a birthday party and the reminder of the most beautiful awful moments in my life…

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This kid.

My 7 year old monkey

My 7 year old monkey

Yeah. This kid.

This little man just lost his two front teeth. He cuddles like a panda bear fast asleep in a bamboo tree. 7 years old and he is all man, and all baby, rolled into one adorable package.

This past weekend we celebrated his birthday with a great beach day party. Classmates, out of school buddies, and their siblings and parents joined us at the beach for grilled lunch, boogie boarding, paddle boarding, kayaking…you name it. It was a picture perfect day, which was a mini miracle in itself, as the weather was supposed to suck all day. So thanks God. Maybe a mini miracle, but a big one to me.

Which made me think about miracles, luck, chance, and timing.

I don’t reference it often, and I don’t dwell on it online or in word, but it is there with me. Every. Single. Day.

The memories. The reminders. Every time he gets a headache. Every time he is a little down. And every day I see him, yes, a part of me remembers.

We almost lost him. This little man who writes notes saying how awesome he is. This little man who loves to tell me my breath is stinky in the morning. This little man whose favorite thing to do is shock people by talking about balls. (We are working on that one.) Several years ago he almost died. 3 days in pediatric ICU, two more days in the hospital, and I was granted the most beautiful miracle. (here is the blog from that time….a tough but honest read https://thesweetfamilylife.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/a-long-absence-life-and-death-a-game-changer-the-hardest-prayer-ever-and-a-healed-child/ )

So on Monday morning, after a full weekend where the fun continued in church then a polo match with more friends and family, I hit the gym sort of sadly, since my great weekend had ended and real life intruded. And a song came on my play list and I just cried. Right in the gym, during my ab work. This is a song called “He’s My Son,” by Mark Shultz, written for friends who walked through pediatric cancer with their child. But so much of that song….the words….they were mine. My words. My heart. My thoughts. Yes, healing.

But there was also comfort, an awareness….this amazing little man. He is mine, but he IS NOT MINE. I can not forget that. As much as I adore and would do and give anything and everything for my children, they are really not mine, unless they are mine to release. Mine to set free. Mine to hold, only to watch as they leave my embrace and venture out as the people they are. Apart from me. For however long they are to be.

I am just privileged to have them for a bit. To share them….to share them with the Creator of their hearts and souls, to share them with the only one who can possibly love them more than I do. So I listened to that song, and did 700 crunches, as the tears fell and the memories rolled, good and bad, and I found joy in what should have brought fear. Five kids….I have no illusions life will pass them, and therefore me, by without a measure of brutality. Of loss. But I can revel in each birthday, in each skim boarded wave, in each goofy toothless grin, each tantrum…..all of it. Every beautiful painful messy moment. All of it.

Motherhood.

broken appliances, the cuteness of tantrums, and unintentional nudity

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My microwave is broken.

For some folks this is not a big deal. And in all honesty, I am not a big fan of the microwave. It kind of freaks me out. But between baby bottles, kids’ activities/late sports, and a husband who works late, right now, the microwave gets some serious play in my home. So when the button to open and close the thing breaks, well, it wreaks a bit of havoc.

Fast forward to my day. I pushed errands aside, skipped the important mommy paperwork and meal planning, and enjoyed my dayswith friends. We hit a local beachside hotel, ordered lunch and drinks, and basically, had a mommy play date. There may or may not have been a mojito involved. I plead the fifth. Marlowe was there of course, resplendent in a pink and green bikini, and after missing her nap (and eating ALL of the shrimp out of my blackened shrimp caesar salad) she demanded time by the deep end, which I denied, and thus proceeded to stomp her feet and make crazy baby squealing sounds.

