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Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Hear Y'all Got That Flu (Free To Laugh's first parody video!)



Hi, friends!

Well, it's a day that's been coming for quite a while, and I'm proud to announce that Free To Laugh's first parody video, which moms EVERYWHERE will relate to, is finally finished.

If you've ever had sick children, you WILL relate to this - no question about it.

Enjoy!












Feel free to laugh!



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Awkward Family Double Takes (Merry Christmas!)

So, if you haven't figured it out by now, let me make it clear. I love to laugh. I love anything funny. I laugh at inappropriate times, and then I laugh harder because I feel uncomfortable.

This Christmas, my family decided not to exchange gifts in order to save money for my sister's upcoming wedding extravaganza in Paris (and yes, that would be Paris, FRANCE...go big or go home, right?). However, I knew I couldn't leave my parents empty-handed, and that this no-gift-giving thing called for some creativity.

Well, after using my last few remaining brain cells, and spending a LOT of money on something that was supposed to be free, we ended up with the world's most awesome photo book ever made, a book we affectionately titled Awkward Family Double Takes

And it was worth every penny.

As my Christmas gift to you, my indulging readers, I am sharing my 20 favorite awkward double takes, directly taken from the fabulous book itself. 

Enjoy!


(front cover)


Attractive, right?

We always loved the spotlight.

Doesn't get much more attractive than this.

Holy close-up, Logan.

Merry Christmas.

We still like to cuddle.

Definition of confidence: me willingly posting this picture of myself on the internet.
Definition of crazy: me willingly posting this picture of myself on the internet.
Swinging is fun!

I was a happy child.

Why are dolls OK when you're a kid, but when you're an adult and you're holding one you look kinda creepy?

Little Logan, meet big Logan. Obviously nothing has changed.

Nothing a kid in FL needs at age 8 more than a rabbit-fur coat and a crisp $20.

My parents thought my sister was cute as a baby. In hindsight, they are on the fence.

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

Big guy in a little suit.

My poor brother was my human doll baby. However, it worked out nicely for our book.

Yogurt, anyone?

We told him that we're going to have to take away his pacifier cold-turkey when he turns 28.

Apparently she's still the messiest member of our family.

That boy loves ducks!



Feel free to laugh!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Silent Night?

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that whomever wrote the famed Christmas carol "Silent Night" had never darkened the door of their local hospital's labor-and-delivery unit. 

Can I get a witness?

I remember the first time I spent a good amount of my day in the L&D section of the women's center (apart from my own deliveries, which were actually magical and fairly quiet due to the brilliance of my best friend, Epi Dural). My cousin, who is also my bestie, went into labor with her second child. We were pregnant together three times; the first time I delivered eight weeks before her. The second time she went into labor I still had three months left to go, so I got my pregnant self stuffed into some maternity mom-jeans and made my way to the hospital.

For the record, very pregnant women hanging out for extended periods of time with other women who are in labor is not a good idea. It's kind of like the whole deal with women's cycles lining up with each other's when they hang out often; I'm pretty sure I had a sympathy contraction just walking into the hospital.

As Jimmy Fallon would say, "EW."

Anyway, visit her I did, and we sat for a long time together in the quiet of the delivery room enjoying the break from motherhood (ironic, right?) and reading trash mags and talking. And I was drinking Starbucks coffee, because who doesn't need a good cup'a while waiting on someone to give birth. I sat there drinking it right in front of her, filling the room with the delicious aroma of coffee, all while she could only have ice chips because she had already been given her epidural. In hindsight I see how incredibly insensitive that was. Insensitive but delicious.

As we were talking, the doctor came in and checked her. If you don't know what it means to be "checked" while in labor, ask your mom. He said that, unfortunately, things were moving somewhat slow and that he'd come back in a few hours to check again. My cousin was bummed, but also realized that she was offered a few precious more hours before she was responsible for another human's well-being, so she relaxed and settled in for what she thought was going to be a long wait.

Ten minutes later, literally out of nowhere, she said, "OW." Not "ow" like "oh, geez, that's uncomfortable" but "OW" like "someone just stabbed me in my hoo-hoo with an ice pick." I looked at her and asked if she was ok. She settled back in and said she was, but I could see that she was worried. A minute later the "OW" came again, this time a little louder, and she looked like a deer in the headlights.

"Something's changed," she said, panicking. "Someone get the doctor."

Her husband ran to find the doc while I watched her, puzzled. I was confused. She had an epidural, right? So why the pain?

The doctor came back in and asked for me to leave the room. I stepped out into the hallway, assuming he would check her and then I'd go back in.

It was about at this point that the screaming started. The only mental picture I have that represents what the screaming sounded like is this:




This picture is from one of my favorite scenes in the movie "Knocked Up," that I haven't watched, of course, because it's inappropriate (wink, wink).

The screams I heard pouring out of my cousin's delivery room came on quick and loud. Like, super-loudly. They echoed down the corridors and bounced off the walls. They carried the upsetting news to every woman in the area that, alas, sometimes epidurals do NOT work as planned, and that natural childbirth is indeed horrifically painful.

My cousin's husband stuck his head out and said, "uh, change of plans...she's ten centimeters and she's pushing...AND her epidural stopped working." Then he ducked back inside. I stood there paralyzed in fear, knowing that my own labor experience was looming ahead of me and shaken by the idea that epidurals don't always work properly. I started sweating. I started contracting. I got lightheaded. 

A nurse walked by and asked if I was there to deliver my baby and if I was ok. Um, NO, I was only six months pregnant, thank you very much, even if I did look like I could download a baby at any second, and NO, I was definitely NOT ok.

