Sunday, March 11, 2018

10 Years in the Making

I spent this weekend driving 13+ hours with my eight-month-old to a camp in the middle of nowhere Arkansas where there was no cell service or WiFi. And I LOVED it. Why? Because some of my favorite people gathered there to share life.
Ten years ago, I was a naive college student who made a few good choices and had a lot of providential blessings. One of my good choices/blessings was a spring semester spent just outside Florence, Italy. We lived in a villa, we backpacked across Europe, and our emerging adult-selves formed intangible bonds that continue to this day. And yet...a lot life has been happening in the last ten years. We have been busy living good lives and having other awesome adventures, and some of these women, who I think about frequently, I have not seen since graduating from college. Which is pretty normal and status quo since we are scattered across the country. And then I remembered that we are not normal (in the best possible way), and having face-to-face time with intelligent, beautiful people who love Jesus and the art of story is life-affirming. So we made that happen this weekend, and I soaked it up. There was so much laughter and delicious food (the lasagna! the cinnamon rolls!) But mostly there were people who shared a formative experience ten years ago who lived together once upon a time (in a villa in Italy!) and made the effort to be together again to remember and catch-up and share life. These people are my people, and I love them. And reinforcing some of those intangible connections is worth any amount of car time with a fussy baby. I took zero pictures, and I  am contentedly exhausted, which are proof of a great weekend. Until next year, friends, live life well and continue adventuring. I want to hear all about it soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Snapshot of a Mom

I studied Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady in undergrad and grad school. This is how I think someone (without the literary merit of James) might capture a momentary image of me today. I don’t have time to sit for a portrait, so a selfie will have to do.
Here’s the preschool-bound mother in her natural habitat: the car. 

Notice the mirror strap attached to her headrest because the back seat is filled with car seats and children who need to look at themselves while being transported. Her flannel shirt covers a T-shirt only minimally stained with spit-up. (She used a wipe to remove most of the mess.) And, yes, she did sleep in that T-shirt last night and merely add the flannel to protect against the slight chill in the air. Give her some credit for applying deodorant. She hasn’t completely lost her sense of social decency. 
She also took a minute to apply mascara, although the rest of her minimal makeup routine didn’t make the cut this particular morning. And who really needs mascara when you have sunglasses to protect from glare and cover the bags under your eyes from yet another sleepless night?
Her ponytail corrals semi-clean hair that was washed somewhat recently, so she feels a certain amount of ok about that situation. Also, her jeans are clean, so she’s basically winning at life.
Not pictured is the cup of coffee and protein bar that compose her breakfast because the children have been fed at the kitchen table, but alas, her mug of coffee almost never gets consumed before ensconcing herself and her offspring in their vehicle.
The coffee is tepid at best, and yet savoring it one sip at a time provides a bastion of peace amidst the traffic and the ticking clock that accompany the twice-weekly drive to preschool. Never mind the fact that she will yet again have coffee breath when delivering her daughter into the capable hands of her teachers. You can’t have it all, and she considers perfect breath an equitable sacrifice for caffeine. 

And there you have it: my pre-child self would have changed her shirt and chewed some gum, but I’m pretty happy with this version of myself. ‘Cause pre-child me has no clue how much she will love the little people who fill up her car’s back seat. And some days I manage to wrangle two kids into the car AND look put-together. So, I pretty much have it all, right? 😉

Saturday, March 3, 2018

To My Son

3 month picture, courtesy of Aunt Marla
Dear baby boy,
I feel like I owe you a letter or two since your big sister has a whole collection from pregnancy and every month of her first year. I could compose a list of reasons why your baby book will be bereft of epistles, but the main one is that I’ve been wrapped up in loving you. My time doesn’t stretch as far these days, between your sister, Daddy, and you. But my love for you defies language. 
You are charming, my son, and joyful. Your smile and laughter light up our days. And I adore cuddling with you. I treasure our time in the glider when you sleepily pat my arm or hold my hand while nursing. And I’ve been soaking you up for eight months now and trying to store up not just memories but the overwhelming emotions behind them. I am savoring your babyhood and storing up treasures in my heart.
For the most part, you’re an easy baby. I wish we could figure out sleeping through the night, but you’re making strides in that direction (at least for this week). You go with the flow and exhibit incredible patience for one so small. We demand more patience of you than we ever did of your big sister at this point, and I guess that’s a classic second child situation. 
Our dynamic is different because you share my attention and arms with your big sister. But you also have an extra person to dote on you. And she does. Big sister loves you fiercely and intensely. And sometimes with excessive force. We try to shield you from her over-abundant squeezes and loud attempts to make you laugh. But most of the time, you seem thrilled to be the focus of her big love.
You like to eat, and you are the most demanding when you think we are denying you a full meal. Right now, most meals consist of three courses because I consistently underestimate how much you can consume. You’re getting good at picking up little foods with your fingers and aiming for your mouth, and you’d prefer if we let you control your spoon. 
You’ve recently started lighting up when Daddy enters a room. It’s precious. And nothing short of being held by him satiates your need for his acknowledgment. We think you call him “Buh” and we’ve heard you say something like sister’s name several times. You only make the “Muh” sound when frustrated or hungry. To be fair, I’m usually easily accessible, so you don’t need to call me when you’re happy.
What else can I tell you to capture just how wonderful you are right now? You love the toy golf clubs and seem to be drawn to the most dangerous (electrical cords) or dirty (trash cans) thing in the room. Your army crawl-roll combination gets you everywhere you need to go, and you started sitting up from your back yesterday! 
You are strong, my little man, and you are sensitive to the moods of people around you. I pray that you will continue to be both of those. The more I see glimpses of your personality, the more I love you.
We will face challenges as you grow, and I will be learning how to parent you specifically and help you thrive. I pray that you will give me grace and that you will grow in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and man.
You are our very favorite little boy, and I will keep trying to absorb the beautiful moments with you. And maybe once in a while I will try to capture in words how wonderful you are. 

