it’s your day, Baby K!

Hey, Katherine!

Today is the day we celebrate four years with you! Okay, I lie. You think that your day was yesterday. I didn’t lie to you, exactly… but I may have told you “Woohoo! Today’s the day we’re celebrating the day you were born!” Which was true. Because Daddy’s out tonight, so we did our celebrating early, so he wouldn’t have to miss it.

Anyways. 

I kind of like having a day to celebrate you privately. To reflect on your teeny self when you were born and all the ways you’ve grown. You’re such a blessing to me. You delight me and challenge me and baffle me. This makes so much sense to me, because you’re very, very like your dad, and he delights, challenges, and baffles me all the time. He has for years.

You have the mind of a tiny engineer and the heart of a sprite. You must know how things work. You’re fascinated by everything and not afraid of anything. You have an irresistible drive to deconstruct. But also you have an irrepressible sparkly smile and a crazy sense of humor and a contagious giggle. You are  so spunky and goofy. Hilarious. And you’re always moving. I can’t believe how many pictures I’ve gotten of you this month, but when I look through them, I guess I can. Most of them are when you’ve been settled. Doing something, watching something, eating something… in the picture above, you were… on the toilet. (Sorry.) (But look how cute you are!) It’s not easy to catch you still enough to get a good picture. (Even that one isn’t a good picture, as pictures go. But it’s still one of my favorites.)

I was blessed lately by a review from your teachers at forest school. It was so much fun to hear how other adults see you. It made me laugh out loud to read “Katherine never (ever, ever) takes the easy path.” You have GRIT, little girl. You’re mighty. I’m so excited to see the places God takes you. It’s not easy to know how to guide you with this amount of grit, honestly, but your dad and I pray for wisdom to do just that all. the. time.

There’s so much I love about who you are right now. I love your grin and that dimple that shows up on your right cheek from time to time. I love your independence and your inquisitiveness. I love your Katherinese. I think your speech issues are my fault (because moms) because I didn’t heed advice about sippy cups and you can’t quite get your tongue out from between your teeth when you talk. I really think you’ll figure out how to say all the sounds eventually, but dang, it’s cute. So I’ll keep working with you a little at a time, but I sure enjoy it for now. I love your enthusiasm about… everything. When you speak right now, about a third of your words are definitely in ALL CAPS. Also, as much trouble as it causes, I love your undying devotion to Wil Fedadoh… the tiny puppy you took from Brian before he was born but now cannot live without. You love her so much you daily hide her from “monstoes” for her protection… and then can’t remember where to find her.

I sure love you, baby girl. You’re not so much of a baby anymore. You’re growing up just right, and I’m excited to see you keep becoming more you this year. I love that I get to be your mama.

 

And then there’s how much your brother loves you…

IMG_3732

..and the way Jenna sees you. She took these-

You are loved, darling girl. Happy birthday.

 

 

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to the girl in the dress

Do you see that girl in the dress?

What do you see? Just your typical early 2000s bride, really. This is pre-Pinterest (thank goodness.) Right here is a 22-year-old girl who is incredibly happy to have just married the man of her dreams.

Do you know what I see? All of that, of course. But I also know she’s wearing a dress that her mama made from scratch (as in no pattern, just a picture of a dress from David’s Bridal.) I know she was minutes away from throwing that bouquet (far too hard, actually) and running away with her husband of roughly 90 minutes. I know that, at that point, she didn’t care a whole lot about the wedding that had just taken place. It was a means to an end, really. She just wanted to start married life. I know she waited through years of friendship and uncertainty for this. I know that her hopes are simultaneously unrealistically high and nowhere near high enough to match the reality that’s coming.

Do you know what else I see?

I see a girl who thinks she’s fat.

At 5′ 10″ and 180 lbs, she has spent every single one of the last 22 years at war with that body. (In case you’re distracted by that fact, as I would be, let me explain. Early 80s had some bad medical advice to give about infant nutrition. So, yes, she had literally been fighting her weight every year of her life at that point.) She is, at this moment, one point away from the “normal” range of the BMI chart. Please don’t get me started on the BMI chart. (Speaking of bad medical advice…) But just the same, this is the closest she has ever been or likely will ever be to “not overweight.”

