Monday, September 30, 2013

September Gavinisms

Passing by someone walking on the street:
Gavin: "Who is that, Momma?"
Me: "Our neighbor up the street."
Gavin: "I don't know his name so I'm just gonna call him dude."

After church one Sunday:
Gavin: "It's a good day for a donut."

In the car on the way to daycare:
Gavin: "Momma, can you sing me a song?"
Me: "Sure...what song do you want me to sing?"
Gavin: "That one you sang when I was a baby."
Me: [sings song]..."do you remember that song?"
Gavin: "I don't remember the words, but I'm singing it in my heart right now."

Referring to our worship center, which is darker than the sanctuary at church:
Gavin: "When I grow up, I'm gonna play drums in the dark church."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bennett at 18 Months

This child.
Oh, how I love him.

He still looks so much like his brother, but is absolutely his own person in every single other way possible.

He's speaking a little, but probably only 15-20 words or so. He still signs most everything, though he's picking up more language every day. He mimics our intonation perfectly when trying to repeat back new words, but can't quite make out the actual sounds for everything yet. He understands hundreds of words though, and often answers our questions with a sign, or a head shake for "no" or "yes," but mostly "no" because he's a toddler.
The way he says "outside" (ow-sigh) makes me want to grant every request he makes to go play "ow-sigh" because it's just too damn cute. I'd forgotten how much I loved toddler language and the way their pronunciation melts you into a puddle.

He's also daring--trying to impale, strangle, or maim himself at every possible opportunity. If there's something to climb on, he's scaled it before I can blink. I feel a strong urge to keep him covered in bubble wrap at all times.
He's a feisty one, and a little bit of a biter. If you ignore his demands or dare take a toy he wants, he'll come after you, mouth open, ready to defend his territory with that mouthful of chompers he's got. We're working on time-outs, etc. to curb his angry outbursts, but we've already had to sign a couple incident reports at daycare because he "bit a friend." Dude. Friends don't bite. Not the good ones anyway. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this little phase passes soon.

He's also such a cuddler, and I'm soaking up every single second of it before he outgrows this huggy/kissy phase. When he first wakes, he requires a snuggle. You'd might as well just drop everything else and give in because there's no better way to start the day. He melts his little body into yours and sighs, lavishing in a warm cuddle for a few moments before he's off and moving.

He loves his big brother fiercely, and wants to do everything Gavin does. His latest mimic is trying to jump, which mostly is just him rising up on his tip-toes and then back down again.

At eighteen months (already?!) he's this perfect little combo of spunk and sweetness, and I couldn't imagine our lives without him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Big Fat Fail

For most of Gavin's life, we've lived as if peanuts were poison. For him, they always have been. The first time he ate peanuts, this happened:
He'd just turned one, and we were trying out some peanut butter for the first time. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until 16 hours after he'd eaten a tablespoon of peanut butter, so when we took him to urgent care, the doctor said it couldn't possibly be a peanut allergy. (Note: Hindsight taught us that we know our child better than any doctor. Grrr.)

Several months later after an overnight at my parent's house, he had peanut butter on a waffle for breakfast, and when I went to pick him up after church, my mom said he'd been complaining about his ears itching. As soon as I'd heard he'd had peanut butter again, I knew immediately that he was having a reaction. I rushed him to Children's Mercy, and by the time we got there, the left side of his face was so swollen that he couldn't open his eye. Scariest car ride of my life, by the way. Every time I looked back at him, he looked worse, and I was terrified I wasn't going to make it to the hospital before his throat closed up.

The nurse practically jumped over the desk to listen to his breathing when she saw him, and took us straight back into a room where doctors pumped him full of antihistamines and stopped the reaction, thank God.

From that point on, we've been a label-checking, epi-pen-carrying, online-researching, peanut-free household, and I've lived with a quiet, constant worry about Gavin being accidentally exposed to peanuts again. He's a child, after all, and we can't expect him, and everyone he comes in contact with to have the same heightened sensitivity as we do. I certainly didn't know what to look for on a food label or which restaurants fry their food in peanut oil before he became allergic. It's something we've had to grow into as a family, and something we've had to ingrain in him. He's gotten so good at asking, "Does that have peanuts in it?" when someone offers him food, and I'm incredibly proud of him for it, but still...that constant, nagging worry persisted.

So this year, when blood tests came back that the antibodies in his blood had decreased steadily every year, and his allergist suggested doing a peanut butter challenge in the office, I was equal parts nervousness and excitement. The day came and he was a champ. The nurse fed him gradually increasing amounts of peanut butter while we watched movies and played on the iPad. Little by little he ate it and nothing happened, and little by little, I got my hopes up that maybe, just maybe he'd have a different where he didn't have to worry about measly little peanut proteins.

