The Rest of the Story: The Truth About Family Pictures

This past week, Doc, Rosebud and I decided to participate in the time-honored tradition of the family photo session.
The location was beautiful, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, the leaves were a beautiful shade of rust and gold; I’d spent forever perfectly coordinating our fall outfits–conceded to letting Doc wear his boots, and curled Rosebud’s hair just right.

We were ready.

But see–I’d forgotten the most important detail of all. Rosebud is three.
And three year olds suck sometimes.

After two hours of begging her to sit up straight, look at the circle in the camera, and for Heaven’s sake, SIT STILL–Doc had exhausted his Dad voice, we’d threatened to take away every toy she’d ever owned, and told her she might not be able to sit down for a week.
No matter.
Our typically well-behaved daughter decided that family picture day would be the perfect opportunity to complete her transformation into an official ‘threenager’.

Connie with January June Photography kept trucking through the pursed lips, stuck out tongues, and monster faces that Rosebud insisted on making and that afternoon shared these two incredible preview photos:

Look at that. Would you just look at it? A perfectly happy American family. You’d never know that 7 seconds before this picture was taken, Rose had just kicked her feet, caught Doc in the “tenders”, and yelled “NO MORE PITCHAS.”

And that got me thinking. How often do we measure the success of ourselves and our families up against the snapshots in life rather than in the rest of the story?

The people in this picture look like they have it all together. They don’t look flustered or sweaty or like they’re considering returning their only child back to the Baptist East Hospital from whence she came.

This came from the hands of a gifted photographer, because trust me–that is not the reality of the Whitaker family.

Typically you can find us running out of the house five minutes before after we need to be somewhere with Rosebud still wearing her breakfast milk mustache, and me brushing crumbs from our clothes and throwing on my lipstick from the reflection in the window.

In this social media driven world I am so guilty of falling victim to comparing my world to the snapshots I see of others.

So I’m here to tell you that while snapshots are a beautiful way to capture the memories of these seasons of life, they are not all there is. There are also piles of dirty laundry, no makeup days, and misbehaved three year olds. Don’t get caught up in comparing your worst days to someone else’s best days, and most importantly be the friend and person that takes the time to listen to the rest of the story. Because there is glory in the rest of the story–because there is beauty in the rest of the story, and best of all–because there is grace in the rest of the story.

Rosebud: 1
Family Picture Day: 0

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

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The House that Built Me

When I was 5-years-old, Grandma bought me a duffel bag out of a Harriet Carter magazine. Because what a quintessentially grandmotherly thing to do. It was pink and had a little blonde girl screen printed on it, and H-U-N-T-E-R emblazoned across the top. Along the bottom, in bright yellow letters it said “Going to Grandma’s”.

Most Fridays I would pack that duffel bag and take it to school with me. When Grandma and Grandpa picked me up on Friday afternoon, that was it. All bets were off. I was “Going to Grandma’s.”

I spent more time in that house than anywhere else in my 26-years. As a little girl, I scuffed up the hardwood floors running in and out in the summer. As a teenager, I learned to drive in the neighborhood streets. As a wife, I brought my husband and baby girl there to eat pancakes cooked on a griddle from 1954.

The house has looked the same since they moved in. No re-decorating. They didn’t even move the furniture around. When I hit the door, whether at 6 or 26, Grandma was either in her black rocking chair, or standing in the kitchen.

But here we are, and the final papers are signed.
906 Plainview Drive is no longer “Grandma’s house.”

My sisters and I went through her 88-years of life. Clothes and quilts, newspaper clippings of 4-H talent shows, pictures we’d colored in 1994. We took down pictures and emptied cabinets.

It looked so much bigger with everything emptied away. The shell that held a home. And I want to cry for everything that I had.

The house that built me.
Standing at her stove, wearing a red apron, Grandma taught me the prayer to say to ask Jesus into my heart.
Laying in the back bedroom, I learned that books and words could create power beyond measure.
Laying on the couch after knee surgery, I experienced servant love while she washed my hair in a pan.
Building blocks in the living room, I learned to start all over again when the tower falls.
Watching ‘Anne of Green Gables’ on the old VCR taught me about passion and heartache and laughing and growing up.
It was the house that built me.

And it always smelled like mashed potatoes and sugar cookies.
It was that house that built me.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Look Out World–I’m Sinning Again

I make a lot of mistakes in life. Like–a lot.
I constantly am finding some new way to get in my own way, or losing my temper, or “letting my mouth write checks that my butt can’t cash” to put it in Hudge’s terms.
I sin. Sometimes a dozen times before I’ve had my morning coffee (more if it’s a Monday).

