A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sam's new job.

There are moments, like this one that I'm sitting in right now, moments so rounded out and perfectly in my grasp that I wonder if I've ever felt so completely settled. Don't get me wrong; I still fight with myself every day, an on-going neurosis within my own head that plays back worries and failures and what-ifs like the grooves on a vinyl record. But still, in this moment, babies both asleep and pumpkins on my porch and a house all to myself as the afternoon quietly drifts forward; this moment is warm and still and good.

When these times arrive, maybe just for one afternoon or maybe for an entire month or maybe even a whole year of round and peaceful moments, I tattoo them on my brain. I sew them into the stitching of my story because I find it useful for later, when things are not so good, when things are perhaps downright shitty, to run my fingers along those happy threads and believe in quiet afternoons coming again.

Seven years ago when Sam and I were engaged and planning a wedding for early January, I started praying that he would get a different job. He was a lineman at Idaho Power, a great job that put me through school and takes care of our family very comfortably; but he also traveled all the time.

Since the day we met, his schedule has been:

Home for 6 days and then gone for 8.
Home for 6. Leave again for 8.
Home for 6. Gone for 8. Home again and then leave again and again and again, an endless parade of hard goodbyes on Tuesday mornings as he drove away before dawn. We made it work and before we had kids we could survive- after all, it's not like he was in the military and gone for a year at a time. I always told myself to just deal with the weird schedule and be thankful for the income. Still, it hurt. A friend once pointed out that Sam was gone for over half of every year. That's a lot of gone. So, I joined soccer teams, I joined reading clubs, I was in school full time, I worked full time, and I led two lives.
6 days of married life.
8 days of single life.
And yes, ok, the 6 days at home after a long absence? There were benefits. There were more than excited hugs being exchanged. 8 days apart is a good amount of time for some feverish use up every chance we get kind of sexy time attitudes and I really can't complain about the peppering of DO IT NOW romance sprinkled throughout our life together. It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't awful either...

But still, every day, I prayed that Sam would be transferred to a team that worked in our city instead of all over the state. That he would stop leaving. That he would be home.

After Clara was born, the pain of Sam's absence magnified. A new awareness of how much we needed to be together came with her birth, and as much as we enjoyed 6 full days together when he was off work, the 8 days apart seemed longer and longer. I could barely contend with leaving Clara for half the day while I was in class, and could not imagine leaving her for 8 full days at a time. I felt bad for Sam. And truth be told, there were days that I felt bad for me. I was not a single parent -  I had a loving and supportive spouse - but I was raising my daughter alone for over half the year. The nights I stayed up while she teethed, the nights I did not sleep because she had a cough or the flu, they seemed infinite when I knew that it would be me alone again in the morning, me alone again the next night, me alone again until Sam got home. He missed birthdays, he missed anniversaries, he missed milestones, later he missed ultrasounds for baby Samuel, and I KNOW I KNOW so very well that there are struggles a million times harder than this, but for me?

For seven years?

It was hard. It was lonely. And it got old.
I'm a little tearful as I write this, actually. I don't think I realized how hard some of those days were, or maybe I didn't feel the freedom to be sad or lonely because who can complain about a good job? But I will give myself permission here, in this moment, to say that it was really hard. And I was really tired of it. And no, he wasn't in Iraq, but he also wasn't in our home. He wasn't here for more than half of our life together and that was really hard.

Sam's name has been on a transfer list to work on a 'home team' for seven years. These lists rarely move along because Idaho Power is an amazing company to work for and people either die or retire before a position opens up. We knew that, but to wait the better half of a decade to be together more than 6 months of the year seemed ludicrous. Why wasn't God making this change for us? Why wasn't he listening to my fervent, tired prayers?

I don't know! I don't know why we waited so long. Maybe it's because "waiting" should have left my vocabulary a long time ago. The idea of waiting for a change in order for life to get better or for life to move on is a denial that life IS moving on. Life is happening. This is happening, I say to myself sometimes, three words meant as a reminder that I can't change the now. This is happening. Move with it. Live in it. Rise above it. Dig in. Whatever. Just be here and live here and remember that better days will come but if they don't? These are still your days. The only ones you get. 

Earlier this fall, Sam was offered a permanent position with Idaho Power as a lineman in our town. He accepted. It was a bizarre and sudden change in our lives, to accept this job that we had been waiting and praying for, so many many years of wondering when it would actually happen.

