Four Year Old Brain

Last year we started a birthday tradition with Lincoln where we ask him some questions to see how he changes over the years. Last time the answers were quite entertaining. You can see his 3-year-old quiz here. He definitely understood the concept better this year, although he still acts like he has no clue what a stuffed animal is. He was hilarious because he was thinking so hard about his replies. He sat with his hand on his head as if in deep thought. When I asked him the questions, he would say, “Umm, hmmmmm.” Serious business. Well, here he is in all his silly 4-year-old glory.

What is your favorite color?

Red

I knew this answer. He picks out red everything.

 

What’s your favorite toy?

Hulk

My friends know how much I love tacky super hero stuff.

 

What’s your favorite stuffed animal?

Ummm, hmmmm. Bite whales.

Me: What?

I said bite whales. I like those.

Me: I don’t know what that is.

That means they’re under the sea. On the bottom.

Me: No, a stuffed animal. I mean, what animal do you like to sleep with?

I want Peanut to sleep with me.

And then I gave up.

 

What’s your favorite fruit?

Pineapple and watermelon

Sounds like his momma.

 

What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Pancakes

Carbs. Sounds like his mom again.

 

What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch?

French fries and chicken nuggets and a fruit cup

Can you guess his favorite restaurant?

 

What’s your favorite dessert?

Smoothie and kiwi and…..what’s dessert, momma?

Me: Something sweet like cake or brownies

I like cake and cookies

No surprise there.

 

What’s your favorite drink?

Sprite and lemonade

I let him get Sprite on his birthday, and he looked at me like I might have lost my mind. A once or twice a year treat from mom.

What do you want to eat for your birthday dinner?

A cake

No dinner apparently. Let’s just get right down to business.

 

What’s your favorite animal?

Giraffe

 

What’s your favorite book to read?

The Hippopotamus Didn’t Play.

Me: But Not the Hippopotamus?

That one.

 

What’s your favorite song?

the Wash Away one

You can ask Mike about that.

 

What’s your favorite game to play?

Hungry Hippos and Chutes

Too bad a game of Hungry Hippos usually ends with the baby trying to ingest the balls and Lincoln and sister punching each other.


 

What’s your favorite TV show?

Mickey Mouse

That answer hasn’t changed in two years. Big Mickey fan.

 

What’s your favorite movie?

Cinderella

I kind of bought that movie for myself and wrapped it with Lincoln’s name on it for Christmas. It was one of my favorites growing up. Glad he enjoys my gift too.

 

What’s your favorite thing to do outside?

Playin’

Me: Playing what?

Playin’ with some trees

Okay.

 

Who’s your best friend?

Maddie and Parker. And Parker and Graham.

Four best friends. Lucky kid.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A daddy.

Me: That’s sweet!

And then I want to drive a motorcycle.

Me: Boys who love their moms don’t drive motorcycles.

{Stares blankly at me}

When I’m big, I want to drive a motorcycle.

Another birthday in the books.  I hear that four is supposed to be easier than two and three. Since Lincoln has been four for 5 days now, I’m expecting him to get the memo any moment.

 

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Coach Lincoln

I recently realized that I forgot to blog a pretty important milestone in Lincoln’s life that happened back in November and December. My not-so-little-anymore little boy played his first organized sport. When Mike and I were first married, long before Lincoln was a part of our world, we used to talk about the day when our son would play baseball. Little League was a big part of Mike’s childhood, and I love hearing his stories about all the years he played. To see Lincoln out on that field after all the times I had daydreamed about that moment before he was even born and when he was a baby was a pretty sweet mom moment.

That tender moment only lasted a short while and then the reality of the situation set in. My three-year-old was going to need to listen and follow directions and stand still. Yikes. Most little boys are active and hyper, but I sometimes feel my kid got an extra dose of wild. The whole scene was pretty crazy with three and four-year-olds tackling each other in what became full contact T-ball. While most of the kids seemed to catch on as the season progressed, Lincoln really struggled with all the waiting involved in T-ball. Wait for your turn to bat, wait for a ball to come your way in the outfield. Waiting is not really his forte. At any given moment he could be seen playing dead in the outfield, running off the field to tell me something, clutching his glove in his teeth and shaking his head violently like a dog, or just having a crying meltdown. It was an adventure, and I was exhausted at the end of every game from attempting to keep him under control. At least he ended up being pretty good at batting when it was his turn. He gets his athleticism from his daddy for sure.

