I Am Not My Children’s Father

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I am a single parent and the sole caretaker for my four children. But I am not their father.

There are some who would wish me, or other single mothers, Happy Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June. I want to be clear, I do not take that adversely, in fact, I take it as a compliment. But I am not my children’s father.

I am a mother. I am the lone parent. I am the only name on the Emergency Contact line. I alone put to bed, provide, comfort and guide my children. But I am not their father.

But my children are not fatherless.

For over three years I prayed everyday that God would be a father to my children. And He has.

gpopFor over three years my father, my children’s grandfather, has been in my daughters’ lives every single day. He has never stopped being a parent to me and through him, my children see what a father should be.

This post was originally published on June 16, 2014. (Still true, though…) 

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Turn It Up!

One of my greatest delights is standing between my children in church and hearing their sweet voices join mine in worship. Now before you get the wrong idea, my two little ones are experts at disturbing these idyllic moments.

The truth is, it’s not unusual for me to lose a child during the worship time. Eventually, I notice one is missing and start glancing around; someone behind me usually catches my searching eye and points under a seat somewhere down the row. I smile my thanks and bend over to remove my child from under the seat and return to singing only to get tapped on the arm by the seven year old asking what does that or this word mean, you know, weird words like “hosanna” and “worthy.” It’s delightful that she wants to know, but this is like the seventh time she’s asked. I once again return to singing and soon realize the five year old is now lying in the middle of the aisle, I whisper loudly to her, “someone’s going to step on your head.” I silently blame myself for forgetting to bring a coloring page and crayon packet once again. At last I hand the little one the pen and “welcome card” from the pocket in the seat in front of her to entertain her.

I wouldn’t change it.

singingNo, mine are most definitely not the perfectly dressed in their Sunday best little girls with white tights and bows in their hair. Mine are the children who look like they dressed themselves (they did) and I am the mom licking my thumb to remove dried icing from the little one’s cheek before she exits for Sunday School – and yes she got it on there by clandestinely licking the icing off her big sister’s cinnamon roll before church. This child seriously needs Jesus.

But it is those brief moments of unified voices in praise with my girls beside me that I cherish. A combined 120 seconds of that? I’ll take it. Joyfully.

Three years ago my daughters and I stepped onto a plane with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We flew across oceans and continents from one country to another. The first six months in the US are still a blur. The girls were not yet in school. The younger two children did not even speak English and the older two were barely bi-lingual. They could not read. They could not write.

But they could listen.

Almost from our first day in the US we listened to a Christian radio station and we learned every song. I consider it the number one most healing influence in our life at that time. Even today, it is all we listen to in the car.

The other day I borrowed my dad’s car to drive my daughter to the dentist. His car’s dial is set to Sports Radio. That, of course, was unacceptable. As I was driving I scanned through the channels, trying to find something a ten year old might like. After about ten minutes of skipping from song to song she said, “Mom, can we put on our regular station?” Gladly.

We might not have a wide variety of songs in our repertoire but there are few things in this life that give me as much pleasure as listening to the sound of my children singing worship songs in the car and hearing them say,

“Turn it up, Mom, this is my favorite one.”

Copyright © Rebecca Onkar, Moms of Faith®, All Rights Reserved

This post was originally written for Moms of Faith®.

I Can’t Delete My Grandchildren

I helped my mother “get the pictures off her phone” and on to her computer the other day. I do this periodically for her – after vacations and holidays especially.

She and my Dad had recently taken a trip to Virginia and she took some pictures of my brother-in-law’s college and wanted to send them to him in Arizona. Making a move into the twenty-first century, Mom decided to email them to him rather than print them out and snail mail them. Baby steps.

After connecting the camera to the computer I saw the first pictures start to upload – 779 of them. Dang it. I hate when the computer forgets that it has already uploaded off this camera in the past and doesn’t start from the most recent pics – just a couple dozen since September.

As I sat there waiting for the hundreds of old pictures to upload, knowing I would have to delete 95% of them, I saw a baby picture of my nephew flash past. He’s six now.

