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Just when I think I’ve got this whole motherhood thing figured out (which usually lasts about four point three seconds), one of my three throws another curve ball. This time it was my oldest.

For the majority of her seven years of life, my oldest has been my easiest- compliant, mature, helpful, gentle, trustworthy. She is big sister to two brothers (ages four and one) and exhibits first born qualities through out the day, every day. She is my helper, my sidekick, my shadow. So when, on a now forgotten date, some weeks ago, she began exhibiting behaviors I had never seen in her before, I quickly became more than a little perplexed.

Dark was her mood for many of those days, and not in the way of a young child, not in the way of her brothers when they pout or whine or lash out. This was different. This was new. -Honestly, she reminded me of my darkest days as a teenager, days when I was sullen and brooding and weepy with no idea why or what in the world to do about it. (“Can a seven year old be hormonal??” I kept thinking. “Surely not!”)- Many tears were shed over those few weeks (most of them hers, a couple mine), as I wondered what was happening to my girl and what was I, her mama, going to do about it? But it wasn’t until last week that I became alarmed when she not once, but twice within a few days time, was physically unkind to her brother.

Now I realize that in many households this is normal- siblings fight, siblings hit and push or worse- and would not necessarily be cause for alarm. But this has never been the case in our home. (ok, I take that back, my one year old hits when he is mad -or frustrated or whatever it is that one year olds get- and that was probably the case when my other two were that age as well.) But now, and for as long as I can remember, Meadow and Granite do not and have not been siblings that physically fight. So last week when one argument with Granite led to her angrily pushing him off the bed with her foot and another involved her hitting his leg in response to something he said, I knew something just wasn’t right. (Both times I happened to walk in the room right as she did it, allowing me to observe and understand in a way I could not have had I only learned about it through Granite telling on her. I think that was a God thing.)

So last Thursday night (after the morning that Meadow hit Granite’s leg, her second “offense”) we were in the car on the way home, Meadow and Granite bickering in the very back seat of the van, Chaz and I talking quietly in the front as I tried not to overreact to the bickering, and Canyon observing it all from his carseat in the middle, when I brought up the hitting incident and expressed my concerns about what was going on with Meadow. I had mentioned her behavior several times prior but not with as much emphasis or concern. “I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t understand where this behavior is coming from.” were some of my words to my husband. And it was right around that time that the bickering in the backseat escalated (once again, as had happened so many times that week, thanks to Meadow) to the point that Meadow was told by her father not to speak again until we got home (about five minutes away).

“You guys go on inside. I’m going to stay in the car and talk to Meadow.” were Chaz’s words to me as we pulled into our driveway. I gathered the boys and their bags, headed inside and began getting them both ready for bed, all the while thinking about my girl and wondering what was being said in the van sitting under our carport.

About fifteen minutes later father and daughter entered our back door and Meadow quickly, quietly headed to her room to get ready for bed, Granite following her close behind. I greeted them both from the couch then watched Meadow walk away, noting that I would talk with her after talking to my hubby. Standing, with Canyon on my hip, I asked my hubby how the talk went, what was said, what was her response to him. Almost immediately his eyes filled with tears. Alarmed and surprised I waited for him to speak. He recounted their conversation, speaking the words that brought his tears-

“A few minutes into the conversation it dawned on me to ask, ‘Has someone  been treating you that way?’ (referencing her hitting and pushing her brother), to which she immediately answered, ‘Yes, Amaya next door hits and pushes me sometimes and she yells at me.'”

At that point he paused, giving me a chance to gently ask, “Why the tears?”

“It’s just so pitiful. She’s never been treated that way by anyone. And you know it’s been on her mind by how quickly she answered me. Just picturing her dealing with that and thinking about that…” he kind of trailed off at that point, tears still filling his eyes.

We talked for a minute more before the older two ran back into the room, then decided to continue the conversation later, after all the loud short people were in bed. I hugged my husband fiercely, so very grateful for his care and concern for our daughter and our family, and kissed him goodbye as he headed back out the door to return to work for several more hours.

