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 ...