Short and Sweet: When Letters Form Real Words

A story about what happens when random letters come together to create actual words in 100 or fewer words:

Brooke is fascinated that letters form words when combined.  She'll rattle off a string of letters and ask what she spelled.

Normally, it's jibberish -- some combination of nine consonants and no vowels like "Ygrjvslhv," which I'm quite certain means nothing but is likely a name in Serbian-Cyrillic. 

It doesn't spell anything.  It's not a word; you made it up.

Then she gets me.  "B-O-N-G.  What does that spell, Mom?"

I pause.  "It spells 'bong.'"

She looks at me.  "Bong?  Bong!  That's silly.  Now that's a made-up word."

I look at her, smile, and offer only one response.


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Master of Destruction

I am Kerrington, master of destruction.   My curls and the crown that I always wear askew are part of my charm, but underneath this docile image lies impressive abilities.

Give me 60 seconds without supervision and I will make a beeline from my upstairs bedroom to the kitchen.  I'll find the box of Rice Crispies and decorate the floor.

I'll spill some more on the chair that I've managed to slide from the kitchen table to the kitchen island without anyone hearing.

Then, from my perch on the chair, I'll pour Rice Crispies into the freshly-cut flowers that my mother had sitting on the island, just like I'm feeding fish.  Very hungry fish.

Don't let the innocent thumb sucking lull you to complacency.  It's a ruse. 

Just remember one thing: I am Kerrington, master of destruction.

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When is the Best Time?

Question: What's the best time to plant a tree?  
Answer: Eight years ago.

Question:  What's the next best time to plant a tree? 
Answer: Today.

If you ever catch yourself living in past tense, remember that the only time that remains workable is the present.

Are you disappointed that you were short-tempered with your kids earlier this morning?  Then seek forgiveness and practice patience now.

Are you frustrated that you ate more than you wanted to last night?  Stop beating yourself up and use good judgment with the next meal or snack you eat today.

Did you fall off the wagon with something habitual like exercising or devoting consistent time for prayer or reading each day?  Then carve out some spare minutes and start today.

Whether good or bad, our past choices have accumulated to shape our current situations.  Where we are in life is largely a byproduct of the choices we've made up until this point.  And it's our present choices that will shape our futures.

The beauty is that we can control what we choose.  We're not on autopilot, destined to continue in the same patterns we've always followed.

Today, I choose love.  Today I choose joy.  Today I choose peace.  I choose to overlook offenses, hold my tongue, and live graciously.  Today I choose not to compare myself with others.  Today I choose to give up striving.  And when I mess up -- because I will -- I'll choose to dust myself off and keep going without wallowing.

When is the best time to make good choices?  Eight years ago.

When is the next best time?  Today.

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Learning from Suffering

I've been battling an odd illness.  It began with a sore throat and a sore mouth at the onset of the weekend, and then it erupted into a mouthful of ulcers, swollen gums, a swollen and blistered tongue, and a blistered roof of my mouth by Sunday.  It's as if I burned my mouth while swallowing a too-hot bite, except that my entire mouth is affected instead of a localized area.

According to the doctor -- the doctor who looked in my mouth and immediately grimaced and apologized -- it seems to be a virus, most likely the hand, foot, and mouth syndrome that I picked up from some carrier-child.  As an added perk, it comes with swollen glands and a fever and it lasts for one to two weeks.

Since it hurts to swallow, talk, close my mouth, or open my mouth, I mostly mope around the house with a dopey look where my mouth hangs partially open and my face is contorted into an expression of wretchedness. 

Of course, there also was the time that I ventured into Wal-Mart wearing this exact expression and ran into two people I knew.  I waffled.  What's worse?  To explain my appearance and directly admit that I'm suffering from a highly-contagious mouth ulcer epidemic, or to pretend that all is well while I awkwardly slur words and attempt not to cry as I swallow my own saliva?

I navigated one conversation each way.  Both were awkward.

Right now I'm pretty much viewing my mouth as a toxic orifice of misery.  In the process, I'm learning some things about suffering:

1) I prefer not to do so.

2) It's possible to make your suffering worse.  For example, the other night I watched four back-to-back episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network.  It's my masochistic response to the fact that I've been on a liquid diet for the past five days.  Do you know what they showcase on this program?  Sausages and mile-high sandwiches and all-types-of-hot-and-spicy-foods-that-must-be-chewed.  As I watched the host emphatically take monstrous bites, I alternated between wincing and salivating -- partially torture, partially living vicariously.

