The Giving Tree

Every six weeks our school has a writing contest. We read a book about the assigned theme and then whoever wants to participate writes a story. This time our theme was love/sacrifice and we read The Giving Tree. Oh my word. That book hits you right in the feels. It’s pretty heavy for first graders and I usually get questioned about my watery eyes when I read it.

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Student #1: Mrs. G, are you crying?
Student #2: No, she’s not crying. I think she just has allergies.
Student #3: She is too crying. She always cries in books like this.
Student #4: Yeah, remember when she read us Love You Forever? She really cried a lot in that one.

And so it goes.

But really. That poor tree. Sacrificing everything just to make her boy happy. Giving of her branches, her apples, and herself, until she’s just a tiny stump.

So, as I went to write my story for the contest, I contemplated the ideas of love and sacrifice. Love is easy. I could write about Chris or loving my girls or the love of my parents. Chris makes sacrifices for me. I know my parents have sacrificed for me their whole lives, just like I try to do for Claire and Lucy. But true living sacrifice? Someone who gives themselves completely for the joy of someone else? Someone who embodies the selfless love of Jesus?

And then I thought of her. Lucy’s first momma. Of course. Her path crosses our family’s story at the intersection of Love and Sacrifice. That one decision she made – to give life – and to share life with us, have changed all of us forever.

And so I wrote. I wrote about our giving tree.

As she enters the room, that precious bundle in her arms, I see it in her eyes. Above the tear-stained cheeks, intermingled with the grief, it’s there. This is the day that will change all of our lives forever, and I can see it so clearly. I can see the love.

At home, we unpack the carton she sent with us, touching each item gently as we pull them out. The soft fur of a pink teddy bear, a snow globe with delicate yellow roses painted at the base, a plaque with the words, “When I count my blessings, I count you twice” scrolling across it. Tears fill my eyes as I place them on the new one’s shelf. So tiny and fresh, she doesn’t know yet how much these things mean. She doesn’t fully understand this love.

When the pictures arrive in the mail I see the courage on her face. And always I see the love in her eyes. When the e-mails arrive exclaiming over the pictures I’ve sent and the new one’s beauty, I hear the love in every word. I feel the pride she’s beaming, even when far away.

I don’t see the tears she cries. But I get to brush tiny tears off baby cheeks and hold a little one close. I don’t know the painful thoughts that must fill her mind some nights as she lies down to sleep. But I get to watch deep breaths enter and exit a little chest as my girl sleeps peacefully. I will never know the full weight of her sacrifice, but I am thankful every second of every day.

Love is not always easy. Love is sacrifice and giving beyond the place that it hurts. Love is painful and difficult and heart wrenching. And love is beautiful.

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To my daughters…

To my daughters…

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I had fallen asleep at school that day. When I told Daddy, he was convinced that our dream was coming true.  I agreed to take a test, and 3 minutes later, we saw those 2 little lines appear. Those lines that meant you were on the way.  Those lines that meant finally, after all the waiting and wondering, we would be parents. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Even though it was 11 at night, we called Mamaw and Papa and Gammy and Granpa right away.  We even jumped in the car and drove to tell our friends. They were excited too after they woke up and got out of bed.  You, our baby, were all Daddy and I could think about.

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DSC_0174We had wanted another baby for so long. My heart was longing to hold a precious little one close, to feel a baby’s soft cheeks brush mine, to cradle a tiny one in my arms.  Daddy and I had talked. We had prayed. We knew God would bring a baby at his time and in his way.  And He put adoption in our hearts.  The day we decided we would adopt, you became real to me.  I knew we would get our baby, and I am so thankful that baby is you. I began to dream of you. I imagined what you would look like and when you would come.  Joy had filled my heart.

 

DSC_0003We went to the doctor for my sonogram and my heart felt like it would burst.  Sitting in the waiting room, I felt like time had stopped.  All I could do was watch the hand ticking slowly around the face of the clock. I couldn’t wait for the official word that you, my child, were real.  When I saw that little morsel on the black and white screen, tears filled my eyes. You were real, and you were coming!

