Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No, don't always say no.

I tend to tell my kids no often.

Ben, no, don't jump from there. 

No more snacks. We're getting ready to go to bed. 

No, we aren't eating at a restaurant. I have food for us at home.

No, we're still on a TV break. Let's play outside. 

No, it's not your turn yet.

No, Ben, don't hit her with a stick. 

No, school isn't starting yet. It's summer break. 

No ... 

Sure, generally my nos are to protect, teach and guide. But sometimes I need to say yes. Just because.

One day last week we were out running errands and Cate asked {then Ben followed ...} if we could eat at Culver's. I said yes because it was convenient, lunch time was nearing, and, really, why not? They shared a drink. We all shared stories. And it felt good not to say no just because I had lunch food at home or stopping at Culver's wasn't in our plan.

Letting go can be good. For me, that means embracing the impromptu plans, saying yes, and remembering the best stories are told along the way. Protecting, teaching and guiding can still happen, and, yes, I still say no plenty of times on any given day.

But, yes, let me find you some chalk.

Yes, you can take your shoes off. 

Yes, we'll stop to play at the playground for a little while.

Yes, we can go to the pool. 

Yes, we'll see if they can come over for dinner. 

Yes, let's watch "The Lion King."

Ironically, yesterday, hours after I starting typing this, I realized I was in the midst {and loving!} a day where two plans fell through, a couple impromptu plans happened even though one ended with us walking in the rain with thunder in the distance, dinner was "we'll play it by ear," and another friend and I texted throughout the day about how we might catch up in person later that evening but didn't end up doing so because all three people in her care were have stomach issues. {Wow. That's a long, run-on sentence. Kind of like my meandering day. So I'm leaving it ...}

You may know I'm a stereotypical first-born perfectionist, so I don't typically embrace such go-with-the-flow days. But, seriously, I loved yesterday. I'm not sure if I just needed a low-key day after a fun, busy weekend, or if, finally, I was letting God have hold of my control-freak heart.

Either way, I'm feeling like this journey probably just began. What about you? Do you rely on plans as much as I do?


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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Just keep swimming ...

Most nights before Cate goes to bed, she asks me what we're doing the next day. Admittedly, I usually have something to tell her. But last night I told her I wasn't sure what we were doing. Sometimes planning not to have plans is necessary to balance adventure and busyness.

And busy we have been.

Memorial Day weekend was so much fun. I described it as "super fun" when I was talking to 5-year-old Cate last night just before the standard "What are we doing in the morning?" By "morning," she means the next day. Time. I'm ready for her to figure it out. Anyway.

We swam the past four days. I figured today was a good day to regroup and rest.

Three pools and the lake were our playgrounds this weekend. Swimming got an early start for me this year, and apparently the trend is holding. And this is a good thing. Some of my best summer days as a kid were spent at the pool. And then I'd like to come home and eat Triscuits with melted cheese and taco sauce. The evenings were filled with catching fireflies and playing extensive games of flashlight tag with my neighbors who were my best friends.

These are the things of the summer to me. And I'm glad my kids already have the love of swimming in them. There will be more days spent at the pool and the lake, kids, I promise.

So, back to this weekend. It was hot. Record-breaking hot, actually. Thus, the swimming. We even hung out on a beach. In Kentucky, well, technically, Tennessee.

"The beach" at Piney Campground in Dover, Tenn.

Serious sand diggers ...

and some serious sand-castle building led by Aunt Angela.

The sign lies. That's my husband standing out there.

I adore my girl and my waterproof camera.


This nap didn't happen like I had hoped.

So. I still don't know what we're doing today. But it's raining now, so it's a perfect day to take a break from the sun. But that's OK. Adventures are bound to happen inside our house, even if we don't plan them. And then girl who always wants to know what's next seems to be leading the fun with her imagination and little brother along for the ride.


