Rooster is 1!!!!!!

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I can’t believe it’s been a year. In some ways it feels like it was forever ago and in others, it was yesterday. One year ago today, sweet Rooster was released into the world. She has been so well loved by the families that have known her. I’m beyond grateful for anyone and everyone who has bought her book. Your kindness has been overwhelming. That was the most surprising thing of all. The kindness. When people extend kindness it’s like having a tiny glimpse of heaven. So thank you to all of you for showing me glimpses of heaven this past year.

Writing Rooster’s Balloon changed my life. Rooster helped me grieve the death of my sweet friends’ daughter. She helped me see that children’s questions for God aren’t all that different from adults’ questions. Every time I sat down at the computer to write more of her story, tears flooded my eyes. It couldn’t be helped. I needed to feel her pain. I can assure you this story was covered in prayer and I can say with certainty it was exactly the story I was supposed to write. Thank you for being so accepting of it. I know it’s an especially difficult story to read to your children. Believe me, I can barely get through it myself without getting choked up. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where hard things happen. Children may have to deal with loss before they’re old enough to process it. Rooster gives kids a narrative they can relate to. She asks questions that children may not be able to articulate after a loss. And she lets kids know it’s ok not to be ok. See, kids aren’t that different from adults after all.

So today I want to celebrate Rooster for being one year into the world! And I want to sincerely thank you for all the kindnesses you readers have bestowed upon me, especially this last year. You have humbled me and overwhelmed me and I will not soon forget it. Y’all are my favorites!

And if you never got your copy of Rooster’s Balloon and you want one, just go to the Purchase tab at the top of this page and get you one!!

I also added the video of me receiving ALL the books a year ago. The sight of all the books only gave me slight nausea…

-Courtney

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15 Things I Know Now That I’m 37

What I Know at 37

  1. 37 doesn’t feel as old as what my 15 year old self would have me believe.
  2. The best friends I had when I was 17 are still my best friends.
  3. Friends I’ve made in adulthood are fewer and farther between but they are genuine and life-giving.
  4. Having kids has made me a better person.
  5. Going to counseling doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or weak, or on the brink of divorce.
  6. Spiritual growth is never easy or without pain.
  7. Marriage requires love AND work and if you don’t believe me you’re fooling yourself.
  8. Marry someone who is going to be your biggest fan, not your biggest critic.
  9. Kids’ taste buds are liars…everything I cook isn’t “DISGUSTING!”
  10. Just because you start on one path doesn’t mean you can’t veer off onto another; that may have been God’s plan all along.
  11. Shame is a sneaky son of a gun that must be dealt with in order for me to love myself.
  12. I will never know how my parents raised 4 kids, who were involved in multiple activities, without cell phones.
  13. Choosing your battles is a great piece of advice for marriage…and for parenting.
  14. God values BEING with me over anything I could ever DO for Him.
  15. I’ve only got 3 years to lose my baby leftovers because I’ve heard that once you hit 40, losing weight is an uphill battle. Maybe yoga pants and joggers will still be in when I’m 40. And, yes, I’m aware my youngest child is 8. I’m on that really, really long-term weight loss plan.

What are some things you know at your age?

-Courtney

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A Letter to the Mamas,

I’m writing this to you because I think you need to hear it, but I’m also writing it to me so I don’t forget.

Hey, you. Yeah, I know you don’t have time for this. You need to get out the door and nobody has their coats or shoes on, and Baby has decided to take his pants off and run around the room. You’re going to be late to the kids’ doctor’s appointment and if it’s by more than 15 minutes they’ll make you reschedule. You’d think a pediatrician’s office would be more FLEXIBLE since, I don’t know, their dealing with CHILDREN WHO CAN’T DO ONE BLESSED THING FOR THEMSELVES SO HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU EXPECTED TO BE ON TIME? Anyway, by now you’ve gotten their coats and shoes on and Baby has on hand-me-down jeans from who knows where and you’re getting them in the car. Now one of them is crying because somebody hit her and Baby is whining and arching his back making it nearly impossible to buckle him into his car seat. As you use your best stern Mom voice to tell them “hands are not for hitting,” you notice you forgot to wipe of Baby’s face from breakfast and he has sticky syrup on his cheeks that has attracted every dirt particle from your home. He basically looks like a homeless baby. So you grab a wet wipe from the diaper bag and wipe his face off which makes him scream and you try to comfort him but you’re late so you figure he’ll get over it and jump into your seat. As you turn on your kids’ music or show, you find yourself starting to zone out.

This is where you need to listen, Moms.

As you begin to tune out all the car chatter, the voices in your head may take you down those old familiar roads. They are like a corn maze you can’t get out of. On your first turn, you head down the “What am I doing with my life?” path, then you take a right onto “Is this what motherhood is supposed to look like?” then hang a left on “Endless fighting and whining is not what I signed up for,” then merge onto “Am I even doing a good job?,” then you make a hard right onto “I suck at being a mom.” Then you’re basically there.

“Where?” you ask.

Right in the place the devil wants you. A place of vulnerability. A place where you’re so unsure of who you are and what your purpose is you are desperate for someone to tell you. So he does. He whispers things like, “No, you’re not really a good mom because what good mom yells at her kids/lets them watch THAT much TV/loses her temper/can’t get her kids to eat healthy foods/can’t get her kids to behave in public/doesn’t want to spend every second having “intentional” time with her kids/scrolls through her phone THAT many times a day/(fill in the blank with anything else that makes you feel like a crappy mom)…

And then the devil takes his toxic shame coat and drapes it over your shoulders and that’s how you live. Covered in shame.

This is where you need to listen, ladies.

Don’t let shame make you forget who you are.

Don’t forget that you are the woman that fed your kids today, you helped them get dressed, you held them when they cried, you listened when they told you about their day, you gave them encouragement when they doubted themselves, you washed their clothes, you picked them up when they needed to be held, you laid with them so they could fall asleep, you read them books, you helped with homework, you got them new jeans because theirs were getting a bit too short, you signed them up for camps, you made doctors’ appointments for them, you put money on their lunch card, you prayed for them, you prayed with them, you told her that she most certainly could not wear shorts that short, you said no to the party that was sketchy on the details, you called them out when they were being less than kind, you pointed them to Jesus with loving words, you corrected them and loved them, YOU DID SO MANY IMPORTANT THINGS.

Don’t forget that the God who made ALL the people gave you a few of His own to raise; because He knew you’d be the perfect fit for them. He chose YOU. He knew you would need help and He knew you would screw it up and He was ok with that.

See, the thing is, as much as we forget who we are sometimes, God doesn’t. If we have been saved through faith in Jesus, the Word says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

I believe being a mom is good work. It can be exhausting and wonderful and mundane and sweet and aggravating and beautiful and just plain hard. Lots of times being a mom doesn’t feel good. When we feel like all we do is discipline and say no, it doesn’t really feel that awesome to be a mom. But my feelings are all over the place sometimes so it helps to go back to the Truth. “for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prv. 3:12)

Aaaaahhhhh. Nice to know that all our reproving means that we actually LOVE our kids…contrary to what our kids may say. We’re just trying to point them to Jesus and keep them out of juvie, am I right?

All that to say… Moms, you’re doing a good job. What you’re doing matters. I see you and you are good enough. Actually, scratch that. You are excellent. Now go forth into battle and don’t forget to put snacks in your purse.

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(This pic was taken many years ago but it reminds me that winter with littles is HARD.)

-Courtney

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But how ARE you?

Sweet friends, how have you been? I’ve missed you. I’m coming out of the fog of illness and I’m beginning to see just how lonely January has been. When I say I’ve been sick ALL of January, I’m not exaggerating. From a cough that has hung on for 4 weeks, to the flu, to bronchitis, I’m officially over this month. I wanted to quit Christmas just over a month ago and now I want to quit January 2017. Did I mention I also missed out on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe? Yeah, there was that. It’s been an isolating few weeks and I think I’m finally ready to reemerge back into the world.

And remember when I made the month long resolution to be off social media? Yeah, I’m not doing that again any time soon. I’ve learned lots of things about myself since I’ve been alone a lot and I can say with all honesty, I’m ready for it to be over. As a person that doesn’t work everyday outside the home, I don’t always interact with lots of people throughout the day. I’ve realized that social media was my connection to the world. It was my way to engage with other humans even if it was just through my phone. Being physically away from people for so long and then also taking away social media has left me a bit depressed. I hate to even say that because normally I consider myself a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of girl but this time it’s been different. I haven’t been able to “positive attitude” my way out and that’s been extremely humbling. So yeah, that’s the space I’ve been living in for the past month. It’s not been my favorite.

So what about you? How ARE you? Did you see where our new President was inaugurated? (I know, some of you say he’s NOT your president but if you’re still living in the United States, I hate to break it to you but he actually IS. I digress.) I’m not into chatting about politics very often on here but can we at least discuss Melania’s dress at the Inaugural Ball? STUN-NING.

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I bet designers are chomping at the bit to dress her. And Ivanka’s dress. GORG. I know it’s trivial but I’ve had all I can take of serious/depressing thoughts lately. And can we talk about how well behaved little Barron was? That was an extremely long day with lots of cameras on you and I didn’t see one meltdown. I didn’t see Melania pulling Skittles and Sprite out of her purse to bribe him. He wasn’t staring at an iPhone during the parade or listening to music through his earbuds. I didn’t even see an eye roll out of the kid. Who is this guy? I’ve got a 10 year old and she could keep it together for a while, but seriously? No candy for being good all day? And I feel like I wouldn’t begrudge her a couple of eye rolls. It’s a LONG day! I like to think that when his parents were at all the balls with his older siblings, he was chillin’ in his new room with junk food and watching Dude Perfect videos while working on his bottle flipping. I mean, he’s still a kid, right?

And who is so glad that This Is Us is back?!

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That show. Sigh. It makes me so teary and gives me all the good feelings every time. I mean, Jack the dad? COME ON. He’s perfection. It’s almost like he became the man I knew he could be when he was Jess on Gilmore Girls. And Gerald McRaney as the OB-GYN? Masterful. His monologues make me cry every time! It’s like the creators of the show knew that America needed a new family to root for. A family that is good and makes you want to believe in, well, family. If they’re going to take away Coach and Tammy Taylor, then take away the Bravermans, it’s only fair they give us an extraordinary replacement. If you don’t watch this show, stop wasting your life. Go watch it. From the beginning. If you hate it, I’m not sure I can understand you and I question your life choices.

Thanks for reading all the ramblings today. And thanks for understanding life’s sometimes good and sometimes the pits. Hopefully more good is on the horizon!

-Courtney

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A letter to the tickle in my throat

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(current nightstand situation)

Dear Tickle In My Throat,

You are the worst. You are stealing hours of my life. You are stealing my sleep. You are stealing my ability to speak. I have to sleep in the guest room because of you. I also have to cross my legs every blessed time I cough because I never know how violent the attack will be and I don’t want to risk tee-teeing myself (thanks, kids). You are the absolute worst. I’m ready to break up with you. We had a good run and I thought 2 weeks was long enough. And just when I thought you were gone for good, you came back. You came back with a vengeance, you little punk. You know I have a trip coming up that’s been on the books for months. So I’ve decided, you are not the boss of me. I am coming at you with everything I’ve got. I’ll see your waking up hacking in the middle of the night and I’ll raise you hot tea with lemon, melatonin, and honey. And I’ll see your raspy voice and raise you cough drops with honey and menthol. You hear that? MENTHOL! And guess what else? I went to one of those juice places today and had them make me some concoction of lemon, honey, pineapple, and cayenne pepper. I felt that sucker all the way down to my toes! I keep hearing I need to “coat my throat” and apparently the way you do that is with lemon or honey. It got me thinking…honey’s basically sugar, right? I’ve been neglecting sugar because sweet Tummy-Tum is in a fight with her but these are desperate times! Maybe I NEED the sugary sweetness to get over you, Tickle. Maybe a lemon meringue pie would do the trick? I mean, it’s lemon and apparently that’s a common denominator in all these “natural” remedies. Or maybe a lemon iced cookie. Where could I find one of those so I don’t have to make it myself? Hmmm…

Tickle, I think you might be altering my mental state. Maybe you actually ARE the boss of me. I need you to pack your bags and find a new place to live. My chest muscles literally can’t keep doing this. They are tired. I am TIRED. I need uninterrupted sleep. Let’s face it: I’m not in my twenties waking up with newborns anymore. I can’t function on a few hours of sleep. I used to think I could run the country if I could get 4 consecutive hours. Those days are gone! I need at least 6, 7 if you want dinner on the table. So I’m begging you, leave me be, wretched Tickle. You are no longer welcome here.

Sincerely,

My irritated throat

UPDATE::

Tickle actually turned out to be THE FLU! And let me tell you something, the flu is THE WORST AND IT WAS TOTALLY THE BOSS OF ME. It’s my first time to ever have it but, jeez louise, I’ll have a lot more sympathy for people who get it from now on. The muscle aches, the coughing, the chills, it’s awful. And yes, I had to miss my trip with the hubs because of that stupid virus. Luckily my mom was already here to watch the kids so she took care of them and me. Dontcha just love moms? They’re the best. Anyhoo, so far January 2017 hasn’t been my favorite. I feel like I’ve been hacking up a lung for most of it so I’ll be delighted when it’s over. Bring on February!

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5 Things I’ve learned from being off social media

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In following through with my New Year’s resolution to stay off social media for the month of January, I’ve noticed a few things:

  1. I check my phone far more than I thought I did.

*I never realized what a habit it is for me to look at my phone! It’s like any time I have a spare second I’m reaching for the thing! I feel so silly grabbing it so much now since I’m off social media. Like do I really need to check my email 100 times a day? No, because, let’s be honest, I don’t need to check and see how many coupons have been sent my way from every website/store I’ve ever shopped at…EVER. Which reminds me I probably need to go through and unsubscribe from all the junk mail I get it my inbox.I get maybe 5-7 legitimate emails that need tending to a day, so to check my email all the time is a waste.

  1. I thought I might get FOMO (the “fear of missing out”) but it turns out I’m not.

*I do miss engaging by commenting back and forth with people, but otherwise I’m not sitting around wondering what everyone I follow is doing every second of the day.

  1. I’m reading more.

*I forget how much I enjoy reading until I sit down to do it. I know I love to read but sometimes I let mindless activities steal my attention; watching TV and checking social media being at the top of the list.

  1. I’m more productive around the house.

*More often than not, if I’m looking at Instagram or Facebook at home, I will get lost in the black hole for 30 minutes or more. I would start clicking around and before I knew it I’d wasted so much time just staring at my phone. It’s like I would black out for a while and when I came to I’m looking around thinking, “Where am I? What have I been doing? How is it already 10:30?! I should be in bed!” Now, instead of succumbing to the social media tractor beam, I fold clothes, I pick up around the house, I unload the dishwasher, I write, I don’t put off emails/phone calls, etc. Basically, I get stuff done more quickly because I’ve lessened my distractions.

  1. I go to bed earlier.

*Because if I’m trying to eat healthy AND I’m off social media, what else is there to do after 9:00pm? If I can’t sneak junk food while my kids are asleep or stalk people on the internet, what good is staying up late? Truth bomb.

So here’s to one New Year’s resolution that’s been good for me and hard for me. How are your resolutions going? Good, bad, or ugly? I want to know!

-Courtney

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A Letter To My Belly

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(cartoon courtesy of http://www.newyorker.com)

Dear Tummy-Tum-Tum-

I’m writing to you to apologize. I have been horrible to you these last few weeks. I’m reminded of how ugly I’ve been to you every night when I’m getting ready for bed. As I peel off my skinny jeans, that will seemingly never go out of style much to my thighs disappointment, I look down at you. Oh, honey. It looks as if you’ve been tied up in bondage all day. My jeans have basically left rope burns all over you. I could cry for you, you sweet bowl of jelly. My jeans have been taking advantage of your squishiness and I’m tired of it. Being embarrassed of the red marks my jeans bestow upon you is no way to live. You are better than that and it’s about time I started treating you as such. So in efforts to make taking off my skinny jeans NOT resemble opening a can of biscuits, I will be making a few changes.

For starters, I’ll try not to eat every single thing my eyes see. It seems I’ve been doing this for the past month or so but I’m willing to stop for you, dear tummy. It will be a lot easier to stop considering we don’t have Christmas treats in the house anymore…because we ate them all. It’s fine. We can’t live in the past. Let’s shake off the shame and move on.

