1.22.2015

Halloween 2014: The Walking Dukes

Did you think we might take a year off from our family Halloween costume tradition since we had a 3 week old? Well, all you doubting tricks are about to get treated (I am among you...never thought we'd pull one off this time).

Jesse actually gets all the credit for this one. Before Noa was born he was thinking about a theme that would work whether or not Noa and I felt up to joining in. AND one where Noa could be in her carseat or worn the entire time.

You may or may not already know that we live in a little town called Senoia. We are home to a famous fancy furniture store, the house at the beginning of Fried Green Tomatoes, and as of the past few years, we are also where The Walking Dead is filmed.

I've never been a zombie girl (in terms of liking them...and being one). I'm all about Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and those facets of dork-dom, but zombies just always bored me--or at best grossed me out.

So when the buzz was getting out about the new zombie show on AMC that was filmed in Atlanta, i thought that was pretty cool that our city was the setting, but I would pass just because of yuck.

Well, when filming began in season 3 and was a half mile from our front door, that pulled Jesse in. He was hooked. And oh how I judged. It was like how he told me our entire dating lives that he hated tomatoes (like all good people should) and then a few months into marriage he starts saying, "they're not that bad." VIPER IN MY BOSOM!!!! You like tomatoes and zombies now? Okay, well, you're a disgusting traitor...enjoy your lycopene and nightmares.

But not wanting to spend precious, kidless  nighttime hours apart, when he would be watching episodes of the show, I would sit out on the couch and tool around on my laptop (because occupying the same space counts as working on our marrige, right?).  I would be all, "this is disgusting, you know that? I cant even look at the screen. It's just over the top and gratuitous and I am just so much more highbrow than you. I read Jane Austen now, ya know?"

But as the weeks went by I found myself averting my eyes less quickly. The turning point was one night I caught myself going, "Okay, wait a second, why is that guy mad at her? Isn't she on their side?" When I heard myself it was like I had blurted out some nasty word. NOOOOO! I take it back--REDACTED!

But alas, I was hooked.

I went back and tried the first few episodes on Netflix and was instantly a huge fan/addict. I binge watched to catch up. Oh, I still hate the zombies and the gore is ultra sloppy-doo and over the top, but the show isn't a zombie show; it's a human show. It really is incredibly thought provoking, and the actors are very-well cast and talented.

For fans of the show: we live a stones throw from mainstreet "Woodbury."

So when Jesse needed a theme that included a baby, Walking Dead was fresh in his mind...AND super on-point for our little zombie-crazed town. Jesse looks a lot like Rick anyway, Noa was obviously going to play baby Judith in her "carried around in her carrier all the time" phase, I was the one blonde chick who you could take or leave (in case I flaked out due to postpartum angst). Judah and Layla got to be the two characters with the most kid appeal: a dreadlocked sword wielding badass warrior woman for Layla, and a fan-favorite crossbow-toting redneck hottie bad boy for Judah.

Here's how it unfolded.

Layla Dukes as Michonne.

I can't recommend messing with her.


or her.


Judah Dukes as Daryl

In the words of most fangirls: YUM

He was upset when I first told him what to wear. He said "It looks too snappy!" So we quickly de-snappied it AND made it more true to the character by going outside and smearing dirt all over everything and then using makeup to make his face dirty and spray in hair color leftover from Diego to darken his locks.


Power duo.

DON'T FRONT. THEY WILL WASTE YOU!


 Walkers beware.

For whatever reason I was never totally a Daryl girl. I found myself drawn to Rick--for reasons I didnt totally understand.

Until Halloween:

Yup, there it is. Mystery solved.

And that just leaves no one's favorite character: Andrea!

I couldn't get my hands as veiny....but I did crawl around our front yard with a plastic knife at 3 weeks postpartum to really get into character.

We even DIY'ed Daryl's signature vest design!

 Patrol duty.

Our town has fully embraced our little slice of specific notoriety. We have many Walking Dead themed events, restaurant specials, and there is even an official Walking Dead Store, which of course we had to visit that evening.

I'll take the one on the left. *NOTE: that is not a real gun. But boy oh boy, the security guard at the church Trunk-or-Treat we attended wasnt aware of that and converged on Jesse like whoa until it was clarified.