Some mommies? They pull their hair out. Some mommies? They ignore it. Me? I pick her up and kiss her til she laughs because honestly – what goes through their tiny little minds when they are 20 pounds and the size of the taco bell chihuawahua (how the bleep do you spell chihauwauaha???) and they make demands and stomp and scream? I find it pretty daggone funny. But that’s just me. Either way, it was about time to go, at which point I realized I had missed the call from the appliance guy who was going to call and give me the 15 minute heads up before hitting my house for a microwave ER visit. Oops.

By the time we got home, the missed nap was starting to happen so I popped el baby-o into the crib and she was out. I grabbed the missed appointment reminder hanging on the door and figured I would call and reschedule for tomorrow. Also at this time I realized that if I don’t want to get totally sunburned on my rapidly approaching girls weekend then I needed to get my buns (literally) out by the pool for a little safe base color (fully unblocked of course.)

Seems innocent, right?

Apparently not.

Now moms, in the history of the world and universe, if you miss an appointment with the cable, electric, or appliance repair man do they EVER just come back and try again? EVER????? Heck no. That is as real as the freaking shelf Elf actually doing the work I have to do all Christmas season long to make it super awesome for my kids. Whatevs.

In this case? Yup. He just showed up.

My backyard is private. Fenced, treed on all sides, gated pool, etc. I left the doors open so I could hear the baby in case she woke. My car was in the driveway. And the holy grail experience of appliance repairmen occurred because he came back, an hour and a half after the first time, no warning, and walked into the house (doors open), called out, and out came through the back door (also open) where I was standing up to grab a towel because I thought I heard the baby inside making sounds, sounds which were in fact a big (6’5″), 35 year old grown man with a goatee and a tool belt.

Oops.

Sorry buddy.

He turned, went back inside, took apart the microwave, and made small talk about Easter and the resurrection of Jesus while I pretended like he hadn’t seen all my earthly goods on display. Is there anyone in this town I haven’t flashed?? It is starting to feel Freudian.

jealous mommy, bad mommy, crappy baker mommy, and unprepared mommy all in one….

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Alert! Attention!! Mommy failing confession full speed ahead!!!

The week started with a kid drop off AT school ay 5:30 a.m. I mean, we live 20 minutes away. So not my favorite morning. Even worse? Hadley was going on an overnight school trip for a few days. I was SO sad! He did great, and even hugged me and kissed me in front of all the other students (mommy win yay!!!!) but still….I was jealous and it made me want to plan extra time together this summer because soon he will be gone more than he is home….

I forgot a kid. Yup. There was a school pick up and i forgot it. I forgot a kid at school. It happened. Sure, the schedule is a little funky compared to the other kids and times but still. Totally missed it. It worked out fine and she was thrilled (sorry Elis Rey!!) but still….

Then it was Kincaid’s bday and despite having made a gazillion cupcakes in the past 11 1/2 years (bdays, half bdays, holidays, arbor day, whatever…) I somehow added too much water. The good news? The cupcakes tasted fine, maybe even a tad better (more moist? sorry – i know half the world hates that word but oh well). The bad news? They were sort of sunken, and they shriveled. The great news?? I filled the sunkeness with extra icing so it turned out great.

Then Hadley came home and I heard all about his trip. He shared a cabin with other 11-12 year old boys and he kept it clean which is so funny. SO Hadley. The unprepared part? Despite us having “the talk”, Hadley still has no clue about many things and I am thrilled about that. So as Hadley complained about one boy who would not stop making his cot creak and make noises every night when lights went out, it TOTALLY freaked me out. I mean, we are about at middle school. This stuff starts to happen. Hadley has no clue yet. But daggone it I am NOT ready for that part of raising boys, but I better get ready……..(***curled into the fetal position, right now, ready to cry and move to Papua, New Guinea…..) (oh, and if you have no clue what I am talking about then you have no sons, or they are too little, or, well, I just am NOT going to explain this one in my PG, sometimes PG-13 blog.)

when universal laws collide and gross things happen……

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Somewhere sandwiched between the law of perpetual motion and the law of thermodynamics is the law of the open toilet. This law states that, if you have a dog or a toddler, the lid on the seat MUST be left down at all times or said dog or toddler will get into the toilet.

