Thursday, February 15, 2018

Swimming with Sharks

I’ve loved sharks since I was a kid. JAWS was one of my favorite movies (still is) and Shark Week was second only to Christmas on the list of most exciting annual events. Maybe it’s because of this interest that I don’t swim in the ocean. Disclaimer: sharks live in the ocean. Another disclaimer: sharks eat stuff. I am stuff. No thank you.
Statistics say that my odds of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. I am more likely to be killed by fireworks. Statistics would tell me that the most dangerous thing I will do if swimming in the ocean, will be driving there or, even more likely, that I’ll have a stroke somewhere along the way. I still don’t swim in the ocean. I don’t want to be the 1 in 3,748,067.
Lots of people find it worth the risk. They all know that sharks live in the ocean. They know there is a small, very, very small chance that they could be attacked. They find it worth the risk. The average risk is always there because…see above disclaimers about where sharks live and what they eat. Sometimes, however, sharks are seen in an area. When this happens, flags go up. These flags mean that your chances of being attacked are higher. Fewer people go in the water. Some people still risk it. Sometimes, when sharks are seen in an area, they put up shark nets. Have you seen a shark net? Have you seen a shark? It’s a nice thought, it might deter the sharks a little but it’s honestly insufficient. A net is not stronger than a shark…at least not the type of shark that you worry about attacking people. But people swim and they feel safer, until there’s an attack.
After an attack, the flags and the nets are no longer seen as enough. We need to do more. We leave the flags up and we repair the nets but now we post lifeguards to keep people out of the water, we send out helicopters to survey for sharks and we impose swimming bans.
The odds of experiencing a school shooting in a US high school in any given year, is 1 in 21,000. Where are the helicopters? Where are the swimming bans?
I know we are talking about it. I know the flags are up and the nets are out. But we have had eight school shootings, eight attacks, in 2018 so far and there is not a helicopter in sight. Everyone is talking. “When will this stop?” “What will it take for change to happen?” Lots of pointing fingers at one political party or another. “It’s the guns.” “You can’t stop crazy people.” Meanwhile, seventeen people are burying their loved ones. There are seventeen empty chairs around seventeen dinner tables. Somewhere there is a mother, a brother, a grandfather standing in a closet with shirts hanging neatly, shirts that will be boxed up and given away, shirts that smell just like their child, their sister, their grandchild.  My oldest child is in high school. I’d never be able to smell apple pie or hear the Psych theme song again. I can’t even say that my heart would re-break because my heart would never be anything but broken. Not in this life.
I don’t pretend to have all the answer. Is it taking away guns? Is this just the be expected in this fallen world? I don’t know. What I do know is that I can walk onto my high school campus, generally unnoticed. No one questions who I am or why I’m there. There are no lifeguards. What I do know is that I can go into the office at an elementary school and say I’m there for lunch and they smile and give me a sticker with my name on it. There are no helicopters. What I do know is that I go to a community college and I walk in, right by the security desk, every day I’m on campus, carrying a backpack and no one gives me a second glance. There is no swimming ban.
Guns are controversial and guns are complicated. I’m not talking about guns. There are things that are not controversial and we aren’t doing them. We can lock doors. We can have security. We can know who is walking into our schools. We can know what is coming through the doors. We can talk to people. We can listen to people. These are things we can do.
Sometimes, shark attacks come with little to no warning. It’s a risk everyone takes swimming in the ocean (or the Zambizi River). Sometimes there are no flags and no nets because there have never been shark sightings. Sometimes, there are warning signs. We know there are sharks nearby. Our responsibility isn’t just to try to control the shark’s behavior. It’s to keep the shark away from swimmers. I live in a small town. My son goes to high school with roughly 2,500 other children. His average odds of being a victim of a school shooting are 1 in 21,000. If someone opens fire at his high school, his odds are now 1 in 2,500. If someone opens fire in his classroom, his odds are now 1 in 30. It’s time to station the lifeguards. It’s time to send out the helicopter. It’s time to keep swimmers out of the water.
Our kids need to learn more than “don’t bully”. They need to learn how to communicate effectively, how to process feelings, how to process anger. Our staff needs more than our constant barrage of emails asking what’s being done, they need our support and our presence. Fundraisers need to go for more than new band uniforms and better technology, they need to go for increased security measures. Getting appropriate mental health care for those who struggle with mental illness is going to require a level of collaboration that is not occurring, but needs to. This goes beyond politics and it goes beyond gun laws and it goes beyond Facebook soapboxes. It’s time to stop calling on politicians to be lifeguards and start earning our certification. We cannot always keep danger out but we don’t need to hold the door open for it.
My heart and prayers are with the victims of violence. My mind is on what I can do. My arms are around my children. It’s time to get out of the water.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Very Best Kind of Promotional Post

