just kidding–I totally can’t go on.

All that talk–about “hanging in there”? Turns out I’m not even ten percent as tough as I let on. After another fun-filled day of crotch-shocking contraction action and walking around with a head between my legs, I am quitting. Giving up. Throwing in the towel. One more week might as well be one more year. Sweet angel of death take me now.

I’m so tired, and also: so dilated. Look, I’m just gonna be real here: 4 cm might sound like excellent news to some, but to a mother whose other 3 precious children so lovingly stalled out at this very point an entire week in advance of their actual arrivals, NOT SO MUCH. A 4 just means I’m in enough labor to have made progress, but not enough progress to score me unlimited access to the maternity ward and my blessed epidural. A 4 means I can look forward to another 7 days of strong and almost regular contractions; wicked nausea, and unrelenting heartburn; backache; shortness of breath; swollen EVERYTHING; the urge to pee 15 times an hour combined with the delightful inability to walk to the bathroom; and a most remarkable upper thigh pain that would have a grown man writhing in agony in the dirt. (Side note: I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t take great pleasure from such a sight right now.)

And then of course a potential problem arises along with all these symptoms: how the actual hell do I know when all this pre-labor ends and true labor begins? Hey, let’s ask the mother of three–OH WAIT. She has no flipping clue. So, thoughts? The predicament is maddening–MADDENING, I tell you! I am burning my copy of every labor and deliver book I’ve ever owned, and I’m eating the ashes and then barfing them up in a toilet made of knives, whose plumbing runs straight to hell. Stupid experts. Even they can’t help me now.

So much for going out on a high note. Pregnancy: I am so over it. The baby is over it. My family–as much as they love microwave hotdogs with cereal for dinner–is so over it.

I hope and pray this is the last blog anyone reads from me before the baby is born. Any new ones are sure to be wrought with the foulest of language–you’ve been warned.


Hanging In There

You all will have to forgive me, mainly because my computer exploded and I’m now typing blogs from my phone, which is a new and different experience for me–but I do love the comfortability that laying in my bed blogging on my phone achieves.

The other reason I beg your forgiveness is because I’m just downright cranky and crampy and contracty and cussy…and sore and exhausted and miserable, and basically just every way you’d expect a 37-and-a-half weeks pregnant woman to feel at the end of August.

Just so you know, I really am trying to love God and love others while I ooze Christ-likeness everywhere I waddle pitifully.

It is hard even under ordinary circumstances.

And then there are the standard family updates: Caleb has gone off the deep end trying to get the farmhouse to a good stopping point. Cheyenne is living it up in college with an allegedly janksy cell phone that she can neither call nor text from. Mia has become quite the reader (finally!) during this social pause as she adjusts to a new school and a new circle of school-day friends. Merrick is now obsessed with learning complicated basketball tricks, and gets in the car everyday red-faced and sweaty and totally happy. Everyone is settling into a great routine. We will most likely make the big move next month–just because switching houses with a newborn baby is exactly the kind of zany activity that appeals to us, and we’re always on the lookout for the next most stressful thing we can think of.

The baby: some of my close friends may already know her by name, so I feel compelled to share what we DIDN’T end up going with and why:

Harbor: this was my absolute favorite name, because of, you know, ocean stuffs and cozy safe places. I think it had really grown on Caleb too. But alas–I know of about 15 Harpers being born this year alone, and I was worried that a little Harbor would spend all her waking hours correcting people who called her the wrong name. No Harbor for Toni.

Meadow: This name–surprisingly–did not crack my top five this time around. Caleb was all the sudden stuck on it, even though I’ve been pushing it for as long as we’ve been partners in procreation. I guess my hippy artists vibes have finally rubbed off on him! But I thought the triple-threat “M” names (Mia, Merrick, Meadow) would have been too forced and cutesy, so I finally cut it out of my head. It now belongs to a future dog or maybe even a chicken. We’ll see.

Annabel, Juliet, Caroline, and Susannah: Here’s where I throw everyone for a loop–these were the bomb-diggity aces up my sleeve. Caleb could not possibly turn these classic cuties down. I was being so normal with these choices! So refined! And sensible! But my awesome hubster knows my heart even when I don’t; and this short list was a complete and epic no-go from the get-go as far as he was concerned.

