If the Chestnut Tree Could Talk Week 4:

 

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Over the last three weeks, we have been letting the Chestnut Tree speak to us. If you have missed any of the valuable lessons in my previous posts, you can scroll down to the older posts and find them there. Today, the Chestnut Tree wants us to understand how fruit is prepared.

 

  1. Chestnuts grow within a spiny green burr, which protects the nut while it grows. Once ready the burr pops open and the nut falls to the ground.

 

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that sometimes God places us in a shell as well. This is where God prepares us for the work He’s already planned. When we are tucked in the shell of preparation, we are usually unaware of what is happening. We may even look at the tasks as beneath our capabilities, but it is in these humbling, menial tasks, God is laying out the groundwork for our futures. When we are ready God opens up the opportunity and we are released to follow His plan.

Motherhood took some surrendering on my behalf. The two things I missed the most were business conversations with colleagues and the creative fulfillment my career afforded me. Looking back, I’m so thankful I surrendered to the call of being a stay-at-home Momma, for God presented volunteer opportunities which helped me discover what He poured inside me when He made the me I truly was.  I’ve discovered my passions.  If I’d continued working, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for Bible study, art, interior design, history, or writing.

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Last weekend at the farm, my sister- in- law Prem and I were washing the dishes.

“If I had a business today,” I said. “I’d hire a mother of multiple children before anyone else to be my assistant.”

She nodded. “Multitasking skills.”

“Exactly. Did you know how many things you could get done in a day before you had your second child?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said.

“And with four, the list grows.”

After experiencing one year with my three boys in school, I felt God telling me to bring them home and homeschool. I admit, I fought the idea at first. I didn’t want to homeschool! I’d just pointed my wings to Starbucks for girlfriend coffees, but one night, I invited two sisters over for dinner (Lisa Mann and Liz Hammond). We sat around my dining room table and Lisa told me she homeschooled her children.

“Why would you do that?” I said. Lisa explained all the benefits and suggested I read, So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling? by Lisa Whelchel.

The next day, I purchased the book and read it in two days. After that, I read another and another. I researched it online and searched homeschooling organizations in Orlando. Soon, I could barely contain my excitement. I was going to be a homeschooling Momma! Somebody give me a lab coat. In my imagination, we’d be in the forest collecting bird eggs and plants. We were going to experience some real- life learning. It was going to be an adventure.

The reality was long days in my upstairs classroom feeling suffocated, but within those walls God was preparing me to write, bringing us closer together, and sparking my curiosity in everything.  As I taught my children, I was being prepared for the freelance writing assignments I have today. I look back fondly on those two years now. My boys and I grew so close and that closeness has survived time.

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Today, I see positions God is putting me in, which I know are shells of preparation, and I’m a more willing participant because I know I’m going to fall into some fertile land when my shell pops open.

What about you? What in your life do you feel is menial or beneath your station? Could it be God preparing you for something bigger? Can you look back and recognize where your preparation occurred, for the work you do today?

We have one more week with our Chestnut Tree… See you there.

 

 

 

 

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 3

 

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Many times when you plant a young tree you stake and tie it, so it has a support system for growth, but a Chestnut Tree shouldn’t be staked and tied when it’s newly planted unless it has an immature root ball.  A Chestnut Tree needs the movement to grow. When a Chestnut Tree sways in the wind, it stimulates its roots to grow, and also allows the trunk to become thicker at the base. This movement creates a healthy tree.

This brings us to the third thing the Chestnut Tree wants to tell us:

 

III.  When planted if a Chestnut tree is tied and staked tight, it will never grow roots and a trunk that can weather the storm.

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My son Nick came home from FSU for Christmas break, not looking healthy. He’d lost weight, and his eyes sunk deep into his pale face. Each morning, he headed out the door and didn’t return until late. Everything in my Momma body screamed something was not right. One afternoon, I received a text from his roommate’s mother, who was hosting a brunch for all his high school friends.

“Nick brought me flowers but didn’t stay for the brunch. He didn’t look good. I hope everything is alright.”

