A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

releasing the gaps.


I was 16 years old before I realized my parents had faults. I mean, maybe I suspected it before then and of course I was rotten to them for years before that but still. It was a shock to me when they became human. I wonder if everyone has that moment, or if comes more gradually for some of us, that moment when our moms and dads shrink a little and the world sort of zeroes in on their inadequacies and suddenly, SUDDENLY nothing can be trusted. If my parents don't know everything, then what the heck does any of this mean? we might ask ourselves in that moment of revelation. There are times I look at my own kids wondering if they aren't just looking right back through me, already aware of my deep, abiding failures as a human being.

A while ago we went to Washington to visit our family. Sam left me and the kids there for the week while he went back home to work. It was the first time I'd ever been away by myself with Clara and Sammy, and each night of our trip was a small battle for a full night's sleep. They couldn't relax, they couldn't get comfortable, and, of course, they both came down with a cold. Every night I laid in a twin bed in the downstairs office, the babies burrowed into my sides, occasionally waking themselves in a start and reaching out for me with shaky arms. They would whimper my name and feel around in the dark for my face. Assured I was still there, they would fall back asleep with limbs draped over me and each other, safe in the knowledge that their mother was close by.

And it occurred to me on that trip; in the dark of the small office where the three of us slept side by side, their bodies tucked into mine; in the kitchen where I settled each of them on a hip during those cranky late afternoon hours; when I would come up the stairs and watch both of their faces light up at the wondrous sight of their mother approachingit occurred to me what an enormous privilege it is to be someones everything.

It's also scary as hell.

These babies, you know, they live and die by me. They would follow me to the ends of the earth and I am the center of their knee-high universe.
But about when my kids stop worshipping me? What about when they wake up and realize that beyond being imperfect, I have actively been screwing them up for decades?

It's probably going to take my kids a long time to see me and their dad through the open truth of adulthood. They will adore us for years to come, copying our every steps and voicing our opinions like they are their own, reenacting our way of life because, just like every kid, they will believe it is the only way of life. It's scary, isn't it, that kids believe and trust their parents so willingly? We are their first mirror. They seem themselves through our vision, they see the world through our lenses, they believe what they believe because we say it so.

And yeah, YES, that is unsettling.
Because I know me.
I know what they will eventually find out about me, I can count to the stars and back all the ways that I fear letting them down, those gaps in my parenting and my person hood, and it is deeply terrifying.

Parents make enormous mistakes. Parents hurt their kids. They try and they fail to be everything their own parents were not and they try and they fail to be the one family who doesn't screw everything up.

And you know what? You might do a really good job of that for awhile. You might do your best and things will be fine but let me tell you! Let me tell you. The day will come. Problems will arise. It will all hit the proverbial fan and it. will. stink.

However.

The good news.

The news I carry around for safe keeping.

It is in my mistakes that God shines through. It is in the gaps that the God-light of true and perfect love has room to break through and warm my kids' hearts, melt away those ugly parts of them that I can't reach or even begin to understand. That is a God job. And He will use my mistakes to do it. Just like that feeling of safety in the dark and that wonder in their eyes when my babies know I am near, that is a whisper to them of the safety and wonder in their true Father's arms. It's both things, you guys. We know goodness through our parents and we know failure through our parents, and both are so important to our growth.

This is why God puts us in families.
Why He gives us parents, I think.
To see His goodness in their goodness. 
And His completion in their faults.  

The failures of me as a mother reveal my lacking. My defects. And I hope- I pray- that the lack will send them hunting. Send my kids to search for something better. Something that fulfills them and knows them more than even I could dream.
Someone without defect. Someone with perfect love.

May any goodness in me point you towards heaven, babies.
And may my mistakes do the same.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Stuff I've been meaning to tell you. Volume I.

I like to tell people about good things I've recently tried/found/used/loved, and this seems like an easier way to do it than sending a bunch of texts or e-mails. So! Here you go.

5 things I've been meaning to tell you.

