Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Let It Be Me

April 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Let It Be Me

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Our “We’re Too Sick To Do Anything Over Spring Break, So Let’s Make Pillowcases” Project.

It’s official! We will be spending another glorious summer with Cousin Avery! I had trouble falling asleep last night from the contentment this news brings me. I picked my beautiful niece up from school yesterday, and I do believe she grew 2 years in the last 2 weeks. Because…well…she has contacts now, you know. She had also grown 5 feet in 14 days, and her hair was styled in a snazzy new cut.

WHAT?! I told her to turn right around, march back to the classroom, and return with my REAL niece. She could leave this brilliant supermodel where she found her. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

The turn from kid to tween happens quickly, and is charging at me faster than I’d like. I was relieved when we jumped into the minivan, and her stories were just as ridiculous and silly as they’ve always been. Her giggle was unchanged, but her speech was somehow smoother…more coherent. The halting “um’s” of childhood are disappearing.

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We did A LOT of this together, accessorizing with 1 bajillion Kleenex.

Someone in my sphere, (and I’m sure without intention of malice), suggested I only wanted Avery so I could be a child again. This person clearly did not know me as a child! I was NOT good at it: Nerds can often excel at school, but “fail to meet standards” at life. However, I’m fairly certain I covered the kid check-off list: Disney-check. Crazy cousin weekends with a full farm at our disposal-check. Weekends hanging with the Grandparents who worshiped me-check. Slumber parties full of Barbies and movies with my gal pals-check. Rollerskating to the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight”, hoping boys didn’t notice my obvious inability to be mobile on wheels-check. Bikes, skinned knees, sledding hills, spelling bees, awesome neighbors, hating the school bus, arguing with my sister over who would marry which Duke of Hazard-check, check, triple check.

I completed childhood rather clumsily, but I made it. Ticket punched, not sorry I visited, but happy to be home in adult-land when I can go to bed whenever I want! I had a donut and coffee for breakfast today. It was awesome.

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Thanks for modeling, guys. Yes, we did this too. 21 days of THIS.

My joy from being with the kids comes from the simple fact that it gets to be me. When they need to giggle about bras, they giggle with me. When they can’t solve the world’s HARDEST GIRLFRIEND PROBLEMS EVER IN THE HISTORY OF ALL PROBLEMS, and there are NO possible solutions AND LIFE IS OVER…they come to me. When they fear they can’t win, I get to tell them that winning isn’t everything, and many times, it isn’t even the most important thing. In the quiet moments when we’re not at camp, swimming, playing, tutoring, or washing dishes (we’re usually washing dishes), I get to know their hearts. Actually, I take that back: I find washing dishes is the best time to get to know someone. Chatting makes the time go by faster, and when young ladies’ hands are moving, their mouths turn on. You can’t always just sit a kid down and talk. Color and chat. Do a puzzle and chat. Or better yet…get those dishes washed…and chat. If there were words to describe this treasure of knowing them as they evolve, I would share it here, I promise. As of yet, I haven’t found them. Thousands of posts, you’d think I’d be getting closer, wouldn’t you?

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Our first summer together. How did I survive this?!

When they are all grown-up, and childhood is just a big hope chest of memories, I want them to remember their story was a good one. There was a voice in the background, reminding them to grow towards patience with themselves and each other (and sometimes that voice needed more patience than is currently available on the planet Earth). I’m the voice they’ll hear when they have their own children to convince cauliflower is yummy. Hopefully they’ll remember how perfectly imperfect we were together, and how we turned our differences into something beautiful.

And even if they never remember a specific day, or piece of advice, or how I expertly stopped their bickering (Ha! A Mom can dream!), I pray they’ll recall a deep, warm, welcoming love, holding it together. Please God, let that be my story. Let it be me.


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Announcing a New Fruit of the Spirit

April 21st, 2015 · Comments Off on Announcing a New Fruit of the Spirit

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I know what you’re thinking: “Lori, just because you finally joined a church doesn’t mean you can ADD a fruit of the spirit at your choosing. The Bible isn’t available for editing.” So let me say up front: it wasn’t me.

Mommy: Girls, what fruit of the spirit do you think you should focus on today?

Sara: List them for me again?

Mommy (singing them in my head from my 7th grade youth group musical): Love, joy, and peace. Patience and kindness. Gentleness and faithfulness and self-control. Goodness is also in there, but as it was NOT part of the song I memorized at the age of 12, I simply cannot include it. Kindness includes goodness, that’s my rationale, and I’m sticking to it.

Sara: I choose patience.

Mommy: Good one!

Kelly: I choose obedience.

Mommy & Sara: NOT A CHOICE!

Kelly: I don’t care. I choose obedience.

Mommy: OK. I’ll take this walk with you. Did you brush your teeth this morning after I asked you to?

Kelly: No.

Mommy: Obedience it is.

Kelly is 7, and she’s really, really good at being 7 right now. Let’s chant this together: WE WILL MAKE IT TO 8. I guess my fruit of the spirit today is patience as well. Or peace. Or gentleness. Or tooth-brushing…


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Hand Over The Kidz Bop & No One Gets Hurt

April 15th, 2015 · 1 Comment

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Everyone tells the Mothers of Daughters that the drama heats up as time goes by. In your heart you KNOW it, but you can’t FEEL it. You think it will be of similar flavor and texture to the 3 year old who insists on wearing the same dress for a week straight. Ah…we used to be such sweet, sweet rookies; good times, good times. Here is a typical week in the lives of 9 and 7 year old girls (I’m using only my last 72 hours, exactly as they happened):

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Kelly: You know the Yellow Penguin I waited for Santa to bring for a WHOLE year? Polly? My favorite penguin in the whole wide world that he brought after leaving me a letter that he would have to make it especially?

Mommy: Yeeesss.

