Dear Roscoe: 3 Years

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It is not in my nature to do cutesy things. I avoid cheesy things like a vegan & I hate a cliché. But with you & your brother fresh off to your new French-speaking school, I’ve let my guard down & all bets are off. Because, spoiler alert: you don’t speak French yet & language learning is HARD. I put together a contingency plan should you feel confused, sad, or lonely in your brand-new environment, which included reading you the book The Kissing Hand the night before you started school. Choking back tears, I opened this precious book about a little raccoon who didn’t want to start school because he just wanted to stay home with his mama. His mama, unlike me, knew just the cutesy thing to do reassure her darling son in this new venture: she would kiss his hand before they parted ways so he could press it up against his cheek when he needed reminding about how much his mama loves him. The kiss would travel from his hand to his heart so he couldn’t forget his mama’s love. And I’m guessing that her kiss couldn’t possibly get lost or washed off until she gave him another one, but I’ll never know. Because 4 pages in to that sticky sweet moment, you looked square in my eyes & said you didn’t want to read THIS! RACCOON! BOOK! anymore & that I could read it ALL! BY! MY! SELF!

So, nah to the cutesy for you too? I won’t make that mistake again!

It’s been another big year for our family. We have traveled from the UK to all over the American southeast to East Africa & Europe then back to East Africa before settling in Central Africa. You have called 7 places home in the past 12 months, never concerning yourself with anything more than your blanket & a mama hair when your head hit that new pillow. Not until this most recent move to Chad, which was when you started saying you wanted to go “home.” I do wish I had 5 minutes’ access into that rapidly developing brain of yours because I would be fascinated to know where on God’s green earth you consider home.

You show immense potential for being a leader with a big heart for justice. You don’t like it when people aren’t being good listeners, when others disobey, or when there’s no regard for the rules. Funny little reparation system you have there, because apparently these laws apply to everyone but you. Probably the biggest current event in our home is when you yell “YOU’RE FIRED!!!!” at daddy & me after getting a spanking. I dare say you would make it through one morning without chocolate milk before realizing you made a big mistake firing us. Also: is this a good time to remind you that calling people “stupid head” is doing nothing for your review ratings? Who let you watch Sponge Bob anyway?! Grandaddy??

If we’re all being honest here, I’ve spent most of this past year being mad at you. Raising you requires a lot of things that also aren’t in my nature. I’m easily angered in the moments when you need my patience. I’m tempted to shout when you need me to speak gently. Sometimes I totally lose it when you need me to be controlled. And so, the irony is not lost on me that you love to water our trees. Taking care of vegetation (kids) that is vulnerable to the desert sun (life) demands a steady flow of vigor & sacrifice. You teach me so clearly as you struggle through our sandy yard with that giant water hose: I’ve got to keep on pouring out. My own parents will probably stroke out hearing me have this revelation, because little Mr. Big Feelings: I am raising a tiny version of myself. There, dad, are you happy?

Please keep on asking to use Shepherd’s “wash mouth” after brushing your teeth & never EVER stop craving a “really really great story” at bedtime. Stay this squishy forever, but PLEASE: put your freaking shoes back on before going into public toilets & stop bullying up on babies.

Love you forever & late again as per,


Dear Shepherd: 5 Years

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I woke up this morning to your still-little snores. Daddy’s been out of town for the past 2 nights & you’ve laid claim to his spot in our bed. My favorite part of you sleeping in our bed is when you reach out in the night to make sure I’m still there. That, and when you play with my hair as you’re falling asleep—just because you know I love it.

There’s something about you being FIVE that makes you seem all at once so big and so tiny. Too big to want help pouring your milk but still too tiny to do it without making a mess of things. You’re conflicted about whether or not you still like Elmo or if he’s just for babies. Some nights you live to bathe & brush teeth all by yourself, but others you just. can’t. do. it. & still need Mama’s help.

Something we’re realizing about your personality is that you are a follower. I think that’s why it’s challenging for you to sort out your preferences, because you are swayed easily by those around you. This is something you will need to tend to & be mindful of as you live & grow—because it’s easy to follow poorly but it’s hard to follow well. Good following requires good leading, and God knows I’m trying my absolute best.

It’s been another big year split among three continents, another year calling 5 places home. You board each plane like it’s your job, say your hellos & goodbyes with strength, appreciate every layer of our complex lives, & are ever-enthusiastic about what’s ahead of us. Leaving Scotland earlier this year was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a while. But your enthusiasm for the adventure to come protected you from dwelling on the grief. I dreaded leaving the cold while you celebrated the warmth we were headed back to in Africa. I was mourning the autonomous life we were walking away from while you were desperate for reuniting with cousin-friends… spending endless afternoons of climbing rocks, sword fighting, playing “video games” with your paper weapons, collecting treasures of rocks & bugs & trash, sharing dinners together, & building BOYS ONLY forts. I was focusing on the end of an era while you couldn’t help but see the beginning of another. So maybe you’re not a born leader, but I’m following you in embracing the future, looking only to the past as a point of reference, growth, & joy.

