Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

Let us delight in our God like a toddler delights in her Mama

“Mama! Mama!” I got up from the kitchen table after dinner and asked my husband, “Did Brynn (our 4 year old) say “Mama” this much when she was this little?” I was wondering because our 18month old had been repeating “Mama” incessantly for the whole week of our Christmas trip to Colorado and wasn’t stopping now that we were home. He replied, “Yup, if not more.” “Huh,” I said, “I couldn’t remember.”

Of course, just because she’s four doesn’t mean I don’t still hear “Mama” out of her mouth at least 5 times every hour that we are together, but the constant repetition every time her eyes land on me doesn’t happen as much as it did when she was her little sister’s age. Now, she yells “Mama” when she needs something, wants me to be with her, or is mad about something. She will still call my name if she is hurt or sad, but she doesn’t just randomly look over at me and say “Mama!” like her little sis does with excitement and joy upon her face. She rarely cups my face with her hands and whispers “Mama,” with her eyes and attention nowhere else but my face, adoration pouring from the word into my soul. Oh, I still get some great cuddles from my 4-year old along with an impromptu, “I love you Mama, you are my best friend,” and sometimes she requests that I be the one to buckle her into her car seat, but the infatuation with her Mama just for the sake of me being Mama feels like it is diminishing a tad each year. Which is fine, that’s how growing up works, I know that. The older she gets, the more independent she gets, the more relationships outside of her Dad and me she develops, the more activities to occupy her mind she’ll be involved with, etc. I’ll always be there for her, and she’ll always need me, but the days of speaking my name just to show her affection for me are lessening.

And you know, I can’t help but wonder… Jesus says in Mark 10:14-16, “ When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’”

Now, I have several people in my life (in my family even) who have legitimately gone to school to study scripture and become pastors, and I have not. I’m not even great at reading my Bible daily, but when I read that verse and I think of my kids, I wonder. Was Jesus calling us to become like my sweet 18month old who not only cries out for her Mama whenever she needs something, or is scared, but just because she is delighted to be with her Mama? Was Jesus telling us that He knew that adults have such a sense of independence and busyness that we tend to slip into only calling upon Him when we are asking for something or in immense pain? That we only turn to our Heavenly Father when it’s been a few months and we realize we haven’t “picked up the phone” to talk to Him?

Guys, when I am away on a work trip and my husband FaceTimes me at night, my little one is all smiles and “Mama! Mama!” while my 4-yr old is running around the house like the Energizer Bunny, occasionally poking her face into the camera to say a quick hello. She’s only 4 and already her sense of missing me when I’m gone has dissipated compared to her sister’s (also, she just has a whole lot more energy 😂). I can’t help but think about my own less-than-frequent texts and calls to my parents, whom I love very much, and cringe when I think about that compared to the doting 18month old I have following me around the house babbling, “Mama! Hugs!”

And I think, that even though this is probably not what Jesus was specifically talking about in those verses about children and the kingdom of God, that He desperately wants us to delight in Him like a sweet 18month old delights in her Mama. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him, for the ups and downs and all arounds, but also to just enjoy being in His presence. He wants us to call out to him when we are distraught and elated, yes, and unabashedly so (also just like our children)! But He also longs for us to stop, cup His face with our hands and whisper, “Abba” with all of our attention and adoration upon Him – for the sole reason that we are His children and He is our God.

The House on the Cul-de-sac

I’m on my way back to Texas from a long weekend spent visiting my family in California. We are pretty lucky because my parents and one of my sisters and her family still live in sunny San Diego, where I grew up, so our trips consist of beach days and carne asada fries. After hours of sun, boogie boarding and sand castle building we pile into the 3 cars it now takes to transport eight adults and 3 kiddos, and make our way back over the bridge to my parents’ house.

Once back, we may scarf our fries or California burritos in shifts while people shower off the remnants of a day well spent. After sending all the sand down the drains, a board game may be played- or at least started as kids (and some adults) go down for naps and Cokes are brought in from the never ending supply kept in the garage.

Later, the grill is fired up in the backyard and dinner is had over laughter, babies being babies (i.e. puking and screaming), water glasses being spilled, and reminiscing over silly home videos and terrible roles in community plays.
Later in the evening, after littles have read copious amounts of Disney books by various adults, a game of adult sardines may ensue. Eight grown adults hiding and finding amidst giggles and chortles and the occasional groans of pain from not quite being able to fit under the table anymore.

The night ends in bowls of ice cream and one more board game that comes with more laughter before we traipse off to bed, trying not to wake the sleeping beauties scattered upstairs.

Beach, good food, games and family.

These things in and of themselves are enjoyable for sure, but this last trip I realized the uniqueness I have in getting to make these memories with my kids in the same house in which I grew up making very similar memories.

I watched my almost four year old pull toys out of the same toy box I pulled toys from as a kid.

I watched my one year old rock with her Papa Joe in the blue armchair that I remember being rocked in.

I saw my nephew do his wiggle worm crawl towards the couch I flopped down onto hundreds of times.