1. READ THIS
I posted about this on my instagram, but it's too great not to share here as well. Have you guys ever heard of The Skimm? I get really overwhelmed about where and how to read the news every day, and I can't always count on my brother Robert's facebook page to tell me what I need to hear. But this service, called The Skimm, is a FREE e-mail subscription to a round up of the most important news stories each day. It's run by two young woman (my age, doing this amazing thing, WHAT AM I EVEN DOING WITH MY LIFE) and they write about the news in a way that is entirely intelligent and easy to digest, like a chat with your super smart and witty friend. Plus, each story has links to their sources, so you can choose which news you want to dig further into. It's a 10 minute read every morning that keeps me connected and educated about what's going on, and I can not recommend it more highly.
Follow this link. Get signed up. Thank me later.

2. TRY THIS 
Ok so a million years ago (when I was about 7 months pregnant with Sammy) my friend Tyler invited me to visit his brand new business venture, called Stillwater Float Center. Tyler is the kind of guy who doesn't talk very often, but when he does, I listen. Mostly because he's a top 3 funniest people for me (seriously) but also because he's incredibly sharp. He and his friend planned and saved and planned some more for a few years before they opened this float center, and their success is sort of unprecedented for a new small business. Here's what you need to know:

-Stillwater Float Center. Downtown Boise. Beautiful location. Beautiful space.
-Saltwater Pods. Full of body temperature saltwater, at such a concentration that you are completely buoyant. You enter a private, quiet room. You get undressed, you take a warm shower, you climb in the pod and you float on your back for an entire hour.
-You will relax. You might fall asleep, or you might just settle so deeply that you daydream for an hour. Your body comes to a complete and total point of rest, during which any pain, stress, or burdens you carried in with you will quite honestly float away. Pun intended. But probably not approved by Tyler.
-Soft music lets you know the hour is up. You climb out, and if you are me, you revel in a feeling of euphoria that is almost disorienting. You don't want to leave. You beg Tyler to let you live there. He asks you politely to stop drinking all his fancy tea and go to the poetry class you are late for.

Like a modern day Roman bath house (minus the political scheming and undercurrent of debauchery) (that I knew about anyways) Stillwater is an experience like you can't imagine. You need to try it. Better than a massage, better than a long run, better than a stiff drink, these float pods are pools of repose and will reset your whole week. And if you see a tall handsome redhead at the front desk, make sure to listen when he talks. And drink the fancy tea, it's a treat.

3. EAT THIS
My family has a chocolate chip cookie recipe that we ride or die by and it is absolutely delicious. But over the last few weeks I've been baking through my every feeling (I think I have a disproportionate amount of feelings for the average person) and I found a contender for my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. Just in case I'm wrong I'll probably try another batch of recipes this month, you know, for accuracy, not for my cookie addiction, it's not about that at all you guys. For now, make these. Make sure to chop up your chocolate, for some reason it tastes better.

And eat two big ol' crispy chewy cookies at once, with a glass of milk.

picture and recipe by Joy the Baker. Whom I adore. 


4. WATCH THIS
How annoying are these videos when people post them and say "Your life will never be the same!" or "You'll never guess the surprise this mom found!"
But honestly, your life will never be the same because of the surprise this mom found. This is gonna make you want a kid. Proceed with caution.



5. LISTEN TO THIS. 
Maybe while you're wearing sweats. Drinking coffee. Waxing poetic about the coming autumn.
Or eating copious amounts of cookies.

Happy Happy Weekending, friends.



Monday, August 25, 2014

hey girl, relax.


I was worried, you know, about Clara's birthday. 
I felt guilty for not throwing her a fun party with her fun little friends, 
even though I knew
she would have been stressed with that kind of attention from a crowd.
I just wanted her birthday to be wonderful,
and exciting, 
and I wanted her to know, somehow, some way, 
how immensely she is loved. 
If only I could plan the most perfect day, 
then she would know how much she means to us. 