Currently you watch Night at the “Uzema” (Museum) on repeat, you neglect all the lizards you catch as your “pets,” you’re looking forward to an upcoming trip to Spain so you can say “hola amigos” & sing Feliz Navidad once we get there, you ask for a cup of coffee in the afternoons, you love speaking “languages,” & you really get a rush when you beat me at UNO. You are a dynamite kid & I delight in being your Mama.

This past summer you told a room full of small children that they would all go to hell if they don’t follow Jesus & just yesterday you told me that I am a little bit fat. While I highly value honesty, a bit more diplomacy next time? (PS: you’re grounded for yesterday).

I love you forever & am so sorry that I’m a month late this year,

Thoughts on Mother’s Day


People come down on babies in bellies for stretching a mother so literally & figuratively thin that actual stretch marks appear. Figuratively speaking, I’ve never been so psychotic as when I became Maridith Lane the Mom, Est. 2012. I feel myself losing brain cells on the daily. Literally speaking, the stretch marks were there WAY before my belly housed a human, so that’s on me I guess.

I hear all you optimists shouting from the mothering mountaintops that you love every second as a mom and just savor it and it all passes too fast but enough is enough. I love my baby boys so much it makes my legs go numb but I don’t always like them. Some would argue that’s because I’m not content in life or because I don’t even like myself. Maybe that’s true sometimes but we’re not talking about me. Pessimists make up the other 50% of the world’s population so let us just have a minute, ok?

The difference between your first & second labors/deliveries? You called a taxi for a ride to the hospital the first go round. You drove yourself to pick up KFC & newborn diapers on the way to the hospital the second go round.

Another difference? Two sets of stitches & 3 days in hospital with baby number one. No tearing with number two & you were home a mere 10 hours after pushing out that bundle, hosting a party for friends who were moving. There’s nothing you can’t do.

The best thing I’ve ever heard about mothering came from my dear friend & mentor, Charlotte Cearly. “Motherhood is just so… daily.” It never ends. And quite frankly, sometimes you just want it to. Just for five minutes, though, because you will start to miss those tiny people you desperately wanted to send into exile just moments before. This is your job forever & ever. No backing down. No letting up. Unless you’re in the cookie aisle with two in diapers. THAT’S when you give in.

No one prepares you for how bi-polar you will become in your marriage. One moment, your heart will soar with a new-found love for your husband-turned-father. The next moment, he can’t do anything right & why do you have to do it all by yourself & why can’t he just remember how to do this & PLEASE! it’s actual common sense & AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Motherhood: the near-impossible balance between “do it yourself, son” & “here, let mama help.”

Mother’s Day this year is giving me all the manic-depressive feels. I want another baby but I also want to never have a baby ever again. Is it possible to snuggle a newborn for a few months & then give them away until they have proper linguistic ability & a mid-range level of self-sufficiency? Asking for a friend.

It is unlikely that my boys will ever know this heart-stopping, back aching, belly stretching, motherly love since they indeed will never be mothers. But I won’t let that stop me from showing them how it’s done, one mind-numbing day at a time.

Dear Roscoe: 2 Years


My favorite thing you did this year happened on a city bus. Daddy splurged & let you out of the stroller because Mama is mean & never does. He stood you up & you reached right out across the aisle for a sweet old-lady-stranger to hold you. You snuggled down into her lap & rode sweetly on her knee for the rest of our journey. We had just spent a few months with your real life, blood related Grannies & I like to think you stretched your arms to her for homestyle warmth. She readily obliged. She wasn’t your family but for just those few minutes, you made her such.

You made your way into our family with the squishiest forehead that I’ve since kissed a million times over. I loved you so wildly that it opened a to-the-quick bravery in me. I was so unsure as a first time mother just a couple years before, but I felt so resolute in mothering you. You were content, all quiet, undisturbed. You nursed, you played, you slept. You couldn’t even be bothered to cry. Not even whimper. Never.

But then you entered toddlerhood. You made up for all lost ground & were quick to let the world know you had opinions. You basically cut all your teeth at once & it made you angry for about 6 months straight. If we could have talked about it like adults, I imagine the conversations would have gone something like this…

Me: I need to get groceries.
You: That’s cute. But what about MY needs?

Me: It’s nap time.
You: Ask nicely.
Me: Please?

Me: Smile for the picture, buddy!
You: Screw you!

Me: Time for dinner! I made your favorite!
You: My FAVORITE? You don’t know me.

Me: Come this way, pal.
You: Nobody puts baby in a corner.

