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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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Canyon and mamaHe is here, he is home, he is healthy. Thank you, God! And he is already one month old today. How can that be?? It has been a month of change and adjustment and emotion but my baby is here and I am grateful for his life every single day.

Our second son, Canyon Boaz Vetter, entered this world 5 days past his due date and after 15 hours of labor at 2:37pm on September 21st, weighing 9lbs 9oz and measuring 21 1/2 inches long. He joined 6 1/2 year old big sister Meadow Grace and 3 1/2 year old big brother Granite Isaiah and so far both have shown nothing but complete adoration for their baby brother. My mom told me that it is with baby #3 that you learn to really stop and savor the sweetness of those early moments. And she was right.

I have many stories I would like to tell (as much because I don’t want to forget them as anything) including a few from my pregnancy (still need to finish my 300 series, among others…), Canyon’s birth story, what I experienced while he was in the NICU and some of my thoughts and emotions and experiences from this past month of being a new mama of 3. But seeing as I have barely figured out how to even get all 4 of us dressed each day…well, you get the picture. 😉

Stay tuned, my friends. I do hope you will hear from me again soon!

His and Yours, ~Echo~

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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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It was several weeks ago that Meadow and I watched the movie “Secret Garden”, a movie (and book) that I enjoyed as a young girl. The movie is striking to me, for many reasons, but the one that has stayed with me these last few weeks is the absolutely breathtaking and almost unbelievable beauty of the secret garden, after which the movie is titled. As I experienced this movie, sitting on my couch, in the den of our house, in the middle of the big city that is Nashville, I got lost. Lost in the lush greenery covering almost every inch of the garden’s grounds and spilling over the garden’s stone walls. Lost in the stunning contrast of color between the gray of the stones and the green of the vines.  Lost in the kaleidoscope fashioned by the reds and pinks and purples and yellows and blues of each flower, thousands of them, growing so abundantly as to leave a person barely enough room to wander through them or, as I did, get lost in them. A thrill for the senses, even through a tv screen.

The movie ends with a shot of Mary’s hand, holding a flower as she says, “The spell was broken. My uncle learned to laugh and I learned to cry. The secret garden is always open now. Open…and awake…and alive. If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Which got me thinking…

…about where I find my own garden – those little experiences, each day, when, even if only for a moment, I get lost in the beauty of this world.

And I realized…

…I find my garden when I sit in the back yard, on a beautiful day, while my children are napping, and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, the freshness of the air in my lungs, and the quiet of an afternoon spent outdoors. I find it each time I see the bouquet of flowers sitting on my kitchen counter, the one my husband brought me, just because. I find it when I read one chapter of a really good book before I go to sleep at night. I find it when I look through my wedding scrapbook (the one I worked really hard on and am very proud of, the only scrapbook I have ever finished! 🙂 ) and remember the moments of that amazing day, almost seven years ago. I find it when I overhear the hilarious and often heartwarming conversations between my children, and between my children and their friends. I find it in the morning, when I sit at my dining room table, eating breakfast, reading my Bible, writing in my prayer journal, and feeling God’s spirit fill the room around me. I find it in a favorite song, a well-made movie, a thoughtful note written to me by my husband or a close friend. I find it while I am running on the trails at River Park, breathing heavy but steady and thanking God for the strong and healthy body that He has blessed me with. I find it in a kiss from my son, a smile from my daughter, and the peaceful faces of my sleeping children when I go in to check on them late in the night.  I find it in the arms of my devoted and always forgiving husband and in the acceptance and loyalty of my precious friends and family. I find it in the sunset, in the sunrise, in the blooms of spring and the leaves of fall, in the sounds of a thunderstorm and in the colors of the rainbow that is soon to follow.

And I ask…where is your garden? Because…

…beauty is everywhere. We just have to find it…experience it…appreciate it…and maybe even get lost in it.

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one of Mg's outfits

Meadow and I spent last Thursday night in “Fashion 101”.

Our teacher: My sister-in-law, Meaghan.

Our classroom: Meadow’s bedroom.

Our materials: The entire contents of Meadow’s dresser and closet and jewelry box. And a camera.

Our objective  (or more accurately, my objective): To create a photo album of outfits, put together by Meaghan, for Meadow to refer to each morning when she is getting herself ready for the day.

My motive: To help prevent my four-

another outfit

year old from looking like a mismatched, hippy, homeless kid. To assist my four-year old in wearing clothes that fit well, that match, that look presentable.

So how, you might ask, did this idea come about? The idea came about the week before, after a night when Meaghan spent an hour or so hanging out with Meadow in her room. I don’t know what all they did during that hour. What I do know is that Meadow wore a very cute outfit later that week and that when I commented on it, Meadow told me, excitedly, that Meaghan picked it out. Thus, an idea was born.

outfit #3

Question: How can I get my kid to dress well, every day, without a long, exasperating argument discussion, every morning, about what she should and should not wear?

Answer: Get Meaghan to pick it out!

Results: Meadow has, happily and excitedly, referred to her photos, almost every day since that night.

Thank you Meaghan for being a solution to our my problem! Thank you for spending two hours of your time playing dress-up with us! Thank you for using your time and your talents to bless us. We love you!

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I am continually amused and intrigued by my children and their perspectives. Wednesday night was a good example of this…

It is about 9:00pm and I am laying in Meadow’s bed, snuggled under the covers. I have just finished reading her our second Bible story (out of the “Beginner’s Bible” that we have been reading through every night for the last few months) when she tries, as she does every night, to read the title of tomorrow night’s story. Tonight, however, the title has two words in it that she is unfamiliar with and cannot read. So she asks:

Meadow: “What are those two words?”

(I answer hesitantly, knowing what the next question will be and feeling unprepared to answer it.)

Me: “Um…arrested and crucified.”

Meadow: “What does it mean?”

Me: Arrested? Arrested means they took Jesus to jail.”

Meadow: “And what does the other word mean?”

Me: “Crucified means that they killed Him.”

(With my second answer her expression darkens and she asks with wide eyes…)

Meadow: “You mean they killed Him and took Him to jail?!”

(At this, part of me is holding back a smile at the word order of her question and part of me is feeling emotion about her emotion…)

Me: “Yes. It’s very sad.”

Meadow: “You mean the man in the book!? Jesus, the man in the book, they killed Him!?”

Me: “Yes. It’s a sad story, isn’t it? But then it becomes a happy story!”

(She looks confused and incredulous by this answer and says…)

Meadow: “A sad story can’t become a happy story! How can a sad story become a happy story?”

Me: “Because after Jesus dies, God makes Him alive and brings Him to Heaven.”

(At this point she pauses, staring at a spot on the wall, frowning slightly. She stays quiet for a moment and her expression changes. Her furrowed brow softens and a small smile appears where her frown was and she states quietly…)

Meadow: “Yeah…because God has magical powers!”

(I smile at this unexpected answer and reply…)

Me: “Yeah, I guess He kind of does.”

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