My favorite moment of the season is funny now but was embarrassing at the time. Lincoln suffers from first child syndrome, and is pretty bossy at times. He thinks he’s 13 instead of 3. Since he didn’t enjoy being treated like one of the kids being made to stand still and wait his turn, he decided he would be a coach and tell people what to do instead. He went up to the real coach and said very seriously, “I’m a coach too now. You can call me Coach Lincoln.” Clearly he gets his bossiness from Mike!

Everyone enjoyed our family’s first foray into organized sports, but it was a little overwhelming, and we think we’ll take some time off and let Lincoln get a little older before tackling something like that again. We should probably try soccer or something more fast paced that will exhaust Lincoln more than mom and dad next time!

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He loved the huddles.

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Racing his buddy and teammate, Parker, to second base instead of staying on first. Pretty sure that’s not how you do it, Linc.

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Isn’t that tongue hanging out concentration the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

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Post-game snacks might have been his favorite part of the sport.

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His first trophy!

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Obligatory cheesy team pics. Pretty painful for this photographer momma.

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Deepest Waters

Forgive me if my little blog detours for a bit into foster parent talk. Our world has been turned upside down, and this is kind of the focus of our lives right now.

Even though it took us nearly six months from orientation to receiving a license to become foster parents and we attended hours of training, nothing could have prepared us for the intensity of those first few days. My phone rang in the middle of the night, and through my sleepiness I agreed to meet the investigator to pick up two babies. I’ll never forget baby girl’s little face as the investigator put her into the car seat. She seemed nervous, but not nervous enough for a little one who was being put into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night. She stared at me intently the whole ride home, never making a sound. The emotions got the best of me and I began to cry thinking of these babies and the trauma they had experienced. There were no family members or family friends that could take them. The magnitude of that hit me hard as I imagined the fight that would ensue between all of our relatives over who would take Lincoln should we be unable to care for him. And these babies had nobody. It was entirely too much for my momma heart to handle.

At some point, without any prompting from me, baby girl started calling me mama. My heart swelled at the thought that she felt loved and safe and comfortable enough to refer to me that way. At the same time, an unexpected pang of grief struck me. As sweet as it was, it wasn’t what was meant to be. In a perfect world, this little one would be with the one who gave birth to her. As a mom, I felt heartbroken for her mother that this precious baby was here calling me mom instead of her. I know mom made her own choices that lead us to this place, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sad situation for a child to be separated from his or her family.

Every day of this journey has been filled with beauty and with sadness. So much uncertainty surrounds the lives of these children. Every day has been a varying degree of crazy as we’ve adjusted to life with 3 young children. Every day, despite the strong urge I sometimes feel to curl up in the fetal position and cry because of the madness, these babies feel more and more like they belong here. The thing is that they probably don’t belong here. They’ll probably end up back with family at some point. The feelings I have for them have taken me by surprise. I didn’t give birth to them, but when you feed them, dress them, bathe them, cuddle them day in and day out, your brain says they’re not yours, but your heart doesn’t get the memo. I am reminded that choosing to love them is a choice to have my heart broken. I want so badly to be selfless enough to make that choice and to put the needs of these children above my own feelings. I guess in some ways it’s a testament to the beauty of love and family that we can feel this much for them in such a short time.

I think of the song we sing at church that says, “Your grace abounds in deepest waters,” and I pray that we find that to be true. That God’s grace will be enough in this situation. Because she calls me mama, and he reaches for me with a grin when I walk in his room every morning. And my heart doesn’t remember that they’re not mine. I find myself swimming in some really deep waters, praying for God’s grace, and praying for the absolute best outcome for these babies, whatever that might be.