All my love,


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Losing It

This morning was rough. I lost it at one point. Whatever you consider “it” to be: my cool, all sense of decorum, my sanity, my marbles, any amount of chill. It was lost. 
I basically threw a mini parental temper tantrum. And it was ugly. Kid one started screaming and whining, which set off kid two, and then I latched my finger into the high chair buckle, and that was the last straw. I stomped my feet and indulged in a momentary roar of my own. 
It doesn’t really matter what the first kid was whining about. Suffice it to say, it did not include bodily injury, and thus I did not consider it worth screaming about. It was not her first meltdown of the morning, and her constant screams scare the baby, which results in a house filled with grating noise and a momma stretched thin trying to dispense comfort and discipline and love all while still trying to just  wake up.
I submit to you that if you want to discover the ugliness in your heart and your inadvertent idols, parenting a three-year-old will put you on the fast track. Want to know what your priorities really are? Attempt to get two kids out the door and wait for the chaos to ensue.
I value punctuality. And in the past eight months, I’m not sure if we have been on time once. And when we have an outside glimmer of hope that just maybe we will get out the door on time and arrive at our destination when expected, that hope is inevitably shattered. By a headband emergency or a breakfast catastrophe. Or the umpteen refusals to get dressed.
And I should be used to this. My patience should have been tested and grown to allow for us to be late and for me to still be loving. Alas, the idol of timeliness and looking like I have my life together keeps rearing its ugly head. 
I want so badly to feel in control and appear to others like I am succeeding at parenting two kids. But a lot of the time, I’m just not. I’m not patient enough or rested enough or organized enough to meet every need before we hit meltdown mode. And that is why I need Jesus. Every day, every moment.
Because there will always be more ugliness in my heart. And He will always have more than enough grace to cover my imperfections.

So to all my friends in the trenches of parenthood today, I pray grace and patience over you. Here’s to a second cup of coffee, deep breaths, and relying on Jesus for the rest of today.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Create vs. Maintain

I am a stay-at-home-mom. This is both the best of jobs and the worst of jobs, in my opinion. Because it isn't really a job so much as it is a lifestyle or an unpaid labor situation. I was the girl in high school who unabashedly declared my intention to be a SAHM, to the jeers of my fellow students. This has been my dream for so long that it's seeped its way into my psyche. And yet...
There's a lot of maintenance that goes along with taking care of children and a home day in and day out. (And night in and night out, but I digress.) At least for me, there is very little creativity involved with keeping children fed, semi-clean, and clothed. Lots of love and patience, but very little creativity. I believe in a divine Creator who knit me together and gave me the privilege of participating in the divine creation of my children. But now that they are topside, they require a whole lot of maintenance. The baby needs to be held, and have diapers changed, encouraged to sleep (endlessly, it seems), and fed (solids and breastmilk). The three-and-a-half-year-old needs to be fed and clothed and feel like she is heard. And the child loves to talk as much as I love to write. She needs to be played with and read to, and then there's all the chores required to keep the house running and decently clean. Dishes and laundry and vacuuming, oh my!
All of which leaves precious little time to think, much less create anything. And I yearn to create. Words are my typical medium, but I've been dabbling lately with watercolors because I can sometimes "mother" and paint at the same time, if the little lady is willing to create her own masterpieces at the table with me. So here I am, stringing together a few words during nap time, and trying to carve out a space for the creativity within. So many of my linguistic compositions never go anywhere beyond my mind, and in the fog of sleep-deprivation and the unbearably long list of tasks that need doing, I all too often allow creating to fall victim to the demands of maintaining. If you buy into Maslow's Hierarchy, I submit that taking care of small children forces you to camp out on the bottom two levels, which is painfully annoying.
Lest you worry, I am not going to let my children run around naked or go hungry, but I am recommitting to find ways to squeeze in moments of creative expression throughout my days.
Maybe that means I'll be composing more blog posts, or maybe it will take another form. But since I believe in a Creative, loving God who cares more about my kids than even I am capable of and who counts me as one of His children, I also believe that He cares about my desire to create. And in the midst of the holy mess of motherhood and maintenance, I think God cares enough to grant me time to continue participating in the divine gift of creation.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