Kelly: Well Lilly saw me carrying it today, and she said it was a stuffed animal from Korea! Santa doesn’t live in Korea! She said it’s the most popular stuffed animal in Korea, and it’s name is Porro! Not Polly!

[Insert Sara & I wildly exchanging glances, as Sara knows full well I spent a year looking for a yellow penguin. I even tried to commission one. I finally found one…in KOREA. REALLY? What were the chances a 7 year old was going to out me?!]

Mommy: Oh that’s right, Lilly spent Christmas with her family in Korea. How lovely. Well I’m glad some kids in Korea got Polly too. Such a great toy. Santa must have been so inspired by your drawing that he made several. He delivers to Korea first! Makes sense! Porro is “Polly” in Korean.

Kelly: You think?

Mommy: No. I think I got on my private airplane, flew around the world, and picked that penguin up for you…IN KOREA. In my free time. During the month I had the flu.

Kelly: RIIGGHTT. That DOES make sense. Whew. Those lucky kids, getting copies of my Polly. She’s the best penguin in the entire world.

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Sara: Logan puked in the bathroom today, but he didn’t go home.

Mommy: Why?

Sara: Because he didn’t tell anyone.

Mommy: Then how do you know?

Sara: Well, he told ME.

Mommy: And you didn’t tell a teacher that a kid was throwing up?

Sara: NO! I’m not turning in someone for a little vomit! If he wants to tough it out, good for him.

Mommy: Well, I’m glad you have some principles.

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Mommy: Girls, we’ve been to every shoe store in the city, and I give up. I can’t find shoes to match your flower girl dresses anywhere, so we’re going to try Von Maur, no matter how expensive their shoes are. Take off your sports socks, and put on these hosiery footies.

Sara: WHAT ARE THOSE?!

Mommy: They are like hose, so you can tell if the shoes will fit while you are wearing hose.

Kelly: These are like…brown, floppy, DEAD THINGS! I’m not putting these on my feet! And I’m NEVER wearing HOSIERY! I AM SEVEN!

Mommy: You’ll wear TIGHTS. I should have said glittery TIGHTS.

Sara: Brown tights? We’re wearing BROWN TIGHTS?!

Mommy: NO. You’re wearing silver tights in the wedding. These are brown. They are not permanent.

Kelly: I can’t do this. I can’t even figure this thing out. Is it like a baggy? It has a STRING! I can’t wear tights with STRINGS!

Mommy: You aren’t WEARING them IN the wedding. It’s just for trying on shoes, and then we’ll throw them away.

Sara: We try on BROWN hose-feet for 3 minutes and then we throw them away? That’s ridiculous! Who wears socks for 3 minutes and then throws them away?

Kelly: No, seriously. I can’t do this.

Mommy: Let me just put these on you, so we can try on the shoes before you both get hosiery PTSD.

Sara: Kelly, did you see that guy over there with all those boxes? What is HE DOING?!

Mommy: He brings out the shoes.

Sara: Why would a grown man want to buy that many shoes?

Mommy: NO. He WORKS here. It’s different than Payless. SERIOUSLY? I’ve NEVER taken you to a shoe store where they bring the shoes to you and put them on your feet?

Kelly: PUT THEM ON YOUR FEET?! That’s IT. Here’s your HOSE-THINGY. I’m GOING HOME. No stranger is putting shoes on my feet while I’m wearing…these…weird…floppy things.

Sara: OH NO! Look Kelly! I’ve put the shoes ON. Look how dumb they look with these fake hose? They look awful! We can’t wear these in Auntie Amanda’s wedding! She doesn’t want this!

Mommy: You AREN’T WEARING THE BROWN SOCKS! I PROMISE!

Kelly: Look at my feet! It’s like I have brown sacks on my feet, only all crumpled up. This can’t be right.

Mommy: Do the shoes even fit?

Sara & Kelly (in unison): No.

Kelly: They are so tight, and look: I’m walking right out of them.

Mommy: They are too loose and too tight, at the same time?

Kelly: Exactly.

Mommy: We’re going home. You can go barefoot in the wedding.

Girls: YEAH!!! But let’s get a hot pretzel before we go.

Mommy: Excellent suggestion.

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Sara: I can’t HANDLE IT, I can’t TAKE IT, this week is TOO MUCH!

Mommy: Sweetie. What’s going on?

Sara: It’s Staff Appreciation Week AND it’s Safety Week! All at ONCE!

Mommy: And? What am I missing?

Sara: The school is full of parent volunteers, and they don’t know the rules! They don’t know the times we can leave the cafeteria to go back to the room and read. I am in the middle of a very important book! I have to go back AT 11:50! ELEVEN-FIFTY MOMMY!

Mommy: That must be frustrating.

Sara: They don’t know half the names in the carpool line, and they are trying to pronounce them over the walkie-talkies, and it would be rude to correct them, but COME ON!

Mommy: To be fair, I find some names to be hard to pronounce too. A very large proportion of your school has a last name of Asian origin. Some languages are just hard to master, even if they are being used in an English context.

Sara: So you’re saying when you are doing carpool on Friday, and you see Balasubramanian on a carpool tag, you won’t be able to pronounce it?!

Mommy: Um? I will DO MY BEST, and I hope you’ll be patient with me. Now. What’s wrong with safety week?

Sara: There are DRILLS, DRILLS, DRILLS. Tornado drills and fire drills and lock down drills. You don’t know WHEN. What if it’s during the Noetic Math Test? That thing is timed. What if it’s cold? During some tornado drills, they let BOYS into the GIRLS bathroom Mommy! How inappropriate is that? GROSS boys in our BATHROOM!

Mommy: I think you will survive both Safety Week, and a week of parents not knowing you’re allowed a second trip to the salad bar.

Sara: You have no idea. It’s total CHAOS.

