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is this thing on? hunkering down + doing more.

ahem.

i haven’t been here in awhile.

maybe you’ve noticed.

maybe you haven’t.

either way, i’m okay with that.

i’m realizing, at age 30, that i’m more than okay with satisfying ME, with doing ME, with reporting to no one other than ME and MINE.

and even more than being okay with this…i’m realizing that all of this ME talk isn’t selfishness.

it’s called hunkering down, and i’ve been doing a lot of it.

* *

like many, many, MANY of you, i awoke to a world that i didn’t recognize on November 9 – which, coincidentally, was also my 30th birthday. i went to bed the night before in turmoil, living in a wine-stained haze that wasn’t even remotely enough to conceal my anxious hand-wringing, my insistent anger, my utter refusal not to say his name.

i likened him to Rowling’s Voldemort – i would not utter his name in my house.

how will we tell Lionel? i asked Jord, searching his pained face for answers.

we tell him that sometimes, the bad guy wins, he replied.

and so we did. and it was one of the most difficult conversations i’ve ever had with Lionel in his life thus far.

* *

i’ve made changes in my life since turning 30.

i got my nose pierced.

i now wash my make-up off before bed…most nights.

i now have big-girl make-up that isn’t from the drug store.

i drink more water.

i eat breakfast…and it’s healthy.

i’m entertaining the idea of joining a gym.

i’ve said goodbye to Facebook…again.

and i’m sharing my opinions, political or otherwise, more often.

perhaps not as much as i could, or as much as i should, but i’m trying to let go of the coulds and the shoulds in favor of silence, in favor of listening to what God keeps placing on my heart.

what’s God telling you?

here’s what he’s saying to me:

it’s just about love.

how best can we love one another?

sometimes, loving one another is about having the hard conversations, about challenging each other’s views, about asking questions that you don’t want to ask but you do it anyway.

why do you feel the way that you do?

sometimes, authentic, believe-it-to-my-core truth can be the opposite of other people’s truth, and i’m learning that this is okay. but i’m also learning to ask more questions.

are you open to other sides of the story?

where do you get your news?

are you informed?

sometimes, the answers i get to these questions are disturbing.

sometimes, i realize that in between all of the stereotypes and misinformation, there’s no room for agreement. i lie in my bed frustrated and angry that my words are not enough to change years and experiences and hearts to embrace what i feel is right.

and sometimes, i rise from my bed in the morning, and i force myself to recognize that God is sovereign – that God has this.

* *

if i’ve learned anything since waking up 30 in Trump’s America, it’s that i’m just so damn privileged.

while i may not agree with all that the current leader of this country does or says or thinks, i’m sheltered from the hurt of it all, mostly.

my kids will still attend a high-quality public school in our neighborhood, regardless of whether or not Betsy DeVos ruins it all. my husband will still go to work in IT for a local hospital, regardless of whether or not ACA is repealed. i will still teach English to students who immigrated to this country from war-torn nations like Iraq and Eritrea and Somalia, regardless of whether or not these students’ families – or my students themselves – are forbidden to travel.

there are innumerable levels to my family’s potential losses in the current political climate. it would take many, many chips falling poorly – many, many cookies crumbling – for my family’s reality to shatter.

and from my position of privilege, i recognize that for many, a shattered life is one chip away. or – even more startling – the crumbs are already on the floor.

* *

and so, here i am, striving to find out how to proceed.

it’s about love.

it’s about asking myself this:

how could i show up for others today?

how should i show up for others today?

i don’t have all of the answers, but here’s what i do know:

i need to do more.

three things i say too often, and one thing i need to say more.

L-Cymbals-October-2016

this morning, i was walking out of my bedroom after getting dressed, and i see a blur of blue flying through the air.

i knew instantly that disaster was imminent.

as the blue ball throttled my coffee mug and sent it flying to the floor, sending raindrops of salted-caramel-mocha-flavored coffee literally EVERYWHERE, i took a deep breath, anticipated the terrified and shameful reactions of my oldest son, the ball-thrower…and i decided to smile.

he was expecting me to yell, to chide him for playing ball upstairs (a no-no in our house), for not being careful.

but i smiled.

looking down at the mocha-colored coffee splatters, his eyes grew even larger. “it was my fault, Mama – it was an accident. i’m sorry! i’m sorry!” he blurted out.

and then he looked up and saw my smiling face…and his mocha-colored eyes returned to their normal, inquisitive state, and he smiled, too.

“i know, buddy. it’s okay,” i responded, reaching for the paper towels. “can you please keep your brother out of the kitchen while i clean this up?”

