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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why?

Why do we fret?  Why do we worry?
Why IN the world, Lord, do we hurry?
Where ARE we going in such a rush?
We pass by others with just a brush.

What do we miss - in all this haste?
Precious moments - we shouldn’t waste.
Questions like, “Where’s Timbuktu?”
And heartstring tugs of, “I love you.”

When they cover their little eyes,
And think they have the best disguise.
“Mommy - Can you?  Can you see me?”
Love that game, I do, believe me!

We just might miss the very fact,
A cardboard box is where it’s at!
The toys are fun for just awhile,
But smiles grow wide in a pillow pile!

“Would you rather get a bee sting, Dad?”
“Or sprayed by skunks that stink real bad?”
She wants her “monkey charms” to eat,
“How ‘bout Lucky Charms, my sweet?”

One day we’ll miss - musical beds,
A household full of sleepyheads.
“One last book, come on - just one,”
Are their words when day is done.

We’ve got the “B” word wrong, I’m guessing,
What if a Burden…was a Blessing?
An “aha” moment for someone dear,
New ways to look at life each year.

Why IN the world don’t I remember?
To trust in Him - now till December.
Worry of the past just brings tears,
Future worry just brings fears.

A reckless faith is my prayer,
Worry just makes us lose more hair.
Hurry missed moments...with our child,
I want a faith that’s big - not mild.

A faith that builds a giant ark,
Before rain clouds arrive at dark.
A faith that walks up to the sea,
And knows it WILL part – can’t we see?

Perfume to wash His weary feet,
A faith like that is hard to beat.
A faith that looks for one lost sheep,
A faith like that is one we’d keep.

Hurry and Worry are thieves by day,
Sent to steal the gift away.
The present - a gift – that’s passing by,
While we ponder, “Why, Lord, Why?”

Instead of worry - shift the focus,
Trust in Him - He invokes us.
We’ll notice when our faith grows smaller,
And take note when our child grows taller.

Patience with self - a place to start,
Patience with others - also smart.
Patience with family - an act of love,
Patience with God - faith from above.

Wise words of my dear Aunt Edie,
“God does all things – FOR me, not TO me.
What should L-I-F-E be? 
Living
In the
Framework of…
E-ter-ni-ty.”

I might still ask Him, “Why, Lord, Why?”
But these two things – I will try.
To trust when I don’t understand,
Slowing down…to hold His hand.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Aloha, Valentine!

I know, I know - it’s a tad bit late to be talking about Valentine’s Day.  But, there is method to the madness – keep reading.  Did you know that Aloha is a word in the Hawaiian language that has NUMEROUS meanings?  Aloha can be used as a greeting, a salutation and even to signify love.  Soooo…Aloha can mean hello, goodbye AND “I love ya,” so I thought I was safe in keeping the feelings alive well past Valentine’s Day!  (hee hee)

For my son’s school Valentine party, we thought it would be a fun twist to have a Valentine Luau.  The kids had just learned about the Hawaiian Islands and even what their Hawaiian name was (so, you can just call me “Hekele” for the rest of this article).  And, for all of you now wondering what YOUR Hawaiian name is, you can check it out here:  http://hawaiiannames.hisurf.com/

To really set the party mood, we had each of the students wear a lei and a name tag to sport their Hawaiian name during the party.  I didn’t think the boys would go for grass skirts, so we just skipped that part.  Anyway, we also had tabletop tiki torches to help set the scene (uhem, unlit tikis, that is).  To make the name tags more exciting, we had the students guess which name tag belonged to which student before we handed them out.

Some ancient luaus lasted for days, but we only had a hour or two to make it happen.  Whew!  Finding Hawaiian food that second graders would eat posed its own set of challenges.  Instead of a roasted pig wrapped in banana leaves, we just had Chick-fil-A nuggets and assorted fruit…ON a skewer!  That made all the difference, I assure you! 

The kids made some adorably cute “Paradise Cheeseburgers” after they feasted.  All you need is a box of Vanilla Wafers (bun), a box of chocolate mint cookies (patty), some orange icing (the cheese to glue it all together) and green-dyed sweetened coconut (lettuce).  Layer it and viola!  The kids LOVED it!  My son even said, “You know what would go GREAT with this cookie?”  (I’m thinking coconut milk or something….)  “Another cookie!” he exclaims.  Perfect.

We also had the students do a Hawaiian word search (http://www.luaupartyshop.com/images/LuauWordSearch.png) and the first two students to find ten words won a prize (so learning CAN be fun and rewarding…Mom was right!).  However, the game that got the most cheers was Hot Coconut (similar to Hot Potato, but with a real coconut).  The kiddos got in a circle and passed the coconut to the tunes of Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_DKWlrA24k&feature=relmfu.  

I was definitely ready to head to Hawaii after the party.  And, speaking of Hawaii, there is a story I’d like to share:

A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer.  Suddenly, the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, “Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.”

The man said, “Build a bridge to Hawaii, so I can drive over anytime I want.”

The Lord said, “Your request is very materialistic.  Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking.  The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific; the concrete and steel it would take; it would nearly exhaust several natural resources!  I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things.  Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify me.”

The man thought about it for a long time.  Finally, he said, “Lord, I wish that I could understand my wife.  For example, I want to know how she feels inside, what she’s thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says ‘nothing’s wrong,’ and how I can make a woman like her truly happy.”

The Lord replied, “You want two or four lanes on that bridge?”

I just love that story.  Sometimes, figuring out our significant other is like chasing that last sliver of egg shell in the bowl of cracked eggs…it seems nearly impossible.  Or some days it feels completely impossible - like we’re trying to find a sunrise in the west.  And then, of course, on other days, we just don’t want to figure them out, as if we’re Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and we’ve taken off our eyes, ears and mouth for the day.

If only we could store up enough unconditional “aloha” from Valentine’s Day to last the entire year - there should be enough affection, peace, compassion and mercy to make it through the other 364 days, right?  It sounds good, anyway.

