Creativity and Harry Potter

These last couple weeks, I have been in a whole other world. The wizarding world of Harry Potter! We celebrated Hadley’s ninth birthday this past week and she wanted a Harry Potter themed birthday. Given that I’m a huge fan myself, I offered zero objections.

We have been working our way through the book series together. Currently we are on book six. Things are getting serious. Not only has Harry Potter helped grow Hadley’s love for reading, it has created a fictional world of magic for her to creatively immerse herself in. A creative world I also entered this week. 

We all have the need to be creative. Our souls crave creativity especially during a time when things seem uncertain or boring, scary, or mundane. We might feel like we have nothing we can do, but we can always create.

Things might seem meaningless at times, but Brene Brown said it best, “as long as we are creating, we are cultivating meaning.”  Creativity in our day to day life gives us meaning. 

I took a leave of absence from work this year. The number one reason being I wanted to be more present for my kids. Both of them are now in the elementary school realm. I wanted to be involved in their classrooms, enjoy all the school events, and be there for them when they get home from school. 

While I am completely enjoying this time as a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) and I can’t even begin to express how thankful I feel for being able to be present for all the fun school things, I have found that during these past several weeks sometimes I have felt a bit like a wanderer. Sort of adrift with all the potential there, but difficult pinpointing what exactly to do. I’m okay with it, but I feel the need to make meaning and be creative.

So this past week. I created. With the help of some amazing neighbors who loaned me some Harry Potter decorations and party ideas, I hit the ground running. I was all in. I was DEEP in HP land with all its glory.

One of my favorite activities was creating wand descriptions for each friend attending Hadley’s party. Using the Wizarding World of Harry Potter website and the talented insights of Ollivander himself (aka the great J.K. Rowling). I wrote each wand wood type, length, and core along with a description for the perfect witch or wizard pairing. Of course, like many great ideas, this spawned from someone else’s. The wand descriptions however, was my chance to write creatively.

Another item I wrote was four riddles for prizes given during the festivities. Four golden eggs were scattered around the house. The way to win a prize was to simply notice one and ask why it was there. Each egg held a clue inside about the prize. The prizes included a pair of socks, a golden snitch, “Liquid Luck,” and the infamous Marauder’s Map.

The party was a huge success! One friend’s mom texted me the next morning to tell me that her fifth-grade daughter said this was the first “legit,” birthday party (Harry Potter themed?) that she had been to. Coming from a fifth grader, I don’t think there is a higher compliment. 

As a little Halloween treat for you all, I’ve included the PDF of the Ollivander Wand Descriptions and Golden Egg Riddles. If you’re not a huge HP fan, it might not mean a lot, but if you are I know you’ll fully enjoy reading them. For the rest of you Muggles, I will leave you with a quote from Brene Brown on creating. It’s one of my favorites. 

“If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.”

When Failure is Not an Option

You know the story.

A family gets their first dog. Initially, having the dog is tough and a lot harder than anyone thought, but then the family goes through some kind of hardship and the dog is there to help them through. 

The family has moments of joy with the puppy. There is music playing in the background with all kinds of cheerful and funny scenes; from giving the puppy a bath to it sneaking a lick off the kid’s ice cream cone. 

There are “cute,” little scenes where the puppy causes mischief. It pees where it shouldn’t, digs up the yard, and tears up the furniture in the house. So funny and adorable, right?!? (Cue exaggerated eye roll). 

There’s that moment where the dad in the family almost gives up the dog and drives it angrily to the pound, but the kids and wife convince him not to. 

You know the story. The family keeps the dog. They live happily ever after. 

This is not that story. 

Before she was Summer, our puppy was identified in her litter as “Miss Orange.” I thought it so fitting that we bring home a puppy with an orange collar to a house with an orange door. It’s like she was meant for us. 

I could go over the details of what happened and someday I will. I could write a book about this summer with Summer and it would certainly be entertaining. But to make a long story short for now and to get to the point, let’s just say that Jordan and I came to the decision that having a dog (specifically a puppy) was not the right fit for our family at this time. 

