New Life: Why Easter is my favorite holiday.

Peonies in our back yard. Peonies die to the ground in the winter, and two weeks ago these were only a cluster of fingers peering out of the dirt.

Peonies in our back yard. Peonies die to the ground in the winter, and two weeks ago these were only a cluster of fingers reaching out of the dirt.

Is it weird that as an adult, Easter has become my favorite holiday? Those prone to opine about such things as favorite holidays always seem to focus on Christmas, or maybe Halloween if they are a little more of a dramatic-type. Mr. Fly’s favorite holidays are Fourth of July and New Year’s because “neither requires gift giving or obligatory time with family.” But to me, Easter is the day.

Easter combines less pressured and overwhelming gift giving than Christmas, less candy (and better candy, Reese’s Eggs, anyone? And I’ll see you one Reese’s Egg and raise you a Reester Bunny!) than Halloween, better weather than any other holiday, and one of my favorite church services of the year. At our church on Easter, the congregation sings the Alleluia Chorus from the Messiah at the end of the service, and Mr. Fly and I belt it out like no one’s listening (or everyone’s listening. Mr. Fly loves an audience. We also have our own personal Messiah scores. Don’t judge, you know you’re jealous.)

And the clothes! Easter calls for church goers, at least in the South, to trot out the best-of-the-Sunday-best, especially for the children. I cannot resist a baby boy in a smocked bubble, a little girl in a bonnet and gloves, or a little boy in a seersucker suit.  Bow ties and suede bucks come out of their boxes for the day and we are all a more colorful, reborn version of our sad winter selves.

These seemingly superficial trappings of gifts and beautiful clothes allow me to show the gratitude and joy that I feel inside, as we spend this day worshipping with family and friends. I give gifts to my children because I want them to feel the importance of the holiday and my gratitude that Jesus died for me and for them. I want my entire family to be wearing color-coordinated, absurdly fancy outfits because this is not just any day of the year, this is EASTER, and it is spring, and Jesus is reborn, we are reborn, and the world around us is reborn.

In my over-excitement about the holiday during breakfast yesterday, as we ate cinnamon rolls and the kids emptied their baskets, I tried to explain the story of the resurrection to Big Boy. There’s got to be a primer for this somewhere (his children’s Bible does not even include the Easter story), but lacking one, my version ended up with “And then God brought Jesus back to life again with his magic.” I doubt this will win me any theology awards, but that’s what it feels like we are celebrating on Easter. God’s magic, and His power to bring hope and joy to the bleakest and darkest of times.

Somehow my house still stands even after the explosion of candy, Easter grass, love, children’s laughter, and joy it held yesterday. Today I feel both exhausted and exhilarated, and my voice is hoarse from belting out hymns, songs of praise, and sharing food and fellowship with friends. I am trying to get back into my normal routine, but everything outside calls me to continue to celebrate spring and the new world God has made for us.

In this new world it is spring, and the world is on the cusp of new life and we are in the middle of it. All this seems like a miracle, an absurdly generous reprieve from this winter and the life we’ve been living over the past six months.

I am grateful that yesterday was a raucous celebration of joy and beauty and life.  I hope I can hold fast to the spirit of this celebration until it is time once again next year to fill the baskets, plan the outfits, buy the Peeps, make the cakes, and sing until our voices are merely whispers, to shrug off the darkness and doubt that I know will come. For now, however, I will enjoy God’s magic in the sunshine.



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Sunglasses – My Messy Beautiful



James sunglasses

On certain days, days that seem to occur all too frequently lately, I’d like to wear my sunglasses all the time. Day or night, sunshine or rain, inside or outside. My sunglasses are a secret identity, a cape, a mask, and a sign that reads “Don’t talk to me. I’m intimidating. Reeeeeeaaaally intimidating.”  Wearing my sunglasses, the garage door is locked, the lights are off, and I am hiding upstairs in my bedroom, wallowing in a safe, sad bubble, hoping whoever rings the doorbell will just go away.

With my sunglasses on, I can be a lady on her way back from the eye doctor after a friendly, afternoon dilation. Or hey, maybe I’m just hung over.