Not that it mattered. She tried so hard to drop weight. She lost about five of the 25 pounds she’d hoped to. And, as with every other time, it wasn’t for lack of effort or self-control. At this moment, she’s not thinking about it (probably), but there have been a hundred points today that she wished she’d been more successful than she was. A hundred points she inwardly called herself a failure.

I wish she could see what I see now… a lovely girl starting off on her greatest adventure.

I wish I could talk to her.


Dear girl in the dress,

There’s so much about this day that is wonderful. And so much you’re going to forget. There’s a lot about life and love that you’re going to learn soon, and I could talk about it for ages and for books. But really, it’s a pretty good journey, so I’ll let you figure it out.

I want to talk to you about your weight.

No, not like that. Not like every doctor’s appointment ever, where you get told if you just ate less and moved more, you’d be fine. (Not that anyone ever asked or took into account how much you moved or how little you ate, but whatever.) 

You’ve worried your whole life about your size. You have never—and I do mean not ever—felt comfortable with the amount of space you’ve taken up. I’m pretty sure you suspect this (and felt crazy considering it, given the prevalence of “calories in, calories out” and, currently, Atkins), but the battle with the weight actually is  your problem.

You’re not fat. It’s okay. Your body is your body and it’s going to do some pretty awesome things in the years ahead of you.

Please don’t let this freak you out, but in about 12 years, you’re going to be roughly 100 lbs more than you are right now. A lot of that is because you’re expecting yet another baby very soon, but a lot of it isn’t.

But it’s okay.

Really.

Because, with the extra weight and the changes in your body that occur, somehow you will have found more peace with it. And that fantastic man you married? He will still think you’re pretty and he will enjoy every phase of that beautiful body, even when you’re not so sure.

I want you to know you have been fine all along.

I want you to know that, once you let go of all the baggage you carry related to weight and worth, you will find a healthy version of yourself. And that healthy version of you weighs more than you do right now, but she is physically so well. You’ll find out that you love strength training (what?). You also like kale, in many different forms. Not only do you like it, but you mysteriously crave leafy greens. Like a lot. (I know.) Also? You love running. Totally serious. Save yourself some pain and do the strength training first, but even if you don’t, your body will heal and you will find that you are bizarrely addicted to running.

Occasionally, your shape will still annoy you, because it’s not especially easy to clothe. But you have a beautiful, strong, capable body. Also? You save money because you can’t just go buy all the clothes. So there’s that. It’s going to be fine.

And you’re not fat.

Your oldest thinks you’re beautiful and wishes she could be you. She thinks you look like a princess in this picture and she thinks you’re “as pretty as can be,” even fairly pregnant and much heavier than the princess version of her mama.

Give her (and everyone else) a version of you who doesn’t hate the body you were given. Mostly, give YOU that version of yourself.


This isn’t just for the baby version of me. This is also for you. You’re gonna be fine. 

a habit I made on accident

I’ve not been momming for very long. Really only just over five years. So you’ll pardon me if I’m a little late to catch on to this.

I have never been the mom who tiptoes in to check on her kids after they fall asleep.

What if I wake them? I mean, the fear is real. On a bad night, it’s possible I’ve just spent HOURS getting them to sleep. It’s hard to bring myself to risk starting over.

Until a couple months ago.

I honestly don’t remember how it started. (I honestly don’t remember a lot lately.) I probably promised Jenna I’d kiss her after I got home on a rare night out because she was making a fuss as I left. But at some point, I did the Very Scary Thing and risked a second bedtime to go kiss my girls.

Did you know sleeping preschoolers still look like angels? Like they did when they were babies? It’s the most precious, endearing, addictive thing. Also? They smell different when they’re asleep. It’s not quite identical to their little baby smells, but it’s distinct and it’s YUMMY.

OK, if you have kids, you of course know all of this. Because I’m probably the only mom who never, ever crossed the bedroom threshold after all was quiet.

At any rate, it didn’t take more than once or twice to hook me. Also, it didn’t take too many tries to realize that they’re actually incredibly difficult to wake in the late evening.

So, for all my focus on making little habits this year, one at a time, I didn’t even notice I was doing it. But one night after another, I’d turn on the hall light so I could find them, and  go kiss them both. (I’m still pretty sure Brian would wake up. I should test it sometime. But also, he’s in a crib, so given my current belly, leaning down to kiss him wouldn’t be an easy thing to do.) Sometimes I pray for them again, sometimes not. I always whisper “I love you and I’m so glad I get to be your mommy.”