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DSC_0174We went to Gladney to begin our journey which would lead us to you.  I was so nervous. I couldn’t decide what to wear. I wanted to look perfect, to act perfect, for everything to be perfect.  It had to be – because this was the first step toward our baby. We learned so much at orientation – what the process would look like, what we needed to complete. And we learned that we would have to wait.  I had no idea then how hard the waiting would be.

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DSC_0003When we heard your heartbeat for the first time I couldn’t believe how beautiful it sounded.  A tiny little heart beating inside a tiny little body.  Beating so fast – pumping blood to all your tiny parts. The doctor said your heart sounded perfect – of course I already knew you were.  My days were spent dreaming of you, wondering if you would be Claire or Connor,  planning every little detail of your nursery. I didn’t have a clue how much you would change our lives – how you would fill it up with joy and laughter, and how much I would learn from being your mommy.

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DSC_0174As soon as we got home from Gladney, we started the paperwork.  The huge binder full of papers.  As we answered questions about our jobs, our family, our marriage, our health, our house, all I could think about was you.  Each doctor visit, each fingerprinting session, each interview, was just a stepping stone to our destination.  Spending late evening hours at the kitchen table, with papers spread out in front of us, was a joy – because it meant you were on the way.

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DSC_0003I couldn’t wait for my stomach to grow. I started wearing maternity clothes out of desire, not need.  With each week that passed, I could see little changes, and they thrilled my heart. As time passed and I felt you move, my love for you grew even more.  I loved the connection that we already had, you living in me. I loved my big stomach, and the promise that it held.

 

DSC_0174I didn’t think our house would ever be clean enough for our home study visit.  I wanted the caseworker to see how much we wanted you.  To see how our hearts already loved you and were planning for you. As we made our profile books, we imagined your birthmom.  We wondered what she would be like, what her story would be.  We wondered what she would think of us as she looked through our book and read our story.  Would she think we were good enough?  We didn’t know then what a beautiful, amazing, strong woman she would be and how much we would connect with her, right from the start.

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DSC_0003In the final month with me as your home, I got huge. I was achy and swollen and just so ready to see your face.  Every morning in the shower I would pray that today would be the day. Every evening Daddy and I would sit on the couch, poking my swollen calves, and trying to set records for how long it would take for the poking marks to raise back up. I was tired of waiting. I wanted to hold you in my arms and stroke your cheek and kiss your head.  I wanted you.

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DSC_0174The 10 months we waited for you felt like an eternity. Every single day I thought this could be the day.  Every single day for 10 months, it wasn’t.  Every single day we prayed for you.  Every single day we dreamed of you. Every single day we checked our phones over and over, hoping for a call.  There were a few days when the phone did ring, but the calls weren’t about you. It wasn’t time yet. Toward the end I got really anxious. I cried.  I prayed harder.  I wished for you and my heart ached, missing you.  And then, the call came.  Our baby girl had been born, and she was waiting for us.  Finally, it was time.

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DSC_0003I woke up at 3:45 with heavy contractions that Tuesday morning.  I was sure it was a false alarm and decided to take my time on a shower, doing my hair, and putting on my makeup.  At 5 o’clock we decided it was time to go to the hospital.  After waiting awhile, I got admitted and the journey of labor began. Through the process, through the pain, I knew you were waiting.  You were the reward.  At 1:21 that afternoon, as I held you in my arms for the first time, with tears filling my eyes and joy filling my heart, the journey of the last 9 months came to a close. And a brand new journey began.

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DSC_0174We walked down the hall at Gladney, where we had walked two times before.  This time, though, it was different.  You were waiting at the end of that hallway.  Not just the dream of you, or the hope of you.  You – flesh and bones – were waiting for us.  In just a few minutes, I knew you would be in my arms.  And then, you were.  You were in my arms, with my lips brushing your hair.  You were in my arms, with tears streaming down my face. You were in my arms, and you were perfect.  You were meant to be. You were wanted. You were chosen. You were ours. The long, hard, journey to bring you home had come to a close.  And a brand new journey began.

