Today, my kids met a dog.

It was the friendliest little beauty, a young, blue-eyed shepherd with a terrific coat of salt and pepper mixed with brown. He was laying underfoot of his young owners – a terrific duo, adorably lunching together, devices in tow, their smiles giving off a palpable sense that they were on the launchpad of life. I didn’t even notice the dog – he was so chill, relaxed and obedient under the table… right until one of my children yelled  “Puppy!”

It was the 82nd time in the space of 10 minutes that my kids had escaped the lunch table, either as acrobats, rock slingers or gingerbread sprinters, but this time they all ran towards the dog, potato chips in various states between their mouths and hands.

And what a great dog he was… he gladly greeted them, though not wildly so. He wasn’t meek, per se, just the perfect blend of friendly and calm with sincere affections minus the wiggly hips that send kids flying backwards through outer space. So when I found out he was only 9 or 10 months old, I fell in love with him.

“Therapy dog.  We’re trying to socialize him as much as possible.”

Now I was totally in love with his owners.  I caught myself wondering if I could hire them to harness my offspring and create noble service beings out of them.

“What an affectionate and calm two-year-old you have there!” strangers would beam.

“Why yes, he’s trained to comfort my anxiety.  Works wonders really.”

“And that little one over there, she’s so funny, always cracking appropriate jokes while remaining in her seat.”

“Yes, yes, we keep her around in place of anti-depressants.”

Just then big sister would arrive from the restaurant with a tray full of drinks and a smile.
“Stella, Jon Powell, place your napkins in your laps.  Here’s your hand sanitizer.  And mom, I brought honey for your tea.”

At this point the onlookers, speechless, awkwardly excuse themselves. I’m not at all embarrassed by the attention, I’m busy nourishing myself one quiet bite at a time, noticing the complex flavors in my grain bowl and taking the time to journal the ingredients into Evernote.

Cue the record scratch.

My daydream came to an abrupt halt on the way back to the car as I grounded the seven-year-old for taking off towards the road, but not before dolling out bonus attention-getting spankings to the two and three-year-old who broke free from my hands to chase their big sister into the street.

Not to mention… NO ONE ATE THEIR LUNCH. I take that back, I shoveled in a few bites, but I don’t remember much about how it tasted – I was busy apologizing to the owners of the dog with the belly full of Zapps potato chips. So by the time I buckled my kids’ whiny butts into the car seats and they asked for ice cream, I might have let out the scream of a raging cow.

There were ridiculous amounts of failures and frustrations that added up to the bad movie that was this day, but events like a two-year-old with a poop diaper weaving laps through the racks of a 200-sq foot ballet store to the whiny rhythm of a seven-year-old (who doesn’t take ballet) singing that she NEEEEEDS a prima ballerina costume while I was stuck in a poorly-ventilated dressing room peeling leotards off a naked three year old is just such motherhood cliche that I won’t waste the space to share. The internet is full of these anecdotes… everyone gets it… this shiz ain’t easy.

But on a day like today, when I’m particularly weary, I catch myself being honest. So honest that I scare myself.

It’s not that I have really bad kids. Or abnormally active kids. It’s just that I am a mom. And seven-plus years into this gig, it still surprises me that complete trampling of my needs as a person – things like civility and quiet – still have the power to knock the wind out of me. Shockingly so.

What happens to the hope that I start out with in the morning? What happens to the reserves of love that I know have got to be in there somewhere? What happens to the God that I know and love whose grace is supposed to be sufficient but has left me kneeling on the side of my van just off of Main Street Daphne, Alabama wondering if today is going to be that day that I can’t hold it together?

It’s hard not to fall into the pit and begin to throw the party of “oh no no no no no silly me, my job from here until literal Kingdom Come is to plug the dam of my family one tired finger, one un-pedicured toe, one boo-boo kiss, one martyrous sleepless night and ipad grounding at a time until I collapse from exhaustion… exhaustion that’s sometimes physical, but mostly mentally and emotionally so.

On days like this, the rotten, real truth is that it’s hard to see the fun in this whole arrangement.

And then that damn dog and his perfect parents reminded me of something…

My kids were not born to meet my needs. His grace is.

Of course I know this in the sense that I’m not trying to put tiaras on my toddlers or hot house the next Hanna Mon-tanning bed.  But where the rubber meets the road, every single day, these little people were not put here to make make my life easy. It’s not going to be easy… if it were easy, I wouldn’t need grace. Or rather, it wouldn’t be real to me.

And while we’re comparing kids to our therapy dog… in all of his wonderful blue-eyed obedience, our friend the therapy dog was trained in a matter of months, to serve a single purpose.