It's here.

This is happening.

Every afternoon around 5:00, I hear the garage door groaning open. A minute later, I hear the muffled movements of Sam taking off his boots outside the laundry room. And then, lo and behold, day after day after day, Sam comes home. He picks up his baby, he chases his daughter for a kiss, he cleans the kitchen after dinner, he turns up Guns N' Roses while he bathes the kids, and he falls asleep next to his thankful wife. After seven years of living life far apart and in a constant state of flux, we are home together. 

Sammy is pulling up and cruising along the furniture, and no one has to watch it via FaceTime.
Clara says things like, "I need an ice pack for the blue marker on my fingers" and both of her parents can roll their eyes together.
I play soccer every Sunday and miraculously do not have to find a baby sitter.

We love and we fight and we are tired and we are raising kids and we are having sex and we are doing laundry and we are growing as a family, growing through the good and the bad and that sweet, sweet taste of the everyday, re-learning our place in each other's lives on a Sunday-Saturday repetition that has never felt so steady and right.

We are home! We are together.
And it's good.

^^ The first time I ever met his family or watched him climb a pole. 
Look at his little baby face! ^^

^^ The second time we started dating... ^^

^^ His birthday a few days before we were married. He was 28, I was 21 and good LORD we barely even knew each other!  ^^

^^ Engagement pic that I still love. Also the last time Sam was ever seen in a sweater. ^^

^^ No kids. Less wrinkles. So blissfully unaware of real life :) ^^










Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I like breastfeeding my son.

The other night I was sitting around with some girlfriends and some wine and we were talking about breastfeeding. I have two sort of distinct groups of friends who have very distinct ideas about babies and breastfeeding, and this is the group that thinks it's weird to nurse past like, 6 months old and also that it's kind of weird to make eye contact with your baby while nursing. They are some of my favorite girls and we can laugh easily at each other's differing opinions, but I'm definitely the weird one to them. To be honest, I couldn't care less how other people feed their babies. I love the makers of baby formula the way I love the makers of neonatal incubators and infant CPR training courses. If it's keeping babies alive, then guess what: I like it. I nurse my babies because I can and because I like it, and that's that. If I needed or wanted to use formula, I would, no questions asked. And that's that.

All that being said, I gotta tell you, nursing baby Sam has been hard. Feeding him has been difficult since day one and I have fought mightily to make it work.

A strange commitment for me to make, because I was nervous to breastfeed a boy.
I didn't really want a boy at all, in fact.

I always imagined myself with a gaggle of little daughters, their straight hair cut long with a swish of bangs and their fighting driving me crazy until one day they were suddenly all best friends and we lived happily ever after in a Little Women kind of complicated utopia (except none of them die from a weakened constitution, God bless poor Beth.)

So when I found out a BOY was growing inside me, it really kind of grossed me out. It seemed so unnatural. I am a woman. How could my body be making a MAN? How could a penis, an actual pair of testicles be growing INSIDE MY UTERUS and COME OUT MY VAGINA? It made no sense.

But grow he did and out he came and now, all these months later, I have joined the ranks of all those moms I used to make fun of, the ones who loved their sons with some sort of weird adoration cut from Oedipus's school of thinking, and OK OK I totally get it. It's adorable. Boys are adorable. They are sweet and cute and they think their moms spin the world in their soft, mothering arms and yes, it's different than my relationship with Clara. Not better. Not closer. Just different. I'm sure a lot of that is personality, but I am also sure that a large portion of his personality came way of his chromosome count, so. Yeah. I like him. He's one of the best people I know and he's barely been a person as long as one season of Parenthood.

And breastfeeding him was not weird, it turned out. When he was born, all 4 pounds 7 ounces of him, he nuzzled himself right into my chest and wanted to eat. We happily nursed together, his latch coming and going as he sputtered his way through those first few hours of eating. But then as the night went on, his blood sugar kept dropping and dropping, into the 20's at the worst of it (60 is the lowest acceptable number in our hospital nursery) and suddenly I was being asked to feed him a bottle of formula. To get his sugars up, they told me. Because prolonged low sugar levels can cause brain damage in infants, and other serious maladies. His sugars would not stabilize and soon he was put in the NICU, and thus began my long journey with feeding my son.