Secondly, I will try to eat more nutritious foods that don’t cause you to get bigger. Now, this will be difficult considering these are the not the foods we gravitate toward naturally. You and I are a bit addicted to the sugar, not the beets, unfortunately. Don’t worry; I won’t make you eat beets, I promise. But we will have to sacrifice beloved desserts for something less satisfying, like flavored water. I’m as torn up about it as you are.

And lastly, I will commit to exercising more. I know it hurts when we do this but just think about the bigger picture. Do you really want it to feel like a blunt object is impaling you every time you sit down with jeans on? That button on my jeans is like a dull knife cutting into you every time we are sitting. Is this what you want? No, what you really want is to wear elastic waistbands 24/7 but this is not always socially acceptable. But I take care of you don’t I? I give you your elastic waistband every night by 7:00, sometimes earlier. I care for you, little tummy, just not enough to go up a pant size.

So this is what we must do, Tummy-Tum-Tum. We must not eat everything in sight, eat healthier foods, and exercise more. This is not going to be easy but I’m tired of the skinny jeans abusing you. It’s not fair and it’s time for it to stop. We’ll make it through this together, one lean protein and vegetable at a time. Hopefully I won’t be writing you any more letters because, frankly, it’s a little weird but I wanted you to know, in the words of Zeke Braverman: “I see you and I hear you.”

-Courtney

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New Year’s Resolutions and and update on “Brian”

UPDATE: As many of you saw on social media, Caitlin LOVED the enormous Yeti bear! She has named him Brian much to my chagrin. I’ve never minded the name Brian, per say, but when my daughter tells me she’s going to “sleep on Brian tonight” it kinda wigs me out. She’ll understand in a few years so for now I keep my opinions to myself and let her sweet innocence prevail. She is so proud of this bear and anyone that has come into our home has had to go up to her room to see it for themselves. She and her friends spend hours in her room playing with him. “How do you play with a stuffed animal that big?” Well, from what I hear downstairs it sounds a lot like running and jumping on him. We’ll see how long he lasts. He takes up about half of her room so I’m wondering when the novelty of Brian will wear off. Hopefully not until college seeing that it took Caitlin, Kyle, and 4 of her friends to get him upstairs. I wished I had snapped a pic of THAT! If Ross Gellar were there, he would’ve been yelling, “PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT!” All in all, I think this will go down as her favorite Christmas ever. (The video of Caitlin seeing “Brian” on Christmas morning is at the bottom of this post in case you missed it on social media.)

Ok, moving on to the matter at hand.

New Year’s Resolutions.

Are you the kind of person that makes them every year? Or do you skip it so as not to feel bad about not keeping them by the end of January?

I used to never make resolutions but I’d say in the last 5 years or so, I’ve consistently made resolutions every year. Maybe “resolutions” isn’t the right word; I make goals at the beginning of the year. I think this is partly due to my husband. When Kyle got into sales many moons ago, he would make goals at the beginning of the year for work. Then it kind of turned into making personal goals also. Then he sold me on the idea that it’s important to write down your goals because it offers more accountability and you’re more likely to meet them, yada, yada, yada. He’s a brilliant sales guy.

My goals for 2016 were to publish 2 books and floss every day. I met one of those and the other, well, it lasted until March. And I just heard a couple of months ago on the news that some dentists came out and said flossing doesn’t really matter. I highly doubt the validity of that but it makes me feel better about not flossing.

I remember one year writing like 2 pages worth of resolutions/goals in my journal. Bless. I had personal goals, writing goals, parenting goals, marriage goals, financial goals, and the list went on and on. And many of them started with “Every day I will ________________.” This is failure waiting to happen. The only thing I can actually guarantee I will do every day is eat, sleep, and breathe.

This year I’m keeping it simple. My goals this year are short and sweet. They are fairly trivial in nature and one of them even has a time cap. Drum roll please…

  1. Use only my iPhone calendar and get rid of the paper calendar.
  2. Write more consistently (2 blog posts a week)
  3. No social media for the month of January.

That’s it. And I will tell you the first one will be the hardest for me. I adore a paper calendar! I like to see my whole month laid out because the more I see it; the more likely I am to remember it. Alas, I’m making more appointments on the go and it would be easier if all my junk were in one place. So for any of you planning anything with me that requires me to show up, I would be so appreciative of some grace if I forget. Changing systems is HARD. It’s like re-training my brain and this old brain isn’t good with new tricks.

As for #2, writing more consistently helps my writing to become better and generates more ideas, so setting a goal to do it more seems like a no-brainer.

And the “no social media in January” is for my mental health. I need a few less voices in my head so I can hear my own. And since I won’t be on social media, I won’t be posting as much about when I have something new on the blog. If you want to get my blog posts sent straight to your email so you don’t miss any, just sign up here! A good way to contact me in January (and all the time) would be via email: courtneypallen216@gmail.com. Would love to hear from you guys!

2017 is gonna be a stellar year. I can feel it in my bones!

As promised, here’s the video!

-Courtney

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If a waterbed wasn’t ridiculous enough, Caitlin wants a…

After 3 years, I finally caved. She’s been asking for 3 blessed years and because she doesn’t have much else on her list, she’s going to get that thing she’s been wanting. It is against my better judgment to let Santa bring this thing into our home but what am I to do? I’m already nixing the waterbed off Blake’s list, shouldn’t at least one of my kids get what they want? Paxton’s easy, his list can be bought in the electronic department of Target in a day. But my girl, sigh, she’s pining for this one thing and this is the year she’s gonna get it. She’s gonna be STOKED!

What’s the “thing”, you ask?

Oh. That.

Well, see, it’s the enormous stuffed bear from Costco. It’s the size of a Yeti (the monster not the cup) and I’m not even kidding. I have held it off for 3 years but she won’t stop asking for this silly bear. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants.

So I go yesterday to Costco to purchase said Yeti bear and OH. MY. WORD. It’s a monstrosity. It is bigger than ME and pound for pound we’ve got to be close to the same weight. I sort of wish I could see the store video footage of my trying to get this bear into my cart. It was basically a comedy sketch and by the end I’m in a full-blown sweat. I imagine it is like trying to get a 7 ft unconscious person into a car. And never mind the passersby that gawked at me like I was some sort of sideshow entertainment.

I finally manage to get the stupid thing into my cart but I have to hold the side of the cart to drive because it’s hanging out of both ends.

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Then come the people with all their commentary…

“Is that for you? Heh heh.”

“You should take the stuffing out and it could be a costume!”

“That’s bigger than you!!”

It was really precious, all those non funny comments.

Ya’ll would have been so proud of me. I didn’t say one ugly thing out loud to any of those people. I kept all my nasty, cutting comments to myself. I wore my invisible “SUCKER” sign on my forehead and walked to the checkout like a schmuck. I tried to avoid eye contact and looked at the ground but it was obvious people were staring as if to say, “What kind of idiot would by that?” Yep. That’s me. Idiot, Party of 1. I wish Kyle had been with me. He would have laughed along and had something funny to say to all their little jabs, but no, I wore my SUCKER sticker all by myself that day. I mean, people were literally pointing their fingers and laughing at me. Are we even allowed to point and laugh at people anymore? I feel like that should be a new rule. “No pointing and laughing at people unless they are a comedian or a clown.” I’m starting a petition.

Anyway, I check out and get to my car and just stand there, looking at my trunk. Like a statue.

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I have no idea how I’m going to get this beast of a bear into my car. Luckily, I didn’t wait long because a sweet couple offered to help me. They told me they had bought that same bear 3 years ago for their 10 year old granddaughter. Hallelujah and praise hands for compassion! We stuffed that bear into my car and I headed home, my faith in humanity restored. Look at this picture. I can’t even handle it.

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Big Foot Bear is residing in my garage at present, covered with a sheet and massive amounts of junk. See, there ARE perks to being unorganized and having piles of crap in your garage– no one notices when you add to the pile. Hopefully she won’t notice. Fingers crossed.

-Courtney

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Christmas, I love you but I quit.

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I want to quit Christmas. Does anyone else feel me on this? I’m so done and over Christmas shenanigans and I haven’t even started the baking yet. Maybe I should’ve baked first so the sugar could take me to my happy place then I would not be over all this Christmas.

Believe me when I tell you, I’m no Scrooge about Christmas. I adore Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the decorations, the baking, the gift-giving, ALL OF IT. I love it. Maybe my mood has to do with trying to sell a book at the craziest time of the year (The month of May runs a close second), or that we’re doing some home renovations, or that my kids still want to eat everyday and have clean clothes and do activities and need help with doing life because they are only children for goodness’ sake! I’m over 2015 and am ready to tap out. Anybody with me?

All the aforementioned things may be factors in my current attitude, but I think the truth is I’ve become a victim of the world’s view of Christmas. I’ve bought into the idea that even though you have a lot going on in your regular life, you need to make sure you buy all the presents, make all the goodies, attend all the parties, decorate all the rooms, do all the Advent calendars, watch all the Christmas movies, and make all the memories with your kids…ALL WHILE REMEMBERING THAT “JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.”

For goodness sake.

I cannot.

Gosh we’re good at adding unnecessary things to our plate, aren’t we? I love baking at Christmas. And I love watching Christmas movies. I love having a Christmas tree in my living room because it just makes it feel magical. But somehow it has turned into, “I’ve got to go to 20 different places and 30 different websites to get everyone’s presents! I have to get on the baking because the kids are almost out for Christmas break and I ALWAYS bake something for the teachers! The kids will be crushed if I miss their “holiday” parties; I have to go! I have to get all my Christmas decorations up so I can tell people I have all my Christmas decorations up! I’ve got to get the red nose and antlers on my car so people will know I’m pretending my car is a reindeer…oh wait… no, I don’t EVER need to do this. I need to find the perfect outfit for the Christmas parties I’m going to! I’ve got to get the kids to the mall to see Santa and get their picture made! Shoot, we forgot to read our Advent calendar, now we need to read 6 to catch up! Then I’ve got to remember to post everything I’ve done with my kids during the Christmas season so people can “ooh and aah” over what an amazing mom I am! Don’t forget!!”

YA’LL.

THIS IS LUDICROUS.

No wonder I’m tired. Did you read how many “I”s are in that last paragraph? 17 . Whew, I’m beat and I haven’t even done all those things.

I’ve made Christmas into something it’s not. I’ve made it about me and what I’m doing to make it perfect and magical. Bless my heart.

The most important, perfect, magical thing I should be doing this Christmas season is taking the time to worship the God who gave us His Son. That’s it. Why is that so hard for me to remember?

Christmas is our call to worship. That’s what the angels and shepherds were doing the night Jesus was born. That was the reason the wise men loaded up their stuff and made the trek to meet Jesus. To miss the opportunity to worship is to miss Christmas. And I think that’s why my soul is weary and I feel such unrest. I’ve been giving my worship (time, attention, efforts) to things that are life-sucking rather than life-giving. I need to find my way back to the manger. I need to sit in awe of the gift God gave to me, and the rest of the world, so long ago. My soul is never more rested than after time spent with God. So today I’m pumping the brakes on commercial Christmas. I’m going to go curl up in my favorite chair and pour over the words in Luke 2. I’m going back to the manger. Who’s with me?

-Courtney

Want a copy of my new Christmas book The Forgotten Ornament? Go on up to the Purchase tab at the top of the page and get you one!!

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The weirdest thing my kid wants for Christmas

Blake is always my most vocal child when it comes to what he wants for Christmas. He’s quick to make a list but I can’t shop too early because chances are he’s going to change his mind. There’s one thing on his list this year that has stayed the same. I keep waiting for him to decide he doesn’t want it anymore and cross it off the list. Unfortunately for me, this hasn’t happened yet. As a matter of fact, it’s the #1 thing he wants this year.

Any guesses as to what it is?

“OBJ jersey?” No. He’s already got one of those.

“Video games?” Nope.

“Football cards?” Please, baby Jesus, no. We’ve got enough.

The item topping his list this year, the thing he has not waffled on once, the thing that may or may not end his belief in Santa is…

Wait for it…

A WATERBED.

I’ll give you a minute. It’s ok, I about took a knee when he told me that’s what he wanted. What in the heavens? Is this some sort of joke? A waterbed?! Do the 1970s somehow come with it? Do I need to buy him a lava lamp and shag carpet as well?

I’m sure you’re wondering his reasoning behind wanting a waterbed as was I when he told me. After he told me why he wanted it, I COMPLETELY understood.

Me: “Blake, why on earth do you want a waterbed?”

Blake: “I just do.”

That’s it, folks. He just does. As compelling as his “I just do” argument is, I can’t. Right? I can’t get my 8 year old a waterbed. Like really?! I’ve tried explaining that there’s no way Santa could fit a waterbed down the chimney. He says he can just come through the front door. I half think that Blake knows the goods about Santa so he’s doing some sort of Christmas test on Kyle and me. He’s heard rumblings about old St. Nick at school and Paxton has almost blown Santa’s cover several times. I think in Blake’s mind it goes:

Waterbed= Yes, Blake, there is a Santa Claus!

No waterbed= My parents are lying liars and they deserve to have their pants catch on fire.

Well, it was fun while it lasted, Santa, but I can’t get my kid a waterbed. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Do they even MAKE waterbeds anymore?” Why yes, yes they do. I only know because I just looked it up on Google for the purposes of this post, NOT for the purposes of purchasing one. (And in case you are in the market for one, they now make them to look like regular mattresses. So you can have the feel of the ‘70s without the look of the ‘70s. However, if you want that bed-encased-in-wood look (i.e. 1976), they still offer those.)

A waterbed for Blake would be like most other Christmas gifts he receives: it’ll be awesome for a hot minute then he won’t care about it anymore. Or worse, he’ll pop a hole in the thing and we’ll really be up a creek. Literally.

I know Blake, and I know he’ll be disappointed when he comes downstairs to find no waterbed but seriously, I just can’t. He’ll get over it, right? If he grows up and wants to buy his own waterbed, more power to him. Then maybe his wife can be the bad guy and tell him there’s no way she’s sleeping on a waterbed. Good girl.

Anyone have any suggestions on a good substitute for a waterbed? Is there another substitute other than, well…a regular bed? Maybe I’ll just give him a lava lamp and call it a day. He’ll think a lava lamp is totally groovy.

-Courtney

**Since writing this post, he has changed his #1 spot to a new bike! Glory be! A bike I can do! And look a little further down on the list…

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A lava lamp. Large. I didn’t even know there were different sizes.

What in the world.

It’s like he was born in the wrong decade.

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Best Thanksgiving Craft…Ever.

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This is our Thankful Pumpkin. Don’t let its pristine appearance fool you. I know many of you are thinking, “How did you ever come up with something that clever?! I would never have thought to let my kids just write what they’re thankful for on a pumpkin! This is blowing my mind!” Simmer down guys, I got it off Facebook. Or Pinterest. No, had to be Facebook, Pinterest would have had me do something way cuter that involved…time. This “craft”, if you can even call it that, was my jam this year. No construction paper, glitter, glue, or anything else that would end up with me yelling, I mean lovingly redirecting, my kids. It was foolproof. And let’s be honest, this fool needs all the help she can get. I have low level crafting skills at best. I can cut things out that are traced on paper so pretty much I’m at a kindergarten level. I’m just glad I don’t need safety scissors.

I count it a small victory that I actually remembered to do something this year to remind my kids that we have much to be thankful for. They loved writing on this silly pumpkin. We would take turns writing on it at dinner and then share what we wrote. As the parent, I’m trying to set a good example and write things like “God’s Word” and “Jesus”, and my kids are writing things like “meatloaf” and “OBJ”. We’re really amazing parents. If ever I am on the brink of feeling prideful as a parent, my kids know just how to serve up a hefty helping of humility. They also loved having their friends come over and write what they were thankful for on it. They had so much fun seeing what everyone wrote. Blake even wrote his own name on there. Bless.

As I look at this little pumpkin, I love seeing all the names on there. I’m so grateful my kids have so many people they love in their lives. Some are family; some are friends that feel like family. Either way, we have been given much in the way of love and I have a deep well of gratitude for these people. So on Thanksgiving, I hope you all are with people you love and who love you; whether they are family or friends that have become like family. And it must be said that I am very grateful for all of you that read my thoughts. This is so very kind since I know there are millions of other things you could be doing with your time. So if you land on my page and stay longer than a minute…thanks. And…

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Courtney

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What’s the book about?

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Today I wanted to take a minute and tell you a little more about Ollie. If you’re new to this blog or don’t follow me on social media, Ollie is the main character of my latest children’s book, The Forgotten Ornament. This sweet little gingerbread man ornament is trying to get on his family’s beloved Christmas tree. He’s been stuck at the bottom of the ornament box for many, many years and thinks this might be his last shot at making the tree. The story goes on to tell of him trying to get to the top of the box and the other ornaments he encounters along the way. I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the ending but just know that it’s a story of hope. And I feel like we could all use a little more hope these days.

