My sister is sick. We've added words like pleurisy and pulmonary hypertension to our vocabularies. They fill the spaces left open after her double-lung transplant nearly ten years ago. For the past 10 days (and for who knows how many to come), her home has been hospital room.

But now, as then, we choose not to dwell on the mysteries wracking my sister's frail body and instead laugh from deep within our bellies -- savoring every moment and treasuring the beauty of now.

This day is a sacred treasure
that we cup in gentle palms,
eyes and hearts and hands aware
of its fleeting and fragile glory.

And so we spent a day this week in the entrance area of the hospital as her floor doesn't allow children under the age of 5. What could've been frustrating and stressful became an adventure instead, complete with some fool-making and attention-stealing.

We sat in a hot, crowded cafe with strangers flanking us and made merry. You know it's a good time when strangers laugh at your antics and your kid masters a technique you didn't know he cared about it.

With full bellies, we played and joked and left the worries to those who gawked or smiled as they passed.

And when it was time to head back to real life, we found another reason to smile: The next generation, walking together into the future.

Yes, each day is a gift, a treasure entrusted to us. On this day, we used it perfectly.

(And to top it off, I am today's guest blogger at Our Mommyhood! So much !!! and feely-good that the bad stuff doesn't stand a chance.)

***This post is part of !!!/!!!, Six Word Fridays, and Feel Good Fridays***

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When left to their own devices because you have three deadlines in a week and a half but your check from last month is two weeks late (and your husband comments every single day that your check still hasn't arrived) so you can't afford to send either child to daycare or preschool or any other fun get-your-kids-out-of-your-hair activity, they may transform from sweet hummingbird enthusiasts to Cool Moe Funky Jav and his funky-fresh brother Bello but only for about 10 minutes because Bello will rebel and insist on a Tinkerbell costume and Funky Jav's eyeballs will roll all over the house right before he slams his door.

You have been warned.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday.***

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Away, with quotes

Monday gets a bad rap. Today marks the beginning of the week and the end of July, and it has given me several reasons to smile. Here are two:

Javi: Am I still going to camp today?
Me: Actually, you have the summer reading program pool party from 12-2 and then cooking camp from 2-4 and then tonight you have basketball clinic from 6-8. Full day!
Javi: Um, mom? That seems like a lot for one day.
Me: Well, it's just today that's so busy.
Javi: I think I'll skip the pool party. I can swim anytime I want and I'm really more excited for the cooking camp.
Me: Uh. Are you sure? Because I'm not going to push you. If you miss it, you miss it.
Javi: Yeah, I'm sure. I don't do so well when you make me do so much in one day.
Me: Huh.

Bella: Do I get to do kindergarten today?
Me: Yep. Which workbook do you want?
Bella: The one with chickies! I love chickies.
Me: Grab the book and come get in my lap.
Bella: No, mama. You my teacher. You s'pose to get my book, put it on a table, and say to me "Okay, class. Let's get to work!" That's kindergarten.
Me: Well, then, you're not in kindergarten. You're in pre-school.
Bella: I love pre-school! Pre-school means play-dough! But we still have to go to a table.
Me: Welcome to kindergarten. I'll find you a little table to work at.
Bella: Don't forget my chickies!

And so it goes. I'll be typing away furiously to meet some deadlines while being schooled on parenting by one and schooled on school by the other. If your Monday permits, come visit me at Loving My Panda Bear. I'd love to get some comments on my post all about the tyranny of Year Three!

***This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge and ShoutLaughLove.***

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Stormin' Through Summer

Intentional happiness doesn't mean having wonderful days stacked up on each other like a beautifully iced chocolate cake. It means enjoying the hell out of the mudpie your previously clean child brings you in your favorite Pyrex dish. And, of course, being grateful that your days stack up at all.

Guess what. My days are stacked pretty damn well even if I do struggle some days to hold it together. In only six words, I am:

Learning gratefulness for my unearned gifts,
Basking in these scorching summer days
Knowing I will miss them soon.

For instance, there was the caramel frappuccino sipped in the car while driving my younger sister to the hospital where they'll hopefully work out whatever's happening with her lungs. (Never a good thing for a girl who's had a double lung transplant.)

Taking my son to meet his hair idol (aka Glenn Willey, meterologist) and being seriously impressed by said model's ability to entertain and engage a roomful of children.

