Sunday, December 28

2 Presents Left

Well, its December 28th and there are 2 presents left unopened "under our tree". 

I say "under our tree" in quotation marks because we decided, in keeping with the tradition of not having a Christmas tree when we have an 18 month old in the house (we didn't have a tree the year Laila was 18 months old), we didn't get a tree this year. Our presents still looked lovely stacked in front of our fireplace, our stockings were still hung by the chimney with care, the rainbow lights still adorned the outside of the house, our Christmas knick-knacks still made it out of the boxes (placed up high, mind you) and Christmas still came. Even without a Christmas tree. 

It also came without the physical presence of Nonna and Papa. While we were face timing on Tuesday afternoon, Laila asked "Papa and Nonna, when will you be home?" Papa responded with something like "As soon as we can, sweetheart..." and she broke our hearts when she said "But its Christmas!" 


We've been thinking that surely, SURELY they would be home next week. I told Laila so. 

But they won't be. 

Yesterday, Dr. Sands told Papa that he would need to stay in the hospital until Monday or Tuesday AND that he'll need to stay in Florida so that Dr. Sands can check him out until the following Tuesday. So, at least another week until they can come home. At least another week until Papa will start Tasigna, the chemo that will keep those leftover cancer cells from growing. 

To recap, a week after the surgery to remove the recurrent tumor, Papa developed a leak in the area of the rectum at the surgery site.  This required that he go back into the hospital for a temporary colostomy, a second surgery, that would allow the damaged area time to heal. After several days, he was released from the hospital.  During what we thought was a final follow-up to that second surgery, Dr Sands discovered an abscess in the wall of the rectum that needed to be flushed several times a day and drained in order to heal.  It also required IV antibiotics which meant he had to be admitted to the hospital a third time... and he's still there.

And, get this, apparently a LOT of people in the world like to go to Miami for the week between Christmas and New Year. Like, a lot a lot. As a result, Nonna and Papa are having a super hard time finding a hotel room that actually has a double bed or bigger for less than $300/night. Like, theres no room in the inn sort of thing. 

Friends, you can pray about that. An affordable place for Nonna and Papa to stay from the time they get out of the hospital to the time they are released to come home. 

You can also pray for Dad as he continues to learn how to handle "the apparatus" as we like to call it... and for the pain he's experiencing, as that has been a continuous struggle. 

I know that I usually end these sorts of updates with something about being positive and grateful. 

Yes, we are grateful and, yes, we are focusing on the positive but the bottom line is that Nonna and Papa are weary... weary of living out of suitcases, from hotel to hotel, hospital room to hospital room, paying for rental cars, being woken in the night for blood draws, pain medicine, IVs, laying in a bed, sleeping in a chair and being away from their children and their grandchildren. 

They are troopers, no doubt, but they are weary. 

Even so, every time we talk, they are both full of encouragement for me, love for each other and for all of us, words of wisdom for whatever I've needed to vent about and gratitude for each of you and your prayers. 



Monday, December 15

A Hitch

I should never have left Miami. 
I should have stayed on that sunny beach enjoying the adorable, overly-tanned, happily-retired, bike-riding, sun-bathing old people. 

Everything was fine before I left and now everything is in an uproar! 

Hear ye, hear ye, an update: 

Due to a weakness in the surgery area, a leak of sorts, Papa will undergo surgery tomorrow morning to have a temporary colostomy. 

A temporary colostomy is exactly what it sounds like, a "diversion" which will allow the surgery site to heal. The temporary part is what we're focusing on. 

Here's the deal: This surgery wasn't as cut and dried as the first one. The tumor was different, alive and kicking, whereas last time, it was calcified, like picking up a rock. When the surgeon was removing it, it crumbled, "seeding" the area, as they say, and making it very difficult to remove every single little bit. So the plan was to heal up, come home and focus on aggressively attacking whatever cancer cells were left behind with chemo. 

The plan was working. When I got to Miami on Friday morning, the day after the surgery, Dad looked great and was in great spirits. We laughed about the language barrier that existed with some of the nurses (hola, Miami!), the danger of catching pneumonia at the hospital and the super comfy cot that mom and I took turns sleeping on. (Or, actually "the cot on which my mom and I took turns sleeping... " if you're the kind of person who pays attention to dangling participles and all of that English major stuff...)

He was released to go "home" to the hotel on Saturday morning and all was well. We even took a sunny walk on the beach Saturday afternoon and attended the adorable little Hollywood community Christmas parade Saturday night. 

I left Miami Sunday evening, confident that everything would go as planned. 

Even Thursday, when my parents had a pow-wow with both Dr. Sands (the surgeon) and Dr. Trent (the oncologist), everything looked good and there was talk of Dad being cleared to come home to Texas early next week. In plenty of time for Christmas, I might add.

Friday evening, however, things took a turn for the worse. Mom and Dad found evidence of infection, called Dr. Sands and were back to the hospital for IV antibiotics for the weekend. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went to answer the FaceTime call, expecting to see Papa lounging at the beach in a wide hat and Hawaiian shirt, sipping an umbrella-ed beverage with old people in the background and found him in a hospital bed instead. 