When I wrote Rooster’s Balloon, every time I signed it I would write Jeremiah 29:11 under my signature.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Little Rooster’s story was one of hope. God had a plan for her life and her story.

When I sign The Forgotten Ornament, I write Proverbs 13:12 under my signature.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Ollie has hope that he will make it on the Christmas tree because somewhere deep inside he knows that he is loved and worthy.

I love hope. It’s my absolute favorite. And the only reason I have it is because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. He came to live the life I couldn’t live and die the death I deserved. And just when it couldn’t get much bleaker, He rose from the dead to show the world He was the actual Son of God who could not be held by death. He overcame our sin to  prove He was/is the only one Who can save us. And He did all these things because of His deep-rooted love for me. For us. For everyone who believes. And dangit, if that doesn’t fill me to the brim with hope. Hope that God uses people to do good things. Hope that even though Americans are a little shaky at best right now, it’s going to be ok. Hope that God has used leaders and authorities from the beginning of time to carry out His plan. It may not be the way we would choose but His ways are not our ways.

As long as I write, hope will always be a theme. So if you need a little more hope in your life or just a sweet read for your kiddos, this book is a must for your library. Every kid needs to know they are loved just the way they are and Ollie is a wonderful example of that. It’s got a great message for your little one and it might just have a message for you too. Just click the PURCHASE tab at the top of this page to buy one…or 100. I’m fine with either. 200? Ok, you’ve twisted my arm.

-Courtney

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Where is your hope today?

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I’ve got great news…

The election is OVER and the world did not implode!!!

If it makes you feel better, God is not surprised nor has His plan changed because of the results of the election. He’s not up there thinking, “Oh shoot, I really didn’t think Trump was going to actually WIN. What do I do now? I’m completely out of ideas! And my goodness, the praying?! People I haven’t heard from in years are praying for America. Sheesh. I’m so tired of listening to their whining. I’m only the God of the universe, how can they expect me to know what to do? Do I have to take care of EVERYTHING for them??”

I’m so grateful that the God I serve isn’t pacing and wringing His hands over the state of our country. We sometimes forget that He lives in perfect peace with His plan. He knows we do not and He’s gracious enough to share that peace with us when we ask for it. (Phil. 4:6-7)

I think many of us have forgotten where our hope is found. I don’t know about you but I don’t place a lot of hope in our government. The corruption and nastiness inside our government has taught me it is not a safe place to put something I treasure so much. Our God is the only person who is fit to hold my eternal hope. I didn’t realize it until the other day, but creation also hopes in the Lord. Who knew creation could hope?

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

the hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the farthest seas;

the one who by his strength established

the mountains,

being girded with might;

who stills the roaring of the seas,

the roars of their waves,

the tumult of the peoples,

so that those who dwell in the ends of

the earth are in awe at your signs.

You make the going out of the morning

and the evening to shout for joy.”   Ps. 65:5-8

Yes, creation knows that the One to put your hope in is the person who established the mountains, stills the seas, and keeps the sun rising and setting every day. He has more power than any president of any country. So when we feel tempted to fear, let’s keep our focus on Who’s actually in charge. When we feel tempted to say ugly things, let’s consider that it was always Christ’s kindness that drew people in. When we feel tempted to let bitterness take control, let’s remember our marching orders as believers in Christ: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. Then go make disciples. It’s extremely difficult to convince people you “love your neighbor” when you are actively spewing hate about them. If you are a Republican, the Democrats are your neighbors. If you are a Democrat, the Republicans are your neighbors. To be clear, I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone else. So let’s remember today that we may not all agree on the issues, but we are ALL neighbors. Christ died for every single one of us and none of us is better than the other. God loves the people we disagree with just as much as He loves us. So let’s keep our snarky remarks to ourselves and treat one another a little more gently today.

-Courtney

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Post Halloween Diet

This has been my Post-Halloween Diet this year:

8:00- Green smoothie (almond milk, banana, spinach, pineapple, protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds)

**Feeling great about myself and my good choices. I don’t even make eye contact with the candy bowl. The candy bowl is dead to me.

12:00- hard boiled egg, apple slices with sunflower seed butter, cheese and multigrain crackers

**I may have casually glanced at the candy bowl. It didn’t mean anything, I just happened to gaze over there. It’s fine. I don’t NEED candy.

2:30- hummus and pita chips

**So I walked over to the candy bowl. What? It’s a free country, I can go wherever I want. So what if I made hand contact with the candy. I just wanted to SEE what the kids got. Wow, those mini candies really are VERY mini. Like barely a bite. It’s fine, I don’t NEED the candy but IF I did, the mini ones wouldn’t be that bad.

3:00- Mini Twix and mini Kit Kat

**I mean, if I’m going to eat a piece of candy I have to do it before the kids get home. I can’t let them see me stealing their candy! They’re very unforgiving when it comes to stealing their candy. Not that I would know about that or anything. Plus, they don’t really need all this candy. It’s not good for their little bodies. I’m basically sacrificing my body for their health. Sheesh, the things we do for our kids.

4:00- Mini Snickers

**What? So I’m hiding in the bathroom shoving this chocolate deliciousness in my mouth.  Whatever. The kids were getting candy but I didn’t want to be a bad example!

5:30- Mini Reeses cup

**I’m STARVING and dinner isn’t ready! I’ve barely eaten anything ALL day!

6:30- Salmon with a honey soy sauce, brown rice, and roasted asparagus

**That was such a healthy dinner I deserve a little sweet treat later. You know, just a little something.

7:15- Mini Milky Way and little box of Junior Mints

**I mean the kids were having candy for dessert soooo….

***And Junior Mints aren’t really candy, they’re just mints.

9:00- Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Kit Kat, Hershey bar, Sour Patch kids, Twix, Reeses (all mini, of course)

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(just a few of my wrappers)

**BECAUSE THE KIDS ARE FINALLY IN BED AND I’M A GROWN-UP SO I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT!!!!!!

***And they’re all “mini” so I feel good about it.

Anyone else have a similar post Halloween diet these days?

-Courtney

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You’re FIRED, October.

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(Oh, flip flops, when will I be able to quit you?? #longestsummerever)

Dear October,

You are fired, effective tomorrow. You have performed poorly in the 31 days you’ve been with us. Your job was to bring us cooler temperatures to our scalding summer but no, you chose to go your own way. You teased us with one week of cooler weather then you took it back like a greedy beast. That was hurtful.

We’re tired of your shenanigans, October. Our hope is that your replacement, November, will be more fruitful. We don’t care for April fool’s jokes in the fall. We want to drink pumpkin-y hot drinks in crisp, cool weather. We want to accessorize with cardis and scarves and boots. We want to wear furry slippers and wrap up in blankets at our kids’ football games.

Wanna know what we DON’T want? We DON’T want sweat trickling down our tank tops and into our cut-offs while we sip iced coffee at our kids’ football games. We (the women) want a reprieve from shaving our legs. We want to let our toenail polish chip. We want to wear LAYERS, FOR PETE’S SAKE! So get over yourself, October, you’re never going to be July. People don’t want you to be July. Maybe you’re having some sort of identity crisis, but you better get yourself together by next year. There will be riots in the streets if you pull this crap next year. The people are not amused so it’s time for you to go. Goodbye, October, you have been a complete let down and failed miserably at your job.

-Courtney

**Have you had a chance to order my new book The Forgotten Ornament yet? I know you’re kids will love it this Christmas season so make sure you check it out! Just go to the Purchase tab at the top of the page.

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Are you a wimpy parent?

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(Image cred:: Pinterest)

When did we become wimpy parents? When did we decide that it was more important to be our child’s friend than be their parent? When did our lines get crossed about who is actually in charge?

I’m not anywhere close to being the perfect parent. I can be one of the most inconsistent people on the planet. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease in my house because I am so tired of listening to the broken record that’s asking me, “Can I pleeeaaase have a snack/play for 5 more minutes/watch TV/play video games/____________?” So just know, I’m losing little battles every single day in my home.

But one thing that runs all over me is when I see kids disrespecting their parents with their mouths. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than watching a kid spew venomous, disrespectful words at the person who cares for them. It makes me want to tell Jesus to cover his eyes and ears because I’m about to lose my religion all over this kid.

Our American culture has distorted “freedom of speech” to mean, “I can say whatever rude, ugly, and hateful words that I want because that’s my right.” And because of this “freedom,” people have forgotten how to be respectful of one another. If you think I’m wrong, just look at our top presidential candidates for this year’s election. It’s disgusting. The whole idea of freedom of speech was to give people the right to express different ideas without persecution, not to give people a free pass to be jerks.

In my house, we don’t abide by the amendment that gives our children the freedom of speech. We abide by the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut your face” rule. Does that mean my kids are always kind and loving towards one another? Ummmmm…no. If they were, we wouldn’t have to have this rule. Are my kids always obedient and respectful towards Kyle and me? No, but, like other bad behavior, there are consequences for their actions. When we allow our children to speak to us, their parents, in a disrespectful way, what makes us think they will do anything less to their teachers, police officers, or bosses one day?

Parents, being respectful and kind is just like any other lesson we teach our children. As parents, we think it’s our job to make our child the best: get them into the best school, they need to be the best on the team, they need to have the best grades, get them the best of everything. Why not, instead, teach them how to be generous with what they’ve been given? Instead of basking in the glory of being the best athlete on the team, what if we advised them to offer to practice extra with the kids who don’t get as much playing time? If our kid really excels in one particular subject, what if we encouraged them to offer help to the kids who don’t do as well in that class? What if we, as parents, put emphasis on their character rather than their performance? Teaching them respect and generosity and kindness are just as much our responsibility as teaching them their ABC’s. It’s hard work, but it’s important work and it starts with us.

We teach them how to be respectful by being respectful ourselves. We ought to treat the Queen and the person behind the cash register with the same respect because they’re both human beings. (I’m going to try to say this as lovingly as possible: Get off the phone when you’re checking out and make eye contact with the cashier. She is a person; treat her as such or wait to check out until your call is finished…dear. Did that come off loving?)

We teach them kindness by being kind. We are kind to people’s faces and we’re kind when they walk away (this can be HARD, ladies, and our girls are watching.)

We can teach them to be generous by being generous with our own gifts. Whether that’s money, time, or talents, we all have something we can give.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, they’re looking to us to see how to live. It’s a lot to take on, but cling to the cross and you’ll be just fine.

-Courtney

Looking for my new children’s Christmas book? Find it here!!

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Ollie’s HERE!!!!!!!!!

HE’S HERE! HE’S HERE! OLLIE IS HERE!!!!

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This little guy has been on the quite the journey to make it here but he made it! I can’t wait for you to meet little Ollie and his friends. They are so dear and I know your kids will love them. So if you have kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, godchildren, or children you even mildly like, GET THEM THIS BOOK!!! Such a fun little book for the Christmas season which, if you don’t know…is here. I say it’s here because I was at Target yesterday and they had Christmas décor aligning some of their shelves. Guys, it’s still October, but as I learned this week, there are only 9 MORE SATURDAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!! This is ludicrous!!

BUT….

If you go ahead and buy this book it can be an early Christmas gift for the little ones in your life. It might be the only time you’re early this year so jump on the Ollie train and BUY A BOOK TODAY so I can empty some of these boxes.

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Just click on the PURCHASE tab at the top of the blog and get it done. Boom.

And just for fun, here’s a video of me with my books. At some parts in the video, my face is enormous. My sincerest apologies.

Ollie’s first video

-Courtney

PS If you never got the chance to buy my other book, Rooster’s Balloon, that one is also available for purchase!

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Are you an early person or a late person?

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Anyone else ever feel either too late or too early to fall? I feel like this tree—awkwardly moving into fall. I’m either like the yellow leaves that are fully committed to the weather change, or I’m the green leaves—hanging on to every last bit of summer.

I wouldn’t consider myself a chronically late person, but when it comes to the season of fall, I’m usually late to the party. It never fails that when I show up to an event in late September, my footwear is always lacking. I’m that girl in flip-flops when all the other girls are in knee high boots. (And we all know how I feel about tall boots. #struggle) I’m bee-bopping into my kids’ open house at school in a sleeveless top and sandals and the other moms are in cardigans and skinny jeans. Ugh. My summer wardrobe has overstayed its welcome yet again. (And I use the term “wardrobe” VERY loosely. Can we even consider shorts, V-necks, and flip-flops a wardrobe when it’s rotated in with workout clothes?) Then I get embarrassed that my feet are showing when, clearly, it’s time to cover them up. I’ve somehow missed the memo that there’s an expiration date on shorts and I continue wearing them. It’s all very shameful. Or there’s the alternative…

…where I barge into fall a bit too early. I come in HOT, figuratively and literally. I’m the girl in cords, booties, and a cardi when everyone else is donning tousled hair and maxi dresses. In these situations, I’ve typically overestimated the cool weather and imagined that 87 degrees “feels like fall.” I’m sweating in all my crevices and praying that the moisture doesn’t make it all the way through to my cardigan pits. Guys, I’m a sweater. Like I can’t even hide it when I’m the least bit hot. The sweat-stache forms above my upper lip almost immediately and it’s the point of no return. Then, I spend most of my time trying to daintily wipe the sweat off and discreetly smear it on my pants that are no doubt sticking to my legs. All the while looking around to make sure no one is paying attention. I am usually rationing my fluid intake because the idea of trying to peel my skinny jeans off of my damp legs to pee is enough to make me want leave an event altogether. (If you’ve never encountered this problem, either the heat doesn’t activate your sweat glands or your jeans aren’t tight enough. I’m jealous of you either way.) For the women who feel me on this, you know it’s going to be about a 15-minute trip to the bathroom to get it done. It’s right up there with taking off a wet one-piece bathing suit and putting it back on. The trick is to make yourself look like you did before you even went into the bathroom. This is basically impossible because your jeans are now sticking in places they weren’t before, or you can’t get the crotch of your pants back up to your actual crotch. It’s times like these that I miss the ‘90s. Everything was baggy in the ‘90s. In pleated jeans, no one even knew you had a crotch because they were so distracted by the pleats. Ah, the simpler times.

Since I live in Tennessee, fall can be a bit elusive. One week it’s 90 degrees, the next it’s 72. But just when you think you’re good to rid yourself of shorts until next year, the temperature goes back up to 89. I’ve decided Tennessee weather has bipolar disorder. So until Tennessee commits to fall, I refuse to put the flip-flops in the back of the closet. People will just have to deal with my legs and feet as they get paler and paler into October. I’ll trade my sweat-stache for white feet any day.

-Courtney

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What is infecting the kids in our community?

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WilCo-itis.

It’s infecting children everywhere in my community, Williamson County. It may be genetic, but it is highly contagious from kid to kid. I felt like it was my duty to inform you as I’ve seen signs of it in my own children from time to time. Here are 7 signs your child might be suffering from WilCo-itis:

  1. The idea that any “break” from school demands an amazing vacation.
  2. If you didn’t beach it at 30A, your child may not even consider it “the beach.”
  3. A little man on a horse is no longer a good enough shirt emblem. It has to be a whale or you can just forget it.
  4. Sonic happy hour? No. Frappes from Starbies.
  5. Duckface with a peace sign is the only selfie worth posting on social media.
  6. Expecting a car before their sixteenth birthday.
  7. Nike is so old school, Under Armour and Lulu are the only athletic clothes to be seen in. Even if you’re not being particularly “athletic.”

 

I know it sounds bad but don’t worry, it can be remedied. Sometimes it stays in the system for a while so it’s hard to kick, but hang in there. The treatment for this is going to be hard, parents. You will have to be vigilant. So here’s the cure:

WORK.

That’s it. Make your kids do work. Then make them use the money they WORKED TO EARN to pay for their own Starbies and whale shirts. Some other treatments are: phone deprivation, staying home during school breaks, and keeping your money in your own wallet. These are also effective.

Now, I have to warn you, the side effects of the treatment can be brutal. Here are 7 side effects that come with the cure for WilCo-itis.

  1. HEAVY eye-rolling
  2. Huffing
  3. Puffing
  4. Complaining
  5. The phrase “But ___________’s parents don’t make him/her work!”
  6. Overall tiredness
  7. Grouchiness

I know, the side effects look grim especially if you have to live with them every day. Not the kids, you. You will have to live with them every day. It will be hard but I think you can do it. YOU have the ability to raise children that aren’t entitled little jerks running around with their parents’ credit card. YOU are the parent, not the fun/entertainment director. YOUR KIDS ARE NOT THE BOSS OF YOU. You are the boss, and occasionally, you let them make choices and you don’t have to feel bad about it. Even the tweens need (GASP) guidance even though they know everything already. You are equipped to do this. You can cure your kids of this nasty disease and they will be better humans for it. Together we can beat Wilco-itis.