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Mommy: Kelly, did you fill out the paper for your Independent Project? It’s asking for you to commit to a product. You can do a TV style commercial, a poster…you have to let the teachers know in advance.

Kelly: I’m doing a diorama.

Mommy: AGAIN? Let me see the paper. KELLY! It asks why your product fits the topic, and you wrote down your resumé of dioramas!

Kelly: I know! It asks “Why a diorama”, so I wrote because I’m VERY good at them. I have a long history of doing very, very good dioramas, SO, CLEARLY, it’s why I chose it.

Mommy: What they want to know is WHY it’s the right showcase for your topic.

Kelly: Really? REALLY. You think my teachers want me to write that a BOX is the right SHOWCASE for some SAND and SHELLS.

Mommy: Actually…yes. I think that’s exactly what they want.

Kelly: I answered the question. It’s done.

Mommy: Writing a song is a choice. Do you want to mix it up a bit and write a song?

Kelly (I wish I could describe her face, but it cannot be summarized with words): ARE YOU JOKING?! Write a song about SHELLS, and then SING IT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE?! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?

Oh My God. Do you think someone will choose a song? I’m going to DIE for them.

Mommy: Diorama #358 it is.

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Kelly (in hysterical tears): Rachel has broken her arm!

Mommy: I know. Isn’t that awful? I talked to her Mommy today, and she’s having surgery today.

Kelly: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!!

Mommy: Well…maybe we could take her some balloons?

Kelly: NO! I mean about the MUSICAL?! She’s Quotation Mark #1 and I’m Quotation Mark #2. You can’t sing a duet about Quotation Marks with only ONE QUOTATION MARK!

Mommy: Don’t worry Honey. She’ll be back to school in time for the big show.

Kelly: But what about her costume?! We are supposed to MATCH!

Mommy: I’ll fix it. It will all be fine, I promise.

Next Day, Phone Rings:

Amie: What cha’ doin’?

Me: Quotation Mark #1 got thrown off her horse in Jumping Class. I’m stretching out her “Grammarosaurus” costume, so no matter how big her cast, it will fit. I’m also trying to figure out if she’ll be able to wear her top hat, or if it will need a strap. Kelly’s definitely going to have to put her bow tie on her.

Amie: You can’t make this shit up.

Me: Tell me about it.

 


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Fixing A Leaky Heart

April 13th, 2015 · 3 Comments

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By Saturday night, I was all poured out. I have a system for allowing my living to renew me, so it’s actually rather rare that I reach emotional bankruptcy; but at midnight on Saturday, I laid my head down without having enough energy left to cry.

I was surprised to reach empty on Saturday, because I prayed to Jesus on Friday to meet me in my current state of emptiness, and refill me. I knew I needed to top off my tank before the weekend. But Jesus has his own timing, and Friday wasn’t on his radar. I warned Greg I feared my heart had sprung a leak, and he asked why it had taken so long? Did I think I could be emotionally present for my 2 best friends while they cared for their terminally ill Mothers, while helping my Godson’s campaign for equitable insurance coverage for military families with Autistic children, while helping a bit with a family wedding and baby shower, while making the girls costumes for upcoming school events (the girls and I are having serious artistic differences), WITHOUT springing a leak?

Why YES, yes I did. This isn’t my first trip to the Love-A-Friend Fair. I have SYSTEMS! Friday night I shared a meal with Kelly’s namesake. Her Momma passed away suddenly last month, and we finally found a moment to break bread. I’ve never lost a parent, and I just didn’t know what to say. I was afraid to say anything, for fear she’d see my leaking heart, and it would cause her pain. I was so grateful our lifelong mutual friend was in town for a family slumber party, because I needed the presence of a girlfriend. “Shelley! My heart! It’s leaking! HELP!”

She looked at me with her kind eyes, and said, “Yes. Hearts do that from time to time.” Just sitting with her, and getting to know her beautiful children, gave my heart more than enough to rise on Saturday morning. Shelley is a one-of-a-kind. You can’t be near her and NOT feel better about life.

Saturday was a gorgeous mix of waffles and children and sunshine, and it allowed me to hit the pause button for a moment. I felt my heart’s constant nagging, but I said, “STOP Heart! Plug those leaks today! I have children to hug!” The evening met me with a lovely dinner party. I was SURE the leaking would stop. Jambalaya! Champagne! Dear friends around my dining room table! These are my FAVORITE things!

But Sunday morning, I awoke with my heart bone dry. Church! Jesus will meet me there! He has to…it’s his house. Unfortunately, Sara wasn’t running on empty. In fact, she was filled to overflowing with piss and vinegar, and it was getting on the floor, and splashing on everything around her. After a loud and embarrassing attempt at a Sunday School drop off, she ended up in the Sanctuary with us, where she promptly fell asleep sitting straight up in the pew. I sang, I swayed, I prayed, I listened intently. Come on Jesus…say something into my heart. Anything! Fill ‘er up God!

But Jesus had other plans. By the time Communion was served, I couldn’t even walk forward. Greg looked at me incredulously, wondering how on earth I could skip a sacrament being served right in front of me. God was just going to have to meet me in that back pew, and love me in my brokenness, because I wasn’t going.

As Greg walked forward, Sara crawled into my lap and whispered over and over, “I’m sorry Momma”. I know baby…Momma knows. Then I threatened to carry her to the pulpit and dunk her in Communion wine. That girl NEEDS some Jesus. We were quietly giggling as Daddy returned to our seats, shaking his head at his devilish ladies. Sorry Daddy!

