To school or not to school?

My wonderful friend Marla has been busy blogging about her family's decision to homeschool or not to homeschool, and coincidentally the topic of education has been weighing on my heart lately as well.

But unlike Marla, my decision (homeschool? private school? public?) isn't a tough one. For one thing, my oldest child is three years old. I have two whole prayer-filled years before we must decide. I know God could easily change our hearts and minds. We stand firm in our decision today, but I am well aware that our decision could change not just when our children are school-age, but every year after that.

Before I type one more word, please know that I firmly believe God has different paths for different families - homeschool, private school, public school - for different yet equally important reasons.

I think it's also important to note that we live in a stellar school district. Our choice is made that much easier knowing that if we choose public education, our children will go to quality schools. I know my beliefs would be challenged if our public school options were not as hopeful.

I also can't deny that culturally speaking, I have been immersed in public schools. I grew up in public schools, I worked in public schools, and some of my best friends are superb educators in public schools. Public school education is a part of my DNA in the same way that my veins flow with uber thick German blood.

But when I try to separate myself from all of that (and no, it's not easy), I am still drawn toward public education.

Primarily, the reason we are choosing public schools is because of community.

At the core of my being, I am drawn to my community. I have a great big heart for the people around me. I love running into a neighbor on the bike path, a familiar face who walks the same concrete steps I walk everyday. Many of these folks aren't people I dine with or call up on the phone. Most of them are nameless - our conversations have never required titles. But they are my community. And I love them. And I cannot imagine how much more I will feel connected to these folks when our paths stretch beyond our backyards and into our childrens' schools. And it makes me just giddy to think of all the ways God is going to open doors through our involvement in this community via public schools.

Recently I read an outstanding article that challenges Christians to consider public schools for their families. The author's target audience is primarily Christian parents who lean toward private schools, but her arguments spoke directly to the reasons why I feel so strongly about public education.

There are two quotes from the article that I will share:

First, "One of the best places to build a relationship with families is in our public schools. They’re the hubs of our communities."

And this next quote brought tears to my eyes: "We can preach the gospel in the public schools, and the way we’re going to do that is through our lives, by allowing teachers, students, families, and administrators to experience the love of Christ through our actions . . . the church is not here with an ulterior motive—our ultimate motive is to love, to serve, to bless."

And that's just it. I don't have an agenda. Are you kidding me? Just thinking about evangelism makes me rashy. But I love to love. I love to serve. And I love to bless. And in turn, my life is transformed. I can't think of one time that I loved someone and it didn't in turn bless me.

I think that one of the best gifts that I can give my children is to demonstrate what it looks like to humbly follow Jesus in our community. I want them to see what it looks like to embrace a community, flaws and all, because God calls us to love the lost. And how can we love them if we don't go to them? Surely my humanity will fall short. But God never will. And that is where we will place our faith. Not in a curriculum or a method or a school district. But in the power of a God who is bigger than worldly influences and peer pressure and political agendas.

The list of reasons I believe God is preparing us for public schools doesn't stop at community. And I may or may not share more. For now, I pray that I will have eyes to see and ears to hear God's plan for my family. And I praise God that we live in a country where we have the freedom of choice and the opportunity of education.

Worst moment of my life.

If you're a parent, then you've probably been there. The moment you realize that you lost your child.

It happened to me. In my home. Sort of.

Let me set the scene. We allow our son, who is 2 years old, to play on our screened-in back porch unsupervised. On this particular morning, I could hear him playing, and playing, and playing, and then silence. But it was one of those moments where the silence didn't hit me until it had been minutes of silence.

I'm sick to my stomach even thinking about it.

What made this moment so awfully nightmarish is when I realized that he was outside and we live only feet away from a busy road.

Sick. Sick. Sick.

I was nursing my daughter at the time. I flew out of the house, with her still attached. The minute I realized he was gone, I yanked her off and set her down. I set her down so fast that she fell over and hit her head. She was screaming. I was screaming. As I ran down the back steps into our backyard, I heard the cars rushing by. I kept screaming and screaming.

And then I saw him.

