Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

“I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” – Jeremiah 31:4
Dearest Friends,

We have so much to be thankful for.  Three of Katherine’s brothers were married this summer to amazing women, God brought two new little nephews into our lives, we celebrated our 12th anniversary, and our screenplay, The Senior Prank, was filmed this summer.  The children are excelling in school, swim, and soccer.  To add to our joy, we will be expecting the newest little Craddock (a boy!) this coming April.

 In fact, had we written this letter this summer, with the exception of the passing of Katherine’s boss and mentor Chuck Colson, life would have seemed close to perfect.  But in one day, all of that changed when we learned that Katherine’s cousin Ryan had been killed while serving in Afghanistan.  Ryan had been one of Chris’ very first Young Life “kids”, and we both adored him.  He was our personal American hero.  We take comfort in knowing that our last words to one another were, “I love you.”

When someone gives their life, their dreams, their future in exchange for yours, nothing will ever or can ever be the same again.  We now have a whole new understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

With Ryan’s death, it was like a set of dominoes had been ticked off.  Our dear friend Gene Heck planned Ryan’s funeral, and just a few short weeks later he was also called Home to be with our Savior.  Unbelievably, even more funerals of friends and loved ones followed – in one instance we attended a funeral three out of the four weeks of the month.  This year truly has been a time to mourn.

Through it all, God has been more than faithful.  Each time we feel as if we are about to drown, He has thrown us a life preserver – a trip to San Diego, Chris’ golf coaching job, Katherine’s acceptance into UCLA’s professional screenwriting program, Katie's spot on a travel soccer team, a surprise romantic getaway to New York City.  Not one day have we been fearful of the provision of our daily bread.

Therefore we do not lose hope, and lean heavily on our Shepherd to guide us through this shadowed valley.  It is in times like these that we are so deeply moved by the love, prayers, and encouragement of loved ones like you.  We trust in the Lord that we will be stronger for this journey, and that His promise to us in Jeremiah 31:4 will ring true in the year ahead.

Love in Christ,

Chris, Katherine, Katie (8), Colt (6), Christian (almost 5), Blaize (1 ½) and Baby Boy Craddock (due in April)

Monday, August 20, 2012


R-Y-A-N.  It was my younger cousin Ryan Jeschke who taught me how to spell my middle name, huddled over toys in my family's playroom, long before Kindergarten, or high school, or war.

The name was a family name.  A warrior name from the long list of legendary fighters from which we both descended.  Our patriarch, John Ryan Devereux, served our country in the Army Medical Corps during both the Spanish-American War and World War I.  He was a professor at Georgetown, assisted President Hoover, and did relief work for Pope Pius.  His brother was the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and we all were descended from an ancestor who was an officer in the army of Louis XVI of France.

We had a lot to live up to -- for that ancestor was only the beginning of the warrior legend.  Our great-grandfather, Richard Hall Sr., was a Brigadier General in the USMC.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Croix de Guerre, and helped plan the D-Day invasion of Normandy, for which he accepted an award from President Eisenhower on behalf of the entire USMC.

His brother-in-law, Brigadier General James Patrick Sinnott Devereaux was the "Hero of Wake Island" and survived the Death March to Bataan.

Our grandfather, Richard Hall Jeschke, Jr., retired a Colonel in the Marine Corps.  He served in both the Pacific and European theatres of World War II, and in Korea as well.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star with a combat "V".  One of his last honors was to be selected as a reader for the 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima at the National Cathedral.  And, in a twist of God-ordained fate, was the Marine mentor to another one of my heroes, Charles Colson -- but that is a story for another day.  I called him "Grandad" and Ryan called him "Gramps".  He was our hero.


I write all that to say this -- Ryan was a warrior born into a line of warriors.  It was a part of his undeniable DNA.  He had the Jeschke "look", which two of my brothers also have.  He had their seriousness, focus, and drive.  He had desire to serve, to help others, and to sacrifice their all for our country.  My dad loves to tell the anecdote about how Ryan was originally not allowed to play with toy guns or swords.  So Ryan made his own weapons -- out of sticks and stones.  The warrior spirit pumped through his veins.  Irrepressible.  

He grew up in a rough side of town, so he learned to defend himself and his two younger sisters through martial arts training.  From his mother, a collegiate swimmer, he was gifted with Aquaman-like skills.  In other words, like it or not, Ryan was born and bred a Marine.

