You Make Me Smile


Dexter has always been a feisty one. He was a tiny little chicken shaped baby with almost no hair except the little mohawk like tuff on the top of his head. His labor was miserable. All in my back and long. I remember thinking in my head, “hurry up little boy” but he took his time. It set the tone for his life to date.

He was also a wild baby. Bullheaded. Determined. He would climb things and do things that just weren’t normal of a baby his age. I will never forget the day that he managed to open our front down, navigate the front steps and go to the car… that is parked on the busy street. In a few short moments I’d lost him, because he wanted to go. Thank God for kind people who’d grabbed him as I flung my entire self out the door towards the street.

Dexter didn’t talk. At all for almost two years. Looking at all the words Dixon has at only 18 months, I feel so bad I didn’t realize how little my Dexter said. He was two before he could even say his name and even that was tough for him. He said almost nothing his entire first year in preschool and his chosen form of communication was always a fit, closely followed by head pounding. We had a rough year.

Months of speech therapy, lots of constant talking and we’ve finally met some milestones. Yesterday I listened to him speak in 5-7 words sentences. Of course he’s got a little bit of help but he’s coming along. He’s got so many new words and such a bright and nice attitude. He’s like a new child. The child I knew he was.. the child hidden by the frustration of not being able to tell people what he needed. What he wanted and what needed to be done.

We were out and about last week. He played happily with kids and tried to make simple conversations. He’s big. Well, taller, than the average three year old we’re finding and I think the expectation of him may be that of a four year old. One child who found it curious he didn’t “talk”, said he was dumb. “He doesn’t talk so good. He’s dumb.”

My boy? Dumb? Not at all. And while my heart broke into a million tiny pieces, it was quickly built back up when he looked at the child as if nothing happened and kept playing. Because he’s happy. And I don’t know if he just didn’t realize what being dumb was or if he didn’t care but either way, his bright and beautiful smile made me smile.

I think he knows in his heart how hard he’s working and what a good, sweet and fun boy he is. He’s not dumb. Not at all. And unfortunately kids can be cruel and sadly, it seems to be starting younger and younger. Hopefully, we’re providing him with enough love and kindness so that those words go in one ear and out the other… and that he just keeps smiling… and knowing that he makes me smile too.


Dear teenage daughter


Dear Teenage Daughter,

I thought you were a boy when you were in my belly. I was convinced of it as a matter of fact. We would call you Max and you would play soccer and have almost black hair like my brother. Imagine my surprise when the tech said, “it’s a girl”. I bought pink suckers, tucked them into my Perkins apron and handed them out to everyone I knew.

When you were born I loved you. I still do. You cried though, a lot and I had no idea what I was doing and I worried that you hated me or that you were broken but one day you just stopped. And you looked like this tiny, happy angel and I loved you. I still do.

As a child you were happy. Very happy. You, always by my side, made me laugh. And you have always been kind and sweet and smart. When your first brother came, you squealed in delight and made the best big sister. When the next came, you fell into place as mommy’s little helper. By the time Dexter joined our family you were 12 and you welcomed him into the world with us learning both how beautiful and how brutal birth is but I will never, ever forget your face holding him the first time. Your instant love of him is still very apparent today. Now, we’ve added a fourth brother. The last and you will forever be our one and only princess. God knew we only needed one.

You’re now 16. Learning to drive and learning about the heartbreaks of mean boys and mean girls and mean self. I monitor a lot of what you do without you realizing it and I can see the pain you feel with each passive Tweet and I know that you worry you’re not pretty or smart or good. I see you struggle with friendship and with family and with your relationship with your dad and I try, with all my might to give you good advice and I often cry on your behalf when you are not looking and behind closed doors.

It was hard to let you turn 16. Not that I had a choice in the matter. But I wanted to put you in my pocket and keep you away from all that is high school. I wanted you to never feel the hurt of not fitting in or the worry of not being smart enough. I, in short, did not want you to be me at 16. Who wasn’t smart enough to finish and who, will regret for the rest of her life, never going to prom. And who will always regret never wearing a cap and gown or doing what normal high school kids do. I may push you too hard, I worry. To do good in school. To go to dances and to make friends. Because as an “old woman”, I have regrets I never don’t want you to have too.

I want for you to do all the things.

All of them.

Go to school and work hard but don’t forget you’ll only be 16 for one year. Break some rules and make mistakes but not too big, not big enough that they will affect you for the rest of your life. Go to the dance. Wear the most beautiful dress you can find. Pick it because you love it and not all your friends approveA. Feel beautiful in it and rock the beautiful outside that is so gorgeous but not nearly as beautiful as your inside.

Go to every single try out and sports thing and club you want to and if they say no or you fail, at least you can say that you tried. YOU TRIED. Good for you. There is nothing harder than trying scary things. It’s harder to just try then it will be to hear no. Trust me. I know. So play. Play hard and try. Try hard. You’ll never regret it. I promise.

Be boy crazy but not crazy for boys. Because it’s fun to have crushes and to date. It’s fun. But boys? They’re don’t make you who you are. No boy will make you beautiful or smart or kind or successful. Only you can do that and waiting for a boy to love you so that you can love yourself. It’s not good. Just love yourself. Because if you don’t start now? Loving yourself in your 30s is much, much harder. So, date them. Cheer for them. Be friends with them. But that’s it. Chances are you won’t meet your future spouse now and if you do? There is a real good chance he loves you enough now to wait for you.

You cried in my car this week because you’re afraid to grow up. Listen my little love. You don’t have to go anywhere until you’re ready. So while I don’t want you home at 30, you’re welcome there through college and as long as you need. Going to live at college isn’t for everyone. You can be too scared right now anyway. Because you’re 16 and you still have time. You are still a girl and there is still time to decide. You can stay home and you can go and I will do whatever you need to feel okay. Even if that means moving you in or out mid-semester. You can be home with us. We want you. And when you turn 30 and you have your own family and you feel like you need away. Come home. Because I want you. I want you to know, when you’re 30, I am still and always will be the mother who held you with every broken everything… from skin to hearts.

You are loved. From the day I “discovered” you to the day I am gone and forever. I don’t want you to be afraid but I know it comes with growing up. So I hear, to stroke your hair and listen and to stalk you twitter and questions when I am worried that you are down. I want you to feel safe and loved and when you are scared I want for you to always come to me. Always. Don’t be afraid to grow up. Growing up is great. Aside from the bills of course. I know that maybe it’s hard to see your family, who struggles and your mother who battles the sad and worry that’s your future too. But you should know, even with the struggle, I wouldn’t change a thing because I might not have you. And I might be sad but, you are never my sad. Ever. You and your brothers are what keep me afloat.

So my dear teenage daughter. Do all the things. Do them all with love. Remember you can come home and remember, please, through it all, I am always your mother. Make your life what you want it to be. Don’t wait for approval and don’t wait. Just do it. Do all the things. I cannot say that enough…



The joy of my toys


Ever so often I open the wonderous caverns that are my photo libraries. There was a time in my life that I took my camera everywhere and I took photos of everything. Days that differ from now when my camera rarely sees the light of day. Facebook memories and timehop remind me of all I used to photograph and all I used to say. I often said to much. I probably still do. There was always a constant commentary of what we were doing or what I was feeling. As I have gotten older, I’ve tried to squash it because I know or I feel I’ve used people up. It’s not nice to use people up.

The commentary bothers me. Almost embarrases me but the photos? So much joy.

I love watching the children grow and grow again. In photographs, in stills. In photos that it doesn’t matter if the color balance is perfect or the composition tight. I find joy in the photos when my camera was just a toy.


My Drew. That sweater. He wore in Kindergarten where as Dexter wore it for his school photos just last year. The photo of Drew reminds me of how big Dexter is as well as how small Drew is and was. I loved stumbling on that photo. Watching Davis change from a tiny boy up at bat, to a child with a real swing and real dream to play ball in school. Photos reminded me of that.

They have reminded me of when Devlynn was too little to know the stress of high school or when there was no talk about buying her a car or her leaving home. I get to relive the moments when we welcomed her to the world all the way up to the first time she wore a pair of really nice shoes.

My camera, my toys brought me those joys.

I have a lot of toys I guess. I enjoy creating. Be it behind the lens or with paper and pen. I find a lot of joy in sewing. Making something for someone to be warm under or in. Something that will wrap them with my love. I take a lot of time and care making each Halloween costume, each Easter basket. I love knowing how special my child feels in the costume that doesn’t look like anyone else’s. I get joy from the comments. I like hearing that I am a good maker.

Vanity, joy in vanity. Terrible confession, *wink*.

We’re all granted gifts I think. I sometimes wonder what mine really is. I love trying to do lots of things but I never really know what it is I am really good and what it is I just love learning to try to do.

I wonder if I just stuck with one thing would I get really good at it or really bored. Would the sound of a sewing machine still make me as happy as it does now. How it makes me think of my Grandma Esther and how her craft closet smelled. What it felt like to twirl in the dresses she made for me with the machine I look at all the time.

Joys in toys. Joys in gifts. I love to create, make and I hope it brings others joy too.