Per his request, I gave him a lil' redneck mustache.

Weirdly my most naturally aggressive (her kisses leave bruises) and fierce child CANNOT fake being intense/angry.

 Dream Team

 Even dreamier team.


Official Portrait. We give you, The Walking Dukes.


Off to save the world, and make all the ladies swoon in the process!

*P.S. NOOOOOO My kids have never seen even a nanosecond of this show! We shoed them their inspiration character photos and they know about the TV show of "yucky zombies for grownups only and even then it's still gross" that films all around us, but OBVIOUSLY they are never seen it!*

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More halloween group costume insanity:




1.15.2015

It's Not a Hobby; IT IS WAR

With 3 kids in the house who are basically just industrial strength needing machines, finding time to pass stool without another human touching me is challenging.  Carving out an hour to sew when I have all 3 kids at home with me is downright comedy. One of my Big Mommy Beach Bags should take about an hour to sew. But unless a minimum of 66% of my offspring are unconscious, it takes about 3 hours--and years off my life--to get it done.

It can get frustrating. And I tend to end up angry. Not so much angry at the kids, because for the most part the interruptions are simply kids being kids; needing attention, a diaper, help, a mammary, a cage match referee. Just angry because my desire to stay seated at my sewing machine and work for longer than 3 minutes at a time feels like it is constantly being thwarted. 

A crash from the kitchen: He scaled the pantry shelves and pulled an entire Fruity Pebbles box's worth of cereal on top of him and all over a basket of clean laundry. PAR-TAY!


They have neediness radars that are tuned to sense any productivity hormone my brain emits and to instantly react with full force to stop it in its tracks. I swear, they can and do entertain themselves happily for long periods, but for some reason when I have something I really enjoy doing, they can't survive 45 seconds without my requiring my undivided attention and my two able hands.


Jesse came up with a new definition for anger recently: he says anger is often just blocked goals. 

It seems to fit:

Cut me off in traffic? I'm angry because you blocked my goal of not having my life endangered and/or personal space stolen. 

Internet acting schizo at work? I'm angry because it's blocking my goal of disseminating my delectable spreadsheets throughout the company.

Somebody talking bad about me? I'm angry because it blocks my goal of having healthy relationships and not getting my feelings hurt.

It's a really useful exercise for me when I feel the anger monster just taking over. Instead of seeing anger as this 3rd party outside phenomenon that I have as little control over as I do the weather, I can break it down a little and better figure out what's going on: What goal do I have right now that feels like it's being blocked? Often times it give some self awareness that my goals might need adjusting (I just want to sleep until 10 am on a work day! I expect the three children to behave in the grocery store when they are hungry and have been trapped inside all day! Jesse obviously needs to read my mind!)

This new perspective also reminded me of the kids' eternal interruptions of any private creative time that I try to take lately. When it comes to blocking this particular goal, my youngins are basically at Dikembe Mutumbo levels against me. (Fun fact: I once found myself with Dikembe in the cough/cold aisle at a CVS in 2002).

I sit down and start threading my machine: in comes Layla reporting a milk spill:


I pull out all my fabrics and get ready to cut them to start on existing orders: Noa wakes herself up from what should have been a nice long nap with an explosive poop:


I take two squares of fabric, place them perfectly under my needle and lower my foot upon the pedal. Judah bursts in needing me to beat a level for him on Lego: Star Wars.


Next thing I know, 2 hours have passed and I have sewn maybe 7 stitches, gotten up 34 times and have rage-tangled my machine at least twice.

When I applied the new blocked-goals to this common source of anger and frustration in my life--and then immediately thought of Dikembe--I starting thinking of sewing not as an activity that the kids ruined, but as a goal temporarily blocked.

Dikembe blocked shots better than anyone, but opposing players scored on him plenty of time. They just had to work around him.

As such, I decided to stop thinking of sewing as a hobby of mine, but have chosen to look at it as a competitive sport. My kids aren't ruining things; they're just playing defense.

Productivity? Think again, Mommy.


Getting angry about someone ruining my plans makes me bitter and teeth-gnashy, but being in competition with someone: well that's my JAM. 