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Risk Taking 101

Being in your late twenties is a funny thing. For me it’s been a time to reevaluate life with the benefit of a few years of experience as a guide. I’ve asked so many questions about things I would have just accepted as fact before. The combination of becoming a mom, walking through such a scary situation with Mike’s health, and just growing a bit wiser have changed me so much.

This time last year I read two books that would prove to change the path of our little family’s life. I squirmed as I turned the pages and realized that even though I thought I knew what it meant to be a good person and to be a Christian, I was guilty of watering down Christ’s message and somehow I had melded it into living the “American Dream.” These words jumped off the page for me:

“The careful study of the Word has a goal, which is not the careful study of the Word. The objective is to discover Jesus and allow Him to change our trajectory. Meaning, a genuine study of the Word results in believers who feed poor people and open up their guest rooms; they’re adopting and sharing, mentoring and intervening. Show me a Bible teacher off mission, and I’ll show you someone with no concept of the gospel he is studying.” (Jen Hatmaker from the book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”)

I didn’t see that active lifestyle of service in myself. I saw someone who went to church and gave money to good causes, but I didn’t see myself making real sacrifices for people around me. I realized that as I was growing older, I really truly wanted my life to mean something. Excessive stuff and wealth started to gross me out instead of entice me. As much as I had thought I was different, there I was creating an average, middle-class American life for myself. And it pretty much made me feel sick. So I kept asking questions and wondering how I could possibly shift my life to be less about me and more about others. Of course I had my excuses. I’m so busy. I’m a mom. I have a business to run. Maybe when Lincoln is older I can do something. But then these words cut through my list of justifications:

“Saying ‘I meant well’ is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and the least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, ‘Oh? Were you serious about all that?'” (Jen Hatmaker from the book “Interrupted”)

The thought of living that typical American life where we seek material things, pleasure & just looking out for ourselves kept nagging at me. It wasn’t for me. I wanted to be different. So we prayed. And we prayed some more for nearly a year. At some point I realized  it was time to stop talking about being different and actually do something to get me towards the life I was after. I saw this quote online. “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” I knew it was time to take the first steps, although I’m pretty sure Mike thought I had lost my mind. He’s an inside-the-box thinker who appreciates simplicity and order, while I’m more outside-the-box who appreciates a healthy dose of adventure. We went to an orientation and we listened to the stories of the kids and the foster families. I sat there with tears streaming down my face knowing that this was the hard work God was asking us to do. Amazingly, Mike agreed. We came to realize that people who accomplish great things don’t choose the easy road. They don’t have neat, orderly lives. They take risks and they let their lives be messy. As much as there is a part of me that longs for the easy way out, I know that’s no way for me to live, and it’s certainly no way to have an impact on people around me or to answer God’s call to care for the least of these. And really, that’s what I want to be about. Not about just being happy or just seeking a life of wealth, ease or pleasure like society tells us to do. I want to live an adventure. Not the kind of adventure that only serves my own desires. I’m not talking about jumping out of airplanes or just adventure for the sake of adventure. I’m talking about letting my life get a bit less orderly and a bit more complicated and making myself step outside of my comfort zone for the sake of people.

So we made the commitment. Not just a commitment to become foster parents, but to make people and relationships the focus of our lives. To make sacrifices and to not choose the path of least resistance. Mike & Lincoln take precedence, but after their needs are met, I’ve started saying yes to people. Yes to making dinner when a friend needs a hand even though I’m busy. Yes to babysitting when someone’s in a bind even though I have my own child (and now 3 children) to care for. Yes to chatting with a neighbor who has had a bad day even though my to-do list is waiting. I say no to busyness for busyness’s sake, but yes to people and to loving the ones that cross my path and yes to building real relationships, because that’s really the only thing that matters when it’s all said and done. The past year has been one of the greatest, most liberating, most joyful ones of my life, and I know it’s due in part to our decision to look at life a little differently than we did before.

