Love at First Sight and Rendered Speechless

My Dear Hadley Girl,

I remember when they laid you on my chest for the first time and your innocent eyes looked up at me. We were still in the operating room. I felt numb from the neck down. Despite the condition my body was in there on the flat, sterile operating table, I had to see you. After all, you had been growing inside my body for the last nine months. I had felt your kicks, hiccups, and heard your heartbeat. We had waited for what felt like so long to even conceive you. You were finally here. You had breathed your first breath and cried your first tears.  So I lifted my heavy head as much as I could and strained my neck to keep my eyes fixated on you. It was all I could do to whisper, “Hi.”

“Hi, baby girl. Hi, Hadley. It’s me, mama. Hi.” I whispered over and over again. It was love at first sight and I was rendered speechless. Truly.

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My first day back at work after being home with you for 4 months, was one of the hardest days of my life. I remember I rushed home that afternoon, dropped my bags in the entryway, quickly washed my hands, and reached out for you. I put you to my breast and you drank yourself to sleep. I could finally breathe. My heart shifted back into place.  My shoulders melted down and my body sunk into that living room couch.

That couch was the place where I daydreamed what you might look like before you were born, as I felt you sharpen your kickboxing skills inside my uterus. That couch was the place where we had spent hours when you were a newborn, nursing, napping, and cuddling. There on the couch, was where you and I had slowly started to learn about one another. Together, we cried, smiled, giggled and cooed amongst the pillows and cushions. That couch was home and my heart was there with you. My heart is always there with you.

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Tomorrow, it’s your birthday and you are five years old. Looking back at all the pictures and videos of you on my phone, I feel like I hardly remember that baby. You have changed so much and I get the pure joy of seeing you everyday, but fail to realize how much you are indeed growing. You’re taller. You’re braver. You’re cleverer and funnier. You grow more complex and are filled with intricate detail only the Father could have designed. I don’t always know what you need or what you are thinking now. You can choose to hold your feelings inside or burst out with emotion. Sometimes when I look at you, I can still see your baby face, especially when you are sleeping.

You love to play. This sounds silly, of course a 5-year-old loves to play. But really, you love it. One weekend, your dad and I decided we wanted to spend some special time with you, just the three of us. We asked you what you wanted to do or if there was anywhere you wanted to go, and you requested, “I want to come home and play Legos. I want to build dinosaur cages  with you mommy and daddy. “ At the end of last school year before summer began, your preschool teacher asked you what you were looking forward to most for summer and you said, “I just want to stay at home and play and do nothing all day.” Horses, My Little Ponies, Calico Critters, doctor or veterinarian, restaurant, and dress-up or imaginary play, are just a few of your favorites. That doesn’t even include cars, trains, dinosaurs, or drawing pictures for your favorite people.

You thrive on meaningful time spent with the people that you love. You are not afraid to say hello to new people or ask someone to play.

Witnessing you make it all the way across the monkey bars for the first time all by yourself was unimaginable joy. I couldn’t help but cheer loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. You mastered riding your bike on two wheels this past year too. You tackle a new goal with fierceness, but it has to be when you are ready and not a moment sooner.

You’re the type of girl who loves to run until you’re breathless, kick the ball as hard as you can, and lay on the ground just to gaze up at the sky. Your heart and mind are filled with wonder. You jump up and down with excitement for so many things. It’s as if you are about to take flight among the birds in the sky. You’d probably love that.

Spaghetti without the spaghetti sauce, pizza without the pizza sauce, only the small oranges that you peel, not the big ones… and always water, never milk or juice. You know what you like and what you don’t.

We sometimes don’t get along. You get upset easily. You stomp to your room, slam the door, yell, throw toys, and just want to be left alone. Minutes later, you want your blankies and are typically ready to hug it out and debrief. You can be moody, picky, and kind of bossy. But you are also thoughtful, helpful, eager, and creative. You’re a friend when it counts and show empathy for others. I am so proud of the girl you are growing up to be.

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We have a newer couch now that we got a couple years ago. We needed a sleeker one to fit a smaller space. But it is still the place where we talk, snuggle and get to know one another. Now, it has crumbs in every nook and cranny. It’s been barfed on, peed on, and spilled on. The cushions are starting to get lumpy and saggy from all the jumping, fort building, and Disney/Pixar movie watching. It’s still our place though where we cuddle when you are feeling sick or when you get hurt. It’s the place where we read stories, tell jokes, or don’t have to say anything at all. It’s the first place you go when you wake up in the morning. Armed with your stuffed animal entourage, three to four blankies, and your water bottle, you settle in at your favorite spot on the couch. At each morning’s first sight, your bed head hair, rosy cheeks, and sleepy smile greet me and I’m in love. I manage to utter a, “Good morning,”  as I’m rendered speechless still.

Love you H. Happy Birthday!

Love, Mom

My Fashionista

“Had, this one is pretty,” I suggest as I lay down a red dress with a pink and navy bow print down on her bed.

“Oooh, yeah that’s a good one. And it’s red!” Hadley declares. For a few more minutes my daughter and I comb through her closet and dresser drawers for all clothing items and accessories red. Tomorrow was red day at preschool and we had to look the part. I’m trying a new thing this school year where we pick out her clothes the night before rather than in the morning. So far, we are three days in and it’s working. Sure beats the frantic dig through the clean laundry pile on our bed, the quick grab of whatever is on top of the stack in her dresser drawer, or the last minute wardrobe change Hadley decides is absolutely necessary three minutes before it’s time to leave.

“I want to wear the red dress with the red skirt like this.” Hadley drapes the dress over herself and then lays the skirt on top, peeking down at the combination.  She bounces a little on her toes with excitement. The skirt is a darker crimson red and has tulle underneath for some extra volume. The dress is a bright tomato red and a thicker cotton material.

I cringed inside. That’s not going to look good. She’ll look like the Little Mermaid when she wrapped that boat sail around herself and tied it with a rope. “Oh, wow honey,” I lamented,  “Well, I don’t think that will work.”

