Dear Kids, I’m Your Mama

Dear Kids,

I don’t know if I’ll ever be strong enough to tell you, but your boring mama wasn’t always a boring mama.  Furthermore, I don’t know if I want to tell you about the things that came before you. But right now, while you’re sleeping & you’re so small & I am so sick today, I’m thinking you need to know that I am your mama. 

When I was in the fourth grade, I met my first best friend. Shawna (whose birthday is tomorrow) was my best friend for 12 years. We grew up together. Her parents even tried to adopt me the year I turned 12.  I learned a lot of life lessons by growing up with my best friend. I was absolutely devastated when she died in a car wreck (that wasn’t her fault) at the young age of 21.  I remember finding out in the middle of the night, clutching my chest and collapsing into the floor, thinking things would never be okay again. I remember waking up in the floor and yelling at the sun because it didn’t have a right to shine the following day, because in my mind-the world should have just stopped. It’s absolutely awful to lose your best friend, & I hope you never lose each other. 

Other people really enjoy turning 21, but I didn’t. Not only did I lose my best friend when I was 21, but I lost my mama. My mama was so sick, so unwell. She made me crazy because her mind was half gone. I spent years caring for my mama because she wasn’t well enough to care for herself. No matter how crazy mad she made me, I still loved my mom. I still mourned her when she passed away. At her funeral someone said to me, “Alyssa, you are so tough. You’ve been mourning your mother for years. She’s really been gone for years and you’ve carried on with it by yourself. I couldn’t do it.” That’s probably true, another person probably couldn’t do it. 

I have never been unemployed. I started a job two weeks after I graduated high school and I’ve had a job ever since. Your mama has always worked hard. My daddy taught me that. 

My brothers and I all grew up in different homes because my family was very broken. You might notice we all have very different personalities and qualities, I think that’s part of the reason why. I know I was dealt the worst hand. I grew up living with various relatives for short periods of time, and even longer stints in state foster care. I won’t pretend this was anything short of awful. I grew up wondering why my parents didn’t love me enough to take care of me. I grew up wondering what was wrong with me because I was tossed around more than a baseball at practice. I grew up wondering if I’d ever feel anything other than homeless. I’m sure everyone involved had their own reasons for their choices, all I know is that I survived it and was bitter about my experience for years. Even when I got out of the foster care system and went to live with my mom, things still weren’t good for me. I made myself a lot of promises because of my childhood. I promised myself I’d be a better person. I’d never drink. I’d never smoke. I’d never take recreational drugs or prescription drugs I didn’t need. I’d never turn away a child on my doorstep. I would dedicate my life to helping children. I would be a good wife and a loving mom. I would be a better person than what I had grown up seeing. Are you listening? Because this is important:

I have kept my promises

I wanted more for my family, so I kept my promises and married someone that would keep those promises as well. No child should see what I saw in foster homes. It’s okay to be poor, it not okay to just survive your circumstances. You are not lucky kids, nothing that’s happened to you has anything to do with luck. You live inside preparedness. You live within planning. You live inside a million dreams and promises and plans. You live among people that we have chosen to be a part of your life because we are confident that they will love you. I wanted you to never doubt you were loved. 

I don’t care if you don’t think I’m beautiful. I don’t care if we’re never rich. I do care to let you know that I am smart, kind, & practical. Above all, I want you to know that I am strong. I’m the kind of strong that still cries when Dumbo is taken away from his mama. I’m your strong mama. Remember that when you think I’m just boring, just living a quiet life. I’ve already lived an exciting life & now you are my greatest adventure. 

There’s a lot more about me that I could tell you, but right now you’re both sleeping in my lap and I want to love on you a little more…before you’re not so little anymore.  So for now, that’s all I need to say.

Love,

Your Mama

3 Months & Growing

Our babies are just at 3 months old now & I am actually enjoying this current phase. Each baby is different (it’s true-I have 2!) but here are some things I love about our 3 month old twinfant boys. 

