Tough Questions

Lately, we have been having some deep conversations with Anna Cate and Brian about difficult topics like cancer, death, divorce, how babies are born, drugs and different lifestyle choices.  It has gotten to where Todd and I are just holding our breath at the dinner table every night waiting to see what that night's question will be.  Don't get wrong, I love that they are coming to us to talk and I don't want them to grow up in a bubble, but OH MY WORD this is hard.
Last week AC asked , "I know drugs are bad, but what do they look like.  What are they?"  I stood there contemplating: should I try to find pictures on the computer or wing it and give a vague description?  In the end, I did a little of both.
It's a hard balance of answering their questions, but not giving too much information. But how much is too much?
I would love to hear any suggestions,advice, or book recommendations any of you have.



A Beautiful Weekend

I sent AC to get dressed for B's basketball game and this is what she put together.....she certainly made a fashion statement



Happy Birthday, Lauren!

I will never forget the day you were born.....The night before, Dad and Shannon went to a Superbowl party, but I wouldn't go because I was going through a weird phase (shocking, I know) of not wanting to leave Mom at home alone.  So while she layed on the sofa in labor and having contractions, I read Little House In The Big Woods aloud.  Poor Mom, I'm sure that was just lovely for her. 
The next day at school my 2nd grade class made cards for you.  I distictly remember rolling my hair in sponge curlers the night before you were coming home from the hospital. 

I was so proud to have a little sister and I'm even more proud of you today.
We love you, Lolly!



A friend sent me this picture from the 2009 Follies dance practice for Junior Service League......there are just no words.



It's parent-teacher conference time at our school.  Last week the kid's got report cards and both teacher's this year are great about communicating the daily happening's in the classroom, so we knew going in that both Anna Cate and Brian are doing well.  All that to say, I was a nervous wreck all morning. There was no real reason for me to be, but one of my greatest challenges as a parent is to get over trying to be a perfectionist.
Because AC and B were born prematurely, they were evaluated when they were about 8 months old to make sure they were hitting important milestones.  The facilitator came to her our house and did a series of tests.  Everything was going well until the last test.  The lady brought out a ball and showed it to the babies.  Then, she rolled it under the sofa....the babies continued playing.  They were supposed to look for the ball under the sofa.  I can not tell you the amount of time I spent throwing any number of things under the sofa trying to get them to look for the object.
Their beloved lovies finally did it, if anyone is curious 



Today I had a children's clothing trunk show at our house, packed up the clothes and drove to pass the clothes along to the next party. As I rushed home to feed the babies, I was tempted to put my pajamas on instead of rushing back out the door to meet up with friends for dinner.  But, I knew I would be sorry because I just plain love being with these girls.
I always leave them feeling uplifted, loved  and still laughing over something one of them said. 
I am the first to admit that I am not the best friend at this season in my life, but these girls accept what I do have to give and give me back so much more.


Happy Birthday, Todd

The world is a better place with you in it.....

Love, Your Biggest Fans


Never a dull moment

..........and I am so thankful


Great Aunt Mary

Last week my phone rang at  9pm on Thursday night.  I had on of those moments of not wanting to pick up the phone because I knew it was my dad calling to tell me Great Aunt Mary had passed away.  She had been admitted to the hospital the week before and told she had brain cancer. 
This past spring she underwent treatment for lung cancer and never missed a beat- continuing right along with her full social calendar and hair appointments.  So, while I knew she was very sick, I was shocked to hear that she was no longer living. 
I had great plans for her to meet her namesake, our Mary Connor.  While MC now has a special angel watching over her, selfishly I'm sad that we weren't able to introduce them. She lived in New York and I wasn't able to work out getting there for the funeral, so I've been pretty bummed.
One thing Great Aunt Mary loved was a good Manhattan (the cocktail).  Earlier today I received a text from my aunt in New York with a picture from the lunch held after the funeral.  They had a Manhattan fountain...perfect!


A Favorite Thing

With the babies eating solids now, I often have to pack their food so they can eat on the go.  This little gizmo is awesome!  My favorite part is it goes in the dishwasher and there are only 3 parts to it.



Today was the  first day back to school after being out all last week and yesterday.  I try very hard to keep our morning chaos to a minimum by planning and preparing ahead, but most mornings chaos is putting it mildly.  Throughout the fall, our neighbor very generously came over in the mornings to stay with the babies while I would take the big kids to school.  Her help was invaluable and we will never be able to repay her for all she has done for us, but because her schedule and ours are a little different now, so she won't be coming in the mornings.  I realized today that her presence made me a lot more mindful of my tone of voice and attitude in the mornings.  Aren't we all a little bit more patient when someone is watching?
I think we were all ready to get back to normal.  I was thankful for some extra time during the day to have lunch with a friend that I don't get to see nearly enough and catch up on the mountain of laundry that seems to multilpy overnight.  Anna Cate and Brian both have activities after school on Tuesday's which means Todd and I tag-team trying to get everyone where they are supposed to be, dinner cooked and consumed, bathed,  homework, papers signed....everyday things that make life hectic ,but so worthwhile.