-Courtney

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Growing Pains and Autumn

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Listening to Ben Rector is always a good choice in my book but some days, it’s an excellent choice. Have you ever listened to a song many times over, then one day it hits you anew what the song is actually about? I feel the same way when I read a familiar passage in Scripture and, for whatever reason, I see it in a completely different way or learn something I never knew before.

I was driving the other day and listening to an old Ben Rector song, “Autumn”, and was struck by the words of the song. It’s a song about, well, autumn, because Ben wants to be very mysterious in his titling. Here are a few of the lyrics:

 

“So I watched the leaves fall

All of the way to the ground

And I knew that that was what love was

To die so that it could be found”

 

To die so that it could be found. Hmmm.

That’s when my brain exploded.

I’ve been going through some things recently and have not really been all that grateful for where God has me. I’ve been sad and mad and digging in my heels telling God that his Plan A is unacceptable. Then I heard that “Autumn” song and God whispered in my ear, “What needs to die in your life so love can be found?”

Well, shoot.

There God goes again, trying to grow and refine me in the fire. Growing hurts. I remember when my kids were younger, they would wake up in the middle of the night, crying, saying their legs hurt from the “growing pains.” I’m not sure I’ve ever grown in my faith without it hurting. Growth is not my favorite. I like it when it’s over, but during? No, ma’am, it’s the worst.

So, death, huh? I knew what needed to die in my life but I wasn’t ready to let them go.  I needed some long held dreams and expectations to die.

Has this ever happened to anyone else? You have an idea in your mind of how your life is supposed to work, or how your kids are supposed to be, or what your marriage is supposed to look like, then God has a different plan all together? He allows certain things to take place that alter your plan for your life. Honestly, you may not have been aware you even had these dreams or expectations until they were suddenly taken off the table and not an option anymore. Then you have to come to grips with the fact that the story God is writing for your life, or your child’s life, or your husband’s life, may not be the one you wanted. You had a whole different story all worked out for your life and He just up and changed it.

Die so that love could be found. As long as I held on to these dreams and expectations that I had created, I would hold onto bitterness and anger and resentment. But if I let them die, then I could begin dreaming new dreams in the place God has me. I could begin the process of accepting things I cannot change. I could receive the new thing God has for me to love.

Simple enough, right? In case you were wondering…no, this is not simple and it is not easy. I have to choose it every day. I have to choose the new dream, the new perspective, every day. Acceptance is hard, especially when it isn’t necessarily something you wanted. The only thing that keeps me choosing the new, hard thing is the hope that something love-worthy is on the other side. God has never brought me to a hard place and given me a crappy return on my pain. Historically, He has always used my pain to bring something good. That’s something I know to be true; He doesn’t waste my pain. So the sooner I can put these old dreams to death and embrace the new, the sooner I’ll find love, right? That’s what Ben said so it must be true. I’m sure Ben is talking about the love of a girl but I like to leave it open for interpretation.

Anyone else have anything that needs to die and be grieved so you can move on to loving something else?

-Courtney

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“Lord, help”

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(image cred:: Pinterest)

Lord, help. This is how the writing is starting off today. Seems like a good, desperate place to start, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed this prayer. I pray this a lot. It’s basically my Hail Mary/last ditch prayer when I don’t know what to pray.

Lord, help.

When life gives me unexpected news, unexpected frustrations, unexpected pitfalls—Lord, help.

Lots of times I feel bad about praying this. I mean, I’m a writer, shouldn’t I come up with something more eloquent to say to the God of the universe? Something more writery? (Writery…it’s a word. Trust me, I’m a writer ;)) Shouldn’t my prayers be something more, I don’t know, lengthy? Lord, help. Sometimes I just say it over and over wishing I had more words but failing to find them.

There’s something about this little prayer that brings me to the place God always wants me: Surrender. When I choose surrender, it allows me to embrace the peace that comes with knowing God is in control. I so badly want to be in control of my life and everything that happens, but if God allowed that, there would be no room for Him. I spend so much of my life trying to make sure things go smoothly–for me, for Kyle, for my kids—I sometimes forget I’m not actually the one in charge. The thing is, when I’m in charge and ultimately fail, it’s all on me. The failure is mine and I get to carry the weight of it. This creates something toxic inside of me: shame. Not healthy shame. Toxic shame. The shame that tells me I can’t do anything right. I will never be good at ___________. I’m too forgetful. If only I were more like __________, then this wouldn’t happen. I’m the worst mom/wife/friend/________ ever. Ice cream. Ice cream would make me feel better. (After finishing ice cream) I’m so fat, why can’t I stop eating ice cream? Another failure. I’ll never be as thin as ___________. She’s probably the perfect mom/wife/friend. And down and down I go into the shame vortex. It’s crippling carrying all that shame. Lord, help.

The times that I can wrap my head around the fact that God is in control and I am not, something amazing happens. I am free. I’m free to screw up and let it roll off because I know my self-worth is not determined by my ability to get all the things done. I’m here to tell you surrender is where it’s at, friends. Knowing that your productivity/efficiency don’t hold your value and worth is freedom.

But what about the unexpected circumstance that is not necessarily “our fault?” You know the things I’m talking about: the sudden death, the diagnosis, the accident, the divorce, all those things we don’t see coming. What then? Lord, help. If I had my way, none of those things would be allowed to happen. Those are the hard things. But you wanna know something? Without those things, I may never see my need for Jesus. I might never come before His throne, on my knees, begging, “Lord, help!” I wouldn’t cry out. I wouldn’t plead. Life would be easy and I would never live a life any deeper than what you could see on the surface. I would never experience true joy because I had never endured sorrow. I would never experience grace because I wouldn’t have a need for it. This would be an obscene waste of a life because grace…sigh. Grace is the most pure, intoxicating, and overwhelming thing to receive. It breathes life into dead souls. It is a good gift from a good Father. God is constantly making beauty from ashes sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for it.

The truth is we need help. Whether it’s help to check off our to-do list or help to breath in and out after receiving devastating news, we just need help. Why not go before the One who is known for being a Helper (Ps. 54:4)?

While “Lord, help” may be short in length, I think it is more than sufficient at communicating what we need.

And if you’re from the South, sometimes it comes out, “Lawd, help.” This is also perfectly acceptable 😉

Is there any place in your life you could use a little help?

-Courtney

P.S. For those of you on my email list: Have you taken advantage of my special offer yet?!? Don’t miss out! Remember to use the link sent in the original email. Thanks, guys!

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The fashion trend I just don’t get

I promise I haven’t forgotten that I haven’t told you my big news. It is killing me that I can’t tell you about it until all the kinks have been worked out. I’m waiting on the edge of my seat to get the green light! I’ve already constructed the email and it’s just waiting in my word docs to be sent out, like a sad puppy waiting to be adopted. So I pinky promise, when I hear the word “GO” I will be on it sending out the announcement I’ve been so excited to share! And if you still are not on my email list, SIGN UP NOW!!!! (Hint: if you sign up today you might just get a little sneak peek into my surprise;) ) Here’s the linky loo to make it easy: http://bit.ly/CourtneysEmailList

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Moving on…

Can we talk about the bralette? Is that how it’s even spelled? I was at a concert last weekend and every girl between the ages of 16-22 had one on. If you aren’t familiar with this article of clothing, let me break it down for you. It’s like a very lacy bra with a halter lace strap and it has lace that comes down around the torso. Basically lingerie. Except that instead of covering it up, they are showcasing it. Perhaps I don’t understand this because I can’t imagine wanting to draw attention to my back gills. Perhaps.

Is this the new socially acceptable way to show your bra without being trampy? I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be like a camisole? Is it just a bra? Is it so girls don’t feel as skanky wearing a backless shirt? I just, sigh. I guess I’m getting too old to understand fashion. From tall, athletic socks with Sperrys for boys to high-waisted short shorts for girls, I feel very out of the loop. Rather, I’m not out of the loop as in I don’t know about these fashion trends, I just don’t understand them. Probably like my parents didn’t understand why I wanted to tight roll my jeans. Although I KNEW pleated acid wash jeans would look amazing with a tight roll at the bottom with my brown moccasins, my mom I’m sure just…sighed. So that’s where I’m at with the bralettes.

I’m sighing.

To me, they look skanky when you can see them in a backless shirt. There I said it. You may disagree and that’s fine. To me, it looks like one more way girls are sexualizing themselves for boys. Teenage boys do not need more help thinking about sex. From what I understand, it’s pretty much at the forefront of their brains at all times. So I know some girls are clueless and just think, “I would look so cute in that lacy bra/shirt, I might as well get a backless shirt to show it off.” Bless. It’s sweet that their innocence is still intact. A lesson to you young ladies: Don’t give away all your goodies for free. Wanna know what people do with free stuff? They play with it for a little while then throw it in the trash. Let’s be better than that, ladies. Be more than eye candy. Know your worth. Value the body God gave you.

(Mic drop)

I’m out.

 

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Rio de I could never do that

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Can we talk about the Olympics? First of all, can I be honest and tell you I have no idea what it’s like to be the best at something? I don’t say that to get your pity, I’m just saying I wouldn’t consider myself the BEST at anything. Mainly because, typically, the term BEST is subjective. There’s no real contest to find out who the World’s Best Mom is but I’m pretty sure people still buy the mug. (And shame on you if it was not given to you by a child and you bought it for yourself.) It’s difficult to qualify someone as “the best” at something if there’s no clear-cut way to measure it.

I think this is why I’m so enamored with Olympians. These people have trained and competed until they basically beat everyone else in that field IN THEIR COUNTRY to get a spot on the Olympic team. Now, I know some countries are small and these are the places I would have to move to in order to have even a remote possibility of being called “the best” at something, but still. These people get up early and train. They maintain strict diet/exercise/sleep schedules in order to be better at their given sport. They practice the same thing over and over until it is no less than perfect. They will destroy their opponents with minimal effort. They are fierce and breathe tenacity. They are beasts. And I mean all those things in the most complimentary and awe-inspiring way. I’ve never been a beast at anything other than pounding chips and salsa. People that describe me as fierce and tenacious are mistaking me for someone else. I just LOOK like that Indian/Latin/Italian woman that really is fierce and tenacious. It’s an honest mistake.

I think all the Olympians are amazing but can we please discuss the US women’s gymnastics team for a moment? What in the heavens? Is God improving on the way He makes humans post 1995? The only thing that my body can do gymnastically is stand with my legs together and throw my hands in the air like they do at the end of a routine. We are identical at this, basically twins. Anything else and you would think I’m some sort of freak show trying to do what they do. They are the best. Those 5 girls beat out all the other female gymnasts in America to make that team. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of skill and sheer will power it takes to be a gymnast. The early mornings, long days at the gym, strict diets, injuries, pain, competition, and don’t forget, some of these girls also take classes for school. They are beasts, I tell you. I don’t have an ounce of the mental toughness these girls have. And let’s not forget those precious moments where they wait to be judged by people who are looking for every single imperfection in their routine. People just sitting there, lazily, looking for the flaws. If I hadn’t tapped out from the strict diet, this is what would get me. You’re deducting a whole point because I bent my elbows a little and had a tiny hop on my landing?! I would throw up deuces and peace out at that point. Buh-bye. The grit it must take to compete at this level is something I just don’t have; I think that’s why I love watching it.

I will always be amazed and astounded by what these athletes can do. Even the ping-pongers (How do they play the ball that fast?!) So I will be sad when the Olympics are over, but I will enjoy going to bed at a normal hour again. I don’t want to miss it, but my eyelids are sooo heavy come beach volleyball time.

So here’s to you, Olympians, for your incredible accomplishments!

Love,

All of us who are binge-eating junk food while watching you do your thing

P.S. Ryan Lochte, can we stop with all this tomfoolery? I don’t know what happened in Rio–Were you robbed? Were you making it up? I don’t know. Whatever the case may be, we’ve got enough shenanigans to deal with. I don’t know if you know, but Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are running for president. This is all the tomfoolery and shenanigans we can handle. The American people have their limit. Please, get it together.

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THIS IS NOT THE ANNOUNCEMENT…however it IS about the most magical place on earth…and no, it’s not Disney.

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I hate hate hate that I can’t share my news yet, but in the meantime, I DO want to share with you about a family camp I went to this summer. I know, family camp sounds super weird and maybe even a bit corny but normal and cool is soooo 1990. In short, it was the Best. Trip. Ever. (And as you can tell from the pic above, there are theme nights. Obviously Caitlin did not want in on the family camo theme.)

Sometimes when people have an extraordinary experience and are asked about it, they say things like, “ It’s so hard to put into words” or “I can’t even begin to describe it!” This is not my problem when it comes to talking about Pine Cove family camp. My problem is that I want every word I use to describe this camp to carry the magnitude of joy I felt while I was there. My problem is I want bigger/better/more words than I have in my vocabulary to tell you about this magical place. My problem is I want to somehow transfer my experience into your body so you can understand it. Because some things just have to be experienced in order to be understood.
This place, ya’ll.
I can’t quit this place. We drank the Kool-Aid, bought the shirts, and cranked it like a chainsaw. We are ALL IN.
Instead of going into the minutiae of why I love this camp so much, I’m going to narrow it down to 3 things:

1. The Counselors
-Calling these young men and women the cream of the crop would still be a gross understatement. They’re basically unicorns in human skins. I have never met young adults more concerned with the needs of others. Look, I know some of you may be thinking, “That’s their job. They’re getting paid to care for your every need.” Clearly you’ve never been a camp counselor. The monetary gain is SLIIIIMMMM. They’re basically paid in high fives and side hugs. Seriously. And what young 20-somethings choose to spend their summers serving and loving on families? This is not normal, but after meeting some of these men and women, I realized– they really aren’t normal. They are high energy, Jesus-loving, hard working, Kingdom-minded, helping-handed, chant-loving, feet of Jesus, disciple-makers. And smiling is their favorite. For real. These young men and women make this place what it is. I’m not sure if they’re drinking Jesus or Red Bulls all day but my goodness do they have a lot of energy. And funny enough, little kids have high energy too so it’s a perfect match. They are there showing kids how much fun it is to love God and live out their faith… and they’re cool (Because lesbihonest, some people don’t even make it look like fun to follow Jesus. And no, they weren’t decked out in Jesus Freak shirts and bracelets. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

2. Reprieve from Mom and Dad duties
-It’s like a bunch of parents got together and came up with a list of the most stressful things about vacationing with kids and figured out a way to alleviate them. I wish we had started going to Pine Cove about 5-7 years ago when it was a GRIND to go on vacation with the kids. (Plug to moms of toddlers: SIGN UP FOR THIS CAMP! You need a break more than anyone! Pinky promise you’ll love it.) For example, meal times. With small kids, meal times are an opportunity to play “How many times can I make Mom/Dad get up before their food is cold?” Kids aren’t taught this game; it’s somehow burned into their brain upon arrival into the world. With that being said, every meal you have at Pine Cove will not involve this game. You will not lift one single finger during meals except to feed yourself. A counselor is assigned to your table, which means he/she will fill your drinks, he/she will butter their rolls, he/she will CUT UP YOUR KIDS’ FOOD. You read that right and I am not even kidding about it. The counselor will get up and get your kids whatever they think they need. This service allows your family to enjoy a meal without anyone leaving the table. It’s magical, like the land of Narnia. (Moms of babies, I wouldn’t tell you this if I hadn’t witnessed it with my eyeballs. Are you ready? A counselor will HOLD YOUR BABY WHILE YOU EAT! I’m telling ya’ll, it’s like a land where unicorns roam. Are you clicking the links now to sign up?)
For those of you that have children who require more attention and care due to special needs, YOU NEED THIS CAMP. Your precious child will not only still get to participate as his/her abilities allow, he/she will have their own counselor for the week. It brings tears to my eyes even now when I think about watching these college kids love on these extraordinary children. They are so patient and gentle with these kids. It was almost like they considered it an honor to take care of these children. I know it blessed me and I was just a bystander.