Hadley is the dog lover in the family. She’s the one that wants to be a vet, dog walker, dog trainer etc. She really is the one Jordan and I got Summer for. We thought that would be enough of a reason to trudge on when things got really difficult. Turns out, it wasn’t enough.  Turns out that while Hadley did have a puppy, she also had a mom who felt stressed, angry, tired, and was suffering from emotional breakdowns. She had a dad who didn’t look forward to coming home from a long day at work and having to take care of the dog. 

There was immense relief when we made the decision to take Summer back to the breeder to find her a new home.  Both Jordan and I felt a weight lift off us. We all shed tears, an outrageous amount of tears for a puppy that caused so much chaos in our lives. Even John, who insisted the whole time we had Summer that he didn’t like her, cried much more than we anticipated after she was gone. Jordan and I are confident we made the right decision and did what was best for our family, but there is that small part of me that still hears a whisper saying, “You failed. You couldn’t do it for your daughter. You failed her.”

This is not the first time failure loomed its ugly head into my life as a mom.

>>>

I don’t remember breastfeeding Hadley for the first time. I don’t remember the last time either, but I remember some of the times in between.

One time in particular, around nine months of age, as Hadley was getting to know her newly sprouted teeth and human bite force, she bit me. Hard. 

I screamed in panic and pain. Hadley’s jaw immediately unclenched, letting my nipple free from her toothy grasp. She recoiled in horror and curved her lips down into a deep frown. With a wrinkled chin and her eyebrows scrunched, she let out a wail of regret. 

I tried again to breastfeed after the crying had stopped. I sat back down with Hadley and tried to get her back in position. She turned her head away so fiercely and with such utter disgust, I thought she’d never look at me the same again. She refused me. 

I couldn’t even get her near my breast without her starting to whimper and pull away with Hulk-like strength. I thought we might be done breastfeeding at that point. 

“Okay, well we got nine solid months in.” I said to myself. “Nine months with no biting and no tears.” Then, I did get bit, screamed horrifically, and traumatized my daughter beyond repair. “Maybe we call it. Maybe that’s it for breastfeeding.” 

I looked down at Hadley who had cried herself to sleep, exhausted and laying against me with her chin tucked down and eyelids closed. I noticed her wispy brown hair had started to fill in on more parts of her head. Another thing about her that was changing. The change was constant. 

“No.” I said firmly. “I’m not done. We are not done breastfeeding.” I nodded at her as if this would convince her, and myself.  

I called the lactation nurse and I’m glad I did because she said, “Just keep trying. Don’t give up. She’ll come back around.” 

I was pretty sure I had traumatized Hadley to the point of no return, but she did eventually come back to nursing. It took 24-48 hours, I don’t recall completely. But I kept trying. I didn’t give up on her or myself.  I did it. We got back in sync. I am so grateful we did because I was able to breastfeed Hadley for the first two years of her life and those were very precious moments to me. 

If I hadn’t continued to try to breastfeed, would that have been failure? 

No. It wouldn’t have been a failure. However,  breastfeeding Hadley was important enough to me that I refused to quit. I wanted it to end on my terms and I wasn’t ready for it to end.  Granted, it was only a couple days before Hadley was back to breastfeeding, but a trial can be any length of time, it doesn’t have to be weeks on end in order for it to have significance. 

>>>

Summer bit me too. I had bites and scratches all up my arms and mainly my left hand. But Summer is not my daughter. There was no connection, no innate desire to continue to provide or care for her like the desire I have for my children. I knew this puppy phase would not last forever, and yet, I didn’t feel the strong pull to keep working at it or push through like I did with breastfeeding. 

Summer did bring us some small amounts of joy. For example: her excitement in the morning when she’d see us, taking her for walks, petting her, and feeling her soft ears. The way she would follow the “sit,” command and look up at you with those adorable puppy eyes. Although Jordan still  insists she had “dead eyes.” 

You could get a puppy hug anytime you wanted with Summer around, until she started biting you which was about three seconds into the hug. She also was super cute. However, there comes a time when the puppy being cute, is simply not enough. 