She could see that I was shaken and she could, obviously, hear my cousin's screams (along with the rest of North Atlanta), so she helped walk me to the waiting room and got me a cup of ice water. 

Since that day I have heard many a scream coming from the Women's Center hallways. Each one sounds like the first one, and each one represents new life being brought into the world, one painful birth at a time.

It's because of these experiences that I laugh when I hear the song "Silent Night" sung at Christmastime. It's like we have forgotten somehow that Mary was a real person who was really, actually pregnant with a human child (Jesus) and who had to suffer through childbirth. Childbirth, I might add, that was unassisted and unmedicated by any medical professional. It was painful. It was messy. It took place in a CAVE, probably on a bed of hay and while she was surrounded by manure.

Yet, I think, when we picture the birth of Christ we most often picture this:




It's a stable, yes. But would you look at that ambience?! Perfectly placed candles giving the cave a holy glow. Perfectly behaved animals resting comfortably around the manger. A manger that is, by the way, dressed in fine linens, because we all know that poor Jewish teenage parents have fine linens they set aside in case the need arises to line a manger with them. Jesus is all clean and shining radiantly, obviously having had excellent post-birth care and having been bathed. He, of course, is not crying as the typical newborn might. And Mary! Boy, am I impressed with Mary. She just delivered a baby in a stable and she is already looking rested and cleaned up, back in her street clothes and keeping watch over her baby as he sleeps. She doesn't need sleep, obviously, because the whole fabulous experience didn't completely exhaust her.

Right.

I think we all need to insert a record screeching right now. A drastic and abrupt pause is necessary. 

You see, when we "clean up" the story of Christ's birth (like in the picture above), we take the humanness right out of God in flesh, Jesus. Jesus was fully God, to be sure, but He was also man. Fully man. His parents were flesh and bones. He was delivered from the womb of a very pregnant woman. This isn't lore...it actually happened. And it was probably very messy.

Imagine with me a young teenage mother who just delivered her first child, unmedicated and virtually unassisted. She is with her new husband who didn't physically father her child. She is away from her mother. She is surrounded by livestock and terrible smells. Her hormones are plummeting and she is exhausted. If she's anything like most first-time moms I know, she is an emotional basket case, sleep-deprived, and is probably already experiencing the baby blues, if not full-blown postpartum depression.

Joseph is a young man who has been handed the world's most important job, the weight of which we can never understand. He is to father the King of Kings. He's also concerned about his wife, because she's not herself and she's crying all the time. He is nervous to care for Jesus because he's never changed a diaper or maybe even held a baby.

And Jesus. Jesus is crying. He's hungry, because little tiny humans get hungry often. He's afraid because he's been whisked away from the warm, enveloping home he's been living in for the past nine months. He's sleepy, but he's also restless because he can't control his limbs, and he keeps working his way out of his swaddle.

Just because Jesus is God's son, and just because this account is in the Bible, doesn't mean it didn't happen in a real way, the same way it would happen to you or to me.

When we take away the realness of the story, we remove the part that we can most relate to. The part where God came here to relate to us as a fully human man, getting down and dirty in our world, all for the sake of redeeming our souls. This is the part we must grasp if we are to fully understand the work Christ did on the cross, yet still we paint the picture of Him as this quiet, never-crying, always-happy Infant Baby King.

Silent night? I don't think so. All is calm? Likely not. All is bright? It was dark, and they were probably in a cave, so that's a negative. Sleep in heavenly peace? I'm sorry, but everyone knows that sleep and a newborn baby rarely coexist.

My goal here isn't to slam your favorite Christmas song. Not by any means. I do want, though, to take a moment to focus on the realness of Christ's birth, because it is in that realness where connection with Him happens. He is relatable. He is tangible. He walked more than a mile in our shoes. In fact, He walked all the way to Calvary, where he was crucified, bled, and died for the sins of all mankind. Then he conquered death once and for all and is waiting for you and me in Glory. 
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned...and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah 9
Let's celebrate the realness of Christ and his birth this Christmas season. I need it. You probably need it too.

And if you happen to go visit a friend who's in labor at the hospital anytime soon, might I suggest you bring earplugs and a valium?

Feel free to laugh!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

That Time I Got A Bikini Wax...



I have debated sharing this story. There are several reasons why, a few of which I will list as sort-of disclaimers:
  1. Stories about getting waxed for swimsuit season tend to contain a bit TMI. However, upon reflection, I realized that I preach being real on a daily basis, so why should this be any different?
  2. There are moments of this story that don't paint me in the most ladylike of lights. However, upon further reflection, I realized that I am not, in fact, very ladylike, so why not just own it?
  3. This story might scare off any woman who has ever considered going to get waxed. However, upon further reflection, I realized that they SHOULD be scared, and that I might just save them from making one of the biggest mistakes of their lives, so why not write this post as a PSA, my own gift to womankind?
And so, I find myself sitting here, preparing to tell you that time I got waxed. Settle in. Learn from my pain. Grab some popcorn, cause this is gonna be good.

--------------

Last summer my husband and I were invited on the trip of a lifetime, a seven-day adventure sailing the British Virgin Islands on a luxury catamaran. Even better, most of our expenses would be taken care of, and being the cash-strapped parents of three children that we are, we were all over that like a mullet on a redneck.

