90 Minutes: 2 Injuries and a Game of a Throne


Some seconds last an eternity. Some days are gone in a flash. Time is a tricky thing in this human experience, particularly with little humans around. “I turned my back for a minute…”  strikes fear into every parent.

Allow me to tell you about the last hour and 20 minutes. Buckle up.

1:23pm : After a delightful play-date with new friends, the boys play happily on the deck.

1:26 pm: Jonathan’s attempt to close the screen door results in the tiny metal latch driving underneath his thumb’s nail bed. Blood and tears ensue.

1:31 pm: First aid is administered. I am eventually informed that a Band-aid and TWO mommy kisses are enough, if he is allowed to finish his television show.


1:34: I hear a toilet flush and realize William had gone upstairs unattended.

1:35: I remind myself not to sprint up the stairs while pregnant again, catching my breath and a faint whiff of toilet use.

1:36: I discover William “Donald Ducking it” ie: wearing a shirt and nothing on bottom.

1:37: No poop is found. No Pull-Up is located. I dress Will fully.

1:38: I remind myself to call my mother in law and do so while there is relative quiet.

1:39: I pass by the bathroom as the phone rings. She answers.

1:40pm: I walk past the bathroom that I had cleaned thoroughly with bleach that morning and realize the pervasive odor is NOT Clorox any longer. The phone rings again.

Also 1:40 pm: My intention to greet her with, “Hey! Quick question for you. Should I grab anything special when I get groceries tomorrow?” comes out as “Help! Where should I look for missing poop?”

1:41 pm: I silently wonder if she questions why her only son chose to marry me, an individual who clearly needs help on several levels.

1:42-1:51: 6 Clorox wipes, soap, a scrub brush, a young priest, an old priest and holy water are used in the cleaning and exorcism of the toilet and potty-seat that only William uses.

1:51-2:34: My mother in law remains on the phone with me as I clean and conduct a losing game of Hide and Go Seek. William stands by, giggling.

I examine all fundamental evidence: ONLY William uses that potty ring. He clearly pooped. He flushed. His dismount resulted in a mess, however there is no other evidence.

HOWEVER, I have never witnessed him ascend the throne or disembark without help. The step stool sat by the sink, where he often moves it to try to wash his hands. He certainly could move it, although such events have never before been witnessed.

Behold, the REAL GAME of THRONES for every mother of potty training boys.



2:35: I give up my very thorough search, consoling myself that I would be able to smell any missing pay-dirt. 3 teachers and 2 nurses have informed me he is memorable as the most foul load-producer they have encountered, which I take as a professional assessment.

2:36: I call a friend to validate and confirm this encounter as a success. She does.

2:37: I reward William with M&M minis. He giggles, quite pleased.

2:38: A mighty thud resonates from the upstairs, followed by a scream and crying. This rare occurrence happening twice in one hour feels like watching two comets colliding.

2:39: Jonathan reveals that he was flying through the air NEAR the coffee table and tripped. Blood is pouring from his lower lip.

2:40 His loose tooth remains in his mouth. His permanent tooth is undamaged. Less daunting streams of blood continue.


2:41 Jonathan shows me bruises to his thigh, his cut lip and his banged head. He does not confess to jumping off of the table but informs me a medical professional and a punishment are not necessary. He eyes the table incredulously.

2:42 I return upstairs, relieved that William is playing, although he is once again nude.  I put his Pull-up and pants back on for the 17th time today. I sigh.

2:43: I receive a text from a friend that she is ill and cannot come to dinner. I console her, shun the germs of the infected, decide to eat Breakfast Casserole for dinner and put William in a playpen long enough to recount these events.

2:53: An hour and thirty minutes has passed since the initial cascade of events.  It feels much longer as I recount them.


Perhaps after dinner and bedtime I will realize how monumental it is that my 4 year old who has endured such physical setbacks has used the potty totally unassisted. It will seem unbelievable despite my efforts of the past 9 months. It seems late to most and miraculous to others. All I know is, it is time for breakfast…for dinner. It’s about time.

Swim Lessons Part 2: In which the real lifeguards are Nutella and a Fairy-Grandmother

The power flickered the lights overhead following the lighting’s flash, distracting her from recounting the battle… but the tale of victory had to be told. Undeterred by the police sirens harmonizing with pounding rain, she began typing steadily– for the heroine of this tale had to be praised. This beacon of hope shall stand forever in my mind as the Statue of Liberty– left hand aloft holding Nutella and proudly wearing the crown of Grandmotherhood on her blonde locks.

Behold, Lynette.

