Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pregnancy can be so hard.  Even if there are no complications.  And that last month is such a struggle.  Add any sort of worry or potential problem, and a mother's heart is anxious.  Exhaustion, lack of sleep, physical and emotional discomfort, all make the last few weeks so hard.  Then labor starts.  And, oh, the pain!  And it seems endless. 

But there's the moment that makes it all worth it.  Every single pain and discomfort, every overly-emotional day, all the worry and stress--totally worth it.  And I live for that moment each time. 

And now I am days shy of it.  Anytime now.  The contracting and the timing, the wondering if it's time to go.  The sheer, excruciating pain as the body works so hard. 

It all gets forgotten in one indescribable moment. 

I remember when the first time I experienced it.  I truly believed then that the preceding days of labor would never end.  I knew no different.  This was my first time.  And then she arrived. 

And they held her up.

It's a girl!

And they laid her on my chest. 

That memory--that single moment--emblazoned in my mind and heart forever. 

Then, again.  Two years later.  The work and the endless hours of pain.  And finally, again:

It's a girl!  Praise the Lord!

And they laid her on my chest. 

Motherhood is so hard.  I never know if I am winning or losing.  Always unsure if I am making headway in raising virtuous daughters, making progress in getting them to heaven.  I am always fighting that voice that says I'm not doing it well enough, that I am not a good enough mother.  Try harder, I say.  Help me be better, Lord, I pray.  And I toil more.  I love and cherish and, sometimes, I apologize. 

And for some reason that, for the life of me, I cannot understand, He has blessed me with another tiny life.  One that still squirms and wiggles within me.  It might be tiny, they say.  It's not growing very quickly, they state.  And I pray. So far, nothing is overtly wrong with Baby.  But, my heart worries. Has worried for weeks.  Mostly in silence.

But all the worry and wondering, all the what-if's and questions, they will end soon.  Very soon.  It will be time and we will go.  And then it will happen.  That precious moment that I cherish beyond words. 

The Entrance.  The crying.

It's a ---. 

A child!  A precious soul!  One with which God has entrusted to me.  What responsibility!  What an honor!  I do not deserve this wonderful gift.  But, He trusts me.  For some reason, He knows this child needs me.  And that I need this child. 

As I stand on the eve of this child's birth, I wonder.  Boy? Girl?  Doesn't matter.  His or her soul is infinitely valuable and his or her tiny life is such a blessing.  Today, I cannot imagine life with three children, because all I know is life with two.  Tomorrow, I will look back and see an emptiness in the memories.  That was before the birth.  Before their place was made. 

Dear Lord, bless me with patience, give me humility with my children.  Let me be their constant, loving guide to Heaven.  Let me fill them with love and affirmation.  Remind me always what a precious and fragile gift they are, whether at nine months pregnant or nineteen years old, and beyond.  Help me to take their vulnerable hearts and minds and always give them great faith.  Faith in their family, their father, their mother.  And in You. 

And thank you.  Thank you for this precious child within me. 

And for that moment, waiting for me in the next few weeks. 

It's a Life!

Monday, September 16, 2013

For the Little Ones And the Mentors that Guide Them

Today, we are thrilled to have a guest post from blogger and writer Emily Henson.  Her post is especially applicable during these first weeks of school.  Read, enjoy, and leave a comment! 

About Emily: I am a writer of Young Adult fiction currently in the process of getting my first book published.  My goal as a writer is to compose stories that provide solace, laughter, and wisdom while stimulating my readers to engage meaningfully in the world.  I am the proud wife to a fantastic husband and the mother of one, beautiful daughter.  We hope, with the Lord’s blessing, to bring many more delightful children into the world.  

I am a former elementary instructor and now work part time as a self-employed educational consultant assisting teachers in perfecting their methods of education for the betterment of students.  Students from Pre-Kindergarten through the Fifth Grade lean on adults for their primary education.  Our role as parents and teachers is immensely influential on a child’s mind and character.  For that reason, our job to educate them should intimidate us and simultaneously spur us on to be the best mentor a child could witness.  The greatest enabler to influencing a child is the ability to think like one.  Our adult minds so often forget how even the minutest of our actions or words are perceived by youth and that can be a drastic impediment which may affect a child for life. 

Follow Emily and her amazing work at www.eahensonbooks.com, as well as on Facebook (E.A. Henson Books) and Twitter (@eahhensonbooks)! 