To my Friend Becoming a Mom

Hey friend,
You're embarking on the biggest adventure of your life. I'm so excited for you! And sympathetically feeling all the feels. Because kids are...well, they're all-consuming. And delightful and frustrating. You will (literally) give your blood, sweat, and tears for them. And you will be willing to give your life for them. Some days it will feel like you have given your life for them. They will be covered with your kisses and prayers. And you will be so tired. Weary in your bones, my friend. Mothering will uncover some ugliness in your heart, and you will question whether your children are unusually needy or you are exceptionally selfish. For the record, my dear, their neediness is probably average, and your selfishness is normal. But it is hard. And worth it. Simultaneously. You will sometimes hold them in your arms and feel so fiercely protective and so thoroughly exasperated that they won't that your heart will actually ache from the sheer intensity of it.
There's so much strife and so much joy in parenting little ones. It's a constant tangle of contradictions. They smell so good. It doesn't matter which baby wash or lotion you use, they still smell so sweet. Sometimes you will bury your nose in their neck or breathe in the top of their heads and feel that all is right in the world (for a second or two.) Your body will feel foreign and miraculous and utilitarian. Because your body can grow a child and deliver that child and then nourish that child. It is powerful and awesome. It is also sticky and painful. There is something so transcendent and humbling about the physicality of keeping a child alive. You will have many internal debates about how much and what types of bodily fluids necessitate a clothing change. Because there is already so.much.laundry. You will be mired in physical contact with your offspring for more than half of the day (and night when they're tiny). It's not so much the loss of freedom that will get to you; it's the loss of self. You will carve out a new space for this new you, but it will take time. You are not just a mother, but motherhood will change who you are in ways that other life changes just don't. People talk about priorities shifting and your heart expanding, and that's true, but it's more than that. Sometimes becoming a mom fulfills a lifelong dream and you neglect to realize that it's also an ending. You are now the one who has little ones looking to you for sustenance and answers, and all the parenting philosophies in the world will not prepare you for the reality of it. Don't read all the articles. Screen time and gender roles and advice about how to make your child smart can make you doubt your ability to do the best for your kid. So read them sparingly. And trust in your gut and God. Because at the end of the day, your kids will remember the love and care you show them, not all the imperfections and apologies you had to make. At least, that's what I'm banking on because I am very much in the middle of this young motherhood phase, and the results of my mothering have not come to fruition yet. Give yourself grace. And take deep breaths. Seek advice when you want it, and pray constantly. You've got this, friend. It's going to be beautiful, and I truly am so excited for you!

Lots of love and grace,

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


We started preschool last week. I am claiming the first person plural of the experience because prepping for preschool is no small feat. I was knee-deep in nap mats, special water bottles, and shoe stickers last Monday in anxious expectation of handing my baby over to strangers for fifteen hours a week.
Thankfully, the little lady seems to love her teachers and the whole school experience. It is exhausting, and her one-hour naps on the floor do not a well-rested toddler make, but overall, we are liking the whole preschool experience.
For my own happy recollections, I'd like to indulge my sentimental side and record a few pertinent facts about my beautiful two-year-old and her preschool journey:
  • She loves The Beatles, which is totally my fault, but we now have to listen to "I Love You" (She Loves Me) and "Yellow Sub-narine" (Yellow Submarine) on repeat when driving anywhere. Especially on the 20-minute ride to and from her school three days a week. Occasionally she will mix it up by cooning, "All the Lonely People," which makes me look like a stellar parent.
  • Each night when she picks out her outfit for the next day, she tells me that she needs to wear such-and-such because it's her favorite. The child has a lot of favorites. 
  • She has also learned how to scream while at school, presumably from the other children. Ok, she already knew how, but the frequency has increased greatly in the last week. On the car ride home after her first day, she randomly shouted out, "Sit down, Jackson." And when prompted, explained that was what she had learned at school. Apparently socialization at the preschool level involves a lot of loud exclamations.
  • She is very proud that she gets to go to her own school, just like Daddy goes to his every day.
  • Little lady is very into apologizing. She informs other children that they need to apologize when she feels wronged and often says "I'm sorry 'bout that." for unknown offenses. She also likes to sassily tell her parents that we don't have to "pologize at her." Thanks, sweetheart.
  • She has started calling me "sweetie" but only allows me to call her by her first name and middle initial. She's adamant that she be called by this combination or she will not respond.
Maybe now that I have some time to collect my thoughts sans a little person I will start writing on here more. In the meantime, here's my little lady in her "butterfly dress." Naturally, it's her favorite.