On Tooth Pirates, and Why You Have Permission to Write Your Own Story

Funny thing about life I’ve observed lately. At least about mine. A lot of the things that I love and cherish about my life’s story happened when I decided to go against the grain. The times when “normal” meant one thing, but my path looked different. Taking the route that sometimes felt more difficult often brought about results I’m really grateful for.

Like when normal was I just finished my Masters’ degree, it’s time to start applying for ‘real jobs’ that have something to do with what I spent five years at university for, my path was to work for a year at a Pawn Shop and then leave the country.

When normal was you’ve been awarded a scholarship for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, my path was I’m a new Mom and I think we’re about to leave the country (again) so, after a year of pushing at this thing, I think I’m supposed to set it down and move on.



When normal was your almost-five-year-old is ready for public school, our story was get your boots on, Mama, you’ve got some homeschooling to prepare for.

Considering this, I look back and wonder how many times I sort of unquestioningly went with the flow instead of stopping to ask — is this the path for me?

About six weeks ago, a tiny little wiggle threw me into some deep parenting thoughts that relate to the topic at hand. Our six-year-old’s first wiggly tooth — a milestone he’d long awaited — signaled we were entering a bit of a new zone. I wasn’t planning on crying or keeping all his tiny teeth in some tin can to return to him at some suitably embarrassing moment. But I suddenly realized this meant we were about to enter the arena of The Tooth Fairy.

I wasn’t so pumped about that idea.

Here’s the thing.

First, I almost never have cash in my wallet. If teeth start dropping, that’s a real inconvenience. Second, I will soon have four children in my care. Do I really like the idea of putting money under a pillow for every. single. tooth. from. every. single. kid? And closely related to that thought — are we going to end up being the cheap parents? Is he going to chat with his buds on the playground and discover they’re all getting a fiver and he’s getting fifty cents?

And one more problem. He is on a top bunk with a little brother below him who is a light sleeper. Does this mean I will have to sneak into their room 28 times? In the dark? To try to find a tooth under a pillow?

What if I want him to get matchbox car or a chocolate treat instead of this being a financial transaction?

Plus, we once visited this village in southern England and there were fairies all over the place, in every store window throughout the town, and it was clear that it was like, a thing. Like, a religious thing. Something about that made me very itchy, so forgive me if I offend you, but I’m not a big fan of fairies.

I realized I needed a different story.

So I did what I usually do with ideas. I pondered it in my mind for about six weeks, thinking I better get to working on some kind of tooth fairy alternative. I procrastinated it until the tooth that wiggled and wobbled and jiggled and joggled for ages actually fell out — wowzers, I really had time to write a novel. And then the tooth was out and I said, “Heck! I need to do something!”

So I scooted off to sign some paperwork in town and cruised through the Piggly Wiggly on the way home. (Yes, that is also a thing, right here in Eastern North Carolina.) I picked up a bag of gummy worms and buried my face in my laptop as soon as I got home.


The results were a ballad of about 16 stanzas, introducing The Tale of the Wee Tooth Pirates. I won’t beladen you with its entirety, but here are a few stanzas to give you a good feel of it:

“In some landlubber neighborhoods
not too far from lake or from sea,
there travel a band of captains–
just as ruthless as they are wee.

These sea dogs shove off for one reason.
Lean closer, I’ll tell ya the truth.
Their Jolly Roger flies for this mission:
Collecting a freshly lost tooth.

The Pirates will come while yer sleeping,
to make peace with yer Mum or yer Dad,
and they’ll discuss the terms for surrender,
a good trade for the tooth that you had.

Negotiations can go on for hours;
it depends on the worth of the tooth.
They might offer coins or chocolate,
stickers, or a wee pile of loot.

I introduced a few ideas, like a Piratey Tooth Report Card, putting the tooth in a shoe by the fireplace instead of under the pillow (since the Pirates are too small to reach the bed) and remembering to brush since A tooth with a bucket of cavities sure won’t earn a bucket of loot!

Before bed on the night of the Lost Tooth, we read the story (which I printed out and glued into a folded slice of a cereal box to make it a “book”) and I was immediately overjoyed to hear the Bear hoping for a box of crayons or something other than dollar bills.

