A Tuesday Errand With Bess

It’s Tuesday, but Dave is off work. Graham is glued to him as they measure and saw and drill. My favorite guys sweating over a project. 

So Bess and I left to get Adelaide from school. Just the girls. 

We leave at least 10 minutes early each day, because I can’t bear to rush this child. She examines every leaf. Talks to every ant. Scolds a spider for making a web in the flowering bush. Comments on every cloud she spots through all our trees. 

This day, this Tuesday, she took a full five minutes down our short sidewalk. And it’s one of my favorite things. 

We waited for sister. Bess asking over and over again when Adelaide would arrive. Then we saw the wheelchair through the glass door. 

Adelaide greeted me with an exuberant “HI! HI! HI!” in the school parking lot. 

This morning, in that same handicap parking space, I asked, “Are you ready for school?” I ask her questions all day. Rarely expecting an answer. 

She made eye contact and opened her mouth, “I…..GO…..IN.” 

And just as she was happy to arrive, she was happy to leave. Loving her routine. 

We needed rinse aid for our dishwasher. A quick trip into Walmart. Adelaide in the wheelchair and Bess up in her Olives & Applesauce carrier. 

But not on this Tuesday. 

“Mommy, I no go up! I walk wif you and push my Adelaide. Cuz I’m a sister! I take care of my Addie!”

And we walked through Walmart. And my mom heart was fluttering as tiny pink cowgirl boots slowly tromped down the aisles. 

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Graham and the Hermit-Man

“Mama, I’m so worried I’m gonna gwow up to be a hermit-man and never have fwiends and never leave my house.” 

This started a 5 hour obsession with becoming a hermit. Tears, constant questions, and incessant reassurance that he would never become a hermit. 

“HOW DO YOU KNOW? You can’t know! You don’t know mine future!”

“Graham, if you try to become a hermit, Daddy and I will stop you. We will get you out of your house.”

“What if you ares dead? You aren’t gonna live fowever, Mama!”

“Bess will not allow you to become a hermit.”

“What if all mine family is dead? What if all mine fwiends are dead? What if I CAN ONWY BECOME A HERMIT?”

“Graham, that is not going to happen.”

“IT MIGHT! You don’t know mine future!”

And it went on for hours. And I gave him rational answers. I gave him Scripture. I asked for help from God to deal with the barrage of hermit-man-related questions. 

And as we were praying at bedtime for God to protect Graham from a life as a hermit, he looked at me and said, “It could happen. Dey are weal. People choose to be all alone and have no fwiends and become hermit-people. What den?” And I said, “Then it happens. And you figure out how to not be one. You pray, ask your family and friends for help, and you move through it.” 

And he was content with that answer. 

We can’t get those minutes back. The Hermit-Man tears can’t be uncried. 

And then it hit me in the face. 

I am Graham and the Hermit-Man. 

My ‘what ifs’ aren’t as far-fetched, but I’m a 6-year-old crying in God’s lap. “What if we get pregnant again and we lose that baby, too? It happens. It happens to lots of people!” And God says, “Then it happens. And we figure it out. You talk to me…I’m always here…and you ask your family and friends for help. And you move through it.” 

Photo credit

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“You’ll Bounce Back”

After Graham was born, I felt huge. It was the biggest I had ever been in my life. 

This was almost 7 years ago, before I remembered my childhood/adolescent abuse. Before I remembered the decades of body shaming. Before I started my journey of healing. I was still carrying all of that shame deep down inside. So I didn’t understand why I couldn’t show my body grace. I had read all the articles about how my post-partum body would be different. But I wasn’t prepared for the reality of feeling completely ugly. 

I had grown a human being inside of me. Fed him with my body. Carried him in my body. And evacuated him into a world of breathing air and nursing. I wanted to be okay with it. To embrace this new normal. Sagging skin and leaking breasts and staples and stretch marks. But I couldn’t. 

I started to fear that Dave would never find me attractive again. We would never enjoy my body like he had. Because it was now hideous.

I now know it was sleep-deprivation talking. Hormones shifting almost daily. But it was mostly a past I couldn’t even recall that constantly whispered, “You are never pretty enough. Your body is never nice enough. No one will love you if you gain weight.” 