And, somewhere in the course of the weekend, Dr. Sands decided that the infection... caused by the leak which was caused by the tissue weakness... meant that a temporary colostomy would be necessary in order to ensure a complete healing. 

And, obviously, complete healing from the surgery is what we want. What we must have.

It's also what we NEED in order to carry on with the plan of aggressive chemo to zap away all the leftover cancer cells. 

SO, join us in prayer, dear ones. 

Let me be honest. What would be awesome is if God would just do the miracle of zapping the cancer cells FOR us and we could leave the whole pesky chemo thing out of it. How about we ask God for that? And also pray for Papa as he figures out all this colostomy stuff... for it to be as temporary as is wise and for Dr. Sands and Dr. Trent to know exactly how to proceed. Join me in praying for Nonna as well as she acts as Papa's support, laundrywoman, administrative assistant, liaison to the nursing staff, communicator to friends and family, etc, etc, etc. 
That woman is one amazing creature. 

And you are amazing too, friends. We appreciate all your hugs (physical and virtual), your texts and calls, your Facebook messages, your prayers, your friendships... Thank you. We could never say it enough.

Chels (and co.)

"We're taking the next train to Miami to see Papa!" -Laila Grace

Tuesday, December 2

I smile.

Well, after an afternoon spent decorating the house for Christmas and wrapping presents, there is a mountain of colorful and sparkly glitter in my dustpan.

I smile.


Yesterday, I overheard the following from Laila, behind a closed door:

Laila: "Jesus, why did you not make unicorns?... (pause)... Ok!... Well, thank you for making my Texas Rangers shirt... Goodnight!"

I smile.


And today, from the backseat:

Laila: "Lydia, repeat after me... Papa!"
Lydia: "Papa!!"
Laila: "Nonna"
Lydia: "... giggle ... Nonna!"
Laila: "Starbucks!"
Lydia: "Dy-puh!! (Diaper)"
(Hysterical little girl giggling...)

Smiling. Smiling. Grinning like a fool.


Yesterday and today, parenting by myself with no voice went far better than expected. The truth is that I have the sweetest, most understanding and darling little girls in the universe. As a result of this little bout of sickness, Lydia has learned to whisper (mimicking me) and blow her nose (mimicking me).

I smile.


Today is the day that my parents flew to Miami for my father's second tumor removal. Second sending into a deep, dreamless and unnatural sleep. Second waking to (aha!) no tumor pain (focusing on the positive) but also a process of recovery that is sometimes painful, always inconvenient and will likely mean that Nonna and Papa won't be home to spend Christmas with their granddaughters. They won't be spending Christmas with their children and children-in-law either but, let's be honest about who's really important.

Laila Grace. Stella Sloan. Lydia Kate.

Even so, we smile.


If, after all the things that go wrong in our lives go wrong and all the traffic that slows us down holds us up and all the things we are anxious about come to pass and all the difficulty that has to be endured is endured, I think that, if we try to smile... and we keep trying to smile... and then, one day, we DO actually successfully smile, I think it must get easier to smile again the next day. 
And the one after that.
And all the ones after that.

A recurring tumor is something. But so many people whom I love dearly have had to go through so, so much more. And, yet, they rejoice on facebook over their son's Christmas list, they meet me in the morning for a giggly and companionable run, they plan their wedding with excitement, they open their hearts to the hope of loving again, they find peace in the memory of the beloved parent they miss so desperately... they smile. And, by smiling, they inspire me, they challenge me, they fill me.

For all of you out there smiling in the midst of the pain, I join you.

I will smile.

Today marks the beginning of our family's second season of moving through cancer.
Today marks the beginning of our family's second season of moving away from cancer.
We have so much to smile about.


Thursday, November 27

Bad News and Good News

So, the thing is... I can't say too many nice things about him or he'll be too embarrassed to share this blog. And I really want him to share it because we want you, our dear loved ones, to be "in the loop" as they say.

But you know. Of course you know.

I'll just whisper it:

My dad is a champion, an inspiration, a hero. 

I'm not a scientist or a surgeon so I won't attempt to explain the specifics of what has happened medically. For all of us laypeople and liberal arts majors, I'll simply give it to you straight.

There is another tumor. They call it "recurrance".

It means cancer is back. Back. Back. Back. 

Apparently, it was "back" back in September but the radiologists who read his CT back then missed it. As in, did not see the tumor. 

I mean...

Of course, Papa says "They have a hard job. Give them a break." He's not mad. He's kind and gracious. Out in the big bad world and in front of my children, I will be too. But, here, in this little corner of the world that I author, I WILL ask that question in all caps. Because, seriously, radiologists? THAT'S, LIKE, YOUR WHOLE JOB.


Another surgery and likely another year of chemo drugs. "Back" to chemo. EESH.

So... let's stop here and take a big, lovely, deep breath of oxygen.


Okay, now for the good news.
It IS Thanksgiving, for Heaven's sake... and we have so much to be thankful for.

