Thursday, August 29, 2013


Me: "Monkey, if you could be anything in the world, what would you be?" (I meant as a profession, but decided not to clarify.)

Monkey: "Me. I just want to be me."

I love this boy's confidence. Maybe I DO get something right every once in a while.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Day

At our house, we like to play a little game called "High-Low." It's a pretty simple game--we simply go around the table (or around the room, if it's not dinner time) and tell our high and low for the day. I'm sure many of you do the same thing, or something similar. It's a good way to get people talking about what's going on in life.

So today, on the first day of school, I am going to tell you all about my highs and lows...

High: Everyone got up and ready with no complaining! We had a delicious breakfast (waffles, at the kids' request, and scones that my mom made), got the bookbags loaded up, and had plenty of time for pictures. Nana & Papa (my parents) and Gram (my mother-in-law) came to see the kiddos off, too.


Low: My babies got swallowed up by a big yellow monster. Two of them, actually.


High: Everyone got through the morning tear-free, including Mommy (mostly).


Low: When I got back in the house and tried to upload the many, many pictures I had taken, I found out that my memory card was dislodged. I didn't get ONE.SINGLE.PICTURE. :-(


High: At least the grandparents had some photos. I have the photos from Gram already (which is why I have some of the morning shots) and am looking forward to getting the shots from my parents as well.


High: I got to spend some quality time with two wonderful friends. :-)

High: More work is getting done on my basement! Yay! The painting should be done tomorrow, furniture will be arriving soon, and carpet will be ordered on Thursday.


Low: First day of school = first call from the school nurse. She is a lovely person. Last year we talked a LOT because of Monkey's headaches. Today, though, his head was fine--this time she called because he had fallen off the monkey bars and landed on his shoulder. She was calling to tell me to keep an eye on his collarbone, because his range of motion was definitely affected. Fortunately, I could hear him in the background, and he didn't sound upset.


High: Everyone came home happy! :-)

High: After-school snack...

Funny: A direct quote from Roo's teacher (in a note she sent home): "He certainly is curious!"


High: I shamelessly made the kids redo the morning's photo shoot, which is why we have so many good photos here. :-)


Low: Monkey's arm was still hurting when he got home. He could lift it to the side, but not in front of himself. Oddly enough, though, it didn't seem to be bothering him when he was playing--not even when he reenacted the event that led to his injury. ;-)

High: By the time bedtime prayers came around, Monkey and I had a talk about the cost of medical care and dramatizing an injury just so one can get an x-ray. And then he realized that, whaddayaknow, his arm didn't hurt anymore.


 Low: As the kids were heading up to bed, Lamb tripped on a dog toy and went down crying. This led to some major overly-tired-and-already-dramatic 8-year-old drama. She started off with, "Life is just so hard when you're in school!" and moved to "Sometimes I just feel like parents don't understand" and then she sobbed, "Today just wasn't very exciting!!!!!" Oh for the love. I think it's time for bed.

High: Everyone is sound asleep, and I am thankful for my kids, their schools & teachers, and the opportunities they have before them. Lunches are packed, kitchen is clean, and now I can relax. And tomorrow I get to hang out with my Roo! :-)


Thanks for joining us on our first day of school. See you soon!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

(Almost) Anything

(If you haven't already, it might be helpful to read yesterday's post before you start in on this one...)

I probably should have seen this coming. Last fall I road tripped (Yep, it's a verb now. I just declared it so. Take that, grammar.) for a weekend with a friend, and as two women are likely to do when they have hours together and no children to interrupt, we talked. A lot.

In the course of conversation, the book Anything by Jennie Allen came up. My friend had read it, but I had never heard of it. By the end of the weekend, her copy of the book was in my bag.

I have to admit, it sat for a few weeks untouched. But then I was listening to Family Life Today (my favorite radio program), and they were interviewing none other than Miss Jennie Allen herself about her latest book, Anything. As I listened to her, I could feel God tugging at my heart. I wanted to be able to pray the same thing she had prayed, that I would give God anything in my life that He wanted.

But I didn't want it enough. I listened to Jennie and I started reading the book, and everything in it resonated in my heart. And I felt God calling me to make some small sacrifices, so small that I am too embarrassed to even type them out here... because I wouldn't do it. I wanted to convince myself--and God--that I would be willing to give Him anything, and I was already saying "no" in the small things.