Which brings me to one of our last choices: Lucy. When Caleb brought it up, I wanted it. So bad. “Are we getting a Lucy in September?” he asked on at least one occasion. As heartbreaking as it was to shoot that dream down, in the end I just could not do it–not after imagining a daughter with dark curls and big brown eyes and that name, about 4 years ago. So, no Lucy for Toni, either–at least, not one that I can hold just yet.

Next week we will get to meet and welcome a new member of our family. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, and hear her cry. And watch those little legs that must be so flipping strong by now. My life: awesome at being hot, sweaty, and amazing all at once.


Go, and be awesome.

Pregnancy stuff: I have one pair of grungy red flip-flops that I can still (barely) fit my swollen fat feet into.

I can’t move very well. I feel like my insides are about to fall out. Sharp, shooting electric shocks are attacking my lady parts at an alarming rate of, oh, ALL THE TIME. I pre-registered at the hospital so that when labor unexpectedly goes down, everything will be ready. Except in doing so, the time will never come and I’ll be holding out until September 4th.

No biggie. 2 weeks give me plenty of opportunity to wash baby clothes and maybe clean my house.

…orrrrrrr probably just wash the baby clothes.

I’ve been sewing stuff. Baby leggings. Baby hats. Baby headbands. Hand-stitched. With my hands. Like a boss. My baby will be stylin’ and profilin’, wrapped in swaddling clothes upcycled out of my old t-shirts.

Non-pregnancy stuff: Michael Brown and Ferguson. ISIS and Iraq. Ebola. ALS. Why is everything so scary? Has everybody lost their damn mind? CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

No, seriously–can we not?

I have to say, the world seems like an especially discouraging place lately. But we didn’t start the fire–there have been riots, and bad guys, and disease, and pregnant women with severe elephantitis of the feet, as far back as history can possibly trace. That’s not exactly comforting, but I have to remember that God has seen it all before, and that those who put their love and trust in Him will never be left alone in this messy life.

Now let’s get out there and be loveable today, people.

And that’s the extent of my word for the day, because typing is causing my hands to swell and I have to order groceries online while I ice my ankles.


The Showering of the Baby

I still can’t bring myself to say her name out loud. We have one picked out, but it just sounds weird to my brain. So for now until sometime after she’s born, her name is Baby. Little baby. Or some junk like that.

I’ve been seeing the doctor every week. I’ve had sonograms out the yin-yang. And lab work? I consider myself a pro at this point. I can take a needle like a boss now, even without the promise of Starbucks and CFA afterwards.

Yesterday the baby threw me a bone and turned head down. She’s estimated to be close to 7 lbs, but who really knows at this point anyway? Also: HAIR. Enough hair to be visibly detected and observed, gracefully swaying back and forth in amniotic fluid, via ultrasound. This I can’t wait to see in real life. I’m starting to get excited.


 

My church family gave a baby shower for us this past Sunday. It’s not anything I expected or especially deserved, what with this one being baby #4. I would have been more than happy to just eat grapes in a small room with my friends as we swapped parenting stories, but may I just say: my family is so grateful, not just for the presents but for the love and support that everyone has shown us during this entire pregnancy.

Church girls can throw down some baby showers, let me tell you. Mine was ridiculously adorable. When my BFF asked what my “theme” was, I could only assume she meant, “What are you doing in her nursery?” And rather than answer with a simple “I have no idea. I’m just gonna throw a bunch of stuff in there and say that it matches,” I humored her and said, “You know. Hodge-podge-bohemian non-pastel vintage-y stuff and rainbows.”

She just gets me, when I don’t even get myself.

I had no idea Christian ladies could rock a rainbow-themed party the way my friends did–think less pride-parade and more God’s promises here:

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You know not what punch is until you’ve sipped the icy nectar from my church’s magnificent plastic vessels:

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It just tastes so yum.

 

A shower is not complete until you’ve played at least one game, such as Blind-folded Baby-Changing Relay, where everyone involved gets made fun of by a large group of onlookers:

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The new kid got a wardrobe that would make Kim Kardashian look homeless.

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And me? I ate cake. Glorious cake–which went straight to my ankles. Worth it!

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Apparently I am all about that bass.

 

Y’all.