For the Little Ones
And the Mentors that Guide Them
By: E.A. Henson

I noticed the ability when I became a teacher.  As my little one now toddles around her big world, I am getting to experience the phenomenon just about every minute.  Thinking through the mind of a child; not many adults can do it, in fact, most cannot.  This trait, or talent, or whatever you want to call it, really came as a bitter-sweet shock to me.  I felt deeply the frustrations of my students as they strove to progress in school, to impress their peers and parents.  Watching their desperate attempts at success brought back the dormant emotions I experienced in school.  The delighted smile of my second grade teacher as she read one of my imaginative stories, the frown or snide remark of another teacher that nearly ripped my eager-to-please, young heart to pieces.  Those memories served me well as I stepped into the shoes that could affect my students and how they saw themselves.  
Occasionally, teachers I worked with would share with me their disappointment in one of their students who “just doesn’t get it” and “probably never will”.  If I alone knew of the teacher’s disgust, the story would not be as sad but so often teachers very clearly relate their frustration and impatience to the “low achieving” or “misbehaved” student through their words or actions.
Let me pause here to be clear.  I strongly encourage teachers to set high standards for their students and to expect them to reach or surpass those goals; however, tearing a child’s self-worth to shreds will only serve to break his or her spirit.  In my experience, when the average child struggles behaviorally or academically the fault lies most with the adults in their lives who have not given them the time or love for which they yearn.  
I’m speaking for the little ones who have no voice yet.  They know not how to speak for themselves or even that there exists something against which to protest.  You see, they believe you when you tell them they are ‘good’ or they are ‘bad’, ‘smart’ or simply ‘frustrating’.  They believe their teachers, mothers, fathers, and that is why our job can be fearful and wonderful in each moment.  That is why we need to become like children when our ego threatens to blind us from remembering what it is like to be little ones.  You might learn from them equally what you can teach.  
My little one has taught me patience, and to wave at strangers again, to sing when I want to, to have joy in the small things, to laugh at life, to cry when I’m hurt.  My students showed me how much I don’t know through their constant questions.  They reminded me what it is like to be a student and that allowed me to be a better teacher.  Children are full of light and life in a world often consumed by hate and darkness, they are eager to please sometimes even in the face of determined disapproval.  We have the power and the choice to bolster a child’s self-worth and their thirst for knowledge or the power to neglect and scorn them until they forget how to believe in themselves.  If every teacher or mentor of a child could remove the cobwebs from that corner of their heart where the child in them still lives and smile openly when a child tries their hardest or speak the right words when they struggle, we might see a renewed light and life surge into our future generations.  
Matt 19:14 - But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We Remember...

I had no idea the full impact that day would have on my life.  I couldn't have known.  I had a vague idea, but only to a certain extent. 

I was 18, and in gym class.  The teachers, who never gave us a "Play Day" that deviated from the lesson plan, suddenly took us into the girl's locker room and left us there with the door closed.   We were talking in hushed whispers.  Never had I seen teachers' faces so white.  Finally, after thirty minutes, I sneaked out the door and saw my teacher sitting in her office, face in her hands listening to the radio. 

"A plane has hit the tower!"  The radio was on.

I gasped. 

She looked up and sent me back to the locker room.  She came in later, after a long while, and told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  None of my teachers taught anything that day.  The televisions were on, and we just watched.  As horror and death continue to unfold.  Countless lives lost, buildings destroyed, America brought to its knees.

The days that followed turned into weeks.  Bush stood in front of America.  We were officially a nation at war. 

At that time, he was finishing school and would soon live a mile from me.  But, I did not know him.  He was living his own life.  Preparing to serve our country.  But, I had no idea he even existed.  Instead, I feared for my brothers.  My father, who was serving at that time.  What would happen?  Would there be a draft?  Would my family be split apart by war.

Yes, my child.  But not yet.

Months turned into years, and life moved forward.  We stood up, we healed with scars.  And our men and women continued to fight.  I went to college, grew up.  And he was still fighting, but I still did not know him. 

I know him, now.  I met him, I married him, we had a baby.  I saw him off to war, and we found out we were going to have another baby.  Because of the war.  He came home, and we are a family. He was the last Brigade officially out of Iraq, but they are still there.  Helping them recover.

This day, this anniversary, rings especially somber this year.  As our president stood in front of the cameras again last night, making clear his intentions.  His preferences.

It scared me.  And I had flashbacks.

To that young girl in high school, who, while still mourning the immense loss of American men and women on that fateful September day, watched the president declare war.  Who feared for her brothers, her father.  When that man--that dear man--would soon live less than a mile away.  And would train.  Learn.  Prepare to go fight.  Soon. 

To that woman who, on the eve of her wedding and amidst all the joy and naiveté, had a realization in her stomach of the life into which she was marrying.  A different life.  A hard life.  Of separation and sacrifice.  But, she loved that man.  So much.  And they had God.  He would guide them.  But, still, the feeling was still there.

To that mother who, having no idea of the new life in her middle, held her first baby in her arms as she put her husband, her Soldier on a bus.  Watched him pull away.  And broke down in the car to an extent she'd never known before.  That woman who fought to make a year joyful, loving, pleasant for her little growing family.  Who prepared to give birth alone, but was given a sweet gift at the last second.  And her Soldier stood by her side and they welcomed new life.

To the woman who, upon receiving the incomplete text message about blood and the hospital, thought the worst.  And had to wait.  And wait.  For the news.  And, thankfully, it wasn't what she had thought.

To that Army Wife who stood on the parade field, barely able to contain herself as she tried to find her Soldier in the huge formation.  Who fought to contain the 2 year old, crying to get on the field and find her daddy.  To the woman who was ready to be a family again. 

There is evil in this world.  People who want to destroy others in the name of their "religion."  Their "god."  We, as an American nation, have seen that many times. 

October 12, 2000, a suicide attack killed 17 U.S. Sailors on board the U.S.S. Cole.

On September 11th, 2001, when almost 3,000 lives were taken out of hatred. 

When a "soldier" stood up on Fort Hood and killed 19 people in the name of his "religion." 

Three people were killed and hundreds wounded on April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon, when two bombs exploded near the finish line. 

People have died, unjustly, in the face of hatred and religious self-righteousness.  Men have killed and injured others, destroyed families, and have attempted in vain to ruin a nation all because of skewed ideas and perverted "religion."  Men and women have fought in wars against this hatred, sometimes returing home missing limbs or arriving in boxes, defending this nation and the idea of a true Good.  They defend liberty and justice.  For all

I choose to believe in a different God.  A God who loves all, wants the best for us and, in the midst of our shame and sinfulness, loves us.  Wants us to choose Him, choose good.  Who wants us to stand in defense of this good.  For all. 

I believe in a God who, when those souls all came Home too early, took them in his arms and welcomed them.  Who spread out wide his mantle of comfort over aching families, a bleeding nation.  Who continuously calls these hateful men and women to change their hearts, to come to His fold. 