  1. They have eyelashes now. Long beautiful eyelashes. Lincoln’s are brown, Logan’s are black. 
  2. Their eyes have changed. Lincoln’s are dark blue, Logan’s are light blue. Lincoln’s are big and round like a cartoon character, Logan’s eyes are wide. 
  3. They’re growing hair longer and on parts of their heads that were bare before. 
  4. They fit into baby clothes so much better now. 
  5. They smile and grin. 
  6. They make eye contact. 
  7. They coo to talk to you. 
  8. Lincoln can hold his bottle (if it’s a short bottle).
  9. They’re curious about each other. They look at each other. They shout at each other. 
  10. They have sleep patterns. Lincoln sleeps on his back. Logan sleeps on his side. Both love blankets. They sleep in 6-8 hour blocks.
  11. Lincoln flirts with women, but is still shy in general. 
  12. Logan is a people watcher. 
  13. They play with their hands. Lincoln can fit his fist in his mouth. 
  14. They’re solid in weight now. At least 10 pounds. People are less scared to hold them. 
  15. They’re still cuddly. 
  16. They love head rubs. Especially around their ears. 
  17. They know us. They smile at us. They prefer us. 
  18. Rolls of fat. Lincoln has a fair few. Logan has…a couple. 
  19. Their expressions are becoming more detailed. They use their whole face when they look at you. 
  20. They stick their tongues out when you touch their little noses. 

A Word on Mr. Sirius Black

I’ve read the Harry Potter series of 7 books at least 5 times completely (although I’ve been known to pick up Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban and read it as a stand alone for fun). Every time I read the series I mourn the death of Sirius Black, my favorite character. I mourn his lost words of wisdom and his love for his adoptive godson. Without further ado, here are 15 reasons for why I have come to appreciate the character or Sirius Black. 

  1. Sirius is from a horribly broken & dysfunctional family. He understands how families are difficult & yet we still seek their love. 
  2. He actually lives & trains Buckbeak at some point. That creature always gave me the willies. 
  3. Sirius loves Harry as his own son, and he loves him fiercely. He is always checking up on Harry and trying to help him. 
  4. Two words: Flying motorcycle. 
  5. To me, he was always the perfect embodiment of a Gryffindor. (I say this as a true Ravenclaw myself.) He was brave, outgoing, adventurous, & loyal. However, he had bits of strong, sensible wisdom peeking through. 
  6. His life made book 3 and made me put down book 5 and walk away for a couple weeks. I believe his death was the first ever fictional death that made me cry as a child. 
  7. His animagus was a dog. He could have chosen any animal & the man chooses a dog. It’s brilliant; common, friendly, & intelligent. I can’t help but think this choice was for practical reasons. 
  8. He had a nasty temper. I can appreciate that. A plethora of bad things happened to him & he didn’t actually lose his mind, he gets a free pass on the temper in my book. It makes him a relatable human. 
  9. It takes the scariest witch (in my opinion) from the series to kill Sirius. She brags about how she killed him. Why? Because it was a big deal, he was a big deal. 
  10. He gets his own book, I mean, we could basically reticle Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to Harry Potter and Sirius. 
  11. He is flawed. He made mistakes and he hurts from them. He hurt every moment after his best friend died and spent the rest of his life trying to keep his promise to care for his best friend’s son. 
  12. He escapes prison after being wrongfully imprisoned. He escapes Azkaban which is a standalone island surrounded by dementors that literally suck the happiness right out of you. 

Rest In Peace, Padfoot, may you run no more. 

I’m Praying for You 

To my friends trying to adopt, I’m praying for you. Various reasons brought you to this point, and I know your child is out there waiting for you. Keep going, be strong, fight for that baby. They need you, they’re waiting for you just as much as you’re waiting for them. 

To my pregnant friends, I’m so happy for you! I’m praying your pregnancy goes smoothly. The little person you carry will change your world. I pray they are healthy & strong, mama. 