We said yes again in the middle of the night when the call came that two kids needed a temporary home. It’s been beautiful and heartbreaking and terrifying and it’s taken me so far from my comfort zone I can’t even see that thing anymore. I am downright exhausted, but I look at those little faces and I know that it’s worth it. My being inconvenienced seems so inconsequential in light of what the kids who come to foster care have experienced in their short lives.

For now, this is our path. This is the way we are choosing to use our lives to serve. I don’t know if we’ll do it for a year or for twenty years, but for the time, this is our calling. It’s certainly not an easy path, and it’s not for everyone, but I have asked God to help me be willing to do the hard things. So here we are. Taking big risks and praying for big rewards. Hoping that the simplicity of changing diapers, rocking babies, mitigating fights over toys, and giving dozens of hugs translates into something beautiful and something meaningful.

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“As we experience in marriage, love is a commitment. It isn’t always about what feels good or easy. It perseveres, hopes, and trusts even when times are hard. Especially when times are hard. That’s when the emotions run out and foster mom love looks like changing diapers and sleepless nights and going to meetings and dealing with unpredictable court decisions and teaching someone to eat their broccoli who has never seen a green vegetable before. It short, it looks like being the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting child, a family in crisis, a broken system.” -Maralee, foster mom

Songs of Defiance

It’s no news to anyone who has met my son that he is the definition of “strong willed.” I sometimes think his mission in life is to drive me crazy. I overhear him giving commands to Peanut, and I’m pretty sure it’s just so he can feel that he has exerted some form of authority over someone. First child syndrome much?

As parents to this assertive child, we are constantly trying to give him some options so he feels he’s in control of something but at the same time trying to make sure he realizes he has to listen to us. It’s not an easy task. The other day he told us that he is the boss. I calmly replied that he actually isn’t the boss, but mommy & daddy are the ones in charge. He got quiet for a second and then said, “Okay, you’re the big boss, but I’m the little boy boss.” Ummm, no. That’s not a thing, Lincoln.

Since he often gets in trouble for verbally defying us, he has recently turned to songwriting as a form of expression. I call these his “songs of defiance” or “odes of insubordination.” The other day I heard him singing in his bedroom, “I looove you, but I just can’t pick up my toyyyyys.” His song about not cleaning his room. This morning he was in the other room playing and singing, “Who’s the boss? I’m the boss. Lalalala.” I guess he assumes if he sings the things he wishes he could say in a happy tone he can’t get in that much trouble. Boy, do I have my hands full with this one. When I feel like I’m losing it, I usually start saying, “He’s intelligent. He’s strong. He’ll be a leader and not a follower when he grows up.” While his personality may be a benefit in the future, for now…..pray for me.

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Christmas 2013

Is it just me or did the second half of 2013 fly by at a ridiculous pace? I missed blogging so many things, including a wonderful trip to West Virginia, Thanksgiving, and NYC. To catch up or not to catch up….We shall see.

Back to Christmas. Each year is a little more fun with Lincoln as he gets older and can really get into the fun of all the festivities. He has loved saying, “Merry Christmas!” everywhere we go.

This boy melts my heart. Getting ready to visit family on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve at his grandparents’ house.

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He was given a fire truck that belonged to his daddy many years ago.

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Love these two.

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If I’m lucky enough to live to be an old lady, I imagine that the images of my baby in his flannel pajamas jumping up and down as he opens presents on Christmas morning will be among the sweetest memories I’ll have in life.

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Can you tell he gets basically no attention from my family? Opening his gift from Mimi & Papa.

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Playing with his Sonic from Uncle Tyler & almost Aunt Laura. Those two stayed with us this week, and Lincoln was beyond thrilled to spend so much time with them. Any time they left to visit other family & friends, he whined and moped around.

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My grandparents. Dad’s parents and mom’s mom. (Plus one of my grandma’s friends)

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Photobombed

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Annual in-front-of-the-tree photo with the love of my life.

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Grandpa striking his goofy pose.

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My sweet grandma. I miss her a lot, and don’t get to see her often enough.

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We were lucky enough to have some friends join the family gathering. Love these guys.

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Salas men.

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