When I mentioned the ancient pictures flashing across the screen to my mother she got a little flustered and exclaimed, “I can’t delete my grandchildren!”

Nope. She can’t.

I, however, can delete my children. I don’t like it, but I do it out of necessity – usually because I’ve run out of space and my phone is freezing up on me. It comes down to immediately deleting pictures of my kids or using my phone.

Phone wins. Every time.

I console myself that the pictures I really like I’ve already posted to Facebook and I can always find them. And, hey, since we’ve moved on to digital we take WAY more pictures than ever before – can you say, “selfie?” I can, and my phone is full of them but they certainly are not of myselfie.

selfie

Alright, you’ve twisted my arm; I admit it, I’ve deleted my children and I feel guilty about it.

***

Random Pictures of My Children from My Phone that I Will Probably Have to Delete at Some Point but at least They Are Now on My Blog for All Eternity – or Until the Internet Dies.

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Delete 2

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10 Reasons I Appreciate Teachers or…

Why You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough to Teach in School

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1. Stinky Children. Have you smelled a child’s breath in the morning? Do you know where those hands have been? I do. I know these smells All. Too. Well, my friends. I live with children. I know what they smell like. It’s not good. If I get 50% of my children to brush their teeth on a given morning – it’s a GOOD day. Poor, poor teachers. I deeply apologize.

2. Interruptions. I’ve taught enough small children over the years to realize that it is nearly impossible to get through anything without being interrupted. In fact, I have my own children to prove this theory. This morning as we were getting ready to leave for school I said, “Ok, everyone be quiet, we’re going to pray.” Just like we do every morning. As I take a deep breath and my lips are forming the “D” in “Dear Jesus,” my seven year old says, “Did you put my water bottle in my bag?” “Yes, close your eyes and stop talking we’re going to pray. D…” “Did you put my snack in my bag?” <deep breath> “Yes. close your eyes and stop talking we’re going to pray. De…” “Is it Halloween today?”

Lord have mercy, she did it FOUR times. In the end I had to have the five year old pray because I was too aggravated to talk to the Lord in that moment.

God bless teachers.

3. Stories. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where you could just tell a random story of your choosing about an irrelevant incident that happened in your life whenever the spirit moved you? Welcome to Childhoodville. Random. Random stories out of left field, probably when their teacher is trying to explain math or something. You have got to shut them down and move on, or the random storytelling will take over your life, I mean, classroom.

4. Farting. Let’s get real, Everybody farts. This includes the people who claim they don’t fart. They do. However, back in the day when I was in school, no one farted in school– or at least admitted to farting. Once, when I was in 9th grade the kid behind me accidentally farted loudly during class. With a “W” last name I was in the far back, left corner with just one seat behind me. In an instant, every single head in that classroom whipped back to our little corner of the room. In mortal fear that someone might think that I had committed the fart, I quickly turned around and glared at the kid behind me who sheepishly shrugged his shoulders as if to say, whoops. At least he manned up and owned it.

These days farting seems to be the “in” thing. I got on the bus with the 5th Graders to chaperon their class trip and before my buttocks hit the green faux leather bench, I smelled it. Stinky, unmistakable fart smell. On the crowded bus. Really? Sigh.

My five year old is always loaded. And she is unashamed. When I ask her if she does it in school she claims she doesn’t, but I’m not so sure. For a little person, she is super gassy and I don’t even know why. I can’t imagine what I’m feeding them to cause the gas buildup; it’s not like they eat vegetables or anything…

5. Questions. Ridiculous questions. Questions like, “What do you call 100 twins?” And they expect an answer, as if that’s a thing. And they won’t ask you once, they’ll ask you 400 times, apparently forgetting the 399 times they already asked you the same thing.

If teachers haven’t been driven just a little bit insane I’d be very, very surprised.

6. Discipline. Call me crazy, but I just like to work in a world where people are adults and it’s not my job to correct them.

7. Cleaning. God bless them again, but there are some teachers who even clean up their students. Imagine it’s winter and seated before you are twenty sweet and shiny faces; shiny with florescent yellow snot logs hanging just above their upper lip. The remaining log-less students’ nostrils are filled with enormous snot bubbles or crusty boogers. Bring on the tissues. And rubber gloves. And Clorox wipes. And Airborne.

