Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's Christmas break at Preschool. Greg is off work. Its even too cold for the dog to go out for very long. We are having ourselves some real family time. Lots of good 'ole family time.

Its the kind of family time where you loop the Baby Einstein video during every wakeful moment to keep from having a bored, snotting, toddler dangling from your shin while you clean out the fridge. Where a pouting, whiny three-year-old inspires the next round of "What do you want to do today?" from Greg and I that ends with me making the boys nuggets for lunch (again) and Greg playing some shooting game on his iphone to hopefully kill another half hour.

We have ripped down the Christmas lights, spontaneously caulked all the window casings, cut the boys hair, played out all the Christmas toys, cleaned out our closet, and swept the garage. All that is left is the obligatory lolling around on the carpet annoying each other to keep from actually dying of under-stimulation.

Today, after Charlie threw two platefuls of food on the kitchen tile and encored with thirty minutes of writhing anguish, I finally said it. "Greg, I am tired of being with us. I have togetheritis."

"I think we have 'Doing-nothing-together-itis'" he points out while opening yet another sleeve of Ritz crackers.

We need help. I am one Mighty Machines Video away from "All work and no play makes Andi a dull boy."

To quote Cindy: "I'm just sayin'."

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Merry Christmas
From The Hawkins Family

First of all...
This is a late, cheap, unoriginal Christmas E-Card. Please consider it the heartfelt gesture of love I truly intended to post a few days ago... I love you all dearly and have had more fun this year blogging than you can imagine.

And for the clarification...

It was Christmas Eve service. Me and my two noisy, irreverent, children were sitting with my in-laws. It was a solemnly quiet moment, and the gazillion people around us were reflective while Big Toby gave the message.

Big Toby: Baby Jesus came to the world, grew into a man, and, finally, died for us on the cross.

Little Toby: (With a loud gasp) He died?

Apparently we have 32.9 years in the Life of Christ to cover in the new year.

Monday, December 22, 2008


All I want to do is clean the [stupid] floors because they are covered with torn up bits of toilet paper [and dog hair] that two chubby hands are pushing around with a yellow bulldozer.

"Toby, please clean up this mess!"

Toby is outraged. "It is NOT a mess, it is a landfill!" but I do not see the justification his tone implies, because Charlie has trash bits stuck to his upper-lip snot and that is where I DRAW THE LINE!

"I will not throw the trash away [while you are looking]. I will put it in the special place [where I keep the preschool projects made with popcorn kernels]," I say, but he isn't listening anymore because Charlie is pushing the bulldozer out of the living room and throwing a taunting giggle over his shoulder.

Sometimes I wonder what it is like for Greg at work every day doing his job without anyone trying to stop him. I imagine him sitting at a quiet desk checking off items on his "to -do" list with a sharpie. How quaintly productive.

I have to squeeze all the cleaning into one episode of Oswald or I might as well not bother.

I might as well not bother anyway because I have two little boys and this is just life.

A dirty, snotty, cluttered life.

But a good one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

William Runs The White Rock

I don't post about running very often because most of my friends would rather gouge a stick into their eye than cover any distance on foot, but every so often I feel it necessary to justify my blog title.

I almost didn't get into the race because I procrastinated and they sold out of bib numbers. Me, Jerri, and Jamie had to scrounge for an entry. Thankfully someone in my kettlebells class wasn't going to use his and gave it to me. [Thanks, Bill] So, this morning I ran The White Rock Half as a 42-year-old male from Flower Mound who wore purple shorts and raisenberry lipstick.

There were 17,000 runners lined up at American Airlines Center for the start. Crowds give me germ anxiety and it was really hard to avoid sharing air. No matter what direction I turned my head I could smell breath and it made me want to gag. I had to quit worrying about it at mile four when my running partner accidentally sprayed me with a wayward loogie, so thanks, Jerri, I guess.

I don't want this blog post to sound like a training journal so here are the highlights of the Dallas White Rock Half:

-Gun goes off [Don't worry it was planned]
-Five minutes later we cross the starting line
-Five minutes after that we stop to pee because the lines at the starting line were so friggin long
-Slight altercation with the girl who cut in front of me at the port o potty
-Thirty minutes later we pass the one and only person to yell my real name on the course [Thanks Blake] and not be cheering for William.
-Jerri and I run out of stuff to talk about and revert to our ipods [she=Van Halen, me=Beyonce]
-We blaze across the finish line seconds from the Kenyan superstars. [Okay, they ran the full, but whatever]

So, that's it. My first half since I got preggers with dear Toby five years ago. 2:06:50... Could have been worse.

[Oh yeah Kim... your aprons ROCK]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Booger-Nose and Poopy-Pants

Booger-nose is running through the house with a yellow yard stick, swinging it around like he is a ninja. Oh wait... no, he's a railroad crossing and a train is coming. He grasps the yard stick end with both hands and down it goes, "ding, ding, ding". It is just so exciting that I must watch it happen or else he appears exactly one centimeter from my eyeballs to make sure I see him. "I do see you," I say, but I would rather not have this exact vantage point because the booger in your left nostril is very close to my face.

Poopy-pants waddles his stinky bottom our way, coughing up a misguided sip of water from the Ozarka bottle he found under the couch. "Oh Poopy-pants are you Okay?" I say as I gently pat his belly. He looks happy to be belly-patted and encores with an experimental "cuh, cuh" just to see if I do it again. I do.

Suddenly, the yard stick whirls through the air searching for its next identity. It nicks a speck of paint off the wall and almost takes out poopy-pants altogether. Booger-nose does not notice though his eyes faithfully follow the whirring streak of yellow as if it might spring to life any second.

Poopy-pants is bored with coughing and is now perfecting his sneeze. "Ah, ah, ah, ah too!" He emphasizes the punchline so well that his whole body follows his nose straight into the carpet. He rolls over wondering where he is. "Yayyyyy!" I say to Poopy-pants and he smiles a big gap-toothed grin.

Booger-nose stops because he needs "a little bit of love". He crawls into my lap for a hug. Poopy-pants can't be left out and he waddles in too. I squeeze their snotty, stinky, little boy bodies.

Booger-nose and Poopy-pants, I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Funniest Thing Toby Ever Said

I am re-posting this story from early summer for Kim's Favorites Party. It is my all-time favorite post.

"The Girl Next Door"

Actually, she lives down the street. I am not sure what manner of charms she imposed on Toby or if it is just her gloriously shiny blond hair, but he has suddenly become the pre-school version of George Clooney, flaunting three whole years of sophistication around the driveway on his swanky red trike.

He held nothing back. Her eight year old self floated gracefully up on a light purple Schwinn. Something inside him said Toby, she is special. Let her know you are a big kid. So after pointing out that her bike was "pwitty", he reached for the all-time greatest pick-up line anyone under five ever attempted...

"Lexi, do you need to poop? Because I know how to poop in the potty."

Bold move, little buddy. Very bold.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Gift

When I was seventeen I went to Honduras during Spring Break. Our group flew from Oklahoma City to Houston, then took an International flight to Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital city. From there we drove hours to a small town in the foothills. We drove hours more in All Terrain Vehicles up twisty, bumpy, wet mountain roads. Then finally, we rode horses to a remote village. Our traveling took days. I have never felt so far away from home.

Our first night in the mountains I was carsick, homesick and full of anxiety over our primitive surroundings. When it got dark, I felt a cloud of doom hover over me as my friends and I walked outside the spider-infested structure where we planned to "sleep".

I suppose it is the irony of the universe, the funny way that ugliness and beauty contrast in the same place and make each other more vivid. Over the grass-roofed huts, and the stench of roaming pigs was a sky so bright it seemed to move with life of its own. A million, no a gazillion speckles spread like a field over us, blinking, shooting, smiling. I have never seen so many stars. I could have read a book underneath their light. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

Its the only time I have seen a sky like that. So, thank you God for showing me your vastness and sovereignty, and the veil of love you drape over humanity, even in the wildest, remotest corners.

