The Little Guy’s Word for the Year: Hope

It was a rough start to the school year if you’ve been following my life in the middle of the Madness! The Little Guy clearly was struggling with expectations for behavior. I don’t know if it was the stress of school starting back up, the increased academic pressures of third grade, or just a trial of flexing his eight-year-old will, but he and I clashed over the importance of telling the truth about his misbehavior. In turn, I had to flex my brain in keeping up with consequences for behavior – writing “I shall only speak the truth” two hundred times, grounding, missing Halloween and finally, the ultimate consequence (which only works in the winter holiday season) – you shall not receive any Christmas gifts other than socks and the traditional gift of a book.

To “Mr. Resilient” this didn’t phase him. One day on the way to gymnastics practice, he was flipping through the Target toy catalog that had recently arrived. He found a pen on the floor of the car and started describing the toys that he was circling in anticipation. I matter-of-factly reminded him that his only gifts under the tree would be empty boxes wrapped in wrapping paper (handy that the boys don’t believe in Santa) and he nonchalantly responded without pause, “Well, there’s always next year.”  The circling continued.

I took every opportunity in late fall to remind him of behaviors and consequences. Lying to your mother is serious enough to miss Halloween, remember. And when you do it AGAIN, you miss Christmas. But any time you think up a consequence as a parent, you better be sure that you have the strength to pull it off. And gosh, Christmas is Christmas. That’s a tough one.

A couple days before Christmas, Mr. Ornery (age 10) decided to check on my resolve, clearly a little worried for his little brother. “Did you really not buy The Little Guy anything for Christmas?” “Oh, I told him. Lying is serious. All he’s getting is a book and empty boxes.”

Christmas morning arrived. The boys entertained themselves (The Little Guy made a ‘vlog’ video of himself brushing his teeth) while I took the dog for her morning walk. They impatiently sat on the top steps as I got the oven on to warm up breakfast. They begrudgingly (and with almost a smile from all of them) participated in the requisite selfies and photos of them in matching pajamas. They sprang to the family room. They jumped upon their stockings and whipped through the smaller gifts while shoveling handfuls of chocolates into their mouths. (Super Tall Guy sorted his stocking stuffers into “worthy of keeping” and “garbage” piles! 😊). I love stockings.

And then it was time to turn to the gifts. After the initial excitement of trying to stockpile some gifts, I glanced over at The Little Guy. He sat with a small pile of wrapped boxes. I handed him some gifts labeled 1, 2 and 3. I explained those were his gifts this year. He warily opened Gift 1. It was a box with three clementine oranges and a piece of paper that read “Don’t Lie.” Box 2 was a box with animal crackers and a paper that read “Don’t Lose….”  Box 3 was empty with a sheet of paper that read “….Hope.”

The Little Guy broke into tears.

I said, “Hey, what does ‘hope’ mean?” trying to break through the sobbing.  “Little Guy, what does ‘hope’ mean?” He ran from the room as I followed. My arms encircled him as he wept on the stairs. “What does hope mean?” I asked again. “I don’t know,” he cried.

“Buddy, ‘hope’ means ‘waiting for something good.”

“Let’s start over and think about this. Don’t lie. But don’t lose hope.”

I sat him back down in the family room and Mr. Ornery and I carried in a large box brimming with gifts. The smile returned to The Little Guy’s face. Hope returned to the Little Guy’s heart.

And that has become his word of the year. When you make a mistake, don’t lose hope. Things can turn around. When life looks bleak, don’t lose hope. Wait for good to come again.

Days later the boys and I sat in the theater watching the final Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker. The Little Guy caught the word among the dialogue in one scene and turned to me with a smile, “Hope, they just said. I guess that’s my word.”

Harsh? Quite possibly. But then, I don’t think he’ll forget the meaning of Hope for awhile. I also hope that he doesn’t forget the reason we went through this and how important Truth is.

Now if only I could get that lesson to sink into Mr. Ornery…..

….works in progress is what we all are….

Advent Week Three into Four: Fighting for Joy


adventChristmas is always my favorite time of year. I think I just like lights…on trees, on bushes, on houses, on boys’ bunkbeds. They seem to emanate a feeling of peace and comfort. But the end of this year has been pretty bumpy and it’s been hard to capture any peace.  It could be the endless roll of medical visits for my three boys (two fractures, bead in the ear, strep throat, medication checks, flu shots) or the endless saga of behavioral crises that my sister’s boys are wrestling with as the year comes to a close.

It could be the pervasive sense of sadness that settled in in early November when less than half of the voters still triumphed. It’s impossible to see any Joy in the one who is to be our new leader, yet who is so far from a Christian role model that I want to shield my sons from all news until this crisis is over.

It could be the deluge of photos showing the reality of hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying in Syria. It could be the feeling of powerlessness as a hurricane wipes out lives and livelihood for thousands in Haiti.