An additional, lesser known yet equally important law, for those who are environmentally conscious, is stated by Dustin Hoffman in the movie “Meet the Parents” and says, “If it’s yellow let it mellow and if it’s brown flush it down.”

Sometimes, just sometimes, these two laws, when broken, can collide. The result? Utter interstellar (or so it feels at the time) catastrophe.

To summarize, then exit, one child who shall remain nameless, took a huge disgusting crap yesterday morning and did not flush. It stayed there, all day long. Then last night, as I put the older kiddos to bed first while the youngest wandered around (she had napped). As I gave out kisses and bedtimes prayers, I heard an ominous splashing. Mid prayer, “And Lord, we ask for blessings on – daggone it is that Marlowe splashing in the toilet?? AMEN.”

Only to discover yes, the worlds had collided and I threw up in my mouth. A lot.

A mop, a bath, and some tears (all mine of course) later and all was well. But seriously. Gag gag…..

4 a.m. toddler meltdown, toll booth operator cussfest, and some bragging: spring break part 1

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Friday night: Me. Packing. Of course, I had already packed 2 weeks prior but, well, consolidating, double checking, etc. Late to bed. And early (grossly so) to rise. 3:30 a.m. to be exact.

Saturday: I showered, barely remembered deodorant, dressed, woke the kids, watched as Elis Rey threw herself, crying, on the floor because she didn’t want to pee, and shoved them all into the car. And also, of course, despite multiple packing instances, I forgot all the ski goggles. Hey, I live in Florida. Gimme a break. After speeding and picking up the mommy’s helper (Ms. Kaley), we raced (yes, raced) to the airport. At the Florida turnpike entrance I realized I did not have a surpass sticker on my new car so I pulled up to the no-Sunpass lane. Grrr. Haven’t been in that line for years…which I why I had no idea it was automated. I pulled up, too far from it, and had to haul half my body out the window. The ticket would come out and go back in before I could reach it. Then it did it again. Then I waited. No ticket came out again. So I tapped twice on the thing. Nothing. I tapped again and said, “UGH!! and a guy came out the window and say, “What the bleep? You don’t have to beat the bleep out of my bleeping machine!”Now, part of me was impressed for the ownership this man was taking over the equipment aspect of his job. The next part of me was mildly annoyed because I tapped it. I certainly did not beat the bleep out of it. Let me tell you. When I beat the bleep out of something, you will KNOW. The final part of me was now bleeping annoyed (sorry. in the zone…) because my kids heard the guy cuss me out for no reason. So I said, “I certainly did not beat the bleep (i said bleep, not what bleep stood for obviously. Duh.) out of this big metal machine. And secondly, I don’t appreciate you using that kind of language in front of my little kids.” That made me feel better.

After speeding a little more, and avoiding any more turnpike verbal or physical beat downs, we made it to the airport, raced in, boarded and took off for Atlanta. The kids played with their iPads. Me, 5 kids, and a sweet sitter who has never traveled with us before. Some would say I am crazy. Me? Nah. Just adventurous. The flight attendant, upon seeing me with 5 kids, offered me a bloody mary. Like 6 times. I said no. Yuck. Hate those things. That of course prompted Kincaid to get all worked up about the whole bloody mary story (you know, said it in your mirror three times and she comes out and kills you at night??) so I explained it wasn’t that and that is not real anyway…..landed, grabbed breakfast to go, raced to the next terminal, and got to the gate as they were boarding. Dang, I’m good. As the scent of chick-fil-a and no-name-diner breakfast permeated the air, the kids ate and we all chatted and watched movies.