“Yes, it will.” She insisted.

“Yeah, um, usually you don’t wear a dress and a skirt at the same time.” I matter-of-factly stated, as if I’m the expert in all things fashion. This advice coming from the mom who is braless in a pit-stained tank top with gray sweatpants. In my defense it was getting close to 7 p.m., bedtime was eminent. I have totally seen a dress and skirt worn at the same time. It sometimes works, but in this case, hard no. She’d look pretty silly.

I’ve always taken pride in how my kids dress, especially with my daughter. From the cute newborn outfits to the matching pajama sets. I love picking out her clothes or outfit for the day. Until fairly recently, I felt like Hadley was pretty nonchalant about what clothes she’d wear. She would let me pick out her clothes or just want to stay in her pajamas all day. When she started to get a little more opinionated about dressing herself, I would offer her a couple of outfit choices to pick from. Now, however, she mostly always likes to pick out her own clothes. From mismatching pajama sets, to brightly- colored clashing tops and pants, she’s always so certain about what she wants to wear.

Somehow I got this idea in my head, that if my kids aren’t dressed a certain way, or polished enough looking, that it will reflect poorly on me. That I would appear as a bad mom. I was worried about her looking silly. I was worried that I might look silly. That she wouldn’t be put together enough. That I wouldn’t be put together enough.

“Mom, that’s what I want to wear. It ‘ll look good,” she reassured me. We hung up the dress and the skirt on the dresser drawer knobs and went about our bedtime routine.

The next morning, the smell of toasted English muffin and sliced oranges filled the house. Blaze and the Monster Machines was playing in background on TV and Legos were scattered across the family room floor. “Okay Hadley timed to get dressed! Come upstairs and get ready!”  I called out, fastening my second earring.

“I’m coming!” she yelled from down below, snapping together the last few pieces of her Lego creation. I walked into her room and my eyes fell upon her red dress and skirt hanging off her dresser. Quickly, I grabbed the skirt and hung it back up in the closet. “I bet she won’t even remember the skirt,” I said to myself as I swiped the dress off the hanger.

“Here you go,” I said handing her the red dress, underwear, and leggings.

“ Mom.” she states, “You forgot the skirt.”

Dang it.

“Oh you’re right I did.” I trudged to her closet and unhooked the skirt with a sigh. I handed it to her and folded my arms, waiting to see how bad it would look. I had expected her to slip the skirt on over her dress, but she slipped it under the dress instead.

“There.” she beamed.

My heart sank. She looked beautiful. Tears stung my eyes and my heart filled with remorse. She sort of swung her hips side to side, letting the red dress effortless fall over the skirt. The skirt gave the dress some volume from underneath and it looked like they were meant to go together all along. I felt so silly. Why had I doubted her? Why had I worried so much about how she would look? Clearly, the amount of pride and joy she felt from picking out this outfit on her own was immeasurable. She had such a vision that I just couldn’t see.

“Hadley, you look beautiful!” I declared. “What a fashionista you are!”

“What’s a fashionista?” she asked with a furrowed brow.

“It’s someone who can put together outfits in ways other people wouldn’t have thought of.” I explained. I went on, “Hadley, I’m sorry I doubted your red outfit choice. I didn’t think the skirt and the dress would look good together, but they do. You were right.”

“Thanks mom, “ she grinned.

When we arrived at preschool later that morning, Hadley bounded with delight toward her classroom. “Oh my what a pretty red dress!” Her teacher proclaimed as Hadley entered in through the door. Hadley stopped for a moment, glancing down to admire her own outfit. She looked back at me with a smile of pure elation.  The amount of pride I felt as I admired my daughter there at the classroom door, far surpassed the gratification that any perfectly planned outfit or carefully thought out wardrobe scheme would have provided.

I am constantly humbled by what my kids can see that I can’t. I sometimes can’t get past what other people might think. But they can. There is something carefree about my kids’ sweet spirits that I hope to glean some perspective from. I’m working on it. For now, I’ll let my little fashionista take the wheel when it comes to her own outfit choices, with some parameters from me of course. I’ll work on letting go of my own insecurities as a mom and hope to realize that how my kids appear does not make the call on whether or not I’m a good mom. It is far more important that their character and the choices that they make as individuals are what I base my success on. That is what my focus should be. Not their color coordinating skills, although, I’ll always be there to give my opinion.  I have also learned, thanks to my fashionista, that a dress and a skirt can be worn together and totally work.

 

Moms Poop, Too

No one ever told me, you’ll miss your pre-mom, peaceful defecations.

There were many things I was told would be hard or that I would miss after having a baby.  Like sleep, or having time to yourself, but no one ever told me that what once was such a private daily routine would turn into a not-so-private and sometimes not-so-daily (for me not-so-daily, for my kids sometimes multiple times a day) family event.

Ever since becoming a mom, poop has become a constant part of my family’s vocabulary. Before having kids, my husband and I would rarely talk about our poop regularities or issues. Now, it’s a freely given family conversation from car trips to eating at the dinner table (yeah probably not the best time, but believe me, it comes up).  My husband and I text about the kids’ poops and our own, daily. Actually everyone pretty much tells me about their poops and it’s all I can do to make sure I poop once every day.

Now as a mom of two kids under the age of five, I can poop in less than three minutes flat. My body has adapted since becoming a mom. It knows that if it needs to poop, it better happen quick.  I almost never poop alone. Usually there is at least one set of curious eyes peering down between my legs to see what mom’s poop looks like. “Mama, that one looks like a dinosaur!” Or I’m always multitasking like yelling at the kids to stop fighting, helping to tie My LIttle Pony braids, or connecting that tricky Lego piece.  Ever had your crying kid sit on your lap as you poop? I have. Breastfed while pooping? Yep.