Here are a few tools to help remind us to keep the “aloha” alive all year long:
  1. A mirror – when we look in the mirror, we see flaws, but it’s important that we truly love ourselves before we can love another.
  2. A romantic greeting card – keeping the romance alive on a random Monday in June is just as important as on Feb. 14th.
  3. Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head – it’s important to use our eyes, ears and mouth to keep the lines of communication open.
  4. A watch – we should choose the time of those tough discussions carefully.
  5. A phone charger – we can ignore the fact that our relationship needs charging, but it can cause problems down the road, if we do ignore it.
  6. Dish towel – sharing chores and household responsibilities helps to ease the daily burden and breathes new life into a relationship.  Yes, doing the dishes or laundry for someone can scream, “I love you!”
  7. Two coffee cups – making time to talk and reach decisions together helps us find outcomes we both can be happy with.
  8. Calculator – keeping an “open book (um, checkbook)” approach to our finances helps us calculate our future together. 
  9. Braided rope – when one strand is the man, one is the woman and one is God, the rope is much stronger than just two pieces of twisted rope.
  10. A picture of the Holy Family – what better model is there for our family to look up to?
  11. First aid kit – forgiveness is healing just like ointments and Band-Aids are.
  12. Blueprint – we could build a house without one, but would it be the kind of “house” that we’d want?  We need to make time for each other to build our relationship and not become strangers just passing in the night.
  13. Crucifix – Christ laid down His life for us.  True love also involves sacrifice.
  14. Bible – we should turn to the word of God for wisdom, direction and comfort in our marriage and remember to pray together.
Are there “14” tools of love for a reason?  Maybe it was just a February coincidence…or maybe not.  Well, until next time - Aloha, readers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to Sips of Sunshine!

Hey there!  I’m glad you found me here at my new blog, “Sips of Sunshine.”  I’m thrilled that I can continue sharing some sunshine with you at my new digs.  It is amazing for me to think that this blog all started with a simple conversation with God.

Back in early 2011, I said, “Hey God, it’s me, Heather.  Well, you already know that, since I knock on your door quite often…so let’s get down to the important stuff.  God, I really love to write.  I love words.  I love how words can stir something within or even be life-changing.  I feel a strong desire to write.  Use me as an instrument.  I want to write for You.”

Shortly after that, I was contacted by my friend, Dorian Speed, who was starting up a local family-friendly website and asked if I wanted to contribute a short story here and there.  “Oh, is THIS what you want me to do, Lord?  Okay.  I’m on it!” 

Then, my husband and I worked together to come up with a catchy little title for my column on her site.  I told him I envisioned the title to be fun, inviting, warm and positive.  My hope was that I could add just a little ray of sunshine to someone’s day through my words.  So, we bounced ideas back and forth and “Sips of Sunshine” came to be.

My column appeared on Dorian’s cool website up until she moved out of the area at the end of 2011.  My desire to write continued, however, and I wondered where I should go from there.  “Hey God, I’m still here and eager to write,” I prayed one day, hoping He would drop some other writing opportunity in my lap.  (If only my countless other prayers could be answered so quickly…)

So, God was indeed listening.  My mom e-mailed me that next day about a “Choose Life” poetry contest sponsored by The Manhattan Declaration http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/.  So, I wrote my poem, “A Baby Book,” and I’m excited to announce that it was chosen as the winner in the Free Style poetry category! 

Thank you again to all who supported me and voted for me during the contest.  If you’d like to read my poem, please see the comments section below.  Re-energized by the wonderful response and feedback about my poem, I felt moved to get going on my own blog.

So, here I am.  I have added my 2011 articles and they all appear in the month of February ~ 2012, if you missed them the first go around.  I will be adding some fresh new stories and poems soon.  And, while I don’t ALWAYS feel “sunshiney,” I do love Gretchen Rubin’s advice of, “Act the way you WANT to feel.”  I promise you that I’ll give it my best effort at making us all want to be the best version of ourselves.  My hope is that my words might be a beam of sunshine or provide a glow of inspiration to my readers.

Feel free to share my new blog with friends and friends of friends (Oh…just everyone!)  and sign-up to receive your “Sips of Sunshine!"  A big thank you to all who helped me tweak my blog to make it juuuust right!!!  And, I read an e-mail today that has some great reminders for all us:  “Look back and thank God.  Look forward and trust God.  Look around and serve God.  Look within and find God.” 

Looking forward to sippin’ some sunshine with you here on my blog!  You can follow along by e-mail or by RSS feed - just sign-up in the right-hand column.  My plan is to create a "Sips of Sunshine" facebook page real soon as well.  I hope you "like" it!  (And, a thank you goes out to the very best brother a girl could ask for ~ you’re my very FIRST “follower” ~ Love ya!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Beautiful You

Nine long months they waited - to see your precious face,
Little did they know - that day would be a race.
The doctor said, “There’s something not quite perfect with his heart,
We’ll need to have some tests - and that is just the start.”

That is the day they felt their life would just not be the same,
How could this be? Why should this be? Is anyone to blame?
Ten perfect little fingers, ten perfect little toes,
A perfect tiny mouth and a picture perfect nose.

“Who is this special child God has chosen just for us?”
They searched to find the answer - amongst all the fuss.
With something extra special, in your knowing eyes,
Their love for you kept growing - amidst all the “Whys?”

Several nights spent praying there - they knelt by your side,
Tears of mercy falling as they pleaded and they cried.
“Are you there, Lord? Are you listening? Please hear us, heal our son,
If anyone can make him well - we know you’re the One.”

And, yes, the Lord was listening to them that very day,
As He touched your tiny heart in His most Holy Way.
“Heart surgery won’t be needed for this special little guy,
But,” the doctor said that day, “not sure exactly why.”

But, we all knew the answer. We all knew the reason.
God had given you a chance - another day, another season.
You are a miracle to each of us - a gift of love sent down,
You teach us about love more than anyone, we’ve found.

Your arms are always open - always ready to embrace,
You love to touch our mouths - our lips, our nose, our face.
Your smile is so contagious, as you grin from ear to ear,
And, your giggle is the sweetest sound we’ll ever need to hear.

God must have really loved us to have sent you, my dear child,
A slight slant to your little eyes, with hair so cute and wild.
You teach us more than we could ever dream of teaching you,

Beautiful - perfectly perfect - perfectly, beautiful you.

What Was Gained

Imagine that you were asked to come up with a list of the most important and sentimental items you have in your home. Now, envision trying to gather that list in twenty short minutes. This is the exact scenario that Bobby and Stacey Saddler faced on Sunday, September 4, 2011 when they were forced to evacuate their home in order to escape the largest and most violent wildfire in Texas history.

The Saddlers were one of many families who lost their home to the relentless, raging blaze in Bastrop County. But, there is something that makes Bobby and Stacey unique. They are involved in the Victoria Diocese Engaged Encounter (EE) ministry and they kept their commitment as a presenting team on an EE weekend just four days after receiving word that their home was a total loss.

Bobby and Stacey have been involved in EE since 2008 and are big on giving back in areas they feel they’ll be most useful. For them, it’s more about following God’s will and being aware of their own strengths and limitations. They chose to “give back” and be involved with the Victoria EE because they loved their weekend experience as an engaged couple, along with the fact that Bobby grew up in this area.

