1000 gifts · just write life · madelynne · motherhood · writing

13 Ways to Live When You’re Only 13

Dear Daughter Turning 13 Today,


Yesterday I couldn’t reach the paper plates on the top shelf of the tall cabinet and you could.

Yesterday you lay in bed with me, snuggled up like you were still five, but we read Harry Potter instead of Llama Llama.

Yesterday, you were still twelve. You were still considered a kid by society and all the people who create children’s menus at restaurants.

Today you are thirteen.

This getting older is pretty much like standing on that mountaintop again, realizing we still have so far to go. 

Your daddy doesn’t like when I wish it away. This growing up, growing older, growing taller by the second. He loves having you all independent and that I don’t make him carry a diaper bag anymore when we travel.

But when you were small, I could tuck you into my lap and protect you from the world. I could hold you close and make everything okay with a Disney movie and some popcorn on a school night. (I keep trying to use this tactic, hence Gilmore Girls on the first day of new school when you cried because you didn’t have any friends.)

When  you were small, I was all that stood between you and all things scary. Now you’re growing up and you’re the same age as students who once called me Mrs. Brackett and talked me into reading Twilight and told me about which boys were no good. I can’t imagine you being the same age as Ansley or Cassidy or Katie or Maribeth or Mattie or Savannah or Jessica or Veronica. In my mind, you’re still five and you love coloring and mismatched clothes and playing at the house up the hill and when you grow up, you’re going to be President and Jackson is going to be your Vice President.

Now you’re standing in front of a world that when the news or weather channel is on–thank goodness we don’t have cable TV–seems awfully scary. Do I caution you about social media? Cyber bullying? Nuclear missiles? Hurricanes? EMP pulse? ISIS? Zombie apocalypse?

Or do I just teach you how to live in the face of a world we can’t control? 

I think this is a better lesson.

13 Ways to Really Live When You’re Only 13

  1. Sing. Loudly. Off key or on key. Hamilton score or Taylor Swift (the old stuff though). It makes you happy. So do it no matter what anyone else thinks.
  2. Laugh. At yourself and with your friends and always, always with your family. We yell enough. We don’t laugh enough.
  3. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. I wish I’d learned that sooner.
  4. Try harder everyday. Keep practicing volleyball and geometry and music and all the things you like.
  5. Enjoy the sugar now. Though we do talk about healthy choices… I’m so jealous you can drink a Dr. Pepper without an ounce of guilt because you’re young and full of never-ending metabolism.
  6. Be yourself. You’ve never cared what the popular kids thought. Don’t start now.

    Case in point: sparkly hat.
  7. Keep the compassion. Walk between the crowds, see the ones outside.
  8. Know what you believe. Now’s the time to ask all the questions. To maybe find all the answers. Talk to us now, while we’re closer than a phone call.
  9. Talk as much as you want. I know we joke about how you could talk the wallpaper off the dining room wall (and I really wish you’d try) but I love to listen to you tell me about every detail of your day. Truly, even when you think I’m not listening, I am.
  10. Delight in all the small stuff. You already do–let that be a part of the young woman you become. One who sees how all the little moments really matter.
  11. But let the little hurts go. We talk about this almost everyday. We’re both working on it and I hope you learn faster than me that letting some things roll on off will make you happier.
  12. Like what you like. Music. Books. Clothes. Games. Like the things that make you grin and let others do the same.
  13. Stay honest. You tell me you’re like me–but you’re not. You’re stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been. And you’re honest–with yourself and others. You talk things out. You wrestle your hurts. You ask for help. Because you don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

While I could happily wait a little longer to see you become a young woman… this time keeps coming at us and the days and years seem shorter every time. Settle in, baby girl. We’re going to make it to the other side.

Madelynne was born so long ago WE DIDN’T USE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY AT HER BIRTH.


Thirteen years ago I birthed this baby. Eleven days ago I birthed this book. Let’s just say one took longer than the other and they’ve both caused me immeasurable amounts of tears–and incomprehensible joy.

madelynne · motherhood

The Art of Capturing the Moment…Without a Camera

We had a few moments yesterday sandwiched in between Vacation Bible School and meltdowns on the way to Chic-Fil-A and wrangling goats for a friend.