Do you know how much power our words have? Spoken aloud? I have no idea if that little bit of mama love is sinking into their hearts as they sleep. What I do know is that the practice of daily seeing them asleep and telling them I love being their mommy has an amazing affect on my heart. During the day, being their mom isn’t always an easy thing. Often, it’s really, really hard. Not to say I don’t still love them and love that I get to raise them, but it’s really easy to lose track of that when I’m spending hours on end doing the intense kind of mothering. This brings me back, every single night, for at least a couple of minutes, to how blessed we all are.


How about you? Do you have any little things you do to pull yourself back to center? I’d love to hear about it. 

for the hurting hearts on mother’s day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

I hope this is a good day for you. I hope you have a chance to celebrate your mom and be celebrated by your kids and your husband. This motherhood gig is hard, and you’re totally nailing it.

For some of you, this is reality. Maybe you have expectations that aren’t met for the day; maybe the kids make a mess on your bed out of breakfast. (Okay, just being honest here, but breakfast in bed seems like a terrible idea to me in general. Sounds like a mess. Maybe it’ll make sense when my kids are older?) But just the same, the idea behind the day is that you, as a mom, are honored. That’s awesome. And I don’t want to take away one tiny bit from that.

But also…

There are a bunch of women (maybe you) for whom this Mother’s Day (and perhaps many, most, or all of them) is basically the worst ever.

Maybe you desperately want to be a mom. Perhaps you always have. But life isn’t happening the way it was supposed to. You’re not married. Or you are, but the time’s not right. Or you’re dealing with infertility and every month feels like defeat.

Maybe you are a mom, but you don’t look like it to everyone else. Maybe you’ve lost a child (or children) to miscarriage. Or stillbirth. Or infant loss. Or adoption loss. Or perhaps you’re the mom who, once upon a time, gave a baby up for adoption. Or you had an abortion and it seemed like the only choice at the time, but now it feels like a loss.

Maybe your family looks perfect, but motherhood is hard and it feels like you’re failing and a day to celebrate your role feels like more pressure.

Maybe you have children climbing all over you, but the day is complicated because you also have babies not with you. (Blended family means someone’s away, or you’ve lost children in pregnancy or childhood or later…) It’s not easy to celebrate and grieve at the same time.

Maybe you lost your mom. Maybe not, but you and your mom have a difficult relationship, so the obligatory call is awkward and hard.

Maybe you and your child don’t talk. Or you do, but it’s hard and your heart aches because of the road they’ve been choosing.

Maybe Dad is away or out of the picture and there’s nobody but you to tell your kids that TODAY IS YOUR DAY, DARNIT, SO PLEASE DON’T BE TERRORISTS.

I can’t possibly list every reason why Mother’s Day might be a really, really hard day for you.

But if it is, I just wanted to tell you…

You’re not alone. It feels like the whole world is busy celebrating their perfect Mother’s Days, but I know you’re there. I’m sorry it hurts. I wish I could invite you over for tea (or perhaps rope my sister into making us coffee) and we could talk together and perhaps cry together and, for a few minutes, the greeting card holiday could fade away and you could share your story. Your hurts, your hopes, all the reasons it’s just so darn complicated.

I’m praying for you, friend. Praying that this day that can be such a storm of emotions also holds some gifts of grace and beauty just for you. Praying you see those gifts for the love notes they are from a Father who loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He knows your name and sees your tears and feels your pain. And I’m praying he holds your heart close this weekend.

minigoals and unresolutions: April

This week has been kind of amusing and hectic. Yesterday, it occurred to me that I’m probably coming up on the end of the month and I should think about the monthly habits post… Oh. Got it. May starts on Sunday. 

So… Here we go.

Quick review:

January: get up early. (This one remains a challenge, but a worthwhile one.)
February: leave food on my plate at meals. (Fail.)
March: floss daily in the shower. (Win.)


April: Spend five minutes a day working toward Scripture memory AND see how many days I can spend 15 minutes processing photos for the yearly albums.

So, memorization… I count 25 days I’ve done it. Sometimes it’s more like 10 or 15 minutes, sometimes five (with kid interruptions, so like two.) But I call that a win, at any rate. Also? I re-memorized one chapter and memorized a second from (basically) scratch. This one stays.

