Who Your Daddy Is..

Dear Daughters,

This one’s for you.

Your daddy is a lot of things. He is a Frozen watching couch cuddler. He is a delicious breakfast maker. He is a guitar playing, wood work making, lawn mowing, trampoline jumping kind of guy. All day he is your daddy. It is as evening sets in and we finish our dinner that his other task begins. The one where he straps on a bullet proof vest, laces his boots, and puts on a badge that in some ways seems more like a target these days than anything else.

In recent months, and especially this last week, I have woken one too many times to news that men who do what your daddy does didn’t get to come home anymore. Not only that but I have seen videos and read many things that reflect opinions from all sorts of people on who  your daddy and the men and women he works with are, what their morals are or are not, and what exactly it is they do when out on the streets while many sleep, while many celebrate holidays with their families, and while many call on them for help in times of need. All too soon I know you will be of an age to see these same stories and read the opinions of others. You will openly and occasionally harshly learn that to some your daddy may be a hero and to others he will always be seen as the villain.

It would be a lie to tell you that every single man or woman who places a badge on their chest and a hat on their head and calls themselves a police officer hits the streets for all the right reasons. It would be even more of a lie to let you believe that the few who disrespect the honor of wearing that badge, even start to represent the majority. I have decided that before the world tries to tell you who they think your father is – based on the profession he so loyally serves, I wanted to clear a few things up for you on who I know him to be.

Your father cares for the sick and injured. When I came home from the hospital with Anniston the whole house was falling ill. Even your Nana (a retired police officer herself) who had so diligently watched over you while I was in the hospital, was ill. Your dad didn’t blink an eye as he flew into action. Washing bedding, cleaning up things I’m glad I didn’t even have to see, preparing meals, and when the illness struck me staying up to care for the baby and meeting my every demand. It’s the same thing he does at work when he gets calls to medical emergencies – from heart attacks to overdoses. He provides care, he stabilizes, he arranges help for people he has often never met before and may likely never see again.

Your father is fair and just. He knows how to settle an argument between you three girls faster than I ever could. He never takes more than his due from anything. He shares everything he has with anyone who asks and never expects a thing in return. It’s what allows him to help calm a domestic disturbance, a fight at the local school, and talk down a situation headed towards dangerous escalation.

Your father is dedicated. Your dad is the kind of guy who can come off of a 12 hour night shift and go straight to a soccer game, a doctor’s appointment, or whatever other thing you need. It is this dedication that makes him go into work on Holidays and Birthdays and times where we know he would love to be home, but he also knows that his community needs someone on the ready to serve. You won’t hear him complain when his phone rings at 3 am on his one night off to come in and help out at work and you won’t see anything but a smile from him when he gets off work at 2 am and has to drive us straight to the hospital to have a baby and at some point realizes he hasn’t slept in well over 24 hours or as he watches you blow out your birthday candles instead of sleeping. He is dedicated to our family and his community in a way few could ever be.

Your father is a provider of comfort. There is a reason you run to your dad when you get a scrape on your knee or your favorite toy gets broken. It’s because you know his arms will open wide and pull you into a warm embrace and somehow convince you that everything will be just fine. I know because he has done that for me more than once. That’s why your father has put himself in a position to be the one to deliver news after tragic accidents and other less than ideal situations. He tries to comfort even strangers in their time of greatest need because that’s what his job calls for and it’s what he knows how to do.

Your father is a police officer. It means that each night he walks out the door not knowing what his future holds. It means that he is ready and willing to run into a harmful situation and try to bring about peace. It means that he will put others’ lives before his own if the need should arise. It means that he will make enemies, because sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the popular one. It means he will see things that would break our heart, that do break his, and he will some how piece it back together for us. It means he will worry about the child he had to drive to the homeless shelter and admit he wished he could just bring them home to us where love abounds. It will mean he spends time thinking of ways to encourage the habitual alcoholic or drug abuser to get help and find resources to break the cycle they feel stuck in because the joy in his job doesn’t come in arresting a human when crimes are committed, it comes in seeing someone go from destructive decisions to a bountiful life. It means that there is always a chance he could be targeted for doing a job that many aren’t willing to do themselves. It means one day he could walk out the door and not get to walk back in. Still, if I know one thing about your father it is that his heart and soul couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

If you only remember one thing from this letter I want you to remember that your father, regardless of what anyone else may say or assume, is one of the good ones, the best ones. He protects and he serves, he is a police officer but more than anything else he is your Daddy and the reason he puts on that badge every day is so that the four of us and other families just like ours can sleep in peace each night knowing help is just a phone call away.

