Jesus and the Easter Bunny Really are Related

It was quiet in my house Saturday night…finally. I’d finally gotten Bianca to fall asleep despite her lingering sugar high from the afternoon’s egg hunt and anticipation about the Easter Bunny hopping to our home.

I tipped my toes (as Bianca calls tiptoeing) downstairs to the basement to collect the goodies hidden in our storage room. Chuck was distracted by the TV, but watching me pull a giant Tupperware bin out of the closet caught his eye.

“Is all of that for Easter?” he asked a little annoyed. “What happened to keeping things small?”

“Well, the baskets are taking up a lot of the room,” I justified creeping back up the stairs.

The Easter Bunny had a successful delivery at the Dills house, and Bianca didn’t even notice all of her goodies on the kitchen table when she woke-up in the middle of the night and crawled in bed with us.

I awoke at 7:30 the next morning to a quiet, peaceful house. I was about to take the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee in solitude when I remembered we had to have a toddler, two babies and ourselves sugared-up, showered and out the door for church no later than 10:30. Against my better judgment, I decided to wake the beast to get the ball rolling.

While both Bianca and Chuck’s eyes were a little leery of the early morning wake-up call at first, they both perked-up at the mention of the Easter Bunny. Bianca stumbled out of bed – only pausing briefly to let Chuck get ahead of her – and headed in to see what had been left for her.

She seemed a little confused at first, as most children do on little sleep with sensory overload, so I guided her to find the My Little Pony train set tucked behind her basket.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Bianca’s eyes widened. “That’s the train set I’ve been wanting!” she exclaimed.

“How did the Easter Bunny know that’s what you wanted?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It must be magic.”

Chuck answered honestly, “It must be, because I didn’t even know that’s what you wanted.”

At that moment I realized the importance of our obviously-trivial rituals and traditions like the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause.

While I undoubtedly know Christmas and Easter are about Jesus’ birth and resurrection – I also know that as a mother it’s important for me to be in tune with my children.

Bianca never asked the Easter Bunny to bring her anything, and she would have been completely happy with a chocolate bunny and a few eggs. But I’d been watching her play with her My Little Pony figures, and I’d heard her ooh and ahh at the commercials for the train set.

I am not the kind of mother to buy my children toys at the drop of the hat – so much so that when Bianca does ask for toys she sees on TV I tell her she needs to put them on her Christmas list – which is getting rather long by the way.

But I knew it was something she wanted, and I knew she’d been a nice, sweet girl – helping me with her sisters, learning to pick-up her toys, and working hard in school (Gosh, I’m making her sound 13, not three!) So I wanted to surprise her with her My Little Pony train set she thought she would have to wait until her birthday or Christmas to get.

And isn’t that what Jesus does for us? He’s in tune to our every want and desire (our every thought actually, which is sometimes kind of scary.) He knows what we need and when we need it. Sometimes things come when we want them to, other times we never get what we want (because it turns out it wasn’t ever good for us in the first place), and then there are those most special of moments when we get a pleasant surprise – like a My Little Pony train set on Easter morning.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter!

My Little Black...

I may work for myself – but I still have a dress code.

Dress Code for Sarah Dills Photography / Freelance Writing

 1)   When meeting with clients, on a shoot or out in public representing the business – Look Professional.

       Meaning showered and in make-up with hair fixed wearing stylish clothes. (While shooting weddings wear black so not to stand out too much while running all over the ceremony, but for all other shoots let personality show through the clothing. Hey, I am a photographer after all.)

2)   ANY OTHER TIME – Yoga pants, a ratty tank top with no make-up and a headband to cover the bad hair.

      Shower optional.

 

More often than not I’m trying to work from home (editing pictures, designing albums, placing orders, writing articles…) while simultaneously attempting to raise three, small children. This means at some point during the day – I’m going to get puked on; be it by baby, toddler or dog. Food gets spilled (or thrown on me), I sit down on the rug only to realize I’m covered in dog hair, and I end-up soaked now that I have three little people to splash me over the side of the tub…it’s a mess.

So, recently, I’ve been residing myself to what I like to call the ‘Mommy Uniform.’ I know this term probably means different things for different women, but in my case it consists of a pair of black ‘yoga’ pants, a fitted tank top over a sports bra and a pair of Crocs. Classy… Stylish… & Very Professional.