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She’s here!

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The baby we’ve been waiting for all these months has arrived.  She’s beautiful and precious and perfect.  Lucy Grace has come to our family at last.

My last post, about a new kind of waiting, detailed the week before we met our Lucy Girl.  That was quite a week – busy, so many emotions, and not much sleep.  We went to Dallas on Friday and on Friday evening met our birth mom in person.  As soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant I spotted her.  I don’t think I stopped staring all night.  She is captivatingly beautiful, with such a sweet spirit.  She’s a delight.  Dinner went beautifully – so comfortable and natural.  We are beyond blessed to be matched with an amazing woman who truly loves our baby.

That night I really couldn’t sleep. Everything felt so official.  Next step : Meet our baby girl!  All night long I lay tossing and turning, sleeping for brief intervals, and thinking, imagining, dreaming of our girl.  What would she look like?  What would tomorrow be like?  What would her name be?  So many emotions, thoughts, and questions, and mostly, so much excitement.  Like Christmas Eve when you’re 7.  Times 900.

At some point in all the tossing and turning, what we needed to name our daughter became clear to me.  We had two name choices going into the weekend, and wanted to wait and see her face before we decided.  The choices were Ava Mae and Lucy Grace.  I had been leaning strongly toward Lucy, and during the night it was decided in my heart that Lucy would be her name (of course, I hoped Chris would agree with me!).  As I lay there thinking, the meaning of the names swirled round and round in my head.  Lucy means light.  A light in dark places.  Someone who shines brightly and boldly.  And then there’s Grace.  Grace which we did not deserve, in being blessed with a child when a child was impossible.  It was perfect.  In the morning I told Chris and he smiled – I knew he agreed – but he still said we had to wait to look at her to decide.

The drive to Gladney took 7 years.  Seriously, every time I am in DFW I am reminded of how much I love Amarillo “traffic”.  The drive really did take about an hour, and it felt like an eternity.  When we got there, we met with our transitional care mom, who had taken amazing care of our sweet girl and gave us all of her information and medical records, hand and foot prints, pictures of her first week, and a beautiful blanket she made.  Then we signed papers to make everything official (Eek!).  Finally it was time to meet our daughter.  Placement was a very emotional time for all of us – Chris and I, as well as our birth mom and her family.  In order to preserve our birth mom’s privacy and Lucy’s story as her own to tell, I am going to gloss over the details of this part.

We met our beautiful daughter and I cried and cried, saying, “She’s perfect”, over and over again.  Thinking back now, those are the exact words I spoke when I saw Claire for the first time.  I know for every adoptive mom it’s different – feeling close and bonded right away, or it being a process.  There is no right or wrong in this, just different ways of loving.  For me though, it was instant.  When I saw her, she was mine.  No questions, no doubts.  She was my girl.  Chris was smitten too, and of course Claire was so excited.

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During Placement we decided on our little girl’s name.  Lucy Grace – a light into the darkness and a picture of God’s grace to us.  Also, in my research of the name Lucy, I learned that the first African American woman to win a major sports title was named Lucy Slowe.  Since we are a sports family and our birth mom is an athlete, this made the name seem even more perfect.

Being at Gladney and leaving with OUR DAUGHTER seemed surreal.  It was almost exactly a year ago that we first went to Gladney for our orientation.  Walking through the building last October our hearts were lit with excitement thinking of the baby that would someday be ours.  And now she really was.

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We took Lucy back to Chris’ sister’s apartment and loved her up.  The whole drive home I just stared at her sweet face.  Some friends of ours who live in DFW came by to meet our girl and it was so nice sharing our excitement with Chris’ sister, Chelsea, and our friends.

We drove back to Amarillo that night, and can I just say that doing things with two children does not take twice as long.  It takes six times as long.  We stopped to pick up food at Burger King on the road and it took 45 minutes.  45 minutes, people.  We finally made it home and came in the house to a beautiful welcome from our dear friends.  I’m pretty sure we have the best friends on the planet.