I justified it by saying, "Well, that's just silly. I don't need to give up that. There's no reason for it. If it were something important, I would do it." But come on, that's like saying, "It's silly for me to practice playing basketball. We're not even in a real game! The baskets don't count for anything! I'll shoot the ball when we're playing an actual game--I'm sure I'll make it through the hoop, no problem." Not likely.

And since I knew I was in the wrong, I did what any reasonable person would do. I stopped reading the book. If I couldn't convince myself that I was in the right, then maybe I could just stop thinking about it. That seems like a logical conclusion, right?

That was MONTHS ago. Close to a YEAR ago, as a matter of fact. And in a lot of ways, I actually had forgotten about that whole inner turmoil. But the sense of longing, of looking for something more, has been there. And maybe that strange mix of a desire for and avoidance of a deeper relationship is the source of my discontent.

So a week or so ago, I picked it back up. And it still hits me right between the eyes. Again I felt myself pushed to step out of my comfort zone. This time I was determined not to shove it away.

So do you know what I did? I kept reading the book... but quit reading my Bible. I found a new way to avoid God. I didn't even realize I had done it at first, but that's exactly the pattern I have been following. I will read one or the other, but not both. It's too convicting.

And now here I am, trying to get down to the heart of the matter. And I know that it is time to stop avoiding, time to stop refusing, time to stop pretending that I don't hear God's voice. I don't want to feel this constant discontent. I don't want to wonder what could be in store for me, if only I would let go.

So I'm not sure if I've really said much today, except that this is step 1 for me. I will be spending time daily in God's Word. I will be poring over His book and this other book that He has laid on my heart. And I will be back to share what I am learning.

What are you reading that is inspiring you right now? Is it exciting? Scary? A little of both?

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Heart of the Matter, part 1

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you won't be surprised to read that I have been having some emotional struggles lately. It's nothing new--ever since I battled with post-partum after Monkey was born, depression has been a bit of a back seat driver in my life, always hanging around, looking for opportunities to butt in where he doesn't belong. Especially on an, er, shall we say... monthly basis. I have truly come to view it as a biblical thorn in my side (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), something that reminds me to rely on Christ and not on my own strength. In some ways I have become thankful for the growth opportunities it has provided.

But I digress.

The frustrating thing about depression is that it can make all of my emotions a little bit muddy. I have to really work to sort out what is true and what is getting mixed in with my thorn. Let's say, just for example, that Mr. Fantastic and I were to possibly... oh, let's say... disagree about the furniture for the basement. Not that that would ever happen. (It totally happened.) And then let's say I got upset enough to cry about it, which is of course totally ridiculous. (And also completely true.) I would, in a situation like that, have to do some real soul-searching and ask myself, "Does Mr. Fantastic have unrealistic expectations and/or is he expressing his feelings inappropriately? Do *I* have unrealistic expectations and/or am I expressing my feelings inappropriately? Do I feel THIS strongly about the basement furniture? Is there a deeper issue in my marriage that is coming to the surface here? OR... am I just feeling a little bit extra-sensitive and overly-emotional today? Would this conversation be going differently if we had it 3 days from now?" (The answers were: no, not until I started crying, no, no, yes, and ABSOLUTELY.)

Which brings me back to today. Well, not just today. For the past couple of weeks or so, I have been wrestling with some emotions. Normally, as in the example above, it takes me anywhere from a few minutes to a day to be able to sort out the root cause of my emotions--whether they are "true" or just being seen through my depression filter (or a little bit of both, which is often the case). In this case, though, it really has been weeks of sorting through and digging down and finding what is at the heart of the matter.

And then it hit me: It is discontentment. I am not content. I am going through my days wishing things were different. I find myself being sad or angry over everything from changes at our church to school decisions to wanting different dishes. EVERYTHING. This thread of discontent has woven itself into just about every area of my life.

But just like the furniture situation, it seemed important to look a little closer. How likely is it that I am actually unhappy with every area of life? Possible, but not likely. So where is this coming from?

That's where I am now, folks. If you were looking for an insightful, lightbulb moment... well, so am I. I haven't had it yet. I do feel like recognizing the discontentment--and realizing that there is likely one root issue (or maybe 2) that are really the foundation--has helped me to take a few deep breaths and let go of some things. But as silly as it sounds (Shouldn't I KNOW what's bothering me?), I just can't quite pinpoint those root causes.

