motherhood

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Today was a bad day.

We were all tired–the combination of incessant coughing, middle-of-the-night-toddler-wakings, and endless wintery blahs are getting the best of us, I guess.

Felicity napped for just 20 minutes.

After school, the big kids started arguing approximately 2.7 seconds after they entered the same airspace.

I yelled at them. Meredith cried. Mother of the Year, right here.

Daddy is working the late shift this week, and I’m feeling sorry for myself, so I drove through McDonald’s for dinner.

Felicity splashed water out of the tub and I lost my temper. When I got her out, she ran away from me, and not 10 seconds later, tinkled on the kitchen bench cushion. That’s not to mention the permanent marker toddler artwork discovered on my couch cushion.

I let them all play iPad tonight much longer than any pediatrician would recommend, just to give myself a few minutes of silence and solitude.

I ate a piece of stale leftover chocolate birthday cake for dinner.

The kids got toast, cheese, and water for a bedtime snack, like some sort of second-rate prison ration.

Nolan cried because I brushed his teeth with the wrong toothpaste, and Felicity pushed him off his stool.

It was not a good day.

But, when we finally came to an agreement on which books to read before bed, they snuggled in–and forgave it all. We talked about visiting Mount Rushmore this spring, looked up pictures of what it looks like and discussed Abraham Lincoln. Meredith recalled he was shot, and Nolan piped up, “Just like Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton.”

They make me smile, even on bad days.

They don’t hold my failures against me. Their capacity to forgive my shortcomings and forget my lousy moments is more than I’ve earned.

We parents spend our time stringing together a bunch of failures mixed in with some victories–and that’s OK. We’re human. We’re imperfect. We’re in constant need of grace.

These three little faces reminded me tonight that I can’t do it on my own. That despite the bad moments, the rotten days, the McDonald’s drive-thru dinners, mercy is there if we’ll only slow down, take a deep breath, and accept that which we do not deserve.

Today was a bad day.
Tomorrow will be better.

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The Fear of Letting Go

Fear of letting go

The baby didn’t sleep last night. Again. She’s really not a baby anymore, I suppose, at 16 months, cutting three molars (at once…delightful), learning to count, and running faster than her little legs can carry her towards anything resembling danger.

And yet, I still see her as my baby in so many ways. She’s quick to fall into my arms in moments of uncertainty, when the big, exciting world grows too big and exciting. She’ll nestle her head into my neck like a fuzzy kitten, stilling for brief moments her busy business of growing up. She’s relies on me, still, for so much, even though she’s constantly pushing the boundaries of her independence and self-awareness.

In my head, I know she’s no longer a baby, but how can I allow myself to see her as a child?

Who do I become

I wonder if it’s because she’s our third. Three children. We’ve reached that point where people generally assume there’ll be no more additions to our family. Three kids? How nice! Four kids? How…nice? It’s an interesting thing, this raised eyebrow reaction bubbling below the surface when families reach a certain size. We’re not even there yet (and who knows if we ever will be), and still I sense it.

Cultural influences aside, I think what’s really making it harder to accept this one running headlong into childhood is my own insecurity. What if she is my last baby? It’s a mildly terrifying thought. Do I know how to be anything other than the mother of young children? How do I transition from changing diapers, wiping noses, and rocking sleepless babies in the middle of the night into…what? Who do I become when there’s no longer a baby in my arms?

Motherhood truly is a mystery of constant evolution. These precious moments with our babies are fleeting, but leave powerful imprints on our very beings. Selfishly, we wish they’d stay babies forever, depend on us just a bit longer; but oh, how our hearts swell with pride as they spread their wings and fly, secure in the love we so fully gave. Somehow, seamlessly, we have to learn to embrace both ends of the spectrum.

And you know what? It’s really hard.

So forgive me if for now, I go on grumbling about a baby who doesn’t sleep—while secretly loving it for the echoes of “my baby” it allows. And one day, when she’s grown, sleeping soundly in her bed all night as her big brother and sister do, I’ll look back on these nights and smile.

And no matter who I become, however my identity as “Mom” looks in years to come, I’ll treasure these moments in my heart forever.

Baby mine

(Originally published 6/14/15 at https://www.bisonbooties.com/blog/the-fear-of-letting-go/)

10 Steps to Becoming an Actual Grown-up

1. Wear lipstick. Is lipstick still a thing? I remember breaking out my mom’s tubes of pretty pinks and red and playing with them when I was, oh, 6. Don’t think I’ve touched the stuff since. But I should??

2. Stop thinking of yourself as perpetually 16. (Not to be confused with dressing like I’m still 16; that body ship sailed somewhere around delivery of kid number 1, a fact of which I’m well aware.) Turning 30 felt oddly similar to turning 16. I feel like I’m still the same person inside, but somehow I have a husband, three kids, a house, and a minivan. What?!

3. Use anti-wrinkle cream. The dermatologist gave me samples of this along with the cheery suggestion that I start using it, and I almost fainted on the spot. How is it possible I need to use something that’s only for OLD people (see no.2 above)?