That night, I texted him demanding he come home immediately. I met him outside and he followed me in.

“Sit” I pointed to a dining chair across from me. I leaned over. “What’s your GPA?” I said.

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His eyes teared up. “I don’t have a GPA, Momma. I received a call on the way to the brunch. I’m on academic suspension for a semester.” He spilled the whole story. He couldn’t handle the 16 hours I made him sign up for in his freshman year. He found himself buried after the hurricane when a week of makeup work was piled on top of his regular week, which started a cherry-picking of which class he’s doing well enough to skip, in order to catch up in another. He’d always been good at school, and now he sat across from me with his tail tucked between his legs. He was having an identity crisis.

“I stayed up all night studying and vomited on test days. I panicked and then I made stupid mistakes, like forgetting to email my speech to my professor, which earned me a 0 on the whole project.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I recalled a conversation with my husband Jay, during Nick’s senior year.

“I’m concerned life’s been too easy for Nick,” I said. “He’s never failed at anything. He’s always been a good student, good at computers and editing, he’s talented in art, he picked up a guitar and learned how to play. Everything he touches turns to gold. I’m scared when he does fail, he’s not going to know how to recover.”

“He’ll be fine,” Jay said.

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I’ve gone over and over in my mind the picture of my boy. I think of mothers who have heard worse news from their boys, like the parents who showed up for parent’s weekend only to find their son died the night before from alcohol poisoning. This could be so much worse.

He hung his head and promised to pay us back. “Maybe I’ll just quit college and work for Dad, I can learn the business.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll untuck your tail and try again. Look, I can handle bad grades. I’m not happy about it, and we did lose money, and I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to tell family and friends, but that’s just my pride and money can be replaced.” I reached for his hand. “To be honest, I’m relieved it’s not something worse.”

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Life is messy. Sometimes, we have to flap in the wind to learn how to weather the storms.

My son is flapping in the wind like those Chestnut trees on the farm. He’s learning how to weather the storms of failure, criticisms, and a confidence beating, but the roots of humility, perseverance, and faith will spread. His trunk will strengthen. Too often as parents, we tether our children too tight to our aprons strings, and they never learn coping skills. The best lessons we can teach is how to turn to God when they’re in trouble, and how to learn from failure.

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Nick is reading Discerning God’s Will, by Richard Case and journaling. It is a crash course on hearing God’s voice. He is on academic suspension until summer, when he will start again with a clean slate.

“I’ve been praying about my degree. I pray a lot in the car. God will show me what to do, for now, I volunteered to work for a guy starting an oyster business,” he said.

He also has an interview with the city of Tallahassee to volunteer for several organizations this Friday and is re-thinking a business degree.

“Would you guys be okay, if I just pursued my passion in Marine Biology?” Something, Jay and I talked him out of. (Momma has had to take some responsibility. No judging. I’m a work in progress.)

Nick is spending a semester spreading roots and growing a thick trunk so he can bear fruit no matter what storms come along.

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What about you? Do you see failure as hopeless? Or do you see it as an opportunity for growth and change?  Next week the Chestnut tree wants to tell us what protects them until they are ready to nourish others. Have a great week!

 

Shades of Skin

“Momma if we end up in a race war whose side are we on?” His large dark eyes peered up at me. Eyes inherited from his paternal grandfather. His brown skin a perfect blend of my pale and his father’s dark. A color, many will risk skin cancer to obtain.

I glanced at the television. As a mother of four bi-racial children, I shuddered at the scene. What do I tell my twelve-year-old son? Whose side do we take?

My white heritage is layered with historical accolades in the building of this great nation. Some of the names sprouted on our Carter/Turner family tree are planted in historical references and textbooks. I’m proud of that. They risked their lives for their religious freedom and later freedom from the British. There is also a dark side of my ancestral history, one in which I’m not proud of. My ancestors were wealthy slave owners. One of those slaves born on an ancestral plantation was Nat Turner, who led the Nat Turner rebellion.

Through the limbs of our family, this racist ideology slithered down like a poisonous snake and I was raised within the snag of prejudice.