This weekend we had a chance to clean and bring in the exersaucers for the babies.  They are a big hit.....now I just have to keep AC and B from trying to climb in them!
Happy Tuesday!


Good Reads

I'll admit my reading time has been drastically reduced, but these are 2 excellent books I've read over the past few months.


Peter's and Paul's

Brian is playing basketball with Upward, a Christian sports program.  This is our first experience with this program and so far, we love it.  One of the things I am most impressed with is the way the coaches weave Biblical teachings into the paractices and games and it doesn't just stop with the players.  During half-time, someone from the chuch's congregation shares a devotiion with the crowd.
Today a man spoke and something he said  has stayed with me all day.  He was saying that he knew the pressures parents face today to raise dynamic-to-the-world children who are excellent athletes that perfect their craft at an early age.  He went on to say that the goal should be to lead these kids to be the next Peter's and Paul's, not Lebron James.
 I so needed to hear that.



Today I left our house for the first time since Sunday.  By myself.  It was glorious!! 
Our school was closed both yesterday and today due to ice on some of the secondary roads.  Our driveway and neighborhood are pretty clear , so we made plans to get out for a playdate on Thursday.  But, Anna Cate woke up with a stomach bug.  I braced myself all day for the other 3 to follow suit, but so far so good and Anna Cate was feeling better by last night. 
This stay-at-home week was an unexpected treat, but I think we are all ready for our normal routine to resume.  Or should I say I am ready.

However, I have a feeling the babies will miss the constant attention and impromptu tea parties that require they dress "fancy"


Snow Day #3

Snow day #3........a little sledding, a lot of TV watching, and we are out of school again tomorrow. 


5 Months

Lyla James and Mary Connor, y'all were 5 months old yesterday! 

5 months is a fun, fun age.  Every day you all do something new or make a new sound and we are all just amazed by you both. 

You both are sleeping well- often through the night but sometimes waking once to eat. 

Last week we started a more structured naptime routine and y'all have done really well taking 2 long naps (in the cribs) and several short naps throughout the day.  You all are wearing 3-6 month  and some 6-9 month clothes.  You both like babyfood now that I mix the cereal, vegetables, and fruit all together.  We had to take the swings down because you all have gotten so big, they couldn't swing.  We brought in the exersaucers to replace them and you both love them. 

Lyla James your sweet but feisty little personality keeps us laughing!  You are becoming more accepting of strangers, but not if they try to hold you or get too close or sneeze or talk too loudly- haha!  You love your bumbo seat because you can see everything going on.  You "talk" constantly and loudly- I think you've caught on that that's a requirement in this family.  When I am feeding you, you grab the spoon and bring it to your mouth- the look of determination on your face while you try to do this is something to see! 
Mary Connor, you are a busy bee- you roll over and scoot on your back so much we had to put y'all in seperate cribs.  Your bottom front teeth are coming in and driving you crazy.  Your hair is really growing and it's very dark.  Your big sister is very worried for you because it sticks straight up on top "like a boy's."  You squeal with delight everytime Anna Cate or Brian walk in the room.

We love you both more each and every day!


Snow Fun

All weekend we were anticipating the snow to come last night.  We bought gloves, got the sled out, and the kids went to sleep with school already cancelled.  My uncle told them last year that his students in South Carolina used to wear their pajamas backward to bring the snow.  I don't know if she made it up or was told by someone at school, but Anna Cate also added sleeping with a spoon under your pillow and an orange on the window sill.  Regardless, we did all three. 

The forecasts were correct- we got about 5 inches of snow


The babies took it all in, but were more interested in the kids sledding in our yard.

*It is very difficult to take a picture of someone while you are holding them

We sled, had many snowball fights, made snow angels, ate snow icream, and came in to
warm up with hot chocolate. 
Over and over.
We are all happily tired after a great day.
The good news is school has been canceled for tomorrow!


Shootin' Hoops

Today was Brian's first basketball game of the season.  I love this age- they run....dribble....run...dribble. 

Because most of these boys go to our school,  they all know each other.  There are hugs and high-fives when someone makes a basket.

The announcer asked the parents for a nickname for each player.  Brian's smile was priceless when he heard "Brian Lightning Sparkman." 

Brian isn't aware of it yet, but with three sisters, he basically has his own cheerleading squad. 


Snow in the Forecast

Word has it we could get a pretty big winter storm on Sunday.  So, I'm heading to the store to buy milk and bread because who knows when I'll be able to get out again and it will likely be sold out before Sunday! Since we might be busy playing in the snow, I'm trying to plan some easy dinners and it doesn't get any easier than using the crockpot.  This is a great recipe that I got years ago from the Chattanooga newspaper.

Pork Tenderloin with Pears
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin
2 onions, sliced
1 (15 oz) can sliced pears with syrup
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Spray crockpot with nonstick cooking spray.  Place pork in the crockpot.  In a bowl, combine the rest of ingredients and pour over pork.  Cook on low 5-6 hours. Serve with rice.