Thanks, Kim.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Souffle

If you are still putting marshmallows on top of your sweet potatoes (dry heave) and wondering why your kids won't eat them, this recipe will save your day. It is the kind of dish that tastes like dessert, yet contains enough vegetableness to count as a side. En-joy.

Sweet Potato Souffle
Boil 5-7 Sweet Potatoes until tender. Remove skin.
Mash with:
2-3 eggs
1/2 can condensed milk (more if needed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Put in baking dish and add topping:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans (crushed)
Bake for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes at 350.
Watch topping to make sure it doesn't get too brown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Locomotion Videos

My dear friend Jessica asked me recently if I knew of any good train videos for boys. I broke out into evil laughter because our DVD cabinet is like the Blockbuster of live locomotion. So, if you are in the market for some little boy *crack* here is a synopsis of Toby's favorites:

Real Trains For Kids
If you really hate yourself and sanity in general, you will want to buy the "Real Trains for Kids" videos. This genius took his Best Buy video recorder and parked it on tracks all over New Jersey. Hours of live train action. Literally, hours.

All About... [Fast Trains, Garbage and Recycling, Airplanes]
The "All About..." series is badly-acted and illogically-plotted, yet addictively entertaining to a three-year-old. They do contain a lot of information if you want your child to be well-versed in sanitation or railroad construction.

Mighty Machines: Diggers and Dozers
Last, the all-time most irritating video ever shot with a cam-corder and dubbed over with eye-gougingly good singing is "Mighty Machines". Each tractor in this video has its own character voice, brilliantly performed by the same guy. This is Toby's current favorite. You don't have to send me a sympathy card, because I already have a stack from my mother who purchased it.

Bonus: Charlie Trash Truck
Charlie Trash Truck was conceived by a pediatrician named "Dr. Jay" who started his own production company for this one video. The show contains live garbage truck footage with lots and lots and lots of factual snippets. It is the kind of cheesy production you get when education and entertainment mingle together. The video's salvation is an astonishingly svelte trash man named "Operator Tom".

This is my Christmas gift to all of you mothers of boys (sorry Sarah). Consider it an hour of free babysitting courtesy of the runningmama. En-joy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Weekend With the Crankertons

"Stop looking at me Charlie. Stop looking at me Charlie. Mommy make Charlie stop looking at meeeeeee."

"If you don't look at him, he won't look at you," I say as I flip down the visor mirror and make sure it is really me talking and not my mother.

"Say 'Stop it!' to Charlie. Why is he looking at me when I'm not looking at him?"

I turn up the volume on the stereo so the rhythmic "aha's" of Voulez Vous drown out the one-sided brawl from the backseat. Charlie's eyes are so dead-locked on Toby I wonder if he secretly understands Toby's complaint and is internally laughing.

"Charlie, stop looking at Toby," I say, just in case.

Before I have a chance to stop it -- and I would have given my right eye -- the final track of my ABBA 1 CD fades away and the changer dutifully ushers in the next disc. Back, Back, Back I push but it is too late and Boz the big green bear repeats "Here we..., Here we..., Here we..." until I finally give up and let him spit out the full "Here we go!" in his irritating jubilation. Toby forgets Charlie's death stare to cheer for Boz, the big fat Christian version of Barney and for a moment I think I might prefer the whining.

Soon it doesn't matter because I can think of nothing but the stomach bug floating through pre-school again and if I remembered to put hand sanitizer on the boys before they ate the animal crackers in my friend Jenn's office. I can almost hear the triumph of the crittery virus making its way into the innards of my unsuspecting children because, I know I didn't remember and now we will all be barfing up a lung come tomorrow. And that makes me cranky.

But not as cranky as Charlie was later in the driveway, protesting the wretchedness of humanity because the front wheels of his riding fire truck were stuck in the grass. He waddled around me a few times with a squinched-up, moaning face before depositing his 2 foot self head first into the yard.

What is everybody's problem?

I could understand this better if we lived in a parched Ethiopian desert and relied on locust wings and cactus dew for survival, but we have no legitimate complaints. The hovering, nurturing parenting style I credit for their neatly trimmed nails and taste for yogurt smoothies is also responsible for the Bratty Crankertons that we have all become.

When it is time for bed, I briskly yank the oversized t-shirt over Toby's head. "Mommy, can we sleep in the living room again? I like sleeping in there with you."

We had a couch camp out weeks ago when he had the flu. What made him recall a night of puking into bath towels as a chummy slumber party I can't fathom. I squish his chubby cheeks in my hands and smooch him. "Toby, we sure did have fun, didn't we?"

And isn't that the beauty of family? Looking back on all these times, good or bad, and remembering only that you were loved.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Couch Throwing

Its the kind of evening when the bits of nothing I did all day lump themselves together into one large energy-sucking wad and sit comfortably on my shoulders while I survey the toy explosion that is my living room floor.

I could get up and sort the tractors and race cars and trains into their beautifully irrelevant bins, but then the world's youngest defense attorney would follow me around to justify the mess in his customary whine and I am too tired to litigate. No, I feel more like collapsing to the floor on my back and tickling the boys as they run by to hopefully avoid an actual game of chase.

This part of our evening, between dinner and bed, I sometimes watch the clock like an employee waiting for the end of my shift. Greg is equally unmotivated and flips between ESPN and ESPN 2 to catch a glimpse of what? I don't know, maybe the famously chiseled super-athlete he would have rather been at forty. The crowd-cheering game highlights and chatty commentary makes it harder to ignore the vehicular debris and the hint of dog smell on our carpet.

Only half an hour more... I think at seven-thirty as if then I will be putting on my sexy jeans and some high heels for martinis with the girls instead of staying in this same position, in this same t-shirt recycled from yesterday, staring blankly at the football stats whizzing below the SportsCenter news desk.

Its not that I mind being with my boys, me with a hyper-awareness that every day is a brief and finite luxury. Its just after replying cheerfully to the quantillionth snot emergency and rhetorical "Do you know...?", even they are tired of my smilingly present face.

These kind of evenings have a way of surprising me. Like when Greg, out-of-nowhere, grabs Toby and throws him on the couch like a giggly bag of sand. When Charlie's knee-high bean-of-a-self rushes toward his dad with arms lifted high, begging for his turn, its then that all of those nose wipes and time-outs have measured value and bring me satisfaction. Suddenly we are the world's happiest family, laughing hysterically as throw after throw, the pleasure of being together sails through the air on a small delighted face.

If tomorrow doesn't bring us a bowlful of sunshine at least we'll know that today, we didn't miss this.

I can think of no greater achievement.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Sunday morning I sat in church like my usual self, distracted by the people around me. I wondered what I was doing there. I thought about the yucky feeling that follows me around and keeps me from praying. I thought about it until it was with me and I felt bad.

I have been a Christian for a long time. I have been a Christian at church camp and chorused the togetherness songs and spilled my guts and cried and hugged. I have been a Christian in college and fought against legalism! and quenching the spirit! and hypocrisy! I memorized scripture and highlighted and underlined and studied three translations. I was a Christian and I felt good and I served and I was a Christian and I felt bad and I confessed. I was a Christian who rejoiced at birth and I was a Christian who mourned at death. I worshipped when worship meant "singing", then I worshipped when worship meant "living for God everyday". I was a Christian in a pew, I was a Christian on an old couch, and I was a Christian in a snazzy stadium seat.

Now I am tired of being a Christian.

People are hurting so bad around me and it is killing me. Being a Christian is not enough. They have heard it all before.

What is missing, and I mean this, is Christ.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm Moving... Kind Of

UPDATE: Apparently there is still a glitch in blogger's custom domain feature. I have chosen to use my blogspot.com address again until it is sorted out. I will let you know when my new domain is up and running. For now, I am staying here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Inflatable Death

It bobs around on our neighbor's lawn with a gigantic axe and frightens my innocent children (and the dog). Behind it is an array of severed heads hanging from tree limbs and impaled on wooden posts, all draped in faux spider webs. It is irritatingly festive if you are a psychopathic serial killer.