After getting home and inhaling a strong cup of coffee, I decided I needed to just keep showing up. It’s what I know; it’s what I do best. Jesus MIGHT meet me in my living room over coffee and the Sunday paper, but I suspected he MIGHT wish to meet me elsewhere. I grabbed some roses and stopped by St. Monica’s; our School’s Porter was celebrating her daughter’s first communion, and she asked me to come. BUUUUTTTT….she left out one small detail: I might stick out a little. I walked into a church filled with hundreds of people watching a large Mariachi band, waiting for a service to be delivered entirely in Spanish. 3 people flanked me immediately to ask if I was lost. I laughed out loud. “No, I’m here for Paula Cervantes. Have you seen her?” The band STOPPED PLAYING…and no joke, I think 300 hundred people turned around to stare at me. Luckily, one of them was Paula. HI MISS LORI!!! WE’RE OVER HERE!!!

You don’t know love until you’ve delivered flowers to a little girl in a long white dress, while being hugged to pieces by a Momma you simply adore. Paula is as much a part of our school as the name itself. We have spent years asking the state of each others hearts while pushing her janitorial cart through the hallways. Even though I feared I didn’t have the emotional space to walk into that church, I really, really wanted to. So there I was, on my knees in front of this beautiful family, wishing them God’s blessings on their special day. My heart warmed to pink. I felt alive. As I hugged Paula, I felt Jesus at my back, hugging me. Oh! Hello! There you are.

I stepped out into the sunshine and checked my phone: a friend from high school had been admitted to the VA Hospital, and would really love some company. And a candy bar. Any candy bar of any kind. I rushed to the store and filled up a bag we named “the diabetic coma”. You’d think a dark, lonely VA hospital might be the last place God would fill a heart…but here’s a little secret you should know: it’s the FIRST place God would choose to fill a heart.

Matt didn’t care if my heart was leaky. He didn’t care when I was 17, and lying in a bed post-stroke, awaiting the date of his open heart surgery, he certainly wasn’t bothered by my half-empty pitcher. I pulled up a chair, he turned on “The Godfather”, and we sat for hours, gently sharing our stories. I will say this for serious illness: it puts life in stark perspective. When time is limited, there is no time for idle gossip. We talked not of people, and very little of the old days. We had more hallowed ground to cover.

Jesus met me at the Veteran’s Hospital, and repaired my leaky heart. I don’t have a childhood home, and I rarely see my parents. When I need a touchstone, it’s my job to create it, even if a magic wand is required. But a friend whom has known me forever, and accepted my faults through good days and bad, that’s a homecoming, no matter how many nurses stopped by to check his infiltrated IV and adjust his oxygen. Matt has little living family as well, so spending time just being known was healing for both of us. In the end, it’s really all there is, in my humble opinion. I leaned over to hug him as I said goodbye, and my heart spilled directly into him. My spirit felt like a liquid I could simply gift away. This act of showing up to each others lives...what a priceless treasure that can be. (And now you have my secret of how my living renews me: As I intentionally allow others to access my spirit, it almost always returns to me more capacious than before. Simply noticing this phenomenon…the boomerang of the earth’s energy interacting with mine…does the trick.)

I drove home in silence, enjoying the warmth of a healed heart. Kelly, even in her grief on Friday, gave me a plant for the new house, and I was looking forward to planting it. As I picked it up off the porch table, I laughed out loud once again. Oh God, how very unsubtle of you: Kelly had given me a Bleeding Heart. Really God, where DO you find the time to theme your presence?

I like to plant things during times of trouble. I imagine my pain growing into something beautiful. This summer, it seems we shall witness the blooming of a bleeding heart leaking heart. Feel free to share your wisdom of how you repair your heart when it springs a leak. I treasure your stories as much as my own. And as always, Godspeed my dear friends. Godspeed.

 

 

 

 


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My Mark

April 6th, 2015 · 18 Comments

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Meet my Godson, Mark. I know…he’s perfect, I agree. But before I tell you My Mark’s story, let’s start at the beginning:

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About a million years ago, Greg went to college. He became best friends with Matt, whom he calls Matty, whom our girls adoringly call “Hit-Matty”, because he lets them wrestle with him until he’s near death. Matty has survived prisoner-of-war training, so he can tolerate A LOT of “Hit Matty”. Shortly after college, Greg and I married, and over time, we came to understand that while Matty would love to marry and have a family, he was/is an Air Force Pilot during a time of war. Marriage is hard when you’re deployed for 48 weeks out of the year.

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Matty was always…somewhere. Seattle, Hawaii, there was training in Oklahoma, and even though we stayed in close contact, and Matty stopped in Indiana whenever he could, Matty was GONE. For most of our married life, he has been in Germany, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan…gone, gone. Matty flies C-17’s, which, as you can see, have 4 engines and can carry an entire helicopter. If you’re at war, having a transport plane that can haul tanks and land on rudimentary runways is important. So it’s not a big surprise that his wife was also in the military and they met in Japan.

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Kelly is wonderful, we were thrilled, and their wedding outside of Seattle was a trip I’ll never forget. 2 spouses in different branches of the military is damn-near impossible, so Kelly left the Navy, and they were transferred to Dayton AFB! So close! BONUS!!!

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Matty and Kelly are the kind of friends who would drive from Seattle to Ohio, drop their suitcases in the front hallway of their brand new FIRST home, not even look around, so they could DRIVE BACK to Indy to surprise me at my 40th birthday party. Awesome people, if you’re asking me, which technically you are, because you are reading my blog.

Matty started teaching, and he was on the ground more often. For Military families, this is huge. We regular folks take things like holidays and birthdays for granted. War doesn’t care if your first child is due. EVER.

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How excited were we for the arrival of Mark? SUPER EXCITED. When Matty & Kelly asked me to be his Godmother, I was sure they were just a tiny bit crazy, but I was thrilled. And honored. And certain I would screw this up. Kelly and Matty are brave people, and I guess they figured if they could survive the front lines of terrorism, they could survive one kooky, creative Godmother.

