Family, Life lessons, Motherhood

Fearfully and wonderfully made

She is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Listen y’all…I snapped at my daughter last night, not because I was angry at her or anything she had done, but because what she said made me very angry at the world. Let me explain…

We’ve always encouraged our children to make healthy choices and we regularly exercise as a family. This is not an overly-obsessed, zero sugar, no processed foods, no Happy Meals, all organic all the time kind of home…far from it (kudos to those who are that…you do you). We believe in moderation, but working out is just something we enjoy doing together and helping the kids understand healthier food choices now will (we hope) set them up for an easier future. What I have been very conscious of as a mother is never obsessing over my weight or size or using the word “diet” in front of my children and especially in front of my young daughter. Sadly, that doesn’t mean I don’t obsess about those things in my own mind, but simply that I have done my best to keep that burden from her.

I am angry that we live in a world that, despite my best efforts to protect you, has somehow convinced my beautiful 8-year-old daughter that the skinnier you are the better you are.

So, when my daughter came into the living room last night and proudly proclaimed, lifting the front part of her shirt to show me her progress, “Mom! Look how skinny I am after my exercise!” I lost it. She is 8 years old. My reply should have been more calculated and calm, but what came out was a blur, “Stop worrying about how skinny you are! You are 8 years old and you are strong and smart and healthy and beautiful! Life should never be about how skinny you are!” She looked at me stunned as tears filled her eyes. She slowly walked back upstairs and quietly closed herself into her room.

I stood there stunned and unsure of what to do or say next, knowing that this was a big life moment. Once my own tears dried, I lightly knocked on her door and sat down at the foot of her bed to explain. “My love, I am not mad at you or angry at you. I’m so proud of you. I am angry that we live in a world that, despite my best efforts to protect you, has somehow convinced my beautiful 8-year-old daughter that the skinnier you are the better you are.”

I did my best to explain to her that I’m so mad that somehow our society has convinced us that as girls and women we all have to look the same and that perfect look should start with being skinny. I’m mad that despite my efforts to shield her, these ideas have crept into our home like a thief stealing her childhood innocence. I’m so mad that the world feeds us fake images of perfection and makes us believe that anything less is unworthy. I’m tired of a world that has taken our happiness captive and held it hostage until a certain size is achieved.

I told my little girl that the world is hard enough on women and sometimes the world is unkind, so we have to learn to be kind to ourselves. We want to be strong so that we can help others. We want to be healthy so that we can run and play with friends. We want to eat good food so that we can have focus and energy to learn in school. I want her to be fierce and loyal and caring. I want her to be confident in who she is and fearless. But, skinny is never the goal. I told her over and over that she is beautiful just the way God made her and if she takes care of herself the way God instructs us all to, then she will look exactly the way God intended. Above all, she is so very loved and perfect in my eyes and in God’s eyes.

As a mom, I wish I told myself those things more often. I wish I looked at myself and saw what God sees and not the insecurities that this world has given me. I want to be a better example, but I want my words to be true for myself as well and not just something I tell my daughter. I want to be fierce and loyal and caring. I want to be confident and fearless. Ladies, love yourselves. Everyone, love your girls and any young girls around you. Love exactly who the Lord made you to be and embrace whatever it is that makes you special. Take care of what you have so that you can live your best life no matter what size jeans you live that life in.

Family, Motherhood, Uncategorized

I’m glad they have each other…

Listen y’all…

One day her brothers will threaten to beat up a boy she likes and she’ll hate them for it.

One day she will be the only girl they can cry in front of when they have their hearts broken.

One day they’ll realize they don’t really have much in common.

But today, they choose to all sleep in the same room on any given Tuesday.

They’ll share secrets and memories that mommy and daddy will never be a part of.

Today, they hug each other and share I Love You’s for no particular reason. They jam out to the same music in the car and wrestle endlessly in front of cartoons at the end of each day.

Today, they fight over silly things like who got to sit by the window last and who ate the last Goldfish, but one day they will be the first to stick up for each other in any situation.

One day they may become ruthless and competitive and resent each other’s strengths, but today they read to each other, help each other, and applaud even the smallest of victories.

One day they’ll beg for space, but today they hate the thought of one night apart and they squeal when they see each other after a long day separated by school or daycare.

For now, I’m glad they have built-in best friends. They learn from each other how to share and be kind. They learn how to be loyal and forgiving, but also when to be tough and when to show grace. My prayer is that their siblings will truly be one of their greatest blessings in life like mine are. I pray they will continue to cheer in each other’s moments of victory and cry with each other in the failures. I pray they build each other up, hold each other accountable, and always steer each other toward Christ. I pray they remember whose they are.