It's now a contest for me: how can I prepare, react and deflect so that I win by being able to get things done AND keep the kids reasonably happy healthy at the same time. (Spoiler alert: they win too because I stop treating them like temporary inconveniences or bite-sized stressors).

Layla comes in, bored with the show I let her watch on Netflix after 6 minutes? BOOM I parry that attack with a new little art project from the $1 section of Target. Noa isn't happy unless I am holding her? BANG! I pick and roll that baby into the Ergo. Judah comes in saying he's hungry when he's just had a snack and dinner is an hour away? KAH-BLOOWIE! I tell him I bet I can finish sewing this scarf before he can pick up all his toys. The Force (of competition) is strong in this one and he loves a chance to win.

Nothing fundamentally changes except for my attitude. I never got pouty and bitter on the volleyball court when opposing teams tried to do their thing. Because, duh, I expected some resistance and adjusted so that I could accomplish my goal (#Winning). My kids aren't against me, but often the flow of their little lives just naturally throws resistance into my perfect idea of a day. Instead of meeting that resistance with a spoiled little tantrum that leaves us all feeling unfulfilled, I am committing to just adapt my strategy and make it a game where I expect to have my productivity momentarily opposed, but still try to score as much sewing time as I can.

Dragon-mommy is mean to kids, gets nothing done and is a stressed out mess puddle by the time Jesse arrives home:
NOT IN MY HOUSE!





1.13.2015

Is It Working Yet? (Doesn't feel like it)

I went back to our small group for the first time last night. Jesse leads it, and we always have great discussion. I almost never ever want to go (because lazy introvert), but am always glad that I did (because Jesus).

We've been going through Galatians for a whole year (and it's not a long book) and it seems like my takeaway every time is, "Oh crap, am I maybe not a Christian?"

Not because I stop believing or something, but because we often end up circling back to very foundational truths about Jesus and the Gospel and believers and I end up saying "well it doesn't work like that for me."

Soooooo, I'm either sitting here as the one person of all the times whom God's word and promises just don't work for (actually I guess Pharaoh is on the bench with me; spiritually redshirted by God who hardened his heart so that he literally couldn't repent--which always seemed like a pretty unfair deal to me. I'll be sure to ask Jesus about it)...

OR 

Some of my premises about Jesus are wrong*


*I bet to my non Jesus-loving readers you're all like, "I'll say! Yeah they are!" zing. #IllPrayForYou #Heathen #Joking #JesusJuke

Here is what I am working with:

Galatians says (like 28 times in 6 different ways...Paul seems to be fussy about this point) that when you attempt to add anything to the saving power of what Jesus did on the cross, you totally alienate yourself from His Grace. Because His Grace is everything and we need nothing else to be right with God. In the Bible the example was circumcision; Jewish Christians were trying to tell new, non-Jewish Christ followers that after they put their faith in Jesus, they ALSO needed to get circumcised too--for extra holiness. Somehow believing in Jesus wasn't quite enough.

And Paul heard about this and was all, "DROP THE FLINTKNIFE and back away from the foreskin!"

It had been part of religious law that Jews and converts to Judaism be circumcised. There were also a butt-ton of other laws that they had been trying for centuries to follow (really weird-sounding stuff that doesn't make a ton of sense to me: DONT TIE THAT KNOT). Paul said that Christ freed us from the law completely by being the only one who actually ever obeyed it perfectly, and when we try to bring parts of it back (usually the parts the we feel like we've got in the bag already: Lev 18:21 Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek. Well I'm a friggin Saint in that department! Judge me on that category.) we actually put ourselves back under ALL of it and its impossible requirements, and we have instantly failed. 

The application for me isn't so much circumcision (probably not at all, actually), but the gold stars I try to pile on top of the cross: "Yes God came to earth and died by torture for my soul, yadda yadda, but ALSO I am not an alcoholic, I don't cheat on my husband, I gave $5 to a homeless person today, I have cute kids,  and I have powered up some extra kindness from myself today soooooo, in a way, God is kind of lucky to have me in His club."