But then I saw a little red splotch right below his lip and noticed him scratching his bottom lip with his teeth, and those hopes crumbled. He told the nurse his lips and tongue were "itchy" and the test was stopped immediately. His reaction was mild enough this time that he only had to take an oral dose of antihistamine to stop it, which was a relief, but I don't think it was until that moment that I realized how badly I just wanted it to be over. His peanut allergy. The constant worry. All of it. Though he remained oblivious, I was heartbroken. For him. For me. For the easier future I'd started to imagine for all of us.

So now we go back to the world we've known with our hopes a little shaken, but not abandoned. He still has a chance to grow out of this, and that is our constant prayer. That, and the grateful prayer of thanks we give for a generally happy, healthy, smart, strong, and incredibly awesome kiddo.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Love Letter From a Proud Pre-K Momma

You went to bed a big Pre-K kid last night, and your Daddy and I cried huge tears of pride for the little person you're becoming. You see...we already know your good heart, your kind nature, and your genuine concern for others. We get to see it all the time, but occasionally, we get to hear how that part of you shines even when we're not watching.

Yesterday morning, we walked into your new class and a little girl was sitting at a table quietly crying, with one of your teachers trying to soothe her fears. It was her first day, and she knew no one, unlike you, who galloped into the room and immediately saw several faces you knew and loved. I asked her name and called you over to introduce the two of you. I was this close to saying, "Why don't you help her feel better?" but you were off to the next thing after saying "hi" and I was in a hurry to get to work.

When I came to pick you up last night, you came running as usual, and I noticed the smile you gave to the same little girl, who was still obviously nervous and cautious about this whole Pre-K thing, clinging to the teacher until her parents picked her up. Your teacher piped up then, and said, "Gavin was a good friend today," and then proceeded to tell me how you'd patted the little girl's back when she cried and tried to make her feel more at home in her new classroom.

My cup overflowed in that moment, buddy...Because you were kind. Because I didn't have to tell you to be kind. Because you looked outside yourself to help someone you didn't even know. Because you weren't selfish. For so many reasons, my heart blew wide open with pride for you.

I'm so honored to be your Momma every day, buddy, but yesterday, you reminded me of one of the many reasons why.

I love you more,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer Gavinisms

Wise words that include the word "butt":
Gavin: "It's not good if you lose your butt."
Me: "Oh, really?"
Gavin: "Ya...cuz then you can't poop."

A hero in the making:
Gavin: "If Bennett tries to go in the street, I'll trap him. Cuz I'm a big brother and that's what big brothers do."

Still a Daddy's boy:
Gavin: "You're a great dude, Daddy."

Thinking about his future form of employment:
Gavin: "I want to go to work with you, Momma."
Me: "Well...maybe you can come with me one day when you're bigger."
Gavin: "No, I want to come every day."
Me: "Well, when you get bigger, maybe you can work at Hallmark, too."
Gavin: "How big are your workers?"
Me: "At least 22."
Gavin: "Awww, man!"

Randomness from the back of the car:
Gavin: "I wish I was Batman."

Dancing around while eating frozen yogurt after dinner:
Me: "I love your dancing."
Gavin: "Ya...I should be on a TV show."

Picking up after a game one night:
Me: "How do we always forget one piece?"
Gavin: "Maybe cuz we don't have good brains."

Wishful thinking:
Gavin: "I wish I could swim in chocolate milk. I'd swim with my mouth open and drink it all up!"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tell Me a Story

Gavin's nightly routine has been the same since he was only a few days old. Put on jammies, read books, sing songs, go to bed.
Reading with Daddy as a 15-month-old.
Almost four and a half years passed with that same routine, until vacation this year, when all of a sudden he grew out of songs and started asking for stories instead. At first, I thought he meant more books, but soon realized he wanted us to tell him a story. One that we'd made up. From scratch.

I mourned the loss of song in our routine only briefly because MY BOY LOVES STORIES! And, and, and...he's so going to be a word nerd like his Momma. I just know it. [squeals with delight]

He routinely gives us a subject now that we must follow, no matter how goofy it may be. The other day, he asked for "a story where monkeys fart" because of course he did.

Even with the goofiness, I'm loving indulging this new little fascination of his and I'm not-so-secretly hoping (obviously) that it sparks a lifetime love of storytelling.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Myrtle Beach Vacay: A Picture Post

How has an entire month gone by since returning from vacation without a single post about the awesomeness that was vacation? I'll tell you how. Life. That's how. The past few weeks have a been a whirlwind of crazy...but today, I pause from the crazy to bring you a little recap of our fantastic family vacation to Myrtle Beach.

We drove 17+ hours to get there because we're crazy. And also cheap. I have to admit, I was a tiny bit panicked before we left because, hello...we have two children under five years old.

In a car.

For 17+ hours.