He was overjoyed the next morning when the Pirates traded ten points on his bike chart (he’s earning a new bike this summer) and a bag of gummy worms for his tiny tooth.


And I was overjoyed because Hero Hubs and I decided to write our own story, instead of falling into one that we didn’t really like, just because it was what everybody does. HH totally got into it and instead of the little Pirate report card I designed and planned to print out and fill in, he pulled a little piece of wood out of his stash in the shed, and I scribbled on it and he burned the edges.

We won’t do that every time, in case you’re wondering. Some Pirate report cards may be scribbled on the inside of a cereal box, kind of like their story. Different Pirates, different methods of delivery, right?

So. This is really the Sermon in a Nutshell, Moms, Dads, and children of all ages: You have permission to write your own story. Don’t forget that. Even though it can sometimes seem like you’re a salmon in a pond full of trout, heading in the wrong direction, you have the brains and the wherewithal to decide that this is the direction you need to go.

For your life. For your marriage. For your children. It is not always going to look how it looks for everyone else — and if it does always look how it does for everybody else, maybe that’s a cause for a alarm. (?!)

Whether it’s as big as a transcontinental adventure or as small as a decision about a Tooth Fairy, remember just letting life happen to you often means you’re not actually making the things that you want to happen happen. Yes, I made happen happen three times in that sentence. Forgive me.

Give yourself permission to mark out your own path, friends. And know that sometimes, that really means dropping anchor and listening closely to the Captain of your soul.




On Motherhood, Big Collie Family News, and Flowers in the Carport

I’m so glad I didn’t miss the moment. He ran in with big eyes and a happy face — Mom, I made something for you! Come see! Sometimes I’m tempted make excuses because I have other things to do, but this time, somehow, thankfully I knew better.

He led me out the door, and into the carport, where he’d created a flower arrangement for me in the wagon. One flower from a beautiful blooming dogwood tree, one azalea, two different camellias, and a wild flower from the yard, thrown in for good measure.

I grab my phone to make sure I capture the moment.


We bring the flowers inside and they float in a bowl and make me smile for a couple of days.

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My eldest, these days, I smile and shake my head when I think of him. I’m so proud of the sweet little young man he is becoming. He cares about making good choices and is genuinely remorseful when he makes mistakes. I marvel as he adds four digit numbers to four digit numbers faster than he can tie his shoes.

I grin from ear to ear reading the creative writing stories he scribbles into his green composition journal. His illustrations are so creative, I just can’t help but smile, breathe a deep sigh and soak it in. We play card games and laugh at how many times one of us has won, and the other hasn’t.

When I stop to think about it, this has been six years of amazing.

The precious little fellow in the middle. A wild card — I never know what to expect. At times he is so tender, so incredibly gentle. We snuggle up in his bed to read two books before his nap every day. Then I tickle his back and sing two songs. Last week he offered to tickle my back and sing me two songs instead. I often make up the songs as I go, so he followed suit, and the results were hilarious.

Sometimes when he wakes up in the morning, his big eyes stare straight through his Dad and me, it’s as if he visited another planet over night and he’s returned, completely speechless. He cracks unexpected jokes and we all laugh.

Four years of my heart just melting over and over, with this little guy.

And the baby girl. We find ourselves saying “This is the best” almost every day. The moment when she’s just woken up, and she hugs one of us with both arms, both legs, her head tucked up under our chins. Or the moment when I’m laying her down for her nap and her voice just coos like a dove, “I wuv hyu, Mama.” I’ve left her room in tears before. Overwhelmed. It’s just so precious.

She is also feisty and cheeky and still so often needs to be reigned in. So full of big emotions in such a tiny frame. It’s impossible to tickle her and watch her giggle and not feel like your own heart is about to burst. She was the gift that arrived four months before I knew I needed her, and has been giving joy by the bucketload to HH and to me ever since.

Two years of delight. Two years of joy with this one.

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The thing about parenthood that has surprised me the most has been the gifts I’ve received in the process. A card that the eldest wrote me, full of kindness, love and thoughtful words, holds a place in my Bible. The hilarious moments the middle one has created with a funny comment or joke, I try to write them down, so that I can go back and enjoy them again. I knew parenthood was going to be about giving. I knew I’d be making sacrifices. I just never realized how incredible the return on investment would be.