After I married, my father and I co-wrote a story to share his overcoming this generational sin. In light of all that is breaking on the news, I thought it applicable to re-post here.

He Said:

I was raised in an era when children were taught to respect their elders, saying yes sir” and no ma’am” to every adult…every adult, except black adults. As a small boy, I once addressed a black lady with,yes ma’am” and was scolded by my elders. They instructed me never say that to a colored person.” Upon asking why, they answered, You just don’t.”

Everything was segregated then from the black and white drinking fountains, to the restaurants and schools. Blacks sitting in the back of the bus were the norm. An age when congregations understood the words, “love thy neighbor” to mean, love thy white neighbor.” Hate, bigotry, and prejudice abounded. Our hearts from youth were ingrained with this ideology.

Like so many people at that time, I too was prejudiced, so much so, I refused sleeping in the same motel with a black family. Looking back, I’m not proud of this chapter in my life, but this is the reality of who I was.

She Said:

I knew the line we weren’t to cross, like the train tracks running through our small town, splitting colored town” from white town.” The gulf not only ran through town, but hung heavily in our churches as well. A dark veil prevented those who loved God, from feeling God’s unconditional love for others.

            One Sunday, a dark-skinned Indian man and his white wife visited our church. Once the service was over my father greeted them, and I took notice. When it was time to leave I jumped into the back seat, and leaned in between my parents.

            Daddy, you said black people can’t marry white people,” I said.

            My mother glanced back at me. Honey, he’s not black he’s Indian.”

           What’s the difference, he’s dark skinned?”

            She started to answer, but my father interjected. It’s wrong for anyone to marry outside their race,” he said. It’s not God’s plan or He would have made everyone the same color.”

           But you were nice to them,” I said.

           Once they’re married,” he shrugged, they’re married.”

He Said:

My oldest daughter Tammy moved to Florida for a job opportunity. One night in November, over the phone, she explained she ate Thanksgiving dinner with a black family, invited by their son Jay. I blew my top.

            “Don’t you ever see him again!” I yelled. No coffees, no lunch breaks, no contact at all. I forbid it! This is for the best.”

Months went by. I heard nothing more about Jay.

 She Said:

I’m ashamed to admit, I was unkind to Jay upon meeting him. His first attempt to invite me to dinner gained rejection. I tried to push him away. Where I come from you don’t date outside your race, religion, or political affiliation, but when alone in a strange town you begin to see outside the bubble you’re born in.

 He Said:

Tammy flew home for a visit and we had a wonderful time together. When it was time for her to leave, I sadly watched her plane veer down the runway back to Florida. When I returned from the airport, my wife informed me she found a letter my daughter left behind. A heavy dread came over me, as I backed into my chair. I examined the envelop in my hand. A father has an intuition when it comes to his daughter. I knew what was in the letter.

 She Said:

I left my engagement announcement in a letter. I remember the smell of my father’s shirt that day, when he hugged me goodbye. I didn’t know if he would ever speak to me again. As my plane turned onto the runway, I looked back to see his silhouette waving through the window, and I cried.

 He Said:

Every bitter emotion filled the fibers of my mind and body. An older family member advised me to disown her…count her as dead. He went on to say, Have you seen mixed children? They have yellow eyes.” That criticism was the last thing I needed to hear. My heart was broken and filling with disappointment, shame, and anger. Maybe he could disown his daughter, but I could not! I loved her, and needed time to work things out. Many sleepless nights followed. I spoke with my pastor and friends to no avail. I was still in turmoil.

 She Said:

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I started to have abdominal pains landing me in the hospital one night. I repented for living a lie, while wearing down the carpet with my pacing. I waited and waited for the phone to ring.

 He Said:

Not long after the letter I purchased new tires, and while waiting for their installation I sat in the lobby. There I saw Mr. Goodman, a black man I’ve known for years. I looked over at him and prayed, Lord, can you show me how to love this man?” There was no vision or bolt of lightening, but He did answer my prayer, and I can testify God went to work on me. He cleansed my heart and lifted a heavy weight from my mind. If I had heeded the advice of family, I’d have missed many good times and so many blessings.