All these things I loved about Ryan.  But I, Katherine Ryan, loved him for more than just that.  I know Ryan as the little boy who taught me to spell my name.  Every time our families would get together, we would sneak off and find a place to talk and play.  At the time, I was a tomboy with two sisters, and he also had two sisters and no brothers, so we would take any chance to ditch the dolls and tea parties to play more athletic/rough-and-tumble stuff.  

It was at the home of our ancestor, the original Ryan, though, that I sharply remember a moment we had together on the stairs.  "I know you are younger than me," I admitted, as children and old people swirled around us, "but you are my favorite cousin of all."  In hushed tones Ryan responded: "Same."  

You see, whenever I was with Ryan, my heart was at rest.  I felt safe.  We understood each other.  No pretense, no expectations to live up to, just open admiration and trust and a sense of peace.  With Ryan, I was myself.


I think the biggest gift in all my grief is the knowledge that my husband Chris loved Ryan as much if not even more than I did.  Ryan and I were family, but Ryan and Chris were FRIENDS long before Chris and I got married.  When Chris first started out leading Young Life back in college, it was at Herndon High School, and when I mentioned that my cousin Ryan was there, Chris sought him out and Ryan became one of Chris' very first "Young Life kids".  In fact, on my very first trip to Young Life's Rockbridge camp, Ryan was there on the bus with me -- or rather with Chris' sister Jackie!  Ever since their brief dating history, our family has had a wonderful time teasing that the Craddocks find Jeschkes irresistable ... since both Chris and Brian married myself and my sister Cheryl, and Jackie dated my cousin!  Weird, but true.

When Chris and I were engaged, I joined on as a Herndon Young Life leader, and got to witness Chris and Ryan's bond firsthand ... mostly them wrestling each other EVERY SINGLE YOUNG LIFE meeting, and breaking people's houses in the process.  Chris assures, me, however, that aside from wrestling, there were also much more serious conversations taking place, day after day, month after month after school -- discussions about life, and manhood, and Jesus.  And sometime during that time frame, with my dad, Ryan prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

In the twelve years since, many a young teenaged buck like Ryan has challenged Chris in wrestling, and all have lost.  Chris even took down a five man squad that tried to kidnap him as a prank one night (true story for another day).  I think that the fact that Chris could beat Ryan earned Ryan's lifelong respect.  "But," Chris admitted to me just the other day, "there was only one time a teenager has ever beaten me in wrestling."  That teenager was Ryan.

("I was beating him," Chris insists, "but the only reason I tapped out is because he cheated!  He grabbed my finger and nearly tore it off.  I HAD to tap out, or he would have broken it.")

I'd like to think that Ryan flew cross country for my wedding just to see me, or stopped by our "Love Shack" apartment after September 11th to boast about his intense Recon training for my benefit.  But I know, deep in my heart, as Ryan sat in our hideous 70s orange chair and recounted how he would survive if water-boarded, that he hadn't returned just for me.  He was there to see his friend, his mentor, and one of his own personal heroes, my husband.

The truth is, Ryan may have looked up to Chris and I, but we also looked up to him right back.  His war exploits and training were the subject of every Thanksgiving and Christmas discussion, his face my prayer through every "Star Spangled Banner."  

"When I was little my cousin was one of my biggest heroes," my brother Brendan wrote in a tribute on facebook.  

"If I could turn back time, I would. Ryan Jeschke is and has always been my hero.  He died so that we may be free and now he is alive in heaven with Christ who died for him," blogged my sister Christen.


Over the past 12 years, Ryan was deployed so much that we rarely got to see him in person.  He never saw my new townhouse, or my current "big house."  He never met my dogs.  And it wasn't until last summer when my family was visiting San Diego that he finally met my four children, and we finally met his bride, Sheila.

From the second he saw them, Ryan adored my crazy kids.  He hugged us all and swooped them onto his shoulders.  He didn't mind that they were a little loud at the dinner table.  In fact, he reveled in it.  And the fact that we had adopted a child that was of a different race didn't bother Ryan in the least.  In fact, he was totally in love with Christian, and peppered us with questions about adoption, parenting, and how to be a good dad.

The thing that struck me most about our all-to-brief time together was how much Ryan adored Sheila.  His arm protectively around her, his eyes drinking her in.  He had fought hard to win her heart, and he was never, ever going to lose her again.  We couldn't help but fall in love with her, too.  Most importantly of all, we saw and heard for ourselves Ryan's passionate commitment as a follower of Jesus Christ.  He was reading the Bible and faithfully attending a vibrant church.  Jesus had saved Ryan, and Ryan's marriage.  And, like anything in life, he was going to pursue his faith full throttle.

"This is going to be your last tour, RIGHT?" Sheila said with a smile, patting his leg.