Stumbling upon the most beautiful rendition of INXS' 'Never Tear us Apart'. And then falling even more in love with this funky and fun cover of 'Need You Tonight.' (Have I mentioned that INXS featured prominently in my childhood? Uh, yeah.)

Wrapping up the week with Meanie Weenie at the pool, where she traversed an entire length of the pool to shoot me in the face with a Toy Story water squirter because I was talking on the phone rather than watching her fake swim against the side of the pool. Word on the street is she is my mini-me. I like it.

***This post is part of Feel Good Fridays, Six Word Fridays, and !!!.***

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The King

My children had a rare treat last night: Matthew, Javi's big brother and Bella's oldest cousin. He will be 15 this year and was born the fall of my freshman year of college. (Yes, I am old.)

October 2007, age 11.
May 2009, age 13.
June 2010, age 14
He has the best hair ever and the warmest eyes and brightest smile. When he is here, my children fight over who gets to sit closest to him and who tells him the funniest stories and who gets to fetch whatever he might want. His nickname growing up was "King Matthew," so he's used to being treated like royalty.

Doesn't he look so grown up?!

Self portrait taken by a very happy 9 year old boy.
When he left, both children cried and whined and begged for him to stay longer. There is absolutely nothing sweeter than the love between siblings and cousins and kids and family.

Unfortunately, we don't get to see Matthew that often. But after watching how my children bask in his praise and cry in his absence, we'll be making it a point to spend a lot more time with The King.

***This post is part of Wordful Wednesday and Wayback When-esday.***

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Meanie Weenie

I love this little girl.

I feel like I don't say it enough because she's a tyrant and hustler and I try to balance my gushing of one with gushing of the other.

But I love her. So much.

Princess Bella. Bella May. Bay Bay. Monk. Sweet Potato.

Ask her name and she'll tell you, My whole name is Bella Miller* but my nickname is Meanie Weenie!

Then she'll smile so hard her face might crack.

When she's being particularly naughty, she'll yell out, I'm bein' Eviwella! because, yes, her superhero name is Evirella. And she lives up to the hype.

And man oh man. I love her.

*She will actually say her real whole name, but I just got uncomfortable posting it. So I'm not.

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The little things

I am running low on sleep and had McDonalds for both lunch and dinner, so my fuel tank is making me nervous, but I've had a pretty fantastic week (since I'm choosing to overlook that not everyone thinks the way I or acts the way I do or respects other people's decisions in the same ways I do).

The hardest part of minding my business and holding firm to the belief that in no way is it my business what others think of me is when it slaps you right in the face and you're staring it down and there's not a damn thing you can do about it in a healthy way. So you have to make the choice against toxicity and anger and negativity. You choose to clamp down until you taste blood for as long as it takes to find your center again.

Because that center? It's rich and full and this week it filled me with laughter.

Who cares that we've watched Toy Story 80 times in the past four days? The kids love it and Bella spends the long minutes it takes to rewind our old VHS tape (that was recorded off cable back when Javi was a toddler) jumping from every semi-stable surface while exclaiming, "To ifinidy an beyong!" During the movie? They are rapt and silent.

And, yes, I am constantly refolding and putting away the kids' clothes (or more like hounding them to refold and put them away). But their clothes are strewn here and yonder because they love dressing each other up and running through the house playing cops and pirates and fairies.

A certain 9-year-old boy refused to have his picture taken in the fairy costume, but he did send me his sister who tried to dress herself after a costume session.

And then tonight, after a long session of blog coding*, the Mountain Man fed both kids Cheerios and then we headed out to see Pirates! The Musical -- Bella's first time sitting in a theatre and watching real people sing and dance and perform before her very eyes. So now not only does she want to be a pirate (thanks Pippi!), but she also wants to be one "up dere on dat stage" (as she stage-whispered through the whole show).

After the production ended, she swabbed the deck, steered the ship, and rowed to her heart's content. You can always tell when my kids are enjoying themselves because the can't stay still long enough to snap a photo -- which would've been easier if my batteries hadn't died right as I tried to snap a pic of Bella in the crow's nest. But that's why God invented camera phones, right (even if none of my people know how to look directly at them)?

See? The center will hold. The world will right itself. And as long as I focus only on that, we're gonna be alright.

*Be a gem and come tell me how much you like my new look. Pretty please?