Bless you teachers. Bless you.

8. Whining. Maybe this only happens at home? Somehow I doubt it. Whiners gonna whine.

9. Repeating. As in, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Moooom, Mom…” Although I suppose in school it is something along the lines of, “Teacher, Teacher, Teacher… or Mrs. Fillintheblank, Mrs…” You get where I’m going with this… (refer back to my insanity comment.)

10. I’m leaving #10 blank for a Fill it in Yourself Competition. There is no prize other than my eternal gratitude for your understanding and empathy; for the teachers – not me, I wouldn’t do that job for a million bucks.

***

It must be a calling. I cannot imagine why someone would willingly submit themselves to the stinks and sounds of a small child classroom environment if they weren’t on a mission of some kind. There just isn’t enough money in the world. All I have left to say is, whatever teachers are being paid, it isn’t nearly enough.

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Longer than the Line for Snow Crab Legs at the Chinese Buffet

I dragged myself out of bed this morning a few minutes late, so while I was still brushing my teeth my daughter came in to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and proceed to tell me her Once Upon A Time (TV show) related dream from the night before. Every. single. detail.

sigh

My children all tend to be long-winded – it may be related to the fact that English is not their first language so the older ones struggle with being concise; however, if I’m honest with myself, I fear they get their long-windedness from me.

I was a long story teller as a child, as my brother likes to remind me. I especially liked relating every plot detail of a movie that I had recently watched to my captive family (usually in the car.)

tarzanWhenever one of my children starts in on a long story I think, this is for all those times I subjected my family to the entire storyline of an ancient Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie or something grotesque I watched on Saturday morning’s Theater Bazaar.

Actually, I think all your bad habits from childhood get rained back down on you when you are a parent. Wet towels on the bed? I can still clearly remember getting punished for leaving wet towels on my bed around age twelve. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV for a week. This was lauraespecially painful because I was watching Little House on the Prairie and my no TV week fell right when Laura and Almanzo were falling in love. Dang it. I was sorely disappointed to miss the best part and I surely learned my lesson. No more wet towels on the bed.

As I walk through my house each day picking up towels from beds and floors and the living room couch, I think, yep, I did this to me.

To my mother and to anyone I ever subjected a long tale of a movie plot (or if I left a wet towel on your bed), you’ll be happy to know, it’s all come back to me. All. come. back. to. me.

And then some.

On the upside, at least the kids are bathing…

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This post was inspired by the word, LONG, and was written alongside of a whole bunch of other bloggers writing for Five Minute Friday. Link up here.

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Joy in the Noise

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I send them off with a “Walk fast” and “Don’t be grouchy.” At last, there is silence. But these first few moments of quietness as I watch them walk to the street corner are merely an illusion.

The truth is, if I were to lock myself in my bedroom and hide my head under my pillow, silence would be as illusive then as if I were to seek it in a Bombay train station.

The main culprit is my internal assistant, AKA – my brain. And I talk to myself. A lot. Much to my children’s chagrin. For years my daughter thought I was talking to Jesus. Actually, I’m just working things out in my head.

While I am working them out, I like to walk our local bike path and just be quiet. No iTunes, or audio books – just me and my brain in the “silence.” I talk to God for a while. I think. I blog in my head. Here too, the silence is an illusion just as it is in my home, or car, or church or anywhere else. A whole day of duties awaits me and the internal assistant is an expert at keeping my mind a step ahead, preparing me.

Bingo 1000

Though I labor, she is never satisfied. After the cleaning and shopping and Halloween Bingo playing and more cleaning and office work and dinner out and more Halloween Bingo, I LONG for silence and solitude. I bundle the children off to the upstairs and say, “Stay.”

The truth is,  I am raising four girl humans and they talk. A lot. Usually at the same time. Sometimes they get annoyed that a sister is talking at the same time as them. Then they whine. Then they stop talking because they are whining because they want to be talking.

My head spins like a Bingo cage.