Then the day came and still, 
I had no good plans. 
We couldn't go far because Sam was on call,
so our options were limited on activities.
What, what, what could we do to celebrate our daughter
in the biggest brightest way? 

I was worried. 

But then, 
of course, 
because Grandmas know best (like we've discussed)
Clara's Nona reminded me that 
all it takes to make Clara happy is,
of course,
me.
And her dad.
And her little brother.
You throw in a few new story books, princess high heels from her useless aunts,
and a birthday card that sings and shakes? 

She thinks the world could not be a better place. 
This two year old of mine, she knows what she likes. 
I gotta relax.

For a few weeks,
every time we asked Clara what she wanted for her birthday, she said, 
"I want a purple happy cake, mama."

Confession: We had no idea what that meant. 
We also did not know that she knew her colors (thanks, Bubble Guppies). 

But I did my best.
I made that thing with a lot of love. 
(And butter and sugar).
And she loved her purple happy cake. 
And we love her. 



This picture is a reminder to me that when I want 
TO GO BIG
and I want 
IT ALL TO BE JUST RIGHT
and I think that somehow, some way,
I can make everything alright in this world if I just try hard enough, 

I gotta relax.
'Cause usually, 
it's simple.
All I need to give is
 the love and effort and time it takes 
to build a purple birthday cake. 


Have a good week, friends. Be kind to each other, and to yourselves.
Even if it's hard, 
at least it's simple. 



two. 

high heels. perfect. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Clara is two! So I made a video, obviously.

Two years ago I knelt face down across the bed in labor and delivery room number 3 and groaned to my nurse,

"I cannot do this. I will never have this baby! I don't know how to do this!"

She said,
Yes you can. Look at you. See? You are doing it right now! You already knew how, you just didn't know it yet.

Motherhood, right?
We are moaning and groaning because we do not know how to do this, but look!

We are doing it right now. Moment by moment, breath by breath,
we are doing it.

Clara Horney, you have brightened every single day of my last two years. You made me look at myself in ways I never imagined, you dragged me through the darkest of nights, you surprised me again and again with the parts of you that are so separate from me and so very much YOU.

And you made me a mother. What a joy you are to all of us! What a presence! What a gift!

Happy Birthday, Smoochie my love. Happy Happy Happy Birthday!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

so you wanna go back to school.

Amanda, best friend since the day she came into the world 3 months after I did, is going back to college after almost a decade away. She always wanted to be a teacher, and dreams of having her own classroom of elementary school kids. Amanda is the kind of person who makes you believe in pure hearts. In our 28 years together, never have I ever seen her be mean or hurtful. Like, EVER. She should be canonized as the matron saint of kindness and patience, especially because she is surrounded by demanding people.

Like me.
And her husband (Hi Clint :).  

And her 4 kids. 
Ages five and under. 



Yeah, you read that right. Amanda is going back to college with a one year old, a two year old, a four year old and a five year old. I hope you are swelling with admiration like I am, because isn't she incredible? She truly has every reason to wait, to put off school a little longer or maybe even forever, but she's doing it. She and Clint are making this happen, she's going back and she's finishing her degree and she's going to be the kind of teacher who kids thank in their high school graduation speeches with grateful tears in their eyes. 

So! In honor of Amanda! 

To all of the moms and dads who are taking that brave risk to follow their dreams and march back into the classroom after many years away, whether to finish or to start, for undergrad or post grad, I wanted to make a list of hard-earned tips. I was only a mother the last year of my college education, but I was taking full time classes, lugging a breast pump around campus, and working at the same time, so I understand the madness that is living a million lives at once. 



Here are the 10 things I think you should know about going back to school as a parent. 



1. Don't procrastinate. 
DON'T PROCRASTINATE. DON'T PROCRASTINATE. Because as soon as you decide to finish your paper the night before it's due, YOUR KIDS WILL GET SICK. Or your baby sitter will cancel, or your basement will flood, or your son's soccer game will move times or your daughter will "remember" that her play auditions are actually tonight or your baby will decide to get 4 teeth in one night from hell. The world will inevitably rise up against you and your best intentions. 

