn cartons are so flingin’ flangin’ hard to open!}

But I digress.

Didn’t the movies make love sound like it was easy, once you found the “right one”? I mean, really, the work came upfront, right? It’s just so hard to find the right one — what with all the blind dates, girls’ night out at the bar (hoping to be interrupted by a tall, dark, handsome stranger), and catastrophes that await the single woman on her way to eternal bliss! But once you found true love, it was pretty much unicorns, rainbows, and laughter from there on out.

Ah, love.

Movies told you so much about love.

They showed you what it was like to wake up next to someone you love. You both wake with a gentle breath in the morning glow of sunrise. You roll over sleepily to look lovingly at the love of your life, who is staring at you through the haze of slumber. You, of course, look magnificent with flawless skin, bright and dewy eyes, and perfectly messy hair. Your subtly seductive glance and quietly muttered memories of last night’s most romantic activities lead you both to another spontaneous round of blissful love-making. It ends with you and a cup of coffee staring out the window wearing his button-down shirt from last night – which fits you just perfectly in all the ways it should.

Your day is full of life, joy, and productivity. Not to mention sweet, perfectly-timed communication from your love. Perhaps a flower delivery. You gab with your girlfriends at work over how amazing he is, and they gush with the perfect blend of  adoration and jealousy.

You end the day by stopping by the local farmer’s market, where of course, your soul mate picked up those flowers that were delivered to you that very morning. You complete the evening by cooking up a six course meal a la Bree Van de Kamp, while wearing your ruffly apron, which is really just for show, because let’s be honest. You don’t get messy.

Option B is that you order Chinese and eat it with chopsticks on pillows on the floor by the fireplace right out of the box, which apparently, is equally as full of love as the Van de Kamp masterpiece in Option A. The fortune in your fortune cookie speaks directly to your souls, and inspires a wonderfully magical make out session in front of the fire.

The next morning greets you with breakfast in bed, which is, it goes without saying, eaten while looking as though you’ve just stepped out of the hairdresser’s chair and had Bobbi Brown apply your “I haven’t put on makeup yet” makeup. It probably even has a single gerbera daisy in a vase in the corner, opposite your orange juice.

Right?

Funny.

Because the way I wake up next to the love of my life has turned out to be very different.

The alarm blares at an ungodly hour (any hour). I roll over to turn it off with the wrath of the Hulk. I roll back exasperated with my arm over my eyes due to my frustration that morning has arrived too soon yet again. I turn to greet my husband, only to be face-to-foot with a child. After rearranging tiny limbs, wondering when they arrived in our bed in the first place, I reach the love of my life.

We kiss once, and then make a pact not to do that again until we’ve both rid our mouths of the smell that moved in overnight.

Instead of perfectly messy hair, I look as though I’ve battled a tornado. And probably lost. I am not in a button down dress shirt because my husband is a whole twelve inches taller than I am and it would look the same as if I were a child wearing my daddy’s work boots that come up to my knees. Not. Attractive. Instead, I’m in a baggy shirt and workout shorts. Mmm…much better.

There are breakfasts to be made, toilets to be scrubbed, and laundry to be folded. No time to linger in bed seductively. That’s all if Ty hasn’t selflessly woken up before me to leave for work at the crack of dawn.

Our days are filled with text messages full of information and plans, if we get to text at all in the craziness of life. I’m lucky if I’m in different clothes before Ty gets back home from work. I’m even luckier if I have something to show for my hard work during the day.

I brave the grocery store with children in tow because our refrigerator is empty, and these crazy people need to eat again. Did you know that people expect to eat three times a day? The little ones want to eat 7 times a day! The experience is nothing like skipping through the farmer’s market.

Instead of Bree’s china, we usually eat off of plastic plates. Or on a bad day, *gasp* paper plates.

If we order Chinese, our fortunes never apply to our romantic life. In fact, they rarely even make sense. We do learn one important Chinese word, though, like “fish”, “tree”, or “branch”. And we’re eating that crap with forks, because eating fried rice with chopsticks is enough to drive me mad.

And let me tell you something important.

Breakfast in bed = crumbs in my bed.

Love in reality is very different from love in the movies.

Love in reality expresses disagreements. Sometimes loudly.

Love in reality makes sacrifices graciously.