He was running my way, parallel to the street.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you. Thank you.

He was safe. He was alive. And apparently he had been having the time of his life.

He was covered, absolutely covered, in mud.

I didn't care. I scooped him up so fast, and finally, I breathed.

It was then that it hit me that my heart was racing and my baby girl was on the ground, still screaming.

But I couldn't let go of him. I just couldn't.

I had just endured the absolute worst moment of my life.

As it turns out, I had failed to lock the back door (he can open the door if it's not locked). You better believe that I'm obsessive-compulsive about locking that door now.

Hours after the incident I was still edgy. No longer shaking, but I could still feel the pit in my stomach.

The thought of losing my son had become a reality. If even for a minute, it was a reality that I never, ever want to experience again.


I spent yesterday in fear.

Fear because my daughter started throwing up, and I had no idea when it would stop.

Fear that because she was throwing up, I would be next. And then my husband. And then my son. Oh, please not my son.

Fear that not only was my baby sick, but she was the kind of sick that required a change of clothes for her and me (or my husband) every time she became sick. And possibly a carpet or couch cleaning, depending on where her sick happened.

It was an awful place to be.

But it didn't have to be that way.

Sure, my baby was sick, and for a mom, there's really nothing worse than watching your baby suffer.

But instead of living in the moment, consoling my daughter and embracing her needs, I ulcered my way through the day, worrying about when she'd puke next or when my son would catch it or when, if ever, the plague would leave my house.

The worst part was that not until late afternoon, hours after her spell had come and gone, I realized that not once had I prayed.

I was so consumed with how her illness affected ME that I failed to remember God's command, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

Wow, I sure screwed up that one.

I spent my entire Sunday with a pit in my stomach because I was too darn consumed with ME, and oh-baby-girl-please-forgive-me, but I should have been PRAYING over her, and better yet, THANKING GOD for her.

But today is new. And thanks be to God, she is better. And as of now, no one else has caught the bug. Whatdya know, all that worrying and ulcering and festering was only to my own detriment.

A fresh start.
My baby girl, bright-eyed and beautiful this morning.

How about you? How does Philippians 4:6 apply to your life today?

Best mom moment ever.

Like many two-year-old boys, my son struggles to verbally communicate. In fact, most of his meltdowns stem from his inability to tell me what he needs or wants. Much of the time he uses pointing and grunting to communicate, and today he used his non-verbals to melt my heart.

I was putting him in his crib for his nap, and as I set him down, he leaned into me, offering me a kiss. I was so touched. I leaned down and gave him a giant smooch on his head, and then he leaned into me again, this time wrapping his arms around me, offering me a hug. I nearly died. Never has my son offered me a kiss and hug without prompting. I couldn't believe that he initiated it.

Could. Not. Believe. It.

And here's the kicker. As I walked away from my most precious son, tears in my eyes, I said, "Oh, Henry baby, I love you so much it hurts." And you know what he said in return?


Though he didn't understand what I meant by love-you-so-much-it-hurts, he does understand that hurt and ouch go hand-n-hand.

Henry Duran Hooper, thank you for providing me with the absolute best mom moment ever.

And Henry, one more thing, Ouch, baby, ouch.

*Thank you, Gabe Taviano, for capturing this amazing picture of my son.

Non-Maternal Instincts

Nonmaternal Instinct

Winter. A time suck.

I know what you're thinking. Oh, how cute. What adorable children. Those are the most darling babies I've ever seen. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's jazzy and all, but you know what I'm thinking when I see those pictures?

  • 2 onesies
  • 2 sets of leg warmers
  • 2 sets of snow pants
  • 2 shirts
  • 2 coats
  • 2 sets of gloves
  • 2 hats
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of boots
Are you counting? Of course you're not. That's t-w-e-n-t-y s-i-x individual items of clothing that I am required to put on their cute, adorable, darling bodies before going outside. (What do you mean, required? Oh, I mean that if I don't, then their cute, adorable, darling bodies will turn blue and fall off, and that's not so cute, adorable, and darling anymore, now is it?)