It could be the unpredictability of violence in the neighborhood, the financial drain of a house still sitting on the market, the uncertainty of funding at my current employment.

It could be a lot of little irritants throughout a day. It could be all-consuming disgust and annoyance. It could be boys who squabble, or whistle in the car, or throw remotes in frustration, or roll around on a kitchen floor to trip over when trying to make dinner. It could be the slow slow slow plodding march every….single….night to shift three little brains from alertness to dream state. It could be any of a hundred of weights in a single moment.

But it could also be moments of Peace. (Nah, that’s only when they’re asleep). It could be moments of Love in the notes Mr. Ornery writes to say he’s sorry. It could be elfmoments of Joy in watching Super Tall Guy in his first performance playing the saxophone. It could be moments of Hope in the excitement of The Little Guy waiting for Christmas (and expectantly looking for the elf that the babysitter likes to hide).


It could be all these moments if the focus is in the right place. For there is only One from whom Peace passes all understanding, Love surpasses knowledge, Hope yields eternal life, and Joy fills the soul. Only one.

May we all seek and find that Joy, Peace, Hope and Love this moment, this day, this year and into the next.

Merry Christmas to All!tree



Advent Candle of Hope

Sunday was the first day of Advent. My boys don’t really care about the “anticipation” and the “waiting” for Jesus. They care about the wreath on the dining table that has candles on it. Candles can only mean one thing – the chance to fight about who gets to light the candles and who gets to blow them out. That’s what Advent is to them. Though they did learn last year that Mommy means what she says – keep fighting, keep arguing, keep driving me nuts, and that wreath disappears!!

So we sit down to a fine dinner of spaghetti and meatballs Sunday evening and light the first candle – the candle of Hope. I ask each one what they are hopeful for – and no, that particular Christmas gift does not count.

A couple hours later, during a typical wrestling match, Mr. Ornery apparently delivered a well-executed sweep kick that crashed the five-year-old to the floor. I did not witness said move as I was in the kitchen, doing what all single moms do after a meal – hiding and praying for a moment of quiet. But no, the Little Guy is screams in pain, and his unempathetic mom gives him a kiss and an elbow rub and a “get over it” look and we’re ready for bed, guys! After all, it is bedtime and sleep heals all wounds.

And what I realize in that moment is that all I’m hoping for this Advent Season is a moment of peace….which is not to be.

So here’s this year’s list of Advent Hope.

  1. Hope for just a few evenings of quiet to sit on the couch and stare at the tree lights.
  2. Hope that the hurt elbow heals up by the morning. This Hope, however,sam-cast2wp was replaced with Monday evening at Express Care and Tuesday afternoon spent in the Emergency Room for a lovely HUGE cast! (Mind you, on the same day, Super Tall Guy finished his 3rd week of boot-wearing after 3 weeks of casting. One out of a cast and one into a cast! Delightful.)
  3. Hope that this fracture train will end and the third boy keeps his bones intact! (He seems to hold the opposite hope, as these casts apparently to draw pretty cool attention according to his logic!)
  4. Hope that the dog will never ever ever again bark from her crate in the morning and wake me up on my golden morning of sleeping in as she did last Sunday! Really, dog?!?
  5. Hope that the boys will develop a much better aim for bodily fluids because I’m in-toiletgetting pretty tired of being the janitor (or else their hands are going to be cramping with writing assignments! “It’s 50 this time but it’s going to be 200 next time!”)
  6. Hope that we get a few more nice evenings to enjoy my early Christmas gift of a fire pit on the front patio (and again, not struggle with “behaviors” related to messing with fire!).
  7. Hope that there will be more dull moments this season – when the to-do list isn’t rumbling around in the back of my skull and the hype isn’t stirring up the boys’ inability to control impulses – and that we actually enjoy the days and each other (I know, too much to hope for, but I’m going to try).
  8. Hope that I can instill some meaningful traditions into this season where the boys catch a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas and think about others for a few seconds; I’m only asking for a couple seconds.
  9. Hope for the world and all its people to find some peace and know that Christ is the Light of the world that disperses darkness.
  10. Hope for continued love and support of family and friends, and for patience….lots of patience….I need lots of patience…..

I Choose Love

It’s been an absolutely crazy week in the news and I know most of us are struggling with understanding what is happening and trying to figure out what we can and should do.

What’s most important, it seems to me, is to maintain hope. Just like we know that individual humans make mistakes, groups of humans and countries also make mistakes.

But it is the individual who has to hold the hope. The hope that there is better and can be better. And then collectively we can share the hope.

There must be enough of us to say, “I know you are hurting at this time and the world and the country seems bleak, but I will hold the hope.” For the time being, I will be the one to hold the hope.