With my sunglasses on, I am not the lady that’s been crying in her car for an hour before walking into her son’s school because he had a cluster of seizures that morning and “you need to come now or we’ll have to call 911.” I am not the woman with under-eye circles so purple and permanent as to thrill the make-up counter ladies to offer her an “incredible deal on the best new eye cream!” I am not the person that runs a mental calculus every morning about what time it is and what time did James wake up and has he had his medicines. I am not so tired.

But there always comes a point, as it did earlier this week, in James’ classroom with his sweet teachers and sweeter classmates, that I have to take them off. No one has ever said anything to me or asked me to take them off, but eventually I feel like I have no other choice. (And no, it’s not because I’m afraid of looking weird. Or people thinking I look weird. We know this.)

I walked into his classroom after they said he was having seizures and I needed to come right away. Seizures aren’t new for us at the Family Fly, but this sounded like something different. Everyone at the school was worried, and I was worried, and Mr. Fly was so worried that he left work without telling me he was doing it and drove straight to the school as fast as he could. And I cried the whole way there, and I was sad, and I was angry about why this was happening to us–Am sad and angry, although it’s hard to hold on to that level of emotion all day long. And I wore my sunglasses, and they made me feel better. Because I thought no one could see my sad and angry.

The mask may may have worked on the strangers I passed in the church parking lot where James’ school is house, and it may have worked on the church ladies preparing the fellowship hall lunch (“Does that young lady have an eye infection like that poor Bob Costas?”).  Once I walked into the classroom, however, their magic stopped working.

I saw James, and he looked at me and said, “Mama.” It’s the only word he can say, but if he’s going to have just one, it’s a good one. To James, I will always be Mama– there is no mask, no cape, no secret identity that can change that. And he sees me, and smiles, and says “Mama.”  This is his word, no matter how dark and puffy my eyes are and no matter how much I cry.

The other children in the classroom love a visitor and I soon found myself in a swarm of little people with sticky hands and feet wearing colored orthotics decorated with sports themes, rainbows, and hearts. (James has blue fish on his– I can never decide if a colorful design on a medical device like AFOs (the orthotics a lot of special needs kids wear to help stabilize their ankles) is adorable or depressing. Both, I suppose.)  One of my favorite little girls in the class, Katie,* peered up at me and gave me one of her trademark hugs.

And with James’ “Ma-ma,” and that hug, and the children playing around me, I no longer wanted to be zipped up in that sad and angry bubble by myself.  I took the sunglasses off. Only then could I really see the children playing, the easter art projects they’d made the day before, and have a real conversation with his teachers.

Seizures are terrifying and unpredictable and watching one happen in someone you love is like watching them possessed by something evil and foreign. But they end, and your person comes back to you, and he calls you “Mama.”   No matter how appealing pulling the shades down on the world feels so much of the time, when you are locked inside yourself, you miss the good stuff too.

I don’t plan on getting rid of my sunglasses anytime soon. (For one, they make an awesome headband. And two, they are really cute sunglasses.) But I will try not to wear them inside so much. There’s so much fun that I’d miss if I was alone in that sad bubble.

*Names of children other than my own have been changed to protect their privacy.


As those of you that have visited me here before well know, Messy Beautiful could practically be the title of this blog. Well, Messy Beautiful  Reasonably Attractive You Wouldn’t Recoil From Us or something of that nature. But anyway, this essay is part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.

To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!







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On grace.

I don’t talk about God or religion much here. It isn’t that I don’t think about them (or Him), but I’ve never been particularly comfortable talking about faith in the abstract or my faith, in particular. (Hey, I’m Presbyterian. We’re called the “frozen chosen” for a reason.) I’m not sure I understand what faith truly is. But what about grace?

Like no doubt many others when confronted with a major life struggle, I had those “Why me? Why my son? How could God let this happen to my perfect, perfect baby?” moments. I still do.

I had one of those moments on the way back from Thanksgiving when James had a seizure in the car.  This was the holidays, it was supposed to be happy, we were supposed to be thankful for our blessings.

But what do you do when one of your blessings has a seizure, when seconds before you were thankful he was peacefully napping? When you thought he had outgrown his seizures and that wasn’t part of your life anymore?