And then I remembered something that I heard from a pastor somewhere along the way... Satan is the great deceiver, and often that means he doesn't tell us an outright lie--he takes something good and twists it. Sex, for example, is a beautiful gift from God, but Satan has twisted it and convinced us to use it in ways it was not intended--ways that leave us empty and guilty and with all kinds of consequences. And look at guilt--it is actually intended to serve a good purpose, to bring to our attention when we have done something wrong and help us to change; Satan, however, loads us up with false guilt over things that have already been forgiven--or things over which we don't need to feel guilt at all.

So what if this discontent is Satan twisting something inside of me that is actually from God? What if God is trying to lay something on my heart--a new challenge, a step He wants me to take, a new leading in ministry or parenting or even my marriage--and I have allowed Satan to take that desire for the next step and twist it into a desire for more of... everything?

I feel like there is truth to this. I feel like it needs to be studied and prayed over. I picture myself with a huge knot of yarn, slowly inching my fingers along, trying to untangle it all. Somewhere in there is the truth.

I called this post "part 1" because I am just on the beginning of this journey, and I am inviting you to come along. Tomorrow's post might be titled "part 2" or it might be something totally different. I have no idea where I am heading. This is a whole new kind of transparency for me--the kind where I don't know the outcome. Are you ready for this trip? I know I'm not. ;-)

By the way, you might want to grab your Bible and a copy of Jennie Allen's book Anything. I think they're going to be key components...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stop trying so hard, Mom

It hit me over the weekend: TWO WEEKS left until the start of the school year. TWO WEEKS until I put my babies (all three of them) on a bus. Don't get me wrong, there are some definite perks to that. But OH.MY.HEART I am going to miss them.

So I put together a list of the things I still want to do (or want to do again) with them before the end of the summer. I wanted to capture every memory I could, plan as many fun things as I could. The List is longer than the 14 days into which it needed to fit, but at least it gave us options. And here is how it has gone so far:
Day 1 - Finish school shopping

Day 2 - Go to the park (Scratch that, since my kiddos couldn't keep their ever-loving minds for 20 minutes in the grocery store) Play at home, do crafts, and be outside

Day 3 - Go to the zoo with our BFFs

Day 4 - Me: "What do you guys want to do today? Go to the park? Have friends over? Go swimming?"
Lamb and Monkey: "Mommy, we went to the zoo yesterday. Can't we just stay home and play?"
Absolutely. Good reminder, kids. Not only did we stay home all day, we never even set foot outside. I'm glad we could just relax and hang out, but I was feeling the pressure of The List staring at me from the refrigerator.

Day 5 (today) - Me: "OK, so what are we going to do TODAY? How about the park, since we didn't get to do that on Tuesday?"
Lamb and Monkey: "Oh, Mommy, you are the best mommy EVER! What would we do without you? Of COURSE we want to go to the park! We have been DYING to go to the park! Thank you for knowing exactly what we want before we even say it!" Nope, that's not what happened. This is...
"PLEASE can't we just stay home, Mommy? We really just want to play at home and make something with the Easy-Bake Oven. We can go do something fun tomorrow if you really want to."

So you know what? I'm throwing The List away. (It had a pretty creepy stare anyway.) I don't need to fill every last minute of our summer with "fun." I need to let them HAVE FUN. And from the sounds I hear behind me, they are doing that just fine, piled on our couch.

(But we are definitely going outside today. Or at least I am. Mama needs some sunshine.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On Being a Good Parent

Don't you hate it when being a good parent interferes with being a fun parent?

Two weeks from today, I will be putting ALL THREE of my kids on a bus. Gah, it chokes me up just to think about it. Between being gone for a few weeks and dealing with the basement upon our return, we haven't had much time for our "typical" summer fun. Enter "Fun Mom." Fun Mom wants to squeeze in as much excitement as possible into the next two weeks. She wants to fill--and possibly overfill--every single day with fun and memories. She also wants a good night's sleep, but realizes that is just wishful thinking.

Yesterday, I had to put Fun Mom on hold for just a taaaaaaaad bit longer. We had some "must do's" on the list, and we got those all out of the way--and still managed to have a pretty good day--so that today we could jump right in on the fun!

Well, maybe not RIGHT in. I did need to go grocery shopping first. But while the kids got ready, I planned out our meals and our grocery list. Then I skimmed through my many ideas of fun things to do and selected the perfect one for our crew for today. I even told them that they could get a Lunchable at the grocery store for a picnic lunch. (This is a major concession. I typically allow this on the first day of school and for field trips. I'm not a fan of Lunchables.)