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My Mark is SO great. He’s now 2.5, and soon to be a big brother to Lilah, and I shall love her too. Only now, I have to fly back to Seattle to see them, because being a Military Family isn’t for the weak (I already have my plane ticket!). So here’s what I want to share with you today: My Mark has Autism. I know…you’re looking at this healthy, bright-eyed beauty and thinking, “NO. He’s so happy!” And he is. But Mark cannot say “Momma”, or “Daddy”, or even “doggy”, despite having 2 fantastic pets. He has been diagnosed by the best of the best, so it is what it is. Matty and Kelly are dedicated, smart, loving, patient parents. They took this news like people whom have been tasked with protecting some of the worst parts of the world: they took it bravely.

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And when they realized that Matt’s insurance doesn’t cover Autism therapy, they didn’t sit back and become victims. They got busy. Matt has been shot at several times on the other side of the world, protecting MY family and MY children from terrorists, but his insurance won’t pay for the standard of care for Autism. THAT’S NUTBALLS PEOPLE.

Matt has started a petition, which if signed by 100,000, will be viewed by the President. His petition is for equal coverage of Autism therapy for all Federal Employees (some Federal employees have Autism coverage, while others do not. You’d think our military would HAVE coverage, wouldn’t you?).

Here is the link to the petition:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/mandate-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd-healthcare-coverage-all-employees-under-fehbp

Please sign it. Please, please take 2 minutes and sign it. For me, for Matty & Kelly, but mostly, for My Mark. He has started therapy, and he has spoken his first word. He loves his therapist, he loves his little class and his little desk, and he is actively trying to communicate. My Mark is in there, and he is fabulous. Please take 2 minutes to convince the White House to review Autism medical coverage for our military.

Again, you can sign it here:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/mandate-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd-healthcare-coverage-all-employees-under-fehbp

My Mark and I need about 120 seconds of your day today, if you’d be so kind. If every one of my readers signed, we would have enough for a Presidential review, so I do need all of you. As always, Godspeed, my dear friends. Godspeed to us all.


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Homebound With The Secret Sisters

March 30th, 2015 · Comments Off on Homebound With The Secret Sisters

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Somehow, deep in my subconscious, I KNEW not to make plans this Spring Break. It’s like the Fates had a moment of weakness and sent me a heads up not to bother with trips or agendas.

Notice World: We have officially dropped off the face of the earth.

We are at Day #14 of Flu-Recovery, and last night, things were looking up. The girls and I felt good enough to watch a movie which required our full attention. I introduced them to “National Treasure”, and they were hooked. Treasure hunting movies are clearly in our future. We woke up before noon, without our floors covered in Kleenex, and not in immediate need of a variety of over-the-counter medicines…and the sun is out! I thought, “This is it. A park, maybe some Easter dress shopping…SOMETHING. We will be leaving this house TODAY.”

But it was not to be. Sara didn’t make it to the living room before making a pit stop to puke. Migraine. Big one.

Thank heavens for the “Secret Sisters Club” this Spring Break. The basic premise of the S.S.C. is to move the girls’ mattresses around the house. They’ve slept in the hallway, the guest room, turned them into ramps, and obstacle courses. I received the private, exclusive invitation you see above, hand delivered by the world’s cutest delivery girl wearing the world’s cutest slippers. It had to be written because Kelly hasn’t had a voice in 10 days.

As Greg folded his billionth load of laundry (after running his billionth errand, because he is playing the part of ME this month), he remarked on my numerous sets of pjs. Why YES, yes…I own LOTS of pajamas. Why? Because I’m homebound. The meals I’ve thrown together have gotten downright hilarious. I’m pretty sure Kelly ate an Oreo for breakfast today. Sara and I no longer eat, so as long as we shove sugar into Kelly every 3 hours, we’re good.

The weird thing is that we’re not actually miserable. The house is fabulous and the company is downright fantastic. Other than the kittens knocking things off shelves, it’s pretty quiet at the cottage. But I should go. Kelly is painting, which will give me time to make her chocolate eggs and ice cream for lunch. Wait…we ran out of ice cream. Popsicles it is…

Godspeed, and I hope whatever your plans are for Spring Break, they involve more than pjs and popsicles!


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Thank You, Kara Tippetts. I Promise…

March 25th, 2015 · 3 Comments

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Many months ago, my best friend pressed me to read Kara Tippett’s writing at Mundane Faithfulness. Upon Amie’s mention that, “Oh…and by the way, I should mention she’s dying…”, I turned my ears off. Not because I have a limited ability to grieve, but because I have an unlimited ability to grieve. Due to my lack of natural boundaries, I carefully monitor my emotional bank account, and my conscious withdrawals from it.

I could not have guessed that this Kara, a woman I had never met, had something she’d like to DEPOSIT onto my emotional balance sheet. Amie, having known her in high school, just kept insisting. So I started reading…and reading…and reading.

Kara came to Indy in November for a book signing, and you can bet, Amie and I were there. I took pages upon pages of notes, because what Kara had to offer us in her final days was nothing short of a miracle: she showed us Jesus. The real Jesus and his Big Love, and with her words, she made it clear the entire point of suffering.

Just like that.

God, his mercy, Jesus’ purpose, and therefore mine, all became quite lucid. All told via the words of a woman leaving behind 4 beautiful children, a husband, and a huge church community. Kara did not have to spend her final days witnessing to us, but she did, and tens of thousands of us are forever in her debt. Eternally in her debt, if you like God-math.

Kara took her final walk home last Sunday, while my family was down with the flu, Spring Break was starting with snow, and I was feeling about as low as I could go. This week has followed on theme: grey, cold, wet, and full of mucous.

But I made promises to Kara, and I intend to keep them:

(1) Kara asked us to continue to show up to our lives, because showing up matters.

(2) When the hard corners of our days press into us, we promised to look for Jesus. He will meet us in those hard corners, because suffering isn’t God’s absence in our lives: it’s our needingness of him.