3. Family
-There are thousands of camps for kids. There are also hundreds of conferences/retreats for married people (Thousands? Hundreds? I don’t know, but there are a lot.) But rarely do you find a camp that is for families. They understand the value of a strong family unit. Whether you’re married, divorced, widowed, or single, they want to serve your family. They have designed this camp to set parents up to bond with their kids. All those good intentions we have as parents to spend quality time with our kids, they are making a reality. They provide materials and a specific time to have devotionals as a family. They provide opportunities for your family to go do things together i.e. zip lining, tubing, water skiing, etc. They give you a night to spend with your teenagers to speak God’s truth into their lives; telling them who they are in Christ and offering a chance to ask/give forgiveness over the broken parts of your relationship. This place wants to make it easy for parents to win with their kids. It offers a safe place to connect and grow as a family and give memories to last a lifetime.

I know this post may seem long-winded but I promise I’m only scratching the surface of this enchanted place. I’m sure some of you are now thinking, “This all sounds too good to be true but just in case a land of unicorns DOES exist…how much does it cost?” I’m not gonna lie to you, unicorns and rainbows come at a cost. But if your family can afford to save up for a trip to see a giant mouse and stand in line for 1 million hours, you can swing this camp. And once you get there, you don’t pay for anything. Cabins, 17 meals, entertainment, unicorns, stronger families, and memories are ALL included in the cost. Think of it as an investment in your family. Trust me, it’s just that good. You can also do a payment plan if that works better for your family. We made Pine Cove our only trip for the summer and it was worth every penny. Our kids are still talking about it. And if Texas is too far of a hike for your people, they’re opening a new camp location in South Carolina next summer! Please consider this camp for your family, it will be money well spent!!

Here’s the linky-loo so you can check it out for yourself!

Pine Cove family camps

-Courtney

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A note to my younger self about parenting books

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Dear 29-year-old self,

We need to have a little chat. You are so well intentioned with all those parenting books, really, you are but you’ve got to remember these are people’s opinions, not Gospel truth. Many of them have wonderfully helpful information on parenting so don’t completely disregard, but there’s something you need to know when it comes to raising kids: A plus B does not always equal C. Just because you do everything these books say doesn’t mean you will raise the perfect child or be the perfect mom. Because lesbihonest, you think that children are a direct reflection of how they’re raised. Bless. You have so much to learn, dear one. You will meet so many parents you admire whose kids are screwing it up and you don’t think this makes them a bad parent. It means that you can try your darndest to control them, but kids will eventually make their own decisions.

It’s noble that you want to get this mothering thing right the first time but for goodness sake, quit beating yourself up about it. You’re going to learn that loving your kids well has a lot more to do with how you communicate with them and a lot less to do with providing a perfect environment for them to grow, impeccable Sunday School attendance, how many sports they’re involved in, and how many social engagements they have. And rather than trying to do everything by the book, spend time in the Word. Pray for your kids. Talk to the God that made them, He knows far more about your kids than any other person who wrote a book on parenting. I wish you would do this more. I wish you were on your knees praying for God’s edification in your life because it will bleed into how you mother those little ones.

The books are great but just keep in mind that you don’t have control over how your kids turn out. Your jobs are to be faithful to what God has called you to and teach your kids about Jesus. This is what you do, no matter the outcome. God is writing their story, Precious, not you. God has hard lessons for them to learn so let them learn. Don’t shield them from everything or they will never learn how to be brave and fight for themselves. Give them a safe place to land, not a bubble to live inside. This will be hard; especially living in the community you live in where all the kids have all the things (clothes, technology, money, status, etc.) It’s a fight against defining happiness with the amount of stuff you have. Teach them that stuff doesn’t bring eternal joy. In a world that is full of bullying and greed, teach them to be kind to others and generous with what they have. This is the better way.

And remember, when your kids make decisions that break your heart, you haven’t failed as a parent. God isn’t done. Don’t lose hope. Continue to be faithful to what He has called you to.

Remember those marriage books you read while you were engaged? And remember how you laughed and laughed when you found out nothing could’ve prepared you for what marriage would be like? (Apparently no one thought it especially important to write a book about getting married 2 months after you graduate college, then getting pregnant 3 weeks after the wedding. Weird that no one thought that book would fly off the shelves.) Many of the marriage and parenting books have great information but marriage and parenting aren’t formulaic. Everyone’s different and that’s ok. You are 36 and still flying by the seat of your pants most every day. You do not have it figured out and, unlike when you were young, you don’t care who knows it. Cut yourself some slack, the kids are amazing.

Love,

Your Older, Wiser Self

P.S. The other day you got a flat tire with your kids and groceries in the car and you figured out what to do ALL BY YOURSELF! Then the next day, your debit card was stolen and you took care of it ALL BY YOURSELF! You are so tired of wearing your big girl panties but YOU DID IT! You slayed adulthood this week! You are such a grown up and you hope it never happens again because you’re exhausted.

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Happenings lately

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(I saw this on Instagram and I loved it. There is always good. Even when it’s hard to see, there is still good.)

Sweet friends, so much has happened since the last time I posted to this blog. On a large scale, our country is grieving for those that were injured and killed in the Orlando shooting a few days ago. This makes my heart sick. It makes me sick to think there are people out there that are resolved to killing people who are not like them. These people thrive off being feared by others and it’s just disgusting. I hate that I had to talk to my sweet children about people like this as they just looked at me with confused faces, like “Why on earth would you kill someone just because they’re different than you?” I adore their innocence and it makes me ill that the world they are growing up in is not idyllic for them. I hate that they will have to witness hate that is beyond their understanding. People hurting groups of people to foster fear in the hearts of others is so cowardly. But I’m grateful that in these instances, I get to talk to them about Jesus. I get to tell them how Jesus is grieved for this community that lost so many. I get to tell them how Jesus would never think it’s ok to kill someone just because they’re different. Jesus commanded us to love one another. That’s it. I get to tell them that because of what Jesus did for us, we can be kind and love other people because we have hope. The brokenness of our world will only become more real to our children as they grow. I pray this reality will open their eyes to the beauty of what God did through Jesus. It’s all grace upon grace upon grace.

Ok, other happenings on a smaller scale include:

-It’s summer

-The kids ask me what we’re going to do every blessed day

-They also might eat me out of house and home (canihaveasnackmom?)(eventhoughiate20minutesago)

-Nash the dog tore his ACL and had surgery (ohmygoshthismightsendmeovertheedge)

-We are researching a gluten free diet for our family (ohmygoshthisishardtoo)

-It’s supposed to get up to 99 degrees this week and we all might melt

-I have come to terms with my inability to multitask (ijustcant)

-After 13 years of Kyle’s nagging, I finally caved and picked up a tennis racket (eatingcrow) (tennisisactuallyfun)

-My hopes of maintaining some sort of exercise regimen in the summer have come crashing down (doessweatingatthepoolcountasexercise?)

-My kids were at camps last week and Kyle and I ate ice cream every night (itwentdownsmooth)

-I’m learning to embrace my lack of productivity with kids at home (messyisthenewblack)

 

AND THE BEST ONE OF ALL…

-I’ve got another children’s book going to print!!!!!!!!! (YIPPPPEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!)

I’ll tell you more about the book as it gets closer to being finished, but just know it’s fun, has really cute illustrations, and will be a great Christmas gift! I literally can’t wait to tell you more!!!

Until next time…

-Courtney

 

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Note to my younger self: the hotel edition

This post is in honor of my sister-in-law. I promise it gets better, my friend.

 

Note to my younger self,

Oh, honey. It’s ok. You will survive this too. Traveling with littles isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s like being held captive by tiny terrorists. You can’t negotiate with terrorists and toddlers. Their M.O. is to deprive you of sleep until you break, then they cry incessantly until YOU are the one rocking back and forth in the corner saying things like “Find your happy place” over and over. Staying in a hotel with kids is like going to war. You think you know what you’re getting in to, but you don’t. You think, “There are enough beds for everyone so it’s all good.” This is a lie from the pit. Don’t fall into the trap, young one. All those hotel commercials with families frolicking by the pool and laughing over the complimentary breakfast are a sham. Apparently no one wants to see the red-eyed mother rocking her inconsolable baby in the lobby at 1:00 am. No one advertises the 2 year old who has just pooed his swim diaper in the pool and his parents frantically trying to get him out. And what about the littles who are running amok down the halls screaming at the top of their lungs at 6:30 in the morning? I guess they didn’t audition well.

I promise there’s a silver lining here. Now, your kids are older. They can sleep in beds other than their own and not act like crazed animals. They sleep, yes SLEEP, in these beds all the way til morning without a peep. They actually like going to hotels because they know they’ll get to watch TV in bed. They don’t run up and down the halls anymore terrorizing every guest that wants to sleep past 7:00. And since they’ve all figured out how to control their bodily functions, there are no “code browns” in the swimming pool. The unfortunate thing is they are still children and act as if the whole hotel room is a laundry basket, so their clothes cover every inch of the floor. I know you’re freaking out right now. “You mean you let their clothes get on the icky, germ-infested floor?!” Yes. Yes I do. Ironically, your children’s immune systems are super human. I like to think it’s because of your early dislike for deep cleaning. Thank you, young one, for not making their home as sterile as a hospital. (P.S. you also still like to credit yourself for things that probably have nothing to do with you i.e. their immune systems. It’s fine.)

Here’s the deal. You are one tough cookie whether you know it or not. Sometimes the tiny terrorists win and that’s ok. You will live to fight another day. If you feel overcome by your little loves, take a minute. Go for a LONG walk, get a pedicure, visit a friend, see a counselor, read a book. Do whatever it is that feeds your soul and frees you from reality, even if it’s just for a little bit. These tiny people need you and they need you to be strong. Hang in there, it gets sooo much better. And harder in some ways. I can’t tell you about that now though, you might have a come apart. Carry on, brave warrior. You were made for this.

Love,

Your more rested older self

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P.S. The last time you went to a hotel your kids stayed in an adjoining room. Did you hear me?! ADJOINING ROOM!! FREEDOM!!!!! No more 8:30 bedtime for you and Kyle! Nevermind that you have no idea how many hours of television they watched before bed. You don’t even care because you got to watch Netflix on your phone. It was magical. It’s in your future. It’s your destiny. Nevermind that you don’t know what Netflix is yet. You will. And you will binge on Gilmore Girls. I know it’s on TV right now in 2007 but just wait. You’ll watch it in 9 years.

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What I Meant to Say…

books

If you came to my book signing for Rooster’s Balloon in Memphis last week this is what you may have heard me say:

Hi guys! Thank you so much for coming!

(Blah, blah, blah. Awkward pauses. Shaky voice. Awkward words. Blah, blah, blah. More awkward pauses. Shakier voice.)

…and again, thank you for coming!

Sigh.

Speaking in front of people is not my gift. Like not even close. So for those of you that were there, my sincerest apologies.

Let’s have a do over, shall we?

Hi guys! Thank you so much for coming! I can’t believe so many of you gave up your Sunday afternoon to be here. Your kindness is overwhelming.

Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins, thank you so much for opening your home and offering to host this book signing. Your kindness and generosity and hospitality have been supremely evident in the 20 years I’ve known you. It is who you are. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and all that you have done. Your family is so precious to me and I am a better person because of your love and support over the years. Thank you.

This book is so special to me. You all have no idea how this book has changed my life. When I tell people about this story, many have said, “Oh that’s such a nice thing you’re doing” or “What a sweet gift,” to which I always feel uneasy. You see, this book is not, nor will it ever be, my gift to the Harrisons. This book was a gift to me. God used this story to teach me to trust Him. As much as I wrote this story with their daughter in mind, I also wrote it with me in mind. When hard things happen and I don’t understand, my mind reverts back to the mind of a child. When we’re children, we don’t pretend to understand things and act like we have all the answers. Children ask questions and aren’t afraid to show their feelings. I relate so much to Rooster because she got to say things to God I wanted to say. She asked Him questions that I wanted to ask. This story is so much more than words and pictures.

I wish I had time to tell you all the stories people have told me regarding this book. I could tell you of multiple people that have seen God differently because of this book. I could tell you of a little boy who put his faith in Christ after reading this book. I could tell you of this book arriving on the doorstep of a family who just hours later would have to say goodbye to a family member. God is using this book for His glory. Nothing I write could ever be as good as the story God is writing for His kids. In His kindness, He is letting me have a peek into the magnitude of what He is capable of.

Everyone has been so encouraging and supportive and I am beside myself with gratitude. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to share this story of Rooster with you. I still can’t believe God let me write it. I am forever changed. So as much as I wish I could say Rooster’s Balloon is my gift to the world, it’s not. It has and always will be, God’s gift to me. Thank you, Jonathan and Alicia, for letting me share it. Thank you for being so generous with your story. Because of you, people in similar situations will be comforted. You are two of the bravest people I know and I am honored to call you my friends.

And as many of you know, a donation will be made from the proceeds of this book to Make A Wish Midsouth in honor of Evie Harrison.

Thank you again for coming and supporting this precious book.

 

(Awkward smile. End scene.)

 

That’s how it went down in my mind. I’m so sorry it was nothing close to that in real life. And seriously, if you came last weekend, I loved seeing you and I hopefully got to chat with you for a bit. Thanks again for a great day!

 

P.S. I read this post back to myself aloud and still had a shaky voice and teared up. How do public speakers do it?!?

-Courtney

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Spa Day

I had such a unique spa experience when I went to Mexico a couple of weeks ago I thought I would share it with you. I know it seems cruel since you won’t physically BE at the spa but I feel like you will be rejuvenated in mind, body, and spirit after reading this.

Ok, go to your quiet place and free your mind of all your stress. Moms of toddlers, this just means turn on Sesame Street for your kids, give them a snack, and lock yourself in the bathroom. I know how it works.

When I walk into the spa and give the man my name, he says, “So you’re here for the Radiance Restore Rejuvenation Refresh Relaxation Redeemer Ricola massage?” Those may not have been his exact words but whatever he said had a lot of r’s in the title. Not knowing which massage I paid for I just said yes. I mean, a massage is a massage…or so I thought.

 

I meet my massage therapist, Ilda, and she tells me to disrobe and get under the sheet and lie face down. And like the few other times I’ve had a massage, I get down to my undies and get under the sheet. Ilda comes in and she begins to do a little all over pat down, then she takes one of my legs out from under the sheet and begins lightly rubbing a Brillo pad over it.

Are you shocked I said Brillo pad? Yes, that was my initial reaction too. See, I’ve never had a Brillo pad massage before so you can imagine my surprise when she begins to systematically do this over the entire backside of my body sans booty.

After she had scrubbed me down with the pan brush, she took coarse sand and began sanding down all the parts that had just been scrubbed. I couldn’t tell if this was a massage or if she was preparing to stain me like a wooden coffee table. All I knew was I was thanking my sweet Jesus in heaven that I wasn’t sunburned or I would’ve been in tears at this point.

After the sanding, she rubbed me down with some sort of jelly. I don’t even know. My face is in the doughnut. I’m completely helpless. Then, with the jelly on, she has me flip over onto my back.

Now this is when things start going to a weird place that I can’t unremember.

If you’ve had a massage before, you know that what they do on one part, they do on all the parts. So I was bracing myself as Ilda began to Brillo pad my arms. Now, something that came as a surprise was when sweet, little Ilda raised my arm and took the Brillo pad to my armpit.

I’ll give you a minute.

She is literally scrubbing my armpit. (Oh, I forgot to mention, when I turned over, Ilda placed a towel over my eyes so I couldn’t see what she was doing. Now I know why.) Guys, I couldn’t even. I started laughing. Like giggle laughing because OH MY GOSH IT TICKLED AND I WAS EMBARASSED AND IT WAS TOTALLY AWKWARD!! Then ILDA started laughing and I was done. I kept thinking, “This is what I do to my children before they go to bed! What is even happening?!”

After I quasi recovered (because let’s face it, after the Tickle Monster, there was really no going back to a peaceful state), Ilda did something even more surprising. You need to remember I’m blindfolded so I can’t see what she’s doing. She ever so stealthily places some sort of washcloth to cover my chest and pulls the sheet down below my belly button but above my lady parts.

YOU GUYS, SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS HAPPENING?! First of all, she may as well have put one square of toilet paper over my chest for what the washcloth was covering. When I lie down, so do the girls. To say it was a nip slip would be a gross understatement. (Sorry Dad.)

Then she did something even my husband is forbidden to do.

She rubbed my stomach. With the Brillo pad.

It happened.

I’m so ashamed.

She continued by rubbing sand on my soft belly WITH HER HANDS, then after wiping that off, she slathered jelly all over my tummy tum. Like a biscuit. And that is where I died. Part of me will never be the same after that. I didn’t even know what to do. Ilda had put her hands on my stomach pooch and our relationship would never be the same. At that point, I was just grateful I had a washcloth over my eyes because there would be no eye contact with Ilda after the tummy rub.

