Santa Letters 2017

As he does every year, my dad writes all his grandkids letters from Santa on Christmas. These are some of my favorite words I read all year. 

Dear Grayson,

Well, here I am again! All I can say is “ho Ho ho”! You have had a really eventful year and I am glad I can leave you some gifts to celebrate.I see by your Permanent Record (I am one of the few who have access to it, given the naughty and nice analyses required by my work) that you have finished the first semester of the first grade! Grayson, what you have learned is remarkable and important, but it is those things that you continue to teach us that bring you honor and our appreciation. Your sweet spirit reminds us of how another recipient of tough circumstances, Mary, embraced the role that God gave her. Poor, with child, assailed by stiff-necked judgment, she proclaimed 

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,….

Luke 1: 46 – 47 (have your parents read on through verse 55. Lots of good blog material there.)

 Later, another group of stiff-necked Pharisees asked the child she bore about a blind man.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John 9:1-3

 Grayson, the greatest gift I can leave you with is to remind you that you were also born to magnify God, and that the works of God are most definitely displayed in you. The world will not go backward. Light will shine in the darkness and the rough places will be made straight.  

Your biggest fan,

Dear Charlotte, 

Well, once again I have accomplished the miracle of making it down a chimney half the diameter of my waistline. It’s like the promise of Christmas. The Lord of the Universe breaks through impossible separation to deliver the ultimate gift of His presence among us.

Soon you will be five, so you are old enough to begin knowing more about me. I am certainly not the Lord of the Universe, nor am I Christmas, although some people would like to assign me that role. I am simply an expression of, as the Victorians used to say, “good tidings” during this season of celebration. That’s why I am also around for Thanksgiving, Advent, Hannakah, Kwanza, and almost every year-end sales event in America. My favorite is Christ the King Sunday, the last day of the church liturgical calendar before it starts again with Advent. That’s when we look forward to the fulfillment of the Christmas promise, when

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

So don’t tell me we shouldn’t celebrate “The Holidays”!  

Charlotte, you are one of the smartest and most articulate children on my list. You are a keen observer of life and a proclaimer of what you see. My earnest wish for you is what you see is truth and what you proclaim is promise. There will always be those who fear the future and would like us to retreat to the past. But every word of our Bible tells us differently. As long I leave you these Christmas letters I will remind you: The past is darkness and the future is Emmanuel, God With Us. That is good tidings!

 Love always,

Dear Nolan,
I have divided my list of all the children in the world into three categories of experience: Rookie, Apprentice and Veteran. With your infant and toddler Christmases behind you, congratulations on your promotion to Apprentice! You are now able to begin considering some deeper concepts – like The Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law is about what things happen spontaneously and what outcomes require work. One thinks about that a lot when looking down on the world from a flying sleigh.

The good news for you is that the usual state of your play room is not your fault. The Second Law tells us that the inexorable direction of the universe is toward disorder! Putting the blocks back in the box requires work, and they will never stay there. Tell your parents that it’s not a mess, it’s energy minimizing diversity.

Nolan, there are lots of people in this world who want nothing more than to put the blocks back in the box. They want to build walls, hoard privilege, and define who is worthy of playing with the blocks and who is not. And they are working hard at it.

The problem for them, and the good news for the rest of us, is that the inevitable direction of the universe is Emmanuel, God With Us. God sent us a Savior to break down the wall that separated us from Her and to proclaim that the first shall be last and the last first. Salvation brings us God’s economy of abundance where there is plenty for everybody, and where compassion and grace are celebrated rather than feared . If that were not true, I would not be flying over all those walls with a bulging sack every year!

So Merry Christmas Nolan! Take these toys and spread them to the far corners of the earth! Continue adding your robust voice to the choir of angels! Diversity is our advantage! God is with us!



Read all past Santa letters HERE


#NaBloPoMo Day 30: Finished!

It’s almost 9:30, I just got home from a church event, I’m tired and a little bit sick. The last thing I want to do right now is write another blog post, to be honest. But I can’t quit now, on the last day of #NaBloPoMo!

This is the second year I’ve written every day in November, and this year seemed much easier. I guess it’s because I’ve realized that not every post has to be a polished, perfect piece of writing. The idea is to write. Period.

There are some topics that I wanted to write about and tried, but couldn’t get any cohesive thoughts down. I have some post ideas I want to tackle soon, but I’m so excited  (and relieved) to start my month of reading tomorrow and digest someone else’s words rather than my own for awhile.