3) I've learned that there are some body parts that affect the well-being of your entire body when they're sick.  Apparently the mouth is one of them.  It's hard for anything else to feel good when something -- even something so small -- is out of whack.

4) Given this, I'm reminded of a deeper lesson about the tongue -- not the physical body part, but what we say with our tongues:

We all stumble in many ways.  If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.... All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  
(James 3:2,7-8)

If my physical tongue can bring such pain to my entire body, surely the words from my tongue could cause pain to others or myself if the wrong words are unleashed.  I want my tongue to speak life and hope, not death and harm. 

I also want to have the ability to legitimately articulate my words again, of course.

5) I've determined that I will eat my own body weight in chips and salsa once I'm well.  If anybody wants to take me out for a fabulous meal, I'm so there.

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Do you know what would make me feel better?  (Besides from a powerful numbing agent?)  Your vote.  You can vote daily by clicking the icon above.  I'll make me smile -- on the inside, at least, since I can't actually shape my lips into a real one.

More Thoughts on the Weekend Wedding

Do you know what made me the most nervous for this past weekend's wedding?  That I wouldn't be able to properly fix my daughters' hair.  I'm a proficient brusher of hair.  (My girls might argue this claim when I'm approaching them with a hairbrush, of course, but they seem to view most grooming tools as unnecessary inflictors of pain.)

Brushing hair and fixing hair is different, though.  I used an actual curling iron on them, people.  And I embedded rhinestones in their braids.  This has to count for something.

Here are some additional observations from the weekend:

You can put a girl in a dress, but she will still climb any fence.

Or any slide.

Country weddings are truly charming.  Especially when the sky is perfectly blue and the temperature is just right, as it was this weekend.

The minister who performed the wedding was exceptionally cute.  I'm allowed to say this.  I'm married to him.

It's a joy to watch your children rise to the occasion.  They dropped petals with flair.  They mostly remembered their good manners for the entire weekend.  They operated on much less sleep than typical and handled themselves admirably.

And when they were on the dance floor?  Oh, there was no stopping them.  At one point Brooke was sucking her thumb while busting a move -- a sight so comically adorable that a circle of college guys formed around her, each of whom emulated her thumb-sucking and fancy footwork.

She continued to charm guests by announcing and demonstrating her many abilities.  I can hop on one foot.  Or, My name begins with a B.  Want me to spell it for you?  Perhaps my favorite was when a wedding guest complimented her on how very pretty she looked.  She smiled and replied, I know that.

No shortage of confidence there.

High heels are hard to walk in when you're in grass.  Or on gravel.  In fact, my daughter informed me of this exact challenge when she was wearing these shoes:

I told her that I understood.

I ended up wearing Dress #1.  Thanks for all of your feedback!  (You folks sure do have opinions, don't you?)

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A Wedding Tale

If this past weekend is any indication of my emotional stability at weddings, when my daughters get married I'm going to be a mess.  A joyful mess.

My two oldest daughters were the flower girls for the wedding, and they performed their duties with grace, dumping the extra petals that they hadn't tossed during their walk down the aisle at the groom's feet.  Guests loved this.  

Well played, girls, well played.

The moment when the bride appears and everyone rises is when I always look to the groom.  I love to read his face, to watch as his eyes brim with tears as she approaches.

Throughout the weekend I kept thinking about how Joel will eventually have to walk three girls down the aisle.  He'll eventually have to dance three father-daughter dances.  As I stood at the edge of the dance floor and watched the bride dance with her father, it made me suck in my breath.  How do you feel when you're watching your little girl get married?  You know that the day is coming, but when you see her as radiant bride and place her hand in her husband's, how do you hold it together?

Because when you see your girl all grown up, you still probably can remember this:

As parents of young children our days are long, but watching the parents of the bride and groom reminded me that the years are short.

Now they're flower girls.  I'll blink and they'll be brides.

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When Jillian Michaels Gets In Your Head

Even as I type I can hear her voice in my head.  She's normally yelling. 

When I ran my half marathon last fall, Jillian Michaels was in my head.  When I'm shedding or shredding my way through her DVD's, she's definitely in my head.

She tells me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable as I'm melting down during Yoga Meltdown, but I also hear her statement echoing in my thoughts when the house is a mess, the to-do lists are long, or words aren't coming easily as I write.  I remind myself to dig in my heels, breathe, settle into that uncomfortableness, and ride it out.

Perhaps she'll invite me to star in her next workout video as the woman who stands behind her (on the right) with modifications for beginners.

