Category Archive: Parenting

Who Am I?

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Running late to a doctor’s appointment, I still had a folder’s worth of new patient information to fill out. A personality quirk of mine is that I enjoy filling out forms, so I was buzzing along at a breakneck pace, answering questions that had obvious answers, until I hit the one that always throws me for a loop. Occupation. My pen hovered above the form, hesitant at even knowing the correct answer. Birthdate, spouse, medication amounts. Those things all have concrete answers, but this one? What did I feel like saying today?

Photographer. No, I’ve reduced my photography work back to the very infrequent photoshoot and am now shooting for the sheer pleasure of it because…

Student. Is taking one class per semester a reason to fill in the blank with this word? I mean, it is a graduate program so it takes up a substantial part of my thinking power each day, but no, this doesn’t work…

Writer. Nah. Writing, too, is now simply for fun. Or for school. But it’s not a paid endeavor. Hmm, are there any paid endeavors for me right now? No, I actually pay people to teach me stuff.

Church volunteer. Probably the truest description of my days, but it feels awfully weird to put that on a form for the doctor’s office.

SAHM.

Those four little letters put together do not make me feel awesome about life if I am honest. When I am dropping off a 7th grader for a large portion of the day, dare I call myself a Stay At Home Mom? It brings to mind bon bons and The Price is Right. Being a woman of leisure who buys only the cutest in athletic clothing, but rarely uses it to work out. It’s perusing Target more times than makes sense, being a lady who lunches, taking luxurious naps after all that exhausting work of shopping and eating.

Uh, wait a minute. I do take naps. Scratch that last one. I also really enjoy lunches. And Target. Okay, whatever.

My fight with the SAHM term is a real one because I find it to be reductionistic. The only word I really love out of the four is “mom.” I’m not really a “stay at home” person and now that I think of it, I might be a very strong-willed adult because, DON’T TELL ME TO STAY AT HOME THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Still, I feel like it reduces me to something I am not, to less than what I aspire to, to less than what I actually do and produce each day. So I will take back the SAHM label and explain a few things about it.

Choosing to stay at home with Livia when she arrived was the greatest pleasure in terms of choices. Before she came, I dreamed of becoming a mother and I was dreamy about what my life might look like as a parent. I could not wait for the gift of a child, and I anticipated our adventures with excitement. It was absolutely what I wanted to do with my life and I was eager to quit working in order to be home full time. Though real life was a thousand times harder than my idealistic dreams, every time I considered going back into paid employment I reaffirmed my desire to parent Livia instead. I felt completely confident in my choice to feed her each meal of her day, to be the one to hold her hands while she learned to walk, to listen to her babbles and then words and then lengthy conversations. It wasn’t that my job was easy—no, the monotonous “at home” work of baby-rearing can be brain-numbing at times and then utterly exhausting at others. Rather, it’s what I wanted to do. I did not want for Livia to spend much time in a daycare; I wanted to be the adult around her for a majority of her waking hours.

The truth is this: I still want to be the adult around her for the majority of her waking hours.

For numerous reasons, it’s important that Livia is educated by other adults, but when she is not at school, I still want to be the person closest to her. I can feel the years squeezing away from us now. Everyone has said these teenage years fly by, and so far they are right. I feel hugely sentimental about my time with Livia—at least when I’m reflecting upon it while she’s away from me. It’s easy to feel the warmth of parenting when we’re in good moments—reading together, cuddling, talking talking talking, driving around town—and much harder when we rub up against personality differences or hard, stressful days. But still, I choose this kid. I’ve got one kid, and that one is enormously special to me.

So there it is. My pen hovers over the line, I curse the way “occupation” hitches me up, and then I quickly scribble “SAHM” and this time I think I threw in a “/student” to make me feel better about the direction of my life. Will anyone at the office even care who or what I am? Will their eyes rest on that line for more than 2 seconds before moving on to type insurance information into their desktop computer? I doubt it. My existential crisis means nothing to them, and so much to me.

First Day of 7th Grade

Father God, bless this girl as she starts 7th grade! May many middle school blessings of mercy, joy, grace and perseverance be poured over her this year. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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All first day shots!

Kindergarten
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade
Sixth Grade

Laughing Together

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One of my favorite things in the world is to laugh, and I thank God for a daughter I laugh with on a regular basis. My mom and I can still get pretty darn giggly together if something strikes us as hilarious, and Livia and I have the same connection. A simple silly thing can absolutely take us down and pretty soon we’ll be wiping tears. It’s the kind of laughter that replaces sit-ups. Or so I tell myself. Come to think of it, I fell in love with Jeremy rather quickly because he, too, made me laugh. And he still does! In the middle of a serious life, laughter makes everything better.

Oh, Livia Raine. How I do love you!

A Mom Moment

I enjoy documenting real life, so while I was shooting an everyday lunch at the Bradleys’ house I turned my camera to Maralee just doing what Maralee does. And this day that involved a routine licking-of-the-peanut-butter-knife, only now it was being studiously photographed. These shots make me laugh every time I see them.