Just enough moments that I thought maybe everyday, every moment, every element of our busy well-worn life doesn’t have to be worth remembrance.

As long as there’s a moment or two I can hold onto in the chaos of raising four kids in this world where everything I do feels subject to scrutiny, that will be enough.

We emptied the pool yesterday. Plastic and slimy and simultaneously leaking air and holding water in its inflatable sides, that yellow concoction on my back deck is a lifesaver. I cleaned and they helped and then when it was full of six inches of hose water and old sand buckets, I stretched out in a lawn chair and they miraculously played together.

All four. In six inches of hose water.

Nothing that easy lasts very long.

But the camaraderie lasted just long enough for Madelynne to take the half a pirate ship that had been capsized by Hurricane Gus and toss water into the air.

Clear sheets of sparkling incandescence erupted out of that little ship, caught in the air for just a half-second and showered back down into the pool.

“Hey! Watch this! Look at the water!” She called out to her siblings and tossed another boatful.

Cast into the air, the water seemed almost solid, a shape that could be held and touched.

An art of childhood long forgotten by this wearied mama.

The image fell with a splash and then they were fighting over the boat and the bucket and I looked down at the now damp page of my paperback–

“No minute is quite like the one before it…Watch carefully, and keep watching…then you’ll be able to capture it.”**


**Quote taken from Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart. Read the whole story in a day and a half while Gus poured that hose water all over my feet and legs. Read voraciously partly because my soul starves for good stories, partly because I’m reading lots of ‘comparative works’ for my own novel as I write a book proposal, partly because if you’ve ever spent a summer on Edisto Island, you know sometimes, you just want to come home to the low country.

Photo of my beautiful growing-up girl by my friend Sarabeth. Who owns the aforementioned goats we spend our evenings with right now.

birthdays · madelynne · motherhood

10 Things I Haven’t Learned in 10 Years of Motherhood

I would have thought by the time she turned ten, I’d have been a bit of an expert.

Motherhood? Got it.

Yeah, right.

Instead, last Friday she turned ten and I ran myself ragged trying to please everyone ten times over and maybe I was successful. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself and we’re never really a success at this motherhood gig because the world doesn’t measure success with the immeasurable.

There’s no way to tally up points and determine if I’ve got it right after ten years because every new day is a journey and a milestone and another twenty-four hours that might mean I’ve gotten it wrong all over again. Rewards are in the form of tight hugs and sleepy kisses and late night whispers of “I love you” that come after the day is done and the tempers lashed and the mess ups just keep piling up.

But they are sweet when they come.

I took Madelynne and four friends camping for her birthday. We hiked the gear in, pitched a tent (Joshua helped), and spent nearly twenty-four glorious hours in the woods with perfect fall weather. Except for the brief 11 p.m. rainstorm that wasn’t on radar so we hadn’t put up the rain fly over the tent.

Yeah, ten years of motherhood and endless rainy camp outs and I’m still not getting it right. But she told me I was the coolest/bravest mom ever.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just true that I’m the craziest mom ever.  I do know this. In ten years of motherhood, what I haven’t learned often seems to far surpass what I have.

I jotted down this list the morning of her birthday when her daddy made homemade cinnamon rolls and I wrote in her Letters with Mama book and tried not to have a panic attack.

10 Things I Haven’t Learned in Ten Years of Motherhood
I haven’t learned how to keep my temper.

I haven’t learned how to keep their rooms clean.

I haven’t learned how to say no. 
Actually, I can say this to my kids. Just not to everyone else.

I haven’t learned to remember a diaper stash for the car.

I haven’t learned how to cease amazement with each child at each new development.

I haven’t learned how to make time stand still so I can savor the moment.

I haven’t learned how to know my capacity.

I haven’t learned how to give each of them enough of me.

I haven’t learned how to keep my insecurities from influencing theirs. 

I haven’t learned how to believe I’m doing a good job.