Love in reality hurts sometimes.

It’s early morning bad-breath kisses.

It’s no makeup and ugly pajamas.

It’s paper plates and plastic forks.

It’s laughter and joy, and pain and tears.

It’s going on adventures together, and not caring how the trip goes, or where you end up – as long as you end up there together.

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It’s waking up every morning and standing together and being present in the reality.

It’s going to bed in utter exhaustion and laying side by side knowing that together you contributed something wildly important to this world, simply by being together.

Love in reality is wearing wireless headphones because you’ve grown old together and one of you can’t hear Jeopardy anymore, and the one who still can will soon lose their own hearing due to the increase in decibels.

I can only hope that we get to be together so long that someday one of us needs those stupid headphones. I hope it’s me. I can definitely pull them off better than Ty can. His head is much bigger than mine.

 I see you marriage-saving wireless headphones.

You do what you do.

Remembering on Memorial Day

Remembering on Memorial Day

I recently read the book “Service” by Marcus Luttrell.

Luttrell is also the author of “Lone Survivor”, a book that was also turned into a movie. “Lone Survivor” details the account of four Navy SEALs who, while on a mission to neutralize an enemy target, are ambushed and caught in a firefight in the middle of the mountains in Afghanistan.

I pretty much earmarked every other page for quotes about honor, respect, sacrifice, and service.

I think that I will probably do many many posts about this book, since I have such a heart for those in the military. As evidenced by the “Sparta” element of this blog, I am committed to changing the way that my family views their place in this world. We are all a part of something bigger than ourselves, and it’s very important that we realize that there is more to life than just us.

There’s something about this genre of literature, and style of life that draws me in so completely. I love the dignity and honor that is exemplified by those in the military.

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**please note: all quotes in this post are from the preface of “Service”, unless otherwise stated.**

It’s so important that we remember these members of the military every day of the year, but Memorial Day is a special time to come together and honor the men and women who have made sacrifices beyond our comprehension to ensure that you and I can not only be free, but enjoy our freedom without worry.

In the preface of the book, Luttrell says, “There are a lot of things in life that matter. But nothing matters as much as who or what you decide to serve.”

Wow.

Knowing what you believe determines what you will serve.

“Driven by a fire that burns within them to defend their brothers, their sisters, their neighbors, and their nation, they volunteered to stand in a dangerous place in the world and offer themselves as expendable.”

And not only do they decide that their brothers, sisters, neighbors, and nation are worth defending abroad, they also come home to serve those people here.

In these men and women, “…you’ll see that we all share at least one trait in common: an ability to get back up and keep pushing forward, through war, through pain, and back into civilian life, where our service to our families and our communities is just as important as anything we did in uniform.”

They see horrors, experience pain and loss, and then come home to the rest of us and are expected to assimilate back into our lives as normal citizens. They sacrifice their innocence so that we can maintain ours, and then come home and shield us yet again from the reality that is service in the military.

We have no idea what they see and do in the process of keeping us safe and free. They spare us the pain by experiencing it themselves. Even their own families don’t fully know the things they’ve endured. The only people they can share that with is each other.

“Our family stays together not by training, courage, or skill but by the forces that bind us: love, honor, commitment, and loyalty.”

And for some, the sacrifice is ultimate. It’s a sacrifice filled with selflessness, commitment, and dignity. It is with the utmost respect and gratitude that we remember those men and women today, on Memorial Day.

“They gave their all — and got something back that no one else can claim: collectively, they form a single thread woven into the fabric of this country’s history, part of something larger than themselves.”

Do you have a family member or friend who has served in the military? Please feel free to honor them in the comments or to acknowledge them by sharing this blog and tagging them.

Have you served in the military? Please let me know in the comments so that I can properly acknowledge you today. 

On Being a New Mom

On Being a New Mom

This weekend, we went to Colorado for a wedding for Ty’s college roommate/teammate.

It was a big long trip, which I’ll write about later this week hopefully.

But one of the greatest things about this weekend was seeing Ty’s old teammates and their girlfriends/fiancées/wives/families. These were the people that we went to college with and knew at the very beginning of our relationship (and whom Ty knew long before that).

The team has been present for each other’s weddings, births, breakups, graduations, and even deaths. They’re a team, but they’re also a family of sorts.