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13!

Today Livia turned 13. What a joy it is to watch her grow! I didn’t carry my camera to all our celebrations this weekend, but suffice to say, Liv is one BELOVED teenager. From cards with their words of encouragement, to steak fries and malts with the Tredway side, to today’s cake with the Lawton side… this kid was bathed in love all weekend long.

Livia, you are an amazing gift to me and Dad. We love you to the moon and back. May God bless you with joy and peace as you honor Him with your life. Yours forever, Mom

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Pass the Peas, Please

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I remember talking with my tablemates at Horn Creek Camp (good old PYA!) about what table manners they had been taught growing up. A few funny things came to my attention, like the fact that some kids heard that you could reach across the table as long as one of your feet was on the ground. I knew that one was, uh, so. not. true.

Fast forward to yesterday when I reached for a cookie sheet and spied plastic IKEA placemats purchased last year. I’ve never used them with Livia, but just glimpsing them made me ask this question on Facebook:

I’m curious about my generation & younger… Are you all teaching your kids table manners—from how to eat/talk appropriately at the table to how to set a table? Were you explicitly taught these things as a kid? Have you ever been in a situation where you really didn’t know how to conduct yourself at a dinner?

I felt an immediate need to write a disclaimer like, “PARENTS OF LITTLE CHILDREN, I AM NOT JUDGING YOU.” But I held back because there was no judgement intended in my fairly straightforward question. It’s okay to ask questions—truly we don’t need to hold each others’ hands, right? But now I’m going to say it for real. Sweet parents of small children, you are not judged. I know you’re working so hard to feed your kid three square meals and a million snacks a day. I know you’re tired. Stop reading now if you’d like.

My mom probably deserves 100% of the credit for teaching us Lawton kids table manners. I’m sure dad reinforced her teaching and certainly wanted us to be polite and respectful at the table, but all the lessons taught came from mom. (This is the part where I write that my childhood memories are a giant blur. I remember very random things, mostly feelings—but my brothers tend to remember more specifics so they are free to add to the conversation here.) We ate at the dinner table almost exclusively. My mom and dad fed us healthy food and we didn’t always like it. Okay, so we were kind of terrible. I’m sure dinnertime wasn’t always pleasant when you served kids who didn’t like spaghetti. But we were sure as heck taught table manners. Mouths closed. Ask to be excused before leaving. No reaching, but ask for dishes to be passed. We knew where the silverware all went and how to set the table. The more fancy stuff came later, but because we had good training as smaller children, fine dining never really seemed daunting.

I am not as good a teacher as my mom.

We don’t always eat at the dinner table. There are only three of us and we have a LOT of together time. I don’t always make my child set the table because, let’s face it, it’s faster if I do it. I have more training to do—my 12 year old is not quite ready for the world yet (imagine that). But I want her to be ready when she leaves our home. I want her to feel comfortable eating appropriately on a date as well as in her boss’s home someday. I’d like her to wait for the hostess to sit before diving into any meal or dessert. I want her to know how to signal to the wait staff that she has finished her meal, and I’d like for her to establish her own dinner times with confidence in a home of her own someday.

In the bigger picture, I see table etiquette as a small part of my job as a mom. There are a million things I’m trying to instill in my daughter and I’m praying much of it sticks.

December 2

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Sometimes my love for her feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest. I want to give her all the ice cream cones in the world—even the ones that fall apart like this one—and wrap her in clouds and tuck her in a treasure chest to keep her safe and close to me forever. That’s what I’m feeling the most, these days that are fleeting. Sixth grade will turn into 9th will turn into 12th. I know enough to know that these years will sweep by. And then there are the moments that are so aggravating you want to rip out your hair. Thank the Lord they’re mixed up with this crazy huge parental love. It leaves me breathless, all the feelings.

I’m so grateful to be this person’s mom. Like I tell her, she is my heart. And then she reminds me, “Isn’t Dad your heart, too?” Yes, yes he is. That’s how being a family works—we are each other’s hearts.

Our Story of Raising an Only Child

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I’ve often thought that God made babies so darn cute so that their parents continue to take good care of them. I’ll never forget holding our first foster baby from 3-6:00am one night, her giant brown eyes following me in the dark, and my two competing thoughts were, “WHY AREN’T YOU ASLEEP?” and “Gosh darn it, you are SO CUTE.” The world tends to adore babies, and when you’re up in the night for three hours straight with a newborn, those compliments you receive on social media might be the only thing keeping you going. Well, that and coffee. But babies grow. The compliments fade. And eventually you have a kid with gawky teeth who is taking awkward school pictures that even retake day can’t fix. Everyone loves a baby, but not so much the elementary kid whose has teeth five times too large for his mouth. Mama, Grandma and your BFF still love that one.