You: Only God can judge me.

I quickly went from courageous mother to exasperated self-doubter. It was not my finest time, but we made it through. You started asking “peas?” for things instead of freaking out to get your way. You started giving loads of kisses, solicited & otherwise. You kept on sucking your thumb & snuggling down in the crook of my left arm. You started asking me to sing The Wheels on the Bus before bed (“busss”). You desperately want to sleep in the bed with your big brother & yell “Shepah! Are you?” when you can’t find him. You know all of the animals & the sounds they make. You watch the panda episode of Go Diego Go on repeat. You love your monster PJs & yell “ouch” as you pretend that the monster bites. You think it’s funny to eat gross things. And you pee in the bathtub every. single. time.

It was touch & go there for a while, but I’ve loved you desperately the whole time though. Forgive me for being 3 days late on your letter this year, but what kind of second child would you be if I did everything on time?


Dear Shepherd: 4 Years


Your passport says you’re American, but you didn’t step foot in the U.S. until the fifth month of your third year. When we arrived at our apartment in Georgia, you gasped & let out an ardent OH MY GOODNESS! over the awaiting half dozen toys in your room. Your appreciative outlook on life had Papa in tears, but we were all swimming in your feels. With bellies full of McDonalds & gas station coffee, we settled our travel-weary bones into our beds for what was your first night ever in my hometown. You slept peacefully, not vexed by even the series of shotgun fires at 3am. But me? I sat up straight, clammy in that cloud of a bed, ears acute. Mamas & sojourners in at-war countries make the lightest of sleepers, of which I’m both. But in my sleep-deprived haze I remembered we were now in the foothills of Appalachia & reduced things down to a robber scare-off or an opossum execution. We woke only a few hours later to Daddy-made coffee, eggs, biscuits, bacon, & all the love that little kitchen could hold—finally sharing you again with KK, the only other one who’s known you your whole life, & Papa, the one you wrinkle your forehead like.

Watching you play with Snowbird friends & calling everyone “cousins” was & frankly is, still too much. We’ve worked so hard over your few years to help you sort out family relationships. But the best we could do from 3000 miles away was the occasional FaceTime call & showing you photos of family, asking, “who’s that? And where is Mommy’s brother?” You went through a phase in South Sudan where you would line up all the grandparents’ photos around your breakfast or take them all outside to climb our Land Cruiser. It seemed very Japanese, like honoring the dead, but we just went with it & wished everyone their due fun.

Life on the farm in Tennessee with Nammy & Grandaddy was a dream. Every day you would walk downstairs before 7am & ask Grandaddy, “what’s for lunch?” A highlight was post-supper rides on the pony & your reaction to coming back into the A/C every single time: “ooooh, that’s NICE!” You loved all your cousins instantly & called everyone Aunt Kathy there for a while. You were scared of Grandma right off but after I gave a few whisper-shouts-through-clenched-teeth YOU WILL HUG YOUR GRANDMOTHERs, you guys were super-pals. You would point to every white elderly woman in Wal-Mart or the post office or restaurants & overtly ask, “is that my Grandma?” Sure, son, because you’re new here. Also: automatic car washes are totally your jam & fine, I’ll share my $4 latte with you & ok, we’ll go through just one. more. time.

We’ve emigrated again, this time to Scotland. You packed your backpack with all your essential toys but you refused to carry it. You’re irresistible when you say “Edinburgh.” You go to nursery school 2 days a week & always report that you “didn’t” hit your friends. You talk about a boy called Joshua, & I’m pretty sure he’s the one you “didn’t” hit. You love Kinder surprise eggs (but only the ones with super heroes inside OH MY GOSH), getting pizza & meeting Daddy at the park, picking out a snack at soft play, sitting upstairs on the bus, helping me cook your 2 eggs every morning, & watching play-doh shows on YouTube SO HELP ME GOD. You don’t love swim lessons or your yoga class at school just yet but it’s too early to declare that you’ve inherited the exercise-aversion gene (from your father’s side, if anyone asks).

Sad to see you graduate to giving an actual thumbs up instead of pointing your index fingers, but turning four does means that you’re “really really BIG tiny” now.

We live our lives on the pendulum swing but you always keep in rhythm. Please keep saying “toast” with a Scottish accent, asking everyone if they’re ok after they cough, & offering Roscoe “some cup of tea.” Looooove, eye, looooove, YOU!

Two days early this year,

Dear Roscoe: One Year


You are totally in the throes of second baby treatment. You nurse on demand. Your juice isn’t cut by 90% water. You’ve already eaten your fair share of desserts & often get Pringles for a snack. Your journal has a total of 3 entries. I’ve not taken nearly enough photos of you. And I couldn’t recall the exact date of when you first smiled or sat unassisted if a gun was held to my head.