On the Sunday following the First Swim Lesson (shudder), Lynette found me at church and offered me a hug, encouraging words, and a cookie. She then ushered my firstborn into a new Sunday School class in which he thrived and left me proud and dumbfounded. Lynette had a military husband, twin sons, and has four grandchildren but it is her current service for which she is awarded the extended Medals of Motherhood Accommodations.

On Friday afternoon after a family picnic function in which my sons ate well and remained entirely clothed,  I received a text message that read:

“Happy Friday! Hope pants have stayed on in restaurants since your trip to Chick Fil A. Are you doing swim lessons tomorrow? I’m available and would love to try to help you. Just let me know when and where…meet you at the pool or go with you or follow from your house. Take Care!!”

I reread this message several times, trying to decipher the meaning through the chorus of angels coinciding with the sound of the Cavalry arriving from my late grandfather’s westerns.

I called and planned to say “No, I can do this…thanks…we’ll manage” but instead I gave a desperate cry of “YES! I have no idea what I need, but PLEASE be there if only to glare at the parents who would judge me!”

Twenty-four hours later she walked up to my silver van. She donned a black cover-up over a bathing suit and had a bag of tricks under her arm. Mary Poppins could not have presented more perfectly.We walked in proudly.

William’s instruction began while Jonathan took considerable coaxing. Lynette clocked while I speed-waddled. Fifteen minutes later he was showered and in the pool. At the end of the session William had made great progress, Jonathan was sobbing but cooperating slightly in his kicking and bubble blowing skills, and his sister had offered him a swift in-utero kick to the groin as a response to him wrapping his legs around my belly a bit too tightly in the deep end.

Lynette took William out during Jon’s lesson, dried him off and introduced him to a Nutella and breadstick snack pack.  I found him with remnants around his mouth as they both smiled like Cheshire Cats. She stood by me and wrangled the children while the instructor made suggestions I could not do and asked if my husband could help… the questions EVERY military wife dreads, whether the man is gone for the weekend, month or forever. Lynette understood and was there to keep the boys contained while I stripped my wet suit off my very pregnant belly in an involuntary aerobic catastrophe that would make Jane Fonda feel pain for the gain. What more could I ask? Oh… and she took pictures of it all to show what a great job we did. She saw beauty while I felt I was drowning.

swim class will

swim class



We remained in the water 18 minutes longer than last week and performed some skills. Everyone’s bathing suit remained on and no one pooped while in the pool. We left chlorinated and happier than last week, which is enough for me. Progress is progress, no matter how slow.

If you can, be a Lynette for someone today. Just show up, with snacks if possible, and just be available to love and lend a hand through hard times. My sons can’t wait to see Lynette at church. Her husband is a hilarious deacon who calls to check on us every Saturday without fail. I suspect it is to hear about the latest antics.  THIS is what the Church is supposed to do. THIS is a Titus 2 Woman.


The best part is, tomorrow she will have hugs and cookies waiting.   “Go and do likewise…”

God Bless Lynette.

Swim Lessons Part One: In Which I Drown


I won’t say I don’t know what came over me. The Evil Three motivators of motherhood– Fear, Guilt and Shame.

My son isn’t the first to get in over his head for a beautiful blonde… and perhaps not even the first one to then sink to the bottom of a pool not realizing the blonde could swim in 5 foot water. His assumed her buoyancy was an ability to stand and jumped in. Take a lesson from the Titanic, Son of mine: the ‘You jump, I jump” ends up with the guy dying.

Since then he refuses to go into the water past his shin.

While watching friends of ours whose water-loving children could swim with great proficiency, I realized William had followed his 2 year old crush onto the diving board and was laughing as she jumped off and doggie-paddled to the side of the deep end. I sprint-waddled to his rescue. As I drove home, all I could envision was the scene from Hondo of John Wayne asking a child who couldn’t swim how old he was, hearing, “Six” and throwing him into a pond to learn. The Duke would not approve of my parenting, regardless of every legitimate reason I have.

Within the week, I had found a place with availability for private lessons that would take kids with disabilities and special circumstances. It was expensive, but ideas that lead to success or great disaster usually are.I proceeded with the steps toward success and insanity.