"We'll talk about it," Ryan conceded.  But as he looked at me across the table, I could see the twinkle in his eye.  As much as he loved and adored Sheila, the Marine corps was in his blood, and he could not refuse his country's call.  He was a warrior, from a line of warriors.  He was a Ryan.


The last time I saw Ryan was God's precious gift to me.  God knew that I needed that gift, and I can barely tell or write the story without breaking down once or twice.  It's hard to find the words to match the story in my brain, but I'll try.

I was standing in the lobby of our church, The King's Chapel, chatting mindlessly and making small talk, in my ordinary world.  Sunlight poured through the windows.   And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.  My American hero.  My cousin.  My Ryan.

The conversation melted away in that instant.  I ran across the room and threw my arms around him.  "RYAN!" I shouted, my sheer joy in seeing him overpowering any embarrassment at the exuberance of my greeting.  Nothing else was important as that hug.

We chatted happily about his deployment, his arm cuddling Sheila close.  Sheila's eyes were rimmed with tears, but even as Ryan talked about returning to one of the most troubled regions of the world, his voice was steady.  He had been there before, he had a job to do, and he was going to do it.  For the first time, it hit me what he was sacrificing -- the soft San Diego breezes and a wife's embrace for the harsh sands and disgruntled people of Afghanistan.  And he was doing it for me, and my family.

The words felt cheesy, because it was my own cousin I was talking to, but I said it all the same.  I stared dead in his eyes and said, "Thank you, Ryan, for your service."  As we said goodbye, we wrapped each other in a long, warm, tight hug.  "I love you," I said aloud, spontaneously.  I surprised even myself, but shrugged it off in my head.  Well, I did love him.  So there.  "I love you, too," he said.

We didn't know it then, but I know it now.  Our last words to each other on this earth were "I love you."  My precious gift from God.  And with that, Ryan headed out into the sunshine, off on one last adventure with his brother-in-law, one last tour of duty, one last sacrifice for you and me.


Everywhere I look, I am reminded of Ryan.  American flags, Marine Corps emblems, uniforms, anthems.  Breezy, warm, soft days that remind me of San Diego.  And most of all, I think of Ryan as I watch my daughter bop around the grassy-green soccer field, free and happy and safe because of his service, and his sacrifice.

Next week, he will rest with our ancestors ... the many warriors of our family (and their beloved wives) who have made Arlington Cemetery, our nation's finest resting place, their final earthly dwelling. 

As I come to grips with the reality of Ryan's earthly absence, I miss the cousin whose heart beat along with mine.  The cousin who shared my name.  The cousin who -- among many accomplished cousins -- was our family's PRIDE.  I miss my husband's friend, our Young Life kid, his wedding picture on my refrigerator that I put aside because "I'll always see Ryan another time."  And I will, of course, because I KNOW where the real Ryan is, because we both loved Jesus.

But the thing I miss most about Ryan, the thing that chokes me with tears at the memory, isn't a label, or a story, or a memory.  It's a feeling.  It's that feeling of sheer joy bubbling up and overflowing when I saw him that last time -- when I saw him every time.   That calm, happy, synchronized wave of joy, and peace, and trust and safety.  The feeling of mutual adoration, and the silent understanding of shared warrior DNA.

R-Y-A-N, greet me again.  When I get to heaven's gate, greet me again. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

An (Amazingly Good) Onomatopoeia Poem by Katie


by Katie Elizabeth Craddock, Age 8

In the class, we do work.
Go the erasers on the math test.

Now it is time for writing.
People zip like race cars to get
Paper ... before it is all gone.

Time for lunch
SCREECH! Go the shoes to line up.
Slam! Go the doors of the cafeteria.

Munch!  Sip!
Slurp!  Smack!
Is the sound of the eating children.

Drip.  Drop.
Goes the kitchen sink.
PLOP! Goes the spilling yogurt.

Ding dong! Goes the dismissal bell.
Time to go home!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book of Colt, Chapter 5, Verse 6.

Theological debate held over lunch today, while doling out lunch.

Colt: "Mom! Mom!"

Me: "Colt, just let me give you your lunch."

Colt: "But I want to tell you something."

(I do NOT agree to listen, but, undetered in his evangelism, Colt forges on anyway).

Colt: "It's like we are the food, and if God eats us, then we are with Him always."

Me: "Um ..."

Colt: "But if Satan eats us, then we belong to Satan."

Me (emphatically): "No. No, Colt, that's not how it works."

Colt (equally emphatically): "Yes it is, mom."