Ty was one of the members of the team to move the farthest away, and it’s meant that we see them less than we’d like.

But this weekend was so fun to see everyone and see how each of them has grown and started their own stories — all with the thread of volleyball woven throughout.

One of the newest members of the team’s family was a sweet little baby girl.

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Aidan was calming her down with some music from Ty’s phone…so sweet!

It was so heartwarming to see a new family blossoming.

But you know what? It was also really rough to see the look in her sweet mama’s eyes that seemed to say, “I wish you people would stop telling me how wonderful this is and let me take a nap. Yes. Yes, she’s so amazing. Yes, she’s so adorable. But this is really hard — why isn’t anyone acknowledging that this is hard?!”

Oh, I remember that feeling!!

I so vividly remember sitting on the floor in my bedroom, not wanting to leave my house, because if one more person told me how great my life was and to enjoy every minute of it, I was certain that I would collapse in shame. Because I wasn’t really in a place to enjoy my (admittedly) wonderful life — I was a zombie!

I was running on fumes, and I was ready to implode. I couldn’t remember what day it was, when the last time was that I ate hot food, or if I had brushed my teeth that morning. It was an effort to make sure that I was wearing something different (even if it was different sweats) when Ty got home so I felt like I at least did something that day.

I was dreading outings into public because I was getting less and less good at wearing my cheerful smile.

Can we just all remember how HARD it was to be a new mom?

We were terrified of everything, weren’t we? Confused, unsure, and insecure people in charge of the life and health of a tiny, helpless little human being that spent the first few weeks simply taking and giving nothing but cute pictures in return. One day, we were just women and then suddenly, in one long and painful fell swoop, we became moms. It rocked our world in ways that we were only beginning to understand.

Every single person we encountered had advice, judgements, and opinions that they were all too happy to share.

No one told us that if we weren’t really enjoying this motherhood thing yet, we weren’t doing it wrong. It wasn’t common knowledge to us at the time that every other mother around us was also probably crying every day — no matter the age of their children.

And certainly, no one could have prepared us for the strange, all-consuming love that just grew from the pit of your stomach and spread deep into your soul the more you stared at your baby sleeping. You didn’t know how to handle the desire to do everything perfectly for this little life you’d been given.

We weren’t ready to balance that love and desire for perfection with feelings of despair and insecurity and unpreparedness. We were desperately clinging to the people that we were before we had become mothers, and it wasn’t matching up with the reality that we were mothers. Gone were the days of going to the bathroom in peace, walking out the door in five minutes, looking at strangers without fear of how their actions will affect your child, and carrying only a small purse.

This weekend, my heart was aching for my dear friend, remembering how hard it was to be a new mom. I wished so much that I could be closer and be more help to her.

I did my best to communicate that THIS IS ALL NORMAL — no matter what it is. If you’re overjoyed and adjusting well, it’s normal. If you’re struggling and feeling like you’re in way over your head, it’s normal. If you’re feeling torn between both worlds, it’s normal.

 And that it’s okay if you sometimes just want this time to be over. As my mom used to tell me, “This too shall pass.” I’d be calling her crying, and she’d tell me, “I know, honey, it’s so hard. It’s okay. It’ll be over at some point. You’ll be on to something else before you know it.”

Now, I can look back and see that it was a special time, and I can appreciate it now, but in the moment, I wasn’t equipped to enjoy it to its fullest extent. And that was okay.

I absolutely, without a doubt, was made to be a mom. I dreamed about it my whole life.

I have most certainly found joy in every stage of motherhood. My kids bring so much light and love into my life. I am overwhelmed by how much I adore my children. It literally takes my breath away sometimes.

But it’s important that we acknowledge that the biggest blessings we’ve ever experienced were almost always some of the hardest things we’ve ever experienced. It’s important that we don’t forget that it was hard, and that we don’t forget it when we are encountering others who are in the thick of the hard.

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When people saw how obsessed Aidan was and how sweet Ty was with her, the questions and advice started flying.

“Are you gonna have more?”

“You have to try for a girl!”

“Look how much Ty wants a girl!”

“The boys look like they want another baby!”

“You make such beautiful, well-behaved kids…why wouldn’t you want more?”

