Author Archives: Toni

About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested.

Saved

Salvation. It’s a concept that has confounded me for most of my adult life. I’d never even heard the term “saved” until I was at least 15–growing up Catholic and spending a chunky hunk of my most religiously formative years overseas among other Catholics, my salvation was never called into question until I was 15 and pregnant and living in the Deep South.

“So are you saved?” well-meaning friends would ask as they passed around a cigarette behind the gym. “Um, I think so…what do you mean, ‘saved’?” There were no stupid questions except for this question. “Like, do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and that there’s no way you can go to heaven without believing in Him?” Was the incredulous response that always followed.

And being the Mary-worshipping Catholic weirdo (I feel the need to point out an obvious sarcastic tone) that I was, I would reply “Well, duh. Are you just now figuring all that out? Cause I’m pretty sure I’ve been ‘saved’ my whole life.”

But conversations like that got me thinking. I had always been so sure of what I knew…until it was brought up. I believed HARD until I had to actually think about my beliefs. I want to assume this happens to a lot of people regardless of their religious affiliation–at some point, we’re all faced with perhaps the scariest thing about faith: doubt.
But you guys know what? Those seasons of doubt weren’t necessarily bad. Reacting in anger, stubbornly digging in my heels and turning off my ears–ignorance and juvenile mistakes gave way to humility, and I got schooled hard about what it means to have compassion for those who don’t see things the same way I do. God has a way of turning my disobedience into  painful life lessons.

Salvation is a gift that’s offered to everyone. Every single person. We don’t have to be able to write a three page essay on the concept or understand the complex theology behind it all, but it’s available and it’s undeserved and it’s given freely out of love alone. 

Come to find out, the world is full of people who are different from me. And Jesus loved them all–even the ones who offend Him. He died so that they could live. Protestants. Catholics. Liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans. Bombing people was never part of Jesus’s agenda. Hate was not his language. Political power was not part of the game plan.

He wanted to people to be able to experience forgiveness and reconciliation and love. He wanted to save the world. He wanted to build His church and he wanted all of us to be a part of it, in Heaven and on Earth.

I’ve been chasing after Jesus for a long time–some years more than others. And one thing I conclude through my experiences and through prayer and through reading the Bible is this: the more I learn about God, the less I understand. The less proud I am in my knowledge of anything. The more I realize how much I will simply never know about God; the glorious mysteries of His universe I’m not meant to solve here on earth. How much of the bigger picture I actually cannot see. How general conclusions such as this one show exactly how small I am and how big He is. How my rants and raves and wants and desires might seem to Him; He is the father who knows what’s  best and I am the toddler throwing a tantrum for reasons that are not important at all in the grand scheme of things.

Doubts are okay. They can represent opportunities for growth. Questions bring answers. Faith has the chance to strengthen. Your journey becomes even more beautiful; your story more inspiring; and His glory more evident to those around you. Stay on the path. Keep asking. Keep searching. Keep knocking. God is good.


The Trenches, Part II

You know how after you have a baby and that baby is so sleepy and so sweet and cuddly and everyone is just ooooohing and ahhhhing over her and big sister is loving and protective the entire family is stuck in what seems like a perpetual honeymoon phase, but you just sitting there waiting for the other shoe to drop cause you KNOW it’s going to drop?

It dropped. It dropped today. It dropped hard. These pictures won’t reveal the truth: she just spent twenty solid minutes trying to see if my ears will actually bleed.


And you know how you’re the exhausted mother of a newborn but your husband still wants dinner and sex and clean clothes and semi-intelligent conversation not involving the color of someone’s poop, and you can’t remember if it’s been 3 days or 4 days since you’ve had a shower, or the last time you made you kid wear pants?

And when every breath breathed about “sleeping when the baby sleeps” makes you feel unnaturally violent, and NO, you can’t take a nap because you’ve got clothes to leave in the washing machine for three days, and who else is gonna take an hour to style your preschooler’s hair into braids that would make the Mother of Dragons jealous?

I think we’re there. Arbor is experimenting with outright defiance. Mia and Merrick are battling late-summer angst, AND EVERYTHING SMELLS LIKE ROTTING MILK–pls send help.

Those days you text your BFF and ask her, “Is this normal? Are your kids insane too? Tell me it’s just a phase, and that you’re handling this as poorly as I am.”