And for the rest of that night and for the past week since, Meadow has been back to her usual self- chipper, talkative, helpful, occasionally emotional, sometimes selfish, silly, gentle and kind. Her mood has been joyful, her aura light, her energy pure. Our home has returned to its usual state- quiet and peaceful, full of chatter and laughter, with a bit of arguing and bickering mixed in.

And all this week I have asked myself: How could one conversation with her daddy release my girl from the torment that was causing such ugly behavior, such emotion, such a dark mood for so much of those three weeks?

This is what I have come up with, these are the lessons I have learned (or relearned maybe?) from the kid next door:

1) Learn to ask good questions. I think sometimes our children/the people around us are hurting or thinking/feeling things that they need to express and just don’t know how to without a little prompting. Learn to ask good questions. And lots of them.

2) Don’t always take a child’s/person’s behavior at face value. Children/people are selfish creatures and much of their ugly behavior stems from this. But other times they are only reacting out of the hurt that they are experiencing or feeling. Don’t assume their bad behavior is just them being “bad”. It could be from them feeling hurt.

3) Don’t be naive and assume that the children your children are playing with are going to treat them with respect and kindness. Be observant. Be vigilant. Be appropriately protective, especially until your children are old enough to protect themselves.

4) And lastly: There is power in the spoken word. I have learned (relearned) this for myself recently as I have fought some ugly demons (another post for another time) and watched the stronghold that these demons have had on my heart loosen each time I confess/express/speak them to a friend or family member. I saw that same power the night Chaz talked with Meadow. So speak, my friends, speak! Find someone you trust, someone who loves you and speak your truth, speak your struggle, speak your demons. Find the faith, the humility, the guts, and speak! And if you have no one, no one in your life to listen with compassion, please, please message me. I know an incredible counselor and would love to pass along his number. I am also a willing listener myself. Speak what weighs on your heart and watch as the load begins to lighten.

I hurt when my children hurt. I so much want to protect them, protect myself, avoid any and all hurt as well as I possibly can. But I am also learning that life’s hurts usually lead to life’s greatest lessons. And that that is one small/huge piece in our story of redemption. So I  am also grateful. Grateful and learning and hurting and laughing. Thanks for reading, friends. Let me know if you need me.

Sincerely Yours,

~Echo~

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my travel companions

The trip was a last minute one. And a first for me and the kids, seeing as we had never before left town with just the three (ok, technically four) of us in the van. But my hard working hubby needed to stay in Nashville and work and my mom, dad, youngest sister, two friends and grandmother (the crew we would be spending the weekend with) all left town on Thursday (a day before we were able to get away). And even though packing and cleaning and loading by myself was a bit overwhelming (mostly because my very pregnant body makes everything overwhelming these days), the six year old was a huge help and the four hour drive went so smoothly I would actually describe the time as enjoyable! I did miss my hubby those three days (and the kids missed their daddy!) but I am so thankful we decided to go! The time away was worth every ounce of extra energy it took to get out of town.

The three days were quiet, peaceful (other than some major struggles with my three year old. another post for another time.) and relaxing and took place surrounded by breathtaking views of The Great Smoky Mountains. And as it always does, getting out of the city gave me the time, the distance and the space to reflect and calibrate…

So, here are a few of my thoughts and reflections in no particular order:

1) You don’t have to fly to Hawaii or Europe to see spectacular sights, sights you may never have had the privilege of seeing before. There are more of them than you think, closer than you think and they are worth looking for!

2) My boy is, well, just that- a boy. And he needs time out of this house. Time to explore and get dirty and burn off his surplus of energy. Just because one of us is carrying around an extra 30 pounds and would prefer to lay on the couch all day, doesn’t mean we all feel that way…

3) It’s a whole lot easier for me to believe that all of this was created by a Creator than that it all began by chance or coincidence or a meteor.

4) I may have been born in the wrong century. We spent our three days in a cabin in the woods with no internet or television and, somewhat surprisingly, I did not miss either in the slightest. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of posting that statement on my blog. Technology does have it’s advantages.)