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The next day was spent admiring Lucy and showing her off.  Claire is absolutely in awe of her little sister.  I was so worried about how she would respond and she has blown us out of the water with her caring, nurturing spirit and willingness to help.  I am so thankful for her and her tender heart.

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And sweet Lucy.  She is a joy and she is already a light.  She is an answer to so many prayers.  Not just ours, but a whole army who prayed for us along this journey.  And now she is home.

Waiting – Part 2

Waiting is hard to do.

Waiting on a reply to an important e-mail.  Waiting in line to use the restroom.  Waiting for Christmas morning (even though I’m 30).

Know what’s really hard to do?  Wait for a baby.  I’d venture to say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

To say that we had become impatient in waiting for our baby would be accurate.  To say that we had entered the begging/bargaining stage in our prayers wouldn’t be a stretch.

Last Monday evening at bedtime, Claire was close to tears saying she missed our baby and wondering when the little one would be coming along.  Chris suggested that we pray about it, and he asked God to give us dreams about our baby and speak to us as we slept.

The next morning – Tuesday – Claire reminded us of our bedtime conversation.  “Well, do you guys want to hear my dream?”  We were a little surprised that she remembered, and of course, curious.  “I had a dream that our baby is now.”  Chris and I exchanged a glance, silently asking, What does that mean?  We asked for more information and heard matter of factly, “Oh, and our baby is a girl.”  I felt a thrill run through me and a fresh burst of excitement fill my heart.  But Tuesday passed without a word.

Wednesday and Thursday came and went.  Thursday evening I posted something on facebook saying how very anxious we were feeling to get our baby.

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Then on Saturday my phone rang.  I was doing my hair (after finally changing out of my pjs and showering at 4 pm), so I let it go to voicemail.  It was Melissa.  After all these months of waiting, all these moments awaiting this phone call, all the days checking my phone 10, 20, 30 times a day, THE CALL went to voicemail.  I quickly called back and Melissa filled us in.  A birth mom had chosen us and her baby had been born on TUESDAY .  Yes, on Tuesday.  The morning of the “Our Baby is Now” dream.

This was going to – most likely – be our baby.  A baby girl, weighing 5 lbs 15 oz, and 19 inches long.  Healthy and staying in transitional care – with a volunteer family – working for our agency.  But, it wasn’t a done deal yet.  The birth mom, “D”, wanted to talk with us on the phone Sunday evening.

So many questions, thoughts, and emotions were swirling through me.  What does she look like?  When can we see her?  What if…D doesn’t like us?  Something goes wrong?  What if, what if, what if?  And also, Wahoo!!!  Our baby girl is here at last!

Sunday night finally rolled around.  To say we were a huge ball of nerves would be entirely true.  I pressed three wrong buttons before being able to properly answer the phone.  Within the first minute of our conversation, we – Chris, me, D, and her mom – all confessed how nervous we were and shared a good, jittery laugh.  From there, our conversation went beautifully.  All I can say is that D is a delight.  We share so many things in common – from playing basketball, to being homebodies, to our dogs being similar.  After fearing this phone call for so long, we were unbelievably relieved with how it went.  We talked for 45 minutes and soon afterward heard from Melissa that D loved us as much as we loved her.  On Monday D met with her caseworker and at 11:44 we go the official word – this baby girl will be ours!

We will travel to Dallas to have dinner with D and her mom on Friday evening.  Then on Saturday we will meet OUR DAUGHTER for the first time  and get to bring her home.

One of my friends said to me, “Shannon, it’s like you guys have all the emotions of finding out you’re pregnant and having your baby jammed into the same week.”  That pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Life right now is a whirlwind – buying a car seat, bottles, and diapers.  Taking care of paperwork.  Celebrating with friends – and our friends have been over the top amazing – offering meals, making plans to care for Logan while we’re gone, setting up a fundraiser for us.  Calling the doctor.  Planning family visits.  And trying to remember how to take care of a baby.