Friends and Family, near and far...hello. How are you? It's been forever. I have at least a dozen topics I'd love to write about but it's Christmastime yo. It's the most wonderful and also most hectic, time of the year. There are gifts to be bought, cards to be mailed, cookies to be eaten. So, in the interest of time, I will get down to business.

As many of you know, my daughter's best friend, Mia, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in November of 2016. This has been a long, tough year for their family and even though her overall prognosis has improved, there have been many set-backs along the way. This sweet girl has undergone very aggressive treatments, the kind I can't even type without tears flowing. And one of the unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy is that it very hard on teeth. Cavities, tooth discoloration and issues with the gum tissue are all common. I know that our sweet Mia has faced this issue related to her treatments.

It is for this reason that I am SO excited to be partnering with a dear friend of mine, Karen Robins, on a special promotion. I have known Karen for over 15 years and if she says something is awesome, I believer should too...because she's awesome. Awesome is as awesome does, right? Karen introduced me to this awesome toothpaste and I was AMAZED at the results. A toothpaste that fights cavities, whitens safely, helps prevent gum disease, tastes good, is gentle on those sensitive teeth AND safe for children over 2? Yes, please! And I think the results really speak for themselves.

For the month of December, for every tube of toothpaste ordered, $2 will be donated directly to Mia's family. Just use the code SMILEFORMIA when ordering.

Karen and I are so excited to partner on this. Please feel free to share this blog post with friends and thank you for your continued love, support and prayers for Mia and her family. I know they feel them.

Happy Holidays to each of you. May your days be merry and bright and may all your smiles be white! (I'm sorry...I just couldn't resist.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Traveling with Kids: A Survivor's Guide

If there is anything I have learned in Nursing School, it's this, always read the medication labels. Always. Like, AL-WAYS. It's good to know your potential side effects. For nurses, we have what's called a Black Box Warning. This warning usually says something like, "do not give this medication to a patient who has xyz because this might make them bleed a whole bunch and be not alive anymore", in so many words. So the next paragraph? That is your Black Box Warning. If you do not read anything else in this post, read that paragraph, okay? Okay.

First, I rarely give parenting advice and this is why: it is almost always totally useless. 99% of what I say is not going to help you in any way, shape or form. Kids are like bacteria. They are unpredictable, highly adaptable and very strategic. If it works once, you can bet that news spreads and they will adapt and mutate and so that same method will not work again. It's evolution folks, what can I say? As long as we all understand that, this should go swimmingly. In terms of traveling with kids, these are some things that have worked (as well as anything works) for our family. Expecting these things to work for you, well, I believe I've already warned you.

As another disclaimer, we are by no means a "well-traveled" family. In the last five years, we have logged roughly 50k miles and, naturally, much of that is local travel. We have, however, done a handful of ten-hour trips, as well as our car trip out west last summer and these are the things that I have found most helpful.

1. When asked, I always say that the most important thing to pack is a sense of humor. Traveling with children is not a leisure activity. It's probably going to get uncomfortably loud sometimes. It's probably going to involve at least one unplanned pit-stop. It's probably going to contain at least a small degree of calamity. Embrace the madness because that might just be what gets you through.