1). Surgery is scheduled for next Thursday. This is good news because, according to the CT scan he had last Friday, the tumor is growing fairly rapidly. We're all thankful that Dr. Sands, Papa's surgeon, is feeling urgent about getting it out.

2). We've been here before. Because this tumor is in the same place as the last one, Dr. Sands knows his way around down there. And Papa knows what to expect as far as recovery, etc.

3). Dad is far healthier now than he was when going in for the last surgery. As most of you know, he has spent the last 18 months or so extremely focused on getting healthy. Obviously, a higher level of wellbeing will bode well for him in many ways.

4). He's had symptoms that he couldn't ignore. Wow. I am SO thankful for the pain that motivated him to go so far as to fly to Miami to consult with Dr. Sands on his situation. Had he not, and had the tumor been allowed to keep growing, we would have been in a far worse situation when it was ultimately discovered.

5). Dr. Sands and Dr. Trent (his oncologist) are the Best of the Best. They even have billboards in Miami with their faces on them... so, I mean... hello.

6). My dad has Nonna. And she will do everything in her power to support and care for him, just as she has been doing for over 30 years. They make one amazing team.

"Focus on the positive and trust God." This is what our dear Papa Bear is encouraging us to do. Of course he is. And we are doing our best.

Join us in this.
Thank you for your prayers and your love... and Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, October 27

Why ya gotta be so MEAN?

Why am I quoting Taylor Swift, you ask?

Well, today, Laila called me "mean".

She asked if we could stop on the way home and play at the park for a while and, when I said "No" because we had groceries in the car that needed to go in the fridge, her response was "You're mean."

When I sharply adjusted the rearview mirror so that she could see my eyes and gave her The Look circa Donna Golden, 1987 asking "What did you say?", she cleverly changed her tune and said "I love you?"

Little stinker.

But the damage had been done.

Ya'll, it hurt my feelings very much. I seriously almost cried. As I drove on, swallowing my tears and wondering where she had even heard that word, I started to ask myself "What the heck, Chels? Why are you so affected by this?"

Very quickly, my hurt turned to anger. I wanted to justify myself. I wanted to remind Laila of all the privileges she enjoys, of all the treats she gets to have, of all the things I do with and for her, of how flipping FUN I AM!! I'm seriously FUN, kid! Don't you know?!? Ask ANYONE.  I'm not MEAN. I'm AWESOME!

Right?! Right, blog world?! You think I'm awesome, don't you??

Oh sheesh.

Well, hello, Mommy Guilt. You sly minx, you're back, eh? Well, (mustering my strength) I reject you and your attempts to drag me down into your despicable pit of questioning myself as a mother, comparing myself as a woman and eating pop tarts to ease the agony.

You won't get me this time.

Because, guess what? I AM fun. I AM awesome. But what is so so so so so SO (a little overkill?) much more important than me being fun is that, by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am a shepherdess, a guardian and a vessel through which the love and grace of Jesus can flow onto and into my children. I am not defined by the fleeting emotions of a 4 year old. In fact, I am not defined by the emotions of anyone. As my dear sister, Nikki, often says... and, as her Life Disciple (I just made that up), I now often say, "I am unattached to the opinions of others".
Friends, I'm practicing the application of those words.

Laila Grace Chapman, you are not allowed to manipulate your Mommy's emotions. You are super powerful and you have influence, dear one, but Mommy won't allow you to learn that manipulating people's emotions is a way to get what you want. Direct communication of your desires and your feelings is more effective and more kind. We reject manipulation and we reject passive aggression. With kindness, tenderness, love and grace, we care for people's emotions, daughter.
We do not manipulate them.

You can be sure THAT message was communicated, dear reader.


All in all, those few moments in the car accomplished two things.

1).  It gave me the glorious opportunity to see how my arch nemesis, Mommy Guilt, was trying to creep it's way back into my psyche. Friends, guilt and shame of any kind should never motivate or rule us. When we feel it trying to push in, let's fight. Reject it. Tell it to go.
Let's be motivated by love instead. And peace. And unity.

2). It gave me the opportunity to reinforce again something that I am super passionate about... In a world where girls are encouraged to use their powers of persuasion, their wiles, their words and their wit to manipulate, coerce, trap and deceive, our daughters will learn that the heart of a person is far more valuable than what can be gotten out of them. With all our hearts, it is our prayer that we will teach them to use their powers for good; to encourage, build up and welcome in.

I'm still working all of this out, you see. As our baby girl became a toddler, and then a bigger toddler and now almost a Kindergartener (spelling?? eesh), Trevor and I are being thrust into the deeper conversations, the harder places of parenting, the greater temptations and the stronger tides. Spirit of God, oh that you would lead us! Goodness gracious me, she's only 4! And was she actually trying to manipulate me with those two little words? I don't know... Was she simply repeating something she heard somewhere? Maybe so. But I'm learning more and more that parenting happens in all of these small and seemingly insignificant moments. They all roll together and become the collective experience of our family. Each minute is an opportunity and every conflict can be constructive. The patterns that we allow to develop now will turn into the stuff our kids are made of.
We have to be vigilant.