I become aggressive in my search for silence. From a floor away I still hear their shrill tones raised in play (?) argument (?) It won’t be long until I hear, “MOM!” cried out from the top of the stairs.

Do they need me? Doubtful. They just want to know I’m around.

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I occasionally wonder if the silence I seek is even out there. Would I need to be stranded on a boat alone in the middle of the ocean for weeks and weeks with no sound save the lapping of the waves against my raft to find the silence? Would the internal assistant finally use her vacation days? I wonder.

I wonder what I would find in the silence.

I wonder if I am capable of silence. I’m not talking about survival. This is Life. This is living. It’s parenting, providing, creating, building relationships, resting, loving.  I think about what would have to occur for me to find a place where my mind was free to be silent, were it possible. Would I give up conversations in the car with my children – the place where the most significant and meaningful discussions in our family occur? Would I give up nights of Halloween Bingo when I should be cleaning or working (or blogging) to find it?

At what cost would I obtain this illusive silence?

I imagine it would be more than I am willing to sacrifice. The joy in the midst of the noise sustains me.

This is life. This is a journey. I suppose I must walk a little faster and try not to be grouchy along the way…

TuesdayI was inspired to write this post for Tuesday at Ten. Prompt word: Silence. This post was difficult for me to write, I had to push myself to make it happen and that’s not bad. Reflecting on silence helped me obtain a smidgen of clarity in my usually cluttered mind to focus, not just on what inspires me and flows outward all on its own, but to work with minimal inspiration and create something that is still me. Whew.

I Named My Daughter After a Barbie Movie

If you have girl children you are probably aware of the World of Barbie Movies.

Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper

Barbie: Fairytopia

Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia

Barbie as the Island Princess

Barbie in ‘A Christmas Carol’

The list goes on and on. The premise is the same, Barbie, an actress, is playing these various rolls and therefore she is not known as “Barbie” but by some other name in the movie.

12 bIn 2006 a movie, “Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses” arrived in India as a Christmas gift from my mother to my two (at that time) daughters. Barbie is playing the third oldest of the twelve sisters who falls in love with her cobbler (the guy who makes her shoes). Spoiler: They get married. It could totally happen.

For two months Barbie and her eleven sisters danced across our TV screen until February when we packed up the little girls and traveled to the US to give birth to Baby #3.

     Indian culture demands a boy child and, after two female children, hopes were high that Baby #3 would be a BOY. It is illegal in India for an ultrasound technician or Doctor to reveal the sex of a baby to the parents (- too many female children aborted. Sad, true story.) Later, by the time I had an ultrasound in the US I was past 36 weeks and it was difficult for the American technician to determine the sex of Baby #3.
    Up until this point, my husband had forbidden me to discuss or even think of girl names for Baby #3, I suppose he thought we would jinx it. Therefore, as my due date loomed near, we had not a single name for a girl child.
     Although the technician could not definitively determine baby #3’s sex, she did say that she was 75% sure the baby was a girl. This was enough for me to push for a girl name discussion on the drive home. The husband was amiable and never really minded having girls and he immediately suggested “Jennifer.”
    Ack! I am a child of the 80s! Jennifer is a great name but sadly OVER used in the era of my youth and I could not help but recoil from the name (my sincerest apologies to any Jennifers or Jennifer mothers reading this – I’m just keeping it real.)  However, being the compromising sort I immediately offered the name, “Genevieve” for consideration.
     Genevieve had never been on my Baby Name List before that moment but it just popped out and it was still “Jen” and I liked it. A lot.
      So did he. A few weeks later we held a precious 8lb Genevieve in our arms.Gen
  Three months later we packed up our growing family and returned to our Indian home. It wasn’t long until Barbie was once again dancing across our TV screen.
     I distinctly remember standing in the kitchen of our little house one evening and overhearing the sounds of the TV in the other room.
     “Genevieve…” one of the movie characters said. Huh? What? I rushed into the living room.
      It was true.
    I had named my child after Barbie’s character in Barbie in the Twelve Dancing Princesses. And I didn’t even know it. Subliminally the name must have been circulating in my head for months, waiting to for its chance. Sigh. As humiliating as this confession is, I do LOVE the name Genevieve and I wouldn’t change it if I could. I suppose I should thank Barbie, not just for delivering such a great name, but also for saving me from a Jennifer.
     Thank you Barbie.
  In a side note of more weirdness, my oldest daughter’s name is “Eve.” It took me a whole year before I realized the connection. Genevieve and Eve. Sigh. Duh. Sigh again. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, it gets confusing around the house – which one am I calling…  I have no excuse. 
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    (I apologize for the horrid formatting and lack of paragraph spacing – WordPress is freaking out on me. 😦  )

Hold this.