Two years ago, we put a hand-me-down “big sister” t-shirt on our four-month-old baby girl as an April Fool’s Day joke. Some folks were congratulatory, some folks joked, and some folks were pretty honest about saying they thought we were crazy.

But parenthood has a way of being a bit like a flower arrangement in the wagon in the carport. You have to get up, go looking for the moments.

Moses was out with the sheep — and he had to turn aside from what he was doing to go see that burning bush. And he didn’t immediately recognize it as holy ground — the voice of God spoke to him, Take off your shoes.

The eldest is reading stories he wrote to his two younger siblings. This is holy ground. 


I’m so thankful to look back at the example of my Mother, who has never stopped laboring, right from the day I was born. Labors of love, one after another, her gifts to me and my siblings. Selfless. Tireless. Continuously generous. Thank you, Mama. This is what it looks like to pour yourself out in love — we are privileged recipients.

Lord, help me love these children like my Mama loved me.

Although we don’t live in the biggest house or drive the nicest cars in town, we feel like we’re about the richest family in our little town, because these three children are ours, and they’re like those flowers in the carport. It takes effort — at times, it’s doggedly hard. But be still, take off your shoes, look carefully and see — there are so many gifts in this journey called parenthood. I could start counting and I’d run out of paper before I ran out of gifts on the list.

Sometimes you have to turn aside to see your gifts, friends. Take off your shoes and see the holy in your every day. There are flowers in your carport too — you might just need to make a little effort to see them.

And around late October? We’re looking forward to an exponential increase in joy. We’ll be unwrapping the gift of one more little person joining our family.

We’re excited, we’re thrilled and we’re not April Foolin’ this time.

Here’s to bucketloads more flowers in our carport.


When Your Six-Year-Old Schools You About Fruits and Roots

There’s this thing about the childlike faith thing that unravels me a little bit — I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because I see my children as just a little wild, just a little spontaneous… just a little too young for me to figure out how faith like a child can get it — the grand and glorious goodness of a humble and holy God.

Does it take wisdom to take Jesus to heart?

Doesn’t it?

For all my sensibilities, I would’ve thought so.

But a little child shall lead them…

An impromptu prompting came to my mind on a homeschooling Monday morning. Our sweet little Tiger Tank safely dropped off at preschool, the Belle beside me crunching a few crumbs at the table, the Bear and I sat down to begin our day, and I laid my big Bible on the table, and turned to Galatians.

Can you read chapter 6, verse 7 for me?

I helped him find the way.

He began: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he reap.”


We talked about the big words in this verse, and then about sowing seeds and reaping harvests. If I sow an apple seed, will an orange tree grow? No. Since the beginning, God created the world so that the seeds we sow will reap a harvest according to the seed. And if someone says I can plant these apple seeds and grow orange trees? They are deceiving me. (Or trying to.) We talked and questioned and talked a bit more.

We’ll be planting our garden soon. And we talked it out: our cucumber seeds will give us cucumber plants. Our tomato seeds will give us tomato plants.

But what other kinds of seeds can we sow?

We looked back at the adjacent page, laid open for the reading, and remembered something we talked about last year: the fruits of the Spirit. We can sow seeds of kindness. If you are kind to your brother, he is likely to be more kind to you. We can sow seeds of gentleness. We can sow seeds of patience, goodness, self-control. 

And can we sow bad seeds? And what happens if we do? What will we reap if we hurt? If we’re mean? Don’t you receive your own discipline if you hurt your brother or sister? These are different seeds that grow different fruits.

He took the concept to heart, and ran with it. It took him a moment to put it into words, but then I was so struck my jaw hung open, hearing his observation:

“The bad roots tangle the good roots and pull the good roots, and they break off the good roots so that they can’t find water.”

I hadn’t even mentioned the word “roots” — or thought about roots yet, for that matter.

Wide-eyed at his observation, wondering about his understanding, I quickly wrote down what he’d said.

Isn’t this true: There is no fruit if there is no root.

And isn’t this a truth about life? For all the good we might be attempting to sow, if we are also sowing bad seeds — we only have this one life, this one garden to plant in — and we can’t think that the one will not affect the other.

If we keep sowing seeds of anger, and we protect that plant, and allow it to flourish instead of pulling it up like the weed that it truly is — won’t that anger affect the rest of our lives? Deep underneath the soil, those roots will strangle the good things trying to take root, find water and grow.