But those people have forgotten what it’s like to have a new baby. Just like when people say things to new moms.

“Aren’t you just loving motherhood?” 

“She’s not sleeping through the night yet? That’s okay — more cuddle time!”

“Wasn’t being pregnant just magical? It’s such a miracle!”

“Enjoy this time. It goes by so quickly!”

You know what? They’re right. About all of those things. But in the moment, it’s not what all of us needed to hear. Be sensitive to the reality. Being a new mom isn’t all magic. It’s also painful nursing, lots of poop, and very little sleep.

And for the love of all that is restful, please help a new mom out when you can. Come sit with the baby so she can take a nap. Or take the baby for a walk so she can take a shower, or even get some things done. Babysit so she can go out with her husband on a date (she might not remember what that is…remind her).

 To you new moms: what you do is special and important. You shape people. You are shaping a generation.

It is joy.

It is love.

It. Is. Hard.

And that’s okay.

The Hidden Mother’s Day

The Hidden Mother’s Day

Do you ever feel like sometimes you are on the outside looking in? Or on the outside crying, moaning, and aching, while everyone else is in and so joyful about it?

Sometimes I think we forget that this happens so much on this very day – Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong.

I know that today is a wonderful day!

Good mothers are exceptional human beings. Attentive, involved mothers change the course of history. Loving mothers are to be adored. So many things make us all thankful for mothers.

And they most certainly should be celebrated. If you appreciate your mother, for the love of all loves, please shout that appreciation from the rooftops (and for heaven’s sake, please do it more than just on Mother’s Day!).

But what about the hidden side of Mother’s Day? Those who have lost their mothers or have lost a child? What about people whose mothers were unkind or worse? Or those who have estranged relationships with their children? Some people feel conflicted between stepmothers and their own mothers.

There are children who have been adopted and long to know their birth mothers, and birth mothers who remember the children they don’t get to know. Children wait in limbo in the foster care system, waiting to see if there is a mother that will choose them to love. There are women who are, at this very moment, longing, begging, pleading for the chance to love a child as their own.

Mother’s Day is a very big deal. But sometimes Mother’s Day is hard.

For some, today is a big deal because it’s a big struggle. It’s emotional for all of us — but for some, that emotion is not all positive.

So here’s my request — please show kindness and love to all of the people around you today.

On this Mother’s Day, there is a lot of joy, pampering, breakfasts in bed, and fawning over mothers — just as there should be!

But today there are also people around us silently enduring the pain that Mother’s Day brings. Let’s have a little extra sensitivity and love for those experiencing this side of the holiday.

To those of you for whom today is a day to endure — I’m so sorry for your hurt and your pain that is exacerbated today. May you draw close to Jesus. I pray that He comforts you, holds you up, and sustains you through this day. You are a Spartan.

To you mothers for whom this day is very special — Happy Mother’s Day!

May you be taken care of, feel appreciated, and enjoy this day devoted to honoring you! I hope you receive handmade cards, kid-wrapped presents, and a nap. You are amazing, and what you do is so hard and often under-acknowledged. Thank you for what you do. You are a Spartan.

Have You Ever…?

Have You Ever…?

Have you ever

…picked a piece of food up off of the floor and, greatly underestimating the last time you mopped, handed it back to your child? Call it the “5-minute rule.”

…considered swimming in the pool a sufficient enough bath?

…tried to keep sleeping (or wishfully willing yourself to go back to sleep) on the couch while your kids watch TV because it’s far too early in the morning to be awake?

…looked at your kids and thought, “I seriously love you so much that I might eat your face off!”?

…used the rare opportunity of a moment of silence to just stare at the wall and think nothing?

…driven through fast food for your kids because you’ve been running errands all day and JUST NOW realized that you’ve fed no one lunch yet?

…been so sick and tired of everyone not listening to the words you say that you start having a heated discussion with yourself?

…offered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or cereal for all three meals of the day because it’s the one thing you know will get eaten and it’s just the one thing that you can’t handle fighting about today?

…let your kids sleep in their clothes so that they’ll be ready for school tomorrow upon waking up?

…invented reasons to run to the store “really quickly” just so you can walk around with no kids?

…eaten the last of the favorite treat in the house? Then when your kids asked for some, “sadly” informed them that it’s all gone? Or better yet…lied about it being all gone, planning to finish it up when they’re not looking?

