Category Archives: Kid Stuff

Make Space For the Season.

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The other day, I sat in mom and dad’s living room and began recalling my childhood Christmases. The subject came up when I told Anna about the time each of my parents thought the other was buying my presents. We call it “the Christmas my parents forgot me.” Their only child. Just one. Me. It’s actually one of my dad’s favorite Christmas stories to tell. Well, besides the one when dad asked me when I was little girl to tell him if the lights on the tree were working. “Now they are. Now they aren’t. Now they are. Now they aren’t.” I didn’t realize they were blinking lights. My mom, however, hates the story of forgetting me. She was a flight attendant then, and her schedule was crazy. But, dad and I have laughed about that Christmas so many times. I was older, and I got it. I wasn’t hurt or disappointed. But, I laughed. (And, I caught my dad later that day writing a check to stick inside my stocking.) I wasn’t disappointed, because everything I ever could have needed or wanted from my parents I received. I’m not talking about the things. I’m talking about the relationships. The love. The real stuff that doesn’t get old or break or fade.

After I told Anna that story, I began remembering all of my Christmases when I was a little girl. I remembered the Christmas morning I got Dolly Pops. I had wanted those for a solid year. I remember the Christmas where Ken and Barbie were sitting on their Barbie horses, and another Barbie was taking a dip in her pool that mom filled with water. I remembered the Christmas I opened up a my burgundy velvet blazer and navy blue tie. I guess I was channelling my inner Diane Keaton that year. I began to tell my parents and my own children that while I knew my Christmases weren’t “big” by most standards, they always felt big. Dad was pastoring a small church on a very modest income. They couldn’t do the big. But, I told them, “It always felt big. They were the best Christmases.”

I watched tears stream down my mom’s face. Did she not know that they always felt big and were so perfect to me? Did she not know that I never felt slighted growing up but, instead, only loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the smiles, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the blinking lights?

Last night, I sat in my own living room with my two oldest children who are hardly children anymore. John Henry looks at me and says, “Mom, can you give my big presents to another kid this year or is that not an option?” Later Anna says, “Mom, last Christmas was great. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves presents. But, I don’t want so many gifts taking up our time together.” Then, in her hilarious Donald Trump voice she said, “I’m going to build a wall around the tree and gifts.” (Seriously, her Trump impression rivals only that of Alec Baldwin.)

“I want to make space between the gifts and this,” she said, stretching her arms toward John Henry and me. “There is nothing I need. I just want this.”

Did I not know that my kids simply loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the lights that do not blink? Not the things that get old or break or fade. The relationships. The love. The real stuff.

In all of your hectic shopping, your worry over if you have bought enough, done enough, given enough….Pause, stop, breathe. Your kids will have more than they need or want because of YOU. Because, you laugh in the kitchen together while making Chex-mix. Because, you put away your phones and look them in the eyes and listen to them. Because, you take a break from homework and laundry and cry together watching This Is Us. (Have mercy, that show is everything right now.) Because, they watch you say something encouraging to their dad. Because, they watch their dad bring their mom coffee. Because, they see stockings for John Henry’s dad and step-mom hung at my parents’ house. Because, they see what love looks like. How it walks, how it talks, how it moves, how it pauses, how it gives.

Make space between the gifts and this. Fill that space with everything you are. Fill that space absorbing everything your children are. That’s what a big Christmas looks like. Make space for the season. Make space for the real stuff that doesn’t break. But for the stuff that gets you through your hardest seasons. The stuff that assures you that God is always for you and will not fail you. The stuff that reminds you to always make space for forgiveness, for gratitude, and for loving well. The stuff that reminds you that YOU ARE ENOUGH and you are amazing and you are INSANELY loved. Make space for that stuff. Nothing else matters. It’s all about your relationships. I can assure you of that.

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Filed under gratitude, Kid Stuff, Life Experiences, Love, Motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

She Turns 12 Today.

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I wish I had started doing birthday blogs before her 4th birthday. Because, let’s face it. There are three years worth of hilarious stories that have gone unwritten. But fortunately, there has been enough recorded to keep us reading and enjoying for years to come.