But you know what? My boys surprised me, and were the epitome of perfect little angels for pretty much the entire trip. We strategically planned our drive so they'd be sleeping for at least several hours both ways, and I packed the appropriate distraction tools, i.e. DVDs, oreos, cars, the fridge farm, oreos, I Spy books, coloring pages, and oreos...did I mention the oreos?

We started out at 3:30 AM so we could get several hours of driving in before the boys woke up. Or so I thought. About ten minutes into the ride, I heard Gavin say, "Momma...Bennett's touching me!" and I immediately regretted the decision to drive, but the I'm-excited-to-leave-so-I'm-not-sleeping wore off about an hour later and they were both zonked out for next three hours.

We stayed the night in Nashville on the way there and the way back. The boys got in some roughhousing, and we got to see Ryan's brother, Matthew, and sister-in-law, Brooke in their Nashville home.
Brooke, Matthew, and our overly-excited-been-stuck-in-a-car-too-long boys.
It was a nice break in the long drive, and we even got a pet fish in our hotel for the night. Gavin was enamored, of course.
Our "fish for the night" was deemed "Fred."
We got to Myrtle Beach the next day and the rest of my mom's side of the family joined us shortly after. We rented a house right on the beach (of which I failed to get a picture!), and spent the entire week as a family.
At the Ripley's Aquarium with Uncle Adam and Aunt Jahlynn.
At the beach building sand castles.
Gavin put on "fireworks shows" with building blocks for our pre-breakfast entertainment.
The "old folks" mini-golfing team...and Gavin. Gavin even got a hole-in-one!
Aunt Jahlynn and Uncle Adam taught Gavin to bodyboard. He was quite the little surfer by the end of the trip!

Boys at the beach!
Late-night puzzle fun!
On the Myrtle Beach Skywheel.
The boys' first ride in teacups--they loved it as much as their Momma!
There was so much to love about that week, but the best part? Spending it all together. We got to stay together, eat meals together, do puzzles, go mini-golfing, watch old home movies, go to the beach, and just generally enjoy each other's company. It was awesome to be in such a beautiful place surrounded by people I love. The other plus? There were other people who could entertain our boys besides the two of us, which meant Ryan and I got bits of a parenting vacation as well!

It was a fabulous week with the whole Cohoon side of the family. We can't wait for the next one!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gavinisms: Vacation Edition

After seeing his Great-Grandfather Cohoon being served a disgusting-looking vitamin drink by his Great-Grandmother Cohoon:
Gavin: "What is that Granddad?"
Granddad: "It's a vegetable drink. Try it. It'll make your hair curl."
Gavin: "I like my hair straight."

Trying to understand the Skywheel on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk:
Me: "It's a ferris wheel with cars that are closed, kind of like a little room just for our family."
Gavin: "I'm wanna take my clothes off on the Skywheel."
Me: "Well, it's glass, buddy, so everybody can see you. It's like a glass room. It's still public."
Gavin: "Oh."

Taking a walk on a beautiful, breezy day:
Gavin, before we left: "I don't want to wear a shirt."
Me: "That's fine, buddy."
Gavin, on the walk: "Momma, you should take your shirt off so you can feel the breeze. It's nice outside."
In our "glass room" on the Skywheel--clothes required.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Letter to My Boys

Your Momma has been stressed, and busy, and has completely disregarded this blog lately, which means your monthly letters have unfortunately been put on the back burner as well. Sorry for that. But, as I've said before, I would much rather be spending time with the both of you than writing about it, and so when my free time dwindled down these past few months, what time I did have was spent with you, and your Daddy, and I will never apologize for that. Also, the older you two get, the less need I feel for monthly updates, so these might morph into more "big news" kind of updates instead. are your big headlines for the last few months...

Every time I look at you I keep wondering if you've grown overnight. You are just so much taller now, and your baby face has thinned out so much that people don't even think you have your Momma's cheeks anymore. The taller you get, the braver and more confident you get as well--inviting neighbors over to play, bodyboarding in the ocean, etc., etc.
Your first catch of the season!
You've grown a bit more defiant in that confidence as well, which has surprised me coming from my generally reserved and fairly compliant little man. It goes in spurts, really, like you're testing us or something. I hope we're passing. :)

With every little bit you grow and change, you still insist on stories and cuddles at bedtime, and I hope that sweet little part of you doesn't change for many, many months to come. Your sweetness is also still evident in your relationship with Bennett. You're so, SO good at sharing with him, and genuinely feel bad if you accidentally hurt him. You adore him, and I love that you're your sweetest with him.

You start Pre-K in just a few short weeks, and I cannot believe it's your last year at WeCare. It feels like a blink ago I was stressed about you not taking a bottle from a stranger, and this will be your fourth classroom since then. You're so very excited about your new class, and going back to school, though, that I can't be melancholy about the passing years too long--there's just too much more to experience with you in the coming years.