Cut your stress by half; do your work the very first moment you have time to do it. Trust me. 

2. Always be ready the night before. 
Pack lunches (including yours!), pack bags, set your coffee timer, lay out clothes, and print your paper. Don't go to bed until every single thing is ready for the morning dash. Every single thing. 

3. Keep back up babysitters. 
Ask 2-3 people who can’t necessarily help every week, if they would be willing to stay on your emergency call list. Believe me, you’ll use them. 

4. Use your crock pot
And your spouse. And Costco pizzas. While you might need to dissect a Dostoevsky novel or memorize the stages of mitosis, your kids will just need to eat. And so do you. Plan ahead. Use your crock pot so dinner is ready as soon as you walk in the door. Make your spouse cook if they get home first. Do you have older kids? They can feed themselves. Or help feed everyone. A parent in school means everyone is in school, and it’s an absolute team effort to get to that cap and gown. 

5. You have Parent Powers
You might feel old, or out of place, or overwhelmed, but I have a secret for you. You’re probably the wisest person sitting in that lecture hall. Sure, it’s nice to be a selfish 20 year old without a spouse or children, doing whatever the hell you want all the time. But as a parent, you have more life and wisdom on your side than any of those idiot kids checking their Facebook during class. Carry that with confidence, and know that what you bring to the discussion or the classroom is invaluable.

6. Get drinks after class. 
Yes, YES of course you have little people waiting at home for you. But don't waste an opportunity to make new friends or make connections with other students or professors. Go get a drink if you have a minute. I'm not saying you need to ask your baby sitter to come pick you up after a bender at the freshman dorms (please don't do that) but yeah, man. Go get a drink with your post modern Lit study group. This is college, not a convent.

7. LEARN TO SAY NO. 
No one knows your schedule but you. I remember feeling so torn when Sam wanted to go to dinner or stay up late hanging out, but I had an assignment due the next morning. The thing is, you have to advocate for your own time. You have to be willing to say no, because no one else knows what you have written in your planner or hanging over your head. Be your own time keeper; get it done, you hustler you. 


8. TV is not your friend.
Neither is Facebook or Pinterest or the novel you want to read. You have two big jobs right now: raising your kids and going to school. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But it’s just a season! You will have free time again, and barely remember being so consumed with this academic work. But for now? Take it from me, time-waster heavy weight champion of the world: your time is a precious commodity. Use it wisely. 

9. That being said, remember that it’s just school.
Part of the gift of parenthood as a student is the perspective it allows you. Getting an 85 on a paper after you’ve been up every night this week with puking kids? That’s AMAZING. It’s just school. Do your best. And give yourself grace. And give yourself a break when you can get one. Go for a run, take a hot shower, buy a new sweater, or just lay face down on your bed moaning until you feel better. Release the stress and then keep on going! 

10. Enjoy your time at school! And also? Don't be a martyr. 
I had a hard time with this one. Clara was my first baby and it killed me every single time I had to leave her with other people. I felt guilty, I felt stressed, and I felt like no one in the whole world had as much on their plate as I did. This was not/will never be true. Clara survived, and so did I. Look, it's hard going to school with kids- especially young kids. This juncture in your life will be complicated, with no free time and lots going on. But listen,

you are sitting in one of the most privileged spots in the world. 

A COLLEGE CLASSROOM. 

You are getting an education that many people can only dream about. This education is a gift. To you. To your family.

And most of all, to those kids who are watching you slug it out over homework that's making you cry. So, ok,
You might not make every game or recital for a while.
You might not be able to give them all your attention. 

But someday, when they want to quit something because it’s just too hard; when they wonder why they should keep trying when the sky seems to be falling;

they will remember the hard stuff you did. And they’ll keep going. Because that perseverance you’re showing right now? 

It’s in their blood and it’s in their memories and it is becoming a proud line in your family's story.