So, dear mother and dear father, what we do matters. What we say matters. How we respond matters. May we be held up by each other and, most importantly, by the strong arms of our Father God as we navigate these treacherous and glorious waters.

And may we always remember the power of The Look. Not to manipulate. But to communicate.
Thanks, Mommy.

Wednesday, October 22


Dear friends, 

For several days now, I've been mustering my courage and my words in order to say something. The thoughts and phrases and sentences have been marinating; gathered up and seasoned but in no order and having no organization. There has been no outline. I'll be honest, friends, it is the waiting for the outline, waiting for the clarity... that has been the bain of my writer's existence. The kryptonite to my creativity. 

I still have no outline. 
But I'm ready to say something. 

What it comes down to is this: 
It takes great courage to walk out into this world. 

It takes great courage to expose ourselves to the eyes and criticism of others, to get dressed and walk around and look like we dared to try, to parent in public, to smile at people, to be vulnerable, to drive a car, to go on a hike, to write, to love... 

This morning, at pre-school drop-off, I witnessed a "moment", if you will. One mom was walking towards the door from the east side of the parking lot while another mom was walking towards the door from the west side of the parking lot. They were walking towards each other, you see, and were about equidistant from the doors, therefore having plenty of time to see each other. I noticed the mom in high-heels first. Most of the mothers I see dropping their kids off at pre-school are in workout attire or yoga pants (#momlife) so, of course, this woman stuck out to me. Her dress was lovely and tasteful with lacey horizontal stripes over a simple black sheath. Her blonde hair was fabulous, obviously having been worked on that morning. She had on a full face of make-up and her high heels were the perfect compliment to her dress. She was smiling, bouncing; radiant, really. It made me smile just to look at her. And her kiddo was cute too. Also smiling. Holding her hand. 

And then I noticed the second mom. She was wearing pj-type pants but not the "I'm wearing pj pants on purpose" kind of thing... more like sweatpants, I guess, with an unflattering t-shirt. Her hair was disheveled and half up and she was wearing no make-up from what I could tell. She was carrying a baby - about 8 months old, maybe? And her toddler was slowly bringing up the rear dragging his back-pack behind him. Neither of the three of them were smiling. At first, her expression was sort of empty; tired and seeming to be focused on simply putting one foot in front of the other. 

But then, I watched as she noticed the high-heeled mom. 
And I saw her entire expression change.
I witnessed what almost looked like an intake of breath, just a quick one. 
And then her head dropped. Her shoulders stooped. She slowed her gait. 
I saw her, in an instant, try to hide. 

I obviously don't know exactly what was going on in her mind, friends, but I don't believe I'm off base to say that I watched embarrassment and insecurity take over, literally causing a physical reaction; the stooping of the shoulders, the slowing of the steps. 

And I wanted to stop my car and pull over and hug her. I wanted to take her hand in one of my hands and take the high-heeled mama's hand in the other of my hands and have them talk together there on the steps of the pre-school. I know, without a doubt, that they would have found something to laugh about together or something to learn from each other. 


I didn't look back at the high-heeled mom in time to see whether she noticed the sweatpants mom but, oh, how I hope she did. Oh, how I hope she looked up, noticed a fellow warrior and smiled a smile that communicated something like "Hi friend. You're beautiful. You're a champion. You're on time. You're making it. You're strong!" And then, that the sweatpants mom smiled back, saying "Hi friend. You're beautiful. You're a champion. You're on time. You're making it. You're strong!"

I hope that moment came after the moment that I witnessed. Because what I saw in the sweatpants mom's eyes broke my heart. Today, high-heeled mom was the one who looked like she had it together. Tomorrow, sweatpants mom might be the one who found the time to dress up her business and put on her make-up but the bottom line is this: No matter what we put on, no matter how we try to cover up or dress up or show out, it takes great courage to walk out into this world. It takes great courage to expose ourselves to other's eyes and perceptions and words. 

So, let's make a deal. My part is this: when I see you, fellow warrior, I will SMILE the SMILE that says "Hi friend. You're beautiful. You're a champion. You're on time. You're making it. You're strong!" and, when you hear that in my smile, your part is to believe me. 

It will take a little courage, dear ones, but it will be worth it. 


Monday, July 14

I learned something about running.

Did I tell you that I've started running again? 

This time, I believe it will stick.

No, I'm not being chased. No, I'm not doing the chasing. I'm simply strapping on my shiny, cushy, colorful running shoes, plugging in my ear phones and pounding the pavement. So far (and I never believed this was possible), I have genuinely LOVED it. 