As we prepared for our vacation, among all of the details I was juggling and plans I was making and childcare I was arranging and laundry I was doing, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad crazy idea:
"Self," I thought, "you should totally go get a bikini wax before the sailing trip. You've always wanted to do it. You're gonna be living in a bathing suit for a week, so, really, it's the least you can do for yourself (and everyone else who'll be there, for that matter). Besides, how bad can it be (insert ominous music here)?"
Answer? 

Bad. It can be bad.

I had some time to myself (woot-woot!), so in between errands I pulled in and parked my awesome blue minivan in front of a little store called "Relax and Wax."

(Pause for laughter)

The irony in that name never escapes me. There is NOTHING relaxing about what takes place in those little rooms. It's how they lure you in, though, and it obviously worked for me. Once.

Anyway, at this point I was feeling good about the waxing that was to come. I had been instructed by several friends on how to get ready before I arrived. I had done a little...er...prep work at home before I went. If you've ever been waxed, you understand. If not, let me explain it by way of allegory: it's necessary to trim the hedges, so to speak, before completely ripping them out of the ground by the root.

I walked in with extreme confidence. I was finally getting my bikini wax. I was a grown up. I could make tough decisions. I could do this.

As I entered, I saw two people sitting at the desk before me. One was a super-attractive Brazilian guy who was probably twenty years old. The other was a gorgeous, put-together Brazilian lady who looked like a model.

I got nervous.
"Welcome to Relax and Wax," said the lady in her super-awesome-and-smart-sounding Brazilian accent. "What can I do for you today?"
I paused and looked at the long list of waxing options. I felt overwhelmed.
"Um...I just...uh...just want the regular thing. Ya know, like, just a bikini wax."
She looked at me closely and asked me if I was waxing for a special occasion. I responded by telling her about our trip, and that, yes, I was waxing in order to not frighten every single person on our boat when wearing my swimsuit. I'm not European. I don't braid my armpit hair. I like smooth sailing, so to speak.

She looked at me with condescension, then responded:
"Oh, honey, you need better than a bikini wax! You're at Relax and Wax, and we are famous for our Brazilian waxes. It's only $5 more, and you will love it."
Now, I had walked into the store with my mind already made up about this subject. Bikini wax only, no Brazilian. If you're not familiar with Brazilian waxing, let me also explain this by way of allegory: instead of just weeding and edging your garden, you rip up all the plants.

All. The. Plants.

It was in that moment, for some unknown reason, that I lost my ability to think clearly. I was subject to the sales pitch, and she was good. She went on and on about how much I'd like it, and how painless it would be. She guaranteed me I'd be glad I did it, and I started to think, What the heck? For $5 more why not try it?

In hindsight, I can give you a lot of reasons not to try it, reason number one being that it's worse than Chinese water torture.

Okay, back to the story.

Because she was so authoritative and so convincing, I agreed to try out the Brazilian specialty, and after filling out some quick informational forms and a waiver (uh...there's your sign), I followed the lady whom I will henceforth refer to as Ms. Miyagi (think Karate Kid, sensei, wax-on/wax-off dude in female form) back to her booth. She scared me.

When we entered the small room, she immediately told me to undress from the waist down and climb up on the exam-looking table. I waited for her to leave the room, like they do at the GYN. Then I realized she wasn't going anywhere.

In retrospect, this might have been where the shaming began.

I did as she asked, revealing a pasty-white, pre-summer-tan body that had recently birthed its third child and is was still holding on to an extra 40 pounds or so. A sight to behold, to put it mildly. I thought she'd look away while I hoisted myself up onto the exam table. 

No.

She wasn't staring in a creepy way, but more in a I-do-this-all-day-long-so-just-get-on-the-dang-table-so-I-can-get-this-over-with kind of way. 

I was thinking sort of the opposite, the whole I-don't-normally-get-undressed-then-climb-awkwardly-onto-a-tall-table-in-front-of-people thought.

But climb, I did, and there was a lot of grunting and huffing happening.

Ms. Miyagi didn't speak a lot. She began covering me in hot wax, and yes, I mean, HOT wax. I kind of jumped at the first swipe, and she gave me the evil eye. I told myself to man up, that it wouldn't be that bad, that women do it all the time, and all that self-pep talk. She continued to lather, and then explained to me that once the wax dried she would remove it.

"Remove" is a funny word. It sounds fairly innocuous to me, even gentle, like you remove the pot from the stove, or you remove your shoes. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong.

She felt that the first strip of wax had hardened and she told me to breathe in. I should've known anything that required me to pace my breathing was going to be awful, but obediently I breathed in and then out slowly. As I breathed out, Ms. Miyagi yanked that strip of wax off my inner thigh so hard and so fast that I screamed and shot straight up off the table like Br'er Rabbit when he hit the briar patch.

This is something, for future reference, that you never want to do while getting a Brazilian wax. You see, when one screams and shoots straight up off the exam table, one clenches her legs together, and the still-warm wax that is covering the other inner thigh area immediately transfers to the whole region.

Ms. Miyagi looked at me, disgusted. 
"NO," she told me loudly, irritated beyond belief. "You NEVER move during a Brazilian wax."
Humiliated, I quickly understood why. After I lay back down, I realized my left inner thigh was now stuck to my right inner thigh, and that I was a hard, waxy mess.

Uh-oh.

Over the next thirty minutes, through the use of a mixture of hot water, tweezers, and latex gloves (for her benefit), Ms. Miyagi picked off every fleck of dry, hardened wax that was acting as glue to my pelvic region. She was not happy, understandably. She had only successfully waxed one section of my body, and she was a solid forty minutes into the process. My feeble attempts at an apology didn't seem to help much either.