We could have done it. We could have kept Summer knowing the hardest parts might end eventually. I could have lived as a stressed, exhausted, short-tempered mother, but I chose not to. I chose to live my life with more purpose than just “getting through a tough phase”. 

This whole ordeal got me thinking about the hard decisions we have to make as parents. Initially, I felt that in giving Summer back to the breeder, I was giving up on Hadley. That I had somehow failed her. But the more I’ve had time to process, the more I realize that is not so. In finding Summer a new home, I chose to not give up on Hadley. I chose her. Just like when I made the choice to keep trying to breastfeed. I chose to be the mom I want to be. It wasn’t a failure. It was a learning experience to be sure, that I know one thing from and that is:

 I will always choose my daughter.

I will always choose my family. Over anything. Sometimes this means to not give up and keep trying, like in the breastfeeding strike of 2014. Sometimes this means knowing when to quit, when to make the change, when to do the hard thing. 

I still get sad when I see a puppy. I look at Hadley and wonder what she’s feeling and if she feels sad too. When I see an adult golden retriever, I often think, “ I wonder if that’s what Summer will look like?”

I see other moms doing it. They have the dog, the kids, everything. It’s as if they are on a whole other level, which I can only dream of ever attaining. I still feel a sense of failure lurking near me, like that spider who sits in that super hard spot on the wall making it almost impossible to kill. But I kill it. I squash that thought as best I can. Even if I have to slam the shoe ten times, just to make sure I got it. 

As a mom, failure is a constant threat. This is something I am working on. Because, turns out, I fail all the time. Thank the Lord for his grace and mercy because I can’t be the perfect mom, even in this season of being a SAHM (stay-at-home mom). There is a reason my blog reads, “motherhood requires grace,” because it does. 

You know the story. 

The family gives up the dog and finds it a new home. The family lives happily together without the dog but instead with one another, knowing they picked sanity over the stressful, chaos that would maybe, one day subside (but maybe not). They chose not to wait for that day, they chose their story, now. 

You know the story, or maybe you don’t. But either way, it’s ours.

Room on the Edge

At eight years old, Hadley still loves to cuddle at night. Although her bed is piled high with stuffed animals, she has an affection and story for each one of them. She remembers the details of how they were acquired, their special traits, and their place among her stuffed animal kingdom.

“White Fang is my favorite. She’s a husky. Grandma got her for me when we were in Leavenworth. This is Jadoor, an owl from Santa. He gave her to me because I helped him with a very important job. Jadoor is Hedwig’s little sister.”

Even though she loves her stuffed animals dearly, she’ll shove them aside on her bed as a soft barrier between her and the wall to make more room for me during story and cuddle time. Larry the lion, a huge stuffed lion we inherited from grandma, also rules her queen-sized bed in which he regally sprawls out, acting as yet another buffer between the wall and Hadley. She’s got about four regular pillows, a giant Squishy Mellow, and stuffed Pikachu type pillow. She’s got a spot for those too. With all this on her bed, she still manages to make room for me. As I lay next to her on the edge of her bed she starts to share with me details of her day that were earlier forgotten, but now have seemed to crop up just in time for bedtime.

I notice how her two adult front teeth no longer look too big for her mouth as she grins thinking about her day. Her cheeks and nose are spotted with light freckles. As she begins talking I noticed her lips are pink and slightly chapped giving them a nice rosy color. Her green eyes twinkle while she describes a game they played in her classroom at school. As I brush a stray piece of her brown hair back over her head, she quickly moves her hair back where it was with a slight pause in her story that you’d really have to be paying attention to notice, then she continues on with the details of her day and tells me about recess. 

“First recess I played with Jocelyn. Second recess I was with Rose. Then, at the third recess it was Kendall and Verah.”

I can almost see her planning her play schedule at school with her friends each morning, trying to coordinate quality time throughout the day so each of them gets a chance to spend time with her and feel included.  She wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out. An organized Hadley friend rotation if you will, so everyone gets their time with her. She comes home with notes from her friends that spill praises of kindness and “bff” status. I get the feeling that Hadley is well-liked and other kids want to be around her. Not that this surprises me, she’s got a kind heart and a special way to make you feel included. For example, moving aside her prized stuffies on her bed to make room for you. 