2. I have only flown once with kids, actually one kid, one newborn kid..and it was a two-hour flight. My flying resume is not exactly pushing me to the top of the pile BUT, this is what I will say. I sang, out loud, to my baby during takeoff and during landing and anytime we hit turbulence
(I freaking hate flying and have a fear of crashing to my death). I also nursed my baby, without a cover. I also may or may not have done some deep breathing. And everyone made it off that flight in tact. Annoyed? Maybe. Alive? Absolutely. My baby didn't really cry on the trip but yours might and here's what you need to's okay. Babies cry. Kids make messes. People sing out loud. Bears poop in the woods. Some things cannot be changed. Do not let yourself become paralyzed with fear every time your kid starts acting up, worried it will offend other people. You, and your child, are no more or less worthy of safe passage than anyone else. When I come home, I don't expect my cat to greet me at the door with her tail wagging and tongue panting. Don't expect your kids to sit quietly and reserved on trips. If you get dirty looks, ignore them. If you get exasperated sighs, tune them out. You're likely never going to see these people again. Keep calm because kids can smell fear.

3. The above sort of applies for car trips as well. Don't expect total silence and peace. Don't expect to be able to drive for long stretches without stopping. Don't expect them to give a crap about the activities you packed, which is actually a perfect segue into my next tip...

4. Don't pack activities your kids won't give a crap about. I guarantee you will invest far more time searching Pinterest, making a list, shopping and packing these things than you will get in return. Your kids will most likely play with them for five minutes, throw them on the floor and be done. Activities, by and large, take up space, make a mess and are not worth the effort. I also feel like it sets you, and your kid, up for frustration later. Just as you need to embrace that traveling with kids will make you want to stab yourself with a pencil, kids need to embrace the fact that traveling is sometimes boring. If you set the bar high with boxes full of stimulants, there is nowhere to go but down. Why put that sort of pressure on yourself, am I right?

5. If you have the advantages of technology, go ahead and use them. DVD players, phones, whatever it takes to get from point a to point b, ya know? Me? I love audio-books. My older kids also love audio-books. My two-year-old? She doesn't give an at's rass about audio-books. So, for the last few trips, we have only used them while she sleeps. We do have a DVD player that we use to play movies, mostly for her, which leaves my older ones ready to pull their hair out (ah, revenge can be gratifying). If you don't have gizmos, don't freak out. We do not have iPads or tablets and we have done several of our ten-hour trips without using the DVD player. We listen to music, eat fruit snacks and we all survive. So too shall you.

6. Get really comfortable going one and two in just about any uncomfortable circumstance. Side of the road? Gatorade bottle? Bathroom in a gas station where you are pretty sure at least one murder has been committed? Breathe it in. It's happening. Oh and your kid? He is going to touch everything in that bathroom. And your daughter? She won't hover. Pack some hand sanitizer, gird up your loins and head into the fray.

7. Don't ask what that smell is...just...don't.

8. If there is only one thing in this list you pay attention to, let it be this cream. In every long trip, I always plan for one, and only one, ice cream stop. It's always on the drive home and usually when we are about two or three hours from home and everyone is just D-O-N-E. I am a pretty frugal woman and I pack our food for road trips but this? This will be the best money you've ever spent. Seriously. If you are allergic to dairy...I don't know, maybe don't travel.

9. For logistical packing, keep it simple. For our most recent trip, I packed one change of clothing per day per person. Now, this can come back to bite you if your husband, say, goes playing with baby pigs and gets covered in mud and, well, you know. If  you are going somewhere without an amazing sister-in-law with a washing machine, you may want to pack an extra outfit or two. Shoes are another biggie. I feel like shoes are the most frequently misplaced item so I try to keep it to one pair per person where possible. I also have found that things get lost much more easily if everyone takes their own bag so we pack everything in our master suitcase and then I take an empty Rubbermaid or a laundry basket to keep our dirty stuff. If we are traveling to a dressy event or attending church away from home, I pack our dress clothes in a small, separate suitcase. As soon as we are done, we put them back in that suitcase and that suitcase goes straight back into the van, ne'er to be touched again until we arrive home. Consolidation seems to be key for our family and, so far, it has worked pretty well for us.