My children are being trained, with my help, to find and chase their purpose.  And that could take a lifetime.

It’s why they were born unhinged, ready to push every boundary, explore every avenue, look at the world through their unique eyes so that they could become the very creatures that can someday contribute, shape and change the world. And it’s my job… as freaking exhausting, confusing, confounding, dumbfounding, defiling, demoralizing and dimwitting as it can be… to find the goods to pour into them so that they can rise to the occasion of their lives. To point them over and over again to the power that will be perfect in their weakness.  Ideally, if I do it modeling grace and consistency, they will have enough left over to pour into other lives around them.

His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Every day I have to accept – in between questions about His sense of humor and the occasional tequila drink – that God gave me, woefully inadequate me, my kids to raise because He believes that I’m the right person to raise them.  And even on the days that it’s so hard to believe that I’m remotely qualified for this gig, it’s not one that I’m allowed to outsource.

So, today, I cope by comparing the training of therapy dogs to the raising of my children. These are the dumb analogies that speak to me and pull me off of my knees and successfully back into traffic so I can get them home safely, squirt them with hoses and bribe them with popsicles. I didn’t promise the profound. And I did quote scripture.

But tomorrow, who knows. After all it is only day 7 of summer.

It’s the end of Mothers day, and as I crawl back into bed, untangle the sheets and sort the pillows, I get a shuddering feeling.   Surely it was just 10 seconds ago that I got “the wake up.”  The coffee in bed, three eager monkeys, clumsily scurrying their pointy parts across all of the sleepy muscles of this groggy bear who hasn’t yet opened more than one eye simultaneously.

I was treated to some cards – some clearly picked out by the kids for their lighting and noise effects – and some picked out by daddy for their inside joke-ness.  A presentation from my oldest with a handmade paper stage along with custom “my singing monsters” colored and cut out for each member of our family.  She, of course, the most colorful and elaborate.  I was delighted that, in the sense of art psychology, I was bigger than daddy.

My husband played through two of my childrens’ first birthday videos which become more special with each passing year as I match the wonder of my memories with the twinkle and awe of self-discovery in their eyes.

We went to church.

We dropped a card for Mimi.

We chased a swing for my front porch that no longer exists.

We had a lovely meal with family.

And now, here I sit pulling the covers over me again to rest for another cycle.   It doesn’t seem fair.

How is it that the days get faster and busier, while the memories get blurrier and time gets more slippery?  Why is it that sometimes I feel like I’ve tried to drink in the most precious and mundane of moments, but I feel like in the hurry of it all, I’ve misplaced the mug somewhere silly – like an upstairs closet. Why is it that my mind and my spirit can no longer keep up with all of the wonder and so often get trampled by frustration.

And then I remember… be grateful.  Grateful for three children that live with everything they have, even when they end up borrowing everything I have.  Be grateful that each passing day isn’t a measure of how much I am or am not, but whether or not I show up and the heart I show up with. Be grateful that even when I am not enough, I have a faith that is.

I stare at the clock and wonder how it’s already past 10 0’clock and listen to my husband protest that it’s time for me to get my sleep so that I can be enough all the way through tomorrow’s ride.

So that when I pull the covers up tomorrow, I can be grateful again.


It was the picture that shot my drink through my nose. I followed the link sent by one of our team moms with photos from our very first competitive gymnastics meet. And there was Sydney, in all of her Sydney-ness, basking in the glory of the podium. The medal, the grin, the salute… the child was completely transported to another world, lost in the blinding beams of the spotlight…

Of 3rd place.

Continue Reading…

Happy Last Day Eve!

December 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

Three-out of four kid Christmas parties down, and it’s last-day eve.  Did you hear me?!  Last. Day. Eve. The night before the last day of school.

All of you pre-school & elementary moms out there know what that means.  It’s basically the alarm bell for half-done Pinterest projects intended to delight or inflict the whole of our kids’ education sphere.  Gifts for teacher?  Principals?  Coaches?  Librarians?  Classmates?  How far you take it depends on the bevy of your free-time vs. the budget you have.  How organized your are vs. how creative you are (if you’re both, please don’t tell me).  How talented you are in the kitchen vs. your svelt-like ability to own the dollar-aisle and douse it’s contents in amazing celophane, ribbon and twine. 

As I sit here, munching on the candy cane popcorn scored out of my three-year-old’s bag (Thank’s Bennett’s mom!), and waiting for my Keurig to churn out a Dunkin Donuts peppermint mocha, a thought occurs to me.  We’ve all seen the posts about overachieving elves, and cautionary edicts about supermommery. And like most things in life, I take a bit of valid opinions, add salt if needed and spit out the gristly bones.  