These 2 can't wait to try it!


Grace and Parenting

A friend sent this to me today.....I think I may take to reading it every morning.

The speaker, Mark Hamby, from Lamplighter publishing, used Fenelon’s points to drive home the idea that parenting is about seeking relationship and not merely behavior from our children. Far too often, I find myself so determined to achieve a certain level of obedience and respect from them, that I’m oblivious to what is really at the heart of their ‘discord’. And admittedly, the desire for prompt obedience is often self-centered. We want our children to make us look good; to prove to the world that we are indeed good parents. We’re so afraid of letting them make mistakes. We parent them more like drill sargents than we do loving mothers and fathers. Have we not been given the unconditional love of our heavenly Father? Do we not defy and disobey and display profound ingratitude to Him daily? And what does He do? He welcomes us with open arms…..the arms of One who poured out His life for us on the cross to ransom us. He forgives and forgets. His mercies are new to us every morning. God gives us grace, pressed down, shaken together, running over and yet we measure out to our children tiny doses of mercy laced with hosts of rules and scoldings and “I told ya so’s”.

Our authority should be exercised with humility. Christ is our supreme example: His humility cost him His very life. We often associate authority with power and might, but as C.S. Lewis once said,

“Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live.”

We must surrender our need to always be right and humble ourselves in service to our children. As foreign as that may sound, that is exactly what our Father has done for us. He could have come in power, seized upon our frailties and weaknesses and demanded right behavior. But instead, He took on human flesh and died that we might have life.

Does this grace and humility mean that we have no rules, no boundaries. On the contrary. Those whom the Lord loves He chastens. It is our primary job to ‘discipline’ our children, but that word means ‘teach’. I think we often jump right to ‘punish’—which should be reserved for extreme cases of direct defiance. Likewise, God has given us rules, that if followed, will lead to happiness and unity. His standards are incredibly high, as should ours be for our children. But the final answer does not lie in following the rules. He has not been content to see our behavior realigned. He went to every length to reach our hearts: His grace and mercy cannot be exhausted.

You might think that I am providing the solution to our parenting conundrum as a simple ‘Show more grace to your children’. I am not.

The solution is always Christ. I will always fail to bestow enough grace. I will always, even in my best attempts, fail to love them unconditionally. The real answer for us all is the forgiveness and mercy of the One perfect parent, whose love has no limits and whose grace knows no bounds.


Warming Up

Last Spring when we told Anna Cate and Brian they would be getting 2 sisters, our boy did not take it well.  In fact, he started crying REALLY hard. 
Todd and I took him aside and told him being the older brother of 3 sisters is a huge responsibility and he will have to protect them.  The tears stopped, the shoulders were thrown back, and the chest puffed out. Now we were speaking his language.  Later I overheard him tell Anna Cate, "I'm in charge of you because I'm your big brother." 
Fast forward to this past August, when Lyla James and Mary Connor arrived.  I'm not sure what Brian expected, but the babies clearly fell short.  The first night we were all home from the hospital I was tucking Brian in and he said his prayers, "God thank you for my sisters.  Please help them to be smart."  When he was finished I asked why he prayed for them to be smart.  "They can't really do anything." 
Over the next few weeks I would ask him if he wanted to hold one of them, he would shrug and say, "No, thanks. They puke." Just to be clear, he didn't seem angry or jealous, I think he just expected them to be a little bit more interesting....and a bit less in the department of spitting up and leaky diapers.
I don't know if it's that he has gotten comfortable with them or because the girls are more interactive and less fragile, but I have seen a big difference over Christmas break.  He loves to make them laugh and he's been working hard to get Lyla James to roll over.  She just grins at him with adoring eyes while he coos, "Roll over, sweet pie."  Yes, Sweet pie is what he calls her. Did I mention he has inherited my knack for getting expressions confused?

Now to deal with him thinking he is in charge of his sisters.........


A New Year

Happy New Year!  We had a faux count-down waaay before midnight so our little one's could be included...and because midnight is just plain late in our world right now. 

I love New Years Day- the idea of starting fresh and the promise of change through the upcoming year.  Every New Year's Day I walk through the house making a list of organization and home improvement projects that need to be done throughout the year.  Considering our home was built in 1928 and with the size of our family, you can imagine that the to-do list is several pages long.

Seeing that I find it hard to clean out a closet right now, I quickly started feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Then, I remembered  a conversation I had with a wise friend about the different seasons of life, especially motherhood. She was saying that when you have young children and babies, it is a season that requires most of your focus and time.  As your children grow older, you enter a new season and have more time for other things.

This year I hope to be more intentional with my family, friends, and even strangers. I don't want these precious moments to slip by because I'm "busy."  My resolution for this year is to treasure this season and the people God has put around me.

You crown the year with Your good blessings, and You leave abundance in Your wake Psalm 65:11

So this may not be my season for repairing plaster and organizing the linen closet. And that is better than ok.

After all, these cheeks must be kissed at least 2,357 times per day.