Abuse has a way of following you around and popping up when you don’t expect it. I’m textbook with my body issues. But it doesn’t seem so obvious when you’re in the middle of it. 

What didn’t help: “Your body will bounce back soon!” Why do people say that to a person who just completed a 40-week sprint, which instantly transformed to an 18-year marathon? It’s so odd to focus on someone’s weight at a time like that. 

Plus, mine didn’t. My body didn’t bounce back. And it made me think that people were constantly critiquing my post-baby body. “He’s so cute! And your body will bounce back.” I heard it all the time. Along with aphorisms about how quickly he would grow and move away to college. I needed someone to say, “Rest. Nurse. Cut yourself lots of slack. Wear flowy tops. Don’t stress about your body.” But that’s the opposite of our culture. 

I was standing in line at Walmart with a tiny Graham and counted 14 magazines telling me how celebrities had shed their baby weight in weeks. There’s nothing wrong with them doing that. But life’s a lot different when you have a nanny and a personal chef and a gym in your house. 

I was living in a different world. We were in the middle of remodeling the kitchen in our little house. Our refrigerator was in the living room. Our stove was disconnected. I was living off microwave dinners while Dave was at work. Recovering from an emergency c-section. Definitely not good for the body or the soul. I knew my cart of turkey breast Lean Cuisine meals wasn’t in those celebrity tips. As a brand-new mom, I was seeing how post-partum obsession was at all socio-economic levels. 

Please don’t misunderstand my heart on this. I’m not into reverse shaming either. If a woman is able to bounce back in a healthy way, I’ll be applauding her! But my genes aren’t configured that way. And when someone told me I’d lose more weight if I quit nursing, I nodded politely. Then someone else said I’d lose weight if I pumped more. I hated being big, but I knew nursing Graham was something I wouldn’t give up.

I’ve nursed a total of 4 years, and it only helped me lose weight with Bess. Because I was on an elimination diet. I ate air and drank water…that’s how it felt. But as soon as she was 19 months and I had to wean her for the trial in Colorado, my weight started coming back.

It’s been more than a year. In that year, I’ve added a pregnancy and the end of a pregnancy. If there’s anytime you should show yourself grace, it should be after losing children. Part of what makes post-partum easier is that you are cuddling a tiny human who desperately needs you. After you lose children, you have the stretch marks and leaking breasts and no baby to hide your sagging skin when you’re out in public. You are exposed. And people say, “Your body will bounce back.” When they should be saying, “I’m sorry that your life feels completely worthless at this moment. I’m sorry that you feel like you failed. I’m sorry that you won’t see your baby this side of eternity.” 

One of my best friends recently lost her baby. Most likely from a virus. And she mentioned nonchalantly that she was bigger after her loss than she had been pregnant. And I texted without a second thought, “Your body will bounce back.” I should’ve paused and typed, “I know. A virus took your baby and your body doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s clueless. So your mind needs to remind your heart that you are strong and beautiful. Don’t even think about your weight and go buy bigger underwear.”

That’s what I did. I realized that I had bought bigger jeans from TJMaxx and bigger shirts from ThredUp. But I was still trying to wear smaller underwear. Which was a constant reminder that I was bigger. The biggest I’ve ever been. I took the kids to BigLots and bought my favorite underwear 2 sizes bigger. Then I told myself, “Your body isn’t bouncing back. And it doesn’t really matter. Not right now. What matters right now is feeling beautiful and comfortable in clothes that fit while you grieve.” 

August 26th is our due date. There are so many things I’ve never experienced. Infertility. Delivering stillborn. Losing a child in infancy or childhood or when they’re in college and it never crosses your mind that something horrible could happen on a regular Thursday. But I have lost babies in my womb. Delivered too early. And the day I was supposed to deliver is almost here. And it will last 24 hours and be gone. 

And I don’t have time to lament that I’m not as thin as I would like to be while I’m standing at that grave watching Graham release balloons. I won’t listen to the lies that it’s been 6 months and I should be smaller and happier. I lost most of my childhood to lies about myself. I won’t sacrifice my kids’ lives with the same. I’ll throw on a flowy top and mourn.

I won’t stop striving to be a strong mom. A healthy mom. A happy mom. But I give up on being a Size X Mom. I don’t have enough energy anymore to live that life. No one cares about my underwear size. 