I’ll be the first one to admit to you that I flunk the supermom test.  And that the elf is cleverly hidden by my husband 20-out of it’s 25-day shelf life. Sure, I’m guilty of showing off my highlight reel of kids and good times from time to time via social media to smokescreen the fact that I wear yoga pants and a cap to pre-school pickup, but don’t actually work out more than twice a month.  It’s true. If I sat down to think about it, most of the moms I passed in the parking lot today with arms full of gifts were up with me at 1:30 am, praying to the baby Jesus we celebrate that they didn’t forget anyone. 

Today, my three-year-old’s Christmas party was thrown by a genuine heroine. I know this, because after five minutes of threatening my two-year-old that I was going to lock him in our mini-van if he didn’t stop hiding behind the seat where he knows I can’t reach him (more on that some other time), I ran into her, holding three shopper totes, a giant roll of wrapping paper, a folding project board, 25 drink boxes and a baby bucket WITH A BABY IN IT!!!! She was dressed in all white and camel, with perfect blonde hair, and the most amazing red leather platform shoes I’ve ever seen. I could barely relieve her of the Yoohoos with the toddler, bag and camera on my hip. Ladies and gentlemen, that woman threw a hell-of-a-three-year-old party!

There have been times In my life that I would have peeped around today’s amazingly perfect Christmas party looking for measuring sticks by which to judge myself. Or worse, judge the room and a thinly veiled effort to prop myself up. I mean, we are talking about a preschool that had a bona-fide movie star in the pickup line yesterday, so there is sometimes a level of handbag gazing. But you know what? For every individually wrapped bag of goodies, I felt genuine admiration. And for every mom who showed up without (inclding me), I felt just as much admiration. And for every mom or dad that couldn’t be there? Admiration. Because I know what it took me to get my three kids out of the house this morning, and my guess is, everyone’s plate is just as full as mine.

You know what I did see everywhere today?  Love.  Simple.  Genuine.  Plain.  Even when iced in amazing. Delivered by some folks doing what they can to help their children know – even if they don’t quite get it yet – that, for us, this is a very special time of year.  It looks different for everyone at different times, and at different seasons and stages in our lives.  And so long as everything we do comes from a place of generosity and not competition, a place of good will and good raising, examples of servanthood mixed with the fabulosity of who we are as individuals – then bring it on!!!

So dear ladies of the internet and beyond, drop the pitchforks, give yourself a hug and then hug the mom nearest you.  If you’re a supermom and have yet to crash – rock on!  If you’re a total deadbeat and didn’t know the holidays are even here, here’s a hug too, mom A has got your kid covered.  And if you’re like me on an ever-vascilating roller coaster ride in-between, own it.  Because no one can replace you.  And that’s the truth.

Warm holiday hugs,Adrienne


PS – Yep, I’m blogging. Again. Deal with it.

Yeah, I'm King Triton's youngest. What of it?

Yeah, I’m King Triton’s youngest. What of it?

photo credit: Pawpaw.

So, my Facebook feed full of people contemplating the end of the world. If, in fact, the end draweth neigh, I would still have some things to be thankful for.

Okay, if you are a girl who grew up in a Charismatic church hearing about the rapture and the end of the world, then this is going to be obvious. I GOT MARRIED AND HAD KIDS BEFORE THE TRUMPET SOUNDED!!!!! That’s big, y’all. If nine-year-old Adrienne’s deals with God are valid, that means technically I can pray for nothing else ever. If you’re a boy and prayed a similar prayer at nine, I hope you got a video game console and got to spend an entire weekend staying up all night, gaming and eating pizza before the Big Guy calls us home.

On that note, Sarah and Larry, y’all might wanna consider getting married RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait until sunset tonight. Heck, text your vows if you have to. You need to slide in under this door! And I’ll be thankful when you do.

Speaking of wedded bliss… I’m so grateful for all of our family that are driving in from all corners for the big day. I love celebrating this new chapter of Larry’s life together. In the event that the highways are closed and the little men in parachutes descend, our basement will accommodate.

Speaking of basements, should I decide to stock mine, I’m grateful for the warehouse shelves that currently hold the ghosts of technology’s past. I know we’re going to need some diodes and electrodes and old cell phone antennae. Once we clear the shelves to make the inevitable communication gear, we’ll have lots of room to store the pumpkin harvest growing in the woods from all of the rotten ones I tossed from the front porch. Ooooh – I’m thankful for those too! (Score 2!)