  1. Set and Convey Expectations: Prepare the children with videos of the area so they are familiar. Enjoy that they are excited and have put on swimsuits an hour prior to class time. Become slightly too confident as they press noses to the glass and impatiently wait for their turns. This will ensure that hopes are far too high.
  2. Accountability and Ambiance: realize that the private lessons are at the busiest time of day for group lessons, meaning 45 other parents and compliant swimmers are watching.
  3. Cover Your Bases: Try to contain the excited, running and dancing toddler while watching the first child get into the pool… and then realize your son is IN the water, clinging to the substantial male instructor like a wet cat.
  4. Refuse Surrender: Envision your money burning as your child sobs great crocodile tears and yells, “I’m sad! I’m so scared! No swimming today!” repeatedly. Bolt after the toddler as the teacher, receptionist and 23 parents walk by, silently staring and sizing up your parenting. Continue to coax, threaten and take away clothing as the child desperately attempts to dress and leave with every other family.
  5. Send In Second String: Sometimes your QB isn’t going to cut it. I sent in William 5 minutes early and forced Jonathan to observe the class. Although Will loves the water and is constantly turning on showers and trying to play in any water source available, he suddenly lost his mind.
  6. Desperately Reach for Slivers of Hope:  Jonathan watched and even cheered William on…as William cried and clung to the instructor. Hear the receptionist say this is common, suggest coming early and monitoring, and then accept pity when she realizes you have no back-up for the remaining 5 non-refundable sessions.
  7. Strategic Retreat: Get home ASAP. Get through the four stages of coping before reaching the house. Deny how bad it was and tell yourself how many kids struggle. Feel anger over wasted money, the difficulties of disability and feeling isolated. Break all bargaining ideals as you tell the children there will be NO treats that were promised for compliance.  Depression and acceptance intertwine through sobs and the Herculean efforts required to return for Family Free Swim at 5 pm.


I returned resolute at 5pm only to see 5 police cars, a fire truck, EMS and onlookers gathered around the swim school parking lot. Did they get a call-ahead? (Apparently a pedestrian had been hit by a car.) In took ten minutes, but I coaxed the boys onto the pool deck and tried every ‘good’ method to get them into the water. I ascended out of the water in my black and white polka-dotted suit like an Orca with pox, wrestling the boys and feeling them cling to me neck like leather seats to thighs in summer. However, the two other mothers present were kind. One beautiful ten year old girl swam and squealed with joy; her Warrior-Guardian told me she had autism and this was her happy place. I had similar hopes, particularly for William but oh- the joy of that girl was salve. We regrouped and returned to the car with the pity of all and encouraging words sent with us.

After so many successes this summer, perhaps I overdid it. My belly is too low and my hopes were too high. Just as my sanity and last shred of dignity swayed in the balance, I showered the boys and placed Jonathan in his room to read.

It was mid shampoo rinse when I realized Jonathan had intruded on my shower for the first time in over a year. I turned away, covering myself and recovering from mild cardiac arrest, leaving him to face a Full Moon white enough to blind the Almighty. “Mom, can you read- wow. It’s bigger.” Dejected, I demanded, “What’s bigger? Everything is bigger! When you are pregnant everything gets big! Go read! ” I closed the curtain with force and flair. “Um, what’s that?” he giggled as his hand poked through the curtain. His finger was aimed at my unsuccessfully covered chest. “Those are my breasts and they get bigger so I can feed the baby milk, remember? Now, go read! I’ll be there soon!” “Well, I prefer cups”, he snickered as he left. I raised my head back in solidarity with every mother whose shower had become an unannounced anatomy lesson. I then realized that when William had soaked a roll of toilet paper the day prior, he had thrown small pieces onto the ceiling of the shower. Small, dried paper icicles seemed to laugh at my existence.

If nothing else, at least my third child is currently an excellent swimmer. May you all benefit from my instruction and wisdom.

Twelve Days of Christmas- Tricare Edition

I walked my sons into the store to get two items: printer paper and a new black ink cartridge. This endeavor took 35 minutes thanks to massive eye-catching Christmas in July displays featuring $60-80 toys…next to the school supplies. I was trapped and unseasonably irritated.

Our family is no stranger to a wide variety of Tricare chaos. Health insurance navigation is no picnic for anyone these days and when the care works effectively, it is outstanding. Moving to a new region, however, requires starting over for every appointment, therapy (we have 6 at about 35 hours a week), school form, and state intervention evaluations that must be redone every time we move across state lines. Furthermore, waiting 3-6 months isn’t acceptable when the patient is 6 months into pregnancy.

To keep the frustration at bay, I give you an insurance nightmare inspired rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the first week in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
a month delay to see oncology!

jh oncology

(60 day wait to see the pediatrician who has to agree to refer for the time sensitive blood work. NO one argues when a Johns Hopkins oncologist refers himself, Praise God!)