10. Roll the windows down every once in a while. I don't know why this works but it does. When everyone is cranky and you're on a nice stretch of mild highway, take the speed down a notch and get some wind in your face, unless you are in Ohio. Don't roll down your windows in Ohio. The bugs are unholy.

At the end of the day, feel satisfied when the trip goes more smoothly than you anticipated and brush it off when it doesn't. If nothing else, you can look forward to the ice cream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Myself, In Case I Fail Nursing School

Dear Jenny,

So, you failed. That sucks. I mean, truly. Sucks. There are very few things as devastating as putting your heart, blood, sweat and tears (not to mention someone else’s cuz, ya know, nurse…too soon?) into something only to end without the results you had hoped and prayed for.

But you’re no stranger to that. This isn’t the first time that you’ve failed. This is not your first rodeo, girl. Your heart has been broken. Your best efforts have fallen short. You have set goals and failed to reach them. But before you berate yourself for authoring this abysmal version of a pep-talk, let me remind you of something…you’re still here.

You’re here because failure is inevitable. Heartache and disappointment and fear and sorrow, they are all a part of this great and terrible, beautiful mess that is your life. The dark threads are as needed and this, this is just another dark thread in the incredible tapestry of this time you’ve been granted on Earth. You, my friend, are a lucky, lucky bird.

See failure doesn’t define you as a person, neither does success. Who you are, your value as a human being, is a gift. You didn’t earn it, you were given it. You are a child of God and that is your inherent value. You can choose to use your time on Earth to strive for goodness, for success, for joy but your worth is predetermined. You are not earning it and you are not losing it. He loves you. And that love is not contingent upon whether you succeed or fail.

I know you’ve wanted this for a long time…a super long time. But there has been great joy, joy beyond description, in your life. It was there before nursing school. It will be there after. You’ve lost people you love. There were times you felt like you’d never be able to feel happiness again. But you did. And you will. Oh, you will.

I don’t know what you’ll decide to do. I don’t know if you’ll keep going and graduate and become a nurse. I hope you do. But, if that’s not what happens, if you don’t become a nurse, please remember that it’s okay. There is happiness to be had. There is love to give and to receive. There is work for you to do.

I know you’re worried about your kids. You want so badly to show them that you can accomplish your dreams and that it’s okay to follow your own heart, even if takes you in a different direction than the masses. Please, don’t worry about the kids. You’re showing them something just as important. You’re showing them that it’s okay to fall down and it’s okay to mess up. You’re teaching them that joy is a choice and that their worth is unchangeable.

After all, if there’s anything you’ve learned in your life it’s that the best boots have some mud on them.

Chin up, girl. You’re going to be just fine.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Human Fear of Average

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with my eleven-year-old. In their school, they have a behavior system. Everyone starts on green and they can “clip up” for good behavior or “clip down” for bad behavior. And every day, without fail, the first thing my children do when they get in the car after school, is give me the clip recap of the day. They tell me what color they ended on and then they tell me some story about so and so who is always clipping up to red, which essentially inducts them into the Royal Family, seventh in line to the throne I think, and then they tell me about that one kid who ended on purple. PURPLE! And can they please take some rotten produce to school tomorrow to hurl at all the other kids who landed on purple? There will be a public flogging in the square during recess. And every day (except for three days this school year), my son hangs his head as he tells me that he stayed on green…again. And every day I tell him about how he is such a great kid and that no clip chart can tell him his value and all that other mom-stuff we spout to our kids. It doesn’t help. Every day he is just as dejected and frustrated because, in spite of his efforts to be exceptional, he ends each school day the way he started it, as an average kid.