5) I packed less than I’ve ever packed for a trip and we still didn’t use everything I brought. Maybe someday I will get this whole simplifying/minimalism thing figured out…

6) My enormous belly gets me way more attention than I am comfortable with. I cannot remember the last time I showed up somewhere and didn’t have a stranger ask me if I was about to go into labor. I suppose that could have something to do with the fact that that portion of my torso now enters a room a good ten inches before the rest of me does…but does it have to get comments everywhere I go?

7) I love, love, love to walk and run and hike and I am so excited to be able to do those things to my heart’s content again in the very near future!!!

8 ) God blessed me with an incredibly loving and supportive family, something for which I am constantly and eternally grateful!

(This post would more appropriately be titled, “Life Lessons: What I Learned and What I Was Reminded of During Our Three Days in Gatlinburg and from Our Adventure in Cades Cove”. But that seemed a bit wordy for a blog post title…)

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I had a moment with my five year old on Sunday. I don’t know what to call it really- precious, heartbreaking, hilarious…a misunderstanding- it was all of those.

Chaz and I and the kids are at Mazatlan. We are sitting at a long table with four other families. Granite is sitting between Chaz and me, Meadow is sitting at the end of the table with another couple. We all sit and talk and peruse the lunch menu until our waiter comes and takes our orders.

About five minutes after we have all finished ordering Meadow walks over and stands by my chair.

“Mama, can I have a cheeseburger?” she asks quietly.

“Oh honey, we already ordered,” I reply. “You’re gonna have some of the chicken that mommy and daddy are having. You can have a cheeseburger next time.”

Her expression changes but she doesn’t move, doesn’t speak.

“Please mom, can I have a cheeseburger?” she asks again after several moments of silence. (This is not unusual. Often she will ask for something, I will say no, and she will ask once more before I sternly remind her not to ask again when mommy has already said no) But this time was a bit peculiar. Usually her second time to ask for something is a bit whiney and more like pleading than asking. This second time was calm, but insistent.  Peculiar.

I pause, intrigued by her tone. “Did you ask daddy?” I ask her.

“Yes. He said no too,” she responds.

“Meadow!” I scold, “If daddy said no, you shouldn’t ask mommy. You need to respect what daddy said. We already ordered. You can have a cheeseburger next time.”

Another pause, then again, without whining but with a hint of tears in her eyes and in her voice. “Please mama, please can I have a cheeseburger?”

“No.” I reply, once more. “Mommy and daddy both said no. Do not ask again or you will be in trouble.”

And again quietly, this time with a tear or two escaping and running down her cheek, desperation in her voice, “Please mom. Can I have a cheeseburger?”

At this point I am appalled and more than irritated. I cannot believe she has asked four times for the cheeseburger! It’s like she is not hearing me at all! I turn to Chaz and ask him to talk to her, she sits beside him and cries as he does. I cannot hear what he is saying. I take the moment to calm my frustrations. Meadow stays in the chair beside Chaz for several minutes before returning to her seat beside our friends. I get distracted, talking to the couple beside us and forget, for a moment, what just occured between my daughter and me.

A few minutes later our table’s orders arrive.

“Chicken quesadilla?” the waiter asks. The friend sitting beside me responds that it is her’s.

“Cheeseburger?” he asks, holding up the next plate. No one responds. Several of us look at each other.

“Cheeseburger?” the waiter asks again. Still no response. “It must be another table’s,” someone says. The waiter sets it down and moves on.

In that moment I look at my husband. My eyebrows raise, and his do as well, as it dawns on both of us what has happened. We look over at our five year old. She is sitting in her chair, tears streaming down her face, looking stuck and absolutely miserable.

“Did you order a cheeseburger?” I ask her. She nods miserably. I resist the urge to burst out laughing. I find the situation both hilarious and pitiful all at the same time.

I turn to the couple sitting beside her, “Did she order it all by herself!?” (this has never happened before)

“She said that was what she wanted. We helped her order it.” they respond.

We tell the waiter who ordered the cheeseburger and I look at my daughter as he sets it down in front of her. She is still crying.