You cry, you wail, you gnash your teeth. Your husband pulls the car over, and he cries. This is a man built of people who are salt of the earth, warm and solid Midwesterners. He rarely cries–he gets things done. When he’s feeling feisty, he gets shit done. But that Thanksgiving weekend, you cry together, even though the seizure is over in a matter of seconds and your son just looks at you afterwards with utterly peaceful eyes.

And your older son asks you why the car is stopped, and why Daddy is crying (he doesn’t bother to ask why Mommy cries, because he knows it is simply an essential bodily function for her, like her soul has to pee every day), and you have to explain to your infinitely innocent five-year-old that his brother had a seizure. It’s a word this precocious child heard every day of his life for a year after his brother was born, and yet it is a word he has never uttered. To hear him speak it is to feel the devastation of your baby’s diagnosis all over again.

Continue reading


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The best of times, the worst(ish) of times

To reference the great Tale of Two Cities: it was the best of times, it was the worst(ish) of times.

You probably noticed that you haven’t heard from me in a while. Did she run out of inane, embarrassing stories about her life, you ask? Did she move to Morocco?  Did she fall down a well, like baby Jessica? (Note: this is only okay to say since they found her. Obviously.)

I haven’t not posted because I have nothing to say. (And, the prize for the most negatives in a sentence goes to ME!) Rather, I haven’t posted because I have everything to say. I have oceans, reams, encyclopedias of things to say to you. It’s boiling any of that down into readable and non-overwhelming form that gets difficult.

As a family, we find ourselves in a peculiar place right now. We are deliriously, madly, absurdly in love with Baby Girl. Every day is a new milestone, a new moment of cuteness, and minutes and hours of pure, unbridled joy. We love Big Boy and James equally as much, but even our awe at Big Boy’s developmental period cannot match what we feel as we watch her grow. We marvel at how easy things are for her, because we see how difficult almost all things are for James.  Continue reading


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I fought the kale, and the kale won.


Subduing the Green Monster

Subduing the Green Monster

Those of you following us on Facebook know that to celebrate the fact that someone, anyone, besides my mother was reading this blog, I bought some kale.

And you know how I feel about kale.

Thus, in the spirit of celebration and in the spirit of trying to resemble a grown-up, which I hear can be defined as a person that (1) eats fancy vegetables and (2) makes good financial decisions (hey, since I gave number one a try, maybe I’ll get there on two and will stop trying to spend our money on what Husband calls “trinkets,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), I found myself with a big, bristly bunch of kale.

Husband put money on the likelihood the kale would go uncooked and uneaten, rotting in silent judgment in our fridge. Because all of you were so sweet and supportive, however, I figured I should at least try to cook it, and even if I didn’t eat it, James would. (To be clear, Husband is also very sweet and supportive, but he has known me for a very long time and his skepticism on my likelihood of cooking this kale was well-founded in past experience.) The child will eat ANYTHING. Which is kind of its own problem, but more on that later.

So, I did. I am not organized enough to look up a recipe ahead of time and actually purchase the groceries needed to make it, so I had to improvise based on what I remembered from some of the recipes you suggested.  I’m having trouble writing this, but. . . it wasn’t awful.

Here is the key, however: I browned two pounds of Italian sausage I got at Whole Foods first. This was the most gorgeous sausage I’ve ever seen. (“That’s what she said!”) But really. This was sausage made from pigs that slept cuddled up at the foot of someone’s bed. I have no idea what was in it, but it was beautiful.

I browned the sausage first, then I cleaned most of the grease out of the dutch oven and then sauteed the kale in a mixture of the sausage drippings and olive oil. Then I dumped a bunch of other things in the pot, like garlic, carrots, onions, cannelini beans, chicken stock, and the aformentioned sausage.

I could still tell there were actual green vegetables involved, but the boys (Husband, James, and Big Boy) all loved it. The moral of this story, to me, is that there is little that two pounds of beautiful, organic, cuddled and coddled sausage can’t make palatable.


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The Monday List: Things Target thinks I would like to buy, per the coupons it gives me

Mmm. Delicious Metamucil. Have some?

Mmm. Delicious Metamucil. Have some?

I love Target. Loooooove Target. Everyone that knows me in real life knows this about me. Our Target has a Starbucks, which perfectly cements me as that stereotype of a yoga pants-wearing-mom drinking a latte, walking around Target with my baby.