I've missed you so much this summer as I've left for work every day while you, Daddy and Bennett get to stay home. The one fabulous thing about it is the greeting I get every day when I come home, though. There is nothing quite like seeing you waving at the garage door as soon as I pull my car in, and the "Come play with me, Mommas" I get before I even turn off the car.

Keep being your awesome self, kiddo.
I love you more,

Child, you are a feisty one, and I have to admit how much I love it. While you're so laid back when it comes to certain things, your spunk definitely comes out when you want to get your point across. You're saying a few words, but mostly, you're signing what you want, or expecting us to read your mind (quickly) to figure things out. You say, "Uh-oh, mama, dada, daisy, bye-bye, all done and ya-ya (Gavin), but that's pretty much the extent of your spoken vocabulary so far, besides animal sounds, which you're picking up pretty quickly. Every new animal is a dog at first, but you've slowly starting realizing they all make different sounds. Your roar is my particular favorite, which is almost more shout-like every time you see a dinosaur. Adorable. You understand 10 times your spoken vocabulary, and answer questions with the shake of your head for "no" or "yes" (though it's mostly "no" because you're a toddler, so of course it is).

You're very into reading books now, and I love that you're starting to love them as much as your brother. Your favorites right now are Old Hat, New Hat, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and That's Not My Monkey, all of which you request on a nightly basis. My attempts at throwing in a newbie seem to be working more often lately, thank God, because I don't even need to look at the others to read them anymore.

You graduated from feeding yourself with your fingers months ago and now use a fork and spoon pretty well. You also skipped right past traditional sippy cups and prefer cups with straws instead. The bath is also almost a thing of the past, as you and Gavin and Daddy prefer showers together.

Just recently you've started freely giving hugs and kisses whenever you're asked, and it melts me into a puddle every time. I particularly like to ask you when you're all the way across a room, because you'll pucker your lips and walk allll the way over with your chin in the air, just waiting to plant that kiss with a "mwah!" sound.

You're still fearless when it comes to climbing, or whatever other semi-dangerous thing you see your big brother doing. You follow suit immediately, and your motor skills constantly astound me.
Climbing over the couch to find a lost binkie.
You're growing so fast that I feel bad I haven't updated your happenings here, but I promise they're well-documented in photos and videos.

I love you more,

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One Word, Five Voices: Tears


Oh my...have I shed a few in my 31 years. Joyful tears, heartbroken tears, proud tears, furious tears...the list could go on for a good long while, I'm sure. But when I saw "tears" was the chosen word for this month, I immediately thought of 40+ kids in an orphanage halfway across the world in Russia. Because their tears? They're some of the most morose, painful tears I've ever encountered.

Watching my own children cry--when they're hurt, or scared--it's hard. So hard. I wish I could wipe the pain and fright away, but at best, all I can give is a hug, and a promise that "it'll be okay." The thing is, sometimes that's all they need. A quick cuddle from Momma restores security and heals pain better than any medicine--I'm sure of it. Because in my arms, they feel safe. They feel wanted and important. They feel loved.

As much as I want to, I can't quite do the same for my Russian kids. I can't promise them things will turn out just fine. The hugs I give and the love I pour into them certainly can't make up for years of abuse and neglect. Those facts were sobering for me after my first trip to Russia in 2010. I left feeling as though I couldn't possibly have made any difference in their shattered young lives. But then I went back the following year and saw just what a difference that tiny bit of love had made. I saw maturing, more confident kids. I saw walls coming down that had been built up for years. I saw trust forming in a tangible way. I saw what loving your neighbor is about in its rawest form.

So no, I can't promise my Russian kids things will get better. I can't dry their tears as I leave and wrap them in comfort the same way I can with my own boys. I can't even promise I will be back the following year, or that I'll ever see them again.

But I can promise a love that's not my own. I can love them in the way they were created to be loved. And that makes all the difference.
Me and my buddy, Dima.

To learn more about how you can partner with me and the rest of the 2013 Russia Team, please contact me via e-mail at

This post is part of a series focused on a single word, which started with a 2013 Lenten challenge from Rethink Church. A group of five friends (including me) posted once a day and love-hated it so much we couldn't stop. We now post once a month on the same word. Check out what my friends think of the word "tears" on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Friday, May 31, 2013

May Gavinisms

Reminiscing about a movie he's never seen:
Gavin: "Mommy, I like Dark Bader."
Me: "Why do you like Darth Vader?"
Gavin: "Because he's just so bad."

Being dramatic in the car:
Gavin: "My tummy feels throwed up."
Me: "Are you ok?"
Gavin: "No."
0.0005 seconds after saying no: "Look, Mommy! Spiderman!"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Shy Guy First

Last night, while playing outside on the Best. Playground. Ever. (see 2-year-old picture above for proof), Gavin noticed the neighbor boys peeking over the fence from their backyard.