My heart melts as I become fully aware of the situation- She expressed to our friends what she wanted to eat. They ordered it for her. She realized then that she had not asked first, so she asks, after the fact, probably not expecting us to continually and firmly say no. She can’t get a yes, but knows its already been ordered and doesn’t know what to do. (why she didn’t just tell us that she had already ordered it and deal with it that way, I do not know.) So she asks way too many times, then falls to pieces as the inevitable arrival of the unauthorized cheeseburger becomes more and more imminent. Oh. My. Word. My heart melts.

I stand up from my chair, walk over to my daughter’s chair and motion for her to follow me. We find a quiet corner in the restaurant (in an effort to avoid embarrassing her further by talking to her in front of the entire table) and I hold her in my lap as she cries. We talk. I explain to her that it was one big misunderstanding, that she is not in trouble, that I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, that sometimes misunderstandings happen. I tell her it is ok for her to eat her cheeseburger, remind her again that she is not in trouble and hold her tightly, whispering a few more assurances into her sweet smelling curls.

She says she does not want her cheeseburger, that she is not hungry, that she just wants to go home. I tell her I understand that she is emotional, that we should take some deep breaths and go back to the table and eat. She repeats her first statement. I realize then that continuing to talk about it is probably not going to help. I change the subject. I suggest that we set the cheeseburger aside, eat it later when she does get hungry, and work on coloring a picture for her aunt who has had an emotional morning too. This idea peaks her interest. She stops crying, asks why her aunt is emotional, then gets excited about drawing a picture to help her aunt not be sad anymore.

I take her back to the table and sit her between me and her brother. She shares half of her fries with him, dumping a mound of ketchup onto her plate for him to dip his fries in. We talk and color and eventually her appetite returns.

As I watch her sitting beside me, eating her burger and fries, coloring her picture and talking to her brother, I am reminded how much I adore my children. I think about how important good communication is. I realize that, even in ridiculous and irritating situations, I am so, so blessed to be a mama of two fascinating, complicated, unique little people. And I decide that when I get home, I will have to write a blog post about the inevitable arrival of the unauthorized cheeseburger!

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Today’s Random Thoughts and Observations in No Particular Order:

– I think spring is magical. The blooms on our trees, the flowers, the sunshine, the warm air, the cool breeze, the noisy birds, green grass, not having to bundle up to go check the mail, no longer being stuck inside for months on end, the desire to spend every waking moment outdoors (although, with this weather, napping outside sounds appealing too), the itch to clean and be active and be productive, the endless signs of life and beauty and rejuvination that surround me every time I step out the door or look out the window- magical.

– Sleeping with my baby boy (for the first time since he was 2 months old), in our guest bed, 2 of the last 3 nights, because he is very sick and I am worried about what might happen if I let him sleep in his crib for his usual 12-14 hours, is absolutely precious, but not remotely restful. Both nights he moved non-stop, including lots of kicking, hitting, and lying on top of me, rolling, scooting and throwing the covers around- all in his sleep. So, though he is probably rested (if you can be, when you are that active in your sleep) I. Am. Not.

– Being sick sucks. I have not felt good for almost a week now and I am feeling great compassion for people who deal with chronic pain and illness. I am really struggling with my patience and my attitude, and I have only felt this way for 6 days. I cannot imagine the patience and strength of character it takes for people who feel bad every day, to be even the least bit functional.

– One of the things that drives me crazy about being sick is feeling like I am trapped in my head. What I mean is- I look around me and there are so many things I want and need to do- I need to do the dishes and fold the laundry and clean up the piles of papers and toys that are accumulating around our house, I want to workout and run around with my kids and do some spring cleaning and plant flowers and go to the park with my mom friends and their kiddos and really take advantage of this gorgeous weather, I want/need to do a lot- but every time I stand up all I can think is “How long till I can lay down again?”. Its like my brain is still going a mile a minute with its wants and thoughts and to do lists, but my body just can’t keep up.

– My son can count to 10! I am so excited and proud of him! He is learning things, even though he rarely lets on that he is listening or interested or catching on. I will ask him frequenly to count with me or sing the ABCs or point out colors and he usually refuses. But last week I heard him and his friend Nora counting before they jumped from coffee table to couch and this morning I heard him counting with his sister! Yay, Bubba. I am so proud of you.