To say that we are excited would be correct.  To say that we are happy would be perfectly true.  But to say that we are thankful – that just won’t do.  “Thankful” does not do justice to what we feel in our hearts.

I just don’t think there are words strong enough.

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Superglue

My alarm was set to go off at 8:15 on Sunday morning, so you can imagine my dismay when I heard Claire’s voice calling my name at 7:59.  I had made it so close to my goal of 8:15 – it was close enough to taste, and definitely too close to crawl back in bed and try for more sleep.  I rolled out of bed and walked stumbled clumsily down the hallway into Claire’s room, scooped her up, and trudged back to our bedroom.  As I walked back through the doorway, the dog gate which I had hastily slid to the side of the door was hanging out just a bit into my path.  I bumped into it with my leg, knocking it to the ground, and then caught my pinky toe in one of the slats.  As I stumbled, my only thought was Don’t fall – I can’t drop Claire.  (Feel free to nominate me for Mom of the Year.)  I managed to stay on my feet and walked around to my side of the bed, deposited Claire onto the pillow, and started to lie down.  You should know that me bumping into things is a daily occurrence, and “severely” stubbing my toe happens about once a week, so this morning was not really unusual.  I did notice at this point, however, that my toe felt wet.  Upon further investigation I discovered that my toe was, in fact, cut and bleeding.

I notified Chris (still slumbering peacefully at 8:04) of my injury.  You should know that Chris was up a large part of the night with an upset stomach.  After only two calls from me and a few pokes from Claire, he was up, and immediately came to tend to my wound.  (I’ve already nominated him for Husband of the Year.)  Chris called upon Claire for assistance and she was happy to help by turning on the overhead light (she’s brilliant) and getting a flashlight.

Upon close inspection of my toe, Chris got nauseated.  (Flashback to 2004.  Chris and I were married for 3 months and living in our first apartment.  While using a paring knife to cut brownies (any true chef’s first choice for cutting baked goods), I cut my hand pretty badly and Chris had to take me to the ER for stitches.  I was instructed to come back in a week to have them removed, but by that time I realized the uselessness in seeing a doctor again to do something as simple as pulling out stitches.  I recruited Chris for this task and as he went in with the tweezers to get the first stitch, the same look of queasiness spread upon his face.  He was unable to continue.  {I am convinced that his weak stomach only shows up in association with one of my injuries because of his strong aversion to seeing me in pain, which is pretty sweet.} Anyway, refusing to pay money to go back to the doctor as he suggested, and disgusted with his inability to continue with the task at hand, I proceeded to remove all the stitches out of my own hand.  {Feel free to nominate me for Woman vs. Wild.})

Anyway, back to Sunday morning.  Chris suggested that we contact his sister, Audrey, who is about to graduate from nursing school.  I, on the other hand, suggested that we just stick the toe back together with superglue.  What a quandary.  We did go ahead and call Audrey and she advised seeing a doctor.  However, I managed to convince Chris of the stellar history superglue has in my medical history.  (Flashback to 2002.  I was living in the dorms at Southwestern and back at school early from Christmas break for basketball practice.  As I was jumping down from my top bunk one evening, I landed on my Bible and cut my toe to the bone.  Recognizing that I needed help, and knowing that I was the only one currently on my hall, I hobbled down my hall and then the stairs to the basement, leaving a trail of blood behind me.  While at the ER, I was informed that it’s impossible to sew “creases” like we have on the underside of our toes, and that the doctor planned to glue the cut closed.  The doctor also suggested that if the injury should pop back open, I could save myself a second trip to the ER and just superglue it myself, which I later did.)

So, we went the superglue route.  Chris mustered his strength, cleaned my wound, and then glued it shut.  Sweet Claire, who recently told us she is planning to be a nurse when she grows up, was such a great helper.  She held the flash light for Chris, brought me a book to read, and rubbed my arm.  If she does end up being a nurse, I am certain she’ll be an amazing one.

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And poor Chris, always putting up with me and my silly injuries.  For awhile he banned me from cutting with a paring knife.  Now I may be banned from waking up and getting Claire in the mornings.