…pulled into the driveway and realized that your kids were asleep, understanding that you’d have to be a self-loathing idiot to wake those kids up, so you decide to just sit in the car and read Facebook instead?

…or better yet, just left the movie running in the back seat once you pulled into the driveway so that you could fall asleep in the front seat and know your kids are buckled in and staying put?

Yeah, no, me neither. Those things would make me totally crazy.

 

What I Hope My Kids Know About Me

What I Hope My Kids Know About Me

Yesterday was a special day.

It was my mom’s birthday.

We celebrated with tacos, margaritas, and family!

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I put a post on Facebook listing some of the things that my mom taught me, and how grateful I am for her. She’s seriously the best.

This got me thinking about my boys and the Spartans I want them to become. What do I hope they can say about what I taught them when they’re grown with their own families? What do I hope that they know about me and who I am/was?

I spent the day making a mental list about the things that I hoped my kids would know about me, and what I hoped that they would do with those things.

So here is a list of some of the things that I hope that my boys know about me.

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Noah and Aidan, 

I love you so much that it makes my body ache. I love you unconditionally and with my whole heart. I could watch you chew, sleep, and giggle for the rest of my breaths and never be able to reach the depth of how much I love you.

I’ve learned that our only job in this world is to love other people – no matter who they are. I’m the worst at this, but you are both so good at it. You make instant friendships with random kids on the playground, and the idea of me doing that often makes my palms sweat. You see hurt and feel compelled to help. I hope so much that you never lose this. Every person matters, no matter their color, their beliefs, their job, their style, or their choices.

I love a good party. Any reason for a party is fine by me. Kentucky Derby? Find some hats! National Pancake Day? Bring some bacon, too! Oh, is it Tuesday? I think we need to have an ice cream party! I hope you learn to celebrate things — big and little. Life is so full of the big and the little. Keep your home open to people. Something special happens when people get together in your home…it fills to the brim with love and joy and laughter that lingers long after the people have gone.

For a long time, I tried really hard to be tough, and then decided it was just time to be honest.  It’s good to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and barrel full-steam ahead with determination and grit. But it’s also really important that you don’t pretend like life isn’t hard. Life is so hard. Sometimes just for no other reason than that it’s life. But it’s infinitely harder when you’re trying to tough it out alone, and so is everyone else around you. Don’t do life alone, and don’t do life pretending. Your honesty will give others permission to be honest, too.

I don’t do everything by myself, and it’s okay to ask for help. My mom makes dinner for us sometimes, and she cleans for me sometimes, too. Sometimes Grandma comes to play with you so that I can take a nap. My friends help with birthday parties, and talk me through my stress daily. Women in my Life Group pray for me. Don’t be afraid to lean on other people when you need it. And don’t be too wrapped up in yourself that you forget to be available for other people.

I do a lot by myself, and it’s important to learn to be self-sufficient. If something is broken, I try to fix it myself first. If I don’t know how to do something, I do my best to learn how to do it. I’ve become quite handy and gained knowledge in many different areas because I took some extra time to do it by myself. It’s important to me that in many areas of my life, I am not solely dependent on other people. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

I choose to stay home. I graduated from college. I had many different jobs before I was a mom. I don’t stay home because I’m not qualified to do any jobs. I’m not a mom who stays at home because it’s the easiest thing to do. I could have a career or do good things in many different jobs. I choose to stay home because I feel that it’s the best decision I could possibly make for our family. But don’t mistake the fact that I stay home for a desire to opt out of responsibility or because I’m unqualified to do anything else. I choose to do this because I’m willing to set aside my life to be present for yours.

I love adventures and spontaneity. There’s a big big world out there. I hope you explore it and experience it for all it has to offer. See the world with your eyes and your arms wide open.

I am angered when someone hurts you, and I will fight for you. I’m always on your side. I promise.

I can do hard things. I’m learning something about myself. I’m a tough cookie. I can do things that are difficult, painful, or undesirable — but necessary. And so can you. I’ll be right here to help you.

A song can change my day. Sometimes all it takes is that one song to bring me right back to high school, or to the day I married Daddy, or sitting in our backyard watching you play together nicely, or when I experienced pain like I’d never known before. Music will do that to you. It can wound you and heal you all at once. It can remind you. It can encourage you. And it can move you. Learn to love music.

