What we learned and why we loved you, Mom

Today would have been my mother’s 59th birthday, it’s the 3rd one she’s spent in Heaven. Two years, five months, and 11 days ago she left this earth very unexpectedly and way too soon. But just like any other great person in history, her legacy lives on. To honor her on her birthday, I thought I would write a tribute to the things I learned from her and loved about her. More importantly, she didn’t do these things just for me, she shared her love and learning with all who knew her….

  • Her character was unquestionable. Never in my life did I hear anyone question my mother’s integrity, never once did I question it. We loved her honesty. We learned your character is the only thing you can take with you wherever you go.
  • She was consistent. She was the same yesterday, today, tomorrow. Always smiling, always dependable, almost always a calm voice of reason. I swing a little wider than mom did, but I learned the value of being who you are and sticking with it.You almost always know what to expect from me.
  • She was dependable. Do what you say you are going to do. Sometimes more, never less. If my mom told you she was going to do something, you could count it done with utmost quality. If she knew she couldn’t get it done, she wouldn’t commit to doing it.
  • She could forgive big, and she forgave often. Many times and many people screwed my mom over in major ways. I didn’t know about it because she told it, I knew about it because I either witnessed it or the offender told on themselves. Many people probably thought they got away with it without her even noticing, they were most likely wrong. My mom lived “turning the other cheek” like no other human being I’ve ever met. She completely trusted God would deal with her offenders on how they had wronged her, and she let it go. All the festering and worrying was left with the offender. The times I would talk to her about something, she would just say it wasn’t worth letting it steal her joy. I’m still working on learning this….
  • She showed people how much she loved them. When it comes to your family, you can never show them too much. I was 35 years old still sitting in my mother’s lap. She would kiss me right square in the mouth. If she saw something she thought I or the kids would like, she’d send it my way. If it was your birthday, she’d bake you a cake or your favorite pie. Always doing little things to let you know you were special.
  • She was your biggest cheerleader. She never sported a mini-skirt and pompoms, but she was an excellent encourager. She convinced me I could do anything I wanted to do. I kinda wish I hadn’t believed my mom so much on that one. But, she convinced me I could achieve anything I set my mind to. I’ve had some pretty crazy ideas along the way, and some things I probably should have given up on. But, because my mom believed in me, I believed in me. There are countless people that tell me the stories of what they accomplished thanks to my mom’s encouragement.
  • She was a great listener. Mom was always one to listen more than she spoke. She always had time to hear your story or concern. And, mom won many arguments without ever saying a word.
  • She taught us the importance of hard work. She started out as a minimum wage employee and worked her way up to plant manager. There wasn’t a job she couldn’t or was afraid to do. She would go in early, she would stay late. I begged my mom to retire as soon as I started having kids. She could have financially, but she believed in hard work. I offered to meet her salary to come watch my kids a few days a week, but she wanted to earn her own way. She never made a dollar she didn’t work her ass off for. All of her employees respected her and talk about what a great boss she was. I think it is why I love working so much. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my kids when they were little, but I truly find joy in being at work.
  • She was a great neighbor. If someone died, my mom was the one walking the street with an envelope collecting money for flowers and organizing meals. If you were new to the ‘hood there was cake coming your way. If you were out of town, your mail and plants would be taken care of. You didn’t even have to ask her to do it, she just did, because that is what good neighbors do.
  • She taught me to enjoy being in a neighborhood and doing life with other families. Enjoy sitting in the front yard with the neighbors, and watch the kids grow up together playing in the street. As I sit in our cul-de-sac and back yard, I can’t help but think back to the good ‘ole days on Ridgeland Drive. All the dads with beer in hand, moms laughing and talking, kids running amuck riding 4 wheelers, jumping on trampolines, playing softball, and putting on talent shows.