To my friends trying to conceive, I’m praying for you. I’ve been there & I know how stressful, tiring, & frustrating it is waiting month-by-month for your chance to have a baby. I’m praying God gives you what your heart desires. I’m praying you & your spouse can have children this way. I’m praying you’re not 1 in 4, but if you are…

To my friends that have found out they have fertility issues, I’m praying for you. I’m asking God for the right words when you come to me. I’m asking God for wisdom to hear you or encourage you. Some of you need to hear you shouldn’t give up, you need to keep trying; others, it’s time to start praying about other options. I’m praying you look for God’s plan for your life; such a hard task to do when you’re hurting. I’m here, & I’ve been there. I’ll listen without judgment. 

For my friends without kids, I’m praying for you. I’m hoping your enjoying the time without them. If you don’t plan to have any, it’s not my business!  I promise not to pressure you to have children just because I have a couple. Likewise, to my single friends, I won’t pressure you into relationships or marriage. 

To my teacher friends, I’m praying for you. Our job is so difficult. I pray you love your students. I pray you care about not just their scores, but their growth emotionally, personally, and academically. My greatest wish is that you don’t burnout. I pray you work well with your teammates. I pray you constantly look for ways to be a better educator. 

To my sons, I’m praying for you. I pray we raise you well. I want these fussy days to come to end, but simultaneously, I want you to grow so slowly. I don’t want to miss anything. I ask God to help you love each other and value family. I hope you realize how amazing your dad is and that you can be just like him if you want. I hope you’re kind and smart, brave and generous. That you never feel hated, but warm & loved. I pray for big laughs, good friends, a desire to seek God in all things, & all the books you could ever want to read. 

To the husbands & wives, I’m praying for you. May your years be long, your love deep, & your eyes on the Father. I hope you’re always a team, raising kids, perusing dreams, & seeking God’s will for your life together. May you laugh together, cry together, but most importantly; stay together. 

To the lonely, I pray for you often. I have accounted myself to this category countless times in my life. When I find myself here, I am hurting the most. You’re not alone. You’re never alone. You will see better days in the sun. If you find yourself lonely, I’m here. 

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

I just wanted to share some things with you to ease your worry-ridden mind.  I hope these things help you (or someone like you, but younger) pas you walk along the way.

Your mother is going to drive you crazy every day for the rest of her life.  Try to remember it all comes from a place of love, she really does love you.  She’s going to leave this world a lot sooner than you think she is.  & as difficult as your relationship is, you’ll miss her when she’s gone.  You listen to her music, watch her favorite movies, and think about her every birthday, Christmas, fall, and Mother’s Day.  Just know that she’s extremely proud of you, you’re more than she could’ve ever hoped you’d be.

You’re going to go through college.  Twice.  Eight full years is what it’s going to take to make you into a great teacher at 2 separate private Christian universities.  Oh, and you’ll be paid pennies to the dollar, but you won’t care.  You’ll be making a difference in the lives of hundreds of children.  You’ll achieve your teaching dream.  In undergrad you’ll make a ton of friends, learn about the Bible, how to be a teacher, & meet your husband.  In graduate school you’ll learn how to be a better teacher, a leader, & a professional.  It’s worth the time, effort, & hard work; believe it on the hard days.

You will leave Cheatham County.  You will not be stuck there forever.  You are not a country girl, never have been.  You are a city girl.  You’ll always go home once a year to visit though.  Visiting is important.

Savor every moment of sleep you achieve.  One day you will live off of 4 hour blocks of sleep.  You’re strong and you can do it, it doesn’t mean you’ll like it though.

Lack of Sleep

You’re going to get married much sooner than you ever thought you would.  Because of the way you’ve grown up, you’ll always worry that he’s going to quit loving you because you are so difficult, but he doesn’t quit loving you.  He loves you through the difficult days and it makes you strive to be a better wife.  Also, your husband isn’t what you thought he’d be, but it’s okay because he makes you a better person.

You’re going to struggle to be a mom one day.  It’s going to be hard to get there.  It’s going to be discouraging to get there & it won’t be easy when you do get there. & then one day you’re going to take mothering to a whole different level of hard.  It’s going to be rough, but you’ll love your kids.  They’ll love you back!  For the first time in your life you’re going to feel like you have a real, functioning family where everyone cares about everyone else!  You’ll question yourself every step along the way.