I recently had the opportunity to communicate with Stacey through several late night e-mails. I’d like to share more of their special story with you. I asked Stacey what they were able to pack that eerie Sunday afternoon as the wind wildly danced outside their front door… “The only things we got out were one packed bag per family member (as though we were going on a short vacation), some important documents, our EE notebooks, and a box of photos.” Despite the devastation, Stacey still feels that they were “lucky,” because many of their friends were away that Labor Day weekend and weren’t able to salvage anything.

“By the time we drove out of our driveway, there were fire trucks driving down our street with lights flashing, smoke plumes billowing over our home, and the line to get out was backed up to our house (a mile into the neighborhood). It was like a scene out of an end-of-the-world-type movie. It was freaky, especially when you have a seven-year-old asking you tons of questions and looking to you for comfort. I was very afraid, but had to keep a strong face for her. I took some back roads to get around the traffic and as a mommy, I was determined to drive OVER houses if I had to, just to get my babies out of there.”

The Saddlers say there isn’t a day (or hour for that matter) that goes by that they don’t think of something that burned in their home. Stacey said that Bobby is probably most saddened about losing a growth chart they had started for their oldest daughter on a piece of trim in their sunroom in Houston. They had brought it along with them when they moved to Bastrop to mount and continue charting both of their daughters’ growth throughout the years. If only tears could have extinguished that fire…

For Stacey, it’s really not about the stuff so much, but more about the house itself. “I am kind of a homebody. I just love being in the comfort of my own home. I truly loved my home, so to lose that comfort has been difficult.” She has really had to learn to find her comfort in God because of this tragedy.

I asked them what exactly it was that made them decide to keep their commitment to the EE weekend. Stacey said, “By 1:00 pm on Monday, September 5th, I had received confirmation that our home was a total loss. As I started thinking about plans for that week and what all needed to be done, canceled, etc., I remembered we had EE that weekend. My first immediate thought was that there was no way we would go.”

Bobby and Stacey were able to take some time to talk on Tuesday. They were in absolute shock about the loss of their home and were overwhelmed. In the midst of their discussion, Bobby said, “I think we should go ahead and do EE this weekend.”

Stacey was stunned, but agreed after some thought. She said, “You’re right. There is nothing we can do in Bastrop right now and the best thing to do when you are so filled with sorrow that you don’t know what to do with yourself, is to go help someone else.”

Once the decision was made, Stacey said she experienced a sense of relief because she felt she had a purpose for that week beyond just sitting around feeling sorry for herself, her family and her friends (who also lost their homes). “It gets you out of yourself and puts you in God’s hands doing His work.” The Saddlers felt like the EE weekend was exactly where God needed and wanted them to be.

The main thing Bobby and Stacey were concerned about going into this particular EE weekend was that they didn’t want the weekend to focus in on them and the fires. They briefly mentioned their situation and welcomed the couples to talk to them during the breaks about anything (like they always do). They try to be an “open book” because they never know what part of what they share will resonate with an engaged couple on any given weekend. They wanted the main focus to remain on the engaged couples’ love for each other and building their commitment in the sacrament of marriage.

Bobby and Stacey were very surprised to find out that the engaged couples had actually received an e-mail before the EE weekend informing them of the Saddler’s situation. They came bearing donations of clothes for them and their daughters (as well as for their friends affected by the fire), toys, and gift cards. The Saddlers’ hearts swelled with thanks and gratitude at this unexpected gesture of thoughtfulness and generosity, especially since they had never met these couples until that weekend.

The Saddlers have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by all of the love and selflessness from their friends, family and especially from the wonderful people they’ve never even met. “One of the hardest lessons we have had to learn in all of this is how to receive. Bobby and I have always been on the giving end. When you enjoy being a giver, it is very hard to wake up one day and find yourself in need.”

Stacey said, “One of the things that I explained to Bobby when we first started receiving donations from people, was that God wants us to become humble enough to receive just as He wants us to be selfless enough to give. What that meant to us at the time was that we needed to accept the fact that we were at a place where we were truly in need (if only temporarily) and we needed to humble ourselves to accept others’ offerings with grace and gratitude.”

Bobby and Stacey have seen God’s hand at work through the remarkable people they have come in contact with throughout this ordeal. The outpouring of genuine care and love from “friends of friends of friends” is breath-taking. “This has strengthened our commitment to God and other people. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing human race. When it comes to hard times, God’s people really show up and it’s awesome!”

The Saddlers will forever hold a special place in their hearts for the extended EE family and the engaged couples present during that weekend. As always, they said they got just as much out of the EE weekend as the engaged couples attending it did.

For the Saddlers, one of the most memorable and heart-tugging moments during the EE weekend was when several of the couples approached them and shared that the Saddlers’ simply being there after such a tragedy completely changed the future of their marriage and the commitment they would make to each other. Can you imagine the joy? Someone’s mere PRESENCE changing another’s life…forever! Miraculous and awe-inspiring to say the very least.

When asking the Saddlers how they felt about the first trip back to their home after the fires, this is what they said… “We were allowed back in our neighborhood on Thursday, September 15th, nine days after it was declared a total loss. It was surreal and we were numb. The area looks as though it was air bombed and we have dubbed it ‘the war zone.’”

Where Bobby and Stacey’s home once stood, there is now only rubble, ashes and soot. Nothing to rummage through. Nothing. “There are so many mixed emotions – sadness, mourning, frustration, anger, excitement (the adrenaline/get-stuff-done kind-of-excitement), delirium, numbness and every other emotion under the sun.”

So much was lost because of the vicious, destructive, roaring wildfires.

But, ironically, much was gained.

A Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman said of the Bastrop State Park, “Once it starts raining again, the pine trees will come back and it will probably be more verdant than ever before.” This makes me think of the Saddlers and the impact of that decision they made on Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

What was gained from that unselfish decision to attend the EE weekend, despite their recent loss? FAITH - An increased faith in God for the Saddlers and all those around them. COMMITMENT - An increased commitment to marriage in all of the lives touched by their presence during the EE weekend. LOVE - An increased love for all God’s people who step up to the plate in times of crisis to help, support, love and pray for those who need them.

There is no doubt in my mind that as love continues to rain down on the Saddlers from family, friends, the engaged couples and the EE family, they too will come back, like the pines, and be stronger than ever before! Thank you for your example of self-sacrifice, faith, commitment and couple love, Bobby and Stacey. Thank you.

The Power of P4

October is a great month to honor and remember all those women who have battled or are battling cancer. It’s also the perfect time for me to share a story about a beautiful person, both inside and out…

If you think back for a moment to January 2010, most of us were making (or breaking) New Year’s resolutions and reminiscing about all of our Christmas fun with friends and family. But, during that same time, one 35 yr. old woman was receiving the heart-breaking news that she had Stage 2 invasive ductile breast cancer.