For now, they may not appreciate every moment. But, life gets hard. Tough times inevitably lie ahead and mommy and daddy won’t always be there, but they’ll have each other. They’ll share secrets and memories that mommy and daddy will never be a part of. God willing, long after mommy and daddy are gone, they’ll still have each other.

The Lord uniquely designs each family and I’m so thankful for the way He chose to build ours because I’m forever grateful that my kids have each other.


The lasts…

Listen y’all….I don’t think I’m ready.

Tonight I carried my sleeping, 7-year-old son upstairs to his room. He had fallen asleep on the couch watching his favorite, “Ninjago” and snuggling with daddy. When I realized it was past his bedtime I decided I should put him in bed. With a grunt I hoisted my big boy up to rest his head on my shoulder as his feet dangled past my knees.

Have we already reached a point where now I’m focused on the “lasts”?

My first thought was of how tall my first born had gotten – in the blink of an eye. His head didn’t fit on my shoulder quite the way it did as an infant. Suddenly, the thought occurred to me, “What if this is the last time I will ever carry him up the stairs?”

As a mom of littles my mind has always been focused on “firsts”. The first belly laugh, the first table food, the first roll, crawl or step. The first time I heard the word “mommy” and the first day of school. Have we already reached a point where now I’m focused on the “lasts”? The last time he asks for a story and a song before bedtime prayers? The last time he’ll let me kiss him before he leaves for school. The last time he’ll hold my hand in the store. The last time he’ll need me to tie up his cleats or pour him a glass of milk. The last time I’ll carry him, sleeping, up the stairs to his bed.

There are still plenty of firsts to look forward to. The first time he’ll stay home alone. The first time he’ll mow the yard by himself. I can’t wait to hear about his first love or be there to cry with him for his first heartbreak. What will it feel like to watch him drive away for the first time by himself? I’m excited to see his first apartment as he heads off to college or military life or something else incredible.

But, despite all of the firsts I have to look forward to, I’m not quite ready to face all of the lasts just yet. How did this come so quickly? Please don’t let this be the last time I carry my sleeping baby upstairs. Mommy’s not ready.


Life lessons, Motherhood, Uncategorized

What soccer gave me…

Listen y’all…I know that many young women (even those who desire to have children someday) cringe at the term “soccer mom.” The term invokes images of minivans filled with stinky, noisy children, and Capri Sun straw wrappers everywhere. For me, there is nothing better. The only thing I ever wanted to be was a soccer mom, both literally and figuratively. I love Saturday mornings gathering up gear, rushing to games, cheering on the sidelines, bringing team snacks. I love it all.

As a lifetime lover of soccer myself, I dreamed of kids that loved the game as much as I do. As a kid, my dad was always my coach and my mom never missed a game. My brother and sister also played. We were a sports family, but soccer was always #1 in my heart. Because of that, I always hoped my own family would be the same.

I don’t want my kids to play soccer, I want them to have all of the things that soccer gave me.

This weekend my daughter took the field for the first time. She was the one
with the beautiful brown ponytail all the way to her bum swinging with every
step. She was the one dancing in the middle of the field with the pink cleats and shin guards, and the giant matching bow in her hair. She’s not quite the tom boy I was growing up. She didn’t score a goal. I’m pretty sure the few times she touched the ball she dribbled in the wrong direction. But, still, as I watched her on that field my heart was happy. She was laughing with her friends and she really loved that bow. I’m almost certain this soccer mom somehow gave birth to a cheerleader.

I’m not living vicariously through my kids or trying to force my passions onto them. Playing soccer was not a chore, it was what I loved to do and I want my children to find that for themselves – even if it does end up being cheerleading. These are some of the most cherished memories I have growing up. On the field is where I met my dearest friends, who are still my closest tribe more than 20 years later.

I learned more about myself in those 90-minute games than in any classroom. I learned to push myself both mentally and physically. I learned how to balance my time and how to fulfill commitments as part of a team. I learned how to be a good teammate by relying on people and “leaving it all on the field” for something bigger than myself.  I learned how to encourage others and I learned how to suck it up when I fell flat.

Soccer taught me how to be tough. It taught me that “practice like you play” carries over to the real world in so many ways. I learned how to be coachable and how to be a valuable member of a team even when you aren’t the most naturally talented. I learned that everyone has something to give and nearly everyone is stronger than they think they are.

I don’t want my kids to play soccer, I want them to have all of the things that soccer gave me. If in the end the game turns out to be baseball (Lord help us) or ballet or cheerleading or any combination, I’ll be happy as long as my children find something that they are passionate about. I want them to love something that isn’t always easy. I want them to fail and I want them to win. And I want them to cherish the memories they look back on.