Who is theologically correct? Colt, or me? Has Satan eaten you, or has God? Discuss.

Son of a Preacher Man (Book of Colt 16:42)

I nuzzled Katie good night and tucked in her covers. "Good night! I love you!" I whispered.

"Mom! Mom!" Colt shouted from the other room. I sighed a deep sigh (Colt has a LOT of questions about life and the world).

"When I grow up I want to be two things: a pastor AND a police officer."

At first, I blew his pronouncement off. But then, I was suddenly struck to the core. What if my son was destined to be a preacher man like his father and his grandfather (and his great-grandfather and his great-great grandfather and even his GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER)? The inquisitive mind, the care and concern for others, the obsession with the great theological questions of life (even if often times heretical in conclusion). Might God be calling my little boy into the ministry?

I rushed to his side and sunk to my knees. I poured out a prayer of blessing over him, and prayed with all my heart that if God were calling Colt to become a pastor, that He would give us wisdom.

"Dear God," Colt sweetly prayed. "If you want me to be a pastor, just show me who to tell about Jesus, and I'll go and tell them." (Katherine's heart melts).

Beautiful. Pure. True. And yet ... there was just ONE tiny detail I was forgetting/omitting. You know, that whole pastor AND a police officer thing. But did Colt forget? NooOOOOoo. Colt doesn't forget ANYTHING.

Fast-forward to day two, three boys and one mom packed in a minivan on a Costco run.

"Mom!" Colt piped up excitedly. "When I grow up and am a pastor and a police officer, maybe whenever I see bad guys, I can put them in my police car. And then, on the way to jail, I can tell them about Jesus."

So far so good. But then, Colt just couldn't resist quoting from Chapter 16, verse 42 of the Book of Colt:

"And then, if they ask Jesus into their hearts, and PINKIE-SWEAR to never do bad things again, I'll let them go!"


Monday, April 2, 2012


My two oldest children sprinted forward along the breathtaking sandstone cliffs of La Jolla, my husband walking briskly behind them. But me? I trailed far behind at a painfully slow pace, dragging my reluctant two-year-old by the hand. “Come on, Christian!” I growled. “Hurry, hurry!”

Why did I get stuck in the back? I grumbled. I always end up with the caboose.

But as I matched my steps with his painfully slow baby totters, I started to notice things. The salty breeze. The cries of the gulls. The crash of the waves against the coast. The tiny flowers nestled in cactus leaves.

Before I had kids, I lived life at full throttle. Always pushing, always achieving. Straight As? Check. College done in 3 years? Check. Engaged at 20, married by 21, homeowner by 23. Surging forward to what was next.

During that time I asked my grandmother – now happily married for over 67 years (and counting!) – when she stopped living in the future. “When I had my second child,” she replied.

It is now, happily weighed down with four young children, that I know why. Little hands, pulling us back, anchor us to the present and remind us to savor the now. Because what my stumbling two year old knew that I did not, was that moment, walking on the beach at La Jolla, his little fingers clasped in mine, will never come again. And I almost missed it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gift of a Son

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." -- John 3:16

How would you react if someone gave you their son? What would you do if they gave you their beloved child? One chilly winter morning, my husband and I sat across a table in a public library from a young woman who was giving us her newborn son through adoption. She was about to entrust him to our care for the rest of his life.

I thought I would cry; instead, I was stunned by the magnitude of the woman's selfless act. What does one say to someone who has give a gift of such immense magnitude? How can one truly fathom the depth of that sacrifice, or comprehend the full power of such a love?

I sat in silence and listened as she described the pain that led to this difficult choice. I watched as she held back tears and recalled the last time she had held her child. I saw her struggle to capture the depth of her love for her little boy with mere words. "Time to go," announced the social worker. Already? Now? Just like that?

In less than an hour, an amazing transaction had taken place. Two moms parted with one last embrace, and a transfer of love occurred. I fumbled for something brilliant to say, but no Hallmark moment came to mind.

"Thank you," I said at last. The phrase sounded awkward and pathetic. I had just been given a human life. I felt so unworthy.

Our joy came at a terrible price. No money could repay our debt; no words could heal her loss. Yet, every day, we could choose to love her son with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. In doing so, we would honor the giver of this most precious gift. So, we made a promise, sealed our commitment with signatures on a dotted line, and welcomed our son into our hearts for eternity.

Never forget that our JOY in this world comes from the greatest, most powerful gift of all -- the gift of a Son.