I exercise so that I can keep up with you. I want to be able to run with you, ride bikes with you, swim with you, take you on adventures far into the mountains and out on the lake. I want to teach you to water ski and climb a tree. I love coaching your teams and chasing you up the stairs. I take time away from you so that I can spend time with you. I don’t exercise to look a certain way, although that would be a nice added bonus. You two never stop, so I want to never stop.

My brain is more important to me than beauty. And my heart is more important to God than my brain. And the same goes for you. Love, mercy, and kindness always, boys. Always.

I’m a good arguer. And I guarantee that I’m more stubborn than you are, so we can go all day. If you want to argue with me, I suggest you come prepared. And sometimes, in the middle of an argument, just like my mom did for me, I’ll school you in the ways of arguing. Listen closely — it’s a valuable skill. And so is fighting fair — never fight dirty.

I do my very best to feed you healthy things so that you will be strong and live long. I wish that you’d trust me that vegetables are delicious. I’m not lying to you when I say they’ll make your muscles bigger, your legs faster, and your arms stronger. Food is delicious, but it’s first and foremost fuel. I want to feed your body good fuel. Please just trust me. But never fear — know that we can always eat cake.

I don’t care if you go to college, and I don’t care if you’re the best at anything – except loving. I hope you’re the best at love.

I try to make our house a home so that when you walk through the door, you know that you are safe and loved and accepted just for being you. I want you to know that you are always welcome here, no matter what you’ve done or where you are. You can let your guard down here. This is a safe place for you.

I will know your friends and treat them like they’re my own, but they aren’t my own. I’m YOUR mom, and my rules apply to you, even if you’re the only one to whom they apply. Our family will operate very differently than many families will. Tough.

I have passions and hopes and dreams that are just mine. Things I wish I could do, or become, or experience. Just because I’m your mom doesn’t mean that I’m not a person. Please know that as much as I am over the moon about being your mom, I am more than just a mom. I hope I show you sufficiently how to follow your dreams and keep chasing your passions. Never lose your passion.

There are few things that are more awe-inspiring and humbling to me than honor, dignity, respect, sacrifice, and fighting for injustice. I pray you have and do those things always.

I’m so human it hurts. I am so broken, and I’m terrified that I’ve been put in charge of other broken little humans. I can’t believe no one has shown up to take you two back, citing some administrative mix-up at the hospital that confirms that you weren’t supposed to be allowed out of those double doors and entrusted to me in the first place. I’m so sorry I’m broken.

I lay awake at night and worry about all the things I’m doing to damage you. I forgot sunscreen at the park today. I let you eat too much candy and processed food today. I yelled when I was frustrated. I lost my marbles when you were fighting again instead of calmly pulling you apart…again. I let you watch too much TV today because all I really really wanted to do was sit down for more than 30 seconds in a row. I kept talking over you and getting upset that you weren’t listening when you were really just trying to tell me that you couldn’t reach what I was asking you to grab. I wonder I gave you enough hugs today. And it all haunts me. I pray that Jesus protects your little hearts from me sometimes. I hope it works.

I know who I believe Jesus is, and I hope that you come to that conclusion, too. But it’s not my decision to make. It’s yours, and it scares the hell out of me that I can’t assume that you will know the boundless love that Jesus has for you. I pray with every fiber of my being that you acknowledge the blood that Jesus shed for you, and that you let Him show you a better way to live your life. He’s changed my life, boys. I hope He rocks yours, too.

What are some things that you wish your kids (or other people, for that matter) knew about you?

A Birthday and a Hospital – My Messy Beautiful

A Birthday and a Hospital – My Messy Beautiful

I went to school to be an event planner.

I love the colors, the planning, the joy!

My degree is all-encompassing. I can work in many different event and entertainment venues – a concert venue, a sports stadium, corporate meetings, convention centers. But my love of all loves is parties and weddings.

But for right now, I’m a mom. Not many weddings are happening in my life. But parties? Oh I can find any excuse to have a party.

Thank goodness for birthdays!

Super Why.

Aidan was turning 3 and he wanted a Super Why birthday party.

