When No Means: Steal It Anyway. Love, The Baby.

When you search your house, high and low, calling out for the MIA two year old…”Bella? Where are you? (Avayah, Adalynne, Amelia–have you seen your sister?) Bella, are you upstairs?”

No answer. You start to panic. “BELLLLLLLLA! ANSWER US!!!!!” As you run through the house, flipping over sofas, picking up beds with your pinky finger…

Suddenly, (after your heart has now taken residence in your stomach) you hear a little voice echo somewhere in the distance…”I here, Mother.”

Travis and I end up the dining room, yet find nothing, no two year old anywhere.

We hear it again…”I here, Mother.” Travis starts belly laughing, his eyes fetching a solid little mass behind the curtain in the dining room. He quickly whips back the curtain, nearly pulling the rod and brackets straight out of the wall in the process.

“What?” Bella usher’s out meekly.

Trav is now bent over, tears pouring out of eyes, his body racked with hysterical laughter as Bella stares up at her daddy with a carton of ice cream at her feet, two hands doubling as ice cream scoops, acting as innocent as baby Jesus. This kid, the baby. Lord help us.


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“What?  Dis, dis is nothing, Mama.  Whook away, jus whook away.”


 

To My Daughters, On Being a Big Sister to a Little Sister


“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.” —Barbara Alpert


Big Sister. Three out of the four of you–Avayah, Adalynne, and Amelia–hold this coveted title.

Anabella, my littlest darling, you will learn being the baby of four sisters is a valuable windfall. You will be revered with sympathy first because how could you know better, you’re the baby. Own this adage, it will garner you protection. Nobody puts baby in the corner. Nobody.

To my three oldest daughters, over the course of the next decade, you will challenge, or doubt my advice on sisterhood, but my darlings you will soon see everything I write is true. I am a prophet, okay, not really, but just believe your mother for once, okay?

To date, I’m going on nearly 27 years of experience holding the big sister title. Omitting the fact that I cannot remember anything before the age of 10 (yes, I fell and hit my head in childhood. That’s a lie.).

Truly, I don’t remember much before the age of five, but a quarter of a century holds rank.  It’s a fact. People start respecting your opinion by age 25, therefore my advice is legit.

Holding this title {Big Sister} means there are certain truths you will soon acknowledge, here are a few…or ten, in no particular order.


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We are a village. My sister, my beauties, her fur babies (Emma & Athena), and me.


The first and foremost, I’ve already witnessed in each of you and yet none of you are even into double digit ages.

You believe you are a mother too. It happened the moment your younger sibling took their first breath. You became in charge of them. It’s gospel, no one can make you believe otherwise. Period. (This topic will probably be the biggest fight each of you will share with me. I fought against this feeling with my mother too. “Sarah, you are not the mother. It’s not your job to discipline.” I usually heard this after I pulled a judo-chop on my baby sister, or gave her a real life Harry Potter scar for God knows what.)

Two, you can inflict pain (judo-chops), be mean (snickering, you are u-ga-leeee), but no one outside the sister circle can. Ever. Defend one another’s honor, even when it hurts, bad. Even if that means the neighbor boy punches you in the face, because you’re defending your baby sister and you punch him back in the mouth. Even if that means his mama, who’s three times the size of me, comes stomping up on our doorstep ready to defend his honor. You do it anyway—just like my mama, I have your back (and I’ve shown you how to dial 911), always.

Three, no one will show you truer loyalty than your sister. Sisters are the most secure vault in the entire universe (even the FBI, CIA can’t hack into them), share trade secrets (like how to sneak out of the house—I take that back, do not, I repeat, do not trade that one—I have security cameras) and dump your baggage on them…even the really ugly stuff. Like a body they will dispose of it without telling a soul. Better, they will love you through it, no matter the condition. They may reprimand you, yell at you, and think they can ground you, because they believe they are your mother too, but they will love you through it.