So, here's the scoop. I actually like winter. Seriously, I love Ohio because of the seasons. All of them. But I NEVER EVER EVER thought winter could be so stinkin' time-consuming. In order for me to get myself and those cute, adorable, darling babies out the door, I have to set aside the first half of the morning. And then we go outside and do whatever it is small children do in the snow (what do they do? Oh, they eat it. So that's fun.) And then I must set aside the second half of the morning to remove the 26 items from their cute, adorable, darling and now sweating bodies because guess what, they crap in their diapers and it's my job to change them. Steamy and stinky. More fun.

So, tell me, what would you do if you were me? I'll tell you exactly what I do. I throw on my robe and slippers, waddle my goosebumped booty outside, scoop up a bunch of that fluffy white stuff and plop it in a bowl. So my kids can eat it. Because they can do that in nothing but their diapers. And it only takes me 30 seconds to toss on my robe and slippers. Boom. Done.

And the bonus, they are even more cute, adorable, and darling in nothing but their diapers, take my word.

Non-Maternal Instincts

Nonmaternal Instinct

One of those days

I'm having one of those days.

One of those days when I wonder why God even gave me a brain because all I ever do is nurse and surely the only part of my body that serves any purpose is the same part of my body that causes me disgust when I look in the mirror (gravity, you are mean, mean, mean).

One of those days when I wish the changing table came with those straps that they used to tie down my arms when I shimmied my big pregnant butt onto the operating table so that they could surgically remove the same baby that now kicks and squirms and twists when I change his diaper.

One of those days when I open my closet and see: tank top, sweatpants, tank top, sweatshirt, tank top, maternity top, maternity top, sweatpants, stretchy jeans - the reality of my life equates to one lame wardrobe. The bottom of my closet is lined with leather stilettos and six-inch peep-toe wedges, a sick reminder of a life that once was.

One of those days when my son wipes his forever snotty nose on the curtains, and I don't even flinch nor do I plan on doing anything about it.

One of those days when I contemplate opening the front door and letting the dog run for his life. I don't chase after him.

One of those days when my son has spent half the morning in time-out, and though he's been disobedient, my fuse is short. It's a bad combination.

One of those days when my daughter has spent more time crying and less time being consoled, because frankly, I'm not in the mood.

It's been one of those days.

But you know what? It's only one day. It might be one very ugly day, but it's only one day. Just one day of me bitchin' and groanin' and moanin'. Just one l-o-n-g day and I'll pout my miserable self to bed and pray for forgiveness. Because let's face it. I'm the one choosing to be a pisser about nursing and diaper changing and snotty noses and a yellow lab and frumpy clothes and a crying baby and a testy toddler. It's not their fault that I'm having one of those days.

Today may be one of those days, but tomorrow doesn't have to be. God is so stinkin' gracious like that.

*I wrote this several days ago.

Non-Maternal Instincts

Nonmaternal Instinct

This is what it looks like . . .

. . . when you do late night grocery shopping and are too tired to put anything away so you leave it for the next day and then it's the next day and you wake to crying babies and you must drag yourself out of bed to feed them and then you decide to lug them to the library for enrichment (because it's much easier for the library to enrich them; I can't even put my groceries away let alone enrich my children) and as you are making good time and think you might even be on time to library enrichment the dog pukes up a sock and now you have to soak, scrub, and clean the carpet but only after you move the dining room table out of the way because the puking dog just had to puke underneath the table and next thing you know you are home from the library and your babies are crying again because it's lunchtime and they are hungry and you are responsible for feeding them lunch because you are the mom.

And that is what it looks like.

Don't judge.

Non-Maternal Instincts

Nonmaternal Instinct

Mommy makeover shows are for the birds.

You know Mike Rowe, the crazy host of Dirty Jobs? Well, I'd like for him to join me for a day.

No, I take that back. Five minutes is all he would need to get some footage.

You see, yesterday, as I was rushing to get my kids out the door, I scooped up Harper and ran upstairs to change her diaper. We quickly bounced back downstairs, and as I made my way over to her car seat, I felt it. And I heard it.