Standing in a crowded room trying to have a conversation with the woman in front of me about Room Moms and what must be done, I feel a little someone bump into my arm.

“Mom, can you hold this?” She says, holding up an enormous stuffed dog she bought at IKEA.

“No. You brought it, you hold it. I don’t hold your stuff.”gdog

Two minutes later I glance down at my hands and see that not only am I holding a large stuffed dog, but also a water bottle, coloring book and pencil.

Hold on a minute… how did this happen? How does this always happen?

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This post was inspired by Five Minute Friday: Hold. Link up here. 🙂

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10 Things I Don’t Say

I recently read an interesting blog article,

10 th

You can find the original article here. I found it thought provoking, mainly because my own experience is much different from the author’s.

(Spoiler: It’s never crossed my mind to say (or think) most of these – fear of judgment or not.)

1. “Your words hurt.” I have never experienced a person saying something to me in regard to my single parent state that was intentionally mean or hurtful. I have been saddened and hurt by words, but the intention behind the words was never hurtful. Words that hurt, hurt because they touch an open wound. A “Daddy-Daughter Dance” is a lovely thing, but when your daughter doesn’t have a Daddy to attend with, those words hurt, even though the words themselves were never ever intended for that purpose.

2. “We will freak out if you ever refer to our kids as ‘baggage.’”   No one has ever referred to my children as “baggage.” Ever. People really say that to single parents?

However, I do agree with the dating piece of the author’s point, and I would/will say this. Don’t date me if you are unsure of the “whole kids thing. Just. Don’t.

3. “We’re not rich.” Ha! I doubt that anyone even assumes that we are. And I do not receive child support.

4. “There will always be some “drama” with our kid’s other parent, if they’re around.” My children’s other parent is not around, so our drama level is way low.

5. “We feel isolated and lonely.” This is a hard one. Yes, absolutely, Single Moms are in a world of their own. I agree that connecting with like moms, single or married is key. News flash, there are married  moms out there who feel isolated and lonely. I’m thankful to work in an office with my parents and brother; if I didn’t, I would definitely feel more isolated and lonelier. But, I also believe isolation and loneliness are situations that, under most circumstances, we can change. Conclusion: Occasionally, on a cold, dark night I have felt isolated and lonely, but in the warm light of day, it rarely crosses my mind.

6. “We worry constantly that we aren’t doing a good enough job.” Absolutely not. I don’t worry, and definitely not about this. The reason: I have Christ in my life and He loves my children even more than I do. How could I worry about my  job of raising them when I have the God of the Universe sticking it out and walking with me? I trust Him. Worry is futile.

7. “We aren’t very much fun.” Huh. How many married people with children are super fun? Really. Come on, be honest. By our mid-thirties we’re already falling asleep on the couch in the middle of our favorite show. We can’t go out for coffee because it keeps us awake and we can’t drink wine because it knocks us out. This is not a single parent thing. This is a parent thing. Kids wear us out and it doesn’t matter if there are 1 or 2 or 10 parents. You know it’s true. However, I’m definitely still fun.

8. “We don’t have a strong sense of ‘self'” Yes, I do. I’m a Mother. 😉  I think I covered this in my recent post 1%. Or 5.

9. “Long before our kids could understand adult conversation, we talked to them like they could.”  I have no idea if this is true. How would I? I have no way of knowing whether I would talk in the same manner to my children if I were still married or not. I’m kind of at a loss here.

10. “Someone complimenting our kid means the world to us.” Yes. Yes. And YES! Wait, doesn’t every  parent feel this way?