  • She taught me a little fear is good for a child. I probably had the strictest parents of my peer group growing up. I was afraid of my parents to a certain extent. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they would find out when I screwed up, and I knew they’d beat the hell out of me if I needed it. It kept me out of a lot of trouble, and taught me to respect authority in all facets of my life. It also taught me how I want to parent. Full of grace, yet full of discipline. Kids want structure and discipline, and being forced to obey will only prepare them for the future. Letting things slide is the easy way out. Mom never took the easy way out with me.
  • Mi casa = su casa. There is always room for one more at dinner; if you’ve been here more than once you might as well live here, make yourself at home. You know where the toilet and fridge are, help yourself. I don’t know that anyone ever entered her home and felt uncomfortable. Our house was just a good place to be.
  • If your kids want their friends to come to your house, and you have no other conflicts, say yes. Sure, it means your house is going to get messy just after it was cleaned, your grocery bill will probably be double that of most, but if the kids are at your house, you know what is going on. One of the things I loved most was hearing how comfortable my friends always felt at my house, like it was a second home.
  • She was a good friend. Being a good friend means showing up. Even when your friends say they don’t need anything, show up anyway, and bring cake. If you were lucky enough to be in my mom’s inner circle, you knew she had your back. Her circle was small, she wasn’t that outgoing. But those who were in, knew they’d never have a need go unmet.
  • She had an amazing sense of humor, and she taught us a sense of humor will make life bearable. Mom’s sense of humor was very dry. Sometimes you weren’t sure if she was telling a joke or had just cussed you out in a passive aggressive sort of way. But, her laugh was contagious. I’m thankful mom taught me to laugh to keep from crying.
  • She loved to read. She taught me a good book can be great therapy. I loved watching my mom read, you could just see the joy it poured into her.
  • She taught me to take the kids to church. My mom actually didn’t go to church with me when I was a young kid, but she took me to church with my Grandmother- every single Sunday. She dropped us off, and picked us up. Even the weekends it was my dad’s weekend to have me, she picked me up and took me to church. Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and any other time there was something going on, we were there. After I accepted Christ in 5th grade, my mom and step dad started coming to church with me, and we all made Sedalia Baptist our church home. She served in church. I still remember those little kiddos she taught for years in 2-3 year old preschool class. Most of them have their own kids now.
  • We loved that mom was an excellent cook, and I love that she taught me how to cook.Our (my busy) life dictated that I needed to help with dinner. As a middle school cheerleader, I had dinner ready at 4:30 so our family could eat as soon as mom got home from work and we would head to the ballgames.She could cook dinner for the 3 of us, or prepare food for a party of 50, whatever she touched always turned out amazing.
  • It was important to have dinner together as a family. Almost every night, regardless of what we had going on, and even if it was a bowl of cereal, we sat down and ate together. It was our time to check in, reconnect and plan what was going on. Today, even with our crazy schedules, we all have a meal together every day.
  • Mom loved to travel, she taught me the importance of taking family vacations. We took family vacations every year. Those memories are some of the best I have growing up. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, just carve out time to get away. One of my favorite travels was taking my mom to Hawaii for her 45th birthday. It was a trip with just the two of us, somewhere she always wanted to go. I’m beyond grateful I was able to do that for her. I’m also thankful that we had one family vacation with my mom and my kids before she passed away.
  • Mom was a quiet soul. She taught me everyone needs some time to their selves to recharge. My mom was quieter than most, and happier alone than most. I’m not like her in the quiet respect. But, I also learned that sometimes I need to be alone and recharge, and that is okay.
  • She taught me that ironing was highly overrated. My mom was Suzie Homemaker. She worked full time, fixed lunches, cooked dinner, cleaned house, hosted parties, and kept it together in ways to make Martha Stuart look silly. But that woman hated to iron. She tried to make ironing my chore when I was in high school. I burnt a hole in a shirt, and we just let that go away. To this day I hate ironing. There’s a perfectly good dry cleaners around 3 different corners from my house, it’s supporting the economy….
  • She taught me to never burn a bridge you might have to walk over again some day.
  • She was never late. To her, being on time meant showing up five minutes early. Only fitting that she made it to Heaven way ahead of schedule for the rest of us.