The baby will be here by September the 4th (my doctor gave me a shining glimmer of hope by suggesting an earlier-than usual induction). And thanks to that baby shower, I am about as ready as I am going to be.

Really though? I can’t believe how long God has allowed me to carry this girl, safe and sound in my creaking, diabetic body. My fat-amy ankles, my ginormous pregnant belly, the killer Braxton-Hicks contractions every 10 seconds–I’d do it all for another 9 months if I had to, which is probably how long it’s going to take me to write all the thank-you cards that I need to write. We are so obscenely loved by people who aren’t even blood-related to us, but who we consider family nonetheless. There could not possibly be a baby who is more wanted and more blessed than ours anywhere in the world.


Don’t Raise Your Kids to Be Buttheads: Shopping Cart Awareness Week

Remember when I said I would never participate in mom-shaming? Well, call me Judgy Mc-Know-It-All, because I just thought of something.

There are 2 types of people in this world: 1) those who return shopping carts to the cart corrals in the parking lot, and 2) BUTTHEADS.

There are several sub-categories of buttheads, but in honor of National Shopping Cart Awareness Week (that’s a thing, right?), let me zero in on one kind in particular: the bustling butthead mommy–not be confused with trashy butthead mommy (e-cigarettes at T-ball games, an abundance of driver’s seat selfies).

I’ve casually mentioned before my disdain for loose carts in parking lots and received strong backlash from opposing sides, the most opposing side–actually, the ONLY opposing side–being conscientious mothers of young children.

Let me break it down for you: Shopping carts. They help us tote multiple bags of food and heavy things to our vehicles. They’re made of metal, or, if you’re at Super Target, some sort of indestructible bomb-resistant plastic. They are meant to be convenient, and, to further improve our convenience, many stores have strategically placed approximately 1000 cart stalls throughout parking lots so that WE DON’T HAVE TO WALK OUR BUGGIES BACK INTO THE STORE FROM WHICH THEY CAME.

Life in the U.S. is an awesome thing.

I’ve seen feeble little old ladies walk carts to corrals. I’ve watched handicapped people with crutches walk carts to corrals. I’ve watched working women, business men, and college kids all walk carts to corrals. And I myself, with an infant in an infant carrier in one hand and a pre-schooler in the other, have also miraculously managed to return a shopping cart to its proper location in a cart corral in a crowded parking lot on a hot/rainy/freezing/windy/busy day.

Newsflash: Long ago, when carts and the subsequent cart stalls were first invented, stores were not in the practice of employing people for the sole purpose of chasing carts around 5 acres of asphalt just so lazy people did not have to walk 6 feet to return their buggies. Nowadays, they do, however, designate employees to regularly retrieve carts from cart corrals.

“Safety is my number 1 priority!” moms say with a confident smile in defense of being a habitual abandon-er of metal missles on wheels. Well, I’m calling complete and utter BS on this excuse by stating this with my own confident smile: “Thanks A-hole! I love the dents your stupid buggy left on my driver’s side door! And good job teaching your kids how to clean up after themselves!”

Ladies.

Unless you’re at a sketchy Walmart at midnight in the pouring rain with newborn triplets and a motorcycle gang full of menacing thugs known as “The Parking Lot Rapists” rolls up next to your minivan? I assure you, you can return your cart to the stall and still be safe.

I know. I know how it is. I get it. I do. I’ve had 3 little kids of my own–and I’m about to do it all over again with a baby who, I have a feeling, is going to give me a long hard run for my money–grocery stores suck. The parking lot after the grocery store with screaming children? Sucks even worse. But instead of sticking your kids in their seats and abandoning your buggy in the space next to you to roll into the car across the aisle, may I humbly submit a 10-step plan of action designed to keep your kids safe AND teach them to respect other people’s property AND take pride in their community–all at the same time?