After she made my stomach a glazed doughnut, she pulled the sheet up and wrapped me in it, then put some heavier electric blanket on me. The only thing showing was my face. I felt like a caterpillar in a sticky cocoon. I half wondered if I would have wings when I came out. She left me there for several minutes to “relax.” Thanks, Ilda, you know just how I like to relax.

When she returned, she asked me to get up so she could walk me over to the relaxation tub. One would assume she would wrap me in a towel. One would be wrong. Why would she wrap me in a towel when she could just hold one up while I try to awkwardly cover myself with my hands as I walk over to the tub? I don’t even know why I bothered trying to be modest. It really wasn’t necessary after all she’d seen my nips and rubbed my belly. So I get in the warm, soaker tub and Ilda left for probably 10 minutes or so. It actually was quite tranquil until my bladder remembered what warm water makes me do. Guys, I tried to hold it. I really did but I’m getting older, and I’ve had 3 babies, and the water was really, really warm, and there were jets, and water sounds, and I just let a little bitty bit out. After that I just sat in my diluted teetee water, waiting for Ilda to come in so we could finish whatever this was. She came back and had me lay back down on the table and, thankfully, did what seemed like a normal massage. Of course all of the restfulness was moot after everything that had happened. When she had finished, I thanked her, without eye contact, got dressed, packed up what was left of my dignity, and walked out.

Then I ran back to my hotel room to make bullet points of what had just happened so I could write about it later. This is later. Sorry it was a long read but, my gosh, there was so much I couldn’t leave out! I hope you are a little more rested and light-hearted after reading this. Now go on with your day feeling blessed that a grown woman has never massaged your belly as a relaxation technique.

Anyone else had an out of ordinary spa experience?

-Courtney

P.S. I’ve still got copies of Rooster’s Balloon if you want to order one! Go up to the Purchase tab and order one today!

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So here’s my thing with worship music…

I love it but my mind wanders.

Please tell me you know what I’m talking about?

Hear me on this, I LOVE worship songs. I love the build up to the chorus, I love the feeling I get when my mind, heart, and spirit connect with the words. It’s an awe-filled experience. But here’s the deal: After singing the same words 9 times over, I start disconnecting with the song and my mind begins to dart off. I’m still committed to singing but my brain is thinking about what I need to get at the grocery store, did I remember to start the washer, will I have time to take a nap when I get home, I’ve got to finish filling out school registration forms, etc.

If I can catch myself doing this, I immediately feel guilty and remorseful and try to concentrate on the words of the song. Then by the 12th chorus, I’m looking around at other people making mental notes of how they’re worshipping, what they’re wearing, and a myriad of other thoughts. I begin studying people’s worship stance. Do they sway? Do they raise their hands? Are their eyes closed? All indicative of a super spiritual experience obviously because one would NEVER close her eyes, sway, and sing worship songs while going over her to-do list.

Oh wait.

Except that I do.

Wanna know my favorite worship music? Old hymns put to hipper music. I grew up in the Baptist church where hymns were sung every Sunday with a full orchestra. Back then I didn’t appreciate all 137 stanzas of Just As I Am or all the seeming monotony of I Surrender All. (Side note:: Did anyone else’s church only sing certain stanzas? I loved when the music minister would announce that we would be singing stanzas 1, 2, and 4. Does he make these decisions? What makes him pick those specific stanzas? Are some stanzas more spiritual than others? So many questions…I digress.) As an adult, though, I can see so much value in these beautiful hymns. When my church arranges an old hymn to updated music, I tend to marvel over the depths of these songs. There are many stanzas but the power in the words is evident. I think it’s because I have to focus on the words more because there are so many of them. I’m not hating on worship music of today but let’s be real, if I can learn the song in 90 seconds, I will be mentally checked out in approximately 5 minutes. The words I’m singing will be just that, words. I won’t be connecting the song if I’m saying the same 4 lines repeatedly for 10 minutes in a room full of people.

Maybe that makes me spiritually ADD.

Maybe that means I need to work on my relationship with God.

Or maybe that just tells me corporate worship is not where I connect with God.

To be honest, I find that my most authentic worship happens when I’m alone. When I’m alone, I don’t think about what’s going on around me. I can listen to a worship song and it will be over in 3 minutes and 49 seconds, then I can pick another worship song that says different words about the God I love. Some of you reading this may have no idea what this blog post even means. You love singing the same worship song for many minutes in a row because it makes you feel closer to God. I’m so glad for you. For those of you that might be like me, don’t feel bad that we’re ADD worshippers. Maybe we just need more different words to connect. And that’s the beauty of God’s family…He takes all kinds of kinds.

Anybody with me?

-Courtney

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What Anxiety and Fear tell me

 

Publishing a book and marketing it feels like I’m standing in a fire. To say it makes me “uncomfortable” would be the understatement of my life. Social media is easy; I can sit and hide behind my computer and promote the book all the livelong day. Doing a signing, or a reading, or most recently, a radio show, gives me the sweats and the gags. On my way to any of these events, I sweat and feel tingly all over and fear I might pass out. It’s in these moments that I pray as profusely as I sweat. Asking God for help, guidance, words, anything that will ease my current condition. I have never been more aware of my need for God’s presence and peace in my life. It has occurred to me over the last month that God will not lead us into a fire where He Himself will not go. Sometimes fire is where we find God. Growth in my faith has never happened when my life has been easy. I love easy, but my problem is that easy makes me real proud of myself. I get puffed up and think my life is working out this way because I did something to make it this way. No, you misguided little thing, you had nothing to do with it at all.

So as much as I love a cake life, it’s not where God is. God is in the hard places and if I want to be with Him, I’ve got to go there too. Right now, God, in my life, is sitting squished between Anxiety and Fear and He’s calling me to meet Him there. God is sitting smack dab in the middle of the 2 things in my life that tell me I CAN’T. I don’t like sitting in between Anxiety and Fear; they’re bullies and they lie. They tell me my nerves WILL get the best of me. They tell me I WILL screw it up. They tell me that no one wants to hear what I have to say. They tell me all the same things they’ve told me before. Their central message is: You aren’t good enough to do the things you want to do so you shouldn’t even try.

But God.

But God tells me in Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.”

Then I’m reminded of what God’s word says about work in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

How can I believe the lies of Anxiety and Fear when God clearly tells me that He will help me? He’s also told me that I am His handiwork and He’s got stuff for me to do here. Who am I to say His handiwork, His creation, is not good enough to do His work? If He created me to do it, He must feel pretty confident that with His help, I can accomplish the task set before me.

Then God reminds me of the most important thing: It’s not about me at all, it’s about Him. It’s my responsibility to obey. That’s it. The successes or failures of my pursuits in life aren’t measured by the world. My successes and failures are measured by whether or not I choose to follow His leading. The minute I judge success by the world’s standards is the minute my soul gets antsy and full of unrest. This is when I try to take over and make my pursuits just that—MY pursuits. When I assume all responsibility for a task, one of two things will happen. I will either get prideful because I’m experiencing some success or I will feel shame because I’m experiencing failure. Pride or shame. These are my options when I’m in charge.

When I take the time to remember that my only job is to say “yes” and He’ll take care of the rest, I’m able to breath. I still sweat of course, but I like to think of it as fear leaving my body. It’s really unfortunate I have so much fear leaving my underarms; I may never wear colored clothing again. It’s freeing to be able to hand the pressure over to God and say “Here, this is on you now.” Unlike us, God has never felt pressure in His entire existence. He’s not worried that we’re going to screw up His work. We don’t have the whole story so what may look like failure to us, may just be God writing humility, not shame, into our story. For the record, these are my least favorite writing segments from the Lord but they are awfully good teachers.

So that’s where I’m at, guys. Right in between Fear and Anxiety, waiting for God to quiet their shouting.

 

Where is God sitting in your life?

-Courtney

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The Day Time Stood Still

Do you ever feel like time stands still? I’ve heard that when a tragedy happens, time seems to stop. I remember being in Pathophysiology and watching the second hand on the wall clock crawl like a turtle. Sitting on hard bleachers during your child’s practice can also seem like an eternity. Last week, I discovered another place where time stands still.

Chuck E. Cheese.

In a weak moment during spring break, my kids convinced me that going to Chuck E. Cheese was a great idea. Now, this was only after the trampoline/ninja warrior gym we were originally going to go to was packed, so my kids opted to do this another day when it wasn’t as crowded. Because, heaven forbid, the children be bored. I think my kids think that being bored is some sort of punishment. Like if I’m not entertaining them every day when their friends aren’t around, I’m somehow the mean mom. No, children, I’m not mean, I’m just not your cruise director. But on this particular day, I decided to cave and took them to the place germs go to spawn, Chuck E. Cheese.

Upon walking in, the smell of greasy pizza and sweaty kids made me question my decision. Pair that with the blinking lights from 50 arcade games and kiddie music blaring from everywhere and I knew my fate was sealed. I was going to die here. Right here on this ‘80s carpet with old pizza crust and stray tickets.

We go to buy tokens and I told them that when the tokens run out we’re done and going home. Once tokens are distributed, they take off, each to their own games. I go find the cleanest looking table with the least amount of trash to sit and scroll through all the social media. Judge away, helicopter parents. Turns out that takes all of 10 minutes. This is about the same time Caitlin and Blake run up to me and give me plastic cards with their pictures on them to hold until the end of time.

Getting bored, I go find my kids to see what they’re playing. Paxton can always be found playing some sort of racing game. He doesn’t care about getting tickets, he just wants to simulate driving. Unfortunately, wrecking in simulation and wrecking in real life have very different outcomes. Luckily he’s only 11 and we’ve still got time to work on his skills.

I look at my phone to check the time. I feel like we’ve been here at least 30 minutes. What? 16 minutes?!? That can’t be right! Surely we’ve been here longer than that! I really am going to die here.

I found Caitlin playing a bow and arrow simulation game. The more targets you hit, the more tickets you get. She was a decent shot but kept missing the bonus shot at the end. You had to hit an apple that was sitting on someone’s head.

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I asked if I could give it a go to which she obliged since she knew if I could hit the apple, she could win 25 more tickets. No one’s ever called Caitlin a dummy. So I line up my arrow and find that when the timer starts, the bullseye moves just the slightest bit back and forth. Oh, those wicked arcade games! Always so tricky! I kept my hand as steady as possible and shot my arrow.

BULLSEYE!!!! 25 TICKETS!!!! I’m not gonna lie, I was more excited than I should’ve been to hit that apple. Then I realized that I was in Chuck E. Cheese, the place where adult coolness goes to die. I was fine. Caitlin was pumped and wanted to move on to Skeeball. Ah, Skeeball. So many memories from my youth. I love Skeeball. I have hope that I’m going to hit that 10,000 hole every time and every time I’m disappointed. I never learn. I go for it every time and get the lousy 1,000 hole. It’s still my favorite game though.

Blake is shooting basketballs and missing most of them but he keeps trying and hoping just like his mom with Skeeball. Blake likes most anything where you’re shooting something. A ball, a watergun, you name it. He was in between games when he noticed the big Cheese himself walking by. That’s right Chuck E. had come out to see his pint size fans. They were all crowded around him and singing whatever song he was singing. Then he started making it rain tickets on the little children. Like manna from heaven. These kids became lowly beggars crawling all over the ‘80s carpet trying to get as many tickets as possible. I thought it was a bit pathetic then I noticed Blake was down there with them. Sigh.

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(This was before Chuck made it rain)

The tokens finally ran out and it was time to feed the tickets into the ticket counting machine. This could take an hour if you have to put them in 1 or 2 at a time. IMG_4913

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(We had a lot of one offs and twofers)

The best is when you have a long chain of tickets to feed the ticket monster, alas, we only a couple of those.

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(Paxton got the bullseye on his own. You would’ve thought he won $1 million dollars)

After the counting was finished, we went through the excruciating task of picking out prizes. I can’t even. It takes so long for my kids to decide. I took a picture of their loot so you could see how well my $20 was spent. Looong sigh.

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Then, with much anticipation on my part, we got to exit the building. Hallelujah! I survived the hour that seemed like an eternity! I can’t remember exactly when, but I’m pretty sure an hour later the kids were asking, “So, what are we going to do now?” Loooooonger sigh.

-Courtney

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Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’ve been meditating all week on this coming weekend. That I’ve been pouring over Scripture and wearing sackcloth to commemorate this Holy Week. I have not been as intentional as I hoped I would be. But alas, it’s Good Friday.

I did happen to sit down this morning, with cartoons blaring in the background, to read about the night Jesus was taken, sentenced to death, and crucified. It was interrupted several times by kids with questions about the day, a dog that wanted to come in from outside, and stray thoughts that led me down rabbit trails. When I got to the part where Jesus said, “It is finished,” I was struck by the words that followed. I’ve read them many times before and never considered them the way the Holy Spirit revealed them to me today. The Word said:

“and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

He GAVE UP his spirit.

I looked in the other gospels to see if they said the same thing. In Luke 23:46 it says: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’”

He COMMITTED his spirit.

In Mark, it says He “uttered a loud cry.” And in Matthew, it says: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

He YIELDED his spirit.

Gave. Committed. Yielded.

All of these words, in their action, are ones that require giving of something. It occurs to me that if you have the power to give, you also have the power to keep. I’ve always known Jesus gave His life for me and He chose that, but I guess I always thought that when you die it’s because death overtakes you. Death comes and you have no choice in the matter, it just takes you. These verses showed me that Jesus was in control even in death. He decided when He was going to die. He decided when to give up His spirit. He decided when enough was enough and not a second before. He chose to go into death; death did not steal Him away without His consent.

As I sat there mulling this over, the cartoons and kids and barking quieted in my mind and I was overcome. I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking about Jesus, the God Man, deciding the very moment He would die for me. He chose when to let darkness obliterate light. He chose when He would separate Himself completely from His Father. He could’ve kept His spirit and released Himself back up to Heaven if He wanted. But in His power, He was determined to go into Death for love of His people and obedience to His Father.

I hope I never get over the story of the Cross. The gospel still wrecks me after 25 years of believing it. It is the most powerful story in history. The greatest romance there ever was is God’s love for His people and the lengths He would go to for them. I’m so glad God knows how to write compelling stories that stand the test of time. His Word is full of surprises sometimes I just need to pay attention.

 

Now we just have to wait for Sunday…

-Courtney

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Snippets from life lately

I can’t believe you people. Everyone, all of you, have made this last week one I will never forget. From purchasing the book, to the sweet messages you’ve sent me, to pictures of your kids reading it, I’ve truly been overwhelmed with gratitude. Some of you have brought tears to my eyes telling me your story and why this book means so much to you. It’s been more than I could’ve hoped for. It seems like so many people know someone that needs Rooster’s Balloon. This is precisely why this book was published. My sweet friends wanted others to be helped by this story inspired by their daughters and the outpouring of love over this book has been such a gift. I have never been busier than I was this week and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So from the most sincere place in my heart, thank you.

Getting a book published and marketed takes a ton of time and you must be attentive to detail. That being said, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how I’m doing at it. Details are for accountants and trim painters of which I am neither. I don’t usually feel like I’m great at multi-tasking unless it involves eating and watching TV at the same time. I could medal in that event all day every day. Being focused on getting book orders filled and out the door is taking up most of my brain space. If it weren’t so all consuming, I would write to you about the following events that have happened at my house:

-Grizz the fish was almost a goner when Kyle was cleaning his tank and accidentally dropped him in the garbage disposal. There were tears and screams and punishments for a sibling who may or may not have been laughing. But never fear, Kyle reached down there and grabbed our slippery pet to rescue him from death by disposal. Grizz was only a little worse for wear and some of his strings were left behind but he’s, thankfully, alive and well. It felt like we were living the aquarium scene in Finding Nemo when he swam up the filter and almost died. It was traumatic to say the least. After this fiasco, Kyle told me we needed to get a back-up fish. Um, no.

-Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a balloon filled with flour explode in you car? I had never wondered this either but apparently my wonderings and Blake’s wonderings are different. Probably because he’s 7 and I’m 36. It was an accident he said. He didn’t mean to poke a hole in it he said. The story goes like this: I was driving and Blake said my name quietly a few times and when I finally turned around to answer him, he and his seat were covered in flour. It was so unbelievable I couldn’t even form a sentence to yell. This is extremely uncharacteristic of me. So I did what any good mother would do and snapped a pic. Then he lost it and was completely embarrassed so I erased the picture. I then proceeded to go to the post office and left him in the car, covered in flour. The other kids were in there so I felt ok about it. Then a lady that was in line behind me was getting fed up with her children and wondered aloud why she brought them with her. I told her my kids were locked in the car and one of them was covered in flour. She laughed and said that made her feel better. You. Are. Welcome.