We arrived at the grocery store, and before entering we went over the rules for appropriate behavior. And the consequence for not behaving appropriately (cancelling our plans). By the time we were halfway through the produce section, I had to remind them gently about their behavior. Overall, they really weren't being bad, but by the time we got to the check-out, I had given them THREE more reminders. That's much more than I typically would, but again... their behavior wasn't bad, just... a little wilder than I expect them to be in that setting. Plus I really wanted to go to the park today. But finally, I had to give them "the final warning" as we put the items on the check-out belt. "This is it, guys. If we have to talk again, we won't be going anywhere today."

And then it happened again.

I really wanted to go to the park.

A lot.

But I had already said it. And honestly, I shouldn't have let it get to that point. And to tell you the truth, it wasn't even the behavior itself that was the problem. It was the complete lack of remorse or change in behavior that had come from the previous warnings. They weren't taking me seriously--they weren't even hearing me.

So we're not at the park. We're at home.

And don't get me wrong. I'm not locking them in their rooms for the day. I haven't taken away all of their toys (or books, in Lamb's case) and told them they're only staring at the walls and eating broccoli until bedtime. We're going to have fun. At home.

But we're not going to the park.

Even now, I don't want to follow through. I want to say, "Let's just extend some grace. They'll appreciate what I'm doing for them!" And there's a time for grace. And there's a time for doing what you say you're going to do.

Today is the day I have to stick to my guns.


(But tomorrow we're going to the zoo.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Leading by example

"Do you know why I asked you to read that?"

I was met with silence, as they contemplated whether they should say what they were really thinking.

You see, so far this morning hadn't been going well. It all started with a marital spat over chores. Once my hubby left for work, I thought I had settled it all--prayed for God to change my heart, resolved to handle the situation with humility and grace instead of spite and defensiveness (my default responses). I took a deep breath and got ready for the rest of the day. Or so I thought.

But things didn't magically turn around from there. I got overwhelmed by housework. I realized that my big kids had never emptied yesterday's camp bags of dirty towels, bathing suits, etc, and the bags were a soggy mess. I was also trying to get myself and Roo ready for a meeting we have this afternoon with medical students. (More on that in a future post.) Stress and tension began to rule the morning.

And then at breakfast, I was multitasking, unloading the dishwasher in between whipping up bowls of oatmeal and Cheerios. And I turned around and saw that Roo had dumped his oatmeal bowl ALL.OVER.HIMSELF.

And I lost it.

I yelled, I stomped, I may even have growled. I'm not sure. It's a little foggy exactly what happened in that moment. But I wasn't happy, and EVERYONE knew it.

For the rest of the morning the kids walked on eggshells, but it wasn't enough. I yelled at them for not getting ready fast enough, for not picking up their dirty laundry, for losing sunscreen, even for asking to go to the bathroom ("Just GO already! For goodness sake!"). It really wasn't one of my better moments.

And finally, we were in the van, and I think the big kids were as much looking forward to a break from me as they were to spending another day at camp.

I took a deep breath, and asked Lamb if I could borrow her Bible. I opened it to I Corinthians 13, and asked her to read the first 8 verses.

Suppose I speak in the languages of human beings and of angels. If I don’t have love, I am only a loud gong or a noisy cymbal. Suppose I have the gift of prophecy. Suppose I can understand all the secret things of God and know everything about him. And suppose I have enough faith to move mountains. If I don’t have love, I am nothing at all. Suppose I give everything I have to poor people. And suppose I give my body to be burned. If I don’t have love, I get nothing at all.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs.

Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up.

Love never fails.

"Do you know why I asked you to read that?"

After the initial uncomfortable silence, Lamb spoke up, "Because you were kind of grumpy this morning?"

That's an understatement. "Was I patient and kind this morning?"

They shook their heads.

"Did I get angry easily?"

They nodded.

"I didn't do a very good job of showing you love, did I?"

Let's just say they agreed with my assessment. And that's not even mentioning the other things I did in my mind and heart that they didn't directly witness. Pretty much every phrase in that passage hit home.

"What should I do now?"

So I got the answer to my prayer from earlier that morning... I was quite humbled. I told the kids that I needed to ask forgiveness from them and from God. I apologized and asked them all--even Roo--to forgive me for the way I behaved. Then they listened as I prayed and asked God to forgive my words and actions, and most importantly, the attitude of my heart. I admitted that I didn't have the strength to be all of the things that love is, and asked Him to be my strength.

Hopefully as they grow up, it's the second example that I set that they'll remember, not the first.