Once the wax was peeled and picked, she prepared the hot wax for the next section. At this point I was seriously contemplating cutting my losses, getting dressed, and getting the heck out of Dodge, because I didn't know if I could handle feeling such intense pain again (I've had three kids; childbirth was a breeze compared to getting waxed, and that's no lie).

I told her I might just head out, and she shook her head at me. 
"You will finish," said Ms. Miyagi. "You felt the worst part and it won't be that bad again."
Lies.

I did, however, force myself to remain still and calm as the waxing went on even though I was crying inside.

It was at the 70-minute mark that she announced that she was finished. My feeling of relief was almost tangible. I was pouring sweat and breathing hard. My mascara had smeared from the tears that were welling up in my eyes. I felt giddy and proud, though, now that she had finished, like I had earned a badge of honor.

Then she told me to turn over.

It was this part of the Brazilian waxing process that I was unaware of, and so I looked at her and simply asked:
"Huh?
"Turn over, we must finish," instructed Ms. Miyagi.
And, against my own best judgement, I did what she said because I was a teensy-weensy bit scared of her. 
"Uh, why am I doing this exactly?" I asked Ms. Miyagi.
"So I can finish the wax," she said, as though I was a complete idiot, which obviously I was.
I soaked in what she said. 
 "Oh, no, that's okay, I don't need anything else waxed, thank you very much," I stuttered and stammered, as Ms. Miyagi stirred her wax.
She responded calmly in her Brazilian-accent voice.
"Honey, EVERYONE needs a full wax, and we're gonna finish it. We're almost done."
Again, falling prey to her power and authority, I shut my mouth and came to terms with the fact that this was, indeed, happening.

She quietly prepared her wax. In retrospect I should've stopped. I should've hopped down from that crazy lady's table and run for the door.

Instead, I waited, anxiety-ridden, for her to apply the last bit of wax. It was at that very moment that "the incident" happened.
 "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt."
That was the sound the air made as it unexpectedly escaped from my body.

I'll give you a minute to soak that in.

Are you back with me? Okay. So, yes, in answer to your first and obvious question, I did indeed pass gas right there on the waxing table. Out loud. In the silent, sterile room. I would like to point out that Ms. Miyagi was really the one responsible for this, and I'm convinced there's gotta be scientific proof that there's at least a 50/50 chance that a methane-induced incident is going to occur during a Brazilian wax.

So, yes, it happened. Then, silence.

I decided the mature thing to do would be to broach the subject first, as I was the offender in the situation. 
"Um, I'm pretty sure I just tooted on your table," I told Ms. Miyagi.
 She continued working and said:
"Yes."
That's all. Not "don't worry about it," or, "it happens." Just "yes." 

At this point all I could think of was how fast I could get to my car from the waxing booth. She finished lathering the wax, and the pain I felt when she ripped it off was nothing compared to the pain in my heart from the anxiety-induced palpitations that were happening.
"Done," said Ms. Miyagi, closing her vat of wax and tossing her medical gloves in the trash can.
"Thank you," I meekly said, as she walked out the door without another word.
Left alone and ashamed, I quickly threw my clothes back on, paying no attention to the fact that the little bits of wax left on my nether regions were causing my underwear to stick awkwardly to my body. I grabbed my purse and went out to the front desk to pay.

When I got to the desk, Ms. Miyagi was sitting with Mr. Young Brazilian Stud Muffin, speaking to him in Portuguese and laughing hysterically.

I wonder what she was telling him.

Humiliated and knowing Mr. Good Looking was picturing me blowing it out on the waxing table, I threw a wad of cash at Ms. Miyagi and hightailed it for the door. I ran to my car, and did the only thing I knew to do, which was convulse in nervous laughter. 

I called my husband, hysterical, because I had to, as we say in the church world, "unpack" what had just happened to me. 

He was silent. I'm sure it was because it was just so attractive a mental picture for him, and that he was so proud, in that moment, to be my husband.

I drove away from Relax and Wax anything BUT relaxed, and vowing never, NEVER to subject myself to that pain and humiliation again. 

And I haven't. I haven't gone back. Maybe one day I'll get the nerve up to try again, at some other waxing salon, of course. Maybe not. Probably not.

*Sigh*

--------------

You're probably wondering how I'm going to tie this in to a spiritual truth, aren't you? You're thinking it's just not possible.

Well, read and be amazed.

If there's one thing we learn in life, it is that we should expect the unexpected. Even if the unexpected sounds like "brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt."

Life is not always, not usually, going to happen as we expect. Our plans aren't God's plans. We can't see the big picture the way He sees the big picture. We can set our expectations and make big plans and still see life change on a dime.


But.

The unexpected is going to happen. Sometimes it's funny or embarrassing, like my unfortunate incident at Relax and Wax. Sometimes life's unexpected turns are painful and hard, like when my sweet friend had to say goodbye to her too-young-to-die husband and father of three earlier this year after a hard-fought battle with liver cancer. Sometimes we face unexpected financial loss, like the day a 60-year-old man finds out that his job of 20 years is being eliminated.

We have to expect the unexpected. 

However, and this is important, we don't have to FEAR the unexpected. Do you know why? Because there is a very real, completely sovereign God who loves and knows us, and nothing is unexpected to Him.

The definition of sovereign is this: "being above all others in character, knowledge, and excellence."

This perfectly sums up who God is, and who we are not. Scripture makes it clear that He alone knows and sees the big picture:
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." -- Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
"The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength. Indeed, the world is firmly established; it will not be moved." -- Psalms 93:1 (ESV)
As a result of the sovereignty of God, when we believe Him to be who He says He is, fear no longer has a hold on us because, as it says in Matthew: 
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!" -- Matthew 10:29-30 (The Message)
He cares. He loves us. And He sees the big picture. Nothing catches Him off guard, not even a Brazilian wax gone very, very wrong, so be encouraged. He will not fail you.

