Category: I love being a mommy

dream jobs

I pull in the driveway, grab the heavy bag, the empty water bottle, the almost-dead phone, and my keys, and before I can swing my legs around the side of the van, they are running, smiling, saying my name (“Mommy,” the best name), and waiting for hugs and greetings and compliments. It’s one of the most precious moments of the day, and sometimes the most taxing one, too. Time to make the switch.

“Mama, you know something? When you’re at work, I look at the clock every hour to see how long before you come home.” – Miranda, age 7

Before I ever got pregnant, Rod and I talked through options because it was just a given that I would go back to teaching after we had a baby.

IMG_8253THE DAY I found out I was pregnant with Miranda, I ended up in tears saying to him, “There is NO way!”

My husband was gracious (and making a doable income) and I got my wish. However, I spent very little time as a “stay-at-home mom” or whatever we are calling it these days. I was still traveling for, marketing, organizing his southern gospel singing ministry… before long, I was teaching a one-day, two-hour class at the local hospital, and then, we were planning our annual gospel convention (which, to this day, is still some of the hardest work I’ve ever done), and then, for fun, I began editing a magazine.

But three years ago this summer, I returned to the more traditional work force. For 2 years (with a depressing gap in the middle), I worked in theatre management. THAT was crazy hard work too… but thankfully, the second part of it meant I could have the girls with me.

When that part morphed into being on a church staff, it didn’t take long for me to know that this was the perfect-fitting job for me as a mommy. While I don’t prefer to have my kids in the office with me, it’s an option when it’s needed. And all the “after-hours” parts of it… meetings, events, the madness that sometimes is synonymous with Sunday mornings: they are part of it.

This summer, like the last, I re-arranged my hours to be there three days a week instead of four. And because the girls were away with their grandparents for several weeks – and their Daddy is working from home when he isn’t traveling – there hasn’t been a Childcare Issue (thank the Lord!)

I tend to fit my other part-time job, as an editor for TRU Teen Magazine, around everything else. The girls have seen the magazine, admired the clothes and faces, and know that I work for their friends’ mom, Ms. Deanna.

IMG_8256Occasionally, they express their frustration with me and my “distractions.” Sometimes, they would rather not go to both church services every Sunday (which, we’d probably do a lot whether I was working there or not). Sometimes, when I am in the throes of a deadline or a streak of inspiration, they’d rather I just put my computer away and watch Jessie with them. I continue to try to show them the positive aspects of Mommy Working (money for eating out and going to the movies, people we get to meet and help), but I understand. My personality lends itself to focused work, and it’s hard for me to make the switch from “doing” to “Disney” sometimes.

They don’t always get it. *I* don’t always get it. All moms have “distractions” – some of them are working much longer hours and have constant Childcare Issues, some of them are taking care of other family members who need extra help, some of them have health problems, and some, too many, of them are doing it on their own.

I remind myself when statements like Miranda’s pour on the Mom Guilt that my little ladies have a pretty awesome life. When we were traveling all the time, they got to see many places, ride planes, trains, and a bus, and were doted on and fed by people from all over the country. When we were working the theatre, they got to see shows they loved, meet people they adored, eat endless popcorn, and learn about the backstage workings of live shows. And now, again, they get to be part of whatever I do in some capacity – something that would not be true if I worked in a doctor’s office, a school, a bank…

What I must also remind myself of, though, when that newsletter just needs to be tweaked and sent, when we get out of the 90 minute movie and there are 4 voice mails waiting for me, when it’s been a manic Sunday and all I want is a nap, is that at this stage of their lives, when they innocently and sweetly live in a world of where they can be anything and want such simple things, the best thing I can give them is ME.

from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand

“from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand”

It was a Facebook comment I read this morning, by someone whom I don’t know, but through Facebook orchestration, I am united with through mutual love and support of another.

I have a friend I have not seen since 10th grade. We were buddies. We mostly hung out at school or football games. She lived a few towns away, and before drivers’ licenses, that might as well have been states away. {It’s a lovely bonus sidenote to this story that I am going to see her TODAY!}

Paula and her daughter CarmynNow, she does live states away. But we are close. Facebook, that little tool that can be used for good or evil, has been so fruitful in bringing this woman, her family, her perspective into my life… and it is one I have come to count on.

We love a lot of the same things… family life, cooking and food, Jesus, our husbands, fun TV. But our lives are different. She has 4 littles. I have a unconventional blend. She is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. I have a few part-time gigs and am happy with public school for now. She gardens. I edit a teen magazine. She churches at home. I practically live at my church.

And the one factor that our American Society of Modern Moms seems to say should divide us, does not.

She has a child with special needs. I do not.

I have read countless articles about being a friend to parents of special needs children (I hate them, mostly… what to say, what not to say…). I am often flabbergasted at the challenges faced by the families in my circle, from juvenile diabetes to epidermolysis bullosa, Downs syndrome to spina bifida, food allergies to Angelman syndrome. The range of lifestyles and decisions and emotions and lessons and stress experienced by these mamas often leaves me feeling breathless and absolutely helpless. How many times can I say “Sending love and prayers?” How many times can I ask God “WHY” do some children have to struggle and suffer this way? How long before my lack of these challenges becomes an obstacle in my compassion and my ability to be the kind of friend these women need?

The truth is, though, that in the big ways, mamas are the same. We stress over how to Do This Thing that is raising our children in a safe, loving, educational environment, teaching them to be good people, advocating for them and empowering them all at once. We do our best but often feel inadequate, criticized, or judged. We want to feed them healthy foods and take advantage of teachable moments and expose them to a well-rounded cultural experience, but sometimes, we just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix in peace for 5 minutes, even if it means we’re having PB&J for dinner.