To keep my workouts true-to-form, though, we'd occasionally need to send in my children while I'm in holding the plank position or pounding out high-knees to either 1) climb on me, 2) ask for a snack, 3) request my immediate participation in a craft requiring fine-motor skills, or 4) trash-talk by telling me that "it doesn't look that hard."

This would be my audition video:

For the record, I didn't break my toe in those final seconds.  Came mighty close, though.

Jillian Michaels Image Credit:

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Happy Mother's Day

Last year on Mother's Day I was sick in bed with pneumonia.  At some point in the afternoon I made my way downstairs in my sweats, looking as crummy as I felt.  My husband was outside doing yard work and my two oldest daughters were fighting over a sticker book.

I had no patience.  In a bout of serious immaturity (mine, not theirs), I grabbed the sticker book, ripped it in half, and cough-yelled a threat that, if I recall, went something like this: "If this sticker book is going to get in the way of you two treating each other well, then no one will have the sticker book.  We'll never have stickers in our house ever again if they cause you to treat each other badly.  Do you understand?"

And I ripped the sticker book into pieces, letting the shreds drop to the floor.

They stared at me.  I stared at them.  They began crying.

I stomped back up to my room, laid on the bed, and began crying too.

My husband entered the house and found three distraught women.  Poor man.

Moments like this happen, even on Mother's Day.  Being a mother isn't about being perfect.  Give up on perfect.  Despite my parenting flaws -- and I could provide a list of them -- the truth of the matter is this: I love my children and my children love me.

Love covers a multitude of mistakes.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you.  What you do is so very valuable.

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It's Birthday Season

It's birthday season in our household.  Yesterday my middle daughter turned four and tomorrow my youngest daughter turns two.  Today simply provides a temporary lull in the weekend celebration, a brief respite from eating cake.

I love birthdays.  I love the chance to celebrate these young lives that God has entrusted me with.  There is little time to pause and reflect when you're the parent of little ones.  You're simply in survival mode making sure that everyone is fed, clothed, clean (enough), safe, and accounted for.  

But on a birthday?  On a birthday you reminisce.  You think back to when that child first entered your family.  You remember the first time you laid your eyes on them.

At the hospital with my youngest daughter in 2010.

On a birthday you marvel because you now can't imagine your family without their presence.  On a birthday you take time to enjoy -- just enjoy -- the amazing gift that these children are.

Birthdays help to salve those rough days when parenting feels more like a chore than a gift.  They remind you of the high calling that you've been given.

And you get to eat cake.

What's not to love?

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Choices, Choices, Choices: Help Me Pick the Dress

While I was in college, I once was kicked out of clothing store.  My friend and had been trying on random outfits.  We also happened to be taking pictures of ourselves in these outfits -- kind of like an impromptu modeling shoot that was captured in cramped fitting rooms with unflattering lighting.

Mostly we modeled dresses, but as I strolled through one store I found an outfit so unlike me that I was compelled to try it on.  I ducked into a fitting room and poured myself into zebra pleather pants, a fringed black halter top, and tottering silver platform heels.

The best part?  This particular fitting room opened directly into the store rather than being contained in a separate hallway.  I stepped out into the store in all my ridiculous glory.

I posed.  My friend snapped a picture.  The nearest store employee asked us to leave.

That picture still cracks me up.

I've matured a bit since then, but obviously only a little because recently I bought three dresses, took them home, and then conducted the photo shoot -- which is a long and convoluted way to introduce today's post and my current conundrum.

I'm going to a wedding where my daughters will be flower girls, and I'm trying to choose what to wear.  I'm decisively indecisive, so instead of spending too long in a store weighing the merits of each dress, I'm now spending too long in front of the mirror in my closet weighing the merits of each dress.

And I'm roping you into things by asking for your help.

Dress 1
Pros: Although the picture might not highlight it well, the neckline of this dress is attractive and interestingly asymmetrical.
Cons: Pretty but relatively predictable floral pattern.

Dress 2
Pros: Feminine and light lines.
Cons: The color is just slightly more pink than flesh color.  Is this dangerously close to a total wash-out when you're pale (as I am)?

Dress 3
Pros: Nice detail with black and white contrast. 
Cons: The dress bunches somewhat in the back, hence my hidden hand holding back some extra fabric.  That wouldn't unnatural at all to walk around like that for a day, right?

Would you help an indecisive girl out?  I'm open to opinions.

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Best Mother's Day Gifts

Mother's Day is around the corner.  I'd take any of these potential gift ideas:

Car seats that automatically buckle.  Children sit down and harnesses lower over them, just like the safety bars on amusement park rides.  No parental involvement necessary.