It's time for me to wrap this blog up. After writing for this long I feel like I have relived some of the trauma I experienced at Relax and Wax. I think I need a massage. Maybe I'll schedule one as a treat. Nothing bad could POSSIBLY come of a massage...could it?




Feel free to laugh!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Day I Was Banned From Chick-fil-A

NOTE: Friends, somehow, someway, this post is going viral. Join the twitter brigade that is bringing the story of Jake's unfortunate story to the world by posting a link to this story on social media, along with #thejakebomb, and watch the world unite around a good laugh!



I really grabbed you with that blog title, didn't I? I should start by saying it's not true, technically. I haven't been banned from Chick-fil-A. 

Yet. 

I do predict, however, that it is only a matter of time before I am served a restraining order by the East Lake Chick-fil-A in Marietta, GA. I wouldn't blame them. Not even a little.

I want to take a second to chase a rabbit, of sorts. I want to say something to all of those mothers who sit in Chick-fil-A with their perfectly-behaved little children who are eating their perfectly-healthy grilled nuggets and their perfectly-portioned fruit cups (because we all know that perfect children don't eat fries): I hate you. No, seriously. I hate you.

See, I'm the mom over in the corner. The one who's worn and haggard and looks ten years older than she is. The one who's yelling at her kid because he's hiding his chicken nuggets down his pants by his...er...nuggets. My kids are the ones crying because their fries are gone and they don't want their FRIED chicken nuggets, they want more of the greasy, starchy goodness that is the waffle fry. It's my kids who are wailing and gnashing their teeth, simply because they aren't allowed to trade their precious, stupid Chick-fil-A book awesome toy in for ice cream unless they eat a single dang chicken nugget. It's not a french-fry restaurant. It's a chicken restaurant. It's not called "Fry-fil-A," is it? So eat your daggum nuggets.

I digress.

I should probably share a little background before I start into what was the single most horrific Chick-fil-A event that has ever taken place in my life. I have what you might call a "history" with this restaurant. The East Lake Chick-fil-A, specifically.

You might remember a blog post I did a while back. It was called "Chick-fil-A...My Pleasure." Click on the title if you want a good laugh. In short, it was an evening full of poop, pee, a contaminated playground (my kid's fault), a screaming baby, an exploding milkshake, and a tantrum.

Last year my son suddenly became ill (at the same restaurant) and explosively vomited all over me and lots of other stuff/food.

In hindsight I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to return to the East Lake Chick-fil-A (or any Chick-fil-A, for that matter). But the chicken is just so good...

I guess I thought the worst was behind me. So I let my guard down. I settled in. I grew complacent, too trusting, probably. I thought I had this "taking kids out to eat" thing down to a science.

Until today.

The day started well enough. This morning I took my youngest son and picked up my dear friend's kiddos because she recently broke her foot. Being the awesome person with the non-broken foot that I am, I took her kids for the day and brought them home. We baked cookies. We cooked spaghetti sauce. We played. Then I had a bright idea.

"Self," I thought, "you should really take the kids to eat lunch somewhere to get them out of the house and give them some play time. Somewhere like...(wait for it)...CHICK-FIL-A!"

I piled everyone in the car and drove up to the infamous East Lake Chick-fil-A. It was smooth sailing. Lunches ordered: check. Lunches eaten: check. Ice creams ordered: check. Ice creams eaten: check. 

Commence to playtime in the play place.

A good friend of mine was at Chick-fil-A with me, and we started talking. At this point, I thought I had it in the bag. Everyone had even gone to the bathroom, and they were playing well together. About five minutes into our conversation, though, two of the three kids ran out and told me they needed to pee. I left the other kid, the one who will henceforth be referred to as The Perpetrator, playing with my friend's son while I took the other two to the potty. They took care of business and quickly were back on the playground, and I settled back into a chat with my friend, during which time I'm pretty sure she made the comment, "hey, isn't it awesome, none of your people have peed or thrown up at Chick-fil-A today." Wow.

It was about five minutes later that a Chick-fil-A employee walked up and interrupted us.

"Ma'am, is that your boy in the bathroom?"

I stared at him, confused. I glanced at the playground, where I saw my son and my friend's daughter playing well together. 

"No," I told the man. "All mine are on the playground."

"You're sure your boy's not in the restroom?"

"I'm positive," I told him, as he walked away.

And I was positive. Pretty positive. However, something didn't sit right with me, so I got up and went into the play area. I called each of the kids. Foster: check. Pippi: check. Jake: crickets. JAKE: crickets

At which point I realized, to my dismay, that my friend's youngest son, The Perpetrator, was NOT in the play area, and that he was, very probably, in fact in the bathroom.

I ran back to the back of the store and found a teenage employee standing outside the men's room. It was about that time I heard the screaming. The screaming I must have been ignoring because MY kids were on the playground, and if there's screaming that is not coming from MY kids then I just tune it out.

Now I heard it loud and clear.

I quickly realized that while I was taking the two kids to the toilet in the women's bathroom earlier, The Perpetrator must have stealthily snuck out of the play place and gone into the men's restroom. We  were like ships passing in the night, and nary the two shall meet, or however that goes.

I looked at the Chick-fil-A employee and told him I needed to go in to the men's restroom, and he nodded his head.

I opened the door.