And we all want to know we are not alone in this.

A few nights ago, I was talking to another friend. She, too, has friends facing the struggle of children with severe medical issues or special needs. We talked exhaustively about this subject, about how to best reach out, encourage, minister.

As we talked, the thought rang in my head that we were, indeed, advocating for these mamas, just amongst ourselves. We are saying to them, to you,

“Hey! We don’t get it. We likely never can and never will. But we get you. We see you and your struggle. We are here praying for you and cheering you on. We are loving your babies and making donations and telling your stories. It’s not much… it might not change a thing, but we are in this together.”

American mamahood is fully of petty competition and sometimes foolish worry. If we are not careful, we become products of marketing and media, rather than the organic fruit of one of creation’s most sacred and rewarding callings: motherhood. It doesn’t matter if we arrive at the same conclusions (breast vs. bottle, public vs. private vs. home, organic vs. processed, vaccines vs. not…). It matters that we value the walk we are all taking. It matters that when I turn my head and see another mama next to me, struggling, I do my best to give her a hand up and not to judge her. It matters that when I see a mama who is facing more, doing more, or “doing it better,” I don’t judge myself, because my lot is the lot given to me, and I have to do my own best on my own path.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other’s hearts, because maybe we never can. It matters that we try to understand, that we respect each other, that we cheer for each other’s children. Let’s stop being afraid of having the wrong kind of compassion and instead just make sure we are not without it.

To learn more about Angelman Syndrome, please click here.


The power of laughter

laughIt’s probably impossible to play catch-up here, not only because it’s been 6 months, but because it has been a jam-packed 6 months… some of the most surprising of my life.

The summary is that in February, we found ourselves very unexpectedly pregnant. The range of emotions went from terror to shock to utter bliss in the matter of about 10 minutes, and then 2 weeks later, to devastation, as we were told the baby had no heartbeat.

Miscarriage. I have checked that off my bucket list of nightmares I hoped never to face. It sucked. It still sucks. But we survived.

I remember the day I found my laughter again. It was probably 3 or 4 weeks after my D&C. We were lounging in bed on a Saturday morning waiting for the girls to come and jump on us. They did. And for some reason, I grabbed my iPhone and turned on the song “Happy.” (You so know the one). Then I started lip syncing. And dancing. Rod was watching me with the light in his eyes you can only have for the person you adore when she is being completely odd.

And I cracked up. And I couldn’t stop.

That was the day I found myself again. Even though when I look back at my early life, I see a thread of melancholy, the real truth that has arisen as I have “found myself” in adulthood is that I am a joyful person. I smile. I laugh. I embrace happiness. Having a family of my own, becoming a mama, helped me to see that and be that. And while losing a child could have been the thing that changed it (as indeed, it did change me to my core, but that’s another blog), I refuse to let it.

Death doesn’t win.

Fear doesn’t win.

Joy, love, laughter… it will, it must conquer the sad things in life. It will give us wings.

It did this year. But news of another Burton Baby certainly has also helped.  Our first grandchild will be born to Josh and Kirsten this fall! And in May, in the spirit of twofold blessings and almost 3 months to the day we lost our baby, we found out we will be having another, one whose heart is beating and arms are waving.

And I laughed…

baby burton


As far as blended families go, we never had it very rough. It never got very complicated.

But that doesn’t mean we were always a smoothie.

Sometimes we were blended about as much as oil and water, particularly when it came to a certain teenage boy and his 15-years-older stepmom.

That would be us:


Oh, we had some things we enjoyed together: amusement parks. superheroes. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. guacamole. But for a few years, there was pretty much nothing we could talk about without one or both of us getting mad.

Thank God, we made it through.

I dropped the “step” from his title long ago, around the time the first of his baby sisters was born, and I realized that our kids are our kids. I did not give birth to Josh. I didn’t have the frogs-snails-puppy-dog-tails part of his growing up; I never got to dress him in cute overalls or help him learn to ride a bike, but nonetheless, I was going to help guide him toward the goal of being a man… a good man. And with that realization, he became my son.

With maturity, I could also embrace the difference between having him for my son and being his mom. There is a distinct difference, and it’s all good. He has a mom, who did have his babydom and childhood and who doesn’t need to be replaced. That’s part of the blend, folks.

This week, I will likely share some stories with her. I will stand beside his dad as we watch him become a man in a very important way… as he makes vows to his new wife… as he takes steps to do something we did not: have a family that never needs blending.

(Although… is there such a thing? I mean, even though my parents have been married to each other for 40 years, they still had to blend as my brother and I brought our spouses, stepkids, kids, in-laws into the family. Hmmm… Maybe we need a different term. But, we definitely pray that Josh and Kirsten are only married to each other, for their lives!)


I am so grateful, so proud, to have inherited the boy he was, to have grown with him and butted heads with him and helped shape the teen he was, to have the man he is for my friend and family and ally, and for my babies to have him as their big brother.

When I watch him take those vows this week, when I dance our “non-special” dance at his reception, when I bask in our C-RA-ZY blended family this Christmas (think Four Christmases, all in one house!), every time we get a few minutes to have Starbucks or a warehouse shopping trip by ourselves or a Chipotle/Abuelo’s/beach/movie date with the whole family, it won’t really matter to me whether he is my stepson or son or whatever we call it. I am his, and he is mine, and thanks to God for all the gracious and unexpected ways He chooses to bless our lives!