I’m grateful for satellite tv. Cable might not work. Broadcast might be shot. But nothing can get between us and the ole DTV lady in the Southern Sky. Well, except for nuclear winter. Maybe I need to rethink this one??

I’m thankful for my time with my children. If the snapshot was taken NOW, and this was all I ever got, we did well.

I’m also thankful for the realization just now that I need to remember that marker every morning in the form of a question. Don’t mock me when it shows up cleverly illustrated on Pinterest. I’m only human.

I’m thankful for the Dillard’s return policy. If the snapshot were taken now, I’d fail the keeping up the ‘ole figure test. Sequins do NOT hide muffin top. Besides, anthropologists do not need to find me fossilized in my basement, surrounded by makeshift com’ gear, holding a fermented pumpkin drink and wearing sequins. NOT a good legacy.

And finally, I’m thankful for a sense of humor. Being able to look at the most serious of things and locate the humor disarms fear. Actually, 1 John 4:18 says it’s perfect love that casts out all fear. By having found that perfect love, I can look at everything that I might ordinarily freak out over and, well, laugh. I know from where my help comes.

Keep it classy in the end y’all!

24 Flavors of Thanks

November 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Day 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. Here goes.

I’m ludicrously thankful that my baby boy is sitting here gnawing on my finger. That’s ’cause he HAS TEETH y’all: a feat never accomplished by a Gray child before 15-months-old.

I’m thankful for the way that the morning light bounces off of leaves when the sun shines. Both for the gorgeous dancing shadows it leaves on my floor and the way that it animates the air around me.

I’m thankful for hot showers. The alternative just isn’t that appealing, y’know?

I’m thankful that I live in a family where we started the tradition of learning the alphabet with foam letters on the shower floor. We get to spend that much more time in the hot shower.

I’m thankful that Stella Gray is so stinking funny. For the life of me, I can’t remember if it’s the age or if it’s just Stella, but that little monkey keeps us in stitches.

I’m thankful for mail-order. Seriously, who has time to go shopping?

I’m grateful that the door I slammed this morning after I was interrupted three times by different family members on the same sentence was loud enough to immediately shame me.

I’m thankful that I know better than to get onto a tangent about whether or not being thankful and grateful are the same things. I’m not sure there’s any wisdom there other than to just be kind of verbose and naval-gazey.

I’m thankful for friends who are unselfish, thoughtful and just love to have a good time.

I’m thankful that we made a vow to raise our son in the Christian way until he’s old enough to make a decision for himself.

I’m also thankful for a Mimi that is obsessed with sewing fine clothes for her grandchildren. Jon Powell’s baby gown was exquisite.

I’m thankful that even though I know they are about, and the body count by yardmen continues to grow, I have yet to actually SEE a live snake at our home. God knows what I can handle.

I am thankful that our central vacuum cleaner in my garage and has direct hose access so that weekly (sometimes daily) I can efficiently deal with the explosion that takes place.

I am so grateful that our daughter goes to the kind of school that allows it AND that I have the availability to go and be a part of her classroom once a week. Being connected in that way to her education does my heart good.

I am thankful that age reveals the wisdom to know that I can’t “do it all”. It’s not that I still don’t lament it, it’s that I know to pull up before I live there and try to make the absolute best of what I can do.

I’m so thankful for the kind of life that my husband and I have pieced together. Yes, there have been edge of the cliff moments. Yes there have been moments where we’ve fallen and fallen hard. But we’ve fallen together… landed on our bony rears, gotten up and chose a different approach to the mountain. We’ll never have to say that we spent life at the base camp watching everyone else live.

I’m thankful that sitting here, even just now, thinking about all of the fallen moments, there are still infinite lessons to glean and apply.

I’m grateful that God has allowed us the grace that the journey’s still on.

I’m thankful that at any time I can stop being so deep and meaningful without fear of confusion because this is MY blog.

I’m thankful that I can make risotto without following a recipe. Butter, onion, garlic, arborio rice, white wine, shitake broth, chicken broth, shitake slices, parm, sage, salt, boom.

I’m thankful for social media. I love keeping up with people that I would inadvertently lose track of.

I’m thankful that this old dog can still learn. Few things excite me more than tackling a new project or a new method of doing things.

I’m grateful that there are infinite word combinations and ways of saying things. It makes communicating worthwhile and fascinating.

I’m grateful for Warby Parker because I’m about to get my ordering on for new glasses.

And finally, grateful that we live surrounded by trees, because after 24 thankfuls, I’m STILL enjoying their dance in the wind.