We might find a convenient tomato cage to put around our bitterness, try to keep it to its own little corner of the garden — but those roots will stretch out under the ground in any direction they choose. And they’ll hinder the growth and flourishing of the good seeds we’re sowing. Deep under the soil, things are happening we can’t see and don’t always understand.

We discovered it quickly in our garden last year: it’s hard to grow good things. It’s easy to grow weeds.

garden 2

On the way home from a photo session that evening, the Hubs and I were chatting, and I shared about the Bear’s significant comments on that Bible verse that morning. Then a professional athlete came up in conversation who was once the premier player in his sport. He won and won and won, and changed the face of the sport he represented, and then it all came crashing down when a big bright light was shone on his personal life. A mistress, an affair, infidelity — it seemed like all the world had front row seats to watch his world, falling apart.

And we thought long and observed: the roots were all planted in the same soil. For all the care and discipline and focus and effort he showed in excelling in his sport, still the lack of care and focus and discipline in his personal life meant tangled up roots — the bad seeds he sowed in his personal life produced bad fruit, and the good fruit of his professional life was a casualty when it came time to harvest.

For all our efforts, we are still only human at the best of times. We get angry. We get bitter. We get hurt and we react.

What hope is there for any of us, who will only ever fall short?

Paul wrote about it to the Romans, {see ch. 7} his observation about how he did what he did not want to do, and did not do what he did want to do. Sin dwells in me, he wrote. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

I thank God — through Jesus Christ Our Lord! 

Here is the hope for all of us: Jesus, who died to sin and died for sin, so that we could be freed from sin to live a new life in Him.

Paul continued this theme in chapter 8 with the glorious news:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We know we fall short. We know we sow amiss. But the law is fulfilled for us in Him — for us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Left to our own devices, we will always only ever be a mess. But if we yield our lives to the Spirit of God, Who can dwell in us, and Whose fruit is kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control… there is hope for us still.

We can sow kindness, and reap it. Sow gentleness and receive it in return.

The gardens of our hearts will not likely be weed-free until some glad morning when we’re called to our forever home in Him… but there is hope that even in this life, we can find help to get some weeds out of our hearts, to sow good seeds, and bear good fruit.

The afternoon of our great conversation, there was a marked difference in the Bear’s behavior. He was carefully choosing to say “Yes ma’am.” To listen and immediately do what I’d asked. To be respectful and polite and to share.

You’re being such a thoughtful boy today! I thanked him and praised his efforts.

He quickly replied as if it must’ve been obvious: “I want to sow good seeds.”


Day 17: Who Are You Swimming For?

Hello, how are you, g’day and welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. I hope you enjoy diving in!


An opening of the honesty box at the expense of seeming weird is probably pretty well overdue in this series. You might already think I’m an odd cookie, but perhaps I can help you out and let you know for sure.

Kidding. I guess.

So, a certain little holiday is just around the corner here in North America, which is also celebrated in some other parts of the world. And it is my least favorite holiday, ever. I REALLY don’t enjoy diverting my children’s eyes from all the blood and gore lining the aisles of some of the stores we visit. And on a road trip earlier this month, there were awful, awful images on billboards — bloody, gory, scary people staring right off the road into the car, inviting people to visit some corn field where they could get so scared they might wet their pants.

Fortunately the kiddos were distracted and we kept on truckin’.

In our neighborhood, however, there’s a little tradition of dressing up, the families getting together to share a meal, and the kids walking around the neighborhood together, to collect their beloved candy.

I love love love getting to know my neighbors better and getting to spend time with them so we are totally keen to jump in again this year. Even though it is my least favorite holiday. 

The boys have been chatting about what they’d like to dress up as, pretty much since last year, and they came to the conclusion that they wanted to be the Wild Kratts. {Two brothers, one with blonde hair, one with brown, who travel the world on creature adventures… it is very fitting for our little guys.}

So the Hubs and I finally chatted a bit about costumes last night. And I found myself strangely torn… we’re getting to the weird spot, so bare with me.


As we went to bed last night, I was praying and talking to the Lord about the fact that my children are always asking me for things, and it kind of weighs me down, and I wondered if, since the Lord’s children are always asking Him for things, does it weigh Him down, too? Like, does He ever long for, and desire intimate relationship with His children that is not based on the exchange of goods and services?