Thank you, God, for humbling me. Thank you for your forgiveness and your grace. I'll probably need them again later today... and again after that... and again after that... and, well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Repost: Would you?

Last week, God laid this post on my heart. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and finally had to dig it up and read it again. (As if I weren't the one who wrote it in the first place!) I found that it has become meaningful all over again, so I want to share it with you... again. I love this post because it isn't REALLY about Down syndrome. It is REALLY about trust. Do you trust that whatever circumstances God has brought into your life, He will use for good? Do you trust Him enough to say "It's worth it"? Do you trust Him so completely that you wouldn't go back and change it, even if you could?

When you have a child with special needs, one question comes up over and over again: "If you could take it away, would you?" Sometimes it is asked directly to us, sometimes we talk about it with other parents like us, sometimes we hear it thrown out for discussion, sometimes we read it between the lines of conversation, sometimes we ask it of ourselves.

I'll be honest... I have always thought it was a ridiculous question. Why wouldn't I? Given the (hypothetical) choice to keep Roo as he is, with all of the struggles and trials that it entails; or to "wave my magic wand" and erase that extra chromosome, and have a 2-year-old who is walking (well) and talking (more) and who won't need a whole team of therapists and consultants and an IEP just to learn the basics... How could I not? It's not a question of loving him more or less, it's a question of wanting the best for him. Wouldn't everyone make that choice?

But it turns out, the answer isn't that simple. After a recent segment on "The Today Show" in which a couple had the new MaterniT21 Plus test (which tests for Down syndrome and two other chromosomal abnormalities), the blogosphere ignited with discussions of how "The Today Show" (which I do not watch, and I didn't even know about this segment until after the fact) handled the story and whether it is truly "good news" as Matt Lauer said that the baby does not have Down's--that it's good that this little one is not like my Roo. And what I read has given me pause: a surprising number of moms who say they would not change their child's special needs, even if they had the chance.

Why? Why wouldn't you make life easier for your child, and yourself?

 It's been over two weeks since the segment and the resulting blog posts and articles, and this question has stuck with me. I have been holding onto it, like a boy with a precious rock in his pocket, caressing it secretly when I am talking to others, taking it out to examine it when I am alone, carrying it with me at all times. Would I change it if I could? If not, why not?

And then I remembered an interview I heard a year or so ago with a man named Nick Vujicic. Nick was born without arms or legs, and he has devoted his life to serving the Lord. During the interview, Nick said that God could have healed him. Nick could have woken up one morning to find his body whole, with ten fingers and ten toes, and been able to run and jump and do all of the things that other kids do. And then he said that he could have gone to Heaven and thanked God for healing him and for giving him the chance to ride bikes and go swimming and all of that, and God would have said, "I'm glad you enjoyed it. You know, though, if you had just trusted Me and My plan, there would have been THOUSANDS more people here in Heaven today." Thousands. That's how many people he has reached because of his disability. But you know what? What if it was just one? What if God said, "If you had trusted Me, THAT PERSON right there would have been in Heaven today"? It would still be worth it.

In Roo's short little life so far, he is already making a difference. He is touching hearts. He is connecting us to people we never would have known. He is growing our faith. And I know that God will use him to change lives. And if God took away his Down syndrome, it would make some things in life easier. But it's not that simple. Because of Roo and his extra chromosome, people might come to know of God's love and goodness. More people might be standing in Heaven one day, because of him, because of how God uses him. I wouldn't take that away for anything.

There are parts of me, selfish parts, that hurt to put this in writing. But honestly, I feel like my eyes have been opened. Not only does God have a plan, but God has a PERFECT plan. His plan is for Roo to have Down syndrome and to use that for His glory. And that is perfect. And it is good. And it is better than any plan I could have come up with.

And I wouldn't change it, even if I could.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Story

Ever since a friend clued me in to Five Minute Fridays over on LisaJo Baker's blog (MONTHS ago), I've been wanting to participate. I forgot about the day of the week (the passage of time seems somewhat arbitrary over the summer) when I posted earlier this morning; so excuse the double-post today, but I really want to participate in this darn thing! So here we go...



Every time that I think I have my story figured out, it changes. Growing up, adoption was my story. I was the adopted girl. Not in a bad way--I kind of liked it, if truth be told. (OK, I liked it a lot.) As I got older, I pursued my biological roots, and that took on a life of its own. And I just "knew" that would be my story to share with the world.