Mat awesome

Suntan lotion fun with Super Tall Guy

I am doing that for my boys. They don’t even know that I am holding the hope for them. They don’t know that internally I wrestle with knowing that their brown skin glows and glistens and that beautiful skin will mark them and label them. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that I worry about them every day. Will they make good decisions or bad ones? Will they make poor choices in friendships or be surrounded in love? Will they thrive or flounder? They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that I pour my heart and soul into thinking about them and what’s best for them. They don’t know that I sacrifice almost all my time and a (very) high percentage of my income for them. They don’t know that I’m desperately trying to get this parenting thing “right” for their sake. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that this world is huge and going through some crazy times right now. They don’t know much about the violence and racism and fighting and division. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

This week what runs through my mind over and over is “I choose love.” No matter what is happening around me, I choose love. For the sake of my boys, I choose love. For the sake of changing the world, I choose love. For the sake of those who need to hear it, I choose love.

If we respond in love,

If we react in love,

If we live in love,

the world will be better.

I hold the hope and I choose love.


Light in the darkness of fear

“Mommy, can you please give me some food?”
He screams into the air.
Tears stream.
He sits on the edge of the bed.
“I’m starving. I haven’t had anything to eat!”


He is paralyzed. He can’t get off the bed.
He can’t face the prospect of going downstairs by himself.
At night.


“I have dreams of getting killed. I can’t do it.”
“Please, Mommy, get me some food.”


He bargains.
He pleads.
“Please, Mommy, get me a granola bar.”


I sit against the wall.
Recording the conversation on the iPad on my lap.
Encouraging him to venture downstairs.
Refusing to get up for him.
“Which feeling is more powerful?” I ask.


He is relentless.
He is persistent.
The piano tinkles.
There’s a sudden realization that the other brother must be downstairs then.
He pops out of bed and runs down for a snack.


I sit and wait.
Peace returns to the room.
“Please, Mommy, can you read Harry Potter now?”


It is paralyzing. Fear is paralyzing. I know it. I have my own fears. Will I be a good enough Mommy? Will these boys grow up independent and courageous? Will I forever be alone? I have few paralyzing fears, though there are moments of them – when your car slips on ice, when there’s a new sound in the house at night and you remember you’re the only adult.


Yet I sense that our world is troubled by fear of late. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the different. Fear of the random and sudden violence. Fear of the new. And maybe this is not a new experience – maybe it is just a resurgence or a cycle of difficult times. Whatever it is, I have noticed and felt it.


But we are not to live in fear. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” (Luke 2:10-11)


Advent; the season of waiting.
(I know you’ve been waiting for a post from me. My laptop crashed a few weeks ago and all got off track, but it’s back on again. Maybe I can blame that new puppy somehow; after all, she’s chewing up the carpet and currently destroying Super Tall Guy’s old shoe while I type.)
Advent, a waiting filled with a sense of peace. A confidence of knowing that there is hope.


That there is a reason to celebrate. There is light within us. Light for the darkness without.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ~MLK Jr.


Let us have Love this Christmas season and hold up the light.


Merry Christmas to all. 


Inspiring Hope

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving. The boys were so eager.

Hoping there's something awesome inside the box!!

Hoping there’s something awesome inside the box!!

Super Tall Guy asked about it from the moment he woke up. I reminded him that he had 3 hours of “upstairs time out” to do before he could participate in the tree trimming. Given his normal daily routine – he had that criteria met by 9:00 am! Silly boy.  (He still had to earn enough “star” points to be able to go to the afternoon movie, though. As you might be able to decipher, he was coming off a really (really) rough evening!).

Mr. Ornery was excited too when he woke up a few hours after Super Tall Guy. He bounced around the living room asking where the tree was. He eagerly put the branches in. He tried to help string some lights until my patience and his interest collided. He put ornaments up. And he asked where the presents were. I replied that they come on Christmas morning. And the next morning, he suddenly sat upright in my bed (yes, sometimes there’s two of them trying to pancake me!) and said “Are there presents under the tree today?”

He is hopeful.

I heard a talk by Richard Louv a couple months ago. I loved listening to him. He talked about how our whole body and spirit come alive by spending time in nature and how as a society we are drifting further and further away. It was depressing as well as challenging. But the point that caught me the most was when he talked about time that he spends on college campuses talking with students in the prime of their lives. And the one thing that he has noticed in recent years is a shocking lack of hope. He challenged and encouraged each one of us to re-instill that hope within all children that we have contact with. Hope for the future. Hope for good. Hope for relationships, for work, for the earth.

Little kids have hope. Little kids hope that there will be presents under the tree in the morning (at least that it will happen November 30th….and maybe again on December 25th). Little kids have hope for an extra frosted-covered donut in the morning. They hope for the 3DS video-game hand-held unit they so badly want for Christmas. They hope that we will move someday soon and get a dog. They hope Mom will play football in the house for “just 5 more minutes”….or build “just one more” Lego spaceship/aircraft for their fleet (and they hold out hope against all hope that we might find the microscopic heads for the countless Lego men laying around with just a peg jutting out of the torso).

