Category Archive: Parenting

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

Thoughts on Having the Last Baby

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After Baby Boy came to our house last summer, I began to embrace the idea that this was our last baby. As he grew out of items like the infant bathtub or changing table pad, I passed them off. I gave away the infant carseat. My house appreciated the decluttering, but so did my mind. Making a decision to not have any more babies was simple to make as we had a baby living with us. With a full heart and full arms, I was satisfied.

As it turns out, deciding when your family is complete is a thought process every set of parents has to go through. Whether it’s considered at age 37 or 47, it’s part of living really. Jeremy and I hold loosely to our plans but we make them nonetheless. We’re aware that God is the Author of our story, so if he calls us to be parents to a new baby in a few years, well then, that’s what we’ll do. I have a long-running joke (nightmare) that I’m going to have a Tami Taylor baby, which means we’ll magically procreate a little punkin when Livia turns 16. Don’t laugh; I can totally see that happening, can’t you??!

In the depths of parenting a very busy early walker, I fantasized about having time to myself. Small children can be SO busy—ours certainly was—and time alone was so very limited. Taking a shower felt fairly epic and not at all mundane, and having lunch with a friend became a test of wills and patience as little hands grabbed at our food and threw his own Cheerios on the floor. I kept meaning to make a list of things I’d enjoy doing once he was gone. Though I never did, I’m still amazed at how easy it is to prepare dinner for three instead of three plus a baby. My evenings are now much more relaxed with no visitation workers dropping by twice every night, no baby needing bedtime prep, and would you look at all that free time in which I can shower! Amazing really. We took dessert to a friend’s house a few weeks ago and sat with them until long after the sun set while my big kid entertained herself. Life without a baby has felt remarkably free of time constraints!

In the days after the Baby’s reunification, our friend Sarah and her daughter Rosie came to visit town. Rosie is half a year older than Baby Boy but her very presence reminds me the sweetness of having a little person around. As I prep dinner she squeezes her body between me and the countertop. She says “hold you” and puts her arms up so I can grab her. She sits nicely on my hip and is a gentle hugger. She’s excited to see me (“Bucka!”) and her laughter is infectious. Jeremy and I hear her voice and smile at each other—that’s how cute she is.

The reasons for not having any more babies holds firm. I still have old lady elbows that aren’t going to miraculously heal themselves. We’re now 37 and 44, for anyone who’s keeping track, and that’s on the older side to start over with an infant. And perhaps the biggest reason of all, our daughter turns 11 this week. While she’s a fantastic big sister, the age gap of 10-11 years is nothing to sneeze at. The last nine months we’ve often operated as two families… The daytime grouping of mom + baby while Liv was at school and the evening pairing of mom + big kid while Baby was at visits.

As I work through the emotions of reunification—happy, sad, up and down, back and forth—I am realizing that I’m also grieving this life milestone of having the last baby. It’s a weird one, I can’t say otherwise! But even as I see the end of our family-building years as it pertains to babies (big kids are another matter entirely) I know there are always children for me to love. I’m still a foster mom and goodness knows this world is full of children who need a bit more loving. I have nieces and nephews and I have millions of children at church to enjoy. Literally millions. (Redeemerites love them babies!) I want to be a woman who nurtures children well throughout the rest of my years and I’m reminded that I don’t have to be their mother to do that.

A Love of Mud

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If we could throw off convention, if we could dismiss the need for schedules and cleanliness, then my child would spend all day outdoors digging holes and making mud houses and capturing little critters that live in the soil and in the water. Lord, why did you not make us farmers? Alas, we don’t have what it takes physically to work on the land and frankly I don’t have what it takes to live far away from neighbors. So here we dwell in the city, suburbia to be specific as we can no longer keep up with an old house. But you know what? Even in this neighborhood of houses that sit side by side and in this area of yards that are so neatly maintained, my child finds what delights her.

Last week this girl was done—DONE!—after a day of obeying a school schedule. She walked out the back door and was gone for almost two hours. I knew where she was the whole time, but you can bet I didn’t let her know I was keeping an eye on her. She sat under some trees, contentedly playing by a little stream of water that serves as a runoff culvert during storms. She had pulled herself out of her funk by digging in the mud and applying it gracefully to her forearms and boots. I can’t pretend I was thrilled with this. All the things that go through a mother’s mind definitely went through mine: Ask first to play in the mud! Don’t track dirt in the house! Now you need a bath! So on and so forth. But goodness, this kid was made for the mud. She was built to dig her fingers into the dirt, to garden, to create, to feel, to play.

If I had a farm, I would give it to her. As it is, I can let her roam and be free when the opportunity arises. And then I can always photograph the results.

December 21

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These are the in-between years. The years where one fluctuates wildly between pursuing maturity and wanting to remain little forever. While everyone reaches for the babies and the lisping preschoolers, the ‘tweens remain in their own awkward location, caught between wanting to grow and not wanting to at the same time.

This image will forever remind me of the wisdom of my husband in the pew tonight as he encouraged me to enjoy the moments of “not wanting to grow” a little longer. A split second after his verbal nudge our tween turned and rested her head against me, a solid reminder that he was right—she was still little and it was okay for her to find comfort in stuffed animals and mom’s warm body. He muttered something like, “I am a half-genius after all,” which is a family joke of ours, and my mind and body relaxed and enjoyed my ten year old girl and her armful of babies.

December 8

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Today’s picture made my heart melt into a puddle. It’s not technically something I love, but the subject matter trumps all technicalities. This before-school bottle brought to you by Livia and her giant heart. Though I thrive within a planned out day-to-day schedule, sometimes the baby wakes up and is hungry before the clock says it’s time. And when such a thing happens it’s incredibly helpful to have a sweet-hearted fourth grader around. Not only did the Babe get fed, he enjoyed lovies in the process. We believe in lovies around here. In fact, I have a Babe and a Pooch that beg at my knees for lovies on a regular basis. Oh Livia, you who made me a mother and showed me how big my heart really was—you’re the best.

December 3

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During the December Photo Project, the camera goes everywhere with me. Here the camera accompanied me and The Babe to the grocery store. It’s a glamorous life we lead.