“i will, Mommy. i’ll do it!” he said, a sense of pride in his big-boy voice as he readied himself for a big-boy task.

* *

as i was soaking up coffee with paper towels, my bare knees mocha-colored from my failed attempts to dodge the coffee on the floor, i thought about the way that i responded to this morning’s disaster.

i want to always be this kind of mama.

the one that understands that accidents happen, that kids are sometimes terrors that leave a mess in their wake.

the one who SMILES in the face of disaster.

the kind of mama that thinks about her response BEFORE SAYING ANYTHING to her sensitive and tender-hearted child who, with a swift kick of a ball (and excellent aim, mind you) broke the rules.

so, in this spirit, i bring you three things that i say too often, and one that i need to say more.

  1. “we need to be careful/gentle.” i’ll admit – i even uttered this phrase this morning during the coffee incident. but here’s the thing: sweet L is now four, as much as i hate to recognize it, and his uncontrollable toddler limbs are no more. in their place are capable, strong, focused, and (most of the time) gentle movements that take him to far-away places and that help him to achieve great things. in other words, even though accidents happen, or even though he may be doing something risky, like jumping from the second-to-last step or kicking a ball upstairs “where mama’s pretty things are,” he knows to be careful; we’ve taught him well.
  2. “your brother is smaller than you are.” just like L is aware of his own body, he is also aware of his little brother’s capabilities and size. even though i remind him often, particularly during moments of tackling and wrestling and rough play, to be careful with Q, i tend to forget that A) he is being careful, and that B) our Q-bug is, more often than not, the aggressor, the initiator, the culprit.
  3. “you’re a big boy.” i say this phrase in two distinct ways – A) to applaud him for excellent behavior or achievements, such as learning how many letters are in his first, middle and last names, or being kind to his friends, and B) to encourage him to behave better. i’m bringing up usage B) here as something that i need to say less often, though, because i’m noticing that i chide him for what i deem to be childish behavior with this phrase. for instance, last night as i was putting L to bed, he revealed that he wasn’t tired and that he didn’t want to go to bed. when i reminded him that it was bedtime, he began to cry (bedtime has been quite the struggle lately, which is a different post altogether…). my response to his tears was, of course, to snuggle and offer comfort, but i also uttered this phrase – “you’re a big boy.” however, in this moment, my use of the phrase seemed to emphasize (to me at least) that it’s not okay for big boys to cry, which is far from true. i don’t want him to think that having or attaining “big boy” status means that emotions need to be locked up tightly inside and not shared!
  4. BONUS! here’s what i need to say more often: “it’s okay.” it’s remarkable how much value i place in hearing these words myself – from Jordan, my parents, my colleagues, my friends, etc. – yet how little i utter or share this sentiment with others, and especially with my children.the phrase “it’s okay” offers with it a comfort and a reassurance that is unmatched by any of the phrases that i overuse above. what’s more: the meaning of “it’s okay” – whether it’s “i see that you’re struggling, but i’m here” or “your actions or feelings are not something that i’ll hold against you” – is exactly what i am trying to teach my children to offer to others.

after all, how can i preach kindness and teach grace-filled behavior without offering it myself?

our boys’ journey with short stature.

Troubled-Waters-Cleansing

Our waters over here aren’t the most troubled in history. We are certainly blessed beyond measure in numerous ways. But lately, I’m feeling stuck in these can’t take a breath, life-jacket-breaking waters, and I need to come up for air in this space.

Our sons, while immeasurably bright, gracious, kind, and as silly as they come, are short. Our boys have never, not once, met even the bottom percentile of the growth chart when it comes to height, and since we were pregnant with Lionel, and then with Quincy, we’ve been prepared by doctors, genetic counselors and physicians for many outcomes, the majority of them terrifying.

Thanks be to God alone, our boys do not have concerns that align with the scariest of conditions, but they are remarkably behind where the doctors feel that they should be. For instance, in Lionel’s case, the age of his bones is one year behind what’s normal for his age. And in Quincy’s case, he’s shorter as a one-year-old than even his big brother was at age 1.

It’s not simply that my boys are short. In these modern times, we are blessed – and challenged – by the question of what can, what should be done to augment their growth, and what, if anything, would be effective in doing so. It’s this question that has me grasping for oars to wade us out of these, our troubled waters.

Our boys have undergone extensive testing to rule out genetic abnormalities or deficiencies. We’ve had extensive discussions with our sons’ specialists about medical intervention to augment their growth. And these tests and these discussions continue, with little to no answers regarding where this height challenge came from, other than the determination that it’s a familial condition that’s been passed from Daddy to our boys. Yet, the time is quickly approaching to make determinations about whether or not to intervene medically, and, if we elect to do so, whether or not treatment would actually work to help our boys to grow.

In other words, given the lack of information regarding our boys’ short stature, the decision whether or not to pursue growth hormone therapy is a nuanced one, and one that is immeasurably difficult. Our doctors are unsure as to whether this treatment will help our boys to grow. To provide context: Jordan took growth hormone when he was a child, and following his treatment, he grew to 5’4″, but there’s no certainty that it was the growth hormone treatment and not a delayed growth pattern, for example, that played a role.

It’s always been in our medical plan to make a decision about growth hormone therapy for Lionel around ages 5 or 6, but his sluggish growth pattern has pushed up the timeline for treatment to ages 4 to 5. And last week, we were told that our Quincy may be in need of intervention sooner than his brother, around ages 2 1/2 to 3.

If you do the math, that means that both of our boys, our treasured, healthy boys who just happen to be short, may be receiving growth hormone treatment at the exact same time. And we, their parents, are left to grapple with not only the question of whether this treatment will be effective at all, but also the logistics of daily growth hormone injections for TWO wiggly toddlers, the financial burden of growth hormone therapy for not one but TWO boys, the pleas of “Why do I have to have shots?”, the recognition that our boys are different from their friends, their cousins, their peers.

Jordan keeps telling me, the Mama who has no experience with what it means to be below average height, that it’s important for our boys to be taller than the doctor’s projections, which, to be honest, will leave our boys near five-feet tall, if they are lucky.

But I won’t speak for him; my own fears speak loud enough.

I fear that if our boys are short, and not just short, but quite short, they may have to bear the taunts and the teases of bullies.

They may not be picked for the team at recess.

They may be made to feel inadequate, either consciously or subconsciously, by their peers, even well-intentioned ones.

They may not be asked to dance at prom, or they may be needlessly fearful to do the asking themselves.

They may arrive home from school in tears, wondering why the children tease them so mercilessly, why they are different from everyone else, why they are so short.

And it’s the hurt faces of my two boys that prevent rest from taking hold of my body, that pound my heart violently, that give way to tears more often than not.

No mother wants her child, her children, to bear the brunt of what cannot be helped.

But this. Can this be helped? Should we pursue help, even if it’s not guaranteed to work?

Though it’s felt at times during these past four years as though the rain is pouring down on us in immeasurable buckets, I haven’t said a word about this publicly, because I’ve long insisted that it’s not my story to tell: it’s our boys’ story.

But, I’m coming to realize that this, for now, at least, is my story, too – it’s the story of me, the Mama of these two bubbly, wonderfully exquisite boys, coming to grips with what God has handed us in this life.

I’m learning that I’m allowed, if I want, to throw a fit and say that life isn’t fair and ask for God to just help my boys to grow. And on better days, I take comfort in the the hope that God is using these troubled waters to cleanse me, to cleanse my boys, even when – especially when – I doubt the purpose of these trials.

Thank you, friends, for reading this muddled snapshot of my Mama heart. More to come soon. xo

did you know?

earlier this week, we were school-bound. i had one hand on the steering wheel, the other was gripping my morning coffee, and as i merged onto the interstate, Kenny Rodgers and Wynonna Judd’s rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” came on our local radio station {Christmas music all the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas!}.

as my boys babbled and giggled and flapped and flitted their arms and leggies in their car seats in the back seat, i sang along to this song, one of my most favorite holiday tunes.

“what’s that noise, Mama?” L said.

“Christmas music, buddy,” i replied. “this is one of Mama’s favorite Christmas songs. it’s about Jesus’s Mama.”

“oh,” said L, and he went back to giggling at baby Q, who was trying to pull off his sockies as we drove.

since the joyful {and painful} moment that i became a Mama just three-and-a-half years ago {this week!}, and again just one year ago, i have heard this song time and again each holiday season, and have delighted in humming along. yet as i continued to drive along the snow-coated landscape to school that morning, i began to listen to the lyrics a bit more closely.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy…

i let the lyrics of the song wash over me, much like i wash the day’s grime off of my boys’ tender cheeks and bellies in the bath each evening. and what i found to be so, so stirring that morning, as i kissed my boys and wished them good days ahead at school, was this: do any of us really know what our children will become one day?

or, even more convicting: if we knew what our children would become one day, how would it change us today?

* *

i’m certainly not attempting to state that anyone’s child will be akin to that of Jesus, but my point still stands:

years from now, i’m certain that all of us mamas will look back at our days – at normal days, like today, even – and think, if i had only known…

it’s such a powerful phrase, if i had only known.

so much of what we do each day is about letting go of past transgressions, of mistakes, of choices that led us astray.

if i had only known that those words that i said, in a moment of rashness, would wound his little heart…

if i had only known that his quietness was hiding such significant pain…

but what about the good parts of life? what about the good things that, looking back, may have made all the difference?

if i had only known how much joy i get in seeing my oldest become a big brother…

if i had only known that his hands would care for the sick, that his mind would teach the young, that his words would inspire the masses…

it’s such a toggle, this relationship that we have with the knowing, or the not-knowing of things, as it tends to be so.

as the new year approaches, i’ve read blog post after blog post devoted to simply making progress, about not concerning ourselves with perfection, and as a recovering perfectionist {thank you, Brene Brown}, i so relate to that.

but how are we as mamas, as Christian mamas, to reconcile these dog years of motherhood, this the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short mentality of ours, with the greater truth of Jesus?

how do we reconcile this if i had only known with the certifiable fact that whatever we do on this earth – whatever possessions we acquire, how many dollars we have in our bank accounts, whatever awards we earn or accolades we receive, how many followers we have on social media, whatever our children become in this life – cannot be brought along, not in duffels or chests or suitcases, to eternity?

* *

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

i wrote in Q’s birth story that i have experienced two distinct moments in my life in which i truly saw God, in which i could feel His presence at the helm of my life, and both resulted in the birth of a beautiful boy. while i have long loved God as someone in great need of grace, never before in my life – not during times of worship, not in moments of stress, of grief, of complete joy or utter sadness – have i so intimately felt God’s hands around mine, and around those of my children, than in the moments in which my sons were born.

and like you, i’m certain, in the early days after each of my boys were born, i promised them the best of me – to be for both of them an indestructible, endless net of love and faithfulness, ever positioned so that i will always catch them. yet as i sit here today, i recall countless times in which i’ve fallen short of this promise, moments in which i’ve fallen flat on my face, fallen to my knees in prayer, begging God for a do-over, for another go at it, to be made new.

and perhaps, that’s how we mother in light of eternity: we give thanks for our children, and for Jesus, and for this gift of making us, each and every one of us fallible mamas, new.

* *

i’ve always loved that there is a Christmas song devoted to Mary, to this woman who, like the rest of us mamas, had no idea what to expect from this journey of raising a child.

and while my motherhood experience is quite dissimilar from that of Mary {no Immaculate Conception here}, like Mary, i’ve been made new through the births and lives of my boys.

Mary may not have known what Jesus would do one day, but i’m hedging my bets: as she looked into Jesus’s eyes on His birthday, Mary felt like all mothers do, and His birth certainly made her, and all of us, new.

merry Christmas, all. xoxo

the big ONE.

dear Quincy August,

Q-52-Weeks

i can’t believe that you’re one.

your birthday caught me a bit off-guard, sweet boy – like a sneaky little snowstorm, it’s arrived seemingly without warning, despite many, many a look at the forecast ahead for this day.

oh yes, despite all the Mama feelings that trapped me in denial for what it means for you, my baby, to be ONE, it was clear all along that this day, this storm, this growing you was coming all along.

Quincy-Newborn

you’ve changed and grown so, so much from the moment that my teary, anxious eyes met yours.

you gave us quite a scare, arriving so early, but just as your Daddy and i cradled you safely in our arms from the moment that your sweet soul arrived, God held our family so tenderly, too, knowing all along His plan for us, and for your BIG life.

Easter-2015

one thing that hasn’t changed, though, dear Q, is your brother’s love for you. oh, he delights when you delight and saddens when you’re sad. but more than that is his fierce pride in calling you his, from the kisses that he leaves on your {still} bald head in the morning to his ever-loving tackles in the afternoon. we have a feeling that Lionel is turning you into quite the bruiser, yet seeing your bond develop and grow has been one of our most treasured joys since you joined our family last year.

Quincy-48-Weeks

it’s unfathomable for me to recall what life looked like before you, Quincy. sure, i can grasp at snippets or glimpses of a life that didn’t involve your emotive babbles of “GAH! GAH!” or your cutest ever limp-arm waves. life before you was a time that, yes, was precious, for i shared that time with your brother and your Daddy, but life WITH you is a moment that i wouldn’t trade in. i wouldn’t trade any spit-up session, any bout of mastitis, or any feverish night of sniffly noses and little sleep for a return to a life without your sweet face in it.

you make our family better, sweeter, balanced and joyful, and i couldn’t feel more blessed to be your Mama.

happy birthday, dear boy.

xo,

Mama

{second photo by Creative Kindling}