I hated nursing him in the beginning. It was like holding a bag of bones, all elbows and pelvic cavity and teeny, tiny head. Nursing Clara was easy, joyful from the start, and nursing Sam was scary. I was scared to drop him, scared to juggle all the tubes and cords attached to his skin, scared that my milk was not giving him the nutrients he needed. Every day in the hospital he was fed formula along with being nursed, and every day in the hospital I pumped 4 times a day, bagging up all that golden colostrum he wasn't able to drink. It was exhausting, it was draining, and it was not what I had imagined. Mind you, he was only in the NICU for a week. I cannot imagine the moms doing this for MONTHS, doing whatever it takes to keep their babies healthy and alive. Being quiet, unsung, exhausted heroes.  Being life savers.

Moms are incredible. Especially Moms with sick kids. I stand amazed at their sacrifices, truly.

When we finally went home, my milk came in and the painful week of engorgement passed slowly. Sam was gaining weight and eating fine, but nursing hurt. Like, wince my way through every dreaded feeding, hurt. And then I got a clogged milk duct. Did you know that milk doesn't come out through one spot on a nipple, like a hose? It comes out through a lot of different holes, like a shower head. You're welcome for that picture. It's common for a duct to get clogged (I didn't know that) and as a result I got mastitis, which is basically an infected breast. Which is mostly like dying a slow death and then coming back to life because, while lying comatose in bed with your two kids because your husband is gone at work, your toddler climbs on your engorged and infected breasts to demand another episode of Bubble Guppies and her knobby knees bring you back to life. You are not thankful. You would rather die.

After the mastitis healed, it took me a few weeks to realize that it still hurt way too much to feed Samuel. I held my breath every time he latched on and couldn't even talk while he ate, it was so painful. I decided to visit the lactation consultants at the hospital, those angels in their quiet office with snacks and water bottles and helpful hints galore. Sam was a few months old by this point and they were surprised to see such an "old" baby needing help, but they spotted the problem immediately (a bad latch because my milk was coming out too fast and he was trying not to choke), adjusted his jaw for me, and it never hurt to nurse again.

NOTE: If you are a nursing mother and ever have any questions or concerns, or you know a nursing mother who is discouraged or in pain or needs any help at all, GO SEE THE LACTATION NURSES. They are a gift from God and know everything about everything when it comes to breastfeeding and babies. Stop googling. Stop asking your dumb friends. Go see the nurses.

So, nine months later, and here's the crazy thing: Sam is still exclusively breast fed. He has some weird stomach problems and hasn't ever been able to keep solid food down. We are seeing specialists about it and I'm really hoping it's something that he will outgrow by the time he's one, but for now I am still his sole source of food and life. I nursed Clara until I was too pregnant with her little brother to make enough milk, but she was eating solid food three meals a day as well. All of this nursing is strange, and a little hard on my body to be honest. I drink Fenugreek tea five times a day, my appetite is really off, and my boobs are, in a word, sad.
But you know what?

I like breastfeeding my son.

I like to feel his fat, capable body, 15 pounds of limbs and rolls, climbing all over me in search of a place to eat. I feel like Jane Goodall, watching this intelligent being coming into his own, becoming acquainted with his mind and perceptions and behavioral ticks.
I like his fat neck. I like his fat knees. I like to feed him and watch him grow, an invisible trail of nutrients straight from my body into his, a strange and perfect food chain that has miraculously kept him alive for 9 months and counting. I like that he eats in four minutes flat, but lingers in my arms and plays with my hair. I like that we have to figure all of this out together, that he has been as patient with me as I haven't been with myself, and that we're doing ok.

I like my son,
this boy that grew in my womb and now lights up the world with his smile.
It's been a pleasure, buddy, and you are worth every second.
I love you so!
I love you so.







in his miniature hospital gown during a test last month.
 the doctor said she's never ever had a baby laughing during the procedure before :) 


all day every day, folks. 



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Elevate.

I love reality tv. I do. It's shameful, I'm sure, and most people would probably not admit to such a low-level pleasure, but COME ON. It's addicting to watch 'real life' on screen, scripted or no, because it feeds the obscene voyeuristic side of my personality- the same reason I read mostly non-fiction, the same reason I like to watch my neighbors out my kitchen window while I wash dishes, the same reason I have to delete Instagram off my phone every few weeks or so because I just can't stop looking.