Every single day Anna Takle makes me laugh. And, who would’ve thought years ago that I would be going to her for fashion advice one day? Seriously. The girl who wore fleece in the summer, tanks in the winter, printed tights with ripped shorts, and dressed like she was trying out for the NBA for a solid year. Even yesterday, she questioned my attire for family pictures.

Anna: “Mom, you wear a cream shirt or sweater EVERY TIME WE TAKE FAMILY PICTURES.”

Me: “Well, dang. I guess I do. Maybe I should change?”

Anna: “Why change it up now? It’s kind of your thing.”

Even though I considered throwing on plaid, because, let’s face it….that’s kind of my thing, too….I just said, “Yeah…it’s kind of my thing.” And, we both smiled and went with it.

She is my girl. My best girl. My best friend. My partner in crime. My tough, stubborn beauty who has evolved into a compassionate, gifted soul, FULL of wisdom and goodness.

And, today, she is 12.

She loves the people in her life fiercely. She is protective, sentimental, and one of the most level-headed people I know. She is also one of the most grateful people I know. She thanks her dad and I ALL THE TIME for EVERYTHING. But, SHE is the real gift.

Anna Marie Takle,

I seriously want to cry thinking about how much I love you. How much I love every single thing about you. You make your dad and I the proudest parents on the face of the earth. Everything you do, you do with passion. You give whatever you commit to 100% of who you are. And, in as much as we are proud of your gifts and of your commitment to your education, we are blown away by WHO you are.

I love the way you love and look after Jett. I remember when you were 6 years old, you said, “Jett is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” You take it upon yourself to care for him, to protect him, to teach him, to love on him. I watch you watch him….and, I see you light up when he does something that makes you proud or when he’s just being his cute little self. And, you smile so big. He is probably the reason why you got the nickname, “Little Momma.” (Clearly, “Big Mama” was already taken.)

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But, Jett isn’t the only reason we call you Little Momma. You take it upon yourself to parent ALL of us. And, I mean ALL. Sometimes, it’s really cute. Other times, well….well, just be glad, YOU are really cute. And funny.

I love the way you look out for your big brother. Even though he probably doesn’t know it or want you to necessarily. But, you always want to make sure he is okay. And, when he hangs out with you and talks to you, again, you light up. Because, you love him and care for him so very much.

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I love the way you love your dad. I love the way you immediately defend him if you hear me complain about something he forgot to do. Because, not only does he deserve your defense, but you are always so good to right my wrong perspective. And, every time he comes home from a trip and walks through that door, you run to him, wrap your arms around him, and say, “Daddy!” And, again, you light up. Because, you are not afraid to show him your love.

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I love the way you love me. Anna, I never doubt how much you love me and look up to me. And, I do not take the love and respect you give me for granted. At least, I hope I don’t. You never fail to come up to me, look me in the eyes, and say, “Mom, thank you so much for……” You never fail to climb into my bed and pour your tender heart out. You never fail to make me feel your love for me. And, you never fail to make ME light up.

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I love how important giving sentimental gifts are to you.

I love how you love tiny things.

I love how you love all animals and treat them with care.

I love how you appreciate really good food, good coffee, a good book, and good humor.

I love how you start laughing at your jokes or funny stories before you even begin telling them.

I love how you can laugh at yourself.

I love how you will suggest we eat ice-cream and watch back to back to back episodes of Friends.

I love how you think Phoebe is your spirit-animal.

I love how you want to learn to as many foreign languages as you can and assume it wouldn’t take much planning for us to “hop over to Paris” to try out your progression in French.

I love how when I send you downstairs to do a chore, the chore is always postponed, because you walk past your piano. Yet, you don’t pass it. And, before I know it, I hear magic happening on those keys….and it makes it really hard for me to get upset with you. (Well played, Anna Takle.) Get it? Well played? (That’s one of the corny jokes I know you’ll think is hilarious.)

I love how you ooze out wisdom and always have such perspective on life and relationships. Oh, I listen to you. I listen to you and John Henry both. You both continually make me a better person by how you see people and the world.

Anna, I am so proud of the young lady you are. I can’t imagine what the years ahead look like for you. Because, in this present moment, I am simply in awe.

Thank you, God, for giving me the beautiful gift of Anna Marie. And, let’s just not talk about how she’s going to be a teenager in a year. My heart can’t bear it today.

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Thank you, Anna, for being YOU. I love you so very much.

