Thursday, October 22, 2015

To Ethelyn

Dear Ethelyn,

We fished, hiked, swam, boated, dug, picked, leapt, skied, crawled, and rolled.

We drove tractors, lawn mowers, the Cobalt, and—on country roads and at the farm—your Bronco. We got stuck in the mud a lot and hit the bumpy places going way too fast.

We rode horses, bikes (both on the seat and as passengers on the back), Ski Bobs, Humbugs, all kinds of boats, and sometimes, the back of the Bronco with the tailgate open. We leaned half our bodies out the car window and picked leaves when passing trees; we rode in the Cobalt while it was on the trailer, and pretended to drive.

We hiked in ditches, through creeks, down alleys, around the schoolyard, across town, down the railroad tracks, all around the farm, and through the woods. We balanced carefully while crossing the creeks on fallen trees; we swung from vines that sometimes broke mid-swing.

We climbed rocks, hills, and trees. We fell and got “good clean dirt” all over us.

We picked beans, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, and afterward, ticks.

We ate Maggie’s delicious cooking, and for snack, Oreos, Doritos, and Nutter Butters. We had Sprite parties with ice cream at night.

We played Arrow and shot firecrackers. We fished from the shore, from a boat, and once, from the dam. We flattened pennies when trains came by and taped them to glow-in-the-dark keychains so we could find them later. We crawled under the house next door to find kittens.

We got up early and went places in our pajamas, just so we wouldn’t miss out on whatever you were up to!

We went on house calls and trips around town to see cousins and friends. I rode on your doctor bag in between the front seats to be closest to you (and I think that’s why my tailbone was so sore for several years).

Wherever you were going was where we wanted to be, and we didn’t care how we got there—with you, the trip was always part of the fun.

You taught me how to ride a bike on your red bicycle. You taught so many of us how to ski on two skis and later, one!

We learned about kindness, patience, generosity, and what it means to live life to the fullest.

When I think about the adventures I want my children to have growing up, they are exactly the kind of adventures we had with you. They were the times of our lives!

Much love,


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Little Things

"At school, we learned about Adam and Eve," my four-year-old tells me from his seat in the back of the car. This is a relief to me because last year, when I first told him that Bible story one night at bedtime, he liked it so much that he asked me to repeat it the next night. "Tell me again about Adam and Steve. I love those guys!" So the fact that they're teaching the correct names and genders at school and that he's picking up on them is promising.

"We learned that Adam had to name all of the animals. THAT was a big job," he tells me, obviously appreciating the magnitude of Adam's endeavor.

Yes, indeedy. That was a big job, and one that God knew better than to give to someone like me, who becomes overwhelmed at the outset of mind-numbingly enormous tasks. I'm afraid that that's due to both my ADHD tendencies and my propensity to be something other than detail-oriented.

I'm also a tiny bit concerned that Emily has inherited the inclination to skim over minutiae from me. One day last year, I told her to read down her list of spelling words and use them in a sentence, since she'd already spelled them correctly.

"Cement..." she read.

"Um, no, that's 'smart,'" I corrected.

"Cement, smart, whatever. It doesn't matter."

Of course it doesn't. No need to get bogged down in useless details, like the difference between man-made concrete mix and God-given intelligence.

But I'm working on it (getting to the details, that is), because I've learned that when one doesn't notice details, one can't appreciate the beauty woven into the small things that make up the big things in our lives. And certainly, I want to remember every little detail of this sweet, happy baby we've been blessed with. Because I realize now that I'll blink and this baby person will be a preschooler and I'm afraid I'll turn around again and he'll be off to college with his siblings. This time, I'm determined to remember every little noise, every baby expression, every nuance of who Ethan is right now.

"Mommy, can we keep having babies and we'll have a lot of kids?" Jackson asked me several days ago. Hmmm...that would be one solution to missing my babies--always having one around!

"Mom, you had the best baby," Emily tells me quietly, as we both gaze happily at Ethan. Maybe having them around to notice the little things with me is all I need.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Last week, Tim and I managed to garner both praise (thank you, kind K4 teachers!) and criticism for a single, small parenting decision. Now, as those of you who are parents already know, people love to give parenting advice and everyone has an opinion. In fact, in my dad's words, opinions are like...well, nevermind.

Anyway, what is interesting to me is that, as those who don't know us can tell from the picture at the top of this blog, this is not our first rodeo. In fact, we've been parenting with somewhat surprising consistency for 8 years now, so it's pretty unlikely that the criticism we draw from certain constituencies is going to change anything. But the critics somehow fail to recognize this and keep slogging on, hoping, I guess, to chip away at what they consider inept parenting.

So, what is it, you ask, that we're doing so wrong? We like being with our children.

That's it. They're young, and we want to be there for them now, today, while they still want and need us there. We're in no hurry to make sure they're independent, knowing that the solid, self-assured kind of independence develops in its own time, on its own schedule.

I know, I know. Children are needy, in an omnipresent sort of way. They're messy, and they spill things you didn't realize were spillable. They have no concept of personal space, and they can resort to violence to make a point.