Four, they will safeguard your fragile teenage dignity.  They will reaffirm your delusions, “of course (your secret crush) is totally in-love with you.  Yeah, he was totally staring at you at lunch.”  And when your boyfriend breaks up with you, your sister won’t tell anyone you stayed up all night crying, listening to the cd that now ex-boyfriend made you, while ripping apart all the pictures (after you drew horns on their head and x’s on their eyes) you took together, and then stabbed the heart of the voodoo doll you made of said ex-boyfriend–I’m kidding, seriously.

Five, learn to share your clothing and have patience when your baby sister stains everything she wears without asking. Do not in the dead of winter throw an empty bubble container (because she spilled its contents all over your clothes you’d laid out for the next morning for school) at her face, hitting her on the bridge of her nose. Because her nose will spray blood like a water hose, and I will rush into the room, see her bleeding out and go full-blown hulk on you.

Six, each of you are so different in comparison to one another now, it’s hard for me to imagine how different you will be from one another when you mature into young women. Choose to respect one another’s views, even when they differ from your own, even when you don’t understand it, or flat-out disagree with it. Celebrate each other, even if that means stocking your fridge, when your baby sister comes to stay, with organics because she believes she’s vegan.  She will come back to cheeseburgers.  We all do.

Seven, nothing of this world—pride, money, emotions, men will be worth your relationship with one another. You can be mad at one another, even dislike one another sometimes, but you will love another. It’s my gospel. It would shatter my heart for you to disown one another. Just like growing old, sisterhood is a privilege, respect it. You are individuals with similarities, differences, opinions, but you are family first—when you feel deeply upset, even betrayed and want to choke one another out, refer to the first thing your own mother learned. You will feel like each other’s mothers and a mother’s love is unconditional, infinite, and profound.  Plus, you don’t want mama’s wrath–nothing makes me madder than when you hurt one another.

Eight, don’t hate your baby sister when you have kids before her and your body is marred, floppy, and mirrors some pages out of Nat Geo and she’s prancing around all toned and taut—she has it coming too.  You hold your head high and remember every stretch mark, ripple, roll, and ounce of saggy skin you have is nothing in comparison to the joy of children.  Practice self-love, because your baby sister will need you to give her encouragement, same way you needed it, after she has children.

Nine, your sister will carry my spirit, indefinitely. And so will you. When I make you mad, disappoint you, or we disagree, your sister will be your sounding board against me.  She will stand by you, affirming that I’m the meanest mom ever.  I won’t like it, but somewhere deep within I will smile knowing your sisterhood bond is strong.  We will have many trials, some silly and some of great importance and sorrow, but we will get through them, because I refuse to choose anything less than love for my daughters.  Remind me of this when you and your sisters have pushed me to the very edge–my head will be spinning, my mouth will be growling, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out!”, and your dad will be hiding, terrified.

Ten, I have learned you will fight, hurt, and be beautiful messes together as sisters, but if you don’t keep striving to keep the balance between forgiveness and love, you will miss the beauty of sisterhood.  Every relationship takes work, some more than others, but the key is effort–when you love someone, every effort is truly effortless.


With less than three years apart in age, over the course of our childhood all the way to this very moment of the present, I have loved my sister, I have celebrated, disappointed, honored, betrayed, and hurt her, been the source of many tears–good and bad–of hers, I have made her sick with laughter, I have defended, supported, respected…but most importantly, I have pledged to love her, her whole life–she is my first love.  She is the softest, most compassionate person I know.  For all the years I thought I was teaching her, she was really teaching me–all the values that make a soul sing.


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She is forever one of my happiest moments.


May you four, my daughters, always value each other as sisters and covet one of life’s most defining titles.  Big Sister.

Loves,

Your Mama

–Sarah


Courtney, you own so much of me, it’s been everything and more to be your big sister.  Thank you for most importantly your love, for me, for Travis, and the greatest, my daughters.  I love you endlessly.  –Sissy

 

A True Legacy Isn’t Found. It’s Built.


Senior year 1977 - school bus trip, 30 years later - still married!


I cannot remember when I initially saw this photo years ago, but it’s lived with me, holding it’s own small plot of real estate in my mind. It’s a simple black and white photo, but it feels iconic to me. Maybe it’s the shaggy bowl cut—the style has come full circle thanks to Bieber, or the black converse shoes—my own daughter wears almost everyday in 2015. This is where you’re thinking how old is this photo, and the people in it?