NO NO NO. Paul tried to ram this home: there is nothing I can do or that can be outwardly measured: no act, no "try", no inherent awesome, no "well, at least I don't ____,"  in me that can possibly make me one millimeter closer to being clean and or good enough for God. Jesus is the only thing that covered that distance, and He is adamant that the journey be exclusively His. 

All my "look at me I'm a good Christian" trophies are worthless; they add nothing to Christ's gift of grace and any faith I put in them actually puts me back into chains.

PREMISE #1: I need to stop thinking that if I somehow do enough of the right things, I could actually improve upon or add to what Christ has already done for me.

Okay I got that. So I am just letting Jesus be His magic, world-saving self in me. But then Galatians also says that the byproduct of having Jesus in my heart (aka Holy Spirit) is actually something that SHOULD show on the outside.  A Christ-filled heart should produce a life marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness goodness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22)

PREMISE #2: When God's Spirit is alive and active in my heart, there should be outward signs/fruit.

I paint myself into a corner sometimes when I feel like the outward signs just aren't pouring forth from my life.  I figure, well, if they aren't coming on their own, maybe I can force them out by trying to "man-up" in my own power (aka premise #1) to get the byproducts of premise #2. 

This is impossible because the fruit of the Spirit (from how I understand it) should just be a naturally-occurring overflow of the presence of God in me and of my gratitude and devotion to Him. When I try to just summon patience (accio FORBEARANCE! ) because I know it's right or that I "should" have it, I can maybe squirt out ten to twenty minutes of it (and it's never fun or breezy).  But surely something is better than nothing when it comes to fruit?! 

NO. According to Premise #1 I gotta stop trying to make stuff happen in my own power that is outside of Jesus.

And then I just let the natural overflow of my heart make the outward change in me.

Okaaaaaaay, except...what if nothing happens?

PROBLEM: When I stop using my own efforts to squeak out cruddy little examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness goodness, and self-control, ALL semblance of those seems to disappear from my life.

What gives? Where did I go wrong in my theology? Is it me? Am I just terrible?

HYPOTHESIS: I have Holy Spirit antibodies that trigger graft vs. host disease and my donor heart just won't take because my wretched one keeps kicking it out.

But no. I don't really think that outside of the dreary little pity party I throw myself in an attempt to not take responsibility.

"Is this smoothie made from fresh Spirit fruit?" No, fool, it's clearly 100% freak juice.


The problem for me lies in Premise #2. The "alive and active" portion. It's not a puppetmaster situation where as soon as I put my faith in Jesus I instantly became this Bible zombie under the power of the Almighty-pilot and fruity Spirit rays just shoot out of me wherever I may roam. 

No, it's fruit. And the roots and the soil have to be tended. I guess I already know how that is done. I know that means praying more, reading my Bible (which I already struggle with), and just spending time with Jesus. I don't think I am looking for shortcuts there, but--aside from that regiment sounding so cliche--I feel like I have done those things in the past and it doesn't always seem to "work" (that sounds so manipulative-y.)  Does that mean I wasn't really doing those things with the right heart? Because dang, it felt right. 

I want God to draw nearer to me, and I know He promises that very thing if I draw nearer to Him, but what does that really look like? My analytic, not-touchy-feely, ultra-skeptic, cynic brain needs help on getting back there when I am feeling in a rut like this. I need access to that overflowing engine of love and I feel like I am blocking myself. I'm in a port-a-potty at Disneyworld complaining that the place isn't nearly as magical as people said it would be, when I just need help stepping out of the john. (or maybe I just have the secret flu).

QUESTION: What are some practical ways that you've found most fruitful for reigniting your relationship with God? Are there any verses that talk about this stuck-in-between feeling (no longer my power, but not yet feeling His) that you can share? That make YOU overflow?

I'm not just looking for one of those wonderful feelings-full encounters with Jesus (though those ARE awesome). I'm looking for a way back to the kind of life-everlasting and the utterly sufficient grace reservoir that doesn't make me shoot dragon eye daggers at my kids 14 times a day. I know it's a lifetime walk, but I am mature enough in my faith that I need to/should/want to be getting fruitier as time goes by.

I hate feeling like I am just bad at this. Just a stinky worm of a believer (I know, super red-flaggy that I am either considering Jesus lucky to have me or pouting). What gives?!