But, also, I really want them to love soccer 😉

Motherhood, Uncategorized

A mom’s worst nightmare

Listen y’all, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever shared with the world, but here it goes…

I forgot my son in the back of the car. That’s right. The mom who the world thinks has it all together forgot her newborn son in the back of the car.

My whole life, leaving a child in a hot car had been one of my worst fears. While I feel like most don’t understand how a person could just “forget” their child in the back seat, I had read enough stories and heard enough personal testimony to know that it can happen to even the most dedicated and loving parent. Knowing this, I took every precaution I could think of. I put stickers in the car that I picked up from a local city hall during a campaign to raise awareness. I made arrangements with daycare providers to always call if my child was unexpectedly late or absent. I regularly reminded my husband if our routine changed and I was sure to speak out loud who would be responsible for dropping off or picking up the children. When my sister had her first child I was only 16 years old, but I had already begun to have nightmares of leaving my nephew in a hot car. And they continued with each child that entered our family after that.

I am more than cautious. I am more than aware of the dangers. I am more than educated on how easily it can happen. And still, it happened to me.

To say I was “out of my routine” is an understatement. I just had a newborn, our third, and I suffered complications after his birth. Those complications and hormones put me in a postpartum fog that I didn’t experience with the other two. For the first time since I was 15 years old I wasn’t working full time. My husband received orders overseas and we were trying to make arrangements for our home, our kids, our household goods, our three dogs, our newborn, get passports, schedule flights, schedule hotels, and the list goes on and on and on.

I tell you this not to seek any attention or pity for myself but in the hopes that the shame I feel and receive will be worth it if it helps even one family.

We had cleared out of our home and were staying with friends waiting for our flight overseas. One morning I took the older two children to preschool and the baby and I drove to our home to prepare for a walk through with our realtor. I was on the phone with my husband and had a million things running through my mind. My precious angel was silently sleeping in the back seat.

Thank God for whatever in that split second made me snap back into the reality of the moment. Thank God for every moment that I have had to hold sweet Asher since that morning when so many other families did not.

I got to the house, pulled into the drive way and still on the phone with my husband, rushed to the backyard to ensure the landscaper had come as he promised the day before to ensure the yard would be ready for photos.

I was relieved to tell my husband that yes, the landscaper had come. We hung up the phone and with one thing marked off the list and 999,999 more things running through my mind I simply walked inside, up the stairs of the completely empty house to the laundry room where one final load of cleaning rags needed to be folded and packed.

It was only about two minutes. I had folded maybe three small rags when all of a sudden in a flash my mind realized the silence and I gasped out loud as I bolted downstairs. Still in pain from child birth, but feeling none of it as I skipped multiple stairs, opened the garage door and ran, ducking underneath before the door was even half-way open.

Asher was still sleeping peacefully in the back seat but I pulled him out and held him, ran inside and sat on the floor crying and saying over and over, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord.”

It was early May in Arizona. Thankfully the morning was cool and I parked in the shade. Asher was only in the car for a couple of minutes, but his tiny nose had already begun to form beads of sweat. I have tears running down my face as I type this now.

Weeks went by before I told anyone, even my husband, what had happened that day. I couldn’t let the words come out of my mouth. I spent nights up with Asher crying as he nursed thinking of what could have happened and unable to sleep thanking God for his mercy on us that day. When I finally was able to share it with my husband all I said was, “My worst fear as a mother came true.” He knew exactly what I meant and he immediately responded, “You left Asher in the car.” Yes. I left my child in the car. My throat closes around those words as they hang there. My heart pounds and my hands are shaking. It seems unimaginable. But, it happened.

I pray that friends and family who read this are shocked. I pray that people say, “Oh my gosh, I would never imagine she would be the type of mom to do something like that.” Because the truth is, I’m not. Most aren’t. There’s a science behind the difference between “forgetting” and just completely “not remembering”. It sounds like semantics, but scientifically speaking, a person can have memories of something that never happened, like bringing the car seat inside as I had already done for Asher and his two older siblings countless times. If you’re shocked that this happened to us then that means it can happen to you.

Even with every precaution, my sweet baby was still in danger. Thank God for his hedge of protection. Thank God for whatever in that split second made me snap back into the reality of the moment. Thank God for every moment that I have had to hold sweet Asher since that morning when so many other families did not.

Please, I beg you, take precautions. Help those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask where the baby is or to double check. If you’re in a postpartum fog, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Audibly designate who is in charge. Use a sticky note. Leave a shoe in the back seat. Leave your phone in the back seat. Put a string around your finger. Whatever works for you. Don’t ever assume that the worst couldn’t happen to you. Because it can.