I believe in a nation that can get knocked down, but will stand up every time.  We will continue to stand representing good.  Defending liberty and justice.  For all.  We will continue to remember and honor those who died in honor of that freedom, who died in defense of our nation.  Or who were just innocent souls who died because of the evil.

We will remember them all.  

God bless America. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

As the World Turns: Why I'm Afraid for My Daughters, and Terrified of Having a Son

I will admit it. I don't watch a whole lot of TV. Anyway not for me. Mostly it's the news for an hour in the morning, thought I miss 90% of it getting breakfast for my girls and becoming slowly conscious as I finish my coffee. Any other television we do watch is cartoons, and I am very picky about which ones are allowed. Anything that shows underwear (I HATE SPONGEBOB SO MUCH!), has subtle messages that strike me as odd or inappropriate (which are sadly becoming more and more perverse and common), or goes against my distinctly conservative, Christian morals and Faith are not allowed. So, that leaves Oswald (anyone else love him, too?), Doc McStuffins, and Strawberry Shortcake.

They are so little. And so innocent. So precious. But, someday, my tiny souls will grow up like I did, and gradually become more and more aware of the world. The violence, the perverseness, the falling away from God. I work every day to make a home that is safe and warm and loving for them. But someday, they will have to leave. To school. To work. To live.

I told my girls the day they were born I would work my hardest to make sure that no one ever let them feel worthless. That they would never go to bed feeling like they didn't matter, or worse, were unimportant to someone else. Each of my girls are beautiful. They are special. Not because of their darling faces, or (someday) the shapes of their bodies. No. They are beautiful because they are fearfully and wonderfully made. They each have a soul and an identity that no one else has, and that is so valuable. Infinitely valuable.

I have not been blessed with a son here yet. I am terrified of having one. I have many friends who have little boys; I have seen their inexhaustible energy levels. I have seen how they never seem to never run out of energy. Much more physical than my emotional girls, I am astounded at the difference. But that is not what fills me with fear.

It's the ads. Of bras and underwear on TV during the day while innocent cartoons are on. It's walking through the malls filled mannequins and giant posters that are everywhere with inappropriately dressed women, or women standing in underwear. It's the women I see, walking about with underwear hanging out, body parts showing that should be hidden. It's the pornography and the sexuality that is readily available by the click of a mouse.

 Having a son terrifies me.

Because, at the end of it all, I cannot protect him. I cannot save him. He will make his own choices. And what if--what if--he makes the wrong ones? What if all this explicit sexuality crushes and destroys him? What if it ultimately controls him? What if I do not raise him right, because I do not know how to raise him?

Then it hits me, right between the eyes. Pains my heart. The same thing could happen to my precious girls. They start down that slippery slope. The one so very hard to turn around and reascend and heal from.  

What if I am not good enough? 

What if I am not pretty enough? 

 I am fat. 

I am dumb. 

 I am...worthless.

And just like that, they allow some perverse man to objectify them, to use them, to crush their precious spirits. Their beautiful souls.

Like this.

The lyrics, which I have decided not to print here, were horrendous. Referring to women literally as objects. On pop(ular) radio. A married father letting some 20-year old gyrate against him, while his song degraded women openly and disgustingly.

What if.

But, it's happening to other parents. Miley is a daughter. She once was a starry-eyed innocent preschooler. Toddler. She once ran about the house, calling for Mommy, Daddy. Thinking that was all there was to the world. To her world. And now she is broken. Shattered. Searching for affirmation and justification through objectification of herself. Her spirit is broken. Poor, sweet child. All 20 years of her.

Someday, I truly hope we are blessed with a son here on earth. Someday, I hope I can rest easy and night and know my girls will be alright. That I have shown them their inherent value, their wonderful beauty. That Someone created them beautifully, lovingly, and particularly. That they are so invaluable. So worthy. So wonderful. That they deserve to be treated respectfully, and will demand to be treated that way. Like their mother.

 And my son(s) will value that beauty. They will be raised to be awed by that beauty. Not to break it, but to build upon it. They will be encouraged to raise women up, not to tear them down. To serve women, not to expect them to serve them. They will be polite and courteous. Gentlemen. Like their father.

Because it does start at home. The safest, warmest place. The innocent world. That's where it starts. I plant the seeds. I foster the roots Inside these walls--this is my domain. My husband's domain. I can shield them, protect them, influence them. Pray for them. My responsibility lives now. To raise souls that glorify God, glorify their fellow people. Loves them, respects them, and raises them up. To teach them to love and respect themselves, and love and respect others.  

Because we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Autumn Dreams

I hate summer. I've never really been a huge fan of this particular season, anyway, except when I was school-age and it meant brief freedom. Then, I grew up. Now, I really hate it. I don't like sweat. I don't like heat. I don't like blinding, raging sunshine that seems to be slowly killing you, one UV ray at a time. Not a huge fan. Then, I moved to Texas. And hate moved up to despise. Really, there is nothing redeeming, to me, about the summer in Texas. And, conversely, nothing redeeming about Texas in the summer. I cannot go anywhere, do anything. Even five minutes' drive in the car, and I'm afraid I'm dying of heat stroke. My girls sweat profusely. They turn red. We cannot venture to the park, and even going swimming is rather miserable. The pool feels more like a lukewarm tub, and the sun is still trying to kill you one UV ray at a time. But, oh, Autumn. I went to school in Virginia, and come Fall, the landscape would suddenly explode in the most beautiful hues. We'd all load up in my tiny car and sit atop Skyline drive, and just...look. Drink it in.
Now, I just dream about then. What I would do if we lived somewhere a little north of Hades that had real seasons--real autumns and even winters. Pumpkins, caramel, cinnamon. If I lived somewhere that had that distinct smell of Fall in the mornings.
If I lived somewhere in which I could use all the recipes in the magazines I get from August until November, featuring warm, crock pot stews and delicious ciders for those extra-chilly nights. Where I could bake, without baking myself to death. Soups, warm bread, oatmeal for breakfast.
A place where the anticipation builds as the days grow shorter--the holidays are coming! Where the cardigans, thicker socks, and corduroy are pulled out. Blankets thrown about our shoulders as the first fire of the season is built. Where there comes a crispness to the air.
And then, it's time to go. And I open the front door and the blasts of the fires of Hades rip at my face. Welcome to Texas, they say. Yes. Where everything is bigger...even the heat.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Myths and Truths about Life After the Military

I always welcome hearing from other's perspective.  In light of that, one of my readers Emma is guest posting about an interesting topic--service members transferring from the Military to civilian workforce.  Thanks for broadening our perspective, Emma!

Emma is a mid 20-something year old with a passion for life, love, fitness, and helping others. She loves to be active and get involved in as many sport and community activities as possible. Emma is currently studying to become a Career & Life Coach, and loves to network with people from around the world! Check out Emma’s blog at http://smileasithappens.blogspot.com/

Myths and Truths About Life After the Military
Every veteran’s situation is unique, some transition from the military after a minimum commitment while others retire after a much longer career. Either way, the transition can present some challenges. Often, these challenges are compounded by the myths you have probably heard concerning the transition. Let’s take a look at a few common myths and learn the truths that can set you on the path toward success.
Myth: Finding a non-military job after a long time in the military will be overwhelmingly difficult.
Truth: Many skills used in the military are transferrable to private-sector jobs. Firms such as Recruit Military specialize in connecting military veterans and military spouses with companies seeking to fill open positions. Recruit Military also offers assistance with resume writing, hosts job fairs and supplies several other job services to veterans and their spouses.
Myth: Job applications are difficult and time consuming to complete.
Truth: Companies today understand the importance of attracting the best employees to fill open positions. In order to do so, many companies have simplified the application process by partnering with mobile recruiting programs, like JIBE to allow job seekers to easily upload resumes and other pertinent information directly from computers, tablets or smart phones.
Myth: Because you were discharged with a service-related injury you will have a hard time finding a job.
Truth: In addition to laws that give preference to veterans applying for certain jobs, the government also has several programs available to assist disabled veterans seeking to reenter the workforce. You may be eligible to receive on-the-job training, vocational rehabilitation, personal counseling and more. These programs are committed to providing disabled veterans with the help they need to find and maintain gainful employment.
Myth: Looking for a job is simply a process of sending out a resume and waiting.
Truth: There’s a lot more to finding a job than simply submitting resumes. You need to network, make follow up calls and sell yourself to potential employers. Attending job fairs and social events will help you get your name into the right circles. Employers won’t be knocking on your door looking to hire you, it is your job to get out there and sell yourself!
As you make the transition into civilian life, you’ll learn about some wonderful resources available to you and in time, opportunities you never dreamed could come your way.
There is a strength that can be found in this path.  But, you must also find strength to remain on this path. 

I walk around my house, slowly becoming a home, trying to decide where to start next.  What box to unpack now.  And where to put it.  What needs to go to a new home. 

I want the boxes gone.  Done. 

We have moved four times in the last year-ish.  Before we even arrived back in Texas (much to our surprise), we had our assignment changed five times.  All this following a deployment.  Surprisingly, I handled it okay.  At times, I became irritated or frustrated.  Cranky.  But, mostly, I just swung with the changes.  I have seen so many boxes in the last year, packed a place so many times (and so quickly), that I am sick of seeing and smelling cardboard.  And it does have a smell.  It fills your home quickly.  Amidst this latest move, I started to say, If I ever see a box again, it will be too soon.  I never finished the sentence. 

In two years, we will pack up this home and head out again.  Move again. 

And that's okay.  I have the strength to do it.  I might not be thrilled about unpacking today, or clearing the moving clutter off that counter AGAIN.  I might kick the packing paper after I stub my toe on a box for the umteenth time, but I move forward.  Because I muster the strength. 

The strength I see in my husband, who makes the biggest sacrifice.  Always prepared to make an even bigger sacrifice.  The strength I feel when I look at our neighbors here on post, all moving through the same life.  The strength I am reminded of when I pull the pictures and photos out of boxes and hang them on the wall.  Those things are our home; they move with us.  Everywhere.  The strength I hear when we are sitting in bed at night, and Taps plays out all over the Army Post on the loud speaker in the darkness.  I stop cold every time. 

There's a strength I grasp when my girls are wrestling with more transition, scared of change.  I become the pillar that they need when everything around them is changing and being packed in paper and boxes.  When they cry out they don't want to leave their house again.  The strength I force when talking deployments and moves...because they are real.  And always inevitable. 

There's a strength I feel when I am reminded again that that I am a Third Generation Army Wife.  A sense of pride.  I can do this, because my mother and my mother's mother walked this path. 

Yes, I can unpack one more box.  Put stuff somewhere.  Record more damage.  And more.  And then more.  I can move again when the time comes.  I can hug away the fear, kiss the tears.  I can stand tall and proud and firm for my Soldier.  I can hang more pictures, knowing they'll come down all too soon.  I can get irritated over the chips and gouges and then get over it. 

Because of the Strength.  The Strength I feel.  And the Strength I make.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

She and I were sitting in the vestibule.  She's at that fun age where she's constantly making noise and moving at Mass.  So, there we were.  With a sweet, older woman to our left, and two loud chatty women to our right (but that's a vent for another day).  I was singing one of the songs as the priest prepared Communion, was feeling such great peace.  All of a sudden this woman was standing before me.