Love,

Your Mommy

(I was blessed to be raised by a police woman who exemplifies the same qualities listed here and then some. I am honored by and often challenged by my role as a police wife and mother to three little LEO kids. My heart goes out to those who have paid the ultimate price in this calling, this career, this way of life and those who have had to make tough decisions in their course of work and live with daily back lash as a result. Bless you!)

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That Can Kill You!

Recently I’ve realized that raising  a baby in the 6-10 month age range is really only about doing one thing. Making it realize that a lot of things it finds “fun” can also be deadly. I think as humans we never really out grow this stage – take sky diving and bull riding for example. Extreme examples maybe, but still .. “I’m going to plummet toward the ground as fast as gravity will let me and hope a giant umbrella on strings attached to my back is going to slow me down,”  is one of those things that you either have a really fun time doing or you die. There isn’t’ really much in between. Here is a list of ways I’ve been a “fun hater” (according to my baby) and also a life saver this week.

  1. I’ve prevented choking at least 60 times. No I won’t let you eat barbie shoes, gravel rocks, toy rocks, dice, paper clips, or still plugged in electrical cords. I know these things are all well and fascinating but choking is no laughing matter and food is dangerous enough without all these other things making trips through your body!
  2. I didn’t let you bang on the glass window with a drum stick repeatedly. My mom brain sees glass shattering and my ears just can’t handle one more sound.
  3. I prevented your sister from carrying you up the stairs by your neck because she is two and thinks that’s how you should be carried. You can thank me later.
  4. Speaking of the stairs, now that you can climb them I’m proud of you. However the method in which you choose to come down them (rolling and tumbling head first) isn’t quite so savvy. Now I’ve had to remove you crying and screaming from the stairs at least 13 times.
  5. I made you be buckled into your car seat. That task alone is enough to count as one full visit to the gym.
  6. I didn’t let you topple the piano bench on top of yourself in your attempts to climb it.
  7. I didn’t let you vault yourself out of the crib because when you’re one foot tall and the drop is closer to three and your head carries a large chunk of your body weight..well bad things happen

So congratulations..I’ve saved your life regularly. Later when you’re two and I leave you at a stranger’s house very briefly on Halloween while Trick-or-Treating (this may or may not have happened this year) – you can remember that at least a few times in your life I kept you from perishing.

 

I’m a Mom in The Middle

When you have kids people ask a lot of questions. “How old are they?” “Boy or Girl?” “Do they sleep all night?” the list goes on and on. Honestly, I don’t mind them. All that is, except one question that has left me with a purely personal – and often simply perceived – struggle time and time again. It’s a common and simple question. “What do you do?” When someone asks this question to a mother they generally expect one of two potential answers.

1.) A brief description of my career/full time employment.

2.) For me to smile and inform them I stay home and raise these babies.

I’ve tried both. I’ve gone insane attempting both. I’ve struggled with what that means for me as a parent.

I was never the girl who fantasized and dreamed of being a mother. I knew I liked kids and wanted them “some day” but it wasn’t some big end goal for me. Funny how meeting the right man can start a chain reaction of change. I love being a mother. I’m just not cut out to sit at home day in and day out as one. Before anyone goes off on me about the MANY things a stay at home mother does let me tell you I know. I tried it – briefly. It was exhausting. It was fun. It was messy when it was supposed to be clean. My  kids are probably a bit better off for my attempt.

I needed more. I struggled with that fact. My kids weren’t enough. I needed to have a space outside the home to direct my energy. In order to feel like I was doing my part, I needed to contribute finances directly into our bank account. Clearly I needed a full time job. Right?