-Since Kyle and I share February birthdays, his parents got us a “we” gift. Little did we know this was actually a gift for our children. They got us an Amazon Echo that goes by the name Alexa. It’s basically a portable Siri. The first week we had “her,” Caitlin asked her no less than 5 times a day what time it was. Alexa is stationed in our kitchen where we also have an oven clock and a microwave clock. I guess the little princess couldn’t be bothered to turn around and use her eyeballs. They also ask her what the weather will be. Every. Single. Day. They ask her personal questions every day to which she usually replies, “I don’t have an opinion about that.” So basically we have a person living with us that knows the facts about everything but has no social skills. Because we really need one more socially awkward person at our house. She’s like me if I were in a room full of engineers and mathematicians except she talks more.

As you can see, friends, major happenings have gone on in our household—fish rescues, flour bombs, a new robot family member—but I just haven’t been able to commit full blog posts to them. I truly haven’t had time to write. Actually that’s not completely true. Sometimes I have time but bingeing on Gilmore Girls usually wins out. I know I know, I’m waaaay behind. Anyway, I’ll try to continue to post about everyday silliness and some deep thoughts too but for now, I’ve got to shamelessly plug the book. That being said, go to the PURCHASE tab and get yours today!! No seriously, buy it now. Why have you not clicked to buy yet?! Quit reading and go do it! Sorry to be so bossy…it’s Court 2.0 coming out. The “new me” might need a few tweaks…

-Courtney

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IT’S HERE!!!!!!!!

IT’S FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!

I CAN STOP TELLING YOU IT’S COMING SOON BECAUSE IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE!!!!!!!!!!!

So many emotions surrounding today.

I’m excited the book is finally here so I can share it with you.

I’m grateful for all the people who have given me endless support and believed in this story.

I’m humbled that God let my hands write Rooster’s story.

I’m amazed at how many people have told me they need this book for themselves or someone they know.

I’m nauseated at the amount of books that are sitting in boxes at my house right now.

I’m anxious for people to like it.

I’m fearful about all the “what ifs” the devil is using to make me doubt myself.

But mostly I’m just giddy that IT’S HERE!

I’ll be posting a lot on Facebook (Thecpallen) and Instagram (@cpallen216) and Twitter (@thecpallen) to get the word out if you want to follow me over there.

Now, this is me showing you what 1,000 books looks like. Forgive my voice, ya’ll. I would say it doesn’t normally sound like that but I fear it does. Apparently God thought a man voice was the perfect fit for me. Who am I to argue with God? Enjoy! Or close your ears. And just like the video says, you should do everything I say. Bwahahaha!!!

-Courtney

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The “why” behind Rooster’s Balloon

The day is so close I can almost taste it. Rooster’s Balloon is almost ready to debut herself to the world. I’m not sure how to put into words what this story means to me. It was born out of pain and grief for dear friends whose daughter died unexpectedly. I have no idea what it’s like to walk that road of releasing your child back to Heaven. It takes my breath away to even think about it. But as I wrestled with God about why He would allow this; why He would take His daughter back, He taught me something I had never fully considered.

This world is not my home and it was never her home either.

I am only visiting here.

Heaven is my home.

This truth that was spoken to me after Evie’s death has remained so ingrained in my thinking that I can’t escape it. It is the only thing that gives me peace when grieving the deaths of children.

After she died, I wondered if she was scared when she woke up in heaven. I don’t even know if that’s how it goes—if you wake up there, or teleport there, or what have you, but I just thought that being so little she would be scared of a strange, new place. Then it dawned on me— if heaven is our home then it will have the feeling of home. She wouldn’t be frightened because she would be with her Father and she would have a room He prepared for her. He had been awaiting her return all along.

Rooster’s Balloon was a gift to me. God knew exactly what I needed to do in order to grieve and He gave me Rooster. The child in me relates to her so well, I wonder if all of us don’t have an inner child living inside us. After writing the story, I sent it to my friends’ whose daughters were the inspirations behind it. Their kindness still brings me to tears even as I write this sentence. Their support and encouragement has completely overwhelmed me. Because of them, I get to share Rooster with the world. Because of their compassion and kindness, children will be helped by this story. And because of their generosity, much of the proceeds from this book will be donated in Evie’s name to Make-A-Wish Midsouth. Their focus on God’s bigger story is allowing the legacy of their little girl to live on and help others. It’s humbling to be a part of.

I encourage you, sweet readers, to buy this book. If you have children, or grandchildren, or friends who have children, or children you love, buy them this book. This book could be the catalyst that shows them God is writing their story. God has a plan for them. And more than anything, God still loves them even when bad things happen to them. He has not forgotten them or their pain and sadness. Please don’t forget to talk about hard things with your kids. Pretending hard things don’t happen does not help your children because the reality is that hard things do happen because we live in a fallen world. Be brave, friends, for we are only here for a short time. Teach your kids about the love God has for them so they have something to cling to when life gets messy.

 

Ok, I promise I’ll let you know when the book comes in. Until then, look at this sweet little pic. Don’t you just want to give her a big squeeze?!

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-Courtney

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A Little Bit About Rooster

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Rooster’s Balloon is almost ready for release into the world and I’m practically giddy about it! I mean, guys, look how cute she is! Before this book comes out I wanted to give you a bit of background about the story. I say this with all sincerity when I describe it as “The Book You Never Want To Read To Your Kid…until you need to read it to your kid.”

Catchy, right? I’m soooo good at sales.

The subject matter is heavy for kids but the reality is that kids go through heavy stuff. Oh, we pretend like they’re fine and resilient because they’re kids but what if they’re not? What if all they want is to tell someone how they feel instead of acting like everything’s ok?

The story of Rooster is one of grief and hope. You see, Rooster has a sister that died very unexpectedly. She’s doing ok on the outside, but on the inside she still gets angry and sad about it. She doesn’t talk about it much because she doesn’t want to upset everyone. She copes by carrying her sister’s balloon around everywhere. Then she meets a man that knows all about her balloon and all about her. When she finds out that He’s actually the one writing her story she lets him know how mad she is that He took her sister and how sad it’s made her. He says He knows all of that too. He then explains to her that He loves her very much and loves her sister very much. He tells her that just because she doesn’t understand why certain things happen, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a good plan for her life. Knowing that He cares so much for her and her story, Rooster is able to eventually let her sister go and trust that the man will take care of her.

If you have a child that has died, or have a friend whose child has died, you need this book. Your other kids need this book. Stories are great tools in helping children relate things back to their own circumstances.

Even if you don’t have a child that has passed away, this book can still be used as a tool to teach your child. Every child needs to know that God cares about their sadness. Children need to know that God knows how to comfort them because He’s been sad before too. He was heartbroken when His Son hung on a cross and died for the sins of the world. He also knew the joy that was coming 3 days later. This is why I can trust that there is a plan for our pain here on earth.

Your kids need to hear this story and I’m so happy Rooster can bring it to them. I really, really can’t wait for the book’s release! I will be shouting it from the blog, social media, and all the rooftops when I get it! Until then, we’ll just have to wait impatiently.

-Courtney

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy Valentine’s Day from our family to yours!

-Courtney

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To ALL my valentines…

IMG_4677I was reminded the other day that Valentine’s Day is a special day for everyone. If you have yourself a valentine, it’s a special day to celebrate your love for one another. If you don’t have a valentine, it’s a special day that makes you feel like crap. Why can’t we just celebrate that we have people in our life that we love and they love us back? This year, I’m writing a little note to ALL my valentines.

To my parents/siblings’ valentines,

Thank you for never letting me ever forget all the embarrassing stories about myself. Rolling down the window during the car wash is always a favorite; second only to busting my face on the concrete on our trip to Atlanta. Remembering these stories from my childhood keep me humble and remind me that you guys have always been there. Ya’ll didn’t even take vows to love me in sickness and in health but you’ve done it anyway. I’m a better and stronger person because of each of you. I can slay a one-liner and I feel like that’s some sort of spiritual gift, no? We may tease one another but if anybody outside the circle of trust tries to do the same we will cut their throat. I mean that in the most Christian way. We’re not mushy or sappy but I like our gruff love. We act out our love more than we say it, but since it’s Valentine’s Day and I can say whatever I want on my blog I’m just gonna say it: I LOVE YOU GUYS!

To my friend valentines,

Oh friends. Where would I be without you? Without you, I would still be walking around in tapered, pleated jeans. Bless. Without you, I would have no one to be anti-social with at parties. Without you, I wouldn’t belly laugh. Without you, I would have no one to tell me the truth about myself. Thank you, dear friends. If a person is judged by the company she keeps, then I have far outkicked my coverage. You all love me so well and have encouraged me to grow into the uncomfortable places. I don’t know if there will be a corner for us in heaven to share inappropriate jokes but I kinda hope so.

To my Valentine babies,

You 3 little ducklings gave me a whole new definition of love. I never knew that kind of love until I met each of you. You all can make me madder than a hornet and turn me into a pile of mush with a bat of your lashes. You own me. You own my thoughts and my activities. I don’t do anything without thinking of you guys. I can’t imagine a time years from now when I won’t know your daily whereabouts. Ya’ll are like a drug I can’t quit. I love you and I need you but if you ask me one more time what we’re having for dinner I might lose my mind.

And to my til death do us part Valentine,

You had me at hello….

Actually that’s totally untrue. You had me about 3 years after hello but whatever. The point is you have me. You are my biggest fan and I can’t say enough about how important that is to me. I’ve said before that when someone believes in you it gives you wings to fly. Thanks for the wings, Love. They mean more than you know. Thank you for embracing all my new “feelings” that weren’t there when we got married. Thanks for growing with me and always believing the best about me even when I’m not sure it’s true. Because of all these things I will put up with your shenanigans and tomfoolery. Without you my life would be utterly boring. Love you.

 

Love to all my valentines,

Courtney

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Am I OCD?

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Does this picture bother anyone else?

I was told recently that I may or may not have OCD because I like my socks to match. Can this be right? I would never consider myself one to be obsessive or compulsive about anything. Well, anything but food that is. I can become very obsessed with the thought of food and extremely compulsive trying to get it in my belly. But that’s everyone, right?

I chewed on this OCD idea a couple of days and tried to think of other things in my life that I like to be a certain way.

1. I rearrange the dishwasher when other people put things in the “wrong” way. (I like to maximize my space; doesn’t everyone do this?)

2. I don’t like other people in my family to fold clothes because I like the way I fold  them.

3. I hide food. (Wait, I think that might be a different disorder.)

4. It stresses me out to look in my kids’ drawers because now that they put away their own clothes, they’re basically crumpled up and thrown in a drawer. (How hard is it just to lay them in there? They’re already folded! Wouldn’t it be more work to crumple them up?!)

5. When traveling, I don’t ever want to share a suitcase with my husband. We could be going somewhere for one night and I still want my own bag.

6. I’m pretty neat when I cook/bake. I put ingredients away as I go because I don’t like to have a huge mess when I’m finished. (Oddly enough, I’m not OCD about my kitchen being spotless. I think I just don’t like food being out. You’d think by the looks of my kitchen that I love paper. Sooo many papers. I’m so afraid I’m going to throw away an important one that I keep them all, but really, I hate papers.)

7. When I shower, I wash everything in same order every time. (But that’s more like habit, right? I guess I could try starting with my feet and not my face but that would be so weird.)

8. I kind of freak out if my kids eat fruit that hasn’t been washed. (But I don’t freak out if they haven’t washed their hands before they eat. Hmmm, something’s wrong here.)

9. I can’t go to bed with make up on my face. Even if I’m not wearing eye make up, I still have to wash my face.

10. If candy has a cream/gooey filled center, I can’t eat it in one bite. I have to bite just enough to suck out the goo/cream. (I’m a psycho.)

 

After reading this list, I’m aware of 3 things:

  1. I’m neurotic about doing laundry my way.
  2. I’m only OCD about certain aspects of cleanliness, not all aspects.
  3. I really like food.

 

I’m not a psych/neuro person so I don’t know what classifies someone as OCD, but I feel like maybe we’re all a little bit this way about certain things. Maybe I’m trying to rationalize my own quirks. Whatever. All I know is don’t touch my laundry, don’t eat dirty fruit, and give me all the candy. This pretty much sums it up.

 

Anyone else have any OCD tendencies they’re willing to share?

-Courtney

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#Runningprobs

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Wanna go on a run with me? Great, let’s go!

Wow, it’s so cold out here. How can it still be this cold at 1:00?

I should’ve worn my running gloves, my knuckles are freezing.

Old man up ahead. Probably need to pass wide on the left so I don’t scare him. I don’t want to have to employ any of my nursing skills if I give this guy a heart attack by startling him.

I’m feeling good. My legs feel good. I could run all day.

These ear buds stink. Where are MY ear buds? Ugh, Paxton used them last so I need to ask him where they are when he gets home from school.

Is it bad that my toes are numb? Not like cold but like numb numb? Maybe I have poor circulation in my feet. Kyle says my feet are always cold. I should get that checked out. Who am I kidding; I’m probably not going to go see a doctor. Maybe I’ll look into those compression sock things. I’ll look like I’m wearing old lady knee-highs but what do I care? Lesbihonest, Court, nobody’s really honking anymore when you run by. I mean, if someone did honk I would pretend to ignore it and be mildly offended but deep down, I’d think I still got it. One honk would be nice. Wait! I just heard a honk! Oh, that minivan just cut off that car. Sigh.

Um, what happened to my music in my right ear? Are you kidding me right now? No sound. I feel so lopsided with only one ear bud working. This is terrible. The static every 10 seconds in my right ear isn’t helping.

Ok, we’re coming up on a stoplight. I need to press the crosswalk button. This is so awkward standing here while these cars are stopped right next to me. Maybe if I stretch that’ll make me look like a more legit runner. Just don’t lose your balance during the quad stretch, so embarrassing. And definitely no eye contact. Ok, run across.

Ugh, more stopped cars at a stoplight. Be cool. No eye contact. Just pretend to stretch. Ok, go. Ohmuhguh, this hill is steep! I’m so walking when I get to the top. Made it. Watch out for that ice; slipping and breaking yourself when your 2.5 miles from your car would be an epic fail. Ok, we can run again, it’s all downhill.

What the WHA? No. This isn’t happening. No music in the left ear. The ear buds are dunzo. This is so bad. I’ve got probably 2 miles left. I’ve never run without music. I need the music. I’m not Zen enough for this! Now I’m just stuck with my thoughts and no soundtrack! Ok, maybe this is a good thing. Maybe I should think of potential blog posts. Note to self: you’ve wiped your drippy nose 58 times with your sleeve. You have GOT to wash this pullover.

Listening to myself breath and the occasional car passing by is the worst. It’s basically like Nash is breathing directly into my ear except that it’s me. I’m dog panting and it’s the only thing I hear. Maybe I should try out that voice memo thing on my phone and dictate blog ideas? This is going to sound horrible. I’m not sure even after dictating this I’ll be able to listen to it. It sounds like I’m being tortured. Maybe I’ll just remember what my ideas were. Yeah, because I’m known around my house for having an amazing memory. I’m basically the elephant that never forgets. Except that’s a lie.

Ok, is the back of my knee hurting or is it just because I don’t have music to distract me? My feet are killing. Court, get it together, it’s only like a half-mile left. I wonder if the cars passing me think I look like a wounded gazelle. Like she looks like someone who used to be fast but now she looks injured. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know what I look like when I run.

Hallelujah praise Jesus I made it!! There’s my beautiful, salt/snow/dirt-covered car! Maybe I should write about this run…

-Courtney

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Why I don’t cook for my kids

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(This was taken years ago but is still pretty accurate.)

I know it sounds a bit harsh: “I don’t cook for my kids.”

But it’s the truth.

I had a friend ask me a while back, “Doesn’t it hurt your feelings when your kids don’t like your cooking?”

The short answer? No.

Here’s why:

  1. If I cooked for my kids, we would only eat chicken nuggets and cheese quesadillas. That’s a fact, friends.
  2. They think the Kids Cuisine TV dinners are real food. They would be wrong.
  3. They eat old candy they find in my car.
  4. They think box macaroni and cheese is better than homemade. It’s baffling.
  5. Basically, they think anything out of a box is pretty much going to be better than whatever I’m making.
  6. They’re little, surely their taste buds are still developing.
  7. They judge a restaurant by whether or not it has an iPad at the table or queso as an appetizer.
  8. I’ve seen them eat their boogers.
  9. They don’t love when I cook Pioneer Woman recipes. Say WHAA?
  10. They hate Tazikis.