Mom, you loved us all so well. I hope you felt that love in return. You were a rare treasure, your legacy lives on in what you taught us and who you raised us to be. Fifty-six years wasn’t nearly enough time for this world to enjoy you; but you accomplished more in those 56 than most do in 80. I hope someone made you a delicious chocolate pie today. Happy Birthday in Heaven.


I’m the “WORST” Mom Ever

It’s been a super fun week at our house. My 9 year old follows my hormone cycle with her moods, and needless to say not only do I not feel great, my daughter is crazy this week. It is super duper awesome. We’ve been dealing with some bad choices this week. And, admittedly in the grand scheme of bad choices she could make, these are absolutely minor. But, at our house bad choices have consequences.

This morning it all came to a boiling head. “Mom, no other 9 year old in the WORLD is expected to have the responsibilities I have! No other parents hold their children so accountable as you do me. Everything is always all my fault and you don’t let me be a kid!” Granted, there may be a very few weeds of truth in there. But, sister if you think no other 9 year old in the world has the responsibilities you have, I need to put your ass on an air plane to a third world country, and you’ll see what responsibility really looks like. When you live a life of great privilege, you also must live a life of great responsibility. And trust me, my kids live a life of very great privilege.

So, this got me thinking about a few points to make…..

(1) My job in this parenting life is not to raise bratty children. My job is to raise a responsible adult. You become a responsible adult by practicing responsibility as a child. When you fail, I will help you recover, but you will get lots of practice.

(2) You are 6 weeks away from being 10 years old. That’s double digits. More importantly, it means you are over half way to “adulthood”. I have less time left to prepare you for the adult world than I’ve already had to train you thus far. You’ve got tons of crap left to learn. For heaven’s sake you can’t even find a shirt in your room. How are you going to find your way to your first real job? We’ve got to get busy sister.

(3)I’m about tired of adulting with fellow adults who are (a)totally irresponsible human beings and (b)have absolutely no concept of being held accountable to professional standards. Rest assured, I will die trying to make sure you are not one of these nearly worthless adults. You will be able to get a job, you will know how to get to work on time, you will know how to make a budget to pay your bills, you will know the value of doing what you say you will do, it will not be second nature for you to half-ass everything you do, you will hold yourself to a higher standard than any supervisor every thought about holding you to, you will know how to admit your mistakes and recover from them, and for heaven’s sake you will not blame the rest of the world for every problem that comes your way or every mistake you make.

(4)If none of your friends are being held accountable and taught responsibility, even more the reason for you to learn. Because, guess what! These fool kids aren’t going to be living at my house when their parents turn them loose, and since you are apparently going to be the only one trained to be an adult, you better have a damn good job and plan to take care of all your pals. You are way too kind and compassionate to let them be homeless; I know you, you are going to volunteer to take care of them. And, if they aren’t able to be responsible- you’re going to have a lot more work to do that I thought.

So, yes child. I expect you to come home when I tell you it is time to come home-even if that means telling another parent to call me to come get you if they aren’t willing to bring you home at that time. I expect you to clean your room, and no, I won’t pay you for doing it. I expect you to keep up with your clothes and uniforms, and I will not buy you a new one when you loose the one you had. I expect you to be kind and deal with people you don’t like. It is not my fault that you do not feel like practicing a skill to get better at it. You are not always going to be the best and greatest at everything you do, but you will show up and keep trying anyway. You will not talk back to me or question my authority in this house. It is not my fault that you made a mistake, that your friend is mad at you, etc. I don’t really care if a certain kid doesn’t like you, and you really shouldn’t either. If your friends think I am too strict, I don’t really care about that either, maybe I will make you get new friends.

And, yes I realize you are only 9 years old. Yes, I want you to be a child and enjoy the world. If you take a moment to pause and look around you, I think you will see just how much world you have to enjoy. You have more stuff and experiences than you could ever recount. For the love of Pete, I was 19 before I had a passport, you’ve already been to 3 different countries besides the one you live in. I hope you enjoy swimming and playing in the dirt tonight. And, my feelings aren’t hurt that you think I am the worst mom ever. I know tomorrow you will love me again and think I am the best mom ever. But, more importantly, when you are 25, I want you to be able to look into my eyes and know I did my part. I want you to be a bold and confident young woman who isn’t always stressed and worried about what comes next. You are going to take this world by  the horns, you are going to kick ass and take names. You, my child, are going to be ready to be an adult when that time comes. And, the rest of the WORLD who never had responsibility and accountability, they are going to really wish they were you. They are going to really wish their parents took the time and had the courage to raise adults instead of children.

Growing up is hard on mommas

Our motto for parenting has kinda always been that “We aren’t raising a cute child; we’re raising a responsible adult.” So, on all the “big stuff” we try to have a well thought out plan on how we’ll handle situations….. Who am I kidding, I hate surprises, I have a well thought out plan on for everything. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go according to plan. But, that’s a whole other story, back on track….

