Ten years ago, I chose to take on the responsibility of a baby. I weighed my options, thought about the implications and ramifications, and decided to turn away from the future I had planned for myself. I chose a child and the life that came with him.

Earlier today, he chose me back.

I can't begin to describe the surge of emotions that flooded me when he turned to me in the middle of a store, wrapped his arms around me and said, I know you're not my biological mom, but from now on, for me, you are, okay? From now on, you are.

Tears. Laughter. Hugs. In that order. That's all I had for him there, but since then, I can't stop thinking about it. My son, the one who has never been given a choice, made one on his own without any pushing or prompting from anyone else. His first big-kid decision and he used it to choose me.

As parents, it's our job to make decisions for our children. We do it because we love them and we (hopefully) see a bigger picture and act out of love, concern, and wisdom. This is an unspoken contract established between parents and children that we all agree to in one way or another.

And I have made some huge decisions for Javi in the past years. I decided he'd be my son, that he'd have the Mountain Man as a father, and that he'd have a younger sibling (but only one). I decided that he would have no contact with his biological father. And recently I decided he'd have no contact with his biological mother.

Obviously, I don't think it was wrong to make firm, drastic decisions for my child (such as barring access to him by people who put him in psychological or physical danger) and I stand by every decision I've ever made for him. In fact, I wish I'd made those strong decisions earlier and more frequently in his life.

But not once have I consulted Javi on what he wants. I haven't allowed him to make big decisions for himself. Many times it hasn't been necessary. For instance, Javi called MM "daddy" way before our wedding in 2006 or MM's adoption of Javi in 2007. And the other times -- well, you can't ask a child to decide whether a person is a bad influence or dangerous presence. (Or, at least, I don't believe it would be fair to ask him to make that decision.)

But standing there today hearing him make and voice such a big decision? It opened my eyes and my heart. My baby boy hasn't just lived the past ten years; he's gained tremendous wisdom and experience from them. He's learned and processed and suffered consequences. He's made mistakes and accomplished goals. Right in front of my eyes, that baby is maturing into the man he'll soon be.

Today, I heard him, for the first time, choose me (us, this family that came about as a result of him). I know you're not my biological mom, but from now on, for me, you are, okay? From now on, you are. Ten years in the making, sweeter words were never spoken.

I know that our road will still be rocky and that the days will be long as we hurtle toward the teen years, but we're all here because we want to be. We have chosen each other, and that will get us through.

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Ten years ago, at this very minute, my big kid's biological mother began feeling cramps spread along her midsection and back. In another 30 minutes, she would be in a rush to get to the hospital. Finally, ten days after the original due date, she was giving birth to the baby girl who would be born (despite three ultrasounds) a boy, my baby boy. (That birth lasted four hours thanks to a sunny-side-up delivery that left no time for an epidural. To say it was a rough birth would be an understatement.)

Ten years is a long time, and yet it has passed in a flash. That tiny baby is now a 4'8" 75-pound boy who loves football and dinosaurs, who can spend hours drawing but can't remember where he left his pencil, who seeks understanding and asks questions all day long, and who is currently drilling himself for the upcoming spelling bee.

Because it's his birthday, we are having all his favorite foods -- pizza, orange Kool-Aid pie (pictured at top), rolo stacks, and chocolate ice cream for dinner. He celebrated with his little friends this weekend and will celebrate with family tonight.

Meanwhile, I'll be wandering around wondering where the past 10 years disappeared to. One thing's for sure -- life's been good to us so far.

Happy 10th birthday to my sweet boy.

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What's this thing you call vacation?

Today marks the first day of my first time off since Labor Day. Technically, I still worked on Labor Day, so maybe it's my first time off since July 4th. Or maybe since this time last year.

That's the huge downside of working from home and for yourself. There's no door to shut or boundary to cross that signals a work day. Work happens when it happens, whether it's a Wednesday night or a Saturday morning, whether I'm in my "work chair" at home or hunched into a booth at a coffee shop at the beach.

That's the freelance life. It's also furiously and frantically typing to squeeze out 400 more words while one child taunts his baby sister (Don't touch my things! My picture is better than yours! Ooh, I'm going to my room ... and you can't come!) and the baby sister plots clumsy revenge (Haha, Javi! I broke your toy/threw away your picture!).

And so I am putting down work for four days. Of course, I'll still be working. The kids will be home fighting over everything they come into contact with, demanding my undivided attention, crying over ... anything they can find to cry over.

But! I'll get to play stay-at-home mom for four days rather than bust-my-ass-to-do-everything-mom. I'm looking forward to it (kinda).