This past fall was the first official soccer season for our family. We managed to get Hadley on a team with two of her friends. Once her new jersey arrived and it donned the number ten, we had high hopes for our girl. My husband tells me typically number ten is the best player on a soccer team. We’ve had our share of soccer practice in the yard with Hadley and her younger brother John, including but not limited to, passing, scoring goals and keep away. 

Hadley is sure-footed and coordinated as she kicks the ball precisely toward me. This must be a trait from my husband, who played soccer growing up. As for myself, coming from zero soccer experience and a real fear of the ball hitting my face, I tended to avoid this sport. But I’d pass the ball with Hadley anyday knowing she can keep it away from my face, for the most part. She gives the ball a swift kick with her left foot (one thing I do share with her is my left-footed favoritism) a smile sprouted on her face as soon as her foot made contact with the ball and shot toward me. A small giggle escapes from her mouth as I try my best to stop it. 

Passing the ball as a family of four was one thing, but going out onto the soccer field with a whole team of 2nd and 3rd grade girls was quite another. I don’t think Hadley expected a throng of girls to follow the ball wherever it went during the game. When the ball came to her, so did several people running behind it, she’d give it a quiet, quick tap away when I knew she had much more in her. She’d give a half-hearted run up and down the field after the ball along with the other girls, but she never made much contact with it.

“I just don’t like crowds.” she explained in the car taking a bite of her post-game granola bar. “I want to be a goalie. There are no crowds near the goalie.” 

Next game, Hadley went right up to her coach and asked to be goalie. Suddenly, she was pinny adorned and gloved at the goal. She was alone, nowhere near a crowd. She seemed to love it. She asked to play goalie many games following. 

If it were me, I’d crack under the sheer pressure of the ball coming my way, but not Hadley. These girls are still learning defense and positions. As mentioned before, they just run back and forth after the ball. It seemed that rarely Hadley would have help as goalie from a defender or other team mate. They almost always weren’t near enough or ready. So Hadley had many times where it was completely up to her to stop the other team from scoring a goal. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t. 

She also enjoyed playing defender, although she didn’t give as much power in her kicks to clear the ball away as one might hope to see. She enjoyed not being in the midst of the chaos or the middle of the pack, she preferred to linger back to help the goalie. 

I wonder if this is why she divides up her time with friends? Maybe all of them at once seem too much like “I don’t like crowds.”  Yet, they all want to be with her. She craves meaningful connection, conversation, laughter and jokes. Sometimes that’s hard to share among a big group, but much easier one-on-one or with a couple of friends. 

She doesn’t mind being on the perimeter or staying back. I don’t mind her being there either, because I know she won’t be alone for long. As far as her soccer skills and confidence,  these are things that will only get better and build with time. She’s up for playing again next year as long as she’s on a team with some friends again. She has settled on defender as her favorite position. 

“I help out the goalie because I know what it feels like to be the goalie and not get help. I’m good at helping.” 


I sneak back into her bedroom to turn off her lamp. Now asleep, she clutches three different kinds of owl stuffies and her blankets. I look closely at her closed eyelids, long lashes hover over the tops of her cheeks. For a second I see a glimpse of her face as a baby before it morphs back into one of a young girl’s. 

“I don’t like crowds.” 

I’m afraid, sweet girl, that you might have a crowd following you wherever you go. It’s a good thing you can schedule, coordinate, and make each person feel included, because as much as you might want to be a goalie alone or watch from the sides, I’m not sure that’s what God has in mind for you. I’m not sure that’s where you’ll shine. It might be. But it just might be that you were meant to be right in the middle of it all, able to make room on the edge for a friend and recall the details about what makes them special.

2022: The Year of No TV?

I settled on the couch with my favorite blanket and fresh cup of tea, exhaling a sigh of relief knowing the kids were in bed (for the moment at least). After searching for a good minute, I found the remote in it’s failed attempt to hide behind the back cushion. I clicked on the TV and stretched my legs, resting my feet up on the ottoman. 