You can do this. 
I believe in you. So much! 

You got this, moms and dads.
You got this.

                       

Sunday, August 17, 2014

two is good.

It's so weird to not be signed up for fall classes. I love going to school. I love walking to campus beside the river, I love class discussions, I love writing stories and papers, I love meeting interesting people and intelligent professors. I get a real school boner, actually, and it's hard (ha ha) to know I won't be joining the masses of students on their way to class next week. To lose what's become not only a part of my identity, student, but also where most of my time was spent; it's disorienting.


Last year at this time I was 20 weeks pregnant with Sammy, still nursing an 11 month old Clara, in school full time for my last semester before graduation, and directing a musical that I wrote for an elementary school. Sam was gone 16 days every month and if weren't for my sisters, I would have fallen apart. And while I understand that LOTS of other people have lives that are MUCH more difficult- believe me, I understand and appreciate that greatly- for me, this last year was simply one foot in front of the other. I've thought a lot about darkness during this time, wondering when the Lord would lead me out of this tight cocoon of survival and show me what waited on the other side. And... dare I say? I think it's here. I think we are in a season of sunny days and grateful hearts and it. is. so. good.

Clara can communicate just about everything she is thinking, which has taken my stress level with her to almost zero. She is speaking in sentences, her vocabulary is exploding, and every single day Sam and I laugh in amazement at what she's saying to us. I can't begin to tell you what a difference this is making in my relationship with her. I think I'm not much of a "one-year old" person. That was not my gig. But two year olds? With their language development and voracity for new experiences and their (albeit often explosive) personalities shining through? Two is good. Two is fun. Two is baking pies together and carrying on real conversations and lots of "Mama! Hurry! Look, I did it!" grinning announcements. And I'm digging it.

Last week I met my sister and her kids at a coffee shop. We were planning on getting coffee for us and treats for our little gang of kids and then walking to the library, but it was raining hard outside and we didn't feel like wrangling them through the downpour. So we split up and I took my two on a downtown adventure. I haven't done many days like that one, with just me and the kids, because I prefer to be with other grown ups when we go out. I get nervous taking Sammy and Clara out by myself, isn't that weird? I'm always worried it won't go well.

 But this day? It was sort of an ace. A snapshot of life at the moment. We found a used book store in which a man was walking around with his chiahuahua on his shoulder like a parrot, and room after room was stuffed with crooked bookshelves up to the ceilings (charming, fire hazard - potato, potahtoe). We wandered through an antique shop, its corners stacked with treasures like marbled globes and yellow bird cages. We took 3 different bathroom breaks, bought a copy of Five Little Peppers (a childhood favorite I was SO HAPPY to find it) and my heart sang a quiet song of thankfulness for these days with my two babies. They won't both fit in a stroller for much longer. We won't always spend our days just the three of us, their childhood a handful of sand that I can't quite keep from slipping through my fingers. It's going, you know, life is just going and going and while last year was exhausting-

really exhausting-

this new season is blowing over me like a balmy breeze.
I am finding rest here.
I am finding peace in the going and peace in the staying.
And it's good.










Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ice water challenge.

Here's my problem with the current social media trend of dumping a bucket of ice water on your head to raise awareness for ALS:

It can only escalate from here.

What will we be recording ourselves doing next summer?

Dipping our hands in boiling water for prostate cancer?
Cliff diving for Alzheimer's?
Crossing the highway blindfolded for AIDS?
Slapping our grandmothers to raise awareness for osteoporosis?

Just donate some money to a group or a problem that is close to your heart, I say.

Or donate a little money, and then make a video out of peer pressure.
It's for a good cause, you guys.
And also a national wet t-shirt contest. #holla








Tuesday, July 15, 2014

we labor for inches, we labor for glory.