Happy Birthday, Christian!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For Lily, on her 5th Heavenly Birthday

Lily (originally written in 2007)

Grappling with grief, I rage against God for taking another baby. In my prayers, in tears I demanded that He let her stay. “Not this baby, Lord.” I stated, clenching my teeth in determination. “You can’t have this one. No more babies can die. Enough.” But God, for His reasons and in His omnipotence, ignored my tantrum and my bossiness, and carried out His own perfect plan.

For the past few days, I have been very angry with God. And every time I look at my son, who was three days before Lily and shares her temperament, smile, and eyes, I am afraid. I kept asking myself why your family was chosen. Why your family was had to live through parent’s nightmare.

But then, I thought about Lily, and the few short hours that I was privileged to spend with her. And I know, from that time I spent with her, that she was one in a million. And that at only 3 months old, God had already uniquely equipped her for the short, intense life that He had planned for her. He knew from the very beginning what Lily’s path was … even when none of us did.

I met Lily at Lindsey White’s funeral. A sad way to meet someone, but Lily wasn’t sad. In fact, Lily was one of the only children that wasn’t sad that day. The sparse room was filled with babies, all laid out on Lily’s colorful blankets (which she happily shared). All of the other babies were fussing and crying, but Lily wasn’t. She was smiling and wriggling on her little blanket. She was calm. She was happy. She was content.

I hoisted her in my lap. I say hoist, because Lily was VERY heavy, like a little lumpy sack of potatoes, in the best sense. “I thought my baby was big!” I crowed. “I can’t believe how big and strong this baby is!” When Brian came to pick Lily up, we proudly handed her to him. Out of all of the babies, she was clearly the favorite, and she was the only baby that I and the other workers paid a compliment to. (I am not one to hand out compliments about babies). “Your baby is so happy,” we said to Brian. “She didn’t cry once. All of the other babies have been screaming and crying this entire time, but not Lily. She is a very special little girl.” Brian smiled, held Lily in one arm, and agreed with us. But none of us yet knew just how special she was.

Some of us study for years to prepare for college. We spend hours in front of a mirror preparing for the prom, or our weddings. There are many things that we believe our children were meant to do. But Lily was never meant to do those things. God prepared her in advance for the good works that she had to do, and she was well equipped. For a brief, shining moment, we all were able to see just how special Lily truly was, and that God’s design for our lives is much greater than we could ever map out.

In that day in that make-shift nursery, I saw all of the character qualities that would enable Lily to face her path. Her smile, her calm, her generosity, her strength. The family that clearly took such joy and pride in being entrusted with such an amazing little girl. That day marked one of the last days before Lily’s diagnosis.

A few days after I had taken my own son in for his monthly check-up, I heard what had transpired at Lily’s. “Not Lily!” I exclaimed. “She’s so big and strong and healthy and happy!” Of all the children in that nursery that day, no one could ever have guessed. But as Lily faced each trial, as I read the Carepages posts and saw her pictures, I was not surprised in the least. Even in intense pain, her character was still the same – in fact, it grew even stronger. I heard that she smiled at doctor’s, and I thought, “That’s Lily. She was so calm. She was so happy, even in all the chaos.” And when I heard that her size helped her in her battle, I smiled. “That’s why God made her so big and strong. He knew all along!” And when I heard that Lily was a fighter, I believed that too.

I had never met you all, but I did know Lily. As as her tiny body was broken and bruised, the sweet aroma that was this tiny flower poured out for all to inhale. I never thought that 2 hours of babysitting in the rain would be such a blessing. And I never thought that missing a funeral to take care of a child would be the greater blessing. But it was. Because that morning, wet and late as I was, I got the privilege of meeting an incredible human being. And each day, as I look at my son— Lily’s personality twin— and watch him grow, I will see Lily’s smile in his, and Lily’s joy in his very own big blue eyes. And I will remember to hug longer, speak softer, and kiss fat cheekies more.

And for my daughter Katie, who met both Baby Lindsey and “Baby Loly” (as she calls her) and prayed for them both, I know that she now has two friends waiting for her in heaven one day, with eternal princess tea parties, sparkly tiaras, and oversized pearl necklaces. With two of her little friends going to heaven in such a short time span, I truly think that she believes that heaven must be an extra special place. And if someone as wonderful as Lily is there, then I ‘m a little less scared to join them.

What's Grosser than Gross?

When I woke up this morning, the birds chirped. My heart sang.

Sunshine, warmth, gardening awaited. I lay in bed an extra moment or two and thoroughly enjoyed hugs and kisses and smiles from my sweet little baby.

But then, I got up and went down the hall.

(End magical dream sequence).

Which leads us to our topic of the day -- WHAT'S GROSSER THAN GROSS?