Reasons to love running at this stage of my life:
I get to be alone. 
I get to listen to music. MY OWN music. Not the Frozen soundtrack, for goodness gracious' sake. 
I get to go at my own pace. No slowing down for anybody. No racing to catch up. 
I take big, deep breaths of oxygen. 
Did I mention I get to be alone?
I get to push myself farther than I think possible.
It burns calories and makes me stronger. 
It's my own thing and whatever consequences that come from my decisions in those moments are my consequences. * Let me stop right there and unpack that thought. Do you know what I mean by this? Mamas, are you with me? All day long, all the decisions that I make are made with 3 other people in mind. What I do is unequivocally and irrevocably intertwined with the lives of the 3 other people I live with, nay... am responsible for... Yes, you're right. If I were to step out in front of a truck while I'm running, their lives would be affected but what I mean is that I choose which path I run, simply because I want to go that way. I decide if I slow down or speed up. I think about what I want to think about. Even my thoughts can be my own while I run. Mamas of littles, you know that throughout the day, your thoughts are seldom your own. People who work in offices with other people, you know your thoughts are seldom your own. Getting out on the open trail gives me space for my thoughts. 
(Big sigh.) Yes. That. Space for my thoughts.

Last night, however, I was miserable. 
Last night, as I ran, these were my thoughts:

It's too hot to run. 
Running is stupid.
My socks are too thin.
My shorts are too short. 
I'm inhaling bugs. 
I can't breathe.
Why am I so slow?
I have bugs in my teeth.
I hate running. 
I'm never running again. 
Running is the DUMBEST. 


And yet, I finished. I didn't quit or slow down. In fact, I chalked up my fastest pace yet. Even carrying the weight of such negative, ugly thoughts, when it was over, my friends, it was over. I was home. I was stretching. I was getting some ice water. I was in the shower. I was snuggling on the couch with Trev. 

So, see? I learned something about running. 

Even when you hate every moment and you're absolutely miserable, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually be finished. The miles will be completed. The calories will be burned. 


Let's keep putting one foot in front of the other. There are good things ahead. The hard part won't last forever. There is ice water and a shower waiting for you at the end. 

Tuesday, July 8

The People Gotta Eat

Something has happened. 

Something has happened that I never would have expected in a MILLION YEARS. 

Ya'll think I'm being dramatic but my level of surprise is completely appropriate given the thing that JUST HAPPENED. 

Someone... A real, live person who's opinion I greatly value has asked me... (ME, I tell you!)... for cooking and meal planning advice. No, seriously, this actually happened. Get up off that floor and keep reading. This is REAL LIFE.

And... as shocked as you all are, it turns out that I actually have some to give. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention" and I totally agree. I've never been naturally inclined towards cooking and I've certainly never been one to emulate in regards to meal planning. However, the people gotta eat so somebody's gotta cook. As I mention below in my email to my friend, we Chapmans believe that variety (when it comes to food at least!) is overrated. We've found a few things that work and we just keep eating them. Over and over and over again. We aren't re-inventing the wheel but we're eating good, whole food (with lots of butter) and we feel energized and strong! 

I'll share with you what I shared with my buddy. Enjoy!

Okay, sister, here are the 5 meals that (no joke!) we have literally eaten every week for the last month. Trevor values routine and consistency over variety so this works for us. AND I love these meals because they are easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive to make, easy to clean up and feasible for me when it comes to calorie counting!! 

1). Whole Foods tortilla soup (large - $8.99) and a loaf of everyday bread baked fresh in the bakery ($1.29). 

I straight up throw that soup in a pot on the stove as soon as I hear the garage door going up (signaling that Trevor is home) and, by the time he has changed into comfy clothes, it's piping hot. I toast and butter several slices of the bread and everyone's tummy is HAPPY. I serve Laila mostly the big chunks of chicken and it is absolutely her favorite meal. If you're concerned about offering veggies with every meal, cut up some raw ones and put them on the side! That soup is 100 calories per cup. I mean, mmm... perfection. 

2). A little dish I like to call Healthy Rotisserie Chicken Stir Fry

Rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods ($8.99 again - preferably the "tequila lime" variety)
Red pepper, sliced
Yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup of half and half
Broccoli, cut into florets
Whatever yummy spices you like. (I LOVE McCormick's roasted garlic and herb spice!)
Brown Rice

I start the brown rice in a pot. Follow the instructions on the package EXACTLY. I used to make horrible rice until someone said to me "Follow the instructions on the package exactly, silly girl" and now that I do that, the rice is always delish. 

Throw some butter in a large, somewhat deep pan. Sautee the onions. Once the onions are close to tender, throw in the sliced red pepper, sprinkle some garlicky spices. Generously. Let it sit on medium heat and stir it a time or two. 

Roast the broccoli: Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil (easy clean up, see??) Drizzle with olive oil, throw the brocs on the pan, massage them around a little in the oil, drizzle a little more on top, sprinkle with garlicky spice and/or salt and peppa... Pop those babies in. I usually cook them about 20-25 minutes. 

~ Okay, when I get home from the store, after I put the groceries away, I always immediately de-bone the rotisserie chicken and put it in a glass pyrex. That way, I have the chicken ready for this meal as well as for feeding to the babe and using for sandwiches, wraps, etc for lunch throughout the week! It's always better to de-bone right away, rather than refrigerate and THEN de-bone because the chicken comes off the bone better when its warm. ~

So take a couple cups of that cut up rotisserie chicken and throw it in the pan with the onions, red pepper and butter. Feel free to add more butter if the veggies look dry. Melissa and Joseph say butter is healthy so, yeah, let's go with that! Add a quarter cup of half and half and stir it all together! Add more spices if you want! Go crazy! Stir it all up and taste it. See what it needs. More salt? More garlic? More butter? Anything! Do it!