Thank you for all who followed along this month, and especially those who commented with feedback and/or encouragement. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with your families.

#NaBloPoMo Day 29: I Really Don’t Know What I’m Doing

A few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions on topics to write on, and my friend B left this comment:

I would appreciate any insights you have on balancing (hate the word, cause it’s not a thing, but can’t think of another at the moment) raising a child with special needs alongside your typical children. I don’t even know what I’m asking. Maybe conversations you have with C and N regarding how their roles and responsibilities will always be different than what you expect of G. Or the angle you take conversation wise when C or N realize G never really “gets into trouble.” Etc.

I’ve been thinking about this since she left the comment, trying to come up with some eloquent words or great insight on this topic. And the truth is, like so many other things in parenting, I don’t know.

I don’t know how to raise two children alongside their older sibling who will never be able to play with them, have a real conversation with them, or fully participate in all our family activities.

I don’t know how to explain to my little kids why their big brother can’t walk or talk. We talk a lot about how Grayson’s brain has a boo-boo, and his brain can’t tell his legs to walk or mouth to talk. They know he’s “sick” but how do I convey to a 4 and 2 year old that Grayson’s “sick” is different than when they get sick?

I don’t know how to balance parenting kids with such vastly different needs. I think the hardest part is very rarely can I “parent” them all together, at the same time. Logistically, I have to compartmentalize them into {Grayson} and {Charlotte and Nolan}, and one of those units is usually having to wait, or be by themselves. And Charlotte and Nolan get frustrated because getting Grayson changed and ready to do anything or go anywhere takes a lot of time. And when I’m playing with the younger two, Grayson is always nearby, but by himself. It’s kind of like living with kids but also having a perpetual newborn, in respect to the time and attention he takes.

I don’t know how to truly teach my younger kids how to have empathy for Grayson. Thankfully, we aren’t having the issues we were dealing with a few years ago, but the special needs siblings who live in my house do not behave like the idealized “full of empathy and compassion” siblings I read and hear about. I cut them a lot of slack though; they are still really little, and I know Grayson isn’t as “fun” as their other sibling. Neither of them bat an eye with his retching, drooling, and spastic movements- it’s what they’ve always known. I just try to involve them in as much of his care as I can- they fetch diapers and bibs, put his glasses on his face, and help his bus driver push the button on the remote for the lift.

I don’t know how to really explain all the extra help and attention Grayson gets. Having additional caregivers in our home has always been normal for the kids; Grayson has had night nurses since before Charlotte was born. We have therapists in our house 4 afternoons a week, plus nurses almost every night. And when we don’t have extra people, it’s mom and dad taking care of his every need, because he can do nothing for himself. That’s a lot of adults giving undivided attention to a child and then his younger siblings being expected to do a lot of things on their own. And of course, there’s pushback. And I know that Charlotte especially logically understands that Grayson cannot dress himself and she can, but still, to her, the difference in expectations isn’t fair. And she’s right- there’s nothing “fair” about any of this.

So yeah, I don’t really know what I’m doing. At all. But what parent does? Most days, I feel spread thin and that I’ve failed somebody. I love all three of those kids so much, but always worry if I’ve given each of them the individual attention and love that they need for that day. I guess as parents, in whatever circumstances we are in , we just do the best we can with what we know, and hope everyone turns out all right in the end.

#NaBloPoMo Day 28: December Reading List

After I finish #NaBloPoMo (Three.More.Days), the next installment of my 30 Day Challenge Project is to read every day for 30 days. Hopefully will reinstate a habit that I can carry on much longer than the next month. I used to be a voracious reader, but in the past few years, my reading has dropped off considerably due to competing time-sucks. Also, I know reading makes one a better writer, and I very much want to continue to improve my writing.

I picked December for my reading month for several reasons.

  1. There’s more downtime and I’ll be “on vacation” (ha) for a chunk of the month.
  2. Social media in December is hard for me (comparison is the thief of joy and all that…) so this will be a good reason to cut back for a few weeks and focus on reading more than scrolling
  3. Amazon had some killer deals the past few days and I am stocked up (honestly, for several months).

Here are 11 books on my list to start to tackle next month: any must-reads I need to add?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (I’m currently listening to this one on audio).