– I needed some soothing music this morning, to quiet my restless, frustrated spirit and I realized then that Amy Grant and Celine Dion are the two artists that have the most immediate and powerful affect on me. I think this is because my dad often played their music when I was living at home, so they both, more than any other, take me back to my childhood. (Christmas music has the same affect!) Thank you, daddy, for creating such a safe and peaceful home for me to grow up in. (And thank you, mama. You were a big part of that too.)

– I desperately need to do some decluttering. I vacillate between only keeping what I love and what I use, and getting this strange urge to keep anything and everything (because “I might need it someday or miss it if I get rid of it!”). What is wrong with me? I know that the “If you don’t love it or use it, get rid of it!” policy is what brings peace and order to my home. Why do I ever stray from this?

– I decided to do a cleanse of sorts yesterday and Monday, after eating waaay to much junk over the weekend. It is amazing to me how two days of deprivation can change one’s perspective. I allowed myself a cup of coffee this morning (my first consumption of caffeine or sugar since Sunday). The coffee, usually a given, something I drink every morning and take for granted and don’t always relish or pay particular attention to, seemed like such a treat! So, if you are wanting to reawaken your senses, your enjoyment and appreciation for life’s little treats, try not allowing yourself to have them for a period of time- and see what happens!

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I was looking through old Word documents tonight and found this letter I wrote almost five years ago. As soon as I began reading it, memories and emotions from that year began flooding into my mind. What a precious time in our life- the year we became parents.

——————–

To: Daddy                                 From: MG and Mommy
 

Father’s Day 2005

Well, the list is far too long – of things we adore and appreciate about you – so we made a list of the top ten that we want to thank you for…

10. Thank you for going to work every day to provide for us and for going to school these last two years – we know it takes a lot out of you – we are very proud of how well you have done and how well you balance school work with taking care of us.

9. Thank you for not getting frustrated if we are running late or the house is a mess or dinner is not on the table – you are always so kind and forgiving.

8. Thank you for keeping smiles on our faces and laughter in our voices – for being so silly and entertaining us all the time.

7. Thank you for holding mommy when she is sad and for holding MG when she is sad. We always feel much better when you are holding us.

6. Thank you for being so humble and so quick to apologize. You are such a good example of that.

5. Thank you for protecting mommy’s purity when you guys were dating (even though there were times when you didn’t really want to) and for helping pass that legacy on to MG.

4. Thank you for being so patient with our emotions (especially mommy’s).

3. Thank you for being so open and honest with us. We feel very secure knowing that we can trust you completely.

2. Thank you for the depth of relationship that each of us has and will continue to have with you – for not viewing us as a job or a responsibility that you come home to every night.

1. Thank you most of all for loving God and for striving every day to be more like His son – because of that you have shown us a love that is greater than any other. We love you so much!

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Today I am glad that I…

got out of of bed at 6:15 a.m.

worked out with my Hubby.

texted with a close friend about how both of our days were going.

read a few chapters from James and 1st Peter in “The Message”.

got to hear Granite talk. (His vocabulary amazes me! So exciting.)

worked on a dinner calendar and sign up list for a friend who just had a baby.

read books to Meadow.

cleaned my kitchen.

ate a fairly healthy, balanced diet (no sweets today!) and drank lotsa water.

got to talk to my sweet Hubby who provides for our family so that I can stay home with our children.

played games with Meadow.

spent a few minutes working on my “Happiness Journal”.

 

And I am not so glad that I…

cannot escape this cold, dreary, awful weather.

got frustrated with Granite for fussing sooo much!

did not finish the laundry. Again. Sigh.

told Meadow “just five more minutes and I can play with you” about sixteen times in a row (probably fifteen times too many).

felt overwhelmed in the moments when two or three people were talking to me at the same time, needing my attention and/or my help.

spent too much time on Facebook. (Anyone else need to join Facebookaholics anonymous?)

had to listen to my son cry as I left his room at bedtime.

spent a little too much time in my head. I gotta get out of there more.

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