HOW TO RETURN YOUR CART TO A CART CORRAL WITH KIDS IN TOW:

  1. So. You’ve decided to take the kids to the store. Well, chances are you haven’t decided to do it–it just worked out that way because you’re out of Tylenol and mozzarella cheese, and your husband is at work and dang it, you’ll be in and out as fast as lightning and this is only the millionth time this week you’ve taken the kids grocery shopping by yourself. Breathe deeply. Find a parking spot close to, if not immediately next to, a cart corral. (But if it’s August in Oklahoma, score a spot in the shade at all costs–no matter how many miles to the store entrace you have to walk.)
  2. Shop. This presents its own set of challenges that I won’t get into right now. But you know. Lord KNOWS you know. Bless your heart, Mommy, and keep on keepin’ on.
  3. Pay and exit the store. Chances are that in addition to mozzarella cheese, you have picked up “The Lego Movie”, a pack of boys’ socks, disposable razors, some frozen biscuits, greek olives, and 2 boxes of zebra cakes. You forgot the Tylenol but are willing to suffer through the headache and/or kill yourself rather than go back in the store.
  4. You have reached your vehicle and unlocked the doors. One kid is securely strapped in the buggy seat and the other is teetering dangerously on the brink of either bolting through the parking lot or mercilessly clinging to your leg for no stupid reason at all except clearly to pull down your skirt in front of the whole wide world. It’s 100 degrees outside. They’re sweating. You’re sweating. You hate your life.
  5. THIS IS A CRUCIAL POINT IN THE PROCESS, so ask yourself: What would Nanny Deb do? Safety is still a priority! (What? Did you think I didn’t care about safety? I’m a mom, and I do actually love my kids.) Get your growly-bear mom face on. (If you don’t have one, I suggest you practice a few times in the bathroom mirror before your next outing with children. It involves rumpling your eyebrows and clenching your teeth when you talk.) Say these words to any child who is able to walk on their own two legs in your meanest mommy voice: “Do not let go of my skirt/shirt/belt loop/purse/hand. Stay right here by me while I put these bags in the trunk.There are fast cars in the parking lot and we have to be so careful and safe.”
    1. Be ready to snag them by the arm or ponytail if they do indeed step more than one foot away from you. This should only happen once. If you have a chronic bolter, GET A FREAKING LEASH. Sound harsh? Safety first.
    2. Alternative plan: Go ahead and strap them in their carseats if you are convinced they cannot follow directions. Be prepared to get them back out when you’re done loading groceries so that they can accompany you as you escort the buggy to the cart corral. Don’t leave them in the car while you step away, even for just a second. Because, bad guys.
    3. Other Alternative plan: Keep the kids in the buggy seat while you put bags in the trunk. It’s so brilliant it just might work.
  6. Your groceries are loaded into the trunk. Your antsy kids are by your side. There is an empty parking space next to you, but there is a steady stream of cars zooming between you and the cart corral which is two-thousand feet away. Get a straw, and suck it up. If you have more than one child with you, hold hands with the youngest one (if he or she is too big to fit in the buggy seat). Instruct the older ones to hold hands with each other, or die. Now start walking, pushing the cart with one hand AND staying to the side of the parking lot aisle.
    1. If you are so motivated, discuss with them as you walk the importance of safety, and of returning things where they belong, and tell them how, when people work together, they can make their town nice and keep things clean for everyone. Tell them that when people let their carts roll around in the parking lot, they can dent other people’s cars, or take up parking spaces that little old ladies could have used. Tell them that what you all are doing is part of being good citizens.
    2. Then try to explain what exactly a “citizen” is, remember your headache, and drop the subject.
  7. PUSH THE CART ALL THE WAY INTO THE STALL. Say a prayer of thanks, take another deep breath, re-threaten your children, and make your way back to your vehicle. *Life is easier now that you have the luxury of using both hands, and as all moms know, you can do the work of 11 people with 2 hands as opposed to one.
  8. Unlock your car again. Load your children in their carseats. Tell them they did great and that you’re so proud of them for helping you return the cart to its home.
  9. Leave the store, vowing that, next time, your husband is staying with the kids while you grocery shop.
  10. Return to the store with kids that afternoon for Tylenol.

new starts.

School has started. For the first time ever in their lives, my little kids went to a different place than where they’re used to, away from anyone and anything they know…15 minutes down the highway.

Their new school is just up the road from our new house–it’s a little bitty country school that I was skeptical about at first, but after making several visits out there and reading parent reviews and going over state-issued “school report cards”, (which I don’t normally put a lot of stock into, but if a school’s “grade” is an “A”, then I’m going to assume it’s probably a wonderful place as opposed to “good” or even just “decent enough”)…I felt that the right thing to do was to go ahead and transfer Mia and Merrick. There is one teacher for each grade. All the students in a particular grade have pretty much grown up with each other. In the morning the entire school, pre-k through 8th grade, meets in the auditorium to sing songs, say the pledge, and have a moment of “quiet time”–and we all know what that actually means, and we all know how fine that is with me.