 She Said:

I made one mistake…I warned Daddy. I told him Jay planned to officially ask for his blessing.

            “You mean today?” He said.

            “Yes, today.” I nodded for emphasis.

Daddy started avoiding, and Jay started pursuing. Three days later, an exasperated Jay trapped him during a football game. Reluctantly, he gave his blessing, and it was like the heavens opened and the angels sung. We were blessed!

The wedding plans began the next day. Jay picked the date, the venue, and reserved the hotel rooms. In less than three months we were to be married, before Daddy changed his mind.

At our wedding, Daddy stood and gave me away with the words, Her mother and I.” I looked back at them and whispered my thanks. We were one flesh, no matter what the color.

 He Said:

Tammy and Jay have been married for 18 years. As her father, there is a deep satisfaction in watching the happiness of my daughter. She’s blessed with a good husband, who treats her like a queen. I am also blessed with three beautiful grandsons and a new granddaughter whose dark eyes light up, when they see their Granddad and Nana. They shower us with hugs and kisses.

 She Said:

After the birth of my first son, my father came to see him. He held him in his arms by our pool. The sunlight shimmered through his light newborn hair.

            You know, I can’t tell which one of you he looks like,” he said. I think my grandson’s Italian.

            He’s a mixture of us all,” Jay said.

Four children later, I recognize God’s handiwork. I imagine once we exchanged our vows, God released a sigh in His heavens and said, It is good,” just as He does any union He orchestrates. Still, what amazes me most is God loved my father so much; He took one of his biggest fears and made it a blessing. God is good.

He Said:

There are some who say nothing has changed between the races. I say they are wrong. I have changed, and I choose to believe I am not the only one. I believe God has erased bigotry from the hearts of millions across this nation. When I look back to how far I have come, I am slapped by the irony that I, the great, great, grandson of a plantation owner, who owned 99 slaves, has four grandchildren from a bi-racial marriage. Hate crime laws, race legislation, or the right politician in office will never change a man’s heart. There is only one who can alter the heart of man. All we need to do is allow it, by practicing what my daughter teaches her children- to truly love is to love with a colorblind heart.

 

I thought about this article today while reading everyone’s posts on Facebook. Many of the posts revealed which side of the line the writer stands on. My thoughts also returned to the night the Ferguson riots blared on the television…

“Momma?” Colin said again, tugging on my sleeve. “Whose side do we take black or white?” I glanced across the room at my husband holding my little girl, the palest of my children, who prefers her Daddy to me. Each member of my family beautiful and distinct in the color God created them. I imagine the Master added a dab more brown on my son Christian, and a smudge more white on Nick.

I wrapped my arms around him. “We are on God’s side,” I said.

I am the blessed wife of a loving black man and the mother of four bi-racial children. I was raised in a racist home. May my life be a testimony that it does take innocent blood to cleanse this country. Our Lord Jesus at Calvary shed the only blood capable of cleaning our land and our hearts many years ago. I refuse to stand with any group spewing hate or ranting chants inciting violence. I stand firmly on the rock of my salvation.  Every life is precious no matter the color and each holds a unique purpose under heaven. Where do you stand?