These ‘yoga’ pants (I actually have two, identical pair of these pants) are literally fifteen years old – purchased well before the yoga craze hit. (Definitely before I knew what yoga was.) I was in high school when I bought them, most likely with my mom’s money, at The Limited Express. (I’m pretty sure the store’s still around, but I think they’ve shortened the name to Express. Although it’s been so long since I’ve been in the mall that it could be gone entirely for all I know.) They’re black stretch pants with an elastic waste – and I’m most certain that any woman in my age-range owned a pair, or two, or three of these pants at one point in their life. They’re boot-cut, comfy pants made to look dressy…and I have very fond – yet somewhat foggy – memories of wearing them with platform sandals and sparkly, mid-drift tops every night of my senior year Spring Break in Panama City. I had bleach blonde hair, a tan and a stomach worthy of being bare.

My how those pants - and I -  have evolved!

After college – when I discovered yoga – I realized the pants were perfect for the practice. Even after Bianca was born, I would wear my once-party-now-yoga pants up to Cincinnati for an advanced yoga class at Shine Yoga Studio. Like me, the pants had aged and developed a purpose in life.

Then, I got pregnant with twins – and everything changed, including my waste-line. Once again, my faithful, always weathering the weekly wash and dry cycle, pants had a new purpose…to cover the lower halve of my body when nothing else fit. The elastic waste band stretched and the once sturdy seams began to pull. But my pants were determined to see me through to the bitter end.

But now…as sad as it is for me to say…these pants have no purpose in my wardrobe except the fact that they’re easy and they’re comfy. They’re my clothing security blanket. I don’t have to worry about anything getting spilled, splattered or splashed on them, because these pants – like Cher and cockroaches – will most likely survive the Apocalypse.

I feel like the first six months of my twins lives were, quite frankly, a blur. I was recovering from the toll a multiples pregnancy had taken on my body, trying to grow my business and trying to take care of my family. I didn’t have time to think. Now that the fog has lifted, I realize I’d kind of fallen into a funk somewhere along the way.

When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see me. Instead I saw a person who looked like me – with bad hair and bushy eyebrows wearing a really tired pair of pants.

I have to cut myself some slack. Besides the obvious, funk-inducing factors in my life – it’s been a rotten few months. My cousin lost his battle with cancer and my husband’s grandmother passed away. There have been tornadoes and fires. And it seems like you can’t turn on the TV anymore without hearing about how our country is headed down the tube. It’s enough to make anyone want to pull the covers over their head and go back to sleep.

But I realize all of these horrible circumstances should make me want to jump out of bed and seize the moment – because none of us know how many more moments we get.

And I CERTAINTLY don’t want my final moments to be spent feeling frumpy!

So…I’ve gotten back on my running schedule. I’ve gotten a haircut. And I’ve made a vow to myself to burn those black pants…

Okay, I’m way too sentimental to get rid of those pants. We’ve been through too much together for that. And at this point I consider it somewhat of a science experiment to see just how long they can last.

So…. I’ve made a vow to myself that I will not wear my ‘yoga’ pants – unless I’m doing ‘yoga.’

Little Miss Hypochondriac

Monday, January 23, 2012 

I have been known (once or two-hundred times in my life) to self-diagnose. Instead of rationalizing that the pain in my shoulder is from a pulled muscle or pinched nerve, I automatically know I have some form of rare, debilitating condition or illness.

I went for asthma testing in high school even though my only symptom was shortness of breath while playing soccer (duh.) I had an EKG done before I turned 25 even though there is no family history of heart problems and the pain in my chest was diagnosed as acid reflux. You name it; I’ve had the test.

To a degree, I think this isn’t such a bad problem to have. I know a ton of cases of illness where a different outcome may have occurred with early detection. But to the other degree, you have a little bit of the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ syndrome if you’re a person like me.

Over the years my husband, sister, mother, friends have learned to tune me out with reassuring comments like, “You’ll be fine,” and “I’m sure it’s nothing serious.”

One of my all-time favorites was from my dad (a actual doctor.) I told him I was pretty sure I had some sort of tumor because I’d been having severe headaches and asked if he would give me an MRI. He looked at me as serious as he could and asked, “Sarah, if you have cancer do you really want to know about it?” (Do you think he was sick of listening to me invent imaginary illnesses, or what?) And in case you were wondering, my tumor turned out to be a simple case of astigmatism cured by toric contact lenses.