***This post is part of !!! and Feel Good Fridays.***

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QOTD: Working from home, Santa, and broken glass

My kids (affectionately known as "the warlords") have been by my side every day of summer except for the glorious five days Javi was away for camp. Because of our frustratingly close proximity, I've experienced some pretty awesome quotes straight from sassy little mouths. Enjoy.


After having to push two sets of hands, a deck of Scooby Doo cards, a grungy pink sandal, the Wii-mote, an empty Gatorade bottle, and miscellaneous crayons out of my face:
Me: "You have to stop shoving things in my face. I am AT WORK."
Bella: "No, you not at work. You AT HOME." (Imagine her moonface and saucer eyes.)
Javi: "Yeah. On the computer is not AT WORK." (Imagine his eyeballs rolling around on the floor.)


After hearing me talk to a friend who watched the kids so I could go on the radio to talk about my side project:
Javi: "You were on the radio?" (Imagine pure confusion.)
Me: "Yep, this morning. That's why you're here."
Javi: "Like ON THE RADIO? Why? You're not famous. You don't even wear pants or brush your hair." (Imagine 9-year-old righteous indignation.)


After hearing the sound of broken glass being moved around (because I put it in the middle of the table to keep it safe from the kids, but she found it while I was in the bathroom):
Me: "Bella May, if you don't leave that glass alone and go back to your tray to eat your breakfast, I'm going to spank your bum."
Bella: "Okay. Just not too hard, Mom!"


After asking why Javi needed to write a letter to Santa in the middle of July:
Javi: "Time is running out, Mama. First I gotta get the letter to the mail box. You know mail runs so slow and this letter has to get all the way to the North Pole. Then Santa has to send me a letter back and then he has to call you to see what I can have. And then the elves have to make everything and then Santa has to deliver it."
Me: "Oh."


After allowing both kids to make Christmas lists:
Me: "Remember to only ask for a few things you really want."
Javi: "That's what I did. I only asked for a real monkey and clothes to dress him in, a red PSP, an American flag electric guitar, an American flag laptop, and a golden statue of myself."
Me: "Those are the few things?"
Javi: "Yep."
Bella: "An I want a real monkey, too. And a real horse named 'Phonso and a real girl named PeePee.* And some gummies. And a movie featre."
Me: "Guess Santa's gonna be busy."
Javi: "Now do you see why we have to mail these now?" (Imagine pure 9-year-old exasperation.)


While being forced to entertain herself and doing so by writing pretend letters:
Bella: "Dear Grandma. I love you very much. Dear Grandma. Come pick me up. If you need me, I'll call. Dear Grandma. If you need me to come pick you up, I will come. Dear Grandma. I will need you if I need you. Dear Grandma. If you want to pick me up, I will go."
Me: "Is Javi writing those for you?"
Bella: "No, I'm writing them in my brain."
Me: "That's too funny!"
Bella: "It is not funny. Dear PeePee. I love my Grandma. My mama is not funny. Come pick me up."
Me: "Do you want someone to come get you?"
Bella: "Duh, mama." (Imagine pure 3-year-old exasperation.)


*My child has discovered The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and is already talking about being Pippi for Halloween (in between demands to be a wolf). I haven't had to watch Barbie in The Nutcracker in at least a week. That's one of the brightest spots of the summer!

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This summer we've been...

Riding bikes indoors in full protective gear 
worn however it fits.

Running around with sparklers (if you're Javi) 
or standing very still until they burn out (if you're Bella).

Playing the keyboard in too-small princess shoes 
and a red foam visor while wearing nothing but shorts. 

What have you been doing this summer?

***This post is part of Wordless Wednesday, Wordful Wednesday, and Way Back When-esday.***

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This guy would never throw junk out at the river

Maybe it's because of our time at the river. Maybe it's because Drew Landry is dead on. Maybe it's both. All I know is I want a Drew Landry 2012 bumper sticker right now!

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Leave nothing but footprints

The Mountain Man dragged us to a dam at the local river (Cape Fear) this weekend. By drag, I mean that the kids were buzzing with excitement and I was filled with dread and anxiety.