Hey, that may not be so bad…

Thoughts on Being a Working Mom

August is here.  I don’t know how that happened.  Suddenly there are school supplies out at Target and teacher friends working in their classrooms.  Sigh.  The end is near.  Summer is such a beautiful, beautiful thing, and it has evaporated right before my eyes.  I love being a stay at home mom for two months out of the year.

When I was pregnant with Claire, Chris and I talked about whether I would stay home or continue working.  We sat down, looked at our budget, talked about the future, and I decided I would continue teaching.  It would be the best choice financially, and I absolutely love my job.  No problem.

Then Claire was born.  She rocked our world and filled us with a brand new kind of love.  I remember standing in her room, holding her, and crying my eyes out the day she turned 1 week old, my heart breaking, because she was growing up so fast.  Going back to work when she was 12 weeks old was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I cried every single morning (and sometimes throughout the day) for weeks.  I missed her so bad and I felt so guilty for leaving her.  Honestly, I felt like a second-rate mom.

This is a battle I’ve struggled with all along the way, and although I’m much more at peace with things, I still have a hard time with it now.  I have come up with so many schemes to make staying home possible.  (Even though these plans would entail me working – in my mind, it would be better because I would be home.)

  • Opening a catering business
  • Selling my breast milk online (My personal favorite plan – sitting around and pumping all day – how hard can that be?)
  • Opening up a preschool in our home
  • Writing children’s books (This plan almost panned out.)

Obviously, none of these plans panned out for our family.  So here I am, a working mom. Now let me say, I love my job.  I love teaching.  I am so thankful for the chance to influence young lives each day.  I’m thankful for the hugs and the smiles and the joy of learning.  Of all the jobs I could have, I am definitely happy that the one I have is teaching.

But as much as I love my job, I still feel an ache in my heart when I leave Claire in the morning and when I think about leaving our next little one with a sitter.  I worry, worry, worry, over the damage I may be causing them.  And I feel so terribly, horribly guilty.

Guilt.  So much guilt.  I think that is the worst part.  I feel like I’m damaging Claire, not putting my family first, and choosing myself over my child.

So much of this guilt comes from the other side – the stay home side. They probably don’t try to make us working moms feel guilty.  They don’t try to make us feel like less than.  And most of them don’t.  But sometimes they do.  I’ve heard some hurtful things from stay home moms and they sting.  And they stick.  But it’s my fault.  It’s my fault for taking on the guilt.  Stay home moms aren’t the judge of what a good mother is.  I make the choice to feel guilty or not.

Things also swing the other way.  I know it’s easy for working moms to have a low opinion of stay home moms.  We think…What do they do all day?  What do they have to complain about?  But they work hard too.  All day long.  They take care of their kids from 9 to 5 and then they take care of their kids from 5 til bedtime.  We are wrong to judge them too.

Why does it have to be us against them?  Why does one have to be better than the other? Isn’t being a mom tough enough without judging each other for the decisions we make for our families?  Aren’t our own criticisms of ourselves damaging enough without doing it to one another?  What if we just choose to love each other?  Encourage each other?  Pray for each other?  Respect each other?  Wouldn’t that be better for all of us?  I think so.

I know stay home moms who complain constantly about their kids and working moms who complain constantly about their kids.  Stay home moms who cherish time with their kids and working moms who do the same.  It is what you make it.  It’s not one or the other – it’s making a choice to be a good mom who is present with your kids when they’re with you – whether that’s 10 hours a day or 4.

If you’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom, that’s great!  You’ve made a sacrifice to be home with your family and that’s something to be proud of.  You get the honor of spending your days with your kids – taking them to the library, playing on the floor with them, doing chores together.  You get the joy of spending the day together.  You are a great mom and you love your kids.

If you’ve chosen to be a working mom, that’s great!  You’ve made a sacrifice to provide for your family and that’s something to be proud of.  You get the honor of working hard to provide a good life for your family – living in a nice neighborhood, traveling, taking piano lessons.  You get the joy of “I missed you” hugs and evenings spent together.  You are a great mom and you love your kids.