"Maybe they want to play, Mommy," he said. "Let's ask them."

"Great idea, buddy!" I said, oozing with pride over my generally shy guy. "Go over and ask if they'd like to come over."

"Will you come with me?" he asked, a little more apprehensive this time.

"You can do it," I said, coaxing him toward the fence. "I'll be right here."

Before he even reached the fence, our youngest neighbor, Royce, yelled over, asking if he and his brother Carlton could come over and play. Gavin responded with an excited "Ya!" and ran back to me with a grin that split his face wide open. He was ecstatic, and spent the next hour playing soccer, taking turns on the swings, and playing chase.

And if the evening wasn't already stereotypically "boys from the neighborhood hanging out," they also chased, caught and then proceeded to bathe a toad. Boys, right?

I was so proud of my shy guy, and reminded that even though my heart aches every time I realize how fast he's growing, it swells to see him maturing into such a sweet, confident kid.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Word, Five Voices: Sing

Those of you who know me well know that I randomly sing words and phrases throughout my day. I'm pretty sure it's physically impossible for me to utter the word "creepy" without it coming out as a sing-songy "creeepeee." Go ahead and spook me with a story if you'd like to test that one out.

I grew up with song so it's naturally a part of my every day, and probably 99.9% of the reason my life feels like a musical. My mom is a fabulously talented singer, and though I don't remember my childhood being filled with randomly sung words like "creeepeee," I do remember her "Good morning" song, Christmas caroling through our neighborhood, trying out for high school musicals, and listening to her sing in church every Sunday morning. Song was so incorporated in my young life that I wrote this poem about it in college:

Childhood Epiphany in High G

I sat in a hard-backed pew
at St. Mark’s Catholic Church
every Sunday morning and listened
to my mother sing. 
Hymns, praise songs, and alleluias carried
her perfect soprano 
above the low-pitched muddle,
and with eyes closed I could pluck
her notes from the air and take them home
as the one godly thing I reaped that week. 

In fact, I think song heavily contributed to my love of poetry. I mean, songs are nothing more than poems set to music, right? Granted, some aren't as crafted as others, but you can't set your expectations too high for a typical pop song, I guess.

Even still, there's something about song that transcends poetry. It's the act of singing that brings the poem in a song to life. It's a joyful noise with which we can share the emotion behind a song and experience what the writer experienced.

Singing brings our lives to life.


This post is part of a series focused on a single word, which started with a 2013 Lenten challenge from Rethink Church. A group of five friends (including me) posted once a day and love-hated it so much we couldn't stop. We now post once a month on the same word. Check out what my friends think of the word "sing" on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Monday, April 29, 2013

April Gavinisms

Trying to make his brother laugh:
Gavin: "I'm gonna confuse Bennett."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Gavin: "Momma, confuse is another word for joking."

Talking about Ryan's weekend at the farm:
Me: "Turn off the TV, please. You need to spend some quality time with Daddy because he's going to be gone all weekend."
Gavin: "Even if he ate beans?"

Talking about fear:
Gavin: "Mommy, I'm scared of thunder."
Me: "I know, buddy. What can we do when we're scared?"
Gavin: " Daniel did when he was with the lions."
Me: "That's a great thing to do when you're scared."
Gavin, in his poutiest, most disappointed voice: "I never get throwed in a lion's den. I'm just scared of thunder."

Monday, April 15, 2013

One Word, Five Voices: Contagious

On the radio this morning, I heard doctors have proven that, like yawning, smiles are also contagious.

It's so true, isn't it? Think about the last time a baby gave you a two-toothed grin. You can't help but return that smile. Even the hardest of hearts can be melted by a beaming baby.
So what happens to us by the time we reach adulthood? We smile for the camera when someone says, "say cheese," but in our daily interactions, how often do we insert a smile?

A couple of years ago, the security guards at work changed from internal employees to an outsourced group. One of the new guards was a woman who never smiled. She barely even looked up to acknowledge the presence of the hundreds of employees walking by her every day. It made me miss the old guards who knew me by name, and always had a story, or at the very least, a smile to share as I walked in every day. As time went on, I didn't even look in her direction as I entered the building, because I knew I wasn't going to be greeted in a friendly way.

But then I decided to do a little experiment. I started looking her in the eye every day and saying, "good morning" with a smile. I got head nods at first, followed by eye contact, then smiles, and now, she says "good morning" some days before I even get the chance.

Because smiles aren't the only things that are contagious. Attitudes are contagious, kindness is contagious, love is contagious. And wouldn't the world be a very different place if we were spreading smiles and kindness and love instead of all that other crap that's contagious, like selfishness, greed and hate?