We parents have a great deal of hope too. I hope that the boys actually grow up someday and move out of the house as happy, productive, joyful young men. I hope that they remembered to pick up the Lego pieces so I don’t walk on them in the hallway tonight (“why in the world do you HAVE to play in the hallway?!?!?”). I hope they sleep past 5:22 am….because that would make me so happy. I hope that someday we can get studio photographs done without them pushing each other off the crates, collapsing into giggly fits on the floor, or getting up and walking out before it’s done (because that SURE didn’t happen this weekend!!  The key is that I attempt these photo sessions in public….because having people around helps to control my behavior!!).

But we also work to instill hope in our children.  “I hope you have a good day at school, dear.”  “I hope you have much better behavior tomorrow.”  “I hope you have fun at the party.”  “I really hope you didn’t just push your brother off the couch for no reason (ie, I hope you come up with a darn good reason for that – fast!!)”

Tonight for Advent we talked about “waiting” and what we’re “waiting” for. Naturally the answers were mostly about what gift they were “hoping” for, but the important thing is – we were talking about hope. We were experiencing hope.  I’m going to try to keep up this theme this week. My wonderful mother blesses us (daily, for sure) and every Advent season with 24 Advent Bags containing fun little games or candy or toys for the boys. Every night they joyfully/greedily push and shove to find out what is in the bag that evening.  Of course, we forgot to do it tonight, so I just wrote notes in the little Advent calendar boxes to help them find their Advent Bags starting tomorrow, “Hope you can find your gifts by the piano”…. “Hope you brush your teeth after eating these” ….

Maybe it will catch on…..Maybe their little Hope candle will never burn out.

I can only hope.

The Guardians

It was one of those weeks. One that you just want to survive. One in which you know that you have your schedule so tight that one false move is going to throw the whole balance off. So accepting the cold virus from one of the boys (nice to have 5 of them to blame) was not in the plan.

Neither, as I explained to some friends, was the fact that my “husband” left town for the week. Yes, our saving grace grandmother decided to accept the offer to go be grandmaBus stop 2 to 7 of her other grandchildren in Ohio for the week. This is all well and good – and I was happy for her and applauded her desire and energy to homeschool and cook for so many little ones…..and we did survive with the help of some friends (including one who had the pleasure of getting first-graders off the bus at the bus stop!)…

It was one of those weeks….by the end of which I am trying to tell myself to stop reacting so intensely to the screams and whistles at the dining room table, to be more patient in buckling the Little Guy into his car seat when he finds it more entertaining to swing from the ceiling handle, to give Super Tall Boy a bit more “lovings” when he’s injured than I feel like doing at the moment.

It was one of those weeks ….by the end of which I was content to have “movie night” and found a tear escaping my eye at the end of “Rise of the Guardians” that Super Tall Boy had been clamoring to watch (but ended up in too much time-out/grounding last weekend). I was touched by the reminder within the movie of our responsibility to be guardians for our children.rise-of-the-guardians-pstr-10

Santa – the guardian of wonder – to look at the world through their eyes of curiosity and amazement. To stop and catch a moth and feel its tickle in the palm of your hand. To look for the moon and wonder if it is made out of cheese. To plant some cacti in the tiniest of terrariums and eagerly check each day to see if they have sprouted. Wonder, through the eyes of my boys.

Easter Bunny – the guardian of hope – to look forward to soccer mornings on Saturday (despite the cold blustery wind), to ask me for a third cookie and hope to see a smile and a twinkle of the eyes in a head nodding yes.

The Sandman – the guardian of dreams – the dream to “grow up and be a car wash man, Mom” (is the dream of today and one which I’m hoping will be changing over time), the dream of being able to get a cell phone “when I’m ten, Mom.”

Tooth Fairy – the guardian of memories – which are delightfully enjoyed in animated retellings and amazingly accurate sometimes when I don’t even remember events.

And Jack Frost – the star of the show and the guardian of fun – enjoying each other in playing catch, running laps through the house to jump over a rubber band jump rope,paper boats folding paper boats and watching them float down the mini-rapids of the nearby stream.

The innocence of childhood. The wonder of childhood. The joy, the magic and the fun. We the parents are the guardians of our children. We are the ones that keep them safe and provide them space to dream, to explore, to grow. We hold their hope when it seems to be lost. We watch over them and protect them from fear. A noble, terrifying, exhausting and honorable role. This morning Super Tall Boy reminded me as we walked into church that I am not his boss – that God is the boss. And I had to smile and replied, “You are right. God is the boss….

And He has made me a Guardian.”