My husband somehow still gets about twenty minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom to poop everyday.  Me on the other hand, will see the kids are playing peacefully and try to sneak away to the hall bathroom. I sit down and begin, only to hear arguing and toys crashing three seconds later. A cry for help follows, “Mom!”

“I’m pooping! I just need to poop! Moms poop, too!” I yell back.

Weekends when my husband is home and I have to poop, are the best. I know I will get uninterrupted time to myself. Sometimes, I don’t even need to poop, I just imply that I do so I can have a few minutes of peace.

This is what is has come to.

Can I just take a moment to talk about post-birth poops? Holy mother. I’ve only ever had c-sections, so I don’t know about bowel movements after vaginal labor, but I can tell you that after my first c-section, I now understand the term,  “shitting rocks.” I thought my insides would explode and I’d have to go back to the hospital. Call it postpartum, hormonal, irrational thought, but it was so bad. I then learned that you have to keep taking your stool softeners for a while after having a baby. Yep, keep taking them.

Poop creeps it’s way into our family conversations or games daily. It has even found its way into once sweet phrases. “I love you more than the whole universe toilet poop!”

Don’t even get me started on how often we talk or tease about farts or toots.

No one ever told me I’d miss my pre-mom poops or how much poop related activities or conversations would dominate my life. And while that may be the case, no one ever told me that some of my favorite memories would be poop-related:

The first few days of my daughter’s life, when her mustard poop squirted across the room and splattered against the wall mid-change. Laughter erupted between my friend and myself as we realized that as a new mom I truly was in, “deep shit.”  

Two years later, my daughter would talk about having, “big happy poops.” She’d hide under the kitchen table in her squat position every time to poop. I’ll never forget peeking down at her under the table as she looked up a me like a disgruntled old man, “I need some space Mama. I’m pooping.”

Then, there was that time we went to the Tulip festival in Mount Vernon and it was so crowded.  My daughter was just getting over a cold but I was adamant that we had to have the “perfect,” picture of her among the tulips. But with all the wind, rain and people, we never got that perfect picture with the flowers and needed leave much earlier than I had hoped. On the way home, our two-and-a-half year old was insistent that she had to poop and she didn’t want to do it in her carseat.   We had to pull over in an abandoned parking lot so that she could squat in the back of the Highlander to poop in her diaper. As she pooped, she played with tennis balls. Giggles erupted as she bounced the balls and tossed them in air trying to catch them as they landed, all while she pooped. That’s when I got the perfect picture.

The countless number of songs, books read, and silly games we have played while one kid is on the toilet or the other is squating in his diaper, have created so many poop-related, wonderful, happy memories.

I realize how much my kids love me because they don’t even care about my stinky poop. They come in the bathroom just to have a conversation with me, show me something they are playing with, or just to make sure I’m still there.

When I think about poop dominating our lives as parents, I have come to the conclusion that it really isn’t the poop that has taken over, it’s our children. It’s these amazing, unique individuals that require care in every area imaginable– including when they poop. And they require that care at anytime of day imaginable–even during the times when I have to poop. There is a huge amount of sacrifice and vulnerability that comes along with parenting. The love that is poured into every diaper change, bathroom pow-wow, or family poop joke, is immeasurable whether we realize it or not.  I am so grateful to be the mama of my two children, even if it does mean the sacrifice of my own peaceful pooping.

Mantras of Motherhood

There it was, written on a yellow sticky note, stuck on the bathroom mirror. The three words that I would cling over the next several months. It Will Happen. I don’t think my husband realized when he wrote it, what influence those three words would have on our journey to conceive. It had been several months, perhaps even a year’s worth of trying to get pregnant, when he wrote this note. Those couple years tend to be a bit blurry. They were a roller-coaster of hope and disappointment each month as the pregnancy test would read negative once again. But I clung to those words, it will happen. I looked at that sticky note daily for affirmation that indeed one day, we would become parents.

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Well, it did happen. Almost a year after that sticky note, a few visits to the fertility clinic, a couple months of medication and many, many prayers, it happened. We had conceived. It was shortly after Valentine’s Day. I’ll always remember because that year my husband carved a small wooden heart for me, about the size of my palm, and painted it red. My heart would never be the same after that day, but in the best possible way. One Sunday morning, I thought, “maybe, just maybe this is it.” I shakily peed on the stick and waited an excruciating two minutes before turning it over. Pregnant. My heart pounded inside my chest as I carefully focused my eyes on the word I had longed to see. Pregnant. Yup, it was there. The fertility clinic was able to see us that day to confirm with a blood test. Sure enough, it was true.

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A couple weeks later, as the baby inside me began to grow, I was no longer trapped in the cycle of hope and disappointment, but found a different set of feelings sank it. Joy and worry. Sheer joy at the notion that life was growing inside me, that we were parents-to-be and soon we’d be holding our sweet bundle. But there was also worry. Are we really sure I’m pregnant? What if I lose the baby?  It seemed too good to be true, too long had we waited, too long had we wanted this. Then, there it was, a sticky note up on the bathroom mirror. Only this time, it read, It Happened. It had happened and there was no point in worrying. This sticky note with this updated phrase, it happened, encouraged me daily for the next several months as our baby grew.

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Finally, our sweet bundle of joy- our little girl, had arrived. She was everything we had hoped and dreamed she would be and more. She was a bit high maintenance though as far as newborns go and I know this now after having two babies. My son was so easy-going and a solid sleeper as a newborn. But our girl, she loved to be held. Not just held, we had to be constantly moving and holding her.  Her favorite was when we held her and bounced on our exercise ball. I was often up multiple times a night, bouncing on that dang ball for what seemed like hours. I would think and repeat to myself, “one day you’re going to miss this.”  Each night I was awake, for months, I would say these words. One day you’re going to miss this. This phrase I clamped on to. It made those nights a lot easier, and much more special.