Holly Birmingham was my son’s teacher that year and I recently had the chance to sit down with her again to talk about her journey. Holly said that the devastating news didn’t seem real at first. Initially, her worst fear was having to undergo chemo and lose her hair. Then, she sadly wondered if she would even live to raise her children, Karli, 10, and Cody, 7.

Like most cancer patients, Holly had to undergo chemo and radiation. She endured sixteen weeks of grueling chemo and thirty-one radiation treatments. But two of the many things that made Holly special, in my eyes, were that she only missed thirty days of school and never seemed to forget her contagious smile at home. Twenty selfless teachers each generously gave Holly a day of their precious vacation time so that she wouldn’t have to take unpaid time off. So, the gift of time here speaks volumes.

I asked Holly how she got through her darkest days and she said, “I got through my toughest days with my mom praying by my side with me and for me. It also helped to have a supportive dad, who was willing to give everything he had to help me pay for my treatments and surgeries. He was always there to lift me up and love me.”

Holly said that pulling herself out of bed on even the roughest mornings to come to school and teach her students was healing in itself. She shared that teaching her students helped her take her mind off of the treatments. Her classroom was the only place where things were still “normal” for her. She said she was blessed that year with a wonderful class and their sweet, innocent smiles brightened her days.

A second grader now, Myra, recalls her kindergarten year with Ms. Birmingham battling cancer. “I didn’t think [of] her being sick because she still taught me every single letter of the alphabet,” said Myra. “The subs were nice, but I loved her the most.” Holly said that all of the teachers and staff were always there to support her as well.

On the day Holly finished her last treatment, her daughter surprised her with a cookie bouquet that she had saved for and purchased with her own money. Holly and her family also took a trip to Colorado to celebrate. In August 2011, when many of us were gearing up for another school year, Holly was gearing up for a beautiful new chapter in her life – one that was cancer-free again. She received word on August 1, 2011, that she had officially beat cancer.

Through all of this, Holly said, “I’ve realized that life is precious and you live each day to the fullest. I also learned that you can’t worry about the small stuff. You learn to treasure and make the most of every moment you do have with your children and family.”

When asked how she was able to “thrive” instead of merely “survive” the ordeal, Holly said she owes the strength to God. She also knew, as a single parent, that her two children were relying on her and depended on her. When a mother is able to dig down deep and find it within herself to keep giving when there doesn’t seem to be anything else left to give – that’s a mom with the Power of P4.

What is P4? It stands for PINK, PRAYER, PEOPLE and being POSITIVE. All of the things Holly mentioned that helped her beat cancer fell into these categories:

PINK – Her automatic e-mail signature is signed in pink on purpose – a daily reminder of her courageous strength. Pink is for the amazing determination of all women who have battled or are battling cancer. Pink also reminds us to continue supporting cancer research.

PRAYER – Holly puts her faith in God. When she doubted, she remembered that when there was only one set of footprints, that was when He carried her.

PEOPLE – Holly’s children, family and friends were there for her. They even organized a benefit in June 2010 to help Holly with her medical expenses. They were there to listen…to love…to lean on.

Being POSITIVE – Holly said that keeping a positive attitude was crucial – “Act the way you want to feel.” I was constantly mesmerized (still am) by Holly’s ability to keep her spirits high. I’m quite certain that teaching a room full of five year olds involves some challenging days from time to time. But wiping tears was something she lovingly did for them, instead of the reverse.

When Holly’s daughter, Karli, was asked in school to write about the person she admired most, it’s not surprising that she chose her mom. Karli wrote, “I admire her because she’s the kindest person I know. Not only is she the kindest person, but she’s the strongest person I know. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and was still strong for me and my brother, Cody. No matter how bad she felt or if she was weak, she was always there. While she was going through her cancer, my mom and dad got a divorce, which was really hard on us. I think about her everyday. These are the reasons I admire my mom the most.”

The white snow that blanketed the earth during Holly’s Brackenridge vacation was refreshing and renewing, as it reminded her of how she too was “blanketed” in the Power of P4 during her journey with cancer. We are inspired by you, Holly, and all women who look cancer directly in the eyes and battle it with all their heart and soul. Thank you for being you!

Who is Training Who?

Ahhhhhh…potty training. I can’t decide who is really training who with our third go at booty duty. Our first child had a good ole round of rotovirus at age two and that easily convinced our son that the potty was a better option than Mr. Droopy Diapers. Our independent middle one decided that using the big girl potty was just the thing to do and practically potty trained herself. Our third little stinker (pun intended) – well, she just can’t be bothered.

Of course, there are a bazillion and one ways to “train” your child. One of the ways is to go cold turkey, where one day it’s diapers and the next is undies (and lots of time on your hands and knees – yes, praying that they’ll “get it,” but also cleaning up pee and poo off the floor). I tried this – a feeble one-day-attempt, but I did try. Mimi bought her some adorable Tinkerbell panties and I was convinced she wouldn’t want to get them wet. Wrong.

That “cold turkey” day, I went through the whole pack of fairies and not a single one of those tiny gals stayed dry. I also cleaned up several “little presents” out of the hallway and off the bathroom floor (VERY, VERY close to the potty at least, so an “E” for effort). I guess I wasn’t determined enough, so we went back to diapers (I know, I know – Mom of the Year Award coming my way soon).

Another route folks might take is Pull-ups or other training pants. But, the pulling up and pulling down isn’t quite as fun when you don’t realize that your child actually ALREADY went poo and you yank those suckers off real quick and the poo goes ALL the way down their legs. Nice.

Some parents may even get so tired of the training process that they attempt to leave one of those handy dandy “overnight” diapers on all day just to see if they really hold 27 lbs. like it says on the package. Kidding. Kind of. Some mommies and daddies just get worn out from asking, “Do you need to go potty?” like 200 times every hour. It can be a VERY long day.

One option is something my son tried in order to help our daughter get excited about going on the potty. He tried to slowly whisper things like, “This is your conscience speaking. You really, really want to go on the potty.” It didn’t work, but I truly love him for trying.

Some may try “potty candy,” which may or may not get them to go, depending on the kiddo. We’ve used this, too, and then I thought – hmm….food in the bathroom…not sure what lesson we have goin’ on here, but, nevertheless, we’ve definitely purchased enough candy to get a nice cavity, at the very least.

There is even a lady out there known as “The Potty Whisperer” who can potty train your child in a day. Well, there is a fee, but hey. It’s an interesting concept and supposedly she has nearly five hundred “graduates!” I jotted down her number just in case.