****Ok. This is when a major pet peeve of mine happened. The guy behind gave my kids a look. That didn’t annoy me. We get lots of looks. I assume it is because of our incredible awesomeness. Some may differ. Whatever. But he looked and then was telling the flight attendant what he wanted to drink (rum and coke) and that his kids and wife were on the flight. In back. He was in first to “get some work done.” Uh huh. I watched him pound at least 3 rum and cokes and watch the movie “The Judge” which was playing. Love me some Robert Downey Jr. Work?? That toolbag!! He booked his wife and kids in coach, and then himself in first to “work.” Well, every college kid in the world wants your job dude if it merely entails getting hammered and watching tv. The last 30 minutes of the 3.5 hour flight the wife came up. I told her next time to book him in back with the kids. She smiled. Sort of. Look. If you can afford to book for yourself, then book the wife and kids too. If you can’t, then take one for the team and sit with them. Seriously?? Lie to your wife about work so you can sit up front?? That was low in my opinion. Ok. Sorry. Rant over.*****

By now the movie was over, the baby had finished napping on the floor, the kids had all visited the potty (Elis Rey like 12 times….), and landing was about to start. The flight attendant came over and said, “Can I say something?” “Sure.” And honestly, I already knew what was coming. We heard it in China. Coming back from China. And in various other scenarios. But let me tell you…it never gets old. “I have been an attendant for 26 years. I have seen lots of kids on my planes. Not many families as bog as yours, maybe a few. But NONE were as lovely. Your kids aren’t little preppy robots, but they are sweet and kind and well behaved. And your younger little boy with all the missing teeth? He even offered to help me clean up a drink the gentleman behind him spilled. The man did not offer. Your son did. Your kids are amazing.”

You see, as a mom, these are the moments I always go to. The words I live for. Sure the successes are great, the achievements, etc. But….this……no truer joy than this. Now we have a week of fun in the warm snow….and I hope to share as much as possible. Because yeah, kids, you are amazing. And I want you all to read these words one day. And know how much I loved this stage and how proud I was of you and will always be.

botox, kids and honesty, and integrity…

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Yesterday was funny. Painful for a few seconds, but funny.

Three weeks ago we planned a girls night out. Towards the end of the day I had a quick botox refresher AND a quick eye brow wax….no time to clean or ice up….had to then pick up my buds. So while picking up one friend, her kid saw me and said, “woah. what happened to your FACE???? Did you walk into a door??” To mess with him (sorry Carmelita…I LOVE to mess with your kids) I told him that yes, I basically walked into a door. Between the waxing and the needles, actually, a door would have been preferable. (note to self….do NOT get facial pain inducing things done during certain times of the month…..grrrrr….). But man, kids are SO honest. Brutally so, as my door face plant look can attest. But later it made me think of honesty, and integrity – things I think about a lot.

I have been fired two times in my life. Strangely, they were the same scenario but opposite. The first time?? I was told to give information or else be fired….in this case, the names of high school kids I busted for drinking on campus. I refused. I was, fairly, fired. Yes, fairly. But it does not change the fact that I did what was right, and will to my death KNOW I did what was right. The second time? I was told NOT to tell something, was told to not admit that we had messed up. I refused. I was fired. Again, fair. Your boss can do whatever – he or she is the boss and may or may not share your same perspective on morality, integrity, and honor. But like scenario one, to my dying day, I will KNOW I did right, no matter what anyone else says.

Integrity matters. A LOT. But lately, it doesn’t seem that way to me. I see a lot of people acting without it. They don’t own their part in a mess. They don’t follow up on what they say they will do. They misrepresent things that happen to make themselves look better. They have knee jerk over reactions on personal levels that then truly impact peoples’ lives. They don’t stand for what is right. Why? Because it gets us in trouble sometimes. It rocks the boat. It can get you fired. Twice, apparently, for me.