The Gene Pool

Since Tricia passed away, and my days are consumed with caring for Isabella, memories of our childhood, seem to find their way into my thoughts. A time when Brandon, Tricia, and I, thought we were invincible, and live at least until 100. As children, Tricia and I promised each other when our husbands died, we’d live out our days together. We weren’t planning on murdering them, it just never occurred they may outlive us.
I am convinced our family had more guardian angels than most. This is not a prideful statement, for we just required more to stay alive. Trouble came natural to us. In order to prove this, I must point to the providers of our genes.
Daddy liked to ride storms as a boy, just as he saw the storm clouds rolling in, he picked the tallest tree he could find and climbed to the top. He rode that thing until the storm passed. He said tropical storms provided the wildest ride.
“I climbed a cedar tree on Chestnut Street and landed on North.” He once told me, which should be the first line of his memoirs.
Momma slept with her Sally. She grabbed Sally when the neighbor’s chickens started eating her azalea bushes. Screaming, I wrapped my legs and arms around her thigh, begging her not to shoot those precious chickens. She stretched out her leg like a tripod, aimed, and shot. Those chickens were perfectly aligned and one bullet swiped the heads off both. This is no fabrication, it was a blood bath. Those chickens were bumping into each other with no heads, and blood was spurting everywhere.
“Well, that serves em right.” she said as she brushed past me.
I never looked cross at Momma again.
We loved to climb trees. Tricia climbed a tree once and got stuck at the top, and Brandon climbed up to get her unstuck. We each claimed a tree in our yard. Tricia’s was a small dogwood (the lame one because she didn’t’ want to get stuck again) Once, I climbed my tall tree. I told Brandon, “Go get Momma” for I was proud and wanted a reaction from that lady. The top of the tree swayed in the wind and I wrapped my legs and arms around it. Mom came out of the house and looked up.
“Tammy you are high! You be careful coming down now!” She said, before going back into the house.
I realized then, she was a woman of great faith.
One dog day of summer, my cousin Linda and I decided to bleach our hair and ride the Sows at the same time. We poured on the peroxide, and climbed over the hog fence.
Linda stood in the middle of those huge beasts, and clapped her hands and screamed.
“Suey… Suey… Suey!”
They ran straight towards me, and as the stampede approached I crouched and lunged for them. I didn’t gain many feet, but did gain a peculiar odor to go with my beautiful platinum highlights.
While we’re on hogs, Brandon showed hogs for the 4-H Club. When he stepped up to show his hog, a runaway ran out squealing and landed between his legs. (ouch) He rode that hog backwards holding onto to it’s rump around the ring.
The crowd went wild. Mom and Dad were so proud. They stood and clapped for him as if it deserved an encore. The judges gave him a little extra money in his envelop for the entertainment.
We loved animals. In the seventh grade, Coach Polk my Science teacher announced, “Tomorrow is small pet day, you can bring your small pets to class.”
Brandon, Tricia, and I looked for that snake for hours. Popped him in an old aquarium and gave him a name. Albert was a hit! I held him intertwined in my fingers, and each time I turned towards Coach Polk he jumped back. When he asked me how long he’d been my pet, I didn’t lie.
“About 18 hours, we found him around seven last night. He was in the wood pile under a log.”
“Weren’t your parents scared you’d find a poisonous one?”
I laughed for everyone knew what poisonous snakes looked like. Truth be told, it didn’t occur to us.
Speaking of pets, we had many. Momma brought home everything and made it a pet. She tried to catch a mouse in the churchyard one Sunday. She slipped off her sandals and ran through the grass chasing the thing, while the congregation cheered her on. She caught it. A minute later she screamed.
“The darn thing bit me!” she said. She decided that wouldn’t be a good pet.
Another time, she brought this unusual caterpillar into the house, and put it in a jar on her dresser. She wanted to look it up in the encyclopedia because she’d never seen this lime green variety. The caterpillar wanted to educate her himself. Let’s just say, her arm swelled terribly. She said that wasn’t a good pet either.
Trouble followed Tricia too. One day that trouble was a twister, it toppled a grain storage container (silo), before heading straight for Linda and Tricia, who decided it was a good idea to walk home in a storm. Tricia held onto her umbrella, and Linda held onto Tricia’s foot. Thank goodness Linda won that battle or Tricia could have landed in Oz.
I think we all enjoyed a good adrenaline rush, but Brandon became addicted in his twenties. He lived on a sail boat, flew planes, parachuted, scuba dived, etc, anything he could do to keep Momma on her knees, he did.
One Friday, he decided he was going to sail to Tangier Island and eat some crabs. He didn’t check the weather.
A North Eastern blew through.
There was still no word by Sunday morning, and Momma marched up during the altar call, and told the pastor what her son did .
That evening he came home. The waves were so high he had to tie himself to the boat, and vomited for two days. Needless to say, he didn’t eat any crabs.
On Brandon’s last parachute jump, he talked Thomas (Tricia’s husband) into going with him. A Navy Seal was on the plane and asked to go up another 1,000 feet. By the time they reached that height, it was getting dark. They jumped anyway. Brandon radioed down for the airport to turn on the landing lights, and the airport radioed back they wouldn’t work. Brandon and Thomas steered their parachutes as they were instructed from the ground to miss the electrical wires.
Later Thomas said, “Brandon’s crazy. He’s going to kill me.”
I say to Thomas there’s still time for that.
Another jump Brandon took without a parachute this time, was from the 58 Bypass bridge. This is the bridge in Suffolk to end all, if you know what I mean. The bottom of his feet turned black, he couldn’t walk for a week.
Under that bridge we had a rope swing. At night,we tied up the boats, climbed to the top, and swung from the bridge, as our bodies hit the surface of the Nandsemond, the water glowed with Phytoplankton.
We forgot about the glow of the Phytoplankton the same night we forgot our swim suits. Tricia, our friend Kim Standridge, and I decided to swim in our underwear. Thomas and our “brothers” (guys like brothers) stayed up on the boat, to give us our privacy. Thomas and Tricia were married soon after that.(wink)
My boyfriend at the time had a metal boat with a huge Johnson motor on the back, when you started it up, the bow rose up out of the water. We loaded that boat up with friends and water bombs, we’d slip into the swampy reeds and surprise attack the other boats.
Once my Dad came down to the wharf, I put him in that boat and told him to hold on.
“Okay girl, show me what you got.” he challenged.
I put that boat on it’s side left and right trying to dump Dad into the Nandsemond. I was disappointed he still had a good grip.
We grew up around boats. Dad always had one. One hot Sunday after church we went out towards the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A lightning storm came through, I had my hand hanging over the side of the boat and there was a huge flash and a hot pain seared through my arm. My scream scared Daddy gray. He scooped me up and put me in the bedroom below. It wasn’t a direct hit, but the lightning bounced off a crab pot next to us and grounded itself in my arm. That didn’t feel too good.
I was scared of lightning for years after that. That’s why I chose to move to the lightning capital of the world. I faced my fears.
My husband would tell you before children, I often faced those fears in the closet. You see, I no longer thought I was invincible. I miss those carefree years, simply because my sister was in them. Isabella will never know her Aunt Tricia except through the stories.
I know my niece, nephews, and children believe they are indestructible too. I can see it by their trouble. We parents call each other to brag about what they’ve done. It starts with, “You won’t believe what (niece or nephews) did.” Of course, I pretend I can’t believe it, but I can…I’m not a bit surprised, just look at their gene pool.