Which I am not.

I have to sneak up behind the stupid thing and unplug the air pump before Toby will walk by. I encourage him to be brave while explaining how it is not a real person, just a blown-up Halloween decoration. But it doesn't seem fair. Reality is very elastic to him and I toss truth and illusion around in an ironically confusing jumble. This ugly, scary thing he can see is not real. The invisible, silent, elusive God is.

"God is bigger than those scary things," I say as I whisk he and Charlie past the skeletal hand reaching forth from its bloody grave. He looks at the grave skeptically and I know I failed the writer's highest calling: show, don't tell.

At night we say our prayers as he crawls into bed. "Where is God?" he says unphilosophically, as if asking for the nearest bathroom. "God is everywhere," I offer because I can't think of an unlousy answer. He sits up quickly and looks at his mattress in confusion. "Am I squishing him?" Excellent question.

No dear, mommy is.

I've been a Christian so long that I barf out illogical religious rhetoric when I don't know what to say. Which is a lot. Toby is bright for three and I can see doubt on his face. Maybe it is my own reflection. Inside, my heart longs for God-- the God who satisfies, the God I used to trust. But an inflatable Death looms in front of my eyes and I can't reach the plug.

My boys are precious and I want them to know a powerful, real Savior.

God, start with me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What. Am. I. Doing.

It bothers me that we are out of dryer sheets but not enough to go to the store. I sent the boys off to school this morning in staticky clothes and hoped that Charlie wouldn't get sent home for his oozing, crusty eyeballs because I am really busy. Sort of. Two days ago I sent off my first query letter and now I am chained to my email inbox compulsively clicking "check mail" every nanosecond. The magazine has six weeks to respond. My finger is already tired.

And by respond I quote from their editorial guidelines: "Each article idea will receive the attention it deserves." Ouch. I feel sorry for my poor little query whimpering in cyberspace all alone.

I promise I will not junk up Tales From the Running Mama with the tragic epic of a wanna be writer, however, since a lot of you are going down this same road, I thought you might like a little update here and there. So, if you ever wondered what you are doing thinking your writing has actual monetary value, I know exactly how you feel. I am thirty years old now, and my seventh grade self I would kick me if I didn't try.

And trying is pretty exhilarating.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Being A Man

Every little boy wants to know that he is strong, that he matters. Only a man can tell him. Thank you, thank you for loving my boys and not leaving them to wonder...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Boys and Girls

I didn't miss the finer points of Anatomy in eleventh grade. How could I have known that physiology is only the leafy display of a towering, deeply rooted tree? What I saw in the lab, casually dissecting a formaldehyde-soaked cat cadaver while smoothing the pleats on my cheerleading skirt, were just symbols that shroud a deeper truth.

Its me and him. And we are the same because he is three and I carried him not long ago, not long ago at all. I knew there would be a day that he suddenly noticed, anatomically speaking. A moment when I shrugged my shoulders and admitted with a lump in my throat that he'd probably known for awhile. I imagined an awkwardly encoded conversation regarding the important "parts". He would be old, you know, years from now when I am ready to let him go. Years from now. Instead, I realized that boys and girls are different long before "parts" have any relevance and letting him go is happening now, in a slow frenzy that I will never be ready for.

Since school started, there has been Ava. She captivated him with her brown-eyed beauty. He mentions her freely while talking about storybook time or music class. His teacher stopped me the other day to tell me all about their chase game on the playground (which I found positively un-funny).

I decided to ask him about her. Tell me about Ava, I said. His eyes gleamed and it hurt me a little. He told me about sitting beside her at chapel, and asking her to be his friend. He told me about the toys they play with in class and what they make in art. He narrated conversations and pointed out the matching color of her hair in a picture book nearby. He told me about the rescuers. The game where Ava is in trouble and he saves her day. Mommy I save Ava, he said, like I am Fireman Sam.

His hands are chubby and he hasn't grown into his wide sparkling eyes, but he already feels the desire of a man's heart to be the hero. You are not a man! I want to say. You are my little boy! That is how I want it to stay. Let's go play trains, because I want you to need me forever. Years from now, we will talk about grown-up things and then you can go search for your princess and save her day.

Years from now.

Later we sit together in the big chair because it is storming outside and he is scared. "You are my favorite girl, mommy" he says with his head on my shoulder. I can smell his head smell. I kiss it slowly, and wonder how something can fill you with so much pleasure and pain at the same time.

Toby, what a man you will be.

(Years from now.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Can You Believe This??

It has only been two weeks. The doctor said he is healed and he will have NO scars. Amazing.

God is good.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It Was Coffee...

I still can't believe it. Charlie is doing very well. We went for a follow-up appointment Tuesday and the nurse said it looked good. At least I think that is what he said. I couldn't really hear anything over Charlie's uncontrollable hysteria. He lost it the millisecond we entered the clinic. We go back on Friday, Oct. 3rd to see the doctor and determine what therapy he needs. I am going to try to get my hands on a sedative... for Charlie that is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yesterday... Unedited

This is not for the faint of heart.

Or coffee lovers.

I was talking to a friend and trying to balance the stroller that had tipped over by the donut table. Charlie dunked his hand in my cup of coffee. I didn't even see him do it.

When he started screaming, the entire church was congregated in the lobby staring while I held his contorted, thrashing, panicked self. His hand was swelling and turning red.

Don't freak out I said to me as I freaked out.

I took Charlie to the bathroom and ran cold water over his hand. He screamed louder. I took him back out to the lobby and asked Greg to go for ice.

He brought back one cube. Someone else handed me a bowl filled with ice water. Other people started handing me odd items they found that might help, but nothing would calm him.

We should take him home. Greg and I grabbed our stuff and headed to the car. I knew he would calm down once we were away from the mass of people. But he didn't. And his fingers were molting.

I started crying because it was my coffee, my negligence, and my fault. Greg is frustrated because he can't fix it. We snap at each other and debate what to do. Charlie screams and Toby keeps talking about trains as if the world is not tumbling into anarchy.

Our church is nowhere near a hospital, but we commit to an ER and take off on a terrible ride.

Charlie is outside of himself with anguish. I can't hold him in the car so I gently rub his cheek even though he keeps pushing my arm away while he waves his hurt hand around and beats it on his own face.

At the hospital, Greg lets me out at the ER doors and I am greeted by a stoic front desk worker. Maybe she was trying to impress me with her de-sensitization to calamity. I was not impressed. She didn't say a single word as I fumbled around the desk for the sign in sheet, crying, and holding my baby whose finger skin was dangling around his knuckles.

I hate you I don't say when I hand the form over the counter.

We wait. Charlie is hysterical. No one reacts but us. Greg goes for ice in the vending area and the front desk lady shrugs her shoulders when we ask how long.

I hate you I don't say again, but Greg does. She goes to the back and when she comes out a person is with her to collect Charlie. She threatens to call security on Greg who is tearing out his hair with frustration. The lady takes her time showing us to a room and I wish she would prove her point in some other way because my baby is hurting so bad.

They give Charlie a shot of morphine and after a few minutes his sobs melt into sniffs, and then he is out. He had been crying for two hours.

We need to transfer him to Parkland, the doctor says.

Really. He's pretty burned, huh? That's what we were thinking during the infinity wait when my sons shrieking had to compete with the crickets in your lobby.

They call an ambulance for me and Charlie and Greg takes Toby home. He will meet up with us after he finds a sitter. Neither of us has our phone so we say a wary good-bye.

At Parkland we are greeted by a sixteen-year-old resident who is skippity do about having a pediatric burn patient. He is so proud of his medical knowledge and experience and he explains how cleaning the burn will be very painful, but luckily Charlie will not remember it.

Oh that is lucky, Doogie, I say while I think I hate you in my mind. Thankfully the burn team arrives with a genuine, tender-hearted doctor and nurse who treat Charlie like a sweet baby boy and I am relieved.

They explain the burn care carefully, but nothing can prepare a mother for that kind of trauma. I wondered how many moms have restrained their child for a bigger burn than Charlie's. It broke my heart.