And then, thinking about what our children want versus what they need, and the boundaries we set, (but how do we find them?), I asked:

How do I find a balance — world hunger vs. Halloween costumes? How do I practically live this out?

And I realized that one issue was framing a lot of things for me. Maybe it seems weird, but it is what it is, and maybe it’s because I have seen what I’ve seen and been where I’ve been, but when I spend money on non-necessities here, I constantly think about the non-negotiables someone else is missing somewhere else.

So I try my best to live frugally and give generously, but I think there’s an underlying layer of guilt that just frames everything to do with finances. Because we have what we have, and while by American standards it might not seem like much, I know better. I’ve seen.

I asked this question and sat still, and took a breath, and then opened my Bible. I just so happened to come to a passage of Scripture, which was the next one for me to read on my reading plan, that took my breath away with the answer.

In Matthew 26, this woman anoints Jesus with oil from her alabaster jar. The oil in that jar was very costly, like a years’ wages some scholars imagine, and the disciples were indignant about it. “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

But when Jesus was aware of what was going on in their hearts, this was His reply: “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Two very important lessons were contained in this passage for me last night.

First, Jesus explained that We will always have the poor… Now that doesn’t mean we give up on the poor, give up on making a difference with regard to the poverty we see in the world around us. We are specifically instructed to care for the poor, and Jesus went so far as to explain to John, when asked if He was the Messiah, that, among other signs that He was the One (the blind see, the deaf hear…) He mentioned that The poor have the gospel preached to them. Caring for the poor is close to the heart of God.

However, the fact that there are poor people in the world cannot define all of our actions.

Solving the problem of poverty cannot be the cause that gets us out of bed in the morning. Nor can the environment, not can the AIDS epidemic, orphans or politics.

This is where the question comes in: What or Who Are You Swimming For?

A few months ago, I shared a post here about cloth diapering. I’d been at it for well over a year, and, at the core, it was just something I felt convicted to do for the sake of the environment and to be financially thrifty. I felt a tug about it and jumped in.

Shortly after I wrote that post, I got a sense that the Lord was telling me to take a break from cloth diapering. The Hubs also suggested that we take a break.

I didn’t want to take a break. But finally, it seemed clear that that was the Lord’s direction, so I did.

Just a few days later, the Belle came down with an awful stomach bug. While I’ll spare you the details, I will just simply explain that I was very grateful I’d listened to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obeyed God. She was wearing disposables… glory, hallelujah!

This is the second important lesson from Matthew 26: Caring for the poor is a high calling, but following Jesus is a higher calling. Every single conviction that God has ever or will ever place on our hearts has to remain secondary to the call to love and follow Christ. Let’s put it this way:

Every conviction has to have Christ at the Center or it will be elevated above Christ in the end.

I sometimes resist the leading of the Spirit to cling to the comfort of an old conviction.

We’ve come back to Hebrews 12 repeatedly throughout this series, and guess what? this is a very appropriate moment to do so again:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Where do we fix our eyes as we swim the race of our lives?

Only always ever on Jesus.

We might all be surprised to realize that there are things we are clinging to in the Name of Christ, that might actually be distracting us from truly following Christ, listening to His Spirit, and daily submitting to His will.

He has to be the one that we’re swimming for — every cause, every conviction, every care has to come in second. What freedom we can find when we simply fix our eyes on Jesus!!

I’m grateful that this moment has reframed a lot of life for me. How do we decide how best to swim forward with our race?

Thank goodness it’s simple, because I’m not hungry for making things complicated. We keep on looking at Jesus.

Swim well today, friends.




Day 12: This Post is Seriously Not so Serious

A big, smiling welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. I hope you enjoy diving in!


How long has it been since you last danced your little heart out?

Like really, danced it out.

This is a serious question.

Sort of.

You see, we capture imagery at weddings lots and often, and I tend to simultaneously take pictures and study human nature.

And Watson, my dear fellow, I have an observation.

A lot of us take ourselves too seriously.



I know the world is full of different personalities. There are people that instantly shy away when a camera is pointed in their direction. There are people who do their best to put on a smile they might’ve practiced in the mirror. And, there are people who instantly move toward the camera and stick out their tongues.