Motherhood is Not For Wimps!

Motherhood is not for wimps!
Last weekend, we had a baby shower for my sister-in-law Prem. There are four babies on the way into the Adams/ Hodge family, and as the bellies are growing so are the fears and hopes in each of the mothers. Lisa, a first time momma is having twin boys (no anxieties need to be explained on this one), Stacey, already a mother to a beautiful girl, is having her first son, and experiencing the “I don’t know what to do with a boy”, anxiety, and my sister-in-law Prem is having another girl who will be born in Philadelphia, for sadly they are moving next month. Her anxiety is having baby in a new town.
During the shower, I sat with my “sisters” individually, and each had their concerns on what they were about to undertake. I am the eldest amongst them…by far…they see me as having the answers on all things maternal. They wanted my assurance everything would work out fine. Here’s the truth, motherhood is not for wimps. There is a period in every mother’s life when she enters bootcamp. Bootcamp is a dirty, scary, strenuous place in a Momma’s life, but it is where you drop all those ideals and pretentiousness, and chose to be the Momma God made you to be.
My bootcamp started when Nick and Christian were toddlers. Jay’s work carried him to Phoenix from Tuesday to Friday, planting me into two years of Military Momma Training comparable to that of a Navy Seal. Jay returned Friday night to a clean house, lit candles, clean boys, a made-up wife shoving toddlers at him, but it was all a farce. The reality was we spent the week in the muddy trenches.
It seemed the wars always happened the moment his plane pointed towards Phoenix, the multiple viruses fueling temperatures over 104 (both boys in cool bath tub, while Momma praying fervently), the cream carpeting being painted blue after their favorite cartoon Blue’s Clues, the boys going missing, and just as I was about to file a report with the police, the phone rang.
“Uh… Tammy are you missing something? They are in my garage pulling all the sports equipment out of the cabinet.”
If they were going to steal, why did they have to pick “Perfect Mommy” three doors down? You know the one. She has the perfect yard, perfectly dressed kids, and the tight body? She works out with baby tied to her chest, and she never eats sugar..that in itself makes me suspicious of her.
“I’ll be right over” Ashamed, I hung up the phone.
I felt as if the large “L” “loser momma” was branded on my hot face, as the boys and I put all the sports equipment back into the labeled cabinet.
On the way home…
“Boys, why did you go to her house?”
“They have the good toys.”
“Of course they do.”
Motherhood humbles you.