Nothing, not anything, nothing, nada, zilch, could have prepared me for what I was about to see/smell.

When I opened the bathroom door this is what I saw: The Perpetrator (age 3), naked, covered in poop. His clothes in a pile, covered in poop. The toilet, covered in poop. The urinal, covered in poop. And the restroom floor. Covered. COVERED. in. poop. 

Diarrhea, actually.

And the smell. That smell.

I threw up in my mouth. Now, before you go accusing me of exaggeration, let me state, for the record, that I ACTUALLY threw up IN MY MOUTH. I have heard people say that on a regular basis, and I am pretty sure that it actually happened zero of those times.

It happened this time.

The stench singed hairs in my nose I didn't even know I had.

Now, to a normal person, this situation would have been overwhelming. Frustrating, Terrifying.

I, however, am not a normal person. I do not have a normal history with Chick-fil-A. The irony of this situation did not escape me, and so I did the only thing that seemed natural to me.

I laughed. Like, REALLY laughed. Hysterically. Tears-pouring-down-my-face, couldn't-talk-couldn't-breathe kind of laughing. Screaming laughing. So hard that I was sobbing because I couldn't get it together. 

All the while The Perpetrator was standing, naked, staring at me, telling me that he was dirty and needed me to clean him up.

Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahahhahaah.

I didn't know where to start with the mess. He had "tried" to clean up himself, only succeeding in rubbing orange poop into the white grout with toilet paper that had disintegrated into a million little fibers on the bathroom floor. He had "tried" to get on the potty, unsuccessfully, thus smearing orange poop all over it. He had even "tried" to sit in the urinal, leaving butt-smudges of poop everywhere.

Everywhere.

I was at a loss. I was laughing uncontrollably.

I finally stepped back outside, where the teenage kid was still standing. I needed cleaning supplies. Obviously. The problem was, I couldn't tell him what I needed because I couldn't talk. I couldn't stop laughing/sobbing. I tried to tell him, and I even tried to explain myself, laughing/sobbing out something like, "I know it's weird that I'm laughing when this kid has had explosive diarrhea all over the men's bathroom, but you have to understand my history." 

Because that made sense. That fixed it. Right.

Finally I was able to make him understand what had gone down, and that I needed cleaning supplies, and stat. He went off to look for a mop and bleach. And air freshener. And anti-bacterial wipes. And...you get the idea.

About that time a man walked up to the bathroom. I told him in no uncertain terms that he could not, SHOULD NOT, go in. I directed him to the ladies' bathroom. He looked irritated and huffed off.

I went back in the men's restroom, barely able to see through the laughter-tears. The employee came back, this time bringing his lucky friend and the store manager, who at this point probably has my face on a wanted poster hanging around their restaurant. 

I heard things like, "oh, it's not that bad," and, "oh, we've seen worse," and, "you know, this happens more than you might think." And I knew it was all BS.

I refused to let them clean it up. I just couldn't. Instead I, the crazy lady, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom, maniacally laughing the entire time I did it. With a naked kid standing at my side.

After what felt like 20 minutes had passed, I was finally done. With the bathroom, that is. Then it was time to tackle the poop-covered Perpetrator standing next to me. The manager left, commenting on  just how fresh the bathroom smelled. I am 99% sure it still smelled like rotting flesh and that we were just immune to the odor at that point.

Anyway, I took The Perpetrator and put him in the sink. I started washing, scrubbing. I doused him in antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and then I cleaned some more. At this point it was just me and the teenage employee left in the men's restroom, and The Perpetrator, of course. 

As I continued to wash the poop from every crevice on his body the bathroom door swung open. A middle-aged man walked in. He looked at me.

Now, one would think this was a shocking sight, not something one sees every time he walks into the bathroom at a fast-food joint. A teenager, a woman, and a three-year-old kid being bathed in the sink.

Apparently, though, this guy must see it all the time.

He walked in and glanced at me, nodded his head, then walked to the urinal directly next to the sink I was using to bathe The Perpetrator. He stared straight ahead, unfazed, unzipped his fly, and whipped out his firehose. The next thing I heard was the steady stream of tinkle in the urinal.

It was at this point that I officially lost my mind. You would think it had already happened, but I had managed to hold onto a shred of sanity. However, when brother-man whipped out his junk and started the evacuation process 12 inches from me like it was just another day in the men's room, I couldn't stop myself. I stared at him in awe, threw my arms up in the air and yelled, "well...OKAY THEN!" Then I fell on the ground in a ball laughing until I thought my head was going to explode. I looked up when I heard him finish, watched him shake off (yes, literally, he shook off), zip up his drawers, and walk out the door (the sink was currently occupied by the poo-covered kid bathing in it so I can't fault him for skipping the hand washing).

The teenage Chick-fil-A employee had eyes as wide as saucers, and I was coming unraveled. I grabbed The Perpetrator from the sink and carried him out into the restaurant to gather my other two kids. 

I realized that most everyone in the restaurant had to have heard the commotion (i.e., my hysteria) coming from the bathroom when every eye was trained on me as I walked out. Well, either they were on me or the still-slightly-poop-covered kid I was holding. 

Somehow I managed to get the other two kids in hand and we walked out of the restaurant together, me laughing/screeching/crying all the way to the car.

Yes, this is real life. This is my life.

Now, for those who read me regularly, you know this is where I normally add some spiritual wisdom, some scripture, some truth for us to hang our hats on.

Today, the truth I leave you with is simply this:

LIFE IS FUNNY. 

LIFE IS HARD. 