{The latter are kind of my favorite.}

At weddings, there are people who get out on the dance floor when they know the song and feel certain they’ve got the moves for it. There are the people who only dance if they’re asked (or even dragged) to the dance floor. There are people who take themselves too seriously to dance at all. And, there are the people who will be on the dance floor, every song, all evening long.

{The latter are kind of my favorite… empty dance floors just don’t make for interesting photos.}

I can’t say that I’m out on the dance floor particularly often, seeing as though I need to be capturing imagery of what’s happening there, but I will occasionally photobomb an iPhone shot or two. So I guess I’m somewhere in the middle.

But sometimes I think I… and a lot of my fellow humans… are too stuffed full of our own importance to relax and just enjoy life. We’re stressed because we feel like the work that we do and the things that we accomplish each day are important — and hear me on this one, I’m not saying they’re not.

But here’s what I am saying.

When I have a dance party in the living room with my kids… that’s important, too. It doesn’t earn money or pay bills or help fix a meal or accomplish laundry or get the house one ounce cleaner. (It’s typically the opposite). But the attention and the fun of taking long enough to just search for Mike Tompkins on youtube and find what I can find is important to my children, and that should be a lot more important to me than it is.

We all have a race to swim. We are all on a journey in this world until we breathe our last breath.

But the people who are closest to the end of the line typically seem to have a different perspective on what’s important in life than the rest of us. Their bucket lists usually focus around making memories, choosing joy, and just enjoying whatever each day brings… living life to the fullest.

If I could draw a little line across your screen right now with “I’m buttoned up so tight a good sneeze might make me pop” on one end of the spectrum and “I’d have a dance party right now, in a parking lot, with a ton of strangers, in a polkadot leotard, while half my town watched” at the other end, where do you think you’d fall?” Quite a bit closer to buttoned up?

Is there a small possibility that you’re taking the things that you do each day a little too seriously? I do. Is there the potential that the world will keep turning if you drop a couple of the plates you’re spinning — and do you maybe need to be reminded of that? I do.

It doesn’t have to be dancing in a parking lot — or even in your living room — but what is it that helps you let go, feel humble and human and loosen up and just breathe? (That doesn’t involve drug usage or other actions that the Lord might not be such a big fan of? And is that perhaps a worthwhile question — do you have to have a beer in your hand to relax? Why? I digress!)

Yesterday at his soccer game, the Bear got hit in the tummy with the ball. When he told his coach what happened, his coach gave him some great advice: Shake it off and get back out there.

Sometimes life hurts big time, but our race is still happening. We have to be willing to dive in again, and keep going for it.

When we take ourselves too seriously, just about everything that happens to us, everything we feel we need to get done, everything other people might say about us that hurts or that makes us feel good, everything we do each day… it can all seem like such an overwhelmingly big deal.

But if we remember, in the span of the incredible vastness of eternity, that we are a tiny blip on the timeline, it’s easier to just hold onto the Truth that life is a fleeting and precious gift and we are the grass-like, fleeting, privileged recipients.

So, I have a little challenge for you. A little homework if you will.

When something happens today, as I’m sure it will, that just wasn’t what you wanted to happen, remember your place in the timeline of eternity. You are a tiny speck — but WOW, you are simultaneously so rare, and precious to the God who created it all.

Your assignment for today is to gather the kiddos (if there are any) in the living room, or a friend, or a hubs, or just go for it right by yourself (but don’t go solo because you’re too afraid to let anyone see you) — and just dance. This is an exercise in NOT taking yourself too seriously. Celebrate the gift that is today — your race is happening! Your life is here!

If you aren’t joyful yet, dance until you get there. And when that unpleasant thing happens, can you shake it off?

I’ve included a song below to start off your dance party.

Remember that an incredible, loving, unchanging God is in heaven above. He’s on the throne, He’s sovereign and powerful, and He is gloriously good. Let this Truth help you to shake it off – whatever comes to weigh you down.


Parents — I initially included Taylor Swift’s video to “Shake It Off” with this post, but there is a mild scene of “bootyshaking” in that video, so, wanting to not cause offense, I decided to post a video by Mike Tompkins instead, which my family likes to dance to in the living room, and which does not include “bootyshaking.” (I love the message behind the lyrics in Swift’s song though, so I still think it’s worthwhile checking out. You can read the lyrics here.)