But oh, I enjoy you.

Nursing you has been carefree & fun. You love juice too much to yuck it down with water. You just love table food & let’s not pretend I have the fortitude to withhold it from you. I’m too busy watching you & oooh-ing & awww-ing to hand-write what you’re doing or what you’re in to. I dropped my phone in water while I was juggling fresh produce in one hand & you in the other & now I can’t actually see my screen to take pictures. And no, I don’t remember the dates of all your firsts, but I was there & I was present & I wasn’t worried if you were hitting all the milestones on time because you’re just perfect. Fat & maybe red-headed & gap-toothed & thumb-sucking & funny & cuddly & still so baby.

From my quick & relatively easy labor to our first night together with KK & Daddy to going home to meet Shepherd to sleeping through the night to your first flight to cutting teeth to crawling to pulling up to turning one year old, you have been such a simple addition to our family. It’s like it doesn’t occur to me to be panicked about all the things that panicked me in my early-mama days because you’re just so easy. Easily content & smiley & always laughing & ever napping & never crying & so laid back. It seems impossible that I cried so hard the day after you were born because I wanted you all to myself again. Because it is my everlasting joy that I get to share you with people who love you but have never even seen you in just 4 short weeks. I get to let everyone in on the best-kept secret that I’ve had for one whole year now. You’re just too good & soft & squishy to keep to myself.

Being away from you for 2 weeks recently had me sniffing baby wipes in a pharmacy, hanging out alone in public play areas, & brought me to ugly-tears one night when I saw a Down’s baby that was your age. Distance made this heart grow fonder & had me thinking crazy thoughts like a) kidnapping other babies, b) offering to breastfeed a stranger’s baby, c) having 8 more babies, or d) all of the above.

You sweet, sweet baby boy. You rub your hair when you nurse, you love bath time, & you laugh every single time you fart. I get you.

I love you so, Rockos. Be mine forever.

Dear Shepherd: 3 Years


Maridith is a very good student & has excellent grades but seems to have a problem controlling her talking.”

This was every single report card I brought home as a child. My teachers would move me to a different seat but it didn’t stop me from striking up conversation with my new neighbor. I even got placed by the teacher’s assistant’s desk one time & poor Mrs. Davis fell prey to my incessant questions & commentary.

You get this from me. Better said: you got this from the adolescent me. You wake up at exactly 7:18 every single morning with a chipper “I wanna come out!” Your lips do not cease to move until your naptime, after which they begin spewing words again until bedtime. Rinse & repeat. I am reliving my talkative childhood with every excuse me please, with each Mommy, what’s that?, with all the what? and why?  inquiries, & every very detailed retelling of the Mama Robot that lives in your window & how you fought the dinosaurs with your sword. Add to this that all of these come out in a decibel that is just shy of shouting & BOOM, Mama just went four kinds of crazy.

On my worst day I respond with a sharp LESS TALKING SHEP or JUST GO TO SLEEP NOW or THERE IS NO MAMA ROBOT or the age-old BECAUSE I SAID SO.

But on my best day I see past the noise & the chatter & I see the smiles behind those words & the light in your inquisitive eyes. I notice the way your lips curve around your careful, mispronounced words. I notice how your eyes cut to the right when you’re really thinking & processing. I notice that you’ve fused what and why into one word: whyt? I notice your bent towards perfectionism when you tell me a story—a grassbopper, mommy, wait, no no no, a BABY grassbopper! And I notice the swell of physical joy inside of you when you sense my full attention—so secure in my love that your whole body shakes.

You teach me the most when we read books together. Trying to make it through a book with you has proven to be the greatest test of my patience. I want this time to be calm, quiet, & tidy. Because for me to read a book is to read it cover-to-cover, questions after but never in between. But for you, reading is observing the pictures, pointing out overlooked details, & derailing to your own stories, leaving bent pages in your wake.

You see? Calm, quiet, & tidy you cannot abide. I know this about you but I want to EMBRACE this about you. I want to make our time together less about me. I want you to be you—not the version of me that I superimpose on you.

So please, keep teaching me. Start at the end & move your way backwards. Talk it out. Tend to your compassionate heart & keep saying “sowwy” to your friends when they fall down. Sing along to songs you don’t know. Belly laugh more. Let me hold you after a spanking even though you want to push me away. Keep asking for noodles for breakfast, even though I’ll say no. Observe people & be careful with their feelings. Don’t ever stop responding to questions with a surprised “oh yeah!” And make sure to keep including chocolate, ice cream, & coke at the top of your thankful list during prayers.

But if you could stop throwing sand on the playground, find something to yell other than “oh shoot!” when things don’t work out, & expedite potty training, it would be my JAM.

You make 3 look stunningly handsome & overwhelmingly brave. See you tomorrow at 7:18.

I love you forever,