Our oldest is 9, chasing down 10 in a few days. Entering her last year of elementary school, too smart for my own good. She asks lots of big questions, she understands more than she should about life. She’s a pretty black and white logical thinker. And, unfortunately, she’s been circling that question parents hate to answer for some time, “Is Santa real?” I could go into another whole dynamic on Santa and Christmas, but I won’t. We’ll just say that our family celebrates Christmas, and we do Santa Claus. He isn’t a real big deal at our house, as we’re also 3 gifts were good enough for Baby Jesus, 3 gifts are good enough for our kids Christmas people also. We do the damn Elf on a Shelf, I hate that thing, but we have 2…. So, here’s how it went down last night. I’m working on my computer, tired, trying to get things finished for the day. Lexi Kate comes up to me, look me right in the eye with a glare only she can give. “Quit lying to me. I’m almost 10 years old. Santa isn’t real.” I didn’t know whether to cry or vomit. I just looked over at Jeff. I bought us a few minutes to get her out of the room. Then I asked, what did we do with that letter, it’s time. I found the letter, we re-read it to make sure it was what we wanted to say. I locked LK in my room so Sam wouldn’t interrupt, and we came clean….

Dear Lexi Kate,

You’ve asked many times, “Is Santa real?” “Are you and Daddy Santa?” “Are the elves real?” “How do they move around?”

So, now it is time to explain. Yes, Santa is real, just not exactly as you have believed. Santa got his origins from the Legend of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was born around 280 in the area near Turkey. He gave all his inherited wealth away taking care of the poor and sick, primarily children. December 6th was declared Saint Nicholas Day to commemorate his death. Santa Claus made his way to America in the 1770s. The name Santa Claus evolved from Saint Nicholas’s Dutch name Sinter Klaas. Other countries have legends of Kris Kringle, his name was transformed from Kristkind, meaning Christ Child. In 1822 a minister wrote a poem for his daughter titled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. This poem described much of what we think of Santa today. (Jolly old man in a red suit with little elves helping him at the North Pole.) Between the 1820s-1840s shopping malls began their commercializing of Christmas with holiday sales and “live” Santa Claus’s in their stores each December. The story of Rudolph was created in 1939 by a writer for Montgomery Ward department store. All of it centered around Christmas, as Santa was bringing gifts reminding us all of the greatest gift we’ve ever been given- The Christ Child born on Christmas Day. So, NO, I am not Santa; Dad is not Santa. There is no one, single Santa either. Santa is a legend of good things living in the hearts of others.

Mom and Dad are the ones that fill your stockings, and put out your Christmas gifts. We do this because we believe in the magic of Christmas and Santa. Our parents did this for us, and you will likely choose to do it for your children some day.

However, putting out gifts could never make us Santa. Santa is people who keep the Spirit of Saint Nicholas alive. He lives in our hearts, not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic of love and the spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout life, you will need this capacity to believe in things you can’t see, things you can’t measure, things you can’t touch, things you can’t quiet understand.

Now you know the secret of Santa. How he gets into all those houses on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy. With full hearts, people like mommy and daddy take our turn helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. It will probably make you a little sad to lose some of the magic you once believed now that you know the secret. But, now you know a different kind of secret. You get to help spread the joy as a member of Santa’s team. We ask that you keep Santa alive for your brother and all your friends that haven’t yet discovered the true meaning of Santa and how his magic works through the hearts of others. A child has to be ready to understand this kind of secret. And, it is each child’s parents responsibility to explain this truth. So, keep the joy and magic in your heart as you keep the secret alive for others.

And, yes that means our elves are just little stuffed dolls that mom and dad move around the house each night. Which means, I need to ask for forgiveness. I should not use a doll to manipulate or trick you into behaving one month out of the year, out of fear they will tell Santa. And, I shouldn’t use a fake elf to make you feel bad for not doing what you should. It is mom and dad’s job to teach you to obey and hold you accountable when you don’t; every day of the year. Your gifts from Santa aren’t conditional on your behavior. The whole concept of Christmas is based on the love of our Savior who was born in that manger just so He could die on the cross and take all our shame and condemnation for sin. We don’t have to earn the gift of salvation, and you don’t have to earn the gifts of Christmas. You do however have consequences for your actions on a daily basis.

But, know beyond a shadow of any doubt that Christmas is about celebrating the gift of Christ in a manger. The legend of Santa is kept alive as a reminder to be lovers of others, givers of good gifts to those who need them, and to spread kindness and joy to all every day of the year. So, although Santa isn’t a man in a big red suit putting out toys only for good girls and boys; we very much believe in Santa and the goodness he brings. And, when you quit believing in Santa that joy will fade. May you always keep Christ in Christmas and believe in the magic of good ole St. Nicholas.

Mom and Dad

She cried. I cried. We hugged. It was terrible, it was perfect. Pretty much like every other day of parenting. It’s hard. We struggle and pray we are making the right decision in the moment, and we move forward trusting our gut.