When they were done, they bandaged him up nicely and gave us instructions to change the wrap at home.

At 4:30, 8 hours after I left the house for church in the morning, we left Dallas and headed home.

Charlie slept the whole way.

Today he is fussy and groggy, but fine. He wants me to hold him when he is awake and I am glad that he needs me. He is going to recover with no problems at all, thanks to the wonder of modern medicine.

I, however, am permanently scarred.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

News On Charlie

I hope this sufficiently takes the place of a zillion phone calls and emails. Please forgive us for not calling you all individually.

This morning in the lobby after church I was holding a scalding hot cup of coffee in one hand and Charlie in the other. He was sitting on my forearm with his arm around my neck. Our stroller dumped over so I transferred the coffee to the hand on Charlie's side so I could set it back up. Before I realized it, Charlie had dunked his hand in the hot coffee. It took me a moment to see why he was screaming, so his hand was actually in the hot liquid for a couple of seconds.

He was inconsolable. We did the normal stuff: run it under cold water, set it in ice water. I decided to take him home to soothe and calm him, but in the parking lot Greg and I saw that the skin on his hand was peeling and blistered. We took him to Denton Presby instead. After a consultation with their ER doc, they sent Charlie and I via ambulance to Parkland. (This is a bigger hospital in Dallas that has a good burn unit.)

Charlie's burn was only second degree, but we learned that burns are more dangerous the more surface area they cover due to swelling. Since Charlie's burns surrounded his entire hand and fingers, it was a serious burn. Swelling can cut off circulation and threaten the health of the affected area.

At Parkland they cleaned his burns and medicated him heavily so he could sleep. It was a very painful process that I will not fully describe. I am thankful that we have access to modern medicine and that Charlie is young enough that he will not remember.

We just got home a little bit ago. He is in his bed still asleep, with a bandage the size of a boxing glove on his hand. We go back in a few days to have it cleaned again. Please pray that he has a speedy recovery and feels little pain.

I will write more soon. Love you all.

BTW my Facebook was hacked and now I cannot log on at all. If you post messages there I can't write back, but I do get them in email.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Writer's Conference

There were name tags. There were bagels. There were interestingly clad women with no make-up. My boys were at home with daddy. I was in heaven.

It lived up to the stereotypical conference in every possible way. When I arrived at the host church I could smell the coffee before I was even ten feet from the propped open double doors. I checked in at the folding table and clipped my plastic coated name tag onto my shirt. Andi Hawkins, Texas. This was going to be good.

Everyone is happy to be at a conference on the first morning. Not me though. I was ecstatic. For two whole days I planned to live it up. I was going to network, you know like business people do. I spent days deciding what to wear. I settled on a cream colored sweater with a jean skirt. Dressy for a woman who lives in t-shirts and capri sweatpants covered with snot smears. I wanted to break out my cute shoes to match, but turns out "cute" is just another way to say "torturous". Believe me, some of the attire I witnessed at this conference took all attention from the comfy flip-flops I chose instead. There was a puff sleeve and lacy collar here and there, odd hats, and faded knits with those little bally things clinging all over the fabric. There is no clear explanation for this except that writing is a very introspective career that doesn't pay very well, hence, clothing is merely functional. Call me crazy, but it seemed to add to the mystique. I cannot express to you how much I love these people.

I met a woman right off the bat from my hometown and we became instant friends. Christy I know you are hating me for mentioning you after my fashion analysis, but I am only working chronologically here. You looked great, girl. Christy and I spent many hours this weekend bonding and talking about blogging. She has an amazing story and a gift for encouraging others with her writing. She also has a fabulous website and plans to add a blog soon. Show her some love when you get the chance.

I went to classes all day. Writing basics, query letter writing, formatting manuscripts, personal experience articles, interviewing. I ate up every minute. I had a wonderful lunch with two friends and no one asked me to squirt ketchup or cut up their nuggets. It was refreshingly adult. I had that feeling from summer camp as a kid when you somehow forgot home and adopted a new reality. Almost.

At the end of the first night, the conference director planned to announce the winners of the writing contests. Entries were pre-submitted by attendees prior to the event. I submitted two things: a version of my post "The Garbage Man" rewritten as a children's book, and my post "Running: A Relative Term" as a poem. I didn't want to feel nervous. That would mean I thought I could win and I didn't. But I was nervous. This place was filled with people who knew what they were doing. I felt like a wannabe trailing the popular girls after school.

The director climbed to the stage with a stack of certificates. The winners would also earn fifty dollars cash and a signed copy of the new book Eyewitness. I wanted to win.

He introduced the children's book category. I gulped. I tried to appear casual. And...

I won.
What do ya think of that?

I walked up on stage to get my award and the director read a line from the book to the whole group. I was so stinkin' proud I cried when I got back to my seat. It was unbelievable.

So, if you see me out in public anytime soon and I am wearing ten year old sandals and tapered knit pants you will know why. This world I loved as a child and lost somehow along the way, is calling me back again. I can't wait.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lunch... Interrupted

I ate a ham and cheese panini in a little cafe on the edge of Southlake Town Center. I had already been to the doctor that morning and told it was not time, see you next week. My friend Jerri sat across from me making idle conversation while I pouted about my inhumane state of being. Every so often we paused so I could breathe in and out and adjust to the intermittent cramping in my belly, false labor rallying to mock my ginormous, bloated, blob of a self. When we finished, Jerri looked at me curiously before parting with an intuitive suggestion: go home and rest. I waved off this gross overreaction like any deliriously pregnant idiot.

Though the cafe was around the corner from my hospital, I drove the fifteen miles back home with Toby in the backseat. I called a couple of friends to nonchalantly ask labor questions -- but not because I thought I was in labor or anything. That would be really melodramatic. What I had was just a tightening around my middle every so often.

I was getting Toby down for nap when I suddenly doubled over in pain. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was very intense. I decided to call the doctor and Greg, just to be on the safe side. Greg flew home... the doctor, however, told me to call him in the morning if I still felt like something was happening. I sent Greg back to work and called my pregnant friend Jennifer to come over and sit with me. Greg protested, but I told him how labor lasts forever and I was not actually having it anyway. It was false labor.

Jennifer and I timed my contractions for almost two hours. They were getting worse, especially since it wasn't the real thing. We called the doctor back -- just to check in. He said it was no big deal until the contractions were six minutes apart for a complete hour. We cheerfully kept tabs on the clock and gabbed about how huge we were and how we would always remember the day we sat around my house keeping our cool when most pregnant women would have rushed off to the ER like dorks only to be sent right back home. Hahaha.

I went ahead and called my mom and dad, you know, just to let them know I was not about to have a baby, just feeling some terrifically strong Braxton-Hicks. In fact, now that I have them on the phone I think I am going to let them talk to Jennifer for a few minutes... I am suddenly unable to stand. Actually, I can't even breathe without crying a little bit... is this typical of false labor?

It was at that point that Jennifer took over, God love her. She pulled a groggy Toby from his bed and whisked him next door to my friend Keri's house along with two diapers and an indefinite pick up time. She and Keri hoisted me into Jennifer's mini-van, which I assure you was no small feat. Jennifer talked to me, called Greg, drove, and timed contractions. I cried. I thought, what kind of person cries through Braxton-Hicks? How would I ever survive the real thing???

We stopped at the church where Jennifer intended to drop me off to my husband. Unfortunately, I could not get out of the van. Greg had to hop in the driver's seat with me and Jennifer followed in his car. It was 3:30.

At 3:50 we pulled into the hospital parking lot. Greg had been on the phone with the L and D floor to explain our situation and they had a nurse waiting for us in the circle drive. I was white knuckling the seat cushion and moaning like a wounded lion. As we pulled up, an innocent bystander inadvertently walked in front of the mini-van. I remember yelling out the window in my best Linda Blair for her to "MOVE"!!! Greg, however, recalls it with a bit more @$#%#& thrown in. You can pick.