I’m preaching to myself here.  I need to remember all this.  On the day Claire cries at drop off and when I leave our new little one with the sitter for the first time, I’ll cry.  I know I will.  It will be hard and my heart will ache.  But I’m going to try so hard not to feel guilty.  I don’t need to.  And when I pick Claire up from school and feel her little arms squeeze around my neck, I’ll cherish that moment.  And I’ll cherish the many more I get to spend with my family.

The Big Weekend

Chris decided awhile back that Claire would be old enough for spring turkey hunting this year.  I’m not exactly sure the formula one uses to determine an acceptable age for a first hunt, but apparently Claire has reached that age.  She was ecstatic.  Our lives became a preparation for the big hunt.  Claire would insist on getting “camoed up” and asking me to try to see her (which of course, I never could).  She practiced and perfected her turkey call.  This child has shown major dedication in preparing for this trip, and I was so happy and excited for her.  I was also happy about the fact that with a noisy 3 year-old along, Chris was very unlikely to shoot a turkey which we would have to eat, and Chris insisted would need to be stuffed and displayed in our living room.

On the weekend of the turkey hunt, my mom had planned a trip through Oklahoma City to visit her aunt, and then up to Tulsa to visit her sister and brother-in-law.  I decided to join her.  We’ve never taken a trip just the two of us, and I thought it would be nice to spend the time together.

Leading up to The Big Weekend, Chris and Claire began to prep all their hunting gear – camo, sleeping bags, backpacks, binoculars, etc.  So, I thought I would surprise Claire with her own Claire-sized camo backpack and a set of binoculars. I was so excited to give it to her and anticipated the look of delight that would spread across her face as she opened it. (I should have read my post on Expectations before I gave it to her.)  Anyway, I told her to sit on the floor while I went to get her surprise.  She did.

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Here she is waiting for the surprise.  So sweet.

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And here she is pouting.  “Mommy, I wanted candy.  I thought my surprise was going to be candy.”  She’s very strongly motivated by food.  More than anything else.  We’re a little worried about this.

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Here’s Claire digging in the bag to see if there’s any candy hidden at the bottom.  Notice that my smile from the above photos has disappeared.

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And this picture is from when I said, “Okay, I’ll just return the backpack since you don’t like it.”  (I am so my mom.)  Then she decided that she really did love it and snuggled with the pack to prove her devotion.

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After that, things seemed to really pick up – she was very happy with her gifts and made sure to thank me.  She just had a brief lapse in thankfulness, I guess.  She absolutely LOVED her binoculars!  Isn’t she so cute??

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Okay, onto The Big Weekend.  Chris and Claire left Friday afternoon and my mom arrived on Friday night.  We left Saturday morning for OKC and stopped to meet my great aunt Georgie for lunch.  We picked her up at her independent living facility.  She’s pretty amazing – almost 90 and still living on her own, driving herself places, and she was knitting a blanket for a children’s home when we arrived.  We asked her where she’d like to go to lunch and she picked IHOP.  Yes, IHOP.  We drove past Five Guys, Which Wich?, and Panera Bread (knife in my heart) on our way.  We did have a lovely visit over lunch, and I am so glad we got to see her.  I just love hearing old stories of when my grandparents were young.

Here is Aunt Georgie and my mom at Aunt Georgie’s apartment.  Yes, that is Claire on my mom’s shirt.

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After lunch we got back on the road and headed up to Tulsa.  We had so much fun talking and laughing.  We also had fun trying to get on the toll road when the GPS was set to no tolls.  We got on, got off, got on, got off, and finally got back on and stayed on.  Sheesh.  I’m proud of our investment in the Kirkpatrick Turnpike.