I judge.
I hate.
I judge again.
I covet.
I lose my patience.
I run from the Word.

And that’s just on a normal day–you should see me during basketball season.

The Ten Commandments are full of some pretty heavy, pretty lofty processes and goals.
Don’t lie. Don’t take stuff that isn’t your’s. For goodness sakes, don’t kill anybody.
Don’t covet. Keep Sunday holy. Be good and respectful to your momma and your papa.

These should be pretty easy standards to match.
(They aren’t.)

But by far my biggest struggle in this life lies in the two (arguably most important) commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make idols.

Growing up in the Church from a young age, these two commandments always struck me as a bit archaic. Sure they applied back in BC whatever when the Israelites were over there worshipping gold cows and everyone was running around with Baal-Zebub (which I mean, what an awful name for a god–even a fake one).

But how many of us modern evangelics are going around praying to a piece of jewelry?
So as a child I went ahead and gave those two commandments a mental check.
Like, okay. I’m good with those. Never going to struggle with cow worship, so moving on. What’s next?
Failing to understand their importance and true meaning made me particularly vulnerable in failing to follow their calling.

But as I’ve grown and matured in my life, I’ve learned a thing or two. Okay, maybe just a thing, but still. God knew exactly what He was doing when He handed down those Commandments to His people so long ago. He made them uniquely applicable to the BC Christians, to the 17th Century Christians, and to the Starbucks drinking millennial Christians of today.

Because maybe your god or your idol isn’t as tangible as cow jewelry.
Maybe your god or idol is money, success, acceptance, adoration, your job, or shoes (guilty).
Or maybe of all things your god and your idol is a 3-year-old little girl with bright blue eyes and her handsome, bow-tie wearing dad.

PLOT TWIST.
What do we do when we create idols out of the very blessings God has given us?

I’ve never struggled in my belief. I’ve often struggled in my faith and reliance–but never in my belief.
I always said quite confidently that if anyone were to ever persecute me for my faith or to hold a gun to my head and ask me if I believe in God, I would be able to answer “yes”. Genuinely.

But then Rosebud was born. And the question became instead: What if someone were to hold a gun to HER head and ask me if I believed in God? Then what?

Wow. Hold the phone.

Thankfully I live in a time and place where my freedom to chose my faith is without persecution.
But what about Abraham? What about Isaac?
If I’m being completely honest, here, which I always try to be: if God commanded me to sacrifice my Rosebud as He did with Abraham and his beautiful baby boy, Isaac……Well–Boy oh boy would I fail that test.
Abraham believed. And God provided.
But could I take that chance? Do I have that strength? Nope. Nu-uh. No. Not even a little.

The Bible tells us to love one another. But that when compared to the love we have for God, those Earthly bonds should seem like hate.

What if eternal life didn’t include my Doc and sweet Rosebud? What then?
WHY IS THIS STUFF SO HARD?

But it’s love, right? How can the God of Love deem loving a sin? It all seems so bass-awkward.
But the thing of it is–I’m not called to love them less. But to love Him more.

God gave me Doc and Rosebud, and in them I get to experience joy and grace abounding .
But even what I feel for them pales in comparison to what God feels for them.
So I have to give up. Something I’ve never been good at.

I have to realize that all the goals and dreams and desires for good things that I have for Doc and Rosebud are absolute dirt compared to what God wants for them.
So I have to bow to His love and stop competing against it.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever.

What’s your god? Who’s your idol? And how do you deal with it?
In the (over-sung, over-played, super annoying) words of Elsa of Arrendale: LET IT GOOOOOO.

I’m going to fail at this today. And probably tomorrow, too.
But I’m really hoping God has a special place is in His heart for mommas that parked their car on Struggle Street.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

My Metaphor for the Month

There are very few things that I love as much as I love playing in the dirt. Mowing, weedeating, mulching, getting my hands dirty planting flowers, pruning my roses–all of it.

My Grandma used to tell me to plant flowers by moonlight for good luck. They’ll withstand the heat the entire summer. So each year, by the moonlight, I turn on my iTunes, I get out my flower pots and my potting soil and I plant.