Yet, In all honestly, I think it does mean more to single parents. On this point, I agree whole-heartedly with the author of the article. I think #10 is a gauge with which we can measure how well things are going in #6 . When nice things are relayed to us about our children we get a sense that:

They really are turning out OK.

Being raised by only one parent isn’t scarring them for life.

They are well-adjusted and kind and happy.

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I suppose every parenting journey, married, single or other, is unique. The paths of our lives rarely lead where we expected. I latch on to the joy that is found in the brief moments that build our days. Eventually, they will build a lifetime.

cwj 3Isn’t that exactly what this blog is all about?

I’ve been a single parent of four children for three & a half years.

 

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1%. Or 5.

The kids and I watched the movie, Blended, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore the other night.

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While it was showing in the theaters I saw that it didn’t receive great reviews but we figured that for a Friday night family movie, it was worth a try. This Is Not a movie review post, but I will say that we, kind and uncritical people, loved it and my kids want to own it. For a single parent, like myself, it was hauntingly accurate and funny; as well as being funny and sweet and, did I mention, laugh-out-loud funny? (Disclaimer: it does contain the regular dosage of Sandler crudeness, but mostly in brief spurts.)

On to the purpose of the post… At one point in the movie Sandler & Barrymore are agreeing that, as parents, you must give your kids 100% of yourself. They finally agree to 99%, with 1% withheld for the Parent’s personal wants.

If you are a parent, especially a single parent, you are probably shrugging your shoulders in reluctant agreement; or , possibly, you don’t agree at all. My own children have not seen their father in over 3 and half years. He calls them about six times a year. What I’m saying is, sometimes parents – peace out. Even my own daughter disagreed with the 1% thing.

“Mom, I don’t think that what they said in the movie is right. It’s not 1%, I think it’s more like 5%.”

Okay. I’ll buy that. Yet, is it really possible that 95-99% of our time goes to our children? Do we really only have 5% (or less) of ourselves and our time to pursue our own interests?

Let’s explore this. This weekend my colleagues are traveling to MN for a three-day conference. I would have liked to attend. My colleagues also would have liked for me to attend. But I won’t be attending. – Because I am a single mother. I have four children. And no one to watch them for that many nights.

On the other hand, I am glad that I am not going because it frees up my weekend, because if  I were gone my children would have missed a birthday party (or I would have had to arrange transportation.) I would miss a meeting after church about youth group, (which is important to me.) I would have missed all kinds of important things. And ALL of them kid-related. 

Do you see what I am saying? – even the HIGH points about not being able to attend the conference this weekend are positive because they benefit my children

That 99% is starting to seem a lot more realistic.

For single parents, is there time and room in our lives for romance? Apparently so. At least it seems so in the movies. I haven’t found it true in my own life, but then again I often say, there is a Whole Lot of Female Awesomeness  in this family. It would have to be a special man to be willing to blend in some of that.

What about activities, hobbies, free time? I suppose I have that. I do love to write. Then again, my kids influence my writing – a lot. (eh hem – this whole post and most of what I write.) I like to crochet – generally scarves and beanies – for my kids. Occasionally, I create other things, especially around Christmas, that usually end up as gifts, for teachers, of my children… Hmmmm.

I go to the movies alone sometimes…

Before you start getting all poor Rebecca on me consider, when I left my husband I asked God for my children. Nothing else. Not a portion of our five bedroom/five bathroom home, our lucrative business, vehicles, land, savings, or anything else. We left him (I write a bit about why here and a little bit here) and carried away with us a single suitcase. Eleven years of living. Five people. One suitcase.

The rest of the possessions were, and still are, his.

Hear this: I Totally Got the Better End of That Deal.

Imagine a scale that weighs everything left behind or unrealized in my life on one side and my children seated on the other side. Yeah, no comparison. None.

I asked my chubby little seven year old tonight if she liked watching movies with us on Family Movie Night and she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I just like ‘nuggling with you.”

I’m delighted with my 1%. Or 5.

And hey, it’s not going to be 99% forever, right? They do grow up, don’t they…?

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