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I hurriedly tried to finish wiping down the kitchen table and sweep up the last of the lunch crumbs off the kitchen floor.  Giggles, fast and furious footsteps, and tumbling blocks sounded in the background. A wailing scream followed, “Mama!” I put down the broom with a sigh and thought, It’s better than it was.  This would become my cleaning mantra. The house would never be as clean as it once was. There would always be something out of place. Tumbleweeds of dust swept under furniture and mountains of laundry would be left on the couch…for days. Jobs and chores left unfinished. But hey, after a quick wipe down, it’s better than it was.

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My four-year-old daughter slammed her bedroom door. Stomping feet and the thudding sound of stuffed animals and pillows hitting the wall, inevitably followed. She’s mad about something…again. “Oh Lord,” I mumble to myself, “Help me to be what she needs me to be.” Does she need a firm hand or a reassuring hug? Is she tired, hungry, hurt or testing her boundaries? Sometimes, it is really hard to tell what she needs from me. Sometimes, it is super obvious what she needs from me. Either way, sometimes what she needs is extremely difficult to give. My bucket feels empty. It hasn’t been filled all day or maybe all week, and yet, she still needs something from me, even if I have no clue what it is. This prayer, “help me to be what she needs me to be,” reassures me that God will work through me to provide for her needs.

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I have realized the importance of encouraging words, phrases or prayers in my life as a mom. Whether given to me by my husband or friend,  influenced by songs or books, or placed on my heart by God, these words or mantras, I’ve clung to. They’ve encouraged me, grounded me, and keep me focused on what’s important. They may change depending on the stage of motherhood I’m in, but they are always there.

Everytime my daughter calls out to me, ” Mom, come have a dance party!” I’ve made a commitment to myself and her that I will always stop loading the dishwasher, or folding the clothes, or whatever else I am doing, and join her to dance. Everytime. Because the state of the house, with the dishwasher half-loaded and clothes half-folded is, better than it was.

I will cherish each dance party moment with her. As we spin, jump, twirl, and tears are spilling down our cheeks from laughter, I’ll repeat to myself, “one day, you’re going to miss this.”  As I feel my body grow tired and the urge to just slump on the couch and rest overwhelms me, I will pray, “help me to be what she needs me to be.“ What she needs right now is for me to be a goofy dancer, a joy-bringer, a giggle buddy.

The song ends and we collapse in a heap on top of the half-folded pile of laundry that has taken over the couch, our faces aching from the smiles. I’ll think to myself,  this is as real as it gets and yes, it happened.

Mad Mom

“Mom, I can do it. I CAN DO IT!!!” Hadley screams in my face as I adjust the buckle straps on her carseat. I inhale and exhale deeply through my nose. “I will remain calm, I will remain calm,” I repeat to myself as I walk around the back of the car and get in the driver seat.

“You do not yell at me. That is not respectful and it hurts me,” I retort buckling my seatbelt and starting the engine.  My voice starts to elevate and intensify as I try to explain matter of factly, “I know you can buckle yourself in Hadley. I know you are a big girl. But like we’ve discussed before (just yesterday in fact and the day before and last week) even if you buckle yourself in your car seat, I still need to check it and maybe adjust it a little so I know that you’ll be safe as we drive. That doesn’t mean your not a big girl or you didn’t do a good job, but it is because I am your mom and it’s my job to make sure you are safe in the car.”  Why do I feel like a broken record?  What is it with transitions and getting in and out of the car that is so freakin’ difficult? We are on our way to a playdate for crying out loud. She should be excited, compliant and sweet. She slept in. We just ate a snack. What the f*** is happening right now?

She scrunches her nose at me and forces out a puff of air through it like a dragon. “Do not make that face at me, that is not respectful and I don’t like it! We will go right back inside if you continue!” I yell. She senses my anger and frustration.  I have no intention of going back inside, but hope the threat is enough to calm the little dragon down. She scrunches her nose again and lets out a harumph of annoyance. The car is silent as I start driving out of the neighborhood.

“I am not responding to you now,” she states with her arms folded and head looking out the window.

I let out a long sigh and no verbal response.

“I am not responding to you now.” Hadley repeats. Again, I say nothing.

A few minutes later, as we continue on to our destination, I hear a quiet whisper from the back seat, “I’m sorry mom.”

“Thank you Hadley,” I reply. I again explain my job is to keep her safe and check her carseat. We arrive at our playdate and all is well.

These transitions to and from the car have been a challenge all summer long.  I’m actually quite proud with how I handled this particular situation. I was upset but managed to diffuse myself and Hadley for that matter, by keeping quiet for a few minutes. Although there have been many times that I have not been able to keep quiet and diffuse…I am learning.

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I hate that I lose my temper and patience with my daughter so easily. Even when my two-year-old son does something he knows he shouldn’t, I tend to be much more lenient. But when my four-year-old (will be five in less than 2 months) does something she knows she shouldn’t, tests the boundaries, or I feel like I am repeating myself to her multiple times with no change in results,  I tend to run out of patience real quick. She pushes my buttons. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike, we are mother and daughter and it is only natural we butt heads, or maybe it is because she is going on five and I somehow expect her to know better by now or make better choices simply because she wants to be a good person who is nice and respectful. It could be any of those reasons. But here’s some things I have learned: kids forgive easily and quickly, I am not the first mom to get angry, and I am human. Humans get angry and feel emotion that we sometimes have trouble dealing with.

When I was young, I remember my mom got very angry with me because I didn’t want any of the things she suggested for breakfast.  I sat in a lump on the kitchen floor saying, “no,” with an expression of disgust on my face after every suggestion she made: toast, cereal, oatmeal, yogurt etc.  After about the seventeenth suggestion of something, my mom had enough. “Here!” she yelled as she stuck a bag of chocolate chips in my face, “maybe you’ll want some of these,” she suggested with a wild, angry look in her eyes. She proceeded to open the bag with fireceness and shoved a few in my mouth as I let out sobs. I ate those few chocolate chips for breakfast… of course. I’m not sure what happened after that. It’s a fuzzy memory but I’m sure that morning I had been a pain in the ass for my mom and her reaction was warranted. Breakfast time can be brutal. After having two kids, I now know this.