What are your plans for the holiday? Will you be decked out in full armor to keep from being a casualty in the battles your warlords wage? (Please tell me I'm not the only one.)

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Cluck of the Week: Circle of life

We've been a chicken family for exactly six months as of yesterday. Six months which included brooding baby chicks and chasing crazy-fast guineas and introducing a chicken mama and counting down to eggs.

In our short time, we've learned to say goodbye. First to the pasty-butt chick who was so sick and frail that she couldn't get up on her legs. Then to the guineas who simply didn't belong in a neighborhood. Our hearts broke when dogs dug into our backyard and killed our girl Stella, the black star who was the first to earn the title of pet.

After ten broilers, four chicks, two guineas and one Here's Your Last Chance Fancy Don't Let Me Down, we had settled into our flock of three: Lulu2, Maisy, and Fancy. They traveled as group during the day though they roosted in separate places at night (Fancy in a tree, Lulu2 and Maisy in the coop until Maisy turned traitor and went to sleep in the tree with Fancy).

But, as is the nature of life for a chicken, our triad has been broken. We lost Maisy this week. She was the youngest, the weakest, the follower.

Tragically, her survival skills weren't as advanced as the other girls'. From what we can figure, Maisy was trapped in a corner of the yard by a cat. We buried her feathers and pieces in our burgeoning chicken cemetery along our property perimeter.

There were none of the tears that came when Stella was killed. We have toughened up, as you do when you're raising chickens. We're adjusting yet again. We've decided the chickens can't free range, no matter how much we all like it. And, yes, the BB gun will have to come out for cats now, too. And so it goes.

But there's always a bright spot in this tunnel. Today, while preparing the yard for Javi's birthday party, my mountain man stumbled upon these under our deck:

I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. Lulu2 is an official layer. We know they can't be Maisy's eggs because her comb was still chalky pink, not vibrant red like Lulu2's (and Fancy lays her eggs in the nesting box). And while I can't figure out why these chickens don't just behave (you know, like roosting in the coop instead of trees and laying eggs in the nesting boxes rather than on the ground under the deck), I'm delighted to watch them grow and exhibit their unique personalities.

UPDATE: Mountain man found 5 more eggs under there! That's 10 eggs total. Here's the crazy part: We think Fancy switched her laying location and egg production isn't actually off at all. Some of the eggs are Fancy's large ones and some are Lulu's small ones. These chickens love to keep us guessing!

We miss seeing the three reds nibbling their way around the yard, but there's always new life and new experiences. Lulu2 and Fancy may have new girls to play with in the spring (since egg production is off for the winter), and our hearts will swell just as strongly as they always do.

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QOTD: Words of wisdom

My big kid is turning 10 in one week. Four school days. One weekend. Eight straight days. 192 hours. 11,520 seconds. And he'll be 10. Ten years of Javi.

In those ten years, he's learned enough to drop some genuine gems of wisdom. Allow me to share them with you.


A fellow student who's younger than Javi complained that his parents don't love him. If they loved him, the student posited, they'd buy him the things he wants.

J: You're only 8. You don't understand the meaning and concept of parents and the things they do. No one does.


After relaying this story to me, Javi shared that he was slightly confused by the kid's parents' actions.

J: But, mama. They live in a house. If they live in a house, why don't they buy toys for their son?

Me: Maybe they spend all their money living in their house and paying the bills for it, like the heat and water. And then they have to buy food to go in the house, too. So maybe they don't have leftover money to buy toys.

J: Like poor people?

Me: They could be poor, or they could choose not to spend their extra money on toys. Maybe they save for vacations or for when [the kid] goes to college.

J: They're probably poor, like Daddy's life was. When I become President, I'm going to give some of my money to the homeless and to the poor and I'm going to ask everybody to help give money to the homeless and the poor for their food, their healthiness and their homes.

Me: That's really great, baby.

J: And when that happens and I'm still President, I'm going to ask everyone who was poor to come up on the stand and say how good they feel to have their new life and their new homes, food, and all that stuff to help their bodies. And then I'll say, well let's have a celebration.

Me: A celebration?

J: Yeah, to show what a great President I am.


After further discussion on the point of being a president and the role a president plays in our government, Javi began asking people what they would want him to accomplish as president. He then reported back to me.

J: Okay, I know what else I'll do as President.

Me: Let's hear it.

J: I made a speech. [unfolds paper] "We need to fight to stop the bad people on commercials. They keep telling us to give them money when they know their stuff doesn't even work. We order it and it doesn't work but they won't give anyone their money back. That's wrong and your President is fighting to stop it."