The story of creation ends with a woman. God spins out light. Night and day separate. Mountains topple the horizon. Oceans deepen, roll with the movements of the newborn moon. Rain forest canopies awaken and stretch to the sky. Beetles scuttle across untouched desert canyons. Then comes Man, fresh and strong. He rules over the animals, most evolved of all, but still: not quite enough. Something is missing. Dust blows upward and out walks Woman. The pinnacle of all things made, all things lovely, all things good. And from Her will continue all life, forever and always after, life from that goodness, life from that dark unknown womb, the center of the human race. But in the fall from perfection came the mandate for pain; the demand for life to be birthed in harrowing battle. Forever and always after would Woman fight this battle for new life, bear the pain of the future, carry within her the life and continuity of every race and people on earth. Woman labors for her children, labors for her community, labors for the extraordinary and for justice. Woman fights the battles with grace and love, proof and proof again that God saved the best for last. 




Finally, as of this week, Clara is potty trained. I say finally because we tried earlier, a few months ago, and it did not go well. In fact, this whole spring has been a trying time with our almost 2 years old daughter. She's a geyser of emotions, with both a steady outpouring of opinions as well as the occasional and shocking burst of FEELINGS. All the feelings all the time, you know what I mean? Some days have felt dark, dark, dark. I just could not get ahead of her demands, could not find my bearings in her sea of emotional waves. Her screaming, thrashing, sobbing fights during that first round of toilet training were an apt picture of all the outbursts that peppered our days together. She fought everything so hard, with a ferocity that belied her slight frame. She looks like a baby but emotes like a teenager, and the balance between allowing her space and being consistent in discipline is a delicate one. Especially these last few months. Especially in this move towards toddler hood for my first born.

Clara was born in late August, my hospital room lit with afternoon sun and the dry heat of a high desert summer. She was born as the afternoon shone bright outside, her birth as blinding as the midday sun.

When my Clara was born, I needed noise. Her birth day was loud and violent and exciting. I threw pillows, I bit a couple of people; it was a hectic clamor of anticipation.

The pain of her birth lodged itself directly in my lower back, a piercing that did not stop. Ever. Since it was my first baby I didn't know any different, but now that I've had a "normal" birth with my second born, I can see that back labor is another beast altogether. It doesn't turn up and down, coming and going like contractions. It just stays and stays and stays and stays.

I needed a full room to birth Clara. My three sisters, my husband, three of my dear friends, and the most amazing nurse gathered around and held me up through those agonizing hours, literally and figuratively. At one point my sister Jamilyn was rolling an ice-cold diet coke up and down my back, while my cousin Jenna let me bite her arm as I writhed around, tilted over hospital bed in desperate cries of prayer.

When it came time to push, I closed my eyes, gripped the bed, and bearing down three times, my body released Clara Noelle into the world. She shrieked, her big eyes dark and furious. Everyone cried with joy, clapping even. The umbilical cord had not yet been cut when I turned to Sam and said, "We gotta do this again." The next days, weeks, and months were the best of my entire life. "Clara" means clear, bright, famous; and she has been all of those to me. She is a sharp light, her eyes a blue both cold and fierce. She is the sort of kid who gets noticed wherever she goes. She is difficult. She is lovely. She is small and incredibly loud. And that pushing, that insistent grip on my heart and body; it did not stop with her birth.

This is perhaps the part of parenthood that most surprised me. I think, from the outside, I assumed that children sort of roll through phases, transitioning seamlessly from baby to toddler to little kid and then one day they graduate high school and you repaint their bedroom after they move out. This has been anything but true for me and Clara. Some days it feels like I fight for every moment, for manners and obedience and creativity and independence and safety all at once, never one along with the other. The labor process that began on that summer afternoon was just that: a beginning. The genesis of a  process that may have ended in my uterus but has expanded on and on into my fingers and my heart and my home.

The longer I'm in this world of motherhood the more I understand that while some miles come quite easily, there are some inches that will nearly kill us.  And it's those inches that get me. It's those days and months when my labor with my children seems too exhausting to bear, those are the ones that leave me wrung out. Wondering why I try at all.