To help you determine the answer, I will give you a few examples of yucky, but endearing:

1) A child's first birthday cake.
2) When Colt ate ladybugs by the fistful at Rockbridge as a baby.
3) A child who goes elbow deep into a jar of peanut butter and smears it all over his hands and face and hair.
4) Not one, not two, but THREE exploded diapers in my washing machine.

These are the things that you fondly remember with a laugh and a smile, and maybe a photo or two. No, no. I am not talking about yucky. I am not even talking about the truly GROSS, which includes:

1) A son who routinely takes rotting pears off your pear tree and stores them in the couch for "later" and then eats them for snacks. This same son has no qualms about eating the rotting pears left on the ground that the maggots have already decided are too disgusting to eat.
2) Come to think of it, anything involving maggots.
3) Baby poop explosions, in any form. Including ones that go up to the neck or even in the hair.
4) When Chris Craddock gags and pukes because someone else has puked.
5) Children who puke in the middle of Starbucks. Or right on the middle of their plates in IHOP. Or (more recently), yak up their pancakes in the Rockbridge Dining Hall.

I could go on, and on, and on, and on. These, my friends, are examples of the truly gross. But are they grosser than gross? No, no, my dears. These are bush league. Which brings us back to the original question: WHAT'S GROSSER THAN GROSS?

Yesterday, I thought I'd found the answer. In fact, it is so gross that I must admit I still haven't faced it yet. You know that little plastic doohickey that holds the toilet paper roll? Well SOMEONE (who's identity will remain anonymous to protect the guilty) dropped it into a murky bowl of poop soup. And now that doohickey is stuck -- not visible to the human eye -- in the toilet bowl hole. And today, SOMEBODY (me) is going to have to fish it out. Most likely with my hands.

"KATIE!" I screamed to my only fellow female, and last sane, neat person in the house. "WE NEED MORE GIRLS!!!!"


I was actually going to post that yesterday, under this same title. But then, as is normal for any parent of multiple boys, things got even grosser. You see, at 4:30 a.m. this morning, as I was changing Blaize's 5th poop explosion of the day (gross), I noticed something odd. The hall bathroom light was on. I checked in on the children, but they were all asleep in the darkness of their rooms. "Hmm," I thought. "Colt must have been sleepwalking again." I turned off the light, changedandwipedandfedthepoopybaby, and thought of the incident no more.

That is, until I merrily skipped back down the hallway this morning. (Note: There are no accompanying photos for this fiasco, as the reality is truly GROSSER THAN GROSS).

Poop on the carpets. Poop on underwear. Poop on pants. Poop on multiple articles of clothing used as "wipes." A poop trail down the wood floors. Poop on the bathroom tiles. Poop smeared on the toilet seat. Poop encrusted on the feet and legs of the midnight offender (who also shall remain nameless to protect the guilty). Ah, yes. The mother of all grossness. The bane of every mother and father's existence. POOP ART.

All this from the same child (a boy, of course), to whom I once frantically shouted, "Don't eat the poop! Don't eat the poop!" when he just had to have a taste of the brown goodies he had discovered in his diaper. (And, if you are wondering, he DID eat the poop).

So today, I blog. Barricaded in my room. Writing in the hopes that in a few minutes I will rise to face my deepest, most-gag-worthy grossness fears and clean up yet another disgusting mess created by little boys.

And, I know, this is only the beginning. There will be more yuckiness, more grossness, and even more grosser than grossness to come in my life. And I shall stand strong, and I shall clean it up. Because I am a MOM, and we can roll like that.

Besides -- what I know -- and what I have not shared here even under the category of "Grosser than Gross", is that I have already faced the unimaginable and triumphed.

By far THE GROSSEST thing I have ever had to witness or clean up in my LIFETIME shall forever be named the TERRIBLE AWFUL. The terrible awful is so disgusting and repulsive that just thinking about it makes me gag. It is so nasty, that only 3 other people in this world know what it was. And it is something that I can never, never post. Intrigued? Too bad. It will just have to irritate you, "like a splinter in your brain." Because we'll never tell.

What is the grossest thing you have had to face as a mom, dad, or pet owner?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love Advice from the Craddock Children

In honor of Valentine's Day, here are some golden nuggets of wisdom from Katie (almost 8) and Colt (5 1/2) on Love, Marriage, Dating and Relationships.

What is love?

"Love is when you really like somebody but you don't just like them, you like them so so much that it's like quadruple like." -- Katie

What is marriage?