 

Because of these things, I feel they are not objective when it comes to good food therefore their opinions are invalid. Seriously, who doesn’t like Pioneer Woman?

I’m not great at a lot of things: cleaning, putting away laundry, excel spreadsheets, sticking to a budget, walking into a room full of strangers, and on and on the list could go. But one thing I would say I’m pretty good at is cooking. I’ve made some disgusting meals I wouldn’t even feed my dog but for the most part I can follow a recipe. So when my kids put up a fuss about dinner and say “It’s GROOOSSSSSSS!!!!” (a regular occurrence) before they’ve even tried it, I don’t pay it any mind. When they just look at their plate of food and ask how many bites must they eat before they can get up, I smile and say, “Just go ahead and get started and we’ll see.” They love that. I’ve seen them eat old M&Ms off my dirty car floor, why on earth would I let them hold my cooking ego in their grubby hands? This is ludicrous.

There was a time when I cooked for my kids, or kid. When I had only one child and he was a picky eater I catered to whatever I thought he would eat. It was easy because, well, I just had the one kid. My mother guilt sometimes creeps in and convinces me this is why he is still a picky eater at 11 years old. I only did it until I had my 2nd kid and realized Mama ain’t got time for all that. Sorry, bro, you gotta eat like Mom and Dad. These were hard times for Paxton.

Do I think I only cook well-balanced, nutritious meals for my family? No. I love some enchiladas and jambalaya. Do I think most of the food I cook is healthier than what they would pick if they had a choice? Most definitely yes. Do I sometimes give them quesadillas and chicken nuggets because it’s easier? Yes, because sometimes I need sanity and if I hear one more complaint I might lose it.

So to the Mamas whose kids hate everything they cook: I FEEL YOU. Keep cooking good food. Remember they are kids; they wouldn’t bath or brush their teeth if not for you. Clearly they don’t always want to make good choices and this is why they have us, the parents, to teach and guide them that there are other foods out there. Expand their palates!! Maybe just maybe they’ll end up liking it one day.

-Courtney

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It was a big day…

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This story, you guys. There are so many feelings inside this story. So many prayers and tears have gone into this story. I don’t want to give it all away before it’s ready to be released but I’m just so excited I can’t stand it! This is just the proof copy for me to look over but I wanted to give you a sneak peek of the cover! I MEAN. So cute, right?!? I can’t even handle it. And the inside? Oh the inside is a masterpiece. I can say that because I didn’t illustrate it myself. If it were my handiwork, we’d be seeing a LOT of stick people. Ya’ll it’s so good. Your kids are going to love it because it’s got pretty pictures. YOU are going to love it because of the message. You will not necessarily WANT to read your kids this book but you NEED to. Trust me on this. I’ll give you more details as the release date gets closer. I can’t give away all the goodies on the front end! It’s my ploy to get you to come back to the ol bliggidy! Painfully clever, I know. I promise to keep you updated and, more importantly, let you know when it’s coming out!!!! EEEEEKS!!!!

-Courtney

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The Grizz

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This is Grizz. He was what Blake wanted the most this Christmas. I had a conversation with Grizz on Christmas Eve while I drove him to his new home. It went a little something like this:

“So, blue fish, I’m going to start by saying I’m so sorry. I know nothing about fish and you might be dead in 2 days. I feel bad for you, blue fish. I don’t know if we’ll remember to feed you and I can’t make any promises my kid won’t tap on the glass of your new home and bug the heck out of you. He’s really going to love you though. He’s going to love you so much he’ll probably ask me if he can feed you 15 times a day. I’ll try not to let him but he’s tall now and can reach the food so it’s basically out of my hands. Blue fish, I’m just so sorry. For real, you’re probably going to die soon but at least it won’t be in this lame cup. It will be in a little aquarium with rocks and a blue plant. Even though you’re close to death, I hope you have some happiness knowing that the little boy who’s receiving you is going to be stoked that you’re his fish. Like crazy excited. So at least you have that.”

I’m so happy to report that Grizz is still alive and well 2 ½ weeks after coming to his forever home! Can you call it a “forever home” with a fish? I don’t know, it’s better than saying your “temporary home before you start swimming upside down”, right? Anyway, Blake was SUPER excited about his fish and is actually quite good at remembering to feed him. He wanted to name him Grizz because his basketball team is the Grizzlies this year and since we have some Memphis roots, we cheer for the Grizzlies. Well, as much as I cheer for any team. Really this just means I get a little warm fuzzy when they play because I’m from Memphis but that’s about it. My boys are much better fans than I am. I know, Memphis peeps, I’m a huge disappointment. If it makes you feel better, Knoxville feels the same way about me.

I just wanted to take a minute and introduce you to the newest addition to the Allen house. Don’t worry, Nash is adjusting just fine.

-Courtney

P.S. Be on the lookout for some BIG news about my new children’s book!!! Excited doesn’t even cover it!!!

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Dancing with Fear

Fear. It’s a powerful feeling. For me, it’s probably second only to love. It has the ability to cripple me if I choose to let it. It gives me thousands of excuses as to why I don’t need to chase dreams or do anything out of my comfort zone. Fear is a bully. Fear digs deep inside of me and plants seeds of doubt and anxiety so they will grow roots and attempt to strangle hopes and dreams that are planted deep down as well. Something interesting that I’m finding as I am chasing something God dreamed up a few years ago, is that hopes and fears are not mutually exclusive. They don’t have to be separate. They can coexist in my life and create enough tension to propel me forward. Hope is supernatural. There is no other reason for hope except that God placed it in our hearts through Christ. Fear is human. We fear because we are human beings that aren’t in control.

This year, 2016, I’m resolving to marry hope and fear in my life in order to give birth to courage. Courage doesn’t come in absence of fear nor can it come without hope. I must have both as a means to practice courage. Without fear, the dream is too easy and without hope I would be crushed under the weight my fear. I need both.

Some of you know, some of you don’t, that I have been trying to publish a children’s book in the last year. It has given me all the feelings. ALL OF THEM. It’s getting close to being finished and printed and I couldn’t be more excited/scared/humbled that this little story is coming full circle. I will tell you more as it gets closer to releasing but for now, I’m trying to live in the tension of hope and fear.

Much of this revelation came from a song I heard this year. It’s become one of my favorites and I hope you like it too. It’s by Ben Rector who is amazing and wonderful and talented and entertaining in concert. Appropriately the song is called “Fear.” My favorite line of the song says,

“I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from.”

This line spoke straight to my soul. Dancing with my fear. I’d never considered that I could do that. Thanks, Ben. If you have a couple of minutes, give it a listen. As a matter of fact, listen to the whole album. It’s well worth your time.

Here’s to doing things that require courage this year. Why not do something that seems scary and uncomfortable just to see how it turns out? More times than not, these are the things that grow us more into the people we want to become. On a side note, my family gave up desserts for the month of January and this is VERY SCARY. I don’t recommend courage in the form of “no desserts”; this is lunacy.

-Courtney

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The One Thing I Want To Do In 2016

“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry, and accept an apology I never received.”

I’m not sure if @pastorralexander actually came up with this or got it from someone else but it sums up in one sentence what would’ve taken me a thousand words to write. My brother showed me this quote the other day, not knowing that I had been writing about this very thing in my journal. It articulates everything I’d been trying to put into words the last month or so.

While we’re reminiscing over 2015 and thinking of goals/resolutions for 2016, this one’s mine: forgiveness. That’s my number one goal for 2016. Just like the quote says, the person I need to forgive isn’t sorry nor will I receive an apology from them. And that in itself is what makes forgiveness far more difficult. I want this person to be sorry. I want this person to want my forgiveness. They don’t. So what am I supposed to do with that? Why is it necessary that I forgive if the other person doesn’t feel they need it?

I’ll tell you exactly why it’s necessary: forgiveness will set me free. If I can choose to forgive then anger and hurt won’t control me anymore. I will hopefully be able to move on. There will be scars from the relationship but they won’t be open wounds anymore. Forgiveness will help me heal.

This might be the hardest act of love God has called me to do. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Forgiven people forgive people” like that’s some easy task. Then I remember what Christ went through to forgive me. He absorbed all the sin and darkness of the world into Himself then hung naked on a cross for hours before His soul was released to His Heavenly Father. This isn’t even telling of the brutality He went through on His way to the cross. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Forgiveness is like love; it’s a choice and sometimes, it’s a hard choice. It is an act that is performed in contradiction to how I’m feeling. In Romans 5:8 the Word says, “-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us before He received an apology. He died for us when we weren’t sorry. He didn’t hold forgiveness in his fist waiting for us to earn it. He just gave it because that’s what God does. He doesn’t wait for us to come around; He opens His hands to offer us grace we don’t deserve nor do we earn.

So this year, I’m going to try to choose the hard thing every day. I’m going to choose to rise above my feelings. I’m going to ask God to take captive my angry thoughts. I’m going to try. Then when I’m weary from trying I’m going to have to go before the Lord and tell Him I can’t do this on my own and I need His strength to do it for me. I know there’s peace on the other side of forgiveness because I’ve experienced it before when I first believed in Jesus. 2016 may look a lot like God prying open my hands to share the gifts He’s graciously given to me.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do in 2016. What do you want God to teach you in the New Year?

-Courtney

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Merry Christmas!!

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Merry Christmas from my family to yours! I love that my church had a snow machine for our 70 degree weather here in Nashville! Love to you all!

-Courtney

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Draw Near

It’s taken me all day to write this post. I know I need to finish it but in order to do that I have to go somewhere I don’t want to go. I have to allow myself to sink into the dark place. I’d rather go on about my day and not think about it or pretend hard things don’t happen. It’s so much easier to write light and silly stories. They make me feel good and I hope they make you laugh even if it is at my expense. But several of you have told me you like this blog because it’s honest and real. The honest reality is that life on this side of heaven can be brutal.

There is a family in my community that just lost their 2 year old son. I don’t know them personally but we have mutual friends. The cause of his death was an accident that could’ve happened to anyone and he was gone in less than 2 days. It makes me sick to even think about it. I don’t even want to write about it. It’s too hard. It shakes around everything I believe and leaves me wondering. How does God choose our story? Why do some people get seemingly good ones and other people get tragic ones? What is He doing? Is He really good after all? I hate that when horrific events occur I hurl these questions at God as hard and as fast as I can. Faith is so much easier to explain when everything’s great. Ask me what I think about God when my kids are healthy, my marriage is good, and I’ve got money in the bank. But that’s not faith at all, is it?

This family has been so heavy on my heart this week I can barely give them a thought and the tears come. We’re not supposed to lose our children. Children are the light of our lives so it’s to be expected that when they are taken from us all we’re left with is darkness. I can’t imagine this kind of darkness. It’s unfathomable.

So many people are praying for the Heard family and I am among them. People are praying for all the things you pray for like strength, comfort, rest, peace, etc. and these are all amazing things that God says He offers us. I’ve even prayed those things for them too. But the more I let myself go to the dark place, the more my prayer for them has changed. I find myself praying 2 words: Draw near. The Word says God is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and I believe that’s true. I imagine it something like this:

Sitting in a dark closet, alone, completely devoid of light. Then God crawls under the door. Draw near. He doesn’t burst in because the light would be too blinding. He doesn’t want to hurt their eyes so He comes into their darkness. Draw near. He sits next to them in silence, just listening to them breath. Knowing this is all they’re capable of doing but it means they’re alive. Draw near. This may go on for a long time. Even if they don’t acknowledge Him, they find comfort knowing that He’s there. Draw near. Then at just the right moment, He lights a match. It’s a small flame, not too bright. They are finally able to see what’s around them. They’re finally able to see the door to leave the dark place. Draw near. They can choose to stay or they can choose to go, either way He’s with them.

 

I pray God is in the darkness with this family who’s endured so much loss. I pray He is cozied up next to them, listening to them breath. And I’m praying that in His time He will light a match so they can find their way out. I have no answers for this kind of tragedy. Many times I can sum up obscene heartbreak because it is the result of sin in our world. But this didn’t happen because of sin. It was an innocent accident. I can’t wrap this one up with a bow. I can’t tie up the loose ends. I’m only left to pray and trust His plan is bigger than my understanding. Some might say that sounds naïve. I say what else do I have? Faith in God is the only hope I’ve got in this world so I might as well cling to it with my everything.

If you have a minute, would you mind praying for the Heard family? They are dear to so many and their loss has affected more people than they know. Thank you in advance for going before the Lord on their behalf.

-Courtney

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A Little Christmas Note to Self

Dear 29 year old self,

It’s Christmas Eve. You are about to set out the presents from Santa for your precious little children. It’s the most exciting part of Christmas Eve. You can feel the anticipation building as you wait for the kids to fall asleep. You need them to fall asleep so you can start assembling the Cozy Coupe for little Blake. He’s only 1 but you’re sure he’s going to love it. Kyle is putting together Caitlin’s new bike which actually proves to be easier than the Cozy Coupe, much to your irritation.

It’s at this moment that, me, your 35 year old self, needs to interject. You have no idea but in just a few moments you are going to feel like the worst mother in the world. You are going to feel like a failure. You are going to say the F word. I know it’s shocking because you can’t even imagine what could go so terribly wrong that you would go from joyful excitement to utter devastation. It’s about to happen just try to calm yourself and keep perspective. You won’t but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

As Kyle begins to bring presents down and set them up, he says solemnly, “Court, um, you bought the Guitar Hero that goes to a PlayStation, not the Wii. It’s the wrong one.” WHAT?!?!?!?! That can’t be right! I checked! I was certain I had bought the right one! I looked at it and sure enough, it was the one for the PlayStation. I felt like I might be having a panic attack. This was the ONE thing Paxton really wanted. His ONE big present and I had screwed it up. I’m pretty sure this is when I said more cuss words than I had ever said in my entire life. I’m not proud of it, Mom, but it happened. Kyle went straight into fix-it mode. He was going to go to Walmart and get the right one. It was 11:30 at night. On Christmas Eve. Apparently even Walmart closes at some point during the holidays so that wouldn’t work. He then had the brilliant idea to call his brother, the gamer, who happened to be at his parents’ house in Murfreesboro to see if he had his guitar from his own Guitar Hero game. By some Christmas miracle, he does. (Don’t worry, Jordan, I won’t tell them how old you are J)

This is another moment I, your future self, need to pop in. Precious 29 year old self, it is all going to be ok. Don’t make Kyle drive in the pouring rain to meet his brother. I know you feel like a complete and total failure because you got the wrong thing but, for the love, you are not a gamer! You know Super Mario Brothers and that’s it. You can take down Bowser but other than that you know nothing. Cut yourself some slack here. He’s only 6 and he has plenty of other presents to play with. I know, I know, it’s the big one that you messed up but I’m here to tell you he won’t even care.

When Kyle asks you what you want him to do, you hiss at him, “Do whatever you need to do to make sure Paxton is going to be happy when he gets up tomorrow.” Wow. Strong words. You’re practically seething. So Kyle leaves to meet his brother while you wallow in self-disgust. When Kyle gets home, you decided to leave a note for Paxton from Santa saying he ran out of Guitar Heroes for the Wii so he brought Uncle Jordan’s to play with until his parents bought him the right one. It’s unbelievable the tales we tell for Santa.

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Christmas morning comes and the kids are stoked. They run downstairs to see what Santa has brought and squeal with delight over their new toys. (Actually, my children did not squeal with delight. Our expectation of their reaction on Christmas morning always far surpasses what we get from them. They’re happy, they just don’t squeal or yell or run around the house in excitement. Just once I wish that would happen.) Paxton is excited about his gifts and he doesn’t care that he has to borrow Uncle Jordan’s guitar. He was actually more excited about the silly bands in his stocking. Seriously.

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(I need not even mention the tube TV sitting on a chair. These were hard times.)

Ahem, 35 year old self here. See? Paxton loved it anyway. He didn’t even care that he got the wrong one and had to use his uncle’s. But here’s the kicker, you don’t know this yet but he will barely even play with Jordan’s guitar. It’s just not as awesome as he thought it would be. So much so that you end up returning the wrong Guitar Hero and not even buying the correct replacement. And get this: Paxton doesn’t care. If he had asked for the new one of course you would’ve gotten it, but he doesn’t. He lost interest after day 2 or 3. All that self-loathing for nothing. If you could just learn to have a little grace for yourself you wouldn’t waste so much energy being disappointed with yourself when you mess things up. Perfection is for Jesus, grace is for you. Until next time younger self…

 

Much love,

Your older and wiser self

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