4. Let the 90s go. The 1990s were two full decades ago. TWENTY years. I’ve been in silent denial of this fact, but there it is. It seems impossible we were watching Boy Meets World and blasting Ace of Base on the radio that long ago, but the calendar can’t lie. And it stings a little.

5. Start shopping in grown-up clothing stores. First there were catalogs (Delia’s anyone?), then trips to the mall with friends to stores like American Eagle and Maurices. But now? I’m stuck in some clothing limbo where the only solution is Target, and that’s only because I’m already there 12 times a week for diapers and dog food.

6. Make a will. File this one under “always mean to do it but never quite do.” Once you get past the mortality of it all, it really is a good long-term planning idea.

7. Toss all remaining clothes from high school. Why do I hang on to that 9th grade basketball T-shirt? Or those jeans I haven’t worn since senior year? There is no good answer, and it’s becoming mildly embarrassing.

8. Accept that other (actual) grown-ups can be younger than I am. You make an appointment to see, say, a doctor. Doc walks in, and is most definitely younger than you—maybe even a younger classmate you recognize from school. Are they giving MDs to middle schoolers now? Or you tune into “The Bachelor” and realize most of the contestants are at least 5 years your junior. Suddenly, other people are just as likely to be younger than you than they are to be older—and that’s a tough one to swallow.

9. Floss. Other than the day I go to the dentist, and the three other times I think of it, I mean. Don’t tell me I’m still the only one?!

10. Go to bed before midnight. This one I blame on the kids. How am I supposed to find any “me time” if it’s not at 11pm when no tiny humans are vying for my constant attention? My grandpa used to say every hour of sleep after midnight only counts as half. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m apparently now in need of anti-wrinkle cream.

(Originally published 6/7/15 at https://www.bisonbooties.com/blog/10-steps-grownup/)

Why the Middle Matters

from a mom to her middle child, a loving message about love and family

Back-to-school buzz is everywhere, isn’t it? I know you’ve noticed—you sat in the shopping cart while we picked out school supplies for your big sister, frowning over all the brand new pencils, notebooks, and markers (“Can I just have the orange one?”). You watched as we labeled and packed them up in her backpack, and dutifully tagged along as we dropped her off on her first day of first grade.

As the second born, it probably feels like you’re constantly playing second fiddle. Your sister is older, taller, more self-assured. When she does something big like heading off to school for the first time, your dad and I can get a little carried away because it’s a milestone we’ve never experienced as parents either.

But I want to remind you of something really, really important: your firsts matter just as much as hers.

Right now, you’re too young to grasp what it means to be the middle child, sandwiched between the pioneering oldest and the “awfercute” youngest. Believe me, I get it—I’m in the middle, too. People will tell you how lucky you are to be second, how you’ll benefit from having more experienced parents, skirt the coddling as the baby of the family. Well-meaning teachers will compare you to your older sister, say how much they loved having her in class, what a great student she was. Strangers will gush over your adorable little sister, exclaim how fun it must be to have her around to play with.

Sometimes, it will feel like it’s always about them, and never about you.

It’s not.

In a few days, you’ll start preschool. Your dad and I are veterans this time, of course, having sent your sister a few years ago into the very same room. We know the teachers, and they’ll remember your early morning perma-scowl (it’s why we enrolled you in the afternoon session, by the way). But what they don’t know, what your dad and I haven’t yet experienced, is you in this moment. Not your uncertain half smile as you pose outside the door for a ceremonial photo. Not your finger painted wobbly letters and gluey macaroni art. Not your puffed-out chest distributing cheese crackers as the designated “snackee” of the day. It’s all new to you, which will make it all new to us.

Because even though this path has been blazed by your older sister, you’re making it wider. You’re adding unexpected detours and giving us beautiful new views.

Before you were two years old, you talked in complete sentences. I remember us standing in line at a department store one day; we’d just dropped your sister off at school, and you started jabbering in your tiny toddler voice. A woman ahead of us glanced back, then did a quick double-take when she saw it was you doing the talking. “How old is he?” she asked, incredulous that such a small person could carry on such conversation. When I told her, she shook her head and smiled down at you. “What a smart boy you are, with so much to say!”

How right she was: you have much to contribute. You have stories to tell and pictures to paint of things we thought we’d already seen. From your spot in the middle, you’re discovering the joys of life in a new way—in your own way—and helping us discover them again, too.

And that, my child, is something only you can do.

(Originally posted 9/17/15 at https://www.bisonbooties.com/blog/middlechildren) 

Life in the face of death

Recently, a local young mother lost her life just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know her personally, but our community is small enough that we have a handful of mutual friends. She was in her mid 30s, married with three young children, and so much life yet to live.

Her story left many of us shaken.

Strong, young, healthy people aren’t supposed to get sick. They aren’t supposed to be given devastating diagnoses in sterile doctor’s offices.

They’re not supposed to be robbed of the fullest, sweetest years of their lives.