Now? Life is different. No boss, per se, but still plenty of options for accountability. I felt twice in the last two weeks that I had opportunities to teach my kids about integrity. I passed. I don’t always, I guess, but I passed. No cameras, no witnesses….I hit a car in a lot. But i did the right thing. Just cost me 1,028 bucks. Ouch. But ok, because I needed to pay that money. And in a store I had to speak up….I was doing returns at the counter, and a lady was waiting for me. After two minutes she started to bother the girl at the register. She kept complaining, yelled at the security guard out front, while I watched them call for counter help. A line formed behind her. As people came into the store she would call out, “Leave now. Don’t bother. They can’t move faster than a snail.” And then it got ugly.

I was done. I told her that it was enough, that I had seen them call twice for help, and they didn’t deserve to be treated like that. The lady yelled at me, and I let her. But I had words back. Never cussed or lost it. The women up front? They had to take it. They would lose their jobs if they spoke up. But someone had to. My two beautiful daughters were with me, and I wanted them to know, you get treated wrong, I will always have your back. I will always stand by you. I may not be able to fix it (I wanted to pick that whiny nasty wench up, drag her by her hair, and drop kick her outside for the horrible things she was saying) but I will BE there. I will stand firm by you. And the car? I will do right. I will be accountable. How can I tell my kids to have honor if I do not?? Do you have honor? What do you model to them? And yeah, for the record, I have gotten it wrong plenty. I was really rude to a lady at Animal Kingdom 6 months ago. She didn’t deserve it. I apologized. But my kids saw that. I apologized to them too. So I blow it. But as long as I keep trying, and admit to when I fail, then in the end I still succeed. And if they can learn? I succeed even more.

why i love a motley crew, and no, i am not talking about a hair band from the 80’s….

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***Disclaimer – I wrote this right before Thanksgiving and never posted but it is a great, relevant post so I have to share it!!***

I always wondered why that band (Motley Cru) gave themselves that name. I mean, motley, or mottled technically, means varied. Mixed. But the band, well, they are neither varied nor mixed. They all looked exactly the same, had the same priorities, and sounded pretty much like every other band in that genre in that timeframe.

Not gonna lie though. Yeah, I listened to them. When I was like, 13. Heck, that’s when I saw Winger in concert. Headin’ for a heartbreak alright….but whatever. I digress.

Thanksgiving is coming up. And every year I open it up…everyone is invited. Literally. I once invited the single manager of a Gymboree kids’ store. This year? So far we have friends whose house is under construction, neighbors with a husband who just had surgery, friends from NJ who will be staying with us (yay!!), some local friends, and my mom. Typically we end up with a last minute addition or cancellation as well….we just never know.

And I like it that way.

You see, my kids’ grades are coming out any day.

And I don’t care.

I have gained 10 pounds (crap ok 13) since we got back from China.

And I don’t care.

I experienced rejection (AGAIN) from family.

And I don’t care. (ok, I care a little.)

I was able to get a brand new car.

And I don’t care.

You see, all the little good things and bad things that make up our daily lives are really, in the scheme of things, SO insignificant. Do you recall your social studies 5th grade test scores? Does the car you drive reflect anything about your character? Does the achievement of your kid make it easier to pay the bills? Does the rejection of a friend or family member make you more or less of a person?

No.

At the end of the day, I want to live one way and teach my kids to live that SAME way. Aspire to good grades? Aspire to hard work and ambition? Aspire to perfectly seamless relationships? Aspire to health and fitness?

Yes.

Live for these things?

No.

I live for two things. Love God, and love others.

So when I open my house and make my apple pie and reach out to those who reject me and ignore the added pounds gained because of laying around bonding with our new little one and hug my kid because he worked hard for that C or drive a car that I hand over to the babysitter to drive the day after I get it because it is JUST a car…..all of that is about others. Loving others. Nothing else matters. Not grades or money or cars or weight or perception.

That’s all I want my kids to know. To learn. To absorb. That their home should be a place of joy and refuge. Not of judgment or conditional love or expectation. And I want everyone else to feel it too. That they are welcome. And loved. I love God because He first loved me. And I love others because He tells me to and at the end of the day, or the end of our lives, really, what else is there?