"Why are you not in the choir?"


"Why are you not in the choir?" 

I pointed to the cuteness personified sitting on my lap.  "Because of her," I laughed.

"Oh, don't let that be an excuse.  We can work around that."  (Trying not to get offended at that.)

"Well, thank you, ma'am.  I have another little girl, too, so I just feel more needed in the pew." 

"That voice is a gift.  Don't waste it."

When I was in middle school, my voice was enough to offend cats.  It was horrible.  I don't know why.  But, it was.  By high school, it was alright, so I joined the choir.  I have always loved to sing.  I sing in the car, while cleaning the house, walking through the grocery store with my girls.  They love to hear me sing.  Sometimes, when we are home, I will sing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" with accompanying stage antics, much to the girls glee. 

"O-gain!  O-gain!"  Mary giggles
"Again, Mommy!  Again! " chimes Elizabeth. 

And I do.  With great joy. 

In the grocery store, I've been stopped by people and told to audition for American Idol (whatever.  That's for REALLY good people!).  I've received the advice before about joining the Church Choir.  I don't think my voice is that great, but apparently it's improved since middle school. 

But, thing is, I don't want to be in the Church choir.  I don't want to audition for those shows.  Some people were born to sing in front of the congregation.  Some were meant to sing in front of millions.

Me?  No.

I was born to sing next to tiny beds.  I was meant to sing over a bassinet.  I don't need fame out there.  I have it at home.  I have my small audience right there, that loves my crazy stage antics, that cheers while I sing. 

When my oldest girl was an infant, she would scream for over twelve hours a day.  A horrible, gut-wrenching scream.  Colic.  My all-time nemesis.  I would put her on her tummy across my thighs while rocking her.  I'd put her tiny aching belly across the boppy on the floor and rub her back.  I'd put her in bouncy seats and swings.  I'd hold her, talk to her.

Nothing worked.

Except for one thing.  Singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  I started singing it once when she was just days old, when I was out of my mind crazy.  And she stopped.  She stopped screaming, and just looked at me.  And for the first time since her birth, I felt a connection.  She was hearing me.  I would sing it for hours, sensing the comfort.  Sensing the connection.  I still sing it to her.  She loves it, requests it.  It makes my heart happy. And hers, too. 

No.  I do not wish to sing in front of hundreds.  I do not want to sing in front of millions.  I just want to sing for the little souls with which God blessed me with.  That is fulfilling enough for me. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So, I decided, on a whim, that we girls needed to make cookies today.  Less than an hour before naptime, my oldest and I decided on Peanut Butter cookies.  So we made them. 

We measured and mixed, combined and stirred.  She was elated to turn on the mixer.  What a helper!  I decided that she should be the one to put the criss-crosses on the cookies.  It was so cute teaching her! 
"First this way," I said, "and then this way."  I showed her with a few cookies, and then let her go to work.  With each cookie that I put on the sheets, I'd hear her say quietly, "First dis way, den dis way."  She reminds me so much of myself at that age--sometimes it scares me!  Because I know her spirit and her heart are probably very similar to mine.  What a huge responsibility to guard and form them!

It's all about the simple things.  Spending time with my little sweetie was wonderful! And what a good helper! 

First this way, then that way.

So yummy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Less than two weeks after we were married, our lives were turned upside down.  Though practically everyone else predicted it, we were shocked when we found out we were expecting a little honeymoon baby.  Our swift entrance into parenthood thrilled us tremendously and scared us a little, too.  But, he handled it with such trust.

But that was one of the reasons that I married him.  I still see those reasons, every single day.

The tears he cried when they laid our first daughter into my arms.  He stood back and watched as I wept and promised her I'd be a good mother.  And then he held her and stared at her precious face for a long time.  I treasure those photos.  At home, he took her out to the living room and slept on the couch when I was so ill...and she was only two weeks old.  He did all of her feedings, burped her, stayed up with her through colic.  And never complained.

He played with her, idolized her.  He would get on the floor and talk to her even when she was only a month old. Later, he became her jungle gym, letting her crawl and jump all over him.  He still does that, only now he has two little ones climbing all over him.

He stood by me and supported me when we were surprised by another addition, only to lose him a few months later.  He cried with me, held my hand, and prayed with me.  And he never questioned me.

Then, he left, and she was here.  I heard his smile--so audible--as he heard about her in Kuwait.  He missed the whole pregnancy.  Instead, he defended our country and family.  Later, I found out he was keeping up with the pregnancy, reading weekly the progress our unborn child and I were making.  He wasn't supposed to be there when she arrived.  Somehow, he sacrificed so much and flew halfway around the world, arriving just in time.  He named her and then he held her.  And he fell in love all over again.

 He insisted on doing most of the feedings the three days he was home.  He fed and burped and changed diapers and then did it all over again.  "You're going to be left with this," he said, "let me do it for now."  What a man.  What a father.  He smiled and talked to her, holding her for hours.

And then he left again.  So bravely.  As I stood there and wept, so weak.

He came home and threw himself into loving them again.  Picking up like he was never gone.  And they fell in love with him all over again.

He is always doing and cleaning and going that extra mile.  And I never realize until I go to do it myself.  And it's done.  With such love.  He goes beyond what I would expect, because he loves me.  He loves them.  He's picked up the slack with the house and girls when I had to step back for a little while.  And he never complained.  When I felt like a failure, he insisted I was so needed.   He encouraged me more, and loved me more. 

He's so loving, so quiet.  So strong, so brave.  So firm, so dependable. 

He's reminds me of St. Joseph. 

I cannot imagine parenting with anyone else.  Parenting without the balance and consistency he brings to our dynamic.  The Faith and love he brings. He always inspires me to be better, sets a bar through his example that I constantly try to reach.  He's so good.