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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

{Life Well Lived} Getting to a happy, relaxing place

Half way through the week and I've {so far ...} forgotten about a class we were finishing before church on Sunday, lost someone else's check {although a stranger later found it and returned it}, lost a key {still looking ...} to a door we had installed at the lake house last week, driven to the lake house to take care of some things but left some of the things at home, forgotten to run a fairly important errand, and ... well ... probably forgotten something else.

And, really, all of it just irks me. Seriously. I like being an organized person with a to-do list who helps people without complication. And this week that's just not happening.

I think my mind is on vacation. And I hope it returns from relaxing on the beach soon. So, really, I had to chuckle when I saw this blog prompt in my inbox this week: What are your favorite relaxation techniques? And what benefits do you see from practicing them?

Clearly, I need to return to some of my relaxation techniques. It's summer around here -- both with preschool being out and my daughter anticipating her August start to kindergarten and with the heat that makes me want to swim. After a few busy weeks, my mind must have decided it needed a break. In hopes of reigning it back to reality, I'm going to return to a place that is more relaxing than the scattered one I'm currently in.

  • Reading something encouraging toward the beginning of the day. I subscribe to Proverbs 31 devotions, often visit (in)courage, and have a Google Reader full of other stuff by Shaun Groves, Lysa TerKeurst, Kristen Welch, Jessica Turner, Jill Savage, and others.
  • Keep an on-going to-do list. This helps me run errands with less frustrating, remember what I need to do, move things from the front of my brain if they don't need to be immediately addressed, and provides an outlet for the satisfaction that comes with crossing those items off when they're finished.
  • Text and call and write and email friends. Really, these days there is no reason not to be connected. Use technology to help you live in community in real life.
  • Spend time with said friends. Spend time with their kids too. It may not be relaxing in the literal sense, but that's life. And life lived together is the best kind.
  • Mommas with small kids, have rest time. My 5-year-old girl doesn't actually nap most days, but to have a couple hours of quiet while she plays quietly with dolls, puzzles, books or Leapster and my 2-year-old boy naps is good for my soul as well as their attitudes. 
  • Date your spouse. Life is busy. Schedule time for a relaxing dinner away from the house where you can regroup as a team. 
  • Turn the TV off. The kids have been on a TV break at our house. They don't watch all that much anyway. It helps them come up with ways to interact with each other, appreciate the times they do get to watch something, and enjoy the outside. And it's so peaceful not to have the TV on.
  • Eat dinner together around the table. Again, with small kids this may not scream relaxation, but being together as a family is important to us and this is one way my life flows in a more peaceful rhythm. 
  • Fold clothes while watching TV. I do like to watch TV when there is a show or movie I actually want to watch. And it's a great way for me to make myself sit down long enough to fold piles of clothes. Plus it's nice to mentally escape life for awhile.
  • Plan not to have plans. I love making plans. But sometimes I need to leave openings on my calendar just because. Those mornings without commitments or evenings that leave us wondering what we should do between dinner and bedtime are precious. 
  • Make at least some time for a hobby. I like to read. I like to write. And I like to scrapbook. When I leave some dirty dishes in the sink or don't mop the kitchen floor the second I notice it needs it and choose to pick up a fiction suspense novel, sit down to blog, or organize some pictures with cute accessories in an album, I feel refreshed.
  • Swim. You know, it's summer, and, really, when you live in a place that has already experienced 90-degree days before Memorial Day, having plans that involve water is a good way to relax. My kids love to be around the water. Our favorite life jacket caters to my boy's fearlessness. So we're ready. And keeping a close on two little ones in a pool is relaxing in the sense that we cool off, have fun, and they use lots of energy. 

I'm not in an overly relaxing season of life, but I find myself most at peace when I'm connected to God, my family, and my friends. Peace comes for me when life flows with a balance of productivity, fun activities and down time. For whatever reason, that flow was interrupted this week. Being out of sync is certainly not relaxing, but I'm confident I'll return. My first step is to tackle some small mountains of laundry while catching up on "Army Wives."