A career sounded wonderful. A place for me to see my worth on paper and stay busy, while coming home to love on my kids at night. My mom made it look easy – even though I’m sure a lot of times it wasn’t. So out I went and found a full time job that I loved. It was amazing and refreshing and I worked hard. When I came home at night I was exhausted. The to-do list had piled up. My husband is a police officer working 12 hour shifts so we often pass each other like ships in the night. We moved, my job changed, he got switched back to nights at a new job, we added a third child..I was sinking. Sinking in all the things I wanted to do for my kids  – cuddle them on sick days, attend class field trips, cook dinner at least twice a week that wasn’t previously frozen, be home for them at night when their dad had to work. Sinking in all the things I wanted to do for myself – feel like I was giving something back in the community, be part of the “adult” world, be able to contribute to my family’s financial security.

That’s how I ended up a mom in the middle. I work part-time.  As a life-guard at the Y and also as a substitute teacher. Still when you are a nearly 30 year old woman and you tell people your job is a life guard at the Y they look at you a little..odd..for a moment. In this I often feel like a mom without a tribe – a mom in the middle. I don’t have a “career” that is leading me towards some beautiful retirement and I don’t spend each day cuddling these minions and taking them to story time at the library. Some days I have to work all day, some days I don’t. Some days I make decent money, other days my pay checks are well..minimal. It’s been hard for me to come to terms with the fact that while not always glamorous, this is the balance I need. That our family needs, especially with a parent who is gone many evenings and nights and sleeping during the day on a regular basis. So I’ve taken some time to figure out what it is “I do.”

I protect lives – my children’s lives and maybe yours if you come for a swim.

I go  to those school events and kids activities I want to be at – because I have that flexibility.

I give us the financial flexibility to go on dinner dates – because sometimes an extra $30 is all you need.

I love – my family, my odd jobs, writing because I have the time.

I live a life as a mom, a sometimes worker, a wife, a happy person, a friend, an obsessive Diet Coke drinker.

I am a mom in the middle and as it turns out, that is exactly where I need to be.

(Any amazing photos you see on this website are from the wonderful and talented Nuzum Photo who you will hear more about soon)

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What Being A Parent Is..

More and more of my friends are having babies! This is amazing! It also means I get asked occasionally what it’s like to be a parent. Let me start by saying that answer is different for each and every person. No two kids and no two parents are exactly alike. Still, I’ve given some thought to what being a parent is to me and this is what I’ve come up with..

Being a parent is wanting 8 hours of sleep, but ending up being awake no less than 13 times on any given night for things all the way from projectile vomit to a need for snuggles during a thunderstorm.

Being a parent is being exhausted and having all the kids peacefully asleep, but choosing to stay awake to enjoy the weight of your 7 month old passed out on your chest for just a few minutes longer.

Being a parent is keeping a few bottles of water in your van so that you can mix up formula at a moments notice and wishing you were still nursing so you didn’t have to mix up a thing.

Being a parent is dropping everything you are doing to sit and breast feed a child, and sometimes wishing you were feeding bottles so that someone else could do the honors while you took a hot shower.

Being a parent is spoon feeding baby purees and thinking about how nice it would be to feel comfortable just dishing something to them off your plate.

Being a parent is letting the baby feed itself food from your plate, and thinking you should have just spoon fed it some purees to avoid cleaning up the insane aftermath of what is a baby with fistfuls (and now a hair full) of spaghetti.

Being a parent is being super excited about the cool new toy you got your kid for Christmas, and then ripping out the batteries two weeks later because you just can’t take it anymore.

Being a parent is listening to the Veggie Tales CD and singing along, then realizing you dropped your kids off at a friends house two miles ago and its date night. Quick change the station BE COOL!

Being a parent is dreading owning a mini van and thinking about how nice an SUV must be.

Being a parent is worshipping your mini van and praising the Lord your kids couldn’t toss open the doors of the vehicle into the one next to you.

Being a parent is wanting your kids to slow down and stay little, while being so thankful that tomorrow is Monday and the big “smart” one will be at school all day.

Being a parent is tapping your toe waiting for your kid to get out of school because you’ve just wanted to hug them all day long.