Knowing what a paranoid person I am, I was really worried about becoming a mother. I was afraid I would want to keep my children in vacuum-sealed crates somewhere safe where no germs or infections or strange people could contact them. I had visions of me carrying them around in special, animal purse carriers like teacup poodles.

I was shocked when my daughter was born and I didn’t feel the need to sanitize the entire house with hospital-grade cleaner. I didn’t feel the need to take her to the doctor daily, and really the only time I freaked out in the first year of her life was when she started to choke on a piece of carrot while learning to eat semi-solid foods. (As I danced around her high chair waving my arms like a lunatic, I frantically yelled for Chuck to do something. Instead he watched her calmly and told me to give her a second. Wouldn’t you know she coughed that carrot right up, just like he knew she would.)

Well, by the time my twins were born I was about as mellow as mothers come. I’d gone from freaking out at the sight of a drop of blood to telling my boys not to come and disturb me while I tried to sleep unless someone was missing an entire body part.

As the weeks went by and my twins started to grow and develop, we were all a little surprised that Brylee (our smaller Baby B) began looking bigger than Brooklynn.

I’d ask family and friends their opinions and everyone told me the same thing, “They’re two different babies. You can’t compare them to each other.” (That’s easier said than done when you’re spending 24-7 with them, doing the exact same thing for one that you’re doing for the other. But I tried to take this advice and remain calm.)

Around this same time, I developed a little bit of a complex when it came to Brooklynn. I began to worry because she would not smile at me. She had the most serious look on her face all the time, and she had these eyes that you felt like were piercing through to your soul. Everyone joked that she must have gotten her personality from my dad and told me to relax. “Maybe she just doesn’t like you,” my mom would joke with me. “Leave that baby alone. She’s fine.”

As the weeks went on, Brylee got bigger – began developing fat rolls around her thighs and extra chins along her neck – and Brooklynn still looked pixie-like. I honestly wondered to myself if she might be a little person. About this time she also started to develop mucousy stool (I know, TMI.) Everyone told me it was normal because I was breast-feeding, but something just didn’t feel right.

NEVER second-guess that mother’s intuition!

One Friday night while I was changing Brooklynn I just felt this wave of fear rush over me, and I knew something wasn’t right. I told Chuck we had to take her to the doctor first thing in the morning. I didn’t care if I was being paranoid or not.

When our doctor put our baby girl on the scale, my heart dropped. She was almost four months old and only weighed eight pounds! She’d lost nine ounces since her last appointment. We were immediately told to get to Children’s Hospital – and to take a bag because we would probably be staying a while.

As we shuffled our other kids to our parents, got bags packed and got on the road all I kept thinking was, “What’s wrong with my baby?” and “How did I not know how much weight she’d lost? I’m her mother, how did I not see that?”

The Emergency Room doctor admitted us as Failure to Thrive onto the infectious disease floor because he was concerned about her stool.

Chuck got us settled in, but then left. I was all alone in solitary confinement…with my baby who I was pretty sure didn’t like me. I’ve never felt so alone in all my life.

The staff at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, OH is absolutely AMAZING! I cannot say enough positive things about them. The doctors quickly reassured me that my daughter was A) not a little person and B) developmentally right where she was suppose to be as a four-month-old. The little stinker would even smile at the doctors and nurses. She was just small, and we just had to see if there was something major that was causing her to be small.

Brooklynn and I spent the next five days in the hospital – just the two of us. It was extremely hard being away from my other children, especially Bianca. But the whole ordeal was a blessing in disguise, because Brooklynn and I had time to bond one-on-one, no twin sister, no three-year-old sister, no big brothers…just mommy and Brooklynn.

All of the tests ruled out any major illnesses or conditions – Thank the Lord above, and the doctors let us go home with a strict feeding schedule and orders for weekly weigh-ins at the doctor’s office.

It’s been four months since that Saturday in September, and Brooklynn continues to gain weight and develop. She’s still not on the growth chart for her weight yet (weighing in at a whopping 13 lbs. 11 oz.) but I have to turn it over to God and know that she’s okay.

I still take her in for regular doctor’s visits, asking what I’m sure sound like the most ridiculous questions ever. The latest – Is it normal that my daughter sweats?

Really? My poor child is going to have such a complex!