I am so blessed to have him.  The girls are so blessed to have such a wonderful father.  God is so good to me. 

Happy Father's Day, Richard. Your girls love you so much!  Thank you for being such a great dad!

Friday, June 14, 2013

He was with me from the beginning.  Ever since we came into existence.  For a long time, we were always in close proximity.  Same home, same family, same school, and same grade.  Always together.  Always so close.  Then, life moved on and took us in separate directions, as life does.  But, the sixth sense we've always had stayed strong.

I have always known when something is wrong.  I get this horrible, sickening sense that something is not right.  That something bad has happened.  Once, when I was a sophomore in college, and he said he had a horrible flu.  He hadn't been able to get up for awhile.  I just always knew.  And it went both ways.  He would call me, "Adrienne.  Are you okay?  I just have a bad feeling."  And I would tell him the struggles that I was enduring.  There has always been that connection.

I have seen him so happy.  Many times  When he met her our freshman year, he was like a schoolkid again.  They dated and married.  They were always doing things and making adventures.  He loved her.  But, she was very sick.  And then one day, the feeling came to me.  Something was bad wrong.  She was sick.  Very sick.  For months, she fought, but she lost.  And then I had to watch him grieve.  It was horrible.

I saw him in the depths of darkness, the likes of which I could not understand.  My heart ached.  I encouraged him.  And I prayed.  So hard.

God, please give him someone new when he's ready.  Someone special.  Someone who can make him live again.  Smile again.  Be happy again. 

He moved through darkness, struggling.  For the first time, there was nothing I could do for him.  And then I suffered my own horrible loss.  Death is so cruel.  And he and I stayed up for hours one night talking.  He opened up to me about his own struggle with death, and I understood. Though the circumstances were different, there was so much we could understand.

A long time later, I skipped down the steps in my parents' house, but he didn't hear me.  He was completely absorbed.  I peered over his shoulder and saw it.  Catholic Match.  Before I could help it, I jumped on the couch next to him, grinning.  "You weren't supposed to see"  But, I smiled.  "I kept telling you to get on!  How long?"  He had just registered within the week.  I was thrilled.  And nervous for him.  Heaven only knows what a huge leap of faith that was for him.

I begged him to see her profile.  He made me promise not to tell anyone and turned the computer to me.  I read her profile.  I was appalled.  Everything was a perfect fit.  And she was beautiful!

"If you don't marry her, I will kill you."

He laughed and told me to slow down.  He was deciding if he was going to message her.  I insisted that he do--you never know.  And it can't hurt.

"And if you don't marry her, I will kill you."

He walked down the aisle to that woman on June 8th.  Never have I seen him so happy--smiling so much!  I wept through the Mass.  Tears of joy.  All I could keep thinking and whispering was, "Praise God.  Thank you, God!"  She is so thoughtful, so kind.  And so funny!  She fits in perfectly with our crazy family.  And she took a broken and shattered heart, and made it whole again.  She not just accepted his beautiful, broken story, but embraced it.  Aided him through hurt, helped make him whole again.  What a beautiful soul she is!

I wish them a future filled with as much joy and happiness as they felt on their wedding day.  That the bliss lives on.  I know that, when struggle of any kind inevitably arises, they are strong enough to prevail.  Because they are strong. They are Faithful.  And they put each other first.

God's stories for us are so beautiful.  We can't see it amidst the darkness, when it swirls around us.  But, He does answer prayers.  Especially those prayers said in the darkest recesses of a twins sister's heart, a sister who sees a man who deserves another love story.  A man who will make a phenomenal father, a wonderful husband, and needs that new beginning.

And so he has it.  She has it.  They have it.  Love.  Joy.  God.

Thank you, Jesus.  Praise God! 
Look at that smile!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

As I was surfing the internet tonight, I saw this posted on Facebook.  I read the article and I have to say, the list actually irritated me. 

 Not funny.   So much of that list That entire list is constructed purely from selfishness.  And the language is atrocious.  Lately, I feel like all I've seen is articles posted of people bemoaning their roles as parents.  It's sickening.  And makes me feel poorly represented.   It bears noting that motherhood (and fatherhood) is not a station merely forced on someone.  There's this prevailing attitude that parenthood makes a victim out of mothers and fathers.  As a society, we've reduced this station to drudgery.  We've forgotten the privilege and honor inherent in being mothers and fathers.  An attitude like this is what fuels the articles like that above.

Sure, like this author, I wouldn't mind sleeping in for a few extra minutes on Mother's Day.  But not to the detriment of my children or husband.  That's about as far as our "lists" for Mother's Day match.  

I actually secretly love Mother's Day.  But not because all the attention is on me (I actually secretly hate that part).  Rather, it's one of the few days in my busy life that I am actually allowed and encouraged to slow down and enjoy my children.  Look, I don't need a gift (yes, I said that--and I mean it).  I don't want a brunch with other women--I can have a "Girls' Night Out" any other day. Instead, I want to be trying to sleep in, and my little ones jump onto the bed and rouse me from my sleep and snuggle in next to me. I do want breakfast in bed, but only surrounded by my girls.  I want to be unable to eat most of it because they are too busy picking the food up with their tiny, precious hands.  I want jam or butter to drip onto the sheets, and for all of us to melt into giggles.  I don't need presents.  Just hugs. And prayers that I continue to strive to be as good a mother as I can be. Secretly, I would love to get plastic stringed necklaces and smeared, handprint cards (I *love* my girls' handprints).  I want to relish every second with my tiny ones that day, and bask in the humbling honor with which God blessed me when He gave me my children.