Let your smile be contagious today. Give a few out at work, at the grocery store on the way home, to your neighbor across the street, and especially to the "crankies" in your life. In the end, it changes you more than them.

Check out my friends' thoughts on the word "contagious" on their blogs: Shawn, Heather, Steph and Brian.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lenten Challenge: A Final Word

I hadn't planned to write a "closing" to this Lenten challenge, but I also hadn't planned to do a Lenten challenge blog marathon in the first place, so I guess consistency wins out. And also peer pressure.
Back in February, Rethink Church offered up a photo-a-day instagram challenge for Lent, and a friend told me she was going to up the ante by blogging every day with a couple other people. I thought it sounded great...for them. I was going to do my usual Lenten thing and give something up, because who's got time to add something in, am I right?! But then I read their posts from day one and got completely sucked in. Late on Ash Wednesday evening, I decided to join in what ended up being a Lenten experience like none I'd had before, and ironically, an experience that I needed, but didn't know how much.

Over 46 days (who knew Lent was FORTY-SIX days long?!), we each wrote a post inspired by a single word from the list above. I loved it. I hated it. I spent a lot of time on some posts and little time on others. It was good for my writing, good for my soul, good for my relationships, but as we neared the end, I was so ready for it to be over. The funny thing? Now that it is, I'm realizing what an amazing thing happened over those six weeks.  

This small little community of once-a-day bloggers grew into something much bigger. Sure, the five of us leaned on each other, commiserated together, and grew closer in our relationships with one another, but more importantly, the conversation started spreading to all of our readers. Simple "likes" on Facebook turned into hallway conversations at work, and comments on our posts led to new friendships.

Lent was no longer this thing we did in solidarity--it became something we shared as a community, something that brought us all closer together, something that was alive. And isn't that the point? We're supposed to share, and grow together, and love one another in this life. We're meant to be living in community.

Because of the community this crazy experiment created, not only for us, but for so many others, we're going to keep it going by posting once a month on a different word until Lent comes back around next year. I invite you to go check out what my friends had to say during this year's Lenten journey on their blogs:

Thanks for being a part of my community, readers!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Letter to My Boys

I got so caught up in my Lenten Challenge blog posts that I didn't write your usual letter last month. I did keep track of all you'd been up to though, so brace yourselves for a longer-than-usual letter.

It seems like you've started on a growth spurt again. Once you hit four, it was like you outgrew all your old clothing overnight. You're now comfortably wearing a 5T most of the time, and you're once again above average in percentiles for your age. You were 41" tall (63rd percentile) and 40 lbs (76th percentile) at your yearly check-up. Everything else checked out okay, minus your first couple of cavities when we took you to the dentist recently. Sorry--Mommy and Daddy haven't been the best flossers and you got a couple cavities in between your back molars where your teeth are tight.

Last week we had parent/teacher conferences at daycare and your teachers raved about what a sweet, kind boy you are. They said you're one of the few in class who gets along with all of the kids, even the ones who aren't very friendly back to you. They also said you've been sticking up for yourself more instead of crying when you get upset, and I got to experience it firsthand the other day when one of your classmates called you a "baby" at drop-off. It was totally my fault, and I felt awful, though you didn't seem to mind. I'd said, "I love you, baby" when you gave me a hug and another kid picked up on it. When he said, "You're a baby!" and pointed at you, you almost-yelled, "I'm not a baby! I don't like that!" and went on about your business. I was so proud of you, but felt bad, too. I'm sure it was just the first of many times I'll embarrass you. Sorry in advance, kiddo.

You also recently had a 4-year screening to see where your skills line up compared to other kids your age. One area you excelled in was language. You call out rhyming words all the time at home, and the test-giver was impressed that you'd already mastered that skill.

Probably the most exciting part of your last month, though was your friend birthday party at the Legacy Park Community Center pool. You were so excited to invite all your friends from class. You all swam at your favorite indoor "froggy pool" and we had cookie cake and opened presents. It was so fun watching you get to celebrate your special day with kids you'd grown up with from babyhood.

Speaking of your birthday, this year was your golden birthday (you turned 4 on the 4th), and I tried to make as big a deal as possible so you'll remember it. There were balloons, and pancakes, and birthday parties, and more balloons, and stickers, and streamers, and presents, etc., etc., etc. It was a magical day, and I hope you'll never forget it.
I love you more,

There are so many updates for you, little man. It's been a big month! There were so many firsts, I could barely keep track. You started saying "hi" and "hello" when you're waving, or when you put a phone up to your ear. Not really any other real words yet, but you're signing like crazy. You sign "more," "all done," and "drink" almost every night at dinner, and "nurse" when it's time to nurse before bed. And every time you see Daisy, you frantically sign "dog" over and over until we say, "Yes! That's the dog. That's Daisy." You also blow kisses daily, and wave bye-bye when I drop you off at daycare.