My mom might be saddened that I have this memory from my childhood. She furthermore might upset that I shared it. But let me say this: I am so thankful to have this memory. This memory shows me that sometimes as a mom, you just get frustrated or plain angry. Even my mom did. Even my mom who is an amazing mother, got angry with her children. I have countless wonderful memories from my childhood. However, this memory comforts me in knowing that anger reaches all of us at one point or another.

Just as easily as my kids are able to forgive me for losing my temper or patience, I need to also be able to forgive myself.  I am human, I will get frustrated. I cannot hang on to the guilt I feel after overreacting. That’s where grace comes in. Thank you Lord for forgiveness and grace.

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When you’re potty training your kid and you praise her for peeing and dropping a little pebble of poop in the toilet and then later she goes ahead and drops the rest of her load in the corner of her bedroom, you get angry. Then later you realize that they are still learning and while you spent the better part of your morning scrubbing poop out of the carpet, they were successful using the toilet at one point at least. Potty training is a process and it can be very, very hard. Give yourself grace.

When you finally get the kids outside for some fresh air, you fill up the water table and sit back, and relax in your lawn chair while the kids splash play with glee. Then suddenly your daughter squirts dirty water table water into your nice cold glass of wine, you get angry. After all, that was practically the last of the bottle (it was a good one too). Then later you realize it was only a glass of wine. And your daughter, the mixologist, was playfully squirting water, not realizing in the moment how much the relaxation and glass of wine meant to you. Give yourself grace.

The great thing that happens when I get overly-frustrated or upset with my kids is the conversation that follows. “I’m sorry I got so upset Hadley. I overreacted. I shouldn’t have yelled. WIll you forgive me?”

“Sure mom. It’s okay. You want to play My Little Ponies?”

Kids are so quick to forgive, bless their hearts. They move on. It is me who is stuck with the guilt I feel for acting the way that I did. But just as quickly as forgiveness and grace is given to me by my kids and the Lord when I seek redemption in prayer, I should also forgive myself, learn from my mistakes, accept grace, and try to approach the situation better next time.

 

This is 34

It was a great 34th birthday. It started with a kick in the mouth this morning from John while changing a poopy diaper, and ended with a poke in the eye tonight from Hadley as she whispered and signed “I love you so much.”  Honestly though, nothing I would have rather been doing than spending time with my family.

We had grand plans for the zoo with Nana, but the smokey air forced us to plan some indoor fun instead and postpone the zoo trip for another day. Nana had a wonderful idea for an indoor picnic. We attempted to make party hats but there was a lot of fighting and uproar about tape usage between Hadley and John, and I trimmed a piece of Hadley’s hat that she didn’t want me to, so she huffed at me like a dragon and turned her back to me. That ended the party hat making rather quickly.

Then we layed out a blanket in the living room and listened to some ocean wave music while munching on watermelon, chips, sandwiches and cucumber. Hadley performed various animal interpretations and John joined in as well. My favorite was when he howled at the moon and head went up towards the sky.

After the picnic, I came downstairs after putting John down for his nap and heard laughter from Nana and Hadley as they threw monster bowling pins back and forth at one another. I haven’t heard my mom laugh that hard in awhile, one of my favorite moments of the day by far.

I was able to sneak away,  get a haircut, and run a few errands too (thank you Nana)!

Jordan brought home pizza and Grandma and Grandpa came over with a surprise birthday cake that Hadley had planned out and help make. I really wanted a panda bear birthday cake according to Hadley, and that’s what she made. It was so cute and so delicious.

A favorite quote of mine lately has been, “You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”- by Ruth Chou Simons. I find that the thirty-somethings at times can seem somewhat mundane or humdrum, as you put in the minutes, hours, days into raising your kids, taking care of your family, working etc. The everyday appears to be so much the same that it can feel as though there is no real evidence of growth or change happening. But I am reminded that just because change or the “bloom,” isn’t obvious right away, doesn’t mean that good things aren’t happening. It also doesn’t have to be “seen by others,” in order to count. The work I put in that no one else may even ever see is growth!

I’m thankful for such a great birthday with my kids and family. I look forward to celebrating more this weekend with the hubs and family too!

Baby John

A letter to my son on his 2nd birthday:

Baby John (you too old for me to call you that? Too bad, I’m sticking with it as long as I can),

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table eating your leftover birthday cake, while I try and think of how to even begin to write about you. I’m still trying to figure out who you are or what you’ll be like. Perhaps it’s because you are our second child or because you are a boy, but I feel like it’s taken me awhile to get to know you.

You can be, “all boy,” when you want to be: splashing in puddles or picking up chubby fistfulls of dirt and and tossing them into your dump truck. You like trucks, dinosaurs, and building or testing out your Hot Wheels track. I can see your collection of baseball hats growing before my eyes, as you remind me to put your hat on your head before you take even one step out the door. Yet, you enjoy playing babies, singing gently to yourself as you build Legos, stack flowers, or set up the Calico Critters’ houses with your sister. You enjoy big things like garbage trucks, ferry boats, trains and the ocean. Yet, when the vehicles honk their horns or zoom on by, or when the ocean waves crash onto the beach, you hang on to our shirts for dear life, demand to be picked up, and exclaim, “too loud!”

I’m learning more about you everyday and that’s the beauty of being your mom. Each day your surprise me with something new. Things I never want to forget, like the way you say dinosaurs (DIE-DOORS) or “big truck!” You are funny, smart, determined and thoughtful.

I have rocked you to sleep almost every night since you were born. It’s official, you are now a two-year-old. I don’t care. I will still rock you every night for as long as I can, because I know in an instant I’ll blink and you’ll come home from high school one afternoon and make yourself two to three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like your dad used to. You like it when I sing while we rock and you request songs every night. Lately, it has been Jingle Bells (yes during the summer) but you also enjoy this made up song I pieced together. You call it, “Hada Sleeping.” It is basically about how every one of your family members is sleeping and that you should be too. I always start with Hadley sleeping first and then list off all the other family members you love. It is your favorite song at bedtime by far.