Mother of the Year

Friday, January 20, 2012 

One of Bianca’s favorite songs is LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem…the one with the lyrics “Everyday I’m shuffling.” (Shufflin’ is probably more true to the actual lyrics.)

Now the fact that my three-year-old is familiar with lyrics from an LMFAO song puts me in that highly-etseemed category I refer to as “Mother of the Year.”

These are the moments when I’m pretty sure if someone from social services saw my parenting skills, they would be concerned. And now that I have three small children under my care, there seem to be three-times the mother of the year moments.

In my defense, Bianca learned the “Everyday I’m Shufflin’” lyrics while watching a car commercial where three furry hamsters are driving down the road. (Not that it’s much better because it means my daughter’s parked in front of the TV entirely too much.)

But my point is, and I do have one, most days I feel like I’m shufflin’. It’s like a constant juggling act between my responsibilities to my kids, my obligations to my work and my chores around my house.

For example, this morning I got up and got Bianca up, fed and ready for school. As soon as I dropped her off I rushed back home to feed the babies and get them settled-in on their playmates. Then I completely switched gears and tried to finish an article due today, but Chuck stopped me so I could help him with some of his paperwork. I was so caught-up in typing for him that I almost forgot to pick Bianca up from preschool. “How can it already be 11:00?” I thought as I raced out the door. Meanwhile, I hadn’t showered, done anything to clean up the bomb that had exploded in my house, and I don’t think I’d eaten breakfast. It’s pretty sad when you can’t remember if you ate breakfast or not.

The afternoon played the same, like I’d hit rewind on my morning. I picked Bianca up from daycare at 3:30 and on the way home prepped her about the 4:00 phone interview I had.

“Now mommy will put on cartoons and fix you a snack and then I need you to be a good girl while I’m on the phone,” I said.

“Okay, mommy,” she said from the backseat. “I’ll take care of my babies while you’re on the phone.” (This from the mouth of my three-year-old.)

We rushed in the door. I strapped the babies into their swing and bouncy seat, fixed Bianca a snack, put on PBS (at least her television will be educational, I thought), and told Bianca to be good.

For a brief moment, things are going smooth as I sit in the next room and carry-on and adult conversation for work. I start to hear a baby wimper a little, but I’m not too concerned because I know they’re in their seats. But I begin to wrap-up my interview. Then I hear the cry escalade. I get off the phone and walk into the living room to find Brylee bent in half with her head hanging over the front of her bouncy seat. Major Mother of the Year moment!

I assess the situation and see that Brylee’s fine, but Bianca’s nowhere to be found. When I find her in her room, the first words out of her mouth are, “I didn’t do nothing!”

Her answer tells me two things: one, she could have tried to pull Brylee out of her bouncy seat, and two, what did I expect?

(Later in the day I watched Brylee try to sit-up in her bouncy seat and do a nose-dive over the edge to the floor. So I apologized to Bianca for ever doubting her and I made a mental note that Brylee’s finally out-grown the bouncy seat.)

I know I didn’t do anything wrong. My girls were within earshot, and I was able to get to them within seconds.

But these Mother of the Year moments, the days when I’m Shufflin’ remind me that the more balls I try to juggle – the more likely I am to drop one, if not all, of my balls.

At these moments of complete chaos, pandemonium and stress I need to drop everything and focus all of my attention on the three most important balls I have – Bianca, Brooklynn and Brylee.

And while being a work-from-home mom is full of these challenging moments, I’m blessed that I have the opportunity to sit my work aside in order to be with my girls.

 


 

Shopping with Satan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

(This fiasco actually happened on Tuesday, but it took me a few days to recover before I could write about it.)

As with most things in my life, I have the best of intentions. I start each day with a positive attitude and thoughts that everything's going to run on schedule. Then, as things start to unravel, I say little prayers throughout the day for patience, understanding and a sense of calm in the storm.

Well, storm it did! It was more like a monsoon rather.

Bianca had a dentist appointment early in the morning, so I loaded everyone up in our big, black bus (a gas-guzzling Suburban) and headed into town for the day. I needed to go to the bank, stop at the camera shop, go grocery shopping…the usual, mundane tasks of life.

The grocery store is something I've only tried one other time with all three girls by myself, and on that trip I made a mental note to remember my infant carrier so I could carry one baby on my chest while the other rode in her car seat at the top of the cart. (I knew this was important because the obnoxious, doublewide carts with the car in front aren't quite wide enough for two car seats. They fit, but just tight enough that I worry one wrong turn and it will be " Baby Clean-up in Aisle Five!")