You've been cruising along pretty good for a while now, and standing on your own, but it wasn't until the day of your big first birthday party that you took off and haven't looked back. You're officially walking and getting better at it every day. You love to stand and climb on things, too. When you stand next to your toy box, you get out every toy in the box and then proceed to stand or stomp on each one before abandoning the pile and moving on to your next conquest.

When you hear music, you can't help but dance, though your dancing is more of a bouncing motion right now. I'm afraid you might have your father's rhythm. It's too soon to tell. :)

Because you and Gavin have birthdays so close together, I'm guessing that your family birthday party will almost always be a combined party, but this year, I wanted you to have your own special first birthday party. We had a "Little Man Mustache Bash" complete with mustache candies, cupcakes and confetti.
The "Little Man" tie banner I made, with a picture of you from every month.
You demolished your cake, though didn't really eat that much. Most of it ended up on the floor, or in your hair, or flung on the wall. Exactly how a first birthday should go, I think.
For gifts, everyone brought a different letter they'd made or purchased to put together an alphabet wall for your room. They're all so unique. I can't wait to see them all together. And everyone signed the backs so you'll always know who made them for you.
A "D" made of wood and rock from Grandpa Dave and Grandma Charlene.
A "B" that Mommy made from the newspaper from the day you were born.
The day after your birthday, when Daddy picked you up from daycare, he got you home and you were extremely fussy. We noticed that you weren't really using your right arm and every time we touched it, you'd scream. We were obviously terrified and headed to urgent care. A few doctors, some x-rays and a day later, you were diagnosed with something called "nursemaid's elbow." Apparently it's pretty common and snaps back into place fairly easily. You hobbled around for a couple of days, but you're back to your old self now and we are so thankful. You gave us a pretty good scare.

I think that's it, buddy. See what I mean? It's been a busy month. And I can't believe you've been a part of our lives a whole year already.

I love you more,

Watch Bennett Grow--One Year Old!

Official Stats:
Weight: 22 lbs (37th percentile)
Height: 29 1/4 inches (23 percentile)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 46: Roots

Our roots are where we are nourished. They anchor us and help keep us grounded. Having strong roots means you're established. Looking back over these last 46 days of Lent, and the daily writing challenge, I'm realizing my writings all had to draw on one of my deepest, most established roots, and that every single post was rooted in the same thing. 


Whether I was pissed at injustice, gushing over my boys, sharing my faith or counting my blessings...everything I wrote was rooted in love. I don't think it was intentional at first, but as I'm looking back, it makes sense. Because without love, we are nothing.

My faith, my marriage, my friendships, the way I feel about my would all be for nothing if it didn't stem from love.

We are made to love and be loved, so as you're reading this, may you be deeply rooted in the knowledge of how truly loved you are. And may you never wins.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 45: Far

I like to question authority. I like to break the rules. Especially rules I think are stupid.

Shocker, right?

Okay...maybe notsomuch if you know me well. I think I tend to rebel partly because I can't stand when we (I'm calling myself out here, too) do things a certain way just because "somebody" made a rule and that's the way it's always been done. It's healthy to question why we do things the way we long as we don't go too far.

But then again, maybe going too far is what it takes to make a change for the good. Maybe going too far is what breaks people out of their comfort zones and really makes them think. Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks during the Civil Rights movement. They questioned the status quo. They made people stop and think. In some people's minds, they went too far...King was assassinated, for goodness sake. But you know what? They made change for the good.

I've been watching the History Channel's Bible miniseries over the last few weeks and one of the things that's enthralled me is how much Jesus pisses off the Pharisees. The Pharisees were these scholarly, smart, authoritative voices for the Jewish faith. They had rules...loads of them, and Jesus broke them left and right. He chose nobodies as disciples, and let women and children hear him teach. He hung out with shady characters and chose to eat meals with "sinners." He offered love to everyone, not just those who deemed themselves the most religious. GASP! He went too far, and the Pharisees turned him over to the Roman government. You know the rest.

The way I see it, the Pharisees of today are the people shouting at everyone, "You're going to hell!" because they're set on a stupid set of human rules that has nothing to do with how God loves us. And it's our job to "go too far" to set things right. It's our job to spread love instead of hate.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 44: Cup

When I look at my husband holding our two boys, and see how much they adore cup runneth over.

When friends calls to ask how my baby's doing after a scary week of doctor's appointments and cup runneth over.

When I realize how generally healthy and strong and resilient by boys are compared to all the very, very sick kids in this cup runneth over.

When I get together with a group of women who know me and get me and allow me to be my goofy, outspoken, cussing cup runneth over.

When I snuggle with my big boy before bed and he asks for "one more cuddle" or "one more song" cup runneth over.