Self-washing and folding laundry.  Enough said.

A personal chef.  I don't ask for much, just someone who can prepare nutritious meals that every member of my family simultaneously likes.  Just that.

A sensor that lets me know if a sippy cup full of milk has been hidden in a pile of toys before days pass and an unassuming child unearths the cup and begins drinking.

A stickiness-repellent for floors and tabletops.  This repellant also could be applied to doorknobs, light switches, walls, and all other hard and soft surfaces.  It would be all-purpose and effective, kind of like Duct tape except that it would repel rather than adhere.  In essence, a force field.

An object finder so whenever a child asks, Have you seen my [left shoe, homework, book, stuffed animal,  pebble, plastic thingy, or picture that I colored three weeks ago?], I could hand over the finder, let the child track her own errant belongings, and conserve my mental exertion.

A finder for the object finder, in the off-chance that it would get misplaced next to the sippy cup of curdled milk.

What would you like to receive this Mother's Day?

Check out Then I Became a Mother: humor, hope, and encouragement for moms!  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.  Enjoy this gift you really can give!

"I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down."  (Stacie Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime)

"Hysterical and spot on!  Robin Kramer has the uncanny ability to use the written word to mentor a mother's heart.  A must read!" (Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms)

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Alternate Reality

I have a child who possesses an altered perception of reality.  Scratch that statement.  All children have altered perceptions of reality, but the child that I'm referencing specifically has an altered understanding of time.

On a regular basis, she'll drop cryptic statements like, "When I was an adult, I had three kids, too, and their names were Reese, Brooke, and Kerrington."  Or, "When I was in preschool, I made a ceramic nest and wrote my name at the bottom."

These statements represent a distinct category of fallacy because they all stem from her speaking about a fabricated future as if it were the past.  They're not to be confused with regular statements of inaccuracy, such as the time that she claimed, "When I was a baby, I once was sucked up in the vacuum."

I attempt to speak truth into her young life.  But you're not an adult.  In fact, you're not even four.  Or, But you're not in preschool yet.

Each time I utter these corrective statements, she regards me with pity as if I'm delusional.  She seems so sure of herself at these moments.  It's unnerving.

I add evidence to support my claims.  "Honey, you didn't make a ceramic nest in preschool.  Your sister made one when she was in preschool."  I hold out the nest in my palm, turn it upside down, and point out the letters carved into the bottom that spell her sister's name.  "Look.  It spells Reese.  R-e-e-s-e."

She shakes her head.  "Well, that R looks like a B, so it spells my name: Brooke."  She returns to her coloring, unaffected, "I did make a nest in preschool, you know."

It's like she has a time machine.  Perhaps she's stopping back to share stories about a time yet to come, and if only I'd listen I'd realize that my eventual invention of a flux capacitor will make time travel in a Delorean possible.

Or, she has a very loose understanding of grammar rules surrounding the future tense.

One of the two.
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Short and Sweet: Cleaning Advice

A post about cleaning in 100 or fewer words:

While wiping down your kitchen table after a meal, have you ever knelt down beside it and inspected its underside?  I just did.  My advice to you is this:


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What If We Were As Nice to Ourselves As We Are to Our Children?

Compliments are not a rarity in our household.  In the past few days I've told my children good job for a broad smattering of things: finishing a packet of math homework, putting shoes on the correct feet, eating vegetables, cleaning up toys, sharing with a sibling, and remembering to flush the toilet. 

It's automatic.  When I notice good behavior, good intentions, or growth, I comment on it.

I'm sure that you do the same with your children.

How many of us, I wonder, are this free with praise for ourselves when we do a good job?  Lately I've been acutely aware of areas where I'm not meeting my own standards: hurriedly prepared, not-entirely nutritious meals for my family; household-wide messes; a missed writing deadline; moments when I'm lacking patience with my children.

These are real things, but when I focus on my deficiencies I forget about the areas where I'm doing well.  I hug my children often.  I remembered to send several thank you notes in the mail.  I finally dropped off some bags of clothes to Goodwill.  I played two intensely-long games of Chutes and Ladders without rushing my daughter, even when she kept forgetting that it was her turn.  I successfully wrapped up the three college classes that I teach and submitted my final grades for the semester earlier this afternoon.

I'll say it: I'm killing some things.  My guess is that you are, too.  Take a moment to recognize those areas.  Rather than overlooking the many obligations that you're beautifully juggling and harping on that one ball that you've dropped, instead let yourself marvel for a moment that you still have so many up in the air.

Let's be as kind to ourselves as we are to our children.

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