How do you relax in the season of life you're in? You can read more about relaxation techniques on Blogher. There is even a sweepstakes you can enter.


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30 months

My boy is officially 2 1/2 today. And all boy and all 2 he is! In honor of his half-birthday he knows nothing about, I thought I'd share 30 things about him.

1. Ben sleeps with lots of stuffed animals in his toddler bed. Right there are 14, a few of which are rather large, and a pillow pet for his head. Add his little self and his blanket {affectionately referred to as "nigh-night"} and that bed is full.

2. He doesn't sit very long, but he does love to swing and will cuddle on the couch with his sister to watch a movie.

3. If you ask him what color something is, "blue" or "geen" are always his first answers.

4. He prefers snacks and drinks to meals. Of course, snacks are eliminated when meals are ignored.

5. Dinosaurs, other animals, vehicles, tools, sticks and rocks are often found in Ben's hands.

6. When he knows someone is getting ready to pray, he'll clasp his hands together and say, "Dear God," in the sweetest voice possible.

7. He sleeps about 10-11 hours at night and takes {usually} a two-hour nap in the afternoon.

8. People warned me my second-born boy child wouldn't talk as much as my first-born girl. Technically, that may be true. But my boy talks. Constantly. I suppose he has to keep up with his sister.

9. Words that end in Ks {walk, milk, book, etc.} sound like they end in Ts when Ben says them. Same with words with Ks in the middle {Luke, etc.}.

10. He wants to sing "Twinkle Star" {which he calls "Kintle Tar"}, some verses of "Tractor, Tractor" {including the made-up verse about how a combine actually harvests wheat ...}, "Jesus Loves Me," "Jesus Love the Little Children," and possibly other songs before bed. Every night.

11. Typical little brother, Ben wants to do whatever Cate does and has no idea he's 2 1/2 years younger.

12. He's friendly. In fact, he may say "Hi" over and over and over and over and over ... until I ask him to stop or the other person engages him in enough conversation that he reaches his own stopping point. Just ask the neighbors or the people we pass in the Kroger aisles.

13. Two of my friends each have girls he adores. One is 9 months younger. The other is a year older. Perhaps this should worry me for his future. Seriously, though, he's going to be a good friend to people of all ages.

14. I'm not sure what Ben is going to do in the future, but whatever he chooses will be filled with much joy and energy.

15. When I'm on the phone, he'll ask "Who that?" If it's Grandmom, Gran-Gran or Daddy, he wants to talk and usually does so loud enough in the background that said person can hear him.

16. He likes to swim, throw rocks into the lake, try to climb trees that are too tall, run barefoot outside, chase birds, and catch then kiss fish.

17. If he sees a picture of Murray State's Ed Daniel, he says, "Head!" with much enthusiasm. I'm pretty sure he really thinks that's his name, but the fact Ed has an Afro makes the nickname even funnier.

18. He starts the "R-A-C-E-R-S! Racers! Racers! Go ... Racers!" cheer with a T. Every time.

19. Mandarin oranges, blueberries, yogurt, Goldfish, Cheetoes, yogurt-covered raisins, popcorn, fruit snacks, hot dogs, and cheese are his favorite foods. He won't eat turkey and takes apart sandwiches.

20. Ben surprises me sometimes. We haven't been to the emergency for an injured limb. I was sure we would have been before his second birthday.

21. And he gets excited if he gets a shirt or pajamas or shoes at a store. Who knew?

22. He likes to kiss people on the lips.

23. Tickling is his love language.

24. He likes books. We prefer he look at board books when we aren't looking.

25. Most of the past semester, he's say, "My turn school?" when we walked Cate into preschool. Yes, he's signed up to start in August. It'll be two mornings a week.

26. He'll play any game with a ball, sometimes uses a bat or golf club more like a hockey stick, and says "Cardinals" when he sees any baseball on TV.