“Where do I start?” I thought to myself. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, regular TV (Ha! Yeah right). There were so many choices, almost too many. I settled upon Netflix. Scroll down, down, down. Scroll across, across, across. Seen it, nope, seen it, nope, kid show, kid show, nope, seen it…and on it went. 

“What if we watch no TV in 2022?”

“Huh?!” I stopped my incessant scrolling, and looked bewildered at my husband who was laying with his back up against the corner of our L-shaped couch. “No TV?” I restated bleakly. “You mean like limit the number of days a week or maybe only watch it when something really good is on?”

“No. No TV, period. For the whole year.”

As my mind processed the meaning of this, I quickly jumped to putting a stop to the madness by any means necessary. “What about movies? Sports? Seahawks? Sounders? You know you love the Sounders!” I took a sip of my tea triumphantly. I knew I had him there.

“I’ll listen to them on the radio.” He continued on, “think about how much time we waste every single night. We hardly ever find anything good. I feel dumber just sitting here.” He gestured his hands out and gave a shrug, his shoulders slouching as a representation of how he felt. 

“I’ll think about it.” I responded casually, lifting my blanket higher to cover my shoulders and reconvened the mindless scrolling for something to watch. 

My husband and I love New Year’s goals. We sit down at the end of each year and write a list of goals and what we want to accomplish for the next. “Read 10 books, run 400 miles, eat leftovers instead of throwing them out…” to name a few. Most of them don’t happen or fully come to fruition. But some do. Sometimes they alter throughout the year as our perspective or situation changes. We have a lot of conversations about these goals and why we want to do them. 

Admittedly at first, I was not fully on board with this no TV in 2022 proposal,  but I was very intrigued by the suggestion. I liked the idea of us having a goal together. 

The more I’ve thought about this, no TV goal, the more exhilarated I’ve become. This is a goal in itself that will lead to more likely success of other goals.

I guess it really just comes down to the fact that at the end of the day, most of the time, both Jordan and I feel we have so much more to give. At thirty-seven years old, we don’t feel like calling it in, sitting like a stump in front of the television every night. Most of the time, we can’t find anything to watch anyway, and we end up watching reruns of our favorite shows. 

It used to be that we were so exhausted by the end of the day, it was all we could do to just sit there. It was a different time, the kids were younger, work was harder. But now, honestly most nights I feel I could do more. My mind is still going and my body still has a little steam, but it sometimes feels wasted on the couch. I try to multitask in front of the TV but then I just suck at both things and am not really present in either one.

 If there are nights when we are super exhausted and I know there is and will be, then it’s probably a good night to just go to bed instead of checking out in front of the TV anyway.  

Something you might be wondering, will our kids also have no TV in 2022? The answer is, no. We will not make them participate in this goal with us. We try to limit their TV anyway and we don’t feel it’s right to make them do a goal with us when it’s us who really want to change. This seems like one of those times where leading by example might be more effective than making them give up something because we said so. We will still enjoy our family movie night on Fridays together too! 

Every night though, our kids see us watching TV and I think they’ve grown up thinking that this is what adults do. I really want them to see that this doesn’t have to be the case. There are better ways to spend time in the evenings. If they see us reading, writing, working in the yard (as the summer months lend us more evening light) taking a walk, doing a puzzle, etc., they will realize there is more to life than watching TV each night. I hope they see as human beings, we were created for more. We are meant for more. 

It’s not about what we need to add to our plates this year. It’s about cutting out what is not important. Cutting out what is holding us back from becoming the best version of ourselves. One of my favorite quotes from this past year has been by James Clear, “In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing less things wrong. Don’t look for things to add. Look for things to eliminate.”

I’m so proud of my husband. He has gone a full year without a single drink of alcohol. He did not slip once in 2021.  He did not do it because he had a problem with alcohol, but he did it for many reasons. He wanted to be healthier, more present, more aware, and more engaged. He eliminated something that was a hindrance in his ability to improve and be the best version of himself. 

We are eliminating TV in 2022. We are taking advantage of the time we’ve been given and using it to create something beautiful and find better versions of ourselves. 