It is my firm belief that my kids don’t care about how spectacular their birthday parties are. If you give them cake and invite their friends over, it’s pretty much the best day of their lives.

My kids don’t worry about Pinterest, or DIY decorations.

Those are totally for me. They remind me that I have talents, passions, and things that are still mine.

Please hear me when I say this – I don’t think you need to have a Pinterest-worthy party to be a good mom.

But for me, it’s my hobby. It’s my creative outlet, and it is a part of my DNA to go all in for a party.

So Super Why it was!

I planned. And planned. I made cute little Super Computer labels for the taco bar, themed posters, Super Why Bingo…even the plates were Super Why. The cake from my favorite cake decorating extraordinaire was shaped like a book from the movie (with some planes from Planes upon Aidan’s request). I was in heaven.

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The party was just getting started, and it was almost time to eat. The dads were outside playing some game with a ball that requires manliness, and the kids were playing…well, everywhere.

Now, let me say this also, because I don’t want any chiding emails or finger wagging. We are sticklers for helmets at my house. That’s why we have cool helmets…see?

*Note: this is actually from his party — he got a bike and helmet from Grandpa and Nonni for his birthday!*

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You don’t get on a bike without a helmet, and for the most part, my kids comply without me having to ask.

For the most part.

This day, it was chaos, and Noah hopped on a scooter and took off without giving a helmet a second thought.

As I was toasting tortillas, one of the dads came in from outside and, bless his heart, calmly asked for a towel.

“What kind of towel?” I asked. Hesitantly, he said, “A towel for Noah’s head. It’ll get bloody. You might want to come out here, too.”

In flooded about 30,000 children in total hysterics screaming about how Noah was broken, bleeding to death, and the like.

I rushed outside muttering to someone that I left tortillas on the griddle…don’t let them burn

I pride myself on keeping a pretty chill attitude about messes and injuries in my house. I encourage my boys to climb higher if they want to, rub some dirt on injuries, and get back up and play. I know that God has blessed me with a washing machine, bathtub, and bandages for a reason. I took a deep breath, and on my way out the door reassured all the guests and children who’d melted into the floor from the hysteria that I was sure everything would be fine. Why didn’t some people start to eat?

You guys.

When I finally rounded the garage to the driveway, Noah looked like he’d survived the apocalypse. As I picked up my previously nonchalant pace, I saw blood dripping down his face from his forehead. I couldn’t see an injury. I just saw blood. Blood in his hair, blood in his mouth, blood on the ground.

This was a hospital trip, for sure.

As I gathered information, it came out that Noah had fallen off of his scooter right into wheel well of our van parked in our driveway. A one-in-a-million shot. Isn’t that the way it always goes??

I collected him, towel and all, asked my mom to grab my keys, and hopped in the car.

All the dads started gathering up their kids, saying that they should just go home.

No!!! That’s seriously the worst thing! Aidan wouldn’t get a birthday party!

As the car was pulling away, I was yelling, “Don’t go! Please stay for Aidan! The tacos are ready…eat and play, and we’ll be back by cake!”

Can I just say that I have the best mom friends?

They were already in the kitchen working on dinner, pulling out the games, and distracting the kids.

They sent pictures from the party to Noah to keep him in the loop while we waited at the hospital.

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The nurses worked double-time when Noah said he was missing his little brother’s birthday party.

And you know what? FIVE stitches later, we were back in time for cake.

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When we pulled in the driveway, Aidan was waiting anxiously to see Noah, and Noah was excited to get back to the party. He hopped out of the car and they rushed toward each other.

While they were hugging, Noah said, “Hi Aidan! How’s your birthday party going?” And Aidan replied, “It’s fun! I missed you! Do you feel better?” Noah said, “Yeah! Let’s open your presents, okay?”

Stop it. Just stop it.

The tears that I hadn’t even thought to cry came like a flood.

This.

This beautiful moment between these sweet boys of mine.

This is why I am a mom. This is why what I do matters.

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It’s not about the cake, or the decorations. It’s about the love. It’s about the people.

Mom friends who finish throwing your party so you can go to the hospital. Your friends who wait in the driveway for you to get home from the hospital to make sure your head isn’t in 5 pieces. Brothers who spend the afternoon worrying about each other.

This is the beauty in the mess.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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