I love how your left ear folds up when you fall asleep against me. I gently unfold it as I lay you down in your crib. You have “daddy’s pillow,” so you can sleep soundly. Your head of red, soft, frizzy hair is sweaty on one side from being up against me. Will you keep your red hair? Not sure, but I secretly hope so. You roll over to your right side clutching your once swaddle blankets. Those blankets never really served their purpose as swaddle blankets because you broke free from them early on. However, you’ve kept them as your “blankies” for sleep or cuddling ever since you could hold on to them.

We have this game we like to play where you’ll try to bite my nose. I love to feel your little teeth begin to clamp down before I quickly move my nose back. We both giggle with delight.

I love the way you wake up. Mostly always happy. Some mornings you wake up singing like Maui, “You’re welcome, the tides, the seas, the sun!” Today, you decided, likely since you are two now, that you would wake up, climb out of your crib, walk to the playroom and begin driving your trucks around. Your dad and I woke up to the sound of you playing.  When daddy walked in the playroom, you shared with delight, “I climbed out!”

You continue to amaze us with your ability to converse and how quickly your language has developed. Everyday it seems is a new phrase is used. You constantly ask what certain noises are, like the start of a car or squawk of a bird.

Peanut butter. You cannot get enough.

You are steady and consistent when your sister and I are moody and clashing. I have a feeling you will always be that peace when we need it. We love you John.

Here’s a little blurb I wrote about you one morning and I’ll end with it:

Little by little, He scooches closer to me on the couch. His leg rests on my leg, his foot hangs over my knee, wiggling to its own beat. Dori is being found on tv. A smile grows on his face and his head turns towards me. “Mama,” he sweetly whispers with a scrunch of his shoulders. As if, the delight he feels in my name is too much to contain. He’s up early with me before anyone else and it’s our special time.

Love you buddy,

Mama

Flawless, Youthful and Free

My eyes open slowly. As I roll from my side onto my back, I let out a long cat-like stretch. I feel a slight afternoon breeze blow in from the window as I wipe the remaining drool off my cheek. I guess I fell asleep while the kids were napping again. Peeking at the monitor, I see they are both still asleep. Thank God. Maybe I still have some time to get a couple things done or just sit. Some glorious sitting sounds nice.  I sigh as I pick up my phone and start to scroll through my Instagram feed. Another flawless Instagram photo. She’s got on the perfect shade of lipstick, sun-kissed skin, smooth hair, and a seemingly effortlessly boho-chic outfit on. How does she take such perfect Instagram photos everytime? I swear to God she has a professional photographer following her around snapping pictures of her and her friends. Flawless, youthful and free.

I slide off the bed and adjust the stretchy waistband on my leggings, pick off a sock that clung to my leg, and toss it back into the clean laundry pile. I stop to look in the mirror as I walk by.  Inspired by the Instagram photo, I grab a lipstick and apply it lightly to my lips. Smack. There, much better.

I shuffle to the pantry and grab a pack of fruit snacks and then continue on to the kitchen counter pressing the Keurig power button. I lean against the counter as I wait for the water to warm and shove the fruit snacks into my mouth. I do not feel flawless, youthful or free. I feel very much flawed, tired and constrained.

***

Sometimes when my husband and I are driving anywhere close to the airport, I like to fantasize about going on a trip somewhere. In this fantasy, someone, a family member or friend, tell us that they will watch our kids for us starting right now for an extended number of days. But the kicker is we have to leave and go to the airport right then and there without packing or anything. So, naturally, with this offer of guilt-free childcare for several days with no strings attached, we head to the airport with nothing but the clothes we are wearing and our purse and wallet of course.

We can buy everything we need on the trip. We pick a tropical, warm destination like Hawaii or even So Cal will due. All I will need there is sunscreen, a swimsuit and a few sundresses. Easy. I’ll also be able to get a wax at the spa in the resort we stay at. I’ll even throw in a massage. We’ll be able to get our necessary toiletry items there as well.

At the airport, as we await our flight, I’ll pick up book and a few trashy magazines. Hours on a flight, with no one else to take care of, nothing else to do, I can just nap and read or chat with my husband.

This fantasy is so silly, but I find myself thinking about it from time to time (in detail- as you can clearly see). I know why. I miss the spontaneity that life before kids held. I miss the freedom. I miss me time or special time with my husband. There are obviously many things in the way of making this trip a reality. But this daydream drifts into my mind often.

***

I am beyond blessed with what’s been provided in my life.  But sometimes, even with the best of circumstances and best of what life has to offer, I find myself wanting more or wanting different. Whenever this happens for me, I seriously need to get myself in check. This can be a slippery slope that leads me to believe that what I have is not enough or not fulfilling. The lies and deceit start to scroll through my mind like an Instagram feed.

Social media is not truthful. I have to remind myself of that. However seemingly perfect a photo or life may appear, it absolutely is not. The same way that I find I’m envious of another’s situation, I am sure people may be of mine.

If I find myself in a dangerous zone of fantasizing too much or feeling sorrowful over the fact that I can’t hang out carefree poolside all day, I have to get out of it. It can affect my attitude, my outlook, and therefore possibly impacting my marriage and my children. There are some steps I can take in order to curb this downward spiral of self-pity.

Scripture. If I find myself in this place, I have to look back to what God’s word says. I love my Write the Word journal. The first thing each entry has me do is write what I am grateful for. This automatically causes me to shift over to positivity and reflection on the blessings God has placed in my life. It often only takes a few minutes of scripture reading and personal reflection to put things back in perspective or at least get my thoughts moving back in the right direction.