When the broccoli is done, throw it into the pan too and stir it around a bit in the sauce... Now, you should have a chicken-y, vegetable-y, garlic-y, creamy creation to serve on a bed of brown rice. 


3). Baked Chicken with Roasted Broccoli and Brown Rice 

Understand that Trevor isn't really into any other cooked green veggies besides broccoli and green beans so we eat a lot of roasted broccoli. You could substitute any veggies that you like and roast them the very same way that I do the brocs. I often do half broccoli and half sweet potato in the pan because I LOVE sweet potato. In that case, (for the sake of calories) I just don't eat the rice. 

Okay, so make the rice and roast the broccoli (or whatever veggies) like I described above.

For the chicken, I buy the ginger soy marinated breasts at Whole Foods. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking dish with foil and spray with olive oil spray (or whatever oil spray you have). Line up the chicken breasts on the foil and season with whatever you like! Again, I use McCormick's roasted garlic and herb seasoning for EVERYTHING. Cut little squares of butter and put one or two on each chicken breast. Seriously, chicken is nothing without butter. This is what I've discovered. And it has revolutionized my life. 

Pop those chicks in uncovered. After 12 minutes, turn them over, season the underside and pop them in again for another 12. They will come out perfectly juicy and amazing. Seriously, I never knew how to bake chicken until I googled "How to Bake Juicy Chicken Breasts" and then I did exactly what the genius article told me. 

After the second 12 minutes, pull them out and loosely cover with some more foil... I don't know why and I don't know what happens under that foil. I simply do what I'm told. 

When your three items are ready, serve the chicken on the rice with the veggie on the side! This completely satisfies the Chapman family but, if you want to serve a salad or some bread with it, do it! 

4). Baked Salmon with (you guessed it!) Roasted Broccoli and Brown Rice

Seriously, you would think that we would be so tired of roasted broccoli and brown rice but we're not! Go figure! You could substitute quinoa or couscous for a healthy grain. I probably will eventually but, for now, as we value routine and consistency over variety, I'm sticking with the brown rice! 

For the salmon, preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. (We should probably buy some stock in aluminum foil)... :) Spray the foil with cooking oil, place your salmon skin down on the foil. Cut a lemon and squeeze it over the salmon. Be generous. I usually use about half a lemon for two portions of salmon. (Laila will eat a bite or two of salmon but I usually give her leftovers of the baked chicken we had the night before!) Season with salt and pepper... THEN, (here's the secret ingredient), grab a pickle jar out of your fridge and spoon pickle juice over the salmon. I don't know why but there's something about the pickle juice that mellows out the fish flavor and makes it DELISH. Be generous with the pickle juice. Cut two little slivers of lemon and place one on top of each salmon portion. This makes it pretty. That is the only reason I do it. Grab yet another piece of foil and place it over the salmon portions, folding the sides with the foil that is under the salmon thereby creating a foil pouch. Make sure all 4 sides are sealed. 

Cook for 35 minutes. It will be perfect! It will stink up your house! But it will be yummy and you will get the benefit of some of that awesome omega 3! Bonus! 

5). Yup. Good ole Spaghetti and Meat Sauce. 
No broccoli or brown rice here! This is my Friday night go-to (if we don't get Friday Night $5 smoothies at Smoothie King)... easy peasy. I won't insult your intelligence. I know you know how to make spaghetti and meat sauce. Just know that I always buy my ground beef from WF and I use the WF tomato basil spaghetti sauce! 

Okay, so I buy all of the ingredients for all of these meals plus a few things like, yogurt, veggie chips and hummus, fruits and extra red pepper (for snacking on) at Whole Foods every week for around $75!


So, there you have it. 
And please remember, as my dear Momo would say, "It's not a rut. It's a routine!" 

Sunday, May 11

Dear friends, 

From the bottom of my heart, Happy Mother's Day to each of you!

This morning, at church, we dedicated 4 babies to Jesus. When we say "dedicate", we mean that we introduce them to the church family, welcome them as new members, pray that they will grow in godly wisdom and strength, pray for their parents and family members and, as a church, agree to stay in prayer for the children as well as help the parents as they embark on the exciting and treacherous adventure of parenthood. 

You and I know the excitement and the treachery of parenting well, don't we? 

As we prayed for the children and the families, God spoke clearly to me and I know He wanted me to share it with you. 

Conceiving our children was an incredible act of co-labor with Jesus. Yes, each of us chose in that moment to share intimacy with our husbands, thereby planting the seed of life within our bodies. But it was God, in His infinite creativity and wisdom, who made our bodies to do the amazing work of receiving the seed, becoming one with it, and enveloping that tiny fertilized egg into the perfectly prepared warmth and protection of our wombs. Each of us, in partnership with our husbands and our God, created their tiny lives within us. It was a miraculous act of co-labor with our Creator. 