The "bottom" (hee hee) line of all this potty talk is that there aren’t many adults walking around untrained, so don’t fret and sweat the small stuff. Potty training is just another season of mommyhood and this season too shall pass. My baby won’t start Kinder in diapers. She actually likes wearing the truck training pants that I grabbed because they were out of the pink butterfly ones the other day. We’ll try again next week. Or maybe the week after next. Well…sometime this year for sure!

Hands

Have you ever stopped to look at your hands? Sure, we notice the extra “wisdom” wrinkles from time to time (that’s what those extra creases are, you know) or how cracked and dry they might be, but I’ve been thinking lately about what our hands truly stand for - how they love, serve, work and comfort.

Our hands are present for some very significant events, particularly during two life-changing moments – “Will you marry me?” and “We’re having a baby!” Hands reached out to embrace our fiancĂ© as a new ring adorned them after the first question, while they yearned to hold our spouse with the second piece of miraculous news.

We use the word “hand(s)” for so many things – “Hand it over!” “Can you give me a hand with that?” “Give him a hand, folks!” “I have to hand it to her…” “Hands down – that’s the best one!” “He’s such a handy fella (well, that’s close enough…) and “It’s not in our hands.” Finally, if while taking your child to school for the first time, he/she wouldn’t hold your hand, gently remind yourself that they’ll always hold your heart.

When we follow a passion (like a kid who can’t resist that urge to dive into a pillow pile), the transitions from “I like to write” to “I’m a writer”, “I like to run” to “I’m a runner”, “I like to paint” to “I’m a painter”, “I like to teach” to “I’m a teacher”, “I like to dance” to “I’m a dancer” and “I like to build” to “I’m a builder” just happen. It’s in our hands to add the zeal that adds the “er.”

I think what brought the most attention to hands for me is an amazing exchange that is done during a marriage preparation retreat. The lights are low, while candles are gently dancing in the dark. The engaged couples face each other and the following passage is slowly read to them…(I wish I was able to give credit to an author because there is always lots of sniffles in the crowd after this…)

(Woman takes man’s hands in hers) “These hands, young and strong, vibrant with love, are the hands that will hold yours on your wedding day. Are you ready to promise to love him all the days of your life? These hands may appear large and clumsy and rough, yet do you not find them gentle enough to hold you close?

These hands will work long and hard. Are you ready to work together with his hands to make your house a home and your children a family? These hands care for you. Will you allow them to wipe tears from your eyes - tears of joy and tears of sorrow?

These hands are the hands of comfort and acceptance. Will you want them to hold you when fear and grief rack your mind? These are the hands that wish to embrace you throughout the years. Are you ready to allow them to make the wonders of love come alive?

(Man takes woman’s hands in his) These are the hands that pledge love for you. Are you ready to place your ring on them on your wedding day? These are the hands that are young and smooth and careful in their love for you right now. Will you still want to hold them when they are old and wrinkled and burdened with the years?

These are the hands that wish to hold you tight. Will you accept them when everyone else has left you alone? These are the hands that are caring. Will you let them change the dirty diapers, bandage the scraped knees and pamper your grandchildren?

These are the hands that have concern for you. Do you want them to massage tension from your tired neck and back at the end of a long, hard day? These are the hands of love. Will you let them care for you in the passion of love throughout the years?

These are the hands of comfort. Will you let them hold your face and wipe away your tears when you don’t understand why things happen? These hands are yours to love. Are you ready for this?”

And, in such a time of reflection with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the relentless blaze in Central Texas, I have to stop and think of the many hands out there helping and serving others they’ve never even met before, working endless hours to rebuild, holding others close in mourning and the countless hours spent folded in prayer. I will never look at hands the same, as they reach out and embrace this life.

Surprise!

Life can be full of some big and not so big surprises. And thanks to children, many parents get to experience little surprises everyday. For one, I am always surprised at how important the “presentation” actually is. My youngest won’t touch a whole banana, but cut it into circles and she’s ready for a competitive eating contest. And, did you know that sandwiches taste oodles better when cut into squares instead of triangles? My older daughter swears by it.

We are pleasantly surprised when our children greet us in the morning and confidently declare, “We’re going to be nice today.” Like that morning song that replays in our head all day, it fascinates me to think that our day will be, what we decide it will be, first thing in the morning. Our day certainly may be full of different feelings – ups and downs, happiness and tiredness, madness and gladness. But, there is something we “feel” that isn’t really a “feeling” at all. It’s love. I’m finally understanding that real love is surprisingly, a decision, and not a feeling that changes with our moods.

It’s also surprising to me how closely our every move is studied by our kids. The other day, my daughter told her daddy and me that she had written our names down and would let us know if we got a check mark or an “aaanh” mark (like a basketball buzzer…a miss…a no-go…a try-better-next-time) by the end of the day. Really, really?!

I’ve also found that surprisingly short sentences are way better than long ones when trying to corral kids into a car. Instead of, “Hey kids, it’s time to get going. Be sure to go to the bathroom, get your shoes on and get into the car, blah, blah, blah,” I say, “Potty. Shoes. Car. Potty. Shoes. Car.” That just seems to work better for us.

Delicious surprises also come to mind. Donna and Val are theme-party-queens! They’re just so good at it! I always secretly wish I was a little kid at the birthday parties they throw because I SERIOUSLY WANT ONE OF THOSE GOODIE BAGS! Anyway.

At my godson’s party, Donna made lemonade with fresh blueberries at the bottom…mmmmm…what a decadent surprise. Drinking out of the flamingo straws at her daughter’s party just made me feel so darn fancy…I had to lift my pinky high in the air to finish that punch! And the cakes…oh, don’t get me started on those amazing cakes! After Val’s son’s party, I sported my kids’ Mickey Mouse ears and created with those Mickey-shaped crayons all evening long…and savored every colorful minute!

And, then there are things that just…catch us by surprise. I remember the day I felt the sting of a line drive in my mouth instead of a glove. I also vividly recall that early spring morning when Deana and I “kidnapped” my good friend, Kim, and took her to Denny’s in her pj’s for a birthday surprise. And, if a friend surprises you after she generously coats her kissers in “Chapstick” (in the dark), be sure to tell her that you still love her rodeo-clown-self despite the fact that she had actually grabbed her rockin’ red “lipstick.”

Some surprises even give us reason to slow it down a notch. My hubby was surprised to find a snake wrapped up in the handle of the barn door as he hurriedly went to check on one more thing that morning. He has also vowed to stop doing moonlight gardening after a nasty encounter with a black widow. And, I’m finding out that the more you try to rush kids, the more “turtle speed” they go.