And she promptly and knowingly responds with a story about the time her kid got a hold of black nail polish during naptime, and assures “I barely survive, and you’re not alone.”

May every mom be blessed with a best mom-friend:

And may every wife know the love of a husband who still finds her at least mildly attractive even after she has given birth to five children.

And may I also suggest I take about 45 deep breaths and give thanks for these sweet little souls, however strong-willed they may be? I am bone-dog tired but I still love being a wife and a mother, especially to this crazy crew:

For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and keep you from going completely off the deep end. But it’s going to be like, so hard–harder than anything you’ve ever done. Have patience and lean on me and your reward will be great–but oh yeah it won’t be like a reward like applause or new cars or even a yearly pedicure so get that out of your mind. Love your family and teach them about Me, and you will be richly rewa–is that your daughter running bare-butted through the front yard wearing a winter coat that’s too small and using your comb to brush the dog?


Keep calm and carry on and please be quiet

The baby blues: woman has baby. Woman comes home from hospital and adorably weeps at cheesy insurance commercials for three days. Husband brings her flowers, rubs her shoulders, wipes her tears. Woman goes on brisk walk with baby in stroller without sweating or having to pee for the 80th time that hour. Woman loses all whopping 5 pounds she gained during pregnancy but retains the glowing skin. Woman’s abdominal muscles don’t separate. Her baby smells of lavender fields and no one is ever sprayed in the face with breastmilk.

Post-partum depression–they say–is a little bit different, lasting up to several weeks after the birth of a newborn baby but described similarly otherwise; enhanced, perhaps; with a twist of mild insomnia. I assure you, whatever it is that I experience randomly with each birth (and then again upon the weaning stage 9 months or so later) is nothing like any Pinterest article I’ve ever saved. My PPD is probably more appropriately labeled “WHY IS EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ON EARTH SO FREAKING LOUD?”

(Why tho.)

Here’s a better illustration of those tender weeks following the miraculous arrival of a precious newborn:


I’ve dealt with these feelings before so I’m calmer this go-around simply in knowing they will pass with time and possibly medication (I am going to marry my obstetrician.) but in an effort to warn brand-spankin’ new mothers (and also to assure new-ish mothers that I am not immune to post-partum difficulties no matter how effortlessly I seem to be gliding through this first month), here are some interesting developments that may or may not be normal:

  • My heart rate spikes with loud noises. Or chaos. Or both. Or for no reason at all like if it’s quiet and I think of something annoying.
  • I just want twenty minutes to myself to go walking because I’ve had a little baby attached to me like a tick all day but oh-my-goodness I can’t bear to spend more than 5 seconds away from her, give her back now before I shrivel up and die.
  • There’s too much to do, like for instance, feed the kids lunch AND  dinner? What am I, a triathlete?
  • People. People, all over the place. All the time. Everywhere I go. I actually do not go anywhere if I can help it–because, there are people.
  • Sweating. So much sweating. All the sweating. I cannot stop sweating. I just had a shower, and I still smell like sour milk and week-old trash. And sweat.
  • Don’t touch me. No, wait. I need a hug. Not too close, I am sweaty. How come no one rubs my shoulders except for only yesterday and the day before that and all the days last week?
  • There is CLUTTER all over the place and I can’t take it anymore, I can’t go on like this y’all:


A flyswatter in the living room? What are we, barbarians? Who the crap put their socks on the table?! Seriously I cannot be having this boolsh junking up my line of sight.

Also I can’t think straight.

  • I’m considering putting a bomb in our piano so that the next person who freaking touches it… well. You know.

I’m tired, guys.

New moms, stand firm. This too shall pass. I’ll see you all in two years.


more kids

Sometimes my husband makes jokes about trying one more time for another boy and I just can’t hide my disdain for the idea.


I love our family the exact size it is now. What, with like a total of 4 people? I pretty much forget how many kids I’m actually in charge of. It boggles the mind that my body has been a vessel for getting no less than 5 little souls into this world. I’m honored and also, terrified. While I’ve successfully screwed up more than a few times with more than a few of them, I hope I can manage to steer my kids to a semi-decent path which they then navigate all by their lonesome, cause I can barely handle taking more than 2 steps on my own most days.