Love,

Mom

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We’re In This Together.

You know how you get into a season of parenting and you just love that season you’re in? I’m in one of those. Parenting is fun and exhausting and heart-wrenching and hilarious. And, so many more things. I love it that I’m in a season where I can have parenting fails, and my children recognize it as a parenting fail….and, they are able to shake it off and laugh about it. Yesterday was one of those days. First, in the check-out line at Ingles I noticed Jett put something in his pocket. He pulled out a lollipop.

Me: “Jett, do you know that’s stealing?”

Jett: “Yes.”

Me: “Do you know what happens when you steal?”

Jett: “You get rich.”

John Henry looks away, because he knows Jett doesn’t need to see him lose it. I try to reconcile the situation, and I still buy the lollipop. You may call buying the lollipop bad parenting, but I call it “It’s Monday, and Mom is tired.” So, whatever. At least, he now knows we PAY for candy. That’s my justification, and I’m sticking to it.

On the way home, I get a phone call from Kris filling me in on Anna and her appointment with the ENT. Anna, who has had chronic sinus infections for the past two years, apparently has her adenoids to blame for it. She also has her enlarged adenoids to blame for her inability to breathe well. I cannot tell you how many times she has told me, “Mom, I can’t get a good breath,” and I have responded, “It’s all in your head.” Swear. I am winning. You can imagine the hay day Anna had on the whole, “I TOLD YOU I COULDN’T BREATHE, MISS IT’S IN MY HEAD!!!!” I said, “At least you’re not allergic to chocolate!” She sort of laughed. Sort of.

Then later, I tell John Henry about some friends of ours who recently lost their dog. He knew this dog and loved this dog and spent time with this dog. I thought I was preparing him before he hears from someone else. Instead, he responds, “Oh my word, Mom. Why did you tell me that? You’re awful! I didn’t want to know this! You are having so many parenting fails today!”

I told John Henry I wasn’t trying to win any parenting awards. He said, “Clearly,” then he laughed.

We finally settled into the evening, and after putting the little bandit to bed, I decided to get him out for a family UTV ride across the farm. It was hard getting Kris on board, because he was all tired and acting like an old man. But, I was all I just wrote a blog post on living an adventure, so get up, people. A sleepy Jett got on the UTV and said, “Just so you know, when I go to bed, I’m tired.”

We made a memory. And, we forgot all about my parenting fails that day and took pictures of the beautiful, dusk sky. We remembered that at the end of the day, we are all in this thing together. Homework, projects, attempted thievery, surgeries, losses, wins, celebrations, disappointments, funny stories, doctor appointments, laundry, and even bad parenting moments. Sometimes, you need to pause them all and just be. Be in the moment. Be in something different than the day to day routine. Change it up. Be spontaneous. Be content.

Just be.

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We’re A Little Bit Of Everything.

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This year, we made the decision to transition our kids to private school. Let me first say, our kids have thrived in public school, and they have been under the instruction of some amazing public school teachers. Our decision to make the change came out of discussions between Kris and I and then with our children. One of the greatest benefits we’ve seen so far (besides only having ONE carpool line a day…..can I hear a shout?) is that all three of our children have opportunities to catch a glimpse of each other throughout the day. Jett will fist bump John Henry every time he sees him. And, we LOVE that. Seriously. Cutest ever.

Having been in a public school environment most of their lives, they are having new experiences they haven’t been exposed to before (and, we LOVE that, too.) Yesterday, Anna gets in the car and first shares that she thinks she might be Pentecostal. But, she doesn’t know for sure…

Anna: “So, today in Bible we checked what denomination we belong to. You know how our church isn’t ‘normal’ and I didn’t know what to check. I remembered hearing Big Mama was Pentecostal a long time ago, so I just checked that.”

John Henry: “We don’t belong to any denomination, Anna. I checked that.”

Anna: “Mom has never told us WHAT we are.”

We actually consider ourselves inter-faith, embracing all denominations. You know….we love grace like the Baptists and missions like the Methodists. Kris prefers the “sprinkling” of the Presbyterians (you will not find him submerged), and now we love the Eucharist like the Episcopalians. The list could go on. Bottom line, we believe every denomination highlights a different and beautiful aspect of the Christian faith. We have never really labeled ourselves, other than “inter-faith” because of this. I’ve sort of taken my dad’s position to always put a comma by your thoughts, because we are forever growing and expanding. We tend to parent our children the same way allowing for freedom of thought and growth. The only thoughts we govern are the ones that surround this scripture:

37Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Love God, love others, and love yourself.