Mixbook albums… A little spottier. I did it 11 days this month. But this was lower priority (and definitely goal focused- once I’m caught up, this no longer serves me as a daily habit.) I will say, though, I finished 2014’s book, so Brian’s been born, as far as Mixbook is concerned. I caught up probably seven months in those 11 days. Also, almost all of that was done on the walking desk Andrew rigged up. Two birds. I’ll keep this one until I don’t need to.


Now on to May…

As I mentioned, this week has been hectic. We got back on Tuesday from the trip that I mentioned here, and Wednesday was a pretty rough day of reentry with the kids. (Highlights? One kid lassoed her own foot, tripped, and landed on her wrist- she didn’t break it, though I wasn’t sure for a few hours, one got a massive goose-egg hurling herself into a coffee table during a tantrum, and another dropped his taggy blanket in a dirty toilet. Milestones! The first time he’s thrown something in a toilet! Hooray!) Thursday I got our various bags unpacked, Friday was just hard and hormonal, and now here we are. So when I sat down to write, I was pretty sure May was going to be a “hold on to the ones we have” kind of month, because the idea of trying to add a new habit this month seemed overwhelming. Plus, my energy is just starting to nosedive. So holding sounded like a reasonable way to give myself a little grace.

But then I reread that first habits post (the one where I listed some ideas for the monthly minigoals) and I think taking a big camera picture every day should be doable. So there it is. May. Bust out the big camera. I can do that, right? (I’m seeing a pattern where I alternate challenging habits with easier ones.


So… there we have it. More minutia from my world. I’m really enjoying this experiment, though. It’s kind of fun to try little things just to see if they are helpful. Some haven’t been, but overall, I’d say the trying has made our home and my heart a little more peaceful. 

 

joy, pain, Hope

We’re coming into my very favorite time of the year, and this year is extra awesome because, not only are we going down to work at the marriage conference, but we’re staying a couple extra nights, making this our longest kidless trip since Jenna was born.

And I can finally feel this baby regularly (despite an awkwardly positioned placenta) so it’s been weeks since I last convinced myself she was dead. She’s alive and kicking and there’s no way to forget for very long. (But I’m not to the Kill All The Things phase of pregnancy yet, so yay!)

Also awesome? I have a new niece this week. She’s 100% perfect. Well, almost. Her one flaw is location… she’s halfway around the world and I don’t have a reasonable way to get there from here to hold her tiny self and play with her big (toddler) sister and lend hands to her parents.

But also, my brain and heart are in turmoil.

See, while this week is completely full of joy and beauty, it’s also the week we would’ve expected Hope. Baby Sophia had a “cousin twin” that I was really excited about.

My due date would have been this coming Monday. My kids are all clustered around their due dates, but have gotten increasingly later (gah!), so realistically, if I hadn’t lost her, she’d still be in. I’d be at the part of pregnancy where I HATE EVERYTHING AND WHY THE HELL CAN THIS BABY NOT COME OUT NOW SO I CAN LIKE HER BECAUSE I CANNOT POSSIBLY LIKE HER AT THIS MOMENT BECAUSE I’M MISERABLE. But still, we’d be mere days away from meeting the tiny bundle of squishy pink perfection. I love newborns so much.

Also, I lost another niece last week. Ryan and Amanda lost Olivia Ann… another early miscarriage. And my heart hurts.

It’s hard to hold joy and pain together.

It’s costly.

It feels like dissonance. Like when someone plays or sings the wrong note, or when a guitar is playing with a B string out of tune (always B!) or just when there’s an unresolved chord hanging.

The emotional dissonance feels very much like the regular kind, which is to say, for me, it feels like a mild cringe.

It’s not the fresh pain of loss.

It doesn’t even detract much from the joy of the week.

But it’s there, just begging to be resolved.

That’s the thing about dissonance.

It isn’t without remedy.

The girls have Sally Lloyd Jones’s Jesus Storybook Bible and it talks a lot about “God’s rescue plan” and “all the sad things coming untrue.”

This world is fallen.

We’re stuck holding pain and joy together, and there’s a tension there that’s really uncomfortable.

But losing Hope has taught me (is teaching me?) that, while I lost Hope, I still have hope. I will see her again. All things will be put right. Jesus came that all the sad things might come untrue. Like a B string just slightly off, this fallenness is fixable, given the right Fixer.