I expect a slew of negative comments coming my way. If I’m honest, maybe that’s why I’ve waited so long to share this story. But, if only one family is spared an ounce of heartbreak, then I’ll take it.

And to the mama who didn’t have a happy ending my heart breaks for you. Please know that God is still good and try to forgive yourself.

Life lessons, Marriage, Motherhood

To the one whom my soul loves: I see you.

To the love of my life and father of my children – I see you.

To the one who comes home from a long, stressful day and musters up the energy to wrestle on the floor and play Barbies – I see you.

When I’m feeding baby, helping with homework, and praising songs and you aren’t sure where you fit in any more because God and country have pulled you away for so long – I see you.

When baby is crying, dinner is burning and the bigs are fighting I see you wanting to help, but feeling mostly in the way. I see your heart wilt just a little every time the baby reaches for me out of your arms when I walk in a room because mom is most familiar.

I see your desire to be the man God would have you to be, so that when our children follow in your footsteps their paths are straight.

When my emotions are high from a lack of sleep and a day of chaos and you have to bear the brunt of my frustration or feelings of inadequacy – I see you. When I’ve given everything I have to every other piece of our lives – our children, our household, church, friends, and family – and you’re wondering if there will ever be anything left for you again – I see you. When most words escape you, so all you do is give a lingering hug and say “I miss you” – I see you.

When you catch a glimpse of them playing sweetly or sleeping silently and a smile of awe and wonder appears on your face – I see you. After every moment of discipline or parenting struggle when you’re second guessing every decision and hoping you’ve made the right choice – I see you. When your heart fills with sorrow because you want to teach and guide and mold, but disciplining is hard – I see you. I see your desire to be the man God would have you to be, so that when our children follow in your footsteps their paths are straight. As you hold the baby and pray that you can do right by him – I see you.

I get to see the you that most do not have the privilege of seeing. I see the you that is most afraid of the tiniest of humans because they are the most important things in your world. I see the you that sometimes feels lost in his own home; the you that is simultaneously needed for everything and nothing. I see the man that wrestles with balance and prays that every word is spoken in love and in lesson. I see a man identified by strength crumble at the cries of a child.

This season of our life is not easy, but what a joy it’s been to navigate it by your side. I know that you feel like you are constantly taking a back seat to everything else in life, and more times than I’d like to admit, you are. But, I promise, I see you. And I promise this season of our lives won’t last forever. Although, something inside me tells me that when it’s over we’ll only wish we could have it back.

But, for now, to the one whom my soul loves – I see you.

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.”                                                – Song of Solomon 3:4 

Joe and Andrew

Motherhood, Uncategorized

This chair

This seemingly ordinary chair has seen each of our days together – sitting in the corner, inconspicuously soaking up sweet memories that are all too fleeting.

This chair held me as I held each of you before you were born. It heard the quiet lullabies as I rubbed my belly and thought about the fears and my excitement knowing that I would soon hold you in my arms.

Then, this chair became the place where we shared some of our most precious moments together. It’s where we read “Goodnight Moon” every night for two years. It’s where I first sang you the song that my mom sang to me as a little girl…a dream come true. It’s where you learned the words to that song as you grew and began to sing along.

Some day I will hold my children’s children in this chair.

It’s where I rocked you to sleep on nights when I just couldn’t bear to lay you down or let you go. It’s where I nursed you for the first time and where I cried as I nursed you for the last time. It’s where we both fell asleep, your head on my chest breathing in sync, heartbeats in rhythm.

It’s where I spent sleepless nights worried about a fever or a lingering cough. This chair is where I prayed over you and where I asked for patience and wisdom. It’s where I cried as you slept when I felt like I had been too harsh that day.

In this chair, daddy held you and recorded a story book the night before he took our hearts overseas for God and country. Then, where daddy sang to you after you didn’t recognize his face when he finally made it home.

When one became two and two became three, it’s where I sat and spoke words of love and assurance over you knowing that in the morning life would look very different for our little family.

This chair has heard laughter and seen tears. It’s heard stories and songs and heartfelt prayers.

It’s nothing special to look at – just your average chair.

I almost let it go once, making room for the future. But in the end it felt like a part of me. A part of us. A carrier of our memories. And some day I will hold my children’s children in this chair.


Motherhood, Uncategorized

A glimpse of the man he’ll become: A guest blog by Jennifer Tanner

Nothing in all the parenting books prepared me for this… for seeing him this grown. For this glimpse of the man he will become.