Finally, there are surprises that give us the opportunity to reflect (or check out our reflection, at least). Living outside the city limits provides the chance to see some, um, wildlife, I guess you could say. I wasn’t sure who was knocking at our glass front door that day back in ‘05, but was extremely surprised to see that our guest had horns…big ones! Where do a two year old and a mom with a growing belly hide from a ram who is aggressively charging its reflection on the front porch? In a dark closet with a phone to call your awesome neighbor, Karen, for help!

And, yes, there was that other surprising day when a peacock charged my car again and again while looking at its reflection. I vowed never to wash my car after that. That stinkin’ car was too clean! Well, that’s the reason I tell my hubby for not washing it more often…love you, honey!

We all peek in the mirror at least once a day, right? (Or, if you have a newborn…at least once a week?) On a regular basis, we search for random black facial hairs, gray hairs, eye boogies, regular boogies, dried toothpaste, dry skin, and blemishes. Would there be any surprises if the mirror would allow us to catch a glimpse of what’s underneath?

The Experience

Some familiar smells captured my nose’s attention one afternoon and I went to scope it out. Like any practiced detective, it didn’t take me long to find my missing bone. The bathroom door was closed and locked, with the “child-proof” doorknob cover on the floor…so, I knew I must be getting “warmer” in my search. I knocked on the door.

“Hey! Who’s in there?” I inquire.

“No one,” she replies.

“What is “no one” doing in there and what do I smell?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she responds.

I convinced “no one” to open up so I could see what type of nothingness was going on. “No one” (the new name of my 4 year old) was standing there without her shirt on, greasy hair, with her hands behind her back looking, well, very guilty-ish.

After some interrogation (she does not give in easily), I pieced together the clues and found that she had slathered her pits with Daddy’s deodorant (loves that daddy!), painted her fingers (fingers, not fingernails) with an assortment of my polish (had a fun time at the mother-daughter-mani-pedi, I’m guessin’), and used WAAAY too much Biosilk to tame the tangles (loves to do what Mommy does). So, this Detective Momma got a “Gotcha” badge and “no one” immediately got out of the bathroom. I was very careful not to let her see the grin behind my scowl.

A few days later, I was putting my 2 year old to bed and sniffed an array of fruity flavors – hairspray and starfruit-strawberry-mango, maybe? My sniffer also told me that it was coming from my little girl’s curls. Yep, and I’m certain that “no one” had something to do with it. So, I just closed my eyes, imagined I was savoring some mouth-watering fruit on a beach somewhere and rocked her for a few more minutes.

Sometimes, a smell is something we have to experience ourselves. It would be difficult for someone to describe it to us, unless we’ve smelled it once before. Smells can also take us back to a specific memory.

My mom said that you might remember “High Karate” or “English Leather” cologne if you were a teen in the 60’s. That smell takes her back to the good ole days of two-steppin’ the night away. My Aunt Edie said that the smell of magnolias is simply intoxicating to her. I love the smell of dryer sheets (especially if it’s someone else doing the laundry – hee hee) and baby lotion. My husband loves the smell of freshly cut grass and my son, well, he said…(wait for it, wait for it)…he likes the smell of fish guts (LOVES to fish, that boy!). My daughter, on the other hand, prefers the smell of pink bubble gum. Each smell is so different, yet the experience tied to it is oftentimes enjoyable.

Our family is fond of smelling an evening breeze, so we enjoy taking walks together. We usually laugh or learn something along the way. My 4 year old told us on one walk that when she’s a mom, she will have her kids eat two carrots before they have candy, leave the light on all night and teach them to share. We then asked her if she’d share a few of her fruit snacks with her sister and she informed us that she wasn’t a mom yet.

We also share jokes. “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Olive. Olive who? Olive you!” Awwww. “How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie in it!” Why in the world do we always laugh at booger jokes? I have no idea. Anyway.

We like to wrap up our walks with the Popsicle mystery game. Sitting in lawn chairs in the driveway, the kids close their eyes and try to guess the flavor after their first lick. So, for us, the smell of evening air will forever be associated with a memorable experience.

Similar to a smell that we have to experience to appreciate…each time someone says, “Oh, I just can’t explain them to you…you’ll just have to meet them…” - they’re talking about the “experience” of you! What will “the experience” be?

Take a T.R.I.P.

My hubby and I took a road trip to the Hill Country in early July to celebrate our anniversary. The ride there was so enjoyable – we listened (and sang along with…loudly) to many songs (specifically those that didn’t help us learn our ABC’s or 123’s), had some uninterrupted conversation and reminisced on our eleven years of marriage. We even had some beautiful quiet time with just the tires humming on the blacktop and the sound of the A/C blastin’ (It’s so hard to hear those things with, uhem, our usual “background noise” coming from rows two and three.)

We arrived at our little getaway a couple hours after check-in (it takes awhile to get the kiddos packed and dispersed among the grandparents…who I am SOOOO incredibly thankful for, oh by the way!) There was a note on the office door of the bed and breakfast with a few numbers to call when we wanted to check-in. Hmmm. Interesting. After leaving voice mails on three different phones, I wasn’t certain of my “first impression” quite yet.

The innkeeper called back within fifteen minutes and explained that she had left her 14-yr. old son in charge while she ran to check on another property. So, we just hung out in the classy lounge and waited for her to arrive. Now, if we would have had our kiddos WITH us, that fifteen minutes might have seemed like fifteen hours and she might have actually paid us (to leave), but we were in “chill mode” on this trip, so nooooo prob.


We got our room key and went to check it out. It looked very inviting and relaxing, except I wasn’t so sure how comfy the bed would actually be without sheets or pillowcases? What?! Yes, I think the same son at the front desk was in charge of our linens as well. The poor owner apologized and quickly came with the softest sheets known to man – good things DO in fact come to those who wait! Oh, did I mention that the owner was a single mom of six children ranging in age from 14 to 20 years old (with a set of triplets in there)? Yeah, so we didn’t complain about a thing! ;-)


We had a chance to take a long walk on a nature trail beside Cypress Creek. We couldn’t help but notice the grand cypress trees outlining it – they must have been hundreds of years old! And, the majestic roots were simply amazing on these woody treasures. So, since I’m always thinking and it was an anniversary trip, I couldn’t help but compare marriage to these magnificent trees.

The trees started out as seeds so small and over time, could now withstand most of nature’s greatest forces. If we take the time to build strong “roots” in our own marriage, our love, too, is sure to grow deeper and stronger with each passing year…strong enough to withstand all the forces against it.


We recently heard that the real “Give 100% Rule,” as it applies to marriage, is more 120/80 or 40/160 because there will be times that one will “give” more than the other and the other spouse will need someone to lean on. We can’t give what we don’t have. As we looked closer at the cypress trees, some of them even leaned a little, too.