"If you go to a wedding and two people are there in the middle of the road and all the people are gathered not in the road, then those two people are married." -- Colt

How do you know when people are in love?

"When they spend so much time together and they go to the movies, go on dates, and talk a lot." -- Katie

What are your beauty tips for women?

"First sometimes you put on makeup, sometimes you don't need to. Sometimes you need to fix your hair like brush it, put it in a ponytail, put hair clips in it, stuff like that." -- Katie

"Girls should get dresses on and look like they are fancy and like they are from a different place they are not from." -- Colt

What are your style tips for men?

"Dress nicely and fix your hair nice. If you look good without a beard, shave your beard if you have one. If you look good with a beard and you have one don't shave it. You should brush your hair nice if it is all crazy and get it cut nice if it is too long. Also, you should get nice shoes." -- Katie

"Get dressed good. You have to get your clothes on. Cut your hair if it is so long." -- Colt

How do you know that mommy and daddy are in love?

"You kiss each other good bye and you love each other and talk to each other nice and help each other. And sometimes you get in fights, but mostly you help each other look good." -- Katie

What Mom and Dad have in common?

"You both drive a car." -- Colt

"I know lots of things! 1) Drive a car. 2) Play soccer. 3) Have birthdays. 4) Have faces. 5)Help each other do chores. 6) Play with the children." -- Katie

How do you make someone fall in love with you?

"Get very handsome. And if you aren't handsome, get handsomer." -- Colt

"Be very sweet. Sometimes even give them presents. Look handsome or beautiful." -- Katie

What to do when you realize your date isn't "the one"

"You just say, "Uh, sorry, but you're not really the right person for me and I just noticed that. But we can still be friends!" -- Katie

"Sorry, but I can't marry you." -- Colt

If you wrote a love song, what what you call it?

"I Love You, Baby" -- Katie
"I Love You Sweetheart" -- Colt
"I'm Just Still Hungry" -- Christian

How many children do you want to have, and why?

"I want to have eighteen children. Nine girls, nine boys. And I want to have them because I like children and I love cute babies. And I like children to help me." -- Katie

"I want to have six. Three girls and three boys. So it can be fair." -- Colt

What are you looking for in a husband?

"I would like a sweet, kindhearted husband that really loves me that is sweet and handsome, loves God, is a preacher, works hard and is not lazy, helps me take care of my kids and not be like, 'Do all this kid work yourself,' and helps me a lot." -- Katie

What are you looking for in a wife?

"I want my wife to be a girl that goes to church and has Jesus in her heart and prays and helps other people." -- Colt

Last advice on love?

"Be careful of what you do and say, because you might say or do the wrong thing and then the person might not like you or think you are gross if it is something gross." -- Katie

"You may only obey God's or Jesus' laws. Because God's love is gooder and Jesus' love is gooder than anybody's love in the whole, wide world." -- Colt

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday and The Book of Colt

Every son often, our five-year-old son Colt graces us with his astounding theological acumen.

His observations are so profoundly heretical, so forcefully asserted as truth, that we have concluded that he has started his very own new world religion. It's guidebook?

The Book of Colt.

(So far Colt has just one disciple -- his younger brother Christian. But I'll expound on that chapter another time).

Just last weekend in fact, as I was quizzing Colt about what he learned in Sunday School.

The result was this amazing revelation from the Book of Colt, Chapter 6, verse 2.

The exchange went something like this:

Me: "Colt, what did you learn in Sunday School?"

Colt: "I learned that the Super Bowl is next week, but the Patriots are cheaters."

Me: "Who told you that?"

Colt: "My Sunday School teacher, Alyssa White."

Me: "So who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?"

Colt: "The Patriots."

Me: "What? Why?"

Colt: "Because they cheat."

You can't argue with that kind of logic. You just can't. Hmm. Maybe Brother Christian is on to something ...

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Garden Poem

"A Garden Poem"
by Katherine Craddock

Oh! How I long for heaven!

Deep breaths of holly blossoms

And crushed mint under bare toes.

Children laughing, chasing butterflies down

Ordered gravel pathways among quiet waving ferns.


But today, I do battle against the weeds.

The thorns and vines and thistles and mud choke

Disordered bouquets with tears and chaos,

Stains and prickles smothered by the stench of

Wet, damp decay.


Oh, how I long for heaven.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sulphite/Salicylate-Free Apple Quick Bread

I'm mostly just posting these recipes so that I can find them quickly! But if you have weirdo sulphite/salicylate food allergies (intolerances?) like me and are looking for some decent tasting (emphasis on decent), healthy alternatives, enjoy!