My nurse, Suzy, whisked me up to a room in a wheelchair. She gave me a gown to put on which I unfortunately was never able to do. I got as far as undressing before a surge of pain prevented anything more. Suzy rushed in and helped me to the bed. I begged for my epidural. I screamed. I crawled around on the white sheets pleading for someone to cut the baby from my abdomen and put an end to this ridiculous formality. Somewhere in my delirium, a pack of medical professionals arrived to not save my day. Equipment was rushed into the room and this and that person were paged STAT.

My doctor explained that he could break my water and speed things along, but an epidural would never have time to work. I explained that it would work even if I had to gouge the needle into the center of my own brain. As if staged for a TV movie, my water broke with a loud pop. I started bawling, crouched on the hospital bed that looked like the background set for a horror movie. I guess he had pity on me and an anesthesiologist was allowed to give the epidural a try. She was wonderfully quick -- but not quick enough. At 4:20 pm, approximately one nanosecond after my epidural went in, Michael Charles was caught by the doctor with the gown I never had the joy of donning.

It was a miracle. The first baby to ever be born to a woman in false labor. Everyone walked around me like I was the Blessed Mother. Okay, not really. Everyone seemed pretty put out with me and my capacity for denial. Greg was utterly traumatized after witnessing a birth void of pain relief and dignity. My mother was somewhere between Oklahoma City and Ardmore missing the whole thing. Jennifer was relieved to not be scrubbing placenta out of her mini-van floor mats. I was the only one feeling quite dandy. I spared myself the anxiety of impending labor and even better... I never missed single meal. By 5:00 I was in a private room munching on a turkey sandwich.

Charlie, some day when you are old enough to read this without dying of embarrassment or gagging, I hope you know that you were worth every minute. I love you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ripple Effects

Today I made our second grocery store trip of the pay period. Its the trip I detest because we are already out of everything, but can only buy the essentials without busting up our budget. I felt Dave Ramsey perched on my shoulder like Blackbeard's parrot eyeing my every selection. "Cubed cheese?," he chided. "CUBED CHEESE? Buy the 8 oz chunk and hack it up yourself, you lazy over-spender!" He carried on like this the whole time... it was terribly exhausting.

At the register I loaded up our stuff on the conveyor belt, keeping an item or two aside for emergency re-shelving in case I underestimated the total. A friend of mine got in line behind me and we chatted for a minute while we waited, though I was distracted by the increasing total on the register. When the checker finished I went for the scanner with my trusty debit card. Suddenly, I heard a "Wait, Don't run that!" from my friend. I looked up thinking I was mistakenly overcharged or something, but instead she gave the checker her card.

Girls, she bought my groceries. All of them.

"You don't have to do that!" I said, but I could see by her smile that it was a pleasure. I couldn't help it. I started crying right there in line at Super Target. THEN, the cashier started crying. I mean really, who goes to Super Target to be nice? I thanked my friend profusely and got all of our stuff in the car.

I was so stinkin' blessed, I had to call a few friends and tell them. Since I am usually complaining after I go to Super Target, it was a refreshing break for them. I dialed and talked all the way home. Here is the cool part: Everyone I told was inspired to do the same thing for someone else. I am getting chills just writing about it.

So, today, because of the overflow of love in one woman's heart, the ripple effects of blessing are as follows:

My boys
My mom
3 different friends (so far)
Unknown number of people who will soon be similarly blessed by those named above

And of course... you.

That is a huge return for a simple act of generosity. So, what could you do with $93.86?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peach Fries

Not exactly Jessica Seinfeld, but who has the time to puree a gallon of steamed zucchini?

And... that's gross.

I sliced up the poor peach into unrecognizable strips. Sorry peach, you were beautiful the way you were, just inedible to a three-year-old. I stuck the strips in a plate compartment along side strawberry yogurt, because "dip" is half the battle.

I demonstrated.

"See! Mommy loves peach fries. Yum-yum!!" I overemphasized the deliciousness like the desperate idiot I have become.

He picked up the peach fry skeptically. He took a bite. He chewed as if it were a poop from the cat box. I smiled encouragingly, though inside I wanted to jam it down his picky little throat.

He winced. He whimpered. He pointed at the sink. I shook my head "no" and hoped he couldn't really muster up a barf.

Then... he swallowed it.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Peach fries. The ridiculously improved sequel of the peach.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My Prayers

God knows I love my boys.

I love my boys with painfully passionate longing.

I love them so much, in fact, that I find it hard to trust them to God. "God", I say, "Here they are, the very marrow from my bones, the very beat of my heart, the very best of me. I lift them up to You to protect and nurture because you can do it better then me." Then I don't lift them up because my hands are white knuckling their small, vulnerable shoulders and I just can't let go.

Someone told me once that when I feel the need to protect my kids, it is good to pray a special prayer for them instead. So, as I tuck them into bed at night I ask God to give them STRENGTH and give them WISDOM. Not to shield them from any harm or obstacle, but for the tools to overcome it.

How do you pray for your most sacred treasure?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dental Work

You should try it some time. Its really fun. I got some this morning and I was all like that was awesome right after my dentist made a porthole in my tooth deep enough to catch the men's water polo semi-final in Beijing. I'm just kidding. About it being awesome that is... I think he really did drill to China.

I made a preemptive strike this appointment. Normally I hide the whining, gagging, nauseous flincher that is me in lieu of what I want to be, which is tough. I have had enough dental work over the last few weeks that I suddenly don't care if the entire office staff groans when I whimper through their doors -- in fact, I own it. Yes, sweet dental hygienist I am "the one" who requires 8 pain shots plus several boosters throughout the procedure I smile confidently. Yes, I do want the happy gas, no, that is not too much.

By the time my dentist lowers his archaeological equipment into my mouth I can barely tell you my name. I tap my foot jauntily to the instrumental worship ballads as if it were Abba Gold. The room is spinning a little...no problem... this is probably what it felt like at Woodstock. Yes, Woodstock was a place of infinite love. I like love. I can handle love.

Okay, the room is really spinning and I feel like I'm losing consciousness. I open my eyes, which I didn't know were closed. A bright light that says Pelton and Crane in slanty cursive is two feet from my ever-loving face. Focus, focus. The talking I hear is warbled and unintelligible. Oh no! He's drilling a hole to China in my tooth and he is high on happy gas and lidocaine!

No, I am the only one high I say to me. I am nauseous. It takes all of my energy to not throw up all over the blue bib on my chest. Honey I am still free... Take a chance on me... I hear, but sung to the tune of Jesus Loves Me, elevator style. I tap my foot. I train my eyes on Pelton and Crane and think about the irony of advertising your company name in the face of a suffering, tortured captive. I think about love, Woodstock style. Andi, that is enough you are a pastor's wife.

Okay, all done he says after forever. I blink myself back to reality. I make intelligent small talk with the half of my mouth I can feel. The looks I get tell me there is nothing intelligent about anything I say, so I close my mouth. The half I can move, anyway.

There is no tidy conclusion to this story -- I am still a little loopy people. Maybe I should just give thanks to my dental office for pretending I am really no bother and never sighing or eye rolling to my face. For this I will forever choose your clinic over any other and any time you want to see the Olympic competition live, you are welcome to peek into my mouth. Tooth number eighteen.


Friday, August 8, 2008

My Son Is Not a Brat

Sometimes I find myself wandering around my life muttering this like a self-confidence mantra. Then I wonder, why, oh why is it necessary to tell yourself something is true every six minutes?

Self, don't answer that question.

Our good friends drop by just as Toby is waking up from nap. I hear him in his room grunting hung-over-and-starving-lion noises while we make distracted chatter in the doorway.

"I will get him up for you" the helpful husband-friend offers.

Actually, he is recovering from leprosy and a rare yet highly contagious strand of tuberculosis I should say before the man opens the protective barrier of Toby's door and unleashes the wild beast on the world.

"I don't know what's gotten into him. He never acts like this," I say with no conviction.