This has all made me start to really think about how we view the average in our society, particularly with the element of social media making our lives so public. We post when our children make the Honor Roll. And we might even post if our child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or a learning disability because it’s okay for your child to be unexceptional if there is a medical reason (for the record, I think it’s incredible that we are breaking the stigma on things like ADHD and Autism and that we are having open, honest conversations about the way we treat childhood development, absolutely incredible). We do not, however, typically post that our child made mostly B’s and C’s on their report card. We share pictures of the pan-seared tilapia with bruschetta made from our organic-garden-grown tomatoes, and we will share pictures of the grilled cheese and baby carrots because #survivalmode #nailedit. What we don’t do is post pictures of the spaghetti or the oven pizza or the chicken and rice. Average is not funny or inspiring or special. In our publicly viewed lives we are either running for two hours a day or we are binging on Netflix, either inspiring the masses, or making a joke out of the opposite, but we are rarely, if ever, candid about our very average lives.

Why are we so scared of the average? Why are we envious of the name-brand hand bag that cost the same as our groceries for the month or the major steal found at a thrift store but equally disenchanted by the JC Penney hand bag purchased at 30% off? It’s either designer, thrifty or...what else is there?

This is especially true when it comes to our children.  It starts when they’re babies. By show of hands, who has heard the words, “oh he is in the 95% for his height and the 97% for his weight”, either from your own mouth or the mouth of another mother? Yep, that’s everyone. Now how many have ever heard, “oh she’s in the 35% for height and 40% for weight”? Bueller? Bueller? Not too many hands there. Why? Because even how much your four-month-old weighs is now either exceptional or not noteworthy. How many thigh rolls your precious baby has been able to accumulate in his short life is now the measure of whether or not he’s special or just normal. 

And it only gets worse from there. Every day someone’s child:

·         Walked at eight months
·         Knew their alphabet at one
·         Read “War and Peace” in second grade…and loved it
·         Was delighted with the kale and beet smoothie they were fed (Seriously, does this really count as impressive? Yesterday my kid ate grass and a booger so I’m not sure their palates are really that refined.)
·         Decided they wanted to donate all their allowance to help the needy
·         Is gifted
·         Is athletic
·         Is practically perfect in every way

Is it wrong that we should celebrate these victories, particularly in public forums? No, I don’t think so. Is it wrong that we should make light of the times when we totally drop the ball as parents? No, I think that’s okay too. What worries me is that we are so flippant about everything in between, as if it doesn’t hold any value. What does it teach our children that we are only celebrating the extremes and not relishing in the small but significant ups and downs or day-to-day living? Our children come home feeling like sub-par people because they stayed on green all day, forgetting about the jokes they shared with friends at lunchtime, the awesome thing that happens to plant cells when exposed to sunlight, the funny voices their library teacher used when she read to them. Later they feel like failures if they don’t make straight A’s or miss a note in their piano recital. As adults, we are all winning or failing, but never passing.

But, in reality, shouldn’t we be celebrating the average? Isn’t there a great sense of comradery in sharing the middle ground? Isn’t that where most of us are? Most of us aren’t going to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Most of our kids won’t either. In fact, most of our kids will end up being perfectly wonderful, perfectly average human beings. Most of our kids will be potty-trained by the age of four, able to puke in a bucket by seven and capable of pushing a lawn mower by eleven and honestly, ISN’T THAT VICTORY ENOUGH?!?!

I hope I can teach my children that there is nothing wrong with living the average life. There is nothing shameful or boring about finishing the race somewhere in the middle. I hope I can show them that they don’t have to be the Prince or the Pauper to be important, that just because they aren’t the ones that everyone reads about, doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the story. More than anything, I want them to realize that being compassionate, forgiving, generous and genuine, filling their lives with faith and goodness, choosing love over anger and gratitude over jealousy, that is what will turn their ordinary lives into extraordinary ones. That is how the average become the exceptional. 