I do my best thinking with my hands in the dirt. And as long as there is soil and sunshine, I’ll never have to pay for therapy, no matter how crazy I get. Because while I’m out there, pruning and shaping, my soul rests and heals from the business of the day. Instead of whirring and spinning, my mind floats. It’s my mental version of a lazy river.

When John and I moved to this house, we got some rose bushes to plant. Whether it was the location, the soil, or just some old fashioned luck, they’ve thrived, and are now taller than Rosebud, herself. We prune them at the beginning and end of each season, but the thing is, they’re getting a bit unruly. And while I was clipping the branches yesterday, a lightbulb went off.

Parenting is a lot like gardening. It’s our job to prune and shape our little flowers. If we hover and control too much, they’ll never be able to get to the sun and really grow like they were intended. But if we never temper them, they’ll grow wild and uneven and their thorns will overtake them. Even though their blooms are still beautiful when they’re wild and overgrown, you won’t be able to see them until you cut back the foliage and trim down their sharp edges.

I’m not saying it’s easy. There are days it would be so much easier to let Rosebud grow wild, and there are days it would be so much easier to just clip back her branches and trample her spirit. Finding and striking that balance is one of the hardest things Doc and I have ever attempted.

But we do try. Every day. Because in the end will stand a beautiful Rosebud that will be able to withstand life’s stormy seasons and life’s sunny seasons because her roots will reach deep and hold strong.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Marry the Man….

WARNING: I get what could be considered an annoying level of sappy.

Everyday I read some new article giving love and relationship advice to the millions of single millennials out there wondering: “Why doesn’t anybody love me?”

Google “marry the man who….” and hits start coming at you like crazy.

“Marry the man who loves you more than you love him.”
“Marry the man who makes you feel single.”
(wait wut. What does that even mean?)
“Marry the man who wastes your lipstick, not your mascara.”
(Now this is just getting silly.)

So I decided to add my own little relationship column out into the world wide web.
Because I really think I landed the winner, and so why not share my *love secrets with the world.
And also, because half of the articles/blogs that I read are just feel good, tell you what you want to hear bull, and the other half are boring.
*Reality: We have no love secrets.

Today, Doc worked a labor and delivery shift for 12 straight hours. He woke up at 5 am, when Rosebud and I hadn’t even turned over twice yet. He got ready, made the coffee (mine, too), and headed to the hospital. All of this after staying up past mid-night on Saturday.
Unusual as it was for a Sunday, L&D was wild. He had 6 back-to-back C-sections, and 2 vaginal deliveries. (On a side note, I never thought I’d write ‘vaginal’ in a post.)

He got home and made Rosebud supper because she loves his omelets like nothing in the world. Then we ran to Target to pick up a site-to-store order for a pair of Rosebud’s shoes. Then he got Annie Oakley (her new requested name) ready for bed, so I could work on paperwork for Grandma.

While he was applying for study away rotations, I interrupted to ask him to run to the ATM for Grandma. At 11:00 p.m. He did so. Not only willingly, but happily.
Then we tracked my textbooks for my block that starts tomorrow and found out they won’t be here until Friday. So Doc got on the internet, searching for a solution. He found the book at Willy T. So at 12:18 am, my sweet, exhausted husband drove to campus to check me out a book.

YALL.

Marry the man who will get up with the baby/toddler/kids on Saturday morning and shut the bedroom door while you hear him whisper: “Shhh. Let’s go play and make breakfast and let mommy sleep.”

Marry the man who gets you and your best friend wine and ice cream for Netflix marathons.

Marry the man who drags you out of bed for church on Sunday mornings…even the early service.

Marry the man who will drive 30 minutes one way to take your Grandma clean laundry and some potato soup and sit in the nursing home and hold her hand because you couldn’t get off work that day, and it’s finals week.

Marry the man who walks in with a smile on his face after standing through 9 hour surgeries and would much rather collapse on the couch than chase a 2-year old while growling like a bear.

Marry the man who knows nothing about stockings or hairbows, but tries really hard on a busy Sunday morning, anyways.

Marry the man who will clean up your vomit, and give you a bath to break your 104 degree temperature when you’re 6 months pregnant and get the flu.

Marry the man who puts the dishes away at 4 am before early morning rounds.

Marry the man who teaches your little girl how to pray. And when she says “Dear Lord. Please be wif my lips because they are chapp-ed and Daddy hada put medicine on them,” he doesn’t even laugh, but gives a very serious ‘amen.’

Marry the man who will fold your 88-year old grandmother’s panties on laundry day.