(3) I promised to parent my children with Big Love and kindness, and to honor my marriage and my family with the type of Big Love Jesus has shown me.

(4) I will ponder the possibility that winning isn’t the story, but that finding beauty in the brokenness is the point of the story instead. I will turn away from the lie that winning is everything.

(5) I will lean into my days and look for God’s grace within them.

(6) I will join into the community Jesus has placed before me, because none of us were meant to walk alone.

(7) I will let my story be a safe landing place for others, and in so doing, my living can press people toward faith.

(8) I will be a better listener.

(9) I will ask my loves how their hearts are today?

(10) I will lean into God in my suffering and accept that he is not afraid of my bitterness or bad moods.

(11) I WILL SPEND MY HEALTH WELL.

(12) I won’t be ashamed when my eyeballs sweat.

Many of us have taken some time to weep for Kara and her loves this week. I will not be ashamed to cry for a woman I met one time, because her words have forever changed me. Since that cold night last November, I see Jesus all around me. Some days I’ve just gotten up, and said, “I’m here Jesus! Send me!” Every day, he does. The wild, colorful myriad of tasks he’s asked of me have filled me to overflowing. I can’t recall when I last felt this blessed and complete.

My new mantra is to whisper “I promise”, sprinkled throughout my day. When I tuck the girls into bed for the 3rd (ahem) time, I promise to show them Big Love. When Greg’s busy season requires a “little” flexibility on my part, I promise to show him just how safe and warm his marriage can be. When friends call, I listen for the unspoken needs, and I do my best to show up. I promise. When the flu is doing its best to kick my butt, but 3 young ladies need to get out of the house, I took a shower, and I taught them how to BOWL, whispering (through the coughing), “I promise”.  If Kara can raise 4 kids for 2.5 years on chemo, I can bowl for 2 hours. We had such a wonderful time, and I discovered God’s goodness is everywhere, even in the bowling alley. I promise, I promise, I promise. Big Love and Kindness.

All of these things, I promise to Kara. She was quite frank in telling us we wouldn’t meet again on this side of heaven, and then she proceeded to die with a grace and dignity society would like us to believe isn’t possible. But it is. More is possible outside of fear and shame than we can imagine. I hope to make her proud, so that when we do meet in heaven, I can tell her how I rewrote my story to reflect her teachings.

Her book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard, is available on Amazon, and it’s the guide you need if you are interested in understanding Jesus’ role in your personal suffering. We all have pain, and there is such mercy to be found, if only we could see it.

Thank you Kara. Thank you for sharing your story, for selflessly spending your last days on earth writing it down for us, and helping us see there is so much more to this life than exists here on earth. Godspeed, Sweet Angel. Until we meet again…


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Chevron-A-Palooza

March 19th, 2015 · 2 Comments

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As part of my “Trends” series, it was a certainty I’d eventually land on Chevron. Chevron, nothing more than angular lines repeated in a pattern, has overwhelmed me with its ubiquitousness. And I promise that is the biggest word I’ll use this week.

Let’s start our Trend Tour at the beginning, with this pillow: this one, simple, monogrammed pillow. After MUCH research, stretching late into the night (when all proper pinning occurs), I have found the Alpha-Pillow that started the craze I like to call “Chevron-A-Palooza”.

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The whole thing began innocently enough, really. You pair angles with a femininely-loopy monogram on a PILLOW? PILLOWS, ladies. I know how we all feel about pillows. I think I covered the pillow craze adequately enough over here. I don’t think I need to cover monograms either. You could slap a monogram on a pile of poop and 10 women would line up to buy it. Make the font Carolyna Curvy, and that line doubles. Don’t hide in shame! I know you’re looking at the picture above and planning another pregnancy, just so you can put those pink pillows across a couch YOU DO NOT YET OWN, for a nursery YOU CURRENTLY DON’T NEED, for a baby YOU HAVE NOT YET CONCEIVED.

You can lay down the Chevron-denial right here…this is a fad tree of trust.

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But before you go off your birth control, let me remind you: your spare room does not have enough space for a couch. I’ve been to your house! Houzz don’t want yo’ Chevron rocking chair pictures! They are FULL UP, I promise you.

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Not to mention, we already have the beginnings of the Chevron Generation (they will be known as Gen-Chev). Is that what you want? To have this baby? Look at this poor sweetheart! She doesn’t know if she’s 13 months, 13 years, or one step away from a pink Cadillac and a retirement condo in Florida.

From frill-laden diaper covers, it was obviously going to make the jump to clothing next (many trends start on clothing first and then move to pillows and fingernails, but Chevron did it backwards…tricky Chevy…TRIIIC-KEEY):

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For some reason, it did not start on shirts, which is an important step away from the 80’s, I think. I found it an interesting social study that it started on 1970’s dresses, paired with boots. I guess I didn’t see that coming, but then again, because of this wardrobe-pillow/nails U-Turn, Chevron had already proven to be a fad trail-blazer. The dress must always be paired with boots, and I cannot stress this enough: The pairing of the shapeless dress with the boots is a formula which is cannot be undone.

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BOOTS WITH AT LEAST ONE STRAP. 2 if you have it, but if not, 1 will suffice in a pinch. If you don’t have the boots, just don’t bother with the RSVP. I have attended events where I am certain half the room was wearing a Chevron dress with brown boots. It was dizzying to say the least.

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When I leave the house these days, I feel like I’m in 7th grade again; but instead of my classmates arranging to match outfits behind my back, it’s THE ENTIRE CITY. I get the long “up-and-down” glance from the hip girls, and then they quickly swivel away, back into their conversations. What was I thinking? Jeans? AND A SHIRT?! My necklace probably only weighs an OUNCE! These days, the necklaces are weighed at the door of the party, and anything less than a full pound gets you sent home. But that’s a trend-post for another day.

