role #2, here we are

I believe there are two quintessential roles big brothers usually fill:

  1. The protector;
  2. The harasser.

Am I right?

The former is probably what we who never had big brothers long for: the brother who beats up all the mean kids for us on the playground. Like Rand in The Goonies who picks us up and carries us from danger.

The latter is probably closer to the truth? To the actual reality of big brothers everywhere? ALSO like Rand, the big brother who teases us in front of our friends and calls us on our bologna.

Gideon has always embodied the former perfectly. While there has not yet been a need to beat up mean kids on the playground, he has always had each of his sister’s backs as they tell of their troubles with friends, he is willing to play with them at anytime, he belly laughs with them at all times.

Well, those times are a-changin’.

He’s still always willing to jump with them on the trampoline or play Legos  and he has their back in squabbles with friends but he also has added “harasser” to his list of Big Brother Qualities Upon Which He Thrives.

This looks like him standing RIGHTNEXT to Daphne as she sleepily sits at the breakfast table, barely able to eat because she is so tired, him feigning innocence with wide eyes as she musters the energy to scream at him, “Get away from me, Gideon!”

“But Daphne, I’m not doing anything.”

It also looks like him putting on Mia’s prized fedora. “What, Mia, why are you mad? I can wear this hat, too! I look good in it!” (He does not.)

Alllll the while his sisters squeal, he is fighting a smile with a gleam in his eye.

gideon as big brother

Monday night I strong-armed some friends into a last-minute BBQ on our deck. (Maybe I, too, embody some Big Brother Qualities? Sometimes I can strong-arm with the best of them. heehee. I do not apologize for this ability!) As we sat in the fading sunshine and slight breeze, Gideon looked at me and said, “Mom, I’m going down to play with Daphne and her friends.”

Me: Ok!

Gideon (only this time said a bit slower, as you might talk to a toddler): Mom, I’m going down to play with the girls on the swingset.

Me: Ooooookaaaaaay.

Gideon: Mom! I’m going down to play with Daphne and her friends on the swingset! Don’t you think there will be some harassing going on?

Big Brother Quintessential Role #2.

That boy gets a gleam in his eye and cannot wait to hear the squealing of his sisters; EVEN BETTER when there are extra girls around to squeal. But poor GidGid, that night the girls were too distracted with each other to pay attention to him. In short order he came back up to the deck, sans a single squeal elicited from even one of the little girls.

Last night Shannon and I gave the older two cell phones. After they’d grown tired of texting each other from across the table, Gideon sent four increasingly menacing texts to my sister, my sister who did not know Gideon had gotten a phone. They went something like this:

  • Hi Hayley, I know your name.
  • I know where you live.
  • You live in Wichita.
  • [devil-faced emojis]

My poor sister, sitting alone in her house during a thunderstorm that is supposed to produce hail and tornadoes, reading those crazy texts on her phone! But it was really funny, too, I mean let’s be honest. I was laughing so hard I could barely speak the words that he had to tell Hayley the truth that it was him; HE was laughing so hard he could barely understand my barely audible words.

IT’S GROWING. This circle of harassees is growing from this gleeful harasser who lives in my house.

Watch out, y’all.


Last Thursday the cloud of impending change in my life no longer floated above and behind me throughout my day, floating in and out of my mind, but instead grew heavy with worry and pressed on my shoulders until I chose to do nothing but lay on the couch and watch Netflix in an ill-fated attempt to escape my thoughts.

(I’m looking for a job. The very thing that I wanted last year when Daphne was still at home with me all day–to go out and have something for myself, to be rewarded on my merits with a weekly paycheck–last week brought me to tears. The fear of change nearly paralyzed me.)

I haven’t been in my daily 15-minute Bible reading for the past couple of weeks. I have read devotionals and spent time with Shannon and the kids in the Bible at night, but after reading 1 Kings 19 I have been thinking about that; I don’t want to go on quite yet when there is still more to absorb in that chapter. Have you read it? I think it might be one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. Elijah brings judgment on his/the Lord’s adversaries and instead of celebrating, he runs from Jezebel once he learns she is out for his life and then he prays for his own death. Instead of the Lord (Righteously! I believe.) disciplining Elisha with a lecture of “Did you not see what I just did there? Jezebel is no concern of mine, nor should she be of yours,” He lets Elijah rest. And then He feeds Elijah with bread baked over coals, lets Elijah rest, and then feeds him again before saying, “Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you.” Amazing gentleness.