I don’t get asked childrearing questions very often anymore and I think it’s because I have one child who is now 12. Oh, and maybe it’s because I do a lot of my living alongside someone who blogs about parenting. She’s a professional question-answerer so that makes sense. A lot of my parenting experience, however, is hidden and no one can see it. I did the math recently and realized that if God had answered many of my desires for children with “yes’s” rather than “no’s” Jeremy and I would have six children. One privately adopted, one biological, and the final four adopted from foster care. For sure we still have those six in our hearts, with only the first one being the child God has given us to raise for good.

Our plans, as hopeful as they were, didn’t turn into our reality. I’m still coming to terms with this truth. I allow little daggers to enter my heart, to pierce those old desires and entice me to “what if’s” and “if only’s.” I let the memes and defensive lines from large families hurt my soul. I wanted to be one of those large families. I read about people who have more children because they value sibling relationships greatly, and I struggle to not to be filled with regret. As capable as I am, providing a sibling for Livia was not something I could arrange. I hear jokes about only children, about how spoiled they are, and allow these asides to fill me with irritation. I didn’t plan on one, I want to shout. I had hoped for more.

There was Livia. And a baby miscarried. And a very temporary foster daughter. Two foster sons gone home by a judge’s changed orders. And a beloved foster baby reunified with his beautiful family. Six total.

But that’s only the six that reside most deeply in our hearts. There were more.

There was the baby boy we got incredibly close to adopting, only to have his parents choose the other couple. There was the teenager we prayed over, raised in absolutely horrific conditions who, in the end, required much more than we could give. There was the toddler we spent the day with a small town nearby, the one we bought a stuffed animal for and fed Runza fries to, the one given to another family within 24 hours of coming to live with us permanently. There was the three year old girl who needed a family, the one who the state placed elsewhere with no reason whatsoever given to us. And in between those cases there were calls upon calls with hours upon hours of waiting for information, prayers of all kinds being raised up for wisdom and perfect timing.

So when I read a meme supporting large families or see beautiful pictures of siblings loving one another, I think of our story and have to draw a conclusion. Here is the one I’ve settled on:

God has created my family. And he is pleased to give me one child.

One daughter. One twelve year old now in middle school. No siblings older than her, and no siblings younger. But this is our one, and she is enough. I felt God asking me that question, the question of, “What will satisfy you?”
“Will another child make you content?”
“Why is one not enough?”
“When will you be satisfied?”

In my tears and sadness I had to admit that one is enough. ONE IS ENOUGH. Though I’ve been a mother to many and will carry them forever in my heart, one is what he’s given to me to care for daily and that. is. enough.

We all have different stories and no two stories are the same. No one’s story can be read entirely via a Facebook status or a picture on Instagram. We all have hurts and we all have joys, and to compare our stories will never bring us satisfaction. At the end of the day I cling to God’s promises and the knowledge I have of his character. He is good, he provides for ALL my needs, he is never asleep on the job, and I will only find my hope and joy in him. Not in babies, as cute as they are, and not in big kids in all their awkward glory. No job can complete my spirit, no spouse is perfect like God, no amount of travel or fine dining or hobbies or education can ever fill up my heart. It’s a real challenge to keep my eyes on the Lord and trust him, but that’s the goal, that’s MY goal, and He is where my soul will always be refreshed.

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**Note: Each image above represents one of the other children God has given Jeremy and me, for short periods of time. I carried a baby in my womb to the Grand Canyon upon our visit to Arizona. I remember getting carsick as we drove mountain paths and more than once I chose vegetables over french fries even though that was not my norm. I now feel incredibly grateful for such an eventful short pregnancy as I recall the little life I carried at that time.

The black and white image shows Livia with her first foster sister. What a joy she was even as I was stretched by sleeplessness! The second photo shows Jeremy and one of the little boys we had the privilege to love for five weeks. We anticipated a much longer journey with them, and I believe this image was captured the night before they went home. It was a stunning departure. The final image shows Livia and me on a train ride with our last foster baby. This little guy had lots of people in his life who adored him and we got to walk through that experience with his family, which was a privilege all its own. I still count his reunification as a huge joy.

Almost Eleven & Five-Sixths

We figured out the math this morning. I’ve got to say, this kid is my favorite kid in the whole wide world. She’s fun-loving, compassionate and beautiful. I’m proud of her.

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5th Grade!!!

And Livia is off! To conquer new lessons, to make new friends, and to glorify God by being the best 5th grader she can be. Lord, bless this kid today and all year!

The morning started out slowly. Turns out that the first day of 5th grade wasn’t motivating enough to move beyond turtle pace. (The bonus pic at the end reveals her true nature.) What that means in terms of photography is that I got STELLAR shots in the mad dash to get her to the right place at the right time. Ha! The win is that I got her to school. The not-so-much-win is the second pic below.

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I’m not really putting up a sleeping pic of my almost grown child online. Really, you didn’t see this. In a few years it may or may not still be here. But for today, ah… look at the sweetness. I couldn’t resist the tranquility and the light.

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Memory Lane. For people like my Mom and Renae. :)

Kindergarten
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade