The most brazzle-dazzle day.

Saturday morning. Pancake morning. Not really, my pancakes suck so I made 6 pieces of french toast and I fed them to my kids who were squawking like baby birds. And then we went to the property to paint window trim.

Background info on exterior black paint: it’s thick. It’s sticky. And here’s a fun fact about Oklahoma: the wind really does go sweeping down the plain. So by the time Cheyenne and I had gotten through about 3 boards, we were covered in black goo and red dirt. I tried to sing “Brazzle-Dazzle Day” but wasps were buzzing around me and loving on all the wood I was trying to paint. Cheyenne wasn’t feeling my song, dust was in my eye, and well, people: house-building is just not as glamorous as Pinterest would have you believe.

Funny story: Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Us girls are covered in black paint that will only semi-come off with a hot bath, some bleach soap, and a scotch-brite pad. In the morning  we will look like beautiful tar babies as we meet-and-greet a thousand people at church. Everyone will comment on what soft hands we have, though.

Oh, AND we are having a baby girl! I know I know I know. This was my face:

my face

I couldn’t have been more shocked, but God clearly thinks we need another daughter–and so here we are.

People left and right have been guessing our name choices so I feel compelled to throw some bones here. A warning: Nothing says “completely traditional pot-smoking hippy” like our style. I think folks would have been disappointed with our not-so-out-there boy favorites: Duncan, Conrad, Titus, or Lincoln–our top pick being Duncan, Scottish for “warrior”. The middle name was still up in the air, but I liked Ezekiel, which means “with God’s strength”, because Caleb and me? We are just deep thinkers like that.

…..

And because tomorrow is Easter, let me leave you with a short story about one of my new favorite songs: A few weeks back, I was having crappy pregnancy problems for an entire 7 days before the dreaded 12-week check-up/ultrasound with my high-risk doctor. I was nervous as junk, and no amount of prayer was easing my mind, the night before or the morning of my appointment.

Ordinarily I’d listen to some soothing music in the car on the way into town, but our CD player is broken and my radio only picks up one Christian station. I tuned in, and lo and behold! A song was playing just for me.

I listened to the thing in its entirety, then started to flip channels to find something decent to listen to. The craziest thing happened: I suddenly got in–loud and clear–another Christian station, this one playing the same song from the very beginning. When it was over, I turned the dial again–to yet one more Christian station that I had never been able to get before–and my song was playing. From the beginning. Again.

I got to listen to this whole song 3 times, all the way to the doctor’s office. My worries weren’t totally gone, but my heart was calm and my soul was so uplifted that morning. It was clearly the power of prayer gone crazy; I haven’t been able to get those other two Christian channels back in on my radio since that day.

That song is Lord, I Need You, by Matt Maher. Call me cheesy and you would be right. These words were so freaking strong and true for me on that day and on every other day, probably til I die. I heart God so much.

 

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
 
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
 
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
 
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
 
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay
 
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
 
You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

 

 


The Need To Nest

So as it turns out, house-building is like opening a really exciting present that continually stabs you in the face for 9 months. It’s stressful and super-messy. It doesn’t start out that way, but it sneaks up on you and all the sudden BAM! There’s lumber and soda cans all over an empty shell of a house just when you need to be doing stuff like, um, life.

Behold, exactly where we are in the construction process:

 

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The front porch plus a small glimpse of all the scrap wood and nails and trash that we have no idea what to do with.

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Living room looking into the kitchen.

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The upstairs hallway with the unintentionally ginormous window.

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Merrick standing in his room looking at a bird that was trying, with great success, to make a nest in Mia’s room.

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The doors we purchased from The Ghetto Door Store.

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On the stairs…in his big brother shirt (squeeee!)

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Standing next to the front door in the living room.

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The garage. Boring.

 

I don’t know what triggered my sudden sense of urgency. I see the next 2 months zooming by before my very eyes, and June will be busy in it’s own special way (vacation bible school, church camp, my birthday celebration week, for example). July will be spent trying not to die of heat exhaustion and the kids start school in August. I plan on lounging pitifully on the couch until I go into labor by mid-September.

So you see, we have a small window of time to complete this bad boy. I won’t even bring up selling our current place, and packing and cleaning and moving…oh hello, panic attack. I’ve been expecting you.

Caleb doesn’t know it yet, but I have some great ideas as far as finishing touches go. Nautical-ish outdoor lights for indoor spaces? Done! Red-and-white-checkered bathroom floor? Please and thank you! Prolific mural work on every wall? Don’t mind if I do!

rapunzel

Just trying to stimulate the minds of 3 impressionable young children, folks. And if I had my way, you’d be able to see our house from outerspace:

rainbow house

I guess I could always pitch the idea of charging admission to visitors wishing to tour a crazy rainbow house. God bless my husband’s patient little down-to-earth heart.


College sucks and I hate it forever til I die.

I’m freaking out. Cheyenne’s summer plans took a turn for the financially lucrative and she will be leaving much, much sooner than the last week of August–that I was fully prepared for (*not prepared for at all whatsoever).

It now looks as though she will be gone in a matter of 6 short weeks.

I seriously just gave birth to her, for crying out loud!

I should be out doing a million and one errands. Instead, I’m sobbing over old photographs and reading sappy blog posts about becoming a responsible young lady who contributes to society. And, well, let’s face it–I could use the advice on that matter even still.

What I really want? Is for someone to hold me, and tell me everything is gonna be alright.

But this is good, right? I mean, we want our children to grow up and be productive and happy and independent. Don’t we? This is what we’ve been raising them to do. Isn’t it? I should be beaming with pride and passing out cigars because parents be smoking cigars for no reason all the time. Shouldn’t I?

Dang this crazy brilliant girl and the opportunities she has! I should have never told her she could go anywhere she wants to go and be anything she wants to be back when she was in kindergarten. On the plus side, I have 8 years before Mia is in a similar boat, during which time I will drill into her head the pros (no cons) of living at home for the rest of her natural life.

So guys–say hello to me and my permanent state of anxiety, plus a new credit card that gives me sky miles when I buy groceries.


crunchy granola girl power

Hello. My name is Toni (but my trail name is Sunbeam), and I got wrinkles, plus what appears to be less-than brown hair but not exactly blond; one might classify it as mildly gray. But whatever.

There’s been a few thoughts in my mind the past couple months (shocker!), so if my ideas about beauty and aging don’t jam with your own, please do not be offended.

Lately I’ve been ever-so-slightly disheartened by some of the magazine ads I’ve seen, the diet-fads I’ve heard about, and the make-over parties I’ve attended; not because I think I need the miracle products that I can’t afford anyway, but because I see my beautiful, sweet friends frown into tiny mirrors, critiquing themselves up one side and down the other: the shapes of their noses. The texture of their skin. The color of their cheeks.

Every line.

Every mark.

Everything that makes them who they are.

I want to scream at them: “You stop that! You are gorgeous. You are kind and thoughtful and strong and intelligent. And have you listened to the sound of your own giggling? It’s contagious, and I love it, and I love you.”

Girls, we need not be so hard on ourselves. However, I am well aware that I may look a little battle-worn:

Crow’s feet? Ha! They are laugh lines, because I’ve been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by hilarious people my whole life.

Wrinkles on my forehead? Those are called “wrinkles on my forehead”, because I’ve had fights with my husband, and I’ve been worried about my 3 kids, and I live in Oklahoma where tornadoes give me heart attacks 5 times a year.

My ridiculously rosy cheeks? They match the rest of my body. I am pink, people. Hot pink. I might look scary when I run, but I look damn near jovial the rest of the time.

And my hands–they’re rough and calloused and I’m not even sure why. Years of nail-biting, dish-washing and finger-painting, perhaps. My hands are short, and stubby, and amazing. These puppies have bathed babies, wiped noses, and made approximately 2 zillion peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. They’ve created beautiful works of art. Expensive hand-repair moisturizers can BITE ME.

I wouldn’t trade one tiny wrinkle for any moment of the last 33 years.

Don’t get me wrong: I love me some purple eye-shadow, coconut oil on my scratched-up elbows, and sea-salt-scented anything. I could stand to remember to wash my face at night. I might need to lay off the coffee (decaf or not.) I could use more than one serving of fresh vegetables a week.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m all that and a bag of greasy potato chips. I am actually not opposed to looking my best–but if my best is going to cost me several hundred dollars a year, I feel as though I should get over myself a little bit.

Because guess what? I’m not 21 anymore. I’m not even 29. And that’s a good thing. I’m in a way better place at 33, and I have full confidence that God will increase my awesome factor with each passing year. In fact, the world won’t be able to handle me by the time I turn 55, and I’ll have to just die.

I could write a freaking book about it but I’ll end with this:

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3: 4

Holla! I know a gal that sells beauty products who’s got that gentle and quiet thing down pat–she’s an absolute inspiration. I’ll be working on my own spirit…and probably earning a few more wrinkles in the process.


completely and utterly not ready whatsoever at all.

Cheyenne is graduating in a month. It’s really happening. Fact: I can handle graduation. Other Fact: I cannot handle her moving to college, living away from home, starting a career, and possibly getting stabbed.

Because this is a crazy world we live in, folks.

On the upside: Cheyenne’s a smart girl who is also hilarious and kind and talented and beautiful. She’ll have no trouble at West Virginia University. (Or is it the University of West Virginia? I should probably know that.) Now, this is just heresy as far as I am aware, but when one gives birth to babies, those babies apparently do get bigger and smarter, and will eventually demand their independence, and will want to get away from their moms.

I know! I’m just as shocked as you are.

It’s a challenging thought, and I face the same problems every parent faces:

  1. I have yet to find protective metal throat shields on sale anywhere; as of now, I cannot prevent my daughter from being strangled.
  2. Plastic bubbles are too expensive.
  3. The first 24 hours after a disappearance are the most crucial. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.
  4. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.
  5. West Virginia is a 2 days’ drive from here.

Keep in mind, I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. A young mom–a really, really young mom. Too young for this teenager business. I was just in college myself! At this point in my life, I’m mentally equipped for Sesame Street and board books, hot dog slices and cut-up grapes…and that’s about it. What happened to the sweet little girl who was over-the-moon happy just to sit on my lap and read the same Berenstain Bear book over and over until she fell asleep for her afternoon nap? I’m not ready for driving and dating or the ACT or the FAFSA.

And oh, wait: Cheyenne already covered all of that, and I just blocked it out like it never happened. Now we’re onto graduation and college. Here’s the case for not getting pregnant at 15: YOU CANNOT HANDLE HAVING AN 18-YEAR-OLD IN YOUR EARLY THIRTIES. You just can’t. Humans weren’t made for it.

My daughter’s friends’ parents? Seem to be taking it all in stride. Everyone has such awesome kids–all the graduating seniors I know are prepped and ready to kick butt and take down names in their new grown-up world. They’re young, energetic, smart, and ready. I’m proud of every single one of them.

But I don’t think that I, personally, was built for letting go. Like, at all.

Because how am I going to wave good-bye to this young woman who shares my genetic material, suffered through my “parenting”, and yet somehow got to be valedictorian and earned herself a scholarship to a far-away school to study all things scientific and complicated:

McClung23

This one does not have a spirit of fear in her. She is bolder and braver and smarter and more confident than I could have ever hoped to be at that age (and also at the age I am now).

You guys pray that wherever she goes, she will know that she is always loved and welcomed back here in Oklahoma. Pray that she seeks God’s will for her life. And pray that I make it through August without locking her in the basement that I don’t even have.


Naming a Human, part 890.

Seventeen weeks. You guys know how long that is, right? Not even 5 months. I’m not even 5 months pregnant. And yet I have the stance and the waddle of a woman who’s been carrying a ten-pound baby in her belly for the past, oh, 3 years.

I am surrounded by expectant mothers. 2 of them are pregnant, and one is on pins and needles, and jumping through hoops–tiny hoops, that the state of Oklahoma then lights on fire–to welcome another child into her family. I am guessing the journey is by far more uncertain and frustrating than mine–but the anticipation and the excitement are the same. And I can’t wait to introduce her new kid to my new kid and say “Look! This is your best good friend for life! Now remember this day and don’t say we never did anything for you two.”

The little scamps.

Mia is counting down the days, hours, and minutes until we know whether this baby is a boy or girl. Everyone’s gut feeling is the same: boy. So…we shall see.

For fun, we consult The Giant Ridiculous 13,000-Baby Name Almanac–we flip through with our eyes closed and point blindly to any random spot on a page. We have had interesting results:

  • Gur, a Hebrew name that means “like a lion cub.” And Lorimer, which means “one that makes harnesses.” So our baby, Gur Lorimer, would essentially be, according to logic, “one who harnesses lion cubs.” And then, according to my own logic, “One who dominates lions.” Way better.
  • Hamilton Pecos. I didn’t really bother reading the origins of these names because a boy that goes by Hamilton Pecos would automatically be hysterical, amirite?
  • Irene Candy and Eleanor Shanifa. So many LOLZ.

Nobody worry. That’s not how we really name kids around here…although given Caleb’s hatred for every suggestion offered on God’s great green earth, it may well become a fallback tactic. So in…23 weeks, we could possibly be introducing baby Gur to his built-in BFFs, all of whom will have perfectly normal names, I’m sure.

(All joking aside, feel free to get in on this madness: if you know me–and you can pretty much say you do if read my crazy talk on a regular basis–I’d love to hear any suggestions (or expectations!) you might have for us, as I’m pretty sure that naming human beings is a task we should not be trusted with.)

Our other baby-naming adventures have been documented here, here, here, here, and also here.

 


outdoor cat.

After 4 long–and I’m talking LONG–months of personal restraint and self-control, I bit my nails. Like, I bit them clean off. I had come so far! I’ve been a nail-biter since I was 3 (truestoryaskmymother) and it was assumed that they had ceased to grow completely. But behold the power of a good prenatal vitamin and a superstition based in nothing but my own crazy head! By mid-February I had grown me some pretty fierce she-claws. Unfortunately, during this past bed-ridden Sunday afternoon, boredom and anxiety teamed up and became one great big mega-force to be reckoned with, and what started with the innocent nibbling of a thumbnail quickly progressed to an all-out war against my own hands.

I got gnarly man nubs again.

Though it feels really good to be biting my nails again, I am so angry with my self. I said “Self! Where’s your will power?” But my self never answers back, so I’m left to ponder, and probably over-spiritualize, the religious themes of The Walking Dead.

You’re welcome.

It is so easy to slip back into bad habits. Look at precious Darryl Dixon:

This is accurate.

This is accurate.

No really, look at him–so much awesome. For those of you who don’t watch, a little background information may be in order: pre-zombie-apocalypse, Darryl was a swampy white-trash redneck who drank moonshine, lived in the woods, and pretty much did whatever he wanted. Suddenly, zombies! Darryl Dixon met up with a group of survivors, and all of them became dependent upon his “Man-vs-Wild”-style expertise. The group was constantly in situations that called for Darryl to step up and be a protector and a leader. He made real connections with people. He became a hero.

Then that band of survivors got separated, and Darryl was roped into another group–this one made up of some real meanies: thieves, killers, and liars, who “claimed” things for themselves. Darryl stood firm in his struggle to be a good, fair person in a world that’s kill or be killed: “I ain’t claimin’ nothin‘,” he asserted, even if it meant going hungry or sleeping on concrete.

Sadly, by the end of one episode, Darryl (at least temporarily) gave up. He saw the body of an enemy and instead of respectfully covering it with a sheet (like Good Darryl would’ve done), he tossed the sheet aside. He gulped down moonshine. And he “claimed” things.

So much for fighting the good fight.

I wonder a few things:

  • How much decency did Darryl Dixon have in him before society went to hell in a hand-basket? My guess is, just like most people, he had the ability to be honorable and kind–just maybe not the opportunity.
  • Maybe his drinking and his swearing and his selfishness were all coping mechanisms. Maybe he was used to being in a kill-or-be-killed environment.
  • And in that case, was he just employing genius survival tactics when he started “claiming” and going along with the rest of the group?
  • Darryl is not known for his faith, in God or in anybody, and he occasionally says so around people of great faith. Does his self-reliance make him better equipped to handle the evils of his world? Or will it ultimately be his downfall?

And then I wonder a few things more:

  • How many times do I show kindness and compassion to someone in need? How many opportunities do I waste to be generous or hospitable? Do I really have to wait until the end of the world to be courageous and honorable?
  • What kinds of habits have I worked hard to overcome, besides biting my nails? People have all kinds of vices in order to cope with the unfairness, scariness, and pain from the world around them. My biggies are alcoholism and anxiety. In my happy bubble of church folk and family, I’m good–but it can be a slippery slope, just like gently nibbling one little fingernail. Of course I don’t need to be drinking a beer or going to a bar–even certain music can put me back into that good-time-girl mindset.
  • How do I act when I’m around people who might make fun of me for trying to set myself apart? I remain quiet. Or get drunk. Or drop f-bombs left and right while proudly displaying my (uselessly) vast knowledge of anything pop-culture.
  • It took me a while, but I have learned that going it alone is pretty much stupid. I can’t survive in the world without Jesus (as evidenced by sins of my past and present). I can’t carry on in my Christian walk without the friendship and the encouragement of brothers and sisters who hold tightly to my hand as we all walk along the same path. And I also can’t walk that path with a blind eye turned towards others who don’t share my hope–there’s a better way to live, and it involves so much more than survival alone.

 

“…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…” –1 Timothy 6:11-12

 


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