And their mama loves them. I want them to know that most of all. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Day My Rowdy Kids Taught Me Compassion

              My baby had a doctor’s appointment today and I woke up dreading it. This is atypical for me. First of all, my pediatrician is the bomb diggity. Seriously. A fellow patient once described her as being “your best friend with a medical degree”. And it’s absolutely an accurate assessment. I usually look forward to doctor appointments, if for no other reason than I get to chit chat with our awesome doctor.
                And this is hardly my first rodeo. I have been taking babies to the doctor for a while and though some circumstances may give way to some anxiety on behalf of my children (Please let the nebulizer treatments help. Please let that mole be normal. Please let it be strep throat and not a stomach virus.), this anxiety wasn’t for my children. It was for me.
                You see, I knew that in addition to the baby, I needed to take her two older brothers. Again, taking siblings to the doctor? Not new. I’ve been dragging my gaggle (no, y’all, I legitimately have a gaggle. A gaggle is defined as five or more. Did you know that?) of children to appointments of varying sorts for over a decade. It is not something that typically causes me stress. I don’t pack a bag of books and snacks and Amazon gift cards to keep them happy. We go, we survive, we come home. And it’s always been okay. Until the last year.
                Almost a year ago, my sixth child became a legit toddler. By the time he hit fifteen months, it was clear he was going to be a handful. His personality is a perfect storm of amiable qualities (he is intelligent, focused, determined), amplified by a thousand. If Beethoven and the Incredible Hulk had a baby and then that baby ate a radioactive spider, the personality of that baby would likely be similar to my son’s.
                Now imagine, in this scenario, that there is a walking, talking catalyst, following this brilliant, explosive little creature around ALL the time. That’s my other son. Oil and water are not a suitable analogy. These two are more like baking soda and vinegar. You can probably see why the idea of sticking the two in a tiny exam room for thirty minutes, while simultaneously trying to hold a wiggly infant, seemed somewhat comparable to a stroll through the seventh circle of hell.
                And guess what? It was.
                The boys were unruly and loud. The baby was fussy from her shots. For the first time in my twelve years of parenting and hundreds of appointments, no one got a sticker. No stickers. None. This resulted in me dragging a miserable baby, two wailing toddlers and an unsightly diaper bag through the parking lot to load into our van covered in dog hair, cracker crumbs and more than one dirty sweatshirt. By the time I got everyone buckled, the sleep deprivation tugging on every nerve of my body, all I could do was sit in my van and cry.
                I can only imagine what the casual passerby could have thought of the sight. “That woman is a hot mess.” And they would be right.
                Later, as I was cruising through social media, I noticed a post someone had made on Facebook about her own experience in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Her experience was not like mine. She sat with her well-mannered, eleven-year-old son and witnessed the deplorable behavior of several younger children. Her post scolded these parents, citing the reason for this behavior as a total lack of discipline. Obviously, she mused, these parents didn’t understand the concept of “the belt”. My heart broke in that moment. She was not talking about me, but she could have been. She could have been talking about my babies. Because in the ten minutes she spent with them in a waiting room, she thought she knew them. She thought she knew me.
                To this woman, and any who have shared her views (and I, in my shame, am among them), may I offer a simple plea? Stop judging other parents.
                I have been there. I get it. I still do it. It is as easy as breathing, to point that finger, to say, “I would never let my child act that way.” Ever been in a restaurant, an airplane or a grocery store and thought to yourself, “Why don’t they DO something about that kid? Spoiled brat.” I have. I have thought those things. Ever seen that kid wandering the neighborhood kicking a mailbox and turned to your spouse to huff, “Where are his parents? Don’t they even care where he is?” I’ve done that one too. I need to stop. We all need to stop.
                There is no way that a five or twenty minute view of someone’s life can possibly qualify us to determine what kind of parent they are, or what kind of child they are raising. It would be like watching five minutes of a movie and trying to write a synopsis of the plot, or walking into a hospital and wanting to perform open heart surgery after taking BIO 101. We are not qualified to judge each other, nor should we make it our goal to become so.
 We need to stop the mentality that we are only succeeding if someone else is doing worse than we are. My failures do not make you a better parent and your failures do not make me a better parent. We only succeed when we love, support and encourage each other and ourselves.  We need to be more patient with the children we encounter, including our own. We need to be more patient with ourselves. Chances are, we all just need a graham cracker and a nap.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

As a mother of more than two children who are not at least four years apart in age, I have grown pretty accustomed to getting comments regarding my family whenever we go out in public. I've talked about this, I know. It's nothing new. And it's nothing unique. If you have three children, "you have your hands full". If you have two children who are not separated by half a decade, your hands are full. If you have four children, you obviously don't know what causes pregnancy ( It's sex, by the way, in case you have four children and you didn't know. You can stop having kids now, I've solved the mystery. Enjoy sex too much? Never fear, evidently the solution is to buy a television.).