One day you pick up your Bible and start reading it all the way through, cover to cover.  You’ll do this every year for years.  This isn’t a waste of time.  You develop a really strong theological mindset by studying this way, and analyzing the different translations of the Bible until you decide that there is one version that you prefer above all others (NASB).  You develop a mindset of discipline through this practice.  Keep up the hard work.

You’re going to flex in and out of introversion and extroversion.  Some years you’ll be outgoing and other years you won’t.  Your personality is flexible in that you become what the situation at hand needs.  It’s okay that you go through periods of extremely loneliness and other years of feeling like you’re being suffocated; you walk a fine line here.  Don’t let this intricate part of your personality stress you out.

Read all the books.  Watch all the movies.  Always listen to music in your car.  Write letters every couple days.  Cook, don’t bother with baking; baking is frustrating, cooking is essential.  These things make you happy.  It is so important to know what makes you happy.

Love the children.  Pray for your students.  Get other people to pray for your students.  It is going to make all the difference in your daily work.  You’re going to spend years with little people and they will hug you, get you sick, strive to understand you, and slowly come to love you back.  Care about their personal lives, develop relationships with their families.  One day you’ll respond faster to “Mrs.” than Alyssa.  The people on this Earth that appreciate you most will run up to you at school, in the store, & at the movies exclaiming, “Mrs!” and your face will light up at the sound of their voices every single time because you love your job.

Finally, a word on the person you will become.  You are kind, you genuinely care for others you’ve chosen to invite into your life.  You are generous, you give your time, resources, and love willingly.  You are a natural leader, people will look to you for support and ideas.  You are decisive, you can make decisions when other people cannot.  You are nerdy, embrace it now-anime, super heroes, Star Wars, Star Trek, video games, Pokemon, science fiction; it’s fine, this actually comes back into style at some point.  You are strong, you survive many hardships; but this also makes you emotionally complex, so be careful.  You are pushy, arrogant, opinionated, narcissistic, and sometimes outright unkind; realize it & work on it.  You can always be a better person.

Love,

Your Older Self

Twins Aren’t 

The following is a soapbox, an unprecedented rant, a various collection of thoughts that have occurred to me since the birth of our fraternal twin boys.  The vast majority of people do not actually have twins, are not twins, and have not carried twins… and yet, these are some of the people that have the most comments about twins… that they simply have to share with me.  I feel like a lot of this goes without saying, but hey, so do the comments I get about twins all the time. Here’s a list of things that I have decided twins aren’t:

  1. Twins aren’t a circus act, my children aren’t freaks and they do not owe you a performance.
  2. Twins aren’t buy one, get one free. Try buy two, pay for two. It didn’t cost us any less to have two babies at the same time.
  3. Twins aren’t always genetic. Ours aren’t.
  4. Twins aren’t always the result of in vitro fertilization. Ours aren’t.
  5.  Twins aren’t always identical. Ours aren’t, they look like brothers though, you know, because they are brothers.
  6. Twins aren’t legally bound to always be together. I actually prefer taking one boy out of the house at a time, and leaving the other with his father.
  7. Twins aren’t always a difficult pregnancy… I feel like mine went as positively as possible.
  8. Twins aren’t always small at birth. Our twins were a regular size for newborns.
  9. Twins aren’t the same. Our boys have two very different personalities. This is already apparent at three months old.
  10. Twins aren’t the same as having children a year apart in age. I appreciate your struggle, but it’s just not the same.
  11. Likewise, twins aren’t the same as having 2 sons of varying ages.
  12. Twins aren’t always born via c-section. Mine were though.
  13. Twins aren’t easy. Don’t visit for an hour & try to convince me otherwise.
  14. Twins aren’t something I’d wish on anyone. Don’t get me wrong I love our twins, but doubling the size of your home has its own set of issues.
  15. Twins aren’t going to understand why they’re not the center of attention because they’re not the only baby.
  16. Twins aren’t something you can truly prepare for. Sink or swim!

But twins are…loved, precious, unique, special, difficult, fierce, protective, sympathetic, a lot of work, a lot of love, an uncommon bond, built in best friends, each other’s playmates, and much much more.