I want to get all teary thinking of my own mother, who gave birth to and raised six amazing and faithful human beings.  Who gave her all everyday making sure we were dressed sharply, surrounded by knowledge and imagination, and showered us with love only a mother can know.  I want to sit next to her, and whisper my gratitude to her in a quiet moment.  To let her know that I would not be half the mother I am if she had not relished in those messy breakfasts in bed, where she hardly ate anything.  Had she not said yes each time to carrying another child within her.  Had she not cherished the necklaces, the homemade cards, and simply the time with us. Had she not wiped bottoms for years, and mopped floors, cooked meals, and served us constantly.  

No, save your selfish lists.  I just want my children on Mother's Day...and my mother's beautiful and selfless example of motherhood.  

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

We were all sitting in the dining hall of San Antonio Military Medical Center (formerly BAMC) on Fort Sam.  Mary was having her sweat collected for her Cystic Fibrosis testing.  We were trying to eat and enjoy our lunch, but our hearts were heavy and fearful.  My sweet girls talked together and played and laughed. 

And then he walked through. 

I confess, I nearly choked though praise God he didn't hear it.  He sat down facing me further down the wall at a booth.  I could see him squarely from my seat.  And I tried so hard not to cry. 

He was burned so badly there was nothing left of his face.  Just a shell of his nose and holes for his eyes.  His hands were only partially still there.  He was tall.  He stood tall. 

And carried on. 

I don't know who he was.  I don't know how it happened, though I can only assume some sort of military service. 

I do know that my two tiny precious girls, without being bidden, walked down to the man and said hi.  Giggled.  Waved.

And he smiled.  And laughed.

They never noticed how different he was.  Not even my three year old.  I expected questions from her.  Innocent questions.  But she never asked.  She just talked to him.  His face blushed.  Mary smiled her cheesy 18-month old smile over and over again. 

They never saw what I saw.  The pain.  The loss. The scars. 

They saw a human being.  A man.  They somehow sensed his need for joy.  And they gave it to him.

Oh, that I could be a child in my heart again and do the same.  My heart ached for the man.  I was overjoyed that my girls filled his heart with happiness.  Gave him love.  Saw a man. 

And valued the person. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

One day, when my vocation as mother ends, I want to leave a quiet legacy behind me.  I want a dog-eared prayer book on my nightstand, a well-worn set of rosary beads lying next to the lamp.  I want my girls to look back and smile because of the love, patience, and faith exuded by their mother. 

Most days I question if that's the legacy I'll leave.  Just before Lent, I realized that, while I might excel in other areas as a mother (dancing around the living room singing children's songs while my girls giggle), I was definitely lacking in patience.  I often hear others say, "Don't pray for patience, or you'll wish you hadn't!"  So I didn't. 

There are times when mothers don't have to yell.  When a simple, kind word will do.  A loving request does so much more than a firm command blanketed with a frown.  Love and kindness are Patience's sister, I believe.  And so, I've started doing it.  That which I had been made to fear.

Lord, please give me patience right now.

And He's answered.  Though I have much more work to do, I feel Him working in me.  Infusing each word with so much love and comfort.  Trying to show them the right way, with gentleness.  Praying before each correction.

Mary of Jesus, be a mother to me now.

It's easy to get tired, worn down.  Mothers give constantly and hardly get anything in return.  It's a tiring, stressful, worrisome job that constantly asks us to empty ourselves completely even when we have nothing left to pour out.  But, I wanted to do this, I needed to do this.  I have always felt a calling to be a mother.  I must carry on, even when the carrying is a burden.  And I must do so, lovingly. 

I never want my girls to look back and wish for more love, more kindness.  I want them to have an example to inspire them.  To aid them should they be called to this vocation.  I want their hearts to be full and their souls to smile.  Always.  Someday, I want them to desire my prayer book, my rosary beads.  Because I used them to be a better mother.  I want them to pray with hope, love with kindness, and serve with patience.  Because that's how Mom always was. 

I want to deserve the statement, "I want to be just like you, Mommy." 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A child--your child--is like an extension of yourself.  Like your heart and soul exposed outside of you.  Everything they hear, you feel.  Everything they feel, you also feel.  It's so amazing and so painful at the same time.

The first time it happened, I thought it was because she was sick.  So congested.  Could hardly breathe.  That tiny body was up during the previous nights, coughing and hacking and crying.  During the day, she could barely eat because she could not breathe.  So, when her lips went black while we were eating breakfast, I was perplexed.  But, I wasted no time and took her to the Emergency Room.

And then the Battle started.

After a couple of preliminary tests, they sent us home.  Since then, we'd seen over five doctors and been to over ten appointments within the span of three weeks.  They were testing for the unlikely, instead of testing for the more common.  I grew more frustrated.  I argued, begged for other testing.  "It's not necessary" was all that I received.  Meanwhile, her episodes continued.

Finally, last Wednesday morning, she slept until 9:30 through her sister screaming outside her door.  I couldn't stand the worry any more.  I slipped inside her room and nudged her.  She finally woke.  Within fifteen minutes, she was deathly pale, her lips turned black, and she was trembling from head to foot. 

I was done.

I packed the girls up and we drove to the nearby Children's Hospital.  They immediately admitted Mary and the continuous rounds of testing commenced.  Two nights we were there.  I have never known that sort of gripping anxiety before.  At times, I didn't think I could get to my next breath, make to the next moment.  Fear, worry, anxiety, and anger cropped up in me.  My sweet Mary, too tiny to be wearing a hospital gown, was hooked up to all sorts of monitors, undergoing all sorts of tests.  Waiting hours and hours for the results. 