Shameful confessions aside, one of the shows I like best is Master Chef. I'd never watched any cooking shows before this one, and there's this one phrase that they use all the time. I wonder if it's part of every cooking contest, but one thing the contestants aim for is to "elevate their dish." Basically, this means that instead of making macaroni and cheese, you make macaroni and cheese with, say, a truffle sauce. To 'elevate' food is to give it finesse, give it flair, make the flavors new again and make the dish a product of imagination and love. With the right skill set and the right open mind, a good chef can elevate even the most basic of foods.

That idea sticks with me. Not just because I love to cook, and I love to try new dishes. But because the thought that something like a stupid hotdog, in the capable hands of a talented chef, could become a surprising and delicious meal. That's fascinating. And challenging. And pardon my love for a good metaphor, but isn't that the key to living a good life? What can I do to elevate my daily living, to re-imagine its place and reassign its value?

How do I make the basic into the beautiful?

Most religions have some pillar based on this very idea, actually. Buddhists call it utthana-sampada, or working diligently at all you do. Mormons work hard to do good because they are aiming towards their own godhood, attaining deification.
And Christians offer themselves up to a life of being "holy."
Or, the way I learned it, being set apart.

All of these theologies encourage an elevation of the mundane, an understanding that everything matters. Every act, every word, every moment of every day has a meaning with roots deeper than we can see. Some elevate for the sake of understanding, some for the sake of castles in the sky. For me, as a Christian, the reason for elevation isn't a reason at all. It's a calling.

It's not about 'inner peace'. Or karma, or any sort of celestial reward system. For me, learning to sanctify the act of hanging tiny t-shirts in a closet, or nursing my baby, or teaching my daughter to be kind: it's all a matter of re-branding. Re-branding the mundane for the sake of the Holy, for the sake of my soul and my place on this earth as a loved daughter of the King. Elevating that which seems lowly by way of a changed heart, because I know for a fact that all of this matters very, very much.

And while I know this is a short season of my life, this home bound, inward universe of raising my young children, I'm learning a lesson that I couldn't have absorbed anywhere bigger than my house.

It was easy for me to feel gratified in past occupations. It was easy to elevate my day to day activities.
Running an after school program for elementary school kids? Easy to see the purpose, easy to accept the love and thanks of the families we served. Attending college the last 3 years? It was easy to push forward because finishing my degree seemed pertinent, to me and to my future.

I've served coffee at Starbucks, I've directed summer camps, I've worked at churches and insurance offices and even a Japanese karaoke bar in Hawaii. Some of those jobs were draining and some of them were exciting, but every single one of them came with some sort of extrinsic value, like paychecks or community support or free drinks.

But now? Being a mom? It has a different sort of value system. It's more difficult for me to elevate. It takes purposeful heart checks throughout each hour to remember the incredible investments I am making in my family, in my kids and every person they will ever meet.

I miss having a paycheck. Or feedback. But I have to say, there is a sincerity to my every day movements that has not been there before. I think it's the lack of external motivation, the lack of accolades from any sort of public opinion or authority figure, from professors or managers, because it's just me. It's just me and these kids and honestly, they won't even remember most of what goes on during these early years of their development. These days belong to us, to our ins and outs, to our moods, to our small but meaningful accomplishments. These days belong to me and my God, and the act of elevation is a discipline that is at once softening me, and also hardening a core of truth about What Is Holy and What Matters.

I think at some point, we all fight that hollow feeling of What Am I Doing Here? We work at jobs we hate, we are in relationships we don't understand, we forgot what we meant when we started out and everything looks like cold noodles and hot dogs.

We have to elevate.
We have to know that when we are loved so enormously by a God who gives every sparrow a nest and every heart a new mercy with each sunrise, our moments surely matter.

When we sit in a planning meeting.
When our hands are dirty with another day of work.
When we pay our bills at night.
When we feel stuck.
When we fight against the injustice of poverty and yet it never seems to be enough.
When we write into the void.

It matters. More than we could ever know, it all matters.

I'll try to remember that later, when I gather baby Sam in tight while he cries through another night of teething. When he sighs with desperate relief because his mom is near.

Elevating. It's not feigning relevance. It's not inflation or vanity;
it's perception.
it's mindful.
it's the heart of God, one day at a time.





"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart." - Paul the apostle 

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.