In addition to this tree parallel, marriage could also be compared to a white water trip. There will be rapids - the fast-paced-run-here-run-there part of our lives. And, there will be boulders that we come upon unexpectedly, without warning, and have to maneuver together. Finally, there are the calm pools that allow us the time to regroup and reconnect.

How can we start to build these “roots?” Take a trip every week with that special someone. What?! Are you a crazy woman?! No, not a road trip, boat trip, train trip or even plane trip. Well, heck, if you have the moola – go for it! But, I’m talking about a “T.R.I.P.” T – share with our spouse why we are thankful for them R – reflect on all the reasons we love them I - discuss areas that could use a little “tweaking” or um, improvement in the relationship P - pray and plan the next T.R.I.P.! Happy traveling…oh, and if there’s a “flat” along the way, repair it as soon as you can and get back on the road! Kiddos really love to see a happy mommy and daddy!

Icing on the Cake

Which song will always stop a kid in their tracks and bring a smile to their face? The first hint is that it’s the most sung English song. The second hint is that it was written in 1893 by two teachers. Patty Smith Hill wrote the lyrics and her sister, Mildred J. Hill, composed the melody for it. The song was originally “Good Morning to All,” before the words were changed. Okay, okay, enough of the suspense. Why, it’s the world-famous “Happy Birthday” song! I never knew the history behind that little four-line ditty!

My kids love to play “birthday” over and over, months after their birthday has come and gone. I can’t blame ‘em. Who wouldn’t want to keep that special feeling alive? We typically have an assortment of random cake plates and napkins left from past parties, so it works out. They just round up the needed party goods – a John Deere plate, a Hello Kitty napkin, a “You’re ONE!” party hat, a princess cup and they’re set! They gather ‘round the Leap Frog cake toy and the singin’ begins!

Technically, you could just put a candle on a breakfast pancake, a sandwich at lunch or a roll at supper and sing your heart out whenever you please. That’s just what you and the fam might need on certain days – a good ole round of “Happy Birthday to You!” My youngest likes to sing, “Happy Birthday to ME,” instead and that works, too, if you happen to be a party of one that day. Technically, today IS a gift – maybe that’s why we call it “THE PRESENT?” I’m just sayin’.

We have several family birthdays in the summer, including this momma’s, so my children like to talk about things they could get me. “Hey Mom, you know what would be a GREAT gift?” asks my daughter. “A color bow! Actually, we all could wear them in our hair and they could change colors to match our mood. Like, it could turn red when we’re mad, yellow when we’re happy and blue when we’re sad.” Hmmm…now, there’s an idea. Especially, since I’m not certain what version of her I’ll get when she bursts out of her room like Kramer each morning. Some of us do mornings…some of us don’t.

Another cool gift they mentioned was “magic sprinkles.” They thought it would be fabulous to be able to sprinkle them on me so I could grow octopus arms. I guess that’s because I’m always trying to explain to them how I DON’T have eight arms to get their dinner requests for a napkin, something to drink, more spaghetti, another piece of bread, more Ranch dressing and the list goes on. So, “magic sprinkles” sounds quite enticing.

I think a little book of how to read a four-year old’s mind would be a thoughtful gift, too. So, then, when my daughter asks me to solve her riddle as to why on earth there is a soapy water-soaked towel on the floor and water in the toothpaste tube, I will know the answer.

“You don’t really want anything for your birthday, Mom, do you?” asks my son. “You just want us to be good that day, right?” “Yes. Yes, that is exactly what I want, son. No arguing, no bickering, no taking things from each other, no tattle-telling,” I respond reflectively.

I remember wanting different things for my birthday as a child – some neon shoe laces, a pair of roller skates with a cover that had a poofy ball, a belt with my name on the back (yep, I sure did!), a jam box, scratch-n-sniff stickers, a Cabbage Patch doll and a pet monkey (seriously), just to name a few. But, now, a peaceful day with my kiddos singin’ “Happy Birthday to You!” would be just perfect. And, (if you’re reading this, hubby), some take-out Mexican food for supper, would just be…icing on the cake!

Counting Rainbow Sheep

“I’m thirsty!” she hollers.

“I need to go to the bathroom again!” he yells.

“NO bed!” the little one screams.

“Can you cover me up again?” he asks.

“Would you read just one more book, PU-LEEEAASE?” she begs.

“Can you leave the light on?” she requests.

“I…have…one…more…question…”

And the ritual goes on like it does every night. I asked the kids to count sheep one evening to divert their attention from the norm. I challenged the older two to see how many sheep they could get over their fence before they fell asleep. A random miracle occurred. They liked the idea and were immediately quiet. The next morning, my son said his sheep were white and got thirty over. My daughter said hers were rainbow colored and didn’t remember how many made the jump. My guess is five or less. She was super duper tired, but it’s just hard to fall asleep while you’re flip-flopping around like a fish out of water, ya know?!

Just to get some shut-eye on a weekend or day off, some moms and dads might even play a good ole game of hide-n-seek with their kiddos. Well, not the typical hide-n-seek you may remember. This is the one where you say, “No, REALLY, go hide. I’ll come find you...in an hour or so,” as you mumble under your breath. Hey - sometimes moms and dads are just desperate, you know? Countless new parents are sleep-walking out there in broad daylight every single day!

Who hasn’t wished they could just turn back the clock an hour or two to get a few more zzz’s? And, as drastic (and horribly inconvenient) as it may sound, you might have even secretly wished that your satellite or cable would go out for a few hours or that your phone would mysteriously not work for a day. Or, maybe that your internet would be down for just a bit so that you would have no choice but to…well…chill, without all the noise?

We all crave some R & R right about now as we taste the warm, salty breezes of summertime on our lips. Many of us are going on little getaways with the fam – setting aside some time to unwind, make memories and slow it down a notch. That’s the goal, anyway, right?

Matthew Kelly made an interesting point in his book, “The Rhythm of Life.” He said that we are “human beings,” not “human doings.” “Relationships don’t thrive under the pressures of our modern-day schedules. All of life’s important relationships thrive under the condition of carefree timelessness. Learn to waste some time with the people you love.” We have countless time-saving devices, but still no one has time? It’s seems a little crazy, really.

Kelly also touted the three great friends of silence, solitude and simplicity as being the keys to allowing our spirits to soar. A wonderful analogy of his is this:

Great musicians know the power of rest. In music, the rests are just as important as the notes. Great public speakers also know this. They know that their pauses are as powerful as their words. In life, it’s much the same. The rests are as important as the activity. The silence is just as important as the noise. The rests make our activity more effective, efficient and powerful and the silence makes all the noise more meaningful.