On the second week in this region
my Tricare  gave to me…
two OB trips with boys

ob appt
and a delay to see oncology!

On the third week in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
three wrong numbers–and a delay to see oncology!

On the fourth day in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
four calls per office– and a delay to see oncology!

On the fifth day in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
five therapy denials–

tricare rejection

and a delay to see oncology!

On the sixth week in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
six months on the wait list
and a delay to see oncology!

On the seventh week in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
seven new referrals–and a delay to see oncology!

On the eighth week in this region my Tricare gave to me…
eight intake packets

and a delay to see oncology!

On the ninth week in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
nine tears for wiping

crying broken arm pic

and a delay to see oncology!

On the tenth day in this region
my Tricare gave to me…
ten confused advocates

“What exactly do you want me to do?!”
and a delay to see oncology!

On the eleventh week in this region
my Tricare gave to me
eleven survey forms…

“Please fax the 43 pages back”–and a delay to see oncology!

On the twelfth week in this region
my Tricare gave to me
twelve hours in the car

sleeping kids
eleven survey forms
ten confused advocates
nine tears for wiping
eight intake packets
seven new referrals
six months on the wait list
five therapy denials
four calls per office
three wrong numbers
two OB trips with kids
a delay to see oncology!

Merry Christmas in July, Health Care Warriors!

From Oz to Wonderland

After months in transition from a military-move, I find myself thudding into a new reality unsure of what exactly just occurred. This happened a year ago as we landed in Kansas. For a year the world was full of technicolor, finding our way, farms and family…and a few tornadoes. Now we aren’t in Kansas anymore, but a new adventure has begun which is anything but black and white. For the first time in my 13+ moves, I have returned to the city and state I’ve lived in before.  It’s all wondrous and nonsense.

My 6 year old became a fan of Alice in Wonderland this year– in all forms. Fitting, as we are all a bit mad here. How could we not be? Dozens of my friends have been reassigned and relocated across the world, careening like billiard balls after a masterful break. PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season is quite the caucus race.   In my strange situation, I have returned to a place I was not so long ago, but thoroughly changed– much like Alice.

“Exacataly” a year ago, I sat on this worn and faithful leather couch with a 3 year old who could not walk, an adjusting 5 year old, a husband who had been away most of the year, hundreds of taped boxes with various spellings of our last name on the side, and great anticipation. Now that we return we are different and yet the same. We’ve changed so much that we are hardly the same people. Returning to familiar places would be the test.

The first familiar place we found was 24 hours after our arrival. We walked through tall, welcoming church doors to faces who were overcome with joy at seeing William run inside. Well, he ran-hopped like a little White Rabbit, as if he were late for an important date. The boys ran right to their classes and former teachers, totally at ease while I stood gobsmacked and proud. Joyfully amazed exclamations about their progress and positive changes echoed throughout the hall, as well as the changed size of my belly which now carries a daughter expected in November.

We set out on our way deeper down the rabbit hole. We unpacked the boxes, assembled furniture, claimed damaged items and painted rooms. I called Tricare insurance representatives, therapists, schools and filled out scads of papers. Wonderland was remarkable and fantastic… until nothing was quite right or made sense.

How do I make sense of it all? I don’t quite fit– either I feel like Alice closed into a house or I am close to drowning in the unexpected, bobbing in a bottle. The “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” options are tempting– but that could be the pregnancy cravings talking.  It does amuse me to think of the medical and insurance representatives on the other end of the phone as a stuffy caterpillar as I repeatedly answer the same questions. Here are our names, birth-dates, numbers, heights, weights, birthmark locations, and favorite tunes… but Lord help us if you ask, “WHO ARE YOU?” or where we are going.  I hardly know.

It’s almost hard to remember where we were a mere 365 days ago; everything has changed. Looking and running forward can make looking backward challenging and bittersweet.  “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice.”  Hope always looks forward into the unknown.

What I hoped for a year ago seemed so distant that it seemed impossible. Now I see more than those six impossible things happen all before breakfast…which my eldest serves and cleans up all on his own, including putting the dish in the washing machine. Perhaps nothing is impossible.

Now I find myself in Wonderland, trying to find the paths offered so that I can begin walking it. Trying to get home is one thing, but trying to find and make one simultaneously is quite another.  The important thing is to head in the right direction.

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”alice

Here is to us– the Unsettled, the Wonderland Travelers, the Mad ones trying to write new chapters without forgetting the previous ones. Here’s finding the grocery store and post office, new friends, a place of peace and to answering the big questions.. but if you want to know where your socks went, how we are adjusting or how a raven is like a writing desk, “Go Ask Alice”.