Christian was a particular challenge. His favorite toy was anything with a mushy feel between his fingers, and unfortunately there is a stinky variety of mush he especially adored…his poo.
I tried everything to break his addiction during those months. I bundled him up for bed like he was about to climb Mount Everest in the dead of winter, just to keep those fingers from digging up the smelly treasure. If I saw the monitor light go off after his nap, I sprinted up two flights of stairs with the speed of a leper, only to find poo covered hair, a big grin on his mouth, and all the flaps opened on the multiple onesies. Have you ever tried to scrub poo out of textured drywall?
One particular week I hit rock bottom. My day-husband, a lady named Ana, whom Jay hired 15 hours a week with a job description “keep my wife sane”, screamed, “Miss Tammy he’s awake!”
Fifteen minutes later she found me sobbing on the floor of his bedroom. “I just can’t do it again Ana! Poo Poo is killing me.” I grabbed her ankles as if they were my life lines.
Ana squeezed my shoulders, for she knew if I died she would loose her job. “There.. there… Miss, l clean up this time. You go have coffee.”
That week, I asked for prayer from my Bible study girls. One offered me this bit of godly encouragement, “Christian is very creative like his Momma,” before winking in my direction. I smelled myself all the way home.
Motherhood strengthens you.

Christian was and is a very sweet boy. When he overcame the poo stage (angels singing in heaven) he discovered the joy of cooking. One morning at 4 am I awoke to the aroma of coffee in my bedroom, and his large black eyes peering over the cup I was drinking from the night before.
“Hi Christian, what are you doing honey?”
“I made you coffee, Mommy.”
“Oh, Thank you.” I sat up and peered into the cup, but it was empty. I pretended to sip.
“Yum this coffee is so good!”
“Mommy, I’m making you breakfast too.” He sprinted out of the room. I stretched and let out a big yawn, mouth wide open his words broke through the fogginess of my tired mind.
Fear instantly filled every fiber of my being.
I jumped up. “Christian, I’ll make you breakfast instead!” I hollered, following the brown trail of coffee from bed to door soaking the cream carpet..
I entered the kitchen cautiously, the soundtrack from the movie “Jaws” beating in my ears. The refrigerator door was ajar, shining light across the floor. I peeked around the bar into the family room.
“Hi Mommy!”
I jumped. He was there… in the darkness. I turned on the lights.
“I’m making you some eggs!” He stirred the eggs into a very large circle with a wooden spoon like a chef.
I gulped…”That’s very sweet of you, but next time Mommy would love to cook with you.”
“I wanted to surprise you!” he said. “You’re the best Mommy ever.”
Let me just say, that expensive Oriental rug never smelled the same, there was a gamey stench for years. Have you ever tried steam cleaning a dozen eggs out of wool? Chunks of cooked egg spewed everywhere.
A loving mother grants grace when needed.
To satisfy Christian’s love for messy, I pulled out one layer of shrubs by our front door and made a sandpit. Something the neighbors couldn’t see from the street, but I could see from the door. I threw in pots and pans, trucks and cars, shovels, and some days a bucket of water. I sat my two boys in the pile of mess and said. “Go for it!”
The joy in their eyes over this wonderful gift was priceless. One day my neighbor stopped by with her two boys to see if mine could play. Her boys watched enviously at my war-painted troops in their trench.
“If you want, I’ll watch your boys. They could play in the mud.” I suggested.
“Please Mommy can we?” They pleaded.
She wrinkled her nose. “No, you don’t have any clothes that would be appropriate.”
“They don’t need clothes. I’ve got plenty of stained up clothes they can borrow.” I smiled, as if I was bragging about by boy’s merit badges.
All of a sudden she announced they had “that thing” to do and left. For a moment, I compared my dirty piglets to her’s and felt sorry for her boys. I slipped off my shoes and jumped into the mud pit with them. I became dirty Momma of the Turtle Creek subdivision.
You decide what kind of mother to be, and sometimes that means compromise and creativity.