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Blessed Are The Misfits by Brant Hansen

The Art of Memoir by Mary Carr

At Home In The World by Tsh Oxenreider

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

The Disabled God: Toward A Liberatory Theology of Disability by Nancy L. Eisland

Elenor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (bought this on Audible months ago and haven’t listened yet)

#NaBloPoMo Day 27: Zoo Lights

We were invited to the Houston Zoo’s Dream Night- a special night for special needs and medical kids and their families. 

The lights were beautiful but honestly, it was a really tough night. All 3 kids were really tired, and Grayson fell asleep even before we got there. All three of them are usually in bed before 7:00 and we were at the zoo until after 8:00. The other two kids did ok until the last 30 minutes and they completely melted down. We are driving home now, listening to over-tired sobbing in the back seat. 

It’s always such a hard call for us- wanting to do all the opportunities available to us, especially ones where we can include G, but also recognizing our family’s limits in this season. 

I’m so disappointed. 

#NaBloPoMo Day 26: The “Forever” Punishment: An Update

I wrote an article for Scary Mommy a month ago about taking TV away from my kids “forever” after I lost my temper one afternoon. It was published this morning. You can read it HERE (but if you are offended by colorful language, just skip it). Since I wrote the article a month ago, I wanted to give a present-day update on our TV habits since then.

We made it about 7 weeks with no TV/screens at all. As the days passed, it really did get easier. The kids stopped asking for TV completely, and the good habits I wrote about in the article continued. We were plowing through piles of books, drawing and creating like crazy, and playing outside more than ever.

But then, keeping TV away from the kids started to be more about just making it another day than actually benefitting them. And in some moments of the day, it really was punishing me. Charlotte has long since forgotten about the actual incident that got it taken away from her to begin with, and as all parents of young kids know, there are just times when you need space and for the kids to just be quiet. And still. In particular, when Grayson has therapy, I need the kids to be calm and out of his space- and a digital babysitter is a lot cheaper than a human one.

So, for about a week now, we’ve been letting the kids watch about 1 movie or show a day that we choose. We had our Monster party last week and they’ve watched several Christmas specials. What I didn’t expect was how little they would care about what was on the screen. They detoxed, reset, and now the TV just doesn’t hold the appeal it used to. One day last week, I had put on a movie, gone to do something in my bedroom for a few minutes, and came out to this:


These sweet babies were more interested in their library books than their movie (insert all the heart-eye emojis here).

So yes, kids TV is a part of our lives again, but a much smaller part. I’m looking forward to Christmas movies and snuggles with my babies this month. And creepy YouTube toy videos are still banned (forever! for real!). I actually came across this article last month as it was being shared around social media and it totally freaked me out. It’s long read and not very well written, but has some crucial information for parents of young kids on YouTube.

In my case, a less than stellar parenting moment actually turned into a really good change for our family. But I certainly will be more mindful of the realistic implications of my punishments from now on.


How not to watch TV

#NaBloPoMo Day 25: Assorted Thoughts

I’m at the point in #NaBloPoMo where I feel like I’m going to be limping to the finish, and trying to come up with topics to write about feels impossible anymore. So, instead of a cohesive blog post today, here are some assorted random thoughts.

  • I’m having a bit of a vulnerability hangover today from my post yesterday, which, as expected, got a variety of reactions.
  • Ryan took Charlotte to a high school football playoff game today. They left at 8:45 am for the game that started at noon. I was laughing when he texted me at 11:45 to tell me Charlotte said she was ready to go home. Cgameday
  • Something is off with Grayson today. He was up retching a lot last night (and we didn’t have a nurse) and today has just been really restless and whiny. Usually his Veggie Tales and me holding him makes him happy, but those don’t seem to be working today. It’s like he can’t get comfortable, and his tone is super high today. GSat
  • We have been home all day and Nolan has not played with one toy, but he’s kept himself busy. He’s currently sitting on the floor arranging scraps of paper and fuzzy pompoms. This reaffirms that we have too many toys and don’t need any more. Nolanbackpack
  • I finished the kids’ Christmas shopping yesterday, and am feeling so good about the Want/Need/Wear/Read format we are doing this year. Even though what poor Grayson needs a mattress pad- not very exciting. I’m always a little sad when it comes to him and holidays.
  • I can’t decide if I want to do Christmas cards this year. Last year I didn’t, and really didn’t miss doing them.
  • When are we going to put our Christmas decorations up? Ugh.
  • Laura Tremaine posted this on IG yesterday and it really resonated with me. weird

Happy Saturday everyone!