Being a parent is contradiction. It’s wanting one thing, and then something else. It’s making good choice and bad choice and bad choices that turn out to be good ones. It is being a great parent and the worst parent alive all within the same hour.

Most of all being a parent is an adventure, an exploration in love and self. It isn’t everything there is in life – but it’s a big thing – and you know how I know you’ll be just fine? Because if I can do it, anyone can!

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Uh, Go Team?

My five year old has “played soccer” for three sessions now. Two Fall and one Spring. If you ever find yourself awake, bored, and looking for amusement some Saturday morning you should definitely track down your local YMCA and go cheer for some pee-wee soccer. It would probably be even more fun if you didn’t have a kid playing.

The best thing about cheering for Pee-Wee Soccer is that correct “cheering” sounds a lot like this…

“Run! Good job running! Now try running the other way!”

“Kick the ball..yeah the ball! Kick it!”

“It’s okay! Put your cleat back on! We all lose our cleats mid-kick sometimes!”

“The net – go towards the net – I mean the OTHER net!”

“I’m so proud of you for going on the field when you were nervous.”

“Run! Kick! Run! Other way! YAY!” (And the yay is said by both teams spectators no matter which goal it goes in because nobody has the heart to tell the four year old that he just kicked the ball proudly into his own goal. We will save that heart break for the six or seven year olds – or something like that.)

 

Sometimes you do hear bad sportsmanship at these games. It’s rarely the kids. It’s usually the parents. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been involved in more than one conversation that went something like “Please I just hope my child does something other than walk today.” and “Dear Lord if you’re listening do NOT let a plane fly over for the next twenty minutes.” Still, trash talking four year olds or booing are the sure fire way to look like (and really be) a jerk.

At least once a game I stop and ask myself, “Why do we do this? Bundle up all three kids for weekly practice and game time that lasts a half hour maximum. Why?”

Then I realize why..

It’s because my kid smiles when I mention it. It’s because even if she never ever scores a goal, she gets to begin to understand what it feels like to be part of a  group – a team. It’s because she gets to fill her lungs with fresh air and peel her eyes off TV and tablet screens. It’s about friendship. It’s a little about the basics of discipline (but not really). It’s about trying something new. It’s about seeing your kid grow a little bit each week even if her only skill is better sportsmanship with her friends. It’s about getting out and doing.

My child may soon decide that soccer isn’t her calling. That’s okay. Even if she never kicks a ball again the fun she had while she played will be good enough. The friends will be enough. The exercise will be enough. They will have been worth it.

Also I can’t lie..why does Karrigan do it some days? For the team snack at the end of the game. Win, Lose, or No score at all..we can all agree on snack.14370084_10154588257223421_799953434142759645_n

Lessons From A Pillow

Some parts of parenting come to us naturally. For me those parts were a joy of snack and maintaining a regular napping schedule. Food and sleep are two things I can naturally get behind and support. Other things (pretty much every other thing) have come with a learning curve. Sometimes it is more along the lines of a learning punch in the gut.

My five year old is an emotional creature. I keep thinking maybe next  year she will ‘grow out of it’ but I’ve come to accept that she may always be much like a pinball in regards to emotional highs, lows, tears, and exuberant laughter. That’s only covering five minutes of her normal day.

I will be the first to admit that my natural instinct when someone comes at me with an emotional charge is to be like a brick wall. When something is hurled at a brick wall TYPICALLY one of two things happen. The item bounces back, often times with surprising momentum – anger for anger, tears for tears, and excitement for even more excitement. I kind of tend to match and bounce back what is given. For some this is a good thing. They like the feed back, the like the ability to reflect on their actions as a result of mine. This is not true for Karrigan. It sends her reeling. The other thing that can happen when something is thrown at a brick wall is that the object hits it and shatters, breaks, collapses. I think of this as those moments where two minutes of whining all the sudden become a complete and total sobbing melt down and where neither my child or I walk away feeling like things went well. The wall. That’s what I am naturally.

It has become increasingly apparent that is not what my child needs. What my oldest needs (the other two are yet to be determined) is a pillow.