The only lesson I’ve really learned in ten years of motherhood is grace. Pile upon pile of grace heaped up after the hard days, the bad days, the I’m-unfit-for-motherhood days. The saving grace of motherhood is that each day is a new day. A new day with no mistakes in it. 
So in ten years, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got that I know is true everyday. The other is what I’m still learning, still trying, still hoping. 
But on Sunday afternoon, do you know what I whispered to the mom with two close in toddling age who run her ragged and stretch her limits? 
It gets easier. 
And it does. So maybe I’ve learned quite a bit in ten years after all. 
http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · madelynne · motherhood · summer

What I Saw at Camp Pinnacle

We arrived at Camp Pinnacle on Friday after the “Colossal Coaster” ride of Vacation Bible School and after not a few meltdowns from this mama and those girls.  We were tired and I honestly didn’t believe I had the energy for a mother/daughter overnight camp.  Check-in complete, bags in the cabin (pretty nice lodging actually), chicken nugget supper (a cafeteria classic), and slowly I was starting to unwind a bit.  Slowly, I was starting to enjoy actually seeing my daughters.

I read this post the other day about how women fear becoming invisible.  It only makes sense to believe our daughters fear this too.  Until this weekend, I hadn’t realized how little time I actually spend seeing them, and how many moments I miss because I’m not tuned into their little moments.  I saw Annabelle grin delightfully and Madelynne watch me intently.  I saw the spark of joy that comes when they’re discovering a new talent,   realized how much they want me to focused on them as individuals and not just as the first and second sisters.

This weekend gave me an opportunity to do something I hardly ever do: play with my kids.  After a brief and fun introduction to worship, we all gathered on the lawn for Color Wars, those notorious camp relay games and my girls were so proud that their mommy was competing with them.  They were astounded to learn I could jump rope and super proud when I hopped to the cone with a ball between my knees.

After games, we went on a mission walk with our counselors and learned a little about the camp’s mission focus this summer, which is the city of Atlanta.  Madelynne volunteered to pray and Annabelle drew a picture of her cross necklace and wrote “God Loves You” and snuck a peek at me to see if I had noticed.  She’s finally started talking faith with us, and this week between VBS and camp, was the first time I can remember seeing her participate wholeheartedly as though the songs and messages meant more than she knows how to confess.

There was a classic camp bonfire with s’mores and songs and silliness and my girls tried to catch lightening bugs and were giddy that the time was well past bedtime.  We slept in bunks that rustled all night once the cabin of giggly girls settled down and were up again early for breakfast and quiet times to talk about putting on the armor of God.

 My best mom moment came when they observed I had put on my bathing suit: “Mama, you’re getting in the pool with us?  Really??”  I never swim with them.  I always watch from the sidelines, usually with the baby, on the very edges of their excitement.  But Saturday morning I shivered in the cool blue water and played Marco Polo and beat Madelynne in a swim race and cuddled with Annabelle when we were both covered in chillbumps.

On Saturday morning, I got to guide my daughter’s hands around a pottery wheel and learn from the other how to fire an arrow from a bow.  I got to sit in a swing by the lake and worship in a chapel filled with women of all ages.  I got to give thanks to God for giving me daughters and beg for mercy and guidance to raise them.

Thank goodness there was a place this weekend that helped me see them.

1000 gifts · amelia · gus · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · madelynne · motherhood · reflections

On Providence and Perspective

Sometimes all we need to get a fresh start is a moment to really look.  A moment to watch as babies and lettuce and flowers grow right before our eyes.  A moment to remember that providence is in the eye of my perspective.

I’ve been hanging on to the now a bit lately.  Not unlike the way Madelynne hangs upside down on our swing set that will soon be finding a new home because they’re too big, it’s too small, and some dear friends are gifting us with theirs when they move. 
That move is going to be hard for all of us.  It’s in the back of my mind and heart and I don’t want to see the providence in such a moment, even if I know it’s there, somewhere.
So I’ve been soaking in these moments of goodness and grace and watching and waiting.  I’ve been reveling in the now of sticky popsicle faces and bursting seeds.  I’ve been resting in the thoughts that only a short time ago I wanted nothing more than to be rid of this home and onto bigger and better things, but now?  Now I’d love to just stop time and stay here and keep them little and have friends up the hill and a garden that’s growing promises and a perspective that sees the blessings.