The River. For the MM, the river conjures up his Tennessee mountain memories of the Emory River and his MaMaw, who taught him to sit quietly for hours as that river's water lapped his feet, to patiently cast and re-cast as he sat on the shore or waded in to his thighs. He learned to swim in the Emory, spent long days drifting on makeshift rafts from one house to the next and the next until he was so far downstream someone had to go pick him up. In the days before his father died, my MM sat with him on the banks of that same river.
For him, a river is home and memory and tradition. He named our daughter after that river of his childhood home. And when he dies, he wants to be scattered into that same river.

For me? The river does bring up murky memories of fishing with my Papa (twice, and one of those times, he made my sisters and I sit at the shore while he paddled away in a boat to a quieter spot). However, the river holds many more unwelcome memories. Drunks who don't have the gas money to get to the lake. Trashy, uneducated people who cuss like sailors, smoke and drink to excess, and destroy everything in their paths. Nasty smells, filthy sights, and a wasteland of debris.

But who am I to deny my MM his day at the river? Especially when he packed up the cooler all by himself, spent an hour finding the exact spot of a dam he'd heard about, and then loaded everything into the truck by himself. I finally put on my swimsuit and climbed into the passenger seat determined to keep a positive outlook.

And I'm glad I did. While Bella and I would be content never going to the river again, our boys were in love. They splashed across the broken mussel shells and sharp-smooth river rocks until they were right on the dam. And then they climbed and slid and climbed some more. They frolicked and indulged our pig-tailed sprite and begged me to at least try the "dam slide" (which sent Javi into fits of giggles each time he heard or said it).

I made it halfway to the dam before I gave up and turned back. My once-hardened-by-the-country feet are not what they once were and couldn't suffer through the pain of trudging across the river bottom. But my time there wasn't wasted. I was right about the destruction "river people" leave in their wakes.

My family played; I cleaned. Beer bottles and cans, plastic plates and cups, fast food and styrofoam containers, paper and plastic bags, candy wrappers, old socks, a pair of ripped men's underwear. You name it and I found it down at the river.
And as I cleaned, a river dog came over begging for food. Of course I fed her everything we had. I felt almost purposeful in my work, and when the family came in from playing, they, too, picked up the purpose and ran with it. I don't have to tell you how they felt about the dog, right?
When we left, we took away 4 plastic grocery bags of trash. Despite our children's best efforts, we did not take away the river dog. But we did leave with a lesson in our hearts. We may not be the bad kind of "river people," but we do carry a river in our hearts. It is clean and safe and beautiful.
We will keep returning to ensure "our spot" remains that way. If we don't, who will?*
Next time, we hope to take nothing but photographs but we'll be bringing trash bags just in case.

*Please tell me you will. Tell me that when you see the end result of laziness and disrespect for our natural resources, you'll take 10 minutes to grab a bag and just clean it up. Because a broken beer bottle and a candy wrapper on the bank of the Cape Fear can become so much more once it hits the water. You're with me, right?

***This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge and ShoutLaughLove.***

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At the beach

We left the Mountain Man at home. He said he couldn't leave his chicks. I mean, who would catch them grasshoppers and dig up worms for them if he wasn't there? Who would treat them to a summer favorite?

What my MM will be seeing:

What I'll be seeing:

I would say I got the better end of the stick, except look at how Lulu2 loves her "daddy."

When he comes around she races over to him. He's in the swooning stage.

But we're at the beach. Eating fresh fruit delivered by our CSA that I've cleaned and cut up and packaged in containers perfect for beachy days. Floating down a lazy river. Watching my kids fight over the last piece of grilled shrimp (did I mention I don't eat seafood? I don't, but my kids will shank you for it). Likely getting even further behind on blog reading and commenting.

BUT. I just signed on for another freelance gig (yay!) and so I can afford to send my children away. And then I can get back to doing what I do best. Reading and commenting rather than working. Sounds good, right?

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You know you found 'em on a mountain when...

You know you found 'em on a mountain when you wonder where your husband went with the kids and then you find him. Encouraging your children to swing on a low-hanging limb. From the neighbor's tree. While the neighbor isn't home. And he's laughing and taking pictures of them. Cause photographic evidence is what we need.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who stumbles out into Mountain material. Whether your man (or woman) is straight off the mountain or just carries a piece of mountain in his (or her) heart, I'd love to hear your "you know you found 'em on a mountain when" story!

***This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge, Wordless Wednesday, and Wordful Wednesday. Cause I'm at the beach NOT giving away my children. Yes, that part is totally positive thinking.***

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