Mothers should be grumbling about their lack of sleep over cups of coffee with sympathetic friends. They should be nuzzling newborns in sunlit nurseries, breathing in the downy scent of tiny heads, memorizing the feel of warm little bodies snuggled at their breast.

Mothers should be bundled up on the sidelines of soccer games on brisk fall evenings, cheering on lanky, still uncoordinated children and passing out sports drinks and granola bars after the final goal. They should be packing school lunches. Escaping with their husbands for overdue date nights. Lunching with old girlfriends.

Mothers aren’t supposed to be stolen away by cancer.IMG_8611

It’s unfair. It’s infuriating. It’s unfathomable. And as a young mother with three kids of my own, it stirs a raw fear hiding deep in my heart. If it happened to one just like me, it could just as easily happen to me.

That, self-centered as it sounds, is terrifying.

It’s chilling to imagine your little world, the lives who depend on you, the partner who sustains you, the daily tasks that require you, going on without you. It’s a thought that flits across most of our minds at one point or another as we’re busy raising our families, but we’re quick to push it aside. Those thoughts are uncomfortable and unnerving.

And, after all, that sort of thing would never happen to us.

But then, a young mother is healthy one month and gone the next. Another starts a course of rigorous treatment. Maybe you have a slight scare yourself. It brings it all back into sharp focus, the precarious, precious nature of this life.

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I found myself awake with my toddler overnight, rubbing gentle, absentminded circles on her back as we sat together on the couch in the predawn stillness. As I reveled in the solid weight of my youngest child sprawled across my chest, her deep, even breaths warming my cheek, my thoughts drifted to the mother who isn’t there in the middle of the night. Why her? Why now? Why is there so much suffering, such deep, heartbreaking scars for those left behind?

A few hours later, I slipped into my first-grader’s bedroom to wake her for school. As I reached down to brush her hair from her pink cheek, she opened her eyes and grinned up at me, already awake.

“Mom,” she said. “Guess what I was thinking about?”

“What?” I asked her, warming at her early-morning exuberance.

Her face grew solemn. “’Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.’” She beamed up at me, searching for my approval. It was two verses in Psalm 23 she’d been working to memorize the past week for her Wednesday night church program, and she’d recited them flawlessly.

I closed my eyes, my throat tightening. The valley of the shadow of death. Lately it seems like death is lurking around every corner, nipping at our toes and threatening our comfortable, predictable lives.

And yet, there is hope.

I smiled at my daughter, hugged her tight, and let the words still hanging in the air fill the space around us.

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It’s one of the great mysteries of human existence, I suppose—the way we grapple with our own mortality. We struggle to come to terms with it and live with it at a comfortable enough distance to go about our daily lives. But lurking just below the surface is the knowledge that our days are numbered. Most days, that thought is mercifully far from our conscience. Sometimes, it bubbles over.

That’s OK.

Grieving the tragedy of lives lost is necessary. Anxious thoughts of our own mortality are normal. Looking into the eyes of our children and feeling limitless love and simultaneous terror is what it is to be a mother, what it is to be human. We know sadness. Sorrow. Heartache. Loss.

But we also know joy. Happiness. Love. Fulfillment.

It would be easy to let what we cannot control consume our lives. To slip from feeling into fearing, drowning out the whispers of hope and truth.

Don’t let fear win.

Joy comes with pain. Happiness is coupled with sadness. Living means dying. But each day we have air in our lungs—each morning we’re greeted by the shining eyes of our children—is an opportunity to live. To love. To hope.

Despite sorrow, beautiful truth remains: life is a precious gift.

My cup overflows.

The Story

Once upon a time, I was on TV.

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I wore blazers over a myriad of colorful camisoles. Caked on foundation two shades too dark for my skin tone. Straightened and hairsprayed my highlighted should-length “anchor cut.” Five mornings a week, I clipped a mic onto my lapel, wiggled an earpiece into my left ear, and delivered the news from behind a sea of tungsten lights.

And I was good at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t destined for network news, but I enjoyed what I was doing and felt comfortable doing it. Even though it was barely 6am (and I’m decidedly not a morning person), when the camera’s little red light blinked to life, I came alive, too. Covering the news from the anchor desk and out in the field as a reporter was different every day. It was fast-paced. It was fun. There’s something endlessly fascinating about telling people’s stories, and at its heart, that’s what journalism is really about.

But, when my husband and I had our first baby, I signed off the airwaves for good. Motherhood was a job I felt deeply called to do, and I took on the assignment of my life without looking back.

Today, I enjoy what I’m doing–and I think I’m pretty good at it most days.

Motherhood is different every day. It’s fast-paced. Fun. Endlessly fascinating.

Come to think of it, parenting is a lot like TV, but on this side of the desk, I’m doing more than telling a story–I’m creating one with my husband, our children, and the family and friends woven into the story our life.

Motherhood is about creating your family's story

This is a place for that story–the good, the bad, the triumphs, and the trials–to be shared.

Thanks for tuning in.