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We finally reached my aunt and uncles’ house.  That evening we went to a little pizza place for dinner and then to PInot’s Pallette.  It was so much fun!  My mom and I had never been, but Linda and Greg are old pros.  They have painted many a masterpiece at PInot’s.  If you’ve never been, you should!  The concept is – each person starts with a blank palette, paint brushes, and paint.  There is an in-house artist who gives step by step instructions and even the most unartistic person’s (me) painting turns out so much better than you ever thought it would.  I highly recommend it!!

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Here is my artistic look.  You may not recognize me because I’ve never had a reason to try to look artistic before.

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Here I am with my aunt, Linda.

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And here my mom and Linda are apparently trying to paint each other.

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Here we are taking a brief break from our artwork.

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And now painting away.

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I was very impressed with our trees in fields of daffodils!  We really had the best time!  (Also, I don’t know why I look 3 times bigger than everyone else in this picture.  I’m not.)

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Linda and Greg live in a beautiful historic district of Tulsa.  Also, it rains in Tulsa, so things are green.  Plants grow in yards and flowers bloom.  It is beautiful and very foreign to me.  We did a lot of walking over the weekend.  A lot.  It was nice to walk through the neighborhoods chatting and looking at all the old houses and to walk along the river.  I would say we walked at least 5 miles on Saturday, and although I didn’t tell my aunt and uncle (since they are almost 60 and I didn’t want to seem wimpy), my calves got so sore!

These are a few of my favorite houses and yards.  I really thought for a second, Man, we should move somewhere pretty and green like this.  Then I looked at my freshly straightened and perfectly smooth fuzzy hair and remembered the benefits of living in a dry climate.

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I also got to see our friends, Crystal and Andrew while in Tulsa, and meet their brand-new baby girl, Eden.

I absolutely loved taking this trip with my mom.  We spent 6 hours to Tulsa and back just talking – laughing, remembering old stories, and solving all the world’s problems.

Meanwhile, the hunters were hard at work.  The crew included Chris and Claire, my dad and Tristen (our nephew), my uncle David, cousin Jeremy, and two of my cousins’ kids, Gregory and Jordyn.  I knew that this weekend would involve playing in the dirt, lots of junk food, and late nights around the campfire.  However, I wasn’t prepared for what a rite of passage this would be for my sweet little girl.  She did such a good job!  She was up before the sun every morning, completely camoed the whole time, and sat quietly under the trees for extended periods calling for turkeys.  Poor thing, she just had to sleep whenever and wherever the occasion arose.

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Here are Tristen and Claire, up bright and early, all bundled up.

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And here is my sweet girl calling for turkeys.  She does it perfectly.  She didn’t call in any turkeys this time but she did call in a pack of wolves.  Yes, a pack of wolves.  When I asked her if she was scared she said, “No.  I know Papa was fixin’ to shoot ’em.”

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Also, Tristen loaned her a pocket knife, which Chris approved.  I assumed she had a pocket knife so she could keep something in her pocket and feel like a serious hunter.  Silly me.  Obviously, a 3 year old would be whittling wood as instructed by her father and grandfather.  Also, when they got back to Albuquerque, Papa took her to buy her own pocket knife.  Ay ay ay.  I am happy to say that she has given me an in-depth lesson in knife safety and promptly corrects anyone who handles her knife in a manner which is unacceptable.  Good girl.

Claire and Tristen, along with Gregory and Jordyn built an amazing fort.  I mean really, it’s amazing.  They thought of every detail – there was a kitchen (including a fridge), bathroom, fireplace, front porch, and even pine needle carpeting.  This was a luxury vacation destination!

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I love their faces in this picture!

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Chris and Claire got home about an hour before my mom and I made it to Amarillo.  Here’s how she greeted us.  That’s an elk hip bone on her head.  You can’t get any more redneck than that.

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I swear she looked older when I saw her.  I really think this was an important “first” in her life.  I love that she is my sweet girly girl, but that she is adventurous and brave too.  I love her excitement for life and the joy she takes in doing things just like Daddy.  I’m thankful for the weekend she spent as a hunter and I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with my mom.  I’m sure we’ll be talking about The Big Weekend for a long time – probably until The Big Weekend comes around again next April.