Marry the man who will drive to the library at midnight, after a 12-hour day, on 4 hours of sleep to get you a textbook. >Betcha won’t find that one on a Pinterest meme.

And who while on the search for said book at the library texts you to say: “I feel like Nick Cage.” Followed up by “The eagle has landed.”

Here’s a hope on a wing and a prayer that all you ladies find men like my Doc.
Here’s a hope on a wing and a prayer that Rosebud does, too.

Don’t settle for anything less. Because I have proof sitting on the couch next to me (still a little depressed that his March got too mad) that magic exists. He makes me laugh when I really want to punch him in the face, holds my hand during tornado watches, and wakes up six times a night to make sure the doors are locked when I hear a weird noise.

Keep on keepin’ on, and ignore all the articles that tell you what love is as they try to define Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now and whatever else.
[Except for mine. Definitely read mine.]

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Expect the Unexpected: Parenting a Toddler

Parenting a toddler is a funny place to be. Not funny like ha-ha, but funny like sometimes you find yourself weeping in dark places and saying things like “QUIT HIDING THINGS DOWN YOUR PANTIES.”

Parenting a toddler isn’t an easy job for anyone, but for a Type-A, planner, it’s particularly daunting. Because they never do what you want or expect them to. Even when you beg. Especially if you beg. No matter how much time/thought/effort you put into planning days/events/outfits they will step in and step up and shoot those plans to H. E. double hockey sticks.

A few examples:

Your plan: beginning your week by hitting the ground running. There’s a lot of work and studying that needs to be done and not a minute to lose.
Toddler’s plan: waking up and finger painting on the wall using the poop in their pull up.

Your plan: dress your toddler like an angel for church, and they’ll smile sweetly, fold their hands to pray, and sit silently listening to the sermon.
Toddler’s plan: play in the pile of dirt beside the car and ruin their dress, drag their feet to scuff their shoes, give every sweet old lady who calls her precious the stank eye, yell “I NEED TO GO POOP” at the top of their lungs during silent confession, and every 35 seconds say: “Look, my Barbie is naked,” while being shushed.

Your plan: an uneventful drive to drop Rosebud off at school and then head to work.
Toddler’s plan: nonchalantly drop her first curse word, momentarily stopping your heart and causing you to jerk the wheel and swerve the car off the side of the road.

Your plan: arrive everywhere 15-30 minutes early.
Toddler’s plan: arrive everywhere unfashionably late so that everyone in the room turns and looks when mom and dad stumble in with everything but the kitchen sink packed in a baby bag.

On Saturday, Doc got a lesson in toddler plan destruction. As I mentioned in a previous post, our anniversary was this past week. To celebrate, Rosebud is going to spend this coming weekend with her grandparents and Doc and I are going to dress up in something besides scrubs and jeans and go to dinner.

Unbeknownst to me, Doc and Rosebud snuck away to the mall and purchased a beautiful Pandora bracelet and charms. He planned to surprise me with the bracelet at dinner.
In doing so, he made one vital mistake: letting Rosebud in on the plan.

Saturday afternoon, one week before the big reveal, Rosebud walked into the living room and said: “Daddy. Where’s mommy’s surprise?”
Doc panicked, and stammering and stuttering, attempted to throw Rosebud off the trail.
“You mean the candy bar we were going to get Mommy? We ended up not getting one. REMEMBER, ROSEBUD??”

“No, Daddy. We got it at the mall. We got Mommy bracelet at the mall. I think it still in the car, Mommy. Want me to get it for you?”

I’ve never seen Doc’s face turn so red so fast, and he and I both burst out laughing.
And even though she had no idea what was going on, Rosebud laughed, too.

He brought the bracelet in and I unwrapped it in a dirty kitchen with a sink full of dishes instead of in a romantic restaurant, and wearing sweats instead of a dress and heels.

Doc apologized. “I’d planned on a little more pomp and circumstance, but I hope you love it just the same.”
Planned.
But the plans fell through. And I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

In ten years, Rosebud is going to be entering her teenage years, and she probably won’t even want to go to the mall with her kooky dad, let alone to pick out a bracelet for the mom that may or may not be ruining her life. And when I look down at my wrist, I’m going to remember the eagerness and excitement shining in her eyes when she ripped out the tissue paper to show me what Daddy got for me. And the pride that was in her smile when I told her how much I loved it. And that memory will sustain me on the lonely days when she’s gone off to college and I’m dreaming of the days when I’d wake up in the middle of the night to her jumping in bed with us, covered in marker, and screaming “LOOK AT MY TATTOOS.”