She puked. All down my back and all over the floor.

It was typical baby vomit - curdled and stinky.

And here's the best part. I was so far past the point of caring that I grabbed the grungy washcloth from the kitchen sink and haphazardly wiped it up. I didn't even change my shirt. Nor hers. Take that, Mike Rowe!

After my I-don't-care-if-I-smell-like-vom clean-up job, I grabbed my son to put on his shoes, and "Ka-Choo!"

He sneezed all over the front of my shirt, covering me with green snot boogers.


And once again, I grabbed the grungy, baby vomit stained washcloth. I really didn't care.

And this is why mommy makeover shows make me batty. Because they grab these snot-covered, sweatpants-wearing moms from the grocery store and transform them, making them unrecognizable through designer clothes and hair dye. But the reality is that no mother is ever going to look like that on a daily basis. And no mother is going to stop living her vomit-soaked reality because she smacked on some department store grade make-up (seriously, why is make-up sold from behind a counter under lock and key?) No practical mom is going to allow her makeover-show, fancy-expensive outfit to be covered in vomit and snot. Heck no! That's why we wear our grungy sweatpants everyday (that and because we can't fit into anything else, but that's another post).

So Oprah can go on making mommy's look all hot and stuff, but those mommy's are just going to sell those clothes on eBay when they get home. Trust me. If I looked so bad that some t.v. show producer had pity on me and awarded me with a $500 outfit from Nordstrom, I'd swap those overpriced clothes for something that could really make a difference.

A maid.

Non-Maternal Instincts

Nonmaternal Instinct

I swore I wouldn't be this way.

Having spent two years studying childhood development, specifically the personal, social, emotional, and academic development of children, I became quite disgusted with parents who overbearingly forced their children to be (or to not be) a certain way. For instance, the mom who shows up at school in hysterics when her daughter doesn't make the cheer squad in seventh grade. Yeah, it sucks and it hurts, but seriously lady, who wants this more? You or your working-on-building-self-esteem, yes-I'm-going-through-my-awkward-stage pre-teen? Dude, just give her a hug, let her shed a few tears on your shoulder, and help her move on. Don't make it worse.

And I think it can be even uglier with boys. Let's face it, most dads don't want to see their sons playing dress-up with mommy's lip gloss and stilettos. But it happens, trust me (Sorry, honey, that's just what the little guy does to stay entertained while I'm in the shower.)

But I swore I would not be that way. I would not flinch when my son started trying on my bra or asking to paint his toenails. You will not hear me say, "No, buddy, boys don't wear nail polish. Boys wear dirt and play games that result in bruises and blood shed." No, ma'am. I will let my son explore life no matter how, no matter what. Let him play with dolls and try-on jewelry. He's only a kid. So what?



Look what happened when I found this picture on my sister's facebook wall:

Ali Hooper
Ali Hooper
Is Henry playing with a princess crown?
about an hour ago · Delete
Morgan Nameth
Morgan Nameth
He was taking the stickers off Ellas crown
about an hour ago
Ali Hooper
Ali Hooper
Okay, so he was destroying the pink princess crown? And that baby doll in the corner, I take it the boys were playing WWE and she was an innocent bystander. Am I right?
15 minutes ago · Delete

I couldn't help myself. I saw my boy, I saw the pink crown, and I just had to know. Had to.

And I swore I wouldn't be this way.

I'll just chalk this up to one more thing that I swore I wouldn't do once I became a mom. But now that I am a mom, that list was sent out with the dirty diapers. Also on that list was co-sleeping, letting my kids watch cartoons all day long, feeding my kids processed and pre-packaged foods, and allowing my kids to play with the dog food and water. I could go on and on. It was a mighty long list.

But let me make one thing clear. I will never be like that mom who freaks out when her daughter doesn't make the cheer squad. That is where I draw the line. Why? Because my daughter would never try out for cheer, that's why.



Ever since we found out that we were pregnant, Matt and I have pondered the question, "How will we possibly love two?"