But they're funny and heartbreakingly sweet and smart and sincere and intuitive. Mothering them, I realize in selfish moments, makes me who I want to be. Prior to becoming a mother, I'm confident that no one had ever complimented my patience. In fact, I'm pretty sure "patient" is right there at the very end of the list of words that could ever be used to describe my former self, falling just after "orderly." But in these recent years, especially since I've had three babies, strangers have commented on my patience, my calmness--several times over the past month even. I didn't know I had it in me. But wanting to be the best mother I can be to my children forces me to push myself, to try to be a better person, to try harder, and to love more.

The most absurd piece of parenting advice I ever received, and I am not making this up, was this: "You can't let having a baby change your life." Well.

I identify more readily with the wise words of British author and Ph.D. (in child development and psychology) Penelope Leach, who said, "If you really, really don't want having a baby to change your life, perhaps you should consider not having one." And closer to home, with the wise words of my sweet husband: "If having a baby doesn't change your life, you're doing something wrong."

All said, I just can't get too wrapped up in the advice I'm given about parenting any more. I mean, I'm too far up the stream to change courses anyway, and the reality is that I'm enjoying these days with these delightful children, and that is what matters to me. And while the ultimate judge of good parenting is, of course, the Holy One, second on my
list is my great-aunt, Ethelyn. When she complimented both my children and my parenting recently, I knew everything was going to be just fine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pirates and Princesses

"I hate being a kid," our daughter announces from her seat in the back of the Civic.

"You hate being a kid? You want to be a puppy dog or a horsie? A Santa Claus, or a scary monster?" our son queries, honestly questioning her motives.

"No, I hate being a kid!"

"You not hate being a kid! It's fun being a kid!"

As the debate rages on in the back seat, Tim and I realize we've said too much in front of Emily about her upcoming tonsilectomy. And as necessary as I've come to believe the surgery is, I feel for her. It's not fun being told what you're going to do, or what's going to be done to you.

Emily seems to have inherited both my monstrous tonsils and my need to control the situation in which I find myself. From a young age, I always looked forward to being an adult, able to mind my own business and manage my own affairs.

Regardless, I've done the research and the tonsils need to come out.

Ah, the post above is one that I began back in December 2008 and never finished. Suffice it to say, the tonsils did come out. Emily will be the first to admit today that she's even glad that they did, despite the long and often painful recovery.

"Rok me Mom," reads a note that I found just the other day, one she wrote during the time she spent healing from the surgery and one I saved to remind myself of these days when my ability to comfort her is enough.

My princess is finding her own way amid the pirates, who both adore and torment her. As one of three sisters, I often wondered what it would be like to have a brother. Or two. And now Emily can answer the question for me.

"I can tell you're going to be like your big brother," she tells baby Ethan while holding him on her hip, stroking his downy head. "You're going to hurt me, too."

In the news just yesterday was a study suggesting that simply having a sister, regardless of other factors such as socioeconomic status or education level, makes one a happier person. If any sister will do, then I am the mother of two extraordinarily lucky little pirates.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


In an optimistic move, I elected to take both children hiking to the top of Pinnacle Mountain a week or so ago.  I love hiking, and I particularly love hiking my local "mountain":  a 1.25-mile trek up 1200 feet that allows a view of most of Little Rock, and more importantly this time of year, beautiful fall foliage.  The children amazed me; Jackson only had to be carried once, on the way down, because he refused to actually go back down, repeating, "My want to go back to the top!"  to every stranger we passed, hoping for sympathy, I guess.  Emily hopped up and across rocks so quickly that grandmotherly types eyed me warily and voiced concerns for her safety.

Three hours later, when we got back to the car, I could tell the trip had had the desired effect on the children:  they were both exhilarated and exhausted.  Jackson stared wearily out his window, but then finally put his thoughts into words as we drove through a rural area.  

"Mommy, is chicken made from roosters?"  I asked him to repeat the question as my mind zoomed through all kinds of birds-and-bees scenarios:  do I tell my two-and-a-half-year-old that yes, roosters do have a role in "making" chickens?  But Emily immediately understood what he was asking, and came to my rescue.  

"No, Jackson.  Chicken is made from chickens.  And if you eat steak?  That's from cows."  

Sibling communication.  Even 3.5 years apart, the children seem to have a way of communicating with and understanding one another that only they comprehend.  And several ways of tormenting one another.

"I am just a susterated!" Jackson tells me, not noticing my blank look.

"Sisterated?  Frustrated?"  I ask.

"No, susterated!  I am soooo mad!"  he replies emphatically.

But as frustrated as they often become with one another, it thrills me to note the genuine affection that they show one another most of the time.

"When my get big, my go to Ah-eee's school with Ah-eee."  Jackson has told me several times.  I ask Emily if she'll walk him to his preschool classroom.  

"Of course!" she responds.

"Will you kiss him goodbye?"  