And so on Thursday, when the very thing I wanted is on the near horizon and yet instead of celebrating I turned to mourning, God was gentle with me. He did not condemn me. Amazing gentleness that I do not deserve.

That night I decided to sit with Gideon at the dining room table while he completed his homework. As I carried the laptop from the kitchen to the table I accidentally knocked something and my Pandora station changed from The Avett Brothers to Hillsong United; the first song that played was Oceans, the same song the Lord used to strengthen me during Shannon’s health scare last spring.

I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours, and You are mine.

I am not moving to Africa with my family, I am not confronting 450 of Baal’s prophets, I am looking for a part-time job and on Thursday it overwhelmed me.

Instead of God sitting me down with His hands on His knees and saying, “Look, sister, you are getting a part-time job. Lots of people with husbands and children have part-time jobs and they are just fine. You, too, are going to be just fine, so let’s move on,” He let me rest, and then He gently whispered His power and love to me with that song. I didn’t cry. Not like I did a few days prior at church when God whispered His love to me and I made my husband and friends concerned about me from crying through the last half of the service. No I held it together and thought for a fleeting moment, “If you love me, Lord, you’ll play In Christ Alone.” I’d had that fleeting thought once before and Thursday, like that time years ago, I felt guilty for that thought flashing through my mind but again, like that time years ago, when I turned it back to Pandora the first song that played was In Christ Alone. Shocked, I looked up at Gideon. Was he hearing this, too? He heard it. God was making sure I heard Him.

Sometimes I think it is these very quiet but overwhelmingly powerful displays of love from the Lord to me are what make me question Him most. Can the Creator of the universe actually see me, know me to my very core so completely that He sends me songs over Pandora? But the timing is so perfect and so gentle and so frequent that it could be nothing but Him. And I praise Him for loving me.

As for the job, I am better. Still nervous but I know that God will carry Shannon and me through the changes in our routine and we will be just fine. So if you hear of anything, let me know.

yep, another one

I was sitting in the living room two Fridays ago when the kids came bounding up the stairs after a long morning of watching TV, each plopping onto either the couch or the floor before commencing The Whine. I put my finger in my book, closed it for just a minute, and–inspired by Atticus and Calpurnia–told those kids to get outside.

That’s always the problem with screens, isn’t it? It’s nice and quiet and you can read in peace while your kids zone out on episode after episode of whatever Netflix has to offer, but the screens change the chemistry of the children’s brains and make them incapable of handling the smallest irritation and so all whining breaks out as soon as the screen is turned off. Vitamin D and fresh air fixes that.

They whined at my instruction but went outside and when I peeked at them later they were playing sword fight with various cleaning accouterments. I think Atticus and Cal would have approved.


I read another book.

I don’t even know, you guys. I was at Lego Club in the library with Daphne, Mia had mentioned she wanted to buy To Kill a Mockingbird, and I decided to reread it. So here we are.

I highly recommend it. This is the third time I’ve read it and man, I love it. Every time there is something new and beautiful. Her novel is like a warm blanket that I want to wrap myself in. As I exclaimed to Shannon: it should totally be a classic or something. 😉

Here are my thoughts on Go Set a Watchman, which I haven’t read and can’t decide if I will: Harper Lee making Atticus Finch a racist is a cheat. In literature, there must be foreshadowing of a character’s personality or event to make the ending believable. (TANGENT! 🙂 This is another reason the Bible is so beautiful. God took many writers over many centuries from different countries and wrote through them a love story to us, an amazing piece of true literature with foreshadowing of the Love Incarnate that was to come. God created the best events and gave them to us in a book and in His Word.) In a murder mystery the culprit cannot come out of nowhere without some indication that he was a dicey character; that is lazy storytelling. Similarly, a character so full of love cannot become a racist without a line, a moment in the first book wherein we the readers say, “Oh, I can see that now.” I looked for it and it wasn’t there.

So I read To Kill a Mockingbird with the knowledge that Lee makes Atticus a racist later in his life and it’s a cheat. Unless there is a moment in Go Set a Watchman that turns Atticus into a racist then it is lazy storytelling on Lee’s part. And I think she knew this. I think that is why she didn’t allow the book to be published for so many years; she knew she couldn’t defend the drastic change. And I think HarperCollins should feel guilty for taking advantage of an old woman in convincing her to publish it now.

But anyway, here are a teeny tiny amount of the good lines. You should go read this novel again:

“The class murmured apprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region. (When Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861, Winston County seceded from Alabama, and every child in Maycomb County knew it.) North Alabama was full of Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors, and other persons of no background.”