Don’t forget! There are LOTS of other writers doing #31Days this October, too! One of my favorites is my friend Amanda at Seriously. You can find more 31 Days series by visiting write31days.com.

Infant Potty Training {Yes, Really}

Okay, Mamas.

It feels totally weird and funny and a heap of other adjectives to be writing on this topic. I would much rather be writing about the Lord — and perhaps somehow that subject will tie in, as I believe it does with pretty much everything — but I have had a number of questions about this rather unusual subject… So! Let’s dive in with a backstory, shall we? Never hurts to know where you’re coming from before you know where you’re going.

Ugh. What?

Some of you have been reading around here long enough to know that I had the privilege of spending a couple of years living in Hero Hubs’ territory, our beautiful and beloved South Africa. My heart pines for those distant shores… a story for another day. Now, while I was in South Africa, more specifically near Cape Town in Gordon’s Bay, I had the privilege of making some pretty awesome friends. One of those friends was named Lucy.

Lucy had a little girl who was just about the same age as the Bear. These were the days when I still just had one kidlet running around (same for Lucy). Lucy often came over for coffee and we’d go for a walk around the neighborhood and talk about faith and parenting and budgeting and planning and all those wonderful Mom-topics that inevitably make their way into conversation almost every time you speak with another Mom for more than thirty-seven seconds.

So in one of those coffee-and-chat moments, Lucy mentioned that she’d been taking her little one to the potty on a regular basis since she was, like, super-young. This was four years ago, so forgive me for not remembering tons of details. Her little girl was used to the idea of sitting on the potty and going, like before she was a year old. But when winter came to SA, she stopped wanting to go because the toilet seat was cold, and Lucy was trying to decide what to do.

bellepottygraphic Suddenly this lightbulb went off in my brain… something like, Wait!!! You’re telling me there’s another way, besides just doing diapers until your kid is old enough to fight with you and you reward him with M&Ms for six months and eventually he ‘gets it’ and goes? I considered the possibility of working with the Bear some more, but didn’t feel like I knew enough to make any changes, didn’t ask enough questions, promptly allowed life to carry right on, and eventually potty-trained the Bear when he was a respectable bit-less-than-two-and-a-half, because I wanted him to be out of diapers before the Tank steamrolled into our lives and got into them.

Fast forward one country and two kids later. We’re in the States, and expecting the Belle. And I suddenly get the itch to consider cloth diapering again. Because picturing a third kid coming into our lives and filling trash can after trash can with diapers was an idea that was just making me more and more uncomfortable. After doing some research, I connected with another local Mama on Facebook (named Michelle) who was getting rid of a cloth diaper stash. A hop, skip and a jump later Michelle was in my living room, explaining a bit about cloth diapering to me, and mentioning the fact that her diapers were exceptionally clean because she did infant potty training. And wait! Said my brain. I’ve had some thoughts about that before! She shared a little bit more in detail about how she went about with the process of infant potty training, and my brain spun for about thirty minutes afterwards with thoughts like:

  • Wait! It’s actually natural for a child to get used to going when they’re held in a position that relieves their pelvic muscles. This makes a lot of sense. 
  • Hey! That’s what Lucy back in South Africa was talking about.
  • Whoa, wait a minute! What do people who live in poverty and can’t afford disposable diapers do anyway? 
  • Hmmmmmmm. Is this a giant diaper-pilfering conspiracy, spear-headed by people who don’t mind trashing the planet as long as they can line their pockets?
  • Why does everyone think we have to wait until our kids are three to potty-train anyway?

A feverish frenzy of googling ensued, and while I couldn’t find a lot of the information I was looking for, I made a couple of good discoveries, like:

  • Infants can be potty-trained.

Belle Potty 002

Baby-center commented, “While the notion of potty training a very young infant seems radical to many American parents, it’s not a new idea. Before 1950, most children in the United States were toilet trained by 18 months. And today, most African, Asian, and European babies are trained well before their second birthday.” Source

So, with my brain spinning with a myriad of confusing concepts, the American Academy of Pediatrics telling me that babies are physically unable to control their bladder or bowels much before 18 months, and a ton of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, I decided, well, little Belle, my darling girl. You’re here, and I’m about to start cloth diapering you. And you know what? Cloth diapering would be a lot cooler if your poops went in the potty.