27. With that, he's sad he's not the one playing t-ball this summer.

28. Ben can get a shirt dirtier quicker than anyone I know.

29. When Daddy comes home, he runs toward to the door with enthusiasm and open arms.

30. He likes to be moving. In the car. On a place. Up on a bulldozer. In the stroller. On the swing. Outside on his feet. In the house on his feet. Always moving.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blueberry delight

We like picking berries. The past few summers, we've picked strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. And it's not even Memorial Day weekend and we've picked strawberries twice and blueberries once. There is something so satisfying about picking our own berries.

{We discovered this blueberry patch two summers ago. And it was a much hotter day then. Strawberries are my favorite so I was thrilled last summer to discover The Berry Farm. Hopefully we'll be able to revisit a thornless blackberry patch this summer.}

Ready to pick!
He kept eating what he picked ...

And  now I'm off to make my favorite blueberry muffins. What would you do with almost 7 pounds of fresh blueberries?


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Let the swimming begin!

I don't remember swimming before Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps I did, but I've always been a pool person and not so much a swim-in-the-lake person and pools don't usually open until the last weekend of May. I have before, but let's just say I've never been in a rush to get in the same area in which my husband likes to fish.

Well, I swam {er, floated ...} in Kentucky Lake yesterday. And it was good. I'm guessing much more of that will happen this summer. Because we have a lake house we love. {What? You want to play in the lake? You can. In fact, you can rent our lake house.}

You may have heard me say before that my boy is fearless. Seriously. Last year I could barely stop him from jumping in the water, whether it was the lake or a pool. We spent lots of time in the water last summer. He was a little leery of it yesterday. At first. By the end of the day, he was jumping of the dock. That's my boy.

The paddle boat {but, really, shouldn't it be called a pedal boat?} is going to be a good addition to summer entertainment. And, of course, there was fishing.


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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Small-town momma community

One friend wanted to walk yesterday morning. And then another friend asked me to walk before our weekly lunch, which we decided needed to be at the park yesterday. So I had two back-to-back walking dates. Strollers were involved, of course.

Friend #1 volunteered to watch a couple kids involved in the second walk with Friend #2. And then we all met back at the nearby playground for lunch. It was impromptu for Friend #1 so Friend #2 and I watched two of her three kids while she went to pick up lunch. Friend #3 joined us for lunch with her two boys.

To summarize: Four hours of my late morning and early afternoon yesterday were spent outside with three friends and our combined nine kids. This after I picked strawberries with Friend #4 earlier in the week.

Change the numbers and add a couple other friends to the mix and this is my life. I know this won't last forever, but, really, this is the beauty of this season, both the one on the calendar and the one of my life.

I love how yesterday evolved. I love how we can walk across the street to the park to meet friends and exercise in the process. I love that these friends care about my kids and know them as people. I love watching the kids develop relationships with each other.

And then later in the day when I feel some anxiousness rise up in my soul about something personal, I can text and call and talk in person to these people. They are my friends at the park, but, more importantly, they are my friends in life. So today when I emotionally failed at another {bigger} social function at the park, some of these same friends checked on me.

Right now, yes, we find common ground while our kids swing each other and play make-believe games on the playground equipment. We may get some time on a park bench or a sprawled out blanket with the smallest friends who don't go very far on their own {yet ...} to talk about life. Or we may push each others' kids who want to swing but don't {yet} know how to pump their legs. We make plans to go other places or to each others' houses when our husbands can socialize with us too. We share food and make jokes and reminisce about when our kids did such-and-such, often times when another kid nearby was involved.

And we share life. On the best of days, this seems to happen outside on an ordinary day.


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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hey, Mommas. Happy day.

My breakfast dates this morning were all smiles.

I've had an emotional week and some rocky moments the past few weeks. I have felt unequipped for where I am as a wife and a mom.  

But I feel new today.