And I vow to never again tell a woman who just gave birth, or was robbed of the chance, that her body will bounce back. Because that’s one of the last things she needs to hear. I’ll give her a hug, buy her some decaf coffee, and rejoice or mourn…whichever the occasion requires. 

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Elizabethan Quips | Paper

“Bess, did you just eat that piece of paper?”

“No, Mommy!”

“Bess, did you eat the paper?”

“No, Mommy! Look in my mouf! It’s not there. I didn’t swallow it wifout you seeing. God knows when I’m right and when I’m wrong. Just ask Him. He will tell you!”

Her pants are currently on fire. 

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Graham Reviews “The Secret Life Of Pets” (Contains Spoilers! It’s Mostly Spoilers.)

“I went to see Da Secwet Life of Pets wif Mema, Aunt Kita, DJ, Jasmine, and Annaliese. 

It’s about a dog named Duke who has a good home when he was a puppy, but den his guy dies. But he doesn’t know he’s dead. So a lady gets Duke, but she’s alweady got Max. Max wants to help Duke find da guy dems don’t know is dead. Dey gotta have a weason to leave da house cuz da lady is always working. I don’t know her job. I don’t fink it matters to da story. But Max and Duke eat sausages from a sausage factory and da bad bunny is doing bad fings, but turns good at da end. I don’t want to ruin da movie, but Duke goes back to Max’s house to live. Da owner isn’t old, but she isn’t a kid. She’s just a lady who works. I don’t fink we knows lots about her. It’s mostly about da pets and all da fings dey do. It was a long movie, but I liked it. Mostly cuz I got to eat at a restaurant when we was done.

If I was gonna get a pet, I would tell him his old owner was dead so he wouldn’t run away. But dat’s how movies go. You gotta have pwoblems to solve. Now I’m gonna sing for you da Mario 3 underground song. It goes like dis: ticka-ticka-ticka <proceeds to sing the entire song>. But Mario 1 goes more like uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh <proceeds to sing the entire song>. Let’s talk about how dey are diffwent and alike.”

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Internet Usage and the IFC

Press Release:
It has been quite some months since the last meeting of the Imaginary Friend Council. Several members were inducted in late 2015 and early 2016, but few issues were brought to the table. 

Until this week.

The IFC called an emergency meeting today on Graham’s bed. As he stood atop his headboard, surveying the angry mob, the mother peeked through a crack in the door. The entire Council is outraged over the Ballews limited Internet usage. 

Mario, Luigi, and Red Bird blame the mother. She has limited streaming video to only Standard Definition shows. High Definition (HD) programming is only allowed during special Family Nights. 

The IFC wants to watch more YouTube tutorials about passing Mario 2 levels. They have pleaded, through Graham, for unlimited access. Their petition called for “as many hours and days dat we want to watch ovver people play and talk about Mario 2” and an addendum was added about Strawberry Shortcake movies, which the mother says are non-negotiable. One viewing uses the allotted streaming Internet for the entire day. She is also disturbed by the Pie Man and his dream plot. She claims it’s unsettling. 

The heads of the Ballew household have tried to explain to Graham and the IFC about the Internet caps, but there is still daily unrest. Just today, the mother overheard Graham say he was going to “get a wocketship to da Moon, cuz dat’s just da way life works to get more YouTube shows” and then he pumped his fist in the air as the IFC chanted “No More DVDs! We want more Mario 2 levels!”

It appears that neither side will budge, with the mother saying “I’m not paying an extra $10 a month to watch someone else play Mario!” Then she drank some Diet Coke, which seemed to calm her nerves. But the IFC has already called a meeting for mid-Thursday morning to revisit discussions about never brushing teeth again until demands are met. 

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#22polishes22weeks challenge

“Dave, I have 22 nail polishes and there are 22 weeks left in the year! I’m going to wear one a week, keep the ones I love, toss the ones I don’t!”

“I can tell you right now how this will go. It won’t.”

Dave and I have been together 13 years, so it’s safe to assume that he’s right about my inability to complete any sort of ‘challenge’…so now I need to prove his sexy butt wrong! 

As part of my #DOSummer2016 challenge with Jon Acuff {I would like to point out right now that I *completed* last summer’s challenge like a boss!}, we are purging and organizing our entire house. The entire thing

It’s going really well. I recently finished our bathroom. I had already Spring Cleaned it, but went through it again and threw away a few more things. 