I laughed as my daughter pointed at pictures of me as a baby on the wall and asked if it was her little sister.

I bathed my girls, watching the sand fall off of them in clumps, in the same bathtub that I have vivid memories of me watching the buckets of sand swirl around after an especially satisfying beach day as a kid.

I saw them scampering in the same backyard, that may not have a swing set anymore but is the same that my sisters and I spent hours in, swinging and as we grew, doing homework at the patio table.

I get to eat pizza with my girls from the same little restaurant down the street that was a staple Friday night meal.

I get to walk them down the street to the playground that we used to ride our bike to back when it was just a dirt field.

I saw my girl find the bookshelves full of Disney books and watched her face light up as she pulled them all off and brought them to Nana and Papa Joe to read to her.

I got to see their faces light up as they read, probably with the same inflections, the same pages in the same chair to their granddaughter that they did with their own daughters years ago.

And I got to tuck my sweet first born into the same room, the same bed, that was mine growing up. The paint on the walls is no longer yellow with brown/maroon sponge splotches, and the bed doesn’t have the same yellow bedspread – but it’s the same room. It still has the weather proofing strip at the bottom of the door because I liked to sleep with my window open but the outside air gave my mom allergies at night. The bed is the same trundle bed that came in handy for sleepovers but was wicked to your shins if you tripped into it. My little girl was curled up on that bed, with my “big dog” stuffed animal that was my constant companion until I left for college.

The room looked different, but it feels the same.

And I guess that’s why when I walk in the front door of my parents’ house, even though the carpet has been replaced, and the paint on the walls has changed, it feels the same as it always has.

It feels like comfort and fun and love. It feels like a place you want your family to spend time in because you know of the good times that have been had in this space. It isn’t about the physical objects inside the house, it’s about the space the house held for our family growing up, and is now holding for our family as it grows into many families.

It’s why I feel my insides sigh as I walk through the door and why it gives me joy to see my kids experience the same joy of “Nana and Papa Joe’s house.”

That house on the cul-de-sac taught me what a “home” should feel like and I am doing my best to make my home in Texas have the same feeling. The feeling that will make my kids want to come home when they are grown. One that they will want to bring their kids to. One they will want to tuck their kids into and feel a twinge of sadness every time they leave.

I want my kids to experience “home” the way my parents made sure my sisters and I did in that house on the cul-de-sac.

Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

Restful Chaos

The past three and a half years have been one long busy season. Busy as in: working full time with one baby, then adding full time graduate school, then hubby getting a second job, then getting pregnant with baby #2, then buying and remodeling a house/living with friends until a couple weeks before baby 2 was due, then having baby 2 and continuing with full time graduate school and work (while nursing and pumping this past year), while being Life Group leaders and Sunday school teachers at our church for 2 of those years. There was little sleep, lots of mac n cheese, and many moments of pure exhaustion.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with baby girl 2, our oldest was 2 and we were in the middle of our house reno/living with gracious friends phase, there was a 2 week period that the exhaustion was at it’s peak. At the beginning of one week, we were at the ER with our 2 year old, and in the middle of the next week we were back at the ER in the middle of the night for my husband. I remember getting home with him, taking a quick shower, getting dressed, taking our daughter to daycare, working from home while watching over the hubby, picking our daughter up, dropping her off with a friend to watch her while I was in class that night, and stopping by Starbucks for some much needed caffeine on the way to school where I would be seeing counseling clients that night. I sat outside on the bench in the Texas February sunshine with my iced coffee thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t function like this much longer.” I opened my Bible App, and looked at the plan I had started maybe 2 days before- called “Finding Balance in Life.” It was a plan that utilized an app called “Abide” (which I fully recommend!) where there was a meditative like devotional that you listen to. I sat there in the sun (which in and of itself is one of my self-care mechanisms) and listened to the trained-to-be-soothing voice of a man saying, “Are you tired? When Jesus asks us this it makes us stop and think. Are YOU tired? Do you wake up tired?” I chuckled to myself as the perfectness of the timing of this particular daily devotional was not lost on me. The voice proceeded to repeat Matthew 11:28-29- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

It was read in different versions, and when it read the Message version (which is usually not my fav), it translated the verse like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” And that was what I needed. I didn’t need a vacation away from my busy life, or even for the busyness to end or slow down. I needed to go to the One who could give me rest in the midst of the worldly busyness that this season came with. And you know what? After that quick twenty minutes in the sun (which I 100% believe is of the ways I enter into the presence of God- enjoying and marveling at His creation), with fresh caffeine flowing through my body and the promise of rest that goes beyond 8 straight hours of sleep (what even is that?) – I did feel refreshed. Refreshed by the grace and strength of a God who loves his children. I was able to walk into my counseling sessions ready to pour into my clients with the mental energy, empathy and attention that I did not have an hour previously.