Come, Lord Jesus.

anything that makes you crazy

I have very little in the way of parenting advice to give anyone. I’ve been parenting for less than five and a half years, and I don’t think there’s enough evidence at this point for anyone to consider me an expert.

That said, I’ve received some pretty stellar advice.

Some of it has changed. my. life.

For instance, Andrew and I were discussing which things I was saying yes to when the (then) 3- and 4-year old girls would ask to do various things. They, like probably most preschoolers, love messy things and are less than awesome at cleaning those things up.

But still, I said “yes” to most of their requests. I’ve read things from credible sources (like the internet) about saying “yes” as often as possible. And so I tried. Play-doh? I guess. Painting? Uh… sure. Baking? Heck no. We draw the line somewhere. (Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t love baking. Baking with toddlers pushes me fully over the edge into the territory of “homicidal.” And nobody needs a homicidal mama.) But, short of baking, if we had the time and supplies, I did my best to say yes to everything their sweet little creative hearts desired.

And I regretted it immensely.

Every. Dang. Time.

They’d lose interest before they were finished, much less had cleaned up. So, like a good mom, would try to enforce cleaning up. Freaking out would ensue. They would sometimes join me in the freak-outs. Everyone was miserable. The house was a mess. My nerves were shot.

So, after yet another day of this ridiculousness, Andrew and I were talking over our respective philosophies of “yesses and nos.” (If you don’t have a philosophy of yesses and nos, I suggest thinking it over. As humans, we spend SO MUCH TIME having to choose yes or no that it’s useful to have a starting point.)

I was explaining to him why I tried my best to tell the kids “yes.” (Learning through play! Sensory benefits! Exploring life! BEING A “FUN MOM”!!!)

He cocked his head at me, genuinely baffled.

“They aren’t entitled to anything that makes you crazy. You know that, right?”

And it was suddenly so obvious.

I don’t know if it was his use of the word “entitled” or what, but of course they aren’t entitled to that. We don’t want to raise entitled kids…

Fast forward a year or two. I’ve begun to filter their questions through this new (somewhat odd) criterion.

Will this make me crazy?

Also in this time, I’ve begun to understand and embrace my tendency toward high sensitivity. (Here is my very favorite post on highly sensitive parents. I’m certain this is at least the third time I’ve linked it. And here is another fairly useful post of hers. Heck, if these resonate with you, click on her “highly sensitive parent” tag and have a ball.) So the list of “makes me crazy” things is long and fluctuates some based on what kind of mental space I’m in. I can do finger paints, but only if I have a LOT of margin and some quiet time on the way.

Current mood? Can’t even. I know this about pregnancy. The later it gets, the less space I have for sensory input. Period. This is a useful thing to know, since I spend an inordinate amount of time this way, it seems. So right now, if the kids want to get anything out of the craft cabinet, my default is “no.”

Now, I know exploring and mess-making and all that stuff that fun moms do is important. I don’t want to shortchange my kids in the sensory experience department. Someone (maybe many of them) will call this selfish parenting. Maybe. But do you know what’s more important than unlimited access to finger paint? A mama who is not losing her ever-loving mind. Serious. I could be a “fun mom,” but it’d be at the expense of being a good one. A lot of moms can handle being this kind of fun mom. I’m not one of them. I am coming to accept this.

But also, childhood and stuff. So I outsource. The Children’s Museum is basically my favorite place ever. (The kids don’t seem to mind it, either.) They have all the crazy multi-piece toys and random goo for them to play or paint with and all kinds of craft supplies. I happily enrolled the girls in forest school, so someone else takes my kids out to play in the woods and answers all the questions. ALL the questions. I still have to do muddy laundry, but that’s a small price to pay for some dedicated time with Brian Boy and a HUGE reduction in mom guilt over never taking them out wandering nature.

So yes to outsourcing. No to paint, puzzles, unlimited craft supplies, play-doh, gak, and any toy that lights up or makes noise. I can handle all of those things in other spaces that are not my home. Will this make me crazy? Yes? Then NO.

They bike outside a lot these days. Burns energy, makes them happy and tired. Makes them happier and tireder than finger paint. The trampoline is coming out soon. Thank the Lord for springtime. We do parks where they can play and climb and fall on their heads in the pea gravel, then scoop it up and make mountains of it.


What makes you crazy? Are you saying “yes” to it? Could you try a “no” and see if it doesn’t make everybody’s day better? Just a thought.