EITHER WAY, LAUGH OFTEN. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Questions And Answers

I think I should be paid in mom bucks for every question I answer each day. If one mom buck equals 60 seconds of alone time, I am fairly confident that I would earn, on average, 297 blissful minutes to myself every afternoon.

Kids want to know "why." We know this to be true -- no debate necessary. My kids question everything and then some.



There are some questions kids only seem to ask in public places, within earshot of some easily-offended old lady or some grumpy-and-having-a-bad-day man-child who can’t afford to share a smile, even with the cutest children in the world (mine).

Things my kids have asked in public places:
“Mommy, did you tooter again?” (insinuating, obviously, that I had done it once already)
“Does she have a baby in her belly?” (answer: not one of the human variety...it's what we refer to as a food baby)
“Why do you talk like such a girl?” (to the effeminate man checking us out at the grocery store)
“How did I get in your belly?” (crickets…)
“Where’s your legs is?” (question asked to the double-amputee in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office)
“Why does Daddy have hair on his tail?” (there's so much to dig through here, I just don't know where to begin)
“Do you want to smell my finger?” (after said finger had been scratching…er…a smelly area)
“Why does your arm shake like jello when I poke it?” (answer: because I wrecked my body for you, my angel)
“How do we go to heaven and live with God?” (asked by my three-year-old, whom I answered with my sage wisdom)
He then followed up that question with:
"Is God gonna ask me why I don’t have pants on and my penis is showing?” (no words for this one, folks…no words)

Kids can also ask tough questions, the kind of questions I like to refer to as “go-and-ask-your-dad" questions:

“How is God everywhere?”
“Why does God let people go hungry when He can make food appear by saying a word?” 
“Why didn’t God heal ____?” 
“How did Noah get two of every kind of animal on the earth in one boat?" 
“What does God look like?” 
“Who made God?” 
“What is heaven like?”

These are the kinds of questions that send parents running for the hills, so to speak…the kinds of questions that are easier just not talked about. But ask children do, and they ask without reservation or fear.

As adults we have lost our nerve a bit. Asking questions makes us (and often others) uncomfortable. We’re afraid we might sound uneducated. We worry that we might stir the pot and draw attention to ourselves. We might be anxious that we won't like the answers we find. For those of who walk with God, we’re afraid that questions equal unbelief, and that it’s unacceptable to ask our questions for fear we might reveal our secret doubts.

Am I right?

I have this friend who questions everything. Let's say her name rhymes with Gristina. She’s a cynic. She picks issues apart until she has dissected them to her satisfaction. She chews slowly on things, and will continue to chew, sometimes for long periods of time, examining her belief system, her theology, and the Word of God. 

I respect her so much.

Sometimes she drives herself crazy. Sometimes she gets so much into her own head that she feels trapped. Sometimes she questions and doubts, and instead of accepting a rote answer as truth, she digs and digs and thinks and thinks. Then she prays and thinks some more. She. does. not. settle. 

And that is the hard path. It can be lonely and dark, especially in a world where many accept the easiest-to-swallow answer, the truth that makes them feel good so they can have a semblance of peace and move on to the next item on their to-do list.

But.

But it’s in the poking and the prodding, in the questioning and dissecting, where we truly learn to own our faith. When we are spoon fed the answers, believing them as truth just as little children accept whatever is told to them as fact, our faith has a tendency to be shallow, void of conviction and confidence.

This friend and I, we are in a Bible study together. She asks her questions and doesn’t shy away from controversy. It’s inspiring, really. She voices her opinions and challenges people on theirs when she feels that they’re not lining up with truth. She does this with grace and humility, and she spurs the rest of us on toward examining what we truly think about various topics. 

She can be a bit of a pessimist and loves to play the devil’s advocate. And she is fabulous.

She knows, and she trusts God, that not all of her questions can be answered on this side of eternity. And she accepts that and walks in faith. But it doesn’t stop her from asking the questions, because who is God if we can’t come to Him as a child comes to his parent with the questions of life? Who is God if He’s not personal enough to allow us to sit in HIs presence expressing our hurts and our pains and our doubts and our frustrations? 

If we couldn’t access the Lord with honesty, it would make Him an impersonable diety who lacks mercy for his fallen creation, and we know that our Heavenly Father is far from that type of god.

God made us and knows us by name. He can count the hairs on my head. And your head. And her head. And so on. Shouldn’t we feel the freedom to come to Him with our confusion or doubts? To ask the hard questions, because we know that He can handle our lack of understanding and loves us so deeply that He desires for us to know Him fully, at least as fully as we possibly can while separated from Him in this fallen world?

So I think we question, we dig. But we do it while tempering our curiosity and our frustrations with this truth: we are, simply, not going to have full understanding and all of the answers while we are a broken people in a broken world.

Paul says is best, I think, in his letter to the church of Corinth:

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” - 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

And at the end of the day, when we are stuck in a place of confusion and lack understanding and everything in us wants to just create an answer to our questions about God so that we feel better and can wrap our issues up in pretty paper and with a big bow, we must remember that when we are at an impasse with God…HE WINS. He must always win. We must look off into the distance and remember that we are not home yet, and home is where our Father awaits us to wholly answer our questions. 


"It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him…Each one of these people of faith [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah) died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home.”(Hebrews 11:1-16, paraphrased, The Message)

And that, my friends, is walking with God in a nutshell. Trying our best to discern what is right and true, using the tools He has given us (i.e., the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, wise counsel, etc.), while ultimately resting in the fact that we are not going to have complete understanding until we ourselves are made complete on the other side of eternity.