I did say it was a little bitty country school, right?

I was so nervous for them yesterday, though I tried not to show it. Caleb did a crappier job than I did of playing it cool. Anxiety oozed out of his every pore. Mia was worried about making friends and Merrick was worried about getting lost–both of them did great and at the end of the day, got into the car saying, and I quote: “That was the best day I ever had!”

I assume the rest of the year will follow suit.

Truth be told, I’m just glad they didn’t have a horrible first day.


Cheyenne should be getting all settled at WVU today. It kills me that I’m not there to help move her in, even though I know she’s got it under control. I’m so proud of her I could just throw up and I can’t wait to see pictures of her dorm and get the lowdown on her room mate. I have a list of questions that I’d like answered:

Are the bathrooms dirty? Do you have to share a shower? Is it gross? Are the shower curtains clean or are they mildewed? Do people just poop in the toilets and then you have to use them right afterwards? Do you hate that? Because I would, because I don’t like stranger poop.

Where do you do your laundry? Did you remember to buy a laundry basket? Do you have a closet that you can hang your clothes in? Is it big enough for all your clothes? Will you have to give clothes away? Do your shoes take up too much space?

Do you have a window? What’s outside the window?

Is the AC cold enough? Do you sweat at night or are you chilly? Did you get sheets and blankets? What’s the thread count on your sheets? That can make a difference in how comfortable you are and how good of sleep you get. You have to go to bed early because you have school in the morning. What time do you go to bed? Are your classes hard?

How far do you have to walk? Are there a lot of trees? Have your dranken coffee and worn an unneccessary scarf with hipster glasses yet? Have you made friends? Is college everything they said? Do you like West Virginia? Do you want to come home? Do you want us to come pick you up or do you want to fly on a plane?

Oh my gosh you guys COLLEGE.


overcoming

I’m just gonna come out and say this: It’s a sad day indeed when the most hilarious man on the face of this earth takes his own life.

The world will remember Robin Williams as a comedic genius with an insane amount of energy. In my mind, he must have been so fun to be with. Laughs all around and good times were let to roll. But we’ll never know what kind of internal battles he was fighting on a minute to minute basis. Peace didn’t come with fame or wealth or age or experience.

We’re all so shocked–and I didn’t know him personally, but I bet those that did can probably pinpoint the warning signs looking back. Humor masked his broken heart and alcohol fueled an already out-of-control fire. This man–this poor, poor man–was screaming in his soul and he just could not stop.

People try to say that mental illness is–well–all in your head. It’s so not. It courses in your veins. It churns in your stomach, compresses your lungs, clouds your vision, grates your nerves, shakes your hands, tightens your chest, stabs your heart. It’s in the air you can’t breathe, and the food you’re not hungry for, and the people you sometimes just don’t have the energy to love.

Depression is dark, and draining, and lonely. A person suffering from mental illness will always be fighting it. They need access to every weapon in the arsenal–medication, counseling, healthy food, exercise, a strong support network of friends and family, and Jesus. They need people who they can trust, people they can cry with, pray with–and of course someone who will push them relentlessly on the days they don’t have the stamina to continue by themselves.

Sadly, sometimes the people who are in a position to help the most will only offer up a judgy Facebook article on the benefits of a gluten-free diet.

It doesn't actually work this way.

It doesn’t actually work this way.

It’s hard to understand if you haven’t walked 1000 miles in those heavy, fugly shoes.

I can’t leave you with some inspirational verse that will just “solve” depression as if it were merely a state of mind that a person could change at will. But I’ll say this: mental illness is thatan illness, which as we know, this world is chock full of. There is no shame in using the tools God allowed on this great green earth to treat it. There is no shame in admitting a weakness or 20. There’s no shame in asking for help.

And people who are suffering should be able to find help in this country. Mental illness should not be so taboo. And hope should not seem so far out of reach that a man–who has brought joy and laughter to millions of people around the world–feels there is no end to that painful black tunnel.

Take heart you guys. And help your friends.


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