"Probably not.  Probably I'll just give him a hug and then tell him [lowers her voice to a whisper] 'have a good day!'"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Caillou and the Missing Memory

Although we live in a fairly suburban area, I want, like most parents, for my children to experience the best of all possible living environments. I want them to know the urban privilege of walking to the grocery store alongside the rural experience of growing and picking our own food for dinner. (Still, we may have taken the " eat what we grow" idealism too far. Last week at dinner, Jackson announced clearly, "I want a butterfly sandwich." The other three of us looked at one another in amusement and bewilderment--"Emily, what does he mean?"--until I finally figured out he was referring to the bowtie pasta Emily was eating.)

Despite the 100 degree temperatures, I'm determined to give my children as much time for outdoor activity as possible. Tim and I love being outdoors and we're really happy that our children seem to enjoy it just as much. So as part of my desire to create for them quintessential outdoor summer fun, the children and I set out last week to pick blackberries near our house on what used to be a dairy farm and what is now being rapidly developed as a church/apartment complex/retail property.

Keeping the heat in mind, we prepared to go early in the day (although early for us is about 10 a.m.). We loaded up the bike-trailer-converted-to-a-double-running-stroller with water bottles, sippy cups, toys, several plastic containers for the dozens of berries we were bound to pick, and both children. Now, the children together at this point weigh in at about 72 pounds, and when you add in the weight of the stroller and its amenities, I figure the entire contraption, human and mechanical combined, is upward of 100 pounds. For the uninitiated, it tends to be hilly around here, which only serves to increase the concerned looks and comments I garner from friends and neighbors when I run alone. When I saddle up the big stroller, I try to do so as furtively as possible.

We had run no further than a quarter of a mile from our house when I spotted a DVD in the gutter in my path, sitting in some slimy water. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was Caillou's Holiday Movie, an all-time favorite of my children (and therefore, a favorite of mine. Anything that occupies my children for 90 minutes in the car is a designated favorite, no matter how whiny the main character or how ingratiating the narrator). How funny, I thought, and it's in perfect condition! I backed up a bit and tossed it into the stroller right next to the kitchen sink. We'd find out which of the neighborhood children had lost it later and return it to its rightful owner.

An hour or so later, our bellies full of blackberries, our arms scratched from thorns, and our composure nearly lost in the sweltering heat, we made our way back home. As I was being dragged by the stroller and its contents back down the big hill, I remembered something...spotty at first...but then with the details filling themselves in: my cleaning out the Honda the day before, Jackson wanting to watch Caillou, my placing the disc and something else from inside the car on top of the Honda...oh...and then all of us getting in the car to run an errand...

While it's not the first time I've driven off with something on top of the car, it is the first time I've found said object in the road and not even realized it was mine. It's also the first time I can't remember what else I left on the car's roof. My memory is definitely not right these days.

Luckily, I have two children with memories that function well--even perfectly. And really, it's only the day-to-day minutiae that I have trouble remembering--and they do that for me! "Mommy, remember you said that if I stopped pulling Jackson across the floor by his toes, that we could go to the pool?"

Yes, I can do without the daily details--that's what my calendar is for (when I remember to write on it). But long-term memories: those are the ones I want to hold onto--the good and perfect ones we create every day as a family.  And as for our blackberries, I'll remember that experience every time I find a container of smooshed berries in the toy box or see the stains under the couch cushions.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


"Jackson, did you hit Emily with the baseball bat?" I ask wearily and not for the first time. "Yes!" he confesses so readily and happily that I have to stifle a laugh, my face a mask of non-expression. Then I tell him, "It hurts people when we hit them with bats. I will take it away if you use it to hit. Please tell Emily you're sorry and give her a hug." Although he didn't hit her hard (this time) and she's not really injured, Emily begrudgingly accepts his affection and apology.

And I think, Wow. This one is going to take me for a ride.

You see, there's just not a malicious bone in that little 27 lb. body. But he goes at/into/up/around everything full-force. If it can be thrown, eaten, smeared, climbed, or flattened, Jackson is interested in it. Bonus points are given to items that are wet or sandy. The mud and rocks on the construction site next door have provided him with unending entertainment.

Indeed, Jackson is most at home when he's outside; he spends the majority of his time outdoors catching "pets" these days. To Emily's horror, he brought his pet slug upstairs to meet her while she was still in bed last week. Unfortunately for Emily, Jackson mistook her fear and disgust for ignorance: obviously, Emily did not realize what a fun pet he'd found for them! "Slug, sllluuugg!" he enunciated for her benefit, crawling after her on the bed, one hand tightly gripping its slimy form.

Luckily for all of us, Jackson's affection for animals met a more acceptable object this week, when we visited a friend's house where 3 newborn kittens were recently born.
"He like me!" he exclaimed, as the tiny cat struggled to free himself from Jackson's overbearing embrace. "My bring him home?"

But where is home? "Want go home," Jackson would often tell me a few weeks ago, as we pulled into our driveway. "We are home," I'd explain at first, trying in vain to find a way to define such an abstract concept to toddler, "this is our house."

"Want go home," he'd insist, dragging me back to the car or down the sidewalk, looking intently into my eyes. "Home."

"Where is home?" I asked. He stared at me blankly. Ah, yes, he's inherited my sense of direction. "So...who is at home?" I finally asked. Jackson's face brightened. "Nana! And Grandaddy! See Joy!"

Of course. Home is where the heart and the horsies are.