And then there are his "injuries". No real damage is required, but noise and flailing are non-negotiable. Even Charlie questions the necessity of this display. He watches Toby with a look that says why are you so weird? But Charlie will bleed all over the train table sans acknowledgement, so he isn't the best judge.

Toby's inspiration:
His Brother
The word "no"
Dead batteries
Holes in socks

Its not an exhaustive list. I mean, at the moment he is crying because his toast tore when he picked it up. Seriously.

I don't know how I turned a perfectly sublime infant into a yammering thespian. I'm sure it had to do with coddling, boo-boo kissing, and unflinching devotion. I can't really help myself.

Today I offer an apology to every mother I secretly blamed for her child's behavior. Moms, I exonerate you completely and hope you feel satisfaction knowing that I do, in fact, have an unruly pre-schooler, so your wish came true.

Those of you who have one too, the following is a list of excuses to deflect the angst of society. No one really believes them, but they are good one-liners to toss over your shoulder as you carry the screaming banshee to a private location.

He's running a fever (press cheek to forehead).
He missed lunch (dig in purse for crackers).
He's teething (only works early on)
Its nap time. (check watch regretfully)
He's one.
He's two.
He's three.

I could think up more but someones trains just derailed... any one else have an idea?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I have it lately. Maybe its my kids. Maybe its an immunization to caffeine from my increasing daily intake.

Maybe its five o' clock runs catching me in the middle of the day as I lay next to Toby looking at books before nap. I cheerfully narrate The Little Engine That Could, squeaking or bellowing each character's voice like good moms do. Then somehow, on our way up the mountain with all of the toys and cookies for the children of the village, Little Engine begins to chant I think I can I think I can until the words melt into a breathy slur.

This afternoon I made it through This Train, Freight Trains, and The Bear Detectives before my head lolled over onto Toby's choo-choo pillowcase muttering about "resting eyes". When Greg came home unannounced I felt like my hand was guiltily digging in the candy jar instead of rescuing the living room from Fisher-Price besiegement.

Staying home with my kids is the best thing I have ever done. But with all the tenderness and satisfaction I feel every time my lips rest on their puffy little cheeks, there is sometimes a haze of monotony draping its weary veil over me and threatening to suck it all back out. Everything I accomplish is methodically undone before I even acknowledge the success.

I fixed the boys lunch today. We stepped on the exasperatingly dull hamster wheel of meal selection. Our wheel only divides into thirds due to the most unadventurous palate God ever knitted in a mother's womb.

It is always the same. Always.

Should we have sandwiches? Nuggets? Fish Sticks? Fish sticks you say?... Great choice. I bake them. I blow on them. I plunk them in the big compartment of the Veggie Tales plate. I squish a sludgy dollop of ketchup into the smaller one. I chop up the tiniest piece of fruit and place it hopefully over Larry's green cucumber nose. Then I cut two fish sticks into a dozen and a half pieces for Charlie's high chair tray.

Today I offered Toby a trip to our prize box for eating the shard of peach.

He said, " I wanna go to the pwize box."
I said, "Eat your peach."
He said, "No."
I said, "Then no prize box."
He said "I wanna go to the pwize box."
I said, "Eat your peach."
He said, "I was talking to my chair." Then he walked around the kitchen saying "I want to go the pwize box" over and over to the patio door, the dog, the fridge.

He did not, however, eat the peach.

I thought about burying my head in the couch pillows. It is peaceful in there if you can ignore the grains of crunched up cheerio. I could catch a few winks while the boys whine and tug at my legs, and laundry goes sour in the washing machine, and chaos blows over our house in a dizzy wind.

I picked up the tiny shard of peach from Toby's abandoned plate and offered it to Charlie. He let me lay it right on his ever-loving tongue. Did he gag? Did he shudder? Did he grab his throat and drop to the floor? No, he did not. He flashed me a wide, toothless grin.

I made another latte.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Garbage Man

His truck is a work of art. A gigantic, belching, rank, marvel of lever technology. It has a claw. An enormously frightening, squeaking, crunching claw. I am postively riveted. Fascinated, really.

I love the groaning engine, the hissing brakes, the smack of the bin against the hungry chomping mouth. I love the way it gobbles the trash like a gloriously ravenous beast.

I want to be a trash man. No, no that's not it. I want to be a trash truck. I wander the house all day with my arms cocked to one side, squeezing the life out of anything in my path before dumping it upside down. My bin of Lincoln Logs, my case of racecars, my baby brother... No NOT your brother my mom says quickly.

I hear it. I think I hear it. Hurry! Let's go to the driveway and watch. Get a chair, mom. Put Charlie in the stroller with a bottle. We can sit together and wait for him to come around the corner.

But I can't sit. I want to see. I am giggling and straining my eyes far down the street. Now here it comes. Janie's house. Todd's house. Mom, its here! Look it has our trash! Watch it lifting the blue bin into the air like an angry monster. I cannot contain my excitement!

The trash man waves at me as our trash can falls limply to the curb, happily empty, with its lid flopping open. The trash truck poofs out a smoggy snort from its rear and drives away. I watch it go. I watch until it is just a gentle rumble in the distance.

Trash truck, I love you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Nights

I don't even clean up the supper dishes after we eat. One minute, our table is alive with the sounds of our voices: me cajoling Toby to lick a chunk of banana, Toby driving a tractor around his plate obliviously, Greg recounting his day or dreaming aloud about a car he wants to buy, and Charlie interjecting nonsensical babble with hearty ten-month-old conviction. The next minute, our spoons sit dejectedly in their bowls on a lonely puddle of taco soup while we dash outside to enjoy the only survivable portion of a Texas summer day.

I use "survivable" loosely due to the ravenous mosquito squadrons hunting and feasting on the blood of my innocent children. Since one bite has Toby swelling up like a bloated puffer fish it can be a real obstacle. Don't go all crazy commenting on Skin-So-Soft or Spring Fresh Off. Here in Texas, our mosquitoes are like super-powered biologically mutated versions of any insect deterred by a sweet-smelling non-carcinogen. We practically hose our kids off with deet before we send them out in the elements. (Okay not really so please don't actually do this.)

What I love about our summer nights are the subtleties, the inconsequential images that burn into my brain's very matter. Toby riding his trike barefoot down our sidewalk with his sweaty buzz-cut melon head flashing me a dimpled smile. Charlie crawling around the grass on only his hands and feet like a baby Spiderman. The neighborhood kids catching toads and insects while dripping Popsicle juice down the front of their t-shirts. These are the times when I know I am blessed. I sit next to Greg in a cheap folding chair and chat about life and hopes and love while we watch it all unfold under our noses.

When it is too dark to see, we gather up all the chairs, and toys, and Popsicle sticks and herd everyone into the house for a bath. We're sticky and red-cheeked, but peaceful.

If you told me at twenty-one the perfect evening started with a hasty soup dinner and ended in the tub scrubbing grass-stained toes I would have contested you vehemently.

But I what did I know?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thirty Years

It sounded like a long time twenty years ago. That was when my laugh lines showed only when I laughed.

Back when I knew, that at thirty, I would be rich and famous. A published author and former Olympic gymnast. Married to a... yuck. Not married. Boys made me barf.

It was a show my mom watched. Thirty Something? It was about old people.

It was older than my science teacher who still wore braces, but younger than my English teacher whose coiffed hair slumped over her forehead in an eerie black swoop. But not that much younger.

My dad's thirtieth inspired "Over The Hill" balloons from my mom. Because he was so old.

Thirty. A very long way into life when you are ten.

Today is my thirtieth birthday. Some of you crossed this bridge already and are now sailing sweetly into mid-life bliss. Others still dangle in the twenties wondering if your thighs will explode with cellulite once you are here. Either way, it is not the kind of number you float over unawares.

I thought it would feel lousy today, saying good-bye to the decade of searching and transition while a fog of predictability looms over my head. Instead, it is liberating. I know where I am going. My hallway once branched into a thousand open doors, each proposing its own adventure. Over the last ten years, I found the one I wanted and walked through.