THEN, Anna proceeds to tell us about her communion experience. We have taken communion. I mean, come on. We are no stranger to the sacrament. We eat our styrofoam wafer and drink our white grape juice, so as not to stain the carpets. We’ve even taken communion as a family together at home, drinking wine from the same glass and breaking bread. Apparently, Anna approached the Episcopalian communion the same way.

“I went up and tried to grab the cup from them. They said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, trying to drink the wine.”

“We don’t drink. We dip,” they told me.

“So, with my bread in one hand, I dipped my opposite hand, my FINGER into the wine, and then I LICKED MY FINGER. They looked at me like I was crazy. By the time I got back to my seat I noticed I still had my bread in my hand. So, I ate it.”

Needless to say, yesterday’s carpool pick-up was THE BEST. I laughed, and I laughed. Then, I would think about it again and laugh. This is seriously going to be a fun year.

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Filed under God Stuff, Kid Stuff, parenting, Spiritual Journey

Create Your Calm.

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Jett loves his little, blue blankie. If you’ve seen Jett, you’ve probably seen his blankie. We are working hard on getting Jett to leave his blankie on his bed every morning. And, by “WE” are working hard, I mean Kris. It makes mornings harder, because, blankie…..you know.

Last night as I was putting Jett to bed and praying over him, I added, “Thank You for a smooth morning. Thank You that Jett is patient and cooperative and full of understanding. Amen.”

This morning Jett woke up happy and cooperative and saying, “yes ma’am” to leaving blankie on his bed. Inside, I was thanking sweet Jesus for such a smooth morning and fist bumping Him in my heart. ‘Cause, we got this.

Then, my sweet, cooperative boy spilled my entire cup of coffee all over the coffee table. All over my phone, my iPad, my favorite books, his Legos, and whatever else was in that line of fire. Jett awaited for scary mom to come out. John Henry left the room to get paper towels and not hear scary mom.

And, I paused. I remembered my prayer of a smooth morning. And, I just said, “It’s okay, bud.”

While, we cannot control every part of our day and avoid trouble, we do get choose our response to the bumps and how they control us. And, instead of it ruining our morning, I was able to be a model of peace and self-control and forgiveness to my children. I do not tout this inner fortitude to do this all of the time. I have failed so many times and went scary mom on my children more times than I care to recall. And, self-appointed Holy Spirit in my life, Anna Takle, is always quick to remind me of how I should’ve responded. Bless her. But, today, I made a decision to create my calm. To CHOOSE a smooth morning.

We can pray for things, and that’s okay. We can thank God for things, and that is necessary. But, in as much as I thanked Him for a smooth morning, it was up to me to create it.

You create your calm. You create your peace. You create your smooth. It’s not the hard moments that wreck us or our day. It’s our response to them.

Instead of coming home from dropping the kids off stressed, I came home noticing a beautiful sunrise. I came home pouring out tears of gratitude for this beautiful day. Creating my calm made thanksgiving so easy.

Make the decision to choose your responses today. Create your calm, and let thanksgiving pour out.

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Happy Birthday To My Life Loving Boy!

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Oh, Jett Takle. He steals my heart every single day. Really, he does. I don’t know another soul who loves life more….except maybe my dad. It amazes us all how much those two are alike.

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They dance alike. They give the exact same silly faces. They believe every moment is a moment to celebrate.

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He just LOVES life and celebrates every little thing. Anna asked him a couple of days ago, “Jett, what’s your favorite holiday?” He responded, “I LOVE ALL OF THEM!” It’s true. We’ve been marking off the holidays leading to his birthday and will continue to acknowledge the ones that follow. ALL OF THEM.

Kindergarten has been quite the year. His creativity got the best of him when he was given a red and blue crayon and asked to write the consonants in red and vowels in blue. His teacher peered onto his paper to see he had drawn Spider-Man instead. And, when he learned the author of his book was named Dr. Seuss, he exclaimed, “Whoa! He’s a doctor AND he writes books? Wow!” Mercy, I love him. He’s gotten the hang of it all now, and his teachers shout, “Amen.” A lot of his success this year is due to his pure excitement and joy over how amazing everything is. Oh, for us all to be wowed by all the things.  To never lose our wonder for creation.