When I hear a product I worked on at Hallmark helped a dying Grandma record a message for a grandbaby she'll never cup runneth over.

When my belly is full and my thirst is quenched, and I pull into the driveway of my warm, cozy cup runneth over.

When my baby reaches out for me because no one can comfort him like his cup runneth over.

As I'm making this list of blessings in my life, it is impossible to have anything but a grateful heart. I am so very blessed.

My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 43: Help


Those of you who know me well probably guessed that today's word would conjure the Beatles classic of the same name:
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me?
When I think about the times in my life I needed help the most, they're the times I didn't speak up and let anybody know. But those times...they're also the times when those closest to me didn't need me to say "Help!" to get them moving. People just stepped up and provided the strength and aid I needed. They're the times I learned who's really going to be there for me when things get tough.

When Ryan was in that life-threatening wave runner accident more than ten years ago, friends and family just started showing up at the hospital to sit with me. They brought food, books, and changes of clothes, but also prayers, support and conversation.

When Ryan had a related hernia surgery years later and all of my parents were out of town, friends took off work to come sit with me because they knew I needed them, even when I said I didn't.

When I had my first baby, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I was struggling with post-partum OCD, my mom and mother-in-law cooked and cleaned and sat and talked and cried and laughed, and made me feel like I could handle this mom thing.

There are so many more examples. So many more. And the thing that sticks out about all of them? They showed me what selflessness really looks like.

So thank you, friends and family, and friends who are more like family. Thank you for stepping up even when I didn't give a Beatles-like shout for help.
You can buy this poster at this Web site.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Gavinisms

While looking out the window on the way to daycare:
Me: "Buddy, look at that airplane!"
Gavin: "That's not a airplane. That's a roller coaster in the sky."

While eating carrots one night at dinner:
Gavin: "I want 68 carrots!"
Me: "If you ate that many carrots, you'd turn orange."
Gavin: "And if I eat lots of gray socks, I'll turn gray!"

Overly excited about the dinner I made:
Ryan: "Gavin, what do we say to Mommy for making dinner?"
Gavin: "Mommy, you deserve a meeeddddaaalllll!"

Thinking about Bennett's 1st birthday:
Me: "What do you want to get Bennett for his birthday?"
Gavin: "A chicken leg."
Me: "What's he gonna do with that?"
Gavin: "Prolly bang it on his head."

Pondering Easter candy:
Gavin: "Mommy...jelly beans are made from jelly and beans, right?"

Lenten Challenge, Day 42: Light

I love the old folksong, "This Little Light of Mine." Partly because of its gospel-like nature, but mostly because I love the message. Don't shout through a bullhorn, but live in a way that makes others wonder what's different about you. Okay...maybe that's just my take on the song.
A quick Wikipedia search claims the song was based on three verses in the bible, one of which is Matthew 5:16.
Let your light shine before others, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
I don't see the word "bullhorn" in there, but that's pretty much the same thing I said, right? I'm not always that great at it because NEWSFLASH: I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But I do know that shouting at people through a bullhorn isn't going to make them feel loved. It's just going to make them run the other way because...weirdo.

Love is active. Something we do, something we share. Love is what makes that light inside us shine the brightest. When we love, we're doing what we're made to do. So step away from the bullhorn and let your light shine instead.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lenten Challenge, Day 41: Rejoice

How appropriate that today's word is "Rejoice," and I'm spending today rejoicing the sweet baby boy who entered my life exactly one year ago today. When he joined our little family a year ago, he fit in so seamlessly it was like he'd always been there.
He surprised all of us with his early arrival, and has continued surprising us for what has been the fastest year of my life. That chubby little bundle of cute is now a walking, jabbering, happy, smiley, still chubby, still cute, little boy. And it all feels like it happened overnight.

He still looks just like his brother, but has a personality all his own. It's almost as if he's rebelling against the sameness by constantly trying to break out on his own in other ways. He's a climber. Oh my is he a climber. On boxes, on furniture, on toys, but also on the normal things like stairs and ladders. That's right...I said ladders. Don't ask.
He's ornery, and doesn't seem to pay any heed to the word "no." At first I thought it was just his age, but I've come to the realization that it's downright disobedience. I think it's the mischievous glimmer in his eyes that gives him away.

He's happy. So happy. If he's not teething or upset that Mommy and Daddy have just left to go on a date, he's got a constant smile on his face. And that grin of his? Melts me into a puddle every time. I'm pretty sure he knows it, too.
He's a cuddler, and not just when he's tired. He routinely comes over to one of us, including Gavin, and just lays his head on our shoulders for a few moments before powering on to his next adventure.

He's everything our family needed, and didn't even realize was missing. He fills us with joy every day, and I can't imagine our lives without him.

Happy 1st birthday, my little man!