Well…the photo is 38 years young, and the people, um…I can’t—no, I refuse to answer that. Let’s say they are 38 years young too. (If you keep up with my blog, yes, I had Trav do the math for me. Pray for me and my terrible math skills.)

Those people in the photo, my peeps, are my precious in-laws.


Circa 1977.


(Pretend you’re not trying to do the math. There is no mystery if you solve the riddle. Live for the mystery.)

It’s their senior year of high school, sharing a seat on a school bus (this was back in the land when there was no law against pda at school yet, hello 70’s!) completely unaware as someone snaps their photo. This photo would make the yearbook, washing them in black and white, preserving pixels that would enamor their daughter-in-law in several decades years to come.

I think part of my fascination with this photo rests in the time frame. I’ve only known my in-laws as my in-laws, father and mother to my husband, grandparents to my beauties—who they were in 1977 infinitely escapes me, strictly because I wasn’t born yet.

Or maybe it’s hope that sits atop my fascination’s shoulders when I look at this photo. Hope that they look no different than Travis and I, sitting together on a school bus, and proving our love can also endure 38 years later.

In Sarah style, you are probably wondering where I’m going with this…

Let me start with this…it is my belief to celebrate those you love. Yep, it’s my love language—words of affirmation. And in today’s society, words of affirmation are quickly becoming a long lost art, nearly facing extinction—okay, that was a little dramatic, but think about it.

When you observe, witness, or even read anything it’s almost standard to find the flaw, or shove yourself to the front of the line in protection of your own pride (I wouldn’t wear that, do that, act like that, are they serious, they can’t be serious!).

It’s why speaking love and simple acts of kindness leave the biggest impact, several going viral—because we don’t expect it, it’s endearing because we expect hate versus love first.

I’ve been there, you’ve been there…choosing hate over love.

But as a mother, it would be my biggest regret to raise my daughter’s under that brand, falling victim to the belief of enmity. I want my daughters to rise above, choosing to show others love above hate, pride, hurt, doubt, resentment, and animosity.


For. The. Love.


Choices define our lives, they can make or break a legacy. It’s a simple statement, but true.

Maybe it’s the stoic unknown engrained in the photo of my in-laws that captivates me, threaded with the kismet of being in their future. The photo above was taken the same year they were married, the beginning of their journey as adults together, the first beat of their legacy, both as individuals and their reflection as a pair.

I smile upon this photo that screams young love, untarnished by the impending stress of being catapulted into the land of tumultuous living, better known as being an adult. Adulting is the worst. This photo correlates back to a time when you feel invincible and your love infinite, before you realize life is all a choice.

I grin while taking in this photo, feeling like I got the cheat sheet at what they chose, seeing the future.

This is where I celebrate who they are, because they deserve to be celebrated.

To truly know my in-laws, Steve and Melanie, is to be loved by them.

Long ago, I mean that with the sweetest sentiment, they chose to honor love through their roles as a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, in-law, gramma, and pawpaw.

I was fourteen when Trav and I went mad for one another, literally mad for one another. Like we couldn’t breathe without each other—okay, that sounds unhealthy. We might have coined the tag line, crazy in love. Beyonce may have even wrote a song about us. I mean, we brought out the OBSESS in obsession. Not really, but really. We were in the love boat, sailing around the world.

Now that we’ve established that—gag, I know—it means that I’ve been apart of their lives for fifteen years, nearly half my lifespan to date. I can still remember going to their house for the very first time, making rice crispies with Travis, and then nervously washing the pan (Melanie told me I missed a spot—okay, that’s a complete lie.).

Truly, I was so nervous to really spend time with his family. What if my future husband’s family hated me? And believe me, come hell or high water, I was going to marry the man. (got me looking so crazy right now, your love’s, got me looking so crazy right now (in love)—sing it Beyonce!)

I would love to say that my love affair with my in-laws has always been a fairytale, ripped straight from the pages of happily ever after, but we all know better. No relationship is perfect.