When we gave birth to these tiny creatures, we also co-labored with God. Our incredible bodies, designed with absolute perfection and intricacy, did the work of pushing, crying, bleeding and, ultimately, giving birth. If you gave birth via c-section, you, my sister, did all of that PLUS the work of yielding to the knife. You trusted God in the midst of a situation that perhaps you didn't expect or desire. All of us, no matter the circumstances, gave to our children the GIFT of birth. By designing our bodies so perfectly, God co-labored with us in that valiant act.

And, if your dear one is adopted, then you know even MORE intimately about co-creation. The One who created you to be a mother moved on the heart of a brave and beautiful woman who courageously chose to place her baby in an adoptive home. The One who created you to be a mother knew from the beginning of time how you would labor in prayer and how He would move on your behalf, bringing you the baby He created for you. 

IF He was so gracious to co-labor with us in creating these tiny people, so gracious in bringing them forth to take their first breaths and in entrusting them to our eager arms, will He not also co-labor with us as we parent them? As we seek to train them, teach them, guide them, shepherd them? He will. He does. 

Here's what I felt so strongly led to tell you. God is with you, my friends. God is WITH YOU. In the depths of the night, as you feed your baby or you check on those toddlers or you sleep, dreaming of the futures they will have; as you wrestle with the seemingly endless decisions of parenting, as you "discuss" with your husbands the various ways to deal with those sweet children's fallenness (read: disobedience and rebellion), as you apologize, forgive, cry, kiss, snuggle...


He will not leave you alone in this journey. In fact, He is deeply invested in the process with you. He has put His very life into your children and He will make all things beautiful in His time. He will bring to completion the good purposes He has designed for them and for you. You are not alone. 

Also, and finally, I felt led to share Galatians 6:9 with you. "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart." NKJV

Some versions say "if we do not give up" but, for our purposes, I love the NKJV because, lets be honest, we can't give up. In this act of motherhood, we don't have the choice of giving up. Our children are good little mammals. If we don't feed them, they will scream for nourishment. If we don't change their diapers, they will stink to high heaven. If we don't snuggle them, our own bodies will groan in protest. Giving up is not an option. I fear that for many of us, "losing heart" is by far the greater danger. Losing passion, losing compassion, losing our sense of purpose, losing sight of our mission... Dear ones, let's not lose heart. Let's lean into His help and lean on to each other. Just as the lionesses are created to hunt in packs, we are meant to mother in community. If you feel you are close to losing heart or if you are weary, reach out. 
God has given us to each other as a precious gift. 
I am here for you. 

And the promise is that we shall reap! We SHALL reap! We are sowing tenderness and we will reap tender-hearted children. We are sowing faith and we will reap children who overcome fear. We are sowing joy. We will reap children who will be able to face the trials of life with hope. We are sowing love for God and love for people and your work will not be in vain! I believe that wholeheartedly. However long it takes, we will reap. 

I love each of you and am so thankful God called us to be together. As we've said from Day 1 in this playgroup "We're in this together!" 

Happy Mother's Day! 

Friday, February 14

The Opposite of Lonely

I'm not sure there is a word for the opposite of lonely. If there is one, I have certainly never had an occasion to use it. Because (insert party dance here), I am an EXTROVERT. Full on, with no apologies. Or at least I used to be. Or at least I thought I was.
To be honest, I'm not sure what I "am" anymore...

Except that, right now, I AM completely and totally the opposite of lonely.

I write this blog (and shamelessly plug it on my facebook page) with absolute respect for my dear friends who are struggling with loneliness. For the ones who are ready for love and haven't found it yet. For the ones who are desperately trying to have a baby and are struggling with infertility. For the ones (and it hurts just to type this) who have even lost a child or a spouse.
I love you and I hurt for your loneliness. I am full of sympathy, dear one. I assure you.

That said, please allow me the pleasure of sharing a list of things I would do if I could ever get a flipping day to myself.

If I could have 24 hours alone, I would:

1). Sleep. Oh sweet baby Jesus in the manger, I would sleep. And SLEEP IN. Like, past when the sun wakes up. Oh yes. That.

2). Sit outside by a pool, turn my face to the sun and just BASK.

3). Listen to the sound of whatever not listening to the sounds of my children sounds like.

4). Watch a super SUPER girly movie. Or Bridesmaids. And laugh at all the naughty parts that I "shouldn't" laugh at. (Sorry, family. Honesty.)

5).  Eat a zero calorie blueberry donut. No, SAVOR a zero calorie blueberry donut. As in, eat tiny little bites one at a time in no rush. (Note: zero calorie blueberry donuts don't exist but this is my fantasy so I'm allowed.)

6). Drink my coffee in that beautiful and perfect window of time where it is neither too hot nor too cold. I haven't experienced that window in AT LEAST 6 months.

7). Take a bath without listening for the sounds mentioned in #3.

8). Eat a meal I don't have to share.