There have been a few challenges adjusting to big family life, specifically with Arbor and the new baby. For the most part, she’s taken really well to big-sisterhood. And then there are those moments where Arbor comes directly into a room and bops Lucy on the head with a closed fist for no apparent reason.

We’re figuring it out.

Breastfeeding a newborn with a two-year-old watching is fun and interesting. I read all the articles and gleaned all the wisdom, hoping to help Arbor understand and appreciate how a mother can feed a baby with her body. I used proper terminology and discussed the process in a nonchalant manner–this is nature’s way, this is no big deal, this is easy, mommies do this all the time–and now?

“Mommy! Are you feeding Wucy with your breasts? Is those your breasts? Why you got ugly breasts? Are you making milk in your breasts? I got milk in my breasts? I feed Wucy? Is that milk on your shirt you make with your breasts? Mommy! Come quick! Put your breasts in the baby’s mouth! Wucy needs to eat your breasts!”

Arbor has breasts on the brain and no conversation is safe from (LOUD) boob-talk. I probably can’t take her out in public for a while.

Not that I want to go out in public–I love being at at home cuddled up with my family, but the thought of taking my weepy, sweat-pouring, breast-milk-leaking self more than five minutes away from the quiet comfort of my couch works me smooth into a downward spiral of post-partum anxiety. The past three weeks have finally caught up and I just now realized that–holy crap–I gave birth recently. Also–holy crap–the last five years happened and is this my life?


Because I am one sleep-deprived but very lucky girl.


The new girl

It’s been a week.


We have baby Lucy in our arms.

Cheyenne is here, cooking up a storm and all hope is lost, as far as me losing any pregnancy weight goes.

Mia and Merrick and Arbor are in love with their new little sister.

Caleb and I are exhausted but probably no more than usual.

We’re gearing up for a visit from Florida fam; it’s exciting to think that in just 3 days, we will all be gathered around Lucy, watching her sleep and breathe.

Lucy got here after the world’s longest pregnancy. I’d never been so painfully uncomfortable so a two-week early induction date was welcome, if not begged for.


(Insert accurate comments about being ready to pop HERE.)

Lucy took her time making her grand entrance, which was totally cool since I was all doped up on those good, good meds in a quiet hospital room with free wifi and HGTV. I did have to make it through a few hours of questionably tolerable contractions before I was given the option of an epidural but I figured “last baby, last time to remember how much of a pansy I really am”.

Anyhoo.

After 3 weeks of solid pre-labor symptoms, 8 hours of pitocin-induced hardcore but pain free actual labor, 1 minute and two pushes, I finally got my Lucy.


And I love her, I love her, I love her.

I’ve only wanted a Lucy since I was 12; Valor–“bravery, courage, spirit; especially in the face of danger“–was a shoe-in for her middle name, because being a “brave light” is everything we want for her.

Let your light so shine so that others will see and glorify God.

Matthew 5:16

God has blessed us with a healthy little girl. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support we’ve received from our friends and family. I’m also still in a bit of a sleep-deprived brain fog and getting ready to eat the world’s most delicious brunch, cooked by my sweet oldest daughter:


Life is insane.

And really, really good.


Day 4,081

Week 34: I am without an ounce of energy. I can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t walk, and can’t think. Not even really sure how I’m moving my fingers to type or how my brain is coming up with words right now.

All I do is burp. Sometimes I weep softly, like when I’m lying on the couch helplessly burping.

It boggles the mind to think that I waitressed at a busy cafe when I was this pregnant with Mia, or that I walked three miles in the soupy heat of a Florida August one week before I gave birth to her. Pregnancy is definitely meant for the young…

…And for the stupid–I cannot tell you how many things I worry about that never crossed my mind ten years ago. What if my platelets are too low I can’t have an epidural and subsequently die from pain overload? What if I went into labor at home by myself? What if I have to have a c-section and then I throw up, what happens to the stitches? What if my baby is a dwarf? What if my baby is too gigantic? What if she is a gigantic dwarf? Do we need a special car seat? What if we can’t settle on a middle name?

Also, you guys? It’s May and I miss the beach. I put on “Soul Surfer” one morning while I was miserable just so the waves in TV could calm me and then a shark came and gobbled an arm and now Arbor won’t stop flipping out and I’ll probably never be able to get her to the beach again.