Woman cannot escape her call to labor forth life. Whether she birthed a child or has taken on the children of a mother who could not raise them herself, or she labors for her valued and worthwhile work, or she engages in the act of art or of business or of friendship: She is the seat of humanity, the thread of peace that holds our world together. I truly believe that. I truly believe in the innate power that lies in my daughter, in my mother, in my sisters, in myself; the power to struggle for what is good and to regard the wonders which our anguish produce.

Woman. We continue to labor long after our children gasp their first breath. We continue to suffer the pains, to ride the waves, to beg for mercy, to fear the unknown, to long for the other side and then wonder why we worried in the first place. We wear the scars of growing hard and fast, the scars of emergency decisions, the scars of a stretched and torn heart, made to expand but not without pain. We labor our children through these times of change, from diapers to toilets, from reading groups to locker rooms, from crushes to broken hearts, through scathing friendships and rumors and our precious childrens' own breathtaking, horrifying mistakes. We struggle to breathe evenly, we hunker down inside ourselves when the pain overwhelms, we cry out when it's just too much and the end will never come. And even if we choose not to feel it, to administer some form of delusional epidural, we will feel it all later.

We cannot escape the agony of parenthood.
We cannot escape the habitual act of guiding our children from one world to another.
We cannot escape the strain,


or the glory.

The glory.
The glory that is ours to witness.

For when the birth is over, when the smoke clears and the sweat is wiped off foreheads; there is new life. Glorious, precious new life. And as ridiculous as you might think I sound, that is how potty training felt this week. That is how my entire spring felt. I labored for Clara. I fought with her and beside her. I will always labor for her; because I am her mother. I will push and breathe deeply and let go when it is time to let go because I am mother.

I stand on the other side of this enduring battle of our long spring months with tears in my eyes because I see the pride in hers. I see the light of accomplishment on her face, sense the steps of maturation that gave her such growing pains. I beam with a love born on a hospital bed and expanded with each beat of my wrecked and humbled heart.

I am Woman. And when these moments of glory arise, when they cut like a welcome spring through a parched land after rainfall; when they appear like that moment when you stare long and hard enough at the night heavens and the stars suddenly multiply into millions; when that glory comes, I will pause. I will stop and sit and say thank you to the heavens for delivering yet another jolt of surprising, iridescent, starry skied glory after a night full of blinding, wondrous labor.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dear Summer, I owe you an apology.

Last year around this time I wrote this bitter diatribe concerning the summer months. To be fair, I was 16 weeks pregnant and m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e, but I wasn't talking about the pregnancy yet so I didn't mention it in the post. I was hot, nauseated, and tired all the time. Trying to keep my 11 month old out of the sun while also trying not to throw up all day was, in a word, terrible. I used to love summer. The season of church camp and crushes and freezing lake swims, snow cones and sleep overs and cousins, and then when you're a grown up there's fun every night! Barbecues! Margaritas! Bikinis! Every day is open for a few drinks and laughs, short dresses and tan lines. Summer is party time and it was good.

Then I had kids and now I'm like, yeah, I don't get it. This isn't fun anymore. And the more I talk to parents who have young children, the better I feel about my attitude towards summer. Most of them agree with me: If you have little kids, summer is hard. We live in the high desert of Idaho and while our heat is dry, not humid, most days stretch into the 100 degree range and honestly, you just can't have a baby outside in that for very long. Especially ghost babies like my pale friend who is napping in the room next door, probably sun burned from the park this morning despite her double application of SPF 50 waste of money organic baby sunscreen that makes me feel like a better mom. (Next up: almond milk and kale chips.) Then you have to work around nap times and bed times and potty training and anyways, honestly, it's a lot. It is.

However, you also can't stay inside all day every day. You gotta make concessions. You gotta make it work. Just like every part of parenting, you must take the ingredients you are given and get creative, become a wizard of time and space and make the day worthwhile. No matter what. Lately Sam and I have had a few hard lessons in that very idea; even when everything is falling apart, we have to laugh and keep moving. For one, because there's no time to wish for what could have gone better. This is happening, we always say to each other, and we have to go with it. Getting mad or sad or annoyed isn't helpful in the moment, and it doesn't move us any closer to our goal, whatever that might be.