It's not that we didn't think we could love two, but would we love them equally? Because our love for Henry grows more each day. We naturally thought that we would love our second child, but we assumed it would fall lower on the scale-of-love (if you will) than the love we have for Henry.

We had no idea.

There aren't words to express the immediate overwhelming love we have for this sweet little girl, but let me share with you a story that might begin to illustrate it.

Saturday evening was the first time Matt and I had been alone with Harper since her birth. She was one-day old, and as she slept in her hospital crib, we sat wondering, "So what now?" I could tell that Matt was antsy. It was 7:30pm, and I asked him, "Whatcha thinkin'?" He said, "Well (anytime he starts a sentence that way it means he has something he wants to do but is hesitant about asking), I'd like to go shopping."

Strange, I thought. I did not marry a shopper. Unless shopping results in a new firearm, my husband wants nothing to do with it. Many moons ago, I teased (though his friends insist it wasn't a joke) that with every baby we have, Matt could get a new gun. For a split second I thought maybe he was going to approach me about this idea, but I knew better. Actually, I knew that he knew better. So I just looked at him.

He continued, "Well, I thought I'd get her a blanket. I haven't been able to get anything for her yet, and I know you want her to have a blanket." He was right. I want a swaddling blanket for her that isn't blue or brown. "Great," I said, "In fact, I have a Target gift card you can use."

The reality is that we are having to rethink our budget as we bring another baby into our home. Babies aren't cheap, and we are sacrificing one income so that I can be home with our children. It's worth every sacrifice (and then some), but it makes for a lot of creative shopping.

So off to Target he went.

One hour later he returned. Sans Target bag.

"So, what did you get at Target?"

"Well (again, this means he has some explaining to do), I didn't get anything from Target."

I just looked at him.

In short, my husband, the non-shopper, went shopping. Like real shopping. And he didn't even get a blanket. Rather he returned with a dress. A D-R-E-S-S! From the third store he stopped in. Apparently nothing was "good enough" at the first two stores. He said the dress was a "Harper dress." And it is. It screams Harper. It's perfect.

But the pricetag read $24.


Look, I don't need to justify our spending habits, but $24 for a tiny cotton dress that she will soil and grow out of in less time it took for me to write this post? No, thank you.

I expressed my concern.

He assured me, "It wasn't $24; it was on sale."

Better-ish. It wasn't on final-markdown-clearance sale (the kind of shopping that I like to do), but it was better than full price.

And can I just say that is the proudest $24 sale item my husband has ever bought? Honest to goodness, he was beaming as he showed me this dress. Beaming.

And so was I. My husband, the non-shopper, could hardly wait more than one day before proudly purchasing a dress (a dress!) for his baby girl. He is hopelessly smitten, and it moves me to tears.

Somehow God grew our hearts so that we would continue loving Henry even more each day while simultaneously loving Harper in such a way that we never thought we could.

And as I observe the father of my daughter, I'm awestruck at God's ability to fill my heart up even more with love for my husband. Watching Matt with our sweet girl has turned me into a weepy mess. She has snatched her daddy's heart, and I'm happy to let her have it.

God is crazy awesome. In less than 48 hours He has overwhelmed me beyond what I ever thought possible. Not only did He give me a heart for adoring two children and a precious husband, but I'm blown away by our family and friends who are loving and supporting us through this transition.

My parents have unconditionally cared for our sick son (Henry came down with croup over the weekend) as we spent time with our newborn. Matt's family will put more miles on their car and take more days off work in the next few weeks simply to give our family extra hands. My sister single-handedly bought out the entire pink side of Carter's. And our friends. Wow, our friends. They have overloaded our inboxes and mailbox with their words of encouragement, support, and sincere prayers. Not to mention hospital visits and an insane number of meal offers. Seriously, God? Seriously? You love my family this much? I can't even stand it.

As if all this wasn't enough to make me cry big-ugly tears as I type, my husband sent me right over my blubbery edge when he looked at me before bed last night and said, "I was going to pay $24 for the dress."

Of course he was.

Something tells me he didn't even see the pricetag on that dress. Because no matter what, it wouldn't have mattered.