I was pleasantly optimistic as we pulled in at Kroger, because of our successful, non-eventful trip to the dentist. 

Just as I was collecting my coupon binder and diaper bag to get everyone out of the car, a cloud descended on the Kroger parking lot and dropped rain on us by the bucket. It was coming sideways, swaying the car with the wind. At first, I was thankful that we weren't in the parking lot when this happened. But as the rain continued and my babies began to cry, I became frustrated. Why did I think I could do all of this by myself? Why didn't I ask someone to watch my girls so I could do this with one child instead of three? Why don't I just pack it up and go home?

If I'd accepted defeat and gone home, I still would have had to listen to two screaming babies for twenty minutes. Then we would have been home in a house with no food, which wouldn't work. I decided I could shimmy my body through the three car seats into the very back seat. I had a jar of baby food I'd planned to feed the girls in the Starbuck's dining area in the grocery, so why not just feed them in the car while we wait? 

Well, this was easier said than done. I had to get my legs out from under my steering wheel, prop my hip up onto my console and drop my body down onto the floor between the bucket seats. Then I had to reach back up in the front seat for the diaper bag, take Brylee out of her car seat base and sit her off to the side of the back seat to give me room to straddle the base and fall into the back seat. (Step One: Check)

I alternated spoons full of baby food for each of my girls - crying like little birds with their mouths wide-open waiting for each bite. (After my babies eat, they know a bottle is coming. Initially, all I saw was Bianca's Sprite from lunch. While I contemplated how the girls might enjoy the sweetness, I quickly put that thought out of my mind.) Luckily, there was an old bottle of water in my car. How old? I'm not quite certain, but not old enough for concern. I got both babies quieted down just in time for Bianca to completely fall apart. (It always amazes me how fast they can go from sweet and angelic to demon spawn.)

"I've got to go potty!" she screamed while frantically kicking her feet against the back of my seat.

"Hold it, Bianca," I pleaded. "We'll go in as soon as the rain stops."

"Get me out of my seat!" she wailed. "I don't want to be stuck in here forever!"

Me Either, I thought. I wanted to cry myself. But I saw sunshine off in the distance and knew if couldn't rain that much longer or getting into the grocery was going to be the least of my worries...we were going to float away.

The rain stopped. And as I got the babies out, I realized I’d forgotten the carrier I so desperately needed. I got them in a temporary cart to get us inside Kroger where they keep the above-mentioned obnoxious carts...the doublewide with the car in the front to keep the kids occupied (thank God for whoever invented those.)

As I get all the girls loaded in the cart I realize I've left my coupon binder in the car. Great! I really consider leaving it in the car, but talk myself out of it when I remember I'm trying to save money. So off we go, Bianca leading the way in her green and yellow car.

The next stop for this train is the bathroom, which brings the obvious set of challenges. How do you get a cart this size in the bathroom? Once you’re in the bathroom, how do you keep up with everyone?

Luckily, Kroger has a family bathroom. As I approach the bathroom a mother with one baby is leaving. She looks particularly frazzled trying to adjust her diaper bag, maneuver the cart and hold her baby. Then she glances up at me, and I can see a look of pity creep across her face.

The best way I can describe the scene in the bathroom is like the clip from Mister Mom where Michael Keaton is in the bathroom with his three kids, with toilet paper all over the floor, where he’s using the hand dryer on the baby’s bottom.

By now it feels like it’s about ten o’clock at night – it’s really only one in the afternoon – but it seems like this shopping trip is taking a year-and-a-half and I don’t even have anything in my cart that I didn’t bring into the store with me.

We get through the store without any major mishaps, and after all of the trials and tribulations I feel like we should save about a hundred dollars in coupons. When the cashier hands me my receipt and tells me I’ve saved thirty dollars I just want to throw something or hit something or rip the huge pile of coupons up and scatter them across the floor.

Because I’ve just put in about 200 percent more effort than I normally would on a shopping trip – and for what? Thirty dollars? Really?

Next week I’m doing something I never thought I would. I’m going to a couponing class. Not only do I want to save money, but now I also feel like I have a vested interest. And I want to know the secret. I want to know how people can sustain the time it takes to clip coupons, save a ton of money, and not physically hurt someone in the process.