Trying to Love

Have you heard Mandy Harvey’s “Try”?  I recently saw the viral America’s Got Talent video of her singing this song.  Simon gives her the golden buzzer, and I can understand why.  You see, Mandy Harvey is deaf, she lost her hearing when she was 18…and yet, here she is singing a beautiful, original song while playing the ukulele.  I’m attaching the link, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor & watch it.

Mandy Harvey

Mandy Harvey’s “Try” Audition for AGT.

I even found out she has this song on iTunes, so I’ve downloaded it (though I like the live version better).  Logan seems to like this song, too, he can keep the beat of it the many times I’ve played it.  I’ve watched this video more times than I’m willing to confess (there may have been tears the first time I saw it), and for a couple days I’ve been trying to put my finger on just why this song resonates with me.

I think it’s the lyrics.  The words of this song speak to my soul in this particular stage of my life.  I believe this is one of those songs that will speak to many people in different stages of life, because this song is about trying to overcome difficulties.

I don’t love the way I need to.  You need more & I know that much is true.  So I’ll fight for our breakthrough.  & I’ll breathe you in again.  If I would try…

You can judge me if you want; but some days I have a hard time loving the way I need to.  Here lately I am feeling like I am spread just a little to thin.  You know how it is mamas, everyone needs mama.  The daddy needs the mama.  The babies need the mama.  & the mama gets worn down from meeting everyone’s needs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always love my family, but some days it is so hard to love them in the way that they deserve.  I’m just not a perfect Christian, and I’m not great at displaying God’s love everyday.


If this song isn’t convicting enough to my heart right now; then reading this recently during the twins’ morning nap really made my heart ache:

I John 4:7-21 (NASB)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested [b]in us, that God has sent His [c]only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [d]for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear [e]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.


We tell people we love them all the time, but do we really?  Are we truly acting in love?  Could we love them better?  I know I could, especially in my own home.  Maybe I’ll complain less when the babies cry in the middle of the night, hold them a little longer even when they’re clinging to my hair and screaming in my ears, try not to compare my day to my husband’s, pick up my Bible with more purpose, & spend more time praying than complaining.

I guess the challenge for me is simple, love more, love better.  

Finding Sunshine

There’s this app called The Wonder Weeks that so many people told me to download once the twins were born. I have a love/hate relationship with this app. I love it because it is scary accurate. I hate it because it is scary accurate. You put in your baby’s (in my case babies’) due date (not birth date) and it tells you when you can expect your child to go through growth spurts & mental leaps. It’s been right every time. Unfortunately, when babies go through these leaps they are tiny terrors…& I remind you I have 2 of those things in my home.  Well, the leap they’re in right now lasts for two weeks.  So they’ve been, shall we say…less than angelic for 11 consecutive days. I mean, we’ve had the works: crying, jealousy, explosive diarrhea, spit up, full on vomiting, choosing not to sleep for 14 hours, constipation, drooling, clinging, constant eating, constant peeing, peeing on visitors, pooping in the car seat, throwing up in the car seat, etc.  You get the picture. It’s tough, being one mama at home with 2 of these things for 12 hours a day. Bonus! Nathan got offered great overtime last weekend, so I didn’t even get my normal weekend reprieve.

I know it will get better. I know they’re only so little for so long. Insert other truth-y quips here that make a mom feel bad for feeling bad, I dare you. It’s not a sin to feel bad, so I don’t understand why people so often guilt new parents & call it good intentions. {That rant is for another day.}

I’ve cried more in the last 11 days than I’m going to admit & it has been really easy to feel discouraged in these moments. Something my mama always did when she was starting to feel herself “slipping down” (she had full blown depression) was write down at least 10 rays of sunshine (happy current things). So here we go…

  1. Logan slept and Lincoln quietly played long enough for me to read my Bible in peace today.
  2. I have happy weekend plans.
  3. I get to see some of my family this weekend.
  4. Friends have come by to see me this week, adding a little break to my hard days.
  5. Nathan isn’t working this weekend.
  6. The twins don’t seem to be waking up in the night anymore. If we put them to bed at 10, they usually don’t wake up until 4 now.
  7. There is coffee & Dr.Pepper in my home.
  8. The cute coos & big smiles almost make up for the crying.
  9. No one has spit up, thrown up, or pooped on me yet today.
  10. Somehow my husband still loves me.