….

Anyway.

Baby’s room is coming together, and by that I mean it is completely cleared out and empty and ready for us to put on the final touches, and all the other touches that come before the final touches. I have discovered online shopping–which is magnificent for burpy couch-ridden humongously-pregnant old ladies–and baby stuff is arriving daily. Things are coming together; my only concern is getting through the next 4 weeks with all my mental facilities in tact.

I’ve never been so scattered or emotional. (Which is saying so much, for real.)

Everyone in the family is awesome. My friends are awesome. Caleb is awesome. The dogs are awesome. We have a hedgehog now and it is awesome as well.


And although I am physically down for the count, life is good. More than good.


Caleb’s mom moved up to Oklahoma last year and has been such a tremendous help and encouragement to us. The past several months have overall been wonderful–it’s nice having after-church family get-togethers; someone to meet in town for lunch; an actual mother-in-law to talk to and laugh with and sit next to in church. The kids love having a local grandma who comes to their games and school plays and science fairs. They think it’s just so cool to stop by Grandma’s little house when we go in town and eat their weight in Dum-dums. She dotes on them–absolutely dotes–and it’s a beautiful thing.

Even more beautiful is the opportunity my husband has been re-given to do what sons do for their mothers. I’ve watched him go from bitter to forgiving; from remorseful and worried to light-hearted, caring, and protective. There has been a strengthening of his faith and a restoration in their relationship; I’m so extremely proud of the changes he’s gone through as a person to get to this point. It’s so good for my heart to know that I have married a man who unselfishly forgives–and asks forgiveness–and who loves and takes care of his family.

I thank God for making possible moments like this.


Joy sometimes

If you know me at all, you know I joke around…entirely too much. I love to make people laugh even more than I love laughing myself, which is a lot.

Humor has also always helped me process and deal with difficulties and hardships, so when I joke about the tough stuff I often run the risk of offending at least one person I love and respect. Sometimes that person speaks to me directly and we reconcile our differences and go on being friends laughing over coffee; but sometimes I hear it through the grapevine that I’m on someone’s “list”. This is sad to me because 1) I assume my friends and I are all adults and we can speak freely to each other and work things out. 2) The amount of which I love to laugh is equal to the amount of which I hate hurting my friends’ feelings–I am more than willing to apologize and ask forgiveness when I have hurt someone. 3) Assuming that everything is fine because no one has directly told me otherwise, I am now onto something totally different and cracking up over the next joke and they’re totally missing it and I have no idea why, which sucks. For them.




And also: I have zero patience for grudges. No patience. None. I don’t even have enough patience to hold legit grudges of my own.

Because I’m too busy coming up with over-exaggerated and hilarious descriptions of real-life observations/brainstorming ways to protect my home from impending alien invasion/cleaning up crap from my 1,009 children/wife-ing my 84% more attractive husband/ snorting fat rails of pure white granulated sugar off the kitchen counter in the afternoon in front of the kids and trying not to have the diabeetus/chasing broody hens out of the woodshed/etc etc etc.

So for the record: Diabetes isn’t a simple diet-curable illness and I’m sorry to perpetuate misconceptions about the disease by laughing uncontrollably at Unicorn frappe jokes. I have never snorted sugar nor have I ever planned a Skittles-n-poptarts party, for crying out loud. If anyone asks for my advice, I shall give it to them prayerfully and whole-heartedly to the best of my ability based on my personal experiences and my understanding of God’s hope for us all. Extreme liberals and extreme conservatives drive me dang near crazy equally, just so we all know. I don’t hate 9-year-olds with iPhones, or their parents. I don’t actually think anyone is stupid, and if you didn’t already know that, you’re stupid. I love our church’s Wednesday night kids’ program. I fully support a parent’s right to homeschool their children. Your dog is cute but I will murder it if it bites me while I’m out walking. I do love all my kids and I am blessed to be able to get pregnant just by breathing. Jesus is undeniably, inarguably Lord of Heaven and Earth.

LIFE IS FUNNY Y’ALL. It is. Especially the tricky parts. I try not to take myself too seriously but it happens. Ain’t nobody got time for anger and bitterness and grudges. Talk things out. Reconcile with your brothers. Find ways to connect with other people. Be joyful in all things; it has been gifted to us. Share that joy.


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