Gravity, God and Getting Up

He was ready. His backpack was ready, his outfit was dapper and he greeted the bus with and enthusiastic smile. The doors opened to the sound of a hiss and I watch Jon take a large lunge toward the bus… only to lose his balance on the curb and come crashing face first into the large, ribbed stair chin first. I chuckled and checked for blood. He whimpered, finished the climb and found his seat. “Rough starts happen, Buddy. You can still have a great day. I love you!” I shook my head with a smile and thought, “Yep, that’s my kid.”

I have evaluated my boys’ progress this week because professional evaluations have come home. It has been a mixed bag. On one hand, capabilities were judged harshly. There was a great rising in my spirit to say that yes, when you compare the performances to ‘typical’ kids, mine fall short. However, there is great progress! They are moving forward!

I sometimes wonder if God watches me get prepared and eager to go, only to fall on my face.  My kid recovers faster than I do, sometimes!  It is always hard when others evaluate your child. Assessments are one part of the puzzle and it is good to look at progress and areas of weakness. It is also good to balance it out with celebration. Grace and truth must to hand-in-hand. It is one thing to point out where I fall. It is another entirely to point out when my children fall.

I find that God does the same thing. The Bible shows us where he chastises, instructs, guides, and disciplines his kids. He gets a bit wrathful with disobedience too, as it turns out. Jesus did turn water into wine when his mom asked… I’m just saying. Still, when others messed with God’s children- Israelites and Church- it was ON. The goal was always to guide and love toward perfection and holiness while being fully present and understanding of where they were in the moment.

Today I had an encouraging friend with superb timing knock on the door with ice cream. Sometimes that helps when gravity knocks us down. She could have hit me in the head with an apple a la Isaac Newton, so I will take ice cream. That is the key. You find your people who can coach and encourage, speaking truth and love.

Take King David as an example. There are those who love to focus on his defeat of Goliath, authenticity before the Lord, leadership, and preparation for restoring the temple and Israel to glory.  Then there are those who can’t get past the adultery, murder, parenting failures and wavering spirit. The key is to see both. Humans are messy, friends. It can be both/and.  That is how God sees us. That is how I am learning to see my children.

As Jonathan and I say every night, “God never gives up on us, so we never, ever give up.”

Get up. Admit that it hurt. Find your tribe and keep climbing. Pray about it. After all, God is a parent too.

If You Give A Boy a Bowtie


If You Give A Boy A Bow-tie

If you give a boy a bow-tie, people will tell him that he is cute.

Pretty soon his brother will get jealous and start wearing bow ties too. If you give a brother a bow tie, pretty soon he will want a fedora to go with it.


If you give a kindergartener a fedora, he will suddenly remember his suspenders. If he gets his suspenders, he will refuse to wear pants with them.

If a boy refuses pants, a mom will have to fight it and end up explaining that while Jesus didn’t have to wear pants to school, I am not Mary and until he can turn water into wine he has to wear pants.

When he wears pants he will take off his suspenders, no longer looking like A Sound of Music extra and will want a picture.


If a Mom takes a picture, the boy will say, “Cheese!”, which reminds the mom that the cheese stick and other lunch items are still in the fridge. If she goes to the fridge and tells the boy to put his lunch in his backpack, the boy will start putting other wanted items into the backpack.

If a boy has his backpack, he will start to walk to school and a neighbor will say you missed the bus. If you miss the bus you have to walk, which will make the bus then magically turn down the street. However, you will have left the house.

If a mom sees a bus that her child needs to be on, she will wave the bus down and embarrass the boy, which is her right and duty. If the boy gets onto the bus, he will forget how he begged to ride it and not care that his teacher prefers it, and will start clinging to his mother and panicking.

If a mother has a panicking son on a bus, she will still strap him in while hugging him and praying out loud for courage. The mother will wave to the bus while her son screams to the kind bus aid, Then she will look for her phone unsuccessfully and then leave to lead Bible Study.

If she is on time to the church and drops off her other bow-tie wearing son, she will find a friend to sit next to and lament a lost phone. Then the friend’s phone will ring. It will be the school, calling the emergency contact to say they tried to call the very phone they were holding and that her son put it into his backpack. The friend will laugh.

When a friend laughs, it  will make the mom laugh and realize you have to make the best out of the situation and make the difficult daily grind fun. She will do something like invent a Bow-Tie Tuesday. This will spread and become a fun trend.

Then, invariably, someone will think it is a good idea to give a boy a bow tie.