I've said this before too, most of the time these comments don't bother me. In fact it's sort of become a game. I reward myself with treats for every silly comment or question I get. I have perfected my list of comebacks for the most frequent remarks. 

"Are they all yours?"

"All except the brunettes." 

"Do you know what causes that?"


"Are you having more?"

"Thanks for reminding me, I'm late to meet my husband."

I've been responding to questions about my family size, structure and planning for so long, I could probably do it in my sleep...if I ever got any.

It's pretty rare for anything to surprise me or offend me. If anything, I'm just jealous that anyone would have the presence of mind to notice other people and their kids in the grocery store. The fact that they can take the time to add my children is, in and of itself, impressive. 

But every once in a while, it happens. Someone says something that leaves me speechless. This happened to me the other day. I had the four youngest with me, the three boys and our new baby girl. I have had plenty of comments lately about how exciting it must be to finally have a girl. I get it. Everyone thinks that's ideal, having both genders. And I'll be honest, it is fun. I love having a girl. Those comments don't bug me. 

The other day, however, as I was walking out of the store with the three boys and baby girl in the car seat, a lady stopped me and said, "Three boys! What do you have in the car seat?" I told her it was a girl. A look of relief washed over her as she looked me right in the eyes, in front of my sons, and said, "Thank God."

For the first time in a long time, I had no comeback, no witty rebuttal. I was speechless. My jaw literally fell open and I stared for a moment before simply turning and walking away. 

By the time I got to my van, the back of my throat was burning and tears were filling in my eyes. I wanted to go back and find her and tell her all the things going through my mind, the good, the bad, the ugly. I wanted to scold her. How dare she say that to me in front of my sons. Who on Earth did she think she was?  I wanted to hug her and cry on her shoulder and stick a bar of Ivory soap in her mouth all at the same time. 

I didn't go back to find her. I loaded up  my babies and I drove home. But if I could ever sit down with her, here is what I'd want her to know, what I wish I could have told her that day:

1. I do thank God, every single day. I thank Him for my precious baby girl and for her six amazing siblings on Earth, and for her big brothers in Heaven and her incredible dad. I thank Him for my family with every breath I take. I thank Him that  I have the opportunity to be a mother, that I was able to conceive and bear children with my own body and that I have had the awesome privilege of creating a family with my husband. I don't give extra thanks for my daughters. I give extra thanks for health, for kindness and occasionally for good sleep. Sleep doesn't care about gender. Neither do I. 

2. My boys are not the dirt I had to dig through to get to the buried treasure. I didn't have another baby so I could "finally get to the good stuff". I got pregnant knowing (and expecting) that the baby could be a boy. Were we excited to have a girl? Of course we were. But please, please don't mistake that excitement for relief. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing about a healthy baby that I don't celebrate.

3. Children hear you. Did you realize that? My little boys with the dirt in their hair and sandals on the wrong feet are listening. They hear you saying that they are somehow inferior because they are boys or because they were born first or because they share a gender with a majority of their siblings. You want these boys to grow into men who will respect and treasure women but you just told them they aren't special because they are boys. How can you ever demand the respect from them when you don't show it? I know you'd probably say the same things if I had three girls in a row. It wouldn't be true then either. Children are a gift and every last one of them is precious and worthy of love.

4. I have had some time to calm down and collect myself. I'm not angry at you anymore. I am not upset or hurt. I do, however, now have a bar of Ivory soap hanging out in my diaper bag. Make another remark like that in front of my children and it's going straight into the upper opening of your digestive tract.