So, in between jaunts from here to there, work, family gatherings, summer camps and activities, let’s also sprinkle in some carefree timelessness with those we love. Devoting some time to the “classroom of silence,” as Kelly suggests, could probably be one of our best decisions, as well. It is in the silence that we sometimes learn the most.

As for me, tonight I’m counting rainbow sheep. I’m certain it will go a little something like this: “One sheep, two sheep, three sheep…SNORE!”

Daddyland

I would be remiss to leave out the daddies on their special day, so let’s talk about days in Daddyland. He answers to…“Daddy,” “Dad,” “Dada,” “Daaa-aaaad!,” “Daddio,” and “Daddylook, Daddylook!” just to name a few. And, he gets to answer cool questions like, “How thin are layers of skin? Will boiling water put a fire out? Can you cry underwater? Why do toasters have a burnt setting? Does the Puddy Tat ever get Tweety? Does Tom ever get Jerry? Does Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same melody as the ABC Song?” (go ahead and sing it…I did it, too)

My youngest knows that all familiar jingle of her daddy’s keys (you know everyone’s keys have a unique sound, right? Try it.) She bolts to the door hollering his name the second he comes home. Then, it’s a bazillion questions from the kids before he puts down his wallet and changes into “play clothes” (their term for clothes that memories are made in). “Dad, wanna throw the football?” “Daddy, I painted a picture – can you take it to work and hang it on your wall?” “Dada – lay down, lay down!”

My kiddos just want to spend time with their Daddy, because that is when time stands still. They love it when he has the day off. They hang on to everything he does and every word he says. And, while he’s demonstrating a perfect football spiral, it’s a great opportunity to throw in some advice on handling spirals in life, too.

Daddies have such an important role. Most kids want their daddy to be involved, play with them, ask them questions about their day, respect and honor their mom and hang up their artwork (however abstract it may be). If I teach ‘em how to make cookies, then Daddy can show ‘em how to dunk ‘em in milk. We aim for teamwork in the Kallus house.

Daddy teaches them the value of money, despite the money tree I insisted we plant in the Spring – hee hee. A prime example of the “keep it till it breaks” rule is his ’95 pick-up truck. That old thing hasn’t been washed in years, so it better rain soon. We don’t really know what color is underneath the dust layers. I can only imagine the stories that truck would tell if it could. With no A/C, heat, DVD or CD player, talking is a really good way to pass the traveling time. Good ole communication at its very best!

Some of life’s rules are discussed in daddy’s truck. “Keep your words soft, in case you have to eat them. Your smile is the most important thing you wear. The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge. Your word is something you can give AND keep. Great ideas don’t work unless you do. The Ten Commandments aren’t multiple choice. Pray.”

Daddy also teaches patience and determination, even while playing NASCAR 2011 on the Wii. That gift was originally for our son, but we’re almost certain Daddy is enjoying the roar of the race just as much (if not more). “Gentlemen…start…your…engines!” is now as common as “hello” around our home.

Because Daddy spends the last few hours of daylight with the kids, he goes out to do his stuff at the barn when it’s dark. I grin when I look out the window and see his little headlight attached to his hat dancing around like a firefly in the night. I think about the day and a thought hits me.

For the longest, we haven’t figured out why our youngest says, “Wanna go home,” while we’re…AT home. We asked her, “Where IS home?” and she points to the living room. Then, when Daddy comes in and sits down on the floor, she cuddles up on his chest and smiles. I get it now. “Home” is her Daddy’s arms. “Home” is…Daddyland. Happy Father’s Day!

Ready...Set...Grocery Store!

In between gas tanks and love tanks, we have a few more things to fill - fridges, freezers and pantries. Going grocery shopping with my kids frightens me, frankly.

Knowing that I will be overwhelmed, I plan ahead. The night before, I make a list. I divide it into categories, put a “c” by the items I have coupons for and organize it according to the store lay-out to make my adventure go smoothly (in theory). Cheesy, I know. Then, I pray for stamina.

My problem is that I always wait until I only have five green beans, three teaspoons of ketchup and two chicken nuggets left in the entire house before I go. Hence…the scary part – the amount of time it takes to re-stock for five, as well as that total on the receipt.

The next morning, the sun is up and so are the kids. They appear to be in relatively cheery moods. I’m feeling optimistic. I serve them a hearty breakfast (this tidbit will be important for when you start to wonder later if I ever feed them). We head to the store. List – check. Purse – check. Coupons – check.

We start down the baby aisle and my youngest immediately spots the snacks. NACK, NACK, NACK! My patience level is still high at this point and I’m feeling relatively calm. I still have tons to get, so I give in and grab the strawberry yogurt melts. My other daughter sees a little box of goldfish crackers on the end-cap and is instantaneously starving (clever location, Mr. Grocery, very clever!). I grab it and have now crossed two items off my list. I’m feeling good about my progress. Woo-hoo!

A short ten minutes later, I’ve cleaned up goldfish off the floor and only remnant yogurt crumbs remain in the other package. The good news is, if your child consumes an entire bag of yogurt melts, they have received almost half of their Vitamin A, C and E needs for the day! The bad news is that I still have almost a full grocery list yet to get.

I rev up my cart speed a notch (cautiously, of course) and basically just throw in whatever I can recall being on my list. I’m not sure where my list is anymore. I feel a bit frazzled because the girls are picking on each other and their voices are getting louder and louder and my daughter no longer has room to stand in the back of the cart. “I’m squanched in HERE!” she hollers. People are glancing my way. You know the glance.

“Whew, it is h-o-t in here!” I think to myself. But, I can smell the finish line…or is that a poopy diaper? Nah. The girls spot the Dum-Dum lollipops…on the end-cap…again. Oh, why not - they’re super duper small, right? So, I grab the bag and give one to each daughter. Four suckers later, they’re quiet (and sticky) and I breathe a sigh of relief.

I pull into the check-out lane…two hours after arriving. I pay and head to the car. Groceries – check. Purse – check. Coupons – check. Why do I still have my coupons? Ugh.

We get home and my older daughter asks me to close my eyes. She has a present for me and digs down deep into her princess bag. What could it be? A stale pretzel, the world’s smallest spider squished in a Kleenex, my missing floss, maybe? Nope. It’s a shiny nickel. “Here ya go! You’ve been an extra good mom today!"

And isn’t that just what we need to keep on keepin’ on? A tiny bit of encouragement or sweet “sMILEs” from those we love? There is a “MILE” between those S’s for a reason. It does go a long way! Heck, I’m even considering going back to the grocery store!