I’ll still have my softest blanket and cup of tea with me at the end of the night, but instead of searching for that remote, I’ll have spent my time reading something or learning something. I’ll have moved or done something, I’ll have created something. I’ll have discovered something else that was hiding behind the cushion begging to be found. 

Happy New Year!!!~May you find what lights you up and eliminate what tries to snuff you out.~ 

When Pinecones are Life

Dear John,

You turned five this past week. You are super pumped to be able to hold up one hand when asked how old you are. We measured your height today and you’ve had a little growth spurt the past six months. Your body is starting to catch up with your head… a little. 

A couple of weeks ago we went hiking in the Shelton View Forest with your buddy Luke and his mom Nicole. Nicole is my longest known and dearest friend. I’ve told you and Hadley the story of how Nicole and I met in kindergarten at Shelton View Elementary. 

After our exploration around the woods, and everyone’s imminent tumble or slip as we made our way down the ravine trail, we decided to check out the playground at Shelton View Elementary right next to the forest. 

You played a little at one of the play areas on the school’s campus and then we decided to walk around and find another one. Along the way, you slipped me a pinecone you had found. In a secret whisper you said to me, “this one is special because it’s green.” I wrapped my fingers around it and held it in my hand as we made our way to the other play area. 

As you, Luke, and Hadley played on the second playground, Nicole and I sat on the bench talking about what we remember from kindergarten. Was this the same playground? Did we run around in the wooded area over there? Was that our classroom just situated in the front corner with the view of the playground?

Coincidentally, I was your age when I started kindergarten at this very school where you were now playing. Also an August baby, I had just turned five. Thirty-ish years ago, I ran around that same playground and I was the same age you were now.  Your dad and I have decided to wait another year for you to start kindergarten for a myriad of reasons, which I can explain another time. 

As I flipped the pinecone round and round in my hand, I thought about how I am watching you play at an age that I once was. An age that I can actually remember some things from. I turned the green pinecone over and over in my palm more quickly as if replicating the rapid succession in which the years seem to have flown by since that time. Then I placed it on the bench in an attempt to make time stand still as I watched you play, even if for just a minute

On our trek back toward our car I realized that I had forgotten the green pinecone back on the bench.  

“Shoot, I forgot his pinecone on the bench,” I whispered to Nicole. “Hopefully, he won’t remember.”

Seconds later you pipe up, “Mom, where’s the green pinecone I gave you?” 

“I’m so sorry buddy. I left it on the bench. Let’s find you another one here.” Dozens of pinecones lay at our feet as we passed under a huge pine tree. 

“No!!!!! That one was special for you. It was green!!” you protested.  There were plenty of pinecones to go around under the tree where we stood. Lots of different shapes and sizes. But all brown. None of them are green like the one you had found before. 

Hadley, being the best big sister there is, immediately starts searching for the best pinecone. She found a huge one for you! You smiled and laughed at the size. All is forgiven regarding the green pinecone once the big one was in your hands. One problem though, Luke liked the giant pinecone too. Unfortunately, that is the only big one we see. 

Suddenly, tears ensue as he wants the big pinecone. Hadley fiercely reiterates the fact that she found it for you. You end up getting to keep your huge pinecone, but Luke is crushed. Meanwhile, the green pinecone sits lonely on the bench and I feel terrible for the pinecone grief I’ve created. 

I put the huge pinecone in the back of the car, since it likely has bugs hidden inside. Our goodbye is short and quick as we were never able to find a huge pinecone for Luke. He is still crying and pining away for a huge pinecone as Nicole tries to convince him that the pinecones belong in the forest. Later, we found out it took Luke quite a while to forget about the pinecone. 

Hours later, back at home I realize that the huge pinecone is still in the back of the car far from it’s forest home, forgotten by all except me (and maybe still Luke). I go out to retrieve it with visions of bugs escaping and lodging between the seats of our car or throwing themselves a beach party in the bits of sand left behind from our previous beach adventures. I get it and leave it on our porch. 

Weeks later and brittled by the sun, it is still there, untouched. Yet somehow, in that moment at the school playground, that pinecone was absolutely everything. I wonder if the green pinecone is still on the bench?