I wish I could say that throughout the next year and a half until I graduated this past month, I faithfully abided in the One who could give me the rest I so desperately craved – during midnight feedings with a baby who, despite all efforts to sleep train with allll the different methods, still wakes up at a few days from being a year old; or after a day of 8 clients back to back; or during the late nights of studying for my licensing exam that started after the girls went to bed; or during the monthly trips to the pediatrician or urgent care for chronic ear infections- but I am human and so my Bible app stayed closed many days and I tried to manage on my own. Let me tell you, those days of trying to be strong on my own, while I managed to physically do it, were not restful. But the days that I did at least try to enter into the restful presence of the ultimate Counselor, while I still felt the physical tiredness that comes from little sleep and lots of expelled energy, my mental/emotional fatigue was lessened significantly.

Jesus didn’t say, “come to me and feel ready to run a marathon” or “Pray and all your troubles and responsibilities will go away.” He doesn’t even say that he will give us physical rest- He said, “Learn from me and you will find rest for your soul.” For your SOUL. Often the stressors of life, even good stressors like babies and opportunities to pursue a career you feel is using the talents and gifts given to you, go beyond physical tiredness and cross into “soul exhaustion.” This “soul exhaustion” is what Jesus promises to help carry and alleviate- and all we have to do is go to Him. I think that going to Him looks different for all of us. For me, it means spending time meditating on the Word, listening to calm music, going for walks with the family, laughing with (at) my goofball husband, basking in the sunshine, or spending late hours at the local ihop with good friends who Jesus uses to pour into my soul. These are things that God used during these 3 years to help my soul find rest while I did hard things that I’m proud to have accomplished, but am glad are over.Since I graduated a few weeks ago, I’m done with night classes and homework assignments, and after next week I’ll be done nursing/pumping (which seriously takes a lot of time and energy!). This means that the busyness of the past 3-year season has diminished significantly. However, I’ve still got a marriage, a very spirited toddler, a baby who still wakes up at night, church responsibilities and a full time job. So, I’m going to continue to do my best to find a new balance in life while abiding in the One who can help me stave off the soul exhaustion that threatens to creep up in the busiest of seasons as well as the everyday chaos that is what we call Life.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”- -Matthew 11:28-29

Sweet Baby May, Don’t Forget Your Mama’s Heart Song

My Sweet Baby May,

As I rock you to sleep, I feel your soft, still squishy cheek pressed against my chest. I feel my heart beating rhythmically inside that same chest and imagine the sound waves bouncing soothingly off your eardrums in a familiar sleep inducing pattern.  It is the same pattern that composed the soundtrack of your creation.  From the time you were just a tiny cell, my heart beat was there, pulsing with nutrients and blood, giving you life.  When your little ears couldn’t yet hear, my heart beat was vibrating in the fluid cradling you, lulling you in a cocoon of safety and love. As your tiny ears started working, my heart beat was the first and constant song playing in your head. 

Your Mama’s heart song, playing for you.

Oh my love. Do you remember that song now as you lay sleeping?  Does it still comfort you now that you have officially been out in this great big world longer than you were held in my womb? Now that you have heard many songs and rhythms more complex and loud?  As you learn to scoot and crawl, I see you look back at me as if questioning if it is ok that you are moving further from me. Are you listening for my heartbeat little one? Seeing if it will reach you as you cautiously venture further away?  Is it what causes you to reach your arms up to me when I walk by? Is it what compels you to cry out for me in the night?

Are you finding your song, my love?

I think you are.  I think you still remember and still feel the song within you. I can tell by the way you look at me in that special way that is just for your Mama.  I can tell by the way you fall asleep fastest when it’s me rocking you.  I can tell when you reach your little hand up to feel my face, eyes still closed, while you nurse in the middle of the night. I can tell by the way your face lights up when I walk in the room, and by the wails of despair when I walk out.  I can tell when we cuddle in the rocker and your eyes flutter trustfully.  And I think, when you pull your head in close for snuggles after daycare that you are checking to see if your song is still playing for you.

And oh, is it playing.

Your song will forever be playing, sweet one.  Long after your soft pudgy cheeks have thinned and you no longer press your ear against my chest to fall asleep.  It will still be playing when you no longer look back but bravely venture full force into the world.  I know there will come a time when you no longer remember how much it comforted and surrounded you in the early months of your life- both inside and out of the womb, but it will still be playing.  I know there will be a day that snuggling with your Mama is a thing of the past, but it will still be playing on that day.  You see little one, your song is my life force.  That heart beat keeps me living, just as it kept you alive when you couldn’t survive on your own.  So my sweet girl, while you will grow up and forget the lyrics of your song, I hope you will not forget the rhythm of love it has been beating for you from the beginning.  I hope you will know that no matter how big you get or how far you venture, those sound waves are reaching out for you from inside my chest.  I hope you feel the vibrations of safety and love surrounding you even when you are far away.  And when you feel down or troubled, I hope that rhythm of your song is what plays in your head and in your heart.

And oh sweet baby May, know that for as long as I live, your song and the memories of us listening to it together will be playing on repeat in my heart.  Know that your Mama will always be here playing your song, welcoming you with open arms to come have a listen.