Man how I wish I meant that in a physical sense. Dairy Queen here I come! Just making sacrifices for the kids and trying to be more pillow-like.

No, what I meant is my child needs an emotional pillow. She needs a mom she can yell at and who gives back a whisper. Have you ever yelled into a pillow? That’s essentially the same affect.

She needs a mother who absorbs her tears, and doesn’t do much more than that. She doesn’t want or need to me fix things. She doesn’t need me to explain her feelings. She just needs a mom who wipes her cheeks and absorbs the tears because that makes them go away faster.

She needs a mom who offers a cuddle when she is frustrated and who doesn’t press and pry for a story to fit with every feeling she has. Sometimes my daughter needs me to just –be.

Quiet. Still. Soft.

Those words don’t describe me naturally but you know what will make those words fit me? Love.

Love for my daughter. The desire to be what she needs, even when my original mold wasn’t created that way. It’s not easy. I raise my voice in response to hers. I tell her to “toughen up” more than is logical. I exclaim “Why are you crying AGAIN?” at least twice a day. Still as parents we strive and we try and lately when I’ve been at my wits end I’ve been taking a look at my pillow and thinking…What would you do big fluffy? Then I try to do that.

The funny thing is …it works.

Oh and being a physical pillow as mentioned before? I’ll always be that, any time her little head needs a place to rest. That’s the best kind of pillow to be.

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Karrigan Using Me as a Pillow Back In The Day

You Can’t Always Get What You Want..

I’m going to say something that is going to make some people cringe. From the very first time I saw two pink lines on a stick that informed me that my husband and I were in way over our heads I wanted a boy. I wanted dirt, slugs, trucks, and all the boy things. Three pregnancies later and no boy is in sight for us!

Yes. I wanted healthy. I was thrilled with healthy.

Yes. I love my girls. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Still. I wanted a boy.

I wanted a boy with our first for 20 weeks straight. At the ultrasound I just knew it would be! When I was told that my “boy” was indeed a little girl in those images..I suddenly felt less prepared for parenting than I ever had been. You see, growing up I learned two things very quickly.

  1. Girls were mean. I may have been a girl but other girls intimidated me for many years for a number of reasons.
  2. I had no idea how to be “girly” or at least the version of girly that my mind conjured up. Painting my nails? Yeah I painted my whole finger. Hair? A pony tail was as complex as I got. My favorite clothing item for YEARS were pairs of boy’s basketball shorts. They were comfy. They had pockets. What more could someone want?

How was someone like me supposed to raise a girl? Then 2 girls? Now three girls! Fortunately, like many things in parenting you learn a lot. Here is what raising girls has taught me..

  1. How to French Braid – I knew if I was having girls I wanted to be able to braid their hair. Thank heavens for YouTube and the motivation of my first daughter’s pending arrival. I’ve now mastered the French Braid, Dutch Braid, Fishtail Braid, the braid that’s never been named yet braid — you get the idea. It’s pretty cool.
  2. How to Play Dress Up – I don’t remember owning (or wanting) a single dress up dress. My oldest could own every one in the world and never have enough. This was entirely new to me.
  3. That some girls ARE mean at times- but that girls are also sweet, loyal, sensitive, brave, kind, generous, smart, ambitious, LOUD, and smelly.
  4. You can wear a dress or skirt no matter what you are doing. I always avoided dresses. I didn’t know how to act “lady like” or at least it didn’t come naturally. My oldest two girls love dresses. They also love crawling on their hands and knees, rolling in the grass, jumping in mud puddles, and doing cartwheels in their dresses. Sure, I probably won’t be doing cartwheels in a dress any time soon but if they can pull off the look – I’ve been brave enough to try it to. They inspire me.
  5. That being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t be into bugs, dirt, Legos, books, dead things (oh dead things), sports, hot wheels, and general mischief. It means you get to be into all of those things while also being everything else the world implies a girl should be. Maybe I should have learned that from myself, but in the end I needed their help in order to fully understand.
  6. That being a girl is fun. It’s powerful. It’s worthwhile.

And the most important thing that having girls has taught me?

Sometimes God doesn’t give you what you want..he gives you what you need..and I folks, needed three little girls.

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