In my twenties I finished college. I said "yes" to Greg. I got my first real job. I moved to a new state and started a new life. I got pregnant and gave birth to the single greatest boy in the universe. Then I did it again. My twenties were passionate, grievous, joyous, and humbling. I began them as a girl, and ended as a woman.

Thirty isn't what it used to be. Its better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Looking Ahead...

I read a wonderful post today that made me think about what I teach my kids. Right now they are mine, but ever so slowly forces are vying for their allegiance. Who will win? An intoxicating culture that revolves around them? A sport that demands everything and promises to fulfill? Or an invisible God that loves them more than I do? I am looking ahead as one mom is looking back. Listen to her heart because it is filled with the wisdom of someone who traveled the road and knows...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Girl Next Door

Actually, she lives down the street. I am not sure what manner of charms she imposed on Toby or if it is just her gloriously shiny blond hair, but he has suddenly become the pre-school version of George Clooney, flaunting three whole years of sophistication around the driveway on his swanky red trike.

He held nothing back. Her eight year old self floated gracefully up on a light purple Schwinn. Something inside him said Toby, she is special. Let her know you are a big kid. So after pointing out that her bike was "pwitty", he reached for the all-time greatest pick-up line anyone under five ever attempted...

"Lexi, do you need to poop? Because I know how to poop in the potty."

Bold move, little buddy. Very bold.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Photo Albums

They are a half-hearted nod to satisfy the unspoken mandate of childhood:

"Thou shalt preserve every memory no matter how insignificant on a four by six square and if you really love your kids in an expensively adorned the heavier the better album."

I have friends with gargantuan books that took hours upon hours of cutting, designing, and gluing to achieve. Special glue, special designs, and special scissors. When all is said and done, the book ends up being about 95% decor from Hobby Lobby and 5% actual photos.

Knowing my distaste for wasted space, I started smaller. Albums with the slidey-inny picture holders and a margin for writing details. If you set the bar low, it is easier to reach, ya know? I trudged through Toby's first year and managed to organize enough photos to account for every season and formally document the most important "firsts". Ughhh. Charlie on the other hand, is approaching his first birthday and the last pictures I officially preserved for him are of his hospital homecoming -- and my mother-in-law had to send them to me because I didn't take any myself. Double ughhh.

Today I had an epiphany. A mother who spends hours cutting and gluing and baubling up an album is probably doing it because it is an expression of herself that she enjoys sharing with her child. Her creativity and thought are scattered all over the book among the ornate papers and specially chosen snapshots. She is leaving a legacy to them that says you were known and you were loved.

I was thinking about a few of my friends that are further down the road, and the legacy they are leaving their children. The stuff that isn't forced out of them to check the box of societal expectation.

My Jen, and her ever-working mind that answers the cool questions to which most moms slap a stock response. Her children know why spider webs have different patterns and what is inside a robin's egg. They traipse around the neighborhood independently, "sciencing" whatever odd plant or insect they discover.

Jerri and her femininity, always knowing just the kind of things to plant in her daughters' hearts to show them they are lovely.

Keri, whose garage is home to more soccer balls than Brazil, spends her summer evenings kicking in the yard with her three kids and husband, laughing and smearing grass stains on joyfully dirty clothes.

Sundie, whose kids are living life with passionate adventure, climbing to the highest branches in the tree, the places most moms would forbid. Her children will never doubt their strength or her trust in them.

For me, I love thinking about my boys. I love reliving our experiences together in my mind and turning them over like precious stones. I love their presence, their smell, their cheeks, their toes.

Toby and Charlie, I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but I hope you will understand why a thousand words is what I am leaving you. This is my legacy, a piece of my soul, and it is crafted with all of the care and thought that I have.

Friday, June 6, 2008


It gets a little annoying.

I can't remember exchanging Toby's personality from pleasantly compliant charmer to compulsively opinionated dictator. Yet here I am with snot streaming down my nose while he separates individual sections of toilet paper into satisfactory squares. No, I won't hurry up, he says as his chubby fingers work to remove a rogue fragment that dangles from the perforated edge much like me to my composure.

I am feeding Charlie a bottle while actually holding him (for a change) and wiping my nose on my shirt sleeve to keep from dripping on his forehead. I just need a real tissue you little OCD Hitler I don't say as I blow my allergy ridden congestion into a Thumbelina sized hanky.

I take the boys walking around the block and Toby must push the stroller. And I must back up. Far away. No not there, over there. Yeah, right there in that grassy, scratchy plant. Stand there and don't think about taking the stroller back. Or collecting your dignity and committing to a well-planned insurgence.

Charlie takes to disdain when he and Toby crawl around on the floor together. Toby, who is curiously adept at assigning sinister motive to unmistakable babyishness, freely tattles and orders and "No's" him until Charlie defaults to some passively simple irritation to counterstrike (if that's possible). Mommy, Chah-wie is twying to take my twains away he says when Charlie playfully explores the bright colored wheels of a red and blue engine with his fingers. No Chah-wie! Charlie stares blankly at him and bangs the train on the table casually, just because.

I imagine him later in life sitting in therapy explaining the angry voice in his head shouting orders as he goes about his daily business sipping espresso or driving to work. No Chah-wie! That's MY mocha latte. Give it to me! Move, Chah-wie I get to dwive the car, its MY turn! he hears until he resigns into a dejected stupor.

At the sandbox we pack damp mounds into plastic molds forming a tractor, a bulldozer, a concrete truck. I relish these times, working together, building and talking, even the windy evening air blowing my hair into tangles. He admires our ingenuity fondly and I think to myself, this is the sweet baby I carried and nursed and snuggled and smooched. His doe eyes look up at me with a hint of wild excitement. Now can I cwash them Mommy? he says like any good tyrant, yellow spade already raised above the sandy masterpieces.

At least he asked.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Running: A Relative Term

Like if you were a slug, a turtle might seem fast.

I am slow and steady too. I get up on running days and double knot my Mizunos with fervor, because how else should I? They don't know that I am no Deena Kastor, blazing a path through the dawn like a whitetail deer. I can lope along the road in the safety of darkness and enjoy the impartiality of it all.

Like if you were a bird, your church would be a hickory tree.

I worship here too. My sanctuary, a hilly stretch of road between grassy undulations of wild Texas fields. I see them when they are still sleepy, eyes blinking open, but not yet stretching and yawning to rise. Their breeze brushes me with onions, and hay, and maybe honeysuckle. Breathing and footfalls are the only song.

Like if you were a tractor, work would be your joy.

Mine is too. My back is wet with sweaty purpose. My legs are swollen with vigorous life. I push them hard, swiftly down the road and they lilt with pleasure. The labor of my breathing is a luxury, my joie de vivre.

When my run is over I stop to walk awhile. The pink dawn bends over the horizon and I drink it like water. This is what I love, my solace.

But it might just be me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Disturbance in the Force

Since I have been writing for 36 straight hours on the new Cross Timbers Women's blog I needed a refreshingly masculine post title. So, thanks to my neighbor and only male blog pal, Todd Mead, I sort of plagiarized his. (Todd, I hope this shameless link to your site will indicate my gratitude.)

I referenced my "disturbance in the force" in a previous post about my struggle to believe God is good in a world that really, really, really isn't.

The day my first son was born, a new something was also born in me. I don't know if every mother feels the way I did, or if I am especially neurotic. I just know that along with a deep, aching love, was an oppressive fear of losing it.

I don't think any mother can properly put into words the way she feels about her children. It is a consuming, furious, intoxicating river plunging straight through her heart. Mine terrified me. My very soul left my body and transposed into a tiny baby boy, naked and vulnerable. I was paralyzed by the thought of anything hurting him.

Almost two years later, my worst nightmare became a reality for a friend of mine. There are things that I wish I didn't even know could happen. Things that take a long time to heal and things for which heaven itself may be the only balm. The pain of seeing a family suffer in the most cruel way was too much for me to bear. I no longer believed God was good or even that He was at all. I sunk my claws deep into the idol of my child and turned my arrogant back on Him.