But my nail polishes are literally the last thing that need to be purged in the bathroom. 

So I came up with this silly little challenge. Because the math was perfect!

But when I lined them up for this cutesy little photo, I realized my math wasn’t perfect. I accidentally included clear top coats and base coats. So I actually have only 17 colors. I thought about throwing in the towel on #22polishes22weeks but I decided that the hashtag still stands. 

Most hashtags aren’t literal anyway. We all know #MyHusbandIsTheSexiestGuyAlive is just not true. We can’t all have the sexiest husband, and I doubt anyone reading this actually has the sexiest husband alive. But I hope you believe you do! 

And don’t get me started on kid hashtags. We can’t all have the smartest, prettiest, funniest, most amazing kid. 

So #22polishes22weeks is an artistic name. Just get on board with it. 

I’ll be posting a photo of my nails, the polish brand and color name, price of the polish, and any other fun info on Instagram and our Facebook page. Every 1.2 weeks. The math isn’t perfect, but neither am I! So it all works out! I think…

Even though my husband is the sexiest man alive, I want to prove him wrong! I WILL finish this challenge in 2016! 


Grahamism | Rocky Road

“Mama, I fink da people who name ice cream weally missed out when dey called it Rocky Row Ice Cream. Da name doesn’t make any sense. Dey could change it to Rocky Road, cuz it looks like a weally bumpy road wif all dat stuff in it. Can I write dem a letter and tell dem to change it? I’m so glad I fought of dis!”

1) Who wants to tell Graham that it’s most likely called Rocky Road as an homage to the Stock Market Crash of ’29? But his logic is really sound…

2) Who is making this recipe from Completely Delicious and dropping it off on my porch? 

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Goodbye, Laundry Chair

Laundry Chair is no more.
It’s still there, but it hasn’t really been used for clean clothes in weeks, possibly months.
Did I finally develop better systems? Better time management? A greater sense of pride in my home? More self-discipline?
One day, Adelaide started grabbing all the clean laundry out and chewing it all up. Then she did that all day, everyday, until I had the chair all emptied of laundry. I would give it a few days and try again. Tossing a few loads onto the familiar cushion. Immediately, Adelaide would go over to destroy our fresh laundry. 
That’s her chair. She circles it dozens of times a day. She often tries to stand at that chair. And if there’s anything in it, she eats that thing. Her arms are now long enough to reach the very back. And she will reach, rake, and go straight to her mouth with whatever was occupying the space. 
I’ve read books and articles and blogs about laundry and housewifery and time. Turns out all I needed was to lose a cute pair of Elizabeth Mae’s leggings to her neurodisabled sister’s jaws. Just like that, I started folding each load as it came out of the dryer. And I realized that I could fold and put away a load of laundry in minutes. 
Of course, we’re in a new season. Graham and Bess do chores. Graham helps fold and put away laundry. Bess helps Godzilla all the piles and reminds me why chores are difficult with a 2-almost-3-year-old. But we all pretend she’s helping. It’s still better than losing the clothes to Adelaide’s mouth. Where they must be retrieved and rewashed. 
“Mama, you never put laundwy in Laundwy Chair anymore. What we gonna call it now?” 
“Wicker Chair? That’s what Daddy and I called it before you named it Laundry Chair.” 
“Wicker Chair!”
Dave bought it for my birthday before we were married. Stored it at his parents’ house before we were man & wife, sharing a home. A wicker chair that we thought would be for snuggling and reading and whispering little love nothings. And it did. And it also held laundry for a season. A season when we were navigating a new normal. A season where 14 loads of clean laundry would pile up before a marathon folding session. 
Honestly, I could easily still be in that season. But a 4-year-old did what no one else could do. She required me to rethink my lack of systems. She caused me to problem-solve. She put me on a crusade to Save Our Socks. The days of piling clean laundry were over.
Laundry Chair went back to being just plain, old Wicker Chair. But it’s really Adelaide’s Chair. A name we will never use, since it would cause an immediate territory war amongst the Ballew kids. I keep that chair empty now for my own sanity…but mostly because I enjoy watching Adelaide use it to grow stronger. And that makes all the folding worth it.

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By Brian Phillips

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