For the Love of First Graders

Every summer I have the same request, would you pray for one of my students this coming school year? I post this request on all my social media outlets hoping & praying 25 or so people will sign up to pray for a small child. It’s not that I don’t pray for my own students, but I truly believe they could benefit from the undivided attention to prayer from one individual on a consistent basis. 


Do you know why a first grader needs your prayers?  I have some reasons (in no particular order) I’d like to share with you:

  • Their teacher is only human & makes mistakes. 
  • Growing up is difficult. 
  • 1 in 4 children grow up without being able to adequately read. 
  • 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. 
  • Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school. 
  • First graders are poor sports when playing games. 
  • The average salary of a teacher in the United States is $58,000/year. Let me tell you, I don’t know ANY teachers making that. 
  • There are 75 reading standards to be mastered in first grade in the state of Tennessee. 
  • There are roughly 180 days of school.
  • Most students (in my experience) come to first grade knowing how to read about 75 sight words. They have to know 220 when they leave first grade. (Fluently, read aloud within 3 seconds.)
  • Students are expected to gain a minimum of 7 reading levels in first grade. Other grades only master 3, maybe 4. If they come in below average, they’re expected to learn even more. 
  • It is roughly 70% of students that will be bullied this year. 
  • More than 50,000 children in Tennessee are in the foster care system. 
  • 22 different math topics are covered in first grade, foundational for the years that follow. 
  • We make writers in first. They go from writing words at the beginning to writing reports and paragraphs at the end. 
  • Roughly half of my students will be put on the bus for the first day of school. I will not meet their parents, th kids just show up. 
  • Many students’ families cannot afford basic school supplies. 
  • My students are English learners, they’re already behind when they come to me academically and culturally. 
  • Many students come from broken homes. 
  • Many students are verbally or physically abused. 
  • The evaluation system for teachers is heinous. I challenge you to be judged the way teachers are about your job without crying. 
  • Parents typically send their students to school sick. So sickness spreads like wildfire. 
  • Teachers on average work 60+ hours each week. 
  • First graders have a hard time conveying how they feel. 
  • Teachers get $200 to buy supplies and outfit their classroom for the entire year
  • Many children have never been to church, will never have that support system, will never know that God. 

20 Things My Mama Taught Me

Sunday, September 6, 2009 my mama died.  She wasn’t even 50 yet & I was a mere 21.  I’ve been thinking about my mama since Lincoln & Logan were born, and while she wasn’t a great parent, I did learn some things from her. Some things I learned as she told me, some thing I learned by example, & still other things I learned by misexample.  You can say some of these things aren’t important, and they very well may not be…but here are some things that have stuck with me through the years. 

  1. Music explains everything you’re feeling much better than words can. 
  2. If you’re not willing to fight about it or for it, it isn’t very important to you. 
  3. Always have milk, bread, flour, sugar, & butter in your home. 
  4. Always have a job.  Don’t leave a job without having another job secured. That is a risk not worth taking. 
  5. A little bit of butter & brown sugar makes oatmeal taste better. 
  6. Be generous. 
  7. Hospitality is important, so you better learn to cook. 
  8. Store grease in an old jar in the refrigerator. 
  9. Winter is the best season. 
  10. It is better to marry a kind man than a friendly man. 
  11. You can’t medicate yourself happy. 
  12. How to cook in general. 
  13. There’s something comforting about the predictability of a Mary Higgins Clark novel. 
  14. Hold your babies as much as you can. 
  15. Don’t bother dying your hair with highlights unless you wanna keep up with a ton of maintenance. 
  16. Don’t waste your time doing things you don’t love. 
  17. Protect your baby brother/family is important. 
  18. It doesn’t matter if you’re athletic, popular, or cool growing up…it matters that you’re kind, smart, & a good friend. 
  19. Be the kind of girl that enjoys watching movies at home & you’ll be easily happy. 
  20. Let others love you.