I was pregnant…AGAIN!
I knew this one was a girl. I was smaller. I felt great. It must have been a girl. I picked all girl names and designed the nursery.
I bribed the doctor for an early ultrasound with a huge fruit basket. I thrust it in his hands and said, “I need to know Doc.” I had this fantasy I was going to bring the first girl into the Adams family. Never mind I brought the first grandchild, that was not important enough. I had to deliver the girl. The ultrasound picture I would put in a Christmas card. My mother in law would be so happy, for she had four boys and always wanted a girl…
“I see it.” The doctor’s voice broke through my dream.
I sat up. “IT? Did you say IT?” I wanted to snatch that fruit basket and bomb him with apples.
“Congratulations! You’re having a boy.”
I held back the tears, until we were in the car and then the dam burst.
“It’s all your fault!” I turned on my husband. “You’re too…too… masculine or something. I don’t know what it is.” I pointed at him accusingly. “You only make boy babies!” As if I accused him of an affair and wanted a divorce.
I cried for two days. Then, I wiped my eyes, put on my fatigues, and started planning for a new baby boy, while begging God to give my husband a new job.
I was about to give up on that new job, when at the end of my pregnancy Ed Kobel showed up. He was Jay’s competitor in Phoenix, and was running the development company for his brother Eddie DeBartolo in Tampa. By the time Colin was born, Jay had a new job. He drove to Tampa daily, but that was much better than flying to Phoenix.
Colin was like a ray of sunshine. He made me feel like I was a “perfect” Mommy. When I said I needed to loose weight, he told me I was beautiful. When I painted, he said it was a masterpiece. When it rained and we couldn’t go to Sea World, he said Yeah! we can snuggle on the couch. He was just that kind of child.
Motherhood is full of blessings.

Yesterday, we were walking into the grocery store, Nick stayed in the car with baby Bella, Christian came in to help me pick out the food..still the chef, and Colin wrapped his arms around me and said, “Momma, I don’t know why I love you so much, I just do.” He is a 10 year old lover, and he signed a contract to not date until he is 22. It is legal and binding.
It is in motherhood we understand the unconditional love of God.

When I found myself pregnant at 44, secretly, I was hoping for another boy, for I had no clue what to do with a girl, but God likes to keep me guessing and along came Isabella Fawn.
Having a child at my age is like being in bootcamp all over again, with the added bonus of your father telling everyone your age. Everywhere we go, “This is my daughter Tammy, she’s 45 and just gave me a granddaughter.” (as if God touched my 90 year old womb)
“Just call me Sarah,” I say.
Being a mother is the most important job I will ever have. I look back at the Mommy Boot Camp years, fondly now. I love to tell the stories of those years, for they put new Mommas at ease.
You see I’m a screwed up, mess of a Momma, and by God’s grace I’m raising four messy but loving children. They are not perfect, but they are perfect for me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world.
For my “sisters”, I can assure you there will be wars. There will be moments that bring you to your knees, but in the trenches you will find humbleness, strength, grace, creativity, compromise, joy, and blessings, but most importantly unconditional love.
Remember motherhood is not for wimps.