Self-care. I sometimes find that if I haven’t taken some action or essential steps to care for myself, it impacts me greatly. I tend to get lazy at self-care as a mom. For example, I have been out of my face moisturizer for days and I just keep putting on sunscreen in the morning instead. My face feels greasy and parched at the same time. I need to set aside a few minutes and order my face moisturizer! It’s the small things.

Yesterday, about three quarters through the day I realized my underwear was on inside out and I just left it that way for the rest of the day. I didn’t even take the time to turn them right side out or even just change my underwear! These are not big things. Wearing clothes properly and nourishing my skin.

Today I am wearing something I feel cute and comfortable in. I have showered, shaved my legs, and curled my hair. I made yummy turkey lettuce wraps for myself at lunch instead of eating my kids’ leftovers. It feels good. Self-care is essential.

Friends. Getting together with my friends or a friend (not just checking their Instagram feed or Facebook status) in-person either with kids or without,  refreshes me like you wouldn’t believe. Most of my friends are mothers and therefore totally understand this stage of life. We get to laugh, cry, talk, drink wine, and bask in understanding and grace from one another. My friends encourage, sympathize and smile. They help keep me grounded and sain.

I could go on with the things that get me back on track. Time away with my husband, even for an hour or two. A special activity with my kids. Giving myself time to write and reflect. Unplug from social media, even for a day. There are many things that help. I just need to be aware of when I am slipping into this place of discontentment and get started on something positive.

Flawed, tired and constrained? Should not be so. If I am ever feeling flawed-I must seek Jesus. He looks at my flaws or my own perceived flaws and sees beauty. He sees opportunity for grace and growth. If I am ever feeling tired-I shouldn’t feel guilty to take time for myself. If I don’t feel rested, clean or put-together, how will that transfer over to quality time with my kids or husband? If I am ever feeling constrained, I need to think about the blessings these little lives bring to our family and others. My kids aren’t here on earth just for me, but are here for His greater calling and purpose. I have been tasked with teaching them, nurturing them, and loving them.

Flawless, youthful, and free? Maybe not, but flawed, tired, constrained? How about no. I’m still reflecting about what my three words are or what I want to strive for them to be. What are your three words?

Pink Rocking Horse

Getting the keys to our new house was so exciting…until I realized that it also meant packing and purging the house of anything we didn’t want to bring to the new place.  And so began the long and tedious task of cleaning out the kids’ rooms. I had decided it was time to get rid of one item in particular of my daughter’s- her pink rocking horse. She had received it for Christmas from her Aunt Leslie when she was one and now that she was four-and-a-half, she was quite big for it. My son who was one-and-a-half, had taken a liking to the horse as well. Yet when he rocked on it, he came darn near close to tipping over backwards, or forwards for that matter. He also had his fair share of toe smashes under the wooden rocker.  It had taken its share of beatings the past few years, as was constantly ridden and dragged around the house. Its mane had been brushed and pulled out, the saddle askew, and the reins pulled to capacity. However, it still rocked, neighed when you pressed the button on its ear, and had the softest pink fur. It was a good item to give away. I knew it wasn’t a toy I could just take away in the middle of the night and my daughter would never notice. She would definitely ask me about it the next day or so and be heartbroken that I just took it away. However, it was time. The pink horsey, “Peaches,”  seemed more like a hazard more than anything else and at this point and I didn’t really want it coming to the new house with us.

My husband and I gathered up the items for our first of many Goodwill runs and knew this was the perfect time to take the rocking horse. We figured we could go as a family. It had been endless rain for an entire weekend and this seemed like a good opportunity to take a car ride and get out of the house.  My husband knelt down as we were getting our shoes on to go, “Hadley, you’ve had your pink horse for a long time, huh?” he gently smiled at her.

“Yeah,” she replied with a hard nod.

“Well, you got him when you were really little and you’re not so little anymore. You’ve gotten kind of big for the horse, it isn’t safe for you to ride anymore and it is not safe for your brother John to ride on either.”

“Well, I can just pull him around. See, like this.” Hadley demonstrated how she pulls the horse around. She bit her bottom lip and tightly pulled the rein. The horse bumped and glided along the tile floor in our kitchen following her thumping feet.

“Yes, but it can hurt your toes and will get banged up if we keep pulling it like that. It’s time that we give the horse away to another little girl who will be able to ride it and enjoy it,” he explained resting his hand on the horse’s matted white mane.

Hadley sighed, “Okay.” She turned to the horse and knelt down. Looking into its eyes and stroking its mane she whispered these sweet words to Peaches, “You have to go away now, but don’t be scared. It’s going to be alright. You have to be brave. You will get to play with another girl.” She gave it kisses and hugged its head tight. My husband and I exchanged tear-filled glances at one another. Have we made a mistake? Maybe, we don’t need to get rid of it just yet.

We buckled the kids into their car seats and  loaded the boxes, bags and rocking horse into the back of the car. “We don’t have to give it away,” my husband whispered to me.

“No, we need to,” I reassured him..and myself. “It’s time.”

Sorrowful sighs were heard from the backseat on our way to Goodwill. “Everything okay Hadley?” We would ask glancing back.

“Yeah… I’m just sad I’m going to miss my horse,”  she explained. “But I’m happy another girl will get to use it.”

“We are definitely stopping for frozen yogurt after this” I thought. “She is being so sweet about the whole thing and it might help alleviate some of the guilt I feel. “

We backed up to the Goodwill drop-off and my husband jumped out to help unload. Hadley suddenly pleaded, “Can you unbuckle me so I can see?”

“Of course,” I said reaching back and unsnapping her buckles. She quickly turned around in her carseat, popped up on her knees and peered over the backseat. The Goodwill employee and my husband unloaded a couple bags and boxes and placed them in a large rolling bin, and finally the pink rocking horse was laid on top.

“Goodbye Peaches,” Hadley waved.