I love plans and lists and step-by-step instructions. I don’t really get much of that during this season of life.
And the funny thing is, I’m finding out how beautiful the unexpected can be. And that sometimes the best laid plans really suck compared to what God and your 2-year-old have planned for you.
So when things don’t go the way you expected, chin up–closed doors and opened windows and all that jazz.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

The Day I Stomped Out My Daughter’s Fire

The past few weeks Doc has been on surgery rotation. That means early mornings, long days and late nights. It’s left a lot of time for Rosebud and I to be alone. Which is a little a lot exhausting and a lot of awesome. That includes Sunday mornings.

If you’re a church-attending mom, you know that Sunday mornings are the Super Bowl of motherhood. If you can get yourself, your husband, and your child(ren) out the door wearing clothing that covers all the important parts, hair free of breakfast crumbs, nose free of boogers, and walk into the sanctuary by the time the choir finishes singing their first song then yes, you deserve a ring, a trophy, two Reese’s cups, and a glass of wine. (Panty hose runs and wrinkles are acceptable under these conditions.)

With Doc gone, I’ve been taking on the sole responsibility for getting Rosebud and I to the Lord’s house with as few tears and as little swearing as possible. This past Sunday I was attempting to wrestle her into a pair of light pink stockings, and she was attempting to escape the torture. The conversation escalated.

“Honey, I need you to stand still for mommy.”
*Continued wrestling

“Rose, sweetie, let me get you dressed so we aren’t late for church.”
*She starts throwing elbows

“1….2…”
*Grins maniacally

(Angry voice) “ROSE. STAND STILL RIGHT NOW.”
She jumped, all the fight drained out of her body, tears the size of the hope diamond ran down her cheeks, and with a shaking voice she cut straight to my heart. “Mommy. That scare me to death. Mommy. You scare me to death. That too loud.”

If you could only know the guilt that swept over my at that very moment. I looked up, half-expecting “World’s Worst Mother” to appear tattooed across my forehead. I hugged her close to me and rocked us both. “I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry I did that. I love you so much. I shouldn’t have done that. I love you.”

She was deflated.
With five little words, I had stomped out my Rosebud’s fire. One of the things I love most about her.

Sure, she got over it. She’d forgotten about it before we even got to the car, singing ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm’ all the way to the church house.

But it stayed with me.

And I started to wonder at all the other ways I’d stomped out her fire.
When I brushed away the chubby hands attempting to tie her own shoes because we were in a hurry, maybe.
Or when I rushed through our bedtime routine trying to get to my chores so I could finally relax.
When I pulled her along when she tried to stop along the sidewalk to examine a leaf blowing in the wind because I had 15 minutes until I had to be at the office.

Doc and I constantly struggle with finding the balance between ensuring Rosebud is well-disciplined (see: not a spoiled, little brat) and trying not to break the wild spirit that we love about her. And it’s not easy (see: the hardest thing I’ve ever done). How do I mold her into a positive, contributing member of society while keeping her true (and crazy) personality in tact? How do I teach her to stand up for herself, but remind her that we’re in charge?

It’s particularly interesting for me because I see so many of my own character traits mirroring their reflection in her. How am I supposed to discipline Rosebud for losing her temper and getting frustrated when she can’t immediately grasp a new technique or task when I DO THE EXACT SAME THING. Or when she looks at us in the middle of the prayer at church and says: “I can’t be quiet, I need TO TALK.”–when well, that’s my fault, too. And I especially can’t get after the kid for sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night to read books. It’s like God said “Oh hey, Hunter, did you need further insight into all the weirdness that is you? Here ya go. Here’s you in toddler form. Good luck.”

My whole pregnancy I spent praying that my child would be as patient, laid back, and easy going as Doc. Instead, in a cruel twist of fate, she’s as wild, high maintenance, short-tempered, and as fiery and passionate (about EVERYTHING) as I am. But goodness, do we love her for it.

One thing is for sure, I will never have to worry about Rosebud standing up for her beliefs or voicing her opinions and speaking her mind. God help us all and look out world.

Here’s to all you people with a strong willed child–may you have the wisdom and the strength to temper their spirit without breaking it. And good luck on Sunday mornings. Yeesh.

Oh, and here’s to all you people with a strong will…may all your children take after their fathers.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

 

IMG_6512

I mean, come on….this is the sass I live with.