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Still, I have lingering regrets about my non-conformist attitude. Had I just thrown my Grandmother’s old blanket over my shoulders, I could have been the life of the party. THE LIFE, I tell you! Who am I kidding? I’ve never had a tan, and my curls never go backwards. Plus, at my height, boots usually look like they are eating my legs. But I root for everyone, so you GO, Tan Chevron Blanket Girl. You show those Dress-Heathers how it’s done. No matter how conformist you look, you will always be Veronica to me.

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Chevron is a female-construct, so at some point it was bound to get competitive. I don’t exactly know why. It starts at a young age, of this I am certain. When we were making friendship pins and braided ribbon barrettes back in the early 80’s, it started with just the one pin. But DUDE, by the end of 1982, if you weren’t literally covered in pins and barrettes, you were ostracized in the lunch room. Those dangle-y beads hanging off the barrettes had to practically whip your face and blind you, just to get near the Cool Girls table. How easily you have all forgotten the “Great Bead Blinding Epidemic” of 1983. I apologize. Maybe you wanted to forget, you sweet, one-eyed lady.

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Once women get competitive about a fad, the drinks are set down, and the earrings removed. Prepare thyself for an all-out country-wide Chevron Puke-Fest. I don’t even know WHAT to call this shade of green, but I think “PCP Sky” is pretty close. Looking at the color, paired with a platter turned into a clock, I think we can assume this was Florida’s entry into the “Chevron-A-Palooza 2015 Smackdown”.

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Sassy Southern Girls don’t mess ’round you’all. They monogram their morning eggs & bacon, so if you think doing car mats for their Jimmys was a stretch, you were just kidding yourself. Go for one coffee break, and they’ve already Chevron’ed their dogs.

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“Don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules” -Ouiser Boudreaux, Steel Magnolias

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In the Midwest, we not only Chevron the fridge, but we put Biblical quotes on the produce drawers. Take THAT Georgia Peaches!

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But before you get the idea that we’re too puritanical here in the middle, we also like to drink and Chevron our cornhole games. Or at least Susan and Kevin do. I don’t know them personally, but if they are born-and-bred Hoosiers, I probably know at least 3 people with whom they went to school. And we probably have the same Biblical quote on our veggie drawer.

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New England had to chime in because they can grow purple hydrangeas. You have the correct pH in your soil…WE KNOW…we know. But I’ll give those East Coast ladies one thing: they sure know how to keep a mixer spotless…almost as if they’ve never turned it on. Like maybe they aren’t sure what it’s for….(hint: it’s not a gardening accessory…)

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Oh lovely…I just love the country of Maine, don’t you? They have great antiques. I find their language and currency tricky to follow, but once you get enough lobsters in your trunk for bartering, I find Maine to be a nice country to visit.

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We’re having this massive Chevron party, and always knocking on the door is Canada. “Hey there! It’s your friendly neighbor from the north! Look! I brought Chevron, and a cold weather front sure to bring 28″ of snow!”

Oh Canada. Bless your heart.

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GOD! Why does all the really cool stuff come from California?! How do they always get the lead on the rest of us? Chevron Rainbow Birthday Cake?! I mean REALLY! What will they beat us to next?

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Shower curtains. Single-initial 2-toned using grey as a neutral SHOWER CURTAINS. I don’t know why we even try. 40 years running as winners of the Fad-Contest, going all the way back to Marsha Brady’s bell-bottomed orange pants…you’d think we’d at least put our heads together and try to create an anti-California alliance.

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But NOOO. We just let them stomp all over the competition with a Chevron-ON-Chevron invitation! It’s like they’re some kind of wacky Einstein-esque Fad Geniuses. It’s embarrassing America, really. Sleep in your 5-lb necklaces tonight, and think about the weak game you bring against California, year after year.

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And here is poor Oklahoma. Did you borrow a time machine and go back to 2013 to buy that? Are you JUST NOW getting Chevron iPhone covers? It’s like you’re not even trying. Appalachia beat you to Chevron. Seriously, how do you live with yourselves? Quick! Get your first initial on that thing. Or your last…I DON’T CARE, but for heaven’s sakes…MONOGRAM SOMETHING.

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OK now, that’s much better. Chevron AND glitter. Thou hast redeemed thyself Sooner Country. You may rejoin this fashion statement smack-down.

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And this is why it’s very, very difficult to live in New York City. You think you’re seeing a closet converted to an office, but NO. That’s someone’s ENTIRE APARTMENT. The stool doubles as a toilet, the printer runs water, and to sleep, you turn around the shoe cubby, and there is a body bag which you “hang” yourself into. Rent: $4,500 per month. BUT, it comes furnished with CHEVRON. Don’t get your hopes up: there’s a 5-year waiting list.

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No Arizona…just…NO. You mixed Aztec with Chevron, which are two entirely different statements. You got the boots right, and you got the boot warmers right, but otherwise, this mixed media is not working for me. Also, leggins ARE NOT pants, no matter how cute yo’ butt. I don’t blame you, but I am sending your Momma a letter.

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If you’re going to wear Chevron near your ass-like region, do it like Miss San Diego here. You stay Classy, San Diego.

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I would like for Chicago to explain the doll’s dress paired with the whore sandals. Now. Call me Chicago, because you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. Julie would NEVER wear whore sandals, even after her parent’s divorce. I know this, because I had to read the entire book about how she found herself. Plus, her car cost more than my actual first car. Come to think of it, American Girl Doll…you have a lot of explaining to do. Let’s chat.

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God love you Minnesota! Way to keep it real! Minnesota won’t play your reindeer games. Minnesota WON’T EVEN.

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SEATTLE! Rocks the party! Everyone knows this! Cry in your Cheerios California! Seattle makes a slam dunk with Chevron and Polka-Dots! You didn’t even THINK about polka dots, did you? Sometimes the answer is right in front of you.