“Mr. Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasons would change: Jem and I were burdened with the guilt of contributing to the aberrations of nature, thereby causing unhappiness to our neighbors and discomfort to ourselves.”

“Jem seemed to have lost his mind. He began pouring out our secrets right and left in total disregard for my safety if not for his own, omitting nothing, knot-hole, pants and all.”

“Atticus, are we going to win it?” “No, honey.”

“‘It’s different this time,’ he said. ‘This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.'”

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women–black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.”

“Miss Maudie’s hand closed tightly on mine, and I said nothing. Its warmth was enough.”



Eight years ago we moved into the perfect house. It was 100 years old, with all the tall ceilings and crown mouldings and creaky floors and unique peccadilloes that come with an aged house. It lived in a neighborhood with brick streets and enormous trees and broken sidewalks that carried me and my babies and my husband over and over and over again on long meandering walks.

It was perfect.

One day on the phone my dad wondered if we’d ever want to sell the house to him to use as a rental. “But Dad, we’re never leaving this house.”

He was surprised. “You don’t think you’ll grow out of it?”

Two of my three babies were toddlers at that time; the third baby wasn’t even on her way. We had lots of room. And I had plans to expand when the kids were teenagers: finishing off the attic, adding a second full bath to the second story, strengthening the stairs to the basement for the kids to use as a hangout space.

“No, Dad, I really don’t think so.”

But then my kids grew and what I didn’t anticipate was how much space their limbs alone would take up. With longer limbs we could no longer sit together on the couch to watch a movie; in came a sectional and out went the ease of movement. With longer limbs and bigger feet the floor space in the kitchen became tighter. With longer limbs came stronger limbs, prompting Shannon’s frustration, “I can’t even throw a ball in the yard with my kids.” Where we’d once had plenty of space for the kids to run had become cramped as they grew taller.

2015-06-24 05.57.16

I read a lot of blogs, a lot of Apartment Therapy, am in love with Tiny and Tiny House Hunters, Shannon and I have had a loose plan for years to sell our house and live in an RV once our kids are out of the house so that we can travel to see them all the time. If toddlers in New York City can happily have their bedrooms in closets [edited to add: a closery], our house was a mansion. Yet as the walls of our house continually grew tighter around us I battled with my greed. How much space does one family need?

This is my theory that I’m not going to take the time to research but I am positive I’m right: houses started getting larger when parents became too scared to let their kids play outside all day every day. The threat of predators and kidnappings took away the safety of the outdoors so parents pulled their kids inside, and as kids were inside they needed room to play, which necessitated larger houses.

A good number of the people on Tiny House Hunters are placing their properties on large swaths of land. The houses are merely a place to rest before heading back outside. My sister-in-law grew up in a family of 11 in an 1100 square foot house on gobs of acres; she and her siblings were outside all the time. That is just not an option for our family. My town kids cannot spend all day outside unattended.

And so we started looking for a new house. One with a big backyard, a basement for the kids, a separate bathroom for me and Shannon. Each house we went through we came back to our perfect old house and thought, “Nah, I like this one better.”

When we finally decided to stop looking a great house came on the market: established neighborhood but not 100-years established; enormous backyard; lots of bedrooms and bathrooms; a finished basement. And so I’d drive by that house and when it went off the market I was curious about the family that got to live there. Would they appreciate it as much as I would have?

Last spring it was Shannon’s parents who approached us and asked to buy our house to use as a rental. And then the great house came back on the market. Nobody had moved into it a few months prior. It had been waiting for us.

So we moved.

God worked out the timing. The previous owners fixed up the house a bit more, a sweet family from our church who loves old houses as much as we do is renting our 100-year-old house.

The first night we were here in our new house we took a walk by the lake that is almost outside our back door and there was an enormous, brilliant sunset. And I thanked God for His housewarming present.

It’s taking time for this house to feel like ours, to not feel like we’re living in someone else’s space. But it’s getting there. Slowly I move things around, take time to hang things on walls in just the right spot, paint rooms, shuffle things around again. The kids have a yard, a basement where they can yell in goofiness, Shannon and I have a bathroom that we don’t have to share with our babies, we still take family walks, only now instead of down tree-lined streets it is around the lake. It is good.

Moving takes a lot of energy, and a lot of mental energy for me. But I’m so glad we did it. And pretty soon the walls of this house will envelope us and it will be our home.