We’ve enjoyed our family bike rides this summer. You zip around pedaling on your two-wheeled bike like it’s not a big deal. You’ve acquired killer scrapes and scabs to prove you can handle anything the bike path throws your way. You are so tough and fast. You are amazing on your bike and you love it. We are getting you a new bike for your birthday as you already seem to be outgrowing this one. 

One night, only a few days after our Shelton View Forest pinecone ordeal, we were speeding along the sidewalk, our family of four with eight wheels, when suddenly you spot a pinecone on the sidewalk. Instantly, your love of pinecones was revived. Almost just as quickly as it was spotted, I heard and felt the crushing wood scales of the pinecone under my front tire. “Oh no!” I realized before it was too late. Just like that, your pinecone dreams were crushed and left there on the sidewalk. 

“Noooooo!” you screamed to a halt on your bike. “That was my pinecone! You ran over it!” as you flung your head and upper body over the front of your bike in complete despair like a sack of flour. 

Unlike the playground, there weren’t tons of pine cones around. We were on a sidewalk near a busy road.  Suddenly, one is spotted across the street. Your dad, makes note that the street is currently clear of cars and quickly pedals over to retrieve the loner pinecone. “Oh great,”  I think. “Getting hit by a car is totally worth this and again… it’s all my fault.” Instead of leaving behind the precious pinecone, this time like all your hopes and dreams, I had crushed it.

The new pinecone was retrieved and brought over to you. Immediately you are relieved and composed enough to be able to ride again. Of course, you don’t have a free hand, pocket or bike basket to put the precious pinecone in so your dad hands it to me. Again, I am left with a pinecone. In my pocket it goes. 

I can’t even tell you what happened to that pinecone. I think it made it home but it was totally forgotten about the minute your helmet was off your still-larger-than-average head. But it doesn’t matter. In those moments, as an almost five-year-old, those pinecones are life. 

John, you are a like a green pinecone. Special and uniquely made beyond comparison. There may be others that come along: big ones, cute little ones, ones filled with bugs, but none quite like you. I left the green pinecone there on the bench on the playground where my world as a five-year-old expanded and bloomed as I know yours will too. I pray you realize your importance and place in this world. I know things will get tougher than a lost or crushed pinecone. I will be here for you.

A few days ago, we came across some mini pinecones on our vacation. You picked up four and gifted one to each of us. It is then that I realized, I don’t need to keep the pinecones. There are endless amounts of them. They are like moments with you, sweet and gifted to me from the Father above. They pass quickly by and yet, there are so many more to come. So many more to find and treasure. Happy Birthday, John!

When Things Get Hard

“It looks great!”  I tried to reassure you. “Your, “a,” is touching the belt line and the foot line and it’s a complete circle! I’m going to draw a star next to this one because it’s my favorite.”

I swear I saw your eyes roll as I drew a star next to a little “a” in your handwriting book.  

“I don’t like it. I’m done with this stinky book!” you snapped. 

I sighed. So much for my “summer school” attempt. 

My sweet Hadley, I have had many conversations with you about what to do when things get hard. I always tell you, “when things get hard, that’s when our brain grows and that’s when we learn. If we aren’t ever challenged, we won’t ever learn. Things would just be easy and boring.”

I tried to explain to you that day that your ability to persevere is the important thing, even more so than a perfect, “a.” I’m not sure you wanted to hear it at the time or any of the other times we’ve talked about, “trying your best,” but my hope is that it will eventually stick. 

>>>

“I want Mama to do it,”  your two-and-half-year old brother irrecoverably yelled. His face was flushed and his red curls matted. A tired tear fell down one chubby cheek while both his hands clutched the hem of my shirt. 

“Okay. I’ll brush your teeth buddy, but you have to listen and do exactly as I say or Daddy will do it.” I wiped the tear off his cheek with my thumb. 

Brushing you and your brother’s teeth has always been one of my least favorite things to do, I fully admit to this. It has been a task your daddy sort of unknowingly assigned to himself, along with filing your fingernails, and washing your hair. He has a sort of tenderness and care for these necessary jobs that I just don’t seem to possess. 