Me: Hm. Okay, that's a really interesting platform. What made you think of commercials?

J: It's not a platform, it's a speech. And Daddy told me all about it when I wouldn't stop asking for a Fushigi.


Unrelated to his future career in politics, Javi was introduced to stepping this week. He was fascinated by it and his body started moving with the music. 

Me: Would you like to learn to do this? I know where they have lessons.

J: No.

Me: Are you sure? I bet you'd like it.

J: Mama, just because you like something doesn't mean you should do it. You have to have watchers, too. If everyone is doing it, then there's no one watching it, and then who'd clap?

Me: ....

J: I would be fantastic at it, though. I have great rhythm.


And later, when I was relaying this story to the Mountain Man.

J: That's not what I said.

Me: Yes it is. I was there, I heard you.

J: Well, I guess you just don't know how to translate my language then.


And lest you think Meanie Weenie has been silent, I give you my most recent favorite: "Mama, I don't want Santa to figure out I'm mean. Let's don't talk about it, okay?" You got it kiddo.

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The aftermath

Last night was parade night. That means today I never got out of pajamas. I had planned to wear my "going out" pajamas to take Bella to preschool, but her tum-tum decided today was a good day to be upset so we both stayed home.

Side note #1: You know you're worn out when you're thankful that the runny butt happened today and not yesterday. I fully understand the meaning of 'God doesn't give you more than you can handle.' If runny butt had happened yesterday, I may have exploded into a thousand glittery pieces. End side note.

True to form, I didn't let in-pajamas-and-with-runny-butt keep BayBay and I down. We cleaned and organized the mess that's collected in the past week(s). We built a block city and painted people to live in it. Then we started the first layer of the peppermint bark we make every year.

The intention was to wait for Javi to get home from school and finish his homework and chores and then we'd complete the bark together. Instead, Bella snuck into Javi's room to destroy his lego creations and Javi kicked her out and they were both screaming in the stairwell and I tried to diffuse it until Bella wailed, "But I want walls like Javi has!"

Side note #2: When we moved in, a friend convinced me to paint Javi's room as a landscape. Since the moment he saw it, Javi has begged us to paint over the rolling hills and blue sky with "something for boys, not babies. Gah!!!" He loathes those walls. End side note.

You see where I'm going with this, right? Yes. The day after the parade, while dealing with steady diarrhea, exhaustion, and a semi-destroyed home, and after painting, building, and candy-making, the two kids and I embarked on a mission to swap their rooms. One room is almost put back together (needs the correct curtains, wall art, and tv hookup) and the other is a disaster, but both kids are pretty excited.

Yes, that's a glittery pink tinsel Christmas tree. She asked for it okay?! And the line
across the upper walls is Javi's art line. He said he's coming back for it so she'd better
not get any ideas. At least he warned her, right?
Moral of this story: I have a problem, dude. If there's a 12-step program, please direct me to it. But don't tell my kids. I think they like Mama just slightly manic.

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Hectic Holiday

I'm feeling a bit like this right now:

And here's why.
  • I haven't been paid since October and the payroll department at the company I'm waiting on literally told me the check's in the mail. Direct quote.
  • I have three work deadlines to finish in the next 13 days. Those deadlines amount to 30 pages, 24 sources, and hours of research.
  • I'm coordinating my city's Christmas parade, which takes place on Monday night. This means my phone has rung off the hook and every free brain cell has been focused on the line up order, which dignitaries are riding in which car, who still needs to pay, and why the hell did I agree to do this?
  • Someone told my husband that he had a 1950s housewife. He comes home and immediately gets huffy if he has to do anything but sit down and turn on the tv. I'm doing 18 things at once -- including micromanaging homework and chores, making sure we have dinner, keeping things clean, answering the damn phone, etc -- and he's pissed off that he has to check homework. (Like checking it is somehow worse than getting him to sit and do it.)
  • On top of everything else, there's my little side project that I love dearly and enjoy doing. But I'm only one person and it's a challenge to do it well without a single back up. I have something in the works for it in January that may change the whole ballgame ... but until then, I am underneath it and barely hanging on.
So yeah. I'm one disgruntled elf right now. Actually, this image might be a better indication of how I'm feeling:

The good news is I don't give up and I don't quit. I may answer the phone "What can Brown do for you?" or not all. I may roll my eyes when the Mountain Man starts acting like he just fell off the mountain. And I may lose my ever-lovin' mind with this parade.

But I'm alive and kickin' and likely to forget all this angst long before all of it's resolved. Let's just say today I'm grateful I can't hold a grudge!

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