Nothing prepared me for what it would feel like to watch him make real friends… friends that weren’t just friends because of convenience, but friends who would laugh with him, encourage him, and push him to be the best version of himself. Friends who would share his success and feel his disappointment with him. Who stand beside him at the blocks and walk with him through the fire.

And nothing prepared me for how much I’d love all of these kids who have become like family. No one told me how much I’d love the parents who made these kids the kind of amazing kids I’m proud my son calls friends. These parents who understand my kid and love him like their own. Who know the life of a swim parent. Who drive him all over creation and then sit beside me with white knuckles gripping our seats because they want success for him as much as I do.

And finally, nothing prepared me for this sport that has such high highs and such painful lows…this sport that is so exhilarating yet so very unpredictable with fractions of seconds meaning the difference between heartache and elation. Nothing prepared me for the times he’d miss the cut and I’d have to help him pick up the pieces. Just like nothing prepared me for the overwhelming pride I would feel watching him work hard for something… or the joy I’d feel when he achieved his goals. Nothing prepared me for this sport that requires so much from his teenage body and mind. This sport he loves enough to invest hours and hours of his life week after week… enough to pour in his heart and soul day after day. And no one told me that without even realizing it, I’d pour in my heart and soul too.

-Jennifer Tanner

Motherhood, Uncategorized

Hot mess mommas unite!

Listen y’all,

There’s a very fine line that every mom walks. There is a very fine line that determines exactly how much spit up is too much before she needs to change her shirt because she’s trying to pretend to be a normal human being versus just wiping it off, spraying herself with Febreze, and going about her day. But, let’s be honest, it would be completely impractical to change outfits every time some bodily fluid made contact with said fabric because in the end that only adds to the pile of laundry that is already going to be impossible to conquer in this generation. Hot mess mommas are saving that for our children’s children. It’s not global warming they need to fear…it’s residual laundry left waiting to be sorted and folded for decades.

…sometimes it is in everyone’s best interest to let the 3-year-old eat sprinkles before bedtime.

I say, it is time for hot mess mommas to unite. We waste so much time trying to appear like we have it all together – valuable time that could be spent on that unending pile of laundry (or binge watching Real Housewives…whichever).

Listen y’all, I’ve been there. Have you ever had a 3-year-old to tell you to stop being a baby as you sit on the edge of a bathtub with tears in your eyes and your head in your hands? Ever had a 5-year-old say, “I know you’re trying to be a good mom, but you’re just not making good choices.” I have!

When there’s nothing else to be done, embrace it. Embrace the chaos and the mess and the laughter and give yourself a little credit. The kids are fed, although it may be tortillas and yogurt for the third time today. The kids get a bedtime story, although sometimes we skip a few pages to expedite the process. The kids are happy, although sometimes it’s because we celebrated life with McDonald’s for the third time this week. The baby’s diaper is clean, although the old one is now stacked on top of the Diaper Genie that is too full to stuff even one more soiled Pamper. They are finding their independence and who cares if that means mismatched outfits and shoes on the wrong feet?

And best of all, most likely having little to with us and everything to do with the sweetness of their spirits, they are kind and sincere and empathetic and smart and funny. They love fiercely and they see you trying momma. Somehow, intuitively, they know how to humble you like know one else can. But, they also know that a tiny voice saying, “You’re a good mommy,” with arms wrapped around your neck, can move mountains.

It should come as no surprise that there is a very fine line that separates a mom’s sanity from complete and utter derailment. So, listen y’all, sometimes it is in everyone’s best interest to let the 3-year-old eat sprinkles before bedtime. Because sometimes, when you’re a hot mess mom…you. just. can’t. And if you’re asking yourself right this moment, “Can’t what?” then you’re not a hot mess mom and you just wouldn’t understand.


Letters to my Littles: My princess, a daughter of The King

As you lie in my arms and drift to sleep, as I marvel at every feature and every breath, I wish I could see what Jesus sees when He looks at you.

I see your cherub feet.
He sees the mountains they’ll climb.

I see your tiny hands.
He sees the lives they’ll touch.
I see your cherub feet.
He sees the mountains they’ll climb.
I see your precious smile.
He sees the hurt you’ll one day know.
I see the sparkle in your eyes.
He sees the miracles you’ll witness.
I feel your innocent arms around my neck.
He felt your touch before you were mine.
I hear your precious laugh.
He can see the true joy in your heart.

I want to see you like Jesus does. But, for now, I’ll give thanks as I hold you while you sleep knowing that He holds you in the palm of His hand.

What we both see in you is a princess. Because you, my precious gift, are a daughter of The King.

Mommy loves you.

Sweet dreams princess
I pray I never forget the feeling of your hands in mine as you sleep.