During church announcements this morning, a friend mentioned how mothers aren't made until a child is born. Moms are born when their family grows to include someone depending {nearly completely at the beginning} upon this one women, who hopefully has a man by her side.

That happened five years and one week ago for me, thanks to a brave, generous young woman who was growing a baby in her belly.

And it happened again 2 1/2 years ago when another brave, caring woman chose life for a baby she couldn't raise.

Yet today I feel made new again. And I'm realizing that's the essence of motherhood. It's a journey. The moments along the way shape us and make us and grow us and take us to the next place. We are made new over and over again because we are God's workmanship and he will finish the work he began.

Another friend at church talked about how God only needed one thing in all creation: A momma. A young woman trusted God's plan even though she was probably terrified. She gave birth to the savior of the world. And she became a momma.

So happy day, mommas out there. We have been called and chosen and created for this.


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Friday, May 11, 2012

God-made preschoolers

Even though I prefer "preschool program" to "graduation," watching Cate with her preschool friends was precious. I was warned I'd need Kleenex. I didn't cry, but my heart welled up with much joy.

Although not all of us were eager to watch ...
These praying preschoolers are seriously precious! Goodness!

Of course, afterward Ben was ready to pose with a picture. Mrs. Jill may have been Cate's teacher this past year, but, really, she befriended our family. When we'd pick up Cate after lunch, Ben would run into the classroom, having no idea he was 2-plus years younger than Cate and her friends, and into Mrs. Jill's arms. Most days Mrs. Jill was reading a book, and without breaking her verbal stride, she'd let Ben sit in her lap.

So, yes, last night was bittersweet. Mrs. Jill blessed our family by teaching and loving our girl. We'll miss seeing her three times a week. But I have no doubt Cate is ready for what's next.

But before we go there, I'll probably watch these videos at least a few more times ...

{This is admittedly my favorite. I love Slugs & Bugs, so to hear them singing and see them dancing to "God Made Me" brought much joy to my momma heart.}

{We didn't know this one until Cate came home singing it, but it's made it into the regularly rotation around here.}

{Cate was surprised we knew "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." And she's adamant about singing the verses just like they are here.}

So, it's official. School is out for the summer. A new set of adventures is on its way.


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

I am not alone.

When the path is daunting
And every step exhausting
I'm not alone
I'm not alone, no, no
I feel you draw me closer
All these burdens on my shoulder
I'm not alone, I'm not alone
You pull me me from this place

You carry me every day
You carry me all all the way
You carry me to the
You carry me to the cross

How your love has moved me, yeah
To the foot of all your glory
I'm not alone, I'm not alone
I'm not alone ...

I was a bear when I woke up this morning. A loud, snippy bear. Just ask my husband and kids.

Emotions I had been giving up because I knew they were a skewed picture of reality apparently welled up in me overnight. The angry words, frustrated emotions, and snippy attitude came out before I could give them up again. "Choose joy," I tell myself. "You can choose joy," my husband texts me.

Yes, I can.

And I do. Sometimes.

But I sometimes I just crumble. And when I crumble, unfortunately, the angry words tend to come before the tears. Just when I'd get the tears to stop and dry my eyes long enough to walk my daughter into preschool for her last day, Jaclyn texted me words of love and understanding. She knows how being emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed with our ordinary life as mommas feels. And she knows the same truth I strive to build my life upon. She knows me. We're wired much the same.

And so then later when I told her I was sitting in the Big Lots parking lot drying my eyes {again} and listening to an appropriate song {listen above} on the radio, she showed up {That's the beauty of a small town!} to give me a hug. And we chatted about the big things and the little things, all in a matter of 10 minutes.

I felt alone when I laid in bed this morning wondering why my husband wasn't disciplining our son like I would. I've felt alone this week when my husband has worked longer than usual. I've felt alone because men and women are build differently and feel differently. {Yes, I sense the selfishness typing these goofy emotions out ...}

But, really, I'm not alone. And feeling one way is different than reality. Emotions can cloud my perspective oh-so quickly.

My husband, who hates to text, texted me most of the morning. He spoke truth, which sometimes hurts. He loved me with words. And he changed his lunch plans for me. My friend of 14 years who knew me long before we became mommas and now walks through motherhood with me showed up in a parking lot. And God created me and carries me, even when I fail with my words and actions and grumble through the house like a mean, ugly bear first thing in the morning.


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Sacrificing my plan, again ...

Ben and one of his young loves, Adeline, took a break at the spray park.

I came into motherhood knowing nothing and everything. One of the things I thought I knew was about our kids' schooling. They'd go to preschool when they are 3 and 4 years old and then go to kindergarten at the public school down the street.

Cate is finishing up her second year of preschool and getting ready to go to kindergarten. Check. But it's not to the public school down the street. It's to a private Christian school on the edge of the neighboring county.

Admittedly, this is one a series of decisions that contradict what I told myself {and others!} I'd never do. Never say never, I know.

And now I have our second-born child who spent a couple weeks earlier this year crying about "my turn school" when we dropped off Cate in her preschool classroom. He also tells people he's 4 when they ask how old he is. Um, no, son.

But we did decide to enroll him in the preschool's program for 2 year olds. Right, that's a whole year earlier than my plan dictated. It's really a good thing I'm not in control. So, it's going to be his turn earlier than I expected but at a time that seems good. He's ready. He's social. And I'm hoping the structure involving other kids helps him channel some of his boy energy.

Come August, my oldest will be a kindergartener and my boy will have his turn in preschool two mornings a week. It's definitely going to be a new season around here, and it'll be one that involves me setting an actual alarm on a regular basis for the first time in five years. The little ones who have been my alarm are growing up. And while they're cuter and sweeter than the annoying mechanical beep, they are doing what they were made to do.


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Will momma tears come?

Tomorrow is Cate's last day of preschool. Granted, it's just a few hours three days a week, but that's where we are. And it's about to change.

I haven't shed tears at first birthday parties or when I stopped diapering my girl. I haven't cried over independence or Cate's first day of preschool either of the past two years. I'm excited Cate has a loose tooth. I'll be happy when Ben has moved out of diapers too.

Yet I'm sure I'll cry sometime "because they're growing up so fast." I don't think it'll be a major, traditional milestone. I'm thinking something ordinary and unexpected will prompt me to cry those momma tears.

I think preschool and kindergarten and even elementary school graduations are goofy. I think graduation should be reserved for earning a high school or college diploma. Yet I do believe we should gather our kids and tell them good job and remind them God is with them wherever they go.

Can we just not call it a graduation?

Even so, Cate has a preschool program tomorrow night. Thankfully, she doesn't have to wear a miniature cap and gown. But I'm thinking after years of chuckling at the idea of a preschool graduation, I could meet my momma-tear moment.

We've loved her preschool. She's had two teachers who have succeeded anything I could have dreamed up in a teacher. She's learned. She's made friends. She's faced it with confidence and grace. And, of course, she has told many, many stories.

Cate is going to love kindergarten. And I'm excited about the school we chose. Still, she's growing up. And at some point that fact alone will get the best of my emotions.

But for now, I'm going to pull her close, tell her I'm proud of who she is becoming. And then I'll snap some pictures while she runs through sprinklers with her brother and her friends because these moments do fly by and I really don't want to forget them.

What about you, fellow mommas? What has caused momma tears to flow from your eyes?


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Sunday, May 6, 2012


I never thought I'd want to have two birthday parties for one kid in one day. Turns out, it's a great alternative for our family. First up was a family party at Pagliai's Restaurant, the local pizza place that has an indoor play area. All but one of my kids' seven first cousins were there. {Kieran, the baby of the bunch, was sick ...} The literally played so hard they sweated.

Then after a brief rest time, Cate had 11 friends over for a sweet afternoon. Literally. You can't really have a Strawberry Shortcake-themed party without sweet treats. Courtney made a delicious strawberry cake. I also had lemon bars, raspberry and blueberry muffins, and strawberries, oranges, blueberries and raspberries. Oh, and leftover cookies from our earlier party.

{You do get it, right? Strawberry Shortcake's friends are Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Raspberry Tart and Orange Blossom ...}

I've probably mentioned before, but this above pictures makes me think it's worth mentioning again: My first-born child is ... well ... all first-born child. Independent. Determined. Always with plan. So, yes, she put her own candles in. I think she got some help from a couple of her friends too.

Cate picked out a picture of a cake some months ago {she's been talking about her Strawberry Shortcake cake since Ben's birthday ...} for Courtney to have as a guide. We only needed a smaller cake, so Courtney improvised some. When I showed Cate the picture Courtney texted me the day before the party, the birthday girl said, "That's even prettier than the other one."

Cate's friend Malaika sat close to me while Cate was opening presents and asked, "Is this a celebration?" I told her it was. We didn't say anything else about that, but I was thinking later about how celebration is a good word for the first weekend of May that blurs my birthday and my daughter's. There's often multiple cakes, more than one party, meals shared, cards in the mailbox that end up hanging in our kitchen, and memories made.

And, to me, that's how birthdays should be. 

When Cate opened presents, she was so enthusiastic and sincere. Earlier in the day, when she opened her gift from John, Christine and Mae Rose, her eyes got big and she said, "This is what I've been looking for." This was a nail kit with fake nails. Sure it was cute, but, really, she's been looking for this? I had no idea. But that gratefulness continued throughout the next party. "I needed new markers." {OK, so need isn't exactly the right word choice. Still, the enthusiasm is precious.} She called Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony playsets "cool." She was thankful and appreciative. And knowing her little mind, she'll remember who gave her what. 

Earlier in the week, Cate opened a birthday card from her "new Mimi" -- Katie's mom whose grandkids call Mimi -- and said, "I can't believe it! It's George Washington!" when she found a $1 bill inside. She put it in her piggy bank and I don't think I've stopped laughing. And I bet I hear the story again when we do something with the change and small bills stored in a purple, ceramic pig.

OK, so, one more present story. We gave Cate our present this morning, her actual birthday. Wrapped in a bag that somebody else gave her yesterday, she pulled it out and said, "A real camera. It's perfect!" And then she went over and snapped a close-up picture of the suitcase Gran-Gran gave her yesterday.

No, birthday are not about presents. But they are worth celebrating because they mark our lives. And for this 5-year-old life I'm particularly grateful.


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Cate is 5. Really.

She wanted this gift bow in her hair ...

Dear Catherine Anna,

Something about turning 5 seems big. You must think so too because you've been talking about it for months. Literally. And today is the day. You're 5.

Five years ago, I finally became a momma. The process proved God's faithfulness. But being your momma has changed me day after day. We don't share a shred of DNA, but you're so much like me. We like plans. We like to know what's coming next. We ask lots of questions. We love our friends, but sometimes we need our space. We like to go on trips. We get frustrated when other people think we're wrong. We are big sisters. We're both first-week-of-May babies. We like to make crafts.

Living life with you by my side has made me stronger. It's also helped me let go and experience life now. In the moment. You make me laugh. You make me want to remember every story you tell {and, trust me, there are many stories!}. You make every adventure better.

And you are 5.


These past five years have flown by. We love your birthmom, not only for what she did for us but for who she is, how she handled herself in what was a hard time for her, and the time we spent with her.

I remember holding you in my arms in the early morning hours of Monday, May 7, 2007, like it was yesterday. Technically, that's the day after you were born, but you were about 7 hours old. It was the middle of what is usually my night. You had been cleaned and monitored and weighed and tested. The nurse handed you to me and left a cart with diapers, wipes, and bottles filled with formula.

And I knew God orchestrated our family perfectly. I had fed few babies and changed fewer diapers. Yet I was at peace with you in my arms. I haven't been the same since.

You're eager to try to new things. This year it's been ballet and now t-ball. You're signed up for basketball camp and then kindergarten. You don't understand why summer break exists. You ask profound questions about heaven and the Trinity. You make friends wherever you go. You remember. Oh, how you remember. Just the other day you were talking about falling off a swing when you were 2 -- a true story we haven't talked about in a very long time.

Skirts and "soft pants" are your wardrobe preferences. I can't even remember the last time you wore jeans. You like to wear sparkly dress shoes and flip flops. We're in an awkward stage of growing out part of your bangs that were cut too far back some time ago to accommodate a self-inflicted cutting of a few random hairs a couple years ago.

You adore your brother. Sometimes he intrudes upon your space and your bucket of dolls and their small accessories, but you lead the way for him. And he follows. That's the way you are. You're a leader. You're brave. You're sweet. You're joyful. You sing songs, often ones you make up yourself, and dance around. And sometimes you thank God for Donte Poole.

Happy birthday, baby girl. I'm so blessed to be your momma.


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Thursday, May 3, 2012

33 on the third

I may be 33 years old today. But I really am still all about celebrating my birthday. And this one is particularly great because I'm turning 33 on the third, and three is my favorite number. {Nerdy, I know!} Thing is, I don't just like my own birthday; I like birthdays of the people I love too. That's probably why I love sharing the first week of May with my girl.

She turns 5 on Sunday, but our birthdays are usually intertwined. And I'm happy to share, especially with her. Actually, it's birthday season at our house. Greg's birthday was 11 days ago, meaning all three of ours are within two weeks. Ben has been repeating what I told him about his birthday: "My birthday far away." Yes, that's one way to describe November.

We started the day with breakfast that I didn't have to cook.

Of course, my day has involved trying to tame this. The boy. Not his hair.

Courtney surprised me with an entire chocolate peanut butter cake.

It's been a day as sweet as that cake. It's also been a day that involves normal life. Like I told Katie in the second phone-tag voice mail I left her, doesn't everyone want to go to Kroger on their birthday? Well, OK, maybe not. But grocery shopping is part of what I do. And I'm thankful I am able to do that because it means I have a family to feed. I also bought milk at Rite-Aid {two gallons for $4.78}, picked up cookies from a bakery and later took them to Cate's preschool class for her birthday celebration there, and had an impromptu lunch with Jaclyn and her two girls.

And the day is far from over.

We have plans to meet Courtney and her kids at Dairy Queen because Noah wanted to celebrate Cate's birthday even though she decided to have a girls-only Strawberry Shortcake party. I may pass on ice cream today. But, yes, I may have a second piece of that cake. And still later Greg is taking me on a date. It's been awhile, so I'm looking forward to adult conversation, even though it's like to find its way back to topics involving our girl who is getting ready to turn 5 and our boy who has no idea he's only 2 1/2 years old.

Sharing birthdays, running errands and talking about the kids when they're not there are welcomed on my birthday because that's all part of life. And I seriously like my ordinary, everyday life. An entire cake, continuous dinging of my phone with texts and Facebook wall posts, and meals with friends that cover more than just my actual birthday are added blessings. For those and this life, I'm thankful.


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We're good.

People will ask what we've been doing or how we are. I tend to give generic answers. We're great. We've been busy. Life is good. We're having fun. All of which are true. But, still, that doesn't really capture life. Of course, not every day is walk-in-the-park easy, but when all the moments are strung together, life is indeed good.

So, here's some snapshots of our life lately.

We really like being at the lake. This view could be yours too.

One of the four of us thinks it's OK to kiss fish.

Our favorite college friend hung out with us.

Cate wrapped up ballet with a simple performance.

It's been hot. Like 90 degrees yesterday. So we went to the spray park.

What about you? How's your life, seriously?


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