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Jett Takle, you make everyone stop and celebrate life. When life gets busy and chaotic, and I’m rushing here and there and everywhere, you are my pause. You take my face and turn it towards yours, and you tell me something you think is so cool. You make me pull over on the side of the road, so you can pick daffodils. I will be sitting and thinking of a to-do list, and you will bring me the shiniest rock, and say, “Mom, is this rock special?” And, I will touch the earth, and pause.

The thought of you growing up nearly rips my heart out. I have loved every single second of your first five years. I know I will fall in love with you even more in the years to come. But, I will never forget your first five and how you have made me remember how amazing everything on this earth is. How amazing it is to celebrate every little thing. How amazing it is to stare at stars. How amazing it is….

to dance.

to turn an ordinary evening into a hilarious night.

to make up songs with a guitar by the lake on a Sunday night.

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to get closer to the people you love and say, “I love you.”

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to see beauty in a weed and call it a flower.

to run as fast you can through a field, because, you can.

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to tell someone “you did a great job.”

to eat chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice-cream.

Thank you for teaching me that life is worth the pause. Thank you for teaching me to be an observer of life. Thank you for teaching me to celebrate every little thing.

Because, every little thing is worth celebrating.

YOU are worth celebrating.

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You are forever my sunshine, forever my favorite super-hero, and forever my JOY.

Happy 6th Birthday, Jett Takle.

The best is yet to come. But, I’m pretty sure you already know that.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

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My Girl Is 11.

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“I will have this experience with me for the rest of the my life. I will always treasure that I got to play this role. I will miss Scout.” – Anna

These are the kind of deep statements I hear from her. Sandwiched between her witty comments, hilarious sense of humor, and laughter are deeply felt moments of honesty and emotion. There are days that I am sure I am talking to a 30 year old. She poses hard questions. She always has. Questions about poverty. About social injustice. When someone is mistreated, a righteous anger rises up in her, and she needs me to help her direct it.

She reasons well. If she asks for something, and we tell her no, she receives it graciously. She never pushes the envelope with her wish for material things. Ever. She doesn’t jump on bandwagons of negativity. Instead, she will refocus on what is right and good in her world.

At the risk of uncovering myself and one of my very weak moments this year, I would like to share a story of how Anna responded to my self-indulgent rant. We were leaving the house one day. I was very frustrated with Kris. I felt he would fly, come home, and spend all of his time working on the farm. I felt left with a home to care for by myself. I felt so many things went undone, and I was frustrated. Knowing better, I vented. To a 10 year old. More than that, I asked her, “Why don’t you tell your dad we need him to stop working on the farm so much and help out more around the house?”

“No. I won’t. It’s a lot of land. He has to work it hard. Far-Far (Kris’ dad) can’t do it all alone. He needs him. And, you need to allow dad to do what he feels he needs to do. If you are stressed, ask me. If you need more help, ask me. Ask ME. I will help you.”

I will never forget that conversation. I will never forget how she responded to me. She stood up for what she felt was right while still honoring me.

Anna Takle, you absolutely light up my world. You are so incredibly smart. And, your wisdom has astounded me. Your love of music, the piano, and broadway are so much fun. You continually make me proud when I watch you use your gifts.

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You make me laugh harder than anyone.

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You are the sweetest, most loving sister.

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You have a tender appreciation for all life.

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You are a living, breathing beautiful, example of God in the earth.

I love how you love life and the people in your life. I love how you crawl up in bed with me almost every single night, because you want to talk to me. I love how you love Seinfeld and Big Bang Theory. I love how you appreciate good tea. I love how you work tirelessly on the piano until you can finally play a piece perfectly. I love how you love your brothers. I love how you look at me and watch me. I love how you still get so excited and exclaim, “Daddy’s home!”

And, of all the roles you have played, my favorite one you play is simply being Anna Takle. I love who you are. I am forever thankful God chose me to be your mom. What a gift it is to call you my daughter. Thank you for being you and for continuing to allow God to grow inside of you.

Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Takle. I love you so very much.

Mom

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