I threw myself into the only action that brought me peace.  Prayer.  And I prayed with all of my might.  For my sweet little girl, for strength for my older daughter as she witnessed it all.  For my husband, as he  stayed strong, too.  For peace, strength, and resilience for me. 

Two days later, we were discharged with some suggestions, but no answers.

And so it continues.  Both the search for answers and the episodes.  I have my hunches.  I maintain my strength.  I continue to pray.  And to fight.  I feel the chronic worry.  The what-if's if we don't get answers.  I pray through them.

Nothing worries a mother like their child's health.  No one has the strength or resilience like a mother.  And so, as with everything else, Charlie Mike.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Naptime's quiet veiled the house in that peace felt now only between one to three in the afternoon.  I sat on the couch, preparing to fold clothes.  I turned on the TV to ABC Family and the first statement heard in the quiet was,

"Remember how we decided to stop having sex?" 


Angered, I turned the channel. This second show, I realized in about two minutes, was about a family who's daughter was pregnant and engaged...and only 15. 

Lately, I've found fewer and fewer shows that I can watch with the girls in the room with me. It's now down to one.  And it's one that has caused surprising debate.

19 Kids and Counting. 

The entire family is devoutly religious.  The women all wear skirts and both the mother of the 19 children (Michelle) and the bride of the oldest son (Anna) have decided to be open to children as they come. I can relate to several aspects of their lives.

But, I have realized lately how counter-cultural I am.

As my husband, two girls, and I meandered through Sam's Club last night, I stopped dead in my tracks.  There stood a young girl, only about ten, with her father.  She wore a very tight, short  t-shirt with glitter and a flannel shirt over it, tied so that her midriff could still show.  On the bottom, she wore fishnet hose...and that's it.  Just fishnet hose. 

I wept. 

I wanted to take the young girl home with me, before it was too late.  But, I think that it already is. 

Innocence is dying.  Becoming extinct. 

I have read numerous articles and perused many websites blasting the Duggars and their lifestyle.  How they "subject" their women, are irresponsible in their family planning decisions. 

Had I walked up to the parents of that young girl last night and questioned their daughter's dress, they more than likely would have replied, "It's our choice.  Mind your own business." 

As I looked around Sam's Club, I realized how many girls were dressed so sexually.  Young girls.  Stomachs showing, shorts and jeans with holes, low-cut shirts.  Why was no one upset about this?  Why is it legitimate to allow young girls to walk around objectifying themselves?

Who is fighting for these young girls who are revealing their bodies to men of all ages?  Who is fighting for them?  No one.  Because those people are too busy arguing that people like the Duggars are objectifying their own women.  

I want to get rid of the television.  So my daughters don't hear the sexuality, the violence, the language that could rob them of their peace and innocence.  I want to teach my girls that they are beautiful children of God.

Yes.  God.

That they are a gift.  A beautiful gift.  And, as a gift from God, they should keep their beauty wrapped and shielded.  Because they are worthy of that.

I want to show all girls their beauty, their worth.  That this worth is their gift, and they should shield it, too, because they deserve that.

But there are too many influences in these girls' lives saying the opposite.  Nicki Manij shows them being beautiful means changing your hairstyle everyday to freakish colors and textures.  Maria Carey wears revealing tops.  Lady Gaga takes Nicki to a whole different level.  Am I the only one who wonders what they really look like underneath all that artificial stuff?

Sadly, I cannot help that sweet girl at the store.  I can't help any of the young girls out there.  But, I can affect my little sphere.  My sweet girls.  I can keep them sweet and innocent and peaceful.  I can set an example that is counter cultural. That beauty is not hair color or make up or bizarre or sexualized outfits.  It goes deeper.  Beauty is being themselves.  And, oh, how truly and naturally beautiful my girls are!   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Four years...Almost

We are closing in on four years.  Four years!  It doesn't seem like that long, but it feels like that long.  I remember the day I first saw him hop up the curb in front of my parents house picking me up for our first date, how he opened my car door and has everyday ever since.  I remember him asking to hold my hand--the first hand that ever held mine, his lips the first to kiss mine.  I remember watching him love his mother through nearly losing her.  I remember the day he asked me to be his wife in a little Church on the east coast.

I remember him asking me if I could handle this life.  The Army life.

I hesitated.  I didn't want to sound prideful, sure of myself.  I didn't want to sound like I hadn't thought of it.  Because I had.  A lot.

But, I knew I could.  I knew that, no matter what this life would throw at me, I could handle it.  Not because I was strong, but because God would make me strong.

The last four years have flown by.  But, in some ways, it seems like we've been married longer.  We have been tried and we have struggled.  There has been much that has happened since we said I do.  Since his fellow Soldiers welcomed me to the Army under their sabers.  We've made a family, brought forth children.  Beautiful children.  We lost a piece of us, held each other through grief.  We've laughed.  We've moved.  A lot.  We've lived a year without each other.  Grew while apart and then grew back together again.  We left family, made another home.  We've lived, we've survived--we've thrived.  And through it all, we've loved.

People told us it would be hard.  I see that now.  And I know we have a great many more victories and struggles ahead of us in the next fifty plus years.  But, I've had the honor to stand by a man who would leave everything behind to defend his country.  A man who loves his girls so much he's willing to say good-bye to ensure our protection.  A man who loves humbly, lives bravely.  He's a man who puts God first and his family second. Always. He's proud of us. He cherishes us.  He takes whatever God hands us; he has seen me at my worst and loved me through it.  Watched me soar at my best and celebrated with me.  He knows me and he loves me.

What an honor to be married to this caliber of a man.  What a gift to stand by him.  What a privilege to be his wife.

Four years.  Such a short time to be so full of such blessings--both obvious and disguised.  Four years wonderful years married to my husband, my best friend.  To my Soldier.  God is good.