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Last (literally….last to join the Union), but never least (literally…you are psychotically loved by all of America, so much so, that we STOLE you)…Hawaii. Hawaii, a state we consider so valuable, we’ll let them put Chevron, gold-sequined ric-rac, dime-store gems, AND 2-toned FUR, on a BRA, and we’ll love it. Doesn’t that rose just pull it all together?

Way to slam dunk this contest Hawaii. Golly-gee…you WIN. Who could compete with this?

I’ve enjoyed spending this time with you. I wish I could tell you what’s coming next, but I’m no trend-predictor. I didn’t predict Cross-Fit would become a cult anymore than I could have guessed Crocs were a shoe. I thought they were a some kind of Chia Pet when I first saw them at the mall. Feel free to leave your predictions, but do so quietly. Don’t tip off California, as if they need any help with a head start….


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And The Before & After Contest Winner IS….

March 15th, 2015 · 4 Comments

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A huge thank you to everyone for submitting ideas on how to reinvent my sewing room armoire. Your ideas finally got my juices flowing. Thus far we’ve agreed on grey, and I think there will be color on the front, in the form of a logo. If it’s not Troisine, it will probably be French wording in a weathered white. I’d call it cliché, but I speak horrid high school French, so I can Français-up anything I want. I’ve earned it (You heard me Madame Hightower; you and your insanely hard pop quizzes. It’s 25th High School Reunion Year, and you’ve got some explaining to do.).

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NOW, onto to the winner of these FABULOUS greeting cards, handmade by moi (See? Totally droppin’ some French):

 

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Wait, before I tell you what the Random Number Generator threw out, I should mention that Sara got quite excited about my card-making. She’s made a lovely stack for you as well. Buttons turned into balloons, inspirational sayings…GLITTER…her 3 cards have it all. Quite sweet, all signed on the back, “custom made by Sara, age 9″, which is a crock, because we ALL know she’s 9.5. I have the gumballs to prove it.

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This paper is divine, embossed, and the inside has charcoal grey birds, as a little surprise.

SO, without further adieu, the number chosen was:

SIX!

Elizabeth, you are the winner! I’ll be contacting you shortly, and I’ll probably just put them on your front porch in a box. Shipping is formal and lovely, but we have geography on our side. Big time.

Again, thank you to everyone who entered. When will this project unveil? Excuse me…I mean…begin? Who knows? Someday, you’ll be bored with email, click on over here, and VOILA! (I can’t stop…Je parle Français like it’s my JOB): There will be a fancy-schmancy new-to-you armoire. I can hardly wait. Wait. I’m the one who has to refinish it. Waiting sounds rather delicious.

In the meantime, there will be many other projects to see (me screw up). We’ll have some laughs, I promise. For everyone else, this week I want you to use your fine china, wear jewelry you only save for special occasions, and send the pretty stationery you’ve been saving. Life is too short to hang onto cute cards. Send them. Godspeed everyone. Godspeed.

 


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Happy Random Made-Up Holiday Friday

March 13th, 2015 · 2 Comments

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Remember when Fridays were easy? Chill out…it’s almost the weekend! Remember? No…I don’t either. Fridays with family seems to be the “shove in every odd, random thing that doesn’t otherwise fit neatly into the rest of the week” day. Following my Friday To-Do list feels somewhat like living inside a pinball machine. First, Sara had a half-birthday (a while ago). A certain Momma forgot to get into the treat sign-up document, meaning the next time we could bring in a lunch treat is sometime in 2019. A year without milkshake cupcakes?! OH GOD NO!!  Sara settled on rainbow gumball take home treats, a spot I could snag only a full month late. Man! The parents at our school take birthday treats SERIOUSLY.

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It seemed like an easy enough task, until I over-engineered it. What? Me? NEVER. Our system was running smoothly until Sara’s medication and my wine wore off, and we had to put her name on the tags. Seem like an easy thing to agree upon? Ha. If you have daughters, you already know how that went.

Nonetheless, we finished all 48 bags without too much drama. There was eye-rolling. There was some huffing and puffing. There was Daddy thoroughly fed up with the both of us. Kelly was somewhere…micromanaging the washing of one pair of yoga pants to match her shirt for today.

Daughters. May we all survive it.

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And because it’s random Friday, it’s also Pi Day at school. For the year 3-14-15, when Pi begins with 3.1415, t-shirts are just obligatory. I made one for Kelly and her buddy, both of whom have been putting up with my matching clothes thing for years. Such sweethearts.

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Despite our best efforts, we all got out the door fully prepared, full of breakfast, and ready to face the day. The key to Random Friday lies in a system of BAGS (all Mother’s know about the bags):

1st bag: Not-quite-half-birthday treats.

2nd bag: Sara’s Spanish Presentation.

3rd bag & 4th bags: Girl Scout meeting in which Sara is teaching swimming safety, and Kelly is attending, and I am chaperoning.

5th bag: Sara’s sleepover suitcase.

6th bag: Kelly’s sleepover suitcase.

7th bag: Kelly lost her sleeping bag case, and borrowed one of my bags. She inserted some postcards in case she wants to send me a note while she’s away. At my sister’s. Who lives a few minutes away. For one night.

8th bag: Greg and I have a class at church tonight, but we put our materials together in advance, because we’ll have to meet there. Greg steers clear of the Mommy bags and packs his own. He requires just the one, at all times, and under all circumstances.

9th and 10th bags: School backpacks.

DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, mess up the MOMMA FRIDAY BAG SYSTEM. The last thing we want is Sara wearing a bathing suit and goggles during her Brazilian Poison Dart Frog presentation where she pulls out her presentation materials, only to find she’s holding Kelly’s sleeping bag and an empty post card.

I’ve got to run, because Fridays wait for no Mom. I wish you all the best for your weekend, and don’t forget to enter into the card/armoire giveaway (also random!).

 


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