Sulphite/Salicylate-Free Apple Quick Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 cups milk
1 cup agave
1 Mashed Banana
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups peeled and finely diced tart apples

Heat oven to 350°F.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together milk, agave, mashed banana and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients until just blended. Stir in apples.

Divide batter between two greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on wire rack. Serve with butter if desired. Yields 2 loaves.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kryptonite and the Cross

“Excuse me, Mommy.”

“Yes, Katie.” I nuzzled my three-year-old’s soft blond hair as cuddled her to sleep.

“Is Clark Kent-Superman like Jesus?” My drowsy eyes popped open. Where does she get these ideas?

(Um, I don’t know. Probably from all of the Smallville marathons we have subjected her to since birth. Tom Welling, if you are out there, Chris and I think that we would make great best friends for you and your wife. But I digress ...)

“Yes!” I exclaimed, much louder than a whisper. “You’re right! Clark Kent Superman is just like Jesus! He’s strong and powerful and brave – and even though he had all of those powers, he came down to earth …”

“To save us from the bad guys?”

“That’s right,” I said, pulling her tight. “Jesus came to the earth to save us. Just like Clark Kent-Superman.”

Tonight, as you tuck your own babies to sleep, ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you and your children – and don’t be surprised when He does!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sulphite/Salicylate-Free Oatmeal Carob Cookies

Yessssssssssssssss. Finally a cookie recipe that I can eat! (And it passed the 3 little chef taste test). For all those of you with weirdo allergies/intolerance or just looking for a healthy sweet, here it is:

YoungLifeHouse Oatmeal Carob Cookies


- 1 cup quick-cooking rolled gluten-free oats (just put that part in there if you have gluten issues)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup organic can sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup agave syrup
- ½ cup safflower/vegetable/olive oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup carob chips

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the agave, oil and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Fold in the dried fruit.
- Using your hands, roll tablespoon-size scoops of dough into balls. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and press down slightly on the balls to flatten the tops. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.
- If you don't have weirdo allergies like me, you can substitute in real chocolate chips or add 1 tsp. of cinnamon.
Hey, they're not toll house Chocolate Chip cookies, but these are still pretty delicious (and you can eat the batter straight from the bowl without salmonella fears). YUM!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Most Epic Mess Ever!

It was a rookie mistake. For 15 minutes, I actually closed my bathroom door and TOOK A SHOWER. My three children (at the time) were all older then … what could possibly happen in 15 minutes?

A rice parade, that’s what.

“Mooooommmm!” my oldest daughter bellowed. “Christian exploded a bag of rice!” That’s fine, I thought to myself. How bad could it be? We’ll just vacuum it up.
“Get the vacuum!” I bellowed back, drying my hair. Half dressed, I opened the bathroom door and peered into my bedroom. Thousands of grains of rice were scattered all over the hardwood floor.

I heard the vacuum, but it was coming from down the hall. Hmm. That’s funny.

Or not …

Rice in my bedroom. Rice in my sitting room. Rice on the landing. Rice down the hall. I finally reached the noise of the busy vacuum, sucking up hundreds of grains of rice a second. Rice in the nursery. The children were clustered around, doing their best to vacuum the carpet. “But wait, Mom!” my daughter shook her head. “There’s more!”

Christian had dumped rice down the stairs and into the lobby. At this point, I knew I had to take pictures of the chaos – so I tiptoed downstairs to get my camera. Surely the carnage must have ended in the lobby! Nope. Rice in the library. Rice in the kitchen. Rice in the dining room. FOURTEEN ROOMS of my not-small-house covered in rice.

Needless to say, any plans for the day were out the door. I spent the entire rest of the day (and several days after), painstakingly vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping up rice.

So now, three years later, what was the amazing lesson I learned from the rice parade?

I guess it is that no matter how hard you try to control and schedule your life, everyone needs to take a break sometimes. I mean, we all need showers! (Some more than others). And sometimes, because we can’t be on guard 24/7, bad crazy things just happen. (Well, A LOT of times, if you have wild, fun little kids in your life).

The important thing is to face the reality of the situation, and that it is your job to clean up the mess. And it might be long, and hard, and frustrating, and sad. And it might derail your current plans for the day. Or days. Or months. Or years. But in the end, inexplicably, (hopefully!) you are left not with the memory of hours spent vacuuming up tiny grains of rice, but rather the memory of the survival of a significant life challenge. And then – at long last – you smile.

(At least, that’s what I think I learned ... to be honest, I mostly just wanted to post this story so you could commiserate with me over the amazingness that was this epic disaster. Ha!)