James also loves Target. It is his favorite errand, and he knows the logo so well that we can go to different Targets and he will get excited when he sees the sign. I can’t decide if this is a sad statement related to consumerism or cute. I’m going to go with cute.

But what’s not to love about Target, really? Well, I’ll tell you. If the coupons I get at checkout are any indication, my beloved Target thinks I am a geriatric, overweight, constipated, man.

Things Target thinks I would like to buy, per the coupons it gives me:

  • Metamucil – So many coupons for Metamucil. I think this can be traced to all the purchases I made earlier this fall related to James’ poop problems, but seriously? This was several months ago. I have NEVER BOUGHT METAMUCIL. Quit it with the Metamucil already!
  • Mangroomer Essential Nose and Ear Hair Trimmer – As if the Metamucil weren’t embarrassing enough. Not that ladies don’t have nose hair, but really? A Mangroomer? This sounds like something for Manscaping, a trend of which I am not supportive. I suspect this coupon can be traced to all of the lovely men’s grooming products I buy Husband. He’s adorably into toiletries. It’s his one vice. He loves a good shaving balm and Target has a few lines that are surprisingly nice.
  • And the icing on the humilation cupcake: Electric weight-loss belt. Truly. Target is trying to get me to buy a belt that zaps or shakes the fat off you. Or something. Apparently my beloved Target was only masquerading as the purveyor of lattes and cheaply made trendy sweaters and is really a two-bit diet huckster selling devices that will take off “10 pounds in two days! But wait, there’s more!” Lucky for us, this item is available online, should you be more willing than I to take Target’s shopping suggestions.

It is a testament to the professionalism of Target associates that none of them have ever batted an eyelash when handing me these odious coupons. Do they have training on this? Like, “keep your eyes on the Target guests and do not, under any circumstance, look at the content of the coupons?”

But Target knows it had me at latte, cheap books, and trendy sweater, and I can’t give it up. And maybe I’ll eventually find that Target’s computerized coupon-giving program knows me better than I know myself? Christmas is coming. Maybe I do need a nose hair trimmer…


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Dark and light

When I mentioned a recent blog post to my dad, who isn’t the type to read blogs generally, he said he wasn’t following the blog. He got lost when we migrated from Tumblr to WordPress. (I’m sorry, I know he probably isn’t the only one! Come back, ya hear?)

Anyway, when I reminded him of the blog’s address, he commented that the title of the blog was “a little dark.” And yeah, I guess it is a little dark.

Lord of the Flies, in case you aren’t an eighth grader that just finished summer reading (and if you are, why are you on the internet when you have a diorama of Shakepeare’s Globe Theater to build?), is a novel about a group of British schoolboys that are shipwrecked on an island. They try to create a children’s utopia, but things devolve pretty quickly into savagery. The voices of reason and maturity in the group are drowned out in favor of the boys’ baser instincts.

So why in the heck name a blog about family and parenting after such an awful story? Well, for starters, was taken. But seriously, as I’ve told you before, Husband and I often discuss the house being “all Lord of the Flies” when he comes home after I’ve been at home alone with the children. This is just one of our marital inside jokes. (Aren’t we the coolest? Joking about novels we had to read for school when we were 13?)

Our dubious sense of humor aside, why would I want something with that connotation of darkness associated with my writing about my family? In case you hadn’t noticed, there is some darkness in our lives. Seizures suck. James not having the brain development proteins he needs to live a normal life is horrible. And no one can fix it. And no one’s to blame for it. It just is.

These are dark truths about our life that I’ve had to accept, and part of the reason I’m here–maybe THE reason why I’m here–is to confront those dark parts of life so I can revel in the light parts. I hope that’s part of the reason why you’re here too, in addition to wanting to hear about the ways I continue to make a spectacle of myself both at home and in public.

Because life, our real life outside of the airbrushed facade of Facebook and Instagram, is dark and light. Some days are lighter than others, but it’s always going to be a mix. And I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say that this is the case for all of you, too.

So, as I say to my students, I’m not hiding the ball. I’m putting it out there. This is who we are, and we are sad and angry sometimes. But we also have a hell of a lot of fun with each other and will continue to try to catch the light when we can find it. Are you brave enough to come along?

Sleeping peacefully in the dark.

Sleeping peacefully in the dark.


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