Yet lately, John has only wanted me to brush his teeth. Why?!?!?  I brush too vigorously, I’m impatient, and I’m not as thorough. Yet, “I want Mama to do it!” has been a nightly chorus line chimed repeatedly at bedtime for the past several weeks. 

Brushing your teeth is hard! I don’t like it. But I do it (at least I do it when your dad can’t or he argues it’s my night to do so), otherwise you might end up with “green pirate teeth.” 

>>>

“I don’t ever want to be a mom!” you declared.

Your cheeks were pink and stained with tears as you lay on your bed, clutching your blankets, curled up in a fetal position. 

“It’s not fun!” you continued. “You never have any fun.” The sobbing persisted and I sat there on the edge of your bed. 

“Of course it’s fun!” I reassured you. “But being a mom can also can be hard. Sometimes that doesn’t look like fun, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.” 

I wanted to tell you so many things that night, but sleep was definitely high on the priority list for you. You are also starting kindergarten next week and I have some additional thoughts on that I’d like to share.

Being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever done. It doesn’t stop being hard, I am beginning to gather. But I think the rewards and benefits of parenting begin to reveal themselves little by little. It’s as if life doesn’t want to give you too much sweetness at one time, so it rations it for you, making it last, helping you avoid a stomach ache. 

I must confess something to you. I don’t like when things are hard. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a “go getter.” I like to be comfortable. But motherhood is the singular thing that continues to be hard and it is the one thing I feel I have shown the most grit and perseverance for in my entire life.

I continue to get up each and every day and be a mother. Some days are hard, but it is a commitment I made and I am never giving up. I can never give up. This seems to me to be the very definition of having grit, perseverance, or “to keep going when the going gets tough.” So you see Hadley, if someone like me, can do one of the hardest tasks I’ve blessed with undertaking. I know, you can do hard things as well. 

Being a mom might not seem like its fun to you. That’s because I’m putting in a lot of hard work right now developing your character and helping build your sense of “what’s right,” in the world. I lay boundaries. I say no. I am not here so you can just have fun. I am here to raise you. I am here to help shape and mold who you are, this doesn’t always come out as fun, but believe me, it is rewarding. Being a mom is not easy, but it can be fun, despite what it may look like.

You are about to start kindergarten next week and so you’ll embark upon a long journey in school and education. I wanted to share some additional thoughts with you that I hope you’ll someday find helpful. 

It’s going to get hard. There are going to be some things you don’t know. There will be some people who aren’t entirely kind. 

You have some extraordinary gifts. You’re an encourager, you are empathetic. You tell your friends, “believe in yourself.”  You must tell yourself this as well. 

When your brother recently fell out of bed one night, you were quick to comfort and remind him, “It’s okay John. One time I rolled out of bed and my sheets came with me!” You chuckled and turned to your side, falling quickly asleep. 

My hope for you as you start your kindergarten year and things get hard (and I hope they do) is to remember this: Be the best you. There is no one else like you, Hadley. You’re it. You are the only you. God made you with care, paying attention to every detail. You are wonderfully made. 

Persevere,  just keep trying. You might not have the hang of something yet, but you will. Dory had it so right when she kept saying, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

Be kind. Be patient. Continue to be the encouraging classmate who looks for someone who needs a friend. 

Most of all, try the hard thing. It might be saying “hi” to someone new, or taking the time to add details to your work. It might be to practice writing your lowercase letter “a.” But I promise you, the reward is worth the risk. Even if you fail. Because succeeding was never the reward in the first place, it was the effort put forth and that fact that you gave your all.

I hope you see when you are older, even though I wasn’t a big fan of brushing you and your brother’s teeth, that I did my best to raise you and I love you. I have grit when it comes to being your mom. I will keep coming back. I will wake up day after day, I will fight, I will not give up on you. Being a mom is my hard thing. You are the sweetest gift life has rationed to me.

Take the risk kid, write the lowercase “a.” Write it a million times, because soon it will become easy, it will become rote, and it will be shaped the way you’d always hoped it would be. 

 

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

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.