In the meantime, if you’re a chew-on-the-question type person and you want to help me answer some of the 987 questions I am asked each and every day by my inquisitive children, holla back and help a sister out. If you'd start by trying to answer my son's most recent question, that'd be rad.

"Mom, is that a man or a woman?" (because the jury's still out on that one)

Feel free to laugh!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

People Matter

So people who know me, like, really know me, are well aware that I am a recovering extremist. Not in the terrorist sense, but more in the how-I-function-in-everyday-life sense.

I am fairly certain I have OCD. Like, legitimately.


Before I go any further, I should share that I come from a long line of people who are obsessive and/or compulsive. I'm fairly certain my own father starched and ironed everything he owned, even his underwear, for a long time (until the rest of my family made enough fun of him that we shamed him into stopping, like good family members do). My dad, growing up, was known as "Habit Boy." He's still, to this day, the only man I know who literally scrubs and sterilizes the kitchen sink before he starts to wash the dirty dishes. With a wet paper towel. That he then folds four times and drapes over the edge of the sink in case he should need it. Every. Single. Time. He. Does. The. Dishes. This results, to his credit, in a sink that shimmers like nothing you've ever seen.

It's not just from my father's side of the family, though. My maternal side of the family is full of anal people who like things done a certain way each and every time. If you go to ancestry.com and search under "OCD," my entire lineage shows up, I'm fairly certain. 

All of this is not to point fingers; it's simply to show that I come by my issues honestly. By that, I mean that it's honestly not my fault. (Sounds like some quality time is needed with Dr. Phil, huh?)

I love a clean house. I like an orderly life. I find it hard to think straight or accomplish anything if my home is in disarray, if there are chores to be done, or half-finished work. I'm not the laid-back person who shrugs off the mess and has fun because, after all, it can wait until later. I find it hard to relax and let down when I know that things in my life/home/family/finances are not in order.

After having kids, my problems were exacerbated. A clean house is a sort-of non-option when you have small kids, which can turn you into a looney toon in and of itself. Cleanliness is automatically off the table. But even maintaining a neat house is enough to make a 31-year-old mom like me come unglued. 


This is my life, and probably yours, too. 

Today I prepared for some first-time guests to come to dinner. I folded laundry. Like, ten loads worth (for reals). I dusted. I vacuumed. I straightened. I organized. And then, 15 minutes after our friends arrived, I walked in to find my kids' room looking something like this:


In that moment, do you know what I wanted to do? (That I wanted to throttle my kids goes without saying, of course) 

I wanted to sneak away to the kids' room and clean it up because it was eating away at my brain that their room looked like a hot mess after I had cleaned up the whole house earlier today. I wanted to leave my company with my darling husband, who doesn't like to be left alone in social situations with strangers, and disappear into my boys' bedroom to have a re-do. 

I honestly wanted to do that. Like, I had to fight the urge. 

And then something came to mind, something that my mother has said to me before and will probably need to say again a hundred times:

"People matter before projects."

Immediately my stress over the lego-and-matchbox-car explosion was diffused. Because, honestly, people matter before projects.

Tonight we had the privilege of having new friends in our home. These friends just moved to the USA from Egypt. They know no one and they took a leap of faith to immigrate to America to better their lives, and the lives of their children. Having never been to the States before, this family packed everything they owned and moved to Atlanta a little over two months ago. They are lovely and kind. Their children are precious. They are strangers in a strange place who are eager to assimilate into our culture.

And all I could think about was the mess in the next room.

It makes me think about the time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha in their home. When Jesus arrived in town, Martha invited Jesus in to visit. It was, I'm sure, with grand intentions, and that she wanted to serve Jesus and honor Him well. However, when Jesus came in and sat down, scripture tells us that Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his teaching while Martha was "distracted with much serving." (Luke 10:40) Martha got upset that Mary wasn't helping her with the necessary chores, and she complained about as much to Jesus. When Jesus answered, his response was, to me, unforgettable:

"Martha, Martha...you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

In that moment, I think what Jesus was trying to show Martha is that stuff can wait. Stuff doesn't matter, in the grand scheme of life. Jesus matters. Relationship matters. People matter.

Tonight I experienced a moment of shame as I saw the ugliness in my heart. Superficial, unimportant things fought for my attention and almost won. However, I praise God that I am a work in progress and that He's not finished with me yet, and that the Holy Spirit whispered conviction to my heart before I wasted what turned out to be an invaluable time of pouring into people who desperately needed it.

In His goodness, He gave me the grace to release my unhealthy obsession with how neat and presentable my home was and instead gave me a love and a passion for the sweet people sitting across from me in my living room. He reminded me that people matter and that projects can wait.

All joking about my family aside, I must confess that I have grown up under the influence and seeing the example of the two most servant-hearted, people-loving parents I have ever seen. All of their funny quirks and OCD-tendencies aside, my parents have been a consistent example to me of loving people before doing projects. They serve. They listen. They help. They pray. And I hope am growing to be more and more like them.

I can only pray that each day I look a little more like them, like Mary, willing to lay aside what is superficial in order to spend my time with people who matter, and, most importantly, with the One who matters most.

Until then, I will wait patiently for the day when I'm perfected once and for all and in the presence of my Savior. Which is gonna be the bomb, because I know that in that moment I am not going to be thinking about my to-do list. 



I would like to think that this picture is a representation of me in heaven for two reasons: 1) I would like to think there will be no mess in heaven, as it is of the devil, therefore negating the need for housework, and, 2) I have always wanted to be Maria in The Sound of Music. 

End Scene (and feel free to laugh).