9). Vacuum my floors. Sound strange? Laila HATES the sound of the vacuum and, because I like to be sensitive to her, I don't vacuum nearly as often as I should. Yes, I know. I should not allow my child to dictate when and how I clean my house... blah blah blah.You know what else?? For that glorious 24 hours, I wouldn't have to think for ONE SECOND about what people think of my parenting choices, for goodness sake!!

10). I would write the children's book that has been floating around in my head for 4 months.

If, right now, you're thinking "Chels, you have to time to write this blog... Go do some of what you've just mentioned rather than sit there typing!" Oh, my friend, I'm writing this while Laila pulls on my arms, puts her head in my lap and asks me for more cranberry juice. With Mickey Mouse Clubhouse singing it's happy tune in the background.

I'm telling you, people. I am NEVER. ALONE.

Now, sit tight while I go refill someone's cranberry juice.

I'm back!

And then... (big sigh), I'm driving down I-75 and I see the billboards for the fertility clinic that say things like "Want to change your name to Mom?" or show a positive pregnancy test with text that says "Still waiting?" and I remember how easily Trevor and I were able to get pregnant. Or I hear of a child struggling with cancer and see a picture of her mom and dad, smiling, by her hospital bed and I realize, with joy and utter amazement, that our children are healthy and strong. Or a Dallas fireman dies trying to help stranded and injured motorists in a sudden ice storm Monday evening and I think "God, I would die if anything happened to Trevor..." and, all of a sudden, being alone doesn't sound all that wonderful.

"Perspective" reminds me that these years are short. These years are SO SHORT. I see the way grandmothers look at me in the grocery store; a mix of amusement, nostalgia and maybe even a bit of envy on their faces and I know that there will come a time when I am alone much more often than I am now.

Last night, while the 4 of us were reading bedtime stories, Laila looked at Trevor and I and asked "When I'm all grown up, will ya'll miss the little Laila?" It was such a sweet and poignant question and Trevor answered it so beautifully... while I tried to hide the tears that ran down my cheeks despite my best efforts to hold them back.

Right now, I choose to take the opportunities I have when I have them. I'll catch a bath during naptime. I'll turn my face to the sun and close my eyes for, like, 45 seconds at the playground while Laila plays. I'll drink lukewarm or too hot coffee.

Gratefully, and with a full heart, I'll listen to the sounds of my children.

Because it won't be long now before listening to the sounds of my children is no longer an option.
So, play on, little ones. Mommy is listening.

Thursday, January 30

Some Whining. And a Thank You. But kind of a lot of Whining.

Three out of four of us, down for the count!
Yep, my friends, sickness has come to the Chapman household. Despite all of my efforts, included but not limited to: stripping my child down first thing when she gets home from school, slathering ourselves with essential oils and generally keeping a reasonably sanitary environment, Trevor, Laila and I have all been sick this week. Lydia Kate... 

Oh, you didn't know about her, blog world?... Eh... What's that you say? That I haven't updated you since April of LAST YEAR? Well. I've resolved not to blog about not blogging so let's just change the subject, whydontwe??

Ahem. As I was saying.

Lydia Kate, our precious little 6 month old darling, is the only one of us who has been spared. Let's hope that continues to be the case. We'd hate to see this little face without her usual smile. 

So, the thing about being a mom is... There are no sick days. No calling in sick, no punching out, no rest for the weary. Yesterday, I literally felt like the walking dead, with walking pneumonia or walking flu or walking strep throat but, you get the idea... walking. When you're a mama, you just have to trudge on. The reality is that, when the baby wakes up (however old she is), you are compelled to respond to that call. It is really wonderful that God created mothers to be that way. It is a precious and exhausting, wonderful symptom of bearing a child. And what is also true... and scary... is that I'll never stop being a mom. I'll never stop responding. Thankfully, I have wonderful and amazing examples of this in my own parents. Yesterday, my mom and I had the following text interaction:

Mommy: "What are you doing for your symptoms?"
Me: "Oils, cough drops, water, tears of desperation..." 

And, less than an hour later, my Dad shows up at my doorstep with immune boosting supplements, ready and willing to give me a break so that I could get a hot bath and a nap. 

And then, last night, my darling husband let me sleep in the guest bed; that glorious, white, snuggly, soft haven of yummy (where the children can't find me and where I can't hear them) so that I could actually get some sleep while he did the dirty work. 

Usually, I'm the Doer of the Dirty Work. I mean, I'm pretty good at it. I'm shameless when it comes to asking for a deal, a discount, a refund... and, when it comes to sleep deprivation, I seem to be able to tolerate it pretty well. But, last night, Trev took over in that department. I'm so blessed. And, today, he will come home to a "thank you" love note and a package of these goodies: 

So, all in all, I guess my point is that there is no rest for the weary Mama. Unless you have a Nonna, a Papa Bear and a husband as awesome as mine. To those precious 3, this tired Mama says "Thanks a bunch. I love you. Now pass over those Oreos." 

P.S. Dear reader, I truly do apologize for leaving you out of the loop. To make up for it, here is a picture of us when Lydia was about 10 days old. Now you can forgive me. Enjoy!