I was surprised at the emotion I felt. Tears stung my eyes as Hadley turned around and I buckled her back in. It was as if we were letting a little piece of her childhood go. My mind flashed back to a scene from the movie Inside Out, where Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong sacrifices himself down in the depths with all those faded memories so that Joy can get out on the flying wagon. He waves to Joy smiling as he slowly fades and disappears to be forever forgotten. I balled my eyes out during that movie by the way-particularly that scene.

We’ve been at our new home for almost two months now and she hasn’t mentioned Peaches, the pink rocking horse, once. As her mom I find that the grief I feel as old memories fade from her mind, is replaced with the sweetness of new memories. It makes this time of my kids’ young childhood all the more precious. There are certain things I am surprised that my daughter has already forgotten, as I will never forget. I will never forget that pink rocking horse and the joy her face held when she rode it for the first time or the way she held it’s fuzzy face and whispered her goodbyes for the last time. I hold these moments close to my heart and know that the fact that they are fleeting is what makes them so precious.

Braid My Hair

“Do you still remember how to French braid my hair?” I asked my mom as I collapsed at the kitchen table. It was our third day in our new house. My mom had come over to help watch the kids while I cleaned and unpacked more boxes and my husband made multiple trips with truckloads of our belongings.  My feet ached, my head hurt, and exhaustion was heavy on my shoulders. Whoever voluntarily moves with two kids under 5 is an insane person. We are insane people.

The move was good for us, good for our family. We were now in a neighborhood with lots of other little kids, a grassy field and community play area, basketball court, flat streets and sidewalks for the kids to walk and ride bikes. It was springtime, summer was approaching quickly, and we were excited about the fun times our family, our kids, would experience here. Not to mention bonuses like an indoor laundry room. No more shuffling out to the garage, in all types of weather, to do laundry. The new house had a kitchen that was square and off to the side. No more galley kitchen with a walkway the size of an airplane aisle right in the middle of the house, with kids running back and forth as we tried to cook dinner. Still close to work and close to family. “Yes, this was definitely worth it,” I repeated to myself as my husband dragged in yet another box labeled kitchen. For being a small galley kitchen, we sure did manage to fit a lot in it.

I had finally showered. I was clean, but I was out of energy to do my hair. I thought, throwing it back in a cute French braid would sure be nice, but I am very challenged when it comes to styling my own hair and the energy that would take to even attempt it, I just didn’t have. So I asked my mom if she remembered how. “I think I do, “ my mom softly chuckled as she picked up strands of my hair sliding them through her fingertips. My kids were playing in the living room and starting to get restless. They hadn’t been outside all day. I still somehow thought my mom might be able to braid my hair as the kids played. Looking back now I realized this was delusional, exhausted thinking but at that moment, I so just wanted my hair braided.

When I was a little girl, we saw a teenager at church French braid her own hair during the sermon. We sat a few rows back from her in the congregation and I remember staring at her in awe as the pastor delivered his message.  She steadily weaved her hair back and forth together in a single beautiful braid without even looking at it in a mirror! I whispered to my mom, ”Do you think you could do that to my hair?”

She leaned into me and whispered back, “I can try.”

She sure did try. This was before Pinterest how-to’s and step-by-step YouTube videos. She basically self-taught herself how to French braid. For years, she braided my hair. One French braid down the center or two French braids on the sides. I loved when she braided my hair. I can think of no better childhood comfort that my mom braiding my hair. Such love poured into each weave and gather of hair. I realized there at my kitchen table that I longed for this feeling. To be cared for, like a child. I was tired of being the mom, I wanted to be the child again, just for a few minutes.

My mom started gathering the top strands of my hair when suddenly my daughter yelled out, “Owww!,” as she collapsed on the ground and let out a screaming cry .

“What happened?” I asked, rather annoyed.

“I stepped on a Lego!” she sobbed. Tears streamed down her reddened cheeks. My mom, or “Nana,” as my kids so lovingly call her, dropped the strands of my hair and rushed over to her. I honestly don’t even remember moving at first. I stayed in that kitchen chair. I was so tired and I really just wanted my hair braided.

Come on. I thought. Of course you get hurt now.

I know the sacrifice that motherhood requires- the sacrifice of your old body, the sacrifice of your time, the sacrifice of your needs, the sacrifice of the ability to sit through a whole meal uninterrupted, but at that moment as my mom held and comforted my daughter, I realized the days of having my own hair braided were probably over (unless I learned how to do it myself, HA!). I also realized that my mom, now a Nana, was still making sacrifices for her children. She was here helping me, helping my kids, on her day off. It was then that I realized, the sacrifices of motherhood continue on no matter the age of your kids. There is some sort of shift in the universe when one becomes a mother. The permanent shift into service and self-sacrifice. This, of course comes naturally without even realizing it for many parts of being a mother, but for some parts, it’s still rather difficult. If I am being honest, I struggle. I still get upset that I can’t do what I want, when I want to.

I never did get my hair braided that day. I knew the kids needed to get outside and play. As I threw my damp wad of hair in a messy bun (sounds cuter than it looked, trust me), I belted out to my kids, “Who wants to go for a walk?!”

“YEEEAAHH!” They yelled, cheered and clapped. We hurriedly put on shoes, socks and shuffled out the the door. My mom went home after a long day of helping out and I was and will be forever grateful to her. I accepted the fact that I had to make the sacrifice of my own wants in order to meet my kids’ needs. And I was okay with it. This was not first time, nor will it be the last time I put my desires aside for my children. The feeling I had at the kitchen table, that longing to be cared for by my mother, is the same feeling my kids have, longing to be cared for by me. The way my mom sacrificed her time and energy when my brother and I were kids, weaved hundreds of French braids for years, and still helps me today with my own family,  is the way I am realizing I also must serve as a mother.

I don’t get my hair braided by my mother anymore, despite my nostalgic desire for it. But she still cares for me in ways that matter more now as an adult. She is forever serving and self-sacrificing as we both age. I am forever going to love, serve and sacrifice for my own children because that’s what mothers do. I am not just a daughter, I am a mother. I’ll have to learn to braid my own hair.