So ok, it takes me 45 minutes of prep time to go to the splash pad for an hour. That's just how it is this summer. So ok, Clara has incredibly fair skin and Sammy is too young to be out in the sun at all. Let's put on our baseball caps and eat our Popsicles in the shade. So ok, my body isn't exactly in tip top shape, and I've been pregnant the last two summers so I don't own any shorts or dresses that aren't stretched out. I'll run after the kids are asleep, race myself in the lengthening shade of suburban sunsets, and buy new clothes this fall. So ok, it's all different. It's harder to pretend that life is all about me and my happiness; I no longer stare into the face of a new day and imagine all the ways I will take care of ME and my wants. Summer isn't about me anymore. It's not. It never really was, it's just harder to fake it now. Now I

The more open I am to the fact that we have to live this life together, live it taking care of each other no matter what the season, the more fun I'm having. So I decided to make a little list of reasons I currently enjoy summer. For my soul's sake, for reminders' sake, for encouragement's sake.

1. Clara in her ruffle bikini. Her loud sassy mouth makes me forget just how young and delicate she really is, but that tiny porcelain body in a tiny green and blue floral bikini is a shot of happy from across our soaking wet lawn. She's so. damn. cute.

2. Drinks on the front porch with Sam. Sometimes after the kids go to sleep we'll fast forward to our retirement years and set ourselves up at the little bistro table on our front porch. My chilled wine and Sam's cold beer sweat onto the glass-top table as we laugh and talk and share our Instagram feeds with each other, waving at passing neighbors and poking our heads inside every once in awhile to see if anyone is awake or crying. Suddenly it will be 10 p.m. and those nights together are good ones.

3. Sammy's thighs. And arms. And chins. Summer babies equal naked babies, and that boy has rolls on his rolls. All these months of breastfeeding, of sitting up in the dark of night while everyone else slept and he dream nursed in my arms, of attaching baby to mommy every 2 hours for 6 months: the pay off is in the roll on the back of his neck and the chub of his elbow crook. My bony 4lb 7oz newborn is now a healthy happy 6 month old who smiles so hard his eyes disappear. And if you think he ever wears clothes at home, you are as mistaken as the person who thinks it's rude to chew on babies.

4. My girlfriends and their kids. This cannot be understated. To have two of my sisters and so many dear friends a phone call away from coffee visits or picnics in the park or an afternoon of trading kids so we can run errands alone (pure heaven) is a blessing that I will never take for granted. As we all sort of fight our way through this battle of woman/mother/person hood, we need each other more than ever. It's important therapy to gather around a kiddie pool and ignore our kids together; it's life saving work. I love them so.

5. I'm not in summer school. For the last three summers, I've been enrolled in intense summer courses, pushing hard to finish as soon as possible. Not having hours of homework every night is a new kind of wonderful. Having my degree on the desk in our guestroom is a new weird reality; I just can't believe that I'm done. I think because Sam was born two weeks after I graduated, I haven't had time to appreciate the accomplishment. But this summer my heart has a lightness to it that I didn't even know I'd been missing, and even though sometimes I miss school (I'll definitely go back for a masters someday) I can't believe I get to spend every day with my kids instead of stodgy literature professors. Can't think of a worse summer pal than a guy who asks you to dissect and respond to a thirty page Thoreau essay about walking.

6. Summer bounty. That picture on the top of this post is of my kitchen table. Not styled, not just for the picture; just of my summer table. Fruit, flowers, and more fruit. You can basically live like a fairy in the summer and not think twice about it. Yes, please.

Dear Summer,
I'm trying. Thanks for the sunshine and thanks for the cheaper fruit. (And Lord, thank you for knowing that some of us needed all four seasons.)

And thank you most of all for my son's fat arms.

Sammy and his beautiful cousin Elsie Mae