I've gone through the motions for a couple of years because frankly, I know them well and it is easier than admitting my anger. I made myself comfortable in this place for a long time.

Now I have reached a paradox. It seems the one thing I am hiding from is the one thing I know my boys need more than safety, more than happiness, more than life.

More than me.

I want them to know God. My God. My God that is especially fond of me. Finding my way back takes more trust, more grace, and more faith than I ever wanted to give. Before, my faith was unwittingly based on an expectation of security. Now who knows? Nothing is certain. I have no more answers than I had before. I guess I'm just finally OK with that.

So God, here I am.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Women's Ministry Now Has a Blog!!!

Hello friends who go to Cross Timbers Church. I would like to unveil the beautiful new blog for the Women's Ministry. Come check it out. There is not much there now, but whoa... just wait. If you don't mind, please link us up. We are really trying to get the word out. Love you all!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Toby Gets Religion

The flu. A very long, feverful, snot-tacular, exhaustingly monotonous crater in our late winter bliss. It is the malefactor I now blame for my son's relentless presence beside me in Sunday morning service.

It started out as sober precaution. A desire to not relive eight straight days of isolation and nauseating amounts of Thomas and Friends. Just a temporary quarantine from church childcare, where influenza lives a life of germy luxury.

When spring arrived, I happily marched my boys back to the children's check-in area, ready to enjoy service by myself. I passed Charlie over the counter without incident. Toby, however, staged a frantic coup by disintegrating into a noisy puddle of anguish on the lobby floor. I should have scooped up the blubbering mess of him and poured it into the three year old room where it belonged. Instead, I offered him a glazed donut and implored a promise to whisper during the talking parts.

So, here I am in late May walking into the auditorium with my perpetual "pew" buddy flopping along behind me with his mouth crusted up from donut glaze.

I stand him up on a chair slightly behind me, our usual routine, and I join in the chorus of "God of Heaven Come Down" with everyone else. I glance back every now and then to make sure he is not engaging anyone behind us with silly faces or peek-abo like he has in the past. He flashes me an angelic grin as if he knows my motive.

When the communion tray goes by I let him help pass it along, but not before he spends the better part of a minute selecting the biggest cracker square for himself. Then I try to appear casual while my non-baptized, non-prayerful, heathen son defiles the very blood of Christ by jauntily drinking a cup of juice in three relishingly slow sips as if this were nothing more than a refreshment break. (For those of you who were sitting two rows back and throwing me scorn arrows from your offended, legalistic eyeballs just remember that I know it's inappropriate, but I am living by grace so that you can peacefully direct your thoughts to the Savior of the World without a soundtrack from my three year old son whom Jesus LOVES.)

Once communion is over Toby and I sit together, my arm around him, his legs straight out in front and only long enough for his two green flip-flops to hang over the seat edge on his chubby, wiggly feet. Toby do you know that we eat those crackers and drink that juice to think about Jesus? It's hard to hear over the loud music, but he looks at me when I talk and I hope in a tiny way he begins to see a bigger picture of why we come here every Sunday morning.

The band launches into "Nothing but the Blood" in a groovy remix that has everyone in the room on their feet and singing loudly. I sway and bounce to the catchy beat. Suddenly, my son, who has no understanding of abstract concepts like sin or sacrifice or redemption, raises one hand in the air, palm open in a gesture of worship, as if this were the most natural thing in the world to do. I try not to react because I want him to have this moment for himself, but I just can't stop all the heaven inside me from bursting open in colorfully radiant pleasure.

I know he is only a little boy, but someday, he may see things in his heart that he wishes weren't there. He may find himself lonely and afraid. I hope when that day comes, he'll know just what to do.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another Year Goes By

Toby's second year of preschool is over. It felt odd because, wasn't it just yesterday that he finished his first year? Charlie was still a little bean in my stomach making me nauseous and swollen and grouchy while I feigned excitement over the rented water slide that Toby WOULD NOT go down.

This year was the same, except Charlie was strapped into a baby carrier with a bottle propped in his mouth and Toby didn't require a swim diaper under his suit anymore.

A suit, I might add that was wholly unnecessary since Toby melts if any water touches his clothes or head. A sweet girl from his class splashed him playfully with a cup full so he serenaded the 50 foot periphery with heaving sobs complete with those little pauses of breath-holding as if we are all going to jump out of our lawn chairs and rescue his poor little wet self. Oh Toby, you got wet?? With that highly corrosive, painfully burning irritant that God covered 80% of the earth's surface with? Let me call a HazMat team to come and save you. Or how about I WIPE you off with a TOWEL...

I wasn't in the cajoling mood, so we opted out of the scary dragon bounce house station and killed time in the empty sanctuary which is entirely more amusing to him anyway. Playing on the stage is a fundamental right for any church staff kid. He ran up the steps to the stage and back down and all around the instruments and baptistery and sound booth. It was so funny watching his small body compete with the enormity of the huge auditorium. Even though his second year of preschool has come to an end, he still looked sufficiently babyish when his legs pitter-pattered across the wooden set like Fred Flintstone.

Tonight I chased him around the living room to steal some kisses and my hands found a tummy that was not babyish at all. It was thick and solid like a bag of sand. I grabbed his leg and it too had sprouted a chunk of muscle.

I pinned him down on his back and tickled him. You are not mommy's baby anymore Toby I said too sadly. His eyes twinkled with a glimpse of his future self, wise and intuitive. A lil' bit I am still mommy.

Toby, I am happy that you are growing into a big boy and that you can jump off the couch and make your brother laugh and even eat an apple without barfing. But it makes me smile to know that in a small way, you will miss being my baby too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dear Blog: I Miss You

I know it looks like I have abandoned my blog since I have not written anything in a week, but I can assure you that my heart is here if not my time. My life is looping around me, swirling and turning, and I feel like I can only catch my breath in brief moments and just enough to keep from turning a deep shade of blue.

It won't be long and I will not be sharing a computer. I cannot wait to write my posts during normal, wakeful hours instead of squeezing them in at midnight or five in the morning when Greg's computer is available. Until then, I will try to quell the sense of guilt and longing I feel every time I think of Tales From the Running Mama whimpering in cyberspace like a neglected puppy.

Since I don't have long I will have to save most of my thoughts for another day (soon I hope). I just want to bring up an interesting topic that seems to be jumping out at me from every turned corner. Its a little book called The Shack and though I have not finished it, I think it might be one of the most important works I have ever stayed up too late devouring.

This book covers the one topic that conceals my God in a terrifying shroud of painful mystery. In fact, after an experience two years ago with a dear friend, I might upgrade mystery to bitterness. How can God be present in a world full of horrible suffering, sin, and hate? If this question could settle in my mind, even on a tiny thread of truth, it would give me peace in my deepest places, the ones I push back during play group, or while I am vacuuming the floor, but that crawl into view in the quiet of night and haunt me like angry monsters.

My faith so far has been shaky at times, waffling at times, forgotten at times, and taken various shifts and turns down my long road. However, until recently, I never doubted God's goodness, power, or love for me. I suppose it is inevitable for any Christian to grapple through murk and mire and either drown in it or emerge closer to Him than before. Right now God still seems elusive to me: in one moment a refuge, in another, the source of my indignant scorn.

During my first few weeks on this blog I noticed a trend that bothered me: His noticeable absence in any of my writing. I cover my children like beautiful, cherub-like idols, the very embodiment of love that feels safe to me. But bringing Him up feels like cheapening the outpourings of my heart with feigned contrivances. How I got here, a girl who would have given her very life for Him a few years back and longed for heaven like water in a desert, I'll never fully understand. I guess it is easier to live with abandon when you have nothing to lose.

I don't want to sound hopeless. He is chasing me, this I am sure. I am walking the road, though limping and questioning and I believe that He is strong enough to tackle my doubt when I am not. I still love Him enough to stay the course and trust Him enough to be honest.

If I have learned anything about Him in nearly twenty years of relationship, I think that will be enough to pull me through.