So, when she was about three months old, (maybe a little younger) there was a particular day where I knew she hadn’t pooped for a while, and I could tell she was irritated about that. I had a froggy potty (borrowed from my sister) hanging out in my bathroom and I said, What the heck.

Feel free to skip off to another website because you now think I’m a complete liar, but I sat the baby on the potty and she pooped immediately. Not five minutes later. Not two minutes later. Immediately.

So I felt there was some credence to the notion that certain muscles are being relieved when we relieve ourselves, and it seemed natural for my little one, when placed in a position on a potty which relieved those muscles, to relieve herself.

Because she did.

Belle Potty 003

At the time it felt like SUCH a big deal. Suddenly, there was this whole new option for dealing with the fact that kids need to potty, and I didn’t even know it existed!! I didn’t have grandiose ideas of any proportion — I just made one simple goal at that point: pay enough attention to the Belle that most of the time she poopies in the potty.

Over the next few weeks I began to pay attention to timing and signals (often facial signals) that said, “Take the Belle to the potty” and she quickly got used to pooping there. I dabbled in going further and regularly taking her pee pee as well. She often pee peed when I took her potty, but I just wasn’t as consistent about taking her, so we were using cloth diapers for that.

But the main thing I was hoping for, I was able to quickly achieve: By around four months of age, I was catching about 90% of little Belle’s poops in the potty.

For the past sixteen months or so, the Belle has been using the potty for poopies. She rarely has an accident, and if she does, it is usually when I’m not around and I forget to mention to someone else “the signal” — which she developed herself. A while ago, she started patting herself on the behind, while murmuring something unintelligible. After the pat, she walks to the bathroom, and I follow, and help her up onto the potty to do her business.

Honesty box opening up here: I have been totally lazy about the pee pee thing. I’ve dabbled in trying to take her very consistently, so that we could move towards skipping out on diapers altogether. When I pay attention, we do have some great success, but inevitably I decide to take the diaper off and let her run free, I forget to take her potty, we have an accident or two, and I say, WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MAHSELLLF! (It’s never a poop accident, mind you.) And then I go back to just making sure she poops in the potty.

The fact that we are very successful on the pee pee front, when I’m consistent, indicates to me that fully potty training a little one by twelve months or so has to be possible. Michelle’s little one was fully potty-trained around then. We are still in progress, and we have made it through at least a half a day without a pee pee accident, but, if you think about it, we kind of train our kids to get used to going in diapers, and then we have to go about the business of un-training that when they’re older.

Might as well blame mahself.

If we are fortunate enough to welcome a fourth Collie kid into our family at some stage, I will aim at much more faithfully attempting the potty training right from the start. (Well around the first or second month maybe).

If you are interested in learning more about Infant Potty Training (and I do highly recommend trying it) Babycenter has a pretty good overview on the topic with some good How-To’s to get you started. I imagine you can find the subject in a number of online forums as well, to find out more about what has worked for other parents. Google “infant potty training” or “elimination communication” and let your head spin!!

Two major things worked for me, especially getting started:

  1. Consistent Timing – Aim to take baby to the potty at the same times each day, perhaps always before a nap, always after a nap, always before a meal, always 20 minutes after a meal… you get the idea. Once you start to observe what the timing is for your kid doing their business, you can help them work toward getting used to going when you take them, around those times.
  2. Distraction, Distraction, Distraction – I imagine hanging your tiny wee bare bum over the edge of a toilet seat that is cooler than room temperature isn’t particularly exciting. Especially at the beginning, I had a few interesting toys I’d let the Belle hold when I sat her on the potty. I also sang particular songs, that I only sang at potty time. I humbly ask forgiveness to the people of Scotland, I turned the Ally Bally Bee nursery rhyme into a song about Arabella Bee going potty. But it worked.

Belle Potty 001

Imagine how many diapers wouldn’t end up in landfills if we returned to the art of infant potty training! I know it’s not a possibility for everybody, but, if it is a possibility for you, it’s worth considering! Less throwing away trash, less throwing away cash… win, win!

Any Mamas out there who’ve tried or succeeded at infant potty training? Or are you a Mama willing to consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!