After I got married, infertility became a new twist in my story. Waiting and waiting for those two lines to appear on the stick, wondering if it was ever going to happen. And I thought maybe this would be my chance to bring my adoption full circle, if my hubby and I would now adopt our own children rather than having them biologically.

And then, I got pregnant. And motherhood changed my story all over again. I felt like I lost my identity as a mom, I got swallowed up in diapers and nap times and laundry and all of the many things moms do every day. And when I had my second baby and experienced post-partum depression, that lost feeling took a dark turn. I struggled to keep my head above water, I had to find an identity apart from my children.

That's when I realized the true core of my entire story: My identity. Through my adoption, my marriage, my worries about whether or not I would be a mom, and then losing myself in motherhood, one thing remained constant: who I am in Christ. I needed that anchor to keep the winds of life from tossing me around.

And just when I was really able to grab hold of that--and thought that my life story was really figured out and settled... I had Roo, my baby with Down syndrome. And I felt lost at sea again.

This time, I spent months wandering, lost in depression and anger. I couldn't figure out why God made this a part of my story, of my baby's story.

But you know what? It's still the same theme. Because I am a unique creation in Christ, created for a unique purpose... and so is my baby. He has been created to be something that no one else is, to do something that no one else can do. He was created exactly the way God intended him to be. He has an identity in Christ. A pretty awesome one.


A Case of Mistaken Identity

"How old is he?"

I get this question a lot... as do most parents. I constantly have to remind myself that it's just a normal way to start a conversation with a mom. But I still feel like the answer requires an explanation. "He's 3," I begin, but knowing that he doesn't look or act like a typical 3-year-old, I always feel like I should say more. This time, though, I just leave it at that.

It's the 4th of July, and we are in the middle of the KidZone at Fair St. Louis. Monkey is waiting in line for his oh-so-stellar face painting job, and Mr. Fantastic is waiting with him. Lamb, Roo, and I are enjoying some music. For a brief moment, it seemed like a good idea to let Roo out of the stroller, and he is dancing up a storm.

"He's a cutie."

"Thank you. He's a lot of fun."

"Yeah............ it's been six times for me."

OK, now I'm confused. Six times for what? Wait a second... does this guy have SIX kids with Down's? How is that possible? How many are biological? Where are they? Wait... what?

"He's worth it, though."

My mind is reeling. What is he talking about?

"So don't give up, 'cause he sure won't." And then he walked away.

And that's when it hit me. He thought Roo had cancer. This guy has had CANCER six times. He came to encourage me, to give me hope for my little, bald boy.

I didn't know what to do. It seemed odd to chase a stranger down to say, "Thanks, but he doesn't have cancer." I decided that it probably did his heart good to pass along encouragement to someone else. I'm glad we could help him in that.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Throw in one flooded basement, one long ride home, and we are back in the great state of Ohio (via Colorado), sitting in a mall food court. (Stop hating on my glamorous life.)

A lady at the next table keeps glancing up and smiling at my kids. I notice but don't pay too much attention. Roo is, after all, a total rock star with fans everywhere we go. After a few minutes, she finishes her lunch and leaves.

And then I feel a hand on my shoulder. It's her. "Are these your children?"

"They are," I say proudly. (Proudly because they are all sitting in their chairs, no one is crying, and they are eating like actual human beings, not puppies, as one or more of them is likely to do at any given moment.)

"They are so sweet," she tells me. Yes, they are. For now. But she has something else on her mind. "You... your family... you remind me of my son and daughter-in-law..." She chokes up. I immediately determine that she must mean that they have--or had, since she is teary--a child with Down's, and I smile kindly. She grabs my hand and says, "You guys are heroes." And as she walks quickly away, I realize that she has put money in my palm. Money. About enough to cover the kids' lunches.

And I realize that is has happened again. She thought Roo was showing the signs of chemo. And again, I'm left with the dilemma of the mistaken identity. Do I chase her down and give her the money back? Do I explain that "he's bald because his hair fell out", as my brother would say? I feel like that would be disrespectful to her, to whatever memory brought tears to her eyes as she spoke.

So I keep the money. And I decide that I will use it to pass kindness on to someone else.

It is a strange honor, this glimpse into people's hearts. They are entrusting me with a struggle, a vulnerability in their lives, a chink in their armor, under the premise of a common bond. And though it is built upon a mistake, a bond is in fact forged. I pray for these people, I am humbled by their gestures, and I will treat their stories with dignity.

Thank you for your encouragement, for your willingness to bridge the gap between us and share a piece of your heart. I hope that it brought as much comfort to you as it has to me.