At fourteen, I’d come from a recently divorced home. My mother was trying to restructure the lives of three children, go to college, and work full-time to support us. And I was the oldest of three children trying to test the limits of love in the face of my parents divorce. Needless to say, I was not an easy child to love. I was wild and we’ve already established I air a tidbit on the dramatic side. Loving me was no easy feat.

In the beginning…middle, even right now, Trav and I’ve faced many trials, highs and lows—we all are getting sucker punched by life and trying to make the best of it, sometimes we win, sometimes we have to eat our emotions by binge eating chocolate cake. But back then, I was a mess (and I still am).

The kind of mess that might have turned her future husband into the principal for stealing her m&m’s out of her locker when they were going through a spat. And said future husband might have been suspended, or chosen spankens (yep, spankens—here’s where I tell you I got spankens too from our principal, most humiliating moment of my life. Sixty-something year old man hitting me with a paddle on the butt. Brings demeaning to a whole new level. It still stings—literally.)

In our young dating life, I pulled many a stunts, pushing Travis to the edge, wanting him to prove that love breaks, regardless of how much you love someone. I was in constant flight or fight mode. Feeling secure felt insecure.

In the midst of me trying to break a sheltered, loving boy, his parents loved me when I was trying to prove I was unlovable. They gave me compassion, even when I resented it. They fed me, cheered me on from the stands at basketball games, included me in holidays, stood up for me against those they loved, because they loved me too. They bought me countless items, even after we were married they let Travis and I steal their toilet paper and restock our pantry with their pantry items, they prayed for us, let me tell them how horrible their son was, and gave him a talking to, sure I got some talking to’s too, but my halo is way brighter than Travis’ so not as many, but still, they gave us wisdom, advice, held our hands when we were terrified, cried with us, for us…they chose to love me without judgment, without resentment for the hurts I hurled at them, they chose to call me family and mean it.

The gave me grace and asked for nothing in return—this is the part where I do the ugly cry. It’s who Steve and Melanie are—they are equal parts forgiveness, grace, compassion, and love. (and they are probably so completely embarrassed to be called out right now and this is where I say, sorry, but I’m not sorry. You have to celebrate those you love, it just is.)

Over the course of my marriage to their son to date, together we have loved, fought, and forgiven. Sometimes those hurts took longer than others, and forgiveness was the last thing on anyone’s mind, but I have tried to make them stop loving me, but they just won’t stop. Pray for them, I’m kidding.

As individuals, they each have many strong points, but together they are serendipity, and their legacy is one for the books. They are givers—of time, support, values, and loyalty. True gifts are the time you take to teach your child core values, to invest as a pillar of support when life pulls the rug out from them, to guarding their heart from the black hole of insecurities that live to steal their dreams.

Their character has served, saved, sheltered, and blessed us more than Travis and I deserve. I know that I have reaped so much of the benefits of their hard work and dedication and their will to be lifelong parents.

Better, the way they love my daughters, they way they care for them, honor them—be still my heart—it’s profound.

In truth, they changed my life, who they are, the way they love, how they believe in the true essence of family.  They have shown me that love doesn’t break, it may bleed–heavily, but it will not break.  Love is infinite.


In all roles of who they are, they inspire me.  

Their legacy was built, not found.  


To Steve and Melanie—you are greatness. Period. One of my greatest joys has been being loved by you. Thank you from all four corners of who I am. I love you both, endlessly.

Loves,

—Sarah

p.s. Let it be known, if Trav ever leaves me, I’m taking his parents. It’s part of the custody battle.  You heard it here first.

p.p.s. And a word to the wise, just never fart in front of them, they will never forget it. Or fall, or just plain embarrass yourself because they will never let it go, but as long as you can laugh at yourself—you’ll be fine.

p.p.p.p.p.s. Are you still there?  If you are…whoever inspires you, tell them right now.  Currently there is an ice storm in Oklahoma–if you live here, don’t run out to tell them, you’ll slip and die break your hip.  Seriously, celebrate those you love–words, a hug, a phone call, just praise them.  We all live with hurts, disappointments, but choosing to seek light instead of darkness will define your life.  Be the light.